April 07, 2014

There's a new moon arising

So with Mozilla's latest decision to force out Eich for the crime of double plus ungood groupthink, I've decided to move on from Firefox to Pale Moon. However, the handy dandy migration tool doesn't work if you're currently using the portable version of Firefox, as I am. Here's how to go about manually migrating everything:

If you just want a one-shot copy, you can do it manually:


  1. On your desktop install, go to help > troubleshooting information
  2. Click the "Open folder" button under profile. This opens an explorer window in your profile.
  3. Close Pale Moon. !!IMPORTANT!!
  4. Select all files and folders (Ctrl+A) and copy (Ctrl+C)
  5. Browse your explorer to the user profile folder of Pale Moon Portable. {portable install folder}\User\Palemoon\Profiles\Default\
  6. Paste everything there (Ctrl+V)

It worked like a charm for me, moving all of my bookmarks, cookies and add-ons. Have fun stormin' the castle.

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December 04, 2012

Data retention

I'm kind of anal retentive when it comes to backing up my data. Not only do I save the data, I image the entire hard drive. Comes in kind of handy if your disc ever crashes. Anyway, Pop Mech has a decent article on saving and retrieving data. Go forth and read. Unless, of course, you really don't want to save all of those photos of your spouse, children and pets from the last decade or more.

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September 03, 2012

DIY DVR

Well, the info for homemade DVRs just keeps getting better and better. Jeremy Good has an interesting build on his site that I think is worth looking at. Excerpt:

Quality - The quality is amazing. Looks just like watching it live. The processor seems to keep up but I think the video card makes the difference. I think it would be even smoother on the WMC menus if it had more RAM (2 GB) and if it wasn’t just DDR.

Ease of use – Windows Media Center is great. The only thing that would be better would be if it tied into iTunes. Can control things from my iPhone or iPad.

Detractors – The only real downside is the old computer. Would be sweet to have a small HTPC with a modern processor and native HDMI support. Also need to get a larger hard drive if you want to keep anything like movies or whole series around. The 200 GB hard drive fills up fast! (200 GB = about 20 hours HD)

Or there is the much, much easier set up found here. Excerpt:

Most individuals living in urban and suburban areas should be able to use a simple set-top antenna to receive HD programming broadcasted by local networks, and with a PC (personal Computer) and a capture device, can achieve the same end result of a cable company provided PVR or DVR.

And here's the best part: the hardware is cheap, especially since you might already own an extra PC, such as your, ahem laptop.

In order to watch or record television with your computer you must purchase a tuner. One example of a USB tuner is the Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-950Q. The advantage of using a USB tuner is that you don't have to open up your computer add the capabilities of a tuner card. These devices are easy to install and most come with a software application to manage your device. The added benefit of the 950Q is it includes a remote so you can perform all of the actions of a typical PVR from the comfort of your couch. An antenna is included as well, making the package ideal for traveling with your laptop.

So the tuner is under $80? Found on Google?

WinTV-HVR-950Q brings over-the-air high definition ATSC digital TV plus analog cable TV to your PC or laptop! Watch and record TV, in a window or full screen. Use the WinTV-scheduler to record your favorite analog or digital TV shows using high quality MPEG-2. Play your TV recordings back to your screen any time. ATSC high definition digital TV brings you sharper TV with great sound. Watch high definition digital TV at up to 1080i on your PC screen. WinTV-HVR-950Q's ATSC digital TV tuner also has automatic identification of channel names plus will record high-definition digital TV programs to your PC's hard disk in an MPEG-2 format without losing quality. You're prepared for the future. If you live in an area where you can't currently receive ATSC digital TV, the WinTV-HVR-950Q can still be used to watch and record analog TV from cable TV or a TV antenna. But you're prepared for the future! When ATSC digital TV comes to your area, WinTV-HVR-950Q will also receive the digital TV channels.

If you have Win 7, it already comes with Windows Media Player, which means you've got everything you need at your fingertips. Or you can go with the Liquid TV Tivo PC option. I see that Amazon has one for $49.99. And it looks like Nero has versions that will work in Europe. ::cough-Italy-cough::

You know, child #3 has really curtailed my blogging the last few years, but it feels good to get back to it. Hopefully I've still got a few readers. Or mental patients clicking refresh waiting for the screen to change. Same difference.

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December 05, 2011

This is so awesome that I want to marry it

And I'm not even an Apple fan boi: Disguise your iPad as an Apple II

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June 02, 2011

And the hits just keep on coming

Firefox 5 is in beta 3 now. Seriously? I just upgraded to Firefox 4.

I do wonder what the future holds for web browsers. Are we going to go all Tidy Bowl man in the monitor, or is it more virtual reality beemed directly into my cerebral cortex? And please, none of you biology majors give me crap about which part of the brain receives such information.

Unrelated: How awesome is this t-shirt design?

Humanity_Gets_Voted_OffwrsDetail.png

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May 10, 2010

Running Wizard101 in Linux

Well, the directions are from an Ubuntu forum, but I don't see why it shouldn't work on almost any Linux distribution that can handle Wine. In any event, if you're a fan of Wizard101, but want to play the game in Linux rather than Windows, here are the gory details:

The Tutorial

Welcome to my first tutorial on Ubuntu forums. In this wonderful tutorial (lol) I will be showing you how to run and install Wizard 101 perfectly, with no problems. Wizard 101 is a Windows based game, not a Linux or Macintosh game. Why? Well programming on a Windows operating system is easier than Linux and/or Mac. Also, the majority of the world is Windows based. However, Linux has a secret weapon called Wine! Wine basically allows you to enjoy Windows applications/games on your Linux operating system, perfectly (sometimes). Lets get started on installing Wine and setting up Wizard101!

Note: You will be asked to enter your "root" password, in order to install Wine.

Installing Wine

1. Installing Wine - Install Wine first.

sudo apt-get install wine wine-utils

2. Configuring Wine - Do this after installing Wine.

winecfg

winecfg.png

Installing Wizard101

1. Download Wizard101 - Need this in order to play & install.

...

2. Open your newly downloaded .zip file and extract the .exe.


3. Right click on the InstallWizard101.exe and select "Open with Wine Windows Program Loader."


4. Read & follow the instructions when you open the InstallWizard101.exe. Set your settings like the screenshot below. (Hardware Cursor should be unchecked)

wizconfig.png

5. Wait for patching to finish and finally enter your username and password, then click "Play." Now you're done

Looks pretty straightforward. Now to finish converting the castoff machine from my father-in-law...

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March 03, 2010

Another Windows security hole

You know what a bug is? When your PC screen changes colors, or a program hangs/crashes. You what a security hole in MS Windows is? Predictable.

Quick takeaway: if a website asks you to press the F1 key, DON'T.

Oh, and Microsoft? Can your next bug be that the wallpaper shows pictures of porn on the desktop? Because these "might allow someone to hijack your PC via IE" bugs are starting to piss me off. Kthnxbai.

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January 26, 2010

Geeky fun

Do you play Wizard101, but wish you didn't have to play it in Windows? Well, some bright person figured out how to install/play it using Wine in Ubuntu.

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December 15, 2009

How to make Windows XP looks like Windows 7

Learn how right here.

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November 24, 2009

How To Run Google Chrome OS From A USB Drive

How To Run Google Chrome OS From A USB Drive is the title of a post at MakeUseof which, not surprisingly, details how to do exactly that little thing. Be forewarned that Chrome OS may not work with your hardware. Excerpt:

Before you decide to download Chrome OS, there are probably a few things I should tell you about it. It is in the very early stages of development, so there is still a lot of stuff that doesn’t work. In fact, it may not work for you at all.

You should also be made aware that this operating system is very simplistic by design, as it is intended for use on netbook computers. By definition, a netbook is a small and inexpensive laptop intended for very casual use such as web browsing and simple office tasks. When you launch Chrome OS, pretty much all you get is a web browser. Don’t be surprised if you go through all this and say to yourself, “I did all that work just to log into a freakin’ browser?”

So have at it, caveat empor, YMMV, ROFLMAO, e pluribus unum, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, etc. Oh, and MakeUseOf helpfully included the torrent link for the Chrome OS for USB.

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September 02, 2009

How things have changed

Want to see what some popular websites looked like back when they launched? Check out this article to see how things have changed over the years.

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July 15, 2009

Just when you thought you get away from Twitter

A new tool comes along to make sure that you can run, but you can't hide from Twitter. Ever.

Once you've installed the add-on into Outlook, you'll need to take a trip to the Options panel to enter your Twitter account details, and you'll probably want to choose a new folder to place incoming Twitter messages so they don't get mixed in with your regular email. Once you've completed that step, you should be able to start sending, replying, or retweeting messages easily—but the really interesting feature is the ability to track keywords with a search term, and filter through those messages locally.

I use Tweetdeck because it's a lot easier to deal with than the web interface. Twindeck looks like a real productivity killer though, as I have my email open all of the time. I can see this being real popular with the spouse. But hey, if I can get everyone else to join in...

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June 26, 2009

Cool geeky tool

At my office, we just moved from Lotus Notes (yes, I know: UGH!)- to Outlook. Despite Notes being a crap email system, it had at least one feature that I liked: the ability to Save/Delete attachments from emails while still saving the email itself. Outlook 2003/2007 do not have this as a native capability. However, Nicola Delfino has written a nifty VBA macro which does the trick just fine. Check it out. And if you decide to use, please keep the comment section giving credit to Nicola. People should receive credit for the work that they do.

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June 15, 2009

I finished it last week

Why do you ask?

Don't know what to say about this little doohickey, but I kind of think I might get fired if I tried this sort of thing. Then again, YMMV.

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May 12, 2009

Wishful thinking on display

Another article which states categorically that Linux will supplant Windows as the OS of choice. Certainly the author makes some valid points, many of which I agree with, but the reality is that if Vista didn't provide incentive to switch, nothing short of Armageddon will. There are, however, some things that could make the switch more likely:

1) Get some PC distributors to sell them with Linux installed. Pick 3-4 total distros and give the buyer a choice of, say, Ubuntu, MEPIS, Mint or Xandros. Have versions of them on display so that prospective buyers can see what they'd be getting. Oh, and make certain that these distros get installed on the top-end machines. Sure you can run Linux on a lesser machine than what Vista requires, but you're the comparison is between a Ferrari and a Model T. Install Linux on a quad core machine with 4-8 Gb of RAM and let people see just how fast the system is.

2) Install Wine or Virtual Box to try and make it painless for users to install their beloved Windows only applications, such as Quicken. Better yet, install the software via Virtual Box or Wine for the user so that they hit the ground running. People like me love to fiddle with settings and such. Most people? Not so much. They want it to work out of the box.

3) Install lots of robust open source applications, such as Open Office, Evolution, Thunderbird, GIMP/GIMPshop, etc.

4) Hammer the cost savings. Windows Vista, Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop? They all cost big bucks if you pay full price. Compare that with the zero dollars you'll spend on the Linux machine.

There are ways to make inroads into Microsoft's market dominance, but none of them should include wishful thinking. Unfortunately, the author of the article falls prey to that. Pity.

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April 02, 2009

Speed up that virus download!!!

If you like to download stuff off the Innertubes, but get somewhat irritated by the splash/delay screen, then this is the perfect Firefox extension for you. Excerpt:

SkipScreen is a no-frills Firefox extension with a singular focus. Once you install SkipScreen the splash screens on popular file sharing services, that show you advertisements and encourage you to upgrade to premium service to avoid having to wait, are a thing of the past. As you can see in the screenshot above, the save file dialogue box popped up immediately while the count down was still in progress.

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March 31, 2009

Screw with our friends

Or your enemies, as long as they aren't armed. Geek pranks for tomorrow. Excerpt:

3. Hijack Firefox with the Total Confusion Pack Extension (Enabled on April 1st Only)

rickrolled.png Your victim use Firefox? Install the "Total Confusion Pack" Firefox extension, which enables the following "features" on April 1st only:

* Two Steps Back: Make the back button go back twice—not every time, but only on random instances.
* Rick Rollr: Switch out 2% of the video clips your victim watches with the infamous Rick Astley video.
* The Devil's Inbox: Make the number of unread email in your victim's Gmail inbox exactly 666.
* Highs and Lows/Sarcarsm Enhancer/For real: Add LOL, *sigh*, "for real," "Whatever" and various other commentary to web page text.
* Watch it: Make it look as if the page was loading forever. (Now this is just plain mean.)

Download the Firefox Total Confusion Pack here.

There's more. Much, much more. Mheh.

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November 24, 2008

Backing up your DVDs

If, like me, you own some DVDs and if, like me, you have small children around who can make the survival of such discs problematic, you might be inclined to create playable backups of your discs. There a variety of ways that you can go about it:

1) Buy a second copy. Not really sensible from a a financial standpoint, but doable. You've now a got a backup without actually having to make one.

2) Use DVD Shrink to extract the main movie only. Remove all of the subtitles-unless you need them, of course- and all of the foreign language audio tracks. Then, if you're feeling adventurous, trim the credits at the beginning and end. This will reduce the compression considerably. Then hit the "Backup" button and you're on your way.

Sure, you can copy the entire disc without removing diddly, but you'll get around a 50% compression ratio. Not that bad on standard definition TV, but certainly not good on an HD set.

Note: You will need some burning software, such as Nero to burn the resulting image file. Lots of free software out there, so have at it.

3) Use AnyDVD or DVD43 (you can't use both, because AnyDVD bitches about the presence of DVD43 during installation) to remove the region encryption and then use IMGBurn, which replaced DVD Decrypter. I actually think DVD Decrypter is great, but all work on it has ceased, so you're better off with the newer IMGBurn, which is why you need AnyDVD or DVD43, because IMGBurn will not make an image for you of an encrypted DVD without at least one of them running in the background.

Anyway. Let's suppose that you've got AnyDVD running, and you've inserted your copy of the last Indiana Jones movie. Click on the Create Image from Disc button, or click on the Mode/Read pulldown menu choice. Voila! IMGBurn creates an ISO image of your DVD on your hard drive. Onto the last part.

Now it's time to burn that ISO to a disc. Since you're making a backup of a commercial disc, you'll need to have purchased some DL discs, which have an 8.5 Gb capacity, the same as standard commercial DVDs; I will ignore HD discs, which aren't really available yet.

Note: Do not skimp on funds and buy crap Memorex discs. Spend the extra cash and buy VERBATIM DL discs. They work great. The Memorex discs are turds. Sure, they cost less per disc, but you'll spend more because you'll end up throwing lots of poorly burned discs into the trash.

Already, click on the Write Image to Disc button. When the screen appears, set the burn speed to 2.4x. Any faster and you're just asking for trouble. Then click "Burn" and walk away until the music sounds, which signifies that your disc is ready.

So that's it. Easy as pie. Have at it, and don't forget to label your newly created DVDs. Just an FYI.

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November 03, 2008

Watch at your leisure

If you want to record your favorite TV shows and movies without commercials, you don't have to pay a monthly fee. Simply download and install Ted. Excerpt:

ted makes downloading TV shows easy!

We are two TV addicts. The internet is great to provide us with our favorite TV shows free, early and watchable on demand. We always had to spend lots of time to keep up to date with the newest episodes. Until we created ted, our torrent episode downloader.

ted can find episodes of any TV show you like to watch. Just add your favorite shows to ted and he will search for the newest episodes and downloads them for you. ted uses bittorrent and RSS technology to get you the newest episodes as fast as possible!

Besides Ted, you will need to download and install a bittorrent client. I use Bitlord, but there are tons out there that you might like better. Be aware that the default setting for most bittorrent clients is to prompt you before downloading begins. You will want to disable that option to make good use of Ted. Anyway, here's how you do it:

1) Download and install your bittorrent client of choice and set the "do not prompt before downloading" option.

2) Download and install Ted. You will be shown various options that you can change, but I'd suggest using the default ones, especially this one:

ted config1.JPG


3) Add the shows that you want to download, usually up to several weeks in advance. The default list is quite extensive. Once you've selected a show, you will see several possible downloads, and when they'll be available. Click on the image below to expand it:


ted config3.JPG

4) Suppose that you're looking for something that isn't on the list like, say, the Legend of the Seeker? Simply click on Add a custom show, enter the title and search for an episode. You can select a specific season/episode or select from available episodes, which works well if some episodes have already aired:

5) Ted will search for an uncompressed file with some minimum number of seeds and begin downloading.

You can watch the AVIs on your computer or convert/burn them to DVDs and watch them on your television. If you do so, I recommend using some DVD-RW discs so that you can save some money. However, if you plan to keep the episodes forever, go ahead and use the -R or +R discs. Be aware that you can stuff lots of episodes onto a single disc.

Good watching.


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October 27, 2008

making my life easier

From Pamibe via Val comes this: a lazy bloggers post generator.

Ah, life is good. Now I need to code a bot to randomly enter the text for me. Here's the first "post" below the fold:

Holy crap! I just woke up to the fact I have not updated this since they invented sliced bread... You would not believe that I'd been abducted by aliens. But I'm sorry you'll just have to take my word for it..

I am overwhelmed with responding to fanmail, watching the grass grow, just generally being a nuisance to my kids, my day drinking from the light through yonder window breaks to I feel like going to bed. I am totally exhausted. primo.

I declare solemnly won't blog until the next time booze prices go up and I have to get sober for a while. Honestly! What do you mean you don't believe me?.

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October 20, 2008

Useful tool for Windows

Recently, I've been dealing- a lot- with applications freezing on a semi-regular basis. The Task Manager does okay at killing the apps, but sometimes those apps also kill my OS. What to do, what to do... hey, I know! Why don't use Windows Xkill? Excerpt:

An App that your using Freezes, and your first thought it to CTRL+ALT+DEL to bring up Task manager, then you have to wade thought the processes to find said frozen app, then kill it... Or you use xKill.

Using a system wide hook in xKill, when it is running, just Press Control+Alt+Backspace, and you will see a Skull and Crossbones follow behind your cursor. When you click on the next item (say, the frozen application), it will kill it. simple.

And just because i know that people will try this out with out having an app to kill, when the skull and crossbones is up, if you choose NOT to kill any thing, press Escape, and you will exit out of xKill mode.

No external references, this app is Portable, you will know when it is running doe to the color changing Skull and Crossbones in your system tray. you can Right click on the glowing icon to either go in to xKill mode, so that you don't have to do Control + Alt + Backspace, or you can exit out of xKill.

Bringing Kill -9 to Windows. ::sniff:: I'm just so happy right now.

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October 15, 2008

I've got your anti-leeching protection right here

Currently, I use the Fast Video Download add-on for Firefox to retrieve things from YouTube, Google video, et al that I would like to have on my PC. However, some sites have taken steps to prevent me from being able to do such a thing. Enter Tubemaster Plus via Freewaregenius. Excerpt:

Description: TubeMaster Plus is a free tool that can download streaming video and audio files from almost any media sharing site, including sites with anti-leeching protection. TubeMaster Plus also can convert downloaded videos to several formats, offers a video search function across multiple video sources, and offers a downloadble audio mp3 search function.

There's more. Much more.

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October 14, 2008

Something cool for you multiple monitor geeks

Recently, at work, I was given the option of a laptop or a desktop. Since the desktop came with a 21" monitor, I opted for the desktop, notwithstanding that "management's preferred option is the laptop". I cited the reduced strain on my eyes and management said, "Okley-dokley." Anyway, a couple of weeks later, my boss mentioned that laptop users were now being given the option of having a 21" in addtion to the built-in on the laptop. Of course I said yes.

The cool thing about newer laptops is the ability to have multiple monitors. However, I found it quite maddening to try and keep track of what was open on each monitor. Invariably, I'd tab through my open applications to the one that I wanted it and said application would be on the other monitor, at which point I'd drag it over to where I wanted it to be. And then I'd promptly forget about it until I attempted to use the program again.

Never fear, though: someone has fixed my problem for me. I give you Oscar's Multi-Monitor taskbar. Excerpt:

Normal Windows XP or Vista:

taskbefore.gif

All windows are displayed on the primary monitors taskbar regardless on which monitor they are opened.

With Multimon Taskbar:

mmtaskafter.gif

Second Task bar is added to the extended monitor and it displays item from that monitor while primary taskbar displays items from the primary window...

TaskBar (freeware)


  • It adds second taskbar to the extended desktop on Monitor 2
  • It can add third taskbar to the second Extended monitor if you have 3 monitors setup.
  • It shows only applications from that Monitor
  • It hides the applications on Monitor 2 and 3 from normal Windows Taskbar
  • Adds a Move to Monitor button to windows applications (XP).
  • Add Text Clipboard Extender
  • Buttons to roll-right the taskbar (good for full screen Remote Desktop)
  • Very carefully written, I don't want to crash my own desktop!

There is a pro version, which costs money and, to be frank, is a bit more robust. However, I've found the freeware version to be just fine. Also, there are some more features which I won't bother to discuss. You can find out about those features here.

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October 07, 2008

Getting started with Linux

Sure, I'm a KDE sort of a fellow, but lots of people love Ubuntu and its Gnome interface. Here's a quick How To Set Up Ubuntu on your computer tutorial. It's pretty short, so I won't excerpt anything from it. Just click on over, if you're so inclined.

BTW, I'm about to replace my PC's hard drive with something much larger than currently resides within my tower. However, the smallish hard drive will be ideal for installing some version of Linux; I'm leaning towards MEPIS 8.0, which looks pretty slick. The reason for two hard drives, rather than partitioning a single one is that I don't want a crash to wipe out two operating systems at the same time. And, if I'm feeling really adventurous, I'll add a third HD with the OS X (open source Mac clone) installed on it. Nothing like 3 operating systems to let the whole world know how freaking geeky you really are.

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October 06, 2008

Useful site

If you have a certain wmv file that you want to convert to Flash Video (flv) format and upload to YouTube, you might check out this site, which allows you to convert between multiple video formats. Just an FYI.

Update: See below the fold, if YouTube hasn't pulled it yet.



by

Or maybe this site:

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October 01, 2008

Linux games on Live DVD

Everyone who plays computer games has, at one time or another, seen a game and thought, gee that looks cool, and then installed it on his/her PC, only to be disappointed when the game wouldn't easily travel with you.

Okay, that second point was more important before laptops became so ubiquitous, but it's still -somewhat- valid. Anyway.

Now, though, you can carry a Live DVD of Linux games. All you need to do is carry the DVD with you, pop it in the drive, boot up your computer and off you go. Sounds like a great deal to me. Excerpt:

lg-live is a live Linux DVD pre-installed with some of the top linux games out there. You just boot from your dvd, select your game and start playing. As simple as that.

Minimum requirements for the games to run:

- AMD 1800+
- 512MB ram
- ATI Radeon 8500 (NVIDIA GeForce3)

The liveDVD itself is based on ArchLinux and comes pre-loaded with 13 popular Linux games, and more are planned for future release. Some of the games currently available are:

Astromenace is a brilliant 3d scroll-shooter allowing you to feel the adrenalin rush of a fierce space battle against relentless swarms of alien invaders. Immerse into a decisive battle against tons of cunning foes, face the terrifying bosses and protect your homeland throughout 15 diverse levels of the game. The hardcore gameplay of AstroMenace, packed with pure non-stop action, will become a full scale test for your basic instinct of survival.

Battle Tanks is a funny battle on your desk, where you can choose one of three vehicles and eliminate your enemy using the whole arsenal of weapons. It has original cartoon-like graphics and cool music, it’s fun and dynamic, it has several network modes for deathmatch and cooperative — what else is needed to have fun with your friends? And all is packed and ready for you in “Battle Tanks”.

Glest is a real time strategy game which is freely available. The game is settled in an ancien

There's a lot more. Check it out if you're so inclined.

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September 30, 2008

Getting to the good stuff

Ever try to watch a YouTube video where someone said, "Skip for to the 5:20 mark to see..."? Yeah, that first 5:19 usually blows great big gobs of greasy grimy gopher guts. Anyway, here's something that will make the viewing a lot less painful: Splicd. Check out this description from Lifehacker:

Web site Splicd creates custom links to embedded YouTube videos that start and stop at any time you define, allowing you to skip straight to the good part and avoid the rest. Let's say, for example, you've stumbled onto a gem on YouTube but had to suffer through 10 minutes of complete boredom to get there. You want to share the video with a friend, but you don't want her to have to sit through the whole mess for 20 seconds of pure gold. Just paste the URL of the video into Splicd, give it your desired start and end time, and it generates a custom link that starts and stops the video where you told it to (like this one).

Pretty cool stuff.

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September 23, 2008

Old school gamin'

As good as computer games are today, I sometimes feel a twinge of nostalgia over games that I played long ago (the 1980s and 1990s). My current computer thumbs its electronic nose at these games, and will not allow me to play them. At least, it didn't allow me to play them. I give you DosBox, a DOS emulator which will play some/most/a lot of old DOS style games. You can find lots of games to download here.

Here's how you setup and install DosBox, including how to run your old games.

One thing that I'm not entirely clear on is whether or not I can install my old games via DosBox. I'll give it a try and report back to you. Feel free to try it yourself and let me know.

Yeah, that last part was a nudgenudge-winkwink sort of a hint.

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September 15, 2008

Load movies onto your iPod

I don't actually own and iPod, but a friend of mine asked me last week how to go about converting DVDs that she owns into video viewable on her itty bitty screen. There are several methods that I'm aware of; here are a few:

  • Use DVD Decrypter and Videora iPod Converter. Note: While I use DVD43 a lot, I'm not certain that its' entirely necessary for this to work, as DVD Decrypter does a fine job removing the protection from commercial DVDs. Also, I don't own an iPod and am therefore unfamiliar with Videora. However, here's one site for you to download from.
  • Use DVDx, Xilisoft and iTunes 6.0. This article is several years old. For all I know, iTunes 60.0 is available for download.
  • Use Handbrake (Mac OS only): Okay, there is a version of Handbrake for Windows available, but it shat itself rather spectacularly on my laptop, which means that I won't recommend it. For Mac people though, it might be your best bet.

And there you have it.

This political season, while quite entertaining, is starting to bore me. It's become so predictable on both sides of the political aisle that I can make more accurate predictions than Nostradamus. Except for this year's winner, of course, because I have no freaking idea. Anyway, I'd much rather post entries about geeky computer stuff, beer and stale jokes In fact, I plan to get back to my Brewing Beer series, which I left woefully incomplete.

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August 27, 2008

Fixing Firefox

Annoyed by those effing Flash content ads loading on seemingly every single webpage? Don't be. Simply add Flashblock to Firefox and voila! No more Flash content. You can, of course, view the content by clicking on it, but you won't be forced to listen to or watch crappy ads by default.

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August 24, 2008

Hacking wifi in an airport

If you don't like paying the ridiculous fee that airport Internet cubes charge you, you might be interested in this little hack. Excerpt:

Without any hope of success I typed http://www.google.com/.jpg into my browser's adress bar, and to my big surprise I saw the page you see when you follow the link right now. The next thing I typed in was: http://www.google.com/?.jpg but that didn't work. But I went on, and found that url's like http://www.google.com/search?.jpg worked like a charm. I found that I could easily visit sites like slashdot, google, or even this weblog, when adding a ?.jpg at the end of the url.

Give it a try, if you're so inclined. The author also mentions a script that automatically appends that ?.jpg to each URL. I'm probably too lazy to do that, but give it a shot and let me know how it works out for you.

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August 04, 2008

Advice from Microsoft: how to speed up Vista

Well, Redmond decides to offer some free advice on speeding up Crapta. Funny thing, though: I didn't see "uninstall this piece of crap and install XP, Linux, Mac OS, or Dos 3.0" anywhere in the article. I'm sure that it's simply an oversight.

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July 28, 2008

Making your USB thumb drive Autorun

Let's say that you've got an application that's more or less self-contained. You've installed it onto your USB thumb drive and you'd like for it to autostart when you plug in the USb drive. Here's what you do:

1) Copy/install the application(s) that you want onto the thumb drive

2) Using Notepad (or text editor of your choice), create, in the root of your thumb drive, an Autorun.inf file and add the following lines:

[Autorun] Open=\applicationpath\application.exe relative path to application you want to start, since the drive letter will change from PC to PC

note: technically, you could stop here; this will work as is.

Action=Start whateveryouwanttocallit this displays a menu name when Windows pops up the choices (open folder in Explorer, run application, play media files, etc.)
Icon=whateverimageorfileiconyouwantouse displays the icon to for the app
Label=AppLabel needs no description

You're probably wondering how you can prevent someone from canceling out of the Windows pop-up choices for "what do you want to do?" with your thumb drive, as well as preventing someone from being able to double-click on the thumb drive to explore/wreck its contents. Simply add the following line to the ones listed above and, when someone double-clicks on the thumb drive letter, the application will autostart:

shell\open\command=\applicationpath\application.exe

There you have it. Now go forth and be geeky.

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July 07, 2008

Good customer service

Maybe Microsoft could take lessons...

Microsoft (MSFT) is no longer shipping Windows XP, but frustrated Vista-hating consumers may have new options to avoid the operating system. Dell (DELL) says it's found a loophole in its licensing agreement with Microsoft that allows it to keep selling Windows XP Professional. ...
This lets customer’s [sic] upgrade to the Vista platform when they’re ready. And yes, Dell will support both OSs.

XP will remain the dominent PC OS until Microsoft's next generation operating systems comes out which, based on the lack of customer sales, should in no way resemble Crapta.

Hat tip to Stephen Green.

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July 01, 2008

Excessive timewaster

So Blizzard release Diablo III in the not too distant future. I forsee much wasted time in my future. Excerpt:

Even though Diablo, Mephisto and Baal were slain in Diablo II, Tristam is again under siege by evil creatures that players will have to eliminate. The game is being designed to focus more on cooperative play instead of soloing through the world. ... There will be five different classes in Diablo III, with the barbarian class making a comeback, using Cleave, Ground Stomp, Seismic Slam and Whirlwind. A new class will be made, Witch Doctor, who will be able to use ancient tribal magic to help slay enemies. He'll be able to use Mass Confusion, Soul Harvest, Firebomb, LocustSwarm and Horrify while also having abilities similar to the Necromancer from Diablo II, such as summoning pets.

Deckard Cain, a central figure in the first two games, will make a triumphant comeback into Diablo III, though his specific role is unknown.

At least we don't have to kill that frigging blacksmith again. I bought tons of stuff from him in Diablo and how did the little bastard repay me? He turned into a demon monster in D2. I fixed his sorry ass.

Yeah, I know: me and 50 gazillion other people did, too

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June 22, 2008

Windows' games on Linux

I don't actually play Heroes of Might and Magic 5, but some people I know do. And now you're not stuck if you're using a Linux front-end. David Stenberg gives you step-by-step instructions for installing and running the game under Ubuntu 8.04 with Wine. There are links at the bottom to other game installations using Wine which, by the way, had its first stable 1.0 release this past week.

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June 05, 2008

Replacement for Windows

Over at HowToForge, Falko Timme has created the installation steps required to replace Windows with Linux using Kubuntu 8.04. Excerpt:

This tutorial shows how you can set up a Kubuntu 8.04 LTS (Hardy Heron) desktop that is a full-fledged replacement for a Windows desktop, i.e. that has all the software that people need to do the things they do on their Windows desktops. The advantages are clear: you get a secure system without DRM restrictions that works even on old hardware, and the best thing is: all software comes free of charge. Kubuntu 8.04 LTS is derived from Ubuntu 8.04 LTS and uses the KDE desktop instead of the GNOME desktop.

I want to say first that this is not the only way of setting up such a system. There are many ways of achieving this goal but this is the way I take. I do not issue any guarantee that this will work for you!

He goes through the all of the steps necessary to get you going on your replacement for the Worlds Biggest Virus™.

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June 04, 2008

More free stuff

Over at Free Geekery is a post containing ways to get free stuff online. For those of you frugal (cheap) individuals, it's definitely worth checking out. Here are some samples:

23. SourceForge: Open source software is all the rage these days with even non-tech savvy people embracing Linux operating systems like Ubuntu. Download open source programs, the majority of which are free or reasonably priced, to your heart’s content with the Web’s “largest open source software development website.” ... 40. Berklee Shares: If you’ve always wanted to learn to play the guitar or keyboard, or a variety of other instruments, this site could be your chance to do so for free. Just download the lessons and you can start learning on your own and with no out of pocket expense. ... 45. Ear Training Software: For the less musically inclined, understanding pitch and being able to play things by ear is a daunting challenge. These free and open source programs can help build your skills without you having to pay for expensive software or numerous lessons.

Lots more for your reading pleasure.

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May 30, 2008

Upgrade your low-priced router

A few years ago, I bought a router on sale for around $40: the Linksys WRT54G v6. It worked fine until recently when I built a computer for my kids. The router is in one corner of the house upstairs. The new computer was downstairs in the opposite corner, essentially diagonally across the the 3-D rectangular cube that is my house. Consequently, the wireless signal kept dropping on me, which was quite frustrating to my children and me. So I started looking for ways to make the signal stronger. I stumbled across WW-DRT:

DD-WRT is a third party developed firmware released under the terms of the GPL for many ieee802.11a/b/g/h/n wireless routers based on a Broadcom or Atheros chip reference design.

What happens is that you replace the firmware that came with your router and upgrade it to a Linux control platform. Sounded good to me so I check to see if my device was supported. It was, with some caveats:

In all later references we'll call these models "neutered". Why? Because they've had some crucial functionality removed by their reduced RAM and reduced flash memory. [edit] Linksys WRT54G Neutered Models

Version 5.0 Serial number begins with: CDFB
Version 5.1 Serial number begins with: CDFC
Version 6.0 Serial number begins wtih: CDFD
[edit] Linksys WRT54GS Neutered Models

Version 5.0 Serial number begins with: CGN7
Version 5.1 Serial number begins with: CGN8
Version 6.0 Serial number begins with: CGN9


For more complete information on hardware revisions, visit Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wrt54g#Hardware_revisions


On the neutered models listed above, Linksys reduced the flash memory and the RAM compared to previous versions of these models, thus the term "neutered". DD-WRT Micro is one of the only 3rd party firmwares available for these models. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO FLASH ONE OF THESE WITH DD-WRT mini. Having said that, if you have one of these neutered models, you'd still be much better off selling it and getting something else that is a supported device.

Looked like selling it was out of the question, so I said what the heck and proceeded with the specific installation instructions found here.

The instructions are pretty simple and worked well, but I have a couple of comments to make so I'll reprint them here:

If you have a WRT54G Version 5 or 6...
1. Download linux_prep_wrt54g.bin
2. Go into 192.168.1.1, click "Administration". Go to "Firmware Upgrade", and select the linux_prep_wrt54g.bin file. (see here for help) Click Apply and wait a few minutes. After you're screen turns white, power cycle the router.
3. Download linux_upgrade_wrt54g.bin
4. Go back to 192.168.1.1. You are now in Management Mode. Select the linux_upgrade_wrt54g.bin file and upgrade.
5. Again, power cycle the router. When restarted, the Power LED should be flashing.
6. Download tftp.exe
7. Download dd-wrt.v23_micro_generic.bin
8. Open the TFTP client (Enter IP: 192.168.1.245 or 192.168.1.1) and upload "dd-wrt.v23.micro_generic.bin"

wrt54g.jpg

9. The router should restart. Wait a moment and than go to 192.168.1.1. If all went well, you should be running DD-WRT Micro.
10. Enjoy your new Linux router and have a Cold Beverage!

Be sure to check out the FAQ as your browser will likely lose its built in IP address. Follow the steps in the FAQ and you'll be fine, with one exception:

I Can't Connect to the Router! You've simply lost your IP address. You need to manually set these values. Windows XP: Control Panel> Network Connections> Right Click > Local Area Connection> Scroll > Internet Protocol (TCP/IP)> Properties> Select > Use the following IP Address:> IP: 192.168.1.99 Subnet Mask: 255.255.255.0 Gateway: 192.168.1.1

I recommend using IP 192.168.1.101 instead. I had problems with the "99" at the end; I don't know why. Anyway, some additions to the 10 steps above:

2) ...After you're screen turns white, power cycle the router

What happens using IE [***warning: do not use Firefox to do this upgrade***] is that the upgrade progresses and then the browser moves to a "page not found" sort of page, which is a white page with text. "Power cycling" means unplugging the router and then plugging it back in a few seconds later. CLOSE THE BROWSER, reopen and go to 192.168.1.1 to see the Management Mode screen.

8) 8. Open the TFTP client (Enter IP: 192.168.1.245 or 192.168.1.1) and upload "dd-wrt.v23.micro_generic.bin"

If the micro_generic.bin fails to load on 3 tries, be sure to follow the steps listed in the FAQ to reset the IP address of your router.

9. The router should restart.

The router didn't restart for me and I waited a few minutes for it to happen. Eventually, I power cycled it and reopened IE, typed in 192.168.1.1 and lo and behold I saw the DD-WRT router configuration screen. YAY!

Final steps:

1) You will have to rename your router's SSID as it's been returned to default values.

2) Re-enable your WEP or WPA keys that wireless computers in your household are using so that nothing will have to be changed on their ends.

3) Go to Wireless--> Advanced settings and look for the Xmit power. The factory default is 28 mW. In theory, you can go over 250 mW, but it's like overclocking your PC's CPU: you'll fry it pretty quickly. I boosted the output signal to 70 then 90 mW to get the output I needed for the computer downstairs. My work was done.

For those of you hardcore gamers or downloading demons, you can also set up priorities for actions, software and computers (I'm not certain about the last one) to make your wireless network work how you want it to. As for me, I simply got more and better use out of my crappy little RAM-challenged router, which saves me the money for a new, more powerful one. If my tweak ends up shortening the life a little, so be it. I've gotten 2-3 years out of it already so I'll come out ahead.

WARNING!!! The actions you take might brick your router. There are numerous methods listed to unbrick them, but it's possible that you might have to run down to the computer store to buy a new one. Just an FYI, so don't blame me if it fails.
My update worked fine, but YMMV.

Good luck and happy routing.

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May 28, 2008

Gaming while Linux

Assuming you've moved onto Linux, you're probably complaining a bit about the dearth of games to play. Oh sure, you've waded into Wine territory to discover the 57 convoluted steps that, if taken properly while holding your breath and rubbing your stomach, will allow you to play a Windows game from within Linux. However, assuming that you'd like to play some native to Linux games, here's a list of 42 such games for your consideration:

To demonstrate the level of sophistication available, we have put together a list of 42 high quality Linux games that all have the virtue of being free to play. To ensure that there is something of interest here for every type of gamer, we have covered a wide variety of computer game genres, including the ever popular First Person Shooters (FPS), Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG), as well as arcade games, board/puzzle games and more.

To be eligible for inclusion in this list each game needed to meet the following requirements:


  • Free to play (no download charge, no monthly charge)
  • Does not require Wine to run. Wine is a compatibility layer for running Windows software.
  • Not in the early stages of development

The only sort of exception we made was to include the game OpenTTD, a personal favorite which we could not see miss the list. OpenTTD needs the MS Windows or DOS version of Transport Tycoon Deluxe. But assuming you already have the game, OpenTTD lets you play it for free natively under Linux.


Our three requirements automatically excluded a whole raft of high quality games that run under Linux. There are a collection of titles where a no-charge client is available for download, but where the game requires a small monthly subscription to play online. Notables examples of games which fall into this category include EVE (a massive multiplayer online game set in a science-fiction based world), Vendetta (a massively multiplayer online role-playing game), and Savage 2 (a fantasy and science-fiction themed game that combines elements of the first-person shooter, real-time strategy, and action role-playing game genres). Subscription based Linux games will be covered in a future article.

Wine has reached a level of maturity that it lets you play a wide range of commercial Windows games. This enables gamers to enjoy classics such as World of Warcraft, the king of the Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (which has over 11 million subscribers), Half-Life 2, Silkroad Online, Planescape, Day of Defeat: Source Steam, Call of Duty 2 etc etc. We'll also cover the world that Wine opens up in a separate article together with commercial native Linux games too.

Anyway, I'll let you check out the list for yourself. If by chance you don't play computer games because they're silly and juvenile, let me state for the record that I pity you. Sure, I didn't know the touch of a woman growing up, but I did figure out to get by the damned Green Dragon in Adventure:

Kill dragon.

With what? You bare hands?

Yes.

Congratulations. You've just killed a fierce green dragon with your bare hands. Amazing, isn't it?

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May 21, 2008

In a nutshell

From Linux Opinion comes this little Point-Counterpoint (Jane, you ignorant slut!):

There are two opposing ways to see Linux, and both are true.

The Negative View:


  • Linux has lots of geeky technical issues.
  • Linux geeks are having fun. They don't care about us.
  • Freedom is next to Godliness - let chaos reign!
  • Documentation is boring and only for wimps.
  • Linux is for the high priests and Windows is for the masses.
  • Linux has thousands of great projects - and no management.
  • Linux market share is 1%.

The Positive View:


  • Linux is a fine operating system with a rich set of capable applications.
  • All this is completely free and can be modified as you please.
  • The geek community understands the problems and is rapidly improving.
  • Ubuntu is the new 600 pound gorilla and is setting standards.
  • Major PC vendors are starting to offer pre-installed Linux (Dell, WallMart).
  • Microsoft: quality, security and ethics issues are sending users to Linux (and Mac).
  • Linux market share has doubled in the last year.

I think that the Negative list is missing an item:


  • Linux geeks may never know the touch of a woman

Then again, that might just be me.

Update: Yep, it's just me.

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May 20, 2008

Hardware issues

So I finally got all of the components for the computer that I'm building for my children. I cheated a little and cannibalized CD-ROM drives and floppy drives (shut up) from some old systems that I'm certain my wife would like to chuck out the window. Anyway, I thought that I'd be clever and pull off the old direct cooling fan as well and simply use that on the new motherboard/CPU combo. Funny thing, though: I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to attach the fan to the new motherboard. I finally gave up and ordered a new one. When it arrived, I discovered why the old fan wouldn't fit. The new fans are freaking ginormous. Two huge levels of radiating fins and a fan that, frankly, I could use as a small ceiling fan, at least in our dog house.

Anyway, I plan to take pictures of my latest PC project and post them here. The first photo will be of the two cooling fans sitting side by side just to give you an idea of how much things have changed in just a couple of years. The rest will be of the entire project, from empty mini-tower to booting the OS.

When will all of this happen? Beats me. Family obligations keep intruding. But my kids are getting antsy and my wife is tired of getting kicked off of her machine. My guess is that it will be sooner, rather than later. Stay tuned.

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May 13, 2008

All aboard the no Gates express

Next stop: Linuxville

Check out this article at Tech Radar on one guy's move from Windows to Ubuntu. Except:

One of the main problems with Microsoft's Windows OS is that virtually everything on your motherboard, and anything you want to install, requires an appropriate driver. This used to be the case with Linux, but like Apple’s OS X, a large number of drivers are now built into the Linux kernel.

For instance, once you install Windows, you normally need to install all the motherboard drivers. When I installed Ubuntu, this wasn’t necessary.

Even more impressively, Ubuntu detected my wireless USB stick. All it required was the WPA password and it connected straight to the Internet. In Windows, a specific driver is needed.
...
So far I’m impressed. Setting up Ubuntu has been easier than Windows XP or Vista, and I’ve had to install far fewer drivers. Over the next four days, I’ll find out how Ubuntu copes with a range of everyday tasks, from Internet shopping to productivity and playing games.

Stay tuned for future installments in this series.

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April 29, 2008

Protect yourself. For free.

Useful list compiled here at Linux Planet: The Top 75 Open Source Security Apps. Excerpt:

Anti-Virus/Anti-Malware

1. ClamWin Free Antivirus

This Windows-only app uses the incredibly popular ClamAV engine to detect viruses and spyware. It includes a scanning scheduler, automatic downloads, and a Microsoft Outlook plug-in. However, it does not provide real-time scanning; you'll need to scan your files manually in order to be protected. Operating System: Windows.

2. ClamAV

Numerous commercial and open-source products are based on the Clam Antivirus engine. Designed for protecting e-mail gateways, Clam AV offers automatic updates, a command line scanner, and more. Operating System: Unix, Linux, BSD.
...
Data Removal

14. Eraser

Want to make sure that file you deleted can never be retrieved? Eraser writes over your files with random data so that no one can snoop into your private files. Operating System: Windows and DOS.

15. Darik's Boot and Nuke

Also known as "DBAN," Darik's Boot and Nuke completely eliminates all of the data on a hard drive. It's an ideal way to clean up an old computer before you donate or recycle it. Operating System: OS Independent.

16. Wipe

Wipe erases all traces of deleted files from your hard drive so that they can't be retrieved. It relies heavily on the work of Peter Gutmann, one of the foremost experts in the field. Operating System: Linux.
...
Internet Security Suites

42. Winpooch

Calling itself "an opensource watchdog for Windows," Winpooch incorporates anti-spyware and anti-trojan capabilities with ClamWin Antivirus. It aims to give the user complete control over which programs are running on the system. Operating System: Windows.

43. DemocraKey

The DemocraKey tagline says it all: "It's like a condom for your computer." Install it on a portable drive and plug it in to any computer. DemocraKey scans for viruses and protects your privacy while you surf. Operating System: Windows.

There's a lot more to look at, if you're so inclined.

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April 23, 2008

Geeky gaming goodness

Marcel Gagne links to several free to download video games that do not require the latest video card. In fact, I'll posit that you can use an old 1-meg video card and still play these games. So have at it.

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April 22, 2008

Good advice

Very interesting and useful article entitled The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Linux Users. Excerpt:

If there was one habit that one should strictly abide by, it’s probably this one. Most of us come from a Windows background, and we have the notion that more power is better, so we login using our administrator accounts. Well let me tell you my friend, that this is a major reason that Windows is plagued with viruses and insecurities, half the world is currently running ‘root’ accounts!

With great power comes great responsibility, and with ‘root’ powers you should be aware of the consequences of EVERYTHING you’re doing, and even then, mistakes happen. [ed. note: That is the funniest and most horrifying Unix/Linux story ever]I remember my beginnings with SUSE Linux, there were lot of administrative tasks I needed to do but had no idea how to go about them without the GUI, so I so innocently log out and login onto the ‘root‘ GUI. The default wallpaper of the ‘root‘ GUI on SUSE were lit fuse bombs tiled beside each other. Back then, the symbolism totally flew over my head, coming from a Windows background, I wasn’t really doing anything wrong.

But what are the dangers of logging in as root?

  1. Well imagine you’re on the trapeze without a safety net, frightening isn’t it? Well that’s effectively what you are doing when you login as root, you can inadvertently hose your whole system
  2. You are at the risk of running malware. Any program that is started under root mode will automatically be given root privileges
  3. If there is a common security hole that hasn’t been patched yet, you could be totally “pwned”
  4. It’s common Unix convention, never run anything in root mode unless absolutely necessary. If a non-admin program asks for root access, you should be suspicious

Generally, instead of logging onto your root GUI, use any of the following techniques:


  • Use “sudo” or “su” , and kill the session when your done
  • If you don’t know how to do it in the command line, use “gksu” or “kdesu”. For example, press alt+f2 and type “gksu nautilus“. Close the app as soon as you finish

Lots more good advice to peruse.

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April 16, 2008

After the kids are asleep

Via Jonah comes the Worlds Hardest Game. Somehow, I thought that was figuring out what women want. Oh wait, that's fiction, not a game.

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April 03, 2008

Idiocy, thy name is Bill Gates

So I hear that Microsoft will sunset XP as of June 30, forcing customers to upgrade the turd parade known as Vista or, possibly, switching to something else.

Let be clear: as much as I've extolled the virtues of Linux on this site, I find that Windows XP is a pretty decent operating system, especially since SP2 came out. And lots of people liked it. So much so, in fact, that people chose to "downgrade" from Vista. Of course, Vista sucking so much had a lot to do with it as well. Microsoft, after years of coding, finally created something that people hated more than Windows ME. And now Microsoft, in its finite wisdom, has decided to flip the bird to its customers. What to do, what to do? Well, the author of this article has some ideas and opinions on the matter. Excerpt:

On June 30, Microsoft will do something quite ordinary -- the company will stop selling a 7-year-old old product.

Microsoft has killed off many versions of Windows in the past. But there's a difference with the retirement of Windows XP: Most users hate its replacement, Windows Vista.

Microsoft has always suffered from a cultural flaw baked into its DNA: The company just doesn't do "simplicity." Microsoft thinks simplicity results from the masking of radical complexity with a user interface that hides, buries or disables options. Windows Vista stands as a monument to this flawed vision.

When the company shipped Vista -- which users hate precisely because of its over-complexity -- Microsoft compounded its error by segmenting out a dozen (or whatever it is) versions of Vista, creating confusion and paralysis.

Now, Microsoft is doing it again with uncertainty and complexity about when and where and which XP will be supported, not supported or semi-supported.
...
In my own case, both my desktop and laptop run Windows XP, and I have an Asus Eee PC that runs Linux. If I choose to buy another system, and XP is unavailable to me at the time of purchase, I'll be forced to choose from one of four alternatives: 1) Linux; 2) Mac OS X; 3) Vista; and 4) an illegal copy of XP. For me, options 3 and 4 aren't even up for consideration. I'll choose either Linux or a Mac. Just for my own peace of mind, I might be tempted to convert my remaining systems to my new choice, and abandoned Windows altogether.

But if XP is available, on the other hand, I'll buy it. Microsoft will get the money. I'll continue to invest in Windows applications, and if Microsoft gets Windows 7 right, I'll upgrade to that.

Isn't maintaining XP better for Microsoft than pushing people away from Windows altogether?

The answer to that last question is apparently "no".

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April 02, 2008

Browsing files with Firefox

Don't like Windows Explorer to root around in your directories and files? Well, now you can use the Firefox browser for that task, as long as you install Firefly. Pretty cool stuff. However, be aware that it's still what I'd consider a beta release.

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From the wayback geek machine

Well, I missed it two days ago, but you can still celebrate a belated Happy Run Some Old Browsers Day. Excerpt:

In honor of the ten year anniversary of the Mozilla project, home.mcom.com, the Internet Web Site of the Mosaic Communications Corporation, is now back online. ... Once you've got those old browsers running, you'll find that they're working fine with the mcom.com web sites, but they fail on just about every other web site in the world (for the "Host" header reason I described above). I have a fix for that!

I wrote a small proxy server that bidirectionally translates the HTTP/1.0 protocol spoken by old web browsers to the HTTP/1.1 protocol spoken on the modern web. Download and run http10proxy.pl. (You may need to install the Net::Server::Fork Perl module first.) Then, go into the preferences on your ancient browser and set "HTTP Proxy" to localhost, port 8228. This will adjust outgoing Host headers as well as incoming Content-Type headers.

I remember downloading, configuring and running Mosaic. Those were the days.

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March 20, 2008

When you can't kick Microsoft completely to the curb

It's time for VirtualBox.

Look, I've long extolled the virtues of Linux and I've linked to the almost infinite variety of Linux equivalent pieces of software. However, there are some things that simply cannot be easily replaced, such as Quicken, which I've been using for more than a decade. And since Quicken 2008 is completely enabled using even Crossover Office, I'd be forced to boot into Windows at least once a day. Or rather, I would be if it weren't for VirtualBox. Lifehacker has the scoop:

You love working inside your Linux desktop, but at the most inconvenient times you've got to reboot into Windows—whether to open a tricky Office file, try out a Windows application, or even just play a quick game. However, with some free tools and a Windows installation disk, you can have Windows apps running right on your Linux desktop and sharing the same desktop files. It's relatively painless, it takes only a little bit longer than a Windows XP install, and it works just like virtualizing Windows on a Mac with Parallels Coherence—except it's free. ... If you're curious what the end result might look like, here's a screenshot from my quick installation. I would've loved to have gotten iTunes running, but I didn't have time to wait for all the post-XP-installation patches/upgrades to install to show you.

virtualbox.bmp


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March 18, 2008

Games for Linux

Technically, the advice here is for installing into an Ubuntu system. However, by making the appropriate libraries available, there's nothing to really prevent you from installing these games into a KDE-based Linux. Excerpt:

3.Lincity

Lincity is a city simulation game. You are required to build and maintain a city. You must feed, house, provide jobs and goods for your residents. You can build a sustainable economy with the help of renewable energy and recycling, or you can go for broke and build rockets to escape from a pollution ridden and resource starved planet, it's up to you.
...
9. LBreakout2

The polished successor to LBreakout offers you a new challenge in more than 50 levels with loads of new bonuses (goldshower, joker, explosive balls, bonus magnet ...), maluses (chaos, darkness, weak balls, malus magnet ...) and special bricks (growing bricks, explosive bricks, regenerative bricks, indestructible bricks, chaotic bricks). And if you're through with all the levels you can create complete new levelsets with the integrated easy-to-use level editor or challenge other humans via LAN or internet iin either deathmatch or normal levelsets. Fun!
...
10. Burgerspace

This is a clone of the classic game "BurgerTime". In it, you play the
part of a chef who must create burgers by stepping repeatedly on the
ingredients until they fall into place. And to make things more
complicated, you also must avoid evil animate food items while performing
this task, with nothing but your trusty pepper shaker to protect you.
...
14. Secret Maryo Chronicles

Secret Maryo Chronicles is an Open Source two-dimensional platform game with a style designed similar to classic sidescroller games. Secret Maryo Chronicles is a clone of the Classic "Mario bros" game . It features number of levels and stages , attractive sound and graphics and in game editor . Though not exactly small (the entire installation of Secret Maryo Chronicles was 58 megabytes download on my system ), still game is fun filled 2d side scroller with impressive graphics and sound hence i have included it in this list .
...
23 Playing classic DOS games with DOSBOX

DOSBOX allows you to run your old dos programs under Linux , DOSBOX provides a full featured dos environment inside your ubuntu box . DOSBOX allows running of DOS programs in Linux and Windows.
...
Some of the popular DOS games can be obtained at the following internet address : -

Bio Menace (This game and all it's three series were released as Freeware and can be downloaded from ) ,Commander Keen , Wolfeinstein 3D , Duke Nukem , Hocus Pocus , Crystal Caves and other can be downloaded at the following address some of the games are shareware and some freeware but trust me even shareware games would give you hours if not days of entertainment : - http://www.3drealms.com/downloads.html

Alley Cat ( This game released in 1984 is one of my all time favorite i have spent a lot of time playing this on my 386 computer ) this can be downloaded from the following : - http://www.dosgamesarchive.com/download/game/91

Dangerous Dave ( Well this game released in 1988 is a very simple game which is quite popular here in India even today in school labs you could find people playing this game !!!!!) :- http://www.abandonia.com/games/Dangerous%20Dave.zip

Mario Brother VGA ( Well this is also a nice game it even has a boss mode to fool your boss that you are working and to top it all it is only few kilobytes in size !!) :- http://www.abandonia.com/games/880/MarioBrothersVGA

Get more old dos games here at : http://www.abandonia.com
http://dosgamesarchive.com

No reference to Colossal Cave (aka Adventure), but I'll go ahead and point you in that general direction by saying XYZZY and PLUGH.

Hint: When you say "KILL GREEN DRAGON" and the computer replies, "WITH WHAT? YOU BARE HANDS?", say "YES". Don't try this on the bear, though. Remember: it's your bare hands against his bear hands.

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March 05, 2008

Don't fix it if it ain't broken

However, if it IS broken (your PC, that is), you might want to have a SystemRescueCD Live CD nearby, even if you don't use Linux as your OS of choice. While there are some black bag recovery discs out there ::cough-coughminiPEcough-cough::, SystemRescueCD has the benefit of being completely Open Source, which means you won't ever violate the law while using it. Anyway, excerpt:

For those of you who haven't had the pleasure of using SystemRescueCd, the Linux kernel 2.6.24.2-based distribution can be booted from either a CD-ROM or a USB stick. Once it's running, and I've yet to meet a busted PC that still had a working CPU and memory it couldn't run on, you have your choice of the lightweight WindowsMaker GUI or a shell command-line interface.

The distribution comes with a variety of system tools, such as the low-level disk partition programs GParted and sfdisk and disk repair tools like TestDisk and Partimage. For higher levels of repair, it comes with such programs as Midnight Commander, an excellent file manager based on the design of the old MS-DOS Norton Commander and CD/DVD writing tools such as dvd+rwtools.
[ed. note: I used to love Norton Commander back in my old DOS days]
...
The new SystemRescueCd also has better support for fried graphic systems. It now includes Xvesa. This is a generic X Window server that can deliver a graphics interface without needing to know anything about the graphics hardware. You won't get a great display, but any graphic display is better than none.

Very cool. While I'm quite comfortable with a command line interface, I know that many people are not. That's one of the -very few- advantages of getting old. One of the more notable advantages is not being, you know, dead, so I'm not complaining.

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Free software! Get yer free software!

Pcpag.com has compiled a pretty good list of 157 pieces of free software for you, some of which you don't even have to download to use. Excerpt:

We did the math: If you bought popular apps instead of trying their gratis counter-parts, at the manufacturers' list prices you'd be out $5,183 and change! Why spend money when you can get what you need for nothing? Sometimes, you do get what you don't pay for.

I use, have used, or at least tried over 90% of these tools. Am I a geek or what?

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March 03, 2008

I am in awe...

...at the magnitude of geekery on display in this task: How To Install and Boot 145 Operating Systems In a PC.

Look, just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should. On the other hand: Dude.

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January 17, 2008

Surviving Windows

ArsGeek posts a useful article on how to restore your master Boot Record in Windows on the not so off chance it happens to go kablooey. It involves a live CD of Ubuntu and less than half a dozen commands to type. Also, it appears to require an Internet connection, so you might keep a a cable with an RJ-45 connector on it handy.

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January 15, 2008

Turbocharge your use of Google

At Lifehacker is this article: Top 10 Obscure Google Search Tips. Excerpt:

10. Get the local time anywhere

What time is it in Bangkok right now? Ask Google. Enter simply what time is it to get the local time in big cities around the world, or add the locale at the end of your query, like what time is it hong kong to get the local time there.

9. Track flight status

Enter the airline and flight number into the Google search box and get back the arrival and departure times right inside Google's search results.

There's more, of course. Check it out.

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January 02, 2008

Free software games

Do you like first person shooter games? If not, what's wrong with you? In any event, this article over at Linux Games has a pretty good rundown on the pros and cons of what's available at no charge to you, the consumer. Excerpt:

There have been many free software first-person shooters (FPS) projects over the years, from modded Doom and Quake engines to enhance the existing games (ezQuake, EGL, ZDoom), to free art packs such as OpenQuartz or OpenArena. In 2002, along came Cube, a single and multiplayer FPS based on its own engine, including artwork, maps, models and an ingame map editor. In the freeware (and Linux compatible!) world a little-known game called Legends, a Tribes-inspired game, appeared yet remained closed-source. Filling the FPS gap in the open-source world has usually been left up to commercial companies who release their games with Linux support (i.e. Doom3, Unreal Tournament 2004, Loki Software's work) or freeware games produced by commercial studios(i.e. America's Army, Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory) or simply running Windows games run via wine. In the last few years a few built-from-scratch community-based FPS projects, most built on the GPLed Quake engines, have popped up, among them are Tremulous, Alien Arena, Nexuiz, and War§ow. Some have kept their art assets under a closed license (War§ow), while others have also released their art under an OSS license (Nexuiz), I consider both categories free software since well, software refers to programs, code and procedures, not artwork. For this comparison, we'll take a look at active, robust and community-developed free software shooters. Most released free software shooters are designed for multiplayer, a logical step for a game developed in an online community, however most also feature a bot-based single-player mode. While others have compared such games before, this feature seeks to be a little more thorough and go a step further, ranking the following seven games: Alien Arena, Nexuiz, OpenArena, Sauerbraten, Tremulous, War§ow, and World of Padman. In ranking these games, gameplay, design, innovation and presentation (in that order) will be held as primary criteria.

I left out the embedded links because, frankly, I'm a lazy campaigner. Or something like that, anyway.

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December 31, 2007

Into the dustbin

Microsoft Bob was getting lonely

What was once my favorite browser is now no more. It is an ex-browser. No future improvements to the Netscape browser will be supported.

Mosaic begat Netscape which begat the Mozilla Foundation which begat Firefox. Lots of bastard stepchildren browser begatting. And then eating of the parents. Such is the technological way of like.

Thanks to Dean for the link.

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November 28, 2007

Video transcoding made easy

Let's assume that you're already a Linux user. Let's also stipulate that your particular desktop of choice is KDE. With both those things being true, you can easily convert video files from within your file manager, such as Konqueror or Dolphin. Excerpt:

KDE users, here’s a neat application that creates a ’service’ in your file manager that allows you to easily convert videos to other formats using ffmpeg.

ffmpegmenu is what you need. After copying the simple script into the right directory, an action will appear in the sidebar of either Konqueror or Dolphin (your choice), which easily allows you to convert selected video to DVD, MPEG or into iPod format with a couple of clicks.
...
Once installed, highlighting a .avi file should show the following in the sidebar (this screenshot from Dolphin):

ffmpegmenu.png

And it’s done!

Anyhoo, check it out.

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November 26, 2007

Backup and restore your hard drive

So you want to create a complete image of your hard drive and you want to do it while you're working on your computer. Give DriveImage XML a try. Lifehacker gives you the lowdown. Excerpt:

First, download DriveImage XML for free and install it as usual. You can store your system image anywhere you'd like, but I highly recommend saving it on a disk other than the one you're imaging. So if you plan to image your C: drive, purchase an external hard drive to store C:'s image, or right after you create the image, burn the files to CD or DVD. This way if your C: drive fails or breaks, you still have your image available on a separate physical disk.
...

Perform a Complete System Restore

If your computer's hard drive crashed entirely, you can restore it to its past state using the DiX image you created. Restoring an image to a target disk will delete everything on the disk and copy the contents of the image to it. That means you cannot restore an image to a drive you're already using (because you can't delete the contents of a disk already in use.) So if you booted up your computer on your C: drive, you can't restore an image to your C: drive. You need access to the target drive as a secondary disk. There are a few ways to do this. You can install the target drive as a slave in another PC in addition to its primary boot drive, or you can buy a hard drive enclosure and connect the target as an external drive. Either way, to restore a disk image to a drive you intend to boot from, you'll need:
  1. A PC running DriveImage XML
  2. The saved disk image files, whether they're on CD, DVD, on the host PC or on an external drive
  3. A target drive with a partition at least the size of the drive image files. (You can use Windows built-in Disk Management console or your partition manager of choice to create a new partition to restore to.)

There's a lot more to read.

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November 14, 2007

When you like the audio as much or more than the video

So you've got a great concert DVD that you love. It would be great to listen to the music while driving, but it's contraindicated to watch a video while driving, the recent growth of in-dash DVD players notwithstanding. Well now you can rip the audio "from DVD, VCD/SVCD and MPEG (MPEG-1, MPEG-2) files into MP3 which can be played in MP3 Players." I present to you the Free DVD to MP3 Ripper. Excerpt:

Key Features
  • It's clean and free, without any adware or spyware.
  • It's stable and fast.
  • It supports DVD movie files(*.vob), VCD/SVCD movie files(*.dat) and MPEG(MPEG-1, MPEG-2) files(*.mpeg, *.mpg).
  • By choosing the start and end point visually, you can fine tune the selection of the source video file to extract into MP3.
  • It uses up-to-date and high quality libraries to encode MP3.
  • It's not affected by any DVD copy protection.
  • The installing and uninstalling process is very easy.

Pretty cool stuff, huh? Here are the Tips and Tricks:

Tip 1:Free DVD MP3 Ripper can not only rip DVD Movie files (*.vob), but also extract audio from VCD, SVCD Movie files(*.dat) and MPEG files(*.mpeg; *.mpg) into MP3.

Tip 2:By sliding the Start Point Cursor and End Point Cursor, you can tune the selection to rip easily.

Tip 3:Before ripping, click the "Edit ID3..." link, you can edit the ID3 tag for output MP3.

Tip 4:Before ripping, click the "Change Settings..." link, you can change the output MP3 settings (bitrate, samplerate, channel mode and VBR).

Tip 5:You can search and get tons of free music clips in MPEG format from Yahoo Video Search (http://video.search.yahoo.com/), all these files can be converted to MP3 files that can be played in your MP3 player.


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November 13, 2007

Online photo editing part deux

Back here I posted about several online photo editors available for your use. Turns out that Fauxto has been revamped and renamed as Splashup. Here's what the website has to say:

Splashup, formerly Fauxto, is a powerful editing tool and photo manager. With all the features professionals use and novices want, it's easy to use, works in real-time and allows you to edit many images at once. Splashup runs in all browsers, integrates seamlessly with top photosharing sites, and even has its own file format so you can save your work in progress.

Might be worth a look before investing in some expensive editing software.

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Timewaster

It took me about 2 seconds to figure this one out. YMMV.

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November 05, 2007

Updating my OS

What follows is as brief a description as I can make of my experience trying to install Ubuntu/Kubuntu on an older machine at home using Wubi.
=======================================

I have a 1.8 Ghz machine with 512 Mb RAM at home. Currently, Windows XP is the operating system of choice. I want to upgrade the OS to some version of Linux without losing any of my old data or applications. Pretty much all distros out there help you partition the hard drive while installing the OS, but I've had issues in the past with that little thing, which is why I haven't gone ahead and done it before. Then I heard about Wubi. It uses a loop-back installer to patch the ISO file on the fly as it installs, creating a file-based installation on your existing partition, without having to resize/recreate any new partitions. It sounded good, so off I went.

I downloaded the current 7.04 installer, which installs Ubuntu/Kubuntu/Xubuntu/Edubuntu version 7.04 onto your computer. Since I prefer the KDE interface, I selected "Kubuntu" from OS choices, 10 Gb of hard disc space and then clicked go. I watched the installer download the appropriate ISO, install the system and the ask me to reboot the system, which I did. Erk. Turns out that I get a bunch of text streaming up the screen before it all stops on a "Segmentation Error" problem. Huh. Anyway, I rebooted into XP and uninstalled Wubi et al.

On to the Ubuntu forums for research. It turns out that problem is not uncommon. Someone suggested going to the alpha release for version 7.10 of Ubuntu. He mentioned that it would be a bumpy ride, but I figured what the heck. 7.04 wasn't working at all. I restarted the process, watched the pretty little progress bar move to completion and then rebooted. Kubuntu started just fine. Yippee! Now to download some software.

Uh oh. I couldn't get the wireless to connect. I saw my wireless network in KNetworkmanager and entered my shared key, but it kept failing around the 57% complete mark. So back to the forums for help.

As it happens, lots of people were grousing about how the network manager essentially broke in the move from Ubuntu 6.x to 7.x. There were lots of suggestions: install Wicd or Wlassistant and uninstall KNetworkmanager, or manual configuration. I tried them all, starting with the manual configuration, which succeeded exactly as well as KNetworkmanager had succeeded. Next, I downloaded Wicd on my wife's computer, loaded it onto a thumb drive and attempted to install it by right-clicking and selecting "Install using Aptitude blah blah blah", whereupon I received the message that there were 6 Python packages missing. I downloaded those packages and attempted to install them, at which point I was informed that a piece of software actually running on my distro didn't exist. I tried upgrading it to the beta release, but the Python packages still refused to acknowledge its existence. So I uninstalled Kubuntu.

Finally, I downloaded an even more current version of the alpha-alpha release of Wubi and tried one final time. Not surprisingly, it crapped out. Again.

I'm going to try the installer on my laptop. Although the theory of use is great, the execution still needs work.

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A little geeky humor

Kin Calvin helpfully translates this French satire article, although like many such translations, it ends up sounding, at times, like Jim Treacher's former alter-ego, Puch (or however it was spelled). In any event, it's worth excerpting:

If you want to be a hacker, you will have to use Linux. Here are 2 solutions :

– You are a capitalistic bourgeois and you buy it $150 at Fry’s.
– You are an asshole, and then you download it on the net.

Of course you belong to the second category, so you have to use your FTP client and wait a few hours while your are downloading a Slack or a Debian. Try not to use Mandriva, this is for the public. You must not forget that you are an uNdERgrOuNd guy now, it’s normal, you’re a Hacker.

O.K, now you have got Linux, you can forget it. You do not need to lose your time learning how this new Operating System works and that you will never use because Xwing vs Tie Fighter doesn’t run on it. The best way is to delete lilo, like that you will sure to boot on Windows Vista. This elegant solution is practiced by many guys like you. The easiest way is to invoke fdisk /mbr in a DOS session, it will delete lilo which was installed on your MBR’s hard drive. Good, you do not need to care about Linux anymore.
...
The $1 hacking community

When people are dangerous like you, they must meet with other crooks to jeopardize the State’s security. For this, there is THE thugs’ rendez-vous, called the Meet 2600. Every month, you will go to a MacDo in Paris, place of Italy, and there you will meet very important guys, who rebooted the entire Internet with a Visual Basic program and have special hair cuts like rebels of the society.

Okay, you will not learn much in this meetings, losers who go over there masturbate each other thinking “Yeah, we are hAcKeRz, we are ruthless, real men. Oh shit, it is already 6 pm, I have to go home otherwise my mum will kill me.” But you will still feel real thrill thinking that the MacDo is full of cameras and microphones, and that the employees are agents from the DST who are listening to dangerous conversations such as :

- Asshole1 : How much is the Whooper ?
- Asshole2 : Uh, MacDo does Whoopers now ?
- Asshole1 : I thought they always did, no ?

Welcome to the wonderful world of geekery. Be afraid; very afraid.

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October 30, 2007

Is it live, or is it Memorex?

If you're old enough to remember that commercial, well, welcome to the club. In any event, this article details how to rescale and edit your images, up to and including removing people from them. No more using scissors to cut out the old boy/girlfriend from photos. Simply remove, preserving the lovely background image. Oh, and be sure to check out this video which, I believe, Allah posted a link to over at Hot Air.

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Create DVDs for your home player

One place where Linux still lags Windows is in its (in)ability to create VCDs, DVDs et al complete with custom menus. Sure, there are lots of programs out there, many of which are command line driven, which means that lots of people won't even attempt them. In some cases, you have to manually run multiple programs from within a shell, using lots of gibberish (okay, I actually understand shell scripting, but you know what I mean) to create menus, ISOs and then burn the DVD. Well, not only has someone created the open source software to do such a thing (DeVeDe), someone else has made a detailed tutorial on how to install and use it on your Linux system. Excerpt:

In windows there are many guides on how to create a dvd using your own video files. However this doesn't seem to happen in linux and moreover by using a program with a GUI. In this guide I will describe how to create a dvd with a menu using DeVeDe. DeVeDe is an open source program which allows you to create DVDs and CDs (VCD, sVCD or VCD) suitable for home players. It supports any of the formats supported by mplayer such as mpeg, avi, asf, wmv, wma, quicktime, mov, realtime, ogg, matroska and many others!

There's actually waaayy too much detail for me to excerpt anymore from the tutorial. Suffice it to say that it's a good choice for you Linux users. He also suggest using k3b to burn the resulting image. Since that comes with several of the KDE frontend distros, you won't even have to search for it. If you do, the Synaptic tool will easily find, download and install it for you. And if you don't have Synaptic, you always use apt-get. Now go forth and make DVDs.

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October 22, 2007

Making a cat laugh

I swear that this article of 100 Reasons to upgrade to Vista from XP is one of the funniest damned things I've ever read. What makes it even funnier is that the authors appear to be serious. Personally, I tend to agree with this article from IT Wire: Microsoft's Top 10 Reasons to Upgrade to Ubuntu, Not Vista. Excerpt:

#8 Your PC can take care of itself Your days of defragmenting are over. Ubuntu uses a different file system to Windows. It does not really ever require defragging. Don’t just take our word for it; check out geekblog.

No version of Windows can boast such built-in self maintenance. Not even Windows Vista. Perhaps its intended radical new database-oriented file system may have fared better, but it was pulled so the OS would finally ship – so we’ll still have to wait to find out.
...
#3 It’s the safest version ever
That’s right; Ubuntu is the safest version of an operating system ever. Oh, it’s safer than Windows XP or other prior versions of Windows – and it does it without fading your screen to black and asking you to confirm each operation.

Microsoft have gone over the top with Vista’s user account control, but they have a problem largely of their own making. It’s rare to find a Windows user who logs in under one account, and performs systems administrative tasks under another. Consequently, Windows has a legacy of users running as local administrators who have full control over their machine.

Linux has never been this way; users are always been encouraged to run under a user account with limitations imposed. Because of this, Linux has always made it harder for people to accidently delete operating systems files, or infest their system with virii.
...
#1 It makes using your PC a breeze.
The cliché literally is true: Ubuntu just works. You install it and it runs. In fact, you can test it out. Without harming your computer in any way, you can boot from the Ubuntu CD and give it a complete whirl on your machine. If you don’t like it, nothing’s lost. You just remove the CD and boot back in to your existing operating system.

Ubuntu is the operating system your granny can use. And what a dutiful grandchild you’d be setting her up with it. Imagine not having to explain blue screens of death, or UAC, or program crashes and lockups.

Thanks, Microsoft, for these top 10 reasons why we should upgrade. Let’s take up that advice. Time to load Gutsy Gibbon.

While I'm partial to the Ubuntu derivative MEPIS (I prefer the KDE interface and I think it's better than Kubuntu), I don't really have anything bad to say about Ubuntu. It's enormously popular, and part of that popularity has to do with the ease of installation and use. In fact, that's probably the best indicator of how robust Ubuntu has become.

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October 17, 2007

Time for a change

Kim Brebach, fresh from his 13 Reasons why Linux won't make it to a desktop near you column, presents the other side of the coin: 13 reasons why Linux should be on your desktop. Excerpt:

  1. Cost -- Linux is free, and that includes all the apps. Microsoft is greedy. Vista Home Premium and Ultimate cost hundreds of dollars, even when upgrading from Windows XP. Moving up to Office 2007 involves handing over another bundle of dollars.
  2. Resources -- Even the most lavishly equipped Linux distros demand no more resources than Windows XP. Vista is greedy: a single-user PC operating system that needs 2GB of RAM to run at acceptable speed, and 15GB of hard disk space, is grossly obese.
  3. Performance -- Linux worked faster on my Dell Inspiron Core Duo than XP, at least the way XP worked out of the box. After cleaning out the bloatware and trading McAfee's Abrams Tank for the lightweight NOD32, XP and Linux (with Guarddog and Clam-AV) perform at similar speed.
  4. No bloatware -- Linux is free from adware, trialware, shovelware, and bloatware. Running Linux is like watching the public TV network.
  5. Security -- Last year, 48,000 new virus signatures were documented for Windows, compared to 40 for Linux. Still, most distros come with firewalls and antivirus (AV) software. Programs like Guarddog and Clam-AV are free, of course.
  6. Dual booting -- The best Linux distros make dual booting a simple affair, along with the required disk partitioning (so you don't need to buy partitioning software). Windows on my Dell laptop is still intact after installing and uninstalling a dozen distros.
  7. Installation -- Anyone who's done it once knows that installing Windows from scratch takes hours or even days by the time you get all your apps up and running. With Linux, it can take as little as half an hour to install the operating system, utilities, and a full set of applications. No registration or activation is required, no paperwork, and no excruciating pack drill.
  8. Reinstalling the OS -- You can't just download an updated version of Windows. You have to use the CD that came with your PC and download all the patches Microsoft has issued since the CD was made. With Linux, you simply download the latest version of your distro (no questions asked) and, assuming your data files live in a separate disk partition, there's no need to reinstall them. You only need to re-install the extra programs you added to the ones that came with the distro.
  9. Keeping track of software -- Like most Windows users, I have a shelf full of software CDs and keep a little book with serial numbers under my bed in case I have to reinstall the lot. With Linux, there are no serial numbers or passwords to lose or worry about. Not a single one.
  10. Updating software -- Linux updates all the software on your system whenever updates are available online, including all applications programs. Microsoft does that for Windows software but you have to update each program you've added from other sources. That's about 60 on each of my PCs. More icing on the Linux cake is that it doesn't ask you to reboot after updates. XP nags you every ten minutes until you curse and reboot your machine. If you choose "custom install" to select only the updates you want, XP hounds you like a mangy neighborhood dog until you give in.
  11. More security -- These days, operating systems are less vulnerable than the applications that run on them. Therefore a vital aspect of PC security is keeping your apps up-to-date with the latest security patches. That's hard manual labor in Windows, but with Linux it's automatic.
  12. No need to defrag disks -- Linux uses different file systems that don't need defragging. NTFS was going to be replaced in Vista, but Microsoft's new file system didn't make the final cut. Instead, Vista does scheduled disk defragging by default, but the defrag utility is a sad affair.
  13. A wealth of built-in utilities -- The utilities supplied with Windows are pretty ordinary on the whole, that's why so many small software firms have made a nice living writing better ones. Linux programs are comparable with the best Windows freeware, from CD burners to photo managers, memory monitors and disk utilities. PDF conversion is built-in, both into OpenOffice Writer and into the DTP application Scribus. All you do is click a button on the task bar.
... The road from Windows to Linux is now mostly sealed, with only a few rough patches left. You can see your Windows partition in Home > Storage Media, open Windows files, and even write back to them. The sound of glass shattering when Mepis can't open something is a change from the dull red cross signs Windows throws at you. These Linux dudes have a sense of humor: when K3b finishes burning a CD, it bursts into a bugle sound that makes you look for the cavalry coming over the hill.

For most users, OpenOffice is compatible enough with Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. The font set in the Writer is pretty mean but can be made more generous by installing MS core fonts with Synaptic. Still, fonts are the elephant in the Linux room, admittedly. More work needs to be done here.

Compatibility stops with Desktop Publishing, since Scribus can't open Publisher files. Other than that, Scribus will do most of the things Publisher does, Evolution is more than a match for Outlook, and Firefox makes Internet Explorer 7 look stale. ShowFoto is as slick as any photo editor I've used on XP, digikam is a great photo organizer, and the Linux multi-media apps lack nothing.

If you prefer Opera to Firefox, or XnView for working with photos, you just tick the box in Synaptic and it will provide. More specialized apps like Inkscape or Blender are just a few Synaptic clicks away. The Gimp is already installed; it has a reputation for being hard to use but who'd argue that Adobe Photoshop isn't?

Read the rest.

Posted by Physics Geek at 10:28 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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October 09, 2007

Install Linux via the Internet

No nasty downloading and burning ISOs, where you find that your handy dandy DVD burner will not correctly burn a Linux Live CD image. You absolutely need a CD (only) burner. A CD-RW/DVD-Read only will work fine, but if the drive also burns DVDs, you will be SOL when it comes time to boot your Live CD. Trust me: this is the voice of ugly experience. Anyway, How To Forge has an article that details the use of UNetbootin, which allows to install various Linux distros onto your computer. It even creates real partitions so that you have a working dual boot system when you've finished.
"In the end, you have a dual-boot system (Linux/Windows or Linux/Linux). "

Very cool.

Posted by Physics Geek at 10:22 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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The perfect desktop?

Falko Timme installed OpenSUSE 10.3 in the hopes of creating a full-fledged Windows replacement. Did he succeed? You be the judge. Excerpt:

This tutorial shows how you can set up an OpenSUSE 10.3 desktop that is a full-fledged replacement for a Windows desktop, i.e. that has all the software that people need to do the things they do on their Windows desktops. The advantages are clear: you get a secure system without DRM restrictions that works even on old hardware, and the best thing is: all software comes free of charge.

I want to say first that this is not the only way of setting up such a system. There are many ways of achieving this goal but this is the way I take. I do not issue any guarantee that this will work for you!

Falko lists all of the software he needs for his desktop to be considered Windows replacement worthy. It's a long list, so I won't reprint it here. I'll simply mention that it's quite comprehensive. Also, he goes through a step-by-step tutorial which will get your new system completely installed. The result? it looks pretty darned good.

Related links, if you're so inclined:

Posted by Physics Geek at 10:12 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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Interesting innovation

Those tricksy Linux developers. They've created more distros than you can shake a stick at, one variation for pretty much any need or desire. I think that the multitude of distributions is both a strength AND a weakness (newbies get overwhelmed trying to figure out what to testdrive). Pretty much any niche has its own favorite. This time though, some developers filled a need which I believe doesn't currently exist: Vixta, which attempts to duplicate the Windows Vista look and feel. Yeah, I don't get it either. Emulating an OS that vendors are currently selling a downgrade for isn't something that I'd bother to work on. To be fair, the need may exist at some point.

Posted by Physics Geek at 09:55 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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September 19, 2007

Migrating from Word to Open Office format

Since I didn't want to pay $200 for Microsoft Office Pro a few years back, I loaded Open Office onto my wife's new computer. It took a little getting used to, but she's quite happy with it. Whenever someone sends her a Word document, she simply opens it in Writer, saves it as an ODF and then moves on. However, if you had lots of documents to convert, you might not want to migrate them one by one. XLM.com has a script that converts a single file from Word to Write and it's an easy task to create a .bat file or a shell script file in Windows or Linux, respectively. Also, SearchEnterpriseLinux links to several 3rd party utilities to perform the same task.

Anyway, check it out, if you're so inclined.

Posted by Physics Geek at 02:19 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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September 13, 2007

Why Linux might not make it

No, my brain hasn't been replaced by that of a chicken. Not today, anyway. However, as much as I've flogged Linux's virtues here, I've also admitted where Linux has issues, even though I think those issues are dwindling daily. In any event, Kim Brebach, an Australian tech consultant, authored a 7 part series on his adventures in Linux Land: 13 reasons why Linux won't make it to a desktop near you. Excerpt:

The Linux value proposition

In the last year or two, a few Linux makers have designed desktops expressly for PC users, not geeks. The main contenders are: LinuxMint, Linspire, Mandriva, Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED to its friends), PCLinuxOS, SimplyMepis, Ubuntu, Linspire and Xandros.

They all include the operating system, a host of utilities and a full suite of Office, Internet, Graphics and Multimedia applications. You can check the goods on offer with the Live CD, and installing a full system can take as little as half an hour.

Getting there is not beyond the scope of a competent Windows user. The install is mostly automatic and includes setting up the internet connection. Common printers, scanners and faxes take a few clicks and a few minutes to install. These desktops offer 3D graphics that rival Vista and OS X in terms of 'eye candy'. Software updates are semi-automatic, and that includes all applications on the system. And Linux never asks you to reboot.

reasons_wont-fig2-sm.jpeg

You can make this cube spin and you can make the panels transparent, and you can do all this on an ordinary PC with a basic Intel graphics card.

The value proposition becomes irresistible when we consider that most of these Linux desktops cost nothing, including all the applications. They come from the Open Source community, a group of very smart people spread all over the world who contribute their skills, energy and time to the endeavor of creating software for people to share.

The catch

There's an old joke that begins like this: What if operating systems were airlines?

Windows Airlines -- The terminal is pretty and colorful, with friendly stewards, easy baggage check and boarding, and a smooth take-off. After about 10 minutes in the air, the plane explodes with no warning whatsoever.


Mac Airlines -- All the stewards, stewardesses, captains, baggage handlers and ticket agents look the same, act the same, and talk the same. Every time you ask questions about details, you are told you don't need to know, don't want to know, and would you please return to your seat and watch the movie.


Linux Airlines -- Disgruntled employees of all the other OS airlines decide to start their own airline. They build the planes, ticket counters, and pave the runways themselves. They charge a small fee to cover the cost of printing the ticket, but you can also download and print the ticket yourself. When you board the plane, you are given a seat, four bolts, a wrench and a copy of the seat-HOWTO.html. Once settled, the fully adjustable seat is very comfortable, the plane leaves and arrives on time without a single problem, the in-flight meal is wonderful. You try to tell customers of the other airlines about the great trip, but all they can say is, 'You had to do what with the seat?'
...

I've had plenty to say about the problems I had with Linux distros, so it's time to talk about some of the advantages I found after spending more time with them.


  • Cost -- Down under, an upgrade from XP to Vista Home Premium would cost me US$ 250, and an upgrade to Ultimate over $400. Moving up to Office 2007 would cost the same again. For folks running a business with several servers and lots of desktops, a low cost alternative like Linux must be music to their ears.
  • Security -- Citizens of the kingdom are fed up with all the crooks, spies and burglars who roam the highways. Most of them envy the folks in the mountain villages who leave their front doors unlocked, even at night.
  • Performance -- Linux boot-up times seemed slow compared to my XP systems -- 1 to 2 minutes versus 45 seconds. Linux makes up for that be being ready to use moments after the desktop opens, while XP takes another minute or two for all the start-up programs to get out of bed and for the AV to load down the latest updates. In other words, XP gets to the starting blocks faster but takes time to put its running shoes on. Once they're up and away, there's isn't much distance between them, but XP tends to run a little faster.
  • Optimization -- My XP systems are optimized for speed while the Linux distros I tested were not. I looked into this but soon retreated -- a look here will explain why. If I'd compared Linux with the Dell Inspiron Core Duo the way it worked out of the box, XP would've been a distant second at every stage of the race. The effort it took to get rid of Dell's bloatware and to free the laptop from McAfee's iron chains is another story. Linux doesn't come with bloatware, and that's a big bonus.
  • Resources -- The distros I tested used between 200 and 250mb of RAM just ticking over, and double that with half a dozen apps running. A standard Linux install occupies around 3 to 4gb of hard disk space, including applications. It uses about the same resources as XP, leaving Vista unchallenged as the heavyweight champ (2mb of RAM, 15gb of disk space).
  • Dual booting -- Setting this up had me on the edge of my seat the first time but I needn't have fretted. Some time later I read that you must defrag your drive before you repartition it, so I'm even more surprised that My XP partition is still intact after dozens of installs.
  • Configuring hardware -- Many distros set up internet connections automatically (on Ethernet at least) and install printers in a heartbeat. To install the Laserjet on XP was a 20 minute job using an HP CD; to get hooked up to broadband was a similar routine. I moved house recently, and had to change my phone number. After ADSL was enabled by my ISP, XP wouldn't cooperate, saying there was a problem with the address of my laptop. I rebooted in Mepis, which had no issues with the connection, then rebooted in Windows and the problem had gone away.
  • Keeping track of software -- Like most Windows users, I have a shelf full of software CDs and keep a little book with serial numbers under my bed in case I have to reinstall the lot. With Linux, there's no need to worry about serial numbers or even losing your install CD -- all you need is a fast internet connection. That's a lot of freedom.
  • Losing track of software -- A workshop I took my PC to a while back managed to lose my XP install disk. When I called Microsoft, they wanted to charge me money for a replacement and insisted on proof of ownership. I asked them where the Advantage in the WGA was if I had to dig out the original invoice or photograph the sticker on the box. I never got an answer to that question.
  • Updating software -- Linux updates all the software on your system in one session, not just the OS. Microsoft updates are automatic but you have to update each program you've added from other sources (about 60 on each of my PCs), and that's a real pain. My son wasn't impressed with this feature, saying Macs did this too. Of course they do -- OS X is based on a version of Linux.
  • No need to reboot -- That's the icing on the Linux cake. With XP, you're nagged every ten minutes until you curse and reboot your machine. And if you choose custom install to select only the updates you want, XP hounds you like a mangy neighborhood dog until you give in. The penguin is much easier to get along with.
  • Nothing's lost when you do -- You can shut down Linux with a bunch of programs open and they'll all come up ready to go next time you start up your PC, without a single complaint about abnormal termination.
  • Re-installing the OS -- You can't just download an updated version of Windows. With Linux, you can download the latest version of your distro at any time and, if you created a separate partition for your home folder, your data will remain intact. You can arrange to install Windows like that, if you're smarter than the average user, but it'd still takes hours to download all the patches issued by MS since your install CD was burnt.
  • Applications -- There are 15,000 apps that run on Linux. That they're free doesn't mean they're not up to scratch. Open Office is a viable alternative to Microsoft Office and has some neat features, like a PDF creator in the Writer toolbar. Scribus will do most of the things Publisher does, Evolution is more than a match for Outlook, and Firefox makes IE7 look stale. ShowFoto is as slick any photo editor I've used on XP. The Gimp has a reputation for being hard to use but who'd argue that Adobe Photoshop is easy?
  • Windows apps on Linux -- There's a utility called Wine that lets you run Windows apps on Linux, which I believe has its limitations, so does the commercial equivalent, Codeweavers' Crossover. I didn't try either but that's what the guides say.
  • Migration -- Ubuntu's Feisty Fawn includes a Windows migration wizard that recognizes Internet Explorer bookmarks, Firefox favorites, desktop wallpapers, AOL IM contacts and Yahoo IM contacts, and gives you the option of importing them during installation.
  • Windows files on Linux -- I was surprised that I could not only access Windows docs with Open Office (on several distros), but even edit them and save them back into the NTFS partition in MS format.
  • Freedom from bloatware -- All you get with Linux is the software you need or want. There's no crap to get rid of.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols replies:

If you expect me to argue with the 13 reasons Kim Brebach gives for why the Linux desktop is unlikely to make it to a desktop near you any time soon, prepare to be disappointed. He's right.

No, you didn't mis-read that. Brebach may be a Linux newbie -- well a newbie who's getting up to speed at a remarkable rate -- but he hit the nail right on the head with his 13 reasons for why the Linux desktop isn't likely to make it. There's only one reason I disagree with him on. But, what he doesn't do is look at some of the reasons why Linux may yet become a popular desktop despite itself.
...
It's the OEMs, not the Linux distributors that are going to get Linux 'boxes' onto the store shelves and into people hands. And, as they do so, they're also going to be providing, along with the Linux distributors, the kind of tech support that normal users expect from a company.

At the same time, Linux is getting easier to use. As Brebach noted in the seventh part of his series on his adventures with Linux, there are many Linuxes -- like SimplyMEPIS, PCLinuxOS, SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop, Mandriva, and Xandros -- that already are good, usable choices even for a still wet-behind-the-ears Windows user.

Now, so long as the hardware vendors keep moving forward with bringing Linux to the masses with better marketing, good systems, and state-of-the-art support, I feel pretty darn certain that Linux is going to grow into becoming a serious desktop contender for everyone.

I'm currently giving Antix, MEPIS' smaller, slimmer, younger brother a whirl. My plan is to install it on an older PC for my children. It's a 400 MHz machine with 256 or 512 Mb RAM (I don't remember how much memory is installed). Such a machine would choke on XP, and Vista wouldn't deign to piss on it. However, Antix should run pretty well, as it doesn't have the bloat of KDE or Gnome. Rather, it uses Fluxbox as its windowing manager, although you have other options, such as Icewm, to choose from, all of which are very low overhead. Right now I'm working through resolving some wireless issues. Once that's fixed, the PC should be good to go. It will run smoothly and quickly and it won't cost me anything except a little bit of my time. Oh, and the spouse will be glad to see the extraordinarily large paperweight in the corner being put to good use again. I'll report back once the system is up and running. It might prove useful to others trying to get some mileage out of older machines.

Posted by Physics Geek at 09:43 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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September 11, 2007

Taking your computer with you

And I don't mean your laptop, either. While I've long extolled the virtues of Portable Apps (I'm currently running portable Firefox), most of the programs contained therein are not 100% compatible with what I forced to use on a daily basis. However, now you can take any and all of your applications wherever you go, simply by taking your portable USB device with you (external HD, large thumb drive) by installing MojoPac. Excerpt:

MojoPac is a technology that transforms your iPod or USB Hard Drive or Flash drive into a portable and private PC. Just install MojoPac on any USB 2.0 compliant storage device, upload your applications and files, modify your user settings and environment preferences, and take it with you everywhere.

Every time you plug your MojoPac-enabled device into any Windows XP PC , MojoPac automatically launches your environment on the host PC. Your communications, music, games, applications, and files are all local and accessible. And when you unplug the MojoPac device, no trace is left behind – your information is not cached on the host PC.
==================================
Your experience using Mojopac is exactly as if you are using an ultra portable PC (your MojoPac device) and docking it to a computer (the Host PC you are plugged into).

Your MojoPac PC is running from your portable device, but it is borrowing the resources (screen, processor, CD/DVD drives, internet connection, printers, etc.) of the Host PC. In other words, MojoPac is your real PC (your applications, settings, data), and any computer it is connected to is being used as a utility to run MojoPac.

Creating a MojoPac PC: Creating a brand new MojoPac PC takes less than 3 minutes.


  • Plug your portable storage device (such as an iPod or a USB Flash or Hard Drive) into any Windows XP PC. Download MojoPac from our website and install it onto the device.
  • Once you have installed MojoPac, you can log into this MojoPac PC you created (which is running from your portable device), and bring up your newly created MojoPac desktop (MojoView). What you see is similar to a brand new Windows XP PC, and behaves exactly the same.
  • You can now install your applications from MojoView. The applications installed in the MojoView will be available for you on any PC you would connect and run MojoPac.

mojo_experience.jpg

Using a MojoPac PC: You can plug your MojoPac enabled device to any Windows XP computer (Host PC), and you will immediately be presented with your personal applications, files and environment - and it looks exactly like a standard PC experience. In your MojoPac PC view (MojoView), installing applications is similar to installing applications on any PC - simply load the application installer CD/DVD, or download the application installer from the web and proceed as you would on any normal PC. In fact, in your MojoView, your "C" drive represents your MojoPac device, NOT the Host PC. So applications install in the right place automatically, no extra steps required.

MojoPac lives side-by-side with the Host PC: When you bring up your MojoPac PC after plugging your device into a Host PC, the Host PC will keep running as it was before the connection. You don't need to change the Host PC's settings, install anything on it, or close any of the applications that were running on it. Even more importantly, you can go back and forth between your MojoPac PC view and your Host PC view - you can work on both PCs at the same time, and operate both environments simultaneously. Using your MojoPac toolbar (MojoBar) you can easily toggle back and forth between the host PC view and your MojoPac view. Each presents you with whatever personal preferences and environments you have chosen for that system and MojoPac will never alter the settings or status of the host PC.

mojo_experience2.jpg

No, it's not free. It costs $49.99. However, that's a pretty small price to pay for something that will allow you to carry your entire suite of desired applications with you.

Posted by Physics Geek at 12:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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September 05, 2007

Create your own distro

So I stumbled onto another Linux distro, NimbleX, which is a Slackware based distribution. It looks pretty cool, is fairly compact and uses the KDE interface. What really piqued my interest though was this: the Custom Nimblex Live CD generator. It allows you to select what applications and default settings you want on your Live CD and then massages all of your choices into an ISO which you can download and burn. Voila! Your very own personalized Linux Live CD. Pretty cool stuff.

Note: You should probably hit the site via Firefox instead of IE. I tried it using both browsers and IE kind of failed at the last step; I'm not sure why. Probably something to do with the differences between the Python and Gecko engines. In any event, consider yourself forewarned.

Posted by Physics Geek at 11:58 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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September 04, 2007

Get your Linux software!

Worried about migrating to Linux because you don't think that there's enough Linux software to replace your current Windows versions? Think again. Excerot:

For each Linux application, we have compiled a portal page providing an overview of the software, a screenshot of the application in action, a comprehensive list of its features, and links to sites offering information and support on the software such as forums, tutorials, and reviews.

Unlike their Window counterparts, the vast majority of the listed Linux applications are available to download without cost. Popular Linux distributions conveniently come supplied with much of the software listed below (see our Linux Distribution Guide if you are unsure what is meant by the term distribution, or if you would like more information on what they offer).

The list below is far from exhaustive.

Actually, the list is freakishly long, so I won't bother to post any of the links. Have at it.

Posted by Physics Geek at 08:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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September 03, 2007

Pop that email

Harvey, some time ago, introduced me to Yahoo!POPs, a piece of software that allows you to circumvent the problem created when Yahoo! decided to remove POP3 access to their email. Pretty cool stuff. However, there are a lot of other email systems out there - Hotmail, Netzero- that also preclude their use, although in Netzero's case, they simply want you to pay a yearly fee to allow you to use a 3rd party email client to access your FREE email account. Well, I figured that someone smart would create a tool that would give you POP3 access to your webmail accounts. I give you FreePOPs. In the extended entries I've included all of the different email system plugins which FreePOPs uses.

libero.lua (Libero.IT)
:
This plugin supports these domains: @libero.it, @inwind.it, @iol.it, @blu.it tin.lua (Tin.IT)
:
This plugin supports these domains: @tin.it, @virgilio.it, @alice.it, @tim.it, @atlantide.it
davmail.lua (DAVMAIL)
:
This plugin supports these domains: @lycos.co.uk, @lycos.ch, @lycos.de, @lycos.es, @lycos.it, @lycos.at, @lycos.nl, @spray.se, @jubii.dk popforward.lua (POPforward)
:
This plugin supports these domains: @...
aggregator.lua (RSS/RDF aggregator)
:
This plugin supports these domains: @aggregator, @... flatnuke.lua (flatnuke)
:
This plugin supports these domains: @flatnuke, @... kernel.lua (kernel.org Changelog viewer)
:
This plugin supports these domains: @kernel.org, @kernel.org.24, @kernel.org.26
gmail.lua (GMail.com) :
This plugin supports these domains: @gmail.com
yahoo.lua (yahoo.com)
:
This plugin supports these domains: @yahoo.com, @yahoo.ie, @yahoo.it, @yahoo.ca, @rocketmail.com, @yahoo.com.ar, @yahoo.co.in, @yahoo.com.tw, @yahoo.co.uk, @yahoo.com.cn, @yahoo.es, @yahoo.de, @talk21.com, @btinternet.com, @yahoo.com.au squirrelmail.lua (SquirrelMail)
:
This plugin supports these domains: @... hotmail.lua (hotmail.com)
:
This plugin supports these domains: @hotmail.com, @msn.com, @webtv.com, @charter.com, @compaq.net, @passport.com, @hotmail.de, @hotmail.it, @hotmail.co.uk, @hotmail.co.jp, @hotmail.fr, @messengeruser.com, @hotmail.com.ar, @hotmail.co.th, @hotmail.com.tr aol.lua (aol.com)
:
This plugin supports these domains: @aol.com, @aim.com netscape.lua (netscape.net)
:
This plugin supports these domains: @netscape.net tre.lua (Tre)
:
This plugin supports these domains: @tre.it, @three.com.au supereva.lua (Supereva web mail)
:
This plugin supports these domains: @supereva.it, @supereva.com, @freemail.it, @freeweb.org, @mybox.it, @superdada.com, @cicciociccio.com, @mp4.it, @dadacasa.com, @clarence.com, @concento.it, dada.net mailcom.lua (mail.com)
:
This plugin supports these domains: @mail.com, @email.com, @iname.com, @cheerful.com, @consultant.com, @europe.com, @mindless.com, @earthling.net, @myself.com, @post.com, @techie.com, @usa.com, @writeme.com, @2die4.com, @artlover.com, @bikerider.com, @catlover.com, @cliffhanger.com, @cutey.com, @doglover.com, @gardener.com, @hot-shot.com, @inorbit.com, @loveable.com, @mad.scientist.com, @playful.com, @poetic.com, @popstar.com, @popstarmail.org, @saintly.com, @seductive.com, @soon.com, @whoever.com, @winning.com, @witty.com, @yours.com, @africamail.com, @arcticmail.com, @asia.com, @australiamail.com, @europe.com, @japan.com, @samerica.com, @usa.com, @berlin.com, @dublin.com, @london.com, @madrid.com, @moscowmail.com, @munich.com, @nycmail.com, @paris.com, @rome.com, @sanfranmail.com, @singapore.com, @tokyo.com, @accountant.com, @adexec.com, @allergist.com, @alumnidirector.com, @archaeologist.com, @chemist.com, @clerk.com, @columnist.com, @comic.com, @consultant.com, @counsellor.com, @deliveryman.com, @diplomats.com, @doctor.com, @dr.com, @engineer.com, @execs.com, @financier.com, @geologist.com, @graphic-designer.com, @hairdresser.net, @insurer.com, @journalist.com, @lawyer.com, @legislator.com, @lobbyist.com, @minister.com, @musician.org, @optician.com, @pediatrician.com, @presidency.com, @priest.com, @programmer.net, @publicist.com, @realtyagent.com, @registerednurses.com, @repairman.com, @representative.com, @rescueteam.com, @scientist.com, @sociologist.com, @teacher.com, @techie.com, @technologist.com, @umpire.com, @02.to, @111.ac, @123post.com, @168city.com, @2friend.com, @65.to, @852.to, @86.to, @886.to, @aaronkwok.net, @acmilan-mail.com, @allstarstats.com, @amrer.net, @amuro.net, @amuromail.com, @anfieldroad-mail.com, @arigatoo.net, @arsenal-mail.com, @barca-mail.com, @baseball-mail.com, @basketball-mail.com, @bayern-munchen.com, @birmingham-mail.com, @blackburn-mail.com, @bsdmail.com, @bsdmail.org, @c-palace.com, @celtic-mail.com, @charlton-mail.com, @chelsea-mail.com, @china139.com, @chinabyte.com, @chinahot.net, @chinarichholdings.com, @coolmail.ac, @coventry-mail.com, @cseek.com, @cutemail.ac, @daydiary.com, @dbzmail.com, @derby-mail.com, @dhsmail.org, @dokodemo.ac, @doomo.net, @doramail.com, @e-office.ac, @e-yubin.com, @eracle.com, @eu-mail.net, @everton-mail.com, @eyah.com, @ezagenda.com, @fastermail.com, @femail.ac, @fiorentina-mail.com, @football-mail.com, @forest-mail.com, @freeid.net, @fulham-mail.com, @gaywiredmail.com, @genkimail.com, @gigileung.org, @glay.org, @globalcom.ac, @golf-mail.com, @graffiti.net, @gravity.com.au, @hackermail.com, @highbury-mail.com, @hitechweekly.com, @hkis.org, @hkmag.com, @hkomail.com, @hockey-mail.com, @hollywood-mail.com, @ii-mail.com, @iname.ru, @inboexes.org, @inboxes.com, @inboxes.net, @inboxes.org, @insingapore.com, @intermilan-mail.com, @ipswich-mail.com, @isleuthmail.com, @jane.com.tw, @japan1.org, @japanet.ac, @japanmail.com, @jayde.com, @jcom.ac, @jedimail.com, @joinme.com, @joyo.com, @jpn1.com, @jpol.net, @jpopmail.com, @juve-mail.com, @juventus-mail.com, @juventusmail.net, @kakkoii.net, @kawaiimail.com, @kellychen.com, @keromail.com, @kichimail.com, @kitty.cc, @kittymail.com, @kittymail.net, @lazio-mail.com, @lazypig.net, @leeds-mail.com, @leicester-mail.com, @leonlai.net, @linuxmail.org, @liverpool-mail.com, @luvplanet.net, @mailasia.com, @mailjp.net, @mailpanda.com, @mailunion.com, @man-city.com, @manu-mail.com, @marchmail.com, @markguide.com, @maxplanet.com, @megacity.com, @middlesbrough-mail.com, @miriamyeung.com, @miriamyeung.com.hk, @myoffice.ac, @nctta.org, @netmarketingcentral.com, @nettalk.ac, @newcastle-mail.com, @nihonjin1.com, @nihonmail.com, @norikomail.com, @norwich-mail.com, @old-trafford.com, @operamail.com, @otakumail.com, @outblaze.net, @outgun.com, @pakistans.com, @pokefan.com, @portugalnet.com, @powerasia.com, @qpr-mail.com, @rangers-mail.com, @realmadrid-mail.com, @regards.com, @ronin1.com, @rotoworld.com, @samilan.com, @searcheuropemail.com, @sexymail.ac, @sheff-wednesday.com, @slonline.net, @smapxsmap.net, @southampton-mail.com, @speedmail.ac, @sports-mail.com, @starmate.com, @sunderland-mail.com, @sunmail.ac, @supermail.ac, @supermail.com, @surfmail.ac, @surfy.net, @taiwan.com, @talknet.ac, @teddy.cc, @tennis-mail.com, @tottenham-mail.com, @utsukushii.net, @uymail.com, @villa-mail.com, @webcity.ca, @webmail.lu, @welcomm.ac, @wenxuecity.net, @westham-mail.com, @wimbledon-mail.com, @windrivers.net, @wolves-mail.com, @wongfaye.com, @worldmail.ac, @worldweb.ac, @isleuthmail.com, @x-lab.cc, @xy.com.tw, @yankeeman.com, @yyhmail.com, @verizonmail.com, @lycos.com, @cyberdude.com, @mail.org, @italymail.com, @mexico.com, @india.com, @u2club.com mail2world.lua (mail2world.com)
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This plugin supports these domains: @mail2*.com juno.lua (juno.com)
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This plugin supports these domains: @netzero.net, @netzero.com, @juno.com fastmail.lua (fastmail.com)
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This plugin supports these domains: @123mail.org, @150mail.com, @150ml.com, @16mail.com, @2-mail.com, @4email.net, @50mail.com, @airpost.net, @allmail.net, @bestmail.us, @cluemail.com, @elitemail.org, @emailgroups.net, @emailplus.org, @emailuser.net, @eml.cc, @fastem.com, @fast-email.com, @fastemail.us, @fastemailer.com, @fastest.cc, @fastimap.com, @fastmail.cn, @fastmail.com.au, @fastmail.fm, @fastmail.us, @fastmail.co.uk, @fastmail.to, @fmail.co.uk, @fast-mail.org, @fastmailbox.net, @fastmessaging.com, @fea.st, @f-m.fm, @fmailbox.com, @fmgirl.com, @fmguy.com, @ftml.net, @hailmail.net, @imap.cc, @imap-mail.com, @imapmail.org, @internet-e-mail.com, @internetemails.net, @internet-mail.org, @internetmailing.net, @jetemail.net, @justemail.net, @letterboxes.org, @mailandftp.com, @mailas.com, @mailbolt.com, @mailc.net, @mailcan.com, @mail-central.com, @mailforce.net, @mailftp.com, @mailhaven.com, @mailingaddress.org, @mailite.com, @mailmight.com, @mailnew.com, @mail-page.com, @mailsent.net, @mailservice.ms, @mailup.net, @mailworks.org, @ml1.net, @mm.st, @myfastmail.com, @mymacmail.com, @nospammail.net, @ownmail.net, @petml.com, @postinbox.com, @postpro.net, @proinbox.com, @promessage.com, @realemail.net, @reallyfast.biz, @reallyfast.info, @rushpost.com, @sent.as, @sent.at, @sent.com, @speedpost.net, @speedymail.org, @ssl-mail.com, @swift-mail.com, @the-fastest.net, @theinternetemail.com, @the-quickest.com, @veryfast.biz, @veryspeedy.net, @warpmail.net, @xsmail.com, @yepmail.net, @your-mail.com criticalpath.lua (criticalpath.lua)
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This plugin supports these domains: @canada.com

Pretty comprehensive list. Of course, it doesn't include everything, but it does hit the major ones. And, of course, it's free.

Posted by Physics Geek at 09:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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August 29, 2007

More geeky tools

PDFs are quite helpful for distributing information and it's a fairly easy task to convert most documents/spreadsheets/presentations/images into the portable document format; you can find that software yourself. However, being able to extract individual pages, or combine multiple PDFs into a single document can be tricky. Adobe, I'm certain, would love for you to pay $500 for Acrobat Writer. However, if, like me, you're a little short on funds, I've got a somewhat cheaper solution in mind. Okay, much cheaper. Alright, it's free. I give you the PDF Toolkit. Excerot:

If PDF is electronic paper, then pdftk is an electronic staple-remover, hole-punch, binder, secret-decoder-ring, and X-Ray-glasses. Pdftk is a simple tool for doing everyday things with PDF documents. Keep one in the top drawer of your desktop and use it to:
  • Merge PDF Documents
  • Split PDF Pages into a New Document
  • Rotate PDF Pages or Documents
  • Decrypt Input as Necessary (Password Required)
  • Encrypt Output as Desired
  • Fill PDF Forms with FDF Data or XFDF Data and/or Flatten Forms
  • Apply a Background Watermark or a Foreground Stamp
  • Report on PDF Metrics such as Metadata, Bookmarks, and Page Labels
  • Update PDF Metadata
  • Attach Files to PDF Pages or the PDF Document
  • Unpack PDF Attachments
  • Burst a PDF Document into Single Pages
  • Uncompress and Re-Compress Page Streams
  • Repair Corrupted PDF (Where Possible)

Pdftk allows you to manipulate PDF easily and freely. It does not require Acrobat, and it runs on Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, FreeBSD and Solaris.

Pretty cool, huh?

What's that? You don't like working with the sometimes cryptic, albeit well documented, command line instructions to perform the above tasks? Turns out that you're not alone. Someone built a GUI for the PDFTK; it's called the PDFTK Builder.

PDFTK Builder is a free graphical interface to the Windows version of PDFTK making it much easier to use.

pdftkb.gif

Collate - allows you to rearrange (reorder, delete, & duplicate) pages in a single document and/or merge pages from multiple PDF documents. Multiple documents will be merged in the order they are listed in the 'Source Documents' window. If page ranges are not specified, PDFTK Builder will assume all pages for that document are to be included. Page ranges can be indicated by using a single page number, or a hyphen between start and end pages (reversed page orders are allowed). Multiple ranges are indicated by using commas or semi-colons between ranges.

For example: if you wished to insert pages from one document into the middle of another, then the primary document would need to be listed twice, once before (listing pages to appear before) and once after (listing pages to appear after) the document containing the pages to be inserted.

Split - allows you to separate each page of a PDF document into its own file.

Background or Stamp - 'Background' enables you to add a background to each page in a document or just the first page. The 'background' (eg a company logo, or a 'draft' watermark) must be another PDF document (the first page of that document if it has more than one page). 'Stamp' is very similar to 'background' except that the 'stamp' is placed on top of the source document.

Rotate - 'Rotate' enables you to rotate a range of pages in a document.

There's more, of course, but that should be enough to whet your appetite. Now go forth and compute.

Posted by Physics Geek at 12:18 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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August 22, 2007

Replacing a turd

I know that tons of people use Microsoft Project. I, too, have been forced to use that piece of crap scheduling software in the past. Since I'd rather gouge out my eyes than be forced to do it again, I've left others manage project deadlines for me.

Anyway. If you want to manage your projects via some ::gag:: nifty Gannt charts and PERT charts, but you don't want to fork over the money for Microsoft's version, let me point you in the direction of OpenProj, a robust open source version.

You might ask, if you hate Project so much, why did you bother to tell me about OpenProj? Well, I just wanted to share my pain with you. No need to thank me; that's what I'm here for.

Posted by Physics Geek at 09:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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August 21, 2007

Why you should embrace the Penguin

Here's a pretty good website that extols the virtues of Linux. The author does a pretty thorough analysis of Why Linux Is Better. Excerpt:

Does your digital life seem fragmented ?

If you already know what fragmentation is, and are already used to defragmenting your disk every month or so, here is the short version : Linux doesn't need defragmenting.

Now imagine your hard disk is a huge file cabinet, with millions of drawers (thanks to Roberto Di Cosmo for this comparison). Each drawer can only contain a fixed amount of data. Therefore, files that are larger than what such a drawer can contain need to be split up. Some files are so large that they need thousands of drawers. And of course, accessing these files is much easier when the drawers they occupy are close to one another in the file cabinet.

Now imagine you're the owner of this file cabinet, but you don't have time to take care of it, and you want to hire someone to take care of it for you. Two people come for the job, a woman and a man.


  • The man has the following strategy : he just empties the drawers when a file is removed, splits up any new file into smaller pieces the size of a drawer, and randomly stuffs each piece into the first available empty drawer. When you mention that this makes it rather difficult to find all the pieces of a particular file, the response is that a dozen boys must be hired every weekend to put the chest back in order.
  • The woman has a different technique : she keeps track, on a piece of paper, of contiguous empty drawers. When a new file arrives, she searches this list for a sufficiently long row of empty drawers, and this is where the file is placed. In this way, provided there is enough activity, the file cabinet is always tidy.

Without a doubt, you should hire the woman (you should have known it, women are much better organized :) ). Well, Windows uses the first method ; Linux uses the second one. The more you use Windows, the slower it is to access files ; the more you use Linux, the faster it is. The choice is up to you!
...
Are your tired of restarting your computer all the time?

Have you just upgraded one or two little things on your Windows system with "Windows update"? Please reboot. Have you just installed some new software? Please reboot. Does your system seem unstable? Try to reboot, everything will probably work better after that.

Windows always asks you to restart your computer, and that can be annoying (maybe you happen to have a long download going on, and you don't want to interrupt it just because you updated a few pieces of your system). But even if you click "Restart later", Windows still keeps bothering you every ten minutes to let you know that you really should restart the computer. And if you happen to be away from your computer and you didn't see the question, it will happily reboot automatically. Bye bye long download.

Linux basically doesn't need to restart. Whether you install new software (even very big programs) or perform routine upgrades for your system, you will not be asked to restart the computer. It is only necessary when a part from the heart of the system has been updated, and that only happens once every several weeks.
...
Jump into the next generation of desktops.

You have been impressed by the 3D and transparency possibilities first introduced in Windows Vista, and decided that these unique capabilities were worth a few hundred dollars? You even bought a new computer so that you could meet Vista's (very high) requirements? Fooled you: Linux can do better, for free, and with much less demanding hardware requirements.

He's pretty fair about the whole thing, going so far as to explain the reasons why you probably should stick with Windows. Check it out.

Posted by Physics Geek at 08:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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August 15, 2007

Free design software

snap2objects has compiled a list of the 45 best freeware design programs. Included are such stalwarts as GIMP, GIMPshop (for all your Photoshop enthusiasts) and Picasa, as well as a bunch that I've never heard of. Well worth checking out.

Posted by Physics Geek at 12:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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An oldie

But still a goody. I give you Icon Wars!

Posted by Physics Geek at 11:33 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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August 14, 2007

Interesting choice

I've viewed with some interest the release of Google's Google Pack, still technically in Beta release. Some pretty good choices of ostensibly free software, albeit with some odd exceptions. Excerpt(s):

My only problem with Google's choices is Norton. While the download includes a 6 month subscription to updates, what happens after that? Seemed like a strange choice as Norton isn't free if updates cost after a point. Plus new Dell machines come with McAfee which also nags you to pay for updates, which makes me nutso. ClamWin, in my opinion, would've been a better choice (not as pretty, but truly free and open source.) ... In what looks like a direct jab at Microsoft, Google includes Sun Microsystems' office productivity suite Star Office to their free bundle of PC software called Google Pack.

StarOffice includes word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, graphics, and database applications, along with a library of images and 3D effects. Normally available for $70, StarOffice is free with Google Pack.

Star Office is the basis for the free and open source OpenOffice.org application suite. Unlike OpenOffice.org, Star Office requires the Java runtime to use. So why would GOOG choose Star Office over Open Office for the Pack?

Beats us, but since launch (and even through an iteration ) a couple of their app choices left us shaking our heads, like Adobe Reader and RealPlayer. (With the exception of Firefox, they seem to be open source-o-phobic.)

Obviously Google is trying to grab some of the desktop market from Microsoft which, I think, is a good thing. Competition is likely to make all vendors more responsive to the needs of its customers. However, I'm a bit puzzled as to some of the applications that Google chose. I'd have added Ad-Ware and Clamwin (or maybe AVG Free edition), as well as Open Office. And Real Player? Really? I think that VLC is the superior choice here. Regardless, it's a pretty decent software bundle, so check it out if you're so inclined.

Posted by Physics Geek at 06:51 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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August 02, 2007

Nifty free bit o' software

If you've got a dual boot Windows/Linux system, there have probably been times when you wished that you could retrieve/copy/open your Linux created files while working in Windows. Instead, you had to shut down and reboot into Linux, save the data to a FAT32 device and then reboot back into Windows. Well, you no longer have to do the OS hokey pokey, at least in this instance. I give you Ext2 Installable File System for Windows. Excerpt:

It installs a pure kernel mode file system driver Ext2fs.sys, which actually extends the Windows NT/2000/XP/2003 operating system to include the Ext2 file system. Since it is executed on the same software layer at the Windows NT operating system core like all of the native file system drivers of Windows (for instance NTFS, FASTFAT, or CDFS for Joliet/ISO CD-ROMs), all applications can access directly to Ext2 volumes. Ext2 volumes get drive letters (for instance G:). Files, and directories of an Ext2 volume appear in file dialogs of all applications. There is no need to copy files from or to Ext2 volumes in order to work with them. ... Detailed list of features of the file system driver Extfs.sys:
  • Supports Windows NT4.0, Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows 2003 (x86 processors only).
  • All operations you would expect: Reading and writing files, listing directories, creating, renaming, moving and deleting files or directories, querying and modifying the volume's label.
  • Files larger than 4 GBytes. (Please read the FAQ section, too.)
  • Paging files are supported. (A paging file is a file "pagefile.sys", which Windows swaps virtual memory to.) Users may create paging files at NT's control panel at Ext2 volumes.
  • Specific functions of the I/O subsystem of NT: Byte range locks, notification of changes of directories, oplocks (which are required by the NT LAN manager for sharing files via SMB).


Posted by Physics Geek at 12:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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There are alternatives

To Windows, that is. InformationWeek has an interesting point-counterpoint, in which two writers separately extol the virtues of Linux and and Mac versus Microsoft. Pretty good level of detail from both authors.

Posted by Physics Geek at 11:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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DataPilots: the Open Source equivalent of Pivot Tables

In my previous incarnation as a programmer, I used pivot tables in Excel quite extensively. They're quite useful in my current career as an engineer. In fact, there were times when summarizing data tables in any other way would have proved exceptionally difficult, if not downright impossible, which is why I've been loathe to give up using Excel. And now I can do the same things using Open Office's Calc. Excerpt:

Creating a DataPilot

To begin creating an datapilot, highlight the range of cells you want to base it upon, then select Data -> DataPilot -> Start to open the DataPilot dialog window. Alternatively, choose the same menu item, then select a data source that you have already registered with OpenOffice.org using File -> New -> Database and a range of cells from it.

The DataPilot window gives you a diagram of the DataPilot that you are creating, and a list of columns from the data source. To create the general layout for the DataPilot, all you have to do is drag the columns to one of the blank spaces on the diagram. If you drag a column name to the Column fields or Row fields space, then it becomes the first cell in a row or column, just as you might expect from the name (in the first DataPilot above, Quantity was selected as the column, and no row was chosen). Similarly, if you drag a column name to the Data fields, it becomes the data in the DataPilot (in the first example above, the Price). The only potentially puzzling choice is the Page Fields, which is actually just the custom filter for changing the contents of the DataPilot on the fly (in the first example, the Country). If you make a mistake, you can drag the column back to the list of column building blocks on the right.

Once you have done the basic setup, you can also choose what function to use in the DataPilot. In the examples above, I simply used the default Sum function, which for many purposes is all that you need. However, you can also use another ten basic functions: Count, Average, Max, Min, Product, Count (Numbers Only), StDev (Sample), StDevP (Population), Var (Sample) and Var (Population). If necessary, you can find details about what these functions do in OpenOffice.org's online help.

Again, I can't stress enough how useful this tool can be to anyone who wades through piles of data. I plan on asking management if I can teach a short class on pivot tables here at work, as people simply blink and stare at me when I mention them. Okay, more than they usually blink and stare at me.

Posted by Physics Geek at 11:15 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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July 28, 2007

Fixing Firefox

The guys at Samizdata mention a security fix for the Firefox browser, which you should definitely do if you're using Firefox in Windows.

To do this, start FireFox, enter the URL “about:config”, scroll down, and for each of the following entries make sure it is set to “true”.

If it isn’t, right-click the line and choose “Toggle”, which will set the value to “true”

network.protocol-handler.warn-external-default
network.protocol-handler.warn-external.mailto
network.protocol-handler.warn-external.news
network.protocol-handler.warn-external.nntp
network.protocol-handler.warn-external.snews

This will at least give you a warning that Firefox is being asked to do something suspicious; you will have to judge for yourself whether it is nasty.

Thanks to Lastango for the tip.

Posted by Physics Geek at 10:39 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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July 27, 2007

New Firefox tool

Ever go through the hassle of capturing your PC's screen, pasting it into paint and then saving the image? Well, things got a bit easier with Page Saver, a screen capture tool that works in Firefox; IE users need not apply. Excerpt:

Pearl Crescent Page Saver is an extension for Mozilla Firefox that lets you capture images of web pages. These images can be saved in PNG format or (with Firefox 2) in JPEG format. The entire page or just the visible portion may be captured. Options let you control whether images are captured at full size (which is the default) or scaled down to a smaller size. Page Saver uses the canvas feature that was introduced in Firefox 1.5.

Theres a Pro version for $15, but the Basic version is free and contains all of the things you're likely to need. Check it out.

Posted by Physics Geek at 01:27 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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July 26, 2007

One of my pet peeves

As a programmer from the almost dark ages (my first PC work was on a TRS-80 and my first college class used punch cards), I've long considered the goto statement an abomination, one which too easily leads to ugly, unreadable code. It also allows the programmer to avoid thinking through a problem's resolution, since he always has the crutch to fall back on. I've even stated to my students that I would fail anyone who used one in a program. However, I will reluctantly admit that there are times when a considered goto statement can be useful. For example, you're been told to update some large production code to fix a a recurring bug. You wade through the program for days and finally find the error, deep inside multiple layers of nested conditions and loops. Do you (a), rewrite thousands of lines of production code so that you can gracefully back out of every level of recursion and iteration, or do you (b), add in an error label and insert a "goto error label" statement? Personally, I'd opt for (b). However, if I were writing the code from scratch, my answer would probably be different, as I'd have taken great pains to design my error handling routines properly. Not that you can make any program truly idiot proof; nature seems intent on upgrading idiots faster than I can upgrade my code.

Why do I mention this at length? There's a pretty interesting discussion over here at Kernel Trap. One of the participants in the discussion is Linus Torvalds, the father of all things Linux. He thinks that gotos are fine and dandy. I respectfully disagree. While they can, as I've mentioned, prove useful in a pinch, I think that they can prove a crutch which prevents programmers from properly considering a problem before moving directly onto the coding. And I disagree about his "they are often more readable than large amounts of indentation" comment. Then again, what they heck do I know?

Update: Speaking of programming, here's a nifty chart that diagrams the evolution of programming languages.

Update: I'm one of those morons of whom Ace speak regularly. I typed Linux Torvalds instead of Linus. Fixed now.

Posted by Physics Geek at 12:44 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

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July 19, 2007

software! get your free software!

Interesting article over at Datamation called 100 Open Source Downloads. Excerpt:

o, it’s not the “Top 100,” nor does this list contain the “only” 100 open source downloads you should consider – there’s a big ocean out there, so please keep swimming.

But this list does reflect the growing vitality of the open source ecosystem. It just keeps growing…and growing…

Feel free to browse the list – heck, the whole darn thing spans just a handful of pages, so take a moment, would you? I mean, what are you, busy?
...
Audio Tools

3. Audacity

Audacity allows users to record live audio, convert tapes and records to digital formats, or mix pre-existing digital audio tracks. Supported formats include Ogg Vorbis, MP3, and WAV sound files. Operating system: Windows, Linux/Unix, OS X, Classic Mac.

4. AC3Filter

This audio decoder and processor filter allows media players to play AC3 and DTS audio tracks from movies. It also allows you to mix audio tracks and adjust sound quality. Operating system: Windows.

5. MP3Gain

Tired of constantly adjusting the volume on your MP3 player? MP3Gain uses statistical analysis to gauge how loud songs sound in the human ear, and then modifies the volume appropriately without degrading the quality of playback. Operating system: OS Independent.
...
Education

45. NASA World Wind

World Wind allows users to access satellite imagery to view the entire globe or zoom in on a particular area. It offers a number of different views and gives users the options of superimposing latitude and longitude lines, borders, and place name labels. Operating system: Windows.

There are a lot more. One hundred, remember? And while lots of them are Linux only, there are a large number that can be used on Windows and Mac OS. I use some of the tools at work. YMMV. Now go and look.

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July 12, 2007

When you absolutely, positively have to get online

Let's suppose that you have a wireless enabled laptop. Let's also stipulate that you don't have an EVDO card and that there isn't a wifi hot spot in sight. Is it possible to get your computer online? It is: use your cell phone as a modem. Excerpt:

While specific setups will vary depending on your phone, plan and carrier's software, turning my Sprint PCS phone into a wireless modem for surfing on the go was just about as easy as pie.

What you'll need

A PC or Mac
A CDMA phone
A phone to computer data cable

First, plug the phone into your computer using an USB data cable. My Samsung came with the cable in the box. If yours didn't, do a quick search for the cable that fits your phone model on Froogle or Cellular Factory.

Windows knows you just plugged in something new and wants to know what it is, so the Add New Hardware wizard appears, eager to get the question settled. If you're lucky, your phone came with a handy CD that contains your drivers. I wasn't so lucky, so I had to Google up the drivers for my particular phone model, install them, and then point the Wizard in the driver's direction on my hard drive. Once Windows says, "Oh hey Samsung [or insert your model here] CDMA modem," you're practically there. My Mac (running Tiger) recognized the phone as a modem right away.

Next you'll need connection software provided by your carrier. Again this might be on that CD that came with your phone, or you can download it from your plan's web site. Me, I grabbed the Sprint PCS Connection Manager for phone as Modem software from the Sprint site. Once that baby was installed, it was a matter of hitting the "Go" button and I was online using Sprint's data network at 230k (translation: slower than broadband but way faster than dial up.) Of course, depending on your location, plan and service, your mileage may vary.

No more driving around searching for dumbass open network broadcasters.

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July 02, 2007

Make Windows look like Ubuntu

No real functionality added, but if you have a dual boot system, the cosmetic changes added to your Windows system will make switching between Ubuntu and Windows more painless.

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June 29, 2007

Recovering Windows passwords

Okay, technically it's cracking Windows passwords. However, if you've somehow forgotten your's, this method should work just fine.

Note: I believe that this method only recovers passwords up to 14 characters in length. Also, it works up through Windows XP. Vista users need not apply.

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June 25, 2007

Build a PC for under $75

Popular Science posted an article on building what it calls a lunchbox PC. It is a full featured computer, sans hard drive and CD drive, although you can add them if need be. It also uses, not surprisingly, a version of Linux as the OS of choice. Excerpt:

With antiquated components flooding the surplus-parts market and free operating systems only a click away, building a fully functional computer has never been such a bargain. No, the $72 PC won’t replace your new dual-core, Vista-shredding laptop. But with its compact size and solid-state components (no hard drive or CD drive), it’s perfect for building into custom enclosures and for specific tasks like Web surfing or playing games. The computer boots from a USB flash drive running an operating system called Damn Small Linux that can handle just about any job.

Too cool.

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June 20, 2007

We have the body

Bill Quick finally kissed Microsoft goodbye. Excellent. I remember his previous foray into the world Linux last year; he was unimpressed. However, Bill's managed to work around most of his issues and is browsing on his laptop via his EVDO card. Not surprisingly, his computer is much more responsive than it was before.

BTW, from what I've read, the EVDO cards can be a hassle to get up and running. Bill's experience appears to bear that out. However, he's perfectly willing to share his method and madness to anyone who is interested. Be sure to drop him a line if you have questions.

One user down, a gazillion to go.

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May 31, 2007

Narrowing your search

Suppose that you're searching for pictures of, umm, Angelina Jolie using Google's image search. You get a lot of full body photos (yum!), red carpet photos, pictures of her children, etcetera. Right? Well suppose you wanted to refine that search so that you only saw images containing Angelina's face. How would you go about that? Here's how:

  1. Go to Google.
  2. Click on the "Image" link to limit your search to pictures.
  3. Type Angelina Jolie and click on "Search". You will see a URL in the address bar of your bar that looks like this one: http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&q=angelina+jolie&btnG=Search+Images&gbv=2
  4. Now append the string &imgtype=face to URL in the address bar of your browser. It should look like this: http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&q=angelina+jolie&btnG=Search+Images&gbv=2&imgtype=face
  5. Hit the "Enter" key.

Pretty cool, huh? I believe that it also works with the string &imgtype=news. That search should return news articles relating to whomever your searching for.

Thanks go to someone mailing in a tip to Lifehacker.

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May 15, 2007

Managing your digital downloads while away from home

I will admit to using Bittorrent. It comes in quite handy when I'm away from home and forget to record a TV show that I wanted to see. However, if I forget to start a download before I leave for work in the morning, I can't watch the show that I've downloaded until the next day, as it takes a bit of time to download even a single hour of episodic television.

Why do I bring up my geekish habits and shortcomings? Because some enterprising souls have created a way in which I can manage my Bittorrent downloads when I'm away from my home. I give you WebUI. Excerpt:

You're a BitTorrent freak, so why should you let a little thing like being away from your home computer stop you from getting your fix? Using the popular, free uTorrent client, you can control your BT downloads from anywhere using a full-featured web interface.

With uTorrent's WebUI, you can add, remove, and manage the downloads you've got running at home no matter where you are.
...
First, you'll need to grab a copy of uTorrent if you don't already have it. It's a standalone executable, so just put it wherever you like, give it a run, and let's get started.

Next you've got to grab the WebUI files (the first link in the post). Here's a direct link that should work for now, but I can't guarantee it'll always be the latest, so you might want to check the first link to make sure.

I love technology.

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Power searching

Ever wish that you could use multiple search engines at the same time for the same query? The late and lamented YaGoohoogle.com notwithstanding, you've usually started with your favorite search engine and worked your way through the list until you found what you wanted. Now, though, you can receive your query results from the following search engines with the stroke of one mouse button using Zuula: Google, Yahoo!, MSN, Gigablast, Exalead, Alexa, Accoona and Amfibi. If you're in the mood for image searching, you can replace the last five with Picsearch and Flickr results. Similar specific results exist for searches about jobs, blogs and news.

Anyway, go check out Zuula and power up your searches.

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May 09, 2007

Test drive Ubuntu without removing Windows or using a Live CD

An idea for our time: Wubi. It allows you to run the latest version of Ubuntu without booting from a Live CD or partitioning your hard drive. Excerpt from the FAQ:

Wubi Internals
How does Wubi work?

Wubi adds an entry to the Windows boot menu which allows you to run Linux. Ubuntu is installed within a file in the windows file system (c:\wubi\harddisks\ubuntu.hd), this file is seen by Linux as a real hard disk.

Is this running Ubuntu within a virtual environment or something similar?

No. This is a real installation, the only difference is that Ubuntu is installed within a file as opposed to being installed within its own partition. Thus we spare you the trouble to create a free partition for Ubuntu. And we spare you the trouble to have to burn a CD-Rom.

Requirements


What are the system requirements?

If you can run Windows XP, you will have no problem running Ubuntu, since Ubuntu has lower system requirements than Windows XP. As for disk space, the installation requires a minimum of 3GB. This space is mostly used by the virtual hard disk file.

What platform is supported?

For the moment Wubi will only run on Windows XP, but the back-end is quite flexible and it can support multiple platforms as hosts and guests (provided they are debian-based).

What is the performance?

The performance is identical to a standard installation, except for hard-disk access which is slightly slower. If your hard disk is very fragmented the performance will degenerate.

Can I run the images within an emulator?

Yes, but you will have to use other software to do that. The intended use of Wubi is to provide an installation which is as close as possible to a standard one with minimal fuss for the user.

Anyway, for those of you interested in as painless a test drive of Ubuntu as possible, this might be the way to go. Check out Wubi.

Update: However, if you're dead set on moving away from Windows, here's an article which will take you through the move, step by step, up to and including suggestions on porting your emails and making your Open Office files compatible with your Windows compatriots.

Remember: embrace the Penguin.

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May 08, 2007

Linux vs. Windows, revisited

Here's a pretty good list of Things that I can do in Linux that I can't do in Windows. Excerpt:

  1. Update every single piece of software on my system with a single action. This is one of the main reasons I run Linux. Sure, Windows has Windows Update, but that only updates the operating system, Office, and a few other things. For every Linux distribution I've used (Gentoo, Red Hat, Suse, Ubuntu), updating is simple. When you update, you have every application, every library, every script - every single piece of software upgraded automatically for you. And on most of them, they will check for updates automatically and notify you. This is great for security, fixing bugs quickly, and getting the latest in features.

  2. Update nearly everything on my computer without a reboot. On Linux, there is only one thing that requires a reboot after updates. The kernel. And even then you can continue to run on the previous kernel. You just need to reboot to get the benefit of using the new kernel (say, if it has a bug fix or a new feature). In Windows, many of the updates to even non-critical software require reboots.
    ...
  3. Run an entire operating system for free without pirating software, and without breaking the law. Most Window's users seem to accept that breaking the law is okay, because it is pretty much required. Either you break the law, or spend countless thousands of dollars on the software you need. You may not think it is a big deal, but if you own a home like I do, you are putting it at risk. While unlikely, the potential is there for software companies to come after you just like the RIAA has come after countless people. With Linux, this isn't necessary. You can run the software you need without paying for it, and without breaking the law. I know I sleep better at night.

  4. Take my settings with me where ever I go. In Linux, all your personal settings are stored in your Home folder, most in folders that begin with a period (like .gaim). So, I can copy all these settings from one computer to another. I can put these settings on a USB drive. When I switched from Gentoo to Ubuntu, I kept all my settings. On Windows, some settings are under your home folder and some are in the registry. So your settings are not portable.
    ...
  5. Run thousands of great pieces of software that only run on Linux. Just like Windows, Linux has software that doesn't run on Windows. Great pieces of software like Amarok, Bluefish, Neverball, Gnumeric, K3B, Beryl, gdesklets, and MythTV. I know this is a chicken-and-egg point, where Windows has the exact same situation. Too often I hear "I can't switch to Linux because it doesn't run [insert Windows software]". My reason for pointing it out is just to make it clear that this is a two-way street.

  6. Learn about, support, and appreciate the value of free software. I believe free software is important to us all. Even if you use non-free software, the free software movement ensures checks and balances on non-free software by offering an alternative. By running a free operating system and becoming involved in the community, I've contributed to free software, even if only in a small way.

The whole article is worth reading.

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May 02, 2007

Search for free stuff

Actually, it's the search itself that possibly awards you free stuff. Check out Blingo, a Google-powered search engine that gives out up to 25 prizes per day. Possible prizes?

• Brand New Ford Escape or $20,000 cash!

• $5,000 Cash

• Home Theatre Package or $2,500 cash

• $2,500 Cash

• $1,000 Cash Every Thursday

• $25 Amazon.com Gift Certificate *

• Fandango Movie Ticket

There are some downsides, of course, and they are:


  • You don't have access to Google's advanced search functions page.
  • There is no way to change the filter level for image searches.

Anyway, give it a shot if you're interested.

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Nerd humor

The following exchange was found by a friend of mine in a Powerbuilder news group. Some people were discussing what would likely replace Powerbuilder and, well...

> All wrong. LISP is back with a vengeance. One language to rule them all.

Mention LISP again, and I'll run my CAR over your CDR.

I almost choked on my Diet Dr. Pepper. Don't worry if you don't understand the above exchange. All that means is that you probably had something resembling a life during college.

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April 30, 2007

upgrading Ubuntu

Via Free Geekery comes a list of 17 Must-Have Apps for New Ubuntu Users. Excerpt:

If you haven't tried Ubuntu, the new Ubuntu 7.04 Feisty Fawn offers the PC user a chance to try out this open source software with little fear. Adrian Kingsley-Hughes from ZDNet states that "Ubuntu 7.04 is by far the best and easiest version of Linux that I've used" and "a simple (and safe) way for PC owners to experiment with Linux." In addition, Ubuntu lightens the user experience with a desktop edition for those who don't want to alter their computers with a server install. With that said, Kingsly-Hughes admits that some "dark corners" still exist for Ubuntu users that only a true geek and open source advocate would understand.

With that thought in mind, we hope to pave some of the new Ubuntu user's rocky road with 17 apps that will make that Ubuntu transition smoother. Since Ubuntu comes packaged with all the open source apps that an average user might need (Firefox 2.0, Open Office, Rhythmbox, etc.), it might seem crazy to add more "clutter" to the situation. But what happens if you'd rather use the Opera browser rather than Firefox? Or, perhaps you'd like to add more sound and video apps to your repertoire beyond Rhythmbox. Since the server and desktop versions of Ubuntu support the GNOME 2.18 desktop environment, literally hundreds of additional applications are appropriate for Ubuntu users. But the following free software apps, listed in alphabetical order, provide the new Ubuntu desktop user with a logical beginning to an enhanced open source experience.

  1. AllTray

    Some apps, like gaim (to be renamed Pidgin in its new release), provide a minimizing feature. If you're logged into gaim, you can click the "close" button and the app will disappear from the windows list and the icon will appear in the system tray. You then click the icon and the gaim window reappears. This feature provides users with a simplified workspace. Now you can dock any application without a native tray icon (like Ubuntu's email app, Evolution) in the AllTray system tray. The tool lacks a "drag and drop" feature, so you need to capture an open application to dock it in the tray. In addition to GNOME, AllTray also works with KDE, recent versions of XFCE, and window managers such as Fluxbox and WindowMaker.

  2. amaroK

    amaroK is a music player that was built specifically for the Unix/Linux user, so its function and eye-candy interface makes this a must-have app for the music lover. A drag-and-drop playlist creation, 10-band equalizer, and automatic cover art download via Amazon all make Amarok a perfect application for album freaks as well as single-play aficionados. Ubuntu Feisty includes a new guided wizard for automatically installing multimedia codecs not shipped with Ubuntu, so you're in good shape here.



...

More notes for the new Ubuntu User: Ubuntu Feisty comes with a Windows migration tool that recognizes Internet Explorer bookmarks, Firefox favorites, desktop wallpaper, AOL and Yahoo! IM contacts and imports them all during Ubuntu installation. Utilize that tool when you decide to migrate. In addition, new users might remember to try to apt-get a program through Ubuntu's interface or check repositories before installing from a source. This practice helps to keep your system cleaner and everything more interconnected, making it easier to maintain and update any Ubuntu apps.

Pretty good list there, especially if you plan on embracing the Penguin.

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April 25, 2007

The end is near

You'd better download Firefox 2.x because Mozilla will end it's updates/security patches of the 1.5x versions sometime in May. You have been warned.

Get Firefox 2.0.0.3 here. Or go bleeding edge with Firefox 3 alpha.

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April 23, 2007

Getting extra mileage out of that old internal hard drive

How? By converting it to an external hard drive in minutes. Excerpt:

An external hard drive can serve countless uses: moving large files from one PC to another, backing up data, rescuing files from an unbootable drive, and, of course, expanding your available storage space. It can also act as a holding tank for your data while you perform a hard-drive wipe and OS reinstall. Here's how to turn any cast-off internal drive into an external drive with a new lease on life.

Choose an enclosure

Your hard drive needs a new home, a small case that supplies power, protection and a USB or FireWire interface. Prices for these enclosures range from as little as $10 on up to around $100, though I wouldn't pay more than $20-30 for one. (Some of the pricier models can connect directly to TVs for video and audio streaming, and even come with wireless remotes.)

The key consideration is size: If your hard drive came from a notebook, you'll need a 2.5-inch enclosure. Desktop drives require a 3.5-inch enclosure.

Next up, consider your interface options. Most enclosures are designed to work with IDE drives and supply a USB and/or FireWire external interface for connecting to your PC. However, some enclosures support newer SATA drives and include an eSATA interface--though not many PCs or notebooks have that kind of port. Thus, if you're relocating a SATA drive, make sure the enclosure includes a USB interface so you'll have a place to connect it. (Not sure how to tell an IDE drive from a SATA drive? It's all in the interface: an IDE connector measures about two inches wide and has two rows of pins; SATA connectors are much smaller and have only one row.)

That's really all you need to know about choosing an enclosure. If you're into eye candy, look for a see-through chassis or one with LEDs or other decorative elements. As for where to buy, I've found excellent selection and low prices at Newegg.com, though that is by no means the only place to shop. (If you have a favorite store for enclosures and other accessories, talk it up in the comments.)

Pretty cool stuff.

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April 20, 2007

Using your Gmail account for online storage

Might not be as portable as a thumb drive, but you can access the files wherever there's a valid internet connection. And it uses a simple add-on to Firefox. Excerpt:

Once Gspace is installed, it'll also add an icon to Firefox's status bar. You can click this icon to open a minimal Gspace panel showing the files that have been transfered to the Gmail account.

Before you can transfer files, you have to log in to your account through Gspace. The Manage Accounts button brings up a simple form with fields for your Gmail ID and password. Fill in your account information, click on Save, and you're done. If you have more than one Gmail account you can log in and transfer data to only one account at a time. If you are signed into a particular Gmail account, on launch Gspace will automatically log on to that account for transferring files. If you have separate accounts for email and for transferring files, to avoid confusion, sign out of Gmail before launching Gspace. Then, from the Gspace interface, select the account you want to transfer files to and click on Login.

Transferring files


With Gspace, by default, you can transfer files that are up to 14MB in size. You can change this limit from within Gspace's Preferences tab. Preferences are shared by all accounts. To avoid confusion, Gspace lists only files on your computer that fall within the attachment size limit.

The transfer procedure is simple. Locate the file or files or even a directory that you want to transfer in the left pane, then either right-click on the file and choose Upload, or just click on the arrow between the two panes that points toward the right pane.

The progress of the file transfer is shown in the bottom left portion of the Gspace interface. Gspace can transfer only one file at a time. You can select more files to upload while Gspace is transferring your previous selection. These will be added to a file transfer queue. If you've uploaded a complete directory, Gspace will create a directory of the same name to keep your files under. You can also create your own directories.

...

Once a file has been uploaded using Gspace, it's kept as an email attachment. The message's subject notes the name of the file, along with a few properties such as its size and the directory it resides in. Because of the long subject lines, messages that store files can be distracting; the Gspace FAQ recommends and has instructions for archiving them.

Cool beans.

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Using that other browser

I use IE at home only when forced to. Yes, I know that Firefox has the IE add-in which allows you to view IE optimized pages, but I usually take the point of least resistance when I encounter a page like that. However, if you're currently using Linux, you probably do not have IE installed on your computer. You may not, in fact, know that it's possible to install and use IE within in Linux. It is. Here's how to go about installing IE if you're currently using Ubuntu:

2 Modify /etc/apt/sources.list

In order to install IEs4Linux, we must modify /etc/apt/sources.list.

2.1 Ubuntu Feisty Fawn

On Ubuntu Feisty Fawn, we must have the lines deb http://de.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu feisty universe and deb http://wine.budgetdedicated.com/apt edgy main (yes, edgy is correct because that repository doesn't have packages for Feisty yet, but fortunately the Edgy packages work on Feisty, too) in /etc/apt/sources.list:

sudo vi /etc/apt/sources.list

Then run


sudo apt-get update

to update the package database.
...

3 Install wine And cabextract

Next we must install the packages wine and cabextract like this:


sudo apt-get install wine cabextract

If you are asked Install these packages without verification [y/N]?, answer y:

root@falko-desktop:~# sudo apt-get install wine cabextract
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information... Done
cabextract is already the newest version.
The following NEW packages will be installed:
wine
0 upgraded, 1 newly installed, 0 to remove and 90 not upgraded.
Need to get 9476kB of archives.
After unpacking 44.4MB of additional disk space will be used.
WARNING: The following packages cannot be authenticated!
wine
Install these packages without verification [y/N]?
<-- y

There's a lot more where that came from.

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April 10, 2007

Test drive the OLPC operating system

Would you like one lump of Sugar, or two?

I'll give it a test drive, just for grins. If I find anything worthwhile, I'll let you know.

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Free photo editing software

Best of all, they're all available online. Excerpt:

The web applications we consider here range from simple photo toucher-uppers all the way up to Photoshop wannabes. But none of them can yet perform the truly advanced functions you'll find in programs like Photoshop or Gimp. We tried out five online photo editors that go beyond the basic rotate and red-eye functions:

In addition to letting you do things like resizing, rotating, and optimizing brightness, contrast, and colors, many of these will actually apply filters (blur, sharpen, etc.) and other weird fun effects, such as giving your image an old-fashioned border or making collages. So you can pick the one that fits your needs, from simple image correcting to elaborate artistic creations.


They're all free, and mostly in beta at this stage, but we didn't encounter any showstoppers—just the odd function not, er, functioning. Their interfaces vary from the cluttered and complex to the sleek and simple. We found that they all worked in both Firefox and Internet Explorer, though bugs would often appear in one and not the other.

We'd be remiss not to mention Adobe's plans for an online version of the big daddy of image editing, Photoshop. It's been reported that the online version of Photoshop will be free, with ads, but we have to wonder how much you'll get for free, with the exorbitant price ($649) for the installed software. What's more, the services here are working and available to try out now. Adobe's online Photoshop version is about six months out at the time of this writing.

The article continues for several pages, detailing the pros and cons of each of the photo editors. In any event, they might be worth keeping in mind if you're on the road and want to do a little bit of photo work.

Related update: Turns out that there are several free online storage sites that you can use, too. Pretty cool stuff.

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April 04, 2007

Make your own usb portable app

I've extolled the virtues of Portable Apps before for a couple ofl reasons:

1) You can carry your favorite applications wherever your go

2) They're completely free

Let's suppose, however, that you have an application on your computer that you really want to take with you, and it hasn't been converted into a portable application yet. In fact, it may never get converted. I guess that you're screwed, right? Wrong.

A commenter on the Portable Apps forum, Klonk, has created a Portable Apps Template which, if used properly, will help you convert most applications to a portable format. Another commenter, Smithtech, has created several conversion scripts from the template, including ones for Photoshop 6 and Dreamweaver 8.

Have I done this yet? No, but I'm fairly certain that I will, and if I think that the software I convert would be useful to others, I'll post the script here.

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March 01, 2007

The end is near

For version 2+ of Firefox, anyway. Excerpt:

Perhaps most exciting could be Firefox's ability to support writing an e-mail in, for example, Gmail while offline, with the data sent later when a user is connected to the Internet again. Ultimately, Mozilla engineers are aiming for an integration between the browser and Web-based services that is as smooth running as a desktop application, Schroepfer said.

So far, engineers have made Firefox work with Zimbra, an open-source e-mail, messaging and VOIP (voice over Internet Protocol) application. With a bit of code from Google and Microsoft, it would be possible to integrate with Gmail and Hotmail and other e-mail services.

To do offline support, engineers have overcome the hurdle of how to store data locally on the computer, Schroepfer said. The feature will make it into Firefox 3.0, although the user interface is still under development, he said.

I, for one, welcome our new Mozilla overlords.

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February 05, 2007

Bill Gates, handmaid of Satan

The Emperor linked to this great FAQ which dismantles in great detail the theory that Vista! will usher in a new era of prosperity and freedom from want. As everyone knows, Pelosi's ascension to Speaker was the signal that the new Golden Age was upon us. In any event, you should read the article at length, and then go back to this article which I linked to some months ago and realize that there are alternatives.

The reality is that Xandros is may be your best bet if you don't want to spend a bunch of money upgrading your hardward to support a beastly system hog of an OS, but don't want to spend much, if any, time on the steep part of the learning curve.

Update: Heh. Looks like Microsoft effed up just a little bit, which is likely to cost them some money as people opt for the upgrade version, rather than the fresh install version. Then again, I won't be "upgrading", so it doesn't really matter to me.

Thanks to DJ Allyn for the heads up.

Update: For reasons that escape, I am the #2 returned search item on the Huffington Post for the word "satan". So welcome, I guess. For those of you expecting a direct link to Bush's official website, feel free to move along.

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February 01, 2007

Easy Debian install

While it's true that there are a large number Linux distros, it's also true that a great many of them are based on Debian. So why don't you install Debian? Well, to be honest, it can be a bit tricky. However, the folks at project EasyDeb have done their best to simplify things for you. Here's what you do:

1) Download the net install cd that you need - you can get at debian.org or get the daily build that we have tested here at the downloads. {right now we only support x86 and x86_64 (intel/amd 32/64bit) systems}

2) Do a "STANDARD" install. - this means that the only thing that's need or needs to be checked ist the box that reads:STANDARD.

3) When the install is finished & you have been rebooted, login as ROOT

4) type => init 3

5) type => cd /usr/local/src

6) type => wget http://www.easydeb.org/SKRIPZ/install-easydeb.sh

7) type => sh install-easydeb.sh

8) ALL YOU NEED TO DO IS FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTION AND/OR ANSWER THE QUESTIONS ON THE SCREEN. - most of which can be answered with the default answer (hit the enter key)

That's about all...


Looks pretty easy, doesn't it? I've got an older laptop gathering dust in the corner that I'd like to try this method out on. With two small children around, what I don't have is lots of time. However, the process looks fairly straightforward. I'll probably download the net install CD image and burn a disc tonight, just so that I'm ready when I find the time. At some point, I'll report on what happened.

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January 31, 2007

Firefox tricks

I added this blog to my blogroll a couple of months ago because, hey, learning how to use OO properly is good info. What I didn't know is that Solveig also teaches Firefox tricks. Excerpt:

And here's an additional tip I just picked up. If you close a tab that you didn't mean to close, type Ctrl Shift T to get it back.

Also:

F6 (or Alt-D or Alt-L) = switch focus to the address bar and highlight address. So you can hit F6 and then start typing the address immediately

Ctrl-PageUp and Ctrl-PageDown = move to next or previous tab. You might find it easier than Ctrl-Tab and Ctrl-Shift-Tab

Hold Alt while scrolling a page to scroll one line at a time instead of three.

Cool stuff. And if you're interested in something other than a pricey upgrade to Vista and Office 2007, you really need to check out this blog. However, if you're related to Bill Gates, I understand your dilemna.

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January 18, 2007

Free information

Tired of paying for each call to information? Try this on for size:

Tired of paying $1.50 or $2 for every directory assistance phone call? Then don't. There truly is such a thing as free directory assistance, though it may cost you a little in time and patience. Jot this down:

1-800-FREE411.

A Boston-based company called Jingle Networks offers this free alternative to expensive 411 calls via your cell phone or land line. How and why do they do what they do for free? Just as radio and TV shows are supported by advertising, the directory assistance service is sponsored by companies advertising with the service. So, yes, that means you may hear a short, audio ad when requesting a phone number, but not every time.

When I tried it out, the automated system got the name I was requesting wrong, but a live operator quickly came on the line and found the phone number. I heard (and ignored) an ad for a credit card before I got my number, but it didn't drone on too long. Generally, you'll hear ads related to businesses you're requesting to contact and will be given the opportunity to connect to the advertised business. But an ad here and there seems worth saving $1.50 a pop.

Cool. May the Verizon and Sprint 411 operators rot in hell.

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January 11, 2007

Computing history

Peter Coffee has compiled a list what he considers the top 25 Killer App's of All Time. Wanna know something scary? I was familiar with all of them- except Electric Pencil- and used all of them when they came out. Truly, I am a geek god.

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January 10, 2007

Got space?

A one terabyte hard drive for $399.

Full disclosure: my first computer didn't even had a hard drive, as I couldn't afford one. I had two floppy drives and used one for my OS. I then stripped a lot of application software to their barest minimums to run on a 1.44Mb floppy. Wordperfect 5.1 for DOS worked great without a lot of the frills installed. Anyway, I might be looking at a new drive soon.

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Linux and Windows, sitting in a tree...

One of the flaws of the Linux Live CDs to date is the lack of ability to write to NTFS partitions. For those of you not living in your parents' basement, that's the file system used by Windows XP. Most Live CDs have had read capability, but not write capability, which limited your ability to handshake Linux files with Windows files. However, ntfs-3g solves this problem and works with one of the more popular Linux distros, Ubuntu's Edgy Eft. Excerpt:

Normally Linux systems can only read from Windows NTFS partitions, but not write to them which can be very annoying if you have to work with Linux and Windows systems. This is where ntfs-3g comes into play. ntfs-3g is an open source, freely available NTFS driver for Linux with read and write support. This tutorial shows how to install and use ntfs-3g on a Ubuntu Edgy Eft desktop to read from and write to Windows NTFS drives and partitions. It covers the usage of internal NTFS partitions (e.g. in a dual-boot environment) and of external USB NTFS drives.

Some of the info is excessively geeky. However, you don't need to understand it much to be able to implement. Just read and follow the directions; you should be alright.

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January 09, 2007

building your own distro

Wanna see something really geekycool? How about a little tutorial so that you can build the Linux distro you the way you think it should be. Learn "how to" here. Excerpt:

The Dreamlinux Project addresses, as one of its main goals, the development of specific tools to allow anyone, despite his level of technical knowledge, being able to design and produce a Linux Distro that meets all his/her requirements . The Project also aims to research, learn and share all the knowledge produced during the Dreamlinux development process. ... In order to turn the dream into reality, the MkDistro Tool was born. MkDistro has evolved to an excellent tool for building and remastering modules and whole Distros . It is developed by one of our co-founders, nelsongs (Nelson Gomes da Silveira), leveraging the Morphix approach of modules and his previous works on developing the HD remastering scripts for the Kurumin, Knoppix, Kanotix and Beatrix Live CD Distros . ... MKDistro basic components

a) Mkdistro: it' s the basic tool responsible for launching, through its auto explained menus and dialog boxes, all the processes regarding the build of Distros. It's easy and intuitive to manage. Actually MkDistro so far comprises a set of 04 ( four ) scripts, mkdistro.sh, mkdistro_main.sh, mkdistro_clean.sh and mkcd.sh, with the main one (mkdistro.sh) using the others in some specific phase of the work.

b) Base-Module (BM): it's a slimmed down knoppix-like image comprising a Morphix patched Linux kernel, kernel modules and the whole set of applications and scripts needed to detect, configure and initialize the system hardware found in the computer.

c) Base Main Module (BMM or Working Module): it's a complete debian file system made up via a debootstrap procedure and the addition of very basic and essential applications designed to serve as a baseline for the full development of the Distro's Main Module.

d) Distro Main Module (DMM): it's the final module of the Distro you developed. In other words, it's practically the whole Distro, made up on top of the Basic Main Module chosen . This module will be later combined with the Basic Module in order to become the final iso image of your Distro.

e) Iso Image: it's the resulting image from the union between the Basic Module and the Distro's Main Module . So, this image is your final operating system which, after burned onto a CD, will become your new Live CD Linux Distro, capable of not only be run directly from the CD (provided you have set up your Computer's bios) as well as be installed onto your computer's HD.

There's a lot more there. Suffice it to say that you can do your own thing. I might start working on PhysicsGeeknix.

One caveat: the process needs to be performed on a Linux system. I haven't tried it while running a Live CD, but I bet that an external hard drive and a second CD burner are all that's required. I'll provide an update when my children are out of college which, by my reckoning, will be in about 20 years.

Ehh, I'll find the time soon enough.

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December 28, 2006

Wanna a shiny new laptop?

All you have to do is accept a bribe from Microsoft.

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December 21, 2006

Learning Open Office tricks

Excellent blog for your viewing pleasure as you make the transition away from Microsoft Office: Open Office Training, Tips and Ideas. And here's a terrific post on how to create multiple pages of mailing labels without using a mail merge, which is information that I could have used about 24 hours ago. Sigh. In any event, I'll keep checking her blog for more useful information. I suggest that you do the same.

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December 01, 2006

Free doesn't mean that it's crap

Been looking for some good software, but didn't want to spend a bundle on it? Have I got an article for you:

A computer with no software is like a garden with no tools, not much is going to happen without a rake, trowel or spade. But don’t worry because help is at hand. We have collected 20 programs that will quickly become indispensable; some are replacements for the offerings supplied with Windows and others are worthy alternatives to expensive software.

Wherever possible we have found software that costs nothing beyond the internet connection and will do everything that the software you buy in the shops does. To make sure you have the best possible chance of getting the software, we have put aside a dedicated part of our website for this purpose.

The article goes on to list Open Office, Firefox, the GIMP, Thunderbird, Skype and others. Their list of other free software is pretty good, too.

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Taking it with you

I've been using Open Office at home for a while now. The last version of Microsoft Office that I paid for was Office97. I simply haven't seen enough improvement to warrant spending hundreds of dollars on the latest version. Anyway, I've been irritated at not having OO with me whenever I'm traveling without my laptop. It's no longer a problem, though, as Open Office has been converted into an Open App. Details:

OpenOffice.org Portable (formerly Portable OpenOffice.org) is the complete OpenOffice.org office suite -- including a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation tool, drawing package and database -- packaged as a portable app, so you can take all your documents and everything you need to work with them wherever you go. ... Installing OpenOffice.org Portable

To install OpenOffice.org Portable, just download the portable package at the top of the OpenOffice.org Portable page and then double-click it. Select the location you wish to install to and click OK. An OpenOfficePortable directory will be created there and all the necessary files installed. That's all there is to it..

The entire package of software, including Writer, Calc, Impress, Draw and Base are your's for the downloading.

Update: Well, lookee here. Apparently you can take the entire suite of open apps in one fell swoop. Excerpt:

PortableApps Suite™ is a collection of portable apps including a web browser, email client, office suite, calendar/scheduler, instant messaging client, antivirus, sudoku game, backup utility and integrated menu, all preconfigured to work portably. Just drop it on your portable device and you're ready to go. ... Two Bugs: The PortableApps Menu bundled has a bug that prevents it from running on pre-Windows XP systems. The 1.0 to 1.0.1 Patch fixes this. Just install it to the same directory you installed the Suite to (usually the root of your portable drive). There is also an issue with high-resolution (120dpi) displays. A fix is being tested.

Let me get this straight: a browser, office software, anti-virus software, instant messaging software, calendar/task manager, email client and Sudoku puzzle game all come bundled together and fit nicely on a 512M thumb drive(there's a slightly stripped version that works on a 256M drive). And it's all free? I believe that that sound you're hearing is the puckering of Bill Gates' sphincter.

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November 17, 2006

Another nifty Firefox add-on

One complaint that I've long had about Firefox, and it's a small one, is that darned Download window that pops up whenever I, um, download something. Looks like someone created a minor tweak to make the window more unobtrusive. It's called the Download Statusbar.

You can find more info at the development homepage, including these cool features:

Features:

  • Auto-hides when not in use
  • Single-click pause and resume
  • Pause all, Resume all, Cancel all, and Remove all finished - available from the context menu of the bar itself
  • Run a completed file with a double click on its finished box. Open containing folder, remove, and rename from the context menu
  • In-line view of percent done, speed in KB/sec, KB downloaded so far, and remaining time, can be customized in the options.
  • Updating tooltip provides a more detailed view of the current download, including source, destination, size of the download and the remaining time
  • Option to automatically clear files after a specified number of seconds
  • Copy source URL from the context menu
  • Stop downloads and save them for the next browser session.
  • Delete a file from your system from the context menu
  • Localized strings for translation
  • Download history can be viewed and configured to only keep the last # download items
  • Option to start virus scanner when a download completes
  • On browser close, option to continue downloads in download manager

Looks good to me. Then again, I AM a geek.

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November 16, 2006

Playing those downloaded videos

I mentioned Video Ook! in a previous post. What I neglected to mention is that might need an additional player for the preponderance of FLV(flash video) movies out there. Here's a small standalone FLV player. There are others, of course, but I chose this one because it works on pre-2000 versions of Windows.

If you're interested in something far more robust, I'd like to suggest MPUI/Mplayer. Mplayer is the GNU media players, while MPUI adds a GUI frontend, with a number of usable skins.

MPlayer is arguably the best media player application of the world. Is is almost strictly monolithic, which means that it mainly consists of a single 7 MB executable that already contains all necessary codecs – for most files, it does not need any external codecs to be installed. If you want to know more about this wonderful program, please visit the MPlayer homepage.

The roots of MPlayer are in the Unix environment, and it shows in the way MPlayer is used: There is no graphical user interface, or at least none worth mentioning. Instead, MPlayer completely relies on a well-crafted command line interface and powerful keyboard shortcuts. While this is perfectly OK for Unix enthusiasts, Mac and Windows users prefer nice and more or less colorful graphical interfaces. There is already a »semi-official« OS X port, but up to now, no such project exists for the Windows platform.

This is where MPUI comes into play. It is a small program for Windows that takes the command-line hassle off you. Instead, you will get a no-frills, straight-to-the-point GUI that resembles the venerable Windows Media Player 6. It does not support every feature of MPlayer – there are just too many of them – but it is a solid »workhorse« media player tool suitable for most, if not all, everyday needs.

Note: "No installation is required to use MPUI/MPlayer. Simply copy the two .exe files into a directory of your choice an run MPUI. "

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November 14, 2006

Is this cool or what?

Everyone seems to have fallen in love with Performancing, which is a pretty good tool. However, here's one that I like better. Ever watch a Google or YouTube video that you knew would get pulled because it, umm, didn't exactly follow copyright laws and you wanted to save it permanently? Well now you can. I give you Ook?Video Ook! for your reading pleasure. Excerpt:

Ook? Video Ook! enables you to download embedded videos from several systems (such as YouTube, Google Video, Pornotube, Metacafe and many more).

Apparently, Ook? finds the appropriate URL for embedded videos and allows you to bring them on down to your PC. Pretty darned cool.

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November 13, 2006

Verify your image files

Maybe you decided to test drive Linux by downloading and burning one of the Live CD distros, but were unable to get the CD to boot properly. There are several possibilities:

1) In your computer's BIOS, the ACPI could be on. Unless you're using multiple processors, it's probably a good idea to disable this feature. Unless, like me, your computer has this feature tied to another that I cannot do without

2) You burned the ISO image at too high a rate. I know that everyone loves to burn CDs at 48x or greater. Unfortunately, bootable OSs are a bit more sensitive to this. When I burned my first Knoppix distro, I threw away my first two burned discs because I had created them at too high of a speed. I tried it at 2x and the Live CD worked perfectly. Now when I burn an ISO, I typically choose the slowest speed possible.

3) The file integrity of the ISO is corrupt. Many of the Live CD distros are greater than 600 Mb. Larger files are more susceptible to getting disrupted while downloading. What you need to do is to verify the integrity of your ISO. Here's how:

The best way to check the integrity of your downloaded ISO file is with the md5sum checksum. The Linux distro download site should offer either a Web page display or a separately downloadable text file containing a string of checksum characters. This string has to exactly match the string you get when you run md5sum against your downloaded ISO file.

For Linux Users

The md5sum checksum functionality is built into Linux. To begin the process under Linux, change directories to the wherever you downloaded your .ISO file. Once there, open a "console" or "terminal" and type this command after the prompt and press Enter:

md5sum {DOWNLOADEDFILENAME}.iso

(Note: Replace the {} and what's inside them with the actual name of your downloaded .ISO file.)

Next, skip down to the "Analyze the Results" subhead and pick up the steps there

For Windows Users

To begin the process under Windows, download the Etre.org the md5sum.exe command-line utility or Luke Pascoe's md5summer Windows utility.

To use the DOS/Windows command-line utility, copy the md5sum.exe file to the proper directory:

For NT/2K/XP: Put md5sum.exe in {Your Windows Folder}\system32 folder

Then open a command prompt:

Windows 95/98/Me: Start > Run > command
Windows NT/2K/XP: Start > Run > cmd

Use the CD command to change directories to the wherever you downloaded your .ISO file. Once there, type this command and press Enter:

md5sum {DOWNLOADEDFILENAME}.iso

(Note: Replace the {} and what's inside them with the actual name of your downloaded .ISO file.)

The utility will create a checksum you can compare to the string offered by the Linux .ISO download site.

Analyzing the Results
Creating the checksum will take a few minutes. Once it's done, you can visually compare at least the first six characters and the last six characters of the two checksum strings. If they match, you're all set. It's time to burn your CD -- and that's the subject of our next tip.

There you have it. Now go have some fun.

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November 09, 2006

Become a GIMP savant

And no, it doesn't have anything to do with Pulp Fiction. Anyway, "bring out the GIMP." Learn to grok the GIMP. It's a powerful photo editing tool that is completely free, albeit not entirely intuitive in its use, which makes this site quite useful.

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A refund for the world's biggest virus

A Dell customer bought a new laptop. In of itself, that particular fact is completely not noteworthy. What is interesting is that the customer planned on using Linux on the laptop and received a refund from Dell for his unused Windows XP totaling $105. Excerpt:

Dell today gave freelance programmer and sysadmin Dave Mitchell, of Sheffield, UK, a refund of 47 pounds ($89) for the unused copy of Microsoft Windows XP Home SP2 bundled with his new Dell Inspiron 640m laptop, Mitchell says. Dell also refunded the tax, for a total of Ł55.23 ($105).

With few laptops available without the so-called "Microsoft tax", Windows refund requests have long been a slow movement among Linux community organizers. A few Linux users have reported success, but most laptop vendors have refused to honor the refund clause in Microsoft's End User License Agreement (EULA) unless the user returns the entire laptop. A Dell spokesperson was not aware of any policy change.
...
Dell has not yet requested that Mitchell return his Microsoft hologram sticker or any other materials bundled with the system. The laptop did not come with a Windows CD.

Mitchell was careful to document that he did not run the Microsoft product or accept the EULA. "I booted the laptop, then photographed every step of the boot process up to and including clicking on the XP 'no I don't accept' button. I also scrolled through each page of the EULA, taking a photo of each page," he wrote in an e-mail interview.


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November 04, 2006

Learn to use Linux via free courses online

So you've just seen another blue screen of death. Or you've run into one of the many bugsfeatures in Windows that you just don't care for. Finally, you're thinking about making the switch to another OS, but you don't know which one to choose.

How about a Mac? People seem to love those. Well, not ALL people.

Okay, how about Linux? You've heard some good things about it: it's stable, has lots of software and has the ability to work with lots of Microsoft products, including Office. But you're feeling a little nervous because you don't know much, if anything, about Linux. What do you do to become more comfortable? Take some free online training courses which will walk you through lessons that will move you along the path from a rank novice to a seasoned pro. Here are the courses:

  • Getting Started with Linux - Beginner's Course
  • Intermediate Level Linux Course
  • Advanced Linux Course

And here are some of what's taught in those classes:

Lesson One


  • Objectives
  • What is Linux?
  • Installing Linux
  • An actual install
  • About Debian GNU/Linux

Lesson Two


  • Installing Debian GNU/Linux
  • Partitioning
  • Plunk that CD in the drive
  • Sundry installation tasks
  • Reboot and basic configuration
  • Completing the install process

Lesson Three


  • Working with Linux - First Things First
  • Working as another user

...

System Administration - An Overview
Installation Tasks
Backing up systems
...
System Services
...
The Apache Web server
Keeping Your Linux System Secure
Setting Up A Virtual Mail System
...
Programming under Linux

And there's a lot more there. In fact, more than you probably want to know. However, you should feel fairly comfortable using Linux after walking your way through the coursework.

Have fun, and give Linux a try. Try some of the Live CD distros so that you can test drive some different flavors to find one that's right for you.

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October 23, 2006

Choosing a distro

Some of you out there might want to give Linux a try. Others might want to extend the life/usefulness of an aging laptop or desktop. Still others might be a mixture of the previous two categories. In any event, unless you're an experienced Linux user, you're probably a bit overwhelmed at the enormous number of available Linux distros available. In fact, I'll bet that that leads to confusion among the PC using public, which in turn prevents them from giving Linux a try. But fear not! A little test exists which can help you choose a distribution that'll work for you.

Editor's note: I've tried the test several times and it appears that it could be weighted towards the more popular distros out there. Being a bit of a gearhead, I lean towards the Slackware distributions in real life. However, that particular OS did not appear in my results, which included Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Mandriva and Fedora.

Update: I tried once more and selected "Expert" under Linux knowledge. Lo and behold, Slackware appeared. I'll be truthful and state that I do not consider myself and expert. In fact, I'll wager that no actual expert would consider me one. But I do like Slackware. A lot. Anyway, consider the quiz to be a useful tool, not the Oracle of Delphi.

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September 18, 2006

Moving on from Windows

Let me flog the horse a little bit longer, in the hopes that its corpse will magically reanimate: start the transition from Windows to Linux. Soon. Claus Futtrup has a pretty good article detailing why the move shouldn't be painful. Excerpt:


There are many reasons for converting from another operating system to Linux. Each person has an individual relation to this, but typical reasons are:

1) I have old hardware and I want new software than runs well on my machine. Maybe Microsoft has quit their support of the OS installed on the computer from the beginning. Linux reduces the need to upgrade or replace hardware when upgrading to newer versions because it is very efficient and designed to be scalable.

2) I want to spend my money wisely, not on updating software (and my morals are too high to use piracy). Linux and much of the related software is available at no cost.

3) I have a political agenda when choosing free OpenSource software. You may not be willing to accept the constraints of commercial software (financially, regarding file formats, bug fix support is in the hands of some developers and it can be difficult to get their attention, etc). The most advanced form is GNU Copyrighted software (socalled GPL), as defined by the Free Software Foundation, but other standard copyrights exist as well.
...
Ready to move ahead? I have a big recommendation. You can jump directly from a commercial MS-Windows world with Microsoft Office and other commercial applications at your disposal into a free OpenSource Linux world. Chances are that this will be a very hard battle - maybe also unnecessarily hard. Since OpenSource software for Linux is usually also available for Windows you can make a smooth start by first familiarizing yourself with the software under MS-Windows, then later make the jump to Linux and be pleased that you know the applications already - being productive from the get-go and therefore have a more relaxed approach to understanding the underlying Linux system (if you like to). Software to consider for your MS-Windows computer is:

* Web browsing : Firefox
Make sure you can use your internet banking and check that other important sites works for you.

* Email : Thunderbird
Try to convert your emails in eg. Outlook Express into Thunderbird and work with Thunderbird. Later you can move your Thunderbird emails from MS-Windows to your Thunderbird in Linux (because the mailbox file structure is unchanged and can be copied directly between the two operating systems).

* Graphics : GIMP
If you like to work with Photoshop or other graphics (or image processing) software, try to familiarize yourself with GIMP instead. There are other options, but GIMP is a good choice.

* Office : OpenOffice
This office package is not as rich on features as Microsoft Office, but try to use it under MS-Windows. If you don't like it you can save your documents in eg. MS-Word file format and forget about it. If OpenOffice works for you, keep the files in the OpenDocument Format (and maybe also convert other documents to this format) before moving the files to Linux.

Ehh, you know what to do. If you're not certain which distro to pick, go here and see what's available.

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September 14, 2006

Updates to building your own PVR

About a year ago, I posted an article containing info on how to build your own Personal Video Recorder. As usual, technology waits for no geekman. All About Linux links to a variety of Linux-based build your own PVR sites. Excerpt:

KnoppMyth : This is an attempt at making the Linux and MythTV installation as trivial as possible. This is a Linux distribution built from scratch using Debian GNU/Linux and the programs from Knoppix. KnoppMyth includes MythTV and all its official plugins as well as additional software such as Apache webserver, NFS, Samba and many other useful daemons. This GNU/Linux distribution is geared at setting up a PVR (Personal Video Recorder) in a quick and easy manner.Everything one needs to easily setup a power home entertainment system is included in this distribution.

MythTV for XBox - This is a project which aids in setting up MythTV on ones XBox gaming station with ease. Of course it is understood that you need to install GNU/Linux on XBox first as MythTV runs in Linux. This project requires that you first download and install a version of GNU/Linux called Xebian in your XBox.
...
Having dwelled so much on MythTV project, I might also add that there are two similar projects (though not as feature rich) which are taking shape to provide PVR functionality in GNU/Linux. They are Freevo and GeexBox.

I was aware of all of the ones listed in the post except for GeexBox. That one caught my eye because it:


  1. can be run off a Live CD
  2. can run successfully on a 400-MHz machine

Since I've got a 400 MHz paperweight in the corner of my home office, GeexBox looks to be a good home project for me to tackle. All that I need is a digital TV tuner and a bigger hard drive. I won't be able to record and watch simultaneously, but I'm okay with that. YMMV.

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Browse this

I've got to admit: the first time I encountered Konqueror, I thought that it was a pretty good file manager(i.e., Windows Explorer), but only an average Web browser. Something about how Konqueror resolved text on my screen bugged me. However, that was several versions ago and Doug Roberts, in this article, goes a long way towards convincing me to give Konqueror another try. Excerpt:


While I liked Konqueror as a file manager I had actually never given Konqueror's web browsing capabilities much thought. I had recently begun using Opera 9.0. I felt at long last that I had found the browser I had been looking for to run on my Debian Sarge install.

But there it was, already on my system. With Mr. Kite having piqued my curiosity, I thought, "What the hell. Why not." And I started using it.

The first thing I noticed is that Konqueror is really fast as a web browser. No, I mean REALLY fast. It's faster than Opera, which is noted for its speed.

Let me elaborate. First, it loads faster, as it's part of the KDE GUI that's already loaded and running. It does a better job of loading recently visited web pages from its cache than Opera. It also renders web pages more correctly than Opera, though Opera is very good. Opera would force me to hit the minus key to downsize web pages too often, to make them fit the screen. A niggling point, I admit.

One of Konqueror's curious and powerful traits is that it is at once both a file manager and a web browser. You could think of it as a computer navigation device. It will quickly take you to any folder and file on your hard drive, or to anywhere on the Internet. It does either one, or both of those, so seamlessly that I marvel at how the KDE people did it.

Like all the newer browsers out now, Konqueror uses tabs. And yes, it blocks pop-ups. One reason why I had switched to Opera is because of its ability to selectively allow Java and Java scripts to run on only the websites that you choose. Konqueror does that, too.

Split screen browsing

One of the unique features of Konqueror that really is amazing is its ability to do split screen browsing. Right click on the status bar on the bottom of the screen and you get a menu allowing you to split the screen either horizontally or vertically.

This isn't just a "gee whiz" feature. It's actually very useful. Take shopping on line, for instance. My wife is very jealous of this feature. :-)

Take a look at the following screen shot, which shows me looking at two different tents and comparing their specs side by side.

konqueror-splitscreen.jpg

Note the scroll bars for each window. You can navigate to any websites completely independently from either screen.

And get this: you can even use one side of the screen to navigate your hard drive and continue web browsing in the other screen, if your wish!! So, Konqueror can manage files and browse the web simultaneously. Who knew?

Anyway, you'll find a lot more detail here.

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August 31, 2006

Sticking with Windows

I beat the Linux drum a lot on this site. Okay, more than a lot. But if you've experienced as many problems with Windows as I have, you'd be anxious to move along as well. However, I know that some of you don't really experience Windows problems. If you are one of the two manysatisfied Windows owners, you still aren't relegated to using only commercial/expensive software. I present to you Opensourcewindows.com, which contains a lot of free software that you can use in your current Windows environment. Excerpt:

Mozilla Firefox The premier free, open-source browser. Tabs, pop-up blocking, themes, and extensions. Considered by many to be the world's best browser. ...

Mozilla Thunderbird
Powerful spam filtering, solid interface, and all the features you need.
[note: Some people have complained about Thunderbird's lack of an Outlook style calendar feature. While there is a separate calendar tool that can be used, the Lightning project looks to incorporate that feature into Thunderbird, sooner rather than later. You might want to wait until that's done.]
...

Media Player Classic
Compact, but powerful media player. Plays anything under the sun. No install necessary.
...

OpenOffice.org
Big, full featured suite of tools for word processing and spreadsheets. Compatible with and a free replacement for Microsoft Word documents. Also supports OpenDocument Format.
...

SharpDevelop
Open Source IDE for the .NET Framework. Utilizes the multiple programming languages and Windows forms
...

Dia for Windows
Dia is a Visio type clone for Windows and UNIX/Linux systems. It has many templates included and very useful for flowcharting etc.

Did you find something useful there? If not, you might want to check out The OSSWIN Project: Open Source for Windows! page. Trust me: you'll spend a lot of time wading through that list of software.

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August 09, 2006

Simplifying the move

Would you like to move from Windows to Linux, but are afraid of losing your settings and files? Worry no more: Versora software has just released its Progression Desktop Windows to Linux tool. It can migrate the following items:

System settings: folder options, fonts, input devices, wallpaper, sounds

Application Settings: email, web browser, office productivity software, instant messaging

And here are the to/from OSs supported:


MICROSOFT WINDOWS
Windows 98
Windows ME
Windows NT
Windows 2000
Windows XP

LINUX
Fedora Core
Linspire
Mandriva
Novell Linux Desktop
Suse Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 (SLED 10)
Red Hat Desktop and Enterprise Workstation
SimplyMEPIS 6.0
SUSE Professional
Turbolinux FUJI
Ubuntu and Kubuntu
Xandros Desktop OS 4

Nifty, huh? Check it out.

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August 03, 2006

Upgrading from Windows to Linux

This upgrade does not replace Windows XP. Rather, it offers a way for those of you still trudging along on the now unsupported Windows 98/98SE/ME operating systems.

I know what you're thinking. Who still uses those crap systems? Well, some people are still using their old computers that run just fine using an older OS, but would completely crap itself if you attempted to install and run XP on it. I have a 1.8 Ghz machine still running ME on it because, well, it works. And I haven't had the multitude of issues that other people have had with that, let's be honest, toy operating system.

In any event, Microsoft no longer provides support for Windows 98/ME. All of you users are on your own. Or you were until now. Excerpt:


Xandros, in responding to Microsoft's July 11 announcement that it will discontinue security patches and technical support for Windows 98, 98SE, and ME, is offering a 50 percent mail-in rebate to users who "upgrade" to either the Xandros Desktop Home Edition or Home Edition Premium versions of its Linux distribution.

An estimated 50 million people around the world still use the older Windows systems, according to market analyst IDC.

The regular Home Edition sells for $39.99, and the premium edition sells for $79.99. If users upgrade their operating system from Windows 98, 98SE, or ME to Xandros 4.0, they can receive a 50 percent mail-in rebate, the New York City-based company said.

According to the company, the Xandros Desktop Home Edition or Home Edition Premium OSes can be installed alongside unsupported Microsoft Windows -- even on older hardware, eliminating the need for new hardware required by a Windows XP or Vista upgrade.

And here are the details on what Xandros will do for you:

Today, as three older members of the Windows family depart, Xandros is more than able to take up the needs of these, and other, Windows users. More so than almost any other Linux desktop, Xandros is designed to look and feel like Windows.

It starts with a KDE 3.42 desktop interface, with some enhancements to increase its Windows-like look and feel. In fact, you can, as I did, set it up to mirror a typical Windows environment and fool users into thinking they're actually using Windows.

This is helped, in no small measure, by the inclusion in the Home Premium Edition Xandros Desktop Linux 4.0 of CodeWeavers Inc.'s Crossover Office 5.03 Standard Edition. With CrossOver, you can run many popular Windows applications. For example, I was able to run Office 2000 and 2003, Quicken 2004, iTunes 5.01, and Macromedia Dreamweaver MX.

Can it run all Windows programs? No, it's not even close, but Crossover on Xandros can run many of the most commonly used one. It also makes it very easy to install and use Windows applications on Linux. In past combination packages of Crossover and a Linux distribution, it's been something of a chore getting the pairing to integrate.

That's not the case, here. For instance, if you want to install a Windows application, you just download or pop in its installation CD, and the system takes care of all the details. You could easily be fooled into thinking that you were installing a Windows application on a Windows system.

In addition, the Premium Edition of Xandros also comes with Versora Progression Desktop. This is a Windows to Linux migration tool.

It's a very handy tool that deserves a review in its own right. With it you can transfer such basic system settings as your wallpaper and screen saver to Linux, and, more importantly, your email and documents from, say, Outlook and Word, to Evolution or Thunderbird for email and OpenOffice.org 2 for your documents.

It's very, very handy. There are a few gotchas to keep an eye out for. For example, very complicated Office documents, such as macro-empowered Excel spreadsheets, are unlikely to make the transfer well. Still, I'd say 90 percent of users could move everything they have from Windows to Xandros and not lose anything of significance.
..
What Windows 98 and ME users may find far more interesting, though, is that I was also able to run Xandros reasonably well on a Compaq Deskpro EN Desktop with a 500MHz Pentium III, 128MB of RAM, and a 10GB hard drive.

Was it great? No, but Xandros ran as well as 98SE or ME ever ran on this six-year-old computer. XP? On this system? Forget about it!

This, more than anything else, is why I think any current 98 or ME user should look to Xandros. This Linux will just work on the system you're using today, and you won't even need to re-learn that much.

Interestingly enough, I've got a machine at home that's gathering dust right now. It's technical specifications mirror almost exactly the old machine that Vaughan-Nichols listed. I think that I might take give it an upgrade and milk some more years out of it.

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July 16, 2006

Backup that data!

This article describes everything that you should do before installing a new OS. Of course, I think that it's great advice, period. Excerpt:

So, you want to try out a new operating system. Good for you! But, before you pop in that CD or DVD, there are a couple of things you need to know. Some of these may sound like an unnecessary pain. Trust me.

There may be some people out there who've installed more different kinds of operating systems on most computers than yours truly, but I haven't met them.

First, back up your data. OK, everyone tells you that. Let me take it one step further: Make certain you can restore your data.

While it's not as big a problem as it used to be for PCs, when backups usually meant tape rather than CDs or DVDs, it's still a heck of a mess when you try to restore your system and you find that your backup disk contains unreadable garbage.

If you're making a big change, say Windows to Linux, and you think you may want to go back again, you should move up from a simple backup program to a system restore program.

These programs essentially take a photograph, an image, of your hard drive. With them, you can restore your entire system even if the new operating system doesn't leave a trace of your old system. For Windows users, the programs I recommend are Acronis True Image 9.0 Home and Norton Ghost 10. For Linux, I like Ghost for Linux.

The Linux option isn't as easy to use as the Windows-based tools, but Sanjay Majumder has written a handy guide to using Ghost for Linux. With it at hand, you shouldn't have any problem mirroring your system.

I spent the better part of a Saturday helping a friend recover data from a crashed/corrupted Windows XP hard drive. He actually backs up his data on a regular basis, but this time, he'd neglected the task for about a month. No biggie, of course, since we were able to recover the data, which is a story that I plan to tell soon, as it proved quite instructive to me. Short version: I used a Knoppix Livd-CD to recover the data because every Windows based OS failed to recognize the drive.

I know that I belabor the benefits of Linux around here, but I don't actually care which operating system you use. What I do care about, and beat my students over the head about, is backing up your frigging data. DVD burners cost less than $50-if you look hard enough- and external 160 Gb USB 2.0 hard drives can be had for around $105. You have no excuse for not backing up your data.

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July 06, 2006

More hardware problems

And open source is still the solution

Interesting article that discusses-and links to- some tools that will help you debug some common hardware problems. Excerpt:

Like all pieces of electronic equipment, computers have a tendency to malfunction and break; if you have never experienced kernel core dumps or unexpected crashes, consider yourself lucky. Many common hardware problems are caused by bad RAM modules, overheated or broken CPUs, or bad sectors or clusters on hard disks. In this article we will introduce you to some open source tools you can use to trace these problems, and thus save time, money, and headaches.

A GNU/Linux live CD distribution can come handy for hardware diagnostics. For this purpose, my favorite live CD distribution is GRML, which bundles the tools we're about to discuss, along with some other useful programs for both home users and veteran system administrators. Other distributions also include some or all of these tools.
...
Who's afraid of the big bad memory?

Bad memory can cause crashes that lead to system hard locks or even data corruption. Next time you try to compile a program and the compilation fails, check your memory before sending any bug reports to the program's authors. Memtest86+ is an excellent utility for testing RAM. It is based on memtest86, but supports most modern hardware, including the AMD64 architecture, whereas memtest86 is strictly x86-based. Memtest86+ is a boot image and thus is independent of an operating system.

To run the program, boot your system with the GRML CD and enter memtest on the boot prompt. The program is simple to use, since it starts testing memory by itself immediately. Pressing c shows the configuration menu, which you can use to select the test method, enter ECC mode (if your system uses that kind of RAM), restart the test, or refresh the screen; however, most people should be fine with the defaults.

Memory problems are usually tough to spot, so in order to be sure it's better to leave memtest86+ running for a long period of time and complete at least 10 passes of the test. If you want to quit memtest86+ and restart your computer, just press Esc.

And here's a link to the distro, should you desire to make a live CD for yourself.

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Mocking Microsoft

It's right behind mocking the French as America's favorite pasttime. Anyway, this guy has decided to post one IE flaw per day which, by my reckoning, should give him material for the next decade or so. Here's the initial post:


This blog will serve as a dumping ground for browser-based security research and vulnerability disclosure. To kick off this blog, we are announcing the Month of Browser Bugs (MoBB), where we will publish a new browser hack, every day, for the entire month of July. The hacks we publish are carefully chosen to demonstrate a concept without disclosing a direct path to remote code execution. Enjoy!

Update: Apparently it's not all Microsoft, all the time. Safari and Firefox have both been salmon-slapped.

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June 28, 2006

Hacks for geeks

Kind of a redundant title, I know, but there's a new book out, Ubuntu Hacks which provides a lot of good information for both Linux newbie and guru alike. See if the following looks like something you'd be interested in:


Co-authors Jonathan Oxer, Kyle Rankin, and Bill Childers detail exactly 100 "hacks" you can use to set up a printer, tweak the GNOME or KDE desktops, rip and encode DVDs, connect multiple displays, or post a blog. If those don't interest you, perhaps some of the 96 other good bits of advice will.

The book is organized in 10 chapters:
Chapter 1 -- Getting Started
Chapter 2 -- The Linux Desktop
Chapter 3 -- Multimedia
Chapter 4 -- Mobile Ubuntu
Chapter 5 -- X11
Chapter 6 -- Package Management
Chapter 7 -- Security
Chapter 8 -- Administration
Chapter 9 -- Virtualization and Emulation
Chapter 10 -- Small Office/Home Office Server

Topics covered range from simple tasks such as test driving Ubuntu on your hardware using the live CD, installing and configuring a permanent install on your hard drive, and using typical applications; to installing and configuring file, web, email, proxy, dhcp, and domain name servers; to advanced system hacks and tweaks.

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June 23, 2006

The Nerd-force is strong in this one

Interesting little article entitled Top 3 Linux distros you've never heard of. Either the title is overkill, or I'm even more pathetic than I thought: I was familiar with all of them before. However, there's one particular distribution that is, I believe, a perfect match for the Kos kids and the rest of the reality-based community: Tinfoil Hat Linux. I kid you not. Excerpt:



tfh.jpegThey’re going to get me for telling you guys about this…


Are you ridiculously paranoid? Do you worry about the toaster listening in on your phone calls? Do your walls have ears/eyes/mouths/noses?


Tinfoil Hat Linux is the OS for you. It runs entirely from a 1.44MB floppy image, is compiled from static libraries and contains absolutely no network stack at all (that’s how they get you).


This distribution started as an experiment in encryption, initially intending to provide a secure operating system for encrypting files, and transporting GPG keys. In the words of the creators “at some point it became an exercise in over-engineering.”


If you’re really concerned about the safety of your data, this could actually be useful for you. It could, for example, be installed to a USB drive (giving you more space to work with) and then transported around to places where you needed to encrypt data. Want to keep IT out of your secret pr0n folders? This won’t help you much. Want to keep them from opening your documents after you’ve left the company? Now you’re talking…


I’ll leave you with a quote from the Tinfoil Hat Linux readme.txt:


“If at all possible, boot THL on a laptop & disconnect all external cables, including the power & mouse. Turn off nearby radios, including cell phones and microwaves. Put yourself and the computer in a well grounded opaque copper cube. Download your tinfoil hat plans from http://zapatopi.net/afdb.html. Boot the floppy….”


Be safe. Be sure.


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June 20, 2006

Extra! Get your extra(packages)!

Read all about it here:


If you are looking to enhance your Ubuntu and Kubuntu 6.06 Dapper Drake installation with extra packages from external repositories, this web log post is the most comprehensive list of available software for Dapper we've seen. It includes repositories for the Opera browser, Penguin Liberation Front packages, the latest KDE, KOffice and amaroK, up-to-date packages for VLC, Compiz, Skype, Freevo, MythTV and other popular software, as well as a number of unofficial and experimental repositories created by volunteers all over the world. As always, these packages are unsupported and some might even break your system, so proceed with caution. But if you absolutely need a package for your Ubuntu or Kubuntu system, getting it from the repositories listed in the above-mentioned link might be a better option than compiling the required package from source code.

Remember: you break your OS, you own it.

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June 19, 2006

Sure, I want my children to run screaming from my office

Who thought that this little gadget was a good idea?

teddy_usb_big.jpeg

"Daddy, what are you doing to Teddy?"

"Don't worry son: he won't feel a thing." ::POP::

"TEDDDEEEEEEEEEEEE!"
=======================================

I'd be willing to bet that I have a sicked sense of humor than most people, but even I'm not this freaking demented.

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June 16, 2006

Looking for a good deal on a laptop?

Check out this link at Fat Wallet. Excerpt:


OD is having the 3-day technology sale events from 6/15 - 6/17. I noticed that they have the Compaq Presario V2615US for sale at $680 (in store price) after $80 instant saving. On top of that,they have a $200 OD MIR and $30 Manufacturer MIR. So the math will be $680 - $200 MIR - $30 MIR = $450 AR. Very hot price.

Specs below:
Presario Notebook computer with Mobile AMD Sempron processor 3000+ with PowerNow technology
512MB memory
60GB hard drive
Burn & Play DVDs & CDs
Integrated 802.11g wireless LAN networkability

You can make it a better deal if you order online and select in store pickup (delivery price is $760, and pickup price is $680). Then you will be able to use the $30 OFF coupon (015345238).

Very cool deal. Now I might wipe the PC and install Linux instead of using the pre-installed Windows OS, but that's just me.

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June 15, 2006

3-D web browsing?

I dunno. It looks kind of cool, but I'm still not sold on how this will revolutionize my browsing experience. Excerpt:


What ever happened to the virtual reality, 3D world of the web? Back in the late 90s, all the hype was about VRML—Virtual Reality Markup Language—which would turn the web into an immersive environment that you'd maneuver around to get to the information you wanted. We're here to tell you that the reports of the 3D web's death are greatly exaggerated. As evidence, we present three 3D browsers that will use that graphics card for something other than gaming: 3B, Browse3D, and SphereXPlorer.

As further proof that the 3D web isn't dead, an XML format called X3D—a free run-time architecture that can "represent and communicate 3D scenes and objects using XML"— is starting to take hold. You can find more info about it from The Web3D Consortium which is very active in its efforts to add one more dimension to the web as we know it. There's even a mobile browser for X3D, so that you could, for example, navigate around a city you're visiting on your handheld PC.


And of course, as with everything to do with PCs these days, there's the Vista factor. Vista's DirectX 10 will change the landscape for 3D browsers. The Windows Presentation Foundation (formerly codenamed "Avalon") and XAML (eXtensible Application Markup Language) will allow 3D apps such as browsers to be programmed more easily than ever. For more on the Windows presentation foundation and its relationship with DirectX, check out Windows Presentation Foundation (Avalon) FAQ.

While X3D and Vista technologies may be the future of the 3D web, today we'll tackle a more modest goal—evaluating browsers that use some aspect of 3D right here and now. In a future article, we'll look at some VRML and X3D browser plug-ins that let you do cool things like enter virtual chat worlds such as 3D Planets. Meanwhile, join us in doing what you do all the time—browse the web—but this time in three glorious dimensions.

I think that I could save a lot of money by putting my monitor on an oscillating platform, first moving towards me and then moving away from me. Bingo, 3-D on the cheap, with no CPU slowdown. Sure, my eyes will likely give out soon, but I think that the blinding headaches will kill me first, so no biggy.

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June 12, 2006

We're from Microsoft and we're here to help you

Oh really? Pull the other dear: it's got bells on it. Excerpt:


Who wouldn't trust a company that hid built-in spyware on every Windows-based PC in the land?

It turns out that Microsoft's Genuine Advantage anti-piracy program is also keeping daily tabs on Windows users. Who knew?

Well, until a few days ago, nobody outside of Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Wash., knew.

According to an Associated Press report, David Lazar, director of the WGA (Windows Genuine Advantage) program, Microsoft was doing this as "kind of a safety switch."

A safety switch?

Because, Microsoft told 'top Microsoft reporter in the known-world' Mary Jo Foley that "if Notifications went amok on Microsoft's side, Microsoft wanted a way to terminate the program quickly."

Amok? On Microsoft's side?

Help me out. I'm a little confused here. Microsoft wants my Windows PC to phone home everyday so that if Notifications went 'amok' on their servers, it would turn my local Notifications component off?
...
I don't mean to be paranoid, but when someone tells me that, oh, by the way, they've been checking on my XP and Windows 2000 PCs every day since July 2005 when Microsoft made WGA mandatory or you couldn't download patches, I get a little concerned.

Still, it's not like Microsoft would actually collect more information and then use it against such competitors as Firefox would they?

Oh wait, come to think of it, didn't Microsoft once cause Windows to produce fake error messages if a user was running DR-DOS instead of MS-DOS?
[Editor's note: DR-DOS was the best DOS on the market at the time]

While they never admitted to it, they did finally end up paying Caldera Systems, one of the ancestors of today's SCO, approximately $60 million to make the resulting lawsuit go away.
...
Here's the point. For over a year, Microsoft has planted a program on every modern Windows-powered PC that reported home every day. They don't have an intelligent reason, never mind a good one, for this move. And, they never told anyone that they were doing this.

I guess it must do a darn good job of hiding itself from firewalls and network monitoring tools too since we've only now found out this daily checkup call after tens of millions of PCs have been phoning in for almost a year.

Maybe you can trust your computer, your livelihood, your home finances, your kids' games, everything you do online, to a company that would do that, but you can count me out.

I've been using Linux for my main desktop for years, and it's revelations like this one that makes me damn glad that I do.

I really don't have anything else to add except this: Ubuntu's latest release is very, very cool. Pretty damned user friendly, too.

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June 08, 2006

Carputer: an idea whose time should never come

Unfortunately, it's already upon us.

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June 06, 2006

Beginner's guide to Linux?

Yahoo! has a pretty solid article today about people who are thinking about making the switch from Windows to Linux. It's worth reading in its entirety, but I'll excerpt some of it to give you a flavor:


Love it, hate it, heard lots about it, but still don't have enough of a handle to form a firm opinion? Then we must be talking about Linux, the open-source operating system that's alluring because it's heavy duty and it's free. Simultaneously, it's intimidating to newbies because it's typically more difficult to install and configure than Windows.

However, now is an opportune time to get past those concerns. Interest in Linux is expected to spike throughout the year, thanks to Microsoft's delay of its consumer version of Windows Vista. The hang-up could cast a pall on the year-end PC sales season. Perhaps that's one reason the mainstream media is discovering this "revolution" in software that's nearly 15 years old.

So if you've ever planned on giving the open-source operating system a whirl, but, like the Georgia bride-to-be, got cold feet at the last minute, we've ferreted out six useful facts that'll ease your path when you decide to take the plunge.

1) How many versions of Linux are there?

Lots. At least 350, according to the list maintained by the enthusiast site DistroWatch.com. The site skews toward smaller distributions, with current flavor of the month Ubuntu listed as the most popular among the site's readers. Ubuntu has gained traction recently, garnering an endorsement from Sun Microsystems chief executive Jonathan Schwartz.

Ubuntu also appears to be gaining legitimacy via heavy grass-roots support. User-spawned Web resources include a blog devoted to the distro, a quick-start guide for dummies and a more advanced (how to install anything!) manual. (However, as What PC? points out, despite its funky name, Ubuntu is not noticeably simpler to get going than any other implementation of the OS.)

Ubuntu has a great back story: Its development was funded by South African Internet entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth as an outgrowth of his efforts to offer improved educational opportunities to his nation's young people.

Another distribution much in demand is SUSE, available for free under the OpenSUSE.org program sponsored by Novell or in a for-pay version that comes with end-user support from Novell.

Originally developed by German vendor SUSE Linux, the software has been heavily marketed to enterprise users ever since SUSE was acquired by Novell in 2004. Since that time, Novell has positioned itself as the main alternative to Red Hat, which is widely considered to be the leader in the enterprise Linux market. (In that regard, Novell CEO Jack Messman predicts that his company will emerge as one of the two dominant corporate suppliers of Linux, alongside Red Hat, as the market for paid open-source shakes out over the next two to five years.)

Other popular distros include Mandriva, Debian, and Fedora. (The latter is a free offering spun out of Red Hat. Don't forget Slackware, Knoppix, Gentoo, Mepis, and others too numerous to mention.)

For those disinclined to deal with challenging installs, the easiest path may be Linspire. The eponymous company was founded by billionaire Michael Robertson, who made his money with the early Internet download service MP3.com. Robertson has positioned Linspire as consumer-friendly Windows alternative that costs a lot less -- it's $50 -- and is bundled with many drivers and a bunch of applications.

...

6) You've given me lots of facts, but not much advice. How do I get started?

One pain free way to go (OK, it'll set you back $16, plus shipping) is by reading Test Driving Linux. The book, by David Brickner, includes a CD that allows you to boot Linux on a Windows computer without destroying the Windows install. On the downside, the book's Linux is, like the title says, a "test drive" that runs only off the CD; it won't permanently install the OS to your hard drive. (A further caveat is the CD is a bit fussy; it won't run if you can't get your PC to boot first from the CD drive. It didn't like my old Compaq desktop, for reasons unexplained, but it ran like a champ on an HP Pavilion laptop.)

If you're ready to give Linux a more permanent whirl, go back to Question 1, above, or to this list of distros. (The Wikipedia offers a "Which distro is right for you?" quiz.)

Worthwhile article to give you a jumpstart into the Linux world.

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May 16, 2006

Pragmatism and operating systems

If, by now, I've managed to tweak your interest in Linux or, by now, if Windows has pissed you off enough that you've become interested in Linux, you're probably rooting through the applications that you know and love to see if they'll run on a Linux OS. Many of them will. If not, there are usually native Linux replacements that will do the trick just as well. Unfortunately, that's not always the case. Excerpt:


I'm lucky enough that everything I do, I can do on Linux. Mind you, I do need to use Wine to run Quicken and iTunes, but other than that, my Linux workstations are Windows-software free.

Many people aren't that lucky.

Novell, as many of you know, is working on trying to talk ISVs (independent software vendors) into translating the most popular Windows programs into Linux. With thousands of users asking for Adobe Photoshop, Autodesk AutoCAD, and Adobe/Macromedia Dreamweaver, maybe we'll see native versions of these in Linux sometime soon.

Even so, there will still be other programs that keep users from running a Linux desktop.

Darn it.

As Miller points out, most people and companies can do 90 percent of what they need to do on a Linux desktop. The bad news is that that final 10 percent varies from company to company. For Miller, video's the problem child. For many businesses I know, its accounting software.

Yes, I know about GnuCash, TurboCash, and Lazy8Ledger.

However, the companies I know already have people who are invested in QuickBooks, MYOB, and Peachtree. They're not going to change anytime soon.

Will the change ever come?

Sure.

We've already come much farther along with the Linux desktop than anyone would have ever dreamed.

As Miller points out, when he first tried Linux around in 1996, mounting a CD-ROM and setting up a printer were big challenges. When I started, I was compiling Linux from source code because I had to, not because I wanted to.

In five years, I predict, 90 percent of all businesses will be able to run 100 percent of their preferred software on a Linux desktop. The ISVs (independent software developres) will continue to bring their software to Linux, and open-source accounting programs, perhaps one of ones I've mentioned, will make the jump from niche program to market-power.

Someday, someday soon, most of you will join me in being able to do all your desktop computing on Linux.

I can't wait.

Quicken presented a major obstacle to my being able to switch. Turns out that it runs just fine in Linux if you use Crossover Office. Just an FYI.

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May 10, 2006

Business as usual

So more flaws have been discovered in Windows. What happens this time? Does the screen go blank? Do your files become invisible? No, of course not. Instead, these "new" flaws provide a hacker the ability to gain control of your computer. It's like a Microsoft Groundhog Day that doesn't end by your having sex with Andie McDowell. Instead, it's like french-kissing Helen Thomas.

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May 09, 2006

Moving on to a new OS

I mentioned in the past that moving from Windows to Linux needn't be so painful. However, I'll admit to having been pretty sketchy when it comes to details. Doug Roberts goes where I haven't in this article. Excerpt:


With the hype around Windows Vista about to reach ear piercing decibel levels when Beta2 is released for testing and evaluation, discerning computer users will no doubt be evaluating what upgrade path they want to take from Windows XP.

XP has been a fairly good ride, and a long one. Make that a very long one. In many respects, this powerful general purpose OS has served its time reasonably well, although some would say it has over-served its time. During its five-year-plus reign, a lot of changes have taken place in the operating system landscape.

Year after year, XP has faced an onslaught of security breaches and vulnerabilities. Apple's OS X, on the cutting edge of OS technology, will naturally draw comparisons with Vista. And lately, Linux has been nipping at XP's heels for a place on the desktop. From commercial Linux distributions like SUSE and Red Hat, to community based distros with strange sounding names like Ubuntu, Mepis, and Kanotix, these Linux OSes are challenging XP both on the security front and in terms of functionality. And, did I mention, they are free!

During the many months that I've been using Linux, I've seen my Debian install mature quite rapidly. I've seen a lot of rough edges polished off and features added as I continued to update my system, which started life as a Knoppix Live CD. I've seen the software applications gain in sophistication, too. In fact, it's not a stretch to say that there are many areas where Linux has not only matched, but has exceeded, Windows XP. In short, I like it.

Does this mean I'm going to try to convince you to abandon Windows XP? No. I still use it, and would feel like a hypocrite if I told you to do something I have not done myself. I'm dual booting and will be for the foreseeable future, as I have things in Windows I need to do from time to time. I just don't use it online very much. :-)

I'll tell you up front, you may have to give up certain favorite Windows software applications if you start using Linux a lot. The strength of Windows rests, in large part, on some of the really great applications that run on it. It's hard for people to be torn away from old favorites that are as comfortable as old shoes. In my case, it's WordPerfect -- it's hard to say goodbye to it.

But, if you switch to Linux, you are also saying goodbye to constantly running Spyware and Antivirus programs, and never-ending hurried malware updates. You are saying goodbye to Windows licensing fees. You are saying goodbye to disk defragmenters! (Linux's superior journaling file system makes them unnecessary.) You are saying goodbye to reboots after OS updates and software installs. Unlike Windows, Linux does not require these reboots. Finally, you are saying goodbye to OS system crashes. You have to work really hard to make Linux crash. Has that got your attention? Oh, and did I mention Linux is costs less? The community-based distros are even free! :-) I did mention that, right?
...

The GUI environment

Yes, Linux does have a history of being a command line OS. But, that is ancient history at this point. Yes, you can still do a lot in a command console, but it's rarely necessary anymore for desktop users.

For Linux to ever have a chance to move from servers to desktops, it needed a GUI interface like Windows has. One of the best ones is KDE, which I use. It's a richly featured GUI that easily rivals Windows XP. Eye candy is nice up to a point, but I like my desktop to have some function, not just be pretty, so I actually have a lot of KDE's eye candy turned off -- like bouncing icons when programs launch. :-) Bouncing icons? C'mon! I do have my desktop icons set to turn a bright green when my mouse slides over them, though. Green as in "go."

Speaking of eye candy, I suppose you've heard about the new Windows Vista's glass effects. Have you seen the screenshots? Vista will probably get the award for the world's prettiest OS! But, if you switch to Debian with KDE, you can also get some nice "glass" effects, and without having to upgrade to a newer high-end video card that Vista would require. For example, on my system, the task bar on the bottom of the screen is configured to be about 90 percent clear, letting my photo of Red Rock Canyon show through (see screenshot, below). You can even use a slider to vary the clarity or opaqueness. Menus are also translucent, so that you can see what's underneath them.

desktop6.jpeg

...

What about running Windows apps?

At this point, you may be thinking that while Linux does have a lot of desktop software, you have certain Windows software apps that you just can't be weaned off of. I understand; I'm in the same boat. As I said before, in my case it's WordPerfect. That's the reason I keep dual-booting.

But, let's say you really want to use Microsoft Word. Here, you're in luck! You can run Word and lots more Windows software in Linux. How?

On my Debian install, I added a commercial package called CrossOver Office, to run Word. CrossOver Office uses a technology called Wine, which intercepts Windows commands and translates them on the fly into corresponding Linux commands. The result is that Word runs just the same way as it does on Windows, and with no perceived speed difference.

CrossOver Office also lets me run quite a nice variety of Windows games, as well as Windows Media Player 6.4, which pops up when I click on my favorite Bluegrass Internet radio station. It also runs Adobe PDF Reader 5.0, along with all Windows versions of Firefox! The list of Windows software that CrossOver Office lets you run is so extensive that you should be sure to check if it will run a specific Windows software package in Linux.

But, the most amazing news is that I can run Adobe Photoshop 7 my favorite photo software via CrossOver Office. PS7 does the heavy lifting for my photo editing. Now, I realize PS7 may be more than what a lot of people need. Is there a good photo editor/browser out there for the rest of us? Yes, it's called XnView, and it's available in both Windows and Linux formats. Most of my every day photo editing tasks get assigned to XnView, a fast browser/editor.

Lots of good information. As I've mentioned before, give the Live CD versions of Linux a try before you make the leap. Knoppix is a great place to start, but you need to find the one that's right for you.

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Free computer books

For a limited time, In Pictures will allow you to download copies of their textbooks. The books use more images than words to help teach you the how-tos of many different software applications and operating system. Here are the available downloads:


computer basics

Windows XP
Mac OS X Tiger
Linspire Five-O

Palm Devices

microsoft office

Access 2003
Excel 2003
PowerPoint 2003
Word 2003
Publisher 2003

openoffice.org

Base 2.0
Calc 2.0
Impress 2.0
Writer 2.0

web layout

Dreamweaver 8
FrontPage 2003
HTML & CSS

web graphics

Photoshop CS2
Fireworks 8
Photoshop Elements 4.0

web programming

MySQL Basics
PHP Basics
PERL Basics

Check them out if you're so inclined.

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May 03, 2006

Revving up Firefox

There are some websites that I visit where Firefox does not work, which forces me to open IE. That might be a thing of the past. Excerpt:


Even die-hard Firefox fans often surf with an Internet Explorer window open, just for those holdout sites that require IE to function. IE Tab is a Firefox extension that makes it a little easier to reduce your IE dependency: It lets you open a Firefox browser tab that runs sites intended for IE.


To download IE Tab, you must visit the Mozdev.org page and install the extension directly into the Firefox browser. After restarting Firefox, you'll see a new entry for IE Tab Options in the Tools menu. It opens a dialog box that lets you list the Web pages to open with an IE rendering engine--but in a Firefox tab. When you next open those pages in Firefox, in most cases they'll behave as if you'd opened them with IE. It's not perfect--for instance, I had trouble making some forms work properly--but IE Tab does obviate the need for an always-open Internet Explorer window.


If this extension looks familiar, that's probably because it's based on IE View, which opens a separate IE window from Firefox. The main difference is that IE Tab does so entirely within Firefox, instead of opening a separate window.

IE Tab is free of charge. Its Taiwanese developers, who go by the names PCMan and yuoo2K, don't provide a method for accepting direct donations. If you'd like to encourage this project by sending money to someone involved, consider donating to the Mozdev Community Organization.

You'll find other cool stuff in the article. Check it out.

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May 01, 2006

Easing the transition from Windows to Linux

I know that some of you are ready to make the leap from Bill Gates' creation to some version of Linux. There are probably at least two things holding you back:

  • Inability to run Windows-based applications on a Linux platform
  • Inability to migrate -sometimes- years of data from your current Windows environment

While I've made mention of WINE in the past as a solution to the first problem, I've had no real answer to the second. Until now:


Versora announced April 27 the release of its Progression Desktop for Turbolinux, a migration tool that helps users to transfer files and settings from their Windows system to a Linux system. Progression Desktop for Turbolinux moves critical data, application settings, email, calendar entries, contact lists, desktop settings and directory structures via a "Click-Next-Next-Finished" interface, according to Versora.
...
"People don't want to recreate their files and settings or risk losing them altogether -- it's one of the most common reasons people are hesitant to switch from Windows to desktop Linux," added Versora CEO Mike Sheffey. "Versora's Progression Desktop makes the migration process easy and provides immediate value to those making the move to Turbolinux."

How it works

Information from Windows XP programs, such as Microsoft Outlook, are moved to the equivalent Linux application (such as Mozilla's Thunderbird or Evolution), Versora said. Similarly, the tool will migrate a user's settings from Internet Explorer to the Firefox Internet browser, Microsoft Word files to OpenOffice.org, and Instant Messenger buddy lists to the Linux IM client Gaim. A full list of migration applications and their Linux equivalents is available here.

To accomplish the transition, Progression Desktop provides software that runs on both the source (Windows) and destination (Linux) systems. Once the Versora software is installed on Windows, it walks the user through simple steps to create the migration file (called a .pnp, or "Platform Neutral Package"). Once the Versora software is loaded on Turbolinux and the migration file is saved, the files and settings are automatically integrated in the corresponding programs, which are selected by the user.

So, what are you waiting for? This might be a good time to finally give Linux a chance.

Update: On a somewhat related topic, there's a new book out that provides some useful information: Linux Annoyances for Geeks. If you've ever been stuck trying to recover a lost root password, then this book is for you.

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April 26, 2006

How to fix your computer

Even if your's isn't broken right now, this will greatly improve the look and feel of your current PC. See below for the informational graphic.

Fixedmycomputer.jpg

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April 03, 2006

This week's sign that the Apocalypse is upon us

I give you the newest Linux OS: BarbieOS 0.99. Excerpt:


Making a bid for a piece of the emerging desktop Linux market, Mattel, Inc. announced the immediate availability of downloadable beta ISOs for BarbieOS 0.99, and said it hoped the final 1.0 retail version would be on store shelves in time for Christmas. The new OS was created by Mattel to power the upcoming revision of its popular B-Book line of laptops for girls between the ages of four and eleven. The original B-Book laptop, which ran a modified version of PalmOS, was a huge hit with consumers last holiday season, so much so that many stores had trouble keeping them in stock. This year, Mattel is upping the ante by making the B-Book into a full-fledged desktop replacement targeted specifically at toddler through preteen girls who are currently Windows users but may be seeking alternatives, possibly due to increasing licensing fees or out of a desire to break free of vendor lock-in.

BarbieOS, based on Debian Linux, had been in private beta for more than six months prior to yesterday's public release. Initial reaction to the company's announcement has been mixed, as some analysts have claimed that the desktop Linuxmarket is already over-saturated given its current size, as other major players such as Lycoris Desktop/LX, Xandros Linux, and LindowsOS are already competing for the rather small percentage of home desktop users willing to try a non-Microsoft OS. Still, Mattel says it is confident of the potential of BarbieOS 1.0 to find a niche market of young girls under thirteen who are dissatisfied with current Microsoft offerings and are looking toward maybe asking mom and dad for a full-powered Linux laptop running BarbieOS this Christmas.

Found via Slashdot.

Open the extended entry for more information:

Did you notice the date in the Slashdot article???

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March 21, 2006

What have you got in your pockets?

Readers of this blog(both of you; thanks) will have noticed that a preponderance of my computer OS posts discuss Linux. However, today seems like a good day to die give Bill Gates' OS some equal time by pointing you towards this excellent article, Windows In Your Pocket. Extended excerpt to follow:


All it takes is a minor error in the Windows Registry or a virus infection, and your operating system can become unbootable. But with a properly configured USB flash drive on hand, you'll always have a compatible replacement no further away than your pocket or keychain. In addition, the flash drive can also provide a secure browser and virus scanner, and lets you take your favorite DVD burning and Office software with you wherever you may go.

All that's needed is a bootable USB Flash drive with at least 256 MB of storage capacity and a Windows Setup CD. Using the program Bart PE Builder (Freeware), you can install Windows XP on the flash drive, along with other software as needed (and as available space permits).

Compact

Bart Lagerweij's free utility, PE Builder, condenses the original setup data for Windows XP into a slender operating system that is ready to run from a CD or a USB flash drive. This compact, portable version of Windows includes all the important system tools for dealing with a PC emergency. You can even add other programs to this collection, such as the media writing tool Nero Burning ROM or an anti-spyware package such as Ad-Aware SE Personal, during the installation process.

Expanding The Role Of USB Flash Drives

Flash drives aren't always recognized during the PC boot process. The USB flash drive controller and the PC's BIOS must be properly introduced to one another. That said, nearly all flash drives and PC can be configured so that the PC can boot from the flash drive.

You Need This: XP On The USB Pen Drive

In most cases, any compatible USB flash drive makes a suitable target for Windows XP installation. But the following system requirements must also be met:


  • A USB flash drive with at least 256 MB of storage is enough for the uses described in this article. Additional system tools or applications require more space. The upper bound limits for storage in this case is 2 GB - a byproduct of the tool's use of FAT16 for the local file system.
  • Most new motherboards recognize USB flash drives as valid boot media. But conventional motherboards that are more than two years old aren't likely to boot from a USB flash drive. But in many cases, this omission can be remedied through a BIOS update for that board.
  • 1.5 GB of unused disk space is the maximum needed for the tool to do its job, particularly if you want to pre-install Service Pack 2 and RAM disk capabilities. 190 MB of unused space is all that's needed to use PE Builder and the applications described in this article, however. Additional plug-ins will increase storage requirements, as will additional tools or software.
  • 512 MB of USB flash drive storage space is needed only if boot-up works from a RAM disk. Otherwise, 256 MB is big enough.
  • Access to a USB 2.0 port is not mandatory, though booting with a USB 1.1 port takes about five times longer.
  • A Windows XP Setup CD works fine as a foundation for PE Builder to generate the USB flash drive's contents.

...
Installation requires the use of HP's freeware tool HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool instead. Once installed, you can run the program through this sequence of menu choices: Start, All Programs, HP Company. Select the USB flash drive you wish to format from the Device entry, then select FAT as the target file system for that device. Click Start to launch this process. Once complete, you must then copied the Windows XP boot files to the USB flash drive - namely,

%systemdrive%\boot.ini, %systemdrive%\ntldr, and %systemdrive%:\ntdetect (if you know the drive ID where these files live, use that instead - it's normally C). To make Windows Explorer display these files (they're ordinarily hidden), choose Folder Options... from the Tools menu, then click the View tab in the Folder Options window. Finally, in the Advanced Setting pick list, click the radio button underneath Hidden Files and folders that reads "Show hidden files and folders." Finally uncheck the box next to "Hide protected operating systems (Recommended)," so you can select and copy these all-important Windows XP files to the flash drive. The USB flash drive is now ready to boot your system. Next, you learn how to instruct your PC to boot from a USB flash drive.

Set The System's Boot Device Sequence
bildb.gif

If your PC has a relatively new motherboard, its BIOS will already include the functions necessary to support USB-attached boot media. If so, you need only make the right selections in that BIOS menu to boot from a USB flash drive. Older PCs, on the other hand, won't accept USB drives as valid boot devices. This means a BIOS update that supports USB boot options is necessary. You can find information about where to obtain such updates from your PC's (or motherboard's) user manual, on the driver CD included with the PC (or motherboard) or on the vendor's Website.

Normally, the hard disk precedes the USB flash drive (which falls under the heading of USB-HDD in most BIOS menus) in the boot order. If the hard disk contains a viable boot sector, the PC will start up automatically using the information it contains. Only when the hard disk suffers from a boot sector defect or an operating system can't be found will the PC boot from the USB flash drive instead.

Change this boot order. Plug the flash drive in, boot the computer and enter the BIOS setup utility. Normally, this means holding down the DEL or F2 key just as the computer powers up and begins the boot process. If you read the initial startup screen on your PC carefully, it will tell you exactly what you must do to access and alter your BIOS settings.

If your PC uses AMI-BIOS from American Megatrends, there are two possible ways to alter the boot device sequence. Each varies depending on the version of AMI-BIOS that's installed.

For the first variant, there is no menu entry named "Boot." Navigate to the sub-menu named "Advanced BIOS Features." Navigate to the item named "Boot Device Select... " and designate the USB flash drive as the first device in the "Boot Device Priority" list by selecting "1st" as its value. Then, hit the Esc key and set both the "Quick Boot" and "Full Screen LOGO Show" items to "Disabled" (this lets you see the BIOS messages during startup on the monitor). Exit the BIOS Setup utility using the "Save and Exit Setup" item in the main menu.

For the second variant, use the "Boot" menu to select the USB flash drive. It will show up under one of the following headings: "Hard Disk Drive", "Removable Device" or "Removable Storage Device. " Next, select the USB flash drive as "1st Drive" in the first position, then hit the Esc key. That device should appear in the menu named "Boot Device Priority" which might also show up as "Boot Sequence". Inside that menu, designate the USB flash drive as the "1st Boot Device", hit the Esc key and save all changes in the "Exit" menu by selecting "Exit and Save Changes".

This goes on for 14 pages, but it's well worth the effort, especially if you're worried about the "No System Disk Detected" error. Another error message that I had the misfortune to encounter last Friday evening was this one: "Hard Drive Failure Imminent". Needless to say, being able to safely recover data can prove quite useful.


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March 06, 2006

Dogs and cats living together

Or in this case, Windows and Linux. If you plan to install Linux on at least one machine on your local network and you plan to share printers or directories, then you will need to configure Samba on your Linux machine. Details can be found here. Excerpt:


Samba can be used to allow connectivity between Linux and Windows(95,98,NT,2000). Samba can be used to share printers, share directories, connect to an NT domain, and many other useful features. However, this tutorial explains the steps involved in basic configuring Samba for file and print sharing. For more complex topics, visit the Samba website or type the command man smb.conf on a Linux machine with Samba installed. Configuring Samba is done by editing the configuration file /etc/smb.conf that is usually located under the /etc directory. Everytime you modify this file, Samba must be restarted for the changes to take effect.
...

Samba Log Files

All Samba actions such as login attempts and file transfers can be logged in the /var/log/samba directory. Under this directory the actions are logged by machine name. For example, all actions from the machine named "Morpheus" are logged in the file /var/log/samba/log.morpheus. User actions can also be logged under two files named /var/log/log.smb and /var/log/log.nmb. This is configured in the smb.conf file using the option log file. For example, to log actions by machine name use the following line:

log file = /var/log/samba/log.%m
...

Print Sharing from Linux to Windows

The following section is usually included in the sample smb.conf that allows printers defined in the /etc/printcap file to be shared. If not add/uncomment the following lines in smb.conf:
[printers]
comment = All Printers
path = /var/spool/samba
browseable = no

Then, just restart Samba and add the Linux printer to a Windows machine as you would any other Window's shared printer. The printer name will be the same name specified in the /etc/printcap file such as lp.

For the record, I've been working through these details using the Live CD versions of Puppy Linux and Damn Small Linux. My success has been mixed so far, but that's due to in part to my inexperience with Samba and the security running on my home wireless network. Despite my current issues, I've had pretty good success running both Linux distros on my old over-amped 486 machine. In fact, once I work out the bugs, I'll probably install the miniature Linux directly onto the hard drive.

Notes: DSL already has Samba available, which isn't surprising since it's really a stripped down version of Knoppix. Puppy has it available as a download, although it wasn't intuitively obvious how to find the download request. It was one of those right-click/button-select options/*.info lists that allowed you to select the desired software. Again, not intuitive, but I'm not an RHCE. Yet.

If I wanted to take the simplest approach and create an actual print server, rather than installing a shared printer, I'm opt for FREESCO. It boots from a !floppy! and
plenty of documentation/bug fixes can be found at the FREESCO Faq. More up-to-date documentation may be found at the FREESCO DokuWiki.

Update: Read some more of the DokuWiki and found this information: Quick Win2000 + FREESCO Printserver how-to. Excerpt:


I’ve read alot of different methods for setting up printing from freesco with windows. Most include installing 3rd party software and other(imho) unnecessary things. I found setting up the freesco printserver to work with win2k is very easy:

  1. enable printserver (lp1) with port 515 in advanced options on your freesco box.
  2. goto your printer setup in win2k and Add Printer.
  3. Choose Local Printer (not network printer) and disable auto-detect
  4. Select “create a new port” and choose “standard TCP/IP port”
  5. In add port, Printer name should be your Freesco’s IP address (in my case 192.168.0.1) your port name will will itself in.
  6. In Port Configurations you will want to set your protocol to “LPR”, your “raw settings, port number” to “515”(your freesco printer port), “LPT Settings, Queue Name” should be “lpr” and “SNMP Status Enabled” should be checked “community name”. “Public” and “SNMP Device Index” should be “1”

My guess is that this'll take about 10 minutes. Knock yourself out.

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February 28, 2006

Giving mouth to mouth to your old PC

If, like me, you have an old PC lying around the house gathering dust, but you can't quite bring yourself to junk it yet, I have a suggestion that can extend the life of the PC: use Linux. Joe Brockmeier put a Pentium II 233 MHz machine with 64 Mb RAM through the paces using several Linux variants. Excerpt:


Microsoft lately has been challenging Linux's suitability for older hardware, so it seems like a good time to look at Linux distributions that can run on older machines. I took six distributions for a test run on an old machine, and also tried software that turns old hardware into a thin client. The bottom line: Linux is still quite suitable for older hardware. It might not turn your aging PC into a powerhouse, but it will extend its lifespan considerably.

For these tests, I dug out Igor, an old PC that had been collecting dust in my closet. Igor is a Pentium II 233MHz machine with 64MB of RAM, an 8x CD-ROM drive, a 3GB hard drive, and an integrated ATI 3D Rage Pro video card with 4MB of video RAM. You can run Linux on older and slower machines, but this is the most under-powered machine I had available.

Next, I selected a handful of lightweight Linux distributions that looked promising, and started downloading. The distributions ranged from popular "mainstream" distros such as Slackware and Debian to distros that are specifically developed for lightweight machines, such as Damn Small Linux (DSL). I apologize in advance if your favorite lightweight distro is not represented here.
...
While Linux is good for bringing new life to old hardware, users may need to make some concessions for really old machines. Most applications aren't written with older machines in mind. If you want to use a desktop environment on a machine that's nearly 10 years old, it will probably require some patience on your part. If you don't mind waiting 20 or 30 seconds for an application to start up, older machines will probably suit you just fine.

You may also run into limitations in terms of what devices you can use with the hardware. For instance, my test machine doesn't have USB ports. Sometimes older hardware can be advantageous, though -- finding drivers for cutting-edge hardware is sometimes difficult, but that four-year old video card should be well-supported by now.

If you want or need to keep using hardware past its expected life span, it should be obvious that it isn't going to keep up with today's hardware. Whether you're using Linux, Windows, Mac OS X, BSD, or something else, most of the applications being written for these platforms require additional resources with each release.

That said, many lightweight open source application alternatives exist for users who want to use older hardware. KDE and GNOME may not be suitable for older hardware, but Fluxbox, Xfce, FVWM, IceWM, and other window managers are just fine. Lightweight GUI applications and console apps also shine on older hardware. OpenOffice.org may be sluggish on older machines, but AbiWord runs well on less robust hardware, as does Siag Office -- and it's hard to notice a difference at all when you're using Vim or Mutt. Older machines also make excellent file servers, firewalls, and routers.

I have an old 400 MHz machine sitting in a corner of my office at home which, I believe, is dying to be used again. And I don't think that it will mind too much when I remove Windows from the hard drive.

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February 22, 2006

Puppy love part deux

If you're in the market for a ridiculously small Linux distro, I'd like to recommend Puppy Linux v.1.08. I mentioned the first release back here.


Puppy's claim to fame is that it has a small footprint yet is full-featured, including all sorts of configuration and application installation wizards. Puppy boots into a 64MB ramdisk and the whole OS is small enough to run directly from system RAM. The result is that all applications start quickly and respond to user input instantly. Another advantage is that Puppy can often be a great choice for old, under-powered hardware.

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February 18, 2006

Alternatives for Windows' programs

One of the reasons that people hesitate when switching from Windows to some other OS is that they don't want to lose their favorite applications. Well, here are some alternatives that you might not have heard of:


By a good margin, Adobe Photoshop is the one application that most people want ported to Linux, Morris said. Free and open-source software (FOSS) already available for Linux that have similar feature sets to Photoshop include:

* Pixel Image Editor
* The GIMP
* Krita (Part of Koffice)
* Photoshop also works with WINE

"So, if you're looking to get Photoshop ported to Linux, you might give these suggestions a try [in the meantime]," Morris said.

Many suggestions were listed as replacements for Autodesk AutoCAD, including:

* VariCAD, which has a version specifically designed for SUSE Linux
* LinuxCAD
* arcad
* Cycas
* Synergy

"After checking these applications out a little, some of them look pretty slick. If you need a CAD app, check these out," Morris said.

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February 07, 2006

Replacing Windows

When you've tired of fixing broken Windows, and are ready to move on to Linux, you're probably confused as to which Linux you should try. After all, there are hundreds of competing Linux distros out there, which is probably one of the bigger reasons why Linux has such a hard time taking on Microsoft. However, you as a typical user can reduce the number of choices dramatically. Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has the scoop. Excerpt:

I think the best Linux desktop is the one that's best for a particular person based on their needs and level of Linux expertise. So, the next time someone asks you that question, I suggest you reply with a couple of questions of your own.

For example, you could ask, "Do you want to replace Windows? For home? For work? Are you interested in Linux because you want to get some new life out of an old system? Do you just want to mess around with Linux?" And so on...

Then, once you know where they're coming from, you can give the best possible answer.

For what it's worth, here's what I'd tell someone today based on some of the more common answers I get to my questions.

I want a home Windows replacement.

For these folks, I have an additional question: "Do you want just the software basics, or do you want to shop around for other open-source software?"

If they just want the basics, I recommend Xandros Inc.'s eponymous Xandros 3 Desktop. The Xandros line has been meant from the start to persuade Windows users to give Linux a try.

In my experience, Xandros is the closest to Windows XP you're going to get with a Linux system. Now, for some of you, I know that's the last thing you want, but for someone who knows Windows well, it may be exactly what they want and need.

On the other hand, Xandros doesn't have a lot of ready-to-use software outside of the basic package. If your friend really wants to try out a lot of Linux software but couldn't tell apt-get from an RPM, then Linspire Inc.'s Linspire Five-0 is the Linux for you.

I know it's fashionable in some Linux purist circles to make fun of Linspire, but it's well past time to get over that nonsense. Linspire is a good, solid Debian-based Linux, and like Xandros, it goes out of its way to be new-user friendly.

Linspire also far out-does Xandros with its easy-to-use CNR (click and run) new software installation system. With CNR, even your grandma can install Linux programs.

If your friend wants more than just something that looks like XP, but looks like a particular Windows set up, they should also check out the combination of Versora's Progression Desktop and Win4Lin's Win4Lin Pro.

Progression Desktop migrates Windows and Windows programs' settings and data from Windows to many Linuxes, including Xandros and Linspire. For example, you can use it to transfer Outlook on Windows messages to Thunderbird on Linux. Win4Lin enables you to run Windows 2000 or XP as a virtual machine in Linux. The companies have bundled these together to make a single package.

While I haven't had a chance to really review this combo, I have tried it out with Xandros and an XP set up, and it does seem to deliver the goods. Look for a real review of the pairing soon, here at DesktopLinux.com

As it is, I've tested about 13 separate livd CD Linux distros, but still haven't come to a decision, although I'm leaning towards Slackware Linux. Eventually I'll choose. When I do, I'll post a report here.

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How do you fix Windows?

In my opinion, a crowbar and/or an incendiary device will work just fine. However, if, unlike me, you're not in the mood to chuck your Microsoft driven PC out a second floor window yet, you might want to check out this article, which gives some great information on how to fix Windows' error. Recovering data when your operating system goes BOOM! is also covered. The solution is, not surprisingly, to use a bootable Knoppix CD.


If your Windows system crashes completely and cannot be recovered using the registry editor or the boot.ini, you may face some serious problems if important data on the system wasn't backed up. Knoppix can come to your rescue by enabling you to access your Windows partition and save your important data to multiple devices for restoration later. These devices include USB jump drives (also called flash drives or key drives), CD-Rs and DVD-Rs, and copying data over the network. This section explains how to recover and save the data that you'll restore after you have re-installed Windows following a crash.

Preparing for Data Recovery The most common mistake when recovering data from a system is failing to retrieve all of it because of haste. What you leave behind is typically the data you end up needing the most, so take your time and ensure you are capturing everything valuable. The most common area for data storage is in the Documents and Settings folder (usually /mnt/hda1/Documents and Settings), which is Windows' default for saving most of all users documents, music, pictures, and so on. If there are any non-standard directories into which you or your users save data, consider those as well.

Look, I understand why most people don't want to switch from Linux to Windows. It's still a geeky, not quite ready for primetime operating system. I'm an enormous nerd and I have issues getting a printer installed. However, the advantages of using a fully functional OS, with all of the associated bells and whistles, for data recovery purposes cannot be overlooked. Trust me when I tell you that the Microsoft recovery floppy disk that I've used in the past does not give you much beyond the ability to use your CD-ROM drive. If nothing else, having a bootable Linux CD around provides some piece of mind. Unless your PC catches fire and the hard drive slags down and stops spinning, you'll be able to recover most of your data in the event of a Windows crash.

Don't live Knoppix? Fine. Use Damn Small Linux , which comes in around a whopping 50Mb.

Posted by Physics Geek at 09:43 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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February 01, 2006

Recovering data

Do you use a USB flash drive? Do you want to know if it's possible to recover deleted/lost data? It is. Excerpt:


If you need help recovering data which you have accidentally deleted, you are in luck. This is the problem with the most simple solution and the highest chance of success, so long as the deleted data has not been overwritten. In order to recover the deleted information you simply need to employ a program which can read the drive for you information and restore it. Some freeware options for task can be found here.

If you have written over your deleted data or even formatted the drive the chance of recovering your data is less than before but there is still hope. Your best bet is to try Photo Rec, a free program which works with almost any OS, including Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, and even Solaris. Downloads are available here. The program may see strange at first, but with some time is has proven to work well.

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December 30, 2005

The revenge of DOS

Or how my obsolete skills became useful again

Microsoft is reintroducing our old trusty friend, the C:\ prompt. It will, in theory, give Windows' users the ability to create programs similar to that available to Unix users as shell scripts. What Microsoft fails to mention is that this functionality has existed for quite some time as DOS batch programming. Anyone- like me- who has been geeking around computers since DOS' heyday will remember writing and using these things. Anyway, here is an excerpt:


While these new commands and scripts will interest primarily administrators and power users, less-technical types may benefit from Monad scripts that could circulate on the Internet as Unix scripts do. For example, a Monad script might quickly reorganize files and directories based on their name or creation date--a task that can take a fair bit of manual labor in Windows Explorer.

A beta version of Monad for Windows XP is available as a free download. Registration is required, and you will also need to have.Net Framework 2.0 (available at the same page) installed.

I dunno, but it seems that there's always some sort of catch with Microsoft. Or maybe it's the effing critical flaws that get discovered daily, ones that allow a hacker control of your PC. Nice, huh?

Posted by Physics Geek at 12:31 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

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December 28, 2005

Porting your Linux desktop

I've mentioned before that I'm test-driving several(okay, 11) LiveCD Linux distros, trying to determine which one I'd like to use as a counterpoint to the ubiquitous Microsoft product. However, as some people have noticed, you have to be a bit geek savvy to work with even the most user friendly Linux OS. Installing a printer is just not that intuitive. For the record, I've worked in assorted Unix/Linux operating systems for more than 15 years, so I'm not a novice at such things. If it's giving me trouble, it's bound to be pissing most everyone else.

Anyway, if getting rid of Windows isn't really in the cards for you, but you'd like to have a portable Linux OS that you can take and use anywhere, even on older computers that choke on XP. then this article at Desktop Linux might be what you've been looking for. Excerpt:


Why would anyone want to use a Linux liveCD as a basic day to day desktop? Here are some thoughts:

  • Easy to load and update -- Easy, because your data (including configurations) are separate from the operating system (OS). The idea of separating data from the OS has always appealed to me. It seems like a very logical and smart thing to do. Even when I partition a system for a hard drive Linux install, I create a separate partition for /home. Doesn't everybody?

  • It's portable -- You can take it with you and securely boot up from just about any PC. Also, Linux liveCDs can often be installed and booted from a USB drive (thanks to some excellent standards around booting from USB drives). This really beats lugging a laptop around (especially when airport security is involved). The downside is that your Live-CD might not boot on all hardware. The distro might not detect the hardware correctly or the hardware might not be able to boot from CD or USB.

  • Most run on older PC hardware -- Not only do they run, they usually run quite fast! (Did you ever notice that you usually cannot upgrade old PCs from Windows 95 to Windows XP?) Some of the older PCs don't support booting from CD or USB. In such cases, you can usually copy the CD to the hard drive and create a boot floppy to load the image from the hard drive.

  • Security -- It's hard for someone to violate your OS when it resides on a read only CD. And, you can always reboot to a pristine state. This is kind of like going to communion and being forgiven for all past sins. Linux by design is a very secure OS. This just improves on it. Amen.

  • It's just plain fun! -- You can remix if you like. You can do your own. This is one of the great things about open source. I am waiting for the next version of Windows XP liveCD. Don't get me wrong here, Microsoft does allow generating DOS 3.1 boot disks so you can network stage new XP clients. But that is more of an enterprise moment...

If you're in the mood to give Linux a test, but have no intention of getting rid of your Windows machine, this option might be for you. A portable, personalized OS that goes where you go. All you need is something like a USB flash drive for data storage and you're good to go.

Posted by Physics Geek at 11:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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December 08, 2005

Geeky update on the horizon

I've downloaded and burned CDs for 11 separate Linux distros and have been testing them on my computer at home. Since these are "Live CDs", I do not have to install anything onto my computer's hard drive. After extensive testing, I've started to form a pretty strong opinion about the pros and cons of each system, at least as I see them. I need to run some further tests, but I plan to make a recommendation which you are, of course, free to ignore. Whatever OS I choose, though, will soon be replacing Windows on my computer, which moves me closer and closer to a Gates-less world.

One caveat: I have some programs that run only in a Windows environment, so I need to test some of the WINE-like emulators to see which one works the best for me.

Posted by Physics Geek at 01:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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November 29, 2005

Building a Home Theater PC

Not surprisingly, I'm recommending the non-Windows version found at Extreme Tech. Excerpt:


Now that we've heaped that glowing praise on this modern computing wonder, we have to throw a rock or two at it. A number of distributions like Xandros, Linspire, and Lycoris have made very big strides toward making Linux easy to install and use by less technical users who just want to get their stuff done, and not twiddle with source code, .conf files, and kernel modules. Linux has also made some good strides toward being an interesting alternative to Windows Media Center Edition (MCE). But obstacles remain—lots of them.


So, before you embark on trying to build a Linux-based Home Theater PC (HTPC), you have to ask yourself a question: "How much time do I have to dedicate to bringing up a Linux-based HTPC?" If the answer is "not much," then a Linux-based HTPC is probably not something you should build. Assembling the hardware is pretty easy, and the physical assembly process takes a half-hour to 45 minutes. Installing the OS can be a very straightforward affair as well. But installing extra drivers as well as installing and configuring a PVR media application (and its required packages) are not trivial tasks, and the road ahead is laced with hidden potholes.

Oh, to be retired and rich.

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November 18, 2005

The perfect combination

Do you like beer? Does the Blue Screen of Death™ from Microsoft make you want to throw your PC out of the window? Have I got an operating system for you: BEERnix. While it's still BETA, you can still download it, burn it to CD and then boot directly off of the CD. A small little distro, about 400Mb, it will still give you a frothy taste of Linux, to help you make the move away from Microsoft.

BEERnix.png

Posted by Physics Geek at 02:33 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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November 02, 2005

Open source gets a leg up

Google has partnered with OpenOffice. Cool.

That sound you heard was Bill Gates sphincter tightening.

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September 14, 2005

Browsers of a feather...

Info about a cool new browser can be found here. Looks pretty nifty to me.

Thank John Cole for the link.

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Geeky post of the day

Are you, like me, either unable to afford Tivo or your cable company's DVR? Sure, the players are now pretty cheap, but the service is still pricey. Suppose that you could build your own personal video recorder(PVR) on a PC that will record digital broadcast signals, and can be scheduled to record your favorite programs. Would that be of interest to you? If so, go here to find out how to do it. Excerpt:


Q: Will I need to upgrade my PC to work as a digital TV PCR?
A: A fairly recent one, with at least a 2-Ghz Pentium 4 or Athlon 2800+ processor or higher, at least 512MB of RAM, and an 80GB or bigger hard drive will probably be fine. For our step-by-step guide, we used a 2.6-GHz Pentium 4 system with 1GB of DDR333 RAM, but an even faster processor would have made some things (such as converting the recorded files to different resolutions) quicker and easier. ATI recommends at least a 1.2-GHz processor and 256MB of memory for its HDTV Wonder card, but frankly, that's a bit low.
...
Q: What kind of software will I need to build the digital TV PVR?
A: For this step-by-step, we chose to use KnoppMyth, a combination of Knoppix Linux and the Linux PVR software MythTV. It's the simplest way we've found to build a dedicated digital TV PVR, and MythTV has a huge range of features: It can search for programs by title, actor or description, read RSS news and weather feeds, show your digital photos, and play internet radio stations. Plus, KnoppMyth installs from a single CD, so you don't need to know Linux to install and run it.

Q: I'm not sure I'm ready to build a dedicated Linux box to record digital TV. Is there a Windows alternative?
A: Yes. ATI includes software with its HDTV Wonder card that can view and record digital TV signals, including HDTV ones. You can schedule recordings and pause live TV; the card also includes an analog TV tuner. We've tested it and found it was able to record digital TV signals with relative ease, although it did require a fairly fast PC to be able to record and play back HD video. Another alternative is the AccessDTV Digital Media Receiver, a PCI card that includes software that can record and display digital TV in Windows. We haven't reviewed this device, though.

I have a couple of aging PC's sitting around my house that I've been meaning to tinker with, and this type of project will put them to good use. PVR, here I come.

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July 14, 2005

An idea whose time has come

Outsourcing overseas? How about over only 3 miles of seas? Excerpt:


What San Diego-based start-up SeaCode Inc. plans to do is nothing if not novel: anchor a cruise ship three miles off the coast of Los Angeles, fill it with up to 600 programmers from around the world, eliminate visa restrictions and make it easy for customers to visit the site via water taxi. The two men behind the venture -- Roger Green, who describes himself as an IT and outsourcing veteran, and IT consultant David Cook, whose job history includes a stint as a ship captain -- recently discussed their plan in an interview with Computerworld.

What is the business model? Green: The promise of the benefits of outsourcing in distant lands doesn't come free. Most of the gotchas are related to the geography and to the cultural difference.


What are some of those gotchas? Green: Communicating requirements, doing knowledge transfer [and] managing the project are very difficult to do even when you are in the same building, [let alone] when it's across the world.

That's the same argument made by nearshore providers in Canada. Cook: But we offer the price of India with the proximity of the United States -- that's the differentiator.

Look to see a bill in Congress outlawing this in the near future.

Posted by Physics Geek at 11:52 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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July 09, 2005

This week's sign that the Apocalypse is upon us

Blogging was the topic of choice in Yahoo's Tech Tuesday column. Sadly, no mention of Physics Geek or MuNUviana. Sigh. Our time will come.

Update: Recommended dowload: FeedDemon for RSS feeds.

Posted by Physics Geek at 09:46 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

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July 05, 2005

This week's sign that the Apocalypse is upon us

Snow White and the Seven Matrix Constructs. Or something like that.

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June 29, 2005

Broadband access solutions

Live out in the boonies where neither DSL or cable broadband are available? Don't depair: there may be hope for you yet. Excerpt:


Satellite
If you're out in the sticks, DirecWay satellite Internet service may be your first, best, and only hope for broadband access. The service works by connecting your PC to a geosynchronous satellite, which links to DirecWay's terrestrial gateways to the Internet. Today's systems do away with the clumsy landline connections of yesteryear for upstream data. And while data rates can be acceptable (up to 500 Kbps), the delay introduced by a 44,000-mile round trip from home to satellite and back makes DirecWay inappropriate for gaming, voice over IP, and virtual private network connections.

Cost: $50 to $100 per month

Best for: Rural locations

Pros: Available almost anywhere; provides access in rural areas otherwise outside of broadband's reach.

Cons: Expensive; limited bandwidth; high lag times make it inappropriate for many applications; requires southern view of sky to find satellite.

Broadband Over Power LineBPL takes advantage of the same phenomenon that lets DSL share signals with voice traffic--electricity travels at a lower frequency than data signals. Companies have therefore decided to offer broadband over the electrical wires that come into homes. Although BPL tests have been ongoing around the country, working deployments remain limited as power companies weigh whether or not to get into the broadband market. Still, cities such as Cincinnati, Ohio, and Manassas, Virginia, have BPL service. In Cincinnati, Current Communications offers service through Cinergy for $30 to $50 per month, depending on the download speed you want (3 Mbps is the current max).

Opinions on the prospects for BPL are split. Research firm Telecommunication Trends International projects that worldwide BPL deployments will jump from $57.1 million in 2004 to $4.4 billion by 2011. But Radicati Group analyst Teney Takahashi says bluntly: "Power line broadband is not going to happen."

Cost: $30 to $50 per month

Best for: Remote areas not served by cable or DSL, or any area poorly served by cable or DSL

Pros: Power lines are ubiquitous and reach homes not served by cable or by DSL-capable phone lines.

Cons: Not widely deployed; significant issues with the data signal producing broadcast interference; power companies lack the service bundling advantages of phone or cable providers.

Posted by Physics Geek at 01:00 PM | Comments (0)

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Maybe not the coolest, but pretty darned cool

Google Earth. Link found via Balloon Juice.

Posted by Physics Geek at 10:13 AM | Comments (1)

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June 28, 2005

Browser and personal info

Interesting link here. Depending on what browser you're using, this site can tell you:

1) your connection speed

2) information about your hard drive and CD-ROMs installed

3) spyware or parasites infecting your system

4) and a lot more

Worth checking out, even if several of the tests only work in IE.

Posted by Physics Geek at 12:10 AM | Comments (0)

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