Tuesday, March 6, 2018

A month of Solus Linux

I've done it, that's right, I have spent a month using Solus on my laptop and my world didn't end. It's been a surprise for me, I started off with a negative view of it because of the Budgie desktop. I just or at least didn't like "traditional" app menus after spending years on Unity and GNOME Shell. I really do like the app grid look and feel, it just works for me, each to their own I guess. So when I had tried Ubuntu Budgie awhile back I had a negative reaction to it.

So what changed? This is the weird part for me but I think an interesting piece of desktop environment psychology. Previously to installing Solus, I had been running ChromiumOS on this laptop (actually ran very well). Chromes DE is very stylish but very simple and even though it doesn't quite have a traditional app menu, it is pretty close. I think in a way it got me used to the non Unity/GNOME Shell approach again. So this time around when I went back to try Solus with the Budgie desktop my brain kind of matched it with my ChromiumOS experience and it just kind of clicked with me. I also think running it on my laptop helped, it's just a different experience than a desktop, at least for me. I just found it interesting how I was able to switch around to liking the Budgie desktop through using ChromiumOS. It also turns out that the Budgie desktop is very lightweight, I'm running it on an older Lenovo Thinkpad T410 laptop with an Intel Core i5 CPU M 560 2.67Ghz using Intel HD graphics.

And onto the rest. Solus is a very clean Linux distribution with a lot of heart and dedication behind it. It shows, the little details shine through, the notification menu on the right of the screen which also includes sound controls and your calendar. It makes it quick and convenient to get to. Updates are simple and straightforward just select the recommended updates and click update. With Solus being a rolling release, you only need to install it once and never have to worry about installing it again. I know the thought of a rolling release turns some people off but I haven't had any issues with it so far. Steam and PlayonLinux are a sinch to set up and Solus will actually ask you if you want to install them during the initial installation. Of course all my favorite internet entertainment sites like Netflix, Amazon Prime and YouTube work just great, no issues with codecs or anything else.

Why are they bothering with yet another Linux distribution you might ask? Well, why not? Seriously, Solus will help push Linux forward just as much as all the distros before and after it. It will play its part and will add to the general knowledge of the greater community. Secondly, is the beauty of "GNU/Linux" not the freedom the create without constraint? Isn't that the reason we use it? Isn't that the point of "GNU/Linux" in the first place? If we don't like a Linux distribution we are free to create whatever kind of distribution we like, we can load it up with proprietary drivers and codecs or we can keep it completely libre. The choice is ours to make, that is what "Freedom" actually means. It does not mean "I better shut down my distro and contribute to another one because of peer pressure." That my friends is simple schoolyard bullying or a "Statist" attitude if you want to look at it from that angle.

The great thing about Solus being a rolling release is you will always or nearly always be on the latest software without the need to upgrade. The bad side of it being a rolling release is that once a year or so it doesn't get the "hype" factor of a major release. This can be an issue with marketing but is probably better for the end user. Not needing to worry about upgrading every year or six months in some cases is much easier to deal with in the long run. Not needing to reinstall your steam library or wine games is a big win for some people. From my experience as a Linux gamer, Solus is probably the leading distribution to go for right now. The whole idea of this distro is to make the Linux desktop experience as smooth as possible for the end user. Of course, this also means the dream desktop for the Solus developer's as well. Who doesn't want their own Linux distribution to rock?

Will I be switching from a decade of Ubuntu and Ubuntu based distros to Solus full time? That's a tough question, I will definitely be keeping Solus on my laptop for now. As far as my desktop goes, well, I'm thinking about it, it's not an easy thing to walk away from your comfort zone. I am getting more interested in a stable, reliable rolling release. Another factor is trust and confidence in the team, I have had that with Ubuntu for a long time but I also really like the attitude, positiveness and forward thinking pragmatic approach of the Solus team.

If you're interested in trying Solus you can find it here:

Thursday, November 10, 2016

In Memory Of James (Jim) Donovan

The following is the speech that was made at my Grandfather's funeral by my uncle John O'Donovan. I am posting it in honor of my Grandfather who passed away on the 27 of July 2002.

"When we go home,
 Tell them of us and say,
 For your tomorrow,
 We gave our today."

Good morning everybody,
On behalf of my family i would like to thank you all for joining us in mourning Jim's death and celebrating his life. In particular i would like to thank my father's old comrades and friends from the Royal British Legion who lent so much to last night's removal and this morning's ceremonies.
Events and fate shape a man's life and how he deals with life's difficulties and crises defines the man. It is worth for a few moments to reflect on my father's life so the young may realise how fortunate they are and maybe appreciate the sacrifices a previous generation made to ensure the freedom and comfort they enjoy today. It may also rekindle memories of shared experiences for his friends and contemporaries.
Like most O'Donovans my father's family came from West Cork, his grandfather sold a farm and moved to the city where he bought a haulage business which prospered for a good number of years until a weakness for the demon drink brought it to its knees.
My Grandfather moved to Liverpool where my father was born in 1919. He has an older brother, Jack, who lives in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, whose health did not permit him to travel over for the ceremonies, and a sister, Lucy, who died some years ago.
The family returned to Cork when my father was one. When he was three his mother died, when he was eleven his father died. He and his siblings were separated and sent to live with relatives who didn't really want them and from then on he really had to learn to fend for himself.
Aged 16, he went back to England on his own, probably without any money, to find work. He did and worked at various things until in early 1939, aged 19, he was called up to serve in the British Army. He was enlisted in the 1st Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment. His first posting was to North Africa in 1940 to confront the Italian Army in Libya and was part of the famous victory when 30,000 British under General Richard O'Connor defeated a much larger Italian force before Rommel arrived on the scene to upset the applecart for a while. His brother also served in North Africa and was in Tobruk during the siege of that city.
From North Africa my father's regiment was sent to Greece, and when the Germans overran the country he was evacuated off a beach in Crete to The Kelly, which was Lord Mountbatten's flagship. He then survived the sinking of The Kelly after it was attacked and sunk by Stuka dive bombers.
From there it was a case of out of the frying pan into the fire. His regiment was sent to the Far East to counter the Japanese threat in late 1943 and he became part of an elite British Force, nicknamed the Chindits, who were dropped behind enemy lines of communication. The forerunners of today's Special Forces, they experienced severe hardship, fending for themselves and living off what they could scavenge for months on end. They were named after the Chinthe, a mythical Burmese beast that was half-lion and half-eagle.
My father was always reluctant to talk about the war but one thing he did say always stuck in my mind. Close to starvation, and living on nerves and wits in the Burma Jungle, he made a promise to himself that if he ever got out alive he would never go hungry again. He kept that promise and come what may he always provided for his wife and family. He cherished his Burma star above all his war medals and was one of only a handful of Irishmen to earn one. He later served in India and Palestine before being demobbed in late 1945.
He worked in Fords in Leamington Spa for three years after the war before returning to Ireland to join the Eagle Printing Company where he saw out his working life until the company closed in 1981.
My father was an outstanding footballer, capable of playing at the highest level had the war not intervened. He played for his Corps on many occasions and had the distinction of playing for the Army against the Royal Air force in Wembley. In these days of pampered and extravagantly paid footballers it is worth noting that he walked into Wembley for that match with his boots wrapped in newspaper.
He had a superb left foot which regrettably skipped my generation but thankfully has been passed onto his grandson Alex and his two great-grandsons Alan and Gavin."

By John O'Donovan

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Thoughts on Virtual Reality

Having an interesting conversation here about VR. Here are my feelings about it.

Yes I might be a grumpy old bastard but I have great hope for VR. It has a lot more potential than just gaming which everyone is focusing on. We appear to be living in a society now that demands instant gratification, we want everything now and if it's not perfect it's a failure. Or even worse, misery and scandal sell advertising so I'm going to create a click bait negative headline to get hits.  Sorry but that is a bullshit attitude.

I'm sure there are a lot of you that remember the days of the Amiga, Atari, C64 and so on, loading software from tapes?  Blowing on tapes, tapping discs on the table, repairing your own cables? Having the patients to figure things out? Yes, we got frustrated and lost it at times, who wouldn't? But imagine if instead of having imagination and a little vision, we'd said "Fuck these computer things, they don't even work half the time!". Where would we be now?

I have Google cardboard first gen. The first app I got was the official Google Cardboard one. It includes a demo called 'Windy Day' which has this very simple (light on the hardware) but very beautiful animation style, kind of like paper animation, simple but effective. If you haven't seen it try it out.

It might not be super realistic but if you're expecting hyper realistic VR you'll be wait several years or decades. It could however be very effective for story telling. Imagine a history lesson in school being told in this style instead of a boring lecture, it would bring the classroom to life. I think it would be much more effective than standard education. It's far more engaging and interactive than some dude at the top of the class saying "Bueller, Bueller, Bueller...?". It would allow teachers to express themselves and get their point across so much more effectively.

Film is another area that is going to take off with VR headsets. Why go to the cinema when you can watch the latest movie with a VR headset and it will look like the biggest screen you've ever seen in your life? No annoying idiots making noise or jumping up in front of you, sounds great to me. Story telling and the arts will thrive with virtual reality, interactive art shows. Theatre will be brought to life like never before, fully interactive story telling, you'll feel like you're in the story with the characters.

The conversation is on going but I just wanted to impose my thoughts on you all. Virtual Reality is something I've been excited about for a very long time.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A dull world without Linux

As a kid in the early 80s I remember walking through Eason & Sons and seeing all the new computers, the BBC, Acorn, Amstrad, Atari, C64, ZX81 and of course the unforgettable Speccy. There was so much variety, so much excitement and countless debates over which one was better and why. Each one had a personality of its own, a character that you were drawn towards when deciding which one you'd nag your parents to get. The choice was incredible.

Then the 90s hit and things started to get whittled down. Apple were giants but very expensive and still not really for regular family use and IBM compatibles were for business not fun. On the home front we still had the C64, C128, the Speccy was on its last legs but still clinging onto life. The real debate though in my latter years of secondary school was Atari vs Amiga. Then the mid 90s hit and it all ended, Win 95 was released. To most home users it was exciting, new, fresh and promised a future of entertainment, a gamers dream. A lot of us jumped on the band wagon and it was fun for awhile. 

A few years past as did the giants, Atari and Amiga seemed like they were from a different age. Most home computers were the same now, we had achieved uniformity on the desktop. Everything was now compatible, didn't matter if you bought a Dell, Gateway or Compaq, they were all the same, all ran Windows.

By the mid 2000s I hadn't felt excited about my desktop environment for years, it was just this thing that I used to work and play games. I was excited about hardware, graphics cards and so on but the DE was dead. We had lost that magic the 70s and 80s had created, the feeling of awe was gone.

Then in 2008 a friend of mine in Chicago asked me if I'd ever tried Linux, in fact he said "You should try Linux, I think it would suit your political views." He recommended Ubuntu but I was quickly turned off by the color brown, I'm very visual and color has a big effect on me. The brown as Ubuntu was themed at the time turned me off. After that I found Opensuse and the dark green just leaped off the screen at me, I loved it. I had finally discovered Linux and the world of my childhood was once again in front of me. I had choice again, it was like discovering magic, multiple different desktop environments, countless debates over which one was better. I hadn't felt that excitement about computers since that first walk through Eason & Sons all those years earlier. No going back now, the Linux world has become a passion.

Thank you to everyone involved in the Linux world for all you have done over the past 24 years. Long may it continue.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Demeter's Brew

We have a success!

Seven months in the making for this one but tonight we opened the first two bottles of the Demeter's Brew, a harvest ale we brewed last winter. Nerve racking stuff considering the effort and wait involved but well worth it in the end.
To say it's nice is an understatement, it has a rich caramel malt taste with a sweet grainy finish. Very pleasant on the palate. So far our home brewing has been about 50/50 with success but the few successes we've had have been worth it. I love rich malty beers and of course honey ales are a must for the winter and the holidays.
Now that the weather is cooling off it will be time to brew again and Demeter's Brew will definitely be one worth thinking about. +Linda Dean and myself are very happy with this brew and as usual are enjoying a glass as I type. Happy brewing all!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

AHS English Honey Bitter

Given the fact that it has been far too long since my last post and the fact that we just brewed our first beer in over a year I just felt that I had to make this post. The AHS (Austin Homebrew Supply) English Honey Bitter was sitting around in a press for quite sometime. Up until a little over a year ago we had been home brewing some very nice beers, but then something happened. We had two soured beers in a row and it kind of unnerved us a bit so we took a break from home brewing and concentrated on reviewing and trying various different craft beers over the past year.

Well about a month ago we got the itch to brew some beer again (watching the Hobbit may have helped). So we got to work on the English Honey Bitter kit we had bought from AHS the year before. It was kind of nerve racking, we definitely didn't want this batch to fail again so we redecorated the entire kitchen with new paint and new flooring (helped by +GIEnterprises Oregon ) then made sure the equipment was sanitized and ready for the brew. The main difference this time is that we had purchased two Beer Boxes from Northern Brewer. We were hoping because we wouldn't be dealing with 40 - 50 bottles that we'd be cutting down on the risk of infection and soured beer.

Tonight, nearly four weeks later we got to try our English Honey Bitter out of our new beer boxes for the first time. Glasses in hand, phone recording video and nerves on edge, we set about pouring the first glass. It had been a success, we were back brewing again and it tasted great. In fact I'm enjoying a glass as I type this post. I have said on multiple occasions how much of a fan of Middle-earth I am and how much it pains me not to be able to run around Lotro natively on my beloved Linux desktop. +Linda Dean and myself have also spoken at length over the years about what real Middle-earth ales would taste like if they were real. Well tonight I think we really came close to finding out, this English Honey Bitter from AHS is in my mind, about as close as you could get to sitting in the Green Dragon Inn in Bywater, enjoying a pipe by the flickering fire and listening to tall tales from across the river. So with glass in hand and the soundtrack to Lotro playing in my ears, I say, cheers! Have a great night all!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Nothing like a leg of lamb

In all the universe and all the worlds there is nothing quite like a roast leg of lamb. The tenderness and juiciness of the meat, the flavour and texture. Roast leg of lamb will beat roast beef any day of the week in my humble opinion. This week we cooked arguably one of the best pieces of lamb I have ever had. This was a cut from the whole lamb we bought a couple of months back from a local farm here in Oregon.
You would not believe how tender this meat really is. It can make roast beef taste like an old shoemakers boot. We covered the roast in garlic and herbs before roasting to give it that extra flavour and it paid off.
I really enjoy photographing food, especially roasts, they have an ability to make you instantly hungry, to make your mouth water in anticipation of the coming meal.
Even though I've said it before I'm really stunned that lamb is not more popular here in the USA. It would seem to me that it is easier to produce than beef and probably less harmful to the environment.
Served with white scallop squash and garlic along with mashed potatoes. If I was back home I'd probably add some Bisto gravy to the mix, however, we are currently out. We will order more in the future though (can't do without a bit of Bisto).

As always, if you haven't tried lamb you should give it a go. Try getting it from a local producer if possible as it will always be better. If you can't get it from a local producer then I'd recommend New Zealand or Irish lamb as an alternative. Both countries produce fantastic lamb and you won't regret buying it. If you need recipes try Google or drop +Linda Dean a note.