Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Now is the time

Now is the time,
Now is the best time,
Now is the best time of your life!
Life is a prize,
Live every minute
Open your eyes and watch how you win it

Yesterday's mem'ries may sparkle and gleam,
Tomorrow is still but a dream
Right here and now,
You've got it made,
The world's forward marching and you're in the parade!

Now is the time,
Now is the best time,
Be it a time of joy or strife,
There's so much to cheer for,
Be glad you're here for it's the best time of your life!

Sorry. Got a bit carried away with pre-1994 Carousel of Progress song lyrics.

While it may not seem like the best time to many, for 30 and younger there will be a lot of new opportunities ahead. I highly agree with consumer advocate Clark Howard; hard times and economic strife tend to push the creative flow and innovative abilities of Americans. If we can adapt to the changes to come, we can be in the best times of our lives.

Now, on with the show.

This post is about Now is the time for Free and Open Source Software. I know that's been said many times, and many people are saying that now. I'll give my reasons why now is the time, and how it can happen.
  • The popularity and use of Open Source solutions is gaining momentum in the non-geek market. is probably the primary path.
  • Most people did not know there were alternatives to Windows or OSX. With very usable Linux distro's out, even the almost-but-not-quite geek types are installing Ubuntu, Fedora, and OpenSuSE for people.
  • Windows XP isn't exactly easy to install, or re-install. Ubuntu is very easy to install from a LiveCD.
  • Windows Vista's horrible public reception. Whether or not it really deserved the bad publicity, it did happen. Apple's marketing campain against Vista worked. Vista itself was a turn-off, even for many geeks.
  • Windows XP, while it's still preferred by most consumers, is pretty much a sponge for malware. XP gets infected within three months. The scareware popups can get a new machine infected in one day.
There are two paths that can will bring Linux to the forefront

Re-Install XP and install Ubuntu for a Dual Boot Machine
IT people, in their spare time, will do a complete reinstallation for a very low price. The standard price for this service is $50. Don't over pay Geek Squad, so they can buy more VW Beetles and helicopters. Once a system has been compromised, it can't be trusted. Anti-virus and anti-spyware programs can tell you if you've been infected. Some malware can't be detected. If your machine is just getting too slow, it's time to do a reinstall.

When I do a reinstall for someone, I also setup a Dual Boot with Ubuntu. With StartUp-Manager (SUM) on Ubuntu, the preferred OS can be set to default boot. If I setup a computer for somone prone to malware infestation (porn sites, gambling sites, travel sites, and hair care sites), I make Ubuntu the default boot OS. I'll teach them how to use Ubuntu if needed, but most people take to it quickly -even without my help. I encourage them to use Ubuntu whenever they're surfing the internet, and to use Windows ONLY when they are doing something that just isn't available on Linux: Some sites that require Internet Explorer, people who use Quicken or another Windows only financial product, or they use other software that won't work on Linux. Some students need software for school that only works on Windows.

Over time, most of those people use Ubuntu far more than Windows. There are the occasional few that have difficulty with any change, and will stick to Windows only, and will need a reinstall every three to six months. I need to meet more of those people.

Trickle-Up tech
For the past thirty years, we've been in a trickle down economy. It has been argued that we need to move to (or back to) a trickle up economy. Linux has a chance to be a part of trickle up.

As a Free Geek volunteer, I know know how many thousands, if not millions, of usable computers are sitting unused in closets, attics, and garages. Most often, there was nothing wrong with those computer other than a malware problem. Or the person got a newer, faster system, and never bother to get rid of the older one. Getting hold of those computer, installing Linux on them, and giving them out to people who can't afford a new computer is part of what Free Geek is about. Those computers can be used by millions of people.

Small businesses can take advantage on second tier market too. The can greatly lower that IT and tech costs, and possible improve their security and up-time in the process.

Vendors Will Notice
As more computers are being used with Linux installed, hardware and software vendors will have to take notice. They already make hardware and software for Mac and OSX, and that is only a little more than 5% of the market. If we can get Linux to even 10%, vendors will have to respond.

While I prefer my OS to be Free and Open Source Software, I don't really care if a program I use is free or open source. If a program is good enough, like a movie or book, I don't mind pay for it at all. I'd feel a bit more secure with an Open Source package, but I'm not opposed to closed source programs. I'm GREATLY OPPOSED to closed source systems and programs being used in government -especially education and law enforcement. Let just say when it comes to that, my opposition borders on the extreme.

This can be done. Other than vacuuming lots of dust from older computers, it wouldn't really take much effort.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

Personal Responsibility

"Whatever happened to Personal Responsibility"? This is a term and question that gets thrown around a lot these days. People who accuse others of abdicating personal responsibility seem to avoid looking at their own life, and examining their own abdications.

So what did happen to Personal Responsibility?

In one word: CONVENIENCE. We now actually have a choice in the matter.

Physics and Personal Responsibility
One hundred years ago -or even just eighty years ago- we had no choice in personal responsibility. Just getting through daily life was a struggle. Very few, only the super rich, had a choice in how they went about daily life. I'm not talking about he major life decisions here. I mean simply tasks of living; waking up, getting to work, getting food, acquiring clothing, all that stuff. Those tasks are so freaking simply for us today, we don't give them much thought or consideration.

Modern conveniences have made life much easier. The clothes washer, dishwasher, microwave oven are examples of things in our home that make life easier. One hundred years ago, when we didn't have those things, getting those tasks done -washing clothes, washing dishes, cooking meals- required much more labor.

For example, in the USA we can go to the supermarket, pickup some chicken, get the shake n' bake pack, a box of rice, and have dinner done very quickly. To be absolutely convenient -we can go through drive through and pick it up. Sometimes buying food that way is actually cheaper!

In other parts of the world, if you want chicken for dinner, you get it two ways; go out in the backyard and catch one, or buy one at the street market. In both these instances, the chicken is still alive. Before you can cook chicken, you have to kill it. Cut it's head off, gut and pluck it, skin it if you like it that way, then cook it. Rice can be a wee bit easier to get, but not much.

In the modern world, especially in the USA, we've become addicted to convenience. The conservation of energy -and conservation of momentum- are laws of physics that greatly apply to all areas of life. Basically, an object as rest will tend to say at rest, unless an outside force is place on it. In the past, daily life was that outside force. Any organism will produce as little energy as possible to get a task done. This is a universal in all living organisms. We will produce only the required energy to get a task done. If we have the option to produce less energy, that is exactly what will happen. Every animal, every creature follows that law.

Ron Paul made an excellent point about health care: "We don't have a health care problem in America. We have a health problem." He is right. Humans are not made to move a little as we do. Our bodies are adapted for locomotion, for movement. But our cars do our moving for us. Our buses, planes, elevators, escalators. I'm convinced part of the rash of anxiety issues in our society is directly related to our lack of movement. That speculation probably comes from my observation of the effect in dogs. Just watch The Dog Whisperer, and you'll see what I mean.

In today's world, especially in the USA, you actually have to make a concerted effort to produce more energy than is required. This goes against the law of Conservation of Energy. We actually have go against the laws of nature and animal instinct to produce more effort than we have to! We actually have to try to lose excess body weight!! We actually have to go out of our way to walk more, bike to work, take the stairs, or almost any other daily movement decision.

This addiction to convenience extends to all areas of modern life. You see it in our daily impatience. I speculate that people were much more patient, out of necessity, before one hundred years ago. Because we have the ability to produce almost-instant results, we expect it. We live with convenience so much so, that we sometimes forget there is another choice. We actually forget to 'take personal responsibility'. The use of convenience is the abdication of Personal Responsibility. You've done it. You know you have. We all have, simply because the convenience is there.

Trial Lawyer, and Personal Responsibility
I've said it before, and I'll say it again:
"Trial Lawyers are the cause of idiocy in America!"

It works like this:
Part of what's kept us alive as humans are critical thinking skills. Living off the land creates very well developed critical thinking skills -everything you do is critical. In today's world, you don't have to think anymore. Someone else has done it for you.

Someone stands too close to Niagara falls, and falls in. That's a completely natural event. No violence, just poor judgement skills. But, the Trial Lawyer was on his visit to Niagara too. Rushed over and immediately assumed representation, and made the surviving family wealthy. The Niagara park was sue beyond wits end, and new policies and procedures where put in place -along with taller rails. Since then, no one has gone over the falls.

Now, that story is fake, of course, but it kind of makes the point. People don't get to exercise the critical thinking skills of, "Don't get so friggin near that drop." Now imagine something like that, put in place everywhere you go. Our society does not get to exercise critical thinking skills. The necessary external force (from the law of conservation of momentum) is simply not there for us anymore. Natural selection simply isn't happening.

All because of trial lawyers.

In the Discovery Channel movie, "Alien Planet", biologist and animal behaviorist discussed the concept that the predatory instinct enables intelligence. No, I'm not talking about the lawyers. I'm talking about us. Our predatory instinct drives us to observe, plan, consider options, and take risks. Like muscle, that ability must be utilized and practiced, or it atrophies. We are no longer, as a society, using our predatory instinct or critical thinking skills because we aren't force to do so. The external forces that push us to use those skills are far less, to be virtually non-existent.

Now, the problem gets worse. We're currently in our second or third generation of people who haven't needed to use critical thinking skills. How can we expect someone to learn and use critical thinking skills if the necessary environment does not exist? How can we expect these people to teach their children those skills? How can we expect teachers who grew up in that environment to teach what they have never learned? Is it their fault they haven't acquired critical thinking skills? Remember the laws of the conversation of energy and momentum? People who expect personal responsibility to just arise out of nowhere in our society are doing the same as expecting a Dolphin to just flop up on land, and suddenly start walking. A Dolphin is able to use its innate abilities in the water, but not on land.

Until we live in a society where we have no choice but to learn and practice critical thinking skills, Personal Responsibility will not occur. To expect Personal Responsibility to be learned or practiced in an environment where it's not required, is futile. When the option exists where we don't have to use it, we won't. When we have to produce more effort, when we are forced to make more critical decisions, Personal Responsibility is the natural result of that environment.

Social Responsibility
The problem is compounded further by our current practice of Social Responsibility.

We're at such a population density that what happens in one part of the world has ripple effect, and we're all affected. Even small decisions can have a world wide impact. "A Computer on Every Desktop" started off as a small idea. That idea has literally changed the face of the earth.

When people are at a point where they cannot or will not take care of themselves, that effects us all. 'Cannot' and 'will not' are two very different occurrences, but the social effects are the same. If that occurrence increases, the effects can be disastrous. We are one of the few animals that have the ability to be altruistic. I've witness dogs and dolphins doing so, but for the same reasons we do; what benefits the pack (or society) benefits me.

We have a desire, even responsibility, to help our fellow man. We even do it with the knowledge that doing so helps ourselves. But has that intent created a society that produces sicker people, with less intelligence? Have the lawyers that got the big business to do our thinking for us created a society leading towards Idiocracy?

When you make a purchase, do you consider the entire chain that created that item? Take a stick of gum:
  • Where did the raw materials come from? How are those workers treated?
  • Where did the packaging materials come from? How are those chemicals going to affect the area?
  • How did the transportation of that item affect us? Is the truck driver paid well enough? How is that transportation decision affecting us all?
  • Do the ingredients in the gum compromise your health? Are you even aware if they do?
Entire books can and have been written on the chain of effect. But, to make a conscious decision, you have to be aware of the effects. Then again, who has time for that? It's far more convenient to just grab the stick of gum, and let others make those decisions for us. As consumers, we make social compromises everyday, especially where convenience is concerned. Those compromises also affect our Personal Responsibility.

We're not going to be able to wipe the social slate over, and start clean. That's impractical. It's also impractical to promote the idea of "going back to" anything. We don't travel back in time, yet. Our human experience is always forward in time. But how can we create a social environment the enables and increases critical thinking skills? How can we create a health system that helps created stronger, more disease resistant humans? Is it our social responsibility to produce a society that actually challenges, and even probably endangers, our posterity to make sure they retain and increase critical thinking skills?

As for me - I'm going to keep being a Personal Energy Conservationist.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ginny Agility

Ginny and I practicing agility. Actually, Ginny is the agile one:

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Nice Little Laptop

I recently acquired an Acer TravelMate 260 (really a 261xc) laptop. It's a Pentium III, came with 256 MB ram, and a 30 GB 4200rpm hard drive. The battery was shot. It didn't work at all. As I usually do when I acquire a piece of equipment, I did a few searches on it to find out what the perks and quirks were. There was some good news - it was reported to have a 4 hour battery life.

I installed Xubuntu on it. It worked okay, but not to the level of what I thought Xubuntu should give me. Speed wasn't very good at all. I wiped Xubuntu, and installed stock Ubuntu, just to see what would happen. Weirdly enough, stock Ubuntu ran faster. Much faster. I'm not sure what didn't work with Xubuntu, but I'm glad Ubuntu worked well. I'm now encouraged to make stock Ubuntu the regular Free Geek Central Florida install, no matter what the machine (except a Pentium II -those get UbuntuLite).

Battery life has always been more important that speed for me. I'm not a gamer, and if I was I'd use a desktop for my gaming. I use my laptop for internet, writing, and various wireless security practices. This laptop actually matched my needs better than my current laptop.

I purchased a faster 80 GB 5400 RPM, added 512 MB ram to it, and reinstalled Ubuntu. Processor throttling is there, not heavy command line work to get that going. Suspend and Hybernate just work. And, the battery life is crazy good. I've been on it for 3 hours, and yet to have it drop below 60%.

The computer has only two issues:
  1. Occasionally, I have to eject and push the battery back in for the computer to start -without being plugged in. Not a big issue at all.
  2. Full screen Youtube videos are choppy and jitter. Regular boxsize work fine. DVD's play good too. Just large screen Flash isn't that good. Might be because of the 8 MB video ram.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Tech Comparison: iPod Shuffle, HP iPAQ, and iPod Touch

Two weeks, I acquired an iPod touch. I guess through the gifts of Karma, I get to experience the iPhone/iPod Touch phenomenon. So, I thought I'd do a slight review and comparison between the different devices I have.

I chose the shuffle after reading several reviews, but one review in particular sold me (click here to read the review). This is one tuff little cookie of an MP3 player. I have the 1 GB model, and it holds about 5 audiobooks, and 10-15 more podcasts depending on their size. 

What I like:
  • I love it's size. It's actually smaller than a Sweet'n'Low pack, thicker, but not much. The controls are simple. 
  • I like that I can quickly start, stop, forward, and reverse. 
  • The battery life on the iPod Shuffle is long enough that I haven't been able to leak it all the way down yet. I've gone a whole week without a recharge, playing it for a few hours a day. 

What I don't like:
  • I don't like that I can't load on OGG files, WMA files, or other types. 
  • Sometimes, when I connect the Shuffle to the desktop, it resets the bookmark on an audiobook or podcast, and I have to fastforward through the entire thing. Fastforward seems to go at 3 second forward jumps. Not very fast.
  • I don't like that I can't see what's playing. Occasionally, I'll have several episodes from one podcast show, and I can't tell which one I'm listening too. As a trade-off for the size, this is one that really doesn't bother me too much, but was a thought.

HP iPAQ rx3715

I've had my toy for almost 5 years. With the Rhinoskin aluminum cover, it's held up pretty well. Held up externally, at least. The biggest problem I'v
e had with the rx3715 is the earphone jack. I've sent it off to be repair once at a resonable cost, but it broke again a year later. The right earpiece is the only one that works. If I was really into music, I'd be upset. But since I listen to audiobooks and podcasts, it's that that big an issue.

What I like:
  • I like that Windows Mobile OS is somewhat like Windows. Close enough that most anyone would know where things are. Adding programs is actually easier on Windows Mobile than it use to be. With Windows CE, you had to add programs from your Windows desktop. With Windows Mobile, you can download programs wirelessly, and install them right from your device.
  • I like how many wireless hacking tools are available for Windows Mobile. I can use my toy for site surveys. Yeah...we'll call it that; Site Survey.
  • I like that I can download podcasts and audiobooks directly to the device.
  • I like that I can sit it on an infrared keyboard, and write. 
  • Battery life is pretty good. As long as I don't use the wireless access too much, it lasts a long time.
  • I have a library of 15,000 ebooks in all kinds of different formats, and the rx3715 has programs available for all of them. I usually keep at least 500 ebooks on that toy at any time. Just because I can.
  • I like that I can download ebooks directly to the toy.
  • I can add podcasts or videocasts any time I want, as long as I'm wirelessly connected.
  • I can control all of the TV's, DVD players, and stereo's in our house with it. Very handy, especially when we've lost the original remote.
What I don't like:
  • I don't like the problems with the headphone jack. This seems to be a common defect on this model, as there are a few PocketPC vendors that has a specific service fix for the issue.
  • I could do without the whole stylus thing. I've gone through at least six.
  • It has the older 802.11b wireless card. Works, but weak. 
  • It's a bit heavy and bulky. But, that's only in comparison to newer gadgets. In it's day, it was the best of the best.

Let me start off by say; This type of interface is the future of how we will interact with a computer. For at least the next 5 years, the laptop will become less important, and devices like these will increase. Rapidly.

What I like:
  • The touch interface is awesome. Apple really got this right.
  • WiFi is fast.
  • Lots of applications.
  • Pretty much everything I do online can be done on this thing.
  • I can put almost all of my podcasts and audiobooks on this device.
  • I makes a good alarm clock
  • Except for Microsoft Reader books, most of the eBooks I have can be put on the device.
  • Battery life is pretty good. A bit better than the iPAQ.
  • I can be used as a wireless 'jumpdrive'. Yeah...that's right; wireless!
I'm going to stop there before I fall deeper into the Mac Cult. I've got to hold to my Penguinista mentality.

What I don't like:
  • It doesn't work with Linux. At least, not yet. But, I don't hold any confidence that apple will produce a version of iTunes for Linux.
  • No way to read Microsoft Reader ebooks, yet. This isn't a show stopper, but I'd still like to be able to read my 800 .lit ebooks on the iPod Touch
  • It's not an open platform. I'm curious how Google's Android will be. I'm waiting for that to come out before I decide to upgrade my phone.
  • No camera on the iPod Touch.
  • No capability of making video on either. 
  • I can't control the TV's, DVD's, or stereo equipment.

Category Winners:
Versatility: iPAQ rx3715
Portability: iPod Shuffle
Useability: iPod Touch

Edit January 5, 2009: The Stanza app on the iPod Touch/iPhone with 2.2 update allows for some MS Reader .lit file to be used. Basically, all my .lit ebooks can now be read on the iPod Touch

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Citius, Altius, Fortius

It's the Olympic motto. Faster, Higher, Stronger.

There is a distinction between gold medalist and Olympic Champions. I don't think there is a word for what the difference is. I did an earlier blog about one, my favorite Olympic moment - John Stephen Akhwari in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. For the purpose of this post, I think it bears repeating:

To this day, I tear up hearing those words. "...they sent me 5000 mile to finish the race."

Do you remember who won the marathon in 1968? They said it in the video. Even people who where in Mexico City for those games don't remember, but they remember John Stephen Akhwari. Akhwari, even though he came in last -with a broken leg, still beat 17 other competitors who didn't finish.

Citius, Altius, Fortius - Faster, Higher, Strong. I'll let you decide which it is.

Fly Like and Eagle

Another Olympic favorite story for me: Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards

Edwards, a ski jumper from the United Kingdom -the first Brit to do so. He trained with used or donated equipment, and was extremely short-sighted. His glasses and goggles usually fogged to such a degree while training, they were rendered useless.

On his jump in 1988 Calgary Olympics, Eddie came in last. But, he'd jumped his best, threw his hands up in victory on his landing, and the crowd roared for him:

From the Wikipedia Entry on Eddie The Eagle:
At the closing ceremony the president of the Games singled him out for his contribution: "At this Games some competitors have won gold, some have broken records and one has even flown like an eagle." At that moment, 100,000 people in the stadium roared 'Eddie! Eddie!'. It was the first time in the history of the games that an individual athlete had been mentioned in the closing speech.

The President of the IOC singled out the last place finisher, not the gold medal winner. Even ski jump fans will remember Eddie The Eagle before they remember who won that event. Who was the real Olympic Champion of the 1988 Ski Jump competition?

Citius, Altius, Fortius - I think Eddie's nickname implies which one.

Cool Runnings

Did the gold medal winner of the Bobsled event of the same 1988 Calgary games get a movie made about them? Does anyone even remember who won the event that year? Or, do most remember who showed up?

Jamaica stunned the world by showing up. And, they had a successful movie made about them.
Citius, Altius, Fortius

The Eel
Eric Moussambani, from Equatorial Guinea, had never seen an Olympic size pool till he walked into the venue in 2000 Sydney Olympics. He'd only started swimming eight months before the race, practicing in a hotel pool. Moussambani proudly represented his country, and had to do it by himself, in front of an Olympic crowd:

While the video above is done by a pair of comedians, the performance of Moussambani, while imperfect, is still very memorable.

The Gold Medal winner is not always the Olympic Champion.

Citius, Altius, Fortius

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Linux Beauty

Can you do this with Vista or OSX?

Monday, July 28, 2008

HTML class done, but not done with Valencia Community College

Taking the html class at school really helped. I think the pace of the online class was a bit much for the amount of material covered. I'm going to keep learning web publishing. Eventually, coding programs directly on an OS will be obsolete. Unless your program to run a warp drive, or hyperspace jump stuff. Don't even get me started on how bogus a transporter beam would be. Let's just say, I agree with Scott Adams.

Unfortunately, my days at Valencia Community College aren't quite done. Evidently there is one little 1 credit course I have to take to graduate, then move on to University of Central Florida. It's a 'job search' course. I hear it actually helps some people, especially with resume preparation. When I first heard I had to take one more course, I was really discouraged. I'm wanting to get to UCF, and get done with it. Move on. But, that irritation lasted a day, then I was fine with it.

I'm going to spend the next few months focused on studying for, taking the tests, and getting as many IT certifications as possible before December 31. I already have the A+ certification, so next:
  1. Network+
  2. Security+
  3. Linux+
After that, I'll start on the MCSE stuff (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer). I'm loath to go there, but I need to (like I actually know what loath means).

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Pace of Ubuntu

Since Ubuntu 8.04 LTS Hardy Heron came out I've been receiving updates almost daily. No exaggeration. Daily. Not just system updates, but updates for different programs I have installed.

Microsoft does updates once a month, the second Tuesday of each month. And, they only update Microsoft software. Apple isn't much different.

Now, granted, much of the Open Source Software is in the alpha or beta stage, so frequent updates are expected. But Windows XP and Vista aren't really much different. Even after seven years, XP still feels like the beta version, and Vista is barely alpha. Sure, it works, but even after the service pack, there's STILL the file transfer problem.

In a recent article, Windows, OSX, and Ubuntu were compared for system and security update server 'up-time'. This was based on the servers being 'pinged' every 5 minutes. Windows won, with zero downtime. Mac came in second, and Ubuntu came in third with one day, five hours, and 45 minutes of downtime.

I have machines with Window, Mac OSX 10.5, and Ubuntu 8.04(.1). In the time between April 1st and June 30th, I received updates from Microsoft about six times. My install of OSX 10.5 is recent, but I've received two updates from Apple. It would take most of this blog to tell you how many updates I got from Ubuntu in that time. Not just to the system software, but individual program updates. Updates from Ubuntu come in almost daily still.

I'm wondering if Open Source Software is growing faster. I mean exponentially faster. It's quite possible. But, when I listened to the most recent episode of LugRadio (their last episode, evidently), it seems that big projects like have organizational problems that hold back progress (not just OO.o -they're an example). It seems the bigger the project, the slower the pace. Still is growing fast than MS Office. MS Office is still far ahead in functionality -or so I'm told. I've used only for over a year now. I've not experienced any functionality problems. I do admit to the most basic use of Office applications, so I'm not pushing the envelope there.

Maybe it's just my perspective -being that I watch things like this. It may take awhile for Open Source projects to match or best proprietary one, but I think it will happen sooner than most think. As more desktops and servers have Open Source installed on them, the momentum will be unstoppable. Until the asteroid comes, that is. Or Yellowstone blows. Or global warming melts everything. Or we trash everything, and Wall-E has to save us.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Introducing Baby Gavin

This is baby Gavin, about 15 minutes after he was born. He was looking around at all of us.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Pretty fly for a

If you're Apple user, consider this question carefully:
Would you still use Mac OS X if it could be installed on any type of PC?

I believe most people move to Apple because they were seduced by the pretty equipment. I'll give Apple that; they make good looking hardware. Others moved to Apple because they liked their iPod. The Mac vs PC commercials have been pretty successful at moving people to Mac.

Apple hardware is expensive. They usually go with the best stuff available at the time of manufacture, and make sure it runs on OS X. Price is the biggest obstacle for most people who'd like to buy a Mac. When money is tight, there's little choice when the laptop PC is $600, and the Mac is $1200. Yes, there is the Mac Mini. That does bring OS X closer to the masses, but the Mini hasn't been that great of a seller. I'd get one, but I'm me.

If you could go to Wal Mart, back in the electronics section, up to the software wall, get the recent upgrade to OS X (we'll call our imaginary version 10. 7.22.1 "Ferral Cat"), take it home and install it on your laptop or desktop PC, would you do it?

If so, why? Besides the malware issues with Windows, what other reason do you choose or prefer OS X over WindowsXP/Vista or Linux?

Knowing me, I'd rush to the Apple store, get me a brand spanking new Mac Book Pro, and have buyers remorse before I got to my car. I'd keep the computer, though. It's pretty.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Security or what?

Best line I've heard in years:

"It's not a question of Security vs Privacy. It's a question of Liberty vs Control!"

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Security Updates

I'm of the mindset, "Once a system has been compromised, it can't be trusted." If I find malware on a computer, be it Windows, Mac, or Linux (unlikely for the last two), I complete wipe it (Dban), and reinstall the system. It's funny to me that people still call it, "reformat". We've passed the Windows 98 days, folks. If you try to simply clean the system with anti-virus/spyware/adware solutions, you can't be sure the problem is gone. Only by wiping and reinstalling can you be sure.

Wipe the hard drive:
Tutorial on using Dban: Iron Geek

Some information on reinstallation:
PC World - Step By Step, reinstall Windows - How to Reinstall Windows without losing your data
Chris Parillo - How to Reinstall OSX
Dartmouth - Reinstalling OSX

Reinstalling Ubuntu is about the same as the above information. You can install Ubuntu from the DesktopCD, or the Alternative Install CD. Free Geek Central Florida gives a copy of Dban and the Ubuntu DesktopCD with each FreekBox.

But, you then hit the problem of how the malware got there in the first place. Wipe/reinstall won't stop the problem from happening again. It might - if the original problem happened from a vulnerability that's been recently patched- but it will probably happen again.

Once you're wiped and reinstalled the system, don't forget to do ALL the system updates. This is especially important on Windows.

Most malware comes from manipulation the user in order to get to the system. Email attachments, malicious scripts on websites, malware imbedded in picture files, and 'cross site scripting' are just a drop in the bucket of social engineering. The hard part is to learning how the original problem happened.

If you're a home user, a simple wipe, reinstall, update will take care of most malware and vulnerabilities. But, if you're an organization with 5 or more users, that simple procedure won't be enough.

What will be enough depends on the size of your business, the importance of the data, and what you can afford. That is whole 'nuther book, not just a blog post.

Use the anti-virus/spyware/adware products and programs to detect if you have something. If you do, don't bother 'cleaning', 'quaranteening'. Just wipe and reinstall.

Free anti-malware resources:
ClamWin -This is what I use for Windows
ClamXav - ClamAV for Mac
ClamAV - for Linux/BSD

And don't keep your personal files on the same disk as your system. That's just asking for trouble.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Render Me This

Last week, I listened to the recent episode of the The Linux Link Tech Show, with special guest Campbell Barton - Technical director of Big Buck Bunny. Big Buck Bunny is an animated short movie created using Blender, a free open source 3D content creation suite, available for all major operating systems under the GNU General Public License. Blender is an incredible program maintained by The Blender Foundation. And, like many open source programs, it's completely free. Blender also has a huge community, lots of free training information, and The Blender Institute behind it.

I was really impressed that Big Buck Bunny was created in less than a year, but a fairly small team. Campbell Barton gives a good insight into the process that helped create Big Buck Bunny, and how it pushed Blender to increase functionality.

When I first heard of Blender, I took it as an alternative to something like SolidWorks, or possibly even Pro Engineer, but I may have been wrong about that. Then again, I could be wrong about being wrong. Either way, Blender tends to be used more for content creation than solid model design and engineering.

Today on the Linux Today news feed, I saw this article about the creation of Helmer -a 24 core, 48 GB ram clustered machine using a Helmer filing cabinet from IKEA- for just $3500 in parts. Many companies offer rendering server farms to accomplish this tasks for unbelievable costs, but Helmer (and I hear Helmer II is almost complete) can be put together by almost anyone with a A+ certification. There's even pictures of the building process and documentation on the Helmer page. I wouldn't be surprised to see Helmer Servers showing up at IKEA stores soon. What appeals to me is that Helmer might make an incredible Ubuntu LTSP Server.

A small company could use just one of these (probably the Helmer II at 50 Teraflops!), or even two or three, to produce animated movies like Big Buck Bunny.

So, watch Big Buck Bunny here, then buy the DVD!

Big Buck Bunny from Blender Foundation on Vimeo.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Green Screen Space

I now see the point of having multiple desktops, but I don't think multiple monitors are necessary. Here's my setup at work:

My home computer has only one CRT monitor. It used to be a 21" model. I decided to try a 19", and found 19" is perfect for me. 21" is just too big.

At work, I've also found that while I have two monitors displaying stuff. I really only use one at a time.

Since Beryl and Compiz/Compiz-Fusion came out, I didn't really see the usefulness of anything like the Desktop cube, wall, expose, all that eyecandy stuff. I sit now with new information. I'm going to flip-flop.

It's been claimed that having a second monitor brings up productity 20% in the average office. With the cube, a person has 4 "monitors". With enough memory, video graphics and such, using the cube is incredibly productive, and using the engery of only one monitor.

So, Compiz-Fusion is green software.

Friday, May 16, 2008

An Almost Edubuntu Nightmare

Tomorrow, Free Geek Central Florida will be installing the Edubuntu LTSP system in the Interventions Unlimited school. I'm looking forward to it.

But, last night, I was sweating it.

Wednesday or Thursday, a bunch of updates came through for Ubuntu. One of those was a security update for openssh. As usually, I installed all the updates. But, from experience I decided to test the server/client. I set up one of the clients, booted into the server, and all seemed well. At first.

The Ubuntu login screen appeared. I entered the user name, then the password. Then.....nothing. I just said, "Verifying Password. Please wait...." I did just that. I waited. And waited. And waited. No login happened.

By now, I was on the edge of a slight panic attack. Not of of my full blown freakouts that happen when all my patterns change at once, but a "Oh NO! I'm going to have to stay up all freakin night!" panics.

I quickly searched the Ubuntu Forums, and found a post with the same problem. There was no answer, so I bumped the question up by dittoing the problem for myself. Within 5-10 minutes, there was a reply and a solution, from someone in Melborne Australia. I followed the instructions, rebooted the server and the client, and the login worked.

Disaster and a sleepless night averted.

We'll be taking pictures of the installation. I'll post them here, and on the Free Geek Central Florida Blog.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Peer Reviewed Software

Maybe Open Source Software isn't the term we should use anymore. When I say, "Open Source Software" to the average person, they reply with, "I have some band-aids, if you need them." Other times, people reply, "Shareware." I have to reply, "No. Shareware is so 1990's".

The term Open Source seems to give businesses the heebie-jeebies. I've heard one business person say, "I ain't using that commie crap. Give me good old capitalist stuff." I'm sure the Good-Ole-Boy network helped him get his job.

Open Source also seems to imply that the code base is just out in the wild. Available to anyone. I feel much more confident with Open Source, but if I took a look at the code, I'd have no idea what I was looking at.

When I worked in exercise research, the professors refused to even look at anything that wasn't Peer Reviewed. It also had to be independent of corporate involvement. Never mind that our checks had an exercise company's name on them, and not the University's.

The other day, I explained to someone that Linux was Peer Reviewed, while the code for Windows wasn't available for Peer Review. That made more sense to him that the term, Open Source. I also explained that Linux code was a meritocracy, while Windows wasn't. The best code made it into Linux, but whatever code was close to being ready made it to Windows.

While Linux is Open Source, I Peer Reviewed Software might be a better term. It implies that the code has been looked over -which it has- been reviewed by industry peers- which it has- and submitted for use -which it has.

I'd like some comments on this idea. Thanks.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Edubuntu Victory!

Since my Network+ class, I've been working on setting up an Edubuntu LTSP (Linux Terminal Service Project) classroom. The stumbling block was getting old Pentium II computers to PXE boot. Most of the older machines don't have a PXE option in the BIOS. I'd tried to use the to make a bootable disk, but wasn't having any luck at all.

The new version of Edubuntu is different. Instead of Edubuntu being a completely different distribution, it's an add-on to a regular Ubuntu installation. To install an Edubuntu server or workstation, you install Ubuntu from the Alternate Install CD. If you want to create a server, you press F4 after selecting the language, and choose the "install LTSP" option.

The first Alternate Install CD I burned, I used the new Brasero disk burning utility. Everything seemed to checkout okay; MD5 checksum and disk integrity looked good. The installation when well until it had to install LTSP chroot. Each time it tried to install, it failed. After several more disk wipes and reinstallation, I tried burning another disk, this time using GnomeBaker -the utility I'm used to. On the next install attempt; success.

Free Geek Central Florida also recently got a donation of three enterprise level 24 port switches. I plugged one in, plugged the newly installed server up to it, and plugged my laptop to the switch. Netbooted my laptop by pressing F12 at boot, and it successfully booted in the the server.

I still had the problem of getting all the older computers to network boot. I surfed back to While looking through the list of individual Network Card drivers, I noticed a gPXE:all-drivers option. "Okay, that looks interesting." I downloaded the image, burned, and booted an older Pentium II up. It booted right into the Edubuntu server. I think this netboot image should be on the Edubuntu site.

So, this morning, I feel on top of the world.


The next task is to install the classroom in the Interventions Unlimited center.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Monday, April 28, 2008


No...not stoners. Computer users.
In my IT classes, IT message boards, and other areas, I found that many IT people often blame users for computer problem. The infamous ID ten T error (IDIOT), or "the problem is between the computer chair and the keyboard". I disagree. Users aren't idiots, and they shouldn't need to speak binary to use a computer.

Windows is a excellent system. Yes, I actually said that. Windows is easy to use, easy to install software, and very user friendly. The problem I have isn't with Windows. I have a problem with Microsoft's business practices, especially those practices that led to a 95% market share (probably more, actually. I also have a problem with the code for Windows being closed source, and not just in the ethical sense. I feel safer when source code is 'peer reviewed', so-to-speak (or write). From what programmers tell me, much of the closed source software is closed, not just for business reasons, but because the code is so full of garbage the programmers would be embarrassed to let it out.

Windows is an excellent system because is easy to use. Between Ubuntu, Mac OSX, and Windows, Windows is probably the easiest. I'd say Ubuntu would be next, but I'm sure I'd get heat from the Maccult people, so I won't say that. I'll just think it. (Thinking) OSX is an excellent system, and also easy to use, but not as easy as Windows. Microsoft has invested a lot in research for usability, and it shows. With millions of computer users, usability feedback is readily available.

All the system copy each other's 'usability' ideas. Window managers, desktop layout, file managers, Graphical User Interfaces, etc. While some of the companies may like to think they have software patents on some of the ideas (like Microsoft and double-clicking the mouse) those patents will eventually fall when challenge. That, or the companies will realize that the USA's stupid patent laws are holding innovation back.

Mac OSX has some usability features that help users. Primarily, for most tasks, there is only one way to get something done. I call this the 'franchise' approach.

McDonald's tries to create all it's equipment so that you have to try to mess up. Ideally, everything at a McDonald's would be so easy to use, the user wouldn't need an education to perform the task. Mac OSX seems to follow this model, and for the most part it works well.

I use and recommend Ubuntu for two reason:
  1. Of all the Linux distros, it's the most usable for the common person. I know the PCLinuxOS people will complain, but I'll remind them of one thing: PCLinuxOS is rpm based. Nuff said.
  2. Ubuntu, like most Linux distro, give you the ability to lock-step usability like Mac OSX (with Gnome), or have incredible variety and choice like Windows (with KDE). Gnome provides choices too, but Gnome is easier to use for the average user.
The reality is; what we now know as the Graphical User Interface will change drastically in the next few year. Windows, Mac, and Linux will progress fast. Usability will increase also.

The difficulty of computers today is NOT the users fault.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Bohemian Rhapsody on Acoustic

Yes, I've been a bit off the Tech and Linux stuff lately. Final Project, and Finals, don'tcha know:

Thursday, April 17, 2008


For years, I've told this story. I got the date and place wrong, but now I know the details. I got the words right, and to this day I can't repeat them without a tremor in my voice:

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


I know this isn't tech relevant, and you've probably seen at least one of these videos, but I just like them:

Monday, April 14, 2008

WarGames: The Dead Code

I'm actually looking forward to this:

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


Every so often I read complaints about how the Ubuntu name is spread too thin. Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Edubuntu, Gobuntu, Fluxbuntu, nUbuntu. There's a few more, but that's not the point.

Some people say it should be; Ubuntu Gnome Edition, Ubuntu KDE Edition, Ubuntu XFCE edition, Ubuntu Educational Edition, Ubuntu Server Edition. The server edition actually exists, but the others were already named above.

Okay, Ubuntu and Linux folks: BUNTU is the base name, if you didn't notice. So there's no need for that Ubuntu (insert favorite desktop) Edtion.

However, I propose changing the name to Boon2. We could have, OoBoon2, KooBoon2, ZooBoon2, EDooboon2. That way, people could have their base name. Then again, some would clamor for Boon2 Gnome Edition, Boon2 KDE Edition. You get my point. Freaking naming Nazis.

I don't really care how they name it.

Speaking of Naming
I understand the point of GNU/Linux, but like most others I refuse to say, "Ganew, slash, Linux." I don't say, "FreeBSD slash Darwin slash Aqua"when I mean OS X, or "EnTee plus Windows." The work done on GNU is a very important part of any GNU/Linux distro, but I prefer to call each by their own name.
OS X (Mac is the hardware)
Puppy Linux
Damn Small Linux

Those are ones I use. I don't go around explaining, "Ubuntu is a Linux distribution." I tell people, "I use Ubuntu on most of my computers", to which the usual response is, "What?" When I talk about Ubuntu, Fedora, SUSE, I don't bother explaining about Linux. Linux is the underbelly of those distribution.

Of those operating systems above, only Puppy and Damn Small have Linux actually in the name. If Linux is part of the name, then it should be called ____ Linux.

Most people who own a Volvo, Mercedes, Audi, or BMW don't care all those cars are assembled at the same plant in Belgium, and share some of the same frames. Most people don't care that almost all laptops come from three different plants, two in Taiwan, one in China. All they care is that the Operating System, car, or laptop works. Maybe they should care (I do), but they don't.

Most people don't know, and for them most part don't care, that alternatives to Windows and OSX actually exist. They don't even care most of them are free. But upcoming economic conditions may change that soon. When people don't have the extra money to spend on constantly upgrading to a newer, faster computer, systems like Ubuntu, Puppy Linux, and Damn Small Linux will be very important.

So, call your system whatever you want. I'm not a naming nazi.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Say Anything

My feelings about working:

Monday, March 24, 2008

Thou Shalt Kinda-Sorta Covet

At work, they gave me a 2.4 GHz Core2 Duo with 2 GB ram, 160 GB hard drive, NVIDIA GeForce 7300 LE graphics card, and a pair of 20" LCD Monitors. It has Windows XP Professional, fully updated, of course. It's nice:
At home, I have an older Dell GX260, upgraded the CPU from 1.8 GHz to 2.26 GHz, 1 GB ram, a 200 GB hard drive -dual boot Windows XP Professional and Ubuntu 7.10 Gutsy Gibbon, NVIDIA GeForce4 440 graphics card, and one really big and heavy 21" CRT monitor.

To be honest, I can tell only a wee bit of speed difference between the two. Some webpages load a bit quicker, but you have to really pay attention to notice. If I used Flight Simulator or Flight Gear, I'm sure I'd notice a difference. Otherwise, I don't really do much to tax my home system. Adding another gig to it might help with MS Virtual PC, but other than that, I have no need to upgrade.

A couple of weeks ago, a nice HP, 2.8 GHz, 160 GB hard drive came in. I was temped to change over to that one, especially since it could go to 4 GB of faster memory. That would be nice when working with multiple virtual machines. I played with different graphics cards in it, and had visions of sugarplums dancing on my screen.

A few days after f0ndling the HP, installing and testing Windows and Ubuntu Hardy on it, I realized the machine would work much better for the Edubuntu Classroom I'm working on. Especially since it can go to 4 GB of memory -something really important in Linux Terminal Services. I re-wiped the hard drive, and installed Edubuntu Server on it. I'll probably wipe it again and install Edubuntu Hardy on it, when it comes out in a month.

The upgraded Dell GX260 I have works just fine. Better than fine. It's not slow at all, has enough memory for what I need, and is extremely easy to work inside. Even my mammoth of an HP laptop (should be called 'portable desktop') works just fine. I have no need to get a new computer, or even take another donated one.

Maybe the commandment, "Thou shalt not covet...." should have been:
"Thou can covet for a short time, as long as you eventually come to realize you didn't really need or want what you were coveting."

It would be nice to have two big LCD monitors at my home computer, though.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Advantage of No Money

My new job is excellent. If you watch the IT crowd, it's like that, but at a University. In the last few days, I've:
  • Set up my workstation
  • Replaced 14 computers in a computer lab
  • Installed more memory in all 14 computers
  • Nuked the hard drives from the old 14 computers
  • Set up 3 iMac G5's
I did some more stuff, but that's what I remember so far. The time change has left me with sleep deprivation, and brain fog.

What's really cool is that everything I've been doing, I learned mostly from my experience with Free Geek. At school, I've learned the fine details of how and why things work, but Free Geek has provided a hands on experience that I don't think I could have gotten anywhere else. In school, we had some hands on experience, but a lot of the learning environment is simulation. Some of the simulations (Samacademy, for instance) were not very good. Others, TestOut for instance, were very good, and very helpful. But simulations just don't provide you with enough problems to overcome in the real world. Free Geek provides you with almost every problem you can imagine.

Free Geek has also provided a major unexpected advantage over others in my field: I've had to learn how to do things cheap. I haven't had the advantage of money to spend on equipment. Maybe, I should rename it, Redneck Geek. Then again, I guess that would be redundant. In trying to make things work with no money, I've had to be very creative, very resourceful, and very patient. Luckily, I'm already a patient person, and Free Geek has helped me exercise that character trait.

Taking that to a University IT department can be a major plus. While others are use to having a budget to work with, I haven't had that luxury. Taking that mindset -frugal computing- to a business can be a major advantage, especially in an interview.

"I've collected, repaired, and rebuilt 50 or so computers. I've practice careful data destruction, and on occasion, consumer-level computer forensics. I've installed the system in those computers, delivered and installed them, and provided support for those computers. I've also set up a classroom network using terminal services. I've done that with absolutely no money or budget."

For a IT student trying to get a first job in the field, Free Geek is a major help.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Forbidden Fruit

Last week, Nancy and I took some furniture to my stepson. On the way home, we stopped at The Mall at Millenia for dinner. I had a Giro. I like Giros (or, would it be Giri?). After that, we walked around so I could do my usually grumbling at all the over-consumers, so I could justifiy my lack of income. Anytime we go to the Millenia Mall, we stop by the Apple store.

(Image from Flickr - not me)
This is about how crowded the Apple store at the mall usually is. I've been to the mall a few times, and many of the other store may have few, if any, customers, Apple is always crowded. I'm willing to be they have people waiting at opening, and must do 'last call' a few times before closing at night.

It easy to see why Apple has such a cult status. Even I get drawn in to the beautiful machines. Deux ex machina. The sleek, smooth curves, wonderful lines....SEE! There it goes. The reality distortion field is real. I'm willing to be its alien technology.

Apple does make good equipment. Their OSX operating system isn't half bad either. Far better than Windows. They also have programs like Garage Band, iMovie, and other such iLife stuff that make content creation very easy. When it comes to content creation, OSX is way past the rest of the bunch. Even Microsoft programs seem to look and work better on OSX. Most people think they need MS Office, but NeoOffice works just fine, and writes in .doc format. should soon have a native aqua version for OSX.

Content creation is where the future of the internet is moving. Content for entertainment, news, and especially education. The easier it is for anyone to make content, the easier it will be to become an 'internet star'. Apple is making the path to internet stardom almost thoughtless. While businesses are moving to collaborative environments -where the emphasis on good hardware is greatly reduced- content creators will still need good hardware. For business, a thin client will do, but to record, edit, and publish an audio or video lecture on Quantum physics, you'll need high quality equipment. Even business will need good content creators. Apple is in the lead on content creation.

It always takes me great strength to walk out of the Apple store. Being an Ubuntu fan boy, it's still difficult to leave. Even while walking away, I hear myself saying things like, "Well, it is based on FreeBSD", and "There's lots of Open Source software for OSX", and "I could really use it for (insert rationalization here)", and other such nonsense. In reality, without the distortion field, I covet those beautiful machines.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Ubuntu Server

I've acquired a copy of Beginning Ubuntu Server Administration:

I've picked out a rather beat-up machine to use for server practice. I've tried hacking it through by myself, but I get stuck trying to network it. I'm going to follow this book, and learn as much as I can this way.

Why Ubuntu Server? Why not Red Hat, SuSE, or at least CentOS?

I'm somewhat good at short term trend predictions, especially in technology. I think Ubuntu's mastery of desktop adoption will carry over to enterprise level server adoption. As Ubuntu desktop grows, the server will follow. While I don't think too many are going to abandon their Red Hat installations, I think many new servers will be set up with Ubuntu. So, this is a skill I need to learn. While I could do it in a virtual machine - VMware or Virtual Box- I'd rather set it up on dedicated hardware. I want to make it work in a real setting. While virtual machines are important for more things than I'm aware of right now, they still seem more like computers in Second Life.

By the time I learn what I'll need in Ubuntu Server, it will be a necessary skill for most IT people, especially ones that claim to know and use Linux. That, and I want to show Nancy that The Command Line isn't Cranium Command - a no-longer-used audio animatronic show at Epcot in the Wonders Of Life pavilion.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Edubuntu LTSP update

We've run into a stumble. It seems most of the computers will not boot to the network. There is a selection in the BIOS to enable network boot, but without PXE, it's a no-go. So, I visited the Ubuntu LTSP documentation site, and found instructions for creating etherboot disks. Now we have to boot each computer from a Edubuntu LiveCd, find the type of Network Interface Card, look it up on ROM-o-matic, and create a CD or floppy boot disk to boot to the network.

An LTSP set up isn't easy. It will help keep older hardware in use, if we can get it to work right. This first setup we're doing will help us learn what to expect for the next network we create. Hopefully, the next setup will be easier.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

New Job

Last week, Nancy saw a job in the classifieds. An IT help desk position for UCF. I sent in my resume. Good thing I check my spam folder often. The response came there, instead of my inbox. I went in for an interview on Thursday. Panel style interview. In retrospect, I realized it was the first interview for me. First ever. They hired me.

I'll be working in IT, at a University! A University I'll be going to in the fall.

I was born a luck child. Times like this make me look for Frey over my shoulder.

I'm really curious what it was that led them to choose me. I'll ask in the next few week, and maybe post about it.

This job is about getting experience in the IT field. Free Geek has really helped with that, and I think it may have been a part of their choice in me. But this job will show me how things work in a large environment. I hope it will push my knowledge around a bit. Show me what I need to learn.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Edubuntu Classroom Project

A few weeks ago, I decided to take on a project. A person on Orlando group asked for computers for a new school. Interventions Unlimited works with children with learning or behavioral difficulties. Right now, most of their kids are autistic. I asked about the possibility of helping set up an Edubuntu LTSP (Linux Terminal Service Project) system for them. After listening to The Linux Link Tech Show podcast episode 217, I wanted to do an LTSP. This would be the perfect opportunity for me to learn how to set up that system. I'm taking Network+ right now, and asked Professor Brunick if my group could use this for their project. He agreed, adding it to a larger overall project for the class. I set up a single Edubuntu workstation for the school to try out, and see if they liked it. They liked it, and accepted the offer. Hey, who's not going to accept free.

I had most of the equipment we needed in Free Geek Central Florida storage, except an appropriate computer to be the LTSP server. As the Law of Reciprocity works, one came in that weekend.

A Linux Terminal Service setup requires only one computer to be the 'big boy'. The other computers can be older. For a general terminal type setup, only a 200 MHz with 32 mb ram is needed. For a good Edubuntu implementation, 400 MHz, 128 mb ram, and 2 mb video is recommended. The teachers server is the only one that needs to be a powerful computer. It doesn't need to be as powerful as todays computers, but it would help. The teachers computer dishes out everything to the 'thin client' computers. The client computers don't have a hard drive; they boot from the Edubuntu server. All the client needs is a processor, monitor, keyboard, mouse, and a network card enable to boot the computer. Everything is run from the server/teachers computer, but shows up on the client computers. This type of setup enables many business and organizations to convert to Ubuntu/Edubuntu with very little setup costs. Most business could convert and use their current equipment for many more years. Sorry Windows. Okay, I'm not really sorry.

There a several ways to setup this system. The picture below is the one we choose for this set up:

Because this is a school, with kids, the system has to be able to filter internet content. Dansguardian is the primary content filter Linux uses. The Internet has to come through the server so it can filter bad things. You know. Things like stories about The Skull and Bones at Yale.

So, I brought the stuff to school:
Above, we're installing the Edubuntu system. The server is a Compaq 2 GHz Sempron, 512 mb ram, 164 GB hard drive. It would help to eventually boost the memory to 2 GB.

Here, we're booting one of the students laptop from the Edubuntu server. The laptop has only Windows on it. Being a Compaq, you can press F12 to boot from the network.

Once you have the system set up, any student can log in to their own log in name, and have their information at any of the terminals. Everything stays on the server hard drive. In the future, I want to figure out how the kids can log in to their system from home.

There are a few things that would make this system better:
I've added a wireless PCI card to the server. It might be easier to access the internet wirelessly, or is might be possible to get some of the terminals to boot from a wireless card. That would be a really big benefit to some schools and business.

If you'd like detailed information on the Edubuntu LTSP thing, checkout the online book:

So, if any of my readers have had experience building and installing an Edubuntu LTSP system, please email me ( ), or leave a comment.