Archive for November, 2009

Primary Use (Reprinted)

November 24, 2009

“So what do you use your computer for?”

The majority of hours I log are used for streaming audio.  I’m a huge fan of Old Time Radio Shows and the Internet provides ample opportunity for listening pleasure.

There are six streams that I access on a constant bases.  I use the KMPlayer for all four.  I’ve created individual links for each stream.

WNAR is — http://live.wnar-am.com:8500/listen.pls
Antioch is —  http://grace.fast-serv.com:9022/listen.pls
AM 600 is — http://206.190.133.196:7013/listen.pls
OTRF is — http://www.otrfan.com:8000/stream.m3u
20th Century Radio is — http://audioartsradio.com:6006/listen.pls
Hank’s Old Time Radio is — http://s1.myradiostream.com:4962/listen.pls

For classical music, I like Interlochen Public Radiohttp://playerservices.streamtheworld.com/api/livestream-redirect/WIAAFM.mp3

Well, that’s not all I use my Linux machine for, but I’ll save that for another post.

(Last updated: March 16, 2017)

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Banana Nut Bread Algorithm (Reprinted)

November 23, 2009

This is an old family algorithm first published in a Church cookbook more than 50 years ago…

Mrs. Illik’s Banana Nut Bread

— 1 cup sugar
— 1/2 cup butter (one stick)
— 2 eggs
— 3 bananas (mashed)
— 2 cups flour
— 1 teaspoon soda
— 1/2 teaspoon salt
— 1/2 cup chopped nuts

Cream sugar and butter, add beaten eggs, and add mashed bananas together.

Mix in dry ingredients and add nuts.

Bake in greased bread pan at 350 degrees for at least one hour. The bread is done when it pulls away from the sides of the pan.

Makes one loaf.

All measurements are in American standard.

Happy Holidays!!!

7 Complaints About Linux (Reprinted)

November 15, 2009

Inspired by this Blogspot article.

There is always room for improvement. Even for Linux. Although many Linux fanatics hate it whenever someone complains about Linux, nothing will change until the developers listen to the needs of the end users.

Unlike Microsoft, Linux was created expressly for the user and not for profit. When you take financial gain out of the equation what you are left with is a drive to produce a high quality operating system.

Some complaints are legitimate, some are not. But all of the complaints come from the perspective of a Windows user who has little or no experience with Linux operating systems.

1. I put a DVD in my player and it won’t play.

Correct, but not for all distributions. The software (codecs) required to play a DVD are proprietary and usually require a fee to be paid before distribution.

However, most Linux distributions offer the correct codecs and library files free of charge to be downloaded from a repository. The file needed is a library file called libdvdcss2. Not only does this allow you to watch a DVD, it decrypts the disk allowing users to copy the DVD.

PCLinuxOS comes with all the codecs necessary to play a DVD, even from the Live CD. Ubuntu, for example, does not. So yes, to some extent this is a legitimate complaint.

2. Some piece of my hardware doesn’t work.

True. This is probably the most frustrating aspect of Linux for any user.

I’ve run into this very problem myself recently. My wife purchased a new HP printer. It works fine on my laptop, it works fine in her installation of Linux Mint 7 and Windows XP, but we cannot get it to print on her computer using PCLinuxOS 2007.

It recognizes the printer. But any attempt to send a print command fails.

When I first tried Linux, I loaded Ubuntu 7. Everything worked fine, but no sound. So I tried Mandriva. It was marginal. Then I switched to PCLinuxOS and everything fell perfectly into place. All my hardware worked. And on my desktop computer all is well. But it took me several attempts to find the right operating system for my hardware and needs.

Many Linux users have complained that their wireless connection hardware never works properly. The built-in wi-fi on my Toshiba laptop running PCLinuxOS 2009, however, connects to any wireless signal with no additional configuration.

Hardware drivers are strictly hit-and-miss. For example, my flat bed scanner works well in Linux using the Sane Linux drivers and software. But I have never managed to get it to work on my wife’s installation of Windows XP, even using the current manufacturer’s downloaded drivers.

This complaint, while legitimate, is not limited to Linux users.

3. Installing software is too hard.

False. Installing software in Linux is not harder than installing software in Windows, it’s just a different process. Once you learn how to do it, it can be easier.

Many Linux distributions have their own repositories of available free software packages. These repositories are accessed through a package manager like Synaptic.

Synaptic allows users to select the software they want to install. You click on the box next to the name of software and select “Mark for installation.” Click on the Apply button at the top of the screen. Synaptic then downloads and installs the software all in one move.

Synaptic also allows you to delete previously installed software packages. You can think of it as equivalent to Add Remove Programs in Windows.

Downloaded software from a Web site is also easy to install. Which software you download is dependent upon which operating system you are running. Files ending in .deb are installed on Debian based systems like Ubuntu and Linux Mint 7. Files ending in .rpm are installed on Red Hat based systems like PCLinuxOS and Mandriva.

Installing a .deb in Ubuntu, for example, is achieved by right clicking on the file and selecting Open with “Gdebi Package Installer,” which is built in to Ubuntu by default and following the on-screen instructions.

Installing a .rpm file in PCLinuxOS, for example, requires the additional installation of a program called KPackage, which is available in the repository mentioned above using Synaptic. Once installed, all you need to do is right click on the .rpm file and select Open with KPackage from the menu and follow the on-screen instructions.

Installing new software in Linux is not hard, it’s just different. So this complaint is not legitimate.

4. Linux is not good for gaming.

False and true.

Linux is a superior platform for gaming. Unlike Windows, the Linux operating system runs much lighter. It eats up less RAM and is not dependent on “system resources” to execute programs. This means that the system dedicates less of itself to maintaining the operating system and focuses more on running the game.

Linux also does not require an anti-virus, anti-malware or anti-spyware program running in the background eating up RAM and CPU cycles just to protect the system.

So why isn’t Linux the choice of gamers?

Two reasons. First and foremost, the software companies that produce games have not ported their games over to the Linux platform. This means the Linux users either have to run the games in emulation, like WINE, or create a dual-boot system (half the hard drive dedicated to Windows, the other half to Linux). Emulation is usually slow and clunky at best, rendering games unplayable.

The second reason is a driver issue. Graphics card manufacturer’s Linux drivers are often worthless. Creating drivers for one platform like Windows is fairly easy compared to writing a broad enough set of drivers that will work perfectly on more than 100 different Linux distributions all containing their own unique set of variables. There is only one Windows, but there’s multiple Linux operating systems.

While Linux is an excellent platform for gaming, companies are not exactly scrambling to develop their products to accommodate Linux users. It’s just not fiscally feasible at this time. So this is a legitimate complaint.

5. I have this program that runs fine in Windows, but it doesn’t run at all in Linux.

True. But then again I have a Linux program that won’t run in Windows. And I have an iPhone application that won’t run on anything other than an iPhone. Big fat hairy deal!

VirtualBox can solve your Windows/Linux problems, but not your iPhone issues. VirtualBox is a virtual machine program that allows you to load Windows on Linux and Linux on Windows. Instead of running applications in emulation, like WINE, you run the application in a full operating system environment.

To run Windows on Linux you still have to have a legitimate copy of a fully installable Windows disk (XP, Vista, 7, etc.). To run Linux on Windows all you need to do is download your choice of any free Linux distribution.

VirtualBox is free for everyone!

This is not a legitimate complaint.

6. I asked how to do something, and they told me to type commands. That’s not intuitive!

True and not so true.

Yes, there are some Linux distributions that do indeed require you to type in commands in a terminal window in order to complete a certain task.

Nothing you do on a computer is intuitive. Everything is learned. Most people just think that an action is intuitive because that’s the way they have always performed similar tasks. Public and private school systems, as well as colleges, have collectively shoved Microsoft’s Windows software down the publics’ throat for over a decade. And to a lesser extent, Apple’s Mac software.

If these are the only systems you have ever been exposed to, of course you will believe that the graphical user interface (GUI) is intuitive. The command line interface (CLI) would look like a foreign language to you.

But all this is unimportant.

We have created a point-and-click technical society. For those who wish to promote Linux as the future of computers, you must create a Linux GUI system that the general public can adapt to readily or be prepared to languish in obscurity.

I didn’t make up these rules. Social norms exist in every society. Technology today plays a major role in our collective culture. So if you want your particular choice of operating system to become an integral part of the modern popular culture, then you have to conform to the expectations set by society.

I’m not saying you have to like it. That’s just the way it is and there’s nothing you can do about it.

This, more than any other complaint, is legitimate.

7. Linux is not ready for the desktop.

That’s not a complaint, that’s a statement. Also a stupid statement since Linux currently runs on millions of desktops around the world.

Perhaps if the statement were reworded it would make more sense: The general public is not ready to accept Linux as a desktop replacement for Windows. This statement is true.

Apple computers has been battling Microsoft for dominance in the desktop market since 1976. With all of it’s resources and financial power, Apple remains a distant second. If a mega multi-billion dollar corporation cannot unseat Microsoft, what chance does a free open source operating system with no financial budget for advertising have?

Part of the blame also lies with the computer manufacturers. The “big box” PC manufacturers, for various reasons, are unwilling to market their complete systems with Linux pre-installed. With little or no exposure, Linux remains relatively unknown in the minds of PC consumers.

Some manufacturers, like Dell, do offer complete systems pre-loaded with Ubuntu. However, these systems are not currently marketed in national stores such as Best Buy. Linux therefore must rely on word-of-mouth for its advertising. The Internet has been playing a huge role in promoting individual distributions.

According to those who keep statistical records, Linux has been slowly increasing its hold on the desktop market. Linux currently has 4.2 percent of all desktop/laptop computers that connect to the Internet. Mac has about 6.0 percent and Microsoft holds the remaining 89 percent total with five different versions of its operating systems.

Linux is ready for the world, but the world may not yet be ready for Linux.

Q and A on Dependencies

Q: I downloaded a Linux program from the Internet, but when I try to install it the package manager says I’m missing dependencies. Now what?

A: Welcome to Dependency Hell! This is a particularly nasty level in Hell that Dante seemed to have missed when he wrote Inferno.

Lasciate Ogni Speranza Voi Ch’Entrate.
All hope abandon, ye who enter in.

Q: Wait just a gosh darn minute! Are you trying to tell me that Linux has the equivalency of the Windows DLL Hell?

A: Yes. But this one is worse. Linux will stop in the middle of an install and tell you that you are missing X (where X is a dependent file). So you hunt down X and install it. But when you retry the install, Linux stops again and tells you that you need Y (where Y is a dependent file). And then you need Z, Q and W. And so on and so on, until you finally give up in disgust.

Q: So what can be done about it?

A: Well, they could include all of the necessary dependencies in the installation file. But this may not be feasible since the installation may spread itself over a large number of folders and configuration files.

Linux, unlike Windows, does not have a single Registry. Instead, it’s comprised of numerous config files that collectively add up to a Registry.

Q: So what’s the point in that?

A: If, by chance, a Linux config file gets messed up, it only affects whatever that config file operates. It does not bring down the entire system, the way that the Windows Registry can prevent Windows from even loading.

Think of it as a trade-off. For example, if Windows fails to load, most users are sent scrambling for their installation disk to re-install Windows. If Linux fails to load, in most cases you will receive a text-only interface that allows you to manually correct the problem without the need to re-install the entire system.

Q: Okay, you lost me. What does this have to do with Dependency Hell?

A: Basically it leaves you with three options. Keep hunting until you find all the necessary dependencies (if possible), give up, or search your distribution’s repositories for an alternative program.

Q: So you’re saying that Linux isn’t that much better than Windows after all?

A: Yeah.

Updating vs Upgrading

The ninth complaint: You cannot upgrade a Linux distribution from one version to the next without wiping the existing installation and performing a clean install.

This is definitely one area that Windows does better than Linux.

Oh yeah, you heard me. Windows has handled upgrades better than Linux.

You could leave your installation of Windows 98 for example, and upgrade to Windows XP without losing any of your XP compatible programs in the process. This saves you the hassle of having to re-install all of your favorite programs. (This may not be the case with Windows 7.)

Not so in Linux. When you upgrade from Ubuntu 8.10 to Ubuntu 9.04, you have to reformat your root directory before loading. And never attempt to update all of your files from one version to the next. Your system will be rendered useless. We’ve had several members of our forum (myself included) find this out the hard way.

I spent four days rebuilding my system after I attempted to update my computer from PCLinuxOS 2007 to PCLinuxOS 2009.

So what can be done to correct this problem? Nothing. It’s just the nature of the beast.

At least with Linux you do not have to go through the horrid process of having to re-register and re-activate your operating system. And most Linux distributions install many software programs, like OpenOffice, along with the operating system during the upgrade.

So get over it now and learn to live with it. Again, I didn’t say you had to like it.

Permission to Annoy

Permissions. What sadistic bastard decided that I have to have the proper permissions to access my own files?

Linux (and Unix) sets read, write, and execute access for the owner of the file, the group that the own belongs to, and other users. If it’s my computer, am I not the owner of every file? Apparently not. Because when I try to access my backup files on a separate partition I get a pop-up message telling me that I don’t have permission to simply copy the file from one partition to another.

I have to log out and then log back in as Root in order to move the files, log out and then log back in under my account. That’s just plain stupid.

The curious thing is if I were to take those same files, burn them to a disk and then try to copy them, I would get no permission message at all. I can do whatever the hell I want with those files.

I understand why they set up permissions in that way. It’s for security. There’s security and then there’s freaking paranoid. They need to allow users to set access permissions during the initial installation. Most home users don’t need a “Fort Knox” level of file security. All data files should be accessible to the computer’s owner.

It’s these kinds of annoyances that stops users from switching from Windows to Linux. And with good reason!

Switching to Linux (Reprinted)

November 14, 2009

Switching to Linux
10/27/2008

A few weeks ago I decided to switch to Linux. I had flirted with Linux in the past, but never fully committed myself to a complete and total change. Most of my hesitation was due to fear. I was afraid that the programs I used most often would not exist in Linux.

To some extent these fears are correct. Software available on Linux is not as extensive as the software available to Windows users. However, there are enough programs readily available that allow me to find work-arounds to these problems.

Virtual Box allowed me to install a copy of Windows XP on PCLinuxOS 2007. I only need it for a few printing/graphics programs.

Switching to Linux is like taking off the training wheels. I stumbled and fell a few times but I’m now managing to keep my balance.

There is learning curve to Linux. It’s worth the time and effort, however, to learn Linux. I now have a rock solid OS that costs nothing. My HP printer works, my sound works, my HP scanner works, thumb drives work, my CD/DVD burners work and all my essential data files are transferable.

At this point, I have no regrets.

Can Anyone Switch to Linux? (Part One)
10/28/2008

Yes, but take some precautions first.

Backup your Windows installation either by using a program like Norton Ghost or buy a new hard drive and replace your Windows drive. You will want the ability to revert your system back to Windows if you find that Linux is not for you.

Backup your My Documents folder, your IE favorites folder, any wallpaper and media files you have installed in Windows. Backup your address book.

Download and burn at least a dozen different Linux Live CDs and test them. Find the Linux distribution that feels good to you. Remember, you have to live with your Linux choice for long time. Make sure it’s the right one for you.

Research! Most Linux distributions have a Web site and a forum. Benefit from the experiences of others.

And have fun with it. If you’re not enjoying Linux, then go back to Windows. Don’t make yourself crazy trying to make the switch.

Can Anyone Switch to Linux? (Part Two)
11/04/2008

No.

Need a good example? How about my mother. Now don’t get me wrong, my mother knows enough about computers to do what she wants to do. In Windows. But she’s no where near advanced enough to load and configure Linux.

And more to the point, she logs into the Net using a proprietary software package called Juno. Juno is Windows only.

You still have to look at all of your software and decide whether it can be ported to Linux or not. Check the software providers Web site for details.

It’s something to look at before making the switch.

One Month Later
11/17/2008

I’ve now been running Linux for just over a month.

So far everything seems to work just fine. I was concerned that streaming audio that utilizes the Windows Media Player might be a problem. However, there is a browser plug-in that allows the Linux MPlayer to access the stream. It does take a bit longer to load, but it functions perfectly.

Speaking of media players, I removed the Amarok Media Player from my system. I know a lot of Linux users swear by it. I just find it too invasive. And this is the true beauty of Linux; there are many other media player choices that can be downloaded and installed for free.

Linux gives you the freedom to personalize your computer like Windows never could — for free.

It’s great not to have to worry about spyware and malware and viruses.

This is real freedom.

Two Months Later
12/21/2008

Still no regrets. In fact, the more I use Linux the more I like this operating system.

Some of the best free software is available only on Linux. The one that impresses me the most is KMyMoney. Very similar to Quicken, the program allows you to track all of your financial data and backup to a single file. It’s an extremely well designed GUI, that takes little effort to learn to use.

And the K3b CD/DVD burning software is outstanding. Or for those who can’t live without Nero, there is a paid Linux version that is well worth the $19.99 asking price (which is significantly less than the Windows version price).

Instant messaging is not lost on Linux, either. Kopete accesses every major IM client simultaneously, while Skype for Linux works flawlessly. Both are free.

And this is only a small sampling of the software available.

I do have one regret: I should have switched to Linux long ago.

Four Months Later
01/25/2009

I’m still very pleased with my Linux install. I recently added a graphics card to my computer (ATI Radeon X1300 Pro AGP).

The install was very easy, once I knew how. First (before installing the card) load the correct drivers found in the repository. Turn off the computer and insert the card.

My computer booted up as normal. However, before getting to the log-in screen it stopped at a text-only screen and asked for a log-in name. I logged in as “root” and then entered my root password.

A DOS-like prompt appeared. I typed in the command “video”. This brought up a DOS-like graphical interface that allowed me to select the appropriate drivers for my card and then test the graphics.

When that was done, I rebooted. Everything loaded as normal and I now have a fully functioning graphics card.

Now I’m thinking I need a bigger, badder wide-screen monitor. That would be cool!

Not quite a year
08/10/2009

I have upgraded my computer and my wife’s computer to the new PCLinuxOS 2009.

I had to remove my graphics card and go back to using the integrated chip set. The new ATI drivers are junk.

Despite that fact, everything is running beautifully on all my machines.

So far, so good!

One Year Anniversary!
10/11/2009

It has now been one full year and it just gets better and better!

I am now running on PCLinuxOS 2010. Since I started major improvements have been made to my distro that make it easier to accomplish tasks. After much trial and error (and several reformats), Linux has shown that it is the OS of the future.

The total flexibility I get is amazing. And thanks to VirtualBox there are few programs that I cannot run. Having a full install of Windows XP at my finger tips is fantastic. I’ve said this before but it really is the best of both worlds.

The thing that amazes most is the ability to complete tasks by simply right-clicking on a file. Where once I would have to open a program to convert a wave file to an MP3 file, I now just right-click on the file and select convert from the menu. It’s just that simple.

So I think I’ll stick with Linux. One year down, a lifetime to go.

The Ubuntu Brand Name (Reprinted)

November 12, 2009

Ubuntu has become the brand name for Linux.

And although I use a completely different distro, this is still an important and significant shift in the Linux world. There necessarily needs to be a single identifiable Linux name.

Just as Coke and Pepsi are known the world over, the name Ubuntu will become, or has become, just as distinguished and recognizable. Anything that gets Linux firmly planted in the computer culture worldwide is good for all Linux distributions, because it adds a sense of legitimacy to the entire movement.

Another thing that Canonical (Ubuntu’s parent company) did right was to create a recognizable graphical symbol for Ubuntu. So if you see Ubuntu displayed in Japanese, for example, you would still know that it’s Ubuntu because of that symbol.

This is something that many other Linux distros lack.

Even the name Ubuntu is becoming synonymous with Linux; even to the point of being interchangeable. That’s normal in the eyes of novices who have heard of nothing else besides Ubuntu.

I still don’t think it’s a good distribution for beginners. It requires too much command line knowledge. But you have to recognize the fact that they did an excellent job of marketing the operating system.