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Ubuntu 10.10

As the most current review I’ve written for a Linux OS, the first thing you may notice is that I’ve changed the title for this review.  Previous reviews have been titled “Linux Review:…”, while here I simply title it as an Ubuntu review.  Why the change?  I realized that it isn’t a really big deal that Ubuntu is running the Linux kernel.  It could run BSD, etc. and it would still be Ubuntu.  For most people, they’ll just want to know that it’s something different from Windows or OS X.  Like any other Linux distro, Ubuntu is its own ecosystem, as much as it borrows from the hard work of Debian, Red Hat, etc.  This is certainly not a slight against Ubuntu, as that as is the spirit of open-source software, and without that attitude and licenses to allow it, none of these distros would be around.

As the first release since the 10.04 LTS release, I was hoping for some cutting-edge features to grace 10.10.  While there are some refinements, overall there isn’t a whole lot of “new” in this release.  That’s certainly not a bad thing, but I was hoping for something a little more bold.

The biggest feature that I seemed to notice in this release is the inclusion of the new Ubuntu font (link).  Unlike Red Hat’s Liberation fonts, this font wasn’t meant to be a replacement for another font.  In fact, at first glance you can see it’s quite different from a normal font.   At first I didn’t think I would like it, but as I started to use it, I found I actually preferred it more often.  It hasn’t replaced my favorite font of all time (Courier New) but it’s pretty darn close.  They are even working on a Monospace variant, so I can use this gorgeous font while using a text editor.

Other than that, I honestly can’t see anything drastically different besides some bumped up version numbers on the software.  OpenOffice is still in, but the next release will use LibreOffice instead.  These days I find myself using Gedit and AbiWord more often, as I just don’t need many features.  I’m hoping for a big performance improvement as LibreOffice development ramps up.  GIMP is still not included by default, so I have to make sure to include that in my initial addition list in Synaptic Package Manager.

The main thing I’m happy with in this release is that simply everything works as-is.  My wireless card works, while a driver isn’t even available for Windows 7.  I can install Dropbox and Google Chrome just fine.  All of my music is added and can be played in Rhythmbox.  When I built my new PC, I knew it was going to be a work system and not for gaming, as I do plenty of that on consoles.  There are some games I’d like to download and try out (Nexuiz, Alien Arena, etc.) but otherwise my GTS450 will just be for providing a good-looking and snappy interface.  Eventually web browsers and perhaps the new Unity interface will put that card to better use.  I do hope that the next release of Ubuntu pushes forward a little more aggressively, but I do know that until it’s been out for awhile I’ll be quite happy with Ubuntu 10.10 as my OS of choice.

Speaking of the new Unity interface, the next version of Ubuntu that’s currently in development will definitely be bringing in some huge changes.  Will these be changes that I’ll like, or will I need to disable it or even look at a KDE-centered distro?  I look forward to testing it out once it hits Beta, but until then I have a very stable and useable PC with Ubuntu 10.10.

Left 4 Dead Tactics

I’ve been playing Left4Dead since the demo was available on Steam, and not too long ago picked up an XBox360 to play the sequel.  Both are great games, and I’ll be writing a review covering both and what changes were for the better or worst in the sequel.  I usually play with bots, but sometimes I get in a game online.  Since I started playing I’ve learned quite a bit about how to best play the game, especially on the Advanced and Expert difficulties.


Early in the game you can use either the shotgun or the Uzi.  In the first game you will also have a pistol, while in the sequel you can  pick up a melee weapon to replace the pistol.  The sequel also allows for duel pistols, which you can also obtain if a team-mate drops their pistol for a melee weapon.  On the higher difficulties, the pistols and melee weapons will become crucial for clearing out common infected around you, as you’ll need to conserve ammo for your primary weapon for the special infected as well as when the common infected are swarming around you.  You will also need to take into account the time for reloading, especially for dual pistols.  In the sequel, those with melee weapons can simply swing away, leaving those with pistols to help clear those in intermediate and further ranges.  For large groups far away, think about switching to automatic rifles, the Uzi, or using a throwable to reduce the large number of common infected.

With any weapon equipped, you can press alternate fire to shove instead.  This can be a good way to knock back one or more infected attacking you, especially if you need to reload or take some pills.  In the first game you can shove constantly, while in the sequel you will begin to take more time between shoves, but it’s still good to alternate between a shove and firing if there’s a large number of infected.

The pistols are not very powerful (except for the Desert Eagle in the sequel), but they are fairly accurate when fired from a crouching stance.  They don’t have a large clip size (especially the Desert Eagle), so be prepared for the numerous and slow reloads.  The Desert Eagle can inflict massive damage and is also great against the special infected, but like the sniper rifle each shot is critical.  Its recoil is also very high.

In the sequel melee weapons were introduced.  These are great at the higher difficulties for clearing off all infected that are near the group.  There’s no ammo to worry about, and there’s no penalty for constant swinging.  At the higher difficulties two or three of the members should have a melee weapon.  Let the members with pistols draw in infected that are at intermediate and long ranges.

Shotguns are great at easily taking out infected and thinning out a group very quickly.  They don’t hold many shells at a time, so reloading is very critical.  Reloading becomes very slow if all shells are fired, so it’s best to fire three to four shots and then reload if possible.  Obviously they are terrible at longer ranges, but at intermediate range they can still hit enough infected to draw in a group.

Automatic rifles are the standby for the game.  They have fairly large clips, deal a great amount of damage, and from a crouched position can be as accurate as the sniper rifles without the hassle of zooming in and out as well as having the automatic fire when needed.  Holding down the trigger wastes ammo and reduces accuracy, so it should only be used if the group is overwhelmed or if a special infected is getting too close.  Fire a two- or three-shot burst for each shot, and wait to reload until the clip is down to about ten rounds.

Sniper rifles deal a huge amount of damage, but they are very slow to fire and reload.  At higher difficulties only one member should have a sniper rifle.  It can be used to pick off individual common infected that aren’t in a group.  With the scope, it’s also possible to pick out special infected that might be coming around, even a tank that is waiting in an area ahead.  If a witch needs to be taken down, let the sniper get in a few shots to the head to greatly turn the odds.  Snipers are also best for taking out smokers, since they are often in spots that other weapons can’t deal enough damage quickly enough.

The sequel introduced the chainsaw, grenade launcher and M60 machine gun.  These weapons will replace the primary weapon you’re holding.  The chainsaw is great for cutting through a very large group, and for individual infected it is equally effective.  If you just give a small mouse button press for each attack, the fuel can last for quite a bit.  The grenade launcher can take out a large group of infected or inflict massive damage on a special infected.  It’s not good for up-close combat, as it will do as much damage to you and your teammates.  The M60 machine gun is a devastating weapon that can easily tear through common infected and easily put down special infected as well.  It’s easy to burn through the rounds as it has a high rate of fire and no reloading is necessary.


In the first Left 4 Dead there are two throwables available: the molotov and pipe bomb.  The sequel added the Boomer bile.

The pipe bomb is a great way to get surrounding common infected away from the group, as well as to draw in several scattered individuals.  If thrown too far, the pipe bomb can go off with few casualties.  Thrown too close, and it can do more harm to your group.

The molotov is a great way to either set a group of infected on fire, create a wall for charging infected, or to help deal damage to the Tank and Witch.  It can be easy to underestimate the total area set on fire by the molotov, so be sure not to throw it too close to the group.

The Boomer bile is a great way to deflect charging infected, as well as to group scattered infected.  If thrown to an empty area, all infected will swarm to that spot.  If thrown on an infected, they will be attacked by other infected.  The best thing to see is a Boomer bile thrown onto a Tank and watching infected attack it.  On higher difficulties, doing this and then throwing a molotov on the Tank will greatly reduce the damage the group will need to do in order to take it down.


In the game there are two items that can heal: health kits and pills.  The sequel added the paddles which can revive a fallen teammate. Both the health kit and pills can extend health quite a bit, so it’s good to wait to use them until absolutely needed.  When a player gets below a certain health level they will move much slower, which could prevent them from escaping a group or special infected.  It is also useful to use pills instead of health kits if both are available.

Group Tactics

Teamwork is very important in the game, and absolutely critical at the higher difficulties.  When going through the levels, all members must stay close to each other.  When taking down charging infected, it’s best to have two members in the front crouching.  If charging infected are coming on two or more sides, the members will need to decide which area to cover.  It’s best to have at least one member with a shogun, as well as one sniper.  The other two should have automatic rifles, to cover mid- and long-range areas.  The shotgunner can use their pistol(s) for longer range and keep the shogun ready for any needed close-up work.

Communication is not only critical for formation and movement, but for inventory as well.  Throughout the game there will be a limited number of health packs, pills, and throwables.  Using these items at the wrong time can mean the group’s demise in the long run.

When moving along and there’s not many or any infected nearby, it can be good to let someone scout up ahead, though not too far.  They can look for any infected that might be in odd locations, or listen for sounds indicating a Tank or such is nearby.

Kindle is to Books as iTunes is to CDs?

Ever since I purchased my first iPod, I’ve been very happy with digital purchases for my music.  Of course that’s technically confusing, as CDs are digital as well.  But most people say digital to mean on-line, physical-less data.  Of course it’s easy to copy those files to a flash drive or burn to a CD, and then it would almost be like purchasing the CD.  When iTunes became popular, I don’t remember there being too great a debate over choosing it rather than physical CDs.  There were those who complained about the lack of receiving a booklet, some with lyrics and/or artwork, and not being able to actually “hold” the music in their hands.  But most people knew those things weren’t as important as the key feature: simply listening to that music.  And with the popularity of iTunes, album sales have given way somewhat to singles.  Now instead of having to grab a CD to listen to that popular song on the radio, I can just purchase that one song.

There are many great features of iTunes that go along with the convenience of on-line music purchasing.  Some things have been added to appease some of the previous complaints (Artist LP, etc.).  Now that music has essentially evolved to its new form, will the same happen with books?

With music iTunes is the king; in eBooks it seems that Amazon is the lead candidate.  While Apple has begun work on iBooks, and Barnes and Noble has its Nook, it would be hard to argue against the popularity of the Kindle.  And with a Kindle app on the iPad, you can use both Amazon’s and Apple’s solutions.  Now on its third iteration, the Kindle has some great features, a good selection of books, and most importantly is very great to read on.

But is it as an important thing as an iPod?  Will the Kindle and its competitors shove paper copies to the sidelines as the iPod has done to CDs?  There are plenty of things that would make me root for the Kindle’s success.  It is much easier to hold and read the Kindle than either a mass-market paperback or a large hardcover, even if the Kindle (not the larger DX) screen isn’t as large as that format.  Being able to immediately purchase and download a book that’s available for the Kindle is such a better experience than fighting with the crowds at a local bookstore or waiting for an online order to ship.  There is also the amount of space that paper books use.  Several years ago I pared down my book collection as it was far too much to devote space to and move as wel.  What I have left still takes up more space than I’d like.  If all of those books were available on the Kindle, then all the books I would ever need would only take up the space that the Kindle does.  The Kindle’s collection can also be shared among several devices, so I could either continue reading on my iPhone or my work PC, or even share an account with one or more family members.

So what all will it take for the Kindle to match the iPod?  Well it’s not a whole lot.  The hardware is pretty much at its prime, though there is always room for improvement in the screen quality and speed of page flipping.  The app on the iPad and other platforms is also improving.  The Kindle store is fairly easy to use.  Its primary roadblocks are the selection of books and its prices.  I do think the prices are on average much higher than they should be.  Some have said this is due to the publishers, other have said it’s Amazon’s or Apple’s doing.  Regardless, I think fairer prices could be set for “standard” mass-market titles, while textbooks and such could warrant a higher price.

For now I will wait to purchase a Kindle or if I ever get an iPad, but I don’t think it will be too long before eReaders are as much a part of a person’s life as the iPod and smartphone have already become.

Drum Hardware and Double-bass Pedals

I’ve been continuously researching any additional hardware and cymbals I’d like to add to my kit.  Right now I have a ride cymbal, but no crashes yet.  Part of the reason is because it’s not as critical in my practice space to have those cymbals yet, and I’d have to get additional mute pads for them.  I have my ride cymbal set-up in a location where I can use it either as a ride or for a quick hit to simulate a crash, which is sufficient for my current level of playing.  I’d like to eventually add at least one crash, so that with it and my ride cymbal set off to the right, I can use them as two crashes when learning more complicated fills.

I also need to purchase an arm for my cowbell.  I’ll still need to find a place to set-up the arm, as my smallest rack tom is on a clamp attached to the ride cymbal.  When I eventually add another cymbal stand then I can attach it there.  One day I’ll hae to think about another arm for a splash cymbal, but that’s further in the future.

I’ve also been wanting to play a double bass pedal again.  I used to have a Tama Iron Cobra double pedal, and while it was fun to play and had alot of power, it felt too slow, especially compared to my Pearl single pedal.  While most of the popular pedals use either dual chains or direct link, I think I’ll look at ones that use single chains.  While these have the perception of being cheap, I think for my playing they’ll be more than sufficient.  My Pearl single pedal uses a single chain, and it offers plenty of power along with speed.  I’ll have to test the double pedal version of it, but I would be surprised if it didn’t feel as natural to me to play.  Also, I saw a clip on Youtube where Gene Hoglan showed the pedals that he uses.  While they’re single pedals since he uses two basses, they were Tama single-chain pedals.  If that’s good enough for Gene, then they’re good enough for me!

Happy Thanksgiving!

If you are celebrating this holiday, I wish you great memories and safe travels. As usual I haven’t updated this in forever. I think the main thing is I need to find a better way to write and upload new posts, as using the website isn’t as great as a dedicated app or such would be. So what all’s cooking on my mind?

Reason 5 review: lots of new features, primarily Kong

Record overview: I don’t record alot of audio, but I’ll post impressions of how well Record works compared to Audacity and others

Ubuntu 10.10 review: I run Ubuntu on my home PC and use it alot for programming and such, so it merits an in-depth look compared to Windows XP and 7, and to a few other recent Linux distro releases.

Music: I’ve been listening to a few new albums as well as long-time favorites, and it’s time to write some good reviews for those.  Also, I’ve been mulling over some thoughts about drum lessons and other things I’ve discovered, so I would like to share those.

Windows 7 review: My work computer has been on 7 for awhile, and I’ve also been able to deploy it on eligible systems, so my experience with this OS has grown enough that I feel ready to write up how well it works, compare it to XP and Vista, and see how it stacks up against OS X and Linux.

Book reviews: I’ve slowly started reading more, so I’d like to share my thoughts on some of those titles.  I’ll also write about the Kindle, as I’ve been thinking about getting one, and how I think it would do compared to paper copies.

I know I have alot more things to write, and I’ve covered some of those topics in previous posts.  Since WordPress has a Drafts feature I don’t have any excuse not to get those started!

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