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.

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2 crazy ones

TWO giants of technology died in recent weeks in widely contrasting fashion. Many mourned the passing of the genius who was Steve Jobs, only a few marked the demise of the genius who was Dennis Ritchie.

But despite that disparity, in life as in death, there is a thread that binds Jobs and Ritchie – that of greatness, genius and Unix.

Jobs changed technology and made it elegant, producing product after product that transformed industries — the Apple II, Mac, iPod, iTunes, iPhone and iPad. Any one of those products would have been enough to cement the legacy of a technology entrepreneur.

Jobs was uncanny in seeing technology trends. “He told us what we needed before we wanted it,” the Associated Press said in reporting his death. And it was something he was particularly proud of.

“There’s an old Wayne Gretzky quote that I love. ‘I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.’ And we’ve always tried to do that at Apple. Since the very, very beginning. And we always will,” Jobs said in 2007.

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CE-GNU-LUG talks about Meego during a meetup last July 29 in TechBar at the Asiatown It Park.

CE-GNU-LUG keeps, spreads the faith

LITTLE John looms large in the Cebu open source community. In installfests, he towers.

My first encounter with John Clark “Little John” Naldoza and his merry band of local open source advocates was in an installfest, a gathering hosted by a Linux users’ group (LUG) where people can bring their computers for installation of a Linux operating system (OS), in about 2000.

CE-GNU-LUG talks about Meego during a meetup last July 29 in TechBar at the Asiatown It Park.

CE-GNU-LUG talks about Meego during a meetup last July 29 in TechBar at the Asiatown It Park. (PHOTO BY JONEL ALBACETE AGUTAYA)

Back then, open source wasn’t as widely accepted by people or businesses.

I had arranged, via e-mail, to meet Little John and looked around one of the trade halls in SM City Cebu with level eyes, only to be approached by a giant of a man with an expansive knowledge of everything tech. Little John is a man you look up to, literally and figuratively.

In 1999, Naldoza, Emmanuel William Yu and Ryan Go discussed in Plug (Philippine Linux Users’ Group) the setting up of a Cebu Linux Users’ Group. They decided to name the group phonetically after the festival that helped make Cebu known worldwide.

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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.

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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.

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Reporter’s notebook

I finally got my Asus Eee PC last Wednesday. It has, since then, replaced my main writing gear: an MSI S260 laptop running on Ubuntu Linux.

Several reporters and editors in Sun.Star Cebu had wanted to purchase an Eee PC since the start of the year but we couldn’t get a supplier with enough stocks to provide the initial 10 purchases. Cebu shops, I was told repeatedly, had waiting lists for purchases.

Asus Eee PC, Moleskine, Sony Ericsson P1i TRULY MOBILE OFFICE. Trying to beat a column deadline using the Asus Eee PC in a beachsite resort in Argao. These are my mobile work tools: the Asus Eee PC, a Moleskine reporter’s notebook, and a Sony Ericsson P1i. Click on photo to enlarge.

The two boxes of Asus Eee PC arrived at the office last Wednesday. We got the 4G model. I chose the pearl white version but at the back of my mind, I was still thinking of the Lush Green version of the 2G model.

For such a small device, the Asus Eee PC packs a formidable arsenal: Wi-Fi and Ethernet connectivity, 3 USB ports, a built-in webcam (4G and 8G models), a VGA port for external displays, built-in stereo speakers and a microphone, and a built-in MMC/SD card reader. Any more feature and it could probably write a story for you. But it’s best feature, I think, is that it runs on Linux.

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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.

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Smart unveils USB modem for mobile Internet access anywhere

SMART Broadband, Inc. (SBI) has unveiled a USB modem that will allow users to access the Internet with speeds ranging from 384 kbps to 768 kbps anywhere where there is a Smart signal.

The device will be offered under SBI’s “Smart BRO Plan 799.? Under the plan, which costs P799 a month, subscribers have 60 hours of Internet usage per month and will be charged P10 for every 30-minute block in excess.

Smart BRO USB modem MOBILE INTERNET. The Smart BRO USB modem allows you to connect to the Internet anywhere where there is a Smart network coverage. The device is offered under a P799 monthly plan. Click on photo to enlarge.

When I first read the press release, I was immediately tempted to get one. But it’s not something I need just yet. I rarely go out right now and at any given hour I’m either at home or at the office or on my way to either place. Still, it’s certainly something I want.

People who are always on the go, however, will find the device useful, especially in areas with sparse Wi-Fi coverage.

The device is certainly a cheaper alternative to PLDT WeRoam and one that you can also use in a desktop PC. The device, according to a company press statement, is part of Smart’s “thrust of broadbanding the country, of making wireless broadband Internet services more accessible and more affordable.”

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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.

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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.

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