"It's yet another in a long series of diversions in an attempt to avoid responsibility." - Chris Knight

Archive for the ‘Software’ Category

Get And Give The Gift of Open Source

December 7th, 2007 by iDunzo

This Christmas I decided to give a few gifts to people in the open-source community.

I’m making donations to the maintainers of some of my favorite and most widely-used software projects. They’ve earned some payback!

Most of the programs I depend on most, I’ve discovered, are actually not big ones — they’re little things, applications that fill in the gaps between other apps, and that make my work all the easier.

The first big open-source project that gets a little of my Christmas cheer is the PortableApps suite, an incredibly useful bundle of no-install-needed editions of popular open-source programs.

It’s a one-stop shop of sorts for a whole slew of common apps — Firefox, the OpenOffice.org suite, VLC, and 7-Zip — and it can be run either from a removable drive or from a single self-contained directory on a PC.

I’ve pointed a number of friends at it as an easy way to consolidate all of their applications and documents into one place.

If they upgrade to a new machine — or if their PC ever gets borked and they need to recover files from it — they can simply copy the PortableApps directory somewhere else and pick up right where they left off.

It’s funny how many open-source projects of one kind or another you can end up using without even thinking about it.

Not long ago I started using the above-mentioned 7-Zip as my archiving application of choice — not only because it was open-source, but because it actually gave me slightly better compression ratios than WinRAR on certain kinds of files.

I’d originally started to use it provisionally, more as a companion program to WinRAR than a flat-out replacement.

Eventually I disabled WinRAR’s Explorer menu integration; not long after that, I deinstalled WinRAR completely. Any program that gets that much use from me deserves a hand.

Some of my other favorite programs are not open source, but are freeware and get my support just because they’re that good.

The image viewer and converter Irfanview, for instance: I can’t think of any other program I install as unhesitatingly on any computer as this one, and that I get quite as much use out of. Its author definitely gets a donation from me this year, whether there’s source code or not.

What projects, open-source or not — but ones you’ve used regularly — have you donated to?

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Macedonia picks Ubuntu for 20,000 PCs

November 17th, 2007 by iDunzo

A batch of 7,000 PCs with Ubuntu Linux have been sent to Macedonian schools, the first of a collection that Ubuntu sponsor Canonical expects will reach 20,000.

Through a program called Computer for Every Child, the Macedonia Ministry of Education and Science plans to install the PCs throughout its elementary and secondary school system.

Ubuntu will run on the 20,000 PCs, but 160,000 more students will be able to share those machines using hardware from NComputing, Canonical plans to announce Tuesday. The PCs are being supplied and installed by Haier, a Chinese PC maker.

The Computer for Every Child initiative is the largest and most important education project undertaken in the 15-year history of the Republic of Macedonia.

By selecting Ubuntu as the operating system for all of our classroom virtual PCs, our education system can provide computer-based education for all schoolchildren within the limited financial and infrastructural confines that most institutions face today.

– Ivo Ivanovski, Macedonia’s minister for the information society

The schools are using version 7.04 of Edubuntu, a version of Ubuntu tailored for classroom use.

With PCs already commonplace in richer countries, companies such as Intel, Microsoft, and Canonical are focusing on reaching markets in developing countries.

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Google Android Puts The Screws To Nokia’s S60

November 13th, 2007 by iDunzo

I assume by now everyone has checked out the video demos of Google’s Android platform. If not, you can watch them here.

One thing I noticed about the slick user interface is that it marches right past Nokia’s S60’s usability. What can S60 do to prevent Google from eroding its market share?

In short, probably nothing. Any new mobile platform will steal users from each and every other platform that already exists on the market. But that sure shouldn’t stop Symbian and Nokia from trying.

Even the latest iteration of S60 doesn’t do some of the things we saw in the Android demo.

While Symbian and Nokia are probably hard at work developing touch-capable software and phones, Google has already done it, to a certain extent.

The demos highlight how applications can be used and tied together seamlessly to create a natural workflow.

Don’t get me wrong. S60 is a great platform, one of the best, in fact. Its strengths have led it to become the dominant smartphone platform in the world (78% share). But it is still somewhat clunky to use. It requires users to think like they are interacting with a computer.

If there’s one thing the iPhone seems to have taught the world is that mobile user interfaces don’t have to be painful to deal with.

While everyone else is going to be playing catch up for a while, Google will represent a serious challenge when Android finally becomes available.

Will it have the hardware cache, the integrated platform that Apple has with the iPhone and its other products? Or the global manufacturing and distribution empire that Nokia has?

Likely not but the interface sure does some cool things and as is evidenced by U.S. sales of the Apple iPhone, people are tired of difficult user interfaces.

So Nokia needs to make some snappy changes to S60. Though the Finnish giant is not known for quick updates to its core platform, in this case it has a lot more to lose than anyone else if it can’t play the UI game up to Apple and Google’s standards.

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Microsoft Sync Framework: One Part Google Gears

November 5th, 2007 by iDunzo

Microsoft has released an early preview of a new programming tool known as the Microsoft Sync Framework, which looks to be one part Google Gears, with on/offline sync capabilities, and one part Time Machine-like, OS-level syncing system.

According to the documentation, the Sync Framework will allow developers to take online services and databases offline.

Microsoft says the framework can synchronize “any type of file including contacts, music, videos, images and settings.”

The Sync Framework also includes “built-in support for synchronizing relational databases, NTFS / FAT file systems, Simple Sharing Extensions for RSS/ATOM, devices and web services.”

Microsoft rather boldly claims that Sync will support “any application, any type of data, using any protocol over any network.”

But reading through the description on the Microsoft download site, it would appear that the new framework goes somewhat beyond the scope of Google Gears and enables, in addition to the offline support, various collaboration and file syncing capabilities.

Among the scenarios Microsoft notes in the documentation are multi-master file sync between multiple PCs, synchronization between PCs using a USB Drive, taking a network share offline and maintaining a backup copy of files.

At the moment the Sync Framework only supports Windows Vista, XP, Windows Server 2003 and Windows 2000 Service pack 3. It’s unclear whether Microsoft will expand that support in the future.

Microsoft has yet to release any details regarding a timeframe for the final release of Microsoft Sync Framework, though the developer preview is available for those interested in testing it.

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Apple iPhone Firmware Update 1.1.2 On The Way

November 5th, 2007 by iDunzo

In what is sure to ignite another outcry against Apple, the latest firmware update for the iPhone will – you guessed it – wipe out access to third-party applications and wireless networks other than AT&T’s. Again.

The firmware update, to 1.1.2, is said to be coming this week in conjunction with the iPhone’s launch in the U.K.

iPhones will be available in Great Britain starting on Friday, and will come preloaded with 1.1.2.

Since iTunes 7.5 is also rumored to be released this week, it isn’t a big stretch to surmise that Apple will make the 1.1.2 firmware update available to the general public as well.

There are some positives in the update. The iPhone will support more languages, notably Cantonese.

There is also full support for French and German, with different keyboard configurations to provide access to special characters used in those languages.

No real surprises there, as the iPhone is going to be hitting European shores later this month.

The bad news is, according to those who’ve seen the 1.1.2 firmware, it will again lock out access to third-party applications by fixing the loophole that currently lets users unlock their iPhones.

According to MacRumors, one third-party application in particular is being targeted by Apple this time around: iToner.

iToner allows users to create their own custom ringtones from their iTunes library and install them on the iPhone.

Since this prevents Apple from earning some extra cash, it’s no real surprise that it would take action to stop this application.

The update will also break access to unlocking the SIM card so iPhones can be used on other networks.

Not much else has been leaked about the firmware update, and it is unknown if it will provide any new features or functionality to the iPhone.

Undoubtedly, the ever-diligent hacking community will likely come up with yet more ways to circumvent the iPhone’s locking software and open it back up.

All we can do is sit back and wait for it all to happen. Again.

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gPhone Software: “Everything You Need To Run A Phone”

November 3rd, 2007 by iDunzo

Google’s Monday Revolution will be a suite of software based on Linux and codenamed “Android,” according to a story published at News.com.

This suite is implied to be an operating system (“it’s said to include everything you need to run a phone”) to be followed immediately thereafter by an SDK.

The rest of the story is standard gPhone preview: weasel-worded blather like “backed by some of the largest wireless industry companies in the world” and “carrier X is said to be heavily involved.”

Buried deep, however, are nuggets like JumpTap executive Dan Olschwang wondering if the whole thing is just a giant trap to get people to write expansions to Google’s software.

Tim Hanlon of Denuo points out that if the gPhone’s framework is anything like what’s described here, the carriers would be loathe to let it in their playground at all.

With all the buzz the past year or so with talks of a Google phone, would you be interested in Google gPhone software?

I’m all for this sort of “geek to the core” phone technology, especially if Google has a say in it.

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