For those of you who still cling to the outdated and utterly Neanderthal concept of dedicated MP3 players (snicker) you may find it useful to know that the latest build of Rockbox has been released. Rockbox, for the uninitiated, is an open source firmware for a collection of deadbeat misfit MP3 players.

As far as the devices I've used with it have gone, it's turned good players into absolutely fantastic players, much like a swap of OS can make a poor computer great again. Few manufacturers (if any) would spend the time to optimise their codecs to save battery life and increase performance, but Rockbox does it! Heck, is there any player maker that includes as many features as Rockbox supports without requiring you to step up to something fancier, like those mini-tablet/half-smartphone devices?

On my Sansa Clip+, Rockbox increased my battery life (especially while using OGG Vorbis), gave me a less pretty but more intelligently designed UI, allowed me to swap out themes, let me play many more codecs and file formats, gave me a more stable MP3 player all-around (especially when it came to the battery life meter, which is actually reliable now), and made the Sansa Clip+ an MP3 player in a class of its own. Oh, and the clock is accurate and everywhere, saving me the trouble of finding another device that displays the time.

If you have a music player and it is supported in the latest Rockbox, I cannot recommend installing it enough. If you're all about prolonging the life of your technology, this is the sort of software that should delight you.

My life in 5 gigs

For a pair of days I reinstalled Debian Testing with Fluxbox and elected to use only 5 GB to do my day to day tasks. This included my entire root partition (though not swap) and user directory, which I tend not to put on a separate partition because I don't want to mess up each OS' configuration files.

The OS, after most of my required programs were in place, was a surprisingly hefty 1.8 GB. I dumped a bit of music in there and it became rather crowded.

I will be honest: it was difficult. I'm used to having room for downloads and larger files. However, it was rather enlightening because I had to keep track of my space, and this, keep things neat and tidy.

I can't do it all day, every day. I've already went back to my main Ubuntu install; too many things I use or need on a regular basis. Besides, I do have backups of my most needed documents and files, but it's not a backup if it's my only copy, right? As much as I'd like to, I can't really squish myself into 5 GB.

Enjoyable experiment, though. Give it a shot if you have a few gigs to spare.

Using wget to mirror websites

On a rare occasion, I find a website worth saving. Sometimes it's old and may not be around forever. I just want a local copy, right?

Thanks to the massive help that is search engines, I found a handy program called wget that's installed on every Linux box! It's like the coolest of all time. Cough.

Say you want to download all 125 blog posts of MGL? Script it, baby:

wget \
--recursive \
--no-clobber \
--page-requisites \
--html-extension \
--convert-links \
--restrict-file-names=windows \
--domains \
--no-parent \

In the domains section, that limits it to just a single domain. I'm hoping I can limit it even further, or learn enough bash to limit it myself via scripting. Either way, it's a nifty trick. I managed to get all of Old Man Murray in a minute (including those cute little static image advertisements!), and made a local copy of MGL in about twenty seconds. Handy for backing up websites that may not be around forever, for an e-book reader, or just for something to do when the internet's out.

Source for this was Linux Journal. They have more info about the various options, so go ping them. Five ad bugs.

Name change, among other points

I've realised that the confusion on my part between my blog which was called Minimal Linux and Nathan's Tumblr which was also called Minimal Linux was becoming more of a pain than I could have imagined. Thus, I experimented and came up with a new name: Minimalist GNU/Linux, or MGL for short.

I added the -ist just for differentiation sake, and the GNU part onto Linux to make Stallman happy. Sure, I made the name way more complicated and harder to say, but at least there are no other blogs with the same name, gosh darn it.

If anyone has any better named that aren't quite so long, suggest them in the comments.


According to Blogspot's stats window, my traffic has gone up in the last week. I sincerely thank you all who are reading and I hope you find something interesting here.


I found it interesting when a few websites were buzzing about Firefox 4's increased speed compared to Chrome. Sure, this is nice that we're aiming for performance, but it doesn't really fix the problem: websites are getting too bloated, fat, and inefficient.

If you've ever had the displeasure of browsing OMGUbuntu for news, you'll find that, without an ad blocker or ad bug blocker like Ghostery, the website's performance is slow, sluggish, and can affect other tabs in your session. Ever used Slashdot for more than ten minutes? Their heaps of Ajax will start to beat you over the head. How about ComputerWorld or any of those tabloid PC news websites? Yeah, if you're not using a text web browser for them (which will only net you a paragraph of their stories at a time, broken up over ten pages anyhow) you might as well be running a high end video game.

Okay, I'm exaggerating. But while it's great that the browsers are trying to fix the problem, the issues are really with the websites where we get our content. I haven't explored the design of MGL much, but I've tried to make my website layout fairly easy to navigate, explore, and see. I WANT people to see my content. That's the whole point of making a website.

It's sad that the only way you can actually browse the internet with some semblance of sanity and security is in a locked down Firefox with Adblock Plus, Ghostery, Flashblock, and sometimes NoScript. You really do have to stop all that junk from entering your computer, and it's pitiful.

Green computing in simple terms

I've linked over to this blog from my other, more mainstream writing (if you could call it that) and I had more than a few people ask me how to use their computers in a more green fashion, and if it's linked to minimalism at all.

The process is simple.

1) Learn Linux.

2) Use Linux.

3) Stop buying computers. If you need to buy something, buy used and low powered. Aim for laptops.

3.5) If the power usage is too high, replace parts with power saving parts.

4) Turn on the power management in Linux.

5) Get a good power strip that can disconnect all power usage when a switch is flipped. Use it when the computer is off.

Linux helps with this, but the possibilities are enormous in all three operating systems, though not entirely equal. I picked Linux as a special case because its lifespan is not dependant on the growth of software bloat*, but rather the reliability of the hardware it's situated on. Mac OS X could possibly be similar (post their PowerPC swap), but then again, suggesting one buy a new computer for the privilege isn't very green.

This is equally valid for other components as well, such as tablets, MP3 players, cell phones, remote storage, and input devices such as mice, touch pads, and keyboards. Personally, I question the need for buying most of the list entirely for any reason other than replacing a broken and strictly required product, but then again if you tried to take away my Sansa Clip+ away from me I may just strangle you. As usual personal priorities are more of an issue than otherwise.

In any case, it's not a complicated issue.


*The exception to this would be some of the bigger desktop distros like Ubuntu, who seem to have grown quite a bit on the CPU and RAM munchies front (though they do seem to be trying to keep this down in 10.10). However, it's easy to switch to something a bit more judicious in its systems requirement front, such as Debian, or simply switching to a lighter desktop like IceWM or Fluxbox.

Letting the garbage can do our minimalism for us

Minimalism as a life style is not synonymous with the art style. Throwing away everything every six months? That's confusion, not minimalism.

A really effective purge can be an empowering act. Suddenly what was once cluttered is now clean by design. What was once complex is now simple. It really feels great to be able to have that binary switch of, first, when that junk accumulates, and second, when that junk is removed judiciously.

However, I maintain that if you are continuously purging, day in and day out, and it never seems to stop the problem, maybe the issue is at the source of the junk, not the junk itself.

Just last year I cleaned out my video game collection, and I removed and sold most of my PC games (barring ones I couldn't technically remove - some DRM-inflicted games cannot be removed from my account). Yet, it seems that over time, I accumulate more and more, forgetting what is important to me and thus, I'm again faced with a shelf of games that I don't really need. Most of these games were $3 or less, and games that legitimately sounded like fun, but in retrospect, the burden imposed on me by their mere existence was more of a cost than the enjoyment I got out of their function.

I'm letting the garbage can do my minimalism for me. But this ignores the fundamental truth of minimalism: just because it looks minimalist doesn't mean it really is. A clean shelf doesn't imply minimalism any more than a clean sink - both we can assume to be in a temporary state of aesthetic minimalism and as such we can never assume that what is clean will stay clean.

How to fix this? Admit there is a problem, naturally. Understand the reason why the problem is a recurring action. Think of ways to solve the problem at its source. Fix it.

Why do I continue to buy PC games? Well, the nature of the market allows me to grab some fancy games on clearance for $5 or less. The drive to buy new games all the time is a habit borne from a saturation within the industry - you get so used to trying new things that, once you've found a handful of games you really like and don't need much else for entertainment, it's still hard to stop buying new games.

How can I solve this problem? Well, ignore the games entirely, and concentrate on a different hobby. Play more of the games I already own to remind myself that I already have enough. Concentrate on negative aspects of the purchase - physical burden, woes with the DRM, etc. Blog about it (yes, this helps me quite a bit - it transforms my fluid thoughts into more solid words and arguments).

And thus, the only step left is to implement the fixes and walk away.

Emacs key bindings wallpaper

I'm still learning Emacs and I decided to make a wallpaper of the most popular keybindings to help. Use it at your leisure.

The font used in the wallpaper was Inconsolata, a stunning monospace font.

I've been learning Emcas mostly because I like it as a text editor, but also for Org Mode (which some keybindings can be seen on the right side of my wallpaper). Org Mode is a powerful to-do list that can organize your tasks, store different dates, times and deadlines, and quickly and efficiently add or remove tasks as they are finished.

It's simple on first glace, but like Emacs, if you continue to dig you will find more and more shortcuts, functionality, and design. It's an incredibly good program for organizing data in any sort, and as a to-do list it's the best I've ever encountered.

Words on the no-Google thing

So, I said I was going to try going no-Google for a bit and I did give it a go.

Search: Duck Duck Go and IXQuick are both quite good and don't keep an eye on you when you're searching, though they don't search quite as efficiently as Google. Searching for anything mildly complicated (such as "flickering video picture on ubuntu laptop hp") comes up with almost nothing in those two while Google offers useful forum threads and bug reports. However, Duck Duck Go is a lot faster and IXQuick is a bit more reliable for small words and phrases.

Google Reader: Newsbeuter is faster and better equipped to display text in an efficient manner. I prefer a terminal application for text such as this anyhow. I find it difficult to migrate away.

To use it, run it once so it creates the .newsbeuter folder in your home. Go into it, create a file called urls and open it up. In there, post, one line at a time, the feed URL's that you wish to use.

Mine is as follows:


Email: Okay, this is the hard one.

I tried to find a free email service as good as Gmail. No such thing. Paid? Well, Lavabit looked okay, but they wouldn't let me join (something about people abusing the service or something). Fastmail looked fine, and I actually made an account to try it. The user interface could have been better, but it was definitely usable.

The issue was getting all of my email to go into the single address, which was an issue. I eventually gave up on this piece, which I may come back to at a later date.

I considered doing an email server, but that looks far too complicated, unless someone has an easy route.

Why I use Linux

I don't think Linux users stand up for their OS enough.

I just think that at times we need to remind ourselves of why we use a program. And with Linux, it makes such sweeping changes to the way we use computers that I think this gets swept under the rug in exchange of Windows and Apple fanboys decrying its origins and attacking its philosophy, calling it "not there yet" (whatever the heck that means).

I would hope that my foray into Minimalism in Linux is valuable enough for other people to read about. There's certainly enough for the Apple side of things. Why not the rest of us?

-It's fragmented.

Well, that's what Steve Jobs called it. But I've got a better word: decentralised.

You're not dependent on anyone. Rather, you work upon the collective work of many, in the way that BitTorrent downloads files from the collective bandwidth of many. It's almost impossible to kill BitTorrent because you'd have to remove every single user or else it just keeps on working, server or no server.

Linux is like that. Sure, standards would be nice. But without them, you can't ever kill Linux. It's never going away. That's an incredible promise that no other software maker can claim.

In addition, the decentralisation allows for miniature competition, fostering innovation - and none of that fakey marketing fluff, either.

-It's customizable.

From the highest level of changing wallpapers to the lowest level of modifying the very kernel, everything in Linux is open to my hand. While I rarely take advantage of the low level stuff, it excites me that there's a whole world ready for me to explore. There's still unconquered territory.

-It's easy.

I have been using Linux for four years, and yet it took me a short afternoon to learn how to use its desktop. Mind you, this was back when it was still a pain to use and install. Nowadays it's a breeze.

I have taught my mother Gnome on my laptop to access her e-Mail in a pair of sentences. I taught my non-tech neighbour how to configure and work Ubuntu on a more fine-grained level in an afternoon (covering basic topics like package management). I helped a fellow Computer Science student migrate to Linux entirely in about a week of answering questions - excited, open, wide eyed questions that had the same eager interest that I had when I first booted up my Linux LiveCD. He now uses Linux partially full time.

Linux can be used by all sorts of people. Don't give a second glance to people who say Linux is "too hard" for the "common user" (a strawman if I ever saw one, by the way). Anyone can learn to use Linux, on the surface or deep within - whatever suits them, once their mind is open.

-It works now.

I first used Ubuntu at release 7.04. It was fun to play with. However, Wi-fi didn't work. My graphics card didn't work. One of my monitors was never detected properly. So I spent my time exploring, but never seriously considering my migration.

And then, over the years, something happened.

Linux started working.

Ubuntu 8.04 brought graphics card drivers that worked. 8.10 brought Wi-Fi for nearly every one of my computers and cards. 9.04 brought a monitor detection that worked out of the box. 9.10 booted in seconds. 10.04 has been amazingly stable, and 10.10 has a fantastic installation process and great battery life.

The evolution was astounding, and at times I can barely believe the amazing distance Linux has crossed in such a short time. Three years. A step that has brought a change in the way the tech industry works, inventing a new category of computers (the netbook and nettop) and creating competition so fierce that even Apple has been forced to copy ideas from desktop Linux.

-It's deep.

If I ever want to increase my productivity, there's always something new to learn. Oh, there's vi. Oh, there's emacs. Oh, there's a better window manager to try. Oh, there's a better taskbar I can use.

These things require me to learn. But I like that. I love learning. I love adapting to new computing methods and changing the way I work. Every time I make another step forward, I become more capable of using my computer, to the point where I've done laps around the power user of Windows XP I used to be. The process is fun and the reward is great, and these are skills I'll be able to use for the rest of the my computing career. Once I'm and old curmudgeon, I can stop learning and still be amazingly productive.

There's no brick wall of productivity. I don't have to spend money on shiny new apps to help me be more productive. All I have to do is just browse Synaptic for a minute or two, or go find a good blog about the command line to learn some new bash tricks.

-It's light.

I'm talking, like, in the K Mandla sense. I'm running Debian Testing in a machine with a Core 2 Duo, 4 Gb of RAM, and a sweet graphics card. It's a dream, performance wise. I don't think I've ever broken a 25% usage on the RAM.

But let's say that a relative gives me a netbook that they don't want any more. Sweet! I can tailor Debian to that. Barring any driver issues (which are rarer and rarer these days), I can run pretty much anything I want on that machine too.

But let's say I spot a $5 Pentium II at a garage sale. Sweet! I can run Linux on that too. Probably not Gnome, but Fluxbox or DWM, sure. It will run fine, again barring driver issues. I might be able to put it to some good use as a server or something, even.

-It's contains superior standards, when it has them.

When Linux has formats available for you to switch to, it doesn't force them down your throat. they're just there. But when you do switch, it always seems to be a great move. OGG Vorbis is a gloriously underrated codec, as I've established before. Plain text should be used more often. ODT is better than DOC. And so on.

(There are exceptions to this one. Theora, for example, which does have issues. But WebM looks okay.)

I consider Gnome or Fluxbox to be superior to the other GUI's in the business, for my use, but I think that's a learning curve more than anything.

-It's free.

This one's an obvious one, but, I don't have to pay anyone to install Linux on all of my computers! I have an old HP desktop, right? Ah, throw something on there and leave it sitting around for my brother and sister so that they don't have to share a single computer. Or install something and use it as a media server or jukebox. My imagination is my limit, and it doesn't cost me anything.

I can also redistribute, customize, and not pay a single dime. I can download a ton of new programs, games, and tools and not pay a single dime. That's power I can believe in.

-It's stable, in an industry sense.

I once found the endless hamster wheel of the tech industry amusing and exciting. Oh, boy, new innovations! The wave of the future is something new!

Over time, observation reveals what this hamster wheel really is: a hamster wheel. A hamster wheel that produces profit for the businesses involved. Sure, sometimes a company will come out with something fancy and shiny and new, but most of the time it's incremental features that don't matter, with enough concentrated advertising to kill a lion. They want to make you feel like you need whatever new item they've made. Oh, man, look at that new technology. This changes everything!

I like Linux because it has none of that crap. Software updates are reasonable and useful. They're genuinely better than what came before (with the exception of some Ubuntu and Fedora releases), and you don't have to pay to get them. They're not all about pushing the hardware side, and as such, you get a universe that's quiet, peaceful, and not doused and lit aflame with ads.

-It allows me to remove.

This is distro dependent, but at least in Debian, I can uninstall pretty much anything I want. I can even start with nothing and work up. This is a huge feature that no other OS has (other than BSD).


Pre-blog post-script: I took notice as I was writing the last sentence of my blog that my language is quite different than what I'm accustomed to. I have been listening to the audiobook on LibriVox of Pride and Prejudice (highly recommended) and, dear heavens, I've started internalizing her prose! This will not do.

I'm too lazy to change it.


I am very partial to the ideas that K. Mandla offers in regards to minimalism, in that rather than try and follow a path of computing simplicity, a better virtue is to make the most out of what you have. I suppose I follow that idea to an extent, but what I think separates my path from his is that I offer moderation.

The OGG Vorbis experiment was a rousing success to the point where I now have 8 GB of OGG music, lots of it free and new. I spent the last twenty minutes sampling, snap judging, and discarding much of it. I cut back to 2.5 GB. (I'm not counting any audiobooks though; I just downloaded those last weekend! Those are 6 GB and require vicious QA on my part, and, as a result, equally bloody cutting.)

I've decided that while it is nice to have the MicroSD card of 4 GB on my Sansa Clip+, it would be of more use to my focus if I let go of it and used the 4 GB of internal memory only. The opportunity to have many, many albums from Kahvi collective and audiobooks from LibriVox is tempting, but I find that I appreciate my library less if I am too overwhelmed by the management and depth of my wares. I simply don't need to carry my entire library around with me, wherever I go.

There was once a time when I was convinced that 16 GB was not enough space! Nowadays, I purposefully downgrade for my own sake. My minimalism has blossomed. I'd write a sentence here about how "I loved big minimalism" or something, but for one, this is quite the opposite of oppression, and second, Jane Austin didn't write 1984.

Challenge - Google Free

It's time to explore a bit.

This coming week, I will discard my use of Google's services, with one exception: this blog.

Gmail: I'm already searching for a good e-mail provider. Hosting my own appears to be too high of maintenance. I'm looking into Lavabit and FastMail. Any other recommendations?

Google Reader - Newsbeuter appears to be the logical choice for RSS feeds.

Google Search - I have used Duck Duck Go before. In fact, it's sometimes better than Google.

I can stop using Chromium too, even though it's divorced from Google. Firefox is my friend anyway.

A New Challenge

Let's not let my new shiny theme distract from this valuable content! This week I actually have free time, which is a refreshing change. And with the success of my OGG Vorbis switch, I'm considering doing yet another self-dare.

The problem with most of the ones that I've thought of is that they interfere with my school work directly. I can't switch to exclusively free software, and I can't switch to exclusively console. My constraints, however self-imposed, are subject to the structure that I am driving forward within to receive my education. What a pity that the educational system cannot see the folly of its own mandated structure!

As Ken from Project HeliOS has said, "A child's exposure to technology should never be predicated on the ability to afford it."

In any case, I'm considering a few options, such as using nothing but Emacs for text or only installing software through compilers. But these lack the same simplicity as the OGG swap, and they're not quite as immediate.

Suggestions are, as usual, encouraged.


I've found that LibriVox is quite appealing, once you find a good reader and book.

The website isn't greeat, but with the Firefox downloader add-on DownthemAll (thankfully open source!) it's trivial to download all OGG files on a page. I've already downloaded a dozen audiobooks.

The OGG filter for Down Them All is:


For Theora links:



You're at the computer store. You're looking at laptops. On one end they have a row of Macs, all shiny and pretty. On the other end there's a few rows of Windows 7 machines, all in various states of usability. You also have a couple of Linux LiveCD's in your hand for testing.

You go over to the Windows machines and find one that looks somewhat Linux compatible and pop in an Ubuntu disc. It boot without a hitch.

And then you see, to your left, a grandmother, wandering about the computer area, confused as a duck in the Sahara. And you think to yourself, "Now, if I were a grandmother, what computer would I use?"

And you look at the Macs and suddenly they look easier, and faster, and better. You look at the iPad and it looks cooler and more capable of meeting your needs.


Do you see what went wrong here? There are two main points:

-Your perspective of the grandmother is entirely based off of your stereotypes of elderly people. As such, trying to say, "this is what grandma would use" is next to useless, because by and large that perspective doesn't really exist. These people all have unique perspectives that you cannot assume in your mind without making some logical errors along the way.

Any time anyone ever says "Joe User" and uses it as an argument for or against a certain type of computer has not realized that the definition of Joe User is entirely subjective, and by and large, devoid of any meaning.

My mother could definitely learn to use Ubuntu. My grandmother could learn to use Ubuntu. Some of my customers at the retail store I work at, maybe not. The lady I spent about twenty minutes explaining the concept of an iPod to, maybe not. Simply put, generalizing all computer users as a mass that could never use Linux is a poorly misguided fallacy.

-This made-up perspective of grandma is entirely irrelevant to whether or not a computer is right for you, because YOU ARE NOT GRANDMA. Shopping for a computer is hard enough as it is; trying to do it with multiple personalities is even harder.

"But what if I was a (blank)," is a mistake because you're not. If I said to myself, "but what if I was a hardcore PC Gamer" then I would fail at my purchasing because I'm not a hardcore PC Gamer, and I don't have the same needs. I'd end up spending far more than I ever wanted to before, because in this fantasy where I'm consumed by my made up perspective, i'd need to buy a more powerful processor and an expensive graphics card, when in reality neither of those things are important to me.

If I were to shop as Grandma, I would be turning down a computer that works great with Ubuntu just because I think that my personal subjective perspective of Grandma couldn't handle the learning curve that I already went through several times and can now run circles around. I'm dumbing myself and my own skills down because people around me are not nearly as good at using Linux as I am.

Thoughts on OGG switch

Now that I've officially made it two weeks since I said that I would be switching to OGG Vorbis completely, I think it's time to do a little bit of introspection as to how it worked.

Note that this act was not necessarily about switching to Vorbis specifically, however much I like the codec and its benefits to my hardware. It was more about my relationship with my music library.

-As someone who usually purchases music he really likes on CD, this experiment has reconnected me with those albums that I really love listening to over and over again. Some of the CD's I didn't even have in my larger MP3 library (some for better reasons than others) so the nostalgia was a nice kick in the face.

-The most astounding thing was when I reinstalled Ubuntu and found that, when copying my music over, I didn't really feel like I needed anything more than the Vorbis stuff. I finally broke my Vorbis-only pact by digging through my MP3 files and copying what I missed, and the list was astoundingly small.

Some of that music, really, doesn't really have a reason to be in there. I let my music library pile up and it gets big and fat, with music that I can't really say I like. I'm not always honest with myself in respect to what I like or dislike ("Oh, but I might like it later!" was common, as well as "Oh, but I like this ONE SONG") so this is rather refreshing.

-I value physical discs far more than I did and will be purchasing music physically almost exclusively from here on out. Sure, there's the format freedom. But I'm far too flippant when I'm dealing with music files digitally. Making them physical makes it easier to apply minimalist philosophy to them, and as such I'm far more cautious when buying new discs.

-I value free music on the internet far more than I did, and I see myself spending less money on music and more time digging for interesting new bands in the Internet Archive. I also seed more on Jamendo.

-My car does not support OGG Vorbis files and this makes me sad. I'll admit, I did use one of my old MP3 file discs in my car for the two weeks. Not often, but yes, I did it. It's easier to use than plugging in the Sansa Clip+ and navigating the interface, and I was too busy with midterms to make a suitable replacement. I've got new CD's coming in the mail from Amazon as a treat for making it through the Vorbis swap mostly intact, so those will quickly remove the need for said MP3 Disc.

All in all, a success. I will continue to OGG Vorbis my life up, and reap the benefits.

Notes on Ubuntu 10.10

My installation of Debian Testing fell apart due to stupidity on my part. I'm unfortunately sick and don't have time or energy to fix it, but I do need my computer in working order this week for a presentation.

So I decided to use my misfortune to give Ubuntu 10.10 (64-bit) a try. Here are some notes.

-Out of the box, it is lighter and less bloated than Ubuntu 10.04. It uses about 200 MB on my machine, compared to 350 MB or so in 10.04. I'm glad they fixed that. If you turn off Bluetooth and the email pinger and all that other garbage, it uses very little RAM after boot, which is impressive. I'm tempted to see if Xubuntu got performance upgrades as well.

-The installer is streamlined now and looks and operates far better than the old one. It saves some of the mundane questions for when it's actually installing and copying files, which is pretty neat. It can also download updates and ubuntu-restricted-extras if asked.

-It still has a ton of social networking applications I have no use for. A quick trip to Synaptic fixed that.

-Their version of Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup is outdated. Boo hoo.

-The Network Manager applet doesn't connect to some wi-fi networks automatically, even if they are marked as auto. Thankfully they connect quickly enough with a button press, but it's still annoying. I hope this gets fixed in an update.

-The default theme and wallpaper is still ugly, but significantly less so than 10.04. The default font is cool but a bit of an eyesore.

-Battery life is amazing. What are they putting in these distros to make them last so long? 10.10 approaches four hours, even while using wi-fi! Maybe this goes hand in hand with the performance aspect.

Verdict: It seems pretty solid and stable. 10.10 strikes me more as a service pack for 10.04 than a full blown new distro, which I think is a good thing for Ubuntu at this point. I'm actually surprised to hear myself say this, but it may be worth upgrading, depending on how close you are to Ubuntu's default desktop. If you deviate a little to none, I'd suggest you look into it. If you're totally out of town, probably not.

I don't know if I will stay here or move back to Debian. Maybe after I'm done being sick and busy.

Freedom: To what extent?

Many ideals come with a scale that, as we progress, we must recalculate constantly. This scale is the flexibility this ideal will offer us.

I support free software and the FSF. If I had one of those laptops that can run with free software exclusively, I would use it. I like the idea of discarding software that isn't open and friendly to developers and users alike.

For me, it's an easy way to eliminate things that I'm on the fence about. Is it proprietary? Ah, don't need it. I use plain text and ODF files to save documents and I'm making my way over to OGG Vorbis. But sometimes I do need or want software that isn't free. nVidia drivers, for example. Wi-fi card drivers. The FSF used to say that the support in Linux for 3D applications was non-free, though the code has since been re-released under a new license.

I would love to be like Stallman and refuse to use hardware and software that isn't free. It seems delightfully minimalist in its appeal; discarding the inferior and unnecessary for a greater cause. It's a shame that we're so tantalizingly close as well; I only run a handful of software that isn't free on either computer, save Windows 7 (for games and school related Windows applications). It's so close. It would almost feel a little more fair if free software wasn't as close as it is today, just so that it didn't have to bother me.

But in the situation I'm currently in, having a attitude of inflexibility will get me nowhere. It's sad, but it's true.

Despite this, I'm still downloading gNewSense so I have a free software testing LiveCD lying around. I wish they's release more details about their 3.0 release, which will be based on Debian.

More OGG!

When I started this OGG experiment I took out my little MicroSD card out of my Sansa Clip+, thinking, oh, I'll never fill up that much space. Yet here I am putting it back.

The hypothesis was reversed. I've got more new music than I've had in months. I haven't paid a single penny, at least so far. This hunt has shown me just how much great music is on the internet, if you just look.

This is mostly Kahvi Collective's fault, and this torrent shows why. Jamendo was also a culprit. Anything remotely interesting on that site that happens to have an active OGG torrent I throw into a client and download/seed (because hey, it's all legal!).

To be honest, it's been a busy week, and this has been a nice way to cool down: find some good music on Jamendo, throw up some torrents for some overnight downloading, and sit back and listen to the previous night's wares.

Parting note: I recommend this song greatly, which can be downloaded in this Kahvi album for free. It's one of my new favorite songs.

Tiling WM's

I decided to try out a few new window managers and configurations in Debian today.

I tried Enlightenment 16, which was, well, baffling. I'm not entirely sure what the extra windows do, and the general workings of the desktop baffle me. It's now the window manager of Gnome on my Debian install instead of Metacity, which is kind of an issue.

Thankfully, the star of the show was Awesome, a tiling window manager that managed to steal what I liked from Fluxbox and make it its own thing. I've got to say, the tiling WM thing really just lights my bulb. It's really quite fantastic.

I'm going to revive the old Celeron desktop and play with Arch for a bit, and while I'm there I'm going to try my hand at compiling and running some of the tiling WM's to see which one I like. Awesome seems a little bit too heavy for my tastes, but I'm not sure I can strip down to DWM just yet. Musca looks promising, as does Ratpoison.

On a tangential note, I managed to figure out Newsbeuter, the popular RSS feed reader for the console. I may migrate from Google Reader depending on what I can make it do.


I did get around to trying Ubuntu 10.10. Verdict? Pretty font, but everything else is the same. I'm sticking with 10.04 for my Ubuntu needs.

Distro's Recycling Angle

I really like how some distros are angling their wares in a different light: a recycle angle.

Take a look at this godawful website, for example. It's a light version of Lubuntu, called Quelitu, that promotes using old computers to save the environment.

I've seen this in Watt OS as well, among other random projects (I believe even the open source Notepad++ program for Windows was all about saving CPU cycles or something) and it pleases me. It shows that, if anything, there is a market for old computers running Linux.

I'd probably not install an Ubuntu derivative on an old computer myself, and probably customize a Debian install or use Absolute Linux, but I like that some people find it worthy of their time and are trying to spreading the word to the community. Maybe I'll write a nice, basic post for people on how to recycle with Linux in the near future.

OS Upgrades

They always come at the most inopportune times.

If you aren't already following minimal linux on tumblr then I have done a great disservice to you. He notes that he won't be upgrading to Ubuntu 10.10, which was released today.

I'm downloading the LiveCD, but only because I want something to play with and break. My days of using Ubuntu as my main OS are, as far as I can see, over. As TTML noted, long term releases are becoming far more appealing, and Debian in particular is becoming an attractive alternative. It lies somewhere between Ubuntu's days when it would hold your hand an still keep a sense of decency about it (8.04 LTS) and the ultimate simplicity and appeal of Slackware, which I still have a cherished spot in my heart for, all wrapped up in a nice long release cycle.

I do have the time to mess with the new Ubuntu, but I'd rather use that time for something more useful, like learning how to use tiling window managers. So I'm just downloading and poking about to see what's new, but of the first time since I started using Ubuntu, it's a release that I don't particularly care about.

I think that the massive speed at which Desktop Linux had been improving since 2006 has finally tapered off. It is where it needs to be. I think this is where my apathy springs from - it no longer matters what distro or what version number you're using. It all pretty much works.

Maybe if I pick up KDE again it will move me to care a bit more, but I doubt that's a very productive move.

Three minor updates

1) I deleted all of my Facebook friends except for 35 and made my profile private. This wasn't directly because I saw The Social Network a few days ago (which was astounding) but close.

2) We went apartment/house shopping and frugality is now the name of the game.

3) I'm in the midst of doing a CS programming assignment and haven't had much time to fool around with Linux much, except that:

4) My campus uses a Samba printer system. Printing via Samba is borked in Debian (or at least I couldn't figure out how to turn it on) so I virtualized Ubuntu inside of it and printed from there. I wish more professors were open to accepting files electronically, but no.

Advertising bugs

This website has one advertising bug watching you. It's called Google Analytics, and it's used to run the comments section. Otherwise, there's nothing. I don't need advertising on here.

On my blog on Gamespot, there are three bugs watching the users. Comscore Beacon, Facebook Connect, and Revenue Science. Blockng these bugs does not affect the webpage at all. They're used exclusively to find things out about you. Keep in kind many of Gamespot's ads are glorified images with links.

Reddit, Soup, and Tumblr all have two bugs apiece.

Some unnamed tech sites have up to twelve bugs watching you. None of these will assist you from reading the website. Using Ghostery, these are all blocked and you can see the content left behind. Whatever scraps are left.

Side note: I find it amusing that many of the websites promoting frugality and small living have so many bugs on their website that you may be blinded by the sheer intensity of the thing. I'm not mean enough to post examples (for both you and the websites' sake - are those things contagious?), but check out the subreddit r/Anticonsumption for some nasty examples, with the occasional interesting article.

OGG Vorbis update #2

As I mentioned in the previous blog, the Vorbis switcheroo has gone stunningly well.

My music library has both shrunk and grown. It's more manageable, less complicated, and far more engaging. This has also simplified my hardware needs as well - it has completely removed any desire to use the iPods.

I said I was going to stay OGG for a week, so I'll keep doing so, but I see no reason to go back. I may, after the week is up, transfer some MP3 songs that I missed, and consider buying the disc copies so I can craft my own OGG's.

I'm surprised of how little I miss both my established music library as well as buying new music. I know, it's only been four days, but as someone who lives and breathes music, this is a pretty radical change for me, and one that I appreciate.

Stuff I've discovered:

-Jason Rohrer is an independent game developer who follows our path.You should check out his stuff, even if you're not a gamer; I plan on buying and discussing Sleep is Death in the future. Before Rohrer made games, he ran an experimental record label and made some of his own tunes. They're good.

-I like Abyssal Plains. I own the full MP3 album Fourth Quadrant of the Mandala, but my favorite tracks are already included in a free Kahvi EP, available in Ogg. I especially love the first song.

-The game Unreal Tournament 2004 uses OGG as its music codec. The files are all easy to access. There's an odd drinking song about boats in there that puzzled me greatly. I hope it's a developer sense of humor.

-Did I ever link to this blog? Legally free albums, on a blog. Yep. Good blog.

-Ripping to FLAC saves you time re-encoding things later. And it's not like I'm doing anything else with all of that hard drive space. I get lost in 320 GB. I have to partition it down to 100 GB or I have nightmares.

Limiting choice

One of the many criticisms I hear or Linux is that there's so much choice that one needs to have a ton of knowledge to even parse simple things, like which text editor to use.

What I find most useful for dealing with this initial wave of confusion is to hold everything to ridiculously high standards, or just picking something important to me and running with it.

When it came to picking the Linux distribution itself, I picked the one I knew the best, which was Ubuntu (I spent a year before actually using Ubuntu as a desktop just playing with the LiveCD, as a minor hobby). I moved to Fedora to learn about Red Hat and RHEL, and when I'd learned my piece I moved back to Ubuntu, where I found myself in shallow water. So, Debian Testing is my new home.

These are not very large and huge reasons, but they're reasons enough for me to say, okay, time to bunker down and make a new OS home. The main thing here is that I don't take my choice too seriously. What's the use of clamming up and saying, "Oh, but what if I choose wrong?" Who cares! The more trivial it is, the more fun it is to cross the options off, one by one.

But far and away the best way I've found to deal with choice is to limit it. sort of like that Who Wants To Be a Millionaire show, where they eliminate two of the incorrect answers to help the player. Just start crossing off options on your list like there's no tomorrow.

I've found that switching to OGG Vorbis is not only easier than I expected, but actually has allowed me to lighten my music load by eliminating choice. Now, I can only listen to music that I own on CD or can find online in either lossless or OGG format. Not only does this emphasize quality (I only keep my very favorite albums in disc format) but it also allows me to go exploring for things I never would have found while I was still using MP3.

The reasoning behind switching to OGG wasn't important. What really mattered was how it changed my choices, and even better, eliminated some that didn't really matter.

So how to approach a question, like, "Which text editor should I use?"

Well, I want something that can work in the terminal. I want something widespread and commonplace, so I can expect it on many computers. I want something that isn't too heavy or bloated, but works. I choice vi from this list. Though I will admit to using emacs from time to time, mostly for the glorious orgmode.

So, sure, we may not make the perfect choice, but the more we minimize it to something easy and simple, it's just a matter of using logic, eliminating options and not taking anything too seriously.


Here's my view on the connection of minimalism is complexity.

What is complexity, anyway? A high learning curve? Something my grandmother couldn't comprehend? (In that case, everything - including the VCR - is complex) Or something that gets in your way?

As with much of the English language, we're forced into subjective interpretation based on the context.

"Debian is more complex than Ubuntu." "Ubuntu is more complex than Debian."

Both of these are true to some degree, and false to some degree. It depends on the user. For me, Ubuntu has become more complex than Debian because it gets in my way when I'm digging about in the internals of the OS. But for a friend who doesn't like to OS dig, then the opposite is true.

Just because Debian allows me more freedom and requires more knowledge out of me doesn't make it more complex, I would argue, at least on the basis of how my productivity is altered. This is because it makes me more effective at getting things done. Debian makes my life less complex than Ubuntu does by being more complex from a common user's standpoint.

Here's that saying I continue to repeat like a broken record: subtraction isn't minimalism unless it's done for the sake of focus!

Let's look at something different. Say, one of my favorite albums, Amon Tobin's Supermodified. Very complex, deep, layered music, filled with sounds and words and genres. The album wouldn't be the same simplified. I can't even begin to try and parse some of the songs and make them less complex than they already are, because their complexity is what makes them so great. (Example song - odd visuals in the video, but good music)

In different aspects of life we value certain concepts differently, and in music or on, say, a book's plot, complexity can often be a good thing. This shows just how subjective and ever-changing these ideas become.

Oh and while I'm add it

Update on my OGG-ification of my musical life.

So, I started ripping CD's at Q1, which is roughly 80 kbps.

This was not a good idea. While the files sound absolutely fantastic at low volumes, at high volumes most music tends to sound like they're coming out of inferior speakers that cannot handle the music's whole "width," so to speak (deal with me - sound is very subjective).

With minor testing I've found this effect is minimal at Q2 (96kbps) and non-existent at Q3 (112kbps). I guess it's time to re-rip some of that stuff. Some of the music I'm just listening to briefly, for nostalgic purposes, so I'll probably leave that at Q1, but for the rest I think it's time to up the ante. OK Computer deserves more bits!

Music library size before upping the ante? Forty-five-ish albums at about 2.5 GB. A lot of that girth is from Kahvi and Jamendo, both of which, for reasons unknown to me, rip their OGG files at Q7 (224kbps). Well, it sounds great, at any rate.

Good OGG albums:

-Relics of the Chozo, an excellent ambient and moody remix of the Super Metroid soundtrack (considered by many to be one of the best game soundtracks of all time). Metroid music has always created a very distinctive alien world, and this album does it just as well as the game.

-Tom Bragl's Zerochoice, my favorite Kahvi release and probably my favorite electronic album. Also of note is his label-mate Polaski, whose Bendii Syndrome will lull you to into bliss faster than any cold medicine can push you to sleep.

-NanoWar's metal parody album, which had me in stitches, once I understood past the Italian accents. The great songwriting helps. Also on Jamendo, Revolution Void. Though I'm sure that K. Mandla has already recommended this artist far more than I ever could (and I assume you're reading him), it's worth your time.

EDIT: I forgot that I shrunk You look Nice Today's original MP3 archive from 1 GB of MP3 files to about 400 MB of Q0 OGG files (64kbps). Sounds fine.

Somewhere in the world, a lossless fan is crying.

EDIT 2: After some retooling, deleting and re-encoding (OK Computer was actually ripped at some obscene bitrate - like Q10) I managed to get the library down to 1.5 GB with better quality. 38 albums, some of them Kahvi EP's, most of them full length and wonderful.

I'm listening to Matchbox 20 again for the first time in years (I loved them when I was eleven). Such a great feeling.

"Tweet" of the day

Fresh idea:

"You already own it" is the biggest, most amazing feature of all time.

A week of OGG

I've decided that for the next week or two, I will listen to OGG Vorbis files exclusively. I'm allowing myself to convert other formats to OGG if needed (though I'll only do that if it's lossless).

Why switch to OGG Vorbis, even temporarily?

1) I learned that, when I am running Rockbox, my Sansa Clip+ gets about an extra hour of battery life when playing Vorbix files compared to MP3.

2) I still remember when I got my first MP3 player in 2004-ish and I was all excited because I was going to shrink my library down to 64kbps WMA files. And I did it, and it sounded terrible. I researched something better and have been using LAME encoded MP3 files ever since.

Well, I've done blind testing on myself, and apart from a few exceptions (notably Nightwish,my main guilty pleasure) I cannot tell the difference between the LAME MP3 with 256kbps and the OGG Vorbis with 80kbps. So there's a savings!

I've already converted about twenty CD's to OGG at various bitrate formats ranging from Q1 (80kbps) to Q5 (150 kbps) and I've only filled up about 1 GB. Albums usually weigh in at about 40 MB or less, and sound absolutely identical to me. So, wow.

3) This allows me to find out what I'm really going to miss from my MP3 collection. If I really like an album, I can buy the physical copy, which is probably a good idea anyway.

4) This allows me to hunt for music in new ways. I've already discovered some stuff on Jamendo, and I've barely begun!

5) Just to see if I can.

What are the problems I may run into?

-You Look Nice Today, my favorite podcast, only ships in MP3 format. However, considering that the files are only speech, I can't see how a trans-format would hurt the quality much. (Appending note: I was right!)

-A handful of albums (most notably Mr. Jigga's self titled album) are only available, at least to Americans, in AAC on iTunes, or MP3 format elsewhere. This is a common thing for netlabels, which is irritating.

Where will I be hunting for new music?

Free stuff: Jamendo, Kahvi Collective, the netlabels on the Internet Archive

Paid stuff: Physical CD's on Amazon (hooray for Amazon Prime!), Magnatune, Mindawn, etc.

Also, some of the albums I purchased digitally are at my local library in CD form (which is why I purchased many of them; I love that place's selection). So I might go and rip en-masse the stuff that I have. I'm considering it, anyhow.

For those interested, I'm doing my CD ripping on my desktop in Windows 7 (shocker), because as far as I'm aware there is no better CD ripper than Exact Audio Copy.