Wil Wheaton Prime uses Linux to bring you Evil Wil Wheaton sitting in Sheldon’s spot.

Evil Wil Wheaton sits in Sheldon's spot

This picture was taken right after we finished shooting The Creepy Candy Coating Corollary last year. I'm not going to lie to you, Marge: it's one of my prized possessions.

It's taken me this long to share it, because shortly after I upgraded my Macs to Snow Leopard, all of my Macs and my HP scanner stopped talking to each other. I spent a lot of time researching help forums, looking for updated drivers, and saying lots of swears, because it appeared that HP blamed Apple, and Apple blamed HP.

My scanner still doesn't work with any of my Macs, but I am able to bring you this picture today thanks to the magic of Linux.

If you've been reading my blog for a long time (or you've gone through the archives) you know that I love the Linux operating system. I first switched to Linux in 2002, and eventually ended up running a heavily-modified version of Debian for years, until I was seduced by the elegance and stability of OS X. From time to time, though, I grab a LiveCD (usually Ubuntu, these days, though I've gone through most of them at one time or another) and spend an hour or so poking around to see what's new and how quickly I can break it.

Shortly before I went to Vancouver for Eureka, I burned an iso of Ubuntu 10.4 beta, to see what all the fuss was about (short version: Ubuntu made some significant UI changes for that version, and a lot of Linux users are apparently as keen on change as Garth was in Wayne's World.)

My incredibly short review: I liked it. I thought it looked nice on my iMac, it booted fast from the DVD and ran smoothly once I was logged in. It comes with enough software to give a curious user a good feel for what it does without overwhelming them with options, and it autoconfigured every single thing I had … including my HP scanner.

When I realized I could finally scan this picture — and get a cool Linux advocacy story — I took carefully took it off the top of my desk (where I stuck it with two-sided tape several months ago) and scanned it. I put a thumb drive into the machine, which Ubuntu recognized immediately, copied the file over, and ran into my office to put it on my MBP.

I remember, back in the old days when we had to use vi to edit our config files, how much we all longed for a day when Linux Just Worked™; I think it's pretty cool that, in this case, it did.

90 thoughts on “Wil Wheaton Prime uses Linux to bring you Evil Wil Wheaton sitting in Sheldon’s spot.”

  1. Very cool. I’ve never worked with Linux. But have been wanting to for a while. This may just push me over the edge and just do it.

  2. Awe shucks, I don’t know which is cooler, you giving props to Linux or you sitting in Sheldon’s spot.
    I know which one I’m more jealous of though… 😀
    -Shawn (from Linux Journal)

  3. I love Linux stories. I’ve been running Linux on all of my computers for several years now. Now, if I could just convice my wife to let go of Windows.

  4. I love the fact that I can have a spare OS with loads of software sitting ready on an SD card in my card-reader. Even if you don’t use linux full-time it’s a good idea to have some variant ready for odd occasions like this.

  5. Our secondary laptop at home, the one for couch surfing, runs Ubuntu. Started out of nescessity after Windows couldn’t see the harddisk, (Which makes it hard to install an OS) but I must say I’m impressed. No issues what so ever with any of the pheripherals (Including my Wacom tablet, which is damn impressive) & easy installs of just about anything you can think of.
    Oh, and the battery time went from 1.5 hours to 2.4… No hardware changes at all, besides some extra ram.
    PS: Saw your second Big Bang Episode just now. Loved it, but I wish they’d use you even more. Maybe Evil Wil Wheaton will end up everybody’s nemesis, not just Sheldon’s… .-)

  6. I know you’ve probably already completely hashed it over; but what model HP scanner?
    If it’s one of the networked models (like a multifunction printer/scanner,) you have to use Apple’s “Image Capture” now instead of the dedicated HP software that was used before. This one threw me for a loop with Snow Leopard, too.

  7. Wil, I find it funny that you are thrilled by the technological advancement of Linux and yet you forgot to bring a *digital* camera to the Big Bang Theory set… :)

  8. What’s the number of the beast? vivivi
    Evil geniuses everywhere prefer vi.
    I *really* miss vi. I know that it’s still out there for general use and consumption, but it’s just not the same. Those poor emacs and *gasp* pico users didn’t know the POWER of the vi side.

  9. i was wondering the same thing as dan aloni. you’re a member of unit 1337. how come you didn’t have a mobile phone with a megapixeled cam to post this straight to the twitter when it was taken?

  10. Great story and nice photo. Of course the picture would look even better if you used the Gimp to auto-correct white balance (though for all I know you munged the balance to give it that retro polaroid look).

  11. I’m one of the few Linux users. I never programmed or did anything with it, but my husband worked for Red Hat so I used it (loved the stability, less so the usability, and this was in 2001), then I used rPath linux for a while, then Foresight. We’re thinking of putting Ubuntu on my old linux box (Foresight is no longer supported) for my seven year old. She’s using our OLD mac (November 2003). I’m on a Macbook Pro now, and I like the ease of it, without the worries of Windows. hehe

  12. Running Ubuntu on my spare computer was, for a long time, the only way I could convince my other PC to talk with my mac.
    They’re no longer on speaking terms, as my roommate has since replaced the living room computer (and refuses to let me reincarnate Bunny)

  13. Did you sleep in Penny’s bed, too? 😉
    How evil and the polaroid only enhances the effect.
    Who took the photo? Nice to hear they are geek enough to still hold on to a polaroid.

  14. Very cool… both the photo and the story :-)
    I’ve used a Linux-connected scanner for years, myself… from the days when a SCSI scanner was pretty much all that SANE would support, well into the days when you couldn’t find a SCSI scanner anymore. My current one will work with Linux as well, but does so over the network.

  15. I’m running Ubuntu 9.10 at work right now and it’s been a dream to work with. It’s essentially addressed most of the concerns I had with using Linux vs Windows (ease of use, drivers, etc). All in all, it’s a nicely rounded OS that’s perfect for my job.
    While I’m commenting, I want to thank you for taking the time to sign my friend’s PAX East booklet for me. He stood in line just to get your autograph for me, and I really appreciate the kind words you left me. You rock, Wil.

  16. Do we know where that door goes? That is the same wall as the door out of the apartment so that puts it over or behind the main stairwell?

  17. On my MBP, I had to connect the scanner directly via USB and use Image Capture. Can’t get to it via the network. You might try that when you have time.
    Love the photo!

  18. I set up a Dual Boot with WinXP & Ubuntu 8.10 about a year ago and the only time I go back to Windows is to get some Updates and run my Flight Simulator…
    Once I get the Linux Sim working I doubt I’ll go back to Windows for a few years just to remember how bad it was… hahaha

  19. For a while, my kids’ computer was a Linux/Mandriva machine. Sadly, their favorite games were Shockwave, which had problems on Linux at the time. I was hoping to teach him shell scripting. :)
    On a related note, I recently joined a D&D game, and my 10-year-old son is fascinated by it. We’ve been playing Star Wars Miniatures with more D&D-like storytelling. So, I’ve been enjoying your D&D posts about you and your son.

  20. Great to hear that things were quickly addressed through the powers of Linux! That’s great news.
    On the OS X side, I use VueScan (http://www.hamrick.com/) for all of my scanning needs. it works with pretty well every scanner ever made, which is good because my older-than-dirt Canon 1220U isn’t even supported by Image Capture.

  21. Heh. I actually had a camera, but I didn't have time to run up to my dressing room and get it. Luckily for me, one of my costumers was right on the set, and she had a Polaroid with her.

  22. Linux has certainly come a long way since my first install in ’07. Many swears and flavors (Gentoo, Slackware, Ubuntu, Fedora, etc..) later, it is the only way I compute. We don’t need to live in a Coke/Pepsi world of computing, there is a whole buffet of OS and software out there and nothing says ‘choice’ better than GNU Linux/Unix. Thanks for posting this and spreading the good word, Wil.
    Incidentally, do you use the free film/script/storyboard developing software called Celtx? http://celtx.com/
    That would be so cool if you did…

  23. It's maddening, isn't it? I have it connected via USB to my iMac and it doesn't see it, no matter how many times I install software, drivers, or cuss at it.

  24. My husband just switched to Ubuntu on his PC, and so far it’s running well. Our only big complaint is that we can’t watch movies on Netflix without Windows Silverlight.
    Thank you for the post :)

  25. Wil, I had very similar issues when I upgraded to Snow Leopard with my HP scanner. Others have asked, but what MODEL of HP are you using? I think several of us might be able to combine brain power and come up with a solution for you.

  26. Thank you, THANK YOU for explaining why my Macbook won’t talk to my HP scanner. I’ve thought I had a serious problem for months.

  27. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: You are an evil, evil man. 😀
    (Trying to imagine Sheldon’s face if he should catch wind of this.)

  28. The smug grin really adds credibility to my interpretation of that photo: EWW broke into Sheldon’s apartment, sat in his spot, and took a timed Polaroid of himself. Then maybe left it Sheldon’s card deck, or bowling shoes, or some third thing.
    I’m not going to lie to you Wil Wheaton Prime: my favorite aspect of Linux is Tux the Penguin. I may happen to have a stuffed version thereof.

  29. Wil, I just went through the same problem with my iMac and HP all-in-one scanner/printer. After much gnashing of teeth, I finally got it working.
    I’m on an iMac running 10.5.8, using an HP C-3180. First I had to uninstall all my previous HP drivers. Then I went to the HP support page and downloaded the new driver package… which took forever and then didn’t work because I didn’t read the system requirements closely enough and grabbed the wrong one. Lather, rinse, and repeat with the proper drivers and now everything works.

  30. Having installed two Kubuntus and two WinXPs on different machines in the past four weeks (no macs for poor student me), I’m happy to report that Linux does indeed just work (I even had to use a Linux live CD to download network drivers for the Windows…)
    Oh, and: awesome photo. Awesome BBT-episodes, too. And I’ve been meaning to comment that I’m patiently (or not so patiently) waiting for the next installment of Radio Free Burrito – I’m an avid listener. :)

  31. You should see if the producers would incorporate that photo into an upcoming episode to piss off Sheldon’s character.
    As for the the whole Linux OS vs Windows saga, I am just too chicken to make the change. I AM thinking about getting (or building) a new computer and using Linux….that way I can have both and try to ween myself off Windows. All my computer friends use Linux and swear by it.

  32. I’m in the same boat with my HP scanner with an automatic document feeder. I picked up an older Lenovo Thinkpad, installed Ubuntu, and use that as my dedicated scanning machine. It’s a shame HP doesn’t want to support their older scanners, I guess I’ll have to go Canon the next time out. At school we haven’t had any issues with our Canon scanners talking to all versions of OS X.

  33. have you tried linux mint yet? It is based on Ubuntu and is just that little bit more usable in my opinion.
    And as an added bonus I can say “Mmmmmm Minty” whenever I used it :)

  34. I’ve yet to find a piece of hardware that doesn’t work with 10.4. I’m always surprised when things just work when I expect it to be a headache. My Motorola S9-HD AD2P headset worked out of the box. My company’s on call USB 3g modem just worked. 10.4 is really a winner.

  35. I'm doing everything I can to make a new episode, but the damn construction next door is so loud every day, I haven't been able to. Hopefully, if it's still raining tomorrow, I'll be able to do a new show then.

  36. Hey, did you install Ubuntu 10.04, or run if off the live cd the whole time? If you installed it, that means you saw the little slideshow thing I made! Oh boy! :)
    Indeed, this one is shaping up to be my favourite release.
    Of course, you could have just taken a picture of that photo on a wooden table. That move has established niche meme status, so you can do it while keeping your geek card: http://thedailywtf.com/articles/web_0_0x2e_1.aspx

Comments are closed.