Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Why Lunduke is hurting open source

I've done my best to stay out of this, I really have. I've held my tongue repeatedly when I've felt like composing a blog post about it or venting in Jupiter Broadcasting's IRC room. But it's getting to the point where it is insulting me as a developer and as a person.

I'll admit that I was already falling off the Bryan bandwagon at the time, so hearing that he was going to open-source his apps didn't exactly blow my dress up. I feel like I have to rehash the story because so many people just don't get it. "Lunduke went open source" is usually the extent of what I hear, but that's not even a 10th of it, and it being regurgitated as Lunduke being this patron saint of open-source is enough to make me physicall ill. So I apologize for the wall of text, feel free to skip to the next section, but the entirety of the story needs to be told.

The Story


Let's start with some history. In June of 2012, Bryan claimed that he wanted to make his software open source, pushing heavily for donations. That's perfectly fine with me. In fact, I love the idea of it. He went the route of kickstarter, and that's cool, for a test. It's pretty much everything that came after is what upsets me.


He wanted to make $4000 per month. First off, even with all of his software combined I have a hard time believing that he actually made that much before. Even if he did, I think I have no problem saying that a large part of that comes from the following of the Linux Action Show, not necessarily on the merits of his software being that spectacular that people just have to have it.

In any case, he wanted to make $4000 in one week as a trial run. This is actually a really good test: donations are bound to taper off after the initial push of it all, so setting a goal in a 4th of the time seems logical. He continued to post updates of the status over the next week and it became abundantly clear that people simply were not as interested as he had hoped. After 2 days he had reached 20%, then at day 3 he was at 30% and at day 4 he was just over 50%. He reached his deadline with around $3000. But instead of calling it quits, he extended it by 5 days. This is where the "experiment" should have stopped. Either Lunduke's expectations were too high, or people genuinely weren't interested in his software. In either case, it was a bad fit and Lunduke refunding everyone and giving up would have excused much of his later behavior. But by extending the deadline for no reason, he forfeited that right.

Now he did reach his goal the very following day. But that's beside the point: He had set a strict deadline and it had failed. I could understand giving it a few more hours, if it was genuinely close, but giving it 5 more days is really kind of pathetic. He knew he would make it with that time, so this is when it stopped being an "experiment" and instead became Lunduke's grab for attention and money.

Anyway, the goal had been reached: OSS was here. The day after meeting the goal, Lunduke open sourced Linux Tycoon, as well as 2299 The Game, as well as Illumination. Well, not quite. He said that the source "will be supplied soon." I don't understand the point of posting an update to an update of something that you're going to do eventually, other than to make headlines and give people the feeling that you've done something, but oh well.

Lunduke seemed to be extremely confident in his experiment thus far, with all his updates and a lengthy post about why he chose the donation model he did, wrapping up with "In the end, I opted for the 'Release everything as GPL and ask for donations' model. And it worked." All seems well, for now.

He continued to vamp up for the next few days, even asking for donations again before the first line of source code was seen from any of his apps, and again when his dev PC died, saying that he needed not one, but two replacements, one of them a Mac. He seemed to be really confident if he was ready to drop $2000 -half of the earned income- on two machines.

The day is now June 11. It has been almost a week since the goal was reached and 10 blog posts later, but still no code, only the promise that he will "begin uploading code shortly," a promise that sounds vaguely familiar as one he did a week ago. I understand that he may have wanted to wait, to figure out what source control people wanted him to use, but let's be honest: he's going to be using the revision software 100x more often than anyone else, even if people clone it daily, so he has the ultimate say and should have just picked one. (And honestly, does anything beside github even exist?)

Later on that day we finally see some commits on github.....of Readmes. ISC gets a Readme. Linux Tycoon gets a Readme. BLABA, RCD, 2299, all get commits of a Readme and only a Readme.

A few days later, he posts that -miraculously- he has is actually close to reaching his goal for new equipment. At this point Lunduke has made over $6000 in his campaign for open source software without releasing a single line of the source.

Then, finally on the 13th, we finally see some source: a commit is made for Radical Comic Designer. Granted, this is probably Lunduke's oldest and least popular applications, and he himself admitted that it was written "poorly", but hey, it's a start. If you take a look at the commit, though, it's one 6MB XML file. You'd later learn that is a RealBasic file. Is RealBasic free software? Nope. But we'll get to that eventually. Things seem to really pick up steam 12 days later when the code for 2299 is committed. But wait, this one appears to be RealBasic as well. But wait for that. At this point, Lunduke seems ecstatic with the results, saying that he did not regret his decision and that it was "Success. Unequivocally." On the 28th, an entire month after the start of the "experiment", we get the big daddy: ISC is released. This is it, right? This is the start of a good thing? Wrong. So terribly wrong.


Let me back up and say this: I am not upset about the timeframe at all. Lunduke himself said that if he could do it over, he would have done more prepwork beforehand so it could be done quicker. What bothers me is how much he seemed to spend hyping it up. While I realize that every single post about each of his applications was to announce that they were free as in money, that's not what this entire experiment was about. That's not even worthy of an announcement because they are eventually supposed to be open sourced.

That wasn't even so bad, I let it slide. What got me was that 1 day after releasing the source for his cornerstone app, he made a post begging for donations. Let's recap quickly: it is now almost 30 days and you just recently got around to releasing the source for your third and most popular app, all of which are in a proprietary XML format for a software that costs $100 to buy to even compile or use in any fashion at all, and add on the fact that after making an extra $2000 on top of the $4000 you made in 1 week, you are complaining about donations?

Lunduke suddenly turns from mister sunshine to mister sob story. He makes another post in the same day, repeatedly begging for donations. He stated some ideas for incentivizing donations, none of which I have a gripe against, except for selling pre-built binaries. The whole fact that you have to purchase software to compile the source, or purchase the software itself takes away from the fact that it's open source at all. After pitter-pattering around for a few posts, he finally admits defeat at only 4 weeks of reaching his goal, saying that everything's going back to closed source. Including ISC 5, which is conveniently on a different codebase than the now "open source" ISC 4. This new version happens to come out the exact same day that he seemed so distraught that open-source was not working. Pretty quick on that one.

This is where our story ends for the most part, up until recently when he decided to release all of his software for free. At this point, I couldn't give a rat's ass. But then things get interesting. He decides to try to sell licensing for the software that he had open sourced even though no one showed interest.

Finally, he once again complains that no one bought his licensed software, despite the fact that he had supposedly learned from his failed experiment that no one wanted the source.


Why Lunduke is hurting open source

Open-source != Brute Force

People didn't want your software. Is that hard for you to hear? Tough. It's not hard to see what happens if people really want something to happen, just go on Kickstarter. The Awkward Zombie Kickstarter was trying to raise $8500, and it reached that goal in less than 2 days. By the end of that same day, they had reached over $15,000, nearly twice as much as they had asked. After one week, they had raised more than $30,000, which is almost 4 times the quota. And that was after one week of entire monthlong campaign. The campaign finished with $89,000, 10 times what they had asked. That is what people want to happen. Not having to postpone just to make it.

Open-source does not mean that every piece of software you release will be sustainable as a living, nor does it mean that the open-source model will work as well as or better than a closed sourced model. Slapping that label on it is damaging to the true open-source devs.

You might be thinking that I'm harsh, maybe it's not the software, it's the marketing. Fair enough, but then stop linking your failures in marketing to the model for open source.

The community becomes a scapegoat

Maybe things would have been different if you had released all your apps on the first day. Maybe. But who's fault is that? Not the community's. As far as I'm concerned, they did everything right and even went above and beyond, giving 2 new computers to someone before even seeing their end of the deal. Expecting them to stay eager while you selfishly hoard the source that you promised them is not just nonsensical, it's insulting.

FOSS, where the 'F' stands for 'Faux'

It honestly astounds me that Lunduke can release a piece of code licensed under a proprietary unreadable XML format for a piece of software that costs a minimum of $100, and yet he is surprised that no one supports his source. I have nothing against RealBasic, but it's just simple logic that the number of people interested in the source will be a fraction of those for a project written in, say C++ or Python. Some people don't have the money, other people don't like the fact that RealBasic is proprietary (which is a huge deal since it runs on Linux), and all in all, choosing that as a development platform may make a ton of sense for developing solo, but that doesn't mean it will work for open-source.

(Oh, and Bryan made a comment: "Just as an aside: Realstudio costs 99 bucks. For a professional developer this is a rather cheap price for a quality tool." That's great, for the professional developer. What about for the rest of us? No wonder your OSS audience was so limited.)

Devs can throw hissy fits

If I had a dollar for every time Lunduke complained about something bad happening to him in terms of his software, I could drop out of school and easily live off making open source software. There was the whole SaveMyHouseFromApple thing, consistently complaining on the Linux Action Show, and posts such as this one where something minor happens but he spins it in a way that makes him out to be the victim.



The model fails on the backs of crappy software

Yes, I said it. You know why I think the major reasons that the donations dropped off? The software sucks. I would know, I bought ISC. I couldn't get it to run on Linux (pretty ironic, considering what podcast the developer used to be on), Lunduke ignored my e-mails asking for assistance (even a simple response of "try the forums" would have been nice, since I, ya know, paid him), and when I finally launched a VM and installed it in Windows, I was woefully underwhelmed. I'll admit that I am a programmer so I am not exactly the target market, but but the appeal of being able to write cross platform apps appealed to me. I just didn't realize how severly limited it was. To give you an example: on Android, there is one type of textbox. Not currency, no password, not even one for integers. I wanted to make a simple tip calculator and I had to worry about someone trying to find the 20% tip on the word "Barbecue".

Big talk, no commits-ment

I was literally speechless when I discovered that all of his projects had at most one git commit, not counting a contributors fix. I'm sorry people didn't get behind you when you seemed so extremely apathetic to the software you supposedly love to write.

(Coincidentally, I find it funny that the development for ISC picks up a ton right after he decides to close the source again.)


Conclusions

I don't know Bryan personally, but honestly, how can this not look bad? He repeatedly says that he lost money from trying to go open source, even though he admitted to making at least $6000 in donations and a ton of press. He released no source code for his recent apps for almost 3 weeks, and then immediately complained about the system failing him when he finally did. He made no commits and no visible effort to being dedicated to his software while it was open source. Despite the extra $6000 that literally came out of nowhere, he decided to shut down the project after only a month. He conveniently released a new version of a piece of software immediately after closing the source. He saw that obviously people were not extremely interested, but he went "open" source for a few weeks while conveniently being able to pocket the money that he made from it in the meantime. What part of this makes him seem like the good guy? Or even a good guy?

In the end, I don't even know why Bryan uses Linux at all. It's certainly not for the licensing. Nor the community, since he repeatedly let down, snubbed, and took advantage of a community based solely around him. He begins to channel Balmer near the end of one of his posts:
People can talk all they like about Open Source and "Freedom"... but, if the experience of the past year has taught me anything, it's this: People don't like source code.  Certainly they don't like it enough to pay for it.  In fact, people far prefer to spend money on something that they know they can't possibly get the source code for.
No, Bryan, people love open source. We love open source. I love open source. I love source code. I'm only in my Junior year of college as a software developer and I already have a folder full of open-sourced projects that I am eager to contribute to once I have the time, and the fact that I can clone the repo, fire up Qt Creator or Eclipse and go to down is what makes that possible, and I love it. Because I love free software.

People don't like your source code. People don't like "open" source that requires them to buy a piece of software when they just want to mess around with it in their spare time, and they damn don't appreciate you trying to guilt them into it. People don't like your fake sincerity and your insistence on blaming everyone but yourself: Stallman, the GPL, the community.

I'm not in any way saying that Lunduke software going open-source would have failed no matter what. I'm saying that it's ridiculous to reduce it to a comment such as "You make money from your software when it’s closed-source, but when it’s open source, people don’t buy it." when there is so much more going on. When you don't supply the source. When the source is proprietary and uncommon. When you blame others for your mistakes. That is where the problem lies.

Wrap Up

I want to take just a moment and say that I used to really admire Bryan Lunduke. Hell, he got me into Linux, and by doing so, he literally changed my life. Listening to his "Why Linux Sucks" video caught me on to the Linux Action Show which got me further into Linux and exposed me to open-source software and the community around it. Before I wanted to maybe create a little company that made free (but proprietary) software for Windows and sold commercial versions on the side. Now my dream job is developing for some open-source application or company. So I guess I have to thank Bryan.

But honest to god, I'm just about fed up. His repeated attacks on open source and attempts at gaining sympathy are severely hurting open source. His false modesty is hurting those of us who really do love the licenses, the freedom, and the community behind it all. After observing Bryan for several years now, I sincerely doubt that he will just come out an apologize; I don't even know if I'd want him to, since his apologies tend to be more half-assed than not. Instead I truly and sincerely believe that he is doing more harm than good and wish that he would just get out. Get out of the open-source world. Hang up your fedora, retire from your faux-writing position, and go develop Mac apps or Windows 8 apps or whatever, I don't care. Just stop hurting the truly open platform that some of us love.

-Jon

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

luckyBackup: rsync GUI/front end

I can read you're mind and right now you're thinking "Pfft, why aren't you extreme enough to use rsync without a front end?" Well, I'm not.

There are plenty of frontends for rsync using all the various toolkits like Qt or GTK or etc. The best I've found (best==most-polished) is called luckyBackup. It's a Qt 4 program, and I love me some Qt.

Anyway, that's all.
-Bry

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Epic Pokemon wallpaper collection

Wallpapers are awesome. Pokemon is awesome. Whoever decided to combine them and make a minimalistic version of each pokemon is epic.

The 493 is just that: all 493 Pokemon, captured in a very unique minimalistic style. You can grab your favorite, or download them all and get a wallpaper rotator. It's your choice, but I personally think that you gotta catch em all.

Click to be teleporter

-Bry

2012 Zombie Event Tracker

Ever since that whole incident with the bath salts, people seem to be much more afraid of the whole "zombie threat". While it's not exactly a true viable threat, for those of us who tend to perk up at the idea of "Z-Day", this little map showing "Zombie Events" in 2012 is quite interesting. Not in any real sense of the word, mind you; few of the events could actually be described as "zombie attacks", since they're usually over things that us  sentient folk tend to worry about, like money for car parts. But it's still interesting to see the strange trend of zombie-like fighting tactics used by people all over the world. (And there's either been a recent influx of it this year, or this has been going on for a long time and you never hear about it. Not sure which.)

-Bry

Monday, August 6, 2012

I love LOVE

If you haven't heard of mari0, get your head out of the ground and go download it. It was an awesome idea and awesome implementation, but more important to me is that it introduced LOVE to me.

LOVE (technically "LÖVE", but I'm too lazy to type it like that all the time) is a 2D framework for Lua for games. A while ago, I got bored and tried to make 2 different card games in C++, because I had thought of how I could do certain things in OOP. But as soon as it came to UI, I screeched to a halt. Now that I've found LOVE, and Lua is OO, I'll probably be able to port what little I had for both and continue.

I haven't used LOVE too much so far but it is really simple to use (especially on Linux.) Running Arch, the several different entries in the AUR failed, so I just downloaded and compiled it with no problems. (packer probably grabbed the dependencies, so I'd recommend at least trying the AUR first.) After that, it was as simple as downloading the example and typing 'love example.love' to see my LOVE install in action.

There's a really helpful guide on getting started with LOVE, even with a "Hello World" example, but I didn't want to have to keep compressing the Lua files to Love files just to mess around, so to get around this, I discovered that all you had to do was just to pass a directory to love, like "love example" or "love .".

I also love that there is an entire "Programming in Lua" book available online, just like Git. That will probably be my next read, especially if I want to move forward in LOVE.

-Bry

Richard Stallman's speech requirements

This is really more out of interest than trying to bash RMS, but I found this quite a while ago and it really does shape your perception on how you see someone.


Click here


As an ideologist, I tend to stand behind Richard (although not 100%), but as a person, this just seems so extremely persnickety. This is something that you'd expect to hear on a movie where some extremely important royal figure wants everything correct down to a T. I mean, he talks about how much sugar he likes in his drinks and what temperature he prefers to sleep at. The stuff concerning GNU and free software, I understand, it's all the more picky stuff that -quite frankly- most of us just learn to make small compromises (if choosing regular Pepsi over Dier Pepsi could even even be considered a "compromise"). Like I said though, this isn't at all to insult Richard; some of the points he makes are just things that a lot of people probably think but don't have the courage to say:
When I'm trying to decide what to do, often I mention things that
MIGHT be nice to do--depending on more details, if it fits the
schedule, if there isn't a better alternative, etc.  Some hosts take
such a tentative suggestion as an order, and try moving heaven and
earth to make it happen.  This excessive rigidity is not only quite
burdensome for other people, it can even fail in its goal of pleasing
me. 
 I'm just saying that it seems like Richard could be a bit more tactful when discussing some of the points:
I do not eat breakfast.  Please do not ask me any questions about
what I will do breakfast.  Please just do not bring it up.

It's kind of an interesting read, although decently useless, unless you want to prepare to meet RMS someday or something.
-Bry

Sunday, August 5, 2012

A newbies few thoughts on Git

Being an absolute newbie to version control (aside from Dropbox...), my experience with Git over the last few days has been extremely enlightening. I haven't used anything else like Subversion or CVS, but Git seems extremely elegant, yet powerful. It's definitely a daunting task, especially with no other version control software experience under one's belt, but the free online book called "Pro Git" is by far the best resource I could ask for. It explains everything you need to know (at least for a beginner) in the right order and in a way that is very easy to understand.

I started out using Git on Windows and then moved into Linux and I've noticed that the Git client on Linux seems much more strict. I'm currently working with Google Code as a remote repository and after a frustrating dozens of searches, I discovered that the Windows version of git is ok with the .netrc file being multiple lines: the Linux version is not.

That's all for now. I think I'm definitely glad that I chose Git to start out with.
-Bry

Friday, August 3, 2012

OSS licenses summarized in one sentence

Up until now, I've used the GPL for all of my open-source ventures because they've mostly been things that I've just been working on for fun, on the side. My newest project isn't by any means a startup, but it is more involved than anything I've done before so I'd like to use more discretion when choosing a license. The problem is, many licenses are just legal mumbo jumo, and their "summaries" tend to copy/pasted portions from the license itself. So without further ado, here's a very, very simplified version of many of the popular open-source licenses from a developer's standpoint, which might just help you decide in general what route to take.

The Licenses

More Restrictive:
  • GPL - GNU Public License v2
    Your source code can be redistributed and changed, but any changes must also be redistributed under the GPL (meaning no proprietary forks), and any code you use with this code must also be under the GPL.
  • GPL - GNU Public License v3
    Identical to the GPLv2 with the several additions (patents, restrictive hardware, DRM., etc), most of which you will most likely not have to be concerned about if you're not a giant multi-billion dollar company, or Linus Torvalds.

Less Restrictive:
  • LGPL - Lesser GNU Public License
    Like the normal GPL, but allows it to be dynamically linked with non-GPL applications, and it also adds the "attribution requirement" -acknowledging your work when creating a derivative; this is used a lot for libraries that want to be under the GPL, but want non-GPL programs to be able to use them.
  • MPL - Mozilla Public License
    As far as I can tell, identical to the LGPL, except that people can use any code you release via static linking while the LGPL only allows dynamic; static linking means combining the source code into an executable, whereas dynamic means keeping it separate, like in a DLL file.
  • OSL - Open Source License
    Very similar to the LGPL, even including the attribution right; the main difference is that when anyone distributes your "work" (not sure if that means just code or includes binaries) or any derivative, they must make a "reasonable effort" to make sure that whomever is using it agrees to the license.
    ("You must make a reasonable effort under the circumstances to obtain the express assent of
    recipients to the terms of this License.")
Permissive:
  • MIT License
    There are no restrictions on what people can or can't do with your code, it just must be accompanied by the license; quite simply, as FossWire puts it, "Here's the source code, do whatever you want with it, but if you have problems, it's your problem."
  • BSD License
    Essentially identical to the MIT license, only anyone who uses your works to create a derivative are not allowed to use your name to promote their derivative; you can also include a clause that forces them to include "This includes code under the BSD license" in their program.
  • Apache 2.0 LicenseEssentially an extension of the BSD License, adding on a requirement that anyone who changes your work must mark the files in which changes were made; it also handles things that are more the concerns of big companies like patents and trademarks.
  • zlib/libpng License
    Anyone can use your code for anything they wish, but anyone who uses your code cannot claim that they wrote it and altered versions need to be identified as not being the original.
Etc:
  • WTFPL - Do What The Fuck You Want To Public License
    Anyone can do, quite literally, whatever they want with your code.
    (This license is not endorsed by the Open Source Initiative.)

Believe it or not, there really aren't a lot of good resources on what license to choose, from what I've found; most of them just copy and paste information directly from the license, as if that's supposed to be some kind of summary. And this list is certainly not supposed to be the resource to end all resources, it's supposed to help point you in the right direction. After reading this, hopefully you can narrow it down to 1 or 2 and then do research on them to make sure that they are what you are after.

More Resources

That being said, I did find a very, very excellent slideshow on this matter called "Making Sense of Open Source Licenses". I only wish that I could listen to whatever lecture went along with it. He basically divides them up into the following categories:

  • Give Me Credit: BSD, MIT, Apache
  • Give Me Fixes: LGPL, MPL
  • Give Me Everything: GPL 
He also makes some good points such as:
"Different licenses create different communities."

Another good resource is an article on "How to choose a free software license" that basically breaks down a developer's motivations and then suggest licenses from there. There are a ton of resources like this, but this one seems to get to the heart of the matter much better. He doesn't really branch beyond the GPL and BSDL though.

Another neat site I found was called TLDRLegal which lays out licenses in a very, very easy to understand manner. The explanations could use a little work, but the three categories of "Can", " Can't", and "Must" really help.

By far, the best resource I found is a site is a PDF on OReilly's website that walks you through the licenses actual texts and explains what they mean in plain English. Not quite one sentence, but probably the next step after choosing a license to investigate.


Lastly, whilst researching, I just happened to find an excellent comment on StackExchange:
A friend of mine once pointed out that licenses tell you what the license authors were scared of.
If you're scared of having your name dragged through the mud, then the BSD license will seem better. If you're scared of having your software put into a proprietary piece of software, then the GPL will seem better. Whatever the license, the author chooses it because it protects them against what they are afraid of.
Different people have different concerns and so use different licenses.
To me, this is interesting because it kind of examines the other side of the coin as the previous article: consider not only what you want, but also what you don't want.

Final Notes

Please note that -as a developer writing this article- every one of these licenses permits you to sell your software -even the GPL. Also, as owner of the code (assuming the code you're using is...ya know, yours), you can release one version of your program under one license, say, the GPL, and then release another version under another, such as BSD or even closed source. The only thing to keep in mind is that with some of the more restrictive licenses, you cannot change what license a version of your software that has already been released is available under: you can only change what future versions will be under.

Dual-licensing is another thing to take into consideration, but the term itself is really kind of misleading; it makes it sound like the code is subject to 2 licenses, but that is not the case. In reality, your code is essentially under the least restrictive license, but gives the user the ability to distribute it under any of the more restrictive licenses. You're mostly going to see dual-licensing with Copy-left licenses; it makes no sense to license something under BSD/GPL because someone can just release a derivative under the BSD license, making the GPL utterly useless.


I hope this was helpful, and make sure to read the full text of the license before deciding on one.
-Bry

PS - It actually took quite a bit of research to find out the nuances between some of these, such as the MPL and the LGPL, or the BSD and the MIT, but some people ask the dumbest questions. "What's the difference between the GPL and MIT?" Wow, really? They only happen to be directly opposite.

Monday, July 30, 2012

"Revolution OS": Free film on free software

I can't remember how, but I happened to stumble upon "Revolution OS", a video on the big movers in the Open-Source movement. I really enjoyed watching it and I think it really accurately captures each different person's viewpoint and role. I actually thought that Richard Stallman was extremely clear, perhaps the most clear I've ever heard him. It was a very interesting watch, and I'd recommend it to anyone.

Click here
-Bry

Monday, July 16, 2012

Root the Android Emulator

The concept really isn't that hard, but someone has made a really nice windows bash script (that could easily be converted to a Linux shell script) that does all the work for you.

Clicky

For the sake of posterity, it's essentially this:
emulator -partition-size 160 %*
adb wait-for-device
adb remount
adb push su /system/bin
adb shell chmod 6755 /system/bin/su
adb shell rm /system/xbin/su
adb shell ln -s /system/bin/su /system/xbin/su

-Bry

Gmail "Unread" RSS feed

This is an old (but neat) little trick that can essentially act as a very simple Gmail notifier. Subscribe to it, put it in your Bookmark Toolbar, and there you go.

http://googlesystem.blogspot.com/2008/03/feed-for-unread-gmail-messages.html

-Bry

"The Common Sense Guide to Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse"

Sorting through my "Unsorted Bookmarks" section, found this a good while ago. Very funny.

Clicky

-Bry

KDE Music Libraries

Let's get one thing straight right off the bat. I've never liked calling software like iTunes or Banshee a music "player" because it gives the false impression that it's goal is like VLC or Bangarang: to simply play media files. But for me, there is another classification for Music apps that not only play but manage your music collection. I call these Music Library apps.

Moving on, there are many, many music library apps out there right now, most of the popular ones being for Windows (Winamp, Foobar2000, MediaMonkey, MusicBee, etc), but there are a slew of them for Linux as well (Rhythmbox, Banshee, Amarok, Clementine, etc). It's much harder to judge these since the quality seems to vary much more, and also that each is designed to integrate into a different Desktop Environment. Some people really won't care, and usually I don't either, but since my last distro was Chakra, which is a pure KDE experience, I really looked into finding a good KDE music library app. The thing that surprised me is there are actually a ton of Qt-based music library apps, some just aren't really mentioned that often.

Wants:
  • Media Database/Library Management (automatically moving/renaming files, etc)
  • Stable
  • Playlists
  • Smart Playlists
  • MP3 capability
  • Mass storage syncing, with playlists
  • (Optional) CD Ripping
Notable Mentions:
Tomahawk
As I've mentioned before, Tomahawk is wonderful. It has a very well-crafted UI, offers many features that other players simply don't have, and is generally just the perfect application if you are the target market: those that listen to their music online. I, however, have my own offline collection, so Tomahawk (at this point), just does not measure up to some of the other choices out there in that regard.

Kaffiene
Definitely not meant as a music library. On top of that, the "Playlist" tab seems like an absolute mess.

PlaybaK
I love the idea, but it is apparently abandoned since I got a message about it being in alpha, and it hasn't been updated on KDE.org since July of 2010.

Qmmp
It's really more of a playlist player than a music library, kind of like Kaffiene.

Yamp
Definitely needs some refinement. Nough said.



Let's do things a little differently. Rather than wait till the end to give my verdict. I'm going to compare as I go along. If I like one more than another it will advance.



Amarok
Even though there is an abundance of KDE music library apps available (as proven by this list, Amarok has got to be the headstone. I've never been a fan, but I've mostly seen it (a) quite some time ago and (b) in the "uber-KDE" themed distros. I definitely owe it another look.

  • Hate that it automatically searches your home folder for your collection. Check that: I hate that it does not even prompt you for where your collection is.
  • Hate the icon. (Picky? Yes. True? Yes. Also, the tray icon is ok.)
  • Love that I don't see the tabs on the side with the text at 90 degrees, because that never made sense to me.
  • Not sure if I am fond of the 3-pane layout, mostly because I'm more used to the iTunes/Songbird/MusicBee method of layout, but also because the whole Wiki-article-in-your-player thing never appealed to me. I bought the music, I know who it is by, when it was released, and all that other stuff.
  • Love that it has Amazon MP3 integration, but when I try to buy a song it ends out opening Firefox (so kind of pointless) and the link doesn't even work. Banshee's integration is much much better.
Overall it's just...it's kinda weird. It's definitely a different paradigm than iTunes or MusicBee. I'll have to come back to it after seeing everything else.


Clementine
Clementine is like Amarok's strange lovechild, so I've been skeptical of it, but let's give it a shot.

  • Love the fact that it has built-in Grooveshark support. (Even if it is for Grooveshark Anywhere.)
  • Hate the clementine fruit image in the background. Amarok had a few that were annoying, but this is just plain ugly and distracting.
  • Love that the Artist & Song Info is segregated.
  • Kind of hate the side tabs, especially the fact that you can't have a plain sidebar without having the text flip sideways.
  • Love the customizable "Pretty OSD" Notifications
  • Love the tabs for playlists.
  • Hate the way it handles playlists? I like that they are each their own files, but I hate that you have to manually open each one.

Winner is: Clementine
While they're both not quite the music library paradigm I'm used to, Clementine is closer. Plus, it looks a lot more customizable. But mostly, it's just personal preference.



Juk

  • Love the extremely simplistic interface.
  • Love the treeview navigation for Artist and Albums. I guess I just love treeviews.
  • Love the Player Queue.
  • Hate that it does not have device support. Oh well.
Winner is: Clementine
I personally like Juk quite a bit more, but device support is crucial to me.


Musique
  • Love the opening screen. Straight to the point.
  • Hate that it takes forever to scan your collection because it is using Last.fm. Do that after you scan so I can start playing stuff already.
  • Hate the interface. More fond of the listview layout, especially if the artist pictures are wrong.
Winner is: Clementine
I can see that this is a well crafted program and I'm sure a lot of people would love it, but it's not for me.


YaRock
  • Love the different interface.
  • Love the mini-mode.
  • Love pretty much everything about it.
  • Hate that it does not have device support. Damn.
Winner is: Clementine
This one would make a good competitor to Juk if both supported mass storage sync, but alas.


Sayonara
Sayonara is recently new, so new that I actually had to compile it from source (something I am still kind of unfamiliar with), but I like the look of it. It's actually something I would be tempted to take a look at the source of, since I'm currently learning C++ in school. But it's not quite advanced enough for everyday use just yet. Like the sound was not working using either phonon or gstreamer.

Winner is: Clementine



So Clementine won out, but even it is lacking compared to some of the GTK apps or Windows apps. It has Android device support, but no syncing: you have to manually drag your songs to and from the device.

Even so, Clementine is by far my favorite Qt-based Music Library.
-Bry

"Dirge for the Planet"

S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadow of Chernobyl is a very interesting game, but perhaps my favorite part thus far about it is the music that is playing on the radio around the world. One of the songs is called "Dirge for the Planet" and it's very good. I recommend giving it a listen.

Clicky

-Bry 

Let there be Arch

I finally switched from Chakra to Arch a few weeks ago and I thought it was going to be this giant post, but it was a lot easier than I thought. The only problem I had was that I tried to install xorg myself without following the beginner's guide. Other than that, I got KDE set up, installed other window managers, etc. Everything has been fantastic, though I did have a few problems with sound and time sync, everything's been worked out so far.

I absolutely love being able to have both KDE and GNOME apps. Don't get me wrong, I still love KDE to death, but only having a select few in Chakra really made me feel limited. I've also gone ahead and installed a bunch of other Window Managers like Fluxbox, Openbox, Enlightenment, and even GNOME3. And what's more amazing still, I've actually be switching in between them decently regularly. I spent a few days in GNOME3, then rebooted into Openbox, and now I'm back in KDE.

Anyway, yeah, it was surprisingly easy, but still so much fun. You've just got to stick to the beginner guide, even if it's just giving you the correct package names to install.

-Bry

Friday, July 6, 2012

TeamViewer is WINE?

$ ls ~/.teamviewer/6
dosdevices  drive_c  fs_rgb.reg  system.reg  user.reg  userdef.reg  winelog
So TeamViewer for Linux is just a WINE app? Huh. Never knew that.

Linux CD images

A while ago I had the idea to have a stack of CD-RW's for several of my favorite Linux distros. I've burned CD-R's before, but the problem is, they are usually very quickly obsoleted and while they aren't useless -my HTPC runs an older version of Mint- they surely aren't as useful as a new version would be. With a CD-RW, you could have a live image ready and waiting and you can just rewrite it as soon as a new version is released.

Anyway, with that out of the way, I decided that it would be nice to have some really nice CD covers for the cases, but I really didn't want them to have any type of version on it since it would constantly be changing. At the same time, I would like it to kind of capture what that distro is all about, including the look and feel of it recently, e.g., have purple for Ubuntu instead of the disgusting brown.

With that in mind, here are a few that I've been able to either (a) make, (b) modify, or (c) steal.....er, borrow. (In all seriousness, if I have inadvertantly used anyone's work without their permission, please let me know, preferably in an e-mail.)

  • Arch
  • Backtrack
  • Crunchbang
  • Debian
  • DSL
  • Fedora
  • Mint KDE
  • Mint
  • OpenSUSE
  • Pardus
  • PartedMagic
  • SliTaz
  • Ubuntu
  • Xubuntu (this one is crap that I made myself)

Click for a gallery because I am lazy

You might be thinking "But Bry, did you only make them for your favorite distros? Is that fair?" Duh. I made them for the distros that I would specifically use. I have nothing against any other distros and would gladly make them for any other distros that someone would request (or add any contributions, with credits given appropriately). But I'm not going to spend a ton of time going out and creating them for all the gazillions of distros that are out there. (Have you been to Distrowatch lately?)

's all.
-Bry

Simple bash script for checking pendingDeleted

Back when I really wanted to snag Qweex.com, it was in a pendingDeleted status for quite some time and I wasn't exactly sure when it would expire and I was uber paranoid, so I wrote a little bash script. All it requires is bash (or some other shell), whois, and mail.

#!/bin/bash
COUNTER=1
GOTIME=1
while [ $GOTIME != 0 ]; do
    whois qweex.com | grep --quiet pendingDeleted
    GOTIME=$?
    echo "($COUNTER) $( date +%r)"
    COUNTER=$((COUNTER+1))
    sleep 500
done
echo "IT IS TIME" | mail freewarewire@gmail.com

(The e-mail actually sent to my phone so I would essentially be text-notified, but I changed it for obvious reasons.) I'm certainly not proficient in bash scripting yet, but I ran across this when moving my files over to Arch (a post is forthcoming) and I just thought "Aww, how cute". And maybe one day, when Qweex has inevitably made me a million dollars, people will look back at this as to how it all started.

If I recall correctly, this didn't work.

-Bry

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Raspberry Pi and HDMI

I finally got my Raspberry Pi in the mail (woot!) and have had the chance to toy around with it a little. After trying both Debian Squeeze and Arch ARM, I couldn't get HDMI working for either. The RCA video was working though, so I tried that and it worked splendidly.

To get HDMI working, I simply followed this guide I found at Coded Structure, essentially saying to create a file at /boot/config.txt with the contents:
config_hdmi_boost=4
hdmi_force_hotplug=1
 After rebooting, HDMI worked just fine. That's unfortunately all I've had the chance to do with the R-Pi just yet.


I'm curious though, would people be interested in a podcast about the Raspberry Pi? I'd be very interested in trying to start it and would love to find someone that could be a co-host. I'm thinking maybe bi-weekly to start out, maybe 30-45 minutes per episode, since there probably isn't going to be a ton of news about the Pi. If you're interested, whether it be in co-hosting or if you would simply listen to it if it existed, please drop a comment to this post.
-Bry

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Wii U will probably be a rousing success

When the Wii was released, me and my brothers -although huge Nintendo fans for years- were skeptical. The new controller interface was either going to be revolutionary, or completely flop -or at least that's how we saw it. This was a big step for gaming, and a huge risk for Nintendo. Looking back on it, I would still say that it was a huge risk, though I'm not exactly sure if it has paid off. I would say, however, that it was neither revolutionary, nor a flop: it sat somewhere in between, which I was not expecting at all.

That being said, many people would classify the Wii as a "disappointment", even though it did very well in terms of sales. For a while, I wondered why this was, but as the Wii U is drawing closer to release, I think I've come to a speculation. One of the biggest aims for the Wii was to get everybody playing video games: your grandma, your kids, everyone. It's focus wasn't really to keep the focus of the gamers that already love and play Nintendo consoles. You might disagree; after all, Nintendo is still creating Mario games, so shouldn't the older gamers still want to stick around for that sake of nostalgia?

That's partially true, but an issue that is far more dramatic is how much (a) those gamers have changed as they've grown up and (b) the industry has changed. I'm not exactly sure which caused which, maybe the consumers drove the industry or vice versa, but the point is, games today are different than they were even in 2001. There aren't as many platformers, there are loads of first-person shooters, and people have started to care about weird things like "graphics". When you take all this into consideration and take another look at the Wii, it becomes clear: Nintendo is not trying to accommodate all these changes. Whether or not this is a good thing or a bad thing, I'll get to in a moment, but it's safe to say that Nintendo is not moving along with the general flow of the gaming world.

Some might say that they are stagnating and so the Wii U will be a flop, but I'm not so sure. Another way to look at it is that they're not dropping out of the race, they've just decided to slow down and fill the niche that they've always filled. If you think about it, their earlier systems really appealed to kids, or as we might call them nowadays, non-hardcore gamers. Many of these kids have grown up to be more "hardcore" gamers, and Microsoft and Sony have been attempting to keep up with them, but Nintendo hasn't. They've kind of let the kids outgrow their target market and now they're aiming at the next batch of kids and other non-hardcore gamers.

And so, a lot of us look at the Wii and are disappointed, because when comparing it to the PS3 or the Xbox 360, it really falls flat on its face. It's not even in the same league. But it's not meant to be. Nintendo hasn't lost the race, they've just swerved off to a different path that Sony and Microsoft barely notice.

As for the Wii U, it's just the next step of Nintendo down this path of a more "casual" gamer. And even though it bugs a lot of people, there are a lot of casual gamers out there. (Just ask Angry Birds or Farmville.) So while the Wii U probably won't be that impressive, I think it's probably going to be a success, assuming there isn't any major hardware and/or software issue at launch.

But the Wii U probably won't be just for casuals. People will buy the Wii U for certain titles (Zelda, most likely), or even just because it's cheap, just like the Wii's launch. Even though those people are probably also going to own some other system that they play more frequently, they'll help contribute to the sales for the Wii U. And that's what I mean by "success": will people buy it? Will it be a big enough market for game makers to make games for it? The Wii may not have been very impressive, but it was definitely a success, in that it was successful. My guess is that the Wii U will be equally unimpressive, but equally as successful.



(I can't believe I just typed a post about this. Generally, I hate people that try to speculate on things that there is no point speculating on. But oh well.)
-Bry

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

TAGAP and TAGAP 2

If you've never played TAGAP - that's "The Apocalyptic Game About Penguins"- yet, you're seriously missing out. It's an extremely unique, fun, addicting sidescroller starring -you guessed it: Penguins. Words really don't give it justice. I mean, there are a ton of different guns, baddies, and levels....but that doesn't really capture just how fun this game is. Everything about it is just relaxing: the graphics, the soundtrack, the sound effects, and even the idea of just mowing down a line of zombie penguins with a minigun. It's challenging yet relaxing, intense yet subtle. It is the most possible fun you can have involving penguins without physically owning a penguin.

The best part? Both TAGAP and TAGAP 2 are free. So please, go, download them, give them a try. TAGAP 2 even has co-op mode so you can play with a friend.

So awesome.
-Bry

Monday, June 18, 2012

Dead Space and Mass Effect

Yes, I am extremely embarrassed. I don't know how it happened, but I fell of the bandwagon somewhere along when it comes to video games, and so now I'm about 5 years behind. (xkcd comic = me). Right now people are talking about Skyrim...no wait, they've moved on to Diablo 3.....

Dead Space

In any case, I finally got through Dead Space and Mass Effect in the last week or so. I had gotten up to about 50% of the way through Dead Space when I got stuck at the part with the invincible zombie and the locked door. (Don't ever buy the saw. The saw is the bane of my existence.) I actually played the entire thing through on easy instead of normal just because I really wanted to beat it and had already played through half of it on Normal. (Side note: very interesting, it was a lot less scary on Easy. It was still creepy and scary as hell, but not pee-my-pants scary, because I wasn't as afraid of dying. It was still extremely enjoyable to play, it was just an interesting experiment: for a horror game, you genuinely have to be afraid of dying the entire time for it to be scary.)

I drooled for about 2 weeks after I first got Dead Space, and I still think it is amazing. One of the things I love most about it is that it very rarely goes for the "cheap scares"; they could always just have something pop up behind you, but they very rarely do. (I think I could count the number of times in the entire game on one hand.) Instead they go for much creepier tactics. You see something moving through the grates overhead; you just barely see a deformed leg round the corner as a door opens; a shadow is cast from behind you as you head into a doorway. (The latter was probably one of my favorite spine-chillers of the game.)

In terms of combat, it starts out very  intimidating (which is a good thing!). As you gradually get familiar with the different types of creatures, you get less and less frightened by them. But the game does a really good job of gradually introducing new baddies at just the right rate to keep you thinking "Oh *&@!, what now?" The plot is .....adequate. It's basically "Fix this. Ok now fix that. Ok now fix this." The backstory, on the other hand, is phenomenal. The makers really did a good job of creating this solid story of how you got to where you are, and it's slowly dispensed throughout the game, little by little, enough to keep you intrigued up till the very end. The final boss is......adequate. After all, this game isn't about the combat; it's about the terror. It's genuinely hard to have a hard boss be terrifying because the player knows what's up. The plot has built up to this point and this is the final battle. In any case, it wasn't exceedingly challenging (although I was on easy), but it did leave me feeling satisfied (unlike, gee, I dunno, Mirror's Edge?).

There are just so few things that I can pick to criticize in this game. (coughSAWcough) The pacing was good, the graphics were generally good (especially when they needed to be, i.e., baddies), the combat was fun but very unique....it's just a winner all around. I can't wait until it's been long enough that I can play this game again and piss my pants repeatedly for enjoyment.

Mass Effect

After Dead Space, I moved on to Mass Effect. The first one. I had tried playing it one other time before, skimmed past all the tutorials (even the part that told you how to get to the tutorials), and quit about 5 minutes in because I had no clue what I was doing. This time, I took my time and was engrossed about 10 minutes in. The thing I love most about Mass Effect is how cinematic it is. The beginning cutscene is a perfect example: epic music playing in the background as the camera follows Shephard up the ship. You can just tell that the makers really thought this game through. Every cutscene and piece of dialog is expertly crafted.

As for the gameplay, it's extremely enjoyable, though it takes some getting used to; I think it took about a quarter of the game until I stopped throwing a grenade when thinking I had to reload. Infinite ammo is just kind of weird in today's gaming, from what I've seen. It's not that it makes it any less challenging, just different. I went with the default "John Shephard" because the game froze after I spent about 10 minutes designing my character (doesn't that always happen?), so I really didn't get a chance to use much of the biotech stuff. Which addresses something else....this game is huge. The normal gameplay takes a good amount of time, but the sidequests are where it's at. I really enjoyed exploring this world that was so amazingly created. The developers went out of there way to create so many things that aren't vital to the plot, which makes it feel like a real, thriving universe.

There are very, very few things I can find fault with in this game, other than the fact that it doesn't flipping tell you anything, which is annoying. It's not that it's complicated, it's that they just don't tell you. There's really no in-game explanation of how to play. What the hell is "omni-gel"? What is "Renegade" vs "Paragon"?

Other than that, there's really nothing to complain about. The dialog was weird at first, but I grey to like it, though at times it seemed tedious. The vehicle was a bitch to drive, but I never actually veered off any cliffs, so that's good. The AI seems kind of dull at times; I would take cover and then turn around to see my two teammates, just standing in the open.

The thing that I realized about Mass Effect is that I think I'm going to enjoy it just as much the second time through. The first time, I did quite a bit of the side quests, but I generally stuck to the main story. I didn't really peruse many stores or explore many planets because I honestly wanted to finish it before I became any uncooler for playing it so late for the first time. But I still enjoyed the heck out of it, and I know that the next time I play it and take things a little slower, I will enjoy the heck out of it as well.



So yeah, two amazing games that came out about 5 years ago by now. If you've been a loser like me and haven't played them until now, go buy them; I'll bet you can snag them both off Steam for $5 each during a Summer Sale.
-Bry

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

"All your base are belong to us"

This is a book that I've had sitting around various locations (backseat of my car, hamper, bookshelf) for [what seems like] several years that I've really wanted to try to get through reading, but now that I've finally picked it up and read it to the back cover, I feel slightly disappointment.  It's kind of hard to put my finger on why I don't think this book lived up to expectations, but I will try.

The biggest thing that I find is that the title is (in my mind) completely deceptive. It references a pseudo-obscure reference that is meant to give people a chuckle, but the book doesn't follow through on that. It feels incredibly droll and slow moving and very rarely says something that is witty or funny. (The attempts at humor are borderline cringe-worthy, at best.) I guess from the title, I was expecting to get all these tiny nuggets of information about the evolution of video games, like the poorly translated Zero Wing, but there was little to none of that in this book.

So what is this book? Well, the subtitle is just about as deceiving as the title: "How Fifty Years of Videogames Conquered Pop Culture" is a horrible misnomer about what this book even tries to be. It doesn't at all spend time talking about how video games (note the space there, book makers) conquered or even effected pop culture; instead, it spends nearly all of the book just talking about how specific companies were formed. At the beginning of the book, this makes sense: myself being relatively young, I had always assumed that Pong was the first "video game", so I greatly enjoyed learning about its predecessors and then eventually how Pong did slip into history.

But I was really expecting that type of angle to die off at about 1/3 of the way through the book. Instead it continued throughout the entirety of the rest of the book. I suppose the reason I got less and less interested is that as the video game market spread out, singular people and companies got less and less important. In the beginning, it's interesting and crucial to talk about the forefathers of the industry, but by the time Miyamoto comes into the picture, things are happening all over the place and you feel kind of robbed that the author spends so much time on this one person, or one game (Tetris). Granted, each chapter was interesting to an extent, but it just seemed much too chaotic to be considered a "book"; it seemed to lack a general thesis to which every chapter adhered to.

About halfway through the book, you start to call BS. It becomes just a random smattering of a detailed history of specific games or companies with no rhyme or reason. The very least that this book could be lacking would be a brief description of why a certain company or game was crucial to the way that gaming was changing. Goldberg does that occasionally mid-chapter, but he talks more like an advertiser than a historian or an interested party; he goes in in poetical speech about how this new game gave the player this new sensation in a way that they never could before and how the graphics or gameplay were so real and.....that's great, but what does it mean? How did it effect the market? How did it change the view of video games in the eyes of the general population?

One of the things I found most annoying about this book is what I just mentioned: his poetical descriptions. Maybe I'm being cynical, but there's really no point in attempting to describe what playing Everquest for the first time was or the graphics of Bioshock, because it was very, very specific and restricted to that time. When Donkey Kong first came out, people were engrossed. They were amazed at the quality of the graphics and the gameplay, the sounds, everything. Nowadays, people are not engrossed by it, and they really cannot understand what it was like to be engrossed by it because they never were. So I frequently found myself rolling my eyes when Goldberg spent several pages gushing on how amazing Everquest was, because they're just words to me. One sentence will sum it up just fine.
On the other side of the coin, if you have been engrossed by a game, reading it is pointless because you already know everything that he's saying! I found myself skipping parts of the chapter on Bioshock for that very reason: I've played Bioshock, I know the graphics and the world and the overall creepiness. Spending several pages to gush about it is just time that I could be reading about something new. I just felt like this book had way too much filler, but then I was really expecting something more intricate.

Towards the very, very end of the book Goldberg finally seems to get to something relevant: how the industry is/was changing. But it just seems so terribly rushed. It points out another horrid flaw that I saw in this book, which was pacing. It's not that I didn't find some of the earlier stuff interesting, but I felt like it really should have gradually transitioned over a period of time, spending about a chapter or two for each era. But instead, he tries to cover the "modern" era in just one chapter, focusing almost entirely on Nintendo. Actually, fanboying on Nintendo. Maybe that word is too harsh, but it was certainly the first word that came to mind when I tried to stomach the chapter on the Wii. I will grant that I am totally biased and so maybe my view on the matter is completely wrong, but somehow I never ever expected to read the words "Wii juggernaut". I'm having a hard time trying to summarize what I think is wrong with this chapter because...honestly, I think everything is so wrong. And it's not even that the info is wrong; I know that the Wii sold very well, but I also know that opinions of it are very very different than opinions of the PS3 or the 360. I know that, for a lot of people, the Wii is something that just kind of sits on their shelf that they'll get out every now and then, but their Sony or Microsoft system is what's usually humming; the Wii is just so cheap, you shrug and think "Why not?"
To me it just seems very inaccurate to look at the sales of the Wii and say that it is the most important of the current generation of consoles, especially in a book that is supposed to be written by an informed party! Instead he completely downplays the fact that the Wii doesn't have HD resolution, even DVD (much less Blu-Ray) playback, or decent online play. He mentions them briefly but just kind of stuffs them down because hey, the Wii is selling well, right? So it must be awesome.

Overall I feel that Goldberg just utterly and completely missed about 90% of the information that made it into this book. And it's not that I know the information that he left out that he should have put in; on the contrary, after reading this book, I don't really feel enlightened, I just feel frustrated. What about the death of Sega and Microsoft entering the ring? What about mobile gaming devices other than 2-3 pages briefly mentioning the original Gameboy? Does Bioshock really necessitate an entire chapter dedicated to it? What about gaming on tablets, phones, and other media? What about how PC gaming has been making a recent comeback; what about Steam?!?!

It just misses the mark in so many ways and if you check the Amazon reviews, you'll see that many people will agree with me. The strangest thing about this book is that it honestly did not seem like Goldberg seemed like he knew what he was talking about. He felt more like an outsider looking in that somebody who has apparently been reviewing video games for 15 years. By the end of this book, I did not have any sense of satisfaction, I was just glad that it was over and actually looking forward to an old textbook on AI that I picked up at my school computer lab. (That's how much enthusiasm I had for finishing this book.) I would not recommend this book to anyone and I'll probably honestly never read it again. There are some interesting stories and it's not horribly written in all places, but it's just not worth it; I feel that there are probably so many other books out there that do a better job than AYBABTU that spending your time reading it instead of them is just a waste of your time.

Here's the Amazon page for it. Don't buy it, dummy.
-Bry

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

And now, a brief intermission

I really try not to let my personal life spill into this blog (not that I have enough exciting things happen to spill), but I figure this is my diary and so I might as well post it here. A few days ago, I was riding my bike, trying to work up the endurance to start riding to school instead of taking the bus, and I took a nasty spill and landed on my clavicle. I just went to an orthopedic surgeon today and after taking a look at the x-rays, he strongly suggested surgery, since it was broken into 4 pieces. So yeah, that's going to be fun.

Yeah, not exactly the most nerdy or interesting thing to read on the internet, but it's kind of a big deal for me anyway: first broken bone and first surgery. So if you're religious, say a prayer for me, or if you're just nerdy, do a quick reboot....or something....

[UPDATE 06-04-2012]
For the sake of closure, surgery went fine, although I had a reaction to the anesthesia and had to rush back to the ER later that night. But my arm is doing well. Got some pain meds and a huge scar, but I should be back at 100% in a matter of weeks.

-Bry

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Qweex Locale Translator

One of the changes I've been implementing in almost all of my freeware is the ability to support user-changeable locale. But more than that, a very easy way to help people translate: an INI file layed out as such:
[English]
Hello!=Hello!
[French]
Hello!=Bounjour!
[Dinosaur]
Hello!=Rawwr!
...
 I've never actually had someone translate yet, but I haven't exactly released much of my freeware that has the support yet. But in order to make it even simpler, last night I wrote the Qweex Locale Translator! It is just a list of all the phrases and their translations, side by side, so you just double click on an entry, type in the translation, hit enter, and boom! It's automatically saved to the file





I'm hoping that, if I ever get people wanting to translate, they can just download this tool and start translating in seconds. Plus it really wasn't that hard to write. (The hardest part was trying to get the Image Buttons working on both 64 and 32 bit). As you can see, it uses as little text as possible, because I really didn't want to have to have a translation for the translator.

I'm not going to publish it just quite yet, until I can get some of my other apps' latest versions out the door, and for that, I'm kind of stuck waiting for some good graphics. But as soon as I find them, there will be a flood of updates.

-Bry

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Brainstorm: "Lend" Linux

Almost all of my ideas for software, products, or services come from a need that I myself run into, and recently, I had one that is exciting for me because it will stretch the limits of my knowledge, but it may also be completely stupid and not worth attempting.

I run a small computer repair shop and I realize that when people drop off their computers to be fixed, it sucks to be computer-less. Whether it be for school or even just feeling disconnected, it's just downright inconvenient. So I had the idea to lend a client a spare computer that I had lying around, and it would be best if it ran some form of Linux since it is older hardware. That got me thinking that it would be nice if there was some kind of Linux utility that would let you:
  1. Build a system to how you want it (Apps installed, bash configuration, etc)
  2. Let the user install whatever they want in terms of applications
  3. Remove the changes they made when it is done.
The first question one might ask is, "Well why not just do a fresh install when you get it back?" First off, that's a hassle, especially if you would want to customize a distro for a newb's needs. Secondly, the nice part about what I listed above is that you're not reverting everything back, you're just undoing changes. That means that you don't have to constantly worry about reinstalling and then updating, and hoping that the updates sit well with the older distro version that you originally had.

It would kind o f work like this: you get it all set up with Firefox and maybe Dropbox and all this crap. Then maybe you snag a small 2.5" drive and mount it as their home folder. You lend it to them for a week, show them how to use the Ubuntu App Center or what have you, let them toy around with it, then when you get it back, you press a button, and it keeps whatever updates there are, but reverts the  preferences, the themes, and the installed applications back to what you had it.


As I said, it seems like it could maybe be useful in some scenarios, but it also seems like solutions may already exist, or maybe it just wouldn't work. And besides, if you lend someone a box with Linux on it and they are a Windows user, (a) is that a good idea and (b) how many people are going to actually change stuff?

The origin of this idea is not necessarily because there is this gaping need in the Linux community for a "Lending" distribution, but rather it's something that is of interest to me that has a small quirk to it; I could try to learn more about Linux by building my own Linux distro, but there are already so many of those out there. I really don't feel I have anything more to offer in that area. But maybe this little niche could be nice.

It's an interesting idea that I'm going to look into, but I'm not quite sure of what path to take at this point. Would it just be an application, or an entire distro? Or maybe it would just be a bunch of scripts that use applications that are already in all standard distributions.

I'm totally open to any comments or suggestions on it.
-Bry

Sunday, May 6, 2012

"Just for fun"

Last Christmas I got several books as gifts, one of which was "Just for fun: The Story of Accidental Discovery" by Linus Torvalds. Of all the books I got, this one got me the most giddy and I began reading it the first day back at school and found myself wishing my bus rides were longer so I could read on.

There are a few misconceptions that people might have when first picking up this book. The first is that it's going to be extremely technical, like detailed schematics of how the kernel was designed, but it really isn't. True, I am in computer science, but I don't really recall any long segments that would strike me as dull or boring to the average person. There are brief sections where Linus talks about why this techy method was better than that, but he explains it in a broad sense so that non-techy people will get the gist of it, and more-techy people will understand it.

Another misconception might be that you have to love Linux to enjoy this book. Personally, I love Linux, and the majority of the people interested in this book probably will as well, but it's certainly not a prerequisite. Linus really talks about his personal part of the story rather than the culmination of the Free Software movement. A similar implication is that the book was going to be very preachy toward the Open-source Movement, but it is not that either. Linus spends almost the entire book talking about himself. He dips here and there into what was happening as a result of Linux or even some philosophical thoughts, but for the large majority, it's not trying to glamorize open-source software. It's just telling you a story.

That's really the aspect of the book that I like the best; it is undoubtedly well written and narrated, but it's also very informal. It's as if you're sitting down with Linus and chatting one on one. It really helps you see him as a normal person rather than some grandiose computer god. He spends about 1/3 of the book just talking about his own personal life before even starting on Linux. Then he goes on to talk about the rise of Linux and its major adoption, but what that meant to him. And lastly, he finishes up talking about some of the ethical implications of the open-source model. Like I said, he doesn't push it, but he does spend a very brief chapter called "Why Open Source Makes Sense." And that's ok. Can you imagine a book entirely about Linux that didn't talk a little do a smidge of preaching about open source? As long as it's not suffocatingly strong throughout the book, it's fine, and it being confined to one condensed chapter at the end is perfectly fine with me.

One of the things I enjoyed most about this books is kind of getting into the mind of the guy who created Linux. And not because "Oh, he's some kind of genius." Yes, Linus is very smart, but it was more interesting to me to see the inner workings of the mind that kept this revolution going. Like, beyond his intelligence, what does it take? And the overriding answer to me is: clarity. Throughout the book, both in the narrating and the events that happened, it becomes clear that Linus is a straight-to-the-point type of guy; if he disagrees with something he will say "That's stupid" outright. Over the course of the book he describes his reasoning behind decisions he made or stances he takes and he does it in a way that is very sure of himself. That's how I would describe Linus (without meeting him, anyway): sure of himself. And that bleeds into being sure of Linux, and that's why it became so successful, at least part of. People listened to him and followed him (and still follow him) because his stances are straightforward and sincere. He has a code and he sticks to it (pardon the pun). And that's something you can really get behind.


As I said, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I would recommend this book to anyone who has even heard the word "Linux" or has the slightest interest in computers. It's very easy to read, entertaining, and has quite a bit of humor woven in. (Like Linus's stance of Root Beer.) If you're hoping to get "a history of Linux", this book might get you halfway there but it's really more of "a history of the guy who created Linux".  It's not even necessarily a "story", so don't go into it ready to make a map of chronological events; go in with the attitude of "I want to get in the head of Linus Torvalds," and then reading the book will truly live up to its name.

Just For Fun on Amazon

-Bry

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Piracy: To Arrrrrg or not to Arrrrrg?

This is going to be a little different. There really is not that much technical about this discussion; it's far more ethical than anything else. But I would really like to get my thoughts out on paper (er, pixel) and maybe even get some other people's opinions.

Piracy: Definition

First I feel like I should be clear on what I believe "piracy" is. Piracy is the act of obtaining that which you have not paid for. Simple as that. To me, there is a crucial distinction between that definition and just "downloading music/movies/etc". This is where it gets kind of hazy because from my perspective it's not simply a black-and-white issue. For example, if I happen to hear about a music CD that is no longer sold*, I will download it via torrent without a moment's hesitation; if I would like to buy their content but they are no longer offering it, I really don't have an ethical problem with obtaining it some other way. (There have actually been songs that were not being bought so I downloaded, then the artists released an album of B-sides which I immediately bought.)

*without DRM

Another example: what if I buy a crap ton of music from a certain music store that (at least at one time) did not let you re-download the music that you already paid for, and then your computer crashes and you lose it all. Is it wrong to download all the music that you have already spent money on, or should you have to re-buy them? It's kind of a tricky question to me. If you draw a parallel between MP3s and CDs, if your CDs get lost or damaged, you do have to buy them again. The record store does not owe you an obligation to replace any CDs that you might lose. The problem with this reasoning -and a lot of reasoning either for or against piracy- is that MP3s are not CDs; that digital is not physical. They are different medians, different commodities, and different rules should apply.

Video games (Steam)

I am a Steam subscriber and I love the Steam service. In addition to their crazy sales, they also do something unique: they sell licenses to games, not the games themselves. You create an account with them and then when you buy a game, you don't get a ZIP file in exchange, it is credited to your account. It says "This guy owns Left4Dead." It's not about the files, it's about the ownership. That's why I can download it as many times as I want on as many computers as I want, as long as it is me playing it. I own the game, not the files. In a sense, I own the essence. When there are updates, I get them. I kind of own the "idea" of Left4Dead, and the files are just a manifestation of that.

But a lot of people don't like Steam for two different reasons: (1) according to the Steam EULA, what I just said is extremely true. You don't actually own the games at all. You only own the licenses. If you do something against Valve's rules, they can literally revoke your account and you will lose all your games on their service. That sucks and is stupid, I will not deny that. And (2), Steam games have DRM.

DRM

Now normally, I loathe DRM (which I will talk about more in a moment), but the reason that I don't mind DRM in Steam because of....well, what I just said. Steam sells you the license to a game, and in exchange, they want to make sure that only you are using that license. It's a tradeoff, and a tradeoff that I personally think is worth it.

Music DRM, on the other hand, was selling you the MP3 with DRM. If you lose the MP3, you're screwed, but the file is also weighed down because it can only be played in specific players and devices. It is literally lessening the value of the commodity with no gain whatsoever to the consumer. Furthermore, games are different than MP3s because a game is the commodity by itself; sure you need the Steam client, but they can't be played on various devices and in various players like MP3s can. (Plus, there's the fact that games are about $50 a pop, music is $1 a song. It makes a tad more sense to DRM a game, at least from my eyes.)

And the main real reason I am a Steam subscriber is: trust. A lot of people act like you shouldn't ever trust companies, but I don't. Trust is a part of the customer-company relationship and to me, Valve has always proven to be trustworthy. I think I should reward them for that and if it also happens to mean getting games for under $5, well, that would be fine too.

Formats (Movies, TV, Video Games, etc)

 One of the things that still bugs me is formats; again, from my point of view, that which is digital is become more and more about a license and less about the medium it comes on. So if I buy a movie on DVD, is it ok to rip it to my computer, or do I have to buy the digital copy as well? Or even trippier, if I buy the DVD copy, am I allowed to download the Blu-Ray quality torrent?

To me, the answer is a "yes", simply because of this: it's mine. I bought this disk, and if I want to use it as a coaster, I can. If I want to pick my teeth with it, I can. If I want to rip the data off it to my computer, I can. I find it so funny that ripping MP3s to your computer was considered acceptable for years, but now, ripping DVDs and Blu-Rays is not only discouraged, it's illegal. Nice step backwards, dontcha think?

But that doesn't really answer the other question, if I own the Xbox game, can I torrent the PC version? If I own the physical book, can I download the eBook? I am inclined to answer "Yes", but I have no real reason to argue it. It just begins to tread on dangerous ground; if we take my idea of a license or idea being the commodity and run with it, who is to say where the license starts and stops?

Excuses


I'll talk more about that later but first I'm going to list some of the excuses that I have run across when I hear people that pirate and then try to justify their piracy.

It's not stealing!
People love to use this one: "It's not stealing, it's sharing!" As I said earlier, digital purchases are different than physical commodities. If I "steal" an apple, the storekeeper has one less apple, but if I "steal" a song, the website doesn't lose anything, but you are stealing. You are taking possession of something that the storekeeper was selling but you did not pay for. You are taking a license that was not purchased. The concept of a digital commodity -something that can be copied and transmitted with little to no cost- is something that is extremely new in the human economy, and it's too different to treat it exactly as anything else. I might talk a little later about how I think digital goods should be controlled, but the point is that they should definitely not be the exact same as physical goods.


"It's a 'victimless crime'. The music industry is corrupt!"
I will agree that the way that the music industry is set up is corrupt. The fact that iTunes gets 30% per song just for hosting the content is ridiculous; they didn't write it, record it, mix it, all they did was throw it on their shelves but they want to take more than a quarter of the pie.

BUT that doesn't mean that you can just do whatever you please. This is not about being some vigilante; you are not Batman for downloading "District 9". You cannot simply break the rules when you think it's unfair and you have the means to do so. If you had the security code to a car lot, you couldn't just go in and take a new BMW just because you think the interest rates they charge are too high. Abusing a flawed system is not the right way to fix it. Granted, this will poke at the industry members and force them to shift to change, but often times the change is for the worse. In the end, though, it comes down to morals. And yes, I realize that I just used the whole "You wouldn't download a car" analogy, but even though the catchphrase is stupid, it does offer a valid point in terms of ethics. The main point is: you cannot simply break the rules just because you don't like them.

"It's too expensive!"
This expands on the previous point: the prices being higher than you'd like does not justify what would otherwise be an ethical no-no. It also brings up a huge problem that I see in people: entitlement. People feel like they are entitled to whatever music they want at a low price. They see it as their right. That's why you'll hear people make excuses like
  • "It's not on Netflix streaming yet" = "I feel as though I should be able to stream anything I want at any time"
  • "if I'm paying $100 a month for cable I should have direct access to any show I want at any time I want" -An actual quote by someone
If you want a perfect example of the first one, take a look at people's reactions to  Netflix's price hike last year. It went from being $10 a month to $16 a month. That is the price of 2 lattes at Starbucks. But people went crazy, saying that they were only going to pirate from then on out and that Netflix was driving people to piracy. So people don't just feel entitled to Netflix's streaming service, they feel entitled to it at a certain price. "I'll pay for entertainment if it's $X, but if it's $Y, I'm going to just going to pirate it." And come on, folks, let's get real here, $6 more a month is not that crazily unreasonable; if you could afford Netflix beforehand, I'm decently sure you'll be able to afford Netflix at $6 more.

The second example is equally as potent: people somehow get a divine revelation that because they pay a certain amount, they should be able to do whatever they want. They set their own rules based on what they think they're entitled to.
 
"You can support the band in other ways."
I've heard it said that if you really like a band, you can just buy a t-shirt when they go on tour. There are plenty of reasons this makes no sense in the practical world.
  1. Now you're saying that artists need to write their music, record it, give it away for free, then somehow obtain the money for a cross country tour before they make any money.
  2. Bands cannot go everywhere in the world to sell their gear. It's just not possible.
  3. You would have to buy a shirt or poster for every single CD you've ever bought or downloaded. I have 3 Switchfoot shirts, 2 hoodies, a hat and 2 posters but I'd still need to buy one more thing to match the number of CDs I have from them, and that is just one artist. It's just not practical.
Donations is another thing, but I'll get to that in a second.

"I want to see if I like it first"
I am conflicted on this. For some media, it makes sense, and for others, it does not. I listen to music every day for probably around 5 hours usually so some songs I will hear almost every day. They're basically something that is meant to be enjoyed frequently; you buy it because you want to listen to it whenever you want. Movies, on the other hand, are different, in that it's really about the first experience, and then if you really like it and see yourself wanting to watch it fairly frequently (maybe once every few months or even once a year), you'll buy it. Movies and TV are really more of an experience than a commodity.

This is probably the most challenging area to draw a line in. I will admit to "sampling" music before buying it, but I don't do the same with video games. I guess it's just how I see things, but most of the time, I will enjoy a game no matter what. I may not enjoy it as much as I could have, but it will still provide some entertainment. But if I buy a CD that I end out not liking at all, I will just plain never listen to it.

I am aware that this is the most greyish area, and hopefully my opinion of it will become sharpened over time. I also feel like I am being a hypocrite in this area when it comes to software. It's just a difficult point to think about.

Responses


But it's not just the pirates that try to negate the other side's compliments; the anti-pirates are even worse. Here are some of the ways that corporations try to fight hollywood.

"Let's sue everyone."
Mother of god, I could spend all day furiously typing at my keyboard about how ridiculously absurd this is. The big corporations have literally sued people -children, even- for over $1,000 a song. I thought court was supposed to get back money that you lost, which would be $1 a song, but 1,000 times that. On top of that, litigation is just the worst type of PR for this. It's trying to rule people through fear, which is the exact opposite of the trust I mentioned earlier with Valve.  You don't feel connected to the music industry, you feel like a cow that they are milking dry and if you ever try to leave the pasture, they shoot you in the face.

"Companies are losing tons of money."
Of all the excuses I've heard, this has got to be the most foolish. That assumes that pirates would buy everything they download, which is complete crap. A lot of people hear one song and then will go and download the whole discography of an artist. Do you think they would do that if they had to pay? Hells no.

On the flip side, though I think it is ridiculous that the other side says "Companies aren't losing any money at all." If 100,000 people pirate a $10 CD and just 1% of those people would have bought it if they could not pirate it, that's still $10,000 lost. Companies lose money, for sure, but not near as much as they would like you to believe.

On top of that, piracy actually does have bonuses for the company. People pirating and using Photoshop help cement it as the industry standard. There's less chance of companies switching over to a different program if the people they hire are already fluent in Photoshop because they pirated it. It's certainly not an excuse, just don't be fooled into the belief that the companies are being completely taken advantage of.


What are you buying?

As I said before, it really is a difficult question, are you buying the movie, or the experience of watching the movie? If it's the latter, does that mean I can pick a VHS of Star Wars out of the 95 cent bin then go home and download the Blu-Ray torrent? At one point do you stretch beyond your basic rights as a consumer and into the self-entitlement I mentioned earlier?

And on a much broader sense, can you copyright an idea? Is there really something called "Intellectual Property" that can be likened to physical property? In a way, it's frightening to look at either direction. If Intellectual Property is the same as physical property, then patent trolls like Microsoft and Oracle can go around protecting the "ideas" of software. UMG can pull a MegaUpload video from Youtube. It basically is very scary business because lawyers become far more important than innovators. But on the other hand, if you say that Intellectual Property does not exist at all, you get Richard Stallman, who wants everybody to be able to download any piece of art, music, movie, TV show, video game, comic, ebook, software, and pretty much everything digital any time they want. As someone who hopes to make software some day and not starve to death, this does not sound good to me. I actually agree with RMS on a lot of his views, but to abolish the concept of Intellectual Property would be extremely detrimental to the market. At least in the capitalism we live in.


Temptations

About a year ago, a thought occurred to me that really fogged up the argument for me. What about textbooks? I personally think that the textbook system is 10x more corrupt than any entertainment industry. The campus bookstores sell them for 20% more than other stores and buy them back for 10% of what you paid for them. Textbooks are usually at least 5x more expensive than other books; I bought my Linux book for $20 and my Algorithms book went for $110, both are about the same thickness. They update versions of textbooks and change next to nothing, but still require everyone to go out and buy the newest version, obliterating the return selling price of the previous one. And lastly, some classes will require a textbook that you literally will not use the entire semester. I think I have made my point.

This is not entertainment, this is education. This is an extremely corrupt system. This is something that you will only have for about 3 months, which you might not even use. This is something that is extremely overpriced. This is something that will make your life easier (carrying around less textbooks). These are people who you could give a rat's ass about giving money to. This is the perfect example of why someone would pirate.

But is it ethical? If you say yes to that, then you have to say yes to all the other situations I just listed. As hard as it is for me to say it, I would have to say no. Not because I don't want to get free textbooks for all the reasons listed, but because I examine other cases and see that there is a flaw in the reasoning for ones that I am not emotionally invested in.


Summary



The most important thing to be concerned with is that everyone should think. I know so many people that pirate music that don't necessarily have a reason to defend it, they just do it because it's free. If you want to download some digital content, whether it be an app, song, game, book, software, etc, you damn sure better have a good reason to justify it, if only for yourself.

I realize that some people would probably call me a hypocrite, and maybe I am, to some extent. "So people can't choose their own entitlement, but you will download a CD if only a DRM'ed copy is available? Doesn't the whole 'you can't break the rules because you're unhappy' deal?" And to a point, they are right. I think there are nuances, like the fact that you can buy a CD and rip MP3s, so why should store-sold copies have DRM on them? But they would be right, and like I said, it's not an easy matter. The only real way to conclusively answer this question is to say that "Pirating is never wrong" or "Pirating is always wrong." I'm not so sure it's that simple.

-Bry