Figuring Stuff Out

Archive for March, 2007

Cough Cough

Posted by Mike on March 26, 2007

No posts for the next little while, I’m sick with something mono, can you believe that?!?  Well, I’m going back to bed perhaps I’ll post in a day or two.


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This is so cool

Posted by Mike on March 21, 2007

OK I saw this and am now actually a little bit jealous of Mac owners.  It seems that there is a nifty little OS X app called proximity.  Proximity is a free download for your Mac that can sense when a designated bluetooth device (assuming you have bluetooth in your computer) comes into ‘proximity’ of the computer.  The more inventive of you have already started dreaming up cool things that this application could be used to do.  Unfortunately, for the less tech savvy of you out there, you need to be able to write apple scripts to be able to set up the cool proximity based actions that your computer can do.  Luckily my favorite blog has linked to a smart generous fellow who created a few cool scripts for you to plug into the app.  Some examples:

(quoted from
When the Bluetooth Device enters range:

  • Deactivate the Screen Saver Password.
  • Deactivate the Screen Saver.
  • Reconnect the phone to the OS X Address Book
  • Sync the phone using iSync

When the Bluetooth Device leaves range:

  • Activate the Screen Saver Password.
  • Activate the Screen Saver.

There are clearly all kinds of other worthwhile things those of you with scripting skills might be able to come up with, if you do (or if I come across and others)  feel free to toss a description and a link in the comments so that others can benefit.

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What’s an ISO?

Posted by Mike on March 18, 2007

If you’ve been looking at the distro’s that I mentioned, and have gotten to the download page, you might be asking yourself this very question. You see installing an operating system is not the same as installing an application, there’s a little more to it. This might seem daunting, and figuring out what to do with an ISO might not seem worth the bother, but persevere and you’ll find that it’s really not that tough.

An .iso is a file type that contains all the information to burn an installation CD. Once you’ve jumped through the hoops of getting it properly burned it will be the equivalent of a disk that would come in a box from a store, so that all you have to do is drop it in the tray and get going (almost). Sadly there are a couple steps that you need to take first, they aren’t tough but I’ll try to save you a little time and walk you through it.

First off you’re going to need to get the file. To do this go to the download page of the distro you want (I’ll use Ubuntu for now but the process is pretty similar for every distro) and select the version number that you want and that will work with your computer. There’s an importantChoosing the nearest Download site one point, Linux is not designed to be limited to just one type of cpu. So if you are running something other than a PC you aren’t out of luck. Long-time Mac users can get versions for power pc chips and newer Mac users just use thchoosing the specific archecturee same version as a PC person. If you are using PC bought in the last five years or a Mac with Intel inside you are going to want the generic 386 version. To get this you will want to click on the download link from the country that you want to download in (see screenshot to the left), and than download the desktop i-386 .iso link (see the other screenshot to the right). At this point you can decide to do a normal file download or use bittorrent. If you have a program for downloading torrents take that option, it will be faster for you, easier on the server of the host organization, and finally allow you to use bittorrent for a legitimate purpose (who knew?).

The above is one of those stages where you will need to take a little responsibility for yourself. If you try to install an improper version of the operating system on your computer things might get a little ugly (most likely nothing at all will happen, but you never know). I’m not going to go into details about that, but if you are a windows user you can head into you control panel and then to the system icon and it will tell you the basics about your computer.

Once you have the .iso on your computer the next step is to get it burned onto a disk. Sadly you can’t just slap it straight on to the disk and going, the iso has to be burned as a disk image. Some burning suites do this out of the box but if you don’t have the ability to “burn a disk image” you’ll need to get yourself app to do so.   If you are running windows, this is a free iso burner and instructions on how to use it, if you work in OS X it seems you can just use the included disk utility (perhaps Mac users can suggest some freeware/dedicated alternatives).  Once you have your ISO burned you’re technically ready to get up and going in installing your shiny new OS.

I’ll talk about partitioning and booting your computer from a disk in my next message.  For now I would suggest that you concentrate on backing up everything that you don’t want to lost should things go wrong (as they definitely can) and thinking about how you want to use your computer going forward (ie. do you want to give up on your current OS or do you want to use Linux alongside it).

Posted in Linux, Mac, open source, Operating Systems, Windows | Leave a Comment »

Hey Artsy Folks

Posted by Mike on March 15, 2007

In my trolling of the blogosphere I came across this profile for a website that has kind of a nifty approach to custom designed t-shirts.  Basically they have a gallery of images and you drag and drop them wherever you want on the T-shirt you’re designing.   Where the appeal to artsy folk comes in is that they will let you upload your own designs (that do get vetted it seems) and when someone uses it to put together a t-shirt you get a, small cut.  I know that some of you have artistic abilities, and I think it would be cool if I could mix and match your stuff on a new t-shirt (my current collection is developing some pretty scandalous holes..)

That is all.

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Getting up and Waddling

Posted by Mike on March 11, 2007

Back to the main project at hand, selecting and installing a Linux distro on your computer.

But first a little self-congratulation, in an earlier post I crowed about my first search string but felt bad that my blog had not been helpful in solving the problem that my searcher was aiming to fix. As penance I posted up the command for exiting the command line in Ubuntu. As luck would have it, it seems that another poor soul found the process for getting out of Ubuntu a little confusing and came to my page in search of help today, hopefully he found the post in question and got some help.

Now that I’ve described a couple distros, the obvious question would be: “Why would I ever want to use Linux?” To be honest it’s a good one, but there are a number of good answers. Apart from the obvious Microsoft hating answer (which I don’t buy), the best reason is that it is free, in both senses of the word. This is not the place for a discussion of the open source philosophy, but let me say briefly that not only do you not have to pay any money for Linux, or most of it’s many many applications, you also are allowed to do anything you want with the code that runs it. For the non-coder geeks out there this is probably not super important, you likely don’t want to change the behaviour of your operating system substantially and might be a little scared at the very idea (I certainly was).  There are other reasons though.

Depending on the Distro you use, you will learn a lot about how your computer works and slowly but surely become much more able to fix problems as they arise (it’s been nice to have access to an old computer that I don’t mind having to wipe out from time to time).  This strikes me as a really good reason for more people to get on board with Linux.  Working with OS X and Windows is great, they both take care of most of the difficult stuff of running our computer and look pretty good doing it. The problem is though, that when something goes wrong (and really it’s just a matter of time) most people are basically helpless.  Fooling around with the settings and building your own system (even in the straightforward and user friendly environment that Ubuntu presents) just arms you with a few more tricks up your sleeve when the bottom falls out.

OK, enough of that.  Another post will follow close behind this one with details on actually moving forward on the installation process.

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Heads Up

Posted by Mike on March 4, 2007

Or eyes up I suppose. I just put up a new page, called Mac Hack Roundup, on this blog that contains all of the best tips and apps I accumulated from my own research and the suggestions of my visitors. This is how I plan to deal with all of the projects I undertake here, keep on blogging while it’s going on and then take the cream of the crop and put it in a static page that you can check out anytime (which hopefully saves you having to go back through old posts searching for the app that sounded good 3 months ago). Hope it helps

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What’s an Ontology?

Posted by Mike on March 3, 2007

I’m not actually going to answer that question, largely because in my field it’s highly confusing (and somewhat debatable). Instead I mean to write briefly about a rather old essay posted by a guy named Clay Shirky (he’s a little famous in some circles). I’ve come across this article a few times for various assignments I’ve done here at school and it’s always been one of my favorites (I would wager that even those of you not doing library school will find it at least a little entertaining).

Aside from his lively prose Shirky’s article centres on a topic that I have developed a keen interest in over the past two years, namely user tagging. There are a lot of competing terms for describing this phenomenon , but it seems that folksonomy has won the day (despite being completely inaccurate) over the next closest rival, democratic tagging (also completely misleading). If all of that sounds like Klingon to you, and you are not an even bigger Star Trek geek than I, perhaps a quick jaunt over to Wikipedia would be worth your while.

Any-who, Mr Shirky basically argues that days of the professionally created and maintained thesaurus (controlled terms, taxonomy, ontology) are quickly coming to be numbered. He uses a number of arguments, some more convincing than others, to prove this. In puttering around Google though I found a couple well crafted counter arguments to Shirky. I’m not at all negative about the potential of folksonomy, in fact I think that ignoring it or dismissing it is an enormous mistake, but to argue that it will wipe out all the old ways is foolish. Just like overly enthusiastic predictions were made that automated indexing would render human practitioners obsolete have proven false, the rise of folksonomy just represents another tool in the shelf for organizing information.

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Posted by Mike on March 1, 2007

This is to cool.  A web-app blog that I frequent has pointed out a new effort by conservatives to strike a blow against the Liberal Web Media (or something like that) by setting up the Conservapedia (I don’t know if this is a one month early April Fools thing or not).  Leaving aside the insanity of creating an encyclopedia for the sole purpose of representing a particular political point of view, there are some really funny articles in it.  This one for instance is a fantastic example, it seems pretty dry until you get to the last little bit and then you really just have to ask yourself: “What the Hell?”

It’s no Wookiepedia but look around a little and see if you can’t find any other examples kookieness…

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