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Mac Envy

I was talking to one of my friends several weeks ago and once again he ask me why I wasn’t a big fan of Linux… and I gave him the two hour answer.

It really boils down to Linux fails to be cohesive; the many distributions fracture it even more than the lack of any defining road map for a user experience.

My conversation with my friend started to point to OS-X; it has, after all, become a very important force on defining not only what Mac users expect from a computer, but what Windows users get in a new operating system.

Why then not graft a Mac like desktop manager onto Linux?  It seemed like a good idea, so I figured someone else must have thought of it.

After all, making computers usable for computer experts isn’t the real issue; it’s making computers usable for the masses of people who do not know what’s under the hood, and shouldn’t have to care.

I started my exploration by finding a Mac theme and widgets for Gnome. I installed Mac4Linon an Ubuntu virtual machine.

It certainly did make the interface for Linux much more Mac like, but most anyone who could have gone through all the steps to get it installed probably wouldn’t care much about using a Mac like interface, and it just really wasn’t that satisfying.

Next I decided that this _is_ a good idea, and I was sure that many others had gone down this path (and I’m not one to duplicate effort, I have no problem standing on the shoulders of giants — or midgets).

A little bit of searching on the net found me four distributions that attempted to mimic the look and feel of Mac OS-X.

I’m going to list these alphabetical — this isn’t a review, it’s just an overview.  I’m going to have to play with each of these more than a couple hours to be able to tell you the strengths and weaknesses.  Watch for future posts.


Dreamlinux

Based on the website address Dreamlinux must be in Brazil; but the web pages and documentation are all in English (no requirement to learn Portuguese unless you want to be ready for your vacation in Rio).

The Dreamlinux distribution is based on Debian, and builds on that very stable base.  And rather than using the Gnome desktop manager, this distribution chose the XFCE desktop manager as the default — but includes Gnome and will include LXDE, TDE, and Fluxbox.

Dreamlinux used Rocket Dock to provide a Mac-like dock and is targeted heavily for a multimedia experience.

Dreamlinux is easy to install, and maintain… put it on your hard disk, a flash drive, or just about anything else.


Elive

If sex sells operating systems, this would be on the top of the heap.   Their web site features the tag line “Elive Gem – Luxury Linux” and comes complete with a high resolution video to demonstrate Elive.

The Elive distribution is also based on Debian.  It uses the Enlightenment desktop manager (OK, so Enlightenment is more than just a desktop manager — but it’s sufficient for the moment to refer to it as just that) and the ibar dock.

Elive is filled with eye-candy and again targeted at multimedia.

It’s slick; has very modest hardware requirements, and according to Distrowatch it has a lot of users.  The “official” download of the stable versions will cost; I recommend you find an alternate download to try it out, or get an invitation code to try it before you commit to supporting it.


gOS

The g in gOS might be for “green” — not green as in energy efficient, the color; the default them is definitely green.

gOS is probably one of the most complete experiences right from the get go.  It’s also based on Ubuntu (which is based on Debian) — so a little heavier weight.  It uses LXDE for a desktop manager and wbar for a dock (though Cairo-Dock apparently can be used instead).

gOS leverages heavily off Google… Google Apps (Mail, Calendar, Documents, Spreadsheet, Presentations), Google Gadgets, Google Desktop Search, and even installs WINE to use Google Picasso.

I know I’ve said this is probably the most complete; and you may well want to start with this one — but for some reason this distribution just didn’t impress me (maybe because it sets expectations so high).  I will give it a more complete test, there was certainly nothing about it that suggested it wasn’t a good candidate.


Macpup

With a name like Macpup it bring to mind warm images that immediately makes you feel comfortable.

The Macpup distribution is based on Puppy Linuxwhich also has a Windows XP look-and-feel version (they refer to these as Puplets).  Puppy Linux and Macpup are designed to have very modest hardware requirements, and will likely work on any computer hardware you have sitting in your basement.

Macpup uses the Enlightenment desktop manager and the ibar dock with an incredibly ugly default theme.

Macpup is lightweight, but it’s the least Mac-ish of all these distributions.  So if your goal is to get something that mimics the Mac, this probably isn’t it; however, if your goal is to get something that provides a use paradigm similar to the Mac on lower end hardware, this might be perfect.


OpenGEU

When Gnome reaches Enlightenment you get OpenGEU, at least that’s what their tag line says.

The OpenGEU distribution is based on Geubuntu (which is based on Ubuntu which is based on Debian) — so a little heavier weight.  It uses the Enlightenment desktop manager, comes in a Sunshine and Moonlight edition (read their web page — it’s heavily themed) and is part of the InTiLinux Projects.

If you’re looking for eye-candy you’ll think you’ve found Nirvanna.  The OpenGEU project is lead by a designer, not an engineer — so there’s a great deal of focus on the look, the feel, and how things work.


There are several components that these distributions use to achieve a Mac-like look and feel; and some of these deserve a separate article to talk about them.  I’ll put a little time into writing up some background information on desktop managers; docks; and themes.

I will say that after installing these and playing with them for just a few hours each I would put Dreamlinux and Elive on the top of my Mac-Linux list; but until you’ve actually tried to do useful work with a Linux distribution it’s hard to really say which will work the best.

All except the Elive distribution allows you to download for free from their web site or provides you with torrents or mirrors.   I do encourage you to support any project you use through a donation of resources or currency.

Originally posted 2010-01-02 01:00:24.

Google Music (Beta)

Google launched Google Music Beta a little over a month ago, and I’ve been using it since shortly after that.

Currently it’s free; allows you to upload up to 20,000 songs, and will play back that music through any browser, or through Android’s Music App (you will need the updated version that’s icon looks like a headset).

The Music Manager can be installed on a number of operating system, and can upload directories of music, or upload music from an iTune or Windows Media library… you do need to be patient, even on the fastest setting the manager will take quite some time to upload a large music library (I have 17,998 sound; origially I uploaded about 14,500 songs and it took almost 10 days).

The manager will detect changes to the files and automatically sync with the music cloud storage — and you can edit meta tags via the web interface as well.

The biggest downside of Google’s Music Beta is that there isn’t really any way to download the music from the cloud — say you had a local disk crash and wanted to get the music back in a library format (it does allow you to cache content locally for off-line playback).  Obviously the files are downloaded to your computer, but it’d take quite a bit of work to reorganize them (I’ll actually experiment with the cache to see if you could use something like MediaMonkey to reorganize the cache into a library — I don’t know if the ID3 tags are pulled down with the music stream or not).

While it’s free, it’s a great value — and it works very well; I’ve had no problem streaming music on 3G (you’ll want an unlimited data plan for sure)… the only potential issue you might have is that if your home internet provider caps your transfers per month (or charges for overages) you may want to upload parts of your library over several months (my library is 128GB — so almost the entire amount AT&T allows on DSL service and half what AT&T allows on U-Verse service once they start metering ).

Provided you’re not an iPhone user — I recommend you take a look at it; now if Google starts charging, you may want to consider using the Amazon service.  It’s $20 per year for unlimited music and 20GB of anything you want; or $5GB (total) if free.  The downside of the Amazon plan is that the MPAA and RIA are allowed to scan your files (there’s no privacy), and the price may change.  I can’t really speak much about the Amazon service since I’ve only played with the free storage (which isn’t anywhere near enough to store even a meaningful fraction of my library).  If you’re an iPhone user, you’ll want to look at the Apple music cloud service.

For the time being, the Google service is the best deal in town… you can check it out via:

Google Music Beta

Originally posted 2011-10-15 02:00:09.

Ubuntu 11.10

I tested out an upgrade of Ubuntu 11.10 on a virtual machine and on a desktop machine… it seemed to go fairly well; but I can’t say that Unity really feels like something that was the result of human factor engineering.

I decided to go ahead and phase in the 11.10 upgrade to three of my five servers; and let me tell you that was a huge mistake.

First, I found that the upgrade didn’t properly detect the disk to update the grub configuration on (my RAID controller is the first device discovered, so it makes the motherboard SATA controllers come after that so my boot device is sdb rather than sda).

Then I found that FreeNX simply will not install on 11.10 — but I was able to fall back to the NoMachines.com “free” NX server.

Then I found that neither VNC or NX would work properly with Unity; simply switching to KDE fixed that.

What a nightmare.

What should have been a half hour upgrade turned into a day of wasted time… and for what?

This experience has definitely diminished my faith in the Ubuntu development community, and I find myself asking why should I continue to support a product that’s heading in a direction that I do not like, and obviously isn’t meshing well with the rest of the Open Source community.

What’s wrong with GNOME?  What’s wrong with KDE?  Why do we need lightdm and Unity as the defaults in a product that users depend on?  Particularly when Unity doesn’t seem to resolve any of the complaints I have about useability.

Personally I’d favor a desktop along the lines of Macbuntu for usability (it doesn’t have to look like a Mac, but at least pick a interface that looks coherent, and make it act coherent).

I think I might consider moving my servers back to Centos and returning to stability… to me it looks like Ubuntu is becoming the next Windows of the Linux world (and I have no need to be in line for that roller coaster).

Originally posted 2011-10-18 02:00:57.

Making Complaints

I find it fairly interesting when you file complaints at many companies you get a “canned” response and it includes a statement to the effect that because of privacy concerns that they cannot provide information about actions taken to correct the matter.

WTF?

Sounds to me like this is just a “blow-off”… without accountability and closure it’s a waste of time to file a complaint.  Since the person filing the complaint should be an integral part of resolving it, and be involved in determining when the issue has been corrected they need to have access to information relating to the investigation.

Maybe it’s me; but I’m just far less tolerant of customer service with no accountability; I’d prefer to take my business else where.

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

Google and Google Hosted POP, IMAP, and SMTP

Setting up Google and Google hosted domains for POP, IMAP, and SMTP access is fairly straight forward — but you need to start with a session by sign on to Google Mail.

Once you sign in, you can go to the Mail Settings

From there, select Fowarding and POP/IMAP

Then you just enable either POP and/or IMAP and click “Save Changes” at the bottom of the page.

Once you’ve done that, just use one of the following links for step-by-step instructions for configuring your client.

POP Configuration Instructions

IMAP Configuration Instructions

 


POP Settings

Incoming Mail (POP3) Server – requires SSL: pop.gmail.com
Use SSL: Yes
Port: 995
Outgoing Mail (SMTP) Server – requires TLS3 or SSL: smtp.gmail.com (use authentication)
Use Authentication: Yes
Port for TLS/STARTTLS: 587
Port for SSL: 465
Account Name: your full email address (including @gmail.com or @your_domain.com)
Email Address: your email address (username@gmail.com or username@your_domain.com)
Password: your Gmail password

 


IMAP Settings

Incoming Mail (IMAP) Server – requires SSL: imap.gmail.com
Use SSL: Yes
Port: 993
Outgoing Mail (SMTP) Server – requires TLS: smtp.gmail.com (use authentication)
Use Authentication: Yes
Use STARTTLS: Yes (some clients call this SSL)
Port: 465 or 587
Account Name: your full email address (including @gmail.com) Google Apps users, please enter username@your_domain.com
Email Address: your full Gmail email address (username@gmail.com) Google Apps users, please enter username@your_domain.com
Password: your Gmail password

Originally posted 2011-09-12 02:00:26.

A Political Message

Political commentary is a little out of place for my BLOG, and the most important message for this post is CHECK and DOUBLE-CHECK everything everyone says and make sure EVERYONE votes!

__________

I’m not sure how much of this is “true” and how much of it is spin — obviously Rolling Stone Magazine isn’t in the Fox Network camp of supporting McCain, and certainly Tim Dickinson has very different political ideas than Barbara West; but the story is very interesting reading — and hopefully we’re all aware you can take “factoids” and make them say anything you want…

Do you homework, check every fact in multiple places before you believe it… odds are no one is telling you more than they want you to hear, and there’s almost always more to the story.

Regardless of your political views, and regardless of who you support in this election the most important thing you can do is vote and insure that every one else (regardless of their ideas) vote and that no one prevents them from voting or coerces their vote in any way.  Voting is what makes America free and great, and in this election we need to insure that the winner is clear and uncontested by having everyone cast their ballot.

Make-Believe Maverick (Rolling Stone Magazine, Tim Dickinson)

Loving John McCain (The Nation, Eric Alterman & George Zornick)

 

http://www.votesmart.org/

http://www.factcheck.org/

 
I was considering some links to Veteran sites (there’s actually several that support each of the candidates) and news media (but most of those are very biased).  The problem is there that so much of information that is spun it’s hard to sort the truth out.  I would suggest sticking with sites that try to provide information that is as un-biased as possible.  Keep in mind, if a “fact” seems unbelievable, maybe you shouldn’t be too quick to believe it.

I’ve decided to close this post with one of the most positive and well done political advertisements of memorable time.

Originally posted 2008-10-29 20:00:58.

IPTV

IPTV has come a long way since the early 90’s and for most of the nation we’re on the edge of an era where digital entertainment in the home will be carried throughout our home (and enter our home) over a conventional data network.

At the moment, most media player devices are vendor specific in what they will do (ie, the U-Verse set-top box is an IPTV device, but is very limited in what it provides beyond allowing a consumer access to the U-Verse servers) — though there are some general purpose devices.

Sure, you can attach a Media PC or Home Entertainment PC, a XBox 360, a PS3, or a Wii to your entertainment system and use it as a somewhat general purpose media player — but it’s not really designed to provide a good user experience for media (they’re intended for general computing or gaming) – or you can purchase one of a growing number of media devices that are being offered that are targeted specifically to provide for a reasonably good consumer experience.

There are also a number of BluRay players that have media player capabilities — but since I consider BluRay a dying media format (and have since the day the format wars were decided) — I see no reason to invest in a player that’s likely to go the way of the 8-track; nor do I see a reason to pay for over priced discs (particularly when I already own a license for the material in another format, and no longer subscribe to making the MPAA richer when they offer me nothing).

There are also a number of display panels that have media player capabilities — but you’re going to find that the display panels that use the best display technology don’t contain the wizzy features to allow for streaming media. So my advice, is buy a solid panel and just realize that you’re going to have an external box (I don’t know of anyone who’s built a cable-card type module for IPTV at the consumer level let).

That leaves us with just the stand along devices — and if you decide that NetFlix is an absolute requirement you come down to three devices currently: Roku Streaming Player; Seagate FreeAgent Theater+ HD Media Player; and Western Digital TV Live Plus HD Media Player.

For my money the Roku is a joke — and I’m just going to pass right over it since I’ve already given it more attention than it deserves.

Both the Seagate and the Western Digital devices look like they have potential (note, only the WDBABX0000NBK is worth considering, the other models are in the same bucket as the Roku)/

The WD TV Live Plus; however, specifically supports the “play to” feature of Windows Media Player — which means you should be able to play any content on the device that you can play on a Windows 7 machine… which opens you up to a much larger potential source for entertainment.

Let me be clear at this point that I haven’t tried any of these devices for myself — I’m just in the phase of trying to figure out which would be worth my time to look at… once I have a device (and hopefully I’ll be happy with the first I get) I’ll write up a detailed post on the feature set — if you’re in a hurry, just read over the capabilities of each of the possibilities and decide what features you have to have to eliminate the number of possibilities down; and before you do that, if you haven’t looked at the value of the NetFlix streaming feature — acquaint yourself with that, and you too will likely consider it a “must have”.

Originally posted 2010-08-03 02:00:49.

Deficit Spending – RNC Style

These are the people who were elected to put the nation’s economy back on track?

Washington (CNN) – The Republican National Committee raised $5.2 million last month, but still is saddled with a debt of more than $21 million from the 2010 midterm elections.

The RNC was able to pay $1 million toward reducing the debt in February, but received an additional $1 million in invoices from 2010 that left its financial position virtually unchanged, according to a report that will be filed this afternoon with the Federal Election Commission. CNN was provided the data prior to the filing.

Originally posted 2011-03-21 02:00:13.

A Country Divided

On 12 April 1861 Confederate forces attached the US military garrison at Fort Sumter in South Carolina and set in motion the secession the American Civil War.

Seven Southern states had already seceded before this time; four more joined them once Lincoln called for an Army.

Some historians, though, believe that the attack on Fort Pickens in Florida deserve the moniker as the place where the first shots of the Civil War were fired.

Which ever it is — the war was a long any bloody fight which reshaped American society.

Originally posted 2010-04-12 01:30:45.

Why I Don’t Use Facebook

John C Dvorak is s pillar in the “personal computing world, and has been for several decades; I think his take on Facebook is interesting, but for me I just don’t see anything that Facebook does that I need — it seems more to me to be a place where people who wished they had a life spend their time.

 


Facebook is basically AOL with a different layout and all the same retro problems.

People are always baffled by the fact that I don’t use Facebook. I don’t care much about Facebook any more than I cared about MySpace and LiveJournal before it. In almost every way, these subsystems are too retro for my taste.

Let me explain.

The world began with online services like the Source and Compuserve. They then evolved into a myriad of BBS systems and then AOL was created. AOL became the kingpin and along came the Internet. The Internet had the versatility that no other system had—you could do whatever you wanted with it. You could start a website about your cat. You could do a storefront. You could do anything that came into your head.

A lot of people still preferred the warm and cozy confines of AOL, and it continued to exist until it was clear that its growth was over. It then zigged and zagged in all the wrong ways. I concluded that AOL should have evolved into a MySpace-like system and then into Facebook.

Facebook is actually the logical end-point of what AOL should have become. AOL had some web initiatives, such as Geocities or Hometown, which could have easily morphed into Facebook, but it didn’t. It could have made the transition rather easily. I can’t find anyone who argues with this premise.

If AOL had become what Facebook is now, would I use it? No, not really.

Facebook is retro because, like AOL, it’s retro by its nature. It’s a closed system. Some people like a closed comfy system and others don’t. I, for one, don’t. If I want a personal webpage with all sorts of information about myself, I’ll go to WordPress.com and make one. By doing this, I don’t turn over any data, control, or information to an onerous third party to sell, use, or exploit. I can close down the site when I want. I can say what I want. I can pretty much do whatever.

If I am the least bit worried, I can use my various providers or other services to post a WordPress blog right from my own server. None of this is possible with Facebook. It wasn’t possible with AOL either.

Which begs the question as to why anyone would use Facebook when it is essentially AOL done right? The fastest growing group on Facebook are people in their 70’s. Oldsters are flocking to Facebook the way they once did with AOL. Facebook is a simple system for the masses that do not really care about technology and do not want to learn anything new except something easy like Facebook.

Whenever someone tells me to check out something on Facebook, I recall the heyday of AOL with its keywords. “Go to the Internet at www.blah.com or AOL keyword: blah.” This was a common comment on the nightly news or in magazines. The AOL keyword is replaced by the Facebook page name.

There is no reason for anyone with any chops online to be remotely involved with Facebook, except to peruse it for lost relatives. So, next time you log on, remember it’s really AOL with a different layout.

Welcome to the past.

by John C Dvorak on PCMag.com

Originally posted 2011-08-29 02:00:53.