5 Ways to Misunderstand FOSS

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

7 Cool VLC Features Worth Knowing

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

5 Things Microsoft Does not want you to know about Windows

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

How to Make your Own Linux Distro

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

Internet Cafes with Linux

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

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Rising tide of Internet Explorer in Africa

Not quite long after Microsoft signed a MOU with BusyInternet Ghana to provide "security software [that is] the latest internet protective technology developed by Microsoft," the website of the above mentioned company now boldly displays a banner link to the homepage of IE for download.

In case the BI link above serves you a different page.

 And it's not just a banner linking to IE, but there is also a giveaway where BI gives you 30 minutes of free browsing for downloading Microsoft's latest "security software." Considering the fact that BI is Africa's largest cybercafe and also a not so insignificant player in the ISP market here in Ghana, I see a very clever move on the part of Redmond to position their browser for a win here.

I know most people use Firefox here for their browsing, but with such aggressive moves on the part of Microsoft, I can foresee a significant drop in its usage unless more is done to create awareness about better alternatives to IE. Microsoft has the money and the clout to pull this off.

They have the lions share here in the desktop OS market through a deliberate silence on the piracy of Windows, now MS is gunning to add IE to its basket. What can we do about it?

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By Seraaj Muneer with 3 comments

Friday, July 30, 2010

[VIDEO] A look at the Open Source car production model

Open Source is a fairly nebulous term that can be applied to different production processes. In this video, Jay Rogers of Local Motors takes a look at the application of the Open Source development model in the manufacture of cars.


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By Seraaj Muneer with No comments

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ubuntu Linux could do well betting less on Dell

We are being told that it's not true that Dell is giving Ubuntu Linux a cold shoulder on its range of machines, and that if anything at all, they are increasing the choice of hardware preloaded with Ubuntu.

For me personally, I don't buy into corporate media gymnastics. That aside, I think Ubuntu, and for that matter, any Linux vendor that wants to enjoy the OEM preloads should not focus on the big names. The likes of Dell, Acer and the rest. They simply cannot give out their all to get Linux to the masses. That is a wrong strategy if you ask me. Why?

Because those big OEMs have a lot to lose shoulder they anger Microsoft. Like it or not, they are able to sell faster and more of their hardware with Windows installed than with Linux. They'd not want to risk incurring the wrath of Redmond based on that fact alone. And what more could anger Microsoft than offering an alternative to their cash cow?

What I'd suggest the likes of Ubuntu and others do is to work very closely with niche hardware manufacturers like ZaReason and System76. Canonical I know is working with them, but I think they should pay more attention to nurturing the relationship. They could devote the time they give to Dell to these OEMs.

A fact that cannot be denied is that all the heavyweight OEMs are fundamentally Windows oriented. Why place your bet on them when you can actually work with another to help it grow to become a heavyweight Linux oriented OEM? 

Then again, I'd suggest these niche OEMs diversify their advertising methods by engaging as many people as possible. How? They could apply the highly successful Amazon strategy of affiliate marketing. Giving publishers a piece of the action for referring sales to them. I strongly believe this method could go a long way to increase awareness among a very large number of people that Dell and likes are not the only ones capable of piecing together computer hardware.

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By Seraaj Muneer with No comments

Is Apple treading a similar path to Ghana Telecom?

A Vodafon Ghana commercial on TV triggered a comparison in my mind between the now defunct Ghana Telecom (the predecessor of Vodafon Ghana) and MTN. Back in the early part of this decade, Ghana Telecom had a chance to dominate the mobile phone market here. 

At the time, the competition was between Spacefon, which was later rebranded Areeba and again rebranded MTN and Ghana Telecom. There were other two but very insignificant. Using MTN was like using AT&T in the US, at least in some parts of the country.

When Ghana Telecom introduced their Onetouch Mobile service, it had a clear chance of becoming the market leader. Why? Because it was better in terms of call quality. People desperately wanted to ditch MTN but did not like the alternatives available. Onetouch was the only option except for one fact; the SIM cards were sold at a premium price!

They were prohibitively expensive, only being purchased by the affluent and corporate executives. MTN was not the best since sliced bread, but their SIM cards were selling. Fast. And their userbase was mostly the youth. 

While the nation's telecom operator focused on selling its SIM cards to the very wealthy in society when it was clear there was a massive demand for them from all demographics, MTN focused on making their SIM cards readily available and reasonably priced. Anybody could buy an MTN chip, but only the very wealthy could lay hands on Onetouch.

Fast forward to ending of June 2010, and MTN has more than 50% of Ghana's over 16 million mobile phone users, followed by Tigo with less than 4.5 million AND then Vodafon (formerly Onetouch) with about 3 million or so. Substitute Onetouch/Vodafon with the iPhone and MTN with Android and you have a similar scenario unfolding in the fiercely competitive smartphone market in the US!

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By Seraaj Muneer with 3 comments

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Why does Apple have to keep getting all the buzz?

The Evo 4g, the DroidX, and a host of other very powerful phones running Android  have been making headlines for sometime now. That is a good thing. However, something that bogs my mind is why Apple is allowed to almost always steal the buzz with its not so open gizmos?

I started reading about the Evo 4g before the release of the iPhone 4, but after the release of the latter, it seemed there was no other phone again on planet Earth. Almost all the mainstream tech blogs got entranced in some form of iPhone 4 frenzy. 

What I am wondering is why all these handset manufacturers are not able to create so much buzz as does Apple. Why does Uncle Jobs always have to steal all of the buzz? Why does the competition let the iPhone steal the publicity? Why do we have to hear about iPad alternatives running Android *only after* uncle Jobs announces his very shiny toy?

I seriously don't want to believe the rest of the competition including Google are not capable of blazing the trail and can only follow and produce products in reaction to Apple after the latter has wowed people already.



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By Seraaj Muneer with 1 comment

The Ubuntu Software Management- A little clarification

One of the greatest strengths of Linux over other OS is the centralized software and update management tools that come built in. This means that whenever there is an update to any of the packages or softwares you have installed, you are sure to not miss it. This alone goes a long way to improve the security of a Linux system.

However, I noted a common misconception (I believe it's not just one person who has this notion) that every software in the Ubuntu repository is checked for malicious code by Canonical before it is uploaded. This I believe is not what happens since the USC currently lists over 30000 applications. Checking every single one of them for malicious code could easily take a lifetime.

What I believe happens is that given the centralized nature of package management, when a flaw is detected in any piece of software, it is easy to distribute a fix to all those running that application, sometimes within hours. Packages in the USC simply mean they will receive regular updates as and when they become available. 

Regardless, it still behooves you the end user to be circumspect of software you install on your system and to apply updates as soon as possible. There is no sure fire way against malicious code, but the centralized nature of package management makes containing such malice easy and hassle free.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

[VIDEO] Why fragmentation is a good sign for Android

In this video, Mac Slocum of O'Reilly Radar talks to Marko Gagenta, author of Learning Android about the seemingly fragmentation of the Google backed Android mobile OS at OSCON.

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

[VIDEO] An Introduction to Firefox's Tab Candy

My co-author shared this video over on Twitter. It's a cool video of the eye candy of Firefox tabs.


Video was first shared by Aza Raskin.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 1 comment

5 Cool Sites for buying Computers Preinstalled with Linux

Dell has all but bowed to pressure from Microsoft to torpedo its Ubuntu line of computers. Add that to the relative success of Windows 7 among Redmond's user base and you get a clearer picture of what is going on. 

In case you are wondering, there are still lots of other vendors that offer a choosy range of machines preinstalled with Linux for your convenience. The following 5 are just a sample of the lot

This site has a respectable array of desktop and laptop computers fitted with Ubuntu Linux ready for use. Prices start from $399 and you can also customize each machine to fit your hardware specification tastes at an extra price. They also other Linux peripherals like audio players (another name for iPod), cameras, printers among others. 

This site also has a range of laptops that ship with either of six distros namely Ubuntu, RedHat, Centos, OpenSuse, Fedora and Oracle Linux.
All the machines are also customizable to your taste for extra bucks. They also offer an optional dual-boot configuration with Windows for those who need the latter for special reasons.

One of the most popular Ubuntu centric OEMs out there, ZaReason stocks a wide array of machines; desktops, laptops and servers to suit various needs and specifications.They also stock some peripherals to add some spice to your machine.

According to this company

"EmperorLinux provides Linux laptops with full hardware support under Linux. Since 1999, we have supplied systems to a wide range of customers, including engineers, physicists, mathematicians, and astronomers at over 50 different government labs and over 200 universities. We have supplied hundreds of corporate clients, as well. If you use Linux in these environments, EmperorLinux is your sole source."

Another of the well known Ubuntu centric manufacturers, System76 has some of the widest assortment of Linux machines out there. Their flagship machine, the Serval Professional is a machine that will make any geek go green with envy.

There are a lot more niche manufacturers that gladly ship computers preloaded with Linux. They may not have the clout of Dell, but they do a good job of giving you value for money and from what I have read, unparalleled support in your use of their machines.  If you ever think of buying a Linux machine, you might want to give any of these a try!

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By Seraaj Muneer with 4 comments

Synfig and Project Morevna



Open Source and Linux provide rewarding surprises. And one of these surprises is the software Synfig.

What is Synfig
Synfig is the creation of Robert Quattlebaum, the main developer. He spent three years perfecting the software and his intention was to use it in his animation company, Voria Studios.
He left high school and began attending a technical course at DigiPen Institute of Technology, an educational institution specialized in games, digital arts and engineering, located in Redmond, Washington. He became well respected by both teachers and his colleagues, for programming in an elegant and clean manner.
While at DigiPen Institute, Robert has expanded his horizons, and became interested in digital arts and anime.
While studying animation, he felt the need for a software that could help him with every step of the creation, design, storyboard, etc ...
When he asked a colleague of his what software could be used, was surprised with the options that existed, and none of them satisfied him.
That began what would be the development of the software Synfig, and soon after leaving the DigiPen institute, he founded his company, which would sell his idea and his software, Synfig.

The Video that started it all

What Synfig Does
As a true front-end and back-end-application, it is possible to design the animation in the front-end - Synfig Studio - and to render it at a later time with the backend Synfig Tool on another (potentially faster) computer without a graphical display connected.
The goal of the developers is to create a program that is capable of producing "feature-film quality animation with fewer people and resources."
With Synfig, the animator draws the so-called Key Frames and instructs the program how to do the motion to the next Key Frame . Synfig, the program, generates the animations between frames, the so called tweening. Thus, the work becomes much easier, taking the repetitive and tiresome tasks from humans.

In its latest version, 0.62.01, from 31.05.2010, the Synfig started to have a seamless integration with SVG graphics and can be easily used in conjunction with InkScape, where the artist uses InkScape to generate the Key Frames and Synfig does the animation.
Synfig exports the animations in the following formats: AVI, Theora, MPG, MNG and GIF.

Project Morevna
Since May 2008, a group of Russian volunteers has been working to make an animation film project called Project Morevna. They have done regular updates on the site Morevnaproject. The Free Software Magazine recently published an article about the project.
The project Morevna not only uses Synfig, but also Blender to create the models of vehicles and landscapes, and to animate the 2D characters, Synfig
Demo Reel Project Morevna


Now you can make animations in Linux without the need for the Adobe Flash software, which was the only way to create animations easily.

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By Alessandro Ebersol with No comments

Saturday, July 24, 2010

[IMAGE] The irony of Dell's Ubuntu site!

Following the recent brouhaha about Dell's public claims that Ubuntu is safer than Windows and its subsequent change of stance, I hopped onto the Dell Ubuntu site this morning just to see what has changed since and to my amusement, the site tells me it recommends IE8.

There's nothing wrong with that until you realize I am on the Ubuntu site, which invariably means I want to use Linux! Now you are recommending IE8 for me when I am shopping for a Linux machine? Oh and I visited the site via Google Chrome, is that not a good browser too?

I'm not sure it was there before, and so is it not ironic and quite interesting that Dell publicly claims Ubuntu is safer than Windows, then it backtracks, now it is recommending the use of IE on THE Ubuntu site. Interesting.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 6 comments

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The 2 lightweight full fledged Linux distros worth having

Looking through the site statistics, I noticed a significant number of queries that brought people on here is for "light Linux" and its variants. In case you want a fully fledged Linux distro but is light enough to run on your box no matter the specifications, then check out the following 2 distros

This is basically Ubuntu based on the LXDE. It is very fast and runs on almost any box no matter how old it is. It is a personal favorite that I like to have on my flash drive most of the time for trouble shooting friends' boxes. It is fully featured and ships with the usual applications that get you flying in no time.

Touted as being "cloud centric", this distro boasts of three distinct features: efficiency, lightweight and user friendly. It ships with Seismic, Hulu (I really hate that service), Youtube, Gmail and others via Prism. Very much full fledged but lightweight at the same time. There is an in depth review of this distro here.

Of course there are oodles of Linux distros out there, with each person having their personal favorites. The above two are those I personally recommend and do give people to try whenever I have the opportunity. It is also a great idea to have either on a flash drive at all times just in case you need to either show off what Linux is or have to save the day for a friend.

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By Seraaj Muneer with No comments

Yawn- Facebook reaches 500 million users

Unless you just descended from out of space, you've probably been bombarded enough with the news that Facebook has reached 500 million users. I am also very much impressed no doubt with the growth of the site.

I'm just a bit curious about the relationship that the number of users of the network have with the bottom line of the company. Last year for instance, revenues were estimated to be around $800m US.

Taking that figure to be true, we then wonder how much it costs to keep the servers running that power this behemoth of a network. The number of users- which does not take into account multiple account registrations- will only reflect true success if it shows improved profits and revenues.

In as much as I am impressed with the numbers, I very much prefer to see a direct reflection of those numbers in the bottom line of the company. Until then, the massive numbers to me will only be what they are- just numbers that are impressive but not necessarily producing a comparable profit.

Then too it will be interesting to see how the numbers continue to grow when Google finally comes out with their much rumored social network dubbed Google Me. I also wonder how much money Google would make if people spent all those billions of minutes on Google's Orkut.


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Monday, July 19, 2010

How to make you own Linux distro


Not happy with the Linux distros out there?? You would like to have the program X, the desktop environment Y and the kernel  Z, but can not find a way to do this?? Easy, look no further, your problems are over: Linux allows you to build your own customized distribution. And with more than one option for this.

I will illustrate some ways you can build your own Linux distribution. In fact, some are just ways to do a remaster of a Linux distribution, while an option is to create a completely different distro from scratch.

Options for Building a Linux Distro:
  • Reconstructor (For distros based on Debian / Ubuntu)

  • Suse Studio (For distros based on Open Suse, RPM package format)

  • Slax (For distros based on Slackware)

  • NimbleX (for distros based on Slackware)

  • Linux From Scratch (Create a Linux distribution from scratch, and compile all packages)


Reconstructor
Reconstructor is a tool for customizing and creating Linux distributions. Allows customization of the distributions Ubuntu and Debian GNU / Linux. Customizations include: picture of the logo in the boot, text color, wallpaper, themes, icons, applications and more.
Reconstructor recently became compatible with the Ubuntu distribution 10.04. It has been compatible with Debian Lenny for some time now.
To use the Reconstructor, you only need a modern browser (Firefox, Safari, Chrome, etc.) with Javascript enabled. Internet Explorer is not recommended, but if you should use it, Reconstructor is only guaranteed to work with Internet Explorer 8.
You need to create an account with Reconstructor before you can proceed. The account is free and requires only about five fields of information to be filled by you. Then log in the website. Start by creating a new project. Give your project a good name, description and version. You can then choose the distro you want to base your project, and with just a few clicks, you'll begin building your customized distribution.
The Reconstructor Build Service is free to use up a certain amount.

The fees are as follows:
  • Load and store a project file: $ 0.02 per MB per month

  • Create a project: $ 0.30

  • Download a project: U.S. $ 0.45 per GB


Project Hosting
  • File Storage: $ 0.45 per GB per month

  • Download: $ 0.35


Reconstructor also has a local stand alone application for remastering the distributions that were built using the web interface.

Suse Studio
SUSE Studio is a free hosting service that enables to create custom software appliances, combining the software with the operating system SUSE Linux Enterprise.
SUSE Studio is an online Linux creative tool by Novell, Inc..
Users can develop their own Linux operating system, mainly choose which applications they want on their custom Linux distros and what will be their appearance.
Also, the base distro may be chosen from the Home or Enterprise versions, GNOME, KDE, and a multitude of other resources.
You can create a fully functional system with Firefox, 3D graphics, and all applications you can find on the list. SUSE Studio is the engine behind the fan-made "Chrome OS", which was a semi functional, loaded with a version for developers of Google Chrome, Google links, web applications and OpenOffice.
SUSE Studio supports the following boot options:
  • Live CD / DVDs

  • VMware Image

  • Hard Drive / USB image

  • Xen image

Like Reconstructor, you must create an account to start working on creating Linux distributions, this time based on Suse Linux.

Slax
Slax is a Linux LiveCD distribution based on Slackware, currently being developed by Tomas Matejicek. Its slogan is "The pocket Operating System"
The latest version of Slax is 6.1.2, which was launched on August 4, 2009.
The developer has stated that work on Slax 7 will begin once a stable kernel (version 2.6.34) is released with LZMA support for squashFS.
One  key benefit of the distribution Slax is its ease of customization.
Extra software can be added and removed, using the packages from Slackware and Slax modules.
A traditional package manager, such as Debian's APT, is not necessary to load additional software; Slax modules are entirely self-contained.
Users can also modify the image of the CD or USB standard installation to customize the packages available on disk / image installation.
Slax also lets you use the Slackware packages, being necessary to convert to Slax modules with the command tgz2lzm.
The Slax homepage offers a software repository for downloading user created modules and uploading new ones. In Slax, modules can be easily added to the distribution, without requiring the use of a package manager, just double-clicking the module file to activate it.

NimbleX
NimbleX is a small distribution based on Slackware Linux, optimized to run from a CD, USB drive or a network environment.
NimbleX has been praised for its rapid boot, as well as for its little disk consumption, which is surprising for a distribution using KDE as desktop environment. NimbleX also is notable for allowing users to generate custom boot images from the site of the distro, using only a web browser.
It was celebrated by the Romanian press for being the first major Linux distribution created and maintained by a Romanian, Bogdan Radulescu.
NimbleX uses a 2.6 kernel. The default GUI is KDE, but for slower computers, the standard desktop environment can be switched for one with less use of resources such as Fluxbox or Xfce.
Typical office applications, web browsing and instant messaging components are included, but hardly NimbleX offers all the graphical administration tools - most administration tasks, such as adding a new user, have to be done from the command line . This feature allows NimbleX to have a small disk consumption on the installation - a typical installation takes less than 400 megabytes of hard disk.
Additional applications can be installed using the graphical installer, Gslapt (or slapt-get command line), which brings the automatic resolution of dependencies for Slackware packages.
NimbleX allows the construction of a Linux distribution, custom Slackware based,  at this address: http://custom.nimblex.net/

Linux From Scratch (LFS)
Last but not least, is Linux From Scratch (LFS)
Linux From Scratch (LFS) is a type of a Linux installation and the name of a book written by Gerard Beekmans and others. The book instructs readers on how to build a Linux system from source code.
The book is available free from the Linux From Scratch website and is currently at version 6.6.
To keep LFS  small and focused, the book Beyond Linux From Scratch (BLFS) was created, which provides instructions on how to develop the basic Linux system that was created in LFS.
It introduces and guides the reader through improvements to the system, including networking, X server, sound, printer and scanner support. Since version 5.0, the version of the book BLFS match the version of the LFS book.
After the initial two books, two more were released, covering other aspects, Cross Linux From Scratch (CLFS) describes   cross-compilation and Hardened Linux From Scratch (HLFS) focuses on security enhancements, Stack-smashing protection, PaX and Address space layout randomization using grsecurity.
Cross Linux From Scratch provide the necessary instructions to build a basic Linux distribution, command line only. While LFS is limited to x86 architecture, CLFS supports a wide range of processors. CLFS covers advanced techniques not included in the LFS, as cross-build toolchains, multi-library (32 and 64-bit side by side), and alternative instruction sets of  architectures such as x86-64, Itanium, SPARC, MIPS, and Alpha.
Hardened Linux From Scratch focuses on creating a more secure version of Linux From Scratch  as its main goal, including embedded systems.
Linux From Scratch is a way to install a full Linux system through the construction of all components manually. This is obviously a longer process than installing a pre-compiled Linux distribution .
According to Linux From Scratch website, the advantages of this method are: a compact system, flexible and secure and a better way to understand  the inner works of operating systems based on Linux.
There is no package manager or upgrade scripts, leaving to the user all tasks: maintenance , upgrade, installation of programs and services.
It is a teaching distribution, but by no means easy, since all the tools to work with it must be compiled from source code.



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By Alessandro Ebersol with 5 comments

Thursday, July 15, 2010

What is Ubuntu's future plan if the desktop OS is dead?

According to Canonical's Matt Assay,

"...[T]his shift from local bits to web bits derives in part from the market leaders' inability to get excited about their desktop products anymore."

First question that comes to mind is really? The COO of Ubuntu's Canonical argues that the desktop OS is virtually dead, replaced by "a new breed of "desktop" platform." He contends that the big players that have our attention like Google and Facebook are increasingly OS agnostic, thus making the base OS more and more irrelevant.

Being part of the company that sponsors the most popular Linux distro out there, I am tempted to wonder what strategic plans Ubuntu has in place for the future Matt is predicting when the OS is irrelevant. The time when "the petty squabbles over Windows vs. Mac vs. Linux no longer resonate like they once did."

If more than 85% of computers out there today are running Windows, and we all claim one of the biggest weaknesses of Windows is security, will Linux make any headway then when local applications also become extinct? Where we do everything on the "desktop platform" as Matt refers to it. 


What plans are being put in place to ensure that Ubuntu does not become irrelevant when the time comes when we are all in the proverbial cloud since almost all of the strengths of Ubuntu (Linux for that matter) that we tout today will be obliterated?

Are there future plans for more cloud oriented features and functionality in Ubuntu releases? I know there is Ubuntu One and other cloud based services currently available in the Ubuntu desktop offering, but are they enough to survive in the future Matt Assay predicts? 

The future may be Google or Facebook or even Twitter, but that could also mean the end of the relevance of the OS and for that matter Linux on the desktop.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 1 comment

New Zealand- Blazing the trail in the anti-patent struggle

According to this New Zealand Computer Society article, software will no longer be patentable in the country. This is because 

"...they [patents] represent a far greater risk to smaller New Zealand-based software providers than opportunity, and there are many cases where they have significantly stifled innovation."

This has long been the argument of anti-patent advocates like myself. I believe people should be able to benefit from their invention and also recoup costs incurred in bringing about that invention. But the way that the capitalist machinery in many Western countries, notably the US goes about it is just harmful to small businesses.

As the article notes, young startups just cannot come up with anything without having to look over their shoulders constantly for fear of being sued for violating patents that extend beyond the imagination of the mind. The SCO group and their saber rattling at Linux is a typical example.

As I said yesterday, the future of innovation and development especially in the software realm, will be gravely affected should the current rate at which patents are doled out is not reconsidered. In any case, patents were originally devised with the noble intention of helping one recover R&D costs, not to lock out the innovation of others via the threat of lawsuits.

The intellectual properties of individuals and companies ought to be respected, but at the same time, care should be taken to ensure that innovation is not going to be stifled. Patents are doubled edged swords that can cut both ways. In other words, the adoption and promotion of the principles of Free and Open Source Software should be encouraged.

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By Seraaj Muneer with No comments

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Dear Ubuntu- Please provide this simple instruction

One of the selling points we all use in our Linux advocacy to Windows users is that they can run their favorite Windows applications under WINE on Linux. That sounds great.

However, I've noted on Ubuntu Lucid Lynx that the above sales pitch seems to have been torpedoed, at least superficially. When you install WINE and attempt to run a .exe file with it, you get a notification that tells you "...the file is not marked as executable."

Fine. So what to do? Nothing. No "hey dude, click here to set it as such." That dialog box is absolutely clueless as to what to do to get the file marked as executable. If I have installed Ubuntu for an erstwhile Windows user and she's trying to run a game or any other application she probably swears by, this would be a big set off.

Sure I believe that was done for security reasons, but at least there should be some guidance to tell people to just right-click and mark the file as executable. That will sure go a long way to make life both easy for them and at the same time cut down the number of people who run back to the 'evil' they are used to screaming how Linux is a geeky OS.

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By Seraaj Muneer with No comments

With all these patents- Can the future generation innovate?

Thomas Jefferson once wrote
"It would be curious then, if an idea, the fugitive fermentation of an individual brain, could, of natural right, be claimed in exclusive and stable property."
There is no doubt that people need to be properly compensated for whatever it is that they invent. Some choose to give away their findings for the good of the public. Those who choose to be compensated should also not be condemned in anyway whatsoever. 

However, the problem arises when people use the smokescreen term called Intellectual Property to take out patents the size of Africa, so much so that the mere thought of their invention can attract a law suit.

I am no legal expert nor an attorney, but what bugs my mind is how the future is going to be like given how governments keep doling out patents like biscuits to mega corporations.

Is there going to be room for innovation? Can people keep coming up with ideas without fear of being sued to the stone age? To what extent can small firms flourish in the future if mega corporations own all the patents of the world?

These and more other questions really bug my mind. Perhaps you might help me find answers to them?

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By Seraaj Muneer with No comments

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Did Linux really steal these codes from UNIX?

The long run gamut of infraction between SCO and IBM has all Linux enthusiasts sitting on tenterhooks. According to this Slashdot thread, the PDF embedded below is one of the proofs advanced by SCO to prove their claim that some UNIX code was plagiarized into Linux. Is it true? Take a look and tell me.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 1 comment

Monday, July 12, 2010

Chrome to Phone- Take your browsing experience with you on your Android Phone

From the project page

"Google Chrome to Phone Extension is a project consisting of a Chrome Extension, Android App, and supporting AppEngine server that enables users to send links from their Chrome desktop browser to their Android device using Android's Cloud to Device Messaging service."

The aim of this project is to help you bridge the gap between when you are on your desktop and your phone. With it, you can send links directly from your Chrome browser to your phone, place calls directly from your phone by highlighting a phone number on your desktop and populating the Android clipboard by highlighting text on your desktop.

To get this running on your phone, you'd need to download the freely available Android app and Chrome extension available here and follow the instructions here.

These kind of developments are very interesting in that they help point us to the direction the up and coming Chrome OS will be headed. It's a taste of how Google is aiming to bridge the gap between the desktop and the cloud through your phone. If you are an Android phone user, try out this project and tell us what you think.

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By Seraaj Muneer with No comments

DuckDuckGo- The Open Source based Google alternative

There are only two search engines in this world: there is Google and there is the rest. Google is almost now synonymous with the very word search and has all of us using it tens of times a day.

DuckDuckGo is the new kid on the block that is built on Open Source software. Ubuntu and FreeBSD as the OS, Nginix for server, Memcached for caching, PostgreSQL for database with the primary language being Perl.



Among the strengths touted by the developers of DuckDuckgo are 
  • No tracking- guaranteed privacy.
  • Relevant results- they claim to eliminate over 60m useless sites for some searches.
  • The DuckDuckbot, the name of their crawler, identifies sites automatically without you needing to add your site to their index like Google.
  • Encrypted search using "https"
  • In addition to their DuckDuckbot, they also get their results from "many sources including crowd-sourced sites, BOSS  & Bing.
DDG looks really nice, with clean interface and very relevant results. Just out of curiosity, I entered my first name and the system promptly told me dude, that name could mean an awful lot, try refining it, though it had produced some results pertaining to the name. 

Personally, I find DDG a great effort and deserving of much attention. However, the question that comes to mind immediately is if it has what it takes to be a strong contender to Google. Yes, not overtake but a contender. If you believe just because DDG is built on purely Open Source components and thus will overtake Google, you'd have to think again.

Google is a culture, an attitude, a verb, and has a strong asset in the phrase "Google it." Instead of aiming to be the Google Killer, I'd rather the DDG developers focus on giving users the maximum experience on the service, focus on building a core userbase that will be loyal to the service in the long run. 

Rather than try to take on the 200 pound gorilla in Mountain View, they should look for weaknesses in the Google search experience and perfect those weaknesses. Why take on the beast when you can nibble at it in small bits?Go on, give the Duck a try right now.


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[VIDEO] This week inside Google

Being a Google fanboy (yes I am a big fan of the GOOG), anything about Google interests me and so is the video below from the folks over at Smarterware. They talk about a lot of things like Droid X, Prince, Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) and the iPhone 4. Enjoy


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Sunday, July 11, 2010

[Quicky] How to get your Huawei USB modem to work on Ubuntu 10.04

Back in January I exchanged my Huawei USB E1550 modem with that of a friend who works for one of the mobile operators here. Today I went back for mine since he had requested for his. To my surprise, my usb modem was being seen as a data storage instead of a modem on Kubuntu 10.04.

Here's is the work around I got after fidgeting and getting down to the CLI. Might come in handy for some of you.

If you are running anything later than Ubuntu 10.04, you'd need to install Udev-extras. 

sudo apt-get install udev-extras

That installs the udev-extras for older Ubuntu users. 

Then add a new rule in your /etc to tell your system to view the Huawei USB as a modem instead of a storage device.

gksu gedit /etc/udev/rules.d/15-huawei-e1550.rules

You might want to change "gedit" to Kate if you are running Kubuntu or to the name of your text editor.

In the text window that opens, just copy and paste the following argument

SUBSYSTEM=="usb",
SYSFS{idProduct}=="1446",
SYSFS{idVendor}=="12d1",
RUN+="/lib/udev/modem-modeswitch --vendor 0x12d1 --product 0x1446 --type option-zerocd"

You might want to open a new terminal window and type in 
lsusb -v 
with your modem slotted to give you the values to input in the above argument in case your model is different from mine.

Click save after pasting the above in the text file. That's it. From here onwards, your system should see the Huawei USB as a modem instead of a storage device.

Edit
[Quicky] is a new term I'd be using to describe work arounds I discover in my day to day usage of Linux which I believe should help others in case they come across the same issues. Chronicling my findings and solutions is one of the ways I can contribute back to the community.

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Could this be the internet in 2020?

The infographic below by Intac, depicts what the future of the internet will be like in 2020.While I agree with most of the information presented in the picture, I'm not so sure if I agree with parts like the internet being greener in the future. It is however, a very interesting view of what lies ahead for the information super highway.
Internet_In_2010

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5 very useful Facebook applications worth installing right now

Facebook is the necessary evil of today. It is a mediocre product with not so much respect for its "products" which is we the users. But if you have developed friends from all over the world, your best bet for keeping up with them is through Facebook, that is, until there is a better alternative.

The following 5 applications should help you make the most of your time on Facebook

Facebook keeps nagging at you to add friends, but for some very weird reason, there is no way to know which of your "friends" has "defriended" you. This application at any given time will show you a list of people who have defriended you on the network. Very useful for a follow up mail to ask them if you probably offended them in any way whatsoever.

For the marketers, a platform with over 4oo million registered accounts is a goldmine. If you have some products to sell, you might as well do it right on your fan page with this application. "Payvment's Facebook app gives you everything you need including a full-featured admin area built directly into Facebook to manage your storefront, inventory and sales. Plus, when you launch your Facebook store, your products can be discovered across every storefront on Facebook."

For writers who want to post their latest to Facebook, there is Networked Blogs, and there is RSS Graffiti. I personally recommend RSS Graffiti for its simplicity and customizability. You can choose how often to the application should check for updates, the level of updates to be posted among others. It is also easier to set up as compared to Networked Blogs.

If you are paranoid like I am on Facebook, this application is for you. "Delivered via the Websense global Security-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform, the Defensio Facebook application provides security and controls to manage what type of content can be posted to personal or commercial Facebook walls.

"With Defensio, users gain superior security against new threats and management and control of content posted within Facebook, on a blog, and on personal or corporate websites." It has a detailed settings page that helps you take charge of your personal and business profiles on Facebook.

Organizing an event is no small task. This application helps simply the process by publishing events you organize on Eventbrite website to your facebook wall complete with the event page and links to purchase tickets. The application is free to use if your event is free, but a "small" fee is charged per payable admission tickets.

Facebook has a lot of applications for varying purposes, but the above 5 are my best pick for a productive and fruitful time on the service. The very first one I highly recommend you install right now!


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Friday, July 9, 2010

Could inorganic growth be Google's Weakness?

Google Inc., probably the most enigmatic company on Earth today is rumored to have pressed the Facebook panic button with its up and coming Google Me social network, that is if internet rumors are to be believed.

It is very surprising that a company the size of Google with its vast array of products and services still lags behind in the social networking realm. Given services like Blogger, Picasa, Youtube among others, one would expect Google to be at the heart of social networking. That unfortunately is not the case.

One factor that I strongly believe has contributed to this is Google's inorganic growth. Whether it is part of their corporate growth strategy to grow inorganically, I'm not so sure. But it seems the divergent business services that Google has acquired over the years don't seem to somehow integrate well into one unified whole.

And there are times when I wonder if Google actually takes some of its own products that serious. For instance, in this slideshow by Paul Adams of UX, where he talks about how people use social media, I find that he hardly makes any reference to Orkut, instead preferring to use Facebook.

There needs to be some form of convergent of services from Google into more or less one user interface. This is essentially what "social networking" is all about: having the plethora of services I use to keep in touch with friends packaged together. If this is what Google Me is going to be, all the better.

I'd like to log into Orkut and have my friends activites on Buzz, Youtube, blog posts from Blogger, see any changes to their Profiles all streaming onto the current interface. This is where the problem will come in though. Who then heads what? To what extent is there going to be overlapping in duties?

Growing by buying potentially viable businesses is a great way to expand, but can result in some form of disintegrated pieces of the same company which might not auger well in the long run. It would be very interesting to see a well organized (for lack of a better term) Google come out to challenge the increasing popularity of Facebook.



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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Real Life Social Network from Google's perspective

Paul Adams of Google's User Experience team shares the following slide shows of how people use social media and its implications for the future and design.




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Monday, July 5, 2010

Three video transcoding applications for Linux worth knowing

If you are a movie junkie like me, chances are you have quite a number of movies on your computer that would be nice watching on your DVD player or home theater system, mobile phone or portable multimedia device.

Being a Linux user, the following three applications should help you with your transcoding task without resorting to the terminal.

From the site, "Transmageddon is a video transcoder for Linux and Unix systems built using GStreamer. It supports almost any format as its input and can generate a very large host of output files. 

"The goal of the application was to help people to create the files they need to be able to play on their mobile devices and for people not hugely experienced with multimedia to generate a multimedia file without having to resort to command line tools with ungainly syntaxes."

It is available in the Ubuntu repos and that of other popular distros like Fedora. Just go to the software center and search for it or copy and paste "sudo apt-get install transmageddon" in the terminal without the quotation marks.

WinFF is a cross platform application that is a GUI to FFMPEG capable of converting any video file that FFMPEG is capable of converting. You can convert different file formats into any given format output at the same time. It is available for download from the site together with an easy to follow installation instructions.

This is one of my favorite applications that must necessarily be installed upon any Linux installation I carry out. "It is a program to create video DVDs and CDs (VCD, sVCD or CVD), suitables for home players, from any number of video files, in any of the formats supported by Mplayer

"The big advantage over other utilites is that it only needs Mplayer, Mencoder, DVDAuthor, VCDImager and MKisofs (well, and Python, PyGTK and PyGlade), so its dependencies are really small."

DeVeDe does well what it was written to do and is available in the Ubuntu repos as well as that of other distros. Just hop to the software center and search for DeVeDe or copy and past "sudo apt-get install devede" in the terminal without the quotation marks.

 

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HTML5 demos for newbies

One of the most used words in the web development circles today is HTML5. It is said to be the next milestone in the web page scripting language HTML.

If you are at a loss about what all the buzz is about, then check out this HTML5 demo site to see what the next generation scripting language will come with. It features the various functions that HTML5 will be expected to perform along with the browsers that are compatible with any given feature. 

Give it a try for yourself and get to know what is coming in the next web language. This site was built by @rem.

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Why does Hitler think the browser war is lost to Opera?

Opera has taken the browser war to Google Chrome with its latest release and Adolf Hitler does not look happy one bit. In his own words "the browser war is lost" and thus has fired all his technical people. You don't believe me, check the video.


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Sunday, July 4, 2010

Digg.com- Digging its grave one power Digger at a time

Digg used to be my favorite place for hanging out. I really love the comments people make on the various stories that get posted there. But for some time now, my fondness of that site has declined.

If I am right, Digg is a service where everyday people like us post and rate stories there, the best ones to be promoted to the front page based on maximum number of votes received.

Now however, Digg is being run by a clique of self styled power diggers who are more or less owners of the site. Unless you are part of these voting blocs, you'll never see your story make it anywhere on Digg, irrespective of the quality. This got me thinking if Digg is not actually killing itself by virtually killing off any motive to have everyday users like myself and most others out there to frequent the site.

I have no problem with friends helping promote the works of each other, but when it becomes the rule of thumb that you join a power user bloc to have your work promoted on a site that seeks to promote based on fairness and quality, then I can say for certain Digg is headed in the wrong direction.

Kevin Rose seems to be doing his best to bring back life to this rapidly declining social news site. But if I had his ears, I'd tell him to first cut the powers that these so called power users wield before thinking of the redesigning of the site. Copying the concept of Twitter will not save Digg if ordinary users are virtually kept out of the site by its power users.

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What next will Apple iPhone 4 kill?

The new Apple [insert device here] is going to be a [insert name of competitor, platform, device here] killer. With the release of every iDevice, we have the usual fanboys jumping all over the place telling us how their latest shiny gadget will kill something off.

Well I am just wondering what the new iPhone 4 will kill this time around. Hollywood perhaps, with the its groundbreaking camera, now featuring a front facing lens. Or the theaters with its so called retina display?

I'm eager to learn what is about to die from the blow of the unprecedented and greatest phone ever made by man. Do tell me, what will the new iPhone 4 kill next?

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Saturday, July 3, 2010

Africa crashes out of the World Cup- Any lessons worth learning?

This time not for Africa!

This time for Africa, or so said Shakira. Well she got it wrong. Not this time around. Ghana, the only surviving African country in the ongoing FIFA world cup in South Africa crashed out yesterday in a penalty shoot-out against Uruguay. It was 120 minutes of drama for all of us here in on the continent.

Following the abysmal performance of the African contingent that represented at the glamorous tournament, a thorough analysis devoid of emotions could come in handy. Nigeria, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Algeria, South Africa and Ghana were the six African representatives there. The first question worth asking is, why did they all crash out so easily? Cameroon for instance did not score a single point, not even a draw.

The diseases of football administration in Africa

I have read various technical commentaries and analysis about why Africa never gets anywhere in the tournament. What I am yet to read is what the problem really is. It's simply a that of inferiority complex and corruption on the part of football administrators and selfishness, arrogance and plain incompetence on the part of players.

Inferiority Complex

Ghana is currently the under-20 world youth champion, having won the trophy earlier on in the year. One thing of significance about that tournament is that we won it with a local coach: Sellas Tetteh who is now the national coach of Rwanda. When the issue of a new coach for the senior national team came up, what primary school logic suggests is that you give it to the one who just won a tournament and is also a native.

But for some weird, inexplicable reason, we went for a foreign coach. One who has less experience and has never won any international tourney. To add insult to injury, he is said to not speak English and thus we have to hire an interpreter to make for communication with the country. How many of you see a any sense in this? Why do African FAs not have faith in African coaches?

Ghana has a wealth of talent in terms of coaches. But for some reason, which I believe is inferiority complex, our FA has always preferred foreign coaches to them. None of whom have ever led us anywhere. One other reason I can think of why they are not interested in the local coaches is because of personal interest and corruption.

Corruption

When you go for a local coach who you've known from childhood, you're not likely to get any kickback from him. But when you bring in a foreign coach, it is always easier to negotiate with him about some kickbacks from his salary should you get him the job. So in this event, the coach who agrees to the highest possible kickback figure wins the deal. Not necessarily the most competent.

To make matters worse, that stupid law in FIFA regulations that states no "third party should interfered in the affairs of the local FA" makes the administrators of the game into demigods who are not subject to any control from the government, which in any democracy, is made up of the people, the very ones that cough up money to run the FA!

In essence, you have a body that the hardworking taxpayer raises money for, but is not answerable to them and can choose to do whatever they like, bring any coach they like, hire incompetent people to act as the team's technical brains all in the name of some useless and moronic FIFA regulation. That is one major malady that is afflicting African football and its governance. I hope Nigeria's president is able to stand up to FIFA and tell them to shove their regulation up where the sun does not shine!

Diseases of the players

In yesterday's game, Ghana's Asamoah Gyan displayed a trait of most African players when they get onto the pitch: selfishness and greed for fame. Some are arguing that we should not talk about Gyan because he'd scored in earlier games. I ask those people, should your children pass exams in one period and woefully fail in the most important one, do you just say oh it's ok or seek what caused their failure?

Gyan, like most African players, has a certain mentality (Wayne Rooney of England suffers same) that he is entitled to a goal in every match. He must necessarily score, he must add his name to the score sheet, he must be praised by the fine ladies, he is a demigod! What Gyan, and those like him forget is that it is a team made up of 10 other men. There are times when you just cannot do it alone. You would have to necessarily pass on the ball for someone to do it.

Not these self appointed goal makers. They play with all the selfishness one can imagine because they are the only ones that have been anointed to find the back of the net.

Then too we have sheer incompetence on the part of others. The biggest miss of all time by Yakubu Ayigbeni of Nigeria readily comes to mind. Our players for some reason miss when they have absolutely no excuse to. I could go on and on about African players here.

The long and short of it all

Until Africa puts its house in order it can forget getting anywhere in the world cup. Until she gets a little (not much, just a little) bit sincere and competent people to man its football administration, players have their heads flushed of all the maladies afflicting them when they get onto the pitch, our dreams of making any meaningful and significant dent in the game of soccer on the world stage will eternally remain what it is- a dream. And I have a dream!

Cross posted from OMG Africa!

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