The elementary OS desktop is one of the most beautiful and easy to use out-of-the-box Linux distributions.

Elementary OS, my dear PC

IT used to be that you’d never find the words “Linux” and “easy to use” in the same sentence.

Linux, to the unfamiliar, is an operating system – the basic software that allows you to use your computer. It’s like Windows (although that comparison probably made a lot of its developers and users cringe).

The main difference between Linux and Windows is the way these are developed. Windows is a proprietary system built by a single company- Microsoft. Linux is built by a global community of users under an open source license – a framework that encourages sharing and collaboration.

Continue reading →

Showing Windows the door: the case for open source

THE warnings are ominous. The Pilipinas Anti-Piracy Team (PAPT) is strengthening its campaign against pirated software and cautioning businesses that refuse to have their software inspected that they will “face legal sanctions unless they show proof that they are using licensed software.”

All Open Source. Editing my blog post in WordPress in my Linux work station.

ALL OPEN SOURCE. Editing my blog post on WordPress, a powerful open source content management system, in my Ubuntu Linux workstation.

The warnings come even as PAPT found rural banks, universities and hospitals using unlicensed software in a recent series of raids in Iloilo City. PAPT said they are set to hold more raids in other parts of the country.

In 2010, the Philippines’ PC software piracy rate stood at 69 percent, the fourth consecutive year that it stayed unchanged. The Business Software Alliance (BSA) pegged losses caused by software piracy in the Philippines at $278 million, a staggering amount from the $141.7 million recorded in 2007.

Continue reading →

On the road but still “in the cloud”

(This is my column for Sun.Star Cebu for tomorrow, Oct. 27)

Two days before I was to run in the Smart Subic International Marathon (SIM) 2009, I finally learned how to properly tie my shoes. It’s hilarious if it isn’t excruciating to have to bend to retie shoelaces that come undone after running several kilometers.

All my life, I have been apparently tying my shoelaces using a Granny Knot, which easily comes undone. I wouldn’t have known any better had I not started running. In longer runs, my shoelaces always come undone and I’d cringe in pain every time I had to bend and retie it.

It turned out that there’s a better way to tie your shoelaces to make sure that these do not come undone. The trick is to use a Reef Knot and a Runner’s World video shows you just how to do that.

Learning how to tie my shoes via a Runner's World video
TYING MY SHOE. Learning how to correctly tie my shoes using a Reef Knot, which doesn’t come undone, using a Runner’s World instructional video viewed through a Smart Bro USB modem connection.

Continue reading →

From here on, Heron

Today, the new Ubuntu Linux version—8.04 the Hardy Heron—will be released. I have been using the beta or test version for the last two weeks and have found Ubuntu to be easier to use and install and its whole computing experience better than ever.

I had initially decided to stay away from using the beta version—the amount of updates you have to download on the run-up to the final version can be huge. I had several urgent tasks and didn’t want to deal with regularly updating my laptop.

Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron HARDY HERON running on my MSI S260 laptop. Click to enlarge photo.

But Chin Wong made me do it. The devil, in turn, made him do it, or at least that line kept playing in his head as he installed the beta version in his desktop computer. During the installation, he had problems with sound in his system.

A day later, however, he posted a fix to the problem.

That broke my resolve to stay away from the Hardy Heron beta and proceeded to install it, as opposed to upgrade, in my MSI S260 laptop.

Continue reading →

Wi-Fi piggybacking widespread, anti-virus firm warns

While setting up a Wi-Fi network for the PLDT myDSL connection at home earlier this week, I got a timely warning from a press release. Anti-virus company Sophos said many people now use someone else’s wireless Internet connection without their permission.

Sophos said 54 percent of 560 respondents who took their online survey admitted to using other people’s Wi-Fi connection without their permission. The survey is not scientific and I don’t see how you can see a “widespread” trend from it. But it does provide a timely warning to home users who have gone wireless.

Sophos said “many Internet-enabled homes fail to properly secure their wireless connection with passwords and encryption, allowing freeloading passers-by and neighbors to steal Internet access rather than paying an internet service provider (ISP) for their own.”

I don’t know how common Wi-Fi piggybacking is in Cebu or in the Philippines, save for anecdotal feedback from geeks I know. I’ve heard of maybe three persons who said they were able to use an unsecured wireless network.

Still, the absence of reports should not be a reason to be complacent and just leave your home Wi-Fi network unsecured. This absence of reports may be because none have been caught.

And with more mobile devices like phones having the capability to use Wi-Fi, the risk will only get higher.

Continue reading →

Going cold turkey while setting up a hotspot

With my wife and I now using laptops as primary workstations at home, we decided to use a Wi-Fi router to share our PLDT myDSL connection. The snaking network cables were threatening to trip us and our kids.

I bought a Linksys WRT54G after reading about its storied history. Mark Stephens, writing as Rober X. Cringely, calls the WRT54G and its Linux system “The Little Engine That Could.”

Linksys wrt54g LINKSYS WRT54G. I used this Wi-Fi router to set up a wireless broadband connection at home. Click to enlarge image.

In my case, it was “the sleep-deprived blogger who couldn’t with the little engine that could.” I did eventually set it up—and I’m now using it to publish this post while downloading tons of files—but only after I went Internet-deprived cold turkey, at home at least.

Continue reading →

Installing Ubuntu Linux Gutsy Gibbon

It’s been four days since I’ve switched my main blogging tool, an MSI s260 laptop, into the beta version of the next Ubuntu release—Gutsy Gibbon or Ubuntu 7.10. This next version of Ubuntu is scheduled for release in the coming weeks but I couldn’t wait for the final version. I wanted it now.

After the beta was released, I started preparing to upgrade. I downloaded a disk image of the installer via Bittorrent while backing up files in my laptop. Since there were many seeders, the download took less than two hours.

Ubuntu restricted extras RESTRICTED EXTRAS. Among the packages in the repositories of the next Ubuntu Linux version is “restricted extras,” which comes with Microsoft fonts, MP3 playback support and the Flash plugin. Click on photo to enlarge.

You can upgrade to Gutsy Gibbon from Feisty Fawn, the version prior to it. I chose to do a fresh install partly because I was reared in a Windows world and that’s how I installed new operating system versions—starting from scratch.

The installation was easy and went without a hitch. The installer detected my built-in dial-up modem, which I haven’t used since I bought the laptop, and informed that “restricted drivers” were available for it.

Continue reading →

Open Source phone anyone?

Open Source development has brought the world a stable operating system, reliable web server and thousands of free and very useful programs and scripts. Will it bring us the next great phone?

Last July 9, OpenMoko started selling from their website the Neo 1973 phone, which runs the company’s eponymous open source mobile software package. This is an early version, geared more toward developers and hackers. neo19732

OpenMoko is an open source operating system for mobile phones. It is built on the Linux kernel and various other open source software packages. It even has a software package management system that will allow users to easily manage, install, and remove applications in their phones.

I am an open source advocate so I may be a touch too optimistic about the project. But it’s easy to feel that way. You only have to use software such as Firefox, web content management systems such as WordPress and Drupal, or a Linux desktop (get Ubuntu!) to know that open source is a very viable development framework.

There is no need to list the merits of open source development as these are more than amply covered in a lot of websites.

But what makes the project hold such promise is that unlike in PCs where most people have become dependent on popular closed-source applications, in mobile phones there are no such dependencies.

Continue reading →

Playing with fire? Painting with fire!

Or snazzy Ubuntu Linux with AWN dock and Compiz-Fusion

Beryl, the compositing window manager I’ve been using since I migrated to Ubuntu Linux in April, is now merging with the project it forked from, Compiz. The new project is called Compiz-Fusion and the initial work is great, a few notches above Beryl in some aspects.

compiz-fusion ring switcher RING SWITCHER. Compiz-Fusion’s ring switcher is really a great and eye-catching way to switch between applications. For more Compiz-Fusion features, check out my short video clip below. Click on photo to view larger image.

For a Linux newbie, discovering the extent of customization possible with the operating system is a productivity trap: you decide to tweak one part of your desktop and then you’d read about another cool software or tweak and so you decide to try it and the next thing you know, you’re spiraling in an endless trial of tweaks that you miss several project deadlines.

I was determined to avoid that.

After I installed Beryl and configured it to my liking, I made a pledge to limit customization of my desktop appearance to changing wallpapers and the configuration of my panels.

I failed.

Continue reading →

New Aptana IDE version makes Linux installation easy

I use Aptana whenever I have to edit a web template or convert one to a WordPress theme. Before I found Aptana, I used Dreamweaver. I wrote a post earlier on how to use Dreamweaver to edit edit WordPress themes.

Aptana in Linux EDITING WITH APTANA. Porting an open source web template into a WordPress theme using Aptana. Here, Aptana is showing a preview of the design. Click on photo to view larger image.

When I found Aptana, however, I dumped Dreamweaver. I found Aptana, an open source integrated development environment or IDE, to be a better tool to edit CSS and HTML files. I sometimes use it to edit WordPress .php theme files although my editor of choice right now is gedit.

While Dreamweaver is easier to use for non-geeks like me who are not as adept in coding, using Aptana allows me to improve my HTML and CSS skills. You can’t drag things around to re-arrange web page elements as you do in Dreamweaver. You have to do the changes by code.

When I migrated to Ubuntu Linux in my laptop, I knew I had to install Aptana or else I’d have to go to my Windows desktop to work on web templates. Installing Aptana in Windows is painless. You just need to download the installer package and run it.

In Linux, installation used to be complicated, at least for non-geeks like me. To install previous Aptana versions, you need to execute a couple of apt-get commands, CHMOD the installation file, and then set environment variables. When I first read the instruction, the first thought that formed in my non-geek brain was “God, please let there be a .deb file somewhere.”

Continue reading →