5 Reasons Linux Might Be For You

Linux Distros

Linux. No, it’s not a character from Peanuts. It sort of sounds like a sneeze when pronounced forcefully and quickly. Whatever your ideas about it, it’s probably not what you think.

For many years, Linux has been the computer operating system most associated with the nerd culture. Since 2000, Linux has run a distant third behind Windows and Mac OS. No one really wanted to mess with it for several reasons, like:

  • I don’t understand it.
  • It’s too hard to use with all that command line stuff.
  • I don’t know how to install it.
  • I don’t even know where to get it.
  • I don’t know which one to get.
  • I don’t want to loose my software.
  • Why? What I have works fine.

For the most part, all of these would have been valid arguments. I would argue that they are valid no longer. As time marches on, the open source community of Linux programmers have done a valiant job of making Linux approachable by the common man. Not only approachable, but easy to use and fun. After a small learning curve, I would argue that Linux is just as good as any other operating system, and better in some cases. Let me address some of the complaints listed above.

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iPhone vs Android

android vs iphoneIf you have read any of my other posts, you’ll know I’m an Apple kool-aid drinker. Card carrying and proud.

Recently, I ran across a new phone service called Solavei. It’s an interesting service, based on the T-Mobile network. It’s only $49 monthly for unlimited voice, text and data. Plus, if you sign up other people, Solavei pays you back. There’s a very real chance to have a completely free phone service and even make some money back on top. You can read more about it here.

But I digress. Solavei is still integrating iPhones into the service. They work, but not at full capacity. Consequently, I thought I’d give an Android phone a try. My son has a Galaxy SII Skyrocket and I’ve been watching him play with it. Then, my father-in-law upgraded to a Motorola Droid Razr M and I helped him set it up. These two events combined whetted my appetite to try the dark side. I bought a Skyrocket like my son’s phone.

The rest of this little article is about what a die-hard iPhone guy thinks of the Android operating system. If you want to skip on elsewhere, the short version is that I like it. If an iPhone is a 9 on a 10-point scale, I’d give Android a 7.759.

Want more info. Okay.

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Photoshop Tutorial: Adding Grass to an Image

This tutorial was prepared in Adobe Photoshop CS3. Yes, I am that far behind.

I live in West Texas where good grass is a rare thing. Most yards are balding brown, some even downright dirt. It’s no surprise to me when someone asks me to add grass to an outdoor shot they need.

I’ve never written a tutorial, but I thought I would give it a try. For those of you who have a newer version of Photoshop, I’m sure the concept is the same though the tools may be different. Also, I’m sure there is an easier way to do this, probably much easier than I did it. If you know of a way, tell me about in the comments below.

I was given several pictures of the same general area that needed to have grass added. I did the same to all, but I’ll stick with this one for the tutorial:

Original Dirt Shot

Original Un-edited Dirt Shot

The first thing I noticed was that this was apparently shot with a wide angle lens. Any grass I add will need to reflect that same stretched, graduated look. I also see that there’s some extraneous stuff that can be trimmed, such as the dirt on the sidewalk at the bottom and the bit to the left of the lamp post. Trim away.

The next step, at least for me, was identifying a good clip of replacement grass. All I needed to do was search “grass” under Google images. I was presented with much more than I could have ever looked at in one setting. Give it a try and see what comes up.

I needed a wide angle shot that included some depth of field without losing focus. Anything with sky was out. I also needed it shot from the correct angle, 20-30 degrees down. That eliminated a lot. I also needed something that would fit the area, which meant fescue. Lastly, it needed to be pretty big so that I would not have to worry about enlarging it (which never turns out good for resolution). This is a reduced version of what I ended up using:

grass

Grass image used for replacement

Now that I had my replacement grass, it was time to get rid of the dirt… which is something my wife says pretty often. [Read more…]

The Wonderful Wacky World of Websites

TRS-80People often ask me how I got into doing websites. I suppose, since people associate me with vocal music, they don’t see a connection with my musical life and my life of coding. That’s probably because there isn’t one.

In my Junior year of high school at Monterey HS in Lubbock, I was presented with a new path for math. I could either go the usual route of calculus and trig, or go into something brand new called “computer math.” I had no desire for calculus, so computer math it was. This was 1979 and I walked into a new world of coding in Basic and working on Radio Shack TRS-80’s with cassette drives for data storage. The logic of Level 1 Basic was attractive to my musically-oriented mind, and I quickly picked up on the language.

Fast forward through college (with no computers) and into my first year of teaching. I bought myself a Tandy 1000 computer with the old 5.25” floppy drives (I had two!) and a 300 baud modem. One year later I upgraded to a 1200 baud modem and that was blazing fast… unless you compare it to my current cable modem which gives me 30 MG down. How times have changed.

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14 Online Tools for Independent Musicians

Independent MusiciansI follow a good number of music blogs. It seems that bad news comes out of L.A. or Nashville on a weekly basis. The record labels are scrambling for ways to monetize their artists and sales of physical media are plummeting. Strangely though, sales of vinyl LP’s rose 10% last year, but that’s another blog post.

As I’ve mentioned on previous posts, the tools available online to independent musicians are quickly making the labels obsolete in many areas. I wish I’d had these resources available when I worked in the industry. So, here’s a quick overview of some of those tools. This is not an exhaustive review, but it’s a good starting point.

If you are an artist or a member of a band and have not made use of at least a few of these resources, you are missing the boat my friend.

1. Discmakers. I have already done a review of these guys and I still think they are a great tool. You can read it here.
Discmakers.com

2. CD Baby. These guys have been around a long time and are very good at what they do, which is being your very own personal distribution system. You supply them with a few copies of your new CD and they will make it available all over the place. They will sell the CD’s for you as well as distribute them into all the major online sales forums like iTunes, Rhapsody, Amazon, etc. They’ll also get your music inserted into the various streaming sites, e.g. Spotify and others. They offer other package deals and services as well. Highly recommended.
CDBaby.com

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Here’s a Good iGoogle Alternative

I’ve been a faithful user of iGoogle for a long time. It’s been my home page through several different browsers.

And now it’s going away.

Some of you may ask, “what is iGoogle?” Never mind. It’s going away. For those of you who used it and are looking for something to replace it when Google pulls the plug next year, I’ve found something I really like. For those of you who have no clue, let me ‘splain, Lucy.

iGoogle is a user-definable homepage that Google offers. It aggregates the RSS feeds from wherever you’d like. For instance, on my iGoogle page, I have three columns. Gmail is in the upper left, followed by three different Tech blogs. The middle column is local weather, headlines, Mashable, and 3 different bloggers. The far right column starts with Fox News (appropriate, eh?) and then entertainment news, People.com and 3 different music-related blogs. In one quick look I get the headlines from all the areas in which I have interest. That’s great, except that Google has made the cock-eyed decision to discontinue the service in 2013. No one seems to know why. In my opinion (and many others as well), it’s a dumb move.

NetVibes.comIn a few quick searches this afternoon, I could see that the Internet is alive with many people asking about a good alternative to iGoogle. I believe I have landed on NetVibes.com. NetVibes does everything that iGoogle did, but on a much larger scale. You can see on the picture here (click it for a larger version) that it offers a ton of information on one screen. Here you see my Technology homepage (yes, I know Mashable is not necessarily a tech site. I’m still configuring). Notice across the top that there are tabs for different categories. All of this is configurable to your hearts delight.

I can easily add new categories (tabs) and new sections within each category. It was extremely simple to add new stuff. I didn’t even need to know the actual URL for the RSS or Atom feed. I just entered the website or even just the name and it found it for me automatically.

The look is entirely configurable as well. What you see here is the basic list feed. You can go even more simpler than this and do the “reader” version. Or you can do more. They offer layouts from magazine-styled all the way to news tickers. It’s really pretty cool. And the best news? The basic version is FREE.

If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t want to go running all over the Internet to find the information you want, NetVibes.com is a great option. If I had known about this earlier, iGoogle would have been gone already. Now I see why they decided to discontinue it. And it actually surprises me that Google hasn’t bought them out.

How does it look to you?

Microshaft Hat Pt.2

You may have seen one of my earlier posts entitled “Microshaft Hat.” I’m not supposed to hate anyone, so hat is one letter short. Anyway, I’d sworn to myself that I was not going to buy another Windows machine. I have a Mac Pro at my office and I love it.

And then my son’s computer went on the fritz. Yes, it was running XP, but it was also glitchy when dual booted with Kubuntu. It’s a 7 year old white box so it was time. I wanted to give him my computer and get me a Mac. But the money was just not there yet. I can’t drop a grand or so.

Then I found a good deal ($330) on an Emachine at Best Buy. Running Vista of all things. I had to have something since school starts soon and my son needs a computer for his work. So, he got my 10 month old Dell and I am writing this from a new Vista Emachine.

AAAAARGH!

Now I need to start saving money for a Macbook. Everyone needs a laptop. Right? I need to start working on an angle to justify that one…

Microshaft Hat

I know I’m a Christian and not supposed to hate. But I’m getting very close. So let me just say that I hat Microsoft. Hat is not quite like hate. Almost but not quite. 75% of the way to hate. Just hat.

It seems every time I turn around I am running into problems with something Microshaft related. I have a new Dell (six months old). It’s already giving me the blue screen of death every other time I use it. Ashley has a new-to-her computer. It’s not that old. Pretty respectable specs. I even installed a new version of XP on it less than 2 weeks ago. It’s already acting up.

Austin’s computer is my old one from Paris. It was a humdinger then. It’s a lower midline now. Windows was giving me such fits, I installed a new hard drive and put Linux on it. So now we get a choice on boot up. I had to do that because I definitely hat Microshaft.

I have made the switch at work. My new computer is the top of the line MacPro with all the bells and whistles. You know what gives me the most troubles on it? Microshaft Office for Mac. And now the Russians have reported a major hole in Vista. Big surprise there. Oh, let me install that on something. It’s bound to be better.

Hat. Definitely hat.

Logos (art or Word?)

Sorry… art.

One of my duties in this post-worship leader world is graphic arts. The new church, Christ Point Church, needed a new logo so they can get going on signs, brochures, and stuff. Several people, including me, submitted ideas. The staff got together and did the brainstorm thing and asked me to merge two of the ideas with a few corrections.

So here is the first draft with an actual plan behind it.

The idea is to use multi-color, but nothing that will slap you in the face. It needs to present a modern feel (ala “ChristPoint”) and still retain the traditional touch (ala “Church”). They wanted an arrow pointing upward since the tag line (I think) is “Christ is the Point.” So the arrow points up, but first it creates a foundation for the whole graphic. And the word “Christ” sits on the foundation. Imagery, imagery, imagery.

By the way, it is very hard to type “imagery” three times in a row and not make a mistake.

Worship Center Refit

I am flying back to Midland this Sunday afternoon. If you’ve read any of this blog, you may have caught the fact that I filled in for Kevin Riggs as worship leader last weekend at Golf Course Rd Church of Christ in Midland. It was a wonderful experience.

Golf Course is going through a building program called “Kingdom Now.” They are adding an entire new state-of-the-art children’s building. Along with that, they have dedicated $2 million for a refit of their worship center.

Kevin Callahan of Callahan Studios is coming down for a day long retreat. He specializes in creating worship spaces that reflect an “ancient future” feel. Many churches are shooting for the concert hall approach. Callahan Studios approach the whole thing very differently. Read through their site and see what I mean.

Anyway, I have been invited to attend the meeting. Sort of an outside viewpoint, so to speak. I am looking forward to it.