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Thursday, October 26, 2006


Xubuntu 6.10 Available

Today Ubuntu 6.10 has been released. Also Kubuntu and Edubuntu were released. Xubuntu "has not yet officially been released, but you can already download the final stable image, so it's also available! However, "be aware though, that there may be some problems upgrading from the Dapper Drake version when using update-manager". Xubuntu now has a nicer looking website too.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006


7 Reasons To Keep Using Firefox

Is IceWeasel the solution to Debian and Mozilla trademarks issues? I don't know right now. I really think Debian have the right to fork Firefox or any other Free Software project but, in this case, I think it is better to keep using Firefox instead of IceWeasel. This is a brief list of the reasons:
  1. Firefox is a good browser. Many people think it's the best browser around.
  2. Mozilla protects its users. By protecting their brand they are protecting us too. It's harder that someone includes malicious code (i.e. spyware) in the code base and distribute it with the same name. So it's more trustful.
  3. Mozilla promotes good Open Source practice. If you improve a piece of software you should send the patch back to the original author so that you help to improve the project you benefit from. I think it's selfish not doing so.
  4. It has been developed properly. Firefox was designed and coded by the same group so I think the work must be consistent.
  5. Mozilla focuses in a small number of closely related products. They're not spreading resources, so there are more chances that bug fixes and new versions are released faster.
  6. Firefox is cross platform. Many users have different operating systems at home and work/school and I'm one of them. I can use Firefox at work and feel it like home.
  7. Firefox has a large user base. There are more chances to find help in forums and web articles about a popular program. Also, it's more likely to find good extensions that install and work properly.
Update: Despite I said that "Debian have the right to fork Firefox or any other Free Software project" I think is really sad that they spend (waste?) resources in that. Now they're planning IceDove for replacing Thunderbird and IceApe instead of Seamonkey. They have the right, I insist, but I think it's useless. I'll keep using Thunderbird too.

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Saturday, October 14, 2006


KDE or Gnome? I Prefer Xfce, Thanks

I don't want to contribute to the old and useless discussion about what desktop environment (DE) is better, Gnome or KDE. However, I noticed in that discussion often is ignored a third contestant: Xfce. There are other options besides those three, but they are mostly window managers, no desktop environments. So, I think it does not make sense to compare different things.

Since a couple of weeks ago I read this detailed comparison between Gnome and KDE (writte n more than a year ago but recently dugg) where, once again, Xfce was relegated to a final note, I decided to write this post about the DE I use. It's not the first article and it may not be the best either. Hopefully this article won't be the last about Xfce. This is just my two cents based in my experience, as usual.

The real situation

Let's be honest, KDE has a lot in common with Gnome. As the author of the mentioned comparison said, both desktops offer similar functionality. Most discussions you can find in forums and mailing list are based in features and bugs of early releases of both projects.

For example, I still find comments in forums about the ugly look of GTK and Gnome. That people seem to ignore that Gnome is themeable. If you look at Gnome-look you'll find many themes from KDE-look.

Have you seen Linux XP? It uses Gnome and is supposed to be Windows-like. Now I want to know why some people say that Gnome is Ugly or KDE is more Windows-like (Although I must admit that the upcoming version of KDE seems to raise eye candyness to new levels).

So, KDE and Gnome are very similar and Xfce is similar to them too.

Why use Xfce?

The difference between the three DEs is their philosophy, the way they view things. Gnome focuses in usability and simplicity, so its philosophy is "it just works". KDE, in turn, seems to be focused in flexibility and visual design. Finally, Xfce focuses in speed, "everything goes faster" they say. And that's what I like.

Some of the features Xfce have are:
You can get information about more features in the Xfce site.

Final words

Xfce is far from perfect, of course. The new version is still in release candidate stage, so it may have some problems. Besides that, release cycles are long compared to other DE. Obviously Xfce has less developers that KDE or Gnome (if you are looking for a project to contribute to, it's your chance).

Another noteworthy desktop is Mezzo, the default DE in SymphonyOS. I've not tried yet, but the concept is interesting.

Finally, the selection of a DE is subjective. Choose the desktop that makes you feel happier. However, if you want a DE that doesn't need all your system resources or you like your computer for running applications and not just the desktop you should give Xfce a try.

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Preparing To Migrate To Beta

I started a new blog using Blogger Beta. The idea is to test the new beta features and make sure the hacks I'm using now here will still be working in the beta platform. All the new content will be posted in this blog, though.

The new layout system used in beta is totally different from the classic template format, so I'll have to learn the basics first and the process may result slow. First I will give the new blog a similar look and feel to this. Later I'll add new functionality (i.e. hacks). Finally, I'll migrate Nongeek Perspective to the new platform when everything works fine.

Anyone have ideas for the upcoming format?

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Monday, October 09, 2006


Not So Free, Not So Open. Should I Care?

I was trying to configure the modem in a laptop running Xubuntu the other day while I was thinking that it would be easier if the distro had support for winmodems out of the box (I prefer to call them linmodems). But many distros don't have support for winmodems because part of most drivers is proprietary. However I only want my modem working.

Most people (mainstream, I mean) expect quality and ease of use to be features of any software, free or proprietary. Can Free Open Source Software (FOSS) offer those features? I think it can, but it's not always the case.

The problem

Many people always had had doubts about the quality of FOSS projects from the beginning. Just to cite a relatively recent article from The Economist, talking about Open Source:
"... the biggest worry is that the great benefit of the open-source approach is also its great undoing. Its advantage is that anyone can contribute; the drawback is that sometimes just about anyone does. This leaves projects open to abuse, either by well-meaning dilettantes or intentional disrupters. Constant self-policing is required to ensure its quality."
The real problem is that big companies invest lots of money in usability studies and beta tests to develop new products. FOSS projects, in turn, try to compensate the lack of money with the work of many people developing and testing. But sometimes money has better results.

So, it is convenient to have companies involved (and funding) Open Source projects, but they may want to use approaches slightly different from FOSS. The main approaches used for while are presented here.

One approach: Not so free

Companies will not invest their money if there's no guarantee to have a quality product and a established name (I mean a brand) and I think it may be hard to reach this conditions when anyone can modify and redistribute the code with the same name.

So, projects receiving money for companies may be not so free (in the sense of freedom). They still are Open Source, but have copyright and trademarks. They may ask to submit to them any patch you do to the source and you must change the name if you don't do so and want to redistribute it.

I think this approach makes sense. They protect themselves from inexperienced developers applying poor quality patches or good developers changing the original philosophy of the project.

The not so open approach

This approach is used by projects that do not care if all the code is open and really free. They may be linked to closed but free (in the sense of money) libraries. They may be built using open source libraries with restrictive licenses too. It also apply to Linux distributions including non free or patented software

What about "real FOSS"?

Well, real FOSS can be very good too. However it can aim to a different target. Not-so-free and Not-so-open may be aimed to mainstream, non-geeks or inexperienced users. This kind of software tend to focus on usability. On the other hand, "real FOSS" can fit the needs of advanced users since tend to focus in flexibility.

Definitively it is convenient to have all this kind of software so we can choice the best for our needs. Free Software is about Freedom after all so we are free to choose, aren't we? :-)

I'm not an expert so I may be wrong.

Meanwhile, I can't get the modem working... Nevertheless, I'm not going to switch to other distro, I think Xubuntu is the best out there.

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Sunday, October 01, 2006


Let Your Blog Be Social

Social Bookmarking is often used for attract traffic to blogs and the easiest way to get your articles on such services is to invite your visitors to submit their favorite stories directly. Then you should have a bookmark area in your blog, frequently at the foot of each article, and there are many ways to get this.

I think that the most effective way to accomplish bookmarking is simply to link to the submission URL. So, to have a "bookmarking bar" I just added a line linking to the proper URLs in the blog template:

Add to: <a href="Service-URL">Service</a>

where Service-URL is the URL to the service you want your visitors to submit the article.

Some URLs

The problem is that already exists a lot of bookmarking services and each one may have its own URL form. Here are what I know so far:
YOUR-ARTICLE-URL is the address that appears in your browser when you're reading the article (i.e. the permanet link or permalink). YOUR-TITLE is the article's title. Notice that some services let you specify an optional description.

You may find URLs for many other services too.

Update: As John said in this comment, you can find an excellent resource here. Thanks John.

Putting it in your template

In blogger there are two template codes that refer to permalink and article title. So, if you don't use blogger beta you have to:
For example. If you want a "Submit to" line you should add this to your template:

Submit to: <a href="<$BlogItemPermalinkURL$>;title=<$BlogItemTitle$>" ></a>

I added it just after the posts body (i.e. after <$BlogItemBody$>)

Read the blogger help for more information about editing your blog template and html syntax.

Final note

As I said before, there are many other ways to do this task. Take PopMarks, for instance. It's am awesome tool but it requieres javascript enabled, and some people have this feature disabled in their browsers.

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