Backups: NAS vs external hard disk

Discussion came up on a forum to which I belong whether it is better to use NAS (network attached storage) or external hard drives for backup. My answer is why not use both? Effectively I have three NAS servers. One is a media server. The others are purely backup - though they can quickly be repurposed as a media server if the first one were to suffer a catastrophic failure. I also have a number of external drives too. But in all cases they are devices I have chosen to build myself, rather than buy off the shelf. Here's why...… Read More ►

Virtual backdrops and wallpapers

Freebies to beat those lockdown blues This is a collection of virtual backdrops and wallpapers that you may download, manipulate and enjoy, for free. These images were created by capturing and saving a large number snap-shots of an open source music visualisation application for GNU/Linux called ProjectM - not to be confused with a 2008 computer game with a very similar name. I originally created these as desktop wallpapers for computer systems. A purpose for which they work pretty well, even if I do say so myself. However, as a keen photographer I discovered they could also be deployed as… Read More ►

What is a WebP image file, and how do I open one?

Seems there is quite a lot of buzz about a "new" image format called "WebP"  that is seeing increasing use on-line recently. Although it is attributed to Google, WebP was not strictly a Google invention. It was originally developed by On2 of New York as part of its VP* series "Truemotion" video codecs. Google acquired these technologies when it took over On2. VP8 went on to be the core of Google's WebM video format. WebP is not particularly new either. It was originally released in back in 2010. Whilst the libwebp code library has been freely available under a BSD… Read More ►
Joomla to Wordpress migration graphic

Joomla closedown

As you may have noticed, quite a lot has changed here on Garfnet over the last few weeks. Biggest change of all is the decision to dump Joomla as our main CMS in favour of Wordpress. I will go into more detail about the decision in another post. Suffice it to say that Wordpress is significantly less hassle to maintain than Wordpress. And a migration of this sort, on a site this size, is no mean task. So it was not a decision that was made lightly. Anyway we have moved all the content from the old Joomla site and… Read More ►

Novatech X16 Pro | Clevo W76TUN review

My first introduction to the Novatech *16 Series was in the Beginning of October 2009 when I bought one for my mum & put Ubuntu 9.10 64 bit c/w Medibuntu multimedia thus saving eighty-five quid (or more) Microsoft Tax. My mum is in her seventies and she really does not like computers at all. Interestingly, she says she prefers Ubuntu to Windows - mainly because she does not have to bother about virus checkers and all those other security annoyances that seem particularly scary for elderly users. She also like the fact that she doesn't have to pay for any new… Read More ►

Novatech/Clevo E16 & X16 Wireless Networking under Ubuntu Linux

This was actually rather annoying. These days one rather expects wireless networking to work "out of the box". Anyway, seems the fix is reasonably simple. These instructions are very specific and therefore need to be followed exactly. They assume you are using the 64 bit version of (K)Ubuntu. I'm also assuming you are using Firefox to download the driver file.which is called:- • rtl8192se_linux_2.6.0010.1012.2009.tar.gz and that you save this file to the default location i.e. your Desktop. OK, here's what you do, once you have downloaded the file onto your Desktop Open a terminal, by clicking the Applications|Accessories|Terminal menu item.… Read More ►

Trying to buy a PC without Windows part 6 – Lenovo

IBM is not one of Microsoft's biggest fans, particularly after it was well-and -truly shafted in the OS/2 fiasco. So it seems very surprising that its subsidiary Lenovo refuses absolutely to provide any refunds for unwanted Microsoft Licenses, thus completely ignoring the Microsoft EULA. 2009-11-26 12:57 Good afternoon Garfield Unfortunately we are unable to advise the cost of the Operating System License as this is a bundle price including our OEM costings from MS. Kind regards Lenovo Sales Team Read More ►
Penguin nil-points graphic

Trying to buy a PC without Windows part 5 – Acer, the most shameful response so far

On 2009-11-26, I wrote to Acer UK to establish what its policy was regarding the Microsoft Tax. This was its response:- Hello, Thank you for contacting Acer. Regarding your enquiry, The value would be £33.95 for vista home premium. This can only be refunded within 30 days of purchase and to get it refunded you would need to send the laptop into the acer repair centre to have the HDD formatted.  This would not be covered under warranty so would cost £51.99.RegardsJonathanAcer Technical Support Team This is one of the most shameful responses so far and justifies raising the matter… Read More ►

Struggling to make Ubuntu look good

Editor's note: This article is old and outdated. Blubuntu was eventually fixed in 2010. KDE4 also went on to be really rather good too. That was until they messed it up again with KDE5, but that is showing signs of being rather good now (2018-12-27) too. Seems that Canonical has woken up to the fact that the basic Ubuntu looks, well, rather turgid. Fortunately help is at hand in the form of a theme called Blubuntu. Now, Blubuntu is a great looking theme - far more attractive than Ubuntu's default dung-like hues. Unfortunately, there is a bug in the package,… Read More ►

Stop software patents in Europe

Editor's note: this petition dates back to 2009 and can no longer be signed. However, you can still visit the site if you wish. The patent system is misused to restrain competition for the economical benefit of a few but fails to promote innovation. A software market environment is better off with no patents on software at all. Healthy competition forces market players to innovate. If you value your computing freedom then sign the petition to stop software patents in the EU. Sign petition now. Read More ►
KDE 4 logo

Upgrade to 64 bit Goosebuntu (9.04 & 9.10)(Jaunty & Karmic)

This is a relatively quick and very effective way to beef up your (K)Ubuntu installation. In other words, it's how to install all your favorite Ubuntu apps all in one go! Note this primarily applies to (K)Ubuntu 9.04 & 9.10 (Jaunty & Karmic), 64 bit versions. For (K)Ubuntu 8.04 please visit earlier (and possibly outdated) article:- Basically the list below contains most of my favouirite (K)Ubuntu applications complete with their code libraries. The name "Goosebuntu" is not entirely serious - it is just a name we coined in the office. However, the following apps will turn a standard (K)Ubuntu… Read More ►

Upgrading Ubuntu 9.x to Kubuntu 9.x

Firstly, as ever, please back up anything that is important - as you would with any major upgrade on any computer system! Then you can either use the Synaptic package manager or in this instance it is probably quicker to install from a Terminal window. First you need to ensure the system is fully up to date. Simply type one line at a time followed by the return key... sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get upgrade Now your system is ready for Kubuntu. Type... sudo apt-get install kubuntu-desktop This will install the Kubuntu desktop. The download will take a while because… Read More ►

Trying to buy a PC without Windows part 4 – eBuyer

This is the fourth article in a series of case studies illustrating the difficulty one has purchasing a PC in the UK without being forced to pay a "Microsoft Tax". We use Linux on all our PC's and have done so for several years. Therefore we do not need, nor should we be forced to pay for any Microsoft software licenses. This week we focus on eBuyer.EBuyer is another British "pile-em-high-sell-em-cheap" internet-based boxshifter that shifts a heck of a lot of PCs and laptops. We have bought quite a bit of kit from it over the last two years including… Read More ►

Update – Laptops Direct

We eventually did hear back from Laptops direct. Amazingly, its sales team openly admits that it ignores the Microsoft EULA! So nil penguin points! But if there were a category for honesty then it would get plenty of penguins! The emails are in reverse order and since I guess the sales person is just "following orders", his/her name and email has been withheld for privacy reasons:- Subject: RE: [Fwd: RE: - Sales Enquiry]Date: Tue, 14 Jul 2009 16:19:18 +0100From: [Laptops Direct salesperson] To: '[removed]' References: That is correct,[Laptops Direct salesperson]From: [removed] [mailto:[removed]]Sent: 14 July 2009 16:16To: [Laptops Direct salesperson]Subject: Re:… Read More ►
Penguin points graphic

Why we object to the Microsoft Windows Tax

Rationale At the moment, everyone who buys a PC from a UK supplier has to buy a Microsoft Windows license whether they want it or not. One has no choice, it is included in the price one pays. So, even if you are using one of the many free alternative operating systems such as Ubuntu, Debian or FreeBSD, you are still forced to pay money to a giant foreign corporation, Microsoft, regardless of whether you wish to use its products or not. The Microsoft End User License Agreement states:-"By using the software, you accept these terms. If you do not… Read More ►

Surely Ubuntu Linux is only for a minority of geeks & programmers?

Minority interest? Yes. Only used by geeks & programmers?  Not necessarily... Ubuntu is a minority interest insofar as it only has a fraction of the users that M$ Windows has. Moreover, despite great improvements in recent years, some configuration issues with Ubuntu are still a pain. However I disagree that you need to be a programmer or a geek in order to use it. And generally speaking, installing Ubuntu on most systems is actually pretty straightforward and generally a lot faster and easier than Windows. Ironically, in my experience, new computer users with no knowledge of computing at all, tend… Read More ►

Update – Dell

This is an update to the Dell OS-free laptop fiasco:- Seems that whilst Dell cannot be bothered to respond to our enquires with regard to buying laptops OS-free, or whether it is prepared to refund customers for unused Microsoft licenses as per Microsoft's EULA, it is however perfectly happy to spam its customers - even those who make it clear they do not wish to be spammed. This is the gem we received from Dell this morning. And yes, it WAS addressed to "Mr ". can't see this email? View it in a browser Add us to your address book… Read More ►
Tux with broken logo

Trying to buy a PC without Windows part 2 – Laptops Direct

This is the second article in a new series of case studies illustrating the difficulty one has purchasing a PC in the UK without being forced to pay a "Microsoft Tax". We use Linux on all our PC's and have done so for several years. Therefore we do not need, nor should we be forced to pay for any Microsoft software licenses. This week we focus on Laptops Direct. Laptops Direct is part of a British-based chain, run by Buy It Direct Ltd. whose sites are mostly registered to an address in Huddersfield:- Unit A, Trident Business Park, Leeds Road. Huddersfield, HD2 1VA, United Kingdom… Read More ►

I want to try Linux, is it best to dual boot? or what?

I always found dual booting is a pain and I'd far rather have removable boot disks that can be sized and optimised for the OS they contain. In the old days when we used to run Windows, I fitted removable boot drives in our servers & desktops and cloned the boot disks so that if things went wrong (spyware invasions, MS updates or service packs that failed etc) it could be fixed in seconds.This meant we could also flirt with Linux in relative safety. We never stored data on the boot disk. So swapping them around was a doddle. However,… Read More ►
Tux with broken Dell t-shirt

Trying to buy a PC without Windows part 1 – Dell UK

This is a new series of case studies illustrating the difficulty one has purchasing a PC in the UK without being forced to pay a "Microsoft Tax". We use Linux on all our PC's and have done so for several years. Therefore we do not need, nor should we be forced to pay for any Microsoft software licenses. We did some research and approached Dell UK to buy some of its rather smart-looking Vostro laptops, OS-free. Now Dell has a reputation for being fairly "penguin-friendly" and that it will build systems to the customer's specification. Moreover, its new Vostro laptops… Read More ►