The Best OS for your old laptop? Pt 1 of 2

29 05 2008

Do you have a spare old computer lying around collecting dust?

OR

What do you do when you have an aged laptop or desktop and running Windows XP is a pain in the ass? A friend of mine wanted me to fix his sister’s old computer, a Dell Inspiron 2100 laptop running ……

Microsoft Windows XP SP2
Intel Pentium III 700Mhz
128MB RAM (1 slot, upgradeable to 256)
10GB HDD

A sticker on his diminutive laptop (now called a sub-notebook) carried the l’terrible Windows ME sticker in a corner galvanizing me to set forth on an adventure to seek out the best usable Operating System for that old POS. Since the end-user would require a familiar user-interface, my first bet was Windows XP. It was bad. Really bad and took a longer time to load and operate than expected.

Being the honorable ninja, I was began looking for “free” Operating Systems devoid of commercial value. So the next thing to XP, since Vista is definitely out of the equation, was TinyXP. You can google it up and download the ISO file via torrents for free. Install the ISO as I have detailed in this post and try setting it up on your computer. Remember that when you install it on a drive, you will have to format the drive so backup everything you have on DVDs or CDs or another hard drive.

So how’s TinyXP? It’s great for that laptop when I installed Rev08 and it’s the same as Windows XP for the regular user other than certain disabled features. Only took like 500MB so was pretty neat. The only problem was after installing all the different add-ons like Flash Player for YouTube and Office 2003 etc etc, the laptop became slow. There are options to remove printers and other features and even after combing out everything from the start-up and uninstalling McAfee Anti-Virus, it wasn’t as fun. The wallpaper and theme figures into the slowness of the operations of the computer as well. Oh and you can’t run updates to secure your machine on the internet.

After these problems with TinyXP, I said fuggit and formatted the drive with the much heralded Fluxbox variant of the already open-source and “free” Ubuntu known as Fluxbuntu. After formatting the drive to EXT3 and getting Flux on it, to my shock, it was a plain Linux screen where everything had to be done manually. Click on the terminal window to install applications (example: sudo apt-get install firefox) but to it’s credit, Fluxbuntu did have some nice looking preloaded themes to it.

To get an updated repository list of applications, you would have to open up the terminal window and type in sudo update-menus before you can do the sudo apt-get install [name of application]. It did not recognize my Western Digital external hard drive and had trouble loading my flash drives. Apparently you have to manually mount them to the computer through commands on the terminal. Pfffft. Gave it another 24 hours and blah. Gave up on it. It’s light-weight and great for an old workstation but simply not user-friendly enough for the average person like my friend’s sister.

And so our ninja trod on towards his next project, KDE. I remembered having problems installing Ubuntu 7.10 (Gutsy Gibbon – Gnome) and knew that similar issues could arise during installation of Kubuntu (KDE Ubuntu) so ran the lazy man’s way of installing Kubuntu over Flux.

[To Be Continued…]

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Downloading MP3s for FREE the legal way or so it seems to appear!

23 05 2008

With the crackdown of the RIAA on music lovers all over, I have come to grow distant from music in recent years. Not even the discovery of the magical Guitar Hero on video game consoles or more recently, David Cook winning American Idol can change me. It’s hard to imagine that at one point in my life, I was a huge music fan plunking hundreds every year for CDs and fattening the wallets of the big people in the recording industry. No more. The RIAA’s actions on their customers or future-customers has resulted in a backlash and now more than ever, fans are resorting to obtaining copies of their favorite songs by any means.

Here’s one way… the online way. You’re not going to have to use P2P sharing software like Kazaa or Limewire. Just the plain old way – websites and in this case, the MySpace pages of your favorite bands. When you right-click on the name of your band in the black box section, you will get the option shown below.

Now if you don’t get that option, you might want to follow my guide in this previous post and then come back here. So anyways, your file is downloading and when it’s completed, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. Oh and make sure you only download songs you legally own. For example, I already own several Iron Maiden CD albums which have “Two Minutes To Midnight” so this should be legal for me.

The “video” you downloaded actually ends up getting stored as a MP3 file. Yes, MP3. On Windows XP machines, the file should typically be stored in C:\Documents and Settings\[username]\My Documents\My Videos\RealPlayer Downloads

or My Documents > My Videos > RealPlayer Downloads if that’s easier to read.

The quality will depend on the uploaded file to the MySpace account by the person who set it up but they should all be at a rather low bitrate of 96kbps @ 22kHz. It’s definitely not CD quality but it should sound decent for the unsophisticated listener and it’s FREE. Let me know your thoughts.

EDIT: Doesn’t work all the time. 😦





The future Honda/Acura NSX?

22 05 2008

Arguably the world’s first and only true exotic supercar from the land of the rising sun, Honda’s NS-X (Acura in the USA) was a pillar of marvel for automobile designers with it’s light-weight aluminum frame molded into a sleek aerodynamic design. The low-slung mid-engined beauty ran on it’s rear wheels and could out-handle it’s European counterparts from marques like Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Porsche.

Unfortunately for Honda, manufacturers and fans of the established exotic sports cars refused to accept the NSX because of the rather anemic V-6 powerplant and the fact that it wasn’t from Europe. Regardless, there is no doubt that it’s design was years ahead of it’s competition back when it first came out in 1990 and Honda is aiming to try and make another home-run.

Honda’s HSC (probably stood for Honda Sports Concept) made the fans somewhat happy but the boring and derivative design wasn’t NSX which is why it was replaced by the equally boring “Advanced Sports Car” concept. This time, it’s going to be front-engined on a rear-wheel drive setup which could alter the balance the previous iteration had achieved.

I must say it looks ugly as f*ck and a lot of enthusiasts expressed similar thoughts when this car debuted last year at NAIAS (North American International Auto Show). Almost Chevy Corvette like and somewhat bland to the eye so I used some quick Photochop to make it once again a mid-engined supercar that it should be.

Didn’t know how to fix the headlights but that’s just my interpretation of the direction Honda should be taking. I know Honda went back to the drawing board after a huge negative reception for the ASC design but would love it if they could take cues from what I have above or at the least, bring back a mid-engined supercar.





Two Minutes to Midnight for Servers

21 05 2008

PDOS (Phlashing/Permanent Denial of Service) attacks have now entered the mainstream world. An article on Hackaday reveals this accidental discovery and the same stuff is also reported on Engadget. Although this isn’t anything new and it’s hard to execute remotely, it’s completely possible due to the pervasive nature of technology in our lives today. A standard DDoS (Denial of Service) attack shuts down websites or slows down your computer’s processes or network capabilities. The means are usually achieved by overflooding key components (CPU/RAM/etc) with large swaths of packets (data). They can also trigger recursive functions on older systems to cause a stack overflow without having to eat up bandwidth space on the network.

The vulnerability: Many devices nowadays allow for their firmwares to be updated from your couches. You no longer have to mail it to a service center or worse, buy an entirely new product for an updated software. Your Palm Pilots, phones (smart phones like Windows Mobile and Symbian devices), routers, etc are some more common instances. This procedure is known as “flashing” and is risky because if the update isn’t done right or if there is a hiccup on the network, it’s going to “brick” your device.

What do you mean by “brick”: When your electronic device is only as useful as a brick.

Why do you need to run firmware updates: Firmware updates are constantly provided by manufacturers to enhance your product’s usability and functions. They could affect anything from the user-interface to the support of additional hardware, new added functions, or provide greater efficiency and addressing bugs. Certain software might only work if you your firmware is at or greater than a certain level.

What PDOS does: Writes a corrupt firmware to complete the transformation of your device into the afore mentioned construction product. Owners of convergence devices (smart phones) need to remember to completely back up their data before flashing as we all know the risks involved.

How to prevent it: You would need to disable remote firmware updates. That option should be listed somewhere in the device’s settings section and if it’s not there, look up in the manuals because it should be. Other ways are to secure your routers and the use of strong passwords.





Gizmodo bans our Ninja

14 05 2008

It’s not sure who @ Gizmodo banned “ninjatales” or why but it happened within the next 5-10 minutes after posting this line in a controversial “PS3 Ad” blog post. Ironically enough, I was in support of Brian Lam (blogger @ Gizmodo) for laying the smack down on some irrational posters. You’d think a supporter would be given a helping hand.

Was our ninja backstabbed or was it simply a case of “casualties of war” during his banning spree? I guess all we can do for now, other than my one-time email post to reinstate my commenting status, is to stare at this ninjafied Steve Ballmer screaming on my behalf.

EDIT: 1PM CST 5/14/2008 – They even took down my emailing privileges meaning I can’t contact the moderator team at Gizmodo. All this silent hate directed towards me and I still don’t know why I was banned. Was it Jason Chen or Brian Lam or some other shadowy conspirator? Whoever it is, can I please get a response? I sent out 2 emails with my email address listed.





What you can do with an ISO

13 05 2008

This is something simple but since I’ve been doing a lot of burning of ISOs lately testing out Ubuntu (KDE, GNOME, XFCE) and Fluxbuntu (Fluxbox) I decided to take some screenshots and help anyone who’s run into a problem of burning operating systems (in ISO format) they downloaded.

What are ISO files you say? Basically they can be termed as optical drive files designed in a similar way to ZIP/RAR files. Files could range from software like Microsoft Office 2007 to complete operating systems such as the ever popular Debian-linux based Ubuntu. If you have WinRAR, you are able to explore within the ISO file you downloaded but what you almost always want to do with ISOs are to burn them onto disks.

The easiest option for any Windows user in my opinion is DVD Decryptor compared to the competition, especially DVD Shrink. So how do you put your ISO file into a CD or DVD? Well first you want to download DVD Decryptor and then get a blank disk and now follow the steps in the corresponding reddish boxes in the picture below:

  1. Click on Mode > ISO > Write
  2. Click on the “Windows Explorer” icon and select your ISO file
  3. Select your DVD or CD burner
  4. Try to burn your file at a low speed to ensure quality burning. 1x is my preference.
  5. Clickity Clickity Clicky!





Flight of the Conchords @ the Orpheum Today

13 05 2008

The singers of songs such as “The Humans are Dead” are making a trip out to Minnesota TODAY. They will be performing live at The Orpheum Theater @ 8pm tonight and unfortunately, yours truly does not have a ticket. Apparently they’ve been sold out for a while but I gave it a shot on Ticketmaster and came up empty. Their next stop is Chicago (Chicago Theater) and then they’re headed out west to Denver, Colorado. Here’s a quick listing of their tour. Anyone going to see FOTC tonight?