Happy Summer Solstice

Yep, the current season for the northern hemisphere is now summer. It would not be summer with out the sun, our local star.

And speaking of stars, the star Eta Carinae made its way on to the front page of Digg twice today. Eta Carinae resides at about 7500 light years away from Earth. Back in the 1840s the light from a supernova like explosion on Eta Carinae reached Earth. Now with composite pictures from NASA excitement over this star is increasing. According to Phil Plait, from Bad Astronomy, Eta Carinae should produce a gamma ray burst in its supernova event. A steady diet of these high-energy rays will kill all living inhabitants of Earth. Don’t panic, according to Phil the most likely directions for the gamma rays to be emitted during the event are not aimed directly at us.

-John Havlik

[end of transmission, stay tuned]

Vista Performance

The Vista beta 2 displayed the potential of Microsoft’s new operating system, too bad that the included performance issues became worse. Last week I was called into a client’s office to try to figure out why a custom written command-line application took twice as long to complete in Vista. By no means is this an apples to apples comparison but the results are surprising.

This particular application written in Fortran an compiled in Windows XP took about 2 hours to complete it’s calculations on a Pentium 4 1.6Ghz machine running XP. The same application, running the same model, on a Pentium D 2.8Ghz machine took over 4 hours to complete when running Vista. Without even knowing that I have primarily used Linux as my main OS for the last month, they inquired on the benefits of migrating to Linux as they own the source code the the majority of the tools they use. Since none of their tools venture out of the command line world, porting them to Linux could be as simple as a recompile.

Last Saturday someone inquired on my impressions of Vista and Linux. Again there was no reason for the person to suspect that I run Linux, but they inquired anyways. These people are not the technical type, they know how to use their computers to aid them in their work and that’s about it. The simple fact that these people are frustrated with Vista and more importantly know Linux exists surprises me. While others have in the past proclaimed the respective year of proclamation the year of Linux, to date no substantial mass migration to Linux has occurred. I will not grant a single entity the privilege of the icon for a year. However, the next three years will be interesting, especially if Microsoft manages to piss off any major game studio (e.g. Electronic Arts).

-John Havlik

[end of transmission, stay tuned]

Vista, Ha! No, Thanks.

Currently Windows only serves one purpose that Linux cannot. Think about it for a while. The only thing Windows does better is gaming. For the past 5 days, I lived without Windows.

There was a method to the ‘madness’, though something crapped out on me (ATI’s display driver) that just set me back a week. Luckily, I now work off of a 20GiB USB hard drive for anything important (work), which is good for when a system goes bonkers. In the process I realized two things:

  1. I really need a wide screen monitor.
  2. Having a laptop or some other powerful computer combined with my current setup would be nice.

Honestly, the realization of needing a wide screen monitor came earlier, but with the multiple desktops Gnome and KDE have, switching between them was fine, but it would be nice to fit Aptana and Firefox side-by-side for the benefit of testing. I’m just waiting for the ones that can fit 1080p HD video plus the taskbars to drop in price—one step down in resolution saves 300 USD. As for having an additional powerful computer (ideally a much more powerful one) so that I can have two separate computers, one that only runs Gentoo for work and daily use. Leaving the other open for playing games, and probably running distcc to aid in compiling for the other.

-John Havlik

[end of transmission, stay tuned]

…And so it Begins

Today marks the beginning of RIAA-free month, participate or face the wrath of DMCA. Normally I’d be all on top of this, and writing more about it, but this semester is not like the previous. What free time I do have is spent working for clients (I have a website to re-launch). Good thing spring break is the week after the next. I’ll leave you with a short phrase with insight to the future: Watch out K2.

-John Havlik

[end of transmission, stay tuned]

Forget MATLAB

Yep, forget it, use GNU Octave instead. For calculus 3, rather linear algebra and differential equations, there is a lab which requires the use of MATLAB to do things that can get ugly. One particular use is for Gaussian elimination for finding values of several variables that solve a set of equations.

Occasionally, a write up is required for certain parts of the problems completed in lab. Checking work previously done in lab when doing the write-up is always reassuring. Going back to the computer lab is not convenient, and the 200USD that it costs for a student license of MATLAB can go to better use. That’s where GNU Octave comes in; it’s GNU’s MATLAB replacement that accepts nearly all of MATLAB’s commands. For Gaussian elimination, Octave sure beats writing a PHP script to do it (which I did on Monday).

On a side note, getting Aptana to work on Gentoo is fairly painless, though its installation doesn’t comply with the Gentoo philosophy. Maybe when it comes out of beta I’ll help get it into portage. I’ve also written a simple bash script for loading Aptana, which will be available in the tools section on this site once I figure out exactly where Aptana’s files should go to be consistent with Gentoo’s installation methods. Since at the U of M they don’t automatically load the modules necessary to run MATLAB at login, and the matlab command doesn’t do it automatically I’ve written a simple bash script that should take care of this. It’s available for download in the tools section.

-John Havlik

[end of transmission, stay tuned]