Threats from malware in the form of viri and spyware are a constant worry, especially given that the Internet is now an indispensable tool that many of us must use for some of our most crucial daily tasks. But are the big-name antivirus packages, like McAfee and Norton, still necessary?
Recently my computer began to have some serious performance issues. Starting it up took an obscene amount of time, to the point where my computer still wasn’t usable after I went to make an entire plate of waffles for breakfast. Firefox took a full ten minutes to load, graciously giving me plenty of time to tear my hair out and hit my monitor in rage, and my machine would labour intensively at the most simple procedures.
I started to worry that my computer might be infected with some of those “viruses” I’d heard so much about, so I went about trying to get rid of them. After several full scans of my computer’s entire hard drive and running memory, multiple spyware scans, and a great deal of booting from safe mode and investigating the task manager, I decided I had done all I could. Yet only one apparently benign virus had shown up and been dealt with, and my computer was still running like glue dipped in tar encased in cement.
Then I noticed it: a program related to my McAfee antivirus was constantly increasing in memory size. Could my antivirus software have a memory leak? Could the culprit be the very thing that I thought was on my side? With few options left, I took the risk and deleted my entire McAfee package.
It wasn’t easy, because McAfee fought me the entire way. It required that I download some obscure uninstallation program, even though there was already an uninstall in the add/remove programs menu, and it told me many times that I couldn’t uninstall some files because they were still on the computer, which is pretty much the most absurd, frustrating thing a program can tell you. Uninstalling McAfee required just as much effort as deleting the most stubborn spyware.
But lo’ and behold, after deleting McAfee my computer ran flawlessly. No more slow downs or memory leaks or waffle breaks while I waited for the Start Menu to show up. After my horrible experience with this antivirus package, I started to wonder: are big-name antivirus packages worth it any more?
Tech Crunch recently ran an article that brought to the Internet’s attention a strange Symantec-related program called pifts.exe, which seemed to be performing some shady operations. Posting about the application on the Symantec forums resulted in deleted threads and banned accounts, which raised some serious suspicions in the online community.
Was this just a mistake, a series of coincidences, or some sort of conspiracy? It is of course difficult to say, but whatever the case may be, the situation doesn’t exactly give a good impression of Symantec’s service. This is because the pifts mini-scandal reminds us that big-name antivirus software companies are in the business of making money, and just because their programs are supposed to help defend our computers from threats doesn’t mean that those big companies aren’t above sneaking in their own spyware-like programs into the mix. If a company like Sony is apt to do these sorts of things, there’s no reason to think that Symantec or McAfee aren’t above doing the same.
None of this means that Norton, or any other antivirus software, is actually actually sneaking computer-destroying malware onto our computers, but it still brought me to ask this question: is it worth it for me to have big-name antivirus software on my computer if it can be more of a nuisance than the viri it protects me from?
The answer for me has been an unequivocal “no.” McAfee rendered my computer into a machine that had the performance of a profoundly retarded rock, and was just as much of a pain to uninstall as the most tenacious malware. In the past I found that antivirus packages like Symantec’s were intrusive and annoying, constantly bothering me with pop-ups, making computer games crash, and identifying all the wrong programs as threats. Further, if the pifts situation is any indication, Symantec’s software may not be the best choice for users who want to keep mysterious applications from messing with their machines.
The bottom line is that I want my antivirus software to make my computer-use worry and bother-free, which is the exact opposite of what all big antivirus software has done for me. Big-name antivirus has been nothing but a bother for me, and there’s no point in using it if it is just as much, if not more, of a nuisance than most malware.
For now I’ve resorted to using AVG antivirus, because it’s free and seems to do the job. Whether this will hold up is another question, but the reality for me is that big-name antivirus is unnecessary and annoying, and I wouldn’t be surprised if others felt the same way.
As we go about “realizing” our New Year’s resolutions were maybe just a bit too stringent, I’m going review the top five games in Linux. Once the great downfall of the platform, gaming can now only be considered a strength, in the hopes you take up this guilty pleasure and wait for 2010 before you give up on gaming. May I present the premier Linux gaming software with the best from each genre.
This FPS (first-person shooter) game is portable on all main operating systems (Linux, Windows, Mac) and is built using the Quake engine.
Players choose between two races: aliens and humans. Both have their own unique strengths and weaknesses, and both are opposing teams on the same map. Whilst uncommon for an FPS, Tremulous allows you to build working structures that serve many functions, the most important being “respawning,” whereby if a player is killed, he reappears at a respawn site. Kills for your race earn you credits. For humans, this means better weapons or upgrades; for aliens, kills enable them to evolve into more powerful beings, the most powerful being the “Tyrant”. The objective behind the game is to not only kill all players of the opposing team (i.e. race) but also to destroy their “respawning” site(s), so that they can’t reappear. With an average of 400 users online at a time, there won’t be a moment left in the day to regret the amount of time you spent playing.
According to SourceForge statistics the game has been downloaded over 1,000,000 times as of 16/10/2008. It was also voted Player’s Choice Standalone Game Of The Year in the Mod Of The Year 2006 competition.
Like all great software, it’s open source and can be readily made available to you from the follow link: http://tremulous.net/
Meaning “roast meat” in German, this C++ written FPS runs on the main operating systems (Windows, Macs and Linux) and is built using the rendering engine Cube 2, for those of you who aren’t keen followers of the Quake movement (as with Tremulous). The main distinction to make between Tremulous and Sauerbraten is the ability to edit the geometry of the map ingame. Coupled with an emphasis on 6-directional gameplay, this dynamic is going to keep you hooked. It supports both Singleplayer and Multiplayer modes, and the latter of the two offers three possible gameplays: Deathmatch, Last Man Standing, and Capture (whereby teams fight over certain areas of the map). For the Singleplayer mode, there is plenty to keep you busy, unlike in Tremulous. You have the option to play scenarios split into episodes, Deathmatches with bots ganging up on you, and the game even goes so far as to provide levels where you can fight in slow-motion.
MacWorld UK gave it four out of five stars, whereas Games For Windows: The Official Magazine mentioned it in Issue 3 with the reference “perfect for both stingy and creative gamers alike.” But now for an organization whose opinion matters… Phoronix, a purely Linux-orientated hardware and software reviews gave it a positive rating due to “several enchancements to its underlying “Cube 2″ engine”.
Like all great software, it’s open source and can be readily made available to you from the follow link: http://sauerbraten.org/
Warzone 2100 (Strategy)
If you liked StarCraft, you’ll love this. The “3-D cross-platform real-time strategy” denotation doesn’t do justice to this once-proprietary program. This game is highly customizable, allowing everything from a wide array of camera angles, to the ability to customize drive systems (e.g. wheels/track) of your units. Warzone 2100 follows an episodic gameplay structure, following a sequence of scenerios whereby you have a time limit to complete the objectives stated using construction, upgrading, recruitment, etc. for the availability of the manpower required for the task. The latest stable version was released January 12, 2009.
Warzone 2100, once developed for the PlayStation (rating of 76%) and Windows, is now praised by the likes of IGN and Gamespot, which had the following to say about the game:
“Warzone 2100′s highly navigatable 3D engine, unique campaign structure, and multiplayer gameplay should please most real-time strategy fans”.
Like all great software, it’s open source and can be readily made available to you from the follow link: http://wz2100.net/
This Spanish game, developed using Glest Advanced Engine, is basically a cross between Tremulous and Warzone 2100. It imitates the 3-D, real-time strategy idea of Warzone 2100 but with a medieval theme. It mimics Tremulous in that there are two opposing factions, Magic and Tech, both with their own strengths and weaknesses, both fighting each other on the same map. The Tech team is composed of conventional warriors with medieval weapons at their disposals, with their own unique set of units, buildings and upgrades. The Magic team is targeted at more experienced users where most of their army is “morphed” or “summoned.” Whilst lacking close combat skill, it makes up for it in brute power and versatility. For those of you who loved StarCraft on Windows – this is the game for you.
Like all great software, it’s open source and can be readily made available to you from the follow link: http://glest.wikia.com/wiki/GetGlest
For those among us who miss hearing the upbeat music of Level 1 SuperMario, may I present SuperTux. It’s the classic side-scrolling adventure game we all played in our childhood, only now, instead of Mario you have “Tux”, the penguin mascot of Linux. With “Penny” captured by bad guys, it’s up to Tux to rescue her.
Receiving Game Of The Month award by HappyPenguin.Org when it first came out, SuperTux went on to celebrate eight version updates and the SuperTux Development Team and Blizzard Entertainment are eagerly working to bring you Supertux 2. The beta release reiteration of SuperTux really brings back memories of SuperMario with multiple “Worlds”, a variety of monsters and a complimentary, childlike plot.
I hope these referrals introduce more users to the variety of games on the Linux platform. While much remains to be accomplished, we can at least revel in the progress made up to 2009, and look forward to what this year will bring for us.
By Mihai Marcas
With the news that UC Berkely has gone completely insane and is offering course credit for having StarCraft LAN parties and eating Cheetos, it seems worthwhile to look at what other games would make good university classes.
So join me for 8 games that should be the subject of university classes!
CALL OF DUTY 4
Syllabus: Call of Duty 4 101 is a study of many interesting phenomenon in Call of Duty 4, such as: complaining about how much your team sucks, complaining about how cheap the other team is, voting to skip every map that isn’t Shipment, complaining about how much the maps that aren’t Shipment suck, complaining about every weapon you are killed by even if it’s a Skorpion, and watching your teammates die so you can figure out the position of the enemy and get the experience from the kills so you can reach another completely pointless prestige rank.
Essays must be typed, double spaced, and printed in 12 point Times New Roman font.
Teacher: A frat guy who only uses a golden AK (because it’s “pimp”) and leaves his headset mic on while he talks to people who are in the same room as him.
Evaluation: Students will be graded on their ability to get 19 kills in a row with a helicopter while hiding in some place that is only accessible through weird jumping exploits, all while completely ignoring the fact that the other team has every capture point.
The student showed an enthusiasm for the subject matter, but had difficulty with basic class material such as stabbing people. Hand writing nearly illegible, most likely due to the amount of time spent playing Call of Duty instead of writing important essays.
Syllabus: This course will focus on many of the important skills required in Mario Kart such as: using the power slide boost to gain more speed, using strategic placement of bananas to give opponents difficulty with certain corners, and learning the obstacles on each course so that heavier characters with a higher top speed can be used.
The student is also required to attend labs every Friday. During labs the student will learn the important lesson that all of the key skills they have acquired are completely useless, which will be imparted to them when they lose almost every game they play to people who have no idea what they’re doing, because so much random crap happens in Mario Kart that it’s impossible to actually be good at it.
Teacher: Your friend’s girlfriend who doesn’t even play videogames, but is way better than you at Mario Kart for some reason.
Evaluation: Students will be evaluated on their ability to lead the entire race in 1st place until the last five seconds when you get nailed with fifteen blue shells and end up coming in 7th, barely in front of the functionally retarded, computer-controlled Koopa, and way behind your little brother who drove backwards for most of the race trying to get into head-on collisions with everyone.
Grade: Before the class even starts the professor gives everyone a C, because no matter how good anyone is they’re going to lose fifty percent of the time anyways. (This also ensures a consistent mean and median grade.)
WORLD OF WARCRAFT
Syllabus: Topics include, and are limited to: ganking, getting ganked by the friends of the guys you just ganked, logging on with your 80 to gank the guys that just ganked you for ganking them, camping the graveyard to gank them as soon as they come back to life, realizing they probably went to a different graveyard, and finally ganking anyone who walks by because you’re in a bad mood now and are already logged in with your 80.
Teacher: Some guy who is constantly screaming over Ventrillo about every single mistake the healer makes during the Onyxia raid, but who hasn’t noticed that his girlfriend just left with all the furniture.
Evaluation: Students will be graded on their ability to perform incredibly mundane, repetitive tasks for hours on end in order to get a different coloured horse.
Final exam requires students to play WoW for 63 hours straight and become the first person on the server to reach 90 when the next addiction-perpetuating expansion is released.
Marks will be deducted from the final for not showing your work, incorrect grammar, saying “Leeroy Jenkins” at any time ever, and dying of caffeine and sleep deprivation-induced heart failure.
(Dean’s note: Using real money to buy gold from a Chinese gold farmer is considered a violation of the university’s academic honesty policy, and will result in an automatic failure and potential expulsion.)
Grade: A+ in grinding for more hours a week than a full-time job would require, F- at sustaining a meaningful relationship with another human being.
METAL GEAR SOLID
Syllabus: The Metal Gear Solid course is a two semester, full year course. The student will be required to memorize every character’s name and role, map the relationship-connections between each character, and understand the entire plot of the game, including each incredibly minor side-story.
The only evaluation will be a final paper, minimum 573,642 pages, single spaced, 4 point font (zero kerning.)
Teacher: Some guy who refuses to buy any console besides a PlayStation 3 and gets into arguments at parties about the quality of the PS3′s game selection. (“Every game is great” is his position.)
Evaluation: Students will be graded on their ability to endure five million straight hours of melodramatic cut scenes. Those who cannot are encouraged to enrol in the Games That Don’t Require Popcorn and a Bathroom Break course.
(Oh, it’s just a box.)
Syllabus: Prerequisites: Students must have 3 full credits in FPS-related courses, must record a B average in FPS-related courses, and must have absolutely no ability to act like a decent human while on the Internet.
Teacher: A twelve year old kid whose entire vocabulary consists of the word “noob” and a variety of pejorative terms for homosexuals.
Evaluation: Students will be graded on their ability to remember where the good weapons spawn and camp those areas.
Students are encouraged but not required to: constantly screech in a high-pitched, pre-pubescent voice if a headset is available; say as much racist stuff as possible; give themselves incredibly stupid clan tags (ie: TITS, PWNS, 8==3, etc.)
Student quit course to play Call of Duty 4 after three and a half seconds of watching a kid simulate sex on a corpse while making fart noises over the mic.
SMASH BROS. MELEE
Syllabus: Course material required: A single (1) Gamecube, four (4) Gamecube controllers, and three (3) friends who you are close enough to that your relationship with them is not ruined by the incredible hatred you feel towards them after they steal all of your kills with Marth’s fifteen foot long sword or Fox’s laser.
A graphing calculator may be useful for some of the tests.
Teacher: Your roommate who schools you with meteor smashes constantly, even when he’s using Yoshi.
Evaluation: Tests will be multiple choice and will measure the student’s knowledge of which characters are most overpowered. Bonus points for complaining about overpowered characters as much as possible.
Example: Which of these characters is most overpowered? (Using the number 2 pencil provided, choose only one)
- A) Ganondorf
- B) Captain Falcon
- C) GOD DAMMIT YOU BASTARD THAT WAS MY KILL MAN YOUR CHARACTER IS SO CHEAP ALL SHE DOES IS FIRE ROCKETS FROM ACROSS THE ENTIRE MAP AND GET FREE KILLS I HATE YOU GUYS AND WE WILL NEVER BE FRIENDS AGAIN
- D) C and A but not B
- E) D and not C unless C is the right answer
(The correct answer was F) All of the above.)
Everyone loses when a group of people get together to play Smash Bros.
KING’S QUEST 1
Syllabus: This class will focus on topics such as: being crushed by a rock 12 seconds into the game.
Required text: Rocks and Being Crushed by Them (4th edition)
Teacher: A rock (that crushes you.)
Evaluation: Students will be graded on whether or not they have been crushed by a rock.
Grade: The moving rock rolls downhill… and right into you. A crushing defeat. (A+++)
Syllabus: The student’s grade will be entirely dependant on his or her ability to chat up avatars that are definitely more attractive than the people controlling them, because this is literally the entire point of Second Life.
Teacher: A 43 year old guy named Gary who celebrates every holiday exclusively at the Casa del Gary resort that he created, where him and all his friends that he’s never met in real life hang out and wear squirrel suits.
Evaluation: The student will be graded on their ability to make plug-ins that give avatars genitalia, allow avatars to have sex, and turn avatars into giant squirrel-people. Then through some inexplicable and utterly mysterious process, the student will make money off these creations.
If a student manages to make a plug-in that gives giant squirrels genitalia and lets them have sex with each other, then the student will not need to bother with a grade because he or she will be a millionaire, somehow.
I have no idea what is even going on. How do I get the epic mount?
Some of you might remember the other day when I reported that CES is full of new trends in technology, and one of them is 3D for television and computer monitors. At CES 2009, I got to see another trend in technology: miniature projectors for mobile units.
This is a projector that you could attach to your mobile device and then project your video files or still photos on the wall. This technology has been under development for quite some time, and I remember covering it about two years ago.
I have been following Optoma’s mini-projector for the last few months, and I finally had a chance to see it at CES. When I passed the booth, I saw a display that I thought was a 12 inch LED screen, but it turned out to be a projection. I was pretty impressed with what I saw, and realized that mini-projection is the wave of the future.
Butterfly Technology also had a mini-projector on display, and I have included a YouTube video from projectorcentral.com below so you can see what it was like. Butterfly’s booth was concealed in darkness to show what this projector can do, and it was also impressive.
Later on, I walked by the 3M booth and found that the giant company also had a mini-projector on display. Did I or you need any more hints to see where the technology was going?
Just to let you know, most of these mini-projectors are about the size of a mobile device itself. We have a long way to go before these mini-projectors will be attachments to a phone like most cellular phone cameras are now.
This week Freeridecoding released an update to BurnAgain FS, their unique burning software, which is free to all the program’s users.
The software, which is now up to version 1.2, integrates into the Mac OS, mounting CDs and DVDs on the desktop like a harddisk, allowing files to be added, removed, and edited multiple times just like any other file in the Finder. Further, changes can be burned at any time.
BurnAgain FS performs all these functions without making a new volume, meaning users can remove individual files from a CD or DVD, or even open and change documents on a disc on the fly.
BurnAgain makes use of a process by which information on a disc is not actively erased, but rather made inaccessible, which, according to the application’s site, means disc-space can be used more efficiently, and files can be moved to and from a disc much faster than with most burning software.
The vesrion 1.2 upgrade includes improvements to the interface and reliability of the application, making it more accessible and easier to use.
With USB memory sticks increasing in storage capacity at an amazing rate and becoming more and more common, it’s hard to say how useful this program will be for most people; I can already write, re-write, and edit information on my USB stick, which has as much space as a DVD, without the need for a special program.
But, there have been times that I’ve needed to use my burner for important projects, such as making a boot disc, when I really would have appreciated the ability to manipulate files on the disc without any worries or hassle.
Further, I’m sure there are people who are forced into using a CD or DVD format for professional purposes who would find this software very useful. Either way, making a coaster out of a disc is always a pain, and it seems like this software may help users avoid that pitfall.
BurnAgain FS is available for Mac, works with CDR, CDRW, DVD+RW and DVD-RW format discs, and costs $22 for a single home edition, $48 for a 5-install family pack, and starts at $32 for business editions.
Now that CES 2009 is now a memory, it’s time to step back and figure out what I have learned.
I can see that 3D is going to be the standard, eventually. Yesterday, zmogo reported that Sony was talking about the possibilities of 3D gaming. I want you to know that I have seen it. At CES Unveiled, I saw someone play Devil May Cry wearing 3-D goggles on a Mitsubishi television, and then I tried it. Sure enough, the big boss I was fighting was in 3D, and there was depth to it.
Last Thursday, I had a chance to see the BCS Championship live in 3D. I watched it at the Paris Hotel, with special glasses, and a cheering crowd. The sound quality was somewhat poor, but I could see so much depth in 3D, that I might as well been at the game itself. By the way, the event was partially sponsored by Sony.
On Friday night, I visited ViewSonic’s display at the Bellagio hotel. They showed me two 3D products: the VX2265WM desktop LCD monitor and the PJD6220-3D projector. Both of them worked in 3D just fine, provided the 3D glasses were charged. Yes, the glasses had to be electric, and they both required a special emitter. This emitter was a device that flashed a tiny light that could somehow make the three-dimensional effect work. This above image is a representation what it looks like, and it is not too far from the truth.
The real whammy was on Saturday morning, when I saw Panasonic’s 3D. No electric glasses were required, but it was some of the finest 3D that I have seen, ever. I saw one shot of an airplane, and it looked like the wing was coming right out of the screen.
So yeah, I had a great time with 3D at PAX, but what does this mean? It means that there is already a push to create televisions that can do 3D. In fact, some TV companies had 3D displays just so they could say that they could do 3D. In the case of Mitsubishi and ViewSonic, it already works on 3D console games with Nvidia and DirectX, which is about all of them.
So, it may take a while, but 3D should be here for more than just our video games. What does this mean for movies? You may be seeing a lot more 3D films in the theater, as they will need to compete with 3D televisions. So, 3D is going to be in our television, but what about our mobile video? Well, we’ll have to stay tuned for that.
The plan: Ring in the new year by switching over to Linux for a week, documenting each day of the transition.
Day 7, Final impressions and a stunning conclusion!
This last linuxy week (well, 9 days actually, because of my laziness) has been quite the adventure. We’ve laughed and cried, felt happiness and despair, vomited and vandalized, and most importantly of all, we’ve… loved.
Linux and I have gone through a lot together, and I dare say we might each have grown just a little bit. We’ve both learned from our mistakes, learned from each other, and, in a touching twist, we learned to forgive. If only Morgan Freeman were here to narrate today there wouldn’t be a dry eye in the house. (Goddammit Morgan, why do you demand such an exorbitant fee for appearances? And why does your rider require that so many rare Australasian mammals be in your trailer? You know I’m allergic!)
It’s sad to see it all come to an end, but it must be done; kind of like finally putting your favourite blanky in the garbage before your first day of University. (Oh how I miss you Mr. Doctor Snugglesworth! Obtaining a higher education was definitely not worth losing you!) So for my last day I’m going to look back on all the times we’ve had and give my final impressions on what I liked, what I disliked, and what I learned.
Unfortunately I didn’t have the resources to make a wicked-awesome montage, so I’ll just have to make do by summarizing. And what better way to summarize than with a summary! So join me for my final impressions and a stunning conclusion!
What I don’t like:
- The confusing amount of different names for things: KDE, Compiz, Compiz Fusion, Wubi, Gnome, Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu, tomato, tomato, tomato, tomato, potato. It’s good to give features catchy names, but for the beginner it’s a bit overwhelming reading about all these different features and add-ons when you have no idea what’s going on. It’s a minor quibble, and each of these things does deserve its own name, but making it a bit more explicit what each of those things is would help newcomers feel a little bit less lost.
- Open Office’s spellcheck: It doesn’t work! I thought this problem was unique to my Windows installation of Open Office, but apparently it’s ubiquitous. It’s not Linux’s fault obviously, but it’s still strange; how has nobody noticed and done something about it? “Hey Doug, I got the spellcheck finished! Huh? Does it work? Well, no. But it’s done!” Or if it’s some sort of option you have to fiddle with, why isn’t it on by default?
- The wallpaper: I can’t seem to change the wallpaper of different desktops individually; If I change the desktop background it applies to every one. Maybe it’s just that I have almost no short-term memory, but I think I could better differentiate between different desktops that I was shifting between if I could give each one its own wallpaper. Plus then I could make one desktop say “You” and the second desktop say “Suck” so if anyone used my computer and switched between desktops they’d realize that they suck. Oh man, that would show them!
- The hardware issues: The first computer I used Linux with didn’t seem to want to cooperate at all, and I couldn’t use the wireless adapter or the graphics accelerator. Even the computer that did cooperate with Linux seemed to have some weird issues with various desktop effects; the computer kept telling me to tell Desktop Effects that it wouldn’t talk to Desktop Effects, and at one point Desktop Effects even drew a line down the middle of my apartment and threatened to “delegitate” the computer if it ever crossed it. Of course I imagine this is one of the hardest things for the developers to account for, given the myriad of different hardware configurations out there. I look forward to seeing the developers broaden Linux’s hardware support.
- Getting stabbed in the face with a number 2 pencil.
- Getting stabbed in the face with a number 3 pencil.
- You know what?: Getting stabbed in the face in general is something I don’t like. Just pretend that for every object that exists there is a line that says, “Getting stabbed in the face with a X,” where X is any physical object at all.
What I like:
- The speed: This is something I haven’t really mentioned before, but Linux is fast. I didn’t even notice until I went back and used my stupid Windows PC, which apparently confers to an international committee that must perform an arduous deliberation about whether to open Firefox every time I click the icon. Every operating system should run this fast.
- The comprehensive antivirus software: Which doesn’t exist because Linux doesn’t need it! Half the reason my Windows PC is so slow is because my antivirus software performs an unwarranted anal cavity search on every program I even think about running. It defeats the purpose of even having antivirus software, since it makes my computer run just as slow as if it were bogged down with all the junk it protects me from. With Linux there are no worries about that sort of thing, and it brings quite a peace of mind.
- The fire-writing desktop effect: How did I not notice this earlier? There is nothing more potent than the ability to write on your desktop in pure fire. Although I kind of half expect my computer to start sending me creepy messages about unsolved murders if I leave this effect on.
- The cost: Nothing! It’s, like, totally free! Like, free as hell, man. Its free-ness is akin to the freedom of not wearing pants when you’re home alone. If it were any free-er it would probably give you money.
- The clock: It lets you show you the calendar date, and even the weather! I could never understand why XP and the Mac OS never let you show the calendar date next to the time. It’s a little thing, but it’s those sorts of little details that make an operating system that much nicer. I mean, I don’t have to double click on the calendar hanging on my wall to check the date, do I Microsoft? Get with the times! (Pun totally intended, even though it’s really not very good.)
- File name-changes: When you change a file’s name Ubuntu doesn’t highlight the file’s extension. This is another detail that just shows the developers’ attention to usability. Give me one reason why I’d want to change the extension of a file every time I changed it’s name, XP. What’s that? That’s right, you can’t give me any reasons. Now go to your room!
- The pre-loaded software: Every operating system ought to come with basic office tools and programs. It just makes sense.
- The Add/Remove Programs application: Another feature that just makes sense. Hey other operating systems, why not include the option to quickly and easily obtain useful applications? Are you trying to hide something from us? Now go to your room!
- The soft purr of Sir Alphonso, my incredibly fat cat: As it eats three-day-old cheetos off my floor. Aw, you probabwy have diabwetes. Yes you do! Yes you do!
What I learned:
- Don’t install Linux straight from the Live disc onto an external hard drive? Um, that’s pretty much it. What can I say? I’m a crappy student. G for effort though!
In the end, it looks like I’ve found a third operating system to use. I definitely am not going to stop using Windows or my Mac, because both serve important purposes, and because I am open to poly-amorous relationships.
But Linux is perfect for doing simple things like web browsing, text-editing, and so on, due to its speed, simplicity and dependability, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up doing those things more with Linux than I do Windows. Of course, many things still require Windows, and I imagine that it is going to stay that way for quite some time. Nonetheless, I look forward to seeing how Linux improves its compatibility with all the hardware and software that is out there.
So for now I’m just going to sit back and use Linux for every day stuff, like a normal person. During this week I’ve had to cram a lot of Linux use in, all while writing stirring, compelling and dramatic posts about it, and it hasn’t left me with the leisure to casually explore a lot of Linux’s possibilities like a person typically would while using a computer. I had to avoid quite a few options for the sake of getting a story done, and sometimes didn’t get as in depth with some applications and features as I could have if I was just sitting around in my underwear with nothing to do.
So while my week with Linux is over, I plan on staying intimate with Linux, getting a new, more casual perspective on it, and some time in the future revisiting this series with some new impressions (most likely with a weekly feature.). So stay tuned for that! And of course in the mean time I’ll still be writing about other non-Linux stuff. (But I’ll be thinking about you the whole time Linux.)
And with that concludes the chronicles of my adventure-filled week with Linux!
Wait, there was supposed to be a stunning conclusion, wasn’t there? Um, so at the end I have to travel back in time to save Linux, but then it turns out that Linux in the past is actually just me when I was young, and Young Linux Me is forced to kill Old Me, and so it’s this crazy twist but it totally ties everything together so it all makes sense and some really sad violin music plays.
The plan: Ring in the new year by switching over to Linux for a week, documenting each day of the transition.
Day 6, Hooking up with some KDE!
Like all domestic pairings, my long and storied relationship with Linux has had its ups and downs. Words have been said, dishes have been broken, mistakes have been made, and 1984 Dodge Caravans have had their tires slashed and then been doused in industrial-grade kerosene and set on fire. You know, the usual stuff.
So after the dust of yesterday’s indiscretions settled I made a decision: I can’t be boxed in any more. I need room to breathe. I feel so stifled sometimes, Linux, and I just have to be with myself for a while. Where’s the love we used to have so many years ago when I first asked to install you at the drive-in movie theatre?
With this in mind I’ve decided I’m going to hook up with some KDE! So come join me!
The fact of the matter is that the spark me and Ubuntu Linux used to have is gone, and I need to see some new things and experience what the world has to offer. It’s not you Linux, honestly. It’s me that’s causing all the problems.
Well, it’s me that’s causing the problems and also my computer, which refuses to cooperate with Linux in any task that’s more complex than opening a text file while rubbing its tummy. (I have no idea where my computer got a tummy. It’s a little bit disturbing, actually. Maybe that’s why it can’t get my graphics drivers working. Do tummies interfere with graphics drivers? Hm, my copy of PCs for Tummies doesn’t have a section on tummies. That’s weird. Oh wait, it says PCs for Dummies… I really should have paid more attention in grade 10 computer science class.)
Actually, scratch all that stuff about it being my fault. It’s totally just the computer’s fault. Seriously, it was all its idea. It’s such a bad influence on me. I mean, every time I tell it we’re going to the park to drink Colt 45s and set garbage cans on fire it just says, “OK.” Can you believe that!? “OK!” What an enabler it is. Always just… enabling. It should be ashamed.
So with all this in mind I’ve decided to become a Linux bachelor, put myself out onto the scene, and try to hook up with some sweet younger computers with supple graphics cards that can process some more attractive desktop effects.
My first step is to ask one of my friends if he knows any cute computers that are looking to party. He responds by asking me what the hell I’m talking about, telling me that I’m a weirdo that he never really liked hanging out with in the first place, and accusing me of a wide variety of perversions, most of which I cannot name here.
It looks like I’ll need to differ my strategy a bit, possibly towards a more standard approach that is based on the assumption that my friend doesn’t understand the narrative of my imaginary relationship with an operating system. (He’s so dense.) “Can I borrow your new computer?” I ask him. “Also, please stop dialing the police and put down the phone.”
He responds. (Nice! I got a response; I should try asking people questions that aren’t insane more often.) “Absolutely not,” he says. “And put your pants back on.” Drats! That move usually works great.
Clearly he’s a crafty one and is well prepared for my ingenious tactics. So, I make one more slight adjustment to my approach, this time away from the whole asking strategy, and towards a marginally more grab his computer and run out the door screaming “he touched me in an inappropriate manner!” strategy.
Now that I have no friends any more I have plenty of time to mack on this computer Linux-style. So I plug my Linux hard drive into it and see if I can seduce it into performing some crazy graphical effects.
To my surprise the wireless adapter and graphics card are immediately recognized in the hardware application, and they install flawlessly. Wow new computer, you do things that my old computer would never even think about doing, even if I begged!
Now that I have a functioning graphics card in Ubuntu it’s time to try installing some sexy new desktop effects. Although apparently I enjoy thinking outside of the box and taking unique approaches to this sort of thing, because I installed everything completely backwards.
My first step was to go into the Add/Remove programs and look for Compiz. The first thing I noticed was the Compiz tray icon, and thinking that it was the only Compiz app available I installed it. After messing around with it for a while and noticing that it didn’t do anything, I went back to Add/Remove program, where I found some other Compiz apps.
The next step in my wonderful plan was to install the Compiz Effects Settings manager, and then install the actual Compiz Effects tool. With these tools installed I decided to follow the Roomba method of trying to get them to work, randomly clicking on everything on the screen until I had exhausted every imaginable possibility through trial and error. After about six hours of this I noticed nothing had actually changed, so I moved on.
It was at this point that I realized that the Compiz installer mentioned something about it being designed for KDE, which is the secret code name for Kubuntu, I think. So, after a bit of looking around I figured out how to install KDE and restarted my computer.
It was in this roundabout way that I came to meet pretty little Kubuntu, with its sleak blue design and tempting desktop effects, beckoning for me to dive in and try them.
My next step is to immediately pounce on the Compiz settings manager to see what is available, where I find an overwhelming amount of different effects. But one in particular catches my eye: the jiggly window effect.
In my opinion the jiggly window is by far the most ingenious and practical of all desktop effects. I say this because I spent at least an hour grabbing windows and shaking them around like bowls full of jelly, giggling with glee at their playful, flirtatious movements. If I spent that much time with the jiggly window plugin it must be important, because I am a very important person who only spends time on important things.
Unfortunately the desktop cube and desktop wall effects don’t seem to work (maybe because I installed everything in the exact opposite of the intended order? Naw, that’s impossible.) Also, some of the effects seem to have a strange relationship with my new computer’s graphics card, because they work at incredibly high speeds and over-respond to my input.
For example, the spinning effect when I switch between different desktops rotates roughly one million-three-hundred-and-sixty-two times with one press of ctrl-alt-arrow, making my eyeballs comically spin 360 degrees inside my head if I try follow it.
But so far I’m enjoying the bachelor life with my new mistress, Kubuntu. I’ve got plenty of mind-expanding exploration and self discovery to do, and all kinds of crazy effects to cuztomize and try out. I’ve seen what life is like for users with computers that actually work with Ubuntu, and I’m never going back to the life I had with that other prudish harpy I was shackled to before.
Overall I was very impressed with KDE in Ubuntu. Not only is it a pretty nice looking desktop with some fun and neat Mac-like effects, but installing it into Ubuntu was very easy. I’ve never used an operating system before that so readily accepted modifications like Ubuntu accepted KDE, and I’ve also never seen an operating system that had mechanics built in for switching between different desktop configurations in such a straightforward way; simply selecting KDE at login did it.
I’ve also finally seen what it is like when Ubuntu just works, with no tinkering. I look forward to the days when even more hardware works in this simple way with Linux.
And that concludes today’s break up with Ubuntu and new relationship with Kubuntu! Tune in tomorrow for the stunning conclusion to my week!
The plan: Ring in the new year by switching over to Linux for a week, documenting each day of the transition.
Day 5, A torrid affair with Windows virtualization!
On day four I let Linux think it was in control by cleverly allowing it to verbally abuse and gas pedal me for the entire day, firmly establishing my dominance over the foolish operating system. (“Stupid operating system! You think you’re getting the better of me by stomping on my crotch and calling me deeply hurtful names, but little do you know this is all part of my master plan!… Oh god the pain is unimaginably horrible.”)
Although the tactics I made use of last day led to my resounding and indisputable success, today I’d like to try executing some strategies that result in at least a little bit less excruciating groin-pain (a truly bold move in operating system configuration, I know.) So join me today as I try to sneak around Linux and cheat on it in its very own house, in my torrid affair with Windows virtualization!
Before I begin I must extinguish any doubt in my mind that this is anything but a ridiculously fantastic plan. As such, I must convince myself that emulating a Windows operating system in Linux, when I have a perfectly functional, loving, tender, beautiful, and committed Windows PC literally right next to me, isn’t an inherently ridiculous idea.
To prepare the process of wiping my guilt-ridden mind of these thoughts, in order that I may go through with this dirty, adulterous deed, I begin my Patented Psych-Up Method of Self-Deception(TM), which is a process that involves punching myself in the face repeatedly as hard as I can while sobbing uncontrollably.
And… success! I still can’t shake the feeling that emulating Windows in Linux is kind of like buying an AIBO electronic dog to replace Sparkles, my actual real dog that can already run Winamp just fine. Also, my face kind of hurts. But other than those two problems it seems my patented method has succeeded and my guilty thoughts have been purged from me. I am free to act in as much of an amoral manner as I please!
But pulling this off isn’t going to be easy; it was hard enough hiding my Linuxy indiscretions from my Windows PC, but now I have to hide the virtual affair I’m having with Windows from the very Linux that is hosting virtual Windows, while still hiding real Linux from real Windows. And on top of all that, Derryck got Sheila to make Rolanda break up with Bobby, and now Bobby and Derryck are going to settle it with a drag-race through the old abandoned reservoir! Drama!
So, the first step in my clandestine scheme is to get Wine set up. I chose Wine mainly because its site is more appealing looking than VMware’s, which has all the sleek design features and well-considered organization of an expired domain name, and also because I am an inveterate alcoholic (I don’t have a problem. I jush… I jush like virtualizing! I can schtop when… whenever I wanna… Wheresh the toilet?)
According to the site’s instructions I will have to download Wine, which apparently involves using an application downloader, called Software Sources, that is built in to Linux.
I’m glad Wine has brought my attention to the Software Sources application, because it helps to widen my understanding of how Ubuntu is set up: First there is the Add/Remove Applications program, which is designed to allow you to Add and Remove Applications.
Second, there is the Synaptic Package Manager, which allows you to Manage Packages (in a manner that is uniquely synaptic, apparently) or Applications as some might call them, by allowing you to Add and Remove them.
Finally there is Software Sources, which, if Wine’s installation instructions are any indication, provides Sources of Software, filling a glaring gap in Ubuntu Linux by allowing you to Add and Remove Applications.
With my mind expanded by a better understanding of the inner operations of Linux I continue with my covert operation. I follow the instructions closely, which take an interesting approach to instructional flow by telling me at the very end that I should first use Add/Remove Applications to install Wine before I go about installing Wine. I guess I should have seen that coming?
I now realize that the Wine installation guide has tricked me, and that Software Sources is just for installing the update-frameworks for applications. Too bad, because I like redundancy almost as much as I like redundancy.
Once I finish severely flogging myself with an old shoe and recover from the deep sense of self-loathing and disappointment that overcame me when I made the redundancy joke, I update Wine. It goes smoothly, and I get to loading up my first Windows program.
I decide on using Winamp, which is the only mp3 player that is so very Windows that it has an abridged version of “Windows” in its name. A word of warning to any programs that think that you can compete with Winamp in this regard: If you want to be a Windows program, but do not have “Win” in your name, then you had better stop fronting, sir, because Winamp has the real Windows rep.
I quietly slip an Isaac Hayes CD into the tray, light up some candles, and open up Winamp. To my surprise it loads perfectly, and begins to sing me some smooth R&B classics. I did it! I got away with it and Linux is none the wiser!
Emboldened by my deception of Linux I try to get a bit farther with Windows. It can play music, but can it get graphic? I decide to test my luck and load up Spelunky, my latest video games addiction. I download the program and run the .exe, and it teases me by giving me a glimpse of the intro screen. I feel a rush of adrenaline as I realize I’m getting away with my unethical plan again, but then disaster strikes. The game rats me out, and my whole screen turns black, leaving me unable to alt-tab out. And I didn’t even get a chance to try sticking my gaming controller into the USB slot!
I’ve been caught red-handed! I’m trapped in a black screen with a Windows application in the background wearing nothing but a loading screen, and when Linux finds out its going to kill me! Given my situation I do the only reasonable thing: I panic, run around in circles screaming and sobbing, hit the power button on my computer, then sit in the shower with my clothes on, trying to wash away the stink of my shame. Later, when Linux asks me what happened, I deny everything and cry myself to sleep on the couch.
My moral indiscretions were fun while they lasted, but like so many things they couldn’t last forever. I got away with running some programs behind Linux’s back, but I paid for my inconsiderate actions in so many ways.
Winamp, which I thought was the perfect crime, doesn’t always run perfectly and crashes at times; oh paradise, I thought I had found you! Also, many video-based Windows programs refuse to run as well, presumably because they’ve gotten wind of my reputation as a playboy-heartbreaker extraordinaire. Prudes…
In the end I learned my lesson: it’s everyone’s dream to be with two operating systems at once, but it’s always too good to be true. Eventually one of them will find out about your indiscretions and threaten to cut important parts of you off with a well-timed crash, and then you’ll get a virus from a Windows application and end up with more groin pain than the old battleaxe you’ve been stuck with could ever give you.
In the end I don’t really mind that Windows applications don’t run perfectly with Wine; I’ve never had a problem with using multiple operating systems, since each has its own strengths, so it seems kind of silly to try to make Linux into Windows. The temptation of virtual Windows was strong for a little while, but I’ve still got my dedicated Windows machine waiting for me in my room, willing to run just about any program I want. Plus if I left it, it would get half of my stuff. (Damn you prenuptials!)
And that concludes my fifth day! Stay tuned for my next day, when I test my copy of Linux on another computer! (Because I have Linux on an external harddrive!)
Day 4, A feeble attempt at breaking Linux in!
On day three I got all snuggly with Linux on the couch and we just talked, you know? We got to know each other better and, among other things, I wasted some time playing video games. I’ve wasted time playing games before, but they were never quite so Linuxy. The memories of me and Linux frolicking together in the sun of day three will stay with me forever.
And now that we’re close friends it’s time for the next logical step in our relationship: that’s right, it’s time for me to break Linux in like a mule, pummeling it about the head and neck regions until it bends to my will, obeying my every command. So come join me on my joyous and celebratory feeble attempt at breaking Linux in!
First up is to address the issue I’ve been having with my wireless adapter. The issue is fairly simple: my wireless adapter does not even kind of work a little bit. It won’t even show up when I supplement my right click of the network icon in the taskbar with a commanding and powerful “pleeeeeeeease?”
So it’s time to sift through the electronic dirt and muck that is the Internet for some drivers. First I decide to check the Ubuntu documentation for some advice. The documentation and I have never met before, and I can only assume it is jealous of the loving relationship that Linux and I have developed, because it doesn’t seem to want to help me at all. It even calls me a “shifty-eyed grifter” at one point. Harsh.
The only thing I can get out of the documentation is that I should enter a command in the console to find out the status of my wireless card. According to the console report my wireless adapter is apparently “UNCLAIMED,” which just means I’m going to have to hit it in the mouth with a club, throw it over my shoulder, and drag it back to my cave, making it CLAIMED as my own.
The next step in my kidnapping scheme¢â‚¬â€I mean… my scheme that has nothing to do with kidnapping¢â‚¬â€is to head to Synaptic to get the very sexily-titled ndisgtk. (Oh ndisgtk, your name has such an unreasonable amount of consonants! It’s so hot.)
After I’ve installed ndisgtk, Ubuntu informs me that I “can close the window now,” as if to imply that it wouldn’t have been an option unless Ubuntu had been gracious enough to let it happen. I see my brutal taming of you is going well, Linux.
The rest of the stuff in Synaptic looks pretty scary and technical, (except the very cute sounding Amateur Radio section, which I can only assume has something to do with the Ham Radio and Linux Enthusiasts Convention I’ve heard so much about,) so I nobly flee as fast I can to look for the .inf file I need to install.
At this point I’m beginning to think that maybe my plan to bust into Linux Town and unilaterally occupy it is maybe back-firing a bit. But like all the best conquerors I ignore my signs of failure and move on. So I locate the .inf file for my wireless card in the Windows Wireless Driver app that I installed, load it up, and watch intently as it does exactly nothing.
There is still no option for wireless connections in my taskbar, and even the tried and true method of restarting my computer and yelling, “Look out, Linux, your arms are on fire!” just as the wireless drivers are loading doesn’t seem to do anything. (Don’t worry, Linux’s arms weren’t actually on fire. It was just a clever ploy to make it lose focus.)
With the bittersweet, and surprisingly salty, taste of defeat in my mouth I head to the forums, where I find that apparently many people with the same wireless adapter as me have had the same problem. Unfortunately there seems to be at least four or six or three different potential solutions or something-elses to the problem, the success of each of which is determined by the drawing of tarot cards and your performance of a very particular ritual sacrifice. You win this time, Linux…
Now that I’ve established my sheer dominance over Linux in the area of wireless driver installing, it’s time to conquer sound recording. Audacity installs with no problems through the Add/Remove programs app, and I jump in to see what recording is like in the world of Linux.
My recording hardware is a USB pre-amp with some super-duper proprietary drivers, so I get the feeling that there’s a better chance of me winning the Pulitzer for my gripping journalism than this working. (Seriously, they are way proprietary, dudes.)
To my surprise the pre-amp does show up in the input menu… sort of. I can select it as the input, but I can’t specifically select the second input of the pre-amp, which restricts my recording options pretty badly. A bit of messing around reveals what looks like a possible solution, until I realize that it was actually just a glimmer of hope that was caught in my eye.
I wipe the hope away and callously discard it. There may be a way of fixing this issue that I’m not aware of, but for now it looks like I won’t exactly be smashing my Mac with a hammer in favour of recording in Linux. (The only way I can record music is if I smash every other computer in my room with a hammer first. Call it one of my lovable quirks.)
With my dominion over sound recording in Linux firmly established and the population of Linux Town kneeling before me, it’s time to march into the realm of video graphics drivers, so I can get some of those sweet desktop effects working.
This time I skip the documentation and go straight to the forums, which experience has shown is the hangout of the most hardcore advisers and their customized leather jackets. Unfortunately, the process of getting my video drivers working seems similar to the process for fixing my wireless drivers, only with way more ritual sacrifice and just a little bit more baby-eating.
Apparently the simple answer to my problem is that Linux already includes my drivers, except for the minor caveats that they don’t show up, don’t work, can’t be found by me, and don’t actually exist. The more complex answer has something to do with restricted drivers, which sound a little bit dangerous (and kind of kinky.) With my formerly massive ego now reduced to a mere infinitesimal point by the untameable stallion that is Linux, I decide to leave graphics drivers for another day.
My last project is to try printing. Weary and battle-worn, I skip all the advice stuff and haphazardly plug my printer into the USB slot. I jump into openoffice, type up some gripping literature, and try to get it working by sheer force of will alone. Unfortunately the process fails catastrophically, melting my… wait, it worked! I clicked print, and it printed!
TAKE THAT, LINUX! BOOYA. Ash: 1, Linux: Some other number that isn’t 1! That’s right Linux, I’m number 1!
My campaign of Linux domination has truly succeeded beyond all expectations. Today was a wonderful triumph, worthy of sitting next to the achievements of Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great in the annals of history. Nay, it ought to sit on top of their achievements, like a king sitting atop his throne.
Yes, tales will be told of these events for ages, and… Oh, who am I kidding. Linux folded me up like a fleshy pretzel and dribbled me around like a basketball, ceasing its humiliation of me only to dunk me into a garbage can full of proprietary drivers and shame.
All joking aside, I’m not worried that any of these things didn’t work that well, and I didn’t really expect them to go off without a hitch anyways. Ubuntu is still a developing OS, and there’s loads of hardware out there for the developers to account for and get working.
PCs are unique machines in that almost no two are alike, and programming an OS so that every little piece of hardware works and every driver is supported is a daunting task to say the least. The fact that sound recording worked at all with my pre-amp, even in its limited capacity, and that printing worked flawlessly, were both pleasant surprises. In order to get my pre-amp working at all on my Mac I needed to install some drivers in a decidedly un-mac-like way, so the fact that Linux recognized it right away is quite impressive.
Further, people with the same hardware as me had the same problems, and the forum inhabitants were diligently working away on it. I imagine it’s only a matter of time before the developers work out these particular issues. With enough work I might be able to find an answer myself, given that I’ve only had one day to mess around with these issues.
And with that comes the end of Day Four. Stay tuned for my next day, when I mess around with virtualization, maybe!