November 23, 2006

A special Thanksgiving Day image

In the extended entry you will find a picture that truly encapsulates the emotions that some of us feel going into Thanksgiving:


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November 21, 2006

Thanksgiving proclamation from 1789

The third annual repeat of this post, just because.

WHEREAS, It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor;

WHEREAS, Both the houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me "to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted' for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have show kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

--George Washington - October 3, 1789

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November 17, 2006

The battle of the sexes

I'm feeling lazy today. Here's some more recycled humor for you:

Women's Prayer:

Before I lay me down to sleep, I pray for a man,
who's not a creep. One who's handsome, smart
and strong, one who loves to listen long. One who
thinks before he speaks, when he says he'll call,
he won't wait weeks. I pray that he is gainfully
employed, when I spend his cash, won't be annoyed.
Pulls out my chair and opens my door, massages my
back and begs to do more. Oh, send me a man who'll
make love to my mind, knows what to answer to "how
big is my behind?" I pray that this man will love me to
no end, and never attempt to hit on my friends.


Man's Prayer:

I pray for a deaf-mute nymphomaniac with huge boobs who owns a liquor store.


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SF book meme

Found via Ith:

This is a list of the 50 most significant science fiction/fantasy novels, 1953-2002, according to the Science Fiction Book Club.

Bold the ones you've read, strike-out the ones you hated, italicize those you started but never finished and put an asterisk beside the ones you loved.

Here's my list, which doesn't exactly match Ith's; I really, really loved Dune.:

The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien*

The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov*

Dune, Frank Herbert*

Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein

A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin*

Neuromancer, William Gibson

Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clarke

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick

The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley

Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury

The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe

A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.*

The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov

Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras

Cities in Flight, James Blish

The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett

Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison

Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison

The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester

Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany

Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey*

Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card*

The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson*

The Forever War, Joe Haldeman

Gateway, Frederik Pohl

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K. Rowling

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams*

I Am Legend, Richard Matheson

Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice

The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin

Little, Big, John Crowley

Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny

The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick

Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement

More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon

The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith

On the Beach, Nevil Shute

Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke*

Ringworld, Larry Niven*

Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys

The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien*

Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut

Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson

Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner

The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester*

Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein*

Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock

The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks

Timescape, Gregory Benford

To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer*


One question: why is Dragonflight listed as a single book, while the entire First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant listed? Why not the Dragonflight/Dragonquest/White Dragon trilogy? Just curious.

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Another nifty Firefox add-on

One complaint that I've long had about Firefox, and it's a small one, is that darned Download window that pops up whenever I, um, download something. Looks like someone created a minor tweak to make the window more unobtrusive. It's called the Download Statusbar.

You can find more info at the development homepage, including these cool features:


  • Auto-hides when not in use
  • Single-click pause and resume
  • Pause all, Resume all, Cancel all, and Remove all finished - available from the context menu of the bar itself
  • Run a completed file with a double click on its finished box. Open containing folder, remove, and rename from the context menu
  • In-line view of percent done, speed in KB/sec, KB downloaded so far, and remaining time, can be customized in the options.
  • Updating tooltip provides a more detailed view of the current download, including source, destination, size of the download and the remaining time
  • Option to automatically clear files after a specified number of seconds
  • Copy source URL from the context menu
  • Stop downloads and save them for the next browser session.
  • Delete a file from your system from the context menu
  • Localized strings for translation
  • Download history can be viewed and configured to only keep the last # download items
  • Option to start virus scanner when a download completes
  • On browser close, option to continue downloads in download manager

Looks good to me. Then again, I AM a geek.

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Everything old is new again

Remember tying two cans together with a string and making a putrid, doesn't really work phone? Looks like some modern company thinks that that's a dandy idea. Minus the string, of course. Excerpt:

Who didn't have the old cup-and-string telephone when they were a kid? It was one of those things that everyone had to try out at least once to see if it really worked, and who wasn't excited when they found out it actually did? Well, that excitement may have faded over the years, but that doesn't mean we can't appreciate some good old cup-and-string based gadgets today. Duncan Wilson's Cup Communicator brings that old-timey form of communication into the 21st century by cutting the string. The Communicator is basically a walkie-talkie shaped like a couple of cups with string hanging out. You tug the cord to turn it on, squeeze the cup to talk, bringing you back to the good old days. I'm not sure how often you use a walkie-talkie, but if it's more than never this would be a cool replacement for your boring black boxes. That is if they were for sale; this looks to be just a concept at the moment.


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Portable, do it yourself MP3 player

Looks like a project that an old electronics hobbyist like me might enjoy, but probably not something for everyone. Excerpt:

Looking for a weekend project, or haven't found a music player that'll satisfy your inner creative geek? Well, meet MAKE's Daisy MP3 Player Kit, an open-source setup that'll play MP3 and WAV files all from one little chip board. Of course, this is a kit, not a full-fledged player, meaning Daisy comes in parts -- you'll have to give it a power source and a case should you want to actually use it in the real world. You can buy whole kit (the caboodle is extra) from MAKE or direct from its Oakland-based creator for $115

And here's a picture of what you'll be buyingbuilding.


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Dogs and cats living together

And that ain't all they're doing together.

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November 16, 2006

Public Service Announcement

Time for my 3rd annual post about The Great American Smokeout.

Do you want to quit smoking, but don't think that have the willpower to quit forever? The Great American Smokeout is for you. All you have to do is refrain from smoking for one day, just to prove to yourself that you can do it. Excerpt:

The Rules of the Game

The rules are simple: You just quit smoking for the 24 hours of the Smokeout. The wonderful thing is that you won't be alone; you can swap advice, jokes and groans with the other "quitters," nonsmokers and the American Cancer Society volunteers who will be cheering you on. Even if you don't go on to quit permanently, you will have learned that you can quit for a day and that many others around you are taking the step, too. Contact the American Cancer Society for information on how you can participate, either as a "quitter" or as a volunteer.

My grandmother died of cancer, as did several other members of my extended family. A few people I know have emphysema. I would rather not add to the list of people who suffer and/or perish from these diseases.

This post will remain at the top of this blog until November 16 has passed.

Note: In no way should my antipathy towards smoking be considered as

  1. An attack on smokers in general, as many of my friends smoke
  2. An indication that I condone the relentless attack on smokers by every branch of government, including the bans on smoking in restaurants and bars. Last time I checked, cigarettes were legal. Make them illegal, or STFU.

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And now for something completely different

I'll take a break from my normal collection of brewing related, computer related, or bad joke related posts to make this political insight: Hugh Hewitt fervent support for both Lott and Martinez will become his Harriet Meirs II moment. Excerpt:

I have to agree with Paul Mirengoff at Powerline about some reactions to the election of Trent Lott as Senate Minority Whip and Mel Martinez as RNC Chair. Both have the potential to be huge wins for the GOP, especially given Lott's command of Senate procedure.

I like Hugh Hewitt. his radio show is one of the better ones on the air, although I rarely get to listen to it. His unwavering support for almost anything that this administration support baffles me at times, especially on an issue which most conservatives oppose. Check out the excerpt from this post:

Regularization of the nation's millions of illegals along common-sense lines such should follow the fence's construction --or at least robust beginning of construction. If the GOP avoids plainly inequitable proposals such as the grant of social security benefits for the wages earned while illegally in the country or a path to citizenship for those who do not return first to their home countries, the comprehensive legislation can be worked out quickly.

Allow me to translate:

Regularization: amnesty for illegals

Comprehensive legistlation: amnesty for illegals

While working in IT the last decade or so, I had to opportunity to work with lots of foreign nationals, most of whom have to jump through hoops on a yearly basis just to guarantee that their visas stay up to date; this includes those attempting to get their green cards. Some of them, from India mostly, go back home for a few weeks each year to work through all of the technicalities at the local consulate. Anyway, that group of individuals is large and well-educated. They are almost unilaterally opposed to this amnesty talk. It pisses them off that some people lolly-gagged their way illegally across our borders and are about to be rewarded for it.

I know what the problem is: Hugh has swallowed the big effing lie that illegal immigration wasn't a winner in this past election. Bill Quick delivers a swift kick in the nads to this bullshit. Excerpt:

Fred Barnes in the Weekly Standard makes the case that immigration restriction wasn't a plus issue for House Republicans. In Arizona, with the biggest illegal border crossing crisis in the nation, two loud advocates of immigration restriction and opponents of guest-worker and legalization provisions lost: incumbent J.D. Hayworth in the Scottsdale-Tempe Fifth District and open-seat primary winner Randy Graf in the Eighth, which includes the east side of Tucson and Cochise County, site of most of the illegal border crossings. In 2004, Graf won 43 percent in the primary against incumbent Jim Kolbe, who favored guest-worker and legalization provisions. With Kolbe retiring, Graf won the same 43 percent in the primary again, but that was enough to win a three-candidate race. I tend to agree with Barnes's take. If an anti-immigration candidate can't win in these two districts, where can he win?

Pity. Mike Barone used to be a reasonably honest, reasonably trustworthy reporter, but here, he outright lies by omission.

An anti-illegal immigration candidate did win in both districts.

Here's Hayworth's opponent:

Every sovereign nation has a responsibility to secure its border. In Congress, I'll make it a top priority to secure the U.S.-Mexico border and stop illegal immigration.

And here is Graf's opponent's position on the issue:

is "absolutely unfair," she said. Republicans have not done enough to stop illegal immigration, she added, ridiculing Graf's idea that tougher enforcement will lead immigrants to go home.

"I don't believe they're going to stand up, walk home and self deport," Giffords said, carefully adding "I do not support amnesty."

Immigration nerds understand the difference in positions between the Democrats and the Republican candidates, but the average voter probably thought their positions were identically tough. For Barone - and the sleazy RNC hack Barnes - to intimate otherwise is, frankly, nothing more than ideological dishonesty.

Update: Check out Blogs of War for a roundup of the conservative[translation for Hugh Hewitt: not Republican] opinion. It isn't pretty.

Time for the GOP to go the way of the Whigs. The way leadership is behaving right now, I expect the Democrats to own all 3 branches of government in early 2009. Might as well gear up for the revolution now instead of waiting for the self-immolation to be complete.

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Playing those downloaded videos

I mentioned Video Ook! in a previous post. What I neglected to mention is that might need an additional player for the preponderance of FLV(flash video) movies out there. Here's a small standalone FLV player. There are others, of course, but I chose this one because it works on pre-2000 versions of Windows.

If you're interested in something far more robust, I'd like to suggest MPUI/Mplayer. Mplayer is the GNU media players, while MPUI adds a GUI frontend, with a number of usable skins.

MPlayer is arguably the best media player application of the world. Is is almost strictly monolithic, which means that it mainly consists of a single 7 MB executable that already contains all necessary codecs – for most files, it does not need any external codecs to be installed. If you want to know more about this wonderful program, please visit the MPlayer homepage.

The roots of MPlayer are in the Unix environment, and it shows in the way MPlayer is used: There is no graphical user interface, or at least none worth mentioning. Instead, MPlayer completely relies on a well-crafted command line interface and powerful keyboard shortcuts. While this is perfectly OK for Unix enthusiasts, Mac and Windows users prefer nice and more or less colorful graphical interfaces. There is already a »semi-official« OS X port, but up to now, no such project exists for the Windows platform.

This is where MPUI comes into play. It is a small program for Windows that takes the command-line hassle off you. Instead, you will get a no-frills, straight-to-the-point GUI that resembles the venerable Windows Media Player 6. It does not support every feature of MPlayer – there are just too many of them – but it is a solid »workhorse« media player tool suitable for most, if not all, everyday needs.

Note: "No installation is required to use MPUI/MPlayer. Simply copy the two .exe files into a directory of your choice an run MPUI. "

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November 14, 2006

Is this cool or what?

Everyone seems to have fallen in love with Performancing, which is a pretty good tool. However, here's one that I like better. Ever watch a Google or YouTube video that you knew would get pulled because it, umm, didn't exactly follow copyright laws and you wanted to save it permanently? Well now you can. I give you Ook?Video Ook! for your reading pleasure. Excerpt:

Ook? Video Ook! enables you to download embedded videos from several systems (such as YouTube, Google Video, Pornotube, Metacafe and many more).

Apparently, Ook? finds the appropriate URL for embedded videos and allows you to bring them on down to your PC. Pretty darned cool.

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November 13, 2006

Verify your image files

Maybe you decided to test drive Linux by downloading and burning one of the Live CD distros, but were unable to get the CD to boot properly. There are several possibilities:

1) In your computer's BIOS, the ACPI could be on. Unless you're using multiple processors, it's probably a good idea to disable this feature. Unless, like me, your computer has this feature tied to another that I cannot do without

2) You burned the ISO image at too high a rate. I know that everyone loves to burn CDs at 48x or greater. Unfortunately, bootable OSs are a bit more sensitive to this. When I burned my first Knoppix distro, I threw away my first two burned discs because I had created them at too high of a speed. I tried it at 2x and the Live CD worked perfectly. Now when I burn an ISO, I typically choose the slowest speed possible.

3) The file integrity of the ISO is corrupt. Many of the Live CD distros are greater than 600 Mb. Larger files are more susceptible to getting disrupted while downloading. What you need to do is to verify the integrity of your ISO. Here's how:

The best way to check the integrity of your downloaded ISO file is with the md5sum checksum. The Linux distro download site should offer either a Web page display or a separately downloadable text file containing a string of checksum characters. This string has to exactly match the string you get when you run md5sum against your downloaded ISO file.

For Linux Users

The md5sum checksum functionality is built into Linux. To begin the process under Linux, change directories to the wherever you downloaded your .ISO file. Once there, open a "console" or "terminal" and type this command after the prompt and press Enter:


(Note: Replace the {} and what's inside them with the actual name of your downloaded .ISO file.)

Next, skip down to the "Analyze the Results" subhead and pick up the steps there

For Windows Users

To begin the process under Windows, download the the md5sum.exe command-line utility or Luke Pascoe's md5summer Windows utility.

To use the DOS/Windows command-line utility, copy the md5sum.exe file to the proper directory:

For NT/2K/XP: Put md5sum.exe in {Your Windows Folder}\system32 folder

Then open a command prompt:

Windows 95/98/Me: Start > Run > command
Windows NT/2K/XP: Start > Run > cmd

Use the CD command to change directories to the wherever you downloaded your .ISO file. Once there, type this command and press Enter:


(Note: Replace the {} and what's inside them with the actual name of your downloaded .ISO file.)

The utility will create a checksum you can compare to the string offered by the Linux .ISO download site.

Analyzing the Results
Creating the checksum will take a few minutes. Once it's done, you can visually compare at least the first six characters and the last six characters of the two checksum strings. If they match, you're all set. It's time to burn your CD -- and that's the subject of our next tip.

There you have it. Now go have some fun.

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November 09, 2006

Become a GIMP savant

And no, it doesn't have anything to do with Pulp Fiction. Anyway, "bring out the GIMP." Learn to grok the GIMP. It's a powerful photo editing tool that is completely free, albeit not entirely intuitive in its use, which makes this site quite useful.

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A refund for the world's biggest virus

A Dell customer bought a new laptop. In of itself, that particular fact is completely not noteworthy. What is interesting is that the customer planned on using Linux on the laptop and received a refund from Dell for his unused Windows XP totaling $105. Excerpt:

Dell today gave freelance programmer and sysadmin Dave Mitchell, of Sheffield, UK, a refund of 47 pounds ($89) for the unused copy of Microsoft Windows XP Home SP2 bundled with his new Dell Inspiron 640m laptop, Mitchell says. Dell also refunded the tax, for a total of £55.23 ($105).

With few laptops available without the so-called "Microsoft tax", Windows refund requests have long been a slow movement among Linux community organizers. A few Linux users have reported success, but most laptop vendors have refused to honor the refund clause in Microsoft's End User License Agreement (EULA) unless the user returns the entire laptop. A Dell spokesperson was not aware of any policy change.
Dell has not yet requested that Mitchell return his Microsoft hologram sticker or any other materials bundled with the system. The laptop did not come with a Windows CD.

Mitchell was careful to document that he did not run the Microsoft product or accept the EULA. "I booted the laptop, then photographed every step of the boot process up to and including clicking on the XP 'no I don't accept' button. I also scrolled through each page of the EULA, taking a photo of each page," he wrote in an e-mail interview.

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They're baaaacck

It's time for the the Weblog Awards again. The current list of categories:

Best Blog
Best New Blog
Best Group Blog
Best Humor/Comics Blog
Best Liberal Blog
Best Conservative Blog
Best Media/Journalist Blog
Best Technology Blog
Best Culture/Gossip Blog
Best Sports Blog
Best Photo Blog
Best LGBT Blog
Best Military Blog
Best Blog Design
Best Podcast
Best Video Blog
Best Religious Blog
Best Parenting Blog
Best Law Blog
Best Business Blog
Ecosystem Based

Best of the Top 250 Blogs
Best of the Top 251 - 500 Blogs
Best of the Top 501 - 1000 Blogs
Best of the Top 1001 - 1750 Blogs
Best of the Top 1751 - 2500 Blogs
Best of the Top 2501 - 3500 Blogs
Best of the Top 3501 - 5000 Blogs
Best of the Top 5001 - 6750 Blogs
Best of the Top 6751 - 8750 Blogs
Best of the Rest of the Blogs (8751+)

I guess that I can nominate myself in a category, but it might be better coming from someone else(hint, hint).

Of course I'm shameless. I'm a blogger; it comes with the territory.

Oh, and you might want to suggest some more categories, if you can think of any. Go here for that.

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November 07, 2006

Game on

So I'm late. Sue me. I had two small children to tuck into bed. Priorities. Now on to the results:

VA: Allen leads by 3% with 48% reporting. That's good, but he'd better have a decent margin before Fairfax county comes in, or he will be a one-termer.

The marriage amendment is winning handily, after recent polls showed it within the margin of error. I guess that's true if your margin of error is large as John Kerry's face.


1,404 of 2,443 (57 %) Precincts Reporting
George Allen 629,330 50 %
Jim Webb, Jr. 609,220 49 %

Looks like a nailbiter in the Old Dominion.

Update: Mother of God, Shumer is smiling. Smiling. It's creepy. Also, not a good sign.


1,502 of 2,443 (61 %) Precincts Reporting
George Allen 679,127 50 %
Jim Webb, Jr. 653,942 49 %

Also, it appears that Ace and Dave of Garfield Ridge are liveblogging, too. I'll stick with Virginia, because, well, I live here.

Update: I lied. Corker is up big in TN right now.

1,625 of 2,443 (66 %) Precincts Reporting
George Allen 741,790 50 %
Jim Webb, Jr. 713,794 48 %

Update: CNN just called the race for Lieberman. A Dem hold on a bad night for the GOP, but I like bitchslapping those krazy Kos kidz.


1,803 of 2,443 (73 %) Precincts Reporting
George Allen 822,186 50 %
Jim Webb, Jr. 788,704 48 %

Spoke too soon. The lead is down to a percentage point with 77% in. Starting to sweat a little bit now.

Update: Jim Geraghty thinks that Allen will win. I hope that he's right.

BTW, WTF is up with Maryland? Steele up by 11% with 1% of the votes in and they called it for Cardin? I think that I'll watch the actual count come in, thankyouverymuch.

Oh, and apparently the exit polls blow chunks. Again. Fox kicked them to the curb and took the unorthodox method of counting the actual votes.

Final update: Barone just stated that we might not know the VA senate winner for a month. Under state law, if the margin of victory is within 1% of the total cast, an automatic recount is triggered.

Go-go absentee ballots!

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Pre-election predictions: 2006 edition

My guesses are of the aggregate kind. I don't feel like going through each race. Anyway, here goes:

Senate: Republicans hold serve, maintaining a 52-46-2(okay, 52-4 edge.

House: Democrats manage to wrest control from the GOP for the first time in 12 years, grabbing a grand total of 218-220 seats, which would give them a 1 to 5 vote margin.

These predictions are free, which means double your money back if I'm proven wrong.

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He's baaaacckk

Bill Whittle has a new post up. And even though his comments are closed, you can still chit-chat with Bill-so to speak- at this discussion group.

Great reading, as usual.

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November 04, 2006

Learn to use Linux via free courses online

So you've just seen another blue screen of death. Or you've run into one of the many bugsfeatures in Windows that you just don't care for. Finally, you're thinking about making the switch to another OS, but you don't know which one to choose.

How about a Mac? People seem to love those. Well, not ALL people.

Okay, how about Linux? You've heard some good things about it: it's stable, has lots of software and has the ability to work with lots of Microsoft products, including Office. But you're feeling a little nervous because you don't know much, if anything, about Linux. What do you do to become more comfortable? Take some free online training courses which will walk you through lessons that will move you along the path from a rank novice to a seasoned pro. Here are the courses:

  • Getting Started with Linux - Beginner's Course
  • Intermediate Level Linux Course
  • Advanced Linux Course

And here are some of what's taught in those classes:

Lesson One

  • Objectives
  • What is Linux?
  • Installing Linux
  • An actual install
  • About Debian GNU/Linux

Lesson Two

  • Installing Debian GNU/Linux
  • Partitioning
  • Plunk that CD in the drive
  • Sundry installation tasks
  • Reboot and basic configuration
  • Completing the install process

Lesson Three

  • Working with Linux - First Things First
  • Working as another user


System Administration - An Overview
Installation Tasks
Backing up systems
System Services
The Apache Web server
Keeping Your Linux System Secure
Setting Up A Virtual Mail System
Programming under Linux

And there's a lot more there. In fact, more than you probably want to know. However, you should feel fairly comfortable using Linux after walking your way through the coursework.

Have fun, and give Linux a try. Try some of the Live CD distros so that you can test drive some different flavors to find one that's right for you.

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