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Sunday, January 31, 2010

5 reasons why the Ubuntu-Yahoo deal is a win-win affair.

I also had my doubts initially when I heard Ubuntu Lucid would have Yahoo as the default search provider in Firefox. However, upon a second look coupled with some reflection on the entire Linux desktop market, I have come to believe that the deal is a win-win situation for both Canonical and we the Ubuntu users. Here's why

Brand recognition
The fact that Yahoo! is going to be the default search provider simply means they offered a better deal over that of Google. What this actually means is that the Ubuntu brand is now more valuable than before. This is likely to go a long way to secure other lucrative contracts for Canonical. It also means that Ubuntu is actually becoming a brand over which the tech giants try to outbid each other in order to do business with. That is a good sign of success.

One Ubuntu
This deal, coupled with other revenue generating deals being worked on by Canonical simply means we are not going to have to deal with different shades of Ubuntu so as to generate revenue for Canonical. In other words, the more revenue generated by Ubuntu through other means, the less likely are we going to see an Ubuntu community and professional editions.

The Google factor
I also think the Yahoo! deal is good because it will eventually help wean some people off Google. I know you may vehemently disagree with me on this point, because when it comes to search, Google is supreme. But I would want a situation where people are actually made aware of other choices besides Google. Let's not forget also about the not so open way in which Google handles our private virtual habits as compared to Yahoo!

Choice
To me, the best part about all this is how easy you can easily change back to Google if you want. It actually tells me that Canonical despite the fact that they need to raise revenue, still has the Ubuntu user experience firmly in sight. So if you don't like Yahoo! for one reason or the other, you can easily switch back to Google with a few mouse clicks.

Fairness on the part of Canonical
There have been complaints that Canonical should have consulted the community before entering into such a deal. Well you know I beg to differ. I expect users to respect Canonical's right to seek revenue channels in direct proportion to how much we want them to keep our user experience in mind. 

The fact that Ubuntu is mostly a community driven project does not preclude Canonical from taking advantage of lucrative business opportunities. A reader on Tuxmachines put is succinctly when he said

"Why would they consult that bunch of intrepid freeloaders?[Quite harsh word there] This was a MONEY DEAL and had nothing to do with the bunch of users that thought nothing of ordering 10,50,100 copies of free CD's (95% of which ended up as coasters or frisbees)."

Canonical has been fair with us by telling us way before the final release about this not so small change. Like I said in the 4th point, if you do not want Yahoo!, big G is just a few mouse clicks away. I believe by telling us in advance, again Canonical has show that they are sticking to their fundamental principles of fairness to the general user community of Ubuntu.

Ubuntu is a great distro, but what everyone must know is that the people that bring us this distro also have bread that needs to be buttered. They have every right to seize any business opportunity that they believe will increase their revenue and help sustain the Ubuntu brand.

Sure there should be some concern about the Ubuntu-Yahoo! deal in the light of the fact that Bing is also lurking at the back of the equation, but I think we should worry about that when the time comes. For now, the deal is in my view a win-win situation for both Canonical and we the Ubuntu users. What do you think?

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

DRM- A greater cause of piracy?

Ara Technica, citing a Freedom to Tinker blog post, has an interesting article about a research that-albeit some caveats- makes some really important points about the relationship between the level of restriction in an intellectual property and the level to which it is shared illegally, chiefly over Bittorrent.

To sum things up, the research discovered that digital media like movies and music that contained DRM were highly pirated than their non-DRMd counterparts. To quote Ars Technica

"So, people largely use P2P to pirate stuff—big surprise. It's the types of files and in what ratios that show us why people share media illegally, however. Music was once the only reason to use P2P networks, and the record industry long feared that going DRM-free would only aid in a massive explosion of illegal file sharing.

"That has obviously not been the case—P2P users can now share their DRM-free MP3s easier than ever, and yet this category is one of the smallest of all files shared. And it makes sense: why would you bother going to BitTorrent, which may have misnamed and poorly encoded MP3s, when you could easily spend less than a dollar, getting exactly what you want from a place that you trust?"

And it sure does make sense, don't you think? You buy a music tune full of DRM, the medium with which you use it for one reason or the other is no more then keeping that track becomes a criminal act. Well then I would resort to P2P where the file will be mine forever without any draconian restrictions whatsoever.

I am of the view that intellectual property be given the due respect by all and sundry. However,  the owners of intellectual property  should not use their positions to actually seek to imprison their consumers. DRM is among the greatest threat to technology and innovation in the 21st century. If anything is to go by, the recent iPad from Apple is a testimony to the level to which consumers are gradually being turned into robotic cash machines for big businesses.

I would not like to have my work 'stolen' by anyone whatsoever, neither would I also want to use that excuse to restrict almost all the rights of my consumers. A medium between the two extremes is the only solution to preventing the rampant theft of intellectual property. DRM does not work and will never will. Do you think DRM is the solution to stopping the piracy scourge? Let's discuss this issue further.

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Denmark to switch to Open Document Format.

Following hotly in the heels of the German and French governments, Denmark is the latest country to punch another hole into the balloon of Microsoft. Their parliament has voted to switch to the use of Open Document Format from April next year.

"After four years of work, the parties have agreed that the State from April next year [should] use the open format, ODF when exchanging documents state as text documents or spreadsheets."

This is a welcome news to proponents of open formats like myself because I think the use of Microsoft's formats only help to cement their stranglehold on the market. It should also serve to boost the campaign for the use of open formats and applications among other European member states.

The OpenDocument Format (ODF) is an XML-based file format for representing electronic documents such as spreadsheets, charts, presentations and word processing documents. It is independent of any one application and thus can be viewed and edited using any of the numerous word processing suites out there.

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Friday, January 29, 2010

Who wants some quick and cool cash?

"Today, we are introducing an experimental new incentive for external researchers to participate. We will be rewarding select interesting and original vulnerabilities reported to us by the security research community. For existing contributors to Chromium security — who would likely continue to contribute regardless — this may be seen as a token of our appreciation.

"In addition, we are hoping that the introduction of this program will encourage new individuals to participate in Chromium security. The more people involved in scrutinizing Chromium's code and behavior, the more secure our millions of users will be."

To cut a long story short, Google is going to pay you anything from $500 to $1337 for the discovery of security vulnerabilities in either Google Chrome the browser or Chromium the code base. What is the objective I hear you ask? Well Google says they want to see more and more people get involved in the Chromium project and also to make the browser a lot safer.

The natural reason I can think of for this move is to get Chrome the browser well prepped for the uphill task of its metamorphoses into an OS. What would be more embarrassing than a ChromeOS full of security bugs and leaks?

I also think it is a welcome news for those really great developers and programmers out there that spend time bringing those security vulnerabilities to light. This move, Google acknowledges is influenced by the Mozilla 
Security Bug Bounty Program. So if you want some cool cash, then keep an eye out for some security flaws in Google Chrome and you could have a great time.

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The iPad from Apple? No thanks!

I woke up this morning seriously disoriented. It actually took me almost half a minute to realize I was still living on planet Earth and that I still had blood flowing in me. Why you ask?

Because after the massive publicity that the iPad (sorry ladies, blame Apple for the name) received, I thought there would be no life after the hour and half long launch event by Steve Jobs yesterday. To say I was overwhelmingly disappointed will be an understatement. Not a single thing about the chopping board-like gizmo impressed me.

Thinking I was alone in my opinion, I hoped over to Twitter to see what others were saying and lo, iTampon was rather a trending topic instead of the iPad. As to why the Apple development team chose such a dumb name, I cannot tell. But for me, I do not long for the iPad (and Apple to a larger extent) for the following reasons.

Solution looking for a problem
I don't know to which use you would put the iTampon, but I cannot find any need of mine that it would satisfy. I already carry my two devices with me that help me get things done; my phone and my lappy. There is nothing else I need.  I have never even been a fan of netbooks that are actually multitasking, let alone a sleek looking chopping board that is nice only for doing nothing. The latest gizmo as far as I know is just another Apple solution looking for a problem.

DRM
The iPad is simply defective by both design and form. Forget the hassle of trying to type on a *virtual* keyboard, I would never want to spend a dime on a machine that cannot multitask in this day and age. I also would not want a slab full of restricted software. Apple is a company that has grown to be a beacon of restriction for both developers and users alike. I would not want anything to do with another prison shrink wrapped in a shinny slab.

$499? No thanks!
Well that money might mean snacks to you, but it sure means a great deal to me. I cannot for the life of me spend that money on a beautiful looking piece of slab that cannot even do most things I can do with my simple phone. $499 is way too much money for something as trivial as the iTampon. Mr. Jobs however, will actually make lots of money given his track record. He's the man that got the world to go crazy for a simple MP3 player.

iPad= lack of innovation
It does not multitask, no Flash, full of DRM, same old iPhone OS and what can you add? I am yet to see a simple bit of innovation in the latest Apple toy. It is only a means to get more people to spend even more money on even more Apple digital products. Simple as that.

Apple sure has got the shiniest and good looking hardware and software out there, but none of those entices me to use their products. I want innovation, consumer freedom, usefulness and value for money, not trivialities and eye popping products at monstrous prices. Ok. Enough about my rants over #Apple, time to hear what you think of them and the latest iPad, oops, I mean iTampon.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

5 reasons why Ubuntu Lucid Lynx may be a game changing release.

It is not the most profitable of those in its class, neither is it the oldest nor the classiest. However, it is the most popular and that popularity is set to increase come this April with the release of the LTS edition of Ubuntu Linux.

All things being equal, the release of Ubuntu Lucid Lynx is likely to be a game changer in its own right and help increase the awareness among more people about the existence of alternatives to Windows. The following five factors will definitely play a crucial role in this regard.

Music Store
There is an active development of a music store similar to Apple's iTunes that is set to debut with the release in April. If there is one notable thing lacking in Ubuntu, it is the apparent existence of a music store that will complement the music library of its users. I don't know what form that will take, but I know it is going to answer on of the most asked for features of the distro.

User manual
There is currently a survey running seeking to see what aspects of Ubuntu users would like to have covered in a user manual that will be debuting in April with the release. What I foresee is a situation where people can actually download an Ubuntu ISO, burn it to a CD and get the OS running all with the help of an official manual. Imagine how glad people will be to actually have an official manual in hand when they try Ubuntu for the first time.

Boot time
I personally have not tried any of the alpha releases yet, but from the various reviews that I have seen, it is clear Ubuntu Lucid is on its way to achieving its 10 second boot time goal. Google Chrome received lots of buzz because Google says it will boot and be ready for use in seconds; that is only a browser based OS. Now imagine having a full fledged one booting in 10 seconds. I can only see the smiles on the faces of users, both old and new.

User input
Linux distros are mostly community driven by their user communities, but I am very firm in my belief that the input of users to the upcoming release is quite rare. From the unofficial poll asking which proprietary apps to include to the above mentioned survey on the content of the manual, one thing stands out- Lucid Lynx is going to be the release of the masses.

OEMs
ZaReason, System76 and Dell are among the the OEMs that have Ubuntu preloaded boxes. Also given the fact that the next release is an LTS, I can foresee an increase in the marketing activity of these manufacturers to try to penetrate new markets. That will only go a long way to help increase the ever increasing popularity of the distro.

For the above reasons and more, the next release of Ubuntu come April 29 is likely set to be a game changer in its own right. Sure Windows 7 is not doing bad, but Lucid Lynx is going to give it a run for all the billions pumped into it. What do you think? Is Lucid the game changer it's going to be business as usual? Would you even try it out?


If you liked this piece, please consider giving it a thumbs up on Digg to share it with a wider audience. Thanks

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Internet Explorer - Simply dump it!

I'm actually wondering which has received more publicity this January; Internet Explorer or the expected announcement of the so called iSlate by Steve Jobs later today.

But whatever the case, I think for all the brouhaha surrounding IE, the only solution that ought to be prescribed is to tell people in plain, uncoded language to simply dump it in favor of any of the other browsers out there.

IE is not the best thing that happened since sliced bread. Neither is it the only browser out there. There are a dozen others that will get the job done without giving you headaches. Whether you've had a problem with it or not, please get yourself a different browser.

Sure you can keep it on your computer as a legacy from the 1999 era, but do not use it for your everyday stuff (unless you are a programmer and need it for testing purposes). There is Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera, Flock and a host of others. Get any of them. And tell your friends and family who are still using IE to also stop living in 1999 and get a better, safer browser.


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Yahoo to be default search engine in Firefox for Ubuntu Lucid Lynx.

According to this post on the Ubuntu mailing lists, come Ubuntu Lucid Lynx this April, the default search engine for Firefox will no longer be Google but rather Yahoo!. Also, the default Firefox home page will also change to that of the default search engine, though you can easily change the search engine and home page to your favorite with just a few clicks.

"I am writing to apprise you of two small but important changes coming to Firefox in Lucid.  I have asked the desktop team to start preparing these changes to make them available in Lucid as soon as reasonably possible. Probably on the order of weeks," wrote Rick Spencer, the leader of Canonical's desktop team.

The reason for such a deal as explained by Mr. Spencer is "because Canonical has negotiated a revenue sharing deal with Yahoo! and this revenue will help Canonical to provide developers and resources to continue the open development of Ubuntu and the Ubuntu Platform. This change will help provide these resources as well as continuing to respect our user's default search across Firefox."

I find this deal quite interesting though welcome. We all know Google used to be the default search for Firefox in Ubuntu, now switching to Yahoo! simply means they offered a much fatter deal. This is good news since it will go a long way to ensure that we are not going to see any Ubuntu free and pro editions as a means to raise revenue for continued development.

I have also heard that Yahoo's privacy policies are much better than that of Google. What I find actually interesting is that sometime last year, Yahoo! reached a deal with Microsoft to have Bing power Yahoo! searches. Now we are going to see Yahoo! being the default search provider for Ubuntu. This will really be interesting. Only time will tell how this turns out.


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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Ubuntu One cloud storage service coming to Windows.

According to this Pycon Atlanta 2010 project page, the Ubuntu One developers are working on porting the Ubuntu One cloud storage service to Windows. This is expected to be open for discussion during the annual Python Conference to be held from the 17-25 of Feb 2010.

The project, which is currently open to participants and volunteers, aims at bringing the personal cloud space that debuted with Ubuntu Karmic last October to Windows. This I believe, will also help prevent a lock-in of the service to the OS (Ubuntu) and open it up to a much wider market. Not to talk about the potential revenue that could be realized by Canonical from the service.

The annual Python Conference is the largest annual gathering for the community using and developing the open-source Python programming language. It is broken into 3 separate parts comprising Tutorial Days, Conference Days and Development Sprints.

This year's event is slated for Feb 17-25 and will be held at Hyatt Regency Atlanta in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. You can follow the latest updates of PyCon 2010 on Twitter at anytime.

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Gary Kildal - The man who could have become Bill Gates.

This story on Free Enterprise Land really fascinated me and thought it cool to share with you. The site has some other interesting stories there that I'd recommend you visit. Read on.

Who was Gary Kildall? Could he have been richer than Bill Gates? He was the one that wrote the software that made the personal computer industry possible. But, he turned down a deal that would have changed everything because he was satisfied. He died in a brawl.

Gary Kildall was an computer instructor at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate school in Monterey, California. In 1974 he saw an ad for an Intel processor and called the company to offer his services. He was hired to write programming tools for the new Intel 4004 microprocessor. When Intel introduced the 8008 and 8080 models he wrote a high-level language for them that made the processor infinitely more useful. You could give English-like commands to the chip instead of talking in 0s and 1s.

When Intel developed the world's first floppy disk system, the company decided not to sell it to the public. Kildall asked if he could sell a version. He invented the first DOS (disk operating system) and called it CP/M or control program for microprocessors. It could keep track of peripherals like a monitor or a disk drive.

His friends said he wrote it by himself, effortlessly, which showed his tremendous aptitude for writing computer code. They also wondered why anybody would possibly want an operating system for a single user. Kildall wasn't in it for the money, but for the joy of being able to do it.

By the late 1970s, CP/M was running on over 500,000 computers. It powered most of the computers of the time with the exception of the Apple which used not-Intel chips and had it's own operating system. This included Xerox, Kaypro, Kentucky Fried Computers, Commodore, Morrow.

Intel could have bought CP/M for $20,000 but turned it down.

Along with his wife, Dorothy, Kildall started Intergalactic Digital Research, Inc.. Intergalactic was later dropped. They operated DRI out of an old Victorian home in Pacific Grove, California. Dorothy ran the business and Gary wrote the code.

At the time they started there was barely a market, but soon they were selling thousands and making millions.

Gary Kildall liked the money and soon loaded up on the toys he could now afford- airplanes, speedboats, motorcycles, a stretch limo, a Corvette, A Rolls Royce, Formula One racecars, 2 Lamborghini Coutachs, and a Ford pick-up.

In 1980, IBM was secretly developing its own personal computer. IBM did not believe the market was going to be that big so they decided to build it out of off-the-shelf parts and license an existing operating system. CP/M was the market standard, so it was the obvious choice.

For some reason, IBM mistakenly thought that CP/M was owned by Microsoft. Microsoft was then just a small company, but the biggest provider of computer languages for microcomputers. Microsoft didn't sell operating systems.

When IBM called, Bill Gates told them that CP/M wasn't his and directed them to Gary Kildall. At one time Microsoft and Gary Kildall talked about merging their businessses, but never did. They tried to stay out of each other's specialty.

The next day, the suits from IBM arrived in Pacific Grove for a meeting.

When they arrived, Gary Kildall wasn't there.

The legend goes that "Gary went flying"- too busy to talk to one of the biggest companies on earth.

The truth was that he had an appointment with one of his biggest customers and had flown that morning to see them. He didn't think the meeting with IBM was going to be that big of a deal so he left his wife, Dorothy, to speak to them, but he returned before the meeting was over.

Before the meeting started, IBM handed Dorothy their standard one-sided nondisclosure agreement. The one-sided document stated that the meeting taking place had never taken place and if it was proven that it had taken place anything IBM told DRI was confidential and anything DRI told IBM was not. Dorothy refused to sign it and called her lawyer. While waiting for the lawyer, Gary showed up.

Gary didn't see the nondisclosure agreement as a big dealï: "so what if a big plodding company like IBM wanted to get into microcomputers" he thought. He would get a couple of hundred thousand dollars of business and that would be it. So Gary signed the form.

The deal killer with IBM was that they wanted to buy CP/M for a flat $200,000 plus a $10 royalty and they wanted to change the name to PC-DOS.

Gary thought-"why should he do that" He was earning millions, CP/M had strong brand name recognition and almost every PC except Apple was already using his operating system. Why would he want to give that up? Gary Kildall said, NO.

IBM went back to Bill Gates to see if he could get Kildall to change his mind. But, Bill Gates game plan shifted. He had given Gary Kildall first shot. He wasn't going to give him a second. Kildall was a better programmer. Gates was a better businessman and saw the opportunity a lot clearer than Gary Kildall did.

Bill Gates greatest skill is to give people what they want. Bill Gates didn't have an operating system to sell but told IBM he did. Paul Allen, Microsoft's co-founder knew of where he could get an operating system just across town.

Tim Paterson owner of Seattle Computer Products had written Q-DOS a close imitation of CP/M. Allen bought it from him for $50,000. He never mentioned that he was going to resell it to IBM.

Microsoft renamed it MS-DOS, then a made a deal with IBM. IBM would pay them royalties for each copy and Microsoft would retain the ownership rights to the operating system. This meant they could license MS-DOS to anyone they wanted.

IBM PCs became the industry standard. But, they priced their machines too high which opened the door for IBM compatible computers or clones and Microsoft sold the operating system to every single one of them.

Gary Kildall was not happy when he found out about the Microsoft-IBM deal. He considered it theft when he learned how similar MS-DOS was to CP/M. He was too easy going to sue and even if he did, copyright laws would have made it hard for him to win. A copyright only protects you from an outright copy, not an imitation.

The threat of litigation caused IBM to give Kildall a deal. IBM would offer CP/M as an option along with MS-DOS. That was fine with him. He believed the PC industry had room for two operating systems. Competition was good, he thought. Just like there was room for two colas and three automakers.

IBM never told him they would let customers choose between MS-DOS at $40 and CP/M at $240. Of course, who would pay 6 times more for the same thing?

Unlike Bill Gates, Gary Kildall refused to enter the markets for word processing and spreadsheets because he thought it would be unethical to sell both the operating system and the other software.

Gary Kildall became a bitter man as the years went by. He was haunted by the IBM deal. It grated on him that Bill Gates was being given the credit for his invention. He was constantly asked if he really "went flying" the day that IBM came to call.

He became distracted. He and Dorothy divorced. Gary Kildall spent most of his time traveling.

He sold his company DRI to Novell for $120 million in 1991. He hosted a television show for PBS about computers and wrote a 250 page tell all book that was never published. He acknowledged that the book would probably be construed as sour grapes. His son is afraid to have the book published to this day for fear of being sued by Bill Gates.

Shortly before midnight July 8, 1994, Kildall walked into a bar wearing his Harley-Davidson vest. The bar was filled with a group of rough looking bikers. No one is sure what happened, but somehow he hit his head on something while falling backwards. Was he in a fight? Drunk? Not even Kildall could remember.

He walked out of the bar on his own. In two separate visits to the hospital that weekend no one found the bloodclot between his skull and brain. Three days later he was dead at age 52.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

10 important Open Source distribution criteria.

Open source doesn't just mean access to the source code. The distribution terms of open-source software must comply with the following criteria:

1. Free Redistribution
The license shall not restrict any party from selling or giving away the software as a component of an aggregate software distribution containing programs from several different sources. The license shall not require a royalty or other fee for such sale.

2. Source Code
The program must include source code, and must allow distribution in source code as well as compiled form. Where some form of a product is not distributed with source code, there must be a well-publicized means of obtaining the source code for no more than a reasonable reproduction cost preferably, downloading via the Internet without charge.

The source code must be the preferred form in which a programmer would modify the program. Deliberately obfuscated source code is not allowed. Intermediate forms such as the output of a preprocessor or translator are not allowed.

3. Derived Works
The license must allow modifications and derived works, and must allow them to be distributed under the same terms as the license of the original software.

4. Integrity of The Author's Source Code
The license may restrict source-code from being distributed in modified form only if the license allows the distribution of "patch files" with the source code for the purpose of modifying the program at build time. The license must explicitly permit distribution of software built from modified source code. The license may require derived works to carry a different name or version number from the original software.

5. No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups
The license must not discriminate against any person or group of persons.

6. No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor
The license must not restrict anyone from making use of the program in a specific field of endeavor. For example, it may not restrict the program from being used in a business, or from being used for genetic research.

7. Distribution of License
The rights attached to the program must apply to all to whom the program is redistributed without the need for execution of an additional license by those parties.

8. License Must Not Be Specific to a Product
The rights attached to the program must not depend on the program's being part of a particular software distribution. If the program is extracted from that distribution and used or distributed within the terms of the program's license, all parties to whom the program is redistributed should have the same rights as those that are granted in conjunction with the original software distribution.

9. License Must Not Restrict Other Software
The license must not place restrictions on other software that is distributed along with the licensed software. For example, the license must not insist that all other programs distributed on the same medium must be open-source software.

10. License Must Be Technology-Neutral
No provision of the license may be predicated on any individual technology or style of interface.

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

5 things Firefox needs to copy from Google Chrome.

Firefox 3.6 was released late last week with which came some notable improvements and features like Personas and support for HTML5. I also noticed some improvement in speed and the overall feel of the browser. However, comparing Firefox to Google Chrome, I still think there are some things Firefox would do well implementing in their next release.

Separate Process
Having separate processes for every tab is a really great way to enjoy stability with Firefox. Should I have a tab crash or hang up, I can easily kill it via the task manager in Windows or the system monitor in Ubuntu without having to exit the entire browser. I believe it also has a positive bearing on the overall memory usage of the browser.

Instant gratification
I don't know why it takes Firefox almost eternity to start while it takes Google Chrome a fraction of that time to do same. I would love to have instant gratification with Firefox where it starts instantly without unnecessary delay whatsoever.

Speed
The latest release of Firefox is fast, but Google Chrome is still way faster at rendering pages than Firefox. I cannot tell whether it has to do with the rendering engines used respectively by the two browsers but Firefox needs to copy the speed at which Google Chrome renders web pages.

Screen space usage
I recently got a new Dell Optiplex 360 with a 19" monitor at the office. One thing that I noticed upon running both Google Chrome and Firefox is the amount of screen space that Chrome makes use of. Almost every part of the screen space is used. Firefox on the other hand, wastes lots of screen space with the status bar, the positioning of the tabs and separate address bar and menu bar. A similar layout to that of Google Chrome to make good use of screen space I think is long overdue.

Integration of bookmarks synchronization
With the current beta release of Google Chrome, all I need to do is to sign in with my Google account and bam, I have all my books available from my other computers. With Firefox however, the norm had been to use the Xmarks addon prior to the release of 3.6, which now features Weave Synch, also an add on. I would love to see the Weave Sync feature integrated with Firefox without me having to run it as an add on.

Though a great browser, Firefox would need to implement these and other nifty features that are gradually making Google Chrome a real force to reckon with. I love Firefox no doubt, but Google Chrome is gradually stealing my heart away with great charm packaged as features.
 


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Friday, January 22, 2010

The WordPress Foundation is born today.

Matt Mullenweg, the founder of the world acclaimed WordPress blogging and CMS platform, has announced the birth of the WordPress Foundation. The foundation aims to promote the core tenets of WordPress which is to make the very art of publishing as open as possible or better put "to democratize publishing through Open Source, GPL software."

"The point of the foundation is to ensure free access, in perpetuity, to the projects we support. People and businesses may come and go, so it is important to ensure that the source code for these projects will survive beyond the current contributor base, that we may create a stable platform for web publishing for generations to come.

"As part of this mission, the Foundation will be responsible for protecting the WordPress, WordCamp, and related trademarks. A 501(c)3 non-profit organization, the WordPress Foundation will also pursue a charter to educate the public about WordPress and related open source software."

The Foundation seeks to make online publishing as free as possible, citing the Mozilla Foundation who are making the web better with Firefox, the Free Software Foundation who are the vanguards of software freedom and OSAF, the creators of Chandler as sources of inspiration. In short, the WordPress Foundation seeks to apply the GPL to the WordPress and allied projects to the letter.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Say hello to the much awaited Firefox 3.6.

The Mozilla Foundation today announced the release of the much awaited Firefox 3.6. The most noteworthy improvement in this release is speed. According to Mozilla, Firefox 3.6 is "more than 20 percent faster than Firefox 3.5 and includes extensive under the hood work to improve performance for everyday Web tasks such as email, uploading photos, social networking, and more."

Another new feature worth mentioning is Personas, which allows users to personalize their Firefox with new themes at the click of a mouse without restarting the browser.

Below are some of the features of Firefox 3.6 according to Mozilla
  • Open Video and Audio: With the world’s best implementation of HTML 5 audio and video support, now video can be displayed full screen and supports poster frames
  • Plugin Updater: To keep you safe from potential security vulnerabilities, Firefox will now detect out of date plugins
  • Stability improvements: Firefox 3.6 significantly decreased crashes caused by third party software – all without sacrificing our extensibility in any way
And for developers
  • Support for the latest HTML5 specification, including the File API for local file handling
  • Font Support: In addition to OpenType and TrueType fonts, 3.6 now supports the new Web Open Font Format (WOFF)
  • CSS gradients: Supports linear and radial CSS gradients which allow for a smoother transition between colors
  • Device orientation: Firefox 3.6 exposes the orientation of the laptop or device to Web pages

I have been having a really nasty experience with Firefox of late, notable among them being it crashing just too much. I hope as Mozilla says, this release addresses that issue together with the amount of memory it uses.

You can download (Windows) Firefox 3.6 from the official browser website. Ubuntu users can follow this tutorial to get it on their systems. You can also watch some videos of the new release

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By Seraaj Muneer with No comments

Name Our Asteroid... Ubuntu!

Hi
My name is Nabeela, and I entered a competition to name an asteroid...It's a great South African initiative and I took the opportunity with open arms. I chose to submit the name Ubuntu as my suggestion. I guess that I have to count my lucky stars (haha) as I was chosen in the first round as one of the 5 best suggestions.

Here's where I need your help: The second round of voting entails that the public chooses their favorite name and votes in their favor, resulting in the winning name. I really would like to name this asteroid (or minor planet) UBUNTU as it is really close to my heart. I know that Ubuntu (the Linux programme) is very close to yours too, and that if I win, it would be a great success for all Ubuntu Linux supporters and members.

All I ask is that you PLEASE, PLEASE vote for my choice (Ubuntu on the website) and promote it to all your Ubuntu Linux friends and associates too... Here's the website again: Name Our Asteroid

It's really quick, plus there's and added bonus of a lucky draw and as a result a prize for someone that submits a vote...

Please help me out...:) Here's to Ubuntu

Regards
Nabeela Kajee

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By Helge with 2 comments

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The internet as it was seen in 1995 by Clifford Stoll.

The following piece was posted on the Newsweek site on February 25 1995. It's about how Clifford Stoll saw the internet then and how he believed it would turn out. I think it's a great guide to anyone that seeks to make any prediction. Watch before you leap.

After two decades online, I'm perplexed. It's not that I haven't had a gas of a good time on the Internet. I've met great people and even caught a hacker or two. But today, I'm uneasy about this most trendy and oversold community. Visionaries see a future of telecommuting workers, interactive libraries and multimedia classrooms. They speak of electronic town meetings and virtual communities. Commerce and business will shift from offices and malls to networks and modems. And the freedom of digital networks will make government more democratic [If only he had actually seen all these in a positive light].

Baloney. Do our computer pundits lack all common sense?[I don't think so] The truth is no online database will replace your daily newspaper [ask Rupert Murdoch today], no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher and no computer network will change the way government works.

Consider today's online world. The Usenet, a worldwide bulletin board, allows anyone to post messages across the nation. Your word gets out, leapfrogging editors and publishers. Every voice can be heard cheaply and instantly. The result? Every voice is heard. The cacophany more closely resembles citizens band radio, complete with handles, harrasment, and anonymous threats. When most everyone shouts, few listen. How about electronic publishing? Try reading a book on disc. At best, it's an unpleasant chore: the myopic glow of a clunky computer replaces the friendly pages of a book. And you can't tote that laptop to the beach. Yet Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we'll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Intenet. Uh, sure. [Ain't this the norm today???]

What the Internet hucksters won't tell you is that the Internet is one big ocean of unedited data, without any pretense of completeness. Lacking editors, reviewers or critics, the Internet has become a wasteland of unfiltered data. You don't know what to ignore and what's worth reading. Logged onto the World Wide Web, I hunt for the date of the Battle of Trafalgar. Hundreds of files show up, and it takes 15 minutes to unravel them--one's a biography written by an eighth grader, the second is a computer game that doesn't work and the third is an image of a London monument. None answers my question, and my search is periodically interrupted by messages like, "Too many connections, try again later." [Sorry you were using a dial up modem with a 1kb/s speed].

Won't the Internet be useful in governing? Internet addicts clamor for government reports. But when Andy Spano ran for county executive in Westchester County, N.Y., he put every press release and position paper onto a bulletin board. In that affluent county, with plenty of computer companies, how many voters logged in? Fewer than 30. Not a good omen.

Point and click:
Then there are those pushing computers into schools. We're told that multimedia will make schoolwork easy and fun. Students will happily learn from animated characters while taught by expertly tailored software.Who needs teachers when you've got computer-aided education? Bah. These expensive toys are difficult to use in classrooms and require extensive teacher training [What can I say other than a big LOL?]. Sure, kids love videogames--but think of your own experience: can you recall even one educational filmstrip of decades past? I'll bet you remember the two or three great teachers who made a difference in your life.

Then there's cyberbusiness. We're promised instant catalog shopping--just point and click for great deals. [Amazon today should be enough for you] We'll order airline tickets over the network, make restaurant reservations and negotiate sales contracts. Stores will become obsolete. So how come my local mall does more business in an afternoon than the entire Internet handles in a month? Even if there were a trustworthy way to send money over the Internet--which there isn't--the network is missing a most essential ingredient of capitalism: salespeople.

What's missing from this electronic wonderland? Human contact. Discount the fawning techno-burble about virtual communities. Computers and networks isolate us from one another. A network chat line is a limp substitute for meeting friends over coffee. No interactive multimedia display comes close to the excitement of a live concert. And who'd prefer cybersex to the real thing? While the Internet beckons brightly, seductively flashing an icon of knowledge-as-power, this nonplace lures us to surrender our time on earth. A poor substitute it is, this virtual reality where frustration is legion and where--in the holy names of Education and Progress--important aspects of human interactions are relentlessly devalued.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 4 comments

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Ubuntu Linux and proprietary software - Let the demand decide.

There's a survey that seeks to get a feel of what proprietary applications Ubuntu users would want to have on the distro. It includes some long time cravings like Adobe Photoshop and World of Warcraft. I am all for the inclusion of these applications or making them a few clicks away for those who want them.

Like any other product or service, the supply should always be determined by the demand. Thanks to a paradigm shift, the world of operating systems  is increasingly becoming more and more hemoogeneous, where no one of them can truly be an island. People would like to use Ubuntu for the security it offers relative to Windows, but at the same time rely on Windows applications to put food on the table.

Sure there's GIMP, but what if people want to have their PS not because they hate GIMP whatsoever but because they just want PS and that' it? If having these applications will go some way to get people to switch to the relative safety of Linux, then so be it.

I am seriously not in support of the idea that you should not use certain software because of some schism. The times when operating systems were used based on extreme ideological reasons I believe are long gone. I use Ubuntu because first and foremost it helps me get stuff done. This I think is the over riding reason why you also use any other software.

I'd like to add my voice to the survey (taken it already, please do so if you have not) in telling Canonical that if there is an overwhelming demand for such applications from Ubuntu users, they should not hesitate to make them readily available. I cannot tell which form the delivery should take, but the bottom line is that they must be made available together with a convenient way of payment.


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By Seraaj Muneer with No comments

Monday, January 18, 2010

A cursory look at Lives Video Editor for Linux

An application that was somehow lacking on the Linux platform was a good and easy to use video editor. However, thanks to the tireless efforts of some really great people out there, we are now beginning to see such applications forthcoming. A good example is OpenShot. In this article, I'd want us to take a cursory look at another and relatively unknown video editor for Linux - Lives Video Editor

Lives Video Editor is a stable, open source, GPL'd, easy to use video editor that runs very well on the Linux platform. It is great for home use and at the same time for small to mid range professional video editing. It boasts among others the following features

  • Support for many video formats thanks to the Mplayer decoder.
  • Support for fixed and variable frame rates
  • Ability to edit many file types and sources including remotely located files (with mplayer/ffmpeg libraries), and directories of images.
  • Encode to over 50 supported output formats like mkv, dv, swf, Ogg Theora, Dirac, MNG, Snow, xvid, animated GIF and more
  • For audio, mp3, vorbis, mod, it, xm and wav files are supported
  • Trimming of sound to fit video selection
  • Sample accurate cutting and pasting of audio within and between clips.
  • Resampling of audio (rate, channels, sample size, signedness and endianness); audio is auto-resampled between clips.
  • Can be extended through the use of plugins
  • Support for extending encoder formats through encoder plugin API
  • Frame accurate cutting and pasting within and between clips.
  • Saving/re-encoding of clips, selections, and individual frames.
  • Lossless backup/restore.
  • Streaming input and output.
  • Real time blending of clips (various chroma and luma blends).

The full list of features available in Lives Video Editor can be found here. This application really has something for every video enthusiasts out there. Whether it be that you want to edit that holiday video you took or make your own video to upload to Youtube, Lives Video Editor certainly has something for you. You can download it here and find a detailed online manual here.

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By Seraaj Muneer with No comments

Sunday, January 17, 2010

4 reasons why you must avoid Microsoft Internet Explorer today.

There are a lot of browsers out there, with Microsoft's Internet Explorer being the dominant one thanks to the dominance of the platform on which it runs. However, if you are a user of this application, I'd humbly urge you to take the following 4 factors into consideration as to why you must avoid Internet Explorer as much as is possible.

Lack of innovation 
The only groundbreaking feature (from the perspective of an everyday user)  that in my opinion separates IE 6 from the latest IE 8 is tabbed browsing. Other than that, I cannot see anything worthy of mention. This should not be the case for such a multibillion dollar application. Google Chrome for instance, which is the youngest of all has more features worthy of mention than IE.

Slow
Relatively speaking, IE is slower to load pages than other browsers. For instance, using IE 8 on an XP SP3 box, it took 97 seconds for it to open The New York Times as compared to the 59 seconds it took Firefox to open the same page on the same connection speed. Sure your experience with it in terms of speed may differ, but generally speaking, it is slower than the competition.

Resource hog
IE is a resource hog no doubt. A cursory look at your task manager with IE and another browser running just makes it clear. IE is likely to consume twice as much resources as the other browser.

Security
You have a car whose manufacturer stipulates that neither you nor your mechanic under any circumstance have any right to open and see what is in the engine. Only the manufacturer of the car has the right to determine when the car needs a fix, when it needs an engine overhaul and stuff like that. Would you ever be safe in such a car? Why then do you use IE? If anything is to go by, the recent Aurora attack that has caused Google to spit in the eyes of the Chinese government should be enough proof of the security vulnerability of IE.

There are a dozen other reasons why IE is not the right choice for you if you want a smooth internet experience. I know there are some of you who would disagree with me -and I humbly welcome your opinion-  but I am seriously of the view that it is high time people stopped using IE and opt for any of the dozen other solid browsers available.

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By Seraaj Muneer with No comments

Saturday, January 16, 2010

5 Linux music players you did not know about.

One of the greatest advantages any Linux user has over other platform user is the diverse range of applications available for almost any task. Name it and there's an app for that (hope I don't get sued by Apple). Below are 5 music players for the Linux platform (Ubuntu being my base)  you probably did not know about.

Released under the GNU Public License, Exaile boasts of automatic fetching of album art, lyrics fetching, artist information via Wikipedia, iPod support via a plugin, built in ShoutCast directory browsing,  blacklisting of tracks and tabbed playlists, the ability to submit played tracks on your iPod to Last.fm, support for burning tracks to audio CDs and visualizations and equalizer, with pre-defined sets. Built with the design and function of Amarok in mind, Exaile is a great music manager worth giving a try. It is available for  download with instructions for how to get it running on Ubuntu.

Aqualung is a music player designed from the ground up to provide continuous, absolutely transparent, gap-free playback across a variety of input formats and a wide range of sample rates thereby allowing for the enjoyment of quality music. Aqualung also provides high quality sample rate conversion, a feature that is essential when building large digital music archives containing input sources conforming to various standards.

It also has playlist tabs, an inbuilt volume and sound control, command line control among others. Aqualung is available in the Ubuntu repos with installation instructions available for other distros. Aqualung has also been ported to the Windows and Mac OS X platforms.

Written in the Java Programing Language, aTunes is a fully featured music player and manager that boasts of many features including device support (plug in and have aTunes do the rest), multiple palylist support, Last.fm integration, Youtube related videos, CD ripper, support for Nero AAC encoder, podcast subscription support,  theme support and a host of other niceties. Written in Java, you only need to have the JRE installed to use aTunes.

MoreAmp is an audio player, transcoder, CD ripper and streamer that runs on Linux but also on the other platforms as well. It also plays and creates ogg, flac, mp3, aac, m4a, mp4, wav, and aif, and plays wma. 31-band equalizer, repeat loop, variable pitch/tempo, ram or ramdisk preload, more.

Moovida goes beyond playing music to being your one stop multimedia hub. With support for an extensive list of file formats, Moovida once installed will automatically scan, organize and assign cover art to your music and videos from trusted online databases. You can also watch your pictures as a slideshow on your TV in HD.You can also extend Moovida's functionality with plugins.

It also has plug and play functionality for devices like the iPod where you just plug it in a and Moovida will automatically show it in the appropriate section. Moovida is packaged with the latest version of Ubuntu. Just add this PPA and update your software sources. Instructions for getting it running on other distros can be found on this Wiki. It is also available for download for Windows.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 6 comments

Friday, January 15, 2010

5 things I have learned from Free and open source software

Rather than write the same thing, I've thought it wise to regurgitate a post from a High School Student's Views on Software Freedom. They reflect observations I've made a year after I got interested in FOSS.


I’ve been in Free Software for a few years now[mine's a shade over a year]  and learned a ton from it.  Sure, I learned how to use new types of software, became efficient on them, and honed my programming skills[can't say that on my part :-)], but stopping there would be missing the point.  Free software has so much more to offer than just computing and technical benefits.  In fact, the technical side is the least important thing I’ve learned from my experiences.  Free Software has brought me far beyond knowledge of its source code and taught me lessons I will value for a lifetime.
 

1. Centralized control isn’t worth it

When one single governing body gains absolute control over something, it is only a matter of time before that governing body increases its power tremendously.  Many times, it does this in order to avoid vice, but counterintuitively, only ends up creating more of it in the process.  Take any modern established proprietary software company that started out in the 60’s or 70’s for example.


These software companies were revolutionary in their decision not to share their software for the benefit of learning, but rather, keep it a secret in order to make money from it.  As time went on, the companies began imposing slightly harsher methods upon users in an attempt to foil the plans of those who refused to pay.  This was the beginning of techniques such as license keys.  As users developed ways around the methods, the methods kept getting progressively harsher, severely punishing casual proprietary software users who had been legally using and paying full price for the software since the beginning.


It would not be enough to stop here, though.  Proprietary software companies, caring only about eliminating competition, have no regret in choosing not to support competitors’ file formats (or even worse, supporting them incompletely), slowing down their software to sell the user a “speed upgrade”, and spying on the user without his/her consent to aid their marketing departments.  They even have no shame in not bothering to release security updates until there is already an epidemic.  Users don’t have the freedom to correct any of these because one company alone controls all aspects of the software in question.

Just the other day, I overheard a conversation between two of my peers.  It went something like this:

    “I got a new iPhone the other day!”

    “Sweet!  Are you going to try to hack it?” (Note: “Hack” here is used in the sense that it has come to mean in today’s society: breaking security.)

    “I don’t know.  I know someone who broke into his iPhone and bricked it.  And, I mean, you can’t just go into the store and ask for a repair, because you’ve voided your warranty by hacking it.”

    “I hacked my iPhone.  It worked perfectly.  And it is awesome!  Now I can run all sorts of apps on it that aren’t in the App Store!”

It is sad to see that people today actually have to use the term “breaking in” to describe changing the software on the cell phone they own.  People now willingly accept the fact that they just can’t run any application that the developing company didn’t authorize, because this restriction has become so common.  In the case of the iPhone, owners have to make a decision as to whether they want to try to modify the software on the device they own (described as “hacking”) and risk an update from Apple that destroys their phone, or use a device that performs only as Apple wishes it to perform.  Purchasing an iPhone is willingly handing over complete control of the device to Apple because this approach has been so tightly ingrained in society as necessary.
 

2. The strongest approach is a philosophical approach

As the main partitioner between the Free Software Movement and the Open Source Movement, it is apparent, in this regard alone, that it must have a significant amount of meaning.  When one really digs into the specifics, though, this idea becomes even more important.  Nobody would ever build a skyscraper without spending tiring hours on a sturdy foundation to keep the building up.


Likewise, constructing a movement on the grounds that a development style always produces less-buggy, more secure, or more featureful software is worthless.  On these foundationless grounds, what would be the problem with using Skype and locking not only yourself, but also all of your friends, into one company’s software and protocol?  When cost gets thrown into the mix, things get even uglier.  One who bases his/her opinions on these subjective measures would be enticed by high-quality software available at no cost.  Though I make no claim to it’s quality, even Microsoft Windows is “free of cost” to consumers.


The majority of the people in the world choose not to pickpocket.  But why?  It couldn’t possibly be too difficult.  If the thief runs, he/she probably won’t get caught, and it is a quick way to make some extra cash.  Most people believe it is wrong to steal, and therefore, won’t rob a wallet.  The philosophy that one should not steal overrides the benefits that may come from stealing someone’s wallet.  It is the same reason that Vegans don’t wear leather, Mormons abstain from caffeine/alcohol, and environmentalists drive hybrid cars.

When it comes to software, though, the majority of people take a lesser stance.


For those “casual users” who have somehow learned about the Free Software Movement, few will take the philosophies seriously since they create so much inconvenience and trouble.  Would one be likely to support dismantling one’s house upon learning that it was seated upon a sacred ancient burial ground?  Because it creates so much inconvenience and would be outrageously expensive, most people would likely ditch this new ethical dilemma, on the grounds that they had very little opinion about it before it began affecting their life.  Yes, the house is ruining the sacred area, but nobody informed the homeowner in question about this problem before the purchase, so the shame should be placed elsewhere.


When one keeps a 100% philosophy-based center when making every-day choices, it is impossible to make a regrettable decision on those aspects in which one has philosophies or values.  Putting morals before convenience and ease may be tough at times, but it will help ensure permanent solutions that carry much more meaning.
 

3. An open and creative mind does wonders

Before I became involved in Free Software, I had far different opinions, ideas, and beliefs than I do today.  Free Software helped me open up my mind to new and unfamiliar concepts.  This software universe had been going on behind my back for years.  If there was this much in software alone that a technology-savvy guy had never even heard of, I figured, there must be quite a bit out there.


One of the best parts about the Free Software community is that it is composed of a huge diversity of people with a huge diversity of ideas.  Richard Stallman’s stallman.org is a perfect example.  Most of his ideas and beliefs, especially his political ideals, are somewhat unorthodox and not widely accepted.  Previous to reading his opinions, I had laughed Ralph Nader off as a joke, as I had heard nothing but humor about him previously in my life.  When I actually met someone who supported him, I took the time to understand his politics.  It just so happened that I shared some of Nader views.  I stopped my warrantless distaste for the 3rd party candidate, and gained a great deal of respect for the man.


Another good example can be drawn from my life.  I am a composer[I'm a number cruncher], and one of the biggest hurdles for me in switching to exclusively Free Software was my sheet music typesetting software.  I used a proprietary package under Wine for quite some time, because none of the other options available did what I wanted.  Or so I thought.  I had tried Free Software packages to fill this purpose, from Rosegarden, to MuseScore, to Lilypond, toCanorus.  I convinced myself that, since none of them behaved exactly like the proprietary package I was used to using, none of them were as good.


Some time later, I decided the final movement of of my last piece of proprietary software should end soon, and that I best move to exclusively Free Software.  I forced myself to use MuseScore for my next composition project.  By the time I was done, I had actually forgotten how to use my old piece of proprietary garbageware.  MuseScore did everything I wanted and more.  Yes, it behaved slightly differently, but I found I could be much more efficient – while using Free Software!  It was a double win for me.


For developers, opening one’s mind to unfamiliar creative ideas is essential to creating practical solutions.  The majority of those working on Free Software are autonomous and get to choose what they want to work on.  (Even of the large corporately-funded developer base, many have a great deal of liberty in this regard.)  They are not told to implement specific attributes by their management, or pressured by paying customers to add a certain feature.


They work because they want to help themselves, their user base, or their software project.  There is plenty of room for experimentation.  One of the main arguments used for Free Software is the advantage of not reinventing the wheel, yet in the case of nearly every hole in the software platform to fill, there are at least two equally effective options.  KDE and Gnome.  Grub and Lilo.  OpenOffice and Koffice.  Emacs and Vi.  The list goes on.


These pairs exist because the developers had different ideas as to how to design an application, which features to implement, and what the goals of the project were.  In all of the cases above, the synergy created between the pairs has only gone to further enhance both projects.  In other words, contrasting ideas have improved each other.
 

4. Knowledge was meant to be shared

Back in the middle 1850’s, when the Industrial Revolution was beginning in Britain, the country attempted a quarantine of ideas.  Britain was the first country to go through an industrial revolution, and wanted the ideas for the machine designs to stay contained within the country so that it might prosper economically.  It was a failure.  It was unbelievably naïve of them to think they could stop the spread of an idea.  As the cliché goes, “If we both have an apple, and we exchange apples, we each still have one apple.  But, if we each have an idea and exchange those, each of us has two ideas.”


Some companies try to restrict the flow of this knowledge.  In fact, many companies do this and expect to get away with it.  They believe that putting DRM on digital media will prevent it from being illegally pirated.  They believe that product activation procedures will prevent it from being illegally shared.  They believe that information can be contained.  Even in the days before the Internet, information and so-called “intellectual property” could still be, and were, exchanged.  As the information age went on, though, corporations became progressively more obsessed with controlling the spread of knowledge.


This trend of open information holds true even in tightly-protected situations.  The Watergate scandal leaked to the press through one of US President Nixon’s most trusted colleagues.  Microsoft was recently discovered to be using code stolen from a competitor on a social networking site, even though the code was never released.  Pictures from the Iran protest in early June of this year circulated the Internet, despite the efforts of the government to prevent their spread.  The examples continue, but all hit the same chord: there is no use in preventing the spread of information.


So instead of working to prevent this spread, why not encourage it?  Why not get the ideas, capabilities, and functionality of any given piece of software out to as many people as possible and kindle the flame?  There are many ways to make money, so why choose a method that requires investing just as much time and effort into making software that lots of people want to use as trying to prevent the usage of said software?  It sounds counterintuitive and/or just plain stupid on paper, but is generally seen as the traditional and conservative way to do it.  Physical products must be treated differently than knowledge.  Government can assist in the process of selling knowledge in the same way as a physical product, but due to the nature of the commodity, it will never be the same.
 

5. Anyone can make a difference

When I started off in the world of Free Software, I wanted to contribute, but didn’t think that an 8th grade student[I'm working on my first degree]  would be able to contribute anything worthwhile.  I proved myself wrong, and joined the Joomla! Documentation team[yet to do something similar], writing and editing documentation[that's what I'm naturally good at] for the software package.  As I learned later, documentation was one of the most lacking areas in the Free Software community.


When I started learning to program in PHP, I wrote small extensions for the Content Management System I then knew so well.  They were small enough to be easily written by someone with little experience, yet useful enough to be widely-deployed.  I moved on to larger applications and contributions.  Frequent emails from users of my software showed me just how much of a difference I was making for them.


No matter what you do, remember that your actions do make a difference.  If you find a bug, report it!  The first bug report of your life may be a little shaky, but how else can one learn to report bugs?  Your reports make the software better for everyone.  Just maybe that crash you reported will save some people from a major data loss in the future.  If you have decent writing skills, consider writing or improving some documentation for your favorite Free Software application so others will have a less frustrating learning curve.


Translating documentation or an application itself opens up that software to a new demographic of people, most of whom could not possibly use the application prior to your translation.  Bringing up Free Software in a conversation and/or promoting it more seriously opens the philosophies and the software itself up to new people as well.

Even a simple “thank you” to a project member can go a long way.  Free Software isn’t written by machines; it is written by countless individuals that give up a significant amount of time each day to do what they do.  Showing appreciation helps developers know their work is worthwhile.


Now, just for a second, I challenge the reader to imagine what the world of Free Software would be like if nobody believed they could make a difference.  Very little Free Software would be written, and that which was written may not be released to the public.  A completely Free operating system would be out of the question, as only small research projects would exist.  Businesses, with no faith in their ability to succeed with Open Source, would resort to writing proprietary software that can be sold on a shelf.  The Free Software Movement would be inexistent without this wisp of a thought.  In fact, Richard Stallman wouldn’t have bothered writing the GNU system if he thought his project wouldn’t mean anything.


It is so easy to imagine how horrible the world of Free Software could be like this, so why do people all too often let it slide in the “real” world?  This world is so much bigger than the Free Software Sphere that people tend to feel that their actions mean less.  However, they seem to be forgetting that, while some action we make won’t directly influence everybody, every action we make affects somebody.  And just maybe, when one totals the sum of the somebodies and the somebodies of those somebodies, just maybe every one of us changes the world every day.


Because our actions mean so much, it is vital that one governing body, be it a corporation, government, or other mass, doesn’t take away our freedom to express ourselves as we please.  We would no longer be changing the world in our own way, but in the way desired by this group in power.  It is vital that we keep a philosophical approach so that our beliefs stand behind our actions.  Even if we make an unwise decision, we make it for a rational reason that shines through to others.  It is vital that we keep an open mind to ensure no good idea goes unnoticed, and a creative one to generate good ideas of our own.


One man’s seemingly worthless idea may be another man’s inspiration.  It is vital that there is an uninterrupted stream of knowledge, and that information is not held back for personal benefit at the cost of others.  Knowledge and information are the building blocks of change.  These concepts are vital not only to software, but also to every-day life. And to think some people only see the technical benefits.

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By Seraaj Muneer with No comments

Thursday, January 14, 2010

5 powerful open source applications for businesses

A significant part of the IT expense of most businesses comprises the cost of acquiring and running enterprise applications. Would it not be better to have the same applications your business relies on at a much reduced cost but with  higher productivity? Read on to find out 5 powerful open source enterprise applications you could try in your business establishment today.

Magento is a feature-rich eCommerce platform built on open-source technology that provides online merchants with unprecedented flexibility and control over the look, content and functionality of their eCommerce store. Magento’s intuitive administration interface features powerful marketing, search engine optimization and catalog-management tools to give merchants the power to create sites that are tailored to their unique business needs.

Designed to be completely scalable and backed by Varien's support network, Magento offers companies the ultimate eCommerce solution. There is both a community and enterprise edition available for all business types.

OpenCart
OpenCart is an open source PHP-based online shopping cart system. A robust e-commerce solution for Internet merchants with the ability to create their own online business and participate in e-commerce at a minimal cost. OpenCart is designed feature rich, easy to use, search engine friendly and with a visually appealing interface.

Achievo is a flexible web-based resource management tool for business environments.
Achievo's resource management capabilities will enable organisations to support their business processes in a simple, but effective manner.

A solution that fits seamlessly to the wishes of every organisation and offers the possibility and freedom to adapt the functionality to the needs of the organisation. It will fit into every organisation because Achievo is extremly easy to change to your specific situation.

The Open Ticket Request System is an Open source Ticket Request System (also well known as trouble ticket system) with many features to manage customer telephone calls and e-mails. The system is built to allow your support, sales, pre-sales, billing, internal IT, helpdesk, etc. department to react quickly to inbound inquiries. Do you receive many e-mails and want to answer them with a team of agents? You're going to love the OTRS!

opentaps is a full-featured ERP + CRM suite which incorporates several open source projects, including Apache Geronimo, Tomcat, and OFBiz for the data model and transaction framework; Pentaho and JasperReports for business intelligence; Funambol for mobile device and Outlook integration; and the opentaps applications which provide user-driven applications for CRM, accounting and finance, warehouse and manufacturing, and purchasing and supply chain mmanagement.

The goal of opentaps is to create high quality and innovative solutions for business problems using open source software, from classic ERP and CRM to whole new ways to increase sales and profitability.


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By Seraaj Muneer with 2 comments
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