Archive for category Apple

What’s Killing Linux and Software Freedom?

I know many will say "we knew that already" when they read what I'm about to write, but I just came to this realization today. I was reading a blog title "I miss using Linux". The author was describing some of the reasons he can't avoid using Windows.

There are many good reasons like the ones he offers. Some people want to game, but game companies just don't make games for Linux because it isn't popular enough. Others need certain programs that are only available for Windows. Whatever the reasons, it's not going to be the "year of the Linux Desktop" any time soon.

One part that really stood out to me about the post was the reiteration that Photoshop was a main reason for not using Windows. I would actually go so far as to say that the entire creative suite is a major reason more people don't switch to Linux completely.

Sure, one could possibly run it in a VM but that's not a good solution. If you need a VM of Windows, why not just run Windows, right? That's the correct reasoning if you ask me, and I'm a Linux advocate. The problem could be that more people are procrastinating truthfully. They simply don't want to switch completely or don't feel comfortable enough in Linux to use it full time. I don't think this is the prime reason, but for some it could be a factor.

Adobe is the problem, at least in my mind. Adobe is the last non-open company. Microsoft office uses an open document format finally. There is a lot of compatibility with Open Office. Most other programs have decent open source alternatives. Even Photoshop has a decent open source alternative in the Gimp, but some people don't think it is enough. Adobe has a lock on a lot of the media on the web right now with Flash, even though there are better alternatives to using Flash, most sites use it.

Adobe is holding back Linux. Rather, our dependency on Adobe products is holding back Linux tremendously. There would be a lot more people to adopt Linux if the Creative Suite was available in it. There would be a lot of people adopt Linux is Flash was no longer the defacto standard for media on the web.

Apple has the right idea by not including Flash support on the iPhone. This will help push us away from the closed-standard. I'm for this change.

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Steve Jobs at the D8 Conference and His Comments on Journalism

I was just watching the interview with Steve Jobs at the D8 Conference on iTunes. Around 41 minutes into the interview, there is a discussion about how the iPad is going to help journalists.

Jobs makes his second hint in the interview of his distaste for bloggers. His first happened earlier when they were discussing Gizmodo's blogger who published pictures of the new iPhone. One could tell that he was a bit bitter about that situation, and he made comments that showed that in his opinion blogging is not journalism.

I totally agree with this point. Blogging isn't journalism by default. As the interviewers pointed out, however, many journalists have turned to blogging as their medium of choice.

During the discussion of the iPad, Jobs points out that he doesn't want to see us become a nation of bloggers. He states that he wants to help publications like the New York Times and the Washington Post sell their news.

Here is what I don't agree with. These publications are failing because they have not been providing good journalism. All I see from the media, including news papers, is biased rhetoric or celebrity junk. Bloggers are doing the same, but I've found that in the bee's hive that is the blogosphere, there is actually some good content. Some of that content is much better than the junk our fine journalists at CNN and such have been reporting.

If these publications want to make money, they should advertise. That's where most of their money comes from anyway. They don't make a ton from News Paper sales. They make enough there to pay for the materials and printing costs. Advertisements are where the money is at. They know that. They should just work on their advertising model.

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Warning: simplexml_load_file() [function.simplexml-load-file]: URL file-access is disabled in the server configuration

If you've seen that error message you've probably happened upon a security feature that your shared web hosting provider has enabled. There are a few work-arounds for this error but most require you to have certain privileges on the server that you probably don't have. Quite frankly, if you are getting these errors you probably don't have the ability to change these settings yourself.

Rather than try to get the provider to change these settings (let's face it, they have this enabled for a reason and surely someone else has already tried to get this changed, right?) one can easily get around this with Curl. In most cases, curl will be enabled on the server. So here is the quick and dirty way to get around it:

Create a PHP file and name it anything you want. For the sake of this article we'll refer to it as curl_functions.php. In this file put the following functions:

<php
function setupMyCurl() {
   $myCurl = curl_init(); 
   $temp = curl_setopt($myCurl, CURLOPT_RETURNTRANSFER, 1);
   return($myCurl);
}
define("myCurl", setupMyCurl());
function curl_get_contents($url) {
   $temp = curl_setopt(myCurl, CURLOPT_URL, $url);
   return(curl_exec(myCurl));
}
?>

Include or require this file. Then, all you have to do is use the curl_get_contents($url) in your code to pull in the xml to a string. Then use the simplexml_load_string() instead of simplexml_load_file(). This will give you the same results but works around the url fopen feature. If you don't have curl enabled on your host, GET ANOTHER HOST. 🙂

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Slow wifi on iPhone 3GS

I bought a new iPhone 3G S yesterday. These things are very nice, and I'm not an Apple fan boy by any stretch. One thing that was bugging me, however, was the slow speed I was getting from the wifi. I was getting faster speeds from the 3G network than my home wireless, and this is while I was sitting right next to the router, so it wasn't a signal problem.

I found the solution to this after reading through many, many forum posts. I saw others were having the same problem as me and were getting responses from people like "reboot the router" or "reset your network settings on the iPhone." This is all well and good and I'm sure those people meant well but there was a big problem with their responses.

First of all, everyone having this trouble said that the wireless worked fine on their computers but not on the iPhone. Secondly, there aren't many settings to "reset" inside the iPhone's network settings. There's just not anything in there that would cause this type of issue.

The solution to the problem ended up being an advanced setting on the router itself. From what I can tell of the issue and it's solution, the iPhone's wifi is just a bit more picky than a standard PC wifi device. Here are the settings I eventually had to change on my Netgear router.iphonewifisettings

The important items here are the fragmentation threshold and the CTS/RTS threshold. Each of these were set to their max value previously. After changing these two settings, my iPhone started working like a champ.

If you are experiencing the same problems with your iPhone or iPod Touch's wifi, change these settings on your router. Also note, these settings have slightly different names on some routers. Refer to your router's manual for more info.

Edit: I've gone much lower with these number with much success for my less powerful mobile devices. Going too low does seem to cause issues with more powerful computers on the wireless network. Test this out with lower settings and post your success or failures in the comments.

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The Best Dock for Linux

I've been looking for an OS X-like dock bar for Linux for many years. For a while, I used the launcher applet in gdesklets. It works without x-composite and pretty nice, but gdesklets can be a resource hog at times. Most of the gdesklets are written in Python if I'm not mistaking and Python, being an interpreted language, uses much more system resources than a native compiled application.

My next dock was AWN, or Avant Window Navigator. At one point, possibly the present, Google was involved with this project. Again, this is if I recall correctly. AWN is very nice, however, it only works if you are using the composite extension in X, as in Compiz/Beryl/Compiz Fusion. It's very customizable and behaves much like the OS X dock.

There's one part of the OS X dock that I really like that isn't quite the same in these docks however. The fish-eye zoom of icons on the dock is a trademark of OS X. AWN and the launcher in gdesklets both have a zoom function but it's just not the same.

I recently discovered that there is a great dock pretty much hidden away in a program called Gnome-Do. Gnome-Do itself is a cool search app for gnome. It's somewhat like a KDE app I remember that lets you launch programs by hitting a keyboard shortcut and then typing the name of the app. I can't remember the name of that app at the moment though. Gnome-Do does exactly that. One can type super(windows key) and the space bar to bring up Gnome-Do.

Of course, you will have to install it first though. After it is installed, simply run the application and go to the preferences for it. Change the appearance to "Docky". Voila, the best dock you've ever had in Linux will appear. Play with it and you'll soon see that this is very close to the OS X dock experience.

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Ubuntu Synergy Howto

There's really not much to setting up Synergy in the latest Ubuntu. The reason I'm writing this is because I ran into a roadblock while setting it up and it was a stupid mistake on my part. I know someone else will probably make the same mistake.

I'm used to Debian-based distros. I ran Debian for a few years on my home desktop, and I use Debian on my personal development servers. I should have realized that synergy and quicksynergy were in the Ubuntu repositories. It just makes sense. They are even available for the 64bit version.

Before I realized this, I looked for the package in Ubuntu's "Add and remove software" app. I searched for synergy and found nothing. Stupid me assumed that it wasn't available. I should have just ran the ole trusty apt-cache search synergy. Assuming that it wasn't in the repos, I downloaded the source. The only binary available for Linux was in RPM form. I just don't like converting RPMs to DEBs using Alien. Sorry. So, I tried to compile it. I ran in to a few issues while trying to compile. That's when I decided to check the repos. Lo and behold, there both packages were. So to install synergy and the nice graphical front-end for it called quicksynergy, simple run: sudo apt-get install synergy quicksynergy

I'm pretty sure these are both in the universe repository. However, in the event I'm incorrect, they are at least in the multiverse repo. So if universe doesn't turn up anything, just add multiverse. If you don't know how to do that, Google.

If you've never tried Synergy out, it's one of those must have apps for Linux, Windows, or OS X. It's useful if you have more than one computer and more than one monitor, but only want to use one keyboard and one mouse. It makes the two computers seem to work in unison by sharing the keyboard and mouse over IP. It's not exactly the same as KVM over IP because video doesn't get shared.

It's great for me because I have a regular desktop and my "server" box at my desk. I have dual displays on my main box and I now have another display connected to my "server". My keyboard and mouse are shared between the two computers. When I mouse over to the far right hand side of my main box's desktop the mouse goes to my server box's display. My keyboard then works on it. Mousing back to the left gives control back to my main box.

If you've never tried synergy, give it a shot. It's open source, free, and extremely handy.

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Free Software Everyone Should Know About

Most computer users aren't "savvy". They know how to turn the computer on, how to open up "the internet", and maybe how to write an email. To some, computers are scary devices. To others, computers are something they use daily but couldn't fix on their own. To the non-savvy computer user, open source software is a foreign term. It's geek speak. It's mumbo jumbo. Whether one is a savvy user or a beginner, they should be aware of what open source software has to offer them.

In order to understand what open source software is, it is important to know a little about how computers work and why software is normally so expensive to begin with. So a little "Intro to computers" is in order.

Computers need software to operate. The main software on a computer is it's operating system. This software allows the user to interact with the hardware. When the user presses a mouse button, a signal is sent to the computer's hardware, the hardware asks the operating system what it's supposed to do with this signal. The operating system tells the hardware what to do next and then tells the other software on the computer what has happened. The other software then reacts to the event. The click event is registered and the process pretty much goes back in reverse. The software that handled the click event tells the operating system what happened. The operating system tells the hardware. Finally the user sees or hears the effect of their click of the button on the screen/speakers/both.

The operating system is very important. Most people use a form of Microsoft's Windows operating system. Other examples of operating systems include Apple's Mac OS X, Linux, and FreeBSD. Windows and OS X are considered proprietary or commercial software. OS X comes on Macs, and Windows comes on most PCs. However, neither are free. They are part of the price paid for the new computers.

So this leads us to our first examples of open source software. Linux and FreeBSD are open source software. Proprietary or commercial software is normally "closed source", meaning the source code is a secret that only the software company can look at. Windows is completely closed source. OS X is to an extent. Much of the software at the core of OS X is built from open source software. Windows has an arguably unfair share of the market because Microsoft positioned themselves to have their version of DOS included on most new computers back in the old days and that has carried over to Windows. Many people argue that Windows is easier and that is why it has such a huge market share. However, it's arguably easier for most people because of it's huge market share making it more familiar.

This market share allowed Microsoft to position itself in other software markets as well. For instance, today Microsoft's Office Suite controls a huge market share as well. This creates a circular problem in that everyone who wishes to open an Office document whether it be a spreadsheet, presentation, or memo, has to have Office installed on their computer. However, it can also be stated that Microsoft finally delivered a standard on all these products. Back in the day there were many word processors and if person A wrote a document in Word Perfect, it was difficult for person B to open the document in Word.

There is a better solution to the document standards though. The documents should be a standard, and that standard should be open. Meaning anyone who wants to write a word processor should adhere to the standard document type. It's the same concept that we use today for our web browsers. It is important that all web sites have standard coding that all browsers can read. Microsoft tried to set that standard as well, and to this day Internet Explorer is one of the least standards compliant browsers available. Microsoft knew that if they controlled the standard, then everyone would have to use their products.

Now that all of that is out of the way, lets look at some of this open source software. Open source software is, as its name implies, software who's source is open for public viewing. Anyone is free to view, edit, and redistribute the software with or without the modification. This also means that open source software tends to be free, and in most cases, can be downloaded for free. Here is a list of common alternatives. I will post links at the end of the article that will lead to the download page or home page for all these applications.

If one needs an office suite, why pay $100 to $400 for Microsoft Office when OpenOffice is free. OpenOffice has a word processor, database app, presentation app, and spreadsheet app. Granted, there are a few features that Microsoft has that OpenOffice doesn't, but most of those features wouldn't be used by the average user. If one finds that OpenOffice doesn't do the trick, then they can look into purchasing Microsoft's Office suite, but if it's not needed why waste the money.

For email, most people probably have a web-base mail account. However, for those that use Outlook or Outlook express, perhaps Mozilla's Thunderbird is a better alternative.

Window Media player and Apple's iTunes software are both free but they aren't open source. For music, SongBird is a great alternative. It has the look and feel of iTunes but doesn't force the iTunes music store down the user's throat. It also has many plugins/extensions that one can install with a click of the mouse. Such extensions include: automatic lyric display, automatic album art, artist bio, discography, etc. It also has many available themes.

Browsing the web is easy with Windows right out of the box. Internet Explorer is built-in. However there are a few things people don't realize about Internet Explorer. Ever notice how everyone's home page is set to MSN? Microsoft rakes in millions just from the advertising on that site. It's a simple tweak that most people don't realize. Also, what about the user's browsing habits. That's some very powerful information to have. With it they could pinpoint advertise and make even more money, or sell the info to others. The point is, Internet Explorer is all about invading your privacy. This coupled with the fact that it's probably the least secure browsers one can use, and it stands to reason that we should all be using something else. Thankfully there are plenty of alternatives to Internet Explorer. Try out Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera, or Flock. They are all very good choices to replace IE.

For photo editing needs, The Gimp makes a pretty good Photoshop replacement. It can do many of the same things. Granted, it's nowhere near as robust as Photoshop, it will surprise many of the most skilled "shoppers" out there.

For chatting with friends, an IM application is usually installed. These include Yahoo, MSN, AIM, Google Talk, and MySpace IM. Well all of those could be replaced with a single program called Pidgin. Pidgin is a great instant messenger application and uses very little system resources compared to any one of these.

Finally, after replacing all of the core software titles on a system, why not replace the operating system itself. Many people have switched to Linux and are happy. Linux is a monster as a server OS and it's actually a very good desktop OS as well. The most popular (at least for desktops) Linux distribution available today is Ubuntu. It is one of the easier distributions. There is also a huge community available to help with any problems that may arise.

In conclusion, it is quite possible to legally use a computer without paying a single penny for any of the software installed on it. Not only is this software free, but it's also very robust and can fill even the most demanding user's needs. There's always a chance that open source isn't a good choice for some users, but most will find it very useful.

Here is a complete list of the software mentioned in this article and links to learn more about or download the software.

Linux:
General Information about Linux
Ubuntu Linux
Debian Linux
Fedora Linux
Suse Linux
Arch Linux
DistroWatch - A list of all popular Linux distributions

FreeBSD and other free operating systems other than Linux:
FreeBSD Project Site
OpenBSD
NetBSD

OpenOffice:
http://openoffice.org

Thunderbird:
http://www.mozillamessaging.com/en-US/thunderbird/

SongBird:
http://getsongbird.com/

VLC:
Video Lan Media player
Firefox:
http://mozilla.com

Google Chrome:
http://www.google.com/chrome

Opera:
http://www.opera.com/

Flock:
http://flock.com/

The Gimp:
http://www.gimp.org/

Pidgin:
http://pidgin.im/

Other helpful links:
Comprehensive list of Open Source/Free software
GNU Project
The Free Software Foundation
Sourceforge - search for open source software.

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Where can I purchase an iPhone?

Last month I bought a Nokia N810. At first, I debated getting an Apple iPod Touch. To be honest, if the local retailer would have had some 16gb versions in stock, I would have probably went ahead and purchased one there. After going over what I wanted out of that type of device, I decided on the N810. For most other people I would suggest the iPod Touch or an iPhone.

There are a lot of people looking for iPhone's and iPod Touches on the net. Everyone wants a good deal on them. The deals aren't hard to find, you just have to know where to look. For instance, these are about the best one can find (clicking the links will take you to a site full of iPhones of all types):

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Anyone who wants to purchase an iPhone online, should check out these deals first. Plus, a lot of these phones have already been unlocked. Unlocked iPhones can be used with any carrier.

There are many imitation iPhones as well. The BlackBerry Storm is one of them. Blackberries are much more popular with the business crowd, or at least have been in the past due to the full QWERTY keyboards. They have also been integrated into the business environment much better. A company I used to work for used Blackberries along with their Lotus/Domino servers for mail, calendar, and other databases. This allowed people on the go to access all their appointments and contacts from anywhere. Unfortunately, the Blackberry Storm hasn't recieved the best reviews, and it doesn't have the features that business users looked for and received in the past with a Blackberry.

iPhones make great personal media devices, PDA, and (don't forget) phone. If you're in the market for one, go grab yours today. Also check out this site for more great deals.

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