Wednesday, December 31, 2008

tech life 2 - when worlds collide

My mother-in-law was one thing, the grandkids another. Two 7 year-olds, how do you let them compute and keep your hair? I do have two machines, one my Linux workhorse and the XP just to remind me machine on the side. I installed the equalizer of open source software on both - TUX Paint!!!!!!!!, so they both could do the same thing.

Tux Paint is a wonder of a paint program. While the turkey was in the oven the kids not only learned the interface, they worked both machines without complaint, without problems. There was no difference in the programs operation or the outcomes. Pretty amazing things the kids were doing, I was impressed. If your computer doesn't have TUX Paint you must be a slacker. It's for kids but I also like to play because it's not so serious. And yet some pictures are quite good. It has brushes, stamps, lines, effects and sounds. Your talented budding artist will be busy, you'll be hunched over their shoulder going "let me try that". If you have a good printer you can put that refrigerator magnet collection to work. The way kids see and do things is really cool.

Then after the charm wore off, they settled into playing the games on my Linux box. They liked the one called "Super TUX", sort of a remake of the original Mario bros. Then TUX racer a downhill racer. There are other games of course but kids are kids. The object is play, total immersion into an alternate reality. There are lots of games in the Linux world. The wonderful thing is that if you install the ones in the Linux repository you don't get the crappy malware that is often attached to commercial and online games. I did notice that games act weird if you have all sorts of desktop compositing effects. They seem to work better if they don't have to compete for the display. Or it just may be my machine. I'll have to have the kids over more to test my theory, NOT. But I may look into it prior to their next visit.

I have said all this to say that Open Source Software that will run on either platform allows you a mobility that breaks the bonds of platform loyalty. If 7 year-olds can do it.............
The Linuxville desk is a mess, the cats are in hiding and after 3 days I am looking forward to the quiet once more. Linux was enjoyed by all. I am going to miss them but I get to have at TUX Paint by myself. Bye kids, see ya later folks........

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

livin the tech life

I'm tell'n ya, sometimes it's sweet and sometimes it's sweat. The tech life depends upon your point of view and your training. As Linuxville is not the most popular destination it takes on the persona of a resort town. There are seasons of crowds and seasons of emptiness. Linux is great on the server as most system admin will attest, but on the desktop Linux is still suspect. Actually the big difference between Linux on the server and desktop is the purpose and the GUI. Linux as a desktop has not filtered down into the majority of the computing public of users. Typically most PC users are Microsoft Windows oriented. Some know of Linux, most have no clue. If you have a PC powered by Linux, you just can't go to your local PC shop and ask for help. Chances are they have no experience with the Linux desktop. It is a pretty common occurrence. It is no different for home PC users or business users. All the problems that typical users have with their PC's or networks require a MS oriented technician to fix it. If you follow the logic, there is a synergy type relationship between the short comings of MS Windows and the technicians needed to fix them.

What about Linux based techie's?? The hardware part is the same no matter the OS, but Linux is.........well don't try it because if you get use to it, you will be spoiled. Seems once I set Linux up I don't have to mess with it for long stretches of time. I tend to forget what I did or how. If I had a continual practice of tweaking and fixing like I had with MS Windows I would be good at fixing. All my friends plus the jobs I seek have MS Windows PCs'. How can you ever get good at supporting Linux? Also seems Linux doesn't need that much fixing (once set up).

In the MS side of the PC world you can aspire to be a system admin, or user support tech. In the Linux world, system admin is the thing, you do it all (fewer users). That leaves software support and there is so much software out there. Business software is one thing and popular general use software is another. It can be difficult to place yourself to get exposure and training and experience. The reality is that you can't do or know it all. A greater problem is that you may not like the more needful and well paying tech work available around you. I think I fall into this category. After 24 years of electrical drafting I don't think of selling my soul to learn the depths of a new profession in PC support as a younger person might. I am a tad bit selective choosing not to constantly break new ground. So, I stay with what I am familiar with; CAD, graphics, open source software for general use,PC break/fix, desktop support, the Linux experience, and some MS Windows stuff.

My biggest hurdle is getting enough experience to hone my computer skills and make the work flow techniques to troubleshoot problems second nature. Some techs have a memory for facts, methods and experiences. This is a great value to techs. My dad could listen to a car, almost know what's wrong with it. Experience is big. A huge problem to techs is ego. A big self is not good for any situation or relationship. A little tempering makes for good business. Don't turn dependence upon your skills into a worship session. You should appreciate that folks rely on you, instead of that better person lurking in the wings. Don't you know there is always someone better!!

I think the human drive for perfection, excellence, and experts is over emphasized. Most of us reside between average and very intelligent. Many, many people hold this concept, in spite of our networks, being able to google for solutions, and think tank with peers. We still want go-to-people, gurus, prodigies and know-it-alls. This one person solution results in one thing, stress. To endure stress, work well under pressure, pays very well. To be skillful and under the constant squeeze makes you a star. Careful even the sun won't burn forever!

The user side of the tech life in Linuxville is still under development. Everything is in place, just needs users to use it. Not having a marketing machine behind it means folks are not worried about profits in the next quarter or risking the farm or bilking the investors. It is truly amazing Linux and open source software exist. Success here is measured in convinced and appreciating users not figs on the spreadsheet. Of course if Linuxville was filled with perm residences instead if vacationers my income would be a little better. Yet, I appreciate all who are curious and adventurious, come by, come in, Linuxville will always be open.

Friday, December 26, 2008

showing and telling

My peak of the season, my wife's 91 year old mother comes for dinner. She is one sharp and snappy whit, a retired grade school art teacher and artist in her own right. She, over the years has nipped and tucked at my artistic endeavors and I have resisted on principle. You see, I believe one should embrace the training you received while developing but, don't make it a hard rule to instruct the next generation. In principle, things like composition, balance, color, etc; never change, methods may change and media always changes. Even motivation, inspiration, vision, and meaning will greatly change the reason for doing art. Then there is this thing called permission. If an art "student" has the desire to be placed under your tutelage, you have permission to overshadow them. If not, you will be the harshest critic to the student, inflicting uninvited guidance, might even snuff them out. So you see here is a kind of tension between myself and my experienced artist mother-in-law.

She went to art school. They prepared her to be an artist professional so she could make a living doing art. It's not always a glamorous outcome. They break you and remake you and train you. You have many skills in the end, have tasted many techniques. Mother's specialty was watercolor, she is pretty good. Had her paintings printed in a book written by one of her instructors and won a few museum art shows. Then she taught grade school art many years.
Oh, did I tell you she has never used a computer at all, for anything. She, does not understand or appreciate computer art production. I tell her she needs to embrace the new media for what it is. I think she thinks much of the art that surrounds her today was done the way she learned it. Photoshop is not in her vocab.

Then there's me. The art muse ran in my family also. My own mother took a correspondence art course. She used to draw our hands and feet. If she was not so preoccupied with raising us she would have been a fine artist. I was always coloring and drawing on something. As a teen I took to drawing houses, buildings in pencil then ball point pen. I jumped from architecture to drafting electrical circuits in my professional life. To keep the artist alive, I kept sketchbooks. If you don't jot it down, dreams tend to dissipate, ideas fade away. I got my first computer never dreaming I could do art on it. Computer aided drafting swept the engineering world and over the years I received hard training. But I did learn to play, to doodle, to dabble with lines and shapes and colors, to escape the boundaries of electrical product design. I learned to do what's in my sketchbooks on my computer.

How did our encounter go? A picture is a picture whether on the canvas or on the PC screen. She wrestled with the concept of how it's done but was more a teacher than anything. She said I should draw scenario after scenario as if I was working with a pencil. I showed her how I could move elements around, tweak and adjust them in real time, even change color, density and size.
She liked my work but had reservations about my outcomes, even cringed at the thought of printing on a printer. The best part was she is still open to new technology, though she would never leave what she knows and I was not saddled with pursuing art by the way she learned it.

So some advice to you folks who play, doodle and dabble. You are an artist already, because you have the inkling to do it. You might need a little training to learn composition, skills and techniques to help your expression outcomes be appreciated by other people. If other artist are your target audience, you are playing to the wrong crowd. Perfection is the ultimate lie, can be a time wasting obsession and is only appreciated by others so afflicted. Don't cast aside so quickly the beginnings of your fascination, first sparks are like seeds. Keep sketchbooks, visual diaries as a matter of habit, the best ideas come when your not doing art. Don't put off for ever using what you have learned to do, find a way.

If you are like me there is no excuse. I can't afford Photoshop or any pricey artist software but I have discovered open sourced Inkscape and GIMP, they are free. They work well to manipulate digital pixels which is the point. And if I ever have the need or desire to get the pro stuff the option is still there. In the meanwhile I can do digital art with what tools are available to me. Life is sweet! And I haven't even mentioned Linuxville!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Over coming FOSS assumptions

I have touched on many topics users encounter in their approach to Linuxville. If you can get past the Mac and PC Burma-shave marketing noise, you enter into a place with new sights and sounds. The three most common remarks, "I didn't know Linux looked like that!" and "I didn't know you could do that in Linux!" or "Can I run my MS software in Linux?" Well, each operating system creates a world around itself, Linux is no different. The reason is to provide many solutions and meet the needs of the various kinds of users. Why one operating system should accommodate the applications born on another is a mystery only users dream of. Then there is Free and Open Source Software or FOSS. The idea is that software can be compiled or ported to run on different platforms. Some companies are reluctant to allow their applications to be ported to run on other OS's. Many of the applications born on the Linux platform however do not have this problem. Linux itself is free and for the most part open source. I say wow, an application like Open, will run on MS, Linux and Macs. Open source software gives you an added layer of freedom. You can move your files and your user work experience across platforms.

"I am uncertain of difference and change." I know the feeling. When ever I bought a new car, I struggled with the new car smell and feel, it's just not like my old car. Finally I come to grips, it has a steering wheel, brakes and gas pedal, the gear shifter (might be different), it sounds a bit different and the response. After a test drive I get the confidence, I can adjust to this, it's not that bad. The best car I ever had was a Pontiac 6000, roomy, zoomy and that startling orange dashboard back-lighting! Switching computer platforms can be like that.

What happens when a product doesn't live up to all the marketing hype? Seems the technical crowd go all out to warn users that a product experience might not be so great. And some users like political party faithfuls refuse to believe something is amiss. MS has had a few OS offerings that were not so hot. That Millennium thingy and now Vista are met with regrets. I like many others thought XP was way way better. I've seen some prelim reviews of the new MS Win7, looks promising. But being a Linux guy, I can afford to wait and see. Will MS restore the public confidence to buy their stuff without reservation, because it is on the shelf, the defacto standard? Stay tuned. Will Apple's Macs escape the Unix tractor beam or will Yul Brynner's face fall off revealing a cold kill you cyborg nature? The Borg are everywhere, you know. Then there are the Astronaut Farmer types who pieced Linux together in kits (distros) so you to can have your own low budget space program. Linuxville has more rocket silos per capa than any OS town.

Getting back to FOSS assumptions, the common thought is that if the software is on the shelf, it is approved for use. The shelf is where most go to find a user "product". It is only after folks have spent the bucks, invested in that platforms' economy to upgrade and replace, that they begin to wonder about alternatives. I have seen people buy Paintshop Pro because Photoshop was too expensive. They don't really have a need for the top shelf but feel any notch lower is better that MS Paint. Folks have their reasons to justify the purchase. A lot of the software dubbed free-ware has not been that great. The interfaces have been awkward or unattractive and the tools short of producing the results users want. FOSS has been escaping that low quality stigma. The various software projects are manned by armies of open source developers and users who endeavor to improve and debug FOSS to equal or surpass the stuff on the shelf. Can it be that I can get what I want for free? Not seen on TV or at your local PC merchant's store, but on the net? After all this time, many many people are clueless and could care less, some just don't know. I put to you to do the word of mouth thing.

Here are some results of my using FOSS applications (GIMP and Inkscape to be exact).

And I think I've showed this one before.

The FOSS graphics applications are different than the store bought ones but the tools are the same. I am not a professional working for a commercial concern so I am not needing commercial software. I am an artist, free to use what ever tools I find adequate to express my ideas. Usually the only thing that matters is the file format of the final artwork. Inkscape and GIMP will produce a number of file formats that are compatible with commercial software. I also use Abiword, Open and other FOSS with no ill side effects. The bottom line is that branding is not the only mark of quality or the stability/certainty of a piece of software. FOSS is called community developed and supported, but realize that they are not a free wheeling menagerie of aimless back-room nerds and code-heads. They are supported by many companies, groups and organizations who donate time, money and salaries to give you the stuff for free. And you can support the efforts, the same as they, with time and bucks, if you like.

In Linuxville you can go to the Linux Graphics Users forum, if you are graphically inclined. I hope I have sparked your interest in FOSS, in that case go here to enter into a whole new world. "Please come to Linuxville in the springtime, babe!"...........

Monday, December 15, 2008

greetings programs! or the force is with you!

Sci-fi cults are still the rage, seems we never want it to end after we are immersed. As a kid I was into Fireball XL5, Stingray and Super Car, they were science fiction series produced with marionettes, you know puppets instead of real actors. They had all the elements that are standard science fiction fare today, including the special effects. Google Gerry Anderson the genius behind them, very interesting. He also did Space 1999. Gerry's knack was great story telling, truly entertaining. Yeah I did the Lost In Space and then Star Trek thing, I can't recall the time frame. The most thrilling ones for me, Tron and Star Wars. As someone interested in building and furnishing design and then computer graphics, I was armoured by this visionary designer named Syd Mead. He had his hand into these movies. But the intriguing part was that the technology to produce the movies was being invented while the movies were being made. I get into the supplemental special feature discs because I just got to know how they made the movies. Tron was made before they had personal computers, before Jobs, Gates and Torvalds became names. It was a Unix world. What we enjoy today in graphics was pretty well worked out while Jobs and Gates were kids. They were progressors of the technology not inventors of the technology.

On my Linuxville (Xubuntu) desktop, I have an application called VLC or VideoLan media player. With the help of a few codecs (the stuff that reads video file formats), I can play consumer DVDs on my computer. What's so cool about that is the smaller display is so sharp, the detail is startling. The larger TV screen is fuzzier and because you sit back away from the screen you miss some details. I captured a screenshot of Princess Leia in the guest quarters of Bespin, Star Wars 5. I thought the architecture was stark but excitingly futuristic. And Tron, I might as well watch the movie again and again. Yes, I do collect YouTube videos, they are great for instructional subjects and of course jazz music. I really like to see the musicians in real-time performance rather than listening to doctored studio work. There are musicians who play the Chapman Stick instead of guitars and EWI (electronic wind instrument) instead of the traditional saxophone. I haven't the time to be fanatic, but to be able to amuse myself once in a while is fun.

A friend pointed out to me about video cams. You know how attached some are to their cellphone cams, but PC cams are not so utilized unless you count YouTube vids. My thought is that the Jetsons' have arrived years ago only we still can't get the videophone act together. To be able to call your friends, see and talk to them is wrought with problems. Oh, they can see me, am I presentable or will my exposure be misconstrued as porn peddling? Jane Jetson talked behind a mask when necessary, we all could have an avatar, a digital persona. We even have a big name for it, telecommuting or teleconferencing so as to isolate that activity from our daily telephone use. Hard to believe we are still uncomfortable with the concept of videophones. I guess we need a degree of privacy and anonymity. Still I would like to be able to call and see my parents, kids and grandkids, the phone call and occasional trip is just not adequate.

Predictions, yes, the mouse will slowly disappear, the mouse pad will become the pen pad. The wireless pen will be perfected. Walgreens will sell a matched pen set, a regular pen and a digital pen. The keyboard will be replaced by a digital display that has a virtual keyboard and able to double as pen input pad. The pen pad will be flexible of course. Ipods will be bluetooth, in fact the Blackberry will have ipod functions integrated into it. The ear-piece will access your phone/ipod/blackberry by voice and you will be assimilated. There will be no difference between TV/home theater equipment and computer equipment. All the elements will be interchangeable and reconfigurable. Your Blackberry will be a true universal remote as it becomes aware of all your bluetooth connections. The desktop computer will shrink to laptop size, yet still be component based. This new unit will extend the capability and power of a standard laptop. You will even be able to stack them blade server style, link them together for more power. Look for a read/write DVD for big files, movies but for small files, the jump drive will be here for ever. I hope the read/write CD stays around. Will hard drives vanish? Perhaps in the long term, but they are supreme for huge storage. You might see flash memory on the motherboard for the operating system and installed applications. Your Home directory or My Document directory should be put on a separate drive just for safety and security's sake. CRT's will become extinct to most users. If these thing aren't happening or don't, I remind you how hard it is for Yoda to see forward even via the force.

Friday, December 12, 2008

I just gotta live here!

Ever wonder why people live in areas prone to fire, floods, tornadoes, etc. !? I just can't figure it out. I guess it's not so simple in their minds either. How much do you endure before you move on to a safer environment. Lets look at the cyber world. With the popularity of cell phones and PDA's, do you practice safe text? Or is your cellphone camera an agent of voyeurism or cyber smut, but you think it is innocent play or just fun? Is your computer platform a disaster zone, but you endure it because it is the popular standard product or you just like it? I'm not here to judge but many times we open ourselves to things simply because they exist, are available and make poor choices regardless of consequences (ya know, the heat of the moment).

Now lets look at why I am in this mode of thought. My daughter has this computer, plus 1 teenage son and 1 even younger son. Like all kids they are into media, games, sports, other kids and the list is endless. The big three are social web sites, gaming web sites and music download sites. These are notorious for unwanted additions to your computer. If you don't have firewalls, anti-virus and spyware/malware protection, the range and amount of compromising files installed on your computer is incredible. The worst part is even with all the precautions in play the threats still come and they are not so easily removed. I really don't want to knock Microsoft XP or Vista, but they seem to be the targets of disaster, scams and mischief to abuse the user and the user's computer.

So, what can you do to cover yourself in spite of all the precautions you've already taken?

1. Get a USB hard drive big enough to backup your stuff. If you got a new computer with no stuff on it, that is the best time to make an image of your "untarnished system". Or burn that image to a DVD. The idea is to put your backup somewhere safe away from your computer. Get advice on the kind of backup. A backup program that has a propriety file format is useless if your operating system or that backup program is kaput. I prefer a direct disk image, a one for one copy. But get advice, that is important.

2. Don't misplace or discard your original software CD's, they are as vital as your keyboard. Tape them to the inside or outside of your PC case, put them in your wall safe. If you didn't get MS XP or Vista disks, look into getting them. This alone will save you from much agony. I have each computer's pamphlets and disks in large Ziplock bags.

3. After you saved your disks, docs and original installation, check your programs that have internet access. This is email programs, web browsers, media players and especially anti-virus and spyware/malware programs. There are bogus programs that are frontends to third party backdoor software. They have legit sounding names. Make sure the software meant to protect you is the real thing, do some research. Computer groups are a big resource. Think plug security holes, control outside access!

4. Either take the time to learn about your computer and/or have a PC Tech handy. Catch things when they are infant problems. Grown up problems are so messy and time consuming to fix. I am looking over at my daughters machine while I am typing this. The XP machine is doing an AVG Antivirus scan. So far there are 13 Trojan horse files found after 1 hour and 3 minutes of scanning.

5. You know that doctors warn about taking too much medicine. You don't want to take 3 aspirins for a headache. It will not work faster. There was 2 versions of one antivirus and 1 of another on this computer. Whether by zeal or unintentional mistake, multiples of software that scan your hard drive and your internet ports is not good, they can conflict with each other. Delete that trail-ware after it has expired, either buy the service or get freeware protection. I myself like AVG Antivirus free edition.

6. If you are curious or fed up with living in the MS Bermuda Triangle, move to Linuxville. Try Ubuntu, Kubuntu or Xubuntu (my favorite). If you insist on paying money, get a Mac. If you really, really must stay with Microsoft, do all you can to lessen intrusions to your system. Being careless will cost you more money and time. I am not saying that Linux is safer but it is less of a target. I am sure if everybody moves to Linux those cyber baddies will move there too. Yes, there are anti-virus, ad blockers, anti-spyware and such for Linux (just in case). So far, my 4 years of continuous Linux use has not had any attacks. I am still a little bit cautious.

7. Use open source applications and file formats when ever possible. They do not change just because the operating system is upgraded or the application has a new version. These open source formats can cross any platform, Mac, MS or Linux. This is very desirable and practical.

Well, I am going to give back my daughter's computer, the final scan is coming up clean. It is time consuming to clean a computer. Both the hardware and software need attention, sometimes the user needs adjusting also. We users are a habitual lot, not easy to upgrade our software, ya know. Those organic flash ROMs we call brains are buried under the real-time processor. Then our band-width doesn't always allow us to process all the info we deal with. We often resort to a pen and paper cache because our wiring is inadequate to access the resources we were born with. Older folks are hard wired, it takes continual effort to learn new tricks, ask any old dog. Young folks are being wired even as we speak, but hampered by poor choices and inexperience. But each stage of the game requires we use what awareness we have to figure it out. Family is always the key, young folk and old folks looking to each other to compensate for our shortnesses. User groups as a pool of experience and don't forget your local PC Tech. And then there's me, your Linuxville guide.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Metamorphasis - dropping out, then re-emerging.

Why is there so little time to do it all? You've got to figure out what's important, then account for due process. Things take time. Everything takes time. When your high school buddies drop out of sight and re-emerge as a garage band, you are shocked and amazed. You didn't know they could do that. You wondered what happened to them. And where was I when all this was going on? It is the same for computer users. Most folk are so engrossed in the daily use of Macs, MS XP and Vista, they never notice that there might be something else, something different in the computer world. This is why many new Linux users feel so much anxiety and have a hard time letting MS go. I went from dual-booting to virtual machines to two separate computers, one with MS the other with Linux. There are two different worlds, throw in Macs and then there are three. Each world can and does do the same things as the others but there are some areas that each excels in. Opinions can and do vary. The secret hook is that Macs and MS PC's boast in their professional and educational use as well as games. Can Linux do these things, yes, only Linux does not have the marketing machine or user base that says so and thus is not on most people's radar. So in spite of everything Linux is the choice of a smaller computer aware audience.

Due process, everything takes time, this is something I have embraced since childhood. To be left alone with my toys, to tinker, to figure it out, to go beyond the instructions and examples, I guess is in my nature. Then wonder, if Linux was your only operating system, would that be a gain or a hindrance in your world. I say often, am I the only one? Sure, there is a virtual community, but flesh and blood neighbors, friends and family are all in the MS or Mac worlds. So this desktop Linux is an continuing experiment and I am allowing myself to be immersed. I have had flings of Mac envy and falling back on MS but mostly enjoy what I am discovering about Linux. I've been through the rise and fall of a few operating systems, didn't try them all. There was Amiga OS, OS2, Commodore, Atari, BeOS, Next, and a couple more. You want a certain assurance that your OS and all it's applications are not a passing fad, that is too tied to the present time and present technology. An OS must have both the present and future in view, be flexible to grow, change and challenge, even press for innovation and be in peoples' face.

I will admit to having fanboy outbreaks about Linux, but against the backdrop of Mac and MS users entrenched in their daily use, I just want to say Linux deserves a spot as an alternative choice. Linux is not disappearing and is in fact improving with every iteration. I don't have any Linux tee shirts, I do carry around Linux live-CDs. I have a Steiff penguin which I've had before I found Linux (The Linux mascot is a penguin named Tux). I promote free and open source software (FOSS) every chance I get. Going a bit further, as a techie, I haven't had to remove any viruses, malware or those kinds of things in my many years of Linux use. Can't say the same for MS use in my life. Could be Linux is better, not a target so much, or my Internet habits are more selectively careful. I am not a social network fan, an avid game site visitor or a habitual music down loader. My interest are narrow as I don't have the time to see, do, or try everything. Yet I discover new things to explore within my choices. This is called focus. You never get good at anything if your roaming all over the place too much.

Oh, I know Photoshop is the pro-ware every artistic person should use, but there is other stuff out there like Inkscape and GIMP that if you spend enough time with could meet your needs for free. And you still, if you are so desirous, can buy and use Photoshop. You just can't run it in Linux, or can you? In any case I really like Inkscape and GIMP, finding them capable of extending my craft and honing my talents. I have not bothered to compare them to Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. If your artistic training pre-supposes that you will work for a commercial (professional occupation) concern, you should look at pro-ware, get it, use it. If not, you like me can choose differently. I know this to be true because I have known folks who mix their own photo-chemicals, grind powders to make their own paint colors or dyes, soldered computer boards to run other operating systems and don't buy consumer products when the do-it-yourself option is more fun. After you've made your choice of tools, you must focus to see what you can make them do. You can inquire what others using the tools you've chosen are doing, get tips, tutorials and ideas.

In the "Matrix" you go down the rabbit-hole to see how far it goes. You might pop, merge, become a super user or make a deal to go back. But can you really go back? The experience has changed you forever, added something dimensional to your thinking, your awareness. I have resigned to being a Linux guy, I think it's super. I have the flexibility to move between computer worlds, but I prefer Linuxville. I live on Xubuntu street and will visit from time to time other hoods, like Fedora road, Dynebolic avenue and Mandriva lane. The best is that things are both the same and different everywhere in Linuxville. Something familiar, something new.
Check out a travel brochure aka Linux distro web site, visit via live-CD or make yourself at home with an might be the One.

Friday, December 05, 2008

my imagination at work here

I just wanted to write a quick document of some sort so I click on Open and it takes...................f_o_r_e_v_e_r_! Because of all my experience of well founded knowledge I say it's a bloated program, overstuffed with bells and whistles and I need something lighter!?! Well, I was searching the Ubuntu friendly blogs and I ran across this tip:

When Open finally does open, click on Tools in the main menu bar, then Options at the bottom of the menu, then select the Memory category. On the right there is a box for Undo Memory usually set to "100". Do you really need 100 levels of Undo?? I reset this to 25. Then close Open Now, reopen it and gee, it's kind of zippier at startup.

There's a 100 tips in the naked city, one of them might work for you. Oh, you thought tweaking like a geek means coding the command line of death. No, it's just that the default values for most of the programs you normally use can be adjusted for a more pleasurable Linux experience. Sorry, there is no single manual but there are tips circulating about Linuxville. The hardest thing for folks who don't know or think they know already is to ask for help. You just need to learn how to "google" your request. I start by typing just what I think in a question, then refine it until I get the results from the internet search I want. So "ubuntu tips" might get you more than you could read in one day. Or you might try "Open tips" or "using Open". In any event, a little targeted research yields lots of free online help.

Point shaving and computer buying have consequences resulting in aggravation and regret. It's true, most folk in trying to get the most for their money start to see what they can get away without. Ohooo!, this is a great computer and I can save even more if don't buy any extra memory. I bought my XP machine, had 512mb of ram and it is just fine. Later I find that XP runs way, way better with 1024mb of ram. I look back and realize I had the money at the time of purchase, but now have to justify the cost. So the lesson learned is to buy as much computer as you can afford the first time around. Maybe sacrifice the 500gig hard drive for a 250gig hard drive and spend that money on RAM. If your computer takes 2-4 gig ram, fill it up. You won't regret it later. Of couse the saying is that Linux will run fine with 512mb of ram and it does, but then you have applications to run on top of the operating system. Mostly it is no problem but if performance is important to you, more RAM brings better performance. RAM is for running programs, HARD DISKS are for storing programs and data. So when you see 500gig of hard disk, don't go "Ohooo!" until you see how much RAM comes with it.

To better manage your computer I also have this thought. You can buy that box with the huge hard drive and fill it up with all your stuffs. Then when something goes wrong with your box, virus, malware, spyware, and you need to fix it, chances are you didn't back it up. The operating system that has the problem is on the same hard drive as your stuffs. What if your operating system is hosed and you can't get at your stuffs? To all this I say forget the huge internal hard drive, buy the computer with a smaller hard drive and in addition buy a USB external hard drive (any size) instead. Then save personal stuffs to the external drive as a matter of habit. When/if something goes wrong with your operating system, your stuffs are safe and intact on the other drive. The USB drive is a portable and practical life saver. As Will Smith said in "Independence", "I got ta get me one of these!".

What I would like to see..............
A desktop computer designed to run virtual machines. What's a virtual machine? I have a Linux setup and had a program called Virtualbox. Virtualbox allowed me to run one operating system with it's applications inside of another. So within Linux I could run XP in a window running say Internet Explorer. Both OS's are running at the same time, sharing resources. Each operating system would be on it's own USB drive (or jump drive). The master operating system could load and run any of the attached operating systems in a window. All data would be stored on a large partitioned drive and sharing between operating systems is handled by the master operating system. You would need 4-8gig of RAM for multiple running OS's and a beefy video card.

Then I would like to see a pen input overlay I could put on my present LCD display. I don't really need the added dimension and cost of pen pressure input to vary line weight, I could buy a Wacom tablet for that. I need something more for CAD drawing although that mouse gesture thing might be handy. I would also mount the display in a slanted frame like a real drawing table on my desk with enough space for my keyboard to slide under it.

Computers are changing, the desktop is no longer what most envision. The laptop is now the normal choice. USB stuff is great stuff, smallish, convenient and portable, but Bluetooth is the rage from mice to Blackberries because it's wireless. The big game is to integrate it all into one seamless system.