Thanksgiving Special: The Verdict


I decided I'd give you all a slightly different kind of treat today for Thanksgiving. This is a short story I wrote about two months ago, and I hope you all enjoy. It has absolutely nothing to do with computers/Linux/Open Source but I think you might enjoy it. I'd love your feedback.

Remember, today is THANKSgiving. Be thankful for the friends, family, memories, and things you have been blessed with. Now, on to the story.

The Verdict

Note to reader: All characters and places are fictional. No ethnicity, culture, or system of government is represented in any part of the story.

I waited in silence. There were no sounds except the dripping of a leaky sink down the hall. The only light in my small confinement came through a small slot in the door. The floor and ceiling were cement and there were no other openings. There were four cinderblock walls painted a dull grey. A small cot occupied almost a third of the cell, and a steel toilet fastened to the wall was the only other furnishing.

I stood up and started pacing the small cell, trying to organize my scattered, drug-thirsty thoughts. Although the drugs had been out of my system for days, my body and mind screamed for them. The longing occupied my every thought, and all I could think of was how in the world I had gotten here. I couldn't remember what had happened, and the parts I did remember seemed like a puzzle, whose creator forced every single piece into the wrong spot: nothing made complete sense.

My whole brain was a haze of fogginess. But, like a lighthouse beacon slicing through the thick fog, there was one thing I knew: I was alone. Utterly and completely alone. Abandoned by the human race, abandoned by any sense of hope, abandoned by any glimpse of mercy. The only thing that had not abandoned me was life itself. But soon even life would be taken from me, when I would be strapped to the chair. And death is no good companion.

From what I could remember, it all started a few hours ago when I was on the way out of the bar and I noticed two rather finely dressed young men. Their suits and velvet ties told me they must have had enough cash between them to set me up for a few days or even weeks. With the hopes of cash in mind, I pulled out my small revolver and bumped into the first guy. He grunted and I slurred into his ear, "Move into the alley!" I nodded my head towards the crooked lane a few feet away.
He backed up a few steps and started moving into the alley; his buddy followed, seeing the black metal of my revolver glint in the street lamp light. They were trying to act calm, but their eyes darted from my face to my gun in fear.

"Hey, buddy, we don't want any problems. I don't have any cash, but take this gold watch; it's all I have."

He started to reach into his coat pocket, but my crumbled judgment and tense hand misjudged his action. BANG! The man with the watch fell back and cried out in pain while the other man started to jump for my gun. BANG! BANG! Two bullets thudded into the other man’s chest; he lay gurgling and gasping on the ground. His lungs were obviously punctured, and he wouldn't have long to live.
I got scared, started to panic, and emptied the rest of my 3 rounds into the first man. He lay still, dead, lifeless. What had I done? I stood there, unable to move. I couldn't think straight; all my body wanted was drugs, and I knew I needed money to get them. I frisked the first man and found no cash, only a gold watch and a few credit cards. I took those. I moved over to frisk the other man but stopped as I heard sirens in the distance.

I had to get out of there. I started to run, but only stumbled a few feet before tripping over a bag of trash in the alley. The sirens were getting closer and my heart pounded faster. Sweat poured down my face. The sirens arrived and the alley was flooded with light; I was momentarily blinded.

"Drop to the ground and put your hands on your head!" the loudspeaker boomed.
I didn't know what else to do, so I did as I was told. A dark figure approached and since I still held the spent gun in my hand, I tried to hit the figure with it. I missed and a hard blow to my head knocked me cold. Only blackness remained.

I woke up in a small room. A very bright light shone down from the ceiling and my head throbbed with pain from the bludgeon's blow. I sat up as far as I could. I was cuffed to the bed I lay in. The bed itself was bolted to the wall and floor. I couldn't quite remember what had happened.

A policeman came into my room and told me I had less then a half hour before I had to be dressed and in the small speed court in the prison hospital. I was still only half-conscious but the guard gave me my clothes and told me to put them on. In less than ten minutes another guard joined the first and escorted me to the court room.

The court room was small. It contained one long table and about a dozen folding chairs. In the middle of the long table sat an aged man with a very stern face. On his right side, a woman sat looking through a rather large folder filled with many documents. On his left side sat a young man who looked to be no older then twenty-three and fresh out of college. He had a very sad face, as if someone very close to him had just died.

The guards sat me down in front of the long table, each taking a seat beside me. It wasn't long before the hearing was begun. The judge had the lady to his right begin by showing the contents of the folder. As the woman began to talk about each document or picture, I realized that this was the evidence against me. The judge looked over each article somberly.

Once he had seen most of the contents he stopped the young lady.
“I want to hear what the guilty party has to say for himself.” His voice was deep and rich. He looked me in the eye, and waited for my excuses.
“I can explain,” I said, my mind still hungering for its drugs. “I was drunk and on crack. It wasn't me who did this crime. I didn't want to, the drugs made me do it, and I needed the money. I didn't have any money.” This made sense to my foggy and unfocused brain; each of my reasons seemed like valid points that no judge could hold against me.

The judge looked me straight in the eye and said slowly, “You've been convicted of double homicide, possession of drugs, robbery, and carrying a firearm you are not licensed to own. Because no one has come forward to claim to know you or to be you relation, we have no reason to have you in a county prison. All evidence is against you, and your own testimony reveals that you do not deny your own crime.” He paused and whispered something to both of his companions. Each nodded their approval. “The verdict: death row. You have 3 hours until you are to fulfill your sentence. There is no reason to lengthen the time before your sentence is to be taken into effect. You've proven that you're only a hindrance to any kind of moral society; therefore you will not be permitted any rights. Your sentence is final.”

With that final remark, he signaled the guards to take me away. I still couldn't comprehend what was going on. Why hadn't the judge listened to me? Why had he been so unmerciful to me? My reasons seemed so valid, so human, but here I was headed for death. I had nothing, no one, and nowhere to go but down.
The guards led me to a small holding cell. One of them unfastened my cuffs and shoved me in the cell, then closed the heavy iron door behind me. I was alone. Utterly and completely deserted.

I waited in silence. Each second seemed to last an eternity as my dark end drew closer and closer. My head was a wreck, and I had a splitting headache. My body seemed to scream with longing for drugs. At least it took my mind of my impending doom.

I paced, sat, or lay in my cell for about two hours. My headache had let up enough for me to get a hold on what was going on. I heard footsteps coming down the hall accompanied by what sounded like a man sobbing. The footsteps drew closer and I went to the small slot in the door to peer through. There, about to pass by my cell, was a man whose face was so blotchy and disfigured from weeping that it was hard to tell who it was. As he drew closer to my cell I recognized him; he was the judge who had unmercifully sentenced me here.

I flew at the door in anger, and screamed at him as he drew near my cell. “You unmerciful judge!!! I hope you're sorry! You don't have a heart!!!” I could see that my words stung him, as foolish as they must have sounded. He looked up from the ground and into my own angry eyes. I spat in his face, expecting him to lash out at me. Instead he spoke softly saying, “Justice is simple: for your wrongs someone must die.” He continued down the hall as I cursed after him. I wanted nothing more than to tear him apart, make him feel the pain he had put me through. My rage was boiling over; my limbs shook with anger.

Then, all of a sudden, as if a wave had hit me, my anger turned to shame. I fell to the ground convulsing and weeping uncontrollably. My body shook as I sobbed and sobbed. The pain from my head and body was gone, and everything seemed to come into focus as if a mental fog was lifting. I could see the evil in my heart. The truth about my state. It was my fault, all of it; no one could be blamed but myself. I had taken the drugs, I had drunk too much, I had pulled the trigger. As each of my wrong deeds dawned on me, it felt as if I were being punched with an iron fist. I was nothing, a nobody, a wretched and wicked man who had destroyed the lives of those who deserved everything.

I wanted to be free of it all. I wanted to get out of this cell, to start over, to begin a new life. But there was no hope. The wrongs had already been committed and my sentence had already been placed on my head.
At this point, the lights in the hall dimmed, as if a large current of electricity were being drawn out. They must be testing the chair for my punishment, I thought. I hated the reminder of my impending doom. My record was now black and rotted through; no good shown through its scared immoral statements.
The weight of my wrongs was too much for me to bear and I lay shaking on the ground, waiting for the warden to escort me to my doom. I could hear him now, his footsteps thumping down the hall like hammer blows to my temples. As he drew closer, my disgusting life started to replay in my head. Each moment was filled with crime, each second a memory wanting to be forgotten. There was nothing good there, but there was no way to turn it off.

The warden stood outside my cell. He fumbled with the keys, then unlocked the door. The light from the hall was so bright my eyes had to adjust. I slowly rose to my feet, knowing this was the end. I had nothing left. No hope, no family, no friends, nothing at all. All I had was a rampant record of crime and deceit.
The warden placed his hand on my shoulder and waited for me to adjust to the light. He stared at me. At first I thought he was scrutinizing me, looking at me like the piece of dirt that I was. But I met his gaze and noticed that something wasn’t right. He had a very strange look in his eye, as if he had just witnessed something inconceivable. I'd never seen this look before; it was odd, eccentric, quizzical, and very unnerving. I shifted my weight, expecting him to grab my cuffed wrists in case I tried anything funny. But he didn't. He just stared at me.

“Sir, who are you?” he asked. What kind of a question was that? But he kept looking at me sincerely, not waiting for an answer.

“You won't believe this. I don't believe this. But your record is clean. It's white as snow.” I looked at him. What kind of horrible joke was this? What did he mean? My record was completely horrid; there wasn't the faintest glimpse of white on it.

“Sir, your penalty has been paid. You're free to go.” At this he unfastened my cuffs and stepped out of the cell. I couldn't believe him.
What did he mean? How could this happen? I had so many questions, but all I could voice was a meager,

“About five minutes ago, the judge who sentenced you to death was electrocuted in your place. I don't know why he did that. It doesn't make any sense. But he left you a note. It's in this envelope. He told me not to let you open it until you were out of these walls.” At this, he handed me a manila folder and led me out of the cell. He took me to the office where I was given civilian clothes to put on and then escorted to the front gate.

I stood there in front of the prison in a daze. I should be dead. And now I stand in front of the very place that was supposed to have been my death chamber. I looked at the envelope I held in my hand: the only thing besides the clothes on my back that belonged to me. I opened it with eager hands, hoping for an explanation, or something that would tell me I was not imagining all of this. Inside were two pieces of paper. One was a letter, and the other a legal document.

I read the letter. Then the legal document. I couldn't believe what I read. It didn't seem to make sense. I put the documents back into the envelope and started walking to the limousine that waited for me a few feet away.

A new day was dawning, and a few birds were chirping. The sun had just risen and was flooding the field in front of the prison with glorious rays of golden light. The light sparkled on the dew like a million stars. They seemed to celebrate. They celebrated the birth of a new man.
“Home please,” I instructed the driver.
“Yes, Mr. Kettlewitch, Kettlewitch Manor it is.” And off we drove, leaving the prison, and the profligate wretch inside, behind. Never to return again.

The Contents Of the Letter
As Written by Judge Kettlewitch
Dear Sir,

When you read this, you will no doubt be in quite a state of shock. The events that have just taken place will have swept you off your feet (metaphorically speaking). I am enclosing a legal document entitling my estate, large fortune, and freedom to you. In fact, you are no longer the man that shot and killed my two sons and left my grandson (the young man who sat on my right during your trial) fatherless. You are now Jason R. Kettlewitch, one of the richest men in the city. On paper, you are dead. You were killed a few minutes ago, strapped to an electric chair. The old you no longer exists.
I want you to take the life that I have given you and make something of it. The kindness I've shown you should be reflected in every step of your new life.
In front of the prison will be your driver, waiting in your car. You are to get into the car and instruct him to drive you home.
I trust that you will be not be unregenerate, and the only thanks I require is that you live like a changed man. You may never understand what has just taken place. But know this: You were deserted and rotted, and a wealthy judge gave you everything.


The Now Deceased, Jason R. Kettlewitch

(c) Philip R. 2008

Over a 1000 visits

Dear Readers,

I just wanted to thank you all so much for being constant visitors to the blog. It has recieved over 1,000 visits.

With out readers, this blog would be useless. Here's the best to you!!!!

The Little Tin Man


Dear Readers,

I want to let you all know that one of the articles here has been published in a Ubuntu Linux magezine called "Full Circle." Here is a link for the free download of the issue my article has apeared in;

I highly recommend Full Circle as a great resource. I've learned many things from the articles, How-To's, interviews, reviews, and news that is all bundled in this free community magezine. Please take some time to check out thier sight, and download a few issues of Full Circle.

Thanks for all your support,

The Little Tin Man

Review of Urban Terror

Crouched behind the dumpster, with my LR-400 in hand, I wait in suspense for my enemy to come around the corner. Every sound seems amplified and heightens the suspense. I can hear a fire fight going on in the distance. One of my team mates is across from me and he makes a run for the flag, only to be taken out a few steps from his cover from a sniper in a window above. The sniper unknowingly giving away his position and enables me to prime a grenade and toss it through the open window. BOOM!!! The sniper's down and I make a dash for the flag. Gunfire opens up to my left and I take a hit in the leg, slowing me down. I spin to the left and fire a burst into the body of my blue opponent; he's out of the way.

I reach the flag just as one of my teammates takes out an opponent that had just came around the corner. Rounds of machine gun fire rip through the wall behind me as I run as more blue team members realize someone has taken their flag. My health is low and my wounded leg has slowed me down. I'm losing blood fast. BAM!! BAM!! A hidden attacker steps out of his cover from the door way to my right and pumps two Desert Eagle rounds into my chest. I'm down until I respawn in a few seconds, but my team mates catch the dropped flag and nail my assailant. They race back to our red base, winning the game for the red team, and ending another match in the game called Urban Terror.

My search for a good FPS

I've always been an In-The-Action kind of guy. I never liked being above, or on the same level as the action, I wanted to be IN and AMIDST the action. That's why I've always loved first-person-shooters (FPS): the games where you are a soldier of some sort, fighting in the heat of a battle. I've been playing these games since I was barely 6 years old.

My first FPS was a game called Duke Nukem. It was the most intense game at the time. It brought “3D” graphics and action packed missions fighting ferocious monsters, and blowing everything up with missiles and guns to your desktop. I say “3D” because the graphics back then compared to today's graphics, is like comparing a four-year-old's crayon drawing to the Mona Lisa. It was pretty much the coolest game I thought could ever be made.

Since then, computers, hardware, and software developments have improved dramatically. New games have been released with better graphics, more missions, and tons of endless action. Some of my favorite are Castle Wolfenstien: Enemy Territory, Battlefield 1942, Battlefield 2, Rainbow Six: Eagle Watch, Counter-Strike Source, Delta Force: Black Hawk Down, and many others. Each different FPS game had their pluses and their minuses, some with more minuses. With each game play (about an hour on Saturdays) I would be able to recognize what was good and what was bad in a game, what I liked and what I disliked.

One of the big factors for me was having a LOT of guns. Sure, most games have a nice selection of 5 of the most modern guns, but I needed more. I kept looking and looking for more guns. After many years of playing, I discovered Wolfenstien: Enemy Territory, a WWII geared FPS with tons of maps, and tons of gun options (most modified by players who know how to code). But, I'm a more modern warfare kind of guy, and after a while, WWII just gets old. So I decided to look for other games. In 2001, I bought Delta Force: Black Hawk Down, and it was an immediate love at first play.

The game had tons of maps, great guns, (though not much selection) and a great multiplayer feature. This game was the second multiplayer game I have ever played (Enemy Territory being the first), and loved it. Instead of just shooting up computer controlled bots, I could now battle against other human minds. It added a whole new definition to FPS, because all the players were at a different skill level, and each had a different tactic. It made the game seem more real. But alas, the game CD fell of a desk and broke, leaving me to search for a better game.

Battlefield 1942 was good but it only had one game type, limited weapons, and I couldn't get multiplayer to work. That got old fast. Battlefield 2 was cool, but the same as its predecessor, 1942. I played game after game, demo after demo, never seeming to be able to find a game I really could latch onto. I soon went back to Enemy Territory, but it got dull after a while.

After about a year, I made my switch to Linux. Enemy Territory ran natively on Linux so I was happy enough to play it for an hour a month. But Linux had its own goodies. Nexuiz, Alien Arena, and Open Arena were available and I gave each a whirl. But they are Sci-fi and I'm NOT into those genres of games.

I soon did a search online for a more modern (not future) FPS game. I stumbled across a multiplayer only game called Urban Terror and gave it a shot. The welcome screen was promising. Nothing super fancy, but not low tech. I clicked join game and a LONG list of current games going on opened up: another promising aspect. Usually when a game is bad, few people bother playing it. As I soon found out, this was far from being a halfhearted, or cheap knockoff FPS.

Why UT has surpassed other FPS games

A. Simplicity

To start playing Urban Terror (UT) there is little more to do than typing in you player name and clicking play. It's that easy. With other games, there always seemed to be some conflicting issue, or it was nearly impossible to figure out how to play the game without reading instructions. It's click and play for UT. The interface is very easy to use; while in the game you click Esc and a drop down menu will appear where you can edit your players look, weapons, and gear. With each respawn, you can either change guns, or leave everything the same. There's a red team and a blue team, and you pick one or the other. It's that simple.

B. The Options

There are numerous weapons possibilities. If you want a clean and exact kill, go for the SR-8: One shot to the body, or head will eliminate your target immediately. It also has a very high powered scope, making long range shots a breeze. Need a small, but high powered machine gun for close quarters? The MP5k is just one of the slick, modern weapons that are available to do the job. With other games, such as Delta Force, the weapons were not well designed, and didn't have the “feel” that the UT weapons have.

C. Game Types

Bomb, CTF (Capture the Flag), FFA (Free For All), Team DM (Team Death Match), etc: There are so many fun game types to play with. This is also one thing that games such as Battlefield lacked, where you only had one type of game (Take Over: which was a game where the winner took over the most landmarks on the map), and, in Counter Strike Source, you only have the Bomb game type. Unless they've changed that in the last 2 years. Unlike these other games, UT has several different games, and each one has a different approach to game play.

Capture the Flag (CTF): There are two teams, and each team has a flag at its base. The goal is to get the other team's flag all the way back to your teams base without them taking it back, or the other team stealing your flag.

Free For All (FFA): Everyone is an opponent. The winner has the most kills at the end of the game.

Team Survivor: There are two teams. The object is to eliminate all the players on the other team, and still have players on your team left alive.

Bomb: The objective is to find and defuse the bomb that the other team has planted, before it goes off.

Team Death Match (Team DM): There are two teams. The goal is to kill as many players on the opposite team before the time limit, or kill limit is reached. Once a player is killed, he will re-spawn (come back to life) and continue playing in the game. The winning team will have the most kills at the end of the game.

So, with UT, whatever game you feel like playing, you just search for the game type on the list of servers and click to play.

D. Maps

Maps, maps, and more maps. Maps are the worlds in which the games are held. I've never played a game where there are so many maps that you don't know which one is your favorite. It makes it hard to get tired of the game. Each map is like a little world, each having its own landmarks and quirky twists and turns. New maps are being continually created as well. So there's never a time where you have to say to yourself “when is the next version of this game going to come out so we have more maps?”

E. Cross Platform

One of the absolute coolest features of UT is that it is available for all three major OS's: Mac, Windows, and Linux. So you never have to say to your buddy, “I just found the awesomist game but it only works for PC.” No, now you can say “Hey dude, you gotta play this wicked game!!! You can even play it on your Mac!!!” One thing about most other multiplayer games that I really disliked was that my Mac or PC friends couldn't join in the fun. It made me feel like I was leaving them out, and that's not cool in the Ubuntu world, where everyone helps one another, like a family.

F. Graphics

While good graphics are important to some, speed is more important to me. Urban Terror has both. It provides a fun, interactive, and detailed environment,(yeah, the graphics aren't dark like in Battlefield 2142) while still keeping the memory usage to a minimum. The Battlefield games I'm going to bash a little bit here because their a good example of an overly “good” graphic game. They seem to try to make the environments look real and feel real, but this takes so much system resources that it no longer becomes a game; it becomes a resource hog that is choppy, and only fun if you have a super computer. UT looks good, and is fast, keeping you playing more, and waiting less.

Downsides of UT

I've never heard of a truly perfect game. It's sad but it's true. Seeing that these games are created by non-perfect people like me, it would be impossible to create a perfect product.

One big downside is that it's only a multiplayer game, meaning that you need the internet to play it. This can be a problem when you're bored on vacation, in the middle of nowhere, or your internet is down for a while.

Another issue that some may not find as offensive as others is that there seems to be no restrictions on player's names. This means that many of the players of the game have obscene names. There also seems to be no way to turn off the chat function on the bottom of the screen, where some players seem to abuse their right to type whatever they want. The latter can be fixed quite easily with the use of a sticky note. Just slap the note on the bottom left corner of the screen and you're safe from the chat. There may be some way to turn of the player names, but I haven't bothered looking into it. I'm usually so into the game that my only focus is what my opponents team is doing next.

Other than that, there doesn't seem to be any other downsides of the game. So happy UT'ing!!!

The Addictiveness Test

A couple months ago, while on lunch break at work, I decided to try something out. I wanted to see if , just by showing a game to someone, if I could truly get them addicted without any forcing. So, I downloaded UT onto our computer in the shipping department and, during one lunch break, decided to show my co-worker, Josh. I played for about 2 minutes before letting him take the wheel. I had no idea what I had started.
He picked up on the game very quickly and now, about 4 months later, Josh plays UT for the majority, and some times the entirety of his lunch break. My tactics worked like a charm. One afternoon, during the lunch hour, we had a UPS guy drop off a couple packages. While he was unloading the boxes, he took a moment to look over Josh's shoulder. “Nice game dude!” said the UPS guy and watched for a while. Who would have thought that a little demonstration to such a game could grab ones attention so easily. Chuckle. I still laugh when I remember that day when I first showed Josh. What a memory.

Final Evaluation

With its fast paced action, great gun selection, or easily understood interface, Urban Terror is quickly placed at the top of my list. It's a perfect game for those who love the multiplayer world, while the strategist and the computer vs. human crowd may not like it much. I love it, and play it when I can. One warning to new players: It's EXTREMELY addicting!!!!! Have fun with Urban Terror!!!

The Daunting Terminal

You've been sitting in a doctor's office for over a half-hour. Each second seems like an eternity. Worry is starting to grip your gut. The test results are being discussed by two nurses in the hallway and the grim looks on their faces don't look promising. You wonder what they've found and hope it isn't life threatening. You have too much to lose: your family, your job, or nice car. You jump as a doctor steps into the room holding a clipboard and looking intently at the scattered data. He looks up and into your eyes. “I'm sorry sir, but it looks like this disease is a terminal illness.” Your heart sinks, knowing that this sickness only ends in death. Everything you've worked for gone.

I remember my first experience with the computer terminal being very similar. I was VERY timid about entering codes manually into the computer. With all the code readout scrolling by, I was worried that something might go wrong. What if I mis-spelled something and it destroys my computer? Over time, though, that worry was replaced by a confidence I could have had from the start.

This is what I think every time I hear the word “terminal.” It's never a happy word. So, it's no wonder that when I looked at some directions for installing something in Linux, I cringed in fear when they said to open the Terminal. But is the fear of entering a string of letters and technically powerful words a reason to be afraid? Is this a rational fear? Why is it that so many are in fear of switching to Linux because of “having to use the command line?” Let me try to smash some of these fears and correct any misinformed thinking by helping you, the user, to understand the terminal a little better.

What is the Terminal

The terminal is an application that enables you to talk to the computer using text based commands. This means that you're eliminating the need to use a graphical interface, or a bunch of friendly buttons, to initiate commands. It's called command line, meaning, instead of clicking buttons and icons, you enter commands with text. For example, the command to update your system, you would enter.

sudo apt-get update

There are many other such commands that you can use to launch applications. Back in the earlier days of Linux, most things were done using the command line. This is one reason many non-geeks didn't, or still don't, want to move to Linux.

The truth is, Linux is so far past that primitive stage of being all command line that it has reached the point of being a usable desktop by anyone, geek or non-geek. So if Linux, or more specifically, Ubuntu, has reached a point where the desktop is no longer command line driven, why use the terminal at all?

Why Use the Terminal?

As a more in-depth Linux operator, the terminal can be your greatest friend. It will talk to you when you have a problem. It will tell you what is wrong. Maybe not in the same way humans interact, but in a very similar way.

Let me elaborate a little. When you click on an icon on the desktop, or click a button, it sends various commands to the computer. All these commands you don't see, because they are going on in the background. If, for example, I was to click the update button on my menu, to update the system, the only thing I would see would be a status bar indicating how much time before my system was updated. Now if I were to type “sudo apt-get update” (the command line equivalent) I would get a very long and exhaustive list of web address that my computer was searching for updates.

You're probably thinking, “Why would I want to see all that?” The answer is simple: it tells me what's going on behind the scenes. Well, why would I need to know that? Because if there was a problem an installation, and a problem was preventing it from completing, then there will be error messages in the terminal read out that I would not see in the desktop scenario. If I was just to have the installation say “I'm sorry, your installation of Gobbledygook Plus couldn't be completed” then I wouldn't know what went wrong. But, by then installing it using the terminal, error messages would appear, informing me of the problem, and enabling me to fix it, or get help. But, the use of the terminal is not for everyone.

Should I use the Terminal?

Though the Terminal is very useful in many computing situations, I do not recommend it for everyone. For basic users, it might be too difficult to grasp, and, depending on the commands involved, may accidentally mess up your machine. But, if you are having a problem with your computer, like a program isn't running, or an installation crashes, you can post the output of the terminal on the web for people to help you out with.

Do I HAVE to use the terminal?

Thankfully for most users, It is not required to know how to use the terminal. It is not a mandatory task. It's an aid to help you when you have computer problems, but, contrary to usual belief, you don't need to use it to do everything on the desktop. There's nowhere in the Ubuntu requirements that says “In-Depth Understanding of the Terminal required.” Even as an advanced user, I only rarely use the terminal. Just because you have a spare tire under your car, doesn't mean you have to use it all the time. You only use it when you have a flat tire. It's that simple.

In Closing

Hopefully, now that you have read this article in its entirety, you will no longer fear the Terminal. Instead you will see it as a tool, that you don't HAVE to tinker with, and can get by quite easily without using. The terminal is a useful tool, but it doesn't have to dominate your computer usage. One should never fear things that are unknown, because if we did, we would never learn anything new.

The Little Tin Man

Getting Started

Here is a list of useful sites that will aid you in your journey with Ubuntu. I use all these sites frequently, and highly recommend them. Enjoy!

Information About Ubuntu;

Derivatives of Ubuntu

Where To Download Ubuntu;

How To Use The LiveCD;

How To Install Ubuntu;

How To Dual Boot;

How To Triple Boot;

Ubuntu For Older Computers;

Where To Get Help;

Sites For Customizing Your Desktop;

News About Ubuntu;

Happy Ubuntuing!

The Little Tin Man

Why Ubuntu?

There are literally hundreds of different Linux distros (Distributions) out there. No kidding. If you don't believe me, take a look at this website There are so many Linux distros that, at first glance, it would be impossible to choose one over another. What makes Ubuntu stand out from the rest? What made me never willingly look back to Windows? What made me change my mind completely about computers? Let's take a look.

How I Got Started

“$150?! What?” That was my response when I found out what it would cost to get Windows XP for my old laptop. The hard drive had died just weeks earlier, and it was time to move to a newer version of Windows than 2k. This was ridiculous. I didn't have that kind of money sitting around. My old laptop wasn't worth even that. Fortunately, I finally found an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) installer for $70 at a local computer shop. It was still pricey for what I was using my laptop for. But, I installed XP on the new hard drive, and surprisingly it ran faster then 2K. It must have been the faster HD rpm that made the OS (Operating System) perform at a faster speed.

Unfortunately, after a few weeks of updates and viruses, the laptop was getting slower. It would give me the nightmarishly scary BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) about once a week. And, it seemed like the anti-virus software wasn't working, and in fact, it seemed to be slowing the whole computer down; this was not a good thing.

Then, a couple months later in November, I decided it was time to move away from Windows. I had held off on this move for the last year because, quite frankly, I was peevish about learning a new OS. I'd been using Microsoft since the MS-DOS days. I grew up with it. I could use the computer before I could speak. I couldn't imagine what it would be like to move to a different OS. The thought scared me. But, it was the time to start OS shopping. With the release of Vista, Windows was out of the question. Far too demanding and unfriendly. What about Mac? Quite a few of my friends used Macs and were very happy. But, the OS cost more than Windows, and it only works on Apple machines, which are priced for the rich.

With Mac and Windows out of the question, what else was there? My dad, being a software engineer and programmer, often told me about the software world. I'd heard him mention Linux a couple times, and decided to get some more info. He uses Solaris at work, which is a Linux based OS. But he used it for work, and didn't seem to recommend Solaris for a home desktop system. Not what I was looking for, so I looked around some more, and soon found a list of distros. Um, there were hundreds, which was unhelpful. So I did the next best thing.

I posted “Looking for a Good Linux distro, anyone got any ideas?” on Facebook. Within a day, my friend David recommended a free distro called Ubuntu. He said that it was quite good, and once I started using it, I'd most likely never look back. He was right. I installed Ubuntu on an old machine we had lying around. And I was soon exploring the system.

Before I move on, I just want to mention that the old computer I had installed Ubuntu on had been dead the last couple of months. The computer literally took 15 minutes to boot up, and you could forget running any applications on it. That was with Windows XP installed. With Ubuntu installed, it was 90% faster. The hardware was sort of dead, so the computer wasn't able to get fully revived speed wise. But it boosted my laptop by a couple horsepower. I installed Ubuntu on my old laptop and it was back to its good old fast self.

The Price

Here is one aspect of a Linux based system that made me hesitant about the switch. It's free. Yeah, doesn't cost a cent. You just buy a blank CD, burn the ISO to the CD and install it on the computer. That's it. No licensing fees, no support fees, not a single fee. CRAZY AWESOME!!!

Not all Linux distros are free. I believe that you have to pay for RedHat Linux. But Ubuntu is completely free. Is that not incredible?! Now this is also the reason people don't switch to Linux. They may think this, “How can something free be better then something I pay $$$ for? It doesn't make sense!” I have to agree. You don't expect fine china to be sold at the Dollar Store. Or a brand new leather sofa with a free sign on it, when you drive through a neighborhood. So how does Ubuntu, a free product, raise the bar so high?

The Community

The answer to the last question is the Community. Yes, that's right. The reason it is so reliable and, simply put, amazing, is because of its community of users. “Wait,” you might say “so the reason this OS is so good is because of the people who use it? Just because Brad Paisley may drive a Masarati doesn't make the car reliable.” Well here's the deal.

Linux is open source. That means all the source code, or the code that makes the OS run, is freely available. Anyone can read, write, and edit it. There's no patents on the code. Well does this make it good? Because it enables the community, the users, to fix the problems. They don't have to wait for some high paid programmer to fix their problem. Instead, they can get help from others who use the software, and contribute themselves, even if they're no geek.

This also means that geeks, who love what they do, and know how to code, can fix and edit the code. This makes the OS better for the user, because the software gets edited with the user in mind. There's no competition or worrying over losing a job because of messing anything up. The community can fix and help in a relaxed environment. Pretty cool huh?

The other great thing about the community is that everyone wants to help everyone else. It's like a family. Can't get your graphics card to work correctly? Just head to and ask for help. Within and an hour, or sometimes instantly, someone will have responded with some tips. I've never seen that kind of community from Microsoft or Apple. Have you?

The Interface

One of the main hesitancies that kept me from switching was the fear of a new interface. I never even though about what it would be like not to have the start button. I was afraid that it would be like learning an entire new language. And for a slow language learner like me, it terrified me.

I was quite surprised after booting into the Live CD for Ubuntu. The desktop was clean and professional looking. There where two task/menu bars. The one on the top contained the drop down menus for Applications, Places, and System and, the system tray was on the far right of that bar. On the bottom was the window bar, more commonly known as the task bar. Everything was clearly labeled and VERY user friendly. In my humble opinion, the desktop environment is easier to use then the Windows environment. Besides the layout of the standard desktop, everything else was the same as any other OS.
Now it's time to look at some of the options with applications.

The Endless Options In Software

The software options for Ubuntu are seemingly endless. Need an Office Suite? Open Office is freely available. Need a music organizer and player? Check out Rhythm Box. All the software is completely free. From video editors to games, they have any type of software you need. You can find all the options by going to “Add and Remove” at the bottom of the Applications Drop down list. Another great thing about the endless choices is that if you don't like one of the applications, but need one that does the same tasks, there are a couple different applications that you can install in its place.

The Support

For a free OS like Ubuntu, you might expect that there would be little to no support. Not so. Everything is being improved and updated regularly. Bugs will be reported, and, before you know it, it'll be fixed. There's no waiting for hours on the phone trying to get your monitor to work. You just go to the forums and post your request. Everyone is glad to help.

The Compatibility

Compatibility is another major issue when it comes to multiple OS's interacting. You might create a document on your Mac, only to find out it won't work on Windows. Or you may buy a song on iTunes, only to find you can't play it in Windows Media Player. In Ubuntu, everything is compatible, whether it's saving a document or playing a song. All file formats are supported or can be easily converted. With compatibility layers that are freely available, you can even install your Windows applications and games on Linux.

The Security

No viruses, No spyware, not hackers can get your stuff. Ubuntu is VERY secure. You don't have to worry about your data being stolen. It's safe, as safe as an OS can be. Unbelievable I know, but it's true. No kidding.

The Customibility (chuckle, there's a new word for you)

My favorite part of Ubuntu is the fact that you can make it look like anything you want. Whatever you have in your mind, you can make you desktop look like that. It's easy to customize. You no longer stuck with three color options and no room for customizing. You have an endless supply of screenlets if you're into those, special effects, window borders, and even desktop environments.

In Closing

Well, I've now finished a complete review on why I like Ubuntu. I've never looked back. It's a complete, user friendly, customizable, secure, supported, and compatible operating system. And, you don't have to pay a cent for it. One more thing about the different Linux distros is you can try them out without installing them. Most Linux distros have what is called a Live CD. It's basically an OS on a CD. You just boot into the CD and, without any change to your computer, you can explore the OS. The CD won't be as fast as when it's installed as your main OS, but it gives you a chance to really explore the environment and interface. Oh and guess what, it's all free. Happy Ubuntuing.

The Little Tin Man

Under Construction

Hello Readers,

This is the location for my new Linux blog. It will be under construction for a few weeks as I experiment with Templates and widgets. This will be the newer version of this.

Thanks for your support,

The Little Tin Man