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Monthly Archives: February 2008

Site of the Week: Picking a Linux Distro

This weeks site of the week will have to be cut short as I have some pressing issues I need to attend to.

My pick this week is zegenie studios’ Linux Distribution Chooser. I doubt this will really be of much use to you if you already know how to use Linux, but if you don’t it might help a bit. it just asks some questions about yourself and gives you a list of distros that you might like.

If you are new to linux, and don’t know much about computers, I suggest that you start with Ubuntu and then when and if you learn to use it (a.k.a. learn to hate Ubuntu) you might try this chooser to see what is out there that you might want to use. Don’t settle for the first thing you find though, try a bunch and see what you like the most.

now for a bit of an aside. That Gentoo “review that I promised is still coming when I get around to it. Also I will download FreeBSD 7.0 as soon as the servers cool down a bit and let you know what I think of it (like you care :)).

 
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Posted by on February 29, 2008 in linux, site of the week

 

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Grr…

The other day I wrote up a little review of Gentoo, but I was stupid and used wordpress’ editor and guess what… FIREFOX CRASHED! and then my internet became mostly unusable for two days. I’ll try to get that rewritten sometimes this week… Also FreeBSD 7 is supposed to come out tomorrow so I think I will try that. I’ll let you know how it goes.

One a side not I recently broke down and joined facebook. Its actually pretty cool, especially if you are in to not being able no control anything at all. But, the lack of crap falling down peoples profiles almost makes up for that :). I’m still a little worried about privacy issues but I haven’t given them anything too important so I’m not too worried about it. (when it asks for you email password so that it can send emails inviting your friends to join facebook remember that viri(or however you spell that) use a very similar tactic…). So if you are interested <a href=”http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1109478640″>friend me</a> or what ever they call it over there. I also would like to suggest the iThink application which you can find on my profile.

P.S.

Fedora for the win.

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2008 in Firefox, linux, review

 

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Site of the Week: High Security Passwords

I usually post the site of the week on Friday but I will be out of town this weekend and thus unable to post site of the week at its normal time. Because I know the thousands of people that read this blog desperately want to see a site of the week and since I didn’t post one last week I will post it today.

This weeks site of the week is Ultra High Security Password Generator. This site is really pretty simple. It generates a pseudo-random 64 hex character string, a 63 ascii character string, and a 63 alpha-numeric string for use as passwords. 63-64 characters is a really long password to remember. If you can do it, go for it; if you can’t, just cut it down to 20-30 characters. It won’t be as secure but it will still take hours upon hours to brute force.

I just noticed today that this site is a product of the Gibson Research Center (I wonder if its hosted on a gibson? 😛 HACK THE PLANET!) as in Steve Gibson of Security Now. I haven’t actually listened to Security Now yet, but I may in the future. However Mr. Gibson has been on the Screen Savers back in the day and on TWIT several times.

Enjoy your internets and remember:
“Seldom do those who are silent make mistakes.” – from the Havamal.

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2008 in security, site of the week

 

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10 Things Apple Should Do

Of course, The one thing I would love to see Apple do is free Mac OS and be more supportive of various Free software movements, but that is never going to happen as long as Steve is still in charge (I wouldn’t bet on it even if her weren’t though). So I have settled for the top 10 things I would like to see apple to in the future that don’t, for the most part, have anything to do with my support of free software. Unfortunately we live in reality and thus must ourselves be realistic.

  1. Include all or at least most common GNU software with Mac OS You may be thinking “but he said he wasn’t going to talk about free software.” Well, this has nothing to do with the software being free, other than it makes it easier for Apple to include it. I think Apple needs to include this software because it is insanely useful. Now, I know a lot of people don’t use the terminal so they won’t see a lot of these programs but is it too much to ask to have gnupg installed with the OS?
  2. Include a fully functional terminal environment on the install CD What I mean by this is that the install CD is lacking some very useful tools. While trying to fix apples mistakes in leopard (transparent menu bar) I broke a plist. I booted up the install cd so I could edit the file I broke from the terminal. I was dismayed to find that I did not have access to many essential utilities. Its been a while so I don’t remember what all was missing but I do remember there was no emacs or vi and I believe that even grep was missing! To Apple’s credit I didn’t think to try nano or pico and surely at least one of those must be there. So a had to edit the text file with echo, cat, head, and tail. I guess I can just say I’m really hardcore or something.
  3. Include support for more codecs in QuickTime/iTunes/iPods, or at least allow third party codecs to be easily addedThird position doesn’t do this justice, however I am more concerned about numbers 1 and 2 than this so I (and you) will have to live with it at third. I ranted a while back about how apple will never allow Xiph formats. I believe that is still true but I would also like to see divx, WMV(as much as I hate it), and whatever else you may have.
  4. Package management I’m not really sure how anyone can use a computer with out some kind of package management. I use macports myself. One of the things Mac Os has going for it is that it is easy to use so why can’t Apple add a simple graphical package management system (hopefully with a more powerful command line interface aswell) and say to all of the people who aren’t geeks “Look at this you can install all kind of programs with one click of the mouse and all for free!.” The free part would assume that they would only include free software. It might make more sense for Apple to provide Free software for no charge and offer non-free software for a per download price (think iTunes store for software).
  5. Make spaces and stacks and the dock and the folder icons not suck I like spaces in respect to it being a planar multi-desktop utility and it was about time Apple added a multi-desktop utility by the way! However, I don’t like the way it switches desktops every time a program (normally iTunes) is being an attention whore and is fighting to be on top (as in the foremost window…) for no apparent reason other than it wants to be. I also don’t like that windows always maximize to the desktop they were opened on. It would me nice to be able to minimize a window and move to another window and maximize that window without spaces automatically changing back the space it originated from. To move a window to a different space you have to click and hold on the title bar and then move to a new space. For the way stacks should be see this page(I hate the way stacks shows a stack of the icons in the folder as its icon. It is impossible to discern anything useful from that mess). The dock looks stupid if it isn’t on the side of the desktop. I changed it so it looks like it does on the side even when its on the bottom. The new folder icons leopard uses make it very hard to tell multiple folders apart (see Arstechnica’s
    leopard review for more about this)
  6. Get a new filesystem HFS+ is old and outdated. Apple seems to be working on replacing it with ZFS. I’m not sure if that is really the best way to go, at least for desktop, but I can’t think of anything better off the top of my head (HAMMER might be a possibility when it comes out)
  7. Allow for full disk encryption Mac os uses File Vault to encrypt your user file right now and it sucks. It just makes your user folder a variable sized encrypted disk image. Disk images are not meant to be used like this. Not to meantion that every time I have tried to do it (on Tiger) I get an error telling me that my hard drive is too small and I need a few hundred more terrabytes of free space.
  8. Make a CDMA Iphone CDMA is better and I happen to already be a sprint customer :). Apple could also learn a thing or two from the OpenMoko while they are at it.
  9. Integrate X11 into Quartz I don’t know if this is possible or even if I’m talking about the right thing. That is as far as I can tell Quartz seems to be analogous to X11 but I’m not 100% sure it is. I occasionally like to use X11 applications and it can be annoying to have to have X running. It would be nice if Quartz could support X programs to some extent so that X never has to be run. Along with that It would also be nice to have native GTK support.
  10. Be more open I couldn’t help myself. Also I couldn’t think of any thing else (which is why it is 10).

Apple has a feedback page so if you agree with anything that I have said you might head over there and let them know about it.

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2008 in apple

 

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A Backup Script Mark 2

You may remember a while ago I posted about a backup script I wrote. I have put some work into it and improved it quite a bit. Here are some of the more important changes I made.

I realized that saying that it did incremental backups was not completely true. What it was doing was snapshots so I changes all of the terminology to snapshot instead of incremental.

Last time I mentioned that snapshots take a very long times. Well, I fixed that, kind of. Before the script was set to compress the tar files it generated which took hours if they were large. To illustrate this problem this problem I have some numbers. I ran a backup using the same exact 21.87GBs of data one compressed with bzip and one not. Using bzip the backup took 7h52m; without bzip the backup took 23m51s. That is 94.9% faster. All that time is for only a 1.26GBs (6.12% savings) of space saved. So I changed it so compression is not default anymore, though it is still an option. depending on the size and composition of your files to be backed up compression may still be worth using. Now I said I kind of fixed it because after I took those statistics I made the script hash the backup files so that when you can ensure that your backups are good. This takes some times, but no where near as much as compression. If you are a Mac OS X user you will have to install md5sum using macports or fink or whatever you want for this to work. Apple sucks and they can’t include this so you will have to install it yourself(if you already have macports you probably already have md5sum).

I added a option to restore from a snapshot (I believe the last version only supported restores from the normal backup).

You may have noticed a bug while using -v where if all you used was -v nothing would happen. Its fixed.

I added a paranoia mode that uses srm instead of rm. I hope that I can add more to this in the future. Encryption is still a problem.

I changed the configuration so that multiple users could be added. This part makes me with I hadn’t written this is bash. I hate the way it works and I can’t get anything better as I am pushing up against the barriers of the language (or my understanding of it?). check out the readme and /etc/backup/main.conf for more an this. Note that the install script will replace your current config file with a standard one(useless one) so make sure to save yours before you install.

If you want to look at all of the the changes take a look at the todo file.

Before I forget like last time it I need to link to this. So Here it is. I’m not sure how but this one is actually 2kb smaller than the last version(it is 30kb by the way).

I don’t know if I will continue to work on this or not. I am still using it even on leopard because I don’t know if I want to trust time machine. However there are some really great backup utilities out there so I may want to use one of those.

Just as last time if you have any suggestion, comments, or bug fixes you can leave them in the comments or email me.

Oh before I forget I’v been trying to think of a name for this (I’ve just been calling it backup so far). If you have any ideas I would love to hear them.

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2008 in backup, bash

 

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site of the Week: None

Due to circumstances I have no intention of telling the fine folks of the internet I was not able write a site of the week tonight. I may have one tomorrow but don’t count on it.

Instead I will give you something that I forgot to put in my last post. I meant to talk about what one could do if one was forced to use a windows machine where one does not have permissions to change the keyboard layout. The answer DvAssist. DvAssist will change the Layout for you even when you don’t have permission to do it. The only problem is that since you don’t have permission to change the layout you can’t change it back with out DvAssist (It changes back and forth). To make sure its clear, DvAssit actually changes the layout in windows. It does not sit between you and windows and emulate a change or anything like that. It actually changes it. That means that when dvAssist is not running the layout will be set to whatever you changed it to with DvAssist.

I use it at school and it works pretty well. I do recommend using hot keys to switch just in case you need to switch in a hurry.

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2008 in Uncategorized

 

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Switching to Dvorak in Four Easy steps

UPDATE: I seem to somehow removed step four while editing.

A few years ago (3 I think) I switched to dvorak. There are a lot of sites out there that will explain why dvorak is better than qwerty so I would like to focus on how to switched to dvorak and the problems you may experience if you do. But of course I can’t write a post on dvorak with you a little discussion on why it is better.

The first thing you will notice about dvorak after using it for a while is that you don’t have to move your hands as much. you will be able to type a lot of what you want to type without ever leaving the home row or only leaving it a few times. Bulhing on that there is another thing that you may not notice for a while (unless you already know about it); Dvorak is designed to alternate which hand you are typing with. So most of the time when you type a letter with one hand you will type the next with the other. I said this was building on not having to leave the home as often so you may be wondering how the two are connected. Well, here is how: when you have to move off of the home row to type a character the next key you have to hit will be on the other side of the keyboard. This means you won’t have to twist your hands in strange uncomfortable ways. There we have hit on the real benefit of dvorak it is more uncomfortable. If you do a lot of coding you will love dovark. All of those keys like / and aren’t shoved down in the corner or other strange uncomfortable places anymore! I know I said I would keep that short but I couldn’t help myself.

so now to the important part. How to join the cool crowd erm I mean switch to dvorak.

Step 1: change your layout in your os of choice and rearrange the keys on your keyboard
note:in case you didn’t you can pry of the keys with a screw driver and but them back on where they belong(in the dvorak layout that is). It won’t hurt your keyboard if you aren’t stupid about it.

Step 2: If you can help it use only dvorak. At first you will have difficulty typing because you don’t know where the keys are! thats why you changed the physical location of the keys on your keyboard in the last step. Give this step some time (maybe 2-4 weeks) you will get the hang of it eventually.

Step 3: Change the physical location of the keys on your keyboard back to qwerty, but keep your os set to dvorak. So you think after almost a month of using dvorak you know where the key are? can you do it with out the possibility of looking? 😉 This actually has some very practical reasons beyond forcing you to touch type (if you are a computer n00b and don’t know proper typing, whether you do it or not, this may not work for you). Keyboard keys are normally varied in height by what row they are on. When you move around the keys there heights will get all screwed up. If you ever have to use qwerty again it may be helpful to have it on your keyboard(you will probably forget how to type on qwerty after a while). If someone else wants to use your computer that doesn’t know dvorak and can’t touch type with qwerty they will need to see qwerty on the keyboard. As an alternative to this step you could get a keyboard without any characters on it(I want one) or if you really want to spend a lot of money you could get an led keyboard(I also want one of these) if they ever come out.

Step 4: Brag to your friends that you use dvorak and give them a link to this post so they can increase my views *cough* I mean switched to dvorak as well.

If you aren’t a great typer on qwerty your typing will probably improve with dvorak just because you are learning to type the right way. Some people say that once they switch to dvorak they can type faster. This may be true if you type slowly with qwerty but for everyone I know typing speeds did not significantly improve.

For more on dvorak check out Wikipedia’s article

I hope this helps.

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2008 in Uncategorized

 

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