Archive for the ‘Software’ Category

Xubuntu 8.04 on IBM ThinkPad T-21

April 28, 2008 3 comments

You wouldn’t think an eight-year-old laptop would be good for much.  Its PIII processor and paltry 512mb of RAM, plus its puny 30 gig hard drive just don’t add up to a lot of firepower.  This wasn’t a problem until a month ago when a couple new Microsoft patches came out that just bogged it down.  Even a fresh build didn’t help.

But the IBM ThinkPad T-21 is just too good to throw out.  It was a maximally-engineered model with a carbon-fibre frame, a crisp, easy-typing keyboard, and a great screen topped with a titanium lid.  And it was cheap: it sold for three grand when it was new, but I bought for my son a couple years ago for one-tenth that much.

I tried Ubuntu on it but running Ubuntu is a young laptop’s game.  Ubuntu is intended to compete with Windows Vista and it’s really needs a P4 with a gig of ram to run well.  (Vista needs much more)  An older machine like this one needs a lighter, more stripped-down OS.  Then Webs05 sent me this email:

Xubuntu 8.04 is [great]!  There is no other way to put it! So far I am having super amazing results. And I am currently installing it on Katie’s laptop, which means they fixed A LOT of previous issues. Katie’s laptop is the old X23… Anyways, try it out. I am going to be writing a post soon.

Well that’s interesting because the ThinkPad X-23 is a smaller but otherwise very similar machine as far as the operating system is concerned.  And I did try it out, splitting the HD into two primary partitions and putting the /home in the second partition, with / and /swap in the first partition.  It works great, it’s reasonably fast, it suspends well, and the wireless works fine.  It even set up the Broadcom 54g wireless card with no problem. 

Xubuntu is Ubuntu without all the gingerbread; it doesn’t waste CPU cycles trying to be pretty.  And it works: this old laptop has a new lease on life.  I’m putting a new battery in it and giving it back to my son.

One little thing though: do you suppose the Ubuntu people could quite naming their releases things like “Feisty Fawn” and “Gutsy Gibbon”?  It just sounds kind of Disney, like a character on one of their “video-only” kids’ movie releases.  Couldn’t they call it something cool like “Great White” or “Leopard”?  Oh wait, that one’s taken…

Categories: Geeky, Software

Facebook wants to be the next Microsoft

March 28, 2008 1 comment

…at least in the respect of “Non standards-compliant, increasingly bloated, complex, and irrelevant”.  Not surprising since Microsoft owns a small chunk of Facebook.  Could 1.6% ownership be enough influence to steer them away from the emerging OpenSocial standard?

“Facebook is a supporter of open source and sees value in any contributions the foundation may make to the industry. Facebook is not joining this foundation, but the company remains focused on advancing Facebook Platform to benefit the developer community and help users communicate and share information more efficiently… Facebook will continue to work with other trusted partners to explore new initiatives around data portability,” Facebook’s spokesperson said.

Bblbbitt!  Yeah, a “new initiative” about every 11 months, with no connection to the previous ones.  In other words, “When we say; ‘data portability’ we mean ‘frustrating divisions between our product and enormous chunks of the market as a whole’”.  Seriously.  If you work with Microsoft software you know that it isn’t even compatible with itself over more than two iterations. I can open a Word 6.0 file on my Linux machine more easily than I can on my Windows box.

Categories: Geeky, Software

OK, Dreamweaver is officially pissing me off

March 19, 2008 3 comments

I’m trying to insert some level-specific style information into the header of a .dwt, right?  And Dreamweaver is not letting me.  I have spent the last two and a half hours wrestling with this finely engineered piece of bloated crap software, reading online documentation and trying everything under the sun in the hopes that it will let me put 54 damn characters into a frakkin’ template. 

I would prefer to complete this simple task in about one minute in a code editor like BlueFish or Notepad++.  But DW is our standard, and I need to be fluent with it.  I am tired of being a dope with an important piece of software that everyone here uses. Besides if I get hit by a truck, it’s important the work I leave behind meet institutional standards. 

Anyone know any secret incantations to make Dreamweaver CS3 listen to simple instructions?


  • The normal procedure is to open the Assets panel, select the template in question, and click on the “edit” button at the bottom.  But this did not work with the template that prompted this post.  It appears the template has to be created from the higher-level template using the “Nested Templates” function to make a template you can actually, uh, edit. This aspect was less than crystal clear from the documentation to say the least.

  • And my biggest problem with these omnibus Swiss-Army-Knife programs is they make for sloppy, disorganized code and even worse file management.  It’ll make sure something ends up on the web but it can’t think about taxonomy, etc.

Categories: Geeky, Software


November 20, 2007 8 comments

On Sunday I set up an Ubuntu system for my son to use while he visits over holiday (it will be a step down for him but better than no computer).  But for all its well-intentioned interface smoovieness, Ubuntu is a bit bloated.  If you want quick and clean, (above all quick)  there are distros that have all the extra baggage pre-removed. Geekalicious goodies from InformationWeek Daily:

  1. Five tiny Linux distros that pack a punch

  2. 7 Reasons why Linux won’t succeed on the Desktop.  I had read this one before and it makes some great points.
  3. Why Linux will succeed on the desktop.  This one unintentionally illustrates a couple points from number 2, but opens a new thought: KDE4.  Though it is still in beta, I am definitely going to have to look into that some more.  But it won’t be for machines that would use the tiny distros.  The developers clearly have the Mac in mind.  Anyway the author believes Gnome needs to go away for Linux to succeed.

Unfortunately one great opportunity for Linux is the utter failure of Vista.  I would rather not see Linux succeed the lazy way, by default.

Categories: Geeky, Software

But at least the interface is pretty

November 12, 2007 12 comments

I get email, lots of it.  Chopping through the uncontrolled undergrowth in my inbox, Outlook informs me that I have 224 unread messages.  They’re probably mostly spam but I’d like to flip through them anyway.  So I set up a “Read” column icon in the message sorting pane and clicked on it.

Yeah, that makes perfect sense.  Hey Micro$oft, do you think you could pull a couple young geniuses off the program to innovationalize transparent animated title bar interfaces, and get them to fix basic functionality? 

Categories: Geeky, Software

Windows Vista is so bad that Dell, Fujitsu, HP, and Lenovo customers want XP back

September 25, 2007 6 comments

As if Excel’s inability to do basic arithmetic weren’t bad enough, Microsoft Vista is so awful that users and manufacturers have pressured the company to allow them to go back to using Windows XP.  (From Corpus Callosum)

Let me get this straight: Microsoft spent $6bn to develop Vista, and a year after it hit the market, major manufactuers are asking for the old Windows™ back?  OUCH!  Who’s in charge of product design at Microsoft, Michael “Heckuva Job” Brown?

Seriously, someone with an eight-figure salary ought to be fired over this.  Maybe the next version of Windows will run on SUSE the way Apple’s OS runs on a *nix base. 

Categories: Geeky, Software

Microsoft Excel’s New Math

September 25, 2007 2 comments

We tend to trust numbers that spit out of spreadsheets, right?  I mean, computers are objective and trustworthy!

Not so much.  Excel 2007 has a major bug.  If you multiply 850 times 77.1, the answer comes out to be 100,000.

Maybe it’s time to update Pierre Gallois’ famous quote:

“If you put tomfoolery into a computer, nothing comes out of it but tomfoolery. But this tomfoolery, having passed through a very expensive machine, is somehow ennobled and no one dares criticize it.”
- Pierre Gallois

How about …“And even if you put good numbers into Excel, tomfoolery may still come out.”

Even my old slide rule, with its 3-sig limited accuracy, delivers 65,5xx… a much smaller error, and easy enough to resolve to the full number with a couple more steps.


  • In the comments Ed posted a very good link below to Joel On Software Explaining the Excel Bug – especially interesting because Joel worked on early versions of Excel.

  • and Mark at Good Math, Bad Math, discusses The Excel 65,535=100,000 Bug and floating-point operations as related to display and printing.
Categories: Geeky, Software

Ahh… I finally dumped Linux and got back to Windows!

September 22, 2007 8 comments

Over the last several months, I’ve been using a couple different flavors of Linux on my IBM/Lenovo X40 laptop, with the idea of writing a review of desktop Linux the way I did for the Apple laptop that I borrowed.  Of course, since I didn’t have to give Linux back in a month, I used it for a greater length of time.

As with the Apple, I didn’t try to become a super-geek in the OS being tested.  The parameters of the test were a knowledgeable Windows user stranded with the unfamiliar OS, sink or swim.

Linux worked pretty well, though there were a couple extremely annoying glitches.  In the final analysis I just preferred Windows XP more, and Windows is the native home for two of my six favorite applications. (Yes, I know it is possible to tuck then into Wine but then I’m not really testing the Linux apps, am I?)

This is only a review-preview.  I just started working on the actual review, which will be ready when it’s ready.  In the meantime, here Information Week’s very pessimistic assessment of Linux’ chances at desktop dominance.

Categories: Geeky, Software

Microsoft Expression Web Editor: first contact

September 13, 2007 1 comment

I’ve begun working with Microsoft Expression Web editor, and I must say, it’s a pretty decent standards-based ripoff of Dreamweaver.  But the code view has a blinking validation notifier that actually interferes with cursor placement – obnoxious! 

Will Microsoft ever create a good product without at least one feature that turns using it into a grinding endurance test? Stay tuned…

Categories: Geeky, Software

“Web Developer” Firefox plugin

July 6, 2007 2 comments

For sheer “amplitude of dude! you should totally check this out!” utility (and assuming you are involved in creating web pages at any level) here is the most totally awesome Firefox plugin for those in the HTML/page design crowd:

Web Developer

Sorry about the excess of superlatives.  It’s a free, incredibly useful suite of web/graphics/css analysis tools that fits right into Firefox.  And Webs05 knew about it since February and didn’t tell me. Of course, being younger and hipper, he’s always out ahead on this stuff…

Categories: Geeky, Software