Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Who knew Kid Rock was funny?

Or that he "gets it" with regard to downloading and the music biz. Most blockbuster artists (cough) Prince and Madonna (cough) are content to label their fans as thieves and distribute their content according to how the RIAA sees fit. They do a few public service announcements about how downloading is stealing, and stealing is wrong, and as far as they are concerned, the discussion is over.

However, for the majority of NON-blockbuster artists (aka, the musicians who have a small but passionate following), mp3 distribution has allowed them to reach an audience far wider than they would have been able to reach without it. Thus the industry is seeing the rise of tiny local groups to more mainstream visibility.

Kid Rock recently took the argument one step further. He's boycotting iTunes, the #1 online music retailer, because of the DRM'd chokehold they have on the industry, and how it's simply a replay of the old system where the rich artists get richer, and the poor ones get nowhere.

"Now, in 2008, Kid Rock is boycotting iTunes because he says that artists are not getting their fair share of the revenue generated by the Apple store. He is annoyed at this ‘old system’ “where iTunes takes the money, the record company takes the money, and they don’t give it to the artists”. Kid Rock crucially talks about how the Internet should’ve been a “great opportunity for everyone to be treated fairly, for the consumer to get a fair price, for the artist to be paid fairly, for the record companies to make some money.”"

He wraps up the interview with this tongue-in-cheek rant. If you're an illegal mp3 downloader, don't stop at music. STEAL EVERYTHING!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The new Firefox is THA BOMB!

I started using Linux back in 2002. In those days, a good web browser for my O/S of choice was tough to come by. Linux browers were in a sort of "wilderness" phase. We had Mozilla (the open source version of Netscape), which had just reached version 1.0. But it was HUGE, slowed my system to a crawl, and rendered some web pages poorly. There were no plugins for flash or video, and overall the experience was crappy compared to IE on Windows or Mac. There were a couple of alternative browsers around like Opera and Konqueror, but the experience was similar.

But something happened a few months after that Mozilla milestone release. It spawned an experimental fork, codenamed Phoenix. The goal was to create a fast, lightweight but extensible, cross-platform browser that would render pages at least as well as IE. Six years, three name changes, and three milestone releases later, Firefox 3.0 has achieved that goal. And in a world where Windows is on 98% of ALL PC's and IE comes preinstalled on each and every one of them, Firefox has clawed it's way to a 20% browser market share!

A few of my favorite features:

  • It's so lightweight! It uses so little memory every with tabs open that my laptop barely registers a performance hit! 200% better than version 2.0!
  • Opens tabs from your previous session.
  • New bookmark system let's you tag bookmarks, so you can type something like "email" and it will display all bookmarks tagged as email so you don't have to go rifling around for it!
  • New address bar is SMART! Based on your browsing history you can type in the name of a site you've visited and it will just take you there!
  • Undo close tab!!!!!
  • Crazy new anti-phishing feature. It can be a bit aggressive, though.
  • New cool download manager.
  • Still as customizable as ever!
Get it, and let me know what you think!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Windows or Linux, which is easier?

I am a participant in an on-going debate with a colleague of mine. He's a Windows loyalist who happens to believe that Windows is a far superior O/S than Linux or Mac. He knows I'm a Linux user, so he takes a few digs every time he sees me. Usually, I just smile and joke back with him. Until a few days ago. That's when he crossed the line.

J: Dude, Linux is so much more complicated than Windows. How can you stand it?

Me: ??? More complicated? Noooo. Did you just seriously say that? You only THINK Windows is easier because the whole world's been using it for 20 years.

J: No, man. It's way harder to use.

Me: You're on crack. I'll tell you what's hard. Windows wireless networking. How in the HELL do you tolerate it?

J: Networking? What are you talking about? Windows is soooo easy to get networked wirelessly.

Me: Let me paint you a picture. I turn on my wife's Vista laptop, and I am greeted by the network card's sh*t wireless applet competing with Vista's sh*t networking program to be the first to tell me, after five minutes, that I have wireless networks available. No sh*t, Sherlock. Then when I try to connect, they wrestle with each other for another five minutes until one crashes and the other connects with "very low" signal strength. Very low??? I have a Mimo router that is broadcasting a signal that knocks my neighbor's cordless phone offline from a HALF BLOCK AWAY! My Linux laptop connects instantly at boot-time with a "strong" signal from the back-frickin-yard. And I have no IDEA why her's doesn't work!
AND OUR LAPTOPS ARE IDENTICAL!!!

J: Um, well. I'm not talking about Vista. It was way easier in XP...

__________________________________

As to which O/S is *better*, I will not engage in such a debate. But easier? Bring it on. If Linux had become the dominant platform, the masses of fanbois would be gushing about how much easier *it* was than ANY of it's competitors. That's just market forces at work. And Linux is faaaar from perfect. I decided to use WPA security on that new Mimo router, and after 20 minutes of cajoling and cursing at my Gnome NetworkManager, I was ready to pull my hair out! Instead, I pulled the NetworkManager out. All of it. And I installed Wicd, a slick, lightweight alternative. And I was conected and surfing in just under 60 seconds.

But I can't really do that in Windows, can I. I have to use the crap they serve up to me. And the soup de jour is Windows Vista. Check please?

I LOVE the geek girls!

I guess that's why I married a sci-fi loving geneticist, right? Well, that and she brought a couple of other assets to the table.

{ahem}

But, I digress. Apparently, I was an "early adopter" of the geek-girl worship trend way back in the 90's, because the mainstream media is only now figuring out that scientist chicks can be both smart AND hot. Newsweek wrote this article, and there are some follow-up blogs.
Pictured above, the "Nerd Girls" of Tufts University. Engineers. Yeah. THIS is why the cheerleaders never caught my attention...


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I'm baaaack and I'm MINTY fresh!

Whew! Vacation, illness, and a hectic work schedule have kept me away, but no more. Today, I want to introduce everyone to a good friend of mine. Her name is Elyssa. And she's the BEST!

The best OPERATING SYSTEM, that is! Now, I know most of you suckas out there are using Windows XP or Vista, and I am certainly not here to evangelize to those of you who are happy Microsofties. But if any of you are feeling adventurous, there are some O/S alternatives out there that you should seriously consider. Yes, I am talking about Linux.



It's core written in 1991 by Linus Torvalds, Linux has been a geek's wet dream for the better part of 15 years. Linux comes in MANY different flavors (called distros), all presenting competition to a market that was monopolized for too many years by Microsoft Windows. However, it's only been in the last two or so years that a few distros have made Linux accessible to the unwashed masses. Novell's Suse Linux, Mandriva Linux, Fedora, and Ubuntu. All are popular alternatives to Windows, but Ubuntu's runaway success across the globe is particularly fascinating. Ubuntu, roughly translated as "humanity towards others", was the brainchild of South African millionaire businessman Mark Shuttlesworth. It is a hip, usable, well-marketed, and fun to use operating system. And like any other popular open-source system, it has itself spawned variants. One of those Ubuntu variants is Linux Mint.



Okay, I'm sure I lost a few people. Let's start again. There's Linux, which is an operating system like Windows. And Linux has these different distros such as Ubuntu, but they're all still Linux. And then those distros have variants. And the Ubuntu variant that I use is Linux Mint. For the last year, I have been a loyal Mint user, using it exclusively on my laptop and desktop. Why Mint and not Ubuntu? A few reasons. Mint comes read-to-use with a lot of the little niceities and courtesies that Ubuntu left out. Things like browser plugins (flash, java, etc.), a customized menu, a DEAD EASY software install system, a desktop customizer, and media codecs for easy DVD playback. In short, it creates a more polished and elegant desktop experience.

And a few days ago, Linux Mint reached new heights. The latest release, code-named Elyssa, was unleashed among the rabid linux fanboys. And from my own personal experience, as well as what I've heard and seen from other users. it has been a HUGE success. Linux Mint Elyssa is nothing short of bliss on my laptop. Here are a few of the routine tasks I accomplish weekly with Elyssa:

1. Convert videos with iriverter so that I can watch them on my mp3 player while I work out.

2. Download mp3's from Amazon and Emusic with customized Linux download software.

3. Edit videos from my digital camera with avidemux.

4. Rip DVD's with dvdrip.

5. Keep up with podcasts with gpodder.

6. Listen to streaming music from last.fm with the neat program last-exit.

7. Watch streaming movies, TV and listen to music via tunapie.

8. Watch DVD's with VideoLanClient (VLC).

9. Download my phones pics to my desktop with bitpim.

10. Read PDF's with Adobe.

11. Um, I use Google Earth. For what? Who knows...

12. Surf the internet and check out my favorite sites like Facebook with the mighty Firefox web browser.

13. Use my aircard to connect to the internet when I'm out and about using ppptray.

14. Edit photos from my digital camera with Picasa, Gimp, Phatch, and/or gThumb.

All of this with only an occasional crash or hiccup, which happens far less frequently than in the Windows days, and without any viruses, spyware or malware. My operating sytem, my way. Check out the website at least... Tell me what you think!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Still alive

To all my loyal readers, I'm still here. Had some vacation and other items that pulled me away, but I shall return soon!