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


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


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/ 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


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 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.

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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?

Blogged with Flock

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.

Blogged with Flock

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 on my Vista laptop...

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

A little light humour...

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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

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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...