Moebius transformations revealed

Today, the Blahg will help smartify you.  You may be a part of the large group of people who consider themselves non-mathified and non-mathy capable.  But with the help of the YouTube experts (and honestly, that’s two words you will rarely see together in a legitimate context), you can learn how Moebius transformations work.

So simple to understand visually, but probably still ass-kicking hard for most of us to do numerically.  Still, I just thought it looked so cool that I needed to share.

[tags]Moebius, Transformations, Mathified, Mathy, Moebius Transformations, YouTube, experts, Mind blowing[/tags]

Potential universal installer for Linux

The pessimist in me expects this will become just another Linux/Unix/BSD installation tool, thus diluting the pool of installation and update offerings for the 27 gajillion Linux distributions. Maybe this time, however, the hoped for universal cross-distro package management tool and software installer will be found with recently updated Nixstaller tool that has been under-way for the past year and a half or so.

Nixstaller is an Open Source project with the goal to create user friendly and flexible installers that work on various UNIX like systems.

Main Features

  • Three different installer frontends, powered by GTK+2, FLTK and ncurses.
  • Support for many common UNIX like systems (see table below)
  • Can be fully translated (English and Dutch translations are already provided)
  • The installation files can be compressed with lzma, gzip and bzip2.
  • The installation files that should be used can depend on the current system.
  • Lua support is provided to configure the installer and to program the installation procedure. This allows very flexible configurations.
  • Very few dependencies: the end user and install creator only needs one of the supported systems. For compilation SCons (and python) is also required.

It’s an interesting project, and certainly not the first such undertaking. Given the slow track of progress, I’m extra skeptical, but I fully support any efforts to more closely unify Linux distributions. I feel anything that legitimately makes using Linux easier while not taking away capabilities from power-users that know their ways around is a good thing to have.

[tags]Linux, Universal installer, Nistaller[/tags]

Build your own Segway-style scooter

Don’t tlbonscooter have several thousand dollars in the wallet to spare, but really want your own Segway?  Well, you could always try the Do-it-yourself homebuilt Segway-style scooter if you have the skills for that.

Self-balancing scooters, like the Segwayâ„¢ are often thought to be technological miracles, but it is not actually very hard to build one. I built the one described here in about a week using off-the-shelf parts. I spent another week tweaking the high-speed stability, improving the steering control, and writing about it.

Shoot yeah!  I have mad skillz.  So mad they have to be spelled with a ‘z’ instead.  But not quite mad sizzles, which is what I hear Snoop Dogg has.

So just how does the DIY self-balancing scooter compare to a real Segway?

The Segway is made with quite high-quality, high-tech, and expensive components. Overall, the components I used are a lot lower-tech and cheaper than the ones in the Segway. Yet, mine seems to ride just fine. It suggests that there’s room for a Henry Ford of balancing scooters to develop and sell a low-cost everyman’s version. Here’s a quick comparison. Quotes below are from

This is followed by the comparison.  And I can tell you from reading it that while the real deal certainly wins for polish, the DIY scooter doesn’t measure up too badly on functionality.  Now to find a few hundred spare hundred lost in the sofa to make my own.

The author of the page has extensive information on the why of building this, some ideas for doing your own, and even updates on his next generation DIY home-built.  Overall, it’s a really cool project.  The write-up and details are long, but if you are into this kind of project work, I assure you it is worth the time to read it.

[tags]Self-balancing scooter, DIY Segway-style scooter, DIY[/tags]

Set your USB key up to auto-run on insertion

I’ve known this was possible for a while, but I hadn’t looked for nor stumbled upon instructions for putting an autorun file on a USB key and getting it to work. This week, obviously, I found the instructions over at Daily Cup of Tech for making this happen. I can see several good and nefarious uses for this.

The autorun.inf file is the key to getting your USB drive (or CD-ROM drive, for that matter) to perform certain actions automatically and customize it’s look in My Computer. The purpose of this article is to shed some light on how this can be done.

Topics covered are:

  • Autorun.inf Structure
  • Setting a Custom Icon
  • Naming Your USB Drive
  • Setting AutoPlay Options
  • Adding Context Menu Items
  • Changing Default Action
  • Viewing a File
  • School’s Out, Time To Play!

Unfortunately, the author doesn’t have anchors set at each heading, or I would link you directly to each section. Fortunately, the entire article is brief and pretty easy to follow, so this isn’t a big negative in the article layout.

USB key break-ins are a real security threat, and this kind of tutorial helps you make the security breach even easier if you are in to that kind of thing. Whether you depend on natural curiosity to cause the breach or use something like the above-linked tutorial to get a tool running and stealing what you need from your victim, the USB key is handy. This also means you should be aware that the bad guys are learning (or already know) these things and will use them to attack you some day.

So to end, the next natural question for you, the reader, should be “How do I stop this vulnerability from impacting my system/network/company?” now. Well, there are many places that have the answer. I haven’t found one that I would point out as The best way to do this – this Microsoft technet article has the necessary information if you already know your way around the registry, as does this more concise and clearer article. Other helpful points include this CD-Freaks forum post asking that question, as does this web site that seems to focus on autorun features/bugs/benefits. That last one is probably the clearest, so may be the one I point folks to in the future.

[tags]USB autorun, USB keys, Security, DIY, Daily cup of tech[/tags]

AMD to open ATI graphic specs

This is purely of interest to the small crowd fitting in the union of sets gamerlinux userATI user with the possibility of developer being an indicator of some note. Word on the street (or rather, on the most current Linux sites) is that an AMD representative has announced plans at the kernel summit to enable development of open source drivers for ATI graphics processors – at least for the R500 and forward.

A quick report from the kernel summit: AMD’s representative at the summit has announced that the company has made a decision to enable the development of open source drivers for all of its (ATI) graphics processors from the R500 going forward. There will be specifications available and a skeleton driver as well; a free 2D driver is anticipated by the end of the year. The rest will have to be written; freeing of the existing binary-only driver is not in the cards, and “that is better for everybody.” Things are looking good on this front. More in the kernel summit report to come.

That’s a serious boost to the credibility of an ATI-based Linux system for gamers at the very least. I know personally I have avoided ATI cards for years due to long-term Windows driver issues (which are slowly resolved, if ever) and barely useable at times Linux drivers. It’s hard to do, though, given how powerful ATI videocards have become, but until reliable drivers are there, I avoid them. Well, with the open source community working on them with more information, hopefully the Linux issues will soon be cleared up and I’ll be able to seriously consider an ATI card in a future upgrade.

The comments in the linked article are also worth perusing, just to get a feel for the reactions from the open source side of tech.

[tags]Linux, ATI, Open Source, Kernel summit, Graphics, GPU[/tags]

VMWare Mac-OS X

While this really isn’t of actual value to anyone I know, I think it’s pretty cool that there is a version of VMWare out for OS X now. If you just have to run Windows or Linux in a virtual session on your Mac, now you have the option. I don’t know any Mac-only folks, so that’s why I don’t think anyone I know would benefit from it, but since I’m considering a Mac for the wifey-type-person sometime in the future, I’ll have to keep this in mind for us/her.

If you want to learn more about the product, here’s an outstanding review of the product, with screenshots, actual virtual machine build and test information, and a few comments from others who have tried the tool.

Roughly one year ago VMware announced that they would release a version of their popular virtualization software for the OS X platform. Since that time they have steadily released beta’s versions of Vmware Fusion and with each release seen continual improvements. Now after a year of heavy development the company has pulled back the curtains and unveiled VMware Fusion 1.0.

As a longtime VMWare user in the Windows and Linux world, I have to say that the company behind this puts out a good product. And for the features and options you have, I think you’ll find VMWare Fusion isn’t even cost-prohibitive at its $59.99 price point.

[tags]Mac, OS X, VMWare, Fusion, VMWare fusion, Windows on Mac, Mac virtual machine software[/tags]


Virtual KVM – multiple system control via network and software

If you have multiple computers you need to have running and available but don’t have space for monitors, keyboards, and mouse-type-thingies (it’s an industry term, I think), you should check out Synergy.

synergy: [noun] a mutually advantageous conjunction of distinct elements

Synergy lets you easily share a single mouse and keyboard between multiple computers with different operating systems, each with its own display, without special hardware. It’s intended for users with multiple computers on their desk since each system uses its own monitor(s).

Redirecting the mouse and keyboard is as simple as moving the mouse off the edge of your screen. Synergy also merges the clipboards of all the systems into one, allowing cut-and-paste between systems. Furthermore, it synchronizes screen savers so they all start and stop together and, if screen locking is enabled, only one screen requires a password to unlock them all. Learn more about how it works.

Synergy is open source and released under the GNU Public License (GPL).

I tried this tool long ago and it worked well enough that I know it works as claimed. However, I was just testing it, as I didn’t need the functionality, so I can’t really speak on how well it works for regular use. (via LifeHacker)

Online open courseware

If you are looking to learn something new on the techie side, here’s another site worth looking in to.

Open-Of-Course is a multilingual portal for free online courses and tutorials. By “free” we not only mean free as in “free beer” but also published as open content. Our focus is on educational information where you can benefit of in daily life.

You will find here lots of free courses and tutorials and you can join a community of over 5000 students. All the courses have their own forum for students to interact and help each other out. You can join the fora after registration. Our privacy policy can be viewed here .

People can also add their own courses or tutorials to our system for free. Open-Of-Course runs on the open source electronic learning environment “Moodle”. Read more about that here.

One of the new tools I’ve picked up lately is Scribus – a layout processing/desktop publishing tool (think PageMaker or InDesign). While looking for some tutorials on learning how to better use the tool, I found open-of-course, and felt that I should pass it on.

[tags]Desktop Publishing, DTP, Open-of-course, Open courseware, Scribus[/tags]

The Ubuntu ebook – free for your enjoyment

Have you thought about moving to Linux? Are you unsure what Linux distribution to try, or where to get help if you do attempt it? Well, the Open Source Project has Marcel Gagné’s Moving to Ubuntu Linux ebook available for free. It’s a hefty tome, hitting almost 500 pages, and some folks don’t like Gagné’s writing. I like reading his Linux Journal columns every month, and his personal web site is interesting to me, but you should check them out to see if you can handle him.

ubuntu_ebook.jpgDiscover Ubuntu, Today’s Hottest Linux

Everyone’s talking about Ubuntuit’s not just 100% free, it’s the most useful, practical desktop Linux ever! Now, Linux expert Marcel Gagné reveals Ubuntu’s amazing power and helps you migrate from Windows faster than you ever thought possible.

Moving to Ubuntu Linux will teach you how to do virtually anything with Ubuntuwrite documents, create spreadsheets, surf the Web, use email, listen to music, watch movies, and play games.

  • Install Ubuntu fast, with easy, step-by-step instructions
  • Take control, with the GNOME desktop environment and Nautilus file manager
  • Browse the Internet using Firefox, the powerful browser that’s quickly replacing Microsoft Internet Explorer
  • Find and install all the software you’ll ever need, with Ubuntu’s powerful Synaptic package manager
  • Send email, track contacts, create calendars, and manage all your personal information with Evolution
  • Organize digital photos, rip music, burn and play CDs, watch movies, create graphics, and more
  • Discover the world of Linux games, and learn how to run Windows games on your Ubuntu PC
  • Set up an efficient, convenient network for your home or small business
  • Customize your desktop so it’s perfectly comfortable and totally efficient

So get over there and start reading. See if this is something you could take on. Consider the benefit of freeing yourself from paying Microsoft for new software every year or every time you want to upgrade. You’ll find that most things you do now can be done just as easily under Linux, and you only have to find one handy geek or one good book to figure out how to handle any of the (probably infrequent) problems you might have with Linux.

That said, however, don’t move to Linux just to move to Linux. I love Linux, but recognize that it just isn’t for everyone. Read a little of the book to get a feel for it and see if you might be interested though.

[tags]Free Ubuntu ebook, Moving to Linux free ebook[/tags]

Happy Birthday Telnet, may you rest in peace

Well, today is the 35th birthday of telnet. It’s also a day to commemorate the passing away of telnet, in a way.

Although original development on telnet took place back in 1969, the protocol was not formalized until RFC 318, released April 3rd, 1972. The passing away of telnet is being called out as a result of Microsoft leaving telnet out of Vista. Of course, if you have to have telnet, you can install it manually if you’d like.

Thanks to Wired security blog 27B Stroke 6 for the telnet birthday reminder.

[tags]Happy birthday telnet, RIP telnet[/tags]

Security, the Mac, Mac users – fanatical devotion != secure

Last week, the BBC wrote on security on the Mac and the apparent attitude Mac users take towards security. Highlighting the “Month of Apple Bugs” (MOAB) project web site, the BBC discusses the security reality of Mac computing. I suppose due to the brevity of the article there isn’t a lot of the really good information on security I’d like to see, but the BBC basically showcases the reality of security the MOAB project revealed while still pointing out that ultimately, the Mac has yet to be hit by a big, nasty worm or virus like Linux, Windows, Solaris, and so many operating systems have.

Apple Mac users are still too lax when it comes to security matters, an independent researcher has said.

Kevin Finisterre caused ripples in the Mac community when he started a website in January revealing a different bug in Apple systems each day of the month.

While some observers dismissed the survey, Apple recently issued a patch to plug holes outlined by Finisterre.

Apple owners’ attitude to security was “one of the main reasons we started the campaign,” he said.

Apple makes great play of the fact that its OSX operating has yet to be attacked by a virus while Windows XP machines are plagued with problems.

In the end, real-life commitments prevent the MOAB project creator from continuing regular work on it. He does note, however, that he would be glad to continue working on it if someone could put up the capital required to keep it going.

[tags]Apple security, the Month of Apple Bugs (MOAB) project[/tags]