Archive

Why I Use Generic Computers and Open Source Software

Do you depend on your computer for your living? If so, I'm sure you've thought long and hard about which hardware and software to use. I'd like to explain why I use generic "white boxes" running open source software. These give me a platform I rely on for 100% availability. They also provide a low-cost solution with excellent security and privacy.

Raspberry Pi Software Is Rapidly Maturing

Software for the Raspberry Pi is quickly moving forward. Beyond the several core Linux distros, another couple dozen systems are available, with NetBSD, FreeBSD, and Chromium imminently stepping into the mix. (Ubuntu will not join them as it requires ARMv7 and the Pi is ARMv6). Two dozen programming languages are available, including Python, Perl, Java, Ruby 1.9.2, BASIC, and more. Since the Pi is a full fledged ARM computer, it should run nearly any ARM app within its system requirements. See the RPi Wiki or Foundation website for more info.

Is Hewlett-Packard Dying?

Hard to believe, but articles are popping up at business websites claiming that venerable Hewlett-Packard may fail. In their most recent fiasco, HP wrote off a loss of $8.8 of their $11.1 US billion acquisition of Autonomy and have alleged fraud in the deal. Revenue is down 7% from a year ago and the stock has hit a 10-year low. The company is laying off 27K employees but that may not be enough. Some speculate HP might be broken up into parts with buy-outs involved. This article from last May offers a good in-depth analysis of how all these problems came to pass.

Damn Small Linux Lives!

Since its 4.4.10 release way back in 2008, Damn Small Linux languished as an inactive project. But a month ago John Andrews announced 4.11 release candidate 2. It includes updated apps and bug fixes. Download from here (only 50m). More on what's in the release candidate here. DSL is popular for making older computers useful and also works well as a tiny live distro.

Memoir of a (Momentary) Dot Com Mogul

Levi Asher offers his free memoir of his rise and fall in the dot-com boom of the late 1990s and early 2000s. The autobiography covers Asher's twenty-five years in programming: his founding of the oldest ongoing literature website Literary Kicks in 1994, his success with the dot-com website iVillage in 1999 (and its subsequent collapse), and how all this insanity affected his personal life. It's a quick, entertaining read.

Microsoft Sued Over Surface Tablet’s Disk Space

A California man is suing Microsoft, alledging that his Surface tablet did not provide the advertised amount of disk space. The 32G device has 16G of space for users, as the operating system uses the other 16G. The 64G Surface leaves 45G free for users. The case will turn on whether Microsoft has clearly explained to customers how much free space the Surface leaves for their use outside of the OS. How much disk space does your OS consume?

Raspberry Pi Spawns Competitors

The Raspberry Pi has inspired a flock of competitors. Among them are the A13-OLinuXino, which you can purchase here for 45 euros. It comes with an A13 Cortex A8 processor at 1GHz, 3D Mali400 GPU, 512 MB RAM, and complete set of ports. Video is VGA. It ships Android 4.0 but also runs various Linux distros. You might also check out the $49US Cubieboard here and the UG802 for $89US here. And there's the MK802 micro-PC, a USB-sized device priced at $74US that runs Android 4.0, Ubuntu, Debian, and other distros. The tiny single-board computer has come of age.

U.S. Voting Technology: Problems Continue

In the United States, state and local authorities are in charge of voting and the country uses more than a half dozen different voting technologies. As a result, the country can't guarantee that it accurately counts national votes in a timely fashion. This article discusses the problem and potential solutions to the U.S. voting dilemma.

Microsoft dropping live messenger for Skype

Microsoft is discontinuing Windows Live Messenger in 1st quarter 2013, forcing users to switch to Skype. Most would want to switch to Skype anyway with its more advanced capabilities, and the switch makes sense to Microsoft, since they purchased Skype for $8.5 billion last year. However, the move may be seen as typical Redmondian high-handedness by those using Messenger with dial-up. Technically Skype works with dial-up but in practice most agree you really need broadband for decent use. Will everyone view Messenger as replaceable by Skype?

Which Linux Distro is Best?

Here's a topic guaranteed to start controversy. Which Linux distribution is best? It all depends on your criteria for judging. Even then the topic is highly subjective. Here are a few nominees for "best distro" in specific categories.

Is Your New PC Secure?

You might assume your new PC is secure, but is it? In the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission just charged seven rent-to-own computer companies and a software design firm with computer spying. Some 420,000 rent-to-own computers allegedly secretly collected personal information, took pictures of users in their homes, and tracked their locations. Meanwhile Microsoft found that PCs from China had malware embedded before reaching consumers. The virus "could allow a hacker to switch on a microphone or Webcam, record keystrokes and access users' login credentials and online bank accounts." And, an FBI investigation found that counterfeit routers purchased by various US government agencies also were pre-loaded with malicious software. Do you assume your new PC is secure, or if not, what steps do you take to secure it?

Facebook in Crisis

Remember the dot com debacle of a decade ago? Well, it's back, this time in the form of Facebook. Since its high-profile public offering last May at over $38/share, FB is now down to about $18/share. Management is finding that running a public company is very different than one privately held, as people variously blame Mark Zuckerberg (or not), CFO David Ebersman, lead IPO underwriter Morgan Stanley, and even the NASDAQ stock exchange. The real problem, of course, is that Facebook went public even as its business model desperately searches for new revenues. Let's just hope they don't pull a Digg and fatally redesign the whole site in response.

HP Continues to Flounder

Can Hewlett-Packard bounce back? Third quarter results are in and they don't look good. Total revenue is down 5% year over year, and profits tanked on a $9.2 billion noncash write-down on the 2008 EDS acquisition. What's HP's strategy? Meg Whitman has now been CEO of the struggling giant for a year. She compares HP's turnaround to that of Starbucks, saying "Usually these kinds of turnarounds take anywhere between four or five years... There's nothing fancy about these turnarounds. This is not advanced business, this is 101." I question if refocusing on core competencies is enough. Maybe HP needs to get into the smartphone and tablet markets. Maybe it needs to expand its services business. Think I'm wrong? Then bet your money on HP stock and get rich. HPQ trades at its lowest point in a decade and sells for an rock bottom forward P/E of 4.2.

U.S. Broadband Access Lags

A free, new report from the New America Foundation compares cost, speed, and availabilty of internet connectivity in 22 cities around the world. The report concludes that U.S. consumers face comparatively high, rising connectivity costs, even while the majority have very limited choices -- often only one or two providers. The report argues that U.S. broadband policies need to change, otherwise consumer choice will continue to deteriorate.

Ubuntu Abandons Dial-Up Users

Over at the Goodbye, Microsoft web site, Brad R. takes Ubuntu to task for abandoning dial-up modem users. Apparently Ubuntu no longer includes the GnomePPP dial-up package in the distribution, without which you can't get online via dial-up. It gets better: if you do have some way to connect, when you download something from the Ubuntu repository, the first thing Ubuntu does is update its 16+ megabyte repository index. Happy waiting! Brad concludes that "Ubuntu is for broadband users only."

Four Lightweight Distros Compared

In the past year I've reviewed four lightweight Linuxes for OS News: VectorLinux, Puppy Linux, Lubuntu, and Damn Small Linux. This article compares the four distributions. I invite your comments in response: what are your own experiences with these and competing lightweight distros?

Struggling RIM to layoff thousands

Struggling RIM will layoff up to 2,000 employees in an attempt to right itself while it pins its hopes on the Blackberry 10. Wireless industry analyst Peter Misek of Jefferies & Company opines: "We maintain that the only path for RIM is to partner with someone, to be acquired, or to turn themselves into a software company, and I think that path with become very clear to the management team by the end of the year."