October 18, 2011
Passing of a True Giant

I’ve been mulling over this post for about a week now, so here goes.

You know, it’s really kind of sad. Our entire country, heck – most of the world, mourned the loss of Steve Jobs. I’m not really going to go into what kind of person Steve Jobs was here, but let’s not speak ill of the dead just yet and say he was an egomaniac who drove at least as many bright minds away from Apple as he drew to Apple. More on that in another post. Yes, he was a visionary. Yes, he was a great marketer (how else can you get people to buy overpriced hardware?). But he had little to no technical knowledge.

What’s really sad is that only a few in the computer industry mourned the passing of one of the true giants in the computer field Dennis Ritchie. I know, I know… you’re asking “Who the heck is Dennis Ritchie?” Dennis is truly a superstar in the computer field. He is the father of Unix and the C programming language. Not in the sense that Steve Jobs is the father of Apple, but in the sense that he CREATED Unix and he CREATED the C programming language.

So now you’re saying, “So what? Did he bring us all the gadgets that Steve Jobs did?” The answer to that is “No, he didn’t bring us the gadgets. He brought us what makes the gadgets work.” Apples two main operating systems are Mac OS X (on their computers) and iOS (on their handheld devices and tablets). Both are derivatives of Unix. Without Unix, Steve Jobs wouldn’t have been able to leave Apple and creat NeXT. For those of you who conveniently forgot, Steve Jobs was driven out of Apple for his chaotic managerial style. Much of NeXT has been integrated into OS X. And the original Mac OS? Written from the ground up in…. you guessed it… C. Much of Microsoft‘s own software was originally written in C. C and it’s derivative languages are the most popular programming languages out there.

So without Dennis Ritchie and his monumental creations, Steve Jobs (and many other so-called computer wiz-kids) wouldn’t have been able to get out of their parent’s basements. Well, in Steve Jobs’ case it would have been Steve Wozniak who did all the work to get them both out of Jobs’ parents’ living room. Jobs has always had very little to offer in technical knowledge. It has been said that his contribution to the original Apple computer was “Beige plastic… make the case beige plastic”. He was the “front man” for Apple.

But without Dennis Ritchie, none of the gadgets we have today would have been possible. They ALL use either a Unix derivative for their operating system or have used C or one if its derivatives to make them work. Here’s to Dennis Ritchie. A true giant of the computer industry.

Now playing: Evan Olson – Not What I Wanted
via FoxyTunes

Filed under:  Time Out
Run batted in by BillH at 7:30 am |  No comments so far
March 22, 2011
Desktop Redone

I installed OpenSuse 11.4 on my main desktop computer Saturday. Here is a breakdown of the installation and the result.

The installation was fairly easy. First, I backed up all my important data to my home server. That took a couple of hours. Then I rebooted, inserted the OpenSuse DVD and ran the install. Pretty painless. It asked me a few questions: time zone, how much hard drive to use (all of it, of course!), language, etc. Pretty much what any OS install asks (even Windows). Then the install took about 30 minutes or so. After a reboot all was ready to use. Now, for the customization.

Didn’t have to customize my Logitech wireless keyboard or mouse. Both were recognized during the install. Even the media buttons on the keyboard worked as they should. No driver CD, either! My monitor, a ViewSonic VA2012wb 20″ widescreen, was also detected and configured properly. Also the network was detected and installed so I was able to connect to the internet immediately after rebooting. AWESOME!

The sound wasn’t working at first, but after changing the default sound to the Azalia sound card, everything worked fine.

Next, I added in the repositories that I use on my laptop. For you Windows folk, a repository is where you get your software. No need to go to some random web site and download a file (that could carry a virus) and then run a setup. Just add the repository and it will show up in Yast – Suse’s version of the Control Panel. To add the repositories, simply go into Yast Software Repositories.

Also, I had to configure my two printers, an HP LaserJet 4050 and a Canon PIXMA MP160. The laserjet was easy. It’s a network printer, so I told the Yast Printer app what the IP address of the printer is and then told it what kind of printer it is. No driver CD like Windows (although it is built in to Windows 7). After a few seconds, I successfully printed a nice test page.

The Canon is a multifunction unit, a scanner/copier/printer, and took a bit more. The printer was easy as it is attached USB. No driver CD like all versions of Windows need. I told the Yast Printer app to search the USB ports. It found the printer and detected what model and asked if I wanted to install that driver. Simple. A few seconds later I had a color test page printed. Then I tried to add the scanner. I was told to add the SANE library in Yast Software Management. That took about 10 minutes. Then I scanned a photo and a text page successfully. Wow. It took me a couple of hours of struggling with the driver CD in Windows to get a good scan out of it.

To add software you simply search for it by name (or by function or by… well lots of tags to search by) in Yast Software Management. Then you mark a checkbox, click “Accept” and wait for Yast to do its thing. Dependencies (the Windows equivalents are DLL’s, OCX’s, etc.) are checked and added if needed. The hardest part of all this is getting out of the Windows mindset that you have to go to some web site and download a setup file.

I spent Sunday choosing what apps to install beyond the typical. Finished up tonight. For those of you who don’t know, OpenSuse, like all other Linux distributions, offers literally thousands of applications to choose from for installation. Oh, I also installed one of the Widgets on the desktop, specifically, the Weather Widget. Now I can see the current weather conditions and the thee day forecast.

  • I went with Zimbra Desktop for the email/contacts/calendar client. It’s by Yahoo so I don’t have to pay for a Yahoo Plus mail account to get my Yahoo emails. Tried Thunderbird, which I used in Windows, but Zimbra Desktop is much more complete. I could have gone with Evolution or Kontact but they didn’t have any way to access my Yahoo account.
  • I went with QmmP for the music player. It’s a no-brainer for me. It accepts Winamp skins, playlists and presets, so it’s now looking like the familiar Winamp and playing songs just as well.
  • I went with Cairo Dock for the docking app. I used Object Dock in Windows and it was OK, but tended to take up a lot of resources. Cairo Dock has all the same abilities as Object Dock and then some. Plus there are LOTS of tweaks and configurations that are changeable.
  • Other apps that are installed by default are:
    • LibreOffice, a Microsoft Office replacement that includes Write (MS Word replacement), Calc (MS Excel replacement), Impress (MS Powerpoint replacement), and Base (MS Access replacement)
    • Firefox of course! (I am a Firefox affiliate)
    • Gimp, a Photoshop clone, although not as many features as Photoshop
    • Audacity, an audio editor. I use this to edit out downloaded music that has dead space at the beginning and end of the file
    • VLC, a video player – it plays pretty much any video file
    • Kate, an advanced text editor to use when I work on coding
    • k3b to burn CD’s and DVD’s
  • A host of other programs that are installed by default.

And now, the end result is this desktop (of course, by default you have four different desktops in OpenSuse):
My current desktop

Filed under:  Computer Stuff
Run batted in by BillH at 1:08 am |  No comments so far
February 28, 2011
Tech Support Stupidities

Tech Support: Do you have any windows open right now?
Customer: Are you crazy? It’s twenty below outside!

Tech Support: What seems to be the problem?
Customer: A friend has placed a screen saver on my computer, but every time I move the mouse it disappears.

Tech Support: What does the screen say now?
Customer: It says “Hit ENTER when ready.”
Tech Support: Well?
Customer: How do I know when it’s ready?

Customer: The instructions say to press any key to continue.
Tech Support: OK.
Customer: Where’s the “any” key?

Tech Support: Hello, Tech Support.
Customer: Do I have to buy stamps to send e-mail?

Customer: There’s no power going to my computer! I want this FIXED NOW!
Tech Support: Hmmm. The power switch set to “on”, correct?
Customer: Power switch? Ummmm Well, looky there!

Tech Support: Tell me, is the cursor still there?
Customer: No, I’m alone right now.

Customer: I received the software update you sent, but I am still getting the same error message.
Tech Support: Did you install the update?
Customer: No. Oh, am I supposed to install it to get it to work?

Customer: I would like to place an order.
Tech Support: Unfortunately, we are unable to take orders over the phone. All orders must be placed on our web site.
Customer: Web site?
Tech Support: You need access to a computer that’s connected to the Internet in order to visit our Internet site and place an order.
Customer: Where is the computer?

Tech Support: What seems to be the problem?
Customer: When I change my font sizes, the letters change size.


Customer: I have Windows on this computer.
Tech Support: OK.
Customer: And the computer isn’t working.
Tech Support: You already said that…

Filed under:  Funny!
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Run batted in by BillH at 5:03 pm |  Just one comment so far
February 17, 2011
20 Days to Go

That’s right. 20 days until OpenSuse 11.4 hits the Internet. And this time, I’m doing it. I’m dropping Windows on my desktop computer and moving to OpenSuse. I’ve been running OpenSuse 11.3 on my laptop for quite a while now and it’s been great! No lockups, **VERY** fast response to programs.

I’ve had Windows XP on my desktop computer for a while. Yeah, it’s OK for stable – I have to reboot it pretty much once a week – and it does run some nice programs, but I have NO pirated software on it. I paid for Windows (a long time ago) and have no other retail software on it unless you count Nero software that was included with a hardware purchase of a DVD drive. Other than that, I have not paid for any software – it’s all been open source or freeware.

I use OpenOffice, now called LibreOffice, for my office suite (word processor, spreadsheet, database, presentations, drawing). While is may not cut the mustard in a corporate setting (because power users are quite demanding even of the Microsoft Office suite), it is quite capable for home use. It’s not a full blown MS Office copy, but rather somewhere between Microsoft Office and Microsoft Works (closer to Office than Works).

I use FileZilla for FTP. I use IrfanView to view photos and do quick manipulations. I use The GIMP for more effects on photos and creating textures for my blog. I use Audacity to edit and manipulate sound files (WAV, MP3, etc.). Use CDBurnerXP to burn CDs and DVDs. I use Inkscape to create and edit vector graphics. I use Winamp to listen to music. I use Firefox to browse the web. I use Thunderbird for email along with the Lightening plugin for calendaring (although I’m getting more partial to Zimbra at least in Windows). And I use PSPad to do web development like editing PHP files and CSS files.

When I make the move to OpenSuse, I’ll still be able to use LibreOffice, FileZilla, The GIMP, Audacity, Inkscape, Firefox and Thunderbird. But I probably won’t use Thunderbird. I’ll switch to either the Zimbra desktop or to Evolution. Also, instead of PSPad, I’ll use Kate. And instead of CDBurnerXP I’ll use k3b. And I’ll also use Songbird to listen to music instead of Winamp. Pretty much what I do now on my laptop.

Oh, I’ll still have a copy of Windows if I need it but I’ll be running it in VirtualBox. So I can still fire up Windows if I need to but chances are I won’t need to. Anyway…… 20 days!

Now playing: Halestorm – I Get Off
via FoxyTunes

Filed under:  Computer Stuff
Run batted in by BillH at 12:46 am |  No comments so far
November 10, 2010
Where Was I?

I missed it! Happy Birthday to my blog! Eight years ago on November 5th, I typed my first entry into my blog. Wow! Eight years!

Now playing: Saving Abel – Drowning (Face Down)
via FoxyTunes

Filed under:  Computer Stuff
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August 19, 2010
Uhhhhhh…… WHAT?

I got a pretty cool calendar from my daughter for Christmas last year. It’s titled “365 of the Stupidest Things Ever Said”; you get a really dumb quote each day on the day that was uttered, or in some cases printed. Some of the funny ones so far this year have been:

  • AAA Says Record Gas Price Predictions May or May Not Come True
  • Temperature tomorrow is expected to reach triple digits or higher.
  • Bush Stays Firm; Congress Votes for Pullout
  • There is no prostitution in China. However, we do have some women who make love for money.
  • I’ve been in 57 states, I think – one left to go. (one of my favorite dumb quotes – look it up to see who said it)

But all in all today’s takes the trophy. I guess since I do work with computers it might be funnier for me, but I think anyone who actually uses a computer for ANYTHING will at least smile at this!
Tech Support

Filed under:  Funny!
Run batted in by BillH at 2:47 pm |  Just one comment so far
May 26, 2010
Interesting Advertising

I don’t watch much network TV. It’s usually movies and sports for me. I do watch the occasional cable TV movie, but most of the movies I watch are on the Showtime or Starz multiplexes or DVDs. I really don’t like watching commercials; not just because I think they are silly but some are just out and out lies.

Speaking of lies, listening to commercials for our local cable TV and Internet provider here is rather interesting. The commercial is a young married couple talking while their laptop computer is running and goes something like this:

Her: Come on, honey, I it’s time to go to the party!
Him: Wait! I’m uploading photos to our web site…
Her: Why don’t we go to our neighbor’s? They have “lightening fast” {provider name} Cable Internet. It’s much faster than our DSL!
Him: Maybe we should switch?

OK. First off, the cable internet provider is the ONLY cable Internet provider in town. It is also only provided here in town. The DSL provider (which I subscribe to) is the ONLY DSL provider in town. It is a major national Internet provider.

Also, I used to subscribe to the cable Internet provider (still do subscribe to their cable TV as they are the only game in town), but now I subscribe to the DSL provider. I left the cable provider for a number of reasons. I was having to reboot my cable modem and my wireless router weekly because for some reason unknown to the cable provider, my cable modem signal would just drop. Also, at the time I used the web space provided by them and asked about using PHP on that web site. The answer I got from all levels of their tech support is “PHP is a security risk and we do not allow it on our web space.” WTF? PHP a security risk? Riiiiiight. Over half of the web pages on the Internet are served up by PHP!

So, I changed to the DSL provider. At the same time I changed my telephone service to the same company. The first thing I noticed was an increase of speed, both downstream and upstream. At that time the cable provider had a 1Mb/256Kb downstream/upstream; the DSL provider had a 1.5Mb/768Kb connection. The cable provider does not offer that package any more. The DSL provider does offer the same package. Difference in price at the time: $39.99 for cable Internet vs. $26.99 for DSL. That’s $13 per month less for faster service!

Fast forward to today. The DSL provider still offers that package for $19.99 now. The cable provider offers a slower connection (512Kb/256Kb) for $21.95. I currently have the next faster DSL package (7Mb/5Mb) for $25 per month. The cable provider has what they call a Turbo package (5Mb/1Mb) for $39.99. The cable provider has a maximum residential package called Mega (10Mb/3Mb) for $59.95; the DSL provider has a maximum residential package (20Mb/5mb) for $45.

So going back to the original beef, how in the heck can the cable internet provider make the claim that their service is in any way, shape or form FASTER than DSL? If they compare their faster service with the DSL basic service? And the cost? Not even close! No thank you, I’ll stick with my reliable, fast DSL service!

Now playing: Weezer – Pork & Beans
via FoxyTunes

Filed under:  Rants-Raves
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Run batted in by BillH at 9:29 pm |  Just one comment so far
April 13, 2010

Saw this line in a comment on a tech blog:

By the time most currently existing Windows computers have finished loading the security software, paging is already beating on the [hard] drive like Gallagher on a watermelon.

I know it’s pretty geeky, but it’s also funny (and true!). The entire blog post and its comments can be read by clicking here. The article is about how nearly all typical computer users would do better with Linux than with Windows – and I’d have to agree.

Filed under:  Computer Stuff
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