A Quick Update on the Respins

This is going to be a quick post. I've made a couple changes to UberBang, such as installing the Murrine theme engine to make the #! theme look right and making VolumeIcon and NM-applet start on startup. I've combined all these and released version 10.04.1 of UberBang, and it can be downloaded here in the same SourceForge project page.
Also, I am working on a new release of Fresh OS ("Elementary"). I will likely be dropping the "Traditional" version for this release because the newest build of Linux Mint "Debian" seems to fill that void adequately now (as it now has all the new features of version 10 "Julia"). I'm not entirely sure about "Light" though.
Finally, I may rerelease Oxidized Trinity 6 "Squeeze" with the Debian Live Installer packages included as well because the Remastersys Debian Installer can be unreliable.
That's all folks. I'm looking forward to a bright, fun, and productive 2011!


Review: Chakra 0.3.0 "Ashoc" (on FreeTechie)

Yay! I've scored my first guest post!
I did a review of Chakra 0.3.0 "Ashoc" for FreeTechie, and website administrator Ben Kevan has been kind enough to post it there. Here's a short excerpt from it:
Many of my regular readers have heard a couple times before that Chakra is an Arch-based KDE distribution. However, since its alpha releases, it has diverged enough from Arch and KDEmod to become to Arch what Ubuntu has become to Debian: while they share package types and many upstream repositories, there will be quite a few incompatibilities. So while they are fundamentally tied together, they are at the same time now essentially separate projects. Though Chakra and KDEmod made each other more popular within the Arch community, now Chakra is splitting from the KDEmod project and creating its own Arch-based implementation of KDE. [...]
Please read the rest of the review here and please support Ben Kevan and FreeTechie by reading and commenting on the site's articles. There are some really good tutorials and reviews there as well.


Symbicort: Shooting Itself in the Foot (or Lung)

Since I've gotten back home from college, I've been able to watch a good deal more TV, which means I also get to see (and make fun of) the advertisements that I've missed out on for the last few months. One of these ads is for Symbicort, an anti-asthma medication, and it takes my interest both because I suffer from asthma (but it only happens when I get a cold or when my seasonal allergies act up) and because the ad seems to shoot itself in the foot.
Here's what I mean: it's supposed to treat and control asthma in sufferers. Yet, asthmatics whose asthma is reasonably well-controlled by other medications shouldn't take Symbicort, and it may cause asthma-related death in patients.
So who exactly should take it then? It seems like Symbicort is shooting itself in the foot (or lung). Though it is now common to see long and frightening lists of side-effects accompanying ads for medicines, this is one of the few medicines that I've seen that may cause even more issues relating to the problem it is trying to treat. Isn't it weird?


Movie Review: How To Train Your Dragon

Two days ago, I watched How To Train Your Dragon with my family. We had rented it from a RedBox for a gathering at our house, but no one at the gathering watched it, so we decided to watch it before returning it that night.
It's a great movie, and I would even say it was better than Toy Story 3 (which I reviewed just over a week ago). Unlike that movie, this one didn't have any gimmicky political lines or plot. It was a fun, lighthearted movie that also had a surprisingly complex plot (for a children's movie), as there were at least 2 different subplots going on at one time (for example, the continuous switching among the main character's dragon training classes, his time spent with the dragon he caught, and his father's expeditions that aim to find the dragons' lair). There were quite a few funny lines that didn't also try overly hard to appease the adults in the audience, which I appreciated. In all, I think it's a great movie for kids and their families, though I missed the extra splashy 3D experience because I watched it at home (and no, I don't have a TV capable of producing a 3D experience).


Apologies about the Slackware Review

A couple days ago, I reviewed Slackware 13.1. I wanted to see if I could use it post-installation, though from what I had read from commenters and writers on various blogs, it would be tough. At the end, it did prove to be as tough (and for me, fruitless) as I thought it would be. Though I did get to resolve a network connection issue, there wasn't really a whole lot interesting for me to see (other than a multitude of WMs in essentially vanilla form). Anyway, I wrote and published the review on this blog and it ended up in Linux Today and TuxMachines; owing to that, it got a lot of traffic and comments, most of which panned the lack of substance in the review.
It seems like most people who happened upon the review expected something substantive from a Slackware guru. Quite the opposite: I'm essentially a newbie who simply enjoys trying out different distributions from time to time. For letting down these readers (which is also a function of a lack of context, because though I make it clear on this blog that I am a newbie, that doesn't make it to Linux Today or TuxMachines), I am sorry.
Another mistake I made was expecting too much from Slackware. Usually, when I test distributions, I either expect a lot of things or nothing. For example, I would expect a lot of things out-of-the-box from a standard GNOME Ubuntu installation. I would not expect anything from Arch or Debian Standard. My mistake was associating Slackware included many WMs (especially KDE) out-of-the-box with many other niceties, like automatically configuring my network connection. I really should have included it in the group of distributions from which I expect nothing nice out-of-the-box. In addition, to make up for that, I probably should have read a good bit more about setting up Slackware post-installation. For these things, I am sorry.
However, there were quite a few comments that rhetorically asked why I chose to test Slackware if I knew that it wouldn't turn out so well. Well, the answer to that is that sometimes my expectations are defied (either way). In any case, I enjoy testing such expectations. In this case, my expectations (of a tough experience) were upheld. So please do tell me, is there anything wrong with that? It's either that, or I have seen the ugly side of the Linux community in the comments — the side that does not believe in helping out new users and only cares about those who already use Linux at the level of a trained professional. Maybe I've just been sheltered by the cordiality present in the Ubuntu and Linux Mint communities. Maybe it's just a matter of letting go of my innocence. But seriously, what's so horrible about having some expectations about Slackware, trying it out, and then writing about the experience?
In conclusion, I will say that this was probably a low point for this blog. Do not despair, as I have (better) reviews coming up in the coming days and weeks. I have learned my lesson with regard to Slackware, and you can be sure that I'll try not to make these mistakes again (especially if I get around to trying Arch).


Featured Comments: Week of 2010 December 19

Unfortunately, there were no comments on articles from the previous week (2010 December 12), so there was no accompanying "Featured Comments" article. That can be attributed to the fact that I wrote very few posts that week. Anyway, there were a whole bunch of comments this past week, so I can only post a couple.

Review: Slackware 13.1

There were many comments about this, so I'll post a couple, as well as my responses to them.
An anonymous reader writes, "You never even talked about this distro whatsoever. You just complained about what stuff you were used to that slackware didnt have. if every distro was the same then there would be one distro. Slackware is one of the most stable distros still surviving. You want a extremely stable distro here it is. While i agree that there is no dependacy checking, if you are going to slackware you are usually semi good at the command line and usually know how to install a program anyhow. so its "your" job to do it."
Reader Hannes Worst had this to say: "I think it's an ultimately unfair review. It only states the preferences of the writer and nothing about Slackware. It's like someone allergic to fruit writes a review about apples. From the first sentence on prejudice is shown. When you aren't capable of exploring and researching Slackware, don't write a review about it."
To the anonymous reader, I ask, if complaining about what isn't in the distribution isn't saying something about the distribution itself, then what is? Also, the last point leads me into my response to Hannes Worst.
I may not have made it clear in the review itself, but relatively speaking, I am a newbie to Linux. I like using Linux a lot, but I still have neither the skills nor the patience to work with something like Slackware for a long time just to get it working. I had a feeling that my experience wouldn't turn out so well for this very reason. But I wanted to test this feeling, so I did; I then wrote about the experience. Please tell me: what exactly is wrong with that? I figured that I made it abundantly clear that my issues with Slackware were never meant to reflect poorly on Slackware; quite the opposite: they reflect poorly on me as a Linux user.
I hope all that is cleared up. Next!

Familiarity Breeds Fondness, not Contempt

Reader T_Beermonster had this to say: "Probably the big one for me is the package manager. I've just got so used to APT over the years that I find other (probably equally good) systems don't feel right. Kind of like getting into someone else's car, the biting point is wrong and the seat is the wrong hight." I feel the same way as well, but I must ask, what about when familiar front-ends are applied to different back-ends? For example, PCLinuxOS uses RPMs in the back-end, but its GUI package manager is the familiar Synaptic. How would you feel about using that there? Or am I missing the point entirely?

Bad Experiences are Forever

Reader T_Beermonster wrote a long diatribe against Apple's Macs: "I have a visceral loathing of Apple Macs - not the hardware which in recent times has been quite attractive looking (if overpriced/underspecced). It's the OS."

FOLLOW-UP: Linux and Breakfast Cereals

Commenter twitter had this to say: "Diversity and choice are good, restrictions are bad. Despite the differences between distributions, they all share the same core of free software and all of it tailored to a wide variety of hardware architectures. That means that users get the software they want on the platform they want. Skype is difficult because it is not free software and the company has to do all the hard work of packaging things themselves. If you want Skype to work as well as Mozilla, ask Skype to liberate their code and rely on an honest service model that does not demand undue power over users."

Well, that's all for this week. I hope all the confusion surrounding my motivations regarding the Slackware review are cleared up, and I sincerely apologize for not delivering adequately to those who were expecting a more substantive level appropriate for an intermediate or advanced Linux user trying Slackware. As always, if you like the content, please continue commenting and subscribing. Finally, happy holidays!


NCAA: Bad for Future Business Leaders

This past week, a couple Ohio State University [American] football players have been suspended for half of next year's season and have been made to pay thousands of dollars for selling things like [parts of] their uniforms, their championship rings, and other awards and sports paraphernalia. News outlets reporting this story have frequently made reference to a similar incident a couple years ago, when Reggie Bush voluntarily forfeited his Heisman Trophy (though he was under pressure to do so at risk of it being forcibly revoked) for receiving gifts from other people while playing football for the University of Southern California.
In no other sports league are rules as draconian as in the NCAA. Conferences like the SEC already make billions of dollars every season, so a couple thousand is peanuts for them. So why are all these rules in place? "Amateurism."
These college players are enormously popular and are almost all going to school on scholarships. That said, if they are injured, the scholarships are often revoked; as they spend almost all of their time practicing or playing football, if they are injured, it's a long way towards graduation, and a decent job may not even be on the horizon. These players are doing what they can to build up some money in their bank account while they can. Really, they should own the uniforms and awards, and first sale will mean that the NCAA has no authority over what happens to these things once they are in players' hands.
These players are rightfully trying to make a business out of their playing. Yet, the NCAA isn't letting them (on the grounds of a ridiculously weak excuse). That's right: the NCAA is anti-business. (Either that, or the NCAA takes the meaning of a monopoly to a ridiculous extreme, not even letting their own players even slightly compete with their gravy train.)


FOLLOW-UP: Linux and Breakfast Cereals

I wrote a post a couple months ago regarding Mr. Graham Morrison's assertion that the overabundance of choice in the open-source software community is its failing and Ms. Caitlyn Martin's counter-assertion using the example of breakfast cereals. In it, I mostly agree with Ms. Martin's statements, though I do question the use of breakfast cereals as an analogy because that industry has not ever been so thoroughly monopolized like the PC OS industry.
One of Mr. Morrison's gripes was the confusion in package management, with so many different front- and back-ends. While I still believe that the multitude of front-ends can only be good for users (as anyway most distributions' preferences in that regard are pretty clear), after having talked to a friend in college who is extremely familiar with Red Hat and Fedora, I'm rethinking my stance on the multitude of back-ends.
DEBs are fairly standard (they're just glorified compressed files), so as long as all the required dependencies are present, a DEB from KNOPPIX should work on Linux Mint as well. For RPMs, the situation is a bit more complicated, because RPMs themselves are a good deal more complicated than DEBs. As it turns out, there's a good deal of variation even within the different implementations of RPMs. For example, RHEL (and CentOS) and Fedora use the original kind of RPMs. Mandriva and SUSE have modified the RPM format to fit their needs, as has Scientific Linux (otherwise based on RHEL). Thus, an RPM on Mandriva won't work on SUSE or Fedora; the differences can be so large that it would be like trying to install an alien file format (e.g. DEB).
So my question is, why have all these differences sprung up? For example, the Skype site shows different RPMs for Fedora and openSUSE. (Then again, it shows different DEBs for Debian and Ubuntu as well.) Why can't the maintainers of these distributions pare away the differences as much as possible to maintain inter-distribution compatibility? Wouldn't this just make everyone's life easier?


Bad Experiences are Forever

This is a sort of follow-up and is opposite to the previous post. There are a couple things that I had bad experiences with that I should probably try out again; these things have probably left worse impressions on me emotionally than rationally.
First is Toyota. Toyota has had a rough couple years, starting with issues of premature rusting in its trucks' frames and leading up to the "unintended acceleration" fiasco. Through it all, it's managed to become #1 in sales, but this too has come at the cost of its quality; now, the parts it uses especially in the interiors of its cars are flimsier and aren't assembled with the same attention to detail as before. My family owned a 1988 Toyota Corolla, and it ran beautifully until 2004; it was solidly built, and the attention to detail was striking. Now, no more. That said, the unintended acceleration fiasco (which pushed my skepticism of Toyota over the edge) is finished and its new cars are pretty solidly built and competitive, so I really shouldn't instinctively turn me away from all Toyota products (though I'd still rather wait a few years before recommending their products to anyone again).
Next, Fedora. I tried the Fedora 11 "Leonidas" GNOME live CD about a year ago, and I loved it. I really liked the fact that it, unlike Linux Mint 7 "Gloria", detected all of my hardware out-of-the-box (including my graphics card and monitor at its native 2048 by 1536 resolution). So I decided to install it. That was a terrible idea: not only did it fail to install properly, it also managed to mess up my existing Linux Mint 7 partition at the same time. I tried again, and it still didn't work. I then decided to hold off until the next release. Version 12 "Constantine" was worse; no live CD or live USB I created (the usual way) would boot. That's when I gave up on Fedora. That said, just about a week ago, I and a friend of mine (who is a Red Hat/Fedora guru) installed Fedora 14 "Laughlin" GNOME on a mutual friend's laptop (which was suffering from a slow and malware-ridden installation of Microsoft Windows 7). The installation itself worked flawlessly, and aside from multimedia codecs (which was easily fixed through the handy program Autoten), everything worked out-of-the-box — Skype (i.e. webcam and mic), printing (and scanning), desktop effects, etc. Given this, I really shouldn't hesitate, yet I still do. Maybe it'll happen when Fedora does actually support NVidia's Optimus technology.
Finally come laptop touchpads. Wait, no — those are ergonomically inferior to external mice. Whoops! (Heh heh.)
So what are your thoughts on this? Do you also dislike things more emotionally than rationally? Share your thoughts in the comments below!


Familiarity Breeds Fondness, not Contempt

The thought about the content of this post occurred to me yesterday when surfing the web as normal. (Interestingly enough, I forgot about it until this afternoon.) It started with Mozilla Firefox crashing. I feel like although with computer-related things I'm a bit more flexible and willing to change (compared to average users) when better software alternatives come around, with some things I just stick too much to what I know, often to my own detriment. Follow the jump to find out exactly what I mean.


Review: Slackware 13.1

KDE Main Screen
I never envisioned myself trying out any of the more advanced distributions like Slackware, Arch, or Gentoo, but having tried derivatives like GNU/Linux Utopia, Chakra, and Sabayon, I think I'm ready to try Slackware and Arch, and I am writing about the former today. Hopefully, the latter can also happen soon. (I'm still not going to try Gentoo.)
Note: this review will be heavy on images, so don't be surprised if the page takes a little time to load.
Slackware is the oldest surviving Linux distribution, and it brings with it, alongside its famous rock-solid stability, a couple of quirks and anachronisms. For example, it is one of the few distributions that provides no form of dependency management; users need to install all dependent packages manually. Another example is how its ncurses-based installation interface dates back from the 1990s/early 2000s. Furthermore, it still uses the old Linux Loader (LILO) instead of GRUB; LILO is quite limited in terms of configuration and the number of operating systems and types of file systems it can handle, and making it play well with other non-Linux-based OSs (like Microsoft Windows) as far as I know is still a herculean task. Finally, unlike most distributions, Slackware provides no official route to installing GNOME, though it provides a plethora of other WM options alternative to KDE and Xfce.
With all these things in mind, follow the jump to see how my experience with the grandfather of distributions (well, not quite) turned out. I tested this in a VirtualBox environment with 1 GB of RAM and an available 10 GB virtual hard drive.
Ncurses Installer


Movie Review: Toy Story 3

This evening, as I am back home, I got to watch Toy Story 3 with my family. (On a side note, the DVD seemed pretty badly scratched as there were many parts that jumped and skipped around, but it was tolerable.)
I had heard from many of my friends over the summer that this movie is an exceptionally good movie, and to be honest, while I think it's a good, clean, family-friendly movie, I don't think it's anything to rave about. I found a lot of the political themes (e.g. "we are in control of our destiny") a bit off-putting for a kids' movie (though Barbie delivering the "power of the government derives from the consent of the governed" line was priceless), though I guess it's more to please the parents who are also probably watching. Other than that, aside from a few other funny moments (like Mr. Potato Head replacing his body with a tortilla), it wasn't anything truly special. All in all, I'm not really sure what all the hype was about (other than Andy going to college, and even then, I found his actions at the end when playing with the little girl and his old toys simultaneously funny and disturbing).


Done with 1st Semester!

Yay! I'm done with my first semester here at MIT! Overall, final exams worked out pretty well.
I'm going back home either tomorrow or the day after that. When I do, I'll be able to spend more time with loved ones and more time relaxing (and writing here).
For those people in school/college, how did your term go?


An Update on this Blog and the Respins

Last week, I released an Openbox respin of Ubuntu 10.04 LTS "Lucid Lynx" called UberBang 10.04. Shortly afterwards, I emailed CrunchBang creator Philip Newborough with questions about the theming issues and related things. He very kindly answered my questions, so I've incorporated those changes (and a few others) and reuploaded the ISO file (which is slightly bigger now but is still under 600 MB). The download link is unchanged. Also, when I get the time, I'll make a wiki for UberBang like I did for the other respins.
Before that, I also released Oxidized Trinity 6 "Squeeze", a respin of Debian 6 "Squeeze" with Trinity 3.5.12 themed to look like KDE 4.1(ish). The download link is still here. Also, when I get the time, I'll update the wiki with information about this Debian-based Oxidized Trinity. (As an aside, interestingly enough, the top downloaders of Oxidized Trinity, as opposed to my other respins, use Microsoft Windows. Maybe that says something about KDE's ability to attract Microsoft Windows users. Then again, it's entirely possible that these are Linux users who just so happen to be downloading the ISO in Microsoft Windows. There's no way to know for sure.)
I haven't released a new version of Fresh OS in a while, and that's because of upgrade issues I've been having with those virtual machines. This stems from a couple of issues with upstream Linux Mint packages. Anyway, I'm waiting for the next snapshot to be released; that snapshot is supposed to have all the new features and themes of Linux Mint 10 "Julia", which may render Fresh OS "Traditional" unnecessary.
Finally, you may notice that the look of this blog has changed again. I really liked the old look, but the gadgets were starting to look weird in an old theme, so I decided to upgrade to a newer template and theme that. It didn't look quite the same, so I decided to try again. I think I've finally found something that imitates the parent theme (which, I found out after a lot of searching, is called "Subtle Beauty") well enough that I can stick with this. I hope you all like it too!


Featured Comments: Week of 2010 December 5

There was only one post that garnered comments, so I will be reposting all those comments.

Fedora 15: A Potential Savior?

Reader yochalgal had this to say about it: "The reason fedora 15 will have that ability is because they are switching from X to wayland as a display server. Ubuntu (what mint is based off of) is also switching. So you will have that ability." Of course, the Linux Mint developers have said that they won't be switching to Wayland exactly when Ubuntu does.
An anonymous commenter added, "The Nvidia-Intel video problem stems from the newer Optimus line of Nvidia cards. Nvidia has said they have "no plans" of supporting the switching technology under Linux. That means that in Linux, the Optimus cards will be locked into the Intel graphics performance, while keeping the Nvidia card on as well. Poor performance and poor battery life. Worst of both worlds. Hopefully Wayland will be able to work around this issue."

Thanks to all those who commented this week. Once again, if you like the material, please continue subscribing and commenting! (Also, I have final exams this week, so I won't be posting stuff as frequently.)


Introducing UberBang 10.04

Main Screen + Openbox menu
If you've been keeping up with this blog, you'll know that CrunchBang ("#!"), an Openbox distribution that was previously based on Ubuntu, has switched to a Debian base (and has added Xfce to the mix as well). While I agree with many of the developers' reasons for switching bases, I feel like now there's a void in the realm of Ubuntu derivatives using Openbox. No, Lubuntu doesn't count, because it uses LXDE, which is a little more fully featured and a bit different anyway (though it does use Openbox as its WM). No, I needed something a bit more like the lovely #! 9.04.01.
SLiM Login Screen
Enter UberBang. It's a spin that I created of Ubuntu 10.04 LTS "Lucid Lynx" Minimal. This means that creating this distribution was much like creating Oxidized Trinity 6 "Squeeze" from a minimal Debian 6 "Squeeze" installation; post-installation, I needed to fetch all the requisite packages myself (though I will say that here, thankfully, sudo was properly configured out-of-the-box post-installation). For example, in #! 9.04.01, the scrot command line tool is used to take screenshots. As it is a pretty basic command line tool, I expected it to be installed out-of-the-box; I was wrong.
There were a couple things that I tried to do in UberBang 10.04 to make it feel more like the #! 9.04.01 I knew and loved (as opposed to the #! 10 "Statler" that I didn't like quite as much). For one, I installed Pidgin, Skype, PCManFM, and Cheese Webcam Booth, none of which are present in #! 10 "Statler". I also installed programs like VLC, PiTiVi Video Editor, Claws Mail, Liferea Feed Reader, and File Roller. Next, I installed all of the wallpapers and codecs used in 9.04.01. Finally, I tried to port the #! 9.04.01 Openbox themes and icons (as well as the tint2 configuration) over to UberBang 10.04. While this works overall, this also leads me into the (unfortunately rather long) list of issues to watch out for. Follow the jump to read more about this.


Fedora 15: A Potential Savior?

One of my friends was showing me today a Gource-created video of his semester's work that he made on his Fedora 14 "Laughlin" laptop. It looks really nice, but even though it has a quad-core processor, 4 GB of RAM, and a very nice AMD ATI dedicated graphics card (I don't know exactly what model/specs), it still took a couple hours to do (i.e. far longer than it should have).
I told him that I'd love to be able to do a similar thing on my laptop, but given that it has even lower specs than his, it would take even longer. This is also because Linux Mint 9 LTS "Isadora" doesn't properly recognize my NVidia graphics card, so I can only use the Intel integrated card which works fine for me now but would choke under such processor-intensive activities. He then told me that Fedora 15 will have native support for seamless switching of graphics card drivers (especially these NVidia-Intel setups).
Linux Mint, I've loved using you for the last year and a half, but I'm definitely going to be looking into this more closely, because I really do want to use my laptop to its full potential in Linux. If Fedora 15 is relatively stable, I'll probably be using it until Linux Mint gains similar support (and if it comes in the rolling "Debian" branch, I'll just use that then). In any case, I'm excited!


Wikileaks: American Entertainment Better than the TSA

There's a new article (Brett Michael Dykes, The Lookout) about a leaked document posted on Wikileaks reporting that American TV shows and movies have been very effective at painting a positive portrait of the US in the eyes of Saudis (ever since American channels there have started showing actual American TV and movies and not just US-sanctioned propaganda). Of all the quotes in the article, this one stood out the most:
[...] even in the remote, highly conservative regions of Saudi Arabia where anti-Western thought typically proliferates. The cable quotes him saying that out in the Saudi hinterlands, "you no longer see Bedouins, but kids in western dress." [...]
I feel like this is along the lines of winning the people's "hearts and minds". The reason why this works is because as opposed to state-sponsored propaganda (which is pretty obvious when shown), this more subtly shows what's so great about the US.
Finally, I think this report is a great send-up of all the politicians who are equating Wikileaks with terrorism. Quite the contrary: while a lot of what it shows is what we've done wrong (and of course these politicians will hypocritically call for press freedom in other countries yet repress it here), it also shows a lot of what we've done right. Why not publicize that more? (I think it's because people will start demanding the incriminating information as well; really, politicians just call for press freedom when it suits them. So, what else do you have to hide, Senator Lieberman? After all, you do want to criminally prosecute them, don't you?)
Oh, and the title? It just goes to show that this entertainment is far better at converting potential terrorists into people positively curious about America than the TSA is at stopping terrorism.


Lage Raho Wikileaks!

In the last couple days, there have probably been more news stories about the leaked government documents put on Wikileaks than there are actual leaked documents on Wikileaks. TechDirt has a funny (sadly, it's true) article about how the State Department supposedly wants the leaked documents back. Evidently, it somehow thinks that digital goods are simply analogue goods on computers that can be "reclaimed". Unfortunately, it doesn't realize that online, once it's out there, it can never be put back; this is also true of businesses and trade secrets, and businesses know this, so I'm not sure why the Department of State has become the Department of State of Denial.
To show them just how ridiculous and tone-deaf their demands are, I propose a nonviolent protest along the lines of the movie Lage Raho Munna Bhai (which I watched over the summer and whose plot synopsis, especially the part about sending roses, you can read in Wikipedia here). A commenter on TechDirt suggested, just for fun, compressing the documents into a ZIP file and emailing the compressed file to a State Department email address (which, obviously, cannot and does not do what the State Department wants done). This seems a little boring, so I'd like to take this a step further.
If you want to do this through email, do the ZIP file idea, but change the permissions on all the files, while adding an additional fake "document" that is actually a Rickroll video. If you are really savvy (and if this is possible), try to rig the properties of the ZIP file so that when opened, the ZIP file automatically opens the Rickroll video (and the other documents are inaccessible).
If you, like me, want to do this in the style of the movie, print out some of the leaked documents and put them in an envelope or box. Include in this box a "Get Well Soon" card (with a polite message about, as Munna Bhai says, their "disease of dishonesty") and a bouquet of flowers.
This is just nonviolent protest against stupidity in the State Department, and as far as I know, this isn't breaking any laws. (Please don't be stupid and include viruses in the emails. That would be illegal.) How does it all sound?


Movie Review: Die Another Day

Last night, I watched the movie Die Another Day with my family. Interestingly enough, we tried watching it on an older DVD player hooked up to the TV; we were able to hear the background music but not the foreground dialogue. When I was told that this happened with other movies as well, I concluded that the DVD player was dying, so we watched it on a laptop.
It was an entertaining, typical James Bond movie but it wasn't anything special. Having watched the two newest James Bond movies and seeing how awesomely cold and efficient Daniel Craig's James Bond is in those movies (without all the techno-wizardry), I can't help but think that all the gadgets in this movie is covering up for some merely OK acting on Pierce Brosnan's part.

Featured Comments: Week of 2010 November 28

There were two posts that garnered comments this week, so I'll try to repost most of the comments.

Peter Pan Buses: Good for People who Supposedly "Can't Grow Up"

Reader Jen had this to say: "Totally agree that this country needs high-speed rail! (And no, Amtrak's Acela doesn't count...) Was there wifi on your Peter Pan bus?" (Yes, there was.)

In Praise of the Arch Wiki

A multitude of anonymous readers left comments. One comment that summed up the sentiments in the other comments as well reads, "The Arch Wiki is why I switched to Archlinux, well that and their forum. I was originally an Ubuntu user but whenever I had an issue hardware related and googled for a solution, 9 times out of 10 there was a link to the Arch Wiki and I was able to fix the issue using that link or at the very least get pointed in the right direction. So I figured if there documentation is this good why not actually try using Archlinux, well one year latter I'm still an Arch user and couldn't be happier. The rolling release model is also a pretty good reason to switch. :)"
Reader pablo countered the thoughts about switching to Arch to learn Linux better: "It should be added that for a intermediate experienced linux user installing Arch can be something to shy away for. Not necessary and if you want to enjoy Arch out of the box I recommend Archbang that does a lot of configuring for you, and you can still learn from your new installed system when using it."

Thanks to all those who commented on this week's posts. Please understand that I will be quite busy for the next two weeks, so there won't be a whole lot of new material in this space. In any case, if you like the material, please continue to subscribe and leave comments!


Introducing Oxidized Trinity 6 "Squeeze"

This is something that I have wanted to do for the last week and a half or so, but I haven't been able to do it because I've been really busy.
I said in my review of Debian 6 "Squeeze" Standard that I wanted to customize that installation with Trinity 3.5.12. Well, now it has finally happened: please welcome the newest member of the Oxidized Trinity family, Oxidized Trinity 6 "Squeeze"!
There are a couple differences between this and the original (Kubuntu-based) Oxidized Trinity 10.04, the most significant being that the only way to install Oxidized Trinity 6 is to use the Remastersys installer, and that's not guaranteed to work. Also, Trinity 3.5.12 packs a whole lot more stuff for Debian than for Ubuntu; I didn't even want half the stuff included, but I was too lazy to remove all of it. (This is also why Synaptic Package Manager isn't included (it would consume even more space).) Thankfully, despite that, the Oxidized Trinity 6 ISO file is actually smaller than the Oxidized Trinity 10.04 ISO file. I guess that goes to show just how lightweight and versatile Debian really is. Finally, on that note, I have uploaded this to the Oxidized Trinity SourceForge page; also, here is the direct download link. Please do try this out and let me know what I can improve. Thanks! (Also, stay tuned for a brand-new respin!)


In Praise of the Arch Wiki

I'm not an Arch user. In fact, I've never used Arch before (save for two reviews of Chakra GNU/Linux, an Arch-based KDE distribution made to make Arch easier). So why am I talking about the Arch Wiki?
Well, I'm looking into doing a couple more respins, and the Arch Wiki has been absolutely indispensable for configuration tips. As Arch Linux is built from the ground up, there needs to be thorough and up-to-date documentation about how exactly to install and configure various applications and services, and the Arch Wiki does not fail. Everything is laid out in a way that I can understand, and the presumed level of prior knowledge is quite low, which is nice. Plus, because Arch is meant to be fully customizable, there are many alternative tools discussed as well, even if they aren't as frequently used.
So thank you Arch Wiki for helping me do these respins! (Also, stay tuned for posts about these new respins!)


It Really is Security Theater

I was going to write about the failed Oregon bombing plot and how the TSA would be powerless to stop it with its scanners and pat-downs for it was a domestic plot that was to use cars and such. Then, I saw this gem of an article (Mike Masnick, TechDirt) saying that the FBI helped the would-be bomber throughout the process and then arrested him just to bolster its own reputation. It links to many different other articles (which I will leave you to read on your own) that talk about this as well as similar fabricated plots.
There really isn't a whole lot to say here, except "what?" This really does give a whole new meaning to "security theater" — now complete with actors and a set!