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Friday, September 29, 2006


How To Write a Good Howto

Howtos are always useful, no matter the subject they are about. Whether you are trying to contribute to an Open Source project or to attract traffic to your blog howtos can make the things done.

I wrote this list of things to keep in mind while writing a howto based on the howto definition from Wikipedia and my own experience reading howtos
  1. Try to keep it short
    • Be specific. Howtos are supposed to be a guide to complete some specific task so don't discuss other topics, even if they are related. This take us to the next point
    • Leave irrelevant details for appendices or another document. Details tend to distract the reader
    • Divide it in several files if it has to be long and for online reading

  2. Make it easy to read
    • Be informal. Imagine your reader in front of you
    • Highlight important information. Many readers just scan the document looking for a specific piece of information
    • Summarize and categorize. This not only helps your reader to find what they're looking for faster, but helps you to organize your ideas while writing too
    • Use list and sections. This helps you to achieve the previous point. The entire howto can be a list if you're writing about a simple subject (like this)

  3. Use visual resources
    • Use images or videos. They can save you a lot of words, but use them sparingly because there are a lot of people using slow connections. However, video howtos may be the best choice for some complex tasks.

  4. Keep it simple. Maybe the most important point and summarizes all previous things. Howtos are intended to make things clearer, after all
    • Use technical terms only when it is necessary
    • Build a glossary of technical terms or link them to a wiki page that explain it
Finally, if you're writing rather formal linux related howto give a try to this HOWTO Generator, it can save you some work.

Have other tips? Please share them with us in your comments. I'm not an expert and this list is not intended to be complete.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006


The Easiest Way to Add Digg Buttons to Blogger

Integrating Digg within Blogger should be easy if you follow this method. However, if you do so you just get Blogger complaints. That's because Blogger does not allow using script tags in posts but only in templates.

I think that such limimitation is the reason why there are many hacks for this out there. But I found a hack that is quite easy and I think it is the easiest way to get a Digg button in Blogger. You can read about it here.

Really, Blogger lets you add Javascript to your posts if you decide to ignore the error message but it can be considered unsafe. I think there's a reason for this limitation.

If you like the hack digg the story! :-)

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Friday, September 22, 2006


5 Ways to Contribute to Open Source Projects Without Coding

Maybe you've seen many good Open Source projects that are no longer maintained. One of the many reasons for that may be lack of contribution. In fact, there are many one-man projects out there. Most of any program's users are just that, users, not developers. Nevertheless, average users still can contribute to Open Source programs to make them better.

I made a search for ways to contribute before writing this and I didn't find much. However, I found two very good articles: "How to Contribute to Open Source Without Coding" and "HOWTO Pay for Free Software". These articles explain how to contribute to Open Source. I summarize the information in this post, with a little info added by me.
  1. Contribute quality: help to make a better project, better looking and with new features
    • Submit bug reports
    • Suggest new features and options
    • Suggest ways to improve the framework (maybe comparing it to similar OS or comercial projects)
    • Submit some artwork (icons, backgrounds, logos) to use in the program
    • Correct spelling and grammar mistakes in documentation
    • Help maintain a web site for an Open Source project

  2. Contribute documentation: Some Open Source projects have a poor or insufficient documentation
    • Help write good documentation
    • Translate the documentation (and program text) into another language
    • Read existing documentation, follow the examples, and make corrections
    • Create diagrams, screen-shots, and graphics for documentation
    • Develop spelling and grammar style conventions for documentors
    • Build a glossary of technical terms (so non geek people can understand)
    • Convert documentation into more useful formats (i.e. DocBook)

  3. Contribute support: everybody need it at least once. Let programmer do their work while you help other people
    • Answer questions on forums, mailing lists or IRC channels
    • Contribute to (or start) an online support group
    • Help other people learn how to use the program (or programming library)
    • Write HOWTOS and post them in related forums or your own blog (you can find more info in "How To Write a Good Howto" post)

  4. Contribute money: many Open Source projects have a donate button or a shop where to buy related products, but there are other ways to contribute money
    • Send a developer, project or company some money
    • Buy a Free Software product, or associated products
    • Hire Free Software developers
    • Contribute hardware
    • Contribute bandwidth
    • Advertise in their web site if they show ads
    • Buy products from companies that support Free Software

  5. Contribute publicity: If the project gets popular there will be more people wanting to contribute
    • Package the application for a particular Linux distro (or other OS)
    • Convince people to chose Open Source products when possible
    • Write reviews
    • Write about new ways of using an Open Source program

  6. Contribute appreciation: it's an extra way to contribute but may be the most important
    • Express your appreciation to developers (through email or forum post)
    • Send the programmers post cards
    • Give a project or developer a gift (some have wish lists for this)
    • Be polite when reporting bugs or asking for new features; developers has no obligation to do it after all
Although most of the list is self-explanatory I plan to post more in depth info in the future.

Finally, this list is in no way complete. You can read the mentioned articles for more information or add more tips in the comments.

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Monday, September 18, 2006


Ubuntu Knot 3 Available

The third development release of Ubuntu family is available.

The most important thing, in my opinion is that "Common to all variants, we have changed the init system from the venerable sysvinit to upstart which is an event-driven init script system". This has many advantages. Faster boot and shutdown are two of them.

Xubuntu Knot 3 comes with Xfce 4.4 RC1 so its a good option for those willing to have but don't want to compile it. Of course, since it's a pre-release you can expect some bugs.

Read more in the announcement and the Knot 3 page.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006


PayPal Has Rejected Me Because Of My Name

I've received an e-mail from PayPal today that starts saying (bold emphasize mine):

Access to your PayPal account has been denied because your name is similar to or a match to an entry on the Office of Foreign Assets Control Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list. We are required to further verify your identity.

and they want me to fax personal information to demonstrate that I am I and not other person with a similar name.

As I've never been to US I decided to google for that list and found it here, made a quick scan within the list (is in alphabetical order) and I didn't find my name there. There's no exact match! My first name appears several times and also my last name, but not together. So, what's their search criteria? Whatever it is I think they must refine it.

The mentioned list is full of supposed terrorist and people related to other illegal activities so they think I'm a really bad person and I don't like it. That's why I decided to write about this confusion.

However, I don't like to fax personal information either so I don't think I'll ever do it. If they want to know me they're welcomed to my home. They already know the address by the way. This problem seems to be common anyway.

I googled for my name and get 23400000 results! Maybe I have to change my name to a unique one, could be a GUID good enough for them?

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Monday, September 11, 2006


Printer Configuration Utility Updated

xprinterconf, the simple GUI tool for printer configuration in xubuntu has been updated. This is a minor update that does not add functionality, just bug fixes. Nevertheless is recommended to update from the previous version.

You can download the new xprinterconf version from the following links:
Binary format:
Source code:

All the previous release information related to installation and use is still valid and can be readed here.


If you find this little utility useful and you'd like to support future development and new features as well as new free software, please consider making a donation via PayPal by clicking in the next button. This method of donating is secure, PayPal guarantees your privacy and security.

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Friday, September 08, 2006


Is Google Going To Defeat Microsoft?

It's quite obvious that the so called web 2.0 (and Open Source software) has changed a lot not only the way we use the Internet and PCs but the technology market too. Although I think that desktop applications aren't a thing of the past yet, the world is moving towards web-based programs and Google seems to be taking advantage of it and doing it right.

At least is the impression that I get after seeing Google as the great winner in a review of web-based applications, published yesterday in

A thing worth to note is that Google promotes open source projects (through Google Summer of Code, for example) while Microsoft deny it. Is it Google's philosophy contributing to its position in the market. Google is a for-profit company, so I don't think they're doing such things for nothing.

On the other hand, an important part of the Microsoft's business is in traditional desktop-based OS and applications and maybe they're moving slow but sure.

What do you think?

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Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Gnome 2.16 Release Will Have Effects on Xubuntu

The latest version of GNOME, a free desktop environment has been released today. You can find more information in the 2.16 start page.

But being a xubuntu user I think that the most noticeable is that this new version of GNOME is based on GTK+ 2.10, with "many improvements that were made available by Project Ridley; an effort to consolidate a number of GNOME libraries into GTK+" like improved printing functionality and file chooser, as can be readed here.

Xfce is based on gtk and will be benefit of these improvement, as can be seen in knot2, an Ubuntu family pre-release. I've not tryed it yet, but you can read this post from Xubuntu blog for more information.

If we add the recent release of Xfce 4.4RC1 to this we can expect a lot of improvements in the final version of xubuntu.

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Xfce 4.4RC1 Released

A new version of Xfce was released yesterday. It's the first release candidate of the upcoming 4.4 version. There's also new version of Xarchiver and Thunar, which now has Trash bin support.

Read what's new in the ChangeLog.

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How to configure an Old Sound Card in Xubuntu: The CMI 8330 Case

Xubuntu has very low system requirements compared to other modern linux distributions. So, it can be used to extend old hardware's life. However, despite of the great hardware recognition of the Ubuntu family (including Xubuntu, of course), it may result in some supported hardware not configured automatically. That's the case of my old isa CMI-8330 sound card. Here we'll see how configure that piece of hardware and maybe learn something in the process.

Testing the Hardware

First, you should test if the hardware can work fine. Although the sound card we're configuring is an isa card, it is plug and play, so we don't need to specify the hardware resources for it.

To load the kernel module (aka driver) for the sound card you have to open a terminal window and write:

sudo modprobe snd-cmi8330

These are really two commands: sudo runs another command in root mode (administrator privileges). The next command, modprobe, loads a kernel module (snd-cmi8330, in this case). If it seems that it does nothing then everything is ok. That's because modprobe says nothing unless there are errors.

Your sound card should be enabled if modprobe didn't complaint. Fire some media player (Xfmedia, for example) and start to enjoy your favorite music and videos. However, we're not finished yet.

Making Things Permanent

You won't have sound again the next time you start your computer and you'll need to run the modprobe command again. To load the module automatically at boot time you need to edit the /etc/modules file. Open mousepad or any other text editor and load the file. From the terminal it is done by typing:

sudo mousepad /etc/modules

sudo it's used again because configuration files can be changed by the administrator (root) only.

Then add this line to the file:


save the file and close the editor.

That's all! enjoy your music again. You will have the sound card enabled automatically in the next boot.

The MIDI Problem

I must admit that I can't get MIDI functionality from this card in linux. It seems that the module does not support this function. The CMI 8330 chip (it's not a real sound card) has very limited opl3 synthesis, though. If you know how to enable music synthesis in this card let me know, please. I loaded the snd-seq-oss module, by the way.

What if I Have a Different Sound Card?

You can follow a similar procedure using another module instead of snd-cmi8330. Available modules are in /lib/modules/2.6.15-23-386/ directory. Notice that 2.6.15-23-386 is the Xubuntu 6.06 kernel version and it may vary in other distributions/versions.

So, modules for sound cards are located in /lib/modules/2.6.15-23-386/kernel/sound/. Browse both the directory and the web and you'll find the right module for your hardware.

If you need some information about a module you can type this in a terminal window:

modinfo module_name

Where module_name is the name of the module you are interested in (i.e. snd-cmi8330).

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