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Journal Journal: Girlfriend moves to OSX, Sopranos comment, I go Gentoo

A few items:

My gf, after using Linux RH9+XD2 for a couple weeks, ultimately went to Mac OSX. I bought her the 17" iMAC. The 20" was tempting, but my wallet was already screaming in pain when I decided to go for the 17.

We caught the season finale of Sopranos last night. Let me tell you -- they really like to put in little side plots. Many of them go nowhere and many of them just twist the main plot line. Perfect example is the climax of this season. Tony's cousin could have easily started a massive mafia war, but at each time it could have exploded into gun fire, it didn't. Watching the last episode, they were about to cop out with paying off the vendeta, but then one of those small plot twists got most of the NY people arrested -- who knew!

Finally, I tried upgrading my old laptop (which had rh9+xd2) to Fedora. RH9->FC1 worked okay (few minor errors, few package removals to make yum work), but then FC1->FC2 bombed (rpm and DB became incomaptible). Instead of spending a week in dependency/compiling hell, I decided to spend a week in compiling Gentoo bliss! The result is that my old clunker laptop feels like brand new, everything runs so fast now that it's optimized.

Compile time notes on this P4M 1.7ghz laptop with 1GB ram:
- Basic system setup: 1 night
- Gnome: 1 night
- Mozilla: 5 hours
- OpenOffice: 10 hours

Overall, the install was fun -- been a long time since I fooled around with the guts of a distribution, but the fooling around ends and you do get a stable system.


Journal Journal: Girlfriend and Linux (Part 2)

Damnit... she's copying and pasting things, and Galeon will sometimes paste something that she coppied a while back, and not the thing she JUST coppied. I have a feeling this is a headache KDE might have solved. Damn.

Journal Journal: Girlfriend and Linux (Part 1)

Ok, here's the beginning of a saga that started Saturday. My sweet Sony GRX-670 that she was using for college, had an untimely spillage accident :( Being that she had college work due on Sunday and I couldn't give up the only other Windows computer in the house -- I needed it for work... I know, I know :| I had no choice but to give her Linux to use.

Notes for a later article:
  • Ximian Gnome won over KDE!: Ok, this is more my fault than KDE's, but when I first sat down we looked at both, and found Ximian easier (see next point) -- i.e. less cluttered. I know KDE has a lot of familiar windows features, but I didn't want to overwelm her. As she said, "Can you rename that 'Word'?"
  • Before looking at anything, I had to setup the Gnome panel at the bottom. I was disappointed to see the old wizard of Ximian 1 is no longer there
  • Started with Mozilla Firefox as the browser, but this had a few problems with the launcher, and you couldn't copy from OpenOffice and paste into a firefox textarea.
  • Ended with Galeon as the browser. No launcher problems and all cut/paste works great. It has a little bit of a performance hit, but a former windows user on a fast machine didn't even notice.
  • Used OpenOffice for the word processor. The main reason was for MS compatibility, but each day there seems to be a new problem: first couldn't find the thesaurus, then the cut 'n paste problem above. She wants autoshapes/word art/clipart for her tapography class, and as of 5 minutes ago the font color button is unresponsive! I think it would go a long way to make OpenOffice look and feel like MS Office. Say what you will, taking an hour to find something in the GUI kills user experience.
  • Tabbed browsing: She didn't see where windows were opening at first, but afterwards she grew used to it quickly. She's also pleased with no popups.
  • Web Browser User Agent: her college is ASP in all it's glory: make all attempts to deny non-windows users. Oh sure, they accept NS6.2/7, but those user agents don't match galeon/firefox/latest mozilla. Had to do a little fittling with galeon to get the site to load correctly. During my fiddling I discovered yahoo has the same bullsh!t user agent checking.
  • Opening files from websites: okay, her school's site is seriously starting to piss me off. They have this shared documents section that you can click a filename and open the file. In IE, you click an image name and it will open up MS photo (or whatever) and not open a second IE window. Still looking for a solution...
  • What the hell happened to themes for gnome?! Back in the day themes.org provided for hours of oogling fun, but there's hardly anything there now. art.gnome.org is down, and google only turned up a few ok sites. In the end, I wasn't satisfied with the themes I found so we stuck with Ximian's Industrial with BlueCurve icons.
  • Xsane is giving me a red tint on all scans. Going to try some config tweaks... I have a good feeling that it will work with those tweaks.
  • Gimp: couldn't print an image (it just constnatly cycled paper through the printer without printing anything!). In the end we solved printing images by putting an image into an OOo document and printing the document.
  • The ole HP Deskject 540c prints fine, maybe a little slower to print a page than when with windows

Sometimes I wonder if any of these suposedly user-friendly distros would be any better, but then hey... they use gimp, sane, openoffice, etc. There would probably be only a few small improvements but most of the usability problems would still be here if they use the same packages.

More to come...

User Journal

Journal Journal: The Killer Web Service Apps?

Just came across this Jon Udell blog entry where he speculates that XBRL [eXtensible Business Reporting Language] might be the biggest new thing for accountants.

If the trend is to start putting your business practices in a [xml] schema form, conceivably there could be some great web service business opportunities. For example, if yer business is all represented in XML, why not have another company provide a service for constant monitoring of your business growth? Could be a great way to auto-magically generate reports, look at expected taxes, etc.

On a side note, it seems like we're having "revolutionary breakthroughs" thanks to XML. Being only a 23 year ole software architect, I must say that I'm a little astonished that this is the revolution. Didn't people characterize data before the late 90s? I guess it's similar to the way older engineers talk about Corba and IIOP while we now talk about robust SOAP web services. I'm sure there's tons of CORBA stuff still around, but they didn't really cover it in college

To continue my journal entry, turned rant, I think there's a growing trend to move away from binary protocols/formats and to parsed/interpreted text. First came HTML, followed by XML, XML-RPC, SOAP, XAML, XUL, etc. Even for phone systems, h.323 is probably on its way out and SIP is on its way in. If I were to guess at some reasons why this trend is happening I would have to say increased processor power (parsing text for real-time messages was not previously possible) and making the programmer's life easier. Ever have to debug a web service? It's cake.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Transforming Music

On the last iTunes post, someone was talking about how transforming a work from one presentation to another is not a violation of copyright... for example, if an mp3 could be converted to an image, you could freely share the image you created.

While I don't have the sound algorithm/graphic algorithm knowledge to attempt such a task, I did see something related on the discovery channel. Apparently crop circles are mathematical presentations of music as well. Not popular music, or even appealing music, but can be transformed into music.

I wonder what would happen if suddenly you could start sharing images you create instead of music files and de-cryption algorithms were also developed.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Google makes a change to their default look

I'm up late (early?) working on a proposal for work. It's about 3am eastern or midnight PST and I notice something vexing about Google. I can't put my finger on it until I realize that they've changed their look.

The tabbed search items no longer have a colored background and the search results page is a little different here and there.

Not sure why they did this, I liked it better the old way. The new look reminds me of Yahoo *shiver*

User Journal

Journal Journal: Real Estate Scams 1

I just woke up early (5am) this morning, Saturday the 21st. The good ole boob toob was touting an infomercial for Russ Daulby, claiming you can make thousands - make that tens of thousands - of dollars by finding real estate notes and selling them. Could this be too good to be true? In my spare time I find notes and then I broker them to buyers! HAH! Make that, HAHAHAHA.

In my effort to find more info I found this web site that lists the "Gurus" to avoid. Yep, Russ Daulby is there too, with some horrific stories of his program being an endless money sink for buying his training materials (which are designed to confused and buy more training).

Don't forget the fore closure sites to avoid forum.

Personal vent: I can't believe we train so hard to write code and design systems just to pull down a modest salary while a bunch of crooks are getting rich.

Journal Journal: Duris MUD Chaos and PWIPE

Duris MUD is running chaos until friday, and then having a pwipe, starting the game out fresh.

I invite anyone who has never played a MUD to check it out, tons of race wars and player killing! OLD SCHOOL STYLE!

To play, telnet durismud.org 6666
User Journal

Journal Journal: Death of phpNuke

So good ole Gortbusters had started out as a nuke site. For those not familiar with it, Nuke is a popular content management system written in PHP. It is written and largely maintained by one guy down in Venezuela called FB. Ignorant of alternatives at the time and just wanting to get a site up quickly, I jumped on the band wagon. It looked like hundreds of thousands had already did and there were so many nukeWHATEVER.net sites around that you could get tons of software for free.

Well, truth be told phpnuke.org and other sites like nukecops.com got hacked many times with the 6.5 release of their sotware. Of course you could get it early from their 10 dollar a month club, but that didn't help you with your security fixes. They tried to integrate phpBB into their system but it was poor at best with lots of bugs and poor features surrounding the whole thing. I lost count of the constant fixes and updates (for both security and features) that I knew the end was near for this. Many times FB has wanted to rewritethe software. After a while I even thought about rewriting it, just as many others have done, most notably myPHPNuke which spawned X-oops, and PostNuke which spawned Envolution and Xaraya. Who has the time for this? I wouldn't have the time for things like Tracking School if I wanted to re-write Nuke.

The icing on the cake for nuke is now a commercial licensing scheme. That link will take you to the story where just about everyone is in an outrage. More or less it just means that if you want a solution now you'll have to pay or wait for a while unitl a major release is sent out.

I was now faced with some choices... do I rewrite nuke and scour it for security holes? Do I migrate things into slashcode? Do I look for a phpBB oriented solution? Do I just say f-it all and get some sleep? While all had their pros and cons I choose to find something that was oriented around phpBB. The Gortbusters user base is often fascinatined with things like living with nature and when they do post they enjoy the user-friendly interface of phpBB. More imporantly, phpBB (like slash) both are maintained by a group of people and work very professionally. The quality is the largest selling point. You can easily spot simple poorly optimized code in nuke, which reading the php manual will point you to a better solution. The best example is that eregi is over-used in nuke when strposis the fastest function for a needle-in-a-hay-stack call.

Looking around for a phpBB oriented CMS (of which there are a few), I came across MX-system. The phpBB team will be releasing their own portal software, but I can't wait for it as it won't be ready for months - and who knows how many Nuke holes will be found by then. MX-system promised easy integration with just about no modifications to the existing phpBB software! Score. The one thing that sunk me on the bbtonuke project was that they were always behind the current phpBB code. The only thing remaining was a news posting module for their system, as none was written yet. I found Codemonkeyx.net had a nice news front page modification to phpBB. I took that, modified it for MX, and wrote an import script to convert my nuke database tables into phpBB. Voila, I'm happy and you can see it in action.

I hate to put down an open source project, but nuke seems to be run by one person who dictates everything. Had it been better managed, maybe the phpBB team wouldn't have the need to write a portal because they would have been working with Nuke from the start. Ah well, such is life.

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