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Internet Cafes with Linux

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Are the Apple Macs Running Ubuntu as Well?

This piece, due to appear in the next issue of Linux User and Developer, takes a look at the Ubuntu Platform Rally held in Prague, Czech Republic. The linked article has all the details. What caught my attention was the Apple Macs in the room. Are they also running Ubuntu or perhaps some design ideas are being taken from them?

Thanks to Dr. Roy Schestowitz for first posting on Twitter.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 1 comment

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Another $50 Android iPad Copycat Spotted in the Wild

Stamp is a prototype $50 Android tablet that is causing quite a lot of buzz in the gizmo circles. It comes right at the heels of another Indian $35 iPad clone that is meant for students.

My title might cause some controversy I know, but no matter how you look at it, virtually all the new tablets coming out are more or less better featured iPad clones. We need originality, something that is powered by Android and not based on what Apple has. Will this tablet take off at all? Only time can tell.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 2 comments

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Anthologize- Turn your Wordpress into an Electronic Text Publishing Platform

Wordpress is no doubt the best blogging platform in the world. Users of its latest release, version 3.0 now have the ability to turn their installations into complete publishing hubs. Anthologize, currently in its alpha release, is a plugin that

"[I]s a free, open-source, plugin that transforms WordPress 3.0 into a platform for publishing electronic texts. Grab posts from your WordPress blog, import feeds from external sites, or create new content directly within Anthologize. Then outline, order, and edit your work, crafting it into a single volume for export in several formats, including—in this release—PDF, ePUB, TEI."

Anthologize, a project of One Week is financed by National Endowment for the Humanities. If you want to take your blogging functions a step further, this plugin is definitely a must have. You can keep up with Anthologize on Twitter as well.

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By Seraaj Muneer with No comments

Why Every Internet User in the West Must Use Gmail

With an ever increasing number of kids seeing it as a profession worth their time more than school, Gmail might be a handy tool to help combat it. This piece on Myjoyonline caught my attention and got me thinking as to how people from the West, believed to be the most advanced societies of mankind today, can fall for shams from children as young as 17 years from countries like Ghana and Nigeria.

I find it difficult to not believe that people take every mail that lands in their inbox folder as credible, otherwise how can anyone possibly believe any of the superfluous stories that they fall for?

"I work for this rich man in Ghana who died leaving $1,000,000 US in his bank account. He's got no heirs and so the money lies idle there. To help me get it, please send me your bank credentials, and $50,000 to cover the legal fees required for the transfer after which you and I will get married and enjoy this money happily ever after."
What hogwash! And then people FALL for such glaringly stupid absurdity. If you are using Gmail, such mails hardly land in your inbox folder thanks to its advanced filtering system. There is no other mail service out there that catches these kind of sham like Gmail.

You might ask why this post. I am a Ghanaian, and it really saddens me to see the name of my country blacklisted by agencies like the FBI for being a top hub in internet fraud or 419 scams, popularly known as Sakawa in local parlance. Just saying you are a Ghanaian sometimes casts a heavy cloud over your head when dealing with people who actually know what your compatriots are capable of.

I have always argued that if people in the West get to be just a little circumspect and mindful of how they ship their hard earned cash to so called girlfriends and business associates down here, this menace to society can be reduced to the barest minimum. And if you ask me, one of the best tools for this is Gmail.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 4 comments

Monday, August 23, 2010

Two Sites for Free University Text Books

Almost all over the world, students are either back to school or preparing to do so. With this comes the headache of getting text books for the semester and its attendant costs. For a myriad of reasons, costs of school text books, especially those of higher learning have skyrocketed. If you are looking to cut costs (and who doesn't anyway?), then the following 2 sites should come in handy.

This site gives you free download access to text books across a wide array of university disciplines. The books are written by university professors specifically for the site supported by "a few in-book ads." All the books are in PDF format and can be downloaded without registration whatsoever. They also have travel guides available for travelers.

Just like BookBooN, this site also features a wide selection of books across the various university disciplines. However, unlike the above where you get to download the books, this site lets you read online for free. From the site
"Instead of $100 plus, our books are FREE online. It's that easy. No tricks. No popup ads. No "a premium subscription is needed for that". In fact, our free online books go beyond what standard print editions provide with integrated audio, video, and interactive features, powerful search capabilities, and more.. Our business model eliminates the catch. We're giving away great textbooks and making them open because it solves real problems for students and instructors. In so doing, we are creating a large market for our product. We then turn around and sell things of value to that large market."

In essence, these two sites offer quality standard, university grade books for free. If you are a student, you'd really want to take a look at these sites and get yourself the books you've been putting off buying.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 3 comments

What would persuade you to ditch Ubuntu for Windows?

I've been recently reading this article, on Zack Whittaker's “iGeneration” blog, about what could persuade an user to abandon Windows and switch to Ubuntu. I had in my own already answered the question years ago since I'm already a Linux and Ubuntu user.

While reading the article it came to my mind the, in some way provocative, idea of reversing the question: what would persuade me to ditch Ubuntu and go back to Windows? What could Microsoft do to gain back users that their operating systems for Linux?

First a little premise, I know that most of us still have Windows installed in a dual boot configuration so the question should be, more precisely, What would persuade you to use windows as your primary operating system. By the way I don't think this changes a lot the global meaning of what I'm asking.

Let me say I can Imagine a lot of things that could make Windows more attractive from my point of view: Making it Open source, free at least for personal use, removing the useless and annoying registration process or stopping distributing crippled (home, personal, starter) versions. I doubt Microsoft would ever listen to me. Anyway even with such radical changes, that would make Windows more similar to Linux (or BSD to be exact) I wouldn't go back to Windows simply because Linux already has all these features.

At last the only reason that would return me to Windows would be having no other choice. For example, if I had to use some sort of life-saving application or hardware only available for Windows (OK I admit the therm life-saving is a little too dramatic). Must be noted that the better hardware and software support that Windows has is more a lack of merit by hardware and software producers than a Microsoft merit.

May be that I have very little imagination or I'm very close minded about Windows (or perhaps both). May be that the real strength of Linux is that once you start using it, after the initial difficulties, you aren't willing to go back fro no reason.

So let me know ... What would persuade you to ditch Ubuntu for Windows?

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By Massimo Musante with 6 comments

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Of GNU/Linux, Hardliners and a clear case of double standards!

In an ideal world, we'd all be updating our statuses on Identi.ca via the terminal on Arch Linux, have text based web pages without Flash or any form of animation, hang anyone using Microsoft Windows, impose a fine on anyone who uses Twitter and make it a law for all students to take a full course in computer programming.

But in the real world, there is something called choice. Take a look at this thread over on Identi.ca that ensued because my very good @acurrie included Ubuntu as a hastag in an update to a post on his blog. All hell broke lose! I have followed with keen interest the recent brouhaha surrounding Canonical's contribution to the upstream GNOME project. 

First of all, I was not impressed with Shuttleworth's response to the whole upstream commits issue. He sounded more poetic than a technical guy to me on that post. Jono Bacon did a little better. That notwithstanding, the fact remains that there are millions of Linux (sorry GNU/Linux!) users out there that got exposed to the entire FOSS world via Ubuntu. That in itself is no small feat.

I also agree that Ubuntu is not synonymous with Linux, I am not aware if Canonical is seeking to achieve that goal anyway. However, what I seriously have a problem with is the needless and mostly very inflammatory comments that some hardliners make at the mere mention of the word Ubuntu. Is it not ironic and hypocritical to have people that claim they are saving others by giving them choices other than Windows get all worked up at the mention of one of the options available as part of the choice subset they offer?

Is it not hypocritical to be seen damning one distro (on purely philosphical basis) and actually getting worked up over people's choice to use that distro? Where is the choice? Where is the freedom we so loudly proclaim in the FOSS world? There is Microsoft Windows, and there is Linux. Unless the entire FOSS world clearly defines its strategic goal of making Linux a viable choice for AVERAGE JOE and not Tom Geek, the 1-5% will eternally remain our lot.

How many of you will put your monies in investments for over 20 years that will yield returns of less than 10% and keep holding your monies there? Not everyone will be a geek, writing emails via the terminal, not all of us are interested. I for one am more interested in the financial/business aspect of FOSS than the technical/philosophical aspects.

And if you are like me and live in the real world with friends that only do Facebook, Twitter and Solitaire, you'd want something that works easily for you that you can convince THEM to give a try. Ubuntu does that for me, so I use it. Plain and simple. Sure my very good friend and co-author has a different take on Ubuntu, but he has never called me names or flamed me, not even in a jovial way for making my choice. He has given his reasons for his dislike of that distro, and most  of the time, I've had to agree with him based on FACTS he advances!

Linux is a great OS (yes it's just the kernel I know) that has great potential, but I don't see that happening anytime in the foreseeable future because there are just too many hardliners that divide their time between writing code and putting people off from using that code! There is absolutely no need to proclaim FOSS out loud if what we indulge in is mostly bickering at each other over philosophical differences and syntax that only makes Steve Ballmer's day very worthwhile.

To advance GNU/Linux and FOSS in general, do away with the hardline, fundamentalist intolerance and understand that we are from different parts of the world, with different skillsets, interests and understandings trying to put in our small quota to make FOSS a viable alternative. If you have enough time after wrting code to damn something, spend it on trying to close the gap the Penguin will have to travel to catch up with the Windows!

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By Seraaj Muneer with 8 comments

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Security in Firefox

Continuing our posts about security, we'll speak of a door, a window to the outside world that can be a potential security breach.
Let's talk about how to protect our beloved Firefox browser.
I will present some extensions and one tip to improve security in Firefox.

1. Adblock Plus 1.1.3
Have you ever been annoyed with all those ads and banners on the internet that often take longer to download than everything else on the page? Install Adblock Plus now and get rid of them. That's what the plugin does: cut the advertisements. If at home you also zap the TV when it enters the advertising commercials...

2. BetterPrivacy 1.45
This will protect your system of cookies that can not be excluded, known as "super-cookies".

3. NoScript
The best add on / plug for safety you can find in a web browser!
Allows you to block any script running in an HTML page, allowing active content to run only from sites you trust, and protect yourself against XSS and Clickjacking attacks.

4. WOT - Safe Browsing Tool 20091028
Web of Trust(WOT) warns you about risky websites that cheat customers, they install malware or send spam. Million members of the WOT community sites  write about the sites, evaluating them for potential hazards / security flaws that could compromise a healthy browsing of the Internet.

5. Stealther 1.0.7
If there are times when you want to surf the web without leaving traces on the local computer, then this is the ideal extension for you. What it does is temporarily disable the following: Cookies, History, Downloads, Passwords, Forms and authenticated sessions.

6. Disable and prevent the installation of plugins in Firefox

      A. Open the Firefox browser on your computer.
      B. Type about: config in the address bar (where you type the URL of the websites).
      C. In the security warning screen click "I'll be careful, I promise."
      D. Scroll down and look for xpinstall.enabled. When you find it, right click and click on Toggle. Your status will change from True to False.
      E. Restart the Firefox browser (close and open again).

That's it, now the browser will refuse to install add-ons and Plugins.
Another tip: If several people use the same computer, this procedure should be done to each one of the users.

Read more: http://www.quickonlinetips.com/archives/2009/08/secure-web-browsing/


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By Alessandro Ebersol with No comments

Monday, August 2, 2010

Load Balancing using the CUPS Print Queues

If you have more than 2-3 printers on a cups  server, you can easily make the load balancing (pooling) of print jobs using CUPS print queues.

a) First, create a class of printers. Go to the CUPS web interface to make these configurations http://server-ip:631/ or http://localhost:631/  if you are logged into the CUPS server.

b) Select the class tab to create one class.

c) Select printers for this class.

d) Select this class as the default (Default). From now on, the print jobs will be distributed evenly among all the printers in the class, through print queues. The hint is that  CUPS handles all the printers belonging to a class as if they were one, making automatically load balance between them.

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By Alessandro Ebersol with No comments

Solving the Freeze Problem with APT-GET / Synaptic

Recently I experienced a problem with Synaptic / apt-get, and would like to share with you a simple way to solve this problem.

APT-GET - A Great idea
APT-GET is a very good tool for working with the installation of packages. There are others, more recent, but the robustness, reliability and ease of the apt-get tool  gives it a prominent place in the major distros.

Born in the Debian distro, it has been ported to the RPM packages distros by brazilian now defunct company Conectiva(it merged with Mandrake and formed Mandriva).

The apt-get tool fetches  the repositories for data lists on all packages of the distribution, and builds a database listing the packages, their dependencies, which new packages are in the repository, which are deprecated, and so on.

When you do an apt-get update or press the reload button in Synaptic, lists are downloaded from various repositories, and these lists are used to build a database that lists all packages.

Well, when there is a problem at that stage of the procedure, when the lists are being downloaded  or the database is being built, it can ruin everything. And it happened to me.

At the time of creating the database, there was a corruption of files. Result: Neither apt-get worked nor  Synaptic.

No Panic, the solution is simple
When this happened to me, I was worried because I was not seeing a solution: Synaptic and apt-get (command line) were frozen. Not working anymore.
I thought ... Format and reinstall??

Then I started to research a little deeper on the apt-get and Synaptic (or any other graphical front end, Adept, aptitude, etc ...).
And the solution is pretty simple. The steps I take here are for distros that use RPM packages, but the analogy can be done for deb based distros as well.

 1. Look for the following directory /var/lib/rpm
2. In that directory will be the files of the database of apt-get/synaptic. The files have the following nomenclature __db.000 and so on. Depending on the size of the repos, there can be several files like this.
 3. Then, delete all the  __db files that exist in that directory. Of course you must be logged in as root. And, be very careful if you do rm-f. The ideal is to use a graphical file manager here, for you to see which files you are to delete and avoid any mistakes.
4. After deleting the __db files , type the following commands: # rpm -v --rebuilddb. This will rebuild the apt-get database.
5. If all goes well you can, from now on, use the command apt-get and its graphical front-ends with no problems. And, without having to reinstall your distro.

These tips are valid for RPM-based distros: Red Hat, Mandriva, CentOS, PCLinuxOS and Fedora. But, with the due adaptations, can be done on distros with deb packages as well.

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By Alessandro Ebersol with 1 comment
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