Friday, October 31, 2008

stuck in Ubuntu but look over there!

I've said before, once you settle on one distro, that's all you need. The big big problem is that there is always something new in another distro. For instance, I was looking at Mandrvia's latest, Mandrvia One 2009, it is spanking cool. With the Gnome desktop, you can't tell it from other distros (because Linux is Linux is Linux), but there are features that set Mandrvia apart. Mandrvia has Metisse which turns virtual desktops on its side. I had it installed for a short time over Fedora which is also cool. But, I've been so spoiled by the Debian base that Ubuntu rings true for me. So, following that light I installed Kubuntu 8.10 along side of Ubuntu 8.04. Now Ubuntu 8.04 is facing hot competition from Kubuntu 8.10. The KDE desktop version 4.1 has changed, even impressing me. It's a little Mac-ish in some ways but not totaling mimicing. It's a little more comfortable to play with than ver.3.8. Setting up Kubuntu 8.10 was easy and didn't take all day. But to warn you newbie folk, there is no manual, so check the web sites for install instructions and forums for advice.
*ubuntu 8.10 is called "Intrepid Ibex", has some fixes and some new tweaks. The next interation will be "Jaunty Jackalope", a mythical creature with the reputation and personna of Bigfoot. Google jackalope, you'll see what I mean.

Linuxville continues to be an interesting computing place off the beaten path. I hope many folks come visit, explore aand stay.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Extra! Cat lover puts on the dog!

Being a cat herder I come to realize the similarities between cats and Linux distros. The nature is the same yet there are independent personalities. I have one who thinks he's a boarder collie and will walk slightly ahead, angled to the right and directs the path other cats are going. In my summation you only need one cat, but cat herding grows on you and if left unchecked.........., remember that Star Trek episode with the trivets or what ever they're called and they teleported them to the Klingon vessel?

There is one amusing distro that always seems to get my attention, that is Puppy Linux. I guess because it is engineered differently than other distros. In particular, this was Minisys Linux or Muppy. It looks like this........

Engineered differently is exactly what attracts me (besides looks). It doesn't use .rpm or .deb packaging systems, it has it's own as Puppy fans are familiar with and it is fast. I am not going to install it though I am tempted, I am quite happy with Ubuntu, but as a portable Linux it is very interesting. Oh, it has this............. when you want to change your desktop GUI in Ubuntu, you have to do it before you login. Fedora makes this a tad easier, but Muppy does this on the fly. Fickle me (I learned it from the cats!), loves this and I wish all Linuxes would do this. Muppy comes in four sizes from full to mini or from Rottweiler to Chiwawa. Ya like dogs, eh?

Here are some links to get software for your Ubuntu system.

Gnome files , Ubuntu Software , Get Deb

I do have some views about Linux and computers in general. The laptop is becoming the standard computer that most people buy these days. Linux needs to work harder on both the modem and wireless. All hardware producers need to be greener, pushing for lead free and maybe oil-free plastics. Low power yet high performance it not totally impossible. I would like to see more laptops with swappable components similar to desktops, maybe a laptop like unit without a display, I already have a LCD display. On the software side, Puppy can switch GUI's on the fly, that should be standard. And I was wondering if USB memory is as fast as on board system RAM and could be used for memory expansion. USB memory is so much cheaper than RAM sticks. I should take time to figure this out, cats and curosity you know!

Day to day Linux use is as boring as day to day MS Windows if you never peek under the hood. But fussing and tweaking and muttering to myself is what makes computing fun. Come on, you play with TV remote, the microwave buttons, cellphone, PDA and the doorbell.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The view from here.

Been out observing the winds of change here in Linuxville and it's more than falling leaves that litter the landscape. I am still not working, the economy is shaky at best and I am wondering if it will all work out over time or mutate into the unimaginable.

The first revelation was that the world economy is based on black gold, oil. Not just for fuel, also the chemical component of many products from dyes, fertilizer, plastics of all sorts, you name it. Coal is also a part of this, in fact the use of fossil fuels is choking us, snubbing out life, slowly, under our nose. We have treated these resources as if they were the promised abundant energy, fresh and clean. The reality is the opposite. The mesh of psychology and legal entanglements and money invested prevents many from seeing the truth of outcomes. There is a global awakening and concern as to what has happened to us because of fossil fuel dependence.

The politicians here in America are so reluctant to push the process to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels. They say foreign oil independence at the same time drill at home to replace it. There is so much infrastructure committed to coal and oil, you can't expect change of the magnitude that is actually required. There is too much money, fortunes, and minds committed to what we now have.

There needs to be a shift of moneys to non-oil and non-coal based research and adding non-fossil fuel technology and tamping that technology down into the fabric of everyday living. Help, I am sounding like Al Gore! Well, the crisis is real, but we can take steps to do our part. First you need an education, I'll leave that part up to you. Then how you spend your money reinforces your support one way or the other. Don't over look the vote thing.

In Linuxville, we have one thing that a big part of the world doesn't, that is a community that shares knowledge of computing technology. While it may not be the model of business success, it does prove that a body of shared knowledge can exist along side of proprietary knowledge bases. Some info should be kept closed, but some must be shared, aired, open for use by all.

I see many countries racing to get wind, solar and other non-fossil fuel resources because they can be applied to any strata of society and they don't have to make war to secure energy. If folks the world over can get wind and solar, part of the world's turmoil would be solved. We still have to contend with ourselves.

I was pondering what is green computing. I can see computers made from less volatile materials, even plastics made from organic substances and using less power. Please recycle your CRT monitors and get LCDs and use all the Energy Star features. I guess laptops use less energy than desktops and turning stuff off when not used would save some cash over time.

I heard that with money funny for everybody, Linux and Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) might suffer. There is talk that the demand for funds for free software is on the horizon. These things, I don't know. Linux and FOSS have been such a force of sustainability for years and just might survive in the background as it always has. Well, we shall see what develops and what direction we go. Stay tuned for more of "as the world turns!"

Saturday, October 11, 2008

seeing the light of day

The cave of wonders is immense, you could get lost down there, but what happens when you realize few have seen it. When you hit the light of day folks all around you are misinformed or not knowing, you cock your head back, let out an aspirating cry,"Am I the only one?"

I was on a web site called It is a meeting place for Northeast Ohio folks to sling ideas around and report on how we can or are fixing things in our area. The site is a big supporter of FOSS that is Free and Open Source Software. Linux is included but FOSS will run on many operating systems. So while you Linux lovers may bang your heads against the MS ceiling, FOSS has burst through long ago. This is great because as I have said, once you have settled on an OS, it is the applications that really matter. And lots of users are unaware of the diverse riches of FOSS.

Let's paint some pictures........

There is this thing called user inertia that says users tend to get stuck on the things they are introduced to, things they are familiar with. This does not necessarily mean they have actual experience, a name brand is a powerful thing. The holders of the brand name do all they can to bolster up your loyalty and faith in the name regardless as to whither they deliver a quality product to you or not. Your loyalty is a pledge of revenue. After you have found this name brand stuff useful, you don't give it up without a fight.

FOSS enters the picture. Many software writers have written free programs since computers became personal. People learning to code, exploring and experimenting and not caring about a killer app that folks will pay hundreds for. There developed a second software model, collaborative development but not for profit, not propriety, not access controlled, not, not, not.
The reality is that there are FOSS that do the exact same things that for a price software does. Computer savvy folks all know these things but many typical off the shelf buyers don't. And making folks aware of FOSS is a challenge as folks are not aware, misinformed or loyal and committed to the other stuff.

FOSS covers a lot of issues that for profit companies are against. Free and open access to information is the leading reason, via file formats that are not to one vendors specs so that you can share info without a particular vendor's software. This also includes fonts so that documents look the same in any word processor, web page and email, and web sites that any web browser can access correctly. I think there should be a set of computer formats and fonts that no company can change and they must be included by law in every software. This way if people want to use propriety formats they can and if they want to use free access rated formats and fonts, they can. Free access rated, what's that? PDF files are a perfect example, but DOC files not. DOC files though a business standard are subject to change at the whim of Microsoft, which is why there are so many versions of DOC.

What does FOSS have to do with you? You may think a VW convertible Bug is a poorman's sportcar, but the top is down, the enjoyment high and the payments are right with no skimp on quality. I've said this before, you want to be a digital artist and Photoshop is $400+ dollars and you put off your dreams because of price or criminalize yourself. GIMP is free, has many of the same tools and features and allows you to exercise and sharpen your skills while you are saving up to get the pro-ware. I bought a HP desktop, came with MS Works, a usable but incompatible with MS Office, home office suite. I was always doing my homework and resumes in the wrong file format. Then not using or needing the whole MS Office package for my occasional use, I couldn't see buying MS Office, even the student edition was too much. Open for free will do all what MS Office will does. If you don't need all the advanced features that MS Office claims to have, you really aren't beholden to MS to use or buy their product.

FOSS and the digital divide are made for each other. Folks want to give older computers to needy folks and use no longer supported software that will be on them. Sure they get connected but why give your junker to someone you are trying to help. FOSS will run on older, even MS powered (Win95/98,XP) computers, be up to date and the cost is zero.

Training is a big thing as you need skills to work. I tell people over and over, computer skills are transferable. Schools are saying you need to learn this because this is what is used in business and they train you to use an industry standard product, like Microsoft stuff or Adobe. I learned to type in high school, no one ever said the typewriter we are learning on is the industry standard. I could and did transfer the skills to any keyboard. If your budget doesn't allow you to obtain the software they use in business or at school, FOSS gives you the ability to hone the skills you need without spending a single buck.

Funny how in Northeast Ohio, where I live, with all the computer groups, software users organizations, libraries and schools, FOSS is neither promoted or taught. If commercial software is the key to the digital divide, then why ain't the divide disappearing? People who use and love commercial software really don't have a mind or time for anything else. We really need to identify the FOSS community here, outline ways to learn FOSS, gather materials, videos, make courses and present them to the different layers of the teaching/learning community.

As I sit here at the Linuxville desk, rubbing my eyes and adjusting to the light of day, I realize FOSS is an overlooked and under realized solution to many problems a computer could fix. The freedom of access, the learning of skills and doing useful practical stuff at minimum cost and a tiny little learning curve make FOSS an endless wave you could surf for miles.

Monday, October 06, 2008

cave of wonders, the catacombs

Underneath the town of Linuxville is not only the history of Unix but also room after room down a long corridor. The rooms, 400+ are distros, all similar to some degree but different. On a source code level, you could never get lost as long as you had your handy compiler. On the surface things are more defined for the type of user. Some rooms are so similar, closer inspection is the only way to see they are different. As you know, I am a Ubuntu kind of guy and have tried most of the Ubuntu flavors, but I started out with Slackware and Red Hat. Now Red Hat has the non-commercial focused Fedora distro. I have installed Fedora 9 on the same drive I have Ubuntu on. My Fedora uses the Gnome desktop. You can't tell if you are using Ubuntu or Fedora except for the little icon indicating where the menu is. Yeah, using the same desktop GUI does that. The desktop GUI is the same and under that both the Linux and the communities behind them are just a tad bit different. Ubuntu has Canonical, Fedora has Red Hat, Ubuntu is Debian (.deb), Fedora is Red Hat Packaging Manager (.rpm). You can argue all day about the advantages of each. I could recommend either, no sweat. So, with philosophical and minor technical differences you might find either will do what you need to do and still get support. My impression is that Ubuntu is a newer and global out reach, Fedora is an established, well known system, almost a standard worldwide for Linux. It is a good thing the pool of applications are the same for either system, albeit it is said that Debian based software repositories have more stuff. If you are looking for work here in the US like yours truly, the Red Hat brand is more familiar to server folks and engineering folks. Knowing Fedora ins and outs puts you in the ballpark for Admin work. You know, businesses like to channel you to a brand-named experience, do you know Red Hat, Suse or.........whatever. And alas, there are not enough Linux businesses or home users for a vibrant and profitable Linux based PC support person. Besides, from my experience so far, Linux runs great so there is less need for Linux support once it is setup. But users could still use the help and I could use the work.