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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Remote Desktop

Microsoft users know of a great tool called "Remote Desktop" which allows a user sitting at home to control another computer at some "remote location". You get to see the entire desktop, issue keyboard level commands, move the mouse - just like if you were sitting in front of that computer.

Ubuntu is no different. In fact, you can control either a Linux based machine or a Windows based machine from Ubuntu. You only need to have network access to the computer you want to control which can either be via your local area network or over the internet. You also need to know the "host name" or the IP address of the computer you are connecting to. Google around and you'll find tons of articles on static IP addresses, remote desktop, remote control, DyneDNS, etc...the tools of remote connections.

So, assuming you know all this, just open a terminal in Ubuntu and type "rdesktop" followed by either the hostname of the remote computer or its IP address. Something like this, "rdesktop" for a local area network connection" or "rdesktop" for an internet connection. You can make the remote desktop screen completely fill the screen on your monitor by adding "f" in the command line text like this "rdesktop -f" where the "-f" means "full screen".

Give this a try. You'll be impressed.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

It's In The Repositories! - Installing Programs In Linux

It's In The Repositories!
Remember how to install something in Windows? Sure, you just find that convenient executable file and execute it. So, for a program like MS Office, you would either download the entire program or insert the disc in the drive, find the "install.exe" or "setup.exe" file and double-click it. The installer launches and steps you through the setup and installation of your program. This is pretty straight forward and kudos to Microsoft for making it so easy.

It is not just MS Office that installs in this manner but all Windows programs are installed this way. In my opinion, the only downside to this method is that it does not provide a method of automatic updates for programs installed using the "setup.exe" method. Why do you care? Well, let's say you just installed Java on your Windows machine so you can watch the latest YouTube videos and the next day Adobe (who owns Java) release a critical security update to the software because some hacker discovered a flaw that allows him to take over your machine. Adobe released the patch on their website for all to install but who is going to know about it? Are you going back to Adobe's website on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis to check for security updates? No! Does the Java program you installed automatically update itself or at least notify you that there is an update? No! Then how will you know? You will not. And that is where Linux and Linux Repositories are different.

Remember, Linux is Open Source which means most if not all of the software you want to use is free. Ubuntu maintains its own repositories which is nothing more than a place where all the free software is kept, in an orderly fashion, for you to download. Think of it as a shopping mall full of free software. To install it, you use a program manager like Ubuntu's Synaptic to search the repository, select the program, then install it. The greatest advantage this method has over "setup.exe" is that all the programs you get from the repositories check back with the repository every day to see if there is an update. If so, you get notified.

Back to our Java scenario. So, you have used Synaptic program manager to install Java from a repository. The next day, Adobe rolls out that critical security update which finds its way to the Java program stored in the repository. The masters at Ubuntu update the repository with the Java update. Now, when you boot your Ubuntu machine up (or other Linux variation) the program manager on your machine looks back at the repository and detects the update and, in turn, either downloads it automatically for you or notifies you that an update is available.

This is the great and powerful advantage that using the repositories has. Not only does your operating system receive it's updates from the repositories but EACH INDIVIDUAL PROGRAM you install on your machine does to. We all get Windows operating system updates automatically but those are only for the operating system. Not for your individual programs. Advantage - Linux!

Go Here to learn more about Ubuntu's repositories.

Long Live Linux.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Why Not Just Use Windows?

Well, you can! There is nothing stopping you from using Windows except the upfront cost of doing so. You might say to yourself, "Well, Windows was free. It came with my computer." It did come with your new computer but it definitely was not free. You paid for it. The cost was wrapped up in the total cost of the machine which makes it transparent to most of us until something bad happens.

Take for instance - a hard drive crash! If it has not happened to you yet, do not worry because it will. So, I had a Compaq desktop with Windows XP installed. It came that way fresh from Radio Shack (yes, Radio Shack). I had that computer for about three years before the hard drive crashed. It crashed "Big Time" which meant that none of the data was recoverable and I had to buy a brand new drive. Did you know that hard drives do not come with Windows installed? Well, they don't.

I told the guy at the computer shop that I had a Windows XP disc which came with my machine so I thought there would be no need for me to pay for another Windows XP program since I had already paid for the one that shipped with my computer. If only it were that easy! I installed the disc and it prompted me for a license key and gave me a convenient telephone number to Microsoft to call. So I called it and things just got worse from there.

Turns out that the computer shipped with what is known as an "OEM Copy" of Windows XP. It is a "Special" version of XP that Compaq installed on my machine which supposedly is customized for that particular machine. Okay – what ever that means. Microsoft told me that only Compaq could send me a new OEM copy and provided me a phone number to call Compaq. I started to get that "About To Get Screwed" feeling.

I called Compaq who promptly told me that my computer is out of warranty so they can not provide me another OEM Windows XP disc for free but I could easily purchase one for $175.00. What!? I argued that I had already purchased a copy of Windows because it was included with my machine. Why should I have to purchase another copy? I hung up, mad, and called Microsoft back. I requested a quote for a new version of XP thinking to myself that if I'm going to have to buy another copy I had might as well get the XP Professional version. $325.00!!!

So, to say the least - I was mad! I had been duped out of money for an operating system that I had already purchased once before but, because of a hard drive failure and an expired warranty, I had to purchase it again. This event is what spurred my interest in all things open source - i.e. Linux.

I now run Ubuntu 8.04 on that same machine that is now eleven years old. I get free software, free updates, and I'm free to modify any of the programs in any way I want (although I can't because I'm not a programmer but it is nice knowing that I could do it anyway). If my hard drive crashes again, I'll just download another free copy of Ubuntu and keep right on rolling. For Free!

Long Live Linux.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Learning The Shell - One More Thing

Don't sweat learning every command that can be used in the shell prompt. Just become familiar with the fact that the shell is there and it is a powerful tool that you will need to use from time to time. You'll learn the commands as you need and use them.


Friday, March 28, 2008

Learning The Shell

Okay, you've installed your Linux OS of choice (Kubuntu, Kubuntu, Kubuntu) and love the way it looks and operates. It's fast, looks cool, and has lots of cool programs on it. Now you are ready to venture out and install your own programs. You've probably noticed by now that Linux may look like Windows but it is definitely not the same. Just forget what you know about Windows for now and pretend you are looking at a computer for the first time. There...That's better.

You've also probably heard about "the shell". What the heck is shell? Why are all these people in the user forums talking about typing a command like "fdisk -l" in the shell? Where the heck is the shell? Where are they typing all this crap????? Ahhhhh!!!!!

Calm down. It's okay. Remember back in your Windows days where you could select Start, Run, then type "cmd" and a black screen would pop up (DOS)? Well, that is what the shell is in Linux. It's the window into your operating system without the nice GUI (Graphical User Interface) on top. There are a lot of Linux and DOS boxes running in this world without a GUI. It's all command line / shell interface. It's good for servers and such but not so good for creating office documents or spread sheets.

So...first things first. Learn about the shell because you will want to use it. Follow this link and read it from end to end. Bookmark it for future reference.

Finding your shell interface is quite easy but it depends on the version of Linux you are using. In Kubuntu, it is the black icon in the system tray at the bottom of the screen. You can also select "K" (the start button) then "Shell".



Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Data Dump Of All My Linux Knowledge

For no apparent reason, I decided to start playing with Linux on my desktop computer. I had Windows XP and was satisfied with it mainly because - well - that was all that I had ever used. I had heard that Linux was difficult to use, all command line, and limited GUI. None of those things attracted me. However, I had also heard that it was immune to the Windows viruses that pollute the internet and that it ran much faster on older machines, like mine, than did Windows. Now that did interest me so I dove in.

Chances are, if you are reading this blog, then you have already taken that plunge or you are about to. You then are a Linux Noob like me. I've been using Kubuntu for only a few months now so I still qualify as a Noob. Welcome to the club!

Why the blog? Well, as a Noob I am always learning so I decided to blog all the things that I discover in my Linux journey in a way to help other Noobs like me. I intend to post some of my favorite and most useful links because, eventually, you will need them. For example, one day you will want to network your Linux machine to a Windows machine. Do you know how? Or you may want to buy a printer for your Linux box - which ones are Linux friendly? What the heck is a sda1, hda1, sdb1, etc? I've been there. Done that.

So. Stay tuned. I'll slowly build this blog into something useful.