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Journal: Ten reasons I am glad I switched to a Mac

Journal by ACK!!

All right, I will bite because I just switched.

From linux to mac actually.

1. Availability to commercial software. Office and the games available are the two biggees for me and yes there are more software available for XP but more is not necessarily better. Want proof? Check out Office for the Mac the way the damn suite should have been made to begin with. Sure, there are more games for windows but there are a lot more games for the macintosh than linux that is for sure. Its nice waiting on Civ IV right now.

2. The passion. Listen windows always seemed like an OS made by people who did not really care. mediocre. Linux you could see the love but thousands of developers all around the world on thousands of projects all being put together by hundreds of different distros and it all seems like passion disjointed. On Mac OS X its put together well and you see the passion.

3. Quality of Design. Yes, there have been build/manufacturing issues but the quality of design is outstanding from the front row remote to the backlit keys back to the aluminum case and the magsafe connectors. Quality.

4. Built on unix. No matter how many cygwin unix/win tools you get its not the same. Sure, the command line is a bit different than linux but that is the way it is for any *Nix each one is a bit different. rsync backups are just nice and perl scripts work right and its nice. Commercial desktop OS on top of a real unix.

5. iLife man it just beats the ever living crap out of anything I have seen for linux or Windows. I mean its just incredible and when they say it works just like iTunes they mean it. Easy to pick up.

6. MS Office works better on a mac. I thought that was just zealot talk from the mac faithful but its true things are put together with more care and if they put this much care into all their products then people would respect the company as a whole a lot more I think.

7. It just works means something in the Mac world. Hooking up to wireless? Drop dead easy. Hooking up to my samba server downstairs running Ubuntu? Connecting to my printer shared out on another machine? Easy. No fussing around.

8. Integration between the OS and the machine. The same company that made the OS made the machine so the OS does not feel like some tacked on extra with bits that kind of work or only work through a tool that feels nothing like the rest of your tools on the OS. Or in linux where your laptop multimedia buttons don't work at all.

9. Quality of the OSS apps available. Sure, not everthing on linux is available cocoa style or X11 style on the mac. Sure, most of the best cocoa style OSS apps are at least somewhat based on linux derived code but ... On the mac, Camino, Adium, Seahorse and a ton of other apps just seem to (hard to explain) feel better more natural.

10. The customer support. Listen I did have a build-quality issue with my first macbook pro. I got it declared DOA and returned. The support folks were great it arrived under the expected time and in general the experience was annoying but the service was great.

User Journal

Journal: Thinking about a Mac next time .....

Journal by ACK!!

I am tired of crappy PC hardware.

Almost all computers have essentially the same stats and they have essentially the same internal hardware from the AMD or Intel chips to the Hitachi or Seagate drives back to the ATI or Nvidia video cards. So what is the difference if any between brands?

It is about how the box is designed and how it is put together. I am less than impressed by Dell, Compaq/HP and their ilk. Even Sony laptops now feel cheaper somehow than they use to back in the day. And on top of that they are ugly as hell and have little to no style and this is supposed to be a Personal Computer?

Now, I could build my own but considering I would buy the best components I only end up saving a couple hundred bucks especially since its been so long since I bought a computer I have no re-usable parts to cut the costs. And even if I do build my own its still just a plain box usually depending on my case and even if I mod my case it ends up looking like one of those cruddy looking hotrod throwback cars you see. What do I mean? It will still look like an old car with a tacky new paintjob. Oh you put flames on the side of your hotrod guy? Wow, I never saw that before.

There is another factor.

I do not like Windows. No, I don't have a hate-on for Microsoft or Bill Gates not in the least though I do think they have some illegal business practices that need curbing.

But I do like Unix.

Since Mac OS X is built on Unix despite the differences between it and other *Nixes it is still not as bad as a Cygwin environment on top of Windows.

And I am tired. I love linux. I have been using linux since 1997 and that is a very long time to live life on an alternative OS. I think my fights with my sound on Ubuntu and my struggle a while back with a Stage 1 install of Gentoo that did it for me. I am just tired.

People have no problems paying more money for a car that has no real performance benefits to any other car just because they know its designed well, stylish and not a hunk of junk. But this kind of consumer mentality has not filtered down to possibly for some one of the most important consumer purchases, a computer.

I am beyond caring that I can get an e-machine or Dell for less money than a Mac. I just want to be happy with my next computer purchase regardless of price.

What do I get for my extra money with a Mac?

1. The computer is designed well.
2. It is stylish.
3. It is based on a Unix OS.
4. The OS and hardware put together by the same company so the OS doesn't feel tacked on.

There is also a factor not easy to define. People are happy with their Macs. I have asked everyone I see in a coffee shop or bookstore with a Mac. They love their Macs. I have worked in the IT industry for 10 years and I have been very happy with the Dec/Alphas and my Sun Enterprise 450s but I have never loved my purchase of a PC.

Some people seem very happy with their Sony laptops but the quality does not seem as good as used to be and some people seem very happy with their Lenovo/IBM Thinkpads but those are ugly as sin.

None of it seems to match the love most Mac owners have for their computer purchase.

Maybe its all an illusion a reality distortion field around the cult of Mac. Still, I want a computer that I will love to own.

Is that so bad?


Journal: Unix Truths

Journal by ACK!!

Everything is a file -- One of the unique things about Unix as an operating system is that regards everything as a file.
Files can be divided into three categories; ordinary or plain files, directories, and special or device files.

Directories in Unix are properly known as directory files. They are a special type of file that holds a list of the other files they contain.

Ordinary or plain files in Unix are not all text files. They may also contain ASCII text, binary data, and program input or output. Executable binaries (programs) are also files, as are commands. When a user enters a command, the associated file is retrieved and executed. This is an important feature and contributes to the flexibility of Unix.

Special files are also known as device files. In Unix all physical devices are accessed via device files; they are what programs use to communicate with hardware. Files hold information on location, type, and access mode for a specific device. There are two types of device files; character and block, as well as two modes of access.

Block device files are used to access block device I/O. Block devices do buffered I/O, meaning that the the data is collected in a buffer until a full block can be transfered.

Character device files are associated with character or raw device access. They are used for unbuffered data transfers to and from a device. Rather than transferring data in blocks the data is transfered character by character. One transfer can consist of multiple characters.

Everything flows from the root -- The UNIX filesystem is heirarchical (resembling a tree structure). The tree is anchored at a place called the root, designated by a slash "/". Every item in the UNIX filesystem tree is a file even a directory. A directory is a file that holds other files. A directory can contain files, or other directories which are merely files to hold other files.

A directory contained within another is called the child of the other. A directory in the filesystem tree may have many children, but it can only have one parent. A file can hold information, but cannot contain other files, or directories.

UNIX supports access control. Every file and directory has associated with it ownership, and access permissions. Furthermore, one is able to specify those to whom the permissions apply. Every UNIX system has a special user, called root or superuser, who has unique and powerful privileges associated with system administration. Root can access all files, regardless of access permissions. Root can read, write, or run any file; search any directory; and add or delete a file in any directory. Root can change a user's password without knowing the original password. Root can halt the system and change ownership of files. Because root privileges are so powerful, they can be destructive, intentionally or not. Root privileges should be used carefully.

Root is the top of the filesystem. The Root user controls that filesystem. Everything in Unix is a file. Root is the top of the hierachy of the files and the user that controls the top of that hierachy of files. Root is the superuser he who controls the top of the hierachy of the system.

Everything flows through the pipe -- The concept of pipes is one of the most important Unix innovation (the other two are probably hierarchical filesystem and regular expressions) that had found its way to all other operating systems. Let me state it again: the pipe is the the most elegant and powerful features of UNIX.

Dennis M. Ritchie once said, "One of the most widely admired contributions of Unix to the culture of operating systems and command languages is the pipe, as used in a pipeline of commands. Of course, the fundamental idea was by no means new; the pipeline is merely a specific form of coroutine.

Even the implementation was not unprecedented, although we didn't know it at the time; the `communication files' of the Dartmouth Time-Sharing System did very nearly what Unix pipes do, though they seem not to have been exploited so fully."

Pipes are elegant implementation of coroutines on OS shell level and as such they allow the output from one program to be fed as input to another program.

Hence the command: cut -f4 vism.txt | paste - vism.txt | cut -f1,2 | sed -e 's/$/'

Which allows a user to take the fourth field of a text file paste it back into the output as the first field and then take the 1st and 2nd field of output and tack a domain at the end in one command.

This is a beautiful and elegant thing.

All things may be matched by a regular expression -- In the forties, Warren McCulloch and Walter Pitts created neuron-level models of how the nervous system operates. The mathematician, Stephen Kleene, later described these models using his mathematical notation called regular sets. Ken Thompson incorporated that system of notation into qed (the grandfather of the UNIX ed) and eventually into grep. Ever since that time, regular expressions have constantly seeped into UNIX and UNIX-like utilities.

A regular expression is a string of characters that can be used to match a set of character strings. For example, to globally search for all occurrences of the word "and" would require a search for "and", "And", "AnD", "AND", etc. Without regular expressions finding all possible occurrences of "and" would require eight separate searches. Using an regular expression the search could be done with one command.

Regular expressions are used when you want to search for specify lines of text containing a particular pattern. Most of the UNIX utilities operate on ASCII files a line at a time. Regular expressions search for patterns on a single line, and not for patterns that start on one line and end on another.

Therefore the following string is not just gibberish but gibberish that allows you to find not just a word or a set of words but match divergent strings in text.

m{ \(
      ( # Start group
      [^()]+ # anything but '(' or ')'
      | # or
        \( [^()]* \)
      )+ # end group

An Operating System should not be designed to stop you from doing stupid things --
"UNIX was not designed to stop you from doing stupid things, because that would also stop you from doing clever things." --Doug Gwyn.

Unix utilities and applications should not try to anticipate all possible needs, and they should never try to keep you from doing something that might be dangerous. Your program may be so useful that it outlives you. Even if it doesn't, it should most certainly outlive your current project whenever possible: Don't try to guess at how people -- even you yourself -- might want to use it in future. This feeds back into the simplicity argument. Trying to prevent undesirable consequences can be a disaster. (For instance, imagine how much less convenient it would be if programs that used $EDITOR tried to enforce the assumption that it will be an interactive program.)

This is the organically grown Operating System -- Unix did not spring whole from the mind and effort of one company or set of individuals.

Unix has instead grown organically in a zen-like fashion over decades of use created by Dennis M Ritchie and Ken Thompson at Bell Labs and then in use by universities absorbing influences from Berkeley Unix and Bill Joy or various corporations such as Sun, HP and DEC.

Or from the zeal of developers like Richard Stallman and Eric S. Raymond and the Open Source movement.

This natural and somewhat haphazard approach is both maddening to the newb and delightful for the explorer leading one to never grow complacent in the idea that they know all that Unix has to offer. Because expectation of knowledge only goes to show you know what is coming next and you don't.

"Those who don't understand UNIX are doomed to reinvent it, poorly." --Henry Spencer


Journal: Convergence not just for PCs anymore

Journal by ACK!!

Everyone use to talk about convergence. You see that Sony has even come up with a PC/tv device. But it seems that in a society built around mass consumerism the idea of one device for your stereo/dvd/computer needs has not gotten much traction.

No one has asked the simple question of what market does mass convergence make sense?

Well, I have this friend who is obsessed with modd'ing his XBox and this weekend my son got an old PS2 for his birthday and yes I know the new ones are coming out in a year so there.

Still, I thought to myself between hard drives hooked into a sub-$200 device and the fact it is built for a network connection and the fact that some of the linux mods for the Xbox are so damned slick and the old PS2 linux kit that maybe the folks who are talking about convergence are all converging on the wrong device.

I mean the game console with a network connection, hard drive, slick modd'ed interface and bad ass games are the answer for those looking for a silver bullet in the quest for a convergence device.

Imagine the young male set who need a PC for writing papers, exchanging email, surfing the net, chatting and playing media.

Rarely do these guys use a PC for much else right?

Now, think about a device for around $250 dollars that can play any known form of media, plays the hottest games, its networked and has a hard drive right?

All it needs is the slick interface already provided in a number of great mods and 4 apps. There are OSS browsers, word processors, email client and IM chat programs already available right?

Could we achienve the holy grail of convergence and the noble goal of a computer at the sweet spot of about $200 in one shot?

If mass-produced by Sony and marketed mainly as a slick console/PC alternative for the young male set, then that answer is yes.

User Journal

Journal: This I believe ....

Journal by ACK!!

I believe that Jesus died from somebody's sins but not mine. I am no hollow puppet on the hypocrite's strings of any God or country. All my scars are my own and I like my sins where they are thank you very much and I need no one to save me from myself. No moral majority can speak for the horrors I have seen.

My idealism died somewhere in a square crushed under a tank in China or torn apart in the jungles of Rwanda. I have no idea of changing the world for the better in this sense. There are no hippy trips of making the world a better place but pragmatic sense of trying to move little bits of to a place where insanity is simply less so.

Yes, I understand that no morality in foreign affairs is less pragmatism and more opportunistic greed. There is a reason that after 6 million jews died that the UN was created and it was not for the purpose of laying prostrate at the whims of the world as children die by genocidal hands.

I believe in the individual. No flag is worth more to me than the Bill of Rights. I wrap myself in it because I believe in the rights of man. Everyone is equal, just don't measure it. Or you might be disappointed in what you see.

There is no more middle ground. Extremes have taken the day by the blood of propaganda and think tanks. Here is the day that I toast. The day when education is really less a slogan but truly valued by a society that celebrates and wallows in the ignorance of its pop culture source. This is the place where I remember my grandfather's soul as he fought his way out of the great depression but never forgot compassion. I know that a government for the people and by the people can give a hand up and not a hand out. The understanding is there that only a democracy for the people can stand up and regulate corporations when their interests conflict with the greater good. I don't need lead in my water at all and that goal is not about being whores to corporate interests or destroying those same interests. There are millions of people every day that cannot go to a doctor because they cannot pay the bills. This is something that every day rips a little hole through our dreams of a productive society.

I do not believe in corporatism and I do not believe in socialism. Mostly every single day I find myself fighting to believe at all but I know this, I have to.

Life is pain. This is no great observation. Ignore the pain and it does not go away. If you stand against, you are snapped like a twig. You just have to embrace the pain like a masochist cutting himself to feel. It is those bright flashes like the look in a child's eyes never touched by the dark skies that keep you going. This is what I know because how did Dante get out of hell friend? By going to its lowest depths.

This is my song.

"mr narrator!"
this is bob dylan to me
my story could be his songs
i'm his soldier child

User Journal

Journal: White Boy

Journal by ACK!!

white boy guilt
chunked into
drifting all fucked
up punk
smoking cigs wild
trailer trash
ripped t-shirts uh
bad tattoos
little girlfriend
in shorts
drinking the Jack
eatin' BBQ
just be talkin'
  ya' know
shootin' the shit

User Journal

Journal: The Hands

Journal by ACK!!

The hands

        I remember the hands
        most of all
        the gnarled tools
        with lines running
        through them like
        the life lines
        of a tree each mark
        a passing of years
        and memories
        strong things held
        clenched with fire
        of a life clutched
        tight and hard
        like the knuckles
        of that hand covered
        in casual calluses
        of well-earned labor
        and I remember holding
        them with all the futility
        of my wasted youth and
        thinking that I would
        be lucky to hold my
        son with hands like that.

User Journal

Journal: Tired ranting, fuck the Boomers and other stuff

Journal by ACK!!

Tired. Hard work and endless cyncism mixes in a haze of nights spent working on servers and coming in the next day for meetings. I am just a sysadmin. Give me root and list of servers to manage.

My love is not lost. The job is a fire burning in my heart of hearts. If I was not a sysadmin I would still dink with computers all the time. But what about my kids? I had the easy job with the high status and great title and crappy pay. Now, I got the cash and all that but the title is minimal and the work is long and annoying.

I get myself into dilemmas like this occasionally. I have done it before. The easy job does not pay but the title and respect are good. Still, I want more. I feel like with my experience I deserve more so I hop to the job with more money and work myself into an oblivious state of fatigue.

The tough part is how can I bitch outside of bitching at the time I lose with my family?

I am sooo lucky. I got two healthy children, a wife that loves me and a house, roof over my head. It just feels like I am working so hard just to get back to the lifestyle my grandfather provided my family with (I was raised by my grandparents). It cost so much to live in an area where the schools are decent and the jobs plentiful.

I remind myself occasionally.

Life is pain. You cannot stand against or you will break like a twig. You cannot ball up and ignore or it will sneak around you and swallow you whole. You can only embrace it like a masochist cutting himself so he can feel something, anything at all. Like bright flashes in the dark the joys of life are worth it and know this. No simple nihilism for me.

What did the Baby Boomers think as they raised us?

We sit and listen to our mindless pop or darkly sarcastic hardcore. But at least we had no numbnut illusions of changing the world. Fuck that. You know we knew growing up that was a load of crap. The world did not want us to change it. We were the minority next to the bulge in the snake that was the Boomer generation going through the American landscape ready to come out the rear in a great big shit on top of everyone else.

At least I am doing something I enjoy. My parents were turds next to my grandparents. They achieved shit with the grace of a flat hammer. Screw them hard. I am finding myself with a great big distaste for that entire generation of sellouts, burnouts and hippy throwbacks. The hell with the Boomers and there generation's puzzlement with my "Generation X".

So today I drift between a tired daze and rants about my parent's generation like I should even give a shit. After all disdain for my parents should be fairly foreign to me --- its much too much like their own disdain for the greatest generation they harbored as they tried to explain the horrid mess they made of their fucked little lives.

And to think it all just started with me being tired.

User Journal

Journal: What I want in Gnome

Journal by ACK!!

I hope to see gnome get some of the below niggling issues out of the way before a ton of huge paragigm shifting changes come down the pike in Gnome 3.0.

1. A menu editor (I know coming gnome 2.12)

2. Better network browsing (also gnome 2.12) -- But will I be prompted for my username and pass when I browse into a host? Will browsing a windows network really work? Time will tell and I really hope because sometimes I don't know the share name is I need.

3. Easy audio CD burning -- Yes I am using it now with Rhythmbox .9 arch main branch. It rocks and so does tag editing and this is needed.

4. Launch feedback for desktop objects (Folders and such on the desktop)

5. Disable doubleclick on panel applets.

6. Improved user level System Tools (coming in gnome 2.12 as a goal) -- we cannot leave it to the distros now can we.

7. Beagle or Storage inclusion -- prefer Storage as a more flexible solution personally.

8. Replacement of esd as a sound daemon -- (gnome 2.12 unassigned goal)

9. Browsing into an archive -- (gnome 2.12 possible uri-chaining)

10. Skippy, expocity or some other form of expose style functionality in gnome.

Here comes the big one. The one I would trade all of the above advancements for. Let me preface this. The next goal should be the biggest and most important goal of the project imho, period. Gnome has a slick, sleek and minimal appearance. This has one unfortunate side-effect for the end user. It looks fast. Users expect it to be fast but gnome is NOT fast without a ton of RAM.

Why do I focus on RAM. My laptop with 128MB is sooo slow I use XFCE now on it. On the other hand, my blastwave package loaded ancient Sun Ultra5 with 256MB is faster, more responsive and livable with gnome. With 512MB on a (I admit it) faster laptop guess what? Gnome is as fast as XP on the same box.

Speed and memory footprint reduction -- Gnome needs to place speed optimization and memory reduction once again imho as a major goal and I am very excited to see that memory reduction appearing as a a goal with even some bounties placed on it.

I really do hope that the gnome team can resolve all of these issues and I find myself also in higher spirits seeing a number of gnome developers wishing for a return and a new birth of a proper focus on a gnome office as oppossed to relying on the good will of the OpenOffice group. Maybe someone will become motivated to start working crawiaps or another project.

However, I seriously doubt that every issue I mentioned above can all be completely resolved in one release.


Journal: Ubuntu: Living off the Humanity of others

Journal by ACK!!

So, I got my laptop at work upgraded to XP. When they did this I was stuck without a workstation and mucked around installing gnome and packages to my Solaris box.

No that I had my laptop back I noticed something. They gave me a d:\ drive. They marked it storage. It sat there on my desktop taunting me. It was like an invitation to install linux. It was an opportunity I could not pass up.

Now, I like gnome. Why is another journal entry all together btw. I already run the big gnome based distro Fedora Core 3 on my home box. I tried the Ubuntu live CD and was impressed. I knew exactly what I was installing on my other partition the nice IT folks were nice enough to bless me with. Ubuntu means "humanity to others" and is a community gnome focused Debian based distro. It had gotten a ton of press and even more fans. I usually despise distro hopping but I have never tried any Debian based distro so my curiosity got a hold of me and I even decided to try and live off the bleeding edge preview version of the Hoary Hedgehog release of the distro.

I was curious about the Hoary Hedgehog version of Ubuntu and gnome 2.10. So I grabbed the latest iso and burnt it to disk. I was on the edge. I was off.


The install is plain and simple. There is no gui anaconda grace to it. It is straight forward and one curses step above a straight text based install. And it worked. The only major issue I had was I was not impressed with the partition tool and felt most of its defaults were off to start with. Still, I was able to tool my way around the interface and make it through that. The other striking thing for someone who has come from a RedHat/Fedora or Suse or Mandrake background is there are not any real package installation choices. Its just one damn CD people and Ubuntu installs it all.


No cute grub splash screen. (I added my own from later) No cute little graphical boot process. There is talk of adding one but I am not put off by this anyway. The hotplug process kind of pauses the system but booting is very fast in comparison to Suse or Redhat in my experience. The only slow down is if you have multiple network profiles and you go from home to work and boot up without switching profiles before you shut down. The starting network part of the boot will sit and hang for awhile as it figures out what to do.
But here is the kicker. It does honestly always figure out what to do. Which is nice.


I say this all the time to people. Anyone can install linux. Its dead simple. Its the postinstall or the setup that can be a bitch, especially for a newbie. For a Fedora user, its the Fedora FAQ that helps makes this process easier for the new folks. It seems like every other post on the Fedora forums about postinstall could feasibly be answered by pointing the person to this faq. Ubuntu has an even more extensive and extremely friendly ubuntuguide. Considering its sheer freakin' size I have to say I found it very easy to grok and make my way around.

Sure, it took a bit of translation from its Warty origins for my Hoary bleeding edge install but for the most part it consisted of replacing the word warty with hoary in most of the instructions.

At the end of the process I had all the usual browser plugins like Realplayer, flash, java and even the mplayer plugin which I prefer over other choices for playing quicktime from the web.

This is perfect as a transition point into the next section.

Package Management:

This is the one thing about Fedora that I truly completely and totally despise. Install/Remove config app only works with CD installed rpms so that sucks. The up2date uses yum but ignores the yum.conf and the neato nifty install druid does not handle dependencies. It checks but does nothing to fix.

Now, even with the gnome-install app now standard in Hoary as part of ubuntu desktop, the one and only real source of packages for hoary is apt-get and its graphical brother Synaptic.

There are a ton of sources and applications. Now I had used apt4rpm before mind you. But the combination of dpkg, debs and apt-get just really rocks. It just seems so much faster and safer. I mixed sources like mad, like a guy looking to break his Hoary in half. Debian sources sit beside Hoary sources that sit beside Warty sources alongside one off sources. Oh yeah and it just did not seem to care. Synaptic and apt-get just chugged along with no problem.

Now even if you install a real one off deb from the command line, you will notice that dpkg might be the key because it just seems right off the bat faster than rpm. The time it takes the deb tools to figure out dependencies and to install packages on the whole seems faster. It also feels a lot more bulletproof.

What about availability? This is unfair right? After all Fedora Core 3 has been out a loong time and Hoary is still beta right? It is not that simple. It seems by the time I snagged Hoary a lot of work had already gone into the backports plus if you can't find the Hoary version the Warty deb will probably work and you might even get away with mixing in a straight deb source to get the package.

It was really nice that the w32 codecs were included as a deb package. But then again RealPlayer and Java were manual installs from their respective sites. Still the ubuntuguide instructions were dead simple and running nice neat installers of any sort is still easier than the copy fest of the usual /usr/lib/win32 stuff where the poor n00b sits at the mplayer website wondering which codecs tarball he needs.

Now I could monkey-bubble a game for my son that I could not in Fedora Core 3. Ditto for the gnome-photo-printer app. Now, the tools needed for burning audio CDs were really slight for Ubuntu. Graveman was available but I was not a huge fan of the interface. So, I got the Warty version of gnome-baker and it rocked. All in all it was a wash with the Debian based Ubuntu having a slight edge in package availability with one big exception.

The latest version of Abiword was not packaged for debs and I hit a nasty bug. There was a bug when I highlighted bold text in a table on a Word doc I use as an After Action Report Template for my server maintenances. Now one thing you can count with Fedora is that every single major project that bothers making binaries for linux boxes makes a Fedora rpm. Some smaller projects only release a deb like monkey-bubbles but usually Fedora has an edge. Then again Hoary comes with the restricted modules package so I do not have to hand compile the kernel modules for my madwifi card or my ltmodem or ... you get the picture.

What to do?

Compiling or using alternate packages:

Now I hit this Abiword bug that hosed my use of my favorite word processor since WordPerfect 8.0 for Unix. So, there are no recent debs newer than 2.2 the version with the bug I hit. Both versions of Abiword available for Ubuntu had this bug. So, I notice that Abiword includes a autopackage version so I uninstall Abiword and reinstall using the autopackage version. It worked flawlessly. I also on a lark tried gaim and Inkscape autopackages as well as the visual ldd tool and they all installed with no issues except for one. The gaim package is associated to the ubuntudesktop package but I wanted to uninstall it anyway along with gnome-install. The menu should show one option for package management by default even I do things "wrong" myself. That should be for a Debian distro - Synaptic.

Ok, what if I want to download and compile the latest tla arch version of Rhythmbox? Since Ubuntu is based off the latest gnome 2.10 this worked with no issues and now I could burn a audio CD straight from Rhythmbox and edit tags on my music files. w00t!


Ok, damn, that is really, really brown. No, I mean it. The background for my taste was just too dark and washed out the rest of the themes and desktops. I kind of liked the Industrial'ish flat Human gtk theme but they changed it to the ClearLooks which I love anyway.

The metacity theme is pretty standard and honestly just insanely sharp and pointy. I prefer the rounded edge feel and changed that pretty quick.

Factory-gtk and Human gtk work fine for me. The icon theme is nice enough and complete but I think that the old Gorilla icon theme is perfect for Ubuntu.

I like the earth colors. I don't mind the brown gtk theme, at least its not another freakin' blue theme. It just still needs tweaking in my opinion.

Otherwise, the clean desktop just begged me to go set my desktop to my home dir in gconf. I love this option since most users tend to clutter their damn desktop and use it as a home dir anyway. Unless you understand the difference between home and Desktop and use them correctly there is no point in the seperation at all especially in a *Nix environment. The network applet is turned on by default. The deal with the trashcan in my panel was sort of hard to get used to and I set it on my wife's desktop. But the Places menu and System in the top panel is nice.

The menus are very well laid out and logical and all that. It kind of reminds me of the Ximian menus especially right after install. But the thing is that unlike the old Ximian desktop on a full install Suse the menus are not hiding much. That is all you installed buddy. After all, its just one CD, like I said before. The only thing that drove me nuts was the fact the OpenOffice app icons were the old default stuff which is well ugly, fugly, and wrong on a philosophical level. Well, at the very least, they are very ugly. I copied some jimmac icons for the OpenOffice apps he has on his site and changed the desktop files.

This brings me to one of my main Gnome 2.10 gripes. There is no freakin' menu editing method at all except dropped down to the command line editing a bunch of desktop files.

Even in Fedora if you use it every day and install stuff on the fly long enough you are going to want to edit, delete or add a desktop file. Menu editing is available in freakin' Windows and KDE and even in WindowMaker or XFCE has one that is xdg complaint. It is just a very basic thing and the excuses I hear from people is just silly. I love gnome. I use gnome. I still know it sucks.

The other thing is that the fonts did not look as good as Suse or Fedora. Why? I had to add this fonts.conf I found on the Ubuntu forums that turned on auto-hinting or some such and suddenly my fonts looked great.

Administration tools:

I really thought I would miss the wonderful intuitive Fedora tools which I think are perfect for desktop use.

But really it was nice to see gnome-system-tools like Users and Groups, Time admin and Network admin in use alongside with Ximian style Cups tools and such.

The additon of the shares tool especially with the activation of a right-click option for folders for Sharing just rocks but you better apt-get samba and smbfs or it ain't working.

Very nice but not as complete as Fedora Core 3 or god help us that monster known as YaSt2. The network tool and its use of profiles is very neat but sometimes it saves stuff and sometimes it refuses and the dhcp scripts can still screw you up no matter what you put in the profiles. Otherwise, the level of work and completeness of these tools are really appreciated with the Time and Date tool really exceeding Fedora's tools in my opinions and being better laid out that the Yast tools.
In this category I really feel like Ubuntu is on that cusp that sharp edge of greatness. All they need to make their admin tools feel more complete for a desktop user is to include the Firestarter tool by default, gtk2 based grcontab style tool is needed, add the Boot administration tool for grub and the Runlevel admin for maintaining services.

Let me say the boot-admin addition is just gravy. Firestarter is easy enough to add but ....

Runlevel-admin from the gnome-systems-tools is just vital and what most folks would consider basic. Also, I am amazed that a cron editing tool is not considered a basic tool that all distros should have. Cron was the original scheduling service and it is still great. But that is more of a general fussing point on the state of linux as opposed to a Ubuntu complaint.


God bless the folks who create the ubuntuguide. After going through that thing I had all the tasty bits of support for all the codecs that would get commercial companies sued if they tried to include them by default.

The mplayer plugin worked as well as I have ever seen it. The support for mp3s was great and my custom compiled I am a bleeding edge asshole version of Rhythmbox picked up all of the dev headers I snagged through apt-get and worked without an issue.
Having the win32codecs available in a deb package is really nice and a bonus or plus for Ubuntu. The only problem I had with Multimedia support goes against ever single thing I have ever seen on the net about the package. My totem-xine actually seemed slower than the gstream version for dvd playback. I notice a starting pause as the dvd starts and begins to load the starting bits for the movie or the previews. But this firmly goes against what I hear other people say. Actually I am very impressed with the bleeding edge of gstreamer development and the support for most media outside of some Sorrenson Quicktime movies.

For the first time, I felt bad in a way about installing the xine based version because I really like gstreamer as a concept.

Living with it:

The damn thing just feels well snappier than Fedora. Not sure if it is the faster boot up or the fact the it starts gnome quicker because its not loading all the redhat network stuff or well what but it just feels quicker overall.

It also feels like I have had to do more minor tweaking on this box than my Fedora box. I added a splash image to grub and the icons for OpenOffice, or the auto-hinting for the fonts and other little things and it adds up.

But once again, I did not have to hand compile my madwifi and ltmodem every single time I had a kernel update. That was nice.

I got tired of booting into XP to do stuff for work. Getting Cisco VPN working with the 2.6.10 kernels is a pain but that is the case for any distro and I got this prompt that it asks me for whether or not I want to continue onto the private network that did not come up with vpnc. It just would not let me log on. But Cisco VPN worked right off. The yes or no prompt came up and I got on just fine.

Getting Outlook going with Exchange was straight forward. No real problem.

I use gnumeric for my spreadsheet work. The damn app is near perfect for my needs in this regard.

The Abiword bug bite me but I took care of that with a new version and it has worked well since.

All I need now is a group of gnome developers to get criawips the presentation application going full burner and for passepartout to get on the level of Scribus.

Those are really imho the only big missing gnome pieces in terms of application functionality.

Now, if I could into Remedy the ticketing tool we use from the web consistently or if our configuration management ftp server was a complete mirror of my company's VSS then I could wax XP but then again IT would probably trip.

Browsing into a samba server is still not very good in Nautilus but the Connect to Server works very well.

Setting up CUPS to print to the area HP printer was easy business but I had been there before. The Ximian CUPs tools works very well. Going from the 1400x1050 to the 1280x1024 monitor at work is kind of a pain even with the resolution tool but I got that going.

That is the toughest part for me. Ubuntu like most forms of linux that are highly regarded seem right on that edge of greatness. I still have to compile the Cisco VPN client by hand with a patch, deal with no menu editing tools, change ugly ass icons around and mess with auto-hinting and such.

Too much postinstall even with the great work by the ubuntuguide folks. I would have to do most of the same steps except for changing icons and the auto-hinting.

But at the same time, this reminds me a great deal of what I thought of when I imagined a perfect gnome desktop about the time I saw the Ximian desktop and the RedHat 8.0 desktops.
It still has some rough edges and what I consider missing pieces but overall there is a nice feel and with the nicer package management tools it could easily gain the edge over Dropline and Fedora as the very premium gnome desktop distro.


Journal: Riding the Blastwave

Journal by ACK!!

So my little windows work laptop was about to get an upgrade from 2000 to XP.

That was cool but it meant me being dead in the water with no computer for a couple of hours at least.

So I sat there staring at my sad little Ultra 5 on my desktop. It should be happy I had upgrading its hard drive a while back to a fat 60GB model and it had 256MB of memory which was pretty decent. But it was not a happy computer because except as a script development and internal web server for our group it did so very little.

I mean it was not taxed, tested or pushed. So, I had been hearing about this place. It was like this place that had a ton of cool desktop packages for Solaris. They called it

I was about to make my sad little Sun box very happy.

I downloaded their version of pkg-get. I did the pkgadd and started calculating all the little things to download and install next.

I got it from here:

But the first thing I ran was simple:

pkg-get -i gnome firefox mozilla gnumeric

Ok, that got me a desktop and a browser and a spreadsheet program. w00t!

It was just that simple swear to god. Sure, I had issues and I will get to those in a second. But I had a real 2.8 Gnome desktop. I had my firefox browser. Not only that I had a spreasheet program worthy enough to open most anything that nasty old Excel could push at it.

No Abiword. And Gnome has no Presentation software.

Off to go get OpenOffice from here:

Installing it is as simple as remembering how to o the net install. It goes into opt.

Ok, what is next?

Browser plugins were fairly easy with one major exception.

Java is pretty damn obvious.

Adobe Acrobat was easy too:

Flash is available for Sparc as well:

RealPlay 10 from the HelixPlayer folks is not as obvious:

So, lets see I got gaim with my gnome desktop for IM chatting love.

I got firefox for browsing.

OpenOffice + gnumeric hits most of those basic I got to be able to read my fellow co-worker's documents stuff.

I got gftp for ftp or now sftp work.

Nautilus allowed me to connect to the corporate shares.

In fact, that is where I got the proprietary Remedy client. Remedy is the software used for tracking tickets. This is something that not even linux can handle.

Ok, but what about tunes or movies and other stuff?

Here comes my issues with the blastwave packages. Totem never really launches if I run the command from the terminal it just hangs. rhythmbox segfaults immediately and was missing gconf stuff to. But .....

xmms worked for playing music files of almost every time and gxine worked for opening a ton of video formats. Wait a sec what about movies in a browser? gxine starts to launch the url with its plugin and then hangs. Oh well cannot have it all now can we?

Oh yeah, the CUPs package worked perfect to help me connect to my network printer.

I did a
pkg-get -i ximian-connector
And suddenly I could connect to the Exchange server at work with one tweak.

I could not connect for days I just shrugged my shoulders and figured it was something on the corporate side until I noticed that Plaintext passwords could NOT be selected. I stopped gconf --shutdown and evolution --force-shutdown and then edited the .gconf-csw/evolution/mail xml file and right after my username I put auth=Basic so it looked like username;

Then I really could see my corporate email from my Solaris box.

I was actually surprised at how snappy the thing felt. It made me realize that a fast disk and lots of ram are more important than cpu. The menu re-draw rate was better than my sad little linux laptop with 128MB of ram.

It had its issues and short comings.

Still, this is pretty good list of features for a really old Sun Ultra 5 running Solaris 8 for goodness sakes.

Why even bother? Some people are not allowed to install linux on their workstation but are given Ultra 5 workstations by default. Don't laugh!! This is the second corporation like this I have seen. Some people are unix heads and hate living in that split world of working in Windows while doing 90% of their work through a Secure CFT or Exceed window.

Hell, believe or not there are people out there who prefer the way *Nix desktops work despite any shortcomings.


Journal: Ranting about revisionists and Filesystems

Journal by ACK!!

I hear people online complaining about the complexity of the unix filesystem. This irritates me to no earthly end.

The hierachal filesystem of unix and its inherent directory structure is actually quite logical. If you drill down to many of their arguements you find out quickly that they have made the jump in logic that their brand of linux or commercial *Nix is Unix and it is not.

The theory of the unix filesystem and how it is organized is simple and elegant and thoroughly ignored by most linux distro makers and commercial Unix folks.

Top Level:

/ = shit needed to boot.
/usr = user land apps that well users will use on a regular basis.
/usr/local = locally compiled stuff.
/opt = optional software typically based on tradition commercial apps.

This simple paradigm is so completely ignored or crapped on by most *Nixes that it boggles the mind.

Lower level file structure on the other hand is usually maintained despite this.

"prefix"/bin = binaries as in the program files you run.

"prefix"/lib = libraries needed for the binaries.

"prefix"/man = manual pages for the binaries.

"prefix"/shared = duh, shared files used by the programs.

Now, it drives me frickin' nuts for example that commercial games would install themselves by default to /usr/local/games and even worse that many of the tools will not work right if you do not install them there. Same way that some commercial programs want to install into /usr/local instead of /opt. Ugh.

I will not even begin to go into the variety of ways that Solaris breaks the paradigm on one hand and many others does things the right way. Despite many /usr subdirs they put a good deal of things under /usr even if its squirelled away in some /usr/swf directory or /usr/Apache for example. But on the other hand, they put stuff in /opt that they have no business doing because the software is not 3rd party optional software. For my purist point of view, I much prefer the method of packaging things in /opt/csw as oppossed to sunfreeware's method of chunking everything into /usr/local. Don't get me wrong. I am no purist to the point of stupidity. I need many of the sunfreeware packages and use them. But I don't like it a lot of the time.

It may seem cleaner or more logical for Suse for example to go throwing gnome and kde into their own /opt subdirs but then they crap on their own conventions and throw sysconfig stuff into the /etc/opt/gnome or /opt/kde. This turns around and makes things more complicated especially if you want to compile something and have the gconf or sysconf stuff recognized by their own kde or gnome desktops.
For all the multitude of headaches with having a half million binaries living in the same /usr dir I prefer Redhat/Fedora's method. I install a Fedora system and I have a clean /opt dir. I can confirm the commercial optional stuff ends up in /opt and all of the major repos for Redhaa/Fedora makes their rpms install stuff into /usr because they are all userland apps. Yes, its a headache to have much stuff in one dir structure but this beats the pants out of having things spread out across the file system where users have to hunt for the binaries to run them.

Some people talk about going to a Apple style Apps dir kind of method. I don't like breaking the Unix style of doing things without a damn good reason. If packagers want their apps to have their own dirs then the X way or Solaris method of handling Apache could easily be used. What do I mean?

1. Only someone with root should be installing packages on your box even if its supposed to live just in their home dir. Its an invtitation for things to get broken or confusing for the users in a quick way.

2. If you want your app to live in its own self-contained world then let the app live in its own little /usr/"App_name" directory. For example, /usr/apache does not piss me off or /usr/X for example. Now the whole /usr/lib/mozilla or /usr/lib/OpenOffice thing kind of smacks me as confusing but it would not be if they were truly consistent and did things either one way or the other way and stayed consistent.

User Journal

Journal: My Janie Porsche moment this Christman

Journal by ACK!!

Ok, I do not save Christmas.

Yes, my wife did get our new Nikon 4100 working with Windows. But it did take her about 20 minutes with all the installation of software from the CDs and the tweaking needed on our Windows side of the laptop.

So, I boot up in linux with not a lot of assumptions of how well it would work. I plug the camera in and in about 5 seconds I get a little icon on my desktops and a dialog box that asked me if I wanted to import the new photos.

Now, for me, this dialog box was misleading. I understand that the default behavior of the program is to copy the photos locally to your Pictures folder and then remove them from the device. Uh, not exactly, what I want to happen in a multi-boot, multi-OS household. However, I was so excited that it worked so smoothly and quickly that I clicked the damn button anyway and ....

All it did was bring up gthumb with all my photos ready to copy over to the hard drive. It did not copy the photos locallly or wax them from my camera. The dialogue may be a bit misleading but it did exactly what I really wanted it to do.

I just highlighted all the photos with a select all and drug over with a copy into my Family folder underneath my Pictures directory.

Hell, that was slick and easy. I also found just last night that atrpms and dag repositories both carry ltmodem and madwifi drivers. Oh, hell w00t! Progress is good and if I had done better research I could have saved myself a compile in the process.


User Journal

Journal: 7 things I miss about Linux

Journal by ACK!!

So, here I am stuck on a windoze box at work.

Yes, for the three years previous to this vaunted position I worked from a linux desktop. Sure, my last job had us all on Suse but at least it was linux right?

Anyway, I have read more than a few reviews of linux from a Windows user's experience and viewpoint. So as a pretty steady linux user, what do I miss about linux?

1. I miss that damn middle click paste.

I mean hell I have three button logitech mice for a reason. Other people complain about cut and paste in linux but for goodness sakes I typically use only gtk2 apps anyway so I almost always shrug my shoulders and never really got all this cut-n-paste angst among some linux converts. In fact, I miss my little highlight text and paste it into a window without keyboard acrobatics and the right click context menu stuff.

2. I miss multiple desktops.

Sure I got Virtual Dimension right off the bat. I did not bat an eye or pass go or collect 200 dollars. I went straight out and found this app and I have pretty damn happy with it but its still not quite the same at all. From Windows centric funkiness in window size behavior to the fact that its not embedded in the panel so I can cover it up with windows and .... Well, it just ain't the same.

3. I miss that damn bash command line.

Yeah, I know all the gnu stuff on windows crap and I have installed that before to get some apps to compile on windows for uses and stuff. But the path issue gets weird between a forward slash here and reverse slash there and scripts work oddly and some things just refuse to compile or you have to go through hoops that would make a contortionist take their own lives and it still just is not the same.

4. I miss well organized application menus.

Oh yeah, that came out of left field now didn't it? I hate that vendor specific menu crap. The start menu is a clutter fuck mess and web of entries that can span all across your desktop with each vendor having their own entry. If you did not personally install the OS and all the apps one by one, finding crap can be a hunt fest. Hence, this is the reason so many windows folks even the ones that know what the hell they are doing typically have a desktop cluttered with shortcuts to apps.

5. I mess a well organized control center.

Uh huh, yeah I said and what are you going to do about it?

The windows control center is a one stop dump all the crap all into window freakin' mess. I mean with SuSE in KDE it may be a huge maze of stuff and options but at least its organized. I mean come one even with Fedora all the stuff lies underneath three well-marked logical menu subdirs of Preferences, Systems Settings, and System Tools. With Windows all that crap is just kind of dumped into one big window. Ugh.

6. Uniform look and feel.

You are laughing right now aren't you?

Hush right now and listen.

What if the user does not like using Microsoft only products, huh? What about that?

No, really. Here I am and Microsoft Office is perfectly integrated and all the apps have the same look and feel and widgets are all uniform and everything is wonderous and grand with the world. Then I fire up Firefox. After all, who in their right mind uses Internet Exploder anymore?

What if I want a decent app to listen to mp3s with? I use iTunes and that look and feel is completely different than other MS apps.

Wait a sec, what if I use gaim in Windows? There you go once again a different look and feel even though in some ways AOL's AIM is not exactly the most windows perfect app for look and feel either. vim for Windows and putty and Firefox and iTunes and Firefox all have different looks and feels to them. Sure, I guess I could find MS equiv products for the most part but damn I had a more uniform look and feel using Linux. Then again I use the gtk2 equipped version of Firefox and rarely launch OpenOffice since Abiword improved its table support. I mean come on I don't get that many Power Point files sent to me at home and gnumeric beats the socks off of Calc.

7. I miss Nautilus scripts.

And I think I am the only one. Listen, one of the neatest nifty tricks in Nautilus is the ability to run shell scripts on files from the scripts menu. I think it is one of the clear advantages over other file managers where I admit fully Konqueror or Windows Explorer tends to beat out Nautilus in many other ways. Still, I like being able to highlight six postscript files and convert them to pdf files without dropping to the command line or convert ogg files to mp3 and back again with the naudilus script or maybe open a terminal in any window I happen to be browsing through with Nautilus just in case I do want a command line. I miss being able to highlight a file adn scp it in one shot. Ok, maybe its just me.

Does this mean there are not things about Windows I miss when I go to linux?

Sure, I miss being able to burn an audio CD from Rhythmbox directly like I do with iTunes.

I miss not having a decent Visio equiv for network drawings.

Its nice to know that any odd piece of crap piece of hardware will work with no big issues on my windows box. Yes, I still have to recompile the madwifi stuff because I did not check the HCL before buying my Netgear wireless card every single time I upgrade my kernel and the same goes for the days when all I had was a lucent technologies winmodem in my laptop. Yeah, the recompiles are painless but they are also a reminder I am still using an alternative OS.

But still, the transfer from Linux to Windows was not as painless or perfect as I imagined.

User Journal

Journal: Selling Macs

Journal by ACK!!

Ok, Apple is doing well.

Its consumer electronics hit the iPod is the hot gift for Christmas and the stock is doing well.

So in my simple opinion, it is the perfect time to expand the market share for Macs in general.

There is something I notice about people who own Macs. They love them. An odd habit (not the only I have btw) is that when I see a person in a cafe or restaurant with a iBook or Powerbook I always ask, "How do you like your Mac?"

I have yet to have one person put down the Mac experience or even come off as middle of the road in their response.

Always, the response is pure love of this machine.

So what could Apple do to expand its marketshare?

The price break for its most loved machines the Powerbooks are still a bit steep for the majority of the world.

Appeals to Think Different in a consumer world frightened by the idea of unproven tech or not being behind the standard will not work.

Appeals to be a Switcher emphasizes the pain of moving platforms and is doomed to increase share by large margins.

But where in the iPod have they succeeded? They appealed to the consumer on the basis of the cool factor for an iPod. And its worked.

People say this approach would not work for a computer but I must disagree and I look back to history for a basis to this claim.

The Macs were as bland and nasty looking as a PC but the performance diff distinct between the first generation of Pentiums and the Power PC chips Apple lost market share. One of the biggest complaints lately is that the Apples are not as fast as the Intel based PCs but fast never got Apple major market share.

So what Mac based successes have they had recently?

Think about the marketing push during the intro of the first iMacs.

Simple commercials showing off the pure cool factor of these candy looking boxes. Might not have been for everyone but enough people thought they were cool enough to make for a success.

Did the first Apple laptops or Powerbooks makes such a splash because they were so innvative in terms of technology?

I don't think so.

They had slick marketing campaign focused on a top notch cool factor computer. They had stars talking about what was on their Powerbook.

The product was just hot cool. And the marketing focused on that.

So back to the question. How does Apple expand its market share?

Two things:

1. Cut prices enough to get good trade press. Computer pundits love to bust on the Macs in terms of cost to value. Don't eliminate the profit entirely of course but cut the prices just enough to get some good press.

2. Launch a huge marketing campaign focused on just the pure coolness of the Mac line. Slick commercials with no tech jargon showing how much people love their Macs.

Lots of handsome cool people with their Macs in different situations. The only thing that is said in the commercial is maybe a line or two from these cool people on how much they love their Macs. Then you have the big banner that they are now so many dollars cheaper.

With the stock up and the confidence high in the Apple company, now is the best time in the world to focus on expanding share in their computers.

Thus mathematics may be defined as the subject in which we never know what we are talking about, nor whether what we are saying is true. -- Bertrand Russell