Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Rank your Linux-Nerd Level

So you love your penguin powered computer huh? Just how does your level of Linux nerd stack up compared to the other Linux fans you know? Tally your points using the information below and find out.

The Easy Points (+1 each):

You know what Linux is.

You can name the Linux mascot.

You know what a "kernel" is (and I'm not talking about pop-corn).

You know the difference between Android, Ubuntu, and Linux (thats right folks - there is more to Linux than Ubuntu).

You use Linux every day.

The Average Nerd (+2 each):

You have installed a Linux-based OS on your own.

You have asked for help on a Linux forum/chat room.

You know the difference between Linux, BSD, Solaris and Unix.

You read FOSS new sites daily.

You use "free as in beer" to describe all things that are without cost - not just software.

The Serious Nerd (+3 each):

You solve more problems for other people than you ask about yourself on Linux forums/chat rooms.

You can install and configure Gentoo/Arch without documentation.

You recompile software for fun or too add a new build flag.

You know the difference between apt-get, yum, rpm and dpkg.

You own Linux merchandise and display it as often as possible (t-shirt, coffee mug, ect.)

The Duty of a Nerd (+4 each):

You have edited code that didn't want to compile so it would build correctly.

You contribute to/write for/maintain a Linux news website.

You own more computers than you can count on one hand and they all run some type of Linux.

The Nerdiest of them All (+5 each):

You maintain/regularly contribute code to an open source project.

You have written a patch that was accepted to the main-line Linux kernel.

OK go ahead and take a moment to tally up your points. Lets see what your total says about you:

Linux Ignorant (0-5 points):

Catch phrase: "Whats a 'linux'?"

Linux Newbie (6-10 points):

Catch phrase: "Hey guys - check out this new OS I found. It's free!"

Linux Jockey (11-20 points):

Catch phrase: "Here try this live CD."

Linux Tech (21-30 points):

Catch phrase: "OK first open a terminal..."

Linux Expert (31-40 points):

Catch phrase: "Hang on, I've got some code compiling."

Linux Master (41-50 points):

Catch Phrase: "Once I finish this software patch things are going to be sweet!"

Linux God (51+ points):

Catch Phrase: "Give me a moment, I am praying to Tux."

How do you rank on my little scale? Also please note this short little "quiz" is intended in good fun - it is not meant to be taken seriously in any way.

~Jeff Hoogland

Flash, Chrome and a Mole Hill

In case you haven't heard yet Adobe made a blog post today detailing a new partnership with Google. If you haven't already follow my link above and read Adobe's post - it is only a few paragraphs. I've already seen this news reposted on several open-source news sites and honestly I think it is great deal of fuss over something that ultimately won't matter much.

I have a few reasons for saying this, here is my train of thought on the topic:

1.) We are getting flash 11.2 as a normal browser plugin and then this version will see security updates for five years. A good deal of flash content doesn't break backwards compatibility (heck I still use flash 9.x on my N900 without issues), this means you have at least five more years of using flash in your browser of choice on Linux.

2.) I know, odds are you know it, heck even Adobe knows it - flash is going the way of the dinosaurs with regards to web technology. Does this mean we are going to have a flash free web tomorrow? No of course not. It does mean though that as new, better content gets created for the web it is less and less likely to utilise flash. Five years from now flash not existing for Linux could seriously be a non-issue.

3.) Worst case scenario: Flash doesn't die out and five years from now we all have to install Chrome when we need to access some poorly designed flash-based website. It would suck, but it would hardly be the end of the world.

So for now, lets not make a mountain out of something that very well appears to be nothing more than a molehill.

~Jeff Hoogland

Thursday, February 9, 2012

HOWTO: Run your Games in a new Xserver

When I play a game that runs full screen on Linux but still want to have things running in the background I'd like to check on here and there without closing my game I typically launch my game into a new Xserver instance. This fairly simple setup allows you to change between Xserver instances by using ctrl+alt+f7 and ctrl+alt+f8.

To launch your application into a new Xserver instance you simply need to launch the program as follows (I'll use Desura in my example):

xinit /home/honey/desura/desura %U -- :1

Once you run this your screen will flick once or twice as the new X instance is created and the program is automatically launched within it. This new X will be accessible via the keyboard shortcut ctrl+alt+f8, to get back to your previous X instance simply press ctrl+alt+f7.

Now, one other thing to note is that on some Linux distributions you may be greeted with the following message when you try to run xinit as a normal user:

X: user not authorized to run the X server, aborting.

Don't panic, the fix for this is also simple. In terminal run:

sudo nano /etc/X11/Xwrapper.config

This will open a file for editing - we only need to adjust one line. Make sure somewhere in this file is the line:

Save and close the file and the above xinit file should now work. Happy gaming folks!

~Jeff Hoogland

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Lenovo Multimedia Remote (Keyboard/Mouse) Review

Whenever I am working on something, be it homework or one of my various tasks for Bodhi I almost always have the TV on in the background. I have a lot of work that I do - so that amounts to a good deal of television hours. Even with this being the case though, I have not watched more than a few hours of network television in the last three years.

A few years back I took a spare PC I had laying around and turned it into a dedicated media PC. It runs pretty much 24/7 attached to my 32" LCD television. Most people don't sit right on top of their television and I am no exception to this rule. Thus in order to control my media PC I needed some form of wireless control. For a good deal of the last three years I've struggled with using a Logitech wireless keyboard and mouse. While these generally worked they chewed through batteries, had poor wireless range and other various issues.

Late last month I acquired a new device to replace my old keyboard and mouse. It is a Lenovo Enhanced Multimedia Remote. The Lenovo remote is essentially a keboard/mouse combination that is designed to fit in the palm of your hand:

I must say after having used this little device for a couple of weeks I am fairly impressed with it. The range on the device is fantastic - I can go anywhere in my front room and get a flawless signal to my PC. The keyboard is of good build quality and the raised keys make for a pleasant typing experience. The dimensions of the keyboard are slightly bigger than your average smart phone keyboard - meaning that anyone who can text fairly quickly will have no problem working with this keyboard at an impressive speed.

The mouse on the device is a fairly interesting design. It reminds me a of a more fluid implementation of the "nub" mice older laptops used to have built in by default. Directly below the mousing area there is a vertical raised bar that acts as a scroll bar - very handy when web surfing. It is easier to see the mouse/scroll bar in action so the following is a short demo video of the "Remote":

While the product page claims the device is only compatible with various flavors of MS Windows - I have had absolutely no issues with the device on my Linux media PC which runs a build of the 3.0 kernel (meaning it should work on most all modern Linux distros). Beyond being a useful toy at home, I also plan to drag my remote along with me once I start teaching classes so I can work the PC I am presenting from anywhere in the room.

Finally, the price tag on this little guy is 80 USD. So while this is more expensive than your average wired keyboard and mouse it is about the same cost as most quality wireless keyboard and mouse combos.

~Jeff Hoogland

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

LibreOffice Math/Formula Editor Examples

While I love technology another one of my passions is mathematics. I am currently working on a graduate degree in this field. I like to type a good deal of my course work so it looks presentable.

I know the industry standard for typing mathematics is using a software such a LaTex or Lyx, but I haven't quite made the leap from using LibreOffice as my every day word processor as of yet. Thankfully, LibreOffice comes with a fairly power equation editor - if you know how to use it! The following is my personal cheat sheet for using the editor - enjoy!

If you'd like to download a copy of this you can easily copy and paste I've got an ODT version here and a PDF version here.

~Jeff Hoogland

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Confused about iPads in Education

It's been nearly two years since I got my first Asus convertible tablet/netbook, loaded it up with Linux and started kicking it around with my every day to classes. In general I have found it to be an extremely useful tool.

I need to type notes or prepare a presentation? Not a problem - it is a netbook after all and can perform all the same functions as a laptop. I need to take hand written notes? I don't have to keep track of notebook paper that I always inevitably lose. I simply fire up Xournal and can use any stylus (or even a pen with a cap over the tip) to take notes on the computer just as if I was writing on a notebook. 

My netbook convertible does what any good piece of technology should - it makes my life easier.

You want to know what doesn't seem to make anyone's life easier during class? Those iPad's I've seen piles of people caring around campus with them this last year. In fact, I've never once seen an iPad used productively to take notes in a classroom. You can't type notes effectively on the dang thing - at least I've yet to find anyone that can match my 90+ WPM using a touch screen keyboard. You also can't take hand written notes effectively due to the poor quality of basically every capacitive stylus in existence.

One useful thing the iPad can do is function as a calculator. Another thing I've heard proposed is replacing text books with ebooks on the iPad. You know what else has all the functions of a calculator and can read ebooks and pdfs? You guessed it - my netbook.

The biggest joke at the end of all of it? Even the "16GB" version of the iPad costs more than the highest end Asus T101MT.

Maybe I'm just not "hip" enough to see the need for them, but it seems to me if we want to revolutionize how our students learn using technology they would be better served if that technology came in the form of something other than an "iPad" or capacitive tablet of any sort. Whats your take on it?

~Jeff Hoogland