Yumex Updated!

Yumex, the graphical frontend for yum has been upgraded to version 0.44. This version fixes all that was annoying about the previous version. It now automatically takes the user to the output page during updates to see what is going on. The interface is also a lot cleaner and there are a lot less popup windows which had a tendency to get “lost” if heavily using multiple desktops.

Merry Christmas!

This was one of the best Christmas celebrations either in spite of or because it was so simple. I got some really great gifts including:

  • Final Fantasy 6: Grand Finale – this CD has some AWESOME symphonic recordings of the best songs of FF6
  • Fantastic Plastic Machine: Les Plus – a great remix CD of that funky Japanese DJ, FPM. I’m sure you’ve heard him in commercials and movies and didn’t even know it. For example, one of his songs from this CD was in the second Austin Powers movie.
  • Linux Shell Scripting with Bash – to help me continue honing my programming skills
  • A great book on creating surreal artwork with Photoshop
  • Hollywood Shuffle – a great movie about Blaxsploitation films
  • 1776 – a book about the American Revolution
  • some other stuff that was ordered, but didn’t arrive on time

But my favorite part was giving my presents to my family members. I made a calendar for my mom and her brothers with old pictures from their childhood since their mother died this year. I don’t know how my uncle in Miami reacted, but my uncle who was with us in Tampa was near tears. I’m glad I was able to make them emotional in a good way as they remembered simpler times. I think that’s one of the reasons God gave me the talent of photography and photo editing. Oh, and I gave my cousin a blog for Christmas as one of her presents. She loves to write and now she can write for the world. She has some great poetry up. You can check out her site here.

Big Brother wears Mickey Mouse Ears?

Went to Disney a few days ago with my family and found out that Disney is not quite the innocent little park it once was. I never quite felt the same about the park after 11 Sept 2001 when they began checking bags, but this time it was even more invasive. In order to enter the park I had to insert my ticket and then be digitally fingerprinted. Why did I have to be fingerprinted? To tie the ticket to me. In addition to the fact that it had my name printed on it, it now had my fingerprints attached to it. Now, I can’t really think of too many nefarious things Disney can do with my prints, but it was just really weird. Are that many people having their tickets stolen?

Perhaps what was going on was that people were buying the Park Hopper passes and then a whole family would visit Disney two people at a time. It’s the only real reason I can see for the moves. That or perhaps the cost of the blacklight ink for getting back into the park was sky-rocketing. Either way I didn’t like it and it tainted my experience.

Although my younger self would never had believed me, Disney is boring as an adult and the fingerprinting just added to the gloom. It’s not so much that Disney is boring as the fact that it’s not entertaining enough for the $60 price tag. It was a little too much money to see some animatronic pirates. The best ride for me continued to be the Haunted House.

The Windows Vista Window

In all the magazines and web articles I’ve been reading, there has been a call to arms in the Linux camp. Microsoft is going to be innovative, for once, and we’re going to take advantage of it. There will be significant interface changes for Vista and MS Office 12. According to Linux Format Magazine issue 73, there will be major changes to the way Office looks. Why does all of this matter? Well, one of the complaints leveled against Linux time and again is, “it may be simple, but I already know how everything works in Windows. Why switch and waste time relearning it?” It’s the whole gist of Microsoft’s campaign that it costs more to switch to Linux than remain with MS. It’s not cost as Linux is free as in beer and freedom, but because we have to retrain the workforce, they claim. So, the logic amongst Linux enthusiasts goes, if MS is going to overhaul things, why not give us a shot? I must say this viewpoint appears to have some merit.

The second reason people are claiming that the Vista upgrade time is an important one for Linux is that MS is going to once again raise the bar on the minimum system requirements. Although Windows XP says the minimum requirements are 256 MB RAM, it’s daft to try and run it on less than 512. And if you intend to do serious gaming, video editing, or image editing, you will need at LEAST 1 GB. Obviously no figures have been released, but the rumour mill abounds with people saying that most of the current PCs that people have will be rendered ineffective when Vista comes out.

Now, with some modern Linux distros like Fedora, it can be important to have at least 256 MB (although my Linux laptop has 128) and really 512 is essential to enjoy Gnome and KDE. That is to say, you can use them with less RAM, but you won’t be able to have all the glitter like transparent menus and the like. However, there are many distros like Damn Small Linux, Feather Linux, and others who intend to make sure that Linux will continue to run with as much of the newest software as possible while running on the oldest of software out there. The minimum requirements for the Fluxbox-sportin’ DSL include 64 MB of RAM.

So, while some distros continue to trudge onwards, we can be sure that users will be able to continue to get new software and run it on their aging PCs. So someone like my uncle who doesn’t have the resources to always be purchasing new hardware, doesn’t have to be stuck with Windows 98. He can switch to Linux and continue to benefit from upgrades to his system and always use the latest software his hardware will support.

There are, of course, other issues such as MS Vista requiring a new monitor which supports some sort of DRM and new graphics cards. Linux, on the other hand, will work with nearly any monitor.

So maybe this is a time to tell your friends who wish to upgrade, but can’t afford the new hardware and will have to learn a new interface anyway that there is a great FREE alternative called Linux. Only time will tell if the Vista release truly is the time Linux takes off or if it is just another false alarm. I hope that Linux would reach the prominence necessary to get hardware driver writers and game designers to take note. We don’t have to kill Microsoft and we certainly don’t want to be a new monopoly as that would be like the rebels becoming the new Emperors – replacing one dictatorship for another.

Quickies

1) In this post, wget had created a directory structure, foiling my plans to do the md5sum check automatically. The correct way to do what I wanted to do was use the option -nd for no directories. If I had typed

wget -nd address

it would have just saved to my current directory and the code would have worked perfectly. It would have also worked the roundabout way that I showed.

2) If you like Neal Stephenson’s style of writing then you MUST read Catch-22! Catch-22 is the literary father of his style of writing so be sure to check it out! I just finished the book a couple of days ago and I loved it! It was a little confusing at first, but then I couldn’t put it down.

Art and its role in Culture

Reading a post from Miss Izzy is like watching a Simpsons episode. The beginning has nothing to do with the end, but serves only to set up the source of conflict. While reading Sunday Digression, she moved to a topic I feel pretty strongly about, the value of art in culture. She writes:

If you think about it, nearly all the most famous modern fiction work that is set in a world after a sort of semi-apocalypse has the burning of books and the confiscation of cultural capital as the fundemental conflict between the state and the people. 1984, Fahrenheit 451, Vertigo’s V for Vendetta, all of it have books being burned and the media under tight scrutiny. You’re kidding yourself if you think Art isn’t important and that I’m nothing but a cultural elitist.

Why do they burn books and eliminate all previous culture? Because they realize, as did Nazi Germany, that cultural items (art as music, literature, etc) are not only powerful expressions of what the artist was feeling, they are also the people. Part of what makes us Americans are our shared cultural expreriences. We have all seen Titanic, heard The Beatles, and read classics like Charlotte’s Web. Each of these has affected us in a slightly different way, but, as a group, in a way that anyone who hasn’t experienced our culture hasn’t been changed.

In fact, if you doubt the power of cultural experiences, why do countries as varied as France, China, and Vietnam complain about American culture stomping all over their own cultures? Because, by experiencing the cultures, they are fundamentally changed. While I don’t think that any one movie or song is powerful enough to change someone’s behavior, it is certainly reasonable to think that if American culture valued fat people, we wouldn’t have anorexia.

If you believe that last statement to be a lot of bunk, then do some research and see that in the 50s, girls were trying to get breast reductions to look like Marylyn Monroe. Now, they try to have huge breasts to look like the girls paraded on MTv.

Since culture is SO powerful, that’s why I believe so strongly in a free culture. Artists have the right to be compensated for their work, but incessant and complicated copyrighting is not the solution! By releasing their works under the Creative Commons license, they can retain the rights to making money off of their works while still allowing everyone to experience it. That’s why I release all of my artwork under a Creative Commons license. If people wish to enjoy my art or remix it into their own art, let them! I ask only the bare minimum – that I get credit as one of the sources of their work and that IF they make money, they must obtain permission from me because they must share the wealth. But if everyone wants to have the photos up on their website or print them to put up in their house or any other purpose, I don’t care. Let them enjoy my artwork and have their lives enriched by seeing it. I think that all artists should do the same and they will see how everything will work out for them. After all, if no one is making money off of your artwork what financial harm does it cost you?

Richard Pryor is dead

Richard Pryor died yesterday of a heart attack. His comedy set the stage for a whole slew of comedians like Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock who told jokes about the differences between whites and blacks. Although many chastised he and his disciples for their use of profanity and the fact that their jokes hindered racial progress, I feel that, by pointing out our differences and exagerating them, they helped us to realize the frivolity of racism. As a quote from a GRITS track points out, “both whites and blacks who are most interested in bringing about racial equality shy off certain facts that deserve recognition. There are cultural differences, a truth that not only supports integration, but will help bring about honest equality. This is, after all, the ultimate goal of integration.” We shouldn’t ignore our differences or hate each other because of them. We should just realize that we are different and there’s not one thing wrong about it.

May Richard Pryor Rest in Peace.

Shi’ites and Sunni & Protestants and Catholics

For a while I kept wondering what the heck was going on in Iraq. Why were the Shi’ites and Sunni killing each other? Aren’t they both Muslim? What barbaric behaviour to kill your own compatriots, not because they are a different religion, but just a different sect! But then, one night as I lay awake in bed, I thought of Europe in the 14-1800s. Dozens of wars were fought between different countries in Europe because one side was Protestant and one side was Catholic. Heck, the British suffered through a few civil wars over different sects of Christianity. So, I guess it’s not so strange to see them fighting this way.

However, while they are not alone in fighting others of the same basic faith, I still wonder what the heck is the big deal? Why can’t people just let others have their own opinion and if they are so wrong, let them just rot in hell. For example, in one of Usama bin Laden’s letters to America, he claims that one of his tenants in the Jihad against America is that America should convert to Islam. Why should America convert to Islam? Because we are following Satan by not being Muslim? Ok, if you want to convert us, instead of sending planes of terrorists, send missionaries. While Christian misionaries may have done some really shady things in the past, currently churches just send missionaries to spread the Gospel around the world. As far as I know, they just go to other countries and tell them about God. (my mom never let me go on a missions trip since they are usually to really dangerous parts of the world) Or one can be a domestic missionary and tell others about God within their own hometown.

Personally, I believe that if you truly believe in something you should let people know about it, but don’t try to force it on them. I tried that back in high school with disastrous results. Basically, I ended up realizing that the best you can do is tell people whatever you want them to know and then let them figure out for themselves if it’s what they want. Even more important, I realized, is not to bring it up. If someone were to ask me what I believed, then I would offer my opinion. Doing more than that is asking to irritate others and make them hate your point of view. (This doesn’t only apply to religion, no one likes to be told they are wrong about anything from their diet to their sleeping patterns to religion) So, let bin Laden send “armies” of missionaries to convert us to Islam, if that’s TRULY what you believe and not a cover to get others to join your cause.

But if we reject Islam, then leave us be. To bring it back to my own experience, I feel that, a relationship with God is a personal thing. So if someone asks me what I believe and then tells me it’s a bunch of bollocks, then that’s fine. I do not consider it my responsibility to ensure the other person believes that I believe. If, as Christianity teaches, they will go to Hell for not believing me, that’s their problem, not mine. I think bin Laden should be the same with the United States and Europe. If we are going to hell if we don’t believe in Islam, you have to know you can’t bomb us into believing in Allah – so just let us go to hell. Are you REALLY that caring about our souls that you want to ensure we make it to paradise?

And to bring it back to the topic of the post, if the Shi’ites believe that the Sunni are so wrong they are going to Hell, how is killing them going to help? Aren’t you accelerating their decent into the fiery pits? (or whatever Muslims believe Hell is like) And do you really believe that the Sunni will turn to your religion because you scare them into it? If the Jews wouldn’t reject their beliefs in the face of the genocide, what makes you think the Sunni will change their mind in the face of terrorism?

Again, they should just take to the airwaves and appear on Tv programs and radio programs and explain why the Sunni are wrong. Then let the Sunni tell the Shi’ites why they are wrong. Some people will convert to either side, but if there was one way that was obviously right, there wouldn’t be sects, would there? And that’s why I feel that all the fighting is pointless.

Look at Christianity, for example, there are Baptists, Anabaptists, Catholics, Seventh Day Adventists, Lutherans, and at LEAST half a dozen more. They all believe in God and the Holiness of Jesus, but differ in how we should please them best on Earth. Should we baptise by immersion, sprinkling, or a blast from a hose? Do we pray to Mary or just Jesus? and so on and so forth – and we have the same book to start from! But, at least in this time period, we have decided that we will just squabble about our differences, but won’t kill each other.

I decided it was better to educate myself than speak about what I didn’t know. Afterall, the differences between the Christian sects are, in my opinion, pretty petty. They are mostly just ritualistic differences, not differences about the important things. For example, it’s not like the Lutherans say that Jesus said we should kill the homless. They just differ in what they do in church. So, I checked to see what the heck was the reason for the fighting amongst the Shi’ites and Sunni. Of course, I went to the best source for all information, Wikipedia. Here’s what the article said in the section on the differences:

The principal issue upon which Islam’s first major sectarian split occurred centers on the question of leadership. According to Sunni thought, Muhammad died without appointing a successor to lead the Muslim community. After an initial period of confusion, a gathering of Muslims at Saqifah accepted Abu Bakr, Muhammad’s father-in-law, as the first Caliph. Sunnis consider Abu Bakr to have been Muhammad’s closest friend. Sunnis believe this process was conducted in a fair and proper manner and accept Abu Bakr as a righteous and rightful Caliph. The second major sect, the Shia, believe that the Prophet had appointed his son-in-law Ali ibn Abi Talib as his successor years earlier during an announcement at Ghadir Khom. Shi’a regard the election of Abu Bakr as illegitimate and accuse the companions involved of ulterior motives ranging from enmity towards Ali to outright hypocrisy. Though both Sunnis and Shias believe that Muhammad delivered a major speech at Ghadir Khom, Sunnis interpret any references to Ali as mere praise, and do not view them as constituting his appointment as a successor.

So, this makes me think their differences should be even MORE reconcilable! It’s not even a difference with respect to ritual! It’s just a fight over who was the leader of the Muslims in the 1300s! Is that a reason to be fighting in 2005? I think not!

But I invite any comments on the subject. My comments are moderated, so it may take a while to appear on the website, depending on when I log in and check. Also, I probably won’t approve anything hateful or that I deem inappropriate; it is, afterall, my blog – but that doesn’t mean I won’t post opposing points of view (especially if I’m asking for contributions). Just be nice.

Reasons you shouldn’t use Linux

My wife asked me a poignant question a couple of weeks ago, “If Linux is SOOO awesome, why don’t you stop using Windows?” I told her that I couldn’t play civ4. “I thought you said it was ready for use and equal to Windows,” she continued. And I realized, there are probably some others who prosthelyze about how awesome Linux is. While I think Linux is amazing, and can do some great things which are hard or impossible to do in Windows, it is not for everyone.

Linux is not for you if:
You are a hard-core gamer
Some games like Quake, Doom 3, and Unreal Tournament have released their game for Linux as well as Windows and/or Mac. If you aren’t a first-person shooter fan, you’re out of luck. Projects like Wine and Cedega, a fork of an early version of Wine, can help with running some of your Windows games. I know that Wine, at least when it was in alpha, runs Sim City 4. Cedega runs a lot of the popular games like World of Warcraft and some others. Some people claim these projects are bad because the game designers only see that we are buying Windows games and don’t know that we’re playing them on Linux. Others claim that Wine and Cedega could be used by game designers to port their games with less problems. Finally, a third camp says it’s no one else’s bussiness if they want to run Windows programs on their Linux computer. Wine has come out of alpha, as I reported last month, so future releases won’t break what already works. I’m very excited for what can be done with Wine.

You are a professional photographer/image designer
The GIMP is a wonderful program and works really well. There are basically only 3 things keeping everyone from jumping the bandwagon. First of all, it does not allow images to be edited in 16 bit mode; absolutely essential for images to be edited without losing quality. Second, the RAW plugin doesn’t hold up when compared to Photoshop’s RAW program. Third, it doesn’t yet handle XMP tags as wells Adobe’s programs. Once those three issues are settled, tons of people will be able to stop shelling out hundreds of dollars for Photoshop. It’s not that Adobe is evil, but it’s a lot of money for those of us who want to do advanced photo and visual editing and don’t make a ton of money off of it.

You Want to Author professional-looking DVDs
Actually, there isn’t a good windows program to do this – I’ve looked! At least, it must be very expensive, because they don’t carry it at Best Buy.

Now, if what you want a computer for is:
-word processing, email, web browsing, card games (solitaire, etc), light photo editing, spreadsheet, presentation software, programming in C/Java/C++/perl/or ANY language, watch videos and DVDs, listen to audio files, design 3D models, and many other things, LINUX IS FOR YOU! YOU ARE READY!

My wife hasn’t tried Linux because she doesn’t like changing. She knows everything in Windows and doesn’t see a reason to switch. However, I am COMPLETELY confident that, if I installed it, she would know what to do and would be able to do everything she wants to do. She is not a compter geek, although dating/marrying me has brought her a LOT more computer knowledge. But I am SURE she would be able to use it without any problems.

Would you like to give Linux a chance? You can without getting rid of Windows! Check out a live CD such as
Knoppix
Damn Small Linux
Gnome Live CD
Ubuntu Live CD

To learn more about Live CDs, check out Techn0manc3r’s post.

CLI = Command Line Interface

You may wonder what use the command line has? Afterall, why use it when you have a GUI? Well, they are so useful, that Microsoft will be reimplementing it in Windows Vista to allow people to run shell scripts. I’ve blogged about the usefulness of the command line before, but I wanted to demonstrate with some examples.

As I was reading about DSL, I wanted to download the ISO so that I could try it out. But how to do this quickly and without my intervention? Enter the program wget. wget allows you to download from the internet in the commandline. You can download one thing, such as an iso, or you can download an entire website for offline browsing. What makes it better than using your browser to download is that you can set it to retry a number of times so that if the download gets disconnected for some reason, it will continue to try. Also, a good thing to always do when downloading an ISO is to check the md5sum, allowing you to know that your file was not corrupted during a download. No biggie if you are just downloading one thing, but if you are downloading a couple of ISOs, it can get a little tedious. Using the commandline should help you out. So here’s how I started off:

wget on KDE
wget on KDE

But as you can see in the next shot, I messed up with the md5sum.

More wget
More wget

This is because I had forgotten that wget replicates the directory structure when it downloads. I should have done md5sum ibiblio.org/(etc)/dsl-2.0.iso and it would have all been done for me when I got back. Here’s what I had to type to fix things:

wget finished
wget finished

Linux Screenshots

Here are some of the latest screenshots I’ve taken of my main Linux desktop and how to do the same for yourself. Click on the screenshot to be taken to the fullsize picture. I finally listened and provided a low-res picture here instead of resizing the large one, thus a faster download time for those of you on dial-up.

Gnome - 20151002
Gnome – 20151002

These add-ons on my desktop as known as eye candy. They are on my desktop to look cool and provide some functionality. It’s nothing I can’t already do by going into a web browser, but it looks neater doing it like this – to some anyway. First off, you’ll notice that my menu bar and icons are in Spanish. That isn’t part of the eye candy, but I figured I’d let you in on how to do that in case you also wished to practice your technology vocab. When you are starting up your computer, if you are using Fedora you will have GDM as your greeter – the place where you type in your username and password. Other distros may also use GDM or you may select it on your own. There is a button called “languages” and if you click there, it will set all of the menus to be in Spanish. And when you load Firefox up and go to Google, it will be Google in Spanish! (or whatever language you selected, if it’s supported)

Now, I am using a package called gdesklets which is similar to SuperKaramba in KDE. You can get gdesklets at http://gdesklets.org/. Then you can download these great programs!

In the bottom left corner I have iWeather. Once you enter your zip code it will bring you a four day forecast. On the bottom right I have “Bible Verse of the Day”. If you happen to be Muslim there’s a REALLY neat one called prayer time, which displays the day’s times for prayer. Above that I have a flickr desklet that runs through all the photos on my flickr site, allowing me to redisover photos I’d forgotten about. Or you can browse someone else’s site.

Gnome - 20151010
Gnome – 20151010

But be careful or your screen can begin to feel a bit cluttered as mine did when I added the sidecandyRSS feeds to my desktop. These allow me to have up to the minute news on my desktop. Currently I use bbcnews front page and bbcnews technology page. Clicking on a news story launches it in Firefox, or your default browser. I hope you enjoyed that information session. Next time I will go over why the command line is not quite dead yet!

MMORG and Real Economies Clash

As I was driving home last week, I heard something interesting on NPR. I knew that people had been selling their MMORG characters on Ebay. They would spend a few sleepless nights getting their character up to a really high level and then sell the character on Ebay to the highest bidder. I’ve heard stories of people making thousands of dollars! But this story on NPR took the cake! People were buying in-game money with their own real money. Of course, as the point was made in the story, our money is no more eral than the money in the game, if people have faith in its redemption value. Apparently there are websites which peg the US dollar to the Everquest Gold Piece! But that’s not all!

Apparently, there are now sweatshops in Southeasat Asia where people are paid $1 per hour to play these online games. Their job is to harvest as much in-game money as possible. Their overlord, typically a caucasian, takes this money and then puts it all together and sells it on Ebay or other sites for massive amounts of real-world dollars! The above link to the NPR news story has a graph with the exchange rate on World of Warcraft.

Personally, I feel this is like cheating because you’re basically playing the game via deus ex machina. In other words, it’s like the hand of god is giving your characters money because in the game they haven’t worked enough to actually earn that money. As a weak player you may think it’ll be more fun to be strong and be able to take on anyone, but on any game I’ve used cheatcodes, I usually find that the game becomes boring. What’s the point of romping around the world killing monsters if you don’t need the money or XP? At least, that’s how I feel about the topic.