Category Archives: linux

ebrary Reader in Linux

Here’s a frustrating aspect about ebook technology that is a clear example of technology that does not work and will not be embraced.  Ebrary has a scheme that basically takes the open pdf format and locks it to the browser.  S.R. Ranganathan’s Five Laws of Libraries begins with books are for use, meaning that they shouldn’t be chained to the shelves or kept behind the counter.  ebrary content is chained to the browser and not just any browser.  It is chained to the Windows operating system.  I do give them kudos for finally making FireFox an option, but if you try to use their service on a Linux system here’s what you see:

Linux Plugin Not Available

We have detected that you are attempting to access this book from a Linux-based browser, which is not yet supported by the ebrary Reader.   However this technology is currently under development and is exptected to be made available in the near future.   Please keep checking back on our site on the download page for updates.

Here’s the weird part – on their own website they have instructions for using wine to run the ebrary plugin under Linux.

RUN ebrary Reader in Linux

The short directions

  1. Download and install WINE:sudo apt-get install wine
  2. Download and locally save Firefox for Windows from this location.
  3. Run the Firefox installer under WINE:wine <Firefox_setup.exe>

    This will create an icon on your Linux desktop.

  4. Run Firefox from the new desktop icon.
  5. Download and install the ebrary Reader as prompted on your ebrary channel.



Take an Internet Tablet and call me in the morning.

The Nokia Internet Tablet is just what the doctor ordered. Great piece here that expands on what I said in Poor man’s iPhone pointing to the Nokia Internet Tablet as an open platform for an iPhone-like experience … and more. I have the original version of the tablet, the Nokia 770 which I picked up for just over $100.00. The newer version (Nokia 810) is four times that much, but has GPS, a pull out key board, Skype and much more. I took my N770 on a recent trip instead of my laptop and was amazed that with the free wireless at the hotel I was able to do most of the basic tasks I needed (rss reading, email, downloading and listening to podcasts). I don’t know that this poor man will be investing in the N810 any time soon, but it really is worth looking into.


Name Game

I have been reading Free Software, Free Society: selected essays of Richard M. Stallman to get a better understanding of OSS. In the process, I’ve found a whole new level of understanding (and appreciation) for how OSS came into being and also acknowledging the fine line between idealism and pragmatism.  His work and words test this line often and create much debate in the community.

Stallman founded the FSF (Free Software Foundation) and defines free software as:

Free software is a matter of the users’ freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. More precisely, it refers to four kinds of freedom, for the users of the software:

* The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
* The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
* The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
* The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits (freedom 3). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

There is some disagreement about this term and some in the movement wish to de-emphasize the word “free”. The real problem comes in the ambiguity of the word “free.” Stallman notes this and makes the distinction between free as in “free speech” vs. free as in gratis or “free beer.” Some choose to use the term Open Source Software which emphasized the open source code. This is a minor fissure in the movement as the basic goal remains the same, with a minor difference in terminology. The term F/OSS or FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) is a later introduction as well as FLOSS (Free/Libre/Open-Source Software). I personally prefer this term as it covers all the bases quite well, but the most common term used is OSS and we can read whatever meaning we choose into that term. In fact, the meaning does change as we learn more about it.

Words and thus names are important. Stallman points out that Linux should really be called GNU/Linux because of the contributions of the GNU community. The truth is “Linux”, like “OSS,” is the term which is most commonly used and it may prove futile to change the name that has caught on in an attempt to have it more accurately describe the reality or the idealism behind it.

Anyone who seeks to learn more about OSS will quickly find Stallman’s fingerprints all over it. he arguably started the entire movement. He also created the concept of copyleft and the GPL under which most OSS (or Free Software as Stallman would prefer) is licensed. It could be argued that OSS wouldn’t  exist without this well-though-out concept.  Stallman is also stalwart in his fight against Digital Restriction Management (as he cleverly renames it).

He is definitely acknowledged by the community even though his name and GNU are not as recognized as Linux and Linux Torvalds. It can seem at times that Stallman’s emphasis on words and seemingly credit cloud the true debate about what it means to have software freedom. It may appear that Stallman is worried about brand when he advocates GNU/Linux over Linux and “Free Software” over OSS. While I can understand the arguments for calling free software free, I have more trouble with calling Linux anything other than Linux. What’s odd to me is that the spirit of OSS / FOSS / FLOSS / Free Software / GNU / GNU/Linux / Linux / slash / (get my point?) …. anyway, the community seems to be the point, no monolithic leaders, but a community of developers and users. The brand is less important to those who take the time to learn, but words, names, brands are important sooo….

Here’s my modest proposal: LiGNUx.


And, don’t even ask me HOW to pronounce that!

Update: OK, I should have known this one was way too obvious. Apparently this was suggested over a decade ago (perhaps by Stallman – see footnote on this essay) and has been debated from time to time. There’s even a website with this name.


Give 1, Get 1 starts November 12.

OLPC logoOLPC (One Laptop Per Child) will begin taking orders for the xo laptop starting on November 12 with a nice twist: You pay for two (around $400), one is shipped to you and the other to a needy child in a third world country.

Another interesting news item: EA donates SimCity to OLPC.

I still have mixed feelings about this project, but am increasingly persuaded that it is a good idea to insure that this technology is available. It is really quite amazing that OLPC has been able to create a durable, functional laptop computer though a bit over the original $100 per mark. One major aspect of this being the dependence on OSS and the creation of a unique OS called sugar. The modified RedHat Linux is really quite amazing. You can try it out yourself by downloading the live ISO. As I mentioned in a previous post the OS is really important on a low-end system, and GNU/Linux does this well. This is the same with the Nigerian decisions to purchase Intel Classmate PCs with Mandriva Linux installed instead of Windows. This, despite some last-minute meddling from Microsoft. Add to the ability to run on low-end resources, the ability to customize the Linux OS depending on the use and you have a uniquely pliable system that can fit many uses.


Gettin’ Gutsy (Gibbon, that is)

I have worked with personal computers since the days of DOS. I’ve loaded and upgraded every incarnation of the Windows OS, worked with a number of Mac OS versions and have been tinkering with GNU/Linux for about half that time. That said, I have NEVER seen an upgrade of an OS as smooth as my recent upgrade from Ubuntu Linux 7.4 (Fiesty Fawn) to 7.10 (Gutsy Gibbon). The steps are detailed on the Ubuntu site. And, they are just as easy as shown.

In my case, I was plugging away at my tasks utilizing the multiple desktop feature of Ubuntu which allows you to place different applications on different virtual desktops and switch between them. My update manager popped up with the message that new updates were available. I saw this notice:
image of updates available message box

I clicked on the Upgrade button and continued working on the various applications I had opened. A few times I had to approve some action, but everything downloaded in the background as I worked away. After some time (I really don’t know since I wasn’t keeping track of time) I was notified that updates were complete and after a reboot I was there. I have never seen an easier upgrade. Kudos to the the Ubuntu community.


$199 Green PC (or is it the Google PC?)

How is Walmart able to sell a $199 PC ? I mentioned this briefly in a previous blog. This is a very low end machine, of course (and you will note the monitor is not included)

Hardware Specifications
1.5GHz, VIA C7®-D Processor, 512MB DDR2 533MHz, SDRAM, 80GB Hard Disk Drive, DVD-ROM/D-RW Optical Drive, VIA UniChrome Pro IGP Graphics, Realtek 6-Channel Audio, (1) 10/100 Ethernet Port, (1) DB 15-Pin VGA Port, (6) USB 2.0 Ports, (1) RJ-11 Port, (1) Headphone/Line-Out Port, (2) Microphone/Line-In Ports, (1) Serial Port, (1) Parallel Port, (1) Keyboard, (1) Mouse, (1) Set of Amplified Stereo Speakers


It’s really about the OS

Lower level hardware (though this is a respectable system) does help account for the low price , but a good deal of the savings is in the use of a GNU/Linux OS rather than an MS Windows based OS for two reasons.

  1. The price would increase 50% (or more) with a Windows OS license.
  2. Windows XP would barely run on this low-end system and forget about Windows Vista – it would crawl. It is the OS that really makes this system possible:

gOS screenshot


This $199 PC manufactured by Everex utilizes the gOS (pictured above). (You can even download it yourself and try it .) This is a customized OS based on Ubuntu which uses the enlightenment windows manager. This creates an OS that is lean, fast and designed to run without using a great deal of resources. And speaking of resources, this computer uses less of them from (from the Everex site):


Imagine a computer that averages just 2 Watts of power consumption and operates at a whisper quiet 28dB.

Wow, a Green PC that saves you some green.

Another noteworthy mention is that for this price you also get most of the productivity tools (word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, image editing software etc.) you would have to pay extra for, plus you do not have the added expense of anti-virus and anti-spyware software (nor the time spent fighting these nasty threats.) Check out the user reviews on the Walmart site for some interesting comments.

Update: here’s a great review of gOS .

I downloaded the live iso and played with it a bit and it is definitely Google-centric with links to virtually every Google web-based service out there. It really is quite smooth. I was really impressed that it was as fast as it was running from the cd. This is definitely a very easy interface, one well suited for someone unfamiliar with computers because it is so clear and easy to use.

One comment about the size of the case should be attributed:

Even at the low end, however, image is everything. The gPC is built using tiny components, but put inside a full-size case because research indicates that Wal-Mart shoppers are so unsophisticated they equate physical size with capability.

This from a wired blog.


March of the penguins.

Linux mascotI’ve been interested in OSS and GNU/Linux for many years and wondered (as well as read) often “Is this the year for Linux?” I do think there is a tipping point and we may be quite near it, a quiet momentum that will tip the balance from a proprietary to an OSS world.

I’ve been running dual booting systems for several years now, but Ubuntu has become my preferred OS. I have no desire to switch to Vista. In fact, it seems Vista may be a force contributing to the tipping point. Rupert Goodwins of ZD net UK writes quite nicely about his preference of Ubuntu to Windows:

So here’s the funny thing. I’ve used Windows since 1.0. I’ve lived through the bad times of Windows/386 and ME, and the good times of NT 3.51 and 2K. I know XP if not backwards, then with a degree of familiarity that only middle-aged co-dependents can afford each other. Along the way, I’ve dallied with many other operating systems on many other platforms – but never with Unix and only lately with Linux.

Then how come I’m so much more at home with Ubuntu than Vista? It boils down to one abiding impression: Ubuntu goes out of its way to get out of your way, even if it doesn’t succeed all the time. Vista goes out of its way to be Vista and enforce the Vista way. You must conform regardless of the implications.

But, the real change will come with the mass marketing of GNU/Linux machines. Dell has already started selling systems, and HP and Lenovo(IBM) are following this lead. In fact, HP is a big player in the OSS movement* winning the hearts and dollars of many in OSS movement by providing Linux drivers for their hardware. And here is a fulcrum point of the tipping – hardware support. We live in a world where hardware is made to work with Window and does so with proprietary drivers. When this changes, acceptance of GNU/Linux will grow. Again, new incarnations of Windows which don’t support hardware (esp. the case with Vista) adds weight. Linux actually supports more devices than any other OS and many of those were reverse engineered by those in the community. Big OEM like Dell will force manufacturers to write drivers for Linux.

Recent news:

  • The release of the eeePC from Asus (a sub $400 mini laptop running GNU/Linux)
  • Walmart will start selling a a $198.00 desktop from Everex running GNU/Linux.
  • Google may announce on Monday a linux based mobile phone.
  • *IBM is also a big player in the OSS movement and has contributed greatly.