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Posts about linux (old posts, page 14)

Rethinking Linux Configuration: Part I

I have said Lin­ux suck­s. Here's my new pro­jec­t: Make it suck less, one bit at a time.

And I start with one of the big chunks: con­fig­u­ra­tion.

Part I in a longish se­ries (I ex­pect 5 parts at least­).

What I want for christmas (The cool new trend on preloaded Linux)

Dear fictional character that oppreses the workers of
the North Pole:

This christmas, I want an Asus eee PC, an Everex gPC,
and some bare white box with a nice Phoenix PC 3.0 BIOS.

Why am I ask­ing the red men­ace from the north for these item­s?

Well, they do have one thing in com­mon: Lin­ux. An­oth­er is that they are con­sumer box­es, not server­s.

For many years, one of the huge ad­van­tages win­dows had was that it came pre­loaded with most PC­s. This en­abled peo­ple to turn a blind eye to win­dows in­stal­la­tion and con­fig­u­ra­tion since it was done by Some­one Else (T­M).

Since get­ting Lin­ux has be­come much eas­i­er in the last 10 years [1] this has been very frus­trat­ing. Imag­ine you had some­thing you gave away for free, but peo­ple kept us­ing some­thing more ex­pen­sive be­cause they had to pay for it any­way!

That itch­es. If Lin­ux was not cho­sen be­cause it was in­fe­ri­or for the task at hand, that's one thing, but not even be­ing able to be test­ed be­cause the oth­er prod­uct was bun­dled and paid for? An­noy­ing.

Of course on servers this worked dif­fer­ent­ly. The OS was not the ex­pen­sive part, and was pre­loaded less of­ten. Cor­po­ra­tions have pre­ar­ranged li­cens­ing terms, and adding things to the mix is sim­pler.

But for con­sumer­s, preload­ing has been a huge prob­lem [2]

So, if the jol­ly tres­pass­er brings me what I or­dered, I will find the fol­low­ing:

  • Asus eee: A cheap sub­­note­­book with Lin­ux and KDE pre­load­ed.

  • Ev­erex gPC: A cheap Desk­­top with Lin­ux and En­­light­en­­men­t(!?) pre­load­ed.

  • Phoenix PC 3.0 BIOS: an em­bed­d­ed hy­per­vi­­sor and Lin­ux OS.

The eee is prob­a­bly the most ap­peal­ing. It's ide­al for many us­es:

  • Sales­­men who are now us­ing some un­­god­­ly Black­­ber­ry app (or worse)

  • Sys­tem and net­­work ad­min­s. Re­al­­ly. I would love to have a cheap note­­book I won't hes­­i­­tate bring­ing to a roof, a bar, the beach, what­ev­er. It would live in my bag. My cur­rent note­­book? Be­­sides weight­ing 8 pound­s, it's ex­pen­­sive and large. All I need are we­b­­pages email and SSH ses­­sion­s!

  • Kids and stu­­dents (it's cheap! You can buy a re­­place­­ment if he drops coffe on it!)

  • Ba­sic users and old peo­­ple. Re­al­­ly, an of­­fice-­­like thing and a web browser? And I can use it wher­ev­er there's wifi? Neat.

And it is go­ing to get a lot cheap­er, and it's go­ing to get a lot bet­ter. I ex­pect there will be a 32G­B, 10" mod­el by the end of next year for $350, and the cur­rent mod­el avail­able for $250 (after al­l, half the com­po­nents are cheap as dirt al­ready, on­ly flash is ex­pen­sive, and that's a fluke)

And so on and so forth. If Asus cre­ates a de­cent dock [3] and a nice rdif­f-back­up-based back­up so­lu­tion (it should be at least as nice as Ap­ple's Time Ma­chine), this box turns in­to my main com­put­er when­ev­er I am at home, and is a use­ful tool on the road. I re­al­ly can live with those spec­s.

The gPC is a bit hard­er to grasp.

First, it's even cheap­er. $200 is cheap. The CPU is slow­ish, but there are a whole range of tasks that are not CPU bound. I re­al­ly want one of those as a home serv­er. This is the first time I can see one of these ITX box­es as ac­tu­al­ly cheap not just small (in fact this one is not small at al­l).

  • I have a TV cap­­ture card, I could make a PVR out of it us­ing Lin­uxM­CE? It does have enough CPU for that (s­ince I am do­ing it with a slow­er box al­ready)

  • A file server? More than good enough for that.

  • A house­­guest com­put­er?

  • A MPD server?

  • All of the above?

And do all this while be­ing qui­et and pow­er-­ef­fi­cien­t? Neat!

And the Phoenix PC 3.0 BIOS sim­ply would be cool be­cause I can vir­tu­al­ize with­out jump­ing through any hoop­s. This one is still fuzzy for me, but I on­ly found out about it to­day. I need time for things to grow.

Why do I think these box­es mark a trend? Be­cause they are def­i­nite­ly low-end prod­uct­s. These are meant to be made by thou­sands and hun­dreds of thou­sand­s, and make small mon­ey on each.

The mak­ers are be­ing smart about pro­vid­ing as lit­tle func­tion­al­i­ty as they can and mak­ing them sim­ple, niche, con­sumer prod­ucts in­stead of mon­stru­osly pow­er­ful Lin­ux mon­sters (sor­ry for how ug­ly that sound­s).

An­oth­er fac­tor is the huge growth of web apps that work well on non-IE browsers. This is mak­ing the OS ir­rel­e­vant just like Net­scape hoped in 1996. If the OS is in­vis­i­ble, Lin­ux won.

So, Santa, for this christmas I ask for all these toys,
and if it has to be only one, please make it the Asus eee.

                                            Roberto Alsina

PS: and if you don't do your part, the raindeer's a goner!

Lateral Opinion's greatest hits

Since this blog just broke the 100K vis­i­tors bar­ri­er yes­ter­day (although it had about 150K more when it was lat­er­al.pyc­, it's a good time to re­vis­it some of the old stuff that was some­what good.

So here are (IMVHO) the best ten things I re­mem­ber writ­ing in this blog in the last 7 years.

  1. Data-aware wid­gets in PyQt

    This ar­ti­­cle de­scribes a cool (a­­gain, IMVHO) way to im­­ple­­ment DB-backed apps us­ing PyQt. It's short, work­ing code and you end be­ing able to cre­ate neat stuff. I liked it, noone else did.

  1. Be a good lamar­ck­­ian frog­­gy

    It has it al­l! Evo­lu­­tion the­o­ry (the­o­ries)! It pre­­tends to pro­­vide in­­sights in­­­to FLOSS! Movie-­crit­ic-­­like quotes in the com­­ments!

    best blog i've read in a long, long time.

    —Aaron Sei­­go

  1. Rapid Ap­­pli­­ca­­tion de­vel­op­­ment us­ing PyQt and Er­ic3 ... in re­al­­time!

    An orig­i­­nal premise, a semi-use­­ful app writ­ten, got good re­views. I still like it, but sad­­ly it's not a for­­mat that ages well, since you can't up­­­date the tu­­to­ri­al for new­er ver­­sions of PyQt.

  1. Squid au­then­ti­­ca­­tion via POP or IMAP

    It solves a re­al prob­lem, does it el­e­­gan­t­­ly, and I still am in­­stalling it.

  1. Shared: Nar­­nia, The Da Vin­­ci Code is Bro­ken., Kong at dawn, Ma­trix Rev­o­lu­­tions, Troy (not Mc­­Clure), Dou­ble fea­­ture at the Elec­tric

    I some­­times try to "re­view" movies in an odd­­ball way. Please read them if you saw the movies. I think I made sense.

  1. Skele­­tons of sto­ries that won't ev­er be writ­ten.

    I have no idea why I wrote it, but I still like it.

  1. The world cup and I

    Too sen­ti­­men­­tal, but hey, I did feel that way.

  1. Fro­­do as a Hack­­er

    The sub­­ti­­tle is "Shame­­less ex­­plo­­sion of nerdi­­tude." and it is that. I am at the same time very ashamed of writ­ing it, and rather amazed by it.

  1. The Lin­ux Boot­ing Process Un­veiled

    One of my most pop­u­lar ar­ti­­cles. It's even cit­ed as a re­f­er­ence on Lin­ux boot­ing in Wikipedi­a! (I ed­it­ed it be­­cause they had the link wrong, though). It was even copied with­­out atri­bu­­tion a cou­­ple of times.

  1. A Mod­­est Us­a­bil­i­­ty Im­prove­­ment

    Oth­­er ar­ti­­cles had more links, more views, or more com­­ments, but this ar­ti­­cle in­­spired the cre­a­tion of two new apps that are much bet­ter than what was around be­­fore I wrote it, which makes me feel all warm and fuzzy in­­sid­e. So, check it out, then use Speed­crunch or Abakus in­­stead of kcalc (or win­­cal­c).

Gonna get me one of these. Oh yes.

It's the sec­ond com­ing of the Toshi­ba Li­bret­to, on­ly this time it's:

  1. Cheap­­er

  2. Filled with Lin­ux good­­ness.

It's the Asus eee. And the de­fault UI is some sort of weirdized KDE. And it is go­ing to sell a whole lot.

Re­al­ly, lug­ging my cur­rent note­book is tir­ing, not hav­ing my own tools when I go to a cus­tomer's is an­noy­ing. This ba­by should fix that.

Sure, you Word/Ex­cel/Pow­er­point jock­eys are go­ing to be an­noyed with a 800x600 screen, but it's awe­some for ssh ses­sion­s.


Well, it seems I am in trou­ble for Py­Week.

Why? Be­cause it's wednes­day and I have done noth­ing. Noth­ing! It's be­cause I have been work­ing a lot, re­al­ly, and I have a 4 month baby, too.

So, I am up­ping the ante.

I will do a Py­Day.

I am tak­ing to­mor­row off (yeah, right!) and I'm do­ing the game in one day. Maybe I will scrounge a few hours on sun­day, too.

It will prob­a­bly not be fit for the con­test be­cause:

  • I will use PyQt

  • I won't test it in any plat­­form oth­­er than my Lin­ux box

But here's the game con­cept (BTW: Twist­ed sucks as a theme. It sucks re­al­ly, re­al­ly, re­al­ly hard!):

Ac­cord­ing to the dic­tio­nary, Twist­ed al­so means per­vert­ed. So, this game, Twist­ed Lit­tle Boy is about a bad boy. A re­al­ly bad boy. But a clever one. He cre­ates ma­chines us­ing ran­dom equip­ment he finds to do evil, re­al­ly mean things.

I will prob­a­bly do a live-blog thing like those tu­to­ri­als I wrote years ago about PyQt.

There's a Google code project (ob­vi­ous­ly emp­ty): http://­code.­google.­com/p/twist­edlit­tle­boy/

See you all to­mor­row.

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