Archive for the 'Review' Category

Status update

Saturday, March 1st, 2008

It’s been a while between blog posts partly because I’ve been busy; partly because I have been lazy.

I will discuses 3 topics here so if one doesn’t interest you don’t read it.

Firstly I want to talk about my new laptop and Windows Vista.
My old Compaq P3 laptop died a few months back (closer to a year back) I was surprised how much mistreatment it actually survived through but it eventually chocked with my wrong doing so I its death is on my shoulders.
Ever after that tragic day I have been looking for a new one, even my pc was getting close to being due for an upgrade with slower compile times, Flash videos using nearly 100% CPU and barely only being able to play 4 year old games at low frames.

So I bought a Asus M51SN, the version I purchased has a Core Duo 2.5Ghz CPU 6MB cache(L2), 2 GB ram, 200GB HDD, 512MB 9500M GS GFX (Geforce 9), TV Tuner and Vista Ultimate. It also came with a free wireless router.
The hardware is very capable and the CPU and GFX architecture were only released last month.

Setting up my free Asus wireless router was kind of tricky. It came with very basic lame instructions which required you to run a setup cd on Windows and press a button on the device to put it into a ‘find me setup’ mode. I can see why there is so many un-secured wireless networks when these things are designed to be easy to setup but this makes them defautly un-secure.

Using some assumptions and guessing I was able to setup the router the right way without having to use the crappy 2 step instructions in the manual. Knowing that routers by default have the class C IP address of 192.168.1.1 I was able to hit the router setup page from my browser. After a few attempts I was then able to guess the default administrator username and password (which was ‘admin’ and ‘admin’) and login to configure the wireless encryption password and some other junk. The default username and password wasn’t even documented in the manual.

I was having some initial problems accessing the rest of the network and the internet because the setup was….
MyWirelesssRouter—-MainRouter—-Internet/RestOfHomeNetwork

After trying allot of settings I realised its probably because MyWirelesssRouter and MainRouter probably have the same IP address. This was the case, upon changing MyWirelesssRouter’s IP from 192.168.1.1 everything worked. The thing I hate about networking compared to programming is that there is no debug mode. You usually have to use some kind of logic to work your problems out. Obviously things like ping, traceroute and nmap work in allot of situations but not all.

The most surprising thing about my laptop is I actually like Vista. This may be because I had such low expectations with everything I had heard. From a general users point of view I would say it’s better than XP! From an technical point of view I will tell you it’s memory foot print is allot larger and its install size is fucking huge. Vista Ultimate also comes with Windows media Center which I really like also.
Speaking of Media Center, At the moment I’m Writing this in Word 2007 (which at the moment my opinion is simply ‘its different’ ) while watching Gyroscope on JTV on ABC2. Which I can pause and rewind. Im also told ABC2 has Red Dwarf which I can’t wait to watch also.

The only 2 issues I have run across so far is there is no port of Nvidias Nview application for Vista which isn’t MS’s fault. The other main issue is there is a bug where my DVD drive will stop working some times. Once I reboot all is fine with it.

The main thing I don’t like about Vista is well… its Windows :p

Need antivirus, endless OS updates, proprietary, inferior kernel design and basically everything else detailed in the OS comparison section of Eric Raymond’s book ‘The Art of Unix programming’

Next Im going to talk about a bug that I came across on code I maintain but didn’t write.

The bug only ever happens on one day every 4 years. Yes that’s right it’s a leap year bug! The code was essentially doing age validation, it would take the current day, month and year then minus x amount of years from the current year. It would then check to see if your age was less than the max age limit (current date – x years).

Well you see the date on this particular day was the 29th of February 2008 (last Friday).
So the code was something like

DateTime.parse(29,02,2008 - x);

Where x is 2. The problem is 29th of February 2006 (2008-2) doesn’t exist! So when it goes to parse the date it throws an invalid date exception! Making problems even worse is this genius of a programmer put this code in a try catch block and would handle the exception of a invalid date with the error message along the lines off ‘you are too old’ which was also the error you got if in fact you were to old.

This is only one error which plagues the whole project. How could of this been easily avoided? Use the DateTime library to do the hard work, library writers are always nearly 1000 times smarter than you and their code has been tested that many times better also. A much more logical way to write this would have been

DateTime.parse(29,02, 2008).minusYears(2);

Lessons to learn: Do not use incorrect error messages and generic exceptions, use library’s when they are available and most importantly from my quotes page ’Always program as if the person who will be maintaining your program is a violent psychopath that knows where you live’

Finally, A quick review on games I’ve been playing.

Hitman Blood money PC, nice graphics and physic. Doesn’t really bring much new to the game play from the previous Hitman titles.

Pokemon Perl (DS), Dosnt offer much new game play from previous Pokemon games, graphics are quite bad for a DS game, allot of the sound is still taken from the original gameboy game, doesn’t make use of touch pad much. I look forward to playing it online though.

Final Fantasy 3 remake (DS), great game in all aspects. Starts of a little slow but gets allot better. Only downside is it lacks mini games which would have been made so totally awesome with the features of DS (duel screen, touch pad and microphone).

SAM Linux - Review

Saturday, July 7th, 2007

SAM Linux Live Distro.

Ok lets begin from the start. I insert the Live CD and boot. I come to the boot menu which gives me several options including to boot SAM Linux, boot into console mode, memory tests and a few other options.

Login user names and passwords are shown on the boot menu for both a normal user and root user which is good because on of the first live cds I tried I could never find the root password. Its great there is a boot to console mode, it cuts down on memory and loads a little faster. Also half the reason you want a live CD is so you can quickly go and repair a setting in VI (Emacs isn’t included) or backup a some files to a FTP server or ssh account or even a removable drive. So you can then format the non bootable Windows PC and reinstall an an OS again (hopefully Linux this time ;) but more on these things latter.

One thing that was disappointing is the network configuration Wizard isn’t included if you boot to a console only environment which means depending on your network type and network interface getting a connection could mean allot of configuration.

Also a nice feature was the ability to hide and show the kernel loading and the systems boot process by simply toggling it on and off with the escape key. Ive used some distros that try to be more user friendly by hiding this information but when something goes wrong like a drive doesn’t mount your left wondering why.

Once your logged in and the intro music plays your left with the Xfce Windows manager. Which I like to think is a light weight Gnome. I say this because Xfce 4 is based of the Gnome tool kit 2 (Gtk2). Xfce is perfect for a live cd because its not only light but a very powerful desktop manager.

Network

Before you get to the desktop you can opt to set up a network adapter through a convenient wizard. The wizard interestingly had options for GPRS, Edge and 3G which is I believe are wireless cell phone transport technologys. There were also for options for IDSN, modem, Ethernet, DSL and even Blue tooth! I also have a good feeling that wireless connections wouldnt be to difficult to get running provided you had the correct Windows driver.

Network tools

SAM comes with several networking tools which above others includes Firefox 2, gFTP, ssh (must have for me)/ Putty (which seems to be emulated through WINE), TightVNC, Skype, Gaim (must have for me), Xchat and Gnutella client (I would of preferred a Bittorrent client).

Multimedia

I dont really expect much multimedia capability’s to be on a live CD but SAM comes packed full of options. My media player of choice is Mplayer which as a bonus comes with a nice GUI. I was able to watch every multimedia file on the PC including a xvid/divx encoded movie and play a WMA encoded song with no extra codecs required, I would be interested to know if commercial DVD playback works straight out of the box as well and wasnt able to check this out as the live cd occupied my only drive. As for Mp3 players both Winamp(XMMS) and Itunes (Exaile) clones/alternatives are included.

Development / programming

This is a interesting section. Im in two minds weather you actually need development tools on a live CD. But as myself being a programmer I’m going to say its a good thing and here’s why.

Perl - Yes Perl is included, Perl is an amazing powerful OS scripting language and can be used to automate a complex task.

GCC - (Gnu Compiler Collection) I guess this could come in handy if you need to do some quick hacking.

Python - I think this was included primarily for Xchat. But hey its there! I even use a few Python programs my self Shuffle-db http://shuffle-db.sourceforge.net so I cant complain.

IDE - Disappointingly there is no good IDE and not even a editor with syntax highlighting included. On top of this the GNU debugger (GDB) isnt even included. Having said that, there is ‘Bluefish’ which seems to be a good web development IDE.

Windows support

As I mentioned earlier one thing I use a live cd for is to resolve issues with a computer which is either miss-configured or non booting or even to get important files before the final solution of a system wipe.

SAM Linux makes this ideal with its many networking applications and support for Windows programs and partitions.

Wine (the Windows emulator (sic)) is included which allows you to run handy Win32 system applications such as Regedit.exe to get rid of that malicious software or fix miss configured setting.

It also comes with fat32 read/write and NTFS read support.

Eye candy.

If you wish SAM Linux gives you the option of turning on Beryl and Compiz which gives you desktop effects that out amaze even that seen in MS Vista. Whats even move amazing is I didnt even have to install any ATI graphics drivers for my 9600 pro GFX card. This allowed me to play the 3D OpenGL game ‘Warsow’ which I had on another partition straight out of the box!

Speaking of FPS games - Tilda is also included, which is a Terminal emulator which works like the consoles in First Person Shooter games. So when you press the ‘~’ key a terminal scrolls down where you can execute bash commands and pressing ‘~’ again will send it scrolling back out of the way until you need it again.

Other notable programs

JAVA, The full Open Office 2 suit (which im using now), Gimp, Gnome Baker (CD/DVD burning) a PDF viewer and a archiving tool. Even the Flash player is installed.

Disk/Partition management

SAM Linux also comes with an Disk partitioning tool which can handle many types of file system which is always useful on a live cd.

System/Software management

System management is basically identical to Mandriva’s. Which I have found to be probably the best out of any distros.

Software management takes place in Synaptic which is a computer user interface and front-end to the Advanced Packaging Tool. I am still unsure how difficult it would be to get packaged software for PCLinux (which same Linux) hopefully you would be able to use the Mandriva packages because PCLinux is based of Mandriva. If this is not the case finding aditonal software would be a problem until the distribution becomes more popular.

Final comments

SAM Linux is a very exceptional live CD and would make and very nice light Linux OS if installed.

The inclusion of ‘commercial’ software such as flash and 3D GFX card drivers make the experience even better. SAM linux dosnt excel in any one area which makes it a hugely versatile portable OS.

I could install SAM to my HDD right now and not need any more additional software packages apart from GDB and a good IDE but for 90% of uses they could use it straight out of the box.

The combination of Xfce and Beryl and Compiz make for a smooth experience on the front end yet SAM includes enough versatility behind the scenes to get the ‘real’ work done when needed.