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Friday, February 26, 2010

Day Against DRM: Tuesday, May 4th 2010

"When companies organize to design products to restrict us, we have to organize to defeat them" -- FSF president Richard Stallman

BOSTON, Massachusetts, USA -- Thursday, February 25, 2010 -- Social justice and online rights groups today announced that Tuesday May 4, 2010 will be this year's International Day Against Digital Restrictions
Management (DRM).

The Day Against DRM will unite a wide range of projects, public interest organizations, web sites and individuals in an effort to raise public awareness to the danger of technology that restricts users’ access to movies, music, literature and software; indeed, all forms of digital data. Many DRM schemes monitor a user's activities and report what they see to the corporations that impose the DRM.

As part of its Defective by Design anti-DRM campaign, the Free Software Foundation (FSF) will be helping to coordinate anti-DRM activists all over the world to mobilize the public against this anti-social technology. They have also published an article detailing a short history of a "Decade in DRM"

"DRM attacks your freedom at two levels. Its purpose is to attack your freedom by restricting your use of your copies of published works. Its means is to force you to use proprietary software, which means you don't control what it does. When companies organize to design products to restrict us, we have to organize to defeat them," said FSF president Richard Stallman.

Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group said, "DRM is a disaster for legitimate uses of music, film and books. They are designed to lock people into specific software and devices, destroying your rights to free speech uses like criticism, education and review. DRM means you lose control, and are at the mercy of vendors."

Richard Esguerra of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a supporter of the Day Against DRM, said, "Informed technologists and activists were instrumental in exposing DRM's harms back when most DRM was anticopying software. But now, DRM is evolving as companies seek to restrict far more than just users' ability to copy files. The International Day Against DRM is a fresh opportunity to rise to the challenge yet again
and fight for technology freedom."

More events, supporters, and participants for the "Day Against DRM" will be announced as the date approaches. Organizations and individuals that want to be involved can contact info at defectivebydesign dot org or visit Defective by Design to sign up and follow the campaign.

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By Seraaj Muneer with No comments

Linux Live USB Creator to the rescue.

Linux Live USB Creator is a simple Windows application that creates a live, bootable Linux OS on a USB stick. Simply download and extract the file into your folder of choice. Double click on the Linux Live USB creator icon to start the application.
It comes with a clean and easy to use interface that will make you feel at home. It takes only 4 steps to create your live USB
  • Choose your USB key
  • Choose the ISO file to use
  • Select the options that suit you
  • Start the process

Note that the USB must be a FAT32 formatted drive. A minimum of 1GB should be enough. Also in step 2, you have the option of downloading a distro straight to the application should you not have one available.

  • Ubuntu / Kubuntu / Xubuntu 9.10 & 9.04 Desktop CD
  •     Ubuntu Netbook Remix 9.10
  •     Ubuntu 10.04 Alpha 2new
  •     BackTrack 4 Finalnew
  •     JoliCloud Pre-Betanew
  •     SimplyMEPIS 8.0.15new
  •     antiX M8.2new
  •     Xange & OpenXange 2010new
  •     CentOS 5.4 *
  •     Debian Live 5.0.2 Gnome/KDE/LXDE/xFce
  •     Damn Small linux 4.4.10
  •     Puppy Linux 4.3.1
The full download pack also comes with virtual box. So if you are looking forward to testing Linux, this is another cool way to get started.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

[HUMOR] Beware of the Gullibilty Virus!

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Institute for the Investigation of Irregular Internet Phenomena announced today that many Internet users are becoming infected by a new virus that causes them to believe without question every groundless story, legend, and dire warning that shows up in their Inbox or on their browser. 

The Gullibility Virus, as it is called, apparently makes people believe and forward copies of silly hoaxes relating to cookie recipes, E-Mail viruses, taxes on modems, and get-rich-quick schemes [perhaps conspiracy theories should be included here].

“These are not just readers of tabloids or people who buy lottery tickets based on fortune cookie numbers,” a spokesman said. “Most are otherwise normal people, who would laugh at the same stories if told to them by a stranger on a street corner.” However, once these same people become infected with the Gullibility Virus, they believe anything they read on the Internet.

“My immunity to tall tales and bizarre claims is all gone,” reported one weeping victim. “I believe every warning message and sick child story my friends forward to me, even though most of the messages are anonymous.”

Another victim, now in remission, added, “When I first heard about ‘Good Times,’ I just accepted it without question. After all, there were dozens of other recipients on the mail header, so I thought the virus must be true.” It was a long time, the victim said, before she could stand up at a Hoaxees Anonymous meeting and state, “My name is Jane, and I've been hoaxed.” Now, however, she is spreading the word. “Challenge and check whatever you read,” she says.

Internet users are urged to examine themselves for symptoms of the virus, which include the following:
  • the willingness to believe improbable stories without thinking
  • the urge to forward multiple copies of such stories to others
  • a lack of desire to take three minutes to check to see if a story is true

T. C. is an example of someone recently infected. He told one reporter, “I read on the Net that the major ingredient in almost all shampoos makes your hair fall out, so I've stopped using shampoo.” When told about the Gullibility Virus, T . C. said he would stop reading e-mail, so that he would not become infected. Anyone with symptoms like these is urged to seek help immediately. 

Experts recommend that at the first feelings of gullibility, Internet users rush to their favorite search engine and look up the item tempting them to thoughtless credence. Most hoaxes, legends, and tall tales have been widely discussed and exposed by the Internet community.

Scott D. Webster via the FSF.

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5 Linux distros I normally recommend to newbies.

If you have friends or colleagues who you would like to have try the Linux OS, an important decision would be the distro you choose. There are over 500 out there and whatever distro you choose will be a great factor in shaping your friends view of Linux. The following 5 Linux distros are my personal favorites when it comes with giving people a feel of what Linux is and is not.

I use this distro to flex those of my colleagues and friends who are knowledgeable in IT. I just boot into it via the USB, remove it and let them mess around with it as much as they can. Most of them end up requesting for a copy of the OS. The sheer fact that you can run the full OS with all the basic stuff intact from the RAM is itself a big plus. There are a dozen others like Puppy that do same, you can grab any of them.

For the hommies who don't give a hoot about details, this is what I recommend. A full fledged modern, pleasant looking OS that does all things great straight from the box (won't use out of the box again). 

For those of my friends that are wondering what Google Chrome OS will be like, Browser Linux is what I recommend. Boot into it and all you have is a browser. A taste of what is to come with Google Chrome OS. Also for anyone who lives in the cloud.

If your friends are into multimedia production, then you 64 Studio is your best bet. This Debian/Ubuntu based distro is aimed at the video/audio recording and editing market and oh, have a GNU/Linux day.

This distro, also based on Ubuntu, comes prepackaged with XMBC "providing a complete packaged media center software suite for personal computers." For the home multimedia centric, this is what I normally think of.

There are hundreds more besides these that I've listed. But generally, these are the ones that come to mind when I talk about Linux with friends and colleagues. Lots more do come, but these are my five personal favorite. I'd very much like to know yours.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 3 comments

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sell Linux on its merits

There is one thing that most Linux proponents- myself included- are guilty of, and that is always extolling the greatness of Linux in contrast to the weakness of Windows. You often hear statements like "Windows sucks at X while Linux is super," which though perfectly correct, now makes me wonder if Linux's virtues cannot be eulogized without contrasting it with Windows.

Don't get me wrong, Linux has quite a lot of advantages that Windows will do well replicating, but, always singing its praise in contrast to Windows makes me want to laugh. I believe we should tell Linux as it is: not a clone of Windows, nor was it created to replace it. Sure it's nice telling people they are not likely to suffer security breaches on Linux as they would on Windows, but that should not be the norm of promoting Linux.

I believe the game of always contrasting Linux with Windows does more harm than good to the former. It actually sends the wrong message to potential users that the two OSs are perfect alternatives, which technically speaking, they are not. Linux does things well, and we should actually sell it on that rather than always lambasting Windows just to send a simple message.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 3 comments

The number of Linux distros - A strength or weakness?

There are lots and lots of Linux distros out there. In fact, if there is one thing that frustrates potential Linux users, then it is the abundance of choice. However, being a an end user myself, I sometimes wonder if the abundance of choice is really a strength or weakness.

In the comment section of a recent post about Element OS, it looked as if people are actually divided on the answer to the above question. Is the abundance of choice a strength or a weakness of the Linux desktop?

Both Helge and Maxx were of the view that there is no need to keep spinning off new distros that only replicate the functions of existing ones. WP however, did not agree with them. He wrote

"I disagree, Helge. I've been using Ubuntu and relatives since 2005 (Fedora before that). Every six months, I spend two evenings installing and re-customizing my OS and software, because Ubuntu / Kubuntu / Xubuntu / Mint is highly-polished, but the default software selection is not very useful.

"If I wanted a media-centric computer, for example, why should I spend the time installing and customizing apps, plus removing unneed ones? If Element OS does this well, then it deserves the time and attention it gets."

The above views are in reality different explanations to the view which I hold about Linux distros and their numbers. I hold the opinion that people be allowed to 'cook' as many distros as they want. The only deciding factor of their survival will be the need of end users that they satisfy.

In other words, as long as the distro adds some value to the life of end users, then it is worth being in existence. If however, it is just a waste of code and time, not doing anything in particular for end users, then it will slowly wilt away into oblivion.

Citing a distro like Linux Mint, it is an Ubuntu clone but has also established itself in the lives of those who want instant multimedia gratification out of the box, that is, generally speaking. There were hundreds of distros before its advent but it has survived based on what it does to end users.

So to sum it up, I don't agree per se that the number of Linux distros is either a good thing or a bad one. It is just a matter of available choices to satisfy different needs of different people from different parts of the globe. What do you think? Are you overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices available? Talkback.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 11 comments

Monday, February 22, 2010

5 modules that should come by default in Drupal.

Drupal is a great CMS no doubt. I have gone round and tried lots of them, but I still come back to Drupal. However, the more I use it, the more I feel that the following five modules should actually come by default with every Drupal installation.
I cannot for the life of me think why Drupal ships without a basic WYSIWYG. I believe the logic is to let you choose from the dozens of them available from the modules directory. But I am of the view that a simple WYSIWYG shipping with Drupal makes life easy to some extent. Having to download and install a module all the time so I can use a WYSIWYG is very much IMHO so 1999ish.
Global Path Redirect
With the option of choosing a url alias comes the problem of duplicate content which can really piss the Goole bot off very much. This module simply redirects one url to the other when they are the same but come with the native Drupal name and your chosen alias. Having this by default will go a long way to help in terms of SEO.
As much as I know, Drupal does not send emails on its own. It relies on your mail server to actually do that. Since a CMS revolves around users registering and interactiing with sites, why not have this module handy out of the box. I know there are other means people use to send mails from Drupal, some of which I am yet to learn. But the SMTP module so far makes life very easy.
The Administration Menu
Though not much of a necessity, the admin menu makes navigating your Drupal backend more pleasant and very, very easy. A simple menu that can be fixed at the very top of the page and links you to every part of the site is a very helpful tool that will do well coming out of the box with Drupal.

Yea. Cron. I think having this application by default will make managing your Drupal install quite easy. I like most others, do not have any need for a customized Cron script. Poormanscron does the job just fine.
These are the five modules that I would very much love to see being part of the Drupal default installation. Of course lots of reasons go into choosing the default stack of applications for any such project. 

But these five to me, are very much indispensable and can go a long way to improve the experience of any newbie to the CMS. If you are a Drupal user, I'd love to know what modules are must for you after every Drupal install which you'd love to see come out of the box.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 4 comments

Sunday, February 21, 2010

What if Microsoft and Apple were Google?

Gmail, Youtube, Blogger, Google Code, Google Maps, Google Earth etc. How different would it have been if either Microsoft or Apple were Google, or better still, had ownership of the services owned by Google? 

Would it have made any difference if Microsoft owned Youtube? I think it definitely would. And Apple owning Blogger, or Gmail? It would have been an epic prison. I can imagine the company requiring all users of its blogging platform to precede their blog posts with an adulation of Apple products :-).

In as much as I like to criticize Google for its not so clear stance on privacy, I am most often compelled to appreciate the value of this Godzilla of a company in the light of its competitors. Yes Google is not an angelic company, but would things have been any better if MS or Apple were to be in its place? 

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By Seraaj Muneer with 1 comment

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Element OS- Your ultimate entertainment Linux OS.

Built on the Linux Kernel and using the popular XFCE interface, Element is an OS that aims to put all your entertainment 'apparatus' in one box. It is "an operating system for Home Theater or Media Center Personal Computers featuring a ten-foot user interface and designed to be connected to your HDTV for a digital media and internet experience within the comforts of your own living room or entertainment area."

It is based on the Debian Packaging System (.deb), same one that Ubuntu uses. Unlike other Debian/Ubuntu based systems, Element OS utilizes its own online app center for software installations, where many of the most popular Linux applications that are compatible with our interface standards have been ported. 

All the popular multimedia applications that you are used to are readily available in Element OS, either out of the box or via download. Released under the GPL, it is freely available for download and modifications should you so desire. Some of the featured applications of Element OS are Firefox, VLC, XMBC media center and Transmission Bittorrent.

There are addons that can also be downloaded to add the extra touch to your Element installation. The ISO is available for download at a size of 630MB, requiring a minimum of 1GB Ram, 1.6Ghz processor and  about 20GB of HDD space to run at its optimum though specs lesser than the above will do just fine. If you are a 'videophyte' like me, then I strongly recommend Element OS for your entertainment pleasure.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 7 comments

PlayDeb - An easy way to install games on Ubuntu.

PlayDeb is another project from the original creators of GetDeb that makes the installation of games on the Ubuntu OS a breeze. All you have to do is hop onto the site, click on the games tab on the main menu and select the game you want for installation. It's as simple as that.

They have a massive directory of games that fit into all genres: action, FPS, simulators, puzzle, strategy, dungeon, music, RPG and more. The games are currently available for both Ubuntu Jaunty and Karmic. 

Installing games from PlayDeb can be done simply by following the steps outlined in this guide on the site. If you ever wanted a game to play on Ubuntu but did not know where to find it or an easy way to install it, then PlayDep is your answer. Get there and take a look around, you are likely to find something to play. Enjoy!

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ubuntu Linux is not suitable for you if...

This write up is a response to the 14th comment on a post I made on Jan 28. I thought my reply should actually be shared with you in case you are also thinking along the same lines like him (or her??). I am actually going to assume that Mr. Anonymous is using Ubuntu but actually needs a check list to evaluate whether it is the right OS for him and if Open Source in general is good for him. So here goes

Ubuntu Linux is not suitable for you if
  • You cannot understand the simple differences between the two main software development models called Open Source and closed source or proprietary.
  • You expect to see the yellow, green, blue and purple ( is it purple???) colors made into flag when you boot Ubuntu.
  • You find it difficult to shed your 1997 notion of a typical Linux OS: command line and again CLI driven.
  •  You are comfortable with a 5 minute and beyond boot time on other OSs.
  • You do not mind hunting the length and breadth of the internet looking for drivers, the original CD of which you cannot find.
  • You find it annoying when all your hardware is easily configured upon any install of Ubuntu
  • You are comfortable using harsh language when engaging with a group of people. In other words, you lack any semblance of courtesy when talking, or even posting comments on posts that you disagree with.
  • You expect Dell to ship 1 million Ubuntu powered computers everyday before you know the Ubuntu OEM deals are a small step forward.
  • You perceive people not agreeing with your point of view all the time as not accepting your differences.
  • Your definition of a community run project is that every single suggestion or request you make should be taken and acted upon as if it were a holy writ, though you likely do not pay anyone for anything.
  • You actually do not know that most peripheral manufacturers 'cook' their gizmos with a certain OS as the base and the folks that bring us Ubuntu and it's cousins have to do lots of work to get those things to work if the manufacturer is oblivious of the L alternative.
  • You are too lazy to actually learn that Ubuntu has what is called software sources and that to get the latest and shiniest release of any app, all you need to do is to choose the right source.
  • You are averse to a centralized place where you can get over 2000 applications for free, all of which are 100% safe and reliable.
  • You prefer scouring the length and breadth of the internet looking for apps to run that have the potential of opening a back door into your system.
  • You are somehow racist.
  • You think all Ubuntu users are dogmatists that only care about the means to achieve an end and not the end itself.
  • You have the mistaken notion that Ghabuntu is a blind, boot licking Ubuntu propaganda blog.
  • You actually do not like reading simple notices like those that tell you that there are CLOSED SOURCE drivers available for peripheral X or Y and that you can install them if you do desire.
  • You actually do not want to bother looking up the definition of the word freedom in either Wikipedia or even Google Define.
This list could carry on for the whole night. But I will leave it here and here what others will add to the Ubuntu user checklist. So please check the comments section and either add your own checklist or see what others are adding.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 11 comments

Danger from the Deep- An open source sub simulator game.

Ever wanted to get the feel of what it's like to be in a sub? Better put, a German sub during WW2? Danger from the deep is your best bet.

"Danger from the Deep (known as dangerdeep or DftD) is a free (as in free speech), Open Source World War II german submarine simulator. The program and source code is available under the GPL license and most of the artwork/data is released under a Creative Commons license (Attribution/NonCommercial/Non-Derivative works)."
With DftD, you get to travel back in time to the WW2 to experience a German sub and how it works thanks the to the games advanced simulation. It is multiplatform and is partly based on the open graphics library OpenGL thus should reasonable easy to port.

It is available for download for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

[IMAGE] The genealogy of Open Source.

What comes to your mind when the word Open Source is mentioned? You probably said software right? Well the image below shows that the concept behind Open Source goes beyond software and dates back long before the introduction of computers. Take a look at the image and see the genealogy of the word that is equally loved and loathed depending on where one is standing.

The original image courtesy of Focus

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

TinyOgg- Watch Flash videos as Ogg.

So you have a love-hate relationship with Flash I take it? You would want to do away with it because of how it sometimes brings your system to a crawl but find out you can't because almost all web based videos are in Flash right? Well now you can watch all the Flash videos you want without any headaches, thanks to TinyOgg.

TinyOgg is a simple and free service that converts Flash based videos into Ogg ones at the click of a button. All you do is to enter the url of the Flash video you want to watch as Ogg into the box provided and click convert. A temporary url will be created with which you can watch the newly converted video after a few minutes. That's it. 

You can also watch other converted videos submitted by other people. Your video file will be stored on their servers for only 48 hours after which it will be deleted. You also have the option of downloading the Ogg converted video in the highest quality onto your desktop. Before the conversion starts, you can also set your video to either private or public. Setting it to private will not make it available for viewing by others. 

Now you have reason to pull out your hair because of your frustrations with Flash. Anytime you want to watch a Flash based video, just hop over to TinyOgg and let the site do the magic for you. Enjoy your online videos in h

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5 video sharing sites you did not know about.

The internet has, without a doubt revolutionized how we share our entire lives, including via videos. The following 5 video sharing sites make sharing and discovering new content fun and much more enjoyable. If you think Youtube is the best out there, just read on and see how wrong you could be.

You know Reddit right? Now picture Reddit only this time with videos as the  primary content. That's right. You the viewer vote for which video you like and the highest voted video moves to the front page. Simple as that. You see any video you like, submit it and let the community decide whether it gets to the front page or not.

Want something funny to kill the boredom? Media Bum is your answer. The site has user submitted videos of funny things and moments from all over the world. There are also funny pictures to top things off.

Want to learn how to do something but don't have the time to read a 200 page manual? Helpful Videos is your solution. It is a website to share videos about everyday knowledge and skills among everyday people. You have the option of embedding ads into any videos you upload so as to make some money for coffee.

I find this video sharing site unique in that it aggregates videos from the public on anything that can be explained in 5 mins. There's 20 categories to and a wide selection of videos available choose from. If you can teach someone how to use Linux in 5 mins, I suggest you drop a video there. 

Well the name says it all. A site where sports enthusiasts upload and share videos of all the sports you can think of. You love sports, you will love Broadband Sports!

There are lots of other video sharing sites out there that I probably have not mentioned or even know about. Share those if you do know of them.

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

5 Linux features I miss when on Windows.

In as much as I would love not to, I still use Windows very much in my day to day life. However, being someone who also uses Linux, there are 5 things I really miss when I am behind a Windows machine. 

Always on top
The ability to keep any window on top of all the others at any given time is a blessing Linux that I am yet to see on Windows. It comes in really handy when you need to have more than one window visible to get things done or when you want to be working but have VLC lurking on the lower part of the screen.

On Linux, I am alerted, depending on my settings, that XYZ updates are available and given a choice as to which ones to download and install. Windows actually downloads the updates, then keeps on nagging you to restart in order for the update installation to be complete. I really don't have any problem with the auto download of updates, though it would be nice to see what has been downloaded. My problem is why the heck does Windows have to keep nagging me to restart so as to complete the updates, even when I am in the middle of something? I really miss Linux in that respect.

Multiple desktops
On a typical day, I have about 6 worksheets open, with Google Chrome, Firefox, Thunderbird, and some other folders open. On Linux, in order not to clutter my desktop, I just move some of he open windows to another desktop and all is well with the world. Windows? Well I do not know of any such function.

Reboot, Reboot and reboot
Again, lots of applications I install tell me to reboot before the installation will be complete. If I make an installation of 5 such programs, it means for 5 times I have to reboot my system. Linux? Sudo-apt get install XYZ and bam, its done.

At times when I want to wonder into my own decompression chamber, all I do is to play around with Compiz on Linux. Seeing my windows wobble and do some cool stuff helps me get my head in shape. I really miss that functionality on Windows, at least on XP (not yet moved to 7).

There are lots of things that as a Linux user, you are likely to miss on Windows, these are some of mine. Lets here what's yours.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 4 comments

Saturday, February 13, 2010

5 things that make Drupal different from all the other CMSs.

There are lots of content management systems out there. Most of which are open source and normally get the job done. However, Drupal stands out amongst them for a host of reasons, five of which are
All the open source CMS out there have user communities that help out each other. However, the Drupal community out there is second to none. It is helpful to users of all levels from the complete noob to the most advanced. Once you have a question and ask it right and politely, you are sure to get an answer.
You can call them extensions, addons or any other name. Drupal calls it modules, and there is a module for almost anything you can think of. The extent to which you can customize your Drupal site is actually limited by your imagination rather than a lack of modules. In fact, for any task you can think of, there is a module for that.
Drupal is very easy to use even if you don't know anything about web design. It was built with all user levels in mind and makes getting used to it very easy.
Third party services
Other than the Drupal world, there is also a cool third party ecosystem that has sprung up to add value to your use of Drupal. Artisteer, Drupalzilla and Drupalmodules are all examples of third party services you can make use of.
Code base
Drupal is built on solid code that is updated regularly and is open source, available for download. The quality of the Drupal code is attested by the stability and reliability that you get out of the box with every Drupal installation.

These are just a gist of the many reasons why Drupal is so unique and different from the others. If you are thinking of deploying a CMS for any project, I seriously recommend you give Drupal a try, you will be glad you did. 

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By Seraaj Muneer with 9 comments

Thursday, February 11, 2010

FireFound- Track your stolen or missing computer through Firefox

FireFound is a Firefox addon that lets you track your stolen computer by logging into your FireFound account on any other computer with an internet connection. It is also available for Fennec, the mobile version of Firefox for the Nokia N900 and other smartphones.

It works by sending your computers current location to a server and keeps on doing that anytime the location changes. So when you lose your computer either via theft or it gets missing, all you have to do is to login to the FireFound site with the username and password you created when you installed the addon.

You can also tell FireFound to clear your everything from your browser-history, bookmarks, passwords- if anyone starts your browser before you can retrieve it. Additionally, you could also host your own FireFound server with the source code, which is available for download

I have just installed this addon because it looks really promising to me. I would like to have some form of solace in case- God forbid :-) - I lose my lappy. You ought to do same.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 1 comment

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

U-Lite Linux- Ubuntu made light.

Based on Ubuntu but optimized for very old hardware, U-Lite, formerly known as Ubuntulite  is a Linux distribution that runs on LXDE,  the Lightweight X11 desktop environment. The aim of the U-Lite is to give you a normal desktop functionality out of the box no matter how old your machine is.

The default installation comes bundled with Abiword and Gnumeric for word processing and spreadsheets. It also comes with the Kazehakase web browser and Sylpheed mail client

The recommended configuration for running the distro is a Pentium 2 machine with 96MB of ram and 4GB of hard drive storage. The installation file for U-Lite is 356MB and can be downloaded via both Torrent and HTTP, though as usual the torrent download is always recommended. If you like Ubuntu but have a very old hardware, then U-Lite is definitely worth a try.

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The Tor Project - Screw up those spying on you.

The Tor Project is free software that helps you thwart attempts by third parties like you government who are interested in spying on your internet sojourn. It works by "bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world: it prevents somebody watching your Internet connection from learning what sites you visit, and it prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location."

If you happen to live in a country where your government likes to snoop around what you do online, then Tor can come in really handy. It's use is not limited to this but also is ideal for corporate workers, government employees who work on sensitive things, jounalists, whistle blowers and more. 

The project is run by a worldwide group of volunteers who run relays from all parts for the globe. There are a number of ways you can get involved in the project, the most important of which is to consider running a relay. Tor is available for download for all three platforms: Windows, Linux and Mac OSX. 

If you are concerned about some big eyes out there watching all the moves you do online, then Tor could be your solution. Give is a try and if you find it useful, you could make some donation to the guys behind the project.

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Monday, February 8, 2010

Censorship of the internet- is China really that guilty?

 According to Google definitions:

"Censoring: counterintelligence achieved by banning or deleting any information of value to the enemy."

"Censorship is the suppression of speech or deletion of communicative material which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient to the government or media organizations as determined by a censor."

 "The use of state or group power to control freedom of expression, such as passing laws to prevent media from being published or propagated."

Last Saturday we reposted a news item in which the US is said to have blocked access to Sourceforge and other sites to citizens of Cuba. The story got me thinking and asking lots of questions to myself. Just this evening I came across this post on Axis of Logic titled how the US and Google censor the internet. I found some points raised there quite interesting.

Is it true that a bill was tabled before congress that sought to give the US president absolute power to take over the internet? Why does the US ban access to sites, and not just any sites but open source application sites to citizens of  other countries? Why does Google do same with their code hosting service Google Code? I find it very funny and ironic when the kettle tells the pot how black it looks!

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By Seraaj Muneer with No comments

Social Media- Will Google ever get it right?

Google seems to have succeeded in all of its endeavors except for social media. Its most recent attempt was with Google Wave which in all honesty, is very crappy and not so intuitive, at least in my view. All may be about to change, thanks to Google's plan to integrate status updates-like services into Gmail.

If there is one service of which Google is jealous, then it is Facebook. It seems no matter how hard Google tried in the past, it never succeeded at beating the 25 year Zuckerberg. However, I think what has prompted Google to take a preemptive action is the fact that Facebook is actually in the process of launching a full featured webmail service.

Gmail no doubt is the most intuitive webmail service on the planet, but to have the most popular social media service make an incursion into Google's arena would very interesting. What I am wondering is how come Google with all its clout is yet to make any meaningful impact in the social media arena?

How come we've got services like Twitter and Facebook suddenly zoom past Google leaving the latter in the dust? This new service that Google is planning to implement in Gmail will be a welcome news if only it will actually like more like an aggregator for my other social media services. 

It would be interesting to see how this turns out. Orkut and Google Wave in recent past have proven that Google seems to be clueless about when it comes to social media. Is that about to change? One can only wonder and wait?

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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Crisis Commons - Open Source in Action for Disaster Relief

Over the past two weeks, I've been working to organize a CrisisCamp in Calgary.  It was the 1 of 4 happening in Canada this weekend.  Based on Barcamp, the focus was on solutions to aid the NGO"s and responders on the ground in Haiti. The code base is all open source and can be modified for other disasters that may occur globally.

Several CrisisCamp events have taken place globally since the quake hit Haiti on Jan 12th. Volunteers in cities across North America, Bogota in Colombia, and London, UK have coded solutions directly requested by non governmental organizations (NGOs) on the ground, all via a website submission page. Visit CrisisCommon for further insight

Yesterday, Feb 6th, we had a moderate but productive turnout for our first CrisisCamp.  Lucky for me I had 2 project managers volunteer who helped with narrowing down the scope of projects we wanted to present to the group based on their skill sets.  We presented what we felt were the most viable and active projects (5 technical & 3 non-technical) to the group during our 'All Hands on Deck' planning session.  We were able to quickly select 5 projects that resonated with individuals and which fit their skill set.

Throughout the day we liaised with other cities who were also working on the projects, to obtain access to the source code, setup permissions, basecamp accounts, check in with project leads etc.

The projects that our group chose to contribute our time and code to included:

Haiti Hospital Capacity Finder - Kapab MedNet Situational Awareness Tool  http://haiti.opensgi.net/mednet/  which required python development

Translating OpenStreet Map documentation into French

Haiti Schools Situational Awareness Tool - built a prototype webapp in groovy/grails to capture and display data

Disaster Accountability Public Database - http://www.reliefoversight.org/  - updated database info & may contribute future Drupal coding

Field Voices - requested by Plan Canada,a  team developed a java based web app to enable donors to see progess of construction projects in Haiti

An overview of all the projects submitted to CrisisCommons can be seen here: http://wiki.crisiscommons.org/wiki/Projects

At the end of the day, everyone felt they had made a significant contribution and would consider coming out for another CrisicCamp.  We have planned a second camp for Feb 20th.

On a final note, it was great to collaborate on projects with people in different locations via Skype & IRC.  I feel that efforts such as these truly exemplify the spirit of open source development, and look forward to playing an ongoing role in CrisisCommon.

Cheers for now

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Saturday, February 6, 2010

U.S. Prevents Cuba from accessing Open Source projects.

This news item was originally posted on the  Brunei Fm news site.

HAVANA, Feb.6 (NNN-Prensa Latina): Cuban Enterprise software DESOFT has reported that the U.S. impeded home users access to Source Forge, the largest repository of open source projects online.
Sources from the Cuban company that is dedicated to finding solutions within and outside the island, said the U.S. restriction strengthens Washington’s hostility against Havana.
“With this decision we are prevented from further updating the improvements in these applications, and ratifies the inability to make ours,” said Wilfredo C. Diaz, vice president DESOFT Development.

It is a penalty to break with the very definition of what is open source, which violates their bases and with which discriminated results,? said the director who lamented that the measure is aimed against the application of new technologies here.
Earlier the White House took action against the Caribbean nation in that sector, as the popular travel site Amadeus becomes useless when included as a destination any Cuban city or airport.
As part of the denial of access to the web, the American company Microsoft said in May 2009 it decided to block the Windows Live service to Cuba.
Upon connecting to this tool, it reads: “Microsoft has cut the Windows Live Messenger IM users to U.S. embargoed countries, so Microsoft will not offer more Windows Live service in his country.”
Three other sites have been blocked; Cisco Systems which specializes in technologies to access, routers for Internet access servers and equipment in the field of digital video (http://tools.cisco.com/RPF/register.do).
SolidWorks (http://www.solidworks.com/sw/termsofuse.html, automated design systems) and Symantec (http://www.symantec.com/about/profile/policies/legal for protection software virus) are part of the list.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 3 comments

[IMAGE] OMG! An iPod made in Africa.

Now who says Africa is lagging behind in terms of technology? If you think only the West has got what it takes to make inventions, think again. The image below should give you enough proof that Africa is also in the league of tech giants and has made its own version of an iPod. Check it out and share the news with your friends!
Original image

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By Seraaj Muneer with 2 comments

What exactly is a market share anyway?

My co-author made a post about the extremes of Linux market share, citing statistics from Net Applications. The stats in that particular post gave Linux a meager 1% and Windows a whooping 92% market share!

What boggles my mind is what people mean when they talk of market share. In that report for instance, the stats actually refer to desktop market shares. Now that then brings to mind the basis of those stats. How are they really measured such that Linux has 1% and Windows 92%? What sites were used in the aggregation to arrive at such a conclusion?

I am naturally a person who always takes stats of whatever nature with reservation. A look at the definition of Market share by Wikipedia states

"...according to Carlton O'Neal, the percentage or proportion of the total available market or market segment that is being serviced by a company. It can be expressed as a company's sales revenue (from that market) divided by the total sales revenue available in that market. It can also be expressed as a company's unit sales volume (in a market) divided by the total volume of units sold in that market. It is generally necessary to commission market research (generally desk/secondary research, although sometimes primary research) to estimate the total market size and a company's market share."

This definition is really interesting. It is worthy to note that if for instance, desktop market share is actually going to be determined by the number of units sold, then Linux is likely to have less than 1%. Then too if we take the part that states that the proportion of the total available market that is being served, Linux would likely make about 10% of that.

I believe making an accurate measure of the market share of Linux on the desktop is very difficult in the best of circumstances. For instance, at home, I use a HSDPA which runs very slowly on Linux for whatever reason. Thus I am compelled to boot into Windows XP anytime I need to do some work online. This probably means my unit may not be counted as part of the total statistic. 

Also the kind of sites that are used in the aggregation is of much interest.f you take this site for instance, Linux will have a whooping 80% and Windows 7%, leaving the rest for Mac and the rest to share. However, if you take a site like NYtimes, then Windows would certainly win there. To estimate the market share of an OS on the desktop is no small task. It is also one riddled with inaccuracies and errors, not to talk about subjectivity.

To say Linux has X% of market share to me, is just for convenience. I believe the true number of Linux users on the desktop cannot be accurately measured. All that can be done would be to do some subjective maths. Windows no doubt, has the lions share of the market, but Linux has moved form the time when it was a pushover to a force to be reckoned with on the desktop market.

However, on the server side, Linux is the king. Pure and simple. No stats is needed to prove that. Anyone for example, of the 200million hits Google receives everyday is actually processed on a Linux system.

In short, market share is mostly a subject measure of how a particular product or service is fairing relative to others on the same market. This measure will vary greatly even when the factors on which they are based are varied in the slightest way. Linux on the desktop is small, but no longer a pushover. What's your take?

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By Seraaj Muneer with No comments

Friday, February 5, 2010

Matt Assay replaces Jane Silber as Canonical COO.

Not long ago, it was announced that Jane Silber will replace Mark Shuttleworth as Canonical's CEO leaving the position of COO vacant. Today, the commercial backer of Ubuntu has announced Matt Assay as the new COO.

Matt is the author of CNET's popular blog The Open Road. Prior to joining Canonical, he was the VP of Business Development for Alfresco, an Open Source CMS.  He will be "responsible for aligning strategic goals and operational activities, the optimization of day-to-day operations, and leadership of Canonical marketing and back-office functions."

A founding member of Novell's Linux Business Office and an early influencer and  participant in the company's move to Open Source, Matt Assay will bring to Canonical and the Ubuntu project an in depth knowledge of commercial marketing of open source

"Before Novell, Asay was General Manager at Lineo, an embedded Linux software start-up, where he ran Lineo's Residential Gateway business. He is an emeritus board member of the Open Source Initiative (OSI)."

What I can infer from the recent reshuffles that have taken place in Canonical is that the company is actually reaching its growth stage where it needs veterans who know the Open Source and Free Software terrain pretty well to steer its affairs. I think Matt Assay falls right into that description. I believe it will not be long before we see a fully grown, profitable entity backing the Ubuntu project. 

You can follow Matt Assay on Twitter to get a scoop of his thoughts and what he's up to. Matt, I wish you the best of luck!

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By Seraaj Muneer with No comments

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The extremes of Linux market share

Net Applications's service NetMarketShare tracks browser and operating system market share for several of the most popular websites. The statistics are generated by analyzing data obtained from clients accessing the websites and finding patterns in the data that reveal the client OS. The current data is available here.

The Linux market share of 1.02% looks rather depressing compared to Microsoft's big blue 92% chunk of the cake.

However, there is an important part of the story that the statistics does not show. Which OS is the website host running? Which OS are the computers responsible for transferring the data to the client (routers) running? Most often the answer to these questions will be Linux. The fact is that most of us use Linux, every day! We just don't know about it.

To further add to the argument, many tasks that traditionally were performed with desktop applications is now increasingly performed with online applications. Google's suite of applications such as GMail, Docs, Calender etc. along with other web services such as YouTube, Hulu and last.fm are gradually replacing the desktop OS. On top of that we have "web-enabled" applications like Facebook and Twitter not previously found on the desktop. Increasingly the desktop OS is a platform for running a browser, be it IE, Firefox, Chrome, Safari or Opera. The rest takes place online. This technology trend manifests itself clearly in Google Chrome OS: Google's idea of a pure cloud based operating system. In such an OS what happens on the desktop makes little contribution to the user experience. When we are talking about OS market share wouldn't it make sense to also look at which systems actually contribute to the user experience and what OS they are running?

Jim Zemlin, the executive director of The Linux Foundation, answers the question of who is using Linux.

"I am not joking or trying to be trite, but the answer to this question is: every single person in the modern world every day. Everyone who searches Google, picks up a phone and uses telecommunication infrastructure, watches a new televisions, use a new camera, makes a call on many modern cell phones, trades a stock on a major exchange, watches a weather forecast generated on a supercomputer, logs into Facebook, navigates via air traffic control systems, buys a netbook computer, checks out at a cash register, withdraws cash at an ATM machine, fires up a quick-boot desktop (even those with Windows), or uses one of many medical devices; the list goes on and on."

1.02%? No way!

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By Helge with 3 comments

Monday, February 1, 2010

5 factors that are set to challenge the dominance of Windows in the future.

Taking a look at the recent Microsoft financial result for Q2 ending 31 Dec 2009, one thing that stands out is the fact that Windows is still the major cash cow for MS. It is in this light that I believe the following five things are likely to give MS execs sleepless nights in 2010 and beyond.
Falling hardware prices
The more the prices of hardware falls, the lower is MS able to charge the OEMs a per unit installation license for Windows. Given the fact that hardware prices have fallen drastically in recent years and are set to do so in the foreseeable future, Ballmer may not be sleeping well at all.

Desktop Linux
No I'm not going to say the year of Linux is here and now. But whatever the case, the relatively increasing popularity of Linux among the general masses-spearheaded by Ubuntu-is set to cause some discomfiture to MS execs.
On the smartphone platform, Android is set to make life very difficult given the fact that the almighty Google itself is now directly competing with its own hardware branded phone. Tough luck MS.
Change of landscape
In years gone by, one used an OS for almost all of their tasks. Today however, the OS is increasingly becoming only a means for users to access the web on their PCs where it ends. Almost everything that can be done with the OS can be done in a browser. In fact, the browser is the most important piece of software on the machine of almost everyone out there. What this means is the increasing growing irrelevance of a mostly bloated, full fledged OS like Windows. With this shift comes search for a lighter, and web centric OS.
Google Chrome OS
In steps Google Chrome OS. Flowing from the previous post, Google Chrome is set to be the world's first web centric OS that has a browser at its core. The aim of such an OS is to get you online in seconds. With everything shifting from the desktops and hard drives of users to the 'cloud', I can foresee Windows gradually being left in the dust. More insomnia will naturally be the result.
For over two decades, Windows has been the single most dominant piece of software known to man. However, I am deeply convinced that such a situation is about to change. The change is not going to happen overnight, neither is it going to happen within one year. 

It is going to be a combination of factors, mostly those outlined above and others, that are going to cause the gradual decline of Windows and with it cause MS execs to suffer serious insomnia. Of course I'm holding the assumption that Windows stays as it is without changing.

Who knows, maybe Windows is planning a WebDows edition to counter Google Chrome. However, all things being equal, recent developments in the tech arena has made it clear that the only way for one to stay on top is to keep up with the times via innovation. MS is yet to learn this lesson and this will cause its execs lots and lots of discomfiture. What do you think?

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By Seraaj Muneer with 3 comments
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