Thursday, February 24, 2005

Internet telephony for the lay man

Occasionally, I will write about specific programs that have a real impact on the way I communicate, work, etc. One such creation is Skype. Think of Skype as a mix of your favorite instant messaging program and your phone. Skype-written by the same people that brought you the Kazaa file sharing program-uses P2P technology to allow for real time voice communication over IP networks (VoIP). Skype is easy to use and the audio quality is fantastic. Basically, you keep a "buddy list", similar to your instant mesaging "buddy list" and when you want to talk to that person you initiate a real call instead of a text chat. Skype has allowed me to shave hundreds of expensive long distance minutes off of my phone bill each month. I won't give a full review here, but I will say that I definitely recommend it to anyone who has been looking for an easy-to-use VoIP application. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

Current iTunes track:

Imagine from the album "Imagine - Single" by A Perfect Circle

Friday, February 18, 2005

Gaming (or lack thereof) in Linux

Let me start by saying I love my Suse 9.2 box. It has done everything I've asked for and more. My only gripe is gaming. It's been discussed a million times before. All I will say is this: the average person can't (and shouldn't have to) recompile a kernel to get a gaming environment to work. I'm a fairly technical guy, but trying to set up the CVS version of Cedega has been very trying, to say the least. I don't know if it's my distro, graphics card (GeForce FX5200), or myriad other variables. This is the only reason I can even fathom keeping a Windows box and that makes me sad.

Current iTunes track:

Inside Of Me from the album "Hypnotica" by Benny Benassi

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

On Linux and Mac OS X

I've mentioned that I use Linux and OS X at home and Windows XP at work. I am amazed at the mediocrity that most people will settle for, and, in some cases, even prefer. Being a start-up, we don't really have the budget for an IT department, per-se. Because of my background, I am the default computer guru, along with another of my co-workers. I deal with Windows problems constantly. I can see peoples' argument that Mac's are too expensive, but, for goodness sakes, Linux is free. The latest distributions of Linux are easy to set up and use. I sometimes think that if a miracle cure for AIDS were discovered and it were offered to 100 people, 90 of them would decline because they were accustomed to their current medications. Are people really so stupid and/or helpless?

Monday, February 07, 2005

ical syncing can be fun and can actually work

I have been a Mac user for a couple of years now. I also use Windows at work, and recently installed Linux on my spare PC at home. I have been struggling for some time with figuring out a way to sync all of my calendars from iCal (Mac) and Sunbird (Windows and Linux). Mozilla's calendar implementation is really great, because it does remote calendars the right way. When you first load the app it will download the latest version of the calendar from the server. Then any time you make a change it will append those changes to the ics file and post it back to the server. iCal, unfortunately, does not download anything from the server when it is run. Rather, it can only publish changes to the server. I have heard that this will change in Tiger, but I needed something sooner. Here is what I did:

First, I setup WebDAV on my Mac at home. A super walk through can be found at

Next, I copied my Calendars folder from ~/Library (which contains the ics files used by iCal) to the ical folder at /Library/WebServer/Documents/ical.

Then, I created a symlink to /Library/WebServer/Documents/ical/Calendars and placed it my Library at ~/Library. I renamed the existing Calendars folder to Calendars.bak just in case I ever need it again.

All that's left to do is configure Sunbird. Subscribe to a remote calendar. In the location field I entered my path, which is http://[ip_address]/ical/Calendars/[name_of_file].ics. I checked the box that says "Automatically publish your changes to the remote calendar". Obviously, you would substitute your ip for [ip_address] and the name of the ics file for [name_of_file].

That's all there is to it. Now I can make edits at home using iCal. The next morning at work I can fire up Sunbird and there they are. When I make edits at work and open up iCal when I get home, the changes are there! Works seamlessly, as far as I can tell. I haven't seen this particular solution documented anywhere else. Please let me know if it has been. Feel free to send me any comments, etc.

Sleeper Bowl

This is probably the first time since I started paying serious attention to sports (circa 1993) that I've not watched the entire Super Bowl. I felt compelled to catch up on sleep. I caught the last 3 minutes of the game, however. It's funny, but it seems like the older I get the less I care.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Adventures in Linux

I recently acquired an old AMD Duron based PC and thought I'd give Linux a try. I'm a Mac OS X user and I've used RedHat 4 or 5 years ago. I thought I'd go with SUSE this time. I downloaded their "Network Install" boot disc and away I went. Installation was fairly straight forward. You have to load drivers for your particular network card. Next, you supply the IP address of the server you're installing from. Then, you give a path on said server to the SUSE packages. Once you've done that, you can choose the customary options such as Date/Time, disk partitioning, etc. Once the packages are read off of the server you are able to customize which ones you'd like to install or not install. Once you've made your picks the installer starts downloading packages. Here's the only bad part of my experience. I don't know if I just picked a bad mirror, but it took 6 hours to download and install 1.4 GB worth of packages. Once installed I was presented with the KDE desktop, which, I must say, is beautiful. From there you can start exploring the wonders of Linux desktop computing. Overall, I'm very impressed. This is a much better experience than I had with RedHat in the late 90's. A package manager/installer called YaST was included with the install and has made installing programs such as Firefox and Thunderbird a snap. There's so much more to tell, but in the interest of time, let me say this: If you are tired of being plagued by Windows and can't afford a Mac, then try SUSE Linux. You'll be happy you did.

Hello World!

My first real attempt at blogging. I figured everyone was doing it, so I might as well. Probably won't post often, but when I do it'll be worth it. I may even post later on tonight about my experiences installing SUSE Linux (Yay!). Does anyone really read these anyway?