Archive for the ‘Linux’ Category

A little world wide love with OpenSuse 12.2 (Day 3 of 20 days of SCALE)

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

For day 3 of my ode to all things open source in prep for my visit to the Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE) I’m going to give a little love to one of the big European distrobutions of Linux OpenSuse. I pronounce it “Suzy” but I’ve opensuse-geeko_button.pngheard many people pronounce it differently so I won’t be the one to tell you how to say it. Today we are also about to enter into the area of Linux where the freedom of choice can be a greater challenge than Hercules battling the many tentacled hydra or me decided what to eat for breakfast at a restaurant. You have so many choices on the look and feel of how you like your Linux to look. Then you have many choices on how you’re going to install software. These are the areas where the major differences are at play for me.

First, let me start off with saying I always have loved the look and feel of OpenSuse. I remember being blown away at a suse1.pngconvention a couple years back where it was the first distro really making this 3d rendered desktop called Compiz look so good that I took the CD home and went crazy. I had my kids computers using OpenSuse and my computers in my office using it. Well, except 2. My desktop and my laptop. As much as I love it it has one thing that I really don’t like. It installs its programs using a program called Yast (not the easiest install tool) and it uses a package type called RPM.

To explain this easily. Linux gets new software in a thing called packages. Go ahead and picture a package. Packages make it easy to install software because it knows everything it needs to make your software run. Without packages (like a distribution called Gentoo) you have to do what’s called compile each thing to make it work on your system. Compiling can take some time but the benefit is that you have it custom made for your system rather than buying it off the shelf. I’ve been using Linux since 1994 so I know a lot about compiling my software and I don’t like it. My problem with RPM is that it is off the shelf but imagine getting your package home only to find out you needed more stuff to make it fit what you already have. These are called dependencies and finding all of them for a software package that you didn’t get straight from OpenSuse or another company called RedHat you will be lost so for super techy people I advise staying clear but that’s just me. Not a battle I’ll fight. I stick with Debian based Linux’s on my desktop (like Ubuntu or Mint) because it’s just easier in my perspective but for the average user I still think OpenSuse is an extraordinary choice.

I tried out the new OpenSuse 12.2 on a liveCD which is a CD that you can start any computer up on and you’ll have a running Linux system without doing anything to your computer. New users should all do this to get a feel of the operating system and you can download it here. I used the KDE one because I love the way KDE looks and feels rather than Gnome but that’s also my taste. Both are really great to use (some of the other Window managers I just don’t like at all). I’ll get more into these things in later blog posts.

OpenSuse has added a very cool thing to it’s site though and that’s a build service. What this means is that on their site there is a page called Suse Studio where you can build a whole entire computer system using OpenSuse that can just run in something like Virtualbox which I explored in a previous post so give that a look.

So, if it’s not green… It’s just not OpenSuse. By the way, OpenSuse does have a pay version they call Suse Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) for companies to use that costs quite a bit but is to fit into the corporate environment with support costs included. OpenSuse is for your personal use (even though you can easily run a business off of it with a little know how). Have fun and join me for more tomorrow.

Come out to SCALE Feb. 22-24 and find me giving the SCALE tours (Phillip Banks) or follow me on Twitter and Facebook and I’ll give you a couple other ideas from what you do everyday.

VideoLan’s VLC media player (day 2 of 20 days of SCALE)

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

For day 2 of my prep for the Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE) I’m going to talk about my hands down favorite media playing program. VideoLan’s VLC. Just for clarity’s sake you will sometimes see VLC/VLS. VLS used to be a server component forVLC streaming that was separate from VLC but I guess the mere awesomeness of VLC was more important and so they put VLS stuff into VLC.

I can’t stress how much I love this program because I use it for everything video and audio related and so does everyone in my house. It’s one of the first programs I install on any computer we buy. This is also due to the fact that it’s multi-platform.  You know that’s a word that I can’t get enough of that means it will run on Linux, Mac, and Windows. So, seeing as how my house has all of these systems then you’ll find VLC on all of them. Let’s go into why you or anyone else would use it.

Around 10 years ago I changed totally over to VLC when I was still at work using a desktop that was running Windows and a laptop that was running Linux. I was using Winamp on the PC and couldn’t quite settle on one for Linux. VLC came into play and soon my kids were using it as well. I worked in the audio post production industry at the time and ended up having them use it because it could play every format there was. I also met the creator of the format Ogg and FLAC (Chris Montgomery) at a SCALE back then and started becoming a big user of those formats and of course guess who supported them.

The interface is extremely easy to use but it has a TON of power under the hood if you really play with the options. Using the HTTP interface you can have a computer connected to a TV or just on it’s on and control it from another computer or useful apps on your phone (Android apps I should say because this is something I haven’t tried on iOS phones and the iPad yet). That gives you an instant no holds barred media center and I’ve used this just bringing a laptop and a video cable to someone’s house.  Doing a video presentation? I keep a copy on the usb stick on my keys with a copy of the presentation. If there’s a computer connected to the projector then I can boot to a Linux from my stick and play it or there’s a portable VLC app that runs on Windows that I keep with me to play it. This has come in handy at a couple of prom parties that I did the video for.

The bevy of ways you can use this program has given me tons of examples to use as we vlc-20-gnome3-debian.jpgeven use it to replace iTunes for listening to music. Once at a Podcaster’s convention I spoke to a crowd about how I used it to stream video to a port where my kids and even my mom from her computer a couple miles away could view it from my computer.

Since the program can also capture video from standard devices like video capture cards and webcams I have used it to convert video I fed into a video capture card to convert a VHS into a DVD and AVI file for the saving precious moments or making a video blog (although still not the greatest method).

Come out to SCALE Feb. 22-24 and find me giving the SCALE tours (Phillip Banks) or follow me on Twitter and Facebook and I’ll give you a couple other ideas from what you do everyday.

Virtualbox desktop (day 1 of 20 days of SCALE)

Saturday, February 2nd, 2013

Ok, let me apologize ahead of time because this blog post will not be an in depth review of Oracle’s Virtualbox. I started this out as a daily review of what I think about different software or services pertaining to open source but I hit a small glitch with one of my favorite software packages. It seems that due to some tweaking of dual screen setups Ivbox_logo2_gradient.png have somehow found my Virtualbox setup a little broken. I will come back to this as I have to fix this in order to work with the distributions I know and love so well on a regular basis. So lets get started.

It would be a shame to try to explain virtualization in a short blog post but I will give you a quick run down on it that might make a seasoned professional cringe. Virtualization is software for making a fake computer inside of your own computer. So, how is this useful? As a computer guy I have to work with people using a lot of different types of operating systems (Windows, Mac, and a couple Linux, BSD’s and Unix’s). I have a very good memory but over the phone I sometimes can’t remember exactly what my client is looking at. My solution to this is having Virtualbox and about 10 different operating systems that fully work and now my computer is that operating system that they are looking at and I can work in it. Yes I even have one running Windows 98 because there has been the rare situation where a person actually still uses it (before I get them to use a Linux that is far more functional on older hardware).

How does this work for you? I have looked at quite a few articles on the different virtualization software the biggest competitor being  VMware. Now don’t get me wrong. I really like VMware too but a while back I went totally Virtualbox because VMware’s really good virtualization workstation costs a little money and I’m big on teaching companies and small businesses to do the most for next to nothing. To do that, I have to live in the software and I do (I’ll tell you more later on how this is useful for companies). Before that, let’s look really quickly at the setup.

Virtualbox has a major feature that I also look for in software as much as possible It’s cross platform. That means it can be installed on Linux, Mac, and Windows. Once installed you’ll be able to get a quick and easy walk through showing you how to setup a space on your hard drive for an operating system setup “virtual” hardware and next thing you know you’ll see a whole different computer in front of you. This virtual hardware could be whatever you dream of like multiple dvd drives blah blah blah. You’ll have to look into it further for that.

Now, all of that to say this: You can do way more for less! Here’s how. If you haven’t tm_win7.pngnoticed most people are not using half of the power that these modern computers have. I see more people with 4 gigs or RAM and they’re just running a web browser and maybe typing up some notes in a word processor. Do you know that you can also run a server in the background using Virtualbox to let all your office connect to? I have also had a situation where a person only had one computer. I ran a Virtualbox with a Linux server on it and that one computer is now a desktop and a server that everyone could connect to. This required a little secret sauce using a domain name, good router setup and Dyndns but it made a small business seem large.

Come out to SCALE Feb. 22-24 and find me giving the SCALE tours (Phillip Banks) or follow me on Twitter and Facebook and I’ll give you a couple other ideas from what you do everyday.

20 days of Open Source (SCALE Linux prep)

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

First there’s Christmas but my personal technology Hannukah is the Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE). This year is the 11th one and I’ve been apart of the planning of this since it started so my wife and kids are apart into it as well since my wife manned the registration desk while pregnant with my daughter who just turned 11 years old along with SCALE.  So, with that in mind I like to prepare every year so I know what I’m talking about with exhibitors when I lead a tour around the expo floor. This year I want to let everyone else in on the project with my 20 days of SCALE blog series. 20 days of projects I’m going to do and things I’m going to look into. Stay tuned all February.

SCALE Tours at Southern California Linux Convention

Friday, January 25th, 2013

SCALE is not your grandfather’s convention so neither should the experience be. There are a lot of exhibitors to see and too many things you want to get your hands on. Our two full ballrooms of exhibits can be overwhelming to some. All our exhibitors want you to hear about their product, solution or mission and we definitely have worked hard to get the people in front of you that offer the most bang for the open source buck. The problem is that usually you might get bogged down with too much information with one and not enough with some of the others before you want to get back to all the great talks or events going on.

For that reason we have been making an exciting feature we call our SCALE tours. What we’d like to offer you is a fun filled walk through both sides of the convention that will be the best couple minutes you’ve ever had at a convention.I (Phillip Banks) will take groups on a trip that passes a lot of cool places and people and asks them to give you 2 minutes of “Absolute open source goodness.” Exhibitors have come to love the attention it brings so they come prepared with lots of goodies like tshirts, demo media and maybe a song, dance or some other random act of weirdness that you just don’t get anywhere else. The best part about the tour is that you come out of it with a snippet of what is going on and will probably have a list of exhibitors that you want to go back and talk to for more information or products you want to return and get.

Last year we added a kids tour so feel free to bring your children. SCALE has a kids track so children can come and learn scalekids.jpghow to do all kinds of cool things with their computers. After their class we take them out on the floor and it’s unbelievable how much they love all the stuff the exhibitors have that is focused on raising the next generation of techies. I vouch for it myself because my own 10 year old daughter is among the bunch and opened her bag like it was Halloween candy.

So, come on out and ask about the tours at the registration desk. If you’ve been before you already know how fun it can be.

Turning the Samsung Rogue into an iPhone and Blackberry killer

Friday, October 9th, 2009

For the longest time I’ve been a huge proponent of getting Verizon wireless except for one major flaw. The wireless coverage is the best around however they just never seem to get any cool phones. They do have Blackberry’s, yes, but even those are just as mediocre as can be and the Blackberry Storm was supposed to bring Verizon back in the game but it crashed and burned after bad reviews (even though I do know of some people that really like theirs).

samsung-rogue.jpgEnter Verizon back into the game with the Samsung Rogue. It’s their newest phone and after seeing all the features, looking at a lot of customer reviews and editor’s choice awards after being out for only a week I had to get one. That’s where all the fun starts.

First off let me say, I love this phone. However, if I get it, you know I’ve got to figure out all that I can make it do. My goal with all phones is of course to measure them against the gold standards of phones: The Blackberry Bold and the Apple iPhone. I’m sure this is going to be an ongoing project but to date I believe I’ve come close to my goal.

Let’s start with what you’ll need: Mail client (Outlook or Thunderbird), Handbrake, a memory card (I got a 4gb for about $10). You’ll find all the steps are cross-platform like I always do (Linux, Windows, or Mac) however, this tutorial will be in Ubuntu Linux with KDE showing differences for each operating system.

So, when you think of iPhone what do you think of? Maybe: Touch screen with smooth finger scrolling, music player, playing videos, apps, and internet. Check to all of those.  When you think of Blackberry what do you think of? Maybe: Email, contacts, syncing with desktop mail, and some multimedia. Check to all of those too. How you may ask? Well it wasn’t easy for me. There was a lot of documentation and experimentation that I had to do but I am very happy with my results. So, let’s make it easy for you.

Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way. I don’t make any judgements on how you get your content it’s just that you get your content onto your phone. I had to look around to make sure of how to do this. I first wanted to make my computer see the phone as a USB drive.

First, lets format your new memory card. Put in your memory card. Next hit your green phone button and click the lock on the screen to get to the desktop screen (if it’s not already up). Next click “Menu” and “Settings and Tools” and go to “Tools”, “Memory”, “Card memory”, “Format Card” and “Yes.” You’re now done formatting the card and ready to go.

Plug your USB cable into your computer and connect it to the port on the side of your phone. If you get a question asking you Modem or Sync then click “Modem” if not go back to Setting Tools as in the previous steps and choice 0 “USB Mode” and select modem. Next scroll up to choice “2 Tools” and then to choice 0 USB Mass Storage. Now you have a USB hard drive on your computer connecting to the memory card you put in.

Your computer should display a USB drive connected with the folders: my_contacts, my_files, my_flix, my_music, my_pix, my_ringtones, and my_sounds. These are pretty self-explanatory but what goes in them and how is the key. The important ones for us are contacts, flix, music, and pix. Music and pics are simple. You can simply copy music and pictures to the appropriate folders as mp3’s or jpg’s.

Video’s take a little fine tuning according to what types of video files you have. The program HandBrake runs on Win, Mac, and Linux and will convert any movie or DVD to the “iPhone and iPod touch” video format that you need. Go to this site if you want to do any of this on the command line. Once done copy the file into the “my_flix” folder on your phone.

Now for the hardest part that may need some tweeking as you experiment with your setup. I will use the most vague directions here so you can fine tune it to your liking. The “my_contacts” folder has to contain .vcf files. This is a common vCard format that every email client even gmail will export contacts as .vcf. The trick here is to export your clients as .vcf files and tell your program to save them to the “.my_contacts” folder. In the future you can sync them with your desktop by whatever way you know of to sync folders. I use Thunderbird and Gmail. On Thunderbird you can get this plugin to give you .vCard capabilities. Outlook has some good ones built in and Gmail does as well. Since I use Thunderbird and Gmail, I use the Zindus plugin and Provider for Google to sync my Thunderbird contents and calendar with Gmail.

Now back to our phone. Get the screen back on and click disconnect. This will stop if from being a USB device. If you get text messages a lot, you’ll get a lot right now because your phone was not usable while it’s a mass storage device. Now go back to “Menu”, “Settings & Tools”, “Memory”, “Card Memory.” The list presented to you has all the folders on your memory card. Going into those folders will show you the folders on your memory card. Number 8 on that list will be “Move all to phone”.

There you have it. That’s enough to start playing with and hopefully by the time you read this there are apps out for the phone. At the time of the writing the phone was too new and there were none out even though it has a couple built in for Facebook, Myspace, and a couple other web related content. As of this writing I haven’t fully figured out how to sync the Calendar with the PC but I sync it with gmail and go on the web from the phone to see that. Not as good as having it integrated so it can give you an alarm but I’ll figure it out soon enough.

If you’re a Verizon customer or thinking about it the Samsung Rogue is definitely the choice to go with.

Pidgin insecure and my stupidity

Friday, August 28th, 2009

pidgin.jpgFor quite some time now I’ve been having a problem with my internet chat program Pidgin. It would work for a while and then all of a sudden I’d notice that the whole computer would come to a screeching halt. Resource usage would go up to 100% on a Linux machine. Not unbelievable but not very common for me. So, I figured out the problem was my instant messaging software Pidgin. Upon further investigation I found out that it probably was due to the Facebook plugin that I installed that let Pidgin log into my Facebook account and show me all the people available on Facebook chat.

Months went by without spending the time to find a solution for this until today I finally decided to really get into it because I love having my clients accessible to me through instant message rather than phone calls or texting. I had switch to using Kopete for the most part till I got around to fixing it but don’t like anything as much as Pidgin.

I completely uninstalled Pidgin and re-installed it and didn’t like when I saw my accounts log back in. There was obviously some information left on my computer after I uninstalled the program. First, I hate that! If you make a package, clean up all your crap when I uninstall it. Second, I found where it was saving its extra information. The folder “./purple” in my home folder. That’s not the shocking part though. I looked into the adium.pngdirectory and noticed my biggest screw up ever. I saved my passwords! I never do that and always advise people to never save a passwords on a computer.Within a file called “accounts.xml” were all my username and passwords for my different instant messaging accounts in clear text for anyone who sat down at my computer to look for and see. I ddin’t check this on a Windows PC or on a Mac (Adium on the Mac) yet but knowing that I do use it on these other operating systems I will be more aware. I also realized I use Pidgin’s portable version on my USB stick that I keep on my keychain. I don’t save passwords or accounts there because I use it so rarely but what if you did and lost your keys or USB stick. Your information is out there for anyone to see.

If for any reason you’ve saved a password on your computer delete them. Go into all your programs and empty out that information. A little bit of extra time logging in will save you many untold hours of grief. Many people use the same passwords over and over again. An experienced hacker knows to start first with the passwords he knows and just figure out the usernames. Don’t be a victim to this possible openning in your security.

Upgrade Linux KDE or Windows 7? Hmmm.

Monday, February 16th, 2009

I’m never a fanboy of any particular thing. I’ve always got to see the good and the bad in whatever I get or use. This might be enhanced even more after reading some great books in the past couple months like “Predictably Irrational” by Dan Areily and “The Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell (not getting anything just personally loved those two books). However, recently I was looking through the CNET site and found this video that I thought was fantastic.

Basically, the CNET columnists were thinking about the fact that Windows 7 looks a lot like KDE 4 on Linux. I’ve got to say, I’m much more impressed with Windows 7 than Vista since I have been playing with the beta lately but as stuck as I was on KDE 3.5 I’ve finally upgraded to it full time and love it now. Think is, I think the Linux desktop is pretty much all there now with KDE 4 which is evidenced by this video. In the video they showed random people KDE 4 and told them it was Windows 7 and asked if they’d upgrade.
My conclusion is: Whatever road you take in life. Please skip Vista.

Linux doesn’t need “Grunt theory”

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

 I was getting my Linux podcast listening in and listened to the Linux Outlaws and it brought me to my subject.

First a little background on my thinking. I am a consultant that works for various companies, in many industries using many operating systems and hardware. So, I try to come in and understand the business so I can serve them best. I have a cousin who is a low level filing clerk that totally subscribes to what I call “Grunt theory.” Grunt theory is a mindset that I’ve coined as people who think the company is always some massive evil thing that’s always treating them wrong. Don’t get me wrong. In most cases this is kind of true but you have to have a more discerning eye. Every company would go under if it would follow the grunt theory which would make them give everyone more money, more vacation days, very little employee discipline and not fire employees that hurt the bottom line. This is business people. Businesses are here to make money.

Ok, now that said, I get kind of upset when I find Linux enthusiasts falling into “Grunt theory” thinking. Microsoft and Apple are companies that are here to make money. That’s what they do. Now, I am all for opening people’s eyes to the vast amount of options that are available from open source alternatives. I seem to be able to bring a little Linux into every company I work with when they realize they can get great performance and features for free (or with little investment if I can get them to donate). The thing that keeps bothering me is people that rely on constant Microsoft bashing on non-technical areas. I’ve even got to give Apple credit for the Mac vs. PC commercials focusing on real issues and making very good attacks on them.

As a community, let’s stick to the issues. Don’t join the bandwagon and try to get community street cred by just aimlessly bashing because honestly, that’s the same thing Microsoft is doing. They can make aimless claims on Linux and because of their market share people listen. I have Linux running on everything all over my house but as I was typing, just now, I realized that I would be a serious hypocrite because I’m typing this on a Microsoft keyboard on one of my computers that runs Windows. I am seriously hoping for the day that Linux’s market share at least rivals Apple’s OSX because I wouldn’t even have this machine running so much if I could get Photoshop on Linux but I’m patient.

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).