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Linux & Guitars

Ever have one of those days that doesn’t end up going as planned? (A loaded question? Whoa, this guy is pro at writing!)

Yesterday was one of those for me. One the way out the door from my job, I realized that there was free food to be had at the Triangle Area Linux Users’ Group meeting in an hour, on NC State campus. How these computer dudes stop from being invaded by bro-dudes who can smell the free pizza from Greek Row a stone’s throw away is beyond me, but it happens. Also, apparently, the first-timers have ten and only ten seconds of head-start in the pizza line before the whole buffet gets Slashdotted.

But probably the most impressive part of the whole evening was just walking in to the Red Hat Building, which is a private building owned by some Linux nuts who keep the lights turned on by selling support for Linux, like it exists. Anyways, walking in, above the receptionist’s desk, was the famous Gandhi quote, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” For any other young, fresh, tech company, I’d say that this was a huge statement [sic] from the company asking to have their face stomped on.

Except that this little thing called Linux has apparently become something big. The speaker of the evening was a fellow who worked in the PR department at Red Hat, who was stumping for the new release of Fedora, I suppose as some kind of Danegeld for being allowed to use their building. I have to admit though, despite cutting my teeth on Fedora Core 4 in my Linux class in high school, I can’t say I have any particular attachment to the operating system.

Apparently, Red Hat uses Fedora as a sort of testbed for rapid development of new ideas, so that its a sort of concept car. Some of the stuff developed will end up sticking around in later releases, or filtering out to the other Linux distributions, but reach major release is only supported for 13 months after release. I suppose that’s how they pay the bills: if you want more than a year’s support, you should buy their Enterprise Linux and get seven years’ support.

All the same, I’m just not terribly compelled by their features to switch over. I think I’m still in the “I want it to work” demographic, which is why I keep spinning the new versions of Ubuntu when they roll out. Lots of support, and a sort of underground support for all the non-free modules that allow your computer to act like a basic Windows machine could. For example, the Ubuntu installation itself never includes any version of the Flash Player, required for many websites as well as YouTube. But as soon as you finish installing and look around the forums a bit, you’ll find a single command to install a batch of such packages to bring you up to minimum functionality.

But the fact that this is little help the demographic Ubuntu is most clearly trying to reach, the know-nothing user, doesn’t seem to occur to anyone. I know that this situation arises out of a very real legal situation, but I find it hard to believe that there is a real legal distinction between including these non-free pieces of software on the CD and allowing them to be downloaded quickly and easily. And, really, why would Adobe ever sue you to stop distributing their Flash player?

But I digress. After the LUG meeting, I ended up going home with the intention of playing a game or two of Company of Heroes. However, as I was browsing Slashdot while picking away on my guitar, ironically enough, I came across this article about some dudes trying to legitimize the Guitar Hero controller, matched with some custom software, as a musical instrument. Probably the silliest part of the whole article is where they refer to what is being played as “classical music”, when it is, in fact, some kind of electronica of the kind that I found difficult to listen to. And I like techno.

But I ended up losing the entire evening to playing around with software to turn a Guitar Hero guitar into a synthesizer. The particular software this guy developed gave me endless error messages when I tried to run it, but this little piece of software worked somewhat better. (Incidentally, I wish more tutorials and help manuals were written in the style of this how-to.) It basically turns the controller into a sort of synthesizer controller in some hard-to-explain ways. The upshot is that its pretty cool as a proof-of-concept. However, it would be nice if the software had any user interface to speak of, or the ability to change instruments.

But hey, I didn’t pay anything for it, so what am I complaining about? What does mystify me, though, is how I can be tempted to ever shell out $3600 dollars (like I have it) for a guitar that is rather unabashedly bright purple.

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