Scott's Column
Pictures of the Deck, More on Linux, A Word on Blogs

July 1, 2004
By Scott Lewis

As promised last month I have pictures of the FINISHED deck. I couldn't give up trying to run Linux on my laptop, so I have more information for you to digest. Finally, I decided to kick in a couple of comments about blogs.


The problem I have with Linux is that many, many months ago (actually about 3 years ago) I signed up for the Lindows newsletter. I mostly blow off its hype, but lately I see something promising. They are touting applications that are real replacements for Windows apps.

Before all you Linux freaks get all bent out of shape, here me out. Yes, there are applications for Linux that do most of what can be done under Windows. But those always seem to come down to individual programs. For example, there are a few hundred (probably) apps to play MP3s. But Lindows/Linspire is now telling about Lsongs as a complete package that is more like MusicMatch or iTunes and even works with Dell's MP3 Jukebox device. Another example is Gimp, a very good graphical program to edit digital photos. But there is no full featured photo album software. Linspire is now pushing Lphoto.

I realize that some of these programs are usable on other versions of Linux besides Linspire. But Linspire is promoting them, and allowing you to install them with one click. This is very important to the Linux desktop environment. It is not enough to have applications, but to have full featured applications that are going to be promoted so people will know about them. I congradulate Linspire for this, even if the traditional Linux community rejects Linspire as too much like Windows.

Mandrake 10

When I could not get Linspire 4.5 to work with my wireless laptop, I decided to try Mandrake. The latest version I could download and burn to CD was Mandrake 10. I had heard in the past that Mandrake was a little nicer in the desktop environment than Red Hat. Mandrake took about the same amount of time to install as Linspire (both longer than Windows), but Mandrake was on 3 CDs and had more of an excuse to take a while.

Unfortunately Mandrake could not detect the built-in 802.11b adapter in my laptop either.

Linspire Again

Back to Linspire. I am a cheapskate. I have spent far too much on software in the past that went unused, so I buy very little software anymore. I will not pay for a version of Linux until I KNOW it can do what I need... and in this case it is wireless connectivity from my laptop that I need. I aquired Linspire for free when I was looking into thier recently touted NVU web authoring tool. If you logged onto the NVU web site a few months ago they would give you a code that would allow you to buy Linspire for a discount. That discount made Linspire free.

I signed up, and it worked. I was able to download Linspire and burn it to CD for installation. Being the diligent cheapskate I am, I downloaded all the versions I was entitled to at the time. That included the developer edition, the full version, a laptop edition and even LinspireLive that lets you run Linspire from CD without installing it. Since then the laptop edition has been removed from the products I can download. But I still had the ISO image from a few months ago. I burned it to CD to see if it would do a better job of installing the drivers for my built-in wireless card. No such luck. I even tried installing my Linksys 802.11g PC Card and redetecting my hardware. Still nothing.

Searching For Help

I tried to search for help on getting Linux to work with wireless. But I could not find anything that was easy. Most of what I found assumed you had a computer connected to the Internet. Some of the instructions used commands that would go out to the Internet to get files. How can I do that if my connection is not there.

I eventually had to bite the bullet and plug in my laptop with a wire. This allowed me to get up and running on the Internet with Linspire. Now I can look things up and immediately try them. This is far better than going back and forth between my laptop and my desktop, or rebooting the laptop into Windows for research.

After getting the laptop working with the built-in Ethernet adapter and a wire draped across the floor, I was able to connect Linspire to the Internet. But I could not connect to my network. No shares were available. In fact, when I try to open the Network Browser I received an error that tells me to send a complete report to the authors of the software. I don't even know where I would find a "complete report" to send, or who the authors of the program are.

I was checking out the "control panel" in Linspire and saw a wireless device listed in the network section. Did Linspire some how find my wireless card? Did I do something that made the card show up? Was I really surfing the net with a wireless connection? Nope, nope and nope. I don't know why my Ethernet card is no longer listed and a wireless card is, but it is only working with my wired Ethernet connection.

Of course, I still cannot connect to any of my network shares. I decided to try and create a shared directory in Linspire. Low and behold that worked. Once I set the permissions of the directory and shared it, I could see the Linspire (Linux) shared folder from my Windows desktop computer. Wow! I still could not see anything on my network from the laptop.

A Few Comments

I did get a little time with Linspire, so I think a few words are worth noting. First is speed. Linspire is slooooow. It takes about 4 minutes to boot. Once I connected the wire to my Ethernet port the CNR (Click-n-Run) software would connect to Linspire's web site and tell me that CNR was updating itself. It did this on every boot when I tried to start the web browser. Every boot! Of course, this stopped the web browser from launching and I had to launch it again after the CNR update finished.

The web browser loads slow as well. I was very frustrated. I was unable to use GoToMyPC to connect to my work under Linspire. This is a Java based client from GoToMyPC, but it would not load. What a shame.

When I tried to find help on the Internet I only found bizarre references to steps that would not work unless connected to the Internet (one of the reasons why I connected the wire), but nothing for trying to get drivers working under Linspire just other versions of Linux. This is unfortunate. Linux could be a desktop replacement for Windows, but the Linux community seems content to let Linux be a techie operating system.

What is so hard about creating a driver download that has a simple installation. Couldn't a decent command file (batch file to you DOS/Windows people) be created to execute all the steps to get a driver or application installed. I am sure the Linux diehards out there assume I just don't "get it." Maybe, but I did enough of the geek stuff in the old DOS days. I want something better in today's environment. The Linux crowd that likes things the way they are are probably still using character based e-mail, ftp, and browsing software. No? Then why not have a GUI install tool for apps and drivers? Linspire seems to be the only one trying in this area, and they get shunned by the Linux community. Another shame.

Then it dawned on me. Why am I doing this? If it is this much trouble trying to get Linspire or Linux to work on my laptop why bother? Then I received another newsletter update describing software for Linspire. Oh yea, that's why I was doing this. Since I can't get the wireless working and can't see my network from the laptop, Linspire is out.

Enough of my Linux diatribe. I am hopeful that Linux can provide real competition to Windows. Without competition we are all doomed to be Microsoft minions. In the mean time Windows is working just fine on my laptop.

What's Next

I have not decided if I want to try again with Mandrake and use the wire to try and get the wireless working. I don't know if the applications I keep hearing about in Linspire's CNR Warehouse are going to be easy to find and install under a different version of Linux. For the time being Linux is on the back burner. I am just glad I did not pay to try this exercise.

The Finished Deck

railing1.jpg (106887 bytes)  railing2.jpg (118021 bytes)

Well, here it is. The deck is finished. At least for the next few years. O.K., I still need to put the spindles in the railing at the stairs. And I took out the railing between the deck and the porch. But it has been railing like crazy for the last few days that I didn't have a chance to get a decent picture. We love it though. Making it bigger is the only issue, which will happen much later. I am not even thinking about making it bigger anytime soon.

I do need to take care of a couple of things. 1) I want to put some kind of stairs leading down to the pool filter. We have the outside part of the pool ladder there now. Since we don't need it to get into the pool we use it there. This is not the safest way to go. I would like to put steep, ladder like steps with a proper hand rail leading down to the filter. 2) I also want to extend the railing in front of the concrete pad outside the bathroom. As it is now it looks a little weird when you step out of the bathroom. I am in no hurry for these two items, but they will probably happen this summer.

A Word On Blogs

I keep hearing about blogs (web logs). And now there are even going to be Audio Blogs. Whenever I read an article about blogs, I tend to try and find a good blog to read. I have yet to find one I like that has something worth reading. Good writing, with both content I would like to read and the talent to write it well, are more easily found by paid professionals.

I am going to get blasted for this, but... blogs seem like a way for some people to try and become famous, even if they are the only ones that think so. You know, the classic joke, "a legend in his own mind." The way I know a blog is worthless is by looking for ads. If you really have something to say... then say it without jumping on the marketing bandwagon.

I maintain this web site because I enjoy writing, even though I am not good at it. I do believe I have gotten better. If you don't believe me on that one point check the archives of this site and read some of the crap I wrote five or more years ago. But better is still not good. I do it because I enjoy it. Yes, I PAY for my web hosting. I like the freedom of having a web site that someone else is not slapping ads on. And I usually end up paying extra for the disc space so I can have my entire archive online with all the images I have posted over the years.

I don't even dilute myself into thinking the content on this site is worth paying for. When people put ads on their sites, especially blogs, they are asking people to pay for the content. Yea, yea, the people reading it aren't paying, but the advertisers are. But it is through the advertisers the blogger is getting paid for content he feels worth paying for. Maybe that's the debate. Does the blogger think his content is worth paying for? Or is he just out to try and make a quick buck from advertising. Advertising that leads us all to have to install pop-up blockers and spyware tools to keep our computers our own.

I find this to be a huge waste for the Internet. For every scheme to get people to read anything there is some marketing weenie that is trying to figure out how to make a buck off of it. If the bloggers really want to share their thoughts, then let them do it without opening Pandora's box to marketing trash to dilute what they want to say.

Do it like me, do it for free.

Sorry, finished with diatribe #286.

Until next month...