A Better way to Ubuntu: Budgie

Standard

It our pleasure to announce our next point release of our 16.04 edition. This release builds on the shoulders of the fabulous Ubuntu 16.04.2. budgie-remix 16.04.2 comes equipped with the HWE Kernel and X Graphics. Appindicators are now the default. It also comes equipped with the latest budgie-welcome app to get you started quickly. Lookout […]

via budgie-remix 16.04.2 released — Ubuntu Budgie

Don Martin: National Gorilla Suit Day

Standard

Featured Image from http://www.hembeck.com/Images/FredSez2007/NationalGorillaDay.gif


Not from your Marvel Universe…

Nope, not at all.  If you’ve have ever read MAD Magazine, you should hopefully recognize the name of none other than the Don Martin: cartoonist extraordinaire.  On the other hand, if you have no idea about what I am talking about and only recall a sketch comedy show by the same name, I apologize to you for know you have been cheated, left in the dark, and have missed out – completely.  However, thanks to the Internet and Pop Culture, let me see if the following two images may link some vague, distant relationship to a point in time where your Dad (or Mother) had a strange looking stack of “comic books”:

Albert E. Neuman

alberteneuman

Or Fester Bestertester?

fester_bestertester_large1

If not, I’ll try to illuminate why January 31st is celebrated as National Gorilla Suit Day, if not expose my inner geek fueled by my Dad with such classics as…

donmartin1


You have to read…

For the full dose of cartoon and comic genius, you need to grab a copy of “Don Martin Bounces Back”, which pretty much is a non-stop riot of laughs.  Essentially, Fester mocks “National Gorilla Suit Day” – which ingeniously, in 1963 was invented for the comic – and he (Fester) is pretty much beat down by people in gorilla suits, real gorillas, and so forth.

I can’t do it justice here, but the humor printed in 1963 reins on supreme and with love for Don Martin.

So, if you Dad and his friends seem to be on an inside joke — they probably are, but it is a joke that has stood the test of time.  Look out, Fester: I’m coming for you!

gorilla

(Thanks, Dad!)

— JK Benedict | @xenfomation

The Gaming Troll: Manifest Greek Tragedies

Standard

Featured Image from


The preface…

Over the last few months my off-line hobbies have circled back to gaming: specifically online, multiplayer, co-op based games with team strategy involved.  Oh, to be young again and face first getting the CRT tan from a game of StarCraft, Age of Empires, and so on.  However, as much as I have fun, my age lends me zero patience to those individuals we once called “poor sports” or “assholes”: the random player that sucked the fun out of the game for their own amusement.  And for seemingly no good reason, no known grudge, and completely self-defeating to their own progress in a multiplayer game where success hinges on everyone.

You know who I speak of.  They do not exist solely in online gaming, but pretty much everywhere across the Internet by a new name: Trolls.

internet-troll

Sure, in Quake III Arena, it was funny to see these newly named “Trolls” rock their skills because they could.  Why not?  Especially in other games where they were already level-capped, you understood they were just bored and had no game objective: they invented their own.  Bully and screw up the lower level game players.

Ha.  Ha.  Oh, wait.  The Internet grew and so did these anonymous, endless time having, low life losers.

I get it, or I used to get it because I mean “good job” — Wikipedia now holds a definition of your kind:

In Internet slang, a troll is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.

 

Truly, you do none of the above as the words “annoying waste of space” would have been sufficient.  I personally like the psychological break down, albeit it is Wikipedia.  Hehehe – they are trolling you, I suppose!

Your computer was (or maybe still is) your parental figure, means of escape, stepping stone to a wrap sheet, or even a place to vent.  Whatever the means or your ends might be, the intention – especially now – is really nothing more than an endless, self induced cycle of becoming your own Greek Tragedy.  You hurt the team, you hurt yourself.  You take the fun out of a game and it is no longer a game.  It becomes you having to Troll your own inner Troll to out troll other Trolls with the end game being that your trolling keeps you – in reality and in gaming – as a level zero… or a lower form of this:

LOSER


The conclusion?

The irony of this entry has not escaped me.  Once I publish this I will have appeared to have sent invitations to such creeps to troll me, but at the same time, I will have briefly sunk to the lowest form of Internet-connected life forms: Trolls.

Keep in mind that with almost all on-line games, we true gamers can block you, out number you, but more importantly… report you, have your account suspended, or in the best case scenario, get your account banned.

Yeah, so I guess I need to develop a Massive Multiplayer Online Troll Game where your kind can roam the ends of electron hell.  Sadly, the more you play I am betting the less you will realize you have been completely trolled.

 

— JK Benedict | @xenfomation

 

No Prior Art: A Dedication

Symour R. Cray
Standard

Featured Image from http://www.cray.com/company/history/seymour-cray


Over a year ago I decided to start blogging about anything and everything related to my career, computers, science, and so forth.  I truly had no idea with how best to describe these pages into “one word”.  At the time I was heavily involved with XenServer, which is still a passion of mine, but even that wasn’t a singular subject.

I wanted to explain my mindset, my exposure to art, music, literature, computers, and so many fields I had the privilege growing up to dabble in.  So, I thought about Seymour Cray: my personal computer idol who is synonymous with Super Computing, but always seemed to me as a man of a diverse background who used those experiences to achieve many things.

“No Prior Art: A Dedication” was originally written as a draft on 31-JUL-2015.  Its intention was to, well, be some sort of point for you – the reader – to learn a bit about my computing hero as well as offering a means to tie in personal experiences related to the computer industry.  I suppose it was a complex idea as I am nothing like Seymour Cray, but the likes of Titans such as him have paved the way for us involved in the widening spectrum called “computing”.

I didn’t finish the draft for lack of time and fear it would be overlooked, but without Seymour Cray, well, I can say my father, brother, and myself wouldn’t be here.  No, instead we would be probably be broke comedians pan-handling for our next meal.

So, over a year later I present this entry with a title dedicated to one of the many patents Cray held as, in reading the verbiage, the patent stated “No Prior Art”.  I found that text to be quite apropos to enforce who Seymour Cray was, is, and left us.  Indeed, no prior art nor  subsequent art, for sure.


So I have a blog…

I have broken my own promise and the proof is right here.  A blog.  About blogging.  About technology.  About technology that begat technology and so forth.

I made such a promise during my on-and-off college days as I was kicked out of class as a “blog” was discussed as being a “technology”.  I mean that literally: Blog = Technology.  With years of experience as a musician, artist, writer, and life-long computer geek, I stared in awe at the classroom that soaked this up.  There was no judgement of the students on my part as the took copious notes, but I was shocked after three-quarters of the class passed by and there was no mention to the actual technology that allowed for mouth pieces to talk about their political leanings on-line.

When I asked how we could learn this as truth without the underlying technology required to facilitate “a blog” (a web server, CGI components, databases, code, etc), a mild argument broke out as I found such concepts were “outside the course’s scope”.  Being asked to leave for the day on my insistence that a blog was not a technology, but a made up word to describe an amalgamation of literal technology, I gladly left with a grand sense of accomplishment.  I was correct, though I didn’t want to be, but the professor knew it and four of my colleagues would later call me for all of us to have a weekend session of actually exploring what a blog was, what would be required to setup one, and so forth.

I was no superhero.  I am not a superhero.  I am someone who believes in being taught a subject, but also that which allowed for such work to exist: credit to the shoulders of giants we stand upon.

This is what the purpose of my blog is, albeit it has a lean towards open source XenServer and virtualization, but I hope this translates to my readers.  My desire is that what I content I can find to write helps others, promotes discussions, and not just necessarily “things” specific to virtualization, etc.  After all, when I am long gone, maybe I can leave some indexed content in a futuristic world.  That may sound morbid, but married to a genius wife and having two exceptionally intelligent kids, it is the least I owe them during this lifetime I have been given.


Looking up to Cray…

Real heroes and legends didn’t need a blog (nor would they need a blog).  Their life’s work is known or unknown, but never-the-less permeates throughout the fabric of our planet.

Martin Luther King, Jr.  Sir Isaac Newton.  Salvador Dali.  John Oppenheimer.  Houdini.  Jonas Salk.  Albert Einstein.  Jane Goodall.

A list of names such as these and their contributions can seem to go on forever as I look around my library.  That’s the problem.  I shouldn’t be looking at these individuals as a list-style compilation.  Really, to imply such individuals listed above, their contemporaries, and so many more are an just an infinite who walked among us is to make the no more than mere mortals.

That is the opposite of my intentions here, for surely the scrolls of history should have a specific compendium for these individuals for us to always think back on and pay homage to.  Their very existence before, during, or after our lives defined history and their spirit?  They are still alive and live on as Immortals, such as one of my heroes who’s intelligent face is sprawled across the top of this article: Seymour Cray.


Man, Myth, and Legends…

If the name sounds familiar, let’s see if I can’t jog memories with some actual Seymour Cray references.  Some are well known, some are not, and some may still be myth for all I know!

  • The Cray Computer
  • He and Douglas Englebart (spelling) helped to design the first “desktop” computer (1975’s Altair)
  • His super computers held speed records over larger companies, such as IBM
  • “NASA has all the Cray’s,” or at least all us kids thought so.  NASA did utilize Cray machines: check out the NASA STI Program video here
  • Tom Watson (IBM) was out engineered by a team of 30 (thus we have to reference The Mythical Man-Month)

I could carry on as even being a small kid with a father who entered electronics pre-desktop, pro-mainframe, and so forth, rumors of the Cray Super Computer were the stuff of legends to us!  I even had a classmate in third grade who claimed his dad had a Cray Computer to which other kids said “No Way!  NASA has them all!” to which made me want to finish my homework early, work on my mostly-soldered Apple ][+ and change the world.

After all, it has been reported than when Seymour Cray was told Steve Jobs purchased a Cray computer to design the Apple, he replied:

“Funny.  I am using the Apple to simulate a Cray-3.” -Seymour Cray, Source Unknown

I love his sense of humor as it is one that has been lost as invention led to industry and industry led to harsh competition, closed knowledge loops, and a pay-to-play mentality.

Surprisingly, I’ve never read a biography on Seymour Cray.  The primary reason for this is that, well, thanks to my father, his friends, and others with much more time in the computer industry, I’ve been told so much about Seymour Cray that I don’t feel the need to over analyze him.  That seems to be something that, outside of engineering, Seymour Cray himself wouldn’t do.

The second reason is that which is myth, such as the famous definition of what the acronym in RISC processing really means:

Really Invented by Seymour Cray

Of course RISC means Reduced Instruction Set, but we are talking about a man who would build the Super Computer, deliver it, and even build or customize the the hardware/OS per user needs.  Imagine that.  Seriously, it is a divine picture of a man who could really build something so massive and wield it like he was a god.

Beyond work with processing, semi-conductors, and large compute systems, it seems Seymour Cray had a humility about him and was always full of great quotes that to this day, I’ve heard so many project managers use without attribution to Seymour Cray.  Having an electrical engineering degree, two masters degrees in mathematics: he was made to be in the right place at the right time in the annals of history.

He wasn’t a fan of symmetrical processing as I understood it.  The quotes passed on to me were “why go symmetrical without high serial speeds” and that “parity is for farmers” — these made me laugh, but made complete sense.  Sure, we have symmetrical processing, but during the early days – from my own experience – he was right.  Dirty copper, faulty designs, and details such as distance causing inconsistent performance.

There is little footage of such an influence over our industry, but thanks to Computer History, I have found two wonderful videos that offer us a view into Seymour Cray, who he was, and how it must have been wonderful to work for him.

“What’s All This About Gallium Arsenide?” – A lecture by Seymour Cray

Cray-1 Supercomputer: 30th Anniversary


A story closer to me…

Finally, as an IBMer, I heard the stories that never changed and can be backed up by many of Cray’s clever quotes and by proxy, the book I previously mentioned (albeit published in 1975 and related to the IBM/360) entitled “The Mythical Man-Month” by Frederick P. Brooks.  Copies of that book were almost mandatory reading as one adopted to the IBM culture as the famous I recall goes something like this:

Thomas Watson, the then-CEO of IBM, was completely flabbergasted how Seymour Cray and Control Data Corporation (click here for a bit more on CDC) were ableto out engineer and produce 6600, the World’s fastest computer (by FAR) during the 1960s.  According to Seymour Cray, CDC had a project group of 30 (including the janitor, per Cray) and in sharing letters, etc, it was determined IBM had allocated 10 times the man power CDC did and they still failed to achieve their goals.

That always fascinated me.  He wasn’t just a technical genius, but a planning genius.  I did look into this when I was younger and as I recall (when asked about how many people were involved on the CDC’s 6600 project), Cray replied:

“I think thirty.  Including the janitor.” -Seymour Cray, Source Unknown

The following picture is a dual installation of the CDC 6600 supercomputer:

cdc6600


In summary…

I chose the title “No Prior Art” from one of Seymour Cray’s many patents, specifically on Parallel Magnetic Circuitry.  In reading the patent, there was a declaration specifying “No Prior Art”, which is so perfect to describe Seymour Cray.  He is more than just a super computer guy: he helped shape an industry, changed the way computing via circuit could be tackled, and broke barriers.

Indeed, Seymour Cray.  There was no prior art and there hasn’t been any since as you, sir, are a true original.

— JK Benedict | @xenfomation

Bad Words: “Windows Registry”

Standard

Featured Image from http://www.nikalsystems.co.uk/cleaning-up-and-optimising-a-microsoft-windows-xp-computer/


UPDATE: 20-JAN-2017

While composing a rough draft of thoughts, it appears I accidentally published this to the web.  I know, I know.  “I’ve lost the element of surprise.  I was careless.  The Earth did not end” – and so forth.  I suppose now all there is to do is state my case about the Windows Registry in this manner:

ben-stein-530x298

Sorry, Ben.  It just seems fitting.


“Thems fightin’ words…”

Even among diehard Windows fans, it is amazing to hear an entire office become an arid, dry, soundless wasteland as soon as someone mentions a anything related to “Windows Registry”.

No joke there.

In fact, just listen in the next time someone drops those two words out loud.  Sit back and watch everyone put their coffee down, disconnect from clients, and slowly turn towards the source of such profanity.  It is just a tension builder due to its intended purposes, misuse, and refusal to shrink that drives admins crazy.


What happened?

For myself, this is the single question that keeps my angst alive.  I tried to run a line count – per root node using reg – but I got tired of waiting.  Between  %USERPROFILE%\NTUSER.DAT and %windir%\System32\config, it “claims” the registry hives are only using 15 megabytes of space.  I am certain between portions in-memory and what is being used by programs that have free access to the registry, it is much larger.

Think back to Windows 3.11 -a mere graphical MS-DOS application in reality – as this is when the Windows Registry was introduced to us.  I can understand why with the addition of user accounts to the shell, but it was good enough in my own opinion.

registrationeditor_2

Don’t just take my word for it – check out the following MSDN blog regarding the registry as we barely were aware of it underneath the Windows 3.11’s box of boxes:

https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/oldnewthing/20120521-00/?p=7573

Now today: oh, it is just another form of temp space for lazy programs; a graveyard of bytes even after programs have been uninstalled.  It is even referred to as a database – which is sort of not fine, but okay – however, if it gets corrupted, you are up the creek.


In Summary…

The Windows Registry as we know it today – along with the page file – quite simply kill performance on both virtual and physical hardware.  The longer a system is used, the larger the registry becomes.  And, per the article from MSDN above, anyone can see it has evolved into a beast within itself.

Do you back it up?  How often?  How can we prune it safely?  Etc, etc.

It is as if it was designed so just so an industry of “malware laden” products could be downloaded for ad-revenue under the guise that “it will clean up your registry and defrag it!”

Wow.  Tell that to autoexec.bat and config.sys.

— JK Benedict | @xenfomation

 

Computer Museum Project: 2

Standard

Featured Image from http://www.grayflannelsuit.net/blog/a-gallery-of-vintage-blank-audio-cassette-tapes


Score! (It’s the little things)…

If you recognize the image above – thanks to a great website, grayflannelsuit.net – and you also were one of the readers (besides me) regarding “Ditching Optical Media” and my… blogumentary (I just made that up) regarding work towards my Computer Museum, well boy oh boy: I am quite the happy chappy.

Atlanta traffic was what it usually was as I left the office yesterday.  A big sea of metal infested concrete with nowhere to run.  I thought about it and just headed to my parents house.  I mean, in all seriousness, by the time I made it home I would need to be in full Thundercat Pajamas and ready for bed.  Optional Robotech Pajamas, but last night was definitely a Thundercat night.

I have (well, my Dad and I have) a ZX Spectrum I bought him with a 16K memory extension for his birthday.  Reported seller on some famous auction site reported it to be in working condition.  Yeah, to quote my dad “3/7th of the keys worked and the RF out needs to be fixed”… lovely.  I’m not paying to ship it: I am going to revive it!

And why?  Well, first of all…. it looks like this (along with its accessories being in near mint condition):

zx81

However, not to be second as it is far more important to this story as a friend of my father’s dropped off some high-end audio gear.  Among the lot were some PC speakers he wanted me to have and in my curiosity I pulled out something I had been tracking at modern retail stores, but for near $40.00.  I didn’t realize the implications of what I hath discovered, but my dad sure did.  The expression on his face was absolutely heart warming.  “OH!  AH-HA!  THE ZX!”  And he wasn’t just right about the ZX now having storage, for voila!

gmcassetteokayer

Oh, yes indeed!  Exactly what we need for using tapes off older computers, but also to make digital backups.  Data storage, data preservation, and cassette-driven audio bliss.  It was a moment of angelic harmonies as while it may not be the original Tandy cassette player (see below) — it will most certainly do the job with it’s 6 AA batteries (or 6V DC power requirements):

tandytapedeck


Go ahead and laugh…

Not only am I one free component closer to my glorious museum, I can also use it when I want to (literally) spin my cassettes.  Yeah, cassettes.  USB thumb drives don’t spin and I certainly can’t play my “passed on” tapes from the likes of…

These guys

queentape

… or this guy …

davidbowie


In Conclusion?

Never jump to those.  But seriously, yeah – yuck it up or applaud the preservation as while I condone the abuse of any animal, my dad’s “OH!  AH-HA!” moment (along with a passing of the cassette player to me)… well, I’ve done this:

two-birds-one-stone

“I think you’d better hang on to yourself.” -David Bowie

— JK Benedict | @xenfomation

Computer Museum Project: 1

Standard

Featured Image from http://lifevesting.com/blog/2015/02/02/unoccupied/comment-page-1/


Or as my wife and I call it…

The Third Reclamation.  The cover photo for this article is not my home office – unfortunately – as it isn’t posh nor oddly flash, as in those home makeover television shows.  I can say that the picture is in stark contrast to the state of my office, which looks more like my boys had all their mates over and threw a wicked local area network (LAN) party fueled by the finest of American Sodas: Monster Energy Drinks.  And yes, that last bit was sarcasm (sans the mess).

Before taking on new roles and responsibilities away from Citrix, my personal office slowly evolved into a horrendous mess.  I stacked racks with my own equipment, ran all sorts of packet slapping hardware across the room, and even had to fit an air conditioning unit as to not sweat data out of my machines, artwork, and things “open source XenServer”.

It truly was a masterpiece for it not only represented sheer chaos, but it also illuminated that no matter what, all things “digital” is my primary hobby.  I will have to shuffle around for a bit to find photos of it, but it was just above college dorm status and right below the apocalyptic level.

“What does this have to do with this museum you speak of,” I can hear you asking.


I Know My Place…

Well, over the years I had built up a collection of modern hardware.  Everything from audio/visual projects to spare cases I would use to stand up my own network area storage (NAS).  The problem was that out of all my electronics, many machines, consoles, and so forth made it to the trash or recycling bins.  My young boys and wife took priority and I had no time to address the state of each system, so instead of storing them, out they went.  More on that later as eBay has only enraged me over the last two years in reclaiming older systems.

Fast forward to 2015 and I found a mint condition Apple ][gs.  Bought it for literally nothing as in a form of irony, the seller needed to get rid of his own computers to make space for a home expansion project.  My wife was all to kind to remind me that my order of operations in setting up my living, breathing, yes you can touch it, check out this code I wrote in 1992-esque museum was all wrong.

I had been taking donations in without the unused, modern machines going out.  She was quite right and as of late, has even been helping me re-design my office as so I can – through purchase or donation – circle the room with a TRS-80, Mac LCIII, Kaypro, Amstrad (imported or otherwise!), and so on.

While I am happy to say that I am down to two computers for virtualization, I am fighting the hardest bit all of us face: sorting the bits I need to keep as spares as well as finding the actual machines I had recycled over a decade ago.  Try and find the small form factor DEC Alpha online.  Yeah, it isn’t cheap.  Try and talk to someone with a “mint condition ZX Spectrum, but um – I can’t test it” — that’s where I am at now.


So for now…

It may not be a Jay Leno garage, but I’m about 30% close to repainting the walls of the office, properly installing wrap-around desks, but more importantly: book shelves.  Despite being an O’Reilly author along with a good friend, Tim Mackey, I own the first copy of “The Whole Internet: User’s Guide and Catalog” by Ed Krol among many other gems I still find to this day.  Many I have owned in the past and many are unique: capturing a few years of the hottest technology and how to become the master of such wizardry.

I’ll keep updates on my progress and sure, if you have an old system that you want to get rid of…. let me know!  It will be well taken care of and can stare at their great grandfathers: my 1957 and 1945 Remington Rand typewriters I refurbished.

 

–JK Benedict | @xenfomation