Monthly Archives: May 2010

Make Your Own Custom Home Pages

What do you use for a home page on your browser? iGoogle? Yahoo? MSN? C’mon… have some imagination, folks!

With a wee bit of creativity and a little bit of your valuable time, you can make yourself some really cool custom home pages. Load ’em up with the stuff YOU want, not that carp that those other sites put on theirs. I’ve been making and using custom home pages for years on my own systems. I just got tired of those usual home page sites not providing the content that was really important to me.

Now, before we get into this any deeper, let me assure you that I’m no super artist or whiz kid HTML coder. The extent of my artistic skills fall squarely into the stickman category (see Fig. 1). You don’t need to be an artist or a coder to do this stuff. There are apps like The GIMP (graphics application) and KompoZer or Sea Monkey (WYSIWYG editors) that you can use to make beautiful and practical home pages in just a jiff!

Figure 1 – Stickman

Let your imagination run away. I tend to make my home pages in a practical format. They’re just pretty pages with links to my most visited sites. I still have my browser’s bookmarks to go to if necessary, but a goodly portion of my daily surfing can be done using my home page as a launch pad. I have two different home pages that I’ve created buttons for on my browser (Firefox). One is my general home page (Fig 2 thumbnail) and the other is a Linux specific home page (Fig 3 thumbnail).

Figure 2 – General Home Page

Figure 3 – Linux Home Page

You can do this, folks. It’s easy-peasy. Just find (or make yourself) a nice background image for your home page, then start adding the content that you want on it. Play around with your WYSIWYG editor of choice. Both KompoZer and Sea Monkey are pretty intuitive and easy to use. Once you have your home page created you’ll need to “serve” it on your own system. This is not as complicated as it sounds.

All “serving” means, is providing a place to access something whenever you need to access it. In the case of your custom home page, you’re just going to save it like any other file… right there on your hard drive somewhere. The next thing you need to do is point your browser to it and load it. Once your browser loads up your custom home page, just do whatever you need to do to set it as the home page in that particular browser. You can also create custom buttons on the tool bar, if you know how to do that.

Play around, make some boo-boos, have some FUN with it.

Until next time…

~Eric

Advertisements

Today’s Featured Distribution – Ark Linux

As you can see from the Linux Family Tree, Ark Linux is a main branch distribution (with a little inbreeding from cousin Redhat) that’s been around since 2003.

I ran Ark as an experimental on my system a couple times in the past few years. I was always impressed with it. It’s simple. It’s not bloated or overloaded with fluff. It’s a working man’s (or woman’s) Linux. For those of you concerned about these things, Ark is a 100% FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) distribution.

The Ark Linux team is a small group of dedicated souls working to keep the distribution viable and as pure to their goals as possible. I’ve noticed that there have been inconsistencies with updates and upgrades over the past year or so. There is still an active presence, so I know Ark is alive and well. It’s just that I’ve become used to some of the more “commercial” distributions that update and upgrade every time their lead devs change underwear. Ark’s foundation is solid. They may not need to do as the others do in this regard.

You can download current and older versions of Ark from Oregon State University’s server (osuosl.org). The information you need to download is on Ark’s download page.

You’ll find Ark familiar and easy to use. It comes with KDE as the default desktop environment. It uses the familiar RPM and Apt as package managers. Most of your favorite Linux apps and tools will run fine on Ark. Their repos have the standard fare found in most distro’s repos.

Give Ark Linux a try, folks. You might find something here you really like. I did.

Until next time… learn something, and have FUN doing it!

~Eric

A Letter to Momma

Dear Momma,

It’s been a while since I wrote last. I just wanted to drop you a quick line and wish you Happy Mother’s Day!

I hope you’re having a nice day. I’m sure the weather is beautiful up there in the mountains. Spring is upon you there, for sure. Everything is turning green; the crickets are chirping, the butterflies are flitting about, the bees are buzzing over the feast of nectar in all those wildflowers up there on the hillsides. I’m sure Bear is running here and there behind the cabin chasing whatever comes within his view. Daddy’s probably sitting on the deck watching it all.

The kitties are fine. I’m sure Patches misses you. Your prediction of her becoming a “lap kitty extraordinaire” turned out to be right on the money. Precious is a big girl now. I also have a little black kitty now. Her name is Li’l Black Kitty. Original, huh? They’re all doing fine, Mom. The kitties were probably the most important things you left me when you went away. They’ve brought me much joy over the years.

I’m still your “biker” son, Mom. I don’t have a motorcycle at the moment, but I did have a really beautiful one for the past few years. Steve bought it for me. Some gift, huh? He rode it from the dealer into my driveway one evening and handed me the keys. Can you believe that? I never had new motorcycle in my entire life. This one was brand-spankin’ new. Sadly, I had to sell it; ironically, to help him out of a jam. He’s my brother. He’s helped me out of a few. It was my turn.

We’re both hurting a bit from this “housing bust” and the resulting economic meltdown in Florida the past few years. You don’t worry none about either of us, ya’ hear. We’ll pick ourselves up and dust off and be on top of things again sometime soon. Don’t you worry! We’re doing OK for the moment; hopefully, back in the upswing. There’s food to eat. We’re in OK health. You and Daddy raised us both well. We’ll survive. You can count on it!

I had to sell your little Subaru Brat a couple years back. It developed a transmission problem. I just couldn’t justify spending any money on it. I know you’ll be sad to hear that, but the good news is a collector bought it from me. He intended to take it home and make it his #1 project for a few months. He wanted to restore it to original. He was a nice man. I believe he might have just done it, too.

Gotta’ close for now, Momma…

I just wanted to let you know that all’s OK with me and Steven. A lot of things have happened, good and bad, over the last decade or since we saw you last, but we persevere. Life is for living. Tell Daddy that Steve and I miss him, too. Rarely a day goes by that we don’t think about y’all. Give Bear a hug for me. I’ll try not to wait so long to write next time.

I love you,

~Eric

=====

On a warm summer’s eve in June of ’99, my mother left this world for her mountain retreat in the sky. I’m an atheist, but if I’m wrong about all that, I sure would wish something like that for her. She loved her cabin in the mountains of Western North Carolina.

You folks reading this right now… if your mother is still with us in this world, I URGE you to go to her, give her a hug, and tell her how much you love her. There are those of us who cannot do that anymore. Do it for us… for yourselves… and especially for you moms.

Have a wonderful Mother’s Day!

~Eric

Speaking of Food…

Here’s a little something to reminisce about… just another piece of our world that has moved on forever.

Are you old enough to remember full 16 oz. packages of hot dogs? Are you old enough to remember hot dogs that contained just pork or beef; without any chicken or turkey fillers? Man! Those were the days. Bologna, sausages, ground beef, and other meat products were just what they said they were back then. You didn’t have to read the damned labels to see what mystery meat-like filler was used in them. There weren’t any mysteries to meat back then.

Unless, of course, you go back a few more years; at which time (turn of the 19th to 20th century) there were a lot of mysteries in your meat. Some of those mysteries you don’t even want to know about. Ever read Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle? Heavy reading, dude. It’ll change your opinion of that sausage on your plate this evening. Don’t worry, though. Working conditions aren’t that bad anymore… yeah, right!

Ever seen an abattoir? Make you a vegan real quick like. It’s not for the squeamish. I like to eat dead animals. Right now, I can go to the neighborhood grocery store and buy whatever dead animal I want, for the most part. However, it would be a bit more of a challenge to look ol’ Bessie in those big browns and then bang her in the head with a sledge hammer. I don’t really like vegetables (they’re for rabbits), so Bessie would become dinner eventually.

And then we get back to that incredible shrinking package thing… When I was a kid, a pack of hot dogs was one pound in weight. That’s 16 FULL ounces – avoirdupois. Try to find a 16 oz. package these days. It’s the same for bologna or cheese or sausages. About the only damned thing that’s still one pound is a box of pasta. That shrink ray dude has been sneaking around on grocery store aisles for a couple decades now. He’s a sneaky little bastard.

It’s absolutely unethical for manufacturers and food companies to do this. However, they do it anyway. And folks like you and me just keep on buying the chicken-filled 10 oz. packages of hot dogs for the same damned price we paid for the full pound of the real hot dogs a few years ago. Why is that? I guess it’s because we don’t have much of a choice. If we want the full pound of the real pork or beef hot dogs, we’d have to visit a meat market or butcher shop and pay TOP DOLLAR. Most of us can’t afford that.

All this ranting has made me hungry. I’ll think I’ll go have a couple yummy soy-chicken lips-turkey gizzard-filled hot dogs. Ummm!

I’ll close today with a classic Broderick Crawford closing quote from Highway Patrol

The clowns at the circus, they’re real funny, but on the highway they’re murder!

Click to hear Broderick HERE

Hasta luego, mis amigos…

~Eric

Hulu and Adobe Not Friendly to 64 Bit Linux?

OK, so I missed an episode of The Highway Patrol the other morning. I fell asleep before it came on at 5AM.

No biggie. I’ll just bop on over to Hulu™ and watch it there. BUZZZZZ! Wrong! It seems that Hulu™ is having an issue with 64 bit Linux and the Adobe Flash® plugin. Attempting to play the video gives me this warm and fuzzy notice:

Were sorry we are unable to stream videos to your system. This may be due to an Adobe software limitation on 64bit Linux systems.

Just wonderful! What now? OK, so a couple folks over at Scot’s – BATL suggest I install the Hulu™ Desktop. Supposedly, it works for most everyone. Well, it DIDN’T work for me. When I clicked on a clip, it downloaded something (buffering to my /tmp directory), but then would give me this message:

The video you selected cannot be played at this time. Please try another selection from the menu.

Which I did… numerous times. After wasting about twenty unrecoverable minutes of my life, I gave up. Sadly, I still haven’t seen that Highway Patrol episode. It was a good one, too. It’s called Human Bomb. It’s from the first season. A whacked out engineer gets laid off from his job and decides to build this elaborate bomb to blow himself and the factory up. This was in the 50s folks. Sounds like it could have been ripped from today’s headlines, though, huh?

I sure hope they get this 64 bit Flash baloney squared away soon. I’d hate to think that these to very large and mostly Microsoft Windows oriented companies wouldn’t properly support li’l ol’ Linux now. <— A poor attempt at humor, folks… don’t start sending the hate mail.

It’s Saturday, folks. This is just a short one. You shouldn’t be inside on that damned computer, anyway. Get out there in the sunshine. Go fishin’ or something. It’ll be good fer ya’!

Have a great weekend!

~Eric

Image courtesy of http://www.planet-familyguy.com

WOO-HOO! UPDATE! UPDATE! Right after I wrote this article, I found a site where I could watch that Highway Patrol – Human Bomb episode. It was excellent, too! “21-50 out”

Oodles of Noodles® – Poor Man’s Daily Bread

If you have a dollar and some warm water, you could have a feast.

As long as there are ramen noodle soups on the store shelves, there’s no reason a homeless person should be eating dog food, unless he just wants a little meat in his soup. I’m poor. I wasn’t always poor. I’ve never been rich, but for most of my life I was able to obtain my daily bread. It’s gotten a bit more challenging the past 21 months, though. Needless to say, I’ve become amazingly skilled at pinching pennies till Abe’s nose bleeds. I’ve become masterful at frugality. I can squeeze water out of stones, it seems.

For those of you who are misguided and myopic enough to think that someone in my position could seek some assistance from local or Federal government entities, let me assure you that is bovine feces. There are NOT hordes of poor folks out there playing the system and making a comfortable living at it. That’s urban (and mostly racist) legend. The fact of the matter is that you have to be nearly destitute and one half step away from living in a cardboard box under the Interstate overpass to qualify for any decent amount assistance from local government or Uncle Sam.

The exception is if you’re a woman with children. As far as I’m concerned women with children who find themselves in the position I’ve been for the past year or so NEED to be the exception. The laws are written to favor the children. That’s as it should be, in my opinion. I qualified for food assistance a while back from Uncle Sam. You know how much money in food assistance I received per month? $16.00. That’s right. That’s not a mis-type. That’s SIXTEEN U.S. DOLLARS per month. That’s when I found out how filling a hot bowl of ramen noodle soup could be. I could buy about 50 packages of it for that $16, too.

What’s the point of all this? I dunno… did I need to have a point? Ramen noodle soup is YUMMY. There’s the point. Oh, want to research some interesting trivia? The U.S., arguably the most successful country ever to exist on this planet, is the ONLY country in the world where the poor are fat. Interesting, no? You know why it’s like that? Because the cheapest food products available are the ones HIGHEST in carbohydrates, which are metabolized by the body into pure glucose and stored as FAT. If you only had $X dollars a month to buy food, you gonna’ be buying porterhouse steaks? Nah… you’re gonna’ be buying Oodles of Noodles®, Jack!

Tonight’s dinner was shrimp flavored Oodles of Noodles® with chopped up chunks of Spam® and chopped onions. How ’bout a kiss, lass?

Bon appetit!

~Eric

Alright. We’re Going In…

I downloaded it last Thursday, but I’m just now getting around to installing Kubuntu 10.04.

I started my Linux Adventure four years ago with Ubuntu 6.06. That was an outstanding version, but Ubuntu has come a long way since then, folks. I’m really looking forward to having an Ubuntu variant of some sort on my system again. It’s been a while. I install it all the time for friends and family, and on the systems that I refurbish and give away. However, I haven’t had a working installation of Ubuntu on my system for a couple years or more.

Another reason I need to install it is because — AH! The burn just finished and the disk spit out for me — Uh, where was I? Oh yeah… another reason I need to have a running copy on my own system is because a lot of my converts ask me questions that are difficult to answer without a little show & tell. That’s hard to do without a working install of that OS. I’ll fix that later tonight, though.

I’m going to install over my existing PCLOS-Phoenix installation. PCLOS is cool, but I already have an installation of the main branch (Mandriva) of that baby on my system now. I prefer main branches when possible. I’d gone about as far as I could playing around with PCLOS, anyway. It may end up on my system again, sometime. You never know with me.

Debian controls my boot hard drive’s MBR, so that means I’m using legacy GRUB to boot Slackware, Debian, CentOS, Arch, soon-to-be-Kubuntu, Sidux, and Mandriva. Oh, and a crippled (no network access) WIn XP Pro SP3. Legacy GRUB is up to the task. I’ll move to GRUB2 eventually, just not today. I will manually create a menu.lst entry to boot the new Kubuntu installation. No tribbles at all, folks… done it a thousand times.

Well, let me slam that baby into the system while the disk is still warm. I’ll be following up here in a few days to let you know how things are going. Those of you keeping track know that I’ve had issues with KDE 4. I’m hoping the folks at Canonical got it right in this version of Ubuntu. If not, I’ll be depending on Gnome, Xfce, and LXDE to save the day again. I’m thinking positive thoughts about it, though. All will be well. All will be well. All will be well. I sound like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, huh?

There’s no place like home! There’s no place like home! There’s no place like home!

Heh!

Well, I’m off to play with installers and partitions and stuff. Yeeeee-hawwww!

Adios, pardners…

~Eric

Adenda: Kubuntu installation failed. Three up, three down. Three attempts = three failures. You’re OUTTA’ here! I don’t know why it failed and I don’t care. I’m downloading Ubuntu 10.04 right now, so the follow-up to this article will be about my install of Ubuntu. Kubuntu is a drink coaster now.

Advantage Is a Freakin’ Miracle!

Remember the bad ol’ days, when your pets and you had very few viable treatments for flea infestation?

Those were bad times, huh? I remember monumental battles that took place in my home between man and that little bloodsucking critter. It was a pitched battle. Much cussing and scratching ensued. The fleas retreated for a time, but always seemed to regroup and attack again in strength.

Well, not anymore, Jack! We have the MX missile of flea weapons these days. A regular thermonuclear, bunker-busting, flea killing miracle. Remember the old Brylcreem commercials from the 60s? “A little dab’ll do ya'” was the sound bite of their advertising. That’s the case with this miracle flea killing weapon… just a wee bit’ll kill them nasty little buggers right quick, folks.

What’s this miracle called? It’s Advantage® Flea Treatment by Bayer. Yeah, that’s right; the aspirin people. No, not chocolate aspirin, just the regular kind. Sadly, it’s a tad bit expensive. Four vials (I have three cats) costs about $50 locally right now. My brother found a place online that sells it for $31.50 (free shipping). I ordered it online. I received it in about a week. It comes via airmail from Great Britain. It is the exact same stuff that you buy in the U.S., but the writing on the box and instructions is in that weird British English. Heh!

Anyway, my poor kitties (inside only – they never go outside the house) were suffering for a couple weeks now. I must have brought some pregnant flea in the house on the cuff of my pants or something. I hate to see my poor girls itching and scratching like that. I received the package in yesterday’s mail. I immediately went through the usual procedures when it comes to giving my cats any type of medication… much screaming, chasing, getting bloodied and scratched, etc. Finally though, I had administered the meds. My cats didn’t like me last night.

Today, they love me again. They’re so happy. They don’t have any little bloodsucking critters gnawing on them anymore. Life is good again. Ya’ gotta’ love this stuff. I don’t understand the chemical babble behind its capabilities. I just know it works… and FAST. That’s all I care about. I can’t have my girls itchin’ and a-scratchin’ all over the damned place. Not only that, but they sleep in my bed and then I get in there later and start itchin’ and a-scratchin’. Can’t have that. Thank you, Advantage®! 🙂

We have met the enemy and it is an annoying little bugger. However, we have the advantage thanks to chemical warfare. Bye-bye, fleas. Gnaw on the devil’s ass when you get to HELL!

So much for today’s informative and entertaining article.

Meow! Meow! Meow… (Translation: Until next time, folks…)

~Eric

Cmake and Scons – Other Ways to Build

A few days ago friend Matthew Fillpot from Linux.com suggested that I write a little something about cmake and scons compiler applications.

I’m familiar with cmake, but I had to do a little reading on scons. Interesting stuff. I’ll briefly introduce you to both of them in this article and leave you with some links to much more detailed information on these alternative building methods. Let’s start off with cmake…

Cmake

Cmake is a cross platform software development tool. Cmake uses native build tools such as make. It’s strength and advantages come in to play in the cross platform environment, where it seriously reduces the complexity of software development and maintenance.

Unlike other similar tools, doesn’t really care about the system you’re attempting to build on. It’s written in C++, so it’ll run on most any modern platform. It uses the native build tools found on that system. Cool, huh? It’s much more versatile than vanilla make, which is limited to the platforms it can build on.

Also, if you’re interested in open source, using cmake to build with will give your code more apparent openness because it will be capable of being built on a variety of systems.

Linux Journal has a somewhat advanced article about cmake entitled Cross-Platform Software Development Using CMake by Andrej Cedilnik. It’s a good read. Also, you can refer to the cmake man page HERE. Give this flexible tool a tryout. It might be something worth having in your toolbox.

=====

Scons

Scons is a unique software construction tool which utilizes Python scripts and modules. This method gives scons powerful capabilities not available to vanilla build tools. You can grab your own copy of scons over at SourceForge. Scons needs Python 1.5.2. However, you don’t have to know how to program in Python to use scons.

Everything you need to know about scons in on the Scons User Guide by Steven Knight. Scons looks pretty interesting. When I get a minute or two, I’m going to download and play around with it. There may be a follow-up to this article sometime in the future. In the meantime, if you’re feeling adventurous, download scons and tinker around a bit.

Until next time, folks…

~Eric

Drood

By Dan Simmons, Little Brown & Co., ISBN: 0316007021

Available at Borders

A while back I read this excellent and uniquely told tale from the intricate mind of Dan Simmons. It’s a tale about… well, it’s hard to say, really. If you’re at all familiar with late 19th English novels by authors such as Charles Dickens or Wilkie Collins, you’ll find comfortable familiarity with the setting of this book. It takes place mostly in London or surrounding areas. The story itself is twisted and intricately plotted. Readers of Dickens, the outstanding biography written by Peter Ackroyd, will be able to see where Simmons did a lot of his research.

The tale is narrated by Charles Dickens‘ real life friend and fellow author, Wilkie Collins. Collins was a relatively successful suspense author during the same era that Dickens was turning his tales. You may have heard some of Wilkie’s stories… The Woman in White, Moonstone, Armadale, etc. If you like 19th Century Gothic novels, give ol’ Wilkie a try sometime.

Anyway, in Drood, Wilkie is an opium smoker with some serious mental stability issues. He tells the story of friend Dickens’ last few years among the living; specifically how a train wreck that Dickens survived affected the rest of his days. Dickens had a fleeting interaction with a strange man that day. His name was Drood. Collins obsesses over Dickens supposed obsession with Mr. Drood. In reality, by the way, the last book the Dickens was writing at the time of his death was to be called The Mystery of Edwin Drood. It was never completed by Dickens. A couple versions completed by other authors were published, though.

Mr. Drood is not, to say the least, a very wholesome character. He’s allegedly a master magician from Egypt currently living in underground London. I’m talking the old, old underground London here folks; sewers, canals, underground rivers, secret passages in old churchyards, etc. You get the picture. Oh, did I mention rats? Yes, rats. Ain’t it great. Drood is a rather large tome; approaching 800 pages, yet it read very fast for me. Different folks are different when it comes to the pace of a book, though.

Visit your local library and pick up a copy for a nice rainy Sunday evening. I think you’ll like it.

Until next time, folks…

~Eric