Why does nothing rhyme with Linux???

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

I Got a Nice Letter Today

Today I opened my mailbox and, what did I find? I found a letter from Microsoft. I opened it up and found a nice little sheet of paper about a class action lawsuit against Microsoft. They are going to pay me for each copy of Windows/Office that I bought from 1994-2004. They will pay me:
  • $12 for every copy of Windows 95, 98, 98 SE, or Millennium
  • $5 for every other version of Windows (including MS-DOS)
  • $5 for Office, Excel, or Word
Also attached was a list of products that I already registered with them. I haven't registered all of my copies with them, but I did register 1 copy of 95, and 2 copies of XP. Right off the bat, I can think of another copy of 95, a copy of 98, another copy of XP, and 2 copies of Office. In total, that's $68 right there.

It's about time Microsoft paid me something for all the hours I've had to fix Windows because of problems that are their fault in the first place.

I never thought I'd say it, but... thanks Microsoft!

Thursday, March 23, 2006


Today, I just discovered this really nice web based word processor called ajaxWrite. It is a web application that has a native look an feel (and speed), can edit word .doc files (although no OpenDocument yet) and looks really nice. It's relatively new, so there are bound to be bugs in it. If you have Firefox 1.5, try it out.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


One cool new feature in Dapper is a neat-o little tool called NetworkManager, which is geared towrads laptops with wireless connections. It's not so useful for desktops, but on laptops it will be quite useful.

If you download a Dapper Live CD, you will notice a little icon in the notification area, which will either show some bars (if you have a working wireless connection), a blinking computer icon (if you have an active ethernet connection) or a little computer with a warning sign if you have neither.

In a nutshell, NetworkManager is a daemon that sits in the background and monitors your wireless/ethernet connections. It will automatically connect to wireless networks, and if it detects an active ethernet connection, it will automatically switch the wireless interface off and turn on the wired interface seamlessly and transparently. So, if you have a laptop that you bring to an office (and connect via ethernet) or connect to a friend's wireless network, it can proove quite useful. It works quite well on my desktop and laptop.

Dapper Delayed

Now it's official from Mark Shuttleworth: Ubuntu Dapper has been delayed until June. Off the bat, this may sound like a bad thing, but I think it is a good thing. You can read the official announcement here, but I'd like to highlight a few positive improvements that I think are worth the wait.
  • devote an additional three weeks of bug-fix-only quality assurance time to the release for the core development team
  • devote additional developer time to UI polish that we believe will make Dapper stand out as a high-quality desktop operating system for large-scale deployment
  • ensure that Dapper will be LSB certified at the time of release
  • ensure that the new graphical Live CD installer receives very widespread testing
I already think Dapper is impressive, so with an extra 6 weeks, it should be even better (but what will the release be? 6.06 seems more appropriate for July).

Monday, March 20, 2006

New Idea

I've been using CastPodder (formerly iPodder, but for Linux) for a few weeks now and I really like it. It has a nice, clean GUI, I can keep it running in the tray, and it works really well. I used to use bashpodder, and since switching I have been missing that level of customizability.

And today I had a cool idea - create a little bash script (with some Xdialog GUI goodness) that will offer to copy songs to an iPod after you download a podcast. If you select yes, it will copy that song to the iPod. If you select no, it will keep the podcast info and transfer it the next time you click yes.

Simple, yet effective. I think I'll try it.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Justin Died Again

Not really. I've been pretty busy lately and I haven't really had the time to blog about anything. So here it is, a huge update post on what I would have blogged about this past month.

Ubuntu Dapper
I think the most notable update is that I have upgraded to Ubuntu Dapper Drake (6.04) and I have to say, it's really nice. Gnome 2.14 is noticeably faster and there is a new Ubuntu "Human" theme. Booting takes about 30 seconds to get to the login screen, which is about half the time of Breezy.

So far, I have only had one problem with Dapper: my wireless card. When I was first installing it, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it had detected my Broadcom-based wireless card and offered to configure it, although this didn't work. I told it not to configure the network and went on with the install.

Dapper comes with kernel 2.6.15, which includes the new and unstable bcm43xx driver for broadcom wireless cards. In order for this driver to work, you need to obtain a bcmwl5.sys file (the windows driver) and use a utility called fwcutter to extract firmware for it. However, due to licensing issues, Ubuntu is not allowed to ship the sys files or any firmware files and because of this, my wireless card did not work. Although, I got the fwcutter program and cut out my firmware and it still didn't work, since this driver is still so new.

No problem, just go back to ndiswrapper, right? More problems. I installed the ndiswrapper-utils package (which, luckily, is on the CD) and correctly loaded the driver, and that didn't work, either. Later, I figured out that this didn't work because the bcm43xx driver was already in charge of my wireless card. So, I did a 'sudo rmmod bcm43xx' to unload the driver and then a 'sudo modprobe ndiswrapper'. This worked, although it still detected my wireless card as "eth0", when it should be "wlan0". Dmesg revealed that it also should be "wlan0", although ifconfig said it was eth0. The experts on the Ubuntu IRC were stumped. I could have left it like that, but the wireless card does not get started on boot and I cannot access my local apache server (yes, http://localhost did not work)

I know there is some way I could have fixed that issue, but I didn't want to waste any more time. I took the wireless card out and did a reinstall of Ubuntu and when it first booted up, I blacklisted the bcm43xx module, shut it off, put the card back in, and booted up again. That time, ndiswrapper worked perfectly and I have not encountered any more problems.

After the wireless issue, everything has been working flawlessly. I even got into some cool remote administration, but I'll get to that later in the post.

Web Blazing
There's web surfing, and then there's web blazing. I happen to live in a lucky area where Verizon is unrolling FiOS internet service. Since 1999, I've had RoadRunner and it's been fine (5 Mbps down, 386 Kbps up). But now, I get 15 Mbps down and 2 Mbps up for the same price. I even got a nice D-Link router (108 MB/s) for free.

And yes, it really is fast. I just downloaded MacBreak off of Libsyn at 1.5 MB/s, and my average net speed is between 1 and 3 MB/s. Everyone is complaining about how the quality in SkypeOut sucks; it was for me too, but now it is perfect. If you happen to live in an area where they offer it, I suggest you get it. It really is that good. (and, as if that was not enough, my real phone sounds better because it too uses the fiber)

Remote Administration
For a while now, I've been using VNC and the VNC Java web applet for remote administration. It's worked OK, although it was fairly sluggish and anyone who turned my monitor on could see what I was doing. However, I have been using FreeNX (all the GPL components of the NoMachine NX server) for the past week, and it is much, much better. The mouse moves as if I was sitting at the real computer and whole windows move with minimal lag (and I don't think that's entirely to do with my faster internet connection).

I avoided NX for a while because there was no Java applet, but I checked their site and there it was... a perfectly good Java client. It has been working flawlessly since I started using it. On top of that, NX uses SSH, so there is strong encryption built in (VNC's encryption is so poor, the password can be cracked in a matter of seconds). Also, instead of simply sending the current X output over the internet, NX actually sets up a separate X server running on the machine which can only be viewed and controlled from the client over the network, which means no one can come by and turn the monitor on to see what I'm doing.

I have a neutral opinion about Skype. I'm glad they make a Linux version, although they have neglected the Linux version for a while and they're still using OSS, which means that nothing else can use the soundcard while Skype is being used. On top of that, they still haven't released video support on Linux (or OS X).

Luckily for me, Gizmo is here and works much better. On top of that, there is a new version that supports ALSA. Finally! I've been asking this since the first time I used Gizmo, and it's finally here. On top of that, it works very well. Sound quality is great, as always.

I've also been able to get Ekiga to connect to SIPphone (the SIP service that Gizmo uses). Since Gizmo is completely based on open standards, innovation like this is possible (take that, Skype).

On another note, Gizmo not only has free voicemail, but now lets you record your own greeting for free. If you're using Gizmo, call 'record' to record your custom greeting.

In other Skype news, I've finally figured out how to get Skype working well on Ubuntu. Skype has this annoying problem of not closing the sound device once it has used it. This results in only being able to make one call before getting an error and needing to restart Skype. On the Skype forums, someone found a configuration that allows you to run Skype with the aoss wrapper, which enables you to play sound from multiple applications while Skype is on a call. I can report that it works quite well and completely eliminates all of my skype problems. Now I can use up the rest of my SkypeOut credit before transitioning over to Gizmo.

That's about it for now. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Google Apps for Linux?

Yes! It seems that Google is rumored to be working on a Linux version of Picasa, a really nice photo management application. When I was using it on Windows, it was really nice and even had it's own IM client optimized for sharing pictures called Hello.

This is a good move on Google's part. The Linux community has been waiting a while for Google to offer Linux versions of their software for a while now and it looks like Google may finally be cooperating.

Notice that I didn't use the word port, because Google is not porting the apps to Linux. Instead, they are using Wine libraries (CrossOver Office, actually) which will be included within the executable to run on Linux. I'd like a clean port of the app better, but this is the next best thing.

Read the article

Monday, January 30, 2006


I just got invited to try the private beta of Newsvine, and so far I like it. I think of it as digg and del.icio.us meets blogger. There's a lot to it, but it consists of a few different parts: news from traditional sources like the AP, CNN, etc, viewer submitted stories (called seeds), and user contributed stories (called a colums, but really are blogs). They use tags to organize things, and have direct links to the main tags.

It is similar to digg because popular seeds get put on the homepage.

Each user has their own watchlist as well, so you can add your favorite tags right to your personalized home page. You can also comment on articles and see what other people have to say about them.

OK, so this is nothing new. Newsvine is, however, the first service in my opinion to tie everything together well in an appealing way. Up until now, I have been using digg as my news site, Netvibes as my home page, and Blogger to blog (although hopefully I can switch to f2o soon). With Newsvine, I can hit all of these on the same page.

If anyone wants an invite, send me an email at jgrace103@gmail.com. I've got 20 of them right now.