Checking Computer Specs With No Operating System

After my previous post about checking computer specs in Linux somebody asked an interesting question: how do you check your computer’s specifications if you don’t actually have any operating system to check them with?

In my opinion the easiest way to do this would be to download a disk image of a live CD for a lightweight Linux distribution, such as my favourite: ArchLinux. Once you’ve burned it to a disc you can put it in your computer and boot directly from the disc. ArchLinux is light and fast and will allow you to log in as root with command line access, where you will be able to run the commands I talked about in my other post to find your computer specs even for a computer with no OS or in other cases, for example where you don’t have permission to check with the current OS. If you’re not familiar with Linux don’t worry, follow the on-screen instructions and just type the commands I described. When you’re done checking you can turn off the computer and take out the CD and things will be just as they were before.

The End of a Great Blog

To my great dismay, K. Mandla has decided to discontinue K.Mandla’s blog of Linux experiences.

K.Mandla's blog of Linux experiencesI first came across it when it was mentioned in a post on another blog I was looking at, which challenged readers to try to use their computers without the Graphical User Interface for just a day! I accepted the challenge and after using Arch Linux for the first time and reading around on K. Mandla’s blog for a while I learned a lot about powerful and efficient ways of using the computer and giving use to low-end hardware. K. Mandla talked about things like  lessism vs minimalism and maximalism, a word that might better describe his idea of minimalism, and I agree.

His blog was a great resource for people who keep things light and get the most out of the technology they have. It has a huge list of software and a wiki too. He used to post very regularly, about once a day, but although the site is still online, he won’t be making any more additions. This was without a doubt my favourite blog, probably the only blog I actually read. I’m not sure I’ll ever write that much on here, I haven’t even written anything for the last 4 months or so, but I somehow hope I can carry on what K. Mandla started and share my useful ideas and information with you.

“Be kind to one another. We’re all we’ve got.” —K.Mandla

Checking Computer Specs in Linux

❗ Note: automated script downloadable at the bottom of this post!

Something you always want to do on a computer, even if only once, is to check its hardware specifications, that is:

  • how much RAM do I have?
  • how much hard disk space do I have?
  • how “fast” is my CPU?
  • how much RAM does my graphics card have?

Of course most modern GNU/Linux desktop environments like Ubuntu usually come with some kind of graphical tool to find this information. GNOME’s System Monitor program should provide at least some of what you’re looking for. The information here is more for when you’re staring at a blinking cursor on a black screen trying to remember what the command was to show information about the CPU, RAM or Graphics Card.

This is the third time I’ve had to go on an internet search quest to remind myself how to do this in a Linux terminal. To save myself the trouble in the future, I’m writing down the commands here and if anyone else finds it useful then that’s great, and a second bird is figuratively killed!
Continue reading

A Game With No Pictures

You can look down on the idea of it all you want but command-line games have their place. Not only are there situations where you need them but in a way, not having any graphics sometimes allows them to focus on other aspects of gameplay that makes them better. I was installing a new operating system on my computer today but I messed up somewhere and ended up with no Desktop Environment. Imagine turning on your computer one day and where you usually get:

“Hi, welcome to your computer [insert lots of fancy graphics and stuff], please pick who you want to log in as and I’ll give you a desktop with buttons and icons that will show you programs in little windows and let you click on things to do stuff.”

you now instead get this: Continue reading

3 Minute Brownies

I think I need to apologise for my recent quietness, I was working on 2 big projects which I learned a lot from, maybe even things that I’ll post about here for the geekier people following my blog to read, and (maybe more importantly) so that if I ever need to remember something cool/useful that I learnt doing this, I can read to remember it.

One really nice but unrelated thing that I learned during my hiatus was how to make 3 minute brownies in a cup! The Anonymous internet were on an information sharing spree and this was one of the things being shared. My family and I have really enjoyed this so I hope you will too. Here’s the picture I got with all you need to know:

Recipe by Pictures: 3min Brownies

To save this from being a somewhat redundant post where no value is added I’d like to mention that you should not be shy when adding the oil/milk unless you like dry brownies and that if you are preparing more than 1 cup you might like to increase the time on the microwave or do them one cup at a time otherwise you end up with a cup of un-baked chocolate goo, which is arguably not such a bad thing… I have yet to test if the cocoa can be safely substituted with Milo. If you don’t have any cocoa you can use Milo. I have tested this and the result is a bit strange but I think you can still call it a brownie.

Safe and Easy Passwords

I was reading something by a friend of mine about an easy way to remember a large number of passwords. I had some comments on it but I was writing a bit too much to fit in a comment box so I’ve moved it here instead.

The basic idea is that because it’s inadvisable to use the same password across multiple networks because, possibly amongst other things, if someone knows one of your passwords then they have access to everything you do online! So it was suggested that you pick something memorable, for instance you might be a proud supporter of Liverpool F.C., so you take the word “liverpool” and prepend the first letter of whatever service the password is for to that. For example:

Twitter: tliverpool
Facebook: fliverpool
Identica: iliverpool
Gmail: gliverpool
Jabber: jliverpool
And so on…

Now, while in principle this might be an easy way to remember passwords, there are some problems with it, so I’d like to add a bit more. Continue reading

Installing Ubuntu

A tutorial on how to install Ubuntu on your computer is completely redundantbecause it’s really that easy. I’ve installed Windows 7 for people and I’ve installed Ubuntu, as well as several other things. Based on my observation Ubuntu’s installer is the easier of the two.This is what you have to do: Download the disk image from the Ubuntu Website, burn it to a CD, put the CD in your computer and restart the computer. Welcome to Ubuntu!

Edit: Based on some feedback there are some things I would like to add:

  • The last step of the installation is to set a good password for your account
  • There’s a countdown to the next Ubuntu release; Ubuntu Natty Narwhal
  • If you’re looking for a reason to install Ubuntu you can find some there too
  • You can download an Ubuntu install disk from their downloads page
  • You can download it in 64 or 32 bit, Intel or AMD and other stuff
  • You can download it directly or torrent it (legally of course; Ubuntu is free software)
  • You can choose between a desktop, netbook or server edition
  • There’s an alternate installer with no graphics that uses less resources

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Ubuntu Natty

It’s that time of year again, when the Ubuntu users eagerly await the next release of their now purplish OS: Ubuntu 11.04 aka the Natty Narwhal. There have been some very big changes in Ubuntu since the last release (which, if you’ve been following Linux news, you’re probably already aware of), if you thought changing the orientation of the window buttons was radical then you’re in for a shock. Continue reading

GeoGraphs

My brother’s doing his International Baccalaureate Diploma right now and for one of his Geography assignments he had to make these graphs -cross sections of rivers- he called them geographs because… they’re for geography and because it has fewer words, so that’s what I’ll call them here. He drew them by hand but they got smudged and I thought it would be nice if he could make them digitally, but that’s a lot of work. I then thought it would be good if there was an easy way to do this, and, having found one, I’ve decided to share it with the world so that other IB students can benefit from this too!

What is a GeoGraph?

It’s a bunch of points on a graph that shows the depth at different points of a river the class studies.

A graph looks like this one:

Example GeoGraph
Example GeoGraph

And as I understand, it works like this:

  1. there is one graph for each transect measured at different points on the river
  2. the width of the transect is shown
  3. the width of the graph is scaled to the width of the transect
  4. the depth of the river is shown for different points along these transects
  5. the depth is measured at 5 points along the transect:
    1. at the start of the transect
    2. at the end of the transect
    3. halfway between the start and the end
    4. halfway between the midpoint and the start
    5. halfway between the midpoint and the end
  6. the depth is measured as a negative number
  7. because depth is negative the graph is drawn below the x-axis
  8. the graph is shown as an irregular polygon connecting all points on the graph
  9. there is a line along the bottom of the polygon connecting the first and last points
  10. this line is as low as the lowest point on the graph

That’s a lot of points to consider, and it’s why this graph is not easily done using the graphing functions of your spreadsheet application (for most of you that’s probably MS Excel). A lot of people might get frustrated, or resort to just drawing it in Paint or some other simple drawing program, which is much too much work! Don’t worry there’s a much easier way of doing it, and it’s all described below. Continue reading