Monday, May 31, 2010

the force is with you but requires control

Either we are natural artist or we have developed skills to that end. In any case artists need instruments to channel the force. In digital art the tool of choice could be as clumsy as a mouse or as sensitive as a pen. With my drafting background I got used to drawing with a mouse. Mice are adequate for drafting which is more akin to vector drawing. Vectors are all about lines with end points, connected lines to make shapes and shapes filled with color. Of course it all depends on the type of drawing and vectors do tend to be rather precise.

Drawing with a mouse is like drawing with a bar of soap. Being the average input tool, many of us are used to using a mouse. Drawing with a pen is so awkward at first, it requires a lot of tweaking to match the working end to your way of drawing. The genius of todays pens is that they can simulate pressure and mimic most any drawing tool, brush, ink pen and airbrush. So, the software does one part and you control the other part, as to the line quality. Digital pens require a tablet to transfer the magic to the screen. Pen and tablet is by far the best combo for digital art. My advice, buy Wacom stuff new or used, especially if you are using Linux. Linux has a Wacom driver project and the drivers work well. If you are using MS Windows or Mac, your choices are a little wider. The whole point of a digital pen and tablet is simulating natural drawing instruments. Trying to tweak the pen and tablet and software for the right feel is the trick.

I have a vision of one day using my laptop in remote locations sporting a built-in pen tablet and focusing all my energies into my artwork. Believe it or not this is hard. One reason is the PC can do so much, seems a shame to dedicate one PC to art work alone. As soon as it is connected to the net or internet or you click a non-art application icon your PC transforms into other uses. I lose that artist focus and artist mystique and who wants to have a PC that only does one thing?
Yes we always have to recalibrate ourselves to make things fit us or us things.

Then lets get to the part they don't show you in the movies, actual training. It's hard to believe the force is with anyone when you first hold a digital pen. The best approach is set it and draw and ask stupid what if questions, and don't forget to read stuff. Online searches will yield how-to info, tutorials, but if you don't play with it, you'll never harness the force. The force is different with each of us and to make it flow effortlessly we must practice till the software and the hardware are transparent or second nature to us. Think of a jazz musician who has a tune in his head. If he doesn't know his instrument well, he simply can't make it play what's in his head. That is the whole point, tools are a channel a shaping instrument. I like your humming and air guitar but can you play that on a real guitar in real time? Your fingers need to feel the strings, you must apply that english to bend and stretch notes and use silence with sound to create drama. So, you must do equal amounts of serious study with serious play. Fooling around is skill building and discovery. Don't get lost, study and play.

I am also looking for kindred souls, because when you have a group you can challenge each other by encouraging help. You can inflame egos and put them out too. When you leave the group to do your thing, you are not alone. That is called community. It's good to venture out, good to come home to friends. You can calibrate yourself and break the rules, because you got a baseline.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Linux desktop light saber of choice.

Most of my life I have been thrust into jobs I wasn't quite up to the task. You learn on the job, notice holes in your armor and fix them. To date I am not a Linux system administrator in the corporate world. The title implies that all Linux users should have those skills. The fact is that many of those skills aren't needed to care for a single PC, yet when Linux is explained they are customarily unleashed upon new users. I purpose a fork in the System Admin moniker to focus on the skills of desktop maintenance. A Linux Desktop Admin would be a wonderful focus. Though some skills may overlap, it would make things clear to users who need no clue about the depths of server work.

A concise how-to set up a Linux desktop would be wonderful. With live-CDs this is almost instant. But certain things are not always so clear, like configuring sound cards, video cards, embedded sound and video, Linux only networks and of course wireless. Mixed platform networks are well documented.

I've been struggling through several Linux distros trying to find one that would work on my ancient Win98 vintage laptop (Gateway 4026gz). I've tried a dozen or so and most fell short in one way or another. Fedora 9 and 10, OpenSuse 11.2, Xubuntu, Ubuntu, Elive, #!Crunchbang, Mandriva, and a bunch more. The final choice was Ubuntu 9.10.

The reason was setup. Even though all the other distros had strong points, when it came to setup, I was able to setup wireless and sound with ease in Ubuntu. I don't care how savvy a techie you are (savvy = macho), if you are a typical desktop user, setting up wireless and sound should be painless. Like step one scan hardware, step two apply drivers, step three test system, done. Ubuntu has a System Testing module that test various systems that require drivers and protocols. This makes it easy to change drivers if the present one doesn't work.

The reason being not every Linux user is going to be an OS mechanic. The whole idea of a popular Linux is not to dumb it down but make it so it takes less specialized configuration knowledge. Still, if that deep tweak is your passion, your ma-cheese-mo glory, you can do that. I have seen many compile every kernel and application to make their own distro because they could. But please don't think I'm not a true believer because I don't compile. That works for you but not for me. Linux users no longer have to be extra savvy to use it.

So, in my experience I have suffered through many very good looking Linux distros that didn't have the conveniences built-in that Ubuntu has. But Ubuntu is so bloated, it can't run fast! What does fast mean? If you have the resources, it is fast enough, else you need to shut down services, get a leaner desktop or try another distro that suits your needs. That zippy fast distro may require hand tweaking of config files. This is just like sport cars, many like them, few buy them (real need over speed).

Now if you are still hooked into "Linux the sacred OS" it is still there, only now the desktop GUI has been well developed. You can click an icon which is a shortcut to a script or command that runs a function or app. I don't have to remember and type a script or command. I capitalize on the work of others to save me time, effort and mental band-width. I am quite impressed with the variety of Linux desktops, and I can change it if I am not.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

further revelations in Jedi training.

I am used to working at a desk, even at home. I need a PC to be up and running all day long. To this end a desktop PC is fine. I have an old laptop that no longer charges the battery, it overheats and shuts down. I don't have experience running a newer laptop all day, I would hope they are engineered better. I have several desktops in my computer room, I can't use them all at once to any real advantage. So, I am thinking of putting one in the upstairs, one in the living-room.
This means I will have to get wireless cards so that I can avoid stringing cables all over the house and LCD screens (they take up less room). I plan to keep my working data on flash drives or devise a file server on the network.

There are advantages to being mobile, but I'm not in the habit of taking my laptop out into the public space. Laptops are energy lean and space saving, regardless. At home the desk is my peaceful place, other spots are too busy, I can't concentrate so good or feel I can stay without interruption.

Users are a strange lot, their PCs an extension of their personal strivings. I've met ones who retreat into a gaming closet, ones who game everywhere and  families of gamers. I've met small business owners and folks who bring work home. I know some IT people who seem more involved with networked systems than single PCs. And a few who are just plain geeks, like me.

Computers run cars and spaceships and weapon systems, I've met a few who are into those areas. The scariest people are the ones who don't need nothing but a cell phone or PDA. The iconic figure of a person hunched over a keyboard and staring into the glare of a monitor has nothing on a PDA/cell phone user seen everywhere. We have virtually invented the virtual phone booth. We are in a crowded mall, shoulder to shoulder, the cellphone rings (buzzes, clicks, chirps or jams), we evoke the cone of silence as if walls of glass surround us.

Mark my words, first the cell phone privacy force field, then the cell-portation device.  People will get lost in the network and their DNA recaptured on a server. Soon DNA sequences and digital technologies will be parallel, then merged. Doctors will convert you to a DNA stream, run you through a filter and reconstitute you healthy on the other side. All divergent DNA will beamed into space out of the galaxy via laser or stored in giant underground server bunkers. Prisons will be replaced by server farms. So behave yourself or you'll get the bits blasted out of you or you could wind up as a PC operating system in a robot.

Meanwhile, back at the Linuxville chateau, I am wondering how I got in this PC business in the first place.

Friday, May 21, 2010

We are making progress

Right here in the heart of the city, my local public library is making progress. Aside from the flurry of Windows 7, Microsoft Office version whatever and Photoshop books, there is now a spanking brand new GIMP book. This is the GIMP Bible by Jason van Gumster and Robert Shimonski. I am excited because for years Photoshop has ruled the roost with 50+ books and it cost how much?? GIMP does what most folks would use it for and it is free. That's free for folks who have no need to purchase professional level software just to tweak family photos and dabble. I also saw two new Open Office books. Open Office is also free and I am speaking especially to you students who need word processing but don't really need or can't afford M$ Office. Go figure, a public library with a truck load of software books on software no one can really justify the cost of and very few on freely available software. It is even more tragic because open source software is 100 times better than the freeware of the past. And quite a lot of it is enterprise quality, yet not fluffed with fancy trimmings and embedded security problems.

Even if you love or are work bound to Microsoft Windows, Open Source Software can relieve many mental stress fractures and plug financial black holes in wallets and purses. I always hear from ones who try open source but it doesn't work well in their situation. These are usually business folks who rely on Microsoft products and folks with the name-brand loyalty thing. I also see so many who would greatly benefit, who are clueless. Why clueless? Because Open Source stuff is not on the store shelf. Open Source doesn't have that cute mind sticking advertising thing going on.

I have lots of tutorials by users and videos but, I still do not own a printed GIMP reference book. I have PDF docs and users guides and yet there is something about a printed book that is handy and reassuring. Still I am like most, I lightly use many kinds of software. Of late my realization is that to do graphics I need to get more in-depth experience. And if you profess to know anything of anything, people expect you to be somewhat an expert. Sorry folks I use what I use the way that I use it. I am open to learn new tricks if it's something I can use. But overall, GIMP expert and graphics guru I am not. Let's face it, there are some who like to be seen as authoritative. For me to do or be that I would have to study all kinds of stuff I am not interested in, then make myself available to you. In that case I would definitely write a book.

This brings up another good thing, community information. Linux and Open Source both have a history of posting up-to-date information on the internet. And much of that information is maintained by the whole community of users, not just the authors of the software. This is because uses often find innovative ways of using and redefining intent of a software. They discover bugs, flaws, shortcomings and devise work-around, patches, scripts, customizations, tips, etc, The community from the noobe to the developer/maintainer all put in to support software. This is not true with customer/client based commercial software.

So, getting back to GIMP or any other software application, If you want to use it either dabble with it or set aside some time for structured learning. If you can not find a formal class or hire a tutor, I tell you the online and downloadable video tutorials are the way to go. You might find a surveying Open Source Software class before you find a specific class for Open Office or for GIMP. If you have a local computer group, use that as a focal point to gather like interested people and start a SIG (Special Interest Group). Even if you just have email communication, the fact that you are pursuing together is great encouragement and support. As a friend of mine said to me, "if you want to learn IT, hang with computer geeks." To associate and commune is great for learning stuff. This is even more appropriate for graphics because we need to show and tell.

The cool thing is that you don't have to use Linux to use Open Source Software. Some will run on Windows, Linux and Mac. The point is it is out there and not different than other software doing the same thing. It may have a different look and feel or have more or less features but for sure you won't need a defibrillator to revive your wallet.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

the dead zone, revisited

Ever gotten a piece of hardware as a discount or a gift for a favor or even in lieu of cash? Your excitement is off the chart, until you explore what you got. How many times the big thrill became an albatross, the proverbial white elephant or my favorite, the door-stop? Believe it or not, lots of Linux users have experienced this, because Linux is supposed to run great on old stuff. The caveat is hardware with proprietary drivers (made for Microsoft OS).

In the further adventures of "This old PC", my Gateway 4026 laptop has reached another milestone. I've read about dozens of 4026 owners ready to convert their laptops into Frisbees after trying to install Linux on them. Here's what I did. First the total XP, then dual-boot via normal installation. This yielded a laptop with working XP and a silent off-line Ubuntu. Then I installed XP with Ubuntu installed via WUBI the Ubuntu windows installer. I had XP and Ubuntu joined at the hip. I discovered sound by installing the Alsa libraries (the Alsa Linux Sound Architecture), then interrogated the PC by Ubuntu's System Testing module. The sound jumped into life.

Next, since I discovered I could get sound, it was worth nuking the whole hard drive and installing Ubuntu by it self, goodby XP. This went great and I got sound and a wired Ethernet. Wireless, will I have wireless? There was a driver for the Broadcom wireless card, so I went with that. After I matched my card and access point configs, wireless happened and I pulled the Ethernet cable.

Here's what didn't happen. I popped in the Ubuntu 10.4 live-CD, it did not boot-up. So upgrading to the latest did not happen and since 9.10 is not broke and works unexpectedly well, I am not going to fool with it. By all accounts my Gateway 4026 is not supposed to run Linux and get sound and wireless. All I need now is a new battery pak and a new keyboard assembly, the resurrection will be complete. And I just tore off the "Made for Win98/XP" stickers and pasted on a "Linux Inside" sticker in its place, totally redefining the laptop in the mind of this user.

If you can get lower power consumption and reasonable performance, along with portability, then laptops, even larger ones are the thing to get. And there is something magical about Linux springing to life on a laptop. I am so used to ATX boxes stuck in one room. Break out the Glade new car scent air-freshener folks, we are new again.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

padawan training - building a light saber

There are far too many ways to get Ubuntu on your PC.

1. the network install

2. the live-CD install over everything.

3. the live-CD run off the CD - take out when done - no install

4. Dual-boot two operating systems, same hard drive - two partitions

5. Dual-boot two operating systems, two hard drives

6. Linux on a flash drive

7. Linux as a guest operating system in a virtual machine

8. Used WUBI to install Ubuntu inside a XP folder.

WUBI is the official Ubuntu Windows Installer and It works!! Here's the story. My laptop a Gateway 4026 runs XP with all the stuff. I popped in a Ubuntu 9.10 live-CD and it runs but no sound. Then I boot-up XP and insert the Ubuntu disk to read it, behold, Wubi comes up and asks me if I want to install it into XP??????
This is not exactly a virtual machine but it makes a folder in the XP file system and formats that space to run Linux. So...........what I did was make a large windows partition and let Wubi put Ubuntu in it. Ubuntu installs just like normal and installs GRUB. I reboot, select XP or Ubuntu and have at it.

Ubuntu runs fine, no sound but fine. I went into Synaptic application loader, got the Alsa, universal linux sound architecture, hoping it would work. Then I ran the system testing stuff under System Admin. It found the sound chipset and now I got sound. I am so amazed it worked, old laptops are so proprietary.

There is something so magical about a laptop booting up to Linux. I keep saying the PC should be bigger. I keep looking behind the screen. Next I will look into the wireless connection, I've got a driver for that! 

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Jedi, no not yet, you have to face Vader

Who is Vader? Vader is when you must use your talents and tools on the fly. It's not a drill. But wait, let's not jump ahead so fast. Vader will look at your tools, your light saber and say your skills are complete, then test your knowledge of the force. How are your tools/skills? We are so eager to start slicing off limbs.

Click on the GIMP icon or menu button, it comes up and the Swiss Army knife of graphics applications is set before you. What do I do next? If you are serious about graphics and not just an occasional user, you need to put things in order according to your way of working. If you are doing animation, identify the animation tools, if painting, the painting tools, etc. This is suffering for the occasional user, "I ain't got time for this!" Imagine every time you want to pencil sketch, you have to find a piece of paper and sharpen a pencil. You also need a pencil sharpener and a flat surface to rest the paper on. If you have to do this every time, it gets in the way.

Presets is what it's called. Presets are used to save the adjustments to GIMP so that when you are ready to work GIMP is already setup for you. What would be immediately cool for GIMP and other apps like this is to have a number of prefigured and selectable presets. These presets or profiles or user preferences would include sets of tools for the kind of work. If I am doing 2D sketching I don't need animation tools, I shouldn't have to work around them. But I should be able to make and select custom presets according to the way I work.

Ramon Miranda is the man behind GPS (GIMP Paint Studio). This is a group of presets and files for painting and drawing. I am looking at this now. It is cool because when you are doing a kind of art process, you want the things you need handy. I am also looking to see if there is an easy way to save multiple setups or if I even need to worry about this. GPS is a good start.

There is another setup called GIMPshop, which is GIMP setup to look similar to Photoshop.  It tries to put menus and tools in the same place as in Photoshop, not to mimic Photoshop but to shorten your work flow while using GIMP if you are used to using Photoshop.

Now that you have a stack of paper, a bundle of sharpened pencils and a clear space to work, you can draw when the urge strikes, not having to prepare every time. And that's my point, you must spend time to get to know what GIMP can do, then tweak it so that it will do what you need it to do. No piece of software that has a wide range of settings is instantly intuitive. You set it up so that your work paths are short and your tools are not the obstacle to getting your ideas down.

Now the only thing left to do is to do it.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

put the blastshield down Luke. stretch out with your feelings

You want to jump into Open Source graphic applications and you look to the experts for advice because they are experienced, right? I'm not saying they aren't great at digital graphics many former and crossed-over from Photoshop and Illustrator users are all voicing their frustrations along with their amazements. It's like wearing a too long for you open bath-robe and unsecured slippers while ascending the stairs. You get there by tripping on the robe fringes and trying to grip the insides of the slippers with your toes. Finally you get dressed, memory kicks in and you can climb the stairs blindfolded.

Not having used Photoshop, Illustrator or others, I don't have to work through re-programing myself. It is so obvious when an digital art wizard says GIMP is wonderful's not doesn't have or do........not up to........not still making strides...........not ready for mainstream, bigtime or serious projects in a paid work environment. An artist must suffer, but not like that. That kind of grunting should not be over emphasized in reviews. If you, an expert find switching over to use GIMP is hard, awkward, and not like whatever, how the heck do you expect a newbe like me with no history to grab it and use it. You struggled, it must be hard for everyone. Crap-da-monious nonsense!

I can't tell you how many times I've seen newbies, shell shocked and forewarned by experienced folks, get over it after they find they have no problem at all. They have no history, the learning curve has flat-lined for them. The real truth is most can deal with one all consuming graphics application, two or three gets complicated. It becomes apparent when one app becomes the favorite and you have to use or want to use another. Some people have more bandwidth than others. In all, if you spend enough time with one application, others are difficult to learn. I've been looking at GIMP for a little while, already I find Pixel, which has a Photoshop like interface, strange and awkward.

What if there was one Universal Graphics Interface and all graphics tools were third-party plugins? Won't happen too soon! Each graphics package does have some overlap. GIMP can do some vector and Inkscape can export to raster.

What's on my plate today? GIMP, Inkscape, Blender 3D, My Paint, Open Office Draw. What I need is more time with each one, away from the comparison mill. Perhaps I am risking my graphics career on Open Source graphics applications. I don't know if that thought is applicable to me, just that I am willing. As an artist I am committed to Open Source graphics as a starting point.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Hey Arno, how's the artist's eye?

The artist's eye is an innate thing. The problem I am having now is passion. Passion brings art to the top of your agenda. Passion allows you to work all things out so that you can do art. Also make the effort to display/promote/sell. It is a big thing to make the jump from art dabbler to artist in residence for profit.

There are all kinds of formulas out there and many artist are eager to share their experience as advice. Please share your experience, keep your advice. Why? There is no generic situation we art prone come out of or exist in, and there is no generic situation we are going to fit into. It might be different for an "art job" but crafty and fine art people usually don't have an art career tract in mind. An awful lot of us just art because we like it. We like to do art for a while without the "job" persona turning it into a dislike.

Commitment is another big hurdle. If you are like most, multi-talented and in the midst of immediate needs, it is often hard to focus on the thing you prefer when the things lower on your list are paying off and meeting your needs. Sometimes it's not about you but about your spouses view of the world. If I made big bucks from art, I'd be set with her. The more traditional jobs appear more a sure bet with her for now. I am inclined to agree, but also if you don't spend time to develop the preferred avenues, they remain on the back shelf and are destined to be regrets and I should'ves later. My wish is not to be supplied in living expenses yet unfulfilled as a person.

Opportunity is key to any interface with the world. There are opportunities you create for yourself and opportunities others present to you. There is always a cost. Time, expense, principles, inputs, outputs and consequences are all the currency of opportunity. The flip of opportunity is risk. You must risk some or all of yourself in hope of return or what's the point. Profit for you, for others, long turn, short turn, what ever is gained is because something was risked.

Do you have the passion?

Can you commit?

Will you choose and/or make opportunity?

Will you take the risk?

Are you prepared to deal with whatever the profit or return is?

The funny thing is that much of this assessment happens on the fly, while the play is in motion. As the things change, you make adjustments and move on. My hope is to stay in the game, go forward. It's about endurance and sustaining good play, not going down in a blaze of gory, I mean glory. Yet for others it might be different.

This is stuff I think about when I sit down, while in motion it's a little fuzzier cuz I gots others to care for. Endurance and learning to make art on the run.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

you need a cyber plumber tool #z23.5 ver2, series 9rc

Ever do a plumbing project and it takes you hours because you don't have the tool to do the job easy? You run to the hardware store, the clerk says, "you need one of these!" It's just like the one you have but the head is bent over and the handle is really long. You reluctantly stick out your battered hand to fork over the cash. When you get back home the job takes 5 minutes.

Computing can be like plumbing. All the wires are in place but it's sometimes hard getting the data to flow where it needs to go. Here in the Linuxville guide office lab, I have a Compaq Proliant DL380, humming like a vacuum cleaner and my main PC (HP Pavilion a1030e). One runs Ubuntu 10,04 the other #!CrunchBang Linux (Ubuntu 9.04). I first needed them to share a keyboard and mouse. This is done via Synergy. Sort of a KVM in software. You run the server module on one and the client module on the other. The server's keyboard and mouse can now be used for both machines depending on where the cursor is positioned. In their specs, they say Synergy can cut-n-paste between server and client. I have not been able to discover how and if this works.

"Let them share data." There are so many ways to do this, FTP, NFS, remote, and others.......just get a little app called "Giver". Giver runs on both computers and they see each other through the network. Sort of like a data chat. Now I can pass files and folders back and forth with no effort.

Let's go back to the DL380. Why you got a big old rack mounted server in there? Well I don't really need it for a network resource manager or a user manager or web server. I could, but right now it's a beefy computer. Older yes, but it's got dual processors, RAID 1 disk array and I can learn a lot by tinkering. It needs more memory and there is no USB (I can get a PCI card for that!) and it is SCSI (scuzzy) inside. Some parts of computing you only learn by fingering the hardware.

So many techies only use computers to manage data. Caring for big and small data systems for businesses is fine. But since I worked as a drafter at NASA and seen engineers make boards from scratch and write software to run on them, I have an appreciation for "creative computing." I just wish I was smarter, techier, nerdier, etc. Also my fav movies are "TRON and Star Wars". For both of these movies, computers to produce the movies were invented as needed. They designed the hardware and software to do the jobs required. They were pie-n-ears (LOL) that's pioneers. I think that's the part missing with kids today. We want them to grow-up to be data managers, they resist (of course). It's like taking typing class in the old days. Creative computing looks more inviting. You can still manage a businesses data but the computer can do so much from remote controlling your car to designing your belt buckle (you wear a belt?).

And of course I will promote Linux. Linux does not put the $ and legal restraints on you. It is very handy when creative computing is before you. It will do the normal stuff too, quite well I might add. So with that, I take off, but take a look at these tools, next time you boot up. Guake Terminal, Synergy, Giver and the distro #!CrunchBang.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

still in the lab - the next day

Back here in the lab there is great excitement, but I told you that already. Along with the stuff I got a few days ago, I procured two servers from a friend. Now what good is old servers? I can see your minds racing as did mine. But you got to think, if you don't know much about servers, you've gotta find out.  First of all a server is a "C", not a "PC" as far as hardware is concerned. A server in software can actually exist on any hardware it will run on. A server is the eye of the resource storm and is used to manage, direct, deploy, store, allocate, etc, etc, etc, connecting users to data. Don't take it personal, it's not a Personal Computer.

BUT when you pop the top, you find it's just like a "PC" inside. The hardware may be more robust or the divice connections different (mine is SCSI or scuzzy). So, what am I doing with? I have no web hosting aspirations, no need for business type infrastructure data processing configurations. The most logical thing for me was to see if I could use this advanced fire power for a "PC".

Well, it's got dual CPUs and a RAID disk array, needs more memory and maybe it will run Blender 3D better than my regular PC.

I tried a dozen different Linux versions on it. All the mainline Linuxes have too much whizbang to work. I tried #!CrunchBang Linux and it worked. It installed almost without a hitch. I had to exchange the CD ROM drive from one server to the other. Always get two junkers, one for spare parts!

The servers are rack mount sound like a vacuum cleaner and are designed to run forever.............................What kind? Compaq Proliant DL380.

This is why I have a lab and use Linux. Useful work is over rated, IT'S ALIVE!!!

Saturday, May 01, 2010

day in the lab, the play by play

Gee, I am excited. The other day I got 2 flash drives @ 2 gig each. I used them for back up so that I could install Ubuntu 10.04 and still have my stuff. Then after that was done I put Wolvix 2.0.0 live-CD in, booted it up. Of course it runs great! Wolvix is Slackware based. I plugged in one flash drive, installed Wolvix on it.

I discovered my second machine wouldn't boot from a flash drive via the bios setup. Neither could my laptop, they are both older. It might be possible to boot from the flash drives using Grub the boot loader. My laptop has XP, will boot from hard drive or CD Rom. I will see if a MS platform boot loader is out there or install Linux inside XP via Wabi or something.

My second machine has XP and #!Crunchbang Linux on it along with Grub. I could write a config in Grub to see and boot from the flash drive.

I did however plug the flash drive into my first machine. Via the bios, I adjusted the boot sequence to see my flash drive. It booted without a whimper. It was totally weird not to hear the hard drive or the CD Rom revving and humming. In fact, if I had a LCD monitor there would be no sound, not even the clicking of my CRT going from blank to signal present. That was awesome.

Many of todays OSs have that Cylon style indicator going back and forth or a series of dots moving from left to right while booting up. I actually like to see the script being executed and scrolling. There is often a switch to turn it off/on called verbose. It reminds me of the "Matrix". There is something totally magical about seeing Linux boot up, especially on a laptop. That screen with the thin borders and black background and the text. That is the real face, the real software running, then it constructs the face or GUI to cover those inner workings. I still find that fascinating.  Some things in the PC world you can't fix or adjust via the GUI, you need to go deep inside, go behind the scenes. This is true in MS OSs as well as with Linux OSs.

I am in that gap between just running/using software and just managing data and monitoring systems. It's it called creative computing. A little hardware, a little software and let's try to do something besides mainstream use. Back in the day and not that long ago, hacking was a good term. Today hacking has been usurped and criminalized. The bad connotations of shared labels don't always defame the whole that do it. DIY home remodelers and backyard mechanics don't have a bad rap. Some how creative computer users get a bad name because "hacking" is easy to say and the consequences of bad guys/gals more visible. If it were not for hacking, there'd be no computer controlling and monitoring your car and other critical devices where humans can't stay awake 24/7 or be consistently vigilant on the job or in harsh environments, or handle the nuisances of media, medicine and entertainment devices. I can reluctantly give up the hacking label but don't criminalize all creative computer users.

No, "engineer" is a professional label. Many who have "engineer" knowledge and or ability are not pros in the professional sense. Some who have that "engineer" designation are evil doers, engage in "hacking", (if you will) and use creative computing as a means to gain access to  pillage and plunder. I am just fascinated by the technology and tinker and dabble. Some have a 57 Chevy under a tarp, I have some old/newer PCs, some build a shed, I a lab, some home stereo and multimedia centers, I could do that too! Hobbyist is an old school word or enthusiast more for today. When I turn on my lab the the neighborhood lights go out, I guess I've gone too far. OK, dressing in a Tux (Linux mascot) and passing out Gummy Fish to kids yelling "use Linux" is a bit much, LOL!