What if we took Linux seriously ?

It had only been a couple of days since the release of the latest version of Ubuntu’s next incarnation 13.04 when I decided it would be time to give it a spin on my Lenovo Thinkpad. I had only purchased the little 11.6 inch I3 laptop a couple of days earlier ( A nice second hand machine if I may say so ) and was planning on using it for most of my day-to-day computing tasks. Having read up on all the ‘latest’ features to come to 13.04 I was looking forward to the next version of Nautilus and having a peek at the new “Friends” application that had come to replace Gwibber. But most of all I was looking forward to the speed increase in Unity.

Four hours later I woke from a daze of searching forums, entering command line strings, downloading packages, fixing dependencies and filing bugs to a system that was actually working. As it turned out the “bleeding edge” of Ubuntu Distro’s had been hemorrhaging into my work schedule where it had eaten up the precious time of “Getting things done” in favour of “Getting things to work”. The system was operational, but somehow I did not have the confidence in my installed machine that I normally have. Why ? Because I take my computers seriously. Computers are an integral part of my work routine and I actually rely on my Linux powered computers to get things done for work, but also for things like blogging, podcast producing and so forth. And I hold those Linux powered systems to high standards : They have be stable, reliable, consistent and most of all, help me to get things done. 

I flash back 7 or 8 years when I bought my first iBook (G4 powered Mac Laptop) and experienced the joy of having a computer that helped me be creative and get things done. This is raw contrast to the dodgy XP and Vista systems that seem to need constant cleaning, maintenance, repair and re installations. I had a computer that got the job done.. And I liked it.

 So having spent 4 hours on a “bleeding edge” Linux distribution to get it working just the way I wanted to had been a learning experience (as most Linux related things are) but not quite what I had in mind for the afternoon. With Blogposts unwritten, Podcasts unrecorded, work email .. unchecked it somehow reminded me of those dodgy XP machines we spent hours to fix.  I wiped the drive and re-installed trusty Ubuntu 12.04 (Long term support) exchanging bleeding edge features for slightly older and boring well supported stability. I did it because I needed to get OTHER stuff done.

 The question has been nagging in my mind ever since : What if we took Linux seriously. And by that I do not mean the “ham-shack amateur passion” in which we all run our own favorite super tweaked distribution. Not in the way we bicker and squabble over the best graphical user interface.. But ‘Serious’ in the way a company would use it.  Over the last couple of years I’ve seen the Linux scene expand in adoption and popularity. From the bearded geeks in their basements whose only source of light was a flickering command line prompt to a much larger host of geeks and even end users who have discovered the wondrous world of Tux. But the question remains if the Linux community with its resources of developers, bug fixers, advocates and users would be enough in a “real world environment”.

To illustrate my point let me pose you a question. What Linux distribution would you pick to install on 2600 workstations, spread over 4 countries. Its average user level “novice” its support and management servers centralized  With Microsoft’s “active directory” things like remote configurations, policies and software packaging are quite able to produce a somewhat uniform and centrally managed workstation landscape. What Linux system would you pick to replace it ? On the one hand stability and support is an issue, so the ‘bleeding edge’ of Debian Testing might not be something towards you would want to entrust your day-to-day business processes. On the other hand there is the issue of support where you need to make sure that your install base is not starved out of patches and support after 9 months. And lastly there is of course the need for a centralized system to make sure system configurations, policies and so forth can be managed from one location.

When I look around the Linux landscape today I see few distributions that are up to the corporate task of being the primary OS for a desktop workforce (I am not talking about servers) As colorful as distributions like Pear_OS or Hanna Montanna Linux might be, they do not have the resources to make in the corporate world. Other distributions like Suse or Redhat ( who have corporate backing ) lack any form of centralized management and configuration tools like Microsofts Active Directory. You might have a fair chance of rolling them out on the desktop, but only to a workforce that is able to install and repair their own workstations. And then there are those other distro’s who are looking for an unity between their different platforms. They are shunned for “selling out” to the idea of “free and open source” in favor of making a buck.

And so I ponder what would happen if some bloggers got what they asked for. “Windows will be dead in 2 years”. Then what ? What os is going to be on the workstation of your aunty Jeanne over at the DMV ?  Who is gonna support Uncle Joe as his Arch Linux workstation reports broken dependencies. What company will be the first to roll out “Hanna Montana Linux” as their strategic choice for the desktop.   We have been touting for years that “The Linux Desktop” is gonna make it to the mainstream, but I wonder what we do if we get there. Because then it will be in the hands of the “average” users. Students who need to get their papers done. Accountants who need to file tax returns, Tattoo artists who need to have a high res picture of that Hanna Montana clipart before they paint it on your shoulder. People who do not have the slightest notion what Linux is about and why it is so great. People unaware they can compile packages from source or tweak their system to a whole new level. People who associate penguins with David Attenborough instead of Richard Stallman. People who are not in the know. In other words : People who need to take this stuff seriously and use their computer not to “do things” but to get things done.

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What are your top 5 “must see” Geek Tv-shows.

“Its about these guys… that are just like you ! .. and they are FUNNY !!!” my “norm”* friend giggles as he waves his arms up and down frantically and points towards the television. Yes … he IS referring to “The Big Bang Theory” a show that has him very excited for he himself is only just dipping his toes into the great “pond of geek”.  Having installed his first Linux distribution and discovering the world of Irc and Google+ have been epic tasks that  have been entrusted upon him by his wise geek Overlord .. ME.   “He is ready” my inner voice says .. “to see the geek classics”. I try to hold back from opening the floodgates to our rich geek culture. Where movies like “The ghost in the machine” are a classic. Where everyone can dub the first lines from the movie “Dune” by heart. Where David Hasselhoff is a cult legend and where Serenity is considered a form of religion. 

So I am faced with the difficult choice of offering him his “Next Geek Tv show” to watch. So I go over my shortlist in random order.

  • Battlestar Galactica. (both the original and the revamped series.)
  • Star Trek. ( not really a ‘watch this’ assignment, rather a complete lifestyle makeover.)
  • Serenity. (One must know what a Browncoat is.)
  • Babylon 5. ( For all women, like centaury, should be bald somewhere.)
  • A dash of classic Dr Who featuring Tom Baker. (For one must know why ones girlfriend must knit a scarf.)
  • … and so many more.

So before I make my decision … What do YOU think are the TOP 5 geek shows ANY budding geek should watch ? Tell us in the comments section. 

* norm : Non-geek .. lamen .. Noob.

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Cross-platform Instagram for your desktop : XnRetro.

” Hey ! Lets take a 24 gazillion megapixel camera, make it portable and have it shoot high quality pictures. Then lets take an app that makes those pictures look like they were made by a 25 year old throwaway camera” … said “Somebody” “Once”. … However unlikely the idea might have been at the time, Instagram is massively popular these days. Almost every snapshot we take with this popular app gets filtered and warped into something that looks just a liiiiitle more artistic then the shot we just made. All cool as kittens on a spaceship … but what if we want to do the same on our desktop.

The defence calls upon XnRetro your Honor ! This “Instagram clone for ‘real computers'” lets you tinker around with your screenshots to your hearts desire. Throw some filters, borders and light effects around and presto .. there is that one picture of you in your batman suit, hanging from the ceiling chandelier wearing pink mittens. But now it looks like it has been taken in the 60’s … so you have plausible denial.  Once satisfied you can save the pictures OR export them to social-space with the “Share funtionality”

XnRetro (from the makers of Xnview) is a slider friendly application that runs on Windows, Macs, Linux machines and coffee machines who are so dirty they have become sentient. (We haven’t tested it on the latter). The app is functional and free .. So we love it like lolcats !  To prove it works here is a picture of me and my dog, traveling back to the 30’s, taking a picture and leaving it to rot in drawer for 80 years so we could scan it in and put it up here .. for no reason.

Download XnRetro here.

 

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Forget Hollywood : Here are the ten best REAL hacking videos.

If there is one blog you should check out on a regular basis : Try “Hackaday” (thanx listener @sharky for the heads up). Its a great site with .. hacks. Whenever you like to turn your microwave into a sonic screwdriver, your doorbell into a dna-scanner or your inlaws into low orbiting space debree .. Hackaday will probably not be of any use to you … or will they ? At least they will manage to entertain you. Recently they asked their community what the ten best hacking movies/videos were .. of all time. Forget Angela Jolie in Hackers, forget computers that go bleeepediebloop whenever you touch them .. Forget Hollywood. Here is the real deal.

You can find a list of all the movies mentioned on their site.  Unfortunately there are no links to where you can watch some of these online. So Geek points for ANY Knightwise.com wiseguy/wisegirl that can come up with links to youtube, vimeo or internet archive copies of these 10 films .. in the comments section.

 

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Our shortlist of favorite cross platform podcatchers.

These days listening to podcasts must be one of the most important things you do all day. Ok, at least listening to OUR podcast must be the most important thing you do all day ? Yes ? Yes ! And to “Get” ones fix of podcasts one must use a “Podcatcher”. A device that automaticaly goes out towards the internets and plucks the fresh fruits of podcasters near and far in order to deliver it to your personal listening device. (Whatever that may be). When I say “Podcatcher” many of you may think “iTunes”. But if there ever was an application that failed so horribly at achieving the very act of podcatching .. iTunes must be it. This overbloated underfunctionalised trainwreck of code is NOT to be considered a member of our list of suggested podcatching applications.

Here are the ones that ARE. 

Windows.

  • GPodder (Free) (Cross platform)
  • Miro (Free) (Cross platform)
  • Juice (Free) (Cross platform)

Linux.

Mac.

Ios

Android

Windows 8 (mobile) 

Some app missing from this list ? Do you have another favorite to share ? Tell us in the comments section.

 

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Give your IOS device an organised touch with Shelved wallpaper.

The downside to having an Android device is that the home screen is completely tweakable. What starts out as a pristine and low-key desktop, soon turns into a mayhem of icons, shortcuts and widgets. The downside to such unrestricted personal freedom on your device is that you sometimes risk ending up with a home screen that looks a lot like your Uncles Windows 95 machine after 2 years of use.

Ios users have no such troubles. Cupertinian law has stated that there ARE no widgets and that each row of icons must be completely filled before you add another row of icons below. Such totalitarian control makes for a tidy room .. but also a dull one.

So what to do ? You want to give yourself at least some notion of “personification” of your portable device ?  You can do so by putting up some shelves… Wallpaper shelves that is. Howtogeek.com has an interesting collection of “wallpaper shelves” for that very purpose. I agree, its not a very exiting hack, since in IOS every screen has the same wallpaper .. but its way better then having the picture of your beloved covered in icons that cover up his/her/its sweet facade.

You can get the wallpapers HERE.

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Leaving your gadgets in the car ? Don’t forget to “Cloak” them.

Traveling around with a bunch of tech stuff in the car is always a little tricky. You might need that laptop with you on your roadtrip, but you are surely not going to drag that 17 inch Macbook Pro all the way up the 298 stairs to visit that random monument of William Shatner along the way ? So you need to leave stuff in the car. Here are a couple of tips on how to do that … safely.

  • Store them out of sight. : Leaving your Tomtom gps stuck to your windshield as you walk away from your vehicle is just plain dumb. Don’t even leave your gadgets in plain view. 
  • Don’t store them in the “Obvious” locations : Leaving your Cellphone on your passenger seat or in your glovebox is also something thats a little tricky. If anyone pops into your car to grab your gear, these are the first places they are going to check. The trunk is tricky but a little better because its completely out of sight.
  • Park in sight. : Did you see a parking spot in an alley somewhere ? One of those places where nobody walks by and your car is completely out of sight of passers by ? Don’t ! Make sure you park in a place where somebody smashing your windshield might get “noticed” by other people.
  • Take your gadgets “undercover”. : A friend of mine had a greasy pizzabox parked on his passenger seat. When I asked him if he just had dinner, he flipped open the lid and revealed his laptop and smartphone nicely stored inside He had even made nice compartments and had used some Velcro to keep everything in place. With the lid down it was a pizza fest in progress, with the lid UP it was a little datacenter. A cool hack ! 
  • Cloak your gadgets. No matter how hard you hide them .. some of your gadgets might still be detectable… How ? They are actually screaming “I’m RIGHT HERE”. Leaving bluetooth enabled (and having your devices detectable via bluetooth) gives any passer by (with evil intention) a pretty good idea if there is any tech stored nearby. If you leave the “default identification” on , your smartphone might actually be telling them what kind of loot they expect. Its hard to determine where exactly stuff is stored .. But if your car is the only one around … they might have a pretty good chance of scoring if they smash your window.  So : Airplane mode !

These are just a couple of tips to keep your tech safe in the car. Do you have some more ? Or perhaps you want to share YOUR secret hack with us ? Do so in the Comments Section below.

 

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Still looking for the best : David Hasselhoff’s very best now on CD.

Thank god its friday my friends and fellow geeks. Friday : That day in the week where we can shed our dull dry articles about command lines and the possible future of Windows 8 on daiperboxes and deal with whats really important : The ridiculously stupid. Let us all hold digital hands as we celebrate the release of a music album that can, without a doubt, be seen as one of the epic musical milestones of the 21st century. An album that will be owned by many of you, loved by all and probably will find its place in Picards personal musical library on the Enterprise D … in about 300 years.  Who might this be who can create such a timeless piece of musical history ? Of course the answer is simple : Only the rider of the Knights (Wait .. that sounds all wrong from my point of view.) the “Watcher of the Bays” can do this. I am talking about the “VERY BEST” album of none other then “The Hoff”.

Compiled on a silver platter we can find some of his most popular tracks where he brings us the ultimate musical coitus with his personal awesomeness. An album that will stand the test of time, the call of ages .. Music that might even break dimensional rifts and rock Daleks right out of their armored casings. Bring forth the Hoff and let us revel in the wonderful reviews on Amazon.com where musical enthusiasts and geeks like ourselves .. chant praise to the Hoff.  From the great book of Amazon I bring you this faithful Hoffstodians confession : 

Economic nationalists throughout the country shuddered when the Commerce Department announced a Q3 trade imbalance comfortably exceeding $100 billion, the highest on record. We buy our electronics from Japan, our confections from France, and our oil from the Persian Gulf. So why must we import the cream of our own culture from abroad? We don’t store the Constitution in Germany. We don’t launch the Space Shuttle from China. So why must we buy our Hasselhoff from distant foreign lands? Demand for this benchmark piece of Americana will surely send the trade economy reeling even closer to the abyss.
Its pending stupefying popularity notwithstanding, this is not an album without flaws, as flaws are inevitable when one takes on the impossible task of distilling Hasselhoff to a single disk. This is, after all, akin to reducing Aristotle to a lone pamphlet – nay, a matchbook cover. Because while this CD does include every Hasselhoff song that topped the charts in ninety countries or more, it was really the deep album work that made Hasselhoff synonymous with underground edge, incendiary lyrics, and youthful angst the world over. The poets who found their calling in the deeply nuanced lyrics of 1984’s “Night Rocker” will be crestfallen to see that album underrepresented beyond its touchstone hits. Jungle-based rebels from Columbia to Burma who viewed 1989’s “Looking for Freedom” as a clarion call to arms will be outraged that the entire second side of that inflammatory album is absent (with the inevitable exception of “Flying on the Wings of Tenderness”). And lovers who exchanged their lifetime vows to the ballads of “Crazy For You” will be devastated to see that only two of them are included here (even “I Wanna Move to the Beat of Your Heart” is inexplicably omitted!). However, the wounds gouged into our souls by these countless omissions are salved by the sweet succor of the eighteen songs that are included. All told, despite the travesties that come from reducing Hasselfhoff to a single disc, this is clearly one of the finest works in the entire oeuvre of human expression. By Charles
 
 

So let us dance into the weekend with this wonderful video clip. Some call it the worst song ever made .. I call it an artistic exploration of how far you can take bad green-screen technology before it makes your eyes bleed. Aside from “Looking for Freedom” this must be his all time best ! 

So go forth and BUY THE CD.

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Get the audio from a Youtube video with one command.

By now most (if not all of you) have dabbled a little bit with Linux. Although it might look geeky and complicated at first glance, once you dip your toes into the great lake of open source it becomes a very refreshing computing experience. How do I mean ? Well : I challenge you to the following : Take a Windows Machine OR a Mac and, within 2 minutes FIND and INSTALL a free application that allows you to download a Youtube video and extract the audio to MP3. If you started off your search in Google (or in the Mac App store for that matter) you are starting to realize it is not that easy. There is a ton of ‘supposed’ freeware out there that, after installing it gives you either an app that does not completely work (unless you pay for it) or is just too complicated.  Do you (as a true slider) have a Linux machine handy ? (perhaps a virtual machine or a server ) Then lets fire up the command line and give you a one line command to make that technology work for you.

Introducing “Youtube-dl”

Youtube-dl is a command line application that lets you download Youtube video’s and if you want to, extracts the audio from said video’s. The command is simple. On Ubuntu you can install it by hitting : 

sudo apt-get install youtube-dl

After the installation is complete you need to update the app to the latest version. Also .. a couple of  one liners.

sudo youtube-dl -U

You will get an error that you need to update via the GIT repositories once more. Easy peasy (copy and paste people)

sudo wget http://youtube-dl.org/downloads/2013.05.01/youtube-dl -O /usr/bin/youtube-dl
sudo chmod a+x /usr/bin/youtube-dl

Lets start Downloading.

Now surf to the Youtube video of your choice and copy the url to your clipboard.

Go back to the terminal and type : 

youtube-dl <paste your url here>

Presto ! You will have the youtube video all for you ! What if you want the audio ? 

youtube-dl --extract-audio <paste your url here>

Cross platform compatibility

Youtube-dl is also compatible with Macs and there is an .exe for our Windows friends. But because the command line is so easy I just leave a terminal open to my linux machine (on ANY machine i’m working on) and just copy and paste whatever cat video I would like to keep for prosperity.  And youtube-dl does also support tons of other video sites like Vimeo and more ! 

Links : the Youtube-DL page.  and their howto for Windows and OSX users.

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#lickmyvista : Never challenge the internet !

If you are not yet a member of our Knightwise.com community, you are surely missing out on a lot of tech intensive geek banter. 

To ‘up’ the number of members in the community we have redirected our knightwise.com/googleplus Url to the geekiest community in Sliderspace. (Thank you @kdmurray for helping us there). A sense of togetherness is very important for Knightwise.com because nothing is more rewarding then bringing people together with the same interests. Google+ is a very nice platform to to this so we decided to give it “A Boost”.

While having my morning coffee I noticed that the number of members (stuck at 89 on Thursday morning) was a little on the small side so I decided to “up the ante”.  I must have been drunk because I suggested that SHOULD the community reach a 100 members by the end of the week I would post a picture of me “Licking” an old Vista clunker that is parked in our basement. (Its not mine, its a friends pc) The thing does not boot, its dusty, dirty and smells of dead tribbles .. and its a VISTA machine. 

And before I knew it : Things got out of hand. a 100 members proved to be easy .. So i had to up the ante : IF … by Saturday morning 8AM GMT … we have a 150 members .. I will post a VIDEO of me .. licking the Vista machine.  

It appears personal humiliation is something that reaps popularity because the numbers are going up fast. If you think I should experience what dead Tribble tastes like ? Join us .. www.knightwise.Com/googleplus.

 

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