Archive for February, 2008

Facebook’s Killer App

Every platform has software that defines it; the “killer app.” The software everyone remembers and immediately thinks of when thinking about the platform. For DOS, it was stuff like lotus123. For the Open Source world, it’s GUN/Linux, LAMP, and Firefox. For Windows, it’s more or less every bit of proprietary software out there, singing songs of platform exclusivity and vendor lockin in beautiful chorus.

Well, Facebook’s killer app has surfaced. And what do you know? It’s a game. Why am I not surprised?

So, yes. It’s a simplistic MMORPG. Amazingly, it’s actually designed to be played in ways other than spamming your entire friends list with invites. It’s called PackRat, and it is, in fact, a collectable card game which focuses on getting ahead of everyone else by stealing their cards. Some people seem to like it a lot. Whatever. Either way, killer app or not, this is the first app I’ve seen to make good use of the Facebook API.


The Joys of Brainstorming During Ethics Homework

I have just discovered a wonderful ethical dilemma.

A man is hiding in your closet, and another man is standing before you in the doorway. You know that each wants to kill the other, and you suspect both are evil, but you don’t know for sure. Man number one, standing in the doorway demands to know if the other guy is in the closet. If you reply in the affirmative, he will shoot the man hiding in the closet. If you deny that man number two is hiding in the closet, he will pop out and shoot the blighter standing in the doorway.

Now, both men could be equally evil, one could be slightly eviler than the other, or one could be the evil train robber and the other a hero mounted atop a white horse. (Aside from the complete absence of handy monochromatic hats and/or quadruped transportation, that is) You just don’t know.

Assuming that it’s a binary situation, what is the best ethical choice?

In retrospect, I’m probably I’m the last person on the planet to come up with this situation, but it still amuses me.


Insanity Takes Many Forms

I really hope I’m dreaming. It’s 3 am, I’m stuck on physics homework, and I could swear that someone is blasting harmonica music outside. There is a somewhat surreal element to the whole situation. o_O

Why Ubuntu Died

So, almost directly after I experienced my problem with Ubuntu and switched to Arch Linux, someone else came to me with the exact same problem that caused me to jump distros.

What is this problem, you ask? Well, if you are using GDM, the screen will blink several times, GDM will crash, and the system will eventually freeze.If you are using KDM, anyone who logs in will be immediately logged back out.

The solution came when I realized that the X server errors were,  in fact, being logged. They were getting dumped as a dot-file in the user’s home directory. It was something like “.xsession-errors”. Anyway, there were two lines in the file, and one of them complained about lnusertemp.

‘Twas then that I realized I’d seen a similar error while installing Arch Linux. A kernel update or something had set the wrong permissions on /tmp. I had forgotten about it though, because the knowledgeable community had documented the error on the forums, and I found the solution quickly.

So, if you are having a problem similar to what I described, today is your lucky day! Simply start in recovery mode from grub and issue the following handy command.

chmod -R 1777 /tmp

As for me? I’m staying with Arch Linux. Ubuntu is nice, but I really appreciate the  more technical-oriented community attached to Arch. The signal to noise ratio is oh-so-much higher. Interestingly enough, the reason I was using Ubuntu was because I liked having a system I didn’t need to care about breaking. I now like Arch because it’s much easier to fix when something inevitably does break.

Return to ArchLinux

So, when an Ubuntu kernel update severely messed up last week, I was trapped with the horrors of Windows XP for a week. Clearly, something had to be done. I didn’t want to reinstall Ubuntu just to be faced with the same annoying X crash, and I do like to be running kernels with the latest security updates applied.

Enter Arch Linux. You can thank this fine fellow for reminding me of it’s existence. Though installation was much longer and painful than Ubuntu, it should be a lot less of a pain to fix if something breaks. Everything seems to be running fairly smoothly, though the interface fonts on Firefox 2 are in like 6 point font for no apparent reason, and sound is either muted or non-existent.  I’ll live; I just needed my coding environment back. I figure that if I have enough time to care about non-school-related details, I’ll have enough time to fix it.

Oh, It’s fast too. Noticeably faster boot, login, and package installation times. I’m pretty happy about pretty much everything associated with the switch.

All except for my 5 gigs of bandwith. *sigh* Alas, one-fifth of my five gigabyte per month bandwith allocation. I knew thee well.

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