martes, 29 de marzo de 2011

MEPIS 11 RC1: A Quick, Informal Glimpse

Even though I'm already running MEPIS 11 Beta 3 as my production system, I downloaded the RC version 1 to test it.

The Live DVD booted with no issue on my box. That's great. I still need to try it on older systems, so I'll wait a bit.

As with Beta 3, desktop effects are disabled by default. If I'm not mistaken, only Alpha 1 or 2 could actually use compositing right off the Live DVD on my PC, so I activated desktop effects without much expectation...

Whoa! They do work! MEPIS 11 RC1 brought back KDE's eye candy right from the DVD. Nice!

Sound? No problem. It stopped being a problem since Alpha 2 in my case.

Video? Fine. I even inserted a movie DVD into my second drive and could watch a bit using KMplayer and GNOME Mplayer. However, I prefer to use Kaffeine or VLC, which I will have to install myself from the repositories.

Youtube played fine, too. Firefox 4 flies! I'm actually posting this from the Live DVD session. I have to congratulate the documentation team because both the MEPIS Manual and the MEPIS QuickStart are concise, helpful and friendly.

This RC comes with LibreOffice and its Database manager is included. I wonder if that will cause me problems when enabling Asian languages.

Concerning languages, this RC comes only in English, as it has been since the first Alpha. I still hope some other languages may be added to the live DVD when MEPIS 11 goes final. That was a very nice touch for MEPIS 8.5 USB.

I still have to use Dolphin as Su to mount my XP partition. Not that I care much about it; I actually like it that way, but that adds an extra step for users less experienced than I am.

I will test the DVD on other computers to see how it works. So far, I'm really satisfied with the progress of this distro!

lunes, 28 de marzo de 2011

Too Bad, Mr. Ballmer! Your Flock Is Decreasing...

"Fast is now Beautiful," preach Internet Explorer promoters. The interesting detail is that with Firefox and Chrome, Fast and Beautiful had been around for some time already. "No!" they will probably say, "Firefox 4 slowed down on Windows!" That's interesting, especially considering that Linux users report how Firefox 4 flies.

Then, all the boasting about the number of downloads of IE9 became a whisper when Firefox 4 was downloaded at least twice as much. "But that's not fair! IE9 can be downloaded only for Windows Vista and Windows 7 while Firefox 4 is available for all platforms!" they complain.

EXACTLY!!! Don't they realize?? How come a company on purpose leaves out the biggest number of its customers? (I mean XP users, of course!) Wasn't it that XP support was "extended" for about 3 more years? Does that mean that something similar will happen to Vista and Vista/7 users when Windows 8 is released? Better keep an eye open, Windows users!

All this, plus former ways of bullying customers (Windows 7 Starter) has opened the eyes of several Windows users. One by one, they are starting to look for alternatives.

Last Wednesday, I installed Pardus Linux 2011 on the laptop of one of my students. She sent me an e-mail on Friday telling me she had already discovered hidden malware in her removable hard drive. You see? Linux does not bite...even if it is a big cat like the Turkish distro!

Last Friday, Mechatotoro and I were in charge of a workshop to teach professors how to install Linux and how to use its basic features. Nice, but if none of them installed Linux? It doesn't really matter because something more important took place at the workshop: all of them realized that the generalized idea of "installing and using Linux is really hard" is nothing but a myth. Not a single one of them had problems to install it and use its basic features. Also, there is another important aspect to consider: Mechatotoro and I were asked if we could do the workshop; we didn't advertise anything or asked to do it ourselves. What does that actually say? Right! People are looking for alternatives!

On Saturday, there was a massive fair at the university. I went to take a walk around and see what was there after my class and ended up in the stand of Free Software. I thought I'd see there some familiar faces from the Free Software promoters at the university, but to my surprise I recognized no one. Actually, the ones in charge were a lot of young kids...some of them quite young, especially the girl who explained to me everything a person may want to know about Blender. They showed off a transparent, pyramidal computer they had built themselves (which runs Ubuntu) and explained visitors how they used it to burn batches of 4 CDs at a time. The CDs they burned contained free software for Windows, free movies, free songs from Jamendo, and of course Ubuntu copies, too. Needless to say, visitors were encouraged to take home as many CDs as they wanted. They gave me a free music CD as a souvenir.

At that place, something caught my eye. An elegant man who was right next to me asked one of the kids if they made visits to schools. It turned out that he was the principal of a high school and wanted them to visit his institution to teach both students and teachers there about Free Software.

Then, yesterday, I helped Mechatotoro install Linux on a laptop. The owner chose Linux Mint Julia. Even if she didn't prefer my favorite distro, I just love it when people exercise their freedom. Besides, she didn't choose Mint over Mepis, Ubuntu or Mandriva; she chose Mint over Windows 7 Home Premium.

Too bad, Mr. Ballmer! Your flock is decreasing...maybe one at a time, but it seems more and more of your sheep are slowly opening their eyes and find the pasture you offer them too insipid and the fence surrounding it too unfairly restrictive and insecure for the price you demand.

miércoles, 23 de marzo de 2011

A New, Happy Pardus User!

As planned, I proceeded today with the installation of Pardus 2011 on my student's old laptop.

The first hour of the process was painful: preparing Windows Vista for sharing part of the hard drive is anything but easy (where are those who say Windows is easy??) or fast. Partitioning the drive followed Vista's multiple reboots...that took me a complete hour! What a waste of time!

Once that Ballmer's first jewel to the world finally stabilized, I could actually start the fun part.

I decided to make an extended partition so that the laptop could have different OSs if so desired in the future. That took me a couple of seconds using MEPIS 8.5 live CD

Since I had MEPIS 8.5 already active, I installed it. Mepis can always help. Its whole installation took me about 10 minutes anyway.

After Mepis, I installed Pardus. Pardus took more time...about 25 minutes. Then I configured Pardus so that it could unleash its full potential. Mechatotoro helped me with my KDE 4 shortcomings (right! I'm still far away from becoming a Linux guru!)

Then, the owner of the laptop returned. She expressed several times her approval of her renewed system. Vista's Aero simply cannot compare...even Microsoft developers know it. That's a plain fact people at Redmond are fully aware of but which Windows users seem to ignore. What a paradox!

As a fun experiment, we ran a USB virus on Pardus. My student grew pale...yes: USB viruses are terribly harmful and will take over your PC. Or that's what we are always told.

What happened? Nothing, of course! USB viruses will take over your WINDOWS OS, not over your PC!

Pardus 2011 is not only beautiful; it's also effective. A new, happy Pardus user may be right now playing with her laptop and she may be learning about a totally new--and certainly safer--computing experience.


lunes, 21 de marzo de 2011

Going away from Vista; Getting to Know Linux

Today, one of my students lent me her laptop. She wanted me to install Linux on it because she's becoming progressively tired of Vista. Well, I couldn't blame her!

Since she had entrusted me her computer, she would have accepted any Linux I installed on it, especially because she doesn't know anything about Tux. However, I prefer to give people choices. After all, that's what Linux is all about: freedom and choice.

Thus, instead of installing my favorite distro right away, I started testing different Linux flavors to see which ones would adapt best to her 4-year-old computer, which already shows some signs of heavy use.

I narrowed down the candidates to 3:

Mandriva One 2010.2 Christmas
Mepis 8.5
Pardus 2009.2

Mepis 11 Beta 2 also did a very good job, but testing software is for more experienced users, not for those who are just learning about Linux.

I explained the main differences of the three distributions and then let the owner of the laptop choose. It was her computer, it was her call.

Her choice? PARDUS!

Pardus will be then. I'll install it next Wednesday, not because Pardus is hard to install, but because it is hard to make her selfish, pre-installed OS share part of the hard drive to make room for Linux.

Yes, so much for choices with Redmond!

jueves, 17 de marzo de 2011

Eight Questions about Windows 8

Windows Vista/7 has not gotten widespread yet and there's already noise about its successor, momentarily labeled "Windows 8."

Among all the new features it will have (according to rumors), we can list these:

- Aero will be gone with the Wind.

- Win 8 will make the most of your Live ID Passport whatever.

- Win 8 will run in devices as small as a phone and as big as the Batcomputer.

Now, I (and probably not just me) have a couple of questions about features I'd like to see in Windows 8:

1. Will it be safer by any chance or it will let legacy viruses and malware run? I mean, what good will the new OS be if old Win XP viruses break havoc in its guts?

2. Will it treat its legitimate users as that or it will treat them as potential pirates as its predecessors do?

3. Will it play fair with costumers or it will hide important information from them, like data collecting and so?

4. Will it play fair with other OSs or will invent "hard drive problems" to prevent installation of other choices?

5. Will it call infections "WINDOWS INFECTIONS" instead of "computer infections"? WOW! That'd be nice!

6. Will it be a real innovation or it will be "Seven with lipstick"?

7. Will it include digital coupons to make its warranty effective right in Microsoft's own stores as its predecessors include digital signatures and activation codes or it will rely on 3rd. party technicians who just know about formatting and reinstalling?

And maybe the most important...

8. Will it be worth its price or it will be another expensive Service Pack as Vista/7 was of Vista?

I really hope Microsoft's developers are seriously working on these eight issues for the benefit of most computer's the least they could do, isn't it?

sábado, 12 de marzo de 2011

Zombie attack: University Network Collapsed!

I survived my first week of this new semester at the university! However, the network during this first week went from slow and unstable to totally useless. It seems it didn't survive the first week of classes!

What happened? Nobody quite knew until Mechatotoro told me. A zombie computer started sending spam and caused a networking collapse.

Now, let me correct my words. It was not a zombie computer. It was a zombie WINDOWS XP computer. Why do I make the distinction? Because in the same office, there was a computer running Mandriva Linux and it was the only one that was clean.

At this point some might be thinking "But XP is an old OS! That's what you get when you rely on old technology!"

Is that so? There was a Windows 7 computer in that office, too. Was it any better than XP? Not quite. You can read Mechatotoro's account here.

Again, we are talking about Windows flaws, not about computer problems. The computers were in perfect shape.

So, could we say that Windows 7 is actually a more secure system than XP? The case in this office clearly shows what system is superior (and it does not come from Microsoft.)

Also, where was the "great support" from Microsoft? As far as I know, the university had to solve the problem on its own even if the computers had original copies of Windows.

Maybe it's about time users got smart and instead of sheepishly accepting Windows security flaws as "computer problems", started nagging Microsoft until this company actually released some secure OS version or at least took full responsibility for the flawed systems they ask so much money for.

martes, 8 de marzo de 2011

Mepis 11 Beta 3 Is Here!

I downloaded and tested the 3rd beta release of Mepis 11. The live DVD is about 1.3 GB.

To my untrained eye, it looks very similar to Beta 2, although I did notice the following changes:

1. The bootup options are less.

2. LibreOffice is included as the main office suite now.

3. KDE compositing is deactivated by default.

It ran exactly as Beta 2 did in my computer...I guess I'll check it out in an older computer later.

domingo, 6 de marzo de 2011

Another Real-life Open-Source Test: An Academic Presentation

Lately, I haven't been able to write much. The reason? I was busy finishing up some details for my thesis-advancement presentation that took place last Friday.

As an advocate of Open Source, I decided since I started this blog not to say anything good about Free Software if first I haven't used it myself. That's why whenever I say a newbie can use a distro, it is because I, being a newbie myself, have been able to use it.

Right now, I am test driving Mepis 11 Beta 2. Mepis originally came with OpenOffice, but its developer decided to use LibreOffice after the Beta release.

Some of the community members were a bit worried about the change for they thought LibreOffice was still beta, which is not true. The first release of LibreOffice has reached its final developmental stage already.

So, it was time for me to test LibreOffice. Again, I wanted a serious test, not something light and superficial. Since there are still some people who think Open Source office suites are "unprofessional," I set for something very serious and professional: my first thesis-advancement presentation.

To put it clearly, I was entrusting myself to a beta (that means unfinished!) release of my favorite Linux distribution and I was using an office suite I had never used before, even if it looks and behaves quite like Openoffice. Yes, it was a risky move: had Mepis or LibreOffice failed, it would have been a total embarrassment!

Oh, on top of that, I was using all that software on my little netbook that, by the way, is not among the most powerful in the market if we look at its modest hardware specs.

When I hooked my netbook to the projector, nothing happened. No screen issues, no special settings, no limitations...Nothing happened! Mepis did its thing and picked up the signal without any special input from my part, just as it should.

I set up my presentation on Desktop 2 while my two illustration videos went to desktops 3 and 4. KDE's Kwin and its rotating cube would help me use each file when I needed it without minimizing anything.

The tribunal members arrived and it was time to start my presentation...

What happened?

Again, nothing! LibreOffice worked beautifully. Impress and its OpenGL 3D transition effects worked seamlessly. In spite of my nervousness, I could say that everything went smoothly as planned: I wasted no time minimizing, looking for files or trying to solve anything. I need to thank Mechatotoro for helping me out with the video clips, by the way. (Yes! He made them using open source, too! I need to ask him to teach me that...)

At the end, the examining tribunal called me back to the auditorium and told me their decision: I had passed the examination.

Now, I have to finish the other half of my thesis and head to my dissertation. Needless to say, thanks to its dependability, I will use Open Source software for that, too.