Ruminations on the Digital Realm

Jan Stedehouder

Archive for the month “April, 2008”

BSD Magazine released

In the fall of 2007 I wrote two 30-day series about PC-BSD and DesktopBSD respectively. I was impressed by the ease of use and the level of maturity,not of the software but of the people developing and using BSD.

When I was finished I ran across a blogpost by Dru Lavigne who pointed at a new BSD Magazine to be released in the spring of 2008. Contacting the editor was easy enough and the decision was made to write an article about the two *BSD’s I had tested extensively.

On thing that made the experience all the more exciting were the e-mail based interviews with the key developers Peter Hofer (DesktopBSD), Kris Moore (PC-BSD) and Matt Olander (iXsystems). I am just the curious writer, but these are the guys that actually work on providing us with two great desktop-oriented *BSD’s.

Anyway, the first issue of BSD Magazine is out and it looks superb. It comes with a dvd containing FreeBSD 7.0, pfSense 1.2 firewall and some more. The articles have something for readers on all levels. Dru Lavigne helps you to install FreeBSD 7.0 in the section ‘get started’. Joy Kruizenga explains how to install BSD alongside Vista in the section ‘how-tos’.If you happen to have the Linksys NSLU2, you might want to read Donald Hayford’s article on how to install NetBSD on it. The scope and quality is really amazing and I feel a bit proud to be among this group of writers. Humbled too, because everyone else appears to have tons more knowledge about BSD as well.

I can only recommend getting the first issue or subscribing for BSD Magazine. There aren’t many magazines out there that deal with BSD and this magazine deserves to remain for a long. The annual subscription for four issues is $ 39,99 for the USA and € 29,99 for Europe and the rest of the world. To quote l’Oreal: “you’re worth it.”

I'm an {open source} hero

Originally on Content Only! 26 April 2007

At least, that is what Microsoft is trying to tell me. Some time ago, the company that used to call open source something nasty launched it’s {Open Source} Heroes website. You may call it part of a wider strategy to provide a place for developers who warm up to open source, but wish to stay within the known boundaries of Windows. Port25 and Codeplex are two other ‘must register’ sites for WOSS developers (WOSS = Windows Open Source Software).

What does a {WOSS} Hero need to conquer the Windows desktop? Of course, your own Hero Hack Pack. Being curious by nature I requested one and received it two days ago.

You’ve got to grant Microsoft one thing: the company knows how to get marketing right. And they learn quickly. The package is a large 30 x 15 cm (something like that) folder with Chris Travers on the cover (who appears to do a lot on Open Source Interoperability) ready to start skying in a great vista (pun intended) with snow covered mountains. As the lingo says: “Now that’s a hero”. (he also tends his 30+ heirloom rose garden).

Inside it contains all I need to get started with Open Source and Microsoft technology: (1) A 90-day evalution version of Visual Studio 2008 Professional Edition and (2) A “up to 120-Day Evalution” of Windows Server 2008. Wow! That is a full 60 day less I got with the trial edition of Windows Server 2003 (and inside it says 30 days to start with, after which you need to request an extension). Microsoft must be loosing money. When the trial period ends: “Your trial software will cease to function and you may uninstall it.”

Do you, as an aspiring {WOSS} Hero feel warm and and fuzzy inside? Are you now ready to finally get rid of your free and open source desktop, developing tools and brethren in the open community to join the ranks of Rocketman, Flash Gordon, Superman and above all, Captain America?

{WOSS} Hero, the champion of the Windows desktop.
Neither free nor cheap.

First Impressions: Mandriva Spring 2008

First Impressions: Mandriva Spring 2008
Orignally on Content Only!, 23 april 2008

Maybe I am wrong, but I have seen only raving reviews about the new Mandriva Spring 2008. Positive reviews. Since I always like to draw my own conclusions and Mandriva is one the releases this spring, I decided to give it a spin. I installed it in a virtual machine on my desktop and on a separate partition on my Acer 3681 WXMi laptop.

Read more…

Zero Comments – In search of inspiration

The digital realm is abuzz with the fruits of our keyboards. My editiorial job for Livre magazine involves keeping track on a collection of newsfeeds concerning open source, open standards and related fields. One conclusion is paramount: the number of articles with original content is extremely limited. Much of what is written and published has a high “me too” level. The book Zero Comments. Blogging and Critical Internet Culture by Geert Lovink popped up in the newsfeeds a while ago and as editor I was able to request a review copy. It’s a fascinating read and led to a new experiment: Content Only!. Read more…

Evolution – Synchronizing my iPaq

Yesterday I posted about moving away from Thunderbird in order to have a more integrated system for calendaring, e-mail, tasks and projects. One missing element was the ability to synchronize Evolution with my iPaq 3850. It was one of those experiments that I attempted over the last couple of years and which failed. However, I did gain some more experience with Linux and perhaps someone found a working solution. And there was someone. Jan Prinsloo wrote a solution for Suse Linux Enterprise Desktop 10. That was the starting point for another attempt.
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Evolution – Moving away from Thunderbird

I have been using Thunderbird for quite a while now. It’s a great e-mail client and the fact that you can use it on multiple platforms made it a winner for me. I carry a USB-drive around with Portable Thunderbird on it. A simple edit of the profiles.ini file is enough to point other Thunderbird installs (for instance on my laptop) to the folders on the USB drive. This is a perfect solution for people who need to multiboot and don’t want to keep track of two sets of mail folders. But… Thunderbird was starting to give me a few headaches.

What is wrong with Thunderbird?
For one, I began to have performance issues on my default desktop install of Thunderbird (which didn’t point to the USB drive). It was getting very slow and caused a complete freeze of my computer almost every day, necessitating a hard reboot. Removing the program (and the mail folders) and reinstalling it with a new set of accounts (2 Hotmail, 3 GMail, 1 Yahoo and 5 other POP3 accounts) didn’t solve the problem.

The second problem was the lack of a decent calendaring option. Yes, I tried the Lightning extension but that simply wasn’t enough. I need to be able to transfer e-mail to tasks or appointments without a problem, keep track of projects and create new tasks easily. Thunderbird does have it’s share of extensions, but in the end it wasn’t enough and couldn’t really come close to my experience with Microsoft Outlook.

Alternative I – Zimbra Desktop
One alternative I tried was the Zimbra Desktop. The program is still in beta and it looks promising. But where is the option to import a whole archive of e-mail messages from -for instance- Thunderbird? I would need to start anew and find another way of accessing the mail archives (which is more often than I would like, but that’s life). Apart from this, ZImbra is very slow. Even on my 3.2 Ghz dual core it takes ages to load and go from one function to the other.

Alternative II – Evolution
From here I went on to Evolution, the default suite in Ubuntu. Personally, I think it’s a boring program. The look and feel is anything but interesting. It’s no eye-candy. However, Evolution is complete with e-mail, calendaring, tasks, memo’s, journal and with options to connect to various groupware servers.

Importing e-mail from Thunderbird was a minor problem. I used these instructions and it went flawlessly. To keep it simple I moved all e-mail from the various accounts to one new folder called “temporary”. Then I used the import function in Evolution to go the mail folder and select the file “temporary”.

After that I added all accounts. Thunderbird allows you a choice between receiving all mail in the default box or create a subset of boxes for each account. Evolution doesn’t appear to have this option. The problem is easily solved by using “search folders”, virtual collection based on a set of criteria. After playing with those a couple of days I really like this option. It allows me to gather both incoming and outgoing mail into one virtual collection and keep track of discussions.

Evolution – Pro and Con
After using Evolution for a week I can draw some conclusions. I don’t have performance issues anymore and it is great to be able to continue working after receiving e-mail. The integration between e-mail, calendaring and tasks is what I need and it works.

Evolution has a plugin to synchronize your Pidgin contacts with Evolution, which a nice extra. What I don’t understand is the button “Configure” in the plugins window, since you can’t use it anyway. I tried clicking on it with all the plugins, but nothing. There is a strange bug with the noticifation. By default it tells me there a less new messages than are actually visible in Evolution.

The version on my desktop doesn’t support Google Calendar yet, but I expect the new version to be in Ubuntu 8.04 and that one has support for it.

Compared to Thunderbird, Evolution is performing much worse as to identifying spam. The Thunderbird spamfilter is phenomanal with a high degree of accuracy as to false positives and negatives. In Evolution you can choose either Bogofilter or Spamassassin, but neither seem to be able to recognize the spam messages well. I continue training the filter, but so far most spam messages appear in my inbox, where Thunderbird moved them to the junk box without needing my intervention.

On the plus side, Evolution makes it much easier to use various signatures for each of the e-mail accounts. Overall, the balance tips towards Evolution. If I could only find a good way to synchronize my iPaq 3850 with it, it would be perfect… almost.

Update: the problem with the iPaq is solved. The article about that is here.

Open XML – the beginning of the end?

The decision has been made and a new reality has risen. We now have two ISO approved document standards that claim to be open. “Open” is an interesting key phrase in our time, just like “green” and “soap”. The discussion will rage on about the fairness of the procedure, about whether the ISO has been damaged because of all this, but that’s only interesting for historians and wikipedia editors. Microsoft has what it wanted (ISO approval of it’s in-house developed standard) and the free and open source world is looking at the ashes on the battelfield. But, does it really matter?
Read more…

WordPress 2.5 – first experiences

This weekend I upgraded my weblog to WordPress 2.5. Normally, no big deal. I have been using WordPress for some time now and am happy to work with. The upgrade instructions never posed any problem, nor did they this time.

The only thing bothering me was the necessity to manually update my small collection of plugins. With WordPress 2.3 there was some improvement, since it would indicate updates were available for the plugin. 2.5 takes this to the next level: updating the plugins from within the admin panel. Instead of deactivating the plugin, going to the plugin site, downloading it, uploading it to the server, unpacking it and reactivating it again, it is now simply a matter of clicking on one hyperlink.

Mind you, there are some reports that not all plugins cooperate as nicely but I had no problems whatsoever. Now I wonder, does Joomla 1.5 has a similar feature? If so, it might be worth the time and effort to migrate my Joomla 1.0.x based websites to 1.5.

Anyway, WordPress has gotten better again. Kudos to the team.

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