When something is working, it seems to make sense to you. For example, we all know that a car burns gas, and uses the energy to run a motor that turns the wheels to make it go. Gas--> motor--> wheels--> Go! It seems simple. The same is true of an operating system. You turn it on, it boots up, some text goes across the screen, then the windows pop up and you're ready to go. Boot--> text--> windows--> Go! Its easy, until something breaks. You never really understand how complicated something is until it breaks.
I am currently in that level of hell reserved for people who upgrade their GNU/Linux system too quickly. I have for some time now been happily using KDE 4 with the plasma desktop enjoying the cute little animations and eye candy, and learning to use the task-bar and widgets. Then my bliss was interrupted by a simple mistake. I decided to upgrade. I forgot that my
/etc/apt/sources.list was set to load experimental versions of the software, and now my X-server system is broken. It is only now that I am discovering that there is no
In my last article I talked about how interest leads people to program. Then life rose up behind me like a giant Doberman pincer and bit me on my backside; so, I didn't think of programming for over four months. However, just this week something happened that made me want to program again.
I was preparing to teach some students how to use dichotomous keys to identify organisms. Suddenly, while I was staring at a simple teaching key for identifying fruit, my eyes glazed over and I had a moment of clarity. I realized that I was looking at the basis of a very simple program.
As we follow the zig-zaggy quest of me trying to learn to program, I discover the next significant step, "Interest". I started with a goal: to learn to program. Next I came up with a plan: Learn Python by writing a program called PT (period tracker) but I lacked the last bit, interest.
You see, there was very little that period tracker did that a calendar didn't. Spending hours to make a program to do work that I could do in five minutes with a calendar and a pencil seemed like a waste of effort.
Your GNU/Linux computer is an amazing machine. It can display images. It can run programs. It can perform dozens of functions all at the same time. How can you keep track of all this activity? By monitoring the processes that your computer runs, and one of the best ways to monitor and control processes is by using the command line.
I know that Free software proponents love to hang out with each other. You go to a conference with free software folks talking about how great free software is, but that's just preaching to the choir. You can't forget to go out there in the world and show others what it feels like and looks like to use free software.
This week, May 25 - May 28, I'm going to attend the International Space Development conference that will be held at the Intercontinental Dallas Hotel at 15201 Dallas Parkway in Addison Texas.
Deciding to follow my own New Years advice, I updated my version of Mozilla suite. The Mozilla suite has now been renamed Seamonkey for reasons which will not be discussed in this blog, and while I was installing it, I decided to install the flash plugin even though it is non-free.
As the Presidential election year in the USA is approaching, it's time to remind everyone again about election fraud and how important it is to push for free software in electronic voting machines. Voting machine software is primarily manufactured by private companies who use proprietary software. This immediately brings up the possibility that backdoors are built into the software to allow people "in the know" to change vote tallies and directly influence elections.
It's a new semester at school and OH GOD! I have to decide which word processor to use this Spring.
As we start a new year, it’s time to clear out last year’s baggage. Here are some tips on how to start the new year afresh.
1. Clean your computer desk
If you are like me, your computer desk is like a magnet for all sorts of stuff. Mugs, little pieces of note paper, receipts, books, DVDs, etc. Now is a time to clear all of the non-essentials off of your desk. You’ll be amazed at how much larger your desk will appear.
2. Clean out your bookmarks
Have you been planning on getting around to learning how to use the GIMP someday? Well now that the GIMP has had its tenth anniversary, it’s about time to start. In this article, I will walk you step by step through the process of making a web banner using the GIMP. Hopefully this kickstart will encourage you to do more playing on your own.
I recently had my fourtieth birthday. When I announced it to a group, a woman came up to me to tell me how brave I was to admit to my age. I found it strange. I'm not ashamed to be this old. In fact, I'm glad about it. When I was a teenager, everyone said that the World War III would have happened by now, and I would be living in a post-apocalyptic anarchic civilization like in the movie Road Warrior. I really prefer how things turned out.
I finally began learning python. I wrote my last program in the 80s in Apple Basic, and here I am again starting to learn a new language. I can already guess what my biggest problem will be. I am incredibly impatient. How can I learn to program when I refuse to read the documentation all the way through? Will I succeed in writing a program or am I doomed to give up? No need worrying about it. I type python on the command-line, and start.
Last week I mentioned my decision to learn Python and write a free software program. I found some cool online tutorials. I found my Learning Python book, and I was ready to begin. So like many a programmer I sat down in my chair, opened my books... and watched "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" instead.
Why aren't there more female free software developers out there. In my attempt to find out, I decided to write a program and see what barriers got in my way.
Most free software developers are men. Women are vastly under-represented in the world of free software. Being a woman, I wanted to know why, so I tried to do it myself. The first barrier was my inability to program in any modern computer language, so my first step was to learn a new one.
First I had to pick a language to program in.
With all of the recent argument over the lack of women in the free software community, especially as relates to the reports from the Free/Libre/Open Source Software Group, which state that only 1.5% of the free software development community is female, and that women are actively discouraged from becoming free software developers. I decided to take a new approach and ask myself, "Why am I not a free software developer?"
A wiki is a series of searchable web pages that many people can edit. This works well for Wikipedia because people will search for a particular topic in an encyclopedia. This also works for Wiktionary because people search for definitions of words, but what about other Wikimedia projects such as Wikibooks? Is a wiki the appropriate software for these projects? Are these projects doomed to fail?
Last time we talked about the phenomena that is Wikipedia and the other Wikimedia projects associated with it. In this blog I walk through my first steps as I try to contribute to a Wikimedia project.
I went to the Wikipedia main page, and registered to become a contributor. After searching for topics that interested me, I found an entry that could be improved by adding an image that I had made. So I decided to start by adding this image to the site.
Who doesn't know about Wikipedia by now? It is probably the largest collaborative free-licensed project on the web. Now a wiki is basically a web page that many people write and edit. The whole idea sounds a bit dubious really, but when the distinguished journal NATURE published an article comparing Wikipedia to Encyclopedia Britannica online, they found that Wikipedia was pretty accurate although Britannica was more accurate overall.
In serious need of a word processor, I have finally looked at Mozilla Composer after ignoring it for years. Although it does have its problems, I am feeling the first blush of love.
So getting here was a long journey. I switched from Netscape to Mozilla long ago, and I remember that I was a bit annoyed by all the bells and whistles. The newsreader I didn’t like, though I did use Mozilla for my mail. Composer was there, I suppose, but I never used it.