Monday, 31 December 2007

Thank You

Well, this will be my last post of 2007. I'd just like to say thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read this blog, and I'd like to wish you all a happy new year.
2007 has been a year of ups and downs for me - had to cope with my nan having dementia, then passing away, and my father being taken ill, but also discovering Linux, studying for a new career and, of course, starting this blog! I'm just hoping that 2008 will be slightly less eventful!

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Pregnancy becomes latest job outsourced to India

Every night in this quiet western Indian city, 15 pregnant women prepare for sleep in the spacious house they share, ascending the stairs in a procession of ballooned bellies, to bedrooms that become a landscape of soft hills.

read more | digg story

Pancakes in a pressurized can - Boing Boing

Pancakes in a pressurized can - Boing Boing

How cool is this? Pancakes in a can!

Reflections on an eventful 2007 for Linux

My, 2007 has been an eventful year for Linux! I only started using it at all in February (the first distro I tried was Fedora Core 5 for those who are interested - didn't like it I'm afraid!), and started using Kubuntu full time in April, and I've noticed what a busy year it's been.
Here's my roundup of my top ten events in the world of Linux from 2007:
  1. Dell selling preinstalled Ubuntu - you knew this was coming, didn't you? This is probably the most significant event - the first major PC retailer to sell preinstalled Linux. From what I've heard, they're doing pretty well too, thanks in part to the lacklustre Windows Vista, and in part due to the fact that Ubuntu is a sensible, well-though out distro that's easy to use. Other OEM's are now looking on and considering their options carefully, so I would not be at all surprised if more vendors begin to offer preinstalled Linux in 2008. Even if other vendors do start offering preinstalled Linux, when I next buy a laptop I will probably get a Dell, as my three-year old Inspiron running Kubuntu Gutsy has proven pretty reliable - I haven't needed to use any restricted drivers on it. It does have a Winmodem so if I used dialup I'd need to use a restricted driver for that, but I use a wireless connection so it's not an issue.
  2. The gPC - Regular readers may have noticed my enthusiasm for gOS and the gPC. As an entry-level PC, something like that is unbeatable, and gOS is incredibly easy to use. It's become increasingly apparent that Linux may well be finding a niche on the desktop in cheap, entry level PC's where neither Apple nor Microsoft can effectively compete. At around $199 (works out about £100 on current exchange rates) without a monitor, the price on this machine is excellent, and for something that will only be used for browsing the Web, e-mail and writing the odd letter, it's perfectly suitable. Ideal as a second PC, or for Granny or the kids. Who'd have thought Linux would be suitable for your nan a few years ago? I'm just eager to see if Asda (who are owned by Wal-Mart) will be selling this soon. Apparently it's gone down a storm, and they are planning to sell a laptop version in 2008.
  3. Microsoft's patent claims - This seemed to turn out to be less of an event than I thought it might have been. Most of the Linux vendors have quite rightly refused to be intimidated by Microsoft's vague and unsubstantiated claims that Linux violates 235 of their patents. My knowledge of the issue is limited, but I understand that to actually take legal action, Microsoft would have to specify what those patents were, which would then enable developers to code around these issues, but by refusing to state what these patents are, Microsoft are just stirring up FUD in an attempt to discourage people from using Linux and to try to scare Linux vendors to sign up to their patent agreement, as Novell had already done. The only vendors to sign up as a result were Linspire, Xandros, and TurboLinux. None of the big distributors apart from Novell have signed up, and Ubuntu, Red Hat and Mandriva have all rejected these claims.
  4. Android - Linux has existed on mobile phones for a while, but Android is something that could easily be revolutionary. By providing a simple, off-the-shelf operating system for mobile phones, Google have created something that could well go on to become an industry standard. It would allow for applications to be created using a single standard to work on any phone with Android installed - something that we will definitely need if the mobile Internet is ever likely to come about. I don't want it to become a virtual monopoly the way Windows has on the desktop, but I can't wait to see the first mobile phones with Android.
  5. Tesco selling PC's with preinstalled Ubuntu Dapper - Much like the gPC, Tesco's decision to sell a basic computer with preinstalled Ubuntu meant that there was a cheap way of getting an entry-level computer without paying for a copy of Windows, which let's face it is overkill for if you're just going to browse the web and play a few games. Ubuntu is more than capable of doing that.
  6. The Asus Eee PC - Potentially the most exciting development in terms of desktop Linux, the Asus Eee PC is an excellent example of a subnotebook. Because Linux is much lighter than Windows, it's ideal for running on such devices. And they've chosen a version of Xandros, a Linux distro that closely resembles Windows, to make it easier for people who are used to Windows to use. Many people who'd never normally even consider using Linux will no doubt find themselves using these.
  7. GPL v3 - Admittedly, the Linux kernel is sticking with version 2, at least for the moment, but this was certainly a big event in the world of free software. The first change to the GPL in over a decade, v3 saw some significant changes off the back of Microsoft's patent claims.
  8. SCO vs Linux- I wasn't around for the start of this, I've only seen the end, but I gather this is significant. I won't go into it as I don't know much about it, but for those interested in reading more, here's a link.
  9. Loads more great Linux releases! - 2007 has been a good year in terms of steady improvement of Linux distributions. We've seen great new versions of Ubuntu, Fedora, Open SuSE and many more. Meanwhile, Windows Vista has been a crushing disappointment for many people, raising the likelihood that some of them may consider looking elsewhere for an operating system. Even the eye-candy is improving - Compiz Fusion is amazing to see, and far better than anything Vista can offer. I can't wait to see how they will continue to improve over the next few years.
  10. Increasing Linux adoption - This follows on from the previous point. I've seen many reports that Linux adoption, both commercial and by home users, is on the rise. Thanks to more user-friendly distros such as Ubuntu, Linux Mint and PCLinuxOS, Linux is now easy enough to use that it's a viable alternative to Windows. Nowadays, I think the barrier to more Linux adoption is mostly psychological, people stick with what they know and if something else works a different way they perceive it as a fault with the product. If you go into Linux expecting it to be just like Windows, you'll be disappointed. But approach it without preconceptions and you'll do just fine.
Well, that wraps it up really. As you can see, 2007 has been a very exciting year for Linux, and I'm pleased that I've been able to see it all happen.

Sunday, 30 December 2007

More about Google Desktop

After my comments about Google Desktop previously, I decided to have a look at the website for it, and it shows as supporting Vista, so I decided to give it a try again. Google now seem to have resolved the issues I had with it previously, and it's working fine now. Unfortunately, I have to run it alongside Yahoo! Widgets as I need that for the Last.FM BBC Radio application.

But it's a great tool. The widget sidebar is good, far better than the Microsoft one that is installed by default, and probably a bit better than the Yahoo one. As well, the quick search box is incredibly useful. You can use it as an application launcher, which is great - I've gotten used to using Katapult to launch things in Kubuntu, and this makes an excellent replacement for this. I'm so enamoured of it I decided to install the Linux version on my Kubuntu laptop as well.

Unfortunately, this version lacks the widgets, and I still prefer to use Katapult as a launcher. But it's still useful. The default key for starting the Quick Search box is Ctrl-Ctrl, but I've changed it in Kubuntu to the Windows key - after all, I'm not going to use that for anything else, am I!

RIAA suing citizen for copying legally purchased CDs to PC

"Ira Schwartz, the industry's lawyer in the case, is arguing that MP3 files created on his [Jeffrey Howell's] computer from legally purchased CDs are indeed "unauthorized copies," and while we've no idea what will become of all this, we suppose you should go on and wipe those personal copies before you too end up in handcuffs."

read more | digg story

Friday, 28 December 2007

Searching for a blog in a haystack...

Just a minute ago I decided to try seeing which search engines this blog has been indexed by, so I did a search on each for "far beyond the edge of reason". I figured that it should find it easily if I give the name of the blog.
There was no point trying Google - as this blog is hosted by Blogger, Google have already indexed it, and in fact, it actually says on the control panel that if you make it public it will show up in Google searches within a few hours. Just to check, I tried it and it came up as the first option.
It also showed up fine in Yahoo! searches, as well as Lycos and Altavista, but didn't show up on Ask, or Excite.
Or Live Search. It's been over four months since I started this blog, and Microsoft have not indexed it yet. For the supposed third most popular search engine, that is a dismal performance. Naturally, I've submitted it, but I can tell you now, I will never, EVER use Live Search again (not that I ever did before, what with using Firefox I almost always use Google anyway).
I think the only reason Live Search is as popular as it is, is that it's the default search engine in the default browser in the default operating system of the world. Based on how badly it performed in this little, and admittedly not that scientific test, it really does not deserve this position.

Blogged with Flock

A major milestone

I failed to notice, but I seem to have passed the 100 posts point on this blog with my last entry. Wow, can't believe I only started blogging in August. But then, nearly half of those posts have been in the past month - December has seen 44 posts prior to this one, whereas the next highest (November) saw a mere 22 posts. I seem to have really hit my stride lately, although I have been putting more articles from Digg on here, as well as a couple of photos now that I'm on Flickr.

Anyway, I recently heard that the BBC's labs had come out with a couple of widgets that enabled you to listen to BBC Radio 1, 2, 1Xtra or 6Music and scrobble the tracks played to your Last.FM profile, so naturally I had to give them a try. There were two available, one for the Mac and one for Yahoo! Widgets. So I had to install Yahoo! Widgets on my Vista laptop.

The widget is good, when it works, but it is somethat unreliable - it often doesn't pick up the changes in songs, so you won't get one scrobbled. The idea is certainly good, but I do think it needs more work if it will succeed. And it's very nice to be able to listen to internet radio and scrobble my listens. (Incidentally, I was able to compare my musical tastes with 6Music and got 89.23% compatibility. As long as it's not with Radio 1!)

However, I have issues with Yahoo! Widgets. I use it instead of the Microsoft one (which was rubbish so I turned it off anyway), but I'd much rather use Google Desktop. Unfortunately, Google Desktop doesn't seem to work well on Vista (apparently Microsoft took steps to make it NOT work, and Google hauled them through the courts over it, so once Vista SP1 is released that will resolve the issue).

But, the main reason I'd rather use Google Desktop than Yahoo! Widgets is simple. Google support Linux, and open-source in general pretty well - most of their stuff is available for Linux even if it doesn't necessarily have the same functionality as its Windows counterpart. Yahoo, by comparison, do nothing to support it as far as I can see. I have yet to see a single application of theirs which is available for Linux.

But, maybe the BBC will make another version of this widget for Google Desktop (and yes, I know the Linux version of Google Desktop doesn't yet support widgets), or someone else will get a copy of the source code and make a Google Desktop version. And, if I'm really lucky, someone will make a KDE4 version, since that will support widgets too, so when I upgrade to Kubuntu Hardy with KDE4, I can listen to 6Music and scrobble away! I can but dream...

Thursday, 27 December 2007

ApplyYourself:

In order to send a letter of reference to a university admissions committee, you have to sign our crazy EULA

read more | digg story

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Flying spaghetti monster defeats anti-evolution FL school

Efforts were afoot recently on the Polk County School Board to begin teaching the "concept" of intelligent design in science classes as an alternative to evolution. But that was before the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster arrived and shamed the school board into backing down. Read more about this somewhat merry holiday tale...

read more | digg story

Layout

Never one to sit still, I've made a few more changes to the layout. You'll no doubt notice I've added a new blogroll. This lists a selection of my favourite RSS feeds. Check some of them out if you have the time.
I've also joined Flickr. There's now a link to my profile in the My Profiles section to the right. I've posted a couple of photos I've taken, and I've set it up so I can use it to post to here. I want to get my mobile phone set up so I can post direct, but I need to set up Vodafone Mail to do so, and they seem to have other ideas. Every time I log in with Firefox, it gives an error message about "Insecure Entrance to the site" (Oh, and it would be sooo much more secure if I were to use Internet Explorer!).
That's about it. Heading back to work tomorrow, as I'm sure many of you are.

KDE4 in Kubuntu Hardy - A few thoughts

You may have seen my previous post about the upcoming Kubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron and KDE4. If you haven't, I'll sum it up for you:
  • Due to high demand for KDE4, Kubuntu Hardy will be available with either KDE 3.5 or KDE4 as the default desktop (presumably with separate ISO images available for download)
  • As a consequence of this, Kubuntu Hardy will, unlike Ubuntu Hardy, NOT be a Long-Term Support edition as was planned.
I suspected they'd have to do something about KDE4. After all, it was very inconvenient timing to have KDE4 released so soon before an LTS release of Kubuntu. While I'm in no doubt that this was a difficult decision for the Kubuntu developers, I feel the answer they came up with was the right one. After all, there was huge demand for KDE4. This way, people get to choose between the stability of KDE3.5 and the unproven KDE4. The loss of LTS status was unfortunate, but was the price that had to be paid.

For myself, I haven't decided which I will use when Hardy is released, but there's a lot of things in KDE4 I really like the look of (such as the KTwitter widget) so I will certainly give it a try. I may find myself going back to the KDE3.5 version if it's not stable enough, but we'll have to wait and see.

Finally, I know this is a bit belated, but I'd like to extend to all my readers my best wishes for a merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year (regardless of religious beliefs or lack thereof).

Bad Day at the Office



If you ever think you're having a bad day at the office, spare a thought for these people...

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

I suck at wrapping presents!


I suck at wrapping presents!, originally uploaded by matthewbdaly.

An example of my terrible present-wrapping skills!

My dog's present


My dog's present, originally uploaded by matthewbdaly.

Someone got my dog this Christmas bandana as his present! Why?

The 5 Least Surprising Toy Recalls of All Time

The one I really don't get is the Kinder Eggs - I used to eat them all the time as a child. What is so dangerous about them? Only if you're daft enough to just cram everything in sight in your mouth could you choke to death on it.

read more | digg story

Monday, 24 December 2007

Why Amarok ‘Roks’

Amarok is the best media player I have ever, EVER, used. There is NO other player on any platform that even comes near it. And in a few months time, it will be available for both Windows and Mac. Here's an article about it. And when it is out, give it a try - I promise you won't be disappointed.

read more | digg story

Sunday, 23 December 2007

'Doctor Who' slammed by Christian groups

I found a link to this article on a feed I subscribe to, and I just had to Digg it. Seriously, do these people not understand the concept of fiction? Are there people who are offended by fictional messiahs like Paul Atreides in Dune? Although I'm an atheist, I do respect the rights of others to believe otherwise, but it's very hard to when they come out with crap like this.

read more | digg story

Friday, 21 December 2007

Kubuntu 8.04 will have KDE 4, will NOT be LTS

Kubuntu's next release will offer options of both KDE 3.5 and KDE 4, and due to the latter, will not have the LTS designation from Canonical, while Ubuntu 8.04 still will.

read more | digg story

Christmas shopping

One of the things I bought today was a new clock radio (I've had my current one for almost 20 years!). This one has a built-in iPod dock, so I can now use that to charge it instead of having to connect it to my laptop. It also means I can listen to music off my iPod out loud rather than on headphones.
It was only £25 from BHS. I also got a load of Xmas presents from there cheap, including the bear I mentioned in a previous post (who was down from £25 to £10). My Xmas shopping is now almost done.

Blogged with Flock

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Internet Explorer 8 passes ACID2 test!

The next version of IE might actually support web standards? Knock me down with a feather!

read more | digg story

The Year's 10 Craziest Ways to Hack the Earth

Scientists have come up with extreme -- some might say crazy -- schemes to counteract global warming. This year saw the most radical geo-engineering ideas yet: man-made volcanoes, orbiting mirror fleets and ocean re-engineering to cool the planet and absorb carbon dioxide.Some say the extreme temperatures predicted for the near future call...

read more | digg story

Xmas pressie!

This handsome fellow is going to be my Christmas present to my mum - she's had a bit of a hard time this year, so I figure he might cheer her up a bit! Judging by my colleague's reactions at work, he'll do just that - loads of my female colleagues were picking him up and hugging him, and someone tried to walk off with him!
Having had to cope with looking after my nan, who had vascular dementia, for over six months was really hard on all of us, but my mum had to do the lion's share of the work. If you've never had to cope with an elderly person with dementia, you're very lucky. It's one of the most crushing, soul-destroying things you can ever do - it's like seeing someone turn into a child, but without any of the nice things about children. It is genuinely one of those things that you can't understand how horrible it is without going through it.
So, I figure my mum deserves a really nice present, and I'm sure she'll love him. I've got her something else as well, but hopefully he'll be able to put a smile on her face!

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Switching to Linux: Desktop environments vs. Window managers

A very interesting article about desktop environments and window managers. Linux users are lucky to have a choice over these - Windows and Mac users are stuck with the same desktop, but we can choose between GNOMe, KDE, XFCE, Enlightenment and so many others!

read more | digg story

Dell announces Ubuntu 7.10 PCs with DVD playback

Of course, it's quite easy to install DVD playback capability in Ubuntu Gutsy if you know what you're doing - sudo apt-get install ubuntu-restricted-extras (if using Kubuntu or Xubuntu, replace ubuntu with kubuntu or xubuntu), then sudo /usr/share/doc/libdvdread3/install-css.sh. But it's still nice to see Dell able to offer it out of the box.

read more | digg story

Eeextremely Eeenticing: a review of the Asus Eee PC

Since its announcement, the Asus Eee PC laptop has drawn attention for its Linux OS, small size, and low price. As we put the EeePC through its paces, we'll also show you some simple hacks for the device.

read more | digg story

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Happy birthday blog!

BBC NEWS | Technology | Weblogs rack up a decade of posts

Have a read of this article, it's very interesting. I'd like to wish the blog a happy 10th birthday and look forward to another ten years!

Monday, 17 December 2007

Free Software dull? Never!

Some people might dare to suggest that the cause of Free Software might be ...perhaps... a little dull. Well, these people are wrong, plain and simple.
It's enormously gratifying to know that you're participating in a movement that's helping people around the world have access to high-quality software at low to no cost (after all, just try saying "Get a Mac" to someone who lives in a poor township in Africa). Projects such as Ubuntu offer people all around the world the opportunity to get involved in the wider world via the Internet, by providing them with an operating system that is cheap or free, will run on old hardware that isn't much use elsewhere, and gives them an alternative to pirated copies of Windows. And that's just the "free as in free beer" aspect of it.
The "free as in free speech" aspect is even more important. By giving people the opportunity to make changes to the operating system to make it more suitable for a local audience, they're again giving more people the opportunity to get involved. Rather than waiting for Microsoft to translate Windows into their native language, they have the opportunity to do the work themselves and not have to wait. Also they can make changes to software to make it more suitable. And free software often supports many more different formats than its proprietary counterparts (just look at Open Office compared to MS Office for an example), making it easier for it to interoperate.
That's why I'm proud to be a Linux user. I may not have helped out much to date, but I plan to get involved at some point, whether it's packaging, offering advice in the Ubuntu forums, or writing documentation.
Finally, the programs are just so much better named! Don't believe me? Here's a list of proprietary applications and their free software equivalents:
  • Internet Explorer - Firefox
  • Photoshop - GIMP (makes a better verb too! To Gimp something sounds a lot better than to Photoshop something!)
  • Outlook - Thunderbird
  • iTunes - Amarok
I could go on, but these are the best in my opinion. Obviously, the other reasons for using free software are far more worthy, but it just goes to show that free software is a lot more interesting than many people make out.

Blogged with Flock

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Remember this...


Here's a picture of me at the Xmas do on Friday (helpfully pointed out by my colleague!). For the first time in nearly eight years, I'm wearing a tie!

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Thick people

Here's a favourite sketch of mine - the Thick People Agency in Chris Morris's Jam!


Thursday, 13 December 2007

OFFICIAL: Facebook drops 'is'

Mine now reads "Matthew loves the lack of is!"

read more | digg story

eeeXubuntu: Ubuntu for the Asus EeePC

In my opinion, Xubuntu would be the ideal distro for the Asus EeePC. Clearly someone else agrees, as this article illustrates...

read more | digg story

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Will It Blend? I don't know, but it won!

Some of you may be familiar with the hilarious Blendtec videos for Will It Blend? Well, apparently it has won the .net 07 Award for Viral Campaign of the Year.

I'm not surprised - it's simple, fun and gripping. You can't go a day on Digg without someone putting the comment "Will It Blend?" somewhere. It's genuinely become a part of the the pop culture of the Web.

To celebrate this success, here's my favourite Will It Blend? - the iPhone! If you've not seen it before, check it out, and follow the link above for more blender mayhem!


Arctic summers ice-free 'by 2013'

If this doesn't hit home with the climate change non-believers, what will?

read more | digg story

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Prism

I've heard a lot of buzz lately about Mozilla's new Prism technology, and a blog I read had a link to it, so I decided to try it out.
Wow! is all I can say. This is only the prototype, but it's already looking absolutely staggering. Basically, it's an easy way to use any web-based application in a way that mimics traditional desktop applications. All you do is start up Prism, and you'll be prompted to enter the URL of the server and the name you want to give the application. For instance, I entered blogger.com and Blogger. You're also prompted to say how you'd like the application to be available (in Windows it's available in the Start Menu, Desktop or Quick Launch bar, Linux so far only has Desktop). It then creates the required links. You can then just click them to open whatever application in a cut-down browser.
It's great for things like Google Mail or Google reader. Give it a try if you can. It's fast, powerful and really easy to use.

KDE4 countdown

I'm sure you all saw the Ubuntu Gutsy countdown I had - well now there's one for KDE4, so I've added this as well. However, this is in the form of a bar, so I've added it at the bottom of my blog.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Lime Juice

Re my previous post, I just had to share this link. Lime Juice is a very interesting sounding new startup in the US - essentially it's a mobile-based social network.
Now, if someone can get this kind of thing working, that REALLY will drive the mobile Internet. By allowing the real world and the Internet to interact in the same place, it'll change the whole nature of the Internet. It'll go through a huge paradigm shift, ridding it of the Web 1.0 stereotype of the antisocial loner surfing the Internet in his mother's basement and the (unfair in my opinion) stereotype of friendships on MySpace or Facebook as being people just trying to show off how popular they are. The Web will be integrated completely into our social lives, as it should be.
After all, if you can meet someone, and become friends with them on a social network there and then, how cool would that be? Plus, you can easily find out if someone's single there and then. It'll be absolutely revolutionary when (NOT if, when!) it happens.

Opera Mini

You read my earlier post about web browsers? Well, I've installed Opera. Can't see myself using it long term, but it has some nice features. But it did mention Opera Mini, and as my current browsing experience on my mobile is pitiful (using Vodafone's awful web browser), I decided to give it a try.

Well, it's certainly a major step up from the default one - the previous one made it a tortuous experience trying to browse the web, but Opera Mini makes it a relatively painless experience.

However, I don't think that the Internet on mobile phones is likely to take off for some time. Of all the phones I've seen, only the Apple iPhone looks like something I could actually use to browse the Internet on a regular basis. There will be more, I'm sure of it, and apps like Opera Mini will help that, but for the moment I don't think it'll really happen.

Here's what I think needs to happen for the mobile Internet to take off:
  1. We need all-you-can-browse payment plans - This I can't emphasise enough. Until you can just pay a flat fee each month for as much content as you like, it will remain prohibitively expensive to browse the Internet on your phone. The same thing happened with wired Internet access - only once ISP's started offering that kind of plan did people really start to use it a lot. I believe T-Mobile here in the UK are offering a package called Web-n-Walk which offers precisely this.
  2. Reasonable speed - We'll probably have to wait for 4G before this becomes a reality, but once it does, that will drive further adoption of mobile web browsing.
  3. Devices better suited to web browsing - As I mentioned above, only the Apple iPhone is really designed to make mobile web browsing a good experience.
  4. Better applications - Google's Android platform will no doubt help to make this a reality. Basically we need decent browsers, as well as an easy way to read e-mails. How about IM as well?
There's no doubt about it, the mobile Internet will appear in the next few years, but there's still a lot of work to be done before it comes. Personally I can't wait - I'd love to be able to blog on the go, or read my RSS feeds on the train to work.

In the meantime, Opera Mini is an excellent application compared to Vodafone's default browser. Perhaps if mobile networks know what's good for them, they'll start preinstalling it on their phones.

Blogged with Flock

Got them Internet Explorer blues...

One thing I hear a lot on sites like Digg and Slashdot is complaints about Internet Explorer. Now, I'm aware of all the security issues with IE, and the fact that it's just plainly a rubbish browser, and compared to Firefox, Flock or Konqueror it's slow and lacking in features. But one of the most consistently heard complaints is from web developers and web designers bemoaning the way it renders images, forcing them to go out of their way to accommodate it.
Now, I always figured this was an issue I'd gain firsthand experience of, but to date I'd not really seen much evidence of it. Until today.

My employer, in their infinite wisdom, still has staff using IE6 on Windows XP, and to be fair, many of my coworkers are, despite my constant endorsement of Firefox and Flock, the kind of people to whom IE IS the Internet. Not all, but many. So I was stuck using IE6, and at the moment we don't have much to do, so I was bored. I therefore decided to have a look at my blog to see how it looks in IE6 now that I've given it a bit of an overhaul. And it's pretty poor. I'd heard that IE6 doesn't support transparency in GIF, but it must extend to PNG as well. The Simpsonised image of me doesn't look very good. The background should be transparent - in other words, it should match the page it's on, in this case black. In IE6 it doesn't - the background is white. So it's shown on a white box.

Well, I might have to take steps to make it look good in IE if it was a project I was doing for someone else, but I am NOT doing it for my own blog. If Microsoft can't be bothered to make their browser compliant with the same standards as every other browser, why should I support it?

If you're viewing this site in Internet Explorer and you don't like the way it looks, sorry, but that's tough. I recommend using a standards-compliant browser - you're making web professional's lives easier. If you don't know where to get an alternative browsers, here's a few links:
  • Mozilla Firefox - a personal favourite of mine

  • Flock - An excellent choice if you use sites like Facebook, YouTube or Twitter a lot

  • Safari - I'm reluctant to start recommending this as I dislike Apple, and this is only a public beta, but it's supposed to be good

  • Mozilla Seamonkey - Made by the same people as Firefox, Seamonkey is an entire Internet suite, rather than just a browser. In other words, it includes things like e-mail and web page creation as well in one big package

  • Opera - I've never quite gotten into Opera, but I've heard it's the fastest browser out there (despite Apple's claims to the contrary about Safari. I've actually just visited the website and I'm going to try it out tonight
So, there you have it. I've stuck to ones that are available in Windows, and provided hyperlinks, so no excuses!

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Top Video!

I was looking on Last.FM and found this brilliant video for Killing Joke's Love Like Blood. Great song - check it out!

"Dead" man hid in family home for three years

You'll have heard about this case, but now it appears he was hiding in his house all the time. WTF?

read more | digg story

An accurate description of Windows Vista

Hilarious! Sums up my own feelings about Vista!

read more | digg story

gOS - My Official Review!

As I'm sure you're all aware, I have been raving about gOS for some time. But I didn't really tell you much about it. So, I thought I'd give you a bit of a walkthrough of it.


Here's the desktop as it appears on my laptop. Nice, huh? Of course, this doesn't give you the full picture, as the bar at the bottom (called, in true Apple-like fashion, the iBar) scrolls smoothly along if (like me) you don't have a large enough screen to display all the icons.

It was easy to boot it up from the CD - being based on Ubuntu, it's similarly straightforward. I didn't install it, I was running it in LiveCD mode. Configuring wireless was a breeze. Just click on the two computers icon at the side, select your device (here I was using wlan) and you're confronted with this screen:


From here, it was just a matter of selecting my network and filling in my password for WPA.

The one issue I did have is the one I have mentioned earlier (the DNS issue, which also affects Ubuntu). I've heard that this issue is to do with certain wireless routers which have issues with some Linux kernels (I had it with Edgy and Gutsy, but not Feisty), but I believe it can be resolved by updating your router's firmware (I haven't yet done this as I found an alternative fix, but I'll have to get round to doing it sooner or later). However, I believe this is quite rare - the firmware update was actually issued around the same time as I bought this router in September 2006 so I would think that any new router you buy now would already have this issue resolved. If you bought a gPC for your granny and bought a new router to go with it, you'd almost certainly not have an issue with it.

As you can see, there's a very nice desktop indeed installed by default (the people who normally whinge about Ubuntu being brown won't have any issues with it - although there's nothing wrong with the Gutsy desktop, it's chocolate brown), but there are no doubt other desktops available, though as I'm only trying this as a Live CD I'm not going to be able to find out.



Despite its bias towards web apps, it does still have an excellent series of desktop applications - the full Open Office suite, The GIMP (which I used to capture the screenshots), Firefox as the default web browser, Thunderbird as your e-mail client (and unlike in Ubuntu, it includes easy Gmail configuration - why was this taken out of Ubuntu?) and Pidgin for IM - all excellent applications which are more than able replacements for the kind of thing you get on a brand-new Windows desktop - in fact, I'd say they are far better apps than what I got with my Vista laptop.

The media player that comes with it is Rhythmbox. I'd rather use Amarok, but I understand why they used Rhythmbox instead - although great, Amarok is quite complex, and is a bit harder to get your head round than Rhythmbox. Also, as it's a KDE app, Amarok would need the Qt widget toolkit installed to work, which would mean that gOS would have to make more space on the disc, and would slow it down. Rhythmbox is a good choice under the circumstances, and is nice and straightforward, although maybe they might consider Banshee instead in future, as that aims to be an "Amarok for GNOME".

But of course it's on web apps that gOS really shines. Startup times in LiveCD mode for most apps were on the order of twenty seconds, but much shorter if Firefox was already running - in practice you'd probably have Firefox running in the background most of the time, so it would be quite quick, and of course you'd normally have it installed. The apps are well-chosen ones that people use a lot anyway, such as Facebook, YouTube, and Wikipedia, as well as others that people may not be so aware of, but deserve to be more popular, such as Meebo or Google Docs.

Even running as a Live CD it's surprisingly fast - faster than Ubuntu would be as a Live CD, so it would be blazingly fast if I installed it (and this laptop is not terribly fast - a three-year old Dell Inspiron with 512MB ram, a Celeron processor and a 40GB hard drive - it was painfully slow running Windows XP with Service Pack 2).

And it's almost childishly simple to use - everything you might need is clearly indicated - for Wikipedia, you click on the easily recognisable Wikipedia icon. Anyone can use this - if you think Linux is for nerds only, try gOS and you'll think again. But, at the same time, its Linux underpinnings give it speed and reliability - no need to worry about malware.

Inevitably, there's some bad: The Google search box on the desktop is a great idea, and is really useful, but for some reason the creators of gOS chose not to open the results in Firefox. Instead, it uses WebRunner, a fast but not very well-featured browser. Why? It's probably faster than Firefox, but you have to start it from scratch, whereas Firefox will probably be open all the time. It takes up additional space on the disc, and it doesn't show a consistent approach - a better way would have been for it to have automatically opened a new tab in Firefox. As it is, it forces you to often have two browsers open when you can make do with one.

But that's the only real issue I have with it. I'm rather a technical user, so it's never going to be my main OS (Kubuntu fills that role very well, thank you), but I admire gOS for its simplicity, ease of use, and wonderfully attractive and intuitive interface.

There are a couple of suggestions I would make to the creators. First of all, as mentioned above, I'd keep an eye on Banshee and consider making that the default media player, it might make a better choice than Rhythmbox. Second, as above, lose WebRunner, and just open queries in Firefox instead. Third, it might be worth their while considering having Flock as the browser instead of Firefox - it's ideal for the sort of people who might want to use gOS, as it includes full integration with YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr etc, and the makers have also resolved many issues from Firefox.

Otherwise, I'm very impressed. As I mentioned, it'll never be my main OS, but if I had an old computer that I wanted to give to a relative for them to use just for e-mail, browsing the web and so on, gOS fulfills that role admirably. Well done gOS!


Linux is about to take over the low end of PCs

Opinion -- Sometimes, several unrelated changes come to a head at the same time, with a result no one could have predicted. The PC market is at such a tipping point right now and the result will be millions of Linux-powered PCs in users' hands.

read more | digg story

Saturday, 8 December 2007

A major overhaul...

If you have visited this site before, you may notice a substantial difference. Yes, I've decided to give this blog a serious overhaul. I've completely revamped the whole look and feel of it to make it more minimal, and I've added a very nice new header, courtesy of the excellent and very useful Cool Text website.
I've also taken out almost all of the widgets. This was a very hard decision to make as I loved them, but I felt that they were getting out of hand and meant that the page took ages to load. If you're interested in keeping an eye on my music taste, please check out my MySpace instead. I've put three Last.FM widgets there instead.
I'd be very interested in hearing feedback on my blog's new look, so please feel free to comment.

Blogged with Flock

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Six Degrees

I've finished Six Degrees earlier in the week, and it is scary. A difference of six degrees Centigrade doesn't sound like much, but it'd be enough that billions could starve due to drought, and the survivors would besiege countries that managed to hold together. It could also release methane clathrates from the ocean floor, making climate change even worse. If you think climate change would be just about not having to go abroad for a holiday in the sun, read this book and it'll open your eyes.
The other book I'm reading at the moment is Peter F. Hamilton's The Dreaming Void. Not got far into it (as with Black Man, I'm reading it at home and I hardly ever have time to spare to read it), but I'm making steady progress. Peter is an excellent and exciting SF author, and I really enjoy his work.
Tomorrow I've got my work Xmas meal. Also got the Secret Santa - it's always a pain getting something for that, isn't it?

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Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Course Part 2

Finally made a start on part 2 of my course today. So far, it's more technical than the HTML part was, but pretty easy - after all I've been using Linux for nearly a year, so I've learned a lot.

Also done a minor overhaul of this blog - added links to just about every profile I have anywhere, and have put this blog on Technorati. If you like reading it, please add it to you Technorati favourites using the button provided. If you think it sucks, please let me know (politely, though, and constructive criticism only!) via the comments. I'm grateful for any feedback.

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The 20 Best iPod Utilities

I may have to consider using one of these instead of iTunes bearing in mind how unreliable it is with Last.fm on my Vista laptop...

read more | digg story

Finish the folowing: "I like my women like I like my coffee..." [Comic]

A little light humour...

read more | digg story

Sunday, 2 December 2007

KDE 4.0 to be Released in January

The KDE Release Team has decided to release KDE 4.0 this coming January. The release was originally planned for mid-December. The KDE developers want to solve a couple of essential issues before releasing.

read more | digg story

It's planned for 11 January. Which is, incidentally, my 29th birthday! Let's hope that I can get it working OK in Kubuntu Gutsy - I want the Ktwitter widget so bad...

US says it has right to kidnap British citizens - Times Online

All your citizens are belong to us

read more | digg story

Saturday, 1 December 2007

The Year of the Linux Desktop? Not Again!

Last night I read a leaflet from a local electrical retailer, and to my surprise, they were selling the Asus Eee PC (check out this link for details - they also do the black one but it's out of stock at present). I'm seriously considering getting one - it's a really great deal and I'd probably find it useful.

I have noticed a lot of positive trends in Linux adoption this year (Dell and a number of other manufacturers beginning to offer preinstalled Linux, the gPC, Tesco offering preinstalled Ubuntu Dapper, and now the Eee PC). While I'm reluctant to start shouting "2007! The Year of the Linux Desktop has arrived!", no-one can deny that Linux is now seeing increasing exposure in the mainstream.

I think the trend towards cheaper consumer electronics is likely to favour Linux adoption in future. Windows Vista is a bloated monster (Home Premium on the laptop I'm writing this on takes up a colossal 15GB, whereas a fresh Kubuntu install takes up 2GB) and a lot of your computer's expensive processing power is taken up with things you don't really want to run at all such as DRM.

Consider this example. Sim City Societies has a minimum processor speed of 1.7GHZ running XP, and 2.4GHZ in Vista! That's a staggering difference for no worthwhile improvement in performance.

Also as consumer electronics get cheaper a proprietary OS such as Windows forms a larger and larger proportion of the cost. If you're going to get better performance from a Linux distribution and it costs less, then companies which start preinstalling future mini-laptops such as the Eee PC with Linux will make a killing compared to those who stick with Windows, and pretty soon all vendors of such devices will be switching to Linux. I doubt that Apple will be able to do too well in this market, as they've spent years establishing themselves as the cool option that costs more (although I can imagine there being such a device - the iLaptop perhaps?).

In addition, as the creators of gOS have realised, the future lies in web-based applications. That's not to say desktop applications will die out completely, but they'll probably become less and less popular over time. And with that, the reasons for not using Linux will begin to fall by the wayside...

Monday, 26 November 2007

Finished Black Man

I've finally finished reading Richard Morgan's excellent novel Black Man just before 10pm today. Tomorrow I'll start reading The Dreaming Void at home and Mark Lynas's Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet on the train.

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Sunday, 25 November 2007

On and on...

Still ploughing through Black Man. I'm going to have to take it to work on the train again this week, otherwise I won't get through it. Unfortunately, I'm simply too busy most of the time to get round to reading it.
But I should finish it this week, then I'm going to start reading Peter F Hamilton's The Dreaming Void which I've been wanting to read for a long time.

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Saturday, 24 November 2007

More about gOS...

It appears I spoke too soon. On a whim, I decided to try gOS on my other laptop (which normally runs Kubuntu). Turns out it does support wireless out of the box, just clearly doesn't support the wireless card built into my Vista laptop, which is odd as that is supported in Ubuntu Gutsy, on which gOS is based. Although it doesn't have Network Manager installed, it does include Exalt, which does the same thing. It does still suffer from the DNS problem with my router which Gutsy also has, but I can resolve that easily enough in Firefox by disabling IPv6 using about:config, and if I were to install it permanently it would be easy to resolve it for all applications by editing a line in my /etc/modprobe.d/aliases from
alias net-pf-10 ipv6


to
alias net-pf-10 off


And it works like a charm! I'm actually posting this from within gOS running in LiveCD mode! I am seriously impressed. If ever I decide to get rid of this laptop and buy a new Dell with preinstalled Ubuntu instead, and give this one to my sister, I will be putting gOS on it. For the casual PC user, it is quite simply the simplest and most straightforward operating system I have EVER used. It has a wonderful look to it, it's made with a keen eye on what people use their computers for, and it's fast. For a budget PC, it's absolutely ideal. Give it to your kids, your elderly relatives, they'll all love it.
I'd like to see a vendor selling the Everex gPC with this preloaded here in the UK. As I've mentioned previously, Tesco are selling a £160 PC without a screen with Ubuntu Dapper preinstalled - since Asda is owned by Wal-Mart, maybe they will start selling this?

gOS - My Two-Pence Worth

I've downloaded a copy of gOS on Thursday, and earlier today I burned it to a CD and tried it on my Vista laptop. All I can say is "Wow!". I couldn't get the wireless working out of the box because it doesn't include Network Manager by default, but it does appear to be available on the CD-ROM image (if not it'll be available from the Ubuntu repositories anyway), and it does specifically state that you need to use an ethernet connection anyway. As I wasn't going to install it, I was just trying it out, I wasn't able to use the internet with it, but it didn't matter as I'm familiar with the websites it has links for.
It looks absolutely amazing - it has a very clean,simple interface that's kind of reminiscent of OS X (though I'm not really familiar with OS X, having never used a Mac). For the average computer owner - ie. someone who will use it to browse the Internet, read e-mail, chat via IM and maybe write the odd letter from time to time, it's the ideal OS. The fact that it's based on Ubuntu means you've got access to all the apps in the Ubuntu repositories (and remember, Ubuntu has big repositories, only Debian has more), so you could potentially install just about anything available from there.
It is a shame that it has Rhythmbox installed by default - I'd have preferred Amarok, but I'll freely concede that although Amarok is an awesome media player, it's quite complex, and Rhythmbox is probably easier to use.
Overall, I'm very impressed. Although I'd consider myself a somewhat more technically advanced user than the target audience, I really like gOS. I showed it to other members of my family and they quite liked it too, though they aren't Linuxphiles like me. If I had a computer-illiterate friend or relative who wanted a computer, and this OS was available preinstalled on a computer here in the UK, I'd certainly recommend they get it.
The Internet has become a killer app for the home computer, and this computer is built around that idea. In the process it may have become the killer app for desktop Linux...

Monday, 19 November 2007

PrayStation: The 6 Most Misguided Christian Video Games

A very entertaining article all about Christian Video Games down the years.

read more | digg story

Picture: A "Psychological" Optical Illusion

What you see will depend directly based on the world you live in.

read more | digg story

Unboxing the Everex $200 Linux / Google Computer

Matt Cutts opens up the new $200 Everex computer being sold at Wal-Mart. Great pictures for the curious!

read more | digg story

Gosh, gOS is good

More about gOS!

read more | digg story

The Rise of a Planet [pic]

An absolutely breathtaking image - I have this as the wallpaper on both my laptops now!

read more | digg story

Why does Facebook Hate me?

A little something I found on Digg. If they had done this to me, I might have had second thoughts about joining...

read more | digg story

A few ideas

I just had an idea - a comedy blog called The New Adventures of Jesus. Bear with me. Basically, it would be about Jesus coming back and documents the things he encounters - things like self-righteous Christians who treat him badly, and him laying into idiots who follow the exact word of the Bible. It would be very cynical and likely offend a lot of people. Anyone like the idea?
Another idea I had recently was for a collaborative science fiction novel, written as a blog with each chapter being submitted as a blog entry by one of a number of authors. It'd be a near-future cyberpunk type thing. If anyone else likes the idea and would like to participate, I might look into it further.
So let me know if you like either idea.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

All-a-Twitter-Ning

Yes, I've joined another couple of online services! I signed up for a Ning ID yesterday, and I may use it to start my own social network at some time in the future, but I'd want to integrate IM into it so members can easily chat, and unfortunately that's not available yet (though apparently it's slated to arrive in summer 08).
I've also joined Twitter. I would rather have joined Jaiku or Pownce, as I like the look of them better, but both are currently closed to new members, and I couldn't be bothered to wait. I may try both once they are opened to new members. I like the features of Pownce, but Jaiku is now owned by Google and so it'll probably be linked into some other aspects of Google that I already use, such as Orkut. For the moment, I'm going to see what Twitter is like - I have a suspicion that it's just like the status updates from Facebook, so I may find it redundant.
I've added links to my Twitter profile and my MySpace (as I've neglected to do that to date). Feel free to drop in on me!

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gOS - a Linux Distro for Granny?

As regular readers may be aware, I'm quite a vocal proponent of Linux. I've therefore been very interested to read about the popularity of a new Everex PC preinstalled with gOS that has been sold in Wal-Mart in the US. You may have seen my previous post about Tesco in the UK selling a similar PC with Ubuntu Dapper preinstalled, and I think this is a very positive trend.
I may have to give gOS a try - I use a lot of Google applications myself, as well as Facebook, Meebo and Blogger, so it might be useful. It certainly sounds like the ideal OS for your grandma, and completely blows out of the water the old complaint that Linux is hard to use - the only reason people EVER say that is because they have to install it. Believe me, Windows XP is actually a harder install most of the time than any Linux distro.
I've mentioned previously why I think Linux will profit from the growth in use of web-based applications, and the immense popularity of gOS is showing this better than anything I could have said. If you use web-based apps, then performance is going to be better on a lightweight OS than a bloated monster like Windows Vista. These PCs with gOS preinstalled are not very powerful, but because they use gOS they're still fast enough.

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Friday, 9 November 2007

Dreamweaver

Last night, on a whim, I downloaded trial versions of Adobe Dreamweaver CS3 and Adobe Cold Fusion to my Vista laptop to give them a try. Surprisingly, there's a Linux version of Cold Fusion, but it doesn't mention being compatible with Ubuntu, only with Red Hat and SuSE. But I haven't installed that yet as it needs a web server.
Dreamweaver doesn't really seem that great, to be fair. It seems to me you still have to know everything you'd need to know to hand-code HTML and CSS, but it just makes it more long winded (but then I'm used to the Linux command line and using text editors, so I'm speaking from the perspective of someone used to hand-coding, after all installing from Adept Manager is more long-winded than using apt-get). The only thing it seems to be able to do that things like KompoZer can't is to do with Flash. Still, I'll have a further play around with it, as it seems likely that once I start working professionally creating websites, I'll probably have to use it.
Personally, I'm more interested in the server-side aspect of things - you know, the actual coding behind it. I want to learn to use Ruby on Rails in particular. There's plenty of people who have more flair for design than I do, I'm more interested in what makes a website tick.

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Thursday, 8 November 2007

The Sims 2 Castaway

I've had a PS2 for about 7 1/2 years now, and I'm still amazed by the quality of the games that are made for it. My favourite at the moment is, yes, you guessed it, The Sims 2 Castaway. Think The Sims do Lost, but without the weirdness.Image of a shipwrecked Sim in The Sims 2 Castaway
Essentially, the plot is that a group of Sims (one of whom you control) get shipwrecked and separated. You wash up on a tropical island and you have to fend for yourself, find the other Sims and ultimately escape. There's actually a total of three islands and you have to build a raft to get from the first one to the second one, where you meet up with the other Sims. Then you have to build a canoe to get to the third one, a volcanic island (but I haven't reached that yet).
It's tremendously playable, and an excellent variation on the usual Sims theme. I'm a huge fan of the Sims range. I'm a bit evil when I play it though - I like to make their lives absolute hell! I've starved entire families to death in it! I've also lost count of the number of times my Sims have had their children taken away by the Social Services - once the Seasons add-on pack came out, I put the toddler and the newborn baby outside in the middle of winter and left them in the middle of the snow!
One of my classic Sims moments (which to my eternal regret I didn't record) was one time I killed a couple off, and the Grim Reaper came round and took them away - then used their lavatory on the way out! I was absolutely gobsmacked! It was hilarious!
Anyone else got any good Sims death stories?

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Ubuntu for 'em

I've posted a thread on the Ubuntu forums about the Flock 1.0 .deb package being available from GetDeb, so that my fellow Ubuntu users know it's there. I've also asked what others think of it - so I can gauge how well it's going down. I've also put on a thread asking for people's opinions of Last.fm, and that seems to be mostly positive as well.
I was never a great user of the Ubuntu forums, but I've started joining in over the last couple of days - perhaps I was getting a bit sick of all the squabbling on Digg, and being Dugg down when you make a perfectly reasonable comment. I mean, I've made a point never to get involved in flame wars on there - but still you often get people being downright nasty about issues on there.
By comparison, the Ubuntu forums are a breath of fresh air. They're well run, and the general atmosphere is friendly. While debate can sometimes get a bit heated, it almost never descends into nastiness.
While for a long time, my favourite things about Ubuntu and its related projects were how easy they were to get going and the philosophy behind it, I'm starting to see that the real strength of Ubuntu is its community. It's welcoming to newbies, you don't get a response of "RTFM" if you ask a question, and people are generally friendly.
I've slightly changed the name of this blog - it's now Far Beyond the Edge of Reason: Confessions of a Kubuntu Linux user. Nice, huh?
I've had this week off work, and I've spent it going through a book about creating web pages using HTML and CSS, which is teaching me a lot, as it goes into much further detail than the first module of my course. I'm hoping that eventually I'll be able to create a brand new layout for this blog - I was thinking a sort of Star-Wars style theme, with the title sort of back-tilted the way the intro text to a Star Wars film always is. Still, I'm not quite ready for that yet!

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Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Impatient? Naughty!

On a whim, I just now decided to look at GetDeb to see if they had packaged Flock 1.0 for Ubuntu Gutsy. Incredibly, they have! So of course I had to uninstall my existing copy from my home folder and download the deb package, then install that using sudo dpkg -i.
I do wish I'd had the patience to wait - then again, I didn't know how long it would take. But I've actually now submitted a proposal to the ideas pool for Hardy Heron (the next version of Ubuntu, which will be the second Long Term Support version), to include Flock in the repositories.
I also said can they reinstate the easy Gmail/Googlemail setup in Thunderbird - why wasn't that present in Gutsy? I've tried the Windows version of Thunderbird 2, as well as the Linux version direct from Mozilla's website, and both had that option, yet the version in the Ubuntu repositories doesn't include that. Anyone know a good reason for that?
I am growing to slowly love GetDeb - it's a great source of packages. I got FreeCol from there (a free software version of Sid Meier's Colonisation), as well as several other applications when I was running Feisty that are now in the repositories for Gutsy. There does seem to be less need for it in Gutsy - I've only gotten FreeCol and Flock from there for Gutsy, although ultimately that could change as Gutsy is only just out - a few months down the line and there could be some killer app I just have to have (maybe Amarok 2.0?).

Blogged with Flock

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Assessment done

I've just done the assessment for my web design course's first part (Introduction to HTML). I'm very pleased to report that I got 15 out of 17! I was surprised that it was a multiple choice test, though - I was expecting it'd be something like "Build this website" or something like that.
Anyway, glad that's over with. I've got a load of other HTML and CSS books that I want to go through, so I've now started going through Build your own Web Site the Right Way using HTML and CSS by Ian Lloyd. CSS in particular is something that I really think I need to know more about - I've seen some of the amazing things you can do with it on CSS Zen Garden.
Also, I want to get cracking on the next module. It's Internet Business Foundations and is all about the more technical stuff around websites and networking.
As you may have seen from previous posts, I like the sound of Google's Open Social initiative. I'm already on Orkut (unfortunately, none of my friends are, so it's not much of a social network at the moment!) and I also recently joined MySpace (basically because I want to have a profile I can tinker with to make it look really cool, and since MySpace allows you to use HTML and CSS, I'm now developing the skills needed to make a good job of it). Once I know a bit more, I can start pimping my blog as well!

Blogged with Flock

Monday, 5 November 2007

Flock in Kubuntu

Re my previous post, I love Flock so much, I just had to install it on Kubuntu. It really is a great browser for if you're just using it for things like Facebook and blogging. As I mentioned, there isn't yet an official package for Ubuntu, so I just installed it to my home directory - at least that means it'll be easy to delete it and remove the menu entry once a package for Ubuntu appears in GetDeb. I really hope that it appears in the repositories when Hardy Heron is released in April.
You may notice a slight difference if you subscribe to this blog - I've burned my feed using Feedburner. I'll have to see if it makes any difference to how many comments I get.

Blogged with Flock

Preaching to the Flock

I've heard a lot of buzz about Flock, the social networking browser. Today I saw that version 1.0 had been released, so I decided to try it out. As it's not packaged for Ubuntu yet (although GetDeb has a previous version, so there's hope), I decided to try it out on my Windows laptop.

Wow. It's brilliant - the first thing I've found with full Blogger integration, as well as built in functionality similar to Facebook Toolbar for Firefox. It doesn't yet support every single social network, but it does support a fair few.

It's really good - I'd certainly recommend it if you use the web for social networking, blogging or similar things. As a serious web browser, I think Firefox is probably better, but for those things, Flock rules! I'm probably going to keep using both.

Blogged with Flock

Saturday, 3 November 2007

A few reflections on Google's Open Social...

I've now had the time to reflect on what Google's Open Social means, and look at some of the posts on Digg about it, and the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that this is going to completely change the social networking landscape. Before, I was a bit uncertain, but now that MySpace is participating, all the major players except for Facebook have signed up. Despite the fact that Facebook is on the up, MySpace alone still outnumbers them. I believe that Bebo is also quite large, and Orkut is big (it's just not popular in the US and Europe, in India and Brazil it's huge).
This puts Facebook in a difficult position - a new industry standard for designing applications has sprung up almost overnight, and they're the only major player not using it. This means that in terms of applications, they're likely to become increasingly sidelined unless they adopt the new standard.

As a supporter of Free and Open Source Software, I'm all for Open Social. Proprietary walled gardens just lead to problems with interoperability. For instance, instant messaging is a pain because every provider has their own protocols and they don't generally interoperate - that really gets my goat! If your friends are all on MSN, you have to use MSN to talk to them, and if one is on AIM, you can't talk to them. Imagine if e-mail worked that way - it'd be a nightmare.

Time will tell as to whether Facebook chooses to participate or not - word is that they have been approached by Google to discuss it.

Interview with gOS Founder: "Linux For Human Beings (Who Shop At WAL*Mart)"

gOS is an extremely functional operating system that hits the sweet spot of the “online desktop” cliché with professional quality, utilizing Google Applications in a easy to use and graphically rich environment.Check out this article from Digg. I love the desktop - the way the shortcuts are arranged in a toolbar on the desktop is great.

read more | digg story

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Google Reveals "Open Social": APIs to Create Aps for Any Social Network

Details emerged today on Google’s broad social networking ambitions. The new project, called OpenSocial, goes well beyond what we’ve previously reported. It is a set of common APIs that application developers can use to create applications for any social network.Awesome! I like Facebook, but they aren't really open enough for my liking. Any network that chooses to participate in this will immediately gain a load of new applications, and they can be written using plain old HTML and JavaScript., instead of Facebook Markup Language. I bet there's a lot of panic tonight at Facebook, straight after Microsoft bought a share in them...

read more | digg story

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Gutsy is go!

As you may have gathered from the title of this post, I now have a fully working install of Kubuntu Gutsy! I thought I'd give it one more go, and I managed to resolve the issue about the internet connection!
It turned out that my router was to blame. Apparently, D-Link routers don't work well with Linux - when you connect to it, it should forward you to your ISP's DNS, but instead it directs you to the router. Not quite sure I understand it, but I've resolved the issue by using Open DNS and changing a few text files.
I'm very relieved that I've got Gutsy working. Feisty was great, but there were reliability issues with it - it wouldn't display the splash screens for when it was loading up, and sometimes it would get stuck when closing down. Also, there's lots of goodies in Gutsy I wanted - Iceape, Thunderbird 2, Pidgin, etc. But most of all, I wanted a better wireless experience. There are two reasons Gutsy is better in this respect than Feisty:
  1. Feisty had a driver for my wireless card, but it didn't support WPA, so I had to blacklist it and use ndiswrapper to run the Windows drivers, which was tiresome.
  2. Gutsy has the 2.6.22 Linux kernel, which apparently is the first to feature a brand new wireless stack, making it much more reliable.
So far, my hopes in this respect have been borne out. Gutsy has flawlessly logged onto the wireless network every time I've used it and not dropped out yet, whereas Feisty was a bit troublesome - you'd have to spend ages trying to connect, then the connection would be prone to dropping out.

Now, that does mean I have to spend ages putting back all my applications, but I think it's well worth it for a more reliable wireless connection and more up-to-date software, don't you?

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Check out whose Digg submission is popular!

Don't ask why, but my Digg submission about Tesco selling PC's with preinstalled Ubuntu has become popular! Only my second submission at that, too!
I guess I was lucky - I first picked it up on Planet Ubuntu (a blog I subscribe to), and while it's not a hugely hot topic (nowhere near the size of the Gutsy release ones!), it currently stands at 268 diggs! Not bad!

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Tesco, Every little helps

An article I found on Planet Ubuntu, which I've Dugg:

Tesco are selling computers with Ubuntu pre-installed. However much I dislike ‘Tescopoly’; I am impressed that they are selling these systems, and may even get one myself. They state under ‘Features’ that it comes with 6.06, which in some ways is a shame, although it is the current LTS release

read more | digg story

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Gutsy is here!

As all Linux users are no doubt aware, today Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon arrived! Of course, as I mentioned earlier, I can't get it to work properly on my laptop, but I might try upgrading from Feisty rather than a fresh install, to see if that makes a difference. Hope so, I really want to use Gutsy!
If it doesn't work, I might get a new Dell with Ubuntu preinstalled - I'd like to try running a different distro on the old one (probably Debian Etch), but at £329 for a fairly basic one they're a bit more than pocket money. Still, I can always call it a Christmas present to myself, and I really want to support Linux on the desktop. I also really like Dell as a PC maker - I think their laptops have a nice, chunky feel to them that is different to a lot of other laptops - while my Philips X58 is a great laptop (and works really well with Linux, which is frustrating as I have to stick with Windows for it as I use it to play the Sims 2), it feels very fragile in comparison with my old Dell workhorse.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

What I've been up to...

On Sunday I compiled my very first application from source - the Dillo web browser. It was surprisingly easy once I knew how to do it. Now I want to start rolling my own Deb packages for Ubuntu.
In other news, I've tried the release candidate of Ubuntu Gutsy, and I wasn't able to get Firefox to connect to the Internet. This is an issue I had with Edgy, but it had been sorted out in Feisty. This means I won't be able to upgrade from Kubuntu Feisty to Kubuntu Gutsy. Shame - there's a lot I wanted in Gutsy, such as the new improved wireless stack, plus it supports my wireless card out of the box (which Feisty doesn't). Oh well, hopefully the next release (Hardy Heron) will work with my laptop. I've been considering buying a Dell laptop with preinstalled Ubuntu once they change over to offering Gutsy with it, as it'd be easy to change it to Kubuntu (just install the kubuntu-desktop meta-package).
I've come down with a really nasty cold - too ill to go to work today, couldn't even stand to look at a computer screen till this evening. Spent the afternoon watching Scrubs Season 5 on DVD - one of my favourite sitcoms ever! I've also got into The IT Crowd recently - but I'm starting to worry that Moss is a bit too much like me!

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Finally!

After what seems like ages, I've finally finished putting all my CD's onto my iPod Video. I'm now just waiting for it to sync with my Last.fm profile before I go to bed. For some reason, it's incredibly slow today - I guess a lot of people must be using Last.fm at the moment.
Strange quirk - the Last.fm application is submitting the same plays of a track over and over again, every time I sync it. The only way I can think of to stop it is to delete the play history. Any ideas, anyone?

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

I, Row-Boat

I just had to say about the brilliant story I read on the train today, I, Row-Boat by Cory Doctorow as part of The Mammoth Book of Best New SF 20. I imagine a lot of you will get the reference to Asimov's I, Robot. It's all about an AI rowing boat that meets an artificially uplifted coral reef (althought that explanation really doesn't do it justice), and it's well worth checking out - you can read it here.
In other news, I've added the Ubuntu 7.10 countdown to this blog - sadly I don't think there's a Kubuntu one, so the Ubuntu version will have to do. As regular readers will no doubt be aware, I had some problems with the alphas of Gutsy, but I'm really hoping that they've been sorted out - what I will do is once it's been released I'll download a copy of Ubuntu and see if Firefox works OK (as that was one of the problems I had). If it works fine, I'll download Kubuntu and install it, otherwise I'm going to stick with Feisty for now. I really want it to work OK, there's a lot of things in Gutsy that I'm really pleased to see.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

All change again...

Yes, I've made more changes to the layout, mainly by adding the new Last.fm Tasteometer (well, knowing how much I love Last.fm I had to get it as soon as I knew it was available, didn't I?). If you're on Last.fm (apparently it will also work if you're on MySpace and enter your URL for that) feel free to compare taste.
Speaking of Last.fm, I've spent the last few days buying CD's of acts I've discovered through Last.fm - namely The Knife, Killing Joke and Kyuss. While it's sometimes completely off the wall, it's generally pretty good in terms of recommendations.
In other news, a friend of mine knows someone who is starting a bouncy castle business and needs a website done, but can't afford to pay someone to do it, so I've offered to do what I can. Obviously, at this stage I can't do anything too fancy, but that's not the point - I need the practice and it'll help someone out, so it's worth doing, and they don't really need much at this stage - I imagine it'll just be some text, a few hyperlinks and an e-mail address to contact them, and maybe a few photos. But it's a big step - the prospect of actually doing a website that's going to be put on the Internet is scary (yes, I know I'm already doing this blog, plus I'm on Digg, Facebook and Last.fm, so I'm hardly underexposed).

Saturday, 29 September 2007

More reading

Just a quick post, this one, to say that I've finished reading Infinity Plus - The Anthology. A bit more fantasy-oriented than I usually like, but I did like three stories in particular - Faithful by Ian McDonald, Bear Trap by Charles Stross, and The Arcevoalo by Lucius Sheppard.
As I mentioned previously, I've now got The Mammoth Book of Best New SF 20, so that's what I'll be reading on the train to work from next week. At home, I'm still struggling with Black Man - the trouble is, what with so many demands on my time at the moment, it's hard to find the time to sit down and read it.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Globalisation Institute - Brussels' most popular think tank website - Unbundling Microsoft Windows

Globalisation Institute - Brussels' most popular think tank website - Unbundling Microsoft Windows
Have a read of this article - an influential think tank in Brussels has recommended that it be made illegal to bundle operating systems with computers.
Gets my vote. A few advantages:
  • Mac OS X available for any computer (not that I'd want to use it, but there are many people who would).
  • More choice for consumers - most people use what is preinstalled and don't investigate any of the alternatives.
  • Microsoft might actually get off their arses and produce a decent OS.
  • More OS providers might make use of Live CDs/DVDs (for those unfamiliar with Live CD's, they are common in the Linux world and are essentially an operating system that can be run from a CD or DVD without installing anything. Kubuntu, my OS of choice, boots into Live CD mode, but then you can install it from within this mode). These would allow people to try an OS before they install it. I'm sure that even diehard Windows users would like the chance to be able to try a new operating system before they make a decision to install it.
  • Users of free and open source software needn't pay for a copy of Windows when they don't want to use it.
So, there is my opinion. I've already dugg this - here's a link if you want to do so as well.
While the EU is somewhat bureaucratic, sometimes they get it right. I hope this is one of those times.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Finished!

I've finished working my way through the first exercise book for my course - took just over a month. Not bad going! Of course, there are things that haven't stuck very well - I particularly found cascading style sheets difficult to understand (mainly because the effect was very subtle) and forms and tables are also a bit fuzzy, but overall I think I did OK.
I'm going to go back and work through the exercises again just to reinforce everything I've learned. I've also started making a couple of example web pages to get some more practice, and as I mentioned previously I've taken to hand-coding the hyperlinks on this blog.
I'm really eager to do well on this course so I can start looking for a job in web design (probably as an HTML programmer). This course is, of course, only the step 1 course - there are three further step, and the guideline salary goes up a LOT as you progress through the steps. I am now confident I'm going to be able to go all the way up to step 4 - I've already got a load of books about JavaScript, Java, PHP and MySQL so I'll need to have a read of those once I'm a bit more confident with my HTML skills.
One thing I think sounds very interesting is Ajax (short for Asynchronous JavaScript and XML). It's often used to create web-based applications and is very likely to become increasingly common as these kinds of things become more popular. I think I'd really enjoy working on something like that - as a Linux user I know that you can't always get the applications you'd like for your operating system of choice, but web-based applications allow you to bypass these limitations.
I already use Goowy from time to time and I think things like this are the wave of the future - as long as you have a compatible browser, they allow you to use whatever operating system you like. In fact, Linux has a serious advantage here over Microsoft Windows - as it has a much smaller memory footprint and runs faster, your computer will perform much better using the same applications.
As much as I'd love to see Linux become more popular than Windows on the basis of the desktop, or applications, or the other features I love so much, I think this is how Linux will eventually overturn Microsoft's dominance of the desktop operating systems market. Ultimately, the man in the street doesn't care that much about operating systems, he cares about the applications he's used to. At present, many of these are Microsoft products due to consumer apathy - things like Outlook, Word etc. As people move towards using more than one computer, more and more people are interested in using web-based applications - there are many people who grew up with web-based mail services such as Hotmail and have NEVER used an e-mail client (I do, namely Mozilla Thunderbird, but that's mainly because I like the GUI and it works well with my Googlemail account - I like being able to access my e-mail at work or on my PDA or phone if I want to) and applications like Google Docs are also becoming popular. Once these kind of products become dominant, I think Microsoft's stranglehold on the desktop OS is all but over - if people can get the same applications in Linux, but achieve better performance using the same hardware, and using an OS which is free (in the free as in beer sense), then demand for Linux will increase and OEMs will start preinstalling Linux more and more.
In my humble opinion, Vista (I don't know about OS X Leopard, having never used a Mac and having absolutely NO intention of ever doing so, unless I was given one or won it, in which case the first thing I'd do is install Kubuntu) is the last gasp of the "big" OS. The future will be dominated by smaller, more streamlined OS's such as Linux (but not exclusively, I'm sure that the likes of OpenSolaris, FreeBSD etc will also have a higher profile than they do at present).
Don't get me wrong - I think it's likely that Microsoft will be around for a long time to come, but to me Vista marks the beginning of the decline. Unless they streamline their next OS a lot compared to Vista, they are likely to face decreasing market share over the next decade or so.
If you disagree, please feel free to add your comment - but keep it nice and polite! I've tried to avoid rampant OS advocacy so please also refrain from this. And anyone who says "Get a Mac" will suffer my wrath!

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Diggin' it

You may notice a difference in the layout of my blog from today - the addition of a Digg widget. Yes, after being subscribed to Digg's RSS feed for months, I've finally signed up and started Digging items.
In the time I have been subscribed to the feed, Digg has informed me of many bizarre or interesting things that I would have missed out on otherwise. Since I already spend a few minutes every day going through their feed, I might as well take the opportunity to Digg or comment on a few of these.
One thing though - they say that you can set it up to send items from Digg direct to your Blogger blog (including if it's a Google login like mine), but it doesn't seem to work for me, though I've followed the instructions on the site.
I've also signed up to Slashdot and StumbleUpon, but Digg is the one I imagine I will be getting the most use out of.