Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Fight Microsoft with their own weapon

from this blog

So, Microsoft puts out its hand and offers help with porting open-source software, to make it run best on the Windows platform. How mean. Understandable from marketing and business point of view, but mean anyway (and hey, that's my opinion!).

I have a proposal then, a simple one. Since Windows users are already used to trial versions, time-limited, feature-limited, shareware and other pieces of software which they constantly have to "unlock" by using codes found on the net (or keygens), so let it be!

Let's give Windows users what they already know:

1. Limited editions of Free and Open-Source Software for Windows.
2. Full-featured versions, including source code, for all other Operating Systems.

So if someone from Microsoft (or other third-party company) wants to keep working on a port for Windows, let it be. Let them even capitalize on the effort! This way THEY will have to keep up with the upstream. Or if they create substantial improvements, they will HAVE TO release their modified source code (that's the beauty of the GPL license!)

Your offer was insincere, so you won't get what you asked for.
Have it your way, Microsoft!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Top Ten Reasons for a Linux Laptop

from reallylinux.com


You can avoid listening to monologues about the merits of Vista. As your colleague begins salivating about the many Vista features (read that as "bugs"), stop him cold by declaring, "I'm installing Linux." You'll have him running outside, yanking his hair and screaming expletives. The sight alone should be well worth it.


You can save yourself serious money, not only at the register but in years to come, avoiding paying for countless upgrades. For all of us paying the crazy food and fuel prices, this is a real easy way to save money.

As a salesman tries to convince you to pay for upgrades, simply smile and walk away. The power of Linux and a vast array of Open Source Software is available to you for free.


You will end the constant late night computer assistance calls from your "buddy." He calls because "you're the computer pro, right?" When he telephones you next, tell him, "Sorry, I use Linux." You'll never hear from him again. Even better, he will now start calling someone else with Vista and bug them! The pleasures with Linux laptops are endless.


You will love the look on your family's face at the next birthday party, when Granny figures out how easy it can be to use Linux. Can you imagine everyone gathering around your laptop, as Granny cranks up the sound on Frozen Bubble and everyone starts to do the humpty-hump? Okay, maybe not. But there's no better anecdote to help those boring family gatherings than a Linux game – and several rounds of bourbon.


You can indulge in the truth that Linux is a vital skill in nearly every country in the world. The average Linux System Administrator makes more money than a law enforcement officer on the tenth year of work and a nurse practitioner serving with your local hospital. Job security, money, and power attract people like a chocolate Sunday served with a cherry on top. Your Linux laptop is the cherry.


You will save yourself the hell of ever installing Microsoft software. Linux installation on a laptop will average about 28 minutes for a complete set up. Compare this to the installation of an upgrade of Vista on a WindowsXP laptop, which can take over two and half hours, and you'll see why Linux on a laptop is not just a good idea, it is a massive time saver!


You can sleep more peacefully than most, since Linux on your laptop resolves many computer security concerns. Never again do you need to consider things like the Microsoft Vista Remote Code Execution Vulnerability, the threat of the GPCoder.h trojan, and the JS/Downloader-AUD malware. Okay, so not all of these reasons are funny, but they are important. Besides, you may get a good laugh when you hear what happens to the guy who didn't use Linux!


You can stop that annoying friend who is always asking to borrow your laptop to do this-and-that. The next time he comes over to ask if he can "just borrow the laptop to do some work," simply switch the mode so that it defaults to the command line. Hand over the laptop and enjoy seeing his face as he asks what happened? As he walks away, never to be heard from again, switch back to KDE with Beryl.


You will see the raw power of Linux running on a laptop. Recently, a friend of mine connected his laptop that contained a mirror image of his company's intranet site. As the computer team was dealing with a total outage of their intranet server, the site kept running with a simple DNS change. The boss asked him what server he was using to temporarily run the site. He simply pointed down to his laptop. Linux adds a real Nitrous Oxide injection to any laptop.


The NUMBER 1 reason to put Linux on a laptop

Since Linux is now used in every country of the world, and you can start making new friends in places like Andorra, Eritrea, and Kyrgyzstan. Adding Linux on your laptop opens a whole new world of friendships and camaraderie. So, if for nothing else, install Linux on that laptop to gain access to one of the most supportive communities on earth.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

DOST’s Bayanihan Linux

from Manila Times

Software programmers at the Advanced Science and Technology Institute of the Department of Science and Technology are now putting the finishing touches to the latest version of Bayanihan Linux.

By the time of its release later this year, this Open Source package shall have two editions, namely: one tailored for use in government and private offices; another tailored for use in schools by teachers and students. In addition, Wikipedia in an offline form could form part of the package's latter edition.

The Manila Times learned of this development after ASTI personnel in the Quezon City office, directed us to Emmanuel Balinte, a leading member of the Bayanihan Linux team, following our inquiries.

Balinte said, "Bayanihan Linux version 5 is slated to release by early 4th quarter, possibly on the first or second week of October, with the possbility of an offline edition of Wikipedia bundled with the upcoming academic edition."

But he admitted a final decision still had to be made on this matter. Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia whose contents on its Internet portal can be freely created and/or modified by any users who register themselves to the website.

As with Open Source, Wiki content is a new and alternative intellectual property paradigm emerging in the century of Web 2.0. Already, Wikipedia has cast doubts on the survival of traditional encyclopedias—yes, those big books that used to occupy living room shelves.

ASTI first launched Bayanihan Linux in October 2001 for use primarily in government offices. It formed part of a package of measures by the Philippine government to curb rampant software piracy in the country.

As its name implies, Bayanihan Linux is a suite of programs running on the Linux operating system. Included in the bundle is Open Office, a package of word processor, spreadsheet, database, and presentation tools. Open Office is similar to commercial packages widely available in the market and many times sold as pirated copies.

Because it is Open Source, Bayanihan Linux can be freely copied and modified by anyone. This would be in contrast to the case with proprietary software where doing so would be a crime.

Bayanihan Linux can be freely downloaded online at http://www. bayanihan.gov.ph, at the same time, a CD version can be purchased from ASTI for P 120. Similar commercial packages that are legitimate copies would cost a few thousands of pesos more.

Balinte said the edition for government and private offices of Bayanihan Linux's forthcoming edition would be made simple once again. It would include only Open Office, an Internet browser, instant messaging, and an e-mail client program. "These are all that are needed for office use, " Balinte said.

On the other hand, the academic edition would also include games, graphics programs, and multimedia applications added into succeeding versions of Bayanihan Linux. Also to be included are compilers for use in developing new Open Source programs.

Balinte said the issue with Wikipedia inclusion was whether or not this would unduly increase storage requirements in PCs where Bayanihan Linux Version 5 is to be installed.

Later versions of Bayanihan Linux, including Version 4 released last February 2007 have bundled into them WINE, an Open Source program enabling easy interface with Windows applications.

Succeeding versions of Bayanihan Linux have been upgraded to become as user friendly and fun to use as popular commercial software running on Windows. Observers believe this has been done to address perceptions worldwide that Open Source is only for geeks who are very proficient in the use of computers and not for ordinary computer users.

Bayanihan Linux Version 4 can run even on obsolete Pentium 3 PCs. According to Balinte, the same will be the case for Version 5.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Things you miss with GNU/Linux

from FSM

Recently I've noticed an increases in the number of people I know who are migrating from Windows to GNU/Linux. Either my tireless advocacy is grinding them down, word is starting to spread. Perhaps they've actually seen Vista in action and decided to jump ship now. Either way there are some things they are going to miss when they make the leap.

Service packs, upgrades and updates

I had one of the regular weekly IT newspapers drop on my desk today and the headline was screaming about how the release of SP3 for Windows XP might hit sales of Vista. Service packs don't really happen with GNU/Linux distros. Oh sure you can download a new CD for Hardy Heron and upgrade your Gutsy install, but that's not really a service pack, it's a whole OS. To expand on that, you cannot install SP3 onto a clean hard disk and use it, you can with a new Ubuntu/Fedora/Debian/OpenSuSE release. Good distributions have facilities for updating the entire system. So when Debian Etch was released, all I did to upgrade was type apt-get update and then apt-get dist-upgrade on my Debian Sarge system. You can upgrade Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon to Hardy Heron using the update manager (_System→Administration→Update Manager`) Most modern distros, particularly the *buntu ones, will tell you when updates are available in a similar way to Windows update.

Updates are a different case because most decent distros will allow you to update packages very easily. This is not like Windows or Microsoft update though. Package updates on GNU/Linux include any application you've installed from your distros repositories. For most of us this will be any application on our system—not just the ones made by our distro supplier. Also package updates will give you pretty good information about what the update does and why. No more "a security vulnerability has been found, installing this update will fix it" type messages. I'll grant you that a lot of them could do with lessons in being a little more verbose though.

Trial versions

Many of the home Windows users I know tend to just buy a new PC whenever they "need" to upgrade their OS. I have tried to get them to chuck some of their clearly disposable income in my direction but so far it hasn't worked. So when they get their new PC home they start on the wonderful process of turning it back into something they want to use—you know like their old PC. This will involve removing the many trial versions of various packages they don't want that were installed by the OEM in the factory. I once saw a script written by someone to do this on new Dell machines—it was called the de-crapify script but it was short-lived because Dell kept changing the "crap" that came with their PCs.

With GNU/Linux you rarely get this kind of issue. A new install will invariably install its own preferences for standard applications but, believe me, getting rid of them is far easier than un-installing an OEM trial version of Norton Anti-virus! In addition it's rare for a free software application to be a trial-version: the nature of the licencing means you get to try the full version. The only real parallel I could think of was live CDs where you get to try the whole OS before you install it.


If you've used Vista at all you'll definitely miss the User Account Control feature. This is the security "enhancement" which asks you to confirm that you just asked the computer to do something. For example you may want to change your Internet settings by running the Control Panel applet and the UAC will ask you if it was you who just double-clicked the icon before it runs it. With GNU/Linux you do occasionally run across this kind of thing—where you are asked for the root password. Generally it asks you once at the start of the operation (so, you'll miss out on that) and it's only for the stuff you really need it for—that is stuff that could screw up your system. This includes things like running a package manager or configuring hardware.

Proper boundaries

If you are used to the limitations of Windows XP, with its three choices of window widgets—well one choice really but in three very "exciting" colours—you're in for a surprise. Similarly if you are used to your OS finding every printer shared on your network and installing it—without asking, then you are going to be in for another surprise. With GNU/Linux you will find the playpen much larger. You are able to fiddle and tweak to your heart's content, no longer are you stuck to just changing your wallpaper. Also you will find the system does far less automatically without prompting you or asking you first. Plug in a USB printer and it will still be detected and you'll be prompted through a driver wizard (unless of course the driver is already loaded then you just be shown the new printer ready to go). But plug your laptop into somebody else's network temporarily and you won't suddenly have half a dozen "AUTO" printers installed which you are unlikely to use. GNU/Linux systems tend to recognise a proper boundary between you and them.

How to Make People Love Linux

April 30th, 2008 by Shawn Powers

There are two kinds of Linux people in the world, those that will help people fix their Windows spyware problems, and those that will not. I land squarely in the former camp, and I think that it's important for us all to consider doing the same.

First, I have to clarify what I mean by, "Linux Person" -- because there is a difference between a Linux user, and what I coin as a Linux Person. Most people I consider "Linux People" are very well versed in technology. They can usually fix any computer problem they're presented, regardless of operating system, and have an inherent ability to logically solve computer problems in general. We're geeks. We're also knowledgeable enough to realize that Linux is a good thing on many levels. We want Linux to be the operating system of choice, because it makes the most sense. We understand the idea of Free software, and we also understand the advantages of free software (beer vs speech thing). As a group, however, we tend to stink the place up when it comes to evangelism.

How We Make People Hate Linux

  • By telling people how much their Windows computer sucks.
  • Instead of helping a Windows user fix their computer, brag about how Linux doesn't have those problems.
  • By being smug. Admit it. You've been smug.
  • By bragging about how awesome Linux is, and then when someone tries it, and has problems, accuse them of being dumb.
  • By pretending Linux has no shortcomings, and claiming other OSs are worthless.

Here's the deal: Everyone knows Windows has problems. Rubbing it in to Windows users won't make the like you (or your OS) any better. The end result should be that people want to use Linux, not that they're forced to use it because Windows breaks and no one will help them.

How to Make People Want Linux

  • Fix their spyware problem. Share with them that spyware is one of the reasons you don't use Windows.
  • Admit that using Linux has a learning curve, but it's one that you think is worthwhile.
  • Show them Compiz. Microsoft marketed an entire operating system on worthless visual thrills. Compiz is free, and cooler.
  • Give them a LiveCD. Offer to help them. Follow through on the offer.
  • Remember Wubi, it's an easy way to try Linux.
That's it! As with anything new, people will be resistant to change. Make them curious, not offended. Make them excited, not defensive. In the end, Linux is all about choice. I'm a computer user that can use Windows, OSX, Linux, Unix, etc, etc -- and I choose to use Linux as often as possible. If we really want people to love Linux, we must give them the choice to use something else as well.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Iron Man: The science behind the fiction

A couple of things make Iron Man different to your regular comic-book superhero movie.

First, there is the hero himself, Tony Stark, a scientific genius who for once is not the timid or bespectacled geek we are used to in Hollywood, but is charismatic, confident, and a hit with the ladies.

Stark is played by Robert Downey Jr, and we think he deserves to go in any list of the top 10 coolest fictional scientists

But it is the technology that Stark uses to turn himself into Iron Man that gets us going. The tech in the movie is probably more firmly rooted in reality more than you might think – unless, that is, you are a regular New Scientist reader.

We have spotted at least five classes of tech in the movie that we have written about before. So, for those keen to find more about the real science behind the fictional Iron Man, read on…

Superhero skin

Stark is a brilliant engineer who has made billions from building weapons. Kidnapped in Afghanistan, he questions his life, and resolves to put his genius to better use: to protecting rather than destroying. To that end, he builds himself a suit of armour that gives him superhuman powers. Watch a short excerpt from the film showing the suit's capabilities

No such suit exists – yet. The leg sections of a wearable exoskeleton have been built, however.

This contraption does not yet give the wearer added strength, but it does make the backpack they are carrying feel lighter, by transferring its weight to the ground. This can makes a 36-kilogram (79-pound) load feel about 80% lighter. Other teams are building similar suits.

Flying machines

Of course, the coolest thing about Stark's suit is not its strength but its ability to fly. In the film, Stark zooms to Afghanistan, just in the nick of time to stop warlords killing a group of poor villagers.

It couldn't reach Afghanistan, perhaps, but SoloTrek was a flying exoskeleton that was apparently capable of travelling more than 200 kilometres. (The project shut down after a crash in 2002.)

Danger and possible financial ruin hasn't put everyone off. UK inventor and pilot Stuart Ross reckons his Rocketbelt packs enough power to lift him 2500 metres in the air and plans to test fly the latest model this year.

Friendly bots

In the movie, Stark has a friendly robot to help him build his armour. It looks too clever to be true, but in fact it is highly reminiscent of AUR. Built last year by MIT scientists, AUR is a robotic desk lamp that calculates where you are looking and moves its flexible neck to shine light on that spot.

And while Stark's robotic helper doesn't always correctly guess what he wants, as real-world software grows evermore sophisticated, it too is making the same mistakes humans do.

In the great tradition of robots in movies, Stark forms emotional bonds with his. At one point, his assistant Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) catches him in what looks like a compromising position with his robots ("Let's face it, this isn't the worst thing you've walked in on me doing," says Stark).

Will humans and robots ever have relationships like this? It's certainly something NASA is trying to figure out. Should robots be better tools or better teammates?

Owners of the robotic vacuum cleaner Roomba seem to think the latter, treating the machine more like part of the family than a tool.

Cunning computing

Moving from robots to software, when Pepper sees a video clip sent by terrorists who have captured Stark, she uses nifty real-time translation program to understand their demands.

The most fashionable way for software right now to learn how to translate is for it to scan through thousands of previously translated documents. But the approach doesn't always work, with sometimes unfortunate results.

This is just some of the tech used in Iron Man that is rooted in reality. Others include a 3D tactile interface that Stark uses to design his armour, targeting software that homes in on human heads, and the problem of ice formation when flying.

For the scoop on technology that will no doubt feature in the sequel to Iron Man – you know where to look.