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Some time ago, I realized that to be a good little anarchist, there were certain things in my life I'd have to start to do without. After I got out of the proprietary OS trap, and stopped playing the whole "must have a job, must have good credit" financial scam, and stopped voting, and ditched some of those false ethics that capitalistic society needs for us to believe in so that their whole 10%-rich-vs-90%-poor social model to work, I started focusing my attention to entertainment.

Now, I'm not that difficult to entertain. I read a lot, I mess around with Linux a lot, and I'll make whatever kind of art I'm inspired to make at any given moment. But sometimes one wants to sit back and, say, watch a movie or listen to an album or something. The problem with the latter forms of entertainment is that they support the broken business model that is Time Warner, Vivendi, EMI, and, what, a couple other big companies?

So, in short, I figured out I had to start really being serious about local and independent art.

The problem there is, how do we define "independent"? It's always been a problem with art, because sometimes "independent" simply means "not in the same vein as the current competition" (which is why some people will define bands like "Bat For Lashes" as "independent" even though they're signed with Astralwerks >> Virgin/EMI), but sometimes it is a more objective statement meaning that an artist is independent of any "big" established business....and of course then you get into the question of what "big" really means. Is an artist not independent if their records are being sold via K Records? they <em>are</em> on a record label, after all. If a group of three independent artists band together to create a cooperative organization to promote their art, are they no longer independent? And so on.

This was the eternal question for me until at last I started really getting familiar with Free Software and that most marvelous document, the GPL. If we judge Free Software to be free if it is GPL'd, then I reckon the way to judge Free Art is by way of its Creative Common status.

This makes a lot of sense, but the problem is that there's actually not all that much art out there that is creative commons.


command line apps

artv61 ("evilAzimuth") asked me the other day in IRC if I had a link to a site that listed and explained some of the really essential command line applications -- one that might help a new Linux user learn the command line. I thought that I did, but then realized that actually the source I was thinking of was the O'Reilly Linux Pocket Guide or Linux Essentials or something like that, and was not online but on a book shelf somewhere. While I would still recommend that as a source of good basic commands to know, I figured there ought to be one online as well.

Yes, there are probably other lists like this online but first of all, I couldn't find them and second of all, this one will be better.


Foreground, brings a backgrounded process back to the front. How is this used? If I'm in vim (which I am, right now) and I need to get back to a bash prompt so I can check something in the fg manual, I can hit control-Z to send vim to the background (vim then becomes "fg 1"). Now I can check the man page, and I could control-Z the man page when I'm finished (it will become "fg 2") and again get a prompt. So now I can type in "fg 1" to get back into vim and resume typing, or I could type fg 2 to get back to the man page to look at that again. Go ahead, try it!


Lists currents jobs in that console. This list will contain all the apps you've sent to the background with control-Z and can now bring back to the foreground with fg.

bash$ jobs[1]   Stopped                 irssi[2]-  Stopped                 man fg[3]+  Stopped                 vim foobar.txt


Just learn ls and all of its many many view options. ls -alh and ls -m and even ls -FahGsilt and all that stuff.


The unix command everyone loves to talk about when demonstrating "how cryptic unix is", grep is one of those cool commands that you'll use every day. Of course, it searches for a string. Try it with a -i for case insensitivity!


At some point you're going to have to modify ownership of files. You will probably also have to modify them recursively.

chown -r klaatu:users ../../foobar/ 

That command would change ownership of all files in the foobar directory to klaatu=owner and users=group. That will give me, as Klaatu, the right to do whatever the Owner is permitted to do to that file.


Modify permissions of a file for User, Group, and Others.

There are different ways to set this, and it behooves you to learn the alphabetic method as well as the mathematic.

But the easiest way to do it is just like this:

bash$ chmod gu+rx foo.txtbash$ chmod bar.txt go-r

The first command would grant Read and eXecute perms to the Group and Others

The second would revoke Read access to Group and Others

...and keep in mind that where foo.txt and bar.txt reside will effect whether the Group and Others can get to them, as well; if the files are nested in a directory with 700 permission (Read Write and eXecute for User ONLY) then no matter what kind of permission you give other people, they won't be able to access the file because it's in your home directory and they can't get through the door, much less read or write or execute a file you've given them.

tar and gzip and bzip and zip

A lot of ways to compress your files. Each with their own special syntax. Can I break it down easily? Let's see...

tar cf archive.tar foo.png bar.ogg --> tar's foo.png and bar.ogg together into a archive.tar

tar xf archive.tar --> un-tar's archive.tar into foo.png and bar.ogg

gzip archive.tar --> gzip's archive.tar into archive.tar.gz

gunzip archive.tar.gz --> un-gzip's archive.tar.gz into archive.tar

tar xzf archive.tar.gz --> un-gzip's and un-tar's archive.tar.gz into foo.png and bar.ogg

bzip2 archive.tar --> bzip2's archive.tar into archive.tar.bz2

bunzip2 archive.tar.bz2 --> un-bzip2's archive.tar.bz2 into archive.tar

tar xjf archive.tar.bz2 --> un-bzip2's and un-tar's archive.tar.bz2 into foo.png and bar.ogg

zip archive.zip foo.png bar.ogg --> zip's foo.png and bar.ogg into archive.zip

unzip archive.zip --> unzip's archive.zip into foo.png and bar.ogg


Well, you have to know ifconfig these days. If you want to get onto a network, including the Big One (www), you will end up looking at ifconfig. It will give you your IP address, the broadcast domain, the MAC address, and so on, of all your network interfaces. Very important stuff. You can also bring up or down the interfaces with ifconfig <interface> up (or down). And more.


This seems to be fairly Linux-specific, because it's not in Open Solaris or any of the BSD's I've tried, or that bastard stepchild, OS X. But iwconfig gives you lots of ifconfig-style commands for wireless interfaces. Commands like:

bash$ iwconfig wlan0 essid freePublicWifi

...although connecting to an open network called freePublicWifi might be something to be careful about......


...that magical last step of getting online via a text console; invoke dhclient to probe the essid you've linked your interface to obtain an IP Address via DHCP. Essential if you askew Network Manager or wicd and so on.


You can sit there and fg/jobs things in the foreground and background, or you can switch between virtual consoles with control-alt-FunctionKey ... or you can install and learn screen. Screen will allow you to create new shells all in the same, well, screen -- and then switch back and forth between them all. And you can even switch to one of those screen sessions remotely. That is, if you were running screen at home, and then grabbed your eeePC (or Acer Asp1re or whatever) and went out to a cafe to work, you could jump online and ssh into your box at home, run a screen -raAD, and you'd be using your terminal session that you just left at home, switching back and forth between irssi and alpine and mplayer and all the rest. Really neat.

I have my profile in Konsole set so that when I start Konsole, instead of running /bin/bash, it runs /usr/bin/screen (well, along with a few other commands, but not relevant to screen) -- so I'm automatically screen'd when I start any terminal session in KDE.


Again, this is kind of specific to Linux but the idea is typically the same across *nix systems. It stands for Make FileSystem, and usually has a number of variants like mkfs.ext2 or mkfs.ext3 or mkfs.vfat or whatever. I usually type in just the command first and let its built-in help guide me:

bash$ mkfs.ext3Usage: mkfs.ext3 [-c|-l filename] [-b block-size] [-f fragment-size]        [-i bytes-per-inode] [-I inode-size] [-J journal-options]        [-G meta group size] [-N number-of-inodes]        [-m reserved-blocks-percentage] [-o creator-os]        [-g blocks-per-group] [-L volume-label] [-M last-mounted-directory]        [-O feature[,...]] [-r fs-revision] [-E extended-option[,...]]        [-T fs-type] [-U UUID] [-jnqvFSV] device [blocks-count]bash$ mkfs.ext3 -L gortdrive /dev/sdb/dev/sdb is an entire device not just a partition!  [O]k?

...and this will create an ext3 drive from /dev/sdb and the drive will then show up on my desktop as gortdrive.

mount and umount

mount /dev/sdb /media/zip --> mounts a drive that you have plugged into your usb port at the /media/zip location in your filesystem (yes, I use "zip" because it's easy to type and remember...and no, it's never really a zip drive)

umount /media/zip --> unmounts /dev/sdb from /media/zip ... as long as you are not IN /media/zip or using a file that is located there.

Granted, if you're running X then probably HAL is going to do all of this for you. But if you're not, you might need to do this manually.

Getting the /dev/ naming scheme down took me a while, at first. I'm still not clear on it all, mainly because I never pay attention to what's inside my computer...but I guess I have an IDE harddrive so it's /dev/sda and its first parition is /dev/sda0 and its second partition is /dev/sda1 and so on. If I plug in an external drive, the first drive I plug in is /dev/sdb, the second drive will be /dev/sdc, and so on. This leaves the dvdrom drive, which has always pretty much been /dev/hda because, I suppose, it's on another bus entirely. Luckily, the /dev/hda is usually linked to a generic /dev/cdrom so quite often I don't have to worry about it at all. I wish I knew the trick to easily figure out these names, but I still don't know the trick, I'm just at the point now where I kind of just know it regardless of what machine I'm sitting in front of. But sometimes there will be a surprise curve ball thrown in for fun; like the Apple TV I'm hacking away at to get Linux onto....it sees the external cdrom drive I'm using to boot from as /dev/sr0 -- which is a SCSI cdrom interface, but obviously it's not really scsi but somethign emulating scsi...I think IDE does that, but the drive is plugged into a usb port, which is fine, but how is one supposed to know that without googling for "what is the external cdrom drive called in appleTV whilst hacking linux onto it"

Well maybe someone will comment on this post and explain it all.


A quick and handy way of ejecting a disc from your dvd drive. eject /dev/cdrom

There may be other uses for it, I'm not sure. I just use it for the optical media drive.

This will surely be deprecated any day now. Down with optical media!!


Directs output to an additional place... so if I wanted to do a netstat but wanted to record the output of it to a local document AS WELL AS see the output on my screen, I would tee it to a file like so:

bash$ netstat -veN -A inet -c | tee netstat_070709.logtcp      185      0       wsip-98-174-208-105.hr:ircd CLOSE_WAIT  klaatu     107890tcp        0      1       p3slh056.shr.phx3.secu:http SYN_SENT    klaatu     114528tcp        0    454       p3slh056.shr.phx3.secu:http ESTABLISHED klaatu     114421tcp      329      0       simmons.freenode.net:ircd   ESTABLISHED klaatu     107044

...and this display would continue until I cancelled it. And then I could look at the file netstat_070709.log and, sure enough, I'd find that all the netstat data had been logged therein.

all the other typical unix commands

Come on, I'm not gonna sit here and expound the virtues of text jockeying in unix. go read a book on it. cat, redirects, pipes, echo, more, less, tail, and all that good stuff...learn it all!

your office app...

vim or emacs

You need to learn one of these two, or both, text editors. It will help you edit config files, it will get you closer to the command line (I'd have never learned the fg trick if I wasn't living in vim all day, realizing that I needed a more efficient way of :wq and then re-opening vim <path/to/document> all the time), and it will give you keyboard skills you can re-use in BASH (emacs) or ZSH (vim).

How do you learn these apps? both have tutorials on your computer; do those, then start living in them. Resist the urge to open up Abiword or OpenOffice or whatever, and just start using a real text editor.

your web browser...

lynx or links or elinks

Textual web browser. A real life-saver when you're flying along without X and suddenly you realize that you need to check something on the great wide world web. Start up one of these handy text-only browsers and surf away. If the site doesn't work with an elinks-style browser, then you probably shouldn't be taking time away from your work to go look at it because, as we all know, web 2-point-oh is for hipsters who never get any work done.

your media players...


Want music whilst you work? Invoke mplayer for all the music you could ever want to hear. You can also use it to watch videos...although not without X. Well, you might be able to watch a video as ascii text or something, but I digress...

your image manipulation program...

image magick

A graphics processor; one I use quite often when doing graphic work. It will take your GIMP'd RBG png's and translate them to CMYK pdf's with alacrity and ease. And it does a lot more than that, too. Best way to find out what all it can do is to just go to their site: http://www.imagemagick.org/script/command-line-options.php because they try to fit it all in a man page but...there's just SO MUCH!

your audio editor...


An audio normalizer with a level and gate to maximize audio contrast and adjust average perceived volume. You may have heard podcasters talk about a little app called Levelator, a non-free Python app that breaks every time anyone upgrades their Linux OS. Well, this is the free non-breaking version of that, I guess. (It's actually the other way around, I think; Levelator is the non-free breaking version of normalize, but whatever...)

sox and play and rec

sox is a swiss army knife for transcoding audio, or editing audio, or mixing audio.

play is sox's play module.

rec is sox's record module.

your video editor...


For transcoding videos and audio (with the -vn tag) -- very very handy. I use it many many times a day, every day...but then I'm a podcaster and video editor...

your internet chat...


Not just a badge of coolness in IRC, but the best way to IRC. When I first started signing onto irc servers, I literally couldn't figure out what to do until I started on irssi. Then, suddenly, it all became so obvious. I've done a few quick-starts on irssi on my podcast, The Bad Apples, but here it is again:

bash$ irssi --nick klaatuirssi > /server irc.freenode.netirssi > /join #linuxcranks

...and then start chatting. Politely. Don't forget to say "hi!" to notKlaatu

GNU freetalk

This is a jabber client, so you'll probably want to see finch (thanks, threethirty, for letting me know about that one) if you use or need to chat with AIM or other non-jabber/xmpp accounts. I do not, so I use the really swell GNU freetalk, which is a simple command line prompt with irssi-like syntax. I am not a heavy user of instant messaging these days, so how well it holds up to, say, 20 simultaneous convo's I cannot attest, but it certainly works great for my needs.

your email client...


Cuz I'm just not cool enough to use mutt, I guess. I tried mutt but I'm not knowledgeable yet to understand THAT much about MTA and MUA and stuff like that, so I'm gonna have to hold off on it. Until then, alpine is my dream email client and the one I have open in the background (remember fg?) or in a konsole tab ALL the time. It takes a bit of setting up, but there are great HOWTO's on alpine on Hacker Public Radio, by me, ready for your enjoyment. It covers Alpine, IMAP, and GPG...pretty much all you need for a very nice alpine setup.


What's inside your computer? Find out with lspci; it'll tell you all the important stuff on the inside of your computer, so you can find out what drivers you need to go look for, or whatever.


What is going on with the USB ports in and around your computer? Find out with lsusb; it'll tell you the ports (internal and external) and if anything is connected to them.

./configure and make and make install

Simple as 1-2-3. ./configure && make && su -c 'make install' will compile and install an application from source code. Hey, like it or not, Linux geeks love the cutting edge. Oh, sure, a few bearded sys admins out there beat their chests proudly proclaiming the virtues of old and stable apps, but they still yearn to compile from source and so in the same breath they mention that no distro ever compiles postfix or openSSL or openSSH correctly and so they compile it from source themselves. So you're GOING to compile from source code if you're a unix geek, so you may as well start brushing up on those magic three commands.


SSH is, I think, one of the top reasons people get into Linux; otherwise they're stuck admin'ing a couple of 50 computers and they are finding they are actually having to get up and walk to each computer to do one stupid task -- and then one day it dawns on them: with Linux, they can just ssh into the computer, perform the task, and be done. And from there they learn about shell scripting, and it's all over.


bash$ ssh -X klaatu@

will sign you in, securely, as klaatu to the computer located at

Having problems? I find one of the most common issues is not having SSH running on the target machine. So get up, walk over to, login manually, and run something like...

bash$ su -c '/etc/init.d/sshd start' 

and this will start the ssh daemon, so that it's ready and waiting for incoming connections.


I think of this as a variant of ssh; it's a COPY function with which you can securely cp a file from your local machine over to a remote machine...or you can grab a file from a remote machine and cp it over to your local one. It's pretty cool.

bash$ scp gort@ ./foobarGort.txt

would copy foobar.txt from gort's machine over to mine, and rename it foobarGort.txt


 bash$ scp foobarKlaatu.txt gort@ 

would copy foobarKlaatu.txt from my machine over to Gort's, as foobar.txt


This is one of my favourite apps because it's the one I use to make my backups. And I backup FREQUENTLY.

bash$ rsync -av /home/klaatu /media/backups/klaatuVault 

There is more you can use it for, but I tend to only use it for that simple command, simply because utilizing too many of its network capabilities makes me nervous due to that "r" in rsync as opposed to an "s".


This is a cool app to know about because it will encrypt stuff for you, nad give you a way to verify identity when emailing. I have it set up on all of my machines and email clients. I'd go into how to use it except that it's a little complex. I have a very good intro to it in the 2nd or 3rd season of The Bad Apples, and a lesson on how to integrate it into alpine on Hacker Public Radio.

....so that's all well and good but let's look at this logically:

In order to know the *nix command line, do you need to know commands? or do you need to know the shell, or do you need to know files? Well, actually, all three.

The shell, of course, is the thing that allows you to type something and have the computer do that thing; it is BASH, TSCH, CSH, ZSH, and others. In order to interact with the command line efficiently, you need to learn how the program works; some things you probably already know, like use the UP ARROW to re-enter the previous commands or use TAB to auto-complete words in a directory or echo $PATH to see your path, and so on. These are all pretty common BASH shortcuts. Should you, then, learn BASH? BASH is one of the more ubiquitous shells out there, so quite possibly you should brush up on BASH, or choose another shell to learn...but learn at least one of them.

I find that BASH or BASH-like shells are available on any *nix system I come across, including the ones that I do NOT have the power to modify. Those are the ones that matter because they're the ones you will, of course, be stuck using some time in a pinch and you'll be cursing yourself for not having learnt the "industry standard". So when I refer to an "industry standard", I don't mean "the best" or "the one to which we should all succumb", I just mean it's the one you're gonna run into when you are in a rush, in a pinch, need something to get done 5 MINUTES AGO, and cannot change.


The point: learn BASH for its industry standardness. Explore other shells if you want, for fun.

BASH Essentials

There are lots of books on this subject, and probably lots of sites; you'd do yourself a favour by checking one out. There should be a book on BASH at your local library because it's been around forever. Otherwise there's a book-length dissertation on the subject via "man bash"

UP-ARROW reviews previous commands; how many it will remember depends on your HISTSIZE setting.

TAB auto completes words in a directory

Control-Key commands are really important to know because some of them just speed things up for you, but also because sometimes you will find yourself at a keyboard that has no arrow keys, or a console that doesn't recognize the delete key, or whatever. If you know emacs-style navigation and such, you will have no trouble even so:

CONTROL-A moves you to the beginning of the line

CONTROL-E moves you to the end of the line

CONTROL-L clears the display (it's just like typing "clear" at the prompt)

CONTROL-R searches your HISTORY for a previous command (like doing a "history | grep foobar")

CONTROL-F moves your cursor forward

CONTROL-B moves your cursor backward

CONTROL-D deletes

CONTROL-W deletes the string before the cursor

CONTROL-K kuts a string

CONTROL-Y yanks the string from memory and pastes it where ever you want it pasted

<command>-& invokes a command and returns a BASH prompt to you. That is, if you want to run, say, mplayer, so you can have a bit of music while you do important BASH stuff, you can type

mplayer ~/music/clayHawkins_theFalls.ogg

and the album will play but your BASH prompt will be occupied by mplayer's progress report (giving you the current bitrate and how far along in the album you are, and stuff like that). So you can enter:

mplayer ~/music/clayHawkins_theFalls.ogg & 

and the album will start playing, but instead of seeing constant mplayer output, you will be returned to your normal BASH$ prompt. Nice, huh?

...and so on and so on. Bsically, go learn emacs and your BASH skillz will be accordingly wicked. Hate emacs because you overheard some people who seemed like they knew what they were talking about saying that they didn't like emacs? Well, they were wrong...but if you really hate emacs then learn vim and go get the Z-Shell (ZSH) and use that. But keep in mind that some day you will hack into some device running a busybox shell with an emulated keyboard with no arrow keys, a mis-configured delete key, and no Escape key, and you will want to get stuff done. Knowing the emacs key bindings and BASH functions will be VERY helpful.


This is the kind of thing you just kind develop a feel for after a while, but in a nutshell:


You must know the etc directory because it has a lot of system configuration files. The way your computer starts all the little apps it runs after you turn it on, the way your graphical environment starts and how it recognizes your peripherals...they are all in this directory. Learn all about /etc/ and you will understand why your computer is or is not doing the things you want it to do.


the hidden files in your home directory contain configuration files (and more) for your personal environment.


Contains the GRUB files to control which kernel you can choose from at boot time...unless you use LILO, in which case you will be interested in /etc/lilo (see? I told you /etc was important).

/sbin and /bin and /usr/bin and /usr/sbin

are all directorys full of applications that either root uses, or you use directly yourself.

--- and that's all I can think of to say on the subject. Long live the unix command line.


slackware v13

Slackware.com seems to be down atm. With version 13 just around the corner -- with the big official switch to KDE 4 and the new official 64 bit version -- well, my imagination is running wild. Will the site re-appear tonight with all the new iso's one could ever hope for?

Nah, probably not. I probably just need to re-set my router. But anyway, I'm going to pretend like it's much more exciting than that.


HowTo use a walkie

Walkies, aka "Walkie Talkies" or "CB Radios" come in two varieties: the expensive kind that you rent, or the cheap kind that you buy. They are different in these ways:The cheap ones (two for $50 or less) are a little noisy and have less range.The expensive ones (too expensive to buy but ok to rent) frequently have a cleaner signal and a greater range.You can choose either one, depending on your budget, but renting is usually the better option. You can rent them from equipment rental houses; sometimes they are specifically film equipment rental houses, or sometimes they are construction rental stores, or event equipment rental...just open up a phone book and call around.The rental usually comes with the walkies, ear pieces for each walkie, and a charging station.Keep in mind the range of signal; the cheap ones will have an advertised range of one mile, maybe, but what they mean is half a mile in realistic conditions. The expensive ones will advertise 5 or 10 miles and what they mean is 1 mile. If you need something stronger than that, you're looking at some serious radio gear that you're probably not using for a Linux fest or a film shoot, so you should check trucker supply stores and places like that, or consider going cellular.You want to distribute the walkies among the key members of the organization. This isn't because you want to create an elite group of special people who are more important than everyone else involved, it's just a matter of practicality. Not everyone needs a walkie; it would be prohibitively expensive, and there would be way too many people chattering on the line. So just the team leaders of the event need a walkie, and if you've managed to organize an event then probably you've already assembled some kind of hierarchy or structure to your group of participants.For instance, at the top of the group, there is some kind of leader. The leader needs a walkie. Under this leader there are probably some chair members or a group of assistants or (in film terminology) keys. Each of these people should get walkies. Under the key personel there are probably supporting groups; generally the leader of each group should also get a walkie. There may be one or two people within each group that should also get a walkie, but usually this is where walkie assignment ends.All in all, walkie assignment really is discretionary. You know who needs to be available via walkie and who can simply receive second-hand orders from key personel, so assign walkies as your budget and common sense dictates.Walkies come with a number of channels. These channels exist for two reasons. First of all, so that you can select clean channels over which you can communicate since sometimes there is another group using walkies nearby, and if you are all trying to use channel 5 then you may end up interfering with one another. Secondly, so you can isolate different groups within your own organization in order to reduce chatter.Choose two or three channels to use for your event; how many you need will depend on the scope of your event. For small events, you may want one channel for key personel, one channel for everyone else, and all other channel for private conversations. In this scenario, everyone with a walkie would have their walkie tuned to, say, channel 1. All general instructions would be broadcast here. The key personel might switch over to channel 2 for specialized conversations that lower minions might not need to hear; why bother someone doing crowd control with details about what restaurant to use when you order everyone lunch? the crowd control person doesn't need to hear about lunch plans, doesn't need to think about treasury concerns or time concerns, or anything like that. Now, after the key personel have ironed out all the food details, they would switch back to Channel 1 and broadcast for everyone to hear that a person from Joe's Diner will be arriving around 13:00 with food for the guest speakers; this will let the crowd control person (and everyone else on that channel) know that when someone claiming to be from Joe's Diner arrives, to let them through and to then announce to the key personel that the food has arrived.Chennel 3-10 then might be reserved for private conversations. If, for instance, two key personel members (let's call them Klaatu and Gort) are discussing lunch options and two other key personel are discussing parking logistics, then suddenly Channel 2 is going to become pretty chatty. It makes sense for one of those two conversations to move to an alternate channel. This is done with a simple "Klaatu, go to 3" -- which tells Klaatu to move over to channel three. Gort will also move to Channel 3 and the heated lunch debate will continue in relative privacy.Keep in mind, of course, that walkies are not secure on any level. Not only can an outsider with a walkie of their own tune into your conversations, but any member of your team can switch to any channel and listen in. So don't sit on Channel 5 and poke fun at Klaatu, and do not convey sensitive information like login username and passwords for your computer (unless they're temporary and don't actually matter to you).In a larger event, you might find that you need even more specialized channels. On a feature film shoot, it's typical for there to be no main channel, but lots of specialized ones; the art department might take Channel 1, while the camera crew will take Channel 2, and the lighting team Channel 3, and so on. Whatever channels remain will be private channels. The theory remains the same, it's just that you have more specialization.Walkie etiquette has its own protocol and jargon:Protocol:1. Do not fill the channel with chatter.If you can't figure something out within two or three exchanges, then go to a private channel. Not only do people not want to hear you talk back and forth about something that doesn't concern them, but it also prevents anyone else from broadcasting a more important message. So switch to a private channel, figure out what you need to figure out, and then switch back to the general channel and make the announcement.2. Use appropriate language and be professional.Everyone on your crew may say that foul language doesn't bother them, and they may all be open to jokes and silliness, but you never really know how they feel. Whatever your event is, if it is important enough to rent walkies for, it's important enough to be professional. Some jokes and wisecracks are fine, but keep it to a minimum, and keep the language clean. Remember that without face-to-face communication, there's no body language to offset remarks that might sound rude, so be polite or you may be making some new enemies without meaning to. But most importantly, remember that you have no idea who is listening in on your conversation. Anyone around the area with a receiver of some sort can tune into your frequencies and listen in. If you want to be faultless, don't start broadcasting questionable content over the air. 3. Hold down your TALK button longer than you think you need to. Really. People press TALK and start talking, and their first few words are not broadcast; they release TALK and their last few words are not broadcast. And then people have to ask them to repeat. So hold it down, wait, talk...finish talking, wait, release. It takes a little bit of extra effort to remember this but becomes habit pretty quickly.4. Run your channel how you want to run your channel. If you're key personel and are the top dog of a chennel, then you can pretty much run your channel however you please. Keep it professional, but your group is isolated on its own channel and only your group knows what needs to be conveyed via their channel. You will hear some groups being very vocal and chatty, while other groups maintain radio silence until really important logistical information needs to be conveyed. It just depends on the group and its needs. Feel free to customize.5. IDENTIFY yourself. Remember that you are on walkie; people don't know who you are when you speak. If it is important for people to know who you are, then you must state your name for them. You might think you have a distinctive voice and vocal style -- and you might actually have those things -- but there is a chance that someone listening doesn't know who you are, so identify. Statements like "I have the paperwork here in the entrance hall" doesn't give a listener much confidence in being able to find you; they want a name so they know who to look for, or else so they can ask for you if they don't know you by sight.6. Make sure your walkie isn't TALKing without your knowledge. There's nothing quite as annoying as someone leaning up against a wall or something and having their walkie's TALK button pressed without them realizing it. They then start talking about the weather or something, and everyone gets to hear about it whether they want to or not.Jargon:"Basecamp"It is important in most events to identify some common location as the administrative center. You don't have to call it "basecamp" necessarily, but there should be some place that can serve as a lowest common denominator so that if nothing else, when Klaatu needs a flux capacitor from Gort, they can arrange to meet in basecamp, or Gort can drop it off in basecamp and Klaatu can pick it up when he's available, and so on. Sometimes it's easiest to call this location "basecamp" rather than "that one room where all the equipment is, you know, the one at the end of the hallway near the bathrooms"."Go to <channel>"Move the conversation to channel 3 so as not to fill the current channel with chatter that doesn't yet matter to anyone else. If you are chatting too much about something that doesn't matter, you may be told by superior personel to take your "convo" (conversation) to another channel; better to self-regulate."Back to <channel>"Once your private conversation has ended, it is customary to announce to the other person or people you are speaking with that you're going back to your main channel. This not only lets them know that you are no longer available on the private channel, but also reminds them to go back to their main channel. There's nothing quite as annoying as forgetting to go back to your main channel and missing out on important general chatter."What's your 20?"Where are you located right now?"Does anyone have eyes on <person>?"Typically this is asked over the general channel when you are looking for someone but they are not responding to a "what's your 20" request. Keep in mind that this is a "have eyes on" request -- meaning that a response like "I thought I saw <person> going over to the coffee machine" is NOT acceptable. Answer only if you actually see the person being asked for in your field of vision at that moment. "Breaker breaker"Say this if you are interrupting a convesrsation or when there is important information to be conveyed or when you are interrupting a conversation that is in progress."Testing"A simple test to make sure you are broadcasting. Typically this is done when you first turn on your walkie and hook up your earpiece, just to make sure you are being heard and can hear. Someone will respond with a confirmation that yes, you are being heard. If you are someone hearing a test come through, you can answer that yes, you heard the test...but don't answer if someone has already done so. There's no point in getting twenty people confirming that a test broadcast was successful."Going off walkie"If you are for some reason going to turn off your walkie, then you'll want to announce that so everyone knows that you will not be reachable. I hate going off walkie and never do it, but sometimes there are times when you simply can't have the walkie turned on; maybe you are speaking with someone very important and don't want the walkie chatter in your ear. Or maybe your ear hurts and needs a break. In any case, it's good practise to announce when you'll be unavailable just so people don't try to talk to you in the meantime."Back on"Announces that you have come back on, having been off walkie."What channel is <groupname> on?"If you have just come on walkie, or you suddenly realize you need to speak with a specific department that you usually don't communicate with, you might ask to know what channel they are on. This obviously depends on the structure of the organization; but in the cases that there is a general channel, this is a fair question to broadcast. Someone from that group might be on the general channel at that moment and will tell you their channel, or else someone else may know the channel list by memory and will tell you. Either way, this is a fair question that you hear broadcast fairly often."That's a wrap"Means that the event is over and that all walkies can safely be shut down. Granted this is a film term and there may be other jargon to convey this in other industries, but this is the one I know. The point is, there should be some statement made at the end of the day so that people know that no further official conversations are going to be held. They may need to keep their walkies on for their specific group, but at least they know that once their group is finished, it's safe to shutdown. You probably also want to announce who should receive all the walkies; ie, "Give your walkies to <person> in basecamp when you're finished with them" -- this lets people know who has been assigned to gather and account for all the walkies and earpieces....and, well, that's a wrap. Good luck.


Further adventures in being a noob and trying to play on networks:So I've got Fedora 11 running in Qemu and I'm out at this cafe and I can't get online in Qemu. My host OS can get online fine, just not the [Q]emulated OS.So I do the usual network troubleshooting...

bash$ ping google.comHost unknown

Well that means I'm not even getting outside of my virtual machine, because if it could get out of the machine it would at least have told me the host was unreachable. But this message is telling me that it can't even take a stab at who or what I mean when I say to ping "google.com"OK, well since hostnames are pretty much the sole domain of DNS, I figure there's one place to look: /etc/resolv.confWell, first I do an ifconfig just to make sure I'm all configured. Turns out I didn't even have an IP address...lol. What a noob. But that's easily fixed:

bash$ ifconfig eth0	  Link encap:Ethernet  HWaddr 01:1F:23:F4:2B:19		  UP BROADCAST MULTICAST  MTU:1500  Metric:1		  RX packets:0 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 frame:0		  TX packets:0 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 carrier:0		  collisions:0 txqueuelen:1000		  RX bytes:0 (0.0   TX bytes:0 (0.0 		  Interrupt:16

Now, don't be fooled...I'm not really hardwired in. I'm just virtually hardwired from my Qemu machine to my real machine's wifi connection.Anyway, to get the IP address:

bash$ su -c 'dhclient'bash$ ifconfig eth0	  Link encap:Ethernet  HWaddr 01:1F:23:F4:2B:19		  inet addr:  Bcast:  Mask:		  inet6 addr: fe70::22e:44aa:fec8:29c2/64 Scope:Link		  UP BROADCAST MULTICAST  MTU:1500  Metric:1		  RX packets:0 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 frame:0		  TX packets:0 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 carrier:0		  collisions:0 txqueuelen:1000		  RX bytes:0 (0.0   TX bytes:0 (0.0 		  Interrupt:16

OK, now I'm back on track. I have IP address, I still have no inets. Just to be sure, I pinged again and got the same response so, yeah, I really do have DNS problems.So we need to look at what /etc/resolv.conf says:

bash$ less /etc/resolv.conf: generated by something-or-anothernameserver

...or something like that. Totally unfamiliar and obviously not working. Well, my host OS is getting out onto the www so why not look at its resolv.conf file:

bash-hostOS_$ less /etc/resolv.confdomain freeUnsecureWifi.netsearch freeUnsecureWifi.netnameserver

So I just copy all that information into the /etc/resolv.conf of my virtual machine's /etc/resolv.conf and...I'm online.End of story.Alternate Ending:Then I thought, well, maybe I should try using openDNS's nameservers just for kicks.

bash$ vi /etc/resolv.confdomain hackerpublicradio.comsearch hackerpublicradio.comnameserver

And well whaddya know, it still works. I like Linux.


Corporate Linux?

Regarding the word "Linux":It seems that "Linux" is sometimes treated as a brand name and sometimes as a technical term. ie, we hear Linux and we think "free, flexible, open, has feature foo and bar and this and that..." but sometimes what the company using teh Linux in their product meant was, it happens to use the Linux Kernel but they've removed the flexibility (usually "for your own protection") and threw out feature foo ("most of our users don't want that") and tossed out feature bar ("for your own protection") and so on.So, to be sure, we should remember and perhaps promote the idea that a distribution is a brand, and Linux is a kernel. So, yes, an Internet Tablet with a Linux kernel plus a X.org stack is better than an internet device with a darwin kernel plus a Cocoa stack...but even better would be an Internet Tablet with, say, Fedora. Or Debian. Or Slackware. Or <insert your favourite brand/distro here>.Would I install Maemo on a computer? Well, not that anyone is saying I should, but No. It's limited and breaks many of the traditional unix/linux ways of doing things that I learned when first getting the hang of how *nix works. And from my research, I don't believe this is a case of me just not udnerstanding how things can be done on a *nix system; they really are breaking things on purpose. They are excluding applications that any dyed-in-the-wool *nix user would have expected to have available to them when they are told they are about to sit in front of a *nix terminal.This annoys me. Would I install, for instance, Android, on my Nokia N800? Well, maybe; I don't know what it's like on the back end; it might be just as broken as Nokia's implementation of Linux, or Apple's implementation of Unix. But, I may look into it some day; do a little research. I guess in a few years maybe I'll just have to hack my own LFS onto myNokia N800 to be truly happy...or I'll just sit down and shut up about it, and enjoy what I have. But it's comforting to think that some day I CAN hack LFS onto it and that Linux is still about choice.Oh and BTW...Richard Stallman is on the wrong track with his GNU/Linux campaign, I think. Thinking about branding -- at least I can be sure that when I see the word "GNU" included in a name, it means, at least in my experience so far, Freedom in the proper GPLv3 (or at least 2) style. Now that's a powerful statement to have associated with a word or your "brand". It means that GNU is the red-ink stamp on things that bring it up to the "truly free" status. Because the brand of "Linux" clearly does not have that connotation; Tivo, Nokia, Novell, TomTom, eeeXandros (and arguably a few other major distributions of Linux, perhaps ones that make installing proprietary drivers really simple or perhaps have software in their distribution-making workflow that is proprietary) have eroded that Linux "name-brand" so that Linux cannot necessarily be taken to mean free or flexible or has-feature-foobar. So it's up to the GNU label, I think, to be that symbol or logo for Freedom par excellence. Just my humble opinion, and since Mr. Stallman doesn't read my blog I doubt he'll agree or disagree...but if I ever meet him again and can get him to listen to me, maybe I'll mention it to him.


Maemo UI

I've had my Nokia N800 for 2 years, I think, and have been enormously pleased with it. And of course with an opener like that, there's a big "but..." coming up.......but...There are certain things about the N800 that annoy me a bit. I wouldn't complain about these things if Maemo was a purely community-driven; in that case, I'd just wait another two years until after I've finished school for programming, and pitch a fix for the issue myself. But Maemo has a corporate entity making money off of it; people pay a few hundred bucks for these Internet Tablets With Maemo, and when you pay that kind of money, you are -- in a perfect world at least -- paying for a good, solid, usable, well-designed OS just as much as you are paying for the hardware. You should be able to show off your $400 Nokia to friends without having to explain why the UI is kind of clunky here and there.So, in short, I guess my point is that Nokia needs to get around to either giving Maemo some attention, or else just switch to Qt or e17 already and really make me happy.IMHO, Maemo doesn't seem to know whether it is a stylus-driven or a finger-driven interface. Witness, for example, the very LARGE jumbo-sized big buttons in the main application menu or the Application Manager (the add/remove software interface), the media player, and many other places throughout the UI. And yet -- even in the same exact application, the scroll bars are teeny-tiny bars crammed right up against the edge of the screen. Sure, I CAN grab onto the scroll bar with my little finger and scroll around, but it's uncomfortable and awkward and discourages me from doing so -- and yet the idea of using both my finger and the stylus just to navigate around the device is tiresome as well. I end up generally just using the stylus because the finger action is so frustrating that it just ends up annoying me, and yet those big jumbo sized buttons mock me while I use my needle-sized stylus to press them. It's like they're saying "go ahead, use your finger to press us, you'll like it!" and then slapping me back down when I need to scroll.The answer has been found in two community Maemo applications. So really there are two possible answers:1. No scroll bars.Fennec, the superb and truly gratifying Mozilla-Web-Browser-For-Mobile-Devices simply foregoes the need for scroll bars and lets you scroll around with your finger on the screen. I don't know if this innovation must be credited to a certain overly-hyped phone or if it is something that existed prior to that, but it's really a smart solution and I'm liking Fennec a lot, largely for this reason alone.2. Big scroll bars."Personal Application Launcher", an applet for Maemo that allows the user to put icons on their little Maemo desktop, has a configuration screen that features really big scroll bars. And guess what? they're great. Finally, nice big scroll bars that a finger can grab onto and move around. Hopefully more Maemo applications will go this route soon because I think when you can't swing having no scroll bars at all, this is the way to go.That's the only real complaint I have about Maemo in terms of user experience. I have a complaint, I guess, about Nokia but it's muddled up with other issues and would confuse things if included in this post.Anyway, just some ideas on how to finesse the UI a bit better for both looks and usability. Screenshots attached.



Funny thing happened to me today. I was demonstrating some software to some clients/students and of course some things went "wrong" and I was able to use these little mistakes as examples of, well, what can possibly go wrong when one is working on something. At the end of the lesson, they were all probably a little overwhelmed but they were also impressed with how well I knew the software I was demonstrating (which, when you think about it, is not really something to be impressed with; if I hadn't known it, I wouldn't have dared demonstrate it...but such is the advantage of being in the teacher position: you look really really smart) and so they asked me "how do you know so much about this!?"I told them simply that it just boiled down to using the software a lot.And when I thought about it, I realized that, in fact, it's really true. Using the software a lot -- and I mean, a lot -- is how one becomes an expert at something. And furthermore, the more diverse situations in which you use the software leads to a more diverse expert.Example:A friend of mine once asked me why I was always installing Linux onto everything, or even installing different Linux distros onto the same computer, seemingly over and over. I don't think I had an answer then, but now I realise that installing Linux on lots of different machines, or different distros onto the same machine, is simply practise. You never know what kind of wacky errors you're going to run into when you install an OS, so never stop installing and eventually you'll either have seen almost every error in the book, or else you'll be familiar enough with the general kinds of errors and you'll be able to make an educated guess as to how to get around them.Same goes with, say, Blender or GIMP or ffmpeg. Use these little applications all the time for everything...and one day you'll realise that there's simply nothing you don't know how to do, or nothing you can't figure out how to do within a reasonable amount of time.Same goes for compiling software, too. And even boring (to me) stuff like office applications and spreadsheets and... stuff.In fact, the same goes for computers in general. Use computers (meaning use Operating Systems -- all different kinds) and eventually you can pretty much find your way around any OS.And now...to macrocosm-ize this idea, UNIX PHILOSOPHY style -- Yes, the same is true of Life. The more people you deal with and the more weird situations you get into, the more you start getting the hang of things. "Social Engineering"? whatever...it's just the practise of living and being familiar enough with the Way Things Work that you can do crazy and cool stuff without, more or less, Fear. A friend once told me that after he tried sky diving a few times, he lost pretty much all fear. I told him that until he'd produced a film with other people's money, he had no idea -- but the point is, it's the risks, sometimes small and trivial, sometimes big and threatening, that really changes our perspectives and makes us fearless.So, whatever that all means to you... The point is, practise makes perfect. Nothing new, just an observation that an old adage is indeed correct.


I've been doing some Mac related stuff again lately...less by choice than by economic force (ie, I need the money), so I've had to deal with those nasty proprietary apps again.This brings to mind, however, a post I once did that is either lost to time or just not easily found in the archive, concerning what free software was available for the Mac in order to make one's Mac-based computing experience better.Well, first of all, there is Linux. If possible, take the Mac you have been ordered to use, and put Linux onto it. That solves the problem really quickly.Assuming, however, that this is not an option, due to the client's expectations, there is an insidious thing you can do: replace all the userland applications with Free alternatives. If, on a Mac, we go into /Applications and do an "ls -m" on it, here are the results:Address Book.app, AppleScript, Automator.app, Calculator.app, Chess.app, DVD Player.app, Dashboard.app, Dictionary.app, Expose.app, Font Book.app, Front Row.app, Image Capture.app, Mail.app, Photo Booth.app, Preview.app, QuickTime Player.app, Safari.app, Spaces.app, Stickies.app, System Preferences.app, TextEdit.app, Time Machine.app, Utilities, iCal.app, iChat.app, iPhoto.app, iSync.app, iTunes.appMost if not all of these can easily be replaced with a good KDE install, but that's just not realistic, due to the fact that the KDE apps do not integrate with the rest of the computer (no drag-and-drop functionality, non-Mac-like mouse behaviour, etc). Basically, saying something like "Install MacPorts and do a sudo port install foobar" (where foobar is KDE or Gnome or *) is essentially the same as saying "wipe Mac OS and install Linux" -- it's not bad advice, not even a bad idea, and it's even something I'd opt to do for myself...it's just not necessarily something you can do and expect a client looking over your shoulder to approve of.So the real answer for most users is to install Cocoa-ported free applications. Luckily, there are quite a few of these.Address Book & MailReplace with ThunderbirdAppleScriptWhy script in a proprietary, runs-only-on-Mac-OS-X scripting language when you have Python and Ruby? Mac OS even includes Python and Ruby for you, so the only reason one really would want to mess around with AppleScript is because there are certain things that only AppleScript can talk to. Oh well. Automator.appEven in the halls of Apple headquarters, where rigourous QA testing occurs, requiring XXtreme automation...I know of no-one who actually uses Automator. It's a bad GUI frontend for really simple scripting. Oh, there is one powerful thing in it: the plugin that allows you to bypass Automator entirely and paste in a bash shell script.Calculator.appSpeedCrunch is a powerful and robust calculator far superiour to the default calculator in Mac OS X and, well, most Linux distros too. But heck, we're trying to replace it all, so why not?Chess.appJinChess supports chess servers, which, if you're a chess fiend, is essential. I'd go with it before I went with Chess.app....but I admit for some people this is a trivial matter and the truth is, I've never bothered making this change myself, opting instead to simply delete Chess.app to get it out of my way.DVD Player.app & Quicktime PlayerVLCDashboard.appWidgets for Mac OS...I dunno. Google Gadgets? None? Can I just use KDE instead?Dictionary.appSeriously, the Mac OS dictionary is one of the more annoying Dictionaries I've ever used. It pops up everywhere. Any system search you do, it seems, the Dictionary definition of whatever you're searching for is the top hit. Even for applications like Quicktime or iTunes. Yes -- Apple has included definitions of their own applications in their dictionary. (Yes, you can turn these features off, but stupid defaults are as bad as bugs IMHO). Alternatives? How about... Dict OS X or Expose.appThis is the application that allows the user to zoom out of all open windows and see them in a kind of bird's-eye-view...you've seen it in Compiz Fusion and KDE 4. It's really part of Finder, and there's no getting rid of that, for better or for worse. It's Apple's pride and joy and the most hated part of Mac OS.Font Book.appFonty Python looks interesting though I've never tried to install it on a Mac.Front Row.appxbmc - the xbox media center. So much better than Front Row (which is the AppleTV interface for your computer, or the other way around) it is one of the de facto replacements for the AppleTV's interface. Not that anyone uses Front Row on their computer, but if they are going to, xbmc is an absolute must.Image Capture.appA dedicated picture importer for digital cameras, since Finder is so inept at what it does. Once again, Konqueror would solve this issue swiftly and single-handedly...but it's still not a practical option, and won't be until some resourceful soul out there ports Konq to Cocoa. iKonqi, anyone?Photo Booth.appWebcam app. I doubt there's a replacement for it.Preview.appA sorely underfeatured image viewer, again picking up where Finder fails. Konqueror would solve this problem, gwenview would do even better, but neither are realistic drop-in replacements. Don't know of a replacement.Safari.appFirefox - you know it, you love itThere are others, like Camino, Opera, Flock, and so on, but Firefox is just the best.Spaces.appThe Apple version of the virtual desktop concept is horrible and bug-ridden. I myself have filed a number of bugs about it. There used to be some independent virtual desktop implementations out there; I haven't actually tried it on Leopard so I can't guarantee compatibility but you could try them: Desktop Manager or Virtue Once again, though, there's nothing quite like the way it's supposed to work; for that, we have Linux...Stickies.appecho "note to self" > sticky1.txt..ok I'm joking but really I'm not going to bother finding a free replacement for stickies.TextEdit.appcreatextTime Machine.appI love backups, I hate Time Machine. I hate it because any time I plug in a harddrive, it prompts me to use that drive as a Time Machine backup drive. Who do I have to pay off to get rid of that dialog box? I also hate it because it's blingy, wasteful, and overly elaborate for what it is. I also have a hard time picturing myself using it, and in fact, frankly, I rarely see users using it. People backup when their friendly sys admin friend reminds them to...that's been my experience. But...there is probably no free replacement for Time Machine that gives them Time Machine functinoality, thank goodness. Last time someone had to do a system recovery from Time Machine, all their , Utilities, iChat.app, iSync.app, iTunes.appiCalReplace with the Lightning addon for Thunderbird.


Hi, niche market of hackers who also work in the video and/or film industry! This blog post is for you. I got an email from a big trendy "writer's store" in L.A. containing three reasons why I should upgrade to <proprietary screenwriting software> v.8Well, I thought I'd one-up them and post four reasons not to upgrade:1. CeltxMozilla codebase, incredibly powerful screenwriting software. Free. Tried and true; it's approved by me because -- yes, I actually have used it in a production environment.And the other three reasons are just cheap rebuttals of the reasons the email gave that I should upgrade to <proprietary screenwriting software> v.8: Scene View - Outline your ideas and re-order scenes in this high level overview!!Scene Navigator - Track important details with a sortable floating palette!!!Scene Properties Inspector (SPI) - Add scene titles and colors to organize the elements of your script!!!!To these I say that Celtx either already has it, or else it's just not worth gaining a gimmicky sometimes-useful-sometimes-useless feature in exchange for your freedom-of-data.There, four reasons to use the free alternative. Enjoy.


Interesting thing happened today; I got to a cafe at 09:50 and just so happened to check my email. Turns out, someone I'd thought had cancelled on an 11:00 appointment was not quite out of the game yet, and it turns out that the 11:00 appointment was on after all. That was OK...I was at the cafe, so in theory all I had to do was sit and wait an hour and she'd show up. Except for one thing....for the appointment (a Final Cut Pro lesson) to work, I needed a Mac...but not just any ol' Mac -- I needed a Mac with Mac OS X and Final Cut on it. Silly me, walking around with a Fedora MacBook all day.So I hurried back to my apartment, grabbed a spare Macbook that currently had a Fedora 11 beta install on it, popped in a Mac OS X installer disc, and started what I knew would be a LONG install. I was able to strip out as much of the extra packages, like X11 (it hurt to exclude that) and Printer Drivers and Languages, so that helped a lot, but it is still a fairly long install. It was most painful to know that I was installing things like......Address Book.app, Expose.app, Mail.app, AppleScript, Automator.app, Font Book.app, Photo Booth.app, Calculator.app, Front Row.app (well heck who ever wants to install that anyway?), Stickies.app, iCal.app, Preview.app, iChat.app, TextEdit.app, Chess.app, QuickTime Player.app, iSync.app, Time Machine.app, DVD Player.app, Image Capture.app, iTunes.app (don't get me started), Dashboard.app, Safari.app, Dictionary.app, diskutil, Disk Utility, Activity Monitor.app, AirPort Utility.app, Audio MIDI Setup.app, Bluetooth File Exchange.app, Boot Camp Assistant.app, ColorSync Utility.app, DigitalColor Meter.app, Directory Utility.app, Directory.app, Grab.app, Grapher.app, Java, Keychain Access.app, Migration Assistant.app, Network Utility.app, ODBC Administrator.app, Podcast Capture.app, RAID Utility.app, Remote Install Mac OS X.app, System Profiler.app, VoiceOver Utility.app, zsh, tcsh, mount_afp, mount_msdos, mount_nfs, mount_ntfs, mount_smbfs, mount_udf,mount_webdav and all the other little apps and utils I don't really need or want to install. OK, true I probably wouldn't have wanted to take the time to go through and pick through a list of all possible applications that were going to be installed and eliminate them, but for many of the major groupings of apps and utils, I most certainly would have loved to be able to do just that.So, when I re-installed Fedora later in the day, it was quite refreshing to see the customization that was possible, like excluding Bluetooth and Zerconf or Avahi or whatever it is, and lots of little things that I just didn't want to have to bother with.That said, the Mac OS install did happen in time, and a very-paired down FCP install also was able to get done, and I was back at the cafe in time for the appointment. Would a Linux install have gone any faster? Eh, probably not. Let's face it, it's gonna take you almost an hour to install most normal OS's....oh, sure I could have done a Wolvix install in 10 minutes....so I guess I'm wrong...I could have done a Linux install quicker. I could have had a super-simple OS on my computer, and then grabbed Blender from its repository or from the Blender site, and I would have been up and running in a few five minute blocks rather than an hour. That's pretty cool. And what delivers it to us? Choice. And what gives us the choice of how we want our system to work? Freedom.Thank you, Free Software devs everywhere.No matter how many times I have an experience like this, and think "oh it's so anecdotal and so rare -- no-one else has these kinds of experiences", I keep being reminded that it's not the rarity of the experience that matters, it's the experience itself. It's the moment where you NEED an install to take 10 minutes (15 by the time the Wolvix liveCD boots) instead of an hour that counts. Sure, everything else notwithstanding, I might not care about freedom to make tiny little distros if my life always afforded me an hour or two for every install I did and no surprise appointments. But that's not how my life tends to work, so the Linux option is a really important and welcome one.So thanks again, Free Software devs everywhere.



Qemu is a free emulator for Linux, and it is powerful enough for everyday use with new features popping up with each new release.I'm not virtualizing to serve thin clients or anything fancy like that; I'm just doing the everyday hobbyist kind of emulation that one wants to do when one wants to try out the beta of an upcoming release, or when one wants to first with a distro that is not their own, or when one is doing a tutorial and needs a fresh install for pure screenshots, or whatever.Qemu at its best, IMHO, is a Command Line application. There is a GUI front-end called Qemu-Launcher. I find it unnecessary, partially because the command line options are powerful and quick enough to get your emulated host going, and partially because Qemu-Launcher doesn't seem to actually launch a host for me on my system. Not sure why -- but I'm not going to bother troubleshooting something that is redundant anyway. I find the command line interface quite enough to launch an emulated client.First thing's first: you need to install Qemu. This should be a simple su -c 'yum install' or a sudo apt-get away.

bash$ su -c 'yum install qemu'

Once that's finished, you can do a "man qemu" to see all the options that come along with qemu...or check out the qemu site for complete documentation.One of the first things I do is create a little fake harddrive for Qemu to use as its emulated harddrive. That is, if you want to actually install a distro (as opposed to just running it off of the cd) then you'll need a container file that Qemu can take over, pretend like it's a real harddrive, "format" and install onto. Since this is just a sandbox, I figure a 4gb image is quite enough:

bash$ qemu-img create -f qcow2 qEmu.qcow2 4G

Here's what we just did:qemu-img create # invokes qemu-create and tells it to create a new file-f qcow2 # the image format; qcow2 is qemu's native format; there are other choices if you're going to export this image to some other virtualizerqEmu.qcow2 # this is the name I've given my disk image...you can call yours anything you like; fedora11.qcow2 or debianSqueeze.qcow2 or whatever4G # the size of the container...give it more or less space as desiredNow, I typically use Qemu with an actual cdrom in my disc drive, because the distros I am test-driving are almost always the ones that come on the bundled disc in Linux Format or Linux Pro or Linux Identity magazines. Here's the one-liner for such an endeavour:

bash$ qemu -M pc -cpu qemu32 -cdrom /dev/cdrom -boot d -drive file=~/qEmu.qcow2

Switch by switch:qemu # invokes qemu-M pc # defines what kind of Machine you want to emulate; type -M ? to see a list of choices-cpu qemu32 # what kind of cpu to emulate; type -cpu ? for more choices. qemu32 is the one you'll probably want if you're trying out a modern OS-cdrom /dev/cdrom # this defines the location of your cdrom drive. Can be an .iso image saved on your harddrive, too!-boot d # where to boot from; the "d" option tells qemu to boot on CDROM rather than Network or Harddrive-drive file=~/qEmu.qcow2 # our qcow2 image, remember?After you issue the above command, you should see a window pop open, revealing your emulated host. First it will load its emulated BIOS and then it will boot from the actual cdrom. You can install the distro onto the harddrive image, which the emulated machine will believe is an actual harddrive (you'll know it's not your real harddrive by the size of the drive, if nothing else), or you can just run the distro as a Live distro if available.What if you didn't get a dvd with a magazine, but had just bit torrented the latest iso of a hot new release? That's quite similar; first, of course, have the iso on your harddrive. Have a qcow2 image established. And then run qemu thusly:

qemu -M pc -cpu qemu32 -no-acpi -cdrom ~/Download/F11-Preview-i686-Live/F11-Preview-i686-Live.iso -boot d -drive file=~/qEmu.qcow2

You might notice that I've added a -no-acpi flag here, simply because I've found that Fedora 11 won't boot without it. In an emulated machine, I'm not sure whether you ever really need acpi anyway, so it's probably a safe thing to turn off. Aside from that, the procedure is the same except that instead of point -cdrom to my /dev/cdrom I'm pointing it to the iso file.Some other important options you might want to define:-m 512 # allot 512mb of RAM to the emulated pc-usb # enable usb functionality in your emulated pcCheck the man page or just type "qemu" without any options for a full list of functions. There are a few video and sound and network settings that you might want to play around with.That's pretty much it. Emulation that is free and easy!


first of all, i hate printers, and pretty much have since I bought my first one and realized that they were made to not last. And although it's sort of out of style to be outraged by printer ink costs -- so much so that it's now just an accepted fact of life -- I have to post something about this...My friend was given a Lexmark z611 by her parents because they weren't using it. She asks me a cheap place to find ink. I tell her about the cheapest place I know that sells generic ink, and she goes there and to my surprise it's $20 for black and $21 for color. Meaning that if she makes that purchase, she will be spending $41 + shipping for ink for a cheap little Lexmark.Or, we found, she can go to buy.com and search around their printer section and find a printer for $48 + free shipping.Meaning that, yes, the urban legend that one may as well just buy a new printer rather than getting new ink is actually officially true now (if it wasn't already).Now aside from knowing that it does NOT cost $20 to manufacture an ink cartridge, my outrage stems from the fact that my friend would basically be kind of stupid NOT to just get the new printer. It will have cheaper ink cartridges when she does need to restock (for whatever reason, the ink cartridges for a Canon are cheaper than the ones for Lexmark z611) and it will probably print her digital photos with better quality (why she feels the need to print digital photos is beyond me...isn't that what Picasa or Flickr or Coppermine for..? just post them online and send friends and family a link). So forget concerns about being kind to the environment, or not wanting to encourage printer manufacturers to actually make printers that will last more than half a year; this is just plain, simple extortion. They will NOT give us well-made products. They will keep making cheap plastic printers that shake themselves to death every time you print something, and charge you way too much for ink, and we continue to be a disposable society.My answer? Literally, don't print. But if you can't do this and you have to print, print at your local library or computer center or office center; ie, use someone else's printer. Lexmark and HP and Canon and Epson and Brother and all those must die!!


I was making a little tutorial on a really cool audio app called Qtractor the other day, and for this I was doing quite a few screenshots. Some of the screenshots were pretty big so I went into GIMP to scale them down. To my surprise, the images looked terrible when scaled down. I understand about interpolation and I understand that an image in anything but its original form is technically compromised, but the text that looked great on my real screen looked embarrassingly bad in the scaled-down screenshot, and I'd only scaled it down by 10 or 15 percent. Something was definitely wrong.So I opened the original image in Krita and scaled it down to the same size...and it looked great. Looked like it hadn't been scaled down at all.So then I tried scaling the original image down with ImageMagick's Mogrify. This was better than GIMP but not as good as Krita.So, back to GIMP, and I messed around with the default scaling algorithm being used (to be fair, I could probably do this with ImageMagick as well -- there's surely an option to change the algorithm). Turns out that the default for GIMP is Linear Interpolation, otherwise known as /p/tarded interpolation, and looks terrible. Why this is the default, I cannot say; maybe it really does have its uses for pictures done, say, in 8-bit graphics.... Anyway, I changed it to "Sinc (Lanczos3)" and tried my experiment again. Miserably failed again -- sort of. For some reason, even though I'd just set the default Interpolation to Sinc (Lanczos3), the Scale dialog box was set to use Linear and I still had to manually change the algorithm being used. It seems to retain that setting, though, and I have not had to re-set the interpolation since.So, if you're using GIMP, set your Interpolation to Sinc (Lanczos3) for best results. Frankly it's still not as good as Krita's results, but it's certainly better than the default.I'm attaching screenshots of each example, with the exception of ImageMagick because I am pretty sure with some more complex commands (like quality control and such) I could get ImageMagick's results to be as good as GIMP+Sinc or maybe even Krita.


power of X

I did this simple demo for a couple of people today, to demonstrate what X.org was, and how it was different from, say, OS X's Cocoa GUI blob.notUnix Philosophy:1. On a Mac, open 8 tabs in Firefox.2. Force Quit Firefox (so that it does not have a chance to offer to save your tabs)3. On your LinuxBox, ssh -X user@macbox into the Mac and start Firefox the only way you can with a Cocoa app:open -a Firefox.app...and that's about as far with that as you can go.Unix Philosophy (in which anything is possible):1. On a Mac, start X11 and open an x11 instance of Firefox (you will need to install this separately, easily done via MacPorts)2. open 8 tabs in firefox-x113. Quit X11 (thereby killing firefox-x11 without the chance to save your tabs)3. On your LinuxBox, ssh -X user@macbox into the Mac, and start firefox-x11......and notice a dialog box pops up on your screen, asking if you would like to resume the session. Click Restore to continue the browsing experience exactly as you'd left it. Notice how you, obviously, have access to all bookmarks and other features of firefox-x11.Now that's powerful computing.


I have never been much a user of photo management applications. Back on the Mac, the application I hated second to iTunes was iPhoto, and it really frightened me away from photo management tools. I knew, at the time, that I definitely liked Ad0be's Lightroom or, heck, even Bridge, better, but all in all none of those really fit my workflow and I never pursued those.Anyway, one thing I've learned lately is that if you actually go out into the world and start using your linux laptop for more than just learning neat linux commands and networking tricks, you start to get kind of proud of the OS, and you start liking to really pimp it out so people looking over your shoulder, or using your laptop to check their email, are impressed with what they see and experience. This was not important to me for a long time, but lately I've been in the position where a lot of people have been around me, asking me to fix their computers, or asking to use mine for some task, and I've started to kind of enjoy seeing them fly through linux without the awareness that they are in fact using linux.So, as I've posted previously, using lots of plasmoids and pimping the desktop has been fun, and it's been wildly successful. Everyone is using linux+firefox quite blissfully. And then everyone started breaking out their digital cameras.While I am fine using my file manager and/or gwenview and/or gimp as my photo management tool(s), that just looks cumbersome to people who want to see the 100+ photos you've just taken on this-or-that occasion. So I figured it was time to try out a proper photo management tool, and since digiKam seems to be the de facto KDE app for that sort of thing, and there's been a lot of activity on digiKam's rss feeds and facebook fan page, so it was digiKam that I tried. Turns out, digiKam is really really nice. No -- really. As I've said, I've used iPhoto (God help us all), Lightroom (yawn), Aperture (oh noes!), and Bridge (hm), and now digiKam. What can I say about them all? Well...for my money, digiKam all the way. iPhoto is a joke and no one should ever use it. Lightroom is reasonable but proprietary. Aperture is also reasonable, if not over-complex, and proprietary. Bridge is...well, not really a photo management app. Here are digiKam's features, IMHO:1. I remain in control of my data; no hidden database folders, no pwnag of how I manage my photos in the backend. It simply intelligently looks into whatever folder I designate as my photo folder, and shows me, in an environment dedicated to viewing, organizing, and editing photos, what is in that folder and its subfolders.2. Themes. I know that proprietary apps can't give the option of changing its look to the user for fear of losing their precious brand image...but digiKam's themes are really helpful. Lots of different looks that are anything but frivolous aesthetics; this is about how you want to see your photos so that you can better present and edit them.3. Editing. digiKam has a lot of editing tools integrated into it, so for simple corrections, there is no need to go over to GIMP or Krita. It can actually be done within digiKam. And yes, your modifications can be saved as a new version of that photo.4. Intuitive. People come to digiKam and somehow they know how to use it. Not every feature, of course, but if they want to sit down and look through an album, they can do it easily and quickly.5. Need to carefully examine two very similar photographs? Use the Light Table (keyboard shortcut "L"); you can bring a few photos onto your light table and then zoom in and pan around the photos synchronously. Very nice feature.6. Heck, all the "usual" features are in digiKam -- rotate, edit metadata, aspect ratio crop, filter view, ratings, slideshow (with openGL transitions if desired), etc.7. Geo Location. Yes, it can pick up the metadata regarding the location of the photographs and map it out on Earth for you. This is nice, I guess...not something I'll use any time soon....but I will say that the neat little globe that you can grab and turn did impress people. It always boils down to eye candy, doesn't it?8. Want to send a photo to your online <social networking> account? digiKam probably can do that for you. The export menu (yes, it justified its own dedicated menu) is populated by practically every major site you can join; Facebook, Picasa, SmugMug, Flickr, general HTML galleries for you to post yourself, etc. No, sorry, you can't export to myspace or mobileMe...lulz.9. Desktop integration. It's a "K" app, and KDE is all about integration, and they do it well in digiKam. There's the option to open a photo in the file manager. There's the option to view a photo from your file manager in showFoto (a digiKam module, I guess). And most importantly, there's the usual KDE structure of the application itself. Tabs down the side of the window to bring up new options, clear and intuitive menus, qt4 movable toolbars, and so on. I started it up and felt very at home in the app, having been a KDE user now for a year or two.All in all, this is a really powerful and satisfying application. It has not failed to impress me -- a user who does not use photo management apps, nor my friends -- users who expect certain things out of a photo management app. Those are two tough audiences, so, good work digiKam team!


A quick note. I have a friend with an appleTV who is constantly perplexed as to why her movie files won't work with it. I told her that the easy answer is that Apple doesn't want her to put her own movie files on the AppleTV; they want her to buy and rent movies from iTunes. That's the quick, easy answer. The other answer is that Apple has 1. made it incredibly restricted as to what the AppleTV will play (and don't tell me it's a hardware-imposed limitation; I know better) and 2. AppleTV has written a marvelously user-unfriendly interface for the appleTV.1. Playback limits.From their site, this is exactly what you can playback on an AppleTV:H.264 up to 5 Mbps, Progressive Main Profile. up to 1280 by 720 pixels at 24 fps, but only up to 960 by 540 pixels at 30 fpsMPEG-4: up to a mere 3 Mbps, Simple Profile. Up to 720 by 432 pixels at 30 fps.Sound can only be AAC with a max bitrate of 160kbps.All extensions must be .mp4 .mv4 or .movAnything purchased from iTunesIf I'm calculating this correctly, that means that the appleTV has two formats it can kind of play. Now, for a box that is sold as a video playback device, for some reason this sounds phenomenally bad. And look at the bitrate limitations -- the h.264 limit of being <5Mbps seems somewhat ok, except that it really isn't, but the mpeg4 limit of <3Mbps is just laughable to me. <3Mbps at 720x432 ?? That's not even DVD quality.And anyway, you're telling me this device can't play a 1280x720 movie at 25fps?And it can't play at least an Xvid or a Theora?? both formats have Quicktime components available, so could be played by the device if only the .component files were added...but Apple chooses not to ship with them (even as an unadvertised easter egg) and prohibits the user from adding the components for themselves. Wow, how horribly, inconceivably restricted. You couldn't GIVE me one of these devices. I'd rather just buy a cheap mini PC, slap Linux+XBMC on it, and be done with it.And in fact, that is what I am going to do, as soon as I get the chance. I'll be loading Linux onto the appleTV, by hook or by crook (and I have a feeling it will be by crook, load XBMC onto it, and then my friend will be able to throw all of her theora and xvid and even matroskas onto it without a second thought.A quick note on the other thing -- the horrible interface. I've written plenty about this before, so I'll only mention some of the newer things I've noticed. First of all, the appleTV fails to tell the user WHY it cannot sync a certain media file from their iTunes to the actual device, it just says that it can't because the file is not a movie file. And yet if the user double-clicks on the movie file in iTunes, it will play as expected. Clearly that is not a helpful error message. Also, there's an issue where a mysterious "error 3689" (google 'error 3689 apple tv), which tells the user that it cannot sync due to a port error. It's got something to do with Apple's firewall and has been appearing more nad more frequently. At first I thought this was a subnet issue, but even when I set up a barebones network environment and it still gives the error every so often.So ,yes......Linux on appleTV -- coming soon!


Currently I'm visiting an old friend of mine in the fine state of Massachusetts, and she's got a few computers and a Verizon modem/gateway/router, runs Windows, and has no clue about computers. When I arrived, I noticed that she had a Dell Inspiron e1505 laptop turned on in the corner and she mentioned that she couldn't get the thing online and, since I knew computers, could I help her fix that? The real goal in that moment was simply to get online, and since I know nothing about Windows, I figured the easiest and fastest way for me to diagnose and possibly fix the problem would be with Linux, so I popped in a live USB stick with Fedora 10 / KDE 4.1 on it, set the BIOS boot order, and booted into the OS I love.To be honest, this is kind of a short story; everything worked perfectly. She couldn't get online under Windows -- reasons unknown, since I don't know how to do the equivalent of an ifconfig and iwconfig and lspci and things like that on Windows, but it was clearly not a hardware issue because the wifi card was recognized and utilized instantly by Fedora 10. I was able to sign on to a network (I say "a network" because there were 10 unsecured networks in range, none of which had any indication of whose they were....but that's another story...). The screen resolution was spot on, trackpad functionality flawless, sound system (at least the output; input has not been tested), and so on. Really, no troubles whatsoever.It is worth noting that the laptop did have a "Centrino" sticker on it; meaning that all the major internal parts were all Intel. So it is not surprising that Linux worked out-of-the-box without any tweaks or mods.The e1505 has a series of extra "multimedia" buttons on it, and these don't seem to do anything under Linux. I'm sure I could either configure Amarok2 to respond to these key events, and I may play around with that next week, but I find that few people seem to use those multimedia keys so it's not high on my list of priorities. Certainly my friend hadn't even seemed to notice the extra multimedia keys at all, so I probably will end up not bothering with them.So, all week the e1505 has been running Fedora 10 off of a 2gb usb thumb drive, and after a while it has become a bit bothersome worrying about this usb protrusion. There's been a lot of traffic around that computer, too, since my friend has had a lot of family coming to visit this week, and of course all of them need to check email and myspace and facebook, etc. There is also a neighbor who comes by sometimes to borrow a cup of bandwidth whenever her internet connection is on the blink. So I was getting worried that someone might pull out the usb drive, or bump into it, and I've been amazed at how transparent to everyone the OS has been. As all of us geeks have noticed, 90% of the average computer user's computing is spent in a web browser, so it's not surprirsing that no-one has noticed that this machine is not running the same OS as their home computer -- although it is worth going on a brief tangent here to mention that Firefox has been treated as an amazing discovery for these people. All of them apparently knew only Internet Explorer but I've loaded my friend's desktop with Firefox and I've put Firefox on the e1505 and people are amazed at its ability to clear personal information when you quit the program. They haven't noticed anything else about it (like add-ons) but the privacy impresses them greatly. (Well, that, and the fact that a real live geek told them it was better than IE...)So, getting nervous about the USB drive's safety, and noticing that so far no one has noticed, much less complained, that they were running Fedora+KDE4.1, I figured it was time to actually install Fedora 10. I couldn't install it as the only OS because my friend had data on her Windows partition that she was afraid to migrate or touch because a lot of it had belonged to her husband, who very recently passed away. But the e1505 has a 12gb partition on its drive relegated to "recovery" -- I guess it's some kind of Windows rescue volume. I borrowed about 8 gb of this rescue partition and installed Fedora (I'm hoping windows didn't need the whole 12gb to rescue itself...but I figure if windows ever dies on her, she's not going to know how to utilize the rescue partition and i'd be the one called to help her, so having a linux partition on her computer will be a lot more helpful to her than a windows rescue partition).The installation went quite well -- although the first attempt failed because I had the partition mounted in /mnt and forgot about it. Whenever this happens, I seem to think it's Linux's fault, but inevitably I look around and see that it's something stupid that I've done. This time, I had Konsole open and I had su'd to root, so to a glance it appeared that root was not in /mnt and no other program was trying to use /mnt.....so I couldn't figure out why Anaconda was claiming that it could not complete the install. I finally saw that I was still root in Konsole, so I exited that and, sure enough, liveuser was hanging out in /mnt. Tee hee. After I unmounted the partition, I was able to install as usual.It took no time to install, and Anaconda even gave me the choice of which OS should be the default. I chose, with not just a little pain, the "Other" option...but I have to say that GRUB or Fedora or both execute this VERY well. To the average user, it looks like a normal boot-up; a black screen at the very start of the boot simply states that it is about to boot, and to press any key for options. When a key is pressed, the full grub menu is visible and you can choose which partition to boot to. Otherwise, the boot process continues and the Windows boot screen comes on and does its thing. This is good because it is transparent to most computer users, so it doesn't frighten them away with new options or unfamiliar menus.After it was all installed, I went in and customized it to the most Windows-ish look & feel I could. Granted, I'm not all that familiar with how Windows typically looks, but I've seen enough screenshots of Vista by now to know what the user expects: black bar at the bottom with important application icons on the far left (i put firefox and dolphin there), widgets on the right (most importantly, an analog clock), and a desktop picture with grass and sky. I also switched the KDE desktop (now 4.2, since I updated the system after the install) to "desktop" view, meaning I was able to have icons or shortcuts on the desktop like Windows users seem to have; so on the desktop, there is a Home folder, a Trash icon, and I added a Firefox icon. Since this will not be her primary partition, I did not bother with setting up an email client and all that; her primary email client is on her desktop computer. I may see if her email provider has IMAP support and get Kmail up and running, and then I'll add that icon as well.I also switched the window decoration to "Laptop", which I felt looked a little more windows-ish (certainly moreso than the oxygen default, which just looks uber-hip but would probably freak diehard windows users out). I installed all the obligatory Flash and mp3 support; I doubt she'll need the mp3 support but the Flash support has already been used (thank you, youtube).Some nice things occuring in KDE:Plugged in a digital camera (Kodak Easy Share, fyi), it was automatically mounted and when clicked upon, immediately offered to open in either Digikam, Dolphin, or None. DigiKam is a spectacular application; it lets the user stay in control of how the pictures are organized, yet provides the user with a great interface to view and tag their photos. Very impressive, and getting a lot of good use from this group of new Linux users. Once again -- they don't seem to show any interest in the fact that it's an application -- they just want to see the pics.Dolphin is getting good...really good. Managing files with it is a pleasure; it's flexible, easy to use, configurable, attractive. Is it just the Nautilus of the KDE world? I don't know, maybe it is, but I like it. It feels very OS X to me, only on steroids, and since OS X is what I knew best before coming to Linux, that is what I like.Network Manager is working great. It remembers its auto-joins and, as far as I can tell, works a lot better than whatever Windows was using.Plasma is fantastic. Really.Some new things I've learned:1. it doesn't take much to trick Average Joe Computer User out of their usual OS. Know what programs they use, make those easily accessible to them, and they will not notice that they are no longer running Windows.2. At least this particular group of Average Joe Computer Users does not go to the START menu or the K MENU or any other MENU. Put icons on the desktop. This is true within Windows and Linux.3. "Network? what's a network? Just get me on the facebooks."That's all, folks. Screenshots of final product attached, complete with a Dolphin window open browsing her Pics from her Windows partition. She may just never have to boot into Windows again...


I was at a used bookstore the other day looking for old sci-fibooks, and on a whim I thought I should look through the computer sectionas well. So I asked the shop proprietor if he had a computer book shelf,and he said well, yes he did, but it was all very out of date, and I said"Good!" -- because the very reason I wanted to look through the computerbook section was to see if I could find any old gems from the yesteryearsof computing.So I looked through the obligatory "Word 95 for Dummies" and "Visual BasicProgramming Guide" books, and finally started coming across a few oldMac-related books, which were nifty, and then onto some really big "Fortranfor VAX" tomes, and then finally, tucked between a COBOL and an ElectricalEngineering book I found a small-ish yellow wirebound book with the AT&Tlogo on it, and the title: "UNIX System User's Handbook". And sure enough,it was a handbook on how to use the [already] decade-old AT&T OperatingSystem, UNIX. It is pretty cool; it's got a lot of commands that are stillrelevant today in it (in fact I've learned a few new nifty tricks), andsome that were apparently specific enough to AT&T not to have survived pastwhenever AT&T finally sold UNIX off. Almost as neat is the fact that thereis a Xerox'd copy of a "Vi Cheat Sheet" in the front flap of the handbook,probably left there by Christopher Aiken (the former owner of the book) --the neat thing about this, aside from being a slice of history in itself,is that "vi" is now "vIM" (vi-improved) and happens to be my text editor ofchoice, and it's kind of neat to see a cheat sheet for its former incarnation.In the back is a pamphlet published by some place called SSC,called "UNIX System Command Summary for Berkeley 4.2 & 4.3 BSD" --obviously the handbook itself is for System V unix.So, basically, it's just a neat curiousity item find, as well as being apretty darned helpful review of essential UNIX concepts. The handbookitself dates back to 1982 so it's not like it's ancient (i guess by ancienti mean "1970") but it feels old. Certainly it represents an older *nix, soit's cool to have.


...has been found.My friend "sooka" and I have almost identical computers; I have a black macbook and she has a black macbook. When sitting in front of it there is no distinguishable difference (viewing the back of the screen on mine would reveal a whole host of linux and FSF stickers, but from front view they are the same).Sooka regularly sits down in front of my computer, thinking it's hers, and starts using it to check her gmail and facebook accounts, etc, and I thought for a few weeks that it was kind of cool that she was so open to using Linux.Then I realized that for two weeks straight, she never even realized she was using my computer and not her own. Yes, hers runs MacOS X. Yes, mine runs only Fedora 10 + KDE 4.2 ...and yet, she never noticed the difference.Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the proverbial average Joe User has been found, and he is a she, and she is named sooka. Firefox on Linux and Firefox on MacOS X are apparently similar enough (although to me they look completely different) that she never noticed that on my computer there is a blue kicker at the bottom of the screen and on hers there is a fancy-looking dock at the bottom. It was only after she tried to watch a youtube video on mine (I keep flash off my system, thank you) and I mentioned that I didn't like Flash, that she realized she had been using my computer quite frequently for the past two weeks. And now she knows to look up in the upper-left corner of the screen to see if there is an apple logo or not. That is the one indicator for her as to which computer she is using.Is she oblivious? No. Sooka holds a bachelors degree and is a writer and has a vocabulary that has me scrambling for contextual hints to decipher what she's saying. This girl is S.M.A.R.T. But outside of a web browser (she's a longtime internet junkie), the concept of an operating system and things like that...well, it just isn't something she thinks about. So.....my guinea pig has finally been found. This is that mythical average user I have been looking for. And amazingly, she does FINE on Fedora 10. Granted, she doesn't do MUCH on my computer, but when I tell her to go to Firefox, she knows to click on the task manager button with the firefox logo on it to bring it to the front (she's also a Windows user so the task manager concept is not as foreign to her as it was to me when I started with KDE), and she seems to be able to navigate her way around the system well enough. Word is something I have yet to convince her to try on either Mac or Windows; she seems convinced that Word is only Word when run on Windows. And no, Word 2007 or 09 or whatever the latest one is, doesn't count. It has to be the previous version (whatever that one was) or it just isn't Word. Um, whatever. But overall, I told her to just pretend like Linux was windows, and I think that solved a lot of usability questions for her; the Right-Click habit took over and everything became obvious. Now for me, the idea of Right-Clicking is STILL something I'm trying to get used to, but for her it is a familiar old tradition. So, Fedora 10 and KDE 4.2 appear to be winners for Average User, and Firefox...once again....as always....F T WIn fact, cross platform free software FTW. Get them hooked on the app in OS X or Windoze and then do a fast switch of OS's, and they will be using Linux in no time.


small community

Here's the thing. Right now the Linux community is / feels small. You subscribe to a few blog planet feeds, you use the usual software and glance at who is maintaining it, you subscribe to your local LUG and LoCo email lists, you troll IRC a bit,you listen to a few (or more than a few) podcasts, you attend an expo or confernece... and pretty soon you start actually getting to know people. At first you just recognize the name. Then you make a few comments on their blog, maybe find them on facebook, and eventually meet them at a conference, and you can justifiably call them a friend or at least a solid acquaintance.And that's nice; I like it. It's kind of cozy.The other side of the coin is the proverbial "we need/want more developers to code more/better apps" and "we want more support from big companies so we can go out and buy a wifi card or a webcam without fearing driver issues" and so on.So, can we just have our cake and eat it, too?


long live kmail

Wow, so I was just writing an email and in the body of the message i wrote "attached is a photo..." or something like that, and naturally I forget to attach anything. So I click on SEND and suddenly my mail client, kMail, pops up a warning dialogue box telling me that my email seems to refer to an attachment but i have not yet attached anything...would I like to attach a file? Wow. How simple yet brilliant. Attached is a screenshot of the very clever, very helpful dialogue box. Long live KDE! Long live kMail!


complaints about iTunes

Just in case anyone ever wonders why iTunes is such a horrible app...I had to help a friend move his data from his Windows-formatted iPod to a new Mac he had gotten. Oh boy. So, why can't a Mac talk to a Windows iPod? and WIndows to a Mac-formatted iPod? You're telling me that in order to update the iPod you have to re-format it? Ridiculous.Second, it's a music management program and it has no function to find duplicate -- and I mean identical other than file name, but identical meta-data -- songs and albums?Third, it's on version 8 (actually 8.0.2 i think) and it has no way to look up song titles with CDDB on "tracks that were not converted using iTunes"? That's the error it gives if you've got tracks that you did not rip with iTunes and want to do basic things like look up song titles and get album art; it claims that it "cannot" do that on songs not converted using iTunes. Um...I think someone needs to call Apple on that and let them know that "WILL NOT" would be a far more appropriate term in that error message. Because at version 8, using a free music look-up database, it certainly CAN.Bulk renaming of files to better match their id3 tags, anyone? Oh sure you can troll the applescript sites and some hacked-together solutions that do a great job but this is version 8. They have sone useless feature called a GENIUS playlist ... but they can't give you basic music managing functions.Yeah, iTunes is STILL the worst thing to happen to music management EVAR.And yes, I tried Amarok 2 for OS X but it does not yet work... oh well.


Off The Hook

My favourite radio show (ok, it's the only radio show I listen to...and even it I don't listen to live but later as a podcast)...is OFF THE HOOK from, of course, 2600. Hosted by "Emmanuel Goldstein". Soooo anyway...on the January 7th 2009 episode, my name and an episode I did for Hacker Public Radio was mentioned! Enigma and threethirty told me about it in IRC today, and so I moved OTH up on my playlist and gave it a listen. And sure enough, Voltaire (sp?) refers listeners to Hacker Public Radio to listen to my episodes. Emmanuel deals with it in his typical we're-running-out-of-time voice. Hey, either way it's pretty cool!


i am always having to look this up. now at least i'll have it here:

ffmpeg -f x11grab -vc theora -s vga -r 24 -b 1200 -g 300 -i :0.0 ~/Videos/screenCapture1.ogv

option by option:

-f x11grab = take video from X...ffmpeg must have been compiled with enable-x11grab included; your distro or version may or may not have this enabled!

-vc = Video Codec...usually you will have ogg theora, xvid, [ff]mpeg (the default), and x264 available

-s = size. see the ffmpeg man page for details; vga is something like 800x600 and there are many other sizes available. know that it starts from the top left corner counts pixels from there.

-r = frame rate. lower frame rate gives smaller file size but looks a little less smooth

-b = bitrate. higher bitrate looks better but makes for a larger file size

-g = GOP size...300 provides a pretty nice looking image without increasing file size too much; it's got one intra frame every...i dunno....300/24 = 12.5 seconds or so.

-i = input...in this case it's :0.0 meaning your main screen. or display. or whatever it's called.

As you can imagine, there are a LOT more options available to you via man ffmpeg. Probably the most notable would be the offset, so if you wanted the capture area to not start at the very top left, you could tell it to, say, go down 10 pixels and over 10 pixels and THEN capture vga-size images, or xga-size images, or whatever.