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The X-37B

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 5:46 AM

The Daily Mail has an interesting — albeit, overly conspiratorial, perhaps — little article on the X-37B space plane that is preparing to land after orbiting for about a year.

Last May, amateur astronomers were able to detect the orbital pattern of the first X-37B which included flyovers of North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, heightening the suspicion that the vehicle was being used for surveillance.

Is it really being used for surveillance, I wonder? If so, what could it possibly do that existing satellites could not do?

The Worst Part About Being a Techie

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 6:03 AM

You know, I think the worst part about being a techie is that everyone expects you to fix their computer problems. I like helping, but some now expect it, rather than just hoping I'll be of help. Worse, if I cannot help for awhile, I get the sense that the same people become more than just a bit irritated with me.

Sometimes I wish I had not bothered to learn IT stuff at all.

The Windows 8 Disaster Rolls On

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 10:15 PM

So, apparently Windows 8 has advertisements within some of its core apps, a rather unprecedented move and one I am surprised there hasn't already been a commotion about. Even if you don't care about ads per se, there is a bigger implication than having screen space within parts of Windows 8 dedicated to generating revenue for Microsoft:

We can't talk about the inclusion of ads and not mention the “T” word: tracking. I haven't been able to find any information on whether or not Microsoft's tracking the ads you are clicking on, but if that is indeed the case, we'll find out soon enough. Unlike Windows 7 and earlier, your entire Windows 8 account can be tied to an e-mail account, so it would be rather easy for Microsoft to track things on a personal level - much like how Google does with its search engine, e-mail and so forth. This alone gives good reason to be concerned.

Can you imagine the outcry if the iPhone came out of the box with ads in its Weather or Stocks apps?

HT: Gruber

The View from Mudsock Heights

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 6:05 AM

My fellow OFB contributor and friend, Dennis Powell, manages to deal with political correctness and issues surrounding utilities and communication services in one highly amusing piece this week. Just the helicopters part alone makes the column worth your time.

The piece does remind those of us in the city about why we have it so good, even when it might not always seem so.

The Texas Bible

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 5:00 PM

John Dyer writes:

Fast forward 20 years, and just about any time I teach from the Scriptures I have to point out a place where the English Bible says “you,” but the original Hebrew or Greek indicates you plural rather than you singular. This means the original author was addressing to a group of people, but a modern English reader can't detect this because in common English we use “you” for both singular (“you are awesome”) and plural (“you are a team”). This often leads modern readers to think “you” refers to him or her as an individual, when in fact it refers to the community of faith.

Relating the Greek second person plural pronoun to “y'all” seems to be a required part of a beginning Greek class, at least if anyone in the class is from the south. Rather creative of Dyer to make a plugin to actually “fix” Bible translations so that they use it.

The Revolution Moves On

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 12:53 AM

“What's an Intel chip doing in a Mac? A whole lot more than it's ever done in a PC.

Well, for the first time in ages, there is a top tier x86 OEM that provides a real choice for a better OS. Apple today unveiled two new Intel Core Duo systems, which you can read about at The new MacBook Pro laptop looks like it should be a really serious competitor to the current premium ultra-light laptop contenders. It will come with up to a 1.8 GHz Core Duo dual-core processor and a whopping 256 megs of video ram. The system is 1” thick, includes Apple's amazing backlit keyboard, a new ExpressCard slot, and an extra bright (Cinema Display bright) screen. I want one, although my trusty 12” PowerBook isn't ready to retire just yet — I may wait for the rumored 13” widescreen Apple laptop, which is more the size I like to haul around. The new iMac was a bit of a surprise release, but looks even better than the recently updated iMac G5.

The new iLife '06 suite looks great, with serious improvements for vidcasting, photocasting and podcasting, a new application (iWeb), and some major upgrades to the program I use the most: iPhoto (which now can manage up to 250,000 photos). The improved real time special effects in iMovie look great to me too. iWork '06 isn't such a dramatic improvement, but looks good. I have not yet bought a copy of the latter, which maybe I shall do in the coming weeks (along with an upgrade to the new iLife).

As a side note, as of today, I am now the proud owner of a small chunk of Apple. A crumb, really. Or a fraction of a crumb. I managed to buy 10 shares of Apple stock right before the keynote began. I've been thinking I should buy some shares for several years — and had I bought 10 shares a few years ago, I would have made a nice chunk of change. Where the stock will go from here, I don't know, but I made $30 today as the stock went up during the keynote. Maybe I'll buy 10 more shares a few weeks before WWDC '06.

The Restart Page

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 6:27 AM


The Problem with Trade Shows

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 4:02 AM

Scott Stein writes for CNet:

Apple, the 800-pound gorilla of the industry, never has an official presence at shows like CTIA (mobile), CES (consumer electronics), and Computex (PCs). But if you read between the lines of the press conferences and press releases, every company at those shows is implicitly talking about — and reacting to — the latest Apple gadgets, new or anticipated.

And now, as we approach the annual E3 trade show, the focus naturally turns to Apple's role in the video game industry.


The Premier of...

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 12:47 AM

Actually, I don't need this system anymore than I need the Shuttle system I got for free (or actually half price, since I had to buy components for it), but I ended up ordering it anyway in late October. It finally arrived last Wednesday. It's a 2 Hz Dual Processor PowerMac G5. It took almost a month since I custom ordered it with a Radeon 9800 and Bluetooth capability. It's very fast and very nice. I've been too busy to try it as much as I would have liked, but I did take some time over the holiday to set it up.

The thing that really is great about this particular G5 is that it came from TerraSoft, the Apple Authorized Proprietary Solutions Provider that specialized in GNU/Linux. Thus it came with not only Mac OS X Panther, it also came with a preliminary preview release of Teresita's Yellow Dog Linux for the G5. Yellow Dog looks nice, although (as you'd expect with a beta) I'm still fighting with it to give me a proper resolution in X11. Once I get some time to devote to it, I'm sure I'll get it working. Next week, perhaps. It's exciting since, as Linus Torvalds notes, the G5 offers an affordable platform for 64-bit GNU/Linux.

At any rate, TerraSoft deserves a large heap of praise. They got it on Friday, November 14 fresh from Apple. They then delayed shipment (with my permission) because they knew a substantially better version of YD would be out very soon. On Monday, the 24th, they thought they almost had it and they informed me they were upgrading my shipping from 3-day UPS to 2-day UPS for free so that it'd arrive before Thanksgiving. A bug in the new code delayed the system and so it wasn't able to ship until Tuesday. However, TerraSoft still managed to get it to me by Wednesday by eating the cost for next day air (roughly $70 extra dollars over 3-day shipping). In their rush to get it to me, they accidentally forgot to repack the System Restore disc, so this week they sent it to me ASAP using Next Day Air once again. Impressive!

Now I just need to find time to give it a good test. :-)

The Path to GNU/Linux

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 10:27 PM

It was a dark and stormy night…

Seriously, it was mostly curiosity, as well as my desire at the time (in late 1997 and early 1998) for a good Perl development environment, since WinPerl left something to be desired. I do not believe ActivePerl was available at the time; if it had been, I may not have ventured into the exciting territory of the penguins.

I can say this: I did not try GNU/Linux for the free (as in freedom) part of it nor the free (as in gratis) part of it. As several in my family work at the "Evil Empire" itself, they'd often send me the latest Microsoft products (Microsoft employees pay next to nothing for full, legally licensed software from the Microsoft store) — so I didn't worry much about the price of software like Microsoft Office.

At any rate, I had read in early-1998 in Byte Magazine about GNU/Linux becoming friendlier with the new "GNU Network Object Model Environment" (that'd be GNOME), and I thought that sounded really interesting. GNOME stayed in the back of my mind, but for a number of months I didn't look into it anymore.

It was about this time I noticed that Best Buy had several different distributions — SuSE, Red Hat and Caldera. I knew my previous web host had used Red Hat (at the time I was using a FreeBSD powered web host; these days I'm back to an RH-powered hosting provider) and I'd heard good things about it, so I decided to give it a try.

Red Hat still had a deal with MacMillan Software at the time, and BestBuy carried this special version rather than the "official" boxed set. For some reason (I can't remember what), I decided to do a big search for an "official" pack (I was told this was the best way to get started), and found an Official Red Hat Linux 5.1 boxed set for $40 at a small computer shop. I didn't know anything about LILO, etc., so I also went and bought System Commander Deluxe for handling switching between Windows and GNU/Linux.

At any rate, after three attempts I finally got Red Hat installed onto my 500 meg hard disk and tried to figure out what to do with it. My modem wasn't configured, my printer wouldn't print and the pre-installed FVWM95 desktop wasn't anything like the "friendly" system I had read about.

So I rebooted into Windows, wondering if I'd just tossed a hundred bucks out the window (heh), and started reading. I got some tips on modems, although it took me awhile to get that going, but I also located some GNOME rpm's on the second CD of the Red Hat distribution. Red Hat didn't install GNOME at the time because it was at something like version 0.16 (alpha quality).

I fought with GNOME for hours, but couldn't get the silly thing to install. Worse, and here is where I should have "read the fine manual," I couldn't figure out why "del" wouldn't delete files and why "move" wouldn't move them (I was pretty good at getting around MS-DOS, so I was comfortable at the GNU/Linux prompt, but…). All of this made me wonder exactly what I was even hoping to accomplish.

At about this time, two things happen that set me on a collision course with using GNU/Linux seriously. First, while looking for documentation, I ran across the Free Software Foundation and thought this "GPL" thingy sounded kinda neat. So I fired off an e-mail to ask about using the license on my own code. Just a short time later Richard M. Stallman wrote back, which got my attention, since I had read enough of the site to realize that he had founded it. I didn't appreciate just how important the Free Software Foundation was, nor all that Stallman had done, but it was still kind of neat.

The second key, ironically, since it was non-free at the time, was that I ran into the KDE Project. I had found a site with all kinds of window managers, and had tried some, but none of them worked that well. Then I stopped by KDE's site. They had just hit 1.0 a few days before and they had this really nice looking desktop. So, I downloaded some src.rpm's (since there weren't any pre-compiled rpm's for Red Hat 5.1), and then went into GNU/Linux and copied them onto my Linux partition from Windows' partition.

The next week or two, I almost went crazy. I had never compiled anything more complex than a Visual Basic application before, and so this whole "./configure; make; make install;" process mystified me somewhat. The real problem, however, was dependencies. Configure couldn't find qt-devel and so I went and searched for that. But then that wouldn't install due to some x11 "header" files missing. I said to myself, "Self, what is that?" Unfortunately, I couldn't answer myself, even after many hours.

Well, I finally gave up and asked, and once someone explained what I needed to get off my Red Hat CD, I finally started the long, arduous process of compiling KDE on a Pentium 100. Finally, it got done, and… it didn't work. It turned out I needed to set the PATH and LD_LIBRARY_PATH for /opt/kde.

Huh? What is that? I did finally get the information I needed to set that, but I did a lot of head scratching first. A new GNU/Linux user should not start out by trying to compile a project as big and complex as KDE.

Finally, the KDE wallpaper appeared, then the desktop icons, and then the kpanel (the thing that kicker replaced in KDE 2.0). It was something to behold. Perhaps not so much because of how wonderful KDE 1.0 was, but after hours and hours of fighting with it, it felt like I'd accomplished something pretty good.

However, I quickly ended up leaving the GNU/Linux community. It was about this time that I bought a new system — a Dell Dimension XPS 450. At the time the Pentium II 450 had just come out and so I was pretty nervous about fooling with the system too much. The Dell techs really didn't know much about Linux but noted that repartitioning my hard disk for it would erase the restore partition. So I just gave up on Linux; I didn't want to mess up my restore partition, and it still wasn't working that well for me.

Then, in November of 1998, Windows 98 died. You know how Windows is, it was just hopelessly messed up. So I fired up the restore utility, only to find the restore partition missing. Sigh. That was bad news, but after I thought about it for a bit, it was also good news — I finally felt free to repartition and get GNU/Linux back on.

Over the next few years I'd go into GNU/Linux and play around, but I still wasn't happy with it. Netscape 4.7 was horrible, KMail wasn't very good compared to Outlook at the time (not considering worm vulnerability, of course), etc. I tried SuSE Linux 6.1 in May of 1999, and liked it, but it was still buggy and it was really hard to get X11 working. I did help beta test KDE 2.0 over the summer of 2000, but things still weren't quite right. Over the early spring of 1999, I also spent endless hours fighting with xfstt to get TrueType fonts to work (finally did, then lost how I did it and had to relearn it two or three months later).

I bought SuSE 6.4 and it had a nice new GUI installer, but KDE 1.2.1 still didn't meet my needs and I still didn't get this whole "freedom" concept. So I got it all working but barely ever used it.

Finally, in early 2001, I bought SuSE 7.1 Professional. It was great. KDE 2.0.1 was still kinda clunky, but KDE 2.1 had just come out and it was, in my opinion, the release that made the GNU/Linux desktop a serious reality. It was stunning. Konqueror's web browser worked well. KMail was multithreaded. Everything worked beautifully. I knew I should switch and get away from the bug-infested Windows operating system. But, inertia is a powerful force, and everything was still working alright in my new Windows 2000 install, so I just stuck to the status quo.

Then it hit. Outlook died for the second time in three months at about 9:00 p.m. one Tuesday after Bible Study Fellowship and I knew a complete reinstall of Windows was the only way I was going to get it fixed easily. I was tired. I was cranky. I just wanted to check my e-mail.

So I did the most logical thing: I exported my Outlook mail to Outlook Express, rebooted the computer into GNU/Linux and imported everything into KMail. That was that, I had made the first major step toward actually jumping over to the GNU/Linux desktop.

Since then, I've learned to stop calling GNU/Linux just "Linux." I also learned to say Linux correctly and not just the Americanized way — it's properly pronounced Lynn-ucks not Lie-nicks (the confusion enters in that the American pronunciation of Linus is different than the Scandinavian pronunciation that Linus Torvalds uses). But, that's another story.

As I used GNU/Linux more, I learned about the advantages of Freedom in software, the power of *nix, and just how bad Microsoft Windows really was (just three years before I was in line at midnight at CompUSA when Windows 98 came out).

Later in November of 2001 I got tired of SuSE's non-free installer/configurator and some bugginess in it and made the jump to Mandrake Linux 8.1. After a brief jump to Debian 3.0 "Woody" in February 2002, I went back to Mandrake Linux for 8.2, then 9.0, 9.1, and I'm getting ready to switch to 9.2 (which is great, but I haven't had time to move my main stuff to it yet). After using Debian, I was able to appreciate not only apt-get but also the power of Mandrake's apt-get clone, urpmi, and now I can't imagine how anyone lives without powerful dependency resolution and software upgrade tools like these.

It was on October 5, 2001 that I launched Open for Business (, and since then I've had the opportunity to try pretty much every major distribution.

In all, I've used:

Red Hat 5.1*, 8.0, 9.0
SuSE 6.1*, 6.4*, 7.1*, 8.0, 8.1, 8.2
Caldera Linux Technology Preview (2001)
Lycoris Desktop/LX Amethyst
LindowsOS 3.0
Debian GNU/Linux "Woody" (pre* and post release)
KNOPPIX 3.0 (and KNOPPIX KDE 3.1 Edition)
Libranet GNU/Linux 2.8
Xandros Linux 1.0
Mandrake Linux 8.1 (DL)*, 8.2 Betas, 8.2 (DL* and PowerPack), 9.0 Betas, 9.0 (DL)*, 9.1 Betas, 9.1 (DL* and ProSuite), 9.2 Betas, 9.2(Discovery Edition).

Desktop wise, I've used:
KDE 1.0*, 1.1*, 1.2.1*, 1.9x*, 2.0*, 2.0.1*, 2.1.x*, 2.2.x*, 3.0*, 3.1.x*.
GNOME 0.16, 0.90, 1.0, 1.2, 1.4, 2.0, 2.2
And numerous others, though not as seriously

[A * denotes a distribution or desktop I used as my default in GNU/Linux for a period of time.]

It's amazing how far GNU/Linux, and the Free/Open Source Software movements have come. Richard Stallman's (RMS) lobbying abilities now make organizations the size of Apple sit up and listen (Apple's non-Free ASPL license, which was suppose to be "Open Source," now truly qualifies as "Free Software" thanks to RMS).

And the system itself is so much easier to use these days. Mandrake Linux 9.2 Discovery Edition (see my review) is so easy. In my opinion it is easier to get a system up and running with the latest GNU/Linux distributions than it is with Windows 9x or XP. It just works. That's a far cry from the days when a GNU/Linux installer was a text-based monster that dumped you at a BASH shell with a (usually) broken X11 configuration and non-working hardware.

After my switch, my computing was no longer a dark and stormy night. Things just worked and the joy reentered using computers. If you haven't already switched to the power of UNIX-like computing, why not give it a try?

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