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Friday, March 30, 2007
  Whispers About Stealth Startup Vutool
Whispers About Stealth Startup Vutool - Check out this article, this sounds like something that I've sort of dreamed and talked about for quite some time... This start-up is basically greating a Google Earth, but from street level, capturing high-resolution images of street-level... There's talk that they've been acquired by Google and that Google plan to integrate this with Google Earth. Given how Google typically work, they'd open-up the API for this - so then imagine what the hackers will add into this, imagine playing hide-and-seek in a city, cops & robbers, etc... Doing virtual drive-throughs of a long-distance trip to a new city... Amazing stuff...
 
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
  Ubuntu! Installed! The whole story!
Given that I've got this brutal head cold, I canceled playing indoor soccer last night and stayed home and geeked it out.

Here's the story of how I installed Linux onto a spare PC, to co-exist with an existing Windows XP Professional installation.

1) It was about 6:00pm or so when I got started, and this is literally starting from zero, didn't even have the ISO or anything yet.

2) Decided it would be best to get the partitioning out of the way before attempting the installation, and I found there was a gparted ( the Gnome Partion Editor) LiveCD available, this means you download an ISO (disk image), burn it onto a Blank CD, and then your computer will boot up (start-up) off of this CD, taking you into an environment where you can adjust the partitions (sections) of your harddrive.

3) Started downloading ISO's for both Ubuntu 6.10 (Edgy Eft), and the Live CD for GParted - found these on MiniNova (BitTorrent search engine)

4) The gparted ISO was only about 50MB, so it finished relatively quickly, so I burned it and got started.

5) It booted-up just fine, answered a few prompts at the command-line (just defaults - on keyboard layout, etc), and was taken into a Linux GUI, launched the utility and was very easily able to reconfigure the existing hard drive partition, and create the new ones... To be honest, I haven't had to think about partitioning drives in AGES, but I had lots of experience doing stuff like this a decade or so ago, so it was no problem. The utility was graphical, able to drag the partitions to the desired sizes, etc.. So I actually ended up with 4 partitions:
1 - The original which was resized from 40GB down to ~ 13GB
2 - The next would be for Linux (formatted as type ext3) - 14GB
3 - Linux Swap partition (Linux holds it's swap file / virtual memory - on a seperate partition) - 1GB
4 - A FAT32 partition, accessible from both OS's - I can hold shared data here - 10GB
Once this was all defined, I clicked go, the whole process took about 15-20 minutes to complete, and worked like a charm! All good, ready to proceed w/ installing ubuntu!

6) I encountered a problem on this step - I was unable to get the Ubuntu 6.10 LiveCD to properly boot into the installation... It did get as far as the initial screen, but after choosing to install, it would go away for about 5-10 minutes and then start returning errors something like hdb: timeout waiting for DMA

I googled around, didn't find a real solution, but did understand that hdb means the 2nd drive on the primary IDE controller, so in this case, that meant my CD-ROM drive, so it was having trouble reading from the CD. Now I've used this CD-ROM drive to install XP, and quite a number of kids software on this machine, so I was skeptical that the drive was bad. I burned the disk at 24x, so perhaps that was the issue... I didn't really feel like burning another CD, and I had a few spare drives kicking around, so I swapped out the CD-ROM drive for a DVD Burner from another machine, that worked! (Problem #1)

7) The Ubuntu LiveCD basically boots you up into the Linux GUI environment, without touching your existing HD, it came up, looked fine, and you've got an 'Install' icon on the desktop.

8) I proceeded to run the install - first time though it strangely died when trying to set the Time Zone (of all things!), the dialog box somehow just got hung-up, and I wasn't able to click Next, Back or Cancel, I ended up having to launch a console and just started killing processes until I found the right one... (Problem #2)

9) After that strange issue, the install went ahead according to hoyle, it took quite a while, I'd say at least an hour (P3, 256MB of RAM, 40GB HD) to copy all of the files... I just chilled and watched an episode of the DiggNation... video podcast

10) After the install, I wasn't too suprised that Ubuntu hadn't detected the NIC in the machine, despite it being a 3COM Etherlink III (3C509), I had played around w/ a USB-key distribution of Linux on this machine before and had troubleshooted this problem before, so I knew that I could just modprobe 3c509 to get it to sort of detect/load the module, and then add 3c509 into the modules file to actually have it load on each boot-up... This has worked fine, so I'm networking :) (Problem #3)

11) Once this was all taken care of, I played around a bit, surfed the weeb, installed the google toolbar, which all works great, I've got my bookmarks & all, I'm a happy camper.

12) Ran the Ubuntu updates next, there were over 100, keep in mind that these aren't just OS updates, but updates for all of the software in the distribution, Open Office, etc... Kind of a cool concept! I kicked this off and then went to bed.

13) In the morning, the updates had finished, but, (Problem #4), the 'task bar' was gone... I had a single copy of Firefox running, but I couldn't launch anything else or even shutdown... I tried ctrl-alt-delete, no go... I hit the power button the PC - this got an effect, brought up a shutdown menu, but clicking Shutdown didn't do anything either, had to do a hard reset.

14) Since then, the PC is working fine, I have to admit, I'm not thrilled with the performance, I know it's just a P3 w/ 256MB of RAM, but despite that I haven't actually benchmarked it, I think XP actually runs faster than Linux on this machine... For example, it takes about 2 minutes for the system to boot to the login screen, and Firefox takes close to 20 seconds to open! I'm planning to post this to some Ubuntu forum, request some general performance tweaking suggestions...

15) So I'll be playing around with this system for a while, try to get it to do all the things I can do with my primary PC and then consider making the switch!
 
Monday, March 05, 2007
  Really Neat Desktop Interface Experiment

This is pretty neat... Not necessarily something that I could see myself using, but very cool to watch

 
Thursday, March 01, 2007
  Time to Try out Linux?
Why do I run Windows XP on my Home PC?

What do I really use my Home PC for?

Could I do all of that better, easier, faster, if I was running Linux instead?

Here's a list of the stuff I use my home PC for and point-by-point whether Linux can do it or not...

Work Stuff

- First off now that I'm only 20 minutes from the office, it's not as big of a deal for me to have a completely 100% functioning Work PC at home, but certainly it would be frustrating to have to go into the office because I couldn't do something at home... That said, here's what I need on my home PC in order to work.

E-Mail - Certainly I can't run Microsoft Outlook in Linux, but with Exchange 2003 Outlook Web Access, that would give me 90% of what I would need.
Office Applications - I've just taken a quick look at Google Docs & Spreadsheets, it's Google's attempt to provide Office Productivity applications over the web, (lookout Microsoft), anyhow, this could potentially be used to edit Word docs and Excel spreadsheets, there is also the Open Office suite of desktop apps... but how about products like Visio, MS Project, etc... I don't use these as often, but I think I'd have a tougher time finding a way to natively work with these formats on a Linux box.

VPN - I'm not sure about this one - I imagine it must be doable, but I've never done it before, establish an L2TP or PPTP connection from a Linux box... Will have to try it I guess...
Remote Desktop - In order to connect to servers to perform administration/troubleshooting, etc. I know this exists as I've used it with a quick test install of Ubuntu I did once.

Home Stuff
Internet Surfing - By far the activity most performed on my home PC - 'Surfing the Weeb', so Firefox would be the beast, with the Google Toolbar installed, I'm sure I'd be a very happy camper in the Linux world.

Downloading Music & Videos - I mostly use BitTorrent, and I'm sure there are perfectly good BitTorrent clients for Linux, but how about other P2P clients? I've no idea... I use Soulseek and LimeWire, I don't know if these are available, but as long as there is some other decent P2P apps I'm sure I'd be happy.

Burning CDs and DVDs - I use Nero currently, but as long as I can make Audio CD's and burn Data & ISO's to CD's and DVD's, I'm happy, will have to find an app to do this though.

Managing iPod - There isn't a native version of iTunes for Linux, somewhat suprising, you wouldn't think Apple would want to give someone a reason to keep Windows, but I suppose they'd prefer to to go Mac right? That being said, iTunes isn't actually required for an iPod, as long as there is an app that will download podcasts for me and synch w/ the iPod, I'm a happy camper.

Managing RAZr Mobile Phone - This isn't really a bigger, I could certainly install this app on another PC, but it's nice to be able to pull pictures off of the RAZr, load up wallpaper/ringtones/etc.

Listening to Music - Yes, Linux can play MP3's.

Acting as a Store for Media Files accessed by XBOX - XBOX can access the files via FTP, Linux can also run as an SMB Server, so no problem here.

Games - For the most part just Spider Solitaire, pathetic eh? I have an XBOX so who needs PC Games? Not an issue.

Image Viewing / Editing - I've done a bit of playing around with Windows Movie Maker which is pretty wild, perhaps there is something decent in this regard for Linux, but I would imagine it's not as polished... Photo Editing won't be an issue, there's some great Linux software - Gimp, etc, that can do that...

... Ok, so it appears that I'd probably have to spend in the neighborhood of 20-30 hours doing the install then researching and trying out a variety of the 'best of breed' tools for Linux in order to replace my Windows desktop, so perhaps the question would be then, Why? Why bother? Why go through all of the effort simply to CHANGE?

Pros - Most if not ALL of the software would be legitamate, free or Open Source software, no licenses to pay for, no software piracy.
- Learn more about Linux and Linux applications, good to know from a support perspective
- Supposedly better performance, better stability, better security, although I'm reasonably satisfied with the performance, stability and security of my existing setup (So, it's a Maybe?)

Cons - Time, a lot of time to do the install/config/tweaking
- Relearning a bunch of new apps that essentially just do what I can already do.

I think what I might do is to try out a new version of the UBUNTU installer which integrates with the Windows XP Bootloader, and then loads up a virtual disk image off the HD, so sort of a weird combination of a LiveCD, and VMWare in a way, anyhow, maybe I'll try this on one of my spare machines, and try to get some of the questions above answered before taking the plunge and migrating over my primary PC.... Comments?



 
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