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

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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
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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

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August 18, 2010
Losing It

That’s right. I’m losing it. Wow. So here’s the deal:

At work I’ve been using an Avaya 6424M+D phone for at least 4 years now. It’s a good phone. I’ve transferred calls, initiated conference calls, programmed speed dial buttons, and done other functions. Here’s a photo of the phone:

Avaya Phone

But for as long as I’ve been using this phone one thing has eluded me (for those of you who know this phone model, please don’t laugh too hard) …. redial. I don’t know why it’s been a mystery to me for so long. I guess I’m just dense. So today, after dialing a phone number manually about 7 or 8 times trying to contact someone, I finally broke down and Googled it. Yup. That’s right. Google gave me the exact model’s user manual link so I clicked on that. Here’s an excerpt from the manual:

Redial Instructions

Then I looked at the phone more closely than I have before and for the first time I saw the “Redial” button. It’s located here:

Redial Button

Wow. Did I feel like a noob… wait, make that an IDIOT! I immediately covered by telling the guy across my cube “Andromeda Strain“. I was looking for a keypress combination or a complicated solution when it was right there and easy to see. Sheesh.

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May 21, 2010
Ahh, Printers….

Saw this article on my My Yahoo! news aggregate page. I’m still struggling to stay in my seat, I’m laughing so hard! If you’ve ever owned a printer or printed a document, this is a MUST read!

Why I Believe Printers Were Sent From Hell To Make Us Miserable

Hey! You don’t even have to be a computer geek to appreciate the humor here!

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March 9, 2010
Hacking Through The Jargon Jungle

Hacking Through the Jargon Jungle

I’ve worked in a computer company for the last few years, I’ve gained an insider’s perspective. I’ve decided to share my knowledge with the uninitiated by creating the following brief, handy glossary:

Software undergoes alpha testing as a first step in getting user feedback. Alpha is Latin for “doesn’t work.”

Software undergoes beta testing shortly before it’s released. Beta is Latin for “still doesn’t work.”

Instrument of torture. The first computer was invented by Roger “Duffy” Billingsly, a British scientist. In a plot to overthrow Adolf Hitler, Duffy disguised himself as a German ally and offered his invention as a gift to the surly dictator. The plot worked. On April 8, 1945, Adolf became so enraged at the “Incompatible File Format” error message that he shot himself. The war ended soon after Hitler’s death, and Duffy began working for IBM.

Central propulsion unit. The CPU is the computer’s engine. It consists of a hard drive, an interface card and a tiny spinning wheel that’s powered by a running rodenta gerbil if the machine is a 286, a ferret if it’s a 386, a ferret on speed if it’s a 486 and a Tazmanian devil with a scalpel in its scrotum if its a Pentium.

Default Directory
Black hole. Default directory is where all files that you need disappear to.

Error message
Terse, baffling remark used by programmers to place blame on users for the program’s shortcomings.

A document that has been saved with an unidentifiable name. It helps to think of a file as something stored in a file cabinetexcept when you try to remove the file, the cabinet gives you an electric shock and tells you the file format is unknown.

Collective term for any computer-related object that can be kicked or battered.

The feature that assists in generating more questions. When the help feature is used correctly, users are able to navigate through a series of Help screens and end up where they started from without learning anything.

Information is input from the keyboard as intelligible data and output to the printer as unrecognizable junk.

Interim Release
A programmer’s feeble attempt at repentance.

Of computer components, the most generous in terms of variety, and the skimpiest in terms of quantity.

A joke in poor taste. A printer consists of three main parts: the case, the jammed paper tray and the blinking red light.

Computer avengers. Once members of that group of high school nerds who wore tape on their glasses, played Dungeons and Dragons, and memorized Star Trek episodes; now millionaires who create “user-friendly” software to get revenge on whoever gave them noogies.

Reference Manual
Object that raises the monitor to eye level. Also used to compensate for that short table leg.

Scheduled Release Date
A carefully calculated date determined by estimating the actual shipping date and subtracting six months from it.

Of or pertaining to any feature, device or concept that makes perfect sense to a programmer.

Collective term for those who stare vacantly at a monitor. Users are divided into three types: novice, intermediate and expert:

Novice Users
People who are afraid that simply pressing a key might break their computer.
Intermediate Users
People who don’t know how to fix their computer after they’ve just pressed a key that broke it.
Expert Users
People who break other people’s computers.

Listening to: Wreckless Eric – Whole Wide World
via FoxyTunes

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November 10, 2009
Missed It

I can’t believe it! I missed it! My blog’s birthday was November 5. I’ve come a long way from the first entry. Anyway….

Happy Birthday, Blog! You are now 7 years old!

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June 4, 2009
It’s Better?

Just an observation about Microsoft‘s “It’s Better with Windows” web site. For those of you who don’t know what it’s about, here’s a breakdown:

Asus came out with it’s eee series of laptops that are small, light laptops that can’t use Windows Vista because they simply don’t have the horsepower. Originally they came out with a customized version of the Xandros OS – a Linux distribution. Now one can choose to have Windows XP installed on the laptops. The reason for the change is that Microsoft has changed its mind about the Windows XP end-of-life cycle because of the fiasco that is Vista and the fact that Windows Vista is not being adopted as readily Windows XP was.

Meanwhile, back at the observation of the web site….

It’s a really nice looking web site – nice graphics and all. However, their claims on the web page fall on deaf ears with me and here’s why. I liked the graphical background so I thought I’d download it to see if I could use it on web pages I develop. I can’t because the text on the page is actually on the graphic. Strange thing, though, when I checked the properties of the graphic I found that it was created with Photoshop CS4 (the latest version)….. on a MAC! (See the Properties Sheet) Once again proving that Microsoft is hypocritical. Why else would you slam Macs in your ads (I’m a PC; You find it, we’ll buy it; etc.) and then turn around and use it to create your marketing web site graphics – and possibly the entire site?

Anyone who has read my site for a while knows that I’m not exactly a fan of Microsoft. You can read this post and this post to see what I mean. IMHO, Microsoft’s products are “good enough” not great, especially their operating systems. Windows 7 is already vulnerable to the same exploits as Vista, XP, and NT; and yet Microsoft proclaims it to be all new and secure. As a friend of mine has said: “If you put lipstick and rouge on a pig, it’s STILL a pig.” By making a slick GUI, Joe User buys into the Microsoft marketing machine; those of us who peek under the hood and kick the tires know it’s just a paint job on the same old car.

So, to wrap it up, I’ll take the Xandros Linux laptop, please! It will compete for my time with the OpenSuSE Linux laptop I currently use at home.

Filed under:  Computer Stuff
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