Saturday, October 13, 2007

Changing perspectives

As any parent can tell you there is little difference between a child's perception of want and need. In the field of IT I have observed that customers as well distinguish only slightly between their wants and needs. Clearly I remember the users at one customer's site insisting that they needed sound cards for each of their PCs. Unlike today, PCs were both very costly and poorly appointed when they arrived from the manufacturer. Adding a sound card to each PC was both economically costly as well as person-power intensive. All for what? So that the users could hear "You've got mail!" Beyond that "need" there was no other business line objective being met by the expenditure of time and money on sound cards.

[Digression: (Sound Card = $65.00 + Person-hours (2 per PC @ $35.00/Hr) = $70.00) x 35 PCs = $4,725.00 = "Oh yeah! You got mail, baby. And the company got pwned!" ...but I digress.]

...changing perspectives...

My interest was piqued by an entry in the listing this morning. AWM is listed as a minimal windowing environment.

It's small, functional, and fast. It is based on dwm and is just ~1800 lines of code.
I am a Linux gadget geek and so the prospect of a minimal window manager just begged to be explored. The entire tarball for awm-0.0.7.tar.bz2 lists ( ls -alth ) at just 20K. A window manager in less than 20K (~1800 lines of code). Unbelievable!

AWM is such a small program that configuring it is a matter of editing a config.h file before compiling. When I compiled it and it didn't offer the expected console window I checked config.h and it wanted rxterm. Slackware 12 doesn't have an rxterm. So I just deleted the "r" and recompiled.


I have a really simple and FAST window manager. Very cool... but that is not really the changing perspective I wanted to talk about here.

AWM does not do anything beyond display the window(s) and allow the user to move among virtual "desktops". There are no short-cuts, no icons, no menus, no nothing! AWM does almost* nothing for the user. As such the user gets to make all the decisions about what programs get run. Once the decision(s) are made then it is up the the user to manually start the program(s). It is at this point that my perspective is beginning to change...radically.

In this minimalist environment I am prompted to evaluate exactly what my needs are compared to what my wants might be. Do I "need" all the bells and eye-candy whistles in order to have a fulfilling computer experience. What to I really want? And more importantly, what do I really need?

My conclusions are as minimal as AWM.
  1. I need a command prompt (xterm) so that I can run the script that connects my PCMCIA wireless network card to my home network. (Ctrl-Alt-x)*
  2. I need to start my browser, Firefox, to access all of my Web 2.0 base applications. (Ctrl-Alt-f)*
  3. I want to run Pidgin (my IM client) on a different virtual "desktop" so I change to it (Ctrl-Alt-RightArrow)
  4. I then need to start anther console (xterm) so that I can start Pidgin. (Ctrl-Alt-x)*
  5. I want to move the Pidgin window to the upper right corner of the desktop. (Ctrl-LeftButton-Drag)
Earlier I said AWM does almost* nothing for the user. The "*" alludes to the reconfigurability of AWM. In the case of FireFox the author, Alpt, graciously gave a working example in the config.h file for GeekHacks like me to get up and running. Simple additions to the config.h file (and then recompile) allows the user to "configure" AWM's keybindings any way they may choose.

Note: After I figured out the Slackware vs. rxterm issue I purposely went back and put the "r" back into the config.h file. This effectively prevents AWM from starting a command console window on every virtual desktop. Instead I bound xterm to the Ctrl-Alt-x keystrok combination. That allows me to start a command console window only when I want to. AWM ROCKZ!!!

So here is the ...changing perspectives... bottom line: I rely on FireFox and Pidgin for the majority of my computing wants. I need a simple window manager so that I can run these two programs. I do not need all the rest of the stuff that comes with my Slackware 12 distribution.

It is this perspective that makes me mumble and grumble when customers call up and tell me that they have to have the latest and greatest soft/hardware. "I need it. I just can't get along without it."

...Git along little doggies, git along...

Bonus Video (Longish, you don't need to watch the entire full length feature.)
"Tell me what you want, what you really really want..."

Something borrowed, something blue...

Something Amazing - video powered by Metacafe

Borrowed from maZm

Neo, meet Mister Anderson...

Brain-computer interface for Second Life

From the safety and security of my life-pod I can now virtually venture forth and...

...wait, can anyone else smell the Matrix...or was that cookies?

(Thanks Jeremy)

My Citizen Commuter Permit

My Citizen Commuter Permit (CCP) says 6:15 to 7:15 AM and 4:15 to 5:15 PM. I was able to convince the Civilian Transportation Board (CTB) that with an extended window I could take my children to school on the way to work thereby saving a significant amount of fuel. The Transportation board finally agreed and wrote my permit for the additional 30 minute window. They did not see fit to increase my Fuel Allotment Permit (FAP) citing my assurance of 'saving a significant amount of fuel'.

I was not really surprised about my Fuel Allotment Permit. If they really stuck to a person's recorded driving history, the one they get from each of our vehicles, I am sure the Allotment could be a much smaller. It is an allotment after all. They are not really rationing it. They are always quick to say that by permitting fuel use they can be assured of sufficient supply. Thereby insuring that everybody gets there fair share.

We all understand that if the Fuel Allotment Board (FAB) were to calculate our usage more exactly then the World Oil Conglomerate (WOC) would begin to grouse. Lower profits for the Conglomerate would in turn cause them to reduce the supply. We all know that the FAB is really protecting us from the usury and opportunistic meddling of an outside influence on our great country's fragile economy.

We all know that the FAB is protecting the WOC from us. By offering the fine line illusion that there is sufficient amount of albeit expensive petroleum based fuel the FAB is keeping the radical bio-mass-fuelers at bay. The FAB knows well how quickly garages and garden sheds would be turned into micro refineries (ethanol stills). Soy beans, field corn and grass clippings would all be in short supply.

The Public Information Bureau (PIB) released a statement today that the last W*l-mart in our region has closed. PIB reported that due to the collapse of the "Free Trade Agreements" with other members of our World Community that the prices for non-durable goods could no longer be properly controlled. Fearing what they said could only be characterized as radical or terrorist free market forces on pricing structures the Consumer Protection Board (CPB) had little choice but to curtail all imports of non-durable goods for the foreseeable future.

Heralding the CPB's decision to curtail imports as a 'real achievement in the balancing of trade" the Office of Federal Economic Organizations (OFEO) predicted that the country would stop "hemorrhaging" jobs to the cheap labor of those radical and terroristic free marketeers that are intent on debasing our freedoms and challenging our way of life.

OFEO officials estimated that within 18 months to two years citizens of our great nation will be producing those same items at those same prices. "Jobs will be plentiful as citizens of this great nation work at base pay to insure the American way of life. Young people, as well as the elderly, in this country will never have to worry about getting a job or that new pair of denim jeans they want. We can now return to a time when American Made means made in the USA."

God Bless and keep the Security Home Lights burning bright...

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


They grok me...

...they really really grok me.

I wrote just moments ago (internet time) that I was having difficulty finding a definitive guide to Linux Kernel compilation. In this morning's feeds was the following...

Linux Kernel in a Nutshell

Author : Greg Kroah-Hartman
ISBN : 0-596-10079-5
Pages : 198
Publication Date : December 2006
Publisher : O'Reilly
Free License : Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 license

After digging through the different HOWTOs and the Linux kernel Documentation directory, I came to the conclusion that there was no one place where all of this information could be found. It could be gleaned by referencing a few files here, and a few outdated web sites there, but this was not acceptable for anyone who did not know exactly what they were looking for in the first place.
AND BEST OF ALL... available under the CC License
This book is available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 license. That means that you are free to download and redistribute it. The development of the book was made possible, however, by those who purchase a copy from O'Reilly or elsewhere.
SPECIAL NOTE: Even more important than offering this book for free under the CC License is the awareness that I am much more inclined to purchase a paper copy of this book. In fact we who support the likes of the CC License are obligated to show our support of such efforts by making sure the authors are paid for the fine work that they do.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

From where you are standing...

I put on my father's clothing...

- Bruce Springsteen

. . .