Tag: use

Things I Learned from God’s People

As I have mentioned before, I was raised in the “Christian” faith, namely the “Assembly of God” variety. I have never found the concept of denominations to be of any use to me on my search for truth. I’ve always found them to be a crutch or a wall. In either case a hindrance to the truth of a real God. I’ve always held to the idea that although there is a wide variety of followers and seekers of God, they are all just different parts of the same body. Despite being a very unpopular opinion, especially among other folks who take great pride in their specific denomination, I have never felt comfortable joining any religious organization in any official capacity. I have attended many different religious buildings, gatherings, services and the like, but never formally joined, and Lord willing, never will. Just like there is no library that can contain every written work on the planet, there is no religion that can contain every iteration of God. I believe that choosing to allow myself to be taught under only one brand of God, is to deny the whole nature of God. I have yet to find a religion, sect, or denomination that doesn’t have its own “saint of the faith” to which almost Godlike qualities or honor are bestowed. This really makes me squirm in my chair. I believe in the basic tenants of the “Christian” religion, which is to say I believe the Bible. I think that some of the things that were documented in the Bible, whether historical, prophetic, poetic, or philosophical, are crazy enough without someone else coming along side to add their own version of craziness to the mix. That said, I think that not all the writings, teachings and ideas of more contemporary folks are a load of bunk. There are morsels of truth in the works of several people across time, however that doesn’t make their opinion equal or greater in holiness to the Bible. They are just people, like I am people, like you are people, like that crazy Uncle so and so is people, like those that came before and those that will come after are people. With people comes trouble in as many varieties as the religious groups, sects, and denominations that they subscribe to. Here are a few of the unholy untruths about “Christianity” that I’ve encountered along my path.

  • Christians don’t go to movie theaters, dance clubs, etc.
  • It is better to appear holy than be honest about your unholiness.
  • Christians don’t struggle with things like alcohol, drugs, porn, etc.
  • All sin is equal in the sight of God, but not your fellow Christian.
  • Grace and forgiveness abounds above and beyond all sin, except those you don’t confess quick enough to beat your own death or the Second Coming.
  • When you need an answer, healing, forgiveness, assistance, or a polite excuse for not helping someone else, “Pray about it.”
  • It’s not gossip if you call it a prayer request.
  • Don’t bother doing something with your own two hands when you can pray for it to be done for you and then give God the glory for it.
  • If you want people to donate time or money to complete a task, call it a “ministry opportunity.”
  • If you can’t convince others to jump on board with your particular religious project, threats and questioning their salvation sometimes works.
  • Don’t take responsibility for any mistake that you make. Likewise don’t try to hold any other “Christian” accountable for mistakes that they have made, otherwise suffer the consequences of being an “Accuser of the Brethren.”
  • If your wishes aren’t granted by God, it’s most definitely because of some secret sin in your life.
  • Don’t use logic or intellect to make decisions in life, trust that God will provide your every need.
  • If you really have no faith that God is going to answer your prayer, use the phrase “if it be God’s will.” Then if it doesn’t happen the way you asked, your reputation won’t be sullied because it wasn’t a fervent and effectual prayer of a righteous person, it’s that God had other plans.
  • When praying publicly, remind those listening (including God) how much holier you are by randomly interjecting the words “Lord,” or “God,” or “Jesus,” or any combination of the three with an occasional prefix of “Dear,” or “My,” or “Our.”
  • When possible, make sure your prayer is in the King’s English. Hearing words like “thou,” “shall,” and “hath” will standout against our current vernacular and cause God to stop playing Angry Birds on His iPad and take note of what your asking for.
  • Don’t worry about what the Bible actually says, instead focus on what you were told that it might have implied.
  • Some parts of the Bible aren’t really that important (ie. the fourth commandment, gluttony being an abomination, any verse that defines tithes, etc.).
  • If you think the people next to you are judging your holiness, speak in tongues, that’ll show ’em.
  • Wearing shorts inside the sanctuary is one way to get a direct flight to Hell.
  • When giving a testimony, make sure that it is a 15 minute bragging session, masked as humility and blessing.
  • If someone comes to the front for prayer, it’s never to pray for someone else, it’s to ask forgiveness for something scandalous. Feel “led by God” to go ask for details so that you can pray more specifically for their needs.
  • When “laying on hands,” either for healing or deliverance, the more force you use to grip or hit them with, the better chance you have of seeing your prayer answered by God.
  • When praying for someone younger than yourself, it’s necessary to pull their ear so close to your mouth that they will feel your hot, stale breath condensing in their ear canal.
  • Everyone in your church should have the exact same gift of the Spirit, that way it breeds competition among the brethren, and contempt for those who are blessed with a less popular gift.
  • Although we are all the body of God, some parts of the body probably aren’t going to make it to Heaven, and if they do, their crowns will be greatly outnumbered by ours.
  • Being baptized in this denomination’s church means that you are being baptized into our social group, not into God’s family.
  • Verily, verily, I say unto you, thou shalt readeth from thine King James Version of the Bible, lest thine holier than thou brethren condemneth thee, and thou shalt surely perish socially.
  • Knowing what you believe is more important that knowing why you believe it, or whether it is actually in the Bible or not.
  • Missionaries are called to go to Dakar, not Detroit.
  • If you forget the lyrics to the song, close your eyes, bow your head, and whisper a faint, yet audible prayer. That means you’re sensitive to the move of God, as opposed to just plain forgetful or nervous.
  • If called to preach before a congregation, emphasize all three of your sermon points by slamming your Bible on the pulpit or the pew of those who have lost interest. As a side note, it helps to add the suffix “-ugh” to the end of key words and phrases.
  • Any time that you are in any secular public venue or eating establishment, make sure that those around you realize how much better you are than them by showing them that “Children of God” deserve to be waited on, hand and foot, with absolutely no hope of a decent tip or common kindness during your stay.
  • Don’t worry if you can’t pay your bills, that’s a sign that the Devil is out to get you for being so holy, not a sign that you should have budgeted more money for food and heat, as opposed to lottery tickets and a new Mercedes.
  • As a “Child of the King,” expect those around you to bow and praise your holiness any time that you perform a common act of decency toward another human being. Of course you deserve a cookie for treating others with common courtesy.

I have of course taken the liberty to poke fun at some of the more prominent issues that exist in the churches I have attended and visited over the years, and trust me there are plenty that go unmentioned. I do this to bring our attention to some of the items of concern that folks not raised in this crazy culture we call “Christianity” have issue with, are confused by, or are quite bluntly repulsed by. Any group of people will have issues due to nothing more than the mere inclusion of people themselves. These are the same issues that have existed within church bodies since the dawn of time, and they’ll be with us until the end of time. So as we enter this Easter holiday weekend, let’s just accept each other, believer and unbeliever alike, for what they are, and then make sure we act accordingly in deed, not just in word.

Enjoy!

…and if you don’t, please write me to tell me how horrible it is and what parts you merely dislike as well as the parts that you utterly despise.

~ matt

New Easy Facebook Chat On Any Chat Client without Plugins

I had written previously about How To Setup Facebook Chat On Empathy or Pidgin In Ubuntu 9.10, but now, thanks to Facebook developers, it has become easier than ever to chat with your Facebook friends on your stand alone instant messaging client.

You can now setup Facebook Chat using the XMPP/Jabber protocols as follows:

  • Select XMPP for the protocol type
  • Use your Facebook username (http://facebook.com/username/) for the username
  • Use your Facebook password for the password
  • Use chat.facebook.com for the domain

or

  • Select Jabber for the protocol type
  • Use username@chat.facebook.com (http://facebook.com/username/) for the username
  • Use your Facebook password for the password

As always, feel free to comment or ask questions about any of the ideas shared in this post.

Blessed

God truly does move in mysterious ways. Just a few months ago I began these rambling writings as a means of cathartic expression of my growing frustration and dissatisfaction with what I called my life. Yet in a matter of weeks, my world has changed, my outlook changed, my desires changed, my eyes opened, my heart healed, my mind expanded, and my soul saved.

The more I read back over the past several chapters, the more I realize how close to the edge I was. Sometimes it takes drastic measures to wake us from the unreality of our reality. Our eyes have been blinded to the blessing all around us. Our hearts hardened to the love and joy that encompass us. Our minds distracted from the truth of who we are, what we are, why we are, how we are, and where we are to be. Sometimes we grow so comfortable in the lies and deceit that the world feeds us morning, noon, and night, that we fail to be aware of the reality of our existence. Sometimes it takes an outside party to wake us from this false nightmare of a life we have grown so accustomed to. In the same manner that people who are born and raised within a cult can grow accustomed to lies, deceit, and theft of their worth, character, and humanity, so can we become brainwashed by the lies, deceit, and theft perpetrated on us by our culture, society, media, even friends and family. Likewise, we often need someone outside our circle of experience, to point out the truth of our situation. We are not built for this place, this world, this circumstance, this life. We are truly aliens in a foreign land. My residence in this country does not make it my home. My residence in this life does not make it my home.

Am I now void of the disappointment, confusion, anger, and fear that started me on this journey? Not at all. However they have all been redirected. I’ve learned that this universe, this dimension, this life that we currently occupy is one of balance, of harmony, of equilibrium. Negative emotions, thoughts, feelings, ideas, situations, and circumstances are not bad, but rather simply one side of the equation. They are just as valid, important, necessary, and useful as their positive counterparts. For every up there is a down, for every in there is an out, for every left there is a right, for every plus there is a minus. You can’t have black without white, on without off, song without silence, light without dark, sweet without sour, hard without soft. Until this place is no more, until the rule book is thrown out, until this existence is changed, these truths will continue forward.

Use everything, leave nothing. Rather than feel disappointed at work, at home, outside and inside, I am finding myself disappointed with my inability to balance the equation. For every problem there is a solution. I remain confused by why we allow ourselves to be sold a bill of goods that we don’t want, didn’t order, and then suffer the effects of misplaced loyalty. I will never lose the anger that I feel when I see princes and princesses treated like slaves and objects, sometimes of their own free will. I still fear that if we don’t wake up soon from this illusion, that we’ll become so indoctrinated into its lies and misinformation, that we will find ourselves farther down the wrong path, and so lost that we fail to notice how many are following us in the wrong direction.

Despite what you may believe about yourself or those around you, we are all who we are for a reason. Get out and find your reason for being. Take no hostages, accept no substitutes. Sometimes we are unhappy with our lives, because we’re trying to be something that we are not. Don’t give in to the pressure from all the elements around you to be someone that you are not, but rather embrace the reality and truth of who you are and be proud of who you are, what you are. Whatever you learn about yourself on your journey, don’t discount its significance. Even a negative truth is a truth. Use it to find the positive truth that is longing to balance the problem you face.

I was slowly learning and following a false impression of who I was, and thus becoming less satisfied with the life that I was creating for myself. I was on a goat path to nowhere, and at a fairly significant clip. It took me losing a wife, son, sister, and grandfather in a matter of weeks to gain clarity, truth, patience, and strength. Hopefully your journey won’t require such a high price tag. Learn from my mistakes, take my example, accept yourself, find your place, become the you that you are built to be.

I have been blessed at every turn throughout my journey, in spite of myself. The past few months have been exceptionally transformational for me. More balance than I was ready for. On one side of the equation is the disappointment, confusion, anger, and fear of losing four close family members. On the other is the pride, clarity, joy, and comfort of gaining my truly heaven sent soul mate. Balance has been achieved in my life, for the first time. There is no replacement for the people that I have lost along this journey, nor the roles they played in my life. This is also a blessing. Those roles have been permanently retired. The blessing is in the creation of a completely new and different role into my experience. A role that never existed before, and could not have been written into my story until this very moment. Deanna has become the mother of all plot twists in my tale. Just when you think your story is resolving, is nearing its end, new life is breathed into the old tired story. A complete and miraculous twist of fate. God has a story written for each of us before we ever begin. He knows me so well that He built this most wonderful, beautiful, powerful catalyst of change just for me.

In the process of moving and processing my way through all the stuff that I have accumulated on my journey, I was reminded of a project that I had in school years ago. I found a folded and well aged piece of paper with three lists contained on its college ruled face. The first list was of must have qualities and traits in a woman, needed to get and keep my attention. This was a fairly short list of basics like, don’t lie to me, don’t cheat on me, and don’t cheat on me and then lie to me about it. Second was a list of preferred qualities and traits. This was a fairly longer and more specific list, including superficial items like dark hair coupled with light eyes, along with other less appropriate definitions of the perfect shapes and sizes of certain body parts, of which I’ll omit here. Also were items like 40+ age bracket, shorter height than my own, shared core religious and philosophical beliefs, and the like. Finally a third, more extreme list of traits and qualities. This list was the ‘anything goes’ list. If you could hand sculpt, hand write, the perfect, fantasy woman for yourself, what would it look like, walk like, talk like. This was of course the most specific, and utterly ridiculous list of traits one could imagine and cram into one shell of female perfection. Items on this list include a specific level and type of superhuman intelligence, purity of voice, musical talent to rival my own, way of carrying oneself that makes one envious of the air that envelops the body as it performs each tiny movement, the texture of hair and skin, shape of fingernails and toenails, length of earlobes, unfathomable love and compassion for animals, a precise brand of vocabulary, tough and firm personality, and strength of will and character that surpasses human understanding. There are obviously items on each list that have been omitted from this writing out of respect for the delicate sensibilities of the readers.

I have to admit being a bit taken aback with my blunt and honest depiction of my wildest fantasy girl, come true, listed on this page. I was also shocked to find that these elements had remained intact within me over the years. The more blatant and obviously glaring reality that hit me square between the eyes was the number of girls that I had accompanied over the years that were nowhere near this image of perfection laid before me. Surely this couldn’t be a contributing factor in the overwhelming success of my past relationships to date. Never.

Although I’m still coping with the implications of the gift that so suddenly got laid out beautifully in my lap, it seems that no list is too long, too specific, or too extreme for God. I have come to find in measuring Deanna against this list of qualities and traits that not only does she possess each item from all three levels of female perfection, but has expanded my list beyond what the page can contain to include things I never knew that I wanted, or needed. I am finding that I am capable of unconditional love, and that it comes quite easy. It amazes me what things you can accomplish with the right inspiration and motivation.

Never before has more creativity flowed through me. If you have learned nothing else from reading my ramblings to this point, you understand that logic is my comfort zone, and artistic creativity is not. I am inspired each new day with a song to sing, words to say, actions to take, that are beyond my own ability. God has truly placed this woman in my life for a reason. She inspires me to give things that I don’t have to give, and then God uses me to deliver those things to her despite my own personal inability to do it on my own. In this way, Deanna becomes a blessing as well as being blessed as a byproduct of her inspiration. Who could ask for a more perfect system of being? I know that I never thought such an arrangement was possible, much less probable for someone like me. Her simple existence is an inspiration to me. In turn that inspiration leads me to be more than I can be on my own. Perspectives I have never known are becoming clearer to me with each new day.

I cannot contribute more to this story as my story has become new. This chapter, this book, must close here so that a new story can begin. Change has come to my world, and I plan on sharing that change with the world around me.

By God, through Deanna, I am, and will always be, blessed.

Ubuntu 9.10 (Install)

I’ve had several folks send emails asking about what parts that I’d build into a machine, what themes are in use in my screenshots, and what programs I’d recommend for a new Linux user. As one who favors the ‘work smarter’ over the ‘work harder’ method, I thought I’d post this info over the next few posts, rather than sending a 32 page email to them all.

So you’ve got a decent machine and you’re wanting to try out this crazy new Linux thing. I’ve used various Linux distributions for various projects, and they all have their strengths. If you’re a noob to the wonderful world of Linux, I’d recommend you start out with one of the many Ubuntu varieties. They have multiple versions for whatever environment and look you prefer. If you’re the type who likes things to ‘just work,’ aka the Mac type, Ubuntu (Gnome) is for you. Love getting buried in the details and customizing every nook and cranny of your workspace, Kubuntu (KDE) is your new best friend. Linux built for the classroom computer lab is dubbed Edubuntu (Gnome). Wanting to test Linux on an old machine before replacing the OS on your main box isn’t a crime, but you may want to choose Xubuntu (XFCE). You can even run this stuff on your phone/PDA/netbook with the Ubuntu Netbook edition. They also have derivatives for multimedia production, Ubuntu Studio (Gnome), and even Mythbuntu for building that home theater MythTV PC you’ve always wanted. Last but definitely not least, if you’ve got a rack that needs new life breathed into it, try the Ubuntu Server Edition.

We’ll be discussing primarily the Ubuntu Desktop Edition primarily using the Gnome Desktop Environment in the post, however most is very comparable if not identical to the other variations.

Let’s discuss installation. The Ubuntu installation is a piece of cake (or pie if you prefer) and only a couple areas foul folks up.

  • You’ll need to get your hands on an Ubuntu install image. You can download one directly, via torrent, via wubi, or if you have a spare USB thumb drive and a buddy who already has Ubuntu installed, have them make you a USB install stick.
  • Insert the install disc/usb stick and boot up the machine.
  • Select Language for Installer. If you want to read everything in English, like I do, just hit the ‘enter’ key.
  • Select ‘Install Ubuntu’ and hit the ‘enter’ key.
  • Select Language for Ubuntu. Again, I read English, just click ‘Forward’
  • Where are you? Pick the Region and the closest City in your time zone, and click ‘Forward’
  • Keyboard Layout. The ‘Suggested option’ is generally perfect, click ‘Forward’
  • Select ‘Specify partitions manually’ and click ‘Forward’
  • HEAD’S UP!! Okay, this can totally hose your machine if you don’t pay attention and know what you’re doing. Make sure you know which hard drive you want to use for your Linux installation, otherwise you’re going to wipe out your music/movie/photo/game collection, your Windows partitions, etc. If you’re wanting to toss Windows out the, uh, window, this will overwrite those partitions if you choose. Just make sure you backup anything you want to keep on another drive, disc, server, etc.
  • That said, pick the drive/partition you want to install Ubuntu on and ‘Delete partition.’ To scrap the whole drive and use the whole drive for Ubuntu, choose ‘New partition table’ and click ‘Forward’
  • Now you have ‘free space’ on that particular drive/partition. Select the ‘free space’ and click ‘New partition’
  • Create a new partition.
    For the first new partition (swap), you’ll want to make sure that the ‘Type for the new partition’ is set as ‘Primary’
    ‘New partition size in megabytes’ as a general rule, needs to equal twice the amount of RAM on your machine. If you have 2GB of RAM, you’ll want 4GB of swap space. (1GB = 1024MB)
    ‘Location for the new partition’ should be set to ‘Beginning’
    ‘Use as’ needs to be ‘swap area’ and click ‘OK’
    You’ll notice that your swap space partition now appears on your partition table screen.
  • Select the remaining ‘free space’ and click ‘New partition’
  • Create a new partition.
  • For this partition (root or /), you’ll want to make sure that the ‘Type for the new partition’ is set as ‘Logical’
    To use all the remaining space, leave the ‘New partition size…’ as it is. If you plan to have separate partitions for your settings (/home) or the like, choose the size to fit your preference.
    ‘Location for the new partition’ should be set to ‘Beginning’
    ‘Use as’ should be set to either Ext4 or ReiserFS, I prefer the latter
    ‘Mount point’ should be set to ‘/’ unless you’re planning to have separate partitions for your settings etc. If you choose the latter select the mount point to preference. Click ‘OK’
    You’ll now notice that ‘free space’ is all gone and we’re ready to click ‘Forward’
  • Now you get to tell Ubuntu what to name everything. When you’ve got that all filled out, click ‘Forward’
  • You’ll see the last Warning about the partitions and a general summary of your install options selected thus far. Take this time to check again to make sure you haven’t selected the wrong drive/partition etc. Once you’re sure that all is well, click on ‘Install’
  • Now is a great time to go grab your beverage of choice and relax for a bit. Don’t get too comfortable though, this won’t take long.
  • Installation Complete! Yee-Haw! Click on ‘Restart Now’
  • Remove the CD/USB installer and hit the ‘enter’ key like it says

As always, feel free to comment or ask questions about any of the ideas shared in this post.

The People Have Spoken

The people have spoken, and I’m going to do my best to deliver.  Most folks will send in comments via email rather than posting them directly to a post, so I thought I would take a moment to respond to a few of the comments, questions, and requests.

  1. They enjoy the art tutorials and information about all things Open Source.
    I’ll continue to cover those items and any questions that come in about them.
  2. They want to hear more of my quirky commentary on the Bible, some are even requesting that I start at the beginning and walk through the whole thing, giving my little thoughts and such.
    This sounds like a risky and time consuming venture, but I’ll give it a shot.
  3. Folks are curious about my personal entry into the Comic Book Universe and what I’m reading now.
    I was introduced by a good friend and coworker.  I got sucked in by reading the 7-issue DC series, Identity Crisis.  I’m currently reading the Vertigo series, Y: The Last Man.  I will try to include a few more posts in relation to what comics that I’ve found fascinating, entertaining, and such.
  4. Folks want me to make more of a presence in the ‘social landscape,’ namely asking about my Facebook, MySpace, Twitter accounts.
    From my previous posts, I’m sure you understand that I’m a bit of a paranoid privacy nut.  That said, I currently don’t subscribe to any of the current social networking sites, but I’ll look into it.
  5. If you’re really trying to become a Christian, why do you continue to study other religions and philosophies?
    Sometimes the best way to find out what you believe, is by finding out what you don’t believe and working backward.
  6. Why don’t you take professional art classes to learn how to draw/cartoon?
    Not sure this would be the best use of my time or the that of the teacher.  A bit like a deaf person taking a music appreciation course.
  7. I read your About page and understand the meaning behind the domain name, but is 1792Coins.com the best you could come up with?
    Funny you should ask.  No, it’s not.  In fact I didn’t come up with it.  It was a domain name that another group had requested for a project I was working on over at simplemediagroup.net.  Let’s just say that the group hadn’t agreed on a few things amongst themselves before submitting a request for the domain, then changed their minds on the whole idea and left the domain behind.  Being a follower of the ‘use everything, leave nothing’ philosophy,  I couldn’t stand seeing it just sit on the web unused, so I tried to weasel a blog out of it.  Hence the blog you see before you.
  8. I find your taste in music (shown in your side bar) quite eclectic and interesting.  Maybe you could do some music reviews.
    This is a touchy spot for me.  I love music of all kinds, and love to share music with others.  That said, I almost find music a more intimate, holy, and sensitive subject than religion or politics.  What would a review sound like?  You can’t really explain music, it’s an experience.  Alan Watts once said, “If you ask Bach, ‘What is the meaning of music,’ he would have said, ‘Listen…that is the meaning.'”  That said, I guess I could write about my experience as I listen to certain songs, albums, and artists.
  9. Your puppies are beautiful, what are they? and what other pets do you have?
    Oh goody!  I absolutely LOVE animals!  More than most people I’ve met.  The puppies (in picture used for the How To Make Your Pictures Look Like Comic Book / Graphic Novel Art With GIMP post) are rescue pups.  Sophia and Isabella are litter mates, and their mother is Australian Shepherd and we’re honestly not 100% sure on the dad, but the vet ventured to guess that he was probably Mastiff.  All that equates to a couple of very smart, very lovable, very beautiful dogs.  They have an older sister, Tipper (a Parson Jack Russell Terrier), who is definitely the ‘Top Dog’ of the house.  A quick run through of the animals that have shared our home:  Bailey (beagle), Shelby (cat), Clark and Lex (mice), Chappy and Scrappy (anoles), Ben and Socrates (rats), Ms. Benson (rabbit), Max (guinea pig), Pretzel, Love, and Logic (African Pygmy Goats).
  10. Maybe you could throw out a few quick movie and book reviews.
    This response will be similar to my response to the requests for music reviews.  I think it best to keep this simple.  I’ll throw out a quick recommendation here and there, but would rather hear your thoughts on them.  Hopefully folks will be willing to leave their comments on the posts for all to enjoy.

Whew!  Thanks for all the email and such!  I’ll try to do this every so often to clear out the mailbox.

I plan on expanding the variety of topics covered to meet the requests as above, however as such, I can’t promise an ‘every day’ post schedule.  I hope to be able to write approximately the same amount, however the posts may come out less frequently and consistently, or with less overall content respectively.  I do have a day job, a couple volunteer jobs, a family, a bit of a life, and now this blog to keep up with.  I’ll do my best.

Thanks again for all the feedback!

Enjoy!

~matt

Whatcha Runnin’ Man? (Eyecandy)

I’ve had several folks send emails asking about what parts that I’d build into a machine, what themes are in use in my screenshots, and what programs I’d recommend for a new Linux user.  As one who favors the ‘work smarter’ over the ‘work harder’ method, I thought I’d post this info over the next few posts, rather than sending a 32 page email to them all.

Let’s chat a little about some Linux eyecandy.  The greatest piece of eyecandy to hit the Linux landscape is Compiz-Fusion.  If you’ve followed our previous post, Whatcha Runnin’ Man? (Linux Applications – part 2), you’ve already installed this beautiful piece of work.  This graphic addition to the Linux desktop opens up a wide variety of great desktop effects and enhancements.  For a full list, click here, but below is a list of a few of my favorites.

Elements is a plugin for Compiz-Fusion which integrates all the features of the popular Snow, Autumn, Fireflies, and Stars plugins, plus an all new feature, Bubbles. It’s also fully customizable. So let’s add it while we’re at it.

  • Download Elements script from http://www.elementsplugin.com/downloads/elementsinstall.sh
  • Once you’ve downloaded the script, open a terminal and go to the location where the script was downloaded to
  • In the terminal use this command:
    sh elementsinstall.sh

    or

    bash ./elementsinstall.sh
  • Install complete! Now find it along with the other effects listed above

I am currently running a custom theme created by combining several bits of Gnome eyecandy acquired via Gnome-Look.  I’m using the controls from the New SlicknesS GTK 2.x Theme, the ‘Dark_glossy’ window border from the Leopard_SE & Dark Metacity Theme, the ‘Red’ icons from the Cryo64-Mixed Icon Theme, and the pointer from the Chrome Glass X11 Mouse Theme.

You can find similar if not direct duplicates of these theme packages, as well as all other variety of groovy eyecandy, for the KDE and XFCE Linux desktop environments at KDE-Look and XFCE-Look respectively.

As always, feel free to comment or ask questions about any of the ideas shared in this post.

Whatcha Runnin’ Man? (Firefox Add-Ons)

I’ve had several folks send emails asking about what parts that I’d build into a machine, what themes are in use in my screenshots, and what programs I’d recommend for a new Linux user.  As one who favors the ‘work smarter’ over the ‘work harder’ method, I thought I’d post this info over the next few posts, rather than sending a 32 page email to them all.

I am a proud user of Mozilla Firefox as my default web browser.  I love the user experience, the security, and the virtually limitless potential added by its also equally limitless variety of add-ons.  My list is in no way the definitive list of add-ons, but simply the current add-ons that I use most often.  The Firefox add-ons that I use on a continual basis currently are as below.

  • Adblock Plus
    Get rid of all those ads and banners on the internet that often take longer to download than everything else on the page
  • Firebug
    Firebug integrates with Firefox to put a wealth of development tools at your fingertips while you browse. You can edit, debug, and monitor CSS, HTML, and JavaScript live in any web page
  • Firefinder for Firebug
    Finds HTML elements matching chosen CSS selector(s) or XPath expression
  • Inline Code Finder for Firebug
    Inline Code Finder is an add-on to Firebug, to be able to find HTML elements with Inline JavaScript events, Inline style, javascript: links
  • CodeBurner for Firebug
    CodeBurner is a Firefox add-on that integrates with Firebug, to extend it with reference material for HTML and CSS
  • Pixel Perfect
    Pixel Perfect is a Firefox/Firebug extension that allows web developers and designers to easily overlay a web composition over top of the developed HTML
  • Firecookie
    Firecookie is an extension for Firebug that makes possible to view and manage cookies in your browser
  • FirePHP
    FirePHP enables you to log to your Firebug Console using a simple PHP method call
  • Firediff
    Track Changes in Firebug
  • Daily Dilbert
    Adds little icon to status bar that popups “Dilbert’s strip of the day” in several languages and many other comic strips just one click away – day by day
  • Download Statusbar
    View and manage downloads from a tidy statusbar – without the download window getting in the way of your web browsing
  • FireFTP
    FireFTP is a free, secure, cross-platform FTP client for Mozilla Firefox which provides easy and intuitive access to FTP servers
  • Mouse Gestures Redox
    Allows you to execute common commands (like page forward/backward, close tab, new tab) by mouse gestures drawn over the current webpage, without reaching for the toolbar or the keyboard
  • Fission
    Fission combines address bar and progress bar (Safari style). This makes the progress bar more visible and allows for a nice visual effect
  • Flagfox
    Displays a country flag depicting the location of the current website’s server and provides quick access to detailed location and webserver information
  • Forecastbar Enhanced
    It is an Enhanced version of the popular Forecastfox extension that provides a weather forecast right in your statusbar
  • GooglePreview
    Inserts preview images (thumbnails) and popularity ranks of web sites into the Google and Yahoo search results pages
  • Hid.im
    This extension decodes Hidims and allows you to save the original torrent
  • OPML Support
    OPML Support adds OPML import/export functionality to the Firefox Bookmarks manager
  • PackageMapping.com Extension
    Track and Map packages from the right-click menu
  • StumbleUpon
    StumbleUpon discovers web sites based on your interests, learns what you like and brings you more
  • Torbutton
    Torbutton provides a button to securely and easily enable or disable the browser’s use of Tor, and is currently the only addon that will safely manage your Tor browsing to prevent IP address leakage, cookie leakage, and general privacy attacks.
  • Update Notifier
    Notifies you when updates are available for your extensions and themes
  • Update Scanner
    Monitors web pages for updates. Useful for websites that don’t provide Atom or RSS feeds
  • Xinha Here!
    Portable WYSIWYG editor! No matter what site you’re visiting you can launch a WYSIWYG right in your browser
  • Xmarks
    Keep your bookmarks and (optionally) passwords backed up and synchronized
  • Zotero
    Zotero [zoh-TAIR-oh] is a free, easy-to-use Firefox extension to help you collect, manage, and cite your research sources

As always, feel free to comment or ask questions about any of the ideas shared in this post.

Whatcha Runnin’ Man? (New to Linux)

I’ve had several folks send emails asking about what parts that I’d build into a machine, what themes are in use in my screenshots, and what programs I’d recommend for a new Linux user. As one who favors the ‘work smarter’ over the ‘work harder’ method, I thought I’d post this info over the next few posts, rather than sending a 32 page email to them all.

So you’ve got a decent machine and you’re wanting to try out this crazy new Linux thing. I’ve used various Linux distributions for various projects, and they all have their strengths. If you’re a noob to the wonderful world of Linux, I’d recommend you start out with one of the many Ubuntu varieties. They have multiple versions for whatever environment and look you prefer. If you’re the type who likes things to ‘just work,’ aka the Mac type, Ubuntu (Gnome) is for you. Love getting buried in the details and customizing every nook and cranny of your workspace, Kubuntu (KDE) is your new best friend. Linux built for the classroom computer lab is dubbed Edubuntu (Gnome). Wanting to test Linux on an old machine before replacing the OS on your main box isn’t a crime, but you may want to choose Xubuntu (XFCE). You can even run this stuff on your phone/PDA/netbook with the Ubuntu Netbook edition. They also have derivatives for multimedia production, Ubuntu Studio (Gnome), and even Mythbuntu for building that home theater MythTV PC you’ve always wanted. Last but definitely not least, if you’ve got a rack that needs new life breathed into it, try the Ubuntu Server Edition.

We’ll be discussing primarily the Ubuntu Desktop Edition primarily using the Gnome Desktop Environment in the post, however most is very comparable if not identical to the other variations.

Let’s discuss installation. The Ubuntu installation is a piece of cake (or pie if you prefer) and only a couple areas foul folks up.

  • You’ll need to get your hands on an Ubuntu install image. You can download one directly, via torrent, via wubi, or if you have a spare USB thumb drive and a buddy who already has Ubuntu installed, have them make you a USB install stick.
  • Insert the install disc/usb stick and boot up the machine.
  • Select Language for Installer. If you want to read everything in English, like I do, just hit the ‘enter’ key.
  • Select ‘Install Ubuntu’ and hit the ‘enter’ key.
  • Select Language for Ubuntu. Again, I read English, just click ‘Forward’
  • Where are you? Pick the Region and the closest City in your time zone, and click ‘Forward’
  • Keyboard Layout. The ‘Suggested option’ is generally perfect, click ‘Forward’
  • Select ‘Specify partitions manually’ and click ‘Forward’
  • HEAD’S UP!! Okay, this can totally hose your machine if you don’t pay attention and know what you’re doing. Make sure you know which hard drive you want to use for your Linux installation, otherwise you’re going to wipe out your music/movie/photo/game collection, your Windows partitions, etc. If you’re wanting to toss Windows out the, uh, window, this will overwrite those partitions if you choose. Just make sure you backup anything you want to keep on another drive, disc, server, etc.
  • That said, pick the drive/partition you want to install Ubuntu on and ‘Delete partition.’ To scrap the whole drive and use the whole drive for Ubuntu, choose ‘New partition table’ and click ‘Forward’
  • Now you have ‘free space’ on that particular drive/partition. Select the ‘free space’ and click ‘New partition’
  • Create a new partition.
    For the first new partition (swap), you’ll want to make sure that the ‘Type for the new partition’ is set as ‘Primary’
    ‘New partition size in megabytes’ as a general rule, needs to equal twice the amount of RAM on your machine. If you have 2GB of RAM, you’ll want 4GB of swap space. (1GB = 1024MB)
    ‘Location for the new partition’ should be set to ‘Beginning’
    ‘Use as’ needs to be ‘swap area’ and click ‘OK’
    You’ll notice that your swap space partition now appears on your partition table screen.
  • Select the remaining ‘free space’ and click ‘New partition’
  • Create a new partition.
  • For this partition (root or /), you’ll want to make sure that the ‘Type for the new partition’ is set as ‘Logical’
    To use all the remaining space, leave the ‘New partition size…’ as it is. If you plan to have separate partitions for your settings (/home) or the like, choose the size to fit your preference.
    ‘Location for the new partition’ should be set to ‘Beginning’
    ‘Use as’ should be set to either Ext3 or ReiserFS, I prefer the latter
    ‘Mount point’ should be set to ‘/’ unless you’re planning to have separate partitions for your settings etc. If you choose the latter select the mount point to preference. Click ‘OK’
    You’ll now notice that ‘free space’ is all gone and we’re ready to click ‘Forward’
  • Now you get to tell Ubuntu what to name everything. When you’ve got that all filled out, click ‘Forward’
  • You’ll see the last Warning about the partitions and a general summary of your install options selected thus far. Take this time to check again to make sure you haven’t selected the wrong drive/partition etc. Once you’re sure that all is well, click on ‘Install’
  • Now is a great time to go grab your beverage of choice and relax for a bit. Don’t get too comfortable though, this won’t take long.
  • Installation Complete! Yee-Haw! Click on ‘Restart Now’
  • Remove the CD/USB installer and hit the ‘enter’ key like it says

As always, feel free to comment or ask questions about any of the ideas shared in this post.

Let’s Talk About Torrents

Let’s just get right to it.  It’s sad that the BitTorrent protocol has become synonymous with illegal file sharing, pirating, etc.  As a huge Open Source Software and Linux proponent, I am a huge torrent user.  Several OSS/Linux applications and distributions are delivered via this file sharing protocol, and there is of course nothing illegal about that.  Like anything else in life, brilliant ideas, tools, and methods can be used to help or hinder.  {Insert Personal Bias Here}  There are two sides to every story.  Who are the real crooks?  The multibejillion dollar corporations and government agencies that work together to create laws to ensure cash flow and ultimately power continues in one direction vs. the virtual vigilantes and militias that consistently discover and publicize ways to thwart those attempts by bending and/or breaking those rules.  This debate both legally and morally could go on forever.  As a fairly open minded individual with trust issues lending a propensity to lean toward the fringe of liberal thought and conspiracy theory, I think that balance is what is needed.  Balance of these two groups will probably occur about three seconds after the Jews and Muslims become BFFs, aka high noon on the third of Never.

Let me take this time to remind you of the little blurb at the bottom of my site that says “all the information mentioned on this site is for educational purposes…so, don’t go and do something stupid, like break the law or your spleen, and come whining to me.”  Basically this is my way of saying that I do not endorse or encourage folks to take actions that would cause harm to themselves, their families, their friends, or to me, or my family, or my friends, etc.

There are, of course, several methods of masking or hiding your information while you surf the great ether.  Things like a proxy server, vpn, etc.  These can serve as a very practical method of keeping your identity from being stolen, or keeping the Feds off your doorstep.  Torrents are not exactly invulnerable themselves, however using tools like Tor (The Onion Router) coupled with Privoxy are quick and easy ways to avoid most of the issues.

The torrent files themselves (*.torrent) have been masked inside sound files, image files, QR code, etc.  There are a lot of great ways of hiding files inside of other files, however most of these methods aren’t for the average Joe User.

An old school classic is file fusion.

On Linux:

 cat picture.jpg file.torrent > result.jpg

On Windows:

 copy /b picture.jpg + file.torrent result.jpg

A simple tool for converting a standard *.torrent file into a *.png (portable network graphic) image file for distribution on blogs, forums, and photo sharing sites, hid.im is even gaining some recognition for bringing entry level steganography to the masses.  Regardless of the use of these methods and tools, I find not only the technology behind them, but the mere need for such a technology quite interesting.

The use of torrent files has become increasingly easy, in fact most major Linux distributions not only include built in torrent clients, but are spread themselves by the use of this BitTorrent protocol.  Searching for torrents hasn’t been easier, simply visit mininova to get started.  There are also loads of Firefox search engine plugins and such for ease of integration.

Enjoy what the net has to offer, and as always, feel free to comment or ask questions about any of the ideas shared in this post.