Monday, December 31, 2007

Still Not Getting It

I'm sure it's mostly me, but I struggle to find the advantages of selling pre-loaded Linux machines. I'm glad there are companies that do; System76, ZaReason, Dell to name the one's I really know. But I struggle to see the advantage. I like the idea of promoting open source software, and open drivers for hardware -which I think all vendors would do well to go with- but where is the advantage of sell a pre-loaded Linux machine?

There are thousands of used and older computer that run Linux very well. If someone is really a stickler, many of them will run Windows XP just as well too. Vista's turned into more of a flop than a wow, so the need for super hardware is mostly a niche market; Gamers, Engineers, Graphic and animation specialist.

The only real benefit from the absolute newest hardware is battery life on a laptop. Other than that, a used computer is just as good as a new one. A Pentium 4 machine with a good graphics card feels just as fast as a Core Duo.

Maybe my old hardware fetish clouds my judgment. Maybe my over-consumer stance clouds my judgment too.

Someone please tell me: Why spend $1200 on a new computer, when a $300 spent on rebuilt older hardware is just as good?

Disclaimer: Even after all this rambling, I'd love to have a System76 Darter, topped out. Four hour battery life? Yeah, baby!

Friday, December 28, 2007

A Few Reviews

In the last few days, I've set up a few VirtualBox systems. The idea is to install and use an OS well enough to get a good idea of it. As I try out a system, I focus on one primary principle- Ease of Use. I try to put myself in a frame of mind of a complete new computer user. It's not easy.
Here's my experiences so far:



CentOS, short for Community enterprise Operating System, is a complete copy of Red Hat Enterprise Linux. The difference is, other than community support, CentOS comes with no official support. Oracle produces a copy of Red Hat called Unbreakable Linux. Fedora is Red Hat's cutting edge future work, but Red Hat Enterprise is what is used in business.

I decided to load CentOS in a VirtualBox machine so I could go through some Red Hat tutorials. The installation and desktop reminded me of my first experience with Linux - Fedora Core 4. Other than being an RPM based distribution, CentOS is pretty good.

Many businesses use Red Hat Enterprise, or even CentOS, on their servers. I need to know how to use it in a business setting. From what I can tell, CentOS is an excellent way to learn how to use Red Hat Linux.



PCLinuxOS is topping the distrowatch chart lately, so I decided to try it out and see why. Installing PCLinuxOS was fairly straight forward, but there were a few places where a new user unfamiliar with Linux might get confused. Just like Windows, it's easier to just go with the default settings.

PCLinuxOS is a KDE based distribution. There's a variant designed to look much like Windows XP/Vista, but it's not really supported by the forums.

Other than visual appeal, I didn't see anything really special about PCLinuxOS. I'm not sure why it's topping the Distrowatch list at the moment. It looks better than Ubuntu/Kubuntu, but the Ubuntu variants installation seems easier.

I'm not a KDE fan, so PCLinuxOS wouldn't be a primary choice for me. Don't get me wrong -I'm glad KDE offers a choice. Maybe KDE 4.0 will change my mind. But, for now, my desktop of choice is Gnome, and my distro of choice is Ubuntu.

gOS
I did a few reviews of gOS recently, but I wanted to comment a bit more on it. There have been some recent reviews of the Everex gPC, featuring gOS, and they were not raving reviews. gOS offers an excellent Ubuntu variant, but can be confusing for a completely new user. I still think gOS is a good option for millennium kids, but not for the average person. Everex would have done better to go with a straight forward version of Ubuntu.

Over the next year, I'm going to try out the top 20, and maybe a few more, Linux distros. I'll report on them as I experience each one. Unfortunately, a Virtual Computer doesn't give you the real information about a Linux installation. A true test would be to install and use it on a laptop.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Windows Security

The more I think about it, the more I suspect that I may never have had a malware problem on my Windows partition. I used to figure that if I had Windows running longer than six months, it got malware. At least, that was my previous experience. But, that experience was based on running Windows only.

In the last 1 1/2 years since I installed my dual boot desktop, I used Windows for schoolwork, iTunes and Audible.com. I used Linux for everything else, especially random internet surfing. If I didn't have school, I'd wouldn't use Windows at all. I get it through school, as part of our materials for training. I rarely use Windows for surfing the internet, and I never went on myspace or facebook with it. Most of my mail was opened in Ubuntu, and unless I know who it's from, I don't open attachments. So, looking back, I rarely exposed Windows to potential malware.

Maybe most people who insist on using Windows should have a dual boot system. They could surf and email from Linux, and do whatever they need to for work or school in Windows. As more applications are available online, there will be less of a need for a particular operating system, be it Windows, Mac, or Linux. That's a whole 'nuther security issue itself, though.

Upgrades

The Tinkering Monster got me. I did the upgrades on my desktop:
  1. Graphics card- from 32 mb ATI to 128 mb Nvidia GeForce4 MX 440. -- I did this upgrade first. When I turned the computer back on, Windows came on, but obviously wasn't using the drivers. Ubuntu 6.06 Dapper Drake didn't work with the Nvidia card. It could have, but I didn't bother to go through the xorg.conf file to fix it. I was already planning more upgrading anyway.
  2. Pentium 4 processor from 1.8 GHz to 2.26 GHz - The major difference isn't necessarily the speed of the processor, rather the speed of the bus. From 400 MHz to 533 MHz. That is where the speed really comes from. Anyway, the computer worked right away. A good bit faster.
  3. Dbanned the hard drive, reinstalled Windows and Ubuntu.
The reinstallation is something I've been wanting to do. I save all my personal data and setting to external hard drives, wiped the disk, then reinstalled my dual boot system. It's REALLY important to install Windows XP first. Not that you couldn't do it another way, but it makes setting up a dual boot much easier. I installed Windows, did all the updates, installed the anti-virus and anti-spyware, the defragged the disk and installed Ubuntu.

Here's the catch: Ubuntu to all of 2 hours to:
  1. Install the system
  2. Do the system updates
  3. Enable all the repositories I want
  4. Load all the software I want
  5. Copy specific personal data to My Home folder.
Done. Actually, in slightly less than 2 hours. Windows, however, was another story.

The installation alone took almost 2 hours, and that was before the updates. 10 hours later, almost all the updates were finally done. I counted seven rounds of restarts. That should have been the justice departments punishment for Microsoft: to restart their entire business seven times a day. I eventually got most of what I need installed. Once again, I've learned what I use and what I don't use. 95% of the software I installed on the Windows side is open source. A few proprietary programs, but not many. I'll go without Microsoft Office as long as I can, and use OpenOffice.org exclusively. I would love to say that I use Open Source exclusively, but I'm in school for IT, so it's not an option just yet. I'd love to say that I use Ubuntu Linux exclusively, but I have to know how all the other Operating Systems work: Windowx XP/Vista, Mac OSX, Unix, Solaris, FreeBSD. Yes, I know the last four are basically the same thing. I have to know how to use them.

The main advantage to upgrading Ubuntu from 6.06.1 to 7.10 is being able to use the files in the Windows partition. Click on the disk, browse to the folder with the file I want, and use it. I don't even have to drag it to the Ubuntu side. And no extra packages to install to make that happen. 7.10 also comes with the latest packages/programs for Ubuntu.

The only real upgrade left that I really need is the ram. It's 1 GB right now, but 2 GB would work better for me. If I wasn't in school, I'd probably not bother, but many of my classes use Virtualization for learning and practice. For now, 1 GB is fine, but I'll probably have to upgrade the ram with my own money. If I get a job, that is.

I did decide to scavenge the Gateway box for this upgrade. The Gateway isn't dead though, not by a long shot. I had some extra processors, so I put in a 2.8 GHz Celeron in it, and the 32 mb ATI graphics card that was in my Dell to the the Gateway machine. Installed Ubuntu, and it's ready to go to a trusty volunteer. I just hope whoever gets the machine doesn't try to upgrade the ram.

Friday, December 14, 2007

What to do?

The semester is over. The urge to tinker is overwhelming. I have plenty of machines to work on for Free Geek, but that's almost getting routine. A good routine:
  • Pickup or receive equipment
  • Wipe the hard drive(s)
  • Check and upgrade if necessary
    • BIOS
    • Memory
    • Graphics card
  • Load Ubuntu or Xubuntu as an OEM installation
  • Deliver to recipient or have them pick up
    • Usually deliver, since people who can't afford a computer usually can't afford a car.
  • Prepare for the inevitable onslaught of "Thanks You"s
Yep. A good routine.

The Gateway I recieved is a pretty good one, except for the RDRAM. Now RAMBUS is actually a really good technology, but the company messed themselves up on the licensing, so RAMBUS is just way too expensive. To upgrade the memory from 512 mb to 1 Gb would cost almost $500. Not practical at all. The only choice with a machine that uses RDRAM is to wait till other machines like that come it, and use those memory chips. For our purposes, RAMBUS is a show-stopper.

So, I've decided to scavenge the Gateway for parts. As I am the primary volunteer, I get first pick of best-of hardware. So, I'm going to try to use the parts from the Gateway to upgrade me Dell:
  • The Pentium 4 processor from 1.8 GHz to 2.26 GHz
  • The graphics card from 32 meg to 128 mg
Those would be the main upgrades. I would eventually want to upgrade the memory from 1 GB to 1.5 GB on too. I use my desktop for lots of projects using a virtual machine, so memory is important to me. When you have two virtualized servers going, and two virtualized desktops going, memory tends to forget.

The problem is: my desktop is working fine. It dual boots Windows XP and Ubuntu 6.06 Dapper Drake. I set it up like that right after Dapper Drake came out, so it was around June 2006. I've been running that setup this long - probably the longest I've gone without doing a system reinstall. Every once in awhile, I'll scan my Windows installation with different tools for malware, but nothing comes up. I use the Ubuntu side to do 90% of my internet surfing or IMing. I use the Windows side mostly for school assignments that require Windows, so my Windows side is rarely exposed to the outside world.

Windows XP SP3 (service pack 3) is due out soon, and I hear good things about it -as far as security and speeding things up. Also, Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Herron will be an LTS release (Long Term Service, like Dapper Drake is) meaning 3 years support for the desktop. My original idea was to wait till both are available, and do the hardware upgrades and system reinstalls then. Part of the reason is that I don't look forward to the Windows installation. Getting the system installed, updated, and programs reinstalled and updated can take almost 48 hours -or more even. Getting everything setup and installed just like I want -including programs and desktop settings- in Ubuntu take two hours, three at the most. It would probably be shorter if I didn't walk the dogs during the install process.

There is also the possibility that if I wait till both of those are available, even better equipment donations will come through Free Geek, and I can use some of those. That, and while RAMBUS is expensive, it runs very well with just 512 mb. I could give the Gateway to a volunteer -provided they'd never need to upgrade the memory.

So, to my avid readers, what do you suggest?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Finals Are DONE!

My first final -Advanced Network Security- took all of 7 minutes. 40 questions, multiple choice. Five seconds or more a question? Something like that. I got 100.

My second test -Introduction to Business- took even less time. I got to class -filled in the scan tron sheet with my name and school number- then the teacher took up the sheet from me and another girl, and said, "Thanks. You can go."
Now, when a teach does and says that, my instant assumption is that I've done something wrong. "Whad I'do? My book? I'll take it off the desk."
"No. You got an A," she replied.
The who's from Ukraine, and has been speaking English for only a few months, grabbed my arm and said, "Come on, let's go."
Clueless me is still going, "Huh?"
"Merry Christmas," the teacher said.
"Merry Christmas?" I replied, still clueless.
When we got out to the hall, Nelya told me what was going on. Evidently, she and I had above a 95 average, and were the only ones in the class who'd done all the work. We could have failed the final, and still gotten an A. Reward for effort.

My third final -Introduction to Network Security- was about as fast as the other test, except I missed two questions on Public Key Cryptography- Sender/Receiver keys and digital signatures and digital certificates. I get all those a bit confused. I'll get them ironed out eventually. Maybe a bit of practice with GNUPG (GNU Privacy Guard) will help.

I made a 95 on the Intro to Security, after I'd made a 100 on the Advanced Security. Go figure.

Today, I took my last final -Windows Server 2003 Network Infrastructure. I got a 97. The class uses SamAcademy by Course Technology. I don't like that product. TestOut is WAY better. Learnkey is somewhere in between. The final was completely practical, using the simulator environment in SamAcademy. Windows always you many ways to do the same thing, like close a window. You can click the X in the top right corner, click "File" and select close, or right click on the Window bar and select close. SamAcademy lets you do it only ONE way in their sim. Like Mac OSX, you have to do it THEIR way. The problem is you get use to doing it one way, and you reflexively do that way. Then you get the "INCORRECT ACTION". How Soviet. This time, I went back through all the simulations, wrote down everything step by step (in an OpenOffice.org file, of course- who uses paper?) and followed it in the test. I only missed one question -and I think it was sim error, not mine. But I got a 97 anyway, so I'm not complaining.

Even after all that, I consider my best achievement this semester to be getting our printer networked in Ubuntu. It's cool being able to print wireless from my laptop.

I've Been an Elitist!

Sometimes it's difficult to see when it's happening. In the USA, pretty much any purchase you make puts you in the category of an elitist. The massive overconsumption we do (and I'm just as guilty as anyone) would take six and 1/2 planets to sustain. We've gone past the point of abusing our resources to the point of running them dry.

What I never realized was the impact of actually using Windows. The exclusionary and elitist statement that even turning on a Windows machine says is pretty big. Bruce Byfield, a journalist and editor for the Open Source Technology Group, did a really good article on the subject in November 2006. I highly recommend reading it.

I have a Windows Server 2003 test due tomorrow. To quote the dinosaur in Toy Story, "Now I have guilt!"

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Compiz

Today, I received a donation of a Gateway tower, 2.26 Ghz, 512 mb RAMBUS ram, 40 gb hard drive @ 7200rpm, Nvidia GeForceMX 440 graphics (128mb). Except for the RAMBUS ram, it's a really nice machine. Rambus is actually an excellent and fast type of memory, but the company screwed themselves with a stupid licensing deal, and their memory is WAY too expensive. It would take $500 or more to take this computer up to 1 gb of memory, and it's not really necessary with the RAMBUS type of memory to do that.

This computer is the first I've had with a good enough graphics card to use Compiz-fusion - the desktop effects that comes with Ubuntu. I decided to enable the effects, install the effects manager and play a little.

Mac OSX and Vista got nuthin over compiz for desktop effects! Here's a demonstration of what the desktop effects can do:



While I like the effects, I probably would rarely use them myself.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Truecrypt is DONE!

While I mean my presentation is done, it would be just as true to say, "Truecrypt is DONE" as an application. This is one incredible program.

I spent most of the end of last week watching Truecrypt tutorials, like this one on YouTube, or this one on Irongeek. The Irongeek one is especially informative. I spent most of Sunday and Monday actually practicing using Truecrypt. It's pretty easy to use, but to use it to it's full potential takes practice. I first learned about Truecrypt on Security Now! with Steve Gibson and Leo Laporte, espisode #41. I highly recommend listening to it a few times if you intend on using Truecrypt.

  • If you have files that you don't want anyone else to see, use Truecrypt
  • If you use a laptop, and have sensative files on it, use Truecrypt
  • If you keep any files on a USB jumpdrive, use Truecrypt - even regular files can contain sensitive information that can be used against you
  • If you want to keep important records with your attorney, mother, best friend - make a CD with Truecrypt and have them keep it - just in case of fire, hurricane, or flood
  • If you work for Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, and you're sending a CD with 7.25 million peoples ID's by courier service - use Truecrypt. And get a different courier service!
  • If you suspect your ex has hired private investigators to find out how much money you really have - use Truecyrpt.
  • If you finally have evidence that the Electoral College if fake - use Truecyrpt
I really can't say enough about how important a tool Truecrypt is, and how important the skilled use of Truecrypt can be for a company with sensitive information - even if that company is only one person. At the very least, watch the Irongeek video on Truecrypt.

The Linux version of Truecrypt is command-line based, and the Truecrypt people are working on a GUI for it. A Mac OSX version is suppose to be forth coming too. I'll play around with the command-line version over the holidays, and report back.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

"Nuke it for Morbid"

In working on my Data Destruction presentation, I wanted to use that quote from Aliens. On looking it up, I learned the real dialog is;
"...take off and nuke the site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure."

I liked it better as "Nuke it for Morbid". Much more poetic.

Security Presentations

In an inevitable twist of academic logic, I'm taking Introduction to Network Security and Advanced Network Security in the same semester. Evidently, the school will not be able to offer Advanced Network Security till next year, so they allowed some of us to take both classes. Luckily, Advanced Network Security was only slighty more advanced than the Introductory class. Both classes have presented new material for me, and tickled my interest. I can watch movies like Hackers or Live Free or Die Hard, and know what they're talking about, or being slightly inaccurate about. I now know just how much a problem home users of Windows XP have to deal with, and also how much they unknowingly contribute to the problems.

Next week, I have to do a presentation in both classes. It can't be the same presentation either. I'm keeping my presentations simple, and on things I'm interested in.

In the Introductory class, I'm doing my presentation on Data Destruction. Specifically, I'm presenting Darik's Boot and Nuke -Dban. Organizations like Free Geek have to present their Data Destruction Policy up front, so people can feel safe about turning over their hard drives to us. I've created a Virtual Machine to show the actual program, a slide presentation to present specific information, and I'll probably show this video at the end:





If I don't need to show the video, at least you got to see how Dban works. Dban is also helpful if you want to reinstall an operating system. Simply reformatting your hard drive isn't always good enough. If you had an infection from a virus, or got spyware, or hacked through a vulnerability, your system can no longer be trusted. Dban it, reinstall and rebuild the system. As they said in Aliens, "Nuke it for morbid."

In my Advanced class, I'm presenting Truecrypt - an open source data encryption program. Steve Gibson discussed details about Truecrypt in Episode 41 of Security Now Podcast. I highly recommend Security Now for anyone interested in Network Security. I don't understand about half of what they say at the time, but as I learn more I think to myself, "Oh yeah. I heard that on Security Now." I'm learning how to use Truecrypt, but with my complete openness philosophy, I don't really have a need for it. There is a Truecrypt for Linux, but I'll learn that over the holidays. Maybe you have some files you'd like to keep from prying eyes. My presentation will look something like this:




Through these Security Classes, I've learned the most from listening to podcasts. Here are the main ones I listen to:
  • Network Security Podcast
    • Mostly current events and news. My favorite segment is "C-Level"- used to be called, "Dealing with the Suits" - how to deal with management.
  • Security Now
    • Very detailed explanations of specific security topics. I think the first 50 or so should be mandatory listening for the Intro class.
  • Pauldotcom
    • News and current events with commentary and analysis. Authors of Wireless hacking books. These guys are pretty funny too.
  • Security Round Table
    • Martin McKay from Network Security Podcast host a discussion with people in the business. This is a really good podcast if your interested in working in the Network Security field.
I can't say any one of them is better than the other. I've learned something from each show and each episode I listened to.

Throughout these classes, I've had an occasional thought: I wonder what an Operating System designed by Smith and Wesson would look like.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Cooler

After all this time working on computers, I have yet to replace a CPU cooling system. I've taken a few CPU's out, and have a few extra laying around, but I'd never replaced a CPU cooling system. Until this week.

We got in a nice 1.8 GHz Intel P4 machine. Each time I tried to wipe the hard drive, it froze. I replaced the memory, still the freeze happened. When I examined the machine again, I notice the CPU heat sink was loose. Not good. The heat couldn't conduct from the CPU to the sink. That was causing the freeze. I got out my thermal paste, and went for my first try at fixing it. I used the instructions from this video:



All went well till I tried to put the fan on the sink. The fan was what locked the sink to the motherboard. The fan and the sink just wouldn't stay seated. I looked again, and found the fan connector attached to the motherboard was broken. Luckily, I had a few of the same model in the Free Geek CPU/Heat sink and fan collection. I replaced the connector, and tried again. This time, it worked perfectly. Booted the computer up, and it was ready to go. Dbaned the hard drive, installed Ubuntu as OEM, and it's ready for it's new home.

Machines that we get in over 1 GHz go to volunteers. Volunteers basically get the best of the equipment. They can use use best of what comes in to upgrade their hardware. Machines under 1 GHz are absolutely free for FreekBox recipients. An 800 MHz machine with 256 mb ram and Xubuntu installed runs just fine. With 512 mb ram installed, it feels like a new machine. As long as the user has no mission-critical Windows applications they need to use, the machine is as good as anything on the shelf today. It might be a bit slower if you try to do any deep level photo work or video editing, but other than that, it's more than fast enough.

As a bonus for my efforts this week: I finally figured out how to network our printers. It was much easier than I though it would be. No more USB thumbdrive to print things.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Another Wireless Booster

I found another site about creating a wireless antenna booster. I'm not sure if it's actually any better than the Windsurfer. It may be, but it looks harder to make. I can knock out a good Windsurfer in 5 minutes, and really boosts the signal strength. This one take a bit longer. Here's the link to the template:
http://www.techanvil.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/03/TechAnvil_WiFi_Booster.pdf

And here's the video of how to actually make the TechAnvil WiFi Booster:

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

My Fully-Installed gOS Review

So I loaded gOS on a test machine:
  • 1.0 GHz AMD
  • 768 ram
  • 20 GB HD
  • 32 mb graphics card
The machine had trouble at first booting. I kept getting "Grub Error 15". I may have finally learned how to fix that issue. I checked the jumpers on the hard drive and sure enough they were set to "slave". After putting the jumper in the right place, it booted right up.

gOS is no faster than Ubuntu, but it's prettier. I found gOS to be about the same speed as Ubuntu, but a bit slower than Xubuntu on the same equipment. If speed is an issue, I'd recommend Xubuntu.

It uses Enlightenment e17 window manager. I'm not sure if I really like Enlightenment just yet. I'd have to use it a bit more. After looking over the Enlightenment home page, and the Download page, I see that Enlightenment has a connection to the Darwin project. Now I see why gOS seems close to Mac OSX.

gOS uses Ubuntu as it's underbelly, so everything was familiar for me. The little leaf in the lower left corner is the applications button - not unlike the Windows Start button on XP, or the Window button on Vista. But, the icons at the bottom of the desktop respond like Mac OSX dock icons. they can be resized to be smaller -which I did. Looked much better. Most of the Ubuntu programs are there, maybe in a few different application menu places. The settings and system menu took some getting use to. The close, minimize, and maximize buttons are in the same place as OSX in the window manager, and program windows. OpenOffice.org, GIMP, and the regularly installed Ubuntu apps are there along with the links to the Web 2.0 apps on the 'dock'.

If I were setting up a box for someone between 16-22, I'd probably use gOS. It's OSX like interface (thanks Darwin) will be familiar for some of them. The Web 2.0 links on the 'dock' are an extra bonus -Google, Blogger, FaceBook, YouTube, Wikipedia, Gmail, Skype, and others are just what most people in that age group uses. The people at gOS looked at 'what do people use' as the factor for what goes in the system. I'd add a link to Flickr myself.

If you're a kid putting together used computers, or putting a used computer together for a kid, gOS is probably the way to go. Personally, I'd wait till gOS 2.0 -If that's how they're going with their numbering scheme.

I really like the green them, though. Good touch.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Wrong Direction?

Wal Mart is now selling an Everex gPC. This computer is made with a mini ITX motherboard, much like what's found in a Mac Mini, but Everex put it in a bigger box. Seems people like big better. And, they use a specific version of Ubuntu called gOS.

I decided to download the gOS LiveCD and give it a try. After rebooting my computer, the "Start or Install gOS" options menu appeared. Same as ED/K/X/Ubuntu, including an OEM installation. I use the OEM installations for Free Geek Central Florida.

If you look close, the desktop seems to be Google-centric, and a bit OSX-like in the interface. The green leaf at the lower left is like a 'start' button on Windows, but the rest of the icons across the bottom work like the OSX doc. Checking out the menus, it seems gOS kept most of the programs that came with Ubuntu, so things like Pidgin and OpenOffice.org are there.

gOS is a pretty desktop. Simple to use, and has most of the stuff teens and college age kids use. It would be a excellent OS for a one of them.

Even though I was using the LiveCD version, and not installed to the hard drive, gOS seemed slower than Ubuntu on the LiveCD. I'll eventually install it to a hard drive to see what it's like, and I'll report back.

Overall, I like the look and feel of gOS and may even use it in some Free Geek Central Florida installations.

gOS has come to the forefront as it's the installed system on an Everex gPC sold at Wal Mart for under $200. From what I understand, the Everex gPC is only sold on the Wal Mart online store, and not in the Supercenters quite yet. ZaReason sells the Everex gPC too. Looking over the specifications of the gPC, it's not bad for the price.

The major advantage of the gPC is energy use. Supposed the machine averages just 2 watts of power consumption. I'm not sure what they mean by averages. It's possible that if I kept my computer off when I'm not using it, I might average 2 watts.

I'm glad to see another Linux distribution -especially a pretty one- and especially glad it's based on Ubuntu/Debian since I'm use to those. I'm glad they included the OEM installation in the options.

What I'm concerned about is what seems like a step backwards as far as hardware goes. I'm probably wrong on this, if their claims of energy consumption are correct. The VIA processor the gPC uses is a 1.5 GHz C7-D. The processor seems to really focus on performance per watt, and have a max of 20 watts of usage. With Linux, you don't need the latest superfast hardware to get your computer working well. And 512 MB ram is enough for most machines, and most people, so a computer like this is excellent.

What I'm concerned about is why I'm working on Free Geek here:
  • There are thousands of perfectly good computers pushed aside for upgrades.
  • Those computers are often just sitting in a closet, or worse, in a landfill.
  • There are computers that get discarded simply because one part stops working. It's sometimes cheaper to get a new computer, so people don't get repairs done.
  • In Florida alone, there is about 3-5 workable computers available for every man, woman and child living here.
Maybe having a computer like this, along with a restoration program like Free Geek is ideal, but I don't see it just yet. It seems we should focus on getting usable hardware into people's hands first, and use those for their lifecycle.

Everex is suppose to be coming out with a low cost, low power laptop with gOS installed pretty soon. That would be something that might be a good idea.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Flights of Nancy

Nancy's book is AVAILABLE NOW!


Switch

In the matter of 4 hours, I switched out Nancy's computer for a recent donation.

The old computer:
  • Compaq Presario 5004US
  • 1.1 GHz AMD Athlon (I think)
  • 1024 mb RAM
  • 16 mb AGP graphics card
The New Computer
  • 1.6 GHz AMD AthlonXP
  • 1034 mb RAM
  • 64 mb AGP Graphics card
I was using the Newer computer for 'access' at the other house, with the super wireless setup I did. The problem was the computer came with only 354 mb DDR memory. I finally got some more DDR memory, and could boost Nancy's computer up.

Now, the thing Linux can do that Windows simply can't is; take the hard drive out of a computer, put it in another computer, and work. With Windows, that just don't happen. At least, I've never seen it happen. When this happens to a hard drive with Windows on it, Window says, "Oh my G-d! What happened? Where am I? I don't know what to do. I'll just freak out now." If this happens to Linux, Linux says, "Oh, how interesting. I'm in a new place. Let's look around a bit. Different processor, we can use that. Different memory, no problem. Different graphics card, we'll get that to work after we've moved in." In the matter of 2 minutes, Ubuntu Linux had moved to another computer with no problem. I was even able to move the hard drive in the New computer to the Older computer with only a minor adjustment.

Yesterday, I helped a friend with his laptop. He had a Toshiba, Intel Celeron, 512 mb RAM, with Microsoft Vista installed. I asked myself, "Why would any company sell a computer with Vista with only 512 mb ram?" The thing ran like a slug. We could barely rescue his data, as Vista wouldn't burn a CD, or recognize the USB jumpdrive he had. After emailing himself the data to his gmail, we installed Ubuntu. Major difference. Much faster. Wireless works, and everything he needed installed automatically. The only problem I have to work on is an issue getting his sound to work.

I've come to the conclusion that Microsoft is paying major money to Adobe and Intuit to NOT produce any prominent Adobe program (Photoshop) or Intuit to produce Quickbooks for Linux. If that happen, Windows would have some serious problems.

If GIMP and GNUCash can get to the level of Photoshop and Quickbooks, small companies might be willing to make the switch.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Not Much

I haven't posted much lately, mostly because I haven't had much worth writing about. You already heard I dropped my HTML class. I have A's in all my other classes though. School is much less stressful now. I'm still learning HTML, though. I use the books I have, and some of the online tutorials I found.

We took the dogs to the Fleet Peeples Dog Park yesterday. They were so glad to get back there. Wore themselves completely out.

My Stepson is going to be a papa soon. Life comes at you fast. No parachute here.

The Free Geek Central Florida team is working hard to get the by-laws, articles of incorporation, and application for 501c3 status going. Lots of work. This is going to be my only volunteer organization I'll be working with for a few years. After all, I started it.

Oh, and Mac OSX 10.5 Leopard? Wait a bit. Some security issues to iron out. Cool functionality and effects, but some vulnerabilities. All systems have vulnerabities; Windows, Mac, Linux, Unix. Doesn't matter. If a hacker really wants in, they'll get in. That is, if there's something worth getting in for. And no, your personal bank account number isn't really worth it. Your banks bank account number? That's worth getting. Your bank's database? Yep. The database where you work? Probably.

Funny thing is; your biggest security problem is not your computer.

It's your garbage.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Dropped

The HTML class got to me. Go figure. Not Advanced Security, or Windows Server, but HTML.

The problem for me was threefold:
  1. The delivery of the material - The Thomson Course Technology books aren't the best, even though they are way too expensive. The delivery of the material in the HTML and XHTML course book isn't very well thought out.
  2. The amount of the content - The amount of work the html class has to do is not really that bad, as long as you're not taking any other classes. Or working.
  3. Transitions - The content literally goes from here's a header tag, here's a body tag, this is a paragraph tag. Now make a website with a floating image map. No exaggeration.
Basically, the class is okay, if you already know html. I'll take the class again next semester, but after I've already learned html. Then I won't have to learn AND do the work.

So, I dropped the class. Yeah, it bothers me. I can honestly say I gave it my all. Ask Nancy. It still bothers me. I wish I'd been able to keep up.

I can accept my limitations, but they still suck.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Gutsy So Far

So, I'm liking Gutsy:
  • Wireless stuff just works. In Fiesty, five of the wireless gadgets I have wouldn't work. In Gutsy, they all work, but on the newer model Belkin PCI card, it works for about a minute, then you get the 'server not responding' messege in Firefox for every website. The card appears to be working, but no longer connecting. I intend on trying it again, in a different machine.
  • My Laptop fan spins much less. I'm guessing this has to do with power control
  • Laptop battery goes the distance, out-of-the-box! One hour is about the best this computer ever did with WindowsXP, and 1 hour 20 minutes is the best Feisty did with some CPU throttling. With Edgy, I only got 5 minutes, if that. With Gutsy, I still get one hour, but I don't have to do any funky throttling.
  • Screen fonts look better. I have no idea why. Others have noticed it too.
  • OpenOffice.org starts up way faster out-of-the-box. Sure, I can do somethings to get it to start faster on any distro, but why bother?
  • Pages seem to load faster in Firefox. I don't know if that's Ubuntu or Firefox's doing. I suspect Firefox.
Those are the primary things I've noticed.

Other things of note:
Openproj
Openproj is a Microsoft Project-like application, but for far less money. Free is far less money. They have a new .deb package installer on their download page, for Debian based Linux distros - which Ubuntu is one of. I installed it, and it works perfect.

Project Management is a skill I'll need to acquire. In fact, many people will need to acquire it in the future. One piece of software will not make you a good project manager, but having a free one to use will help. I highly recommend doing an iTunes -or other podcast client- search for project management, and learning as much as you can about it.

I have found a site I wish every computer user would view: Securitycartoon.com
Security cartoon teaches the average user why you need to do certain things to protect yourself and your information. The how will change over time, but the why is very important. Here's a sample about anti virus software:
Reproduced with permission. Please visit www.SecurityCartoon.com for more material

Monday, October 22, 2007

My Gutsy Laptop Power

Earlier today, I gave the battery a test run with a pure install of Gutsy -no throttling adjustments. I unplugged the cord, lowered the screen brightness, and surfed wireless. Other than the wireless adapter, nothing else pulled power. My laptop lasted one hour. Not almost one hour. It leasted one hour exactly! Down to the second. Who'da thunk?

Towards the end of the hour, I could tell the machine was getting slower, so some automatic throttling must have been going on. I could also tell the surfing was slower, but that could be lots of reasons.

My laptop lasted an 1 hour 20 minutes after doing some throttling adjustments with Feisty. I never tried Feisty straight-up on the battery, so I don't know how it would have worked. Edgy lasted all of 10 minutes.

I don't see any reason to hack at the power settings right now.

Suspend still doesn't work. I put the machine in suspend, and turn it back on to a blank screen, and responseless keyboard and touchpad. Hibernate works, but isn't any faster than shutting the machine completely down, and powering it back on. In fact, I think a full powerup is faster. The suspend functions may work on new laptops, though.

So far, Gutsy's got a thumbs up from me.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Gutsy Review

So far, I've set up 4 different Ubuntu 7.10 Gutsy Gibbon installations. Here's my thoughts;

Desktop Setup
To save the servers, I used BitTorrent to download the Gutsy Desktop LiveCD. It actually came in really fast. I burned the disk, then tested it on a FreekBox Installation.
  • 1.6 GHz AMD Athlon XP
  • 384 mb ram - I'd like to have much more
  • 20 GB 7200 rpm hard drive
  • 32 mb Graphics Card
This was a good system to test. To my surprise, the Desktop version now includes an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) installation option, so I went that route. The disk booted to the desktop, and I thought, "I guess that part isn't working yet." But, when I clicked on the Install icon, within a few clicks I saw that I was indeed creating an OEM installation. I was really glad to see this. Now, setting up a new FreekBox for Free Geek is a little easier. It's much more graphical from the Desktop CD.

The installation when fine. But, it didn't recognize the Wireless Network Adapter I'd installed. Well, it recognized it, but it wasn't working. I plugged in the wired adapter, did the updates and added a few programs, and when I restarted, the system asked if I wanted to download the 'restricted drivers' to enable the wireless adapter. Duh! Within a few seconds it was working.

From this initial test, I was really happy with Gutsy. A few new tools I've yet to try out, but I'll report on those later.

My Laptop
  • 2.8 GHz
  • 964 mb ram
  • 60 GB hd 4800 rpm
  • 64 mb shared graphics memory
I was a bit apprehensive about installing Gutsy on my laptop, as it's my primary computer. I'd tested IE for Linux on the above system, and it worked fine, so I took the plunge.

First, I tried the "Upgrade Now" prompt from the Upgrade Manager. That didn't go too well, but I expected such. I'd made too many specific changes, and added too many independent repository sources.

Next, I followed the same installation method as the above Desktop, with disastrous results. The installation took almost 2 hours -not a good sign at all. When I finally booted up; the boot screen never showed, the graphics driver wasn't the right one, no sound, and the computer wouldn't shut down. Not Acceptable!

I downloaded, burned, and installed Gutsy again (after a good Dban on the machine) with an Alternate Install CD. This time - Gutsy Excellence! The installation was actually faster than before - less than 10 minutes to desktop.

I've yet to try out battery life, but I'm expecting that I'll still have to make the power adjustments on it. Bonus if I don't have to fiddle with that. The computer does seem much quieter than before. The fan only comes on occasionally now. Another bonus.

Xubuntu Installation
  • 600 MHz Celeron
  • 256 mb ram
  • 15 gb hd - probably 4800 or less rpm
  • no clue on graphics
I used the Alternate Install CD. On old equipment, I don't bother with the LiveCD. Once again, everything worked perfectly. This version of Xubuntu actually looks more professional -less like a comic book. Not that I minded the comic book look before.

Evaluation
While the Live CD is good for trying out Ubuntu, I still highly recommend using the Alternate Install CD if you know for sure you want to use Ubuntu, either as the sole OS, or for dual boot. Maybe the LiveCD problems only applied to my specific laptop. Maybe not. Either way, I still recommend the Alternate Install CD. It way faster to install it that way, too.

From the end user perspective, Gutsy is simply an upgrade of some desktop things, and program updates. If I was an end user, I'd be a little upset. Couldn't these things simply be upgraded by the Update Manager, like they do throughout the life-cycle? Why should I risk a broken upgrade -like on my laptop- for newer programs?

Now, to answer my own questions, I know that each Ubuntu version is an entire newly created distribution, and not just an 'upgrade'. Things that are needed are added, and things that aren't needed are dropped. The latest kernel, the newest Gnome (or KDE, or XFCE), the newest file manager, and finally, the newest programs. And, of course, new artwork. For an average geek, the newest version is a must. The the average user, it's not. The average user will be just fine with Ubuntu 6.06 Dapper Drake. After all, it's only a 1 year, 4 months older! Then again, things progress way fast in the Open Source world.

My conclusion: Use the Alternate Install CD.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Again on Education

In this morning's Orlando Sentinel, I read an article on the success of Florida Virtual School. FLVS is a prime example of what I've been talking about; the future of education. "Any Time, Any Place, Any Path, Any Pace" is their motto. Click here to read the article in the Orlando Sentinel, and Click here to see the main page of Florida Virtual School.

I looked through their site, and noticed the system does not currently support Linux. I hope they will be able to support Linux soon. I'd love to work with this school to help bring hardware to kids and families who need it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Attack of the Gibbons

Ubuntu 7.10 Gutsy Gibbon is release tomorrow. It's probably released somewhere in the world already.

I'm tempted to upgrade immediately. But, I have some school work on here that I can't afford to get mangled in the process. I could backup those files on a seperate drive, do a fresh install, and reload the files. The big problem is that I need IE for linux (Internet Explorer for Linux) to work. My Windows Server 2003 coursework is through Course Technology, and it only works with Internet Explorer. I have it working on Ubuntu 7.04 Feisty Fawn, but I can't afford for it to 'break' in an upgrade. I'll have to wait and see.

I still recommend holding off on upgrading for a few weeks. Wait for the servers to calm down from the rush of requests. Watch the forum and see what the complaints are. If there are few, or you can live with the ones that do happen, slam the upgrade in. If you do decide to download the latest and greatest Ubuntu version, do the servers a favor and use BitTorrent to download it. It will probably be way faster anyway.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Audible Denied Me!

I joined Audible.com a few months ago. The produce audiobooks for popular books. The audiobook sometimes makes it to Audible before the print edition makes it to the bookstores or Amazon.

Earlier this week, I applied to be an Audible Affiliate. They denied me. From the response, they denied me because my site is a blog, not a 'real site'. I sort-of understand. Audible has no control over what is put on a blog, and they might not want to be associated with some blog content. Understandable, but.....they still denied ME! Emperor Danny! ME!

I'm almost inclined to cancel my Audible membership. Almost.

Since they denied me affiliation, I put the Podiobook.com widget on the right side of the entries. My readers will remember that I'm a Podiobook fan. You can download Podiobooks for free, listen, and pay what you feel they're worth. When I actually make some money, I'll pay some to the authors I've listened to.

I make no money off the Podiobooks you download. No benefits, other than the links to some good, kinda-sorta free content. So, checkout the Podiobook links, or go to Podiobooks.com and look through the library. You can even listen to a preview on each audiobook's site. If you like it, you can use iTunes to subscribe, or if you're a Linux user, Rhythmbox, Amarok, or Songbird to subscribe.

Enjoy!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Too Many Versions?

One of the complaints I read about Linux is how many different versions/distributions there are. There are currently 12 or more versions of Windows (including XP, all the versions of Vista, Server2003, media center, Server2008), about 5 currently used versions of Mac OSX (10.x), but with Linux, there are untold, vast numbers of versions. If you're really into it, you can even throw your own version together.

Now, Mac OSX is build on FreeBSD, but a slightly older version of FreeBSD. So should I count Mac in with all the BSD versions out there? PCBSD (based on FreeBSD), NetBSD, FreeBSD, OpenBSD. Most BSD's are text base, but you can put a desktop environment on any of them. Like Linux, Gnome and KDE are popular. Oh, wait, there's that whole Sun Solaris thing (Unix/BSD type of thing). Should I include that in the BSD's?

Then there's Linux.

While they like to tell us there's hundreds, if not thousands of version, I really only see four:

  1. Gnome - Mac-like desktop, Windows-like in use. Easier to use, simple.

  2. KDE - Windows-like desktop, Mac-like in use. Lots of options, and very flexible.

  3. Lean Desktops; XFCE, Fluxbox, OpenBox, IceWM, and others - simply and sometimes familiar layouts

  4. Pure text base - Sys Admin favorite. Very frugal, but very powerful



All the Linux distros fall into those categories. And for the most part, all the the BSD's fall in those categories too, except Mac OSX. Sun Solaris uses their customized version of Gnome.


So far, I've used most of the above. If you read this blog much, or just look around on it a bit, you'll know what I like to use. My current 'other favorite' is Damn Small Linux. Puppy Linux would run neck and neck with it -the two trading leads for my second favorite. I guess you could count Fedora as my third, but I haven't used it in awhile, so I'm sure there are better things out there now.

I think this is something Apple really got right - one OS. While I like having choices and options, Apple made it really easy by sticking to one OS. No matter what Mac you get, it's still the current version of Mac OSX.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Sunday, October 07, 2007

My Stores

If you've seen my main CoachDANNY.net site lately, you may have noticed more changes. Beside my CafePress.com apparel store, I now have an Amazon aStore.

I've always liked Amazon.com. I go to Borders, Barnes and Noble, or the library to see what new books are available. If I want one to keep, I buy it on Amazon. I bought the Head First HTML book on Amazon for far less than the store. I choose the Super Saver Shipping option -a good idea since I don't have much money- but the book came in only 4 days anyway. Bonus.

My aStore contains things I already have, or would like to have. There's a Tech section, Fitness and Lifestyle section, and SciFi section so far. As you can imagine, my Tech section has a bunch of Linux related stuff. I'll add more sections and stuff as I go. If you usually use Amazon, check and see if I have it on my site first. That way, I might make a buck or two. If you're into something I'm into, like home fitness training, check my fitness section. I'll grow the aStore more over time. My main focus here is really to give voice to things I like, recommend them, and possible make some money for tuition and such.

Since I really like Audible, I'm going to join their affiliate program too. I post audiobooks I have, and one's I'd like to have. If you have an audible account, or thinking about getting one, you might like the audiobooks I like.

Okay, personal commercial over. Yoga time.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

HTML kickin my Ass

When I signed up for my classes this semester, I was most nervous about the Introduction to Business, and Windows Server 2003 classes. Turns out those weren't the ones to be concerned with. The HTML class is more difficult than Organic Chemistry was the first time I was in college. This HTML class is why I haven't blogged in awhile. For every hour I spend studying for the other classes, I spend at least 4-5 hours on the html class, and I'm still struggling.

I dislike putting the blame on someone or something else, but the textbook for this class is one of the worst I've looked through. I highly DO NOT recommend it. I DO recommend Head First HTML. I purchased it off Amazon, and what a difference. The Head First series uses every means possible to help you learn a subject, not just throw the material at you, and see what sticks.




The teacher for my html class is very helpful. I'm not blaming him at all. Part of it is me, and my learning issues. When I'm struggling with a subject like this, the only way for me to really learn it is through a Brute Force learning technique, sometimes called over-learning. In his book, "How to Learn Any Foreign Language", Barry Farber emphasizes a multi prong attack. I used it to help with language learning. In this method, you use whatever you can to learn; books, tapes, CD's, software, videos, etc. This is exactly what I've done with this html class. I've downloaded, borrowed, and purchased as much material as I can get a hold of on the subject of html and xhtml.



I'm not too upset about the class, just a bit stressed. When I've had difficulty with a subject in the past, I set to overlearning it so well that it became a strength. Since collaborative workspaces and online educational content is something I want to go into, this is an important step for me. That, and I want to keep my GPA for better possibilities for scholarship money.

You may have noticed some changes to my blog. The text is different; was Times New Roman, now Verdana. The color is a bit darker (darkkhaki), and the links are different colors. That's partly from me playing and learning html. I'm also trying to keep a consistent look through all my linked sites from the main CoachDANNY.net site. I even updated the colors on my YouTube.com channel. I liked the original color of the blog better, actually, but I need to figure out how to use it in all the pages. I wish Flickr would enable different color schemes, but it's not really that important.

I'm looking forward to Ubuntu 7.10 Gutsy Gibbon, coming out on October 18th. I've loaded the beta on a FreekBox. It looks good and works very well. It actually feels faster than previous version. Many new tools, too. I don't recommend an update on the 18th though. I'd wait about a month, at least. Let all the users find and fix the bugs first.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

More on Windsurfer Antenna

Most of the hits to my blog seem to come from searches about the Windsurfer Antenna booster for wireless antennas. People gravitate toward those posts. I have to admit I'm a big fan of the Windsurfer Antenna. It makes a tremendous difference in distance and signal quality on my router. When I add it to a desktop pc, the pc is able to pick up many nearby signals in the neighborhood. If I use the Hawking Technologies signal booster, it triples the signals strength, and even more access points show up. Here's a little video I found on making the antenna:

Free* WIFI Booster - The funniest videos are a click away

So far, that video has done the best instruction job. I followed the advice on the video, and used a glue stick. Makes a big difference. I do a few things different:
  • I make the entire thing before I put the foil on. After I've finished constructing the booster, I glue-stick the back, and roll it on the shiny side of the foil. This seems to make the putting the unit together a lot easier.
  • I use a box-cutter to cut out the antenna, and cut the slits in the backing.
  • I cut the pole-slits before I put the booster together. It's not easy to cut those when it's already together.
Once you get the thing together, if you can get the antenna up high, it makes a difference. I've had to actually put some desktop units on top of the desk. Doing so has save some FreekBox customers from the necessity to pay for internet. Don't worry; they were in an apartment where the wireless was offered. I think.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Tools Needed

In particular, audio and video tools needed for Linux.

Sure, there's Audacity for audio. It's an excellent program. But, it's no GarageBand. And while I hope Jokosher comes up with something, eventually, it's not GarageBand either. Audacity is what many people use for Podcasts, but a majority of podcasters use GarageBand. It has Podcasting built in. Audacity will work just fine for most podcasters, but GarageBand is easier.

And then there's video. The guys over at The Linux Action Show podcast were frustrated about their attempts to make a video podcast using Linux. While these guys do a great job of supporting Open Source formats (.ogg, theora), there just isn't a program that will work well for video editing in Linux. There are a few, but there just too complex for the average user.

"But Danny, Shrek 3 was done on Linux!"

Yes, I know. But that's 3D modeling. I'm not trying to model a 3D. I'm I'm not about to make a cluster supercomputer just for video editing. Then again, Alameda County Computer Resource Center made one out of used parts. Use parts donated in just the previous week. All powered by a veggie diesel generator.
Maybe someday I will make a cluster supercomputer. But I don't think I'll need it for video editing.

At the moment, I could use Audacity for Podcasting, if I wanted. But for video, I'd have to use Nancy's iBook. I don't want to learn a how new career just to do a few videos.

The future of education is going to be in this type of content, both in creation and delivery. If Linux is going to be a part of that future, the guys writing software in their spare time for audio and video editing need to work a bit more. That, or I can only hope Apple will make iLife availabe for Linux.

Don't forget to check out the updates on My Website. You'll get to see my html education over the next few months.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Personal Update

I made some changes to my website. Check it out. I think were going to learn about color in the next chapter, so I'm looking forward to bringing that.

I'm doing well in my classes. I just have to keep up with the work. The Web Publishing class seems to take up the most time. The Security Class and Windows Server classes aren't too bad, but I have a lot of extra software to study from for those subjects. So far, Testout is the best software for learning this stuff.

Monday, September 17, 2007

We're Now Officially a Police State!

This happen at University of Florida today. John Kerry was doing a question and answer session. Judge for yourself what really happen. For me, I now see the tremendous value of Video cellphones:


By the way, I agree with the guy: John Kerry threw the election, just as he was instructed to do.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

html and double click

This weekend, I spent a total of 10 hours doing Web Publishing class homework. After I'd finished the homework, I used the tutorials to make myself a new website. The new CoachDANNY.net was done entirely in a text editor. No fancy-shmanshy FrontPage or DreamWeaver to help me. My website will change each week, so check back every Monday or Tuesday, and you'll probably see something different.

All this talk about html brought me to another thought: How stupid is double clicking?

I've installed Puppy Linux and Damn Small Linux (DSL) a few times. I've noticed that both distributions require only a single click on the desktop. I thought, "How freaking genius!"

Have you ever noticed that the entire internet requires only a single click? Actually, some people haven't noticed that, and they get double charged on orders over the internet. And, older people or people with motor skill problems have difficult with the whole double click thing.

Now in Windows uses the double click for a purpose. You select an icon with a single click. Or, you can click and hold, drag and drop with a single click. Double clicking an icon makes that icon do something, like bring up the program to present it. Double clicking on a "text.doc" file will bring up Microsoft Word, or OpenOffice.org, or some word processing program your computer uses. Single clicking on the icon will only highlight the icon.

Okay, so that's fine and dandy. Now we know you need to double click to open an icon in Windows. Or in Mac OS X. Cool.

Oh, but then there's that start button. Should you double click the start button? Nope. Not necessary. And then there's the menu bars (File, Edit, View....). Single click on those too.

Okay, so double click on some things, single click on others, right click to...

Oh yeah, we forgot to mention the whole right click thing. Sorry iBook/MacBook users. Then again, they can't right click.

And we wonder why some people are confused and frustrated with computers.

Even the Linux Desktops of Gnome, KDE, and XFCE are guilty. I know how it works, but for someone who's never used a computer it can be confusing. I understand the functionality of the double click, but I question if it's really necessary anymore. Puppy Linux and DSL don't need it. But, they do need the right click.

Anyway, single click here to see my new website.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Friends and School

Personal Commentary

(I'm trying out a different font - Verdana- with this post. If possible, let me know if it helps readability)
My friend, K.Mandla has been a busy blogger lately. He's been testing different low end Linux distributions on his ugly little laptop, as he calls it. Checkout his recent findings.


My friend, Drew Baye, is working on a book. Working very hard too. I get to hear some of what he's worked on. I think many people in the fitness industry are going to find it an excellent, informative read. Drew has a snappy writing style, and get's to the point. He has an excellent collection of free information on his website too.


While she's not really a friend, I really enjoy the YouTube Videos done by Happy Slip. This girl is talented, funny, and like me is obviously born without the faulty gene called, "embarrassment". If you're looking for a quick, 3-4 minute entertaining moment, checkout some of her videos. Reading her blog gives you some insight on how home production isn't easy, but it is fun.


School
By October, I'll be taking 5 classes. I'll actually be taking Network Security (Security+) and Advanced Network Security at the same time. Advanced Security won't be offered next semester, so it wasn't really a choice to not take it.


To get through this semester, and even the next, I downloaded and previewed some software training courses for the subjects I would take. With the time I had, and how long it takes to download some titles, I was able to view the first few weeks of the subjects. Much of the software I have goes it into greater detail than my course material. Throughout most of my course work, I've come out of the classes with an A, but a feeling of, "What was that about?" I felt like I'd passed the class, but had really learned the material. At least not to my satisfaction.


I'm going to have to actually use much of what I'm learning, or at least trying to learn, so I really need to know the material. To that end, I have been trying to go through the borrowed software as much as I can. This has helped me learn the material, but caused some friction with my classes.


This weekend, I've learned I need to do the course work first, then learn the material after I've finished the assignments.


As one of my professor said, "If you think you're going to learn this stuff in class, you're in the wrong subject."

Friday, September 07, 2007

DSL - Damn Small Linux

It's true: Obsolescence is Just a Lack of ImaginationA few months ago, I tried Damn Small Linux (DSL). I wasn't too thrilled with it. It seemed difficult to use, nothing was familiar, and I moved on to other things. Earlier this week, I received a donation of a Sony VAIO laptop, 300 MHz Pentium II, 64 mb RAM, 6 GB Hard drive. Xubuntu just wouldn't go on with that low of memory, and Puppy stumbled on it too. I downloaded, burned to disk, and booted up DSL. WOW!

DSL runs FAST on this little machine. Either I've learned more about Linux in the past few months, or DSL got easier. I don't remember learning anything really new recently, so I can only guess the DSL people have done some work. I took out the CD, loaded Dban, wiped the drive clean, rebooted DSL, and found the option to install to hard drive. It installed in less the ten minutes. Was actually closer to five minutes! Once I figured out how to install more programs with MyDSL, the new programs loaded on very quickly. At first, I was using a PCIMCIA ethernet card to get online. I stuck in a Lucent Technologies 802.11b Orinoco card, booted it up again, and it found everything without me having to do anything other than turn the computer on. Instant wireless! After looking through the forums, I found how to do screenshots like the first one on this post, using Imagemagick. I loaded on Abiword, and eventually OpenOffice.org 1.1. I installed Java and Flash. I tried youtube on this computer (I'm entering this blog on it), and it ran very stuttered, slow, and no sound. I think that may be due to the low memory.

I cleaned the machine up as best I could. You can see it sitting on newspaper. It seems the little rubberlette feet on the bottom have turned to mush, and come off on anything they stick to. I tried to use alcohol to get them off, but no go. If anyone knows how to remove those gooey globs, let me know.

I am freaking amazed at how fast this machine is. Puppy Linux gave me another too for older equipment, but DSL give me an even deeper tool. Puppy needs about 128 MB ram to run, but DSL can run on as little as a 486DX with 16MB ram!! I would still rather give out a machine with Xubuntu on it. Xubuntu is much easier to use for a Linux nuubie. But, for the price, and the ability to use really old equipment, DSL is excellent.

So who could use a computer like this? Someone without any computer at all, for starters. Sure, they'd have a bit of a learning curve, but it's still a free computer. By using the DSL forums and wiki, anyone can learn how to use DSL in a very short amount of time. Free is a good motivator. Someone who is working on a novel could use it. Or, someone who just wants to surf the net. Works good for that too. With more memory (for only $15! I checked), youtube would probably work ok, enabling you to watch episodes of The IT Crowd.




Update to the laptop: With the kind info, baby oil got the gooey glob off the bottom. I tried to run the unit on just the battery - no go. Battery is dead. But, it runs plugged in.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Audio Meltdown

My HP iPAQ rx3715 PocketPC has been acting up again lately. The headphone jack would sometimes work, some times not. Or the right channel would work, but not the left. A week ago, I had to push the headphone plug to get any sound at all. I don't have the money to get another MP3 player, so I went into my usual obsess on it until I get it working. I did get it working. Sort of. I had to open the thing up and work on it. I learned a good bit about audio jacks.
For instance; if you point the audio jack tip up, the tip is the left channel of the stereo sound, the center of the pin is the right channel, and the start of the pin is the ground. I realize that information will never help me in life again. Anway, the left channel connection in the audio jack 'female' receptical wan't working well. Seems HP did a funky design on it to make the on-board speaker come on when you pull jack out. But the design just isn't very good. If I could learn to solder, I pull a good jack receptical out of something else, and solder it in that. I don't care if the on board speaker works anway. I just want the headphones to work. But, since it's giving me problems, I'll have to get something else.

I've decided on getting an iPod Shuffle. At the moment, I'm not too happy about it. I'd rather have an all-in-one solution, but that's not available yet. At least not with the features I want. The iPod Shuffle is almost indestructable. About the only way to kill it is run a car over it. Twice! It so light that if it falls, it barely even gets a scratch. It's only 1 GB, but I don't need much storage space anyway. I have less than 50 mb of music, but have enough podcast subscriptions to keep at least 20 GB around, and about 50 GB of audiobooks. I don't care to carry around every song I've borrowed either, but I'll gladly listen to the books I've purchased. Or the free ones.

When I get it, I'll give a review.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The IT Crowd

I watched the entire first seaon of The IT Crowd. Why can't they make shows this good in the USA? Here's the first episode of Season 2 (don't worry -- the IT Crowd has very little to do with IT):


It seem that NBC is going to try an Americanized version.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Do you have Guts?

Ubuntu 7.10 Gutsy Gibbon is coming. October 2007. It looks like they've added some really interesting stuff. AppArmor will bring an added level of security to the Linux Distribution. One thing I'm glad to hear is they're adding a new printing system. The other system wasn't well maintained. In the new system, more printers are supported, a PDF printer is automatically installed and is the default printer. That's a boon for the paperless office people. Even better, plug a printer in, and it's automatically detected and setup. That will be a huge blessing for Free Geek FreekBox installation. A FreekBox recipient won't have to go through the 'add printer' routine. Plug it in, let it set itself up, and you're good to go. Most excellent.

My hope is for better wireless support. I know much of that is out of Linux developers hands, and sits on the decisions of Wireless card manufactures. But, I hope they've added more cards to be automatically detected in Gutsy. And, I hope they fixed the ones that were broken, particularly my Belkin USB sticks.

Anyway, you can checkout the testing release for Gutsy here.

Upgrading your system in Ubuntu takes a bit of strategy. It's not necessary to upgrade with each release. My Desktop computer, for instance, is a Dell GX260, dual boot Windows XP and Ubuntu 6.06 LTS Dapper Drake. The LTS of that version means Long Term Service. I can expect updates to specific programs till 2009. On my server, till 2012. I keep Dapper on my desktop because it's stable. It works fine, and I dont' need to change it. I need this computer to be secure, and dependable. This is the computer I do much of my school work from, usually on the Windows XP side of it. I only boot into XP when I have to for school, or studying for an IT certification.

If Gutsy turns out to be a good version, I may upgrade to it. That will not be an easy thing. I would basically need to rebuild the entire computer system from scratch. Save all my personal files on other drives (pretty much do that anyway), Dban the hard drive clean, clean install of Windows, then a clean install of Ubuntu. If I'm going to bother to upgrade my system, I'm going to upgrade some hardware too, especially the graphics card. Right now, it's a 32 meg card. Good enough for what I do, but not enough for what I'd really like to do: FlightGear Flight Simulator! I will put Gutsy on my laptop, especially if it gets the hibernate/suspend function working again.

Ubuntu does an upgrade ever six months. Not ever five to six years, like Windows. What Ubuntu doesn't do is a rolling upgrade. A rolling upgrade would mean they would distribute individual package, program, or kernel upgrades as they came available. There are some advantages to such a system, but I'm guess there are some disadvantages too.

Ubuntu completely rebuilds their distribution every six months. They support that build for 18 months, and three years on the Long Term Service releases. The next LTS version is suppose to be Ubuntu 8.04. I might wait for it. We'll see.

If you use Ubuntu, or are the recipient of a FGCF FreekBox, I recommend waiting at least 2-3 weeks after a release to upgrade. Watch the Ubuntu Forums, and see what works and what doesn't. You may find something of yours doesn't work anymore, or something you wanted to work now does. Also, the servers are slammed at first. If you do upgrade, use bittorrent to download a CD, and do a clean installation from that. The biggest hint I can give you about Ubuntu upgrades: Be excited, be patient, be cautious, and be prepared.