10 People Who Should Use Linux

I’ve been thinking lately that there are actually certain types of people out there that should be using Linux instead of Windows.

Types of people who should be using Linux

Geeks and people who enjoy tinkering with computers

If you enjoy psychically building computers, chances are you’ll like tinkering with the operating system once your machine is running.  There is no better operating system to tinker with than Linux.

People who want easy security

Linux is much more secure than windows ‘out of the box’.  If you don’t want to bother with security, you should be using Linux.

People who want a unique look and feel

With Linux desktop environments, you can customize anything and everything you see on your screen with the right amount of knowledge.  You really can’t do that in Windows.

People who like the idea of open source software

If you support the principles of open source technology and wish to practice them to the fullest, you’ll definitely want to be running Linux.

Programmers who enjoy contributing to free open source software

This title should really be for all programmers.  If you’re a code nut, you should be running Linux.

People who only use the computer for basic needs and don’t want to be bothered by viruses and spyware.

I recently moved some of my family to a basic Ubuntu desktop.  The majority of their computer use consists of browsing, email, pictures, and instant messaging.  No reason for them to be running Windows if that is all they do.  Linux can not only do it faster, but better, and much more safely.

People who don’t want to have to reboot because there computer starts “running slow” due to adware, spyware, bloatware, etc.

This goes right along the lines with the last one.  Most non-techie computer users think that their computer is always “running so slow” because it’s ‘old’.  Chances are the computer is running slow from having so many adware applications running in the background.  I’ve yet to see a Linux install on any of my family machines, receive, much less slow down from adware, spyware, etc.

Do you use Linux? What type of person are you?

How to configure synergy on Mac OSX and Windows XP

At the office I use both my Macbook Pro running OSX 10.6.3 and a Windows XP box side by side, each with separate monitors.  In the beginning I would use my Mac as my primary desktop, and VNC into my XP machine to avoid using two keyboards and mice.  This configuration worked well, but was a pain to have to open VNC to control my Windows XP desktop.  Then I discovered synergy+ which allowed me to use only one keyboard and mouse, and control both screens as if they were one machine, moving the mouse freely to each one as if I had dual monitors. From the synergy+ website:

Synergy+ (synergy-plus) lets you easily share a single mouse and keyboard between multiple computers with different operating systems, without special hardware. All you need is a LAN connection. It’s intended for users with multiple computers, where each system uses its own display. It’s a little like having a 2nd or a 3rd desktop…

How to configure synergy on Mac OSX

I’m running the synergy+ server on Mac OSX 10.6.3, since that is my primary machine.

First, download synergy+ for the Mac, then download synergy+ again on the Windows machine.

Once installed on both machines, you will need to create a synergy configuration file on the server (Mac).  Here is what mine looks like:

section: screens
alt = super
super = alt
section: links
right = windows-workstation
left = macbook-pro.local

The config file is pretty straight forward. The first section, called screens, is where you list the hostnames (computer names) for screen1 and screen2, in this case, my macbook-pro is screen1, and my windows workstation is screen2.  The alt=super and super=alt lines are two tricks I found that will allow the Windows key on my keyboard to function properly.  In the next section, called links, you define the layout of the two screens. In my config, my macbook screen is on the left, and my windows machine is on the right, as you can see defined in the config above.

Save the config file as synergy.conf and place it anywhere you’d like.

Now that you have the synergy server configured, you need to start it.  Open a terminal, and run the following command:

synergys -f --config /path/to/synergy.conf

The -f option will run the synergy server in the foreground, in case you need to debug anything.

How to connect to your new Mac OSX synergy server from Windows

Now that you have the synergy server running on your mac, you need to connect to it via the synergy application in Windows.

If you didn’t do it in the earlier step, download synergy+ for Windows and install it.

Next, open Synergy+ and select “Use another computer’s shared keyboard and mouse (client)” and type in the IP or hostname of your mac and click Start.

If all steps were followed correctly, you should now be sharing the keyboard and mouse, and should be able to move your mouse to each screen as if you had a dual monitor setup.

Start synergy server when a user logs in

The last thing you’ll want to do is to make sure synergy starts every time you log in. To do this, you’ll want to create a LoginHook

First, launch a terminal window and become root:

sudo su -

Create a folder to store your LoginHook script:

mkdir -p /Library/LoginWindow

In this folder, create a file called LoginHook.sh that contains the following text:

prog=(/usr/local/bin/synergys --config /path/to/synergy.conf)

### Stop any currently running Synergy client
killall ${prog[0]##*/}

### Start the new client
exec "${prog[@]}"

Make sure the script is executable:

chmod 755 LoginHook.sh

Now create the actual login hook that will call the script we just created:
defaults write com.apple.loginwindow LoginHook /Library/LoginWindow/LoginHook.sh

That’s it! Next time you log into your mac, the synergy server will start, and your windows machine should connect.

Microsoft’s New Commercial With Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld

I have one word to describe the new Microsoft commercial with Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld. Horrible.

The news is a bit old by now, but I thought I’d make a statement on the new commercial I just saw with Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld that takes place in shoe store.  It really has nothing to do with the Microsoft operating system Windows, or any of Microsoft’s products at all.  It’s a stab at comedy, and Jerry Seinfeld does show a little comedy, but all it really did was make me say “what the hell?”

I find it sad that Microsoft’s new $300 million marketing campaign can’t do a little better than this.

Here’s the embedded video, as well as the direct link to YouTube.

Microsoft Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates Commercial

How To Install and Configure Avant Window Navigator for Ubuntu

If you have a video card capable of running a composition manager like Compiz, you may be interested in running the Avant Window Navigator for Ubuntu.  This document will explain the steps you need to take to install and configure the Avant Window Navigator on Ubuntu 8.04.

The Avant Window Navigator (AWN/Awn) is a dock-like navigation bar for the Linux desktop that positions itself at the bottom of the screen. It can be used to keep track of open windows and behaves like a normal window list. It is very similar to the menu doc in Mac OSX Leopard.

First, you need to make sure you have composition turned on.  In Ubuntu, navigate to the System > Preferences > Appearance > Visual Effects tab.  Make sure that visual effects is enabled.

Enable Compiz in Ubuntu

Now that we know composition is enabled, we can go ahead and install AWN.

Installing Avant Window Navigator

First we need to make sure that you have the backports repository enabled in your /etc/apt/sources.list.  This can be done via the GUI, but I am going to demonstrate how to edit the file from the command line, the true Linux way.

Edit the /etc/apt/sources.list file with a text editor such as vi or nano.

# nano /etc/apt/sources.list

Locate the following lines:

# deb http://us.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ hardy-backports main restricted universe multiverse
# deb-src http://us.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ hardy-backports main restricted universe multiverse

Uncomment these by removing the pound (#) signs on both lines.  It should now look like this:

deb http://us.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ hardy-backports main restricted universe multiverse
deb-src http://us.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ hardy-backports main restricted universe multiverse

Save the file in nano by hitting ^X then Y to accept the changes.

Now that we have allowed apt to search the backports repository, we have to tell apt-get to update the repository list.

# sudo apt-get update

Now we can install Avant Window Navigator:

# sudo apt-get install avant-window-navigator

apt-get will install a few other dependencies, such as awn manager.  Awn Manager is a tool that allows you to configure your dock.

Now that AWN is installed, you should be able to run it by going to:

Applications > Accesories > Avant Window Navigator

You should now see the AWN dock at the bottom of your screen.

Configuring Avant Window Navigator

To configure AWN to your liking, open up the Awn Manager by navigating to System > Preferences > Awn Manager

AWN Manager

You’ll notice that the Awn Manager allows you to configure many aspects of the dock.  From here, you can add applets, launchers, different themes, and modify the apperance and behavior of the dock.  Hint: A nice tip you should know is that you can add apps to the dock by navigating to the Applications menu and simply dragging applications into the dock in real time.

How to get Avant Window Navigator to run at start up

If you want AWN to run during startup, all you have to do is add it to your startup sessions.

Navigate to System > Preferences > Sessions

Under the Startup Programs tab, click +Add and fill out the New Startup Program dialog box:

Add AWN to Startup Programs

Awn should now start up during after your computer boots.

Further AWN Information

To find out more about the Avant Window Navigator visit the AWN Wiki and check out the AWN Frequently Asked Questions.

Mirror websites using HTTrack

If you are looking for a reliable software application that will mirror a website for offline use, I suggest HTTrack. It is available for Windows 95/98/NT/2K/XP, Linux/Unix/BSD, and MacOSX.

HTTrack is an easy-to-use offline browser utility. It allows you to download a World Wide website from the Internet to a local directory, building recursively all directories, getting html, images, and other files from the server to your computer. HTTrack arranges the original site’s relative link-structure. Simply open a page of the “mirrored” website in your browser, and you can browse the site from link to link, as if you were viewing it online. HTTrack can also update an existing mirrored site, and resume interrupted downloads. HTTrack is fully configurable, and has an integrated help system.

Windows Vista ready for Service Pack 1

Neil Randall has a nice review of Microsoft’s Windows Vista Service Pack 1. The review covers installation, performance differences, security, and more.

Also, for the hard core gamers, Vista Service Pack 1 will support Direct3D 10.1.

A little over a year after the first appearance of Vista, Service Pack 1 (SP1) is nearly ready for download. [There have been a couple of release snafus, including the accidental release, on 2/21/08, of the 64-bit version.–Editor]. SP1 is a useful but not crucial update to the OS, and one that won’t greatly affect your computing day, at least not outwardly. The bulk of the development effort has gone toward upgrading security subsystems—elements that enterprise clients find appealing but consumers and small-business users won’t really notice (although they’ll feel better knowing about them). The bottom line is that there’s absolutely no reason not to download SP1 (which you’ll receive automatically if you have AutoUpdate turned on), so it’s almost a given that it will become the standard in the very near future.

Read more..

Switching from Microsoft Office to OpenOffice.org

Great writeup on How to Switch from Microsoft Office to OpenOffice.org:

How to set up OpenOffice.org to work how you want it with templates and clip art, configurations, shortcuts, and more (download the PDF file for this article)

Switching to OpenOffice.org: Step 1

The first step, of course, is to get the software. Here are some options:

Then install OpenOffice.org. Just double-click the downloaded file, or follow the instructions for installing it for your operating system here. http://download.openoffice.org/common/instructions.html

Read more..

What to do before switching from Windows to Linux

There are many of you out there who are looking to make a change from your current Windows operating system to the Linux operating system. Some of you may have doubts, many of you most likely have questions before taking the plunge. I’ll try to point you in the right directions before you switch from Windows to Linux.

Back up your important files

You’ll want to back up all important Windows files including documents, media, bookmarks, application settings, etc. Throw everything on a USB key, CD/DVD, or an external hard drive.

Grab a live CD of the distribution you are going to install

A live CD will allow you to ensure that your hardware is compatible with the Linux distribution as well as give you a feel of the desktop usability. You should be able to gather if the distribution you choose is right for you by running the live CD. However, not all Linux distributions contain a Live CD version, so be sure to check if the Linux distro you are choosing has one available.

Determine what functionality you will need

If you are a normal user who mostly enjoys browsing the web, using e-mail, chatting with friends online, and using media, then Linux is a great option. If you enjoy playing popular computer games, you want to check with Cedega to see if your favorite game is compatible before you switch from Windows to Linux.

Check out Distrowatch

Distrowatch has a variety of useful information from user reviews of many Linux distributions as well as the current most popular distros.

Check out Wine and CrossOver Office

Wine is an open source application that allows you to run a variety of Windows applications. CrossOver Office is similar, and built on top of Wine to give the user an easier experience in installing and using the Windows applications on your Linux desktop. Be sure to browse through the compatibility list before assuming your favorite Windows application works with CrossOver Office.

Understand basic Linux commands

You can’t always rely on the beauty of the desktop with most of todays Linux distributions. What if X crashes and you’re sent to the command line? Rather then rebooting, check out this site for a straight forward guide on some of the basic Linux commands.

Read the article Alternatives to Windows Programs

Also check out Open Source Alternatives and The Linux Alternative Project.

Read the article 20 Must Read HOWTOs and Guides for Linux

This article is very useful to new and old Linux users and contains a variety of quality guides gathered throughout the years.

Can you think of any other tasks to complete before making the switch to Linux? Leave your ideas in the comments.

5 Reasons your parents should NOT use Linux

This is a devils advocate post in response to my original post:

5 Reasons your parents should use Linux

Though my original post intended to explain 5 reasons you should switch your parents to Linux, this post will address what many people have commented on in the past few days. 5 reasons why you should NOT switch your parents to Linux. I still stand by my original post in that I feel Mom and Dad running Linux is a better alternative if all they simply do on the computer is everyday tasks such as browse websites, e-mail, word processing, etc. If there are restrictions that tie someone to using Windows, theres no need to switch your parents to Linux.

  1. Applications
  2. Lets face it, there are some parents that insist on using certain applications that are strictly made for Windows and just do not function properly in Wine. Some parents do not want alternatives to Windows applications, they want the same application Uncle Joe uses to manage his bank accounts regardless of the cost.

  3. Look and Feel
  4. There are a good majority of parents out there that will look at the Gnome, KDE, or any other desktop GUI and not accept the “change” of it being different than Windows. It’s a sad but true statement to say that some people just can’t stand change. Sure, there are themes available that can make the desktop window manager look like a Windows desktop, but really, is it worth it?

  5. Usability
  6. What happens when Dad goes to Wal-Mart and buys this cool computer game he saw on sale? He’s not going to be able to simply pop in the CD and install it. The usability of Linux definitely has its restrictions. The biggest one being that Linux is still not completely mainstream enough for you to tell your Dad that if he buys a computer application or game to check the back of the box and ensure that it works on Linux. Even if you did tell him to do that, 98% of the time the boxed product will likely not support Linux.

  7. Support
  8. If you’re not living at home with your parents there may be some things that are just too complex or difficult to support or troubleshoot over the phone. Mom and Dad can’t simply call the neighbor over to help fix their desktop issue because chances are when he gets there he’ll look at the GUI and become confused.

  9. Learning Curve
  10. Many parents are content with the fact that they had to adapt to this whole new age of technology as it is. There are some of us out there that just can’t convince their parents that this “Linux” operating system is worth re-learning everything they have come to know on Windows.

Changing your parents from Windows to Linux can have its advantages, but when you have to explain to Mom that she can’t use this application, and Dad can’t use that application, they might not accept the idea. Your parents should NOT use Linux if they have applications that tie them to Windows, can’t agree to accept changing to alternative Linux applications, and are not willing to relearn a few things.

Microsoft Is Embracing Open Source..

Amazing isn’t it? According to Scott Guthrie, a General Manager for Microsoft’s Developer Division, Microsoft will be releasing the source code for the .NET framework libraries for .NET 3.5 and VS 2008 releases due later this year.

From Scott’s blog:

We’ll begin by offering the source code (with source file comments included) for the .NET Base Class Libraries (System, System.IO, System.Collections, System.Configuration, System.Threading, System.Net, System.Security, System.Runtime, System.Text, etc), ASP.NET (System.Web), Windows Forms (System.Windows.Forms), ADO.NET (System.Data), XML (System.Xml), and WPF (System.Windows). We’ll then be adding more libraries in the months ahead (including WCF, Workflow, and LINQ). The source code will be released under the Microsoft Reference License (MS-RL).

This is a positive step forward for Microsoft and a great advantage for .NET developers. I look forward to hearing more open source initiatives by Microsoft in the future.

Update: Turns out I, as well as a few others, misunderstood the news yesterday about the .NET framework libraries being released as open source. In actuality, Microsoft is releasing the source code for .NET as shared source, meaning that developers will simply be able to BROWSE the source code, but will be unable to make changes to the code itself. Basically, you can look – but you can’t touch. So, this isn’t really an embrace of open source and I stand corrected.