Adam Savage Is a Geeky God

Adam Savage Is a Geeky GodAt the end of July, the H.O.P.E. (Hackers On Planet Earth) conference was held in New York. One of the featured speakers was Adam Savage, co-host of the Mythbusters. Savage talked about his geeky passion for creating and learning, and described (among other things) his personal recreation of a dodo skeleton. He also took questions from the ArsGeek forum members.

The best part of the video is when Adam breaks from the itinerary to show a slow-motion video of fellow co-host Jaimie Hyneman slapping him across the face in an attempt to sober Adam up. While locating the file on his laptop, someone in the audience points out the somewhat suspiciously named “Batman The Dark Knight.avi” on Adam’s desktop, to which Adam responds, “Well, I hadn’t seen it yet.”

The video is an hour long, but totally worth watching.

Edit: It turns out the video in question was just the trailer of Batman. But still, Adam is a Batman fan, he recreated a Dodo skeleton, he hand-drew a map of Middle Earth, and his official occupation entails blowing stuff up on TV. He would be hard pressed to be any geekier (or cooler).

You need to have flashplayer enabled to watch this Google video


Ditko’s Objectivist Tracts

As a geek, you’re likely to know that Steve Ditko created Spider-Man. Amongst his lesser known creations are a series of Objectivist comics presenting his unconventional political beliefs. If you’re a follower of Ayn Rand yourself, or you just get a kick out of Jack Chick-style political tracts, check out this post over on Dinosaur Gardens, where one of his full comics entitled “The Avenging World” is presented in PDF and Comic Book Archive format. Read more about featured business books on our blog..


Got a band but can’t afford to shoot a video? Use public CCTV cameras and then demand the footage!

The Get Out Clause are an upcoming UK band who are currently unsigned. They took a brilliant and I’m sure soon to be much copied method to producing their own business video. Unable to hire a production crew for a standard 1980’s era MTV music video, they performed their music in front of 80 of the 13 million CCTV “security” cameras available in England, including one on a bus.

They then used Britain’s Data Protection Act to request the footage that was shot of them. Grab some decent and inexpensive video editing tools (say. . . an iMac) and presto! They got themselves a unique and in my opinion quite interesting music video.


Jonathon and the Comic con – help a 16 year old who has severe cerebral palsy achieve his dream (Updated 12/18)


Here’s our Eighth update on our quest to get Jonathon and Ghic Chic to New York ComicCon ‘08.

We did it! Thanks to EVERYONE who contributed, sent well wishes, donated equipment or spent some time spreading the word! And a very special thanks to the Dr. Theodore A. Atlas Foundation for matching the funds we’d raised and making this possible!

First, a little background. Jonathon was born with spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy. he’s spent his life in a wheelchair and although he has the mind of regular 15 year old, he is unable to utilize his body and has difficulty speaking. Jonathon has a wonderful mind and personality trapped inside his body.

Now available! Official Superhero Sidekick T-shirts!

Jonathon’s use of his body is limited to some use of his left hand. As such, he’s enriched his life through the idea of superheroes – people who can literally do anything. His love for superheroes and all that they stand for has helped him through some very rough times, for instance by taking on their persona before and after operations.

Jonathon has a true love for all things superhero. Comics, movies and video games, they have all given him joy and strength and he would like nothing more than to meet the people behind his passion. We’re going to do the best we can to see this dream come true.

Through our paypal button (upper right) we’ve raised $60 $110 $210 $230 $490 $500! $600! $700! $885 $1500! We now have the funds necessary to fly them out to New York. Next we need to raise money for lodging, food and some transportation costs. We’re shooting for $3,000 in funds total.

Thanks to the folks at Neuros Technology for providing Jonathon (and his geek Mom) with a Neuros OSD DVR. They know how much he loves superhero movies!
We’ve reserved hotel rooms – we now have a place to stay less than a half mile from the convention center!

Big news coming soon! We’ve just taken a huge step thanks to some very generous folks. More soon!

huge thanks to Casio, who graciously donated an Exilim EX-Z77 so Jonathon can remember his trip through photographs and video.


We’ve received a number of encouraging emails – thanks to everyone who’s sent thoughts our way!

A big thanks also to SciFiChick and MadMovieGuy for mentioning our story!

To see what we’ll need to get Jonathon to the convention and to read about our mission, have a look here.We’ve been talking to the folks over at BBT magazine, who attended the convention last year. We’ll be talking to them more about advice on going to Comic Con and possibly joining forces.

Jonathon is getting really excited about this event and also sends his thanks to everyone!

Update #2 – Hi folks, thanks to everyone for stopping by. We’ve gotten a few more donations and some kind folks have linked back to us, which I think is great! If you link to this article we’ll link back to you as one way of saying thanks.

Update #3 – We’ve had a number of donations come in which is really great and has pushed our money raised almost up to $500. We’re looking at about $800 in travel costs and about $1800 in lodging. Add to that money for food and other items necessary for the trip and we’re looking at raising a total of $3000 or having some of the big ticket items (room/travel) provided as a donation. $500 that we’ve raised so far is great! That’s 1/4 of the way there in just a few short weeks. Thanks to everyone who’s donated, commented, linked to us or emailed friends about this.

Update #4 – It looks like we’re going to need about $3,000 all told to get Jonathon and Ghic Chic out to New York, into a hotel and able to eat. We’re on our way to that goal!

Update #5 – We’ve go the money needed to fly Jonathon and Ghic Chic out to Florida. Thanks to all who’ve donated so far! Out of $3,000 we’ve raised $700 – leaving $2300 for us to come up with for food, lodging and other things, such as possibly renting an accessible van for transportation around the city.

Update #6 – A big thanks to Virgin Comics CEO Sharad Devarajan who’s helped us take a huge stride towards our goal! I’m hoping we can go into the holidays and raise even more funds towards our goal. We’re more than half way there!

Thought Hammer, purveyor of fine board games have provided us with 4 copies of the board game Manhattan to give away! Our contests includes linking back to this post.

Another huge thanks to Casio, who graciously donated an Exilim EX-Z77 so Jonathon can remember his trip through photographs and video.


The folks at ComicCon NY itself have also agreed to give us two tickets for Jonathon and Ghic Chic!

The folks at the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art have given Jonathon two tickets to visit when he’s in New York!

Check out SF and Two great sites in their own right, who are bringing a bit of attention to our quest. Also thanks to Don over at!Thanks also to our friends who’ve donated! We’re getting there! Once we collect enough money to send him there, I will create a special announcement on ArsGeek, to mention all the businesses who donated.


Ubuntu – the best Linux distribution?

Ubuntu Community

Ubuntu has a lot going for it. A rich benefactor cum space tourist, a huge and rapidly growing user base, a sleek look and an easy install. So why is it the best in Linux operating systems? Simply put, it’s not. That’s right, Ubuntu is not the best Linux distro. Read more on Linux section of ArsGeek.

Is that a strange concept coming from a die-hard Ubuntu user like myself? Let me explain a bit. I’ve installed Ubuntu on three of my laptops, and at least five desktops that are in use by me. I use it as a server, a filer, a desktop system and my laptop’s primary OS. I’ve also deployed it to a number of faculty, staff and graduate students at a prestigious, ivy league university. The reaction I’ve gotten from users who run the gamut from temporary staff assistants to CS professors who teach kernel hacking has been overwhelmingly positive.

I’ve also worked in many other distros, including Debian, FreeBSD, Gentoo, Red Hat, CentOS, IBM’s AIX, Suse, Knoppix, Damn Small Linux, LinSpire, Mandrake/Mandriva, DesktopBSD and for a period of several months, Linux From Scratch. That’s a bunch of different distros and each of them have their high points and their low points. Technically some aren’t even Linux (the BSD systems). Some are ultra-configurable. So configurable in fact (LFS) that you have to compile everything from scratch. Some are not very flexible on the surface (RH, CentOS, Ubuntu, LinSpire) and come with much sleeker installs and a larger base of premade packages ready for install.

Let’s face it though, they’ve all got a kernel under their hood and a bunch of applications and daemons that run on top if it. Eye candy is optional. User experience varies as much as the users available. The most complex distro to install, arguably Linux From Scratch, can look ultra slick and extremely polished. I’ve also seen some god-awful looking Ubuntu installs out there.

The point I’m moving toward here is that there is no best in Linux. There’s options. Configurability, ease of install, control over your outward appearance, control of the inner workings of your machine. What will translate into a good user experience for those in the Linux community differs throughout our community. Some favor complexity and control, others favor minimal configuration and ease of use. Many of us use Linux not only to accomplish tasks on our computers but to learn more about the inner workings of our computers.

So why is Ubuntu becoming so popular with many, and so overdone with some? It’s got several things going for it that have pushed it into the realm of the public conscious and past the eyes and ears of Linux hackers and so-called hobbyists.

First, Ubuntu has an astronaut. Seriously. There’s something glamorous about a person who’s looked down at the Earth from a place only an extremely small fraction of the human race will be. When that person who’s attained this almost mythic position in our collective conscious then says something to the effect of “hey, I’ve got an idea!” lots and lots of people listen. Even when that idea has to do with something complex like an operating system or something hard to market, like an operating system that’s not Windows or OSX.

Second, it doesn’t hurt that this astronaut paid his way into space with his petty cash. There’s a lot to say for a rapid launch and good development when the specter of the bill collector isn’t hanging over your shoulder.

Third, it was a good idea. Make an operating system that’s based on proven technology (the Linux kernel and the Debian distro) and then make it so easy to install that my brother-in-law can do it and he can cause a toaster to go into complete system failure. Take all of the complexity that seems to lay on the surface of Linux and bury it under a layer of GUI goodness and menus.

That right there is what started the popularity of Ubuntu skyrocketing and is also the very point that niggles some *nix users. But it’s a sound strategy. Hell, it worked for Microsoft and Apple and I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t work for Linux. The biggest difference here is cost. As in, there isn’t any to go out and get an Ubuntu CD shipped right to your door. That’s amazing. It’s revolutionary and it’s working quite well.

In fact, there’s only three reasons why I still have Windows installed on my laptop. The license was purchased by my employer, I need to support users on it, and I like playing Medieval: Total War. Other than that, I can do anything I would normally do in any other OS in Linux. And more specifically in Ubuntu.

Yes, you may be sick of hearing about Ubuntu. Yes, we who know a little about the Linux world know that it’s based on Debian and that Linux is a kernel, not an OS. However, Ubuntu is doing things that are making Linux really, really accessible to the average user. The people who think of computers as smaller, more expensive radios or televisions. Computers have been marketed as appliances, not complex tools. When Jane or Joe average user buy a computer, they expect to turn it on and go – and their expectations have been set by the pay-per license OS makers we all know and love, Microsoft and Apple.

Ubuntu brings Linux a lot closer to this expectation. I’ve watched novice computer users install Ubuntu. I’ve seen everything that’s needed to check email and surf the web just work. The only place I feel Ubuntu is lacking for the new user is it’s support for 3rd party codecs out of the box. They do things the legal way and that can make it tougher on the new user. That’s the one area where I generally take over after the install and show them how to get video, dvd and mp3 playback working.

That’s also a complaint I hear from seasoned computer users. Some of the programs they expect to find in a Linux distro aren’t present. Such as a C compiler or Make.

Ubuntu is really designed as a desktop OS. A replacement for Windows and to a much lesser extent OSX. As such, most desktop users will never need or want to write a program or compile something from source. Not including ‘extra’ software also alows Ubuntu to keep their install to 1 CD, allowing the internet to handle new packages and updates. Remember that a lot of this functionality is not needed by the average computer user. However, being a Linux distro, these utilities are not hard to track down and install on your computer.

Is Ubuntu for everyone? Absolutely not. In the Linux user world there are just as many reasons to use another distro as there are users who use other distros.

Is Ubuntu a great choice for users who don’t want to know a whole lot about computers, are new to Linux or like myself, enjoy ease of use? Yes it is.

geek out.