Welcome! You've arrived at award-winning author Marcel Gagné's personal Website. I am the author of the "Moving to Linux" series of books, a regular columnist for several tech magazines, a public speaker, radio and television personality, and a well known voice in the Linux and open source universe. I created the famous (perhaps infamous) Cooking With Linux which ran for ten years in the Linux Journal. I'm also a published science fiction author and editor, a onetime Editor in Chief, a pilot, a former Top 40 disc jockey, and I fold a mean origami T-Rex.  This site is home to my insights, opinions, gripes, brags, tech stuff, and whatever else comes to mind when I have the time or the inclination to publish it. 

Mastering The Linux Shell : Standard In, Out, and Error

Welcome to part four in my Mastering The Linux Shell series where we will wander wistfully into a land where three terribly under-appreciated but vitally important files live. You will remember that everything is a file, including directories which some people call folders. What you may not know is that your keyboard is a file, as is the screen on which you read these words.

26
Mar

The Easter Story, as I explained it to my kids

My youngest son asked me about Easter today. Luckily, as a parent, I am endowed with the power of complete universal knowledge and, naturally, explaining how Easter works is child's play. Or adult knowledge, as the case may be.

Every Easter, a giant invisible white rabbit, only vaguely like the one in the famous play, Harvey, visits every house everywhere all around the world, delivering chocolates for Easter. He goes by the name, Easter Bunny.

Possessed with awesome jumping powers, the Easter Bunny doesn't need a sleigh or reindeer to cover the world. He just hops from house to house. When he arrives at a house where a boy or girl live, he slides down the chimney, in much the same way as Santa does. Unlike Santa, however, the Easter Bunny doesn't care if you've been bad or good. He has Easter eggs to deliver and by gum he's going to deliver them.

Now Santa may be rounder than the Easter Bunny but the Easter bunny is a lot taller. Also unlike Santa, the Easter Bunny can shrink himself down to the size of a fly. This is cool because if you don't have a chimney, he can come up the floor vents. Once he pops out, he returns to his normal size (about 7 feet tall). You won't see him,  of course, because he is invisible.

Once in your house, the Easter Bunny hops around, pausing to poop out chocolate Easter eggs here and there. The eggs are hidden because he's a bit shy about pooping in public so he poops the eggs behind furniture, bushes, and so on. 

Even though the Easter Bunny is invisible, you can tell when he's around because he growls like a tiger. So if you're out hunting for Easter eggs and you hear a low growl when you find an egg, that's the  Easter Bunny.

And that is what Easter is all about.

Note : Originally published 2012-04-05.

Mastering The Linux Shell : Making Things Disappear

Information begets information and eventually, there's just too much of it. I don't really believe that -- I'm an information junkie -- but there's no question that if you never delete anything, eventually, you will either use up all your disk space, or you'll have a terrible mess on your hands.

Mastering the Linux Shell : Files and Directories

Let me tell you the secret of computers, of operating systems, and of the whole industry that surrounds these things: Everything is data. Information is the be all and end all of everything we do with computers. Files are the storehouses for that information and learning how to manipulate them, use and abuse them, and otherwise play with them will still be the point of computers 20 years from now. There's a saying in the Linux world that "everything is a file" (a comment attributed to Ken Thompson, the developer of UNIX). That includes directories. Directories are just files with lists of files inside them. All these files and directories are organized into a hierarchical file system, starting from the root directory and branching out.

For the record, and to make things easier, you can safely assume that folders and directories are the same thing. The terms can be used interchangeably, but I will usually refer to them directories. If you are more comfortable thinking of them as folders, don't worry. Depending on the application, you'll see both terms used.

The root directory (referred to as slash, or /) is actually aptly named. If you consider your file system as a tree's root system spreading out below the surface, you start to get an idea of just what things look like.

Under the root directory, you'll find folders called usr, bin, etc, tmp, and so on.  And then we have the three invisible, often overlooked, but completely indispensible files on your system: standard in, standard out, and standard error. I'll tell you more about those three later. Suffice it to say that understanding and knowing how to work with all these “files” will provide you with amazing flexibility when it comes to doing your work. 

Mastering The Linux Shell

This is the first of several articles I will be writing on the subject of the Linux command shell. Feel free to consider this first entry as a polite introduction to the topic. In Windows-land, you had "CMD" or what some might remember as the DOS prompt. In Linux, we call it a command shell, or simply "a shell". There are many types of shells, each of which works similarly (e.g. they all allow you to run commands) but each sports many different capabilities. The default on Linux is called bash, or the GNU Bourne Again Shell, so named because it is based on the UNIX Bourne shell. 

If you're ready, it is time to transform you into a master or mistress of the shell. In deciding to join me here, you have identified yourself as one of the bold and curious explorers who really want to know their Linux systems. Sure, it is possible to work day in and day out with your Linux system and rarely use the command line, but the command line is power. Your reward for continuing to this next level will be a deeper understanding of your system and the power to make it do whatever you want.

The things I want to talk about here are basic commands that will serve you well throughout your time with Linux. One of the things I hope to show you is how flexible some of these commands are. With most, you can modify the basic function with command-line switches, flags, or options, and thereby have them yield far more information than a simple execution of the command itself. A little thirst for exploration will open you up to the real potential of everyday commands. 

08
Mar

Save The Rich

Just discovered Garfunkel and Oates. Wonderful stuff. When you're done here, check them out on Garfunkel's YouTube page.

07
Mar

Atheism Super Bowl Commercial

True confessions time . . . I didn't watch the Super Bowl.

I don't actually like football and I've never been able to figure out what people find interesting about it. Every year though, there's this holy day called Super Bowl Sunday where, as near as I can figure it out, is where the really cool commercials get aired and, if you're lucky, there is one incredibly hot and super sexy half time show. The following is purportedly a Super Bowl ad, though I can't imagine who would have paid for it. I don't even know if it actually aired or if it was one of the many "non-Super Bowl" Super Bowl commercials dotting the landscape of YouTube. Nevertheless, I share it with you now. 

EDIT : It was pointed out to me that this is a remix of a religious commercial, in this case done by the Church of Scientology. Too bad it wasn't the real thing. 

If you saw it and it was real, let me know. Otherwise, I must go on dreaming that some day, somebody will be willing to spend money for this kind of advertising. 

02
Mar

Upside to The McDonalds Years

There are many downsides of the "McDonald's Years", those being the years that you spend more time than you'll ever spend in your life, ever again, at McDonalds with your kids.

21
Feb

Why I Talk About Gun Control

RIght after the whole Sandy Hook massacre, there was a lot of heated back and forth discussion on the subject of why guns are bad, or good depending on who you spoke to, and whether guns kill people or whether just people kill people. The short answer to that last one is that people kill people but guns make it a hell of a lot easier. Anyhow, it appears that I do a lot of the talking (or writing) on this subject and I am, in fact, highly critical of guns, gun ownership, and the whole gun culture. Guns are a touchy and deeply personal topic for many, much like religion, especially in the United States where the 2nd Amendment is considered by many to be as sacred as any Bible and sparks no end of debate. Whenever I see one too many pro-gun postings, or after yet another shooting tragedy, I can't seem to help but join the fray. After one rather heartfelt and personal emails from a friend on Facebook, it occured to me that I needed to respond publicly and to express my feelings regarding guns and gun control (much as I did regarding my posts about why I attack religion).

20
Feb

Definition Of A Stupid By-law

This is the definition of a stupid by-law. Not to mention a discriminatory and insensitive one. At the front of my kid's school, there's a 'school drop off and pick up zone'. Parents can pull up here, wait for their kids to come out, then drive away. There's no posted time limit and as long as you are sitting in the car, it's okay.

Enter, me. My son is autistic and is prone to wandering. He sadly cannot be trusted to simply walk out and come to the car. So I park, get out, walk to the door and get him. No big deal. If I park, as I did today, in the drop-off and pick-up zone, the nice by-law enforcement officer makes me move my car. He explains that the by-law states that you can't get out of the car. 

So here's the insane stupidity of this law. Parents of normal, neurotypical children, who can be trusted to walk from the school to the waiting car, can park there, waiting in their warm vehicles (it's winter) for their kids to join them. It could take 5 minutes. It could take 8 minutes. Because I have to physically get out of the car because my son is autistic, I can not legally do what parents of normal children can do.

Pages

Subscribe to Marcel Gagné RSS