OpenSource Solutions for Computer Aided Engineering Blog

OpenSource Solutions for Computer Aided Engineering

The OpenSource Solutions for Computer Aided Engineering Blog is the place for conversation and discussion about OpenSource Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) resources available for modern personal computers. There are a myriad of solutions available in the marketplace for a number of different engineering and scientific applications, but it is not always easy to find the most appropriate solution for a particular circumstance, because many of the packages emanate from University research departments or Government development projects that do not have access to sufficient resources to publicize their products adequately. While the primary focus will be on numerical analysis solutions (FEA, CFD, Signal Processing, SPICE electronic simulation, etc.), we will occasional touch on other aspects of CAE such as Computer-Aided Drafting (CAD), 3D modeling, data acquisition (Test and Measurement, etc.), and other such technologies that can add value to the engineering process.

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Notes from the Field

Posted February 28, 2011 8:00 AM by cwarner7_11

I often hear that people are concerned about the "learning curve" required to switch from a Windows environment to a Linux environment, yet I have found that downgrading to a newer version of Windows from an older version (say XP to Windows 7) actually involves an even steeper learning curve than switching to one of the newer Linux distros. Having installed both Windows and Linux operating systems, my experience has been that Linux is by far the easier to master. And one does not need to abandon one's favorite applications because they are no longer supported by the newer version.

But don't take my word for it. Our friend Garthh was having computer problems a few months ago, and took the opportunity to explore the Linux world. He has become a bit of a proselytizer for OpenSource- his experiences illustrate how easy it is for the newbie to adapt to the latest Linux versions, and how Linux can be used to salvage "challenged" computer equipment. He has allowed us to share his comments:

"Right at the moment my main computer is without a hard drive. I'm running Mint 10 from a 8g flash drive . I've been using Mint, because I'm setting up machines that are going to be used by fairly inexperienced users & stuff like music & video [including dvd's] need to just work. Mint to me seems similar to XP.

"There are a dizzying array of variations of the basic Linux Operating System, which are referred to as 'Distros'. Ubuntu (http://www.ubuntu.com/ ) is another good one, the community [forum] being larger, any solution you find there is going to apply to Mint. The only real difference being Mint already has the codecs installed for most anything you would commonly run into & the layout of the desk top being a bit different. One of the cool things about the Linux operating system is the ability to have the layout & appearance configured."

[EDITOR NOTE: Mint is actually based on the Debian/Ubuntu platforms, and is available here (http://www.linuxmint.com/). The primary advantage of Mint is that is comes with a large variety of proprietary CODECS which are not generally included in the "pure" OpenSource distros]

"I've learned some interesting things about browsers in the process.

"Chrome (http://www.google.com/chrome/?brand=CHMB&utm_campaign=en&utm_source=en-ha-na-us-sk&utm_medium=ha&hl=en) is almost the same as on a fully functioning box [computer]. Firefox (http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/ ) on the other hand will give lots of gray screens, but never does crash . Opera (http://www.opera.com/) is usable but somewhat slower than Chrome. I'd say this is an indication of how much of the resources of the computer each of the browsers use

"I have a bunch of content [16000 mp3's] on a USB External Hard Drive [Seagate Free Agent Go] I can listen to any song, but if I try to load the playlist of all 80g of my library, it will take a few minutes & slow down some if I try to skip too many songs too quickly, no crashing, just gray screen, while it catches up, playlists of a few 100 songs are no problem. Consequently any programs that require transfers of large amounts of data don't work very well, due to the basic limitation of USB it being 2 twisted pairs.

"I in effect have a personally configured operating system, that works on any machine that will boot from usb, which most modern machines will. The updates are all current, all my saved passwords, my layouts & preferences are just the way I like them. I can have my favorite applications, I just store the content somewhere else. Say I'm using Mint on a stick on a Windows XP machine I can use any of the documents, pictures, music... I don't have to change anything at all on the Windows machine.

"Out of the total 8g on the SansDisk Cruzer Flash Drive, I'm using 6g. I just have to pay attention to what & how much I've downloaded. I transfer anything I really want to keep or send it to myself as an email.

"The process to install the OS on the flash drive, is not very difficult

1) Download the distro

2) burn it to a CD or DVD, described as a "Live CD"

3) Boot to it. On most modern computers [2006 or later] restarting will do it. If this doesn't work, go to the advance settings on bios & change to boot order to 1st=CD, 2nd=USB, 3rd=HDD. In everyday operation, you won't notice any difference at start up, since you won't have a Live CD or USB with an operating system installed

4) Plug in flash drive

5) Click Install on the desktop

6) Follow the instructions, until you get to Prepare Disc Space [step4] where you get a choice of where to install the new OS. Click the dropdown menu, you should see both your HDD & the FlashDrive. You will easily be able to tell the difference by the size. Click on the Flash Drive. Check the box that says use the entire disk. You will have to confirm the information 2 more times. Make sure you are formatting the flash drive.

7) finish the installation

8) when you do the restart as directed remove the Live CD

9) Update your new OS on a stick. play with settings & appearance

10) When you want to go back to your regular OS, shut down the computer, remove the Flash Drive, start the computer

"Here are some screenshots (http://www.pronetworks.org/forums/ubuntu-9-04-installation-screenshots-t108880.html)

"This a easy way to try out different distro's, without committing, to a dual boot or compromising any thing you have on your computer."

An additional note: Due to the fog surrounding the future of OpenOffice as a result of the takeover of Sun by Oricle, I have decided to investigate the new LibreOffice, which is a fork of the original OpenOffice suite. I will not look back. LibreOffice has fixed the two major complaints I have had about OpenOffice:

  1. Graphics in the spreadsheet application in the old OpenOffice were painfully slow- not just creating a graph, but editing it (adding/changing titles, resizing, rescaling, etc.) would take forever. The LibreOffice version is nearly as fast as my old favorite standby, Excel 2000.
  2. In the word processor application of Openoffice (and in newer versions of MS Word) I have been constantly plagued by my illustrations jumping about all over the place when I change something in the text. Everyone has their own idea about properly anchoring an object, but both OpenOffice and newer versions of Word seem to think they know more about how I want the final layout to look. This does not happen in LibreOffice. Things stay where I put them.

These are major improvements, and surprising, considering LibreOffice, although pretty much being in the hands of the original OpenOffice developers, is a significant improvement over OpenOffice, even though it has only been out and about for a short time.

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Anonymous Poster
#1

Re: Data Logging

11/01/2010 6:37 PM

Just down the street from me there's a house for sale.

If you'd like, I could set up a meeting with you and the owner to see about purchasing it.

After you've moved in, I wouldn't come bother you.....

much.

Stub

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: Data Logging

11/01/2010 6:40 PM

That house wouldn't be in Panama, would it?

Charlie

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#3

Re: Data Logging

11/01/2010 6:57 PM

There is something wrong with the qtdmm link. I think it got some extra characters (%28) in the URL path somehow. I think this fixes it.

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#4
In reply to #3

Re: Data Logging

11/01/2010 7:16 PM

Thank you- you are correct, and your link works better than mine (since mine doesn't work at all!). Let me see if I can still edit it...

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#5
In reply to #4

Re: Data Logging

11/01/2010 7:18 PM

OK. Original link repaired...

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#6

Re: Data Logging

11/01/2010 8:52 PM

Hi cwarner7_11,

About a year and a half ago, I bought a cheap USB data acquisition module, the miniLAB 1008, from Measurement Computing (not an endorsement). It was just over $100 then and it has been very useful. As long as you don't need Hi-Res analog, it works quite well.

You can choose between 4 differential or 8 single-ended 12-bit Analog Inputs. It also has 2 Analog Outputs, but they are only 10-bit res.

I also made a terminal board for it so I could take advantage of the rest of the I/O (that weren't terminaled on the front of the module) through the DB37 port:

The software included allows you to log to Excel, so there's your data on the PC.

Not having been even ankle deep into CAELinux, can Excel data be used by some of the apps? I would assume that even if conversions would need to be done, the ubiquitousness of Excel would make apps for that quite available.

Mike

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#7
In reply to #6

Re: Data Logging

11/01/2010 9:39 PM

That looks like a pretty handy unit- I have something similar (with fewer inputs and needing a Centronics adapter, but easily programmable), only used these days with my Win 98SE box downstairs in the lab. Also, limited analog resolution (for me, 10 bit resolution is high-definition!). I also wrote a VBA macro years ago for logging directly to Excel from a couple of different DMM's, which was what I used when I needed higher resolution. To do that, I had to add xmcomm, an OpenSource replacement for mscomm which is part of the full MS Visual Basic package, but deprecated in the VBA package that comes with Excel (Remember, I am still using Excel 2000- some of this may have changed in newer versions). I still run Excel in both Wine and VirtualBox (Wine is a lttle light in usb support, but it is possible, depending on the drivers). Your system should work fine in VirtualBox, though. The problem is, one needs a licensed copy of Windows to load into the VirtualBox. If you can get it to work in Wine, you are ahead of the game. There is also the possibility that the generic usb drivers included with Ubuntu will recognize your device directly, without the need for additional drivers.

I don't work much with the OpenOffice spreadsheet because, quite frankly, it just can not compare to Excel. Excel has built-in functions (the FFT is probably the one I use the most), and the older Excel graphics are much, much faster than OpenOffice- especially important when it come time to rescale or zoom in to look at details. I also haven't tried logging directly to OpenOffice Calc yet- it should be possible, I just haven't had the need so far...

Invariably, when I am datalogging, I wind up passing the data through a spreadsheet whether that is the ultimate destination or not. First of all, with Excel 2000, there isn't a better "quick view" solution that I have been able to find. It is also very straight forward going from the spread sheet to a *.csv file, with the data properly formatted for further analysis routines, such as SciLab or Dataplot or just about anything.

Can you send digital signals to the logger from the computer? What do you use for a timing signal- or is this synched with the computer clock? I want to play with your miniLAB!

Charlie

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#8
In reply to #7

Re: Data Logging

11/01/2010 10:10 PM

there are some forks to OO http://go-oo.org/discover/with better support for macros

I think there is promise for this too http://www.documentfoundation.org/

the situation with Oracle being what it is [another reason to move away from java]

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#9
In reply to #7

Re: Data Logging

11/01/2010 10:37 PM

Hi cwarner7_11,

I also wrote a VBA macro years ago for logging directly to Excel from a couple of different DMM's, which was what I used when I needed higher resolution. To do that, I had to add xmcomm, an OpenSource replacement for mscomm which is part of the full MS Visual Basic package, but deprecated in the VBA package that comes with Excel (Remember, I am still using Excel 2000- some of this may have changed in newer versions).

I remember writing a VBA Excel program that took serial data output from a PLC (miniOCS by HornerAPG) in through a serial port using the mscomm control, and logged the values to a spreadsheet. Maybe we were using earlier than 2000.

I miss those days. Now I'm a Project Manager - it has it's good points, but immersing in the tech, I am not!

Can you send digital signals to the logger from the computer? What do you use for a timing signal- or is this synched with the computer clock? I want to play with your miniLAB!

This should answer all your questions in the preceding paragraph. It came with a Universal Library, which supports:

It also supports LabView up to Version 7.0 (if I remember correctly). I have used LabView modules from the VI Library that was loaded with the miniLAB software. It contained AI, AO, Digital I/O, Counter, Calib and Config, Signal Conditioning, Serial Communication, and Memory functions/modules.

Cheers!

Mike

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#10

Re: Data Logging

11/02/2010 8:41 AM

Many instruments output "CSV" files.

Having done multitudes of data analysis myself, the approach I take is to import the CSV file into excel and create data tables adding columns for categories. I use Excel to then generator pivot tables and charts accordingly.

I have become quite good at it. If you have a mass of raw data you need processed, I am available for hire to process it for you.

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Anonymous Poster
#11

Re: Data Logging

11/18/2010 12:58 PM

Hi

I have implemented a great number of instruments using Debian. The list of tools available is huge and all of them equal to and in most cases much better then their commercial counterpart. Just to list a few.

TCL/TK, Guile, Perl, GCC (able to compile every known source even objectiveC and AVR), clisp, scheme, ruby, python, rexx, bash etc. And of course the very structure of Linux which treats everything as part of the file system allowing you to make use of all the inbuilt commands. There is also three different and excellent real time enhancements to the kernel.

Working with windows is like having your hands tied.

If you are afraid of getting your hands dirty you can always purchase LabView, MetLab, Mathematica, etc. They are all available for Linux.

I have frequently rewritten LabView projects in C, lisp, tcl and TK with very little effort. The results where invariably faster, cleaner and very well received.

Thank you for your introduction of open source to others. We need to get the message out that we are not in the Microsoft jail we do have really good alternate choices.

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// the Morlocks have so kindly provided.
// Unexamined convenience is the road to slavery.
// -- Frank J. Niertit
// ------------------------------------------------

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#12
In reply to #11

Re: Data Logging

11/19/2010 10:17 PM

Actually, I have "rolled my own" on a great variety of platforms- I find Forth to be very, very good for that. c (the original, not the newer flavors) is by far my favorite (and it looks the same for the most part, independent of platform), but I have even been known to do some quick and dirty stuff in Basic...

However, one major issue I have run in to is that too many equipment manufacturers think they should keep their interface protocol proprietary- which means all too often, if one is using commercial equipment, one is either tied to the manufacturers software (and, invariably, Windows), or was is doing a whole lot of guessing.

I see a lot of Tcl/TK in OpenSource, but have done no development with it. As for some of the other, newer languages, I'm pretty lazy- if I can meet my needs in c, I'm not going to bother with learning a new way. Python is maybe an exception- I see more and more Python in OpenSource apps that I use, but I haven't done any data acquisition with that yet...That I know of

Thanks for contributing.

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#13

Re: Data Logging

12/02/2010 5:06 PM
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#14
In reply to #13

Re: Data Logging

12/02/2010 5:30 PM

Excellent link, Garthh- thanks. I especially enjoyed the part about being able to provide both stability and performance!

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#15
In reply to #14

Re: Data Logging

12/02/2010 6:05 PM

I should have included the original source one of the GS Newsletters

I would like to see additional explanations of the more secure file structure, due to limited root permissions [sudo]

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#16
In reply to #15

Re: Data Logging

12/02/2010 6:16 PM

How did I miss that, with that big penguin sitting there??? I, unlike some of our companions here, do not live in mortal fear of penguins- in fact- I tend to LOOK for them, and engage them in meaningful discourse, if they are so inclined...

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#17

Re: Notes from the Field

02/28/2011 10:08 AM

This is the first I've heard someone say that 7 is a "downgrade" from xp. I've found that 7 was the easiest and most intuitive upgrade I've ever made. Also, driver and software incompatibilities have been hardly a problem and I've put it on such a wide variety computers including a x22 thinkpad from 2001 (I did it just for kicks and found it's perfect for downloading stuff). Even my brother (a hard core linux guy who's a computer engineer at ebay) said that win 7 isn't all that bad. I never thought I'd hear that coming from him... lol. But there is also that "to each his own" thing. 75% of what I use my computer for would be ok in Linux, but for that 25% of the time I'm doing photo editing or playing games, I'm much too impatient to reboot my computer. I've had so few problems with windows 7 that I've had no reason to go back to linux (plus my screen calibrator doesn't work in linux and neither does photoshop). I'm just surprised someone is downplaying 7 to the extent of saying xp was better. XP was worse in basically every way, I cringe every time I have to use another xp machine. And as a side note, I really liked Linux Mint. I had pretty good luck with that. It was easy to use, resource friengly, fairly quick and seemed really stable. I used that on my thinkpad x41 tablet pc for a while.

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#18
In reply to #17

Re: Notes from the Field

02/28/2011 10:46 AM

Saying that 7 isn't bad at all, seems faint praise :D

7 is a resource hog

but if you have gaming as a primary goal, I suppose it is one way to go

7, like vista has it's own idea about how/where you should store files & if you like nag screens use 7

The linux distros, are all straight forward & sensible in that regard

Personally I didn't find the downgrade from XP to 7 intuitive, one of the members here kept telling me not to try to use vista like XP, I never could understand how I was to use it?

I spent a couple of weeks with a 7 machine & did find it to be an improvement over vista, but saying something sucks less is not a ringing endorsement

I had the 7 machine to remove a virus & ended up installing mint9 about a month later. The owner has been thrilled ever since

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#20
In reply to #18

Re: Notes from the Field

02/28/2011 11:29 AM

GA

7, like vista has it's own idea about how/where you should store files

That's what drives me up wall with windows. Even XP has it's default location for storing files in some obscure place with a sign on the door which says "beware of the saber toothed tiger", but, at least it's easy to circumvent. I've recently bought my son a laptop with "7" on it, and I still can't get to grips with building a nice user files area which I have complete control of.

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#21
In reply to #18

Re: Notes from the Field

02/28/2011 11:58 AM

Gaming isn't a primary goal, but on occasion it is fun of course :) Windows 7 doesn't put files in such weird places. I mean it has to put stuff somewhere, just because it's another folder doesn't mean it's really a problem. Really, C:/users/nick is the folder where windows puts all my crap. That's not so hard. And you can disable all the nag screens. Whatever one you don't like, just google the name and you'll find a 2 step operation on disabling it. I've actually found 7 to NOT be a resource hog. As for ram, it caches a whole lot that it expects to use, but once an application needs ram that is being taken up by the cache it is instantly deleted and used for other purposes. I was once told that an OS that can effectively use the available ram will be faster than one that doesn't. Also, windows 7 supports I/O prioritization which was a HUGE performance boost over XP. In XP if you had a slow HDD and something was using all the available reads/writes nothing else could get it's bits of data through (even the OS) and xp will come to a complete stop until the operation is complete. That's not the case in 7, as I found on my old thinkpad x41 tablet (with a horrible slow 1.8" hard drive). This machine with a few very very basic optimizations feels WAY faster than it ever did with XP. On the other end of the scope, I have windows 7 installed in my relatively new W510 thinkpad with a quad core i7, 12 GB of ram and a 1 GB nvidia quadro video chip. It has so much ram that once it's booted, with respect to the OS I highly doubt there's any need for a fast SSD because 7 caches anything the OS could need right in ram (and you can even see that the HDD has fewer IO operations). I've had photoshop and other apps use 10 GB of ram and even during those operations, I can multitask by watching HD movies or other CPU intensive operations without a hitch. I don't know what kind of bad luck you guys have had with 7, but I've generally only been impressed. I do like how there are other free alternatives to software in linux, but for me it hasn't been an issue yet. I use matlab and solidworks in windows and at the moment I haven't had a reason to try anything in linux for those purposes.

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#22
In reply to #21

Re: Notes from the Field

03/01/2011 12:00 AM

so how many gb does it take for 7 to even exist 20-30?

there all the BS with public folders to do any sharing on a network

any pre-installed win OS, leaves you high & dry if the HDD goes bad

then there's the basic insecurity of letting every app mess around with the registry, inviting all manner of invasions

Like Randall, I don't find windows to be very user friendly, when it comes to setting up a file system, organized the way the user wants it, not in the way the boys from bellingham want it

To add insult to injury, with windows you get to pay several 100 dollars to get a full version + the joy of having to do restores

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#23
In reply to #22

Re: Notes from the Field

03/01/2011 12:05 AM

And MS recommends you have a Linux LiveCD available to access your file system when things go wrong...

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#24
In reply to #23

Re: Notes from the Field

03/01/2011 12:24 AM

I have a nice VB running XP for when some website will only work with IE

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#28
In reply to #23

Re: Notes from the Field

03/01/2011 8:13 AM

Do they really? I'd love to have a citation (link) to that! :-)

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#32
In reply to #28

Re: Notes from the Field

03/01/2011 10:03 AM

Here is one example of recommendations for using a Linux LiveCD to recover from a Windows crash:

http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/forum/windows_xp-system/c0000218-registry-file-failure/f702b542-ada4-4981-ab60-e1f331494b29

I am sure there are more...

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#38
In reply to #32

Re: Notes from the Field

03/01/2011 11:56 AM

Thanks! Although that's not quite what I was hoping for--yes, that's on a Microsoft site, but I have no idea what relationship Malkeleah of Elephant Boy Computers has to Microsoft.

Oh, wait, maybe it's better than I thought, he is an MS-MVP--oh, ok, that doesn't mean he's a Microsoft employee or spokesman, in fact, more likely he's not.

Still, it's pretty interesting!

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#39
In reply to #38

Re: Notes from the Field

03/01/2011 4:23 PM

Actually, that was just the first one that popped up on my search. I have actually seen official, numbered MS documents recommending the same thing- just didn't take the time to track it down. Somewhere in the forest of archives here on CR4, I posted a link to one of these MS documents...but that was long ago (maybe last year, even!) and I don't remember the thread...

It is very common on non-MS sites to read the same sort of advice. So, even if you don't want to use Linux, you ought to keep a LiveCD (or usb, as per Garthh) handy, just in case...

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#43
In reply to #39

Re: Notes from the Field

03/02/2011 8:08 AM

Re: Somewhere in the forest of archives here on CR4, I posted a link to one of these MS documents...but that was long ago (maybe last year, even!) and I don't remember the thread...

Ok, I won't look for it, but if I come across it I want to make a record of it.

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#25
In reply to #22

Re: Notes from the Field

03/01/2011 3:17 AM

I installed windows 7 on a laptop from 2001 (800 mhz p3, 640 MB ram, 20 GB hdd) and it worked fine. Seriously though, I bought a 2 TERABYTE usb 3.0 drive for $140. Arguments on space aren't as valid as they used to be. I use it for downloading stuff to usb drives. It uses about 10-12 to install (but that's because it has so much reserved for page file... it actually uses that. Other OSes keep the scratch disk separate I think). Sharing isn't so hard. Once you set it up, it's pretty nice. You right click, then Share With -->Nobody, Homegroup (read), Homegroup (read/write), and Specific People. Sure, it's not perfect but it's amazingly easy. It's way more secure than in xp and shared folders from other computers in your "homegroup" show up in "my computer" as a network drive. For being M$, I actually had to say "cheers to you" for creating such a simple but effective system. There's a simple search box in the start menu, and even if you misspell something, it will usually find what you want. In this case, i wanted "network and sharing" so I typed that and pressed enter. Almost instantly, I got the Network and Sharing Center. Click on Change Advanced Settings and you can change a lot of important things. It's super easy, you just have to be willing to learn it and if you don't know you have to google stuff (which I do all the time, and I would definitely have to do more often in Linux). Also, Win7 has a built in drive imaging program to backup all your data. It has all the basic options I could think of needing. When I got my laptop, I did a "base" image. I bought my thinkpad mobile workstation without an optical drive (seriously, I haven't installed any programs via CD/DVD in several years). But it's a really simple system. You can easily install 7 from a flash drive (google and you shall find). Once the installer is loaded you can restore a backup from another USB drive. I'm pretty sure it's so easy, that I'd be willing to say you'd be less screwed with windows than you would be with linux. Also, I haven't had a virus since about 2004. As long as you install updates, you're safe. As long as you don't click on crap that you know you shouldn't, you'd be safe. Find a college student and buy win7 from him. He can get it for free or super cheap (~$30). I bought a copy from my school in Ohio and my school in Austria gives it away for free.

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#26
In reply to #25

Re: Notes from the Field

03/01/2011 3:19 AM

I don't know why it's not keeping my formatting. It's not even saving my paragraph spaces so it's just one huge paragraph :P It's probably because I'm using google chrome.

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#27
In reply to #26

Re: Notes from the Field

03/01/2011 3:44 AM

Because you are using Chrome

you need to use {p} with [] for line breaks

you won't sell me on 7

I never had virus/malware/trojan problems, but I've fixed more than a few that did.

for most users [email, surfing] linux is plenty & requires less care & feeding.

In the past couple of years the learning curve has nearly vanished, flash & all the codecs are a checkbox away on an ubuntu 10.10 install

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#30
In reply to #27

Re: Notes from the Field

03/01/2011 9:48 AM

Yes, sorry about the annoying formatting issue :)

I'm using firefox from now on when I make posts here. And I figure I wouldn't have been able to sell you on 7, but I just felt it was unjustly named a downgrade from xp lol. I think a lot of windows problems starts from people who don't know what they are doing and mess with things (like turn off automatic updates etc...). I honestly think that it's a decent product (especially if you got it legally for free like me!).

I really did like Ubuntu. The "eye candy" desktop graphics features were a nice touch and the interface was friendly and easy to figure out. But I actually have to agree that nowadays linux would be a better option for someone only doing really basic things. You don't even have to think about viruses and updates are much less important. It's probably harder to muck up and it's pretty darned stable.

But what I was just arguing about before was that windows nowadays isn't as bad as a lot of people make it out to be. My longest uptime with my desktop in Ohio was 109 days (no reboots, no updates). I only had to turn it off because I had to go to Germany ;-) This was my daily use computer for school, work, games, movies and downloading. I even had it running "Folding at Home" 24/7 to help out my scores.

For those of you who don't know what that is, Folding at Home is a program that uses your spare CPU cycles to do automated research for Stanford University (so the CPU is at 100% all the time with the process on "low" priority). I've been donating nearly 24/7 for 6 years And of course my new laptop is literally about 30 times faster than the desktop that I used when I first started! lol.

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#33
In reply to #30

Re: Notes from the Field

03/01/2011 10:12 AM

Nickjd-

Can you tell us more about "Folding at Home"? I have been aware of a number of programs for "sharing" CPU cycles, but never been able to connect to one.

There are also participatory sites out there, where one joins in the classification of astronomical objects or geographical objects from images that are a similar way to share the workload, but donating CPU cycles, like for decoding DNA would be a non-participatory approach.

Do you have any say on what Stanford uses those CPU cycles for?

Charlie

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#34
In reply to #33

Re: Notes from the Field

03/01/2011 10:32 AM

Here is their homepage

http://folding.stanford.edu/

They do research on diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. There are countless other things that they do research on and there is info somewhere on their site. You can even look up what work unit your computer is on and find out what it represents and what you are helping with. A fast computer does about 1 work unit per day (or more depending on the unit size).

I would recommend doing it, but it does stress your machine with heat and power use. On an inexpensive laptop it will probably overheat, but most modern desktops will be OK. They have some nice guides as well. There are single core versions that are super easy to install. If you have more than a dual core processor, you can try their SMP client (SMP=Symmetrical Multi Processing) that uses all available cores.

I run the GPU client as well (but you need a fairly modern GPU for it to work, you can read the help files and documentation for info.) I run the SMP client on my quad core intel i7. Since it has hyperthreading, it shows up as 8 processors and it can use 100% of it. The GPU client is very good, but will often slow down your system for some things (like when playing any kind of video but is usually otherwise ok).

Here is a link for the normal clients:

http://folding.stanford.edu/English/Download

Here is the page for the high performance client downloads:

http://folding.stanford.edu/English/DownloadWinOther

Just as a note, the SMP client is more difficult to set up than the others. Plus it's only beneficial if you actually have a quad core processor. If you have any questions, let me know. I like to support this cause because it's so easy and really all you are out is the the electricity you use to power your computer.

If you have any questions, I'd be glad to help.

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#35
In reply to #34

Re: Notes from the Field

03/01/2011 10:40 AM

Why not start a thread

not all that many people on this site visit here in linux land :D

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#36
In reply to #34

Re: Notes from the Field

03/01/2011 11:00 AM

Thanks for the links- and I agree with Garthh- this would be a good topic for a separate thread. I am sure there are many more sites like folding.standford.edu that do the same sort of thing, and I am sure there are a lot of us out here would love to participate in this sort of research.

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#37
In reply to #36

Re: Notes from the Field

03/01/2011 11:53 AM

That's a good idea. I haven't seen anyone posting this kind of thing here. When I get some time I'll try to make a more complete forum post with more links to howto documents and the like.

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#29
In reply to #26

Re: Notes from the Field

03/01/2011 8:18 AM

Yes, that's a likely reason. I usually use konqueror, but on some web sites I have to use Iceweasel (i.e., Firefox on other than Debian) to get the whitespace to stay.

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#31
In reply to #25

Re: Notes from the Field

03/01/2011 9:51 AM

So, Windows is getting to be more like Linux?

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#19
In reply to #17

Re: Notes from the Field

02/28/2011 11:05 AM

Actually, my favorite Windows flavor is 98SE...Which I still use on occasion since I have some laboratory applications that will not port to newer Windows versions. "Downgrading" is what every version of Windows that I have explored (which does not include Windows 7) is like, when compared to 98SE...But that is my opinion.

If you are doing Photoshop or gaming, I would probably recommend Windows 7 over most options, but I find for a lot of my applications- Finite Element Analysis, data analysis (time series data, Fourier transforms, etc), the tools available in Linux are superior to what is available for Windows, unless you have very, very deep pockets. I also find myself dipping down in to Windows on occasion for certain CAD applications, but things are improving in the Linux world in this area as well...But for the most part, for science and engineering, Linux is coming out way on top. Fast (which is important when you are running an FE analysis that requires 18 hours on a dual core machine), low overhead, better memory management, better community support, and so on...

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#40

Re: Notes from the Field

03/01/2011 6:53 PM

It's about time that high-end engineering solutions got to be open-source.

Milking struggling under-graduates for their meager resources was there to hinder their fair chance to compete with rich folks - to contribute their genius for the benefit the rest of us.

I believe this trend should grow, for the best of global education, and the welfare of man.

I'm not red nor pink, but brutal capitalism is getting old and nasty.

Not to worry - the web will teach us all a fascinating lesson in new-age economics.

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#41
In reply to #40

Re: Notes from the Field

03/01/2011 9:00 PM

Yuval-

If you are interested in high-end OpenSource Engineering Solutions, have a look at CAELinux. And, spread the word...

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#42
In reply to #41

Re: Notes from the Field

03/02/2011 1:50 AM

Thanks. Hope I'm not alone with this sentiment.

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