Tuesday, 23 September 2008

A new Amiga OS

I came across this fascinating article today on Ars Technica about a new version of the AmigaOS, AmigaOS 4.1. It's well worth a read. AmigaOS 4.1 looks to be as polished as any modern operating system.
I'm really surprised the Amiga didn't survive to the present. I always hear great things about AmigaOS in terms of how powerful it was, and it always had a fantastic range of games (apparently it was very easy to develop for). And, of course they were used with Video Toasters to create the special effects in sci-fi series such as Babylon 5. It was a powerful but inexpensive computer that did it all - gaming, multimedia, you name it. In fact, it was arguably a better gaming platform than a Windows PC at the time. I can't think of a single game available for the PC that wasn't on the Amiga at the time, while I can think of plenty of Amiga games that weren't available for the PC.
Put it this way, when I was a kid loads of people I knew had a Commodore Amiga, whereas I didn't know a single person who owned a Mac (and I never used one until 1995, when I was at sixth fom). Surely, if Apple survived, Commodore should have thrived.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

ReactOS is very much like Windows...

I was just trying ReactOS (an open source clone of Windows) in VirtualBox, and got this rather familiar-looking screen...

I was hoping it was a close copy of Windows so I could use it in VirtualBox to run some games that don't work very well in Wine, but this was something I was hoping it hadn't copied!

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Large Hadron Collider Rap

As you may know, this Wednesday the Large Hadron Collider, the biggest particle accelerator ever built, is being switched on this Monday. This hilarious YouTube video tells you all you need to know! Enjoy!

A new distro for my Asus Eee PC

For a while now, I've been dissatisfied with the Xandros installed on my Asus Eee PC. It's quite easy to use, but for an intermediate Linux user such as myself who's a bit more comfortable with getting my hands on the command line, it's a bit frustrating. It's slow and unwieldy, lacks many of the development tools I wanted such as gcc, and just doesn't meet my needs, so I was considering alternatives. Unfortunately, I went for the cheapskate's 2GB version, so my options for a replacement were severely limited. This is too small to run Ubuntu, which would be my first choice, so I had been tinkering with Minibuntu, customising it to add everything I want, but it was difficult to get it installed on the Eee without a USB CD drive.
I'd been tinkering with Sidux, a live CD based on Debian Sid. Being Debian-based, it's quite accessible to someone familiar with Ubuntu, and it also has great hardware detection thanks to the great fw-detect utility. It also has easy installation of the Madwifi drivers for the Atheros wireless card (as used in the Eee). While the regular KDE version of Sidux was too big, it also offers an Xfce version that clocks in at around 450MB on the disc, which when installed comes to around 1.3GB, which is enough to fit on the Eee 2G AND leave around 512MB for a swap partition. Also, it has an easy-to-use USB installer, so there was an easy way to install it on an Eee. So for a while I was considering putting it on the Eee.
This morning I finally decided to bite the bullet and install it. First of all, I used the dd command to image the Eee's flash drive and save a copy of the image to my 4GB SD card so I can restore it if necessary. Then I plugged in my USB pendrive with Sidux Xfce installed on it, and ran the installer.
Once it was installed it booted fine, and I connected it to my wireless router via Ethernet, then ran fw-detect, which told me to run the m-a a-i madwifi command as root to install the Madwifi driver. I then rebooted it and used the Ceni tool to get my wireless connection working. And that was it - it's now working flawlessly, and starts the wireless connection every time it boots up!
Sidux Xfce works great - Iceweasel is a lot faster than Firefox 2 in the default Xandros install, which is the main reason I wanted to switch. I'm very happy with Sidux Xfce, and it makes my Eee a lot more responsive and powerful, it's just a great distro for the Eee. I just wish I'd done this ages ago rather than struggling with Xandros for so long.
Has anyone else got a distro they've been using on the Eee that they want to recommend?

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Google Chrome - I add my voice to the chorus!

Like pretty much everyone else who's a serious Internet user, I was eager to try Google Chrome. For once I was glad I still have a Windows install! So I downloaded it to my Vista partition, and gave it a spin.
Holy crap, it's fast! Chrome on Windows not only beats Firefox 3 in Windows, it beats Firefox 3 in the Ubuntu partition on the same computer! You REALLY notice the difference on a JavaScript-heavy site such as Digg. And it's really easy to use, because it just gets out of your way.
It's pretty clear to me why Google have created this: Google want people to use the Internet more and more, because this strengthens them. The more efficient your browser, the more useful web apps such as Google Docs and GMail are. By raising the bar, Google are not only creating a great product, they're forcing other browsers to compete with them, even Internet Explorer. If IE doesn't step up to the challenge, they risk losing market share. If they do, then they're facilitating Microsoft's loss of market share for applications such as Word, Excel etc to web-based alternatives.
It's a hell of a strategy, and a classic Google one at that - Google don't compete, they change the rules of the game. They need browsers to get faster and more efficient to make them a match for Microsoft, so they've created Chrome to give them a platform for this. The fact that it's open source means that Apple, Mozilla, whoever, can pick out bits from Chrome to improve their own products, but also gives them a motivation to better it. Each browser that improves its performance like this means Google can compete more effectively with Microsoft.
Put it this way - I've heard that the reason IE spent so long without a new version being released (2001-2006) was because Microsoft were worried about the threat to their business model from the Internet. Now Google are aggressively pushing a new, faster browser that will change the game. I'm inclined to think Microsoft should be very worried.