Time Drags

Sunday –

Screenshot OK, so now I’m playing with skins again. I love themes and skins, even though they are completely pointless. I usually hide my skinned XMMS, and the themes for GTK or KDE tend to be rather minimal or amazingly baroque. I don’t do baroque computer decorations. 🙂
The pic to the left will go to a full-size image (1152×864). For a slightly smaller version, go here. The MP3 player is actually XMMS, but with a plugin that allows KJofol skins to be added. Pretty slick, eh?

I have a quest. I want to be able to make an audio CD using an M3U playlist as the input. So far, I’ve discarded putting quotes around the filenames in the playlist, as that doesn’t work. I’ve tried redefining IFS to something else, and that worked poorly as well. The only solution anyone has given that actually works is renaming everything to have underscores instead of spaces. It works, but it is inelegant, so I’m still hoping for another solution. This is in Linux, but I haven’t found anything in Windows that will do this either.

A group of hackers has made a pretty decent Agent clone for Linux now: PAN. Very slick, and it works pretty well. Needs better filtering ability and such, but I remember when Agent was pretty bare too. Here’s my screenshot of PAN in action, with an Aqua GTK theme.
Again, a smaller version.

On a more personal/professional note, most of my long-term coworkers are heading off to training and Korea soon. Some of them much sooner than anyone had predicted, unfortunately.

I’m getting ready to leave the Army next year, and I’ve got a lot of preparation to worry about now. Anyone have a job for a computer geek who doesn’t code but know graphics, sound, and video? I’d prefer Central California, but I’m not too picky. 🙂

So very tired of SDNCO, CTT, CMT, AER, NCOPD (or is it NCODP?) and all the other damned acronyms that I’ve been inundated with for the past 11 years. Only 53 weeks to go.

Phones Suck

Wednesday –

I’m on vacation, but without any money to vacate with, so just staying home playing on the computer all day. Kind of fun, in a geeky way.

While home all day, I’ve noticed that telemarketers don’t keep normal hours at all.  I always assumed that nobody would try calling my house when normal people are working, since the odds were against actually selling anything then.  So, these bozos call my house all day long!  The dog would be driven half-insane, if she weren’t completely nuts anyway (being a Korean dog and all).

Of course, I never actually talk to these morons.  So, how praytell, am I so sure they’re telemarketers?  I love Caller ID.  Who else calls, has their personal information blocked on Caller ID, and refuses to leave a message?

So, now I just pick up the phone, don’t put the earpiece near my ear at all, and say, “How about not calling here anymore?” and hang up.

Why do some people feel compelled to answer the phone, if they have an answering machine and are busy with other things?  You’re not going to miss anything; if it’s an important call they’ll leave a message.  And, if it’s unimportant (as most are), you didn’t waste your time and effort bounding over furniture to silence the electronic intruder in your home.


Windoze on LinuxIn other news, I’m playing with VMWare under Linux, because I’m addicted to Dreamweaver and will not leave it behind to code HTML by hand. So, here’s a shot of my desktop in Linux with Windows running under VMWare. Freaky, eh? If you don’t like my big-ass 1152×864 desktop, here’s a scaled version (800×600), which is mostly legible.

I’ve also been using VNC to talk to the Windows machine in the other room and vice-versa. That’s not nearly as elegant, but it’s still pretty nifty. Not sure if I’ll blow the hundred bucks on VMWare once my trial month is up. I’ll keep you updated, k?

Linux Weekend

Here’s my account of Linux-only for a four-day weekend. Still not perfect, but it seems to be good enough for most folks right now. We’ll see what the next year brings, eh?

Thursday, 1999.12.30

2215 – Leave Windows for Linux Weekend.

2225 – KDE has 384kb of swap used, and I just booted into it. Maybe KDE is a memory hog, as the Gnome fans claim.

2240 – Netscape locks up KDE. Using CTRL-ALT-Backspace, reset X and keep playing.

2245 – Set up a cron job to wake up with. CRON has a very cryptic and non-intuitive format. All dates and times are reverse order. Minutes, then hours? huh?


Friday, 1999.12.31

0900 – Wake to Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic. Wondering whether mpg123 can play a full playlist, so I check out mpg123 --help and find the answer. Sweeet!

0905 – KDE using 20,712 kb of swap. Seti@Home is a big memory hog, but is running “nice” so not noticeable.

1000 – Surfing with Netscape, listening to KDGE via Real Player G2.

1130 – Inexplicably, KFM now locks up when I try to view my home directory. Whether I look at it via root account or my own, it stops functioning. Waited 30 minutes to see if it would ever move again. No luck. Kill KFM via Ktop, then restart it. Processor usage drops to 3% Probably just make a new user and be done with it…

1430 – After creating a new user, TARring the old info, trying to rebuild the new user, discovered the real reason behind the lockup. Not really a reasonable reason, but what can I do? It seems that one of the Symlinks I had in my home directory pointed to a directory on my FAT32 partition, and kfm wouldn’t show that dir. Oddly, I can go to that directory via any terminal, and there seems to be nothing amiss with it. I can even grab files from it via other programs. The Kpanel application allows me to surf through that directory and grab files, or even open some of the subdirectories within it. AND, I have another symlink to an MP3 directory on that same FAT partition, and it works fine. There is apparently something about the file path /d/Graphics/Stills and /d/Graphics/Stills/Cartoons that KFM doesn’t appreciate. Very Very odd.

1700 – Got mail bounced from AOL. Some cryptic message about DNS failure. Well, I knew it wasn’t MY DNS failure, so it must be that AOL doesn’t like my sendmail configuration. Oddly, I’ve sent mail to AOL users before, without a problem. Soooo, away I go to figure things out in the Sendmail help file. I just set up a rule that sends all mail destined for AOL through my ISP’s SMTP server first. Problem solved. Only took 30 minutes of searching to figure that out. In defense of the Linux email system, I could just have ALL my email sent through my ISP, but then why run Unix, if I have to depend on someone else to do everything for me? hehe

1730 – While attempting to open a Word file, I noticed that it wasn’t associated with any MIME type (equivalent to a file association in Windows). When you try to open an “unknown” file type in X, nothing happens. Here’s something they could definitely swipe from Windows: if I try to open an unknown file in Windows, the system prompts me for which program to run it with, and then asks whether I want to ALWAYS run it with that program. You have to manually add a MIME type or extend an existing MIME type to do the same thing in X. Not for the newbie. And, why didn’t Star Office or WordPerfect (I’ve got both on my system) make that association? They certainly know that MS Word does not exist on Unix. 🙂

1905 – Netscape randomly disappears, while attempting to follow a simple link. Clicked on a normal hyperlink online, and suddenly I’ve got no Netscape window. Check Ktop for status of Netscape; no trace running at present. Wonder why Linux geeks all say Netscape sucks…

2020 – KDE now using 20,204 kb of swap space. Netscape locked up again, so I “Xkill”ed it.


Saturday, 2000.01.01

0015 – KDE has 21,680kb swap used, and 12Megs are from Seti@Home. Everything else is looking good. Setting up a cron job to wake me in the morning. CRONs are still too cryptic.

0920 – Wake to Slick Rick. KDE’s swap usage at 17,452kb, still because of Seti@Home.

0930 – Tired of the same look I’ve had in KDE for a month, I change the theme. Now, my tray icons have disappeared, so I reset X (takes 8 seconds). All better. Resetting X doesn’t kill the Seti@Home task, since CRON set that up automatically every hour in the background.

0950 – Poorly behaved Arkiver program seems to be the culprit in completely locking up the system. Waited 5 minutes, tried CTRL-ALT-BS and CTRL-ALT-DEL to no avail. Hit the power switch. *sigh*

1000 – Rose Parade. 🙂

1530 – Went to AudiUsa site, following link from Slashdot. It immediately told me that I should download Flash or I’d not get the most from the site. Oddly, I have Flash installed. Another site that checks your OS, not your browser capability. “Not Windows or Mac: must need Flash” Send a quick email to webmaster, mentioning that Macromedia’s site seems able to tell that I have Flash installed, why can’t his?

1545 – Swing by Slate to see what’s new in The Papers. Notice there are some interesting commentaries available only if you use Windows Media Player. Fire off a POLITE email to webmaster to ponder the thought of a Real link too. Make it lower quality, so you can still bow to your Microsoft bosses, but at least have an option!

1930 – Found a GUI frontend for Seti@Home. Very sweet, and includes much more info than the “official” Windows client. The Windows client shows the progress via cool looking graphs, but not a view of the SKY. DUH?

tkSETI in Linux

SETI in Windows

2200 – Netscape commits suicide again.

2210 – Annoyed by the Windows Character Set artifacts in the Xlibris web site, email the webmaster to discuss what a standard is and why they are useful.  The Smart Quotes feature in MS products does not reproduce well on non-Windows platforms.  Nice question marks, eh?

StarOffice2240 – Loaded up StarOffice. Takes a few seconds to load, and (according to Ktop) uses 15+ megs of Resident memory, with a total footprint of 42megs. Ouch!

2350 – Off to bed, with yet another Cron set up for an alarm. Nope, sure can’t just let the same one run every day. Why would I want the same song every morning? hehe


Sunday, 2000.01.02

0945 – Since I was already up and playing tunes, the CRON job that I had set for my alarm generated an error to my email. Nice error-handling. No crash, just a message.

0950 – Netscape stops rendering pages correctly. When I close it normally via the “X” widget, it still hangs out in memory. I checked in Ktop, cuz I was curious. So, I explicitly killed it in Ktop. When is Opera bringing out their Linux browser?

1030 – Netscape suicides again. Gotta give it one thing: most of the time when it commits seppuku, it cleans up after itself.

1200 – Playing with other windowmanagers. Don’t like AfterStep; seems like too much work just to get it to do what I want. Never been fond of Gnome; it’s a big pig and slower than KDE. Since the whole “start menu” thing is not something I’m wedded to, I’m playing with WindowMaker now. I think I can get used to this very quickly. We’ll see what I think about it next week. 🙂

Dock 1920 – Here’s an unusual thing to note. Seems that most Linux geeks must not like to read their email in X, since there are so few X email programs. I personally never liked the MAIL program when I had to use Xenix years ago, and I have gotten very used to a reasonably useful GUI. So, I had to find a decent X email program that would work outside KDE, which has a very nice email program. Found one called TkRat that looks decent.  Loving the WindowMaker dock system.  Check out what I’ve done in just a few hours!

2010 – Reboot into Windows to play a game. *sigh* Need more Linux games.

2345 – Back in Linux for a while now, and Netscape kills itself again. Very frustrating when you’re attempting to find something online…


Monday, 2000.01.03

1200 – Noticed as I was making this latest entry (via GnotePad, rather than StarOffice) that when I last opened this for editing (Netscape Communicator), the editor stripped out all the ending paragraph tags. Very odd. So, I’ve got a bunch of P tags, but not the /P tags. Whatever.

I’ve decided that I really like WindowMaker. Not much like Windows or CDE, the previous two environments I’d become familiar with, but very very flexible, which I like. I’ve added a cool pseudo-transparent terminal emulator, just for kicks. Kinda pointless, but if you’re going to use Linux you might as well look cool doing it. 🙂

I’ve spent the morning tweaking things for no apparent reason, just so I could have my system exactly the way I want it. Adding things to a new menu item is easy, as is plugging in new dock applets. Well, easy if you know how to use a command line. So, not so easy for newbies. But, newbies probably should stick with one of the mainstream shells, like KDE or Gnome. Fortunately, most of the Gnome apps work in WindowMaker. The KDE apps tend to load KFM when they run, so I’ve been avoiding them until they learn to play well with others. Got a new email program called Postilion. Silly name, but useful program. Even lets me use the mailboxes from Kmail, so I can switch back and forth if I want. Time to investigate filters soon, though. I don’t want to use procmail, but I may have to.


Summary: While I can do most of the things I normally do in Linux, there are still some significant lapses. Most people I know use their computers to check email, surf the web, and (the advanced users) balance their checkbooks. All of those things are available and faster in Linux. The problem I see is that most people get a machine with Windows pre-installed and never add to it. If they got a machine with Linux pre-installed, they’d do the same thing.


I’ve added another page with more screenshots and such, if you’re interested in that stuff. Just follow the link

Corel Linux Review

Tuesday

Since I’ve become known as "the Linux guy" lately, I felt it would
be entertaining to try out the latest distibution designed for consumers, rather
than the geeks that love Slackware
and such. Yes, that’s right, I installed Corel
Linux
. I think it can be best summed up with the phrase, "huh?"
Based on the Debian distro with the KDE windowmanager, I expected a slightly
different, but generally comfortable experience with Corel. I’m afraid that
wasn’t the case.

I know it’s amazing, but sometimes the easiest method isn’t the best. Corel
has a great install program, for beginners. But, it was lacking
in many of the things Linux users have come to expect. The package selection
options are confusing, and I’ve used both RedHat 5.x and dpkg, so I would know
confusing. Although it boots up in a nice little X GUI for the installation
routine, and automatically creates a user and SuperUser account, with passwords
you create after the install, it still misses the mark in many ways.

The installation took me a bit less than 20 minutes from the time I put the
autorun-enabled CD in my Windows
machine until I had a functioning desktop. But, the desktop is functional in
only the most generous definition. First, the auto-detect of hardware, now a
staple even of Linux installs, was less accurate than RedHat/Mandrake or Caldera
were. The X configuration did make my TNT2
run in 1024×768 and 16-bit, which (oddly enough) is what I would have set it
for anyhow. But, while RedHat and Caldera
were capable of setting up my monitor’s refresh rate, Corel defaulted to 60hz
refresh. Can you say, flicker? Then, the wheelmouse I use, which I’ve
had fun with in most installs, was recognized only as a mouse. Not too surprising,
but nowhere in the Corel configuration GUI is an option to change the mouse
type. Heck, even Windows lets you do that! So far, only Caldera OpenLinux has
actually detected the mouse as a wheelmouse and set it up on install. In Mandrake,
I’ve had to put the imwheel program in my autorun folder, and then it’s
golden.

Speaking of rodentia in X, one feature that *nix users have become accustomed
to, whether in Linux, Solaris or whatever, is the middle mouse button conventions.
The usual expectation is that clicking the middle button on the desktop will
pop up a list of running programs. Not so in Corel, where the mouse button did
nothing at all. So, it looks like Corel took the approach of "Just like
Windows" a little too closely.

The good parts: As I said, the install was smooth, if a bit underpowered. The
desktop that is presented is very clean and the pager that Corel built into
KDE is nice. Corel’s customized KDE shell is
neat, and the Corel File Manager is very familiar to Windows users, including
an integrated Network browser in the tree view. Very easy to migrate from Windows
to Corel Linux. The bootmanager that Corel installs is very nice, almost the
equal of Bootmagic. It allows the choice of
booting into X, Console, Debug mode (single-user), Windows, or DOS. Although the option
for DOS was there, it didn’t do anything. I’m not sure what disk it was setup to
attempt to boot, but I assume it was trying to boot my secondary hard drive, which has no OS
installed, since it’s just a slave.

The bad parts are, alas, showstoppers: The "start menu" equivalent
in Corel has a number of games and a few admin tools installed, but no "real"
tools. Where is KMail, I wondered; it’s available, just not on the list of programs.
The only "mail" listed on the start menu is a link to a free mail
service that Corel provides. Hardly what most people expect. Even Windows includes
an email program that stays on your own harddrive. It appears that Corel wanted
to avoid overwhelming newbies, but they didn’t include the basics. At least,
not in the default install, which most newbies would choose.

My little table from a few months ago was very popular, so I’ve updated it
with my Corel impressions. Your mileage may vary.

Operating System Installation time Boot time Gotchas/summary
Windows 98 SE 3 hours, including futzing around to make it recognize all of my peripherals
simultaneously.
115 seconds (with my Startup group disabled) Supported by most software makers, but crashes WAY too much. I have
to watch my resources like a hawk or the darned thing locks up on me. UDMA
is supposed to work, but hangs my system 10% of the time, and it takes forever
to startup and shutdown.
Corel Linux 1.0 25 minutes, from inserting the CDROM in Windows. 45 seconds Easy installation, simple "mindshare" migration from Windows.
But, horribly under-equipped for a Linux distro.
Caldera Open Linux 2.3 35 minutes, including the time waiting for Windows to reboot. 63 seconds, to a usable GUI desktop after logging in. Not too much software available off-the-shelf, but plenty available
online and in book stores, etc. Great for heavy use, but not really a good
game platform yet (except for Loki games). No decent Access-equivalent,
but the rest of Office functions are available from StarDivision.
Linux Mandrake 6.1 40 minutes, mainly because I chose to select individual packages 73 seconds (more daemons loaded than I need) Same as Caldera, but Mandrake is better supported by "the community"
since it has the same directory structure as Redhat, and Caldera is a little
different.
BeOS 4.5 21 minutes, including Windows rebooting and re-partitioning the HD. 19 seconds (WOW!) Quite nearly no software support, with the exception of Macromedia’s
promised support. Amazingly fast and flexible system, and based on Unix,
so pretty darned secure and stable.

So, overall very little has changed for me personally since my last installment.
I’m still spending ALOT of time in Windows, rebooting about every 2 days, and
generally being annoyed by crashes and such. My second OS is Linux Mandrake,
since I’ve become comfortable with it now and it has the best set of tools out
of the box, for the freely downloadable OSes at least.

Cool New Toys

My Windows DesktopSaturday

Well, I’m going to break with my trend of complete incoherence and go for a set of Software Reviews today… I’ve recently had to do some reconstructive surgery on my computer, so I have new toys. I also did some experimenting, as long as I had to start over anyhow.

My Linux Desktop in KDESo, although I’ve been very happy with Linux Mandrake for the past year or so, I thought I’d check out Caldera Open Linux, since they had a new version and I’d heard how simple it was to install. Changing into my "newbie" mode, I let it run the install as if I had no clue at all what Linux was. (Well, I did partition the HD, but if you bought the commercial version, it would do that for you too) WOW! It auto-ran from Windows, rebooted itself in DOS-Single mode, ran Loadlin, and started up a stripped-down version of X to install from. No more command line installations for newbies, no sir! OK, a GUI install is pretty, but how is the system? It gives you very few choices when you install the OS, kinda like Windows and unlike most Linux distributions. For most people, that’s good, since they will get less confused by the routine. In about 20 minutes (less than the Windows install I did the same week), I had Caldera Open Linux 2.3 installed and operational. It even recognized my wheel mouse and brand-new TNT2 video card. VERY nice install, and the system is set up for KDE as the desktop, which is good for most folks. Although many reviewers refer to KDE as Windows-like, I think of it more as CDE-like, but I’m familiar with Solaris, and most computer magazine writers apparently AREN’T.

Be with two animated windowsAnother fun little doodad I installed recently was BeOS. The Be Operating System was originally designed to out-Mac the Macintosh, and was built for the PowerPC chips. Now, they have had a version out for Intel-compatible chips for a while. I ran its install and poked around a bit. Like Caldera, the Be install is also Windows-aware, and it auto-ran from the CD in Be with a book of QuicktimesWindows, starting a DOS-mode install and setting up its environment. When it rebooted, it ran Partition Magic Special Edition, created its partition from freespace on the HD, rebooted into the Be install, and installed itself with nearly no interaction from me. In fact, there is almost nothing to decide on during the install, other than which partition to set up on. After it installed, I ran some of the demos, and tried to get online. *BUZZ* Can’t do it. Although Be’s web site claims that my ethernet card is supported, it did not recognize it, even after repeated attempts to make it go. So, it’s off my hard drive again. Maybe next year. The pictures I’ve posted show some of Be’s out-of-the-box demos. The images are NOT stills, they are animated and lighted in real-time, while showing multiple video images and real-time deformation. If you’re a graphics geek, you just said, "cool!" and the rest of you said, "huh?"
Some thoughts in comparison between Windows, Linux, and Be:

Operating System Installation time Boot time Gotchas/summary
Windows 98 SE 3 hours, including futzing around to make it recognize all of my peripherals simultaneously. 115 seconds (with my Startup group disabled) Supported by most software makers, but crashes WAY too much. I have to watch my resources like a hawk or the darned thing locks up on me. UDMA is supposed to work, but hangs my system 10% of the time, and it takes forever to startup and shutdown.
Caldera Open Linux 2.3 35 minutes, including the time waiting for Windows to reboot. 63 seconds, to a usable GUI desktop after logging in. Not too much software available off-the-shelf, but plenty available online and in book stores, etc. Great for heavy use, but not really a good game platform yet (except for Loki games). No decent Access-equivalent, but the rest of Office functions are available from StarDivision.
Linux Mandrake 6.1 40 minutes, mainly because I chose to select individual packages 73 seconds (more daemons loaded than I need) Same as Caldera, but Mandrake is better supported by "the community" since it has the same directory structure as Redhat, and Caldera is a little different.
BeOS 4.5 21 minutes, including Windows rebooting and re-partitioning the HD. 19 seconds (WOW!) Quite nearly no software support, with the exception of Macromedia’s promised support. Amazingly fast and flexible system, and based on Unix, so pretty darned secure and stable.

So, the final verdict is pretty ambivalent. All the OS’s have pluses and minuses, depending on what you want to do with them. Personally, I’m running a dual-boot system. I nuked Be, moved back to Mandrake instead of OpenLinux, and I spend most of my time in Windows. I’d like to spend more time in Linux, but the Gimp is not as friendly to me as Photoshop, I don’t know of a decent HTML WYSIWYG editor, and game support is kinda paltry. But, as soon as I can, I’ll jump to a stable OS, whoever makes it.

Perspectives of a 2000 computer-year old man

Wednesday

Wow!  I kinda missed August entirely, didn’t I?  Well, I’ve got plenty of good reasons for that, but let’s just say I have a life, pathetic though it may be, and work sucks the life out of me too.  🙂

I was pondering changes recently.  As I sit at the 400 Mhz machine with 128 megs of RAM and listen to a radio station in Dallas (5+ hours away) on my 512kilobits/sec always-on connection to the multinational network of interconnected computing devices (and soda machines and fishcams), I can’t help but think that we’ve come a long damned way in the past 10 years.

When I started using computers, home computers were toys for kids to play with and "real" computers were monsters tended to by elite cadres of geek-priests, never seen by common people.  Now, the government’s definition of a supercomputer includes a PlayStation. We’ve moved so fast that we’ve outstripped the Establishment’s ability to keep up. We’ve got the US Patent Office allowing people to place absurd patents on things as nebulous as "an online database of customer comments" or other bizarre things.

Although many other people have let loose an onslaught of rhetoric regarding our possible future, I’ve been bored, and the only purpose of a personal website is to vent my own useless views on things, so here goes…

I’m listening to the KDGE live RealAudio feed while I’m online, or more accurately while I’m sitting at the computer, since I’m online literally 24/7.  Why am I not listening to a real radio?  Simple: I live in Nowhere, Texas, and there are no decent radio stations.  Sorry, West Texans, it’s true.  This place has 4 radio stations devoted to "best of 70s 80s and 90s", several Christian, Country, and Tejano stations, and not one Classical or Alternative (read NEW music) station to be found.  So, ten years ago when I was here for my early days in the Army, I just dealt with it by listening to CDs I’d brought with me.  Now, I can get those stations that I want, just by jumping on the computer.  In the short-term, people have more power, as broad-band connections grow in popularity, and folks start to use the unusual aspects of having that fat pipe in their homes.  But, I think that in the long-term, local stations may wither to vestigial organs of larger networks of music/talk/etc stations.  Look at what has happened with television as an example.  Do you really care if you’re watching KLST or KABC, or do you pretty much just look for NBC or some other network?  I’m guessing the latter, since the only things that local stations are putting out now are local news programs, where the anchors are just biding time until one of the networks picks them up for the big time.

I have a website (ok, actually several) and so does everyone else it seems.  I’ve even got my own domain name.  "So what?" you ask.  Well, many folks online discuss the promise of one-to-many publishing without the middle-man of a publisher or agent or anyone else.  Well, notice how many hits I’ve got on my main page?  If I were charging a nickel a hit I’d starve.  I don’t think that I’ll be publishing my novel online first, without an editor, publisher, publicist, and all that.  Why?  Well, although I’m a great believer in the Internet as an information resource, we have TOO MUCH STUFF online now.  When I got online, via Fidonet et al, there was a small amount of stuff online.  When the Internet became a household word in 1995, I was there.  I won a t-shirt and CD in a scavenger hunt online.  It used to be possible to know, if not all, most of the content on the Web.  But, with every Tom Dick and Gary having a website, we have information overload.  So, although publishers are, by all accounts, blood-sucking leeches on the backs of creative artistes, we need them or something like them to filter the crap from the possibly interesting.  Maybe, just maybe, in a few years or decades, we’ll have intelligent software that will do the same job, but personalized to each of us.  Don’t hold your breath.

That’s all I can coherently rant about today.  More soon.

Linux, networks, sound and Yahoo!

Saturday

Yep, it’s been a while. Much has happened in Casa Social, yet very little of importance has changed. I’ve got Linux up, mostly, and playing with new things to break it. 🙂

First off, I’ve got the network and sound problems fixed. I downgraded my sound card to a SoundBlaster AWE-64 from the Live. Linux likes ISA more than PCI, apparently. The network card was replaced with a 3Com card, so Linux was happy with that as well. And, away I go, with Linux Mandrake 6.0, right? Sure, up to a point. I got these new parts from a second machine I bought. Now, I’ve got to configure a home network to test my patience. Always something, right?

At the risk of offending Linux-lovers, the network setup in Win98 for the two machines was less nerve-wracking. Sure, it required near-magic from me, when one machine decided to replace a Sharing DLL with a broken version, but I am more familiar in MS-land, so I found and fixed it. Linux’s networking setup is still mystifying me. Anyone with a love of Samba please take my hand and help me on this.

Since installing Mandrake 6.0 I’ve had the following interesting times: while adding new TrueType fonts (in a manner I thought was correct) I somehow killed the X Font Server, rendering the entire GUI inaccessible.

After re-installing from scratch again, I got the new TTF fonts installed, the network and sound set up, and I was able to print to the other machine, but no shares are established for normal file-sharing. After reading through my two books on Linux management, I gave up and just figured I’ll worry about it when I have more time. My primary error is the NMB not started error on bootup, if anyone has some help for me there.

In other news, Yahoo bought out GeoCities, rendering a once-fine establishment into a corporate mess. When I first started playing on the Web, lo these many years ago, Four11 and Geocities were cool new sites for finding each other and setting out the digital welcome mat. Now, Yahoo has bought both, and made changes for the worst in each.

Four11, for those not familiar, was a personal listing service, allowing people to register their email address for easy finding. This was before AOL got WWW access, so there was much less chaos. 🙂

Before Yahoo bought them, Four11 had a great capability to edit your own listings, to ensure they were up-to-date. Yahoo removed that capability for months, finally re-instating a weaker version of it, which still left too much inaccurate material in your profile. Great upgrade.

Geocities, before Yahoo bought them, had a contest every month that encouraged people to get traffic on their site. Every person that hit your site counted as one raffle ticket in a drawing for a free doodad at the end of the month, usually something like an iMac or some such. Since the buyout, Yahoo killed that as well, I guess since the US$1000/month must have been a drain on their multi-million dollar company.

Also before Yahoo bought Geocities, I could directly click to my counter manager, now I have to click at least twice, reloading what should be the correct page a couple times before it believes me. Whatever.

Further, I have been using Frontpage to update my website, and although not using the FP extensions (evil empire tools that they are), I liked the simple FTP-upload from within the program. Naturally, Yahoo found some way to break that as well. I can upload my pages to Xoom or other sites without a problem, but Geocities now gives me a cryptic 553 error. So, I’ve moved to my own domain, hosted on Freeservers.

A footnote: You’ll notice I don’t put any of those absurd little "dot com" things at the end of names. Amazon was Amazon for two years, and then it became Amazon.com? Huh? It all seems a bit artificial, no? Now it’s trendy to have a dot com. Silly crap. Makes as much sense as the information superhighway nonsense that has abated, finally.

That is my screed for the week. Hope you have a great August. I’ve got some great hate-filled passages regarding trust and security in the intelligence field I may share soon…

Linux and Cable modems

Wednesday

So, I’ve got my Linux/Winblows dual-boot box up.  I’ve been playing in Linux, using the Mandrake distribution, and surfing along.  Then, what should happen but the local cable company tells me they’ll be glad to allow me to be a beta-tester of their new service.  Of course, this would be a no-cost setup, with 128kbps access for at least one month before they’ll charge me for it.  What geek would say no?  Not I, that’s for certain. 

So, I headed down and picked up my bag of goodies.  Remarkably, compared to horror stories I’ve heard about cable and DSL service, they set me up good.  I got a relatively well-written instruction packet, which was only a little inaccurate.  They gave me a 6-foot cable and a splitter for the wall, as well as a length of Cat-5 cable to connect to the ethernet card (which I hadn’t bought yet).  Of course, being a true geek, I knew that a splitter would introduce too much noise, so I just got my 20-foot cable out of my closet-o-junk and hooked up my magic black box (it really is black polycarb).  Now, living in the middle of nowhere as I’m forced to by the government, I had all of 3 stores to try for a network card.  Since I actually work during the day, some places are closed by the time a normal person can get to them (gotta love the South).  So, to the one place I knew was open late did I go, intending to buy an Intel EtherExpress card, since it is well-supported in all OS’s and is also thought to be a good card.  At the local store, I find exactly one PCI ethernet card.  Again, as a true geek, I will accept no ISA cards, in case I need more bandwidth someday.  The card, when I peered through the dirty glass case, was in the familiar blue-and-white box I’ve come to associate with Intel Ethernet cards, and so I plunked down my 40 bucks and left a happy camper.

Here’s where it goes awry.  The card was not, actually, an Intel card, but some Taiwanese knockoff named Addtron.  Surprisingly, the driver disk did include Linux drivers, although it was a peculiar exercise getting them installed.  So, now I had my super-fast connection in both Windows and Linux.  All is right with the world, one would think.  Naturally, I can’t leave my system alone for more than a few days.  After hooking up my second printer, I had run out of IRQs.  And, for some reason, my 6-year-old sound card was acting very oddly, and causing random machine lockups.  Since the company was bankrupt, I was unable to get further assistance or new drivers from them.  So, off to the store to buy a Soundblaster Live card.  Being on night shift this month, I got it set up and then left my machine in Windows, since most of my programs are still in that monstrosity.

I’m on vacation now, and felt the overwhelming need to destroy my machine with more crap.  So, noticing that Mandrake has a new CD, version 6, out, I had to try it.  Version 6 includes Linux kernel 2.2.9, instead of the 2.0.36 in the older version I had been using.  The 2.2.x kernels are supposed to be better, faster, and all that rot.  So, away I go, booting into Linux for the first time in a few weeks, and trying to set up my new OS.  Since nothing important had been left on Linux, I simply wiped it and started over, and then the trouble began.

My network card, which included Linux drivers, included them only for 2.0.x kernels, and they oh-so-thoughtfully rejected my plea for the source code so I could rebuild them.  For some reason known only to their upper management, they have a policy against releasing the source code for their drivers.  This makes absolutely no sense to me, since you must actually purchase one of their cards for the driver to be of any use anyway.  So, what would it possibly harm to let me see the source?

Next, I decided to set up my SBLive.  Here’s another pickle.  The SBLive includes, on their website, the drivers needed for Linux.  But (you knew there’d be one, eh?), the drivers are (naturally) only in binary, and will only install on 2.0.36 or 2.2.5, which is at least a month old.  In Linux-land, compiling for one specific patch level is absurd, but there you have it.  No response at all from Creative Labs, which isn’t surprising since they don’t actually have an email address listed on their website.  Now, how the hell is that a good idea?  Faxes are better than email to a technology company?

*SIGH*  So, now I’m off to re-install Linux Mandrake 5.3, with the 2.0.36 kernel.  But, yaknow, if I could get the network card to work, I’m not gonna sweat the soundcard too much.  Mandrake 6 includes a great Windowmanager built into the bootup, too.  Oh, well, it’s not easy being on the bleeding edge of technology.

Geeks are not Killers!

Monday

OK, so the whole damned country is going nuts about Littleton.  I don’t want to appear uncaring, but aren’t there larger tragedies that have gotten glossed over more quickly?  And, exactly why do all of the reporters have to mention the two psycho kids’ love of video games, as if that explains everything?  Now, of course, the clueless administrators of our screwed-up school system have gone on a witchhunt to root out any other weirdos that may be harboring homicidal tendencies.  Like, oh, pretty much anyone that I could stand from my high school.

I realize that people want to do something, but they can’t seem to understand that perhaps there is nothing they can do, nor was there anything most people could have done beforehand.  Obviously, there were all kinds of hints that these two kids needed assistance, not the least of which was the bomb-making factory in the garage.  Can you say, “What parents?”

Let me be a voice of common sense and reason in these troubled times.   My friends and I put together an amazingly cynical “underground” newsletter in high school, and very few of us ended up murdering our friends.  I owned a trench coat, I like to wear black (very slimming), and I listen to pretty obnoxious music (at least that’s what some people claim).  So, am I going to go crazy?  Did I murder a bajillion people and leave their bodies to rot in my basement?  Guess not.  So, maybe not everyone who is not a mainstream dork is homicidal.  If you actually look at the real stats, the level of teenage violent crime/murder is actually at a low point.  And, most people find violent games to be cathartic, not training aids. Ever felt like running over that pedestrian that jaywalked in front of you? Go play Carmageddon.  Wish you could design a town, to prove you’re smarter than the town elders?  SimCity.   Ever want to shoot down an airliner? Play any of a jillion flight simulators.   After being in the Army for ten years, and playing a lot of games like Quake and Duke Nukem, etc, my aim has still not improved on the firing range, nor do I have any desire at all to own a firearm.  Do I like blowing up aliens and evil zombies?  Sure.  Do I know the difference between reality and a game?  DUH.

Remember a few years ago when some kids burned their house down and the parents blamed Beavis and Butthead?  If your kids are able to get to matches while still not understanding that poorly drawn cartoons are NOT role models, perhaps the fault lies closer to home.

Of course, I could be wrong.

Linux Redux

Saturday

Continuing my adventures with Linux…

Well, I went ahead and bought a new video card to fix the video problems in Linux.  Since I hadn’t actually installed anything special in Linux, I wiped it and started over.  I added another 6.4 gig hard drive to my Frankenstein machine while I was at it.

So, I installed the 16meg Riva TNT card (only 78 bucks!), the new HD, partitioned, copied, etc.  This time, when I popped in the Linux CD, everything went smoothly.  Knowing I had to reboot a couple times to get the sound to work helped my headaches stay minimized.  Now, after about a week or so running this dual-boot configuration, I’ve installed StarOffice for Linux, and set up a few other things.  I’m reading Running Linux and attempting to muddle through.  My experience with Unix in Korea helps, but only a little.  🙂

I have about 3 gigs devoted to Linux now, and I’ve got Bootmagic set up to dual boot into either Linux or Win98.  While I was updating things, I set up IE 5.0 on the Win98 side, and I can’t tell much difference from IE 4, except I can actually read stuff in the status bar again.  They made it back to a normal size, instead of giving 3/4 of the space on the status bar to "Internet Zone" information.

Now, I plan to recompile the kernel, play with Afterstep instead of KDE for a while, and otherwise see if I can completely destroy the little free time that I have.

TTYL.

Linux?

Thursday

Although I have tried Linux before, it seems to be the month of the Open Source, so I gave it another try recently.  WOW!  What a difference a year makes.  The installation I tried was a CD I burned myself (love those toys) of Linux-Mandrake.   Mandrake is really nothing more than Red Hat 5.2 with the K Desktop Environment thrown into the install program.

So, here’s my experience and impressions so far.  I downloaded the full ISO image of the CD (45 hours, don’t try this without some industrial strength download-resumption software).  Then, after I burned it onto a blank CDR, I ran Partition Magic to clear up some extra partitions.   I created a Linux Ext2 partition (500 megs) and a Linux Swap partition (80 megs).   Prepared, with all my most important data files backed up to a CDRW disk (toys, toys, toys!), I plunged into the install routine with hope and more than a bit of dread.   About 10 months ago, I tried something very similar with Debian (an older version to be fair) and ended up spending much time rebuilding my trashed partition tables and FATs.  This time, though, was very different.

After the CD booted (love those bootable CD’s), it started the Linux-Mandrake-Redhat install routine.  I stepped through the easy-to-follow (for a geek) setup and had myself a working Linux box in no time, with a dual-boot configuration to Win98 (scourge of evil but a necessary evil), and even had KDE running in a crappy 256-color mode.  My modem wasn’t recognized, and my printer would not print.  My sound card made one squawk and stopped.  ARGH!  After many trips to the HOWTO files from the CD, I got everything working, with the exception of my video.  I can SEE everything, but I can’t convince the X server that my video is capable of more than 8-bit color (currently using 16-bit in Win98, with on-the-fly to 24-bit).  And, more maddening, the video gives me little drop-out lines.  Totally undocumented by any other victim/user of Linux that I’ve been able to find with WebFerret, Slashdot, UGeek, or 32bitsOnline.   But, I have an old crappy video card, and that Riva TNT looks awfully nice, especially at $89…

More to follow.

Near-TV Quality

Tuesday

Why is there a trend toward "convergence" for consumer goods that work just fine the way they are?  Some company (I forget who, ok!) recently announced a java-enabled web-browser/refrigerator!  Who needs the aggravation of rebooting the icemaker?  Is there some overwhelming need to run HTML on everything?   It seems these visionaries probably use Linux or Solaris, and so can’t fathom the problems they’ll encounter on their Windows CE-based information appliances.  BTW, does it seem just too perfect that Microsoft’s latest OS can be abbreviated as Wince?

Another example of convergence gone awry, that I found in my news today…

SNAP TO OFFER NEAR-TV-QUALITY AUDIO AND VIDEO OVER NET
Snap, the Internet service of NBC and C/Net, will make use of new phone and cable technologies to offer subscribers high-speed delivery of near-TV-quality audio and video over the Internet. The company’s chief executive says, "One reason the Web took off is because people made it easier to find print-based information. We’ll make it easier to find audio and video." Code-named "Cyclone," the new service will also be offered in customized versions by Bell Atlantic, SBC and GTE. (USA Today 19 Jan 99)

Now, can’t we already get ACTUAL-TV-Quality without any kind of download delays, on something I like to call the multimedia appliance of the last generation? I think we all have at least one. And, to archive this high-quality audio and video, we have several media, including a cheap tape-streaming device I’ll refer to as the VCR… I really don’t get it. Does somebody want to get crappy audio and video on a 17-inch or smaller screen, when they can watch on a couch their 30-inch screen with better quality etc.? If I haven’t made my point, check this out: http://www.theonion.com/onion3308/realtimetv.html

Rude online Bastards

_Saturday_

I have been online for an amazingly long time, compared to most people I know.  A friend recently asked if I’d ever met someone in person that I’d originally met online, and I replied, "Not in about 12 years."  When I first started using a modem to contact strangers, it was a 300 baud modem (when baud still meant bps – techie joke).  That computer was a Commodore 64, and it was new, so that tells you the approximate longevity of my habit cum obsession.   Regardless of how long I’ve been online, I’ve always tended toward the "community" aspect of the BBS’s and later the Internet.  It seems that all too many people are more concerned with being jerks than being welcoming.

A prime example is on the alt.whatever series of newsgroups.  Certainly, those of us who may on occasion flirt with some questionable aspects of life do so out of a curiousity and an utter amazement at the things we can do on a computer.  When I entered the BBS world, lo these many years ago, if I were to make a faux pas in my postings, there would be fifteen people gently reminding me in a private message of the proprieties of that particular pseudo-community.  Of course, even then, you could always count on the 2 or 3 screaming fools that would attack the slightest breach in etiquette, or what they perceived as a breach, anyway.

The way this antisocial behavior was always discouraged on BBS’s was simple: banning.   Since BBS’s were run by an individual on his/her home computer, they were the masters of their domains and could easily control the riffs and the raffs that infest our daily world.  Alas, the same is not true today on Usenet.  Since there is nobody truly in charge of any particular non-moderated group in the Usenet hierarchy, the jerks and psychos have gained the upper hand.  I long for the days that we could assume everyone was at least halfway intelligent and sane, just to have been able to figure out the computer and online systems enough to communicate.  So, I guess, I blame this downfall of good manners online on Steve Case.  If AOL weren’t so damned easy to use, we would have much fewer idiots online.