Saturday, February 27, 2010

ReactOS

Free Windows! Sounds good, right? Well, it actually exists. Partially. The first time I heard about an open-source operating system built like Windows, in a way that allows it to run Windows programs, I thought "Yeah, in a nerd's dreams!" But apparently some nerd decided to take that dream and turn it into a reality. ReactOS is real. It's the result of attempting to reverse-engineer Windows NT (the platform for Windows XP, Vista, and [I think] 7).

The coolest part about ReactOS is that it has a Live CD, which allows you to try it out before even committing to it. The Live ISO is only around 130MB, which says just how small the bugger is (which is good, in my opinion). The OS itself is pretty nifty. It has a linux-ish feel to it (probably because of the GNOME icons), but it's also kind of Windows 2000 as well. It's a wonderful mix. The Live CD boots in a matter of 10 seconds inside MobaLiveCD.

It's funny because I just had to reinstall Windows XP yesterday, and now today I'm installing ReactOS (on a VM) for a refresher, and because I realized that I really would love to keep a VM of it on my PC. But anyway, the Windows install really freakin annoyed me, because it took forever between every step, and that's the point: there's steps. One of my Linux-nerdy friends always likes to talk about how Ubuntu takes 7 clicks to install, and that's it. Windows takes sitting there for an hour making sure you partition the disk, set the time zone, etc.

Anyway, Windows took like 10 minutes to partition a 40GB disk to NTFS. ReactOS took 2 seconds to format a 2GB virtual disk to FAT. (Oh, ReactOS currently uses FAT, which makes sense, since NTFS is proprietary, and EXT* is mostly for Linux [at least, that's my understanding], which, coincidentally, tells you that ReactOS is not Linux.)

So anyway, ReactOS's installer was built to look a ton like XP's. It just took literally 3 minutes to install to a 2GB disk (with 512MB of RAM to work with), then an additional 2 minutes to configure time zones, set up accounts, etc. Tell me that doesn't top Ubuntu's 7 clicks. I mean, going from an unpartitioned disk to a fully functional, Windows-programs-compatible Operating System in ~5 minutes? Sign me up!

But anyway, it looks completely natural, for a person who uses Windows XP classic theme (like me) and is used to seeing GNOME icons like in Ubuntu (like me). I feel like I'm rambling, so I'll wrap it up. It looks like it's going to be great. It can run programs like Photoshop, games like Halo, and other Windows apps. The only downside is development speed.

I understand that reverse-engineering is more complicated than developing a program, or even developing a Linux OS. But it's just poking along. I mean, it was started in 1998, and is still in alpha. And according to the roadmap, version 0.4.0 was supposed to be released in January of this year, and since they've missed that mark by coming on one month, it just kind of worries me. It seems like the project might die out soon, just because it's not as heavily supported and interested in as other OS's like Fedora or Ubuntu.

And that's not a foreboding curse. I really want ReactOS to survive. I think it could literally change Operating Systems and computers as we know it. Most people don't switch to Linux mostly because it's foreign to them and everything is new (with the exception of programs like Firefox, GIMP, etc). But imagine a free Windows alternative that is customizable because it's open source, and feels just like what you're used to. I think that if ReactOS can push through to a stable version, or even a beta, it could be like the appearance of Firefox in terms of OS's. The main thing that is stopping ReactOS from being really popular (in my opinion) is the little "alpha" deal. Nobody wants to put ReactOS on their main machine [excusing nerds] when the website says "not ready for everyday use." But if they can endure and push through to even a stable beta, I think it could go very far.

So that's my dish about the whole matter. I got bored of Windows XP on my netbook, so I installed Ubuntu, but maybe I'll try throwing ReactOS on it for fun. It's honestly the most exciting thing to a nerd (....er, Aspiring Nerd) like me that I can think of. Since I'm heading into Computer Science as a major, it makes me doubly excited. I'd have to say that in the things that I would like to do after learning how to really program, helping develop an open-source alternative to Windows is at spot #1.

-Bry

Webcomics

Webcomics are freaking awesome. I used to love to read the funnies when I was a kid, and now that transfers over into comics on the web. Here's my absolute favorite webcomics, in no particular order (or maybe alphabetical, but certainly not in terms of favorites) with one of my favorite comics as a sample:

Bunny
Just a really bizarre, random comic about several colored bunnies. It's written by a guy in the UK, so it's humor is a little different than the American humor I'm used to.....ok, it's just weird. I don't know why I like it, but I do. I do love how most of the comics start with "The Bunny ____", and I do love the visual style. But as for the content, I dunno why I love it, I just do.












Dr. McNinja
A friend of mine (who is actually a real nerd) showed this to me a while back, and I have to say, it's freaking awesome. It's about a ninja doctor. Nuff said, eh? But yeah, the humor and art in this comic are both amazing. I also like it because it's more like the traditional form of comic books. There's a story for each segment (40 or so comic pages), and the stories build on each other. Anyway, it's just awesome.










































Garfield Minus Garfield
Garfield was actually the comic when I was growing up. I have so much Garfield paraphernalia boxed up in my closet.....but anyway, apparently someone decided to make a minor tweak: remove Garfield. So Garfield Minus Garfield is basically just Jon being absolutely crazy. I guess I like this one because I've read all the comics up through 2000ish multiple times, so I can sometimes remember what the real comic was like, and it's funny to see it without Garfield.









Lucid TV
More of a dark type of humor....about a hospital where the doctors are pretty much what you don't want a doctor to be. But insanely funny, if you don't mind the (again) dark sense of humor.














Penny Arcade
This one really is one of my lesser favorites, simply because it targets a very specific audience: gamers. I do game, occasionally, but I'm not a hardcore gamer. I don't keep up with all the upcoming games, read reviews on all the sites, etc, so occasionally, I won't understand a thing they're saying. That being said, because I do game sometimes, it can be hilarious if they touch on a game I know. Plus, the humor is really crude, which makes for a good laugh, occasionally. And it's not only about vidya games.



































Questionable Content
The catchline is that it's about "romance, indie rock, little robots, and the problems people have," and there's not really that much questionable content in it, so don't be scared away. I really don't know why I love this comic so much. I'm not really into indie music, but I just love it. I guess it would be that the humor is very witty, it has an ongoing plot, and the characters are very lovable. That and Hanners just cracks me up, for some reason. This sample comic doesn't do the strip justice, but it's totally my favorite, and cracks me up every time. I don't know why.



















































Rock, Paper, Cynic
While this one is called a webcomic (...or is it?), it's more of just cynical and funny quotes put with pictures. But it's still insanely funny sometimes.


















xkcd
The most well known and popular of all webcomics. About random stuff, some of it nerdy, but all around a good laugh. It's drawn in stick figures, but that doesn't take away from the humor in the slightest.

SwagBucks: Version 3.0

If you haven't heard of Swagbucks, the best way I can put it is this: You can earn Swagbuck's online currency called "swagbucks" that can be cashed in for actual prizes by searching the web, referring friends, completing special offers and tasks, or entering in "Swag codes".

First off, a little self history. I heard about Swagbucks a few months ago, and it actually sounded pretty good. I've tried other sites like Scour, which coincidentally SUCKED just cause they changed everything and I lost all my points. But Swagbucks seemed legit, and I joined it because it has Amazon gift cards in the store, so I wanted to use Swagbucks to make a little extra money to pay for some music on Amazon every month.

When I first joined, I made oodles of swagbucks. I hit up codes, got a few searches, and filled out several free offers that basically resulted in me getting $25 absolutely free. (Plus, it turned me on to Netflix, which I found that I love, and am keeping.) So if you're saying, "This is too good to be true!", it's not. It's a good system that works, and I really did make $25 on Amazon (that's five $5 gift cards) within the first month.

That being said, there is a catch. See, Swagbucks has what they call "Special Offers" where you can do things like sign up for a stupid recipes site, download a toolbar, or try Netflix free for two weeks, and all of those give you swagbucks. Sounds great, right? The only problem is, when you first join, you have a ton of free offers you can do to get a few bucks. But after that first month, very few new offers are added, so you're stuck with a list of offers that you've already done and can't do again. So your first month is very deceiving. No one should think that they're going to get tons of points every month, at least from special offers.

Another great way to get swagbucks is referrals. I don't know about you, but nothing pisses me off more than someone on Youtube copy+pasting a comment about "OMG!!!1!1! dis site givs u free $ all u gotta do is join", followed by a referral link. I don't wanna be that guy. I felt pushy just posting one link on my Facebook. But that's all I did. I posted a referral link, and apparently no one clicked it.

I dunno. It just makes me feel so greedy. I'm not really active many places on the interwebz anymore, so I'd have to join a new site in order to try to refer anyone else, and to me, that's just like spamming. So after you try to refer people that you know, what next? Two options: become an annoying spammer, or get no referrals.

So really, that's not a viable way to get bucks either. But another way is swag codes, which are essentially codes that you can enter to get free swagbucks, but they expire after a certain amount of time. The catch here is that the codes are posted literally ALL across the internet: Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Swagbucks newsletter, Swagbucks blog, Swagbucks toolbar, Swagbucks widget, etc. You get the picture. So in order to really be in the know of where the codes are gonna be, you have to follow every single one. Plus, swag codes aren't the only things being posted, and are actually quite rare. So you're looking at literally dozens of new posts to read through, all of them you must read or at least skim to see if it contains a hidden swag code.

If that wasn't annoying enough, swag codes are always given out at a certain time of the day, that is they usually expire about 6-8PM. That's fine and dandy, except I'm never at home then. I'm always either at class or at work. I know that it's technically free stuff and they aren't obligated to give me free stuff, but it just kinda sucks. The codes are so hard to find in the first place, why not give someone a little more time? Like make them expire always at 12:00 AM? Just kinda shuts me out. All I can do is come home and see how many swag bucks I missed getting today.

The last, and most advertised, is searching. You can get free swagbucks just for searching the internet! Well, not quite. When you search the internet using Swagbucks.com, you have a chance of earning swagbucks. That chance, however, is very slight, and it actually seems like they only give swagbucks to people who search very little. I think 90% of the swagbucks I've gotten from searches is the first one I do of the day. It's like they try to rope you in. "Wow! I just won swagbucks on my first search! I wonder how many more I can win!"

The most annoying thing about the searches is that they SUCK. I haven't been content with Google for a while, but Swagbuck's search engine is downright AWFUL. I searched "eforcity" (a site I bought a few techy items on), and below the two sponsored links (that I rarely look at, because they're sponsored, meaning they pay to get put there, meaning they most likely have nothing to do with my search), the next two search results were about the eforcity eBay shop, the one after was a Epinions search for eforcity, and the next was the "Contact Us" page for eforcity. Not the main page, the Contact page.

That's perhaps not the next example, but try to get my point: the search engine sucks. It just doesn't bring up relevant website results at all. So it's very hard to use as a primary search engine when I have to search there in hopes of getting swagbucks, then switch to Google to actually find what I am looking for. I didn't want to use Scour because -although it had great results- it was slower than Google. There's no way in hell I'm going to use a search engine that's not even on the same plane as Google.


So that's kind of my recommendation/rant of Swagbucks day-to-day. But another interesting topic is Swagbuck's two year anniversary (or is it a birthday?). See, they decided to totally redo the site, which is all well and good. Facebook basically redoes their layout every 3 months, so twice every two years is fine with me. Besides, their new layout doesn't look half bad.

What is bad is the stupid change in points. Basically they changed point values by a factor of 10. So I had 25 points before, now I have 250. Amazon gift cards cost 45 before, now they cost 450. Now at first glance, people are happy, because they think "I have 10 times as many swagbucks!" But then they realize that the prices in the stores went up as well, so they think "Well then it really doesn't change anything."

Oh, but it does. Now Swagbucks can give out less swagbucks. Instead of giving out 1 swagbuck for a search before, now they give away 3, or 5, or even 10! Well that's great, except inflation. Giving away 3 is really like giving away 0.3, or 5 is like 0.5, or 10 is just like 1. So now they throw out codes that give you 6 swagbucks, and it doesn't take a genius to realize "That's really only 0.6 swagbucks in the old system." It just kinda disgusts me. Mostly that they try to pass it off as this amazing new system. It's called being cheap.


All of that being said, odds are, I'm still going to use Swagbucks. Why, you ask? Because it's freaking free money! No matter how slow I accumulate it, if I get $5 towards an Amazon purchase over a period of several months, I'm going to do it. And I'm going to go ahead and do this:

REFERRAL LINK:
I already said, I hate pushing referrals. So if you don't want me to get swagbucks off of you, fine, I don't care. But if you want to, that's fine too, and use this link.
http://swagbucks.com/refer/hewhoeatspie

NON-REFERRAL LINK:
If you don't want to give me swagbucks, it's cool. Swagbucks is still a good site, even if you only score $25-$30 off the first month.
http://swagbucks.com


Peace out.
-Bry

EDIT: 3/06/10
I just spent the better part of an hour uninstalling a bunch of spyware that came with the "special" offers. So PROS: enough points for 1/10 of a $5 Amazon GC. CONS: Computer is now junked, and had to run ComboFix. Hmm.....

Friday, February 26, 2010

System.out.println("Hello, World!");

Greetings! I come in peace!

I'm just a normal dude. Well, normal is such a subjective word nowadays, so I guess I'd better define myself. I'm currently a 19 year old college sophomore/junior heading for a degree in Computer Science and Engineering. I like to pretend I'm a nerd, and occasionally, I'll actually do something somewhat nerdy.

So what's with the blog? To be honest, it was a spur of the moment kind of thing. It's certainly not my first blog, and it most likely will not be my last. I was just cruising around the interwebz when I came across a site, and I thought "I'd like to blog this", so I checked "diaryofanerd.blogspot.com" which was obviously taken by some stupid kid who never even posted once. Then I realized that I'm not really even a nerd, so "DiaryOfAnAspiringNerd" seemed more adequate.

Anyway, a little back-history. I mentioned a few other blogs. Other than some personal stuff, I've also had a few attempts at serious blogging (notice the word 'attempts'):

It's Really Dumb...: Just a really fun blog I made about dumb stuff. It was kind of a spur of the moment thing, and I started building ideas, and writing posts. The only problem was, I ran out of steam. I just couldn't keep thinking up ideas for stuff, and to be honest, I got side-tracked with other things in life, and other projects.

FreewareWire: This one was a little more planned. I've always been fascinated with software, specifically freeware (since I'm not made of money). So I decided that I wanted to start a blog about freeware and attempt to download, try, and review literally every freeware I could get my hands on. It's harder than it sounds. I did love reviewing it and finding new freeware, but I found a few problems....(1) there's a lot of freeware. Like, a ton. Even for one little category, like compression, there's dozens, if not hundreds of popular freeware programs, and then there's the less popular ones. And (2) I tend to only like discovering freeware I'm looking for. Like I need a Tweeter reader, so I search around, compare, and find the one I like best. But after I find that one, I find it difficult to use the other ones. The only way to justly review freeware is to use it for an extended time, and it's very difficult to use 7 or 8 web browsers alot. So basically, FreewareWire has come to a screeching halt. I was planning to increase reviews to once every few days, but that hasn't happened. And I feel bad. But meh. Life happens. FreewareWire isn't dead, as I really hope I can return to it one day, but for now, it's going on an indefinite hiatus.

FreewareWire Software: This is kind of embarrassing. I like to write software. Check that, I like to pretend to write software. Instead of using an actual programming language, I use Autohotkey, a scripting language for Windows. But anyway, I have written a few programs in it that have gotten a fair amount of attention. I actually found that one of the reasons I kind of drifted away from FreewareWire is because I found that I enjoy writing software more than I enjoy reviewing it.


So that's me in a nutshell. Well, nerdy me, anyway. If you can't tell already, I get very easily distracted by any new shiny idea that pops into my head, so this blog may last a month, a week, maybe even just this post. But I figure, why not try? If it crashes and burns, oh well. If not, well, then I have a steady blog that absolutely no one is going to read.

As for the content of the blog, it's mostly going to be nerdy stuff, ranging from my opinion on a hardware piece (not a review, per se, just opinions), new freeware I find (but much less comprehensive than FreewareWire), programs I write, ideas I have, etc. Nerdy stuff.

Anyway, that is all.
-Bry. The name's Bry. Well, it's actually Jon, but you can call me Bry.