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Wed, 17 Aug 2005
Fake Journalism
Topic: Operating Systems
I came across an article on the web, and I just felt the need to discuss it. Some of you will have no interest, because it deals with computers; however, it also deals with journalistic integrity and the fact that just because someone writes something in an official looking form, doesn't make it true.

You can read the article here. The article comes from eWeek.com, which I read often and generally find to be a decent news source. This particular article, however, should never have seen the light of day.

The article is a supposed comparison of Tiger and Vista. It purports to show the strengths and weaknesses of one compared to the other. But in truth, it is a bunch of nonsense, and I will happily tell you why.

Tiger is the name of the current Macintosh operating system (OS). It's official name is Mac OS X 10.4. Vista, which until recently was known as Longhorn, is the supposed next version of the Windows OS. The expectation is that Vista will begin shipping around the end of 2006, or early 2007. Do you see the problem? Tiger is a current product, which is being used now. It has been shipping for several months now. I don't know what the current numbers are, but as of the middle of June, over two million copies had been shipped. Tiger is a real product, being used by millions of people (including moi) right now in the real world. Vista, on the other hand, is what is known as vaporware. It doesn't exist. It may or may not start being used sometime in the next 18 months. Possibly. If you keep up on these sorts of issues, you know that Microsoft keeps removing features from it. Once upon a time (which is an apt phrase because, as of now, Vista is a fairy tale), Microsoft said their next OS would contain all these supercool features. As the months have dragged on, however, Microsoft keeps announcing that this and that feature will not actually be in Vista when and if it ever shows up.

Getting back to my original point. The author of the article compared a real, live, being used right now product to something which doesn't exist. He compared real features of Tiger, a real OS that exists right now, to alleged features of Vista, which only exist in a press release, thereby pretending that Vista really exists and really offers these features.

To put this another way, suppose you were talking with someone today, and they said, "The 2007 Toyotas are way better than 2005 Hondas." Would you think they knew what they were talking about? Now you see my point.

Posted by Robert at 21:33 CDT
Updated: Wed, 17 Aug 2005 21:45 CDT
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Tue, 1 Feb 2005
A Song About A Home
I posted this on my personal blog. It's so good I decided to put it here, also.

I was in the shower this morning. The shower is where I get some of my best creative ideas. Anyway, while in the shower I made up this little ditty. To be sung to the tune of Home on the Range. I'm certain that my father will especially enjoy this. :-)

Oh give me a home,
Where the Macintosh roam,
Where the Linux and the BSD's play.

Where seldom is heard
That Microsoft word,
And the viruses all stay away.

Posted by Robert at 19:27 CST
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Sun, 30 Jan 2005
Opera
Topic: Browsers
I promised you three browsers to use in place of IE. The third is called Opera.

Opera is not open source like Mozilla and Firefox. It is produced by a company in Norway.

Opera is an excellent browser. It is a suite like Mozilla. It contains an outstanding e-mail program. It has great search and customization functions. It is themable. Opera is incredibly secure. It's password manager is superior to Mozilla and Firefox. Opera's supporters call it "The best Internet experience." They might be right.

Opera's one weakness, which is not really it's fault, is that it is sort of the forgotten entity in the browser world. Therefore, web developers do not always make sure that their sites work with Opera. So sometimes you come across a site that just will not work with Opera. However, this does not happen very often. In fact, I was having trouble with a few sites, but in one case it turned out the website itself was having problems. In other cases, I viewed the sites using Mozilla, and had the same problems.

Opera is free to download and use. The user forums are informative and helpful. The free version of Opera has ads. However, the ads are text, they are very non intrusive and easily ignored. The cost to register Opera is $39. By registering Opera, you get rid of the ads and you get acces to Opera's excellent e-mail support system. I think it is fair to point out that even though Firefox and Mozilla are free downloads, they atively encourage donations. It takes money to make and maintain good software.

So, I have recommended three different browsers to you. By using any of the three, you can browse happy and make the Internet a better place.

Posted by Robert at 21:02 CST
Updated: Sun, 30 Jan 2005 21:21 CST
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Fri, 28 Jan 2005
Say Goodbye to IE
Topic: Browsers
Here is another review of Firefox.

Here is someone else saying goodbye to IE. You should read it.

Posted by Robert at 20:20 CST
Updated: Fri, 28 Jan 2005 20:21 CST
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Mozilla
Topic: Browsers
The second web browser I would recommend to you is the Mozilla Suite. It is made by the same folks as Firefox, and is built on the same rendering engine. That means that the guts of the browsers are the same. Mozilla is just as secure as Firefox. Also like Firefox (and unlike IE) it closely adheres to accepted web standards.

Mozilla differs from Firefox in that Firefox is simply an browser, but Mozilla is a suite of web applications. It includes the browser, a very nice e-mail program, an html editing program and an IRC client. I have used it extensively and I highly recommend it. I especially like the tight integration with the e-mail client.

One thing about Mozilla. The first time you run it, the default look is just ghastly. But good news, Mozilla is skinable! It comes with an extra skin, and there are lots more to download. So, it can look like about whatever you want it to.

Posted by Robert at 15:11 CST
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Microsoft Authentication
Here's an article I came across. It's an opinion piece on Microsoft's plan to force you to prove you are not stealing Windows. Whatever happened to "Innocent until proven guilty?"

Posted by Robert at 14:47 CST
Updated: Fri, 28 Jan 2005 20:22 CST
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Web Browsers
Topic: Browsers
Most of you reading this are probably using Internet Explorer (IE) as your web browser. You aren't doing this because you decided it's the best thing out there, but because it comes as part of your operating system. I'm here to tell you that IE is the worst browser on the planet. In terms of functionality and security, it stinks. The sooner we have an IE free internet, the better. There are alternatives. I am going to recommend three specifically. They are designed differently than IE. They have superior features, and they are far more secure. They can all be downloaded and used for free. In my opinion, you should be using one of the three.

The first of these is called Firefox. Perhaps you have heard of it. It is getting a lot of press these days. PC World magazine has decided it is their favorite browser. Firefox is a product of the Mozilla Foundation. Firefox is open source. Firefox is as good as they hype it has been getting. I have used it extensively, and it works great. Feel free to download it and take it for a spin.

Posted by Robert at 10:15 CST
Updated: Fri, 28 Jan 2005 20:18 CST
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Wed, 26 Jan 2005
Free Anti-virus Software
Topic: Software
If you are on the internet, not only do you need a firewall, you also need antivirus software. I will recommend two.

The two free antivirus programs I have used are Avast Home Edition and AVG Free Edition.

Right now I have AVG on one computer and Avast on the other two. As far as I can tell, both programs do a good job. Of the two, I prefer Avast for the following reasons:
1) It is easy to schedule a boot-time scan
2) It does a better job of doing automatic updates
3) The interface is skinnable. (Ok, so this doesn't affect how it works, but I like it.)

Both programs require that you register in order to use them. But every antivirus program you pay money for also requires registration.

So, put a firewall and antivirus on your computer. It's a jungle out there.

Posted by Robert at 21:12 CST
Updated: Wed, 26 Jan 2005 21:40 CST
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Kerio Personal Firewall
Topic: Software
I promised articles on free software, and here is the first.

If you are connected to the internet, you should have a firewall. What is a firewall? Think of it as a hall monitor who keeps tabs on who comes and goes. There is a free firewall available called Kerio Personal Firewall.

I think the Kerio Firewall works great. I have it installed on all the computers in the house right now, and I have no complaints. One possible annoyance is that it tells you every time one program tries to run another. This can be helpful if a rogue program is trying to do something it isn't supposed to do. However, it can get annoying, especially if you are installing software. This behavior is easy to change however.

Installing Kerio is easy, and so is using it. The user interface is pretty straight forward. And of course, the price is right.

If you don't have a firewall try Kerio. If you do have one you pay for, try it anyway, and you might stop paying for yours. Kerio does offer a paid for version, if for some reason you decide you want more features.

Posted by Robert at 21:08 CST
Updated: Wed, 26 Jan 2005 21:40 CST
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Free Software
Topic: Freeware
I first posted this article at Livejournal on 4 Sep 04

There are basically three ways to get software. The first way is to write your own. That is way beyond the scope of this column. The other ways to get software are to pay for it or to not pay for it. We are going to deal with the not pay for it way.

There are two ways to get software for free. (While I'm dividing things up into groups, I'll throw this one in for free. There are 10 kinds of people in the world. Those who understand binary and those who don't.) The first way to get free software is to find someone who obtained it and get them to share it with you. I am not going to delve into the morality or immorality of proprietary software. It is safe to say that companies and individuals who market proprietary software go to great lengths to keep you from sharing it. I will enumerate some of those.

First, your software comes with what is referred to as a EULA--End User License Agreement. It basically says that you are not buying the software, you are only purchasing a license to use the software, and you will use it the way they say so or they will hunt you down like a dog and throw you into prison (I'm not making this up).

For instance, lets say I have two computers. I buy a copy of Microsoft Windows XP for$150. Since I have two computers, and I paid for the software, I ought to be able to put it on both of my computers so that whichever computer I am using at any given time, I can use my software, right? Oh no. I only purchased a license to use it on one computer. If I want to use it on my second computer I must buy a second copy (or license). It might be ok if I deleted it from my first computer whenever I wanted to put it on the second, but that would be highly inconvenient. But if I use it on both computers, I am stealing from Microsoft and poor Mr. Gates will soon be out on the street. Software vendors can get really snotty about this. Once I purchased a software package that Betty saw in the store and decided she had to have. After we got home I was reading the enclosed documentation, which, of course, contained the obligatory EULA. Not only did it say the license was only for one computer, but it was only for one person. That's right. If I wanted to sit down at the same computer and use that software they expected that I would pay them for a second license. (I'm still not making this up. Can you imagine trying to buy sheets for your bed and having the store clerk say, "If both of you will be sleeping on these sheets, I will need to charge you for a second license.")

The second way some outfits try to prevent you from sharing software is to put code into the programs themselves to prevent this. For instance, I paid 30 bucks or so for a software package on the internet. After using it a while, I switched computers and went to install it on my new one. The software told me that my license was no good, because it was for the first computer not the second. If I wanted to use it on the new computer, I had to contact the author of the software and get his permission to use his software on my new computer. Even though I had already paid for it. Because, as we discussed, I really didn't by software, I only bought a license. The aforementioned Windows XP does the same thing. If you go out and do something silly, like upgrade the processor in your computer, you may find your operating system calling the FBI to report you.

I see that I have waxed very eloquently, and some of you may be bored to tears, so I will move to the next way of getting free software. That way is to find people who write software and who want to give it away.

That is correct ladies and gentlemen. Some people write software and give it away. Why would they do this? Well, that would depend upon the individual. You may contact them and inquire if you wish. I am simply going to write some reviews of free software I have used and tell you how to get it so you can also use it if you wish.

First, the ground rules.
1) I assume most if not all of my readers are running Windows. I don't have a Mac so I can't tell you about Mac software. Also, my experiences with the software I will tell you about are all with Windows XP. All the computers in my house run XP, and you couldn't pay me to go back to earlier versions of Windows. XP is bad enough, but it's better than it's predecessors.

2) I take no responsibility for any alleged problems any software package causes you and your computer. It's your computer and you are responsible for the software you install on it.

3) I will not talk about any software I do not personally use or least have tried for myself. I'm not going to recommend something I know nothing about or that I think is useless.

OK, then. In the coming days I will tell you about software you can get for free and use without worrying about being hunted down like a dog.



Posted by Robert at 19:45 CST
Updated: Wed, 26 Jan 2005 21:39 CST
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