Category Archives: FOSS

Microsoft and Linux, really?

Microsoft and Linux are not usually in the same sentence when it comes to new partnerships. Announced at TechEd a few days ago, Microsoft has released to GitHub, DSC for Linux. DSC stands for Desired State Configuration. Essentially, in a very small nutshell, you configure once and apply to many. I will admit this is still very new to me even on the Windows platform and that’s where I earn my living.

I am stunned and amazed by this move. And I am hopeful that this foray into ‘open-source’ territory will become successful. I personally would like to see more of this coming from Redmond. Let me be very clear, I am not any more a fanboy of Microsoft than I am for Linux, but it pays the bills.

I envision a day when the OS becomes less important and functionality becomes the main attraction. Hardware also becomes transparent to the user. Think Ubuntu. Microsoft has the resources to really get behind this kind of movement. Question is, will the two sides embrace? At least it is a start and I for one like what has happened so far.


Attention Gamers, SteamOS is Coming to the Rescue

I personally am not a gamer but I know many who are gamers. And the one operating system they run with a love hate relationship, Windows. Coming soon Linux users and those that have been waiting on the sidelines, can have Linux and their games too in native Linux form. No messing with third-party software or gadgets, simple straightforward native gaming within the Linux platform. I can’t do the announcement justice so read this piece straight off their page,

Downloadable soon. Free forever!

“SteamOS will be available soon as a free download for users and as a freely licensable operating system for manufacturers. Stay tuned in the coming days for more information.”

Then follow the link for details. Remember to drop back in and give your thoughts whether this will fly or not or tell us how stoked you are.


Happy Birthday to Free Software!

    I enjoyed reading this short article about Richard Stallman and thought I would pass it along. Until a few minutes ago I wasn’t aware of the significance of today and where we are now with Linux and other ‘free software’. Enjoy.


Introduction to Synaptic Package Manager

In this short video we will go over the Synaptic Package Manager and at the end you should have enough information to be able to use and explore this terrific tool.

I hope you enjoyed the video and will continue to explore. Synaptic is quite powerful and capable of so much more than I have covered here.


How To Use Software Manager

This is a short ‘How To’ video I created on how to use the Software Manager in Linux Mint 14 XFCE. This is a basic instructional video and is mainly aimed at the newer Linux users. We welcome comments and suggestions from the more experienced users too. This was created using the Record My Desktop utility and after the upload to You Tube has lost a bit of its clarity unless you run it in 720p. In the native ogv format it was very sharp. I hope you enjoy it. Click the link to view the video.


What App Do I Use?

Now that you have Linux installed you may be wondering what do I use to replace (insert any Windows or Mac application name here)? This is a very common question even with the distributions that come with an application for almost every need and purpose. What makes this so tough to answer? In my opinion it is mostly we simply do not know what is available and what the new applications do that are already installed. Linux distributions can and do provide hundreds to thousands of applications for many uses. So many in the mainstream distributions that it can be mind-boggling.

Even the lesser known Linux distributions such as AntiX can pull applications from the repositories of the much more widespread distribution Debian. And that adds another question for some people, what is a repository? (Answer: A collection of software maintained, tested and updated for a particular version or distribution chain.) This can all be very confusing to newer users of Linux. (Note also that I used the Debian tree of Linux as an example but could have picked several others, Slackware, Red Hat, Fedora all have distros based on them that pull from upstream repositories and also maintain their own repositories supporting themselves and this listing is certainly not all-inclusive at all.) Some distributions use packages they either create or bundle all while maintaining the main distribution giving their users many choices for applications of all types.

I think that most users will figure out the replacements for Office software like Writer and Calc. We will get used to seeing Rhythmbox instead of Media Player. Nemo, Nautilus or Thunar will become very familiar for interfacing with the file system. But what many do not know is there are alternatives and sometimes several to do the same thing. For example, music players is a category most of us will use. I named Rhythmbox above but could have named Banshee, Clementine, VLC, Kaffeine, MPlayer or Totem and this list is not totally inclusive and even crosses boundaries for other media types many of them can handle just as Windows Media Player handles multiple media types. This is just one category and one example, there are many applications that have alternatives.

Knowing what we want to do is the first step, finding the application is step two. This can be as easy as learning the name of an application that is already installed but we did not know the name of or learning how to pull from the repositories one of the thousands of applications that are there waiting to be used.

Nearly all of the distributions are making finding what you want easier than ever and installation of the software is extremely easy too. But what do you do if you have this favourite Mac or Windows program and want a Linux alternative but do not know the name of one? Well you can search the Internet, that may or may not tell you the name of the package to install. And you are definitely much better off installing from the repositories for your distribution even if you do find it on the Internet. This ensures better security and the meeting of all dependencies for the application.

Or you can use a tool like this one, the Linux App Finder. This is a really cool website where you enter the name of the program you want to replace and it turns out choices for alternatives. Many if not all of them will be in your repositories or a repository you can add as an additional source. You can even install some of the programs from the site but the repositories for your distribution are the preferred method.

Here is a screen capture for a search of notepad replacements as an example.

Search for notepad alternatives.

This is a decent list to get someone started and I doubt it is all of the available replacements for notepad. I stumbled onto this website a few years ago and found it to be very helpful. I hope you find it helpful too.


Will Secure Boot Impact You?

Well the time has come for many to replace aging computers or laptops. And the deals could not be more enticing. Prices are seemingly slashed everywhere and Windows 8 logo is on nearly everything too. But beware of Secure Boot being on those Windows 8 stamped machines. This technology is supposedly good for us. That is if we run Windows but I do not. Yes the malware it is supposed to stop from booting is a problem but I think getting the malware in the first place is worse and I have never seen an infection start with the boot process. Hmm, apparently MS has seen this since they have almost threatened, key word almost, manufacturers into installing Secure Boot with of course the keys to MS Windows 8 and nothing more.

Wait but I am not going to run Windows 8 you are saying. It will not impact me right? Well read this account from Jesse Smith on DistroWatch and keep in mind he is a seasoned user well adept at using alternate operating systems of all flavors. He gets through it but I have to agree with him that many users will not or will just get plain frustrated and quit.

So do not buy that new shiny computer without knowing what pitfalls you may have to overcome in order to run a free operating system. As a footnote, the Secure Boot link is from an article on the Linux Foundation’s efforts written on ZDNet’s website all about how Microsoft is delaying the keys for Linux. Hmm, just one more reason to buy new equipment from alternate retailers that put Linux first or buy used.

Secure Boot, Is Linux Ready?

There is growing trepidation in the Linux community when the phrase secure boot is mentioned as it applies to Linux or other open source operating systems. Are you ready for Secure Boot? I personally can see the good that can come from it giving a more secure environment but on the other hand I also see the potential for locking consumers into only certain product lines whether they are open or not. This to me is clearly not in the best interest of open source operating systems or consumers.

There are several Linux distributions that are openly working to be able to implement a secure boot version. A few that I know of are Red Hat with Fedora, SUSE and Ubuntu. There may well be more I simply have not read about so feel free to add to the list in the comments. But on the other hand again, not every camp is very happy with secure boot. Especially when the emphasis is being reported from a Microsoft standard point of view. Last February Distrowatch’s Jesse Smith reported how OpenBSD’s founder was particularly unhappy with Red Hat and Canonical embracing secure boot. I did a quick search and have come up empty with regards to BSD embracing secure boot. Please correct me if I am mistaken.

Linus Torvalds, as reported in Wired, told ZDNet that although not a fan of UEFI, he could not see what the big deal is. Citing the $99 purchase of the right to distribute keys Fedora has purchased. Linus mentions here that the real issue is how the implementation could be vulnerable to hacking and thus not so secure after all.

So now we have major vendors embracing the concept, Microsoft pushing the standard and setting the bar for manufacturers, will you as a consumer have a voice? That is the million dollar question that only time will answer. I think in the end consumers will get the short end of the stick even if open source distributions survive these changes. The number of choices will ultimately drop on new hardware with the current specifications of UEFI unless changes are made in the direction reported by the Linux Foundation.