Move to Slackware

I have been a Mandrake/Mandriva user since 2000 or so. It has been my only system since 2002 on my desktop.

I have been very pleased with how smoothly things have gone. Of course this is helped by my friends at the Pensacola Linux Users Group. I have been in their IRC channel to get help on a few of the technical issues.

Someone asked why I chose Slackware. Really that was not as important as why move from Mandriva. I was getting frustrated with Mandriva. It used to be a very mainstream distro of Linux. Every time you went to install software you were able to download a Mandriva specific RPM and install it. But, those days are gone. When Mandrake merged with Conectiva, things tanked quickly. The community love towards Mandrake seemed to change.

Mandrake was always flaky (for me) on the package management. Sometimes urpmi would work. Sometimes not. Keeping my sources up to date seemed to be more trouble than it was worth. Early on I religiously used only packages in the sources. This made sure everything was tracked by the package manager. But then there was always a piece of software I wanted that was not in the repositories. So I would either have to wait, install an old version, or install and hope that I did not hose anything. I got more and more lax on that the last couple of years. Things also got less and less stable.

I have been upgrading the OS on this hard drive since 2002 without ever really wiping it and installing fresh. That is a definite death knell in Windows. Should not matter in Linux unless the distribution providers move the locations of important files from one version to the next. Well…Mandrake and Mandriva have not stayed consistent.

So, why then did I move to Slackware? Here are just a few of the reasons. The biggest is that I am a fan of KDE. Slackware pushes KDE as it’s desktop environment. Many of the really popular distros at the moment use GNOME. While GNOME has improved greatly over the last several years, so has KDE. I am familiar with KDE and there are just a few niggly things about GNOME that I have trouble working around. Though, I have to admit I have run it on my notebook recently and it is a very good desktop environment. I could get used to it. I just don’t chose to.

The second reason is that Slackware seems to hold to more of a standard way of doing things. When you go looking for help online you will find a default way of configuring and setting up software. Then there will be an endless list of “If you are using this distro, then do this. And this distro do this.” With Slackware it seems to follow the default more often. To me, that means I can more easily get help on line. This is another area where Mandriva seemed be be getting left behind. They do things in less standard ways. And, with the community ignoring them more, you get less personalized Mandriva help.

Finally, and this is probably the biggest, I have several friends in the LUG that use it. I have been playing with it off and on for well over a year through either dual boot or on my 20th century notebook that I bought used last year. It has been pretty good to me. And with colleague help, that makes it much better for me. I ran Linux alone from 1997 to 2000. When I fell in with the P’cola LUG, that helped define my distro choices. For a while several of us were running Mandrake. I was finally the last man standing. Though there are very strong opinions as to which distro each member believes is the best, there are several Slackware devotees.

I have played with Ubuntu and really like it. But, it comes with GNOME. KUbuntu was so awful when I last used it, I swore off of it. I have used Gentoo in the past, but only for more of an embedded type environment. I don’t think I could stand it for desktop use. Suse was an option, but I feel they are too much like Mandriva. Though they currently have more community love going their direction. Fedora Core is not an option. I swore off of Red Hat (Fedora Core’s roots) at version 9. Though I never liked it going back to the days when Red Hat 2.something was popular. I kept trying it each new version until they hit 9 and that was the last of the jankyness I could take.

So, there we are. The move from Mandriva to Slackware and the why behind it. I must say, I have been using Slackware for about 24 hours and I have yet to have a program crash. Firefox in Mandriva would crash every few hours on me. With certain games the whole system would go down. I have yet to get the games installed, but that should happen later tonight. We shall see.

New Printer: Epson C67

I bought a new printer today. This is my first printer that has come in a box since around 1998 or 1999. I did buy one new in 1996, then that one at the end of the decade. I have acquired a few here and there since then, but nothing new. The one bought at the end of the century is still in use at my parent’s house. I have been using a printer that they bought in 1997. The one I had did not support Linux and their’s did. So I switched printers with them and they were never the wiser. They ended up with a newer machine anyway, so it was a good deal for them.

Today I purchased an Epson Stylus C67. Epson C67 PrinterIt is sold in Latin America, not in the US. The price at Office Depot was $549 pesos. That is about $50 US Dollars. The cheapest I have seen that printer for online is $66 (USD). I feel like I got a good deal.

In the process of buying the printer the cashier asked me if I wanted to charge the printer on a 12 month interest free plan they were offering. Hmm, that would work out to less than $4.25 a month. What an idiotic program this is. It is an infection. I can see “12 months same as cash” on a $500 product, but $50? The disease of credit (which is wicked and why so many people are in financial trouble today) has infected México as badly as, or maybe worse than, the US. You can get credit to buy almost anything here. There is one store whose whole business model is selling stuff on credit.

Well, I certainly was not interested in buying a $50 printer on credit. If I cannot pay $50 for a printer, then I don’t need the printer. If it were a pressing issue and I had to do some printing, I could easily go to any one of the thousands of Internet cafés here and print my paper for a few cents. Then save my money for a few months and buy the thing with cash. That is what our grandparents used to do. They did not buy stuff if they did not have the money for it.

So, I told the cashier that I would not buy the printer on credit, but that I wanted to pay for it all at once. “And, furthermore,” I told her, “credit is an invention of the Devil” (in Spanish of course).

Then something interesting took place. She had to call a manager over. Because I was not buying with credit, the manager had to override the purchase. Huh? Why? Well, the “no interest for 12 months” is not entirely true. I found out that if you pay cash, then the printer only costs $494 pesos (about $45 US Dollars). There was nothing on the display saying that it cost less if you pay cash than if you do their credit. I saved $5 (USD), simply because I used cash and not credit. So how do they get by saying that there is not interest if you use their credit? I guess it is not interest if you charge the extra $5 up front.

Anyway, I am pleased with my purchase. This is the first time I have bought something other than food or clothing here in México where I feel like I have gotten a good deal. Normally we would pay much more for something like a printer than the equivelant in the US. The cheapest Epson printer I currently see at Office Depot in the US is $90. That is twice what I paid for my printer here. Never mind the fact that the one at the US Office Depot website has a scanner. It is still the cheapest you can buy from them.

This one works perfectly in Linux too. Or at least as much as I have tested so far.

“Podcast” or something else?

Apple is flexing its “stupid muscle” this week. Before I go on and explain, let me say that I am quickly becoming an Apple fan. Though I personally use Linux, and probably will for many years to come, I bought an iPod just over a year ago. The iPod convinced me that Apple has some brains and thought processes firing in the right direction. I even bought my wife a Mac mini Mac minias soon as the Intel versions hit the web. Very impressed. I would recommend a Mac over Windows to just about anyone. I would even recommend Mac over Linux for most people.

That said, Apple is shooting themselves in the foot. And, I think they deserve to loose that foot to lead poisoning from the bullet they put in there.

They have started cracking down on companies that use the word “pod” in their products. I think this is fair depending on what the product is. Certainly any type of portable media device should not contain the word “pod.” But now they are going after the word “podcast.”

Apple did not come up with the word podcast. To get a full history of where the word comes from you need to read the Wikipedia article about it. Suffice it to say, it was not an Apple invention.

For those of you who don’t know here is an explanation of the technology. RSS is a technology that allows you to subscribe to websites to see when new content is uploaded. In the ancient past (5-10 years ago) you could subscribe to a service that would go look at websites for you and send you an email when the site was updated [if anyone finds a link to one of those old services let me know]. That was back when pages were pretty static. RSS takes that same idea, but instead of a third party looking at the page, you have an RSS reader that goes and gets the new content and lets you read it in the reader, or gives you a link so you can read it at the page. This is great for sites that change a lot, particularly blogs. has an RSS feed that you can subscribe to and your reader can let you know when I update the site.

Podcasting is an extension of that really cool technology. Instead of text and pictures, it is audio (or video) files.iTunes logo When a new file is uploaded, your RSS reader can go and download the file for you and it is ready for you to listen to or watch at your convenience. This special RSS reader is called a podcatcher (unless Apple has already banned the use of that word too). iTunes is a good example of a podcatcher. It happens to be the one I use (on the wife’s Mac). I used to be able to list several other podcatching software, but Apple has already sued all of them and they have had to change their names and I have not kept up with the name changes. The whole idea is that they are RSS readers for audio and video files.

That brings us to the current news. This week Apple sent a cease and desist letter to Podcast Ready. I am not entirely sure what all they do. But part of what they do is provide software Ativa USB Drivethat allows the mp3 player to act as its own podcatcher. You don’t even need to have software on the computer. You just plug in the Podcast Ready device into a USB port and it goes and downloads the new podcasts on its own. It does not have to be an mp3 player either. For example, I have a USB drive I can run their software on. Then when I get into my truck that plays mp3s from a USB drive, I could just pop in the drive and my podcasts would be there. How cool is that?

Well, they are being hounded by Apple for using the word podcast. Now the question was proposed by Leo over at TWiT if podcasts should change their name. Part of the argument for changing the name is that we would put this garbage by Apple behind us. The argument against it is mostly two fold. One is that if you give in, then Apple wins. What makes that different from the idiocy of Microsoft and their strong arming? Secondly, “podcast” is a pretty entrenched word. It is even officially recognized in Webster’s Dictionary.

Some of the suggestions for a name change include: netcast, webcast, audiocast, videocast (because podcasts include both audio and video some people suggest that we should separate the two terms), tunecast, mediacast, gocast, pushcast, audcast, vidcast, radio shows (that is clever), echocast, TWiT logoeCast (both video eCast and audio eCast). There are more suggestions in the discussion at the TWiT site, but those are the ones I wrote down. Most are self explanatory. The word cast comes from the word broadcast, or more appropriately as it pertains to podcasts, narrowcast. Then there are a few that need explanation. Pushcast because it uses what we used to call “push” technology. You say you want it and when it is available, it gets pushed to your computer. Gocast because it is something you listen to on the go. You don’t have to be connected to the net to listen like netcast or webcast suggest. Echocast because it is something that is recorded and propogates like an echo through servers to get to the listener/viewer. ECast because it is an electronic form of broadcasting. Then there would be audio eCast and video eCast.

The problem to Apple in all of this is that it is assumed by newbies that you have to have an iPod to listen to these. Why, oh why would Apple want to change that perception? I have talked to many people who have heard of podcasts but think they can’t listen to them unless they buy an iPod. I tell them they don’t have to have an iPod and that any mp3 player would work. Why would Apple want people to assume differently. They have their products being pushed each and every time someone uses the word podcast. No one is infringing on their rights because they do not own the word. In fact, Apple is getting free, get this The new iPod shuffleFREE, advertising each time you read the word podcast or hear it. They have nothing to claim cease and desist over. They have never owned the word. I doubt they can own the word. Why not go on letting the world think you have to have an iPod to listen? I would think this drives a few sales.

So, I agree with a name change, though it probably won’t happen. I don’t know if it will affect iPod sales if the name changes. But anything to make Apple look stupid, which they are being, and lose a few sales of iPods, I am all for. Really, changing the name will probably not affect iPod sales enough to hurt Apple. Too bad. And it will give them what they want. Double too bad.

For the record, I like eCast. There needs to be a distinction between an audio and video podcast. When I go to subscribe to podcasts, if I am not careful, I assume they are all audio. I sometimes end up with video ones which I am just not interested in. So having a name for each would be nice. Audio eCast and video eCast seem to fit the bill for me. Though, I doubt we will see a change.

Road Trip!

Headed out of town for two weeks. A trip is always and adventure here in México. Sometimes more than others. This will be two weeks on the road with some stopping in between. All in all we will be driving about 8 days.

I am going to try and keep up with my running. May not post as often, depending on how the Internet access goes.

I am armed with a few books. I have my Ultramarathon Man that arrived on Tuesday night. It won’t last long. I am already 1/3 into it. Coast to Coast was not one of the books that fit into my wife’s suitcase coming back. It will come back with my son about the time we get back from our road trip. But, I also got a stack of Linux magazines that my wife brought home that should keep me somewhat entertained.

I will give a full book report on Ultramarathon Man when I get it all read, but let me just say up front, Dean Karnazes is not stable. I don’t know if he knows this, but he is obviously a textbook ADD/ADHD case. Good for him that he found a way to channel that. Too bad it took him till he was 30 to find an outlet.