Poofyhairguy's Eye Candy Report

Are you into translucent effects and drop shadows and other shiny stuff on your desktop? If so, Poofyhairguy's Eye Candy Report is a good blog to add to your list. Most of his tweaks are lightyears beyond what my machine can handle, but not everyone who reads Galootix is using a 566-MHz Celeron.



Go ahead, DOJ. TRY to track my Google searches!

Because of recent news about the US Department of Justice's subpoena of Google, I've decided to get all kooky and learn more about surfing the net anonymously. I'm not a tin-foil hat kind of guy, but in the past few years I've become at least a little more interested in learning about how to protect my privacy. Thanks for that, Dubya.

First of all, so-called "anonymous proxies" are bunk. Don't use anonymous proxies! Many exist simply to allow bypassing the filters you may have at work or school (so you can browse Fark by going to a different site, for instance), and these pass your IP along to the server you're trying to reach. Using them, your search for "explosive terrorist teens" is still tied to your IP address. Many are, or could be used as, phishing scams. You have no idea what the proxy is logging. Many are in countries with no privacy protections at all (worse protections than in the United States, in other words), and those that are on American soil are just as vulnerable to DOJ subpoenas as Google is. You can be sure that Joe Hacker will bend to the pressure a lot quicker than Google has.

Enter Tor and Privoxy.

Tor is "The Onion Router" and Privoxy is a service you use to connect through Tor. I won't go into all the technical details, but you can find a lot about it at the link above, as well as at Wikipedia. I will say that it DOES work and that it is easy to set up.

When using Tor WhatIsMyIp.com reports that I am currently surfing from somewhere in Brazil.
GRC.com (the ShieldsUp guy) no longer sees me as a Shaw Cable subscriber.
Sites can be very nearly as fast to load as they ever were.
As an added bonus, Privoxy also acts as an ad blocker. It's catching ads that Opera normally lets slip through.


Tor traffic is routed through many different machines, and your data will occasionally pass through a slow one. In that case you will notice a drop in bandwidth. It can be a crap shoot. For now, it's the price you pay for (semi-)anonymity.

Unless you are a tin-foil hat wearer, you probably won't want to use this solution full time. And if you're that worried about your privacy you should also turn off Java and reject all cookies. Note the warning when you first installed Tor: "This is experimental software. Do not rely on it for strong anonymity." If you're trading nuclear secrets then Tor isn't for you.

Tip: Typing the following will get you a new Tor server if things are way too slow.

sudo /etc/init.d/tor restart

On the bright side, if you're a Firefox user there is a plugin called SwitchProxy that lets you quickly toggle between anonymous and normal surfing. (I haven't checked if there's anything similar for Opera yet.)

Most of the steps to get Tor/Privoxy running under Ubuntu are listed at the site.

Step 1 is here, but replace the commands "apt-get update" and "apt-get install tor" with "sudo apt-get update" and "sudo apt-get install tor privoxy".

Steps 2, 3, 4 & (optionally) 5 are here.



Wouldn't it be cool if you could just put a Linux disc into the drive, type "install," walk away and come back later to a working Linux system?

It'll probably never happen though. It's way too complicated to configu--cough--excuse me. It's way too compl--cough


Oh hell, maybe it isn't. Go to InstaLinux and see for yourself. Choose some basic options through the web interface and it generates a small (30MB or less) ISO image that can be used for a "hands-free" installation. You get to choose between an Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora or SuSE distro.


It's based on LinuxCOE: "A CGI-based network install image generator" that was developed by Hewlett Packard and released under the GPL.

InstaLinux is a cheesy name, though.


Electric Sheep

I like the Electric Sheep screensaver so much I toggled all the others off months ago and use Sheep exclusively. It's awesome and beautiful, and it appeals to my fractal-loving inner geek.

Scott Draves, the one who created the screensaver (and flame fractals), is soon to release "Dreams in High Definition." It'll be a stand-alone, limited edition, large screen, high resolution "video appliance". It'll be the 21st century equivalent of the Lava Lamp, except he's only making 40. :(

If I were rich I'd get one, but it'll be way out of my league.


Google Earth for Linux?

Getting Google Earth to run on Linux is apparently a pain in the ass. I say "apparently" because I haven't even tried. My hardware isn't powerful enough.

However, there is some potentially good news ahead. I hear that the Mac version isn't built with Cocoa, but is linked to libqt instead. That's a good sign that Google may be preparing to release a Linux port. Yay for those with semi-modern hardware!

In the meantime, there is an open-source app called WW2D that might interest you. It's not 3D like Google Earth: therefore not as cool. But, unlike GE, it has plugin support, user-configurable layers, an unlimited cache, can work offline with cached data, and has binaries for Linux, OS X and Windows.

I still don't think my hardware could handle it, but I imagine anything faster than 1GHz would do okay.

FreeBSD or Linux?

BSD is starting to really intrigue me.

When I finally decided to jump ship from Windows I went straight to Linux. The reasons are many but, aside from the security issues, the main factor in my decision was that I actually knew a bit about it. It's hard to be somewhat geeky and not know about Linux, right? Aside From Windows and OS-X, it's the most talked about OS (okay, kernel) on the Net. After that it was pretty easy to narrow it down to Ubuntu.

It's got a cute little mascot, too, but that didn't sway me.

I briefly considered FreeBSD, but I didn't know enough about it to commit to it as my full-time OS. All I knew was that it claimed to not be Linux, and that was enough for me. Linux gets all the press, and I wanted something widely used in case I ran into problems.

Now that I'm reading about Linux every day I often cross paths with BSD users. Both Linux and BSD are like Unix, so it's natural that the two sorts of users would occasionally hang out in the same places. BSD users go on about their operating system like I go on about Ubuntu. They don't merely tolerate their OS like Windows users often must, they love it like a Mac user loves OS-X.

What inspires such devotion to an OS? Security obviously plays a role, or it should, and so does stability. Linux has both of these, as does OS-X from what I understand. Customisability sure appeals to the geeks, too. You can tweak Linux 'til the cows come home. (I don't know how OS-X measures up in that regard so I won't comment.)

But I've come to learn in the past six months that, despite their similarities, there is a definite Linux camp and a definite BSD camp. And they are similar. Google for BSD screenshots if you want to see.

So why the divide? What's the difference between them if they're so similar?

Set aside an hour and read this: BSD vs Linux. You'll learn how the two philosophies differ.

Yeah. BSD is starting to really intrigue me. After reading that and poking around FreeBSD.org, the only reason I haven't switched is that Ubuntu ain't broke.

Dammit. I think.


BTW, tinkerers might be interested in looking at Arch Linux "an i686-optimized linux distribution targeted at competent linux users (read: not afraid of the commandline)." Those I know who've tried it like it a lot. It's apparently noticeably speedier than Ubuntu, too.


Renaming files

Sometimes you acquire a collection of files that are stupidly named. I'm running into that at the moment with all my recent downloading of old DOS games and ROM images. Unlike Windows, Linux is case sensitive and sometimes it's easier to keep everything in lower (or upper) case.

Here's a quick perl hack that'll do this for every file in the current directory.

ls | perl -lne 'print "mv $_ ",lc($_)'

Warning: If you have a maliciously named file, like RM\ -RF *, you'll run into serious problems because you might actually execute this command.

Typing the above at the command line will give you a chance to look over the results, but it won't actually do anything to your files. If you like what you see, then do the same command again, but suffix it with | sh like this.

ls | perl -lne 'print "mv $_ ",lc($_)' | sh

Change lc to uc to convert everything to UPPER CASE.

Here's an example:

galoot@breezy:~/Images/temp$ ls                                              
galoot@breezy:~/Images/temp$ ls | perl -lne 'print "mv $_ ",lc($_)'
mv NUBLU.GIF nublu.gif
mv PERIODIC_TABLE.PNG periodic_table.png
mv UBUNTU_BUTTON_88X31.PNG ubuntu_button_88x31.png
mv YOUR_ASS_IS_GRASS.JPG your_ass_is_grass.jpg
galoot@breezy:~/Images/temp$ ls | perl -lne 'print "mv $_ ",lc($_)' | sh
galoot@breezy:~/Images/temp$ ls
nublu.gif periodic_table.png ubuntu_button_88x31.png your_ass_is_grass.jpg
This little perl script isn't mine.

If you want to see what the command will do to a large directory before you commit to the changes, you can pipe it through "less" like this:

ls | perl -lne 'print "mv $_ ",lc($_)' | less

(Edit: This doesn't handle filenames with spaces in them. Can one of you hackers improve it?)

Tired of XMMS

Looking for more features? Check out Wikipedia's Comparison of media players.


HOWTO: Get Stella Running under Breezy

This is a simple HOWTO. Anyone who's ever compiled anything before likely won't need to read it. Anyone who hasn't compiled something from source, though, will see how easy the task can be.

Stella is an Atari 2600 emulator currently at version 2.0.1. The most obvious differences in the 2.x version are:
  • Added integrated GUI (you don't have to fiddle with the command line anymore)
  • Added ROM launcher (you don't have to quit/restart Stella every time you want to play a different game)
  • Added ZIP support (you can keep your ROMs zipped up tight)
  • But wait! There's more!
The version available through the Ubuntu (multiverse) repositories is 1.4.1. I don't think the Ubuntu Backports team will add it to Breezy because of dependency issues. Converting the available RPM to DEB using Alien didn't work for me. Luckily, I didn't run into any problems compiling Stella from source.

WARNING: It is illegal to use ROM images of games that you do not actually own. These games are still copyrighted.

DISCLAIMER: I am a total newb when it comes to compiling software. If this HOWTO doesn't work for you I doubt if I'll be able to help much. All I know is that these steps worked for me. If you try it and it works for you, too, let me know. If not, you might try asking at the Ubuntu Forums where someone more experienced may be able to help out.

(You could always spend $30 for 40 games and buy the Atari Flashback 2. I love mine! The fact that I actually have a chance at kicking my 14-year-old's butt appeals to me, too. But Mrs. G occasionally needs the TV, so...)

Here we go.

First you need to download the source code.

Now, fire up a terminal window. Henceforth, each line is a separate command.

Navigate to the directory where you saved the just-downloaded package. Unpack it using the following command:

tar zxvf stella-2.0.1-src.tar.gz

Your next step is to ensure you have the tools needed to actually compile something. To do this you must install the build-essential package.

sudo apt-get install build-essential

You now have the basic tools you'll need to compile stuff. But you will run into dependency issues while compiling Stella unless you also install the "libsdl1.2-dev" package. So do that next:

sudo apt-get install libsdl1.2-dev

This package itself also depends on other packages, but apt-get handles all that for you. Don't worry about it.

Now that you have the unpacked source code and the tools to compile with, it's simple. Change to the directory where you unpacked the Stella sources.

cd stella-2.0.1/

It's time to compile.



sudo make install

Ubuntu will complain if you don't prefix "make install" with "sudo."

That's it. You've now got Stella installed. Type "stella" at the command line (or hit [ALT]+[F2] and type it there) and follow the prompts to point it at the directory where you keep your ROMs.

If you don't have ROMs to use, I can't help you. The Stella site has some pointers. Hopefully you are aware of the legal issues involved before using Google to find some.

All the old posts are copied over

I didn't copy over the comments, but they're still there over at that other blog. The post dates are the same.

Now I've got to try and fix this template. Larger images spill over onto the menu, which sucks.

Welcome to Galootix

There's nothing here yet. Check back in a day or two.


I know a couple of you are running Ubuntu...

...Are you running it optimally?

Type this at the command line:
     uname -a
If you see a string like "2.6.12-10-386" there, but you're running anything more recent than a Pentium Pro, you could probably do something to make Ubuntu a whole lot zippier. The more up-to-date your processor, the more difference choosing the appropriate kernel will make.

Read this Ubuntu Forums thread to find out how to speed things up fast enough that you can feel it.


It's not fair how Windows gets the press

CNN never talks about Linux!