Tala Ko

Posts Tagged ‘portable computing

Pardon the corny title. :) Yesterday, I was able to buy an MSI Wind U100 with some money from a savings account that my dad started when I was smaller (thanks, Dad). I needed to be more mobile, and he agreed that a laptop would be a good investment.

I’ve named it Teacup, after the ones in “Train Man,” by Hitori Nakano. My desktop PC is named Stella, after the abandoned theater in “The Thief Lord,” by Cornelia Funke. Just felt like sharing.

I’d done research before going to the store. But even if I already knew what I wanted, I let the clerk go through the motions. They didn’t have it in pink or red. I don’t really love pink or red; I just wanted the chassis to be different from the usual black or white units.

I asked for the OS-less Wind, of course; no use paying extra for Windows XP when I was just going to delete it. I did, however, accept their offer to install, at no extra cost, a trial version of XP, just so I could try out all the hardware’s bells and whistles.

Once at home, I’d determined that all the bells were ringing and the whistles whistling within about fifteen minutes. Five, if Trixi and I hadn’t been goofing around in front of the webcam.

I soon reached for a GNU/Linux installer.

I downloaded the Puppy Linux ISO first, because it was only 88Mb large. The MSI Wind doesn’t have a CD-ROM drive, so I decided to try UNetbootin to turn my USB Stick into a LiveUSB. The tool’s amazing. :D It’s quick, and it works.

Puppy Linux didn’t detect my screen settings properly, though. :/ After asking at the forums, I still didn’t learn the proper configurations, and then one poster finally said that Puppy probably didn’t support my screen. :(

Back to Ubuntu, then. I downloaded the ISO from an Indonesian mirror and got it intact on the first try, within a few hours! The first time I ever downloaded the ISO, I chose the Taiwanese mirror, because it was geographically nearer. But it took a whole day, and quite a few tries (so, a few days) before I could get a good ISO. :p

UNetbootin again (I feel really sorry for my USB stick. But now that I have a laptop, it should now get some rest from all my PortableApping.). Ubuntu detected my screen settings right away, so I didn’t hesitate to click on “Install.” Planned partitions with the help of the trusty Psychocat tutorials and this byte calculator.

(Teacup, not Stella, is my first Ubuntu-only system. Will probably convert the desktop, too, once Intrepid Ibex is out.)

Installation took minutes, no hiccups at all. So, that’s it. I now have an MSI Wind running Ubuntu! :)

There’s still a lot left to do, like configure for wireless and install updates and codecs. Will let you know how that goes, of course. But in the meantime, I’ve got a busy day ahead. I’m taking the Wind and going sailing into Project Land. :)

“In Uruguay the parents wait for the kids to go to bed so they can use the laptops. So you saw people move to rural communities… so their kids could take advantage of [the laptops]. In Rwanda the families brought electricity to the schools so that the kids could keep using the laptops.”

I find that really cool. Yay for OLPC!

clipped from news.zdnet.com
described the response of some commercial laptop makers to the OLPC project
some of the companies have taken this as just a market to compete in — and compete in a very vicious way and that’s unfortunate, because we’re not trying to take market share and make profit or knock anybody else out,
While skeptics claimed the laptops would be sold or stolen by their young owners, it seems they have been converting truants into school-lovers and encouraging kids to brush up their reading and writing
if it was in a remote place, the people would say the kids only show up for school half the time. And that just changes. Now you have basically… more than 100 percent attendance. Because they come on weekends, they come early to school and they stay late
The families start to take education seriously. One of our students — when OLPC was just getting started–did a project in rural Costa Rica, and 70 percent of the parents entered vocational education using the computer at night after the kids
blog it

I’m writing this post from Google Chrome. Can I just say how happy I am, that although it probably resembles Vista more, the title/tab bar reminds me of Ubuntu? *sniff*

I first read about Chrome this morning, when a co-worker brought it up. I had a lot of fun reading the comic (learned a lot, too), but to be honest, just doing my usual online activities and seeing how FAAAST everything is seems to have blown my geekery out the window. It’s like when our battered family couch was reupholstered this summer – the new look and feel just gave family couch time that extra zing, even though we knew that the same old squishy cushions were inside.

Except, based on what I’ve learned from the comic, Google Chrome doesn’t have the same old squishy cushions inside. More like, they decided to take the couch apart, find out why (besides shifting butts) it needed reupholstering in the first place, and build it from the ground up, all the way to the woven blanket my mom throws over the pillows. This foam will last longer, is just as soft, and won’t start to sag in the middle, they’re telling me.

So it’s fast, more efficient, safer from crashes, and prettier. I want to know now, what about my extensions? :( For instance, ever since I started using AdBlock Plus a few years ago, browsing hasn’t been the same. That’s one of the reasons I was so happy to finally be free of Internet Explorer (more on that later) at work. No matter how pretty and comfy this new couch is, if it doesn’t have room for Mom’s sewing kit, Dad’s can of Pringles, and my brother’s security blanket, we’re not really going to enjoy it.

Till then, I’m going back to Firefox.

And, speaking of Firefox, I wrote before that once we got our new computers in, I’d no longer need to run apps off my USB stick. I remember thinking as I booted my unit for the first time on Monday, “First thing I’m gonna do is install Firefox, the GIMP, and Pidgin.” I’d already downloaded the .exe’s the previous week, in anticipation of this golden moment that I’d be back in FOSS’s arms.

Then, I found out that IT had done something that prevented me from installing programs. I was a guest user in my own computer. (-_-‘) Apparently, any desire to do more customization than changing the wallpaper had to be cleared with them and scheduled.

I don’t know how they do computers in your office, but for me, this was just wack. I cast my USB stick an apologetic look and proceeded to fire up FirefoxPortable.

I got a prompt saying that I was attempting to run it off a disk in read-only mode. Did I want to un-write-protect my USB stick, or would I be fine copying FirefoxPortable to the Desktop and running it from there? I blinked. Why hadn’t I thought of that before?

But as IE begrudgingly unhooked its claws and slunk off into the Unused Desktop Shortcuts folder, where it belonged, my feeling of relief was mixed with annoyance. Why did I have to resort to such a workaround? Couldn’t I be trusted not to break anything?

(The answer, of course, was no. I haven’t been at the office six months, so IT doesn’t know me or how much fun I find all this geekery.)

So, of course, I had to wait till I got home to try out the Chrome.

Another hiccup caused by this no-installing-by-yourself policy is that they forgot to install a PDF reader. Anytime I get a PDF now, I have to upload it to Google Docs or convert it with Zamzar.

This reminds me of the height of the liquids ban at airports, when one lady’s baby nearly died of dehydration because some idiot wouldn’t let her take the baby’s formula on the plane. To loosely quote Banksy, somebody save me from the people who’re trying to save me.

Yes, yes, I know. To compare my situation to that is a bit of an exagerration. I must behave. I’d even go so far as to remind myself that the Bible tells me to submit to appointed authorities.

It’s just… I’m so used to having such freedom with computers that every wall I come up against – first Webwasher, and now this no-installing thing – feels like a huge injustice. :(

Hang on, now I remember something that’s a little more serious. I found a bar311 virus in my USB stick (I’m not going to point any fingers, but I know where the stick’s been). AVG didn’t find it, but ClamWinPortable did (so it’s a win for ClamWin. Hehe). I couldn’t manually remove it, and the cleaner I’d downloaded off the web wouldn’t work, either – all because I’m not allowed to edit the computer’s registry.

I decided not to tell IT, because they look pretty busy. Anyway, ClamWin told me that the virus wasn’t in the computer’s hard drive; it was just in my USB disk. So I waited till I got home (again), hooked up my Stella Baby to my relatives’ peripherals, and manually deleted the infernal files while in Ubuntu. When I opened up my USB disk at work this morning, bar311.exe was no longer a process listed in the Task Manager. (Another win for FOSS.)


I know, I can’t always get what I want… without having to resort to some kinda workaround.


Other stuff: I’m teaching myself more stuff and can’t wait till I can mess around some more with MODx. :D

Recently, I read some posts (1 and 2) by Larry Dignan on ZDNet. He had this to say:

The OS will never be totally irrelevant, but it will be increasingly less important. It’ll be plumbing.

He also introduced me to the idea of “the Webtop, which will deliver programs through the browser.”

Actually, the idea doesn’t surprise me. Sometime ago, I wrote that what I do in Ubuntu isn’t all that different from what I do in Windows. I consider my use of Ubuntu a show of support for computing freedoms, even though I as a non-programmer aren’t equipped to fully use those freedoms.

I could have gone further and said that what I do in Ubuntu isn’t all that different from what I do in Windows, because I can do most of what I need to do through my cross-platform browser, Firefox. Most of that work is done with Google apps, too: GMail, Google Notebook, Google Docs, etc. I also prefer the web-based version of Yahoo! Messenger because it’s nice and neat (and kind of a ripoff of Pidgin’s tabbed chat window, but hey). I just can’t use it at work because of the URL filter. :p

The point is that as long as there are browsers and browser-based applications (once I get the hang of a browser-based image editing app, I’ll be all set), it doesn’t really matter what OS I use. Except, as I said before, as a matter of principle. Principle behind the plumbing.


The K2 theme has gotten wonky, so I changed to [ ]. Will fix the image header eventually. Any theme I try seems wonky, meaning the right-hand column appears at the bottom of the entire blog instead. Wish I could view it on the work computer to see if it’s just the home computer that has a problem. What do you see?


I remembered this OS-becoming-less-important thing because we’ll finally be getting our own computers (which will run either XP or Vista) at the office soon. No more borrowing from the Tech department’s supply of standby laptops. No more putting my USB stick on the rack with portable apps; now it’ll be back to simply storing files. :)

Okay. Been working for over a week now, and I haven’t had time to blog. I have the rest of my lunch break to finish this post, though. :)

I started using Google Notebook today and found it to be a great way for me to stay organized.

The little planner that I bring along with me has turned out to be too little to contain everything that I have to scribble down. It’s gotten messy, too. The other thing I did before Google Notebook was to create all these text files, and that got messy, as well.

The first thing that turned up in my search was a blog post about Google Notebook. I actually thought, ‘Not another Google thing.’ I wanted a little variety, and besides, the description didn’t match what I thought I needed – a web-based form of Post-It notes. But after bookmarking websites kept turning up in the search results, in the end, I found myself back at Google Notebook.

Screencap Google Notes

As you can see, I have two Notebooks in my Google Notebook account: one for work things and one for personal, when-you’re-not-at-work things (including topics for blog posts, haha). And inside each Notebook, I have notes, of course.

Organization is pretty simple. With a few simple clicks and drags, they can be reordered as I like. Each note can be labeled ala GMail labels, so that I can view all notes of one label at a time, regardless of which sub-Notebook it’s in (In WordPress terms, Categories:Notebooks as Tags:Labels).

After a while, I realized that its system would keep me a lot more organized than a lot of little yellow squares on the screen. I’ll be using it to


I have no memory of how that sentence was supposed to end. This post was all but done. But when I clicked Publish, the next screen I saw was something from a URL filter telling me that I wasn’t allowed to access the site because it was a blog. I’d been typing away for a good half hour till then. >:p When I logged on again here at the house, I saw that the draft hadn’t been saved completely.

I know that the Webwasher thingy is a program, not a person. But come on. It was break time. :p

Not only blogging, but also chatting, instant messaging, and web radio are filtered out. For a little over a week, I was able to use Twitter every now and then, but that, too, was eventually blocked. I understand that URL filters keep people from looking at dangerous or distracting sites. I just wish that the one at the office would get its ratings/definitions right.

Plain-text lyrics websites are blocked because they’re “Entertainment/Movie.” Wikipedia is blocked, because it’s a “Newsgroup/Blog!” Twitter was blocked because it was a “Dating/Relationships” site. It’s not. Technically, it’s more of a “Chat/Instant Messaging” site, but that’s not the point. Now I’m wondering if they’ll accuse me of online dating on the job. :p

I’d also like to use Chikka to send business texts, because I don’t want to pay to do part of my job. :/

I think what smarts the most is that using a filter implies that we can’t be trusted. Why not just get a simpler porn and mal-ware blocker? Sure, every now and then, I might look up someone’s blog or fire off a Tweet. But I’m not going to do that all day; after all, “no work, no pay” is an actual phrase in my contract. Just knowing that my computer faces a wall, and that anyone passing by can see what’s on my screen, is enough to make sure I don’t change windows for more than five minutes. What’s more is, I actually don’t want to do any blogging myself, at the office; it’s something I want to save for my own time. But it’s nice to know I’d have the option on, say, a slow day.

Yesterday was my first day at my first job (yay for me!) as a writer/researcher for the website of a local megachurch. :) I’m pretty psyched.

I don’t have a workstation of my own yet, so I had to borrow a laptop from their tech bank. It’s an IBM unit that runs Windows XP. A few minutes into working, and I started to wish for that feature in Ubuntu that keeps a certain window on top, no matter what. :/

But to be honest, what I do in Ubuntu isn’t all that different from what I used to do – and what I have to do again at work – in Windows. My copy of XP is original, too, so I don’t have anything to worry about from the software police. Because I’m not a programmer, I don’t get to fully exercise the freedoms that FOSS offers.

I just like knowing that those freedoms are there, and that they help make the computing world a little smaller and a little bigger all at once. Using Ubuntu and the free programs it comes with is just my way of supporting those freedoms.

Oh, and I finally got to use FirefoxPortable as well. :p It’s fast and it’s mine, but I don’t want to exact too much of a toll on my flash disk. It’ll tide me over till I get a workstation, I guess.

By the way, does anyone know where I can find a portable media player with ogg vorbis support? Locally, if you please. :) Thanks.

I signed up for blip.fm. I think it’s one big collaborative online radio station with Twitter-like features. It’s fun, and I get to hear a lot of interesting music. Check it out. :)

I know Portable Apps has been around for a while. In February, I wanted to present my thesis using OpenOffice.org Impress – to Impress them with Impress, so to speak. Because my thesis was about FOSS, I wanted to go from start to finish using FOSS. But because I didn’t have a laptop from which to give my slide show, I had to borrow my roommate’s Windows-running unit.

There had to be some way for me to use the program short of actually installing Impress (she didn’t have that much hard drive space left). First, I tried PenDrive Linux, but the window displayed was too small. Then, I tried a portable version of Impress, but it ran too slowly on my roomie’s laptop. I was forced to use her PowerPoint. The presentation went fine, but I can’t help thinking that it would have made more of an impact if the panelists had seen an actual FOSS program at work.

Anyway, last bit of backstory yakking. My mom has me do simple graphic design work from time to time. Recently, she asked if I could whip something up for her Ladies Club back home. I couldn’t seem to find enough time at my relatives’ desktop PC (there are four of us competing for time) to do the work, but I knew that I’d be hanging out at my uncle’s office for most of the day. (Job interview at a building near his office.)

The same dilemma came up as I copied my files into my flash drive. My uncle would need his computer, but in the past, he’d let me use a spare laptop at the office. There wasn’t a lot of space left in its hard drive, though, so I couldn’t install the GIMP. Anyway, I didn’t like the idea of installing a program on a computer that wasn’t mine – even if I cleaned up afterwards. What was I to do?

After a quick search for a portable version of the GIMP, I found myself back at Portable Apps. I installed GIMP Portable, popped my flash disk into the spare laptop’s USB drive, and voila! The GIMP was running just as smoothly and as quickly as it did on my own CPU, without a hiccup. I finished the design in a few hours, and I left my uncle’s laptop clean.

Portable GIMPing

The ease and speed of everything has me wondering next about what other applications I should bring along with me. I can’t help remembering, though, how slow the portable Impress was on my roommate’s laptop. How do I know it won’t happen wherever I bring my portable programs?

Also, I can’t seem to find any information on the site regarding RAM. I can’t remember whether I got that version of Impress from Portable Apps or whether I’d simply used the installer at OpenOffice.org. Is Impress a larger program than the GIMP? Or did GIMP Portable run fine on my uncle’s laptop simply because he had 1Gb of RAM? I can’t remember how much memory my roomie had on her laptop, but my own desktop has only 384 Mb.

Be right back. To check these things out is the perfect excuse to download Firefox Portable. :)