Sunday, June 15, 2008

SSC #68 Sauerbraten

Ok folks, this one is for the Gamers out there.  I've been hooked on a new game lately and I've not been able to put it down.  Seriously, if you're a fan of Quake, Doom, or Unreal Tournament, then you're really going to like this.

The game is called Sauerbraten.  Its been said that there is nothing new under the sun.  This is true with Sauerbraten.  It has the usual weapons and powerups.  It has nice looking graphics and a lot of levels to run around and blow stuff up.  In short it is your typical First-Person Shooter (FPS).  But Sauerbraten has something that makes it stand out from the pack, at least for me anyway.  In Sauerbraten you can quickly and easily create your own maps and share them with others.  And get this, you edit the game while you are INSIDE the game.  In fact you can edit the game with other people in multi-player cooperative edit mode.  

Ok, so great.  You can edit it in game... whoop dee doo.  Whats so special about that?  Well, it means that there are just tons and tons of awesome user-made levels out there to be played.  Not to mention all new modes of play.  

Have you ever played one of these games and thought to yourself "Hey, I can do better than this!"?  Well, this is your chance.   If you've ever had a desire to get into game design, well this one is wide open.  They take submissions for models, skins, levels, music... the works!  Its a completely open opportunity to jump in and get involved in making a great game even better!

Or not.  You're perfectly capable and welcome to install Sauerbraten and just partake of the great levels and content created by other users.  Its a game that will just keep growing and growing.  

If you're interested in giving it a try, make sure you have a decent 3D accellerated graphics card.  Windows users can download the client at, and Ubuntu users can just download it from within Synaptic Package Manager since it is already in the repositories.  Sorry Mac users, but there's not a client for you yet, though it is on their TODO list.  The game is completely free to download and play, and its open source so the guts of the programming code is available for your perusal and/or improvement.  

Personally I'm working on a pretty fun level myself but I won't be hosting it online until I feel it is ready, so if you download the game, be looking out for a level by yours truely in a few weeks from now.

See you in game.

If you live in Russell County or the surrounding areas and you need help fixing your computer, give me a call at (606) 219-4088 to set up an appointment.

If you have a question or comment, feel free to email me at

If you'd like to read my past articles, browse to

Monday, June 2, 2008

SSC #67 Reader response and virtual machines

I have a letter from a reader I would like to share today before getting into the nitty gritty.

 Hi Jeff,
    What kind of hours do you have there?   I need to bring my metal monster in for a good 'blowing out' (dust and pet hair I'm sure).   The problem is I work on the thing and don't have a back-up, so I can't be without it for any great length of time  :-/.
    It's not doing anything 'wrong', but it is shutting itself off every now and then - which I'm assuming has to do with needing cleaned.   I can hear the fan kick in audibly after it's been running for a little while (at least I'm assuming it's the fan I'm hearing).
    Also wanted to ask you - what is the difference between CDs and DVDs when you're talking about saving text and .jpg files to disc?   CDs are what I need for that, right?   Not DVDs.

Actually I come to you. :)

I don't run a shop in a traditional sense, I do all of my work in the customer's home.  So if you'd like to set up a time for me to come out and clean your machine, just say the word.   And you will only suffer 15 minutes or so of downtime.

And yes, shutting down is usually a sign of overheating. Not always, but usually.  The clicking could be a harddrive.  Those overheat too, which is why good airflow is important in your machine.  Burning a processor is an annoyance and a small bit of cash.  Losing a harddrive, that can really hurt because all your data goes with it and harddrive recovery services are expensive. 

As for your question, the only major difference between DVD's and CD's is the amount of data they can hold (this is due to the color and width of the laser beam they are read with).  A CD can hold about 700MB of data, and a DVD can hold about 4.7GB or 4800MB.  If you are using a specific piece of software for the specific purpose of putting a picture slideshow on a DVD then you're going to probably want DVD instead of CD, or generally whatever the software recommends.  But as far as just plain-jane data discs, it is only a matter of capacity.  Unless you have a boatload of pics and text to burn, CD's will probably do the trick, since JPG's and text is usually small files.

A more cost effective solution to moving these types of files around is to grab yourself a USB thumbdrive.  They have them at the X-mart(s) ranging in sizes from 256MB to 4GB or so.  And you just keep re-using the same little drive.

Now, as promised, I present the nitty gritty.


The tech world is abuzz with the merits of virtualization.  In response to this Canonical has released a new version of Ubuntu called Ubuntu JEOS.  JEOS (pronounced 'Juice') stands for Just Enough Operating System.  The majority of hardware drivers have been removed as well as everything that is not essential to the basic running of the operating system.  In fact, the only thing that is left is what is needed to run within virtualization software like VirtualBox or VMWare.  When you install Jeos into a virtual machine, you are left with nothing but a command prompt.  From this command prompt you can use the APT command line package manager to install any software in the Ubuntu repositories.  Sounds technical, doesn't it?

Needless to say, my curiosity was piqued.  So I downloaded Ubuntu Jeos 8.04 and installed it within a virtual machine running inside VirtualBox.  Setup was quick and simple.

Using Jeos, I was able to install a lightweight graphical environment, a file manager, and a window manager.  At this point I had a very small and swift-running graphical operating system in a virtual machine.  What to do, what to do...  Now I installed Synaptic which is basically a graphical front-end to APT.  From within Synaptic I installed Apache 2 Web Server, Amaya Web Page designing software and Bluefish HTML editor.  Going back to Synaptic I installed Firefox Web Browser. 

Now I had a full website creation studio and web server running within a virtual machine. Using this setup I can create a website and serve it up on my local network or even on the internet.  Using Firefox I can test how it will look to people viewing the site.  And since it was created using Jeos, it is lightweight and doesn't have any software installed that isn't absolutely neccessary to its function.  Now I can create a Snapshot of the virtual machine.  If at any time I mess something up, I can quickly and easily roll back any changes to my last Snapshot.

Whats even better is that this is a virtual machine.  The entire thing exists inside of a file on a real computer.  Whats more, VirtualBox has versions for Windows and Linux.  So I can copy this to a disk and put it on any other machine and run it, just making sure to forward specific ports from the Host operating system to the Guest operating system.  So yes, even a Windows machine can have a web server with industry proven security and stability... when it is running Linux.  And if someone were to somehow get outside control of the web server, there's really nothing that they can do.  They are entirely contained within the Virtual machine.  As soon as it is discovered that the virtual machine is compromised, I can just reset it back to a Snapshot image and undo any changes that the hacker may have made.  Or if the Windows machine were to need to be wiped completely (as they often do) and restored, I would have my entire server setup on a disc that I could quickly put back into action.

As I said when I started out, the tech world is abuzz with the merits of virtualization.  From what I have seen with Ubuntu Jeos, I can truly see why.

If you live in Russell County or the surrounding areas and you need help fixing your computer, give me a call at (606) 219-4088 to set up an appointment.

If you have a question or comment, feel free to email me at

If you'd like to read my past articles, browse to

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