Sunday, September 30, 2012

What about Linux?

Several years back, it was widely regarded that Linux would emerge as the biggest threat to Microsoft's dominant Window's operating system.  At the time Linux was very much in its infancy and casual peeks into this alternative seemed to suggest that Linux installers were very much left to search for benign software drivers.  Long story short, much tinkering was required to get the thing working... all things considered, I still shudder thinking of the grand fun (sarcasm) to be had trying to install a 33.6 modem into Windows 3.1.  Then came Windows 95, "plug and play" or as many preferred to refer to it, "plug and pray."  This was a mild improvement, but I still recall many hours spent trying to resolve all those pesky question mark "?" icons in Device Manager.  I was blown away when a colleague convinced me to install Windows 7 and to my surprise about 99% of the set up completed successfully - wow, we've come a long way.  Thus, when it came to Linux, the last thing I wanted to do was spend hours troubleshooting and looking for drivers.

In the past couple of years, Linux has largely been eclipsed by the success of Apple and Google emergence within tablets and smart phones (which should be considered hand held computers).  I have an iPad and an Android phone and love them both, but I'm typing this blog on a Windows laptop; however unlike my phone and iPad, I can't say that I "love" my Windows computers.  The iPad and Android phone are both "touch" devices so in fairness this may be regarded as an "apples to oranges" comparison.  However, I think many would agree that we do seem to be moving toward a convergence whereby the analogous "apples" are beginning to look more like "oranges" and the "oranges" are looking more like "apples".  There are 2 primary features that support my love affair with touch devices:

1.  Apps - I have blogged previously about apps that I love on the iPad (and plan to soon create a post for Android).  I'm sure readers could add many more apps that they absolutely love.

2.  Quick start up - let's face it, it's a drag waiting for Windows to boot up.  With either touch device, I press a button and access what I want within seconds.

Unfortunately, as I have previously discussed in an earlier post, tablets and smart phones leave much to be desired as "input" devices.

I (occasionally) listen to co-workers and on one such occasion, an IT staff member had remarked about installing Linux on netbooks, resulting in some really speedy netbooks.  At the time, I placed this in the back of my mind, being unmotivated due to my forestated bias regarding the hours required to get Linux to work.   Then one day of Internet surfing, I stumbled on a blog relating to fast Linux boot ups.  In particular, Ubuntu 11.10 was reflected as booting in 10 seconds!  Wow, 10 seconds - while I don't believe everything I read and what is notably left out of this blog is exactly what type of hardware configuration was used to achieve this result, this blog certainly got me thinking that if I could get a substantially better boot time than Windows, Linux might be worth a second look.

I have an old Dell Dimension 2300 with about 1 gig of memory that I have placed on Craig's list for $35 and no takers... I also found myself with a few flexible hours.  My first hurdle was to find a suitable Linux version for installation.  The most recent versions of some of the more popular versions of Linux have grown so large that they now require burning on a DVD or memory stick.  While these options might work for a newer netbook, these were not options for my old clunker.  I looked specifically for Ubuntu 11.10, but could not get what I found to work.  Ultimately, I settled on Linux Mint.  While I'm not too crazy about the theme colors (mint green), I love the way that Linux Mint provides a clear offering of both their new and old versions.  Linux Mint also provides a nice series of pictures of each version as well.  Many sites, hawk their latest and greatest version and you need Scooby Doo to help sniff out earlier releases.  While I liked the look of "Julia," I observed that "Isadora" was to be supported until April 2013 so I went with "Isadora."

Sunday, September 16, 2012

7 iPad Apps I Like... plus 1

There is an interesting difference in the Apps that I select and use for my iPad 2 versus apps that I select and use with my Android phone (or even the iPod Touch that I owned prior to the Android phone).  Specifically, the iPad does a great job of rendering websites.  Thus, if the website is full featured and does a nice job, there is little reason to install (and consume space) with an often down sized interpretation of the original.  Therefore, my criteria for iPad apps is that they must provide value beyond what can be found on a website or somehow enhance the iPad as a tool or entertainment device.

I will interject one exception to this general guideline for iPad apps which is that if you anticipate that you may be working from a slow wifi connection, it may be worthwhile to explore and install an app as the app may be optimized for a mobile device and provide greater utility on slow connections.  For example, I have experimented with "tethering" my iPad to a 3G device (cell phone) and for this slower connection, I have found that the proprietary app from my stock trading company works better than attempting to trade using the Safari browser and a log on.  This exception aside, here are 7 apps that I enjoy:

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Yachting with G

##Update 2013 Outing Added##

Yes, it's my 5' yacht docked at Renssellaer Lake (also known as Six Mile Waterworks).  Ok, maybe it's not what you expected.  Yup, I'm about the only fool who boats on the lake in an inflatable, but it works for me.   No need to strap a big kayak on the top of my car, deflate it a little and it fits nicely in my mid-size car.  All I need to do is quickly add a little air from my portable pump and viola, my yacht awaits for another adventure.

The kayaks seen in the background are part of L.L.Bean's adventure excursions which can be booked at the Colonie Mall.  I believe the cost is around $20 and it is well worth it as an introduction.  You'd be amazed at all you'll see in the back portion of the lake - numerous turtles, a frequent blue Huron among beautiful, natural views.  Surprisingly, I have not been bothered by bugs while boating on this lake.  If boating is not your things, there are many trails in this back wooded area of the Albany Pine Bush.  Please note that you can get lost in this area and years ago when I did walk this area, I do recall a generous supply of mosquitoes.

Passing through the narrow channels where the  I-87 (the Northway) highway and ramps pass over the water is tricky and the 4th overpass right before the pedestrian overpass is very shallow.  My boat often rubs bottom going over this section.  Another tricky spot is after you pass the narrows, but before entering the wide body of water in the back part of the park.  There is a fallen tree and generally you need to keep your boat near parallel to another fallen tree on the right to squeeze past the tree and a broken branch that points upward in the water blocking the greater part of the opening.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Finding God with Dan Brown and Wikipedia

I wasn't seeking a religious awakening when I read Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" a few years back.  In fact, my only reason for reading the book was due to it's long running appearance on the New York Times bestseller list.  A book with a description that expressed solving a murder in the Louvre did nothing for me.  My reason for reading this book was simply to try to understand why so many other's had read it.

After reading "The Da Vinci Code," I think I somewhat understand the book's mass appeal which I believe is that people are generally hopeful beings and "The Da Vinci Code," although fictional does present a wistful "what if" scenario.  I was raised in a born again, Baptist environment although I do not embrace this faith now as an adult.  Along the coarse of the plot in this book (as well as in Dan Brown's, "Angels & Demons"), the origins and varieties of early faith are explored.  (This, too, may account for some of the mass attraction to this literary work).

In particular, I was attracted to the description of Paganism and learned that pagan did not translate to godless heathen.  Instead, it was clear within this book as well as through outside references that pagans are very much god-aware.  While in the Army, a close friend explained his faith in god as "dog spelled backwards".  I don't think I could ever become atheist.  Foolhardy or not, I want to believe that there is more to the scheme of things.

In my quest for knowledge, the first step in this modern age is to Google everything.  Thus, I Googled, "Pagan" and Wikipedia provided the starting point.  I read this information with zest.  As stated within Wikipedia:
The term pagan is from the Latin paganus, an adjective originally meaning "rural", "rustic" or "of the country."  As a noun, paganus was used to mean "country dweller, villager".
Paganism certainly provided a good initial fit with my life experiences - a rural upbringing on a dairy farm (also a Great Grandmother who was a "half breed").  I had long felt that my "church" was in the open under nature; quite simply, my sense of worship would consider a walk with Mick the Wonder Dog being a more rewarding and fulfilling venture than any worship I have ever experienced sitting in a church pew.  I place a high value on accessing nature and consistent with this value, I have dedicated full web pages on to local parks that I frequent.