New releases: openSUSE, TinyMe 2009 alpha, ZevenOS 2.0

During the last weekend, I upgraded my main desktop to the latest and greatest 11.2 release of openSUSE. Finally, KDE4 is fully usable as an everyday desktop and I was able to come back from the GNOME world to the KDE. AMD2800 processor, 1 GB RAM and Geforce 7600 seem to be more than enough for being able to comfortably use this system. I would not, however, suggest anyone to install the distro on an old computer, like these 1 GHz desktop systems I currently use in my second location.

Anyway, there are some new distribution releases even for us who want to keep the old hardware still in productive use. ZevenOS is a distro that I have never actually used but it is certainly worth considering when I decide to have some fun with distrohopping. The distro is based on Ubuntu 9.10.

The minimal hardware requirements for the distro are given as follows:
  • 192 MB RAM
  • 3 GB free space on the hard drive
  • 16 MB graphics board, mouse, keyboard and screen device.
Of course, these requirements are probably too high for some of my readers. If you are one of them, I suggest you to help KDulcimer by testing the latest alpha release of TinyMe. TinyMe is a Unity-based distribution and it is specifically targeted at older computers and people who want a very light desktop environment. Read the release notes for more information about the alpha release!

Play Tetris in Emacs!

One finds every now and then something surprising in any installed Linux system. For several years I have known that with Emacs one can do just about everything one really needs to do with a computer. Well, at least if you don't want to edit video clips or compose music with it.

Today I realized that it is possible to play Tetris using the XEmacs of my Debian box. Just type ESC x tetris and you are ready to forget coding or writing your next article for the top journal of your field!

Uncompress files using CLI

I usually uncompress all kinds of packaged files from the command line. Unfortunately, I rarely remember which command line tool I should use for some specific packaging format. It is even more difficult to remember all the options needed for the appropriate tool.

Now that I found a cool hack in the ArchWiki, I never need to look for more information about how to uncompress a .tbz2, .tgz or .bz2 file -- I just use extract filename.

Add the following snippet of code to your .bashrc and you are ready to extract any file (if your system has the corresponding tool installed).

extract () {
if [ -f $1 ] ; then
case $1 in
*.tar.bz2) tar xvjf $1 ;;
*.tar.gz) tar xvzf $1 ;;
*.tar.xz) tar xvJf $1 ;;
*.bz2) bunzip2 $1 ;;
*.rar) unrar x $1 ;;
*.gz) gunzip $1 ;;
*.tar) tar xvf $1 ;;
*.tbz2) tar xvjf $1 ;;
*.tgz) tar xvzf $1 ;;
*.zip) unzip $1 ;;
*.Z) uncompress $1 ;;
*.7z) 7z x $1 ;;
*.xz) unxz $1 ;;
*.exe) cabextract $1 ;;
*) echo "\`$1': unrecognized file compression" ;;
echo "\`$1' is not a valid file"

Less time spent hacking means more time for studies!

It's been a while since my last blog posting. During the last two months I've spent most of my hours awake studying economics and finance with little time left for following the open source news or testing distributions and applications.

At the moment I use two desktop systems simultaneously. One of them is an old Pentium box running Debian stable and the other is an eMac with OS X. During the last two months I've become more and more OS agnostic, the OS itself is not as important as the fact that I get things done using whatever system and software I use either because I chose it or because the school policy forces me to use the software.

Unfortunately, I have noticed that using a couple of years old version of Excel for OS X is not a substitute for Excel 2007. But unfortunately for me, I cannot learn to write Visual Basic macros using OpenOffice.

During the last two months, most of my "real" computing was done with GNU Octave. It was really helpful for checking the solutions for some of the trickier problems in linear algebra. I hope I'll have time to learn more Octave during the spring when I'll take an advanced course in finance. Of course, we are expected to use Excel and VB for the coursework, but I think learning to solve the problems using Octave could not do any harm. On the other hand, it was a pleasant surprise to see that R will be used for advanced econometrics. I looking forward to participating in the course!