Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Kids' Stuff

Back in 1891, James Naismith, a physical education teacher at the YMCA International Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts, invented the game of basketball. The idea was to create an indoor game that would keep guys in shape through the winters and allow them to let off a little steam.

For most of history, that's what sports were about: Having fun; athletic competition; letting off some steam.

Today, you'll still see little kids at the park sometimes, getting together for an impromptu game of baseball, or soccer. Young men still gather at the basketball courts for pick-up games; folks jog or play tennis or lift weights to stay in shape.

I like to take my basketball out and shoot free-throws. Relaxes me, takes my mind away.

Folks still have fun playing sports, but so much of sports these days isn't about fun any more. According to the USAToday, star basketball player Kevin Garnett, then of the Minnesota Timberwolves, made $21,000,000 for the 2006-07 season.

"Sports" is big business.

Many, if not most, of the parents I know want to see their kids play sports to earn a scholarship to college, and maybe to make it to the pro level and Easy Street.

They start 'em early. Everybody wants to raise the next Tiger Woods. I met a guy in line at a grocery store not long ago who started talking to me about his grade-school daughter who had started to show some ability on the basketball court. He was trying to come up with a good name for her; the name she was given at birth wasn't good enough. His thought was that if he changed her first name to something that people would remember, it would help her "exposure," help her to land a college scholarship. I thought of some catchy names of I'd heard; there was Arizona State guard Dymond Simon, who I first saw as a 9th grader at Phoenix's St. Mary's High School. That name stuck in my head, and throughout her high school career I checked through the local newspapers to see how she was coming along. So maybe the guy had a point.

At the high school level, it seems to get harder and harder to talk to kids about playing for the love of the game. Parents have to shell out big bucks for the kids to play organized sports these days. Kids know that great athletes get college scholarships and make big money in the pros. Coaches know that producing winning teams can lead to a lucrative career. Huge industries have sprung up surrounding sports; video games, sports stadiums, sports agents, gambling, performance-enhancing drugs, personal trainers, companies that sell shoes and every other type of athletic equipment, television advertising, cable t.v...

I follow the Phoenix Suns in the newspaper, or at web sites like Yahoo Sports. I don't have cable, so I rarely get to see them play on t.v. I've seen them play in person maybe twice -- the only game I remember seeing was an exhibition game against Garnett and the Timberwolves back when Garnett was in, I think, his second year. I got a pair of free tickets courtesy of my employers.

Available tickets for the next Suns home game, versus the Toronto Raptors, upper-level reserved seating (the "nose-bleed" section), start at $57.75 each. Plus a $5.50 "convenience charge." Plus a $4.25 "building facility charge." I'll bet there are taxes added to that, too.

In the end, I can think of a lot of other things I could be spending my money on, so I rarely go to see professional sporting events. I don't pay for cable t.v. so that I can watch games on ESPN.

My son plays high school baseball. This season, they're asking parents for $250 bucks for each kid who made the team. We'll cough it up. Fortunately, we don't have to also pay to go watch the games. Hopefully, he'll have fun, enjoy the season, learn some valuable lessons, stay in shape and out of trouble.

We won't be paying the money under any illusions that this will end up with him making it to the "Big Time." We aren't pushing him to earn a college scholarship to play baseball; we're pushing him to keep his grades up and maybe earn an academic scholarship to college. The former is something that only a select few ever manage; the latter is something that's attainable for lots of young people.

Having fun; athletic competition; letting off some steam. There's nothing wrong with playing sports or following sports. And I guess there's nothing wrong with making money, or earning a college scholarship, by using your athletic abilities to entertain people.

But to me, the real games, the real sports, are still the ones like when I see little kids out at the park playing baseball, with no adults around, using a spare mitt for home plate, a piece of cardboard for 1st base... Or, when I see guys playing "21" on a beat-up basketball hoop... Or, when I'm out hitting tennis balls with my son, or throwing the football around.

To me, real sports are about playing. Getting some exercise. Having a little fun.

It's kids' stuff -- for kids of all ages.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Cisneros

Like that? It's called "Cuban Real Song," done by Arturo Cisneros, a Cuban-American artist who lives in my part of town.

Not bad. Nicest guy you ever met, too. He's got galleries and showings here in Albuquerque, and in Santa Fe, NM and El Paso, TX, with permanent collections in Cuba, New Mexico, and Texas.

He's been trying to get me to buy some of his work, and I just might take him up on that. Beautiful, vibrant colors; exciting imagery. Feels like stepping into Old Havana!

Well, can't afford any artwork at the moment, so for now, I'll just throw in a plug for him: Check out his gallery, biography, and other info at: http://www.artcisneros.com/.

Tweaking the KMenu

While the "All Applications" section of KDE's main menu (the KMenu) can be configured using the KDE Menu Editor, other sections of the menu can be changed with different tools. Take a look at the following screen shot of my KMenu in Mepis:



To configure the other sections of the KMenu, click on the KMenu icon and click on "Control Center." In the Control Center window, in the "tree" on the left side, click on "Desktop," then "Panels." Then click on the "Menus" tab. You'll see something like this:



The KMenu section of this window lets you tweak things in the menu. Under "Optional Menus," you can select menus that will appear under the KMenu's "Actions" section. The KMenu's "Recently Used Applications" section is configured in the "QuickStart Menu Items" section.

This tool, along with the KDE Menu Editor, allows you to customized the KMenu to fit your needs. More options are available on the "Appearance" tab.

The KMenu icon itself can also be changed -- the one I'm using in Mepis is not Mepis' default KMenu icon! Look in the Control Center under Appearance & Themes > Theme Manager > Icons. There you'll see which icon theme you're currently using. In my case, it's "Nuvola Platin 1.0."



Armed with that info, I open the Konqueror file browser and navigate to /usr/share/icons/nuvola_platin_me/16x16/apps. There I find the file kmenu.png, which is actually a link to /usr/share/icons/kmenu.png. This is Mepis's default KMenu icon for the Nuvola Platin 1.0 icon set.



Kinda funky, ain't it? I prefer the standard KMenu icon over the Mepis icon. I made a copy of /usr/share/icons/nuvola_platin_me/16x16/apps/kmenu.png (actually, simply changed the last part of the filename to kmenu.png-copy), then replaced it with the standard kmenu.png, which I found in /usr/share/icons/default.kde/16x16/apps. Looks like this >>

Because my icon theme is Nuvola Platin 1.0, Mepis chooses the file /usr/share/icons/nuvola_platin_me/16x16/apps/kmenu.png to use for the KMenu icon. You can use whatever image you want for that icon, as long as you give it that same filename, and as long as you're using that same icon set.

Change Wallpaper in KDE

As I've mentioned, KDE comes with a nice, easy-to-set-up automatic wallpaper changer. Unfortunately, unlike with GNOME's wallpaper-tray, there's no way to change to the next random wallpaper -- you have to wait until the timer changes it, or turn off the automatic wallpaper changer and pick a different wallpaper.

I found a way to put an icon on my panel that I can click on to get a different, random wallpaper onto the desktop.

The approach is similar to the steps discussed in my earlier blog entry about my KDE MiniMenu.

Right-click on the KMenu icon and open the KDE Menu Editor. Add a new item. I gave my new item the name "NextWallpaper" and found an icon for it. In the command field, I used the following command:

dcop kdesktop KBackgroundIface changeWallpaper

I saved the new configuration, then added this new item to my desktop's panel (right-click on the panel > Panel Menu > Add Application to Panel > NextWallpaper).

Here are a few related commands that you can run from a terminal:

If you want to know the filename for the wallpaper that's currently showing on your desktop:

dcop kdesktop KBackgroundIface currentWallpaper 1

If you don't like the current wallpaper and would like to remove it from the list of wallpapers used for your automatic wallpaper changer, copy-and-paste this series of commands into a terminal:

OLDWALLPAPER=`dcop kdesktop KBackgroundIface currentWallpaper 1`
dcop kdesktop KBackgroundIface changeWallpaper
rm "$OLDWALLPAPER"

KDE "MiniMenu"

The KDE desktop offers an incredible amount of configuration options. Some people feel that there are too many, but I like to take advantage of these tools.

KMenu, the KDE main menu, is nice, but sometimes it takes me longer than I'd like to find certain applications and/or utilities in it. I don't use desktop icons, so instead I create a "MiniMenu" that contains several frequently used items.

My MiniMenu has an icon on the KDE panel, for easy access.

I used the KDE Menu Editor to create my MiniMenu. Right-click on the KMenu icon on the panel and click on "Menu Editor." That'll open up a window that looks something like this:



The KDE Menu Editor has a nice handbook -- look under "Help."

I created my MiniMenu by creating a new submenu -- click File > New Submenu...

I gave the submenu a name, then found an icon for it by clicking on the icon area over on the right side of the window, which opens up a window that lets you search for and select icons.

Then, from the tree on the left side of the Menu Editor window, I found several apps that I wanted for my MiniMenu. A simple copy-and-paste put the items into my MiniMenu.

I did a little bit of cleaning up -- editing the names, descriptions, and comments, and moving things around a bit. I even created a submenu within the MiniMenu, called "Office&Utilities."

Clicking on the "Save" icon saved the changes I made. The next step was to get the menu onto my panel.

I right-clicked on the panel, then pointed my cursor at "Panel Menu,", then at "Add Application to Panel," then at "MiniMenu," and then I clicked on "Add This Menu." Done -- my MiniMenu was added to the panel, giving me quicker access to some of my most-used applications and utilities!

My KDE desktop in Mepis, with the MiniMenu shown (the blue head is its icon):

Thieves

These guys will rip you off. Virginia Military Institute's identical twin brothers, 6'4" seniors Chavis and Travis Holmes, are both among the NCAA's leaders in steals. Travis is 2nd in the country at 3.4 steals per game; Chavis is third, at 3.3.

They're getting the job done at the offensive end, too. Chavis is averaging 22.2 ppg, and Travis is chipping in 19.3 ppg.

Another VMI player, 6'7" senior forward Willie Bell, is 18th in the NCAA in steals, snatching 2.5 per game.

What gives?

VMI's coach, Duggar Baucom, runs a fast-paced, frenetic system that reminds some of those Loyola Marymount teams of the 80s. They score, they press, they score. They do give up a lot of points, too. But most teams can't keep up with them; they're currently 20-7 on the season, and their 11-5 record in the Big South Conference is good enough for 2nd place.

VMI's style of play inflates their players' numbers in some statistical categories. Like steals. So that has a lot to do with the Holmes twins' remarkable numbers.

But this team has put up more than 100 points in 8 games, and 90 or more in 19 games! That combined with having experienced leadership in the senior trio of Holmes, Holmes & Bell makes this a team to keep an eye out for as March Madness approaches.

For more on VMI's basketball team, check out this SI article.

Monday, February 23, 2009

gnome-terminal transparency

Transparency in the gnome-terminal in Ubuntu Hardy Heron.

Amarok

There's no shortage of audio players for Linux, and I certainly haven't investigated enough of them to say which ones are the best. Since I started out using the KDE desktop, the first audio player I became comfortable with was Amarok, and I've had no reason to switch to something else.

In Windows XP, I liked using Windows Media Player. Linux takes a different approach than what you'd find in WMP, because in Linux they like to have different applications for different things, while WMP is sort of an all-in-one app. For example, in Linux I've used Amarok, Rhythmbox, Juk, and Exaile for listening to my collection, but I usually use K3b for ripping and burning CDs.

Also, the audio players in Linux aren't generally much to look at. It's definitely function over form, and Linux folks are happy to keep things as light-weight as possible, not hogging your computer's resources with unnecessary things.

The music files in my collection are made up of .ogg, .wma, and .mp3 files, and Amarok handles them all. It has great search features, allows you to create nice playlists, comes with visualization effects if you want them, and handles my mp3 player. Here's a screen shot:



That screen shot is from Ubuntu. Rhythmbox is the default music player for GNOME in Ubuntu, but I always install KDE's Amarok and use that instead.

Free Book - Intro to Linux

Here's a web page where you can download Introduction to Linux: A Hands on Guide. This is a 223 page book in .pdf format. The book's been out since 2002, with revisions done each year. Good info.

The home site for the above web page is http://get-free-book.com/, and there's a lot of other stuff available there for free download. Much of it is computer-related stuff. Found some books on subjects such as: digital photography; photo editing software like Photoshop and the Gimp; mathematics; and, iPods. Also saw the audio book Breakfast of Champions (Vonnegut).

Stretch Run Out West

This past week's games cleared up the log-jam in the Pac-10 standings a bit, but teams still have three or four games remaining, and the title's still up for grabs.

Pacific-10 Conference Standings

Conf All
Washington (22) 11-4 20-7
Arizona St. (14) 10-4 21-5
UCLA (20) 9-5 20-7
California 9-5 20-7
Arizona 8-6 18-9
USC 7-7 16-10
Oregon St. 7-8 13-13
Washington St. 6-9 14-13
Stanford 4-10 15-10
Oregon 1-14 7-20


Arizona State's 70-68 win over Arizona puts them right in the thick of things, a half game behind conference leader Washington. ASU heads to the state of Washington for a pair, but earlier they fell in Tempe, AZ to both UofW and Washington State. Crucial games. Then the Devils close out the season at home against Stanford and Cal.

The laughter has quieted down in Tucson. The Devils swept UofA and have won the last four against the Wildcats. Thank you, James Harden!

The Huskies are in the driver's seat, with home games remaining against ASU, UofA, and Washington State.

California (USC, UCLA, at Arizona, at ASU) and UCLA (at Stanford, at Cal, Oregon State, Oregon) are still in the picture, but need some help.

Utah is close to wrapping up the Mountain West Conference Championship. But they face UNLV and travel to BYU and New Mexico before closing the season at home against TCU.

UNM is definitely still in the mix, with home games against TCU and Utah and road games at Colorado State and Wyoming. But the Lobos might have to rely on winning the MWC tournament to make it to the Big Dance, even if they sneak away with the regular season title.

Mountain West Conference Standings

Conf All
Utah 10-2 19-7
BYU 8-4 20-6
San Diego St. 8-4 18-7
New Mexico 8-4 17-10
UNLV 8-5 20-7
Wyoming 5-7 16-10
TCU 5-8 14-13
Colorado St. 4-9 9-18
Air Force 0-13 9-17

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Openbox Automatic Wallpaper Script

For Openbox, I found a script to use to set things up so that a new (and randomly chosen) wallpaper (background) will appear each time I log in. I use the Linux image viewer feh to handle the wallpapers, etc.

Below, the autostart script (autostart.sh) and the wallpaper script (wallpaper.sh) I'm using in Openbox:

~/.config/openbox/autostart.sh

# Run the system-wide support stuff
. $GLOBALAUTOSTART

# Programs to launch at startup
#numlock
numlockx &

#screensaver
xscreensaver &

# Programs that will run after Openbox has started
(sleep 2 && pypanel) &

#My wallpaper (random wallpaper script)
./wallpaper.sh


The last line in the autostart.sh script calls the following script:

~/wallpaper.sh

#!/bin/bash

WALLPAPERS="$HOME/photos-openbox"
ALIST=( `ls -w1 $WALLPAPERS` )
RANGE=${#ALIST[*]}
SHOW=$(( $RANDOM % $RANGE ))

feh --bg-scale $WALLPAPERS/${ALIST[$SHOW]}


I created the file ~/photos-openbox to contain the photos used in the wallpaper.sh script.

Clock Screensavers

Windows XP has several screensavers to choose from, but Linux has many more of them. Many (if not most) of the Linux screensavers can be configured and tweaked quite a bit, and the user has much more control over things than would be possible in XP.

My favorite is the clock screensaver that comes with KDE.

Choosing and setting up a screensaver in KDE is easy. Right-click anywhere on the desktop and click on "Configure Desktop..." Click on the button for the Screen Saver module, and there you can choose and set up one of the screensavers:



Above, I've selected KDE's clock screensaver. Here's a shot of the "Setup" screen:



As you can see, you can configure the colors of each part of the clock, and the clock's size, etc.

For GNOME, Xfce, Openbox, etc., I had to find some other type of way to get a clock screensaver, because KDE's clock screensaver isn't available. I use the xscreensaver GLText (clock) screensaver.

Setting up a clock screensaver with xscreensaver involves a bit more work than doing it with KDE's screensavers. Here's an overview:

Linux Mint and Ubuntu Hardy come with gnome-screensaver, which I uninstalled. Then I installed xscreensaver, xscreensaver-data-extra, xscreensaver-gl-extra. The package xscreensaver-gl was already present.

From a terminal, the command xscreensaver-demo opens a window where you can select and configure a screensaver:



I click on "Settings..." to set up the GLText (clock) screensaver. Then I click the "Advanced >>" button and insert this line for the command line text:

gltext -root -spin 0 -text "%A%n%d %b%n%r"

That gives me the digital, text clock that's shown. Here's a view of the standard and advanced settings windows:





You'll probably have to add xscreensaver & to your list of apps that start up when you log into the system. Or else you'll have to go to a terminal and start the screensaver manually -- you can use xscreensaver-demo to get to the window where you start things up.

Getting the xscreensaver GLText (clock) screensaver set up can be a bit tricky, and things might be different in various distros. In Ubuntu Dapper, my notes show that I edited the file /usr/share/gnome-screensaver/themes/gltext.desktop so that the line

Exec=gltext -root

was changed to

Exec= gltext -text “%A%n%d %b %Y%n%l:%M:%S %p” -no-spin

But the file /usr/share/gnome-screensaver/themes/gltext.desktop was not present in Hardy.

In Debian Etch's GNOME, I think all I did was install xscreensaver-gl, and then the clock screensaver was easy to configure.

I referenced the Linux manpage called by the command man date to find a list of the codes to use in the GLText (clock) screensaver. Here's a list copied from that manpage:

%a locale’s abbreviated weekday name (e.g., Sun)

%A locale’s full weekday name (e.g., Sunday)

%b locale’s abbreviated month name (e.g., Jan)

%B locale’s full month name (e.g., January)

%c locale’s date and time (e.g., Thu Mar 3 23:05:25 2005)

%C century; like %Y, except omit last two digits (e.g., 21)

%d day of month (e.g, 01)

%D date; same as %m/%d/%y

%e day of month, space padded; same as %_d

%F full date; same as %Y-%m-%d

%g last two digits of year of ISO week number (see %G)

%G year of ISO week number (see %V); normally useful only with %V

%h same as %b

%H hour (00..23)

%I hour (01..12)

%j day of year (001..366)

%k hour ( 0..23)

%l hour ( 1..12)

%m month (01..12)

%M minute (00..59)

%n a newline

%N nanoseconds (000000000..999999999)

%p locale’s equivalent of either AM or PM; blank if not known

%P like %p, but lower case

%r locale’s 12-hour clock time (e.g., 11:11:04 PM)

%R 24-hour hour and minute; same as %H:%M

%s seconds since 1970-01-01 00:00:00 UTC

%S second (00..60)

%t a tab

%T time; same as %H:%M:%S

%u day of week (1..7); 1 is Monday

%U week number of year, with Sunday as first day of week (00..53)

%V ISO week number, with Monday as first day of week (01..53)

%w day of week (0..6); 0 is Sunday

%W week number of year, with Monday as first day of week (00..53)

%x locale’s date representation (e.g., 12/31/99)

%X locale’s time representation (e.g., 23:13:48)

%y last two digits of year (00..99)

%Y year

%z +hhmm numeric timezone (e.g., -0400)

%:z +hh:mm numeric timezone (e.g., -04:00)

%::z +hh:mm:ss numeric time zone (e.g., -04:00:00)

%:::z numeric time zone with : to necessary precision (e.g., -04,
+05:30)

%Z alphabetic time zone abbreviation (e.g., EDT)


A note about xscreensaver and the GLText screensaver:


You may also want to refer to man xscreensaver, man xscreensaver-text, man xscreensaver-demo, etc., and the manpages mentioned in those pages. And, of course, a few Google searches wouldn't hurt.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Openbox's obmenu

The Openbox window manager takes a little work to set up, but thanks to the obmenu application, its menu is about as easy to configure as any menu you'll run across.

Here's a look at the obmenu interface:



Give it a label and a command to execute, move it into position -- it's as easy as that!

Here's how things look when I right-click on my Openbox desktop in Linux Mint:



Simple, clean, quick, light, and a pleasure to work with!

Suns -- Can it get any worse?

The Lakers lead the Pacific Division by 13 1/2 games. The Suns sit a game behind Utah for the 8th and final spot in the Western Conference playoffs. And now this.

The Suns' All-Star forward Amar'e Stoudemire may be out for the season.

Stoudemire had surgery to repair a partially detached retina after scoring 42 points in the Suns' 142-119 win over the Clippers in L.A. He'll probably be out at least two months.

If there was ever a time for Shaq to step up, that time is right now.

Remember after last year's NBA Finals, when Shaq joked that Kobe "couldn't do it" without him? The Lakers are poised to make another serious run at a title. The Suns are on their second coach since Shaq arrived a year ago. They've gone from the best record in the conference to a team that'll be lucky to make the playoffs.

Mike D'Antoni, who had a pretty good team before Shaq arrived, a team that was at least always a contender in the West, has to be laughing. The other teams in the Western Conference have to be licking their chops, looking forward to any remaining games with the Suns this season. Kobe Bryant is probably smiling, too.

Who knows? Maybe this makes the Suns a better team. Hard to imagine that losing Stoudemire's 21.4 ppg and 8.1 rpg could make the Suns any better, but suddenly, the Suns have nothing to lose. They've got a brand new coach who seems to have lit a fire under them. No more distractions from Stoudemire about not being the focal point of the offense. Shaq's free to do his thing, and he's been playing pretty well lately.

But do they have enough to push themselves into the playoff picture? Stoudemire might be the best finisher on the planet. Who steps in to fill the void?

Doesn't look good, to put it mildly.

Ten Things About Linux

(Note: I copied the following from http://www.handlewithlinux.com/things-you-need-to-know-about-Linux-coming-from-windows. For a discussion of the points made here, please follow the link and see the comments following the article.)

What you need to know about Linux if you're coming from Windows:

1. There is no registry in Linux

In Windows there is the registry, the registry is a database which keeps all your settings. If you want to change anything not in a menu (or in a menu) you need to use the regedit program. Or a script.
In Linux there is no such thing as a registry.

2. In Linux everything is a file

All configurations are in text files, and everything in Linux is treated as a file. This is a much simpler approach which makes it very easy to change things in Linux. In Linux even your filesystem itself can be viewed as a file.

3. In Linux there's no such thing as drive letters

In Linux all your "drives" are on the same tree, this means that instead of navigating to a drive letter you always navigate to a subdirectory.

4. You should see the command line as the registry editor

If you perceive the command line stuff in Linux as a difficult thing to cope with, remember the following:
The command line makes it possible to do everything (and a whole lot more) you would need to use regedit for in windows. The usual things are possible in the GUI, tweaking has to be done on the command line.
But you don't have to use the command line to change your garbage bin icon. You need regedit to do such a thing in windows. Think that's easy?

5. If you are used to Windows command line, there are some differences

the slash is the other way:
/ instead of \ (it's closer to your fingers while typing)
cd works
dir = ls (remember ls as list)
copy = cp
rename = mv (mv is actually moving, but you can move a file to another name)

6. Get used to tab completion

On the command line use the tab, tab is auto completion if you type the first few letters of a command and then tab it will try to fill in the rest. This works equally well with filenames. Try playing with it.

7. man is for manual

If you need to know how to use a command, type man [commandname] on the command line.
Try man man to get the man(ual) of how you can use man.

8. Find yourself a package manager

Package managers are programs which install software, almost every software you use in windows is available in Linux for free, with a package manager you can list and search trough available sofware and install problem free. If you're not used to Linux and coming from Windows, package managers are your life saver.

9. There's no such thing as .exe

In Linux there's no such thing as .exe files. If something is executable it has it's executable bit set.
You can find executables with ls -F this will show an asterisk * on every executable file.
use man ls to find more listing options.

10. Execute programs in the current directory with ./programname

Starting a program which is in the current directory is done by prefixing it with a ./ so the shell will start looking in the current directory.

The Other Side of the Game

It's impossible for a basketball referee to get every call right. Attend any game, and you're going to hear people complaining about the mistakes the refs made. Like sprained ankles and missed free-throws, it's just part of the game.

As a youngster, I got to see the other side when I worked as a ref for fifth- and sixth-grade teams. I got yelled at by coaches, parents, and players. I could count on hearing nasty comments during and after each game. Screwed-up faces and looks of disbelief that I could have not seen that foul, or that traveling violation.

As a fan, I've hurled my share of insults at the refs, too. And as a player, I've glared at the refs when they've made "obvious" mistakes.

M.A.L., my fifteen year-old son, is now working as a ref for grade-school games. This week, during and after a game involving 1st- and 2nd-graders, he was on the receiving end of this kind of abuse. Coaches hollering at him. Parents accusing him of blowing the game.

M.A.L. sounded dejected while talking with me about it, but was convinced that he'd called a good game. He said he just ignored the rude comments, but I know he couldn't get them out of his mind.

It's just a game. But, it isn't. Basketball brings out the emotions in people. It's a thing of beauty to watch that ball touch four player's hands, then end up in the hands of a fifth player on the way to an open lay-up. It's sweet when a three-pointer tickles the twines, swishing through.

The way that refs are treated is just plain ugly. Ever think about how they feel? What it's like for them to have their wives or family sitting at the games, listening to all that stuff? What it's like for the guys in stripes after they go home from work?

Ever wonder why they even bother to go back and do it again?

You'd think that the parents of those 1st- and 2nd-graders would have been nice about things. That they'd just enjoy seeing the little kids out there having fun. That the most important thing would be to try to instill a sense of sportsmanship in those kids' minds.

That they'd understand that no referee in the history of the sport has ever gotten it right on every play, and that no teenager working a game for little tykes -- little hobbit hoopsters, barely bigger than the ball -- is going to be the first ref to do it.

You'd think they'd be able to sit back and chill, laugh it off, smile and take the kids out for pizza after the game, go on to more important things.

And not get wound up in a knot over this stuff.

But it's like this at every level of the game, from grade school on up to the NBA. When your team loses, 75% of the blame goes to the referees, if not more. You're going to remember the missed call at the end of the game, not the good calls throughout the game, not the bad ones that went your way, not the bone-headed mistakes that your favorite player made in the first half that put your team behind.

It's almost always the ref's fault. He's the bad guy who wanted your team to lose, who made every call against your kid, who couldn't see a foul on the other team if it bonked him on his nose but who could detect a phantom foul against your kid across court through a mass jumble of moving bodies.

It's really simple, isn't it? Everybody in the stands could see it. Much more clearly than the guy in the stripes out there on the court. Any moron could stick a whistle in his mouth and call a perfect game. It ain't rocket science. You see the infraction, you blow the whistle. Simple.

Right?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

USB Memory Card Readers

Another problem I see mentioned often at Linux forums is that people have trouble connecting digital cameras to their Linux systems to transfer photos over. The problem is that most cameras come ready for Windows or Mac, but not for Linux.

An easy solution: Buy a memory card reader, remove the memory card from your camera, insert it into the card reader, and plug it into a USB port of your computer.

I'm using a Targus SD card reader that I found at Wal-Mart for $8.88, plus tax. When I plug it into a USB port on my computer while using Mepis, I get the following pop-up window:



I click "OK" to "Open in New Window" and the Konqueror file browser opens up, showing the files that are stored on the memory card. Couldn't be easier. Then it's a simple matter to copy the photos over to a directory on my hard drive.

Other distros might not give you a pop-up window when you insert the card reader, but it's usually not much more difficult to access the files than with Mepis. You may have to click on a desktop icon, or mount the file system. I haven't had any trouble getting to my photos using any distro, though.

Memory card readers are great to have even if you don't use Linux. I first started using them with Windows simply to save my digital camera's batteries from getting used while I had it connected to the computer. The thing to remember if you use a card reader in Windows: When you're finished, use the "Safely Remove Hardware" icon at the right side of your taskbar before unplugging the card reader.

In Mepis and other Linux distros, you'll want to unmount the file system before unplugging the card reader. In Mepis, I simply right-click on the card reader's desktop icon and click on "Safely Remove."



Ubuntu and Mint handle all of this automatically, so with those distros you can simply unplug the card reader once you've closed the file manager.

Dial-up in Linux

Most Linux users probably use a high-speed internet connection, but a lot of us still use dial-up. Computers built for Windows have built-in dial-up modems, known as winmodems. Quite often, they don't work well with Linux.

If you use dial-up and want to use Linux, the first order of business should be to acquire an external serial modem. I got my first one when the folks at one of my jobs were about to discard it. My others have been used ones that I found online. You can find one for under $15 bucks.

They've all worked fine under Linux. Struggling to get winmodems to work with Linux is a big problem for dial-up users, one that can be completely avoided with the use of an external serial modem. Definitely worth looking into.

More on the Lenny live CD

Debian Lenny has moved to "stable." I mentioned earlier that they were going to include a live CD. Problem is, it isn't a live/install CD like so many other distros have. Disappointing; I'll have to install Lenny like I did with Etch, probably using a 5 CD-set.

On the positive side, the Lenny live CD is a nice way to take a look at Debian, and to find out if it'll work well with your hardware. A step in the right direction, at least.

Komando

Windows users can find tons of helpful info at Kim Komando's website, http://www.komando.com/. Her tips helped me quite a bit when I was using Windows.

I didn't much like her self-promotion style -- using photos of herself at her site, that kind of thing. The computer world's Oprah. "The Digital Goddess." Yuck.

But her site is great for people who want to learn more about computers. Sadly, there's very little there about Linux. That disappointed me, and when I started using Linux, I stopped visiting her site. But I know folks who still check it out, and subscribe to her newsletters, and listen in on her radio broadcasts. Helpful stuff.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

He's a Baller

The guy can fill it up.

Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant has been on a tear since the beginning of the new year. And he may be just getting started.

This weekend he scored a record 46 points in the All-Star Weekend Rookie Challenge, and also won the inaugural H-O-R-S-E competition.

In his first game following the All-Star break, Durant was at it again, pouring in 47 points in a 100-98 loss to New Orleans.

Get this guy in a Suns uniform. Please.

Check out his scoring averages this season, by month:

November: 22.9
December: 25.1
January: 27.8
February: 30.8

Synaptic

Synaptic is the GUI front end for the apt-get application, the package manager used in Debian distributions. There are other ways to download applications, but apt-get is probably the most common way to do it.

I use Synaptic because I think it's easier and more convenient than using apt-get commands.

Synaptic in Debian Etch is showing me that there are over 18,000 packages available for free download. Without ever walking down a software aisle in an electronics store, I have free access to just about any application I'll ever need.

Of course this is one of the main reasons why I use Linux instead of Windows or a Mac.

It's important that a user understands what Synaptic does and how it works, and learning a bit about apt-get is a big part of that. The main idea is that each Linux distro has these application vaults called repositories. Synaptic, the graphical front-end to apt-get, let's you download applications from those repos.

For each Debian-based Linux system, the list of repos that apt-get uses are contained in the /etc/apt/sources.lst file. You can add or remove repos from that list, if you want to.

As with Windows, the apps on your Linux system might need to be upgraded from time to time. With Synaptic, all you do is click on the "Reload" button, and Synaptic will find all of the latest packages that are available to you from the repos. Then you can choose which upgrades to do, or which new packages to download.

Synaptic lets you look for packages in different categories, or you can search for individual ones by name. It can show you all kinds of info about any package to help you decide whether or not it's something you want.

The same things that Synaptic does can be done from the command line with apt-get commands.

Here's a screen shot of Synaptic:

Monday, February 16, 2009

Some Cool Linux Stuff

A very nice thing about working in Linux is being able to paste highlighted text with the middle mouse button (or with the scroll wheel acting as the middle mouse button). Just highlight the text you want to copy, put the cursor where you want the copied text to go, and press the middle mouse button. Presto.

If your middle mouse button is stuck, or if your mouse doesn't have one, pressing the right and left mouse buttons together can be used to emulate the middle mouse button gesture.

Another nice thing, automatic wallpaper changers. KDE has one built in. Right-click anywhere on the desktop. Click on "Configure Desktop..." The "Background" module should be selected by default. Most of the Wallpaper options are in this window. In the "Background" section of the window, you can choose to show a single photo or to set up a slide show. Select "Slide show" and click on the "Setup" button. In the next window (below), you can set the timer and the option to show pictures in random order, and add a directory or individual photos for your slide show.



GNOME doesn't have an automatic wallpaper changer by default, but you can get one by going into Synaptic and installing wallpaper-tray. Once it's installed, just find the Wallpaper Tray icon on your panel, right-click on it, and click on "Configuration." Add a directory in the "Directory List" tab. Set the timer and other options in the "More Options" tab (see below).

Friday, February 13, 2009

Memories

Screenshot of my Mint Elyssa desktop, in GNOME, showing the former Bank One Ballpark, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Taken from T.G.I. Fridays restaurant, November 2005. (Screenshot done with KSnapshot.)

Devils Sweep Rivals

No, no, the Blue Devils didn't sweep the Tar Heels. Duke will have to wait for the final regular season game, when they travel down the road to face North Carolina and try to avenge this week's 101-87 loss.

Talking here about the Arizona State Sun Devils. Earlier this season, they surprised then #9 UCLA at Pauley Pavilion, 61-58. Last night in Tempe, AZ, ASU star James Harden led the way with 15 points, 7 rebounds, and 11 assists, and found Derek Glasser in the corner for the go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:12 left, as these Devils completed perhaps their most satisfying sweep in years over any Pac-10 team. Final score: 74-67.

UCLA had won four straight in Tempe. ASU hosts USC on Sunday, then it's a return engagement with the resurgent Arizona Wildcats in Tempe on February 22nd. UofA is on a 6-game winning streak, but lost earlier to ASU, 53-47, in Tucson.

Current Pac-10 standings (overall records in parentheses):

Washington - 9-3 (18-6)
#11 UCLA - 8-3 (19-5)
#18 Arizona State - 8-4 (19-5)
California - 7-4 (18-6)
Arizona - 7-5 (17-8)
USC - 6-5 (15-8)
Washington State - 5-7 (13-11)
Stanford - 4-7 (15-7)
Oregon State - 4-8 (10-13)
Oregon - 0-12 (6-18)

Trade?

I don't know if this would help the Suns, but here's an intriguing trade rumor: Amar'e Stoudemire for Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge, Jerryd Bayless, and Raef LaFrentz.

A current all-star for a promising guard and two big guys.

Stoudemire's a great player whose season averages, 21.0 ppg and 8.1 rpg, are close to his career marks. The 6'10" offensive force would make Portland an instant contender -- assuming that center Greg Oden comes along, that guard Brandon Roy continues his strong play, and that Stoudemire can fit in and get the job done on the boards and on defense.

Aldridge, 6'11", is in only his third year. His numbers, 17.6 ppg and 6.8 rpg, aren't that far off Stoudemire's -- but his upside might be greater.

LaFrentz is a journeyman in his 11th NBA season. He's never put up big numbers, averaging 10.1 ppg and 6.1 rpg for his career. On top of that, he's out with a shoulder injury that could sideline for the rest of the season. But at 6'11" and 240, he'd give the Suns another big body.

And, Bayless. Of course the most attractive piece, in my mind. Bayless would be coming home to Phoenix, and would benefit from playing with guard Steve Nash, who would certainly take advantage of the 6'3" guard's ability to fill it up. Bayless is young and inexperienced, but he's a baller and could blossom into a great one.

I'm all for this trade. The Suns are going nowhere this season. I don't know if Stoudemire's been giving it his all, but he's certainly not happy sharing the ball with Shaq. I don't know if he can get much better than he is now. The move might make sense, and Aldridge could fill in nicely. If Bayless turns into what I think he'll turn into, or even if he just develops into another Eddie House, it'll give the Suns some additional punch.

I might be happier if, instead of LaFrentz, the Blazers would throw in forward Channing Frye, who played at Phoenix's St. Mary's H.S. before Bayless was there. Frye also preceded Bayless at the University of Arizona. Frye's 6'11" (a note to a friend of mine: Frye was born in White Plains, NY), but has the rep of playing soft, and has seen limited playing time in his 3-year NBA career. But he could fit in well with the Suns.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Who Says It's Easy?

I started two blog entries today that ended up crumpled up in the virtual wastebasket. Maybe I'm just too lazy.

The first one was gonna be about customizing the Linux command prompt. My user prompt looks something like this:

steve[~]$

That prompt shows my username (steve), the directory I'm in (~, which indicates the home directory, /home/steve), and finally, the dollar sign, which is where I can start typing. I made the color of the prompt green because I think it's a friendly color. My root prompt in the terminal is colored red to remind me that I'm working as a root user and that I have to be more careful.

I started looking over my notes on how I've customized my command prompts. The notes start out like this:

For changing the user prompt in bash, use the line

export PS1="\e[1;32m\u[\w]\\$ \e[m "

in ~/.bashrc.

For changing the root prompt, I'm using

export PS1="\[\e[1;31m\]\u[\w]\\# \[\e[m\] "

in /root/.bashrc


Yuck. Lots of explaining to do there.

And to make it worse, in Mint Elyssa and Ubuntu Hardy, customizing the prompts was a lot more complicated than that. For one thing, Elyssa didn't have a ~/.bashrc file to begin with, and I had to copy the ~/.bashrc_vanilla file
over to a new ~/.bashrc file, then work with that. Second, the PS1 variable defined there was much more complicated even than what's shown above.

In the end, I figured anybody who wants to learn how to do this better just Google it. (Search customize bash prompt if you're interested.)

Then, I wanted to write some things on the subject of mounting filesystems in Linux. OK, not so bad. A filesystem is any place where your data is stored: a floppy disk, a CD, a USB flash drive, a partition on your hard drive. Each filesystem needs to be mounted before it can be accessed. The mount points can be any empty directory. The file /etc/fstab determines how and where each filesystem is mounted. Blah, blah.

The more you go into it, the more there is to talk about. I finally decided, anybody who wants to learn about this can read man mount. Or Google it.

Look, I'm a Linux lover. I'll probably never go back to using Windows as my primary system at home, and I seriously doubt that I'll ever buy a Mac. But, I'm not gonna try to convince anyone to use Linux.

Sure, somebody could go with Ubuntu or another fairly easy distro and not run into too much trouble, but the fact is, you've got to really love messing with computers and be willing to put yourself through some learning to be able to take advantage of what Linux has to offer. For a lot of things, I get worn out just thinking about how to explain ways of doing stuff.

I mean, you're used to Windows and C: drives and G: drives, that kind of thing. Then you look at a typical Linux filesystem, like mine in Linux Mint:

/
/bin
/boot
/build
/cdrom
/dev
/etc
/home
/initrd
/lib
/lost+found
/media
/mnt
/proc
/root
/sbin
/srv
/sys
/temp
/usr
/var

Do you remember how you felt when you first started with Linux and saw all that?

Do you remember struggling with the difference between the root directory (/) and root's home directory (/root)?

I do.

Folks, don't go telling people that Linux is just as easy as Windows. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't, but admit it, there's a lot of difficult stuff there.

And, I don't even think we should try to be Linux Evangelists, thinking we should convert everyone to Linux. Most of the folks who are willing to learn about it and who will take advantage of what Linux has to offer will find their way over to Linux on their own. Everybody else is probably happy enough using what they're using.

Having said all that, though, I have to admit: If my parents lived nearby, I'd have set up their computer with Linux long ago. They'd be web-browsing with Firefox, sending emails, doing everything they're doing now. I'd probably stop over now and then to run Synaptic, or maybe to install the latest Mepis release, and they wouldn't have to be bothered with any of this Linux stuff, any more than they're bothered right now with Windows stuff. Their machines would be free of malware, and they could tell all their friends that they "use Linux." If they wanted to learn more, they could, but they wouldn't have to.

A computer is supposed to make your life easier, isn't it?

Forces

Some thoughts still running through my head after recently finishing Tolstoy's War and Peace (still can't believe I made it through that book!):

Tolstoy downplayed the effects that so-called great leaders have on the course of events. Instead, the idea was that other things can't be ignored, like the accumulation of individual decisions and mistakes made by millions of people, and like luck in terms of weather, geography, events, etc.

History focuses on the "Great Men and Women," but perhaps Tolstoy was right, and much of the time the great leader is a product of the times, and other forces at work are more significant.

Thinking here of Columbus, Hitler, Lincoln, Washington, Tubman, Alexander the Great, Napoleon, King, Joan of Arc, Mandela, Genghis Khan... Then, my thoughts turn to Obama.

It seems that the times, the people, luck, and forces in motion for hundreds of years have put Obama into a situation where lots of people are considering him to be a "Great Man." But I don't know that he or any of those other people who I mentioned above did anything that might not have been done by some other person, given the same set of circumstances.

Some other things that struck me while reading War and Peace: How a battle or a war can turn on the most unforeseen incident, the most seemingly insignificant event. And how 50 people in any given battle can give you 50 different versions of what went down, and each of them could completely miss the the most important things that occurred, with not one of them providing any true insight as to why things turned out the way they did.

I was talking to a young college student not long ago who was studying for a History exam. He seemed shocked when I told him that my reading, so much of it focused on history, made me realize how little I and other people really know about history -- that in many ways I think I "know" less and less the more I read.

We only get what's written down by other people, and who knows how accurate that might be? How much can any one person actually see? When Napoleon invaded Russia, millions of people were involved, and countless little events took place that nobody remembers. You know how a single event can completely change the course of your life. What about all of those unknown, random events, things that have never been written about, that may have played a part in any of the great wars or invasions or changes in human society?

Can the flutter of a butterfly's wings in Arizona end up changing the course of the weather in India? Has the chance birth in 1961 of a boy to a white American woman and an African man resulted in a changed world order in 2009?

Durant

ESPN's Bill Simmons raved about Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant when he was coming out of Texas, like me and almost everybody else.

Here, he asks us to compare the 20 year-old Durant in his second pro season to 21 year-old LeBron James in his second season and Kobe Bryant in his third season, when he turned 20.

OK.

Durant: 25.5 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 2.8 apg, 47.9 FG%, 85.8 FT%, 42.9 3PT%, 1.2 steals pg, 0.8 blocks pg, 3.1 turnovers pg.

James: 27.2 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 7.2 apg, 47.2 FG%, 75.0 FT%, 35.1 3PT%, 2.2 steals pg, 0.7 blocks pg, 3.3 turnovers pg.

Bryant: 19.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.8 apg, 46.5 FG%, 83.9 FT%, 26.7 3PT%, 1.4 steals pg, 1.0 blocks pg, 3.1 turnovers pg.

Hmm.

I'd add here that Durant's stats have been improving dramatically since the beginning of the year, so his final 2nd-year stats might totally eclipse James' 2nd-year stats. I think they already blow away Bryant's 3rd-year stats.

Durant is clearly the better shooter of the three -- look at those field goal, free throw, and 3-pointer marks!

On the boards, he averaged 7.7 rebounds per game in December, and 8.8 in January. I expect that to approach 10 rpg very soon.

Might be a future Hall-of-Famer down in Oklahoma, quietly doing his thing on one of the worst teams in the league.

As for LeBron, Simmons writes:

At age 24, he's a cross between ABA Doctor J (unstoppable in the open court, breathtaking in traffic, has the rare ability to galvanize teammates and crowds with one "Wow" play, even handles himself as well off the court) and 1992 Scottie Pippen (the freaky athletic ability on both ends, especially when he's cutting pass lines or flying in from the weak side for a block), with a little MJ (his overcompetitiveness and sense of The Moment), Magic (the unselfishness, which isn't where I thought it would be back in 2003, but at least it's in there a little) and Bo Jackson (how he can occasionally just overpower the other team in a way that doesn't seem human) mixed in ... only if all of that Molotov NBA Superstar Cocktail was mixed together in Karl Malone's body.

Yeah.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Linux News Sites

A couple of my favorite sites for Linux news:

LXer

Constantly updated with links to Linux-related articles.

DistroWatch

Popular site for Linux and BSD folks -- great place for info on just about any Linux distro out there!

News from Home

For my peoples from AA: http://www.mlive.com/ann-arbor/

For my peoples from AZ: http://www.azcentral.com/

And, for those here in Abq: http://www.abqjournal.com/ and http://www.topix.net/albuquerque

23 Useful System Apps

Check out "23 Useful System Applications for Linux."

I can vouch for a few of these: Of the apps mentioned, I use K3b, GParted, gZIP, and OpenOffice, and have used Firestarter and Xfe.

The one that caught my eye, though, was APTonCD.

From the APTonCD website:

APTonCD is a tool with a graphical interface which allows you to create ... CDs or DVDs (you choose the type of media) with all of the packages you've downloaded via APT-GET or APTITUDE, creating a removable repository that you can use on other computers.
APTonCD will also allow you to automatically create media with all of your .deb packages located in one specific repository, so that you can install them into your computers without the need for an internet connection.

That one could come in handy.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Is Duke Over-rated?

Duke's men's basketball team lost at Clemson last week, 74-47. Blown out. Run off the court.

But, check it out. This week, the AP has Duke at #6 and Clemson at #12. The USA Today has Duke at #5 and Clemson at #11.

What?

Both teams have three losses. Duke fell at Michigan, 81-73; at Wake Forest, 70-68; and then got creamed by Clemson. The Tigers lost to Wake, 78-68; at North Carolina, 94-70; and to Florida State, 65-61.

So, why is Clemson ranked behind Duke? It wasn't like Clemson simply got lucky. Taking a team apart and winning by 27 points should mean something, shouldn't it? Hey, just asking the question.

Mepis Community

The MepisLovers forums might be the friendliest, most helpful forums in all of Linux Land. The community there is perhaps the best part about using Mepis.

Recently, the Mepis folks added another website, mepiscommunity.org. It's shaping up to be quite an attractive site, and a great place to go for news and info about the distro.

Mepis has no weekly newsletter like the Linux Mint newsletter, which is a very nice touch for that distro. I've often wished that Mepis had something like it. But the Mepis Community site accomplishes much of the same thing as the Mint newsletter, and more. There's a blog space; links to tutorials, tips, and the forums; an image gallery; and, a "What's New in the Mepis Community" section.

The whole thing just makes Mepis an even stronger distro. The community has really stepped up and taken a more active role, in this and other areas.

Synaptic Error

Here's an example of how things go in Linux, sometimes.

I decided to update my Mepis system. I started up Synaptic, the GUI (graphical user interface) front-end to the apt-get package manager. I clicked on "Reload" and let Synaptic do its thing. I wanted to see what packages were available to be upgraded.

But I keep getting an error message: http://ftp.debian.org/debian/dists/etch/main/binary-i386/Packages.gz: Sub-process gzip returned an error code (1)

I couldn't figure out what to do, so I posted a question about it at the MepisLovers forums.

A poster who goes by the name "nlyric" posted a reply:

Try this as root
Code:
rm /var/lib/apt/lists/partial/*
Code:
apt-get update

Now, although I was using the GUI (Synaptic), nlyric gave me a command-line solution. A lot of people are turned off by this type of thing. You ask a question at a Linux forum, and the knowledgeable people there often reply by telling you to run a certain command, instead of telling you what to click on.

I could have opened up the Konqueror file manager, gotten root access, and deleted the contents of the directory /var/lib/apt/lists/partial, then started Synaptic back up and clicked "Reload" again. In the event, I did open up a terminal, typed su and my password to get root access, and ran the first command that he mentioned, which deleted the contents of that directory. Then I went back to Synaptic and clicked "Reload." The error was gone.

My opinion, which is not always popular, is that if you're going to use Linux, you should at least learn a little bit about the command line, even if you're going to use the GUI most of the time like I do. In this case, I understood what the GUI approach would be for running nlyric's commands, so I could go either way.

And, in the end, instead of running apt-get update, I opened Synaptic and clicked "Reload," which does the same thing (except that you don't see the terminal output that you'd see if you ran the command). (I almost always use Synaptic instead of running apt-get commands; just more convenient for me. Other folks take the opposite approach.)

open source apps and freeware

The Firefox web browser introduced me to the concept of open source applications. I started using Firefox in Windows XP something like six years ago, then began trying out other freeware and shareware for Windows.

Soon, applications like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint were going unused, replaced by the OpenOffice suite of applications. I found a nice shareware app to handle my back-ups. Tried out a number of freeware apps to pretty up my desktop. Went to using ZoneAlarm for my firewall and AVG for anti-virus, and other tools like Spybot Search and Destroy, CCleaner, and Ad-Aware. Discovered the Belarc Advisor, one of the most useful tools I've ever found for Windows machines.

I downloaded a lot of these apps from sites like FileHippo.com and majorgeeks.com. There were a few free apps that didn't work out so well, but most of them turned out fine.

Of course all of that eventually led me to Linux, and it's been a long time since I've ventured into the software aisles of any electronics store. I do still have XP running on one computer, but I use open source apps for almost everything besides games on that machine. When I did my most recent XP reinstallation, I didn't even bother putting in the MS Office Suite.

When I speak to folks about open source software, I find a few of them who are using Firefox, and far fewer of them who use any other type of freeware. Folks are suspicious. Understandably, they don't want to do anything to harm their computers. And -- it's free? You get what you pay for, according to the adage...

But there are alternatives for most Windows applications, sitting out there waiting to be downloaded, at no cost. Perfectly legal. Look around; check it out. (Of course, you'll probably want to make sure you're system is backed up before trying out some of them; the open source world isn't perfect!)

If you're like me, you'll begin to feel comfortable trying out freeware, and maybe you'll end up taking a look at Linux CDs like Knoppix, or maybe even Ubuntu; and maybe your Windows computer will end up like mine, parked in a back room, used mainly for the kids' games.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Around the League

Steve Nash dished out 21 assists in the Suns' 107-97 win at Detroit. That's the most ever at the Palace at Auburn Hills, and breaks the mark shared by Isiah Thomas and Chauncy Billups. Nash was left out of the All-Star game this season. Allen Iverson: "Who's been down on Steve Nash? ...He's definitely an All-Star and he's still playing like an MVP."

Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant for the month of January: 27.8 ppg, 8.8 rpg. His stats have gone through the roof since he moved from guard to forward.

The Lakers held LeBron James to 16 points on 5 for 20 shooting in their 101-91 win at Cleveland. Lamar Odom scored 28 points and grabbed 17 rebounds.

The Celtics gave up 11 straight points in the final 45 seconds to lose at home to San Antonio, 105-99. The Celts have lost 2 of their last three, after losing to the Lakers and beating the Knicks last week. Six-game road trip coming up for Boston.

Tops in the NBA: L. James, 28.5 ppg. D. Howard, 14.0 rpg. C. Paul, 10.9 apg. Lakers, 41-9.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Rosen Making Noise

FOX Sports' Charley Rosen, here answering questions about: LeBron's flaws; Suns GM Steve Kerr; the "dominance" of Wilt, the Big "O", and Jordan; Ray Allen vs. Reggie Miller; Scottie Pippen; and a hypothetical match-up between the 80s Lakers and the 90s Bulls.

Enjoyed the members' comments following the article even more than the article itself.

When it comes to comparing players or teams from different eras, folks can debate that stuff forever and a day. It's all opinion. It's hard enough to compare two guys of the same era who play different positions; who would you take today if you had to pick, LeBron or Kobe? Dwight Howard or Dwyane Wade?

But, still... When it comes to "dominance" -- during the eras in which they played -- here are my top three:

Wilt.

Kareem.

Jordan.

In that order.

Jimmy Baca

In A Place to Stand, Jimmy Santiago Baca's words about his time locked up in prison at Florence, AZ hit you the same way those "Scared Straight" shows used to. Maybe a bit harder.

The book is about coming up hard, and transformation. This guy was just about illiterate when he went in around the age of twenty-one. He came out five years later writing books, poetry, screenplays... and winning awards for his work, too.

Or, maybe it's not so much about transformation as it is about a person finding something inside that was always there -- that dormant seed, neglected by poverty, prejudice, circumstance, some poor choices -- finally getting a chance to take root, to grow into something.

Baca grew up in New Mexico; I hear he's still around here.

Check out jimmysantiagobaca.com. He's got a Community Forum. Folks have posted a lot of poetry and other writings there. Good stuff, and the forum has a good feel to it.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Getting around in Linux manpages

A great thing about Linux is that lots of info can be found in the manpages. These are the manual pages that come with every Linux system. They can be accessed with the Linux terminal. The basic format used is man [page], where [page] is the argument representing a program, utility, or function.

For example, to get command-line info on the audio application called Amarok, you'd type man amarok at the command prompt:

$ man amarok

To get info about manpages:

$ man man

Here's the top of the manpage after you type man man in a terminal and press Enter:





To move around within a manpage:

- use the Page Up key to scroll up one page at a time
- use the Page Down key to scroll down one page at a time
- use the Up Arrow key to scroll up one line at a time
- use the Down Arrow key to scroll down one line at a time
- use the Home key to go to the beginning of the document
- use the End key to go to the end of the document
- use the Q key to quit and get back to a command prompt

Konqueror users can view manpages in an html format by typing man:[page] in the search bar. This way you can simply scroll to get around the manpage. The manpage for the ls command shows up in Konqueror as shown below:




Occasionally, you might need info from a manpage that's not included in your Linux system, for whatever reason. Try Googling man [page]. You can find just about any manpage that way. The info there might not all be applicable to the system you're using, but it's a good way to pick up lots of general info about the program, utility, or function that you want to know about.

My /boot/grub/menu.lst

There are a few different ways to set up multi-boot system in Linux. I use Debian Etch to boot Mepis, Linux Mint, and Ubuntu. Here are the key parts of my /boot/grub/menu.lst file:


title Debian GNU/Linux, kernel 2.6.18-6-486
root (hd0,0)
kernel /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.18-6-486 root=/dev/hda1 ro
initrd /boot/initrd.img-2.6.18-6-486
savedefault

title Debian GNU/Linux, kernel 2.6.18-6-486 (single-user mode)
root (hd0,0)
kernel /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.18-6-486 root=/dev/hda1 ro single
initrd /boot/initrd.img-2.6.18-6-486
savedefault

title Debian GNU/Linux, kernel 2.6.18-5-486
root (hd0,0)
kernel /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.18-5-486 root=/dev/hda1 ro
initrd /boot/initrd.img-2.6.18-5-486
savedefault

title Debian GNU/Linux, kernel 2.6.18-5-486 (single-user mode)
root (hd0,0)
kernel /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.18-5-486 root=/dev/hda1 ro single
initrd /boot/initrd.img-2.6.18-5-486
savedefault

### END DEBIAN AUTOMAGIC KERNELS LIST

# This is a divider, added to separate the menu items below from the Debian
# ones.
title Other operating systems:
root


# This entry added by me
title MEPIS 7.0 at hdb1, kernel 2.6.22-1-mepis-smp
root (hd1,0)
kernel /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.22-1-mepis-smp root=/dev/sdb1 nomce quiet nosplash vga=791
savedefault
boot

# This entry added by me
title Linux Mint, kernel 2.6.24-23-generic (on /dev/hdb7)
root (hd1,6)
kernel /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.24-23-generic root=/dev/sdb7 ro quiet nosplash
initrd /boot/initrd.img-2.6.24-23-generic
savedefault
boot

# This entry added by me
title Linux Mint, kernel 2.6.24-23-generic (recovery mode) (on /dev/hdb7)
root (hd1,6)
kernel /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.24-23-generic root=/dev/sdb7 ro single
initrd /boot/initrd.img-2.6.24-23-generic
savedefault
boot

# This entry added by me
title Ubuntu 8.04, kernel 2.6.24-23-generic
root (hd1,8)
kernel /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.24-23-generic root=/dev/sdb9 ro quiet nosplash
initrd /boot/initrd.img-2.6.24-23-generic
savedefault
boot

# This entry added by me
title Ubuntu 8.04, kernel 2.6.24-23-generic (recovery mode)
root (hd1,8)
kernel /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.24-23-generic root=/dev/sdb9 ro single
initrd /boot/initrd.img-2.6.24-23-generic
savedefault
boot

Leaders and Best?




The University of Michigan's 2009 football schedule includes the following teams on its non-conference slate:

Western Michigan, September 5th, home. Finished 9-4 on the season. Went 6-2 to tie for 2nd in the Mid-American Conference West. Got bombed by Rice, 38-14, in the Texas Bowl.

Notre Dame, September 12th, home. Went 7-6 with a 49-21 win over Hawaii at the Hawaii Bowl.

Eastern Michigan, September 19th, home. 3-9 last season, but tied for last in the Mid-American Conference West with a team that won at Ann Arbor last year (Toledo, who beat the Wolverines 13-10).

Delaware State, October 17th, home. Championship Subdivision (formerly called Division I-AA) team that went 5-6 last year, all of their wins coming during a 5-3 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference campaign, good enough for a tie for 2nd place.

Impressed?

As the fight song goes, "Hail, Hail, to Michigan, the leaders and best!"

Blogs

Stumbled upon a nice blog -- The Starting Five. Sports-oriented, but a whole lot more. Check out the entry about President Obama's inauguration, here.

I found this blog while doing a little research for my previous post about the Phoenix Suns (sorry, man, you missed the mark last year when you wrote about the Shaq/Marion deal).

A link at this blog led me to one by a fellow Linux and Ubuntu user (see ulyssesonline). How cool. Some sites to add to my Firefox bookmarks!

My Suns Aren't Shining

The Los Angeles Lakers continue to roll. They edged the Celtics in Boston last night, 110-109, in overtime, even without the resurgent Andrew Bynum, who has again gone down with a knee injury and may not be back in time to help the team come playoff time.

That win snapped the Celtics' 12-game winning streak, and follows a Christmas Day win over the Celtics in L.A. that snapped a 19-game winning streak.

Their 40-9 won/loss record is the best record, percentage-wise, in the NBA. And to make matters worse (for all Suns fans), this Lakers team seems to be better than last year's team that made it the NBA Finals. The guys are playing better together, the team seems to be deeper, and they seem to have a good mix of go-to players and role players.

Meantime, the Suns are in turmoil. What's happened? Last year about this time, they traded forward Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks to the Miami Heat for Shaquille O'Neal. At the time, the Heat had the NBA's worst record (9-37) while the Suns owned the best record in the Western Conference (34-14).

That's right. The Suns were leading the Western Conference. Life was sweet. Okay, so the Suns seemed doomed to another flame-out in the playoffs, and needed a big man, and the Lakers had recently acquired Pau Gasol, and Tim Duncan and the Spurs looked like they still had the Suns' number.

But I was devastated by the trade. In my mind, Marion was one of the most under-rated players in the league. At 6'7", he was grabbing a lot more rebounds per game than the 7'1", 300+ lb. Shaq. Defensively, they could put Marion on anybody. He could run the floor on offense, and he certainly made Steve Nash's life easier.

A year later, it appears that the Suns were also devastated by the trade. While Miami is now in third place in the Southeast Division with a 26-22 record (good enough for 6th place in the Eastern Conference), the Suns sit at 26-21, 13 games behind the Western Conference-leading Lakers, and a half-game out of the final playoff spot.

To his credit, Shaq has once again become a force in the middle. He's even making some free throws (62.2% this season, against a career mark of 52.7%), and he's averaging 17.8 points and 9.0 rebounds per game.

But on January 29th, the Spurs came to town and torched Phoenix, 114-104. Tim Duncan scored 20 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, while Shaq managed only 13 and 6. The Big Fellah only got 6 rebounds? You've gotta be kidding me.

Yesterday, Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski wrote here that the Suns would consider trades for anyone not named Steve Nash, to include Shaq and star forward Amare Stoudemire.

Sadly, the Suns' days as a power in the Western Conference have faded into twilight faster than an Arizona sunset.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Obtaining Linux

Since I use dial-up intead of a high-speed internet connection, I've never tried do download a Linux distribution. I don't know how long it would take to do it, and I don't think I want to know.

Instead, I order Linux CDs, except for the two times I've purchased computers that came with Linux.

Both of my Linux computers came from Wal-Mart. Go ahead, laugh. It was a cheap way to get them; both of them have turned out to be okay, though.

The first one, a small Balance notebook, came with Linspire, and the second one was a Microtel PC that came with Xandros.

I won't comment on either of those distros right now, except to say that I don't use either of them anymore. I still use both machines, though, and the Microtel is my primary computer.

Getting a computer that comes preinstalled with Linux isn't a bad way to go because, from what I've seen, those computers turn out to be more Linux-friendly than computers that were made for Windows. If you don't like the distro that came with the computer, you can install a different one once you feel comfortable doing so, and it'll probably work out just fine. Has for me.

I like to order Ubuntu and Kubuntu CDs. Ubuntu sends out installation CDs free of charge, postage paid.

I also order other Linux CDs from a couple of distributors. I do this about once a year. I pay about $5 for a single CD, including the postage. I've also gotten a 5-CD Debian set for about $10 bucks.

Distributors might charge more or less, but in any case, you can get a Linux installation CD without breaking the bank. It's nothing like the hundreds of dollars you'd pay to get Windows, but the Linux CDs come with more useful software, and to me they seem to be more valuable. And if you purchase Windows, you're legally restricted to installing the system from any one CD to only one computer (and maybe one laptop), but you're free to use one Linux CD to install that system on as many machines as you'd like.