Thursday, September 27, 2007

Some Fun Links

I just found some great websites, tutorials and applications while randomly browsing around. These are definitely random links. I hope you enjoy them as much I have.

A debian package a day site - They are currently looking for contributors to write articles and editors

How to install Windows Media Player 9 and 10 on Linux using wine - very detailed with screenshots.

irssi themes - Never played around with irssi themes, it's quite fun and easy to set up. BTW irssi is a irc chat client. Just download the .theme file and place it in your ~/.irssi directory then start irssi. Once in irssi, type '/set theme theme_name.theme' and that's it. This site has tons.

Create a video of your desktop activity. This isn't in the Ubuntu repos so you will need to install manually.

Finally, strigi. Unlike most desktop search tools, this one uses very little resources. In Ubuntu, 'sudo apt-get install strigi-applet' to install.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Get Organized with VIM....yes, VIM.

I've recently discovered and have become addicted to vim-outliner. If you've never used a note taker or outliner before then it's time to get organized. Outliners are great for organizing projects, planning events, meetings, presentations, talks, note taking and satisfying many other organizational needs. I wish I knew about vim-outliner when I was in college, it would have been the perfect tool for managing lecture note and class projects. I now use vim-outliner for organizing work tools and open source projects.

To install vim-outliner in Ubuntu is as easy as opening a terminal and typing:
sudo apt-get install vim-vimoutliner

Now you will need to edit the /etc/vim/vimoutlinerrc file to enable necessary features, so in a terminal type:
sudo vim /etc/vim/vimoutlinerrc

Press 'i' to enter insert mode then make sure the following 2 lines are uncommented:

let g:vo_modules_load = "checkbox:hoist"
let maplocalleader = ",,"

Also make sure that the following line ends with a zero, not a 1:

let g:use_space_colon=0

Now save the file by pressing the 'esc' key to exit insert mode and type:

Now, let's get outlining!
To open a vim-outliner file type:
vim filename.otl

You must have the '.otl' extension to your filename for vim to act as an outliner. To use the outline just start typing, remembering to press 'i' first to enter vim insert mode. Create categories and sub-categories by tabbing. Here is an example:

How to Back up Your Data

   USB Drive

The above is an example of a 3 level outline, vim will automatically color code each level. To add text or notes to a category, start a new line under a heading and begin the new with a :(sp) (That's colon followed by a space). Here is an example:

How to Back up Your Data

         :  Make sure you store your CD's in fairly cool conditions
         :  Don't storage your CD's in direct sunlight
Your text will automatically wrap as needed. Now comes the fun part....folding.
Exit vim's insert mode my pressing 'esc' and move your cursor to one of the newly
entered text lines and press the 'z' and 'a' keys (z-a) and you should get
something like the following:

How to Back up Your Data
         [TEXT] ------------------------- (2 lines)
Pretty neat! There are some built-in keyboard shortcuts that unleashed the real
power of folding. Here are some of those handy commands:


collapse a tree within command mode


expand one level


expand all the way down


Demote headline, collapse the tree to demote all children


Promote headline, collapse the tree to promote all children


Fold at level #, all set foldlevel=# (i.e. ,,3 will foldset at level 3)


Draw dashed line


Directory listing of the current directory


Sort sub-tree under cursor ascending


Sort sub-tree under cursor descending


Append timestamp (HH:MM:SS) to heading

There are several other commands. To learn more commands and other outliner
features you can access vim-outliner documentation while in vim, by typing:

:h vimoutliner

I know...... I know..... You are well impressed, but wait there's MORE!!!!!

You can add checkboxes and percentages of completion to each of your categories.
You do this by moving the cursor to the heading of choice and pressing the following
keys ",,c%" (that's "comma comma the letter 'c' and the percentage symbol")
This will create something like this:

[_] %How to Back up Your Data
[_] %CD-RW
[_] Storage
[TEXT] ------------------------- (2 lines)
[_] Lifespan

You can toggle a checkbox as checked or unchecked by pressing the following
keys ",,cx" (comma comma the letter 'c' and the letter 'x'). Here is a
screeenshot of a partially complete oultine with checkboxes and percentages:

Here is a list of checkbox commands:


Insert a check box on the current line or each line

of the currently selected range (including lines in

selected but closed folds).


Toggle check box state (percentage aware)


Delete check boxes


Create a check box with percentage placeholder


Create a check box with % placeholder on all headings


Compute % completion for the tree below the current heading.

Of course vim-outliner also has all the vim features and commands that
you've come to expect and love. So all vi controls and keyboard entries
work with outliner. You can find more information about vim-outliner at
At the vim-outliner site you'll find some neat scripts to convert .otl files
to .html and .sxi ( Presentation format).

Now go get organized!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Story of 3 MS Windows Users Trying Linux.

Story #1
I was talking with a guy I work with a few months ago about Linux and how wonderful and great it is, so he decided to try it on an older computer (about 1 Ghz P4) he had lying around. He said he thought the hard drive was bad because MS Windows exploded or something and it wouldn't reinstall Windows. He downloaded Ubuntu, placed the newly burned CD in the drive and to his amazement it installed and brought his computer back to life. He was impressed! That is until he tried to get online. For some reason he couldn't connect. I believe it was a DNS issue with his home network, because I had a similar issue. He went to the Ubuntu forums to try to resolve the network problem. He quickly received a reply but he didn't understand it. At work the next day, he told me of his experience and professed how Linux sucks if it can't even auto-configure his network. I voluteered to go to his home and fix it for him, I assured him it was probably something simple and could fix it in just a few minutes. He told me not to bother because Linux sucks..... yada, yada, yada.


So, let me get this straight:
1) You have a computer that will not install Windows for whatever reason.
2) Linux does install on it
3) There is a network problem, which I could easily fix, but you don't want me to (because Linux sucks).
4) So instead, you'd rather have the computer gather dust in the corner, then have it fixed in 5 minutes and be a powerful, useful tool.

Does this make any sense at all to anyone?

The guy I work with said he just tried Linux because it was free, but didn't like it because it didn't work. He said if Linux worked just like Windows, ran Windows programs then he would use it. Basically he was looking for a free Windows, which Linux is not. It's been my experience that those looking for a free Windows, just pirate it or only give Linux half a look. Linux is not Windows. Windows does somethings better then Linux (like games, and some hand holding, etc), but Linux also does somethings better then Windows (Freedom, and control over your system, no viruses and spyware, etc). They also both have their problems. I think they are both easy to use.

Now, I'll also say that this guy has problems with Microsoft and Windows, because he has complained about them, but he seems to tolerate it. Yet when it came to a very minor issue with Linux, he considered it trash and he won't put up with it and goes back to MS Windows!

Story #2
This story comes from a blog.

This guy wasn't too excited about Vista and I guess had some problems with it, so a friend at work encouraged him to try Linux.

At first he was blown away by all the choices of Linux distributions out there, but like a trooper he tried a few to see which worked best for him.

He tried Ubuntu and Kubuntu, but had problems configuring his video resolution correctly. He did comment that he liked KDE better then Gnome. Next he tried Linspire/Freespire, and he liked that it supported commercial applications, but somethings didn't install right and he had the same video problems he had with the Ubuntus (or is it Ubunti). This really isn't a surprise because Linspire/Freespire is based off of Ubuntu. Finally, he tried PCLinuxOS, and thought it was okay. His video worked great, so he left us saying he'd give it a go.


First off, people need to realize that many times the hardware problems with Linux, is not Linux's fault. Most manufactures make it difficult for Linux users to have hardware drivers, leaving the Linux community to come up with their own drivers. So yes, not everything works perfectly with Linux, but most does. In fact probably 80-90% does. Not too bad for not having help from most hardware manufactures. That's quite an accomplishment and those developers should get major kudos for all they do.

Second, Windows users are not use to choice. This guy freaks out because there are too many choices, as opposed to Windows where there are two choices now, Vista with some features and Vista with all of its features. Isn't choice good?

This reminds me of a friend I had who was visiting from China and was in America for the first time. When he went to the grocery store he was blown away with all the choices he had in cereal. At first he was overwhelming but then he came to appreciate the fact that there was more then 3 types of cereal.

I admire this guy for trying different distros, though he only really tried two, since all but PCLinuxOS were Ubuntu variants. But PCLinuxOS, worked for him and he's going to give it a fair shake. I hope?

Story #3
This story also comes from a blog.

This guy is a Windows systems admin and tries Ubuntu Gusty which is currently in alpha, so not really stable. He attempts to see if he could do his job with Linux instead of Windows. I think a very fair challenge. To summarize, he succeeds, but with some work arounds and tweeks.

This guys story was very interesting and I enjoyed seeing how he worked about various issues. This guy knew what he was doing and knew how to research to find solutions to his problems, the sign of a good admin. His one problem with Internet Explorer running on Linux with the address bar, could be resolved by using an older versions of wine. I had the same issue and it took some digging to find the anwser. All in all I admire this guy for giving Linux a fair shake.


I believe most people have some issues with Windows. Most people don't like paying for and constantly updating and scanning their computers with anti-virus and anti-spyware programs. Vista seems to have driver problems. And there's other issues, but most Windows users just put up with it, mostly because they don't know they have any other choice and Microsoft likes that. People need to know they have a choice.

I hope these guys in story #2 and 3 stick with it, because if they do it won't take long that they will feel just as comfortable with Linux as they do with Windows. I've been using Linux for nearly 7 years now and I'm now at the point that I don't feel comfortable with Windows anymore. I have trouble navigating around or knowing how to configure settings. I wish Windows was more like Linux, because to me Linux is easier. Maybe I should take a similar challenge to guy #3 and see if I could get my job done with Windows. It's all about preference and what you know, I guess.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Ding Dong SCO is Gone!!!

SCO the Anti-Christ of Linux has filed for bankruptcy. You can read about it here:

SCO sued IBM and then Novell back in 2003. I tend to remember some talk back then about what might happen to Linux. I even had a friend tell me that I should start using FreeBSD because of all the 'issues' and potential legal problems surrounding Linux. It's a bit of a shame that this has happened, because SCO used to be Caldera Linux and they were a good company that contributed greatly to the Open Source Community. It all went to pot when SCO merged with Caldera and Darl McBride began running things.

Darl lacked vision. He couldn't possibly see how a free product could make money. Darl was in a position to be visionary and a significant force in the software industry. He could have been part of something great! Yet all he saw (at least in his own eyes) was how his company was missing out and not getting their rightful dues. So, he played the victim. While others changed their paradigms (Novell and Dell for example) and profited from it, Darl sank.

Well, Darl is now famous as the hater of Linux, kind of like Judas or Benedict Arnold in their perspective time and place. I was going to compare Darl to Hitler or Stalin, but they were more successful then he ever was or will be. They had a following, people who were loyal to them and they changed the world. Granted not for the better, but they were very influential, Darl never was. It would be an insult to these dictators to compare the CEO of SCO to them. No, Darl is a failure and he is known for his betrayal.

Well, it's been more then 4 years and Linux has increased in popularity and usage like never before. Dell is now even selling Ubuntu pre-installed on their computers, as well as Lenovo one of the largest laptop manufactures in the world. Who would have ever thought we would have come so far. We hoped, but was never really sure what would happen.

Just think where Linux will be in the next 4 years (2011). I predict that Linux will have a significant market share, meaning enough for the commercial software industry to take notice and start marketing Linux users. I'm guessing that tipping point is probably around 8%. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

You Never Forget Your First.

It's been nearly ten years since I bought my first computer back in 1998. It was an Acer desktop (where are those now) with an AMD k6-2 333 mhz Processor, with a whopping 64 mb of RAM and a 4 GB Hard Drive running Windows 98. When I purchased this computer I didn't understand anything about computers. I had no idea what processor speed was or what RAM was, I completely had to trust the salesman that he was giving me a fair deal. I now know that that was a decent computer for it's time.

Of course, computers have been around long before 1998, I grew up with a computer in our home for most of my life, but I never used it. Computers never interested me. They seemed crude and undesirable. I didn't see a need for them, but in 1998 the internet boom was in full swing and I liked the idea of email and having so much information at my finger tips. This computer was the first computer I bought with my own money and the first time I had an email account. From almost the beginning of having this computer I wanted to make it do as much as possible. I soon upgrade my system to 128 mb of RAM and to a 20 GB Hard Drive and I also bought a 2X CD-Rewritable. I thought at the time that I had the ultimate system.

Later Windows ME came out and I upgraded to that, which was the beginning of the end for my Windows days. Things started to go wrong, my CD-Rewriter won't always be detected and I had problems with my sound when I played a CD. It was on this computer in the spring of 2001 that I put Red Hat 7.1 on my little Acer, just 2 1/2 years later after enter the computer age.

I built a new computer later that year, but kept my Acer as a test computer. In the summer of 2004 after 6 years of loving service I sold my Acer for $80. I felt so dirty. You never really forget your first. I have fond memories of this computer, it will always be special.

What was your first? I'd like to hear your story.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Images and Videos on the Command Line? YES!

Want to watch a movie? Perhaps you would like to view and edit your photographs? It's easier than you may think using the command line and framebuffer.

You will first need to activate framebuffer in grub at start up on your favorite Linux distro. You will need to edit the /boot/grub/menu.lst file. I use nano to edit files but any will do, so I type:
sudo nano /boot/grub/menu.lst

You'll need root privileges to edit menu.lst. Find the line that looks like the following

kernel /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.17-12-generic root=/dev/hdb1 ro quiet splash

Yours may look a little different depending on your distro or kernel being used, but it should start with 'kernel' and have similar information. At the very end of the line add the following, 'vga=791', so that it looks like this:

kernel /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.17-12-generic root=/dev/hdb1 ro quiet splash vga=791

The 'vga=791' will activate framebuffer to run at 1024x768x64k resolution, here are other resolution options. Just replace the '791' with whatever will work with your video card and monitor.

# VESA framebuffer console @ 1024x768x64k
# vga=791
# VESA framebuffer console @ 1024x768x32k
# vga=790
# VESA framebuffer console @ 1024x768x256
# vga=773
# VESA framebuffer console @ 800x600x64k
# vga=788
# VESA framebuffer console @ 800x600x32k
# vga=787
# VESA framebuffer console @ 800x600x256
# vga=771
# VESA framebuffer console @ 640x480x64k
# vga=785
# VESA framebuffer console @ 640x480x32k
# vga=784
# VESA framebuffer console @ 640x480x256
# vga=769

Now reboot so your kernel can start in framebuffer.

To watch movies, install mplayer-nogui, in Ubuntu simply type:

sudo apt-get install mplayer-nogui

Once installed go to the directory of your favorite video and type:

sudo mplayer -vo sdl videofile.avi

Shazaam! There you go. Make sure you have the necessary codecs/plugins to view your video format. But now you want to watch a DVD do you? Well then type:

sudo mplayer -vo sdl dvd://1

The '1' on the end indicates the title number on the DVD.

Say you want to view your Aunt Thema's lastest Christmas picture. You'll need to install 'fbi'. No, not the government agency, but the framebuffer image viewer. In Ubuntu simply type:

sudo apt-get install fbi

to install the viewer.

Next go to a directory containing Aunt Thema's pics and type:

fbi *

You should now be able to see Thema in all her glory. Use the space bar to view the next image.

If you want to edit Thema's picture, perhaps you would like to add some contrast or brighten the picture up a bit, then imagemagick is the tool of for you. You guessed it...

sudo apt-get install imagemagick

will install the app. I'll go into some of the cooler features of imagemagick, especially it's convert command in a later blog, but for now you can read the man page for info as to how to use imagemagick (man imagemagick).

No more do you need to rely on the heavy GUI environment for your graphical needs, the CLI is here for you.