I come in from raking the leaves and Scarlett is standing there with one remote in her hand and the other two in front of her. She’s pushing buttons and asks me, “Daddy, what button do I need to push to watch a video?” I told here there were a lot of buttons to push. “But which one do I push first?”

Year of the Linux Desktop? For Real this time!

I still really love using Linux, but I don’t follow the Linux press like I used to. I’ve settled into a comfortable zone where I only follow Fedora and KDE news since that’s what I use. But I followed it very closely for nearly 10 years. Every year there’d be multiple articles asking whether this was the year of the Linux desktop, meaning people would finally see the Microsoft hegemony for what it was and throw off the shackles of proprietary software. It never came. Thanks to Ubuntu and Vista, we almost got there. Then there were the Netbooks, but the manufacturers chose horrible versions of Linux and underpowered machines and Microsoft came out with Windows 7 starter edition. And people went to Macs instead of Linux in the biggest tech comeback of … ever.

But then a few interesting things started happening. Although they’d been trying to convince consumers to go back to the Mainframe model since the 90s, broadband penetration finally reached a critical point and Nettops because Cloud Computing. And the bookseller which had turned into the world’s online mall began offering computing resources. And the search engine company came out with a phone and a laptop based on the Linux kernel. And suddenly, Linux was everywhere even if, in a somewhat Pyrrhic victory, no one actually knew they were running Linux.

The rise of Cloud Computing and home networking have converged to create a world in which the OS is slowly mattering less and less. Go back through history and read the forum posts, mailing lists, and Newsgroups and you’ll see two things holding people back even as Linux continued to make strides that made it only marginally harder to run than Windows: Video games and Photoshop.  Valve’s SteamOS finally convinced more than just indie developers to make Linux and Mac ports. So I can install games like Guacamelee on my Linux computer. But there’s also streaming which lets me have but one Windows computer that others can stream to their Linux boxes. I tested this last weekend over wifi and I was even able to get a decent framerate on Saint’s Row The Third. (Though not quite the perfect way to play) So Linux ports for the new stuff and streaming for the old stuff. And today I heard about Streaming Photoshop. Now, I still have reservations about this because I usually shoot gigs of photos and wouldn’t want to wait for it to be uploaded to the net so I could then use Photoshop streaming. However, for those unwilling to use Digikam and using Photoshop only occasionally – this could be a game-changer. From ChromeOS to a traditional Linux desktop – there is now no real reason not to go from the average user’s point of view. (There are still some exceptions and niche software programs)

There are lots of issues we still need to sort out – like the fact that rented software (like rented music a la Spotify) can be removed at any moment; like the fact that US law doesn’t treat your files on a server that same was as files in your house; like the fact that if we lose Net Neutrality, a lot of this may become prohibitively expensive. But the fact that more and more computing is moving to the web (and a Mainframe mentality like early computing) means that it no longer really matters what you’re running as your OS as long as it can access the web. And that means it’s kinda dumb to pay for Windows (and upgrades) when you can get Linux for free. (Plus then you have software freedoms) So we may be closer to the year of the Linux desktop than ever – even if the desktop itself seems to be more irrelevant than ever. At least to the general public – I still think we have a role for desktops (both as in computers: not doing EVERYTHING on tablets and as in running local programs).

Conversation with Scarlett

I’m trying to see if Scarlett knows her five senses.

Me: what do you use to hear? To listen?

Scarlett: headphones!

Me: OK, what do you use to see?

Scarlett: telescope!

At that point I am thrown off by both the inventiveness and incorrectness of her answers and give up for the time being.

Profiting from Inefficiencies?

I went with Backblaze first because they were highly recommended by LifeHacker. Then I chose Crashplan for my main Linux computer because Backblaze doesn’t do Linux. Crashplan offers a family plan that covers 2-10 computers, but I only need to cover 2 computers (my laptops don’t have anything that needs backing up). Covering two computers on Crashplan is more expensive than doing one computer on Crashplan and one on Backblaze. So the less efficient and more complicated setup is the cheaper one; oh well.

Review: The Forbidden Knowledge of Enoch

The Forbidden Knowledge of EnochThe Forbidden Knowledge of Enoch by R.J. Von-Bruening
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I got this book for free as part of Good Reads First Reads

I asked for this book because I find it interesting that it’s actually mentioned in by canonical books in the New Testament, but the book itself did not make it into the canon – at least not in the Protestant churches I attended growing up. So I thought it would be interesting to see what’s in there. Instead I got something much, much larger.

The book posits the Book of Enoch as being a record of the origins of humanity. From there he goes to some interesting places. Let’s just say it’s been a very interesting year for me when it comes to Esoteric Religions/Free Masons intruding into my books. The three I can remember off the top of my head: From Hell, Limbus, Inc., and now this one. I think there are some others and an idea or two in this book overlaps with American Gods.

I’m also hoping the author never plays the original Assassin’s Creed trilogy because I think his head will explode. Let’s just say his main plot overlaps heavily the Abstergo sections and Adam/Eve video you find when you solve the puzzles.

I had a slight idea what I was getting into, but not how deep it would go. But I just wanted to know about the Book of Enoch, I never expected the author to convince me of anything and so my 3 stars is not a penalty for failing to convince me of his hypothesis. It’s an indication that I enjoyed the mind games and I thought he did a good job laying out his ideas. He does fall victim to quite a few logical fallacies. I think a few years ago I might have found the ideas possible, but thanks to the podcast of the author of You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You’re Deluding Yourself, I’ve gotten pretty good at spotting those – at least in others. I’m sure we all have blindspots for our own thoughts.

I would say that if the author is looking for any ideas for a second edition or another book, one thing that knocked off a star for me was the over-reliance on “does this mean this? Maybe? I’ll talk about it later.” I know he had a hard task because this is not something we think about a lot and he couldn’t use mental shortcuts, but usually by the time he got to it, I’d forgotten how it applied to whatever he was talking about before.

I think it’s worth a read if you’re into theories of how the world “really works”. After that, it’s up to you, your thought processes, and your biases whether or not you go along with him. (I didn’t agree with him, but didn’t regret time spent reading)

View all my reviews

Review: Vagina Mundi

Vagina MundiVagina Mundi by Wol-vriey
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: Got this book free as part of Good Reads First Reads

You can take something horrible and push it so far that you move into the realm of absurdity. Some of my favorite media do this. Kill Bill takes violence to such ridiculous levels (with blood spurting everywhere) that it’s become no different than the cartoon violence of Tom and Jerry. (Which, if you forgot, has Tom being diced up, pumped full of bullet holes, blown up, and pretty much everything shy of decapitation) Or look at Mel Brooks taking something horrible like the Spanish Inquisition and making it OK to laugh at in History of the World Part 1. But you can push something so far that it goes back around to offensive again. I feel like that’s the problem with this book.

I knew I was in for a weird, surreal world from reading the description. But that seemed like a lot of fun. I like Monty Python; I like Douglas Adams. I definitely don’t have any issues with surreal. I think this status update really sums it up well: “The story seems to be Tex Avery meets Bashki which is pretty interesting.”

What made me uncomfortable was the incest, necrophilia, and Femina’s concert tea. Uncomfortable, but not bad.

But what really messed up the novel for me were the 4+ rapes.

I felt like it went from Bizaro to perhaps just intentionally trying to be provocative and missing the mark.

It’s a shame because I liked the overall plot and strange world that Wol-vriey creates. The hotel concept was great. It was also nice to never know what was possible. I liked that the main characters were gay and that wasn’t a big deal anywhere in the world. It was great that all the real main characters were women – but often the voice seemed to be a bit too male. I think it could have been 3 or 4 stars, but there’s all these rapes/molestations that don’t seem to have a point. Like I’d prefer not to have women in fridge moments, but rape happens and so if it were a formative thing rather than something that just happens over and over in this world, it wouldn’t have been so bad. It just seemed to detract from the overall message of the book of women empowerment. (Especially the way the characters dealt with it)

Generally speaking, my reviews have evolved to just what I thought – that’s it. I’m not thinking “I need ot make this x stars” for others. Goodreads says 2 stars is “it was ok” – that’s how I felt. If the description plus what I wrote seems compelling, go check it out, just know there’s a lot of rape – trigger warnings and all that.

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Repainting the Master Bath

The basement bathroom needed some new paint and repairs for reasons I’ll get into in another post. But it got Danielle in a renovation mindset. So she decided to paint the master bathroom. And, in the course of examining the bathroom she found out that the vanity lighting was rusting and needed replacement. So we ended up replacing nearly everything metal in there from shiny Chrome to Nickel. So here’s how the bathroom looked before she painted and I replaced the metal pieces:

After Danielle painted we ended up with a very different looking bathroom:

I don’t know if Maryland code is different than Florida code, but I was surprised to find there was not a “box” behind the old light fixture.

Hole for Light Fixture-51 Hole for Light Fixture-52

Anyway, I love the new feel of the bathroom. Much more cheerful than before. Also, whoever painted it before had not chosen a glossy paint (we did semi-gloss instead of high gloss on the suggestion of the Lowes’ paint section employees) so the paint had been streaked from steam condensation. So I’m glad not to have to deal with that anymore.

Crowd Funding Update 6

I Fight Dragons – Project Atma (music): They were awesome at Warped Tour – I can’t wait until they go on the Projecet Atma tour. Manufacturing delays at the vinyl plant meant that the album was delayed. Still don’t have it – should be in my hands in December.

Jonathan Coulton, Greg Pak, and others – Code Monkey Save World (music and comics): Still missing the new music and The Princess Who Saved Herself. To be fair, the latter wasn’t promised until early 2015.

Branwyn – Cyborg Like Me (book): Got the book and loved it. (Removing from future updates)

Random Encounter – Let Me Tell You A Story (music): Got album and stickers. No more rewards due to me. (Removing from future updates)

Pre-Order Beebs and Her Money Makers New Album and Documentary (video/music): Got the album and really enjoyed it! (Also enjoyed her set at Warped Tour) The only glitch – WATERFALLS was a wav instead of an mp3 file. Easy to convert. No biggie. (Removing from future updates)

Augie and the Green Knight (book): A children’s book I got for Scarlett. Written by the writer of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal and illustrated by Boulet, I got it for the same reason I wanted The Princess Who Saved Herself, the main character is a strong female who solves the problems on her own. Important for my daughter to see. Also great since my daughter loves to be read to. Potentially will be the third project I’ve backed to actually come out on time. (After Let Me Tell You a Story and The Wurst Album Ever)

So far I’ve done a good job of picking Kickstarters that don’t run out of steam. My main metric – have they made stuff on their own before? So far I’d kickstart any of these creators again. IFD seems to have learned key lessons in what to do and what not to do in the future. I doubt JoCo will let things fall through on his. Everyone else was very good about being on-time.

LEGO vs Playmobil

I know I’m late to coming across this, but I found a presentation where someone was explaining the idea behind Fedora.next where there are 3 core products: Fedora Server, Fedora Workstation, and Fedora Cloud. But I also think it works rather well if you think of Gnu/Linux distros as LEGO sets and Windows/OSX as Playmobil. (Also, I’m now at the point in my life where I realize the benefits of each system, although I still think people should have the right to explore code they run)

One of the related (and perpetual) community discussions centers around what exactly Fedora is. Traditionally, the answer is: we take the “raw plastic” of the software out there in the universe and we mold it into high-precision Lego bricks, and users can plug them together. “Here! Here are your bricks. It’s Fedora! We’ve made these bricks nice and pretty and you can put them together however you want!”

Another approach in operating system design is Playmobil. It’s a playset, you buy it, it’s a castle with a knight, and that’s what you get. No assembly required — you can take it out of the box and start playing with it right away.

So, a lot of people feel this tension between “here’s your bricks” and “here’s your playset”, and are worried that with Fedora products is that we are going to take away your bricks, give you a set, and if you don’t like it, too bad for you.

But actually, we are doing something different

We can ship sets… without taking away the basic blocks.

The idea is: we can take some of our bricks, and we can ship those as sets. And maybe even, unlike Lego, we will ship them preassembled for you, but we’re not gluing them together, and we’re not getting rid of the basic supply of bricks. You can build other things — we want you to build other things. If you want to take apart the sets we ship and reassemble them into something else, that’s great, although when you do that, it should be clear that you no longer have the official set, you have your new asteroid mining complex or whatever. Share your creations, maybe even make new sets.

By the way, growing up, I was a huge LEGO geek and hated Playmobil. Now I love Linux…coincidence?

Fedora 21 Beta KDE Spin Part 1

Booted it up in Virt-manager (which finally has bridging!) I love the new theme!

Fedora 21 Beta - Login
Fedora 21 Beta – Login

But, sadly, it logs into KDE4, not KDE5. Perhaps 5 isn’t ready for primetime?

Fedora 21 Beta - Default Screen
Fedora 21 Beta – Default Screen

What I find baffling, given that this is running in a VM is that it loads FASTER to the desktop than the computer it’s running on. I wish I knew which technologies I am running or which widgets are causing my KDE load to go so slowly.

On the F21 beta front, I find it interesting that Konqueror is the only browser included – not reKonq (which is more modern – as far as I know) or Firefox (or even Chrome or Chromium).

As I read with my daughter I realize I had forgotten a large part of The Car in the Hat. Also watching the old Disney shorts with my daughter. Both Mickey Mouse and the Cat in the Hat were often jerks before they became mascots for their companies. Now they are goodie two shoes.

In case you’re having issues creating a new VM in Virt-manager

Tried to use virt-manager again (more about that in a future post), but kept getting the error:

qemu-system-x86_64: error while loading shared libraries: libGL.so.1: failed to map segment from shared object: Permission denied

Well, turns out this blog post had the answer for me:

sudo setsebool -P virt_use_execmem=on

That blog appears to be a great place for KVM virtualization info on Fedora, so I’ll be checking it out again in the future, I’m sure.

A Year With Ting

A year ago I started using Ting, a Sprint MVNO, as my cell phone provider. A month later I wrote an update as well as a review of my most used apps. Well, now it’s been a year and I’d like to talk about what it’s been like.

I started off the year with a Samsung Galaxy Victory. It is a decent and capable smart phone, but I like to use a lot of programs like Doggcatcher and SmartBooks and the phone was having issues working correctly when I had more than a few programs running. So I switched to a Nexus 5 and it’s working perfectly for me.

I was a bit worried about the fact that Ting was based on Sprint’s network: while it has voice roaming on Verizon (meaning there’s almost nowhere without voice), there is no roaming on data. So how has that served me? I’ve been able to get 3G or better in the following places in the past year:

  • Anywhere in Maryland along the I-95 corridor
  • Washington DC
  • NYC: Manhattan
  • NYC: Brooklyn
  • Tampa to Orlando, FL area (including SeaWorld, Disney, and Universal Studios)
  • San Antonio, Tx
  • Denver, CO
  • Honolulu, HI and all over Oahu

Basically, the only place I wasn’t able to get data was in the middle of Rocky Mountain National Park.

What about costs? I had an average monthly cost (before taxes) of $17.50 and average tax bill of $2.69. That led to an average savings compared to a no data Verizon plan of $19.81. That’s pretty awesome! When you rope in the cost of my original phone ($130) and cost to break Verizon contract ($224.24), I’ve now paid everything off. If you compare to a 2 year contract (what I would have been stuck with at Verizon), but this time next year I’ll have saved about $200-$300 depending on my usage.

Ting and other MVNOs have started to pressure the big companies, which I think may be scary since they depend on the Big Four to give them time on their networks. But now Verion has more competitive pricing; pricing that might have kept me from leaving, but which is still more than I pay now, by about double. I’d rather have control over the cost of my cell phone bill. Maybe one month I really want to use data and it’ll be worse than using one of the big guys. But for now, with my current usage, there’s no reason to leave Ting. A year in, I’m convinced I made the right decision (after having been with Verizon since around 2003ish). If all the phone companies continue their trend towards the version of LTE that makes everything compatible (instead of having to pick CDMA or GSM), then you won’t even be wasting the money of a phone to try out Ting. Right now I’d say it’s a no-brainer if you’re on Sprint and like your coverage, but wish you had a cheaper bill.

(And none of this even counts their stellar customer service and great customer website that gives you ultimate control over the account)

If I’ve convinced you that Ting is worth a shot, use my referral link - we each get some money credit towards our accounts.