Other sites teach and advocate FOSS; I just pound it into your head.

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Firefox Manga Fan Art

Date/Time Permalink: 02/13/10 07:07:53 am
Category: LINKS and Lists

Firefox manga illustration 07

Firefox manga illustration 27

Firefox manga illustration 76

It's gone beyond simple browser-tans. Firefox manga art has gotten to be its own franchise, and is wandering into kemono territory. From this Firefox art collection.

Yeah, some of it's kind of disturbing. While we like seeing people love open source, we're not sure we meant it that way. I don't dare speculate if there's any Rule 34 on Tux the Linux Penguin out there, do I? I'm scared to search.

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My Own Ten Old-School Linux Programs That I'll Never Forsake

Date/Time Permalink: 01/28/10 12:15:06 pm
Category: LINKS and Lists

Jack Wallen over at Tech Republic just posted 10 old-school Linux tools I refuse to let go of, and of course I have a warm place in my heart for anyone who puts the command line first (and he isn't even a programmer! - see #3 on his list). Anyway, this sounds like good meat for a fun meme, so what are the programs that will never be replaced on my menu?

As I see it, the point of this exercise is not to rant about your favorite programs, but to make fun of yourself for being so old-fashioned. And I'm deliberately picking different programs from Wallen, even though there's overlap (command line, nethack, man pages, and cron).

Emacs - Emacs, like Zen, is something you either get or you don't. I rave about Emacs on this blog all the time, so I won't bother to explain more here. I'll just say that ultimately, Emacs has something unique that appeals to me - personality.

dc - Isn't this hilarious? I have desktop calculator programs installed all the time. I never use them, because it's still faster to just dive to the console and bang out the dc line. I've gotten to where I actually think about math better when I'm writing it as a dc command. No, really, if I'm away from a digital device and doing math in my head, I've discovered that I mentally type the reverse polish notation - complete with the leading "dc -e!"

Shell tools (sed, grep, cut, etc.) - Important thing to know about me: I am the epitome of laziness. If I can do something with 15 keystrokes instead of 20, I'll do it that way. And the command line text editing tools are fun! Yes, I get more kick out of figuring out some wicked-clever for-loop solution with filters than I do actually solving the problem.

Angband - Like Nethack, Angband - in the console - is just the dungeon crawler grind that never goes away. I'll go off and play the latest 3D amazing impressive whiz-bang game, and when I'm done with it, I'm back to Angband again. I must be broken.

SoX - If 'dc' didn't cement my place as a dinosaur, this will do it. The 'play' command is still how I listen to MP3s. Hey, it gets the job done, takes up the least resources, and I wrote a jukebox script which auto-plays my music file library on shuffle. I can just turn it on with one command and go back to what I was doing - instant custom radio station.

Image Magick - This isn't so much an anachronism as it is the only solution for batch image processing. Remember, I'm lazy. I can't believe there are people out there who will wait for Gimp to start (and nobody uses anything but Gimp ever, right?) and load up an image just to do some monkey-task like resizing, cropping, or transcoding. What, does time grow on trees? But then I also like inventing bizarre toys in it.

Tcl/tk/wish - It's strange that I still use this. When I need a fast desktop GUI solution, whipping off a quick 'wish' (the windowing shell extension) script is still the easiest way I know. If it hadn't been for wish, I would have never gotten into Tcl. I actually hate Tcl.

Lynx - Before you laugh, my daily browsing is in Firefox. Instead, I find Lynx indispensable for a number of cases: (1) To quickly view a web page chock full o' stupid, where I don't want to have to turn off ads, Flash, Javascript, Java, images, CSS, and sound all at once, (2) To script - Did you know you can script Google queries and store the results in a text file, for instance?, (3) To view web pages when my desktop is otherwise occupied (such as a game running full-screen).

ANSI art - Not a program specifically, but still very old-school. The associated programs are tetraview, aaview, and the caca library. I do have a whole category on this blog devoted to it, after all.

less - Still the fastest way to view any text file stored on my own machine. 'Nuff said.

It's raining geek!

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Your word for the day is "Syzygy"

Date/Time Permalink: 12/31/09 07:42:25 pm
Category: LINKS and Lists

Syzygy, a word guaranteed to tickle the fancy of crossword puzzlers and Scrabble players, is defined in Wikipedia as "a kind of unity, especially through coordination or alignment, most commonly used in the astronomical and/or astrological sense."

And that's exactly what's happening right now, with the blue moon on New Year's Eve. The solar and lunar years have ground through the gears to end up in the same groove. Celestial clockwork is beautiful.

This is an occurrence so rare, it hasn't happened since 1990. And I'm kind of hoping that it's a good omen for new beginnings. Yes, it's silly and superstitious, but sometimes otherwise impossible things become true just because people expect them to.

Oh, yeah, and for Europe, Africa, and Asia, they're even getting a New Year's blue moon eclipse. An event so rare, we're going to have to bring back the Mayans just to write a new calendar to calculate it. More than you'll ever need to know about lunar eclipses at NASA's site.

a blue moon of text

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The Only Good Things During the 2000s Happened In Technology

Date/Time Permalink: 12/20/09 06:29:24 pm
Category: LINKS and Lists

If it wasn't for technology, I'd be tempted to leave a note for future time travelers to please, somehow erase the years 1999-2009 from all memory and reality. But even though every other culture and category is weeping in its collective beer, the 2000s might go down in history as the best decade ever for technology!

Here's the top honors for geeks in the 2000s:

Broadband Internet - Faster is better, right? No arguments there?

YouTube - And online video in general. Especially now that it even plays smooth on Linux.

USB - Finally, temporary removable data storage got away from the floppy!

Firefox - Quite possibly the most perfect program ever developed.

4Chan - Ooooh, am I going to get flamed about this one! But the rise of the *chans brought with it a new culture on the web, and it's a culture where new, exciting things are happening. While the original 4chan might raise your ire, consider going to something besides the /b/ random board. Also see the Overchan directories - there's an image board of every flavor, even some nice ones!

Wikipedia - While it continues to have its problems and it's always going to be a war between editors with an agenda and the sacred neutral point of view, you have to admit that we've built something really valuable here.

Twitter - Still nothing but a copy of 1% of IRC, but what the hey, it's popular.

BitTorrent - Peer-to-peer file sharing - it made freedom easier.

Mobiles - The mobile phone/ device revolution. It was kind of inevitable anyway, but let's face it, it could have been worse. It could have been a repeat of the introduction of the desktop 386 PC. The advent of text messaging and the iPhone/iPod go here as well.

GPS - Remember paper maps? Finally, after all the doom-and-gloom predictions, a technology actually did manage to make a paper medium obsolete!

FOSS and Linux - No doubt here, Linux and Free/Open Source Software made strides the likes of which have never been seen before in any tech industry field.

President Barrack Obama - Between the way he refused to give up his Blackberry when taking office, and the recent move of the Whitehouse.gov domain to the Drupal platform, seeing a tech-savvy administration for once has been a refreshing change of pace. Great, it only took the US government 20 years to catch up to the citizens, but hey, better late than never.


And just to be balanced, here's the WORST things to happen in technology in the 2000s:

SCO - It won't die, ever!

Novell - Earned their place as the greatest sell-out to Microsoft in history.

SEO - Not to be confused with SCO, SEO is the cargo-cult of "Search Engine Optimization." As convoluted as astrology charts, as bad-science as biorhythms, as superstitious as Dark Ages medicine, as useless as Tarot cards, and the proponents are as ignorant as rocks. When anybody in real life utters the acronym "SEO" in a non-ironic manner, I automatically deduct 50 points from their IQ.

Windows XP and Vista - If you have to ask, I can't explain it. Really, the continued monopoly of Microsoft goes here. A silver lining is that Vista made some old-guard Windows proponents question their devotion to Microsoft for the first time.

The Sony rootkit - Can't forget this one. While it didn't affect Linux/BSD/Mac users, we still all had reason to be a little more paranoid about our music collections.

Social News - The Cancer that is killing the Internet. Navel-gazing, Narcissistic, tunnel-visioned, full-of-itself, and responsible for most of the bad things that happen on the web. Digg and Reddit should both be burned to the ground, and they each spend the majority of their time heckling each other about who's worse, which is the only thing they're both right about.

Yahoo - Watching Microsoft's take-over attempt of Yahoo and the pitiful way Yahoo failed to defend itself was like watching a cat go after a mouse and the mouse is standing there with an "Eat me!" sign. The only reason Yahoo's alive today is because Microsoft found it too difficult to chew.

Cuil - Cuil was almost a web-bubble all by itself, but too small to do any damage.

Wolfram Alpha - Oh, look, a giant bazillion-dollar calculator that also gives Mad-Libs responses to non-math questions!

MS-Live and Bing - Microsoft gets into the search business, everybody says it's going to suck, and then lo and bejeezus, it sucks!

The Zune - Even non-PR-people at Microsoft admit that it was an abomination.

gross radioactive green jelly

Bonus Buck: PCWorld's The 87 Lamest Moments in Tech for the decade, I have to reluctantly admit, is pretty fair. And that's a link to the printable version.

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She Doesn't Have Your Ears...

Date/Time Permalink: 10/01/09 05:15:47 pm
Category: LINKS and Lists

monkey see monkey do

Ardi is the new celebrity of the past, in the category of "earliest possible one of us." And I can't help but see that the default monkey head in Blender at least looks related, although with more ears and less hair.

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10 Signs You Are Ready For Linux

Date/Time Permalink: 06/28/09 03:41:48 pm
Category: LINKS and Lists

The title of this post is a search which came into my site, verbatim. (It was a Canadian search through google.ca.) Curios, I searched around the web and didn't encounter any such article. So let's make one!

It's a good way of looking at things for a change. So much ink is devoted to "Linux is ready for the desktop", that we tend to forget to view things from the other angle - what kind of user is right for Linux?

1. You're tired of being bossed around by your computer.
Would you tolerate your car refusing to start until you scanned in your pink slip every time to prove you bought it? Would you put up with parts of your house being walled off because only the architect was allowed access? Would you allow your doctor to withhold information in your medical file from you because it's intellectual property? Then why do you put it with this from a computer you bought and paid for?

2. Your money's tight.
Linux is still free!

3. You're tired of having to buy a new machine every few years.
Linux loves old hardware. Distros which are especially good on old machines include Slackware, Debian, Damn Small Linux, GRML, and Puppy Linux.

4. You're looking to start a home business.
Linux's stability ensures that your most important tool never lets you down.

5. You're sick of worrying about security.
It's quite liberating to no longer have to live in fear of every mouse-click.

6. You want to learn tech skills.
Linux is an educational system. Learning Linux can open the door to learning Unix in general, IT careers, programming and development, and even related tech.

7. You're an autodidact.
Really, this is the most important factor of all. If you cannot handle finding your own answers by searching the web, reading the manual, or checking out a book or two, it's going to be tough. Self-teachers absorb Linux like they absorb everything else. Linux isn't mainstream, so while the smaller share of users are nevertheless helpful, you're still better off making all of the documentation that's already been written count, instead of waiting to have somebody lead you by the hand.

8. You're not that attached to gaming.
Yes, Linux's gaming opportunities are always expanding. but gaming on Linux is still a niche interest. If you're getting burned out with the computer being for nothing but idle entertainment, you might get a new kick out of the intellectual stimulation of learning how to do things with a computer. Maybe you'll write your own games?

9. You have patience.
It takes time to develop skill. It gets really tiresome seeing everybody out there asking "What's the quickest/ easiest way to learn..." The easiest way is to commit yourself to learning and learn. It takes time to learn. This is why a university degree takes years.

10. You're a rebel.
You like to make up your mind to do things your way. you're picky and finicky - you want things to run just so, the way you customize them, not how somebody boxed it for you. Having a bend towards anarchy helps!

isometric sig

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Michael Jackson Moonwalks Offstage

Date/Time Permalink: 06/25/09 05:44:30 pm
Category: LINKS and Lists

Michael Jackson Moonwalker

Michael Jackson has died, at the age of 50, reports the LA Times Blog. So as soon as I read that, I immediately fired up XMame and loaded a ROM of Michael Jackson's Moonwalker that I had laying around from a past project.

Say what you will about him - he was pretty freaky towards the end there, and I admit I made my share of jokes about him - but the screenshot is how I'll always remember him, as the unbelievably cool entertainer we had in the '80s, not the strange alien we had from the '90s onward.

There'll never be another.

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My Linux Personal Lexicon

Date/Time Permalink: 04/24/09 06:15:12 am
Category: LINKS and Lists

In the spirit of Douglas Adams' The Meaning of Liff, this is the little list of words I've come up with to describe aspects of Linux life. They don't have to make sense - I'm just being silly.

"adminland" n. "ad-min-land"
The console. The black text terminal you get by hitting Ctrl-Alt-F[2-6] and return to the desktop from with Alt-F7. For myself, it's a natural environment on my own machine. For the rest of the household, it's that weird thing that dad does to your computer from over your shoulder when you're having a problem. I've gotten so good at adminland, that all anybody sees is sudden black, a flurry of flying text, and the desktop again with the problem fixed.

"Appleshock" n. "app-el-shock"
The surprise of unzipping a received file which you expect to be from Windows and instead it's from an Apple user. Oh, yes, there are alternative systems out there, aren't there? So now instead of dealing with spaces in file names or all-uppercase DOS-isms, you're dealing with folders that begin with a double-underscore and duplicate files with a dot in front of them for no apparent reason.

"bootpanic" n. "boot-pan-ick"
The sudden realization that you have to struggle to remember the passwords to the machine you're booting, because it's been running for so long. At least one thunderstorm + power blink per year gives me bootpanic on at least one machine.

"decrappifier" n. "de-crap-i-fye-er"
Any script you bang out in anger to solve some stupid problem that shouldn't happen, regarding the output file of a program. Examples include fixing the bloated output of ABIWord when you save to HTML, converting "smartquotes" and "smartdashes" in a file saved from the web to normal ASCII, stripping the usable text out of a Microsoft ".docx" file, and so on and so on. Always saved with a name like "de-*expletive*-izer.sh", with no comments. Months later, you stumble upon these kinds of scripts and have no idea what they do.

"distromacy" n. "dis-tro-mass-y"
The diplomatic politeness with which you treat another Linux user's distro choice when discussing Linux in a face-to-face meeting, after having experienced the thrill of meeting another Linux user in real life. "Oh, you use Linux too! I'm a __! Oh, you use, ah, use _. Yeah, that's a good one too." Later when walking away and out of earshot you remark to your significant other marveling how anybody could use a crap distro like that.

"grepwords" n. "grep-words"
Any word-based game, e.g. Scrabble, Jumble, crossword puzzle. I cheat by using the 'grep' command and some regexp-foo on /use/share/dict/words to turn up all possible words fitting certain letters and space lengths, which actually turns the word game into a hearty regexp puzzle instead.

"McMove" - v. "mick-move"
From the command line, trying to move a file with 'mv' only to accidentally fire up Midnight Commander by typing 'mc' instead. I do this all the time, the keys are right next to each other. And I hate Midnight Commander, I can never remember how to exit it. On at least one machine I've gone so far as to remove the Midnight Commander package and alias mc to mv in .bashrc.

"mntveto" v. "mount-vee-toe"
To override any Linux distro's own eccentric scheme for mounting removable media. Look, Linux distros, bloody-well put the floppy in the /mnt/floppy/ directory, the CD in the /mnt/cdrom/ directory, the thumbdrive in the /mnt/usb/ directory. Alright? By definition, removable media is going to travel from machine to machine, so being able to quickly find the files on a (usually unfamiliar) machine should be a priority. Yet there are 1000 Linux distros with Borg-like consistency in where they put everything else, and yet all 1000 of them have to come up with their own unique, zany little scheme when it comes to mounting removable media. Stop it, you're not funny!

"mousephony" n. "mouse-fo-ney"
The ungodly noise you can produce by catting /dev/mouse to /dev/dsp (the speakers) and then wriggling your mouse around just to hear the squeals and static. Only works on desktop boxes, and only certain machines. If you're really brave, you can produce some infernal growling static with /dev/urandom going to your speakers. An activity for the extremely bored and braindead. (By the way, you stop this with Ctrl-C. You're welcome.)

"schrodinpackage" n. "shrode-in-pack-age"
Any package which you never use but keep installed anyway because some other program on your system might need it. Removing it might break the system, or it might not. Or it might only stop you from doing something you only rarely ever do, but will be nonetheless distressed when you can't do it any more.

"tabslap" v. "tab-slap"
To quickly close a newly-opened Firefox tab whose web page is threatening to crash Firefox. Misbehaving Flash and Javascript are the chief targets for tabslap.

"user" n. "uz-er"
How I pronounce the Unix standard major directory "/usr/", as in "user share", "user local", etc. Yes, I know that "/usr/" actually is an acronym for "unix system resources" and when I found that out, it struck me as daft. It's the user directory - things that users need go in there!

"VDADD" n. acronym: "Virtual Desktop Attention Deficit Disorder"
The tendency to abuse Linux's multitasking muscle by having way too many programs running in multiple virtual desktops or consoles. You end up flipping back and forth reading a line here, editing a line there, watching another five seconds of a video clip, and eventually coming to Emacs with a window-full of code open and asking, "What was I going to do with this?" Having multiple windows open on one desktop doesn't have the same effect, since it's all there at once where you can't forget any of it.

"Windowwart" - n. "win-dow-wart"
Any misfeature which was stupid design the first time it happened on Windows, and is carried over to Linux just to make Windows immigrants feel at home. Should we also install a clutch pedal in all cars with automatic transmissions so that stick drivers will feel at home when they switch to automatic?

cloudy sig

Sanity checks:
Midnight Commander - by dumb luck, I happen to have F9-F12 hotkeyed to open my most commonly used programs; F10 is what I have Fluxbox opening Firefox under. So I have to exit MC via menus.

Mounting - I can recall at least /mnt/removable/, /mnt/media/, and /media/, plus some distros name the media's folder sda1, and I also remember /mnt/thumb/ once. Add to that the other variables - some distros automount, some don't, some require root, some don't, some even pop open a program automatically, which may or may not be the program you were intending to use right now.

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Google Similar Image Search Brings Me Weird Hits

Date/Time Permalink: 04/21/09 09:25:28 pm
Category: LINKS and Lists

Uh, in case you've missed it, Google has released Similar Image Search, a function which allows you to find images similar to the one you're looking at.

And for those of you saying "That's like TinEye!", well, no, since TinEye performs real-time image analysis with an uploaded image and is designed to uncover cases where an image was copied and filtered and reused. Sorta.

The part where my mis-aimed fame comes in? Apparently, one of the favorite ways to test it that most people think of first is to type in "XKCD" - and lo, there in the second result is the parody image I drew for a closing sig on a blog post a year and a half ago. Next thing you know, I'm getting tons of hits.

Oh, well, I think I'm still in the clear, unless Randall Munroe has a copyright on all stick figures or something.

But while everybody's looking for stick-figure comics similar to XKCD, well, I do have a steady webcomic to offer. One that explores the hidden frontier beyond stick-figures! Imagine a universe where people have shapes! Where women have boobs and faces have expressions! Yes, it's all possible with the miracle of modern vector editors...

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suddenly the moon