Archive for April, 2008

Boot Windows or Linux for a USB thumb drive

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

This post is going to be kind of quick but I just saw an article that Windows lovers might love. There’s a program called Bart PE that lets you make a bootable Windows CD. The article is at Tech Republic (a great site for tech info and howtos in many different areas).

Just as a disclaimer: I don’t suggest using Windows on a Boot CD or USB thumb drive. I suggest using a good Linux distro like Slax or even an Ubuntu disk. They add more features on a CD or thumb drive and they keep updating them often.

Let the Cisco guy love routing

Monday, April 28th, 2008

I seem to collect a lot of information on different computer related topics. I live to go to my local Borders or Barnes & Noble book store to look at books and of course there’s one I want to buy every time. My bookshelves can attest to this fact. Today I had an epiphany. I want to let some people do what they know best. I have a lot of newsfeeds, newsletters, magazines, and email subscriptions that I just don’t need. Now granted they’re all free (even the magazines but I’ll talk about how to do that another day).

I was looking through a folder that I have certain email routed to. I realized that the folder had a lot of Cisco tips and tricks for their routers. In cleaning out my email folders I realized that these emails were building up and had become a huge portion of this folder because I just never tended to delete them since I never get around to reading them. My thought process is like a pack rat: “One day I’ll need these.” Stop that! Get rid of this stuff. I don’t need to know everything about a Cisco router. I might possibly need to configure one once every two years. I deleted them all. Even though I took a lot of training on Cisco routers years ago if this situation arises I’m letting some other guy handle that. Unburden your mind seeing all the crap in your inbox.

Open design and the real world

Friday, April 25th, 2008

In a previous post about “Communist design” I got a weird thought about taking the opposite into consideration but in the real world. Open source vehicles, buildings, spaceships, boats, etc. People combining their thoughts for a better solutions. I found that these ideas already exist.

jsfpic.JPGMy first I’d already heard of was the Joint Strike Fighter aka JSF F-35 jet fighter. This jet fighter is a collaboration of a couple companies and countries. It’s actually a working plane that will be the next major fighter. It has stealth, virtical lift off, supersonic speed, massive firepower, and advanced computer and camera integration. In a word… COOL.

The next on our list… The OScar. Right now this car is strictly conceptual. The concept started in 1999opencar.jpg but became fully open to everyone in 2006. According to an article posted at Autoblog the Open source car actually debuted last March (2007) with it’s first concept vehicle. Looks pretty sleek and not totally the spec that is posted on the OScar website but there’s a lot of room to really make this something that could change the world.

Watching a video on TED I also was very intrigued by the open source textbook publishing company. Imagine, books that evolve quickly and are cheaper because the book can be printed and bound on demand. Our kids wouldn’t be left behind with old information because new books are in print, etc. This really would have helped out when Pluto was ruled out as real planet.

How about a music synthesizer? this video is from South by Southwest in 2006. A lady namd Limor Fried talks about her open source synthesizer and open source in the real world.

Why not collaborate on food? Yes it’s true. There is an open source cookbook and open source beer project.

So, there you have it. Those are some of the great real world applications for open source. I’m sure there are more and I would be very happy to know about them. If you are technically minded though, I also love to mention cool sites like: Makezine, Hack a Day, and Hackszine. It’s pretty much open source to me because the comments allow you to combine your ideas for a better final project.

We need an enemy

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

Let me start by admitting that I’ve been taking in a lot of the Military channel lately. I’ve mostly been watching the history channel like documentaries on the wars of the past. Mixed with my Discovery channel viewing I got a couple of ideas.

I’ve talked to my kids and have talked about it many times but we need an enemy that the whole world is against. That’s when people come together for a common goal. During WWII the United States used its automotive industry to outproduce tanks and planes at a rate of almost 10 to 1 of Germany (and a couple other countries combined). At the same time peaks in technology development start due to the needs of weapons and surveillence. After each war technology development falls off. Ghengis Khan absorbed civilizations and turned their aim at the next target. The newly incorporated believe were treated good and soon offered their technology to his war efforts.

If we felt like aliens from outer space were going to attack in a given amount of time then we’d all get together and become prepared as a planet. People need to have a motivation and not just a desire for excess. Right now sea and space exploration seem to be excess. I guess nobody really realizes that their short on resources till they’re desperate. I need to start filling up my tank before I get on “E” too. Non-metaphorically speaking, I need to find where I can help here. Tell me if you have any ideas.

Any screws left?

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

Right now I’m so proud of myself because the Dell Laptop that I am working on right now has been my beast of burden for the last month. I believed the monitor was going out on it and sometimes it would blink out. Fearing paying for a new screen and someone to put it in would more than likely just make me buy a new laptop I was reluctant to deal with the problem. The worst part is that I broke my leg about a month ago so I’ve been stuck on a couch at night and using VNC to reach into my laptop. What’s worse is it was a Mac laptop that I really didn’t like. I HATE the one button mouse! I use dual button mice on Mac desktops… but I digress. So I had to break down and find a solution.

I did my research online and found out that the problem wasn’t the screen. I found that the number one problem with laptops is that the screen’s power inverter will go bad. Once it goes bad people give up on the laptop and get rid of it. A bad power inverter is usually evident because the screen is barely visible and looks dead but the problem is there’s no backlight. This is the inverter’s job.

With a lot of searching, I found an inverter for $20 online. I risked it and went back to my inner electrical engineer. I took apart my laptop found the piece and replaced it. Waaaallllllaaaah! It worked! It reminded me of taking TV’s and radios apart to fix them with my dad when I was a kid. I used to fix anything electrical by taking it apart but I don’t do that or raise the hood of my car anymore. I’m back in the game again.

Oh, and for those who used to do this with their dad too… Just like him I did have one tiny screw left over but everything works. This time though it wasn’t my fault. I found the extra screw left inside my laptop obviously during the assembly at Dell. Their dad was different than mine because they left extra screws inside.

Communist design

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

I was recently watching TV and there was a Mac vs. PC commercial on. The commercial was a therapy session where the therapist was telling PC that it “Wasn’t his fault.” Mac explained that due to the fact the Windows tries to make itself available  to so many types of hardware and Mac only makes it’s computers from specific hardware that Mac approves that Windows can’t help but have problems. This has long been Mac’s policy but it really made me think about that concept that I want to explore a little bit more. I call it “Communist design.”

I refer to it as communist design because it reminds me of the Russian automobile industry of the 80’s.  During the cold war communist Russia only allowed their people certain choices. The government decided what it thought you needed and gave you choices in colors of basically black or white. Now, granted, if Apple was the government of cold war Russia then they would still have less choices but have been really stylish ones.

The good part about this is that Apple really knows their hardware like the back of their hand before they build anything on that platform. It allows them to integrate all the parts together well without worry of a quirk (for the most part). This is a good idea in one way of thinking but has its flaws to me. First, what I like about it is that Apple has it’s people focused in order to knock out a problem.

The problem with this concept is that part that troubles me the most. Totalitarian decision making. Steve Jobs need only have a beef with one company, say Nvidia, and decide not to use any of their cards. This really stops the user from having all the choices he wants. This is one of the problems with Linux on the desktop but only for a short while as the drivers are soon developed as the product becomes more mature. This also hurts Apple for the discerning user due to the fact that Macs are always more expensive than their counterparts.

Apple I’ve got your solution so give me the credit (and a check). Put more eyes on the problem because they’d love to help. The way you do this is by contributing to the BSD and Linux effort to your benefit (as well as theirs). Stick to the design that makes you so famous. People love the look and feel of a Mac. However, throw your hardware guys into the open source driver development arena. They get and give with their code. This allows Macs to be able to take on more devices internally and Unix variants to do the same. Why do this? Even if Mac doesn’t like Linux their core is developed by using the Mach kernel that comes from BSD (Linux’s cousin). Helping your cousin ends up helping you at the same time it hurts your enemy (Windows).

Addicted to IM

Friday, April 18th, 2008

As an agent of change I continually invite you to look at what you’re doing everyday and say, “Maybe there a better and cheaper way.” I continually look at my everyday processes and think that. Well, today I’m going to address my changes with concern to my addiction to instant messaging.

pidgin.jpgtrillianlogo.jpg  When it comes to me sitting down doing mindless work I never want to be alone. Therefore, I sit down at a computer and fire up an instant messenger client. Here’s where I’m inconsistent. If I’m at a Linux machine I use Pidgin (it’s time to stop saying it but… “formerly called Gaim”). On a Windows machine I use Trillian. On a Mac I use Adium. Also, even though it’s known mostly for internet telephony I use Skype for those very few people that stay on Skype at work. Just for good measure I’ve added a new one to the flock. If I’m at a computer that isn’t mine I use Meebo.com to log into all my accounts.

I’ve been using Trillian for the longest and I’m finally going to have to end my many years with the program. It’s not that it did anything bad but it didn’t do anything really good. Pidgin however is open source and it’s great. It works on Windows and Linux/Unix/BSD (Amiga too reportedly). Since it is open source I’m looking forward to a OS X port soon but for now on that front I have to stick to Adium.

Here’s where the better comes in. Pidgin seems to be able to connect to every protocol imaginable. It does: AIM, Yahoo, MSN, Google Talk, Jabber, ICQ, Groupwise and believe it or not even Skype (with an easy to install plugin). Think that’s it? No. That’s only half the list that I know of. That’s the cool part of it.

Get addicted to Instant messaging again at home and in the office. Trust me, it’s a lot more productive than talking to people on the phone too. You can work and still keep in contact with all your friends. Let me warn you though, if you decide to use it from work you may decide to use the built in encryption or Off the record plugin (which also does make one for Trillian).

The Gimp developers are listening

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

In a post from a couple weeks ago I posted an article about the Photoshop replacement program Gimp. Well, I just saw this link about the new features of the Gimp. They fix a lot of the problems that I said may be small weaknesses. Check out the article here.

Is privacy gone in Australia? Who’s next?

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

In a recent article on Ars Technica the government of Australia was trying to run a bill through it’s Parliament to allow for the monitoring of business’ email and telecommunications transactions. The bill would amend it’s Telecommunications act and make it legal for the government to fill in the gap that companies IT departments leave by not tracking the problems themselves. In the United States and in Australia, it is generally accepted practice for companies to monitor all incoming and outgoing traffic including email. You’re using their computers so they want to make sure there is no corporate espionage or possible harassment suits in their future. In Australia, they feel that a telecommunications (especially email or botnet) breach is how cyber-terrorists are going to take down the country.

With that said, let me just say, “That’s a load of crap.”  As a consultant and past IT director I know from experience when companies really care about monitoring. I had a CEO once tell me, “I know not to mess with you [the IT guy]. I’m sure you know where all the bones are buried.” Now I must admit. There is a certain amount of power that can be misused being the IT guy. I could definitely look into what everyone is doing and have the company’s blessing IF I find something juicy that they need to stick it to the person of choice that is doing some sort of offense. According to almost every company’s IT policy I would be required to report the offense to Human Resources, corporate level staff, or sometimes the board of directors. That’s why I was never really a big fan of spying on people in this way. You’d start off looking for the bad guy and next you’d find yourself reading IM’s between two coworkers. Next thing you know you’re looking at them funny at lunch and noticing them go into the janitor’s closet or leaving at the same time.

This is the fundamental problem with monitoring. Drawing the line when you’ve been given the power. Even though I don’t believe the political rhetoric that they are trying to sell for a second even if it was true it would open the flood gates for irresponsibility. Why would the government need to protect companies from treats they didn’t see coming. If they were going to do that then they would also need to have advisors on the boards of some companies to save them from collapse from their own stupid decisions. Could you imagine if there was an advisor on the board of the movie industry when George Lucas was told he could keep the rights to Star Wars when he was making it? It’s one of the biggest business mistakes in history seeing as how the movie industry is going down but George Lucas is a billionaire from brand marketing Star Wars. Wouldn’t a company’s demise be important? Yes, but that’s not why they are in it.

In a recent movie called “The Bank Job” a true story is told about a person holding incriminating photos of British royalty and using them as leverage against arrest. The British government in turn hires some thugs to rob a bank’s safe deposit boxes to get the paperwork. This was in 1971 so you know it’s going on all over the world today. Australia’s law would just make it legal for the government to cut out the middle man and rob the bank themselves. If it turns out to work for them maybe your government (whatever country you’re in) will be next.

Armed only with words

Friday, April 11th, 2008

My wife and I were talking a couple months ago and a theme started to emerge. We were going back and forth with situations that we’ve successfully navigated through just by thinking and talking. It shows how long I’ve been developing this idea because I first started this post three months ago but left it alone. My wife just recently wrote a great post on it called, “The Doctor Who in me.” This really explains what we love so much about the British TV series being shown on Scifi-channel. It is great to have weapons of mass destruction like the military, Kung Fu skills like Bruce Lee, or even gadgets like Batman but knowledge and mastery of speech is an art not to be underestimated.

As a kid I didn’t get into any fights but I was never considered a wimp or a nerd. I had mastered a skill that would prove helpful in many situations. There was a certain deterrence to messing with me because of the way I could make you feel. I was the kid that was very well liked and good at sports but with that comes what we call “haters.” Haters are the people that don’t like you because they are jealous of other people thinking highly of you. I didn’t have the pretty girl but I was a man of many talents. I was the troubadour that sat on a classroom step playing guitar, loved to play basketball or any other sport, was tops in my class in grades, and was quick to say something that would make you laugh. However, there were those times when I had to show someone my other side. (more…)