Friday, September 28, 2012

Video Blog: Gigastrand OS - Take 2

The Gigastrand Video for the Kickstarter project was replaced this week with a new video. This one was created using a better camera, better graphics, sound, and animation. Whereas the original video cost nothing and took less than 24 hours to shoot and edit, the new video cost $100 in licensing and equipment but an investment that was worth the end result.

I should point out that both videos were edited and compiled using the same OpenShot software and LinuxMint 5 KDE on a single-core Intel Centrino processor laptop with 512mb RAM.

Yes. Seriously. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Developing OS Bandwidth Intensive...apparently

So, as of this post, the Gigastrand Kickstarter Project has about $26 pledged to it with about 3 weeks to go.

This morning I get an alert about how we have used 3.5Gb of our 6Gb allowance from Verizon. Holy cow! We have only been at this for a week. Sometimes we do not use that in a month!

Apparently, developing an OS is bandwidth intensive. Downloading the base systems and various test distros have been done at my home so that hasn't been a factor. All of the videos we have created are the same story.

We are getting ready to build Gigastrand OS Alpha.02 which will actually be built on the real base system (Debian / KDE). Because of bandwidth issues, we will be packing up the PC we are building it on and heading out to a less bandwidth-restrictive environment. 

Namely, my home. I think Verizon may need to rethink the whole share everything plan or perhaps we do.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Video Blog: Promo for Gigastrand OS

In terms of sophistication, it is not at all. Just images and a soundtrack.

Rather than using OpenShot which does not run on my Linux Mint 10 laptop - AT ALL - I used KDEnlive, a rather unpolished video editor with some powerful features on Linux Mint KDE.

I wanted to get the point across in less than a minute. Did I succeed? 

Please share this with as many people as you can.


How MR. G switched to Linux

I made the switch to full-time desktop Linux during the time desktop Linux was still evolving. While it is much easier to make the switch now, the process and the level of commitment is generally the same.

Step 1. Figure out what software you use.
Step 2. Find Open Source and cross-platform alternatives to said software
Step 3. Use the open source alternatives in your current OS
Step 4. Find a Distro
Step 5. Install the software you use on the distro.
Step 6. Use Linux!

Now, that is all fine and dandy, but that is six steps - which is about 3 more than most people are willing to invest in. What if it went more like this:

Step 1: Install Gigastrand OS
Step 2: Install the software you use
Step 3: Run Linux!

Wow. That saved, like, 50% of the steps I required to switch to Linux.That is what the Gigastrand OS is hoping to accomplish. Technology really is making our lives easier!

Support the Gigastrand Operating System on Kickstarter!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Mr. G Speaks About Creating the Gigastrand OS

By now, you have probably read the press release, maybe even seen the video, but you may be wanting a little more information on what ideas we have after we have the 1.0 version; or perhaps you want to know what it took to create the Alpha version; or what it is like to be creating an operating system for the first time.

Well, good news! I will be talking about that today.

The Concept
Gigastrand has had the idea to create its own operating system for about 5 years now. Since creating the concept, Gigastrand has done extensive research into how best to go about making this OS happen. It is only recently that things have fallen into place to allow us to pursue that goal.

Even though we had a development plan and goal, I knew Gigastrand would not be able to fund the initial development on its own. That is when we turned to Kickstarter 

Kickstarter required 2 things Gigastrand had never attempted before: A video and a prototype.

The Prototype
The prototype was created first. We took a PC and loaded Linux Mint 10 KDE. Then I customized it with graphics, loaded Wine and installed other software we wanted on the system.

We then tried a few ways of compiling the Alpha without success. One of those ways included the use of Ubuntu's Customization tool. The tool worked but not in the way we needed it to at the time. 

We soon turned to remastersys. The system was exactly what we were looking for and was a quick way to get the prototype built.

As I said in the video, the end result worked, but it is very much a Frankenstien's monster. Allow me to elaborate.

  • When the system boots up, the boot menu is still Linux Mint 10.
  • After the boot screen it shows the Kubuntu splash screen.
  • The login goes back to Linux Mint 10.
  • The OS startup screen is our startup screen and the OS has all of our customizations on it.
  • When you boot from the CD, it has our logos on it.
  • It then boots to LinuxMint 10 with the installer labeled "Custom CD Install"
So, a bit of work yet.

The Excitement
In a way, I feel a bit like Bill Gates creating the first Windows 1.0 (Except without the money or the fame). I am really looking forward to working on the project and have high hopes for the future.

The Future
So what are we going to do with this OS once we have it? Well, we are going to use it as a base for all of the projects and ideas Gigastrand has. We will be developing with it, for it, and around it. The proposed development schedule after that will be about once every year or so we will come out with a new release.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Yokel Creates an Operating System...

...and nobody is more surprised than him.

To be honest, I never would have thought that I would have been the one to create a distribution. I had always imagined that it would have been something I would have delegated to someone more talented than I. Yet, here I am with a kickstarter project and the beginnings of a whole new Linux distribution.

Of course I will be getting in some additional talent once the project is funded, but I will be at the helm the entire way through the project.

I sort of feel like Steve Jobs creating my first Mac computer. It is an exciting feeling.

So get involved with the project. Visit the Kickstarter page and become part of the action!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Power of Linux: Sorry, I Run Linux

It is no secret that if you are going to sell me something, have me do some sort of remote training session, or whatever, it HAS to be Linux-Compatible. Gigastrand doesn't run Windows and sure as hell won't start just because you have something to sell me.

But that is not the funny part.

My wife (Mrs. Gigabytes) has been getting telemarketing calls galore lately and what brought this particular post to mind was that I just saw in the Argus Leader today that South Dakota is investigating "robo calls". On one call my wife received in particular, Linux helped to save the day.

My wife received a phishing call telling her that there was a problem detected with her PC. The conversation went something like this:

Phisher: "Good morning. I am calling to tell you that we have detected a problem with your PC."
Wife: "Oh?"
Scam the man: "Yes. We need you to go to this website and download a special utility."
Wife: "I'm sorry. I run Linux. What exactly is the problem with my PC?"
Soul-less spawn: "What?! Ooh. Goodbye."

They never called back.  

Monday, September 17, 2012

The one thing that irritates me about most distros.

I love Linux.

Having said that, there is one thing that really irritates me when it comes to nearly every distro with few exceptions: How they try to look like the operating system they are trying to compete against.


I will give you an example: Remember how Windows had that nifty little Start button in the corner? Remember how every single desktop more or less copied it?

Now, remember when Windows Vista came out and they changed the Start menu? When that happened, every Linux distro went to a similar start menu. Linux Mint's tasty menu is a fantastic example of this. Why change it? Why not keep a Windows 2K or XP style menu?

Well, ok. I pick on Linux Mint a bit perhaps out of some naivety because I know Linux Mint was named the best distro recently. I also know all kinds of marketing reasons to do this but not one that actually pandered to my stubborn sense of not fixing what isn't broke.
Microsoft does this all the time and it drives me up the wall. What possible reason would you have to changing the menus in Microsoft Office? What added value did your customers get by going to the new menu system except having to hire people like me to figure it out?

Oh. That's it isn't it? Making money for those who support and train the end-users. Well, TA Microsoft.

But that still does not make it right nor does it explain why a simple and straightforward menu system in Linux had to be completely redone to the point is was so busy it made it more difficult to get around?

XFCE? Don't get me started. If I wanted something that looked like a MAC, I'd buy a MAC.
Though, I can't really fault them too much. After all, they are only doing what everyone else is.

So, as I get off my soapbox, I would issue this challenge to distros: If you are going to be different, be really different. Don't just try to do better what was a bad idea in the first place. If you want to be useful, simple is always better

Or, maybe I should just shut up or put up. Go make my own OS. Hmmmm.....


Friday, September 14, 2012

Top 10 Places to get help with Linux

This list is an expanded version of the one on Gigastrand's support site. I am sure you will see it on that site soon as well. Items here are organized but not in any particular order.

1. This List!
Like a treasure map to knowledge, follow the list and it will lead you to enlightenment.

2. Online help
Click on help.  Sit back with your favorite beverage, and enjoy.

3. Linux Manuals
RTFM.  Many available at your distro's website or local book store.
Great resource for printer problems, drivers and purchasing advice.
Ok, we're biased.  But we are trying to make finding help a little easier.
A great source of knowledge about everything Linux. I follow them on Twitter and facebook. Heck, just do a search for Linux and follow everything you find! (That's pretty much what I did. Just don't forget Linux4Everyone).
7. Your Distribution's Website
Your distribution has forums and support documents and maybe even a Wiki to help you out.
8. Mr. Gigabytes Blog
Showing my unabashed bias once again.
9. Linux Magazines
Holy cow are there some great publications for Linux out there. Linux Magazine is one of my favorites.

As of right now, not a whole lot of documentation, but it is a good website (even if I do say so myself.)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Linux PC or POC? (redux)

In keeping with the theme of revisiting old posts from LinspireNetwork, I brought this old jem out and reread it. As I was reading it, I realized OMG, I still have this machine! Full update after the original picture.

The first machine I installed Linspire on that actually met the system requirements was a POC (Piece of Crap).
I received a damaged black and silver case from a supplier. It looked like someone had jumped up and down on top of this case. The front bezel had sheared completely off, the top had a massive dent in it, and the side panel had sheared a screw out of its hole stripping the threads.
UPS never comes to claim a damaged case under $50. So, even though the chassis was warped and the top was dented, I decided to use it to build a Linspire machine.

I put a window with a light-up green fan and a green cold cathode. I screwed the front bezel on with two screws (only 2 holes were left in the front bezel) and bent the case back into shape with the aid of a ball peen hammer. I installed a 15Gb hard drive, an Elitegroup K7SEM with a 1.3GHz Duron left over from a customer's total system upgrade, 512Mb PC133 SDRAM, a Hypermedia 24x (CD) burner that we got from a donated pile of junk, and a white floppy.

I then acquired a GeForce 4 MX440 and installed it. We then received another box of junk with a Gateway 12x DVD-ROM inside. It had a cracked cd tray which I glued back together and installed into the machine. It is a bit finicky, but it does work (I watched the Emipre Strikes Back on it yesterday. I then sprayed all the drives silver to match the case.
Linspire works beautifully on it and I am now considering replacing my W2K machine with this machine (which I did). The computer may be a POC, but it works and works better than my W2K machine built with new parts. What started out as a pile of junk has now become my favorite computer.

November 15, 2004

Update: When Gigabytes Computer Store closed in 2006, this was given to my brother Ross who tinkered with it and ran various Linux OSes on it. The motherboard has been replaced with a PCCHIPS M848A running an Athlon 2400+ with a 1GB of memory. Both optical drives have been replaced with a single DVD-RW and an IDE mobile rack has been added as well. It is now running an ATI Radeon X1650Pro for video. A second cold cathode and a newer, brighter light-up fan has been added. The original light-up fan still works and has been moved to the back.

September 11, 2012

When my brother went to live in the frozen north, he gave it back to me stating that "It doesn't really work any more." So, I ran some tests, replaced some bad HDD cables, pulled 1 bad 80GB hard drive and it came back to life (I believe my exact words were: "IT LIVES! Bwhahahah!").

I have thought about building a new server in a rack mount case to match the servers in the Gigastrand Store, but this PC has so much history and still works so well that I can't bear the thought of replacing it entirely.

Still, there are a few upgrades I am planning for it. Serial ATA being one and memory being the other. I would like to have at least 2GB (if possible) and some expanded internal file storage. I am going to wait until the motherboard dies or has no more useful life left in it before I swap that out to a larger system.

The age of this PC: The original archive date on the article is 03/31/2005 and the picture was taken in November 15th, 2004. Which means that soon this PC will turn 8 years old. That speaks volumes to the power of Linux and Gigastrand International's Lifetime Warranty / Lifetime Upgrade Guarantee.

Do you have a favorite (Linux) box? 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

GM vs. Bill Gates

This is a VERY old post from LinspireNetwork. I have no idea if this is or was ever true but it is still amusing.

For all of us who feel only the deepest love and affection for the way computers have enhanced our lives, read on.
At a recent computer expo(COMDEX), Bill Gates reportedly compared the computer industry with the auto industry and stated, "If GM had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $25.00 cars that got 1,000 miles to the gallon".

In response to Bill's comments, General Motors issued a press release stating: If GM had developed technology like Microsoft, we would all be driving cars with the following characteristics (and I just love this part):

 1. For no reason whatsoever, your car would crash twice a day.

 2. Every time they repainted the lines in the road, you would have to buy a new car.

 3. Occasionally your car would die on the freeway for no reason. You would have to pull over to the side of the road, close all of the windows, shut off the car, restart it, and reopen the windows before you could continue. For some reason you would simply accept this.

 4. Occasionally, executing a maneuver such as a left turn would cause your car to shut down and refuse to restart, in which case you would have to reinstall the engine.

 5. Macintosh would make a car that was powered by the sun,was reliable, five times as fast and twice as easy to drive - but would run on only five percent of the roads.

 6. The oil, water, temperature, and alternator warning lights would all be replaced by a single "This Car Has Performed An Illegal Operation" warning light.

 7. The airbag system would ask "Are you sure?" before deploying.

 8. Occasionally, for no reason whatsoever, your car would lock you out and refuse to let you in until you simultaneously lifted the door handle,turned the key and grabbed hold of the radio antenna.

 9. Every time a new car was introduced car buyers would have to learn how to drive all over again because none of the controls would operate in the same manner as the old car.

 10. You'd have to press the "Start" button to turn the engine off.

Mr.G's Top Techie Android Apps

I have had an Android device of some sort or another for over a year now and I love it. Just like most geeks, I use the hell out of it and see what works to the point where it breaks. The good news is it hasn't really broken yet. The bad news is that simply means that I probably haven't tried hard enough.

Here is a list of software I currently use on my Android devices that are more technical in origin.

Ookla Speed test - Great utility if you ever question your data connection's speed. The only thing is that a weak WiFi signal will skew the results.

Net Scan - Need to find a device on a network? Need to scan to see if a port is open? Do you have any idea what I am talking about? Then get this app.

Wifi Analyzer -I really like this one when I travel or troubleshoot WiFi networks. It gives you a visual of the various wireless networks to be found.

Fing - Another tool like Net Scan but it some things better than Net Scan - and some things not at all. Still a good tool.

Teamviewer - Remote Desktop type of app. Love Teamviewer's cross-platform capabilities. Installed on everything I can.

Pocket Cloud - This app does VNC and RDP protocols. Installed for RDP support.

Android VNC - Really good VNC tool.

File Manager - My phone came with a file manager but it pales in comparison to this app.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Linux Perfect for Tough Times (Redux)

Gigastrand had this article on its front page for several years. I wanted to bring it out again and rewrite it a little to fit current events. I know it is a bit AD-like but the message still rings true.

We all know when times are tough we want to find ways of saving money. Gigastrand is no exception as we have continued to thrive and flourish through times that were far less than ideal. This is due primarily to responsible business practices and, to a significant degree, our policy of running a 100% Microsoft and iOS -free business.

Linux is an affordable and powerful alternative to Microsoft Windowstm.  It will run on your current PC and even extends the useful life of older PCs. Linux includes all of the software you need to surf the Internet, E-mail, chat, play game sites like Pogotm, watch free TV shows and movies on Hulutm, and so much more.

At as little as $1 per CD it is affordable to make the switch from the often problematic woes of Windowstm and related software. The versions of the Linux operating system Gigastrand sells (specifically LinuxMint) have passed our strict ease of use standards. This ensures the transition to Linux will be as easy as possible. LinuxMint comes pre-loaded with many software applications - some of which you may have used on your Windows PC. Most notable is the popular Firefox browser and is a powerful, full-version Microsoft Officetm compatible office suite. It will open, edit and save your Microsoft Wordtm, Exceltm, and Power Pointtm documents. You can use it to update your resume, make a household budget, or revise a sales presentation. It also includes other powerful programs like Draw for making publications, charts, and diagrams; and Base for creating database files. When you add up the value of all the software already included with our $1 Linux4Everyone CDs, you could easily spend hundreds of dollars on comparable Microsofttm or Apple software. It is easy to see why being 100% Microsoft and iOS free gives Gigastrand an advantage even in these tough times.

So visit the Gigastrand Online Store and try Linux. It is one of those sound financial decisions that won't require bailout money.

Mr G's Top 10 Linux Apps you should support

I know some of you out there may prefer or use other programs in Linux and that is just fine. These applications are some of the best I have come across so far and many I simply can't live without.

10. Teamviewer - The best desktop virtualization for Linux I have used so far apart from VNC.

9. Kompozer / NVU - Gigastrand wouldn't have a website without it.

8. Spideroak - Forget Carbonite. They do not have Linux support and they cannot backup multiple systems from 1 account. Spideroak can.

7. Filezilla - The publish feature in Kompozer is nice, but this is better. I use it every day.

6. VLC Media Player - This is a must have for any PC I own.

5. Wine -Free and works well with many programs. I do not have any support for it in Linux Mint Debian though.

4. Virtual Box - We use this Free Utility to run multiple operating systems on a single support server. Better than dual-booting or using multiple drives.

3. Firefox - Love it or hate it, it is hands-down the best cross-platform browser I have ever used. I have even been able to install it on my Linux machines manually. Once you do that, it will update itself automatically which can keep an old Linux PC usable and worthwhile.

2. Codeweavers Crossover Office and Crossover Games - I know I have wine on the list here as well, but if you want the whole package, here it is. They support Wine, they sponsor Linux events, they are funny - looking (J/K). The Windows application support is second to none in both Linux and MAC. The program, the people are just awesome. While I do not use the software myself (which is one of the reasons it is #2), I highly recommend their software and fully support their efforts.

1. OpenOffice / LibreOffice - I use it every day for everything except web development. I cannot tell you how much money this office suite has saved me and my customers over the last decade. It works in every OS I can think of, opens and edits Microsoft Office Documents, and these guys give it away for FREE? Awesome!

So there it is, my top 10 list. Feel free to suggest others.

Until Next Time


Saturday, September 8, 2012

What can Linux do for you?

This is a previously unpublished and incomplete beginning of an idea that was the inspiration for the Linux-Friendly Links section at

Over the course of the last 10 years, Linux for the desktop has gone from a curiosity for hobbyists and geeks to a mainstream operating system capable of standing toe-to-toe with with the likes of Microsoft and Apple.

Linux is becoming so popular, even a columnist in a local magazine - (605) Magazine to be exact - included it in the advice he gave in his column on buying a new computer. In fact, Ubuntu and Linux Mint are the 3rd and 4th most used operating systems in the world respectively. Honestly, it may be easier to list what desktop Linux can't do as it is a short list indeed.

First off, if all you do is check e-mail and surf the Internet, you should never, ever pay a premium for a PC (Mac or PC they are all PCs here but that is a topic for another time). Linux has been able to surf the Internet and e-mail since the Internet was invented.

What sort of surfing can it do? Well, anything Google-based for starters. Video streaming like YouTube and Hulu. TaxACT online is Linux-friendly and I have done my Taxes with them for 4 years. 

<End of incomplete thought.>


Friday, September 7, 2012

Welcome to Mr.Gigabyte's Blog

Hello All, and welcome to Mr. Gigabyte's Blog!

For many years now, I have been wanting to share ideas and insights I have had in technology, Gigastrand and the Linux world but just never really had the time or opportunity to do so. I have tried several outlets but none of them were quite the right solution. Yet, for reasons I will not bore you with by listing, I have avoided blogging and social media.

Back in 2006, when I first formed Gigastrand, I had a fairly well-known site called LinspireNetwork (changed to GigabytesNetwork just before the formation of Gigastrand). In those days, you put up a website, be active and help some people in the forums, and you could do fairly well. In searches for Linspire, we were #2. Not long after that, things changed.

When Linspire collapsed in 2006, Gigastrand was left in a lurch. We looked for alternatives and found Linux Mint.

The only problem was, the rules had changed. Both online and for me personally. I needed time I did not have to learn the new rules.

My social media journey begins.
I joined Facebook a few years ago first to keep in touch with family and friends. I then added the Gigastrand and Linux4Everyone pages accompanied by ads for each to promote them on Facebook and have been met with relative success.

Google+ was next and it seemed a little complicated at first but I liked how structured it was over Facebook. It seems more well thought out.

Next was Twitter. From the outside, it appeared to be limited and juvenile but once I signed up, it was a completely different world. For its application, it is very well-suited and I use it as a sort of news aggregator. I can quickly scan the headlines of the people and businesses I follow and can decide rapidly whether it is worth my time or effort to read. If I really like it, I retweet it to my followers and it automatically posts to facebook from the Linux4Everyone account. I am a convert.

Finally, this blog.
Because I have full control over the Gigastrand website, there are a number of things I could have done to carve out a niche on the Gigastrand site for a blog or blog-like entity. The bottom line was I was after speed and portability. Most everything had either one or the other but not both. So here we are.

What to expect...
For the first week or so, I am going to put an emphasis on content. I will rewrite some old things, post some new things that have been pending for a while. So there will be a bit of content posted rather quickly.

From then on, new posts will be seen every Monday. If I have some new idea or thought that just can't wait until next Monday, I will post it right away - and not all of it will be Linux-related.

So, until later, Enjoy!