Sunday, December 30, 2007

Narcoleptic? Here, snort this.

I came across the following Wired article, Snorting a Brain Chemical Could Replace Sleep (

They have develop a "sleep replacement drug". They haven't been able to determine - yet - if it fully combats the long list of other ailments caused by lack of sleep. What they have determined though, is that by having a patient snort some of this hormone which is naturally-occurring in our brains, the patient is then able to continue normal performance in brain processes. It is new and different, it is not a stimulant.

It sounds impossible that a hormone can completely negate ones need to sleep. Is producing this chemical the only thing sleep does for us? Surely there is more to it than that? When you are asleep, you are giving your whole body a rest. I don't know enough about medicine or physiology to fully understand this.

The article cites that the US military administers amphetamines to pilots flying long missions. This makes sense as,

"One complete night of sleep deprivation is as impairing in simulated driving tests as a legally intoxicating blood-alcohol level."" (From

I can't imagine how much more focus and constant thought is required to fly any sort of aircraft compared to just staying in your lane and not missing any red lights. Having said that, I certainly would support this assuming the pilots aren't forced to... which they probably are, anyway. Maybe it's for the best, who knows.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Skype, does it deserve the hype?

Last month I went over on my cell phone plan and ended up being charged $49 for a single 122 minute call. I started thinking of ways to save myself peak time minutes, so I checked out the calling plans over at Skype. I'm not new to Skype, I've used it to talk to distant relatives for years. I've only used the PC-->PC feature, which is entirely free.

Anyway, I sprung for Skype Pro and the Skype-In number. Together I believe it was about $5 a month to have an additional phone number, voice mail, and unlimited calling to the continental US. I kind of assumed that my number would show up on the recipient's Caller-ID but it turns out this isn't a feature available in the US. Rumor has it, if Skype provides Caller-ID on out-calls, it has to then provide E-911 (emergency) service.

So is this VOIP service neutered just enough to where the regulatory agencies don't require it? How about letting people think for themselves. Skype probably should give us E-911 service, but I really don't care. I just want it to stop showing up as "UNAVAILABLE" when I call someone. Hmph.

On the other hand, I did a conference call (aka party line) yesterday which was awesome. I had 6 of my friends on at once, and it didn't cost me anything. Skype has some awesome, lovable qualities (such as versions of the program for several types of Linux).

Overall, I'd have to give Skype four out of five stars. It does seem very reliable, and calls drop much less frequently than what I've experienced on cell phones. Sound quality is good. The huge conferencing abilities are awesome. The voicemail is great (too bad you can't check it from another phone line though).

Sunday, December 16, 2007

There Emerges Another Champion (^_^)

Hello World.

So my $500 Compaq notebook which came with Vista, was (no surprise) pretty sluggish clocking in at only 512MB RAM. The computer came with no Vista cd, so if I format my drive, that's it for Vista. I tried the Freespire live cd to check compatability before installing and could not get the sound to work.

Then I popped in Linux Mint, which was just really glitchy on my desktop and I had previously decided it was no good. Using the Linux Mint Live cd, I tested everything. All the devices worked, I had instant video playback abilities at you-tube, Google Video, Stage6, and (yay for Dexter previews!).

It was about the same speed on the Live cd as Vista was running from the hard drive. I clicked "Install" and about 20 minutes later, booted right into my now all-Linux notebook. It was my first time doing so, but setting up network shared folders was a breeze. As easy, if not more so than XP.

Being an Ubuntu derivative, Linux Mint may have this in common with its parents, but I found a very satisfying and thorough set of power management options which were easy and intuitive to configure. I haven't tried WiFi on it yet, but it would be surprising to me at this point for something not to work with these beautiful, user-friendly distros I've been seeing lately.

It does make perfect sense that some setups will be more prone to compatability issues with particular distributions. That's what HCLs and live cd's are there for. It is not very surprising that Linux Mint is awesome on my notebook; deep down, I knew that it was like that on a lot of other machines, from what I'd heard. I am very satisfied with these two spin-offs of Ubuntu.

It would seem they have come a long way in the past 6 months. I had accidentally (lol) burned a copy that was about 8 months old and virtually nothing worked. I figured out what had happened and put 2.0.3 back on, and it's been smooth sailing since.

I've got all my favorite Linux apps set up on the notebook, and am absolutely loving my FreeSpire/Linux Mint smorgasbord of (so far) very stable and powerful applications.

And really, the only thing I can say about why some people would want to stay away from Linux, at least for now -- Gaming is not one of Linux's strong-suits. With the hundreds of various distributions of Linux, this must create some issues with developing games for the Linux PC. I suppose they could pick a couple of the more popular distros and support those, but even that I would imagine, would be very expensive considering how few people would actually be purchasing these games.

You could always have a dual-boot setup, and just load up Windows when you need to do some gaming. These distributions have had zero issues reading my NTFS (Windows) partition, so in a dual boot setup, you wouldn't have trouble accessing your media you have on your windows drive.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Linux FTW?

Over the years, I have given Linux a try as a Windows desktop replacement. My first attempt was in 1997, when I saved the install files on ~45 1.44MB floppies and lost way too many hours of sleep on school nights trying to get it running. My awesome 16 MB (or was it 8?) Voodoo video card wasn't supported by the distribution that I had. This meant I couldn't get a GUI going and was forced to run in command-line only.

I was a nerd who played a MUD when I wasn't installing ridiculously confusing operating systems I downloaded on my 28kb modem. These were (still are, I suppose) text-based multiplayer role-playing games. If you are familiar with WoW, it was like that, but all text. You'd have to, in real-time, type in stuff like "headbutt wyvern". It was pretty damn nerdy. Though, it did forever increase my typing speed dramatically.

I really only used Linux to be "cool" by not having Windows like the "lamers" (Jesus). That, and I made very bad use of winnuke.c to screw with my friends. The things we did as children... I remember the power went out once and this caused the entire hard drive to be corrupted. Yes. That's right. So I'd had enough of that bullshit for a while.

So after coming to the conclusion that I couldn't look at porn in Linux, and I didn't have enough hard drive space to even consider a dual boot setup, I went back to Windows. That was 1997. I'd say just about every 2-3 years since, I've given it another shot. I tried Fedora in 2005 and was really only discouraged by how difficult of a time I was having installing divx/xvid support. You can't have a desktop replacement and only be able to watch one out of every few videos you come across online.

I decided to give the latest version of Fedora another try last week. Same situation. Try as I might, I couldn't get decent divx/xvid playback. I might get just audio. Or no audio and just video. Or I got nothing at all. Or I got a really small version that I couldn't resize... which I had to launch from the command line. "mplayer /mnt/hda3/tv/sample 1x01.avi -some options" was way too complicated.

So, I began searching for multimedia friendly distros. I downloaded 3 that were supposed to be pretty good: Freespire, Linux Mint, and Ubuntu.

I installed Freespire in under 20 minutes (super fast!) and it did everything I needed right out of the "box". I was pretty amazed. It took me a while to get my correct sound card to work (probably should have disabled the on board in the BIOS, but anyway) but now I can watch any videos I have on my windows partition, as well as download and watch everything from youtube stuff to free high quality tv episodes on the major network sites. Pretty sweet!

"But this is almost too easy!" I said to myself. Since I had already burned Linux Mint, and Ubuntu, I decided to also install Linux Mint. I spent about 3 hours (lots of random, typical Linux problems) before getting into a Desktop that didn't immediately crash and that would play videos. The GUI was pretty snazzy, but not necessarily better. I thought Freespire's was lacking in variety, but Jesus Christ. Linux Mint only had 98 total programs you could download using their special packaging software... Surely you can manually install stuff on either of these distributions but I'll take the somewhat out of date over what I witnessed in Linux Mint any day.

I still haven't put Ubuntu on. I think I will tomorrow. And I think I'll use the Linux Mint partition. It was a nice attempt at being smooth like Freespire, but it had many shortcomings. I might try a future version, just in case they step up their game.

By the way, apparently no one up here (Seattle) says "Bomby" when referring to delicious food. Where I'm from (California - Central Coast represent!) it is common, at least among everyone I know.

Whatever, that's all you get today!