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Archive for December, 2005

Linux Distribution Screenshots

SuSE Linux beta, KDE

OSDIR.COM have published a large number of screenshot galleries today. They all come from different ‘flavours’ of Linux: from Arabian Linux to Mandriva and even the latest of SuSE (version 10.1, shown above).

What I generally find awkward are distributions of Linux that go by names such as Linux XP 2005, and yes! They look quite similar to Windows XP as well. I guess that Apple Mac crossovers are not any better. For each his/her own.

Futile Resolutions

SuSE screenshot

An old screenshot of one among several desktops

MY new year’s resolution will have been 1600×1200, but I think I need to purchase different monitors. I recently added a 5th and 6th virtual desktop, which extends an already large workspace as described in a previous item on virtual desktops. At the moment, my desktop is over 15,000 pixels wide! It is convenient to never have to open an application. The user merely brings it under focus using CTRL key bindings instead. The cost is memory, of course.

Related item: Last year’s new year’s resolution (I quite like the sound of it!)

Music Cleanup

Vinyl record

THIS morning I got myself isolated for 3-4 hours. I spent a long time mechanically erasing unwanted music. At the end, I was 5GB leaner; around 1200 unwanted files were fully disposed of. The existence of so much ‘grabage’ is an artefact of recursive downloads and the procrastination that follows. The approach is based on the accumulation of piles of arbitrary music, then getting rid of the undesirable bits. I concentrated too much of the former part, yet the hard-drive’s capacity has reached its limits.

I finally had the opportunity to take some time off (owing to the holiday), so I got a few mandatory chores out of the way. Now that media files have been filtered, I will have fewer cases of bad music coming up when I change tracks in shuffle. mode The method of music erasure involved a few tricks to increase overall efficiency:

  • Deletion from the physical disk directly via the music player (in this case XMMS)
  • Deletion in batches of up to 12 files at a time
  • Seeking for 5-10 seconds per file using the track poisition bar, thereby getting a sense for what tracks are unwanted and what tracks must stay
  • Global shortcuts, particularly for skipping tracks
  • Prompts for deletion confirmation – use the ENTER key which is adjacent to the keypad and thus nearer to the mouse. Meanwhile, the other hand (usually the left) hovers near the ALT, SHIFT and CTRL keys to take advantage of keyboard accelerators.
  • Use of the playlist highlighter feature (of any) for selecting of multiple items, with the aid of the SHIFT key. This becomes natural after hours of repeated keystrokes and actions.

A big burden has been lifted off me. The result: more free space and improved ‘successful hit rate’ for music.

The next challenge which involves a mechanical-type job is organisation of my references. They tend to float around in different documents and some text files; all in a flat or inline text form, thus no semantics. One needs a better storage form, a better structure, more like a database. Putting some papers on-line has enabled me to use Web searches for quick discovery, but this is far from convenient. I want to embed everything in a BiBTeX-friendly tool. I have been planning organisation under a tool such as JabRef, which I have had installed for a while. Some time in the past I was using EndNote, but soon departed from that lock-in which involves expensive proprietary software and integration with Windows-centric programs.

Windows Users, Be Alert

Shark attacks

HERE I am to report about yet another critical Windows bug, which many others have blogged about already. This DLL-based exploit has floated about for quite a while. It has now grown tremendously in terms of its scale though.

The victimised user can be infected merely by opening an E-mail message with a graphics files embedded. Older versions of Outlook, for example, have no protection against that. A short visit to a Web site can lead to a malicious program installed on Windows workstations. This flaw was described can be ‘severe’ and it comes at a rather sensitive time of the year. This whole situation relates to a post of mine from yesterday.

As Matt Cutts put it:

…new exploit of the Windows WMF graphics rendering engine that applies to Windows versions from 98 to XP. This is a pretty nasty exploit… You’ll lose some thumbnail previews and such, but if you want to be safe until a patch is available, click Start->Run and then type “regsvr32 /u shimgvw.dll” to disable the vulnerable DLL.

Older related items:

GNOME and KDE Audience Battle

K Desktop Environment GNOME

Earlier today (and/or yesterday), both the GNOME Web site and the KDE Web site published promotional essays, or pointed to them rather.

KDE – Why KDE Rules

I wrote this document to tell everybody why KDE is great, why it’s worth using (great functionality), supporting (great development platform) and hacking (great design) and why you can expect many other awesome features from KDE 4.

GNOME – Vive La Desktop Difference!

If you, dear reader, wrote in asking whether I think you should drive a Mini Cooper or a Hummer, how should I respond? My best bet is to offer no opinion. I know nothing of your preferences or your needs. Either vehicle will get you where you want to go. The difference will be in the experience of getting there. It’s the same deal with KDE and Gnome.

I do not believe this to be a coincidence given some news we have recently heard. KDE’s strengths have been pointed out by no-one other than Linus Torvalds.

Related items:

Minor Bugs and Critical Bugs

Dynamite Monkey

There are bugs that bug the user and bugs that lead to catastrophe. Below lie two examples of critically-buggy applications, which I recently decided are worth listing.

1. Windows 95 – Blue Screen of Death

I still remember, as a most classical example, the days of Windows 95. The operating system failed to cope with unhandled, misunderstood packets that ultimately gave the blue screen and required a reboot in most cases. Sooner or later people got hold of so-called ‘nuking’ software — one among virtually dozens of GUI-based free downloads. That little tool gave its owner the ability to unleash upon others the infamous ‘blue screen of death’.

IP address of the target computer was all one needed. It was easy to determine one’s IP address even when dynamically allocated by a dial-up ISP. Instant messengers (ICQ was new and hot at the time) simplified the process tremendously and tools that interacted with the IM existed as well. This gave your friends and foes the ability to ‘take you down’ whenever they desired.

Sooner or later, anti-nuke software was becoming mandatory. Yet another application to run in the background if you want to survive without rebooting and losing some invaluable work. Not good.

During the holiday, yet another critical flaw with Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 was found. Lessons have not been learned even 10 years later. The promise and efforts to make Windows more modular seem unfruitful.

2. Timely Example: WordPress 2.0 Bugs

I previously said that the release of WordPress would be premature. I said so as soon as rumours emerged. Matt Mullenweg spoke about an undetermined release that precedes Christmas. Boxing Day was the point when things took a gentle dive.

I now write about 40 messages a day in the WordPress support forums, making a voluntary contribution throughout the holidays, as promised. The pace of bug reports is worrisome. That aside, the WordPress Web site was not prepared for the demand either. There was a site migration issue on the very same date as the release and coding bugs emerged all too soon in the forums where they continue to resurface.

WordPress 2.0 was intended to be named after a Jazz musician, as always. ‘Stan Getz‘ was among the top contenders. I believe that WordPress should not be called Getz because it might give a favoured artist of mine a bad name. WordPress 2.0 is more like Milli Vanilli (sarcasm and an overstatement).

Earlier today a version database downgrader for WordPress was released. A few people regret the upgrade, but many are very happy with the new features. Whether the frustration supercedes the benefits is an important question. The answer is yet difficult to deliver and the situation hard to judge.

Open Source – A Positive Turning Point

Penguin animation

2005 may have marked a milestone for Open Source software. As previously mentioned, commercial software is truly facing a debacle. Below is are a few key sentences from comprehensive and encouraging article that BusinessWeek have published:

Open-source software isn’t a new phenomenon. It has been winding its way through the tech world for decades, starting with Richard Stallman’s Free Software movement in 1980s. But only in recent years have businesses warmed to the promise of low-cost, openly available software. In fact, open-source programs have become so popular, they now pose a legitimate threat to the established software giants.

Looking back, 2005 will likely be viewed as a turning point… According to a new study by consulting firm Opteros, 87% of organizations are now using open-source software, somewhere.

read on (via Yahoo! News)

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