The HeliOS Project is now.....

The HeliOS Project is now.....
Same mission, same folks...just a different name

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

I love this time of year. Let's do this.

We finally got a real temperature-dropping cool front for Central Texas this week. Up until now, the daily temps have been in the 90s with a couple of days in the high 80s. I just brought Astro in from his evening walk and I am such a sissy when it comes to the cold, I put a sweater on. That's really pretty sad. It's 52 degrees and I'm trying to remember where I hung my winter bomber.

Otherwise, things are pretty good considering. Last week's heavy rains found a weak spot in the Reglue roof and leaks ensued. a bunch of our workship acoustic ceiling tiles dropped to a gloppy mess on the floor. As if that wasn't bad enough, the wet tiles and subsequent leak ruined over 30 of our monitors. Like it couldn't leak on the stuff ready to go to recycle. It had to leak on the one item we are chronically short on - sheesh.

But, we'll survive. Speaking of...

October 15th kicks off our annual Reglue Indiegogo fund raiser. We are off to a late start due two sponsors dropping out of communication. That was a surprise to say the least but we'll make it work. You can always support us by providing various perks. We will need a number of 16 gig flash drives for example. We'd love to hear from you if you can provide them for us.

We've improvised and came up with an ever-growing list of perks that we are
offering this year. From a complete Time Weaver Chronicles ebook set to a refurbished quad core, 12 gigs of RAM Dell, we regained our perk footing fairly fast. There are more on the way over the 60 day campaign. Please stop by and give us a hand if you can. It's going to be a good year for us.

I've worked hard this year to bring us back up to speed after a 15 month recovery session from cancer treatments. I am extremely excited about the coming year. We have so much planned...so many people we can help.

W just need your help to do it.

Also, watch for my weekly article at FOSS Force on the 21st. I'll be making an important announcement and I think it's important that all my friends know what's happening.

I want to thank you ahead of time for the help you provide my organization. It's been you since the beginning that has brought us to where we are and I am hopeful it is you that helps us help even more disadvantaged kids in the future.

All-Righty Then...

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Ricky's Flower

This piece was re-written and will be posted at opensource.com. You can see the edited and published article here:

https://opensource.com/life/14/10/reglue-program-linux-computers-kids

Sunday, July 13, 2014

When "Free" Can Suck.

We were fortunate enough to have a donated space in the expo hall at Texas Linux Fest this year. +Carolyn Hulsey who is one of our Directors, manned the Reglue booth for us on Friday.  She jokingly asked if I wanted her to be our "booth babe" this year.  She was in deed, all of that.



What was truly humbling was the number of people that recognized us without introduction.  When someone approached, I stood and extended my hand in greeting.  More often than I would have thought, the person shook my hand and told me, "I know who you are."

Wow....just wow.

It was one of these people that later pursued a 3 day email discussion with me on Free As In Beer software. And yeah...we all know the benefits.  But what of the negatives?

Linux distributions.  His "take"?

"Anyone paying for a Linux distribution is putting their money down the drain.  What they should be doing is putting that money into the hands of a free distro developer so (s)he can make their distribution better".

My long-time friend and mentor, +Carla Schroder  recently had a piece published at Linux.com.  The article asked a good question concerning Linux distros and she based her article on the different answers to the question.....

"Where are they now?"

These distros highlighted had a major impact on The HeliOS Project and later, upon Reglue. Mepis and Libranet.

When I first started The HeliOS Project, I was using Librenet on my personal computer.  Libranet had a per-user licensing agreement in order to make the effort pay and a single user license was for 69.00 If I remember correctly.  Jon Danzig and I worked out a multiple licensing agreement that we could both live with. The fact is, Jon almost gave those licenses away because he believed in what we were doing.  Jon's untimely death in 2005 eventually resulted in the Libranet venture striking their tents and moving on.

I consider Libranet as the first extremely easy Linux distro for the masses.  However, we were left with no other choice but to change our flagship distro.

Mepis Linux worked amazingly well for us. We used Mepis on all of our outgoing computers until 2010.  We put Mepis Linux on over 200 computers during Lynn Bender's Linux Against Poverty event in 2010.

video

Many of those systems are still in use today.  Three and a half months ago, we were contacted that one of our Reglue system's was no longer working.  A quick glance at the boot screen told the whole story.

It was Mepis 8 still running that computer, with KDE 3.5 working in all it's splendor. The problem was an aging Nvidia card/driver and some serious dirt and dust within the machine.  We replaced the computer with a decent dual core and our current Mint KDE LTS. Everyone is again happy. At least for another 4-5 years.

That Mepis system ran from 2010 until the late winter of 2014 without one major problem.

The three day email discussion I mentioned above was ignited by our difference of opinion pertaining to the "Free as in Beer" culture and mindset that encompasses most of the Linuxsphere.

His thoughts on the matter?  "Charging for a Linux distro or even software being developed for Linux is obscene".  Linux and Free Open Source Software should never have a price tag. Also, it should never have proprietary drivers and apps within.

Ever.

We agreed to disagree.  My job is to help disadvantaged kids get a functional and useful computer into their home. I can't very well set a new computer up in a kid's home and then give him a long list of things he cannot do with it.

"I'm sorry there kiddo.  You can't watch a lot of videos or use your school's website because they depends on Flash.  I'm also sorry that you can't play on miniclip.com or use some of your apps. Java doesn't work on your computer. But hey...ain't using Linux great anyway?  Make sure to tell all your friends how great Linux is."

Google's act of stripping Java support from Chrome severely cripples that browser.  What they intend to replace it with still remains to be seen.  Is Chrome following Apples lead in refusing to include Flash?  At first blush, it would certainly seem so.

At this time, it's unclear to me how Chrome merits any consideration as Reglue's daily driver on the information highway.

And I'm sure someone wants to mention Iced Tea and other open source attempts to produce replacements for Flash and Java.  Yeah, they work...sometimes.  My experience is that they fail at the exact time and place I need them to work.

As much as I agree in principle with the FOSS doctrine, that philosophy
cannot stand the full weight of day-to-day pragmatism without the roof falling in. The inclusion of Flash and Java into the Linuxphere is a necessary evil for many of us.

We've enjoyed success in placing Reglue machines, but some think we've compromised the Free Open Source Software principles to do so.  Really...?  Compromised principles? I'm not here to start a religious war nor am I here to place my allegiance in any particular camp. What I am here for is to express my opinion on what works best for the majority of most everyone.

Most everyone that uses a computer anyway.

Sometimes, in the Linux/Free Software world, things we thought would be here forever can go away quickly...leaving everyone in a state of confusion and surprise. The relatively recent demise of SolusOS and Fuduntu come immediately to mind.

As an aside, I wonder how my argumentative friend would feel if he donated money to these distros.

" What they should be doing is putting that money into the hands of a free distro developer so (s)he can make their distribution better"

Both were great developers but did any donations to those projects stop them from being canceled? So as many people donated to either one, in the end it didn't make a whit of difference. They are gone and seemingly never to return.

But wait...Let's talk about that little Google Chrome maneuver (mentioned above) that caught many of us by surprise last May. And in no way could it be described as anywhere near a pleasant surprise.

When I updated to the 35.xxx release of Chrome I figured it was business as usual.  I rarely review the release notes unless I need to see if a certain feature is now supported.

Maybe I should be checking for features that have had their guts ripped out.

While it was publicly announced, many of us didn't get the memo. Google dropped all Flash support in Chrome. It's their plan to make Chrome faster and more secure.  Really?

One of the reasons I left Firefox for Chrome was for its built-in support for Java/Flash.  Why these two are intertwined I have no clue.  Regardless, those websites that worked previously with Chrome no longer did...it simply said that the Java plugin was missing and it offered a link to download and install it.

I remember thinking to myself, "Oh crap...this can't be good".

And it wasn't.  A short search for some answers came quickly:

Java plug-in missing after upgrade to 35.0.1916.114 (Linux)Java plug-in missing after upgrade to 35.0.1916.114 (Linux)

 Two years ago, Reglue made Chrome the default browser in our default distro simply because Java (and many Flash) woes in Linux were dispatched quickly by using it.  Ever-increasing difficulty with Flash and Java in Firefox made the switch seem sensible.  

Now, that just ain't so.  Google will do what Google will do but steamroller changes like this is going too far, even for Google.  We've found our way back to Firefox and it feels like putting on an an old pair of comfortable jeans. 

It just feels right.

There is a passionate discussion among devepers concerning this "problem".
The plugin wasn't omitted...it was blocked.  Here, you can read for yourself the anger among those who develop for Chrome. Potentially millions of users woke up to find that their Chrome browser no longer supports Java.  It doesn't support Java?  Then for many of us, Chrome is practically useless.

My point is that we shouldn't need to use multiple browsers for differing tasks.  But that comes full circle to my point. In this instance and many others in the Free Software world...This a case of when free can suck.  

While I am sure there are a number of cases where we could site the same sort of thing in commercial products, I don't think any stockholder or board of directors would support a main feature being gutted from their product. Not without replacing it with something better.  It appears that Google doesn't have any such compunction.

As user edtoml points out in the above-mentioned link, 

"Getting rid of a 'bad' API can be a good thing.  Not converting critical plugins is bad verging on evil".

Of course, that depends.  If you are trying to forcibly guide internet applications into certain directions...then this is the course Google should be taking. Microsoft made a living out of it.  Don't get me wrong.  Flash and Java suck and they need to die by fire, but killing it off before alternatives exist is nasty business.  

And of course, that brings us again to something we, as Google users have come to understand.

Google is fastly becoming our Internet overlords if they aren't already. Gmail and Chrome are not Google products...we are the products.  We are the marketable items. Gmail and Chrome are simply the useful playgrounds given to us in order for them to collect our data.  Why does the choice between a red pill and a blue pill come to mind?  

So as always, the devil is in the details.  Am I ready to give up my Gmail account and Chrome browser?  

Gmail no, Chrome, yes. I may even revisit Opera.  But I am dialed in by a factor of 10, looking for alternatives that can give me the same features without compromising in ease of use.  But let there be no doubt.  If there ever should be such a product to come down the pipe that replaces the Google offering, I will certainly use it.

And I will most certainly pay for it if necessary.

All-righty then...










  






Monday, May 26, 2014

When Blivets Strike

What is a blivet?

In urban-speak, it is 10 lbs of poop in a 5 lb bag.

The past two weeks have been nothing if not a complete and personal blivet bombardment.  I rarely complain when things go awry, but the last 11 days find me stepping slowly and carefully outside, surveying the sky and horizon for hazards and checking behind every door that I walk through.  I've chose to walk instead of drive for most of this past few days and I've refused to work on electric things.

I can't remember a tougher group of days strung together like this in my entire life. I spent three days completely alone....trying to make sense of what was happening around me.  I ate nothing and I drank little.

In these few days, Diane was rushed to the emergency room for her third stroke and was kept in ICU for over a week. I was asked to call the family together as she wasn't expected to live through the night.

With that, I was dealing with news that my last CAT scan showed the throat cancer appeared to be answering a curtain call and that I should prepare myself for the possibility of a radical neck dissection...to include a complete larynx removal.

And just when the fun was really beginning.....

Our facility for Reglue was savagely broken into with thousands of dollars of stuff stolen last Thursday.  Everything else was swept off the shelving and smashed or stomped beyond use. I'm spending most of my Memorial Day finishing the cleaning shards of glass and broken computers while taking further inventory.  Of course we have liability insurance...but little else.  Nothing to cover theft or burglary.  Yesterday I purchased out of my own pocket, a few hundred dollars in enhanced alarm and surveillance equipment. Volunteers are spending Memorial Day installing all of it.

I paid for it because I feel responsible...

I even made sure everything was properly grounded and there were no bare wires exposed anywhere under my desk before I sat down to write this today.

Diane had not suffered another stroke.  A combination of medications set the perfect storm for catastrophic kidney failure.  Emergency dialysis was able to bring her creatinine levels back to normal.  A creatinine level of 1.6 is considered high.  Hers was 8.9.  Her doctor told us that she had never seen a living person with kidney levels that high. She still struggles a bit as this has weakened her greatly, but she's a strong woman.  I find inspiration in that strength.

"Shut up sissy and get back to work...you act like a little girl.  It ain't all that bad".

Indeed, I suppose it's not.  But it seems like it at the time.

I underwent exploratory and biopsy surgery mid last week. The biopsy labs are not back yet but my ENT and extraordinary surgeon Doctor Peter Scholl told me that he saw nothing to be concerned about.  What they saw on the scan was abnormally swollen tissue still healing from a brutal radiation regimen from over two years ago.

If my biopsy comes back clear, I will officially be in complete remission from throat cancer. Some good news will be welcomed.

Above all else, I think what bothers me most is that the person who brutalized our facility is probably someone we  helped.  I can't prove it but in putting together some of the things he said a while ago, it appears that he is probably responsible.  And that's fine.  I don't really know how I am going to replace the stuff that was stolen.  While much of the stuff taken was broken crap, a lot of it was ready for deployment to our Reglue kids. Much of it I scrimped and saved for.

17 laptops, 11 desktops, 30 Nvidia GT 9800 video cards, 29 Intel quad and AMD Phenom processors, 27 sixteen gig thumb drives, 34 one terabyte hard drives for the desktop, 30-some SATA laptop drives ranging from 320 gigs to 750 gigs, Two Asus 36 inch monitors still in the box, 500 feet of cat 5 spooled cable, 184 sticks of various RAM, ranging from 1 to 8 gig sticks, 3 computer technician tool kits, 25 sets of USB speakers, and 2 cases of USB wireless adapters.

I paid for the speakers and wireless adapters out of my own pocket.

But they left some good stuff in their haste.  a $700.00 London Fog leather bomber jacket draped across my office chair, a 32 inch TV/Monitor still in the box, about 3 troy oz of high grade circuit board gold, two Asus Chromebooks still in the boxes, a 500.00 wheeled portable air compressor, a full craftsman roll away tool box with tools, and 300.00 of petty cash in the bottom drawer of my desk. They also managed to bypass a money order for 144.00, with the payee still blank.  It's the payment for this months Internet service at Reglue. 

If measured against all teh suk in The Universe, I suppose a rogue  Neutron star wiping out inhabited solar systems takes precident over my pitifully small troubles.  It's just hard to put it into perspective when you work so very hard to help others and then something like this happens.

I cannot make any sense of it.

And to be honest...I'm tired of trying.  Sh** happens.  Deal with it.

And deal with it I will.

All-Righty Then....
 


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

There doesn't seem to be an end to it...

Dear, sweet Holy Mother of God.....Tell me these things only run in 3's.  I don't think I can withstand another.  In the past 8 days I have been asked three questions.

1.  Are you legally recognized to verify Diane's Do Not Resuscitate order or contact a family member who knows if she wants last rights?

2.  We need to get this new cancer gone as soon as possible. Can you be prepared for surgery on the 21st?

3.  Can you give me an estimate as to the dollar value of the items stolen from Reglue?

I'm not able to singularly push an intelligent thought or conversation through right now.  I'll get more of this down tomorrow...maybe.  I'm lost, I am overwhelmed and I don't think I've ever been hit this hard, by so much in so little time.

I'm beginning to believe I dwell in the Lineage of Job.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sending Dryfus Home...It Doesn't Have To Be This Way.

EDIT...the kids have successfully raised the money to get Dryfus taken care of and they request you not send any more money.  They don't want to have to send your money back so thank you.  Thanks a million to those who helped them out.  We'll be in touch.

Most people who read my blog know that it's a rare occasion when I write something completely foreign to Linux and FOSS.  My ordeal with cancer was one of those spaces in time.

And this will be another one.

Diane's daughter and her husband Michael have joined us in Texas.  Originally from the Portland Oregon area, the job market  for their profession fell victim to a slow economy and outsourcing.

They are both tier 3/advanced technical support specialists for several ISPs, hardware and software companies.  They will be staying with us until they can get on their feet.  Personally, I enjoy their company.  Both are spontaneously funny and extremely smart, rarely is there a dull or solemn evening in our home.  Both have jobs with a government agency and will start work in a couple of weeks full time.

They do not have children but there is a third member of that family and that member is Dryfus.

A few years ago, some complete idiot abandoned this beautiful guy at a boarding kennel.  When the kennel gave him to a shelter for adoption, Hillary and Michael fell completely in love with him.  He is an old soul...gentle and loving.  He loves and trusts easily and he has won my heart as well.  Best of all, he was welcomed by our two "kids", Astro and DeeDee.

Dryfus is 10 years old and came with a known problem of ear infections.  As you can see, basset hounds have a lot of ear to infect. After a while, it became obvious that his ear infections were not going to respond to tried methods of treatment.  This poor guy walks and sits with his head cocked to the right, as if trying to let the pain drain away.  Michael and Hillary clean his ears several times a day and I've even taken up the duty when necessary.

His problem was diagnosed as a severe food allergy.
Dryfus  eats a special food and
cannot have anything besides his regular food.  Every now and then he gets the treat of a carrot.  He loves them.  But even with a strict diet and little to no other foods given him, his infections have progressively worsened. At times, he finds a corner of the living room and curls up into a crescent and cries.  It's gotten to the point where he has to be given Tramadol to ease the pain.

Michael and Hillary love this boy...they love him so much that they are willing to send Dryfus home before allowing him to hurt like this.  In our family, we don't "put dogs to sleep" or "put them down".

We send them home.

As a last resort, Hillary and I took Dryfus to our Vet, Dr. Arlon Graef here in Taylor.  He is without hesitation the best vet I've ever used.  Astro and I were in his waiting room on a day he had to send a family pet home.  He wept openly with the family afterward....the entire waiting room was in tears.  He's a wonderful man as well as a fantastic veterinarian.  But he told us not to jump the gun.

The vet told us that food allergies in dogs tend to be more complex than just one source...in this case, Dryfus was diagnosed with a protein allergy.  He said it could be in combination with gluten or other parts of the food. Dr. Graef has referred Dryfus to a canine allergy specialist who will run a set of allergy panels to exactly pinpoint what allergies Dryfus is suffering.  Dr. Graef said that this specialist has over an 80 percent successful treatment record and he wouldn't refer us if he didn't think Dryfus could be treated and finally pain free.  But that's the rub.

The test panels are going to run between $500.00 and $700.00 and the kids are 45 days before they see a full paycheck.  Most of you know that I am church-mouse-poor, but I choose to be so.  Even with that, I have given Michael and Hillary $50.00 to put toward those tests.  I told them that I would talk to you and see if we might get some help from fellow dog lovers. I know it's not really a priority for most folks but for Michael and Hillary, they are at a point where they might not have any other choices.  It was suggested that an Indiegogo.com fund raiser be started but we don't have the luxury of that much time. In the grand scope, $700.00 isn't that much to raise, at least in the eyes of Indiegogo.

So I'll make you a deal.  I don't want you to donate money.  I want you to make me a loan of whatever amount you can spare and I will stand good for it over a 90 day period. I mean, if it's only 5 dollars, there are enough Blog of helios readers to make this happen.  If you want to help these kids, you can do so via paypal with Michael's address - kingofdarkness79@gmail.com. Just email me and let me know the amount so I can keep track of what I owe you. Any funding that exceeds their need will either be refunded or redirected for his continued treatment.

If paypal doesn't work for you, you can contact him at the above email address and arrange for other means of help. I will consider this a personal favor as well as a personal loan.  Dryfus doesn't need to go home.

He's already here. 





Wednesday, January 01, 2014

12 Geeks of Christmas Outreach Is A Success

Just a while back, we announced that I had an unusually good idea.  I mean given the fact that most of my ideas can cause spontaneous fires and strange weather patterns it was good.  So when I get a good idea, it's refreshing when no one reports any serious injuries.

It sat me up in bed at "Oh God It's Early:30.  I even got out of bed long enough to write an outline of what I thought would be pretty cool and went back to bed.  I thought we could put together an event named "The 12 Geeks of Christmas.

With the help of stellar FOSS advocate and Journalist Christine Hall, we spread the word of what we wanted to do.  In a week's time, we had our 12 Geeks of Christmas.

Here's how it worked.

We send said Geek a reconditioned laptop with Linux on it and they locate a school-aged child in their community that wouldn't normally be able to afford a computer in the household.  Deliver the computer and spend some time showing the parents and the child how to use it, and support them when they need help.

Yeah, I know...that's asking a lot.  But 12 of you did it.

Initially, I had asked for people to take pictures of the child with family and tell us a little bit about them.  But then it occurred to me:

People don't want to be paraded around during Christmas or any other time of year for that matter, just so sponsors can show off just how cool they are.  I didn't really think about the child's or parent's dignity when I made that request.  For those that answered the challenge, I withdrew that request.

Still though, a few of you did get some back-story about the kids they helped.  I was just as glad to hear the stories of the Geeks themselves.


Richard Kappler is a retiree from the US Navy and currently teaches high school math at 
New Bedford High School...he lives in Fall River MA.  His wife is going back to school to get her degree in social work and possibly become an advocate for the deaf and disabled.  Richard's daughter has some substantial physical handicaps of her own so those concerns run pretty close to the surface for both Richard and his Wife.

Being a high school teacher, Richard has a pretty good idea of who might need help from a giving Geek.  Once he cleared it with his school, Richard zeroed in on someone he knew for a fact could use a computer.



Richard and his wife arrived at Tuesday's home during the evening after work.  Tuesday is a wickedly smart 17 year old girl that not only takes her education seriously, she understands that she has one shot to make it into college.  She is singularly focused on just that.  Richard's wife talked with Tuesday's mom while Richard demonstrated the power and versatility of her new computer.  Tuesday then asked Richard if she could install Skype.  Richard reacts to that request with a raised eyebrow:

" It's a toy to her thought I. I couldn't have been more wrong. She has no phone, so the computer is a means of communication. We spent a couple hours e-mailing back and forth. I showed her how to set repositories, use the terminal, update her system and install a package. She didn't just do, she asked a lot of questions: Why do that, what does this mean, etc. She had already explored much of the software, was especially excited about Celestia.

By the end of our little hour and a half e-mail session she had dug through the man page on apt, asked many astute questions, updated her system in the terminal and was hungry for more. On a whim I told her how to bring up the python interpreter in her terminal and gave her the link to the Python-The-Hardway book online and taught her how to download the webpages as pdf's in Chrome as well as create folders and move things around. She had already worked through her first "hello world" before we closed for the night."

And sure...there are many of the kids to which we give computers that piddle away their time on Facebook.  I would say more than half.  But if those others are able to glean the future that machine can open up to them, then I don't mind giving the others who cannot. 
Richard Kappler struck a gold vein by choosing Tuesday.  I'm glad that he answered our call.  I want to take a moment and publicly thank him for working with us.  Richard has now gathered other laptops that can be repaired and put back into service by those who need them most.  I'm humbled that he chooses to use our model at Reglue.

Right after the first of the year, we're going to talk about another of the 12 Geeks of Christmas.  In fact, without this Geek...the project probably wouldn't have gotten off the ground.
This is the last entry in what has proven to be a milestone year for me. While it shows published on 1 January, I started this earlier.  I just lost my race with the clock.  I want to wish each of you the best of all possible things for the coming year.  If there is ever any way I can be of service, please do not hesitate to ask.

All-Righty Then...



Monday, December 30, 2013

Now It's Our Turn.....

Regarding myself, there are two things I believe to be rock-solid truths:

1.  I will be late, regardless of circumstance or planning...I will be late.  I promise.

2.  The Linux and FOSS communities are there for us when we need them.  Always.

To be honest with you, keeping the lights on and the doors open hasn't always been easy.  Fact is, if not for a couple of 11th hour assists from your ranks, the then-named HeliOS Project would have disappeared into the night and probably never seen again.

We came to you often and with humility...needing help for one thing or the other.  It wasn't always because we needed help.  Someone you never met needed help.  You took my word for it and you stepped forward.  Two boys who had been kicked in the teeth by life were able to get up and keep going because of you.

But you're like that.

All of you.

In February of 2012, I went to the doctor and was admitted to the hospital immediately.  I knew what the problem was...I just didn't want to face it.  When it became almost impossible to breathe, it forced my hand.  I was diagnosed with stage 4 throat cancer.  Knowing that I didn't have any health insurance, Thomas Knight along with Maxx Daymon,  David Rea and others set up an Indiegogo campaign for me.

Little did they know.....

In 9 days, I asked them to please stop the donations.  They had raised over 53 thousand dollars for my care.  During the campaign, a complete stranger contacted his doctor and told him about me.  Dr. Peter Scholl is one of the top ENT surgeons in the nation.  He contacted me and said he would charge me nothing for treatments and surgery if it was necessary.  He said to take care of my Oncologists bills and he would take care of the rest.

In a word, I was stunned.

Never had I experienced this outpouring of love and concern.  One of the stipulations was that any money not used for my medical care was to be transferred to the Reglue non profit account.  We didn't figure there would be anything left so I didn't give it any more thought.

Now comes the news that I will begin receiving Medicare coverage since I am permanently disabled.  It's part of the Affordable Health Care Act of 2013.  That means that any further treatments will be paid for my my insurance.  I will carry part B just to make sure there isn't a huge co-pay.  I am in remission but not a durable remission.  Problems could arise and it's not unheard of for this type of cancer to come back.

So with 22K left in the bank, The administrator of that cancer account, Pastor Jeff Ripple will accompany me to the bank later this week and transfer that money over to Reglue where my Directors will oversee the funding we need.

I told you that story so I can tell you this one.

Many of you have helped us out professionally through the years.  Some with
artwork, some with code...and some with physical labor and you've never asked a dime for your help.

My buddy Randy Noseworthy is just one such person.  Randy is between jobs and trying to keep heart and hearth under the same roof.  Randy also has mastered the art of distro creation and modification.  At my direction, Randy has taken the Mint KDE LTS release Maya and has turned it into the best Reglue respin we've ever had.

The Maya version will be used as our primary distro with Zorin for lightly spec'ed computers and Uberstudent and OpenSuse for the High School and College installs.
Randy was able to give us everything we needed in a distro and it wasn't easy.  The apps we would install every now and then, he provided in an extra folder.  That way, we can install the .deb or tar.gz without having an internet connection or should we forget to bring our data thumb drive with us.

For once, we have been able to pay for services rendered.  Randy never asked us for a dime...but upon completion of the project I informed him that a check will be sent out on the last day of this month.  It's more than he imagined and it's really less than we think he's worth, but it worked out well for all of us.  And yeah, it feels good to be able to give back to those who have helped us out.  Two guys that have done graphic work for us are now in our vendor list as well.

And so it is....as it always is.  What goes around, comes around.

I'm just glad to be on the merry-go-round.

All-Righty Then...
 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Desktop Search...The Crazy Uncle of KDE

My Dad's side of the family was an amazing mix of Loggers. Lawyers, Bank Robbers, Bankers, Cattle Rustlers,  Ranchers, Soldiers, Policemen and Gypsies.

No, really...I'm talking real Gypsies.



In some parts of Europe they are referred to as "travelers".  Today,   many have been assimilated into the various ambient populations and cultures but many have not.


My uncle Emil claimed to be of the Romnichel clan and maintained his wandering ways throughout his life.  Right up until his 84th year, when a State Trooper found him frozen to death on New Year's Day at a rest stop outside of International Falls Minnesota .

His car stalled along with the heater as it sat idling while Emil slept.  He froze to death in his sleep.  An empty pint of Four Roses whiskey on the seat next to him. 

I remember as a young boy, Waking up to Uncle Emil's 1950 Chevrolet and his old Airstream trailer sitting in front of our house.  He had arrived sometime during the night and I could always count on him to be sitting at the kitchen table with my parents...chain smoking camel cigarettes, drinking coffee and regaling them with his latest adventures.

Then, on any given morning I would wake up to find him gone.

He was here long enough to "borrow" money for gas and food and then disappeared with the wind.

Uncle Emil wasn't a reliable person by anyone's stretch of the imagination, but he was a charmer.  He made promises that I am sure he meant to keep...at least at the time, but when it came time to make good on that promise, he was either gone or had concocted a wild tale of events that conspired to work against him and his promise.

It just wasn't his fault.....to hear him tell it.

Nothing ever was.  Three failed marriages, five abandoned children,  two felony convictions and more overnight stays for drunk and disorderly than I could count.  Somehow though, that always seemed to add to his wind-burned good looks and roguish charm.

Failure was the one thing you could count on Emil for. Emil drank away success like many people drink away bad memories.  That's not a judgment....just an accurate observation.  And even when you could count on him....well, your mileage varied at any given time.

And that's the way I view the default Desktop Search on KDE.

The crazy uncle of KDE Desktop.

This blog is no stranger to complaining about KDE desktop search.   Way back in 2006 when the now defunct lobby4linux.com existed, and another shot across the KDE bow in 2009.  My complaints are not lonely.  I've talked with a lot of people who have a hard time settling in on a reliable search method in KDE.  Now, Nepomuk has finally come of age and is actually a great tool to index your files.  It doesn't use a machine gun to chew through your files and RAM any longer and most times stays out of my way.  I was hoping that this somehow would improve the search function in KDE itself.

No... it has not in my experience.  Here's what I mean.

The prime mover for search in KDE is Kfind.   In my humble, never-too-opinionated view...

Kfind Ksucks.

Kfind is Kfired.

Here's how I came to that conclusion.  It's the same conclusion I experienced in 2009, 2012 and today.

I give a brand new OpenSuse KDE install 72 hours for Nepomuk to index my home and root system.  I open KFind and see that the default folder to search in is file:///home/helios.  Well, I'm not sure of that file path but it's what comes default when I open it so that's what I go with.  I choose the search term "Santana"

10 seconds, 30 seconds...60 seconds...  It tells me that there is no file or file name with "Santana".

I assured KFind that there is most certainly a file or file name with "Santana".

Maybe I'm doing something wrong.  Maybe the search folder file:///home/helios should just be /home/helios.  Maybe I need to tick the box asking KFind to use indexed files.

Nope...that wasn't it neither.  Well crud...One of the reasons I liked Gnome as much as I did was the Gnome Search Tool.  It was machine gun fast, sniper rifle accurate and it had little to no overhead as far as using resources.  But I'm determined I am going to make KDE work for both me and the Reglue organization.

I honestly like KDE.  It's not only my DE of choice now, but the primary driver for Reglue computers.  We will place over 1000 computers in the next 3 years.  I would very much like to have KDE on those machines.  It delivers the polish, stability and beauty we are looking for.

So now I open Dolphin and click on the find icon at the top and type in the search string "Santana" .

Boom  Boom  Boom

Results show up immediately.  Now that's better...I think.  I mean, at least I got some results in the first 15 seconds.  It showed a couple of stray files and a folder that is named "Santana", but no individual files with that name in them.  It does allow me to open the folder and see what other files with the word "Santana" is in there.

But it doesn't list them individually.

Some folks will surely argue that just offering the folder named "Santana" cuts down on search time and is neater.  That we should just intuitively know that every file with the search term "santana" in it is inside that folder.  It may be.  But what if I want to find and play the song "Singing Winds, Crying Beasts" by Santana?

Well Ken, Open the file folder and find that song in that folder.

I contend I shouldn't have to do that.  I want all the files with that particular name in it and I want to see them listed.  Maybe there's a way to configure Dolphin to make that happen.

Just like there is probably a way to get KFind to work.

But folks...if it doesn't work out of the box.....to a new user.

It doesn't work and Linux still sucks.  No one should have to "tinker" to get a default application to work.  That's the job of a developer, not the end user.

I do know that the abbreviated search results in Dolphin are probably due to it using the locate tool instead of find.  And I suppose that's fine.  I just find it a bit inconvenient to have to dig through a folder when I expect all files to be listed individually.  It's a quibble really in the scheme of things...but one that I find important enough to mention.

And look...I'm not picking on KDE.  I'm liking KDE.  I want to like KDE and I plan on using KDE.

But I am sure to hear from someone telling me that all one has to do is open some_config_file.txt as root and comment out lines bla bla bla, and replace those lines with bla bla bla, save it, log out then log back in and it will work.

Really?  This is new-user friendly?

Please reference the mention above about the impression that Linux sucks.

I installed a search app I use in Xfce and I didn't have to drag in too many GTK dependencies to do it.  It's called "Catfish".  Below is a screenshot of the results of all three search tools, giving me their individual results.  I find it a bit odd that a third party app surpasses the native KDE search application.  Catfish gets it right.

Many of you will respond by telling me that there are a lot of different command line tools that allow for searching file.  Yes, there most certainly are.
So you search via command line and now that you know where it is, what are you going to do?  Admire the results of mlocate in your terminal?  Of course not.  You wanted to know where that file is or you wouldn't be looking for it.  Obviously you want to manipulate or use the file in some way.  Command line tools just help you find the file. So why use the command line, when you can have one stop shopping with a GUI?

It's a darned shame that the above-mentioned app isn't native to KDE.

Long story short, Catfish found all the files in that directory with "Santana" in it and listed them alphabeticlly with live, clickable links if I want to play a song in those search returns, or even delete them if I choose to.

That's the way it's supposed to be.

We Geeks and Professionals use the command line because it's how we work.  For the other 99 percent of people, they don't know what a command line is, nor should they have to.  When they open a search tool.  They expect to find the files they are looking for without a bunch drama and broken promises.

So it seems the crazy uncle of KDE desktop search is in the wind...maybe in the next few years, he'll stick around and hang out with all of us.

At least we don't have to loan this crazy uncle money.

All-Righty Then...



Monday, November 18, 2013

Be one of Reglue's 12 Geeks of Christmas


As we enter into the holiday season, we at Reglue would like to start a tradition.  Regardless of your preferred participation of the upcoming holiday season, we want to extend to you a chance to make a local child's life a bit brighter.

I've worked six of the past 7 Christmas days...placing computers into the homes of kids that just cannot afford one.  It has been both a joy and a privilege to do so and I can't think of a better way to spend part of my Christmas Day. 


While the Holiday Season may be a few weeks away, we would like to start getting this project off the ground now?

What project?

Find a truly disadvantaged family with school-aged children and place a computer in that child's home.  Take pictures of the kid(s) with their new computers and seek permission to publish their/your pictures and story in the Blog of helios.  Just a general run-down of who the children are, their age and school.  Maybe a bit about them and/or their families.

We'll ship you the computer...you simply do the delivery, setup and brief session on how to use it.  I say we can ship it and of course we can, but any help in doing so would be appreciated...our funding, as always, is a bit tight.

In remembering that every computer we place is pre-loaded with Linux is important.  Finding the 12 Geeks of Christmas will probably be challenge enough, not to mention Linux Geeks...

But among the thousands of people that read this blog...I'm betting that we can find them.  Of course, we can only afford to ship computers in the US and even that will be expensive.  We will try to ship laptops when available but we only have about 4 right now that are serviceable.

And no...this doesn't have to take place on Christmas Day...Any time that works for you is fine.

We will be waiting for your contact...let's bring 12 special days to 12 special kids this Holiday season.

Email me...ken@reglue.org.  We'll get you hooked up.

All-Righty Then...

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Taming The Iguana.....


There doesn't ever seem to be a good time for behavior-changing events.  Sometimes stuff happens that we simply cannot control.  Maybe someone backs out of helping you at the last moment...maybe an accident has you tied up in traffic and you are going to miss an important event.


Stuff happens.

So as it was with us, we found ourselves without a clear future for the Linux distribution used for our Reglue computers.  There is a wide assortment of educational software and games that goes into making these computers viable for our Reglue Kids.

Any ol' distro won't do.

Since the previous LTS of our Ubuntu derivative ran out the time clock, we've been using two different ones off the bench.

Good friend +Randy Noseworthy put us together a nice educational respin of Linux Mint 13/Cinnamon.  We also used the 6.4 release of Zorin Educational Version.

Both work great.  Both are well done distributions.

And both projects are led by one man. One man shows so to speak.

A good friend of mine found himself in an untenable position a couple of weeks ago.  With his work schedule and the amount of promised support now wavering, he was left with a hard choice.  +Ikey Doherty read the writing on the wall.  He wasn't going to be able to move forward with his vision of what SolusOS should be.

Sure he could have went back to being another Child of Debian, but that was just where he came from...

He wasn't going back.  The same problems that plagued him then would be there to meet him when he returned.

So he took the only viable option open to him...and the one that caused him the most pain.

He walked away from his creation, SolusOS.  The same SolusOS that would have been used for our official educational distribution.

There doesn't ever seem to be a good time for behavior-shifting events......

So we found ourselves on unsure footing.  While I am sure that the developers of Mint and Zorin are confident in their longevity within the the community.....

It's simply a risk we cannot take.  They are both some of the best examples of what Linux is and should be on the desktop.  Both of these distributions will be used in our Reglue computers, as each of them has a specified purpose, depending on the power and size of the computer being installed.

We just need to know that something with longevity will be there if one or both of the others fail.  I think we've covered our bases well.


And yeah, there's nothing to promise that any company, firm or organization  will be here tomorrow.  But you can look at the organization and see what chances you think they have.

That's why we've chosen OpenSUSE:Education-Life for our official Linux operating system at Relgue.

We honestly would have remained with a Debian-based structure but with the horrendous problems we've had with UCK and Reconstructor this past week, it simply became unreasonable to waste any more man-hours on the project.

I was able to construct and ready a Suse Studio image in three hours.....

We need to have the ability to move quickly...to respond to the needs of our kids on the spot.

The tools we struggled with this past few days are an example of how Open Source Software can have critical fail points.  Both software projects are amazing when they work, as proven by our use of them in making our first LTS within 10.04.  But getting timely support has always been hit and miss in the Linuxsphere.

It took me better than three days to get a response for one of the problems we were having with UCK.  And that's understandable.  As users of FOSS, we should accept the fact that the people who produce much of the codebase we use, are not beholden to us or any particular timetable...other than their own.

So we moved on to a more stable base.  For this coming year, we've budgeted for $2000.00 in donations to open source projects.

And our donation dollars follow us where we go.  If you cannot get answers to your question or problem in 24 hours, then maybe the problem isn't in the software...it's in the support.

 We have a lot of people who donate to Reglue on a monthly and yearly schedule.  They feel that we are in this for the long run.  And they are right.  We've been active in the FOSS Community,  at one level or another since 2005.

We've been rewarded for that effort.

We'll go to the various OpenSuse forums and introduce ourselves in the next few days.  The OpenSuse Ecducational version will work for us nicely and if anything, we'll use the Studio services to trim it down...a lot of the stuff they include we don't need.  Not yet anyway.

All-Righty Then...



Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Linuxsphere - Benevolent Dictators Need Not Apply

I'm trying to remember when it was...

last year maybe?  No, longer ago than that.  I hadn't gotten sick yet, so it had to be closer to two years ago.

In all, it's really not important when.

It's the "what" that needs to be addressed.  At least in my mind.

I was privy to an exchange in a distro forum between the powers that be.  A certain conversation caught my attention because it discussed something of interest to me personally...

They were discussing some UI changes to Nautilus.

I wanted to see how it played out in the thread before I interjected my two cents.  Lots of times, things like this get sorted out and the less people involved, the better.

At least usually.

The issue was improving Nautilus by bringing back the ability of adding color and texture to the background.  For as long as I can remember, Gnome/Nautilus users have been able to set a background in this file manager.

Something other than the normal white background.  Often it's simply a matter of aesthetics...other times it can be an issue of medical or physical need.

Because radiation and/or chemo therapy messed up my eyesight, I have a hard time focusing on a stark white background.  Sometimes, when the ambient lighting is less than the light of the monitor, I have to wear dark glasses in order to make sense of what is on the screen.  If it's too bright or "noisy", then I have to change contrast and even sometimes, not focus on the screen for a few seconds in order to unscramble things.

It's a problem dealing with refraction, reflection and noise in the sight field.

So yeah, any surface I can change that lessens the light and perceived noise of the background field is helpful.  That's why I took an interest in this ongoing thread.

Unfortunately, the conversation took a Thelma and Louise turn.



The UI development member of the team announced that all discussion for this topic was closed.  If people wanted alternative backgrounds in the file manager, they could obtain it from a particular theme.....

With the complete mess that is Gnome/shell theming, good luck with that.

 Car flies off a cliff.

Roll credits.

There would be no more discussion of this topic in the thread.  Have a nice day...now go away.

For the past several years, this itself has been a reoccurring theme in the Linuxshpere.

Developers, whether they are on a small team, or working on large projects like Gnome...sometimes they just can't be bothered.

"But, but...that feature was in Nautilus before.  And so was mouse-over previews. why can't we have those things back?"

"I am altering the deal. Pray I don't alter it any further."

This has been covered and discussed since KDE decided on their massive UI change. Many users feel they are in a buffet line.  Take as much as you like, but don't ask for anything not on the menu.  Be happy with what's in front of you.

And sure...this is Linux.  Don't like it?  Then change it.  

Change it....

Really?

That's like asking a mechanic to give themselves a facelift or remove their own appendix.  If we don't possess the ability to make changes like this, we are left with asking for help.  Summarily dismissing a user out of hand is just bad business.



It comes down to simple communication...two way communication.  In our little world, two way communication is possible and it often yields results that both sides like.  It is far and away better than trying to affect change in a proprietary software world.  Far and away better...

But summarily executing a proposal in public isn't winning you any new users.  Had I not known that the original creator of this distro would indeed affect this change on his own...

Myself and my donation budget for the year would have walked away and probably not returned.  I might have even used my blog as a bully pulpit, heaping piles of molten slag upon the project.  

"Any publicity is good publicity" isn't always the case.

Distro developers have to walk a thin line dealing with their dev team and their users.  Sometimes it's in the best interest of the main developer to pull some dev team members to the side and discuss civil discourse.

I am fairly sure in this case that the UI developer probably meant that his workload was already crazy.  Asking for other features just added another brick to his load.  He may have just been feeling the pressure of getting his job done.

Forums are a public place, where we come to find answers or just hang out and spend time with people we like, admire or trust.  Had I been a new user, perusing the forums to scout a new distro, that statement would have resulted in me walking away and probably never returning.

With doors slammed in a user's face when asking for a feature...that is the probable outcome.

And that's just plain bad for business.

All-Righty Then...













Thursday, October 10, 2013

Where Dogma Ends and Friendships Flourish.....

I have a good friend that does CGI work and has worked for some of the biggest houses in the business.  He has a fantastic family and even lived in Austin for a year or so.  We would go to their house on the occasional Sunday where Diane and his wife would talk and we would sample from his extensive Scotch collection.

A fun time was had by all.

As all good things do, this came to an end when he was offered a much better paying job with a California production studio.  While he left Texas, we've kept in contact.

He is a good friend.  Hell, he's more than a friend...I feel as close to this person as I do with my siblings.

That's why his latest email bothered me a bit.  I mean, it didn't bother me as in me emailing him back to argue with him.  Rather, it was the wording of the email.

You're going to berate me for this, but I'm sure you're wondering why I'm getting a new visa. I am starting a new job, in Washington state, you've probably made the jump already, it's in the city of Redmond. Yeah. It's with Microsoft.

I'm joining their incubation team. Inventing random new stuff. The same group who made the kinect...


And that's where known strong political or personal stances can come back to byte you in the backside.

Since 2004, I've been known first as a Linux Advocate.  Everything I do on a professional and sometimes personal level, substantiates that fact. There are some that consider their friend going to work for Microsoft akin to your brother joining the Confederacy while you and your other brothers are in the Union camp. 

See...that's where personal and political dogma gets questionable.

Do you shun this person for not agreeing with you on principle or do you wish them the best of luck and move forward.

That's easy to answer, but in a minute...

I won't deny that I despise Microsoft...but I don't despise the entity because of the people that make their living there...I think they are reprehensible for their bullying business practices and their stranglehold they hold on the Enterprise.

While that later is changing, the damage has been done.

So while it may be flawed thinking to believe that those employed by Microsoft are culpable in Microsoft misdeeds, those pointing to the error are forgetting the first and most important factor in any decision.

The Human Factor.  In this case.....

A man who is doing what is best for his family. 

Emotionally. any dislike for someone that has seemingly "joined enemy ranks" would seem the right thing to do, and maybe so if it were something much more important...

But in this case, I would rather encourage my friend and maintain that precious friendship than damage it over something, that in the universal scheme of things.....

Really doesn't matter at all.

And by the way my friend...Let me know what cool things you design and I'll keep it under my hat.

You can count on that from one friend to another.

And hurry back when you can.  I have an unopened bottle of 21 year old Glenlivet just waiting for your return.  One of the best Speyside's I've ever tasted.  And you know that's been quite a few.

All-Righty then.





Saturday, October 05, 2013

New User Barrier To Linux - I Think I Found The Problem....

This is nothing new.  I talked about this during my Keynote at Texas Linux Fest in 2010.

It's one of those things we all know but we really can't do anything about it.  It's time we did.

In the realm of Open Source software development the adage "good enough" is  often interpreted as this software is good enough for general use.

It should read "good enough for me", speaking only from the software author's perspective.

Here's what I mean.

I recently received a call for help from one of our Reglue kids.  Mitch is a bright 11 year old that wants to be a fighter pilot like his dad.  Needless to say, he's loving different flight sims.

But his problem wasn't with his software...he was needing to traceroute a server for his dad.  I haven't run traceroute for a while but I know that it pulls in curl and some other libraries so I just decided to show him how to use Traceroute the GUI.  I've used it in Windows before and it is an adequate tool.

He downloaded the app from Sourceforge and we could go from there.  Since it was in tar.gz format, I did a quick search for the instructions without invoking the ./package_name at the terminal.

Oh, I found the instructions.

You gotta be kidding me...right?

Whether or not this author was the author of the software or just the author for the tutorial, the "good enough for me" rule applied here perfectly.  At the risk of boring you, let me paste those instructions here for you to see:

Download and install Open Visual Traceroute
Open the Terminal window and enter :
mkdir /tmp/OpenVisualTraceRoute
cd /tmp/OpenVisualTraceRoute
Then for 32bit and 64bit systems download and install the latest version with :
wget http://sourceforge.net/projects/openvisualtrace/files/latest/download
sudo unzip download -d /opt/
Extract the application icon to be used for the launcher and set permissions with :
cd /opt/OpenVisualTraceRoute*
sudo unzip -j org.leo.traceroute.jar */internet.png
sudo chmod +x startLinux.sh
3. Create an Open Visual Traceroute launcher
To create a Ubuntu Unity Desktop Launcher, create a desktop launcher file with :
sudo gedit /usr/share/applications/open-visual-traceroute.desktop
Then add the following information and save :
[Desktop Entry]
Name=Open Visual Traceroute
Version=1.3.1
GenericName=Open Visual Traceroute
X-GNOME-FullName=Open Visual Traceroute
Comment=Open Visual Traceroute
Type=Application
Categories=Application;Utility;
Exec=gksudo /bin/sh startLinux.sh
Terminal=false
StartupNotify=true
TargetEnvironment=Unity
Then add the path to the latest version and icon in the launcher with:
cd /opt/OpenVisualTraceRoute*
sudo su
echo "Path=$(eval pwd)" >> /usr/share/applications/open-visual-traceroute.desktop
echo "Icon=$(eval pwd)/internet.png" >> /usr/share/applications/open-visual-traceroute.desktop
exit

And for the record, we did install traceroute at the command line and we ran traceroute domain.com.  He now knows how to do that but to get this GUI up and running?

I realize that this person did his best and really put a lot of work into getting this done, but it's obviously not the answer for any new Linux User, regardless of age.

What did I do?

I had him download and extract the tar.gz into his home directory then open the  folder and right click on startLinux.sh.  From there I had him choose properties and then permissions.  I told him to check the box that said "allow executing file as program."

While I did show him how to change permissions using the chmod tool, I just had him click on startLInux.sh in the file browser and we were off and running.

How friggin' easy was that?  Why are people supplying instructions that are way too complex for the new user?  I know the answer to that question.  It's rhetorical in nature.

"Because it's good enough for me"

Folks, it doesn't always have to happen the hard way. When we're providing tutorials or help on the web, remember you don't know who's going to be reading it.  I think making sure you provide an answer to suit all levels of users might be a good idea.

 I'm no longer concerned with Linux "world domination".  I want new Linux Users to feel comfortable in their environment.....

Not scare them away from it.

All-Righty Then.