Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Back in 1966, undefeated Michigan State and undefeated Notre Dame played in that historic game that ended in a 10-10 tie.

In the article "The End of College Football As We Know It?", Michael Weinreb wrote:

But 1966 wasn't just an argument about Notre Dame and Michigan State and what it means to win a championship when no one wins at all; this was also an argument about the South and what it was failing to become.

"With their size and strength … the Irish and Spartans were the wave of the future of college football," wrote Allen Barra in The Last Coach, his biography of Bear Bryant. "Alabama, with its undersized, all-white team, was a relic of the past."

That year, the Crimson Tide were the only undefeated, untied team in America. Yet, for reasons that encompassed the social and physical and historical, they were considered an inferior product. They lost the Argument. They finished third in the polls.

How times have changed!

Monday, November 26, 2012

secure boot stench

Jesse Smith writes about his experiences with Microsoft's Windows 8 UEFI Secure Boot mess in the Questions and Answers section of this week's DistroWatch Weekly.

Troubling situation for Linux users. As Smith writes:

In short, to get to the point where we can attempt to boot an alternative operating system we need to know our way through six steps:

- Boot machine while pressing F10
- Find Secure Boot in the menu tree, ignore warnings
- Disable Secure Boot feature
- Enable legacy boot options
- Enable specific legacy devices, such as USB devices
- Save and reboot while holding down F9

To the more technically minded, this might not seem so bad, but keep in mind these steps are performed without documentation, with no hints and with big warning pop-ups letting the user know what a bad idea disabling Secure Boot is. This is not something the average user is going to know how to do, nor will they likely want to follow through if they read the on-screen messages...

What a pain.

Well, I'm set for awhile, with my main desktop pc and two notebooks (my spare computers). Hopefully, Linux folks will find easy ways for users to get around this Secure Boot crap. But Microsoft has completely lost me as a potential customer. In any case, over the past several years any Windows computer I've bought new, the first thing I've done is to wipe out Windows and install Linux. But with this situation, I won't even bother to buy a new Windows computer again.

There are plenty of options. I can still get my hands on pre-Windows 8 machines -- used, refurbished, whatever. Perhaps better yet, I'd like to get a Linux computer -- I've done so in the past with great results, and there are good Linux vendors out there.

A third option is to build-my-own. I'll probably get around to trying that one day; a friend of mine tells me it isn't too difficult.

Screw Microsoft.

linux on a mac mini

Hm. Maybe I can get my hands on an old Mac mini.

Apple Mac mini
In "Cheap and silent desktop Linux box!", blogger "LilFluffy" tells how to install Linux on these machines. The author writes:

Since the last two versions of their OS, there has been a glut of these machines showing up on eBay, going for as low as $130 to just over $150. I picked one up with a bad hard disk for under $80!

Replacing the hard disk is not too complicated [...] These make a GREAT Linux box, I'm writing this on mine right now loaded with Debian testing.

LilFluffy also includes detailed instructions for replacing the hard drive.

A look at the Mac mini "Core Duo" 1.66 specs shows "512 MB of 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM (PC2-5300) memory." I like to go with at least 2 GB of RAM for Linux these days, but this should be fine for something light like Xfce.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

pie chart

James Lawrence Powell writes:

I searched the Web of Science for peer-reviewed scientific articles published between 1 January 1991 and 9 November 2012 that have the keyword phrases "global warming" or "global climate change." The search produced 13,950 articles ("Why Climate Deniers Have No Scientific Credibility - In One Pie Chart").


Saturday, November 24, 2012

mint and snow

Blogger Arindam Sen loves to look at Linux distros, and posts interesting reviews at Linuxed - Exploring Linux distros. He writes, "Personally, I don't get tired of installing Linux distros as it is my hobby and I install 2-3 new distros to my systems every week and uninstall the older ones." By reviewing these installations, he provides a great service to the Linux community.

Sen uses Linux Mint on his main machine. I stopped using Mint some time ago, but it's a great distro -- there are good reasons why so many people prefer using it instead of Ubuntu, which Mint is based on. Definitely worth a look, in my opinion.

Check out Sen's latest review: Linux Mint 14 Nadia Review: Is it better than Maya? The author takes a good look at the new Mint release, and compares it to Mint 13 (Maya) as well as to Snowlinux 3.

Snowlinux is fairly new, and appears to be another good distro. Its DistroWatch description:

Snowlinux is a set of Linux distributions based on Debian's latest stable release and featuring four different desktop environments - GNOME, KDE, LXDE and Xfce. It aims to be user-friendly, incorporating many useful tweaks and carefully selected software applications. The project also develops a separate, Ubuntu-based edition featuring the MATE (a GNOME 2 fork) desktop.

These days, I prefer to use Debian Stable and Ubuntu's LTS releases rather than any Debian or Ubuntu spin-offs, but I had great experiences running Linux Mint, and Snowlinux looks quite enticing. I can imagine myself taking a fresh look at both distros sometime down the road -- especially as the Cinnamon desktop continues to mature.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

35 years (!)

Can't believe it's been 35 years since Earth, Wind & Fire came out with the All 'N All LP!

Beautiful album -- perhaps EWF's best.

Well, I stumbled upon this interview with Larry Dunn over at the Atlantic: 'That Groove Was Undeniable': Making Earth, Wind & Fire's 'All 'N All'


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

good distros

Opinions will vary on what makes a "good Linux distribution," which, I guess, is why there are so many distros out there. You can probably go to DistroWatch and pick any distro from the list and find users who say that distro is the "best" one out there.

Some factors here:

- The distro doesn't have to be super-easy to install, but I also don't want to have to work too hard. I want to be able to boot into a desktop right from the start; I don't want to have to install everything on my own, or to have to do it all from the command line.

- I want the distro's documentation to be good enough that I can find information without having to ask questions at the distro's forums.

- I prefer a well-established distro -- one that's been around for awhile, and one that I'm confident will be around, say, five years from now.

- The distro should have a strong development team. So-called "one-man distros" are great for the Linux world, but sometimes going with a distro that has a single developer or a small group of developers turns out to be less than ideal.

- Package management should be sensible and not too difficult, and the repository set-up should give me access to most of the apps that I want or need.

- The default desktop environment isn't real important to me (I can always add what I want later), but it's nice to have a choice of DEs/WMs at installation time.

- I prefer a distro that puts out releases that I can stick with for at least a couple of years. It doesn't have to be a "rolling-release" distro, but I think those are nice, at least in some cases. I can live with doing a fresh installation once a year (I prefer fresh installations over an upgrade path, for various reasons).

- Communication from the developers. I want to know what's coming, have a sense of what direction the distro is likely to go in, and of the general philosophy behind the distro. I want to have a feel for the commitment level of the developers to keep the distro going forward into the future.

For other people, some or many of these factors aren't important, and would be replaced by others; I'm not trying to describe "what makes a good distro," only "what makes a good distro for me."

Right now, I've settled upon Debian, Ubuntu, and openSUSE. With Debian, I go with "Debian Stable," although I sometimes install the current "Debian Testing" a few months after Testing is "frozen." With Ubuntu, I normally use only LTS ("Long-Term Support") versions.

And, to spice things up a little bit, I'm also running a couple of more "cutting-edge" distros -- Fedora and Sabayon. These might be less "stable" than the three I mentioned above, but they seem to be fairly solid, put together well, and not excessively prone to "breakage." They're both also quite pleasant to use.

All of these distros fit the criteria that I've outlined above, more or less. All are "good distros," in my opinion, but no doubt there are many, many others that a user can be happy with. And, as always (as the expression goes), "Your mileage may vary." :)

chromium from packman

Saw this posted at the openSUSE forums:

Dear openSUSE users,
Since this morning, the Chromium browser will no longer be maintained on the openSUSE OBS, nor will it be provided together with the openSUSE distribution. Instead the Chromium browser will be build on Packman and be available for the already supported openSUSE versions. This new version will replace the chromium-ffmpeg package that was already delivered through Packman. In the next days, I will delete the Chromium package from it's home location network:chromium and also send a delete request to openSUSE:Factory. The reason for this change is that ffmpeg support is becoming more and more integrated with the browser itself, making it very hard to remove the ffmpeg related sourcefiles and still keeping a workable browser. In the last few weeks, I tried everything to keep Chromium part of the openSUSE distribution but unfortunately I failed. And as we all know ffmpeg is one of those packages that are not allowed to be present on the openSUSE OBS. Therefore the only logical decision was to move Chromium completely to Packman. The new package will be a full enabled Chromium with build-in support for ffmpeg. The new version 25.0.1329 is already available from Packman and should be installed automatically as that it replaces the chromium-ffmpeg package. If not, please check manually in order to get the latest version from Packman. This should be a one-time manual intervention. RegardsRaymond Community Maintainer for the openSUSE Chromium package

Now, I'm still an openSUSE rookie. I didn't quite know how to proceed with this, but managed to stumble through it all. It took me a few tries, with a few mistakes along the way. I stopped a couple of times, went away from the computer for awhile, let it rest, then came back and started over. In the end, here's how I switched to the new Chromium version 25.0.1329 from the Packman repository (it all looks so simple now!) (no doubt an openSUSE "pro" would have done all this with zypper from the command line):

To add the Packman repository, I started up YaST. Clicked on "Software Repositories" > clicked on the “Add” button > selected “Community Repositories” and clicked on “Next.” This gave me a list of repositories. I selected “Packman Repository.” Clicked “OK.” Then, the “Import Untrusted GnuPG Key” window came up. I clicked “Trust.” This added the Packman repository.

Next, to get the new Chromium version from Packman. Back in the YaST Control Center, I clicked on "Online Update." The default for "Show Patch Category" was "Needed Patches." I changed this to "Unneeded Patches" using the drop-down list, and saw an update for Chromium in the summary listing. I clicked on it, and a list of packages showed up in the package list: chromium, chromium-desktop-kde, and chromium-suid-helper. At the lower right, I clicked on the "Versions" tab and selected the newer version from the Packman repo. I did that for each of the three packages in the list. Then I clicked on the "Accept" button.

This took me from Chromium 24.0.1290.0-1.19.1-i586 from openSUSE-12.2-Update to Chromium 25.0.1329.0-2.1-i586 from Packman Repository.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

spacefm ppa

I've never felt completely comfortable about using PPAs in Ubuntu, and I've never used one in Debian before, but I added the SpaceFM author's PPA in both Ubuntu 12.04 and Debian Wheezy. For instructions, see http://igurublog.wordpress.com/downloads/ppa/.

So far, so good. In Ubuntu, I did have to alter one of the commands shown. I had to add sudo in front of apt-key add in the following command:

steve[~]$ bash -c 'gpg --export -a 01937621 107165A1 | sudo apt-key add -'

Other than that, no problems. I'll see how things go.

new compose window in gmail

I'm not sure exactly when I started using Gmail, but the oldest messages that I still have are from early 2005. Gmail was first launched back on April 1, 2004 (it was "invitation only" back then); I think I got an account very soon after that.

There's been lots of criticism of Gmail and Google over the past 8 years. I perfectly understand why many others refuse to use it or are wary of it, but Gmail has worked out great here.

Gmail keeps getting better and better. You can check out some of the stuff they recently rolled out at Google's Official Blog. The biggest thing for me, though, is the new compose window, which is described at the Official Gmail Blog. Seems to be a nice time-saver, and I think it's a nice improvement.

Note: I'm not trying to convince anyone to use Gmail; that's up to the individual to decide. Use your own brain, be aware of what Google's all about, do what you think is best for you.

m12 development

Mepis 12 has been on hold while developer Warren Woodford looks into making Mepis work with UEFI-only hardware. Jerry3904 recently posted some some of Mr. Woodford's responses to comments/concerns from members in this Mepis forums thread. Here's what was communicated in the email message from Mr. Woodford to Jerry3904, for those who are interested and want to know what's up (and who don't want to have to dig through the entire thread):

On Saturday, November 10, 2012 02:07:15 PM you wrote: 
> Hi Warren -- 
> Doubt if you have been paying any attention to that thread, so here is a
> summary of the Community's reaction to your request:
> 1) not a single person currently owns the hardware needed for testing.
Actually,I have been reading the thread and that was my impression. 
> 2) most people believe that it is not actually a show-stopping problem at
> this point, and that an update later could handle what comes 
Go to Best Buy, see all the new computers that are EFI only. The problem
arises when people buy or get a new computer this christmas and then want to
put MEPIS on it. 
> 3) many felt that we should not try to duplicate what Debian itself is
> doing, whose installer (as that link I sent stated) has apparently made
> significant progress 
I agree. MEPIS and Debian have always had different philosophies regarding
installation. It's unlikely that what works for them will easily integrate
with the MEPIS installer. 
Eventually the MEPIS installer will have to be expanded to recognize at least
3 or 4 different installation scenarios. It can be done, but only if testing
is available. 
> 4) a certain number said they would rather see you put your development
> time at this point into getting KDE fully functional so we can get to a
> beta stage.

I would love to do that. And if I stop selling CDs, then it's less of an
issue, if MEPIS doesn't work with EFI. I don't sell enough to matter anyway. 
> This comment by a long-standing member is a good summary of the discussion:
> "From initial investigations I would say that the UEFI obstacle is
> something that presently will only affect a handful of people (who wish to
> try Mepis/other non m$ OS). No doubt in a year's time it will affect some
> more people, when say some OEM manufacturers ship a load of pre locked
> PCs. Even so, for UEFI to be an issue, secure mode has to be enabled
> already during windows install. It is gonna be pretty easy to disable this
> by either entering the BIOS and doing so there, or using a windows utility
> (cmndlets?!) to help with this.

A lot of new PCs are EFI only. At this time, MEPIS does not support EFI boot
at all. Anyone with EFI only, is out of luck right now with MEPIS.

And even if the PC can be put in BIOS mode, if someone wants to dual boot,
that may not work because their Win install may refuse to work with BIOS mode.
Secure boot just makes it worse. 
> The tricky bit is if you wish to dual boot
> windows and Linux using UEFI as far as I can tell.

> Not for me but some people might prefer this? It looks like simply wiping
> the disk and reformatting the boot partition should resolve most issues.
> Bottom line is we will have to deal with this as it happens as the Linux
> tools to automate disabling of secure boot aren't out there (yet?), so I'd
> say carry on with M12(3?) regardless and lets deal with any UEFI issues as
> they occur."
> Another knowledgeable member agreed:
> "Full UEFI implementation will only be required for a very small number of
> brand spanking new hardware sets, all OEM preloads of Windows. The MEPIS
> "market" is much larger than that. For now, we (Warren) should play to our
> strengths; we can deal with the edge cases on down the line when the
> tools/solutions become more widely available." 
I see three possible paths: 
1. Ignore EFI and proceed toward beta. 
2. Get an EFI computer and at least get basic EFI install working. 
3. Do 1 for now and resolve 2 after Christmas when prices are lower.
I have never before gone to Beta with such a big issue unresolved.

But I guess the best path is #3. Move toward Beta and resolve EFI before
Thanks to everyone for their input! 

more than one, please

One of the coolest things about Linux is that it's fairly easy to dual- or multi-boot Linux distros (running a virtual machine is another nice option, but isn't my preferred way to go). Lots of users will stick with one distro, sometimes remaining almost religiously devoted to it; for myself, I see no reason to ever be tied down to any one distro. I didn't like being tied down to Windows; why would I want to do the same thing in Linux?

My approach allows me to run a safe, relatively stable distro like Debian Stable, Ubuntu LTS, or openSUSE as well as something more "cutting-edge" like Fedora or Sabayon. I have a couple of "data partitions" set aside that I can access from any distro.

I like using different distros, desktop environments, and window managers on different days, much like people enjoy wearing different clothes on different days, or changing their desktop backgrounds, or taking different routes to arrive at the same place, or eating different foods. I wouldn't be a gardener who grew only one type of flower or plant.

I guess I'm a "Linux fanboy." Well, a "Linux user," at least. I'm not a "distro-hopper" -- I tend to stick with the same handful of distros for quite a long time. But I can't be a fanboy of only one particular Linux distro. I don't see that happening. Ever.

I'll Check Back Later

I thought Cinnamon looked nice in Fedora 16, but I found myself using GNOME Shell more often. I'm thinking that I'll go back and take another look at the shell in a year or so. I've read that things are progressing well.

I took a look around at cinnamon.linuxmint.com, which is laid out quite nicely. You'll find news there as well as a nice collection of themes, applets, and extensions. The "Download" page tells you how to get Cinnamon on various distros (you might want to check out the latest comments at the bottom of that page).

I found Cinnamon to be a pleasant alternative to GNOME Shell and Unity. The thing is, I no longer use Linux Mint (and have no plans to start using it again). I have some concerns about Cinnamon's "newness," and I'm not sure how well it's supported on distros other than Mint. I figure it would be best to let grow up a bit.

Seems like Cinnamon's reason for existence is to be anti-GNOME Shell and anti-Unity, but I happen to like both GNOME Shell and Unity. Further, Cinnamon's development was a reaction to the end of GNOME 2, which I don't miss at all.

So, I don't feel like I'm part of Cinnamon's "target audience."

I do love using different kinds of environments in Linux, though, so I'll get back around to Cinnamon eventually. For right now, I'm happy going between KDE, GNOME Shell, Unity, Openbox, and Fluxbox.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

debian books

A web page containing a nice list of books for Debian users: http://www.debian.org/doc/books

I've already mentioned The Debian Administrator's Handbook (see "handbook"). Checking out
GNU/Linux Desktop Survival Guide right now.

Friday, November 2, 2012

opt out?

If you use Ubuntu 12.10, you may want to opt out of the Dash online search "feature." Here's Canonical's "legal notice" about it:

         Searching in the dash - Legal notice
This search function is provided to you by Canonical Group Limited (Canonical). This legal notice applies to searching in the dash and incorporates the terms of Canonical's legal notice (and privacy policy).
Collection and use of data
When you enter a search term into the dash Ubuntu will search your Ubuntu computer and will record the search terms locally.
Unless you have opted out (see the “Online Search” section below), we will also send your keystrokes as a search term to productsearch.ubuntu.com and selected third parties so that we may complement your search results with online search results from such third parties including: Facebook, Twitter, BBC and Amazon. Canonical and these selected third parties will collect your search terms and use them to provide you with search results while using Ubuntu.
By searching in the dash you consent to:
  1. the collection and use of your search terms and IP address in this way; and
  2. the storage of your search terms and IP address by Canonical and such selected third parties (if applicable).
Canonical will only use your search terms and IP address in accordance with this legal notice and our privacy policy. Please see our privacy policy for further information about how Canonical protects your personal information. For information on how our selected third parties may use your information, please see their privacy policies.
Online Search
You may restrict your dash so that we don’t send searches to third parties and you don't receive online search results. To do this go to the Privacy panel and toggle the ‘Include online search results’ option to off. The Privacy panel can be found in your System Settings or via a dash search. For a current list of our selected third parties, please see www.ubuntu.com/privacypolicy/thirdparties.
Although most changes are likely to be minor, Canonical may change this legal notice from time to time, and at Canonical's sole discretion. Please check this page from time to time for any changes to this legal notice as we will not be able to notify you directly.
How to contact us
Please submit any questions or comments about searching in the dash or this legal notice by contacting us at the following address: Canonical Group Ltd, 5th Floor, Blue Fin Building, 110 Southwark Street, London, England, SE1 0SU.


Concerned Ubuntu users may want to drop a line at the address in that last paragraph.