Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Linux Desktop

This is NOT a minimal DesktopHow often do you stop to look at your desktop? I can honestly say, I look at my desktop more or less depending on what OS I’m using. Is that weird?

Scientific Study

Today at work, I received a new project. That’s not terribly relevant other that it’s what spurred a revelation. While thinking about how I was going to go about solving a particular problem, I suddenly realized that I was staring blankly at my desktop.

My computer at work is a crappy Windows 7 box that has the hardest time with the most basic tasks. For me to say that I don’t like it would be an understatement, but today I noticed something different. My desktop is a huge mess. There are literally icons and folders scattered everywhere.

Why is this interesting? Well, it’s probably not in all honesty, but this is not typical behavior for me. I usually keep things pretty pristine. I like the minimal desktop look, and having icons and folders scattered is not minimal. After some brief cleanup, and was walking to get lunch, and as I walked through a row of cubicles, I was noticing other people’s desktops too. To a person, they looked like mine. Disaster areas. Garbage scattered hither and yon. Every Windows desktop seemed to be that way.

Finally my day ends, and I’m able to sit down at my home computer for a second. I breathe a sigh of relief when I see my spotless Linux desktop happily waiting for me to do something. Ironically, that something happened to be digging through my old screen shots. As it turns out, every screen shot I’ve ever taken of Windows is piles of icons. Everywhere. Every screen shot I’ve taken of Linux is neatly organized with a fairly minimal desktop.

Does using Linux make me more organized? My “Scientific Study” says Yes! And when I say “Scientific” I mean “Not Scientific at all”. Seriously, this “study” ranks right up there with studies funded by Microsoft “proving” that Windows is more secure or less expensive than Linux. We’re talking utter crap here.

The Question

Still, it’s interesting to me that I work so much differently when I use Linux vs. when I use Windows. Is it more than just me? Go back through your screen shots if you have them. Are you more organized when you’re using Linux than Windows?

My Desktop Gallery

Welcoming FOSS Advocates!


Go check them out at


FOSS Advocates


Today on Google+, a good friend of mine had a big announcement. Since he put it in better words than I can conjure, I’m just going to steal his post and paste it here.


Hey guys,

Myself and the rest of the FOSS Advocates team are very proud to announce that the site is pretty much ready to launch. So we have decided to officially launch the site tomorrow at 1500 UTC.

What we currently have
So currently the site isn’t much more than a blog. We have aggregated open source content from around the web, as well as some vanilla content from myself and the rest of the team.

However, we’re not going to remain this way for long, and we took this deliberate decision to launch as we are now so that our readers have something tangible they can visit whilst we’re still working away in the background.

Think of this first release as a kind of open beta. We’re happy with what we have currently, be we’re still working very hard to actively develop the site to make it the awesome place we fully expect it to be.

What’s next?
Once we’ve launched we’re going to immediately start work on phase 2 of the project, which is the community. We’re going to be adding a “social network” to the site (I hate that term, but it’s basically what it is). Were members can engage with on another, share information, and generally “hang out”.

We’re also going to add community forums so that you guys have everything you need to mozy on down and have a good chat to one another. The forums will be a place were you can publicly talk about anything you like that’s related to FOSS (and even some stuff that isn’t). New projects, support, emerging technologies, and general chit chat. It’s a community forum, so you guys set the subjects!

Once this is done we’re going to have a little break and enjoy the fruits of our labour. Me and the rest of the team will be regulars in the forums, and in the community, so you will no doubt get to know us better there.

Once the community is established and it’s nicely ticking along, we will start development on phase three of our project. At this point in time though guys, it’s top secret, but let me assure you that it’s going to be epic! We don’t want anyone else stealing our idea.

Let’s just say that if you’re a project leader, you gonna want to see this. We’ll leave it there for now I think. ;-)

How can I help out?
Once the sites launched we’re going to need your help. In true community spirit, if you have any
feedback, then please contact us on this goes straight to our inboxes so
you will receive a response.

As well as this, you can volunteer to help us out, either by assisting with moderation here on the G+ Community, or by being a guest author on the blog.

If you have any recommendations to interesting FOSS RSS feeds, then by all means run them by us. We’ll take a look, and add them to the site is we think they’re a good fit.

Thank you
Me and the rest of the team still have a lot of work ahead of us. But we’re excited about FOSS Advocates, and we hope you are too. Please feel free to re-share this announcement here on G+, and on other social networks.

If you have a blog yourself, and want to feature FOSS Advocates then please feel free to do so. If you want a direct quote then email us using the address above.

Thanks guys, spread the word, and we look forward to your feedback on the site tomorrow!

–Kev and the rest of the FOSS Adv team

So, you heard it here second. Go and check out tomorrow at 1500 UTC. Check out what the guys over there are offering. It only gets better from here.

Distributions: The Evolution of Linux

Evolution of Linux


Having recently said goodbye to two really great distributions in Cinnarch (reborn as Antergos) and Fuduntu (replaced by FuSE Cloverleaf Linux), I was shocked at the number of people that still think there are too many Linux distributions out there. While I was sad to see these two great distributions go, I’m excited for what we’ll see in the future both because of these distributions and because of their teams. This is exactly how the Evolution of Linux works.

What is Evolution?

Evolution is defined as the gradual development of something, especially from a simple to a more complex form. Now what does this have to do with distributions and what does it have to do with Linux?

It’s pretty simple really. Every time a change is made to a Linux distribution, it’s evolving. These changes can be subtle or they can be grandiose. We would never see any of these changes if distributions didn’t bring them to us.

Cold Hard Truth

Here’s the hard part. Not everything works out. Some changes aren’t for the best. Not everything improves things for the masses. What happens to those changes? Well, from an evolutionary perspective, they go extinct. Those changes don’t provide benefits to future generations, so they don’t get passed down and they eventually die out. Changes that do provide benefit to future generations get picked up. They get carried on and they improve future generations so that they can be changed yet again to make even more future generations better.

That’s why it’s better for more distributions rather than less. It allows for more possible paths to see the light of day. I’d rather see a thousand developers show us their visions for Linux than have only the big two giving us what they think is best. You know, Mark Shuttleworth may be right about everything, or maybe Andrew Wyatt’s ideas are better, or maybe Ikey Doherty is right. Or maybe none of them are. Or maybe all of them are, just about different things.

Pick and Choose

Here’s another great thing about Linux: Linux isn’t Windows. I know most of you are giving me a great big “DUH” right now, but hear me out. Windows has, for all intents and purposes, one version. Microsoft decides what to give you and that’s what you get. If Microsoft makes a mistake and you’re a Windows user, you’re screwed. Good luck with Windows 8. If Microsoft does a couple things right and a whole lot wrong, you’re still screwed. In the Linux world, if a single distribution does one thing right, even if it’s a small change to a obscure little library, that change can be picked up and carried on, even if the full distribution doesn’t make it.

How many people remember a company called Eazel? They made a product for Linux, but failed to monetize that product so they ended up going out of business. Thankfully, that product was open source, and still exists today because of it. That product was Nautilus, the file manager used by many distributions to this day.


This is why Linux again is so much better than Windows, and why more distributions are better than less. Any improvement can carry on. If it’s small or if it’s large, it can live on well past the distribution or company that conceived it. It’s sad to see Fuduntu and Cinnarch go, but they’ve brought us new things. Now we have FuSE Cloverleaf Linux and Antergos, which are new opportunities for the improvement of Linux as a whole. The people that created Fuduntu and Cinnarch are taking what they’ve learned and what they made better and bringing that to FuSE Cloverleaf Linux and Antergos, and because it’s Open Source, they’re bringing it to the world as well. I for one, think that’s a very good thing, and I encourage as many people to do it as possible. That’s how the evolution of Linux works.


Shawn W. Dunn (all round nice guy and fellow Montanan) caught up with me over on FOSS Advocates and corrected me regarding FuSE. They’ve instead elected to call the new distribution Cloverleaf Linux.

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.


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.

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.


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

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.