Friday, December 21, 2012

Thoughts about the right tech.

Quote from an unnamed blog:
Probably going to get lambasted for this, but it is something to think about when judging a potential employee. Can a potential employee use what they have or do they need thousands of dollars just to do the simplest thing to get going. Here we will pit a confirmed Microsoft software only advocate versus someone who has at least some familiarity with linux or is willing to try something new and use the systems alloted to them.

In each of two separate rooms on the desk is a Pentium II computer with 128 megs of ram, minimal graphics card, network connection, floppy drive and a 4 gig hard drive. This system will have access to the internet. Also on the desk, are two items. A brand new MSWindows 7 dvd install disk and a gpxe based floppy setup to install linux remotely via the network. The two potential techs are sent to each of the separate rooms to get their computer up and running plus send an email to predefined email address left on a piece of paper also on the desk.

After an hour we hear the Microsoft software only advocate say he or she thew away the floppy as being worthless. Then they go on to complain they did not have a real computer to complete the job. They felt the project was unfair and demeaning. They also said they wanted no part of this type of company.

At the same time, we go over to the other room and find the other applicant working away sending an email as requested in the test. The floppy was put to full use and the MSWindows dvd was left untouched. That applicant in his or her email thanked the company for giving them such an opportunity to be useful.

Which applicant do you think should be offered a position? Which potential employee would you want? You might be also thinking, how can I use Linux to save money in my company?

Quote from an unnamed blog:
I'd do the remote Linux install and send an email message saying that an investment in modern and current computer hardware is a tax deductible item that can be written off against corporate taxes. If they want their next door neighbors son to keep tweaking the system instead of building their business by using the technology tools that are appropriate, I suggest they hire them at minimum wage instead - because you sure as hell know that the company still using a PII system and a cobbled together Linux desktop will not be paying proportionate to the amount of effort to maintain the hardware, let alone the operating system, and office productivity tools required by their staff.
I'd go for the 2nd guy automatically based on your scenario and personal experience. People with degrees seem to act like gods having to have the most expensive tools and such. Meanwhile they accomplish nothing but high costs. The 2nd guy with little experience trying to make due with what's available was able to fulfill the task and thankful for the opportunity. I find the guys with little experience to be more honest and more helpful besides forums such as here. There is 1 computer place I've been to where they actually helped you out & not try to scam you to make a buck.

I don't know what the Microsoft advocate was thinking, old or new I can't think of a system that runs that can't at least send or receive emails. With those specs, your kind of forced to use Linux because you need at least a 1 gig of ram to run Windows 7 for the basic functions.

If I were that Microsoft Advocate, I would have politely said that you need more memory for Win 7 to run at the very least.

That's stupid. It's not a test of ability, it's just a way to piss off the people who don't know anything about linux. If it was a test of ability, there'd be no Win7 DVD.

If you want a linux guy, hire a linux guy. If you want a Windows guy, hire a Windows guy. Knowing linux does not make a tech better or worse - it's just that many people who know linux have a wider range of experience. But that's not a rule either, there are plenty of linux folks who have buried themselves so far into it that they are practically helpless on Windows or Mac OS.

The real trick to hiring someone good is to NOT ACCEPT BAD CANDIDATES. Have high standards. It's easy to tell a good tech from a bad one if you're already a good tech. If the applicant pool sucks, start again, don't just hire the least crappy person.

I'd have to agree with the last comment. It's a test biased toward linux experience not innate technical ability.

If you want someone with experience with a specific OS then don't play games. Be specific and concrete in your job requirements.

If you want someone who is flexible and can adapt to changing conditions, then place various systems in the room with planted failures in hardware, software, or both and let them resolve it. If it's a software development job, then use their bonefides and fire them if they lie or inflate their resume. IMO there's also be ground for civil action for falsifying their application.

The test maybe be biased, but I don't think it's designed to piss people off who don't know Linux. Yeah, I'm sure it will happen. If the 1st guy were more polite & forthcoming with why Win 7 wouldn't work, I think that goes just as far as completing the task. I would probably give him or her a chance then.

It is a test, I'm sure there's more to it than what's on the surface.

The test had nothing to do with hardware/software we vs them, the test was about the ability to adapt, Both the software and the hardware did well. Personally I would not suggest to hire someone with only one OS skill. Could be that if both Linux and Microsoft were gone (i doubt it), I would want the person who could adapt the best if something new did come along no matter what it is. Ironically, from what I have heard is that MS is going back to a real command line on the servers with gui also as a choice. They finally admit the gui servers are bloated.

You can use high end machines without using MS. It is a shame that most people do not know that. Never been a fan of any os that you have to pay for the sane thing all over again virtually once a year. I remember a version of windows 3.x that touted MS would support you forever and you would be free from upgrade costs., Like that happened.

I know someone with a masters degree in CS, but I would not let them work on my machine.I do applaud them for trying to learn how to use systems in the real world. Then again I know people with degrees in CS that could probably write software to get a rocket to the moon, but they did not have the first sense about how to do word processing or spreadsheets.

I have no use for MS only certified people. All they have done is memorize a book. We had one highly recommended ITT tech graduate come in. He was asked to point at at a ram chip. He pointed at the cpu. I have seen computer wizards that could hack anything, but to set up a working network was another issue. I have a college degree, but I came up through the school of hard knocks learning about computers. I think I can hold my own. Prefer people like me. They usually have a bit more common sense.

I have no use for MS only certified people. All they have done is memorize a book. We had one highly recommended ITT tech graduate come in. He was asked to point at at a tam chip. He pointed at the cpu.
So, all those brilliant Linux people out there ... where did they get their knowledge? Memorise a man file? Ask a forum? Learning is learning. I think you might be confusing acquisition of knowledge with application of knowledge ... and I have met just as many clueless people spouting off on the benefits of open source software.

I'm guessing you are the guy that drives your 1992 Crown Victoria into the mechanic with a hole in the muffler and tells the mechanic that you think it might be the carburetor.

Seriously? A TAM chip?? With TAM functionality being built into BIOS and CPUs (especially with consolidation of chips into SoC designs), pointing to the CPU would probably be right most of the time for modern motherboards.

I'm in a situation similar to the only knowing one OS predicament.

I'm CCNA certified and all I know is Cisco IOS. Throw me in front of JUNOS and I'm lost. Although with networking all you pretty much have to know are the principles and the configs can be googled and torrented. Fortunately most businesses use cisco although for how long is seriously under question.

Now would you spend your finite amount of time learning a skill that is only employable in about 20 percent of the market or learn one that is employable in about 80 percent of the market? You can either be mediocre at 2 things or be good at 1.

So, all those brilliant Linux people out there ... where did they get their knowledge? Memorize a man file? Ask a forum? Learning is learning. I think you might be confusing acquisition of knowledge with application of knowledge ... and I have met just as many clueless people spouting off on the benefits of open source software.

I'm guessing you are the guy that drives your 1992 Crown Victoria into the mechanic with a hole in the muffler and tells the mechanic that you think it might be the carburetor.

tam s/b ram. Typing with my eyes closed again. Actually do have a diploma in auto mechanics. I would not have that car. For people who have more diversity than just MS do pretty well. Like I said before, I prefer not to consider single disciplined individuals, no matter what it is.. It seems you have a mental block against open source and their patrons. I spent quite a few years in the MS world. I earned my bones. Now I want something better.

If you really know a subject, you should be able o transfer the knowledge fairly easily. Just knowing the syntax is know knowing a system, but it sure helps to know it though.. That is a hard pill to swallow for some people. I would like to get up to date on hardware, The ironic part is well still have the same basic parts of the computer system. That has never really changed.

Like a browser with a spell checker?
Yes, pointing out the RAM is valid, and important. Asking for the TAM is just plain stupid.

My comment on the car was pointing out (by analogy) that asking for the TAM was esoteric, and irrelevant to the problem at hand.

The Crown Vic is (was) a bomb proof car. There is a reason it was the choice of taxi fleets and law enforcement for decades. Like the computers you tend to prefer, they keep chugging along. The 92 Vic was also the first to ditch the carb, and go EFI.

I have no mental block against open source or their patrons, just the zealots. Like a republican/democrat political debate, the left wing free as in beer crowd are just as crazy as the right "its MS or nothing" folks.

The right person to hire is the one that chooses the appropriate tool for the job.

I was in a meeting today talking about a project I'll be working on for a large manufacturer of <things I can't really talk about>. There is a ton of data they want analyzed. As a management team, their tool of choice is Excel. I don't have a problem with that and I will present the results to them in Excel (I'll be using a Mac, they are on Windows7, but that make no difference either), but I'll be doing the complex analysis using a combination of the MySQL as the data store, Java, and a number of open source text mining libraries. I'll pull the manipulated results into Excel via ODBC so they can then play with the numbers how they feel fit (Excel is a tool they all know and use ... so its appropriate).

The test maybe be biased, but I don't think it's designed to piss people off who don't know Linux. Yeah, I'm sure it will happen. If the 1st guy were more polite & forthcoming with why Win 7 wouldn't work, I think that goes just as far as completing the task. I would probably give him or her a chance then.

It is a test, I'm sure there's more to it than what's on the surface.
Good answer.

Default Knowledge!
it not a test of ability, but knowledge. one needs to know what the hadware can and cant do with the giving software and os! as far as ability, i don't know terminal well in linux or batch either in windows, knowledge is part of ones ability.

Note: To be fair Microsoft does have RIS (Remote install boot) which is similar to pxeboot, I am surprised it was not even mentioned. Though W7 probably would not run on a pentium II.

Update: I stand corrected:,8110.html#

Santa's Workshop.

's workshop is putting another old pc back to work with or linux for someone.

Installed Tinycore linux.

Many networking systems such as firewalls and routers run some type of Bsd. Even the mac osx traditionally has been run on bsd underneath. Rumor has it though ios will replace the current format. Installed Openbsd on a system I call a Pentium 1.5. It was the AMD Socket 7 upgrade to the traditional Pentium 1.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Twas the night before Christmas.

“The Night Before Christmas”

(with apologies to Clement Clarke Moore, whose “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” is now in the public domain)

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and in my home office
Not a creature was stirring, not even my mouse;
The code strings were hung by the mind’s eye with care,
In hopes that St. Linux soon would be there;

My staff were all snuggled quite still in their beds,
And visions of run-times danced in their heads;
While my wife’s RSS reader, and I done with News,
Had just settled down for a long winter’s snooze,

When back of my screensaver there arose such a clatter,
I ran to the office to see what was the matter.
Re-booting my old slow PC from c: drive,
I waited for Windows’ trusty home screen to arrive.

The glow from my screen on my new-woken eyes
Gave a sparkle of mid-day to icons, any size,
When, what to my wondering ears should appear,
But the sound of a server, now wasn’t that queer?

And a man lounged behind, whom I knew would be kind to us
I knew in a moment it must be St. Linux.
With no error messages his programs he ran through,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

“Now, Hadoop! now, WordPress! now, Handbrake and Pidgin!
On, Ubuntu! Mozilla! Apache and Tizen!
From the top of the cloud! For the thrill of it all
Now run Sudo! Run Sudo! Run Sudo all!”

As errors that line up in queues to be fixed
They ran on my system and their data got mixed
So up to my my menu the cursors they flew,
With his arms full of software, and St. Linus there too.

And there, laid before me
All downloaded, serene
I saw them all running right there on my screen
As St. Linus himself let his visage be seen.

He was dressed in a polo, with his hair all a-flutter
I thought he might speak, or at least he might stutter
A flash drive he had on a lanyard round his neck
And he looked like a friend I’d once roused from my deck.

His eyes — how they smiled! his cheeks were so merry!
His manner as calm as a child picking berries!
His whole warm wry face held the warmth of a glow,
That I knew from my own life meant his code made him glow.

The remains of his coffee I could smell on his breath,
And the warmth of it circled us both like a wreath;
He had a broad face and just the hint of a belly,
That put me in mind of a croissant with jelly.

He was pleasant, polite, a right jolly young elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink from his eye and a twist of the drive ,
Soon gave me to know I would nothing but thrive;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
He loaded my hard drive, then turned with a smirk,
And looking around once more, not to linger
He left me right then, by just moving his finger

He returned to his server, to his software he whistled,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,

Monday, December 17, 2012

What's reasonable?

Was watching The Today Show and they had a segment where Microsoft was going to help out some schools and their computer educational programs with a free gifts of MSWindows 8. With articles like makes me wonder what MSFT is really up to. After a year, the school systems will probably have to start paying for licensing (also known as the Microsoft tax). So the MSWindows 8 will put the school systems possibly even in a worse situation.  To add insult to injury, if the school system can not pay for software, they probably have not updated their equipment recently. So to run the so-called free MSWindows 8, the school system already stretched for money will have to spend a whole lot of money to upgrade their computer equipment just to install and run MSWindows 8.  So how is that a bargain?

Enter open source....  In fact, one such free operating system that predates linux by about 10 years is BSD. BSD carries the same heritage of other fine versons of Unix software.  Like linux, BSD depending on the flavor, supports several hardware platforms including some of the old Apple Macs. That is important because you do not have to have the latest equipment to run the latest version of the operating system. Even major flavors linux are starting to fade away some of the systems they support.   Having worked at the college level as a computer tech, I can not tell you how much perfectly good equipment I saw go to auction and sold for pennies on the dollar, What a waste of taxpayer monies because the school system fell under the blinders of using proprietary software from the likes of Microsoft. Since leaving that position, they have now started to use open source for at least the school's web server. Later they did teach linux via virtual machines though. I setup the very first linux lab using the original Redhat desktop linux via dual boot systems.  As I said now everything is done with virtual machines from a main server,

The web server used software so the school can have a presence on the internet, just like the site you are using now. In particular, I understand they are allegedly using what is known as a lamp stack, (Linux (os), Apache (web server), Mysql (database or filing cabinet), and PHP Command language)). In fact you can go to to see what webserver software is run to serve out web pages. Many fine schools use the amp stack or the like such as Here is the netcraft page of what they are running, Certainly they are using powerful computing equipment to run that site.

Now let's say you wanted to teach students about how to set up web sites. You need systems that can run the software in a lab environment. You want to have the same software be up to date, secure, and be low cost. Actually you can get the software for free! We said that BSD was one operating system that can run on a variety of platforms especially legacy equipment. Here is is a web page from a system that is running the Apache web server software. The same system could also easily could run the Apache, mysql, and PHP software. Just what you need in the student lab for students to learn about web serving! For that matter you could even teach yourself about how web servers work, You can have your own private web server on your home network.

Can you guess what type of computing hardware the software is running on? It is definitely using OPENBSD 5.2 (the latest version available) operating system.  Take a guess..  Maybe a multicore 64 bit cpu that could cost thousands of dollars, Actually it is not. The system running the web server is an old pentium one (200 mhz with 128meg of ram with a 4 gig notebook hard drive (could have easily used compact flash or the like) from the 1990's. That is ancient history in terms of computer systems. Most IT administrators would suggest that the hardware is highly likely for failure and needs to be replaced. That is something I would agree with. The ironic part to that is where I worked we had the latest equipment for the computer labs and at that time the latest systems were dying like flies. That caused a tremendous amount of down time labor to replace parts in thousands of machines.  So what did the new equipment that should have run without issues give us. A lot more headache more than that of the equipment they replaced.  The new equipment we used came from a major computer maker.. For personal reasons, I will not divulge the makers of the equipment.

Openbsd can be downloaded for free from a variety of  website mirrors. You can get an install cd or even just three floppy disks to install the server with help from the internet, This can be all done in minutes. The basic web server software is installed by default. Once you have the system up an running, you can operate the the system without a monitor or headless and access it remotely via the secure shell (ssh). On my network I ran just a couple of shell files to see where the server was, the computer at was the web server because I knew what the addresses of the other equipment was. Then confirming the computer name via a dns lookup. Notice the BSD in the name of the machine was a big hint.

64 bytes from icmp_req=1 ttl=64 time=0.556 ms
64 bytes from icmp_req=1 ttl=255 time=0.421 ms
64 bytes from icmp_req=1 ttl=64 time=0.082 ms
$    name = softserv.    name = router2.    name = router3.    name = oesrvr1.    name = printerland.    name = oeorgan01.    name = oeobsd01.  <<<<<<<<<<<<<<    name = oedt01.    name = oesrvr3.    name = chumbino.    name = typo1.    name = oemsrvr01.    name = texttop.    name = amd800.    name = oeraspberrypi.

Then all I needed to do was remotely log into the web server and start the software. Also needed to set the software to start automatically, but that is easy. To make a long story short, you can use an older piece of equipment for vurtually free to use the latest software to teach yourself about web servers!!!  Be honest, someone you know has one of those old systems in the closet that could be put back to work.

$ ssh
eddie@'s password:
Last login: Sat Dec 15 18:51:25 2012 from oedt01
OpenBSD 5.2 (GENERIC) #278: Wed Aug  1 10:04:16 MDT 2012

Welcome to OpenBSD: The proactively secure Unix-like operating system.

Please use the sendbug(1) utility to report bugs in the system.
Before reporting a bug, please try to reproduce it with the latest
version of the code.  With bug reports, please try to ensure that
enough information to reproduce the problem is enclosed, and if a
known fix for it exists, include that as well.

$ sudo /usr/sbin/apachectl start

We trust you have received the usual lecture from the local System
Administrator. It usually boils down to these three things:

    #1) Respect the privacy of others.
    #2) Think before you type.
    #3) With great power comes great responsibility.

/usr/sbin/apachectl start: httpd started

What you need to learn more about computing maybe in a closet near you! Sounds reasonable to me!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Banner year for Linux!

What a banner year for Linux and it's derivatives. The computer landscape has changed.

And in other news...

Linux Torvalds the creator of linux dropped linux support for the old i386. Not a big deal. Probably use free dos and opengem if I had to use one of those units anyway.

People sometimes ask me what linux distro I use. Underneath the hood they are all basically the same. Thought I do use Debian the most as it is uniform over different hardware platforms. I.E. Arm, X86, X86_64 and etc.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Microsoft Prices going up?

Several media entities are exclaiming the Microsoft server and Cals are going up in price. Linux vendors must be happy about that. Should be easier to sell Linux instead of Microsoft to current and future clients.  Traditionally with Microsoft, you just can not get one product to act as a server. You really have to buy several packages to have working servers. That means if you use Microsoft, you will feel the price increase several times.

What really bugs me is Cals or customer access licenses, you are charged extra to access your own server for each client system you have. Why are you paying additional costs to access your own server. It's not their server. Should that not be included in the server costs. With the new server software, you will probably have to buy all new hardware to be able to use the new software to boot. If you use Non-microsoft products to also access the server, you will have to pay for an access license for each on of those devices. AKA the Microsoft Tax.

That those are no the only costs. If you use the Office products, not only do you have to pay for them, but last I heard you also have to have what is known as Backoffice licenses.  Again you are paying twice for the same product.

In the linux world, you are paying more for support than for the software. Redhat has what is called subscriptions when you need professional support. We use Centos, Debian, and several other versions for both servers and clients systems. Software cost: $0 because we can support the systems mostly by ourselves. We do pay for support  when needed. Still a far cry less than if we used Microsoft.

What I might have to pay if using Microsoft.

Microsoft:  Amounts may or may not be accurate Check with a Microsoft dealer for sure). In house IT costs not included.

Small business server: $3000  (4 servers @$750 each)
Server addons:               2000

subotal                           5000
(30 users)
Mswindows ($50 each) 1500
Office      ($50  each       1500
BO           ($25 each)        750
CAl          ($15 each)        450
Total                             $9200

That is not including the costs of new equipment you may need.

How many  small businesses would want to pay that.

Linux  ( In house IT costs not included.)

Server costs     $     0
Libreoffice               0
Linux distro            0
other licenses         0
Support costs    1000 (if that)
Total                  $1000

It's your choice.......

New wifi networking

There is a new way of wifi networking that will allow you to have wireless nodes as a network backbone to replace a repeater network.The mesh networking has become popular in Austin, Texas and is spreading like wildfire. Another way people can become their own isp.  For example ,say you have several houses or homes that you want to connect. You will not have to run any cabling between the units. All you need is a router that can run the Hsmm-mesh (tm) firmware. The network is a variation on ham packet radio. The original intention was to have a free network where anyone can become a node. You can do a little specialization if you want it to be at least a little bit private via the ssid.

Several homes or locations do not have to be next to each other, but the participating units have to have standard routers that have the hsmm-mesh software installed.  You can tie the routers together, by using traditional repeaters, but if the main router goes down, so does the network. With hsmm-mesh. all the units are independent and operate on their own. This much more robust and less prone to failure.

When the hsmm-routers are fitted with the firmware, they no longer act as a tradtitional router. So I recommend using a firewall or a tradtional router to isolate your local network from the backbone of the mesh. For more information see:

Note: with licensed operations and licensed transmitters, you should be able to connect anywhere where there is a compaible network.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

MSWindows 8 sales not spectular.

According to sources, Microsoft Windows 8 is not selling like they would prefer. Everyone is pointing the finger at everyone else. Mr. Sinofsky who was allegedly in charge of the project at Microsoft said he left of his own accord. In any respect, it seems as if Mr. Ballmer is using Mr. Sinofsky as a scapegoat per various articles on the internet. Definitely hardware manufacturers are refusing to be the scape goat also.

Personally, I think there are other reasons for the slack sales of MSWindows 8. With a restricted economy, many people and companies are using existing equipment and software. Linux has also allowed the continued use of existing equipment thereby lessening the need for purchasing new equipment with a newer operating system.  The price of MSWindows 8 equipment and operating system is not price compatible with the economy. The systems may be worth the proud price they command, but "it's not for our budget" is what is said most often.

Secondly, there is a large reluctance to use the new MSWindows 8 interface. For those who are forced to use MSWindows 8, many of them are converting back to the old interface for user compatibility reasons. The same reluctance to use the type of limited interface has also hit a stumbling block in the linux community. People just do not want Mickey Mouse setups. After the flop of Microsoft Windows Vista that caused users so much headache, Many users are reluctant to upgrade to a new system, Especially MSWindows 8 that does not have a proven interface. There is also quite a lack of compatibility with older software applications. 

Thirdly, the use of the "secure boot" aka uefi has businesses and users afraid the use of their efi based equipment could be greatly limited by unregulated external control and or interference from biased third parties. Secure boot was developed allegedly to stop unauthorized software to be executed on systems (aka viruses and the like). Ironically at this point in time Linux, BSD, and the like do not have the problem that Microsoft software has. So the secure boot is more of a hindrance. Microsoft refuses to accept to take responsibility to write secure code and they prefer to use a quick fix that is not really acceptable by true computing professionals. The uefi is killing hardware sales, not the economy..

Have seen highly discounted laptops with MSWindows 8 for under $170 US, Those are allegedly selling well. Microsoft needs to admit the MSWindows 8 is an Edsel. Many people (especially independent stockholders) are calling for the ousting of Mr, Ballmer. Could that be the real change that needs to be for Microsoft to be a driving force again? We quit using Microsoft over five years ago and have not looked back. Would not use Microsoft products even if they were free.

Per wikipedia "Where do you want to go today?” was the title of Microsoft’s first global image advertising campaign." Today is has been. It's where do you want to go to tomorrow. Microsoft has not had a real new idea it seems like in forever. Caveat emptor.

Linux Mint Nadia (14.1)

The new Linux mint Nadia  (14.1) allegedly now supports the EFI or secure boot of the latest Intel motherboards. Great for linux users who have been reluctant to upgrade equipment per:

The latest update also should resolve the major issues of 14.0. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ubuntu angers the linux community.

The linux community has been in an uproar over the alleged Ubuntu (Canonical) joint setup with Amazon to search Amazon on local searches that could invade your privacy. ( Data coming back from the searches could easily be hijacked by man-in-the-middle and similar internet attacks. You would also be inundated with advertisements even with simple file searches.  What really irks the community is that if you installed Ubuntu 12.10, you were not warned and did not have an option to opt out. Most linux users believe it should be an opt-in not opt-out setup. This is pushing linux users to use other distros or variations of linux particularly Mint linux.   Ironically the Ubuntu server has had that same issue with the landscape software, so every upgrade you have to un-install it.

The software known as unity-lens-shopping is in the default unity desktop interface. If you use a different desktop such as KDE, you are allegedly not affected. Many long time users balked over the Unity desktop interface as being hard to use. To me it makes me think of a George Jetson R.U.D.I. (Referential Universal Digital Indexer) operating system.  Sort of a new trend in desktops.  In any case, Canonical took the view sort of (Do not you still trust us attitude.) This irked the community even more. Allegedly future versions of Ubuntu are suppose to allegedly remedy the issues.

How do you disable the software?  You can use the command line with:

$ sudo apt-get remove unity-lens-shopping

or a better choice might be:

$ sudo apt-get purge unity-lens-shopping

 You can also disable the software by changing your privacy settings.

You can also disable access to the site by using the hosts file as we discussed in an earlier article about host files. In your hosts file put:

And lastly change your desktop to Gnome, KDE, or many others available. Hopefully the issue can be resolved  and Ubuntu aka Canonical will not do such an M$ action in the future.

 Per, beware of Microsoft doing the same thing with MSWindows 8.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Disaster survival sort of.

Just a couple of instructables, that could help in a disaster situation.

Coffee maker pasta:

Use a computer without a hard drive:

Computer network without a hard drive:

More later...

Friday, October 26, 2012

Microsoft Windows 8 shortcuts.

MSW 8 shortcuts. (subject to change at any time. use at your own risk).

1. Getting around Windows 8 Start Screen and Desktop
Win Toggle between Desktop and Start Screen (or open Apps)
Ctrl+Tab On Start Screen: Switch Between Start Window and All Apps Window
Win, then Ctrl+Tab Open All Apps Window
Win, then start typing App Name Search and execute Apps
Escape Close Start Screen and go to Desktop
Win+E Run Explorer on Desktop
Win+R Execute Run on Desktop
Win+X Open Power User Commands on Desktop
Alt+F4 Shutdown Windows
Win+L Lock Computer
Win+F1 Open Windows Help
▲ up
minus2. Windows 8 Charme Shortcuts
Tip: Pressing Escape typically closes most Charme menus.
Win+C Open Windows Charme. Use arrow keys and enter to select item. Press
Win+Q Search Charme / last search option
Win+F Search Files
Win+W Search Windows Settings
Win+I Open Settings including Desktop, Control Panel, Personalization, PC Info, Help
Win+H Share Charme
Win+K Device Charme
Win+S Search Settings
Win+F Search Files
Win+Z Show Options / App Bar in current Metro Apps if available.
▲ up
minus3. Switch between Apps and Windows
Alt+Tab and Alt+Shift+Tab Cycle between all Windows and Apps. Press and hold Alt key before pressing Tab. Release Tab on Window/App you want to open. While tabbing, add Shift to key combination to go backwards.
Ctrl+Alt+Tab then Arrow Keys Cycle between open Apps without having to keep Alt pressed. Press keys once, then use Arrow keys and Enter to select Window/App.
Win+Tab and Win+Shift+Tab Same as Alt+Tab, but only includes Apps only, not Windows on Desktop
Ctrl+Win+Tab, then Arrow keys Same as Ctrl+Alt+Tab, but only includes Apps, not Desktop Windows
▲ up
minus4. Power User Commands Shortcuts
These are also listed in the Power User Command Window. Sorted by their (subjective) importance.
Win+X, P Control Panel
Win+X, T Task Manager
Win+X, E File Explorer (alternative: Win+e)
Win+X, R Run (alternative: Win+r)
Win+X, D Desktop (alternative: Win+d)
Win+X, F Programs and Features
Win+X, C Command Prompt
Win+X, A Elevated Command Prompt (Admin)
Win+X, Y System Information
Win+X, M Device Manager
Win+X, G Computer Management
Win+X, B Mobility Center
Win+X, O Power Options
Win+X, V Event Viewer
Win+X, K Disk Management
Win+X, S Search
▲ up
minus5. Managing Windows 8 Desktop Windows
Win Go to desktop / switch between Desktop and Start Screen or Apps
Win+Arrow Up Maximize Window across screen
Win+Arrow Down Minimize Window (if Restored) or set Window to Restored (if Maximized)
Win+Shift+Arrow Up Maximixe Window vertically
Win+Arrow Right/Arrow Left Move Window to left/center/right. Works across multiple monitors
Win+Shift+Arrow Right/ Arrow Left" Move window to left monitor / to right monitor when using multiple monitors
Alt+Space Opens the title bar menu
F11 Turn full page view on or off
Alt+Q Close Window
▲ up
minus6. Windows 8 Taskbar
Win+T Go to first item in Taskbar, continue with arrow keys
Win+B Go to first item in System Tray
Shift+click on a taskbar item Start new instance of Taskbar item
Ctrl+Shift+click on a taskbar item Start new instance of Taskbar item as administrator
Shift+right-click on a taskbar item Show the window menu for the program
Win+1...9 Switch to application in position N on Taskbar (or launch pinned application)
Shift+Win+1...9 Start new instance of taskbar item in position N on Taskbar
Unfortunately, Microsoft removed the possibility to select multiple taskbar items in Windows 7 (and did still not re-introduce in Windows 8)
▲ up
minus7. Navigating Desktop
Arrow Keys Navigate between and select single icons on desktop (when focus is on the desktop)
Home/End Select first / select last object on desktop
Enter Launch active object
Shift+F10 Activate context menu of active icon by simulates right mouse button. Once in the context menu use arrow keys, a-z and enter to select item
Tab, Shift+Tab on empty desktop Navigate between desktop, the quick-launch bar, task bar and notification bar. Then use arrow keys and enter or space to activate specific icons
A, B, C, ... Pressing the initial letter of the name of any objects will highlight the respective application or folder. Continue typing the object name if multiple objects start with the same letter
▲ up
minus8. Windows Explorer
Win+E Start Windows Explorer
Alt+Arrow Up Go up one folder
Alt+Arrow Left/ Alt+Arrow Right Go to previous folder / go to next folder
Tab/Shift+Tab Switch focus forward/ backward between Address bar, Search Bar, Toolbar, Navigation Pane, and File List (Default is usually File List)
Alt+D or F4 Jump to the Address bar and select absolute address. Copy address with ctrl+c if desired
Ctrl+E or Ctrl+F Jump to Search Box in Explorer
Ctrl+N Open new instance of Windows Explorer
F11 Toggle full-screen mode
minusNavigate File List and Navigation Pane
Arrow Keys Navigate between files and folders
Enter Open folder or start application
Home/End Jump to first / jump to last item
F2 Change the file name of active item
F2, then Arrow Left/ Arrow Right Move one character to the left / to the right in item name
F2, then Ctrl+ Arrow Left/Arrow Right Jump one word to the left / to the right of item name
F2, then Home /End Jump to beginning / jump to end of item name
F2, then Ctrl+A Select all/ complete object name including suffix (default excludes suffix)
Arrow Left/Arrow Right Expand folder / collapse folder (navigation pane only)
minusFile List Views
Alt+P Display or hide Preview Pane
Alt+V then D View details. Check View menu for more options
Alt+V then X View extra-large icons. Check View menu for more options
Ctrl+mouse scroll wheel Change size of icons
minusSelect Items in File List and Navigation Pane
Shift+Arrow Up/ Arrow Down Select multiple adjacent items (directly above or below)
Ctrl with Arrow keys and Space Select multiple non-adjacent items. Hold ctrl, use arrow keys to move to next item, and press space to add/remove from selection
Ctrl+A Select all
A ...Z and 1..9 Press the initial letter any item to jump to it. Continue typing the full name if multiple items start with the same letter
minusManage Items in Explorer
Ctrl+C, ctrl+X, ctrl+V Copy, Cut, Paste
Ctrl+Z Undo an action
Ctrl+Y Redo an action
Delete Delete an item and place it into the Recycle Bin
Shift+Delete Delete an item permanently without placing it into the Recycle Bin
Shift+F10 Activate context menu of active object. Replaces the right mouse button. Once in the context menu use arrow keys, a-z and enter to get to the selection
Ctrl+Shift+N Create new folder
Alt+Enter Open Properties dialog box
▲ up
minus9. The Rest
Win+U Open Ease of Access Center
Win+P Projector or second screen settings.
Alt+Shift Change keyboard language layout if multiple language layouts are active*

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Raspberry Pi - jack of all trades.

In an earlier post I talked about what I wanted to use as a media streamer. The Raspberry Pi came to the forefront. As the title states the RPi (Raspberry Pi for short) with a change of memory card can be all kinds of computing devices. XMBC was originally developed for the original Microsoft Xbox. Later it was developed for other platforms Including Linux. As the RPi came along as an SBC (Single Board Computer), it was ripe for being added as an XMBC derivative. Installation is quick and easy.

Not only does the RPi have HDMI (the new Video interface), it also has composite out for being compatible with legacy systems. In our case we are able to interface the RPi to a DVD player. Since the Rpi a little bit larger than credit card size, that makes it perfectly able to become a portable system with the DVD player.   Just for being a media player makes it worth its thirty five dollars (plus shipping).

The RPI has other uses. The first as a desktop computer.  You can do light business applications and even a few games. Featuring the LXDE interface, traditional MSWindows users should feel right at home using the gui  environment. You probably want something better than a DVD player as a monitor, but it is definitely usable. The Debian Linux operating system has thousands of programs (depending on space) that you can easily download and install for free! So there is no shortage of software to start with like most new systems. You can even develop your own software.

The last feature I would like to discuss is that you can use the RPi as a variety of servers. Like most servers, the RPi will run headless (without a monitor). That means you can access the unit remotely from the computer you normally use, Saves electricity costs not having to use a monitor on the unit. Some people have said the Rpi only uses a few watts anyway!! One of the most popular uses is a web server. Setting up the web server is a easy as choosing an option from a menu instead of typing in lots of cryptic commands. Another words, you can have your own mini-web on your own network. What kinds of things can you do?  See:

The Rpi could also be used as a low cost hub of a home automation system. There are so many possibilities, I can not even touch all or even a portion of them in this short article. What else can you do with the other media streamers on the market?

Also see:

We have taught the Raspberry Pi to speak. Awesome for some Halloween animatronics. We also have since added web server software for a sort of a family blog. A replacement for the refrigerator magnets and all the notes. See:

Inexpensive LTSP client.
You can use your Raspberry pi as a thin client for the ltsp server (see: it does not support etherwake though yet. I used an older version for testing and it connected to an Ubuntu 10.04 ltsp server.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Twitter RSS url feed can’t be read.

Twitter RSS url feed can’t be read… >>  FIX
Quick Note: This was working in early October 2012, but due to twitter stopping support for RSS feed, can’t guarantee it will work forever.  Our twitter RSS feed was that it suddenly stopped working. So after searching around on the web… here is the solution we found.

If you have used:

You now need to use:

Friday, September 28, 2012

What's on your network?

Ever wanted to know what is on your network graphically? There is a program that works on most platforms that support the java gui. Your best chance to document your home network. The program is jNetMap. The java version seems a lot more stable now. You can find it on You can start up the the program very easily from the command line with (if you have java installed):

$ java -jar jNetMap.jar


C:\> java -jar jNetMap.jar

The instructable:
has more information also.

Once you run the software on your network and scan for devices, you can get a roadmap of what is there. What is really neat about it is, you can see what devices are up or down on the network and it makes trouble shooting easier. You can also see rogue devices on the network also that need to be investigated.

You can use the mouse to move all the icons around to make the map more readable. You can even add notes to define where equipment is.  Green lines suggest a good connection. Red and yellow lines indicate problems. In the case of Test_server, it is not even connected to the network, but we include it the map so that we know we have the hardware.

Here is another snapshot after I shut down a few systems.  You almost look like you have a live picture of the network. You can impress your friends of how you do systems administration. Run the program (with permission) over at someone else's place and see what you get.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Change your password.

Years ago before the internet, all communication was done over phone lines. You had to have a device that would allow your computing equipment to talk to each other such as a modem. Say a finance company employee would dial up the credit bureau computer, wait for a modem tone and then place the headset into what was known as an acoustic coupler (early version of a dumb modem aka modulator/demodulator unit).  Once connected the employee could type characters on a teletype device that was connected to the phone line for a name and password. Then to eventually get information about potential customers (i.e pull a credit bureau).

The teletype machine had many fancy looking character keys on the keyboard. So that typing in the user name and password would seem very complicated. Computers only deal with ones and zeros. So the teletype machine had to translate when a key was pressed into a number that could be sent over the modem. At the time there was sort of a standard known as ASCII (American standard code for information interchange).  See for an example.  That means if you typed and upper case "A",  the number 65 would be sent to the credit bureau.  Actually the number 01000001 or sixty-five in binary would be sent and then translated at the other end as an "A".  The same sort of sequence would happen even when the funny characters were sent from the keyboard.

Sales of the special teletype and it's keyboard were regulated. One would think that unless you had that keyboard with those funny characters  that no one could log into the credit bureau and pull information with or without permission. There seemed to be a false sense of security with that particular system. Normally, the teletype machines came with a manual that explained what numbers were being sent when a key was pressed. You could get the manuals through other means, Sometimes this was known as a ascii code table or list. The technology was so new it was thought that no one could repeat the process. The credit bureau computers did not care what characters (aka ones and zeroes) they received as long as they were the right ones for the logon to their system.

About the same time, home computers came along. They had keyboards too, but without the fancy keys. One would think that connecting to the credit bureau via modem from a home computer would not allow the credit bureau to be accessed. Actually, you could program the computer to send the right ones and zeroes if you knew the ascii codes from the teletype manual and the actual login and passwords.  If your teletype machine went down, you had a way for access without the need for the teletype machine. Back then, no one ever really changed passwords even if an employee left a business such as the finance company.  So an unscrupulous former employee could also access the credit bureau on their own with a home computer properly set up. Not good.

With today's internet, the same kind of situation can arise with change of employee leaving a company for whatever reason or even  someone monitoring a company's communications for logins and passwords can get the information they need to do illegal acts.  Just because the technology is new does not mean it can not be duplicated in some way. You can do what is known as encryption to help keep logins and passwords secure. Also some companies use what is known as multiple authentication to aid communication security. The most important way is to change logins and passwords regularly to keep systems secure. Some companies require change of passwords on a regular basis. 

Having done tech support for many years, I know that many employees do not want to bother with passwords much less logins at all. So having to change passwords at a regular interval is like a blasphemy to them. You have to instill the need for security with articles like this to raise their awareness of the issues to prevent problems. Cyberwars ( on both business and personal computer systems is a reality we can not ignore. Change the passwords........

Not advocating this in any shape or form. For informational purposes only to know what some one is up against. Note: This video was deleted....

Home media streamers.

Home media streaming devices are available everywhere from about fifty dollars to upwards of two hundred dollars. They all vary to which video services they support. Even then you may have to pay extra for some services up and above what you pay your internet service provider. Aka hidden costs. There are several shortcomings and advantages for all the units. This is really not a detailed comparison of the units, That changes so often, almost impossible to document.

The first gripe I have about the media streaming devices is that you have to have an umbilical cord to the internet for the units to be usable. Even Roku requires a special application to be used for compatibility with the MythTV project.  MythTV is for the most part an open source computer based DVR. Maybe that is why AT&T now offers a free DVR (read the fine print) to combat such projects. If you have to have an umbilical  cord on the units then your use of it (i.e what you watch and etc is not private). What I watch (especially the videos we made ourselves) should be none of anyone's business.

The second issue I have, is that if you modify the units in any way, you will be read the riot act under some obscure and unfair law such as the DMCA.  So you really do not own the unit. You are in effect just renting it. What really hurts is that the units were based on open source software. Kind of two faced to say the least.  Eventually, because the unit is locked down to insure the software can not be upgraded for your own use then you can not use the unit for anything else. It becomes a paperweight, An exception to this is Boxee, but the price of it is more than just building a low powered pc and installing XBMC (could become proprietary vary soon).

Along the same lines is units such as as the Appletv are also proprietary but Apple has not yet seen to stop the alteration of the units from being modified to run such software as XBMC. But they could do like Sony did with the linux option on the PS3 and lock it out. So again the unit is not yours to use as you see fit as it is just a rental. Apple seems to have a tendency to obsolete it's products whenever they need a boost in the pocketbook. That seems to be generally true of all the makers of the home media streamers.  I will say one thing is that the Appletv is competitively priced where in my opinion their computers are not.

After all this, what do you do?  The simplest way is to get or build a micro pc and install software such as xbmc or a Mythtv frontend.  You can build a "good" barebones  system for under two hundred dollars. Then you can use the unit for what ever else you want. You also would not need an umbilical cord (except for certain services) to use the unit. An average user might not want to do this.

Almost went to get a first generation hackable roku box, but then decided on another open option. That is to get a micro-controller board such as the Raspberry Pi for under fifty dollars and install something such as Raspbmc software to the unit. You have an instant media streamer. It is low power, does not need cooling under normal circumstances, and can be used for other things with just a change of the memory card. One more feature I like about it is that although it supports the new hdmi cabling, you can also use the traditional composite signal used by older monitors and TV's. Display options are limited not using the hdmi interface. So all in all with the Raspbmc, I can use the MythTV without ever needing the internet for home based media such as free over the air TV and personally developed media.


    Built a raspbmc and using a dvd player as a monitor for the time being.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Cheap tech holiday gift.

If you want to get the older kids into tech or they want to get into tech, you might consider the MSP430 from Texas instruments. You can get almost seven of the MSP430 development kits for the price of just one Arduino. That is right you can get an MSP430 development board for just $4.30 shipped to you in the U.S.  You may want to play with it your self also. Ton's of online documentation. ( i.e. Free development software is available for the most popular platforms also online (from T.I.).

What is really interesting about this unit is that you can take some software source code for the Arduino and run it on the MSP430. Porting software to the Arduino should be easier if you plan to get the Arduino later. The unit even comes with extra dip chips for your use.The newer Arduino units are soldered in place so really can not do complete development on the unit alone.  Even if the kids grow tired of it, you have not invested a fortune in the unit.  Win-Win situation.
At the holidays, they may sell out again, so order early.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Testing voip.

Voip or voice over IP is a method  for sending and receiving voice messages over a computer network. Come along way since the invention of the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell. Actually you can do a whole lot more than that. It can be very complicated to set up. Fortunately. there is what is known as a "live" cd that is pretty much pre-configured that only the few additional settings will get you up and running in a few minutes.

it is known as CosmoPBX. You can get it and more information at: You must be forewarned though that it is NOT SECURE, so do not use it in a production environment. In any case, a great tool for experimentation with use on an intranet or private network. With wifi access to your network, voip applications for your touchpads (android and etc) should connect to it fine.

For our purposes, we booted it in a virtual machine.  You can use a web browser to connect to the server remotely to configure any settings. ( i.e.: Then you can connect with your favorite voice applications. In our case we used Ekiga from a desktop Linux workstation.   Just a matter of setting up Ekiga with the ipaddress of the voip server and you are in business. When we connected to the server, it automatically answered and gave us a voice greeting and instructed us how to proceed.

The advantage of the live cd is that you can get familiar with voip, sip, and all that is involved before you invest in a pbx system for your office and or home. If you wanted something more permanent, you could try FreePBX, ( but it has to be installed. Though the traditional phone lines are becoming extinct, you can get a special card for your computer to allow the server to connect to an old fashion phone line.

Other accessories you might consider are ip to analog converters so that you can use existing old fashioned analog phones as part of the network. Lately it seems as though they may have jumped up in price. We bought a couple on closeout at Fry's a few years back. You also have to be careful as they are usually configured for a commercial "pay for" network. We bought a couple, but used available third party software to convert the units to work with our voip server.

As well as server, you can access the analog to ip converters via a web interface. That means you do not have to use sneaker support to set them up or disable them if need be. Barely touched the surface of voip, so I encourage to try it.  If you get a chance,. they make a great home intercom system.