Into Ubuntu

Over the years I’ve run a number of Linux distros and I’ve watched them evolve. For the last couple of years, I’ve been purely Microsoft on my home computers. When that errant nvraid driver update killed Vista (and I still can’t find my install CD and license key), I decided it was time to see what has changed in the OSS landscape.

So after managing to get my data away from the RAIDed disks, I fired up the system with a freshly burned copy of Ubuntu 7.04 (Feisty Fawn). It proceeded to load a LiveCD version using Gnome as the GUI. The boot was pretty quick and the hardware detection worked wonderfully (with one exception, covered later in this article). I was presented with a plain desktop that had everything you would want to see for a basic home user: web browser, email reader, OpenOffice, and a way to browse files. Sure there is more than that, but these are the things that most people are going to be looking for right off the bat. Music players and games and video editors usually come in second to these staples.

The only icon on the desktop is one labeled Install. So I open it. Thus begins a simple 7-step wizard, most of which can be ignored unless you want to use a language other than English. There is nothing complex about the information asked for and the partition tool has a fully automatic option which I imagine most Joe Suburban users would pick. If you can click a radio button and type a user name and password, you can install this system.

After you’ve completed the wizard, you just sit back for about 15-20 minutes and click Finish. The software unloads itself, ejects the CD, then requests that you press Enter to reboot. That’s it. No compiling. No editing .config files. No choosing kernel options. You reboot into the fully functional Ubuntu system. From here you can either start using it as your everyday OS or you can jump into the Add/Remove option under Applications and install some new software. I would suggest at least adding the Restricted Use package, otherwise you’ll find some irritating deficiencies such as no MP3 playback. I understand the necessity for the separation and the reason it isn’t part of the base install…lawyers…but I would like to see future releases mention this a little better up front. I managed to find the fix pretty easily with the power of Google.

Of course, with any system there are bound to be some problems. Mine was the Creative X-fi Platinum sound card. This card is completely different from previous cards. In other words, the Linux sound systems (ALSA and OSS) cannot use the device. Creative has yet to offer any technical information to open-source developers so they can write drivers. They claim there will be a closed source driver out this year in beta for Linux, but the release has already been pushed back once so I won’t hold my breath. Fortunately, I have AC’97 audio built into the motherboard, so I just turned it on and voila…I have music.

Now, why would anyone want to get out of Windows and jump over to Ubuntu or another Linux distribution? That answer will vary from person to person. Me? I like a number of applications that would cost me hundreds, probably thousands, of dollars under Windows but cost nothing but the time to download and install under Linux. One of my personal favorites is Bluetooth OBEX support through the file manager. It’s nice to open the equivalent of My Computer and browse over to my RAZR to copy photos, ringtones, wallpapers back and forth with a simple drag-and-drop. Or how about using GTKPod to update my iPod since I can move files both ways? Granted, you lose the iTunes store ability…but I only bought one song and that was the result of a free song on a bottle cap from one of my Dews.

Software updates work much like Windows Automatic Updates. You get a notification in the panel equivalent of the System Tray (next to the clock). You click on it. You tell it to install the updates. Done. Yes, there is the occasional update that will ask for a reboot, such as kernel updates. But by and large, most updates will take place on the fly with no restart necessary. This is one of the joys of a modular system. If the module is updated, just reload the module into memory.

I have to admit that a large part of my decision to jump over to Linux for a while is Beryl/Compiz Fusion. I like eye candy, especially if some of it actually makes work easier. So I’ve been playing with Beryl and the Emerald theme manager and I have to say that the cube is fun even though I usually flip between desktops with the scroll wheel or keyboard shortcut. Regardless, I give kudos to the developers for putting some truly useful and time-saving modules into this package. I’d forgotten what a wonderful thing it is to have multiple desktops when you’re used to running 8-15 apps at a time.

So far, I have nothing but praise for what the people over at Ubuntu have done for the OSS community. With just a little more polish in spots like driver support (from anal-retentive hardware manufacturers), I would say that Linux has finally gotten ready to enter the true desktop market for the masses. Yes, I know…a lot of geeks have been running Linux as a desktop for years…but I’m referring to Joe Suburban and his grandmother. Until there is acceptance from the not-tech-savvy, Linux will never be a player in the home desktop area.

Windows Home Server RTM

According to Qblogger over at the official Windows Home Server Blog, the code has been finalized and released to manufacturing. I tested the software on and off throughout the beta and it’s an overall well designed product. I’ve seen a few people complaining about it lacking certain features, but they seem to forget what the purpose of this device is. This is a media sharing and desktop system backup solution. It’s a server for suburbian families that have lots of music and photos they want the kids to be able to get to easily. It’s a desktop backup system that is simple to use so any important information on any system in the home is protected from hardware/software failure.

This product is not a corporate or professional level server. It isn’t meant to run Exchange or SQL or host your blog. If you want these things, go buy Windows Server 2003 Small Business Server or build a Linux box. However, if what you’re looking for is a system to backup the important files on your home computers and share your media from a central, always-on location … then this is a good choice. It integrates almost seamlessly with XP and Vista (at least from my experience) and does a good job at the tasks it was designed for. As a matter of fact, the only problem I had was that I didn’t setup my main Vista system to backup before I toasted it with an errant RAID driver upgrade. (My main system has about 200GB more storage than the box I used for the Home Server.) Oh well, live and learn.

Articulation and Percipience

Communication is a fundamental tool of modern life. Though we tend to think of communication as verbal or written in most cases. All too often we forget the myriad of ways one can convey thoughts and feelings to others. On the rare occasions that we actually notice the other forms of communication such as facial expressions or body language, we are prone to misinterpreting the meaning. I theorize that this is because we have desensitized ourselves through modern communication avenues to a point where we are losing touch with these parts of our brains that decode the information gathered using the senses other than hearing.

In early days, before the Human Race had developed oral and written communication, we still managed to convey thoughts, ideas, and emotions to one another. We used all of our senses and understood. In today’s society of instant messaging, email, television, and fast food, we have begun to lose the ability to see what is right in front of us. Some people compensate for this loss of understanding by using lengthy explanations for even the most simplistic of thoughts. It avoids some misunderstandings. However, this quite often is not enough.

The reason for that is simple. We live in a world where things are moving ever more quickly. We do not allow ourselves the time to actually contemplate what is being said to us on all levels. We take what is on the surface and jump to the first conclusion that jumps to mind. This does not invalidate earlier claims about the subconscious. Why? Because we are now talking about using the surface only…not just for what we are taking in, but for what we use to interpret it. Conclusions based completely in the conscious are very prone to error.

What, then, is the remedy for this? I cannot give a definitive answer. Every person is different and the reasons will vary from individual to individual. In general, though, I would say that slowing down the jumping to a conclusion would be a step in the right direction. Don’t just take the first impression of what someone is saying. Take a moment to reflect on everything you see, hear, smell, and feel from the person with whom you are communicating. If there is room for doubt in the resulting conclusion, then ask for clarification and remember where the error in judgement, if there was one, happened. Learn from it.

All of life is a learning exercise. When we stop learning…we have stopped truly living. We have ceased to grow as a person and have stopped our part in the evolution of the Human Race. Our evolution is vital for survival on many levels. I have stated before that our technological evolution has outpaced our spiritual, emotional, and mental evolution. If this trend continues, the Human Race will cease to exist as a result of our own folly. Simply put, we will kill ourselves even as we are doing today. There must be a balance if there is to be survival. Balance with nature. Balance with others. Balance within ourselves. It is an imperative of the Universe that we cannot avoid.

Categorized as rants


(that’s Yet Another iPhone Blog Post…like we have a shortage of them)

Having played with one in the AT&T store right down the road, I can say that I wish I had the money to drop on the little morsel of technological geek candy. Sadly, Apple has opted to make it stylish only for those who have large salaries and almost no expenses. I don’t know about the rest of the world, but there’s no way I can just up and drop $500 on a phone…much less $600 for one with more storage. Add to that the higher monthly expense since the iPhone plans all need the unlimited data pack and you’ve got yourself a second mortgage.

Despite Apple’s extortionist ways and AT&T’s mafia-like control, I want one. I watched the Apple iMarketing machine with new iHype generator and even drank the iKool-aid. The device is very cool. It even works mostly as advertised and that’s no mean feat in today’s market where it is all too common to be promised the moon and given a block of moldy cheese.

The interface is extremely intuitive and simple. I would expect nothing less from Apple. The touch screen capabilities are absolutely some of the best geek candy I’ve managed to experience in a long time. The overall design, while definitely sleek, is also easily functional. I can’t say whether or not that opinion will hold up after a long call, but my trips to the AT&T store to play with something far out of my price range have convinced me that at least for my short average phone calls, this thing would work just fine.

Add to all of that the iPod capabilities and you’ve got a potential long term revenue for the little brother of the technology world. That is, if the batteries hold and the few software glitches get fixed while AT&T tries to beef up their network to handle the extra load. Oh…and while you’re at it…how ’bout some 3G? After all, you don’t go out and get a brand new Porche and drop a Yugo 3 cylinder engine in it…


I watched Transformers yesterday. I went in with a carefully guarded hope that Michael Bay had managed to not destroy one of my favorite shows from my childhood. Let’s face it, more often than not such undertakings are met with near universal disgust at the result…Super Mario Brothers comes to mind. With that said, I’ll fill you in on my take of the overall movie while trying not to include spoilers.

I’ll start with the previews. They lend the opinion of a near non-stop action flick. This isn’t the case. There are a myriad of side stories that take place throughout the movie that I found engaging. The writers did a good job at telling stories of the different people drawn into the conflict even if their characters weren’t quite as fleshed out as they could have been. Some of them offer humor while others touch the heart (and quite possibly can be construed as commenting on current world affairs a bit). The pace of the movie starts out a bit on the slow side but it doesn’t really feel like it’s dragging. As things accelerate, you find yourself being swept into the frantic battles with little sense of transition from the slower events that happened earlier on.

Now, I can’t say the movie should get glowing reviews…it wasn’t all a cakewalk. There are characters that were quite obviously put in for the younger audience…The Section 7 officer comes to mind rather quickly. I’m certain that was his whole purpose for existing in the movie…to add a little of that ‘weekday Nickelodeon almost-teen’ show feel…fan service for the kids that don’t remember the original Transformers TV show. There is also little things like the way some body panels on the Autobots will split when they transform into robots, yet you see no lines between those panels when in car form. Admittedly, it’s nit-picking, but I notice such things. I do have a couple of theories as to how that could work such as their ability to morph those panels or their holographic capabilities…but it’s still something that bothered me.

Finally, let’s talk about the music. It’s the same pop-culture action-flick fare you’ve come to expect. Hard Rock from various bands jams in the background during most of the action sequences. The selections do help with the mood of simple bad-ass butt stomping, but I doubt it will stand the test of time. There is no “The Touch” moment that stands out musically.

And for the record, I was one of the one’s that protested all GM Autobots. Bumblebee is a VW Bug, damnit. But his personality was pulled off with a flare that just matched the Camero while still retaining, as far as I’m concerned, the core Bumblebee character.