Monthly Archives: April 2010

Motel Ticks – We’ll Leave the Bug Spray Out For Ya’

Did you come home from that recent vacation or business trip with some hitchhikers in your luggage?

We’re seeing more and more news stories on TV, at online news sites, or in the papers talking about the comeback of the BEDBUG. ARRRRRRRGH! Amazing how just mentioning that lowly little critter can make one start itching. I’ll be perfectly honest with you here, folks. I’ve never even seen bedbug that I know of. I remember my mom and dad, who were kids during the Great Depression, talk about bedbugs. They were the scourge of the poor back then, along with lice and an assortment of other unwholesome critters.

Well, guess what? They’re BA-ACK! A recent ABC News story gives us the scoop on these disgusting little blood suckers. Read The Down and Dirty: What’s In Your Hotel Bed? Blech! Good graphics along with that article, too. Oh, and for a more technical view of the bedbug… like you needed that, right? …here’s a detailed and educational dissertation on the bedbug from Harvard School of Public Health: Bedbugs – Cimex lectularius (Cimicidae). That’s odd. I would have thought that Harvard Law School would be the place to go to learn about parasitic blood-sucking creatures.

A snippet from the ABC article to whet your appetite:

There’s no definite way to know how often bed spreads get washed, but according to Moore, they don’t get washed after every guest. She suggested taking it off the bed right away and keeping it off. If you get cold, it’s a better bet to ask room service for more blankets.

EWWWWWW! You can’t even use the bedspread on the bed in the hotel room? Man! I remember going on trips when I was a kid with my parents and brother. We stayed in Holiday Inns and Ramada Inns and many other no-name motels from Florida to Colorado and everywhere in between. I always remember those rooms being spotlessly clean. This was in the early 60s or thereabouts. Have we become a nation of slovenly scum buckets? Sheesh!

Speaking of hotels, I remember at the ’03 State Rally for my biker club, we leased out 95% of the Cocoa, FL Econo Lodge. There were about 400 of us there for the weekend. We had an absolute blast. I don’t really remember much of it, except for the miserable four hour ride home on the HOT Sunday afternoon at the end of the weekend. I wasn’t really worried too much about bedbugs that weekend. If one had bit me, he would have died almost instantaneously of alcohol poisoning. Heh! Good memories.

I’ll leave you with a little saying mom always used to say to me when I was a kid…

Good night… don’t let the bedbugs bite.

~Eric

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Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx

The new Ubuntu is out. Everyone and their mother’s uncle is posting about it. I’m a mother’s uncle. I suppose I’ll post about it, too.

The folks over at Canonical have released the much anticipated Ubuntu 10.04, the Lucid Lynx. You can run right on over to your favorite server and grab yourself a copy right now. I’ve got mine! I downloaded Kubuntu 64 bit. Oh boy!

This is an LTS version too, folks. Good stuff! LTS = long term support. If you’ve been wanting to give Ubuntu a try, now’s really a good time. The Ubuntu gang have been working diligently on this version. It promises to be faster, sleeker, steadier, prettier, and just plain gooder than previous versions. Like the laundry soap folks learned a long time ago, the words “new” and “improved” can really sell some product.

You know a few years ago a group by the name of Queensryche did a really great song called Silent Lucidity. Here it is for your listening pleasure while you’re downloading Ubuntu. You are downloading it by now, right? Aww… c’mon. What are you waiting for? Christmas? Anyway, check out Queensryche at Youtube:

There you go… music to download by. Think of it as a public service from Nocturnal Slacker and Lockergnome.com. We aim to please.

So, about this Ubuntu… I downloaded the Kubuntu (with KDE desktop environment) version because I want to try KDE 4 again. Many of you who know me or have read my rambling here and elsewhere may remember that  my hot and steamy love affair with KDE went into the toilet when 4 came out. I’ve yet to get a stable installation of KDE 4 working on Slackware, Mandriva, CentOS, or Arch Linux. I’m not happy about it. I thought maybe Ubuntu can get it right with 4.4. We’ll see. I’ll probably plow my Mandriva partition under and plant Kubuntu there… maybe later this weekend.

Hey! Did you hear? Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier has Seven Reasons to Upgrade to Ubuntu Lucid Lynx. Don’t short change the Zonker now… read all seven. They’re pretty good reasons… except for reason #4, maybe. That just might be me, though. This crotchety ol’ geek don’t care about that social web stuff… Skitter, SpaceNook, and carp like that. If it’s your thing though, go for it!

Speaking of space… Did you know that even in the deepest space the temperature is still a couple degrees above absolute zero (-273.15 Celcius). Cool, huh? It’s because of the remnant heating caused by the background radiation left over from the Big Bang. Now you know.

Enjoy your new Ubuntu! I now leave you with this…

~Eric

How Many Garbage Trucks Does It Take…

…to pick up your garbage. If you live in my neighborhood, it takes four; along with a crew of about 6-8 workers.

Doesn’t it sometimes seem to you that governments, big and small, just seem to do really stupid crap? This garbage pickup thing is a great example of that. I was sitting at my uncle’s house today for the Wednesday coffee clatch with the aunts and uncles and this very topic came up in conversation. It’s absolutely asinine that garbage pickup on my street requires four distinct type trucks with their accompanying crews. Here’s why…

There are four different types of refuse, according to the city. There is standard household garbage that is deposited in the big automated garbage cans, which are picked up by a truck with one crew member that picks up ONLY these type cans. The senior employees must get this cush gig. They sit in AC comfort and rarely ever get out of the truck.

The second type of refuse is standard household garbage that people put on the curbside in bags or non-automated type cans. A completely different type truck with a crew of two or three has to come and pick this type of garbage up. It’s “old style”. These are the guys who manually dump your can and then toss it in the middle of the street and drive off. These are the lowest paid employees, probably. They actually work.

The third type refuse is the yard debris. That means chopped branches, bags of leaves or grass… that kind of stuff. A third unique truck and crew of two or three are required for this type refuse. They pull up and toss all your yard debris in the back opening of the truck and then yell, “Wamback! Wamback!” It’s some garbage man code, evidently. These guys work, but they don’t have to deal with nasty household garbage like used diapers and stuff.

And lastly, there are the recyclables, which are put curbside in small blue bins. The homeowner is expected to separate the paper, plastic, glass, etc. A fourth “special” recyclables truck with a crew of one picks this stuff up. He actually has to get out of his truck to do this. After dumping all your nicely separated bins into the SAME opening on the side of his truck, he slings your bins into the middle of the street and drives off leaving a cloud of noxious diesel exhaust.

This past Monday, there were all four types of refuse curbside on my street. I watched as all four of these different and unique-to-their-purpose trucks and crews came down the street and performed their assigned tasks. I thought to myself, “What a monumental f***ing waste of money!” How did this come to be like this? Well, it’s simple… follow the money. That’s all you have to do to find the answers to any questions concerning government. Some city muckity-mucks sent their kids to law school on the kickbacks and bribes they got to institute a cluster-screw like this one I’ve described.

Myeh… whaddya’ gonna’ do? I do my part to save the tax payer money. I just shove all four types of refuse into that one big automated can and let that lone, highly paid garbage dude (or dudette sometimes) take it all at once. Woo-hoo! I sleep better at night knowing I did my part.

Wamback, folks!

~Eric

Head In the Clouds Follow-up

Previously, in THIS article, I wrote about my thoughts concerning cloud computing. You may remember that I wasn’t too hip on the idea.

On the heels of my article, James Maguire published a fantastic article at DataMation entitled How Cloud Computing Security Resembles the Financial Meltdown. Mr. Maguire basically rips cloud computing security with much more precise and informed language than I used in my original article. You gotta’ read this guy.

Maguire begins:

When they make claims about their nearly absolute level of safety, should you just…take their word for it?

Hello suckers!

He continues:

Goodness no, say the vendors, we’ve got a third party certification to back up our claims. Specifically, they point to their SAS 70 certification. SAS 70 is a set of auditing standards used to measure the handling of sensitive information.

Oh? But wait… there’s more:

Guess who writes a check to the SAS 70 certifiers? Believe it or not, it’s the vendors themselves. If you were a cynical, non-trusting type (which you should be if your company’s data is at stake) you might wonder…isn’t that a conflict of interest? Don’t accounting firms have a vested interest in granting SAS 70 certifications to those cloud computing vendors who can pay for them?

Ooooh! Gotcha! This is just un-effing-believable to me. It would be like letting the U.S. Congress police themselves… er, wait… we do allow them to do that. Uh-oh! Seriously, if this is what security is going to be like in the cloud, I’ll just keep my fat arse here on the ground.

Read Maguire’s entire article. It’s worth the effort. Good stuff!

Until next time, folks…

~Eric

The Boys of Summer

The Tampa Bay Rays have the best record in the MLB. They’re KICKING MAJOR ASS!

This is it folks. It’s not just a pipe dream. The Rays made it to the World Series two years ago. To show that it wasn’t just a fluke, they’re showing the baseball world right now that these young guys are out there to make things happen. The bats have been hot. Even overpaid Pat Burrell is nearly earning his millions. Ain’t it great! The Rays are comin’ atcha’!

I’ve been a baseball fan since I was a little kid. I wish I still had all those Topps baseball cards that were in that shoebox in my closet back then. When the Rays (AKA Devil Rays) first appeared in the Tampa Bay area, I tried to get over to St. Petersburg (across the Bay from me here in Tampa) as often as I could to watch the games live. I love to support the Rays. Unfortunately, that trip to the Trop (Tropicana Field) isn’t too convenient for me nor do I have the funds this year to spend on that stuff, so it’s radio for me.

It’s just like the old days. I was out in my workshop last Saturday evening listening to the game on the radio out there while I wiped/reformatted/reinstalled Win XP on a friend’s system. Are you old enough to remember baseball on the radio? It was an every day thing back when I was a kid. Of course, back then you could catch quite a few games on broadcast television. Those days are gone, sadly. About the only time you’ll see a regular season game on broadcast (not cable, not satellite) television nowadays is on Fox’s Saturday afternoon game of the week. That’s it. One game a week on TV these days. Man, that sucks. Baseball used to be everyone’s favorite pastime. Not so anymore, I guess.

Back to the Rays, though…

There are some of the veterans from the ’08 team still there, but there are also some new faces. All are putting forth some impressive efforts so far this season. It’s early, though. I’m confident they’ll continue to do well. They’re a young team with a fabulous manager (Joe Maddon) and a coaching staff. I’m looking forward to a spectacular season and an exciting run to the Series! It’s gonna’ be a blast!

GO RAYS!

If you have a team near you, go on out there and take in a game one afternoon. Have a dog and a beer. It’ll bring back some great memories of simpler times and pleasures.

Until next time…

~Eric

P. S. Keep ol’ Bob Uecker in your thoughts as he goes in for heart surgery shortly. Bob is the voice of the Milwaukee Brewers. He’s been in baseball in one way or another for over 50 years.

Get Slack!

The oldest Linux distribution in existence is Slackware. It’s about time that I actually posted something about my favorite Linux distribution on this blog.

Like most X-MS Windows users, I did not come to Slackware directly. I took a round-about route through a few other distributions first. The very first distribution of Linux that I installed on my machine was Ubuntu 6.06 “Dapper Drake”, an impressive offering from Mark Shuttleworth and the Canonical folks. I still have a copy of it on CD. It was impressive to this frustrated MS Windows user. It was also like having a lifeline thrown to me as I was drowning in frigid North Atlantic waters.

Once I began to expand my Linux horizons, I found out there were other Linux’s out there. How cool is that? I was used to only a few MS Windows… 3.1, 98, ME, XP, etc. Here I find that there are many… and I do mean MANY different Linux variations out there in the wild. I wanted to try ’em all. I was searching for “my” Linux. I think it’s something most geeks do when they first come to Linux. It’s a right of passage, maybe?

Linux tends, like all things from brands of catsup to the cars we drive, to develop loyal followers. While Slackware may be my favorite Linux distribution for my own reasons, that doesn’t by any means rule out my like for other distributions. I think ALL things Linux are COOL! I don’t care what distribution you run. If it works for you, it’s the best one out there. Slack works for me… so does Debian or Arch or… you get the idea. I do love Slackware the best, though. It has an attitude that appeals to a biker, I think… simplicity, strength, stability.

Richard Hillesley in his excellent article at ITPro entitled Slackware Linux – Less Is More writes:

Slackware isn’t for everyone, and will never win the race for the Linux desktop, where fancy gizmos, music players, office suites and games are at a premium, but works for users who want “a system that makes a good server – where you aren’t even required to install X if you don’t want it – or a good desktop workstation if you do a full installation with KDE” or Xfce or Fvwm or Windowmaker or Fluxbox.

Much truth in that statement, folks. Slackware is definitely not for everyone. If you’re GUI dependent, Slackware can be difficult. Many customizations and setups that you would normally do in a graphic environment in say MS Windows or Ubuntu, you’ll need to learn to do by editing a text configuration file using a command line editor in Slackware. It’s not that it’s difficult. It’s just that a lot of folks don’t like non-graphic computing. I can understand their feelings. It’s a personal preferential choice, for sure. I’ve gotten so that I can do things much faster at the command line than I used to be able to in the graphic environment. Of course, I’m a relatively fast touch typist, too. That helps. Hunt & pecking on the command line is SLOWWWW!

Hillesley continues:

The asset most valued by the Slack user, and most often claimed for Slackware Linux, is system stability. If you install Slackware on a backroom server you expect it to stay there, and be unnoticed.

And this is no baloney, friends. I’ve had Slackware crash due to an application caused issue, but NEVER because Slack itself destabilized. It is the proverbial ROCK. I use it on a personal work station, but it’s uniquely suited to server duties because of that legendary stability.

Hillesley covers a bit of Slackware history in his article:

Slackware took its name from the mythical J.R. “Bob” Dobbs, the charismatic leader and figurehead of the Church of the Subgenius, whose message to the peoples of America was to “Get Slack”.

I’ve read a lot of stuff about Slackware over the years. Richard Hillesley’s article is one of the best I’ve ever read. If you have a few minutes and a hot cup of coffee next to you, give it a read.

I’m running Firefox in Slackware right now to write this article. I’ve been a Slacker for nearly four years now. I have other Linux distributions on my systems, but Slackware is my Linux now. Ubuntu was that cute girl at the bowling alley that I had the fling with way back when. Debian is an X who I keep in touch with. Arch is a sweetheart from the office. Sidux, CentOS, and those others are occasional flings, but Slackware is the girl I always come home to.

Have FUN with it!

~Eric

Pieces of Nine: Part II – A Serialized Story

Pieces of Nine

Part II

A few weeks later, just before Halloween, Jerry and I worked each other up to a frenzied pitch with dares and double dares and even double dog dares. We both wanted the same thing. We were just dancing around each other to see who would crack first. Neither of us did. We decided we were going to investigate the old Captain’s house on our own, regardless of Granddad’s warnings and my brother George’s threats to tell my dad. We set the date: 31 October. We set the time: late afternoon, just before the trick-or-treaters came out in search of their quarry.

We went into my dad’s workshop right after we got home from school and stocked up on what we thought intrepid adventurers would need. We got a couple flash lights with fresh batteries. We got a little tool bag that my dad had and stuffed it with a screw driver, hammer, utility knife, some string, matches, and other miscellaneous items. We also went into the kitchen when my mom wasn’t in there and filled my lunch pail with some sandwiches, cookies, and a thermos of apple juice. The time was drawing nigh.

We dressed up in our trick-or-treat costumes, got our candy buckets, and headed out the door. My mother waved at us from the porch and told us to not go further than Indigo Street. She also told us not to eat so much candy that we got sick, like we did last year. Off down the street we went. Once we got to the little patch of woods between our street and Canterbury, we cut through the woods. There’s a clubhouse in there that is sort of community property of all the kids in the neighborhood. We went there and stripped off our costumes, underneath which we had stashed our tool bag and other equipment for our big adventure.

We came out of the woods near Canterbury. We walked south on that street for about 200 yards till we got to the old Captain’s house on the corner. It was just twilight. It was a cool evening. Jerry and I were both wearing our hooded sweatshirts and jeans. I had on my favorite pair of Keds high-top sneakers. Jerry was wearing his black Converse All Stars. The adventure was about to begin in earnest.

Earlier in the week, on one of our reconnaissance missions, we had spotted a broken basement window in the back of the house. It must have been broken after the town crew was out at the house doing maintenance earlier in September. They always fixed or boarded up broken windows when they did their twice yearly visit. That window was our planned point of entry. After waiting a bit to make sure that no one was watching, we trotted around to the back of the house and crouched down in the shrubs near the window. Jerry shined his flash light into the gloom.

The basement was surprisingly clean and tidy. Of course, it was also empty, with the exception of a few autumn leaves that had blown in through the broken window over the past few weeks. I reached in and unlocked the casement. It moved with ease, like it had been just recently greased. The window slid upwards with nary a sound. Jerry slid over the casement and landed on the floor in the basement.

“C’mon, Kevin. We don’t have all night.” he said to me.

“I’m coming. Hush up!” I answered, as I slid my butt over the window casement and dropped to the floor.

There wasn’t a sound to be heard. My ears were roaring with the silence in that basement. It was like all noise was being sucked into some sort of deep hole.

“What do you want to do first?” Jerry asked.

“Let’s explore the upstairs.” I said.

We went up the soundless wooden stairs and into the the kitchen area. You could just make out the huge hearth at the far end of the kitchen. Its dark and massive granite stonework dominating that end of the room. There was a layer of dust on everything, but here, as in the basement, everything was neat and tidy… nothing amiss. The cast iron pots and copper pans were still hanging from the rack above the center counter. There was even a large cast iron cauldron hanging from a hook in the hearth.

“Would you look at that witch’s pot!” Jerry remarked.

“Cook up a good batch of eye of newt soup in that thing, huh?” I said, shuddering at my own joke.

We quietly walked around the ground floor looking into the dining room, where the large table and chairs were still set up. There was even a complex candelabra sitting on the center of the table. It was all green and tarnished. There were spider webs draped across it in random fashion. There were plates and silverware setting on the table as well. We were both a bit surprised to see all this.

“How come no one’s stolen any of this, Kev?” Jerry asked me.

“Heck, Jer. I dunno. Strange though, huh?” I said.

“Damned straight it’s strange!”

“If yer mom hears you cuss like that, she stripe your rear end for you.” I ribbed him.

“Damned straight!” he answered, with a nervous little laugh.

We walked into the large den/library. The floor to ceiling shelves were still full of books. They had glass paned doors over the shelves. The books looked pristine. There weren’t any cobwebs or dust in those cabinets. They must have been nearly air tight. In later years, I would often wonder what the value of the books in that library would have been. There was also a huge desk in the center of the room with a big leather chair, its back to the bay windows facing the street. The front of the desk had an inlay of lighter colored wood in the shape of ship’s anchor.

The desk had papers, books, framed pictures, and an old oil lamp on it. Everything was covered in dust and cobwebs. We looked in the drawers. Nothing looked like it had been touched. There were scissors, paper clips, and other items in the top drawers. There were papers belonging to the lawyer in the file drawers at the bottom. There was even a gold handled letter opener in one of those drawers. I was again struck by the fact that no one had ever stolen anything out of this house in over 50 years. That just wasn’t normal, I didn’t think. Other abandoned homes in town were always vandalized and broken into repeatedly. Why not this one?

We were having to use the flash lights by now. It was full dark outside. We could hear neighborhood kids yelling “trick or treat” up and down Canterbury Road. Jerry and I walked up another flight of silent wooden stairs, these much more elaborate than the ones in the basement, and made our way to the second story where the bedrooms were located. The bedrooms were all dusty and cobwebby, but everything was untouched, just as it was downstairs. If it weren’t for the dust and webs, it would have looked as though the folks who lived here were just out for the evening.

“What now?” Jerry asked me.

“Back to the basement, I guess.” I said.

With that, we walked back down the stairs and into the kitchen. From there we went down the basement stairs and back into the basement. It was very dark down there now. The was no light coming through the small basement windows.

“How are we going to get out of here, Kev?” Jerry whispered.

“What are you whispering for?” I asked him.

“I dunno. Just don’t feel right to be loud. You know what I mean?” he asked.

“Yeah, I guess.” I said.

“So?”

“So what? I said.

“So, how are we going to get out? We can’t reach that window from the floor.” Jerry said, as he pointed to the window high on the wall that we had climbed down from earlier.

“We’ll have to get that stool that was in the kitchen and use it to stand on”. I said.

“Good idea! You go get it.” Jerry pointed up the stairs.

“You go get it!” I said.

“Nyuh-uh!” Jerry retorted.

“Alright. Alright. We both go get it. Happy?” I said.

We both walked back up the stairs and came back down in a few minutes with a stool that we had seen in the corner of the kitchen. The stool was just high enough to give us the boost we needed to climb back over the window casement and exit the house.

“You ready to go?” Jerry asked me.

“I dunno. You?” I asked back.

“Strange, ain’t it. Everything just sitting around. No one’s touched anything.”

“Yup. Strange. What do you think happened to the families that lived here, though?” I asked him.

“Heck! They probably just up and left, I s’pose.” he answered.

“You mean just leave without taking any of your stuff or anything. That would be strange.”

“Is strange. Ayuh.” he said, shrugging.

“Isn’t that the wall over there that your granddad said was where they saw them drag marks?”

“Yeah! We forgot about that. Let’s take a closer look.” I said with renewed excitement.

It was just a bare stone wall with a bare stone floor in front of it. The wall looked to be part of the foundation. That’s the way I remembered it in those drawings we saw at the library, too. To the left was a coal chute and a bin. To the right was our escape window. Behind us was the stairwell leading to the main house. I walked up and tapped on the wall. I stomped on the floor. All seemed pretty solid.

“Open Sesame!” Jerry whispered.

We both broke out into uncontrollable giggles and snickers. We heard a small grinding noise, like something big being dragged over a sandy floor. That shut us up immediately. We weren’t even breathing, I don’t think.

“What was that?” Jerry hissed at me.

“Heck! I don’t know. Sounded like… like…” I hesitated.

“…something big dragging across the floor.” Jerry finished for me.

We both shined our lights at the base of the wall where it met the floor. The wall looked like it had moved maybe just an inch or two inwards toward us. That’s not possible. You could see a section of the wall about four feet wide that was coming disconnected from the rest of the wall. A secret passage, like in the old castles I read about in the stories of knights and fairies? Nah… can’t be! Not here. Not in Connecticut.

“What made it do that?” Jerry asked.

“I don’t know. What were we doing just before it moved?” I asked him.

“Uh… we were laughing.” he said.

“Nah… before that.”

“I said ‘Open Sesame’.” he said.

The wall ground out another inch or two. We jumped back about five feet and held our breaths.

“That’s silly.” I said. “That’s from those Arabian Nights stories… Sim Sala Bim and all that.”

“So?” Jerry replied.

“Why would that open a secret…”

The wall ground out another two or three inches. We stopped moving.

“It happens when you say the first part of those two words, Kevin.” Jerry said.

“Yeah. It just does it when you ask it to, I guess.” I said.

“So? Ask it again.” Jerry nudged me toward the wall.

I planted my feet wide apart and looked directly at the wall and yelled “OPEN”. The wall slid back about three feet revealing a gently sloping tunnel leading into darkness beyond the limits of our flash lights. I looked at Jerry. He looked back at me.

“What do you think is down there?” he asks.

“How would I know?” I answer, impatiently.

“Let’s check it out?” he says, nudging me toward the opening.

“STOP!” I say. “Wait a minute, will ya’?” I plead. “Gotta’ think.”

We took a few tentative steps toward the opening.

©2008 V. T. Eric Layton (excluding images)

=====

Stay tuned… next Tuesday – Part III

Everyone’s Favorite Rodent

You fondle it. You move it about. You click it. You might even smear your boogers on it.

It’s the lowly computer mouse. Something you’ve rarely, if ever, given any serious thought to. You should have, though. It has an interesting story behind it. Did you ever wonder where the computer mouse came from? I mean… who would have thought of such a whacked out thing? Bill Gates? Nah. Linus Torvalds? Nah… actually, the computer mouse was invented six years before Linus was born. Got your curiosity up yet?

Earlier this evening, I was sitting here munching on a bowl of Crispy Hexagons. It’s a generic knockoff of Kellogg’s® Crispix® cereal sold by a local grocery chain here in my area. Anyway, on the back of the box was a series of brief articles about inventions. One of them was the computer mouse. I read it and thought, “WOW! I didn’t know that.” So I did a little online research and decided to post an article here about what I learned. Amazing where you can find inspiration for blog articles, huh?

It seems that back in 1963 an engineer named Douglas Englebart working for the Standford Research Institute was piddling around in the lab one day and cobbled together a device that could convert physical motion (on a desktop, for instance) into input data for other uses. Englebart called the device a mouse because the connecting wire reminded him of a mouse’s tail. The invention was just a part of Engelbart’s much larger project, aimed at augmenting human intellect.

John C. Dvorak, a well known columnist for PC Magazine and other periodicals and websites, once said, “There is no evidence that people want to use these things.” HA! Hope you didn’t have any money on that horse, John. Sadly, Englebart’s patent ran out before the mouse came into popular usage with modern personal computers. He never made a penny off of his invention. The good ol’ computer mouse… where would we be without it?

Mice are like shoes, too. Everyone has their own favorite. I prefer trackballs. I started using one (a Logitech Trakman) about six or seven years ago and just never turned back. I used to be into gaming (1st person shooters) back then and found that I could play much faster and more accurately with the trackball rather than the standard mouse. It requires a lot less desktop real estate, since you don’t have to move the actual mouse to navigate.

What’s your favorite?

Until next time, folks…

Happy Tails… er, I mean Trails.

~Eric

How Did I Ever Survive My Childhood?

I didn’t wear knee pads or a helmet when I rode my bicycle. Mom gave me aspirin for a fever. My parents didn’t have my Halloween haul X-rayed either.

Despite all that, you know what really makes me wonder how I survived my childhood? It’s the fact that we didn’t have air conditioning in my house when I was a wee lad. I didn’t sit in a classroom with AC till I was in 9th grade. This is Florida I’m talking about here, folks. Even pre-global warming it was HOT. I still remember my parents, my brother, and me sleeping in the south room of our house in the summertime with a big shop fan running and nothing but white cotton sheets on the beds and cots.

I remember one day my dad installed a window rattler (AC) in the back bedroom (mine and my brother’s room) window. My older brother had a difficult time with childhood asthma back then. I believe that my father installed this unit in our room to help my brother. It was so nice, though, that everyone again ended up sleeping in the room together; this time with quilts on the beds and cots. It was NICE!

Today was hot and muggy here in the Tampa Bay area. There was a weak cool front moving in, but ahead of it were storms, warmth, and heavy humidity. It was nasty. At about 6PM, I couldn’t stand it any longer. I had to crank up my ACs. In about an hour, it was nice and cool in here. I’m such a wuss. Back in the old days, I would have sat here sweating while a fan blew all that hot humid air around the room.

Thank you Mr. Carrier. That’s all I have to say. You made the world a much cooler place to live and work in. I can’t even imagine what office buildings and hospitals used to be like before AC. It must have been miserable. I got a small taste of it growing up without AC at home or in school, but I’m sure it was even worse for office or factory workers. Maybe we were hardier folks back then. Young folks nowadays tend to be wussies. They can’t live without their zippy little foreign cars or their iStuff or their cell phones, not to mention their social networking sites.

HA! When I was a kid, social networking meant going over and sitting on the neighbor’s porch for some coffee or tea, a smoke, and some decent conversation. Remember that? Talking, it was called. You actually spoke to someone and they listened and then responded. It was pretty cool. You usually spoke in complete sentences, too. And the world moved on…

Which was probably a good thing. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have had all that cool progress and new technologies, like AC. I’d be miserable trying to sleep tonight if I didn’t have my ACs running. They are running, though. It’s COOL in here. I’ll be sleeping like a comatose tree sloth. I guess that progress stuff ain’t all bad, huh?

I’m off to bed…

~Eric

Ubuntu – Leading Contender In Linux World?

Probably not. However, Ubuntu may be the leading contender when it comes to luring frustrated Windows users into trying Linux.

Why is that? Well, I’ll tell you my theory on why Ubuntu is doing all it can to suck in frustrated MS Windows users. Firstly, you have to understand a few realities about Linux. Ubuntu is NOT the only Linux operating system out there. It’s not the oldest (Slackware). It’s not the fastest (SLAX or Puppy run in RAM). It’s not the the …est anything, except maybe mostest cunning.

There are many Linux distributions out there in the world; some are free (as in beer), some are free (as in speech), some are commercial products (you pay $$$ for them), some are hybrids or combinations thereof. The point here being that there is no ONE Linux to rule them all. The Linux that rules them all is the one chosen by you to use as your primary operating system on your computer.

Ubuntu was created by and is maintained/distributed by a for-profit company called Canonical, which was created by an young entrepreneur bazillonaire named Mark Shuttleworth. Shuttleworth is not a student of Gandhi or Mother Teresa. I’d have to pigeon-hole him with Warren Buffet or Donald Trump, actually. He’s out to make a buck, in plain-speak. He has a game plan, too.

My theory on what Shuttleworth had in mind…

Mark was sitting around one day, sucking down a brew or two, wondering what he could do to make his next bazillion. Well, he’s a bit of a nerd anyway, so it should probably have something to do with computers. Hey! That Gates and that Jobs fellow seemed to do well for themselves, right? Here’s the problem, though. Mark can’t easily piggy-back on either Microsoft’s or Apple’s operating system to make a buck, so what to do?

AHA! There’s that open source operating system out there that no one knows much about. It’s called Linux. Mark figures he can find (or steal away) a bunch of Linux gurus to help him write a new Linux distribution. Initially, he’ll give it away to all comers. He’ll set up and maintain a huge support and community system. He’ll make his Linux distribution as point & click easy as Microsoft’s or Apple’s product. Since Linux is inherently more secure than MS Windows, he can even use that as a selling point.

Alrighty, we’re down the road a bit now… say 2015. Ubuntu has developed a rather large user base. Lots and lots of X-MS Windows users have jumped ship on Cap’n Gates and now run Ubuntu exclusively. This is the time for Shuttleworth and Canonical to stop offering Ubuntu for free. Now you can buy it at Best Buy or Amazon. He’ll charge for support and updating, too. Will folks pay? If Ubuntu can be sold for 1/2 to 1/3 of what MS Windows (whatever version) is going for at that time, yes. There’s a good possibility that folks will pay for it.

New users won’t know really anything about Linux. They’ll only know Ubuntu. They were point & click zombies when they were using their Windows and they’ll be point & click zombies when using their Ubuntu. They read their FWD porn and joke emails from friends and family, they surf a few websites, they might even pay a bill or two online. That’s all they really use their computers for, anyway. That is Shuttleworth’s potential paying customer pool, folks.

Can it really happen? Ya’ never know…

Don’t get me wrong, folks. I think Ubuntu is a great Linux distribution. It’s based on one of my favorites… the rock solid Debian GNU/Linux. Ubuntu is great for introducing folks to Linux. It’s the distribution I use to install for “curious” friends and family members who hear me talk about running an operating system other than MS Windows. This article is not about bashing Ubuntu or anything, actually. It’s just a speculation on the inner workings of the mind of a man who obviously likes to make money.

Just wanted you to understand that. Try Ubuntu, by the way. You might like it.

Have FUN!

~Eric

Addenda: A member (lewmur) at Scot’s Newsletter Forums – Bruno’s All Things Linux, where I’m an Admin, posted a link to this very interesting article about how Canonical may be proposing to make some $$$…

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