Tuesday, August 30, 2005

So I think Jordan, Peter, and I hit our apex of geekiness last night. Here are the bad signs.

1. We were sitting around and watching the daily show.
2. The LEDs Peter soldered together were glowing in the background.
3. We were all on our laptops.
4. We were ordering flying spagetti monster t-shirts.
5. Jordan was updating his flash plugin.
6. I was SSHing into another computer upstairs.
7. We were holding a seperate IM conversation among ourselves while talking out loud.

Oh well...

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

I just made up a new word!

Scientista, n.: An unmarried female scientist.
Hush, and observe the sexy scientista as she goes about her work.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

A series of unfortunate events...

P.S. If you understand this, you know too much about *nix.

Monday, August 22, 2005

"Torture, treason, and corruption, by our works you shall know us."
--Republican Jesus

Jesus' General

Saturday, August 20, 2005

So, I never realized that James Bond is such a rapist. There's a James Bond marathon on TV right now, and the older 007 films have some pretty clear examples of non-concensual sex. At the very least, they're cases of sexual harrasment that could lead to some pretty severe repurcussions in todays society. At worst, extortion for sex, and possible rape. Oddly, however, the women always seem to begin to enjoy it at the last second. Well, I guess he is Bond.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Ok, so I just made the most amazing discovery ever. What is it, you ask?

Indie Podcasting.

They are the new media and they rock. The format is actually best listened to on iTunes or Podcatcher. RSS feeds are kind of inconvinient. Do yourself a favor and get some podcasts.

I personally suggest:
The nate and di show

Have a nifty day!

Monday, August 15, 2005

Ooh! Silly people who think they knew science. Flat earth Society. Take a few minutes and see if you can refute all the arguments. It's like a game!

Friday, August 12, 2005

Mini-Lan this saturday. Be ready for some wardriving if you want to come.

So here's something good. Skepticality.com. If you're looking for a fun, rational, freethinking time, this is the place. I especially loves Swoopy with Whimsicality. Check it out, you'll see what I mean.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Ok, so I saw the sweetest car yesterday. Here it is.

So today is the day. Well, yesterday, actually, but close enough. Someone has figured out how to get OS X to run on non-apple hardware. Nice.

With all the interest, its really too bad that Apple won't open up OS X to run on any hardware. But I have a couple thoughts on the matter.

It's quite possible that they don't want to degrade the OS X experience with all of the issues that can indeed come with random hardware. The truth is, Apple makes pretty awesome hardware, and I don't now how I would feel about running it on a black box. Another possibility, however, is that Apple has decided it's time to go big or go home. On that note, they might have decided to pull what I would like to call the "l33tkr3w gambit."

Apple started a hackathon as soon as they released the x86 version of OS X. They probably knew it would happen, and they probably knew that it would succeed (reletively easily, it seems.) This created exponentially more interested in the technical community than a simple blackbox OS X version would have.

This is likely to lead to more technical users working with OS X. If the mainstream tech community (the slashbots) move to OS X and away from it's likely to usher in a new age of prosparity for Apple as they drag more and more of the normal community with them.

If that's they're plan, it's a pretty awesome one. If that's not their plan, they may be pleasently surprised.

In any event, I hope that a blackbox version of OS X does come out some day. Until then, um, don't use the cracked version. That would be illegal and stuff.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Where the Open *Nix Desktop Needs to Go

I was originally going to title this post "Where linux needs to go." But the truth is, that isn't really a meaningful statement. I don't know much about the linux kernel, but as far as I can tell, it's stable, fully featured, and in good hands. It has it's own charismatic leader, Linus Torvalds, a figure to whom thousands of geeks worldwide swear fealty.

Overall, Linus has his thing, and he's doing it well.

What needs to change about linux (and BSD and probably others I'm not as familiar with) is not the inner workings. It's the experience.

I've spoken before about how amazed I am by OS X. It's a beautiful piece of work. Everything works, and works well, and underneath it all, I'm comfortable knowing that there's a stable, standard, well-made FreeBSD base. I can use the bash when I feel like it, but I never have to (unless I want to something esoteric, like install software from the fink project.)

This proves that the tools that the Linux and BSD communities provide can work for the average person. It also shows the things that are wrong with our current approach.

The good news is that now that the way has been shown to us, it's apparent how we can improve our act. The bad news is that copying OS X will lend credence to the accusation that open source never innovates. True, there are many readily apparent ways in which open source has been ahead of the curve, but here, we're playing catch-up. Unfortunately, all we can do is bite the bullet and move on. (I say we loosely. I'm not a very good programmer yet, and I've been using Linux for 8 months. But go with me here.)

The primary issue to the common user is hardware support. A user should not have to try to get hardware support. This is something that needs to just work. No ifs, ands, or buts. I don't know if the bigger linux distros do this, but the smaller ones don't. I can't stress enough that this should be the biggest push. If average joe and jane can't get their sound to work in the first half hour, they aren't going to stay with it. Same for wireless, graphics card (usually not a huge problem) and every other peripheral that they've spent their money on. I know this isn't always our fault, and that few hardware manufacturers are helpful and loving towards the world's linux users. But in some cases, the proper drivers are there, but they don't auto-load and configure themselves correctly. Every time that happens, we lose a potential users. That needs to change.

The next major barrier is software installation. This is getting better, but it still needs improvement. Tools like synaptic are acceptable ways for users to install software, but they have two weaknesses. The first is the lack of integration with websites and the rest of the outside world. When a user goes to a website and looks at the download section, and all they see is deb packages, rpms, and source packages, chances are that they'll use them. There are two ways in which this situation could be improved. One would be to integrate some sort of protocol handler (like those produced for AIM links) with both a synaptic-like client and an OS version sensor. Having the client request the right package type automatically and install it (with proper user confirmation and security measures, of course.)

A better solution would be similar to the one that was instituted in OS X. Standardized package formats. The best thing for the Linux community would be to remove the current 4 (more?) options for package type and go with one. Most obvious among these is auto-package. In my opinion, the linux community should be hog-piling on the possibility of cross-compatible packages, but that hasn't really happened.

If autopackages did become the accepted standard, then the next logical step would be to allow click-to-install with them. This is close to done already. Currently there are four steps to install, which isn't horrible. But that includes changing the execute permissions, which isn't good enough for the average user. The path should be obvious. Double-click should at least yield a pop-up dialog asking if the permissions should be changed. The current dialog also asks if the user would like to view or run. Also not good enough. Close, but a real end-user friendly system shouldn't have these unnecessary steps.

Lastly, the file system needs to be cleaned up. Even windows is ahead of us here with the program files directory. Here, again, we could take a lesson from OS X with it's /Applications directory and it's *.app packages, which, for those of you who arn't familiar, are folders that contain all the information for an application and act like executable files when clicked. It's a very clever system, and while the symbolism isn't accurate, the ease of application installation, use, and removal is unbeaten.

Ironically, none of these things would be nearly as hard to program as the things I've already seen the linux community to do. I've seen reverse-engineering. I've seen linux go to the ipod. I've seen GUI tricks that are months or years ahead of their windows counterparts and on par with their OS X. I've seen applications that are window manager agnostic. I've seen actual security measures put in place, and updates provided. And I've seen all of that cared for and updated and improved in just the nine months since I started caring about linux. But no one has done the things we really need. And that's a problem.

In the future I'll talk about some of the ways in which we might improve the development process for the linux desktop, and some other features we might include.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Lots of interesting things today. For one, Carnival of the Godless is up again. Very nice this week.

For another, a birdwatcher posted some pictures of a praying mantis killling a hummingbird. I was impressed.

That was via phyrangula.org. I really can't say enough good things about that blog, people. It's written by PZ Mayers, a biology prof at Morris. He's an excellent writer, knows his biology (of course), and even knows his way around a computer quite well from what I can tell (he's an Apple man, which currently gets him some more points from me.)

On that note, I'd like to talk about OS X a little bit. I 'm a Linux user, as most of you know, and I have been for the last few months. I'm comfortably running Gentoo on my desktop right now, which is a mid-range computer that I recently built.

I've bearly touched it since I got the ibook I'm using right now.

It's a 500 MHz machine from a couple of years ago that I got on ebay. It actually takes time for text to come up on the screen after I type it. The screen is only 12". But given the choice between this, my desktop, and my old laptop (which hasn't gone to it's buyer quite yet) I've chosen this every time.

Part of it is size (I'm comfortably sitting on my bed right now, looking out the window) and part of it is certainly the joy of having a new OS to play with. And a good part of it is the beauty with which an ibook is made (more on that later.) But mostly, it's OS X. It's almost definately the best OS I've ever used. This is a particularly odd feeling because it's really FreeBSD, with the Apple window manager (Aqua) running on top of it.

When it comes to the distinction between capitolism and community driven projects (projects largly labled as communism) I usually come out more left of the line than most people. But I've had a revelation. The best projects are done by people who care and have some organization. One or the other doesn't cut it. The linux community is fragmented, their projects are freqently redundant, and they've never really sat down and fixed all of the usability issues systematically. I have yet to find a distro that does everything I want it to out of the box. Ubuntu comes close, but the wireless support isn't even close to working form me. (I know other people have had different experiences.) Furthermore, sound is imperfect, samba is fairly difficult to configure.... the list of petty annoyances goes on for a while.

On the other side of the coin is Windows. Everything works, but the lack of quality is readily apparent. Standards support is horrific, and the entire UI experience is shoddy. Further, seemingly common features are fairly well hidden. Everything is overly bloated, especially SP2 for windows XP (which takes as much space as the OS itself.) If you're going to increase the size of my OS, you'd better increase the functionality too. Security updates don't take that much space.

Add to that the list of dropped features in Longhorn (a much better name than Vista any day) and I really have no idea what the developers of Redmond do with their time. My bet is drink on the job. I know I would if I ended up working for M$.

Apple hits it right. The care that went into everything is apparent. Everything works properly, and well. Everything works the first time. I have yet to experience any frustration, except when trying to get it to interface with a different computer, which also went surprisingly well.

Thus Apple has joined the ranks of Google and The Daily Show in my books. They're groups that are in bussiness, it's true. But it's fairly easy to see that they actually care what kind of product they produce. It's a small group, but a good one.

On that note, I'd like to salute Google, the Daily Show, Apple, and any bussiness out there that actually takes pride in the products it produces, or the services it offers. You make the world better. Not many groups can honestly say that.

I think helios said it best. Brave soldiers all.

I'd like to talk about the ways in which linux could improve it's quality, ease of use, and hopefully market share as well. But for all of you out there who arn't geeks, I highly suggest that you consider Apple next time you purchase a computer. You deserve a change.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

So one of the minor disadvantages of an new OS is that I have to find applications that do the things that I need. On that note, once again, I have another Blog editing tool, Chronicle Lite. It seems to be working out pretty well so far.

Apparently yesterday was Jordan's birthday. So there are some festivities.

Also, I figured out how to get my wifi card working properly in Linux. Just in time for my laptop to be sold. Fortunately, Jordan is getting the same model, meaning it is not a waste. Now we'll be able to do some serious wardriving.... Or warbiking. Or whatever.

Anyway, if you have a prism 2 pcmcia card for linux, and you're deperate, try modprobing for orinoco_cs. It just might make your day a little better.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

So I had my first full day with OS X today. I'm very pleased. Apparently there's an X11 subsystem that allows the running of X applications alongside aqua applications. Meaning, of course, that I can still have Linuxy goodness. Hell, i can even run fluxbox or kde if I'm really that desperate. I have all my needs covered, (browser, IM, fun applications of goodness). Also, people go all gaga over ibooks, even if they're Windows users. I'm not really sure why. I guess even a 2 year old ibook does look pretty damn good.

Anyway, basically, I'm happy with my new laptop.
Peace out.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Worship me...

...for I am your king.

I am nerdier than 93% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

My computer geek score is greater than 81% of all people in the world! How do you compare? Click here to find out!


This is getting annoying.

Everyday, I see realism become a smaller and smaller minority in America. So let's go over the basics agian...

1. Intelligent design is creationism. As long as you put the creation of life in a box and label it "God did it," you are preaching creationism. That case was decided at the Scopes Monkey trial in 1925. Guess what happened.

2. Every intelligent design argument has been refuted, but no one pays any attention. No, seriously. All of them. If you have something new, email me. I promise I'll be interested.

3. Naturalism (the premise of science that everything can be explained by a natural, as opposed to supernatural cause) has held up for hundreds of years. If you want to challenge it, you should have actual evidence, laid out systematically.

4. Be very careful when insulting the work of thousands of scientists. Hundreds of grad students spend 60 hours a week studying evolutionary biology. People have done their thesis work on it. Academics spend their lives on science, with minimal reward. We do it out of love, and because we want to make the world better. If we had an alterior agenda, we would have gone into buisiness. We're serious about our work.

5. If you want to keep your toys, your computer, your car, your house, you should not drive scientists out of your society.

Anti-Intellectualism is a dangerous thing. Ever wonder why America is behind the rest of the world? It's partially because of our school systems, no doubt, but mostly, I think it's because of the attitude that our society holds toward academics. State-sanctioned dismissal of the opinions of the educated on a matter of education is another step down a path we don't want to be on.