5 Ways to Misunderstand FOSS

The following are 5 ways that people misunderstand the concept of Free and Open Source Software.[...]

7 Cool VLC Features Worth Knowing

Think you know all about VLC, I bet you don't until you read this![...]

5 Things Microsoft Does not want you to know about Windows

Are you a happy Windows user? Well see what Redmond would rather you never find out![...]

How to Make your Own Linux Distro

Want to create your own Linux distro? This guide will show you various ways of creating your own customized Linux Distro[...]

Internet Cafes with Linux

Linux is a great operating system for networking. So how is it possible to not see Linux in Internet cafes and LAN houses ??? There are no cyber cafe / LAN house managers in Linux? [...]

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ad blocking extensions - A threat to the future of an open internet.

I am really amused when I see almost all Firefox extension recommendations beginning with AdBlock Plus, with the authors mostly forgetting that there'd be no Firefox without ads in the first place!

I have wondered out aloud in the past whether ad blocking extensions are any threat to Google. I am now convinced however, that not only are ad blocking extensions a threat to Google's continuity but to an open internet as a whole.

To explain my views- which you probably disagree with anyway-lets use Firefox. It is one of the three pillar applications of the open source movement; the rest being Linux and VLC. Everybody knows the Mozilla Foundation which develops Firefox, gets a large chunk of its income from Google. The latter we all know makes money from advertising.

In short, should Google start losing money due to more and more people blocking ads, it simply would mean either the end of Firefox or it would become a commercial application where you'd have to pay to use it.

Apply this simple and basic logic to the zillion other things that makes us all want to be on the internet and what do you have? Please don't get me wrong. I am not for ad spamming readers just because the ads are a necessary component of the internet.

I skip sites where I have to scroll three-quarters down the page to reach anything resembling content and never visit again. However, what I am for is a strategic balance between making ads add value to the experience of users and at the same time making some money from it.

If anything is to go by, Google has shown that you don't necessarily need to have ads that scream in the face of readers in order to make money. I know people who migrated to Gmail simply because the Yahoo! ads were just driving them nuts.

To cap it, the recent brouhaha surrounding Rupert Murdoch and his charges against search engines readily come to mind. I seriously doubt if Rupert would have made so much noise had he succeeded at making money from his content through ads.

Ad blocking extensions would be ideal in a virtual world where we already pay for most of the core resources we use, but as the internet stands now, ad blocking extensions are a serious threat to its future openness and continuity.

Yea I know you've disagreed with me since the first paragraph, let me know where you think I got it wrong.

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By Seraaj Muneer with No comments

Living Firefox for those who have not seen it before.

These two are wild 'Firefoxes' that have been tamed and are now lovely pets in the home. As Firefox is a wonderful browser on your computer, so too is it lovely pet.

Image source: Flickr

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By Seraaj Muneer with No comments

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

5 ways to misunderstand Free and Open Source Software.

The following are 5 ways that people misunderstand the concept of Free and Open Source Software.

1. The software industry can't keep going if programmers don't get paid.
Let's begin with one simple fact: free software programmers do like to get paid, and all need to buy lunch at some time. When we mention free software, we refer to liberty not price. You may actually pay to get free software (or "open source" software), which you can then study, change and copy at will.

How does it work? You can think about it the following way: software is just code, code is only math. Once you view software as useful math, an elaborate language, not like ordinary property, there is no reason to restrict others' use of it.

Just like math (where nobody would claim property on an equation), software requires advanced knowledge to be adapted, improved, applied correctly. This is where programmers generally generate an income: many customers, especially companies, are willing to pay for regular security updates and improvements on software.

Free software companies benefit from a very decentralised development system with a large number of voluntary contributors. The revenues inside the free software industry might be smaller than in the proprietary counterpoint, but are by no means negligible. In the end, individual users generally end up using free software at no cost.

Free software is not about killing incentives for programmers. It's about seeing code as knowledge which should not be hidden from the user. It works with a different business model, in which many companies already do well.

2. Innovation is killed in free software.
The common perception is that if everyone can copy ideas, innovation will be stifled. In fact, freedom is often the key to innovative and successful software.
  • Anyone is allowed and encouraged to work upon it;
  • Many people are willing to participate;
  • There is no need to re-invent everything, ideas can be improved upon directly.

Non-proprietary software stands out in many areas: consider, to name just a few:

  • Applications: Firefox (web browser), Inkscape (vector drawing).
  • Complete systems: Apache (web server), OpenBSD (os), and of course, GNU/Linux.
  • Formats and protocols: HTML (web pages), BitTorrent (file sharing), ODF (office documents).
  • Server applications: Drupal (Content Management System), Wordpress (blog).

3. Software Should Just Work (who cares about source code?)
Anyone should care about whether their software is free.
Imagine purchasing a car whose hood you are forbidden to open. It does not matter whether you know how a car works – the point is that nobody will be able to check the engine. How can you trust your car, if no one is allowed to make sure that it's reliable, that it does not leak, that it's not harmful to the society and environment?

The idea is the same with software – except that code does much more than move cars. Software runs our computers, phones, TVs, media players and more, carrying information and our culture.
Free software is as important as free speech, as a free market. If software is free, users have control and liberty over it.

The good news are: free software also Just Works. And in fact, it often Just Works Better. Pop in a GNU/Linux liveCD in your computer at start-up, to try a full-featured, well-organised system, without installation, so you can judge by yourself.

4. Free software doesn't respect authors' copyrighted and patented software.
To answer this correctly, we must first make a clear distinction between copyright and patents. Copyright is a right granted to the author over his/her creation (for example, the text of a book, or the source code of a program). A patent, on the other hand, is a purchased, registered exclusive control over a process, the application of an idea.

Copyright is very important in free software. It is the very mechanism, central to the GNU General Public License, which ensures that free software remains free, and that authors are credited for their work. Programs are copyrighted, whether they are free or proprietary.

Any proprietary software author can easily check that his copyright is not violated in a free software application, since its source code is readily available. Patents in software, on the other hand, are a very controversial concept. To put it shortly: there is no such thing as a "patented software". By registering for a patent, however, someone can claim ownership over a process. The patent then applies to all software that use this process, whether proprietary or free.

Software patents:
  • Are expensive and are granted only several years after application;
  • Are limited geographically (a patent granted in the US is worthless in Europe);
  • Have long life-times (often 20 years) in a quickly-moving industry;
  • Often applies to entirely trivial processes.
As such, they are seldom used to benefit innovators (and in fact, rarely used by the innovators themselves).
It's safe to say that any medium-size piece of software violates patents, in several countries, whether it's free or not. Depending on the holding company's ability to cover very large legal costs, or to retaliate with other patent threats, royalties and restrictions can be applied over these patents.

5. Free software is like communism.
Supporters of this idea argue that there can be no private ownership with free (or "open source" ) software. Let's answer this with an example.
Let's imagine that you use one application that is free software, at home and within your company. You find a great way to improve it, so now with your modified version, your computer works better and your factories run twice as fast!

This modified version is your own version. You are not required to tell anyone about it, nor must you share any of the profits you made using it. You are simply exerting your freedom to use and modify free software.
What the free software license requires is that if you redistribute this software, then you must keep it free.

Namely, if you sell CDs with your software on them, or start letting people outside your home or company use it, then you must:
  • Either give everyone the same rights you had when you obtained the original software, that is, the freedom to inspect, modify and redistribute your modified version;
  • Or, make the original software and your secret addition to it clearly separate (that is, your addition should contain none of the original work).
So in fact, you have more "ownership" over free software than over proprietary software –where the programmer decides everything you can and can't do with the software.

Free software has nothing to do with a political system. You can run free software on top of proprietary software, just as well as the opposite. The free software license is simply a legal, ethical contract between the programmer and the end-user.
Originally posted on the Get GNU Linux blog.
Re-posted by Sinaisix

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By Seraaj Muneer with 5 comments

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Why no antitrust for Apple?

The European Union this month decided to drop any further antitrust charges against Microsoft on the issue related to the bundling of Internet Explorer with Windows. The case was settled with Microsoft agreeing to give Windows users a choice of 12 other Web browsers, including Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari and Opera during installation. 

This makes me wonder why no one has asked a question like this around Apple's iPhone App Store. The App Store is the only (legal) way to get applications onto the iPhone. Apple has full mandate over what goes into the App Store and what is rejected. For a long time Apple's own Safari browser was the only browser available for the iPhone. Any browser developed by a third-party was immediately rejected. Earlier this year Apple opened up for a few third-party browsers. The requirement is that they must be based on Apple's WebKit engine. This immediately rules out browsers such as Firefox and Opera. Rumor has it that Opera did submit their Opera Mini browser to the App Store, but that it was reject although this rumor has never really been confirmed

Comparing this to Microsoft's browser settlement, I would say Microsoft's position is nothing compared to Apple's. All Microsoft did was to include their own browser with their own software. Users could at any point change to a different browser if they so wished. However, with Apple this is not even possible as Apple has the final say as to what software eventually will be available for their platform. My question is; why is Microsoft in so much trouble and Apple not? Something is very wrong here...

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By Helge with 4 comments

DVD Flick - A free professional DVD authoring tool for Windows.

When it comes to DVD authoring on Windows, Nero wins hands down. But it also comes with serious damages to your pockets. If you want a simple but powerful and yet free DVD authoring tool, DVD Flick is your answer.

Aside from being damage free to your pockets, it is open source and is released under the GPL with the following features

  • Burn near any video file to DVD
  • Support for over 45 file formats
  • Support for over 60 video codecs
  • Support for over 40 audio codecs
  • Easily add a menu
  • Add your own subtitles
  • Easy to use interface
  • Burn your project to disc after encoding
  • Completely free without any adware, spyware, nagware or limitations

For advanced post-processing of images using a powerful scripting language, DVD Flick can read AviSynth scripts. You'd need to install AviSynth separately in order to use its functionality in DVD Flick.  

What I like about this application is that it does not require a very powerful box to run it, is gracious with system resources and does well even on fairly old hardware. Both DVD Flick and its source code are available for free download.

So if you are a video-phyte like myself, then do give DVD Flick a try and do let me know what you think of it.

Posted by Sinaisix

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By Seraaj Muneer with 6 comments

Saturday, December 26, 2009

AssaultCube - An awesome FPS game for Linux.

Based upon the Cube engine, AssaultCube is a fast paced, first-person shooter, (partially) open source, cross platform game. Formerly called ActionCube, this game can be played both online with hundreds of other players from around the world or in a single player mode against computer controlled bots.

There are two different teams in AssaultCube, called the Cubers Liberations Army (CLA) and the Rabid Viper Special Forces (RVSF), with 12 different game levels excluding the single player mode. The game delivers a realistic environment while being very gracious on system resources.

Testing it on a 512MB RAM and 2GHz  Intel Celeron processor Ubuntu powered box, it run great both in the single player mode and online.

AssaultCube retains a movement bug from the original Cube engine that allows players to utilize straferunning to move at a faster speed. This was left intentionally unfixed by the developers because it was considered an enjoyable feature of Cube, similar to bunny hopping in Quake.

Another rather unrealistic feature of the game is the potential for using the recoil of the weapons (which pushes one backwards) to reach and perform moves that were previously impossible. This was also included intentionally, allowing players to achieve faster movement and jump higher. This feature was inherited from Cube, though it was absent in the original release of AssaultCube.

AssaultCube's weapons are all fictional and fill the basic niches of a modern first-person shooter: the assault rifle, sub-machine gun, sniper rifle, pistol, knife, and shotgun.

The installation file is an incredible 40MB and is available for download for Windows, Linux and Mac OSX. For Linux users, just extract the downloaded file and navigate to the directory where you've put it, then issue the assaultcube.sh command.

Posted by Sinaisix

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By Seraaj Muneer with 9 comments

Friday, December 25, 2009

Google, Microsoft and Open Source - The bottom line is supreme.

Both Google and Microsoft love open source in direct proportion to the value it adds to their bottom lines. None of them is genuinely interested in being friends with the open source community. It is only a tool for the two giants.

Everybody knows that open source has greater advantages over closed source, something that even Microsoft knows. What I've really been thinking as I read the Google-Microsoft-open source debate is that none of those two companies is actually interested in open source because of its advantages alone. Google and Microsoft are publicly held companies who account to shareholders at the end of the financial period.

They're interested in maximizing the returns on their shareholders' investments. This simply means that everything they do is in line to achieving the above goal. Thus if being nice and singing the open source gospel will improve the bottom line, trust me, even Microsoft will do so. The Codeplex Foundation by Microsoft is a testimony to this.

Google, it can be argued, is more nice to open source than Microsoft with it's open source Chrome browser, Android mobile OS and its upcoming ChromeOS. But all these are projects that actually help Google achieve its profitability objective. However, if Google really believes that open source wins, its search engine algorithm would have been open long ago. But what do we hear from Mountain View? That making its search engine algorithm open will open the flood gates for spammers.

Which is more secure, a code with thousands of eyes from all the over the world keeping watch over it or one with only a tiny fraction of that in just one place to watch over it? Opening the search engine algorithm will not be in the interest of Google's bottom line so to hell with open source in this regard. Neither Google nor Microsoft is in anyway going to be genuine friends with the open source community.

What I think most open source enthusiasts need to note is that both companies only see open source as a means to an end. To them, open source is only a friend as long as it is expedient to them. I would really love to see people viewing those companies as what they really are: commercial entities that are out to make the most profits. None of them is out there for the open source community whatsoever.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 2 comments

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wishing you a merry Christmas and a happy new year.

It's been a long and challenging year, but finally it is drawing to a close. Tomorrow is Christmas day and we wish to take this opportunity to wish you, our wonderful readers and everyone a very merry Xmas and a happy, prosperous and glorious new year.

Our gratitude to you cannot be expressed in words, the only ones we can think of being thank you for being with us in the last six months since this blog was started. We value your loyalty to us and we promise to bring you even greater and exciting content in the coming year. May you all be richly blessed and have an unshakable resolve to pursue your resolutions for the coming year.

Once again, we wish you a very merry Xmas and a happy new year.

Truly and always yours
Sinaisix and Helge.

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By Seraaj Muneer with No comments

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

[IMAGE] How Google would have looked 50 years ago.

Have you ever wondered how Google would have looked like were it around 50 years ago?

Very funny and weird looking. Interesting how far technology has come today. I cannot imagine having to wait  4-6 weeks to have an answer to the simple query "how old is the US."
Image Courtesy: Fury.com

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By Seraaj Muneer with No comments

OpenCola - An Open Source alternative to Coca Cola

OpenCola is a very great and fun way to explain the concept of the Open Source software development model to newbies. The Coca Cola formula is one of the closely guarded secrets in the world. This simply means there can be only one Coca Cola.

OpenCola however, has the recipe and formula licensed under the GNU General Public License, available to anyone who wants to use it. Anyone can make it and improve upon the recipe as long as they also release it under the same license.

OpenCola, meant to be a real life demonstration of the fundamental differences between closed and open source software development models, was initially started by the Canadian based company with the same name (been sold since 2003) but has since come to gain an audience of its own. There are hundreds of guides all over the internet about how to prepare the drink.

Using the most popular soft drink in the world is a great way to demonstrate the differences between open source and closed source softwares especially for end users who hardly see the difference. It is also good to see that open source is applicable not only to software but also to edibles :-). 

I am looking forward to preparing my own 'Coca Cola' and will let you know the outcome. It may end up being the drink I serve to visitors and friends :-). In case you have also tried OpenCola before, please do let me know how it tastes or which recipe you used and I would be most grateful.

Posted by Sinaisix

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By Seraaj Muneer with 2 comments

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Cl1p.net - Your personalized internet clipboard.

Using your local computer clipboard is a very easy and convenient way to transfer data from one application to the other. However, there come times when you need to transfer tiny bits of information from one computer to the other. Not in every case would you want to use a flash drive or any other removable storage media right? In steps Cl1p.net.

Cl1p.net is a simple service where you paste your "text, links, etc" on your personalized internet clipboard and then view it on any other computer through your browser. Here's how it works
  1. Enter a URL that starts with http://cl1p.net/customize (Where customize is  your choice of words)
  2. Paste in anything you want
  3. Open the url you entered in step 1 using any browser and tada tada, you have your data. 
It's that simple and the best part is that it's free to use. You don't need to sign up to anything whatsoever. Enter your customized url and have your personal internet clipboard that can be accessed with all browsers and OS.

It's also good for collaboration and sending info to friends without the need for sending a mail. Go on, give it a try and let me know what you think.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 1 comment

Monday, December 21, 2009

What Linu{s,x} is really all about

For quite a while I was somewhat puzzled by Linus Torvalds' seemingly lack of interest for user space, free software and the social and economical opportunities for his life's work; the Linux kernel. However, eventually I believe I came to an understanding... and the conclusion is good news indeed!

Linus is a software engineer. His primary (and only) objective for the Linux kernel is to produce the most generic, high-performing and stable kernel possible. Open Source simply happens, in Linus' opinion and experience, to be the right way to achieve this goal. In no other way could Linus get the very best kernel hackers (>1000 so far) around the globe to test, add features and submit bugfixes to what is eventually the most critical and complicated part of any computer operating system.

If Linus believed a better kernel would result from a proprietary commercial development method, I'm 100% sure he would have chosen this route. 

The following quote is by Linus and taken from "The Torvalds Transcript: Why I 'Absolutely Love' GPL Version 2".

"Me, I just don't care about proprietary software. It's not "evil" or "immoral," it just doesn't matter. I think that Open Source can do better, and I'm willing to put my money where my mouth is by working on Open Source, but it's not a crusade -- it's just a superior way of working together and generating code.

It's superior because it's a lot more fun and because it makes cooperation much easier (no silly NDA's or artificial barriers to innovation like in a proprietary setting), and I think Open Source is the right thing to do the same way I believe science is better than alchemy. Like science, Open Source allows people to build on a solid base of previous knowledge, without some silly hiding. But I don't think you need to think that alchemy is "evil." It's just pointless because you can obviously never do as well in a closed environment as you can with open scientific methods."

The good news? Open Source works! It's not just about altruism, freedom and sharing. It is actually a proven and highly successful software development model even for those not interested in a "Freeism culture" or particularly concerned about the sharing and freedom of information.

Written by Helge Reikeras

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By Helge with 1 comment

iPhone - Linux synchronization.

This article on Ghacks.net caught my eyes and should be of interest to users of Apple's iGadgets and toys.

It’s taken me long enough, but finally a solution for syncing both an iPhone and an iTouch with Linux is possible. What is best about this method, is that it does NOT require a jailbroken iPhone. That’s right, you’ll be able to sync your iPhone, via USB, and add all sorts of good music to it. Now therein lies the catch – all you will be able to sync is Music. No calendar or contacts (yet). But for those who just need to get their music onto their iDevices, you are in luck.

The process is a bit involved, but not too difficult. I will walk you through the steps, some of which are command based, and some are not. And without further adieu, let’s get to the installation and configuration. NOTE: As with anything, use caution and ALWAYS back up your data. It is never guaranteed that you won’t lose data. You’ve been warned. ;-)
Continue reading on Ghacks.net.

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By Seraaj Muneer with No comments

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Goodbye EtherPad - Hello PiratePad.

Edit: After this post was fed to the @ghabuntu account on Twitter, @ietherpad replied to tell us of their new service. I checked it out and it is a carbon copy of EtherPad save being hosted on a different server. So now we have two great alternatives to EtherPad, iEtherpad and PiratePad.

Not long ago, Google purchased AppJet, the company behind EtherPad, the real time document collaboration platform similar to Google Wave. In the process, it was announced that the EtherPad site and service would be shut down by March of next year.

This did not go down well with users, and thus forced Google to release the EtherPad code as Open Source so that those who want can run EtherPad on their own servers. No so long after that, PiratePad was unveiled. PiratePad is similar in all respects to EtherPad save for the name and is hosted by Piratpartiet.

For all of you who still love EtherPad, the source code is now available for download. In case you want a ready made use of it too, you can log on to PiratePad. Thanks to Open Source, the EtherPad user experience will continue to live on even after its originators have ceased to support it.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 2 comments

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Microsoft Patent Application - An attempt at shaming obese gamers.

Logging on...

"Our records show that you are an overweight high-school educated 36-year old male in Akron, Ohio with below-average IQ, part-time employment at a Wal-Mart with an annual take-home of $16k who is a single Baptist Republican."

Creating avatar... done.

"Congratulations! Explore our virtual world with your new avatar -- an overweight, high-school educated 36-year old male with below-average IQ."

Your avatar will spawn in: Virtual Akron Ohio
You start with the following items: Bible, Pat Robertson DVD, "Going Rogue" by Sarah Palin
You start with: 0 gold
You earn: 7 gold per hour
For doing the following task: Checking groceries at the Virtual Akron Wal-Mart.

That is a post in a thread on Slashdot about a new Microsoft Patent application that could be very unpleasant, especially for those with obese medical conditions. It seeks to create the avatar of a gamer based on the medical record of that person. So like the guy said in the thread, if you are fat or obese (no offense meant please), you could have a gaming avatar that is similar to you physically, making everyone know that  yes you indeed are obese in real life.

The Avatar Individualized by Physical Characteristic as it's referred to, is aimed at obese people. According to the patent application, "An undesirable body weight could be reflected in an overweight or underweight appearance for the avatar. Only requisite health levels are allowed to compete in a certain competition level."

Linking one's gaming avatar to one's physique, explains Microsoft, will produce healthy and virtuous behaviors in individuals (and we all believe Google is Skynet?!!!)

I am not a gamer, but I know people play games in order to sometimes escape this brick and mortar world and for brief periods pretend to be who they are not. But if now they actually are going to be chased to the virtual world and shamed, then I think Microsoft seriously deserves the Skynet title.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 6 comments

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Facebook Privacy noise - Now bordering on paranoia

Facebook recently made some changes to their privacy settings in a bid to give people  greater control over their personal data. I was prompted to update my privacy settings earlier this week when I logged on. I tweaked it to my liking and just hit the save button.

However, it seems not everyone is happy with the new Facebook privacy measure. There have been lots of complaints about how Facebook needs to do more about the privacy of its users and so on. Please do correct me if I am wrong, but don't you think the privacy noise that has now reached a crescendo
is virtually bordering on paranoia?

First of all from what I understand, Facebook is a network that is meant to help friends connect with each other. I have reconnected with friends from as far back as high school through Facebook. I doubt if I could do that with my everything hidden or anything of that sort.

Then second, the question that I've been asking myself with regards to those who are peeved over Facebook privacy is that if you don't want whatever you have there to be seen, why put it online in the first place? I have long held the belief that there is nothing like privacy on the internet. Once your computer is hooked up to the other 1billion or so computers, then there is nothing like privacy. Whatever you put up there can and is in fact seen by someone.

So if you don't want something to be seen, why bother to put it online? Why not just keep it on your computer or with you? From the search engine privacy setting options, it is spelled out clearly that search engines can only access your profile info if you've chosen to make them public or viewable by Everyone. All the other privacy categories also have similar conditions for public access to your profile info.

I stand corrected but seriously, I think the so called privacy concern groups are now becoming too paranoid and are beginning to inject that paranoia into some users. I don't mind Google accessing my Facebook public profile, you may mind and so you can shut Google off. Unless I am not getting something, I don't think anyone has any serious case against Facebook in terms of privacy. You have been given total control of your data such that I don't think there's any reason to complain.

Lastly, if you think your privacy is not respected by Facebook, why not shun it? There are other social networking sites out there that you can join. To me Facebook is cool and as long as I get to choose how much info I want to share with my friends, friends of friends, and everyone, then there is no cause for concern. If I feel Facebook does not respect my privacy, I'd just close my account. What of you???

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By Seraaj Muneer with No comments

3 great sites for GIMP tutorials.

The GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) is one of the most powerful free graphics applications around. It is a great alternative to the legendary Photoshop from Adobe and other closed source graphics suite. However, one of the greatest challenges facing the GIMP is a lack of clear cut tutorials especially for beginners.

There are some really great GIMP text books out there but most of them in my view, are targeted more to those familiar with it than newbies. The following 3 sites  have great user submitted GIMP tutorials that are sure to meet the needs of both beginners and advanced users.

This site is neatly laid out for easy navigation through the tutorials. You can favorite a tutorial, subscribe to their RSS to be informed of new tutorials and also share any tutorial you like with friends on the various social networks.

Similar to Gimpology, this site also features an impressive list of user submitted tutorials from users of GIMP.

This site features video tutorials for those who love to learn through audio-visuals.

These are three of my personal GIMP picks for GIMP tutorials especially for beginners. If you know of any, just let me know and I will add them.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 3 comments

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Mark Shuttleworth steps down as Ubuntu CEO- Hands over baton to Jane Silber.

From March of 2010 when all the changes would have been completed, Mark Shuttleworth, the charismatic icon whose vision and drive helped bring Linux to the desktop of more people than any other person, will cease to be the CEO of Canonical, the commercial backer of Ubuntu.

In a blog post, Mark states that "I’ll focus my Canonical energy on product design, partnerships and customers. Those are the areas that I enjoy most and also the areas where I can best shape the impact we have on open source and the technology market. I’m able to do this because Jane Silber, who has been COO at Canonical virtually from the beginning, will take on the job of CEO."

This means that Mark Shuttleworth is still going to be very active in Canonical except that he'll be focusing his energy on where he thinks he's good at. In a Q & A style blog post asking whether this will mark a change of direction for the company  and Ubuntu, Mark states " no, it doesn’t mark a change of direction.  Jane and I have worked closely together over the last 5 years, and while in her new role as CEO she will have the authority to make decisions which may differ from those I would make, we are aligned on our strategy and direction. 

"This change does mark our commitment to continually optimise our operations and offerings, and as Canonical matures as an organisation I believe that Jane brings the skills and experience that we need in the CEO role."

If you are wondering who Jane Silber is, she, in her own words "wears, and has worn, many hats at Canonical. I am currently Chief Operating Officer and Director of Online Services. I joined Canonical in 2004, and since then have been closely involved in the establishment and management of most Canonical functions including Ubuntu One, OEM Services, Corporate Services, Marketing, Finance, Legal and others. 

"I have a technical background and started my career as a software developer, and have since held engineering and senior management positions at companies as diverse as a health and wellness promotion start up, a large technology and manufacturing company in Japan, and the US defence contractor General Dynamics. I am American, and came to the UK in 2002 to complete an MBA at Oxford. I learned about Canonical and Mark’s vision for Ubuntu while deciding whether to remain in England or return to the US, and haven’t looked back!"

On a lighter note, this serves to confirm my suspicion that Mark Shuttleworth, if anything, rather discriminates against men as opposed to the beliefs of some feminists that he's sexist. Also, it could be my imagination running wild but I can foresee Google somehow having a significant stake in Ubuntu sometime in the future.

In a related incident, the first alpha of Ubuntu Lucid Lynx is available for testing. This release is meant solely for advanced users and developers for testing. It is not meant for everyday use, neither is it suitable for those who cannot work their way around serious bugs. If you fall into the above categories, you can download yourself an ISO file and start off with the testing.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 4 comments

Detailed map of the war between the Empire of Microsoft and all others.

In case you are not aware, there has always been a long and protracted war going on between the Empire of Microsoft on the one hand and all other software vendors not on the Redmond payroll on the other. Considering recent developments from Mountain View, it is increasingly looking to me as if those on the 'other hand' are now being led by Google.

Looking at this detailed map of the war, I am very impressed at the strategy adopted- FUD being the most notable- by the Empire of Microsoft to counter all of its 'enemies.' Despite the sheer number of all those surrounding the Empire, it still is a strong and formidable force to reckon with. I wonder if Linux stands a chance in this war :-).

Again studying the map closely, it is clear that the Empire of Microsoft has not  played the Windows 7 card yet. What a big difference that card can make. Seriously, take a look at the map and see for yourself the kind of opponent your favorite software faces and see how you can help.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 2 comments

Help save VLC for MacOS X from extinction.

"We are looking for eager and capable MacOS X developers to join the VLC team.

"If you believe you are up to the job please present yourself on the developer's mailing list, so that we know who you are and what your skill set is. If you don't have the skill set yourself, but know of a friend who does, please pass on the proposition to them.

"While VLC has become a very popular media player on MacOS X, the lack of developers on this side means we are likely to see MacOS X specific bugs and improvements being missed out on. We don't want to see this happen."

That is a post in a thread on the VLC forum. Things do not look too bright for VLC on MacOS due to a lack of developers as noted by the reply to that post:

"There are now effectively zero active developers for MacOS.

"As an immediate consequence, the 64-bits releases for MacOS has already been put on hold.
I don't need to mention the stale status of the MacOS user interface.

"If it goes on like this, MacOS support may be discontinued as of VLC 1.1.0. There is nobody to make the necessary updates to the MacOS support code, for instance to support the new VLC video output architecture.

"Taking into account the learning curve to VLC development, I think it is fair to say that the situation is now critical."

Then there is this post which takes a look at how VLC for MacOS X is on the verge of demise due to a lack of developers. There are several ways you can help remedy this situation with donation of your programming knowledge being the most needed right now. Help in whatever way you can to save one of the greatest media players of all time from extinction on MacOS X.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A comprehensive index of Bash CLI commands for beginners.

In as much as I like to tell newbies and prospective Linux users how similar it is to Windows in terms of GUI usage, there still comes a time when it is very necessary or expedient to use the command line interface otherwise know as the terminal.

This index of terminal commands for Bash or Bourne-Again Shell covers all the commands that you'd ever need to feel comfortable at the shell. If you are a Linux noob or are thinking of starting out with it, you'd do yourself a great favor by looking through this rich index. Hopefully after you finish with it, you would not dread the terminal again.

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Microsoft says 'sorry' to Drupal community?

This article was written by Matt Assay and was posted on CNet News.

Microsoft has launched an advertising campaign against Drupal, an open-source Web publishing system, to promote its WebsiteSpark program. Some will see this as a devious plot on Microsoft's part to crush open source beneath its monopolistic feet.

But here's a more rational explanation: Microsoft competes with Drupal. This is what competitors do: compete.

Here's what Microsoft is accused of doing:

    The other day I was checking Listology.com for the Drupal website list. But what attracted me more on the page was the small Google adsense block with the title "Forget Drupal and get:"...

    Oops, here is an advertisement against drupal on a very page that lists all drupal websites. But the biggest surprise was that the advertisement was from none other than Microsoft. Clicking the advertisement takes you directly to the page of Microsoft's new product - Webspark, on Microsoft.com.

The horror! The horror!

Microsoft's WebsiteSpark program is designed to make it easy for Web developers to work with Microsoft technologies like .Net. It's hard to find anything nefarious in this, but some see Microsoft's alleged attempts to steer Drupal developers to WebsiteSpark as evidence that Microsoft is more worried about Drupal than it is Google, since it's using Google AdWords to place the ads.

As for Microsoft, no sooner had the community reared its incensed head than Microsoft's Mark Brown dashed out an apology:

    I want to offer my sincerest apology for this. I have contacted Google and we are working on having this ad pulled as soon as possible. In addition we are working internally to ensure this doesn't happen again.

Really? For what? Having a business? For competing in the same way the Drupal community does?

This is silly. Microsoft is simply using the advertising channel open to it on the Listology Web site, trying to nudge developers its way. Acquia, the company set up by Drupal's founder to commercialize Drupal adoption, is doing the same thing.

Both are simply advertising where they hope to have a significant return on advertising dollars spent. It's called business. It's not personal.

It's the very same reason that Acquia advertises on Joomla.org, a competing open-source Web publishing system, as Joomla leader Elin Waring notes.

Take off the hair shirt, Microsoft. It doesn't become you.

After all, Microsoft is also promoting Drupal in Google searches.

A Jekyll and Hyde moment for Microsoft? Not really. The Web Platform team, of which Mark Brown is part, undoubtedly wants Drupal developers building on Windows.

But guess what? The WebsiteSpark team wants such developers building on Microsoft's Web technologies. It's a big company with different teams and different priorities.

In other words, it's nothing about which to be concerned. In fact, I'd worry more if Microsoft were doing the kumbaya thing with every open-source project, forgetting its fiduciary duty to compete vigorously...including against open-source competitors.

There is no free lunch with open source and there is no free pass for open source. We're grown-up boys and girls. We can compete. As for you, Microsoft, stop pandering to the hurt feelings of open-source developers who should know better.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

[HUMOR] The Truth about Microsoft Windows menus.

I actually did not know that ex US president George W. Bush used to seek help from the MS Office assistant. Nether did I know that the MS Office assistant is also a great lawyer when it comes to writing suicide letters. You'd not believe how fascinated I am to discover the real meanings behind MS Windows menu items and choices.

I never thought that Redmond would actually hide the real Windows menu dialogs from us and mask them with good looking and nice sounding language. I really feel sad for all Windows users who think what they are seeing is the real thing. Poor you folks. Check out the real menu dialogs for yourselves and fire off some letters to Ballmer right away.

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WordPress for iPhone and iPod - Mobile blogging made easy.

Are you a WordPress and iPhone user? Did you know there is WordPress for the iPhone? This version of WordPress in your hands lets you write posts, upload photos, edit pages, and manage comments on your blog from your iPhone or iPod touch.

It supports both WordPress the free hosting and WordPress self-hosting. You can take a photo with your iPhone camera and easily insert it into blog posts. You can also preview your posts before you publish them, manage multiple blogs, make draft posts and works on all models of the iPhone and iPod.

The latest version, WordPress for iPhone 2.1 boasts new features and some bug fixes. So if you are a WordPress user and have an iPhone or iPod, why not get a copy of your blogging platform right in your hands to take your readers with you everywhere you go? 

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Facebook Filter for Firefox - Cut out the junk from friends.

Unless you just descended from space, you probably are on Facebook just like me with a hundred or more friends. However, not all of your friends' activities interest you nor do you want to see in your newsfeed. I for instance do not play Farmville or any of those fun games on Facebook and thus not really interested in how much potatoes a friend harvests or how many cows she milked.

If you are like me, then the Firefox addon called Facebook Filter is your answer. Facebook Filter lets you control which types of posts appear in your Facebook News Feed. You can choose to show or hide the following types of News Feed posts:

  • “Is now friends with”
  • “Became a fan of”
  • “Joined a group”
  • “Was tagged in an album”
  • Events (announcing events and attending them)
  • Applications (all except those you choose to exclude).
So if you want to make some sense of the most popular social network in the world today but at the same time cut out the junk you don't like, then Facebook Filter for Firefox is a great choice of an addon.

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FoxyTunes - Enjoy your music and control your media player from your browser.

Do you like to listen and enjoy your music collection while working from your browser? Would like to control your music player right from your browser without the need to keep switching between windows? FoxyTunes then is your answer. FoxyTunes lets you control almost any media player and find lyrics, covers, videos, bios and much more with a click right from your browser.

It works with Firefox and IE and supports over 30 popular media players. It is also integrated with FoxyTunes Planet, which is a personalized music aggregator that aggregates music videos, photos, news, bios and much more from the best music sites all over the Web into one convenient place.FoxyTunes also has signature which allows you to sign your emails and blog posts with the name of the current track you are listening to.

Among FoxyTunes' features are
  •  Automatically finds and displays album covers
  •  Music Web searches - lyrics, images, info, video and much more
  •  FoxyTunes Mini desktop widget with its own tabbed mini browser
  •  Shows recently played song history
  •  Stream podcasts directly from the Web to your media player
  •  Subscribe to podcasts (only with supporting players)
  •  Stream media files (mp3's, m3u's etc.) directly from the Web to your media player
FoxyTunes also allows you to post your currently playing songs to Twitter, Facebook, Last.fm, Y! Messenger, Y! Status, and Skype with a single click. There are skins to also make FoxyTunes more personal and is translated into over 15 languages. There are detailed installation instructions for Firefox and Internet Explorer users.

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Funambol - An open source syncing client for the iPhone.

Have you ever wondered weather there are open source applications for the iPhone? Yes there are open source applications for the iPhone and one of such applications is Funambol. Funambol is an open source synchronization client that makes it easy for iPhone users to migrate their contacts from older phones to the iPhone 3G over-the air.

It also enables users of the iPhone 3G (as well as original iPhones and iPod Touches that have been upgraded to 2.0) to wirelessly back up their contacts for free, and to easily keep their contacts in sync with popular webmail systems, and email clients such as Outlook and Thunderbird.

"One of the first things that iPhone 3G users want is contacts on their phone and they don't want to type them in," says Fabrizio Capobianco, Funambol CEO. "The Funambol plug-in makes it really easy to migrate contacts from an older phone, webmail system or email client. Plus it freely backs up contacts to a server without a cable. It is easy to see why the Funambol plug-in was just named as one of the top 20 third party iPhone apps."

All you need to use Funambol on your iPhone is to register for a free account on the myFunambol portal. You can find Funambol readily available on iTunes and can also be downloaded  for free from the Apple App Store, from its Productivity section.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 2 comments

Friday, December 11, 2009

Some cool Google Earth images worth seeing.

Thanks to advancements in technology, discovering things across the world is now relatively simple. One of such advancements is Google Earth. Through it I've been able to travel virtually across the world from the comfort of my seat and even done some serious deep sea diving.

People have discovered lots of things through Google earth, most of which are really fascinating. These 15  Google Earth discoveries are a must see. My favorite among all those images is the Santa Claus one that looks so funny. Take a look at those images and let me know what you think.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 1 comment

Thursday, December 10, 2009

An interesting look at the Linux CLI-GUI debate once more.

Being a non native English speaker means sometimes the only way I can really articulate my thoughts to you is to search for an article that was written by someone who read my mind. Thus this article on About.com on the forever old CLI vrs GUI debate is a perfect piece about my views on this issue.

I believe both have a role to play in helping an end user make the most of their system. I don't however, believe a person's inability to use the CLI actually makes them dumb. Neither do I believe that you'd be diminishing your status by using point and click to get things done for the sheer reason that you're a CLI guru. If Linux is actually going to go anywhere in the future, the sometimes fundamental stance people take on the issue of CLI vrs GUI ought to be discouraged.

Whether you agree or not, there will always be people that cannot and will not learn how to use the CLI, should those people be left out of using Linux? I am an unflinching supporter and user of Ubuntu because it is really a trail blazer when it comes to the issue of accommodating the needs of both geeks and non-geeks alike, though some hardcore geeks still shun Ubuntu like the plague because it makes room for non-geeks.

Linux is up against Windows and to a lesser extent Mac OSX. The more intuitive the various Linux distros become, the better their chances of survival against the well established competition. All of us want to see more people use Linux, but where are those people going to come from? Of course from the Windows platform. If the marriage between the CLI and GUI is harmonious on Windows, then Linux would be better off following suite.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 2 comments

Brizzly - Experience social media through a twitter dressed bear.

What happens when you come across a bear in an empty twitter bird's skin? No idea? Lol :-). What happens is called Brizzly. Brizzly is a very cool service that allows you to explore both your Facebook and Twitter accounts from a sleek interface that's almost the twin of the formidable Google Reader.

Brizzly is the brain child of Thing Labs, a firm started by former Googler Jason Shellon who is known for his work on Blogger and Google Reader. Among Brizzly's features are

  • Support for Twitter Lists
  • Threading of direct message conversations
  • Mute a user to stop their updates from showing in your stream.
  • Keeps track of where you left off in your stream
  • The ability to create groups from people you follow
  • Insights into why certain topics are trending
  • Multiple Twitter account management
  • Save multiple tweet drafts
  • Better picture handling
  • Support for Facebook
  • Keyboard shortcuts
  • Save searches
What actually made me fall in love immediately with Brizzly is that it is completely web based. No download of anything and no need to worry about platform. The interface is also very similar to that of Google Reader which actually makes it easy to get used to it. Brizzly does not show shortened links like bit.ly but rather expands it to show the original link so that you know where you are being led by that link.

Also when someone posts a link to an image or video on popular sites like Twitpic and Youtube, Brizzly actually shows you the picture or video inline rather than making you visit a separate page to view it (that's really cool you know :-)). The ability to retweet, favorite or star an update is also not left out.

Uploading and sharing of pictures is also fun on Brizzly. Click the camera icon below the update box, select a photo from your computer (jpg, jpeg, png or gif up to 10 MB), and upload. A link to the photo will be automatically pasted into the update box. Once you write some accompanying text (or not), click update to publish the tweet as usual. Brizzly users will see your photo inline, of course, and everyone else will see a link to your photo.

So now enough of my sweet talking. Head over to Brizzly right this moment and give it a try. If you end up not liking it, I actually will buy you a cup of coffee.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Sushi, huh? - Deliciously update your Linux box offline.

Sushi only refers to the name of a popular Japanese cuisine, true or false? Wrong if you chose true. Sushi, huh?  is the name (I wonder why it was named that way) of a portable application that downloads a Linux OS update on one computer with internet connection then installs it on a Linux box without an internet connection.

For example, I use it to download Ubuntu updates on my Windows computer at the office, then transfer those updates to a flash drive for installation on my Ubuntu box at home. It actually is a very useful utility especially if your only choice of internet connection is a pay as you go type or has a bandwidth cap.

Shushi, huh? supports Ubuntu, Fedora, Debian, Mandriva and OpenSuse. To run Sushi, huh? on Linux or Windows, you'd need Python 2.4+ (Linux) and a  browser with JavaScript support. Here are detailed instructions as to how to run Sushi, huh? on either platforms. I must warn you however, that the website of the project really could do with some overhauling and that you'd be better off turning down the brightness on your monitor when on the site.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 2 comments

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Ad blocking extensions - Any threat to Google revenue?

Google Chrome the browser extension is now live though in beta with some 300 or so extensions available. This follows in the heels of the beta release of Chrome the browser for Mac OSX 10.5 or later and Linux. One of the notable extensions that people will actually be using is ad blocking extensions. What I am actually wondering is how Google's revenue is going to be impacted (if at all) by ad blocking extensions like Adsweep and adThwart.

It really looks ironic to have a Google browser that has some extension which does not show ads, considering the fact that Google is the biggest ad company in the world. I actually have no doubt in my mind that Google already looses quite a lot of money thanks to the legendary Ad Block Plus on Firefox. I am also wondering what kind of relationship Google is going to have with ad blocking extension developers for the Chrome browser.

Knowing how popular ad blocking extensions are on Firefox, will Google's revenue be impacted when such popularity is repeated with the Chrome extensions? I know Google is quite bigger than these hypothetical threats to it revenue, but then what happens when it becomes mainstream knowledge that there are extensions that can actually block ads from your browser? What happens to its revenue when using an ad blocking extension becomes almost a must for users?

It is too early to tell and Google is a company that can hardly be predicted. However, I would be grateful if you also share your views with me on whether you think ad blocking extensions, especially on its own browser, are a threat to the revenue of big G. I know Chrome has less than fifty million users, but hey, that could change with the advent of the much hyped Google ChromeOS.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 2 comments

Filebox - Redefining online storage with free 488GB space.

Would you like to have up 488GB of free online storage, the ability to store any kind of file and share them with your friends and get paid for doing so? If you answered yes then say hello to Filebox. Filebox is a service that will give  you online storage and backup space of up to 488GB for free. The Filebox uploader makes the task of uploading even very large files easy and enjoyable.

In addition to the massive free storage space, you can also organize your uploaded files using the Filebox File Manager. The File Manager allows you to easily rename names, create directories, and move files to those directories. It also allows you to create music playlists, photo slideshows, and video galleries. These features allow you to share complete photo or video sets with one easy link.

Sharing is also easy and fun with Filebox. Every file you upload has a unique share address that you can easily give to friends, family and coworkers to share your files with them. You can also add the share address to your blog, site or add it to your emails. Filebox also allows you to share multiple photos in photo slideshows, multiple movies in movie galleries, and complete music playlists with the use of only one share link.

Now the part you've been waiting for. Should you choose to upgrade to the premium membership where you get unlimited storage space, you will also get paid for sharing your files with others. According to Filebox, "[w]e want to make Filebox the most popular file storage site on the Internet, so we encourage you to share as many of your files with as many of your friends as possible. Premium Members are paid a per click commission on all their shares from qualified countries, as well as paid a flat fee on premium sales that occur from the files that they share."

So there you have it. Starting as an underdog in the online storage market is no easy task and Filebox is leaving no stone unturned in being noticed including actually paying you for using their service. So if you want much greater online storage space and an easy way to share you files with others, you definitely need to give Filebox a try.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 5 comments

Monday, December 7, 2009

Google announces real-time search and Bing is back to the drawing board.

Microsoft Bing is back to the drawing board to device new schemes to thwart the big Google. Not long ago, Bing announced it had reached an agreement with Twitter and Facebook to include updates from both services in its search results. We all thought that was a smart move considering the fact that search is now moving to real time thanks to Facebook, Twitter and other similar services.

However, if you thought Bing's move was preemptive against Google, then you are in for a surprise. Google has just announced "...features that bring your search results to life with a dynamic stream of real-time content from across the web.

"Now, immediately after conducting a search, you can see live updates from people on popular sites like Twitter and FriendFeed, as well as headlines from news and blog posts published just seconds before. When they are relevant, we'll rank these latest results to show the freshest information right on the search results page." Is there a better definition for real-time than what Google is telling us?

If you thought Bing had scored great points by signing an agreement with Twitter and Facebook, again you are in for a surprise. Google has gone farther. They have signed Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, Jaiku, FriendFeed and Identi.ca (phew!) for content indexing. According to Big G, the new features will be available in English in the next few days. "You can [however], try them out today by visiting Google Trends and clicking on a "hot topic," which in most cases will bring you to a search results page with the new real-time feature."

Hold it, that's not all. The voice search capabilities on Android now recognizes the Japanese language. In addition, your location can now be used to suggest to you "what's nearby," Google Goggles for searching objects using images rather than words on via your camera phone. The Googleplex no doubt, must have been real busy today :-). So there you have.

Next time when you search on Google, the publicly available updates of the over 350 million Facebook users, the close to 100 million Twitter users and all the other services mentioned above will be searched to give a result that reflects 'what is happening now!' as is now the Twitter mantra. This is getting interesting and we can only wait to see what Bing comes up with later against this heavily heavyweight.

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Tux Typing for kids- A Tuxy alternative to Mavis Beacon.

Mavis Beacon without a doubt, is the most popular typing package in the world. However, a less known but better alternative to Mavis Beacon is Tux Typing. This cross platform open source typing application is designed to be intuitive, fun and educative with a special emphasis on children. It features the ever funny Tux-the official mascot of Linux- as the tutor.

Penguins are know to like fish, thus in the lessons of the application, you help Tux eat falling fishes by typing on your keyboard the corresponding letters on the fishes. You type something wrong and Tuxy will miss the fish to the ground. You can also write your own lessons as part of the teaching package. Tux Typing was designed with kids in mind but has increasingly difficult levels that even experienced typists will find challenging.

It is available for download for all platforms. Ubuntu users should just search for Tux Typing in the Ubuntu Software Center or issue sudo apt-get install tuxtype at the terminal. It is also available in the repos of most of the distros out there.

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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Image- The timeline and genealogy of Linux distros.

Edit- Here is the latest version of that image up to 2009.
Everybody knows there are hundreds of Linux distros in the wild. All of them have their base users and commercial backers (some run solely on donations). If you have ever wondered where all the various distros originated from, how many there and their timeline, then this image should be of interest to you. Check it out and see for yourself where your favorite Linux distro came from, who's its ancestor and its progeny. Enjoy.

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