Archive for December, 2007

Help is here! Answering your questions about Ubuntu Linux

Saturday, December 29th, 2007

Ok, I’m going to try to help.

First things, first – if you’re looking for programs to perform a certain task (play mp3s, webcam, etc), try using the “search” feature in Synaptic. You can search by program name, program name and description, and a few other criteria. These two are the ones I use most.

Anyway, with that out of the way, let’s go down the list:

Of course, I also told him I would install the MP3 support

I’ve installed all sorts of Linux variants on dozens of machines and Ubuntu was a fair share of those. I never had to “install mp3 support”, I just installed xmms. I can’t remember if it was installed by default or if I had to apt-get it…either way, that takes care of that. As far as OGG goes, I just don’t use it. I know…what kind of geek doesn’t use OGG, right? 😉

Another thing was Webcam support, yep, I connected a Genius webcam NB and it detected it automagically, unfortunately there is NO program to capture video or at least see it.

I’m assuming you’re talking about no program in Windows to capture or see video. I typically use camstream in Linux. I know there are several more options out there (again, search in Synaptic), but this is the one I’m used to.

But, what I wanted to show here is that there ARE those small annoyances that just keep getting across the way, until those are not solved it would be difficult for the “normal” people to migrate.

Yeah, there are small annoyances here or there in Linux, just like there are in Windows. For example, I have a HP PSC-1209 printer/scanner. Windows automagically “found” a new printer attached to the USB port. The drivers that Windows automatically installed didn’t work. I then grabbed the HP install CD so I could install the correct drivers after uninstalling the drivers that Windows was nice enough to install…without asking (you know, so the printer would “just work”). In Ubuntu, I just clicked on “Printers” -> “Add Printer” -> selected my printer model from the list -> waited a few seconds for drivers to kick in -> done (no reboots either!). Overall, it took me 25 seconds to install the printer on Ubuntu Linux, and about 5 minutes in Windows.

Overall, one tool that helps Ubuntu users out quite a bit is EasyUbuntu. That’ll take care of quite a few of your issues.

Ubuntu really isn’t that difficult, even for new users. Heck, my 11 year old daughter uses it on an AMD 450Mhz machine with 256MB of RAM and she used XP for two years prior to Ubuntu 5.04. I don’t get calls for “Daaaaaad! Where do I find X” or “Daaaaad! Do I send this error report to Microsoft?” any more either, which is quite nice. The Gnome menus just seem to make more sense than a Windows menu to find the programs you want to use. Anyway, good luck to you and your friend – I hope this post helps out.

Fascism. What does it mean?

Saturday, December 29th, 2007

A governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.

Here are some key ingredients of fascism:

  • Leader passes laws giving himself even more powers
  • Controls the masses through Fear Mongering
  • Scapegoating. Certain class of people blamed for the problems the leader faces, justifying new laws and military actions.
  • Must have an ongoing war to keep people’s minds off how fucked their own government is.
  • No real policy to improve the lives of the average person.
  • Leader surrounded only by trusted friends and business people who profit handsomely.
  • Most actions favor insiders, friends and Corporate entities at the expense of the people. Laws that monitor and control business practices are removed.
  • Constantly preaching morality to the masses (to cover their own immoral actions)
  • Violates, disrespects or refuses to agree to World Conventions on Human Rights, international norms of conduct, and other laws. All manner of excuses offered.
  • Spy agencies given broad new powers and funding.
  • Government increases covert activities against its own citizens. Citizens are urged to spy on citizens.
  • Many civil liberties restricted or suspended.
  • Secret prisons
  • Torture
  • Rendition
  • What do you think it means when AT&T is making a copy of all Internet traffic going through it’s backbones and giving it to the government? (hint: basically all US Internet traffic goes through AT&T at some point).

    What does it mean when we have predator-like spy drones monitoring our cities spying on our own citizens?

    Here’s the kicker, this will catch all the people who didn’t bother to read my post and start calling me a wacko. I assure you I am quite normal:

    I’m not saying we are in a fascist state, please draw your on conclusion. Imagine a sliding scale from the free democracy which our founders intended, free of persecution, with habeas corpus and all our protections, now picture where we are today. Where are we on the road to fascism? Do we have to get to the point where there is a dictator and our citizens are being shot in their homes before we start to think about it?

    The IT industry could use some standardization

    Thursday, December 27th, 2007

    That’s part of the problem with not having any sort of standardized governing body from the start. The cost of entry to IT is effectively the cost of either a home PC setup and an Internet connection, a couple books, the cost to sit for an A+ exam, etc. In other words, the cost is practically nil. Hence we have every high school/college kid or every burger flipper with a home PC and broadband (or dial-up in the beginning) thinking they’re qualified to be a computer/network technician.

    Then comes the dot-com era. Techies are suddenly glamorous and anybody can make $75k/year out of high school, or if you graduate college/university you can walk into six figures straight away! Dilute that to include anybody with an MCSE, A+ et al. and you’ve got this massive influx of students into any educational facility or diploma mill that’s accepting tuition cheques and we have this enormous surplus of “graduates” who now believe themselves qualified.

    In a way that killed us. HR departments and hiring managers never really, truly knew what to look for in terms of certifications. Experience was up in the air because so much technology was so new who could put a time frame on it, and how well did you learn it in the time you had with it? Remember back in ’97 all those ads requiring a minimum of 5 years experience with Microsoft Windows 95?

    The prescribed method to gain full journeyman status in any skilled trade is there for good reason. First you have to prove yourself educated and intelligent enough to gain entry which narrows the field right off the blocks. Next you have to gain your hours of apprenticeship working in the field with actual, experienced professionals. Yes, you have to earn your stripes doing B.S. work which will include coffee and lunch runs, sweeping floors and all the other crap jobs that come along. But hey, some day you’ll have your own apprentice to do the same exact thing. Everybody went through it, new people are no exception. During the course of your apprenticeship you have to attend mandatory school sessions teaching gradually more and more advanced materials which you can now relate to your actual on-the-job experience so what your experienced bosses are telling you starts to make sense.

    After your 4-5 years and your x000 hours of service (with increasing pay every year, mind you) you’re now a full-fledged plumber, electrician, mechanic, glazier, mason, etc. Now, if this were the case with computer/IT professionals – don’t you think there’d be much fewer of us/them out there, namely the unqualified sort? The few who remained would logically command a much higher pay scale and who knows, maybe this (digital) world would even be a better place for it.

    As a side note, have you ever experienced a house with improper plumbing/venting? Ever experienced sewer gas creeping into the building, killing all the residents? Ever had a toilet back up so severely there is literally 8 inches of deep raw sewage covering the floor? Ever taken a shower and been scalded to the point of permanent disfigurement?

    Yeah, I didn’t think so. Thank the skilled journeyman in that trade.

    We need a President like Ron Paul

    Tuesday, December 25th, 2007

    IT Certifications – what are they really worth?

    Monday, December 24th, 2007

    I specifically avoid recommending them because I firmly believe their organization and the certificates they provide aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on (even if they provided PDF files). It’s also widely known amongst the technically literate which “schools” are little more than diploma factories (if you pay your $8 grand, hell, here’s your diploma! You’re now educated!) I’ve dealt with way too many “I have $CERT so I’m qualified to make six figures! Hire me or your company will wither and die!” types to mention.

    A previous co-worker informed one of them that he should be a garbage man. Apparently, he was trying to string together an ethernet LAN without using a hub or switch (because that’s wrong or something) but instead by installing two network cards in each of the fifteen computers and cabling them one to the next to the next in a lovely bastardization of, I dunno, token ring with ethernet with thinnet with…?

    What we need is a professional standards body that actually measures skills and mandates periodic skills reviews to maintain certification according to accepted industry guidelines. Practical examinations as well as an apprenticeship period would be preferable to ensure capability.

    If I’m not mistaken, one can still go out and buy a CompTIA A+ certification book, schedule a time to take the test and be certified without ever actually opening the case on a computer, which was also the cause of the complete industry-wide invalidation of the MCSE certification when it came out. I’ve went to school with people who have achieved an “A” in a PC hardware repair class, but couldn’t take apart a computer piece by piece, much less troubleshoot hardware issues.

    Take for example Cisco certifications; the CCNA means nothing in a practical sense, but it does indicate that you have some grounding in networking fundamentals. Ok. So you can assist our network techs and troubleshoot problems at the LAN level. After a couple years experience you take the CCNP test. Now you’re able to move into the bigger office and assist our WAN techs and touch the real routers. A few years of this and you enroll in the CCIE program. Combine that with 10+ years in the trenches and suddenly four letters mean you can pretty much write your own ticket.

    However if you somehow do manage to aquire even a CCIE but don’t have a decades worth of relevant experience you may as well have saved yourself the few grand and just took your CCNA because, hey, you’re our new tape switcher.

    Combine all this certification nonsense with HR people and management who don’t understand anything about the computer industry but who do recognize “industry recognized certification body” and associate it with “skilled professional” and make the leap to “qualified for this position” and you have a very large disconnect from reality, compound that a million fold and welcome to today.

    I have already taken both of the CompTIA A+ certification tests (hardware side and software side) and passed them both on the first try. I couldn’t help walking away knowing that the questions were all based on what was read in a book and there was no hands-on part to the exam. I was honestly thinking about getting Linux+ certified, but what will it really mean to my current employer or a potential employer? So anyway, here I am preparing to take the Security+ exam through CompTIA. Not because I want to, but because that’s what is required of me when applying to move on to my University’s Masters in Science program. Couldn’t they just accept a $190.00 application fee or create a hands-on knowledge test?

    Maybe someday they’ll change their outlook on it, but I don’t think that will happen any time soon.

    Hillary Clinton is trying to tell you how to raise your children

    Sunday, December 23rd, 2007

    An article over at gamepolitics.com tells of Hillary Clinton taking a public stand in favor of shielding children from game and other animation content that she deems inappropriate. Quote: “When I am president, I will work to protect children from inappropriate video game content.”

    Her question to the public would be “why on earth should all kids be allowed to go and buy GTA IV, Soldier of Fortune or any similar game?”

    Why not if the parents approve?

    If your legal guardian feels that you are old enough and responsible to enjoy said entertainment then it should be their right. It should also be their right to prevent their child from playing such things if they so desire by not giving the money to their kids in the first place and/or monitoring their internet activities.

    If you bring up tobacco and alcohol, those things are of course dangerous and have been scientifically proven to cause harm. That said, once you are 18 then I believe you should be able to put whatever into your body you feel like, but a parent giving his kids cigarettes is about as negligent as giving them some mercury or cyanide to play with.

    Video games and even content of pornographic nature has never been conclusively shown to cause physical or mental harm to the average human. Yes, there are cases where people play a video game and flip out (like kids jumping out of windows because they thought they could fly like in Pokemon), but the same thing could be said about a psycho who reads the Bible or Koran and kills someone because he claims god told him to do it.

    Again, if a parent feels their child can handle it or just don’t care, they’ll buy it for them anyways. Its kind of just stupid to have more laws on an issue that in reality is a moot point.

    Yet another reason why I’m voting for Ron Paul. I am so tired of the “think of the children!” legislation going through our political branches. Here’s an idea – let the PARENTS decide what’s best for OUR children rather than the GOVERNMENT. We don’t need a nanny state telling us what’s best for us or our children. I can decide what’s best for me and my children on my own thank you very much.

    Do you trust your government?

    Thursday, December 20th, 2007

    A while back, I got an email bashing my political beliefs and the fact that I want to question the government on pretty much everything they do that I don’t agree with.

    I wasn’t aware that asking legitimate questions constituted an email to get fired off personally attacking me, but that’s fine. It’s not my problem if you can’t take legitimate questioning and criticism and brush it off as someone out to question your political beliefs. Belittling valid questions as being “beneath you” does nothing to invalidate the question.

    I also believe it’s a mistake to trust the government to protect anyone. All politicians care about is wealth and power. All they listen to is money.

    If the government could be trusted to do the right thing, don’t you think it would be acting to protect the environment while we still (may) have time, handing down longer jail terms for crimes against people and real property than for spamming and software piracy? Don’t you think that rape, murder, carjacking, mugging, armed robbery, and a long list of other crimes that actually hurt people emotionally and physically deserve that, instead of wasting the time and effort on crimes that hurt no one?

    Don’t you think that if the government could be trusted to look out for the best interests of the people, it would not repeatedly pass laws that favor the interest of businesses over the interests of the citizens? (most infamously, acting to make sure Disney can keep making money off of Mickey and therefore destroying our own creative commons, the long-standing culture of building on each others’ creations, and the rich public domain on which our society has prospered for so long?

    Don’t you think that the government, if it really wanted to protect us, would come up with actually-effective ways to ensure safety that actually act to protect the public? Saying you can’t take shampoo on a plane when the technology has existed for years to detect liquid explosives, and hasn’t been deployed because of political squabbling, bureaucracy, and other petty problems is ridiculous when statistics show that many thousands upon thousands of people die in preventable road accidents every day, and yet the government will not require SUVs to not demolish cars (they override crash guards in car doors because they’re so tall), they won’t strengthen roofs to prevent rollover accidents, they won’t provide increased funding to pull over speeders who think that they’re above the law and who make the roads unsafer for us all, they won’t increase average fuel economy requirements to lower pollution, decrease oil dependency, and lower prices. That’s just the start, the list goes on and on and on and on.

    No, I don’t trust the government to protect me. They haven’t done anything to earn that trust lately. And I blame shortsighted mindsets like yours for not calling them to task and demanding more.

    If the government can impeach its leader for lying about who he had sex with, why can’t it impeach and remove a leader who lied about so many more things that actually are causing real hurt, real damage, and real destruction?

    Open your eyes. Please.

    Pennsylvania mother fights RIAA

    Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

    From Slashdot:

    A Pennsylvania mom is fighting back, suing Universal Music Publishing Group for having a home movie taken down off of YouTube. The movie, featuring her 18-month old bouncing to Prince’s song, ‘Let’s Go Crazy,’ was cited for removal by the Group for copyright infringement. Mom Stephanie Lenz was first afraid they’d come after her — then she got angry. She got YouTube to put the video back up, she’s enlisted the help of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and she’s filed a civil lawsuit (pdf). ‘I thought even though I didn’t do anything wrong that they might want to file some kind of suit against me, take my house, come after me. And I didn’t like feeling afraid … I didn’t like feeling that I could get in trouble for something as simple as posting a home video for my friends and family to see.'”

    If you read the story then it seems as if this mother went to the EFF and they are representing her. The EFF isn’t a commercial organization, this isn’t a lawyer who is going to get his money wether he wins or loses.

    Yet many will spout that she doesn’t stand a chance. Yeah, because the EFF lawyers are NOT leaders in their field with a long history of winning.

    This is a video with music playing in the background. Imagine if that was illegal, does the same go for images? Well, you just destroyed all visual media taken in say Disneyland. Disney owns the image rights to their park. Hell, simply picture on the street is likely to have lots of copyrighted advertising signs. Your clothes? Owned by the designer. Could you only make home movies in a sterile white room with naked people? Might get a bit boring.

    You could barely film/photograph anything without showing something that infringes on a copyright.

    I am not going to watch a video of a baby, but the music was playing in the background, it was NOT a soundtrack added to the video. If we make it illegal to film normal life, we have really bent over to far to the music industry.

    But hey, don’t take my word for it. Talk to a lawyer. A good one. Who does his work because he believes in a cause and does it without saying “win or lose, you owe me”.

    The importance of security and backups

    Friday, December 14th, 2007

    They were very resistant to the idea of implementing security on their individual computers.

    Same goes for backing up their files on a file server and not just on their local hard drive. Usually the way you have to explain it to them is in a language they can understand.

    I had the privilege of being brought in to give a lecture to some employees at a company I was visiting about securing their PCs. While I was giving the lecture, two other IT people were sent to find ten computers that were not locked by their screensaver. They found many more, but of those ten, they changed the desktop background and moved any two significant shortcuts from the desktop to My Documents. Everyone was allowed a 30 minute break for lunch and then had to return to the lecture during which time IT folks made themselves unavailable on purpose. After everyone returned, I asked for the ten people who had their desktop backgrounds changed to raise their hands and tell everyone the first few things that ran though their heads. “Oh crap, I’m in trouble”, “I wonder what else is missing”, and “who the heck did this?” were typical answers. This part of the lecture helped everyone, not just the ones affected, realize that security is important and lack of security can affect anyone at any time.

    When you help people put in perspective what they have to lose, they tend to start understanding. They typically don’t care if their machine is compromised by a mass-mailing worm or is used in a DDoS attack. They do start to understand if it means they might have to redo a week (or more) worth of work.

    List of artists against RIAA practices

    Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

    For those that haven’t seen the links, here are just a couple of examples where artists do not agree with the RIAA and their practices.

    Steve Vai

    Courtney Love

    Steve Albini – an independent and corporate rock record producer most widely known for having produced Nirvana’s “In Utero”.