I’ve been a Linux user for a long time, eight years in fact. Now I’m not trying to toot my horn, I merely am pointing out that I’ve been around long enough to see a lot of changes and a number of flash-in-the-pan distributions come and go. Most of the time the short lived distributions were simply repackaged and re-branded versions of an existing Linux project like Red Hat or whatever and they were pretty easy to pick up. Everything looked and felt like a Red Hat system but this “new” distribution focused on a certain aspect. Mandrake Linux or Linux Mandrake as it might been more commonly called back then, was in fact based on Red Hat but with an experience more focused on KDE and ease of use. Today of course Mandrake is known as Mandriva and you can no longer say that it is simply a repackaged Red Hat (or Fedora) distribution.

Now like I said, I’ve been using Linux as a desktop or server OS since about 1999, probably longer than a lot of people. During that time I pretty much have used Red Hat (or Fedora Core) exclusively and I’ve grown accustomed to it’s inner workings. I don’t have to reference anything to know how to install packages, what packages are called, manage services, edit config files or what have you, it’s all just familiar territory. Much like walking around my house in the dark, there are no surprises anymore.

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Well I have the projector in my possession and now I’m working out how to setup a screen. Once in a while I’d bring home a projector from work and just project onto a white shade from our basement. I’d like to create a larger and more permanent screen rather than pull down the shade each time we want to use the projector. While the shade works, I’m limited in how wide I can go.

Over on avsforum.com I read about what they call BOC or black out cloth. It’s actually some cloth that goes behind drapes to cut out light. It has decent properties for acting as a projector screen, though it has hardly any gain and can dull up the image some. So far, despite what my wife thinks, I have minimal cash invested into my screen so far. I’d like to avoid having to buy a “real” screen because DIY is just more fun.

The problem I’m running into is that BOC doesn’t appear to roll up well, and I’d prefer being able to roll up the screen between uses. So it looks like I’ll need to create a rigid frame to put the BOC onto which is going to create a storage issue. I guess I should have thought of all this before I got the projector!

Continuing with today’s theme of software I like I wanted to post a bit about OpenVPN. OpenVPN is a cross platform (Windows, Linux, *BSD, Solaris and OSX) VPN available at http://openvpn.net/. Using OpenVPN you are able to connect a remote client or remote network to another network across the Internet with minimal firewall fuss. I use OpenVPN for various client to network and network to network style VPNs. I also use OpenVPN on my Linux server at home so my laptop can send and receive email from anywhere.

If you’re looking for a way to image the drive in your computer look no further than Snapshot. Snapshot is available at http://www.drivesnapshot.de/en/ and allows you to image your hard drive while the computer is running. Now I’ve used a number of backup solutions in my day and Snapshot ranks right up there as the best. Using Snapshot I have backed up and restored my laptop a number of times. Go ahead and click the link to read more about it. It costs about $49 USD.

I found this on Digg.com and it’s completely beyond me how people can be so clueless and still make comments. It’s people like this that create false fear, false assumptions and everything else that is dragging technology and fair use down.

While reading a debate on a ZDNet blog concerning Linux vs. Windows, this “interesting” character came along. I figured everyone could use a good chuckle and a reminder of some of the thinking we are up against. Enjoy.

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What self respecting geek wouldn’t like home automation products? X10, yea that company with the ridiculous pop-up ads all over the web about the “spy” cameras they sell, actually makes some neat stuff that is inexpensive (although some of it’s cheap too). These products allow you to, among other things, remotely control lights and appliances using X10 enabled modules. X10 is actually the name of a company but also the name of a communication protocol used by these devices to well…communicate. Today, there are a number of products that either compete or compliment the X10 products that have existed for years. I’ll get to those later.

I got my first taste of X10 products when I lived at home. We lived in a smaller house and there weren’t quite enough bedrooms for everyone. I decided it was time for me to create my own room and that’s what I did. I converted our old toy room into my bedroom. The problem, there was no way for me to control the lights in the downstairs area once I was down there. After a bit of research, I found a couple of products at a local Radio Shack that would allow me to remotely control the basement lights from my new room. The products allowed me not only to remote turn off and on the lights, but also dim them, something we couldn’t do before.

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Here’s something I don’t like but I see it everywhere. Widescreen TV’s (particularly flat panels) that stretch 4:3 content so the aspect ratio is off. I understand people want to “get the most out of their set” but it’s funny to me they picked up a nice hi-def TV only to display standard def content at an incorrect aspect ratio. One wonders if they got the TV for their improved picture quality or status.