Linux is Hard!

Or is it just different?

People used to walk everywhere, which is pretty easy, right? Unless of course you can’t walk, but let’s not be too pedantic here. Eventually, most of us learned to drive or ride a motorbike. Is that inherently easy? Could ease ever be described as something that needs contrast to be so?

I’ve always said that Linux has a steep learning curve, or something to that effect. I appreciate that about Linux now. Yes, it can be a tough nut to crack, particularly when compared to the likes of Windows and Mac. I know it sucks when things don’t work, but guess what, they can get it wrong too.

It took me a while to realise this myself, but a heck of a lot of people go into Linux with Windows firmly in mind, expecting it to be Windows, however, it’s a totally different operating system; an entirely different platform! That’s like stepping into a car and expecting it to drive like a motorbike.

I watched a video recently of a guy raging because he couldn’t deal with Linux not working as he expected. I’m not going to spout nonsense about how Linux always works or something, because the truth is it can be a major PITA. That said, this comes to mind:

“You are like this cup; you are full of ideas. You come and ask for teaching, but your cup is full; I can’t put anything in. Before I can teach you, you’ll have to empty your cup.” – Master Ryutan.

Granted, you can’t really get a fair chance to mess with your cup if the thing doesn’t even work at all, which is why it took a while to get to the point at which I could learn all this stuff and get so involved with GNU/Linux, as some people insist on calling it.

Don’t get me wrong, I fully accept and understand that it’s not everyone’s idea of fun to fill your screen with virtual terminals and type out command after command. I know many people feel typing jargon is like going back to the days of MS-DOS, when such apparent gibberish meant you got something done.

Well, you still can get things done, and far more efficiently — why do you think the Linux command line has survived all this time, even in the age of such excessive hand-holding like the so-called “free” Windows 10? Your games and programs were created from lines and lines of code, or a program with a UI made from yet more lines and lines of code.

I loved Windows for years, but Windows 10 was the final straw. Ultimately, Micro$oft and Mac lock you down, but, provided it works on your hardware, then Linux will set you free. Is that always a good thing? No, as there are many opportunities to screw up if you overlook something, especially for a “power user” like me who loves to tinker and tweak.

I hope Linux will continue to mature and rise up to the challenge of appealing more to those whom refuse to use a terminal and want a more “user-friendly” environment. I want those things too — I’d love not to need the terminal for anything, and that’s coming from someone who loves it! I want the option not the necessity to use it.

Linux has achieved a lot, but there’s still quite the journey ahead for desktop users.

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Worried about Dust Bunnies?

The whole “dust bunny” thing is quite the exaggeration these days, in my experience and opinion. If you wanna see when dust bunnies really cause problems, you should’ve seen the ancient desktop computer I once battled! It had a terrible case design that limited airflow and took in junk for a long time.

The windows in the person’s cluttered home were never really opened. The guy—unfortunately in a wheelchair thus not quite as able—had a dog, and he smoked a lot, both weed and cigarettes. The vents were almost completely blocked by junk. The heatsinks? Utterly caked. The computer hadn’t been opened up in years.

He wanted me to clean the machine out, so I started to do just that. I honestly had such a hard time because of the disgusting smell and dust that initially went straight into my lungs, that I quit! Never again.

When you’re dragging out huge, thick lumps of crap that make you feel as though you’re emptying a vacuume cleaner as opposed to a computer, then you have a problem on your hands.

Once you experience that, you don’t care too much about a few bits of dust.

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Andy – Your Virtual Android Device

I don’t usually give my impressions on a random piece of software I found, but I’ve been hooked to this program since I installed it 2 days ago, so I think an exception can be made here. Let’s nerd up and geek it out.

Andy. So what is it? Well, it’s an Android emulator that I believe rivals Blue Stacks, another Android emulator. However, many—myself included—find Andy to be massively superior, both in features and performance, while remaining entirely free and true to the Android experience.

If you wish to quit reading and get to installing Andy, simply click here. Otherwise, continue through the page to read what else I have to say about this fantastic piece of software.

“Andy breaks down the barrier between desktop and mobile computing, while keeping a user up to date with the latest Android OS feature upgrades. It also provides users with unlimited storage capacity, PC and Mac compatibility, and the freedom to play the most popular mobile games on a desktop, Yes you can now run Android on windows.”taken from andyroid’s official home page.

So, there you have it. There’s more, though.

I expected the software to be absolutely full of bugs, but actually I believe I’ve only really discovered one so far, and that is the inability to set down some widgets on the home screen, which is frustrating, but not a game changer for me. If you rely heavily on widget use, then perhaps this won’t currently be the emulator for you.

I’m currently listening to Heart at 101.7 and all from my computer, presumably without an ariel, so I guess it’s effectively Internet radio. I’m using Radioplayer, an Android app found on the Play Store—yes, you can indeed you your Google accounts as you would with your regular device!

I chose to create my own Google account to be safe and to keep my phone and Andy entirely separate. I did run into an issue initially whereby I couldn’t get the first account I made to authenticate but I created a new account which ended up working.

I’ve had issues with Skype for the PC, so I uninstalled it, and then installed Skype on the virtual, high-spec tablet, which just so happened to have solved all those Skype issues I had on the desktop—score.

I’m finding that games are definitely awesome, with a nice big screen and a really good level of performance, but your mileage may vary, as it will of course depend on your computer’s specifications. I’ve been playing games like Bethesda’s Fallout Shelter and Supercell’s Clash of Clans without issue.

I ran into problems with the controls on a shooter, Dead Trigger 2 by MADFINGER Games, requiring two thumbs on a screen for optimal movement, but I believe this can somehow be resolved, according to the official Andyroid website, by using your phone as a “remote control when playing games.”

“If you have an Android device running Android 2.2 and up you can control Andy with your phone. This let’s you take advantage of multitouch, gyroscope, accelerometer,
location and other various sensors to control your games and apps in Andy.” – Taken from the FAQ page on Andyroid’s official website.

You can actually backup your Andy tablet and create various tablets, or even have profiles for different Andy users on your computer. It’s not just about you anymore! This software is ideal for developers and for those who don’t own an Android device but still wish to check it all out.

Sadly, by default, I’m only on Android version 4.2.2, the “sweeter tasting Jelly Bean.” While I don’t have any real issue with this, it would be nice to try the latest editions of Android, but I’m sure Andy will be updated eventually.

It is fairly easy to exchange files between Andy and Windows. By going to %userprofile%\Andy\ and dropping in files there, you can easily pick those up within Andy. As I discovered, this is especially important when it comes to using apps like Skype to send images to your friends and family.

Oh, and yes, you can even use WhatsApp. Apparently all you need to do is install it as normal from the Play Store, “select the phone call authentication and enter your mobile number,” then you just jot down the code you’re given.

Andy can make use of your XBOX 360 wired controller (potentially others), your webcam, and your PC’s microphone too. I have had no issues using these devices, other than finding the controller to be entirely unlike how you would expect it to be on Windows.

Andy can rotate the screen with the click of a button outside of the main screen; this allows you full use of those apps which function only in either portrait or landscape. I’ve used this in the menus, on games, and regular apps without any problems.

To conclude, Andy is a brilliant, effective program for those looking to emulate an Android device on your PC without the need to hand over your hard-earned cash.

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Storage Devices Over the Years

I feel all nostalgic, looking back at how storage has evolved over the years, since I first started using computers in a none-educational capacity, back in the ’90s.

I have memories of the 8-inch, 5¼-inch, and 3½-inch floppy disks. I have memories of DAT tapes via an Amstrad, loading up screeching data for a very BASIC application. I recall buying what was possibly my first pendrive from PC World, for around £20, which rather unremarkedly earned me 128MB of storage. I remember buying CD and DVD writable discs, then rewritable discs. I remember just a few years ago—perhaps more than just a few—I bought a Hitachi external HDD, 500GB, for £60 from Argos.

We have so many ways to save our data. I reflect on all of this because I recently acquired an SSD, at long last, with its blazingly fast speeds, I’m reminded of the IDE cables – do you remember buying or salvaging a better cable in order to get better speed from your old IDE HDD? Those were the days. Fiddling around with master and slave, as though we were playing dominatrix to our old, mechanical platters.

I remember moving from IDE to SATA, stubbornly typing it as S-ATA, because that’s what so many magazines and online sources were doing – I was determined to type it how I wanted! Here I am, typing it like the rest of us, because most of us realised the hyphen is completely unnecessary. SATA was revolutionary. Not only has SATA given us more power-efficient devices, better cable management, and faster speeds, but they’ve done away with the bedroom master-slave business and allowed us to just simply plug it in and away you go – fantastic!

Now, here we are, the Dawn of the SSD, despite their existance—n some form or another—for quite a while, they have been more widely commercially available to the general Joe Bloggs since approximately 2002, around the time NAS flash SSDs transferred to our computers. I see SSDs now, and, probably like many others, I see them as the future. I think HDDs will gradually be eliminated. I see no way to properly obtain the speeds required for a lot of today’s computing with an old technology that is only so upgradeable. The fact is, the mechanical drive has moving parts, and this slows down file access. SSDs, however, as we all know, “have no moving parts,” as they are so often applauded.

It’s not just the performance of drives and their physical size, but also the size on the disk itself, or disc, if you consider the optical media. Back in the late ’90s, I had an old Windows 95 machine with, I believe, a 2GB PATA HDD and an old, slow cable. Honestly, the years and modern technology have not done well for my memory of the old wires I would use – I remember scrapping old computers for cables and amassing a rather big pile of junk.

We have cards, too—there doesn’t seem to be an end to the way in which we Ctrl + S our data. There’s MMC, SMC, SD, MicroSD, and many more. Our phones, our tablets, our cameras, and who knows what else often have little cards in them storing so much data; this makes me think on the physical size of the storage devices we now have. Look at the change from clunky HDD to a tiny, thin little card, and the card is now capable of more than that 2GB HDD I had when I was a kid! Astonishing.

To paraphrase a news headline by Extreme Tech: “Western Digital unveils the world’s first 10TB HDD,” apparently. Hell, back when I had a RISC computer, I believe I was looking merely at MB, rather than TB! How long before we’re toting 1mm Exabyte memory cards for our insanely high-pixel pictures and videos taken by our microscopic cameras? When exactly will we be satisfied?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m super impressed with technology and how it has developed, but, I have to say, I’m a little intimidated by the speed and furosity at which technology is blasting ahead, stopping at nothing to bedazzle and bemuse the consumer, bringing in the big bucks.

Oh well, save as.

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