Archive for July, 2007

We’ve Moved!

Just in case some of you haven’t heard, we’ve moved to our own domain! Please update your links to point to http://www.friedcpu.net now. We’ve been fortunate enough to get very affordable hosting from Aeon Hosting, thanks to the kind help from “smdepot” of the #ubuntuforums (Freenode) IRC channel.

Make sure you update your RSS subscriptions as well, because the feed from wordpress.com is no longer the same as the feed from friedcpu.net.

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Myspace: A place for friends. LinkedIN: A place for business. Facebook: What the hell IS this for?

So,  A *lot* of people have been ranting to me about how Facebook used to be cool and how the new applications have ruined it completely by inviting the Myspace crowd.  Well, haven taken a step back and looked at the problem, Facebook just sits in a confusing position right now.  Their target audience seems to be ‘everyone’, and that doesn’t work too well.  This is particularly bad for people in MY position as well. 

Firstly, I have a pretty sizable network of friends locally, JUST friends.  These local people aren’t my business contacts, people from an online community, or any such thing.  They’re just friends, and friends want to have fun.  So, of course I’m getting invites to “Pirates vs Ninjas”, “Horoscope”, “SuperPoke”, and any other number of applications on Facebook.  All of these people were former myspace users, and I’m part of the reason they switched to Facebook, my mistake.

On the other hand, I have another group of contacts.  I have my fellow FriedCPU writers, my connections from various art communities, my connections from the Ubuntu community, etc.  These are contacts that couldn’t care less if I choose to be a pirate or a ninja, they don’t care what music I’m listening to, and moreover they get annoyed when I have 500 app boxes on my profile stopping them from getting to some information that actually matters.

The current setup just makes it plain impossible to make both of these camps of users happy without setting up (and maintaining) two different Facebook accounts.  As it stands my friends are addicted to the apps and probably wouldn’t be in a big hurry to get back to Myspace, but my contacts would like them gone forever. 

I’m stuck in the middle of two clashing groups, and now I understand why these communities were supposed to be kept separate.  But, either way, my Facebook is going to be a more contact oriented tool for me in the future, along with my Twitter and Pownce accounts, etc.  I can’t wait ’till Myspace opens their platform so everyone can go back to their camps and live happily again.

Rant Over.  Flame On.

- Adam.

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Kevin Is No Longer In Prison But None of Us Are Free

I just finished Emmanuel Goldstein‘s (of 2600) film Freedom Downtime about the insanity surrounding Kevin Mitnick‘s incarceration. It’s difficult for me to express my disgust with the system to begin with, especially in our post-9/11 world, but this just rammed home the point that the insanity, the ignorance, the control and the fear didn’t begin with Bush, Cheney, the neoconservatives or Osama bin Laden. The film and Mitnick’s Wikipedia page can discuss what happened to  Kevin far better than I can, including the absurd claims of corporations like Motorola, Nokia, Sun and, everyone’s favorite these days, Novell (who claimed Kevin Mitnick cost them $75,000,000), his time in solitary confinement, his years of imprisonment before trial. Go watch this film. Buy the film, buy 2600 magazine, support the EFF and do what’s right.

The terrorist mythos has overshadowed the hacker mythos of the 1990s, but it’s hasn’t replaced it. Hackers, and indeed all citizens, can be considered terrorists, held without trial and, now, held without charge indefinitely.

I have to admit that I don’t have a particular “point” to this piece. I just felt the need to bring this film to the attention of our readership. If we don’t keep fighting we won’t have anything (rights) left to fight for.

***While formatting this I found a great commentary by Keith Olbermann on YouTube, responding to the signing of the Military Commissions Act of 2006.

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Hmm.. Do the IT folks question our sanity?

> Thanks for the awesome new printer, but I have one concern. It’s
> currently called ll-cube, which is fairly good naming. But now, before
> too many people are using it, is the last chance to give it a much
> better name. Can we rename it
> ll-cube-j? I mean really, the situation is just begging for it. This
> is a totally serious request. Let me know your thoughts.
>
> Don’t call it a comeback

ll-cube-j it is! :)

And there you have it — our local printer now responds to “LL-cube-j”

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I’m actually curious about this:

What do you do with your social network?

It’s a fairly simple question:  How has your social network site benefited you?  Has it added anything to your daily browsing life, made life more convenient, etc?

I’m actually interested in hearing about this, if you read this and don’t mind leaving me a comment please do. 

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Grsecurity & Ubuntu Feisty Server: Yay it’s working!

zsh in action

Grsecurity is a set of patches to the Linux 2.4 and 2.6 kernels that implements various security-oriented features such as stack randomization and permissions clamping to prevent common attacks against Linux systems from succeeding. I won’t go into an argument here about its effectiveness or its competitors, but I personally believe it’s a great defense barrier for public multiuser type systems.

Currently you must patch/compile manually, but that’s not the big roadblock… Sometimes turning hardening on too much will cause the system to fail to boot.

For Ubuntu, you need to disable CONFIG_COMPAT_VDSO in the kernel and possibly pass in “vdso=0″ to the kernel at bootup via grub config. Otherwise, you’ll get the dreaded everything-segfaults-and-dies phenomenon. It looks something like this:

Segmentation Fault
Segmentation Fault
Segmentation Fault
Segmentation Fault
Segmentation Fault
Segmentation Fault
Segmentation Fault
Segmentation Fault
Segmentation Fault
Segmentation Fault

You get the point….

Once that’s done, I have been able to bump security level to HIGH with no problems whatsoever. It also helps to turn off kernel debugging in general, to avoid ridiculous 208MB large kernel packages!

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The Del.icio.us lesson is absolutely right!

Putting the Del.icio.us Lesson into Practice, Part 1

I think this post is onto something.  Everyday we see more and more applications, sites, and services starting up that have absolutely no value to you unless you can convince your friends to join and stick with it.  This includes even my favorite sites, like Facebook.  Without my ‘network’ Facebook is useless to me.  I hope that any of you aspiring to build your own networks will keep ‘The Del.icio.us Lesson’ in mind when you start building.

Rant Over.  Flame On.

- Adam.

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The Inova X1 3rd Gen Flashlight: Did they ruin it?

I noticed one of my favorite flashlight review sites a mouthful to say about Inova’s recently updated X1 flashlight. You’ve probably seen these flashlights at Target. They are sold in unique looking packages that allow you to try em out and go “oooh shiny!” Ok, let’s take a break from words and do picture time:

Ok, back to words. The X1 is a small-sized (4 inches long, like half an inch in diameter) LED flashlight that runs off a single AA battery. You can find them at your Target store for $19.99, though sometimes it’s cheaper online. It is, in my opinion, the best bang for the buck when it comes to a general-purpose flashlight you’d carry around in a backpack, purse, or car glovebox. It is one of the only lights in its price range that includes voltage-regulation circuitry that maintains a bright glow throughout the life of the battery — not a steady decay from the moment you put the batteries in.

Now, what’s up with the negativity? Well, in May 2007, Inova released an update to this light, that boasted “2.0 Watt LED“. Now, we won’t go into the marketing inaccuracies of “2W” , but let’s just call it a more powerful bulb. This more powerful bulb is supposed to be twice as bright, but eat battery life 4 times as fast. The battery life has been whittled from the previous 8 hours to a mere 2 hours, according to the manufacturer. Many people in the.. err… flashlight community… are quite upset at Inova’s decision, and so was I at first. But I decided to take a look for myself. I eyed a $15.00 deal at an online retailer, then took advantage of a $10 off Google Checkout coupon. So, at the end of the day, $10 left my pocket and here I have this cute little flashlight sitting on my desk. So, here we go.. I’m gonna review a flashlight. Pardon the lack of pictures, my camera’s battery is discharged and I’m not waiting for it to charge up :)

Initial Impressions, Look and Feel

Well, first: opening the box. Laugh at me all you want, but nothing sucks more than injuries sustained trying to open up packaging. I am glad to report that Inova gets my packaging seal of approval! Opening the box was effortless and did not involve any scissors or horribly mutilated plastic.

The light looks REALLY neat and is really easy to hold. I got the black version which looks very nice and sleek. Some simple bash-and-drop tests show that the light stands up superbly to impacts and scratching — so far it’s still unmarred. The light is really lightweight too — it is roughly the weight of a AA battery and a pen.

I loved Inova’s tactical tailcap switch. It’s a twist tailcap with… a twist (Ok, no puns, starting from now) . Twist the tailcap to the tightest position. The light remains constantly on. From there, twist it back around half a turn, until the light shuts off. This is the “instant-on” position. Pushing in the tailcap rubber piece activates the light for as long as you keep pressing. Twist the tailcap another turn out. This is the permanent-off position — perfect for packing in a tight bag. I found the tailcap to be very easy to use overall, though using the instant-on for extended periods of time will result in sore fingers. (You should really just lock it on if you’re using it for that long)

I’d rate a 10/10 for first impressions. Inova truly creates a visually stunning product that looks as good as it feels.

Performance

Note: This should go without saying, but DO NOT LOOK DIRECTLY INTO THE BEAM. It looks like a small scrawny light with a tiny little LED, but I guarantee you a direct look will blind you for a good minute, leaving you feeling very very silly.

Ok, let’s talk lighting. I went on a jog with the light at 10PM, when it was completely dark. On my usual jogging trail, there’s a few areas with extremely bumpy terrain and sudden stair steps. (On my very first run, I nearly tripped down some stairs! That taught me to bring a flashlight.)

So, how was it for navigating in the dark? I’d say “impressively good for its class”. Totally ignoring that this is a AA powered mini-light (I’ll refer to this as “blind” evaluation from now on), this flashlight provided excellent illumination that should be more than adequate for personal use. It was able to illuminate far enough to anticipate tree roots and broken sidewalk tiles even in pitch blackness at running speeds. It will definitely put your big C-battery dollar store flashlights to shame. It certainly isn’t the brightest light I’ve used — my previous, bulkier 3xAAA LED light was noticeably brighter and was able to illuminate further. Putting this flashlight’s size into perspective, I am extremely, extremely impressed. I never expected this much illumination out of a AA light, or even a 2xAA light. And I’ve owned plenty of little lights like these before.

As far as the physical light beam, it has a bright spot in the center, though has a well-illuminated circle that’s roughly 1 meter in diameter at a distance of 0.75 meters. The reflector has a matte/textured finish which helps disperse light more evenly. Even compared to a much more powerful/brighter LED light that I own, this inova was able to effectively illuminate a larger radius. Due to its somewhat lower powered LED, it’s not prone to the blinding reflections off closeby objects like a more powerful flashlight. These properties make this light also very useful for reading in the dark or working on something at night.

For lighting performance, I give it a 8/10 “blind”, a 10+/10 all things considered. I would not expect this level of performance out of a $20 light running on single alkaline AA’s.

For reference, the old one I would rate as a 6/10 “blind”, a 10+/10 all things considered, particularly considering the astounding battery life.

Battery Life

Ok, the dreaded topic… how’s the battery life? Well, I’ve ran two full drains today with the included alkaline battery and also another brand-new name-brand standard alkaline AA. Both consistently lasted roughly 3 hours till most people would call the battery dead for sure, 2:30 until I called it unacceptable.

How’s the discharge curve? Unscientifically, I did not start perceiving “Uh oh, the light’s dimming” until about 2 hours, at which point I could tell that the light was definitely brighter when the batteries were new. At 2:30, it was getting to the point that I had difficulty navigating with that level of brightness. At 3 hours it was basically poof. However, for the first two hours, I’d say the claim of “constant” brightness is pretty much accurate. I’m sure an intensity meter will prove me wrong, but I really don’t care. After all, it’s how I perceive it that ultimately matters to me, not what an Excel graph tells me.

So… what’s up with the 2:30 runtime? This is surely a disappointment from the 10 hour runtime before, right? I wouldn’t say so at all. In my opinion, the new bulb does add significantly noticeable brightness, particularly when illuminating things at a distance. In addition, 2:30 is not that bad at all. Every two hours, you have to pop in a cheap, commonly-available AA alkaline battery. I don’t see the big deal in that. If it were a CR-123A based light where a battery replacement at the local convenience store would cost me $10, then I’d expect the damned thing to run for 25 hours!

Final Verdict?

Did Inova ruin their wonderful entry-level flashlight? No, not at all. With regards to the new bulb, they simply made a trade-off of battery runtime for brighter light. Overall, I like the new reflector’s ability to spread light out more evenly. If someone were to ask me for a recommendation on a general-purpose flashlight, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the Inova X1.

Overall Rating: 9/10.

For what you pay for? 10/10 hands down.

Pros: Reasonable price, small and portable, attractive apperance, durable, waterproof, satisfactory lighting, innovative switch, and lifetime warranty.

Cons: Some will say it’s dim: this is not a uber-bright sun replacement. It’s a personal flashlight that is inexpensive and runs off a single AA battery! Shortened Runtime: True, the runtime is drastically shorter than before, but I think the tradeoff was worth it, not to mention replacement/spare AA’s shouldn’t be hard to come by!

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Sabayon Business Edition Review

Sabayon Business Edition 1.0: Easy Gentoo for the office?

Written By Guest poster Thomas Allen.

Want to be our second guest poster? Contact me by email with your idea, kingofallhearts999 (_/at/_) gmail (/./) com (Obviously reformat that one)

Sabayon Business Edition 1.0 is the latest release from Sabayon Linux, the distribution developed by the famous (in Gentoo circles) Fabio Erculiani, also known as “lxnay.” Sabayon is a pre-compiled version of Gentoo with many tweaks and a bent for the cutting-edge. The distribution at first glance is geared to those looking for the maximum in eye candy and gaming ability, which is what makes the latest release surprising. Business Edition aims to be a stable OS aimed at productivity.This OS is based on the Gentoo “stable” branch, whereas all previous Sabayon releases have been based on the “testing” branch. As the names suggest, the system’s software is well-tested and should be very stable.

Live CD

The Live CD (technically, DVD) took quite a while to boot. I notice that much of this time was spend setting up OpenGL, which was surprising, mainly because this version includes no 3D desktop software whatsoever. This is one kink that needs to be worked out of the Business Edition Live CD. Beyond that, the Live system works as perfectly as a live system can. My wireless was detected, and all applications worked as expected.

Installation

Although there are FTP and HTTP mirrors to download Sabayon, users are strongly encouraged to use the torrents, as it usually ensures that the downloaded file will have no flaws, while reducing the strain on Sabayon’s servers. Download speed for me varied, slowing to 40KB/s at times, but at other times topping out my bandwidth. In the end, it took about five hours to download the 1.8GB file, which isn’t too bad.

The install disc was fine, and unlike in previous version of Sabayon, I experienced absolutely no problems during installation. No unhandled exceptions, no freezes! Sabayon’s installer, based on the ancient Anaconda Installer, is clearly maturing. One nice new feature is a very basic software selector that enabled me to, in this case, exclude Games which I have to need for.

You’ll get to choose between GNOME and KDE at this stage as well. For this review, I chose KDE, but it’s a matter of preference. Hopefully another reviewer will take a look at Sabayon’s GNOME, but because the Live CD boots into KDE, I chose that.

The installer is also visually appealing. I must say that this is the best-looking installer I’ve seen to date. The install took about half an hour, which is average on my laptop. But this is all foreplay: How was the system, you ask?

For those interested, here is my test machine: IBM ThinkPad T41, 1.6GHz Pentium M, 1.5GB RAM, ATI Radeon Mobility 7500, Atheros AR5212 Wireless card.

Test Period: A weekend, or about fifteen hours. Spent mostly at home, at the office, in a library, and at my local coffee shop.

The Sabayon Experience

Working with Sabayon Business Edition was a bit disorienting at first. The first five to ten times that I booted the system, everything was painfully slow. I clocked two minutes from boot to login, and another two minutes from when I logged in to when all System Tray applets had loaded. However, things gradually began to speed up, until my system was running at about the same speed as when I’m using Ubuntu or Mandriva. I never re-compiled anything, so there’s no quick explanation for this. Viewing system processes didn’t show anything hogging my memory or CPU either.

I experienced some bugginess while using this distro. Editing KDE settings sometimes crashed the panel, and logging out took me to a text login. I rebooted, and the issue never showed up again. NetworkManager (not KNetworkManager) also crashed on me from time to time.

A shot of Sabayon BE In action

Sabayon, 3D desktop or not, is the best-looking Linux distribution out there in my opinion. Microsoft fonts looked more polished on this system than they do on Windows XP in my office! With subpixel hinting enabled, the polish is even greater. These are the small things that really make a distribution worth using. The default theme is unique and looks great. I themed my desktop with a plain blue KDE wallpaper, and changed the titlebar color to blue. The system has a red look by default, but the last thing I needed was a color that inspires passion and often anger while being frustrated by the initially slow system speed. As you can see in the screenshot, Sabayon is truly beautiful for an OS.

Applications

Sabayon BE comes with a very solid productivity suite. There are graphics programs (Inkscape, GIMP, and Blender, amongst others) and your typical office tools. MySQL comes installed but not configured, as does PostgreSQL. As expected, the prize KDE apps are bundles as well: Amarok, K3B, Digikam, and others. Here’s a complete package list for those interested.

There was one thing that peeved me in particular: In spite of this rich set of applications, Vi(m) is not included, but Emacs is. This is the first Linux distribution I’ve ever used to not include even a minimal Vi installation, and the developers make it clear that they want Vi out: the Visudo command even launches in Nano. We’re far past the days of editor wars, and it’s positively absurd that a user (or, most likely, a developer) should have to manually install Vi, which is one of the most important productivity tools for many.

Besides the above gripe (which is not a minor one) the application suite performs very well, and is a pleasure to use for those who want all multimedia support working out of the box. DVDs played fine, my iPod worked perfectly, and Amarok could play every song. I threw a variety of audio and video at Sabayon, and it gracefully handled all of it.

My wireless card also worked out of the box, but this is nothing to write home about: My card is supported by the Madwifi project, meaning the majority of distros support it out of the box. One annoyance was that, in KNetworkManager, all signals displayed a 100% signal strength, which made selecting the strongest open network impossible. But it connected reliable to the networks I typically used, which made writing this review far easier.

 

Installing new applications, on the other hand was very difficult. I’m no Gentoo pro, nor is the average target Sabayon user, and about half of the packages I wanted to install wouldn’t because they were “masked,” according to Portage. I took the time to read through the Gentoo Handbook’s chapter on Portage and still didn’t find my answer, which was disappointing. I was also bothered that I was being prevented from doing things on my system because of settings I never configured myself, couldn’t understand, and were not accessible to the average user.

 

But life goes on, and as a reviewer, I’d leave it at this: Package management in Sabayon is a pain for new users, and is definitely not user-friendly. Going on trust, Portage gives the user more control than any automated package manager out there, so I’m sure there’s potential here.

Conclusion

Overall, except for the few bugs I experienced, I got the feeling with this release that Sabayon Business Edition has its shortcomings, but that a knowledgeable user could overcome them and really take this system to the next level. And that brings me to what I really appreciate about the Business Edition: Much like the original Sabayon, it’s essentially a way to jump into Gentoo with a working system in under an hour, allowing a user to slowly grow into Gentoo until their Sabayon system is a highly-customized Gentoo. In reality, Sabayon is a highly-customized Gentoo installation.

 

Then what sets this apart from the original Sabayon? For one, it’s based on the stable branch of Gentoo, which one would hope would bring greater stability. It would be wrong for me to doubt this, but to really get a feel for a system’s stability, you usually need to use it for at least a few months. Second, this is a sober release without all the games and other fluff that makes the original Sabayon disk top 3GB. You can call it Sabayon Business Edition: Sabayon for grown-ups.

 

Overall: Three out of five stars

One-liner: Sabayon BE is a unique and powerful system with usability issues to fix, which will put off inexperienced Linux users.

Written By Guest poster Thomas Allen.

Want to be our second guest poster? Contact me by email with your idea, kingofallhearts999 (_/at/_) gmail (/./) com (Obviously reformat that one)

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zsh: The last shell you’ll ever need!

Introduction

Last week, the all-knowing Mako inspired me to give zsh a shot. He started me off with a .zshrc file, and now a week later, I’ve been spreading the word to as many people as I can. But let’s rewind a bit.

First off, the basics: I expect most of you to be familiar with what a shell is. A command-line shell is a user interface to the operating system. For all practical purposes, you know it as “the thing that you type commands into”. There are many, many shells to choose from, and most *nix’es come with different default shells too. Arguably, the most popular shell in use today is the GNU Bourne Again Shell, better known as bash. The other main family of shells is known as the C shells (csh, tcsh) — named after their C-like scripting syntax.

So what’s zsh and why would I want it over my current shell?

The shell I am raving about today is the Z-shell, or zsh. Zsh is an expansion on the Korn shell (ksh), which is an expansion on bash. (UPDATE: The previous statement, as pointed out by a lot of readers, is incorrect. ksh existed before bash, and if anything bash was inspired by ksh. I was merely going by the feature lists and noticing that modern ksh is a lot more capable than bash, and thereby assuming this relationship. I will leave the statement there because changing it might “look bad”).  It is one of the most full-featured shells you can ask for, and I would go as far as to say that everyone has something to gain from using zsh. Particularly if you have stuck with bash or your operating system’s default shell, I strongly recommend you give zsh a shot! What do I like about it?

  1. Acts extremely similar to bash. You can use zsh exactly the way you use bash and not learn a single thing, and even then it’s an improvement! Compatibility with familiar shells is very important. Switching from bash to zsh is not going to be like switching from GEdit to vim. You’ll be instantly at home in that all your bash shortcuts/commands will work as expected, but you’ll also have access to zsh’s goodies. If you’re a shell scripting addict, you’ll be pleased to know that zsh’s scripting syntax is mostly backwards-compatible with bash, too.
  2. Typo correction. How many times have you typed something like aptg-et or other mangled commands? Well, if I do that in zsh, I get a message asking: “zsh: correct 'aptg-et' to 'apt-get' [nyae]? “. Magical, isn’t it? This autocorrect also applies to any parameters or paths or filenames you type.
  3. Phenomenally intelligent tab completion. Wait… I hear what you’re saying already. “Duh you idiot, bash does this too! You just need to uncomment/install bash-completion.” No, that’s not what I mean. Can your bash:
    1. Present suggestions in a menu that you can browse by arrow keys?
    2. Complete the kill command by showing a menu of all your processes?
    3. Complete the aptitude or ls commands by showing a menu of relevant parameters and a short description of what they do?
    4. In addition to exact matches, show also near matches in a separate section?
    5. Pop up completion options even for complex commands virtually instanteously, without bash’s dreaded “UH OH I should’ve typed a few more letters first!” delay?

    If you could say yes to any of these questions, then please let me know! Because after 3 years of using bash, my bash sure doesn’t!

  4. Share history across sessions. Multiple simultaneously running zsh sessions can share history with each other, rather than clobbering each other up. One of the most frustrating things to a bash user is typing in a long command, then searching for it again the next day via Ctrl+r, only to find it nowhere in the history.
  5. Built in pager. I’m a lazy person. And I think you are, too. zsh comes with a pager directly in the shell. This means you can type things like <README and it is equivalent to less README or cat README | less
  6. More powerful globbing. Globbing is the fancy term for “wildcards on steroids” — your matching expressions like “*.c” or “*Office*S03E[0-2][0-9]*.avi” and so on. As the zsh introduction shows, zsh gives you way more powerful globbing expressions. You’ll rarely find yourself forced to whip out the find command or a GUI search tool.
  7. More bearable scripting language. If you’re not a shell scripter, you probably will have no idea what I’m talking, but all you shell scripters out there: Say goodbye to all those bash gotchas. How many times have you been bitten by a statement like [ $FOO = $BAR ] erroring out because FOO or BAR were empty, and then having to resort to silly tricks like [ x$FOO = x$BAR ] . Well, zsh has rescued you with its double-bracked comparisons. [[ $FOO = $BAR ]] will always work, and [[ $FOO && $BAR ]] comes a lot more naturally than [ $FOO -a $BAR ]. I can’t even begin to scratch the surface of zsh’s programming capabilities, but I encourage you to give it a shot!
  8. A lot more. Remember, I’m a beginner too. I have just hit the tip of the iceberg myself. Consult zsh’s wonderful documentation (which I will link to later) for everything you want to know about zsh.

Ok, You Convinced Me. How Do I Start Using zsh?

Excellent! Glad you decided to give it a chance. Unfortunately, zsh won’t do everything I just raved about when you install it. In fact, by default it’s quite bland. I recall two years ago, I heard some buzz about zsh, so I installed it and fired it up, and thought to my self “WTF is this crappy thing? It doesn’t even have tab completion! I’m going back to bash.” To get zsh to do magical things, you need to configure it by a file called .zshrc. This is the analog of bash’s .bashrc or csh’s .cshrc (which is, by the way, not a city in Bosnia). The way most people begin populating this file is by googling for zshrc and using someone else’s as an example. Well, I’ve got some of my own zshrc files too, which I based off Mako’s and various googled zshrc files, so I do not in any way claim any credit to these creations. So, let’s get started:

  1. Install zsh from your distribution. You should consult your distribution’s package manager (yum, apt-get, Synaptic, Portage, fink, you know the drill) because they most likely have it packaged. There are generally two packages, a zsh and a zsh-devel or zsh-beta package. The beta package is newer and contains new features and enhancements, but may have bugs. I personally use the betas and have yet to have a problem, but this choice is up to you. Both work great.
  2. Grab a zshrc file. You can either google-and-build one you like, or start from my sample ones:
    1. Linux:This is the standard one I use on my Linux machines. I run Ubuntu but I didn’t put anything distro-specific in there.
    2. Mac OS X: This is almost identical to the Linux one, except it fixes the behavior of the delete/pgup/pgdn/home/end keys and has a prompt color scheme for black text on white background display schemes (because personally I find that looks better on my Macbook)

    This file should be saved at ~/.zshrc; that is, a file called “.zshrc” in your home directory.

  3. Enjoy, read documentations, tweak to your heart’s content! Please, go to zsh’s homepage and look around the documentation for more tips and tricks. I’m a newbie to zsh — I can’t teach you much about it because I’m learning as we speak.

Additional Resources

If you like what you see but this has left you with more questions than you started with, please seek out these wonderful documentation resources:

  • zsh Homepage. Here you can find links to a lot of good resources.
  • zsh Introduction. A really quick read to give you a good overview of zsh’s abilities.
  • zsh Guide. This is a longer guide but geared towards comprehensively addressing zsh from the user’s standpoint.
  • zsh Manual. This is a really long manual that covers everything you’d want to know about zsh, particularly if you’re a scripter you’ll like this one!
  • zsh Cheatsheet. For the lazy and impatient! (though it’s upside down… sorry, not my fault!)
  • zsh FAQ. Great for those whiny questions that go like “Waah, why does zsh do X and Y differently from my old shell?”
  • zsh Wiki. Community-contributed and maintained documentation, tips/tricks, zshrc’s, extensions and addons.

P.S. Avoid the temptation to spend your next week locked in your room playing with zshrc. It’s really not healthy… (By the way, should hostname be colored $PR_BLUE or $PR_GREEN in the prompt? I’m still contemplating that in my zshrc!)

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