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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Artha - A Linux desktop dictionary worth having

The default dictionary that ships with Ubuntu requires one to be online to be able to look up a word. Well what if you are not online or have no internet connection at your disposal at the time you want to look up the meaning of a word? That is where Artha shines.

Artha is a WordNet based thesaurus released under the GPL that works completely offline. It is a "handy thesaurus that focuses on high usability, without trading off simplicity and ease of use. It has the following distinct features that increases its usability:
  • WordNet - Artha harnesses the extensive & in-depth database provided by WordNet. Unlike other dictionaries which goes on-line for every single lookup, Artha works completely off-line; thanks to WordNet for its excellent and cognitive database
  • Hot key Lookup - When you press a pre-set hot key, after selecting some text on any window, Artha pops up with the selection's definitions looked-up.
  • Regular Expressions Search - When a word is vaguely known, i.e. the user is unclear of its spelling or when it's start/end alone is known or when the number of characters is known; one can speed up/narrow the search using regular expression to locate the particular word they have in mind.
  • Notifications - Artha can show passive notifications (balloon tips) instead of the application's window popping up, so that you can continue what you were doing, uninterrupted. (like reading, writing, etc.)
  • Suggestions - When a misspelled word is queried for, Artha gives you its near-match suggestions.
  • Relative to Sense Mapping - Relative words like synonyms, antonyms, etc. that are displayed are many. You might not know to which sense/definition of a word does a relative map to. In Artha, when you select a relative, its corresponding definition is scrolled to and highlighted for easy comprehension."
For me, the killer feature about Artha is its ability to pop  up a balloon with the meaning of a word which I highlight and press a predefined key. It is really cool and makes using very pleasant in that it gets out of your way while at the same time helping you make sense of whatever it is that you are reading. 

It is available for download source compilation for other distros while both Debian and Fedora together with their derivatives already have it in their repositories.

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By Seraaj Muneer with No comments

[HUGE] Oracle buys Ubuntu!!!

Information I've gathered from a close friend who is also an insider indicates that Oracle, the new owner of Sun Microsystems, has bought Canonical, the commercial sponsor of Ubuntu. This he says is yet to be made public but the deal is worth around $10 billion. 

Oracle has promised to keep the entire staff strength of Canonical intact thereby allaying fears of job cuts among employees. It also promised to bring its vast resources to bear on the development of Canonical's flagship brand Ubuntu.
It is still not known whether this will have any bearing on the arrangement between Canonical and Google with regards to the development of the latter's own OS Chrome OS which is due out later this year. 

The reason cited for Oracle's move is that the company wants to diversify the Linux platform on which its flagship product, the Oracle Database runs. What more better option than Ubuntu??

I am keeping my ears open and will update you on the latest development on this story. Please stay with me for now.

In case you have not checked, today is the 1st of April and a day called April Fools Day. Hehe. Guess I got you with that one. Now I think I will get well and back to serious writing soon. Enjoy the rest of your day :-)

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By Seraaj Muneer with 3 comments

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

[OFF TOPIC] An open warning to the President of the Republic of Ghana

Hi Prof
I write to you this warning of mine just so that someday I can have a defense before my God. I am a 25 year old law abiding, tax paying citizen of this God forsaken country of which you are the president. I am very much worried about a lot of things, only a few of which will be highlighted in this memo to you. During the 2008 elections, I really prayed to God Almighty to bring you to power, for we'd had enough of the glutonous, money hungry regime that was then ruling this country. Two years into your government and I think you really are failing. Your failure, Mr President, will have a dire consequence that if you are not careful, will haunt you for the rest of your life.

In case you do not know, it is under your government that the threshold for violence of this once peace loving populace is being lowered day in day out. The whole country is gradually getting used to hearing people getting killed over some stupid issue all over the country. The stupid, anachronistic, useless and archaic institution called chietaincy is threatening the very existence of this country and Mr President, you are queit. If no one told you, this country has over 50 ethnic groups that have lived side by side for hundreds of years. It is during your government that some really shallow minded chiefs are doing their utmost best to pitch these 50 groups against each other. I hope you have not forgotten so soon what happened in Rwanda. That was only two tribes. Now multiply Rwanda's genocide by 50 and you will understand my frustration at your cowardice silence in the face of the glaring indiscipline of some myopic chiefs.

Two years into your term of government and you are yet to bring to trial people that would have been tried for high treason if we were living in a civilized society. During the 2008 elections, there were people who were caught on tape, plotting to subvert the very constitution that we the tax payers pay them to be vanguards of. These are men and women who plotted to plant dead bodies, use violence and all and necessary means to make sure that you never come to power. To make sure that the will of the people, as is clearly stated in the constitution is never respected. These are men and women who but for the Grace of God Almighty Himself, would have plunged this country into civil war. These men, who were caught on tape, some of whom were caught red handed with illegal weapons, are still walking free. Some are even in parliament, throwing their weight about, insisting their names be preceded by the stupid accolade of 'honorable.'

Mr President, we all know there were people in the previous regime who squandered billions of Dollars that should have gone to do something beneficial for everyday people like myself and the other 25 million out there. The man who was the then speaker of parliament for example, upon leaving the official residence he was in, looted everything, and by everythign I mean everything including soap racks in the bathrooms! This man and his other cronies in that regime, are still free men. 

This morning I read the news headlines and saw a 25 year old man imprisoned for 18 months in hard labor because he stole some plantain. Mr President, in case you never knew, there is an English word called INJUSTICE. That is the order of the day in Ghana. Injustice. We have criminals, and I mean hardened robbers. Men and women who rob without compunction who are still waking free. Throwing their weight about because they are in politics. And we the law abiding, tax paying citizens are paying for their crimes.

Insecurity is now engulfing the country like never before. You have 18 year olds who are arrested everyday by the police for armed robbery. Have you ever wondered why the so called Internet fraud or 419 scams have eaten so much into the heads of the youth? It is because they look at you people in politics and see how rich you become overnight. They are then convinced that they can also make it in life quickly. They are learning from you. You politicians rob with pens. Now the youth are robbing with guns and computer keyboards. Do you have any qualms?

Mr President, the health system is falling apart. The baseless scheme called the National Health Insurance that was introduced by your predecessor is a giant scheme meant to rip people off. That scheme takes trillions of Cedis from our monies with the Social Security and do what with it? My card expired and upon going to renew, was told it will take 6 whole months for me to get a new one. The card has a duration of one year. Does it make sense to you? The education system is nothing to write home about. You have children failing miserably every year. The pass numbers keep going down everyday. Have you asked yourself why? Because the media are feeding the populace with garbage, filth and miseducation.

Mr President, I can write on till morning, but the battery on my laptop won't allow because as of now there is no power. We are in darkness. Electricity, water, roads, telecommunication and almost every other infrastructure is in shambles. But the very reason why I write to you this memo is to sternly warn you and your government. I want you and your government to take control of the security situation in the country. You Mr John Evans Fiifi Atta Mills are not currently in charge of this country. It looks to me as if you are very much afraid of offending everybody in this world. I want to advice you to take charge and bring some semblance of law and order in this gradually dacaying country. Ghana is currently treading the path that was taken by her Neighbor Nigeria to get to where she is today.

It will not be in anyone's interest should this country go haywire. Oh, sorry I forgot those that import guns and ship them off to the Northern Region and Bawku. But those people will come to know. Mr President, I want you to know, that should push come to shove in this country with regards to the security situation, law abiding citizens like myself and I believe thousands of others like me will not hesitate to pick up arms to defend those that are near and dear to us. We will not allow you politicians to break this country and think you can fly out with your families to safe places. 

I want to warn you, that innocent youth like myself are getting frustrated at the future you are causing this country to hold for us. We are trying very hard to make ends meet. The least you and your mostly incompetent government can do for us is to guarantee security. Guarantee our freedom to move about our own country without let or hinderance. Guarantee our freedom to own property without fear of losing them to criminals. Guarantee our right to justice and basic equalities. 

Mr President, I am warning you. The law abiding, tax paying youth of this country will hold you personally accountable should you, either by your action or inaction, cause this country to fall apart. Mr President, we are watching you. Mr President, act now. Mr President, it will be in the interest of every single one of us if you take charge of this country right now! Mr President, I have said enough. Be warned. 

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By Seraaj Muneer with No comments

Sunday, March 28, 2010

US DoD advisory on Open Source Software

I came across the advisory attached below from the US DoD on 'Clarifying Guidance Regarding Open Source Software (OSS)' which I found quite interesting though it was issued way back in October 2009. I have reproduced it here in case you have not read it. It is interesting and will be the subject of a blog post later in the week. For now, please read it (only 6 pages) and savor your points. We shall discuss it later.
US DoD advisory on OSS

Original link

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By Seraaj Muneer with No comments

Namebench - Automatically search the best DNS server

Namebench is a small application that automatically searches for the fastest DNS servers relative to your current location for your computer to use.

"Namebench runs a fair and thorough benchmark using your web browser history, tcpdump output, or standardized datasets in order to provide an individualized recommendation. namebench is completely free and does not modify your system in any way. This project began as a 20% project at Google."

Namebench is cross platform and comes with both an GUI and CLI to suit all types of users. You can download it for Windows, Mac OSX and Linux.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 1 comment

Friday, March 26, 2010

FSF Opposes More Copyright Enforcement in Joint Strategic Plan

The United States' newly-created "Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator" asked for public comments on a Joint Strategic Plan to make copyright enforcement more effective. The FSF submitted an argument that the government should adopt free software and encourage its use elsewhere to provide more freedom to computer users and reduce the need for such enforcement. The full text of the comment appears below.

March 24, 2010

Victoria Espinel
Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator
Office of Management and Budget
Executive Office of the President
Filed via email

Re: Comments on the Joint Strategic Plan

Dear Ms. Espinel:

I am writing on behalf of the Free Software Foundation (FSF), a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization based in Boston, Massachusetts, with comments for the Joint Strategic Plan. The FSF believes that everyone should be allowed to share and change the software that they use[1], and that people are harmed when they are prohibited from doing so. When software is licensed under terms that permit such modification and redistribution, we call that software free software. We provide technical and informational resources to developers who are releasing free software. We also hold the copyright for more than 200 such programs.

The FSF believes that the Joint Strategic Plan should not envision baroque schemes to help enforce overbearing proprietary software licenses, but instead should advocate the adoption of free software at all levels of government and industry. This strategy would provide the government with full control over its own software and offer maximum transparency and freedom to its constituents, while simultaneously reducing the demand to provide structures for copyright and license enforcement.

Our suggestions here are focused on software copyrights and the licenses that typically accompany them. We want to be clear on this point, since the term "intellectual property" lumps together very different areas of law, and encourages people to assume similarities between them where none exist.

I. Government Benefits from Free Software Adoption

All free software users benefit from the right to modify that software and distribute it to others. In the context of government, however, those rights take on special significance: they make it possible to serve the people in this digital age in ways that cannot be matched by proprietary software.

President Obama made transparency of the government a staple of his election campaign, promising to make it easier for people to understand the decisions that elected and appointed officials make on our behalf. Using free software would provide government agencies with numerous opportunities to make good on that promise. Free software generally favors free data formats and standards, to provide both developers and users with as many opportunities as possible to access the data and interoperate with other software. Releasing data in these formats is well-recognized as a crucial component of digital government transparency, and free software supports them best.

Furthermore, even in cases where free software does not support a free format or standard, agencies would still be able to help the public make sense of their data simply by distributing the same software that they used to create it. Following such a policy would be the next-best thing to releasing the information in a free format, providing everyone not only with the raw data, but the information necessary to understand it. This practice would only be possible with free software, which ensures that the government has the source code for programs it uses, and can release it to the public.

Free software also offers the government greater control over its own computers—an increasingly important consideration as they affect more aspects of our daily lives and our interactions with each other. Because the software can be easily modified, agencies would be able to adjust or remove features which may be extraneous or even dangerous in their specific use of it. When customized solutions are needed, they can be developed on top of existing free software in whatever manner is most effective and economical. When defects are discovered, agencies can determine for themselves how the issue is resolved—and if there is an urgent problem, they would not need to wait on a single company to provide assistance.

Finally, adopting free software in government makes more effective use of tax dollars. Whenever an organization purchases a proprietary software license that limits the number of users or installations, it must spend time and money ensuring it stays in compliance with those terms—an administrative task with little economic impact. Free software will eliminate the need for that bureaucratic overhead, freeing the funds for use elsewhere. And if there is no ready free software solution for a particular task, the government could maximize economic benefit by contracting developers to fill in the gaps, and releasing the work as free software in turn—giving the public the most possible benefit from the work it paid for.

For all these reasons, numerous government organizations worldwide—from individual agencies to entire federal governments—have started using free software. The Department of Defense has long used free software for countless projects. In 2006, the Federal Aviation Administration switched to a free software operating system for its traffic management systems. More recently, in 2009 the White House web site migrated to a free software platform as well. Elsewhere, substantial deployments have been carried out in Brazil, Germany, Spain, France, Czechoslovakia, and Macedonia. All this activity has brought many benefits to the adopters while reducing the need to spend government resources on copyright enforcement.

II. Free Software Reduces Demand for License Enforcement

All free software, by definition, must allow an organization to use the work for any purpose, commercial or noncommercial, without restriction. Furthermore, most free software licenses have, at most, relatively simple conditions for organizations to follow when they modify the software but do not distribute it. Most of the conditions in free software licenses concern themselves solely with distribution of that software.

The FSF's flagship license, the GNU General Public License (GPL)[2], serves as a clear example of this point. In the latest version of the license, version 3, section 2 explicitly states that the software can be run and modified "without conditions." The following five sections list conditions that licensees must follow when they distribute the software in various different ways, and comprise the bulk of the conditions in the license.

Because free software licenses have so few conditions for private activity, they dramatically reduce the costs of license enforcement for both distributors and users. A proprietary software license, by contrast, typically limits the number of copies that can be installed and/or run. To enforce this, the software developer often invests time and money programming features to prevent license violations, and the user must spend resources to ensure they do not exceed the stated limits. The problem is so severe that worried organizations can buy software that is dedicated to tracking compliance with these proprietary licenses. All of these costs can be avoided by adopting free software.

In a similar way, free software developers require less assistance from the government in pursuing compliance with their licenses, even when they engage in active enforcement activity. Because license compliance in these cases is so focused on distribution of the software, which is often an activity conducted in public (e.g., a company distributes the software to the public as part of a product for sale), free software developers can often confirm that a license violation has occurred without any government assistance. 

As an example, the FSF has successfully enforced the terms of its licenses in a number of cases without serving subpoenas, overseeing office raids, or resorting to other expensive executive functions. In fact, the FSF has only felt it necessary to sue in court over a license violation in a single case, out of hundreds of cases it has handled over more than a decade.

III. Conclusion

Tax dollars spent to enforce the copyrights and licenses of proprietary software act as a subsidy for a particular kind of business—one that harms our society by dictating arbitrary rules for how we use our computers. This spending continues despite the fact that the most egregious harms to the public interest in the areas of copyright and patents come not from a lack of enforcement, but from extraordinarily excessive enforcement. 

If the U.S. government began consistently using free software throughout its operations, and advocating for its adoption elsewhere, we could reduce demand for these activities and productively invest the funds elsewhere. The FSF urges IPEC to advocate for increased free software adoption in government as a means to promote freedom in computing for everyone, reduce demand for copyright enforcement resources, and accomplish the goals of the Joint Strategic Plan.


Brett Smith
License Compliance Engineer
Free Software Foundation

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By Seraaj Muneer with No comments

Migrating to Linux without pain

Well, as I said before, I will discuss in this post about how to perform a migration. The subject of migration can not be seen as something simple. But with the experiences I've had, with a few simple tips, you can perform a migration as smoothly as possible.

Make no mistake. In migration, what will count most, won't be shiny graphical interfaces, bells and whistles. No. And even if it is possible to migrate the installed systems to more efficient ones, from a technical point of view, either from an economic standpoint, and why not say more ecologically correct technology, the most sensitive part, the field of battle that's going to determine whether migration is a triumph or a flop, is the people.

Why Migrate?

Several reasons arise:
  • Cost / benefit: The annual fees of licensing contracts paid to proprietary software companies are huge expenses and possibly a "dead" money because you pay for what you already have, not for something new.
  • Existing hardware: As software updates push the hardware upgrades, and, as I wrote before in another post, you can migrate the software to take advantage of your existing hardware. The famous TCO is much lower then.
  • Update the software used to more modern versions: Many companies running older versions of windows, are also still running older versions of Office suite from Microsoft. Result: Incompatibility with the most recent file formats (DOCX and XLSX)
  • Standardization in open formats for your files (your documents will thank you)
Well, it's no use a faster operating system, better memory management, protection between applications and system code, if the users to be , speak out against it.
Yes, make no mistake. You can have all the advantages: cost effectiveness, speed, a clever use of hardware resources. But where the migrations fail, it is in human beings. And how does this happen??

A well done marketing, that hid the dirt under the carpet.

Two well recognized companies (a software one, and a software + hardware one) sold the idea that computers should be like microwave ovens, so easy to operate as a lamp. You only turn on and don't have to worry about anything else. Computers would be an appliance.

Well, I'm sorry to inform this, but that marketing was very exaggerated. Very unrealistic. Computers are intelligent machines, they need intelligence to work properly. And, generally, reflect the intelligence of the user who operates them.

I would say that computers are more like cars, that, if you do not know how to drive them, they will cause much damage and even death. Back to the migration subject, a major source of headache is the so called training for the new platform. And the cost of this training is also mentioned as a reason not to migrate.
But, and before the current system was deployed? How was before? There was no training, no learning curve in that system???

There was. In the house of accounting employee, for example, he was using pirated versions of Excel, Word, Power Point. Thus, it was easy to learn to deal with these applications. And that is where piracy pays off for large proprietary software companies. With learning "at home", the employee is already prepared and familiar with the same versions of applications that he will find at work.

As we live in times of high competitiveness, it is a factor in keeping one's job to know how to deal with office suites. And, having familiarity with the programs, it's easier to both keep the job, and aim for a better one.

The Human Factor --

We have seen that office workers are not even being trained in the dominant office suite . A better word would be that they are "indoctrinated" to work with this suite and the dominant operating system, cutting costs for employers and learning time. And when it comes to a migration that will change the entire operating system and applications in the workplace ... Terror spreads, and immediate opposition ensues.

This happens because the workers do not look at their machines as a better tool than a pencil sharpener or stapler . So, why be interested in learning how to use it better? No. .. Knowing where is the "Start" button and when to press it is enough.

And, migration is viewed with deep suspicion, as something that will expose incompetence.
Thus, the software / operating system to be implemented already has critics and opponents long before you start the migration work. It won't take long, and you'll hear: "Ahhh, but this damned: Linux, Open Office, Firefox, ... ............. (fill in the dots) does not work right. All poorly done, something that is free of charge is garbage anyway" ... That and perhaps more.

-And how to handle it ...

Well, the advice that I will enumerate hereafter are more for the human side (and less for the technical side of things) because an event such as a migration is something big enough to ignite rivalries or be used as a weapon to hurt the opponents at the workplace.
  • Converse. Talk a lot. Starting with the supervisor, to schedule a consistent plan of action for the migration.
  • It should be observed in the migration plan that, by common sense, it is mandatory that employees begin to work with the open source applications (FOSS) on the current platform. Indeed, this is the most valuable advice of all: Get the employees used with the applications they will use in the free platform (Linux, mostly) still on the proprietary platform (windows, most of the time)
  • There must be a deep degree of sensitivity to reassure employees of the good faith of their managers, while in the process of migration. The attitudes of management should be to pacify exalted moods, and especially dismiss the idea that the migration is an act of tyranny. If this unfortunate interpretation happens, inevitably, there will be rebellion and dissent. Unfortunately, history shows us that for every tyrant, there is rebellion and fights in the same degree. And in this case, controversy and discussion about the platform being deployed will only create confusion, and there will be loss of time and money.
  • Always there should be a testing project, done on a small scale, after all, every case is different, and in a testing situation, so to speak, it will be easier to identify how the migration will occur in the rest of the organization.
And last but not least, I went to the point of making up Linux to look like windows, so that employees of a client of mine would not strange it at first. The distro I used in this case was the PCLOS 2009, but any Linux distro, whether KDE, Gnome or XFCE can be configured to resemble graphically with other operating systems (MAC / OSX, Windows, Solaris, BSD, etc. ...)

Well, let's see how this operating system turned out visually...
Computer turned on, POST screen

So far, so good, the GRUB screen

Here things get interesting ... Windows XP??

A closer look can already see the message “Esc for verbose mode ...” Eheheheh

Starting up the "windows" interface...

Here, the traditional Bliss windows desktop (traditional, but not the same as the original XP)

For the staff do not fret, Open Office 3.1 , Kaffeine and XMMS with winamp's skin...

Ahhh, before lawyers start to send me letters of cease and desist, all the graphics to make this "makeup" were found in the following sites:

The bootsplash screen:
The theme of Kbfx skin and the kicker
The window decoration AKDC Luna:
Wallpapers Bliss
For best effect, I suggest you to leave the Grub timeout = 1, so the Grub menu just flashes in the screen and the loading screen (windows XP) appears.

I think some have already gone through a migration process . I bet many already know the advices that I gave here. But I believe that most will find interesting and useful to have this view of human behavior in a migration process .

Witten by Alex

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By Alessandro Ebersol with 7 comments

Thursday, March 25, 2010

OMG! The hard drive you have been waiting for!

What is the size of your current HDD? How much did you buy it? Is it state of the art? Whatever it your specs and price, see if yours can beat the one below. Enjoy and have your lol of the day :-D

Image Courtesy Rustylime

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By Seraaj Muneer with 3 comments

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Of Google, China and a disease called hypocrisy

Hypocrisy is a disease that easily afflicts corporations, especially those that rake in $24 billion of revenue annually and run by self adulating execs. I find it very funny and annoying at the same time when I read posts talking about how morally upright (sic) Google is in standing up to the Chinese government.

First of all, China is a sovereign country with a sovereign government. No one has the right, either morally or legally to dictate the kind of laws to be used in that country. Not even the UN! Google went into China and LEGALLY signed an agreement to follow the laws of China. To play by the rules of the government there. 

Now when that supposed attack happened, Google went on to accuse the Chinese government of being behind it. What was the evidence? The attacks were so sophisticated that no single group of individuals could carry it out. How old is the British guy who hacked into NASA? In any case, if the attacks were to seek confidential info about supposed Chinese human rights activists, what has that got to do with the legal agreement it signed to play by Chinese laws?

If Google is concerned about what happened, I'd love to hear its views on the US Patriot Act. Anybody remember that Act? Do you know what it is at all? The powers it confers on the state to spy on you? I wonder how the US government will ever take it if a Chinese corporation comes to challenge that law! Anyway, like I said, Google signed a legal agreement to follow the laws of a sovereign country where it sought to do business. For it to go back on that agreement is not only illegal but also demonstrates the highest form of hypocrisy on their part.

It also amazes me that Google believes it can take on the Chinese government. Very funny. Not even the US government can take on the Chinese government. Their economy is the worlds third largest and about to takeover Japan for the second position. They are at the forefront of pushing the global economy out of recession. $24 billion is much money, but very insignificant in relation to the *country* Google is seeking to take on.

Google, you are a great company, and I really love your splendid products. But you are not God. Not run by God and cannot be God. Do not aspire to be. If you go into a country, follow the laws there. If you cannot, do not go there in the first place. China and its 1.2b populace have little to lose after your departure. You are not the only SE out there. Bing is coming. Should you not mend your reckless way of dealing with the laws of sovereign countries, you will someday land yourself in a Bing trouble.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 1 comment

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Quickly convert MS Excel files into MySQL tables

Xls2mysql is a small tool for converting MS Excel files to MySQL database tables that is ready for use with PHP."Upload your file and we'll send you PHP code to generate the table and insert your data for your automatically!"

SO those of you web developers out there that need an easy way to convert files to database tables or those of you that work with databases, this tool should come in handy. Give it a try.

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By Seraaj Muneer with No comments

Sunday, March 21, 2010

5 Open Source music sharing sites worth knowing

The billions of Dollars of the recording industry versus your dozens of Dollars will always mean ground breaking fines and terms of imprisonment should you fall foul of their rules. If you are a music lover and want to enjoy music without looking over your shoulders at all times, then the following 5 Open music sharing sites should be of interest to you.

"Opsound is a gift economy in action, an experiment in applying the model of free software to music. Musicians and sound artists are invited to add their work to the Opsound pool using a copyleft license developed by Creative Commons. Listeners are invited to download, share, remix, and reimagine." Need I say more?

The IA library contains over two hundred thousand free digital recordings ranging from alternative news programming, to Grateful Dead concerts, to Old Time Radio shows, to book and poetry readings, to original music uploaded by our users. Many of these audios and MP3s are available for free download.

This one I guess is quite known by some of you. Jamendo is a community of free, legal and unlimited music published under Creative Commons licenses. Share your music, download your favorite artists!

ccMixter is a community music site featuring remixes licensed under Creative Commons where you can listen to, sample, mash-up, or interact with music in whatever way you want. I bet you are likely to find something to listen to on this site.

Well this is not as much as a community as it is about one man who gives out his songs for free. Yup. You can hop onto his site and listen to or download any of his songs for free. No fuss.

There we go, 5 sites that are seeking to apply the Open Source development model to music where you can get to download or listen to music for free without looking over your neck to see if you are being watched. Which sites do you go for music?

If you enjoyed this post, please spare a minute to Reddit, Digg or Stumble it for me. Thanks!

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By Seraaj Muneer with 9 comments

Ubuntu Linux- In need of a unique identity

Lucid Lynx is set to spot a new look when it makes its debut come this April. The days of the Earth brown Ubuntu colors are over, replaced by fresh looking new designs. However, despite its aesthetic looks and feel, I am of the view that Ubuntu is still in need of a unique identity if it has decided to do away with the brown.

In as much as I appreciate the level of work that has gone into the making of the new themes and visual appearance, I still strongly believe that it is actually a step in the wrong direction. Let me explain myself. You see, with the brown, Ubuntu was unique. There was no other OS in the world that spotted those colors. It actually symbolized Ubuntu in many respects, not least of which is the origin of the name. It gave it an aura of 'uncommoness' that is rare.

Now fast forward to Lucid Beta 1 and bam, a nice looking theme and visual appearance that is not unlike that of an existing software. In all honesty, I believe the new visual appearance of Ubuntu has too much resemblance to Mac OS. Let's face it, if Microsoft were to be the one coming out with this, all of us would have made a laughing stock of Redmond by now. I remember seeing blog posts in the initial days of Windows 7 about how MS is mimicking Mac OS.

Sure I can change it to my brown, but so too could the brown have been changed by anyone who actually wanted something else. Yes it was time to breath new life into the visual appearance of Ubuntu, but the breath should have been as unique, if not more than the one it was meant to replace. It's little wonder then, that part of these changes have caused a massive storm of user protests, so much so, that Shuttleworth had to tell the community how far their views could go.

Yes there needed to be change in the way Ubuntu looked from the factory, but the change should have added to the uniqueness of it, not cause people to actually have to think twice to know that Ubuntu is not Mac OS. Change is good, but a unique form of change is even better. What do you think? 

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By Seraaj Muneer with 2 comments

Friday, March 19, 2010

Open Source Schools- Helping schools turn to FOSS

Open Source Schools is a portal that aims at helping educational institutions adopt and deploy freely available FOSS applications. It "aims is to help you decide whether open source software might offer benefits for learning, teaching, engaging pupils and parents, managing information and resources, or school administration.

"We are building a community of people who have experience of open source software in schools, and those who are just getting started. There are a number of forums for you to share ideas and experiences and contribute to the debate about the use of open source software in schools."

The site features some articles on various open source subjects and has a forum where you can share ideas about how FOSS can help take education to the next level. There is also a directory of FOSS softwares that are suitable for educational settings. There is also a page that has case studies of some real life schools that have gone FOSS and the attendant benefits it brought to them.

If you are in an educational institution and looking to migrate your setting to FOSS, then this portal is sure to come in handy especially the case studies that it has compiled.You can also go there to share your experiences of FOSS in education with the community there and the world at large.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 5 comments

Ubuntu default wallpapers- Why not add some nostalgia?

One thing that changes constantly with every Ubuntu release is the default wallpaper. All the past releases have had theirs, some very nice, others not so nice. My personal favorite of all time is the Hardy Heron default wallpaper which to date, I cannot use Ubuntu without.

Hardy Default wallpaper

The upcoming Lucid Lynx release is also set to introduce its own flavor of wallpapers. What I would love to see Canonical do is to include some default wallpapers of the past Ubuntu releases in every new one. So for instance, Lucid may have the default wallpaper of Intrepid and Jaunty as part of the stack of wallpapers that it ships with.
This is just to give people a certain sense of nostalgia and also make it easy to (as is said in the local parlance here) keep in touch with the current release's "ancestors." Not all the past wallpapers are nice, but that of Hardy and Intrepid do not deserve to be forgotten just like that. 

Of course I can get all those from the Internet anytime, but there is a certain sense of 'specialness' when it comes bundled with the OS. What do you think?

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By Seraaj Muneer with No comments

[FSF] Open letter to Google: free VP8, and use it on YouTube

With its purchase of the On2 video compression technology company having been completed on Wednesday February 16, 2010, Google now has the opportunity to make free video formats the standard, freeing the web from both Flash and the proprietary H.264 codec.

Dear Google,

With your purchase of On2, you now own both the world's largest video site (YouTube) and all the patents behind a new high performance video codec -- VP8. Just think what you can achieve by releasing the VP8 codec under an irrevocable royalty-free license and pushing it out to users on YouTube? You can end the web's dependence on patent-encumbered video formats and proprietary software (Flash).

To sit on this technology or merely use it as a bargaining chip would be a disservice to the free world, while bringing at best limited short-term benefits to your company. To free VP8 without recommending it to YouTube users would be a wasted opportunity and damaging to free software browsers like Firefox. We all want you to do the right thing. Free VP8, and use it on YouTube!

Why this would be amazing

The world would have a new free format unencumbered by software patents. Viewers, video creators, free software developers, hardware makers -- everyone -- would have another way to distribute video without patents, fees, and restrictions. The free video format Ogg Theora was already at least as good for web video (see a comparison) as its nonfree competitor H.264, and we never did agree with your objections to using it. But since you made the decision to purchase VP8, presumably you're confident it can meet even those objections, and using it on YouTube is a no-brainer.

You have the leverage to make such free formats a global standard. YouTube is the world's largest video site, home to nearly every digital video ever made. If YouTube merely offered a free format as an option, that alone would bring support from a slew of device makers and applications.

This ability to offer a free format on YouTube, however, is only a tiny fraction of your real leverage. The real party starts when you begin to encourage users' browsers to support free formats. There are lots of ways to do this. Our favorite would be for YouTube to switch from Flash to free formats and HTML, offering users with obsolete browsers a plugin or a new browser (free software, of course). 

Apple has had the mettle to ditch Flash on the iPhone and the iPad -- albeit for suspect reasons and using abhorrent methods (DRM) -- and this has pushed web developers to make Flash-free alternatives of their pages. You could do the same with YouTube, for better reasons, and it would be a death-blow to Flash's dominance in web video.

But even some smaller actions would also have an impact. You could interest users with HD videos in free formats, for example, or aggressively invite users to upgrade their browsers (instead of upgrading Flash). Steps like these on YouTube would quickly push browser support for free formats to 50% and beyond, and they would slowly increase the number of people who never bother installing Flash.

If you care about free software and the free web (a movement and medium to which you owe your success) you must take bold action to replace Flash with free standards and free formats. Patented video codecs have already done untold harm to the web and its users, and this will continue until we stop it. Because patent-encumbered formats were costly to incorporate into browsers, a bloated, ill-suited piece of proprietary software (Flash) became the de facto standard for online video. Until we move to free formats, the threat of patent lawsuits and licensing fees hangs over every software developer, video creator, hardware maker, web site and corporation -- including you.

You can use your purchase of On2 merely as a bargaining chip to achieve your own private solution to the problem, but that's both a cop-out and a strategic mistake. Without making VP8 a free format, it's just another video codec. And what use is another video format with patent-limited browser support? You owe it to the public and to the medium that made you successful to solve this problem, for all of us, forever. 

Organizations like Xiph, Mozilla, Wikimedia, the FSF, and even On2 itself have recognized the need for free formats and fought hard to make it happen. Now it's your turn. We'll know if you do otherwise that your interest is not user freedom on the web, but Google's dominance.

We all want you to do the right thing. Free VP8, and use it on YouTube

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By Seraaj Muneer with 3 comments

Opera Mini - Mobile browsing for human beings

There is no gainsaying that more people start their internet sojourn on a mobile phone than on a computer. And in most cases, most of these phones are not the high end, high powered ones. Having a browser that *works* and works well on these devices is thus a crucial factor in getting more people into cyberspace.

Opera Mini is perhaps the only browser that meets and beats the above criteria well. To me, Opera Mini is to mobile phones what Ubuntu is to Linux. I have been using if for the past 7 years and with the release of the 5th version, it sure looks to me the best in the world.

With tabbed browsing, a download manager, password manager, sleek interface, lightning speed, security, different display views, speed dials and more, it sure is the mobile browser for human beings. It is especially vital in not so advanced societies where the infrastructure is just not there to allow for wide scale internet connectivity.

To clarify, all the above features are standard with every Opera Mini download. What actually blows me away about this browser is the fact that is works on the very lowest of phones. All that matters is for your phone to have support for Java and you are good to go. I know there are other browsers out there that are designed for low end phones, but so far, none works flawlessly as Opera Mini.

If you have not done so yet, I urge you to give this marvelous piece of application a try. It sure works on almost any phone out there. If you are also using it, I'd be glad to hear your experience with it. I would also be more than happy to try other mobile browsers that you think are worth trying.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 2 comments

Thursday, March 18, 2010

5 free online image editing tools worth trying

If like me, you really are hopelessly incompetent when it comes to image editing, then a tool that is easy to use and to some extent fun is always welcome. The following 5 online free image editing tools fall into the above category and are worth trying.

Aviary is my favorite tool when it comes to online image editors. With its massive array of functionality, it sure will be able to do the work just right the way you want it. The site also features an audio editing tool that you can use to remix, apply sound effects and more. There is also a Firefox plugin called Talon that allows you to
  • Fully or partially capture the screen of any webpage
  • Quickly launch any and all the Aviary editing tool set
  • Quickly search the Aviary creation library
  • One click editing and saving of any image you come across online and more

FotoFlexer is "the worlds most advanced image editor" which true to that phrase, is really advanced. It gives all the functionality that is found is most advanced image editing softwares like curve tweaks and intelligent lassoing.  FotoFlexer is really great if you are very conversant with high end image editing techniques, yet not intimidating to beginners like me :-).

Pixlr is also another great online image editor that features custom brushes, filters, layers and other tools to help transform your image into anything you want. Very user friendly interface and easy to use.

"Splashup, formerly Fauxto, is a powerful editing tool and photo manager. With the features professionals use and novices want, it's easy to use, works in real-time and allows you to edit many images at once. Splashup runs in all browsers, integrates seamlessly with top photo-sharing sites, and even has its own file format so you can save your work in progress." Need I say more?

Recently acquired by the almighty Google, Picnik is a fun to use online image editing tool that helps you tweak your image to your heart's desire. With this service, you can crop, resize, use advanced controls to fine to your exact taste and much much more.

It is worth noting that all the above services work within your browser, require no download of anything, are free to use and require no sign up. So now you have it, five free tools that you can use to fine tune that holiday photo or to learn what the pros mean when they talk of layers and redeye among other image editing jargons.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 2 comments

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Useful Linux command guide for beginners

Being a perpetual beginner myself, I always set out to look for tutorials that are easy to understand both for me and for anyone I may teach. The two-page ebook attached below has some pretty straight to the point Linux commands that will make the life of a newbie easy. I encourage you to print it out and have it handy, you'll very soon find yourself very conversant with the CLI to be able to do your everyday task with much confidence.

Direct Link

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By Seraaj Muneer with 2 comments

Open Source Against E-Waste

It is interesting to see how each new release of hardware brings along a very powerful force in terms of marketing, for computers to be renewed, for people to buy more powerful machines, brand new just released models , and therefore, much more expensive.

There has always been the suspicion that the hardware manufacturers (especially Intel) teamed up with software vendors (especially Microsoft) to release software applications and operating systems increasingly heavy, forcing a constant process of updating, not only processors, but memory and hard disks too.

This process of constant update went well until a certain point. Until they reached a sufficient computing power to run several applications in elaborate graphical environments .

Of course not only the applications and the operating system were the driving forces for constant updating, but also the personal computer being used as a platform for games. Yes, the PC gamer also required a powerful computer, always updated, in order to run the latest games.

For applications and operating systems, the whole thing worked, more or less like this:
Every two years, it was as if you had to change your car, just to continue to be a Sunday driver. And there was a big investment, since the "new" operating system, always announced as the "best ever", and with promises to solve all the problems it always had in previous incarnations, consuming more memory, more hard disk space and more computing power. Other applications, upgraded to the equivalent version of the “new” operating system also demanded much of the machine.

Result: Buying new computer parts, or, in cases of very outdated machines, end up buying a whole new computer.

And when it reached a saturation point, where there was no way to let the operating system and applications more cumbersome and demanding for memory and processing power, they invented 3D desktop interfaces like AERO and AQUA, and so forth ...

But, all this rampant consumerism, all this buying spree is creating mountains of electronic junk, the e-waste, hardware still perfectly usable, being dismissed in droves.
And creating piles and piles of garbage ... In third world countries. Yes .. Trash from the U.S. and Europe, will end up in countries like China (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHTWRYXy2gE) Ghana (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_tfPjmgULo) and India (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8AS9n8ioe4Y), creating health problems and environmental impact on its residents.

But all this frenzy one moment would have to end, or at least slow down.
The recent software releases disappointed, with many problems of incompatibility and, ultimately, prices too expensive.

On the other driving force behind the upgrades, the games industry, piracy is making the PC Games market less attractive, as the absurd of the game Assassin's Creed 2, which was cracked in less than 24 hours of its launch. And thus, with all the protections of DRM that Ubisoft has put into the game, the pirated version with the crack will be much more desirable than the original one, because of ridiculous demands (to be constantly connected to a server from Ubisoft)

There is also the global economic crisis, which, for two years now, is sweeping the world and has drastically reduced the budget for non essential expenses .

In this panorama of deep global recession, respect for the environment and the search for new solutions to old problems, there is the open source as an effective, cheap, fast to deploy and legally correct alternative.

With Open Source operating systems and applications, you can recycle old computers, from 2004, 2005, 2006, so they are able to run the latest applications such as Firefox, Audacity, Open Office, and with a little more powerful video hardware, to run the 3D effects of Compiz desktop and KDE 4.

And it is totally within the law because the proprietary and commercial system's licenses, with their EULA's, do not usually allow the reuse of software on other machines, making its operation restricted to the machine it was initially installed.

So in these times of crisis, the use of open source systems and software becomes an attractive and viable option, extending the life of your electronics, improving the environment and saving cash.
Think of Open Source. Your pocket and the environment will thank you.

Well, I could not end this post without mentioning Mr. Ken Starks, who performs a beautiful job of recycling used computers that are donated to his “Helios Project”. Mr. Starks recycles the machines with Linux and donates them to his community in Austin, Texas (USA). The link for his blog is: http://linuxlock.blogspot.com. And if you can, any help is welcome.

In upcoming posts, I will discuss how to perform the transition from a closed system to Linux. Although Open Source technology strides forward, the most sensitive part of a migration is always that piece that sits between the keyboard, chair and computer monitor. In other words, people ...

Posted by A
website: http://tuxfunny.blogspot.com

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By Alessandro Ebersol with 2 comments

Monday, March 15, 2010

What is it about Apple Inc., really?

The mystery around which Apple Inc. is shrouded really boggles my mind. What actually compounded this mystery to me is how 90000 iPads are rumored to have been ordered in a spate of what, 48 hours? I just keep asking myself, what is it that makes Apple toys so special even if they come at a *huge* cost, both economically and philosophically?

I have not used an Apple product before, and don't know if I ever will, but I definitely can feel the kind of sentimental attachment that its users have with their products, what is it, really? I mean what makes Apple products so special and different such that people buy it even though it is the most restrictive of companies?

Perhaps those of you that have or still use Apple toys can help clear my head of the cobwebs that are causing me to not understand the mystery called Apple Inc.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 1 comment

Linux in the developing world - Can the community help spread it?

Using my country Ghana as an example, I can say with reasonable certainty that Linux in the developing world, to put it nicely, has a long way to go. You probably might have read in the news about how the government of some country in Latin America or Asia is switching to Linux or Open Source in general which might sound great, but in reality however, it has very little bearing on the use of Linux among the everyday people.

If you live in a "well to do" country for instance, downloading 600MB of data might be a matter of minutes, but to those of us who only have 1GB of bandwidth for a whole month, it generally is out of the question. This first bottleneck alone puts Linux out of the use of most people in developing parts of the world.

The relative unpopularity of Linux in most 'developing' countries, relative to Windows, can be due to many factors, but I strongly believe that the issue of 'accessibility' is the overriding one. Before you fire your comments about how Linux is free and Windows is paid for, let me please tell you that in all sincerity and honesty, 90% of Windows users in 'developing' countries, run pirated versions. 

Here is how it works. I buy a new PC that comes with a Windows CD, then when my friend has a problem, I make a copy of my CD for him, he also makes it for his friends and so on. So before long, the one CD that came with my PC multiplies to tens and even hundreds. That is how generally speaking, Windows CDs are spread here and other places.

This is what makes me believe that should there be the availbility of Linux CDs, then some inroads can be made. This leads me to wonder if there is any initiative anywhere to the effect that the Linux community in the 'well to do' parts of the world come together to make as many copies as they can of their respective distros and send them to potential user communities in developing parts of the world.

Yes I am talking about a concept similar to Canonical's Shipit program, but run by the user community itself. More like a practical illustration of Ubuntu. So for instance, at every Ubuntu release, the community can come together to make as many CDs as possible to send to various potential users in not so well to do countries. 

Again, before talking about Shipit, please remember that Canonical as a company has limited resources, and cannot meet all the demands from users. My first CD of Ubuntu was Hardy which came via Shiptit, then Jaunty, when I requested one for Koala, I was told I'd reached my quota. 

Well, I doubt if that would be the same if it were a community run project. More like, all hands on deck! I really, really would like to hear what you think and if there is no such project anywhere, how you think we can start it.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 7 comments

Linus Torvalds- The future of Linux

Adapted from the book Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution first published in 1999 by O'Reilly.

I'm sure we made the right decision with Linux to do as little as possible in the kernel space. At this point the honest truth is I don't envision major updates to the kernel. A successful software project should mature at some point, and then the pace of changes slows down. There aren't a lot of major new innovations in store for the kernel. It's more a question of supporting a wider range of systems than anything else: taking advantage of Linux's portability to bring it to new systems.

There will be new interfaces, but I think those will come partly from supporting the wider range of systems. For example, when you start doing clustering, suddenly you want to tell the scheduler to schedule certain groups of processes as gang scheduling and things like that. But at the same time, I don't want everybody just focusing on clustering and super-computing, because a lot of the future may be with laptops, or cards that you plug in wherever you go, or something similar, so I'd like Linux to go in that direction too.

And then there are the embedded systems were there is no user interface at all, really. You only access the system to upgrade the kernel perhaps, but otherwise they just sit there. So that's another direction for Linux. I don't think Java or Inferno (Lucent's embedded operating system) are going to succeed for embedded devices. 

They have missed the significance of Moore's Law. At first it sounds good to design an optimized system specific for a particular embedded device, but by the time you have a workable design, Moore's Law will have brought the price of more powerful hardware within range, undermining the value of designing for a specific device. Everything is getting so cheap that you might as well have the same system on your desktop as in your embedded device. It will make everyone's life easier.

Symmetric Multi-Processing (SMP) is one area that will be developed. The 2.2 Linux kernel will handle four processors pretty well, and we'll develop it up to eight or sixteen processors. The support for more than four processors is already there, but not really. If you have more than four processors now, it's like throwing money at a dead horse. So that will certainly be improved.

But, if people want sixty-four processors they'll have to use a special version of the kernel, because to put that support in the regular kernel would cause performance decreases for the normal users.

Some particular application areas will continue to drive kernel development. Web serving has always been an interesting problem, because it's the one real application that is really kernel-intensive. In a way, web serving has been dangerous for me, because I get so much feedback from the community using Linux as a web-serving platform that I could easily end up optimizing only for web serving. I have to keep in mind that web serving is an important application but not everything.

Of course Linux isn't being used to its full potential even by today's web servers. Apache itself doesn't do the right thing with threads, for example.

This kind of optimization has been slowed down by the limits in network bandwidth. At present, you saturate ten-megabit networks so easily that there's no reason to optimize more. The only way to not saturate ten-megabit networks is to have lots and lots of heavy duty CGIs. But that's not what the kernel can help with. What the kernel could potentially do is directly answer requests for static pages, and pass the more complicate requests to Apache. Once faster networking is more commonplace, this will be more intriguing. But right now we don't have the critical mass of hardware to test and develop it.

The lesson from all these possible future directions is that I want Linux to be on the cutting edge, and even a bit past the edge, because what's past the edge today is what's on your desktop tomorrow.

But the most exciting developments for Linux will happen in user space, not kernel space. The changes in the kernel will seem small compared to what's happening further out in the system. From this perspective, where the Linux kernel will be isn't as interesting a question as what features will be in Red Hat 17.5 or where Wine (the Windows emulator) is going to be in a few years.

In fifteen years, I expect somebody else to come along and say, hey, I can do everything that Linux can do but I can be lean and mean about it because my system won't have twenty years of baggage holding it back. They'll say Linux was designed for the 386 and the new CPUs are doing the really interesting things differently. Let's drop this old Linux stuff. This is essentially what I did when creating Linux. And in the future, they'll be able to look at our code, and use our interfaces, and provide binary compatibility, and if all that happens I'll be happy.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 1 comment
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