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It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed. In this life we get nothing save by effort.
Floor Fund Need $2,500.00
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Having just been elected Crew President, I guess I ought to say something about it. My primary goal this year is for everyone in the crew to understand the basic principles behind which Unix works, and for everyone to be able to install, configure, and administrate a Unix system. That said, I want to have fun this year too. While I like playing with computers, there are things out there that aren't made of silicon. Camping trips are a staple of most BSA-related groups, and I see no reason not to continue going on them. Other activities (such as skeet shooting) have been suggested as well, and I don't see why we can't do anything (within reason) that we want.
Also: my congratulations to Bill Schwanitz and Neil Coplin, our Vice President and Secretary/Treasurer (respectively). I know that both Bill and Neil are more than competent, and I look forward to working with them.
To everyone who voted for me, thank you; I hope that I am able to fulfill your expectations of me. To everyone who didn't, I hope that you will find me as capable a President.
I am proposing a project for the second year students. When the newer members have achieved their red cords, and are able to work directly on the project, then we can really take off.
Here's a general outline of what we have in mind: implement a database backend to our current website, so that the web page is automatically generated from database queries, rather than statically written in html. The webserver, Apache, can be easily configured to use an application server rather than or in addition to webpages. The application server queries a database server and formats the output, which it then returns to the webserver. This configuration is easily expandable, as the use of an application server makes it (relatively) simple to add a new backend or front end.
But why? Isn't the site fine as it is? And even if we want to change the site, why go through all this hassle? In order to learn about and implement database and application servers. Unix is primarily used in a server role, and most high-end servers are either used to move data, serve applications to clients, or both. Hence, a good system administrator should have an in-depth understanding of how such servers operate and how they are configured.
But how are we going to do it? What do we need? This is the hard part. Netscape Application Server doesn't come cheap, and neither does Oracle. Their competition isn't free either. Server hardware doesn't have to be phenomenal (almost any SPARC will do), but we have to have that too. Naturally, donations of any kind would be greatly appreciated (someone has to have an IPX sitting gathering dust somewhere...).
Naturally, any ideas you may have for any portion of this would be great; nothing is set in stone.
What are stylesheets?
Working on Lost Realities' pages, I always use the Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). If only to turn off the horrible underlining on the hypertext links, it allows me to define what certain elements of the page looks like. It is a great timesaver. If I don't one category of elements-- say, all of the H1 tags, and I want to change it all to the color blue instead of black, then I can use the CSS to change all of the H1 tags to blue.
CSS saves my time.
Needless to say, when I worked on my page on the Youth section of Crew 369's web page, I used stylesheet.
Stylesheets were originally designed to separate the form from the content of the web page. In order to control the stylistic elements, web designers often had to work with <font> tabs, tables. Compared with traditional print media, designers often have relatively little control over when, where, and how information is presented.
Furthermore, HTML was never designed by an artist. It was functionally intended to organize information. Hence, when HTML was later revised to add appearance tags (like <font>), the result was chaotic. For instance, if I wanted to change the color of all links outside of my page, I'd have to sift through each page.
Cascading Style Sheets were created to address that problem. Using CSS, designers can define all elements of style for each tag. For example, we can control the font, color, weight, height, padding, margins, and decorations. If I wanted all text marked with the <h1> (first header) tag to appear as bold, size 7, blue, and with the Arial font, I only have to write it once in a stylesheet.
A designer can also define a class for each element. Within the tag, say <h1>, I might modify it into <h1 class="chapter"> and another using <h1 class="section">. Within my stylesheet, I can now make the <h1> marked as "chapter", to be bold, blue, and Arial, while the <h1> marked as "section" can be italics, green, and Times. Again, I need only to mark what the text is, and modify the style sheet just once.
CSS also comes in a three-tiered format. At a site-wide level, designers can write stylesheet in a separate file. Each document would include it (first tier) with a <link> tag (my preferred choice), or import it at the (second tier) document level. At the document level, a designer can override or extend the stylesheet included at the site level. The third tier, the element-level, a designer can individually override or extend any of the attributes defined at the other two tiers. Since each style definitions can be modified and defined, ultimately combined together, they stylesheet " cascades," hence its name.
Finally, CSS was originally designed to allow browsers to choose a stylesheet to use. When an html document includes more than one stylesheet, the browser should pop up a menu allowing a selection. One user might want some razzle-dazzle, and choose a fancier stylesheet than that other user who is looking for a good source of information.
Normally, however, designers tend to stick with a site-level stylesheets with few document-level and even fewer element-level style definitions. This makes sense. CSS's strength is the ability to apply styles over a large number of documents.
Case study: Hosh's page
What went through in my head when I put the page together wasn't very well defined. But looking back and analyzing the page, there were some consistencies. For example, I wanted a plain black-and-white page, and I wanted to turn off the underlined links. I find underlined links distracting, and I'd rather use colored links to highlight them. In a mostly black-and-white page, the eyes are drawn to the links, but you could still read the content without your eyes snagging onto the underline. Furthermore, the default blue link is too intense. One rule of thumb in building user interface is never to put straight intense-blue text (color #0000ff). So I chose a muted blue-green color instead.
My concern with the color and decoration of the link isn't trivial as it first appears. The world wide web is exactly that, a web. It isn't like a book. A book's strength is its portability, tangibility (you can hold it), its form its very own art. A web page is none of these, but you can easily add links to it. Why not play up to a web page's biggest strength? I wanted to add a page that is rich in hyperlinks, especially within the content. Keywords, thoughts, side-notes, asides, tangents to the overall argument-- all can be put in a separate page and linked to. The reader can choose to click on it, and distract himself, or not. Hence, I need a link decoration and color that (1) attracts attention for people who are scanning for links, and (2) out of the way for people who actually read the text.
The stylesheet was taken out from the one (at the time) used in the Lost Realities page. Here is an exsert from the stylesheet, local.css:
These are the links for the "A" tag. The ":" is special, since it defines when a hyperlink is normal, active, or visited, and doesn't apply with the other tags. Note the "color". Those are RGB color-triplets, and really expands to "#006699" and "#0099cc". Finally, check the "text-decoration: none". That turns off the underlining of the links.
The list "h1, h2, h3 ..." allows me to define a style for all of the h* tags. Here, I wanted it to be #006699 color, bold, and aligned to the right.
I saved it as "local.css". Within each page, I added a link in the <head></head> section:
<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="local.css">
This line will cause the browser to apply the CSS file, local.css to the page.
Here are a few examples of non-compliance. Internet Explorer 3 doesn't support certain syntaxes of CSS regarding the text attributes. Neither browsers can render the background color for text backgrounds properly (yes, you can define background colors and bitmaps for text, and it isn't as crazy as it sounds) Neither browsers can render the margin, padding, and other stylistic controls to the pixel.
Netscape did not support CSS until version 4. Any web designer would therefore have to design a website using CSS if they wanted users to use Netscape 4. Unfortunately, Netscape 4 does not perform well and crashes too often. Netscape 3 is still widely used across many public terminals and schools.
One other (minor) problem is performance. The current browser (at least, Netscape 4 and Netscape 4.5) do not cache the stylesheet. Apache doesn't negotiate its updates (this might be a problem with the extension, ".css", but I don't know). Hence, everytime a page is loaded, whether or not the page has been modified, the stylesheet is always loaded. That is why when I open up the Lost Realities web usage analysis, the stylesheets accounts for a large percentage of the hits.
The new generation of browsers
As some of may have heard, Netscape's desperation move into the open-source world is closing on a release of Netscape 5.0. Already, there are results.
Netscape have exposed their next-generation layout engine to the ope-source community. NGLayout is incredibly fast-- faster than Netscape's original engine and trashes Internet Exploder in speed, low memory usage, and cross-platform compatibility. It was built to be modular and extensible, so NGLayout is rapidly gaining HTML 4.0 and CSS2 compliance. It is already level 1 DOM and CSS1 compliant. There is a good article documenting the NGLayout and what it is about at http://www.mozillazine.org/articles/article177.html
Crew 369 will have lots of fun customizing the browser like that :-)
The NGLayout was good enough that a consortium of web content providers have petitioned Netscape to include it in the 5.0 release of the Netscape browser.
Recently, Netscape's browser development arm and community liaison, Mozilla.org, have announced plans to drop its old rendering engine and incoporate NGLayout into the browser. Details are at http://www.mozilla.org/roadmap.html
Microsoft may or may not include the NGLayout engine into Internet Explorer. I haven't heard much about it. Should Microsoft refuse (odd, since they seem to steal about every other idea out there), and NGLayout succeed as being the only truly standards-compliant browser, it is highly possible that Netscape will regain market share. Of course, since NGLayout is put under open-source, then Microsoft is legally bounded to release the source code whatever browser they decided to use it with. Not likely to happen.
Andrew P. Drake
It's not often that new office productivity software arrives for the Sun Soft Solaris operating system. Known for years as the operating system for servers and engineering workstations, productivity products were basicly limited to Applix's ApplixWare suite of wordprocessing, spreadsheet and drawing packages, Island Software's Island Paint and Draw, and products from Adobe which include Illustrator and FrameMaker, considered by many to be too high end to be useful on a day to day basis. Enter Star Office. Linux users for years have had Star Office, an integrated suite of productivitity tools which now includes Word Procssing, Speadsheet, Presentation, Structured Drawing, Database and Web browsing, all in one package. The time put into making Star Office mature and stable in the Linux environment was well spent, as experience has demonstrated that Star Office is a feature rich, stable and competant productivity suite that can hold its own against just about any other product in it's class - including offerings from Microsoft and Lotus.
The main problem with Solaris based products before Star Office was that they failed to take real advantage of the operating system and graphical environment itself. Often the menus, options, and work areas would be noticeably less refined - jagged bitmap edges, poor font handling, mixed use of various window managers (i.e. OpenLook and Motif widgets together inone menu) creating an overall a bad user interface experience that actually impedes work rather than helps it. Stability often was problematic, given cranky license managers, poor print interfaces, and less than stellar clipboard support, making cutting and pasting from one application to another tempormental or unpredictable in terms of results. What's more, vendors wanted huge amounts of money for support, even if you were simply the end user who needed a productivity tool to use on your workstation, not a enterprise size business. Star Office changes these expectations dramaticly.
The first thing that's noticable about Star Office is the size - roughly 67 megabytes to download. Available off of Star Divisions web site (www.stardivision.com), it's clear that if you don't have a fast internet connection, or aren't willing to spend the time online to download it, it is definitely recommended to have a friend download it to tape or burn itto CD, making life much easier. In terms of actual needed install space, my experience has been that around 130 megs is enough, and that includes many examples, clip art, templates and other useful assorted tools that can be deleted if not needed. As compared to other packages, this is definitely reasonable, especially considering that many other products have to be installed in a standalone manner, duplicating commonly used functions.
The next truly different element is that Star Office is one of the first vendors to take advantage of the Solaris versions of "InstallShield" and "UnInstallShield", making installation a breeze. Direct ports of the PC versions, InstallShield guides you through installations better than other install programs I've used, and is just as customizable, all the while presenting a nice, clean interface while it does its work. Personally, I'm used to two types of Unix pacakges - ones that are totally shell drivenand open to modification, and ones that are ecapsulated, totally proprieary and far too difficult to manage for their own good (Adobe and Lotus are notorious for this). InstallShield, while not a comprimise, is a decent attempt to at least do things right and present a clean, semi-proprietary approach that works well and gets the job done, without resorting to chunky, totally cryptic install setups.
The default installation directory for Star Office is your home directory, and this, like many other features, can be changed. The reason for the default install directory resorting to your home directory is simple: if another user wants to use a different set of productivity software, Star Office won't accidentally install over top of it, as in the case of fonts for example. Of course, there are drawbacks, including multiple copies of Star Office on one machine wasting diskspace, or perhaps if end users are placed under the Unix disk quota system restricting the amount of us able disk space. To bypass this problem, it's very simple to install in acentral location (like /opt) as normal, and have users execute the suite from there. As an aside, I would note that Star Office's performance when loaded visa NFS off of the network is also extremely acceptable, as I have used it in both local and remote installations.
Next, after installing the suite, firing it up for the first time and entering your activation code, you'll note that the desktop looks remarkably like something like a hybrid of Windows 95 and a Netscape web browser. This is actually Star's normal default "desktop area" where you can launch applications, work with files, and surf the web. Like most other features, it can be totally configured per your desires. There are multiple style views of files available, depending on your preferences, and most of the links in the "system" menu actually integrate with the Solaris CDE window manager to provide automatic launching of normal CDE programs. In fact, Star remarkably supports multiple windowing systems inside the suite itself, including dialog bozes, menus and general user interfaces that can convert on the fly to and from Macintosh, OS/2, and the X widget set style looks. The normal desktop itself also can also act as a Java enabled web browser with active "channels".
Each type of document is opened either by clicking on an icon on the Star desktop, using the normal browser-like address bar, or by using the normal open and close option of the menu system. Like all modern office suites, Star can have more than one application open at once, can perform cut and paste between documents, and supports the normal pop-up help balloons that are standard ease-of-use traits in most OS's today. I found each particular element within the package to be very stable, with the word processor, spreadsheet, and structured drawing packages all very impressive in terms of sophistication and information manipulation tools. Each app actually supports some unique 3D picture elements as well, making the addition of multimedia content very easy.
For too long, Solaris has been without competant presentation software. Star Office solves this problem with a Power Point like presentation program that allows just as many bells and whistles as Microsoft's more bloated product. Plus, being tightly coupled with the rest of the suite, Star's presentation software really makes importing information easy, perhaps a shade more so than even Microsoft. I thought I would never see the day when it would become easy to author overheads and multimedia presentations on my workstations, as though this was the only purvue of PC's.
So, the next big question has to be, "Great, but how well does it handle Microsoft documents?" This problem has been one of the great obstacles to many users adopting Unix as a desktop operating system - lack of Microsoft applications or at least full Microsoft file-type compatability. Star removes this block by providing a totally compatable (down to Word `97 filetypes) suite that so far has loaded everything I've thrown at it, including complicated Power Point presentations. As far as moving data out of the package, file export options are definitely useable but somewhat weaker, supporting only Microsoft formats, HTML, normal text of all varieties, and Star's own format. As an aside, the HTML export feature is very useful for creating charts and graphs, and produces HTML that is relativelyclean considering its orgins. All in all, the file import/export functions blow away anything yet offered for UNIX.
In terms of practical useability, the suite is fairly straightforward out of the box. Without paper documentation (an option as I'll explain later), I found it relatively easy to setup, configure and begin work withouttoo much hassle. The online help also works well and is detailed, though at points somewhat vague because the suite is so feature rich. Star Office can also add itself as a CDE menu if you are using the CDE windowing environment (OpenLook is also supported), and doing so will require you to log out and log back in after installation.
Printing in Star Office is the only achilles heel of the whole package. While the suite supports a decent number of printers, including both Postscript and PCL5 drivers (thus bypassing the need for a middleware product like Ghostscript if your printer doesn't support Postscript), the number of printer drivers is fewer than I'd like. Chances are, if your printer supports the use of Postscript or PCL, you'll be fine and the printer will take full advantage of whatever you send to it. Also be on the lookout for printer drivers fom Star's web site, as "print packs" have been offered for other platforms. Star Office also supports a large number of printing features inside the suite that vary from app to app, making the most out of each app's performace.
Given the package's pluses and minuses, it's now time for the killer question - what does Star Office cost? As long as you are using Star Office for Solaris in a personal installation (outside of a business), it's free. That's correct - if you can get the download, generate and register t he key, and install the software, it's free. Otherwise, paper documentation and a CDROM cost $39.95 plus shipping and handling. I highly recommend paying up, as the product is so well done and works so well, Star Division definitely deserves the official registration fee - simply consider the paper documentation and CD as an added bonus. As compared to Microsoft Office which retails at over $500 (about $199 - $300 street price) and traditional Solaris productivity packages (which usually start at $500 per user), Star Office is a terrificly great deal deal in terms of a price to performance ratio. Also keep in mind that since it runs on the robust Solaris operating system, the reliability is excellent - no operating system crashes in the middle of editing complicated projects.
All in all, Star Office represents a great leap forward in office productivity packages for Solaris. It's inexpensive, stable, well integrated and feature rich suite of applications in a maketplace which sorely needs them.
The first time that I attempted to install linux Red Hat I was quite afraid that since I could hardly understand the install procedure that understanding the spartanistic OS would be impossible. Fortunately for me I had help from a couple of guys who basically pushed me through every step of the way, and usually did the REALLY technical stuff that I, who wasn't really sure what kind of video card I had, simply was oblivious too. Now just the afternoon after my first install I have installed it at least ten times. Of course I was totally lost and made far off guesses to lead to my many system failures, including basically editing the /etc/passwd file using `jed' and `pico' since I had no idea how to do simple commands like
$ adduser -r Jason
(wanting to add `Jason' to the list of login names)
(actually setting the password for the login `Jason')
and instead I would say
$ jed /etc/passwd
(edit the passwd file)
and delete rows of info which some how I originally rationalized. Now that I have installed Linux, set up an account for myself, my dad and my brother and can basically figure most commands out by using the WONDERFUL man (manual) files, though that is not to say I have really mastered Linux or even begun to understand basic concepts but I have definitely improved and right now I value my Linux machine much more then my brand new win98 unit.
The way that I think that is the best way to learn something like UNIX is to, as Mr. Corder says, "eat some humble pie," which means I think for most people in our Crew (possibly some more then others) realizing that they really don't know everything about the system and REALLY could benefit form the others help. At first I was a little timid about publishing an article about all the trouble I had with the linux system and simple things relating to the OS, but as my crash course in linux went on I realized that after asking 400 million questions ALL NIGHT LONG that at times had quite obvious answers, that something as simple as this article was not going to reveal a lack of knowledge.
Well, the sleep-over seemed to be a lot of fun. We ended up binding the books, playing a bunch of games and watching a video on Venturing. The books turned out great. We ended up binding them for everyone there There are still 6 books that can be purchased from Mr. Corder, and I'm pretty sure that we have plenty of extra binding materials left over for at least three of those books. So if you didn't get a book yet, there's still hope. Mr. Corder took a bunch of pictures of the evening, and I'm sure that he'll be putting up some of the ones where we're binding the books. I'm sure we all look forward to seeing pictures of ourselves mindlessly binding books because it was too early in the morning. That was about all that we did.
James D. Corder
It is hard to put into words the feeling of the fist event of the year, but Scared & Proud come to mind. It has been said that the first impression is a lasting impression. Hence it is easy to extrapolate that the first session will make a lasting impression. I was relived when several Crew Members asked when the next weekend event will be. Soon I replied!
I am immensely proud of my Crew! They formed a symbiotic team. Two members where unable to attend, without question, two members forged ahead and created the missing members' books at a large personal sacrifice of their own time. This is team work!
When it was time to set up, they all pitched in. When it was time to clean up, once again it was all for one and one for all! But most impressive was the almost omnipotent moment the unit had as they contemplated their future endeavors that they will embark upon as member of 369. It is my opinion that their proverbial eyes where opened to view the unlimited possibilities when one puts forth the effort to but action behind their dreams. I truly believe that the barriers of disbelieve was shattered this weekend!
If it is to be, It is up to me! Be The One!
Digging the ditch to get the money to get the food to get the strength to get up and do it again is all that people seem to do. It almost seems like the Mcdonalds commercial. Get up, go to work, go home, go to bed. "There's more to this life than living and dying and more than just trying to make through the day." I guess that about sums it up. Steven Curtis Chapman stated it in that song I just quoted from. I have learned that the difference between a winner and a loser is that a winner will get back up more times than a loser will. A winner is able to find it within him or herself to do more than is asked or required. It is for this reason that I am proud to be a part of the 369'th. We are the future.
James D. Corder
We need 3 Disk Caddies for the Auspex 5000. If you have them and would like to donate them that would be GREAT!
We also need about 35 to 40 Sun Workstations. Old IPC, IPX, ELC, SLC, 2s or 5s would also be GREAT!
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