Archive for April, 2007

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Linux MP3 player for my car!

April 25, 2007

 

I just discovered something that is absolutely too cool.

 

I was taking an absolutely insanely long drive (4+ hours there, and 4+ hours back) and I like to have listening material to help keep me awake and alert.  I listen to my share of talk radio and music on the radio, but who doesn’t like listening to their own stuff?  This is probably why the iPod is such a big deal.

 

For the record, I have a cassette deck in my truck.  That was intentio0nal because at the time I had many more cassettes than CDs.  I later bought an adapter to play CDs.

 

So I began thinking about this long drive and decided I might try to use my Zaurus.  And lo and behold, the same adapter that works with the CD works with the Zaurus! 

 

The Zaurus has an Mp3 player built in that is actually pretty nice.  This PDA was seriously way ahead of its time as I’m still discovering things about it and its capabilities.  What makes this such a nifty thing beyond the CD adapter parts fitting it, is that the Zaurus has 2 expansion slots for SD and CF flash drives.  So as the capacity of flash drives increase, so does the capabilities of the Zaurus as an Mp3 player.  I had stored only about 25 songs, not fully knowing if it would work before I had to leave. 

 

So basically I can store an entire CD collection on flash drives and then select a play list before the trip for hours of DRM-free music.  How cool is that?  And it can be set up to play in order or randomly shuffle.

 

I’m looking for a screen shot of the Zaurus mp3 player but haven’t found one.  One very nice feature of this is that the buttons on the touch screen are large enough that you can actually operate the player without the stylus which is mighty handy while driving.

 

Too bad the Zaurus can only be bought on eBay nowadays, but it usually still fetches a respectable price of around $200 or so.  Not too many other 5 year-old technology devices are still holding that sort of  value, and this could be one of the reasons why the Zaurus continues to have some small popularity.  I still have not seen anything that compares to it in the way of ability or features.  About the only downside is the lack of RAM (mine only has 32 mb) which makes it a bit sluggish on some applications like pdf files.  I absolutely love having having the flash card slots and can’t figure out why more devices don’t have them. 

 

One other downside that I may or may have no mentioned before is the limited battery life.  A lot depends on the brightness of the LCD screen, but I max out at a little over 3 hours on the lowest brightness.  I generally prefer to have it plugged in so  I can have the screen as bright as I like.  With the mp3 feature, the screen isn’t as much of an issue but playing might.  Does volume figure into the power drain on an mp3 player?

 

I admit I’m way behind the curve on the whole mp3 music thing.  I was still using 8 tracks when cassettes were all the rage and I got a cheap adapter for that.  (Yeah, a bunch of you are “what’s an 8 track?) I finally get a cassette player and now everyone likes CDs.  However my being a bit slow on the uptake has worked in my favor as I’m unaware of any optical adapters that make a CD play an iPod.  However, if you have a cassette player in your car it might be worth your while to get a CD adapter and see if it works with your iPod.  I make no claims as to the quality or loudness of the output, but am just pointing out that this is doable.  Basically, if it uses a standard headphone jack, it should work.

Dick

 

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Puppy 2.15: WOOF! WOOF!

April 12, 2007

While working on CrossOver, and getting discouraged, I began looking around for Linux games. I have another upcoming post on that, but I’ll tell you right now it’s not very good news.

 

However, I do have something new and cool to share in the world of Linux and as far as I know I’m the first to do it. How cool is that? Your first review of Puppy 2.15CE.

 

As you may or may not know, I sort of fell in love with Puppy 2.10 as it was the first distro that I got to actually work with a modem to get me online. It’s actually the only one, since I quite searching once I found this lean, mean little distro to be so complete and fast. It loads and runs totally in RAM which makes it blazingly fast compared to anything else. It had kind of a retro look, looking a lot like a Win9x desktop, but it had all the modern applications needed at only 65 MB.

 

When I found that 2.15CE was released I was expecting a few minor upgrades. However I saw the file size had grown to 130 MB and was curious. I downloaded it to my flash drive and then used my MEPIS machine to burn the CD. Then I started it up.

 

OMG! This thing looks SO cool! It has the look, feel and heft of any of the so-called “full-distros” that are out there. After just looking around, I was totally inspired. I wanted to do something I had never done on this blog before, which is take some screen shots. And handily enough, in the graphics menu there is a screenshot application just for this purpose. How cool is that?

 

So here you go, the first ever screen shot on this blog, and as far as I know, the first ever screen shot of Puppy Linux 2.15CE:

Blank screen

I think clicking on it makes it bigger.

This is an amazingly handsome screen, but of course you can make it look like anything you want.

And here is a shot of the menu screen:

Menu

Puppy 2.15CE is a powerful distro, made for nOObs like me. It has a dozen or so installation wizards as shown here:

Wizard Wizard

I’ll give you one more capture of the media utitility in action. I’ve always liked this this application to keep track of all that is mounted and not mounted on my system(s):Media utility

Puppy Linux 2:15CE is a distro that can do a lot in a small package. I tried it on two different machines and noticed that it adjusts to however much RAM space it has. It is definitely faster in the machine with 320 MB but was also able to run in the machine with 190 MB.

I’ll be looking at it and playing with it a lot more, but the first impression is definitely that this is a winner. It is heftier than 2.10, so it might be moving a bit out of the realm of liberating older machines, but on my 550 MHz P3 it seemed very comfortable and functional.

There are tools for adding on to it but it has everything the full-sized outfits have right out of the box.    Office can be added for those who need/want that application and The Gimp is the other application notably left off.  This distro is definitely worth a look for all Linux newbies and longtime fans alike.  It is made for the novioce user but has many, many applications that make this a functional distro for all but the most sophisticated of folks.   And even they will find something to like, here.

dick

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CrossOver Linux

April 10, 2007

In my continuing attempt to get a Linux machine into the realm of being functional and even perhaps useful and fun, I decided to take a look at the proprietary version of WINE, namely CrossOver Linux.  If the program proved easy enough and versatile enough, I would have no problems spending money on such a thing.  What’s $40 or so to be free of Windows or at least to make old machines new again? 

 

Fortunately, you can download a trial version to try for 30 days.  So I went ahead and downloaded the trial version.  Downloading proved to be simple enough after giving CodeWeavers my name and email address.  The file was about 19 mb so it easily fit on my thumbdrive.  This was then taken to a MEPIS machine that I have that is not networked at the present time.  I really would just like to have a stand-alone machine that can be productive, play some games and find its own fit in my technology milieu.   I hope this is not asking for too much.

 

One of the first things CrossOver promises is that is should be easy to install.  To this nOOb, that was not a very good promise.  “Easy to install” would mean seeing the icon after MEPIS detected my thumb drive and opened the directory and then me clicking on it and it installing.  That would be easy.  However, this thing had an icon that told me that it wanted to do something in command line mode.  Oops.  That isn’t good.

 

CrossOver’s directions and help on installation were imprecise and not very helpful.  However, I did find a command in the MEPIS menu that did the trick to getting this thing installed.  It actually took two tries before it began installing.  My machine is a bit on the slow order, at 866 Mhz, so this involved some waiting.  I went and had lunch while it did its thing.  After lunch, I decided to try to play around with it.

 

CrossOver does list several applications and games that it is supposedly compatible with.  At the beginning of running the program, it asks you to select some of these for installation.  Since I didn’t have installation discs for any of these and since I wasn’t networked, I went ahead and tried to install a couple of simple games that I had discs for.

 

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire is one I thought would be fairly simple and straight forward.  So I went ahead and directed CrossOver to attempt to install this game as an Unsupported Application in the menu.  CrossOver then created what they refer to as a “bottle” for this so it wouldn’t mess with program settings for programs that were supported.  The installation looked promising and proceeded fairly normally, if not a bit slowly.  At the end, CrossOver lets you know that it is simulating a restart to install the program.  However actually playing the game did not work.  I was informed that DirectDraw did not work in 16 bit mode, which Millionaire uses.  So I have no idea what that means as far as actually getting the game to work.

 

A second test involved an old copy of Backyard Baseball that one of my paras got from a box of General Mills cereal.  This is a surprisingly fun and addictive game, at least to me, which involves some real strategy and genuine skill plus some luck doesn’t hurt either.  Both Millionaire and Baseball are 1999-2000 games which puts them squarely within a Win98 capability.    Backyard Baseball installed fairly easily, and I was able to play this game normally.  I tried to play across two sessions and sure enough, it saved the info from my teams and my season.  So in this regard, CrossOver was successful.  The game play is essentially the same, although the “escape” button I used to keep from having to watch replays didn’t work and the exit function was not at all smooth.  In fact, I ended my session, logged back on and the CDRom was no where to be found and I had to use a paperclip to get the thing out.  Then it seemed okay with my CD drive.

 

More testing is in the works with some other game CDs that I have.  I’m wondering if not having Explorer 6 installed is going to prove problematic.  Hooking it up to the network isn’t too much of a problem, although it’s just an inconvenience.  I’m not holding out a big hope for more sophisticated games, though.  I’m just taking the program out for a leisurely stroll and there are already some problems cropping up.  I’m still learning about installing programs and then finding those that I’ve already installed.  My machine does have some limitations with processor speed, but 320 Mb RAM should be more than adequate. 

 

I will say that this is a more promising and easier application than WINE ever was, but we still have a ways to go before I’m convinced that it is worth $40.  I’ll try a few other applications or games in the near future (at least within the next 30 days) and I’ll let you know.  I actually have a few older Win9x games that sort of had issues with XP so it would be kind of cool to see some of these resurrected as well as if some of the few other games I have decide to work.

 

dick