Tuesday, September 22

Installing Linux - part 2

Right, then a week ago I said I'd write the second part of my "Installing Linux" tutorial and I said I'd do it in a couple of days. Kinda turned out to be a week, so sorry about that, but, to borrow a cliché, better late than never! So down to business, if you haven't already check out the first part of this tutorial then do so, and then read this one. This part will explain how to complete options 3 and 4 of the installation process. Just to remind you those are:

  1. USB drive containing distro. This means creating a flash disk with the distro for installation on it.
  2. USB drive containing download trigger. Option 4 means making a USB with a file on it that will trigger the download of the whole OS. Worst option, very time consuming and not reliable.
Using a USB containing the distro involves either using a ready made drive eg - one from a magazine/ordered etc... or using one created by yourself. The method of using one that has been made already is easier and just follow the process of using a CD in the last part. Creating a USB drive yourself sounds hard, but trust me, it's insanely easy when you know what to do. Firstly you will need a USB drive with at least 1GB of space on it (don't worry, most, if not all, of these methods will leave data intact on the drive that was there previously) and a program to help you make the boot disk.
The most reliable method I have found is to use PenDrive Linux. Their programs almost always work and you're up and running in about half an hour. Just find the instructions you need, follow them (probably downloading a file) and you're done. The downside to PDL is that they have a limited number of distros that they have covered, but most of the main ones have instructions on there. Also there is room for error, not much, but one small part is from the command prompt, so it is possible to mess up and wipe your whole system - not good! But this is very hard to do unless you have bad eyesight or cannot read English. Other than that it's brilliant. The boot up part is the same and that's it!
The second method I know is to use UNetbootin to create a boot disk. This works most of the time but is not entirely reliable. Just download it, select the distro to install, select the drive to install to and click "create USB". Rinse and repeat. It also has a "create using .iso image", so you can make it using a pre-downloaded .iso. There is one thing about it - the fact that sometimes the thing messes up and doesn't install the OS properly and misses out some important files. This is the reason UNetbootin is not my first choice.
Lastly, you can use the Fedora Live USB creator. This only works for Fedora though and so is no use for anything else. Works great with Fedora!
And now, option 4 - using a drive containing a download trigger. This is by far the worst option a) because it is very slow and time consuming - can take up to 11/2 hours to fully download b) needs an uninterrupted internet link - you will need a complete link for all this time. If, at any time, it is broken the download will stop and you will need to restart the whole process, although some distros allow you to resume after this. You can create one of these USB drives using UNetbootin. Just select the "netinstall" option when selecting the distro version. Like I have said over and over, this should only be used as a last resort as it really is slow and unstable.
Anyway though, good luck with these and enjoy your new OS.

Disclaimer: I accept no responsibility for any damage done to your computer, be it hardware or software related, caused as a result of following this tutorial. You do this at YOUR OWN RISK!

Tuesday, September 15

Installing Linux

A week or so ago I said I'd write a short tutorial on installing a couple of Linux distros on your computer and I've decided I'd just show you the various ways for Ubuntu, because the other distros are very similar to install and there's tons of tutorials out there.
Anyway on with the how-to. There are a couple of ways to install Ubuntu:

  1. Live CD from Canonical (or the manufacturer of your chosen distro. This option uses a Live CD made by Canonical, the makers of Ubuntu. This is by far the easiest way to install a distro.
  2. Live CD created by you. Slightly more difficult than option 1, with more room for error but not that hard.
  3. USB drive containing distro. This means creating a flash disk with the distro for installation on it. (Will be covered in next post)
  4. USB drive containing download trigger. Option 4 means making a USB with a file on it that will trigger the download of the whole OS. Worst option, very time consuming and not reliable. (Will be covered in next post)

    Option 1 is by the easiest of them all. You just send off for a disk from Canonical (for Ubuntu), shove it in your CD drive on your computer/laptop, boot up and some options will come up. But before the options come up you must press F-, one of the F- keys along the top of your keyboard. This will depend on your machine, mine if F9. The computer will say, usually in the left hand bottom corner, something like 'Boot options F5' and you press that key, select the boot device (the CD) and away you go. You can choose to install the distro straight to your hard drive, or, and this is a very nifty, little idea, you can 'try before you buy'. This involves booting up the disk and checking out the distro to make sure that everything works with your machine and that sort of stuff.

    Option 2 is marginally harder than the above. What you will need is a blank CD, a CD creator drive, a CD burner program and of course the distro ISO. An ISO is basically the file that contains everything needed to run the OS on your computer. It is called an image and is usually around 650MB. You can find it by typing the distributions name into Google, bringing up their site and clicking on download. Right on to the creation. Start you CD burner program, such as Nero and click 'create CD-ROM ISO' or something along these lines. Then browse through to where you you saved the .iso file, for example Computer>Documents>Downloads, select it and click create. This will burn the disk and you just do the same as in option 1. It also gives you the option to test before you install it.
    I will cover options 3 and 4 in a later post in a couple of days time.
    Live CD Info

    Part 2 of the tutorial
    Disclaimer: I accept no responsibility for any damage done to your computer, be it hardware or software related, caused as a result of following this tutorial. You do this at YOUR OWN RISK!

    Thursday, September 10

    Stupid hacker

    Take a look at this crazy conversation from some chatroom. This guy thinks he's so good at hacking but it backfires. Insane!

    Tuesday, September 8

    Introduction to Linux

    What does the word Linux bring to mind? A struggling, nerd sitting at his computer hacking his way into the Pentagon or something free and therefore rubbish and hard to use? Or perhaps you have never heard of it. Well basically what Linux is (there's a bit of technical mumbo-jumbo but I'll attempt to simplify as much as possible) is a thing called kernel. A kernel is what the operating system, for example Windows or Mac OSX or Ubuntu, uses to perform all the mundane tasks, such as hardware management, networking and basically keeping the OS running. The Linux kernel is what Linux distros or distributions use to do the above. A distro is basically an operating system based on the Linux kernel. Examples include among others, OpenSUSE, Ubuntu and Fedora. This may seem complicated but it isn't if you use this analogy - the kernel is like the engine of a car, it keeps it running.
    The operating system on top of this is like the dashboard and interior of the car, looking good and helping you drive. In case you're wondering the big penguin is the symbol for Linux - don't ask me why.
    But isn't any Linux distro just for nerds who spend all their time on computers? I here you ask. Well no, sure there are distros that are insanely hard to use, but for the most part they are fairly easy to use. To name a couple Ubuntu and Fedora are some of the easiest OSs out there. Some argue they're easier to use than Windows. You'll have to judge for yourself.
    So why should you choose Linux or technically a 'Linux based distribution' over Windows? Well the short answer is, why not? Seriously, if you've got an ounce of technical knowledge and can read words off a screen and click a mouse, then you can install and use Linux. Some points why to give it a go:

    • It's compatible with most things. Back in the early 2000s many Linux distros weren't compatible with anything. This is because, since Windows has such a large share of the OS market, that is what computer manufacturers design their products for. But now the distros have changed and are compatible with most pieces of hardware.
    • Choice. There are, literally, hundreds of distros to choose from. Depending on your needs you will pick a different distro. I'll mention a bit about choosing a distro in my next post. There is something suited to everyone out there. As well as this new updates and releases are released incredibly often - some every 4 or 5 months or so. So if you want to be up to date with the latest stuff this is great. To find a distro go to DistroWatch
    • And finally the price. Well, there isn't any. It's one thing in life where less is better. Linux distros are whats known of the open source. This means they are and always will be free. Also you can do what you want with them. Change them, sell them or reverse engineer them. It's, too borrow an opensource quote, free as in freedom, not free as in beer.

      So why not give Linux a go? There's tons of tutorials out there or check back here and I'll have posted up a tutorial on installing a few distros. Good luck on picking one!

      Sunday, September 6

      Any of them true?

      Here's a random list of some crazy 'facts'. See if you think any of them are true. Disclaimer - try these at your own risk!
      When placed in warm milk, raisins re-plump into grapes.
      The metal backs of iPods are made from recycled zippers.
      Eskimos don’t believe in bridges or tunnels.
      Every sixteen minutes, someone named Richard dies.
      Billy Bob Thornton’s grandfather was the first person to own a television.
      Dolphins kill more people annually than sharks and influenza combined.
      On a dare, former President Rutherford B. Hayes declared war on Chile for 17 minutes.
      The original title for Catcher in the Rye was Hey, Look, a Carousel!
      Professionals call the top socket on an electrical outlet the “Martha,” and the bottom socket the “Jasmine.”
      In the archives at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., there are two identical snowflakes preserved in a freezer.
      Three out of every ten nickels has been in someone’s mouth.
      If you hold one nostril closed for 72 hours, you will slowly lose the ability to see color. (Your sight will instantly return to normal when you release your nostril.)
      Wave a magnet at the lower left corner of a vending machine to receive a free soda.
      The glossy paper from the backs of stickers can be used to soothe sunburn.
      To be a train conductor, you have to cut off one of your own toes during a loyalty ritual.
      The Z in Jay-Z’s name stands for “Zeppidemus.”
      Jean shorts were invented three weeks prior to the invention of regular jeans.
      Whispering instead of talking on cell phones saves significant battery power.
      In Austria, the traditional Christmas colors are not red and greed, but purple and clear.
      Benjamin Franklin coined the phrase “Baby Mama” in a satirical poem published in Poor Richard’s Almanac.
      If you take the first letter of each word in the Monopoly board game instruction manual, they spell out an X-rated sentence.
      The original name for the laptop computer was “Hinged Smart Slab.”
      The average person inhales 3 pounds of spider webs in his or her lifetime.
      When first introduced to the public, plastic laundry baskets cost $75 each.
      Winnie the Pooh started out as a non-fiction account of mental illness.
      Reading backwards for twenty minutes burns the same amount of calories as walking a half-mile.
      The Q in Q-tips stands for “quantum,” as the small bit of cotton on the tip contains more atoms than the entire human body.
      Revolving doors were first invented as a way to keep horses out of department stores.
      Peru and the moon weigh the same amount.
      Human beings and anteaters are the only animals that can snap their fingers.
      If you soak a baseball hat in coke, and then let it dry on someone’s head, over a 3-hour period the hat will shrink with skull-denting force, causing intense pain and irreparable damage.
      Clouds cannot travel south southwest.
      In sign language, there are 72 ways to say “drawbridge.”

      Ad placement

      Ok, so I said I'd write a bit about advert placement on webpages ie - AdSense or other context ads (although some of this you could use for banners as well). Here's two factors which affect the CTR or Click Through Rate. The page traffic - think a busy highstreet billboard gets seen more than a back alley poster. This is harder to change and cannot be done without considerable effort over time. Second, is where on the webpage the unit is - a poster right on a door that people use a lot will be seen way more than a poster stuck up inside a little cubbyhole where no-one goes.
      So here we'll focus on ad placement. Below is a diagram or heatmap put together by Google. The darker areas are the 'hotter' areas, the places where ads get more clicks. As you can see they are the left sidebar - this is often where people look straight away for a navigation bar. Just below the header is also quite popular. The left of the main content and above main content get the most heat. You'll find, although it differs on certain webpages because of layout, styling etc, that peoples eyes will follow roughly the same route around the page. And as shown on the diagram the left of the page and by the primary content are the best places for ads. Finally the area beneath the main content is great advertising real estate. This is because visitors read the main stuff then are looking for somewhere to click. An ad unit fills this space perfectly.
      As well as ad placement, ad styling is important as well. To go back to the previous analogy a poster that grabs attention yet pleasing to the eye is the most read. Now this is something that is unique to each site. The ad placement is fairly uniform for most sites but this isn't. You've got to fit them in with your site's colour scheme or make them loud and brash to catch peoples eye. You would think loud bright ads would get the most clicks but in fact it is actually those which blend in with the colour scheme the best which have the highest CTR.
      So remember all this when you're placing ads and you should see an increase in your overall CTR and therefore more of the moolah should come your way.

      Saturday, September 5

      Chitika - an AdSense alternative (or partner)?

      This is a service I've been using for a while now. It's called Chitika and is a system very much like Google's AdSense ie - it places contextual ads on your pages depending on the pages topic. For those of you who don't know about this, say your page is about flowers, if you place a contextual ad on there the ads will have something to do with flowers, or should - sometimes they go haywire and don't!
      But that's enough about that. Let's talk about Chitika. So yes you say, it's like AdSense, but there must be something different. And there is. The thing Chitika does is only show ads to visitors who come through to your site through a search engine. Meaning that everyone who sees your Chitika ad has come via a search engine and therefore has been looking for your site - they want to find it. But what happens when someone comes through a different entrance? Well you have a number of options. Chitika allows you to let the ad unit just fold away and disappear or turn into an AdSense ad or fill with a solid colour. Clever!
      Now your probably thinking, AdSense or Chitika? And I would say, if you only want to use one, use AdSense because more people see it and it generates more money than Chitika. If you can use both (and you can; AdSense's T's and C's indicates you can but people have checked and it is allowed) go for it! Chitika's ads look much better than AdSense units mainly because they have a small picture - this could increase the amount of people who get drawn to the ad, and click on it.
      I will say more about placing the ads on your page in my next post.