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Rip & Burn

 ImgBurn uses a user interface similar to DVD Decrypter (which was used to decrypt and rip DVDs); however, ImgBurn is designed to create and burn images of non-encrypted discs.

It supports a wide variety of disc formats, and has a number of additional features for building images and verifying them.

Definitely a tool well worth twice the price; maybe ten times the price!

Oh yeah, it’s free…

Originally posted 2008-11-29 12:00:15.

Macbuntu

Macbuntu isn’t a sanctioned distribution of Ubuntu like Kubuntu, Xubuntu, etc; rather it’s a set of scripts that turns an Ubuntu desktop into something that resembles a Mac running OS-X… but it’s till very much Ubuntu running gdm (GNOME).

I don’t recommend install Macbuntu on a production machine, or even a real machine until you’ve taken it for a spin around the block.  For the most part it’s eye candy; but that said, it does make a Mac user feel a little more comfortable at an Ubuntu workstation, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with the desktop paradigm (remember, the way GNOME, KDE, XFCE, Enlightenment, Windows, OS-X, etc work is largely arbitrary — it’s just a development effort intended to make routine user operations intuitive and simply; but no two people are the same, and not everyone finds a the “solution” to a particular use case optimal).

What I recommend you do is create a virtual machine with your favorite virtualization software; if you don’t have virtualization software, consider VirtualBox — it’s still free (until Larry Ellison decides to pull the plug on it), and it’s very straight forward for even novices to use.

Install Ubuntu 10.10 Desktop (32-bit is fine for the test) in it, and just take all the defaults — it’s easy, and no reason to fine tune a virtual machine that’s really just a proof-of-concept.

After that, install the virtual guest additions and do a complete update…

Once you’re done with all that, just open a command prompt and type each of the following (without elevated privileges).

  • wget https://downloads.sourceforge.net/project/macbuntu/macbuntu-10.10/v2.3/Macbuntu-10.10.tar.gz -O /tmp/Macbuntu-10.10.tar.gz
  • tar xzvf /tmp/Macbuntu-10.10.tar.gz -C /tmp
  • cd /tmp/Macbuntu-10.10/
  • ./install.sh

Once you’ve followed the on-screen instructions and answered everything to install all the themes, icons, wallpapers, widgets, and tools (you’ll have to modify Firefox and Thunderbird a little more manually — browser windows are opened for you, but you have to install the plug-ins yourself), you reboot and you’re presented with what looks very much like OS-X (you actually get to see some of the eye candy as it’s installed).

Log in… and you see even more Mac-isms… play play play and you begin to get a feel of how Apple created the slick, unified OS-X experience on top of BSD.

Now if you’re a purist you’re going to push your lower lip out and say this isn’t anything like OS-X… well, maybe it doesn’t carry Steve Job’s DNA fingerprint, but for many users I think you’ll hear them exclaim that this is a significant step forward for making Linux more Mac-ish.

There are a couple different efforts to create a Mac like experience under Linux; Macbuntu is centric on making Ubuntu more like OS-X, and as far as I can see it’s probably one of the cleanest and simplest ways to play with an OS-X theme on top of Linux…

If you find you like it, then go ahead and install on a real machine (the eye candy will be much more pleasing with a manly video card and gpu accelerated effects), and you can uninstall it if you like — but with something this invasive I’d strongly encourage you to follow my advice and try before you buy (so to speak — it’s free, but time and effort count for a great deal).

I’ll make a post on installing Macbuntu for tomorrow so that it’s a better reference.

Macbuntu on SourceForge.net

Macbuntu

Originally posted 2010-11-14 02:00:36.

Free Software!

Let me start off by saying that there is a lot of free software available for just about every popular operating system that works well, is well written, and straight forward to use.

Let me also point out that a lot of free software is free because is simply couldn’t be sold — yes it’s that bad (of course there is a lot of commercial software that is on the market that shouldn’t be sold; but that’s another rant).

I have a favorite saying:

You rarely get what you pay for.

And with free software that could be taken to mean, it almost always ends up costing you…

I always recommend that you read up on software before you use it; and try to read comments written by someone with similar computer skills and goals as you have.  Then ask yourself the simple questions “do you need the software” and “do you have something that already does the same thing that works”.

If you just want to play with a piece of software, consider using a virtual machine to try it out and then discard the changes; and I always try out a piece of software in a virtual machine even if I’m fairly sure it’s something I want.

I maintain a list of products (free and for pay) on my web site that I consider worth using…

It’s rare that I have any problems with any of my computers — and that’s mainly because I don’t “junk” them up with lots of software I never will use and don’t need… and keep in mind — COMPUTER PROBLEMS are one of the costs of installing software.

Originally posted 2008-12-17 12:00:43.

Grasping at nothing with billions

Intel paid 7.7 billion dollars (US) for McAfee Associates.

WTF is up with Paul Otellini?

Does he really think that having pathetically outdated security technology is going to help keep Intel in control of computing in the ever changing landscape of mobile computing?

Clearly Intel must be in the dark about how modern software is built from the ground up to resist the security issues that plagues the old cobbled together systems of the past (ie Windoze).  Obviously, though, Intel understands that their dominance in the computing arena is likely to fade — but spending this kind of money is just insane.

One thing is clear — Intel is massively over charging for it’s processors if they can afford to dump nearly $8B US into the trash can.

Originally posted 2010-08-27 02:00:20.

AT&T Provides Exceptionally BAD Customer Service

Yesterday morning (and well into the afternoon) I spent over two and one-half hours on the phone with AT&T trying to resolve an issue with a “$50 Cash Back”.

First I call the customer service phone number on my bill; and was quickly told I’d have to resolve it online since it related to an online order.

Then I brought up a chat window with online customer service, who was quick to tell me I needed to call the rewards center (which I did was I was chatting with them — and left the chat open exchanging information slowly).

With the rewards center I talked with a useless individual who transferred me to a supervisor who was actually some what helpful; but she told me I had to go through customer service and have the rewards center conferenced in (they apparently can’t access customer records, nor can they make outbound calls).

So I called back customer service, spoke to an individual who wanted to help — but wouldn’t transfer me to a supervisor; determined I need to talk to the rewards center (duh — that’s what I told him — I needed to be conferenced in to the rewards center with a supervisor)… he transferred me to the rewards center (main number) and hung up… so I talked with a rewards center person, and was again transferred to the same supervisor (who told me again there was nothing she could do — and I pointed out that I had done EXACTLY as she ask, and again AT&T had incompetency was the issue).

She transferred me back to customer service — which turned out to be more of a hassle since it was a different office, and I had to enter all my account information.  The person I spoke with was EXTREMELY rude, and the supervisor she transferred me to was an absolute BITCH (trying to play the power game).

I then called back to customer service, was transferred to a supervisor, who did conference into the rewards center and then got an absolute BITCH there.

After that (and noting all their names and operator IDs — at least the operator IDs of the ones that would actually provide them to me) I decide to just call and go through the complaints process…

I explained the whole thing to the woman, she read over the notes; ask me a few questions, and then just said “How ’bout I just credit your account $50 and put this issue to rest”.

It took her less than five minutes to understand the previous two and a half hour nightmare with AT&T individuals who were for the most part in a hurry to say NO, tell me I didn’t know what I was talking about, or tell me I needed to talk to someone else…

And all of this is a result of AT&T designing a system of rebates / credits / incentives that is difficult for an individual to navigate through and redeem… after all, they don’t really want you to get the money, they just want to defraud you.

HORRIBLE company (yeah — I already knew that)… and certainly AT&T doesn’t do anything to retain customers…

I’m already making plans to change my Internet provider as soon as I get the credits for the other promotions.

As far as I’m concerned, if I have to deal with crappy customer service, I’ll just play the providers against each other and maximize my savings.

All I can say is…

Just say NO!

Originally posted 2009-08-04 01:00:18.

Android Apps

One of the initial complaints the reviewers of Android handsets underscored was that the number of apps (applications) available for Android was minimal compared to the number available for the iPhone, and most of the reviewers theorized it would take years for their to be a substantial number of quality apps.

Today, there are a tremendous number of apps; but like the apps for the iPhone I’d say most of them are of questionable quality… a few though are keepers.

Last week a joint survey conducted by Appcelerator and IDC found that 59% of developers said that Google’s Android had the “best long-term outlook” compared to only 35% who picked Apple’s iOS.

Additionally, 72% picked Android for hardware other than phones (set-top boxes, etc) while less than 25% choose iOS.

Though Apple maintained 84% of the interest in tablets (that may have a great deal to do with the fact that no mainstream company has shipped an Android based tablet yet and is very likely to shift soon).

Anyway, regardless of who’s the most popular (ie McDonald’s thinking), here’s my “short” list (categorized) of apps for Android that I like (and use).

Communications

  • Google Voice
  • GMail
  • sipdroid
  • Call Block
  • Opera

Utilities

  • Explorer
  • ASTRO
  • ASTRO Bluetooth Module
  • Spell Checker
  • GPS Essentials
  • Spare Parts
  • DynDns
  • Barcode Scanner
  • ShopSavvy
  • Tricorder
  • Wifi Analyzer
  • WifiScanner
  • Terminal Emulator
  • ROM Manager (only useful on a rooted handset)
  • Superuser (only useful on a rooted handset)

Games

  • 205+ Solitaire Collection
  • Mahjong 3D

Eye Candy

  • Sense Analog Clock
  • Mickey Mouse Clock
  • Tricorder

Everything on the list is FREE (as in free beer; some of the current versions are ad supported).

Tricoder is in two categories (it’s actually useful — though it only qualifies as useful because it will do with several other utilities in combination are needed for — though it’s gotta be considered eye candy).

I’m not a gamer, so the only games I’ve listed are ones that are pretty good for just whiling away a little time… there’s a ton of free games — have at it, you can uninstall them fairly easily (though if you install a lot of apps you’re going to want something to help manager / organize).

One of the major reasons for having a smart phone is to use it to make calls; certainly Google Voice lets you take advantage of any ability you have to call specified numbers air-time-free (plus it gives you text messaging without incurring any charges from your carrier).  If you have a very limited voice plan, but a flat rate data plan — you might find sipdroid (a SIP/VoIP client) extremely useful; at least when you couple it with a free SIP service.

One of the major reasons you might consider rooting your Android device is so that you can remove pre-installed apps or re-theme the device; with older devices you might consider it so that you have access to newer kernels and fixes.  For the average person, you probably don’t want to root your device.

If you have other favorites that do something useful, let me know… I’m likely to publish another list of Android apps in a few months; and I’ve decided I’m going to write a few of them (maybe I’ll even publish them).

Originally posted 2010-10-13 02:00:50.

Term Limits

The twenty-second Amendment to the Unites States Constitution sets forth that the President of the United States shall serve no more than two terms.  Congress passed the amendment on 21 March 1947 and the requisite number of states ratified it on 27 February 1951.

Interestingly enough, Thomas Jefferson supported presidential term limits and the actions of Washington and Jefferson provided a de facto rule for presidents up until Franklin D Roosevelt (Ulysses S Grant was the first president to seek a third term).

The precept of why we limit presidents to two terms is to prevent a virtual monarchy from arising.

Why then do we not limit the terms for all our public officials?

I propose that the way to fix many of the problems with this country is to immediately pass an amendment that provides that no public official shall serve more than two terms in any given office.

That prevents any official from establishing a dynasty and greatly reduces the potential power that a politician can amass.

If you’re worried about public officials having to find another job – stop and consider how many years of service they can provide from serving in their city, county, state, and federal governments in so many elected offices — a lifetime of service to the public without the temptation of serving themselves.

Of course, why would Congress want to play on a level field by limiting their term — I mean, look at the health care and retirement systems they gave themselves compared to what they feel every other American deserves.

Originally posted 2009-12-23 01:00:10.

Virtualization Outside the Box

I’ve posted many an article on virtualization, but I felt it was a good time to post just an overview of the choices for virtualization along with a short blurb on each.

Obviously, the operating system you choose and the hardware you have will greatly limit the choices you have in making a virtualization decisions.  Also, you should consider how you intend to use virtualization (and for what).

Microsoft VirtualPC (Windows and a very outdated PowerPC Mac version) – it’s free, but that doesn’t really offset the fact that VirtualPC is aging technology, it’s slow, and it had been expected to die (but was used ad the basis for Windows 7 virtualization).

Microsoft Hyper-V (Windows Server 2008, “bare metal”) – you can get a free Hyper-V server distribution, but you’ll find it hard to use without a full Server 2008.  Hyper-V is greatly improved over VirtualPC, but it implements a rather dated set of virtual hardware, and it really doesn’t perform as well as many other choices and it will only run on hardware that supports hardware virtualization (I-VT or AMD-V).

VMware (Windows, Mac, Linux) – I’ll lump all of their product into one and just say it’s over-priced and held together by chewing gum and band-aids.  I’d recommend you avoid it — even the free versions.

VirtualBox (Windows, Mac, Linux, bare metal) – Sun (now Oracle) produces a commercial and open source (community) edition of an extremely good virtualization solution.  Primarily targeted at desktops it implements a reasonably modern virtual machine, and will run on most any hardware.

Parallels (Windows, Mac, Linux, bare metal) – a very good virtualization solution, but it’s expensive — and it will continue to cost you money over and over again (upgrades are essential and not free between versions).  You can do much better for much less (like free).

QEMU (Windows, Linux, etc) – this is one of the oldest of the open source projects, and the root of many.  It’s simple, it works, but it’s not a good solution for most users.

Kernel-based Virtual Machines (KVM — don’t confuse it with Keyboard/Video/Mouse switches, the TLA is way overloaded) – this is the solution that Ubuntu (and other Linux distributions) choose for virtualization (though Ubuntu recommends VirtualBox for desktop virtualization).  KVM makes is moderately complicated to setup guest machines, but there are GUI add-ons as well as other tools that greatly simplify the tasks.

Xen (Linux) – an extremely good hypervisor implementation (the architecture of Hyper-V and Xen share many of the same fundamental designs), it will run Xen enabled (modified) kernels efficiently on any hardware, but requires hardware assisted virtualization for non-modified kernels (like Windows).

XenSource (bare-metal [Linux]) – this is a commercial product (though now available at no cost) acquired by Citrix which also includes a number of enterprise tools.  All the comments of Xen (above) apply with the addition that this package is ready (and supported) for enterprise applications and is cost effective is large and small deployments.


My personal choice remains VirtualBox for desktop virtualization on Windows, Mac, and Linux, but if I were setting up a virtual server I’d make sure I evaluated (and would likely choose) XenSource (it’s definitely now a much better choice than building a Hyper-V based solution).

Originally posted 2010-05-03 02:00:58.

Cricket Wireless

The continuing saga of trying to locate the best value cellular wireless plan for me has a new chapter…

About two months ago I started to make the switch to Cricket Wireless (you can use the link on the sidebar to get information directly from their site).

While I didn’t think Straight Talk (via AT&T) was expensive, it seemed like lowering my cost a little (the plan rates include taxes on Cricket) and going with a “MVNO” that was actually owned by AT&T would in the end be a better idea… and since my $50 promo card arrived today I figured it was time to share what I’ve found.

If you take advantage of the BYOD program, Cricket (like AT&T) will push out APN settings to your handset, making the transition fairly seamless (NOTE: if you move an activated SIM card to another device there is no way to have Cricket re-push the APN settings, so you’re going to end up entering them by hand… it would be nice if they at least stored the APN on the SIM).

If you’re used to AT&T (particularly pre-paid or an MVNO — remember, there’s no roaming), then your service will be just the same… and your LTE speeds will likely be extremely good (they’ll be the same as they were before).

Also, one of the huge advantages of Cricket over Straight Talk – they have real customer service, who can actually provide service.

Now, a few hints about switching.

First, definitely use my link (I get a referral bonus for you); but if you’re doing two lines, then use yourself to refer your second line.

Second, setup each line on a separate account initially and choose the $50/month or better plan with auto-pay… that will give you $5 off the second month, and it will give you your third month free (promos might change).

Third, order the SIM or handset online and avoid the $25.00 activation fee a local Cricket reseller is going to charge you.

Fourth, once you have your free month, then you might be able to combine lines together for more savings.  NOTE: the first two lines with auto-pay or multi-line discount are the same — so little reason to combine them unless you have at least three lines (the auto-pay and multi-line discounts don’t stack).


If you’re porting your number, go ahead and order your new SIM and turn off your automatic payment with Straight Talk; your number port is “pre-positioned”, so when you pop your SIM in and activate your new Cricket service online the number will port instantly, and your APN will push out within half an hour.

Originally posted 2015-05-02 12:00:21.

The Party of “NO”

After two years of “just saying ‘no'” to almost everything — the GOP has promised that they’ll provide the nation with a detailed plan including specific initiatives of how the GOP would take this country forward.

Of course, I’m going to be quick to remind everyone that it was a Republican President, and a Republican legislature that sent this country’s economy into the toilet and sent this country war (predicated on misinformation — or outright lies if you don’t care about political correctness).

I’m all for reading the GOP agenda — to see if it contains anything more than their usual agenda of making the rich richer and making sure the rich can’t be held accountable for their bad (or call them illegal) decisions.

Originally posted 2010-09-01 02:00:16.