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 ►

Trying to buy a PC without Windows part 3 – PC World

This is the third 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 report on a visit to our local PC World. PC World's Penguin rating Marks out of five for PC World's customer care. (This is probably higher than it deserves. However all the staff we spoke… Read More ►

My Ubuntu sound system suddenly stopped working. Can I restart it without rebooting?

Sometimes your Ubuntu sound system can stop working. Often this is caused by a media player plugin in your web browser. You might also notice that your computer goes very slowly and that if it is browser-related, then the browser will perform at a snail's pace! As a Linux user, you will no doubt consider rebooting to be a personal failure! It's also annoying if you have loads of apps open, as I usually do. However, restarting the sound system whilst keeping your system alive is actually pretty straightforward. Here's how... 1. You need to find out what sound-based process(es)… Read More ►
Google Chromium logo from the Wikipedia

It’s war!

Two events this week could herald in the clash of the titans as the two global IT giants, Google & Microsoft slug it out for global internet dominance. Or so one might believe. MS started rolling-out its much-hyped Microsoft Online Services (MOS). The new services are scheduled to be available to customers by mid-July 2009. Basically MS is trying to make a series of its applications available on-line. These sit upon the Azure Services Platform, Microsoft' new cloud based OS, intended to rival Google Apps Meantime on 2009-07-07 Google announced its new Linux-based Chrome OS operating system that some believe… Read More ►
Ubuntu-chrome logo

How do you install Google’s Chromium browser on (K)Ubuntu Linux?

Unfortunately the new Google Chromium open source browser is not included in the Ubuntu software repositories yet. Therefore installing it is a little more complex than other Ubuntu applications. But it still takes less than five minutes. Here's how... 1. You need to tell your system to connect to the appropriate software repository. That is, you need to add a line to your /etc/apt/sources.list file similar to this:- deb {your version of Ubuntu} main Where {your version of Ubuntu} could be hardy, intrepid, jaunty or karmic. There are several ways this can be achieved. Probably the simplest and most… Read More ►

What is LAMPP?

LAMPP is an abbreviation for Linux | Apache | MySQL (database) | PHP ((Pretty) Hypertext Pre-processor) | Perl (programming language).Today, many Linux distributions come with Apache, MySQL, PHP, Perl & Python anyway - or they are very easily added from the distributions software repository.If you want to run LAMPP on Windows then a LAMMP package such as XAMPP is a good idea. This is available for free download from the Friends of Apache website. Note: if you use XAMPP be sure to read the security advice on the XAMPP site... Read More ►

Would you use Debian on a desktop or laptop PC?

Yes and no! Debian is great but there are other Linuxes that are easier for the end-user to configure. My current favourite is Ubuntu. In fact if you have an old PC lying around, say a Pentium c/w 256MB or more of RAM and a few GiB of hard disk space then you could do a lot worse than installing Ubuntu on it. I've done this for several friends, who have all found it perfectly adequate, 100% reliable - and totally Micro$oft free! The live CD is particularly nice because you can boot & run Ubuntu from the CD to… Read More ►

Didn’t you use another Linux at one time?

In 1995 our ISP set us up on a server running FreeBSD. Then in 2005 we built our own server, moved to Linux and chose a 'live CD' product based on Debian Linux called Simply Mepis. At the time, if you wanted a quick out-of-the-box solution with a minimum of messing about, I think Mepis was the best of the Linux distributions for the non-nerdy. It had everything you need for a basic user, including which will open & save most Micro$oft office documents. Mepis, like many of the newer Linuxes boasts loads of other nice features too, such… Read More ►

Why is GarNet using Linux?

Our old server ran since 1995 with only a handful of reboots. Needless to say, it was not an M$ Windows machine. It was a FreeBSD box and it served us well. When our ISP said we could build our own server, we had two choices; 1. Windows 2003 Server with IIS (Micro$oft Internet Information Server) or 2. Linux with Apache webserver.M$ software would have cost an arm and a leg, whereas Linux & Apache is free. Thing is that I'm a tight-wad - the sort of guy who buys his shoes from Tescos! Therefore there was no contest here… Read More ►

Joomla 1.5 Bugs

Upgrading from Joomla 1.0 to version 1.5 must be one of the most depressing and frustrating tasks a web developer can undertake. And believe me, it's up against some stiff competition in this context.  Have already spent almost a week converting just one Joomla 1.0 instance to version 1.5. I'm a big Joomla fan but I'm sorry to say that wading through the multitude of Joomla 1.5 bugs, omissions and poor documentation has proven a very depressing and frustrating exercise - especially considering we have several more Joomla instances to convert. TBH, we are starting to wonder whether we should… Read More ►

Is Linux a “disruptive technology”?

If you do a google search for "disruptrive technology" and the word "Linux", you're likely to get over 50,000 hits. Trouble is that many of the articles that appear are quite old, often going back as far as 2001 and further. A lot has happened in the last few years... For a start, today we have very good Linux for desktops. By all accounts desktop Linuxes were pretty crap back in 2001. Windows 5 & 5.1 (2000 & XP) were actually reasonably good products in their day. Besides, the full horror of MS's now infamous security holes, virus vulnerability and… Read More ►

Using VirtualBox to run Windows apps that will not run on WINE

I'm a big fan of WINE and an even bigger fan of CrossoverLinux. This is the commercial implementation of WINE by CodeWeavers. For many Windows apps it works very well indeed. In many ways I prefer it to using a virtual machine (VM) because firstly one does not have to start a VM just to run an application and secondly, Windows apps behave exactly as if they were Linux apps - thus integrating seamlessly into Linux. Here's a list of all the Windows apps I have made run using Crossover:- In fact, I am one of Codeweavers so-called advocates… Read More ►

UK taxpayers can submit tax returns online using open source software

I just completed my UK tax return on-line today. At the end of it all, HMRC (Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs) ask for some feedback. I thought that fans of open source software might be interested in my response:- "This is certainly a great improvement over previous years. It actually saved me a lot of time. It took me a little under three hours from start to finish - though obviously I had already prepared my accounts in my accounts package. I was glad that the old paper-based tax guide calculation form was redundant. That was very time-consuming and error… Read More ►

Backing up using big, cheap hard disks and some nifty Unix tools

We all have our favourite methods of data backup. Certainly DVD is a good archiving and distribution medium. But for routine backup, I look for reliability, low cost, ease of use, high-speed, high capacity and redundancy - so I am not reliant on just one device. One of my favourite methods is a complete off-site dataset consisting of a hotchpotch of USB/eSATA/Firewire disks. Only disadvantage is that they live 20km away and are only updated every couple of weeks. So I keep a further two 1Tb Samsung disks with recent data in my camera rucksack. These are updated daily. Cost… Read More ►