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Journal: My Stargate Universe: Air Review 1

Journal by petrus4

So I've just finished watching the three part pilot ("Air") of Stargate Universe. A lot of you already will have seen this, so spoilers won't matter so much. If you haven't seen it, and want to go into it completely cold though, proceed at your own risk.

Given how critical I'm possibly going to sound at times later in this review, I will say up front that I enjoyed this, (primarily the first two acts) and strongly recommend it to anyone who likes character-driven science fiction. I have more problems with the third act, (particularly the resolution, which was a pure deus ex machina copout by the writers) but the first two acts represent the strongest sci fi pilot I've seen since either Firefly or Voyager, and one of the most impressive pilots I've seen overall.

To use one of the show's own expressions, "Air," comes in hot. It's earliest moments are arguably its' very best; there's a lot there to like. Joel Goldsmith deserves a very large part of the credit for that as well, with a soundtrack that created exactly the sort of vibe that I was expecting from the advance material I'd read, and really helped build suspense and an alien atmosphere. The sense of just how far the survivors are from home is palpable at times, too; a lot moreso than Voyager, where the distance was basically just an arbitrary number that got casually thrown around, most of the time.

Most of you will have a basic idea of what the series is about in broad strokes. A group of scientists go to a remote planet, (Icarus) to try and dial a gate address, in order to figure out what the mysterious ninth chevron of the Stargate is used for. If you're sufficiently new to the series that you don't know what the ninth chevron is, then you're likely going to need more orientation than I can give you in this review, although this episode of SGU tries to give you some.

Anyway, while they're doing this, the base gets attacked by unknown aliens with Goa'uld ships, during the dialing experiment, which initially fails. They're initially going to do the smart thing and dial back to Earth, but then Dr. Nicholas Rush (essentially SGU's answer to Zachary Smith of Lost in Space; that's a minor oversimplification, perhaps, but sadly not much) orders that the ninth chevron experiment be performed again. This time it connects, and the gate opens.

The Icarus attack was a little deus ex, but not hugely unforgiveable. I also would have actually preferred confirmation of whether or not they were in fact Goa'uld, rather than just Random Aliens of the Week(tm) who coincidentally had Goa'uld death gliders and Ha'taks. They also aren't given any motivation, either. They're just there, attacking, apparently because they got bored, and decided to shoot up a planet for something to do. We don't know.

The people on the base don't have anywhere else to go, and have no time to redial Earth. They go through, and the initial result of that is the opening scene.

That opening scene is executed very well, and is, as mentioned, probably the single best thing about this entire three hours. There's a very real sense that what has happened, has been the result of things majorly going south, with the ultimate turn of events being entirely unplanned.

The single main thing which unfortunately spoils the promise of the opening scene, is the inclusion of the Ancient stones which let the Icarus survivors contact Earth. It destroys most of the initial tension, and I really wish the writers could have resisted the need to give the characters an easy form of Earth communication, at least until a good way through the series. One of the things Voyager got right, was doing that during the last season, not the first.

%%

Originality here, if I'm honest, is largely absent. The episode did a very good job, during at least the first two acts, however, of giving me the impression that I was seeing something I hadn't seen before.

This, however, is something which needs some clarifying. SGU has a lot in common with Harry Potter in this respect. What do I mean by that?

I mean that the Harry Potter stories are made up of a collection of component stereotypes which, by themselves, are completely non-original; but the arrangement of said non-original elements is sufficiently unconventional as to still be interesting. SGU is similar; for anyone who's watched a lot of science fiction, the ingredients will taste very familiar, but the overall pizza comes together in an offbeat and satisfying way.

There have been comparisons of this with Star Trek: Voyager, although except for the initial premise in very broad terms, and the gritty, postmodern vibe, the two aren't really similar. I was also one of apparently very few people who liked Voyager, although I recognised that the two prerequisites of doing that were a) ignoring Janeway, (who far and away represented Voyager's biggest problem) and b) reading a lot of fanfic as well, and appreciating the show more for what it could have been, than what it actually was.

Voyager started off with a similar initial premise, but then dropped it when that show's writers considered it too risky. Whether or not MGM's writers do the same thing with SGU remains to be seen, although we can strongly hope that they don't. Then, of course, there was Firefly, which had a similar structure in some respects, but was canned by the suits for being too unconventional and intelligent, as well. Suits don't like taking risks, and it will be interesting to see whether or not MGM's writers are going to be able to retain control over the direction of this show.

In terms of resemblance to other series, however, the structure of SGU's pilot is very similar to what I remember from either Sliders or Quantum Leap. If you want to make comparisons with what has come before, Sliders in particular is a good fit. We're given the setup of the initial situation during the first and second acts, and the third act basically gives us our first "slide," or "leap;" in other words an example of what we're going to be seeing on a weekly basis.

The show has also added the following wrinkles to the usual gate travel formula:-
a) The ship which they're aboard is on autopilot, and travelling at faster than light speeds. Every so often it stops near a planet with a Stargate.

b) Once the ship stops, a timer counts down. The ship will only stay within proximity of the given Stargate for 12 hours, before moving on again. This adds some additional urgency to the usual pattern, and may also give us so interesting additional, as-yet-unforeseen consequences as well. This also adds to the degree of similarity with Sliders.

The one area where this show is somewhat original, (at least in terms of the first two acts) is in terms of the degree of solemnity and gravity. As other reviewers have noted, SG1 in particular was nearly always a lot more lighthearted than this; with only a few rare exceptions, there was never any real doubt that Our Heroes would get home in one piece, and everything would be OK in the end. Here, that's nowhere near as certain.

Both the humour and the deus ex machina don't really kick in until the third act; the first two are very much, to quote 4chan's subculture, serious business.

Until I realised the Zachary Smith connection at least, Dr. Rush also kept me guessing. It's difficult to figure out whether or not he really is the proverbial mad scientist, or if he genuinely isn't a bad guy, but sometimes just gets a little too fixated on pure science to remember some of the more important things; like, say, other people's lives. He is the closest thing the pilot has to an antagonist.

It's also very true, as another reviewer said, that Rush is in no way similar to Atlantis' Rodney McKay. McKay could be obnoxious, but was sporadically capable of genuine heroism as well, and when push came to shove, there was never any question of whose side he was on.

It's a bit disappointing just how strong the similarity is between Rush and Zachary Smith is at times, truthfully. There is at least one occasion where Rush nearly gets himself shot by one of the soldiers during the third act, and he does so by being foppishly, pompously antagonistic in almost exactly the same way that Smith would have done. Most of the time Rush's degree of subtlety is good, but occasionally he goes too far overboard.

Overall, although "Air," definitely has some flaws, the main impression was extremely positive, and I was wishing at the end of it that I could have watched more, which is always a positive sign. As long as the writers stay within the rules they've given themselves here, I will very much be interested to see where this goes.

Things I liked:-

- The opening scene.

- The fact that the lines between the civilian group, and the military group, are a lot more loosely defined in this show than they were in either SG1 or Atlantis. There are a lot more civilians here, and they act like civilian beaurecrats, too; in the sense that they whine, drum their heels, and throw tantrums, and they also expect soldiers to do everything they say, when the soldiers have guns and there's no one else around. There was one particular Indian woman who really should have been shot in the leg. ;)

- The production values. This show is expensive, and it shows. I wouldn't have had too much of an issue with seeing the special effects here, on a big screen, for the most part. The soundtrack is also amazing. The Stargate design is a lot more loyal to SG1 than Atlantis, too, which is welcome.

- Ming Na. She might be a little long in the tooth these days, but she's still hot. As embarassing as it is to admit, Chun Li was a major crush of mine as a teenager, even before the Street Fighter movie, so Ming Na portraying her there was pure icing on the cake. ;)

- The Icarus attack. Even though I had problems with those minor details, they weren't huge, and the attack did generate extra tension, and it looked cool, too. It just would have felt even more real if the attackers had some real motivation.

- The ship design. It's very much Atlantean/Ancient style, aesthetically, but rust brown in colour terms, rather than the Ancients' usual whites and blues.

- The SG1 cameos. Poor Daniel got stuck with newbie orientation duty, though. ;)

- Dr Rush's ambiguity, until I remembered Lost in Space.

Things I didn't like:-

- Most of the stuff related to the Senator. Although his death was a surprise at the time, it wasn't in hindsight. The scenes where his wife cries afterwards were simply boring for some reason, as well. Maybe I'm just a callous, uncaring jerk, but I just didn't care all that much.

- The introduction of the communication stones, which let the people on the ship easily communicate with Earth. The tension generated in the opening scene would have stayed if they hadn't been introduced, and again, I really wish they hadn't been.

- The derivative, deus ex machina cheat used to resolve the third act. A random, benevolent, acorporeal alien just happens to save someone's life at the 11th hour and 59th minute, and also just happens to lead said person directly to the McGuffin that they need to take back to the ship. How many times have we seen *that* before?

AMD

Journal: How can Linux even remotely hope to compete? 4

Journal by petrus4

I'm here at a cousin's place, using his iMac. I've only played some WoW and done some light browsing. Less than half an hour, and it's the first time I've used OSX for this long.

To provide some context, I've also used Linux on and off since the mid 90s, with my first exposure to FreeBSD in 1995. I currently run FreeBSD 7.1 at home.

With even this small amount of exposure to OSX, though, I honestly have to wonder why anyone is bothering to continue to use or develop Linux in particular at all. I can only assume that it's because they are either members of Richard Stallman's cult, or they can't afford a Mac.

Other than cost, I'm uncertain as to what IBM are smoking that is causing them to continue to promote Linux, and there is also the question of how much more perfectly good money Mark Shuttleworth is willing to flush down the toilet before he recognises his lost cause for what it genuinely is, as well.

Do you have even a vague inkling of just how chronically redundant and pointless OSX has made your operating system, Linux users? Possibly for embedded applications, I can see a point, but in terms of the desktop, there is now truly no practical reason for Linux to exist at all.

OSX is the UNIX Holy Grail. It represents the realisation of a vision that has existed ever since UNIX was first implemented; more than 30 years. It is a stable, end-user friendly, fully certified, desktop version of UNIX that Just Works.(tm)

And Linux? ROFL. A comparitive analysis is an act of genuine cruelty to Tux. Aside from maybe Slackware or Arch, the only way to get a Linux desktop system that is not slow, bloated, unstable, broken garbage is to compile Linux From Scratch. The main reason why I'm now using FreeBSD at home, is because I want UNIX, I don't have the money for a Mac, and I got sick of the fact that custom compilation is the only way I could produce a Linux system that I could actually tolerate. I know none of you will admit this, but there is no major distribution for Linux that truthfully is not garbage.

There is no truly stable sound system for Linux. ALSA is an obscenity.

There is no desktop environment for Linux that is not either a) bloated as Hell, b) terminally unstable, or c) ugly. GNOME, in both technical and aesthetic terms, is raw sewage. With Ubuntu, it even literally looks like it.

There is only half-decent USB support for Linux via the addition of obscene, bloated kludges; HAL and DBUS.

Package management is a joke, and I'm no longer laughing. Binary upgrades of Ubuntu are renowned for destroying a working system, and I've had people casually mention the use of deborphan as though that is something which should be normal in 2009. That doesn't even mention the number of traumatic personal experiences I've had with rpm or dpkg, either.

The only reason why I can think of, aside from the cost issue, that anyone might have a vague incentive to keep using Linux, is in order to obtain the blessing of a certain obese, aging, chronically autistic, neo-Bolshevik hippie from Boston. Personally, the attainment of his blessing is not something I consider a high priority, especially given the degree of computer using hardship that is required in order to receive it.

Cost has always been a problem, but if I'm able to get hold of $3000 or so AUD any time soon, I now know what I'm going to be doing with it. FreeBSD is bearable, but even its' rough edges have been smoothed away with OSX.

Linus, as much as I hate to break it to you, the war is over, and you've well and truly lost. It's time to put your beloved baby penguin out of its' misery. The poor animal has dragged itself along the floor for close to 20 years now. It is needlessly suffering, and truthfully it's causing a lot of other people to suffer as well; primarily those who are quite happily using better operating systems, but who are continually harassed by FSF cultists who haven't got the memo. I know you've already been sent a Mac, but I'd also seriously recommend looking into whether or not Apple are hiring.

Software

Journal: Ask Slashdot: Any chance of a FOSS Tactile 3D equivalent?

Journal by petrus4

I was recently reminded of this application for Windows, Tactile 3D. It's a fully three dimensional file manager, and actually allows file operations to be performed within it, as well.

It looks cool aesthetically, but is cool to use in practical terms, as well; it allows for spatial relations between files, among other things.

It got me wondering; is there any possibility of an equivalent being developed for FOSS? Before you tell me to do it myself, I would, but I have no clue whatsoever where to start.

I feel that something like this, however, could be a major coup for Linux. I know Linux has compiz, but all the spinning cube really amounts to in practical terms is a cute way to access virtual desktops; there's no genuinely novel usability there.

With something like Tactile, however, there could be. So it would be good if we could find someone out there with the technical chops to be able to pull it off.

Operating Systems

Journal: The package management problem; We're not there yet. 1

Journal by petrus4

http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1359331&threshold=0&commentsort=1&mode=thread&cid=29326157

Although I originally reacted to this thread hysterically, I now recognise that the author of it was expressing a form of frustration which I myself share.

There has not yet been a solution to the package management problem, with which I have been completely satisfied either. More work very much needs to be done in this area, and the existing system(s) still need further refinement.

Journal: Idle is now being totally screened by my account

Journal by petrus4

The amount of material which I receive from idle.slashdot.org has now been changed to none.

I am already exposed at home, to a far greater degree than I would like, (due to my other relatives) to indescribably moronic reality TV shows, game shows, celebrity gossip, and various other forms of diversion from the steadily increasing degree of fascism which exists within Western society. I therefore am not going to tolerate exposure to the same type of material anywhere online, where I have the ability to choose what I am exposed to.

The inclusion of Idle is strongly unappreciated by me; I'd almost go as far as to consider it a form of spam, if not for the fact that thankfully I am able to remove it.

I used to consider Slashdot to be primarily intellectually oriented in nature. Idle is the direct opposite.

Debian

Journal: Needed information if I'm going to retry Debian 3

Journal by petrus4

I'm aware I've been a fairly savage troll where Debian is concerned in the past, however, I am also willing to concede that it is possible that I have been narrow minded and prematurely dismissive, and I am willing to have another look at the system.

However, in order to do that, I am going to need some documentation on two key areas, which I would appreciate being given links to in response to this article.

The area is apt-get. With both Ubuntu and Debian proper, I have had problems where, in trying to uninstall packages that I truly do not need, (such as cups, because I don't have a printer) I have ended up with literally half the operating system going with it, because Open Office got uninstalled as a result, and then many other optional dependencies as a consequence of that.

So if anyone could show me where I can read about how to cleanly uninstall optional dependencies (like cups) without taking the rest of the system with it, I would appreciate it.

The second area is Debian's configuration for installed applications. Apparently with things like vim, I can't simply write a ~/.vimrc and have it work, because Debian's system-wide vim configuration is not only designed to override that, but to also specify that vim configuration needs to be put somewhere else. I need to read about where I can consistently expect to be able to put my own customisations for applications, if I can't make dotfiles in the home directory.

The third area is kernel compilation. I will admit that I didn't try this in Debian proper, but when I tried to recompile a kernel under Ubuntu with DKMS, it failed on three consecutive occasions, and on trying to figure out the problem, it was apparently due to errors in the perl scripts which are supposed to automate the process. I used to find non-automated (in terms of DKMS) recompilation on Slackware to actually be fairly easy, but with DKMS there seems to be a lot more potential points of failure. I'm going to need to thoroughly understand DKMS if I'm going to be able to successfully navigate past those.

If people can give me some info about these points, I will reinstall Debian on a spare machine I have here, and attempt to give it a genuinely fair hearing. I truthfully haven't found the system to be very discoverable in the past, but if I'm armed with the information that I've outlined above, I think it would get to the point where I could use it in a productive way.

GNU is Not Unix

Journal: Why does Linux have to rule the desktop?

Journal by petrus4

I keep seeing stories like the one that has been posted to Slashdot recently, about people writing that "Linux isn't ready for the desktop."

We've all been seeing them for years now, and I've noticed that whenever we do, there are a number of very passionate individuals arguing that everyone possible must be converted to Linux, no matter what; that without fail, the community will not rest until Linux has completely supplanted Windows as the global mainstream operating system of choice.

However, whenever I see the above arguments being made, I can only ever hear one question echoing intensely in my head.

Why?

Why does Linux have to become the single, universal OS?

Most especially, why are Linux advocates and developers so desperate, even frantic, to do whatever they can to pander to the lowest common denominator? To people who will be satisfied with nothing less than the complete destruction of the command line, and anything which has made Linux in any way unique?

In answering this question, there's a point that said developers and advocates need to remember, which I don't think they do remember, most of the time.

That point is that, at one time, the vast majority of the current generation of them were Windows users themselves. They came to Linux at an earlier time, and why did they do that?

1. Linux was more stable than Windows.

If you think this is still true, try installing Ubuntu for a couple of weeks, and you will be given a graphic demonstration of just how much the mad scramble for the lowest common denominator is really harming Linux. I saw people coming into the Ubuntu help forum on literally a minute by minute basis, and the story was very consistent; Ubuntu became a system which simply dumped them out at a black screen, and would not boot at all.

I didn't have that problem, but I did have ALSA crashing randomly throughout the month Ubuntu was on my system. I also had the kernel crash and panic at one point, to the degree that a new kernel install was required, and my nVidia drivers could not be installed again after that. Trying to compile a custom kernel also would not work; the process failed at around three different points.

I also took gdm out of init, in order to create a scenario where I could load World of Warcraft exclusively with X, so I didn't have the RAM overhead of GNOME when I wasn't going to be using it. When I did that, the entire system started falling apart. Sound didn't work at all outside gdm, and terminals couldn't access the system variables that govern shells; I wasn't getting my custom bash prompt, but simply a dollar sign. For bash to be in any way related to gdm is completely non-orthogonal.

2. Linux was more secure than Windows.

This might still be true, but with the way things are going, I'm not sure how much longer it will be true for. I can very easily foresee a scenario where Linux's built-in super/non-superuser model is compromised, a la Windows, all in the name of making sure that the system is easier for the all-important end user. If that is done, then Linux's single main defense against virii and cracks will be gone, and in terms of practical security, you'll be right back at the same level as Windows.

3. Linux is no longer UNIX.

I've just installed FreeBSD over the last weekend, and I'm amazed at how truly different it is to virtually any recent distribution I've used. Most of you would see that as an achievement; something to be proud of. I don't.

The single main difference between Linux and the BSDs is that the BSD developers are very conscious of the fact that what they are developing and using is, first and foremost, a UNIX operating system.

To the Linux community, however, UNIX has become a swear word. It's a source of embarassment. The Linux community doesn't want Linux to be a member of the UNIX family tree at all, any more. It wants Linux to be nothing more than a Richard Stallman-approved, identical clone of Microsoft Windows. If you get your wish here, you will then likely wonder why you bothered to leave Windows in the first place.

I have read Eric Raymond's book, The Art of UNIX Programming, which clearly outlines the earlier UNIX philosophy. Far too little of the software currently being developed for Linux, (especially GUI software) is conformant with this philosophy.

Instead, we have bloated, appallingly designed, excessively complicated, IPC-infested garbage, written mostly by Windows refugees who think they know better than 40 years' worth of accumulated history and experience. It is, of course, also written for the express purpose of emulating Windows as closely as possible, apparently right to the bug-for-bug level being the ultimate goal, if Ubuntu's chronic instability is any indication.

Linux's UNIX heritage is the sole source of any technical superiority which the operating system might have had over Windows. UNIX's root security model was the reason for Linux's increased security, and the UNIX development methodology was responsible for Linux's additional stability and clarity of administration.

The above mentioned benefits are at this point, in danger of disappearing from Linux more or less entirely. Again, if you don't believe me, all you need to do in order to prove my assertion here is install either Debian or Ubuntu in particular.

If you want to also see just how far away from being a real UNIX system Linux has gone, install FreeBSD.

4. Pandering to the lowest common denominator.

Let's be honest, here. Let's get rid of the euphemism and the doublespeak. In talking about making Linux, "ready for the desktop," we're really talking about making it usable by the borderline intellectually disabled. The core assumption that Microsoft made was that the person using Windows was literally semi-vegetative, and unfortunately, a lot of the people I saw arriving in the Ubuntu forum genuinely seemed to bear out that assumption.

It also makes sense, given that this is the goal, why there is an apparent need for any association with Linux and UNIX to be ruthlessly expunged. UNIX is or was, first and foremost, an operating system designed by, and for, some of the most intelligent human beings on the planet. That isn't a statement of hollow elitism, either; it's the simple, naked truth.

What I don't understand, however, is why there is such a push to seduce the Lloyd Christmas demographic to Linux. Linux is nearly always free as in beer; virtually nobody is making any money, here. So what's the incentive?

Think about this, Linux developers and advocates. Really think about it. I honestly don't know the answer myself, so I'm asking you to tell me, and also think about it long and hard for your own sake as well.

Linux Business

Journal: Starting with Linux

Journal by petrus4

I first wrote this back in 2005, and had a number of comments on a blog from people about how it had helped them, so I thought I'd dig it up and repost it here.

First of all, grab Knoppix, burn it to a CD, and spend a few days (or a few weeks, whatever you feel comfortable with) playing with it. Unless you go into the install option, the base CD doesn't install anything to the hard drive, so you can't harm anything. This is a completely safe, non-intimidating way for you to initially get your feet wet.

2. While you're exploring Knoppix, there are a few things to read which will really help you. This [tldp.org] will give you a very good introduction to Linux, in terms of a little history of the system, how to begin using it, and how some basic things work. Here [tldp.org] is another in-depth document about using Linux, leading on from the previous one.

3. Once you've gone through those two, (take as much time as you need) this [tldp.org], written by the same man as the introduction, will introduce you to the Bash shell, the textual command interpreter where with Linux, you'll likely be spending a lot of your time. This will ease you into scripting in what I think will be a very non-intimidating way. You will be able to try out all of these exercises with the Knoppix CD, and again, because the CD doesn't install anything to the hard drive, you needn't worry about destroying your existing system's contents while you learn. This [tldp.org] is another book on Bash scripting which to a degree follows on from that one, and will go into somewhat greater depth. Both of these should lead to you feeling very comfortable writing shell scripts and moving around to a degree on the system.

4. Here [tldp.org] is where we get to some meat. This document goes into compiling and installing generic Linux/UNIX software, and offers some basic applications and examples. Once you've gone through this, coupled with the material above, you should now have sufficient understanding to be able to compile and install at least a basic application yourself.

5. The [tldp.org] Pocket Linux Guide will take you step by step through the process of learning to make a small, bootable Linux system on two floppy disks. Although compiling a basic custom kernel is part of this process, the Guide contains a link to another document which explains very clearly how to do this, and given the background you will have received from the previous documents, this should not be difficult.

6. Once you have completed the Pocket Linux Guide, you will then be ready to proceed to this [linuxfromscratch.org] site, which is the homepage of the Linux From Scratch Project. Here you will be able to read an HTML-formatted book which will give you the necessary information to successfully build an entire base Linux system of your own, and a more pure boot CD than Knoppix to initially build it upon. The Linux From Scratch Project also has a sequel book, Beyond Linux From Scratch, which describes how to install, among other things, a full graphical user interface with the X Windows system.

Role Playing (Games)

Journal: How WoW really does wreck lives

Journal by petrus4

(This is my response to the article with the same name)

I've only been playing since May.

I tried forming my own guild a bit back...everyone ended up leaving at around level 40 to go and be a member of one of the "leet" end-game guilds on our server. (Jubei'Thos) I let them go and didn't protest it or complain in the end...although in the process of forming the guild, I lost a real-life friend who started power tripping and getting me to resign as GM. I kicked him out...but it broke up soon after anywayz. Now I just do WC and other lowbie instance runs, recruit newbs, help them get to level 40, and then let them leave if they want to...as well as playing on the auction house. Either that or log on, have a few rounds of wsg, and log off again.

The competitive and guild aspect really started stressing me out for a while as well...I learned some lessons.

a) If you're going to play this game at all, make the only person who you compete with yourself. Don't care about what anyone else is doing, if they have a mount, etc. Make your advancement about you and only you. I'm near level 45 and I still don't have a mount, but I don't really give a shit...I'm farming and using Auctioneer, and I'll get there eventually...but there are MUCH more important things in life.

b) Do not go near guilds. Any guild at all. Do not form one, and do not join one. Guilds are the *sole* reason for the addictive element of this game. They're also the sole reason for any pain and suffering that you will experience. If you play unguilded, you will have no trouble playing casually. 90+% of this game's addictive factor is associated with guilding, social interaction within said guild, social *pressure* within said guild, and competing with others within said guild. So, remember the mantra:- Play unguilded, play safe.
Don't worry about instances, either. pickup groups are always available. Yes, they're a bit more hit or miss in the short term, but they won't do you anything like the long term damage that a guild will.
The justification for the guild system is primarily that you won't get to experience raid content (or are at least very unlikely to) without guild membership. That is true, but here's something else that's true which you probably didn't know. The largest raid instances in the game are generally only played by >5% of the entire playerbase, whether you're in a guild or not, and that is by deliberate design. The 25-40 man instances at least are there specifically for the hard core no life crowd, and usually, they require having no other life in order to be able to access them. You have to be a member of a guild, you have to put up with all the social/political bullshit that goes along with that, and in many instances you have to do a horrific faction reputation grind as well. Stick to 5 mans or pvp; you'll be able to do your own thing, and will experience a lot less pain generally.

c) Do not play this game with real life friends, or with anyone with whom you have a relationship that you do not want to lose...ESPECIALLY do not guild with them. Some of the rl friends I lost I had been friends with for close to a dozen years before playing this game.

d) Realise that for the most part, this game dies after around level 30. Once you get past that point, there is simply a long, hard, fairly tedious slog up to the end game instances.

Slashdot.org

Journal: The 12 Rules of Slashdot

Journal by petrus4

The Rules of Slashdot

1) You can't talk about the rules of Slashdot.

2) Never read the article before commenting on it.

3) Anything proprietary is bad. Anything open-source/free-software is good.

4) Information wants to be free. So IP theft is OK and encouraged.

5) All patents are BAD and should be abolished.

6) Practicality is irrelevant. Running Linux on any piece of hardware that was not meant to run Linux such as a toaster, toilet, or toothbrush is considered uber cool and totally 133t.

7) If you have stolen source code from a previous employer (see Death Star) use the GPL to liberate and protect it, then post it anonymously on the Internet. Using a free hosting site like SourceForge(tm) works best.

8) Open-source/free-software really is communism but you can't admit this publicly. Flame into submission anyone that even hints at the communist connection.

9) Software licenses don't destroy jobs, CEO's do. It is OK for open-source/free-software to destroy domestic software jobs. It is BAD when domestic software jobs are sent overseas "off-shored" to countries with cheap labour rates such as India or China. Yes, hypocrisy is sweet.

10) Those who actually do the work don't waste their time posting on Slashdot.

11) Trolls that push the Slashdot agenda are GOOD. Trolls that offer a differing viewpoint are BAD. Yes, the hypocrisy is again sweet.

12) Slashdot is the new world order and all your base are belong to us!

The above was written by MajorDongle in response to Rob Enderle. I agree heartily with all of it, particularly Rules 8, 10, and 11.

Linux Business

Journal: Some Linux advocacy 2

Journal by petrus4

People who've read what I write on Slashdot will know that I'm generally a vicious troll. (I actually just had one commenter suggest that I try suicide as a form of therapy)

That being the case, I decided to mention something which I *do* feel enormously positive about...a couple of wonderful Linux distributions, and why I like Linux in general.

  • First off, Slackware. I love this. It's the first distro I used. It's very clean, clear, and (for me anyway) simple. A base install has an extremely small memory footprint. Also, if you add pkgsrc to it you'll have a great form of package management as well. You can read some testimonials about pkgsrc here, and you can also read about how to install pkgsrc with Slackware here. It might not be as good as Ubuntu for new users, but for people who know their way around and who want a hardware efficient system, (maybe for use on older hardware, or just if you like keeping ram free) you might like it.
  • Gentoo. From what little I've seen, it seems to have a wonderful design, and I've also read about Daniel Robbins being a truly masterful Bash scripter. The package management system was inspired by ports, which I'm also very fond of, and apparently the discovery of the source building process was instrumental in forming the Linux From Scratch Project.
  • Linux From Scratch. Although I'm a great fan of Slackware, LFS is overwhelmingly my distro (if it can be called that) of choice. As the book for it says, it produces a wonderfully clean, compact base system, which you can then use to install whatever else you like. Needless to say, there's also no better way than LFS to learn how a Linux system works at a deep level. LFS's other main virtue is that you don't get anything that you don't want or aren't likely to use, which in other cases might either waste system resources or even pose a security risk.
  • FreeBSD. This of course isn't a Linux distro, but is the other FOSS *nix system. I recently did a couple of network installs of 6.1-RELEASE, and aside from some initial hiccups with fdisk, found it a joyous experience. The Ports Collection is the single greatest form of package management that I have ever used, and for me anyway the combination of freshports.org and the portaudit and portupgrade commands were a dream not only in terms of user friendliness, and ports is also considerably more robust than forms of package management for Linux that I have used. The handbook is great, and I was also amazed at how much more simple it is to compile a FreeBSD kernel. Compiling the Linux kernel usually takes me a lot longer. Installing VLC in FreeBSD was also actually easier for me than an initial codec install is in Windows...pkg_add meant I was literally watching video in minutes, and I had no codec issues either. An easy (if a bit more time consuming) install of the nVidia video card drivers meant I was able to play Neverball, a visually beautiful, fully 3D FOSS game which is also available from Ports. I was able to install GAIM in order to use the MSN messenger service as well.

    Some people will probably find the early stages of a FreeBSD install a bit bumpy, and it's true that FreeBSD hasn't quite caught up to Linux in terms of hardware support yet, (although it's still very comprehensive) but if you can forgive those two nitpicks, it's very much worth the download, especially considering how good ports is. I was particularly surprised at how good multimedia support is via ports these days, and precocious newbies shouldn't have too much trouble following the handbook 's instructions for compiling their own kernel.

So why do I use Linux or FreeBSD? I will admit that I come down very strongly on the Raymondian/"open source" side of the ideological fence. My use is motivated primarily by a passionate belief in the technological superiority of UNIX in general, and an appreciation of the vast additional flexibility which the availability of source code allows. Specifically, however:-

  • Automation. I can start a make script for LFS, turn the monitor off and go to bed, and wake up nine hours later with a fully installed Linux system. For most Linux/BSD users, such a thing is probably very old news, but as far as I know that degree of unattended automation simply is not possible in a Windows environment. As is written here, a need for automation was one of the motivations behind UNIX's early design, and it is still an enormous strength of the operating system, to a degree that Windows has never been able to match.
  • Robustness. Except for some minor issues with X Windows at times, I can have total assurance when using a Linux or FreeBSD system that the only time anything is going to go wrong is when *I* screw up, unlike in Windows where I can be entirely passive and the system will decide to entirely randomly die on its' own. Although my own usage scenarios probably aren't anywhere near as demanding as most people's, I also still feel a need for an operating system that can take whatever I have to throw at it. Slackware/LFS and FreeBSD can do that.
  • Security. For the most part, the malware problem endemic to Windows simply does not exist with Linux or FreeBSD. I also have the option to do hardened compiles of my system's software which largely eliminates the possibility of buffer overflow/asm shellcode based attacks. There is also a tremendous degree of psychological peace of mind. When in a Windows environment, I periodically feel a need to monitor running processes in order to ensure that they all actually belong to me and that the system is not being compromised by a rogue process. With a sound firewall under Linux or FreeBSD, that is largely a given, allowing me to relax.
  • Flexibility. When, for example, I wish to run a 3D game within Linux/FreeBSD, I can write a custom .xinitrc file so that either Wine or the game itself is the *only* thing which X Windows runs. I can also kill *all* background processes, effectively turning my desktop PC into the equivalent of a console with regards to the machine's entire hardware resources being devoted purely to the game. This allows a level of gaming performance which again, simply is not possible within a Windows environment. More generally, I never have to have anything on my machine other than exactly what I want, with none of what I don't.
  • Price. Although the commercial Linux distributions are not free as in beer, the ones I generally use are. Linux or the BSDs allow the possibility of a corporation hiring a consultant/s to put together an entirely customised operating system, built from scratch, for zero software or registration cost. The TCO implications of this are surely staggering, even if education is taken into consideration, and I do not understand why more organisations haven't done this.
  • Consistency. Both Debian and the BSDs have the capacity for the operating system to be installed once, and then never have to be re-installed for the life of the hardware. The entire operating system and applications can be maintained/upgraded on an incremental basis, within a system the programming API of which has remained stable for over 30 years. No other operating system on the planet that I know of can make that claim, and for change averse corporations or governments, I don't know why you'd use anything else. Contrast it in particular with another operating system we are well acquainted with, but shall here remain nameless. ;)

    The capacity for incremental upgrades of a stable base over time also means that organisations are able to deploy the latest innovations, but not at a rate faster than their retraining budget/timetable is able to cope with; that's the best of both worlds.

So in closing, if there's anyone reading this who by some chance has still only ever used Windows, I definitely recommend grabbing Slackware and diving in. As a convenience, Windows has it's place...I still use it for a few different things. However, depending on what you do with a computer, you may find that you can discover some uses for FOSS UNIX as well. If nothing else, a rescue CD for the next time Windows crashes could just end up being a lifesaver.

Software

Journal: PCMan File Manager

Journal by petrus4

Another entry in the "RAM saver" category, this is one which was mentioned by someone on the #lfs-support IRC channel earlier today.

Although I haven't actually tried it out myself yet, the verdict on #lfs-support was that it's very good, and apparently also very fast and resource-efficient. If you're needing to put together a FOSS desktop environment for an older machine, or just like resource-efficient desktops yourself, you might want to give it a look.

Mozilla

Journal: Some Firefox tweaks I've come across

Journal by petrus4

For any of you who don't already know about these, I recently came across this article outlining a number of useful config modifications for Firefox. The main one I was interested in was the "minimise hack," which can radically reduce Firefox's memory consumption while it is minimised. Might be good for people without a huge amount of RAM.

When you don't know what you are doing, do it neatly.

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