Archive for December 2006

WINE – ByeBye Windows

Finally, My windows installation has been given the last shaft. After getting WINE up and running, I can run my favorite Windows programs right inside Linux without a hitch. There’s really only been 3 or 4 apps that keeps pulling me back to Windows – all of them freeware – and finally I can bid my hefty windows installation goodbye. Why is that a good thing?

A) Yes, I do not like Microsoft, and I do not like their stance on DRM and privacy AT ALL
B) I have a dual-boot machine ANYWAY, since I do all my RubyOnRails development in Ubuntu, its just too much of a pain to do it in Windows.

So I can get rid of the dual boot, switch to a better format than NTFS for my file storage, and by happy!

Here’s a beautiful screenshot of uTorrent running from Ubuntu:

End of the Free World?

I was slightly shocked to, on this bright Christmas morning, find this article on Reddit.com:

Almost 70 years after George Orwell created the all-seeing dictator Big Brother in the novel “1984,” Britons are being watched as never before. About 4.2 million spy cameras film each citizen 300 times a day, and police have built the world’s largest DNA database. Prime Minister Tony Blair said all Britons should carry biometric identification cards to help fight the war on terror.

Blair said citizens have to sacrifice some freedoms to fight terrorism, illegal immigration and identity fraud.

“We have a modern world that we are living in, with new and different types of crime,” Blair said Nov. 6 at a press conference in London. “If we don’t use technology in order to combat it, then we won’t be fighting crime effectively.”

End of the Free World, huh? Indeed it seems like it! There’s no “My Privacy” on Britain’s Camera System! There’s a drastic difference between information you choose to make public (Facebook, Myspace, Flickr, etc etc) and forcible control by the Government!

Read the article at Bloomberg

Tis the season to be jolly, fa la la la la *whack whack whack*

Ah, it’s the season for Christmas lights, shopping for presents, sitting around the fireplace sipping hot chocolate (hmmm those with the little marshmallows on top) and listening to the family telling Christmas stories. In corporate America, i’m sure its the season to make that revenue target as well, and I find my inbox overflowing with specials, discounts, rebates, offers and just about every other way to entice me to start swiping that credit card (and I *just* managed to get my bank balance look pretty nice…)

My response to this is, well…. I’m becoming afraid to leave the house lest some Santa attack me with coupons… Christmas becomes something like this way too quickly:

Actually, that looks pretty fun, but Santa is fast becoming (at least in my mind) the image of helplessly executing your bank balance. Now, this would still be okay (I really do enjoy giving presents to the loved ones around me) but then guilt kicks in. Its *horrible*! You start feeling guilty about spending all this money that you really shouldn’t, and then the guilt kicks in about not giving presents to those around you. The hand-made Christmas card and accompanying poem is a great idea, but who these days have time to sit down and be creative when the shops are waiting! Hurry! Go! Spend! Buy! Share the LOVE! You wouldn’t dare to not show your appreciation for that special someone during this season of debt and debauchery!?

Oy, okay, let me get to West Valley mall to find something for girlfriend!

What I find most appalling about this whole turn of events, is the maiming that it does to the honest feelings Christmas holidays induce. I think all of us do want to really show some love to those around us, but the commercialization of Christmas drowns out any concept of how to do this other than going out and getting out some Greenbacks! What do to?

I think I have a suggestion…

Let’s do the Time Warp again!
Its just a jump to the left
And then a step to the right
put your hands on your hips
and hold your knees in tight
now do the pelvic thrust
’til it drives you insane!
Let’s do the Time Warp agaaaaaaaain!

Time for another screening of everyone’s favorite double-feature science-fiction show! The Rocky Horror Picture Show!

Tag Clouds Clouding your view?

Tag Clouds are pretty sweet and they are the hype in the AJAX generation, but too much of a good thing ends up doing nothing… I wasn’t sure what to make of zaads.com when I logged on… This is a serious overuse of this design pattern:

Perceptions of America and Notions of its fall

I tend to shy away from political discussions in the online world, but after reading Orson Scott Card’s “How our civilization can fall” where he examines the Roman and Greek empires in relation to ours, I thought I’d at least post a bit of his article, since it definitely made me stop and reconsider some of my mixed feelings towards the US of A…

As with Rome, the American military has been the wall behind which a system of safe trade has allowed an extraordinary degree of specialization and therefore mutually sustained prosperity.

America has not been imperial — we have not been stripping other countries. On the contrary, those nations that were able to sustain the internal peace necessary for production, and that have joined the economy presided over by America, have all been able to join in the prosperity as equals.

We don’t tax them — quite the opposite. We have taxed ourselves to pay for the military protection that maintained the safety and perception of safety that allowed the European community and Japan to flourish. Their welfare economies are only possible because they did not have to pay for their own defense at anything like the levels we have paid.

People talk about America’s enormous defense budget as if it were a menace to the world. But our enormous defense budget has allowed Japan and Europe — and Taiwan and South Korea — to thrive without having to invest much of their gross domestic product in defense.

The Beryl Project – Productivity erasor or taking Linux desktops to the next level?

After my buddy Rohit installed Beryl as his desktop manager on Ubuntu and amazed me with the whole rotating cube effect, I had to try it out for myself.

According to Beryl’s website, “Beryl is an OpenGL accelerated desktop that seeks to provide a free, open source desktop experience to the community that reflects the wishes of the users.” I’ve adjusted to the fairly staightforward no-nonsense GNOME desktop that comes with Ubuntu, and I tend to keep eye-candy to an absolute minimum to keep performance up (my lappy only has one of the Intel integrated graphics cards that aren’t exactly known for their amazing 3D performance) and I have yet to see any eye-candy more than good syntax highlighting that helps you write good code. In a nutshell, I’ve dismissed randomly animated 3D rain effects on my Firefox window as blasphemy to the programmer’s religion. Until now, that is…

Installation
Beryl was smooth to install. I followed their Wiki instruction to add the packages to my source list, and apt-getted it without any issues. Beryl-manager launched with not problems and my screen became a semi-translucent wobbly cube of goodness. hmm…

First Impressions
Upon laucnhing beryl, a water-like spash screen distracts your attention while Bery pops up into your taskbar and takes control of your desktop. Your windows gets stylish semi-translucent headings and the fonts change. Barely-noticeable shadows appear and your workspace seems to take on a partly organic partly sci-fi life of its own. Flipping between workspaces rotates a 3D cube, and minimizing or maximizing echoes the Mac OSX magic lamp effect. Accidentally dragging your mouse to the top corner of your screen pops open a scaled view of all your running programs, very much in the Mac taste.

Compared with Windows, Beryl is FAST. I used to have lags doing fade-in and fade-out on my menus in Windows, and here you get to spin between workspaces using a 3D cube without breaking a sweat. I’m impressed! The default skin was a bit bland to my liking, but they claim Beryl as a user-customizable desktop for good reason. I quickly settled on a nice black skin, somehow very much like the new Vista (yet running one a computer that Vista would probably barf all over).

Customization
I’m all for productivity, though, and when my windows takes 2 seconds to minimize, I get agitate… Beryl features a fairly straightforward configuration dialog, allowing you to enable and customize everything and anything:

Flipping through the effects and settings is slightly overwhelming at first due to the sheer amount of settings and features, but once you get the hang of their layout (which takes about 5 minutes, no sweat), changing speeds, effect types, timing and keyboard and mouse shortcuts (which are absolutely key to using Beryl) are easy as eating that home-made pie your mom just pulled out of the oven.

Beryl really relies on the user knowing a couple of basic keyboard shortcuts and mouse manipulations. Its no big deal, but you find yourself using the Windows button a lot (which they call the “Super” key ?!?!), which tends to never happen under linux. Flipping between workspaces, changing window translucency, switching between active programs or expanding your view to see all active programs and zooming in on those youtube videos we’re all addicted to becomes second-nature.

Productivity increase or time waster?
I was flipping out about how Linux is now making OS X look like good ol Windows 95 when my friend Gleb on AIM pointed out that i’m spending half my time flipping between windows instead of actually coding, and “How is that an improvement?!”. Now, of course, I was forced to fiercely defend my position here, but I do ask myself “Great, my windows are plotted as a rotating cube with cool translucency… is that a good thing?” And after a 24 hour test drive so far, I have a two-fold answer.

Happy people are creative people…productive, sure, but creative especially. Which, in my mind, explains some of the Mac success. People love their macs, sometimes completely irrationally. They can’t wait to pounce on that baby and churn out another sweet Web 2.0 interface. And a part of that is definitely the user experience that Macs give. Subtle icing on the visual cake keeps everyone happy, and that is exactly what Beryl bring to Linux, with the added sweetness of gobs of user control. Sure, I do find myself making taking that extra couple of milliseconds to appreciate the smoothly fading and flying dialog box when i’m saving my project, but Beryl, like OS X, manages to do it in an appeasing, fast manner than puts a smile on my face instead of an impatient hammering on the keyboard (ya, i’m taking about you Windows). So, I’m saying, give me a beautiful desktop and i’ll write you beautiful code.

Measurable timing changes using keyboard shortcuts between desktops and programs are the technical reason for Beryl’s productivity increases. Sure, the rotating 3D cube will never take less time than just switching to the next damn workspace, but since Beryl puts that right under my fingers with a keyboard shortcut makes me flip through workspaces no problem (okok sure GNOME could do this too, i know, but without the 0.2 second rotation love honey!). The program switcher is gobs better than the standards Alt-Tab GNOME one, and i find myself using the expand feauture all the time. No longer and I flipping through documentation, browsers, IDEs and my music player to find where the API spec disappeared to. I hit F8, and a couple of keystrokes later i’m looking at it. Not only did the process of finding that window increase significantly, but I had the fun experience of a well-designed layout of all my windows to please my eye.

So, in conclusion, Beryl is definitely a tool that, even by default, can improve your experience both through pure eye-candy and ease of the very basic tasks of desktop usage. With a little bit of configuration, Beryl becomes the ultimate combination of pleasure and productivity – What more can you ask for? Go, add those sources!