Skip to main content


Showing posts from 2007

Biggest #1 Tech Disappointment of 2007 - Vista

No Wow, No How.
It's just that Vista isn't all that good. Many of the innovations the operating system was supposed to bring--like more efficient file and communications systems--got tossed overboard as Microsoft struggled to get the OS out the door, some three years after it was first promised. Despite its hefty hardware requirements, Vista is slower than XP.

When it debuted last January, incompatibilities were rampant--in part because hardware and software makers didn't feel any urgency to revamp their products to work with the new OS. The user account controls that were supposed to make users feel safer just made them feel irritated. And at $399 ($299 upgrade) for Windows Ultimate, we couldn't help feeling more than a little gouged.

No wonder so many users are clinging to XP like shipwrecked sailors to a life raft, while others who made the upgrade are switching back. And when the fastest Vista notebook PC World has ever tested is an Apple MacBook Pro, there's some…

Utah, Scam Capital of America

"Their religious belief is that they'll bleed the beast, meaning the government," said Mark Shurtleff, Utah's attorney general. "They hate the government, so they'll bleed it for everything they can through welfare, tax evasion and fraud.

Anderson Cooper 360 Blog, CNN
Utah's Reputation as America's "Scam Capital" Grows

The Utah state legislature has passed a "safe harbor" amendment to its anti-pyramid scheme statute that legalizes the types of schemes that have been prosecuted by the FTC and other states over the last 30 years. Utah has the highest concentration of multi-level marketing scheme headquarters per capita of any state in America.
Utah Company's 'Mortgage Scam'

The Salt Lake City headquarters of the big mortgage company, Fairbanks Capital, seems almost under siege, with accusations the company has been cheating some of America's most vulnerable homeowners...

Fairbanks charged Jill Potts hundreds of dollars for…

Alpha spotting: Mandriva Spring 2008 Alpha 1

Mandriva Alpha 1 was released today. So I downloaded the ISO onto europa and booted 'er up. Mandriva Spring 2008 fired up without any issues on this hardware. Overall it's quite usable and stable for an alpha.

What's more, I'm encouraged by the evolutionary polish that this release exhibits. Consider, as one example, how text is rendered.

Call me silly, but I really do pay attention to how text is rendered by all the applications that run on top of Linux, especially Firefox. I find I'm spending quite a bit of time reading on-line, and with my bad (and aging) eyesight I find that crisp, clear readable text is of great importance. Firefox ( running on this release of Mandriva provides the best readability experience by far of any Linux distribution I've touched to date. Every difficult web site I know about that fails to render well under older distributions renders perfectly with this combination. Consider, for example, the Eweek site. You see how it rend…

Today's Firefox 3 pre Beta 2 is a keeper

Well, on a whim I decided to download today's Firefox Beta 3 latest trunk ( and give it a whirl. And guess what? That annoying little problem with adding links to text under Blogger is now fixed. A lot of other items work well enough for me to use this version of Firefox 3 beta for the foreseeable future. One of the nicer touches is that Firefox 3 uses the same scheme (Nodoka) that the rest of the Ubuntu desktop uses. Look below at the tabs.

Now I just need to pay attention to the memory usage. Although to be honest memory usage has never been a big deal for me with Firefox 2.

To the Firefox 3 developers, thanks! This is (as usual) great stuff!

A look at KDE 4 RC1

I pulled down the latest KDE 4 RC1 ISO (0.7.1), burned a copy, and went around the house trying to boot it. Turns out it won't boot on old europa, but it did boot on algol (the Gateway M685).

The KDE 4 RC1 CDROM contains the latest version of Open Suse 10.3 with current updates. I was surprised that it would only boot on the notebook and not the older desktop. That's a complete reversal from past behaviours. What's more, KDE 4 RC1 booted with complete screen resolution and full multimedia. What didn't work was graphic acceleration. What also didn't work was wireless networking.

I'm not sure what to make of KDE4 at this point. I know a lot of work has gone into the internals, so it's very hard to be overly critical. But if this is a release candidate then the visual aspects are still quite rough. I also had this release's desktop lock up once, which has never occurred with any prior live CD I've booted. I'm real curious to see how this continues to…

Postcard from the edge

This past Thanksgiving has been ... unique. I've spent a lot less time doing what I planned because of its uniqueness. Regardless, I managed to tinker a bit with some of the latest offerings.

NetBeans 6 RC2

RC2 was released right before Thanksgiving. I've got it installed on Windows XP 2 (algol) and Ubuntu 7.10 (europa, shown below). On algol, with its 2GHz Core Duo processor, RC2 runs smooth as silk. It should considering the processing horsepower. On europa, with its single-core 2GHz Athlon XP, it runs a little rougher, especially at startup. To make the NetBeaners feel a little better, Eclipse has the same problem on europa (see below). It takes about 20 seconds after the main window has appeared for responsiveness to be useful. And this only occurs the first time you start it up. Of course, for many people such as myself, you start it and leave it running for long periods lasting days at a time.

Regardless of the initial startup lethargy, RC2 shows considerable polish…

Firefox 3 Beta 1 now much better behaved

When I first tried FF3B1 I'd posted that it's memory consumption went through the roof. After less than 24 hours and an apparent fix on the server side, and using the exact same binary, I can now start up and use FF3B1 without the same issue that caused it to crash yesterday.

My experiences so far while limited have proven to be pretty positive. I've had it up and running over the night (well, since past midnight local Orlando time), and it didn't crash or run up memory. I can't accurately determine if memory usage is less, since right before I stopped it and re-started it it had a memory footprint of 140 MB. Right now, with 11 tabs open, it's at a little over 90MB. I do know that every time I visit Google Mail that the first time that page is opened it immediately jumps a good 20 MB.

Page rendering is the most notable feature of FF3B1. Pages just seem to snap into existence, and the simpler, the snappier. I don't see pages half-render while the busy icon sw…

ATI releases new video drivers, and I install them

Unable to leave well enough alone, I found out that ATI released new versions of its drivers today for all platforms including Linux. The latest version for Linux is, or 8.433. I followed the standard --buildpkg procedure and then installed the deb files.

The performance appears to be a tad better (a tad being about 5% faster, with smoother operation overall). I can enable more Compiz Fusion eye candy, but I can't run OpenGL applications or movies if Compiz Fusion (Appearance Preferences | Visual Effects) are enabled. I have noticed that playing movies, without Compiz enabled and using VLC as the player has cut CPU loading nearly in half compared to using 8.42.3. And with Visual Effects enabled, the desktop is really beginning to look nice.

Now, if it would just all start magically working together without one feature trampling on another. I still have the hard choice between desktop effects (Compiz) or OpenGL and smooth video playback, but n…

Firefox 3 Beta 1 takes me on one wild ride

Always a patsy for the New and Shiny, today I decided to believe what I read aboutFirefox 3in the press. I downloaded the tarball, unpacked it, and ran Firefox 3 Beta 1 on my Ubuntu 7.10 system. Loads of fun!

One of Firefox 3's touted 'features' is its supposed cutback of memory usage. I use Firefox on every OS I touch, and over the course of many days it can consume quite a bit of memory, especially if you have loads of tabs open like I do. Well, after shutting down Firefox 2 and starting Firefox 3, I noticed that its memory footprint was around 60 MB, and this was after loading with all my open tabs. Then, in a blink of an eye, Firefox 3 Beta started consuming memory like a Santa Ana fanned wildfire consumes a California forest. As you'll note above Gnome's System Monitor is clocking the increase of physical and virtual memory at a rapid clip, with physical memory being pegged pretty quickly. It wound up consuming over 900MB of physical memory.

I'd also like to…

Disabling Blogger backlinks to disable blog spam

I had to go into Blogger settings (Settings | Comments) and disable (Hide) back links. I got up this morning and went to check certain articles in my blog, and as I scrolled down to the bottom I noticed odd back links to stories that had no contextual link to the posts. Turned out that all of them pointed to a 'blog' somewhere in China that looked to be built from ripped-off content from other blogs. I started to remove them, one by one, until I hit one of my posts that had over a dozen of them. That's when I went into Settings and just disabled the feature. It's a real shame, too, because there are actually some good back links worth preserving. But the overwhelming majority seemed to be spam links to other bogus sites, so I just disabled the entire feature.

And as usual, Google shows I'm not the only one: Another Layer of Blog Spam: Backlinks. There are others, you can find them all yourself. But this guys comment at the end of his post gets to the point: retain t…

Europa boots Mandriva 2008.0

Well, I took the Mandriva "challenge", downloaded the "One" Easy Linux CD ISO, burned it, and booted into the latest release of Mandriva 2008.0. It came up cleaner and faster than just about any other version I've every tried to date.

During boot Mandriva allowed me to select between Compiz and Metisse. Not knowing what Metisse is I selected Compiz. Within a very short time Mandriva booted into its graphical desktop with Compiz up and running. It turns out that this version of Mandriva automatically choose to use the ATI driver that came bundled with it (8.40.4). This is the first major distribution I have booted that provided this feature. The screen shot below shows off the signature Compiz Fusion 3D cube supported by the ATI driver.

Quick and Dirty Itty Bitty Review

I've avoided Mandriva in the past because it simply would not boot on europa. That problem appears to be long gone. There are, however, other issues.
Mandriva uses KDE, and I still like KDE quite…

Comments on the latest Distrowatch

I try to hit the Distrowatch site on a fairly regular basis, usually once every week. That's so I can read the Distrowatch Weekly. This week's issue carries another review of Fedora 8. While the review is interesting in and of itself, it carries within it other little nuggets about several other distributions the author has tried along the way.

The author was running Sabayon 3.4 before switching over to Fedora 8. I tried Sabayon on my machines, so it was interesting to read about his experiences. He offered this interesting observation:
It [Fedora 8] is considerably less buggy than Sabayon Linux 3.4...Ouch. Another key observation pro Sabayon is the time the author spent configuring his desktop. He noted that while he had to go and hunt down media codecs for Fedora 8, Sabayon "comes pre-configured with all the media goodies and browser plugins a desktop Linux user could possibly need."

I've read similar observations with regards to Sabayon; buggy in many ways, but t…

CORRECTION: NetBeans 6RC1 has serious performance issues on Ubuntu 7.10

In the earlier post I reported that NetBeans 6RC1 had serious performance problems. After installing the latest ATI graphics driver and disabling XGL, NetBeans' performance was enhanced to levels seen in the past with older releases and is now quite acceptable. My only comment (and concern) is how XGL could have had such an adverse impact on NetBeans' performance.

Again, as I mentioned in the earlier post, Eclipse did not have this performance problem. I hope it isn't due to the fact that NetBeans depends on JFC while Eclipse uses its own widget toolkit, SWT. I did run some of the simpler JFC examples from the JDK (SwingSet2 and Java2D) and found no performance issues running them. I wonder what special features NetBeans is now using from Java that might cause this?

A simple suggestion for enhancing Gnome

During the process of configuring a modern graphical desktop any number of tools are required to configure its operation and aesthetics to suit the tastes of the user. The Gnome desktop is no different. The Gnome developers, having built an excellent desktop, have produced a number of tools that support the configuration of the Gnome desktop. Four of them are shown below.

My recommendation for future versions of Gnome is to combine three of them (Screensaver Preferences, Screen Resolution Preferences, and Screen and Graphics Preferences) into the forth, Appearance Preferences. One of the tools, Screen and Graphics Preferences, also needs to be configured so that it doesn't require root permissions to operate (after all why should it?).

The idea is to bring all the tools that allow for desktop configuration into one convenient location.

The problems with ATI graphics and Ubuntu 7.10

I've had a Sapphire ATI X1950 Pro video card for over 30 days now, and it's crossed my mind more than once to send it back to Newegg and get an nVidia replacement. The greatest annoyance with ATI are the drivers, and considering that this graphics chip (R570) and the card itself have been on the market for over a year, there is essentially no excuse for the continuing problems trying to get the card to do its best either under Windows XP or Linux. That's not to say the card is particularly bad. When it works it works beautifully. But getting it to work is a royal PITA. Trying to get it to work under Linux, either openSUSE 10.3 or Ubuntu 7.10, only adds insult to injury.

I finally got the latest Linux ATI driver (8.42.3) installed, built and running by following (for the most part) specific Gutsy instructions on the Unofficial ATI Linux Driver Wiki. I'd like to make one thing perfectly clear. Do not, I repeat, do not install the default ATI drivers via the restricted rep…

Making K3b rip DVDs on Ubuntu 7.10

I've complainedrepeatedly that K3b supplied via Ubuntu 7.10's repositories can't rip DVDs on Ubuntu 7.10. It worked for me on 7.04 as well as on every version of openSUSE I cared to try it on. I tried everything I could think of to get it to work short of installing Kubuntu, which I will never do. I have an abiding dislike of Kubuntu, stoked in part by its silly insistence that Konqueror is the default web browser, not Firefox.

After repeated attempts to find a solution on forums and via Google, I solved my problem the old fashioned way; I downloaded the source to K3b 1.0.4 and built it myself. And you know what? I can rip DVDs now with K3b on Ubuntu 7.10.

The key to getting K3b to compile is to install, via Synaptic, the packages for Qt3 development (qt3-apps-dev, libqt3-headers, libqt3-mt and libqt3-mt-dev) and KDE development (kde-devel). These provide all the tools, headers, and libraries necessary to build KDE/Qt3 applications.

Other development versions of libraries are…

NetBeans 6RC1 has serious performance issues on Ubuntu 7.10

I've been running Ubuntu 7.10 on europa, with basic 3D hardware acceleration via the native ATI drivers and some of the eye candy turned on. I have been pleased with just about everything except where noted.

I decided to install the latest NetBeans 6 release, RC1. I downloaded it and installed it, and then fired 'er up. The first thing I noticed was the performance. It is, in a word, abysmal. It starts up slow and it runs slow. And I do mean slow. Up to this point developer releases of NetBeans 6 have not had such drastic performance slowdowns. And this performance slowdown is only observable on Ubuntu 7.10. NetBeans 6RC1 runs just fine on Windows XP SP2.

The problem presented an interesting opportunity to compare NetBeans 6 RC1 with the version available on Ubuntu via Synaptic, NetBeans 5.5.1. Using Synaptic I found and installed that (current) version of NetBeans and started it up. The screen shot shows both running on the desktop. Version 6 RC1 is on top and version 5.5.1 is …

A bad day with Linux is better than a good day with Windows

Back in late October I ranted about the state of Linux and how it didn't operate to my satisfaction on europa, especially with the new ATI graphics card. Pulling away for a while gave me an opportunity to stand back and gain a better perspective of my problems. During that period I re-installed openSUSE 10.3 until I'd had a chance to evaluate a number of issues. Then I made the decision tonight to re-install Ubuntu 7.10.

The biggest change I made in my installation proceedure was to rename my crufty old home directory from /home/wbeebe to /home/wbeebe.old during live CD operation before I installed Ubuntu. After installation I got a brand new home directory without all the cruft from (literally) years of operation under various releases of Suse. With a new home directory I noticed that a number of problems I'd been complaining about magically cleared up. I then carefully moved certain folders from my older home directory to my new one.

Right now I have the restricted ATI dri…

Sabayon 3.4f boots, still has problems

Well, I did what I said I'd do, and downloaded Sabayon 3.4f and booted it on the Gateway M680. Just as before with 3.4e I booted Sabayon into a Compiz-enabled graphic desktop. This time the keyboard worked, but other problems led to a less than ideal user experience.

Gateway M680

The Compiz 3D effects interfere with the KDE Kickoff menu.The Compiz 3D effects interfere with (some) USB devices.Solutions
Boot Sabayon without Compiz enabled. When the system boots into the first selection menu simply choose to boot without Compiz enabled. If you must boot with the eye candy, then when you get to the desktop right-click immediately on the menu button on the lower panel and select the older KDE menu. It works with the older menu. However, switching from the KDE Kickoff menu to the older KDE menu creates a new problem. Look at the screen shot above. Note how the applets in the upper panel (upper right) are little tiny windows immediately beneath the positions they had on the upper pa…

Booting Sabayon 3.4e on the Gateways

Since I'm in the mood to boot live CDs on notebooks, I decided to continue this little experiment by booting Sabayon 3.4e on both notebooks. While Sabayon booted to a graphical desktop on both machines, the experience was a little better on the M685 than on the M680. I didn't download this, I got it as an insert tucked inside the November issue of Linux Pro Magazine, which I picked up at a local Barnes and Noble bookstore tonight.


One of the nicest features of this distribution is its opening boot. Rather than watching some fancy artwork you're presented with a first-boot screen that identifies the graphic subsystem and allows you to select graphic acceleration or not. Sabayon correctly detected and identified both notebook's graphics chip sets. In both cases I choose graphic acceleration and when it finished booting into the desktop graphic acceleration was indeed enabled. By the way, not only do you get a very solid indication of successful graphical configurat…

Europa and Fedora 8

After the last post where I pointed out Fedora 8's inability to boot into a graphics desktop on my two notebooks, I took the CD back and booted F8 on europa. As you can see below it boots and runs just fine.

In fact, F8 booted up with a screen resolution of 1920 by 1440, which was too small for me to read. So I shrank the resolution to my normal 1600 by 1200. An attempt to enable Compiz failed, and being unfamiliar with Fedora these days, I didn't bother to find a way to dig a little deeper as to why.

Notable is the distribution treated the Sapphire ATI X1950 Pro as a 'generic' device, but with enough information to provide the highest resolution with 24-bit color.

In spite of its success at booting on europa I have no desire to replace openSUSE 10.3 with it, in spite of the rough edges around openSUSE 10.3. If I replace SUSE, it'll be with version 10.2, or possibly with SLED 10 SP1. And since rhea is running just fine with Ubuntu 7.10, I'll leave well enough alon…

A tale of four distributions

With the final release of Fedora 8 last Thursday, I decided to perform a simple experiment with four distributions. I'd boot them on my two Gateway notebooks. I didn't want to try anything fancy or complicated. I just wanted to see if they'd boot up to their default graphical desktop. The four distributions I tried were Fedora 8, Ubuntu 7.10, openSUSE 10.3, and Indiana (Open Solaris) Developer Preview. All of the Linux distributions were final releases.

The following table compares the notebook models I used and their respective graphics subsystems.

Notebook Model
Grahics Subsystem
Purchase Date
Gateway M680AMD/ATI Mobility Radeon X700
June 2005
Gateway M685nVidia GeForce Go 7800June 2006
Note that these notebooks are between 1.5 and 2.5 years old. So these are not bleeding-edge machines, but they're quite capable none-the-less. Both machines currently dual-boot between Windows XP and openSUSE 10.2.

And to cut to the chase the following table shows the results of attempting to …

A poke at Indiana

Well, never let it be said I can't be easily entranced by the New and Shiny. Especially if it's free. Which is why I downloaded the Project IndianaDeveloper Preview ISO ("Indiana") and then preceded to boot it on several machines within reach. This is just my initial impression of an OpenSolaris derivative, and can in no way be construed as a review. If you need something deeper then you can mosey over to Phoronix and read what they have to say about Indiana. You have been warned.


Of course the first machine I attempted to boot Indiana was poor suffering europa. It gets poked and prodded and pulled apart at the drop of a hat. Booting Indiana on it was no exception. This version of OpenSolaris booted the fastest of any I've booted to date. That's actually a good thing. Other derivations have taken longer to too long to boot into a graphical desktop.

What worked:
Oddly enough, the screen resolution. Using the ATI X1950 Pro video card, Indiana put up a readab…

It isn't worth the trouble any more

I haven't posted in some time because of Life and Work. Life has intruded with regards to my wife's health, both girls at college, as well as other issues, and Work has intruded as it always does. This leaves little time to 'play'. With such pressures coming from so many directions I have little patience left to dole out.

This post is about Linux, and the problems I've been dogged with since making the decision to upgrade to the latest versions of Ubuntu (7.10) and openSUSE (10.3). You can find all sorts of glowing reviews of both distributions without too much trouble, but the problem with these reviews is that nobody seems to be really doing anything non-trivial with them before they write their reviews. I was trying to upgrade to the latest version of Linux to get the latest kernel, libraries, and developer tools. And I also did something that in hindsight I probably should not have done, at least under Linux.

I upgraded my ATI 9700 Pro (R300) video card to a more…

Ubuntu 7.10 RC: Still won't boot completely on algol (UPDATED)

Algol is my dual core (Core Duo) notebook with the nVidia GeForce Go 7800 adapter. I already have openSUSE 10.2 running on the notebook, and running at the full 1680 x 1050 resolution. But when Ubuntu 7.10 boots on this machine I get the black screen of death. I can still get to a text console and check that the OS is running, but there is no graphic desktop. This problem isn't limited to Ubuntu, Fedora 8 Beta 3 (7.92) has it as well. Older versions of these distributions boot just fine on algol, but something with the newer ones is causing a problem, and I'm pretty sure that something is the 3D graphics eye candy that everyone is so hell-bent to push.

I am, in a word, pissed.

Update Friday 10/12

Well, leave it to me to shoot my mouth off without checking all the possible boot capabilities. Booting in safe graphics mode (second selection on the initial boot menu) allowed RC1 to boot into a graphics desktop at 1280 x 1024. This was enough to post this update as well as check out o…

419ers still out there, still trying to defraud

In spite of the story where 77 "419" email scammers were arrested and 2.1 billion in fraudulent checks were recovered, I still continue to get such emails on a nearly daily basis. For example:
Dear Friend,

Good day to you. I write to seek your cooperation as my foreign partner and your assistance to enable us to own properties and invest in the stable economy of your country. I apologize if this mail does not suit your personal or business ethics.

My name is Dr. Terry Mambo, my colleagues and I am making this venture proposal to you in strict confidence. As senior civil servants in the South Africa Government, the South African civil service laws (Code of Conduct bureau) forbid us to own foreign accounts. The money we have in our possession is an overdue payment bill totaling Twenty Six Million, Four Hundred and Twenty Six Thousand US Dollars ($26,426,000.00) which we want to transfer abroad with the assistance and co-operation of a company / or an individual to receive the sai…

Ubuntu 7.10: Visual Effects interfere with OpenGL

I've discovered that I can have visual effects on europa identical to what I now experience with rhea and its Ubuntu installation, or I can have OpenGL functionality, but not both. Normal visual effects and OpenGL work fine together on rhea. The difference between europa and rhea is that europa has an ATI graphics card (9700Pro) while rhea has an nVidia graphics card (7600GT). Both have the respective "restricted" drivers installed. And it's the drivers that make the difference.

I was able to enable graphics effects on europa by installing xserver_xgl via Synaptic. Once installed, I restarted the X server, logged back in, and was able to select normal visual effects. And it worked. Unfortunately Google Earth hung at the splash screen, glxgears emitted warning messages, fgl_glxgears refused to run, and WorldWind-based Java projects refused to execute properly either. So, in the end, I uninstalled xerver_xgl and went back to plain old (none) visual effects. Which, frank…

English as daft as Americans

I thought we Americans were totally asinine when it comes to sharing music. I was wrong. As I was checking the BBC News Online, I came across not one, but two stories about the Performing Rights Society (PRS) and its war on listening to music in public, music that hasn't been properly paid for.

The first story is about it's £200,000 damages claim in the Court of Session in Edinburgh against Kwik-Fit, a local car repair chain. What is Kwik-Fit guilty of? Its employees are guilty of playing their personal radios while on the job, loud enough that customers can hear the music. We're not talking about streaming illegal MP3s across the web. We're talking about turning on a radio loud enough to hear. Complete with the Scottish equivalent of DJs, ads, and other unique Scottish social elements (I wonder if Sir Sean does commercial voice-overs?)

The second story is about the PRS going after much smaller game. Bedlam Scooters on the Elms Industrial Estate in Bedford is being din…