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.

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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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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.

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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.”

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Installing Photoshop on Ubuntu Linux

Now, what do I do? That was the first thought that formed in my mind when I first opened Gimp about 5 or 6 six years ago in an Internet cafe on F. Ramos St. in Cebu City.

I was given the grand tour on Linux and open source software by Mike Schmeisser, a chain-smoking German geek, in his Internet cafe. His Internet cafe ran, save for one unit, solely on Linux. I interviewed Mike for a story on open source software and Linux and he invited me to his cafe to check his units.

Photoshop in Ubuntu Linux PHOTOSHOP ON UBUNTU LINUX. Adobe Photoshop 7.0 running in my Linux laptop using Wine. Click on photo to view larger image.

Having been reared on image editing with Photoshop, I couldn’t find my way in Gimp. I’m not really a graphics person but I use Photoshop often for editing photos, editing images of screen activity for tutorials, and creating blog and website headers.

I tried various open source software after Mike’s introduction and even stuck with using many of them. But not Gimp. I once tried Gimpshop, a modification of the program to replicate the look and feel of Adobe Photoshop but then I found myself using Photoshop after a few days of playing with it.

More than a month after I switched to Ubuntu Linux in my laptop, I found that I missed having Photoshop in it for certain tasks. I did manage to create a blog header using Gimp but it took me at least ten times longer than it would have taken me in Photoshop. I had a hard time even resizing images in layers or removing backgrounds of photos.

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Screencasting in Ubuntu

I’ve done my first screencast in Ubuntu using gtk-record My Desktop, a tool that records desktop sessions in Linux. I’ve long wanted to do screencasts in Ubuntu ever since I installed Feisty Fawn or the 7.04 release but I haven’t been successful in my initial attempts.

I first tried capturing desktop sessions into movie files using xvidcap but I couldn’t get it to work properly. All the videos I produced using it were jerky, as if the capture rate is just a frame for every two seconds. I spent days playing around with the settings, to no avail.

I was on the verge of accepting the idea that I may have to use Windows XP and Camstudio to produce screencasts to accompany some of my blog articles when I decided to give gtk-recordMyDesktop a try.

I spotted the program during the days I tried looking for ways to do screencasts in Ubuntu but I just filed it away as something to check later because it produces Ogg-encapsulated Theora-Vorbis files and the free video hosts I wanted to use for screencasts, Vimeo and Revver, do not accept .ogg files. I’m lazy and a non-geek and my impression of video conversions in Linux is that the process is rather complicated. (Blogger’s Note: see update below)

After giving up on making xvidcap, which produces mpeg files, work in my laptop, I tried gtk-recordMyDesktop. I gave it a go after finding out that accepts .ogg files.

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Ubuntu makes me work faster in Windows XP

My computing life has improved exponentially with Ubuntu that I try to spend as little time as possible in Windows XP in my office PC. My office PC needs to run Windows because the newsroom uses InDesign and Pagemaker to lay out pages.

I now work faster on Windows XP—faster because I want to get work I can only do there over with so that I can use Ubuntu for other tasks. I can’t have them on at the same time on my office desk because 1.) I was allotted only one LAN cable, 2) the Wi-Fi signal doesn’t cover my part of the office, and 3) I have to “reuse” (that’s a mild way of putting it) IP addresses to connect to the network.

I recently switched my blogging workhorse, an MSI s260, to an Ubuntu-only system after months of running Windows XP. I said in my post that I haven’t stopped saying “wow” up until I posted the article two days ago. Let me update you: wow, wow, and wow.

I haven’t been gushing this profusely since I met my wife. Ubuntu is such a wonderful operating system to use. As I write this post on AbiWord running full screen, Coldplay sings at the background while the system checks for updates. On my “browsing” virtual desktop, Firefox is downloading two files with more than ten websites opened in tabs.

Once in a while, I’d get the urge to rotate my desktop cube just for the heck of it and the playing of the song isn’t interrupted nor is the rendering of the four desktops jerky.

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Showing Windows the door

I’m now running Ubuntu Feisty Fawn beta on my main blogging gear – an MSI S260 laptop – and I haven’t stopped saying “wow” since when I finished installing it late Monday night.

I’ve used Ubuntu before, but mainly as a local server and the experience can be summarized as: boot CD, choose server setup, follow on-screen instructions, configure settings, then connect from my Windows PC.

Ubuntu Feisty Fawn desktop MY NEW WORKSTATION. Ubuntu running on my main blogging gear, an MSI S260 laptop. Click on photo to view larger image.

I’ve never gotten around to using Ubuntu as a desktop despite a long standing entry in my to-do list to do just that. I’ve tried its live CD and tinkered with desktops installed with it but for a long time I lived in a Windows-centric world–office PC, home unit, and laptop. What has stopped me from using Ubuntu sooner is my dependence on such applications as Photoshop and InDesign for newsroom work.

I’ve also been set back by my reliance on the open source Float’s Mobile Agent (FMA) to manage my Sony Ericsson K750i. When I’m at the office, my phone is, more often than not, connected to the PC and being managed by FMA. I use the program to send, receive, and archive messages as well as manage my contacts and calendar entries. When I’m on the field, FMA saves me a lot of time sending messages while writing stories.

FMA currently runs only on Windows but I found an old post in the support forum that said a developer was able to make it run in Linux using Wine.

Last Monday, I decided to wipe out Windows from my laptop and use the Ubuntu Feisty Fawn beta release. The IT staff assigned to the newsroom suggested I use a dual-boot setup and retain a Windows partition but I was bent on having an Ubuntu-only system.

I’m no geek, and the only sudo I know ends with “ko” but with the holidays, I figured I’d have enough time to tinker with my laptop if the installation goes awry.

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