Archive for Operating Systems

Customize with Conky

A while back, I started playing around with conky. It’s a really cool piece of software that lets you do some truly amazing things. It ties in tightly with lua, so if you’re familiar with it, you’re already a step ahead of me.

conky lets you add all sorts of information to your desktop. You can add processor monitors, heat monitors, uptime, disk utilization, network activity, the works. I’m not really particularly good at it, and I can still cobble something together that looks pretty nice (imho).

If you’ve got a couple minutes of free time and you really want to add some pop to your desktop, I’d suggest hitting The Google and digging up some information on conky. You’ll be happy that you did.

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Backing It Up

CrashPlanI was in a Google+ Hangout tonight where some people that know quite a lot more about photography than I do were discussion various photography type topics. One of those people was Cali Lewis, who pretty much everybody who’s ever used a keyboard would recognize from GeekBeat.tv.

Of course, where you find Cali Lewis you will find Drobo. The subject of backing up your stuff came up, and with it the ever present Drobo.

I want to state this up front. The Drobos are cool devices. Very cool. I’d consider buying one if I had gobs of cash. That being said, a device like a Drobo is hardly a requirement for a secure backup. Here’s my basic setup.

So how do I use this? Well, it’s pretty straight forward actually. I store all my files on the internal drive. That’s it. I don’t even think about anything else. I have a simple shell script running in a cron job every 5 minutes. All that script does is run an rsync on two local locations, keeping my Internal drive in sync with my external. Every single change that’s done on my internal storage gets mirrored on my external. CrashPlan is configured to backup the internal storage.

What does this amount to? Basically, all my data is backed up locally and remotely in a secured location. This whole setup will cost me $360 the first year, and $60 every year after that. Considering the Drobo Mini is the cheapest Drobo available at $649 (not even including the drives), you can get 5 years of service before you even come close to the cost of least expensive Drobo.

For the every day guy/gal working on their computer and storing family photos and personal music collection, there’s no reason to go to the extreme and purchase a Drobo. If it helps you sleep better at night and you’ve got disposable income laying around, go for it, but if you’re like the majority of people everywhere, you can spend your money more frugally and get protection that’s just as good.

Disagree with me? Let me know all about it.

Mondays Suck

 

Monday's Suck

The clock on my computer is telling me that it’s 11:20 AM. It’s Monday, and everything has sucked today.

Work

Work drug me out of bed this morning with unresponsive web servers. Intermittent issues are always the worst. Took two hours to track down a web app that was only generating an error on one node of the cluster. Restarted the app and everything worked like a charm.

Phone

I decided last night that I wanted to root my phone. After the ICS update it’s been running so slowly sometimes it takes minutes to just make a call. Apps are barely usable. It’s pathetic really. I found a nice little article over on Lifehacker titled “How to Root the HTC Thunderbolt“. Seems promising since it’s only a couple months old.

First complication: “you’ll just need to download the batch script on this page, run it on your Windows machine, and follow all the instructions.” Ewww, Windows.

OK, this can be dealt with.

I fire up a Windows machine, download the necessary crap, and get my phone in a state that the app requires. OK, let’s fire this baby up!

crashNot only did the phone spontaneously restart, the Windows machine BSODed. I tried it twice more (because I’m stubborn that way) with the same results. It amazes me that people use Windows. What kind of POS operating system takes a complete dump running a glorified batch file? Finally gave up because I have work to do.

Tablet

My tablet is an old beater HP TouchPad that’s hacked to run CM9. Most days it does alright for itself, but lately everything is crashing all the time. I’m not sure if these later CM9 nightlys are just less stable or if the tablet is going down the crapper. Apps like GMail crash. Maps doesn’t even install due to some weird conflict. Google+ crashes. SwiftKey works but the tablet doesn’t seem to recognize that you’re typing on it so you can’t enter text. I get weird digital garbage in the conversation when I use Skype or Google Talk.

I’m about ready for something (ANYTHING) to work today. So damn frustrating. Mondays suck.

 

Experiencing KDE for the First Time. Again.

KDEWhen I started using Linux back in the late 90s, I started out with FVWM95. It’s almost identical appearance to Windows 95 was very enticing to me. I was using Windows 95 most of the time, and the fact that Linux with FVWM95 was free was really cool. After FVWM95, I moved to Enlightenment with Gnome for the cool theming capabilities. Eventually the Enlightenment portion of Gnome faded away and I was just using Gnome.

I liked Gnome. Originally I was drawn to FVWM95 because it was so similar to Windows 95, but I liked Gnome because it wasn’t.

A desktop battle started between Gnome and KDE. I figured that if Gnome and KDE were competing, it was a good idea to try KDE as well, so I threw it on a computer and gave it a try.

The first time I tried KDE, I didn’t like it. That’s probably an understatement. Many people liked it, but to me, it was terrible. I ran back to Gnome pretty quickly. I’ve never really left Gnome since then. I’ve tried KDE probably a dozen times since that first time, but I never stuck with it. Every time I tried it, my initial dislike was only reinforced.

I’ve always loved the customizability of Linux. I love browsing the Desktop Screenshots on deviantART. There are some truly creative individuals there, and some of the things they do with Linux are amazing to look at.

What does that have to do with the story? I’m getting there, I promise.

One day, when I was browsing through the latest screenshots, something happened. I saw some of the really impressive screenshots were running software I didn’t recognize. After digging a little deeper, I discovered that they were running KDE. This surprised me quite a bit, but it inspired me to give KDE another shot.

I’m currently running Ubuntu 12.04 on my primary system, so I just dropped to the command line, fired up apt-get, and minutes later, KDE was installed. I fired up the new DE, and was greeted by a fairly unfamiliar environment. It took a little bit of getting used to, but after a few hours of use, I found that I was really enjoying using it.

Wait, what?

Yep, I was really enjoying using KDE. I liked the DE that I’d been virtually repulsed by for more than a decade.

I’ve noticed a few oddities with KDE installed on Ubuntu, mostly because I’m still using KDM as my login screen. To get a more full experience of KDE, I put Kubuntu 12.10 on a spare USB key, and booted my laptop with it. Of course, everything automatically detected and the laptop started with a full KDE experience.

Not only did I enjoy using it, it’s awesome. Unless something drastically changes in the next couple months, I expect I’ll rebuild my primary system to run on Kubuntu 13.04.

Phil Schiller Displays Apple’s Desperation

Desperate AppleReading the comments made by Phil Schiller in a recent Wall Street Journal interview, you could smell the stink of desperation wafting off the pages.

“When you take an Android device out of the box, you have to sign up to nine accounts with different vendors to get the experience iOS comes with. They don’t work seamlessly together.”

It’s pretty obvious that Schiller has either no idea about the Android experience, or isn’t interested in telling the truth. Of course, he went on to talk about Android fragmentation (which really has no impact on the end user at all).

This follows up a rare tweet he made regarding Android security.

To me, as an Android user, all Schiller has managed to do is display a complete and utter lack of knowledge or understanding of the Android experience and environment. He suggested that Android phones are cheap giveaways by carriers, ignoring the fact that iPhones are also given away (you can get an iPhone 4 for 99 cents on AT&T if you’re a new customer or upgrading an existing plan). This is typical of Apple, where facts have never mattered. Now as they watch the mobile market slip through their fingers, the desperation becomes more and more obvious.

Ice Cream Sandwich for the HTC Thunderbolt

htc-thunderbolt-officialFor those of you that aren’t paying attention to ancient history, news broke today that Verizon has finally given the go to ICS for the HTC Thunderbolt.

All I’ve got to say about that right now is this: It takes a whole lotta gall to start your press release out with the line “When you rely on Verizon Wireless, you know you are getting the cutting-edge devices and technology needed to keep your business running at full speed” when you’re announcing the upgrade of a phone that shipped in March of 2011 to an OS that came out in October of 2011, and it’s currently 2013. I don’t know if HTC is to blame for this debacle, or if it’s Verizon’s fault, or if it’s somewhere in the middle, but claiming that Verizon is giving you “cutting-edge devices and technology” is almost a slap in the face.

I Don’t Hate the iPhone

iphone_trash_verizon-300x299I feel like, after reading a recent article that I’m not going to bother linking, that I need to clarify my position on the iPhone. This will probably come as a surprise to some of you, but I don’t hate the iPhone. I think that the iPhone an adequate smart phone, but nothing specially. It’s less functional than it’s competition, so I don’t see any reason to buy one, but I don’t hate it. Here’s what I do hate.

Apple

That’s right, I don’t hate the iPhone, but I absolutely hate Apple. Apple as a company has always been more of a follower than a leader, but they love to puff themselves up and pretend that they’re the greatest innovators known to man. That’s bull. They’re no more innovators than any other company in the computer industry. Much less than some. Especially these days where they’re more likely to try to sue someone for something they didn’t invent than actually invent something. For some reason every time some executive at Apple passes gas, it “changes the industry”. Please, save it for someone who doesn’t know any better.

Speaking of…..

Apple Fanatics

True, I don’t hate the iPhone, but I absolutely hate Apple fanatics. I especially hate Apple fanatics that say things like, “I am NOT an Apple fanboy. I’m a techie and it just so happens that Apple is amazing. I give credit where credit is due.” All that saying something like that proves to me is that you’re an Apple fanatic and a complete imbecile. There are some people who are fans of Apple that actually have some semblance of a clue, and I don’t want to group those people in with the Apple Fanatic (at least so far as I group them). Apple Fanatics are clueless blowhards that think Steve Jobs shit rainbows and gold bars. More often than not, they’re under the impression that Apple invented pretty much everything.

The Apple Logo

cool-iphone-4-casesThis may have been covered by just Apple in general, but while I don’t hate the iPhone, I despise that stupid logo. Apple puts it in the middle of all their products as big as they can make it. I’m fairly certain that Apple could have made some of it’s devices smaller if they’d have not put such a huge logo on it. Further, I hate cases that go out of their way to not cover up the logo. These are the type of cases that Apple Fanatics buy, and I can’t think of a single other company that even has something like this available. There’s no reason to have a case like this unless the logo is somehow important to you, and if the logo is important to you, then you’re buying your device as a status symbol and not because it’s a good device. Unless you bought it on clearance for $.99, if you have a case like this you’re probably an Apple fanatic, and all that brings with it.

Finishing It Off

I just felt that my opinion of the iPhone warranted clarification. I don’t hate the iPhone. I hate Apple, I hate their stinking logo, and I hate the fanatical fan boys that follow them around. The device itself is fine. I’d never buy one in a hundred years, but it’s fine. It’s over-hyped and less functional than other devices in the same market, but it’s fine.

Microsoft Surface Review

Today I finally managed to get my hands on Microsoft’s newest device, the Microsoft Surface. My wife and I were wandering around our local Best Buy with no intention of buying anything, and there they were, sitting on display next to the Samsung tablets. Given the environment, there were obviously problems, but I won’t hold those against the Surface (despite the fact that the other tablets were all working fine). Here are my impressions of Microsoft’s device.

The Device Itself

Holding the device, I didn’t notice much difference in weight compared to other tablets it’s size. This isn’t a scientific measurement, I just held it. I’m sure there’s a difference, but it wasn’t really noticeable in the few minutes I played around with it. The texture of the device was nice. The design? Not so much. Microsoft decided to go the in the opposite direction from every other tablet maker on the market, and make the device kind of, well, sharp. There are unrounded edges on the device which are apparent as soon as you pick up the device. Personally, I didn’t like it as much as the rounded corners of pretty much every other tablet. I didn’t experience any physical discomfort in holding the Surface, but I only held it for 10 minutes or so. The screen was nice, and the resolution was good.

The OS

2012-12-27 14.31.34Wow, this is opening up a can of worms, but the OS is pretty much everything I expected it to be. Horrible. I’ve only had the chance to try it on a phone before, and I thought it was functional but ugly. On a tablet, it’s even less functional, but still ugly. I opened up several different applications, but the one that jarred me the most was the Office 13 Preview. Opening that app kicked me into Desktop mode immediately. To me, it was akin to reading something and having it ripped out of your hand mid-sentence and having to change your point of view to something different. I didn’t like it at all. One of the other things I noticed when I was trying it out was the picture at left. This is a minor thing, but it popped out at me. When I tried out the login, I realized that I didn’t have the password to get back in. I thought that maybe they left it blank for demonstration purposes, so I tried that. I was wrong in my guess, but when it came back to let me know that, the text didn’t even line up correctly in the box.

Dead Horse

I’m not going to keep going. I didn’t get a lot of time with the device, but in the time I did have with it, I wasn’t impressed. Not everything about the Surface was bad, and if there were no other tablets on the market anywhere (say in some alternate reality where iOS and Android didn’t exist), I’d consider it mostly functional. What I did see was that there was absolutely nothing about this device that would ever make me consider it over more well established players in the market. I mean seriously, I’d even choose an iPad over this thing and that’s saying something.

Samsung Should Withhold Technology from Apple

Samsung Should Withhold Technology from AppleIn recent days, Samsung has been showing off some pretty cool new stuff. One of these new technologies is the flexible display that they actually showed us last year (at right), but which this year will be new and improved. Of course the question came up, given the current situation between Apple and Samsung, will Samsung withhold these new technologies from Apple? My personal opinion? Samsung should withhold technology from Apple.

To Big for their Britches

Apple has spent the last couple years strutting around like they’re the cool kid on campus, suing anybody and everybody from the most minimal slight, justified or not. They’ve gone after Samsung more than any other company. The biggest irony in that is that Samsung has manufactured a great number of the components that make the iPhone/iPad work. Processors, displays, memory. Recently, Apple has attempted to get those parts from other companies, with mixed success. As it stands currently, Apple needs Samsung. Apple can’t even make their devices without Samsung.

Apple has Withheld from Samsung

It’s impossible to not note that the cases we’re currently seeing in the courts are a result of Apple pulling fairly ridiculous patents out of their bag of tricks, refusing to license those patents to 3rd parties, and then suing if there’s even a hint that those patents might be violated. Those patents include multi-touch and their rubber band patent.

Samsung has got the Goods

Samsung Should Withhold Technology from AppleThe thing about Apple suing Samsung is that it provides Samsung with very little motivation to continue to provide their technology to Apple. And why should they? I don’t think they should. I think that Samsung should withhold their technology from Apple, because quite frankly, despite the fact that Apple has somehow managed to get a reputation for being innovators, they’re not. Samsung is on the other hand. Let Apple continue to use what they’ve got, but anything that Samsung comes up with in the future is strictly off limits. Before long, the iPhone will look like this little gem to the right.

A Taste of their own Medicine

I’m anxious to see Samsung give Apple a taste of their own medicine. Some of these new technologies that Samsung is coming up with are extremely cool, and like nothing Apple has ever dreamed of. If Apple is happy to withhold technology like a rubber banding effect, then I’m all for Samsung keeping flexible displays from Apple. Give them a taste of their own medicine and watch them fade into obscurity just as relevant as Betamax.

Why I’m Grateful for Android Malware

Hardly a couple days can go by without some horror story about the latest Android malware. The one I think I saw most recently was a story about how Android faces more malware attacks than PCs in the United States. Now, besides sounding like click bate and total fiction, I find that I don’t really care about Android malware. Quite the contrary, I’m grateful for it.

Grateful for malware?!? Yep, and here’s why.

The Trojan Horse

Pretty much all malware on the Android platform is a Trojan Horse. For those unfamiliar with the Trojan Horse, it’s really just software that fools the person using the device into installing it. It doesn’t use any kind of software or security vulnerabilities. It attacks the person. All this boils down to is that any platform that has someone using it is vulnerable to a Trojan Horse.

Those Other Platforms

Are there platforms out there that have less malware than Android does?

Yep.

Would I use those platforms over Android?

Nope.

Why? Isn’t less malware good?

That depends on what you’re giving up to rid yourself of this malware. See, Android is very secure. Google goes to great lengths to protect their users from malware, and in cases where infection does occur through the Play Store, they can remotely repair your device. They’ve even implemented checks for apps that are sideloaded onto your device, which is where most malware infections come from.

Don’t other devices do this too?

Well, not really. Microsoft and Apple have more stringent restrictions on the apps that make it into their store, it’s true. There’s no real protection from side loaded applications because to even get an app sideloaded on to the device, it has to be jailbroken. The user doesn’t have permissions to install applications that aren’t approved by Microsoft or Apple respectively.

And that’s the gotcha for me. This is my device. I paid for it, but I need someone else’s permission to install software on it? I call BS on that.

Conclusion

Sure, Apple and Microsoft limiting what the user can install theoretically makes the platform less vulnerable to malware, but it does it by restricting what the user can do. It’s taking away your capabilities on the device. It’s making it more of a toaster oven than a smart phone. I guess that’s why I find myself grateful for Android malware, and every time I see some news article regarding Android malware, I’m more grateful for it. It means that I continue to have rights on my device that users of other platforms can’t claim. To me, that makes malware something to be grateful for.