Team Murder No Brain No Headache.

29Sep/02Off

On Hold…


This bundle of joy is waiting for us at the local animal shelter. He really is this cute and he'll be coming home (Yoon's approval pending) on Wednesday. Oh dear. Leonard (the pound's name although it will probably stick) is 5 months old and is quite the talker when he's cold and confused.

Filed under: General 4 Comments
29Sep/02Off

Early Xandros Review…

This one comes from a beta tester (the final beta is supposed to be released Monday) who actually installed the Xandros beta on five different machines. He explicitly disclaims any allegiance to Xandros and tries to be very even handed. Go check it out. Xandros probably isn't the distribution for me but I think that it might be the easy Debian derivative that whips the shit out of crap like Lindows. I'm not holding my breath on this but I'll take the hopeful if not optimistic position on this for the moment however chickenshit that might be.

This should appeal to quite a few folks:

Without fail I have been able to browse and share files over my netowrk with a Windows 2000 server, Windows 98, various Linux distributions including Mandrake 9.0, SuSE 8.0 Pro, Libranet 2.7, Red Hat Null, and even a Windows XP desktop. You can access your removable media, create NFS shares, browse local Windows partitions, transfer over FTP and validate against a Windows PDC to browse the netowrk resources. You can also share your local files with a simple right-click. This is a powerful tool. I have also utilized the Winbind option in the Xandros Control Center (KDE) to authenticate against a Windows PDC to join the local domain. This feature has worked flawlessly. I strongly believe in the mantra "the network is the computer" and thanks to XFM, Xandros networks with greater ease than any other distribution I have used previously.

I've never really needed to do any PDC validating but I've heard gnashing of teeth and furrowing of brows related to this topic. Nice to see people concentrating on improvements like this rather than one click installs and whatnot. If I can scrape up an extra box at work I might give this a test run.

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29Sep/02Off

More On The Latest Money Losing Endeavor…

In case that obnoxious button over on the left hasn't caught your eye I'm selling some crap now. I just added a Gentoo button and one with the BSD mascot Chuck. There are more on the way whether anyone buys them or not...

Right Quick
Simon Cozens (who I feel is responsible for teaching me Perl through his excellent books) has some clue on why Perl 6 is taking so long and how difficult Larry's job is so tricky. Nice.

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29Sep/02Off

Until Mozilla Goes On A Diet…

It seems like Dillo is finally getting some of the attention that it's long deserved. I've seen a couple short pieces in praise of its speed and portability but a fella over at The Montreal Linux Users Group really took some time to work Dillo over and wrote a lengthy article about its strengths and weaknesses.

Give it a shot if you haven't given it a try because it is the fastest browser I've ever used. Stripping out all the geegaws and doohickeys really does speed things up more noticeably than those who falsely claim the title. How about a eyeblink between issuing the command and being in a browser on a PII 366? I just did it. That's actually faster than Lynx and let's you click on the pretty pictures instead of pounding on arrow keys. The only real downside for me is the lack of tabbing which is understandable. For some reason I don't feel like I'm doing something productive on the w3 unless I have thirty tabs open in the same browser window. This may be a reflection on my need to grow the hell up and not on some deficiencyin Dillo. I've been slowly migrating to all lightweight applications since the laptop came and I compute entirely from my couch. Dillo is amazing for those times when you want to check out a site without waiting for a fullscale thermonuclear browser to launch. Copy. Open Dillo. Paste. Read. Done. Elapsed time is something like 20 seconds. It launches fast enough to allow you to just open and close it without waiting the eternity it takes for the burlier browsers to grind through their opening paces.

The suck part is that they're running into financial trouble which could be your new mission. I'm going to try to contact the developers directly and try to convince them to make a PayPal donation account. I'd love to kick down a few bucks but I'm not exactly VC material if you know what I mean. Hopefully some of the big boys in the embedded market will realize that this shit is gold and kick down the necessary scratch.

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29Sep/02Off

In3rtia Ownz J00 1

Yeah, I know. I do actually read my email although I'm getting absolutely terrible about answering it. I haven't been posting for shit lately. I was sort of waiting for my site to actually cave in but Aaron actually beat me at that one. Granted he was actually out of town so there is there is an actual reason for his vacuum instead of the overt apathy behind mine. Not much going on in the tech world (unless the usual release cycle dog and pony show is captivating for you) that isn't addressed in a single sentence and I've actually been trying to study instead of scraping by with whatever I can absorb through a semi-conscious haze of fatigue and caffeine deficiency during classes. Getting back into that crazy idea that I should actually get something for the thousands of tuition dollars that I'm paying. Anyway, I haven't felt the urge to do much other than skim analog reports to see who is coming in and from where.

My logs are actually pretty funny. Besides the usual sweaty palmed queries for nude celebrity photos I have a fair number of desperate sounding technology search results come in. The disjointed pile of search terms begin to look like some apocalyptic version of defeatist haiku after reading a couple pages of them:

Monitor flashing grey
broken packages ddd
compile vbscript
how do i undo bonzibuddy
where is config file waimea
flash animation flag waving

Since this site has never exactly been comment heavy despite the ridiculous amount of traffic it sees (thanks!) my only communication with most of you folks are the cryptic telegrams you send Google. It's a little odd.

Something Slightly Relevant
There's a nice overview of building a ligher weight Linux desktop. It's nice to see people documenting ways to strip down the more bloated distributions intstead of just reviewing the minimalist ones. I think this is sort of aimed at lookie loo folks who are trying to install one of the more resource hungry distributions on their extra machine that was powerful and useful six years ago. While I'm not a fan of this practice since anything intended for desktop is going to be a hog I can see the merit of this approach since it does illustrate the breadth of choice inherent in Linux. The author also makes the point that KDE and Gnome applications function happily under almost any windowmanager. Seems like a fair number of folks get pretty confused about this. I seldom run KDE and I can't recall ever starting a Gnome session on purpose although I like a lot of the applications that both environments offer. There are so many really good lightweight windowmanagers now that I shudder to think of launching one of those hogs when all I want to is use some of the applications tied to their libraries. Can't say that I'm a huge fan of IceWM but I understand why people like to use it - the taskbar and whatnot.

What is it about RedHat that inspires such fierce loyalty for a commercial distribution that is for the most part the epitome of mediocrity. One fella goes off about all the mean, nasty, and terrible folks criticizing RedHat XP Null. Sorry kiddo but it really is lame. Usuability is one thing but condescension in the name of making user choices simpler (or simply nonexistant) is fucking stupid no matter how many nearly worthless shares you've got floating around out there. Either way there are some folks who will tirelessly defend this nonsense against all attempted reasonable criticism. Hope you're at least getting some kick down for being shills. I've heard that OS News could use a few more cranks beating their particular drum in the forums. You might want to check it out. I've heard that doing battle with people who think computing began and ended with BeOS (or Amiga) is very productive...

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27Sep/02Off

Made For Each Other

I'm talking about Lindows and AOL here and I'm not being flippant or anything. The deal which some are equating with devils dealing amongst themselves and leaving us mortals completely out of the loop actually makes a lot of sense to me. AOL is not a fan of Microsoft. AOL is a slick, accessible interface for people who can't be bothered to learn anything new to use a sanitized and tour guided version of the internet. And Lindows? Check, check. Lindows might make more sense as the MSNBC dude termed it: "The AOL OS." Both are technologically sketchy but what the hell...

God speed and good riddance.

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26Sep/02Off

Do You Want New Wave Or Do You Want The Truth?

Man. The Debian is losing mindshare article over at Debian Planet has generated a fair amount of controversy (so much that the site was actually inaccessible earlier which was probably due to OS News sending over a bitter mob of old BeOS zealots to snicker at weakness in the community. My feelings on this are pretty mixed.

The article raises some good points like the supposed superiority of apt-get (which I'm still convinced makes RPM look more than a little sad) which is less and less applicable these days. Most of the big guns in the distro game are already wise to the idea that having to install software strictly from CDs to avoid hair tearing dependency hell is a bad thing and many have moved to address this problem with their own updating/installation clients. The problem that I've seen with most of them is that they either tend to freeze you at a version (which seems the most rigid with SuSE if only because you can't go grab and burn an ISO of the newest release) and don't handle mirroring well enough (yet) to avoid the bottleneck around patch and point release time. Even the RPM-based distros are infinitely better than they were just a few years ago. I would make some joke about it being impossible to get worse but that would just be trolling. Pathetic that I have to restrain myself from trolling my own site.

Another concern is that Gentoo is "stealing" a lot of users and developers away from Debian. This is crazy talk. Gentoo is a cool ass project that deserves as much support as any other. There is a slightly different philosophy adhered to by the Gentoo developers that results in bleeding edge quality without as much emphasis on rock solid stability. For some reason people are really concerned that KDE 3 and Gnome 2 aren't packaged for Debian quite yet. While this is sort of a bummer cause hey we all want to click on the pretty new icons you also have to give the developers a break here. With an ungodly amount of applications available (it was up to 10,000 a few months ago) there is a lot of infrastructure/interoperability work that needs to be done for the sake of stability (which is one of Debian's most quantifiable assets) even in the unstable and experimental branches. I can't think of anything that's really missing from either the Gnome or KDE environment right now that I can't wait a few more months for especially after watching KDE 3 misbehave on other machines.

It's also interesting to me that the article uses the number of reviews for a release as the litmus for mindshare. As is mentioned in the comments section, Debian is a difficult beast to attach a number or effective value to simply because the whole idea of version numbers is a little ridiculous when the whole package structure makes it a continually evolving (and arguably more organic) thing. Once you've had Debian on a machine for awhile and have tinkered around with your source.list and pinning a little it becomes very difficult to even estimate what release you're running. I'm not sure that trying to measure the mindshare Debian has is even productive as there have been plenty of folks who've stepped up and said while they use (insert whichever shiny happy desktop distro name here) on the desktop they stuck with Debian (and often Slackware) for the more critical things. Then there are folks like me that run Debian on the desktop (and laptop) and just appreciate the fact that it's good solid stuff without a bunch of crap forced onto the user. The downside of this is that you often need to know what you want in order to get a machine running well. If you want to call that a downside...

I think the departure of many to the Gentoo camp might end up being a healthy thing in the long run because it may relieve some of the pressure on package maintainers (which exists regardless of the lack of commercial motivations) to keep unstable from being continually broken to keep the version vultures off their backs. As often as I've heard people grousing about the lack of the newest versions of KDE or Gnome in unstable I haven't heard a single reasonable argument why these packages need to be included. Being bleeding edge for the sake of being bleeding edge just seems a little juvenile. God, it's late... more on this later since my eyes are beginning to bleed.

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25Sep/02Off

Time For A Little Something…

Damn. I'd forgotten how slick emacs21 really is until I opened it and listened to my poor little laptop swapping like crazy. Seems a little much for a text editor but I guess other folks deal with email, pilot small aircraft, and other things with their text editors so who am I to judge. Man, it's been a long weekend/week with very little posting here.

Debian is finally on the laptop. I knew what needed to happen (installing Sid) but the thought of the ten CD ordeal (where are the kernel images again?) made me resort to playing around with a few single disc distributions. I had a copy of RedHat sitting around that I assumed was ancient but seems to be only one release behind. I'm pretty impressed since the 5.x days when I gave it a shot. Still heavy into the Gnome thing which just isn't lightweight enough for me (especially on an underpowered PII 366 laptop) to do anything more than play with.Oh, and listen to the grinding of my swap partition being abused. It didn't last long but was fun for a little while. I was down to the last couple of CDRs and leery of distros that might be fun to check out but not have the PCMCIA drivers I needed for my weird ass NIC. So, for giggles I downloaded the very pretty but almost useless beta of the new end user version of RedHat. Like I said very pretty but everything is hidden or crippled or dependent on some non-existent RPM. It lasted about fifteen minutes which was a shame since it took something like two hours to install. Bah. First the dreaded RPM package management system which made installing new software into a game of sChutes and Ladders and now an anemic version of the operating system for the desktop user with the one desktop evironment to rule them all. Not much fun or particularly useful. The absolute end of the road was Roaring Penguin refusing to compile. No network, stranded in Candyland, and it's past time to reinitialize those partitions. I played around with Mandrake for a while as well. I still think Mandrake is the best distribution for the casual user because although it is pretty easy to use there is still power under the ten coats of shiny plastic GUI goop. Unlike the RH beta when you type "lsmod" on the command line you get an answer to your question instead of hunting through a sea of menus in search of a graphical utility to answer this very simple question. Humbug.

I promised that I was going to document the Debian install but there really isn't that much to tell. Stay away from 2.2 kernels with laptops. I was locking up the whole system whenever I breathed too hard in the direction of eth0 or tried to configure it through the PPPoE client. It's hard to get much accomplished when you're sitting through fsck after fsck. The drivers for my slightly weird NIC worked flawlessly from the 2.4.19 kernel. I should've guessed this right off the bat. The fact that my cards were being detected at boot time (and even under the right name) made me hesitant. Between the newer drivers and discover the install is pretty straightforward. It's a Toshiba Tecra 8000 in case that means anything to you. This also means that I probably need to include the first disk of the stable CD set along with the unstable sets. It's impossible to boot from a floppy drive (at least as far as I can tell and I had lots of practice this weekend) without it since there are no floppy images that I could find. There are probably workable images in testing but since the jigdo images are broken for that particular branch right now I'm not going to bother trying to assemble them. I'm happy to have a functioning machine with an operating system that isn't hellish running on it.

Guiding Lights
Linux Compatible
The Complete List of PCMCIA cards supported by the pcmcia-cs driver.
PCMCIA HowTo
and there's some other stuff I consulted that I'm not remembering and it's not like I have bookmarks left over from any of those crazy installs.

Filed under: General 2 Comments
23Sep/02Off

This Couch Sucks Out My Life (Through My Ass)

I'm taking a day off in theory to wait for the clowns in brown to deliver some signature-required packages (one of which is just 75' of ethernet cable) but mainly because I burned myself out this weekend working with a new machine with difficult to configure components.Yuck. The beauty of Linux is that if one distribution doesn't work for your particular situation you can just download one that does. This somewhat disappointing since I happen to very hung up on a specific distribution that doesn't work (right now) with my particular set of crappy proprietary hardware. Neverthless, I'm sitting on my couch watching Judge Hatchett make teenagers cry (which probably isn't a good thing - the watching TV part anyway I still think crying teenagers are pretty funny) and playing around on the web. Goal accomplished but not exactly in the way that I wanted. This is the part where you call you me a whiny little bitch...

There's an interview with one of the sources of all evil Jack Valenti. The tricky part about Valenti is that he's basically a likeable guy who is eloquent and persuasive speaker who dodges questions skillfully. Valenti might just be the Ronald Reagan (in his prime when he was lying about welfare queens before all the drooling started) of the entertainment industry. Gillmor promises a rebuttal in future columns. I'll be waiting.

Wil Wheaton writes the exhilarated first week on a Linux box post. I followed that link in from elsewhere because Wil's site is one of the few places (excepting Segfault before the comments were shut down) where the comments are more stupid, obnoxious, and pointless than Slashdot. Transitions are getting more painless all the time. Yay. Right now I'm wishing for a deadpan tag in HTML. Oh wait, I guess that post did get a healthy slashdotting which might explain the negative IQ points in the comment section. Like I need to explain this.

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22Sep/02Off

Suffering In Isolation

I've been pretty busy tinkering with the new laptop. I thought I had things nailed down with the first Debian install until the entire machine would lock up everytime I tried to configure or use eth0. No ethernet, no network, no interweb for your and my entertainment. Since I need a functioning machine I just installed whatever else I had laying around which turned out to be an older version of RedHat which worked flawlessly but made me feel like a tool of the man. I ended up installing a fairly recent version of Mandrake which made me feel like a feeb instead of a tool. That sort of feels better. I've spent way too much time searching mailing lists and whatnot for the secret of my network card which makes Debian installs impossible right now. It's frustrating and I'm fresh out of patience. This isn't to say that I had a whole lot to begin with. Once I get started making boot floppies it's all over.

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18Sep/02Off

With Research Like This Who Need Marketing?

Before using Macromedia Flash content on their sites, developers want to know what percentage of Web browsers will be able to see it. Because of the wide preinstallation of Macromedia Flash and its ease of download, this percentage is very high.

In June 2002, NPD Research, the parent company of MediaMetrix, conducted a study to determine what percentage of Web browsers have Macromedia Flash preinstalled. The results show that 97.8% of Web users can experience Macromedia Flash content without having to download and install a player.*

from a "white paper" celebrating the ubiquity of Flash. Oh my.

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18Sep/02Off

C Is The Heavenly Option

Again I make a trip to OS News and find something thought provoking, somewhat offensive, and very sincere. I don't like most of the opinions the editors have about GNU/Linux but I nearly always read them. Hell, I usually read the comments because despite their total infection with trolls the reader opinions are usually from a pretty diverse span of perspectives at least where geek stuff is concerned.
The latest editorial/rant is no exception to this. Adam Scheinberg makes a stab at defining two broad categories of Linux user and divides them into end user and hardcore more or less. It's a thankless job (the alternating flames and hot air is enough to make you wonder exactly which circle of the underworld you've fallen into) and I don't think Adam nails it by any stretch of the imagination but I understand where he's coming from.

One thing I do like about the article is the often mistaken notion that the "hardcore" are mean, elitist, and completely disinterested in what end user types have to say about their work. This is a point that needs to be made more often especially by people who don't code. There are a lot of heated opinions about this division and I'm always going to favor the coders here if only because they actually code instead of spending eons of manhours ranting about how much xxxx sucks because this feature hasn't been implemented. If developers were so unfriendly to end users (or as I call them in times of ill temperedness the "clickety" bunch) they wouldn't be clicking on the pretty widgets or even installing Linux to begin with.

Anyone here install Slackware back in the day or download xfree86 as a tarball? Those were brutal installs where a successful install felt like hacking. I'm not saying that this was some kind of golden age or anything but there was a certain clue or willingness to learn and experiment prerequsite that sort of tempered people who approached Linux for the first time. There were far less instances of people buying a boxed set at CompUSA or something and complaining because all of their hardware wasn't detected or, god forbid, there were too many options when installing the operating system.

The article written by just such an intimidated user from a couple of days back really sums up this change in how people look at Linux. He was essentially scared of by choices between file systems and the availibility of patches and upgrades. This complaint was (and should still be) a laughable one. It isn't though. People nod their heads in sage sympathy like this is some kind of fundamental problem with the state of Linux. I mourn for the hours lost by some talented hacker in an effort to circumvent Darwinism and enable someone who can't be bothered to read documentation to determine the course of things. The worst part is that a lot of people interpret the reluctance to cater to this sort of clueless arrogance as elitism on the part of developers.

The first dillemma that I faced is what company should I go with? As a Windows user I really never heard of the many different companies that produce Linux. I have heard of Red Hat and Mandrake (I saw it at Borders). I have read about them sort of on web pages, but since I never wanted to use Linux before I did not pay much attention. I wanted to find a version that was easy to install, I have heard the nightmares of having to configure all the hardware yourself. I read the web pages and decided to go with Mandrake. I really could not make heads or tails of the different distros.even in the reviews. I picked Mandrake because it seemed like an easy install. Why did I have to pick? Why no just go to store and buy what ever and it is the right one?

The install process was long but fairly easy (Thank God) but I was still confused a bit by the File System option. Which was is the best one? Which one is the most stable? Which one is fastest? I don't want to make that choice. I had to stop and do some research online to find out which one I wanted to use. I never had to do that with Windows. What if I picked the wrong one? Would it taint my experience? What are KDE and Gnome? Which is better? Damn another stall; back to the Net to find out which is better. It seems most people are using KDE so I choose it. Argggg.. why do I need a root password?

I find it very difficult to take this sort of argument very seriously because it comes (I think) from not taking your operating system very seriously. Apply this attitude towards any other consumer decision and you'd look like a moron but somehow when applied to Linux it's some kind of valid complaint. The truly killer part about that line of thinking is that these are Windows customers that need to stick with Windows. Really. I really do think some people shouldn't bother because fleeing to Linux to escape a set of problems will invariably lead to another set of problems on another platform where people will want to smack you for angrily questioning the need for a root password. Anyway, I think the point I'm groping for is the lack of curiousity and willingness to learn can't be overcome by flashy installers and patient measured tones in help forums. This deficiency is not the fault of any codebase or developer. When you refuse to make tentative steps towards something new you need to prepare for a lifetime immersed in mediocrity.

If you fit into this vague, broad, and somewhat common category I suggest you stick with Windows. Is this because I'm some mean ubergeek who doesn't want you messing up my command line utopia? Not really but feel free to take that back to the forums. Seriously, though, Linux is not a reactionary measure against Microsoft as much as some seriously deluded folks would love to believe it is. It's an entirely different ball of wax that requires a little bit of compromise on the part of the user. If you're not willing to go there then please don't. It doesn't help anyone and certainly won't solve your problems because, at least where operating systems are concerned, the problem is much deeper than one interface, filesystem, or widget set.

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18Sep/02Off

I’m Always Amazed But Seldom Shocked…

Found this little gem over at Don Park's very Moveable Type looking blog...

Free open source software devalue commercial software and poisons the marketplace. If some talented individual started giving out free Microsoft Word clone with source code, not only will Microsoft stock drop by 25%, entire word processing market will disappear. Once buys starts thinking that something should be free, there is no turning back.

One might argue that adding new features could revive markets decimated by free software. New features has leverage only during early half of a product category's lifecycle. Word processing market is already well past the halfway point. I measure halfway point as the point where 20% of product feature set meets 80% of user's needs. Past that point, users start caring less about new features.

If there is indeed no turning back I suggest that commerical developers retire because open source/free software (which I think is more in line with what he's talking about) isn't exactly new. I have so many problems with this way of thinking that it's difficult to know where to start. If I needed to sum it up in a single thought (which I kinda do since I saw this five minutes after I needed to leave for work) I'd say that if commercial/proprietary software can't handle the competition then there is really something to be said (could I characterize this as kicking sand in the face of Libertarians? I really hope so...) about the faulty theory of the market being the benevolent dictator that folks would like us to believe it is.

Granted, I don't believe this slippery slope argument for two seconds because I've seen how this theory doesn't pan out. End users don't want to have to think about what goes on inside their machines. They buy commercial software to feel like they're truly getting something for their dollars (like a box to put those CDs in and a EULA to click on) and happily suffer mediocrity. Corporate users want someone else to hold accountable for failures and incompetence. They will buy commercial software if only for the 1-800 number to call when the buck needs passing.

As far as Microsoft being on the verge of collapse due to some competition from alternatives like Open Office - Jesus Fucking Christ - are you not following any of this anti-trust stuff? I know it's only been dragging on forever but wouldn't you free market zealots rather have competition than government intervention? Step back and take a couple of very deep breaths (and I'm not just addressing Don here) because you're losing perspective. Given the characterization of free development (and I don't just mean like free beer either) as poison I think I'm being downright charitable. More later when I've got time to edit this and my knee isn't jerking quite so hard.

Filed under: General 2 Comments
17Sep/02Off

One Of The Better Ideas I’ve Seen Lately…

Damn. What a genius idea. Dotfiles is all about having access to other people's configuration files. This is a more valuable resource than 99% of the up to the second breaking news on Mandrake's newest gummified interface tweak. It also beats the hell out of Google searches which seem to return more results in character sets I haven't got installed than anything useful. It's a short path through the junk to something useful.

The funny part is that when I looked a little further into the site I realized that it's been around for like three years and the guy that runs it is also responsible for the excellent xtunes ripper/player/everything but the kitchen sink application for music (which is pretty broken in sid now that I'm looking at it). Very cool stuff and I feel very out of the loop for being clueless. Damn you overly large web!

Update
Actually xtunes isn't broken but it isn't finding my cdburner. Typical. Go play with a silly game about revenge on spammers that promotes opt-in by giving you little treats and a pat on the head instead. Kinda fun though...

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17Sep/02Off

Another Satisfied Customer…

Good god. Go read this article and maybe you'll laugh as hard as I'm laughing right now. Yeah, I know, just yesterday I was saying that I'm through with OS News due to that obnoxious Flash banner (with sound no less) but today there is no Flash banner and the stories are just too chuckle-rific to pass up. Anyway, it strikes me as more than a little funny that someone would be upset to the point of simply giving up on Linux because there were just too many darn choices and, hey, he's never updated Windows 95 but is still heartbroken when he blue screens. Anyone else see any correlation here or am I just mean?

Oh and there's this sad little item about record companies sending out promo copies of new CDs glued inside of portable players to try to keep the yo ho ho and a bottle of rum crowd under control. If I don't stop laughing I'm going to internally rupture something.

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16Sep/02Off

Unsorted And Meandering

Doing my usual stroll through the news sites (that's mainly Linux news, kids - you'll have to smack into a building with a plane if you want me to pay attention to current events for more than two seconds or have Aaron write about them one or the other) when I noticed that there was persistent annoying sound coming from my speakers. OS News is running Flash banner ads. Another one departs from the bookmark list. Maybe once in awhile with elinks but never again with a Flash enabled browser. That was one of the few sites that I didn't block images from. Buh bye.

The idea that Sun will make inexpensive desktop machines just because they hacked up a popular distribution to somehow tie it to Java. Think about what kind of company Sun is and what they rely on: their hardware and Java. All things they produce are going to tie into one or both of those things. Doc Searls is usually pretty right on the money but this article just doesn't make any sense to me. Sun is not going to release a low end x86 workstation. I cannot imagine it happening but that might be short sightedness on my part.

Galeon works with all three versions of Mozilla which is nice when you're running the unstable branch of Debian. The conflicting dependencies make updating without pinning a tricky thing since apt-get will happily uninstall packages to make way for an update. I don't use Galeon nearly as much as the fat bastard but I like to have it around. The stable is 1.2.6 and galeon 2 is already well underway.

Yeah. Whatever. I'm tired and I've got a helluva lot of iso images to assemble for the new time and money pit. It figures.

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15Sep/02Off

Self Regulation Debate

over at Spiked. The pro self regulation argument uses an unfortunate slippery slope tactic that acknowledges the right of people to use the internet freely but then says that this is too dangerous and he wants his paycheck right fucking now, buddy. More of the same from Politechbot.

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15Sep/02Off

Because I Really Really Really Care

Doing the massive update of the unstable CDs which is not quite the seven hour ordeal that assembling the originals was but damn I've been doing this for a long time. If you've never downloaded ten CDs worth of stuff you're not really living. I'm starting to think that I screwed up one of the loop mounts since I don't recall having 1156 packages updated on my machine over the past couple of days.

There are some new/old comics over at Get Your War On which I'm not too sure about. If he really did create them recently then the added touch of bad spelling and more crude art is pretty brilliant. Not that this brilliance would be anything new as far as GYWO is concerned. In any case a combination of GYWO and The Onion is probably a better source of news than say Fox News or something. Insert random crack about the hostile takeover of the world by the liberal media which is funny because the same people were probably seething about the hidden ZOG agenda in the government a couple years ago. Am I calling right wingers sketchy opportunistic shitbags? Impossible.

I've also been digging through the mounds of information available at Personal Telco. Kenneth Hunt had a link to their article about setting up an AccessPoint box with Debian which I followed only to find a whole universe of user edited documentation about alternative networking. This site is a shining example of how wiki sites should function. The map of wireless hotspots in Portland might also be useful if you live around those parts but the sheer volume of documentation is awesome if you don't.

This is all.

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15Sep/02Off

From Our Viewer Mailbag…

I keep getting nasty little pieces of email. I'm assuming they're from folks who don't understand the commenting system. It seems a little strange to email me privately to complain about a topic and not an issue with the site or whatever. I'm not really a fan of publishing email here. Usually it's just too stupid to bother with (I've explained once already how the rampant typos cause a weird kind of virtual connection between idiots I quote and idiots who can't seem to accurately type a three word string into the search box at Google) and the idea of making private things public just irks me. Although the word for word content of most of these weird ass mails leaves much to be desired sometimes they ask questions of merit. So, I'm going to indulge myself a little here and address some of them.

The Apple Thing
I mention Apple related stuff a lot apparently or at least often enough and in negative enough terms to piss the Mac users off. The only exposure that I even have to the machines is at work. I owned a Macintosh a long, long time ago but sold it to a roommate for next to nothing after I bought an x86 machine to run Linux on. I'm guessing the only reason that I'm even remotely involved with the administration and support of them now is because Apple swung around in my direction and used a Unix base in their most recent operating system. Although it is a thousand times more useful than the legacy Mac OS I'm not a huge fan of OS X.

This is basically to answer another question - if I'm a desktop *nix user why I don't just switch platforms. I've also covered this topic several times but I'll reiterate for those who aren't familiar with the "search" paradigm or are missing opposable thumbs or whatever.

1. Slow GUIs make me crazy. Despite all of the religious conversions that former Linux users seem to have when they see the OS X interface for the first time I'm not all that impressed. Why? Because speed is of the essence for me. The OS X interface is slow as hell and sacrifices slickness for performance. While the newest release of OS X (Jaguar) addresses some of these issues it still doesn't feel responsive. I run Yellow Dog on a much slower machine (Imac DV) than my main work machine (833 G4) and I'm always baffled at the difference in performance between the two. While the G4 drags it's feet and grinds away I've switched chairs and done the same task three times already on the pathetic three year old toaster oven. This is nothing new for Apple. Aesthetic appeal has always been a large amount of it's appeal to users. It makes sexy hardware with lots of transparent and fruity colored accessories. That's wonderful. I'm glad that people are happy to have a nice looking machine on their desk. I need a little something more than this though. I'm more interested in what the machine does than how it looks doing it. Knowing this all too well I still have to wonder how Apple manages to sell it's users an optical mouse with one freaking button (I've switched both of my machines to optical wheel mice) for eighty bucks and then I remember. It looks cool. Regardless of how it actually works it looks less like a mouse and more like some black and red glowing lozenge of plastic from the distant future. I'm still not impressed.

Another major pitfall for Apple in my eyes is releasing the new operating system too early. I've found that the newest version fixes some bugs (like mounting NT volumes) that should've been squashed before they even offered a public beta. It looks very nice but doesn't quite get the job done yet. For all the happy bouncing icons I end up doing most of the productive work done in a terminal. So much for the fancy interface on top of Unix. This may be indictative of my elitist preference for the command line interface or maybe the prettiest interface isn't always the best one.

What irritates me the most is that the server version of the operating system while featuring some somewhat useful remote administration tools doesn't offer a client for OS X. So, despite the fact that my department paid an unholy amount of money for an unlimited license version of the server OS I still cannot run latest and greatest clients from that server. Unfortunately, the management utility (which would be great for automating many of the administration tasks in a campus computer lab setting) doesn't really work yet. I've burned through two engineers from Apple trying to set up the Macintosh Manager. It just doesn't hold up under any amount of traffic. I've got a G4 server just sitting in the server room doing nothing because the thousand plus dollar software just can't do the job. But boy are those administrative interfaces good looking...

When it comes down to it most of my arguments against making the big switcheroo are aesthetic in nature. I just don't dig it and I'm always kind of irritated when people are persuaded that something is a better environment (for me) because it looks slicker. The one argument this is incredibly difficult to refute is not wanting to throw the cash down to buy very expensive hardware. I can never justify spending the extra couple of dollars for a nicer case for exactly the same reason - I'm paying for something that just isn't important when it comes down to it. I think that the look of things is the initial appeal. Unfortunately/fortunately the appearance of machines is my bottom most priority and the high availablity of replacement parts for reasonable prices is at the top. I don't want to lock myself into a very fixed hardware platform. God, I could run Solaris and do that.

In the end I wonder if there won't be a fair number of people switching in the opposite direction after they get a taste of the power of Unix without as many freedoms. There's nothing like a little shell access to remind you that you do have an incredibly powerful piece of machinery and nothing like actually being able to get into the core of that machinery and use it.

OK. So, I'm only answering those questions at least for tonight/today. I just noticed that there is an odd bit of synchronicity over at Freshmeat in an article responding to Tim O'Reilly's recent plugs of OS X as a viable replacement for Linux. While I'm not entirely on the same page as the author of the rebuttal the article and the comments attached to it are worth a read if you're interested in this sort of geek holy war. I'm tired.

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14Sep/02Off

More Microsoft Refund Legal Wrangles…

Just noticed this article over at Linux Journal about a fella who wanted to buy a Toshiba laptop without an operating system. After he was denied this option (and still bought the laptop) he did a Linux install without opening the sealed baggie of useless crap from Richmond. Following the terms set in the EULA

(YOU AGREE TO BE BOUND BY THE TERMS OF THIS EULA BY INSTALLING, COPYING, OR OTHERWISE USING THE PRODUCT. IF YOU DO NOT AGREE, DO NOT INSTALL OR USE THE PRODUCT; YOU MAY RETURN IT TO YOUR PLACE OF PURCHASE FOR A FULL REFUND.

he should be eligible for a refund, right? Not exactly.

This question hasn't gone away over the years. Although this should be obvious, it isn't. I'm curious to see how this will work out in this particular situation. It seems like the buyer is serious enough to take the matter to court. I'm wondering if his question prior to making the purchase is going to be a sticking point. I purposely bought my last desktop from a company that sells machines with whatever the hell you want so it hasn't been an issue for me. I usually ask if buying used stuff that people just reformat the hard drive. I do have a legal copy of Windows 98 SE and I don't need to continually pay for new copies of it just so I can play games once in awhile.

While I Was At It
While I was following links around (a good many of them dead I might add) I noticed that Linux Mafia has a mirror up of the long gone and much mourned CoffeeNet cafe in San Francisco. I had my fledgling experiences with Linux at this place while getting all cracked out on their crazy potent coffee. I wondered why they bothered archiving this until the incredibly strong sense of nostalgia for what seems like an entirely different world washed over me. I am a sap. Netscape 3. Whew.

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13Sep/02Off

Team Murder Gets E-commerce On Your Ass…

I decided to sell some stuff. Rather than being all clever and trying to offset some of my expenses I decided to flat out lose money. Stupid but I'm sure the anarchists are loving me. Go here for a nightmarish conconction of tables intended to sell my wares. I don't know why I thought this would be a good idea. More buttons are on the way and I'm thinking about t-shirts. This means I'm one step away from ordering them. Yep.

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12Sep/02Off

But I Want A Pony!

Ugh. I'm tired of reading stuff like this. People who should know better need to stop complaining about bleeding edge distros like Gentoo being too difficult. There are an amazin number of companies out there who would love to take your money and give you the Windows experience all over again. Go buy yourself a nice shiny box with a couple of CDs inside and "have everything just work." What could be more simple? If you need a defanged operating system that simplifies your choices, relies on graphical clients for simple operations, and isn't under continual and rapid development there is indeed always Windows.

This is just bad:

I would like to suggest that the Gentoo maintainers and third party Gentoo devs distribute binaries for all software they enter in the portage tree. It would be nice if the software is categorized first by platform, then by the Gentoo version and then by CPU architecture. In other words, the long and painful job of creating packages will get in the developer's shoulders, not on the user's. Gentoo should only support i586, i686, PIII, Athlon, AthlonXP and Pentium4 architectures by utilizing the mcpu and march GCC flags. Users for the rest (and least used) CPU architectures (like K6, Athlon-MP, PPro, Cyrix etc) could have two options: either use the default i586 build which works on all modern CPUs, or simply resort in the traditional Portage method, the recompilation, if they want to squeeze every bit of performance out of their machines.

The power of Gentoo should be in the way it handles the packages, not so much on how fast it makes the system. Becoming just 2% or 3% or even 10% faster than itself when built for another CPU architecture, or than Mandrake or Red Hat, does not justify the cost of losing users.

Portage is a great package management system, it is considered as the next generation of Debian's and FreeBSD's package managers. However lacks a good front-end to make its most advanced usage (which is often required) easier (there are five different GUI front-ends, each one with its own problems), it often breaks stuff, and it does not provide an easy way to exclude a specific package when globally updating the system. If Gentoo "sponsors" and supports one of the 5 gui front ends and complete it, change Portage to be as simple as "Install/Uninstall Packages" and "Update System" instead of all this jibberish and confusing UI, it would be best for the further acceptance of Gentoo by everyday users, and not just a bunch of geeks and developers. OSNews recently hosted an excellent article on what kind of integration and ease of use a modern package system should provide.

Gentoo developers, this is not about giving up your beliefs, it is about providing the best for your users. Sometimes "best" is not what would actually be best, but what would be hassle-free for the user. Microsoft built an empire with this way of thinking.

Emphasis obviously mine because no one willingly makes themselves look like pushy idiots by suggesting that a project completely abandon their goals:

Portage allows you to set up Gentoo Linux the way you like it -- with the optimization settings that you want, and with optional build-time functionality (like GNOME, KDE, mysql, ALSA, LDAP support, etc.) enabled or disabled as you desire. If you don't want GNOME on your system, your apps won't have optional GNOME support enabled, and if you do, then they will. That's why we prefer thinking of Gentoo Linux as a meta-distribution or Linux technology engine. You decide what kind of system you want, and Portage will create it for you.

We maintain an official Gentoo Linux Portage tree that contains the most recent versions of our ebuild autobuild scripts. By updating your Portage tree, you gain instant access to the latest and greatest Linux technologies and applications. Tell Portage what ebuild you'd like to install, and Portage will auto-download, unpack, patch, configure, compile and install the package. Thanks to Portage auto-dependency resolution, you can install KDE 3.0 or GNOME 1.4 by typing in a single command, and the resultant installed binaries will be optimized and customized to your exact specifications.

because the author likes the package handling but not all the icky, squishy details. The only reason I'm even getting this harsh is because the person in question generally has a clue but seems to abandon all practice of it when the subject of user interface comes up. I just don't get it but then again I'm a "vicious, snobby Linux bigot" so what the hell do I know?

Addition
A rebuttal that was deleted from the comment section.

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12Sep/02Off

More Fun Than Watching Your Hard Drive Defrag

So, I'm sitting here being amazed at the process going on in front of me. I'm using this insane tool called jigdo is generating an iso image of an install cd for the unstable branch of Debian. I just ordered a reufurb laptop to play with and decided that I'd just start out with an entirely bleeding edge environment to begin with instead of doing it piece by piece and gritting my teeth the whole time. One of the problems that comes along with using Debian is that you start to get used to the idea of everything working together and not having a drive full of broken and missing dependencies. So, the idea of not having a stable yet cutting edge machine starts to seem ridiculous. This is even funnier given the state that many distributions release in.

I'm not just talking about that old RedHat/GCC fiasco either. Although I'd venture that commercial distributions ship with more problems than the smaller distributions the little niche distros have their fair share of bad packaging as well. Luckily these things rarely stay broken for more than a couple hours on the island of Debian. So, I'm watching as jigdo grabs ten gazillion packages and makes them into isos. This is not a fast process but damn is it easy to make a complete set of up-to-the-second installation cds. It's also possible to maintain an ongoing archive that doesn't need to be updated from scratch each time. It's a lot of effort and disk space the first time around but still.

There is a technical explanation/how-to of the whole process here but it isn't light reading for the most part.

Of course, the nice part about this is that I can cook up all 10 cds worth of unstable in a night. The upshot of all this is that I can also sell you a set of them for the price of cds and shipping. Mail me if you're interested. I'll set up a separate page with the full range of options in the near future. I have a couple of other related projects that will also end up there.

Quick and Pointless Yet Funny
A nice overview of the underappreciated art of trolling is here for intellects too small to hit with the cluestick and of course the warbloggers which are the former and so so much more. I will not use sarcasm tags dear readers out of utmost respect for your intellectual capabilities.

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10Sep/02Off

Two Unrelated Instances Of Witchcraft

I'm consciously avoiding writing much about the anniversary of the day that the bad thing happened. Why? I'm not as concerned about the wrath of the pundits for my wussy lefty opinions as I am for horrifying those who had a genuine and personal tragedy happen last year. Those are the toes I'm not stepping on and I'm avoiding this because I know that the tar and pitch that would spill out about how the world is actually dealing with the aftermath of the event would poison things for folks who lost someone or something or had any relationship to the event other than a permanent excuse to advocate war. I don't need to name names. Look for the spit speckled lips preaching from coffins and it'll be fairly obvious.

Obviously I need to move along to some geek stuff because this is getting very heavy and uncool, man. I was looking over which distributions use which version of gcc each depended on (this is a fine statement to reflect on if you ever want to know the ugly truth about the shrieking void of emptiness that is geekdom - this is what I dedicate some of my time to...) and noticed a new addition to the source based distributions.

Source Mage is a source-based distribution built on the earlier work of Sorcerer Linux which was not only a pioneer of new school distros but actually used a spell casting metaphor to deal with software installation with a totally straight face. Apparently the grand poobah of Sorcerer wants no forks in the main shiznit(and Sorcerer was actually pulled off the servers for a while) and employees a technically non-free license to ensure this. So, some of the folks who were formerly involved with the project took the concept (complete with goofy metaphor) and ran with it. There is another fork called Lunar Linux that is aiming for a stable production version of a source distribution but Source Mage is more worried about keeping their tools in the hands of the people by doing a completely free distribution along the lines of Debian. They even based their social contract on the Debian social contract which I think is fabulous. They do draw distinctions between their definition of "free" and Debian's which has been criticized as somewhat weak. Either way, they've got the same basic idea there as well - making the default install entirely free software but not limiting the available packages by that standard. Um, yeah, I'm waiting for the Visual Basic creeps to show up and start quoting Orwell at me like I'm not an English lit major sloppy blog writing style not withstanding. There's also a fun news page and some forums that I was not brave enough to let myself be sucked into.

Normally I try to resist the urge to blab on about new distributions since they form and dissolve with incredible regularity but there's an energy emanating from this project that just seems so on track and positive that it's difficult to resist. Go check it out. Well, probably not but... There is always Lesbian GNU/Linux if you need some cheap entertainment or, you know, you're fourteen.

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10Sep/02Off

Some Things I Have Seen

Home earlier than I thought today since a class was cancelled. It would behoove me to occasionally glance at a syllabus I think. The fancy new keyboard arrived while I was at school. It's tiny. I'm still not used to the shorter distance my fingers need to stretch so my accuracy is for shit but I can already feel how much less I need to move my hands from the home row and I'm really enjoying the absense of the caps lock key. I did reset the dip switches to map the delete key to backspace but other than that it was a wonderful new toy straight out of the box. The weight of the keys is just about perfect. I was kind of worried that my big pile of cash would be wasted. It's weird because it's actually smaller than the Apple keyboard (which I'm stuck with at work) but the keys don't feel artificially small like they do on the Apple keyboard. I know they're actually full size keys but I have this psychological aversion to the Apple ones. I think it actually has something to do with the angle of the keyboard. I'm not sure if they've ever given ergonomics a thought given the supposed aesthetic ideal of the Macintosh. Anyway, yeah, this five hours of sleep a night deal is starting to catch up with me. Feeling loopy and like doing something horrible just for the sheer fun of it.

Speaking of horrible things done just for the fun of it, I pointed UppityNegroPundit at Aaron's site. It seemed really funny at the time. Of course I turned over the login and password to him. What kind of a monster do you think I am? Surely not a funny one. Did I mention that I'm running a little short on sleep? This keyboard sure looks comfortable...

There are some screenshots of the sites that the Chinese government is redirecting intended Google to. Silly politicians. Also, here is a Wired story about it. That article is formatted so weirdly that I though my last system update had fucked up the Mozilla settings. Geez. Isn't that the reason that no one reads the printed version?

Yes. Bruce Perens got fired from the corporate monolith. I remember saying (after reading it somewhere) that he was leaving HP but of his own volition. Looks like he did actually get fired. I imagine that he won't have a tough time finding a new job. Contrary to what the lame "I just can't believe Suck.com is really gone" ases at ditherati are wasting their college degrees on today, being a pain in the ass is what Hewlett-Packard hired him to do. When their conscience got too loud they fired it. It probably wasn't the best arrangement in the world. The New York Times story about it is pretty decent and worth the thousandth registration for their site I've done in the past couple of months was worth it. Read it now before they lock it up and want you to pay like $3 for it. In any case I hope the ten billion searches on "Bruce Perens fired" that have flowed in over the last couple of days will actually result in something productive.

Ouch. I'm glad Wil has a sense of humor. Cruel yet very very funny like cartooning should be.

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9Sep/02Off

In The Logs

there was a ray of sunshine waiting for me. This search cracked me up. It's been one of those days the details of which don't need repeating but I needed that laugh.

Oh yeah, the new version of Libranet is out. I'm guessing that this will lead to a new flood of traffic on #debian of really basic questions from people who heard that Debian was a lot like Libranet. Oh dear.

PostNuke without any developers and happy about it.

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8Sep/02Off

The Larry Wall Interview I Missed

Avoiding Slashdot entirely can be expensive in terms of finding out about things (with the exception of scientific stuff which leans heavily towards the undocumented crackpot gee whiz variety) like a big old interiew with one my favorite people in the free software world Larry Wall. Sucks for me.

So, someone was kind enough to email me about it so I guess I'll link it here and be on with my smug elitist business. The interview really is worth reading if only to get a glimpse of how funny and evenhanded the guy is. I've never heard a bad thing said about the guy and I think the way he answers questions that are a bit on the antagonistic side evidence that. He talks a lot about Perl 6 and a little bit about his religious beliefs. Take my advice and skip the comments.

Some people don't and won't' get it. I could insert a snippy comment about people who have use blogspot and then dare to complain that web real estate is expensive above her donation button. But I won't because, god knows, I'm all about being respectful to journalists. Welcome to the goddamn terrordome.

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8Sep/02Off

Humorless Grayfaced Bastards

I can't understand what eBay is thinking. They're going to try to sue over a cleverly designed parody site called eGray. It's a cheap shot, mudslinging site but it's pretty funny whether you agree with the motivations or not. Given that there are a number of clear disclaimers all over the site and fair use isn't illegal quite yet it seems like a pretty frivolous suit. But given eBay's history of suing for pretty much anything I wouldn't be surprised if it does indeed go to court or settlement.

A quote from eBay spokesperson Kevin Pursglove from a CNET article:

"In the past we've taken similar steps when individuals or companies that have attempted to operate trading sites that we believe could dilute or infringe on eBay's intellectual properties," Pursglove said. "The most well known is probably BidBay, but we've also had communication with other sites that attempt to play off the eBay trademark or logo."

With the recent deterioration of fair use protections this could be another knife in the corpse of free speech in the name of protecting oh-so-valuable mindshare. This is just so...sadly typical.

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