Just to kick off the working week, a little sniff of humor. What if Jedi’s were … assholes ?
I can just about imagine that some, if not most of you have been in a situation where you thought : “Darn, I wish I had my own PC handy”. Just think back to all those happy memories when you had to visit friends or family and wanted to use “their” pc to “quickly” check something on the internets, only to find out that the computer in case was a mallware infested slug of a PC with Windows XP (No Servicepack) with an Internet explorer version six sporting an extra number of spyware toolbars that made the pages allmost invisible to read. You know ? The machine that has even been abandoned by Bonzi Buddy, cause even the bleu monkey said ” Screw this, i’m leaving ?”. Or otherwise just think of those “public” computers in Hotels and libraries, with the sticky keyboards and the shady icons in the toolbar.. Seriously .. is THIS the machine you want to do some googling on, or even worse , log in to Facebook ?
Lets face it. Using a computer that is not exclusively yours, is always a risk. God knows what kind of mallware is running in the background. You, as a geek, have a sence of security and know that you can “trust” your own system. But you don’t know what dialog boxes with a flashing YES button your aunty has clicked. You have no idea what keyloggers might be running in the background. Its like blowing your nose on a wet towel in the public restrooms at the subway. Ya never know what germs you bring home.
Well, we have good news for you. You can have your very own safe and secure operating system with you anywhere you go .. as long as you have a USB stick and don’t mind running Linux. ( well, who am I kidding, of COURSE you don’t mind). With applications like Yumi Multiboot USB creator and Multios, its never been easier to run not one, but SEVERAL operating systems of a USB stick.
These apps help you in installing multiple distributions of Linux onto a usb stick that you then can use at your own leisure. Shady public computer in the library ? Use your own OS from the Usb stick. Windows XP laptop at a friends place ? Use your own OS from the USB stick .. and so on. with the advent of larger USB sticks (or even usb powered harddrives) you can have several linux distributions on your portable media and choose what to use.
Persistent versus “live”.
The way it works is pretty easy. With *MULTIBOOT* you just open the application, select your USB drive and drag-and-drop any distribution ISO file onto the application. This way you’ll be able to select from those different operating systems when you boot with your Usb Stick. This si a great way to “test and try” some of these Os’es in “live cd” mode on your hardware, giving you distro”s like Ubuntu, Slackware, Arch, Debian, Fedora or even Puppy linux whenever you need them. If its a “Live CD” ISO file, its gonna boot. These operating systems boot in “live cd mode” and are unaffected by changes. Power down and everything is once again “out of the box”. Pretty cool if you want to use a “vanilla OS” out of the box for doing shady things like surfing porn OR want to do ultra secure things like banking. The OS is “clean” of any traces of usage when you reboot.
But what if you DO want to “save your changes”. What if you want your own “personalised” operating system “on a stick” whereever you go. You can ! Just use the “persistent” mode and select the ammount of drivespace you would like to “store” your stuff on and “voila” there you go : Your own portable operating system.
But of course, lets take it one step further and have technology work for you. Its spiffy to have a few Linux distributions on there, but how about some antivirus distributions to do a secure scan of those virus riddled windows machines. AVG antivirus offers a great “live cd” of their AVG antivirus that you can boot of your stick. It connects to the net, fetches updates and scans the system you are working on. Or how about some “privacy” (and proxy busting) with anonym.os. Have some partitions to move ? Use the Gparted Live Cd Iso from your stick and partition all you want. Or do you want to “image” your moms windows machine for faster reinstallation afterwards ? Pull up the Clonezilla live cd and do that !
As you can see the possibilities are endless. Its pretty geeky to have your “own os on a stick”. Its even MORE geeky to have an entire “virtual toolkit” hanging from your keyring. You’ll quickly find that this way of working offers you easy workarounds to Windows Password protection (lol) , Proxy’s, Local passwords and more. Have technology work for you in ‘creative ways’ and run it “from a stick”.
I’ve listed up a few “special” distro’s you can use on your USB stick. Do you know some other cool ones we could use ? Post it in the comments section or on our facebook page and share your geek knowledge.
You can build your personal power-pen-drive using ..
This week we showcase one of the “special ” editions of the “Full Circle Magazine” dealing with how to build your own server and give you a chance to get to know this great Linux magazine.
In my current quest to find alternatives to the applications I use the most on the OSX side, i’ve gone out and looked for a “Linux equivalent” of the magnificent “ommwriter” that is available for the mac. This no nonsence distraction free writing application, pushes away all distractions on your desktop and leaves you with ” a clean slate “. For Ubuntu there are several alternatives available and the one that was the most to my liking is “Catlooking Writer”. It basically does the same thing the great Ommwriter does, but there are however no soothing ‘clicks’ as you type nor do we have gentle “pling plong” music in the background. But this can be easily fixed by playing music in the background (Catlook writer does not Kill the sound-stack). The upside is that you have several “types” of ‘themes’ to choose from for you to work in. From a handcrafted paper background, a stark grey or beige one to a “black with green letters” terminal window. For some reason I feel like Doogie Howser when using this theme. The reflective screen of my Imac does remind me that I am in fact, NOT Doogie.
Catlook writer is a pretty good ‘impersonation’ of the famous Ommwriter app, written up by its developer in order to “fill a gap” in the Ubuntu / Linux software collection. Unfortunately he/she didn”t go the extra mile to add in the keyboard clicks and sounds. Probably because he/she has a very noisy keyboard and loves to listen to Abba instead of some new are pling-plong. This “lack to go the last mile” is a little tipical of some open source project out there. When the app is “good enough”, developement gets abandoned and thats that. The great part of “free and libre” software is of course that its “free and libre” but the insentive to excell in order to make the app “commercially compatible” is of course .. absent.
But, its “good enough” as the Y-generation types among you might say. So we will take Catlooking Writer ( even though its name is bizarre ) to heart and use it to wrap out our little blogposts for the time being. We’ll just have some soothing music in our mind and rattle the keyboard extra loud for those clickety clack sounds …
You can find Catlooking writer HERE. (Bonus point : Its available for Windows Too !)
“Because I can” That is the sole reason why I would embark on a project like this one. And ” Because I can ” has been the reason why geeks, nerds and hackers have gone forth and accomplished things that seemed irrelevant, improbable or even just plain impossible. And yet .. it IS the perfect motivation. The project I’m talking about is my second trek into the world of running Ubuntu Linux on “non – Ubuntu” hardware. Well, there actually is no such thing as “non Ubuntu hardware” but lets say the slim design of my 2009 Imac was not designed to run this perticular operating when it was shipped from Cupertino ( or whatever Chinese sweatshop these devices get produced in ). I can imagine Steve Jobs in his bed, dreaming how all these 24 inch Imacs would find their ways to the hearts, wallets and desks of many a mac geek out there, smoothly running Apple’s OSX software, whatever feline incarnation would be appropriate. Surely having a bunch of geeks hacking and coding away at their “doubtfull code” and installing such gibberish on this pristine machine would not have been part of Steve’s plan. An to be honest, it wasn’t MY first plan either. I had bought my Imac to be my 24 inch monster machine that I could use in order to have all my creative “urges” quenched. And for the last 2 years it has done just that. Reliable, Fast and effective. However, the last couple of months I HAD been getting some “spontanious” freezes while working in OSX and this bothered me. Not because the mac froze up once or twice. (I mean it NEVER froze up before but hey , iacts still more reliable then Windows ) but because this would happen in the mids of a production of a podcast OR screencast episode. Highly annoying.
When finally taking the time to “prep” the system for “nuke and pave” I started thinking about a couple of things. First of all : How long had it been since a nuke-and-pave : Well , since 10.6 came out, this would make that over a year (allmost 2). Second I thought : What do I use the mac for : Well, Everything ! Surfing, communicating, chatting, visiting a dodgy site in my quest for an obscure download of a long gone 50’s TV show etc .. What did I NEED the mac for : Well, basically to provide me with a simple but stable platform for content creation. So the thought came to mind that if i REALLY required the mac to be a “production system”, any other “dilly-dally-ing” (oh how I love that word) would not be healthy for the speed, stability and “clean-ness” of the system and that I in fact should use ANOTHER computer for those tasks. That WOULD be a bit of a bummer since our Imac is in our ‘lounge’ (spare room which holds both our macs) and that Niejana and I mostly use these 2 computers (who are setup side by side) when we are online. So sitting in a corner on another machine to do my daily stuff seemed like a not so appealing option.
I did however glare at my Macbook Air that I have recently “converted” to that “other” operating system in the house. With some tinkering, some googling and a new logic board (the old one had a DOA situation) I had dual booted this Macbook air into Ubuntu 10.10 to experience the awesome power of Ubuntu on Apple hardware. It was a lot of fun to do and offered a fantastic challenge for a cross platform slider geek like me. The result is a unique, highly customised and very advanced operating system on hardware where it’s not supposed to exist. A geeks idea of a productive rainy afternoon.
So why not do the same on the Imac ? Why not dual boot this system too ? Have OSX on one partition, Ubuntu on the other one, and a nice bootmenu to devide them ? ” WHY” you ask ? well… because I can.
So 2 days later i’m stuck with the result. Ubuntu 10.10 running on my 2009 Imac. I have chosen for this “older” version because 11.04 is just to fresh and i’m not yet sure what I feel about Unity, Ubuntu’s new graphical interface. Since I wanted to customise the interface to a “unique personal level” I went with classic gnome, Compiz, a nice “tron” background and the Ubuntu studio theme. Add some Chrome themes, transparent terminals and desktop effects to the mix and .. voila: A completely customised Ubuntu experience … on a mac. Since I HAD been using rEfit ( an OSX Bootloader to let me “choose” operating systems) I did have to compromise a little. I used a bluetooth keyboard and since the bluetooth stack is not even loaded while rEfit boots up and asks you which OS to choose.. I could not “move the arrow keys” on my bluetooth keyboard to choose my OS. Thus a wired keyboard was needed. But the rest was basically an “out of the box” experience. After loading the proprietary ATI driver I even managed to get the second screen I’ve hooked up working.. But it proved to be too much on reboot. After rebooting the system, X died and refused to load untill I would either reconfigure it using safe mode, or just remove the second screen. I sacrificed my second monitor for some “virtual desktops” and was ok to go.
So now the challenge is to find as many “OSX alternatives” as I can in order to prevent mysellf from having to boot into OSX all the time. And that is a fun way to get to know Linux. I’ll keep you posted on some of the better apps i’ve come across and what “sliding need” they answer. Untill then you can just gawk at my cool desktop.
And if you think THIS is cool ? Check out Knightwise.com fan @bldngnerd (Balding Nerd) 1-upped me on doing a TRIPLE BOOT on his 11.6 inch macbook air, pumping both OSX, Ubuntu AND WindoSo 2 days later i’m stuck with the result.ws 7 on one machine. Where I have a scrawny screenshot.. he has a whole video… Enjoy.