Fedora Extras Repository

There was a heckuva lot of debate on the Fedora Development list server when the extras repository was first mentioned for Fedora Core 4. People were taking exception to the fact that their package was in extras while some other package was in core. Some threatened to stop making FC packages and others just whined a lot. Well, the extras repository has debuted and I hope that people see that it’s really not a bad idea at all, In fact, I think it’s an excellent idea.

I was a little ambivalent about it before because I already had a Fedora Core 3 install and I would just be upgrading that. Then, after the upgrade, I would just summon the powers of yum and updated the packages which had been moved to extras. I was happy that I would have to download less CDs and everything would be ok in the end. Is this, or the plan for FC5 to be just one CD, the best policy for everyone? No, it certainly isn’t great for people with dialup, but I think they are planning to find a way for extras discs to be burned for those who want to burn a disc for their friends or LUG-mates who have slower connections. However, for a good portion of North America, Europe, and Asia it shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

Then I was looking on the website of one of my favorite open source programs, GRAMPS. GRAMPS is very nice, GUI-based, program for recording one’s ancestry. It can be used for construction of a simple family tree, but it is capable of so much more. Up until now I didn’t know the developers had gone through so many revisions. I keep my system up to date with yum and am really too busy to look on the website of every single extra program I have downloaded to see if they have a new version available. As the website proclaimed, GRAMPS had been added to the FC extras repository! This was excellent news for me because now I could always keep up to date on GRAMPS with yum! Suddenly I began to see the power of the extras repository.

While the initial move to using extras was hard for those getting kicked out of “core”, it will be a boon for users in the long run. A lot of people like to complain about RPM dependency hell. We don’t have to worry about that as long as there’s a repo that has our package – yum will take care of it. This is what all of those Debian users are always bragging about with their apt system. They are always touting their huge repository which contains a reputed 15 thousand packages! I think it would be great for Fedora users if that’s what extras could become. If we could get all developers who make RPM packages to submit them to extras then we would have a huge repository from which we could grab all necessary RPMs. I think you’re starting to see what I see – a Fedora world where all programs can be installed via yum.

There really are just two major things that need to be done in order for extras to work in the best way. First of all, the installer needs to make it clear to new users that they are installing only the basic packages needed to make the system run. If they are sure to install from extras they will see all of the other packages they are missing out on. In accordance with this, anaconda should not only allow users with an ethernet card to search the extras repo when installing or upgrading, it should also allow users to be able to establish a modem connection if they so wish. Second, pup needs to be deployed so that users have a clear idea of all of the packages available in extras for them to install as part of Fedora. Yumex can already do this, but as it’s in extras itself, there will need to be a much better package installer in FC5, which, I believe, is planned.

Cool stuff with Google Maps

There’s a reason why open source is so awesome – by providing other programmings with the inner workings of your program, they can create new and amazing uses for it that you could never imagine. One of the best examples of this is the fact that Google has release the API (aplication programming interface, I think) to their new map program. People have been using this in all kinds of interesting ways. A new real estate website uses the program to show users exactly where their offerings are on both the sattelite map and the road map. This article talks about some of the other ways that peole have been using the APIs.

(http://blogs.zdnet.com/open-source/?p=374)
Google map API transforms the Web
-Posted by Dana Blankenhorn @ 8:36 am

General Applications Development
We are getting a great demonstration right now of open source power, as applications using the Google Maps API begin to appear.

Mapquest, owned by AOL, has been around for many years, but it’s a proprietary offering. Yahoo Maps has been around for years, but it has been late to this party.

It’s Google, using the open source process, that has blown the field apart.

The code has only been out a few weeks but already we’re seeing several really great applications.

Here’s one. Metrofreefi previously offered just lists of free hotspots in various cities, like many other sites. Now, with the Google Maps API, you click the interactive map to reach a state, pull down a menu to get the city, and see exactly where those hotspots are. Here’s the map for Decatur, Georgia, near where I live. It’s not yet perfect. There’s a coffee shop on the east side that is listed but not “pinned.”

Here’s a sadder but wiser application. Geepster managed to put together a quick map and RSS feed on the London attacks, within a few hours of the blasts. The resulting page was far more attractive, and informative, than most news services, even that of the BBC, from which it took its news feed.

Now that site has been further improved, using the satellite view of London available from Google. You can right-click on the pins in the map to learn more. Here’s where the King’s Cross bomb went off. Here’s where the page author lives. Here is Tavistock Square, with a picture of the ruined bus.

Google Maps enabled open source journalism to get the story faster, and get it better, than the mainstream media. That’s because individuals were ready and able to use the API right away, and trust the results in ways even the BBC was reluctant to try.

And remember, this is just the start. I guarantee that hundreds of programmers are now poring over the Google Map API documentation, thinking about applications that will drive both them, and Google, to new heights.

All on the wings of open source.

London Attacked…Again!

editor’s note: This was supposed to appear as a post yesterday, but I was unable to post it on time.
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Things have really escalated in London since lunchtime on Thursday (EST) when I first heard of the second round of London bombings. First of all, I think that for a non-Middle Eastern (or any place that has constant violence) country the timing of the second string of attacks is unheard of. Look at the US, it was seven years between attacks on the World Trade Centers.

However, these guys truly are the second string terrorists. Just like the guys they keep on the bench during a football game because they would actually like to win, these guys weren’t chosen for the first attacks two weeks ago because they would have fumbled everything, making it difficult for the real attacks to take place. Frankly, these guys are pretty horrible terrorists. Two of them, according to witnesses, actually ran from the scene where they had left the bomb. The result? They were in such a hurry that the bomnbs didn’t even go off, just the detonators did. What happened to the “real” terrorist blowing himself up too. Oh, not too sure about going to Paradise, are we? Now, it IS entirely possible that these guys actually did this on purpose. They just wanted to scare the Londoners a bit so they did a halfway decent job just to show that they could and give a big middle finger to Scotland Yard. I highly doubt that! I’m not even sure these guys were even from the same group as two weeks ago. Whether they were failures at blowing stuff up or not, they succeeded at creating a chaotic environment.

As of this morning, when I’m writing this, the police shot a man trying to get on a London subway because they believed he was a terrorist suspect. For their sakes, they better be right, otherwise there are going to be riots in London. You can’t just walk around shooting any Arab acting suspiciously or you will end up in a very dangerous place. Come on now, I thought we got over this crap in the 50s with Mcarthyism.

The aftershocks of the detonators were also felt across the pond. Here in the US the Congress voted to extend the Patriot Act by another ten years. Let’s hope they added in some extra protections for civil rights as well. You’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do to stop terrorists, but you also have to make sure that corrupt officials don’t use these provisions for their own petty little projects. I also hope we don’t start shooting Arabs getting into the New York subways. Also, the news reported that police were now doing “random” checks of people getting into the subways and trains in New York City. If someone declined, they were told they could not ride the transportation system.

People were calling on the news for profiling – stopping Arabs because they are more likely to be a terrorist. I’ll take that seriously when I see someone other than an Anglo say it. It’s very easy for them to say because they won’t be profiled. When I see an Arab saying that we need racial profiling, then I’ll take it seriously. Additionally, profiling may or may not help if our own citizens join in. Remember the “American Taliban” from when we started the Afghanistan War? White boy from California? Nah, he couldn’t possibly be a terrorist.

After writing this, but before posting to my blog, I found the following news story on the NY Times website about the subway searches.

Story at NY Times Site (must be member to access)

By SEWELL CHAN and KAREEM FAHIM
Published: July 22, 2005
The police last night began random searches of backpacks and packages brought into the New York City subways as officials expressed alarm about the latest bomb incidents in the London transit system.

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Hiroko Masuike for The New York Times
Theodoros Papatheodorou, 26, a student who lives in London, had his bag searched yesterday by police officers at Grand Central.

Officer Walter Lambert at the subway station at 125 Street and St. Nicholas Avenue in Manhattan yesterday.
The searches, which will also include commuter rail lines, are not a response to a specific threat against the city, said Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who authorized the searches shortly before he announced them at a morning news conference.

The police have previously inspected bags at major events like parades and demonstrations, and the authorities in Boston conducted random baggage searches on commuter rail lines during the Democratic National Convention last year, but officials here could not recall a precedent for a broad, systematic search of packages in the New York City subways, which provide 4.7 million rides each weekday.

At some of the busiest of the city’s 468 stations, riders will be asked to open their bags for a visual check before they go through the turnstiles. Those who refuse will not be permitted to bring the package into the subway but will be able to leave the station without further questioning, officials said.

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly promised “a systematized approach” in the searches and said the basis for selecting riders for the checks would not be race, ethnicity or religion. The New York Civil Liberties Union questioned the legality of the searches, however, and Mr. Kelly said department lawyers were researching the constitutional implications.

“Every certain number of people will be checked,” Mr. Kelly said. “We’ll give some very specific and detailed instructions to our officers as to how to do this in accordance with the law and the Constitution.”

Paul J. Browne, a Police Department spokesman, said officers would focus on backpacks and containers that are large enough to carry explosive devices or ordnance. “We have some history of what those look like,” he said. “They’re bigger than a handbag.” Officers are unlikely to search pocketbooks, he said.

Searches began last night at several stations, including 14th Street-Union Square in Manhattan and an undisclosed station along the No. 7 line near Shea Stadium, in Queens. Today, the first full day the searches will be conducted, two of the many stations to be checked are Woodlawn-Jerome Avenue, on the No. 4 line in the Bronx, and Lafayette Avenue on the C line in Brooklyn. Mr. Browne said the search policy would continue indefinitely.

Transit officials in several other cities – Boston, Washington and San Francisco – said they were considering similar measures, although few have actually started randomly checking bags. A spokesman for the Bay Area Rapid Transit in San Francisco said officials were not certain whether they have the legal authority for such searches. “This could be the lawyer’s dream case,” said the spokesman, Linton Johnson. “There is this balance of civil liberties and protection.”

Lisa Farbstein, a spokeswoman for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which carries 1.2 million subway and bus passengers each weekday, said officials in the capital would watch how the effort went in New York. “It could be an option for us,” she said, “but we are not there yet in terms of an implementation plan.”

After the July 7 explosions in London, transit officials in Atlanta and Salt Lake City notified passengers that they reserved the right to inspect packages and bags, but the number of searches has been very small. In Utah, where a 20-mile rail system carries 45,000 passengers a day, a total of two bags have been inspected.

In Boston, for two weeks before the Democratic convention, subway stations were selected at random and bags were checked before riders entered the system, said John Martino, deputy police chief at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. Police ran swabs across the bags and then put the swabs in machines that could detect explosives. “When we did it, we actually had people asking to be screened,” Chief Martino said yesterday in a telephone interview. “It makes them more comfortable knowing that it was being done.”

William W. Millar, president of the American Public Transportation Association, an industry group, said comprehensive coverage of any major urban transit system would be next to impossible. “If you were going to try to check a very high percentage at every station or on every train, it would be incredibly labor-intensive,” he said.

In the Port Authority Bus Terminal yesterday. The search policy may be extended to cover bus passengers, the police said.

Still, he said, the searches could deter would-be attackers and improve the public’s confidence. “The public wants to feel safe, as well as be safe,” he said. “So this has a benefit of perception.”

Mr. Kelly said his department would “reserve the right” to expand the searches to buses and ferries, and he made it clear that many subway riders will be affected. “Ideally, it will be before you go through the turnstile,” he said. “You have a right to turn around and leave, but we also reserve the right to do those types of searches if someone is already inside the system.”

At the selected stations, as many as one in five or one in ten passengers may be picked for a search, said Mr. Browne. Supervisors will check that the searches are being randomly conducted, he said.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said its own smaller police force would conduct similar searches on the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad. At Grand Central Terminal, an announcement was repeated over the loudspeakers last night: “Passengers are advised that their backpacks and other large containers are subject to random search by the police.”

Mr. Bloomberg acknowledged that passengers might be inconvenienced. “It’s a complex world where, sadly, there are a lot of bad people,” he said. “We know that our freedoms are threatening to certain individuals, and there’s no reason for us to let our guard down.”

The mayor said he spoke with Gov. George E. Pataki and with the secretary of homeland security, Michael Chertoff, shortly after hearing about the attacks in London yesterday, two weeks to the day after four bombings in the transit system there killed 56 and injured 700.

The police will focus on stations with heavy Manhattan-bound traffic in the morning and on stations with commuters leaving Manhattan in the evening. Riders will be asked to open their bags or allow them to be sniffed by trained dogs.

Mr. Browne, the police spokesman, said, “Obviously we’re going to use common sense for someone that appears to be an imminent threat.” For example, he said, if a passenger with a large package had both fists clenched, police officers would be justified in searching him. Anyone found to be holding illegal drugs or weapons is subject to arrest, he said.

The Transit Bureau of the Police Department has 2,200 officers and 500 supervisors, and even with the hundreds more that have been added for subway patrols, it is unclear how many riders can feasibly be searched. At Times Square, for example, there are 165,876 turnstile clicks on a typical weekday. Some of the system’s turnstiles are used by a dozen passengers a minute.

Mr. Browne said such searches had been discussed “from time to time, over the last three years.” Mr. Kelly suggested that riders could voluntarily speed the process. “Ideally, people wouldn’t carry any backpacks or bulky packages on the transit system,” he said.

Some riders expressed cautious support. Hani Judeh, 24, a Palestinian-American medical student who lives in Brooklyn, said he shaved his beard, stopped speaking Arabic publicly and attended mosque less regularly after 9/11.

He said he favored the searches, as long as they did not involve racial profiling. “They should check bags, but they can’t discriminate,” he said. “You can’t tell Indian from Pakistani, you can’t tell West Indian from black, you can’t tell Arab from Mediterranean.”

Customising your Linux Desktop

Here’s a really great article that I found about customizing one’s desktop. This is the most important thing a geek can do with his or her computer. When you first get your computer it looks just like everyone else’s computer. By customizing it and taking a little bit from what you see on this person’s computer and that person’s computer you end up with something that is uniquely your own and slightly different from everything else you’ve seen. Be sure to visit the link provided below to see the screenshots.

(http://www.improvedsource.com/content/view/12/2/)
How to make your Linux desktop look awesome
Written by idontknow
Monday, 11 July 2005
We have heard a lot lately about projects aimed at bringing all that eye candy of operating systems such as OS X to the Linux world. Projects such as Xgl, Enlightenment, and others have given us a glimpse of what’s coming, but what can you do to enjoy a taste of some of the future… today? We are going to explore that question with some excellent add-ons, software, and features to make your desktop look cool and next-gen today…

Please note this article does required some advanced Linux know how. I will describe how to get things to work, but it may require extra steps at your end.

3D-Desktop
3D-Desktop is awesome. It’s a virtual desktop switcher with an interesting twist. When activated, it zooms your view out with each virtual desktop captured on a flat panel, each panel can then be rotated like a carousel. You can use either a keyboard or mouse to rotate and select the desktop you want. At first you might say is this not sacrificing productivity for cool desktop effects? The answer in my opinion is no. I never was an avid virtual desktop user until I installed this utility. It made keeping track of what I’m doing on each virtual desktop easier since it provides a snap shot of each desktop at a size that I can even recognize what program is running. (See below) This is in comparison to the standard desktop pager that provides small tiny squares representing screens that can be hard to see.

I found that Debian actually has a binary package available, though the other distribution I use Fedora Core did not so I had to compile from source. This is not too hard (pretty much just configure, make, make install). You must have glut-devel package installed and of course OpenGL extension/libraries enabled/installed on X windows.

NOTE: I did run into a problem with compiling on Fedora Core 4, GCC 4.0 64-bit edition. A cast from void * to int caused the compile to halt at line 77, so I simply commented that line out since it was just a printf statement. You may have to do the same if you have this problem.

Download:http://desk3d.sourceforge.net/

Once installed you can “integrate” it by removing the standard gnome pager from your Gnome panel and replacing it with a launcher icon that executes “3ddesk”. You can add other options if you like to configure the way it displays, see the website or documentation for more on this.

Composite Extension
Xorg’s X server ships with an extension called “Composite” that allows for cool desktop effects such as shadows/translucency plus offers hardware acceleration if you have a support video card. The catch is by default it is turned off and it can be buggy. So use it only if it works well on your setup since your mileage may vary. I found personally on a NVIDIA card with the proprietary drivers it works well enough for everyday use though it does have some small quirks. The most annoying one was if you run an OpenGL game, when you exit out of the game, X windows loses the composite settings until you re-load the composite manager (the composite manager is actually crashing in the background) and sometimes it does not re-draw correctly (though this was rare). I will put this in the cosmetic category since it does not provide much in the way of enhancing productivity. Though it does look nice when it works.

To enable put this at the end of you /etc/X11/xorg.conf file:
Section “Extensions”Option “Composite” “Enable”EndSection
Next you need the xcompmgr and transset utility available here, you will have to compile these from source with the usual configure, make, make install.

After you have these utilities installed you will need to launch the xcompmgr which controls the composite extension. I personally just used the following settings (though you can get much more fancier with effects by altering the parameter you included)

# xompmgr –c &

If it works without a hitch and you want to have these settings restore on boot up include xcompmgr in your GNOME startup. (You can do this in Fedora by going to “Desktop Preferences->Advanced->Session” then click the last tab.) You can also use the transset program to set translucency of window but I found no real use for this. You can experiment if you like though.

NOTE: Nvidia users will need to specify the following options in the driver section:

Option “RenderAccel “true”
Option “AllowGLXWithComposite” “true”

Desklets…Widgets…Thingamagigs
Whatever you call them, they are small controls that do useful things plus look real cool. On Gnome you have gDesklets, and on KDE you have SuperKaramba. You probably have notice that I’m a GNOME user so I’m going to cover gDesklets, but SuperKaramba works much the same way though uses its own set of controls (Its not compatible with gDesklet controls).

I was able to find binaries for gDesklets here (http://dag.wieers.com/packages/gdesklets/). The only thing I needed was to install libgtop2 Fedora 3 rpm before hand (You can get these at a Fedora mirror site). Gdesklets has a nice sized library of controls (or in gdesklet speak Display and sensors) you can use at there website found here. I found three particular useful controls:

RSS Ticker bar – Display headlines from you favorite rss feeds.
http://gdesklets.gnomedesktop.org/categories.php?func=gd_show_app&gd_app_id=269

infobar – Displays cpu load, memory usage, weather, disk usage, and other miscellaneous data on you desktop. I found this surprisingly useful when things are not running as expected or you need information on the weather. I like the idea of having all in one bar.
http://gdesklets.gnomedesktop.org/categories.php?func=gd_show_app&gd_app_id=67

starterBar – A nice looking launcher bar for often used programs. Kind of looks like OS X launcher bar.
http://gdesklets.gnomedesktop.org/categories.php?func=gd_show_app&gd_app_id=210

Honorable mention:
RecentlyUsed – I spotted this one when I was getting the URLs to the other controls. It looks interesting I did not try it though. Displays a thumbnail of recently used files.
http://gdesklets.gnomedesktop.org/categories.php?func=gd_show_app&gd_app_id=64

When installing new controls I recommend going to the gdesklets site downloading the control tar ball then firing up the gdesklets utility, right click the gdesklets tray icon, select “Manage Desklets”. Then click File->install package and point it to the control tar ball. It will save you a lot of hassle by just doing it this way.

Conclusion
So what does the finished product look like? See the below screenshots of my finished desktop. Definitely a noticeable difference. Thank you for visiting the site, please check back for the next article.

How I came to be involved with Linux

I used to think Windows was so amazing. I thought it was at least 20 times better than Macintosh. Not only is their interface so obtuse, they don’t really have any programs other than video, audio, and photographic production. Windows was awesome and Bill Gates was a near genius. Those were the days! I remember being so angry at the government for filing an antitrust lawsuit. So what if Windows came with IE, weren’t people smart enough to download Netscape if they really wanted it? I remember Sophomore year in college being so excited at the new Windows Media Player which promised so many neat little trick like auto-playlists. The reason why I loved Windows so much si that I didn’t know I had a choice. I thought it was Windows or Mac and I certainly preferred Gates’ little creation.

Then, in the summer after my sophomore year I decided that I would like to run a web server. I wanted independence from Tripod with their stupid ads and other such malarky. My parents were toying with the idea of one day starting a family business and I made it my responsibility to find out what it would take to have our own servers. My Google searches brought my attention to a program called Apache, which, when run on a computer would allow someone to have a webserver. A weird program called Sendmail would work as an email program. Then a weird thing happened, I had this very stthrange feeling in my gut about these programs. Did I just read that they were free to use? Not free to try, but free to use? WTF was this? Surely it was some sort of scam and I started looking around in different websites. WHAT?!? A large portion of the Internet was run on this free software? I couldn’t understand it, it was just too much for me. I had used freeware and shareware before, but it was usually pretty rudimentary software. This seemed to be big league stuff here!

Then a link on one of these pages pointed me to a page about GNUY/Linux. The more I read, the more intrigued I became. Someone was offering a free operating system? My brain suffered a meltdown and I put the subject away for a few days. Then I went back to the website, http://www.linux.org/. I read about the OS, I read the GPL, and I was amazed. I went to some distro websites and my first instinct was to try Slackware Linux. I liked the sound of that because my dad was always calling me a slacker in jest. Thankfully I never tried that distro or it might have been the end of my forays into free and open source software. I told my parents about all of this and they were just as incredulous as I had been about the prospect of a free operating system and freely being able to have a server. After all, they said, if it was free why doesn’t everyone do it? Good question, I thought. The Linux subject again went dormant in my life.

Midway through the second semester of my Junior year of college the idea surfaces from my subconscious with the force of a torpedo. Suddenly it consumes my thoughts. All I can think aobut constantly is the possibility of using Linux to run said server. In an attempt to placate these thoughts and concentrate on my school work, I go to the new Ithaca Borders Computer secion and look for a distribution that comes with a book to explain all of this to me. My prerequisite: the book must talk about setting up Apache and Sendmail. It all came down to Debian and Fedora. Something put me off about the Debian distro, I think just because I couldn’t take seriously a distro that sounded like it was named after someone named Debbie. I bought the Fedora book and the instant I touched it I remember seeing a box at Best Buy about 5 years prior with a penguin wearing a Red Hat. I remember it talking about a new OS, but at the time I didn’t really understand what it meant – I wasn’t ready for the paradigm. However, this memory helped me realize that this “Linux-thing” had been around for a long time.

There was one problem, buying the book, which came with CDs for the OS (another requirement of mine) made me want to install it even more badly. Since I had to buy the book to learn to OS I said to myself, it wasn’t really a free distro, but at $40, it was 1/4 the cost of a new Windows XP install, not bad. Finally, I used the campus auction newsgroup to obtain a 200 Mhz POS Dell computer with monitor, soundcard, and ethernet card from a senior who needed to get rid of the computer so that he could have room to move home. It cost me $50. So far this whole endeavor was still cheaper than a new copy of Windwows.

Installation took forever due to the machine’s slow speed, but I couldn’t wait to install Fedora Core 1 onto the computer. I read about the OS between classes and at night and realized it was based on Unix, which I had some experience with from the previous semester. Finally the machine booted up and, it was ok. I have to admit that it wasn’t love at first site. Basically, the computer was much too slow to do anything except be a server, which I figured out with time. HOwever, the seeds were planted and when I found out that it was upgraded every six months, I couldn’t wait for the next upgrade. This was 10E8 times better than Microsoft!

With Fedora Core 2 installed on an old dilapidated laptop which barely ran Windows 98, I was able to see the beauty of Linux. It had brought back to life a computer which could barely do anything. As I continued to sample the fruits of free and open source software, I loved it more and more. I loved the concepts behind the GPL which provide all with freedom (as in speech). I loved the social aspect – anyone from any socioeconomic background could afford a free (as in beer) OS. I loved the programs which did anything the Windows programs did. Some, like GAIM and K3B were better than their Windos counterparts. Some were worse. And some, like Kino and Openoffice, were about the same. So why pay for something when you could get it free and not have to deal with DMCA crap. I learned about OGG and how it was free and MP3 was not. I learned about Xvid as opposed to Divx and I became very well educated in the ways of Linux and its superiority and inferiority when compared with Windows.

Now I am a college graduate and a coworker came to me with a problem. He needed Windows XP because he wants to use Napster which requires windows since they use the Windows Media Audio format. But he couldn’t install it because Windows required him to register his product key and he didn’t have internet access. Boy did that make me happy to be a Linux user. Since there can be no such thing as bootlegging something that’s given away for free, we don’t have to worry about crap like activation keys for Linux. I tried to convince him to switch over, but he really wanted Napster. I told him I’d install it for him. It had been a year since I’d done a Windows install and boy was it crappy!

People complain about Linux installs, but I can honestly say that, at least with Fedora Core 1-4, the installation process is orders of magnitude better than the Windows installation process. Let’s compare! Windows starts up with blue screen and white text – not even a GUI! It does a bunch of cryptic things. Then it asks if I want to install Windows XP. This is an upgrade and it doesn’t detect Windows 98 already installed on the HDD. Therefore I need to ask my coworker for his Win98 CD. This delays us a bunch of days as he searches for it. Again, since FC is free, this is a non-issue. Then it presents me with the giant partition on his hard drive and asks if I want to use that one. No ability to make separate /home partitions means that one part of his drive crashing will destroy all his files. Then it asks me if I want to keep FAT32 or switch to NTFS. Then it says that it finds Windows 98 (why couldn’t it find it before?) and warns me about this. Then it says to reboot. When I reboot I end up back in the same place and have to go through all those steps again. This time it actually installs something. But it doesn’t even ask me which programs I wants. It just installs everything. How prehistoric! Even some of the text-based Linux installers give a choice of software and Fedora certainly does.

Then it goes through a setup process including registering the product with the activation key. No root user is set up! How will we protect users from borking up the computer? When I was done I was disgusted and pretty much have been left with a worse taste in my mouth for Windows than I previously had. Amazing that Linux isn’t “ready” for the desktop and yet installation is a breeze compared with Windows. Let’s look at a Fedora install.

After booting in, I push enter and the graphical boot starts. It asks me for language and some other settings. It helps me partition the harddrive in a logical way. It lets me select which programs I want installed along with some predefined installations. Then it figures out which discs I need and installation begins. Aftferwards I set up the root account and my account and the OS is ready to go! Can’t get much simpler than that!

back

back from my honeymoon. Just found out the server was down the entire time. I plan to buy a UPS tomorrow if I get the chance. More posts to follow.

Oh, and FC4 is 4k kernel stack, but linuxant has finally released a 16k kernel patch so I should be able to upgrade my main linux computer!

Wedding Day

If nothing has gone wrong, I am getting married today and thus will have no time to blog. Tell you about it when I get back from my Honeymoon.

Tampa and servers

I will be going on my honeymoon pretty soon and so my server will be the last thing on my mind. Besides that, there won’t be any Linux computers easily accessible because I’m not taking my laptop. This is bad news for the server because of the constant thunderstorms in Tampa. For the past two weeks we’ve had thunderstorms every day and we even lost electrical power a few days ago. Since a UPS costs money and I neither have paying advertisers nor paying hostees, if the power goes out, rebooting my server, there won’t be any service until I get back. Of course, this is sad for me too because it means you won’t get to read any of the pre-written posts I wrote, but, in all honesty, that’ll be the last thing on my mind. See ya when I get back!

f-spot hits me like Linux’s G-spot…

f-spot is a new program for organizing photos in Linux and is currently in early development. It looks really nice! It seems to rival most picture organizing software out there for any platform. The thing that really got my attention, however, was that the developers are asking people to send in RAW photo files so that they could build in support for that. If they successfully do that, I’ll never turn on my Windows computer again. The only thing I use Windows for nowadays is Photoshop. I have games like Sims 2, but I never have time to play them. Right now I’m too busy planning for the wedding and afterwards I’ll be too busy being married. Therefore, all I need to do is Office stuff and Internet which Linux does amazingly well. I hope the f-spot comes out soon.

Everything has a price

You may know, because they are relatively famous examples, that in British citizens wishing to enter inner London streets during peak times have to pay a toll. This was enacted based on the economic premise of marginal benefit. In case it’s been a while since you took Econ101, marginal benefit is the amount of money someone is willing to pay for a service. If they pay less then that, they feel they are getting a good deal. If they pay that price, the believe it is fair. They refuse to pay a price above that price. In other words, if your marginal benefit from a bag of chips is $0.50, you will cease to want a bag of chips if they cost $0.60. If you still want it at sixty cents, then that was your real marginal benefit. Therefore, the British government figured that they just had to raise the price high enough that a majority of people wouldn’t use the roads and then congestion would vanish. It has mostly worked out right.

In the United States the Route 91 Expressway in California is based on a similar concept. Instead of driving on the free roads, full of so much congestion, come drive on the toll roads, guaranteed to have less congestion because most people don’t want to pay to use a road. (Even Sim City 4: Rush Hour used this concept) It worked on first, until everyone started taking the road and then it wasn’t work paying anymore. The correct economic solution? Raise the price! So they did and it went from $2 to use to the road to $12.99 to use the road. And it worked – as the prices went up, people stopped using it until the right amount of people were using it again. It has been operating for about 10 years and now other states are getting ready to try this.

Hitting home for me is the fact that Maryland is looking to add a similar toll highway on the Capitol Beltway. Anyone who’s ever been there knows that it is infamous for have WAY too much congestion. A toll road would relieve some congestion while providing additional tax dollars for the state. Additionally, this road is going to really be high tech – at least that’s what they have planned for it. Sensors in the road will communicate with the toll boths to dynamically adjust toll prices to reflect the actual congestion on the road. The more congested it was, the more it would cost. This would allow a more complex pricing structure than just peak and off peak. As a techno-geek, I’m excited about the prospect.

When I do move to Maryland, I probably wouldn’t be using either one too often because I’d be workign in-state, not commuting to DC. However, as I think the current shortest route to NYC goes through the Beltway, I’d certainly welcome the ability to go a little faster.