nemorathwald: (sinfest devil clerk)
Just when you thought you didn't need yet another version of Linux...

Hot on the heels of Ubuntu Christian Edition is Ubuntu Satanic Edition, "Evil Edgy" release.
I'm copying my MP3 collection from my Windows computer to my Linux computer. I'd like to have it all in OGG Vorbis format. For a while I had a program on Windows that changed them from one to the other, but it was shareware and expired. I tried installing a free open source program on Linux to do this but it's one of those programs that doesn't appear in the Applications menu. So it's apparently intended for use from the command line.

Of course that would involve finding the executable in the filesystem first, I guess. In a command line interface you are walking through a subterranean network of perfectly dark tunnels. Instead of a flashlight or lantern, you are provided with an infinite supply of camera flashbulbs called the ls command. I prefer searching the filesystem through the graphical browser. I figure at least I can find the darn executable, then I can go into the shell and start up the program.

I have been informed that programs are found in the usr/bin directory, but all the executables there are named cryptically. As I go through clicking every one, nine tenths of them do nothing. Anyway, let me know any advice you might have, from any approach you desire.
Bruce Schneier has an article in WIRED Magazine which is a must-read for all computer users who care about keeping their computers free from spyware, malicious access cloaking programs, and other malware. He describes how anti-virus companies chose not to block Sony's malicious computer intrusion program on their infected music CDs. They considered it a "legitimate application" just because it was a criminal act by a corporation instead of by a criminal organization. How far will this collusion go? Can only open-source software save us from the collusion of these moneyed interests?

In fact, the next Microsoft Windows, "Vista," will have digital rights management technology built in that will make Microsoft the true owner of your computer. When you enter a command, the computer will go and ask its true masters for permission to obey you. You'll no longer really own content on your computer, you'll just be leasing it from the content providers. You know where this is going. They will control where, when, how many times, and in what form you use content, keep charging you for it again and again, and delete it from your own hard drive whenever they want. Microsoft and the music and movie industries will be in each other's back pockets to reduce the value of their products to you while simultaneously demanding more money from you for all the things you've been getting for free for decades.

Can I ask the open-source folks something? A lot of us out here in end-user-land want the computer to hold our hands and do most stuff invisibly for us while we manage our digital photos, music, games and other spokes on the digital hub. A computer is the hub of our non-computer lives. For us, it's a means, not an end. If we don't find it fun to write shell scripts, compile source code, and other hacking tasks on our own computer, does this mean we want software companies to own our computers and decide what we do with the spokes of our digital hub? If you have a servant, don't you want that servant to be autonomous to a certain degree? How much middle ground is there where they don't get to stomp on our right to our own computer, but we don't have to pay dearly in a difficultly level that makes the computing experience too costly for us? Is it fair to want that?
nemorathwald: (I'm losin' it)
SWEET LARD AND HEAVENLY BUTTER. Streampad, the free streaming music service on the web, hath delivered unto me this day a live classical concerto based on sounds from the Windows operating system.
nemorathwald: (Matt 3)
For those who don't know, you can put a Live CD with Linux on it into your Windows or Mac computer and it'll become a Linux computer temporarily. It's like hypnotism. It's as if your computer is clucking like a chicken. Then you take the CD out, and your Windows or Mac wakes up, yawns, shrugs, and goes about its business as if nothing had happened. None of your data is touched. It only uses the CD, it doesn't use the hard drive at all. It's called a "Knoppix" Live CD. You want one, you need one, you can download it free or get one from me.

Wanna know a secret? {Whispers} I'm using a Live CD right now. On my Windows computer. Just a one-night stand with Linux on my precious main computer. Not on a cheap testbed lounging on a card table in my basement with its hardware jauntily exposed. I'm using Linux on the respectable one I come home to at the end of the day. I'm using a commitment-free Live CD right now, to type this, and when my casual recreational computing is spent, I can take the disk out, and throw it away, and my Windows computer will never know how I used its body while it was HYPNOTIZED. Does that turn you on? Yes it does. You want to ask for pictures. Right now my computer looks like this.

This is the genius user interface called Mezzo, on a flavor of Linux called SymphonyOS. Seriously, check out that slide show even if you think you already know what Linux looks like. This desktop environment is new and teh slick.Read more... )

I am now going to count to three and take the CD out. When I reboot, this computer will be Windows again, and will remember nothing of this. One... you're getting sleepy... Two... your eyes are getting heavy... Three...
I should have included this in my recent list of ways Linux is like theology. You can't criticize Linux because somebody somewhere made their own version of Linux yesterday morning before breakfast which is intended to not have that problem; and they think you're criticizing them. But when I mean Linux, I mean the mainstream. I mean the thousands and thousands of open-source OS devotees and all the things that they really do have in common. Yes, there's variety, but they really do have certain things overwhelmingly in common. So do people of faith, from the Ayatollah to a little old lady down the street. More about that in a moment.

There are a lot of people telling me Linux is ready for everyone to use as a desktop system. But when I describe the experience I end up having which is not ready for the non-expert, and complain that the situation has been misrepresented, some other open-source OS advocates will stand up and say "hey, where are you getting that? Nobody's saying that. I never said that. I never heard any Linux supporter tell you that. Nobody said it was ready for you."

Well here's a link to another one.

Read more... )Similarly, a secularist can't criticize faith without immediately being pounced on by religious progressives who made up a new-and-improved religion yesterday before breakfast and now consider it normal. "Hold on," they say, "who said god was authoritarian, or faith and reason aren't compatible? What? When? Huh? What? Nobody said that." Um, how about this: how about almost everybody ever. That's like inventing a new operating system yesterday before breakfast that nobody heard of, and isn't compatible with Debian or RedHat or anything, and makes you start over from scratch.

"I came up with a totally new mental practice and I'm calling it faith. So, don't criticize the mental practices referred to by Christian Supremacists and Iranian clerics as faith! That word is off-limits, or else I couldn't have my own faith! Just oppose their mean and irrational actions!" Where do you think actions come from? Beliefs. If beliefs can't be criticized and weighed and judged, you're fighting the symptoms instead of the disease.

Imagine that I am -- metaphorically -- in armed combat with the Family Research Council or somebody like that. I will never hassle you about your religion or even mention it to you until you run up and pull my weapon out of my hands. If you do that, you know what? If you stand between me and the theocrats, fuck your precious faith. Fuck it in and around the ass region and that vicinity. Do religious progressives have any idea what price they're asking us to pay? Whatever benefit is gained from progressive religion isn't worth leaving unopposed the problems that mainstream religions tend to have in common. That would be a horrific cost. We're playing with grown-ups and the stakes are higher than the games you're playing. When I say "faith" I mean the awful mental sleight of hand and self-delusion that is actually practiced every day by the six billion people who never heard of the progressive religion you made up yesterday. I complain about the shit I have to put up with. If you're not going to help fight that fight, so that you can go on smoking your spiritual weed, at least stop trying to disarm us of the most important weapon: I raise my hand and say "excuse me abortion clinic bombers and terrorists and legislators, faith is make believe."
nemorathwald: (Matt 4)
What can you tell me about Mezzo, the new desktop environment for a Debian-based flavor of Linux called Symphony OS? This looks exciting and I can't wait to play around and experiment with it. I don't like downloading a program in Linux and then wondering where it went. Any interface that actually puts my programs where I can find the start icon after I install them will have me for a faithful user. Here's hoping it does so. I'm currently running Ubuntu, so I wonder if this desktop environment be downloaded to run on any other Linux than Symphony. Also, would a new desktop environment be restricted to running only programs developed specifically for it?

Mezzo is based on the Laws of Interface Design. Instead of a start menu, the four categories (computer settings, programs, documents, trash) are assigned a corner of the screen and accessed by ramming the mouse into a corner and clicking. When dragging/resizing application windows, the edges of the screen are solid so you can't lose them out of view. The desktop-as-folder is done away with. Technically there are no "icons" in the sense of something that can be moved like a piece of paper on a desk surface-- only buttons with icon pictures and captions. Other than the MacOSX-dock-like area, the desktop normally is covered only in nine slots for widgets just like the ones in Konfabulator. This is how it looks when you have some application windows un-minimized. (You can still put a background image behind the widgets, if I understand correctly.) Clicking a corner of the screen auto-minimizes all windows into the dock and covers the screen (except the dock) in that interface. There are no drop-down nested menus or scrolling in the file browser or the screens the corners bring up; instead, the view of the list zooms out until it fits. Drop-downs and scroll bars only appear in applications, since they've been pre-programmed that way.

Reportedly, in his OSCON keynote Paul Graham said "People don't switch to open source because they want to hack the code. People switch to Firefox because its better. Microsoft can't pay people enough to build something better than the people who are building it out of love." What's incongruous is that so many in tech have denied the existence of the type of FLOSS developer who is competing for my usage. The Firefox kind, whose attitude is "We're here to increase open source market share and save the world from Trusted Computing domination. We're here to compete and win. So we design for easy entry for n00bs instead of just driving them off with RTFM." I thought I had recently been told that Linux was only intended for power users and TUX Magazine is engaging in false advertising by claiming it was ready for the desktop. I thought I had been told that open source programmers write software only for themselves and none of them are driven by socially-conscious free-culture hippie egalitarianism. Then why are Symphony and Mezzo being created at all? The site names their mission "the easiest to use Linux experience there is." That doesn't say "power user" to me. Are shoemaker elves doing that? No, the Firefox kind of open source programmer is doing that. That's what gives me some hope for desktop-focused open source operating systems to be viable within the next decade. They are tantalizing me with promises...

P.S. As you can see from the concept images, it appears that Jason Spisak (or someone) badly needs a proofreader. Since I can do graphics, maybe I could do that for the open source community if I knew who to talk to about it.
I am pleased to report that hope pings eternal in the Linux-for-humans breast.

The problem with installing an application from CD to the laptop was a defect on the disk. My frustration was before I found the package manager, or to borrow a phrase I once heard [livejournal.com profile] netmouse use, "the Magical Man that Gets Things Done." The Ubuntu folks on the IRC channel assure me that new users are not expected to compile source code or hack scripts every time they want to install applications. It is not normal and accepted anymore and they do not want me to just get used to it. Tux Racer is not a flagship desktop-user product and should not be taken as representative of the effort to compete with Windows or Mac. Also, R's laptop has connectivity problems because it has buggy ethernet hardware and there is something idiosyncratic with the way the Gateway Solo 5300 talks to wireless cards. Linux can't detect what isn't there.

Read more... )Ubuntu does not suffer from the design philosophy that turns the entire computing experience into guessing a series of what amount to cryptic passwords. There do exist builds of Linux that are ready to replace Windows or Mac-- if you're lucky with hardware compatibility and go directly to the Ubuntu-specific community when you need help.

Emboldened by these successes, I am prepared to venture into unsafe territory and begin to learn more ambitious things.Read more... )
OK, here are the redeeming facts as near as I can ascertain them:

Read more... )

The problem with Linux adoption by newbies might not actually be Linux. It is surprisingly forgiving. You just wouldn't know that from the help you get. The GUIs change, so the people helping you have no way to know how to play in the shallow end of the swimming pool. They grew up using the command line so that's what you get. So the non-Linux user will inevitably have a "you've got to be kidding me" moment. They will not tolerate very many of those, and rightly so. The upshot of this is that I am going to turn in a feature request in Bugzilla. The feature would be for the install process to end in asking you if you want a little guided tour of the basic, fundamental computing tasks.

For instance, one of the first things the newly installed Ubuntu should describe to someone who requests the tour should be Synaptic Package Manager. Not apt-get. Wait until they are happily using Synaptic to download and install programs, and then tell them how much cooler it is to use apt-get from the command line. But have paper towels on hand to clean the Pepsi that they snort from their nose laughing at you.
nemorathwald: (Matt 4)
I can't get any sleep thinking about it so I might as well express it. At least I don't have to go to work tomorrow.

I had a huge epiphany today about Linux. I sat there and said "what the hell am I even doing this for?" Remind me again (I asked myself), what is the benefit in this, to me? When is the last time Windows crashed? I can't remember. What do I want to run on Linux that I can't run on Windows? I have Firefox, Open Office and The Gimp on Windows. This week I've been using free, open source desktop publishing, video and audio editing software on Windows and it's been a wonderful experience. Not to mention the countless free and open source web services. My support for free and open source software is as high as ever.

Except I no longer want to run Linux. What finally broke me on it was not the problems. All operating systems have problems. It was the horror of the solution. It was presented as normal, accepted, and even a positive. That was when I realized: "The promised land is never going to come. I am already here. This is it and I don't like it. This is normality. This would be happening if I bought a new computer with Ubuntu preinstalled and bought a year's worth of tech support. I cannot get around using the command line interface."

I am only lazy in a good way, the way that keeps you from chopping down a tree with a herring. It occurred to me, why should I learn command line? What do I gain? I thought I was getting a free operating system, but there are financial costs and there are work costs. From my perspective the cost to benefit ratio makes no sense! I would spend a lot of unpleasant time learning something I don't find interesting, in order to accomplish... well... I honestly have no idea. I have to take people's word for it what vague and nebulous benefits there are to this command line. I haven't needed it since DOS, and DOS is not something I want to go back to. Ever.

As those who know me are aware, I react very strongly to disillusionment. I should not have said in the comments to my last entry that Linux "broke" the computer. The most exquisite tool is just as good as broken when I apply it to the wrong problem. When I have a step down from my happy and content Windows experience, rather than a step up, then from a very context-dependent point of view it's kind of like I broke my experience. Linux doesn't "work" in the sense of not needing you to hold its hand. You know? The earth, the sun, my hearbeat, Palm OS, Firefox, these work. When your heartbeat needs you to "hold it's hand" with a pacemaker, it's broken. When your heart keeps asking you to tell it to beat with a command line interface you could sort of say it's working, in that you're not dead, but it seems your standards have shifted weirdly. "You know how important it is to be in the driver's seat of your hardware; we can't have autonomous heartbeats because you never know when you might need to hide your presence from the supernatural hearing of ninjas." I don't want to lose CD autoplay, or associating file types with actions, or lists of clickable options. I don't want to lose prompts and actions attached to every point in the interface, from which I can learn what to do next.

Well, it didn't take long to realize what had been motivating me in the first place-- rhetoric. All the coolest people were, and still are, in open source software. What I was gaining (in my mind) was solidarity with an idealistic social movement. Viva la teçhnōliberáčion. I don't want anticompetitive corporations to own the whole world with intellectual property, which in the future will be just about the only kind of property there is. Justice, freedom, monopoly-busting, equality, democracy, global brotherhood, access for the little guy-- it might as well have been goddamn control of the goddamn means of goddamn production, if you can believe that. Anything but what I could actually do with a tool! How embarrasing. Oh well. Lesson learned, and not for the first time. Now I have to make sure not to be a fool and have to learn it again.
nemorathwald: (I'm losin' it)
I've put the CD for Tux Racer into the drive of the laptop. Double-clicking the CD brings up this screen. I have clicked a variety of these icons, such as INSTALL and Setup.exe and nothing happened. What am I supposed to do?

Also, I used apt-get to install a music composition program called Rosegarden. It's not in the Applications menu. This has had no noticeable effect on the computer as far as I can tell. Where am I supposed to look to open this program?
Victory! Dan DeSloover from Monroe Linux User Group has gotten [livejournal.com profile] cosette_valjean's laptop to work with the network. Ironically, I recently installed Ubuntu on it to fix the difficulty we had with getting WinXP to network. I am typing this on Linux. Awesome!
nemorathwald: (Matt 4)
At this week's meeting of the Macomb Oakland Fan Organization, my brother told me about an old man who my dad knows. All this man wants to do with his computer is use e-mail. When my dad serviced his friend's computer, it was so full of viruses that you had to wait almost ten minutes just for the "My Computer" desktop icon to respond. Depending on the hardware he's on, those two facts make him the perfect user of Linux with the Thunderbird e-mail client. However, before I recommend this to him, I'll bet you anything he's on a dialup access. Nobody with such limited need would bother with the expense of broadband.
I recall the first of my dozen-or-so abortive attempts to use Linux. I had Xandros loaded on a low-GHz Pentium1. (Still do actually.) But all I had at the time was dialup, and when I asked people at a Penguicon meeting how to access dialup from Linux, it boggled their minds that I wasn't on broadband. What boggled my mind was that elitists were keeping me from using software that they purportedly wanted to spread far and wide. How much trouble is it to leave in a function that would allow half the Internet users in the country to use your product? So, Xandros turned my computer into a paperweight and I never used it for anything worthwhile. Not one thing.
Why broadband only? If I weren't using somebody else's broadband right now, I would go back to $10-a-month dialup. Broadband is salivatingly convenient, but it's currently an overpriced luxury. I was very very pleased when I found out Ubuntu, true to it's promise of accessibility for everyone, has dialup access. See, now-- that is software that is truly free to everyone. And yet ironically, according to this link, Ubuntu's network config doesn't auto-setup a dialup account very well! You have to go through a special set of instructions. Good thing the old man has my dad to help him.
You know that old argument (which doesn't hold up very much anymore) about how you supposedly have to use Windows or Mac in order to have the software you want? Well, here is this old man who only wants the humblest of functions, email on dialup. He would be the perfect user for the social democratic benefits of Linux, as best exemplified by the Ubuntu philosophy, were it not for this irony.
Reason #1. The ability to get good things done.

The internet is a world I spend a lot of time in. I'll say to a friend "this page of our organization needs to say this instead of that" and they'll direct me to somebody who is a gatekeeper when I'd rather just have the power to Do It. I found out recently from Blasted Bill and [livejournal.com profile] phecda that unless the cable company objects, a private consumer could actually host a web site in one's own home on a perfectly normal computer. My cousin [livejournal.com profile] iamgeek revealed to me that a "web server" is a piece of software, not hardware. It even comes bundled with Linux!

Not that it does me any good, yet. All too often (such as when I got a paid LJ account and looked at the features) I read jargon like CGI and Apache and PHP which, until yesterday, I assumed to be a special type of computer hardware only available to ISPs. No longer will I slink away in defeat at their mere mention. Not even when the so-called "Beginner's" Guide/Overview to Python contains gibberish like "object-oriented" and "regular expression" in its first few sentences. There's gotta be a class I can take, but how do I choose which one to take when programming, using a UNIX command-line interface, and web administration, all seem to blur together? Where does one of them end and another begin?

Reason #2. Friends.

So there are several problems that learning how to program will eventually solve, someday. But I want to be a hacker, at least an initiate, because wherever all the coolest and most interesting activities are going on, one half is cool and interesting and the other half is unintelligible. This is a sign that I have no earthly business not being a hacker.

November 2016

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