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TV Trojan

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 6:52 AM

I still think that the Apple TV as it has now been unveiled is a trojan horse for the company (not of the malicious software kind, however). If this thing sells enough units — and at the new price and design, it very well could sell that mystical figure known as “enough” — one can easily see people begging for a SDK to develop apps (especially “casual” games) for it.

And, like the original iPhone, Apple can act like its arms are being twisted and then “relent” by doing what it intended to do all along. Right now, launching with an app store might be embarrassing. The current Apple TV hasn't been that successful (by Apple's own admission) and so interest could be tepid. Just look at how hard of time Apple had getting the major networks to support its new TV rental scheme (just two did). Unlike its other devices, people aren't begging to be involved on the Apple TV. Yet.

But, this device, with its Netflix streaming support and iTunes compatibility, could easily sell well. And then, in Steve Job's lingo, “boom.”

Trying Ubuntu

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 6:11 AM

I've always liked Debian GNU/Linux distributions, but I've never gotten around to trying Ubuntu. Given my appreciation for GNOME and simplicity on top of the aforementioned appreciation for Debian, I decided it was time to give it a whirl.

Presently Ubuntu is installing itself on my Shuttle XPC which I have just given the new name of guildenstern (I'm tired of my Dilbert derived naming scheme for computers). I'll post in the coming days what I think. This will be the first entirely new distribution I've tried in quite some time.

Trying OneBase Linux

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 8:35 PM

I've been meaning to try a source-based Linux distribution for some time. For those of you who aren't sure what that is, it's a distribution where you build all of the software from the source (and thus it is all optimized for your hardware). Josiah is a big fan of Gentoo, which is one such distribution.

My problem with Gentoo and other previous source based distributions is that they leave all of the configuration work for you to do yourself. I never have that much time. I'll admit it — I like my operating system to do most of the work for me. I'll tweak things when and if I have time, thank-you very much. Thus, up until today, I never even bothered trying a source-based distribution.

Then I started reading about OneBase Linux. OneBase is a source-based distribution that autodetects most of your hardware for you. It allows you to choose between source and binary packages at any time. This sounds pretty nice, I think. So, I fired up my test box (the Shuttle XPC I mentioned last fall) and gave it a freshly burned OneBase 2004-R2 CD. I booted the system up just about three and a half hours ago. The initial installation and compilation process took about two and a half hours. A few minutes ago I told it to start the next set of compilations (insanely simple to do — I want GNOME, so I typed olm -s gnome, and it does the rest).

At any rate, I'm anxiously awaiting the finish of these compiling tasks to see how usable this system turns out to be.

Troubling Times Ahead

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 12:37 AM
When I tried to post a message to a GNU/Linux mailing list I've been on for awhile, I got this message in lieu of my message being posted like it normally would be:
Due to legal documents XYZ Company has received via certified US mail that indicate XYZ Company and its customers may be liable for damages or licensing of intellectual property contained in the linux kernel, effective September 9, 2003, XYZ Company is no longer supporting any GNU operating system that uses the linux kernel. The linux@xyzcompany discussion mailing list is also permanently

I'm not sure if “XYZ Company” is looking for publicity about this, so I chose to change their name, however, the text is verbatim. This is just speculation, but my guess is that SCO has sent them notice as they expand their circle of litigation and they didn't feel like gambling on whether SCO was bluffing or not.

If that indeed turns out to be the case, this would signal a troubling new stage in SCO's campaign against GNU/Linux. It would show that SCO is moving down from top tier resellers to smaller, regional ones.

To be clear, after thorough analysis of SCO's case, most of those familiar with it agree that the case is really no case at all. The snippets they have released as a showcase of the code “illegally placed in Linux” turned out to be code SCO itself had authorized for reuse in virtually any way imaginable — including inclusion in Linux.

The question isn't who is right, but whether anyone can afford to stand up to the wrath of SCO, and their lawyer, David Boies (yes, that's the same Boies that represented Al Gore in the 2000 post-election fiasco).

TQ: (Programming) Languages

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 4:41 AM

This week's TQ from Mark is on programming languages.

1. What was the first language that you learned/used?
If it counts, MS-DOS batch scripting. If not, then Visual Basic.

2. What is your favorite language and why?
Perl. Partly because I've just become comfortable with it, partially because it seems more efficient for most tasks I do than PHP and provides easier to read code than other alternatives such as Python.

3. What is you least favorite and why?
Of those I know anything about, Visual Basic, but the scope of my knowledge is rather limited.

4. What language would you like to learn next?
Latin, French or Spanish. Oh, sorry, programming languages. Er, right. ;) I really don't have any big desire to learn another programming language, although back when I was more into that kind of stuff, it would have been C++.

5. What language do you have no desire to ever learn?

6. What language do you think is the best to start learning programming with?
Probably C/C++ just because of its flexibility.

7. What method you prefer, functional or OO?
For the most part, I've only used functional programming. I'm quite happy with that.

Tooting My Own Horn

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 3:46 AM

Just for the record, I get a lot of predictions wrong, but here's one I got right (at least long term) back before the iPad launched:

But, let's offer a wildcard alternative: fully wireless sync with your current Mac ecosystem. Perhaps this would be extended to some iPhones and iPod touches too ”” say just the 3GS. I expect Apple to play up sync in general in the future. As iTunes goes, so goes Apple's overall strategy. The introduction of “Home Sync” quietly last year is something I believe will be the harbinger of bigger plans, with Apple returning to sync in a big way this year after pretty much letting its previous strides rust and be forgotten (think of the big push on sync services in Mac OS X Tiger back in 2005 and those features integration with the service then known as .Mac and now christened MobileMe).

Clearly, iCloud is for Apple this decade what iTunes was for Apple last decade.

To Fedora or Not to Fedora

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 5:21 AM

I'm presently trying to figure out what Linux distro to install on my church's library computer. It has been running Mandrake 9.2 for some years now, and as it is in for a “overhaul,” I thought I should give it a new OS. I was going to do Ubuntu, but I cannot even get Ubuntu to startup all the way, which makes it impossible to get to the installer. I think that is because the system only has 128 megs of ram.

As such, I was trying to decide between Fedora Core 6 and openSUSE 10.2 My main goal is to go with a system that will require minimal effort from me. I also am insisting on GNOME as the desktop (well, it is going to be a web kiosk, so primarily all the user will see is Firefox, but I digress). I think I'm going to go with FC6, but I'm open to those who want to persuade me otherwise. I'm really not too keen on the idea of an OS that uses anything other than RPM or DEB packages, but that too is negotiable, if anyone can come up with a good reason why I should try something else. The big thing is time: I need it to work as a desktop out of the box without any X11 tinkering or anything else of that kind.


Tip for Getting Live Streaming Up Quickly

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 11:10 PM

A know a lot of churches all over are scrambling to implement live streaming thanks to the coronavirus situation. I thought I would share a suggestion that may not help for tomorrow’s services, but will help for the weeks ahead when live streaming remains an unusually important part of worship. In a word: Mevo.

We have been using a Mevo live streaming camera at FaithTree for several years now for our worship nights and will also be using one at Little Hills (including for a live stream event this Monday). You can see FaithTree’s Mevo in the photo above — it’s the tiny white and red camera on the tripod. I had been intrigued by the concept and nabbed one for a great price on Prime Day 2017. The great thing about it is that all it requires of you is that you put it on a tripod (or something else of appropriate height) and connect to it via an app on a phone (your phone or an old phone you don’t use any more but that can connect to Wi-Fi) or iPad.

Thinking of Phones

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 7:17 AM

My cellular contract is ending in two weeks and I'm pondering a new phone. The one I have, a Nokia 3600, has served me well, but I'm thinking I might be able to do better. Particularly, I love the built in camera, but at 640×480, I still regret when I only have my phone and not my camera. I don't expect my phone to replace my much more serious digicam (a Sony Cybershot DSC-S75), but I would like it to take printable quality photos if possible. As much as I like the pictures from my Nokia for the fact that without the camera in it I would not have them at all, they are usually less than perfect.

So, for the last six months or so, I've been following the new Nokia N90. It has a Carl Zeiss lens, 2 megapixel CCD, flash, digital zoom, etc. It is in a flip phone form factor, which it uses to provide a twistable viewfinder for the camera. It looks really nice and runs an updated version of the same Symbian OS with Series 60/S60 interface that the 3600 runs. However, three things emerged that dampened my enthusiasm. First, the price is $499 with a two-year contract (it is $799-$999 without). Second, it is supposedly very slow and unresponsive. Third, it is only available for T-Mobile presently.

Ok, so that's not so good. But Nokia has some nice non-flip units in the pipe. I'm not so keen on flip phones anyway, so I've been looking at the N70 and the N80. The N70 is a traditional Nokia “brick” with a 2.0 megapixel CCD but sans the Zeiss lens. The N80 is one of these new slider-style phones with a 3.0 megapixel CCD. The problem is neither of these has yet been picked up by a carrier in the U.S., and when they do, I wonder if they too will be fairly pricey. I'm guessing the N70 might be closer to the $200-$300 range, but that is still a lot of money for a phone. (The N80 is not yet even FCC approved.)

With that in mind, I'm considering either the Nokia 6682 or one of the several Sony Ericsson 1.3 megapixel camera phones (such as the Walkman W600). Sony, like Nokia, uses Symbian, but places the UIQ interface on top of it instead of S60. All of these are in the $0-$200 range, after the incentives that come from reupping a contract with Cingular. My main requirements are that I want a Symbian GSM (preferably with EDGE support) phone, I want it to have as good of camera as possible and I want Bluetooth; I think these phones are the only ones that fit those requirements, but I'll keep searching.

I need to decide: do I bite the bullet with one of these presently available phones or wait a few months and see what comes about concerning the Nokia N-Series phones? I'm leaning toward the latter, but if the prices are astronomical, the wait won't do me much good and perhaps the models I do like wil be unavailable.

Thinking Different for Almost Five Years

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 5:53 AM

Wow, time flies. Some friends of mine had an iMac DV (Graphite) that died, and in the process of getting the hard disk out to transfer their data, I removed the AirPort (802.11b) card. They gave me the card, and I popped it into my Ruby iMac DV, which had not been connected to a network in two and a half years (it had been up and running, just not on the internet). The system needed an update for the card to work, but my friends were also disposing of an ethernet cable, so I had an extra one right at hand and I plugged my iMac in that way. After the update, now my poor old Ruby is connected to my network two ways.

What about time flying? Well, you see, the Ruby was my first real taste of the Mac world back when I won it in an eBay auction in June 2003. I wrote about it in this post that happened to be bookmarked on the system. I went all Mac just less than a year later when my GNU/Linux box was giving me trouble during final projects for college in May 2004. Amazing. When I got the Ruby, I intended to write a series on Open for Business talking about how good the Linux desktop was compared to the Mac. Now I'm one of “those” that goes around and preaches about Mac goodness.

The Ruby still runs nicely, which is pretty impressive for a system that was built nearly eight years ago (October 2000). I think I may upgrade the RAM to 1GB (if I can find a good deal) and move it up to Tiger sometime soon.

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