Tag Archives: computers

Activities in Linux

Now that I’ve finally moved on to bigger hardware, I can officially retire my 2008 DV-5 1157-CA (this link doesn’t exist anymore). It has served me well, while costing me two harddrives, because, well, it obviously lost one fan at one time resulting in overheating. As you know, the number one killer of harddrives is heat.

While we’re at it: I’ve decided to steer away from major brand laptops like HP and Toshiba: I have had both brands and have seen the quality dwindle down. Current models look ugly and are extremely fragile. I don’t mean that you should be able to drop a laptop from 20 feet or so.

My favourite part of the DV-5 was the fact that it could play recent games fairly well (see category) because of the size of the video ram: For a general all-purpose laptop in 2008, 512 MB was a lot. Additionally, the laptop is not extremely hard to take apart: heck, at one time, HP’s site had elaborate instructions how to do it yourself and where to order spare parts from. Maybe that’s all we need from laptop manufacturers: sell laptops that one can repair and upgrade yourself.

For now, the DV-5 is running the latest Ubuntu flavour.

Data.

I woke up early with the thought of cleaning up and organizing this bunch of backup-CDs I’ve never touched since years. While I was tagging them one by one, I remembered this tool someone wrote for the MSX computer to archive and inventorize (that’s not a legitimate word) 3.5 inch disks (or ‘diskettes’ as we called them then). That would be a fun hobby project, if it wasn’t for time.

The net-result was that I didn’t find the data I was looking for: a huge archive of all my mails pre-2004, which I’m 100% certain were in some kind of Eudora archive. So, funny enough, I’ve got all my pre- and post 2003 sources (well, not all of them) but e-mails? Nope: it’s like that all my mail of the period between 2000 to 2003 disappeared in a black hole.

What I did find was interesting no-less: copies of Debian Sid, Woody and Sarge (god, I loved Sarge), old family photos from the time my mother-in-law was still alive, dad’s photos when he was over here, photos of a bunch of KDE hackers (apparently not mine), sources to a Delphi library to write and read BIFF files and recipes. Oh, and that copy of Wing Commander (the movie) that somehow made it onto one of my harddrives.

Mission not so accomplished. I think.

Jupiter and so

I read this the day before yesterday: apparently, Jupiter has lost one of it’s bands (National Geographic on this) within the last couple of months (or even year). If you’re curious if this will have any impact on our Earthly lives, please check your local daily astrology forecast.

Computers are fascination and so are games: depending on your mileage, of course. Earlier this month, I learnt that a senior fellow in the US managed to defeat the game ‘Bejeweled’ by reaching the topscore of (wait for it, wait for it), 2,147,783,647. If you’re not familiar with that number, for your reference I present Wikipedia’s entry on Integer numbers.

And last but not least, via Reddit, I came across this gem (or youtube video) showcasing the excellent animation stuff in the Arma2 game. I looked at this game a year or so ago and while buggy, I was extremely impressed with the online-multiplayer portion of Arma2. From the ‘Leave no man alone, rescue Arthur’ mission, to that ‘long lonely walk until someone offered me a ride on his bike to the battlefield’ occasion. No really: surreal.

Other than that

On Windows, I’ve beenClever Null solely using Google’s Chrome browser, leaving my Firefox copy at bay: Firefox only gets into action if I need to confirm that Chrome’s cache-loading-stuff has gone amuck again. Yesterday, for example we suddenly lost connection to the Internets and when Chrome decided to go into indefinite looping mode (it does that particularly when its internal cache is screwed up), I started up Firefox only to run into the pretty dialog shown above (or on the right). It seems that Firefox’s updater requires a persistent connection nowadays. What happened to ‘working offline’ if no connection was found?

On my Linux/Ubuntu desktop machine, I use a combination of browsers, of course: On Gnome, Firefox is the main browser and yes, Opera is good second. When I log into KDE, Konqueror is my default browser: Though, with all this Flash stuff (and the Konqueror hang-ups), I always have Firefox ‘on the ready’.

This reminds me that I find Firefox a lot more ‘faster’ on Ubuntu than on Windows (XP/Vista), even if you consider the fact that the Ubuntu machine runs on 2005 hardware (Centrino, 512 MB, yadda-yadda). If you recall, earlier Firefox 3 (beta) releases for Ubuntu were disasters mainly because obscure SQLite transactions happening in the background of a browsing session (earlier here). However, since Chrome for Linux is officially still Alpha (if you’ve seen the images you know what I mean), there’s no rush to switch browsers on the Linux platform.

Here-o

For what it’s worth: Don’t bother looking for a complete IDE for Javascript development. They’re out there, but they don’t work and come with a huge payload of crap that needs to be installed for your popular browser. You may just as well do that the old way: in notepad, vi or edlin and with an abundance of alert dialogs and “printf lines”.

Via Alfons and others, I ended up reading an excellent analysis of Conficker”. This is the worm that has many network people worried because everybody knows it is out there (and there’s an official Microsoft patch out for it [pretty colours there]) but nobody knows what it exactly does. There’s a doomsday thread over at Metafilter, so if you’re into reading doomsday threads, go for it.

And last but not least, there was some kind of controversy around the current Canadian minister for Science and Religion (OK, that’s a joke). I can’t remember the context, because, I’ve not been following the news recently. The discussion there (at that CBC page) ended up in a evolution vs. creationism fight which seems to show quite some polarization and discontent at both sides of the aisle.

Is Canada turning into a pseudo-scientific country? As of now, I’m not too worried about this: I don’t think that there are people who believe that the Internet was created on the seventh day or that their WiFi connection (i.e., electromagnetic waves) was provided there by Jewish and Greek gods (and goddesses).

Update 1: This just in: Stallman on JavaScript

The Other Third Kind

I‘m not sure where this all came from but this week it appears that ternary logic is the craze on reddit (proof 1 and proof 2). The first link goes to a short Wikipedia article about the Russian’s (successful) attempts to build a ternary computer (as opposed to the binary-based computer you’re reading this on). The other one goes to a scientific article in praise of the ternary system, which points out the drawbacks of the binary computing. To sum it up:

The cultural preference for base 10 and the engineering advantages of base 2 have nothing to do with any intrinsic properties of the decimal and binary numbering systems. Base 3, on the other hand, does have a genuine mathematical distinction in its favor. By one plausible measure, it is the most efficient of all integer bases; it offers the most economical way of representing numbers.

If you’re all for doing math during the weekend, an excellent article can be found right here

Backup

One of the weirdest stories last month, was the one about JournalSpace losing its data and then just plain calling its quits because the inability to recover that lost data. There’s an endless discussion going on at Slashdot and at MetaFilter1. The moral of the story is to properly backup your SQL data: most databases come with excellent tools to dump your data to text, binary or whatever format your prefer. And while you backup, always ensure that a database dump goes off-location, in case a fire breaks out in your server room.

I’ve mentioned this before but I generally keep sources all together, organized by programming language and highly tagged by date and such. Every 6 months, I make a quick inventory and make the proper backups if needed. I never use my source control/revision as a backup means: that’s not the point of a revision control system2. In the years of moving sources off computers and loading them back on new ones, I’ve lost a couple of sources. From all the sources I lost, I regret losing the PHP-based Scr*bble/WordPlay server. Well, actually, I have a bare snapshot of the sources but they are incomplete and I can’t do anything with it. To make it worst, back in 2001 or 2002, I forgot to export and dump the data definition and data. Where things went wrong was that the specific sources and data were stored on completely different locations (I developed on both Caldera OpenLinux and Windows 2000). What happened in my case was that I thought that all the sources were on OpenLinux but that the actual ones were stored on the Windows 2000 computer. I recognized this, of course, after I had formatted the Windows 2000 computer3.

We humans are extremely good in storing stuff in our brains, but we tend to only remember those crucial things after disaster has struck.

1 JournalSpace’s official report is right here. 01/18/09: JournalSpace’s official report is gone. It looks like the domainname was sold to a third party.

2 A source control system is only for saving your sorry ass when you made an error in one of your versions of your software so that you can revert your stupid sorry ass-changes and start over again. Sure you can use it as a backup means (CVS historical data can be moved to different computers easily, for example) but if you thought it to be there for disaster-recovery reasons, you’re mistaking.

3 Sidenote: this was on the MyNote 930. That computer had a full history of whereabouts too, and was eventually passed on to the local recycling plant.

Unused icons.

When I was playing Call of Duty 4 online (earlier on xsamplex), I used to have a running joke when fellow PC players always asked me about my favourite mouse configuration: I said I was actually playing the game on a touch screen.

That was almost a year ago, and I just noticed that HP is (soon) to be releasing their newest touch based PC, probably well ahead of Apple. This is an exciting development, of course. But watching the demos on the HP site, this quote from one of the Flash movies which showcases HP’s Touch software (built on top of Windows Vista, it appears), makes me laugh:

Use the top row for programs you use everyday. Use the bottom row for your other programs.

For some kind of reason, I foresee a bright future for a ‘There are unused icons on the bottom row’-application.

En. Ix.

I haven’t touched my (personal) Windows laptop for a while: mainly because, I’ve been (primarily) using Ubuntu for things I normally did on Windows. This is both a good and bad sign: First of all, I’ve settled on using specific Linux tools to process my RAW photos (using UFRaw and The Gimp). Yes, I noticed RawStudio (don’t get me started on F-Spot), but while close to what I’m looking for, it misses features like cropping and that. On the bad side: I’ve not been doing a lot of side-programming, so things I’ve been working on have been lingering around, so to say.

This brings me to a couple of notes of note:

If you’re into making your own (Debian) based Live distribution, you may want to check into the Debian Live Project: I only mention it here because I keep losing the link and whenever I keep thinking of it, I end up looking for it on Google.

Way earlier, I was reminded that people actually buy (Windows) software to help them recover data from (accidentally) erased or formatted hard disks. You can also use the tools on the Knoppix CD for this. Or even better, the Knoppix Security Tools Disk.

And, if you really want to nuke your harddrive, because you’re being chased by a bunch of aliens, you may just as well do it the right way. DBAN, is a self-contained boot disk that can format your drive securely and thoroughly.

Come back to. What?

A Come Back to McAfee!couple of years ago, I bought McAfee’s anti-virus software package, mainly to give a sense of protection to my laptop, which was going to be used by my dad during his stay-over in Nova Scotia, the Summer of 2005. I removed the software a couple of months after he left. Ever since then, McAfee’s has kept me ‘in the loop’ about their latest updates, for no other reason than (of course) trying to sell me their wares.

Just last week, their latest barrage came in, after a couple of month’s of silence and I thought their latest mail was actually questionable but hilarious (see image on the right/above): I mean, that image of a dad and his daughter, that is a bit condescending, as in, “Who’s your daddy”.

Uh. No: but thanks, McAfee. I’ll keep your mailings for now and I can’t wait for your next snugly campaign.

More power. Unix power.

Last week, Walmart (evil Walmart) started to sell the Everex TC2502 gPC for only 199.00 US (Thanks to the high Canadian dollar, that is in or about 50 dollars CDN1, or for Europeans, that is 5 EUROs: yes, approximately the price of an ordinary pack of cigarettes). It’s out of stock because of three reasons: it runs Linux (an Ubuntu/Debian variant), it carries an extremely low power VIA C7 processor plus, well, it’s cheap. About that Linux flavour: it’s running gOs, a somewhat heavily-web-orientated Linux focused on delivering Google Web applications to the desktop.

I’m not sure, how I ended up at this link (Probably via Linux Devices), but if you consider the above option not ‘green enough’, how about a 12 Watt computer (using an AMD Geode CPU).

And to top it off: Phoenix Technologies introduced a firmware product called HyperSpace, which allows PCs to run a number of applications separate from the host operating system. It’s obviously Linux based (“secure Linux environment”) and the idea is (obviously) to allow people to repair locked up (Windows) systems (sort of like, Knoppix in the BIOS).

1 Hey, for a change it feels funny to say that