Thursday, October 31, 2013

Speed Up Windows Backup

Backing up Windows is essential, because forty forevers are needed to get a Windows install back up to snuff. I used to use Clonezilla to clone my Windows install, but Clonezilla is quite limited for use with a failing hard drive. There is the "rescue" mode, which I used, but I found that the display suffered severe corruption due to I/O errors that displayed rather untidily wherever. Apparently, Clonezilla only updates five numerical values during the cloning process. The labels for these values are not updated, so any errors that pop up simply result in a mess. I did not like looking at that, because in order to interpret the display, I had to google Clonezilla and find a screenshot of what the screen is supposed to look like during ordinary operation. The Clonezilla web site does not offer such a screenshot, I guess because it was deemed unimportant. I tried the very latest version of Clonezilla Debian and Clonezilla Ubuntu, and both had the same behavior. Compounding the problem, I noticed that the "time remaining" value was constantly increasing, rather than decreasing. Of course I do not wish for the cloning process to last all my days, so I aborted the process by hitting the power button, which to my knowledge is the only way to regain control. I think in the future I will only recommend Clonezilla for drives free of I/O errors, and suggest that a drive scan be performed prior to attempting to use the program.

I resorted to using the Windows Backup in Windows 7. I did not have high expectations, but actually I have found it is fairly good, although simple-minded. The display does not get corrupted, which is nice, and what is even nicer is that I can continue using the computer while it is backing things up. The one problem I ran into is that by accepting Windows Backup defaults, again the backing up takes forever. It is much slower than it should be. Googling for help, I found that many users complain about the same problem. I made a simple observation that I am sure has occurred to others. First of all, Windows Backup attempts to compress files, which is often a bad idea, because some files are already compressed, such as jpegs and many popular video and music formats. For some users, such files comprise the overwhelming majority of the space used on their hard drive. This I believe is the main reason that many users complain about slow backup. I do not think Windows Backup is intelligent enough to skip compression for already compressed file formats. For the sake of performance, it should be storing these files, rather than attempting compression. Instead, it is attempting to compress them further, wasting time, because little or nothing will be gained in space. Once a file is compressed, it is impossible to compress it further without using a more efficient algorithm, and I doubt that Windows Backup uses the most efficient algorithm in the world. I do not know why Microsoft went this route.

The solution to slow backup in Windows Backup, in such cases as described above, is to pick and choose the directories to be backed up. The video, music, and picture directories should be copied using Windows Explorer to the backup drive. Windows Backup should not touch them, because that will only slow the backup process down a great deal. Where Windows Backup excels is at compressing all of the system files, documents and data files and areas that the user cannot easily access. I let Windows Backup handle all of that for me. It is actually a pleasant little utility that seems a lot nicer to use than certain alternatives, but like all tools, it does have its limitations.

The NSA Spying Scandal

Each new revelation of NSA spying on people all over the world is a reminder of the type of people who have power in Washington, D.C. The warlords have great power of technology at their disposal, due to plundering the taxpayers and buying enormous amounts of hardware and hiring brilliant technology workers. But the warlords lack morality. They only care about their narrow, selfish interests. The ones that wrap themselves in the cloth of Jesus employ the ancient ruse of piety that deceives many people into thinking that they do have a moral compass, when they don't. At least one of their brilliant technology workers demonstrated that he possessed what they lack, and they hate him for it. Their wickedness exposed, they are wrathful, because they realize that their pretences have less power to persuade.

Great technology paired with low morality is the dilemma of the modern age. The moral aspect of the human species has not really evolved much since the bad old days. I think that the greatest surprise for people of my generation is that nuclear weapons were not used since the end of WW2. I would not rule out nuclear war, however. Nations do not always intend to go to war. War just happens. It is indeed possible to have a nuclear war by accident. I think that over time, if the nations of the world do not become moral, but remain as they are, then one day the world will win the lottery ticket for nuclear war.

In regard to spying, the United States has set a bad moral example for the other world powers. American power fades due to our leaders, the mighty warlords, who think constant warfare is the only necessity and that everything else can be ignored, delayed or mishandled. They have botched everything but a handful of overseas conflicts that benefited America very little or not at all. Out of arrogance, American leaders refused to draw any lesson from the Viet Nam conflict. They refused to learn from history. They believe that knowledge is unimportant, suitable only for academics, except where technology is concerned, because technology has direct military applications, and through the military, they think they can force their will on others.

While American power wanes, the power of China increases. A day will arrive, and I think it is not far away, when China, not America, calls the shots, both figurative and literal. Will China be moral? No, China will play "follow the leader" and do as we did and much, much worse. I do not look for China to set itself above us and be a shining example of morality, because China opts for whatever is expedient, never what is right, and their leaders are outright thieves, tyrants and hypocrites. So China will do much worse. Only fear holds China in check for now, but fear is on the wane in direct correlation with U.S. power. And Russia will do what it has always done, proving that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Close-Up of a Tick

I enjoyed this article in the New York Times for the close-up of a tick, which shows that the tick's mouth looks like a ratchet.

I first encountered ticks on my pet cat when I was a boy. Back then, I used to pry them off with pliers, which seemed like the only way to get them off. They were already engorged with blood at that point, and some were half the size of a dime. The cat seemed cooperative and did not appear to mind the procedure, which led me to suspect that the tick emitted some kind of localized anaesthetic.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

State-by-State Air Quality Data

I just discovered, which I suspect is another good idea from the Democrats. On that government-run site, air quality is clearly displayed on a map for all of the fifty states. I think it is very useful for anyone that might be considering relocating, but particularly those who suffer from asthma. I have noticed that living in one of the states with "moderate" air quality is bad for asthma sufferers.

Sunday, October 27, 2013


I'm one of the lucky ones on this planet. Violence tends to be something I read about in the paper rather than experience in daily life. The last time I experienced violence was long ago in high school. Back then, I was a victim. I had an incompetent teacher in gym class who did not have a conscience. There were many hurts that I received because of him. When I was fourteen, I used to consider the possibility of vengeance. In our modern world, vengeance can be easily obtained and does not require any skill, training or even maturity. Vengeance has a point-and-click interface. It is too easy. That is why certain headlines one reads about are not that surprising or uncommon, although they are sad, yes, sad to me, even if I understand more than I want to understand. I did not consider my old gym teacher to have more importance than any other cockroach I might encounter. I didn't step on and crush him, because I did not want to get my shoe dirty. Clean shoes are more important to me than stepping on cockroaches. There will always be cockroaches. One has to live one's life and forge a life that is about more than just cockroaches.

Impulses occur to many people, sometimes primitive impulses. I wonder whether it is so that everyone has thought of killing someone else at some point in time. Maybe that is not true of everyone. I have met many people in my life who seem exceptionally good. I think they have more goodness in them than I do. I am in awe of them and think they are holy, so I want to do things for them. I cannot say that they have ever thought of harming anyone else. I am not sure.

Certainly by listening to the lyrics of popular songs, watching television shows and reading books, it is clear that the thought of doing violence unto others is not uncommon in the general population. Some people lack sufficient impulse control. They would not make good chess players. They do not pause to consider all of the consequences of their actions. What good fortune I have, because I have good impulse control. But not everybody does.

I'm reminded of my good fortune in living a life free of violence whenever I read about the situations in the Middle East or Africa or read about the deeds of desperate criminals. For me, local crime hits home in a way that the conflict in Syria cannot. Where local crime is concerned, I know the city, I know the streets, I may have met some of the victim(s) before, and I may have even heard the sirens or moved my car aside in order to let emergency vehicles pass.

Some people are natural criminals. That is, they were born that way and don't seem very capable of doing anything else. Or maybe they are capable of doing something else, but we have not discovered the secret yet to directing their energies into more productive lines of behavior. It is too much to ask of society, at this point, to expect it to find the perfect answer for everybody. Society has many problems that remain unsolved. Those who create new problems are put away, either in prison or the cemetery. Even if a violent criminal is successful at one or more heists, I would not envy such a person. They are bound to get caught eventually, because law enforcement is the most advanced it has ever been. The money and manpower available to law enforcement in the U.S. is staggering. Any person, whether criminal or not, would have the odds stacked against him at the very outset of any endeavor that aroused the slightest suspicion.

Last night, I thought to myself how lucky I am compared to the criminal I read about in the local newspaper, who has been apprehended and is facing a sentence of well over a hundred years. Yet I suppose even he is luckier than some, because he did not kill or hurt anyone, though not for lack of trying. His was an old-fashioned crime that reminded me of the movies I used to watch in the 1970s. He was in a car chase from the police and fired a gun many times. Fortunately, he missed. But that will be attributed only to his being a poor shot. I don't think that he will get out of prison until he is very old, if ever. I cannot say that I have any sympathy for him, although I do feel pity.

From the documentaries I have watched, it seems to me that the worst thing about prison is not violence, but mere boredom, the monotony and irritation of seeing the same faces, the same clothes, the same building every day, all year around, possibly for life. I think prisoners resort to violence due to boredom. I suppose the only escape from boredom in prison would be found in reading books, if the warden is kind enough to permit well-written books, but it seems many prisoners are not that keen on reading.

Beyond the near-certain prospect of consequences for a crime, there is the even more important philosophical aspect to consider. The thought of harming others is repugnant to anyone with a philosophical viewpoint. I think conscience can prove an even greater consequence than law in such cases, at least for those individuals with a fully functioning conscience. I have met individuals that seemed to lack a conscience, or their conscience, such as it was, seemed tattered and ineffective. That is why I say that some people seem like natural criminals, because they don't really care about the consequences to other people of their actions. They only care about their own welfare. They do not perceive the connectedness between people, the network that joins us all together. Even in the lyrics of some popular songs, especially rap songs, I perceive this viewpoint. I think people who listen to such music are reinforcing a tendency that they were born with. They are trying to reduce the influence of their conscience, because they feel morality is a weakness, rather than a strength, and that to be evil is to be strong. I see the same philosophy, if it can be called a philosophy, and I suppose it can, in Putin, the strongman in Russia. He, too, believes that might is right, and that to be evil is to be strong. I don't think that such a viewpoint merits a response. The rebuttals are self-evident. China is no better. Both China and Russia are case examples of kleptocracies, or government by thieves.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Review of Ekiga / DreamTime

I'm currently looking for a VOIP provider so that I can make inexpensive long distance phone calls from my computer. Ekiga is one of several VOIP clients available in Linux. I installed Ekiga, but did not get past the configuration Wizard. At step 5 of 9, I investigated setting up a Call Out service, which is my ultimate goal. Computer-to-computer calls are not very useful to me, because the convenience of telephones just can't be beat.

Ekiga's call-out service uses an outfit called DreamTime, which gives Ekiga's developers a decent ten percent of the take. I was willing at first to take a positive view of Ekiga and of DreamTime. However, to sign up, one has to agree to their Terms and Conditions, which seemed onerous:
"You shall not create, publish, distribute, or permit any written material that makes reference to DreamTime without first submitting such material to DreamTime and receiving its prior written consent..." "DreamTime, at its sole discretion, determines whether you are in violation of the User Agreement..." "Any violation of the User Agreement may result in locking of your user account..." "Any request for a refund will result in a minimum $50 research fee."
All of the above terms and conditions seem mean-spirited, written by a misanthrope. DreamTime is threatening to lock the accounts of any customer that dares complain about their quality of service, which they admit may be unpredictable at times. I think that their terms are of questionable legality. It would be interesting to see whether DreamTime could get away with confiscating the account of a customer that posted a negative review of their service. I think that DreamTime would lose that lawsuit, at least in the United States, based upon my limited understanding of business law. I also think that one of their customers could find recourse with the credit card companies or with Paypal, depending upon their method of payment. I am pleased to have read the Terms and Conditions, because now that I have, I know to uninstall Ekiga and not waste any more time with it. It is not a solution, but a potential problem that I don't need.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Kubuntu 13.10 is for Keeps!

Based upon my overall favorable experience, with just a few minor reservations, with Kubuntu 13.04, I opted for a full install of the latest golden egg from the golden goose, Kubuntu, in the process overwriting my PCLinuxOS install. As described in previous posts, I had been dismayed by the lack of certain programs in the PCLinuxOS repository. Kubuntu offers a much wider universe of programs due to its compatibility with Debian. I wanted to return to the light, and luckily for me, the latest Kubuntu 13.10 has just rolled out the door. Using Ktorrent, I torrented the 64-bit version of Kubuntu 13.10, thus ensuring a clean copy, burned the .iso with K3b, and booted the disk. The installation almost went smoothly.

Patience is a Virtue

Upon reboot, the screen froze at the brightening-and-darkening Kubuntu logo. I suspected user error immediately. After all, Kubuntu is a class act. There's no way they would release an install that would not boot, at least on my mainstream hardware--an AMD E-350 apu with ATI Radeon 6310 graphics, 4 gigs of Ram, and a 1.5tb Western Digital Green Drive. I remember popping the dvd out at or near the end of the install when I thought that it was done accessing the dvd. But was the install really finished? Maybe not! I decided to perform the installation one more time to be sure. Kubuntu is always worth a second chance and the benefit of the doubt. This time, I let Kubuntu eject the dvd on its own, without my help, and only when it had done so did I take the disk out. Another change I decided to make was to wait patiently until I saw text on the screen that said "shutting down all processes," or something to that effect. Then I rebooted, and Kubuntu was fine. I've been working with computers long enough to know that user error is the first thing to examine whenever there is trouble. Of course, dear Mr. Kubuntu Developer, to make the install easier, perhaps there should be an instruction on the screen asking the user to keep the disk in the drive until it is no longer needed.

Customizing KDE the Igor Way

After install, the first thing I like to do to any Linux distro is uninstall those prepackaged apps I don't use and install those apps that I do use that the developers did not include. By uninstalling unneeded apps, the frequency and length of future updates can be minimized. In any KDE distro, there is going to be a bias for KDE-specific apps, such as Rekonq for web browsing and Kmail for email. I like many of the KDE choices, such as K3b for cd/dvd burning, Dolphin for file manager, Ktorrent for torrents, and Okular for PDFs, but not all. I can't survive without my Firefox and its universe of add-ons, and I prefer VLC to handle video files, Thunderbird for email, Jedit for coding, and Filezilla for FTP. I decided to keep Kubuntu's default web browser, Rekonq, because even though I prefer Firefox for daily use, Rekonq has its niche. I have found it to be a very lean and agile browser that can handle big, hairy web sites like blogspot, where I compose my posts. Blogspot's "Compose" window can actually crash Firefox on low-spec machines. In cases like that, Rekonq can be a savior. It is a good idea to have a primary and a secondary application for an important purpose like web browsing. Thankfully, Kubuntu has LibreOffice, my choice for office software, already installed.

Kubuntu's solution for package management is Muon Package Manager. Here's a snapshot of Muon (the name, by the way, refers to a subatomic particle):

Muon has really matured since Kubuntu 13.04 and is looking and feeling better than ever.

Muon Package Manager can also update the system and serves as an alternative to the Muon Update Manager, which may not be quite ready yet for prime time, from what I have observed. To use the upgrade option in Muon Package Manager, simply click its "Check for Updates" icon. I expect the Muon Update Manager will be fixed later, but until it is fixed, users should make a note to run Muon Package Manager on a weekly basis to check for and install available updates. Let us give Kubuntu some slack here, because apparently, Canonical sets the release date for all the Ubuntu distros, ready or not, and the problem is after all relatively minor, as there is a workaround. Also, 13.10 is not a long-term support release, but intended for enthusiasts like myself, and it is expected that our enthusiasm will paper over little rough edges in the development snapshot that 13.10 represents. I hope to see Muon Update Manager working soon, but I think I can hang on until it is.

Muon Discover offers more elaborate, user-friendly categorization and presentation of the programs available in the repository. I have not yet determined all of the differences between it and Muon Package Manager. Perhaps Muon Discover intends to offer new features not found in Muon Package Manager. Out of curiosity, I used Muon Discover to install GUFW, a GUI tool for configuring the system firewall. Muon Discover installed GUFW, although I had to search for the little installation progress bar at the lower-left of the screen. After Muon informed me the installation was complete, I noticed that the "Install" button was still enabled beside GUFW, which was confusing. Certainly a user would not wish to install an application twice. Also, when I tried to exit Muon Discover, I received a notice that the application was not responding. I opted to wait for Discover to close on its own, because I did not want to imperil GUFW's installation. After a moment, it closed by itself.

With GUFW, one can configure the firewall with a few clicks and then forget about it. GUFW does not need to autostart every time, but is a run-once utility, although one occasionally may refer to it to open up ports to play online games or torrent. One of the peculiarities of Kubuntu is that it does not include any graphical firewall configuration utility by default. Linux Mint does, and if memory serves me correctly, so does PCLinuxOS. I think that GUFW's absence from Kubuntu may have something to do with GUFW not being a KDE-specific solution and thus posing a bit of an embarrassment, but I'm not sure. For my part, I think it is a no-brainer to include a graphical firewall configuration tool in any modern operating system, and in my opinion, PCLinuxOS and Linux Mint are both correct to do so. I like KDE, but I don't think one has to be a purist about it.

After my visit with Muon, next I like to click on System Settings and begin customizing right away, because I know my preferences. A new user might prefer to get used to the system for a couple of days before they begin customizing. The first thing I do is remove unnecessary services that get loaded at startup. The "Startup and Shutdown" options are found in "System Settings" under the header "System Administration." After loading the "Startup and Shutdown" menu, click on the "Services Manager." Do you use Bluetooth? If not, then you can certainly do without that service loading every time. The same logic applies for such things as the Wacom Tablet and KDE Touchpad Enabler Daemon. If unnecessary services are disabled, slightly more memory is available to programs and, in theory, there is less that can go wrong with the system. I would not classify this as essential for a user like me with four gigs of RAM to play with, but it helps a little bit and satisfies my geeky nature. Here is a snapshot of the "Services Manager" options:

As you can see, I have unchecked some options above.

The "Autostart" sub-menu is rather more useful for the average user and another wonderful aspect of KDE, because I can easily add programs to execute immediately upon boot, thus saving me time. In the morning, I like to hit the power button, then leave for the kitchen and get myself a cup of tea. When I come back, my system is loaded with Thunderbird having checked for new mail, Firefox ready to roll, and Dolphin ready to open any documents I might want to read. Setting these programs to autostart is a true no-brainer. The defaults work fine and no typing is needed. One of the things I like about KDE is that I can get the computer to do what I want it to do without that much effort. Those who remember Windows XP may recall the awful anti-intuitive procedure needed to add a program to startup. I always had to search the internet to jog my memory on how to do it. Not so with KDE, which honors the KISS principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Adding Programs to Startup is Easy

I disapprove of using AM and PM for time, when military time seems more logical from every point of view. It is surprising the number of people who confuse 12AM with 12PM and vice versa, but this human tendency toward error can be avoided and our daily discourse simplified if we all convert to using military time. Right click on the clock, choose "Digital Clock Settings," and under the "Appearance" option, click on the wrench beside "Date Format," which will open up another menu, the "Locale" menu that can also be found under "System Settings." In KDE, sometimes there is more than one route to an options menu, but that is for the sake of user convenience. In the "Locale" menu, of course we want to modify Date & Time, even though military time has nothing to do with either locale or date.

Use the above settings to convert to military time

I also like for the desktop clock to display the day of the week, followed by the alphabetic month, the day, and the year. That is a setting found, intuitively enough, in "Digital Clock Settings," accessible by a right-click on the clock. Under "Appearance," choose the "Long Date" under "Date Format." This will produce a rather unsatisfactory appearance, because the font of the long date is, by default, rather small. The secret to increasing the font size, and it is indeed not intuitive at all, is to look in "System Settings" under "Application Appearance" (not Fonts). Only after you have clicked on "Application Appearance" should you choose the "Fonts" option found there. The font that controls the size of the date is not called anything obvious like "Date" or "Time" but instead is named "Small." Alright, you have found the worst problem in KDE! That's not really so bad, now, is it? Really, it's not. A very minor detail, and now that you know, it is no longer a problem. Hopefully, a KDE developer will read this review one day and tweak the Settings menu just a wee bit!

To change the size of the date in your desktop clock, increase the size of the "Small" font

Desktop Effects deserve attention. I am not sure of the reasons why Open GL 2.0 is set as the default instead of Open GL 3.1, but I suspect the reason has to do with keeping things as compatible as possible. I have reasonably modern video hardware that I think can cope with Open GL 3.1, so I enable it. I also feel it is wise to suspend desktop effects for a fullscreen window, because if I am fullscreen in any application, then obviously I am not going to be appreciating any desktop effects.

Why not use Open GL 3.1?

You may have noticed from the above screenshot that my background colors are dark. I suffer from eyestrain if I stare at a bright screen all day long. I have had mixed experiences with dark backgrounds in both Windows and Linux. They tend to work great for some applications, but not so great for others. In my last review of Kubuntu, I praised "Krita - dark," but I later discovered I could not read text on the screen in some applications. If a dark background is to be used, then the foreground text certainly must be brightened, not left dark. To change the background color, choose "Application Appearance" under "System Settings" and look under "Colors." My preference for this release is "Wonton Soup," which seems to be the most sensible setting I've tried so far, although I notice many text foregrounds are still distressingly dark. I have not yet found the killer dark background that slays all competitors, but when I do there will be a coronation in the form of a blog post dedicated to that style.

Wonton Soup provides a nice dark background

Why Do I Love KDE?

I honestly don't know why Ubuntu went their own way with Unity and why Linux Mint defaults to Gnome-derivatives Cinnamon or Mate, but I suppose the wise developers had their own reasons, and that these must be popular options for the desktop. For my part, I see no reason to bother with any other alternative to KDE except to conserve system resources for a low-spec machine, in which case XFCE to me seems like a good choice. KDE is beautiful, sophisticated, powerful and I love that I can customize every aspect about it. At first, the power to customize is double-edged. With great power comes great responsibility. The panel, in particular, remains vulnerable to getting messed up if a user is not careful. I messed up my panel in PCLinuxOS, but was able to restore to default by copying /etc/skel/.kde to my home directory. There is probably a similar failsafe in Kubuntu. At any rate, I will share the present state of my desktop after an afternoon's tinkering:

My desktop uses the tasteful default KDE wallpaper, because it is easy on the eyes

Note the application icons on the left-hand side of my panel. They are, from left to right, "Show Desktop," which simply minimizes the active window, "Dolphin," the default KDE file manager, "Thunderbird," the Mozilla email reader, "Firefox," the Mozilla web browser, "Filezilla," which I use to ftp files to and from the web sites I maintain, and "Jedit," a programmer's text editor, which I love because it has very good support of macros, a terminal icon which simply opens a terminal for command-line input, and of course, where would we be without System Settings, which is used for tweaking everything in KDE.

My clock, as you can see, displays military time, and beneath it we have the day of the week, followed by the month, and then the day, and the four-digit year. The desktop I keep empty, because I've decided I don't want my desktop cluttered anymore. I prefer to launch apps from the panel nowadays, because the panel remains visible more often than the desktop.

Networking in Kubuntu

After customizing the desktop and the installed applications, next on the agenda is introducing Kubuntu to my already existing home network, so that I can print using the network printer and share files between computers.

I do not use wireless and am not that keen on the idea for desktop users, but those users who do may share their experiences in the comments section below.

After a single file copy from my handy-dandy 2GB flash drive, Kubuntu now communicates with my wired, networked Windows and Linux boxes without any problems. New users, please understand one thing about networking in Linux. There is really only one secret that you have to know. Whenever a Linux distro is installed for the first time, there is a file called /etc/samba/smb.conf that needs to be either edited or replaced. The default is not set up to communicate with your network. It can't, because it has no way of knowing what your workgroup is called, although I think it might be a nice touch for a distro to ask, during or after installation, and maybe offer to setup some directories with network sharing. If you already have a network in place and just want to enable networking on your Linux machine and don't care too much about security, you can edit /etc/samba/smb.conf in the following way:

  1. Change the workgroup to reflect your actual workgroup name.
  2. If your workgroup already exists, then set wins support = no.
  3. Set name resolve order = hosts wins bcast lmhosts
  4. To make a directory on your Linux home directory visible and modifiable on the network, all you need is something like:

    path = /home/igor/Downloads
    force user = igor
    force group = igor
    read only = no
    guest ok = yes
    available = yes
    browsable = yes
    public = yes
    writable = yes

I hardly ever edit smb.conf anymore. I have used the same smb.conf on Linux Mint, PCLinuxOS and now in Kubuntu and it works without fail and gets my machine up and running on the network. This is a file that you will definitely want to backup and keep for any future installation. As a matter of fact, it is the only system-related file I ever backup. The rest, for me, are disposable.

Printing in Kubuntu

A lot of reviewers don't cover the printing angle, because I guess they never sell anything on Ebay or Amazon, but I do. The only way I can explain positive reviews of Open Suse is that the reviewers didn't use their printers. Kubuntu played nice with my network printer, as always. That is a huge reason for me to use Kubuntu. There is something to be said for ease of installation and configuration, particularly when there is no downside to those shining virtues. To configure the printer, I simply clicked on the Printer icon in "System Settings" and clicked on "Add a new Printer." It found the network printer on its own. I did not have to enter the IP address. Kubuntu detected the correct printer driver, too. How's that for service?

I did not experience any problems in Kubuntu until I went to purchase postage on Amazon for something I sold. There the packing list printed without a hitch, but the postage refused to print to my network printer, because the web site's Java application was unable to detect my printer and refused to let me select the printer myself, which I think is the product of very poor programming practice. This is not the fault of Kubuntu but rather seems to me due to a design failure on, which I suspect is not performing any testing on Linux machines. I have printed out postage on Ebay many a time, so I do not know what the problem is with Amazon, but maybe they can ask Ebay for help in sorting out all of their program errors. I printed the postage out on my Windows machine instead. I sold a used book for $8, Amazon took a hefty $3 cut, the media mail postage cost $3, and I spent an hour trying unsuccessfully to get the label to print in Linux. After an hour's work tinkering with the printer settings, I was left with a net of $2 and a firm resolution not to sell anything on Amazon ever again, because they don't support Linux and are greedy with the fees. But Kubuntu comes out of this all right in my opinion.

Kubuntu's Long-Term Prospects

Perhaps differences in philosophy are at the root of the MIR/Wayland controversy. I like technology, but believe philosophy is more important. In reality, however much one might like to cast the issue in philosophical terms, the problem has a very practical impact. We observe the classical Linux case of reinventing the wheel. Instead of one display server to suit all distros, now a new wheel must be invented twice, by different teams of developers working presumably in isolation from one another. That is unnecessary diversion of development resources. In addition, it is by no means certain that an application developed for the Wayland environment will also work well in the MIR environment. Thus, there could very well be in the future two classes of Linux applications, those that work in Wayland and those that work in Mir. Of course, I have only touched on two outstanding and obvious points on the controversy. There are others.

Anyone reading my blog can detect dismay over the choice by Canonical to go alone with Mir rather than Wayland in the future. I don't really care about Ubuntu and their Unity, but there is a pertinent question as to how this might impact Kubuntu or for that matter Linux Mint, both of which are based on Ubuntu. I am pleased that Kubuntu's developers have declared on their web site that they will use Wayland in accordance with the same decision by KDE developers and all of the other Linux distros and desktops in the Linux community. I think if Kubuntu ever starts experiencing a lot of friction due to future changes made in the Ubuntu MIR-centric codebase, then they will simply fork from the last stable (stable from the Kubuntu/KDE point of view) and continue as they always have been, perhaps even stronger than before. I think, as they are now employed by Blue Systems, that their long-term prospects are excellent.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Where is Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup on PCLinuxOS?

I was dismayed to discover that there is no Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup available in PCLinuxOS's repo. Not even a version from five years ago. Not even Linley's Crawl, which was released a decade ago. This puzzles me, because the open-source game is available in Debian/Ubuntu, ArchLinux (which has the very latest release, thanks to Jakob Gruber), and now Fedora. I'm afraid that this is going to be a deal-breaker for me, because access to the latest version of Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup is absolutely essential and non-negotiable. With perfect timing, Kubuntu just released version 13.10.

I tried my hand at being a fledgling PCLinuxOS packager myself and managed to compile Wesnoth 1.10.7 successfully, of which the geeky side of my nature is proud, but this will probably benefit no one but myself. I like the idea of helping the community, but I'm no longer sure what the process is for getting packages accepted into the repo. My hunch is that you have to know somebody. I don't really want to get into the business of having to compile the programs I want anyway. It seems tedious to me. I like having access to a well-stocked, updated repo that is accessible from a well-designed and intuitive update manager. In PCLinuxOS, the update process has proved an annoyance, because a lot of mouse clicks are required, and I am not informed of the descriptions of the packages being updated. In the Ubuntu world, the user can at least read a little blurb about each of the packages being updated.

Although PCLinuxOS provides a stable and fast KDE environment, in part I think due to the strategic decision to remain with an older Linux kernel (causing problems for users with newer hardware), my chief concerns are about the update process and the lack of software available. Just from a few weeks of use, I have noticed a glaring omission (no version of Dungeon Crawl whatsoever, outdated version of Wesnoth) and I wonder what other software I will have to learn to live without or resort to compiling myself if I continue down this road. Based on my experience here, in the future I think it may be wise to remain on the well-trodden paths of either Arch Linux or Debian.

Friday, October 18, 2013

My Code is Beautiful

I'm the type of programmer that likes to beautify, structure and document my code for no reason other than I like to look over the source code and refine every last detail whether it really matters or not. I think that is taking pride in my work. One advantage is that in looking it over so much, I become very familiar with its ways, so that if I ever have a problem, I can resolve it quickly. And we all know the advantage of structure and documentation, which make one less likely to forget things and faster at apprehending complicated processes. I was looking over my for Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup today, which I updated, and I thought to myself what a work of art that little thing has become. It's a lot better than it has to be. The idea behind the script file is simple and could have been accomplished with 95% less code, but I added bells and whistles to simplify use and maintenance so that it could endure the centuries, so to speak, although that does seem a bit unlikely. I was always that way with code, whether I was coding pages for web sites using html and css in a text editor or backend programs to handle the accounting for a billion-dollar corporation. I remember spending days refining the central program that handled all the accounting processes from A to Z in the company I worked for. It began its life as spaghetti code, and all the programmers hated it, but in particular I was contemptuous of it. Code like that actually offends me and fills me with the compulsion to clean, clean, clean. When I had finished with it, it was highly organized and easier to understand. Instead of looking at it in the middle of the night, say, when the you-know-what had hit the fan due to technical glitches caused by some other process, and wondering what the hell was happening, I or anyone for that matter could just glance at it and understand exactly how things were supposed to work. It had progressed from being crap-code to being a work of art. I believe that programmers should focus on getting things done first, because after all that is the most important thing, but it is also very important to focus on ease of maintenance to ensure that the code will be useful for years to come. There are some systems and programs that even the end user can tell are based upon very refined code, because of the way they work and the absence of bugs, and even when bugs do arise they magically seem less in severity.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

I Recommend Linux Mint to All Computer Users

My brother and I were praising the virtues of Linux yesterday and discussing why Microsoft remains so popular. My non-techie friends will go out of their way and pay a bundle of money just to get the latest version of Windows on their computer, which invariably they dislike. When I mention Linux, they just associate it with geeks and with technical difficulties and lack of software. I mention that one can run Firefox or Chrome on Linux, but they worry about the absence of Internet Explorer. I mention LibreOffice, and they worry over the absence of Microsoft Office. Microsoft has done a number on the general public.

I told my brother that I would feel 100% comfortable installing Linux Mint for my mother. That says a lot. My mother is the opposite of me where computers are concerned. If I feel comfortable having her run Linux Mint, it means I am satisfied Linux Mint is safe, secure and very, very easy to use. Actually I find Linux Mint easier than Windows, and why? Because Linux Mint sets all the drivers up, sets up Firefox with Flash, and does not require any anti-virus. Most of the software comes pre-installed. New software, instead of having to be downloaded and installed from, perhaps, dubious sources, is pulled in from trusted, verified, tested, scrutinized repositories, thus minimizing any chance of malware, the bane of Windows systems. I do not believe Windows is safe for use by the general public, which is using something that will, in the end, cause them heartache and misery, as their systems become compromised, hacked, slowed down, and outright broken. I see this time and time again.

For my brother, the stepping stone into the wonderful world of Linux was Clonezilla, a Live CD that is extremely useful for Windows and Linux users alike. With it, one can create a perfect clone of an operating system. Once he discovered how nice Clonezilla was and how powerful, Microsoft's spell was broken. I seized my opportunity and mailed him a DVD with Linux Mint Xfce. I know Xfce will run fast on any old system he has lying around, and Xfce is perhaps the most problem-free and problem-resistant desktop available for Linux Mint. I love Xfce because it is a wonderful compromise between barebones efficiency and user-friendliness. I also love how fast Xfce boots. When he compares Linux Mint Xfce's boot-time with Windows, I think every Linux user knows which horse wins that race.

I do not grasp the utility of the newer desktops, Mate and Cinnamon. These are defaults with Linux Mint. I believe a lot of time has been invested in developing these desktops and ironing out all of the bugs. They work all right for most purposes, but I fail to appreciate where Mate is in any way superior to Xfce. Where Cinnamon is concerned, I do not see a compelling reason to prefer it over KDE. Xfce and KDE have been around forever, and I don't see any good reason to abandon them now for a new desktop. One of the problems in Linux is that so much effort seems to be scattered shotgun-style, when it might be better to focus the energies of developers on perhaps one or at the most two desktops and a smaller number of apps. I think the central problem revolves around the human ego and the difficulty developers have in working together, sharing the credit, and sharing the decision-making, and arriving with wise and fair decisions that can be accepted by everyone in the group. Diversity of opinion causes developers to break off from a project and form their own project rather than subordinating their preferences to the team. Of course, the personality of a technical person is likely to be divergent and independent to start with, because who but a pioneer would open up his box to find out how it works and how to make it better?

I mentioned that I use PCLinuxOS for one of my desktops, but that is not a distro I would recommend to a beginner. The update process is not as smooth as Linux Mint, and I view the "MiniMe" edition as a potential pitfall for the unwary. If I were to recommend PCLinuxOS to anyone, in the same breath, I would have to warn them not to use the MiniMe version. I would also have to explain the update procedure in some detail. Linux Mint is pretty good about eliminating potential "gotchas" that can cause problems for beginners. In fact, I think that the developers invest a lot of time thinking about how they can make Linux Mint easier to use. However, what I like about PCLinuxOS is that I can compile from source in order to access new versions of software that Linux Mint doesn't have ready yet. I also like that PCLinuxOS apparently runs forever without requiring reinstallation. We will have to see about that over the long term. I also feel better about PCLinuxOS for not following Canonical's descent into Mir.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Gimp Seems Limp

I have not been impressed with the Gimp. My image modification needs are modest. Usually, all I need to do is resize or crop an image. Gimp insists upon saving images in .xcf format, which I have never heard of, and this .xcf format cannot be read by many other programs. That bizarre decision on the part of the developers prohibits use. I suspect that there is a way to teach Gimp how to use the universally accepted .jpeg format or there is a hidden option in Gimp that is not easily found, but one can find by googling "gimp jpeg." Whatever the case may be, I have zero motive to even bother learning Gimp's ways. If I ever have a heavy-duty image editing need, then I turn to Windows 7 and ACDSee, which is intuitive, fast and powerful enough for almost any need of the average user. In Linux, I have found that ImageMagick, a quirky, modest little program, works great for resizing .jpeg pictures and is very fast, too. I also strongly recommend Digikam, which is powerful and capable of handling digital cameras.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


I have been pleased with PCLinuxOS so far, although there was a bit of a learning curve for me, arriving from the universe of Linux Mint/Ubuntu. I think what I like most about PCLinuxOS is that I found what appears to me an easier and better-documented path to compiling programs from source, which means I will be able, after educating myself, to access the very latest versions of my favorite Linux programs, such as Wesnoth, something that I was not able to do in Linux Mint without a lot of trial and error. In PCLinuxOS, much of the overhead in setting up the system for building from source has been automated, meaning I can get started rapidly, whereas with any Ubuntu derivative, there is a lot of guesswork involved in determining what dependencies and compilers are needed, and I am not aware of any process that automates all of the overhead. I did manage to compile Ktorrent 2.3.1 before it was made available in Kubuntu 13.04, but I spent a couple hours tracking down its dependencies, and I had to make educated guesses in most cases, because the dependencies named on the Ktorrent web site do not match the names of the dependencies found in the Ubuntu repositories.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Coarse Comments

Sometimes I wonder whether to turn comments off, as some bloggers have already done. Google feeds visitors to just a handful of pages on this blog, for the most part, and those posts tend to concern narrow, technical topics of limited interest to me, such as Blexbot scrapers, or my method for cheating in Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup, or Kubuntu 13.04. I wrote them, true, but they are not subjects that I find to be of great or abiding interest. The popularity of these posts reflects what people tend to search for on Google and also the stringent competition on Google for philosophical topics. Whenever I write on philosophy, I can almost guarantee no one will ever comment on the post. My site finds a little niche in the search engine database only where narrow, obscure and complicated technical topics are concerned, because there are not enough writers in the world on these topics.

The quality of comments is occasionally deplorable. Recently, someone commented that Blexbot programmers "should be hung from a tree," which I deleted, because that is a horrible thing to say, for many reasons. Such sentiments, common though they may be, will not be published on my watch. I do believe in censorship, where threats and insults are concerned, and this was a key matter of disagreement between myself and a former friend of mine. Some words are precursors to (s)words. That swords not be drawn, let such provocations remain unsaid.

Another person commented that "lol cheating is fun," in reply to a hack for a game, which struck me as ungrammatical, evoking the image of the writer sitting by his computer with a long silvery thread of drool hanging from his open mouth and a dozen empty beer cans by his feet. I invest time and thought into my posts, and if a commenter lacks the ability to do the same, then their comment does not need to live.

I've had worse comments, too, like the one from the meth fan who cursed me in several comments, for no apparent reason, until he revealed the irritant by arguing "some people can handle their meth," which may be up for debate, but foul and abusive language curtails all debate and cedes the field to the other side, me. Former meth users, such as musician Rufus Wainwright and comedian Margaret Cho, two prominent celebrities, have come forward and revealed that meth caused them pain and suffering, along with disturbances in their relationships with other people. Although the same can be said for alcohol, this is not quite the case with a substance like marijuana, which is non-toxic and does not harm the human body. Margaret Cho called marijuana "a vegetable, not a drug," an assertion that I think has some merit, because it is certainly not harmful in the same way that other drugs are harmful. One can use too much marijuana, just as one can eat too much asparagus, but the effects are not as serious as using too much alcohol. Alcohol can and does kill its users in a variety of ways, whereas marijuana does not. On the other hand, I do not believe meth is safe for humans, and have said so here, although I allow a possible exception during battlefield tactics, for which meth has a certain historical basis deriving from WW2. For civilians, I find it difficult to imagine any scenario where meth would be useful medicine, although along with other substances, it could possibly enhance the end-of-life experience for those about to die. I dislike advocating blanket rules that cover all situations, because as an engineer, I know that the devil is in the details. There will be cases that are unforeseen, because who among us sees all?

Monday, October 7, 2013


I occasionally worry about potentialities like heart disease and stroke. I think fear is something that comes and goes as life progresses. I remember when I was going to school, there was much fear, because of schoolyard bullies. In the last two years of high school, there was no fear. In college, I was fearless. The only thing to fear were things that were relatively easy to prevent, such as car accidents or AIDS. I didn't drink and drive, and appreciated the virtues of condoms and abstinence, the two methods to prevent the spread of AIDS. As one gets older, one contracts various medical conditions like obesity or arthritis or lower back pain that, while minor, are a reminder of the greater problems that lie ahead. Looking ahead, there is certainly a lot to be afraid of, such as senility, stroke, heart disease, loss of brain function, incontinence, and the list goes on.

I think what I fear most is an undignified end. The best death is instantaneous, without long, lingering pain and suffering, and planned, rather than abrupt. The problem with untimely death is that things may be left undone that should have been done, like setting a will in order or doing things for people. I remember helping others care for an elderly, very ill lady about a year ago. She expressed great fear. I think she was afraid of losing control, either of body or of mind or both, and of death, which represents loss of control and loss of identity. I think that she had been strong once. It is difficult to maintain a philosophical pose when death is so near, in the room so to speak, hovering over one's shoulder. I think it is only natural to feel fear. And there is nothing wrong with fear either. Fear has a purpose, too. Fear often keeps us alive by restraining our actions.

Reading biographies of people can be a comfort, because there is the observation that others, even the great and the powerful, and geniuses with fantastic powers of intellect, have passed through the same transitions brought on by age. I have often thought that Shakespeare was shortchanged in the longevity department. Add Chopin and Mozart to that list. It seems that in our rapidly progressing technological world, each generation is luckier than the previous one, because advances in medicine continue to expand and improve the human condition. I wonder, though, whether society will be able to maintain this progress in the face of daunting challenges, such as climate change and economic instability. I don't feel like the Republicans in Congress have any answers. They seem to create new problems rather than solving old ones. It seems to me that there are not enough jobs anymore, due to the automation of so many tasks that used to provide employment to millions. Of course the Republicans don't care about that and wouldn't know what to do about it even if they did care. Education will decline, crime will increase, and politics should turn nastier. The idle and impoverished millions around the world will become fodder for revolutionary sentiment at some point or another, if history offers any guidance in the matter. Whether social unrest takes on a right-wing or left-wing banner is hardly important. I hope for continued stability at least during my lifetime and in my region of the world.

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Power of Kindness

Some people underestimate the power of kindness and of saying "Yes." In reality there are not many things that definitely have to go one's way. There is room for compromise on just about everything except what an individual regards as basic needs. Kindness has many rewards. Some people are so surprised at being met half-way that they will go out of their way to repay the kind gesture with even greater kindness, so that kindness begins to escalate between people--a virtuous, rather than a vicious cycle. Good people set up virtuous cycles in their lives that generate goodwill, happiness, safety and security.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

First Impressions of SolydK, Manjaro, and PCLinuxOS

Canonical's decision to embrace Mir and abandon X and Wayland has consequences for Ubuntu derivatives such as Kubuntu, Xubuntu, and Linux Mint. Also, I've noticed that Canonical's development has been focused on features that mean nothing to me, such as the Unity desktop. I feel that Shuttleworth has a vision for my desktop that differs dramatically from my own. This means Ubuntu and I must part ways at some point in the future. For that reason, I've been exploring other distros in the hopes of finding one that can replace the various Ubuntu derivatives I have been using.

I evaluated Open Suse 12.3 several months ago, but Open Suse still hasn't figured out intuitive printing and a lot of other basics, which is curious. I have the impression that Open Suse doesn't really want new users. Open Suse seems to be the beta-testing sandbox for Suse Enterprise, just like Fedora is the beta-testing sandbox for Red Hat.

I tried SolydK (version "201309," released 9/23/2013) out the other day. I was impressed that it offered to install the ATI proprietary driver for me. A most auspicious beginning! Not every distro offers that kind of service, for sure. I was very pleased seeing it download ATI's fglrx.

But then when I rebooted (as recommended), I got the black screen with nothing visible. Nothing to be done there. Pressed the power button. Second time around, I chose Recovery Mode and got the command line. I typed in "StartX" to see what happens and got the "Solyd blacK" screen again with nothing visible. I can't work without seeing what I'm doing, sorry, I'm not a Jedi Knight yet, only in training. Hit the power button. I then rebooted again in Recovery Mode and uninstalled Plymouth via "sudo apt-get remove plymouth", based on suggestions in the SolydK forum for someone who also used ATI and had a similar problem. No dice. I've now rebooted four times to a "Solyd blacK" screen. I am guessing this is a problem that only affects users with ATI graphics who choose the recommended options of installing the proprietary driver and using Plymouth.

One more thing I'll note is that early in the install process, Solyd identified my hard drives as sda and sdb, and the description for both was "Model". That would deter any Windows user right away, because it is unclear which drive the system will be installed on, and clicking "Forward" might very well begin the install process for all the user knows. As a Linux veteran, I knew to boot up Partition Editor to find out what sda was, but not every user will know to do that. Yet I noticed on several SolydK reviews, there were screenshots where the drives were clearly identified during the install process, so maybe this too is a problem that just impacts my rig.

My next experiment was Manjaro Xfce 0.87.1. With dismay I noted that it was using the same installer as Solyd. Sure enough, I got the same problem with my hard drives being identified only as sda and sdb. This time around, I opted to disable Plymouth, but install the proprietary driver. Manjaro installed, and I rebooted, but Grub spat out an error and went into recovery mode. That was the end of my experiment with Manjaro.

Next, I tried PCLinuxOS, 64-bit KDE version. I first heard of PCLinuxOS and indeed about Linux in general through Piers Anthony's excellent and entertaining blog. The fact he used Linux was a big factor in persuading me to give Linux a try, especially after Microsoft dumped Vista and then Windows 8 on an unsuspecting public. I have been pleased with Linux and glad I learned about it, and I wish with all my heart that more people used Linux.

PCLinuxOS installed without any problems. As one reviewer noted, the installer could use additional refinement, such as a Back button in addition to the Forward button, and maybe a few other little things, but it worked out well for me in the end. "Unrefined" is perfectly okay, when set in contrast with "not working at all." Possibly the most important aspect about a distro is ease of installation, because without the initial install, nothing else happens, and installation forms a strong first impression.

For me, PCLinuxOS's main charm that sets it above the Ubuntu family of distros is the premise I won't have to reinstall later, a major headache for Ubuntu users. I also like how easy it was to update and to install my network printer. Setting up the printer was a trial with OpenSuse 12.3 and influenced me to abandon Open Suse. I've been pleased with PCLinuxOS so far and appreciate some of its features, such as installing everything including the kitchen sink, which annoys some reviewers but pleases me. I can easily uninstall what I don't like, and I think it is helpful to have the apps there to play with, because otherwise I might never find them on my own. I thought the option for changing the wallpaper could have been more intuitive--I had to google for the solution--but that's a minor demerit.

The update procedure for PCLinuxOS is a bit cumbersome, although in my brief experience, it has worked without error. The user is notified about updates by an exclamation mark in the taskbar. Contrary to expectations, clicking on this does nothing. However, by right-clicking on the icon, a menu pops up with several options, none of which read "Install Updates." I gave up at this point and researched online in order to learn how to update PCLinuxOS. The procedure is as follows. After right-clicking the red exclamation mark icon, one selects the option, "Run Synaptic," and enters the administrative password for root access. Once in Synaptic, one clicks the "Refresh" button to refresh the data. After that, one clicks the "Mark Available Updates" button, followed by "Apply." In total, several clicks are needed, with delays following each one. I wish the update process were as seamless as that of Linux Mint's wonderful Update Manager. Every Linux distro tends to reinvent the wheel, but not all of their wheels roll equally well. Of greater concern, I did not notice any descriptions of the updates. Usually, Ubuntu derivatives offer at least a sentence or two of description about the packages being updated and their function, which can help the user troubleshoot any future problems. However, I weigh this inconvenience against the much larger inconvenience posed by new releases in Ubuntu and Ubuntu-derivatives such as Linux Mint, which require the user to completely reinstall the operating system and reconfigure everything at the cost of several hours' work.

Uninstalling applications in PCLinuxOS has been unintuitive as well. When I tried to uninstall KFloppy, Synaptic informed me that I would also be uninstalling an important kde library used by many other applications, which surprised me. This is not behavior that one might find in Linux Mint. I clicked OK anyway, just to see what would happen. I expected various applications to break. What actually happened was nothing at all. After uninstalling KFloppy, Kfloppy was still there in the menu. I clicked on it, and it loaded just like before. My conclusion is that uninstalling is buggy in PCLinuxOS. There is a possibility that it works sometimes, but it certainly does not work all of the time.

I was disappointed to find that all of the energy-saving features activate during video playback in VLC, an annoying bug that was also present in several versions of Linux Mint. I suppose distro developers never watch videos and only read books, which is commendable, I suppose, depending upon the nature of the books they read. My solution to this bug has been to disable all of the energy-saving features, which means that PCLinuxOS costs more to run than any other operating system, including Windows. I have read that Caffeine is one potential solution to the problem, but if this is the only solution, then I think it should be installed by default.

In conclusion, I think that PCLinuxOS deserves to be higher on the DistroWatch list than it is at present. In general, it is a solid, easy-to-use distribution, which is what I want and expect from a distro. As Canonical's strategic decisions continue to impact Ubuntu-based derivatives, I think more and more people are going to migrate over to other distros in the years to come.

Firefox Sync: Unintuitive

I never remember how to use Firefox Sync, and that means I can't recommend Sync to anybody. I recommend Firefox, because I love Firefox Add-Ons and the open source nature of Firefox, but Sync has given me frequent problems. In the first place, it doesn't always work for me. Sync stopped working for me once I amassed over 30 styles in Stylish. When I updated my operating system and installed Firefox, I couldn't Sync. There was no error message, but the Syncing failed. I tried several times and wasted about an hour before online research, which is my particular strength, informed me that Sync was broken and buggy. There is a storage limitation on their Sync server, and instead of informing the user about this, Firefox simply fails to Sync, leaving the user to wonder if he did something wrong and should try again a hundred-odd times until it works, which wastes bandwidth and time for everybody, Mozilla included. In the end, I lost all my styles.

But Sync has more problems than just not working right. I can't figure it out half the time. I always have to read the documentation. It is not clear to me how to sync or what each sequence of clicks will do. I have more than once lost an entire Firefox configuration due to the non-intuitive, user-hostile Sync interface. If I can't figure it out--and I'm not exactly a newcomer when it comes to computers--I wonder how all the other users are doing with it. I think it would be very easy to code Sync in such a way that it is intuitive and easy to understand. I think it would take all of an afternoon and nothing more. I just think whoever programmed it was not that skilled at user interfaces and is probably more of a backend coder, possibly good at making a system function but not so good at explaining it to human beings.

I find Thunderbird annoying in a similar manner. I can't figure out how to stop spam. Thunderbird marks emails it thinks are spam, but delivers them anyway in my "In" Box, alerting me with a visual and audible signal about the important spam message. I find Thunderbird pretty primitive as far as an email client goes, but it is still better than Kmail, which requires me to enter my password each and every time I check my email. I do not see the point of using a mail reader in the first place if there is a need to enter the password. Might as well used web-based email in that scenario.
techlorebyigor is my personal journal for ideas & opinions