Friday, 23 February 2007

Top Gear meets space travel

Well, my most favorite, and really only TV show that I watch religiously, Top Gear, has made the transition to space travel. Thats right. All those other tests and trials of cars were just a lead up to the real endurance test for a car. Space Flight.

Yes that is right, they modified a Reliant Robin car to make a shuttle then blasted it into space, well almost anyway. I can't wait to see the episode where this happens!

For all those who have never seen Top Gear, make sure you tune in. SBS at 7:30pm on Monday nights. Essential Viewing!!!!

Friday, 16 February 2007

The last to get cool things

Australia really does seem like the very last place on the distribution chain for everything.
Some products like mobile phones, and other electronic gadgets make their way from asia through europe and then finally to Australia.

The distribution of products that are released in the USA first include movies, tv shows, and my favourite:

Now why has nobody thought of this before!

Note: May be choking hazard for small children.

Thursday, 15 February 2007

Ubuntu and Instant Messaging

Ubuntu does have some downfalls, but they are usually quickly rectified by the solid community surrounding linux.
One of these weaknesses includes instant messaging.

GAIM, the Gnome instant messenger that is supplied with Ubuntu, is at best terrible.
I don't think that the people designing GAIM have thought about what instant messaging entails.
As far as I can see, most connectivity is provided by GAIM, allowing a user to connect, message and send files to friends. But Instant messaging is a lot more than that. It should include a fully skinable interface (which no linux IM apps have) and include functionality for voice and video chat.

Kopete enter stage right.
The instant messenger from KDE, the sister desktop manager to Ubuntus Gnome, has a fully compatable instant messenger program called Kopete. Kopete has many more functions than GAIM, and allows you to activate most of the features that you are used to in an instant messenger.

GAIM 2.0 beta6 is available, but it still does not support themes. There seems to be little to no improvement in comparison with other programs on Ubuntu, which I think should change. I mean, I would be very willing to design some artwork if someone could show me where to put it to make GAIM look good.

But wait, there is more.
One of the possibilities in the near future is that the traditionally windows oriented IM Trillian could push into the bleak linux landscape with their soon to be released Trillian Astra. This could be in the form of a linux port, a windows emulation and transfer via WINE, or just make a web window allowing access to the web interface that they say will revolutionise instant messaging.

I think it might take some time to sort out this shortfall, but in my opinion I think that GAIM really should be retired as a graphical application, and sent to the back room as a process so that others can design a user interface around it.

Below is a simple comparison of the general quality of each program. Gaim, Kopete and finally Trillian Astra.

Beryl - More Bling than Steve Jobs

Ubuntu Linux is not the prettiest of operating systems. I mean sure, it has some nice neat themes, but when it comes to toolbars, windows and other graphical stuff, it really does not cut the cheese.
Along comes Beryl, no, not a 60 year old grandmother from Wagga Wagga, but a program that sits on top of linux that makes it pretty.
Beryl (and XGL windows manager) takes not all that long to set up, about 10 min, as long as you have the correct video drivers installed, and as soon as you restart, you have the most pretty and cool operating system around.
Steve Jobs eat your heart out. Macintosh computers have just been trumped with a bling package that beats both Vista and Apple Mac OSX hands down. And it is incredibly fast as well.
It uses the open graphics layer, made for linux to display some funky effects. Some of which I will outline below:

"Window Shading"
This is where you press F9 and get a tile view of what is going on. It allows you to click any of the programs that is open to switch to.

There are also some really cool animations of the windows falling onto this shade mode when it is activated. I am not sure that this will be incredibly useful unless you have a lot of windows open because Alt-Tab is a lot quicker, but it sure is fun.

"Transparency is the new black"

And not just the fixed transparency stuff. I mean instant graphically rendered transparency. Making windows transparent when you are moving or resizing them, giving shadows to those windows and being able to alter the transparency depending on what program is active or your mouse over.

"The Cube" is the invention of linux. All linux users love their multiple desktops, and this makes it just that little bit more pretty, placing the desktops on a rotating cube seems like just a silly graphics for the sake of graphics thing, but it actually allows you to conceptualise your workspace, just as you do on your desk. Your documents are in one part, your inbox in the corner, your phone on your right. Well this is the computer equivalent. Once you get used to it, you can't go back! There is also a desktop slider available if you don't like the cube. Sliding across a big desktop is fun also.

"Wobbly Windows" are a concept that is being tried in Windows Vista, and I have heard that you need incredible processing power to get them working properly. Under Ubuntu they work just fine on my laptop! Which has an AMD Sempron (like Celeron) processor (slow), and I have no problems getting them to work. It is a little bit annoying at first, but I am sure that we will get used to moving windows that move like liquid pretty quickly. There are also some pretty cool minimise and maximise effects like wobbly windows known as the genie bottle, Your windows shrink into the taskbar just like a genie.

Here are some other neat effects that are useful, that I will post screenshots of shortly:

This is incredibly useful for users of laptops or computers in a sunny environment, with glare on the screen it is very hard to read black writing on white background, so make it negative using Win-N or Win-M for either the window or the whole screen. Again, seems silly, but when I am sitting in the sun working on my laptop I will be happy.

You do not realise how distracting that start bar is, so make is fade to black. By pressing Win-P it makes the current window become the emphasis of your work by making everything else dark. Very handy for watching non-full screen movies, or just when you want to concentrate.

"Shadows and 3D"
Now everything is 3d, they cast shadows, and they look more like a workplace than just a place to keep your email. It is amazing how much just a little realistic shadow and perspective allows you to really focus on what is important.

Other non-useful effects - these can be turned off very easily.

When you close a program this little effect makes it look like the window burns away, smoke and all. You can even change the colour of the fire if you want.

"Sticky Edges"
You know how annoying it is to line up windows with the edges of other windows or the edge of the screen, but what happens when you have wobbly windows and sticky edges? I will tell you what, windows that get stuck! That you need to actually pull free in a jerk motion to allow you to move them.

Activating the rain feature on the computer makes raindrops fall all over your desktop while you are working. This is quite annoying (but still pretty) unless you are an interstate truck driver used to the rain in front of your workplace. Oh and it does come supplied with a winscreen wiper also.

I hope this summary of some of the more useful features of Beryl on Ubuntu is interesting for you to read, and I am sure there will be more to come, about the use and features of Ubuntu.

My Ubuntu Experience

There once was a man who had a dream of going into space. This mans name is Mark Shuttleworth. Yes, I know, but he did not get there on a shuttle, he got there via the Russian space agencys rockets, by paying his way.
After achieving his dream, Mark returned to earth determined to profoundly effect the world in a way that no other astronaut could. He decided to invest his money in a free alternative to the world most greedy organisation, Microsoft.
When he returned he created an organisation called Canonical, who's sole purpose is to support, distribute and provide tech support for users for this new free alternative to windows.

Ubuntu was born.

Ubuntu means "Humanity". The most recent demonstration of ubuntu was the release of Nelson Mandela from prison, who became president of South Africa and ended the racist apartheid.
A new story of ubuntu is born, allowing people from all over the world dowload, swap, copy, distribute and order cds for free. This has been happening in the past with other linux distributions, but ubuntu is special. Ubuntu is extremely easy to use, and getting new programs is a free 1 min job downloading over the internet from an add-remove programs menu setting.

I suggest you try Ubuntu for yourself, I can get you free cds, or you can download it yourself from
There are a few tricks to get it to work perfectly, but they are all covered on the homepage, including installation of video drivers and multimedia support. But if you have any trouble with this, just let me know, and I will help you out.

Just give it a go, because we all know that Windows Vista is not worth upgrading to, and there is the possibility of Vista breaking your music and videos with their agressive DRM system.
So try it now, before you have no other alternative but to move away from windows.

You will fall in love just as I did with what Mark has done.

This post will be followed by some of the useful things I have found while using Ubuntu.

Thursday, 8 February 2007


It is official, I am no longer going to be contacting people via myspace!
Facebook is my new addiction. Yes, facebook. For those who don't know what facebook is. It is a service (Like Myspace) to help you keep in touch with friends and their activities.
But unlike Myspace, Facebook works!
It does not allow people to stuff up their profile by "pimping it out", which is fantastic, and it has a whole lot more useful tools and features than any other service of it's kind.
It is mainly university based, but it still allows you to sign up without subscribing to an initial network (community or work group). But you will be all alone until you add some friends.
It allows you to connect and search in your groups and community, rather than finding someone called Jane Smith in Utah. You find your friend Jane Smith who is in one of your groups.
Anyway, sign up, it is free, and it is very easy to learn how to use.
Oh and did I mention it works, unlike myspace!