FOSS

Debian rejects software patent FUD

It took a long while before the largest free software development organization, Debian, came out with a strong statement against software patent.

In its policy statement, it recognizes the threat that patents pose to free software. In this light, the statement provides guidance for Debian community members confronted with patent issues away from fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD).

Read the statement here.

Karmic Upgrade

I thought that upgrading my Jaunty Jackalope box to Karmic Koala would give me the good karma in my computing life 🙂 So here, I’m announcing to the world that I’m in the haste (being one of the early adopters) upgrading to Karmic Koala (Ubuntu version 9.10) Beta. While doing that, I’m backing up my data at the same time.

Upgrading to Karmic Koala

Upgrading to Karmic Koala

Terminal Case: Are consoles Is CLI destined to be dead come the era of super Linux desktops?

Gradually but surely, Linux has caught up with the popularity of Windows. Thanks to the valuable and selfless efforts of developers and users as well to make Linux a great alternative. I believe that the direction of Linux development is towards the desktop realm, as it has already made its niche in the service side of things. Ubuntu, for one, is being groomed as providing awesome experience even for ordinary people.

That being the case, what future lies for the command line interface, at least the advanced terminals like Gnome Terminal and Konsole? Will an ordinary user survive Linux without them, like a Mac’er probably does? Or put in another way, will terminals be deprecated, if not made obsolete, say, in a decade’s time? Or will they remain essential feature of a modern Linux box? I ask this from a non-developer’s point of view. Because I’m sure that an ordinary user would hate to see boxes chockful of alienatingly cryptic texts. They’d rather root for mice to get things done.

One criterion for the development of Linux distributions is the ease of use, including the ease with which to administer a machine. And I’m afraid that what used to be a supposedly quick way to do things with a terminal (like assigning file permissions) would be replaced by a graphical user interface.

I don’t know with the rest but I can’t live without a terminal. Even if it were declared illegal to use a console, I would go underground just to do so. Terminals are an essential part of my life. I use a terminal to (in order of importance):

  1. Run my self-written scripts like a journal system.
  2. Install or update applications. (I find the mouse clicks too tedious for me.)
  3. Look up a word or term in dictionaries stored in my computer.
  4. Administer a database.
  5. Tweak configuration files.
  6. Connect to another computer in office.
  7. Write simple text files.
  8. Read simple text files.
  9. File management.

So are you ready to live without a terminal?

Ubuntu implements cool new notifications

Ubuntu implements a new way of notification via its latest version in the offing. No more Post-It-like objects appearing onscreen.

I’m now using the development version, Jaunty Jackalope Alpha 5, as my production system. (I don’t encourage folks, especially the noobs, to try to shift to it now. They might not be as lucky as I am for not experiencing major crashes.)

Take a look at the following snapshots:

For mails via Evolution Mail

From Ubuntu New Notifications
For music via Rhythmbox

From Ubuntu New Notifications
When there’s change in brightness level

From Ubuntu New Notifications
When AC power is unplugged

From Ubuntu New Notifications
For online chats via Pidgin

From Ubuntu New Notifications
For print jobs

From Ubuntu New Notifications

As at this time, I cannot configure or do some tweaking to the notifications in terms of transparency or opacity, color, or placements. In the meantime, I feel satisfied with everything.

Digg’s two cool features on commenting

Digg’s comment service rocks. I haven’t tried to comment on a dugg article for a long time. Today when I dugg a great article about FreeBSD 7.0, I observed two cool things about the commenting stuff:

  1. A spellchecker for one’s comment. Firefox already has spellcheck feature, which I don’t see in Flock, unfortunately. I’m not even sure if IE has that feature. In any case, Digg comes in for such valuable tool.
  2. A chance to edit one’s comment in two minutes. So even if you already submitted your comment with relative confidence, Digg assumes that second thoughts may come about.

Digg takes things professionally. And I admire it for that.

Blogged with Flock

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Flat-databasing a garbled data file (thanks to Perl)

I oftentimes encounter the difficulty of converting a garbled data file into a flat database version. More robust statistical foray into single datasets requires that they be in an organized state, thus the need for a flat-database format, indicating clearly separated columns or fields and corresponding rows or records. (Database experts also call them tuples.)

Perl has come to the rescue. I’ve used the cool practical extraction and reporting language to rearrange garbled data files I’ve copied from particular websites. The latest task I did was about the file containing number of Philippine barangays per year. For less than an hour (Of course, I could have just manually edited the file for 10 minutes. But I’m just preparing myself for similar problems involving thousands or even a million of rows or records.), I managed to create a script, which is shown in the slides below.

Note: The last slide does not clearly show the separated columns Count and Variance. But when you download the file, everything works out fine. Anyway, if you’re in the similar situation of wanting to clean up a large garbled data file, I may help you out.

But how and when can I have a Mac?

Last Friday, friend and fellow blogging FOSS advocate Rom Feria prompted me on Twitter that he had written an article about me on his Manila Bulletin column “Of Macs and Tux”. I was like “Huh?” My first thought was that Rom probably wrote about activists who keep blog and love Linux. So that made me really worked up and anxious to take a glance of the article on Manila Bulletin online. But the connection was excruciatingly slow. Attempt went pfft that Friday morning.

Even while I was at the Rural Poverty Forum that day, I still felt uneasy about Rom’s twit. Ah, how about buying a copy of MB issue? Great idea. So I went cat-like walking out of the forum and looked for a newsstand. I managed to cough up P18 for an issue copy. While walking back to the forum, I dug into the issue to find Rom’s article. Even as I reached the forum’s venue, search was in vain. I gave up, but still I was thankful to Rom for bothering to write about me.

Two days later, I tried to scour Manila Bulletin online for some news. The thought of trying to look for that Rom’s column inevitably came to my mind. Although I was not sure that that article still existed because MB is one of online news sites that don’t keep archives of past issues. So I thought.

Eureka! Finally, Rom’s article right in my face. The title was “Switching from Linux to Mac“. Ha, ha, ha. I laughed because the article was a response to my blog post about the “Apple temptation” of me (surely, an image of Adam and Eve flashes in mind, right?). Thinking that Rom is a true-blue Mac user, I laughed even harder because he found a lost soul in me that he wanted to enlighten and eventually switch to Mac. Honestly, though, it was indeed a pleasure for me to be covered by one of the pillars of FOSS in the Philippines.

Rom reacted to each of my reasons why I’m not switching to Mac despite my “hidden desire” for it. The main part of his column’s text is as follows:

Point one – cost. It is true that Apple products are a bit on the expensive side. However, please compare it against products in its league, e.g., Dell, IBM, HP. It is not fair comparing the price of a portable Mac against some brand available out there. It is like comparing an Audi against a Kia. Better compare an Audi against a Volvo or BMW or Mercedes Benz.

Point two – FOSS abandonment. I advocate FOSS and Mac (and Java) whilst using an Apple Macbook Pro. Does it diminish my convincing powers (if I ever had one to start with) because I use a Mac? I sure hope not. I run Solaris and Ubuntu on my Mac, along with Mac OS X. It is just a matter of approach — if you can afford a Mac, I recommend it, otherwise, use Linux… never, ever recommend a Windows-based computer to a friend or family unless you have a death wish (or want to be their tech support).

Point three – luxury. I guess this depends on the perception. If you like tweaking your computer to make it work for you, then having an easier to use Mac is a luxury. However, I also value my time — if I can spare several hours a day with my kids instead of tweaking and configuring a computer to work for me, then I guess it is not a luxury… it is, as the commercial says, priceless! 🙂 And with your new baby (congratulations, btw!), I am sure that you want to spend more time with the family.

Point four – dual machine setup. With today’s powerful processors, I doubt if you can push it to its limits with the current crop of desktop applications. Make full use of the processing power. Dual- booting is one thing but having the capability to run several OS at once is heaven-sent, specially if you are developing cross-platform solutions.

Rom sounded reassuring with that great piece. And he is right, just because he’s able to continue his FOSS stuff despite his being a Mac user. But time is not on my side. I need time to earn more money (I want that Macbook Pro!) and grow into a FOSS person as he is now.  By the time I already owned a Mac, I’d need to fight another battle for FOSS  against proprietary Microsoft, which has been bashing Apple for being a proprietary wolf in open source sheep’s clothing.

Towards the end of his comments, Rom said: “So Dong, get a Mac! I am sure you will not regret it.”

OK, it’s no more a question of principles.  A new question is being asked out loud in my mind: But how and when can I have a Mac, for heaven’s sake?

Microsoft best campaigner against its own

The Microsoft Corporation is the runaway winner of the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure’s (FFII) award this year: “Best Campaigner against OOXML Standardization“. As soon as I read the news, I thought that FFII did it to make fun of Microsoft. On a serious note, I thought that FFII could not probably find a really worthy entity to win the prize.

OK, I’m giving it to FFII. Its decision to “praise” Microsoft for its meritorious efforts to kill its own campaign in favor of the ISO-certified open document standards is but an effective propaganda. And Microsoft people must be reeling in seeing red. I wonder how it will react without any trace of ire or touchiness (pagka-pikon). The challenge is how it would turn the table around in favor of proprietary “standards”. Or, Microsoft will just not give a hoot.

I think Microsoft must as well be commended and therefore be given an award for its promoting free and open source software (FOSS), what with a number of failed and abominable attempts it has undertaken to perpetuate its realm in the software world. The FSF, DefectiveByDesign.org, and Open Source Initiative must take the cue from FFII then.

Apple watch out.

Drooling over Apple gadgets: To bite or not to bite

No contest. You can’t compare an apple from a penguin. There’s no point pitting Powerbooks against Linux PCs. This I’ve been conditioned to think. But for a long time now, I’ve been problematizing whether I should someday change my way of computing life, budget permitting. Nuh, not into Microsoft (I said budget permitting, didn’t I?), but into Apple. Truth to tell, the first time I visited an Apple store in San Francisco two years ago, I salivated at the sight of the display Powerbooks, with their white and silver coatings and rounded corners. Had I had enough bucks then, I would have given in to biting the Apple of temptation.

Until now, I’m harboring mixed feelings about Powerbooks. By extension, I also am for iPods and iPhones. The price that each Apple product bears is unthinkably unaffordable for me. But what if I either had amassed more than enough money (wish, wish, wish) or Apple had cut down the prices like those in ukay-ukays (once more: wish, wish, wish)? Should I still buy?

No longer is the price the only determining factor for me. It’s also the resolve to stick to Linux. I’ve lived by the penguin for barely seven years already and I don’t think I’ll easily jump ship. But isn’t Mac free and open source? Well, relatively yes. Not as free and open source as Linux. I dare say Apple’s strategy effectively combines Microsoft’s being closed and Linux’s being open. Mac is open because it allows third-party applications to run in it, and the fact that it hosts numerous projects being used by Linux enthusiasts as well. However, it is closed because the development of the OS X is relegated to Apple only. Likewise, Apple’s iPods and iPhones are also being hit for their vendor lock-in and DRM features, among others.

When I learned that several of my co-Linux advocates moved to Mac, I got disappointed. Perhaps it’s just me who only know black and white colors.  I remember three years ago, when I attended a software camp in Bangalore, India, that there was some tension between those using Macbooks and those using laptop PCs running variants of Linux. The latter criticized the camp’s organizers for allowing at least resource persons who used proprietary softwares, referring both to Windows and Mac. I didn’t know how the former defended themselves. Perhaps they kept mum or argued that MPBs were much better for such tasks as graphic design and desktop management.

So why I couldn’t decide to move to Mac or buy any of Apple’s products?

  • No money, honey!
  • I feel that moving to Mac or buying an iPhone is like abandoning the cause of Linux, being one of the movements that fight for FOSS. I can’t convince one to migrate to Linux if I’m using Mac, can I?
  • I’m working in a setting of supposed simple life, devoid of luxuries. I wouldn’t take being badgered by anyone who sorts of questions the necessity of my having it, if not my capacity to buy it. As I’m the type that is wont to unfolding his laptop everywhere he goes, I feel that using a Macbook in a far-flung area is too alienating where the people I’d like to relate with are concerned.
  • I don’t want a “dual-machine” setup, meaning, keeping both a laptop PC running Linux and an MPB. It’s too complicated, if not expensive, for me.

If ever I would discard my present notebook (ECS transmeta crusoe), which is already over two years in my company (meaning the discarding would be anytime soon due to depreciation), what I would root for is a dual-core notebook, wifi-ready, and with great video and audio capacities, DVD writer and 200GB harddisk. That’s for sure, the fact that I can buy one at not more than P50,000.

As for a mobile phone, I don’t dream of having an iPhone as I’m already happy with my multitasking 3G SE K610.  Aside from the phone functions, I can use it to capture ‘bloggable’ images and connect my notebook to the Internet almost everywhere. And an iPod? Nuh. There’s my SE K610 that can play my favorite mp3s. Although, I fervently hope for the success of Openmoko, an open source mobile communications platform.

For now, let me hold on to my faith in Linux. Apple temptations, back off. Torment me not.

Great ado with Gutsy beta update

Since I’m already using Ubuntu Gutsy still in development stage, I should not be surprised at a possible breakdown of my machine because of an OS glitch. In previous flavors of Ubuntu (Edgy and Feisty), I could not remember I had any problem with their development versions except that I needed to reconfigure my xorg.conf to tweak my touchpad.

But with Gutsy, I had an experience that made me panic. This happened after I had updated my Gutsy’s beta version. While my laptop was booting, an interminable series of error messages was spieled off. I took a snapshot of three of the messages (see image).

I thought that the error is due to a broken process or something. So I pressed Ctrl+D to kill it for the next process to ensue. It would not seem to stop so I continued to press Ctrl+D but repeatedly. It didn’t solve it, so I rebooted the machine. The problem was still there although that time I was routed to a root password prompt. In trying to look for the culprit, I found that all my hda partitions, except the /, were not usable or something. “Corrupted?” I asked myself in silent panic. I pressed Ctrl+D hoping that I would finally make sense of the problem. X went fine but I was not brought to my home directory but the root.

In my Google search, I discovered that evms was to blame. I found that the workaround is to edit the evms.conf file and replace the line “exclude [ ]” with “exclude [ * ]”. That means excluding all storage devices (harddisks, for instance) from the evms storage management framework. I followed the tip, then rebooted the machine. Success!

Further on in my Google search about the bug, I found out that it was discovered in the earlier development version of Gutsy but was supposed to be resolved later. But I wonder: If this is the case, why did the problem crop up again when I updated my system yesterday? Aren’t software revisions supposed to be progressive, not otherwise?