Ghostery an add-on for most browsers that blocks advertising and tracking servers from getting your information. The Firefox version is stable and working quite well.

Best way to use it is to find any typical technology news website and block everything it uses. That gets most of the ugliest junk out of the way.

minimalinux (this website) apparently uses Google Analytics, which doesn't surprise me, but is further reason for me to get my own webpage.

Empty file

I'm getting into the busy season, so to keep up on the things I need to get done, I invented a new way of organizing my brain.

In Linux, all I do is create new empty files with names such as "Read Myth Book" and then when I'm done, I delete the file. On the left side of the screen, I have my class assignments, and on the right I have important non-school tasks or leisure time tasks I might forget. I don't know if Mac allows you to use empty files (Windows doesn't, I'm pretty sure), but I'm sure that folders would work just as well. I just like the ability to insert text if I need to.

It's extremely gratifying when you have five or six tasks and you pick them off, one by one, to reveal a clean desktop.


I quit one of my retail jobs after a bit of a scheduling scuffle, so now that I'm head-first into the first week of my new school year I've found myself with an idle mind much of the day. I have plenty of homework, but it wouldn't be college if I didn't procrastinate a little bit.

"Tis the Linux way to download and play Nethack and Rogue, yes. I did that last year as well. I also gave Nexuiz a bit of my time (though that needed a mouse) and Wesnoth. this year, I'm stepping it up a knotch - I grabbed the ageing Game Boy Color and threw it into my bag.

I enjoy the Game Boy mostly because the principles of the system have been much of what I champion elsewhere. It focused on battery life and price mostly importantly, valuing new technology that made its hardware easier and accessible to a widespread audience. While its competitors were busy making many-colored screens and hardware with the power of the consoles of the era, the Game Boy beat them easily because its battery life was unmatched, even if it did have underpowered specifications.

I love the games on this thing. They're all like Rogue - built with an idea, which blossomed within their technology rather than just pandering and trying to do things it cannot. Games like Pokemon and Dragon Warrior, while simple, are vast adventures that trap my imagination in ways that modern games fail to manage.

New technology and innovation doesn't always imply a better product.

How to be productive

Have you seen this segment of word processors? They blank the entire screen and cut you off from everything except word processing.

Guess what they look exactly like. Yeah, that's right, your favorite text editor in a command line interface. How did you know?

I've found that if I ever need to get something done, the best way to do so is to kill X and drop to the command line, fire up MOC for some quiet music in a second terminal, and then open up vi or nano and just do the darn work.

There's no secret to being productive. There's no wonderful application that will fix your problems and make you concentrate. Hunting for a new task manager on the internet kind of misses the point, and perhaps Lifehacker's new tip of the day doesn't make you more productive after all.

It's a matter of turning off the graphical interface, turning off the cell phone, turning off the IM, and just doing the work.

I take it back

The Sansa Clip+ back and forth that I posted quite verbosely a month or two ago was, well, overstated. And apparently it died on me at some point, which I have eventually nailed down to the way that the device works with the battery life, in that if it dies, it must be plugged in over night in a socket to be revived.

So, sure, that's an issue. But I'm glad that I decided to be a big boy and get over it, because the Sansa Clip+ might just be the best Linux-compatible MP3 player around. I've already discussed why, but I just wanted to reiterate that. It's not fair to leave a negative impression dangling out there in the cold.

Also, I mentioned the Sansa sounds nicer than the iPod. Yes, i have confirmed this using blind tests and all sorts of other nonsense. The Hold Steady's latest album sounds cramped and a little bit chopped off audio-wise on the iPod, but a little bit more open and free on the Clip+. Same thing with Panda Bear's album Person Pitch.

Good stuff.


Let me point you toward a piece of free music I think that evokes the sort of theme we're aiming for around here.

tom bragl - Zerochoice

It's a lulling, ambient mood electronic soundscape set, and I've been listening to it ever since its release. It is literally one of my favorite albums.

seterror is the most aggressive track, and probably most out of character, because songs like white burn flower power the audio with a serene beauty. Much of the music is not complex, sometimes even quite minimal and simple. As a whole, it's a varied collection of what I can only describe as bliss.

This is the soundtrack to my life. Give it a go.

My current desktop

Theme is Equinox Light, which is in gtk-engines-equinox in Fedora 13. Font is droid sans. Wallpaper is from, a website that also likes Macs and Apple devices for some reason but still posts some great wallpapers.

It would be more accurate if there were a music player (usually Rhythmbox) open playing the Hold Steady, but that was actually on my external MP3 Player, as of the picture being taken


Okay, enough ranting.

I certainly do like Fedora 13 quite a bit, though I'll be the first to admit that the initial configuration is a bit obtuse.

Enter EasyLife.

Install it, and you get a few different check-boxes of different tasks, such as installing a bunch of codecs, fonts, or drivers automatically. It configures your repositories and everything, giving you a completely safe and easy way to make your Fedora installation usable.

Give it a go if you're ever in Red Hat land.

Software that works

Heaven forbid that I link to Slashdot, but heck, it has its moments. Throwing Out Software That Works, they say.

Basically, Marco Arment, an intelligent blogger with a massive Apple lust, posted this article about how Apple is making change and stuff.

Do we define success in terms of market impact? As the writer of a blog with the word "Linux" in it, I'd have to say I disagree there, but then again, it's not exactly as if I'm in the market in the first place.

Dave Winer posted this response.

Do I agree? More or less, sure. My thougths are more directed toward Marco's original post to begin with.

I look at the iPad, and I say, "Well, why?" There's no reason for it. My laptop already works. On the software scale, he's right: it's too locked down. But even on the hardware scale, I don't see the point. We already have fully functional hardware. No, what we have is not too complicated. It's just fine*. Let's talk when we get to some actual innovation (which, sorry to say, touch screens are most definitely not).

Talk to me when we have operating systems that make me more productive than I already am on my Debian desktop. I can do anything I want in a few button presses, with ease. Everything works like it should. It's stable, easy, and clean. If you can come up with something better, it better be a damn near miracle of computer science.

Hey, if you like the iPad, whoo hoo. But lets not throw what we already have out the window just because Apple's making money. Their power is one that barely needs to be stated, so it's not like their market influence was a surprise to anyone. Apple could release an elephant in a pink tutu for their iPhone 5 and everyone will start copying it anyway. Instead, let's let Apple be Apple, and focus on making something, you know, worth upgrading to. Here's a hint: a copy of Apple's schtick is not something worth upgrading to.

This is why I don't buy a smart phone. This is why I don't want a tablet. The market is mumbo jumbo that jumps at any new idea because it's NEW, not because it's BETTER. Apple's a fine company, I won't dispute their quality. But really, do we need to chase after every new gadget? Do we need to throw everything out just to build it back up again?

We're so busy chasing after something NEW that the marketing department can sell to the masses that we forget why we use technology in the first place. Maybe where we are right now is just fine.

Related Reading


*I've discussed before the odd fear some of the population have of computers and technology. While this is certainly notable and it's fine for some markets to chase after it, a product built around a fear of technology does not make a great product by default. I fully expect, as generations roll past, the computing world to reject its old ways of thinking once we remove the consumers who fear change and learning. What this will mean on an innovation scale remains to be seen.

Consumers versus, well, what?

I was rooting through Zenhabits to wake myself up this morning and I found and article called "we are not consumers" that really interested me.

What about the question of whether we should be buying or not? That gets thrown out the window, because it’s already assumed in the term: we’re consumers. Of course we buy. It’s just a matter of how, how much, where, from whom, how often.

But if we stop thinking of ourselves as consumers, and start calling ourselves “people”, then we open up the question. Should we even buy in the first place? Is it possible to live a life without buying?

I struggle with this. I don't like buying things, and yet, I'm bombarded with media claiming I do. A society built around my buying power is hard to ignore.

The consumer mindset hat that I'm wearing would make me focus on the weaknesses that the Cowon MP3 player I've been considering does not have but the iPod does.

It's all about the upgrade push. Why keep using and repairing old hardware in perpetuity when you can have a computer the size of your portable hard drive? It's so easy and just requires one easy payment! One little debit card number and your problems will be solved!

These tapes start playing in our head and we get so backwards thinking that, to be happy, or better, or whatever, we need to be buying things and being consumers. So lets replace those tapes.

My problems will not be solved by buying things. In fact, buying things can often make my problems bigger and more challenging.

I am not a consumer.


I'm considering migrating to OGG Vorbis and FLAC (two open and free music formats) because:

-Well, why the heck not? I've got the hard drive space.
-Because it will force me to remember which albums I truly loved and need to keep, and archiving or deleting the rest
-Because FLAC will let me re-encode my music for different devices (say, MP3 for the iPod, or OGG if I buy a Cowon or such)
-Open formats, open standards, etc.

I wish I had a good used CD store nearby. I guess Amazon will have to do.

My current music library is 7.8 GB and is made up of mostly high bitrate MP3 files. (This doesn't count the podcasts, which add up to about 3 GB). The large majority of this music was downloaded from Amazon MP3, eMusic or Lala (back when they existed), though some I ripped and tagged myself. A small slice is from Jamendo or similar sites. It's all legal, though, which as far as I can tell is a rarity in my age bracket.

Debian is 17

Happy birthday, Debian!

The repository has frozen for Debian 6.0, so if you want to play with Testing, this would be an incredibly safe time to do so. Some distros would ship that as stable. Not Debian, though.

Short thought

Everyone seems to think they know the ails of Linux. Oh, it's so bad that it doesn't do X! Oh bother! Linux will never Y if it doesn't Z!

This just reminds me that there is no reality, only perspective.

This also reminds me that, on the internet, people say hyperbolic things because they can.

Linux is just fine. Settle down.

Mental Debate: Amazon Kindle

Just to let you in on the status of my minimalism work: I've been working my butt off for two weeks and now I have lots of money. I decided to treat myself to something useful, and the first thing that popped into my head was the Amazon Kindle.

The second thing that popped into my head was JESUS CHRIST NOT ANOTHER BLOODY GADGET.

The third thing was, "Well, actually, this one might be useful." And so on.

As usual, I find that the negatives of a platform are far more important than the pros, so let's talk about those first. What kinds of things are bad about the Kindle?

-I have to buy one. Yuck buying things ew.

-They'll probably get nicer and faster and better next year. For a cheaper price, too. that will undoubtedly irritate me.

-There's no removable battery. (Note that if you're like me, you get tech stuff thrown at you all the time, so it's not like my iPod nano's battery that cannot be replaced is going to kill me - I can get a new one easily)

-The books cost money. Sometimes the prices are reasonable, sometimes they are not.

-The books have DRM. The DRM can be cracked fairly easily, but DRM is DRM.

-If I want the 3G wireless fancy stuff, it will cost an extra $50. I don't really need it, but, well, you know how it is.

-The wi-fi version only supports B and G wi-fi networks. I haven't done enough research to see if it supports WPA. I sure hope so.

-Some books aren't on there yet, meaning that I won't be able to completely wipe my physical book collection away if I legally downloaded all of my eBooks. Harry Potter is a notable example.

-It's fragile compared to a paperback.

-The newest version is not out yet. There aren't any reviews. So if I want it, I may have to wait until at least to the end of August. (though pre-orders have been backed up - I may be able to cancel if the reviews are bad enough)

Okay, how about the good things?

-eInk. I like to read at night so that I fall asleep faster. As a hormonal older teenager with an odd sleeping pattern, I find that LCD screens mess up how I sleep and as a result I'm on the lookout for anything that's an alternative. However, books tend to strain my eyes too much (I'm already a squinting old person) so having a device that can increase the text would be fabulous.

-I take all of my notes electronically. An eReader would be the perfect way to read and review these. Some of my classes even have electronic textbooks.

-I already have some eBooks on my portable hard drive. Mostly Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes and the like. Oh, and also Leo Babauta's book on minimalism, which I bought as a curiosity (it wasn't bad). And I don't have that many physical books, and the local library, while nice, has accused me of hurting books I didn't hurt, which has stopped me from using them. So it's not like I'd be throwing much away here.

-I have a million and a half books I want to read. I don't read enough and desperately want to. Having a device that doesn't require trips to the mean nasty library might help me with this. Considering how much more music I hear thanks to the MP3 file format, I hope that books could be the same way - removing that physical element allows me to explore more odds and ends.

-There's a ton of free books out there. Project Gutenburg (and the Australian one for older books I already own physically and feel entitled to, erm) is a notable example. Baen's Free Library, for another.

-The Kindle already supports lots of DRM free formats (TXT hooray! HTML YESSIR!), and is supported by Calibre, a GPL licensed eBook organizer already in Fedora 13. If that doesn't work, I can always just plug the darn thing into the computer, too.

-If I supports TXT and HTML, that means I can save websites to read on it, like, say, all of Old Man Murray. In fact, maybe I should start backing that one up now before it dies.

-A month of battery life? Yes.

-Less space than a paperback. A bit more fragile, though.

-It runs Linux, so that I don't feel too guilty about the whole "locked in" thing. It really isn't that locked in, considering the hardware. What would you do with it if you could root the thing anyway? Compile a kernel on it?

-Even if the web browser is utter garbage, it will still be able to read Google Reader's mobile version, which is more or less plain text. (In fact, I'm imagining something a little more feature filled than Lynx, but with a poor refresh rate. Manageable for a lot of things!)

Content versus Platform

If I was clever I would make this a Thunderdome face-off, but I haven't posted a blog on this site for a few days and I'm too guilty to be creative.

The first time I used an iPad, I find it hard to concentrate on whatever task I'm set to perform. The system is trying too hard to say, "HEY , LOOK AT ME! I'M FRIENDLY! I'M HELPFUL! I'M SHINY AND BEAUTIFUL!" Meanwhile, my content gets lost in the noise of the device's self congratulating behaviour.

I understand that this may just be because I'm not familiar with the platform itself. Sure. I don't brag about my ignorance when it comes to Apple stuff; I'll get around to trying them out someday. I find ignorance something to never brag about, no matter what the subject is.

But it's interesting how different platforms react to the content they carry. Are you going to be more about the content? Or are you going to be about the platform? I argue that the more the platform matters, the more distractions you have when the content actually has to be consumed.

Is it just a syndrome that jumps in when you're getting used to a new way of doing things? I don't think so. I still think that while the Nintendo DS has some fun video games on it, the platform has always been more about the platform rather than the content. Oh, TWO screens! A microphone! A touch screen! Games, still six years later, still try and rub that off as a novelty, and it's irritating because it distracts from the content.

The remedy is simple: Make a platform that doesn't distract from the content. How? Aesthetic and functional minimalism.

Aesthetic in the sense that there doesn't needs to be a million icons and flash whoogits and watzists on your screen when you're reading a news website. In fact, one of my favorite bloggers, K Mandla, said something to this effect:

Web browsing, given the hoopla of Web 2.0 and yadda yadda yadda, is strictly within the demesne of the graphical environment. Any attempt to browse without visual elements is fruitless and pointless and a waste of time. I mean, what about Flash? What about Java? What about lightbox effects? Rollover CSS effects? YouTube videos? Popup logins? These things are completely inaccessible to a text-based browser, and for that reason, it’s a non-issue.

Or is it? It’s a matter of perspective really, and here’s mine: Flash, Java, rollover CSS effects, popup logins, lightbox effects … all of those things are distractions really — attempts to delude you into thinking you’re getting a higher grade of content from a particular site. You should be sceptical, not embracing, of a site that employs so much glitter and sleight-of-hand that it’s hard to tell if it’s quality or questionable.

Aesthetic minimalism is not strictly in the realm of hardware (OOH my laptop has less buttons yay), but rather more in the case of getting out of the way for content to surface. Why would I need seven bars on my screen to watch video? I just want one.

Functional minimalism is also fairly simple. Just make things work as predictably as possible.

When I turn on my laptop, I know that the same thing will happen that did last time. I know that the web will still look the same, and the content will still be presented the same way. When I watch videos on VLC Player, the interface looks the same whether I'm watching a movie or listening to music.

If something says "NEW!" be wary. NEW is often confused with FUNCTIONAL and WORKING. NEW brags about being NEW because NEW thinks that making the platform different, or pretty, or faster, or cleaner, or touchier, or more natural, or whatever, will somehow make the content better. It won't. The content hasn't changed. The platform has, and NEW hopes you confuse the two.

Content is what matters. Not the platform.


The impact of a new purchase goes far beyond your wallet.

Want to see more?

These posts were brought to my attention, from all things, by MinimalMac in my Tumblr browsing. Well, I take from all sources!

But you see, THAT’S why I don’t have a Mac. THAT’s why I don’t have a fancy phone. THAT’S why I buy my computers used and run Linux on them.

Our culture has been programmed to churn in and churn out computers. Not working? Throw it away. Not fast enough for the latest thing? Chuck it. Old technology flies in the face of technological revolution! How can we have change if everyone stops buying new computer hardware?

That’s the thing. We don’t need change. The concept of being dissatisfied with your current situation, your current computer and your current software? These are not your thoughts. They are the computer industry’s thoughts. Every time Steve Jobs walks up that stage and tells you about the new features of his new gadget, he is convincing the world that whatever they have right now, it’s simply not good enough.

I don’t care what OS you run. I don’t care what computer you’re using. I don’t care what it looks like or how old it is. It’s good enough. In fact, it’s great. It’s better than great. It’s the greatest computing platform of all time.

Is that a delusion? Maybe. But remember, it’s all about perspective. The key to minimalism is loving what you have. And you have more power over your own perspective than you can ever imagine.

You may meet people who want to tell you that your platform is not “there yet.” Or that it’s unsecure and buggy and ugly and not user friendly. But it doesn’t matter what they think. You can allow them to influence you, or you can make a concerted effort to say, “No. This platform is mine. I am productive and happy here.” It’s your mind, so take control.

You don’t need the newest features or a fancier phone or a faster processor. You don’t need a shiny white exterior or a minimalist, attractive design. You don’t need a new accessory or a device that will “revolutionize the computing industry” or “change the way we do X” or what have you.

You don’t need anything except what you already have. It’s as simple as that.

Next time you find yourself convinced otherwise, take a look at those pictures. Think hard and long about the consequences. Is it really worth it?

The Media

Yes. The media. You know, those dumb tech sites that plague the internet with faux news and blogging personae, filled to the brim with as many ads as you can pack into a page.

Sometimes, I get it into my head that I actually care about the professional writers and what they're saying about Linux. So, like an Alzhiemer's patient, I climb my way over to Google News and search for new information or opinion articles, thinking I might find something worth my time.

How naive of me to think that they might have changed over the past two years. It's not that they're not talking about Linux; they are. They're just not saying anything of substance.

Here's how to recreate the media's articles on Linux, pro or con:

Top X Reasons Why Linux Is (Worse/Better) Than (Windows/OSX/BSD/Solaris) for the (Server/Desktop/Mainframe/Business/Media Center/Average Joe)

It doesn't matter what kind of article they state it will be. It's usually Anti-Linux, but the Pro-Linux ones are the same way. The content will almost always be filled to the brim with absolutely nothing. If you're lucky you'll find an article that actually makes things up (like, say, "you have to use the command line all the time to use Ubuntu" or "there's no way to install programs") so that you can have a chuckle over your lunch.

It's unfortunate that every time someone wants to talk about Linux, they seem interested in only one metric: can Average Joe use it? I don't know. Can your theoretical person use Linux? My theoretical person is wearing a Barney the Dinosaur costume, so he's not in any capacity to use any computer until he takes that thing off. Maybe he could operate a one-button Mac mouse, but my bets are on "no."

But whether or not Average Joe can use Linux is irrelevant. It's a vague metric, designed by journalists who want to be able to post the same article every week and still get the flamers coming back. It's not about content, it's about context. Anyone with any Linux experience worth their weight will tell you that any computer user can use Linux just fine, and for some people, they will flourish. But add enough Microsoft or Apple branded nonsense and you will have a flame war on your hands the likes of which will fuel many, many ad views.

The usual criticism I have of the mainstream media is that they lack the point of Linux in the first place. It's not about Average Joe. In fact, it's not about anything. It's just there. Do you like it? Use it. Posting yet another blog on yet another one of your business oriented eye assaults about how Photoshop doesn't run in Linux won't help anybody. It's not even worth saying any more.

Not that advertising helps anything, either. Yet another faction of the media that seems interested in getting you dissatisfied with your current situation. Microsoft has been trying for years to find a way to get users to upgrade their software, and while Windows 7's astroturfing and silly advertisements may have helped, it seems Microsoft may have run into the same problem Linux has had for years: people don't like installing operating systems, and many of them don't get what they are in the first place.

Meanwhile, lovely Apple has been busy convincing users that the only way to get a worthwhile computer is to buy a shiny new gadget. Touch interfaces, docks and various new fancy upgrades confuse "NEW!" with "better" and "functional."

It's best to ignore it, all things considered. I admit I'll go check out Apple's latest shiny thing every once in a while, but suck on that Kool-aid for too long and it will turn to poison soon enough. I'd rather not buy something new, if that's okay. I absolutely love where I am now, so the media can't really influence me as much as some people, but it's certainly possible.

All in all, the media as a whole is focused on making you think about your platform, but in a certain way that obfuscates the issues rather than making them clearer and more detailed. For people who have seen Inception: It's about planting that seed inside someone's subconscious, and hoping that a tree grows into a consumer mentality that enjoys arguing about OS choices on an ad-infested website.

It's a wonder why I ever decided to read that junk in the first place. We live and we learn.


I'm standing at a crossroads, twiddling my moustache. A woman passes, I tip my hat in her direction. Etc Etc.

I have two computers I'm using right now: a laptop and a desktop. What should I put on their little hard drives? I only have a week to make this stuff work, and then it's nose-to-the-grind get-stuff-done attitude. I won't have time to rework the OS after that.

Ugh, such pressure. Unlike some people, though, I don't react to pressure much. I just kind of squish out of the way, like Play-Doh.

Fedora 13: Great battery life, lots of useless updates

Ubuntu 10.04: Has games, pretty fonts, and a ton of crap I don't want (ubuntu one, all those "social" apps, etc.)

Debian 5.0.5: Stable as a dead cow, requires effort and internet to make usable

Whatever I choose, I'm destined to regret it for some insane and stupid reason. Oh, the trials of being a nerd: having to take trivial matters with such passion!

A quick note on DRM

I've been an outspoken opponent of DRM in the many years I've been writing blogs, but it seems I've mellowed out with minimalism.

DRM, or Digital Rights Management, is a piece of software designed to limit a user's ability to share, backup, play, copy, and resell media.

See, the simple way that DRM works is like this: if you make the product less appealing, then I won't buy it, saving me the trouble of wondering if I want it or not.

DRM is never applied on anything I actually need (except for one exception*) so it's easy to just say, "well, new movie out, but it's got lots of DRM on it, so I won't bother." So, in a way, DRM is helping minimalists everywhere!

*The exception here being Windows. I need to dump Windows as soon as I can! Maybe I'll make it a weekend project in the future. The main thing is planning for those crazy moments that I need Windows for that I forget about later.

I find it odd that I have friends who avoid DRM like it's AIDS, but feel perfectly fine running Windows. Maybe I'm missing something.

Debian 2: This Time It's Useful

I shouldn't be so mean. In fact, if I had tried hard enough, I could have made do with the command line in Debian just fine.

Think about it. I can browse (most of) the internet with Elinks -- which I've discovered and like more than Lynx now. I can listen to music with MOC. I can type text and code with my new friend Vim*. I can entertain myself with Nethack and Dungeon Crawl: Stone Soup.

I don't know about you, but this seems pretty nifty to me. The desktop seems to be churning fine, and while the software may be different, I'm doing the same old stuff I did before.

Well, with the GUI I can move and organize files, sure. Firefox is still a darling. Gnome doesn't take up that much power, so I use both. Amazon MP3's downloader software was actually compiled when Debian 5.0 was new, so that runs well enough.

Can I just say how much I'm liking Debian? It's like Ubuntu, except I can tell it what to do! (If my sarcasm is not going over well: I've been using Debian on and off since the release of Etch - I just switched because I like brown) The repositories are varied and well stocked, the software is stable and secure, and it takes up very little room. My delight at not having to update every day is, if not sad, at least inspiring in some capacity.

We all have our simple pleasures. I just get all a flutter when Debian doesn't need another update. Such stability! Oh my!

*Does everyone go crazy when they're learning Vim? I'm typing ZZ in my sleep constantly. DON'T FORGET TO SAVE YOUR CHANGES BEFORE YOU QUIT!

Minimalist Tip of the Day: Feeling fat? Thin your RSS feed reader. I went from thirty to twenty feeds, which is certainly an accomplishment. A few of these are very, VERY low traffic feeds, so if it seems a lot, it's isn't.