Tuesday, August 31, 2004

minor adjustments

I used the kde control center to turn num-lock on when I log in. Also I used the kde control center to set my sound system to use alsa (advanced Linux Sound Architecture). This let me hear the sounds that Frozen-bubble uses.

Monday, August 30, 2004

apt on Fedora

I installed apt and synaptic (graphic front end for apt) on my Fedora C2 system and it works very nicely. Once I put inm apt (using rpm) I issued the apt-get update command and then installed synaptic [ apt-get synaptic]. Synaptic is a very nice graphic front end to apt: it shows all available packages and you can limit view to packages installed, packages available but not installed, etc.

I then installed frozen-bubble - my favorit game for killing lots of time.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

mandrake vs fedora

Yesterday I installed Mandrake on my main system. It's OK, but it still requires one to be root to use kppp to connect via a modem. I also didn't care for the menus. I decided to reinstall Fedora Core 2. Actually, it all worked out well since I was forced to redesign my disk layout. I eleminated Windows 98 and set up a larger second partition to store backups. Restorring my data and key applications did not take too long and now all is well.

Friday, August 27, 2004


I have started installing mandrake 10. I spent a good part of the day backing up my data. When I started the install I found that the custum disk partition stuff hard to work with so I used parted. I also found that I had to use the select package' option so that I could select all the packages.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

aol linux dialer

Linspire has apparently developed a free Linux dialer for AOL. It is GPLed.
The article is at

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

move to mandrake

I got to thinking about Fedora and Mandrake and I decided that I was a bit bothered by Fedora's trying to be at the bleeding edge. I prefer being current, but only with stuff that works. Also the memory requiremnt for Fedora is min 128 meg (recommended 192 meg) and this bothers me. I prefer lean systems.

Monday, August 23, 2004


I am thinking of switching to the Mandrake distro. I have been using Red Hat / Fedora for several years and have been very happy with it, but I am getting nervous with the 'experimental' orientation of Fedora. I prefer to have my system be stable. Fedora Core 2 has worked well for me, but I find that I can't install some programs (e.g. Icewm) . I also don't like the memory footprint.

My concern is that there is little literature on Mandrake, and that updates to software might be a bit hard to get. On the otherhand, I have used Mandrake before and liked it a lot.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

windows - a good enough desktop?

In the area of servers and host main frame computers, IT decision makers often avoid using Windows because Windows is perceived to lack need levels of reliability and scalability; especially in mission critical situations. For important application situations, downtime is not easily tolerated and IT personnel will elect ot use Linux or for especially sensative situations Unix (e.g. HP-UX, AIX, Solaris, etc.) or IBM MVS . In production, commercial, mission critical environments, downtime (even being down once a month or once a year) is unacceptable because of the high cost of application unavailability. If capacity becomes an issue, adding more resources or upgrading to a larger machine can entail a large expenditure of time and money and raises the risk of service interuption.

The desktop user, usually does not have reliability or scalability hight on their list of critical performance factors. If an office productivity tool user needs to reboot their computer once or twice in a day, it costs only a few minutes of time and is at most a minor inconvience. If more horse power is needed, a desktop user adds more memory, disks, etc. or even gets a new computer without a major expenditure of time or money.

The desktop user is more interested in ease of use, application data interchange, and large application selection. Linux has reached a level of ease of use nearly equal to that of Windows. KDE is a prime example. For most persons used to Windows, the switch to KDE is very easy as both have a similar user interface and set of functionality.

For major desktop applications such as word processingl, spreadsheet, data base, graphics, etc. the ability to exchange data files between applications has reached the good enough level of Linux interacting with Windows. OpenOffice.org is a good example as is the Gimp. While the situation is not fully good enough, Linux is nearly there, and for major office applications it is at the good enough level.

The principal area where Linux falls way short in comparison to Windows is in application selection or availablility. In the general office productivity area, Linux has an adequate selection of software such as accounting, desktop publishing, word processing, spreadsheet, database, communications, etc. In niche, hobbiest, entertainment or speacialized areas Linux often has few or no applications to select from. For example there is little software to enable the analog capture of video from camcorders, or for video editing; no greeting card generation software, few games, etc. In this regard Linux is not yet good enough.

As Linux use spreads in offices (commercial, governmental, and educational) beasue of reliability, scalability, and cost; many users will bring Linux into home use because of a desire to have a home system compatible with their work system. The spread of Linux in offices will make Linux more acceptable to home users. When home users begin adopting Linux in large numbers, applications for niche, hobbiest, entertainment areas will spread and then Linux will achieve world domination.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

win modems

I think that the issue of win-modems (i.e. soft modems) will finally get resolved as Linux becomes more popular. As I understand things, the reason we don't have drivers for win-modems under Linux is that the manufacturers have not released the design speciifications of the modems and therefore no one has been able to build the drivers that do required functions. I am not convinced that this is really the case, since I can't see the competitive advantage of kkeping the specifications secret - to me it seems to just cost a firm sales.

Right now, if you want to use Linux you have to have an external modem or a 'real' internal modem. Both ways cost more that a win modem (I have seen win modems being sold for $5 at retail). The upside is that an external or 'real' modem works better. On my systems I seem to get about 10% higher connection speed with a real modem than with a win-modem

Friday, August 20, 2004

recompile Linux kernel

I think every heay-duty Linux user should try to recompile the kernel so as to know how to do it. Every now and then I read about some feature (often involving security) that sounds good, and the author will say that such and such a feature has to be enabled or compiled into the kernel. Also, if size becomes an issue, it is good to beable to compile a cutom kernel with only the features, drivers, etc. that are needed.

I have found several articles in books, magazines, and on-line (the HOW-TOs in the Linux Documentation project for example) that discribe the steps needed to recompile the kernel. When I have done a recompile, I have found the process a bit time consumming, but not really very hard to do.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Windows vs Linux

I have noticed that as time goes by (2 - 3 years), one needs to upgrade their Windows system (operating system and hardware) because of the need for more powerful cpu, more memory, etc. The same thing does not seem to happen on the Linux side. A Linux system seems to stay usefull for a lot longer period of time than a Windows system.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

pda for linux

I have a zaurus sl5500 pda and recently installed a terminal program. This gives me command line access to the linux system and it is a lot of fun. The pda itself has a lot of nice software and works really well. Too bad it's not open source.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

why no aol for linux?

I have wondered why aol has not produced a product for linux users. Since AOL has an apple version, it should not be very difficult to make a version for Linux. The graphics part should be able to work with xwindow without any problem.

Even if AOL did not want to port the aol software, they could still provide a connection like any other isp; Linux users could then use the web to get to their mail, etc.

I don't see any big conspericy or anything like that; I suspect aol does not appreciate the size of the market.

Monday, August 16, 2004

spread of linux

I was in Stillwater Oklahoma this past weekend and I went to a discount book store geared to college students. When I was there last year there was nothing related to linux. THis year there were books, linux distributions and even penguin mints. A big change in one year!

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

wifi security

I went to a linux user group presentaiton on security on a wireless network. The speaker demonstarated how easy it is to pickup and read signinals from a wireless network using opensource tools. I think I will stick with my wired home network.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

windows v.s. linux program install/uninstall

Today I installed some packages on my wife's win xp system and realized that you can get into trouble installing and / or uninstalling software in windows.

After I installed the programs and we tried them out, my wife decided we should delete them. When I used the add/remove function I got all kinds of messages about shared dll files; asking if I wanted to delete them. Some were in the windows\system folder and thus I was faced with either delete something that maybe I shouldn't or leave a bunch of unused progams in my system. I also wondered what sort of crud was being left in my wife's system registry. I decided to use the system restore to restore to the start of the day, but after rebooting windows told me it could not restore (my daughter had the same problem in win me). Fortunately I also had GO BACK so I was able to restore the system to what it was like before the program installs.

In Linux if you install with RPMs or make files you can always atleast determine what files were installed. RPM's erase function does a good job of removing stuff. With the make file you camn read it and see what was installed per the targets.

On my wife's and my daughter's systems, there are system restore disks that will bring the system back to what it was like when it was purchased - they reformat the disk and install the original system image. In linux, if by trying to uninstall some software, you clobber something you can normally reinstall the damaged software and be OK. If you have to you can boot into root at the command line and try to fix stuff, or if it's really bad use a rescue disk. I can't imagine having to actually reformat the hard drive and lose all the data.

computer prices

I saw an article that said that sam's club is selling a linux pc for $325.

The price of a decent desktop system with monitor, printer, and a real modem is about $600 retail. The main box itself (256 meg mem; 40 gig hd and a cd-rw is probably about $400 . Once a system can be bought for under $500 (usual price - not a special deal), we will see the pc really becomming an applicance (with the internet being viewed as a public utility). Then we will see open source software truly spread like wild-fire.

Monday, August 09, 2004

best site for low cost linux software

I have found that Discount Linux CD (Edmound software) is the best site for low cost Linux Software like distributions, live CDs (e.g. Knoppix), openoffice.org, etc.

The cost is $2.49 per cd.

The site is located at


I have found them to be very reliable.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

windows means ...

Per one of my daughters:

Windows is called windows because it is easily broken and lets anything through it.

switching between distributions

I am using Fedora, but since it has such a big memmory footprint, I sometimes think about moving to Mandrake or even Susse. TO move from one distro to another is not a big deal from the data aspect. I have all my data files in my home directory and I just have to copy it to another partion which I have set up for backups. All the major applications are included in the major distro's or can be downloaded and installed without much difficulty.

The biggest inconvience is to learn new configuration tools. The actual configuration files are pretty much the same from distibution to distribution, but the tool kits for working with them are different among the distros. Sonce they all work similarly this is not as big a problem as it sounds.

One thing is that the literature is very much geared to Red Hat (i.e. Fedora) so it is a bit harder to learn about how to work with the other distro's utility tools.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

sites for open source software

This is a list of links to open source software .

Friday, August 06, 2004

windows stability

In the past few weeks I have spent a lot of time repairing windows (xp and me) systems. The three systems I have worked with are all run by people who practice 'safe' computing and do periodic maintenance. Even so, they have had viruses, corrupted system files, missing system files, and performance and stability problems.

I hack around with my Linux system quite a bit, yet I never have had the level or frequency of problems that my friends, who use Windows, seem to have.

It seems to me that the fundemental problems are that Windows' architecture is not too good and that windows has become too big and complex for Microsoft to effectively manage and maintain.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

good book

I jsut got a copy of Linux Timesaver Techniques for Dummies and I think it is a very good book. It has practicle advice on how to do lots of mundane, routine tasks and explains how to use lots of the newer features of Gnome or KDE (e.g KDE ioslaves). It's worth taking a look at this book.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

version control software

For many years he standard version control software in Linux has been cvs (and the related rcs). CVS is a bit clutsy to work with and has had to have convoluted design features because of its use of RCS at the individual file level. Overall, it works pretty well, but has some limitations with moving files and directories, etc.

Subversion is the new version control system that is being pushed by lots of linux people. It does not use rcs and thus does not have the constraints that cvs has had to deal with. It uses much of the same command syntax and the learning curve of going from cvs to subversion is not bad. Also there is a free book available (O'reilly also sells a printed version) that is a very complete writeup on how subversion works and how to use it. Subversion is clearly better than cvs, but cvs may well be 'good enough' and has a huge install base.

It will be interesting to see if subversion can actually replace cvs since cvs has no major flaw. Subversion is a cleaner implementation and has some nice new features and is endorsed by the linux gurus. On the other hand cvs has a large install base, is good enough.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

live cds

I have tried many live linux cds and the two I like best are Knoppix and DSL (Damb Small Linux). A nice review of these is at http://www.tuxs.org/livecds.htm .

I have found they work well on lots of different machines and make great rescue disks. I also have given copies to people who may be interested in either Linux and or open software. Of the two, Knoppix has a lot more applications and is easier for a non experienced user to use because of the KDE desktop. DSL is great for really old, under powered machines. It runs, with a graphic window manager, on my old 32 meg memmory ibm pc.

Monday, August 02, 2004

3d graphics

I have found that blender is a great linux (and windows) package for doing 3d animation, but it has a very big learning curve. There is extensive documentation that can be downloaded from the blender web site (30+ meg) including a qwuick start. Blender is the kind of package that you need to read the documentation to just get an idea on how to start. It is complex but really, really, powerfull.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

rpm gpg keys

I need to setup gpg keys for the rpm sites that I use to obtain or update software. I did not realize, until I read an article on rpm, that the current version of rpm stores gpg keys within the rpm database.

This brings up the point of gpg documentation. The books on pgp are ok, but there have been some minor new features added to gpg that are not in the standard pgp. There is a brief user's guide to gpg at the gnupg web site, but a lot of stuff is not covered.