Move along people

From : http://picturesforsadchildren.com/blog/famous.png
 
Thanx @Woollymittens via Twitter.

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3 2 1 … Disconnect !

The hardest part about blogging is not about WHAT to write, its about
WHEN. As you can see by the latest "irregularity" in my posting cycle
I’m yet again experiencing one of those weeks where "sitting down and
writing out my thoughts" is harder then drawing the formula for
cold-fusion on a post-it. Many of us say that we are "busy", "don’t
have the time to settle down" or "life got in the way". And to some
account that might be true. Over the last week I’ve been constantly
tinkering and tampering (read : FIXING) computers for friends and
relatives. Not that this is something I do on a regular basis, but
sometimes all these little "2do’s"
decide to wait in a corner near the alley and gang up on me. Add busy
times at work, a spouse who is in the middle of her exams (and doing
darn awesome) and the last remaining shards of a "creative routine"
that you have.. evaporate.

Now there are hundreds of websites, podcasts,
lectures video’s and books about ‘ getting thing done ‘
and being more
productive an all that. In truth, I might require some of that
knowledge to keep me on course in the gazillion things I "need to do",
but instead I have reflected about all the things that DO keep me
occupied WHEN i HAVE the time. The runner up in swallowing my free time
is of course "other people’s problems". I have been scaling down on
this one in a BIG way over the last six months, but this week it’s
another case of a cyber-pile up where a Mac mini that needed reinstalling, An ACER
laptop with a bad case of "The Vista"s", A HP desktop suffering from
"crap on the net" and the micro surgical process of installing as many
games as possible on Granny’s EEEpc. Add a website and another project to the mix and … Well I could quit my day job and still have my hands full.

However,
the major obstacle in "sitting down, writing / recording / doing some
video work / being creative" is not the fact I have stuff to do for
somebody else. The larger source of procrastinating stuff I want to do
for ME … is the constant interruption the miriads
of communication tools out there. Just imagine me, sitting down behind
the computer and "tuning in" to most channels of communication :

MSN / Googletalk : To keep in touch with family / friends.
IRC : Mostly scanning through conversations on #ubuntuuk.
– Mail : If I don’t have my Gmail open, i’m mostly run the command line application Alpine OR get a buzz on my blackberry whenever I get an email.
Facebook : BIG source of interruptions. Whenever somebody comments on something, sends me an IM or what have you … my Blackberry buzzes AND i get an email.
– Twitter : If there is a black hole where all our focused attention is sucked into .. it MUST be twitter. Tweetdeck only makes it worse since I have entered several "custom" search-bars who keep stuffing me with additional information. Dm’s
on Twitter (ALSO) arrive on my blackberry, replies and new tweets pop
up regularly. Before you know it you’re clicking links and .. well ..
you’re all over the place.
– Feed-reader : Of course my subscription to my RSS
feeds cannot remain absent to the party of interruptions. A pop-up and
a ping when somebody posts something new is a surefire way to take away
my attention.

Looking through the list it is amazing that I get
ANYTHING done in my "creative time"
. One can easily sit behind ones
computer in a "reactionary mode": where you only ‘respond’ to
everything that is coming your way (converstations / email / IM
/ links etc ..) and never actually DO anything in particular. I’ve
heard this from friends over and over .. saying they have "sat behind
their computer for 3 hours .." and didn’t get down to doing what they
came for in the first place.

Now there are times when you "need" to be "plugged in"
. Our computers are (at least to Nyana
and me) our primary means of communication. Seldom do we get
"phone-calls" or "visitors at the door" 95 percent of our interaction
with the outside world goes through our digital line. But these times
of "heavy communication" are devastating to your attention span or your
creative instincts. So I have decided not only to "streamline" that
flow of "communication-static" into something I can manage.

The
first step
is of course to "find peace" in "not being there". It’s OK
when you’re not on twitter for a day .. its OK when you are absent on
your IM
client. People can drop you a message if they want to. Twitters
‘replies’ get saved for when you come online, people can send you a
direct message when they need you. On the other hand I have both my IM client AND my IRC client running in terminal mode on my Ubuntu
server at home. That way they are "running and active" all the time, I
just "connect" to the session from whatever computer I’m working on and
chat away. To the outside world it is like I’m "online all the time".
The great thing is I get to "choose" when I "connect and interact".

The second step
is that you have to find peace with the fact that it is "OK to miss out on things". There is SOO
much going on in Cyberspace that you just "cannot" keep up all the
time. Either you are 100 percent in the loop on what’s been said in
Twitter-verse, or you are the "all-knowing lounger" in your IRC
channel .. but it will cost you the better part of the night. The
impulse to "sit behind your computer" and "open ALL hailing
frequencies" just to stay in touch, would even give Uhura
one hell of a headache. There are plenty of ways to " catch up " on
things later, and if something is REALLY important ..you will find out
soon enough.

The third step
for me is fine-tuning my
communication channels into a clutter free interface. Mostly I do this
by using the "command line" version of these programs on my Ubuntu server. I have replaced MSN Messenger / Adium / Pidgin  / googletalk with Centerim. MIRC has been replaced by Irssi. My Gmail page replaced by the tight command line interface of ALPINE and my RSS feeds come through NEWSBEUTER.
All of these applications run in a terminal session I can connect to
from ANY computer and continue to run (on my server at home) even when
I disconnect from whatever laptop i’m
working on. The great thing about the command line interface is that
its a no-nonsense zero clutter environment that helps me focus my
attention to the task at hand. I’m still looking for a decent command
line version of a twitter client where I could "scale down" my twitter
feed to something resembling a good old IRC
channel.  The blackberry is ON my desk instead of on my belt so its
"buzz" won’t tempt me to "Check what email I just got" I"ll see the
mail when I check Alpine. While a valuable tool "on the road", the
"interruptions" of the Blackberry are not needed when already BEHIND
the computer.

"Creative time": And finally it comes down to a
matter of discipline and giving yourself the luxury of solitude.
Schedule or MAKE some "Creative time" where you shut down the flow of
information coming your way and start working on "creating" new
information. Shutting down Twitter, closing the IM
windows.. (and on the mac DISABLING GROWL) is good for you when it
comes to homing in on whatever you want to do. Fight the impulse to
"open up a new tab" while you are writing / recording and put some
headphones up. Upbeat or relaxing music drowns out the world and then
its just ‘you and the screen’. You would be amazed just how much you
can do when you "disconnect" for a while.

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KWTV212 : "Installing and using Webmin."

In part 3 of our Ubuntu Server series we show you how to install and use a web based configuration tool for your server called Webmin. Learn to control your server, manage backups, up and download files and more using a nice point and click interface.

Shownotes

 

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What's in your bag ? (part 1)

What is in your bag : Part one : The absolute minimum.

There
have been a great many posts on the Internet about this very topic. A
topic considered rude if we should ever pose that very same question to
a member of the female sex.
Just imagine the slap in the face you
would get when asking a girl “whats in her handbag” For many women,
it’s one of the unholy questions , straight up there with “what do you
weigh ?” and “how old are you ?”. But when it comes to geeks, the
question “whats in your bag” does open up an entire debate about what a
geek carries around on his daily trek through “meat-space”.

It
is of course no laughing matter : Packing up sufficient supplies to
survive a trek through the land beyond the keyboard. A wondrous journey
that takes you away from the homely range of your wireless router and
is filled with perils and dangers. Like an explorer running out of
water in the middle of the desert, so can your average geek become
trapped in a dangerous situation where he or she can be cut of from the
constant flow of information from the interwebs. Whenever the oasis of an open Wifi
access point is nowhere in sight .. What is a geek to do ? The answer
is the same.. both in the exploration of the Sahara Desert, as in the
life of a road warrior : Preparation Preparation Preparation !

Now
coming to the question ” what is in your bag ? “, we are confronted by
two kinds of geeks: The digital pack-rats who would lug around a 19inch
server-rack if it had a carry strap, and the Digital minimalists who
would do just about everything (including remote controlled robotic
brain-surgery) using their smart phone. Sometimes it seems like there
is no middle ground. Either you are a binary “hunchback” who has an
entire backpack with enough devices to fill a storefront at wall-mart,
or you are a digital gunslinger that has the power of the inter-webs
tucked to your waist like a sidearm.

My addition to this whole
debacle is to hold a “center ground” and look at the two extremes in a
different way. I try to “pack for the weather” and stuff in my bag
those things I “might need” during my trip. ” What is in my bag ”
depends on what the trip through meat-space is going to bring me. Is
this a little trip to the shop or a full fledged digital safari that
will require a high level of digital versatility. Depending on the
scenario, “what”s in my bag” differs.

Level one ” A quick pop to the shop “

The
first level of digital connection is not as much “in my bag” as it is
“on my waste” My trusty companion that goes with me everywhere is my
Blackberry Curve 8310. The GPRS linkup to my mailbox is my digital lifeline. Added applications like Twitterberry keep my in touch with the Twitterverse, the Facebook App hooks me up with that side of my social life, Googlesync pulls and pushes my contact and calendar info to the cloud .. and whatever communications remain via voice and SMS also go via the Blackberry.
Additionally I carry my Ipod Touch anywhere for my portable multimedia entertainment. The built in Wifi is a great way to detect open wifi
spots (and access a “broader band” of Internet connectivity) , plus the
myriad of applications I find on the apple store (for free) offer
functionality that the blackberry does not have. But the most important
functionality is as an entertainment center. Downloaded podcasts and screen-casts are stored on the touch + any music.  The Usb stick that is hooked to my keychain comes loaded with a set of portable (windows) applications AND a version of Ubuntu, enabling me to jump start any computer with my own version of Ubuntu booting from the stick.

Level two ” The waiting Room”

The
second level of the absolute minimum features all the items mentioned
above PLUS the addition of my Sony PR-505 for my reading pleasure.
Whenever I’m going somewhere that will require me to “sit down and
wait”, I need something to keep me entertained. To prevent useless
fondling of the blackberry (changing one”s ringtones
50 times to pass the time) I take a good read along with me, since I
have over 500 books stored on the Sony E-reader. Plug in the earphones
from my Ipod, put the blackberry on the tabletop and I’m zoned out for at least a few hours, still able to keep in touch with the web.

In the next part of the series , i pick up my “geek bag” and show you the next level of my digital packrat lifestyle.

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Happy Birthday Nyana

 

 

Happy Birthday Nyana

 
Yep ! It’s that time of year again where i get to wish the most wonderfull person in my life a happy birthday ! 
Join me and shoot her an email at nyana@knightwise.com.
 

 

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KWTV211: "Installing Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty Desktop"

Tune in and find out how to install your very own Ubuntu 9.04 Desktop. Boot from the live cd, partition your harddrive, install and tweak your system and add the needed repositories.

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Beam me up Scotty .. or Cheer me up Scotty

 

 

Real star trek fans will be outraged when they see the title to this
post
. On the contrary to popular beliefs, that line was never uttered
in any star trek show. But it"s not of the Star Trek TOS show that I want to speak today. (Or perhaps just a little bit). Today I officially present the newest member of the Knightwise.com family : say hello to Scotty.
This 12 week old crossbreed between a Mini Schnautzer and a mini Malteser has beamed down into the Knights castle to take care of the silence that was so omnipresent in our house after Neelix passed away.

" A new puppy ? So soon ? " some might say. But let me explain. First of all : Scotty is not with us to ‘replace’ Neelix.
The grief for our departed little friend is still there, and every day
we think of him and are reminded, in a 1000 little things just how much
he was a part of our lives. His collar is tied to the apple tree
outside, to remind us that he will always be with us. But letting the
silence reign after his departure wasn’t helping anyone. Its strange
how you become "used" to things. Used to having some little four-legged
buddy bounce up and down with joy whenever you get home, used to go out
for walks with your k9 friend, used to having an extra passenger in the
car whenever you went somewhere.

Those were the reasons on
which we decided to bring another puppy in our life
, to take upon us
the care for another pet. Because quite frankly : that’s what its all
about. Taking good care of the pets you have and returning all of their
undivided love and attention.

So we looked out into the Starfleet Records of the interwebs for a new crew member with his or her own typical personality. A crewmember
with  his or her own unique look & feel. Not long after that we
came upon the record of this raven black little pup who sports a big
mustache and a curly tale. Keeping in track with the "star trek naming
convention" we quickly came up with the name "Scotty" and not much later he beamed down into our life.

Scotty is young, playfull,
adventurous and loves nothing more then to sleep, play, crap little
brown turds and chase Kira the cat around the house without mercy nor
fear
.
His compact little form gives us the ability to take him
along anywhere in the glove compartment of our car where he happily
sits until we arrive at our destination. But he does prefer to fall
asleep on our lap.
Needless to say you’ll be hearing, and seeing quite a lot of Mr Scott in the time to come. Welcome aboard little friend.

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A netbook ain't a notebook.

Last week a bit of my time was spent reinstalling my Acer Aspire one netbook with the latest version of #easypeasy linux. I had "upgraded" my Netbook to Ubuntu 9.04 jaunty a few weeks ago and found the newest addition of Ubuntu to be incompatible with my 3G modem card. Now thats not unusual. Early adopting ANY ubuntu distro on any netbook
system is sure to push you towards a lot of Googling around to get
EVERYTHING working right away. Because I have a garden, A wonderful
wife AND cradle the ruminants of a social life , I decided to forgo
this quest and use a distro that was time tested on the hardware platform I was working on. So the Easy Peasy 1.1 version proved to be a rather nice choice. Packed with the much needed hardware support for the Acer Aspire one ( Wifi, sound, Webcam .. etc) it all works out of the box. Never mind that you get Flash and the other proprietary stuff that would make Richard Stallman go completely mental, preinstalled.


What you also get is the (in)famous Ubuntu netbook remix interface, that gives you a completely "different" way to work with your netbook
then when you use a standard Gnome interface. A tabbed display with all
your applications, large icons, all the applications run in full
screen. When you are used to a classic ‘start button’ (or gnome menu
button) down below, it can be a little bit of a strange experience. My
first instinct was (as I had done in the previous times) disable the
interface and use the standard "gnome desktop" that I had useed, but i changed my mind. Why ? well , because a Netbook is not a notebook.

Backpedal a few months with me when the first generations of netbooks
started to hit the marke
t. Everybody was tooting their horns how nice
this was , while others kept yapping away at how ‘light" these little
computers where and how crappy the performance was when you wanted to
play high resolution 3d games on them or render the next Toy Story
movie on one of these 300 dollar devices. From day one some people got
the whole idea about the "netbook"
WRONG. Suppose you own one of those giant trucks they have in a quarry
and you drive around tons of gravel and rocks all day long. At the end
of your shift you go home and pass by an ordinary car-sales lott
that has a small SUV in the parking lot. You walk in and start
complaining how that little car is far too small, can hardly handle any
load, doesn’t have a wheelbase of at least 20 feet and that the whole
thing is far from useful as a quarry hauling super-truck. Well guess
what Einstein  IT AIN’T ONE ! I cannot imagine how many times I had to
"elaborate" on the fact just WHAT a netbook is and how its NOT a notebook.

That
not only goes for what you DO with the thing
, it also applies to HOW
you work with the device. No you CANT play God-knows-what latest game
on there, A 3d shooter that requires a graphics card that costs twice
the amount of the entire netbook is NOT an option for your Asus EEE 900 or something. Second. And the netbook interface (or the native Xandros interface) may LOOK a little "playskool activity center-ish" compared to all the bells and whistles of a full KDE
interface.. but its a Nine (or even seven) inch screen for crying out
loud. If  you want to cram down a complete Gnome user interface
(designed for a large, high resolution screen) onto this tiny interface
: Go right ahead. And while you are at it , why not ditch the interface
of your cellphone and use the classic  Windows 3.1 graphical shell to
navigate around your text messages. Sure it works, but its a pain in
the arse to begin with. So the sooner people start seeing that the
little portable NETBOOK is spelled with and E and not with an O as in NOTEbook, the sooner they will become more productive on these little devices.


So, confronted with the big icons of the "netbook
remix" interface,
I went on. It took me some getting used to , I can
tell you that. Not having the "normal" task bar and start icon on the
left hand bottom corner was pretty weird at first, but after a little
while i got used to it. I thought back of what it was like before.
Imagine squinting on the little 9 inch screen to locate the little bar
at the bottom and try to maneuver the tiny pointer towards all the
miniature icons. After following many online guides that "micro-mized"
your gnome desktop environment to have thinner toolbars, smallest menu
fonts and what have you.. It felt like I had just stolen a smurfs
computer. This was just too darn small. Think of it. You don’t run a
spreadsheet with 5000 rows on a PDA, so why the frack adapt a graphical environment that was built for a big-arse screen and squeeze it onto a netbook. A netbook is not a notebook.

Application-wise its the same thing. Those of you who complain about a netbooks
pretty "compact" storage capability I can only scream ( imagine me
doing this in Peanuts Hysterical voice) "ITS NOT A NOTEBOOK" . What do
you expect ? Having the storage capabilities of a fracking Drobo for less then 200 dollars ? Use the low price and ultraportable side of the netbook to your advantage. Extra memory sticks, external harddrives and the internet
are your friend. Don’t push the 4 gig solid state hard drive into
obesity because you can"t see the difference ! Forget installing the
4000 programs and applications on the little netbook. Why in Gods name would you need photoshop
elements on a device with a screen resolution of your average at&t
terminal. I know : Perhaps its to provide you with near
murderous-rage-frustration attacks because it "does not run as fast" on
the little netbook, as it does on your bigg machine at home. (never mind the fact it COSTS 5 times what the netbook cost ya)

So learn to live with the netbook by using it for what it is. Some nice pointers :

– Push your data into the cloud and use your netbook as a portable portal : Gmail, Foxmarks, Google Dox, Dropbox and the hundred other web based services are your friend. Use your netbook
to access your cloud-bound data. Use it as a super portable way to get
to your data anywhere. Make sure you have enough means to connect to
the net. Install some free wardriving tools on your Netbook to pick up stray (open) wifi or use available hotspots to do what you need to do (remember : always use a vpn, an ssh tunnel or https connections when roaming the interwebs over someone elses connection) Having "all of your emails" and "all of your data" in one single place and on one single computer .. is sooo 90"s.


– Use applications that match your hardware : You want to go ahead and install Vista on your Netbook 
? Go right ahead my friend. I’ll see you in five years when you are
done installing, booting up and working through all the updates. Take a
look at using ANY operating system (linux / windows / whatever) on your little netbook
, but just make sure that its easy and convenient to work with. By
using cloud based computing ( The world in your browser) and cross
platform applications (that work on your fancy macbook pro, your PC workstation at home AND your linux based Netbook)
If you DO get stuck offline make sure you have some "light"
alternatives to the applications you use at home. Full install of word
? Don"t think you’ll be needing that. Install all the "viewers" for the
common type of applications like .docx, .ppt
etc , just so you can have a quick look at them when you need to. Don"t
have room for the entire MS office suite ? No matter. Use openoffice or just go for a fancy version of "notepad" to do your quick type ups.


– Your netbook is your terminal : Who ever said you have to go on the road without the "full power" of your home office ? Install "logmein" on your macs or your pc and use the webbrowser on your netbook to remote control your machines at home. After hooking up your dirt cheap Asus EEE 701 to an external monitor, mouse and keyboard you can "make yourself at home". Open up Logmein, take over the Vista computer at your place and your netbook has the power of a giant. The small form factor of your netbook
does not need to be a permanent feature. Hooking up a stray monitor,
keyboard and mouse make working on the device a lot more pleasant. 
Heading over to your inlaws for thanksgiving ? Stuck with their lame XP Sp1 computer that runs slower then a hippo on tranquilisers ? Yank the cables of all the pheripherals and shove your little portable buddy right in there.

– Your netbook keeps you entertained: when online your netbook is a perfect source for entertainment : youtube is your friend,  but why stop there: With applications like Miro (and more recently HULU) you can automatically download content to your netbook.
Don"t have the storage space ? Try hooking up an external drive for
that sweet sweet content. While the guy next to you is staring at his
portable DVD player with nothing else to do then twiddle his thumbs,
you can happily watch the content you downloaded, listen to a podcast
you put on there or take a sneak peek at one of the many movies you
ripped to your external drive (and chat on MSN at the same time) . Your netbook becomes your super-portable buddy to get to your data.. Online or offline.

I hope i got you thinking in this post and maybe given you some nice ideas … So remember kids.. A netbook .. ain"t a notebook.. Luckily .. it doesn’t have to be. 🙂

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