Thursday, May 26, 2011

Good video on "5 things I like about my Mac"

At the risk of spamming this blog with FearedBliss's videos, I thought I'd toss in one more that I've seen, this one which actually might surprise my (non-existent) viewers: one about a Mac.

FearedBliss isn't exactly the most unbiased reviewer I've ever seen, but that's perfectly fine. I know for a fact he uses Linux, and Arch at that, so he's not one of those people that lives in Mac. He just likes Mac. And that's fine.

Before the embed, I'd just like to share a comment that FearedBliss had in response to a Linux fanboy doing what they do best: pushing Linux.
1. This is a video on 5 things I like about My Mac. I wasn't trying to convince you nor do I care about convincing you.
4. Again, these are my points, Mac has all "I" need, not "you".
 I love that last one. "Mac has all I need, not you." Anyway, here's the video.


Elementary: Very simple, very awesome Linux distro

About a month ago while I was looking for my Linux distro, I got recommended a newer Linux distro called elementary. It's not what I was looking for in a desktop system, but it did impress the hell out of me.

I wouldn't call elementary a lite distro; the live ISO is 600MB. But it is very simple and very polished. The best part about it is the few hand-picked applications it has. It's got a browser, a e-mail client, a contact manager, an IM, a dictionary, a photo manager, and even a few office apps. Other than a few extras like Brasero for disc burning and some GNOME apps, that's really about it. The thing that is good about these apps is that they are all very lite. Midori is my favorite lite browser, and instead of, they've chosen Abiword and Gnumeric. They could've gone with a lighter IM client, like AYTTM, instead of Empathy but I doubt the difference would be noticeable.

On top of all that, you've got the Ubuntu Software Center, since elementary is based off Ubuntu. But honestly, the default applications seem to mesh so well, I can't imagine using the Software Center for much.

I haven't had the chance to try out elementary outside of a VM, but I definitely know where I want to: netbooks. This seems like an absolutely awesome netbook distro. I'm kind of confused as to why the ISO is so large; 600MB seems bloated for what's installed, but I haven't even installed it in a VM yet so maybe the install size is still less than 1Gb. In any case, as much as I still love Peppermint, if my EEE netbook were in working order, I would install elementary in a heartbeat.

Not much else to say. I do recommend that you check out elementary's website which has several screenshots and samples of a few of the apps.

Good video on "Why it's better to buy 2 small drives rather than 1 big drive"

This is something that I personally have been wondering about for a long time. I've known that RAID existed and generally what it does, but I really thought that it's more for servers and (since I don't have a ton of money to buy a ton of drives), I've never found the means to set one up.

But in any case, after watching his last video on "What Desktop Linux needs and its problems", I browsed some more of FearedBliss's videos and found one about this topic. It's really informative, but very easy to understand; I myself didn't know about LVM until watching this video. Check it.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Video Vednesday: L4D in 2D

I love 2D remakes, so I was stoked when I found a video about L4D in 2D. It's always so fun to see aspects of the game you know so well in 3D torn back through time into an era of Player Select screens and whatnot. The coolest part about it is definitely how well it syncs up to the No Mercy campaign. Every scene is more or less the exact same as the stage in the 3D version. Obviously the gameplay is different....really different; you don't really have to worry about zombies bursting out of walls or corners, and there's no AI director. The most disappointing part about it is that there aren't all the special infected, but I can see how that would be hard, especially since it's one player and what do you do if a Hunter has you pinned all by yourself?

It looks like they finished the game so I'll give it a looksee and see if there are any more elements added. Just think of the video as a taste.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sansa, I am dissapoint

My mother really needed a new MP3 player since her iPod Nano couldn't hold a charge for longer than 30 minutes. I decided to get her a new one for Mother's day and since her computer now runs Ubuntu, there's no real reason to get her an iPod since there is no iTunes.

I shopped around, avoiding the new iPod and anything Sony (since I'm still mad about the whole geohot lawsuit), and the only real quality devices that could hold ~16GB without being crazily expensive were Sansa. I was ok with that, because I bought a Sansa Clip+ a while ago and I really didn't end out using it, but it was still a really neat device. But my mom had continually remarked on how small it was and I thought she might like getting a better screen, so I got her the c240 and a microSD card.

After getting the device, I was impressed. It felt solid, had a decent UI, and the only real downside was the absolute horrid viewing angles on the screen (which I knew about ahead of time). But as I'm trying to set it up for Mother's day, I can't find the option to turn it from MTP to MSC. Then I learn that Sandisk removed that functionality in a firmware upgrade. Linux doesn't play too kindly with MTP. Ok, not too big a deal, I could still get music to and from the device, even though Banshee gave me hours of problems.

After hours of copying, I finally get all the music on the microSD and I stick it in, but the c240 freezes. Well, I look around, and apparently Sandisk let the Clip+ support all the way up to 32GB, but the c200 series only up to 8GB. Can you smell the stupid?

I now have a device that is perfectly acceptable in terms of hardware, but is limited by the firmware. Can you smell the stupid? And it's not complicated features, it's small stuff that is available on all their other products: MSC and microSDHC support.

It's not like it's a tragedy; I can still use the microSD with the replacement that my brother found (a Sansa Fuze 8GB for $40...AMAZING deal) and if I install Rockbox, it removes the annoyances (although Rockbox is not user friendly enough for my techno-challenged mother), but now I just have an mp3 player that I really have no use for. All for lack of functionality that should not exist.

+1 for meme usage,

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Netflix randomly stopping playback

Don't get me started on how long Netflix Instant hasn't been available for Linux. I'm (reluctantly) ok with using VirtualBox for the time being, but even inside a VM, for some reason, Netflix Instant Player randomly stops playback. The video is still buffered to a point but the video just stops. The only way to start it up again is to reload the page. Not too bad, until it starts happening every 2 minutes.

If I can remember correctly, a while ago I was watching on Netflix and it froze and I said "Screw it" and continued to go about my business leaving it frozen. A while later (like 30 minutes to an hour), it randomly starts playing again.

I know that my network isn't the greatest, but I never had this problem while using Windows and it doesn't seem like a VM should make a difference. Maybe I'll run a cable and see if a wired connection is any better, but it seems more like a Linux-connection to VM-Windows-connection problem to me.

If anyone has any clues, let me know. Or Netflix would just hurry up on its Chrome Plugin...

[UPDATE 6-2-11]
I upped the RAM and that all but solved the problem; now it freezes maybe once an hour. It's still a stupid problem, but alot better than it used to be.

So if you happen to be having this problem in a VM, make sure you're giving it plenty of resources.

Use a school (Cisco) VPN without the Cisco client

This may seem obvious for some, but for others, like myself, who really don't use VPNs that much, this might help. I know for my school, at least, they provide the Cisco client, but really, I would much more like the ability to integrate the VPN into the system more, especially in Linux. So here we go.

1. Install whatever software you need.
I can't remember if I ever got it working on Windows, but as for Linux, in order to use a Cisco VPN, you need vpnc, and to integrate into KDE (I believe network-manager-vpnc) or probably some other little package for GNOME integration. You might have to reboot after installing them.

2. Snag the Cisco client your school provides.
My school actually provides a TAR which is wonderful but if you aren't so lucky, you might need to download the installer and install it on a Windows PC (or use Universal Extractor, though I haven't tried that so no promises). So download that, find the PCF file that you need. (There should be a PCF file for every different connection that the school offers. For me, there was one for the main campus and one for the medical campus.) Inside this file is all the information you need, so go ahead and open it.

3. Decrypt the group password.
I think it's just a VPNC thing, but my school has a user password and a group password, the latter of which is given to you, encrypted. So use this website by The Campus Geeks to easily and quickly decrypt the group password. Thanks so much, Geeks of the Campus!

3. Add a new VPNC connection.
It's difficult to explain this for for Windows, GNOME, KDE and OS X....all I know for KDE is that it's in Network Management settings under the VPN tab. If VPNC doesn't show up as an option, you're probably missing a package. But if you can add one, it's a simple matter of copy-pasting all the info in. So here's what's what, for KDE anyway: (PCF on left, KDE on right)
  • Host = Gateway
  • GroupName = Group name
  • env_GroupPwd = Group Password (decrypt it first, skimmer!)
 Also make sure you fill in User Password and Username, which you should know, silly!

That should do it! It works for me anyway. The only problem is I don't exactly know how to access my shared network drive yet. I think that on Windows, it's as easy as browsing the network after connecting to the VPN, but for me, no network drives are available. Maybe it's because I'm not logged in with my school username and password on a Windows machine, but meh


Friday, May 20, 2011

Official Shoutout to The Linux Action Show!

I've mentioned them several times, but I wanted to give an official shoutout to The Linux Action Show! By far my favorite Linux podcast. Bryan and Christ both really know what they're talking about, tell their unbiased (or openly biased) views of current events, and make it very fun and funny doing it.

Also, I'd like to give a broader shoutout to Jupiter Broadcasting as a whole. After discovering LAS and watching about a dozen episodes, I checked out some of the other shows such as TechSnap and Jupiter@Nite and found that even without Bryan randomly getting pissed at Fedora, every episode is filled with good info. Here are the shows they've currently got running:
  • The Linux Action Show!: Talks about Linux news, reviews, apps, etc.
  • TechSNAP: In-depth talk from two IT professionals about tech news and concerns. (I'm not an IT professional, and I still find it fascinating!) 
  • Legend of the Stoned Owl: Talking about gaming on Linux.
  • Jupiter@Nite: Just a really quick video about an assortment of topics, aired every night.
  • STOked: All about Star Trek Online!
  • MMOrgue: All about MMOs (Massively Multiplayer Online games), beyond reviews and gameplay.
  • FauxShow: Not really a show with episodes, just one you can tune into live; about anything (I think).

They're pretty much everywhere you can think of in every medium. They've got the videos on their website and also on Youtube, they stream all of their episodes live over at (including an IRC chatroom) for video and also in multiple formats for audio (including Shoutcast), they've got a blog (run mostly by Chris, I think) over on Tumblr, a forum over at JupiterColony, all of them are on Twitter....what else is there?

I really have been enjoying Jupiter Broadcasting lately; I've even found myself listening to their re-runs over audio stream on my way home from class instead of listening to music. And if you read this blog regularly, or even happen to stumble upon it by Google, I recommend checking out their shows.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Epicly epic song "Nerdgasm"

Prepare to have your socks rocked off, and every geek-culture reference you can think of wrapped up in one (oddly sensual) song. NSFW

WHY YES, it is available on Amazon MP3.

Notes on Suggesting Linux

Avoid these:
1. Few people care about open-source.
If you try to tell your family member or anyone who isn't a nerd that they should use Linux because it is open-source, they will not care. Even if you explain what open-source is, they still probably won't care because they sure as hell are never going to look at the source for any of it; all they will care about is that it is free. Open-source software is definitely awesome and that is a very valid force for many people, but not the majority. Most people just want to use their computer, period, and don't really want to get into the ethics of licensing and Richard Stallman and whatnot. Most people just want to check their e-mail and surf Facebook.

2. The forums aren't really that spectacular.
Yeah, this depends on the distro, but seriously, don't go out there just telling people that Linux has great support in the form of forums. This point is purely from personal experience because I'd say that at least 75% of the threads I've started on the Ubuntu forums (the forum for the largest distro out there) have either never gotten a response or were inconclusive for a fix. And it's usually not the first result when Googling. Don't get me wrong, definitely mention the forums, but just don't inflate the community's reputation. In my opinion, it would be better to lessen the chance of them not switching presently than for them to switch (you're still planting the idea), get frustrated, and never come back.

3. There is more than the community.
It is awesome that Linux is open-source software and that means that people all over the world can and do contribute to the development and it's even fine to let people know that (even if in simpler words), but don't be afraid to mention teams like Canonical, Novell, and Redhat. The misconception alot of times is that FREE = CRAPPY, mostly because they don't think free software has the resources of a big company. Tell them they're wrong. (Nicely!) Enlighten them that many of the Linux distros are backed and funded by big corporations, the only difference is that companies are committed to being user-oriented, because that's what open-source software is all about.

4. WINE is not a motivator, for the love of god.
To anyone switching from the Windows side, the appeal of being able to run their old apps in Linux is definitely a requirement. But unless you absolutely know that they run well under WINE (not just "run", "run well"), don't go throwing WINE out there. At very least, give them fair warning that WINE doesn't work perfectly or with every program. Even if you mention that WINE is a Windows emulator, most users will hear that as "You can run your Windows apps exactly the same".

Attempt these:
1. Fight the stereotype that only nerds use Linux.
More and more, especially to distros like Ubuntu, it's becoming increasingly easy for everyday users to use Linux -maybe not on the same level as other Operating Systems out there, but still, really quite usable. Take an extra note to remind them that no, you don't have to be fluent in the command line to use Linux. (Also, if they do decide to switch, make sure to tell them that middle click pastes into terminals. From personal experience.) But you can tell this honestly; ever since switching to Linux about a month ago, I think there has been 2 things I've absolutely had to do via terminal, and they weren't activities normal users would do.

2. Be truthful. Even with the faults.
This is not a contest; you're not trying to just get one more notch on the walking stick, even if that person decides to switch back the next day. Linux is about genuinely helping people and so should your desire to help them switch. Your end goal shouldn't be to get them using Linux, it should be to get them to use and love Linux. That means including things like yes, programs like Photoshop or iTunes will not work. Yes, you may and probably will face a problem here and there. Yes, gaming on Linux is not on par with other OSes. Don't necessarily bring up Linux's shortcomings, but if they mention something like gaming on Steam or using iTunes every day, you want to be honest. Be realistic.

3. Remind them that Linux is increasing leaps and bounds.
Since they're probably used to other Operating Systems that seem to never change *coughWindowscough*, it's awesome to mention that Linux is always changing with great new features. (Also make sure to mention that these updates are optional.) But don't take it too far and act like every 6 month release is like a new OS: be realistic. Tell them that it's just evolving, at a rate -in my opinion- that is faster than ever before.

4. Bring up the programs that are cross-platform.
Firefox runs on Linux, as does Chrome, Pidgin, GIMP, Inkscape, and that is a big motivator for people thinking about switching; it was a big motivator for me, and I would consider myself more of an advanced user. But I still wanted the same programs I'd always used, and the more cross-platform programs, the more motivation. It helps to create a seamless move, even if the UI is different in KDE or GNOME or what have you. And from my own personal viewpoint, I really don't give a rats ass about alternatives most of the time. In addition to people just wanting a familiar program, some alternatives are just too different or unpolished. From my own experience, I tried every single alternative in a VM before deciding if they were actually adequate replacements. I'm not necessarily saying to never suggest alternatives, but just don't suggest it to a potential switcher like it is the same app they are used to; make it clear it is different.

5. Free Sample!
Above all, let them try it for themselves. Live CDs/DVDs are a wonderful thing. If you have the chance, sitting down with them could be great too.

Credit where credit is due: I pulled this post together from my own thoughts, but I collected the thoughts together after reading the post entitled "7 Shit Ass Reasons Why People Should Try Linux" over at Help For Linux. he makes valid points, many of which snuck into this post.

I haven't actually ever tried to suggest Linux to anybody (I need to find more nerds...), so if you have any comments of your own, feel free to make them.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Video Vednesday: Mario Bros. GTA

I'm not a GTA fan, but even I found this video awesome. It takes real talent to transform a plumber that jumps out of pipes and collects mushrooms to a gangster and his brother. As always, there are plentiful references that add to the humor, the character designs are spot on, and the music in this video is actually very well suited. All in all, it's very funny, and I recommend checking it out: "New Mario Bros. Movie Trailer".

Anyone else catch the "Well excuse me, Princess!" Zelda reference? Haha!

A very brief thought

I rooted my phone a little while ago and the process involved moving Linux utilities over and getting Android to run them. If that's the case, and the Transformer has already been rooted, wouldn't it be simple to just move GRUB over onto the TF and then be able to install Ubuntu, Debian, or MeeGo?

I know it's possible to "run" Debian or Ubuntu on Android devices, but it involves chroot and VNC, which basically runs Debian inside a VM (not really, but close enough). I'm talking about a full on install: GRUB with an option to boot the ARM version of Ubuntu that could even be on your MicroSD, and also an option to boot into Android.

Actually, I wonder why Asus doesn't ship it with the ability to install other OSes. It's not like anyone's really going to put Windows CE on it and the only other OSes I know of that support ARM are Linux, and even just a handful at that, and even out of those, MeeGo is really the only one I would want on a mobile device like a tablet. But still, even with that limited number of options, if they gave the option to dual boot into both Honeycomb and MeeGo? Ohhh......It would be sweet. It would be good for MeeGo, it would be good for Asus (providing optional functionality is always good), but it might be bad for Google. I don't really see people buying an Android tablet and then solely using Linux on it, but I guess it is something Google would have to worry about. But still, one can dream.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A boy and his tablet

I've made a specific point to avoid talking about it, but I've wanted the Asus Eee Pad Transformer ever since it was annoubed at CES in January. Badly. For a while it was a toss up between the Transformer and the Slider, but in the end, the Transformer won out. It might feel like I'm being a hypocrite since I ws rather harsh on the iPad 2 and I even just posted a few quotes about tablets not replacing the PC, but I never thought or said that tablets were bad or even a bad idea; I just said that they weren't groundbreaking.

Anyway, after fixing my eyes on the Transformer, I started watching intently, checking up on news and updates daily. I followed the UK release and eagerly awaited it to cross the pond. Then I heard that it had a release date: April 26th. The day eventually came and I stayed up all night, waiting for the release. I checked at midnight, still no word, so I made myself busy, figuring that it would launch sometime in the morning. Then I checked again at 6. Sold out everywhere. I was sleep deprived and knew that it would be several months until they could restock it. I mean, it was just downright depressing; I don't have a big paycheck so I don't get alot of the goodies until they come down in price or are obsoleted by something shineyer. This was really going to be the first tech item I bought at launch. But I missed it. So with great sorrow, I made a preorder on one of the few sites that still had the option, and went to bed.

Fast forward a month. I've already accepted that I either have to wait until Asus starts producing more or buy one from the evil fencers on Amazon. But I still check back every now and then, watching reviews and whatnot. Then I see that Microcenter had it up for sale. Backorder? Nope, 3 in stock. I place the order and go to bed, still doubtful that they actually had any. Come 10am, my phone buzzes with a reservation confirmation. BOOYA. So I hop in the car, pick it up, and LOVE IT TO DEATH. I actually ended out taking it to work and all of my coworkers (none of which who are nerds) thought it was really cool. I haven't picked up the keyboard dock yet, but I typed this entire post on the soft keyboard and although it's not ideal, it's still very good (after some getting used to.

"Sold out"
Later, in the Hall of Justice...
"In stock"

As a quick closing, I want to say kudos to ExcaliburPC, the site I originally preordered from. I contacted them to ask what their policy was on canceling preorders was, and they replied the next day saying you could cancel at any time with no fee. Then when I finally got the Transformer from MicroCenter, I asked them to cancel my order with them and not even 3 hours later, I got a response and my refund. That is exceptional customer service. Even though I cancelled the order and never completed a purchase with them, I'm probably going to buy from them again since they've shown that they're committed to providing me with the best customer service possible. So again, kudos.

The "Eee" stands for "Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! <3"

Epics quotes from LAS

To end the whole "The desktop PC is dead, it's all in the mobile now" mindset that I seem to hear alot (and see, with certain companies pushing certain products), here are two quotes by the guys over at the Linux Action Show:

"[Tablet users] are a different market. They're a different kind of person with a different need."
-Bryan - 27:53

"It's not that [the PC] is dead, it's just that it no longer has to fill that need for the people it wasn't appropriate for in the first place."
-Chris - 27:19

On a related note, I recommend watching all of that video, or at least the part where they talk about the Chromebook; they touch on a lot that I could quote, but what's the point? Just watch the video.

First thoughts on ChromeOS

Google's funny in that alot of times, it likes to make a grand ol' entrance with fireworks shooting off and lights and such, and then other times, they just kinda try to sneek by without anyone noticing. At least that's how I felt about ChromeOS. I mean, seriously. How long ago was ChromeOS announced? It's not like it's that hard of a concept; it's basically Linux + Chrome - Everything else. How long can it take to actually get moving? I can only speculate that maybe they had complications finding the right hardware

Anyway, when I very first heard of ChromeOS, I had mixed emotions. I was a fan of Google so I was glad they were throwing their hat in the ring against Microsoft and Apple, but after looking at pictures, I really was left with just thinking ".....and?" I mean they are definitely pushing the Cloud, there's no question on that. And I'm definitely not saying that the Cloud or ChromeOS is necessarily a bad thing. How much local storage do tablets have? Do people care? (Rhetorical question: negligible, and no.)

The major thing that I found unappealing is that it is only supposed to be supported on a handful of devices. First of, it's based on Linux. You know, the OS that can run on pretty much anything? Secondly, restricting what an OS can run on (even if just for performance) just screams "Apple" to me, which is not a road I want Google to go down. Or any company, for that matter.

Well, as ChromeOS eventually becomes a reality (if it ever does), more specifics roll in. Apparently a Chromebook will ship for $400-$500. First off, I am a little dissapointed that while Chromebook is vastly different than most Linux distros, the hardware will essentially be the same. A netbook. If you've ever used a netbook, you know that they're great in some areas, but not so much in others. Secondly, the pricetag seems way beyond what anyone is going to pay. As Bryan and Chris mention in the Linux Action Show, you could go out and buy a cheaper netbook with way better specs, install Ubuntu or some other desktop distro (or hell, even a netbook one....or even Android), and get "exponentially" (as Bryan put it) more features at less of a price.

And it's really not so much the price, it's the price with the features. A $400 netbook is not unreasonable; a $400 web browser is. And the fact that it's parent is Linux, which has features galore, is just that much more disappointing. By buying a Chromebook, you're willingly giving up functionality that would have been there for a full Linux distro while retaining the price tag.

If you want to see an amazing counter-example of this, look at the Boxee Box. A while ago, I tried to look around and see if I could make -from scratch- a comparable HTPC that I could install Ubuntu+Boxee on. I couldn't get within $50 of the Boxee Box, much less the size and aesthetics. The point is, yes, the Boxee Box may not have all of the features of a full Linux distro, but it is also a fully optimized little device at a price that can't be beaten. If you try to compare a Chromebook to an Ubuntu netbook, they aren't even comparable in terms of features and are relatively close in price.

One of the reasons I tend to views this as such a bad move is the rise of tablets. It's hard to believe, but back when ChromeOS was first announced, HoneyComb didn't exist, and we were still on the iPad 1. Fast forward and we've got tablets galore, reaching down to $99 and can essentially do all that the Chromebook is claiming to do.

Above all, I think Google needs to do one of two things: (1) It needs to find a way to cut the price down, or (2) it needs to find a niche, because it's really going to fail if it tries to compete as just another netbook. One could say that the "instant-on" is a niche, but really, I've never been concerned with a quick power on for my netbook, and guess what is great for always being in standby? Tablets and phones.

I guess I just don't see the appeal of one myself, and I even heavily depend on Google's services. It's things like this that make me think that Google has maybe got a few gears loose.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Microsoft finally lost it with "To The Cloud"

I realize that these commercials have been out for quite some time, but I just haven't been able to make a post on it because they are so amazingly stupid, they left me speechless. That's not even an exaggeration.

Microsoft's brilliant marketing (Remember "Windows Mohave"? Yeah, that kind of 'brilliant') decided that since "cloud" seems to be a hotword in technology today, they would build off that. Only problem, nothing they talk about has to do with the cloud. At all.

The one that makes me facepalm the most is the "Family Photo" commercial. First, let's let's make it dirt simple: "Cloud Computing" is -according to Wikipedia-
the provision of computational resources on demand via a computer network.
Let me point out a word for your Microsoft. Network. Net. Work. Pulling up Windows Live Photo Manager doesn't have shit to do with the cloud. (I'm not even going to mention how absolutely retarded they expect us to be to believe that editing a photo like that will actually look good.)

I'm definitely not alone in this. In an amazing article entitled "Microsoft’s “To The Cloud” Commercials are Embarrassing", the author pretty much says exactly what I've said so far. (I promise, I started writing this post before reading the article.) Here's a good excerpt of trying to get inside Microsoft's (seemingly nonexistant) brain:
From their commercials, it looks like Microsoft thinks the cloud is the internet. To be fair, some people used to refer to the internet as a cloud, but these days it means Cloud computing. But if their commercials instead said “To The Internet”, they would be much more accurate.
I highly recommend reading the rest of that article; it really tears Microsoft a new one.

On a brief note, let me state that Microsoft's marketing has been shitty for a while. Remember "Windows 7 was my idea"? In one commercial, a guy talks about wireless printing, file sharing on a network. That was available at least 10 years ago for Windows. I set up wireless printing and file sharing on Windows XP almost a decade ago, and it was probably around in 2000 (I dunno, I'm a youngin). And god knows how long it's been around on Linux!

Microsft needs to get their heads out of their asses and do two things (1) stop treating us like we're idiots, and (2) stop treating us like we're idiots. One of the reasons I hate Apple's marketing ploy is that it expresses things in very basic matters, but at least they are (sometimes) true. Microsoft is just being idiotic. By releasing the stupid "To The Cloud," they're telling all of the people who know what the Cloud is "We really don't know what's relevant anymore," and to the people who don't know, as soon as they learn, they're just going to think "Wow, Microsoft doesn't even know what it is." If Apple puts itself off as the cool roommate that knows what's happening, Microsoft puts itself off as the creepy older next door neighbor that is desperately trying to seem hip.

That's why I love Linux companies because the users are so involved that they won't accept bullshit like this. Even Canonical, the most "sugar-coating" of all usually offers things in a true, although slightly glamorized way.

Microsoft, you want me to fix your marketing, it's easy. (1) Pick something modern and relevant: don't push features that have been around for forever or are stupid. (2) Be upfront and honest; people seem to respond well to being told the truth. (3) Don't try to copy Apple because that clearly doesn't work for you.

Watching those commercials brings up so many emotions: rage...pity...but mostly just disappointment and a little humor-happiness, because I think it will definitely drive more people to use Linux or BSD, because no one wants to trust their OS to a company that is that fucking stupid.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Current issues in Mint 10 KDE

  1. Compositing hates Video (or vice versa): If I try to watch a flash video, say from the Linux Action Show while I have compositing turned on, it slows my performance down to a crawl. Thankfully, turning off compositing is just a hotkey away (Ctrl+Shift+F12), but it's still kind of annoying. I might try to look at it and see if a certain effect I have enabled is causing the disturbance.
  2. Dropbox not syncing: Although this is probably due to me trying to use kfilebox, it's still really, really annoying. After I got all my files sorted out, there are new folders I've created that just aren't appearing on my account.
    On top of that, it's still running at 30+% of my CPU, doing god knows what, since my files still aren't online, and since I'm using kfilebox, I can't even see what the tray icon says its doing. But it still eats up resources, sometimes causing my system to come to a crawl even without compositing enabled.
    It turns out it was trying to sync some KDE dotfiles that were constantly in use, which made it fail to start. I'm a little bummed, but not too terribly. Also, I caved and just installed the official Dropbox app; I haven't had any problems with it and KDE so far, and kfilebox is just too unpolished to use.
  3. Akonadi breaks: I don't even know what Akonadi is or what it does, but apparently it's needed for things like Kmail and Digikam, both of which just broke. It's only happened once and a reboot fixed it, but it disturbs me that I don't even know what Akonadi is, and it's breaking itself. I've tried briefly to fix it, but since I don't even know what it does (something with SQL....mySQL?). Digikam seems to be working again, but Kmail is still broken.
    But the worst part about it is that I don't think I broke it at all; it broke itself when I originally tried to start Kmail....for the first time. Yeah, out of the box, and I can't even get the integrated KDE mail application to work. (But Thunderbird works fine, which makes me laugh. A GNOME app outperforming a KDE app in a KDE environment? Haha.)
  4. Wifi issues: For some reason, my wifi has just been real shoddy ever since I switched. It works, and as far as I know, I have the right drivers installed, but when I first boot into it, even though I'm connected, no data is flowing. I have to keep telling it to connect over and over again until I get a true connection. Definitely the most annoying part about this is Kopete which pops up a new notification every goddamn time I disconnect.
    Furthermore, I keep getting dropped for a few seconds (which I can actually remember happening back when I had Windows XP with this same network card). I'd say I've been dropped probably 3 to 4 times even since writing this last post. (It's not normally that bad though.)
    The fact that I did have this problem for WinXP, then it was fixed for Win7, then it's here again in Mint makes me think that it's definitely not interference, it's a driver issue.
  5. Plasma-desktop freezing: I know that KDE 4.0 was disliked in part for being unstable, I was just hoping that KDE 4.6 had advanced beyond that. I think I might have fixed it, but it had gotten to the point where it would freeze up 30 seconds after starting every time I started it, making my system unusable.
    See, I tried switching the desktop Layout to "Search and Launch" which apparently trashes all of your widgets. (Or at least makes them invisible.) But a Gmail widget was still running because I could see pop-ups, so I uninstalled it. I also removed a CPU monitor from my panel, because I've heard that might cause a problem.
    Like I said, it's working for now, but I'm not that trusting it will stay that way.
  6. Banshee failing at CDs: Undoubtedly the most frustrating error I've encountered. I just don't get it. It reads the CD. It gets the Disc ID. It queries MusicBrainz. It always returns false. So if I want to rip my CDs (with Banshee), I'd have to manually tag them. The weirdest part is that it was working on my family's Ubuntu 10.10, and even after the upgrade to 11.04. Then I went upstairs and tried it with the same CD, and no dice.
    Then today, I happen to launch Banshee and what do I see? "Give Up by The Postal Service". asdf. asdf asdf asdf.
    Also, it only detects a CD on startup, meaning I have to restart Banshee to detect a new CD. Not too big of a deal and I'm betting it's because I'm on KDE instead of GNOME......?
    I am definitely not marking this one solved, because nothing changed, but it fixed itself. The only thing I can think of is some bizarre connection issue or MusicBrainz itself being down.
A major issue is that I really need to figure out where my resources are going. I've been using System Monitor (no, I do not use Htop) and sometimes it says init is using 80% of the CPU and I can tell even at a glance that the running processes don't add up to that.

I wish I could say they're minor issues, but due to a few, it's getting to the point where I am heavily annoyed around 50% of the time I'm running my box. (Try downloading the Natty ISO when your connection drops every 4 seconds and you have to keep pressing "Resume" in Kget. You'll see what I mean.) Hopefully, though, there are fixes:
  • A certain effect could be causing the compositing to get techy, or just switching it off when I'm watching LAS (or other videos) is really fine with me. The real problem is remembering to turn it back on, heh heh.
  • If worse comes to worse, I think I can just install the Nautilus version of Dropbox. Problem solved!
  • God, I don't even know. Akonadi's errors are so cryptic....
  • I've read about using alternative drivers with my network card (D-Link DWA-556), which might work better.
  • Again, really hoping it's a certain widget. I have a feeling that the widgets I had before are Still Alive somewhere, I just need to find where and delete them.
  • Goddamn you Banshee, why do I love you?

So I've at least got ideas for all of them, and honestly, besides these, there really aren't that big of issues, other than the theme deciding to randomly quit a few times, a few icons not showing in Banshee or mint-install, and the system randomly freezing for no apparent reason once. (Ok, that last one is actually a big problem, but I'm too lazy to look into the logs yet, so let's wait until (and if) it happens again.)

This might sound bad for Linux, but honestly and truly, I had an equal amount of comparable issues on both Windows XP and 7, they were often just easier to ignore.

If anyone has solutions to any of these or perhaps even shares the same issue, feel free to post. Maybe we can hivemind and find a good fix for them.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Video Vednesday: CoD Parody

This has got to be one of the most spot-on parodies of online play ever created. If anyone has ever played with the annoying person who left their mic on, you'll find this hilarious. I urge you, watch "Call of Duty Online Parody". Your sides might very well be in stitches.

Oh god, I laugh every time.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Complacency will be the death of Linux

I doubt anyone who uses Linux will really disagree with the title of this post (but I could always be wrong). If there's one thing that I've learned about Linux users, it's that they like everything to stay the same, especially the Debian/Slackware/Gentoo fanatics. Sure, they might like updates, but for the most part, it seems like they just like things exactly as they are, and to hell with you if you want to change it!

Example 1: Linux FS
While browsing around a while ago, I found an Ubuntu Brainstorm about a "New Directory Structure" because the suggester "think[s] it's pretty clear that the standard Unix directory structure is outmoded."

Here are a few of the responses. See if you catch a few trends:
  • If you want something like that, use OS X or even GoboLinux as you recommended.
  • It's worked fine for decades and I think it should stay the same.
  • The current standard has worked for decades, it's a radical departure from the way windows does things, but it makes sense once you understand why it's done that way.
  • The Unix file structure is very intuitive. What's wrong? 

I may be a newb, but I know that the filesystem is the way it is for a reason. Irregardless, it disturbed me that almost all of the negative comments I said basically fell into
  1. That's how it's always been.
  2. If you don't like it, don't use it.
It just still shocks me that people can be that obtuse today about something like Linux. Comments like that always remind me of a comment by Ben Collins from an article I mentioned.
"Look, we can go back and forth on who should be "cool enough" to use Linux, but that's not what I'm writing about. It's easy to say "we can't make it dumb enough for you, so you go use the lame Windows/MacOS". However, it takes real talent to make something simple, and powerful."
That addresses the "don't like it=don't use it" response, and as for the "that's how it's always been," I just find it astounding that people actually think that just because something is still functional it's not worth tweaking/redoing. Unix was first released in 1969, when machines had 700kb of memory; things have changed. I again want to emphasize that change in technology =/= a required change in method, but it should at least require a second look at the method.

On the flip side, here are a few positive comments:
  • People need to start facing reality and just start admitting, that the linux directory structure is only friendly to experienced users (it takes a while to understand it fully, and many experienced users I still doubt knows what opt is used for).
  • Maybe not the same structure as Gobo, but renaming things to /programs /config may be a start.
  • Yeah the unix structure has *worked* for decades, but so has my gasoline engine.
  • What part of /usr/local/bin do you immediately understand without a manual? 
  • Linux is the only "user friendly (tryhard)" OS with an non-intuitive filesystem now. 

Example 2: Unity
Another perfect example is Unity. Let me perfectly clear: I don't mind Unity. It's definitely not my first choice, but from the moment I booted into it, I enjoyed using it. Of course not everyone shares my thoughts on it, and one such video I happened upon entitled "Unity: 3 Rants And a Tip" was a perfect example of someone who doesn't like Unity.

He does make some good points, I'll concede that. But throughout the entire video, he continually just keeps comparing Unity to his GNOME2 layout, which is pointless because Unity was not designed to be GNOME2. He basically just picks the three biggest changes in Unity and say that they "bother him," with the reason ultimately boiling down to them being different. And that really is the heart of what alot of reviews and opinions of new features that many people have: different = bad.

I'm definitely not saying that Unity is flawless; a good yin to the above yang is the guys on the Linux Action Show who review Ubuntu 11.04. The guys are really good about stepping back and viewing things as a usable experience, not comparing it to what their used to. They cite specific examples as to why Unity is less-than-ideal such as:
  • the new menu system suggests completely random uninstalled software
  • the search is slow
  • the launcher is hard to use with a touch screen
  • the menus is invisible until you mouse over them
  • the menus only work for GTK
  • making a system more friendly to the novice user does not exactly coincide with departing with the Windows-esque way of doing things
All of those are extremely valid points and actually point to certain examples of why Unity is hard(er) to use, which is alot different than just saying "Uh, well, it's different."

The thing that I like is that Canonical is trying new things (new to Linux, anyway). I don't particularly like GNOME 3, but I'm still glad that GNOME is trying new things, rather than just sticking with the same status quo just because they know users will be content with what they've always used. Call me naive, but innovation rarely happens from just tweaking; it takes something big. Yeah, sure, Canonical could release 11.10 reverting back to GNOME2 or GNOME3 or maybe even a vastly different Unity2 and basically say "Uh, yeah, that didn't work out so well for us." But at least they're thinking outside of the box.

It seems like I'm always trying to clarify my position on issues because it seems like people always jump to extremes. For example, just by the title of this post, many people would probably think that I believe Linux needs to change drastically, or that we should never ever question any change in Linux. I don't. I just dislike the people that disagree with a change before they even know what it is, or just because it's a change.

As an un-wishy washy statement, I'd definitely say that yes, I do believe that complacency -if allowed to thrive unabated- will be the death of the Linux desktop. The good news is that companies like Canonical, GNOME, and Novell seem to be quelling the urge to keep everything just as it is, the bad news is that there are still a crap ton of people out there that disagree with them.

If you feel differently, feel free to leave a comment below, or toss a note in a bottle out to your nearest sea. (The first one would probably get to me quicker.)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Is "iOS" just "iApp Launcher"?

After owning both an iPhone and an Android, it makes me wonder, is there more to a mobile OS than just launching applications? The thing I like about Android is that you can kind of piece your own Android system together, including the wonderful ability to choose an alternative home screen. In addition, when you press on, say, a Market link in the Browser, it takes you straight to the Market app and you can then press the Back key and go back to the Browser app, almost like they were just two different pages on the same app. iOS (<=4, at least) is much more....I dunno how'd you describe it, single-tasked? The OS part of it is pretty distinct from the applications; you browse around and then go into one application, then you have to leave to go to the next. Clicking a link in an e-mail zooms you out and switches you over to Safari, then you have to go back to the homescreen (or use "multitasking") to get back to the e-mail app.

Basically it just seems like Android is much more fluid, that everything is connected, and that you just glide from one application to the other. I'm definitely not saying that Android is not at all like iOS or that it is better because when you stop and think about it, that really is kind of what an OS is, especially a mobile one. It provides the base so that you can launch applications, and on mobile phones this is especially true. The only observation I'm making is that it just seems like iOS seems more strict in how it runs.

*shrugs* I dunno, random thought I had a while back. Let me know what you think about it.