Posts Tagged linux

Corsair Vengeance K90 – First Impression

I just received my new Corsair Vengeance K90 keyboard. It was a Christmas present from my sister. She bought my wife and I both one. Of course, she let me pick them out. I'm using mine to type this post and I can say that I'm pleasantly surprised by the board. I'm experiencing some weird behavior from it in Linux, but it really is designed for Windows and gaming.

The keyboard has the strangest feel to it that I've ever experienced. The top of the keys have a rubber coating which doesn't feel anything like the hard plastic of most keyboards. The linear Cherry MX Red switches don't have the tactile feedback or click that one would find on Cherry MX Blue switches. I'm coming from a buckling spring keyboard so the keyboard is very different from it.

I feel that the action on the keyboard is much faster than the buckling spring design, however. Once I get used to it, I'm sure I'll be able to type faster. I hammer on keys pretty hard typically and that went along well with the buckling springs. They require a lot more force to depress than these Cherry MX Reds. I will need to retrain myself on typing with this keyboard. I shouldn't bottom out as much as I presently do. However one of the bad things about the Cherry MX Reds is that they don't have the tactile bump that lets you know that the key is engaged. However, it takes very little actuation of the key to engage it. So, you can barely touch the keys and they will register.

On Linux, you lose a few of the features that the keyboard comes with, from what I can tell. I'm not sure there's a way to get the macros to work with it. Also, the caps lock and num lock indicators don't seem to work correctly in Linux. I may just need to reboot, as I plugged the keyboard in and started using it. I'll revise this post if that fixes the problem.

»crosslinked«

, , ,

1 Comment

What’s Killing Linux and Software Freedom?

I know many will say "we knew that already" when they read what I'm about to write, but I just came to this realization today. I was reading a blog title "I miss using Linux". The author was describing some of the reasons he can't avoid using Windows.

There are many good reasons like the ones he offers. Some people want to game, but game companies just don't make games for Linux because it isn't popular enough. Others need certain programs that are only available for Windows. Whatever the reasons, it's not going to be the "year of the Linux Desktop" any time soon.

One part that really stood out to me about the post was the reiteration that Photoshop was a main reason for not using Windows. I would actually go so far as to say that the entire creative suite is a major reason more people don't switch to Linux completely.

Sure, one could possibly run it in a VM but that's not a good solution. If you need a VM of Windows, why not just run Windows, right? That's the correct reasoning if you ask me, and I'm a Linux advocate. The problem could be that more people are procrastinating truthfully. They simply don't want to switch completely or don't feel comfortable enough in Linux to use it full time. I don't think this is the prime reason, but for some it could be a factor.

Adobe is the problem, at least in my mind. Adobe is the last non-open company. Microsoft office uses an open document format finally. There is a lot of compatibility with Open Office. Most other programs have decent open source alternatives. Even Photoshop has a decent open source alternative in the Gimp, but some people don't think it is enough. Adobe has a lock on a lot of the media on the web right now with Flash, even though there are better alternatives to using Flash, most sites use it.

Adobe is holding back Linux. Rather, our dependency on Adobe products is holding back Linux tremendously. There would be a lot more people to adopt Linux if the Creative Suite was available in it. There would be a lot of people adopt Linux is Flash was no longer the defacto standard for media on the web.

Apple has the right idea by not including Flash support on the iPhone. This will help push us away from the closed-standard. I'm for this change.

, ,

No Comments

Adobe Cancels 64bit Linux Flash beta

For many years, the internet has been plagued by a dependency on the proprietary software known as Adobe Flash. There are plenty of open alternatives that could be used, but from the beginnings of the internet, ShockWave and Flash have been used by many websites.

Flash has been used for everything from buttons and banners to games and complete user interfaces. It's a very powerful tool, but it is outdated and is maintained exclusively by Adobe. While the Flash player browser plugin is completely free, the tools to create Flash content are not. There in lies the trouble. Being closed source, Flash depends on Adobe development. There are many people who use 64-bit Linux as their primary OS. Adobe has canceled development on the 64-bit version of there Flash plugin. This means that simple things like Youtube videos won't work on 64bit Linux.

This is why proprietary formats are bad. Hopefully things will improve as more and more webmasters turn to HTML5, CSS3, and Javascript for their Dynamic content needs.

, , , ,

No Comments

Is Debian Still Relevant

I've been dual booting or running Linux full time now since around 1996. During the first few years, I used mostly Red Hat based distributions. I used Mandrake/Mandriva, SuSE, Red Hat, and Fedora to name a few. When I switched over to Debian, my eyes were truly open to what a distribution could be. I'm not even sure what made me switch to Debian. If I had to guess, it was during my distro whoring days when I just switched distros at random, trying each one out for at least a few days.

Needless to say, Debian-based distros have been my staple ever since. I've tried others. I'm a big fan of ArchLinux, for example, but I've always had a Debian-based distro running on a machine somewhere.

A few years ago I started using Ubuntu, which is probably the most widely used distribution of Linux there is. Ubuntu uses as its base Debian testing/unstable, and build upon it, creating a great user experience.

Ubuntu has become so popular that there are now many distributions of Linux based on Ubuntu. That makes Debian the grandfather distribution of all of these. Probably may favorite Ubuntu-based distro is Mint. It adds to the base Ubuntu system and promises a better out-of-the-box media experience, along with a better theme. Ubuntu needs better designers in my opinion.

With all of these Debian-based distros and distributions based on Debian-based distros, is there still a need for Debian itself?

Here recently, I decided to replace my Mint installation with the newest Ubuntu release (10.4). I should mention that I'm installing the 64-bit version of all OSs mentioned. This is so I can take advantage of the RAM I have installed on my main system. I should also mention that there is an issue with my nVidia card and the "nv" generic open source nVidia driver. This error causes many problems when I try to install most distros. The problem occurs when the distro recognizes my nVidia card and uses the nv driver. This usually causes the system to not boot. I was able to get around this by using the Ubuntu alternative install CD and using the curses-based installer. This installer is more like the default Debian installer and doesn't require X. I'm probably one of the few people who like this type of installer over the Live-CD installers. There are two main reasons that I prefer them.

  1. Curses-based installers are much faster. Waiting on a Live-CD to load can take time. There are advantages to Live-CDs but when I'm wanting to install an OS that I've pretty familiar with, curses-based installers are more efficient.
  2. Errors like the one I mentioned can make the OS much more difficult to get up and running. The installer mistakenly uses the wrong display driver. This mistake doesn't just cause an issue with X. It makes the entire system freeze for some reason.

So even though I used the alternative installer, I still ran into issues post-install. This required me to boot into recovery mode and install the proprietary nVidia drivers from the command line. Since one of Ubuntu's goals is to make Linux easier for the masses, this is very counter-intuitive. If a first time Linux user ran into this same issue, they would be turned off of Linux instantly.

So, after having other issues with Ubuntu that shouldn't be there, such as 64-bit Adobe Flash sucking completely on it (videos won't pause or let you use the slider to seek through them), I decided to try something else. I thought to myself, "Why not try Debian 64 bit?" I was in for a surprise.

Debian had none of the issues I ran into with Ubuntu. I even installed the desktop right away, and it came up without any errors. I still had to install my proprietary nVidia drivers, but for some reason Debian used X settings that didn't freeze the system. This is probably due to the fact that it doesn't use Compiz right out of the box. I believe that the issues I had in Ubuntu were due to Compiz being enabled by default. I like my eye candy just as much as the next guy, but a desktop that works out of the box is a great thing.

I've always like Debian as a server OS and I've used it many times as a desktop OS. I have to say, after evaluating the latest Ubuntu and Mint, Debian is still very relevant and could even give them a run for their money as a desktop OS. Sure they have some added features that make them a bit easier for a new user, if the user doesn't run into the issues I had, but for many of us, Debian is actually easier to use. I've been using Ubuntu so long, letting it take care of things like my networking and automatically starting Empathy when I login, I have forgotten just how simplistic Debian can be. It does what I want, when I want it, with little fuss.

I'll be using Debian this year. I may try out the next Ubuntu release in October. I'll probably try a few other distros as well, but Debian doesn't seem to be going away from my computer any time soon. The politics inside the Debian camp may be rough, but the results are spectacular.

, , , ,

No Comments

Another look at Google Chrome

I've never published a "first look at Google Chrome", but I have been excited about it before. By Google Chrome, I'm referring to Google's webkit-based browser, not the Chrome OS.

When it was announced that Google was releasing it's own browser, I wasn't extremely excited. Then once it was available, I downloaded it to see how well it performed. I was amazed. The javascript executing was blazing fast. I'd never seen a web application respond so well. So, I suddenly became very excited about it and wanted to adopt it as my main browser.

This was soon shot down by the fact that I rely too heavily on certain extensions in Firefox, namely Gmail Notifier, Firebug, ForecastFox, and Adblock Plus. So, I had to keep using Firefox and hoped that one day Firefox would be able to handle javascript as good as Chrome.

Well the opposite has happened. Chrome now has extensions. I'm a little worried that it will be bloated and start performing slowly like Firefox. Firefox was once a lean mean browser. Now it is a bloated mess. It has started crashing without warming in Windows 7. I was once a Firefox advocate and I still like the browser, but it has been going downhill for the past year or two. Let's hope that Chrome doesn't follow down this path.

Firefox shouldn't even be that bloated. Sure, the extensions probably add to memory usage and Firefox reserves memory if it's available, but should a browser really be using half a gig of RAM? Seriously?

Chrome doesn't use less memory but it sure responds better. Adding extensions doesn't seem to lower performance either. I've added a GMail notifier, Google Wave Notifier, Forecastfox weather, Firebug Lite, and a couple other extensions and there is no noticeable change what-so-ever.

Now that these extensions are available for Chrome, I think it's time for me to take the next step. Chrome will be my main browser as soon as the extensions are available for the Mac and Linux versions. It's already going to be my main browser in Windows.

So, if you took a look at Chrome when it first came out, this may be a good time to look at it again. There are a few added features that may change your mind about it as well.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

, , , , , , ,

No Comments

Free Software Everyone Should Know About

Most computer users aren't "savvy". They know how to turn the computer on, how to open up "the internet", and maybe how to write an email. To some, computers are scary devices. To others, computers are something they use daily but couldn't fix on their own. To the non-savvy computer user, open source software is a foreign term. It's geek speak. It's mumbo jumbo. Whether one is a savvy user or a beginner, they should be aware of what open source software has to offer them.

In order to understand what open source software is, it is important to know a little about how computers work and why software is normally so expensive to begin with. So a little "Intro to computers" is in order.

Computers need software to operate. The main software on a computer is it's operating system. This software allows the user to interact with the hardware. When the user presses a mouse button, a signal is sent to the computer's hardware, the hardware asks the operating system what it's supposed to do with this signal. The operating system tells the hardware what to do next and then tells the other software on the computer what has happened. The other software then reacts to the event. The click event is registered and the process pretty much goes back in reverse. The software that handled the click event tells the operating system what happened. The operating system tells the hardware. Finally the user sees or hears the effect of their click of the button on the screen/speakers/both.

The operating system is very important. Most people use a form of Microsoft's Windows operating system. Other examples of operating systems include Apple's Mac OS X, Linux, and FreeBSD. Windows and OS X are considered proprietary or commercial software. OS X comes on Macs, and Windows comes on most PCs. However, neither are free. They are part of the price paid for the new computers.

So this leads us to our first examples of open source software. Linux and FreeBSD are open source software. Proprietary or commercial software is normally "closed source", meaning the source code is a secret that only the software company can look at. Windows is completely closed source. OS X is to an extent. Much of the software at the core of OS X is built from open source software. Windows has an arguably unfair share of the market because Microsoft positioned themselves to have their version of DOS included on most new computers back in the old days and that has carried over to Windows. Many people argue that Windows is easier and that is why it has such a huge market share. However, it's arguably easier for most people because of it's huge market share making it more familiar.

This market share allowed Microsoft to position itself in other software markets as well. For instance, today Microsoft's Office Suite controls a huge market share as well. This creates a circular problem in that everyone who wishes to open an Office document whether it be a spreadsheet, presentation, or memo, has to have Office installed on their computer. However, it can also be stated that Microsoft finally delivered a standard on all these products. Back in the day there were many word processors and if person A wrote a document in Word Perfect, it was difficult for person B to open the document in Word.

There is a better solution to the document standards though. The documents should be a standard, and that standard should be open. Meaning anyone who wants to write a word processor should adhere to the standard document type. It's the same concept that we use today for our web browsers. It is important that all web sites have standard coding that all browsers can read. Microsoft tried to set that standard as well, and to this day Internet Explorer is one of the least standards compliant browsers available. Microsoft knew that if they controlled the standard, then everyone would have to use their products.

Now that all of that is out of the way, lets look at some of this open source software. Open source software is, as its name implies, software who's source is open for public viewing. Anyone is free to view, edit, and redistribute the software with or without the modification. This also means that open source software tends to be free, and in most cases, can be downloaded for free. Here is a list of common alternatives. I will post links at the end of the article that will lead to the download page or home page for all these applications.

If one needs an office suite, why pay $100 to $400 for Microsoft Office when OpenOffice is free. OpenOffice has a word processor, database app, presentation app, and spreadsheet app. Granted, there are a few features that Microsoft has that OpenOffice doesn't, but most of those features wouldn't be used by the average user. If one finds that OpenOffice doesn't do the trick, then they can look into purchasing Microsoft's Office suite, but if it's not needed why waste the money.

For email, most people probably have a web-base mail account. However, for those that use Outlook or Outlook express, perhaps Mozilla's Thunderbird is a better alternative.

Window Media player and Apple's iTunes software are both free but they aren't open source. For music, SongBird is a great alternative. It has the look and feel of iTunes but doesn't force the iTunes music store down the user's throat. It also has many plugins/extensions that one can install with a click of the mouse. Such extensions include: automatic lyric display, automatic album art, artist bio, discography, etc. It also has many available themes.

Browsing the web is easy with Windows right out of the box. Internet Explorer is built-in. However there are a few things people don't realize about Internet Explorer. Ever notice how everyone's home page is set to MSN? Microsoft rakes in millions just from the advertising on that site. It's a simple tweak that most people don't realize. Also, what about the user's browsing habits. That's some very powerful information to have. With it they could pinpoint advertise and make even more money, or sell the info to others. The point is, Internet Explorer is all about invading your privacy. This coupled with the fact that it's probably the least secure browsers one can use, and it stands to reason that we should all be using something else. Thankfully there are plenty of alternatives to Internet Explorer. Try out Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera, or Flock. They are all very good choices to replace IE.

For photo editing needs, The Gimp makes a pretty good Photoshop replacement. It can do many of the same things. Granted, it's nowhere near as robust as Photoshop, it will surprise many of the most skilled "shoppers" out there.

For chatting with friends, an IM application is usually installed. These include Yahoo, MSN, AIM, Google Talk, and MySpace IM. Well all of those could be replaced with a single program called Pidgin. Pidgin is a great instant messenger application and uses very little system resources compared to any one of these.

Finally, after replacing all of the core software titles on a system, why not replace the operating system itself. Many people have switched to Linux and are happy. Linux is a monster as a server OS and it's actually a very good desktop OS as well. The most popular (at least for desktops) Linux distribution available today is Ubuntu. It is one of the easier distributions. There is also a huge community available to help with any problems that may arise.

In conclusion, it is quite possible to legally use a computer without paying a single penny for any of the software installed on it. Not only is this software free, but it's also very robust and can fill even the most demanding user's needs. There's always a chance that open source isn't a good choice for some users, but most will find it very useful.

Here is a complete list of the software mentioned in this article and links to learn more about or download the software.

Linux:
General Information about Linux
Ubuntu Linux
Debian Linux
Fedora Linux
Suse Linux
Arch Linux
DistroWatch - A list of all popular Linux distributions

FreeBSD and other free operating systems other than Linux:
FreeBSD Project Site
OpenBSD
NetBSD

OpenOffice:
http://openoffice.org

Thunderbird:
http://www.mozillamessaging.com/en-US/thunderbird/

SongBird:
http://getsongbird.com/

VLC:
Video Lan Media player
Firefox:
http://mozilla.com

Google Chrome:
http://www.google.com/chrome

Opera:
http://www.opera.com/

Flock:
http://flock.com/

The Gimp:
http://www.gimp.org/

Pidgin:
http://pidgin.im/

Other helpful links:
Comprehensive list of Open Source/Free software
GNU Project
The Free Software Foundation
Sourceforge - search for open source software.

, ,

No Comments