Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Bit of Humor

I heard the audio from this video on one of my podcasts.  Found it on Youtube and just felt I needed to share.

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Podcast Review: H4cked.com

H4cked Podcast is a great tech show.  It's the batter of two brothers Seawn and Steve who discuss the way that real people talk about tech.  This podcast runs 45 min to just over an hour long, comes once a week.

Unique to this podcast is the fact that these two bring the perspective of supporting windows to feed the family while using linux and mac at home.  This brings a "better here, better there" exposure to the conversation that not many podcasts have.   Unfortunately most tech podcasts get carried away bashing the operating system of others.  I'm impressed that while they are each a little biased one way or the other, they have conversations that are engaging about it with some good humored nature.

I have to confess that there is some adult language in this podcast.  By no means is it enough to turn me off, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys hearing REAL dialog on the leading tech issues of the day while remaining light-hearted.

I'd suggest that you add this to your podcaster by getting the feedburner RSS feed directly to iTunes or gpodder.  Due to recent issues with the fruit named computer company, their podcast has been currently delisted.  But the feed is up and working great.http://www.h4cked.com

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Mac Vs. Linux, My opinion : Part II

I felt that it was time for me to follow up on my previous article  "Mac Vs. Linux, My opinion".  I do still, day-to-day use a mac next to two linux systems.  I feel in this regard, I have justification for my opinion.

Again to preface, I have used linux for much longer than mac (everyday).  As a result I learned over the years to use my linux in a windows heavy environment without much disruption or laments from my co-workers in regards to interoperablity.

For work purposes, both efficiency of activity and for productivity within the applicaitons I still find that linux is my prefered environment.  I should say that the gap that is software, which once was very wide, is no where near that wide anymore.  Much of that may have to do with my office's adoption of open source software.

I have to say that I prefer linux more now still for the double ease of use of the clipboard and having two available.  One accessible via highlight and mouse-wheel click and the other using the classic ctrl+c and ctrl+v. 

The second point that keeps me on a linux desktop is the ease of use and speed of virtual desktops in linux.  Mac does now have spaces (same function) but there is no customization available and it is sluggish in comparison to my linux system.

The third aspect of linux that I still prefer to mac is that it is much easier to migrate information to the lowest common denominator: TEXT.  Mac works fine with text and is useful in the terminal app, but on linux the transition from terminal to a gui application requires very little effort on the part of the user.

Lastly, of no consequence to efficiency, would be theme customization.  With the new Ubuntu (9.10) and following the additional themes I installed using the instructions at this long post on "The Silent Number" (new fav is 'Night Impressions') I have found the view of my linux system is something that I can change to easily based on tasks or system and with something like NBR (netbook remix) I can completely alter the function of my desktop any time I care too.  This is not an impossible task on the mac, but for sure isn't as easy.

The ace in the hole that mac still has is that the performance of VMware Fusion is great on the mac.  Like that I can still have access to any other operating system that I need/prefer since I am very much about using the correct tool for the correct work.  I won't use this as a "freedom" platform, this is just a direct 1-to-1 comparison while I have both systems side-by-side in my life.

Both will continue to be in my workspace and work-flow.  I hope in the future to have relevant follow-ups to this series of articles.

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Podcast Review: Podiobook.com - Author Scott Sigler

While I listened to this book as a podcast, via Podiobooks, as the name describes they are audiobooks delivered in podcast format.  I have found quite a few great books at Podiobooks so I wanted to feature not each book, but rather authors.  I say this because there are a few authors like Scott Sigler who have a small catalog that would take me many posts to review all of the books I've read from him.  So this podcast review is for the author and his collection of works available at Podiobooks.

First point would be the presentation.  I mean to say the voice acting, audio production and the ability to create the setting though voice which by old school definition might be described as "story telling".  On this, Scott would get an 11 out of 5.  I have to say that it is very clear that Scott is pumped about his own material and it comes across in his work.  There are many authors who should NOT read their books, in this case I would suggest that they should get Scott to read it for them.  Amazing voice characters,  fantastic pacing and just enough background sound effects to bring the edge of dept to a two dimensional presentation.

Scott has written quite a few books, some not available at Podiobooks.  I would recommend you visit his website to get details on his complete works.  I cannot rave enough about how great his work is, a few of his books are actually available in print.  I am personally waiting to get the collection of books I've read in hardback series.  If paperback makes you happy, go for it.  I really strongly suggest Scott Sigler's works to anyone who is looking for a high energy fiction "listen".

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Monday, November 2, 2009

Dropbox on a Headless Server

I know there are a few guides for Dropbox on a headless server.  I noticed that my experience wasn't 100% as advertised, so I wanted to post here on what my process was (repeated on 3 servers for accuracy)

First the requisites for this activity.  You must have a ssh account and my advice is to make sure you have the same disk space free on the server that you are using in your Dropbox account.  For the free version, that means 2Gb of disk space.

Next I need to install the application, this is done on the server account.  I had in all 3 cases to launch the "nautilus" application one time.  So I connect with the "ssh -X" for allowing X11 export over the connection.  Once connected the next thing was to get the dbcli.py script from the Dropbox Wiki.  On the server I used:
   wget http://dl.getdropbox.com/u/43645/dbcli.py
   chmod 755 dbcli.py
This gives the application in the home dir with executable permissions.  Now run the script with:
   python dbcli.py install     <--- mine was x86 the other is x86_64
This step will download the tarball and start to set things up.  Mine hung after it downloaded everything and put it in the right place.  I then escaped with ctrl+c.  I then launched nautilus with:
This brought up the view of the home folder and then the splash screen for setting up the Dropbox account.  I entered my account details and let the folder sync the first time.  Once done, I closed nautilus and disconnected from the server to forcefully break the 2nd Dropbox icon it put in my computer's systray.  I then reconnected WITHOUT x11 forwarding and launched the daemon in the background with:
  ./.dropbox-dist/dropboxd &
This should fire up the daemon to run in the background.   After that you can check the status of the daemon with the dbcli.py script with:
  python dbcli.py status
That should report "up to date" as long as it is running and healty.

You might need to restart the daemon if the server machine reboots.  But for my headless servers that doesn't happen very often.  I have seen this work perfectly with the syncing that Dropbox does and works just as expected and seen with any other desktop machine.  I really enjoy this idea since there is a disk space use limit built into the account.  Also, this provides a truely off-site backup storage to ensure against any disaster recovery issues.  So with my last post about using gpg to encrypt files and edit them, it means that even if the server security is compromised, they won't get any data from my files unless they have a supercomputer and 20 years :)

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Sunday, November 1, 2009

vim + gpg + dropbox = secure passwords

Finally accomplished a multi-system synchronized encrypted password file.  Let me tell the short and then the long version.

The short version is
1.) gpg encrypt a text file
2.) store it in a shared dropbox folder
3.) add vim gnugpg plugin.

The long version of the story is that Dropbox has added a functionality to share a folder with other Dropbox users.  I have a Dropbox account for each operating system that I use (3).  So I can modify on one machine and it will get pushed to all the other machines.  I also found the dbcli.py script which lets me run dropbox on a headless machine.

I already have 2048 bit pgp keys created.  I used that key to encrypt a text file to myself.  The file I had was a text file that I was using to record my passwords.  With the command "gpg --encrypt filename"  will produce an encrypted copy with the *.gpg extension.  This new file I placed in the shared dropbox folder and created a symbolic link to it in my home directory.

Then after creating the folder ~/.vim/plugin and moving the gnupg.vim into that folder I was able to open and edit the gpg encrypted file after typing my passphase for the key.  This extension turns off the auto-backup feature of vim to prevent a clear text copy from being anywhere but ram.  Once writes to the file are made, it will re-synchronize with the other computers automatically.

With this new process I am able to view, search and edit my password file even on a mac (with vim and gpg installed).  Of note, I also have a Truecrypt volume in this same shared folder and once a month I do a plain text export into the hidden volume of a Trucrypt drive.  This allows me additional access even if I do not have the permissions to install all the needed components.

Now I can use strong secure and unique passwords for every online service I have.  I even took the opportunity to generate a few passwords and keep them in the password file directly in the case I needed to update a login without command line access to pwgen.

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Password Generation for security

Security and safe passwords are very important in today's online world.  I used to have unique passwords for "levels" of security.  Realizing that if some service from low level was compromised that access to the next level would be easy.  I realized that the best way would be a strong secure password for each online service was the best way to go.  This way there is no way to "escalate" privilege level from one online service to another.

Since I already have a method for recording my passwords, which I'll get into during another post, I though I'd share the command that I use to create new passwords.  I use the package "pwgen".  The output of this command as quoted by Bessy produces quite a few unique passwords which satisfy most secure password definitions.  Most are produced with a portion of it that can be pronounced as a word, which make them in the realm of possibility to actually remember.

Output looks like:
cafeninja@vegeta:~$ pwgen --alt-phonics --capitalize 9 10
joo0kai2Y loh6Chi6y Chei4pei8 AiNoch2ua eeXeeF8Ee veeh3Eer4 Vah2fee8v ve4uegh7E Oa6chahmo Ish2voc2c

Using this tool I can make secure passwords for any account online.  I recently used this command repeatedly as I converted my multitude of online passwords from levels (5 different passwords) to a single password for each.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

New assistant Bessy

I just wanted to introduce you all to my new partner, Bessy.  Bessy is my daily reminder that text and the terminal is where it all began.

If you are a Unix fan, Windows geek who remembers DOS, Linux hacker who recalls the days when X11 just didn't work it doesn't matter.  All of the computer love that we all have was once born of a terminal window.

Bessy normally offers me a daily smile by giving a nugget of wisdom in this text display that is a harkening of the computer future that was to come.  I hope you all can take just a moment to reflect and recall that since the time we were stepping on the move all the way to first-person-shooters like Doom III has been a short and hurried history.

You may see more of Bessy from time to time as she helps me promote the ease and friendliness of the command line to all.  The major difference is the ability to use a real terminal with all of it's power, simplicity and grace.

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Karmic testing - Easier PPA additional and install

So I read on the Ubuntu Geek blog, that in Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic there is a new command for adding a ppa repo that will update the sources.list and import the gpg key.  So, clever me, thought of a way to make a few nice aliases and run this all together.  Let me demonstrate

1.) add the repo.  
sudo add-apt-repository
2.) update the repos
sudo apt-get -qq update
3.) install the application
sudo apt-get install

So I made aliases for those three.
alias repo='sudo apt-get-repository'
alias update='sudo apt-get -qq update'
alias ins='sudo apt-get install'

And using a different example from Ubuntu Geek, the command I give looks like:
"repo ppa:jonabeck && update && ins ifuse"

This single, short command will update the sources.list, update the repos and install the ifuse package with only the normal prompts if they apply.  Please see the manpage for each of these commands as well as alias in the case that you want to learn more about each.

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Karmic testing - Bluetooth Proximity (bluesproximity)

During my Ubuntu 9.10 testing, one of the things that I regularly do is crawl through my modified Apt sources list to see what if anything has graduated from PPA into the official repos.  The other benefit is to see what applications have been added to the repos that are similar to the ones I use already.   Change is sometimes good.

Today, I was going using the new "Ubuntu Software Center" to see what I might find that I had been missing as well as to check out the interface.  What I discovered, installed and used (all in under 5 min) was the Bluetooth Proximity application.  This does exactly as advertised.  Any previously paired device can be used, distance for screen locking and unlocking are adjustable.

I have to say it "just works" and locks the screen as soon as I am more than 6 meters away from the computer and doesn't unlock it until I'm closer than 4 meters.  No more forgetting to lock my screen when I step away, and no more typing my pass when I return.  The default screen saver settings remain and the proximity meter can be turned off and on.

I had heard of a way to do this in previous versions that was a bit of a hack and required a collection of scripts.  Now, in one easy to use gui front end, the entire package can be set up.  If you frequently step away from your computer for just a few minutes, I would highly recommend the is application.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Barcodes Invented - Google Doodle

 Of very interesting note was the new Google logo.  Clearly in celebration of the creation of bar codes.  I used an online barcode generator to confirm that the one on the Google home page spells "Google".  I thought it would be interesting to both link to the generator as well as create one for the blog.

This is very cool stuff, and if I had a barcode scanner I would probably go crazy making labels and writing scripts to inventory my belongings as well as itemize grocery lists.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Ubuntu Karmic 9.10 - countdown

It's that time again for Ubuntu 9.10 coming soon.  I'm already playing with the beta on a non production machine and am making this post from it now.  It is about the time that I should recommend that non-linux users look into Unetbootin to use a usb key to run the live CD version of linux without using a cd.  This will give a much closer to real performance feel than an actually CD which reads very slow.
I've got the countdown timer here and you can add yours to your blog by going to Ubuntu countdown timer page and choose the one for you.
I'll post again after I've "stretched my legs" with the Karmic Koala, but so far so good.  More of the same with more spit and polish. 

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Backtrack 4 - Wowzers

Hackers, probably yes.  More ominous than a university student using a "Green text on black window" as evidence of a hacker, is Backtrack 4.

I have played with the pre-release version of this security based Linux distribution.  With huge core changes like the distribution base changing to Ubuntu make this the first security distro that is actually useful as a day-to-day system for me.

I used this distro for only an hour before I was completely floored by the supreme set of security audit tools that come included.  Impressed even more by the way these apps are launched and just work.  With Ubuntu being my day-to-day distro this means that the system is not only useful for the moment that I need to test security, but could quite simply be one of the best all around distributions for me to use.

Backtrack 4 was a real eye-opener for me and if only it could be based on the most current version of Ubuntu it would be dreamy for me.  For sure I'll be keeping a usb key and a virtual machine around of Backtrack 4.  If you are just learning security (like artv61) or just curious or maybe need to prove a point to a window's user, this is an amazing tool.  Two thumbs up from the CafeNinja Cave.  Please go to www.remote-exploit.org and read more.  At the very least grab a 2Gb USB key and install Backtrack 4 on it.  They have a fabulous video tutorial on how to make a persistent USB install that works, I can attest to that.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Getting a license on this stuff

As a fan of huge digital rights activists like Cory Doctorow and Thomas Gideon I figured I would finally add my CC license to my blog content.   So, following in the footsteps of giants you will see the license badge at the end of each new blog post moving forward.

Keep watching.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Podcast Review: Linux Cranks

Right. In case the name was confusing, this is the Linux Cranks (and I do mean Cranks!!) Oggcast. No joke. And if you ask for the mp3 feed they might just DDoS you where you sit. The team of guys who have a very short talking points list manage to ramble for over an hour using curse words and inappropriate metaphors to explain the view of the world from pure geek eyes.

These guys will not accept "I don't want to use the command line." as an excuse to not hardwire your home automation and manage remote switches using only an ssh connection. Pretty hard core and geeky talk but when stretched out over an hour or two it sounds more like the weekly card game where everyone goes to smoke cigars and hide from the wives.

The entire crew has a very human sense of humour. There is no political correctness and they make no apologies for seeing the world over their keyboard. I really like listening to the guys and hanging out in IRC with them during the week even when they aren't doing the show. Actually, after listening to these guys for a few weeks, they start to feel like old friends and are just as approachable in IRC as they sound like on the show. These are in fact, my new "buds" and I hang out more with them in chat than I do with real people in real life.

The show technically comes out every other week as they alternate with TiT Radio, but it is also pretty much the same guys talking about the same stuff with a slightly different show format but about the same length. You can find all the info on the sister show at the Linux Cranks website.


P.S. shout out to: Peter64, threethirty, artv61, snkmchnb, mesoDann, pegwole, jlindsay, Xoke & Mrs. Xoke, Klaatu, Azimuth. <--- not in any particular order.

P.S.S - and a giant "atta-boy" for monsterb

Sunday, September 20, 2009

One Mutt to rule them all.

This will be the explanation of how I (known mutt fan) have set up just a few small tools in order to have access to multiple email accounts at the same time using mutt. I am still sure that I process a great deal more email more efficiently than my peers because I am reducing my Internet world to the lowest common denominator -- text.

With just the rendering time enhancement of html/rtf formatted emails to text I have a 25% better visualization time of email. With the use of powerful text editors (in my case vim) my reply time is also quicker. I have yet to see an email interface that is as speedy. I have to say that the web interface on gmail is pretty snappy and offers threaded views inline thus speeding up the reading of conversations. I still find it falls short of the raw speed offered by mutt.

With this in mind, I even apply this to my personal email. One of the challenges that my counterparts complain to me about is that since their work day is consumed with email that they neither have time during working hours to look after their personal email accounts nor do they have the enthusiasm to check their personal during their private time. I find that with my ease of use, that I can apply all the attention needed to both either in the office or out.

First, I made a folder that will hold all of my mutt configuration files. Everything from my alias file (address book) to my mutt color file. All of the "dot" files and the individual muttrc files will go into one folder. This is not so terribly important for the function, but is important later as I integrate a backup/restore plan.

Second, multiple muttrc files should be prepared, one for each account. I will confess that in an effort to make my email OS ambiguous and accessible I am using IMAP with accounts that also offer a web interface. This is key to my explanation since it doesn't require the work of setting up fetchmail, or hassle with odd protocols (i.e. Exchange). I won't be going into the details of the options of the muttrc, if you have looked at them, there are a great many. But for sure a single file for a single account is important. In this manner, we can avoid mis-configuration of the profiles options and we don't end up with a config file that is 1 mb in size.

Lastly the commands. The command, being launched from the same folder as the config file should read "mutt -F muttrc-file-for-this-email". My little hack that makes this quite manageable is that I have set multiple alias's in my .bashrc file that make simple ways to remember the accounts. Let me give you examples. I have set in my .bashrc the following:
alias email-cafeninja="cd ~/mutt-conf && mutt -F muttrc-gmail-cafeninja"
This single line changes directory to the folder where all of my muttrc files are, and then executes mutt using the correctly named file. While the alias is auto completed using tab from the command line.

The last hack I did for this is a simple backup and restore script that makes a tarball of the entire folder and places that into my dropbox folder. The restore script copies the tarball to the home directory and extracts it overwriting the previous files. These two shell scripts I have placed in my ~/bin folder which is also in my path so that these scripts are also auto completed from the command line. With absolute path referenced, it does not matter where in the filesystem I am when I execute the email alias or the backup/restore process. Just to be sure it would be available, I placed a copy of the backup and restore script into the mutt-conf folder to be included in the mutt tarball that would sync on a new system. Of course, it would then need to be placed in the ~/bin folder on those systems as well for future use.

Here is my backup script:

## Go home
cd ~

## make tar of ~/mutt-conf
tar pzcf ~/Dropbox/mutt-conf.tar.gz mutt-conf

Here is my restore script:

## Go home
cd ~

## get tar and move to home dir
cp ~/Dropbox/mutt-conf.tar.gz .

## unzip tar
tar zxf mutt-conf.tar.gz

## remove copied tar once done
rm mutt-conf.tar.gz

I hope this might help anyone who is working with multiple email accounts on multiple systems who thought it might be difficult to get it all working. I'm sure there are more complex solutions available, I built mine with the idea that each email account was siloed and would not corrupt other email account setting should anything happen to a single file.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Oops, windows again

Another reason, why I don't prefer windows. I had the simple task of adding a mouse to the laptop I was using. This particular laptop did not come with a function key that would disable the on-board mouse. after adding the external mouse, it was impossible in the operating system to disable the mouse easily from the mouse control panel.

This action, to disable the on-board mouse is a simple click on the mouse control panel in Ubuntu and one that I have used for years. My newest laptop offered the chance to dual boot with a legit copy of windows and enjoy both worlds on this newest device. As the activity of dual booting was proving to be it's own troublesome activity (Asus EEE PC 901 with two SSD's 1x4gb and 1x8gb) I have renewed frustration with windows again. I'm thinking I just might migrate this new netbook completely to Linux and just not give a care about windows...again!

Can it be that after all of this time even XP stinks this much. This netbook cannot support (nor would I want) vista. I could probably hold out for windows 7, however, my disdain for windows has yet again put the insistent idea of "why not just use Linux and be happy in my mind again.

It is such a simple thing, the mouse issue, you know on any laptop it makes sense to be able to disable the touchpad, but when the manufacturer of the laptop does not have the foresight to include a function button for this, I feel it is the operating system who should naturally pick up the gap.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Software Freedom: Sentiment or Cause

So, I just wanted to take a moment to talk about all the issues going on recently in the Open Source community. Warning: this is a rant. If you don't want to read it please skip to the next article in your rss reader, or navigate away now. Last warning.

The most recent stir is Mono based applications, but previous discussions have hovered around binary blobs in Linux distributions, proprietary drivers, and pure free vs. quasi pure free vs. free-as-in-price.

I do have some opinions about this, but no firm convictions. I mean to say that I am moderately educated on both sides of the discussion but that the discussion itself has recently turned into a "pitch fork and torch" kind of affair. I am far more hurt by the conduct from groups talking about these points than the points themselves.

I've been a computer user for many years. Part of my interest in computers as a hobby was the hacking and tweaking to get things just working. It is surprising to me that the tone of voice used by these people is borderline zealot. It feels like most people are missing the forest for the trees because they are hugging them too tight. Let's remember that we can roll with this one of two ways. We ostracize the average user completely or we do what needs to be done to let most folks into the fold if they so choose.

I can honestly say that I don't have the resources to install asterisk boxes on two continents so that my mother and I may speak using home brew voice services. We can both, with relative ease install and use skype. I know that might disappoint a few out there, but if a binary blob in my distro prevents my computer from being an overheated paperweight, then I'll use it. If I rely on an application that is available in the repos of my distro, then I really don't monitor what language the thing is written in, so long as it works when I launch it.

We all have known people in our Linux lifetimes who would be happy to try and switch and give Linux the "old college try", but when they do so much of their hardware was unsupported that they could not justify the loss in functionality for the moral choice of open source software. Why should we condemn our own for something of less importance at the end of the day. I mean really, curse words are the correct way to respond to my choice of note taking application because some programmer used a different language? I know there are issues with this licensing and that, and even further discussions could be had with other programming languages (not mono) if you really wanted to make that such a point.

I would like to make a formal request to the Linux community that if you have an opinion about programming languages or issues with certain licenses, please verbalize your opinion. You can even use words with more than two syllables. But don't make others in the community out to be a villain, or the embodyment of evil just because they don't agree with you. I like to think that we are one of the largest brain trusts on the planet, and it is more than a little disappointing when the best word you use in a debate is "sucks".

I hate to sound like everyone's mother, but grow up. You may be passionate about your cause, but be respectful of those who do not share your view. I think there are many good conversations to be had, as long as they are honorable and mature. In my heart of hearts I feel like we (as a community) come up with the best solutions when we try to solve a problem. But we are also the best at creating problems that aren't really that bad.

Now take a time out, and go sit in the corner while I cool off.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

USB Live install vs. Active Directory

Linux and OSS software is all about scratching itches with creative thinking and slightly different applications of previously created tools. Recent changes in my work space have me considering some creative technology options to separate us from closed source software tools.

Recently my office was severed from the corporate M$ domain server. With it we had some issues that the multiple users on multiple computers. As each user signed on again to another computer they had to create their local account on each machine. Each user had to find their own way to trying to synchronize their application settings and user data across all the machines and accounts. Some individuals were more creative than others, but it was a problem that the computer users should not have had to overcome by themselves.

The roamng profile was the service at the core of this that I feel I need to replace. In addition we are expanding our office to include another that is geographically diverse. As I was first looking at this I was thinking some sort of server deployment using OSS tools might be the solution that I needed. At first I looked at OpenLDAP + NFS mounted shares to create a /home/user that could be mounted on any machine they signed on and then the application settings and data would follow the user. Then I took a look at LTPS (thin client) which for what we do in my office would require high bandwidth connections from user to server.

Then I had a thought, what if the user could have a usb key and then just boot any of the machines available into a live linux distro with persistance. This would offer the user the ability for each to custom add software that they found useful, while keeping all of their application settings like email and bookmarks. Logistically, this seems to make sense also since then at any time you could do a backup image of the usb key that could be restored and with the known sizes of the space on the usb key could make the backup storage space a managable activity.

I have been on a quest for a process that would produce for me a usb key that would have a "live" version of a linux distro (to support the widest range of hardware). I also need to try and pay attention to security since if this key were to get lost, the important data needs to be in a mode/filesystem that protects it to the point that any theif would be faced only with the option to format the key to use it.

I plan on making additional posts on this as I try and try again. I have tried a few tools and how-to guides on how to produce the effects that I desire with no success. I will be back to detail how that goes and to post what is my success story when done.


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Podcast Review: The Command Line

The Command Line podcast is one of the most well rounded technology shows I've listened to. It is very well produced, arrives on time and is a very mature show. I have to say that my choice of "mature" is not by accident, let me explain.

This show concerns itself with complex issues such as copyright, tech topics including programing code while still taking some time to address the human side. With reflective episodes that take a step back from programming to look at the programmer himself, this is the first podcast that I have listened to that insists on remembering the humans who participate in the technology of today.

That does not mean that the tech doesn't get covered. The host Thomas Gideon a.k.a cmdln covers tech topics from code writing to the sciences. With a very grown up honest look at not just the need or desire of the tech but also the moral implications. Most impressive is that cmdln seems to be the only podcaster that I've heard who is not afraid to look at the analog version of things with respect enought to consider them relevant. He is one of the first ones who has taught me that I should measure the quality of analog vs. digital before getting into further discussion of which digital is best.

With episodes coming out normally 2 during a week with a duration of about 30 min but some special episodes a bit longer, this is a very sensible clear voice in the noise that is tech coverage.
The Command Line podcast also adds the interjection which is that of a insightful husband, father, person and programmer.

I highly recommend this podcast to your podcatching program if you feel like the news you are receiving could be a comedy show, this should be a refeshing mature view of the topics of the day. I've been listening to The Command Line for about a year and a half, and I've heard cmdln appear on some of my other podcasts and I have nothing but the highest respect for his work and his candid discussions of his family life


Monday, May 18, 2009

Podcast Review: The Dog Whisperer

For those of you who don't watch much educational tv type channels (i.e. Discovery, National Geographic, etc.) then you might not know about the show "Dog Whisperer". The host Cesar Milan is a dog trainer who specializes in dog psychology.

Cesar offers amazing samples of clips from his TV show in podcast format once a week, three to five minutes in length, these video clips give a great insight to the show, his amazing talent and the tools/tricks he uses. As a personal testimonial, I have applied some of the methods he demonstrates on the show, and it has worked and improved the relationship between me and my dog.

Not going to lie, this is most likely to appeal to dog owners (like me), and since I live abroad, and cannot get the show directly (even with satelite) this podcast is the only exposure to the show that I have. With these short weekly installments I am able to enjoy the meat of the show.

I recommend this for the dog lover who listens/watches podcasts. Even if you don't have a video enabled player, the podcast is short enough to watch on the computer where you are catching the podcasts anyway.


Friday, May 15, 2009

Podcast Review: Real Time with Bill Maher

Real Time with Bill Maher is a new platform for the old Politically Incorrect format. While Bill himself is very "Left" I find that when his panel is too one sided even he will play devil's advocate and it is a forum in which opposing views are shared by people who normally would not be publicized in any mainstream media format.

I've enjoyed the political commentary that Bill has brought to the public view over the years and even if from time to time I may not agree with him personally, I find that those even with an opposing view are given a chance to air their opinions in an uncensored format. I admire his spirit of "tell it like it is" along with his openness to hear out people with different views.

This hour long podcast I receive in the audio form since I live outside the US and iTunes doesn't allow the video version here. I suppose if you were in the US you could subscribe to the video version also. This is the second of only two political podcasts that I listen to and find that between them both I am generally informed, if not in a comic way, about all the political news I care to hear about. Honestly, I find too much political news to be just a point of frustration and causes ulcers. I feel that like myself, Bill is on the lookout for any candidate who is in the political camp of Common Sense and that subscribes to the policies of honesty. I have to say that would be the politician that all of us could get behind but is a rare breed.

of previous fame on .... views....podcast.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty Jackelope Review

Ubuntu which has been my Linux distro of choice now for just over 3 years had it's most recent release at the end of last month. With version 9.04 codenamed Jaunty Jackelope, Ubuntu has made what I think was a more polished interface, and while notable improvements I found it not to be a revolutionary change from 8.10.

I am one of the lucky ones who did not lose any functionality with the upgrade (there have been some strong voices who did) and I would like to point out that a great many things that are the Ubuntu release are not entirely the result of Canonical directly, but rather upstream developers. As with any distribution the operating system is a collection of coding, improvements and bug fixes from many varied sources. Most times this works out just great, but others is has negative effects.

As to the positive, it won't be the first time you hear about the new system notification system which I find to be matching that of the Growl notification system you can install on a mac. My 2 points on this would be that 1.) great the way that they make the notification bubble disappear when you mouse over it (I tend to be going for something under the bubble and not the bubble itself and 2.) I do miss that there seems to be no control panel or preference pane for the notifications (I might prefer to have those remain open until acked by user or display for a longer period of time so I can actually read them).

On my systems which are now a bit "long in the tooth" have not seen the dramatic improvement in performance in boot and operation. I have not done everything possible to improve my system performance to date (reduced unused kernel modules, formatted to ext4, etc.). I have noticed that it seems to be quite stable and solid and as reliable as my 8.10 install was.

My summary would be that I'm happy with the new version, it offers some "spit and polish" to what is already a very healthy Linux distro. I would have no reservations about recommending this version over any previous versions. We have now seen 3 steadily improving version of Ubuntu released all of which were evolutionary and not so revolutionary, I hope that in the next two versions or so that Ubuntu does some of the "stand-up, pow, knock your socks off" stuff that they managed to do in some of their earlier releases that really set them apart.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Podcast Review: Linux Basement

Chad Wollenberg is a real guy, doing a real job and making more of a difference than a lot of us combined. He lives in Virgina USA and is introducing Open Source Software in a very grass-roots way. The podcast he offers is more or less a digest of the OSS and Linux servers he plays with to propose practical working solutions in a public school system.

Chad is, I have to confess, one of my heroes. Not because he is a great coder or has created the next application to solve world hunger, but for his efforts to fight the "good fight" and pursuit what most of us linux users have known for years and that is that you can do more with less if you use OSS.

During the course of 45 min to an hour Chad talks about his most recent trials and tribulations in his efforts on the Linux Basement podcast. He tells tails of successes and frustrations in promoting OSS and deploying OSS in a fairly non-tech environment. Great stories of his use and application of OSS and linux to replace expensive closed sourced and propriotity formats in a community that doesn't have vast resources to waste on such foolishness. Lastly, for the entertainment value, Chad usually adds a self written and performed song at the end of his shows. The songs are very enjoyable and might be worth the wait through a topic that might not be of particular interest.

Chad tells his story in a very human way, even confessing when he had to redo something due to human error, passing on his mistakes which leads to his successes. I have a great deal of respect for Chad since he is humble and confesses his shortcomings when applicable. I recommend this podcast especially for the "young" linux user who is putting his toe in the water of starting to set up server solutions for home use, or to learn for work puposes. Chad is a real success story. Of particular note the recently appointed US Government CTO was the Virgina State CTO who gave Chad the green light for is Open Source initiatives in his school district. Which is very promising that the new US CTO is at least familiar with OSS.


Monday, May 4, 2009

Podcast Review: No Agenda

From what at first blush would be a very unlikely combination for a news source, John C Dvorak and Adam Curry unite forces to bring what might be one of the most comprehensive "news" shows of our day.

With Adam bringing a more European point of view from the MTV Generation, and John with a more conservative while very informed point of view manage to cover the hottest news topics of the day from almost all points of view.

I am content that on occasion that conspiracy theories and corporate assassins are used as plausible story coverages, because these guys manage to cover the narrow and wide view of political and economic issues. These are the ways in which current topics won't be covered in mainstream media and whether you agree with the points of view offered, the dialog between the two of them most times offers the "devil's advocate" perspective.

Non staged or scripted besides talking points, No Agenda is where I get clued into mainstream news stories without having to follow the fear monger, commercially paid for media coverage. This exposure brings me back to the days when "news" was reported and not presented with an agenda as the name of the shows implies.

Two thumbs up for this news show which is not my normal flavor of show, but if I had to choose only one news show to have in my podcast diet it would be this one.


Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mac Vs. Linux, My opinion

First this blog does reflect my opinion, and my opinion only. I am not trying to start any flame wars. This is an opinion formed from using all 3 major operating systems on my desk for the last year. I originally started the experiment to find, for the purposes of my workspace which OS could do which things best and to capitalize on the advantages of each and then measure which would bring the best user experience and the most proficient tools for completion of work.

I have previous experience in a tech support environment and felt that I was the unique person in the company to asses these points. With no IT Department that assesses new and interesting ways to do things and only worried about the broken stuff we already have, I decided to sacrifice my work flow and productivity to try and test the operating systems and tools available.

You will notice from the list in the subject of the blog that windows was not even in the contention. My reason for that is we are a 24x7 shop, but we do not receive 24x7 internal support and have no extra hardware around so reliability is paramount. With any user doing even innocent activity on the machine being able to be infected, rendered useless and then possibility impacting the network attached to the rest of the office provided already an intolerable situation which I preferred to avoid. The only reason I still used it on my desk was for compatibility of other departments in the company, but I have started a campaign that we need to do our work and not look pretty, so windows would not be considered.

This leaves us with a mac vs. linux situation. I'm partial to both for certain things, but I'm not such a fanboy of either to feel it would compromise my objectivity for the testing I was doing. I have to say that that with almost all of our tools being completely web-based, comaptiblity has become less and less an issue for my team. For example, where firefox is supported, it is instantly supported on all operating systems.


So I think that my conclusion would be a mac dual booting with linux or with enough ram to virtualize without performance degredation. I think the native linux OS behaviour brings some improvements to efficiency (i.e. copy and paste) while the mac brings graphics and a user interface that even the most novice can manage. With the dual boot or virtualized linux inside the back you could have the best of both. And who's to say, if you were already virtualizing linux then you could virtualize M$ if you needed to for any last hold outs to proprietary software formats.

I have really condensed a year's worth of experience here. I have also taken the "average" user far more into account considering the nature of the employees who will use the systems. But I feel that it would actually cover the complete spectrum and could easily be the one-size-fits-all solution which although is far more expensive would be a prodductive system for anyone you sat in front of it.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Podcast Review: Linux Action Show

The Linux Action show is one of my most recent additions to my podcast diet but that was my fault, not theirs. The two hosts Bryan and Chris bring this show to life. These guys both should have had previous radio experience. For sure, they keep it very upbeat and with that big radio voice drama that keeps your attention even if the topic is sleepy.

They cover all of the latest headlines involving Linux in the press. They give their sincere perspective on the situations they report on. They provide their opinions with disclaimers to their own point of view and usage which may differ from popular or zealot points of view. These two seem to have a very practical point of view and I would argue that this is more in line with most "everyday" users. While I have heard them offer respectful acknowledgement of points of view on both sides of the fence, they don't jump on a bandwagon just because it's in the press.

The audio quality of this hour long video/audio podcast is amazing. I haven't subscribed to the video and would be unjust for me to cast judgment on it here. I know they offer either in the feed selections available from their website. This show seems to be on a one week to two week pattern and I would suggest it to anyone who already had a pretty stacked diet since it doesn't occur very often. They have recently had a donation drive that might have produced the funds they need to ensure that it becomes a weekly show, but I would still find it very informative and very enjoyable.

Chose your delivery following the link pull-down available on their te the choices seem nearly endless. If you can't get this feed, it's your fault, not theirs. From this pull down are video or audio, choose your feed type, format type, there is ogg there is mp3. I don't think I've found an easier way to subscribe to a podcast, truly awesome if you find subscribing to any podcast challenging, you will NOT have that problem here.

I have to confess that I hope they do manage to make it a dedicated once a week show because I do enjoy it so. I know I already said it, but these guys could make reading stereo instructions sound exciting.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Podcast Review: Category5 TV

Unique video podcast which is a very good example of the sense of community that the open source and Linux community enjoy. The host Robbie Ferguson and co-host Carrie Webb are trying to bring a live call in show format to the web. The nice thing is that even though most of the tools that are used by Robbie are Linux or Open Source he does a good job also answering tech questions and responding to support questions for Windows.

I find that the Category5 show has that great sense of community where the chat room participants are as much as part of the show and a resource for the hosts as the hosts themselves. Robbie also does a good job of shooting to support the "Average User" who is the one who may not have high minded political ideas about the software used, but just wants it to work.

Carrie, while not so technically minded does a wonderful job of helping Robbie monitor the chat room for feedback and in reflecting on his descriptions of solutions. That is to say when Robbie has explained something for the "Expert User" that Carrie does a good job of asking the follow up questions. The interaction between the two hosts is supportive and pleasant while never distracting from the material of the show itself. The more impressive bit is when Robbie "flies solo" and doesn't have Carrie there to help him stay on top, that Robbie does a good job with multitasking. With only the bare minimum of pauses or chat feedback missed Robbie can hold his own solo, but I confess I prefer when Carrie is with him.

This hour long video podcast is viewable online while offering direct access to the chat room, if you are not sure what software you might need to participate, the website has everything built-in when you get there. The Category5 team have made participation easy if you can be there when the show is on. I would recommend this show to users of all levels so that the more experienced can help and give back to the community and the technology newcomers can gain valuable knowledge.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Podcast Review: Linux Journal

The Linux Journal offers a video podcast which I would almost describe as "micro". They are labeled as "Linux tech tip of the day". With a three to five minute video podcast which most often is a screencast. With well recored audio and time lapse video clips where waiting is needed is well done. At the site linked above there is also a live weekly show advertized.

I've not been terribly surprised by the content as I am an experienced linux user, but I have been pleasantly surprised by a few of the episodes. When Sean Powers started there was an occasional hardware review which were well done also. But this podcast comes in 3 to 4 times a week and is very short. I can't think of any podcast diet that doesn't have room for this one more podcast, it is the waffer mint of the podcast dining experience.

Sean makes a point to demo software on different distributions from Ubuntu to Fedora. He goes through from not installed to using the application. Sean is clealry spoken and clear in his instructions getting to the point of installing and using the application without beating around the bush.

I highly recommend, even if you aren't floored by the content to watch this video podcast for the purposes of comparison. I find it is good to mate a very short video podcast like this beside a long winded audio podcast. Just to balance it out and see the differences in the format of the show.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Podcast Review: Ubuntu Uk Podcast

The Ubuntu UK Podcast is a bi-weekly round table of the topics of the day most specifically pertaining to Ubuntu. Having some stars of the Ubuntu community on the panel regularly, this podcast has the clout to invite quite a few impressive guests up to and including Mark Suttleworth.

These guys have friendly banter, giveaway contests and very well informed opinions covering topics from specific package development all the way up to DRM. With collective knowlege and experience as deep as it is wide, the subject is wide spectrum but always pertaining to Ubuntu.

The team also managed to attent most of the current linux community conferences and fesivals. They have provided "in the field" interviews from both UDS events during 2008. They also cover some of the topics and philosofies of what goes on behind the closed doors when the Masters Of The Universe get together.

The interesting bits are when the podcasters talk over product reviews related to Ubuntu as well as how they manage to use those products. One of the great advantages of Ubuntu is that there is usually more than one way to "skin a cat" so hearing from expert users and what formula of applications they combine for their experience is invaluable.

Anyway, it's a great listen, available in your prefered format and providing about an hour every two weeks means you will usually have a chance to offer feedback before the next episode. I have to say also that the guys on the team participate acitvely in the IRC chat room that they sponsor on the Freenode network. All of them are very approacable and there is a great sense of community around them.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Podcast Review: NASA podcasts

NASA has an amazing list of podcasts. Some of this content is in HD and all of it is informative or amazing. I was born only a year after man landed on the moon. My fascination with the space program only grew through the development and lifespan of the shuttle program. I find all things space to be interesting, and some of these podcasts cover the very newest and cutting edge of what NASA is working on.

This collection of podcasts allows you to pick and choose from your favorite missions, audio vs. video and frequency. I confess that I have chosen a video only, HD version where possible and most missions. These podcasts do not come at alarming rate.

The production quality of most is pretty high, with special note are the ones from JPL and the Chandra team. The selection offers some that are geared for kids while others are pretty "educational" and rich in material covered.

If you have any interest in space, the technology of space missions, astronomy or just keeping track of general NASA activity, this site is a fantastic resource for your podcast selections in the NASA catalouge.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Command Line Fu - The Website

This has to be my newest favorite site. I get excited like a kid in a candy store when I talk about the Command Line Fu website. So, here we go.

If you have read any of my previous blog posts you know that I favor the command line and text CLI environment for productivity. Likewise, it returns the processing and computing power of the computer back to the user. Yes, you must be a bit more practiced and read in order to make this a practical "lifestyle" change. I would argue with the users who prefer the GUI interfaces who say that it is too difficult or only for hackers.

My argument up to this point has been that the GUI allows for visual processing of instructions for expected actions and behavior of applications. Which means that you have to actually read, comprehend and use the help files (known as manpages) that will give you nothing short of full access to the power of every command line application.

I do not exclude myself from this observation, that even now, with my daily use of the command line that I have only but begun to scratch the surface of the commands and applications at my disposal. Most of the references that I have in my previous command line posts have to do with end user applications rather than "true" command line super powers.

The underlying issue of ease of reference, seeing practical working examples and then applying the use of the commands is constant. As I just said, even for myself. Well all of that is changing. The Command Line Fu website is filling the gap of general command line super powers and ease of reference.

I highly recommend this site. I personally access the site and it's material in 3 different ways. First, I navigate to the site and use the search function in order to try and find a previously submitted example of how to use a command. Second, I subscribe the RSS feed which then goes into my reader each day. Usefull commands I flag for later closer examination. And lastly, I have used the site to submit some of the commands that I actually use in my production/work environment.

This site is a very good example of community that you normally see in the open source community. I know this is going to sound like hippy-tree-hugging-free-love stuff, but it's true. Command Line Fu makes it easy to contribute, and even better, contribution doesn't take much effort. It asks only for the command line and a brief description of what the command is expected to do.

Wonderfully simple in design, efficient in use. While at the same time not being just ugly (like some really geeky sites can be). I have this site bookmarked in my Delecious and recommend it to anyone who might be eager to learn. If you follow my twitter, you might just find some references to the site, when I see command line goodness, I will be the first to spread the word.

Two thumbs up.


Friday, April 17, 2009

Podcast review: Earth-Touch

Picture 1.pngThis podcast is an amazing video podcast which offers nature HD footage. I'm not sure what resources they use at Earth-Touch but the results are truly impressive. As I have my computer connected to my full-HD television, the approximate 8 minutes a week that arrives is visually stunning.

In this video podcast, there are amazing footage of animals in the wild from all around the world. There have been insects from Indonesia and rhinos from Africa. Usually filmed on the backdrop of amazing vistas and views, these scenes are breath taking and, in full HD, clear and crisp to the point of amazement.

If you have children, do no longer get to see the old "Mutal of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" this is the perfect substitute. I am old enough to remember being exposed to raw nature footage and films a great deal in what was "children programing" from my youth. I can say that learning of the far away places from which these animals come inspired me on more than one occasion to pick up an encyclopedia and learn something.

If you are into wildlife photography or just plain enjoy footage of elephants and lions in such detail as to identify singular hairs blowing in the wind, this show is a must have. I highly recommend this show no matter you personal motivations for watching.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Podcast Review: Inside CNET Labs

These guys keep it real. Maybe a little too real, at the Inside CNET Labs podcast. With Dong and Eric with their water cooler bravado. It harks me back to the days when I was a Network Operations Center (NOC) technician. We were the secret keepers of the knowledge. We were core to keeping everything working, but not be shown to guests. We were stereotyped as lacking interpersonal skills, brash and uncouth.

Well, that IS what these guys are. It is that raw geek banter with a spattering of technologies. If my blog reader were the kind of person who missed any peers with which it geek socially, I would recommend that he listen to this podcast in place of real friends. Especially the friends that you would see once a week and only for about a half hour.

I find this podcast to be a pleasant social and comical interaction with the spice of tech which only geeks share. These sound very much like guys you might want to hang out with during your lunch break.

While having shared concerns of being taken off the air since there is no official sponsor of the show (as most of the other CNET podcasts have). I would blame this on their reckless use of language and typically politically incorrect banter. I would not be honest if that was not one of the reasons that I like the show so much. I find these guys talk the way that real guys talk to each other. I do hope this show is with us for much time to come.


Monday, April 13, 2009

Podcast Review: Fresh Ubuntu

Fresh Ubuntu is a podcast that is primarily the adventures of Harlem as he explores the Open Source world via the Ubuntu experience. Joining him is Peter, who adds to the conversation and brings with him normally a segment called the "Man Page Minute". This almost weekly, 40 min to an hour long adventure is the linux experience from the point of view of the newcomer (or at least closer to it). Harlem, who started his adventure only a few years ago shares what is his perspective on the linux experience.

This show for me is enlightening in that I haven't been a newcomer to linux for some 10 years, and things have changed quite a bit. I know that supporters would say that no one has the time of it that we had back then. But it's important to hear what little bits still need to be done. While also sharing the current tech news as it pertains to linux and major distribution releases these two carry what is usually a fun show without the heavyness of very technical details.

I would strongly recommend this podcast to the linux newcomer for it's information and vocabulary. I would sagely suggest this for the linux expert so that you can appreciate what a newcomer might be faced with today and understand what a new users needs might be today. Also, both Harlem and Peter are very resonsive to feedback and appreciate all they receive. These are just a couple of good guys who are trying to talk about the unpopular subjec of linux.

With no major sponsorship, these guys are on the up and up, so there is no fear that their views have been compromised to the all mighty dollar. The podcast has gone through it's troubled periods and extended hiatus from time to time, but has always come back and is currently on a pretty steady production schedule. This show only covers a bit of tech news that would no longer be relevant, and despite Harlem asking no one to do it, it would be a good idea to dive into the archives to see the path that Harlem and his podcast have walked.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

App Review: Terminator

Terminator is a wonderful gnome-terminal supplement. By supplement I mean that most of the defaults for Terminator are taken from the gnome-terminal application. Terminal windows are very practical and utilitarian things. There is one that I have found that adds great usage to the practicality of the command line. I dare say, that the terminal that I use today is staggering compared to the terminal sessions used on ancient Unix systems of old.

But I digress, this article is about the Terminator application. This application strives to do one thing more than gnome-terminal, to be able to split the single tabbed session into multiple parts. Since this starts sounding like something incomprehensible, I decided to add screenshots of what it can do. I would like to disclaim that it can do a few more things above and beyond the features that I will list here, but the ones I point out are the ones I find to be most important to me and the ones that I use every day.

First, the splitting of the tab. This can be done horizontally or vertiacally as many times as you desire. Clearly, some of those choices will depend on screen dimentions and personal preference of the information that you are viewing in each session. Screenshot below shows a single tab (does support multiple tabs) split once vertically, and one of those split once horizontially displaying 3 terminal panes. These pane divisions are also adjustible in size using the mouse to drag the windows much like you would resize a windowed application.

Notice the comments diagrammed in the screenshot. I have annotated the points made previously.

Then there is the simultaneous writing in multiple panes. This can be confusing and only used after some practice. I would suggest to use it for making/editing the same text file on two machines/folders for the first time out. There could be some bad side-effects of this activity if not executed well. However, due to the nature of my work this is an amazing feature which only one other app currently offers. Here is a screenshot of this feature in action. I should point out that the user can select/deselect members of the "group" at any time, and can select as many panes that are members of the group, so this is not an all-or-nothing solution and is as flexible as the user himself can think to be. Again, for multiple machine configuration files, routers and switches or even just multiple folders with the same files within this is a an amazing feature.

I have to confess that with my recent discovery of the Command Line Fu website that this becomes the killer app for me. I can now tap the full power of the terminal without having to launch the same application multiple times or having unseen tabs going ignored. With Terminator open and using the "Focus under mouse without raising window" offers me a blinding speed with flick of mouse and keyboard to interact with my computer systems in a very powerful way.