Archive for May 2013

Stagnant Pools are Unhealthy For You

Stagnant PoolStagnant pools are unhealthy for you. This is true in nature just as it is for your mind.

Once in a distant era known only by a few as “The 90s” I joined an archaic communications medium called a “BBS“. At the time, the Internet wasn’t available to me. Yes, I’m really that old. I mainly dug around through software download areas because software was hard to find at the time without buying it.

Let’s stop there just to say that I’m not talking about pirating software. I’m talking about Freeware/Shareware. Without the Internet, it was next to impossible to get.

One day, I happened upon a forum that was set aside purely for operating system wars. Brilliant idea on the part of the Admins to give people a place to yell at each other about OSs so they didn’t do it elsewhere. At the time, it was pretty much Mac vs. Windows/DOS.

I really enjoyed myself in there. I fought with people day in and day out, sometimes making 20 to 30 posts a day. I was there for years. Finally, around 2001 or 2002 I moved on. My full time job was making a a forty hour work week look like a luxury, and I also started dating my future wife during that time. We’ll just say that I had more interesting things on my plate.

More than a decade passes.

I realize this is a long introduction to my point, but bear with me.

I was digging through some old files on my computer when I ran across the settings file for the BBS I used to visit. Intrigued, I grabbed the software and fired it up. Amazingly enough, my account still worked! I navigated the old familiar menus and found myself back in the forum that had used up so much of my time.

Time had not been kind to this BBS. The Internet had stripped away most of the casual users and left it with only the hard core people. Those people were actually the same people that had been in there a decade earlier.

They were still there!

Well, some of them were.

The few people that remained were all Mac users. Every single one. They’d been sitting there for over 10 years not being challenged by anybody. Always getting a pat on the back for saying what ever they were saying because everybody always agreed with them.

Finally: The Stagnant Pool

In talking briefly to them in a couple of posts it became apparent that some ideas that were debatable had been accepted into the realm of fact simply because no one stated that it wasn’t. I’ve seen this kind of behavior elsewhere too, and not just in technology. I’ve seen it all over, from small towns to politics.

Maybe people do this because it’s more comfortable? I honestly don’t know. They surround themselves with people who agree with them and force out the people who don’t. They never have their ideas challenged, and I think they’re the worse for it. They live in their enclosed little pool where no new ideas get in, ever. It doesn’t take long before it becomes foul and rank.

It’s not wrong to hang out with people who agree with you, as long as that’s not all you do. People need to talk to people who disagree with them. Find out why. You may not ever come to an agreement, but you may on occasion decide your initial position was wrong. You may convince them that their’s was. The discussion may only solidify your position. I’m the first one to admit that I’m far from perfect. I’m wrong, and when I’m wrong people point it out. I’m glad that they do because I become better because of it. It’s something that should be worked for, and it’s absolutely not something to be afraid of.

More Apple Demands

More Apple DemandsWith it’s most recent step in the ongoing Apple vs. Samsung debacle, Apple has made a surprising demand. From Google. Charlie Osborne over at ZDNet had a pretty good run down of Apple’s demands. My thoughts, both the court and Google should tell Apple to go to hell.

Know what Open Source Is?

First of all, Android is Open Source. The code that Samsung and countless others have downloaded to create their phone is available for free on the Internet. Anybody can grab it. What would a demand from the court get you that a few minutes with a web browser wouldn’t?

Who Is On Trial Here?

I’m sorry, but if the information you need is not part of the source code that is open and available to the Internet, then it’s part of Google’s private business. Why the hell should Google be required to hand over any of their private matters to a competing company that’s doing their best to wipe Google out when Google isn’t the one on trial? If Apple’s beef is with Google, then sack up Apple and sue Google. Going “thermonuclear on Android” by attacking anybody and everybody that uses it is the cowards way.

Makes No Sense

Seriously, how does this make sense? If Google is in violation, sue Google. If Samsung is in violation, then the materials that Google has (other than the already publicly available source code) are none of Apple’s business. Google shouldn’t even waste the paper for a response. The judge should kick their dumb asses out of court for making stupid demands. Of course, this “trial” is taking place in San Jose, which is right in Apple’s back yard, and Samsung is not even an American company, so the odds that the judge will cave to every stupid demand Apple makes is greatly increased. This whole thing is seriously pissing me off, and reducing the already minuscule chances that I’d ever buy an Apple product. If anyone who works at Apple is reading this, I want to make this absolutely clear: I will go back to one of these before I ever buy an iPhone. Get me?

Old Phone

Linux is Perfect for your Favorite Lost Cause

More years ago than I care to remember, I was born. My parents have had to put up with my crap since then. As a parent myself, I have a great deal of respect for that, especially when I have a better idea than most what I’ve put them through.

You’re Having Trouble with What?!?

That being said, nothing tries my patience faster than trying to trouble shoot computer problems for my parents from over a thousand miles away over the phone. I’ve tried several different ways of taking remote control of their computer, none of which seem to prevent them from hosing it up so badly that my remote methods no longer work. Unfortunately, when it comes to computers, they’re a lost cause.

Then events led me to my most recent epiphany. HP made a tablet. The TouchPad. It was brilliant. Only two buttons on it, one on the front, one on the top. WebOS is a snap to use, and it would give my parents the ability to do pretty much everything they do on their computer in a device that even my parents couldn’t screw up (so I thought).

The price was a barrier though. Of course, we all know how that story went. HP (probably more appropriately Léo Apotheker) so screwed up the release and sale of the TouchPad that it didn’t stand a chance in the tablet market. It was too expensive and didn’t have apps. Pretty soon the price dropped, and then again, and then again. Finally it was announced that it was being discontinued and the remaining inventory sold at ridiculously low prices just to get rid of them. I stayed up till 3am and managed to get my hands on three of them. One for me, one for my wife, and one for my parents. My problems are solved (so I thought)!

You’re Still Having Trouble with What?!?

I want to reiterate here that I love my parents, and they’ve put up with my crap for as long as I’ve had crap to put up with. I don’t want to give the wrong impression here.

OK, now that I’ve said that, my parents can even screw up WebOS. Well, not so much screw it up, but they can’t even figure out the most basic task on it. Just a few days ago, I spent over thirty minutes trying to walk my mother through checking her email. CHECKING HER EMAIL!

How Hard Is This?Seriously, I wanted to send her this picture, but I couldn’t think of a way to do it that was less complicated than email that she could actually do. The only thing that came to mind was printing it out, putting into an envelope and snail mailing it to her.

Here’s where the epiphany comes in. It doesn’t matter what OS they’re using, or what hardware they’ve got, or how hard I try to make it easy for them. They’re just a lost cause, and that means that Linux is perfect for them.

Linux for Lost Causes

All this time I’ve been trying to make everything so easy that even they couldn’t mess it up. It led to more and more complex issues for me, but didn’t solve their problems. With Linux, I can easily remote into their computer, their computer is virtually impervious to all of the weird crap that seems to miraculously get installed even though I’m not sure which if them knows how to install stuff, and I can maintain it for them with barely a flip of my wrist at the command line. If my mother can’t figure out how to open her email, I can literally open it for her. Linux is no harder to use than Windows or OSX, so I can’t think of a single reason they shouldn’t use Linux. Really, any one that has a lost cause of their own should be thinking Linux.

Think I’m wrong? Give me an earful.

 

The State of Gaming on Linux

Gaming on LinuxI’ve never been much of a gamer honestly, so how games were doing in Linux really never mattered much to me. When World of Warcraft came out, my entire department bought it and started a guild, so of course I did too. Fade to black… time passes.

I wrote this article last year about how I’d kept a Windows partition around strictly for gaming purposes and how with a little help from Wine, I’d moved past it. More than a year later, I’ve more than passed the need for Windows to play games.

Steam

Gaming on LinuxMan, Steam for Linux. Just today I installed Left 4 Dead 2. I haven’t had the time for an in depth look at every single bit of the game, but from what I’ve seen It’s perfect (despite the fact it’s still in Beta). Portal just hit Linux too. In looking at my Steam library, there’s only three games that aren’t available for Linux yet. Portal 2, which is rumored to be on it’s way as well, Half Life 2, and Half Life 2 Lost Coast*. I’m expecting both of those to come to Linux too since most of the Half Life family of games already has. Steam has opened up a whole ton of games for Linux that hadn’t previously existed.

*UPDATE: Since the original writing of this bit, Half Life 2 and Half Life 2 Lost Coast have become available on Steam. At this point, the only game in my Steam library that isn’t available for Linux is Portal 2, and I’m expecting to see it show up as available soon as well.

Humble Indie Bundle

Gaming on Linux

The Humble Indie Bundle is another great resource for Linux games. In the past it’s bundled games for low prices that you can get for an extremely low price that you can download or add to your Steam library. I’ve picked up a number of really cool games this way, and the proceeds to to charity. You can’t really beat the opportunity to get some cool games and help people out at the same time. Every time Linux users have risen to the challenge and donated more to the cause than any other platform (proportionally speaking of course). I always keep a close eye on their site just so that I’m ready for the next opportunity to get games from them.

Play On Linux

Gaming on LinuxWhen all else fails, there’s always Wine. The best option I’ve found is Play On Linux. It’s got a whole lot of pre-configured options available, so if you’re wanting to play a popular game, chances are there’s a pre-made configuration available for it in Play On Linux. This is what I use to play World of Warcraft and Unreal Tournament. I did use it for Star Trek Online for a while, but that game never really stuck with me. I’ve honestly never tried to run a game in Play On Linux that didn’t work. If you’re a Linux user and you have an old favorite laying around because it’s Windows only, give it a shot.

Games Everywhere

So, I guess the old argument about Linux not having games is fading fast into history. There are literally Linux games coming out every day. But there is one problem with Gaming on Linux that I’ve only recently run into. I’m quickly running out of hard drive space. I’m going to have to do something about that soon.

Antivirus for Linux

LinuxBugIt never fails to amaze me just how the same arguments keep coming up over and over again, like bad pennies. Most of them ignore facts so blatantly it gives me a headache.

The I’m referring to today is the one about Linux Viruses.

First of all, Linux Viruses exist. Yep, it’s true, they exist. There’s actually a couple of them. Wikipedia lists an even 30 of them. There’s even Virus protection for Linux.

True, compared to MacOS and Windows, that’s a drop in the bucket. Barely worth noticing. And that’s where the same old argument comes up time and again.

“The reason that Linux doesn’t have viruses like MacOS and Windows is because it’s not as popular!” The argument is that if more people used Linux, there actually would be viruses for Linux. The completely ignores the fact that the desktop is the exception, not the rule. Linux dominates elsewhere. Servers, smart phones, super computers, etc. Linux is kicking ass and taking names. A virus that could infect all those systems would be hugely valuable both monetarily and for a reputation. Yet, it doesn’t happen.

Even  the ones that already exist pretty much suck compared to their Microsoft and Apple counterparts.

So is there a reason to even consider running anti-virus on your Linux computer? Shockingly, the answer is still yes, but not for the same reasons some Mac users and all Windows users should.

You should run anti-virus on your Linux machine as a courtesy to your non-Linux using friends. Their systems aren’t as impervious as yours, so even though your computer is unlikely to get any infection, the same can’t be said for theirs. This also helps you in the long run when all those non-Linux computers aren’t infected blasting out TBs of garbage data out onto the Internet, slowing your connection down and filling your Inbox with spam.

In the long run, we all win.