Got FIVE As this final semester of my four years at Cornell, so I just had to thank God for that.
I now have a newly minted Bachelor of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the Phillips School of Electrical Engineering. So that’s it, I’m official now. I now have my first degree. How do I feel? I feel like I’m on summer vacation. Doesn’t feel any different than any other summer. It DOES feel really good when I tell someone that I’ve graduated. It has the accomplishment feeling to it. Also, I get to tell people that I graduated from Cornell and that usually gets another round of congrats. It’s funny because for the past two days I’ve been really busy helping out around the house, unpacking my computers, and doing wedding preperations, but at the same time it feels like an eternity until my marriage.
Graduation itself was a fun little ceremony. I will probably upload some pictures when I get internet set up on my main computer. For now it’s a little too much of a hassle to transfer it to my laptop to then upload it to the server. Cornell had all of us line up in the Arts Quad by school. Then we went in a counter-clockwise circle around the quad towards the clocktower. There we kept walking towards Day Hall and then behind the Statler, to the stadium. Impossible as it may seem, I saw my parents as I walked past them, despite the thousands of family members there. They actually got about 3 pictures of me as I passed by.
We waited for the rest of the schools to come in and then President Lehman gave his speech. The speech made heavy use of Star Wars metaphors. He warned us not to go to the “dark side” – narrow vision and quick judgement. It was good and I thought he did a thourough job of making the analogy. Something still sounded wrong with it and a lot of people didn’t like it. I think the biggest reason is that it sounded too much like he was trying to be cool. After everyone and their mom who gave a speech that weekend referenced Snoop Dogg (or Snoopy Dogg), it seemed like everyone was trying a little too hard to be cool. Still, he was able to keep the speech from being boring and overall I’d probably give it an 80/100. It was nowhere near as boring as I thought it would be. I may write more about this event if I feel moved to do so, but I feel that a lot of the feeling has passed, so this is all I felt like writing.
We’re back! The server should continue up uninterrupted until I finally move to my permanent home (sometime between Oct and Dec this year)
It has been a wonderful journey with this server. I have been able to be liberated and have my very own server. I am limited only in the space and hardware constraints of the machine. I can have SQL databases, php, and whatever else I wish to support. I have been able to have my own blog, fully customizable in the way that no other is. I have provided space for my friends; Andrew Laine used it to the fullest. That’s why I’m so sad to have to shut it down. But don’t worry! It’s just temporary! I plan to have it back up as soon as I can when I get back to my parent’s house. Then it will run until I move to my job location. After that it should be running for another long period of time.
When I upgrade to a newer machine (hopefully this summer) I plan to add an exciting and new dimension to my server – email hosting. It’s a lot more complicated than website hosting, but it IS doable. I hope to see you all again soon.
2500 people so far this month. Wow…I used to get excited about 200 people visiting.
One of the best things about Linux is the ability to write shell scripts. These are most often used as utility programs to do repetitive tasks for you. I just wrote my first one on Sunday and here it is followed by commentary.
echo "starting xchat..."
echo "starting Gaim..."
echo "starting Thunderbird..."
echo "starting Gkrellm (docked)..."
echo "starting 2 instances of Eterm (transparent, no buttonbar, no scrollbar)"
Eterm -x --scrollbar=0 --buttonbar=0 --trans&
Eterm -x --scrollbar=0 --buttonbar=0 --trans&
The first line is required in any bash script. On the second line I am using the echo command to write stuff to the screen. This is just to remind me of what exactly the script is doing. This could be important if I write another startup script that launches different programs.
Why did I write this script? I wrote this script because I was starting up these programs every time I started up my computer. While a Linux computer barely ever needs to be rebooted, I still wanted to be able to type just one command instead of six. Additionally, I didn’t memorize the command to make the Eterm window look like I wanted. Instead of scrolling through all my commands every time I wanted to launch up an Eterm window, I coded it in. In fact, if you like how my Eterm windows look, you could write a script called “Transparent Eterm” and run it to start them up instead of typing that long statement every time.
I’m sure there’s some way to launch programs at startup in Linux, why not use that? A very simple reason: I don’t want it to startup every time. Back when I was really into Windows I put some programs into the “Startup” folder that I thought I would use every time I launched the computer such as AIM and WinAmp. Then came a day when the computer was misbehaving and I had to reboot it a few times. Waiting each time for all those programs to load that I didn’t want to load because I was doing diagnosis was very annoying. Thus, by writing this script (which currently can’t be done in Windows) I am able to launch all the programs I use at startup, but only when I want them up.
Other things you should know:
- when you write a script you need to make it executable. If you are the only user on a system the easiest way to do this is to do:
to write the script and
to make it executable. Of course, everyone can execute your script now, but if you’re the only one it doesn’t matter
- you need to type
to launch the script.
Here I have decided to run the “top” command in the top transparent Eterm window. This is a great command to have running on the desktop. Basically it’s equivalent to hitting control-alt-delete in Windows and then clicking on “processes”. It tells you what you are running on your system, how much RAM/CPU cycles it’s taking up, and a bunch of other information. It dynamically updates so as you run programs you can see what’s holding up the computer. It doesn’t normally have that line running down the middle. That’s a consequence of some glitch when I was taking the screenshot.
I was using the bottom window to run my programs. This way I don’t have to look for the window, I know it’s sitting on the desktop and I can get a quick view of which programs I’ve launched as well as any information they are telling me as they run.
This server will go down this Wednesday. It will be down at least until Tuesday while I move out of my university apartment.
While it turns out that the place I’m living at never went with wireless, thus allowing me to keep the server running, I know for sure that we will be shutting down soon. There is always one problem with running your own server at home – when you move there’s no way to keep it on and connected. I’ll be leaving this place in about two weeks. After that I’m not sure how long it will be before the server is operational again. Ideally, it would be the following week. Since I’m also getting married soon, the timeline might be a little different. So if you try to come by two weeks from now and the site isn’t here – don’t worry, it’ll be back really soon.
Finally I have figured out something else I have wanted to do for MONTHS! If you look on the top-right corner you will see what looks like an embedded terminal in my desktop. The biggest reason why I’ve wanted to do this is simply because it looks really neat to have a terminal “built into” the desktop. I haven’t even gotten to the best part yet, the way people use them to run a logger in the background or other neat utilities. Besides looking really neat, it allows you to enjoy your background while using the terminal instead of covering it up. I mean, what’s the point of going through all the trouble of having such a great background when you can’t even see it? If you are into computers you are now nodding in agreement. So, how did I do this?
Well, in a word: Eterm. As I mentioned a few days ago, Linux is all about choice. There are many, many terminal emulation programs for Linux and Unix. The most often used is the xterm program. In KDE the default program is called Konsole. Finally, many people use a program called aterm. xterm is pretty vanilla and it seems to be designed simply to be a terminal and nothing else. Console is highly configureable and has transparancy capabilities, but, as far as I know, no way to hide the borders or title-bar. I haven’t used aterm so I don’t know much about it.
Eterm, on the other hand, was purposely designed to be the most highly customisable terminal emulator around. The options for customization are dizzying. There is the ability to write a configuration file to govern the appearance of each new Eterm. However, I feel that the user gains the best use out of Eterm either launching it with a specific theme or specific options. This allows the user to have many Eterms open with different display properties instead of all of them being transparent or whatever other options they choose. As an additional benefit, the creators claim that it uses less system resources than the bland xterm.
So, how can you get the effect I have? It’s actually pretty simple. First of all, get a copy of Eterm. For this you can visit www.eterm.org. Type the following into your terminal program:
Eterm -x --scrollbar=0 --buttonbar=0 --trans &
“Neat!” You might say, “But how do I move it?” That, too, was bugging me when I first did this. You can move it around by holding down alt and dragging it around with your left mouse button.
Once I figure out the logger program and other such l33t things I will then pass them on in a future post. Happy customising!
I wanted to share my Fluxbox desktop on my main Linux computer both for the geeky motive of showing off my desktop like jocks show off their cars and also to help others achieve the same configurations that I have. Fluxbox, like Blackbox and other *box window managers, are very, very customizable.
First of all, on the left-hand side of the screen you can see my system monitor, gkrellm. If you’ve spent any amount of time checking out screenshots of others’ desktops you’ve definitely seen this system monitor, especially on a non- KDE or Gnome screenshot. I was actually trying to figure out what this program was for months before finally stumbling upon the answer. It is highly customizable both in what it shows and what the colour scheme is. Currently I have it showing my CPU usage, user/program usage, internet traffic, and a few other small things. The best and easiest way to get get gkrellm if you are a Fedora user is to install it from the freshrpms repository via apt or yum. Freshrpms also contains themes and plugins for gkrellm.
The second important thing I wanted to highlight is how to use themes in Fluxbox. Themes typically come as a tarball containing a “styles” file and a background picture. The styles file tells Fluxbox how to draw the menus and which colour scheme to use. Once you have Fluxbox installed on your system there should be a .fluxbox folder in your home directory. (Linux is case-sensitive so check .Fluxbox if you don’t have .fluxbox) If it doesn’t exist you can create it. Then create a styles folder and a background folder if they don’t already exist. When you untar a tarball move the files to their respective folders. Then you can right-click for the menu to come up and click on Fluxbox Menu > User Styles and the one you just put in should be there.
The most common problem is that the background doesn’t change and some errors pop up. This is because all the *box WMs use the same style files to control themes. Whereas on Blackbox the command is bsetbg, it’s fbsetbg in Fluxbox. At least, that’s what made it work for me. There may be some options listed after fbsetbg which you may have to remove if they produce errors.
I am currently using the Ghost in the Shell Theme available from freshmeat.net.
I hope to make some more advanced modifications to the look and feel of my desktop and will post here how I did it. While I feel that there are many, many great desktop screenshots out on the net there aren’t as many tutorials. Hope you found this one useful.
As we saw in yesterday’s post, one of the things the author of the article suggested was that Linux needed to get simpler in order to gain a wider audience. But I say, hell no! Do not dumb down Linux! One of the most powerful things about Linux is that we still have access to the raw commands and configurations that allow each person’s computer to be infinitely different from the next. Already part of this process has taken place with a right-click in KDE (at least in FC3) not even having an option for opening a terminal. Look at Microsoft, it’s such a pain to use DOS now and, although some don’t like it, text commands hold a much greater amount of power and complexity than an icon can.
Another related complaint I hear a lot is, “Does Linux REALLY need 15 web browers, 20 IRC clients, and 10 terminal programs?” I believe the answer is a definitive YES! It certainly does! Why do some want to make Linux like the monster we hate? (Microsoft) Microsoft, you will remember is “evil” because they limit choice. They don’t include Firefox or any other browsers in Windows, just IE. And they believe that everyone should use IE or Windows Media Player or any other program they produce. That’s why they enter into deals with companies to only make things compatible on Microsoft products. That’s bunk! I don’t know about the rest of my readers, but as an American you can’t get anymore anti-American than limiting my choice. I have the choice whether or not to believe in a God whether or not to vote, etc and these are big issues. So I want choice on my computer!
For example, recently I began trying out Fluxbox, a window manager based on Blackbox source code, because of the limitations of the donated computers I’m running Linux on. (Unfortunately school work requires me to keep a computer that can run Windows – as well as a lack of a Photoshop port – the GIMP not handling RAW pictures just doesn’t cut it for me) I previously loved KDE to the point of advocating it to anyone who asked. It was certainly better than Gnome and as far as I knew those were the only choices. But now my eyes have been opened and I love Fluxbox, XFCE, and many of the other window managers. They do what I need them to do and are customizable in the way I want them to be customizable. Will I ever go back to KDE? Perhaps, when I get a better computer. For now, my main computer has been running Fluxbox for 14 days straight and it works fine for me.
But without choice this would have been impossible. I would have been stuck with a windows manager too bloated for my computer. Sound familiar? Yes! That’s Windows ME or XP. Why have something with more bells and whistles than you need? My look on life is that you should have a WM that uses the fewest amount of system resources so that you can dedicate the rest of them to running programs! What a novel idea if Windows didn’t take up so much of my RAM that my computer chokes at the most basic of tasks.
So developers, please, if you can read this, DO NOT DUMB DOWN LINUX. There are forums for doing this like Linspire and other Linux Win-Clones. But for the rest of us, allow us to have the power of Linux. Otherwise, people will move on. We don’t want Windows, but free as in beer. We want Linux! At least I do…
Another reason why Linux will take over the world.
25 Years After DOS: Lessons Learned for Linux
by Walter V. Koenning for the Reallylinux.com OPINION/EDITORIAL section.
NOTICE: Our other recent OP/ED postings include:
Microsoft’s Approach May Isolate U.S. Permanently
Open Source VS Windows: Reality of a Better Paradigm
Microsoft Corporation is preparing a gallant pageant to celebrate 25 years of what should at the very least be considered remarkable marketing. But what can the Linux world learn from Microsoft’s past 25 years of unique experiences and domination? I think we can uncover a lot simply going back to that first fateful year when Microsoft released PC-DOS for IBM PCs (as a joint venture with IBM).
First, we must admit openly once and for all that the “best solution” is not always the “most used solution.” There are few who would be foolish enough to argue that back in 1981 PC-DOS was the best solution. There were obviously a number of choices. PC-DOS was the least robust, the most temperamental, and arguably not very compatible with the IBM hardware and BIOS it was sold to work on. Yet, somewhat like the odd but obvious dominance of the VHS over BETA, this simple, cheap OS stole the show.
With 25 years of hindsight we can now identify the three core ingredients that allowed PC-DOS to enter the race and then shockingly exceed all expectations. Indeed there were a number of OS choices, but PC-DOS was the best choice, if not the best solution. With its weak memory management capabilities, the issues with the original BIOS specifications and support, PC-DOS in any engineer’s mind was not a superior product. But it was indeed three things:
It was in the right place at the right time. Yes, timing is one of the obvious reasons why PC-DOS, later to become the well known MS-DOS made its debut, and survived to become the world’s most dominant OS. The IBM compatible market skyrocketed the use of Microsoft’s OS beyond even Bill and Paul’s expectations.
But wait. Timing can not possibly be the key ingredient. Sure enough there were two other ingredients essential to making the timing work out. The second was PC-DOS’s price. It was cheap, and the cheapest of the options that at least for the entry IBM PC made it’s debut. PC-DOS fit the home and small business market perfectly because it was cheap.
And of course, if it was just plain cheap it still would have gone no where, unless it contained what I believe is conceivably the most important ingredient to Microsoft’s initial success with a less than superior product. PC-DOS was simple. That’s right, it was simple. I could shove that darn disk in to the drive, and so long as I knew to press the drive lock down the disk would spin and the OS would load. I could learn the basic set of commands within a few minutes. It was not just simple, but darn simple and made it possible for the genius and the technophobe to achieve the same results: operating a PC.
Yes, unquestionably Microsoft’s unique ability to be “shipped with the PC” as pre-installed OS eventually gave it another huge advantage. But, in the earliest days there was NO PRE-INSTALL. It was about ease of bootup and loadup, sticking disks in to the drive to boot.
Now, let’s start with the negative lessons learned. For one thing, I can say with every friend and colleague who has ever written software drivers, compiled kernels etc. Microsoft Windows is not a superior product. Look I say this with caution but sincerity since I began using DOS around the same time I had used UNIX and its variants, VMS, Stratus VOS and others. The initial Microsoft DOS just wasn’t superior. This was at the time most obvious to the many people who had indeed used more superior products in academia and government. Ironically, most of these people who knew of better options were not on the marketing list for IBM’s PCs.
So, the negative lesson learned: claiming Linux is a superior product often ticks people off more than it convinces them.
There are always more superior products, like when I go to the store and buy a plunger to deal with my toilet problem only to find it sucks at suction. The plumber comes over later in the day with a different plunger and within minutes he’s done what I could not. That day I stopped buying those cheap trash plungers and went driving until I found one that looked exactly like the double suction plunger the plumber used! Okay, okay I know I’m getting side tracked, but talking about DOS makes me think of other things. The lesson is obvious. No one cares if the product is superior since everyone knows there is probably an even “more superior product” somewhere else. So to the Linux fanatics, please stop declaring Linux’s superiority… it will not convince others even if you are totally right.
Now on to the positive lessons gleaned from the initial Microsoft successes of 25 years ago. Linux can indeed become the key operating system for both the enterprise and the desktop because there is currently a major vacuum.
“Linux can indeed become the key operating system for the enterprise and the desktop because it fills a major vacuum”
The vacuum was created as a result of many things. This vacuum amounts to the very same type of timing opportunity seen 25 years ago.
Politically a vacuum was created when other countries started hating the dominance of a U.S. corporation on their computer technology future. Few governments on earth today plan to continue using Microsoft on any major systems beyond 2015 because it inherently forfeits their own sovereign control over technology. This isn’t new. If you watch the Linuxtoday.com news feeds you’ll quickly see just how many nations are getting to the point of moving on with their own destiny.
Economically, it no longer makes sense to allow Microsoft to continue to dominate when alternatives exist without the characteristic elements of control, licensing dominance, and proprietary (hidden) code. Linux is indeed free. Free is about as inexpensive as you can get and therefore offers access to everyone, across social and economic lines. The potential market base for Linux is literally the world. Money is not the holdup.
Socially, the vacuum was created by greed. People all over the world, including Microsoft certified pros, can not escape the fact that Microsoft makes money from everyone. Microsoft is the richest company getting richer. It charges millions to the U.S. federal, state and local governments, for licensing and upgrades. Yes that means Microsoft gets wealthier from tax payer dollars. Microsoft challenges school systems that may have “illegal” software, it hunts down piracy in other countries, often in the poorest regions of the world like Africa, and it keeps getting more and more wealthy. A friend of mine told me he thinks that if Microsoft released just 10% of the roughly $2 BILLION in CASH (does not include other assets) to help curb diseases and help starvation, many people could be helped. Instead the goal and mode of operation is to continue to amass wealth. People see this. People know this. It bugs them. Few talk about it, but it bugs them to watch greed so openly flaunted. Maybe it bugs me too? We like philanthropy and generosity, because it helps address fundamental human needs. Linux is perfectly poised to fill this gaping vacuum created by potential greed.
Therefore, we find that indeed Linux is showing itself true at the right time, when vacuums exist. Linux is indeed inexpensive and addresses the question of pricing and cost basis. Now finally, to the third success factor from Microsoft’s initial run. What about simple? Is Linux simple to use? The final and perhaps most vital aspect towards making Linux the number one operating system on earth has to do with user experience. Today Linux is still overwhelmed by too many options and not enough focus on simplicity.
But this is not a “shame on you” article to the community. I love the Linux community and write with confidence that within a few short months, at most a year, the easy to use interfaces, the quality device drivers, the installation enhancements will prove that Linux is also simple, straight forward, and undeniably ready for the mass consumer market. I don’t think we will wait too long, because there are already many groups of people working on this aspect.
My only question now is not if but when will Linux become the number one OS on earth? When this happens we can all give thanks for the key lessons learned from Microsoft’s 25 year life cycle.
Walter V. Koenning is a technology writer and provides insights regarding industry trends. He contributes regularly to the OPINION/EDITORIAL segments on Reallylinux.com.
Here’s an example of when a rich person does something for the good of humanity. Sure, he mentions in the article that he wouldn’t mind making money, but he is genuinely doing good for the planet.
Ubuntu Linux encourages sharing and copying
10 May 2005
Free operating system Ubuntu Linux has been heralded as one of the most exciting software projects ever created, writes Michael Herman.
Ask software billionaire Mark Shuttleworth why he has dedicated so much of his time and money to open-source projects since selling his business in 1999, and he is likely to tell you he wants to make the world a better place.
Already a successful ecommerce icon when in his early 20s, Shuttleworth, the first African in space, sold his South African internet certification company Thawte Consulting to United States competitor VeriSign for $NZ785 million six years ago, turning the young entrepreneur into a rand lord overnight.
Not content simply to watch his fortune grow, Shuttleworth turned his attention to improving the lives of others through technological innovation, funding several projects “that have the potential to bring about dramatic improvements to some aspect of the education system” and founding the now celebrated Linux distribution, Ubuntu.
Translated as “humanity to others”, the ancient sub-Saharan word describes a value system that has at its core the understanding that “I am what I am because of who we all are”.
In a preamble on the organisation’s website, www.ubuntulinux.org, Shuttleworth says Ubuntu Linux brings the spirit of Ubuntu to the software world.
This difference is probably best expressed by its call to users to help spread the Ubuntu message.
“You are legally entitled and encouraged to copy, share, and redistribute this CD, for yourself and your friends,” reads the note on Ubuntu Linux’s CD cover, which it distributes free of any charges – postage included – to any part of the world.
While commercial software developers are charged to drive up shareholder value through increased sales and enforcing licensing restrictions on users to try to limit piracy, Ubuntu has been instructed by its open-source activist philanthropist boss to do work “for the benefit of all humanity” and to charge it to his account, if it is not commercially viable.
Asked once whether he believed that the “services will pay for development” business model of the free-software movement would keep Ubuntu alive, Shuttleworth answered he’d like the project to be sustainable, but that he’d be “honoured to consider it a gift back to the open-source world”, which he credits with having played a critical role in creating his wealth.
“So I hope it’s commerce, though it may turn out to be philanthropy. Either way, it’s still cheaper than going back to space, or hooking up with fast planes/boats/women, which I supposed would be Plan B,” Shuttleworth told HoserHead in an email response on Slashdot, the self- proclaimed “News for nerds” website.
In his own words, the Ubuntu project “is all about creating a free, high-quality OS for everybody – home, office and data centre”.
To this end the single-install CD includes a mix of quality applications, including a Gnome desktop with the popular Firefox browser (more than 50 million downloads at the end of April), OpenOffice productivity suite, Gstreamer for multimedia, Thunderbird email client and other popular open-source programs.
Before you dismiss this free lunch, consider that Ubuntu has become the most accessed section of DistroWatch, the online touchstone for open-source operating system issues.
Attracting twice as much daily traffic “from unique IP addresses” as its nearest challenger, the website says “Ubuntu has clearly won over many users of other operating systems and has quite possibly become the fastest-growing Linux distribution of all times”.
Today I made my first 911 call ever. Of course, the events leading up to this event were the most surreal of my life. As I was waiting to cross the street into the Gun Hill parking lot, a bunch of cars started passing by, as usual. We have a joke that they purposely come by only when we want to cross. Then, as if out of a Monty Python or Stephen Chow movie, a bicycle rider comes out behind the cars.
Then I thought to myself, “my he’s going very fast,” I turned to tell my fiancee the thought which had just gone through my head along with, “that’s gotta be dangerous.”
I didn’t have a chance to speak because at that moment I heard an explosion and the man on the bicycle was propelled off the bike and onto the floor where he and the bike both rolled. He must have been going at least 20 MPH if not 30! I ran to the man who was still in the middle of the street. He got up and threw himself and the bicycle onto the grass near the street. His rear while had burst – that had been the explosive sound.
“Are you ok?” I asked him. “Do you need me to call 911?” I continued. No answer – not good. “Do you need me to call 911?”
I called 911. “Hello this is 911 what is the situation?”
“Yeah, this guy was riding bike down a huge hill. He was thrown over the front of the bike and he looks like he needs help. His shoulder is dislocated.”
“Ok, where are you?”
“On the hill near Gun Hill Apartments in Ithaca, New York.” I added the last part because I had heard that when one calls on a cellular phone they might not be talking to a local dispatcher.
“They’ll be right over. Can I collect some contact information.”
A few minutes later the police showed up, followed by the ambulance. The man had gashes on his knee, arms, and buttocks. He looked like he was in a lot of pain, but he would make it ok.
I was glad to be there when the accident happened so that I could call for help. Other than my fiancee and I, there were two other tennants there, but I was the first to reach the victim. I’m not even sure the others would have gone if I hadn’t. But I knew what I had to do. Years of emergency training as a lifeguard suddenly came back to me. I knew I had to communicate with the man and ascertain what the problem was. Otherwise, he would have just lay there until someone came and time is the most important thing in an emergency. He wouldn’t die from a dislocated shoulder if he were my age, but this was a pretty old guy. He might have other complications and I had to think quickly. But I was running down there before I even knew what I was doing. And I was glad to have a cell phone so that I could be sure to talk to the dispatchers. It was a great chance to help my fellow man.