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Tech
MY UNIQUE LINUX EXPERIENCE (PART TWO)
Category: Tech
Thursday, January 26th, 2006 @ 11:45 am
Posted By xerxes7
Okay, I guess it's been a little more than a week since the first part, so let's not delve into niceties and further delay this action.

When my giru uses teh lunix, it knows it's being used.


Presto! I got Kubuntu up and running. And like I said, it was smoooth. Next thing I wanted to do was pay tribute to the guy that helped nudge us into it by installing an app that he wrote. Now, being a slashbot, I've read about getting a tarball and all that jazz, so the fact that this was a .tar instead of the usual .zip or even a .exe installer as I was used to under Windows was really no surprise. I went ahead and downloaded the thing to my desktop as usual and gave it the ol' double click and a little window opened up showing me the contents, as might happen with a .zip archive. No problem- I'll just extract that to a folder and go from there. So I did.

Now I've got this folder full of stuff and no idea what to do with it. I do a little bit of reading around and don't come up with much. Hell, I don't really even know what to look for. And of course our beloved webmaster is supposed to be coming over in an hour or so and I was really wanting him to just sit down at our computer and see those blinking lights and be a proud papa. No dice.

So he gets to the casa and I explain how I've failed him and he chuckles and all good graces and stuff explains how I've got to go to the command line for that stuff. He tells me about the holy trinity of make, make install, and something else (I'll get to that in the next installment) and totally gets it working in like ten minutes. Now for those Chronicles of Crystal (which is why he and his had actually come over).

But then my chica comes in and asks about playing videos, something which we had realized in the previous day or so that we weren't doing with much success. Now, this was all several months ago and hurricanes and moving and so on so I don't remember all the details, but this seemed to have gotten a little problematic. I tried hard to pay attention, but when you don't know how to do something and you watch somebody for whom it is second nature to do something do that very something, you tend to miss the finer points of the something doing process. All I know was that there were some frustrated sighs and after maybe 45 minutes of work we were in video watching bliss.

So being the sport that he is, before getting out of the chair he asks if we have any other pressing questions. And that's when I discovered one of the things that probably bugs me the most.

See, we needed to save all of the mp3s and precious documents from the old windows installation so that we could have them under the enlightened rule of the Grand Wizard Linus. So we took an old hard drive, threw everything important on there, and called it good. When we got Kubuntu up and wanted to make sure that we could listen to those mp3s and open those precious documents, I tried to look at that hard drive and... it wasn't there. Just couldn't see the damned thing. Luckily, we had a cd or two with stuff on them. I dropped it in the drive and a handy little icon showed up on the desktop announcing that a cd was there. That's how we tested the functionality of the programs. This is important. A compact disc can be placed in the cd drive and it will just magically appear.

Do you know what a flash drive is? It's great. Usually smaller than a disposable lighter, flash drives are like little hard drives that plug into your USB port and allow you storage on the go. Like a floppy, but a billion times better. Guess what. You put a flash drive in the USB port... it magically appears. Hell, I got momma a digital camera for Christmas. If I plug that thing's cord into a USB port... it magically appears. I know various distros have their little quirks and this kind of thing might have to be configured manually, but we're talking about Kubuntu- an easy distro. Shit just appears when you present it. So why in the hell is a hard drive that is there when the computer is turned on not available from the get go?

Turns out it's because I didn't tell Linux where to look for it. The fuck? I don't tell Linux where to look for a CD, it just SEES it. I don't tell Linux where to look for a flash drive or a camera, they're just there. I know that your mom probably doesn't have two hard drives to think about anyway (unless by hard drives you actually mean these nuts), but I see this kind of thing as a bit of a stumbler. It's a simple usability issue. But hey, it's solved for now, so we'll move on.

In case you're wondering, we drank beers, moved our crazy Finally Fantastic peoples around fairy land courtesy of our gameboys and had a nice night of it.

Now, all of my previous bitching aside, there's a little bit of boasting I've got. Weeks passed and eventually ladyfair's nephews came over for a day. Two young lads, aged like eight and ten. Both of them boast pretty much the level of computer literacy that kids these days do. They watch movies and surf the web and play games and all that without having to ask questions. So I was really curious to see what would happen when the elder of the two ventured into the office to see what minor update to the Spongebob site would captivate his imagination for an hour or so.

We never heard from him. He sat down, found the browser, navigated to his site and had his merry time and never asked a single question. People talk about the mom test, but I never read anyone talking about the kid test. Well, I'm happy to report that Kubuntu passed the kid test with flying colors. I mean it. Colors flying all over the damned place. Looked like a gay pride air show, it did.

So that pretty much wraps up my list of issues with the installation. Installing isn't really all that intuitive, getting video to work involved some voodoo, and hard drive recognition is (in my mind) a bit lacking. Next time we'll get into where I see things going from here. You can expect that in a week, so probably about two weeks.

Also, a quick shout-out to mah peeps at the wikimedia commons who made it possible for me to find that image up there and feel not a spot of guilt for using it, unlike when I just goog up some image and hope that the owner never finds it and bitches. So there.


5 Comments...

AJAX-IFIED NETFLIX QUEUE
Category: Tech
Saturday, January 21st, 2006 @ 05:56 pm
Posted By Brent

Some time ago I wrote a little PHP script to pull my "Recent Activity" RSS feed from Netflix and then try to glean what movies I currently had at home. The "Recent Activity" feed is an xml feed of what movies have been shipped to you and which ones have been received back at Netflix HQ. By cross-referencing which ones have been shipped but not received back I can figure out which ones I currently have. There is a small problem: the feed only contains five items so if you keep one movie at home and receive and send back two movies, the reception of the movie you still have is out of the feed and drops off my list.

Well, that problem still exists. This post isn't about how I fixed that. This post is about how, with the magic of AJAX (via the SAJAX library), I recently updated it with a little functionality to show my entire queue underneath it without reloading the page.

As it stands now I'm pretty sure it will only work in Mozilla/Firefox and Internet Explorer. I tried it in Konqueror but the absence of the DOMParser to handle navigating the XML feed, it ain't working.

Some of you may or may not have heard about AJAX, and some of you may be wondering what it actually is. It stands for "Asynchronous Javascript And XML." The quick and dirty of it is this: it uses the newer browsers' ability to reconnect to a webserver and pull new data while the page is live in your browser, without reload. The XML is there simply because it's an easy way to pull a rich dataset when you only have the ability to interchange text.

So that's it, look for it over there on the sidebar right underneath my Netflix queue thingy. I know it doesn't seem that amazing, but I thought it was pretty cool for my first foray into the new buzz in the Interweb world. That's how I roll, Web 2.0 style biatch.

If anyone's interested in the code just drop me a line and I'd be happy to scoot it off to ya. I'm not going to promise it's pretty to look at, but it works.



3 Comments...

WOOT!
Category: Tech
Monday, January 16th, 2006 @ 07:59 am
Posted By Brent

It's possible some of you have heard about Woot!, but in case you haven't here a quick crash course.

Woot! is an online retail store that sells one item each day (called "The Daily Woot") at an unusually marked down price. The Woot goes up at midnight and is sold until either a) the item is out of stock or b) the day is over in which the next woot is placed on the site. They usually sell high tech gadgetry, but I've seen fondue pots and hair curlers on there before. For a more indepth explanation try their Wikipedia article.

I've been known to hit the Woot from time to time but I've never bit the bullet and grabbed some swag, until recently. Actually, the first Woot I was compelled to bite on was a Monster Surround Sound speaker system they had up on New Years day this year. I had recently lost my computer speakers, along with everything else I've ever owned (thanks Katrina!), so you could say I was in the market. And for a paltry thirty bucks, or somewheres about there, it sounded pretty solid.

Alas, it was not meant to be. By the time I had noticed it they had completely sold out. In the "out of stock" sense, their artistic integrity was still very well intact.

But this would not be the last time the Woot and I would cross paths. For reasons stated earier, I was sans many of my home electronomagigs and a TV was high on this list for early replacement. Brenda has mentioned a 42" LCD she had an eye on over at Best Buy, which was somewhere in the neighborhood of $2,700, an egregious amount to be sure. But lo! A scant few days before we were to take a trip to Red Stick to settle on one, the Woot giveth. A sixty-one inch (!!!) beauty of a DLP Rear Projection TV for less than the 42" Brenda had been looking at. Add in $5 shipping for a 180 lbs TV, and a top notch blender bundled with it, I was sold. The Woot had me.

Now, I'm not a high roller by any means, this is too fucking much to spend on a television. The only way I can rationalize it would be to say that... well, I really can't rationalize it. At all. But holy fuck! I'm going to have a TV the size of God's face!

Lucky we have an extremely low interest loan from SBA, with a pretty reasonable payment each month. This is what they gave us the money for, sorta.

One of the things that sets Woot apart from the rest, apart from their odd "deal-a-day" scheme, is they truly are a funny bunch of bastards. Just read their post that accompanied my purchase: linky-poo. If that's not enough for you, just check out this correspondence I had with them when I initially had a little trouble placing my order:

Dear Woot,
I would like to buy one of the TV's you are selling today (1/12/2006) but my debit card has a frigging purchase limit of $2,500. I have more money in this bank account, but I cannot make a purchase larger than this on one card. Is there a way I could split my payments on two cards?
-Brent
An email which was quickly replied to with this:
Sorry we are only able to use 1 card per transaction. You may try calling your bank to get the limit raised. Threaten them with bad poetry and tiki torches. This usually works for me.
~E

These are my kind of people.



1 Comments...

MY UNIQUE LINUX EXPERIENCE
Category: Tech
Tuesday, January 10th, 2006 @ 06:31 pm
Posted By xerxes7
Poking around, it seems that the tech department is a little underserved around here lately, That (and a phonecall from our webmaster) is why I'm going to talk about the results of my making the big switch a little while ago. This is going to be long. It might not be all that fun. But apparently it's something that's needed. So here we go with Part 1.

See, awhile back the li'l miss's win98 box was starting to act kind of spotty. So, we did what one does in that situation and reinstalled windows and went on with things. Except that somewhere in the process a seed of an idea was planted. Maybe it was time to switch to Linux. She wasn't disagreeable to the suggestion, so we burned up a live cd of Kubuntu (ed. Don't you mean Knoppix?) (x7. Probably.) and she checked it out. It was okay, but the bit of downtime suffered from the recent reinstall had left its scars and it was decided that there was no valid reason to go fixing something that wasn't broke. Months passed, nothing happened. End of chapter.

We moved to new digs, my box (also win98) fell by the distant wayside and eventually summer came around. Summer is a slow time for a chef and boredom and curiosity got the best of me. We talked it over and she okayed the switch to Linux so long as she would have her computer up and running within a day or so. New disc burned. Conversion ready.

Now, there's always talk at nerd sites about whether or not something will pass the mom test. For those of you who don't know, the mom test involves how many drinks it takes for your mom to work up to a frothy lather. Wait. Different test altogether. The mom test is basically how much difficulty "your mom" would have using a given bit of tech, given the idea that "your mom" isn't very tech savvy. In all of this "mom test" stuff, there's always talk about whether Linux is ready based on this test. Now, I'm not about to actually subject my mom to this test, but I can pretty well imagine how things would go with the install of Kubuntu.

It wouldn't go well. But then, I don't think that a Windows install would stand any more of a chance. For me, it was pretty painless. I don't recall having to answer any difficult questions. I set up a partition for Kubuntu (cake). It prompted me about a swap partition (likewise cake). I went ahead and gave a partition for a win2k partition that would be coming (just in case) (also, cake). After that, it kind of took care of itself I believe. This was almost half a year ago. Also, (cue violins and turn on the waterworks) a hurricane kind of destroyed my city and I've since moved to a new town and had all kinds of weird experiences. I hope you'll forgive me if I don't recall every single step of the process.

So Kubuntu was up and running. Internet happened very quickly and automagically. A quick phone call to H.Q. and I learned about kynaptic and got crazy with getting things I wanted like firefox and xmms and the almighty gimp. I believe that Open Office was already installed, so aside from gaming we were right back to where we started before the switch happened. We had an internet terminal that played mp3s and allowed us to work on papers and such. Later that day, momma got home. Not "mom". Momma. La chicita. She who owns the computer and must be pleased as regards changes made to it.

Having played with Kubuntu (ed. *ahem*)(x7. Knoppix. Oops.) as a live distro, she didn't findherself to be on mars or anything. In fact, she was now pretty happy because she was free to finally make permanent changes to the interface. A little bit of experimenting yielded the right way to change the wallpaper, and she was fairly impressed with the amount of artistic freedom available to change just about any damned thing she pleased about the gui. She hopped online to make sure it was still there, opened an old resume, and listened to a song. Everything worked. Everything was fine. There was peace in the valley and a chorus of angels sang while our hero rode off into the sunset.

So ends the first part of the engaging story of how my house switched to a Linux-only house. Please check back in what will probably be a week for Part Two, in which I will discuss what minor problems did come up and how well the experience of the Linux desktop fared under a woefully undiscussed usability test.

glitch13 is made possible by the letter G and the numbers 1 and 3, and also the support of readers like you.


2 Comments...

LINUX NEWBIE NIGHT
Category: Tech
Thursday, August 4th, 2005 @ 02:49 pm
Posted By Brent

In the past week I've gotten word from both Scott and MC that they're both interested in rocking Linux on the Desktop. For MC it's because he's sick of the spyware, crashes, and virii that are so inextricably tied to the Windows platform, and for Scott I believe it's because he's tired of Windows and wants to learn about the exciting new world of Teh Lunix.

Anywho, I thought I'd combine both needs and have a Linux install night at my house. I was thinking this weekend, not for any particular reason other than its temporal proximity to right now, but if the parties are interested but would like to reschedule, that's copacetic. Of course, if anyone else is interested in Linux and has a machine they'd want it on, you're all welcome too. You are also welcome if you just want to hang out and drink beer, which will be happening in parallel to the installs.

I've been asking around and it seems like the distro of choice for people first getting their feet wet is a toss up between Ubuntu Linux and Mandriva Linux (formerly Mandrake). I've heard that both are rather friendly distros without going off the deep end like Lycoris or Linspire (both of which require paid subscription services to get any use out of them at all). The opposite end of the spectrum would be my distro of choice, Gentoo, but giving that to them would be like selling a person their first car and then giving them a pile of parts, a wrench, and a manual. A bit overwhelming for your first time out.

I've burned Ubuntu (or more specifically Kubuntu, Ubuntu with KDE instead of Gnome), and I'm about to install it on a test machine to see what it's like. I haven't installed or maintained a distro other than Gentoo in about three years, so I'm well past due to see what's out there these days.

Comments? Questions?



10 Comments...

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