Wake Up and Smell The Concrete – You’re Using Open-Source

11 07 2007

I would like to point out that no matter which operating system you may be using, we all have reaped the benefits of open-source. Believe it or not, there is a little bit of free software goodness in all of us:

Windows Users

  • I’d say browsing the internet is a must these days. Did you know that the TCP/IP stack in Windows is based off of the original code that was licensed by BSD?
  • Firefox is clearly gaining new ground on Internet Explorer’s turf. The Mozilla Foundation is all about the open-source baby.

Mac users

  • The entire OS X operating system is based off of the Darwin kernel which, surprise surprise, is a UNIX variant.
  • KHTML is the engine that renders web-pages in Safari. Yup, another gift given to you by the free software foundation.
  • Have you ever printed out a report on your Mac? You just used CUPS which is the Common UNIX Printing Service.
  • Apple has plans to ditch Microsoft and go completely with Open Office in the near future. It just feels better to be using open standards no?

Linux Users

  • Do you even have to ask? The entire operating system and included applications are all open-source.

The Web

  • Whenever you visit a website like Digg the content is automatically updated and generated for your viewing pleasure. Chances are its running on the LAMP stack – Linux + Apache + MySQL + PHP, check check check and check for open-source.
  • Google is my best friend. They also run Linux clusters so you get your search results in under a second.
  • Developers pay attention, Java is the most popular enterprise platform, and Sun just opened up its source for our hacking pleasure.
  • Whenever you blog on WordPress, or Drupal just know it was built using open source tools, and licensed under the GNU.
  • When I want information I go to Wikipedia. Wikipedia runs off of the open-source software MediaWiki which is also under the GNU.

Electrical Devices

  • Intel based computer’s have open source drivers. This means compatibility for everyone.
  • Set-top boxes like TiVo are using open source software to get you goodness on the big screen. MPlayer anyone?

As you can see open-source is all around us. The points I have mentioned are nowhere near the extent and true caliber of what open source delivers to us on a daily basis. Please enlighten me with your thoughts.

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Wine Doors – Package Management For Wine Apps

10 07 2007

Wine lets you run Windows apps in Linux by having you manually install them as if you were actually in Windows. Who says you can’t install these apps Linux style? Wine Doors is a package manager for Wine applications. Thats right, you can grab your favorite Windows applications from a repository and install them exactly the way you would in Ubuntu. Wine Doors has a pretty snazzy list of software ranging from Dreamweaver 8 to Call of Duty 2 to satisfy both professionals and gamers.

Download:

http://www.wine-doors.org/releases/wine-doors_0.1-1_all.deb





Keeping Ubuntu Tidy Like Your Whities

8 07 2007

Installing and removing programs can clutter up your system. Sometimes certain dependency packages aren’t needed after a program has been uninstalled – so trash it. I have a few handy tricks up my sleeve so you can reclaim some of your disk space back:

Autoremove

apt-get isn’t like your two your old cousin – it can clean up after itself. If you want to get rid of packages that are no longer referenced by your system, its as simple as “sudo apt-get autoremove” in the terminal

Clean

Retrieved or downloaded packages can still remain locally on your system like bad residue. “sudo apt-get clean” will clear the repository completely, leaving only the lock that is used to connect to your repo’s.

deborphan

Sometimes apt-get’s built in cleanup functionality doesn’t cut it. deborphan finds “orphaned” packages on your system. It determines which packages have no other packages depending on their installation, and shows you a list of these packages. It is most useful when finding libraries, but it can be used on packages in all sections. deborphan is in the universe so grab it by typing “sudo apt-get install deborphan.” It should show up under System > Administration > Remove orphaned packages after the install.





Features Ubuntu is Lacking

7 07 2007

In my last post I mentioned why I chose Ubuntu over Windows. I stand by my comments, however I would like to shed some light where Ubuntu and Linux need a little work:

1. Not All Hardware is Supported

Though this is not Ubuntu’s fault, there are still hardware that does not work. This is due to the fact that some manufacturers don’t write drivers for Linux. I personally have not had any hardware problems myself, I am running a Dell 700m laptop with many different accessories such as a Western Digital external hard-drive. a Motorola bluetooth dongle, and headset which all work under Linux hassle free. Some home printers do not have drivers for Linux which can make printing a chore. There are ways to get around this, but the general user just wants everything to work out of the box.

I have good news however. Linux is gaining marketshare and with Dell selling Ubuntu amongst its retail channels will give Ubuntu more recognition which will result in manufacturers supporting the community with Linux drivers. There is also a community effort to reverse engineer drivers for new hardware which will help as well. Intel provides open-source drivers for all of their hardware making Lintel (Linux + Intel) a viable solution.

2. Lack of Professional Software

Photoshop is the industry standard graphics editing solution. Currently it is only available for Windows and OS X – leaving Ubuntu in the dust for the professional artist. Yes there are ways to get Photoshop running with Wine, or use Gimpshop (somewhat of a Photoshop clone) but again the average user does not want to have to mess with this. As I’ve stated before, with Linux popularity on the rise we may soon see more commercial development. Google and IBM are some of the biggest contributors to open-source.

3. Where Are The Games?

Linux gets no love from game developers. Microsoft has developers using Direct X which of course is proprietary to Windows. Linux is able to do almost anything you want it to do, given you perform some hacks and tweaks here and there. I’ve seen popular games like World of Warcraft run in a Linux environment – but the common motif here is concern for the average user.

4. Breakfast

Ubuntu can’t make your eggs sunny side up in the morning, but neither can any other operating system. Expecting a system to do anything and everything is a dream come true, but not always practical. Though this is no excuse for Ubuntu to sit back and relax. On a positive note, it is able to perform many tasks to make everyday life easier. If Ubuntu can jump through these hurdles – ladies and gentlemen we have a damn near perfect operating system.

*Notice how the features Ubuntu/Linux lacks are not really features in the software itself – it is the lack of 3rd party support from other manufacturers and vendors.





Some Reasons Why I Choose Ubuntu over Windows

6 07 2007

I grew up with Microsoft operating systems. I’ve been through MS-DOS 5.0, Win 3.1, Windows 95, 98, Millenium Edition, NT 4.0, 2000, and XP. Notice how I stopped there. After over a decade of Windows, I decided to give Ubuntu a try and now have no reason to install Vista. Here are ten reasons why I chose Ubuntu:

1. Performance

I think its pretty ridiculous to require at least 1GB of RAM, a dedicated graphics card (Aero), and additional USB thumb drives (ReadyBoast) to be able to run an operating system. Vista I’m looking at you. Ubuntu simply runs faster and does not demand that much hardware to do so – thats the beauty of the Linux kernel.

2. Applications out of the Box

The Windows’ application set is pretty weak right after a fresh install. You get a calculator, notepad and other archaic remnants of software developed in 1995 when Windows 95 was released. Ubuntu comes with Open Office, The Gimp (image editor), GAIM (instant messaging), and RhythymBox (music organizer) just to name a few.

3. Package Manager

When I do need to install software, I can search for whatever I want from the Universal Repository in Ubuntu. I can install or remove batches of programs in a single run. Not only this, but all my software updates automatically because Ubuntu (or Linux in general) uses the concepts of packages. In Windows, installing removing, and updating programs is painful and a lengthy process. A package manager makes things quick and smooth – not to mention software in the universal repository has been tested by the community to not break your system. You can’t garauntee that in Windows when you’re downloading executables from anywhere on the net.

4. Security

I don’t have to worry about viruses or spyware. Yes this sounds like an Apple fanboy thing to say, but its true. Linux is a derivative of UNIX which was built on the foundation of robustness and security. I’m not going to get into the details as to why it is more secure unless you want an operating systems lecture – but not having to run additional scanning software I get my beloved CPU cycles back, giving me better performance =D.

5. A Real Terminal

Use bash, the default terminal in Ubuntu for five minutes and you’ll see just how powerful it is compared to the Command Prompt. In fact the command prompt can’t really do much except for launch applications without having to install perl or other GNU libraries on top of it. With Bash I can write scripts gallore to extend the functionality of Ubuntu and make my life easier.

5. Restarting Your Computer Sucks Part 1

Ubuntu hardly ever requires a restart, but in the case you do need to restart its usually not the kernel that froze but your window manager. In Ubuntu I can restart my window manager without restarting my entire machine by pressing CTRL+ALT+BACKSPACE. This is about a three second process. What happens when your screen freezes in Windows? You warm up a bowl of Easy Mac while you wait while Windows restarts.

6. Restarting Your Computer Sucks Part 2

Updates are a good thing, they patch up holes in software and make things run smoother. Whats bad is having to restart your computer when you have to make an update, ahem – Windows. In Ubuntu you can receive thousands of updates without having to restart your computer, in fact you can even download a new kernel and still be running the previous one. This is what software engineers dub “robustness.”

7. Six Month Release Cycle

Ubuntu is released with better features every 6 months. I would be pretty disappointed to have waited 5 years for Vista to see that its merely a dumbed down version of XP with a skirt.

8. No Pirating Necessary

With Ubuntu I don’t have to pirate my operating system. Its free. So is the included software. Even if you don’t pirate Windows you still feel the backlash from Microsoft because you are forced to download spyware such as Microsoft Genuine Advantage which verifies that your software is legit. Even if you’re the good guy you’re stuck paying over $200 for an operating system with spyware installed by default.

9. Choice

The Linux philosophy is about freedom. I have a choice between which window manager I want to use, I can extend any part of my operating system, I can tweak it to perform and look the way I want. Ubuntu is a reflection of me. In Windows you’re pretty much stuck with one interface, and no individuality. Maybe this was acceptable for older folks, but for those of us who are Generation Y – self expression are our strengths.

10. Community

Ubuntu stands for humanity to others. The Ubuntu community can help me answer any questions I have or solve any problems within one day. Thats a very quick response time, and the amount of knowledge in the forums, wiki’s, and blogosphere is astounding. I learn more and more every day. Granted, there are lots of Windows help on the internet, but nowhere is it as close to being streamlined as the Ubuntu team.





Laptop Purchasing Tips

5 07 2007

I seem to be the go to guy when my friends are purchasing laptops. Here are some of the criteria I look for when recommending a new purchase:

1. Intel Inside

Call me a fanboy, but I have facts to backup why Intel Centrino laptops outperform, outlast, and out-bang-for-your-buck AMD-based laptops. With the release of the new Santa Rosa platform, Intel does no wrong. If you aren’t into bleeding edge technology, make sure you buy an Intel Centrino Duo laptop, so you get the benefits of dual-core technology still.

2. Memory

With Microsoft still holding on to an 80%+ market share with Windows, chances are you’re laptop is going to come preloaded with Vista. I expect consumers to realize that you will need AT LEAST 1GB of RAM to just get by. Two gigs would be preferable, but not necessary for the average user. If you really want to get the most performance out of your hardware, let me introduce you to Ubuntu.

3. Hard-drive

If you’re going to use your laptop as a desktop replacement, make sure you beef up on the hard-drive. 80GB or more should hold over your music and photos. If you really want to speed things up, make sure your disk is 7200rpm – meaning it spins faster so data is read a whole lot quicker.

4. Keep it Light

Laptops are made to be mobile. If you’re carrying it around from place to place do your back a favor and get a laptop thats under four pounds.

5. Screens

17 inches? Widescreen? TFT? Reflective? What? Display technology is getting better every year and there are many different types of screens you can choose from. My personal preference are 12 inch reflective widescreens because they are small and bright. Some may argue that they’re difficult to use outside, which is true – in that case you will need a TFT screen which has a matte surface blocking reflections, but also limiting your brightness. In today’s DVD age, viewing movies in widescreen brightness seems to be the way to go.

6. Buy the Extended Battery

Being plugged in all the time defeats the purpose of a laptop which is designed to be portable. It might cost you extra in the beginning, but an extended battery is worth being able to go all day without recharging, or watching that extra movie on the plane.

7. Buy the Extended Warranty

Laptops are difficult to fix once they break because they aren’t built to be taken apart like a desktop PC. If you want to maximize your investment, get a warranty if your screen ever goes out, or if a component shorts out you’ll be covered.


You get what you pay for. Computers aren’t a commodity just yet, so paying a little extra for design quality, and better parts will make all of the difference. The performance boast from a laptop equipped with 512MB of RAM as opposed to 1GB is a noticeable one. Most users are going to use their laptop for a few years, so investing a little more in the beginning can go a long way.





Get the iPhone’s Features Without an iPhone

1 07 2007

Apple made headlines this weekend with its launch of the iPhone. I applaud Apple for pioneering a new design and user-interface, however feature-wise the iPhone is similar to a Motorola RAZR that debuted two years ago. For those of you who want to get the software on an iPhone without purchasing an iPhone, check out this list:

1. Maps

You don’t need Apple’s Google Maps software to get driving directions to a nearby pizza parlor. If you have a Java enabled phone (almost all phone’s nowadays do) check out my review of Google Maps for Mobiles. It has the same features, minus the multi-touch. Point your web-browser to http://www.google.com/gmm for the goods.

2. YouTube

YouTube is exclusive to the Apple iPhone? I think not. Point your mobile web-browser to http://m.youtube.com and watch your favorite videos straight from your phone. YouTube dishes out the video content in a special format (3GP) that your phone will be able to stream over the net.

3. Calendar

The good guys at Google have done it again, point your mobile web-browser to http://mobile.google.com/calendar and organize your life. If you have a Windows Mobile device check out my article on GooSync to wirelessly synchronize GCal with the built in Outlook calendar app.

4. Photos

Most camera phones have some built-in software to let you view them, so I won’t go into any additional photo software. But if you want to upload and view photos online in an album point your mobile web-browser to http://picasaweb.google.com/m.

5. Safari

Apple claims that Safari is the best mobile web-browser because it displays the web the way it should be. Check out my review on Opera Mini 4 which has the exact same features. Opera Mini 4 runs on any Java enabled phone. Visit http://www.operamini.com/download/ and grab the goodness.

6. Mail

Apple says they offer free POP mail access for all iPhone users. This is nice, and the ability to check your e-mail is a must for many people, but you can do this with GMail on your mobile phone. Point your web-browser to http://gmail.com/app
and download the Java program that lets you check your e-mail. You don’t use Google but another type of POP e-mail account? Great – Google lets you POP other e-mail accounts as well so no sweat, you’re covered.

7. Weather

I guess this is a little bit of a stretch, but if you need your phone to tell you what the weather is outside you need to get out more. If you really want to get the weather, you can always text Google (466453) with the query “weather <insert zipcode or city here>” and Google will text you back with the forecast results for the day. Its not as intuitive as I would like it to be, but hey it gets the job done.

If you don’t want to take the SMS route, take a visit to http://m.yahoo.com, Yahoo’s mobile webpage, and configure your start page to include a weather forecast.

7. Voicemail

Visual Voicemail is a great feature to have, but again is not exclusive to an iPhone. The engineers are CallWave have a product that lets you visually choose your voicemails, but it doesn’t stop there, you can even receive voicemails as text messages. This may not be free in the future however, but in the words of Robert Heinlein, “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.”

8. Stocks

Yahoo’s mobile start page is very informative. Visit http://m.yahoo.com and setup the quotes that you want to track. You can also take the SMS route that Google provides by texting 466453 and entering “stock <insert symbol here>.”

As a consumer I look past marketing hype, I hope these tips help you get the most out of today’s technology.