Wednesday, October 8, 2008

What Happened to the Big Events?

I don't know whether I have just gotten old, or if years of hype have just made me jaded, but I am not impressed with DC and Marvel's big events this year. I liked Civil War, the various Crisis stories were ok and even enjoyed 52, Countdown... not so much, but Final Crisis & Secret Invasion are just boring me.

I picked up the first 3 issues of Secret Invasion and while I'm not saying that the story completely sucked, I just didn't "feel it". I didn't really care, which happens more and more with me and Marvel books these days. Granted I have always been more of a DC guy, but I still have my favorite Marvel characters and with those few exceptions I just couldn't care less about this event. As far as I'm concerned it isn't even happening.

Now as for DC, my comic book company of choice, I am waaaay underwhelmed with Final Crisis. The only joy I've gotten out of it so far is the fact that Martian Manhunter is finally out of the picture, at least for a while( I can't explain it, I just don't like the character). As a matter of fact I enjoyed the Sinestro Corps from last year a lot more. I'm especially looking forward to the Blackest/Darkest Night storyline coming next year. Maybe it is due to the fact I have never liked or cared about the New Gods, or the fact they are wearing out the Crisis theme, but Final Crisis isn't anymore interesting to me than what Marvel is doing this summer. Honestly, the biggest events that have been happening at either company have been in the individual books themselves.

The death and replacement of Captain America has been a great story line. The previously mentioned Sinsestro Corps was fantastic and the Hulk has been pretty good ever since the Planet Hulk story... well mostly anyway. As for the big events in far as I'm concerned Spidey's books quit being published and he is now nothing more than a movie franchise to me(the books are dead to me, though Spidergirl & Ultimate Spidey are kind of fun). At least until they decide to re-reverse the mess they have made of that continuity/character. Don't even get me started on Batman. They should just kill him and get it over with, the movies are better than the series at this point anyway.

So maybe I am jaded and cynical after many, many years of reading comics. Maybe I've just seen the same stories done over and over enough times that I quit caring. In that time I've seen worlds destroyed and remade, characters marry, divorce, die and return from the dead. The sad part is that most of those stories involve the same few characters.

There has been debate for years over what "age" of comics we are in now... Bronze, Lead, Copper, Pewter.... actually I don't even care I just want to read good books, with good stories and it seems we are hitting a bit of slup once again. (Though I will give companies like Image and Dynamite cred for doing some really good stuff. )I think that instead of rehasing the same things over and over again with the same characters it might just be time to let the old guard step down. When the Silver Age hit it brought with it the next generation of characters and maybe that is what comic books need right now. Maybe it is time for the sidekicks and kids to step up, continue the legacy and take their place as the new generation of heroes. Or maybe I'm just getting old and grumpy.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

12 Deadly Diseases for the Apocalypse

Keeping in step with the great Apocalypse theme running over at The Geek Emporium I have discovered that there is a very real potential cause of the Apocalypse looming overhead. According to a Reuters article I found on Yahoo there are 12 diseases that could wipe us out due to climate change. If you want to read it the original article is here and I have listed the 12 diseases below. The article stated that these diseases are "likely to spread more because of climate change", but this is not a definitive list just an example.

  1. avian flu
  2. tick-borne babesia
  3. cholera
  4. ebola
  5. parasites
  6. plague
  7. lyme disease
  8. red tides of algal blooms
  9. Rift Valley fever
  10. sleeping sickness
  11. tuberculosis
  12. yellow fever
I didn't know that parasites were considered a disease... learn something new every day.

Quick Reviews: Linux, a n00b's POV

While I do consider myself a bit of a computer geek and I have been wanting to try Linux for quite some time, I never made the leap. I felt comfortable in my Windows world because I knew my way around. Besides Linux is for code monkeys that spend their days staring at endless strings of code. Right?

Wrong, Linux is one of the most impressive OSs I've seen. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the various Linux Distros are the most impressive OSs I've seen. Almost anything that you can do in Windows can be done in Linux, often better. Though coming from the Windows world can be a bit difficult as it does take a little know how to get what you want from Linux, you definitely don't need a Phd in Computer Science to run a Linux system.

Now remember I am new to Linux, and I frankly suck at writing code. Keep that in mind as you read my reviews regarding various Linux Distros. I am looking at this strictly from the POV of a person who is completely unfamiliar with the system and just wants the same level of usability they got from Windows.

So why switch if all you want is the same as you had? Well that isn't exactly what I meant. I do want the ability to do the same things in Linux as I could do in Windows such as play games, watch DVDs, surf the net, check email and, when needed, a good office suite to do homework. But that isn't all that I wanted. I wanted better security, and a system where I didn't feel confined to what "they" told me I could do.

Unlike Windows, Linux has almost everything I need built right into the OS with no need to buy anything else. But I didn't buy Linux and that is the best part. Granted it may seem like I'm a cheapskate who wants to get free stuff, and that may be true, but after doing a little checking I found that Linux is built by real people who care about the product. If you have a problem you may not be able to call an anonymous customer support person who may or may not be able to help, but that isn't a bad thing. Instead all you have to do is go to the Linux community and ask for help. The people who spend their time creating these wonderful programs are the same people who will help you. There is a catch however.

If you expect to get help with Linux, lose the "I'm the customer" attitude. Since Linux is primarily community built they owe you no obligations, they simply do it out of kindness and perhaps out of appreciation for the fact you want to learn a little something from them. Maybe if you get to love Linux as they do, you may become one of them and create or work on the next great distro.

So that is enough regarding my resons to like Linux. Now onto what I think about the distros I tried.

Being a Linux newbie I wanted test the waters with as many different versions of Linux as I could. Believe me there is an incredible number of Linux versions available and I'm sure one of them will be what you are looking for. But first things first.

The desktop environment:
There are two primary desktop environments that I tried as I looked for my perfect Linux, KDE and Gnome. Now readers of this blog know I'm not a fan of gnomes, but I left my anti-gnome sentiment at the door for this. Since, as I stated before, I am not a code monkey I can't tell you exactly what the difference between the two desktop environments are except in regards to how they look and feel.

KDE: When you first enter a K Desktop Environment (KDE) you get a very Fisher Price feeling. Everything seems bright,vivid and colorful . First impressions are that this is going to be a simple, almost childish place, but you are wrong. The KDE environments I tested were, for the most part, very intuitive and only slightly different in set up than Windows. Very easy for someone who has just switched to navigate.

Gnome: In many ways Gnome feels & looks, to me, like Windows 95. It is almost bland and a newbies first impression is that it will be a bit complicated, but that is not correct. For the most part the two environments are the same in terms of what they offer and how they are set up. Granted there are a few minor differences, but if you take a minute to search around you will feel right at home.

****Note: Most distros are available in both KDE and Gnome. Most are also available in mini versions that can be booted from a USB thumb drive. All versions of Linux also have multiple virtual desktops that you can switch between. This allows you to multi task without cluttering up your screen****

You will see more of what I'm talking about as I quickly review the individual distros. These are not comprehensive and are only meant to give new users a quick idea of what the systems are like. That is why I have included screen shots when available.

**** Note: Almost every version of Linux that I found was available as a Live CD/DVD. All you have to do is download the iso, burn it and boot from the CD/DVD. (If you don't know how to do that you should Google it or have some one help you.) Then you can try the OS in live mode which will run from the CD/DVD and in your systems RAM without having to install anything. Kind of a try before you buy. Be warned that almost all live CDs and DVDs run a bit slower than the actual operating system would if you installed it depending on your system. That is why I am reviewing installed versions only. I am also only covering the ones I think would be most appealing to new uses. I may do other distros at a later date.*****

Ubuntu uses the Gnome desktop environment, is one of the most popular distros and was the first distro I tried. I really liked everything about Ubuntu except the brown... everything is brown. Though you can change the colors and backgrounds to suit your tastes.
I think that Ubuntu is a good choice for people wanting to switch from Windows or dual boot with both systems. It comes with Open Office, a very good MS Office clone(most Linux distors will come with Open Office though some come with K office... I like Open Office better. It is the most compatible with MS Office IMO), uses Firefox as the internet browser and is all in all a good system. Fairly easy to navigate and if there is a program(package) you want, that did not come with the OS, they are pretty easy to install with the package manager. If the brown bothers you, try the KDE version Kubuntu, which is pretty good as well.
Both versions worked very well on every machine I installed them on, but I did have some issues with wireless on my laptop. I got it worked out eventually, but had to download several packages to do so. For desktops I had no issues.
I would definitely recommend this to a new Linux user who has a little know how.

This is one of my favorite versions of Linux. It is KDE and feels very much like a version of Windows. Like most KDE Linux distros it uses Amarok media player, which I really like. Very intuitive, easy to navigate and cheerful.
Worked great on every desktop where I installed it. Putting it on my network was even easier than in Ubuntu. Wireless was no problem on the laptop, but I did have an issue with the sound. A volume box popped up in the middle of the screen and would not go away. I had to go to the Mandriva community and get the code to make it disappear.
For desktops I definitely recommend this to newbies. My 10 year old had no problem using it.

gOS: Space and Gadget versions
gOS, which standa for good OS, is based on Ubuntu and for the most part works very well. It is definitely something geared toward users that want basic apps readily available and accomplishes this with the iBar. Basically it is a 3D toolbar on the screen, much like the launcher I've seen on Macs. gOS Gadget's iBar has Google, Gmail, Firefox and Open Office icons, among others, for quick access. gOS Space on the other had is directed more towards the Myspace crowd. Instead of Google apps there are links to various Myspace apps as well as Firefox and Open Office.
While the networking and wireless worked great I had a few problems with both of these. The iBar is difficult to customize, every time I tried it crashed and the OS often glitched up causing the iBar or desktop icons to disappear. I tried it on my 10 year old's desktop and my laptop and the same thing happened on both. I really like the idea of this OS and if not for the problems it would likely be at the top of my list of favorites. I recommend trying it and if it works this would likely be the OS for someone new to Linux, I just didn't have good luck with it.

I really like PCLinuxOS. It came with pretty much everything I needed in the way of multimedia support "out of the box". Most distros require you to download DVD and MP3 codecs or download internet plug-ins but this OS is geared towards multimedia. It is KDE, very easy to navigate and easy to connect to your home network. I had no issues with this on desktops or laptops. I still have it installed on my 10 year old's desktop and there have been no problems. Definitely recommend this for ease of use and out of the box usability. Especially for a new user who just wants to play some music, watch some DVDs and do homework.

Linux Mint:
This is my favorite Linux distro and the one I dual boot on my desktop. It is based on Ubuntu, so it is Gnome(damn gnomes!), and is not that impressive at first glance. However like PCLinuxOS everything I needed in regard to Multimedia was there out of the box, as was Open Office. It is easy to navigate and with the Mint Installer downloading and installing packages is a snap. I had no problems regardless of the machine I installed it on and setting up the network was no problem. It is a little easier to navigate than Ubuntu, which is nice for new users.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

My Top 10 Halloween Movies

Every holiday my family and I get a stack of movies together that celebrate the spirit of the season and watch them in the weeks leading up to the holiday. Anyone who read the old Geek Gazette e-zine, knows that I like to make lists, especially around the holidays. So to keep the tradition alive here are my Top 10 Halloween Movies.
I have many other favorites but these are 10 of my must watch movies for Halloween. Most of which I have used as inspiration for my Halloween games. Feel free to share your favorites as well.

  1. Young Frankenstien
  2. Halloween (original)
  3. Dawn of the Dead
  4. Dagon
  5. Nightmare on Elm Street
  6. In the Mouth of Madness
  7. Night of the Living Dead (original)
  8. Army of Darkness
  9. Ginger Snaps
  10. Silver Bullet