Monday, February 19, 2018

Linux saved my computer

I have an admission I need to make.  My computer's operating system is Windows Vista. I know it has a reputation for being one of Windows' failed efforts, but its what was pre-installed on my computer, and frankly, not only was I used to it, but it really didn't give me any serious problems. Sure, there was an occasional freeze, and rarely a crash, but it was nothing a simple reboot didn't fix. The first real problem I had was a couple years ago, while on the internet, I started to get blocked from websites with a warning that Internet Explorer was outdated and I needed to upgrade.  Normally, IE upgraded automatically, so I went to the website to manually upgrade it, and I found out IE no longer supported Vista.  I ended up switching to Firefox for my browser, and all went back to normal.  Until a couple months ago, when I noticed I didn't upgrade to the latest Firefox browser that was heavily promoted.  I went to the Firefox web site, and there I found out, not only will Firefox stop supporting Vista in May, but that Microsoft itself stopped supporting Vista nearly a year ago.  So now I thought I was screwed.  Does this mean I need to throw out a perfectly good computer just because the OS is obsolete?

My Windows Vista Desktop
There had to be another answer.  Installing the latest Windows 10 on my computer would cost nearly as much as buying a new one, so that was not an option.  Perhaps there was a way to install Windows 7 at a very low cost or maybe even for free.  At least that may give me a couple more years of use out of my computer.  So, I did a web search to see if it was possible.  But what I found was something even better. I discovered Linux, which is a free alternative to Microsoft Windows.  It was the perfect solution to my situation: a perfectly good computer that is a few years old, and has a version of Windows that has become obsolete and unsupported.  Better yet, I didn't even have to install it blind, not knowing what I would be getting.  With Linux, you can create a bootable USB stick to test drive the OS simply by downloading the ISO image from the website, then using the free tool Rufus to burn it onto a regular USB stick. Now, I don't know anything about computer programming, or anything related to coding and how computers work, but this seemed like it would be real easy to do.  The biggest problem was choosing a Linux distribution (or "distro") as unlike its Microsoft counterpart, there are hundreds of different choices.

I decided to limit my choice to the 20 most popular distros according to Distrowatch, and those that are user friendly and aimed at beginners. I also had to decide if I wanted a point release or a rolling release. A long term support point release is a distro that is fully supported for three years, and has limited extended support for another two years.  So, in a similar scenario to Windows, every three to five years, you would need to install the newest version of the OS, or if you like variety, you can switch to a different distro. Naturally, it is free, unlike a Windows upgrade, but you would need to back up all your personal files, as the fresh install would wipe them out.  The advantage is that a point release is very stable and dependable.  A rolling release is an OS you install just once, and you just need to update it every couple weeks.  The down side is rolling releases are not as stable, and can often have bugs.  But there are a couple rolling releases that are not so "bleeding edge" and are considered very stable and dependable.

The first one I tried was Elementary, a point release.  It was kind of slow loading web pages. It was very bare bones, but I liked its Pantheon desktop environment, which mimics Apple Mac rather than Windows. Like it's name suggests, it is probably aimed at grade school computers and perhaps senior citizens.

Next I tried Linux Mint, another point release, and the number 1 distro on Distrowatch. It is the one most often suggested for first time Linux users coming from Windows. It was much quicker than Elementary, and seemed to be just like Windows. It would be a very easy transition. I noticed minor screen tearing while using the web browser while scrolling and watching videos. My printer/scanner works with it, so that was one concern eliminated.

Next I tried Antergos, a rolling release. It had some nice pre-installed apps like weather and maps, but the web browser was very juddery and had severe screen tearing. It also froze a lot. My printer/scanner would not work, so that may be a headache to deal with.

Next I attempted Manjaro, another rolling release that is considered more user friendly and stable than Antergos, but could not get the live boot to work, saying the kernel failed to load.

Then I tried Ubuntu, a point release that is considered the most used and preferred Linux distro. Many other distros, such as Mint and Elementary, are derivatives of Ubuntu, and if you ever happen to come across a computer in the store that has a Linux OS pre-installed, it would be Ubuntu. I really liked Ubuntu, perhaps more than Mint. The Gnome desktop is very different than Windows/Mint, but I kind of like it.  Unlike most other desktops which are based on the standard Windows, Gnome seems to be based on an iPhone or iPad. Gnome is also configured in a way that you can do everything from the keyboard and not use a mouse as much as you do in the Windows style desktops.  Like Mint, there was minor screen tearing in the web browser. My printer/scanner was able to configure.  I made a mental note, Ubuntu will be a finalist.

I tried another flavor of Ubuntu, Ubuntu MATE. It was OK, but seemed like a second-tier version of the main Ubuntu Gnome. I did not care for the MATE desktop.  It just seemed kind of old and outdated to me, like it was from 1995.  I also tried Xubuntu, which is Ubuntu with the XFCE desktop.  It kept freezing on me, and also seemed kind of old, like it was based on Windows XP, which would be a step backward from Vista.

Next I tried PCLinuxOS with the KDE desktop. It is a rolling release and has been around longer than a lot of other distros, making it very stable and dependable.  I really like this one. Just about everything I need is pre-installed. It has a very Windows-familiar system, and is also very modern.  Again, there was minor screen tearing while watching videos in the web browser. My printer/scanner seemed to configure properly. Another little thing I liked about PCLinuxOS is that, like Windows, the number lock is on by default.  All the other Linux distros have the number lock off by default, which can be annoying when you go to use the number pad to type in numbers. I noted this one would also be a finalist.

Solus was a distro I was looking forward to trying, as I have read many great things about it. It is a rolling release, yet is extremely stable. It has rave reviews from those who have used it, and it's Budgie desktop is said to have no screen tearing at all.  It is a rising star on Distrowatch. Unfortunately, I could not get it to live boot on my computer. After the countdown screen, all I would get is a flashing cursor, and then a text that said "unable to get SMM Dell signature".  I tried several things, like burning the ISO image in DD mode.  I  tried contacting Solus for help, but the only reply I got was to the effect "Sorry its not working for you... too bad".  Its really a shame, because for a minute there I thought it would be the one I would pick. Apparently, after looking at some Linux message boards for a solution, the problem live booting Solus seems fairly common. I guess because this is, in fact, a fairly new distro it will be more buggy than a lot of the positive reviews admit.  Maybe in six months or so, if they can fix the problem, I'll give it another try, but now I felt I needed to just move on.

So then I tried Ubuntu Budgie, just to see what Solus' Budgie desktop is like. I liked it. It was like an updated version of the MATE desktop, what it should be in 2018. I did not get any screen tearing while watching videos with Chrome. I was able to switch to Firefox, and did get the minor screen tearing as in the other distros.

I then decided to give Manjaro a second shot, since the first attempt did not boot up. Unlike Solus, Manjaro worked on a second attempt. I tried it's Budgie desktop, which I did get some screen tearing in the web browser. I also tried Manjaro's Gnome desktop. There's something about the Gnome desktop I kind of like.  I made a note- if I want a rolling release with a Gnome desktop, Manjaro would be the pick.

I also briefly tried Korora.  This point release reminded me a lot of Mint, but with more choices in desktop environments.

So now the time came to choose.  In theory I like the idea of a rolling release, but I also realized for a beginner like myself, it could be a disaster.  So I decided for a back up if a rolling release just did not work out for me, I would go with Ubuntu- either the standard Gnome or Budgie.

The rolling release I did pick was PCLinuxOS. I now have PCLinuxOS dual booted on my hard drive with Vista as my safety net.

My new PCLinuxOS KDE desktop

So far so good.  I like it. My computer/scanner works, although it prints out a page very slowly, stopping in between lines. I get some screen tearing in videos in the web browser, but from other sources, like a file, it is perfect. As I use it over the next weeks and months, hopefully there will be no major bugs.  Then perhaps after a few months, if all continues to go well, I will delete Vista from the hard drive.  If things go south, then I will replace PCLinuxOS with Ubuntu while keeping Vista as a safety net for a little while longer.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Official Shazam press release

Batman-News.com posted the official Shazam! press release which answers some questions, and raises some concerns.
We all have a superhero inside us, it just takes a bit of magic to bring it out.  In Billy Batson’s (Angel) case, by shouting out one word—SHAZAM!—this streetwise 14-year-old foster kid can turn into the adult Super Hero Shazam (Levi), courtesy of an ancient wizard.  Still a kid at heart—inside a ripped, godlike body—Shazam revels in this adult version of himself by doing what any teen would do with superpowers: have fun with them!  Can he fly?  Does he have X-ray vision?  Can he shoot lightning out of his hands?  Can he skip his social studies test?  Shazam sets out to test the limits of his abilities with the joyful recklessness of a child.  But he’ll need to master these powers quickly in order to fight the deadly forces of evil controlled by Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Strong).

It goes on to confirm previous rumors Ron Cephas Jones has been cast as the Wizard. It confirms the movie will feature the New52 Shazam, and not the classic Captain Marvel. While most of the Curse of Shazam characters are mentioned, no classic Fawcett characters, like Sterling Morris, Beautia, Uncle Dudley, etc., are even hinted at.  Billy is referred to as "streetwise", which may be code for the New52 jerk character, perhaps slightly toned toned down.  Expect Billy's catch phrase to be "bad ass" instead of "Holy Moly". Of course the very purpose of this film seems to be getting a superhero version of Big made at any cost.  The whole "have fun with them" line seems like a big chunk of the movie will be a blend of the "discovering his powers" scenarios from both the William Goldman and John August scripts, and the New52 scenes where Shazam and Freddy try to find beer money and pull pranks, and emphasizes Shazam will be reckless with his powers. Although David F. Sandberg was quick to renounce the idea of Sivana as a sorcerer, Mark Strong's comments about Sivana flying and shooting lightning from his hands, and this press release stating he can control deadly forces of evil (read: Seven Deadly Sins) indicates otherwise. The release emphasizes the film is firmly set in the DC Film Universe, and considering Sandberg not renouncing the reports Henry Cavill will appear in the film as Superman, signs point to that happening.   Maybe Zachary Levi will get his wish and Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman will also have a role.  And Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn should definitely be in it, considering the chemistry between Billy and Harley in the Injustice comic book series.

All in all, it looks like this movie will be a hybrid of Big and Curse of Shazam with a Spider Man Homecoming vibe, and those of us who wanted an adaptation of the Fawcett material with an Alex Ross spin are S-O-L.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Shazam filming begins

Even though the majority of the cast has yet to be unveiled, David F. Sandberg announced filming has begun on Shazam! today.
A post shared by David F. Sandberg (@ponysmasher) on

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Shazam movie character breakdowns

Character breakdowns from the Shazam! movie have surfaced.

THADDEUS BODOG SIVANA – “Evil sorcerer who regenerates from death with world domination on his mind.” Supporting Lead Male

BEAUTIA SIVANA – “Sivana’s devoted daughter. When he does not return her love, she changes loyalties and helps Billy out.” Supporting Lead Female

MAGNIFICUS SIVANA – “Sivana’s incredibly giant and strong son that has a huge battle with Shazam.” Supporting Lead Male

SHAZAM – “Elderly wizard who is forced to give his powers to a young boy before the boy is ready.” Supporting Lead Male

MYSTERIOUS MAN – “Shazam’s underling.” Cameo Male 

It is interesting to see Sivana will be a sorcerer and not a mad scientist.  But I am happy to see Beautia is confirmed to be in the film, and seems to be very faithful to the Fawcett original. It is also interesting to see Shazam is "forced" to give his powers to Billy "before he is ready".  It seems there will be generous liberties taken with the characters.  Many are jumping to the conclusion the "mysterious man" may be Black Adam, but to those of us who are long time Captain Marvel fans, it seems obvious the character is the stranger who summons Billy to board the mystery train that takes him to the Rock of Eternity.  Since filming begins in just a couple weeks, all these roles are most likely cast, although are being kept under wraps. A photo reveals Zachary Levi and Asher Angel at a table reading of the script in Canada where filming will occur.

UPDATE: David F. Sandberg debunked the character breakdowns, adding "Sivana is definitely not a reanimated sorcerer".

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Dr. Sivana is cast!

After months of rumors, Mark Strong, through an interview in London confirmed he is playing Dr. Thaddeus Bodog Sivana in Shazam! "I'm playing an evil bastard called Doctor Sivana, they are always the best characters to play, the most fun."  He went on to affirm the film's concept as a superhero version of Big, "It's a funny film, it's about a young boy who can become a superhero but still remains a young boy so there's elements of 'Big' there's elements of 'Stranger Things'. I think originally the comic outsold 'Superman' in the 1940s."  He also spilled a major spoiler about his character, "I've been training like a mad man, I'm about to go over and see the stunt guys, I've been trying all of these harnesses on and I think I'm going to be doing lots of flying around and firing electricity out of my hands."  After the article hit the internet, director David F. Sandberg tweeted "I guess it’s official now then".

Speaking of spoilers, a few days ago, Zachary Levi may have also tipped his hand that Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman may have a cameo in the movie, gushing about the Amazon Princess, “I think getting a cameo from anybody would be super cool, but I just think Gal Gadot is so effervescent. She has such a charm. And she seems like a really cool broad. Like, she was in the Israeli army. She's a mom. And I'm like, 'You seem like you're grounded and cool, and you're Wonder Woman, and you rock,' and I think it would be really funny to have the 14-year-old Billy Batson inside of Shazam that's really awkward around this beautiful Amazonian. I just think that would be really awesome.”

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Review: The Archies #4

Issue number 4 of The Archies features The Monkees.   Written by Alex Segra and Matthew Rosenberg, the plot deals with Archie who, during a gig with his band, gets knocked out and dreams about an adventure with The Monkees.  Davy is kidnapped and The Archies tag along with Mike, Micky and Peter to rescue him. Being a dream, the typical surreal, meta humor of The Monkees TV series fits into the narrative, laced with Monkees trivia and call backs. This includes the Monkeemobile, the Monkee's pad, the Monkees using their "Monkeemen" superhero guise, as well as the Archies donning their 1960s superhero costumes.  Also a character named Tony Tunes alludes to Don Kirshner. I don't know if it was intentional or coincidence, but as Davy is kidnapped in the story, much of the action focuses on Mike, Micky and Peter.  In real life, Davy passed away in 2012.  Joe Eisma is the artist of this issue, and does something clever.  The bookends are drawn in the current realistic Archie style, but the dream sequence reverts to the classic Archie style. My only critique of the art would be that Eisma didn't really capture the Monkees' likenesses in the interior art. They all seem to have the same generic face and the only way to tell them apart is by their hair. His cover art gets the likenesses better, as do the variant covers by Greg Smallwood, Mike Allred, and Tyler Boss. Overall, this is a very enjoyable issue and earns an A-.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Mary is cast!

Rumored for several weeks, it is now official Grace Fulton has been cast as Mary in the Shazam! movie.  Since signs point to the movie being an adaption of the unpopular and divisive Curse of Shazam new52 reboot, Mary is one of the foster kids in the home Billy goes to.  She is older than Billy, and to date in the continuity, nothing is established that Billy and Mary are blood related.  In the classic version, Billy and Mary are twins who were separated at birth, and reunited after Billy gains the power to transform into Captain Marvel.