Linux Mint’s “Point” Updates

Linux Mint is doing something that is new, at least to me. If they’ve done this in the past, I didn’t know about it, so I’m assuming that they didn’t. They’re releasing a “point” update to version 17 “Qiana”, their latest LTS release of Mint, which will be 17.1 “Rebecca”. Based on what has been said in this blog post on Mint’s official website, I assume that all point releases will feature a different codename.

If my understanding is correct, Mint’s point-release updates won’t be quite the same as Ubuntu’s. Where Ubuntu 14.04.1 is actually the same exact distribution as 14.04 only with updated packages and kernels that would automatically be updated from Ubuntu’s repositories anyway (though saving you the time of downloading them – by getting them in the installation ISO), Mint 17.1 will feature updates to the desktop environments themselves. So, where 14.10 will feature an updated Unity, most likely, that could only be applied to 14.04 by enabling unstable repositories, Mint will work out a stable update to their environments and actually push it to be a stable update to their LTS release. This is awesome. There were small changes to Unity that I wanted from 13.10, but I didn’t want to upgrade to 13.10 or take the chance of upgrading the Unity environment in 12.04 at the risk of it having compatibility issues with packages in the 12.04 repositories. Even if my concerns were unfounded, updates to LTS releases are typically limited for a reason, and that’s usually to help ensure that people don’t run into compatibility issues or crippling bugs.

What’s also cool about the point-releases for Mint is that it will be upgradable through their Update Manager. Though Mint sees updates to packages at a slower pace than Ubuntu, this usually means the chance of having issues with those updated packages is minimized, which is better than getting the new bells and whistles only to have them break your machine and put you in an aggravating position of having to revert and recover. I like Mint. When the next LTS version is released, I may just change for my primary PC. I have two years to think about it, though I’m already running it on my laptop to see how the progression goes. That’s not to say that Ubuntu is being looked at as a loser in this. After all, I’ve used it as my primary OS for nearly three years now, and there’s obviously good reasons for that. I just can’t fail to consider another distribution that may be making better strides in improving the Linux experience, even if Ubuntu continues to be an excellent OS that is probably the best for first-time Linux users to try. On top of that, Windows users considering the migration over to Linux may find Cinnamon and MATE both more comfortable than Unity, in terms of a layout that closer resembles Windows’ Start menu-style layout. I would recommend Mint over Ubuntu to such a person.

CDProjekt RED’s Example: What other’s need to learn

First of all, Steam has a great sale on both The Witcher Enhanced Edition Director’s Cut and The Witcher 2 Enhanced Edition for about another 14 hours on steam. Getting both for less than $6 has me purchasing them through their service, even though I already own both on disks.

Second, I have to commend CDProjekt RED for doing something few other companies with its presence in the gaming industry do: it puts the game and the players who play it before the profit. Given, I don’t know the people who work at CDProjekt RED personally, but my experience as an owner of The Witcher games supports the points made in this article on PC Gamer, which is that satisfying the players who purchase their games is more important than trying to ring every penny they can get for every minute addition that they create for the game. This is the exact opposite of what infuriates gamers more than anything: day-one DLC (the non-free kind).

On top of this, CDProjekt’s games don’t require disk-checks, at least not following all of the updates that I applied to them upon installation. I believe the first game may have asked me for the disk before I updated it to current, which I had to do manually by seeking the update file online and applying it (learning of the Director’s Cut convinced me to do it quickly). However, the second game updated automatically with prompts as soon as I installed it (never asking for the disk when playing). Either way, I have both games and can play without any no-cd cracks and still free of spinning my disks in the drive. CDProjekt isn’t broke, but I have to assume that its bank isn’t anywhere near as dense as companies like Bethesda, EA and Ubisoft. So, why do they act as though nerve-wrecking DRM is so crucial to their survival? Do pirated copies of their games truly make such a dent in their return? How many die-hard fans of past SimCity games had to deal with disappointment on day-one of playing their pre-ordered copies of SimCity thanks to EA’s paranoia? How about Blizzard’s Diablo III? Find a chart that displays how much these games brought in from initial sales (pre-order and day-one), and tell me if the DRM used was truly necessary to the point taken. A starting company releasing a new game franchise with these tactics would never have seen returning customers for a sequel. It would have been its undoing.

Truth be told, I have always been a bargain-hunter with games. Few games have seen a pre-order from me over the years. I even waited until The Witcher games were both below the $20 mark before I bought them, despite my praise for the company (note: I wasn’t familiar with the company or its games prior to purchasing them at the bargain prices). On top of that, I’ve always sought after the security of physically owning the medium that I buy the game on (preferring disk over download). Yet I’ve been forced to transition to cloud-based purchases through services like Steam because owning the disk is nearly useless now. You’re given a disk with the data on it, but the activation key for the game is the only real item of value, which usually still requires you to download the game in-full from the net without using anything on the disk. In the end, the disk is worthless without a Steam, U-Play or Origin account – unless someone produces a hack that allows you to install the game using the disk’s data independent of those services. In other words, piracy – or the potential for it – remains either way.

The main point I wanted to make of CDProjekt here though is that they don’t use DLC to amplify their profit from a single project. I have always waited on the past Elder Scrolls games, because I knew the likelihood of an edition including all DLC would be released and dropped to a bargain price. The same goes with BioWare and 2K Games titles. But if you look at what CDProjekt did with Witcher 2, you see that whether you bought the standard game on release-day or bought the Enhanced Edition after it was released, you ended up with equal overall content for the game without dishing additional out-of-pocket to get it.

It’s obvious to me as I read online to research a game’s DRM requirements before purchasing that more people are growing to accept the presence of services like Steam as we move forward, and the cries of foul over over-priced and day-one DLC have diminished as well, but I simply couldn’t help but point out how the evidence from CDProjekt’s success in the gaming industry shows that the excessive DRM path, as well as leeching customers for additional content, is surely not necessary for a company to thrive from its product, let alone successfully create and distribute a product that meets or exceeds the standard. Here’s to hoping that their practices continue, and perhaps they may influence others to share the same strategy.

The Atari Landfill

I remember reading about this a long, long time ago. For some reason, it was mentioned in a magazine or something that I was reading. Maybe I was reading about the collapse of Atari, or it could have been mentioned while reading about the collapse of the Sega console. I believe the two went down similarly – being that both invested too much into a single game that flopped or something. Either way, IGN has been shooting out newsletter emails reporting that the urban legend around Atari’s landfill is confirmed true. Apparently, they are out there observing an Xbox documentary crew who’s having the site dug up to see if the horde of dump-truck-dropped Atari stuff is actually out there.

Considering the money it takes to hire dump-trucks to carry all of that Atari merchandise to a desert, where a hole probably had to have been dug, and then filled with cement – it makes you wonder why Atari didn’t just tell everyone “hey, here’s free Atari crap for anyone who wants it … you just gotta come get it yourself.”

Then again, Xbox’s new TV group and IGN wouldn’t have anything to make a big uproar about. I did have the unfortunate experience of playing E.T. on Atari, however. I’d say Atari wouldn’t have been too hard pressed just to convince everyone to bury it in their own back yards and cement it in for at least some pleasure. IGN says it wasn’t actually the worst game ever made, but I can’t agree. It is still the worst game I’ve ever played. Anyway. Here’s IGN’s latest article about it, if you’re interested. You can even see Naomi Kyle playing the game in one of the embedded videos and being just as frustrated as I was back when I used to play it on my Atari.

Ubuntu Software Center: ‘Available from the “main” source’

For anyone who comes across this problem, which I did tonight on my laptop, you may want to first try closing Software Center and re-opening it. Several suggestions on askubuntu.com and other results from searches online mentioned removing entries from the source lists and so forth. As I said, just closing and re-opening solved the problem where it happened to me. I’m not going to assume this is something new, as people asking about it on those sites when I searched it were experiencing it with 12.04. I never experienced it in 12.04 and have only experienced it once so far on one machine running 14.04.

What occurred was when clicking on an application in the Software Center I was shown no reviews or info for the application, but instead only the message Available from the “main” source with a button saying Use This Source where Install would normally be.

TES Anthology and Steam

Up until yesterday, my Steam account was practically unused. After building a new PC and purchasing The Elder Scrolls: Anthology, I was forced to use it in order to play Skyrim. Like most people probably did, I searched for any possible way to avoid having to use Steam in order to play Skyrim, but I found myself agreeing with some opinions of it being harmless. What I didn’t realize was how it actually would be useful for Morrowind and Oblivion.

I installed all five games in order, starting with Arena. With the exception of lacking DirectX 9.0c for Oblivion, Skyrim was the only game whose installation didn’t go blissfully uninterrupted – if you would consider the Steam process an interruption. I installed the games last night and decided to get on and play them today. Starting with Morrowind, I was blown away at how I was prompted for a disk to be in the drive in order for the game to run. I’ve played Morrowind in the past and done so with a No-CD crack in order to avoid having to insert my disk every time I wanted to play. So, I ventured to the net to find it now and found it was impossible to find a website that looked legit and non-harm-intending, and what websites I did try the waters with and actually downloaded what they were hosting – ended up being patches to run on my original exe opposed to a already patched one. No thanks.

So, I did insert Morrowind and Oblivion disks long enough to make sure both games booted up without hiccups, but I winded up closing both and running Skyrim. Being that the CD-check has an anti-piracy motive, and that Steam is the anti-piracy strategy for Skyrim, I wasn’t surprised to find it didn’t require the disk to be in the drive. I did, however, find both Morrowind and Oblivion listed in my games in Steam. So, I decided to install them. What do I find? I can run both games inside of Steam without the disk. Maybe I overlooked something in some info about this Anthology set, but I never saw it mentioned anywhere that installing the games via Steam as opposed to the traditional manner would alleviate the disk-check annoyance.

Well, I thought it was worth a blog post to mention it. If you have the Anthology or plan on getting it, it’s best to install Skyrim first, because Morrowind and Oblivion are included in your Steam library after you enter the license key that is required to install Skyrim. Then, you can run either game freely without the need for the disk.

Oh yeah. Steam would have dealt with my DirectX problem for Oblivion for me, also. Not that it was all that much trouble. I just admire the ease of being able to hit Install and Play without worrying about the little things.

The Linux Hurdle

Okay. After talking with a co-worker yesterday about why he should install Linux on his somewhat-antiquated Vista-ran laptop, I ran into road blocks. He’s pretty reluctant to heed my suggestion and even dip his toes, let alone jump in head-first.

I’ve tried to make points of why I like Linux better than Windows. However, the truth is that I don’t consider Linux a replacement for Windows. It’s like driving vehicles. I drive my smaller compact car almost everyday, because it’s more convenient for typical day travelling and it gets better gas-mileage. So, why do I keep my pick-up truck? It’s a gas guzzler, and depending on the time and place it can be impossible to find a parking spot. Still, if I have to haul something or traverse tougher terrain that requires a vehicle with more clearance or four-wheel drive, my truck is there to save the day. In this case, my compact car is Linux and my truck is Windows. Linux will almost always get the job done, typically faster and with less hassle, while Windows is there to provide any crucial services that Linux just can’t do.

Being that my co-worker’s laptop hard-drive is fairly full, he’s running Vista and he says he has never de-fragged his hard-drive, I’d bet that I can boot up, check my emails, pay a couple of bills, shut down and boot back up to my work space in Linux before he even reaches his desktop for the first time in Vista. And my Linux setup has been installed for nearly two years now. Though, I’d say a fresh install of Linux wouldn’t do it any better. The same can’t be said for Windows.

But like I said, I’m not saying throw Windows out the window. I’m just saying make use of the tools available to you. What’s the point of booting into Windows to do generic tasks that end up taking far longer to complete than they necessarily have to? After all, the less you use Windows, the longer it takes to slow down. Of course, good practices and regular maintenance can help keep Windows running as good as possible. But when you can minimize the amount of work necessary in those respects as well, it makes no sense not to at least dip your toes in. And the sales pitch is spot on: Linux is free, it is generally designed to boot alongside of Windows and it is fairly easy to remove it and revert back to just having Windows if you decide you don’t wish to keep it.

I hope my co-worker comes to the decision of giving Linux a shot. After all, I never used Linux once until two years ago when I decided that testing out a freely available OS seemed like a fun endeavour. It ended up causing me to change up my routine permanently.

Windows 7, LibreOffice 4 Update Issue

On two separate Windows 7 machines, one with Ultimate and one with Home Premium, I ran into the same issue when trying to update LibreOffice 4 to the latest version, 4.2.2.1.

For some reason, there is a folder nested within the LibreOffice 4 directory called program, and this folder is a bitch to do anything with. The reason I found issue with it to begin with is because the installer for LibreOffice 4 kept returning a 1303 permissions error when copying files for the installation. On my first machine, I simply restarted into Ubuntu (the machine is dual-booted) and deleted the LibreOffice 4 directory from the Windows partition using Nautilus. However, on my PC with Home Premium, which isn’t dual-booted, I decided to see if there was a way for me to remedy the issue from within Windows itself. After doing every step I could learn of to either force-delete the file or change permissions, including through CLI with an elevated command prompt, I found that nothing tried within Windows itself would work. In the end, I was still forced to use a linux boot to fix my issue, and I did that using a LiveUSB.

So, if you’re facing the same issue I did, you can take the same step that I did. If you know of a sure-fire solution that can be executed from within Windows, shared knowledge is appreciated.

Best Calculator Options

I have used TI calculators for a long time. In fact, the first time I was presented with a TI-83 graphing calculator in school, I was overly impressed. The thing about TI calcs that makes them so convenient is that they are relatively straightforward and typically familiar when most graphing calculators provided by schools in-class tend to be of the TI brand.

However. When you’re in the market to purchase a graphing calculator of your own, there tends to be things that you need to consider. Searching online for opinions on comparisons between calculators will typically lend mixed results. The two most well-known giants in the calculator world are pretty much Texas Instruments and Hewlett Packard. Depending on who you talk to, you’ll have someone swear by one and gun down the other. In reality, both companies have made some pretty functional calculators.

The TI-83/84 series is likely the most successful by TI, though I would recommend you look at either the TI-89 Titanium or the TI-nspire CX CAS if it’s TI you’re in the market for. Either way, all four of those calculators will run you at $100+ brand new. Though the TI-83 series has a lot of used calculators laying around for a bargain-price, I personally think it’s best to go with the next best option, especially considering that the TI-83/84 calcs are absent of any CAS functionality.

There is also a rise in Casio’s place in the calculator world. I bought an fx-115ES while I was working through some undergraduate electrical engineering courses and it was an excellent calculator for the then $15 price tag. Surprisingly, the standard fx-115ES is now around $30 on Amazon while it’s Plus version is at the $15 mark. That’s strange. Perhaps the Plus actually lacks functionality? I don’t know. But I do know that it is about the best multi-line non-graphing calculator for the price. There are some Casio calcs with more functionality, however, but they also come with a larger price-tag. For example, the Prism FX-CG10 is a graphing calculator that states provides functionality for Physics and AP Calculus. However, it fails to mention any CAS functionality, and I would be hard-pressed to believe it features any being that it is accepted for use on so many tests, including the SAT. That being said, I would probably expect that the fx-9860 series calculators by Casio would be the best option under the Casio brand. They typically run around $65-70 new on Amazon.

Lastly, there is HP. My first interest in HP calculators came about in, surprisingly, the Orientation for Engineering course I took near the end of my studies for my 2-year Associates degree. The course featured a lot of unit conversions and such, and the teacher constantly held up his HP graphing calculator and hailed it as some sort of holy grail for the task. I never really thought any more about it until a couple of weeks ago. I just happened to get curious about the HP calcs and decided to see how much they ran for. The HP Prime is the most recent product, but the 50g was mentioned to be HP’s competitive offer against the TI-89 Titanium. Being as impressed with the Titanium as I was, I decided to purchase a 50g at the surprising cost of $89.99 – nearly $50 cheaper that the Titanium’s price. Considering that the 50g also has CAS functionality, the $89.99 price tag is unbelievably the best deal for a new calculator in this market – in my opinion.

Whether you’re a TI, HP or Casio enthusiast, if you’re in the market for a new calculator for either engineering studies or for use on an engineering job, I recommend the HP 50g. It’s slightly more expensive that the Casio fx-9860 series calculators while being substantially cheaper than just about any new TI calculator. If you’re unfamiliar with the HP calculators, you may find it to be a relatively steep learning-curve at the start, but the calculator provides nearly any immediate functionality you could need or expect from a hand-held calculator.