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Linux Development - (declogging the fluff)

The Background
This is my first article so be kind! I am a developer and a Linux user of over 10 years which may be surprising given my low age. One of my favourite things to do in Linux is to test out software and websites that I build because I strive to make everything as multi-platform as I can (saving on porting costs, hardware costs and software costs wherever possible).

The First Problem
One of the problems for me with Linux is that it can be hard to keep track of exactly what is installed in the system (For those of you suggesting apt, yum or alike consider there are over 25 packages just for X and well over 250 in a standard Linux install and then there are those miscellaneous dependencies we all add because programs won't function without them).

The Next Problem
My next problem is that I have multiple clients all with different needs, one person wants a .NET program (fine use MONO), the next person wants Java, the next C++, the next AIR, the problem is that the system gets clogged up with junk and I have neither the time, patience or inclination to do anything about it.

The Solution
My solution is simple I use virtual machines within VirtualBox to build and test the machines, it means that I no-longer have to reboot my entire PC if I accidentally compile and run (while(true){ continue; }) or similar. It also allows me to keep my main system as static (and therefore stable) as possible and it has a number of added advantages.

Added Benefits
If you use VirtualBox you can make all of your data transitory or "portable", you can connect it to an external E-sata hard-drive and reap much the same performance as a regular pc, you can also set up clustering within the guest by adding bridged virtual Ethernet connections to "defer" the CPU load to other computers and with VirtualBox comes one other advantage, "native mode" the application can run as if it were a native application on the host PC without any of the possible security risks (due to the VM sandboxing the App).

The End
So this is the end of my short article on de-clogging the fluff, I welcome all questions and suggestions as I'm not much of a writer and want to improve.

 

My first Blog

This is my first blog.

 

Music therapy with the help of music services

I have been wondering how society can benefit from music services like Spotify. What comes to mind is the relaxing effect music has. Now you cant just label any particular kind of music relaxing. It may vary greatly from person to person and his or hers state of emotion.

I don't know if this works but you could collect lists of songs from users that they tag with 'These songs help me when I'm feeling' sad, angry and so forth.

Of the millions of listeners of these services there has to be at least a dozen of whom you get an emotional match.

 

This way you also know you are not alone.

 

 

New Linux.com Updates May 2010

In the early days of the Linux.com relaunch, we had users flock to new community functionality, and received great feedback. The site is now kicking butt and taking names. We have been hard at work adding new social and sharing features to make the site useful to the growing global Linux community. We have also fixed a lot of bugs and made the site more stable so it can grow as the community grows. I have listed some of the notable new features.

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Online games - This is my deal

Alright, so I should tell you from the start that games are my bussiness, yeap no linux stuff on here yet. Maybe if a lurk around linux.com more i will have time and knowledge to write something about what I am doing on my linux.

I know that some of you are really bored at work and because of this  you just want that god damn program to end and go home, but I found a solution( well not really a solution but a workaround, in programming terms, to this problem), I always power on my computer and get some gaming on jocuri cu motorete going so that the time can pass more easily and fun!

Till next time, yours truly Alexandru Petru!

P.S. Maybe i made your day a little bit less boring, good luck!

 

Lighter Mozilla Firefox

Light Mozilla Firefox 3.6, like Chromium
To make the UI of Firefox lighter similar to the Chromiums one, you can accomplish that by installing some add-ons. These are the add-ons that I have:

  • compact menu 2 - to transform the menu into a drop-menu button.
  • in about:config:
    browser.allTabs.previews = true
    to make the top-right corner arrow display a thumbnail list of tabs
  • optionally uncheck the status bar from the view menu, e.g:
    View --> Status Bar.
    To see the links, it's good to install the add-on Fission, enable all or any checkboxes.
    It would be advisable to remove the search bar at the right corner, and use the Awesome bar, e.g:
    ?myQuery to search something.
  • install the add-on xclean - adds a little icon to remove the selected text, useful if one needs two stuff to copy, one with the mouse, and other with the normal clipboard, so the selection wont replace the content

And that will be all, to ensure speed, install any adblocking add-ons, speed optimizers, etc.

 

Bloggers' Guide - How to get an audience

A weblog or blog can be used for several purposes including personal updates, tutorials, news distribution, training guides, etc..., as a blogger your goals are to share information and to establish an audience. This guide will hopefully give you some guidelines to follow that can assist you to write successful blog posts and establish a loyal audience. 

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Dreaming Linux

My "affair" with Linux started many years ago when things were just getting started. Maybe too long ago and in a time when it was hard to predict what would happen.

However, I've been slowly "dreaming" Linux more and more until not so long ago when it completely won me over. I read about it and got more and more excited. I started from the beginnings  and read Linus Torvalds' book "Just for fun" and that made me want to build my own OS just to try and follow his steps. I've long abandoned that thought but never lost my interest in Linux and what phenomenon it has become.

Now I see it even clearer and I believe even stronger that it is the future. Although there are plenty of skeptics regarding its future, I think that slowly people will actually embrace it the same way I did and it will occupy the place it deserves not just in our hearts but also in the real world of anything computing.

Sometimes I'm amazed by the fact that people are willing to keep this veil that blinds them and restricts their freedom of choice just because it was the first thing they've known.

I'm proud I made this change and I'll never stop dreaming about it and about the change it brings to my life. I don't feel any constraints anymore and finally feel free. Now I'm just thinking how can I do my part and contribute to this great community and how do make it grow bigger.

 

April fool's post-day report

In the night of the 31 (overlapping over the morning of the 1rst), I was on an assignment about Windows Server 2008. It's a rather though assignment - I'll spare you the details, but we basically go on a hunt on MS' Web site to determine the qualities behind WS2008's architecture. So, I was hunting in the dense forest that is WS2008's Web site and compiling OpenOffice 3.2 in background. When I was trough with the compilation, it was about 12:30, so I decided to go to bed.

I was a bit sad because I didn't have the time to elaborate complex pranks for April fools day. Then, it came to me. Considering the amount of sleep I was going to get, I'd probably be very tired in the morning in the classroom. Some people would then ask me why it is so. And I'd have a plan.

"-You yawn a lot today.

-Yea, got to sleep early this morning, had a lot of stuff to do.

-Really? What where you doing?

-Oh I spent the night scrapping my Gentoo installation to put Windows Vista instead."

Have you ever seen a brain freeze? I did. I saw the hourglass.

"-APRIL FOOLS!

-OH! Er, I thought it didn't make much sense!"

I tried later in the day with my friend in the math class, the reaction was pretty much the same, but he got out of the loop faster. His brain probably ended up telling "false" faster than the first victim.

So, it was a rather satisfying result in the end of the day - despite I only tricked 2 friends. I should probably go to sleep now!

 

Plain Text, Archiving, and Presentation Fidelity

My introduction to computers was as a hobby. My first computer had Microsoft Works for MS-DOS version 1.05 installed on it. Among other things, I decided to use the computer to keep a journal. It was perfect. I could do all my writing on the computer and even edit the text without wasting paper.  

What was even better, I could store my journal on floppy disks, which are more durable than paper.  

Several years later I decided to open and read the journal I wrote on that first computer. I no longer had Microsoft Works, and the word processor I was using by then could not open my journals. I learned my first lesson in proprietary file format lock-in that day.  

I failed to consider the long-term consequences of storing documents in proprietary formats, or even to consider formats at all, really. I sacrificed those concerns in favor of the editing and storage efficiency of computer-based vs. paper-based documents.  

I immediately searched for a format that could work across applications and operating systems (I was using OS/2 by then). I tried various formats with varying degrees of failure. The only format that worked 100% of the time was plain text. It was also clear to me that this format was likely to continue working well into the future, because it had already been in use from well into the past (in computer time).  

It was also the only format that worked with 100% of the programs that offered text editing capabilities. It didn't matter if I used a word processor or a text editor, and it didn't matter if I used a Microsoft operating system or one from some other vendor.  

I recognized even then that the file format of Microsoft's office software chained its customers to its platforms and that entrusting data to proprietary file formats put it at risk. I refused to use word processor formats for anything I wanted to preserve long-term.  

But this created other problems. If I wanted to print a document, I still had to use a word processor, and if I wanted to store that document long-term, I had to keep it in plain text. I was not aware of typesetting systems like LaTeX at the time. So, I saw only two options. I could keep two versions of my document on the computer.  One could be plain text and the other a word processing file format of some kind. Or, I could keep a plain text version on the computer and a paper copy.  

The first option had the advantage of allowing me to store the document entirely on electronic media. But this still had one major drawback. The visual representation of the document could not be preserved long-term.  

The second option had all the disadvantages of paper documents, with the added drawback of separate storage for the plain text computer file from its printed version. But, its visual representation was far more durable.  

The long-term office document storage problem is now being addressed by Open Document Format. In my opinion, it still has not proved itself an equal of plain text in solving that issue, let alone the issue of cross-application fidelity. Until it solves the second issue, long-term preservation of the printed appearance of office documents will remain out of reach.  

Portable Document Format helps address this issue, but it fails to address others. Paper manuscripts often have notes in the margins, stricken text and other, additional information attached to them that PDF documents cannot preserve. Word processor files are better at preserving these details than even plain text files, unless additional formatting is used that preserves the plain text-i-ness of such files while enabling meta-information to exist inside of them. For these and other reasons, plain text has gained a reputation as an inferior format to word processing file formats among many users.  

But, in recent years the Internet has elevated the status of plain text. The promise of the World Wide Web was that collaborative publishing would be open to all. This vision, held by its original creator, was not realized fully until the invention of wikis and blogs. And these do not rely on the features of word processors, but work with formats that are entirely dependent on plain text. Word processors, with their paper-centric interfaces and output medium, are increasingly becoming obsolete as this new publishing paradigm takes hold.  

But, ordinary authors are not necessarily savvy in the use of HTML and other markup systems used on the World Wide Web. For this reason, simplified markup languages were created that remove the requirement to know HTML in order to use wikis and blogs.  

The problem was that different systems used different markup, and one had to learn different markup on each website for which there was a different markup system in place. This was an added source of confusion.  

To address this issue once and for all, even simpler markup languages and utilities were created that would translate its syntax into HTML and other markup systems. One such utility is txt2tags. Its syntax can be translated into HTML, several wiki formats, and LaTeX, which can be translated into PDF. And it allows embedded comments, which addresses the issue of author notes and other information that is not part of the final document.  

Another utility that partly addresses this issue is Markdown. Markdown borrows from conventions used in email messages and adds additional features to format text. It converts its syntax to HTML. This allows users to create valid HTML documents with a syntax familiar to them from reading email.  

There are other markup systems, such as reStructured Text, that go farther than Markdown does to produce multiple output formats. They all have advantages and disadvantages. In my opinion, txt2tags has the advantages of offering multiple output formats in addition to HTML and is aimed at a wider audience than Markdown or other systems. By storing a txt2tags document with its LaTeX and PDF versions in a single archive, document text, notes, and the visual representation may be preserved over a long period of time. It can also produce HTML and various wiki markup from the same source document. It may not be a perfect solution, but it goes a long way toward that solution.  

These utilities preserve plain text without sacrificing presentation.  They let you have your cake and eat it too, instead of forcing you to choose one or the other.  

Ironically, plain text, the archaic format looked down upon during the rise of the word processor and its potential to lock customers into a single vendor's product, is the format best suited to unseat the word processor from its dominant position. Word processors are a relic from a pre-networked world dominated by printed documents. They are ill-suited to today's instantly-published, Internet-connected, platform-neutral world where a document is more likely to appear on a blog or a wiki than to be printed.

 

Windows 7 compatibility

Well after helping develope windows 7. I've not been disappointed.  I can run LINUX VMs and multiboot without any problems. Kubuntu is my current favorite, but I've been looking at a few other flavors to try. I love that I can still make KDE look like mac's GUI. It's hilarious to see my friends think I'm using Mac/OS only to find that it better! It's LINUX!

 
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