FOLLOW-UP: How-To: Make a Multiboot Live USB Stick

In the post "How-To: Make a Multiboot Live USB Stick", there are major enough errors to fix and changes to be made that I have made this a separate follow-up post.
The hardware is the same. However, the OSs in question have changed.
The smaller change is the removal of PartedMagic from the multiboot combination. I did not want to have to deal with extended partitions, and I figure that on-the-fly creations of live CDs for people in need (to keep) would be more effective anyway.
The larger change is the removal of PCLinuxOS 2009.2. As it seems, PCLinuxOS (as well as its parent distribution, Mandriva) refuses to work on a multiboot live USB (though it will work fine as the sole live OS on a USB stick). After installing more OSs, PCLinuxOS will give an error message that looks like, "This is not a bootable floppy. [emphasis is mine] Please try again."
Basically, your USB stick is apparently now a floppy disk according to PCLinuxOS. I knew then that sticking to that OS would not work.
I searched long and hard for a good KDE-based distribution that would turn on new users and work very well, and I came upon Sabayon Linux.

The following will be a sort of mini-review of Sabayon 5 KDE, the version I installed live to the USB stick.
Sabayon is based on Gentoo Linux, which requires users to compile the source packages frequently (at least once per use). This is not for the faint of heart, but many people enjoy it for the same reason that many car enthusiasts like manual transmissions (which are slowly fading away). This used to be a defining feature in many Linux distributions but has since been basically done away with, so Gentoo has kept it to please the users and to retain the super-bleeding-edge status of the OS.
Sabayon does not require this; it is thus more like a conventional Linux distribution, but it still retains the bleeding-edge codebase of Gentoo. This means that there are a lot of new cool and heavily tested features, making for a great OS experience.
Sabayon 5 KDE comes with a plethora of amazing applications. First, unlike many KDE distributions, Sabayon comes with Firefox and OpenOffice.Org (instead of Konqueror and KOffice) by default and integrates both applications very nicely. Second, it offers a great selection of games, and it even has real game demos like those for World of Goo, and it supports games like America's Army and Wolfenstein. Finally, it is built for media centers. It has a lot of powerful applications like XBMC to manage even the most complex media centers. The final statement (about media centers) is from my reading, not from my experience (as I don't operate a PC media center).
In addition to this, Sabayon 5 KDE implements KDE 4.3 in the best way that I've seen yet. It actually comes with the Desktop folder applet out of the box so as not to confuse new users. The Plasma panel actually works stably without crashing, as do the Plasma widgets too. Finally, the other KDE applications seem to work as intended without a hitch. The whole desktop experience really looks polished and stable, something that I can't say about other implementations of KDE 4.3.
The biggest downside to Sabayon 5 KDE is the relatively demanding set of system requirements. Even the newest (non-purposefully tiny, as in TinyCore or DSLinux) Linux distributions can support computers over 8 years old without sacrificing performance or the features that make them ahead of the (non-Linux) pack. Sabayon 5 KDE doesn't have as much of an advantage, as it requires at least 512 MB of RAM and 10 GB of hard drive space (along with a decent graphics card) to be installed and run well. Furthermore, the boot time is rather long even after installation.

This resumes the talk about the multiboot live USB. Again, this must be done in a Linux system. The partitioning scheme should be two 1 GB and one 2.6 GB ext3 partitions (for the OSs) and one 3.3 GB FAT32 partition (for storage). One can do this in GParted as described in the original post.
Successively install (and test, as described in the original post) Linux Mint 7 "Gloria" Xfce and Sabayon 5 KDE into, respectively, the 1.0 GB partition and the 2.6 GB partition through UNetBootin as described in the previous post.
After these have been tested and are determined to work, download to the desktop the Fedora 11 "Leonidas" GNOME ISO image. Burn the image to a CD but do not do anything to the original image (on the desktop) otherwise. That step is crucial!
Boot into the Fedora 11 live CD, and after logging in, go to "Add/Remove Programs" and search for, check, and apply "livecd-tools" or something like that. After that is all done, open a terminal window and navigate (through commands like "cd" and "ls -l") to the folder (on the original Linux desktop) where the ISO image is.
After this navigation, type into the (still-open) terminal the command

su -c "livecd-iso-to-disk /dev/live /dev/USBDEVICENAME"

where "USBDEVICENAME" is the name of the device and partition (e.g. "sdf2"). To confirm the partition number, type into the terminal (before typing the previous command)

su -c "fdisk -l"

Congratulations, you have successfully made a tri-boot live USB drive with room to spare for storage!

Ro-ger and San-ia, Sittin' In a Tree

Before I get into the real material of this post, I wanted to take a moment to celebrate 50 blog posts. How am I doing so far? Is there anything else you want me to talk about? What are your general comments? Make all suggestions as comments for this post.

A bunch of news agencies have reported that a national Swiss initiative to ban minarets has passed. (A minaret is a spire-like structure on a mosque.)
For those of you who don't remember from civics class, an initiative is a law written by citizens and put to a vote with a certain number of signatures (in Switzerland, 100000) collected. A referendum is a law created by the legislature and put to a popular vote.
This is truly sad.
I almost always support expressions of near-direct democracy like initiatives and referenda. They are good ways of keeping people involved with the laws that may soon affect their lives.
However, this is really sad. The large number of people who voted for the initiative couldn't give a single reason why they did; it wasn't because of aesthetics, air traffic issues, or other utilitarian problems.
It was just simple bigotry.
Oh, and the title? Note that Roger Federer is a Swiss tennis player, while Sania Mirza is a Muslim Indian tennis player. With their international fame, both would do well to raise awareness of and combat this situation.
[UPDATE: Wow, how could I have missed that one after going over it so thoroughly? This "initiative" (as I originally thought) is actually a referendum introduced by the legislature. Sorry about that!]


Apple Likes Windows 2000?

There's a new ad from Apple on TV. It's another one in the "Get a Mac"/"I'm a Mac\and I'm a PC" ad series.
This one has PC excitedly telling Mac about the upcoming (then) release of Windows 7, saying it won't have any of the problems of Vista. Mac says he's heard this before, and the ad cycles backwards in time with PC giving the same reassurance for the release of Vista vs. XP, XP vs. Me, Me vs. 98, 98 vs. 95, and 95 vs. 2. Then, the ad finally goes back to the present with PC reassuring Mac that this time he means it.
Yes, they also skipped Windows 3.X, but I'm not so concerned about that.
What does strike me as odd is their omission of Windows 2000.
Most likely the omission was due to time constraints on the ad. However, one could argue that Apple genuinely thought of Windows 2000 as a good OS and not a joke (vs. Mac OS/OS X).
Windows 2000, in my opinion, is one of the most stable, secure, and fast versions of Windows I've ever used. XP pales with respect to stability and security, Vista with respect to security and speed, and 7 with respect to speed.
Despite Windows 2000 not being open-source, I think it is still one of the best OSs Microsoft has ever released, and it is quite good on its own as well. Apple recognizes this, so maybe their omission of this OS in the ad was a conscientious decision with respect to this.

Murdoch's Folly

Rupert Murdoch, founder and owner of News Corp (which has holdings like The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post), has decided that he wants to remove all of his holdings' websites from Google's search indices.
He has a valid point in doing so, in that Google reaps all the profit by displaying for free excerpts from the websites in question while raking in money from the associated advertising. News Corp gets next to nothing from this.
However, the next step in this is highly questionable.
Microsoft has decided that it cannot compete with Google's search service in a traditional manner, so now it is paying website owners like News Corp to move their results from Google to Bing.
This sort of bribing is questionable anyway, but I doubt it will work.
The problem with Murdoch's (and Steve Ballmer's) reasoning is that they are assuming that the exit of one or a few websites from Google's search engine will have a permanent impact on Google's revenues and profits. This is not true, as once these companies leave Google's indices, other websites (and/or their owners) will quickly fill the temporary void, so News Corp will be the only loser in this. Yes, Bing will profit from additional entrants into the search indices, but their indices aren't anywhere close to Google's in terms of size and relevance.
The only way this could work to actually bring down Google is if News Corp persuades the majority of news companies providing content online to leave Google for Bing. Then only will the void become permanent due to a dearth of new sites to take their places and then only will Google start to really lose money.
If this is really what Murdoch and Ballmer intend to do to take down Google (i.e. make all media sites and not just News Corp leave Google search for Bing), then that is quite ambitious and will take a lot of work to do. Until then, I feel like Murdoch is just venting publicly over lost revenue (as if he isn't getting enough already).


When Contextual Advertising Goes Too Far

I like context advertisements. Yes, it means that the site in question reads what you read or write to provide you the correct ad, but sometimes it can actually be helpful; also, usually, context-aware ads are simple text-based ones that don't really affect the reading or writing of whatever it is anyway.
The place where I see it most is GMail. The thought of Google reading what I read or write in my email makes me queasy, but I can turn it off anyway and sometimes it is actually helpful.
It seems like the eVite website has taken to the same thing. However, this time they have gone too far.
Many friends I know of are going to a girl's sweet 16 party tonight; this girl shall be referred to as 'A'.
My parents' friend, whom we shall call 'Ms. R', was in charge of collecting all the gifts from all of the family friends to give to 'A'.
As it seems, in all of the eVites, a message was embedded inside that led to a site accepting donations to the American Cancer Society (ACS) as a gift. This was initially thought to be at the request of 'A' and her parents, as many teenagers are extremely magnanimous and/or touched in some way by causes like funding cancer, so they do request gifts like donations to a favorite charity or something similar instead of traditional physical or monetary gifts to themselves.
'Ms. R' then requested that, rather than people giving online directly, these guests give a particular amount to her to be enclosed in a big check directed to the ACS. This was a very wise move and full of foresight, though 'Ms. R' did not know it. She also then decided to ask those who were giving gifts to split the money to be given half for 'A' and half for the ACS; each total sum would be written as a separate total check (respectively, for 'A' and for the ACS).
This went on for a few days/weeks before the event (which is today (as of this writing)).
A few days ago (again, as of this writing), another family friend ('Ms. K') had the inkling that maybe the ACS donation link was an embedded ad rather than an actual request. A few phone calls to the parents of 'A' confirmed this. This is not meant to diminish the magnanimity of 'A'; rather, that was simply not her original intention.
Thankfully, with people giving towards the check rather than donating online, the check just had to be written towards 'A' rather than to the ACS, so now all of the money is going to 'A' as was originally intended.
Please do not take this to mean that I am against the good work of the ACS. Rather, I think the party at fault here is the eVite website; given that some people put in the invitation that the person in question would like all donations to go to the charity but also that the website hosts ads from the charity, the website should take a bit more care in differentiating the ads from the actual requests. There was no box around the link with the caption "ADVERTISEMENT", and it was smack-dab in the middle of the invitation.
Please, eVite website, don't confuse us like that next time.
For those readers who do know who 'A', 'Ms. R', and 'Ms. K' are, I know you know who they are as well, so if you wish to comment, please don't reveal their identities.


Happy Thanksgiving

I will be spending time with family and friends with no homework! Woot!
Have a wonderful, fun, food-filled Thanksgiving!


Doug Hoffman Has Conceded (Again)

In New York's 23rd House district election this year, Democrat Bill Owens beat Conservative Doug Hoffman (after Republican Dede Scozzafava dropped out). Hoffman initially conceded.
I read in this week's Newsweek that Hoffman revoked his concession on Fox News, claiming a stolen election perpetrated by "liberals", "ACORN", and others.
For one thing, I have never heard of someone doing this.
For another, this is an incredibly childish move by a politician. Truly, it is juvenile to keep the race going.
In any case, when Bill Owens's lead surpassed the number of uncounted absentee ballots (or something like that, making it impossible for Hoffman to win), Hoffman suggested at conceding again when he chose not to call for a recount.
Thank God that's over.


Windows 7 Was NOT My Idea

That said, Windows 7 is a vast improvement over Vista, though that's practically damning it with faint praise.
Recently, Microsoft has been broadcasting a series of advertisements for Windows 7 which have made me cringe. These ads continue the portrayal of Windows as ordinary users (as opposed to the "snooty/elitist" Mac users) (which I'm fine with), but then the closing line is, "...and Windows 7 was my idea."
How could Microsoft be saying this with a straight face?
Windows 7, like all previous versions of Windows and like almost all other Microsoft software, is closed-source (proprietary). This means that a bunch of developers create the software basically behind closed doors; even after releasing the software to the public, users cannot get access to the underlying code.
One can't even properly customize their Windows 7 system; one deals with what one gets.
I guess one could say Windows 7 was "their" idea if that means that Microsoft actually listened to customers about what was wrong with Vista in order to make 7 better, which is true and good.
By contrast, *nix's its derivatives, BSD and GNU/Linux, are free and open-source pieces of software. This means that anyone can view, modify, or redistribute the underlying code for the software, and if the user thinks that their change is a major one which can benefit the entire software userbase, they can send the suggestion to the original/current main developers of the project, and this will most likely be incorporated either as a bugfix or as part of a future release. The process is a very collaborative one, and the end result is often of higher quality than those of closed-door operations.
Really, Linux was my idea.

Review: KDE 4.3

The desktop environment (DE) that I've been using since I started using Linux is GNOME. Currently, with Linux Mint 7, I'm using GNOME 2.26. I really like GNOME for its simplicity, its lightness on RAM, its great collection of applications, its customizability, and its stability.
However, I took one look at some screenshots of the newly released KDE 4.3 (really, 4.3.2) and I was instantly smitten. I decided to try it out, so after configuring the proper repositories (the Ubuntu/Kubuntu 9.04 repositories don't have KDE 4.3, only KDE 4.2.2), I went ahead and installed it.
First, let's have some history (or, at least, what I remember off the top of my head; you can verify this information in Wikipedia by looking up the articles on "KDE" and "GNOME"). KDE was actually the first DE for the GNU/Linux project. It started around 1996 alongside the development of the Qt libraries. However, around 1999, issues arose over KDE using the non-GPL Qt libraries, so a group of KDE and Qt developers left and started GNOME and the GTK+ libraries.
Now comes the actual review on my 2004 Sony VAIO desktop with a 2.8 GHz Intel Pentium 4 HT (single core) processor, 1 GB RAM, and ATI Radeon 9200 graphics card.
My first impression after booting up and logging in (I haven't bothered to change the login screen from the default Mint 7 "Dew" theme to something more KDE-like) is that KDE takes a bit longer to load than GNOME; it almost takes as long as Windows XP on my computer. This may be because of KDE's higher level of polish and greater number of features, but in any case it is slightly but noticeably slower than GNOME.
Next, I played around with the Desktop a bit. The first startling revelation is that the contents of the Desktop aren't shown on the desktop; one must either open the Desktop folder in one's favorite file manager (more on that later) or create a nice snazzy Plasmoid (yes, that's the name for widgets in KDE 4's new Plasma desktop manager). The Plasmoids themselves are quite nice looking and functional, though the weather Plasmoid is rather lacking in information (it doesn't even have a forecast!). The way to access Desktop icons without opening the folder is to create a Lancelot Part Plasmoid and drag and drop the Desktop folder into the Plasmoid; this will create a permanent housing for the Desktop folder's contents. However, clicking on any file or folder in the Plasmoid will reopen the file manager rather than create a new Plasmoid.
I was intrigued by the new "Social Desktop" Plasmoid (one of the more talked-about features in KDE 4.3) until I found out that this did not mean that I could use Facebook from the Desktop without opening a browser. The "Social Desktop" is its own service (for KDE 4.3 users), while the Facebook Plasmoid itself doesn't work. That's a moderately large letdown right there.
The menu works very nicely; the layout is slightly different from the default MintMenu, but it is intuitive enough.
One quirk I found is with the virtual desktop management. For some reason, even if one switches to a different virtual desktop, windows in other virtual desktops remain on the panel. It doesn't seem buggy, but GNOME actually keeps applications minimized to a panel in a certain virtual desktop in that virtual desktop when the virtual desktop is switched. This greatly reduces the clutter on the panel.
One bug I did find was when KDE's panel (formerly Kicker) crashed on me twice on the same day. This is seriously buggy behavior and frankly unacceptable. I have never had a problem even close to this in GNOME.
One thing I like about GNOME is that it integrates Qt (KDE libraries)-based applications very nicely. Sadly, the reverse (KDE integrating GTK+ (GNOME libraries)-based applications) is not so true. Yes, GTK+ applications still work in KDE, but when running, they look like one is running Windows 95. It's a big disappointment aesthetically, considering GNOME completely carries over the Qt-look from Qt-based applications when running in GNOME.
This extends to even non-GTK+-based applications like Firefox and OpenOffice.Org. It's especially bad in OO.O as all of the icons turn into boxes of text, hiding half of the menu bars due to the long boxes of text. KDE probably wants one to use the native KOffice, even though this isn't even installed by default with KDE 4.3. Even worse, KOffice has much worse feature, font, and cross-product/file type compatibility support than OO.O. This is probably also why GNOME doesn't force AbiWord and Gnumeric on users by default except on lower-end distributions (and even then, AbiWord and Gnumeric have much better support for features and cross-software compatibility than KWord and KSpread). This isn't as much of an issue in Firefox, but GNOME integrates Firefox much better than KDE does. KDE probably wants one to use the native Konqueror browser (though it doesn't even come with KDE 4.3 by default), but GNOME doesn't usually require the native Epiphany browser like this; furthermore, versus Firefox, in terms of customizability and proper rendering of pages, Konqueror is on par with Internet Explorer 5 - it just isn't there.
One very bright spot is the selection of games (not real games, just diversions a la "Solitaire"). The selection of games is much nicer in KDE than in GNOME, and I would definitely play those just to keep myself busy for a few minutes when not doing something else.
The other, more important, bright spot is the file manager Dolphin. Nautilus (GNOME's file manager), take note. Dolphin has a lot more support for different types of viewing, like Mac OS X Finder-style split-pane viewing combined with tabbed viewing. It has a preview pane which allows one to really see a big (not tiny) preview of the document in question before opening it.
I will be keeping KDE 4.3 on my computer, but after spending a week with it, I'm ready to go back to GNOME. There are simply too many compatibility issues with non-Qt-based applications to continue with KDE, and the speed and stability isn't really what I'm used to from a Linux system. That said, I will still use Dolphin and all of the neat KDE games (in GNOME), but I will wait to truly switch to KDE.

Reflection: Is the National Honors Society still about Honor?

After talking with a few friends and fellow students, I think I have fully (in my mind) fleshed out an opinion on our school's chapter of the National Honors Society. This, however, will solely focus on the recent cookie dough sale.
[Note]: Some of the things in this post may strike you as too controversial or offensive, and for that, I sincerely apologize. Though I have many grievances against the organization, (a) its core intentions are good and (b) it's not worth leaving when I only have a few months of school left so I am staying in the organization.
Furthermore, I want to say to those NHS officers who may be reading this that this is in no way meant as an attack on your person or character. This is meant to just be my thoughts about the organization as a whole, and if you find this offensive, I sincerely apologize. [/Note]
Other people in this organization (who also don't like the organization's current modus operandi) have said that the current state of affairs has only been true for the last year or 2. Before, the NHS was much more dedicated to actual community service, though they did not participate in as many events overall. Fundraising was not a priority.
Now, members must sell (under the threat of revocation of membership or other penalty) 4 tubs of cookie dough at $15.00 each (for those NHS graduates reading this, they raised the price by $1/tub). This is true for the fall and spring cookie dough sales. The fall one is understandable as the proceeds go to helping villages in Kenya. The spring one, though: do we really need that much money to continue operating? Or is Ms. Cresham just wasting a lot of money on who-knows-what?
Furthermore, why must members sell 4 tubs of cookie dough? I think it's perfectly fair to ask 15 hours of service each year towards NHS. This is the kind of service the organization should focus on. By contrast, selling requires people to want to buy cookie dough; this also requires finding buyers.
I know this may seem a little odd or offensive, but I just can't help but notice a cultural difference in selling cookie dough. Almost all of the "big sellers" that Ms. Cresham touts are Caucasian; props to them for their great sales. Yet, almost all of the people who complain about not being able to sell cookie dough are not Caucasian. From my own experience, cookie dough is not a hot seller with Indian families; yes, families might buy a tub, but it will last a very long time. By contrast, families here will buy a lot because they can finish that much by the time the next cookie dough sale comes around. My emphasis is not on how much one can eat but on how much a Caucasian American family vs. an immigrant Asian family actually wants the food. That said, I'm not trying to disparage Indian people - quite the opposite: maybe the NHS should try selling dough used for making samosas. Even then, though, there's a lot more emphasis (as far as I've seen) on cooking fresh food from scratch in Indian families (and presumably other Asian families as well), whereas here, families are a lot more receptive to premade foods like cookie dough. Even my cousin who bakes often makes her own dough; she doesn't use stuff like premade cookie dough.
Another thing to point out, as Ms. Cresham herself points out at the beginning of this cookie dough sale, is that the people who sell crazy amounts of dough do so because their parents have huge connections. This is perfectly fine with me; that said, not everyone is so well connected to people who would be so willing to fund an enterprise like the NHS.
Because of the issues of ethnicity (and the resulting affinity or revulsion towards premade cookie dough) and business connections (and the resulting success or failure to sell large amounts of cookie dough), why must students sell 4 tubs of dough? Many of the people who I talked to who were complaining about this minimum genuinely could not sell 4 tubs - they had to buy some (or all) themselves, and then they have to finish those tubs (without being able to cook them as no one in the house knows how); I was also in the position of having to buy a tub of cookie dough for myself (though the stuff is actually good, so this reason is only partially true to the argument).
I think it's fine that the organization is doing the cookie dough sale; I just think forcing members to sell a minimum number of tubs is too fraught with problems. I think the NHS should mandate members to participate in other activities for hours. I'm fine with them requiring members to do the Miniwalk (though I'm still not OK with the mandatory $15 for the (invariably oversized) shirt and donation). More such actual service requirements would be much greater appreciated (at least from my end).


Sarah Palin is Right - For Once and Once Only

I don't like Sarah Palin.
It's obvious that she wants to spread misinformation about current government policies for her own benefit. In fact, facts themselves are nuisances to her.
Thankfully she's not VP.
That said, Newsweek this week had a cover story on her and why she's bad for the GOP; while this in itself was not bad, Sarah Palin called the cover picture of her (stolen from some celebrity magazine or some such thing) sexist.
I totally agree.
It's obvious Newsweek wanted to provoke a visceral negative reaction, so they used the picture they did. Even editor-in-chief John Meacham had no excuse other than that they tried to use the "most interesting picture" possible.
Seriously, this level of sexism is too much, and it has got to stop. Newsweek does already have journalistic credibility; they lost a fair amount of it for this one picture, which they didn't need to use in the first place.


I Won't Be in Chicago

because that city is rigged.
There seem to be over 1500 security cameras in Chicago.
Why so many?
I can understand a bunch of traffic cameras, but this seems like overkill.
In general, I'm pretty wary of this level of government monitoring of citizens; I'd hate to be in the UK (especially London), where this sort of camera system is prevalent and everyone must have an ID card on them at all times.
Now, one might say that they have nothing to hide so they have no problem with these actions.
What if something previously legal becomes illegal? What if I do something that's legal but not fully accepted by society at large? What if for whatever reason the police has a grudge against me? What if I just want my privacy?
This sort of monitoring is ridiculous, and it can only stop with an outcry from affected citizens.
Otherwise, get used to some more Big Brother.


Firefox Den Einai Xenos!

(Poor translation on Google Translate: Firefox Is No Stranger!)
Apparently, to IBM, it is.
To summarize, it seems like someone applying for a job to fix/manage Linux servers through an Indian contractor has been fired for using Linux and/or Firefox.
It is not surprising that a Linux project manager at IBM (whom he had to contact to notify completion of an online competency test made by VISA) should not know what Linux is when told that this may be a reason why the page for the test isn't rendering at all.
"What's this [Foxfire] thing?" (The braces indicate emphasis which was not originally present.)
Are you serious?
Are you telling me that in this day and age where Firefox has 25% market share of web browsers and has crossed 50% in many countries (mostly in Europe), there are still people, much less technology company project managers (specializing in Linux, no less), who don't know what Firefox is?
This is, to say the least, ridiculous.
The story gets better.
After trying to get around the problem through IE4Linux and messing around with the user agent strings in Firefox, this person calls tech support. Rather than actually give him help, tech support takes note of who he is, confirms the identity with the IBM Linux project manager, and relays the information upwards. The person is fired for "refusing to use Windows and Internet Explorer".
Linux has a long ways to go before it can truly supplant Windows; it is not surprising (but sad) that a refusal to use Windows can be harmful.
A refusal to use IE? Can that still be bad in this day and age?
What if he used a Mac and was using Safari? Would he still have been rejected? If not, it's a clear prejudiced bias against Linux. If so, the project manager has been living under a rock.
What really finishes the story is the irony of the whole thing, as IBM supposedly "supports Linux".
Tech support really needs a massive overhaul at every company. Ignorance like this just can't go on.


Thank You, Microsoft

Could I really be saying this?
Yes, I am.
Microsoft has finally owned up to a GPL violation - a recent one involving its USB/DVD manager in Windows 7.
They did not give any excuses or fibbing about how the GPL technically may not apply to them or any of that. They simply said that it should not have happened but did because of sloppy review of code contracted out.
Props to Microsoft for some much-needed honesty.


What Will Stop the MPAA?

This is really unfortunate (Kathie Dickerson, Coshocton Tribune).
This is the kind of overzealous copyright enforcement I am worried will become a common occurrence in the future; it's why I don't support copyrights in general.
To summarize, the MPAA (movie making industry lobby) has shut down an entire town's wifi because of a single illegally downloaded movie.
I don't support such illegal downloads. I also don't support the myriad restrictions on movie files, but I don't support illegally downloading a movie for free if a fee is charged. People will pay a fee if they feel like the product is worth it. Those that don't but still acquire the movie are stealing; it is in fact the same as eating an apple that isn't yours (though that's where the idea-property analogy ends).
Yet, why should an entire town have to suffer for a single isolated online theft? Should a national grocery store chain (by analogy with the MPAA's nationwide presence) close down one of its stores just because the store owner realizes that a single item has been taken (say, a candy next to the check-out counter) without being paid for? That would be ruinous for the townspeople.
Please, if you find yourself in a situation like this, ask the MPAA, RIAA, or whatever to stop.
This story has also been reported on BoingBoing and Slashdot; you can read more there.


Microsoft's Ball-mer-zheimer's Disease

I just combined "Ballzheimer's" Disease (The Daily Show) with Steve Ballmer to make a crude but semi-accurate description of Microsoft's latest patent move (PJ from Groklaw).
To summarize, Microsoft has basically patented "su"/"sudo" (the superuser (root) command in *nix) through creation of a "su"-GUI. In essence, it has tried to patent "su"/"sudo" itself.
To me, this is one of the more extreme examples of Microsoft's protection of its software through patents, but it certainly is typical of its general behavior.
I think the Free Software Foundation and/or GNU project should sue Microsoft for violating a (presumably) GPL'ed piece of code. Microsoft should be able to use it as long as the resulting software is just as free as the original software. That said, given Microsoft's recent history of GPL violations, I don't expect that to be a deterrent.
It's a sad day for the technology community when "su"/"sudo" (a tool created in the 1970s (!)) becomes patented.


How-To: Make a Multiboot Live USB Stick

This is something that I wanted to do for a while to show those interested what Linux is like on the fly. However, I only finished this yesterday.
The USB stick in question is an 8 GB Sandisk Cruzer Micro.
The distributions used are PCLinuxOS 2009.2 (KDE), Fedora 11 (GNOME), Linux Mint 7 (Xfce), and the latest version of PartedMagic. These are the only distributions I've successfully put on a multiboot live USB stick, so I'll only talk about how to create this step.
In terms of setup before the actual live USB creation process, a few steps must be taken. As far as I know, due to Windows only recognizing FAT and NTFS partitions, the steps I used will only work on Linux. My preferred partition editor is GParted. Also, if you don't have UNetBootin, get it beforehand. Finally, make sure that your computer has a CD-RW drive and that you have spare empty CD-R/CD-RWs.
The first distribution to add is PCLinuxOS.
If there are any existing partitions, remove and replace them with a single FAT32 primary partition covering the entire disk.
Next, download the PCLinuxOS 2009.2 KDE ISO image from the Internet and burn the image to (not on) the CD-R/CD-RW. (If, after this step, the disk is ejected, reinsert it but close any autorun dialogs.)
Next restart the computer and (if necessary, reconfigure the BIOS to) boot from the live CD (that is, the CD with the PCLinuxOS image on it).
After that is all done, go to the PCLinuxOS main menu and click on "Make Live USB". Please make sure that the correct USB stick is being written to (you can check this as root in Terminal through the command "fdisk -l" and determining which USB stick with its free space correctly corresponds to your stick, if you know what I mean).
Restart the computer and, after modifying the BIOS to boot from the USB stick, make sure that the live USB works properly.
If it does, it is time to move on. (Revert the BIOS to boot from the hard disk drive.) If not, make sure that you followed all of the steps listed here in the given order.
To prepare for the remaining distributions, in GParted, trim the primary FAT32 partition with PCLinuxOS on it until there is about 100-150 MB of free space left on that partition. Fill the remaining unallocated space with an extended partition. Finally, fill this extended partition with 2 logical FAT32 partitions of size 850 MB (each), another logical FAT32 partition of size 400 MB, and a logical FAT32 partition that takes up the remainder of the extended partition.
The second, third, and fourth distributions are Fedora, Linux Mint, and PartedMagic. Download all of these respective ISO images from the Internet, and use UNetBootin and the "Disk Image" feature to write the images to the partitions. The Fedora and Linux Mint images should go separately in each of the 850 MB partitions, while the PartedMagic image should go in the 400 MB partition. UNetBootin recognizes partitions by disk drive name and number rather than by size, so to verify which partition is which, as root in Terminal type in "fdisk -l" to know which partition to write to in UNetBootin. After each write, verify that the live USB image works properly by booting from the USB. Each time a new image is written by UNetBootin to a partition, that partition is automatically flagged as bootable.
These steps will not allow you to select from all of the distributions which one to boot from (i.e. from a giant GRUB menu list upon booting). You much change which distribution to boot from manually in GParted by modifying the "boot" flag.
If you followed all of these steps and it all works, you should be good to go! If not, please leave a comment!