MonthJanuary 2011

Saline Linux Review

This is my first attempt at reviewing a Linux distribution. I’m excited, and I hope you’ll find it useful. I would definitely appreciate any feedback! I’m a user, not a developer, so I’ll be approaching this from a not-too-technical angle, focusing on asthetics and usability. Here goes.

I first became aware of Saline Linux when Anthony Nordquist posted a comment on one of my previous blog posts, Why I Use Linux. Toward the end of his comment he mentioned that he was working on a distribution of his own, and I said I would give it a try. I was excited to learn via Twitter that as of 1/16/2011, version 1.0 of Saline Linux is now available.

Saline Linux is built on Debian and features Xfce for its desktop environment. According to the About page on Saline’s website, “Saline OS includes many things that most people using a Debian GNU/Linux based system would most likely want or need, but are not included or not setup on a default Debian install for various reasons. This includes sgfxi for installing proprietary graphics drivers, Debian repositories that include software that does not conform to Debian’s strict free software guidelines, WINE repositories, Remastersys backup utility, binary firmware for common wireless network cards, the Debian backports repository and a script to install potentially patent encumbered multimedia codecs with one command.”

I torrented the iso file of the live dvd and set about to install it under Virtual Box. It booted up quickly, and I began the installation process. The installer was pretty straight forward and not atypical of many other Linux distributions. I did have an opportunity to stretch myself during the installaAtion though. Never before have I allocated any space to swap, but Saline required me to for installation. It wasn’t tough, but I’d never done it before, even though Fedora, or Ubuntu, or whatever always asks me to. That extremely minor challenge surmounted, the installation proceeded quickly.

Live DVD Desktop

Nautical Themed Login Screen

Neat Launcher Bar at the Bottom that Auto Hides Itself

Auto Update Command

Clean - Remove Browser History

User Manual

Automatic Update

The user manual, which is available on the desktop of both the live dvd and the installed system contains a lot of good information such as included software and an installation walkthrough.

Included in the manual is a script to add restricted multimedia codecs. This is extremely useful for someone who wants to use Linux as a Windows or Mac replacement. The codecs installed for me without any difficulties, allowing me to fully enjoy a wide variety of media formats.

Finally, the manual contains several pages of useful POSIX commands

I was pleased to see that Chromium is included as the default browser. I find that when I want a fast light system, especially for a netbook with limited screen space, that Chromium is the right browser for the job.

Another software choice was Gedit, rather than Mousepad which is what I’m used to seeing with Xfce installations. I like Gedit, so I was happy to see it among the software.

I find Saline Linux to be a very pleasant distribution to use, and I could definitely see it as my primary OS of choice. It is built on the rock solid Debian foundation, but includes some nice theme-ing that you won’t get with Debian Xfce. I think as its usership and community grow, Saline Linux has the potential to be every bit as wonderful and vibrant as Linux Mint, which is currently my distro of choice. For now I’m going to continue running it as a virtual machine and see how it continues to progress.

One thing I really enjoyed just on a personal level is that the desktop background by default seems to be some sort of large aquarium. This is a nice change of pace from the abstract shapes, random colors, and logos included as the default background in many other distributions.

Congratulations on a great release, Anthony. To my readers, I hope you found this review useful on some level, and I definitely encourage you to give Saline Linux a try if you’re in the mood for something new.

Quit Ruining the Internet

I do a lot of website administration activities using my phone, the lovely Evo 4G from Sprint. A while back I took the advice of my friend Nick Altrup from 417 Marketing and stopped moderating my comments. This has opened my site up to potential spammers, but I’ve taken steps to prevent bots from spamming me. However, if a person chooses to spam me, they are now able to do so, and their worthless waste of Internet will now appear on my site for a few seconds until I get the email from WordPress, realize the comment is spam, and then list it as such from my phone. I’m not going to put up with spam on my site if I can avoid it, and I’ll go round and round with a spammer all day if I have to. Today I had to.

I was at Gladstone Dodge getting my car serviced this morning, and starting around 7:50 this morning, this punk started spamming my site. First he (could be a she, but I’m going to blame a man) posted about 4 links to something called soma. I didn’t know what that was, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t have anything to do with Why I Use Linux, which is the page this guy is assaulting. Over the next hour, this clown posted 25 spam comments that I have had to moderate from my phone because I couldn’t find a more permanent solution to keeping this trash off my site.  I don’t care about your soma, casinos, versace hand bags, cartier sunglasses, or herpes simplex 1 medications.  Keep that trash off of my site!

Once I got home, I started looking for a way to block this guy’s IP address, which is 89.248.168.40. If you’re someone that knows how to punish someone electronically based on their IP address, have at this guy, because he deserves it. I know that if I could, I would.

First I tried to look up on Google how to block an IP address from accessing my site. I saw a lot of stuff about editing the .htaccess file, but I couldn’t find a way to do that which I could understand. It looked as though there was no way to do this from within the confines of WordPress, and I couldn’t get anywhere on my Dreamhost administration page either. So I abandoned this track for now.

I decided to gather some intel on my foe. I looked up his IP address, and it says he’s from the Netherlands. Since my last name is Hollander, I get a lot of traffic from the Netherlands, at least I assume that’s the correlation. See below for a little geographical information. If you recognize those street names, and you happen to be in the Netherlands and might know this guy, feel free to drop in on him and ask him to stop his spamming ways. If his computer has become a spam bot and is somehow getting past my web countermeasures, erase his hard drive.

Maybe this guy is using XP Professional, Vista Business/Ultimate, or 7 Professional/Ultimate, I thought to myself. I decided to try to remote desktop into his computer and delete some files from the system folder or something. No luck using rdesktop, but I’ve had luck randomly attempting to rdesktop people before.

So I went back to WordPress, and the obvious solution presented itself. I just went to settings → Discussion → Comment Black List, and I added his IP address. This isn’t the perfect solution I would have hoped for, because this guy’s waste is still spilling into my spam comments section, but at least I don’t have to personally deal with it each time. He’s up to 29 comments now. In fact, he accounts for more than 25% of all the spam coming to my site since I created it, and I’m sure the percentage will rise. A new one shows up every 3-4 minutes. I guess this guy must be a bot, which is frustrating because I thought I had plugged the hole on spam bots, so I’ll have to revisit that issue.

Now to Jump on a Soapbox

The Internet is probably the greatest human achievement. Everything that ever has been is accessible from the Internet. What an amazing repository of knowledge. And some of you out there insist on filling it up with stupid crap. Something like 90% of emails are spam. There are hundreds of thousands of essentially fake websites posing as real websites to trick people into clicking on affiliate marketing and advertisement links. I have in the past considered setting up such websites, a la programs such as Niche Blitzkrieg. But I decided not to, because I love what the Internet stands for, and I don’t want to make my living by preying on the stupid, even if it is easy to do. Some senior citizen surfing the web using Internet Explorer 5.0 lands on a fake website, clicks up a bunch of advertisement links, and makes a purchase off of an affiliate link, and we all die a little more inside. Please leave the Internet pure.

I Would Rather Win the Nigerian Lottery…

…Than deal with all your spam comments on my site. Spam ruins a good website. I used to go to Maximum PC all the time, but then I realized that literally all of the comments were spam, and it turned me off. Spammers ruined my experience of that website, and poor site administration didn’t help.

Spammers are pathetic in their attempt to entice people, and yet it works or they wouldn’t keep doing it. Here is a sampling of some of the spam I’ve received in the last month and a half (by the way that dude from the Netherlands is up to 33 spam comments now).

"Rattling Fresh"?

You've been looking for KC/Springfield comparisons for hours? Really?

Icons? What are you talking about?

You "determined" my site? Don't try to sound like you know English.

You feel strongly about android tethering? Headway noesis?

What indeed

Flattery will get you everywhere...except my comments page

An exact copy? Say it ain't so!

Nice Excerpt

Try checking that oh-so-surreptitious link in your comment.

Yeah, I'm a real web Michelangelo when it comes to android tethering

Help Me Out

If you can explain to me how to access the .htaccess file, please let me know in the comments below. I’m not my own web server, I’m using Dreamhost to host my site. Do you have any other strategies for dealing with spammers? How can I let this guy know his computer has been taken over?  (The spammer is now up to 42 comments).

A Trip to the Grand Canyon

On the fourth day I was in Las Vegas, I decided to make good use of my rental car and drive out to the Grand Canyon. I left about 6:30 AM, and Google Maps seemed to think it was going to take about 5 hours to get there. As luck would have it, about 40 miles past the Hoover Dam, I saw a sign for the Grand Canyon Sky Bridge which is located at Grand Canyon West. I turned off Highway 93 and headed for Grand Canyon West.

At some point I went through a depressing looking town called Dolan Springs. It seems like I went about 50 miles up the turn off road, and then another 20 or so down a mostly gravel road over to the entrance to the Grand Canyon West area.

The Hualapai Indian Tribe runs the entire area. I’m not sure if I was on a reservation, or if they converted some other land they owned into this canyon viewing park. I parked, walked into this inflatible gift shop/ticket sales building, purchased the $42 Hualapai Legacy pass (the minimum price and pachage that could be purchased), and boarded the bus to ride over to the canyon. I could have paid $75 to also get to walk on the Skywalk, but I figured the Canyon was pretty big, and I’d be able to get a pretty good view without paying an additional $33.

We bussed over to the canyon, jumped off the bus, and met a couple Hualapai that were hanging out near the first stop. There was no sort of railing or barrier, you could walk straight up to the edge of the canyon, and even jump off if you were so inclined, although that probably wouldn’t have ended well.

I’ll stop the narrative here, and just let you view the majestic splendor of the Grand Canyon, carved by the Hand of God.

A bit of snow on the canyon

The Skywalk

Me in Front of the Canyon

More Canyon Snow

My New Desktop Background

Joshua Trees

Joshua Tree

CES Day 2

So, I’m a little late in posting this, but here’s a quick summary of what I saw on the second day I went to the CES.

We stopped back by the Panasonic display area. They had a huge wall of 3D TVs. As I said previously, 3D isn’t going away. What we can look forward to is the price of 3D televisions declining, especially once the 3D TV Sans Glasses comes into the market.

Panasonic Wall of TVs

I also saw the world’s largest 3D HDTV, which has an 84 inch screen.

World's Largest 3D HDTV

We saw a lot of car displays on Day 2 as well, mostly related to car audio. There were a lot uf muscle cars and exotics as well.

Audi

Porsche

Back in June when I went to China with the Drury MBA Program, we saw a lot of knock offs. Anything that could be knocked off was, and there is a long history of Chinese businesses ignoring US copyrights and patents. Here’s an example of a Chinese company ripping off an iconic symbol for their logo. Note that Mojan Batteries is using the bull from the New York Stock Exchange as their emblem. They had it pasted all over their packaging and promotional materials. I guess they figured no one would realize that the bull was from something else. We also saw tons of Spongebob Squarepants stuff that probably hadn’t been licensed and was being used without permission.

The NYSE Bull Says "Buy Mojan Batteries"

Another quick observation:  How not to advertise your electronic cigarette:

Come on, kid, take a hit of this e-cigarette

I think this dude has Soul Glow in his hair (Coming to America reference!).

After a couple hours at the show, we went back to our respective hotels for a little rest, and then headed downtown to Fremont Street that evening for some fun. Quick Vegas tip: take the Deuce Bus. I rented a car, and I could have totally gotten around more easily without it for less money. A 24 hour Deuce Bus pass is only $7 as of the time of this writing, and it is totally worth it. You can ride it up and down the Strip and to downtown.

Lots of fun older more seedy casinos and entertainment venues are available on Fremont Street, and they purport to pay out 11.6% more winnings than the casinos on the Strip. The coolest thing about Fremont Street is the world’s largest big screen, which arches over the entire street for several blocks. Each hour they do a musical tribute with a really cool video. The first day we went to Fremont Street we got to hear American Pie by Don McLean and The Doors. It was great. If you’re ever in Vegas, don’t fear going downtown, you really need to see the Fremont Street Experience. There were also numerous colorful characters wandering around the street to pose with for pictures.

Jen Executing Dark Helmet

At Binions with a Million Bucks

CES Day 1

I woke up at 4:30 AM Vegas time, and couldn’t go back to sleep. Dang time zone change. I turned on Fox and Friends and they were talking about some medical devices linked up to iPhones/iPads. Neat stuff.

I got ready to go meet Glenn, who hooked me up with tickets, and headed out at 8:30. I was supposed to meet Glenn at 10 at the Riviera, so I figured I would be there with plenty of time to spare. Wrong. It took me 2 hours to drive the 3 miles to the Riviera, and since all the Convention parking was taken by then I had to park at the Riviera for $20 instead of the Convention Parking for $10. Finally I linked up with Glenn, and we headed in.

Media Presence

There was a lot of media coverage. As I mentioned, Fox News had a guy up there that I saw on TV. I also saw NBC and CNBC with big operations. Lots of reporting from their end. Syfy Channel also had a big booth, but it looked like they were promoting a game more than providing media coverage.

3D Isn’t Going Away

I had previously thought all the 3D stuff was just a revived fad, but they’re not kidding around with it, and it isn’t going away. Sony’s 3D offerings were extremely impressive, as were Panasonic’s. They have 3D camcorders now too, and some of them were pretty impressive. I also saw the world’s largest 3D HDTV from Panasonic, 84 inches.

Wall of Panasonic TVs

Also on the TV front, I saw this really cool I3 Wall, which was essentially an entire room that was a TV, walls, floor, and ceiling. When the picture moved it was like you were actually moving, a sensation very similar to an IMAX.

I3 Wall TV Room

Cell Phones

The coolest thing I saw today in the cell phone arena was the Motorola Atrix, which they claimed to be the fastest and most advanced cell phone in the world. And it was running Android. This phone can essentially function as a laptop. It’s got a gig processor and a gig of ram, which is pretty high spec. The only thing that wasn’t wholly impressive was the 5.0 megapixel camera. They couldn’t put in an 8.0 megapixel camera? Another problem is that it’s only going to be available on AT&T, which is lousy compared to Verizon and Sprint in my experience.

Motorola Atrix

A quick word on AT&T’s advertising: since I’ve been out here I keep seeing “AT&T is getting faster.” This makes it sound like up to now they’ve sucked, and that they still suck, just not as badly. I’m sure that’s not the message they’re trying to send.

Every other exciting new phone was available at the CES as well, minus the Apple stuff. There were numerous vendors with phone accessories too, including some interesting bedazzled phone cases and battery life extenders. All of this stuff was of interest to Glenn with his Midwest GSM company. Check them out if you’re in the cell phone reselling business.

Samsung Galaxy Family

Tablet PCs

Previously I haven’t cared much about tablet PCs. I just like having a keyboard, and my netbook (from which I’m posting this blog entry), has always served my basic mobile needs. The tablet market is really poised to explode. There’s a bunch of new stuff coming out, it’s all going to be getting cheaper and better, and people that don’t want to shell out $800 for the good version of the iPad are going to definitely going to seriously consider Android tablets. Glenn has found the 10 inch tablet size to be the one that people are after, but I think I’d rather get the 5 or 7 inch variety since they’re a little more pocket friendly. Glenn made a lot of good supplier contacts from over in Asia.

Tablets

Conclusion

So the CES has been awesome so far. I can’t wait to see more, and I’ll be posting more about it tomorrow.

Las Vegas Day 1

Here’s a little update for you from Las Vegas. I’ll be posting about what I see and learn at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) the next couple days, so be sure to check back.

All Times Local

3:00 AM – Kansas City – Wake up, brew/consume coffee, charge phone

3:30 AM – Kansas City – Drive to Airport

3:45 AM – Kansas City – Park Car in Economy Lot and Call for Shuttle Service

4:00 AM – Kansas City – Get Boarding Pass

4:30 AM – Kansas City – Pass Through Security (no pat down or naked scan required, just good ol’ metal detector)

5:30 AM – Kansas City – Board US Airways Airbus 319 (Seat 2A)

6:00 AM – Kansas City – Plane Departs

7:40 AM – Phoenix Skyharbor – De-plane for an hour, charge phone

8:50 AM – Phoneix Skyharbor – Re-plane, depart for Las Vegas

8:40 AM – McCarran Airport – Arrive in Las Vegas (before I left! Time Zones!)

I’ll suspend the time breakdown here. In the KC airport, which I could have arrived at an hour later than I did, there was a couple flying with a Scotty dog. It looked like a nice dog, and seemed well-behaved. Some Steve Jobs look alike came over and spilled his entire dog ownership history upon seeing the Scotty dog. This dude evidently has 4 Scotty dogs of his own back home. Thanks for sharing, Steve Jobs look alike!

Once I got off the plane in Las Vegas, I had to walk to the opposite end of the airport to claim my baggage, then I got on the shuttle to the rent-a-car complex and claimed my faithful conveyance for the week: the noble Chevy Cobalt.

Drove over to the Travelodge. They don’t just give out a 1.5 star rating to any ol’ hotel either. I’m sure this place has been around since Sinatra was in town. It’s good enough for who it’s for.

I drove up the Strip a ways. Really neat stuff. I can’t wait to do some exploring. I drove up to the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop of Pawn Stars fame, but there was no sign of the Old Man or any of the other TV show cast. Maybe I’ll try back later. They’re open 24 hours a day.

Driving Down the Strip

On This Episode of Pawn Stars

Continuing to play tourist, I took a little drive out to the Hoover Dam. What an impressive structure. On the flight in we passed right over Lake Meade and I was able to see the dam from the air. Even from an altitude it looked impressive. I was glad that you can drive over again. I heard that after 9/11 for a while it was restricted. Now they’ve got it set up where you can drive across the dam one way, and then you have to drive right back across it. There’s no through traffic. I didn’t take the Dam tour because I didn’t have any Dam questions and I couldn’t find any Dam bait (Cousin Eddie!)

Lake Mead

Lake Mead Side of the Dam

Looks Like You Brought Your Scotty Dog All This Way for Nothing

After the jaunt out to the Hoover Dam, I headed back to town, stopped by the Riviera briefly to get my CES badge holder, and came back to the Travelodge. Where I wrote up this blog post. Keep an eye out in the coming days for my posts about the CES.

A final observation. I flew out here 1st class, but I’m heading back coach. That’s going to be a mistake. I didn’t realize this, having never before tasted the sweet nectar of 1st class, but when you’re up there in the big comfy seat, you actually get customer service. Flight attendants were falling over themselves trying to get me coffee refills. In coach, the flight attendants are basically zoo keepers. The passengers back there are more of a burden in their eyes than a customer. Maybe I can upgrade before my return flight…

December Site Statistics

Hello, friends.

Just a quick update with some site statistics. My site officially launched on December 6, 2010. As of December 31, 2010, my site had 1331 visitors from 76 different countries/territories according to the delightful Google Analytics.

My site had been viewed mostly by friends and acquaintances of mine in its early days. I promoted my new blog posts via my Twitter account (@russhollander), my Facebook page, and (later when I remembered it) my LinkedIn account. Feel free to add me on any of these social media platforms.

Then I published my “Why I Use Linux” post on Thursday December 30. Like all my posts, I scheduled it to appear online at 6AM, although it had been written the night before. Up to that point, my site had about 250 viewers from 4 countries: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. And based on Google Analytics, I could typically guess which of my friends or relations had been viewing my site based on what cities were represented in Google Analytics. For example, I have a friend living in Vancouver, BC. I’m pretty sure he was the one visitor from Vancouver, although I could have been wrong.

Around 9AM on Thursday, December 30 I submitted my blog post to one of my favorite Linux news sites: LXer.com. It was approved shortly thereafter, and the hits started rolling in. Even more exciting, people started commenting on my post, and I commented back. It was great to participate in the Linux community as an article publisher for a change, rather than an article reader as I normally am.

I’m really excited that such a large number of people from all over the world were interested enough in my article to follow the link, and I’m extremely grateful to the people that commented and shared the article via Twitter, Facebook, and other means. Thanks readers. I hope that in the future I will continue to write stuff worthy of your consumption.

I’m proud to say that more than 50% of my visitors are using Linux when they visit my site, although this isn’t surprising since so many of my visitors were coming to read an article about why I choose to use Linux. Firefox is the most popular browser choice out there, with Chrome (and its derivatives) coming in second. The Chrome statistics are slightly skewed though because I’ve done all my site administration using Chromium, so the Chrome numbers are inflated.

Operating System Statistics

Browser Choice Statistics

Thanks everyone for visiting and reading. This is very encouraging for someone new to the blogging scene. Now, if I could just coerce someone from North Dakota, South Dakota, Rhode Island, and Mississippi to visit my site, I would have visitor representation for all 50 US states.

Things to look forward to in January: posts about my upcoming trip to the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, posts about my first day at my new job, and exciting/intriguing miscellany. As always, I appreciate your comments, so feel free to post them below.

Have a good one.

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