Another triage fest!

Hi, Kory Malmrose here. We’re going to be doing another triage fest this Saturday, the second day of the new year. Same caveats and information apply from the last one, except with one change: There will be a suggestion(not a strong suggestion, but a suggestion nonetheless) to be there between noon and 4.

Super Linux Triage fest at Zareason HQ this weekend

Berkeley High School student Kory Malmrose  will be hosting a triage fest tomorrow, Saturday Oct 31 and Sunday, Nov 1, at the Zareason shop in North Berkeley.  If anyone is bored tomorrow and would like to come assemble machines for Linux labs for schools in Mexico, this will be guaranteed to be a good time.  Plus free pizza!!

As an added bonus, this project will be held at the Zareason shop in Berkeley, the site where many of us have purchased pre-installed Linux machines.  Come on over and see the west coast’s best Linux-only retailed in action!

Here is Kory’s announcement:


I need help frankensteining 30 desktops so I can send them to Mexico for a Technology Transfer Program led by Stormy Peters of the GNOME Foundation. Christian Einfeldt was nice enough to give us the hardware and last weekend we moved them from SF to my family’s computer shop in Berkeley. The project is for my Eagle Scout. I was going to have a group of friends help that helped my brother with his Eagle Project, but something came up at the last minute and now I have only one helper on Saturday and possibly two on Sunday (all from the Berkeley LUG). Are there any other LUG volunteers in the Bay area who can help me out?

The first session is at 10 am on Saturday (and other on Sunday) at our shop at 1647 Hopkins St, Berkeley, 94707. The BART is close & we can pick you up from there if that makes it easier. We’re also getting some great Gioia pizza and some good stuff from Hopkins Bakery for lunch. Stay however long you like and if you can’t come at 10, we have other times that will work too. Let me know if you can help.

Thanks for helping out at the last minute. I really appreciate it.

Coming in December: Ludum Dare 48-Hour Game Programming Contest

The 16th bi-annual Ludum Dare (a.k.a. LD48) game programming contest is coming up in December. This is a really fun, very informal, online event that is free to enter. Anyone interested in video game programming should have a look. Their web site can explain the event better than I, so have a look.

Essentially, contestants submit ‘themes’, and are able to vote on these themes. At the moment the contest begins, the winning theme is announced and the contestants work to build a game that incorporates this theme. Before the 48-hour deadline, entries must be submitted and posted online (you will need a web hosting account, FTP site, etc.) and contestants have two weeks (I believe) in which to cast their vote for winning entries (there are categories). Typically, contestants are working solo – this often leads to some pretty funny graphics and sound effects. =)

As far as I know, the contest is open to submissions programmed in any language, designed to run on any platform. People are all across the board with their entries; coding games in assembly to run on Nintendo emulators, using Python/Pygame, using OpenGL, SDL. There are some guidelines about which libraries are and would be considered off-limits. Also, any game content (graphics, sounds, etc.) must be created during the time of the contest.

I threw down the gauntlet in LD48 #14 last year, and can say that I had a blast. People stay very active on the contest’s IRC channel during the event, and the forum is also very active with lots of crazy sleep deprived and/or caffeine fueled postings during the event. Another popular activity is the recording of timelapse videos, showing the contestants screen and/or torso via webcam. Here is a link to my timelapse video on YouTube.

While the majority of the 100+ game entries in LD48 #14 were for Windows, there were several Linux games. My entry was a Linux game using C/C++ and OpenGL for graphics. I think that this event is a great opportunity to express the open-source mentality in a fun, creative, and challenging way. I hope some of the readers here will consider giving this a shot, or at least passing this on to some friends. Game on!

Linux for low-end HW, pseudo-scientific study(1)

OS Choices Indeed (for most!)

I myself am currently engaging in a pseudo-scientific self-study on optimizing some very low-end PCs with Linux.

Hardware that I obtained f or negligible cost

Pentium I MMX 200MHz
64MB 60ns EDO RAM
1 x 1GB hd, 1 x 2GB hdd
The pre-existing MS-Windows 98(FE) is still required for a minimal number of applications….. boo/hiss 🙁

Pentium I MMX 200MHz
160MB 60ns EDO RAM
1 x 8GB hd
The pre-existing MS-Windows ME is still required for a minimal number of applications….. boo/hiss 🙁

Pentium III 500MHz Celeron
1 x 10GB hd
Pre-existing MS-Windows 2000 wiped clean off after BIOS updated — yay 🙂

Pentium III 600MHz-E (Energy-saving)
1 x 10GB hd
Pre-existing MS-Windows 2000 wiped clean off after BIOS updated — yay 🙂
Routine questions I did ask and still ask myself on these:
– Do these low-end PCs power on, boot up and otherwise function at operable base-levels (motherboard, BIOS, CMOS, RAM… etc.) ???
– Are BIOS revisions as up-to-date as possible for these old PC’s ??
– What purpose can these low-end PC’s be BEST used for (e.g., “starter” office productivity workstations, simple multimedia workstations, router/firewall appliances, … etc.) ???

No DVD or USB-booting, no wireless setup, no CD-burning capabilities
My own groundrules RE: distros used

NO K/Ubuntu 9.10 “Karmic Koala” Linux, NO Fedora 11 Linux, NO OpenSUSE 11.x Linux, NO Mandriva 2009.x Linux

YES low-weight floppy and CD-R installable Linux distros having minimalistic X-Windows

Distros used

Basic Linux 3.50
Damn Small Linux (DSL)
– DSL 3.4.12 Syslinux
– DSL 4.4.10 Syslinux
Slackware Linux 13.0
Absolute Linux 13.0.3
Zenwalk Linux 6.2 Standard (c’mon for goodness sakes, this is Berkeley!)
Debian GNU/Linux “lenny”/stable 5.0.3 XFCE+LXDE
Debian GNU/Linux “squeeze”/testing 5.0.2 XFCE+LXDE
Knoppix EN[glish] 5.1.1CD
Eventually(maybe!), Puppy Linux 4.3.x, MEPIS 8.x.x, and/or Xubuntu/Lubuntu 9.10 “Karmic Koala” installation CDs


Used solely as testing LiveCD’s, and for distro-downloading/CD-burning on another PC :
Knoppix ENglish 6.0.1CD
Lubuntu 9.10 Lyxis Beta 23 and
TinyCore Linux 2.4.1

Used as low-spec routers/firewalls

I’ve done all the ISO/img downloads and burning, and am more  than halfway finished performing Linux installs on all four low-end PCs.

I absolutely (not the above distro;-)  STILL NEED TO perform extensive diagnoses and troubleshooting with these older PC both BEFORE and DURING their Linux installations.

Results of this pseudo-scientific study soon to follow — maybe within about two months ??

-Aaron / GoOSBears

OS Choices

Thanks to Bob Lewis of the Felton LUG mail list for the link to “Battle of the OS Titans” on written by John Dragoon, Novell‘s chief marketing officer.  Novell is the sponsor of community-supported openSUSE.  I think the article gives a nice summary, emphasizing that the dominance of Microsoft has loosened compared to a few years ago.

The Operating System release calendar this month is amazing: Microsoft Windows 7 general retail availability was October 22nd, Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala releases Thursday, October 29th, openSUSE 11.2 Fitche releases Thursday, November 12 and Fedora 12 Constantine is released Tuesday, Nov 17th.  Apple beat everyone to a release by about a month: Apple’s OS X 10.6.1 was Sept 10th after the late August Snow Leopard release.

One point I would have liked to see John emphasize more is the impact of Google’s Chrome OS entry.  This isn’t just any old Linux distribution.  Google has significant mind share in the public at large and I am looking forward to seeing how the Linux and mainstream computing landscapes shift with it’s availability in the second half of 2010.

The telephone targeted Android was a good warm up.  I use it daily on my phone.  Yet the netbook & desktop targeted Chrome OS has some tricks (like a new security architecture) that should prove interesting.  Mike Belshe has blogged about the Chrome browser development story giving some more background on this.  I believe Google has achieved improved security, speed, and stability with their browser and I am looking forward to seeing how this approach translates into their Chrome OS (Linux) distribution next year.

For now I’m getting ready to celebrate the new releases.

Linux Friendly Audiobooks

When people first think of getting audiobooks online, they probably think of Audible.  But, Audible has one really big problem: DRM (Digital Rights Management).  I.e. every book you buy from Audible is encrypted so that you can only listen to it using a very limited number of applications and media devices.  There is no application for Linux to play Audible audiobooks, and Android devices don’t support playing Audible files (yet anyway) either.  Quite frankly, when you purchase a book from Audible, you are not buying it, you are only renting it.  Even if you have a player that is compatible now, in 5 years when you get the urge to listen again, it is likely that your new device or computer will no longer be able decrypt the file.  If you are lucky, Audible may pull an Apple and offer to remove the DRM from the file for additional cash out of your pocket; so you can finally own the book you thought you already bought.  However, there is no guarantee of even that…

Do not despair, though, there are some really great options for DRM free audiobooks that work great on Linux and Android.  I will discuss two: one being a store like Audible (but without the restrictions) and another a project that creates public domain audiobooks of Novels no longer in copyright.

emusic-USThe first is EMusic.  EMusic started as a DRM free, low priced music store that quickly gained popularity in the indie music scene.  Two years ago they started selling DRM free audiobooks in ordinary MP3 format.  Their library is now huge, containing thousands of audiobooks from many publishers.  It is not quite as complete as Audible, but is complete enough that you would hardly tell the difference.  Dan Brown’s latest book “Lost Symbol” hit the library in a matter of days for example.  EMusic’s library is big enough that I have a download queue of nearly 50 books and a collection of equal size already.  One book basically costs you $9.99  (which is incredibly cheap compared to the price of the discs at a bookstore.  Slightly cheaper prices are available if you commit to buying more books over a year period.

If EMusic’s $9.99 cost per book has you turning your couch upside down looking for spare change, LibriVox might be right up your alley.  LibriVox is an open project to create public domain audiobooks from novels whose copyright has expired.  Basically, people around the world, have volunteered to record themselves reading books aloud for the benefit of others.  While, on average, the “acting” quality is not quite the same level as the professionally read audiobooks on EMusic, they are generally quite well produced.   If you have an Android phone, there is a free App in the market called “Ambling Book Player” that lets you download Librivox audiobooks to your device directly (and of course to listen to them).  This is a great way to the listen to classic novels for a price you can’t beat.


So, if DRM has you down, help send Audible a message by supporting EMusic for a huge collection of DRM free professionally read audiobooks and Librivox for great public domain audiobooks.

Finally: Affordabe HDV Pencam

I have been holding out for a high definition pen camcorder that is “affordable”. Aiptek has just come out with one, for $170:

…but you can pre-order via Amazon for $20 less. Just search for “aiptek pencam hd”.


– Image Sensor:

5 Mega-pixel CMOS (2592 x 1944) resolution

– Movie Mode: 1280 x 720 @ 30fps

– Advanced H.264 video compression

.MOV video format

– Still image: 5,038,848 (5 Mega) pixels

– MP3 Player

– Digital Zoom: 3x

– Display:

2.84 cm OLED (1.1″) with 160 degree reviewing angle

– Internal Memory: 4GB (2 hours video recording)

– TV out: HDMI out & composite AV out

– Inteface: USB 2.0

– Battery: built in rechargeable 950 mAh

Best Equation Editor for Linux

It is no secret that the equation editor in OpenOffice sucks (well, there are a few folks out there that think it is great, but not many).  The equation editor in MS Office is pretty awful, too, for that matter.  What I always wanted was an equation editor of OpenOffice that used Latex as the backend.  Then, I found it, and boy is it awesome: Ekee – developed by Ronan Le Hy in France (don’t you love open-source?)

Basically it let’s you type in latex equations into the entry box which it compiles on fly.  When your equation is done, you can then drag and drop it into right into OpenOffice Impress or onto your desktop to save the equation as png.  You can also export the equation to pdf or svg format through the menu at the top with one click.


What if you find a mistake in one of your old equations?  Since it is in a .png format, aren’t you screwed?  Nope, the killer feature of ekee, is that you can drag the .png back into the ekee window and then continue editing from where you left off.


If you ever need to put equations in presentations/posters/documents, check out ekee.

Solano Stroll = Success

We gave away 160+ CDs, 200+ flyers and 120+ cards.  I completely lost track of the amount of people who stopped by the booth who already used Linux and just wanted to chat.  We hope to a few events like this a year.  Here are some pics from Vivek and Mark.  Thanks everyone who participated or stopped by.

Learn about Linux/OSS at the Solano Stroll

We will be manning an open source software / Linux booth at the Solano Stroll.  The Stroll is a fantastic street festival in Berkeley/Albany on Solano Avenue with a lot of great food, entertainment and vendors.  If you are in the area, come check it out and stop by to say hi and learn about free software.  Look for us a couple blocks from San Pablo.