VD Epoch 13

This year is the only time that VD will be coupled with the Unix epoch rolling to sequential number. Of course, the two are a few hours apart, but hey, any excuse to celebrate dorky geek trivia *and* being a more-or-less willing target for a heavily-armed, floating infant deserves a nod.

For the geek-deficient, here’s the executive overview:The epoch for Unix systems is 1/1/1970. To these systems, this date is the beginning of our current time. When you request today’s date, the create date of a file, or the last access date of a file, the system has that info stored as the number of seconds since midnight January 1, 1970. For the most part, this number is reformatted to the date style you are used to reading in your part of the world. Programmers, analysts, and administrators often use the raw number to do faster calculations of dates without t trouble of programming around things like leap years and daylight savings shenanigans. Yesterday evening, the number reached a sequential pattern. It’s like noticing that your car’s odometer has rolled to all 2’s (like mine did a few weeks ago)

Besides that, yesterday was Friday the 13th, and we have another Friday the 13th next month.
The new Friday the 13th movie was released last night. It’s supposed to be a remake of the first three in the series, so there should be lots of room for serious cheese. Hopefully, it will have some good scary, gory parts, and probably some t&a and drugs, but definitely a lotta cheese.

Oh, and on this VD, the floral industry would like to once again thank you all for creating an incredible demand for out-of-season product. They grow them artificially in greenhouses on another continent and ship them in at a premium, and them charge a premium to you. Thanks for looking out for the planet there. What if next year, everyone buys something local and in-season? Think of the transportation savings. Even more than that, think of how much fresher the flowers will be, since they won’t have spent so much of their little bloomin’ lives in a shipping crate. And you would be helping the economy in your own neighborhood.

That said, I’m going to share a non-mushy VD sentiment.
Cyanide and Happiness, a daily webcomic
Well, I suppose it’s non-mushy. I didn’t actually poke at it to find out.

The Average user has spoken

The preliminary screenshots of Windows 7 look just like KDE, so the guys at zdnet labs did their own take on the microsoft mojave project:

Thought I’d share.

Watching the Wildlife

“Keeping track of Tux…”

Today marks the fourth anniversary of the LinuxTracker! This occasion reminds me of exactly how far things have come in open source.

I remember reading about this new “Linux” in 1991 that anyone worldwide could contribute to, and thinking of how that would change things. I spent time poring over the supported hardware list and went to the site, hoping to be able to download a copy within a few days in order to try it out the following week. This was at a time when dialup was the standard, and you might have ISDN (downloads @ 128k! Blistering!) at your work if you were lucky. I was the only one supporting all of the UNIX-based clients at work at the time, and I had three minicomputers with variants like SCO and AIX and I had been working in UNIX environments for years at this point. The prospect of a UNIX environment on a desktop machine for my own use and configuration, that was free to use, and had source available for modifying and contributing sounded like a geek’s fondest -ehm- pipe dream. The other techs I was working with at the time agreed. They were doing DOS and Windows support with me, and were excited at the notion.

The rumblings of Richard Stallman‘s ideology were becoming concrete. Of course, even today, Linux is not the HURD that he often wrote about, but it’s the closest tangible thing to it.

/Fast forward/ — a few years ago, the landscape had evolved, businesses rely on Linux variants in the server room, several Linux distributions are in common use, and new ones seem to pop up on a monthly basis. F/OSS is available and more than viable on any platform. It is common practice (especially in universities) to create a mirror download point so that if the distribution’s main site is down or unavailable, you can still get it, and hopefully, can find a mirror that’s in your same region of the world.

This was after the RIAA and MPAA started cracking down on peer-to-peer file sharing. More advanced users had started using bittorrent as a better method of downloading and sharing. The torrents are very tiny files that your torrent client uses to find and update a tracker. Once you connect to the tracker and get assigned to a swarm, the downloads are much more effectively, because the shares are data packets of the file/files, rather than a whole file. This makes torrents better for large files like video and, hey, even ISO images of Linux distributions. LinuxTracker was born to take advantage of this. A distributed network of linux users and enthusiasts helping anyone who is interested to download open source software. These are all legal torrents. The writers of all of the software you will find there did the work pro bono, and want anyone interested to be able to get a copy. It’s really a beautiful thing.

The look and feel of the site have changed a bit over the last four years, but the list of available torrents is impressive, the homepage always showing the latest additions and updates. There is a burgeoning community here composed of daily linux users at levels from ‘curious’ to ‘admin’, always willing to help out.

The remainder of the month is being celebrated with almost daily giveaways to registered users from a wide assortment of tech-related sponsors. The consistent growth of the site and community is wonderful, and seeding the torrents is a very simple contribution that *anyone* can make to the FOSS community, regardless of technical ability.


Today is the inauguration of Obama as the 44th president of the U.S.

I was having some discussions about the job that he’s undertaking, and wanted to put some things down.

The job is not easy, does not pay an amazing salary, and changes the life of the job holder for life.

The primary focus of today’s happenings in Washington D.C. is the transfer of office from GWB to Obama, and the main moment is when he is “sworn in”. The oath of office is really rather short:

“I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

That sounds very simple and easy. It sounds like what military personnel, peace officers, and any public servant of any level would be striving to do. The second half, anyway.

The “office of the president” in basic, explicit terms is this:

“The power of the executive branch is vested in the President, who also serves as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. The President appoints the Cabinet and oversees the various agencies and departments of the federal government.”

This job is the embodiment of one-third of the government of the U.S. It’s the public vision of leadership and influence of a nation. It’s very different from similar posts found in other governments, with all the facets and responsibilities.

How does daily work of the US President affect your daily life? The policy he writes, the decisions made as far as the use of the armed forces, the diplomatic agreements made… It might not be immediate, but every president has made an impact in shaping things here in our melting pot.

what’s his daily life going to look like? Here is Time Magazine’s take.

rights, and lefts, tend to bruise

The day after the general presidential election, I saw two articles that sort of fragmented a lot of the feelings about the day’s events.
I was reading this article about the new hope, the new era, the transformation in the daily lives of everyone, everywhere. This grand news showing that people really are people, that americans are finally showing signs that racism is dying off, and that anyone from anywhere can truly contribute, make a difference, and succeed in this world….
And then I read
this article about a surprising, brutal murder of an interracial newlywed couple, about how nice they were, how hardworking, what team-players they were, and that the suspects were all part of his daily team.

Of course, these are anecdotes, but it seems that americans still have a long way to tread. Looking at Prop 8 in California, and a whole year’s worth of headlines about homosexual unions and the discussion, oh, the roundabouts about legalities and rights. There are a lot of times in these discussions where I feel like the battle is truly lost. Not the debate, mind you: once a line (or any other geometrical shape) is drawn in the sand, everyone starts working up their arguments for their “side”, which is a great exercise. Then when the debates start happening, everyone gets bogged down in sound bites (misappropriated quotations), and the brewing of more acerbic arguments, and *that* is when the battle is lost. That’s the point when I start feeling like the discussion stalls, and no-one involved has a clear view of the facts anymore. The focus becomes the fight, rather than on perspective. The whole issue then boils bown to simple, constant, refutiation of the “other side”, which never settles anything except each side claiming that they are right, and there isn’t any progress anymore.

Gone to the ‘Dogs’

I think that I’ve mentioned here and in a few other “spaces” that I’ve been following closely the BBC show “Skins”. The other night, I went to see Danny Boyle’s latest movie, “Slumdog Millionaire”. Danny Boyle was the director of “Trainspotting” and “28 Days Later”, and has a knack for the hard part of storytelling; making it all hit home. Slumdog is a dynamite film, and I feel that I did a disservice to myself in not seeing it the day it was released. It has all the classic elements of a fairytale plot, including lost love, the underdog, rags to riches, lucid moral dilemmas, and good-guys-versus-bad-guys. The veil of the fairytale is not lily-white, however. The attention to detail in the story, the endless squalor, fleeting moments of elation, the brutal situations we are faces with along the journey make the whole story pop and crackle with reality. I haven’t seen a film in years that had its hand on my pulse like this, giving equal treatment to a whole range of emotion and thought. Dev Patel (who plays the part of Anwar in Skins) takes the lead in Slumdog, a story of a kid who made his own way from a blighted area of Mumbai, and in a plucky turn has ended up as a contestant in the Indian version of ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’. As the quiz show breaks for the night, he is arrested under suspicion of cheating because he was doing “too well” on the quiz. I will stop here so that I don’t drop any spoilers.
You should not miss this movie. I found it showing at a theater locally that is known to show mainly “art house” and foreign films. It will definitely go on the want list when it’s out on DVD…. I’ll also be looking for the soundtrack by AR Rahman, and featuring a couple of tracks by M.I.A.

the Zune

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Microsoft’s Zune is FAIL.

In the wee hours of this morning, all of the 30gb model Zune music players hit a system glitch. A power cycle will not clear it. There are some reports that opening the unit and pulling the battery cables off the connector will clear the situation, but a lot of users won’t be comfortable with that.
This comes after the lowering of the price of the Zunes, and immediately after Apple stated that in 2009, the prices for macbooks and ipods will be dropping.
Not exactly good timing for this kind of news.

Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t carry an ipod, either. I’ve been using mp3 players for much, much longer than there has been an “ipod” at all, when all mp3 players were referred to as, well, “mp3 players”. I have been getting some really excellent mileage out of the small, flash memory-based ones that can now be bought for very little scratch, and for that reason, you aren’t afraid of a system fail (if it ever did happen), and you aren’t terribly worried about it if you happen to leave it in sight somewhere, and you don’t really mind wearing it when doing housework, yardwork, or even working out.

These days, they all seem to have a lot of the same features: an FM tuner, alarm clock album cycling, true random play, FM recording via schedule, etc. It really comes down to the interface on the device and the capacity, and if you follow it at all, you know that memory costs next to nothing now. The last round of flash-based mp3 players I got (maybe eight months ago) all have microSD slots, which allow for massive expansion, and allow you to swap out your stock of tunes and podcasts on the run.

To everyone with a 30GB Zune: Your music player has passed its “freshness date” Return it to the manufacturer and ask for an upgrade.