Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Here goes Google out

Chrome logo
Google's operating system aims to tempt people away from Windows

So at long last Google is making its move. Promising a lightweight but fast operating system - Chrome OS - the internet search company is poised to strike at the heart of Microsoft's software empire.

The Windows operating system is Microsoft's cash cow, powering about 90% of the world's personal computers, and as a result accounting for the majority of its profits.

The benefits are wider, though. Every Windows desktop comes with an invitation (and at times the imperative) to use other Microsoft software and services.

This, in turn, hobbles Google's ambition of organising all the world's information, and making money on the back of it.

After all, most people's computer experience is bogged down with frustration - from the time it takes to start a computer, to software conflicts, and worries about viruses and malware (or for Apple Macs the cost of buying a computer).

Clash of business models

Soon those people who are spending more of their time in the company of Google rather than Microsoft will have the opportunity to use the Chrome OS for all their computing needs
Rory Cellan-Jones
BBC's technology correspondent

Google promises to change all that by stripping desktop computing to its basics. Your PC won't have to do the heavy lifting, applications will run in your browser instead, powered by Google's huge server farms.

It comes down to a clash of business models. Microsoft earns money by charging customers a one-off fee for its operating system, probably $20 for its old Windows XP software, and a rumoured $150 for Windows Vista and the forthcoming Windows 7, which is due to go on sale this autumn.

Google is unlikely to charge for Chrome OS. The company wants you to get online fast, have a whale of a time... and use as many Google services as you can: from search to email, social networking to photo sharing, word processing, to watching films on YouTube.

It is yet another incarnation of the company's "Google everywhere" strategy.

Google, the software firm

Chrome OS also shows what you can achieve when you sit on a huge cash pile, attract some of the world's best software engineers and - most importantly - start with a blank slate.

Google has a track record. Not that long ago the firm announced that it was developing an operating system for smartphones, dubbed Android (which is distinct from Chrome OS).

Microsoft executives that I spoke to back then were dismissive, arguing that Google was underestimating the complexity of such a venture. But already Android is in many ways a more accomplished piece of software than version 6.1 of Microsoft's Windows Mobile.

Google is helped by the fact that unlike Microsoft it has no need to worry about compatibility with legacy software.

That, however, could also be the Achilles heel of Chrome OS.

Consumers who want to buy a Chrome OS computer will have to start with a blank slate as well. Any software that they hold near and dear is unlikely to be compatible with the new system.

And they have to limit their ambitions. If you play computer games, do heavy-duty video or picture editing, or need any kind of specialised software, then you'll return to the shelves heaving with Microsoft powered PCs or Apple Macs.

Timing is everything

As you make your buying decision, you will have this niggling worry that one day, maybe, you will need to use some software that simply can't run in your browser. The advertising campaigns of both Apple and Microsoft will have a great time stoking these worries.

Google's announcement comes at an interesting time. Microsoft is poised to launch its new operating system Windows 7. Unlike its predecessor Vista, Windows 7 is proven to be a good fit for ultraportable netbooks, currently the fastest growing segment of the PC market.

So Chrome OS, due in mid-2010, may come either at just the right time, as the economy recovers and consumers go shopping again, or it may come too late, with Windows 7 already firmly hogging the market.

Chrome impact

In the end, Google's strike may not cut deep into enemy territory.

Chrome, the web browser, is still stuck at a tiny market share of 1.2%. Android is available on just two or three phones, not enough to really make an impact.

Google Apps - productivity software to handle spreadsheets and word documents - has just come out of its "beta" test phase, but look around you and you will find most people still using Microsoft Office.

The one field where Chrome OS may make a difference is the market for the open source Linux operating system. Chrome OS will use bits of the Linux kernel, the link between the computer hardware and the Chrome browser running on it.

Google is bound to make Chrome OS much more user-friendly than most "distros" or versions of Linux available right now. Instead of slaying Microsoft, Chrome OS might corner the segment of the consumer space that might have been Linux's.

No doubt, Google's charge with Chrome OS will needle Microsoft. But we won't know for years whether it will deliver a mere pinprick, or is the fine point of the dagger at the heart of Microsoft.

Monday, May 25, 2009

How does one Roll out Linux in any Organization or Entity?

When We ask people how do they plan to implement a Linux migration or roll out plan , we see a variety of diverse answer sometimes one conflicting the other... but then again there is always a need for a standardized system or process that should be viewed as the best practices to be shared in the community.

Internetnews. com cites a recent report that discloses it’s findings on just this question. An IBM-sponsored survey of 1,275 IT professionals around the world asked for feedback on their experiences making the switch to Linux in their organizations. (You can see the summary and download the free report from Freeform Dynamics here.) Here are the key findings:

  • Desktop Linux adoption is primarily driven by cost reduction
  • But deployment is currently limited, and challenges to further adoption frequently exist
  • Selective deployment based on objective targeting will yield the highest ROI and acceptance
  • Linux desktop roll out is easier than expected for properly targeted end-user groups
  • A focus on usability reflects a maturing of thinking

The report locates potential pitfalls in a proper lack of planning and finds that users are most resistant when the idea is pitched that they have to “compromise” (in other words, give up some applications that won’t run on Linux) in order to move to Linux. However, it is noted that some must-have applications for users could be virtualized on Citrix to solve that problem.

Were you aware of, or included in this survey? If you’ve rolled out Linux to your users or just a targeted set of users, how did it go? If you’re thinking about such a transition, you might find some tips in the report that will help you plot a path.

Feel free to comment

Why should IT companies hire you a guide for budding service contractors

With an increase of people in the job market, there’s more competition for independent contractor gigs. Get tips on how to make prospective clients know that hiring you will help their bottom line.This is a prospective guide to budding entrepreneurs.


When the Information technology trend first began and pushed programming back in the late ’70s, the demand for people who could code was so high that if you knew how to spell GOTO you could find a job. The industry has gone through a lot of cycles since then. In the current phase, hiring of full-time developers has fallen off dramatically, which could be good news for independent contractors. We’re easy to hire and easier to fire than traditional employees. Also, we typically don’t enjoy employee benefits or get paid for time spent on social networks or World of Warcraft.

However, as more regular employees lose their jobs without many prospects for new ones, the pool of available contractors may expand as well. Now the advantages of hiring an independent don’t necessarily work to your personal advantage — especially if former employees are available at a lower rate. How do you make the case that prospects should hire you instead?

Money, money, money

Do you try to represent yourself as the Rolls Royce option? The best consultant that money can buy? The L’Oreal of consultants — because they’re worth it? I don’t think so. Prestige comes at a price that fewer companies are willing to pay for these days. In this economy, it comes down to the bottom line: What is your net effect on profitability (short- and long-term), and how does that compare to their other options?

How can you save them money? How can you make them money? Answer these questions convincingly, and the engagement is as good as yours. Here are a few ways to do that:

  • Expertise. You know what you’re doing, you won’t have to be trained, and you’ve already made the mistakes that others would encounter. So even though you may charge more per hour, you aren’t going to need nearly as many hours. Besides that, your implementation will be more maintainable than something cobbled together by a first-time, saving them money for years to come. So if you have experience in the specific technologies involved, talk that up.

  • Results. All the knowledge and experience in the world doesn’t stack up to being able to get the job done. Offer examples of past clients whom you were able to help. Be ready to go into the details (as far as you’re allowed under any non-disclosure) to show how your contributions made a difference to their bottom line that far exceeded what you cost them, or what most anyone else could have done.

  • Personality. “Hey, I thought we were talking about money,” I hear you cry. We are; if you’re a condescending jerk, you’ll bring the whole team’s productivity to a grinding halt. Show that you’re not only friendly and self-deprecating but also that you’re willing to learn from others and give them credit where due, and that you know a thing or two about team-building. A good team player brings out the best in everyone else to get things done — and thus make money.

  • Soft sell. The worst thing you can do is to reek of desperation. If you’re really as good as you say you are, you’ve got plenty of opportunities, and you’re shopping your clients as much as they’re shopping you. I prefer the soft sell: “Here’s what I’ve got to offer — if it works for both of us, great!” If you sell too hard, they’ll be more likely to doubt some of your claims. Go light on adjectives and adverbs; say what you’ve done, not how gloriously you did it. Let them know you’re all about business.

If you can confidently demonstrate that you will save or make more money than any of their other options, then the objection “we can’t afford you right now” goes out the window. Instead, prospective clients can’t afford not to hire you.

Friday, May 22, 2009

YouTube increasingly less of an option in schools

I generally haven’t been inclined to block YouTube in schools.

Despite the countless videos of kids skateboarding, extraordinary amounts of educational content are there for the taking. Like Filipiniana...folk dances.. science materials and even political and soiological topics...

Unfortunately, it looks as though the junk is quickly on its way to overwhelming the good. However theres an uncomfortable trend lately like what Ars Technica is reporting on the so-called carpet-bombing effort to fill YouTube with pornography:

Today, May 20, has been deemed “Porn Day” by denizens of 4chan and eBaum’s World, with an organized group of users from the sites uploading video clips of explicit, adult content en masse in an attempt to overwhelm the search results. In actuality, it appears that content was prematurely uploaded on the afternoon of the 19th. YouTube has already taken some steps to fight back, but it’s disturbingly easy to find stuff you really don’t want to see, and the uploaders are changing tactics.

On the local level... terrible scandalous videos of movie personalities and political personalities have also mushroomed... thus showing much of a lesser moral fibre in display.....

What this means is that we need to train our teachers and provide them with easy tools to deliver appropriate content to their students. No more, “Hey kids, put together a PowerPoint presentation and feel free to search for some resources on YouTube.” YouTube does make it incredibly easy to embed video on the web and now has tools for excluding those “related videos,” which are all too often a source of said junk.

Therefore, we need to train our teachers to place videos on their own websites or blogs or, better yet, use a site like Fliggo to really isolate useful video content from the rest of YouTube. How many of your teachers know how to embed a YouTube video in a blog? There’s no need to throw out the baby with the bath water in terms of online video, but there is a real need for increased vigilance and helping teachers find new ways to clearly direct instruction around useful video.

Another good thing to consider is to teach Netiquette (net Ethics) to students so that they would be able to appreciate the whole ambit of the net as well as clinging to even a small semblance of respect and ethics for the privacy of others and the better interest of the Public and learning

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Microsoft, Linux Foundation issue joint letter opposing proposed software-licensing principles

Truth can, indeed, be stranger than fiction — as is evidenced by a May 14 letter on software-licensing policies that was signed by both Microsoft and Linux Foundation officials.

The letter, which the two sent to to the American Law Institute (ALI), was designed to “express our shared concerns with the group’s draft Principles of the Law of Software Contracts,” according to a blog post by Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President and Deputy General Counsel.

(Yes, that same Horacio Gutierrez who is known for claiming free and open-source software violated 235 of Microsoft’s patents.)

According to Gutierrez’s latest blog post, while Microsoft and the Linux Foundation have been almost always on opposite sides of the software-licensing fence, they both agree that the ALI Principles — designed to provide guidance to judges and others charged with interpreting software-licensing agreements — could do more harm than good. Gutierrez blogged:

“While the Principles reflect a lot of hard work and thought by the ALI, Microsoft and the Linux Foundation believe that certain provisions do not reflect existing law and could disrupt the well-functioning software market for businesses and consumers, as well as create uncertainty for software developers.

“We have asked the ALI to allow more time for comment from interested parties reflecting the wide range of software developers and users.”

The joint letter to the ALI specifically highlights the policy body’s call for a non-disclaimable “implied warranty of no material hidden defects” as being onerous to both Microsoft and the Linux Foundation. (The Linux Foundation has been objecting to this proposed implied warranty and its possible negative effect on free and open-source software since at least August 2008.) Microsoft and the Linux Foundation both are advocating that by making this warranty disclaimable, vendors will be more willing and able to offer customers their applications and services under a variety of software-licensing models. (That’s my best attempt at explaining this; I’m sure folks more conversant with legal language will be able to chime in as to exactly what the pair want….)

Update: Linux Foundation chief Jim Zemlin explains the warranty issue in a May 18 blog post this way: “The principles outlined by the ALI interfere with the natural operation of open source licenses and commercial licenses as well by creating implied warranties that could result in a tremendous amount of unnecessary litigation, which would undermine the sharing of technology.”

Raymond Nimmer, a professor at the University of Houston Law Center and co-director of the Houston Intellectual Property and Information Law Institute, wrote a strong critique of the ALI draft principles, where he also objected to the proposed implied warranty

Nimmer blogged on May 11: “(I)f the (implied warranty) ‘principle’ were followed, the software industry would be subject to a rule that does not apply to any other industry. Why discriminate against one of our few burgeoning industries?”

The ALI’s annual meeting — where the final vote by memebers on the proposed draft of the Principles is expected — takes place this week.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Looking at the Quezon City Scholarship Fair 2009

We were invited to join the Quezon City City Scholarship Fair 2009. I actually was supposed to attend an "Education Nation Conference" at the University of The Philippines where my good friend Gene Morada of was attending.

We started at around 7 am for the flag raining ceremony and awarding of scholarship vouchers. We were looking at the different schools that were also offering their scholarships and course offerrings.

I noticed that when I saw the different schools actually followed suit. When we opened our course offerings in Multimedia applications and Computer Graphics Design in 2006, everybody barely understood and saw the significance of these courses. We actually pioneered Multimedia and Graphic Design Courses in the TESDA even before other schools and TESDA were offerring and promulgating Training regulations in these specializations in the Philippines. This was because we saw the significance of these courses in the ICT industry. We were also the ones who openly advocated putting and using FOSS in TESDA courses in order to popularize FOSS. So it was quite safe to say.. that other schools like AMA, STI, Informatics merely followed where we pioneered.

The scholarship fair was a showcase for the different schools and TEKBOK Providers....

It was also an opportunity for to showcase its versatility to other schools especially the bagong henerasyon foundation which had satellite training centers in the different community areas in Quezon City.

Explaining the value of cloud computing for indigent students, Trainors from Bagong henerasyon were welcoming the idea and looked forward to having a demonstration of the product to their community computer learning centers

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Do Online Word Processors work?

A friend from IOSN Mam Yolynn Medina shared me an online article , "The case for Online Word Procesors by Dustin Wax ". Naturally Id always take a look at any article shared... and see if its worth commenting or reading.

This one I like... Its written by a person who uses for his daily activities. Imagining just a browser and there you go... you can transfer from PC to PC anywhere you go. This is the beauty of cloud computing. Personally I agree with Dustin on the choices he had recommended, Google Docs (not that I am Google Fan), Zoho Apps and adobe(something I don use). This actually presents the best justification for educational collaboration, where teachers can actually check the written articles and projects prepared on Gdocs and Zoho shared with them, and be edited, collaborated, shared and commented upon.

I agree with Dustin that this is a perfect example of how online word processors can be used for educational purposes. This application can also be found in a visrtual web based OS that has web based applications for cloud computing, an online web based office suite that handles communications and other office work. also is best for schools since if you have a web based desktop that is accessible anywhere there is a connection (internet).. there is an online word processor that you can sue to prepare your projects, term papers and articles.

Indeed Online word procesors can even help minimize paper consumption... one of the best practices in education thats worth sharing with other educators.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Teacher is the curriculum

Telling Teachers they are they are the curriculum

I have recently attended a teachers seminar-workshop held by the Computer Professionals Union today at the University of the Philippines at Balay kalinaw.

Its good to be at UP once again....savouring the breeze, the shady trees and of course Khas food haus with the traditional beef briani for lunch with Gene Morada of

The Theme of the workshop ws “Workshop on the trends and developments in Science and Mathematics”. When I arrived, a listened to inputs by various succes stories on how they used ICT as a tool in enhancing teaching in math and science.

Most of the questions on the open forum was actually centered on either the lack of support from LGU's or supervisors. I however noticed several things.... the teachers paradigm and mindsets were still the repository thing. Meaning they had to grasp it on hand and serve it on spoons to their students.

Of course part of what the previous speakers were telling them that there were options available to them, they just need to look for them.

The same questions and tone of clarifications were going on.

Of course, Gener was next to talk. ICT tools and web 2.0. Gene explained the use of the web to education and the need to use the web to enhance the interest of students and the usage of social networking sites. Also he introduced the value of cloud computing thru G.HO.ST which is actually the best tool for students who dont have their own PC's.

I actually was supposed to talk about school experiences using ICT. Something like best practices. But I felt that I need to tell them something. So I asked them to affirm the following:

The teacher is the curriculum

I am the curriculum

I am a teacher

I will empower my students

I am empowered

I dont know if indeed they felt their statements. I thought them that in order to be empowered they must be able to learn the tools in order to help students. Students nowadays learn more through collaboration than spoonfeeding. It is by introduing collaborative tools like Google services like Blogger, picassa google groups,as well as other web based tools. The concept is that we allow the students to be able to share and ciritique their peers objectively would enhance not only their skills but their responsibility as well.

I hope that the teachers realize that unless they learn that it is only by self-empowerment they can enhance their level of teaching and not on relying on what their supervisors, principals can tell them or what DEPED or TESDA or CHED can tell them.... They can do better because they know what their students need.... thus that is the very key to empowerment and enhancement of education at the very grassroots level. That is the message that they should understand in that seminar.Tools are there....they must be empowered to use these tools as a way to empower themselves and their students.........

Thursday, May 7, 2009

FTC investigates Google and Apple

Google and Apple are learning that while it is important to keep friends close, sometimes the Federal Trade Commission may want to know just how close those friends really are.

According to The New York Times, the FTC has opened an investigation to determine whether or not there are antitrust concerns over the two companies' close relationship. Specifically, the potential problems arise from the fact that both Google and Apple share two directors, Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, and Arthur Levinson, former CEO of Genetech.

The Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914 specifically prohibits the presence of two companies sharing board members when those companies compete. The act is aimed at ensuring that competition between the two companies would be decreased.

The Times reports that the provision against "interlocking directorates," or Section 8 of the Act, is not enforced regularly. Still, as both technology companies continue to expand their reach the FTC has apparently decided that an investigation is warranted—even if the provision is rarely invoked.

In the case of Apple and Google, concerns are likely being raised over the fact that both companies have been making strong pushes into the mobile device market with the iPhone and G1, respectively. In addition, both of the companies compete in the Web browser space, with Apple offering Safari and Google offering Chrome.

Beyond the mobile device and Web browser market, there are other areas where the two companies overlap in a competitive sense. Apple's iTunes and Google's YouTube both distribute video and media on the Web.

Android, Google's mobile device operating system, is in the process of being developed into an OS for netbooks. Apple, of course, has long been a systems maker that loads machines with its own operating system.

The key for Apple and Google to come away from this probe relatively unscathed may center on whether or not the two companies can prove that their competition overlap is minimal. The Clayton Act stipulates that interlocking directorates are not problematic so long as the total revenue overlap between the companies is less than 2 percent, according to the Times.

Monday, May 4, 2009

OS Migration this year

A survey reveals that 84 percent of IT pros don’t have plans to upgrade to Windows 7 in the next year and half of respondents are considering alternatives, but it pays to parse a few nuances.

Andrew Nusca has the details on the survey, which was conducted by Dimension Research and commissioned by KACE, a systems management appliance company. The survey (Techmeme) had 1,142 respondents and 99 percent of them had Windows installed at their companies.

The spin here is that it’s somehow bad that most IT professionals won’t jump to Windows 7 in the next year. However, Windows 7 is still in beta and hasn’t been released yet. Of course, 84 percent won’t upgrade to Windows 7 in a 12 month time frame. If you go April to April and Windows 7 is launched in October-ish that means IT pros would have just six months to make the leap. In the OS upgrade world that speed just doesn’t happen.

Cast in that light, this chart below looks pretty impressive to me.

So within two years 59 percent of IT pros will upgrade to Windows 7. The good news: That’s some pent up demand. The bad news: Vista is the reason there’s pent up demand.

But what really caught my eye is the secondary headline about Windows alternatives.

The headline: 50 percent of IT pros are considering a move from Windows. Operative word: Considering. You’d be dumb not to consider a move. In fact, I’d argue that the other half of IT pros aren’t doing their job: You should always assess alternatives.

Of the 50 percent considering a move away from Windows 14 percent are actively making a jump. That’s up from 11 percent in 2008 and 9 percent in 2007. Your choice: Determine whether the money quote here should be:

  1. Of 50 percent of folks considering a move from Windows, 36 percent stayed.
  2. Of 50 percent of folks considering a move from Windows, 14 percent are bolting. Alternative OSes gaining steam.

The truth is probably in the middle.

And another nuance to ponder. Apple’s OS X is the most likely platform to replace Vista or Windows 7 with 27 percent eyeing the Mac platform. The rub: That percentage is down from 29 percent in 2008.

Perhaps the headline should be that Vista, Windows 7 and OS X are in decline—for Ubuntu.

Check out the chart:

In any case there’s a lot of fun with numbers that can be played with this survey.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

CHS students trained with FOSS as alternatives

Engaging Students with FOSS.

TESDA has recently given 50 scholarship slots in computer hardware servicing NC II to our school, the Asian Academy of Business and Computers. This was part of the 175 recently given slots of Pangulong Gloria Scholarships courtesy of TESDA.

Previously, we held an assessemnt on PC operations NC II around October of last year, we used open office and mozzila firefox as part of the test pakage for our students. Most of them (90 %) had passed the assessment and were declared “competent” (TESDA uses the term COMPETENT instead of passing).

Last Month (April) we also held assessments for our students in Computer Hardware servicing NC II every weekend. 94% (67 students) were declared competent in this category.

Currently our 2 classes of Computer Hardware servicing NC II are being trained to be both familiar with proprietary and FOSS software.

Touching on the merits of FOSS,most students were surprised how come LINUX and other FOSS Operating systems never have viruses.

Running on their third to fourth week, most students are still having their doubts as to the workability of linux. Perhaps after they have done installing and maintaing the computers they will have as projects.. they may realize that indeed Linux and other FOSS products are good technical alternatives to proprietary software.

Our trainors, linux Guru Brian De Vivar and hardware guy John Lopez are both doing their stuff in training these students to learn to use better alternatives like Ubuntu Linux and Mandriva Linux.

Unlike other Computer Hardware servicing students from other schools, our graduates will be both familiar with proprietary and FOSS.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Should you rip or should you not?

Is backing up a DVD fair use or piracy?

SHOULD people who have bought DVDs legally be allowed to make digital copies of them for their own use? Any reasonable person would say yes. In copyright terms, that ought to be considered “fair use”. The law, however, presently says otherwise.

In America the Audio Home Recording Act of 1992 considers it fair use for people to record copyrighted radio broadcasts for personal use. But the act says nothing about making digital recordings; and ripping copyrighted music tracks off CDs and storing them on iPods has now become an everyday occurrence. Apple would be in serious difficulty if people were prevented from transferring their own CDs to their iPods. Indeed, the software Apple gives away to iPod customers is designed to let them do just that. Yet it is probably illegal.


One reason cited by people who believe they are entitled to make copies of any copyrighted material is security. A backup copy is needed, they say, in case a rare or favourite DVD is attacked by “disc rot” or gets badly scratched.

They are being disingenuous. Optical discs are not indestructible, but they are remarkably robust. Certainly, the adhesive used to bond the layers within the platter can lift, causing the aluminium data-layer below to become oxidised and patchy. But the solution is simple: keep all optical discs out of direct sunlight.

Meanwhile dust, fingerprints and even scratches can usually be removed by wiping the polycarbonate disc with a polyester cloth dipped in dilute washing-up liquid, and then rinsing with rubbing alcohol or methylated spirits.

Just remember to wipe the disc radially—from the centre to the edge. Wiping with a circular motion—parallel to the direction the data are laid down—can create microscopic blemishes over the Hamming error-correction codes. The picture can then become jerky or freeze as the video player stumbles across the patch of corrupted data.

In an act of desperation, your correspondent once used toothpaste to rub out deep gouges on a Laser Disc. The unplayable disc was restored to life, and subsequently replayed many times with never so much as a flicker.

The polymer coating of a Blu-ray Disc makes it even more durable than a DVD. Though little more than half a millimetre thick, it can withstand a surprising amount of abuse. It even stands up to a screwdriver attack.

Another excuse used by those who would copy DVDs is convenience—to have copies of favourite films on a laptop while away from home. Maybe, but your correspondent thinks it is easier to take the original discs with him. A better case can be made for copying DVDs onto a dedicated home-server, especially if it is hooked up to a wide-screen television using a secure cable.

Copying DVDs for such purposes may make life easier, but it is almost always against the law. With every DVD sold in America, both the packaging and the introduction to the video itself clearly state that unauthorised reproduction, distribution or exhibition is illegal. To be more specific, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 makes it a crime to circumvent measures that control access to the copyrighted material.

Unfortunately, the copyright protection on DVDs is so pathetic that it positively invites piracy. The encryption method known as Content Scrambling System (CSS) was first cracked in 1999 by Jon Johansen, a Norwegian programmer. In a few short lines of elegant code he called DeCSS, Mr Johansen showed the world how utterly useless the encryption was. Ever since, free software tools with names like HandBrake, DVDFab and DVD Shrink have circulated the web for copying the contents of DVDs onto hard-drives and recordable discs.

The one way you can legally copy a DVD, at least for the moment, is to buy one of the $10,000 home-server and player combos beloved by Hollywood moguls and made by a Silicon Valley firm called Kaleidescape.

A Kaleidescape server works by ripping the tracks off an owner’s collection of CDs and DVDs and storing them on the digital jukebox’s huge hard-drive. The digital content is then encrypted and fed to various screens and speakers around the home by a secure cable.

Ironically, Kaleidescape was sued several years ago by the film industry’s friends in the DVD Content Control Association for breaching its CSS licence. In its defence, Kaleidescape claimed that content distributed this way was even safer than it was on the original DVDs. The judge not only agreed, but could find no breach of the CSS licence either. The Content Control Association is appealing against the ruling.

RealNetworks, a digital media company that pioneered much of the technology for streaming music and video from the web, has pinned its defence in court this week on the Kaleidescape ruling. Last October a group of Hollywood studios sued the Seattle firm for the way RealDVD, a $30 software program, makes copying DVDs to a PC’s hard-drive a simple one-click affair, busting the CSS digital-rights-management system wide open and encouraging flagrant piracy in the process.

Not true, claims the company. RealDVD keeps the encryption intact as it copies everything—CSS included—to a PC’s hard-drive, and then wraps the lot up in an iTunes form of digital rights management. Lawyers for the firm have framed the debate in terms of fair use, as the software not only maintains the CSS encryption but also locks the copies of the DVD onto the receiving PC’s hard-drive for the owner’s private use.

But why, might our reasonable person ask, would RealNetworks go out of its way to provoke the Hollywood studios, who rely on DVD sales for most of their revenue these days? It is not as though a $30 program, sold in direct competition with a dozen well-established freebies from the internet, is going to make any significant difference to the media company’s sagging bottom line.

The answer can only be that RealNetworks has far bigger fish to fry than mere backup software for DVDs. Under questioning in court this week, the company was forced to reveal its long-term plans for the technology.

It seems that RealNetworks wants to turn its handiwork, code-named Facet, into a “TiVo for DVDs”—and do for video what MP3 players have done for audio. Apparently, the company has contracts with set-top-box makers in Asia awaiting the go-ahead. If the San Francisco court rules in its favour, RealNetworks could have its $300 version of the formidably expensive Kaleidescape jukebox out by next Christmas.

There is just one problem: the federal judge hearing the present case is Marilyn Hall Patel, who ruled against Napster in 2001—and put a stop, albeit briefly, to peer-to-peer sharing of MP3 music files over the internet

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The revolution that wasn't

DVRs were supposed to undermine television. They have done the opposite

TEN years ago this week a black box was demonstrated at a broadcasters’ convention in Las Vegas. TiVo’s digital video recorder (DVR) was expensive: the cheapest model cost $499. But it was hailed as revolutionary. It was much more flexible and easier to programme than a videocassette recorder. It allowed people to record and play back at the same time, so they could start watching a programme 20 minutes after it had started and fast-forward through all the advertisements. Experts forecast a severe, perhaps fatal, blow to advertising-supported television.

“For quite a few years people thought it was going to mean the demise of the television business,” says Alan Wurtzel, president of research at NBC, an American broadcast network. Yet DVRs turn out to have done little damage. Indeed, DVRs (also known as personal video recorders, or PVRs) may even have protected television and made it more conservative.

On one point the Cassandras were correct. As prices fell and cable and satellite firms began to bundle DVRs with other services, their popularity soared. According to Nielsen, a media-research outfit, 29% of American homes now have one. The boxes are in a higher proportion of the households advertisers most care about. Jack Wakshlag of Turner Broadcasting, a cable company, calculates that DVR-owning households earn about $20,000 more than average. Yet those households do not use them nearly as much as one might expect. Families with DVRs seem to spend 15-20% of their viewing time watching pre-recorded shows, and skip only about half of all advertisements. This means only about 5% of television is time-shifted and less than 3% of all advertisements are skipped. Mitigating that loss, people with DVRs watch more television.

Just because technology enables people to do something does not mean they will, particularly when it comes to a medium as indolence-inducing as television. And people have become lazier. Early adopters of DVRs used them a lot—not surprisingly, since they paid so much for them. Later adopters use them much less (about two-thirds less, according to a recent study). David Poltrack, head of research and planning at CBS, another broadcast network, reckons the networks have already felt most of the DVR’s effects.

Advertisers and television networks have pushed back even against this puny threat. They have developed relatively static advertisements that get a message across even at high speed. They put snippets of programming in the middle of ad breaks. One trick, described by Todd Juenger of TiVo as “closer to a silver bullet”, is to run advertisements that resemble programmes—in some cases featuring stars from the show people are trying to watch.

Far from being revolutionary, in some ways DVR has made television more stable. With the exception of live events it is broadly true that the most popular programmes are recorded the most. Mr Wakshlag describes it as “a hit-saving machine”. Broadcast television receives a bigger boost from DVR playback than cable television. The device has made it harder to introduce a new television programme, particularly at 10pm when people are likely to be playing back shows they recorded at 8pm or 9pm.

One reason television executives have calmed down about DVRs is that they have something else to worry about. Hulu and other video-streaming websites, which are becoming more popular, give a great deal of control to consumers and are thought to pose a threat to advertising-supported television. Does that sound familiar?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

No more yahoos for Geocities

Yahoo pulls the plug on GeoCities

GeoCities screen shot
Yahoo paid $3.57bn for GeoCities in 1999

Yahoo is to close its personal web hosting site GeoCities later this year.

In a statement, the firm says it will no longer be accepting new customers and will focus on helping "customers build new relationships online".

Yahoo bought GeoCities for $3.57bn at the height of the dotcom boom in 1999.

At its peak, GeoCities boasted millions of active accounts, but it has since fallen out of fashion, with users migrating to social networking sites.

Yahoo says that existing GeoCities accounts will remain live for now, although it stresses that users should start looking for alternative sites.

"You don't need to change your service today, but we encourage anyone interested in a full-featured web-hosting plan to consider upgrading to our award-winning Yahoo! Web Hosting service," the firm said in an online post.

The closure of GeoCities spells the end of Yahoo's free hosting, although other services - such as e-mail accounts - remain unaffected.

Rupert Goodwins, editor of the ZDNet website, said the closure of GeoCities was the end of an era.

"I think GeoCities was the first proof that you could have something really popular and still not make any money on the internet.

"It was a fascinating experiment in the pre-industrial era of the internet, but after the initial exuberance on what the web could do, it turned out to be more complicated than just giving them free hosting.

"You need to give users tools to actually do things and make things simple, one of the reasons sites like Facebook and MySpace are so popular," he said.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Government PC's ensnared by BOTNETS

Escape key
PCs inside a botnet can be forced to carry out instructions

Almost two million PCs globally, including machines inside UK and US government departments, have been taken over by malicious hackers.

Security experts Finjan traced the giant network of remotely-controlled PCs, called a botnet, back to a gang of cyber criminals in the Ukraine.

Several PCs inside six UK government bodies were compromised by the botnet.

Finjan has contacted the Metropolitan Police with details of the government PCs and it is now investigating.

A spokesman for the Cabinet Office, which is charged with setting standards for the use of information technology across government, said it would not comment on specific attacks "for security reasons".

When we look at a similar network last year they were in the hundreds of thousands. Now were looking at mega-size botnets.
Yuval Ben-Itzhak, chief technology officer for Finjan

"It is Government policy neither to confirm nor deny if an individual organisation has been the subject of an attack nor to speculate on the origins or success of such attacks."

He added: "We constantly monitor new and existing risks and work to minimise their impact by alerting departments and giving them advice and guidance on dealing with the threat."

It is the second time in a year that PCs inside government departments have been hacked to form part of a botnet.

On this occasion, the machines were infected with software which allowed them to be taken over and enslaved in the botnet due to vulnerabilities in web browsers.

At the mercy

Once a machine has been compromised, it can be instructed to download further software, which puts the machine at the mercy of malicious hackers.

Use anti-spyware and anti-virus programs
On at least a weekly basis update anti-virus and spyware products
Install a firewall and make sure it is switched on
Make sure updates to your operating system are installed
Take time to educate yourself and family about the risks
Monitor your computer and stay alert to threats

The compromised PCs are capable of reading e-mail addresses, copying files, recording keystrokes, sending spam and capturing screen shots.

Once a single machine inside a corporate network has been made part of the botnet it puts other machines on the network at risk.

The Cabinet Office would not give details of what the compromised machines had been instructed to do, nor the names of the different government departments that had been infiltrated.

The cyber criminals, who have not been caught, were selling access to the compromised machines, thought to be mainly PCs inside companies, on a hackers' forum in Russia.

One thousand machines were being sold at a time for between $50 and $100.

Finjan reports that the botnet is under the control of six criminals who are able to remotely control the infected machines.

Different organisations

Almost half of the infected machines were in the US. Six percent of the botnet, about 114,000 machines from 52 different organisations, were from the UK, among them a single PC inside the BBC's network.

Many of the infected machines will have been caught by routine information security policies at firms, as it was in the case of the BBC, but Finjan says many of the botnet PCs are still active.

We are aware of this botnet and are taking appropriate action
Metropolitan Police spokeswoman

More than 70 different national government agencies from around the world were caught up in the malicious network.

Yuval Ben-Itzhak, chief technology officer for Finjan, told BBC News: "When we looked at the network domain names to see where the [compromised PCs] come from we were surprised to see many government networks, including UK government computers.

"Obviously we reported it and they have now dealt with it. There were six UK agencies with at least one computer in each department that was running the bot.

"I'm not at liberty to name the actual agencies - but this isn't a unique story to the UK, they were running in many other non-UK, government bodies too."

Government bodies

A number of different government bodies are responsible for IT security and deployment across the UK.

They include the Central Sponsor for Information Assurance, the National Technical Authority for Information Assurance, and the the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI), the government body which is part of the British Security Service and responsible for providing security advice to organisations that make up critical services in the UK.

All of the infected machines were Windows-based PCs and the vulnerability was targeting security holes in Internet Explorer and Firefox.

Mr Ben-Itzhak said: "What is unique is the number the size of the network. When we look at a similar network last year they were in the hundreds of thousands. Now were looking at mega-size botnets."

In contact

A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police said: "This is an ongoing investigation. We are aware of this botnet and are taking appropriate action."

Large botnets can be used to co-ordinate attacks to knock parts of the network, or specific websites, offline, called a Distributed Denial of Service attack.

Last year, the CPNI told a Cabinet Office-commissioned independent review that stopping such attacks was difficult.

It said: "The attacks are relatively low in sophistication, but have been highly effective due to the large number of compromised machines involved.

"It is difficult to defend against a sophisticated Distributed Denial of Service attack without impacting legitimate business use."

The CPNI recommended that the best defence against these attacks was appropriate monitoring of the network.

Additional reporting by Daniel Emery.

Botnet graphic

Monday, April 20, 2009

Portable Ubuntu Linux

Want a Portable ubuntu on top of Windows?
By Adrian Kingsley Hughes

I like finding risk-free ways to try out Linux distros because I can show them to folks who are curious about Linux but not yet ready to throw the Windows discs into the trash can. One way to try Linux while keeping your Windows installation intact is to use Portable Ubuntu.

Check out the Portable Ubuntu gallery

Portable Ubuntu is a great idea. It’s a stand-alone 440MB package that you download to your PC (Windows only, no Mac flavor) and extract onto your PC or portable flash drive so you can take the OS with you when you’re on the move (you need 2GB of space for the extracted files). To get the ball rolling you then fire up Portable Ubuntu via the Command Prompt (under Vista and Windows 7 this needs to have admin privileges). However, if you’re expecting to see a full Linux desktop you’re out of luck. What you get is a nifty toolbar that looks and feels like Ubuntu’s own launcher.

From here you can launch all your favorite Linux applications, and these run as though they are Windows-based apps.

Portable Ubuntu is really nice and well thought out. Not only are all changes you make to the Linux distro saved automatically, but you can add and remove Linux programs to suit your needs.

Note: To make changes to the OS you need the root password, which in this case has been set to 123456 (you might want to change that).

Portable Ubuntu is a great bit of kit for those wanting a portable OS solution or wanting to try out Ubuntu. For Linux newbies it’s a good way to take Ubuntu for a test drive without having to commit an entire PC to the project

Adrian is a technology journalist and author who has devoted over a decade to helping users get the most from technology. He also runs a popular blog called The PC Doctor.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Use of Resumes in a Web 2.0 world

By the time kids leave high school or college, they should be able to write a resume, right? It won’t be a long one as they obviously have pretty limited employment experience. However, they should be able to sell themselves to post-secondary educational institutions and potential employers. While the traditional 1-page paper resume is hardly dead as a snapshot of a potential employee/student,It sure would help if people have an online pressence that would mark and represent their professional potential.

This is 2009: what can you bring to your employer or to your professors/instructors in terms of modern skill? Obviously, the idea of selling yourself on one piece of paper means that you have to be quite compelling in a short space. Yet it hardly provides a picture of a modern young person.

Nowadays, HR department people or even potential employers will check MySpace and Facebook profiles before hiring candidates. Why not, in addition to keeping one’s social networking profiles clean (please stop posting those killer bong hits, kids), provide an employer with a full digital portfolio? Don’t make them dig up your Twitter or Friendfeed; provide them in a clear, well-organized, online format. Make it a blog, or a wiki, a full-blown website, or a video site. Make it compelling, interesting, and to the point. Make the link prominent on that paper resume you provide in an interview or letter of interest (or on your college application, for that matter).

Guidance and career counselors, take note: this is 2009. It’s no longer about helping kids get into college or find a job: it’s about helping students build a brand and sell themselves in a very different world than the world into which most of us were born.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Is Linux only for the poor? Posted by Christopher Dawson

Last week, I followed a conversation on an OpenSuse Education newsletter to which I subscribe. I didn’t have time to join in, but it did get me thinking about open source in education more broadly. Regular readers will know that my school district has made serious strides in the last couple of years, particularly as it relates to technology. However, those same regular readers will also know that the community is hurting like many other aging mill towns and that I frequently at least explore open source solutions as money savers.

For now, most open source use is among students. All of the elementary schools use Open Office; we don’t have any Office licenses in place with the exception of a couple secretarial power users who are able to exploit some of the advanced features in Office 2007. Students throughout the district use Open Office at home, saving themselves the trouble of using Works if it came preinstalled on their computers or to avoid buying Office. I hand out CDs and USB keys to students with dialup access loaded with 3.

An increasing number of students and teachers have turned to Linux as they try to eek out a bit of extra life on their computers or decide that they don’t like whatever version of Vista came preinstalled on computers they recently purchased. I’m happy, along with a couple of my techs, to help people get up an running with Linux. However, we haven’t yet rolled out Linux formally in our schools. The only time we had a full Linux lab was when we had absolutely no technology funding in my second year teaching and I let my students build a lab from old donated computers.

Which leads me to the point of this post? If you have money in your district, is there any reason to use Linux? The original conversation I mentioned earlier was started by an IT staffer at an exclusive, well-funded private school. They were a Windows shop and saw no incentive to change. Licensing costs were a non-issue. Even we still largely use Windows and OS X, despite my fondness for Linux. We’ve been granted the funding to do so in the last couple of years and my primary goal has been instructional integration of computing, rather than worrying about training for a Linux rollout.

We’re hunkering down now budget-wise for a tough couple of years. While we have solid technology in place, new acquisitions will be very carefully scrutinized for cost and benefit; there are very few pennies to spare. Saving $50 per computer on OS licensing just might be the difference between funding a project and needing to wait for 1-2 years.

So again, is Linux only useful in a recession or in South American countries trying to get as many computers into the hands of rural schoolchildren as they can?

Cost will certainly give people a reason to switch, but I don’t think a crappy economy or poverty in a developing country is the only reason to use Linux and open source software. I won’t even get into the argument of exposing kids to a variety of computing environments. I think the biggest reason to use Linux (aside from potential cost savings if you can develop some in-house *nix expertise) is simply the giant body of software that is freely available.

The OpenSUSE Education project is a great example. Desktop software included with this project ranges from computer science applications for kids to the R statistical programming interface. Server software ranges from OpenSIS to Joomla.

Whether your school has money or not, there is incredible value in the open source community. Perhaps most important, though, is that word “community.” We can talk all we want about global economies, but allowing students and staff to be part of and participate in a community that drives the way we use technology is an incredible opportunity. Keep in mind that there is plenty of open source value for Windows users; we don’t all have to switch to Linux to reap the benefits of FOSS.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Pangulong Gloria Scholarships

The Technical Education Skills Development Authority (TESDA ) Quezon City District office has recently awarded 1,000 Pangulong Gloria Scholarships to poor yet deserving students in its first pilot tsting of the PGS scholarships to selected schools/TEK Bok Providers (TBP).
According to NCR Regional Director Mitch Tangonan, this is on;ly the first batch of PGS scholaers, more will be following as the government plans to increase Training for work scholarships in order that students will have more access to sure jobs and employable skills after completion of their trainings.

Among the schools that were able to be part of the pilot implementation of the PGS was the Asian Academy of Business and Computer of which 100 students were awarded scholarships in the following fields:

  • Computer hardware servicing NC II : 25 slots
  • Programming NC IV: 25 slots
  • Visual Graphics NC III: 25 slots
  • Book Keeping NC III : 25 slots

There are other schools also co-implementing the program. For more details, you may check for more details.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Ning CEO on how start-ups can hit the ground running

Competitive advantages with cloud computing

At the TechCrunch Cloud Computing Roundtable in Mountain View, Calif., Gina Bianchini, CEO of Ning, says that cloud computing can give start-ups an edge by allowing them to focus on the application their business is producing, and then gives them far wider distribution--through sites like Facebook--than was available just a few years ago. Amitabh Srivastava, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Windows Azure group, adds that the cloud eliminates hardware headaches, an important consideration for start-ups that may not even have funding yet. Moderator: Erick Schonfeld, co-editor TechCrunch

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Microsoft bounty for worm creator

Microsoft bounty for worm creator

A reward of $250,000 (£172,000) has been offered by Microsoft to find who is behind the Downadup/Conficker virus.

Since it started circulating in October 2008 the Conficker worm has managed to infect millions of computers worldwide.

Microsoft is offering the cash reward because it views the Conficker worm as a criminal attack.

"People who write this malware have to be held accountable," George Stathakopulos, of Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing Group was reportedly heard saying.

He said that the company was "will not sit back and let this kind of activity go unchecked".

"Our message is very clear - whoever wrote this caused significant pain to our customers and we are sending a message that we will do everything we can to help with your arrest," said Mr Stathakopulos.

Arbor Networks said as many as 12 million computers could be affected globally by Conficker/Downadup since it began prowling the web looking for vulnerable machines to infect in October.

The Conficker worm is a self-replicating program that takes advantage of networks or computers that have not kept up to date with Windows security patches.

It can infect machines via a net connection or by hiding on USB memory drives used to ferry data from one computer to another. Once in a computer it digs deep, setting up defences that make it hard to extract.

USB drives, BBC
The worm can also spread via USB flash drives.

The worm stealths through networks by guessing usernames and passwords. Security specialists recommend hardening passwords by mixing in numbers, punctuation marks and capital letters.

The virus reports in to its creators for updates by visiting a web domain. It generates the name of the domain itself using a complicated code which security firms have cracked to track the growth of the worm and block its progress.

Malware such as Downadup can be triggered to steal data or turn control of infected computers over to malicious hackers which pool them into larger armies of so-called botnets.

These networks of compromised machines can be used to send spam, as dead drops for stolen or pirated data and to launch attacks on other machines.

Although Downadup is widespread its creators havent activated its payload to steal data or launch other attacks.

It has caused costly headaches for network administrators dealing with users locked out of their accounts when the worm correctly guesses a password.

While Microsoft says it does not know the intention of the worm's creator, it wants to ensure it does not wreak any more havoc.

Experts say users should have up-to-date anti-virus software and install Microsoft's MS08-067 patch - also known as KB958644.

Microsoft has also partnered with security companies, domain name providers, academia, internet companies such as AOL and others on a co-ordinated global response to the worm.

Discarded computers, AP
Millions of computers have been hit by Conficker

Also included is the US Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security.

"The best way to defeat potential botnets like Conficker/Downadup is by the security and Domain Name System communities working together," said Greg Rattray, chief internet security adviser at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann).

"Icann represents a community that's all about co-ordinating those kinds of efforts to keep the internet globally secure and stable."

In 2003 Microsoft created its reward programme with $5m (£3.4m) in funding to help law enforcement agencies bring computer virus and worm authors to justice.

This reward for help in tracking the creators of Downadup is the first time in four years that the company has put up some cash in response to a worm outbreak.

Clock, BBC
Microsoft hopes its bounty has started the countdown to finding its creator

"We have not seen this type of worm or one of its class since 2004," said Mr Stathakopulos.

In 2005 Microsoft paid out $250,000 (£171,000) to two individuals who helped identify the creator of the notorious Sasser worm. The author was arrested and sentenced by the German authorities.

Rewards of $250,000 were offered over three other major computer worm threats known as Blaster, MyDoom and Sobig worms.

Those perpetrators have never been caught.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Textbooks in E-books?

Is there a current need for textbooks in schools?

Normally the trend would be in school is to require courses taken to have textbooks, and each teacher would always have his perrenial bias towards recommending his won favourite textbook, be it authored by him or his favourite college pprofessor. .In buying technology textbooks as time passes by specially in IT they tend to be outdated by the time you receive them and because we have this great thing called the Internet filled with technology information.

Not so long ago, it took a fair amount of work, though to assemble a whole semester’s or year’s worth of coursework from web materials. Obviously, supplemental materials abounded, but textbooks certainly do help with a curriculum and keeping students on track from day to day. And as a school administrator for a school with students from class CD and e groups, I would always look for affordable alternatives, knowing that the web is full of them, it only would take you a specially dedicated researcher to find these things on the net. We were all set for introductory web classes and office productivity, but more advanced web goodies and programming were certainly not in our book closet.

It didn’t take much of our time to do Googling, that we came over to see that there are full textbooks and curricula were now available for free to cover every topic I had in mind. The idea of Open Textbooks is a fairly new one, following in the same vein as Open Source Software. Some of them, like Wikibooks, are works in progress. Others are robust teaching tools, like those found on

The Canadian site Free Learning is also a treasure trove of information and is searchable as well. This is more of a meta-database, pointing to a variety of open text resources.

This doesn’t even take into account initiatives like MIT’s OpenCourseWare. Two introductory computer science courses (including notes, presentations, source code, and other supplemental materials) are available here, along with countless courses appropriate for high school and independent study. Courses particularly appropriate for high school are even broken out on this site

We’re certainly nowhere near a time when we can dispense with purchased, traditional textbooks, especially in core subjects that often need to be aligned with local, state, or federal standards. However, I have no doubt that I can give teachers everything they need to teach a wide variety of courses in technology without spending a dime.

We just have to be wise enough and have the temerity to search within the available set of freee resources in our reach.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Windows 7 to Ubuntu... will it get wiped out by M$

Ubuntu logoReacting that Windows 7 will wipe out Ubuntu.

There were recent comments from ZDNET people that there are people from MS who said that Microsoft 7 will wipe out Ubuntu.

However,Dana Blankenhorn of ZDNET says other wise, she gives the following reasons in her blog:

"Not exactly. Not even approximately.

First let’s understand what 7’s target is. It’s not so much desktop Linux as a particular Linux distro — Ubuntu — that targets the desktop.

Some of these reasons are technological, others social. But the biggest reason is a business reason:

  1. Ubuntu has an entrepreneur at the helm. Microsoft beat IBM because it had Bill Gates up against a bunch of suits. Now Microsoft is a bunch of suits and Ubuntu has Mark Shuttleworth.

  2. Ubuntu has more server compatibility. Linux continues to beat Windows on the server, and servers (in the form of clouds) are becoming dominant over clients.

  3. Ubuntu’s friends will not desert it. HP and Dell have gotten a taste of freedom from Microsoft tyranny. They won’t give that up easily. They will continue seeking product line niches where Ubuntu can succeed.

  4. The Netbook will continue to evolve. The “no moving parts” PC is still at Version 1.0. There is a niche for a cheap, profitable “online machine” that can be used in Airports, hotel rooms and sandy deserts.

  5. Applications will come. It’s true there are more Windows apps than Linux, by a logarithmic factor. But many are being ported, and the developed world will create many more.

  6. Windows is losing the mobility wars. Linux is playing well, Apple is winning big, RIM is hanging in. Where’s Windows? PCs are servers to mobile clients. The clients will tire of waiting.

  7. The open source model. Software development has become like the old Steve Jackson game Ogre, and Microsoft’s the Ogre. Ubuntu and other open source pieces are small, but there are a lot of them, and they can work together. Or as Kermit said in The Muppet Movie “who are your friends, Doc?”

This does not mean that Microsoft will cease to be a desktop player, that Ubuntu is going to take over. Far from it. Ubuntu will retain enough interest to stay in the game, that’s all it needs to do.

Ubuntu is doing fine with its present market share. How much more can it get over the next year? Perhaps just a little. I suspect this will be a year when desktop Linux consolidates around Ubuntu, so some gain is nearly assured.

Microsoft will also not disappear under the open source onslaught, just as IBM did not disappear under the weight of Microsoft. But it will change.

It will be fun to watch how it changes, and when. It has yet to see the need, but when Ubuntu fails to fall under the weight of Windows 7 perhaps it will."

dana is one of the resident bloggers of ZDNET

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Having Good Functional Running Old PC's

A lot of us have old PCs stuck in the corners of classrooms, machines we just can’t afford to replace and whose owners just can’t do without. At the same time, a lot of us are acquiring netbooks and inexpensive hardware instead of investing in the latest and greatest “Vista-capable” computers. Normally for FOSS people like me its a YEHEY think to put in Linux in those running Boxes.

Some people have issues however if indeed there appears to be a need to install Xubuntu on a 7-year old computer when it’s running just fine on Windows 98 or Windows 2000? From a security point of view , there are risks in running these dated operating systems, however,what matters to us is just to keep people who are using these computers functional (since they have grown used to it, considering that many people in these spaces are creatures of habit). Perhaps the machines are only used for word processing or accessing specific applications with minimal Internet access (if a computer only hits your student information system and sits behind an adequate firewall, chances of a breach are pretty low).

There are time that Students or even your teachers bought netbooks for themselves and had XP Home installed, no matter how many times you suggested they buy the Linux model. To that end, there is some very lightweight software available to maximize the utility of aging machines or low-end netbooks (and it runs on Windows!).Chris Dawson and Tech Radar featured a cool roundup of ultra-light applications for aging PCs. We will highlight some of the apps that would be most appropriate for educational settings:

  1. Word Processing - AbiWord 2.6
    Boasting most of the same functionality as Microsoft Word 2003, AbiWord is free and light on its feet. Needing only a paltry 16MB of RAM, it runs on Windows 2000 upwards. You can grab an earlier version for Windows 98 if your machine is really wrinkly. [Also a great choice on Linux; it isn't a full office suite, but it's a very fast word processor]
  2. Graphics - IrFanView 4.23
    Forget about Photoshop and even its open source rival The GIMP - IrfanView’s the photo editor to choose on underpowered platforms. With support stretching back to Windows 95 it opens and saves dozens of image formats, with batch editing, cropping resizing and other basic photo manipulation tools built in.
  3. Coding - NoteTab Light
    Looking for a seriously lightweight coding tool? NoteTab Light does the job. A text editor that’s optimised for working with HTML and CSS, it has features like code snippets, HTML tidying and auto-correction. It’ll run happily on Windows 98 upwards - Windows 95 too if you use the help file patch.
  4. Video - VLC Media Player
    Judging media players is difficult as they’re only ever as fast and reliable as the data you try to squeeze through them. VLC Media Player is portable. though, has a small footprint and - though it will struggle to play full HD video on older systems - it’s perfect for DVDs and MP3s on Pentium class computers. [This will take care of all of your video needs on Linux machines and Macs, too, regardless of file type]
  5. PDF Reader - Sumatra PDF
    PDFs have become the industry alternative to printed documentation - but Acrobat Reader, Adobe’s free tool for opening PDFs, is something of a resource hog. Enter Sumatra PDF - nimble on its feet and stripped of bells and whistles, it’s a fast loading alternative to Adobe’s offering. [Think Preview on a Mac]
  6. Instant Messaging - Pidgin
    Multiple messaging clients scoff your system resources, so switching to a single, universal IM tool makes sense. Pidgin does the job well, with support for AIM, Google Talk, Yahoo!, MSN and more. [I'd only recommend this one on those netbooks, by the way; IM is just too risky on older machines]

So in the view of using old machines and making people be functional. Keep these tips on hand and God Bless

Friday, January 23, 2009

Cloud Computing in School with Google Docs.

In short, pretty well. Google Docs has gotten faster and more robust and served brilliantly for any school's word processing needs. Wherever possible that the average K-12 student could live within their browser quite happily. With Google Docs (my online suite of choice because I’ve really bought into the Google ecosystem, but Zoho provides great tools as well), presentations, spreadsheets, and documents are utterly simple to produce. Despite the changes to Google’s marketing and sales of their Apps suite, their educational version of Google Apps for your domain remains free.

Blogger (and countless other tools) make it easy to produce documents online and share them as needed; Google Docs provides great sharing and collaboration tools as well.

Googlegroups also is good because it allows collaboration between teacher and student. An editions to the work would be highlighted and any desire to return to the original version of the document can be made by the author of the text.

This proves critical when a student has to prepare or edit a document that he has but is unsure of the LAN ecology in which he is using. To assure that his documents will not be virus infested, using an online document application wherein his file is uploaded, he is able to simultaneoulsy prepare the text, email it to share/collaborate with a etacher and simultaneoulsy in real time see the comments and remarks made by his teacher on the paper. A real help for the teacher who may be mobile.

Gdocs is also a remarkable tool as it allows the teacher to create an online exam in Google forms. After creating the exam he may simply email the form to his students and who will answer and send the form back to the teacher who may maximize the results.

Google Docs, thus is one of the applications that uses cloud computing and is very advantegous to the educational sector.

One of the things im thinking of giving consideration (although majority of my students come from class CD and E families) is having an internet access point for WIFI notebooks. Some of my students, especially from the short term courses that I offer, accidentally bring in their notebooks from work. It would assist them in having online portfolios for their multimedia, visual graphics and animation classes. So what does this mean for students and teachers using cheap netbooks? It means that even for schools who turn to netbooks as an inexpensive way to get more computers into students’ hands, some dedicated facilities for more sophisticated computing are important. It also means that a bit of flash storage, whether an SD card or USB drive, could allow some multimedia files to be handled client-side or moved between dedicated PCs and the netbooks.

In the end I am hoping that I would be able to create more opportunities that would have students from class B and C families coming in and bring notebooks as one of their tools in school.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

What should we do with those computers lying on our desks: a question for every School Manager on the Primary, Secondary and even on the Tertiary Leve

BusinessWeek ran a great article recently focusing on one school in San Francisco that was rethinking exactly what computers in schools meant. As the article quite aptly pointed out,
“Schools are enthusiastic about the technology’s promise, but short of the money and trained faculty to extract many of its benefits…In many schools, PCs have failed to aid students’ learning or improve test scores, or equip them with the analysis and communications skills that today’s workplace demands, according to studies. The problems include a reliance on paper lesson plans that don’t factor in technology, and inadequate teacher training and technical support.”

Most of us realize how easy it is to throw computers into a school to meet requirements of various regulatory types and call this 21st Century Learning. Actually using these effectively in the classroom is another matter entirely.

“If you’re just sprinkling the technology on top of the curriculum, it’s not as compelling,” says. Intel’s [Eileen Lento, a government and education strategist]. “Then you just have some expensive pencils.”…Other times, school boards buy computers to prove their technical savvy to politicians and parents, without thinking through how kids will actually use the machines. “

If we aren’t giving kids anything more than glorified typewriters or web skills that extend beyond Google and Wikipedia, then we certainly aren’t going to help them be competitive in a technology- and information-driven world. Rather, as is clear from the article, it’s time for some very serious thought on the part of educators as to just what purpose computers in a classroom will serve.

Ironically despite the Fact that the Philippines is a BPO (meaning Business Process Outsourcing) country, most of its Public primary and secondary schools do not use Computers for class room instruction.

Although there are only selected public (meaning state owned )primary schools that has computers for classroom instructions there must be efforts on using focused computer applications to identify students’ strengths and weaknesses in math and literacy and use the data from these applications to modify instruction. The particular applications we’ve chosen also automatically provide some differentiated instruction for students who don’t require a more serious intervention.

At the secondary level, we’re still defining curriculum around the technology. At the moment, students are becoming adept at research online and most have solid skills with productivity apps, but we still have a long ways to go genuinely integrating the tools and training teachers to build technology-driven lessons instead of merely having kids type their papers.

In college, only those who are specializing in ICT are trained with computers, most other specializations end up with students using Google or wikipedia for “research”, for the lack of the term. More than ever today, instruction with the use of computers must be utilized to ensure that students problem solving skills be more enhanced in today's competitive world, and not just to use html to design and code more designs onto one's Facebook or Friendster page.

We still aren’t having students use collaboration tools or access enough primary sources online. We still don’t have enough students actually finding and communicating with human contacts who can provide them with interesting, relevant, and useful information. Our students taking Spanish aren’t talking over Skype or Gmail voice/video with kids in Spain or Mexico, or our students taking Arabic cant even communicate with somebody in the Middle East or Malaysia. You get the picture. We have many ways to go. Those who have ideas can feel free to email the author or even write articles or blogs about them.

(Blogger's note:I've read and was inspired and borrowed Chris Dawsons article with “what to do with computers in the schools” and set the scene in the Philippine setting to see the trends in ICT education in the Philippines. )

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