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User Journal

Journal Journal: Gnome

You know, I'm usually a KDE-kinda man; however, I've installed Fedora Core 4 and am now attempting to remain sane. What the hell's up with editing your Applications menu?! No, seriously, how do you do it? This is the most non-intuitive piece of UI-crap I've ever had the misfortune to use. Only programmer arrogance can account for such an atrocity.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Neat, just finished my first eCommerce website!

My first, and possibly last :/, eCommerce website:


Was definitely a learning experience in PHP/MySQL--I'd played around with both, but this was the first time I used them in a hopefully-money-making website.

Anyway, if anyone has suggestions about frameworks for future eCommerce endeavors, I'd gladly listen to them!
User Journal

Journal Journal: Gave FreeBSD a try a few weeks ago 1

The install was pretty much a slam dunk. Nothing that someone who's installed Debian or Slackware would have a problem with (or, the case here, Gentoo).

Things seemed so straightforward, everything made sense. But spending time in the CLI (non-X) was getting to be a chore, as the screen was the stock 80x25 character cell resolution. I like a nice, big CLI resolution, so looking at large-ish directories takes only one screen--you can see it all without paging up.

Since Linux makes this pretty trivial, I thought that a *BSD would, too. But it doesn't. I did get a higher resolution, but the screen flickered way too much, almost to the point of physical nausea. After a bit of Googling, I noticed that others had run into this "problem" (in quotes, since apparently it's not a problem at all with *BSD, otherwise they would've fixed it, right?), and I found one thread of people talking about patches that might fix it.

You know, I can't really think of a reason why this wouldn't be a nice, simple thing for the *BSD guys to hack out. And, for me, X simply doesn't have the readable fonts that a pure CLI screen has.

Anyway, to make a long story short (I know, I know, too late), I reformatted and reinstalled Gentoo. I need a *nix variant for school work, and Gentoo fits the bill; in addition, I get a *great* CLI environment to develop in.

Maybe in a few years I'll check back.
User Journal

Journal Journal: GMailin'

When it comes to networking (in the human sense of the word) and making things happen, I leave a lot to be desired. Fact is, I'm more comfortable making a computer dance than I am making lasting, personal contact with other folk. With that in mind, my initial stab at getting a GMail invite were painfully bad. When I realized that I would only get a GMail account once it leaves beta, I decided to cave in and ask my wife to do her networking thing.

Now, my wife is a human networking machine. She seems plugged in EVERYWHERE. But I'm thinking that only geeks manage to get GMail invites (making my failure that much more troubling), and she'd never be able to get one.

Well, a few days after I asked, she sent me the invite. Maybe there's more to this human networking thing than I'd imagined!

GMail is an interesting service--it seems to perform the task of e-mail client pretty nicely, though I have sent an occasional e-mail that the recipient swears up and down they didn't receive (I'll chalk those up to growing pains, but if it continues past the beta, then GMail will be pretty much useless as a business tool). However, it handles the task of e-mail client in a decidedly different manner than your typical e-mail client.

I'm comfortable with creating folders and categorizing my received e-mails by dragging them to their respective folder. GMail simply doesn't do this. You create labels and apply them to various received e-mails. These labels are then used for viewing all of your "saved" e-mails. Think of a label as a displayed e-mail filter. You can click on a link having the name of a label, and your inbox will then display only e-mails having that label. I suppose it's a lot like creating folders, with the exception that ALL of your e-mails display in your inbox until your choose a label.

What is a good idea is that of threaded e-mail message chains. For instance, you send an e-mail with the subject "Have you finished your quarterly report?". The recipient replies "Re: Have you..." and asks a question to help him finish. You give him a reply to the question. Basically this back in forth produced by clicking the Reply button instead of creating a new e-mail represents a conversation between you and the recipient, and all e-mail clients I've used before GMail display each Reply as a seperate e-mail. GMail displays the e-mail chain as a single e-mail message, and when you look at the e-mail you see the entire e-mail conversation thread. This is quite excellent, and cuts down on a cluttered inbox; however, it does NOT work if you have people (my wife!) who start totally different conversations in a thread. When that occurs, no longer is an e-mail conversation about a particular topic, it's about every single thing that's popped into someone's head. So, I could have a thread whose first subject is "What do you want for dinner?", and later in the thread suddenly is a conversation about christmas present ideas for my daughter, or information about people that I need to contact. In these cases, the idea of an e-mail thread loses its effectiveness and starts to become a hindrance to efficient e-mail usage.

Overall, I'd say that I'm pretty pleased with my GMail account. Once I get more use to using Google's particular brand of e-mail client, I'll probably never want to use another system.

And nothing says big ol' geek more than :)
User Journal

Journal Journal: Got Those Back To School Blues

Well, I was unemployed for about 18 months a little over a year ago. It was voluntary (wanted to watch my newborn daughter grow up a bit), but I had intended it to last only 9 months or so. Unfortunately, almost immediately after I left, 9/11 happened and the job market tanked. Even though I had 7 or so years of experience as a Programmer/Analyst, my resume simply wouldn't get past the HR firewall at companies (no Computer Science degree). Frustrating, to say the least.

I currently have a B.A. in English from '89, and am now going back to school to get my B.S. in Computer Science. Even though I have a fantastic job now that feels really solid, I simply can't let the lack of a degree put me in such a bad place again.

And you know what? It's a blast! My firt time through a University, I really could've cared less about my classes or learning, but this time around it's so intellectually stimulating. Pretty cool, learning about the theory of things I've done over the years.

One thing, though--I don't remember it being SO expensive! Good lord, I feel sorry for those kids with 10's of thousands of dollars in student loans.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Linux on the desktop

Well, I've now played with/tried a number of different Linux distributions for a full-time desktop machine for use at home. At first blush, they were all beautiful, perfect machines--seemingly perfect replacements for the Windows 2000 that had been on the machine!

Setup under Red Hat and Mandrake were a breeze, setup under Gentoo was, well, an experience, but an intellectually gratifying one. The former two's setup applications were brain-dead easy for someone somewhat familiar with computers, and even easier for a software developer. Gentoo does everything from the command line, forcing the user to learn more about Linux than they might want (meaning, of course, it's not for folk who just want to setup and start using their computers).

My NVidia card was a problem, as it is for a lot of fine folk based on google searches. Of course, if you can do without hardware acceleration, there's no problem, as XFree86 provides a perfectly acceptable NVidia driver. But I ended up setting it up without TOO much trouble

My Sound Card was recognized properly by both Mandrake and Red Hat. On Gentoo, I had to peruse the ALSA documentation to figure out what driver was needed, but all-in-all not a big deal. Sound worked.

I chose KDE as my DE, as I'm in complete disagreement with Gnome's philosophy of simpler is better. I LIKE MDI interfaces, damnit, and to heck with folk who think it's worthless (probably tells you what I think of the Gimp's interface, but that's another topic for another day). My choice, and yours may vary. Anyway, KDE was installed without a problem (for Gentoo, the only problem was the time it took to compile every damn thing, but even that's a non-issue if you kick off the process before you go to bed--it's done by the time you come home from work the next day).

For day-to-day usage, Linux systems seem to be ok. However, all of the WM, DE, and X folk need to get together and agree on a SINGLE mechanism for copying/cutting/pasting. For those of you who say choice is good, I fart in your general direction. Choise is good in theming, basic operations need to be the same (possibly user alterable, but the default after install needs to be the same across the board).

Installing Java wasn't TOOOO nasty. Getting plugins for Mozilla was a pain. I like the nice simply way it works in the Windows world, though it obviously can be done in the Linux world, too.

Now, sound under KDE worked, or seemed to. Then I visited for my daughter to see. Wow, sound doesn't work in Flash for me. Go figure. After spending time googling I figured out you have to start Mozilla with artsd Mozilla. Silly me, I should have guessed! So, with sound now working in flash, I went back to the previously mentioned site. Sound, glorious sound... but, wait! The sound was choppy and completely out of Sync with what was displaying. I felt like I was watching a horribly voice-overed Japanese/Chinese movie. Not good.

Well, apparently others have this flash/sound problem as well. In the Linux world it's NICE to hear of other's misery instead of what you usually get--either "RTFM" or "works fine here." If others have had the problem, then there's a chance you can google and find the solution. Well, no joy for me here. Sound and flash simply don't play nice on MY particular setup.

At this point, after spending hours trying to get things just right, I've given up. In the end, I suppose I want my system to JUST WORK. I don't WANT to futz with settings, google for fixes, fight with drivers, etc. I just want my computer to work. So, back to Windows 2000 and computing bliss. I'll check back in a year or so. Perhaps by then the XFree licensing fiasco will be over, and installers will set things up right the first time.

And while I'm back in the Windows world, I'm sure I'll have saved up enough money to buy an Apple before MS Longhorn comes out.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Yahoo! Mail...

And for my first journal entry, I'd like to whine for a bit.

Now, free web-based e-mail sounds, on the surface, like an absolutely fantastic idea. You start to use it, and you're thinking, "Wow, this is a Good Thing!"

And then, one day, if your luck runs out, there's a software glitch and suddenly the account you've been using every day for months has been deactivated due to not having signed on for 4 months. Again, been using it multiple times each and every day since the account was opened, and the account was terminated due to inactivity!

And your e-mail archive is gone. Poof. You send e-mails explaining your situation, you call and speak to a very friendly person who says they can't do a thing for you. Nothing. Your precious e-mail is gone.

The lesson? Don't use any free web-based system for things that you might consider even partially important!!

Read Yahoo!'s TOS, and you begin to understand the situation. Basically, they say that their system may, or may not work. It may work, but then stop working. It may eat your important and unimportant documents. They simply have no idea about the stability of their system, and they simply don't care. Go ahead and leave if you want, there are a million more who look just like you to take your place.

When you use a free system on the web, you basically are allowing yourself to become a simple number that will allow the company you're using to increase ad revenue (yeah, we got this guy clippyhater, so now we can charge you extra for the ads you want to display).

Arghh, painful lesson to learn.

BTW, it was actually my wife's account, as I use Yahoo! only as an e-mail account for signing up for BBSs/Slashdot/etc. Still sucks, though.

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