Saturday, October 31, 2009

Facebook, Privacy...and Friends

    The whole point is to make contact with people.  There is that need to reach out and connect to friends and family.  But this is not your old mail any more.  Using new technology is fun.  Also full of unintended consequences. 

    Here is a link to an article about privacy settings in Facebook.  You can read the blog then head on out to your Facebook page and review your privacy settings. 

Friday, October 30, 2009

Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala is Here

        Karmic is now available for download at the Ubuntu website

        I was answering some questions in the ubuntuforum and happen to refresh the website and voila the new page shows that Ubuntu 9.10 is ready indeed.  There's a couple of threads  dedicated to people waiting for the version.  It is now October 30, 07:45, after waking up I find my download ready for burning.

        In the spirit of Ubuntu I urged the several threads I could find for people to use the Bittorrent method of downloading the ISO to lighten the burnden on Ubuntu servers and also foster the spirit of sharing within the community. 

        I don't have a blank cd but I found a 1 GB flash stick drive.  I'm going to use the feature available on Jaunty to make a bootable usb stick off of the ISO image I've downloaded. 

        It's a faster affair to do this on a usb stick and it even gave me the option to store any settings available on the remaining space-about 286MB.  Nice option although I want this to be a read only copy so I ticked the option away. 

        Now that Karmic is on a usb stick I can reboot my computer and it should boot into Karmic, live.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Google Apps vs. Zoho Productivity Apps

        The City of Los Angeles stops using Groupwise and adopts Google Apps.  This is a big win for Google.  This is a step into using cloud programs.  Does this mean cloud computing is going to be the norm?  Perhaps due to the hard economic times, organizations are looking at less costly alternatives.  Perhaps an upgrade to the new Microsoft operating system is an expensive shift to something very new and still untested in the enterprise environment.  Most people I know already are familiar with Google apps.  I use Zoho applications myself.  I find Zoho more stable and less buggy.  Zoho is a complete suite of applications right there in one site.

Zoho.com

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Countdown to Karmic

        I googled ubuntu and I caught a piece of q and a article.  One reader is asking for the exact utc time of Karmic's release.  Everyone is excited about what may be the most tested linux product that ever came out of open source.  I am trying to throw some cold water over newcomers doing the testing several weeks ago.  These are users who have no idea what they are getting themselves into. 

        Anyway that's past.  Let them have it.  They asked for it.  One day to go.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Last Stretch For Jaunty

    An operating system is good for two things.  Loading programs quickly when you want it and doing it without crashing.  I have to say "when you want it" there because it doesn't count if it's loading them without user interaction, aka "you've just been hacked".

    Ubuntu 9.04 (jaunty) came out last April.  I have been using this version of Ubuntu for everyday stuff and it has done the basic things you expect an operating system will do.  And then some.

    When my Windows XP crash I shrugged my shoulders and just hit the reset button.  It's another day in Microsoft's office.  Windows' most outstanding accomplishment in computing is to lower user's expectation.

    The only time I had to restart Ubuntu 9.04 jaunty is when it upgraded it's kernel.  This happened twice in its 6 month life.  When Linux users do encounter their own version of BSOD, it's like an event you like to tell everyone for its singular strangeness.

    Jaunty's replacement, Karmic, is coming.  By all accounts the new Ubuntu is going to be a step above the old one.  This has been the tradition of its developers.  They are scattered around the world, tasked to finish their work without much material return.  Ubuntu is free-as in free beer, but more importantly, its code is open to all, to read, to study, and to modify.
     

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Newbie Wants To Play Ubuntu 2

    Aahh..., how do I?

    It's not so easy to find things when you don't have a map.  How do you learn the layout?  Where do you go to find answers?  How do you find help here? 

    As a newcomer to Ubuntu, I even have trouble finding the right word to describe my problem.  It seemed like speaking English won't help.

    So here's a map, a layout if you will.  This is a nice list of links to howto's, friendly blogs and reading materials for newbies by former newbies.

A Newbie Wants To Play Ubuntu

    Now that you have Ubuntu in your hard drive and you've seen the clean desktop and all.  You can browse the internet and go to Facebook.  You said you wont be missing Windows.  But not quite...

    You want to install programs not included in the default install.  A friend told you about this wonderful text editor she's using and you also want to try it out.  Perhaps you read about a great photo improvement guide and it suggested several application you want to try.

    But wait, how do you install software in Ubuntu?  No matter where you look in the menu you can't get it.  You feel like Alice falling into the hole.  Don't worry, here's a link to make it easy.

Data From Microsoft 3

    Two more points I wish to make before we leave this thread alone.

    The study revealed results per country.  U.S. and China users have the most problems with trojans and unwanted software.  Brazil has a problem with worms. 

    Trojans are more likely delivered when you go to websites offering antivirus software and when you click on services to check your system.  Users really have no way of verifying if these online web services are legitimate or offering good products or just making it worse.

    Exploits are prevalent in China.  These might indicate machines which are not getting updates. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Data From Microsoft 2

    Half of the Windows XP machines that downloaded MSE is infected.  16% of the Win7 machines are infected and 32% of the Vista machines are infected. 

    I can understand why Win XP got a high infection percentage, being an 8 year old operating system even with updated patches.  Data supports the premise that new is more secure and an updated OS is better than holding off the patches.

    This study is based on RTM machines, so forget the pirated copy argument.

Data From Microsoft

    According to data gathered by Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) made available by Microsoft to its users for free to 19 countries, the top threats to Microsoft products are trojans, unwanted software, worms and downloaders.  There were 1.5 million downloads of MSE across most of the pc using world.  MSE detected 4 million infections on 535,000 unique machines.  This data was gathered in the first week of MSE release up to October 6.

    Half of the infections run on Windows XP, with Windows 7 getting 16% of the infections and Vista getting 32%.  See the results of the study here.

   

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Alternatives

    Business users are going to drag their feet with Windows 7.  Vista looks good at first glance too.  Everybody was jumping up and down before it stank.  Let's look at the options:  Windows 7, Mac OS X, Linux and Google Chrome OS (alpha at best).  A few bloggers are saying that because of the OS debate, there are those that are exploring a non-OS system, so called OS agnostics.

    Certainly in Cloud computing and Web based enterprise computing, the OS plays a lesser role.  I am skeptical about this.  Security will be a major factor.  A good operating system means better security.  No operating system is a security free for all. 

The Linux Tide

    Mainstream tech bloggers are advising not to use Microsoft Windows in any online banking transaction.  They are giving the public instructions on how to use a Linux live cd to temporarily raise the security of their machines.

    I think even a successful Windows 7 wont be able to turn the Linux tide.     

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Let Windows Users Speak

Two Windows users speak:

"It seems I spend 25% of my PC time researching current threats and vulnerabilities, and another 25% patching them up. To Redmond: Windows is getting so annoying to use, it is almost not worth having a PC anymore. Maybe my Dad is right...standing in the teller line at the bank may not be so bad after all."


and number two:
"I would strongly recommend looking at whatever systems you're using if you're doing electronic banking," the Gazette quotes Bernie Burns, the Arc's executive director. "And if it is a Microsoft system, perhaps looking at something different."



Wednesday, October 14, 2009

BK Advices Don't Use Microsoft Windows



Brian Krebs posted a friendly advice in his column for the Washington Post about how to best protect business users from cybercrimes. Cyber criminals have been getting away with stealing millions by getting your passwords. Payroll money is literally disappearing from their accounts after thieves stole the protected passwords in their computers.


Brian Krebs writes:

The simplest, most cost-effective answer I know of? Don't use Microsoft Windows when accessing your bank account online.


I am by no means a security expert so let the experts do the thinking and the talking. SANS Technology Institute, a security research organization tasked their members to come out with a cost-effective way of hardening security for these kind of attacks. They came to the conclusion that using Linux LiveCD when doing banking online fits these small to medium sized companies.


Linux LiveCD's would be familiar to any Linux geek but to company owners who probably haven't heard of Linux, an explanation is in order.


A live cd is a read-only, bootable copy of an operating system most commonly used by Linux distros. An example would be Ubuntu, Knoppix and Fedora.


Read Security Fix by Brian Krebs here.

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/securityfix/2009/10/avoid_windows_malware_bank_on.html

Sunday, October 11, 2009

I Don't Want Linux To Fail

Microsoft is in a dilemma when it comes to security. They desperately need to fix the famously horrible security of the Windows operating system. Windows users want to be secure. They want to get rid of the viruses and the zero day attacks. They have enough of the vulnerabilities they face every day. Users want a more secure Windows. They just don't want to WORK at it. Windows users already paid for their operating system. Why can't they get honest security for their money?

Users Access Controls UAC is Microsoft's attempt at fixing security and users hate it. People who should know better tried to bypass it. Some view it as just passing responsibility of security to the end user. So what is Microsoft's response? They shrugged their shoulders and promised no more UAC prompts in Windows 7. This lack of toughness when it comes to security is why Windows fail.

Whenever I come across posts here about bypassing login passwords and booting as root, I cringe at the parallel or maybe how Linux might intersect the Windows dilemma in security. I cringe at posts suggesting that A/V software and security softwares are the solutions to web security. Security and convenience will always be a tug-o-war situation. It is therefore important to act based on our security first values. It is fine to welcome new Linux users especially those coming from Windows, but let us show our maturity by showing that the core of computing is security.
Natural disasters and man-made crisis always bring out the best and the worst in man.  Along with the flooding in Metro Manila and Rizal comes the email scammers and spammers. 

I have not used the encryption feature of evolution before but yesterday I created a gpg key and publish it to sign the Launchpad ubuntu code of conduct document.  The real reason for my action is really to try out the encryption feature of evolution.  Hey, it works.  At least when I sent one to me, i couldn't decrypt without the proper passphrase.  It's in 2048 bit encryption which is a mathematical concept i can't remember from my college days.  Anyway I have to read more about the service and the feature.  Suffice it to say I can use it in practical terms.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Use Some Common Sense

    I'm sure that for most web savvy people the rule is:  Not everything in the internet is true.  That we should verify what we hear and read in the web first is like the old adage-stop, look and listen before you cross the street.  The scam emails asking your help for some financial rewards should by now be familiar to us all.  One variation is using your current friend's email to ask you for money to help in a crisis.  Apparently, your friend's email is hacked and the criminals are using it to get money from you.

    There have been reports of old news being linked to by email scammers and being passed and forwarded around.  These are valid news stories that have been archived and is now being used to support claims in the email.  Now two things, before you forward something make sure another news source verifies it, or just google it, duh.

    Second thing is you can examine the document being presented as proof.  Check the date, check the logo and the web page, and check the context of the report.  For example, the report may be a parody or a fake news and must be read as such.

    Our first and last line of defense is our common sense. 

Monday, October 5, 2009

Telling People About Linux

    You have to know who your audience is.  Know your customers.

    The first people I talked to are those who are Cautious but are asking questions.  I mean I don't have to prompt them.  They are curious about Linux and has tons of questions for you. 

    The second group are those that are very skeptical but are interested enough to point things out to you.  This second group are mostly defensive about what I am saying.  And its my fault.  You don't start your sale pitch by telling them the product they are using sucks.  You learn to just tell them about Linux and enumerate its advantages. 

    The third kind of people are the ones that leaves me open-mouthed.  SNATACWPH-Should Never be Allowed to Touch A Computer Without Professional Help.  You know the Q & A common here:
   
    Customer:  Can I install this (Linux) in my Windows computer?
    Me:              This is not an application, it's an alternative operating system to Windows. :)
    Customer:  A what?  What's an operating system?
    Me:              It handles all the other applications in your computer.
    Customer:  If I install linux, can I still play online poker? ::clueless::

Ext4 With My Ubuntu 9.04

    When I install my Ubuntu 9.04 last April, I opted to upgrade my file system to ext4 from ext3.  Ext4 is now the default with Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic.  There were suppose to be compatibility issues, I am warned, but my experience with using ext4 and Jaunty is positive enough for me to recommend that users upgrade to ext4.
 
    fsck is so much faster with ext4.  The regular fsck during boot takes about 15 seconds before my desktop is finally given to me.  I prefer this "in-boot" checking of the partition especially the / directory compared to a manual one or even the proposed shutdown check.  There is more fuss in the manual method and most people will opt to skip fsck if you put it during shutdown.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

    I use Evolution for managing my email and contacts.  While most people I know now use webmail when they send their email, I am still stuck in pre-2001 with a desktop email client.  With Evolution (available Windows version here) you download a binary (an exe file in windows speak) and save it to your hard drive.  You run the binary to use the application.  With a webmail, you open your browser and run the application like any other gadget within the browser.  Using a desktop application means you can still work offline.  Preferring to work with a browser means portability (doing your work at any computer connected to the web).

    Evolution also has calendaring functions, notification and scheduling features.  If you've worked with an organizer, that's it.  The version that I use is integrated into the Gnome desktop environment which I prefer too, and this brings me real time email notifications and searchable email files.

    Evolution also has an add-in called rss-evolution to automatically download my feeds as if they are email messages.  These are in turn also searchable.

    I keep multiple email accounts.  I have 3 pop accounts and an IMAP from Google.  Evolution handles multiple accounts well and at minimum of resources.  I mostly keep the application running all day.  Email desktop does not hog your bandwidth like video messaging does.  And it only uses bandwidth at user specified times.  Some prefer to check their email as often as every 10 minutes or less but I think ::wink:: it's a bit manic. :)

Update Gnucash 2.6.16 --> 2.6.18

It's a long road to this update. It isn't a normal update at all. I had to manually compile goffice0.8 and webkitgtk as well as gnu...