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VMware Server for Linux for Free

I will turn down free beer software in favor of freedom software when both exist. If you don't know the difference, that's OK. You cannot see the source code for the video drivers from ATI, for example. You can get them for free but they are not freed. The same with Adobe Acrobat Reader and plugins for the Firefox web browser. more>>

A fifteenth chance for GNOME

Okay, I don't really know how many chances I've given GNOME, but I've tried to switch to GNOME as my default desktop many times. I always ended up switching back to KDE (to be fair, I use other window managers, too, such as Fluxbox, which is one of my favorites). Thanks to the rumors that Xgl/Compiz/cgwd worked best on GNOME, I gave GNOME another shot. As it turns out, the rumors are false. These 3D desktop enhancements work fine under KDE. But I've really been enjoying my GNOME experience despite the fact that there are still things about GNOME that I dislike. Granted, I can credit Ubuntu's default settings for GNOME as some reasons why I'm enjoying it more. But it's still a better desktop than I recall from the last time I used it. more>>

HDRs and DAWs For Linux: The New Breed

The hard-disk recorder (HDR) is the central component of the modern digital audio studio. The most basic feature of a high-quality HDR is the capability to record and play multitrack/multichannel digital audio at various sampling rates. However, with the addition of software amenities such as non-linear and non-contiguous editing operations, support for a variety of soundfile formats, and audio digital signal processing via plugins or built-in modules the HDR is no longer simply a more or less sophisticated record/playback device. At this point it has become a digital audio workstation (DAW). more>>

Making waves in the Ruby world

There are three projects in the Ruby world that really stood out this summer: JRuby, Mongrel, and Ruport. It's not so much what they've done in terms of development (though that's been impressive), but how well they've communicated. This is something that a lot of projects don't do as well, so I wanted to take a look at what they've done in hopes that more projects might follow their lead. more>>

The ongoing MythTV saga continues

I have good news, bad news, and worse news. The good news is that I managed to get MythTV working well enough that it now plays standard definition channels better than the cable box alone, even though it's getting its signal from the cable output of the cable box. I get this benefit because MythTV allows me to tweak various parameters that you can't change on the cable box.

The bad news is that high definition channels still look worse through MythTV than they do if I watch then directly from the cable box. I don't expect to solve this problem. The cable box may be able to handle HDTV itself, but it outputs a digital signal in 480p, which is basically standard definition. The fact that I have two HDTV-capable tuner cards does me little good.

Here's the worse news. I had to learn way too much to get this far. more>>

extendedPDF: Professional PDF controls for

In early versions of, exporting to PDF required setting up a printer driver and offered few options. PDF export is vastly improved since version 2.0, since it is built-in and offers some control over the degree of image compression, the initial view, and user interface. However, even these controls are basic. They are certainly far behind the desktop tools available for Adobe Acrobat in Windows and OS X. For this reason, extendedPDF is an essential tool for those who need fine-control over their PDF output from in GNU/Linux. more>>

Free software's secret weapon: FOOGL

It's a long-standing joke in the free software world that this will be the year when we see GNU/Linux make its breakthrough on the desktop - just like last year, and the year before that. What's really funny is that all the key GNU/Linux desktop apps are already being widely deployed, but not in the way that people have long assumed. more>>

3D Xgl Compiz Eye Candy for Ubuntu/Kubuntu Dapper and NVidia

To each his own, but I love eye candy. When I heard that you could get the 3D Xgl and Compiz environment running on Ubuntu/Kubuntu dapper (my default distribution), I immediately searched the web for instructions. Most of the instructions take a reasonably timid approach, which gets your 3D environment running in a test console (the second display, or :1). I'm more adventurous, however, and I immediately went for a total replacement. What follows are instructions for doing the same (updated 09/08/2006). more>>

Quick Hits From Around the Ruby World

A lot of things are happening in the Ruby world right now, and I wanted to highlight a few of them here: At FOSCon this year, Amy Hoy has asked people to start writing more instructive articles about parts of Ruby or Rails so that newbies would have more "fine manuals" to read. I've tried to do my part with two short series (so far), one on RubyInline and the other on ruby-prof. The RubyInline articles are: RubyInline, making making things faster easier, and RubyInline: Going a bit Further. The ruby-prof articles are: Profile and ruby-prof, ruby-prof and call graphs, and Profile and ruby-prof: getting specific. Another blog related event is the current blogging contest being run by Ruby Inside. They're offering $100 US to their favorite informativ, ruby related blog post this week (Aug 14-20). There have been a lot of interesting entries so far. It would be pretty cool to see more contests like this crop up. We're getting close to a couple of Ruby conferences, I wrote about RubyConf*MI in my last post. RailsConfEurope is also comingu up quickly. If you're reasonable close to either of these, you should consider registering. O'Reilly has released the Ruby Cookbook. It's a massive tome, chock-full of Ruby goodness. I haven't had time to read the whole thing yet, but what I've read looks good, and I'm hearing good things from folks I trust. Looks like another good book to add to your Ruby bookshelf. APress is getting ready to jump into Ruby and Rails in a big way. They've got ten titles listed on their 'Rails Roadmap', and have lined up some well known Ruby names to write for them. They're still looking for some Ruby authors according to this blog post. No Starch Press is also starting to make some Ruby related noises. I can't be specific yet, but there's a good looking Ruby book on its way into their catalog. If the book is half as good as what they've talked to me about, it's going to be another 'must have'. The Pragmatic Programmers also look like they're set to add some more titles to their Facets of Ruby line. James Gray has said that he's writing a book for them that should be announced soon, Ezra Zygmuntowicz also has a book on the way, and I've recently signed a contract with them for a Ruby related book. It looks like the PragProgs aren't going to be content to sit on their Ruby laurels. Finally, Developerdotstar is close to announcing a couple of books about programming. Neither of these is Ruby specific, but from everything I've heard I think they're going to be solid, language independant books about becoming a better programmer. Just the kind of thing you'd expect from these guys. more>>

System Administration: Another Step toward the BIND - V

OK, we had an extended breather from our last look at BIND's zone file It's time to finish up and get a sense of what these records mean.

To go off-topic a little, recently, I had the task of setting up two OpenLDAP servers and putting together a test environment for a project with several developers and several applications including some LAMP applications. Without a working knowledge of DNS, the project would have gone amuck. more>>

MythTV and AM2 on Linux war stories, a continuing saga

As you may recall from my last entry, I exchanged my cable box from a Scientific Atlanta 8000HD to a Scientific Atlanta 8300HD. The latter, new box continues to output a signal from the cable connection even if I have it in HDTV mode. It probably also continues to output AVI and S-Video. This finally opened up a way for me to use my cable box with a MythTV box.

Thanks to a serious (and mysterious) spinal injury (I say mysterious because I haven't figured out how I did the damage), I can only work on the project for a half hour at a time, at most. I have discovered some interesting things in those short segments. more>>

Making Peace (and/or products) with Marketing

There are a range of ways that marketing can relate to engineering. At one end are companies where engineering is the core competency and marketing "leadership" is an absurdity. At the other end are companies where marketing tells engineers what to do.

The most extreme example of the former comes from fiction. It's the nameless fictional company that employs the cartoon character Dilbert. In three daily Dilbert strips starting July 27, the character Alice -- a competent, under-appreciated and violence-prone engineer -- relates to marketing people by banging their heads on furniture. In one strip she tells a prospective employee, "I'm going to bonk your head on the table. If it sounds empty, you'll work in marketing."

The most extreme example of the latter comes from reality, and stars in "The Phone Companies Still Don't Get it", by Mark Gimein, in the July 31, 2006 issue of BusinessWeek. more>>

Google: the Godfather of Open Source?

It's well known that Google runs its vast array of servers using a custom version of GNU/Linux. But this is only one aspect of its support for free software. Others include its Summer of Code, now well established as an incubator of both coding talent and projects, and more recently its open source code repository, which offers a useful alternative to Similarly, in porting Picasa to GNU/Linux, Google has made contributions to Wine, while open source projects in Sri Lanka have been the beneficiaries of more direct help, to the tune of $25,000. more>>

Confessions From Studio Dave

The Hard Parts

I hate hardware. Sometimes I hate Linux too, but more often I just hate the hardware. Boxes, wires, connectors, keyboards, mice, the works. Some days I just want all of it to disappear. more>>

AM2 and MythTV war stories, a continuing saga

Warning to Linux users who want to upgrade to socket AM2 motherboards: You will almost definitely run into problems with Linux. I have an ASUS M2N32-SLI Deluxe motherboard. I upgraded the BIOS to the latest version, and that broke IO-APIC on all versions of the Linux kernel I've tried, including I couldn't boot Linux without the "noapic" boot parameter. I solved this problem by restoring an older BIOS, and I lost a fancy NVidia acceleration feature in the process. That's no big deal for me because the feature primarily benefits Windows games and I don't play Windows games often enough to care. more>>

A Five Minute Guide to Opposing DRM

I've been covering the Free Software Foundation's Defective By Design campaign against Digital Rights Management (DRM) technologies since its planning stages. Starting from scratch, in less than three months, the campaign has grown to 7000 members. This number is impressive, especially since the campaign introduces a degree of activism previously unknown in the free and open source software communities. What strikes me, though, is that, for all the loathing of DRM, how rarely the reasons for opposing it are spelled out. In some cases, the reason may be that people consider them too obvious to be worth mentioning, but, too often when I've probed, people haven't even heard of the possible objections. These objections begin with the fact that the case for DRM has yet to be made, and continues with arguments about consumer rights, privacy, competitiveness, and industry standards. more>>

Novell made the right decision even if for the wrong reasons

Novell has decided not to use proprietary Linux modules such as the NVidia accelerated driver. My first reaction was that Novell was being needlessly idiotic. Then I read this article on, by Matt Hartley. It calls out the leading Linux distributions for failing to band together to pressure hardware vendors to pre-install Linux. I've been saying basically the same thing for the past few years, so I heartily agree with this article. It was then that it occurred to me that Novell may have made the right decision, even if for the wrong reason. more>>

RubyConf*MI, OSCON, and "Ruby for Rails"

Coming off of a big week at OSCon it's time to announce RubyConf*MI, the first regional Ruby conference. It's being held in Grand Rapids Michigan on Aug 26th. It looks like a good conference, David Black will be speaking (the word is he'll be presenting a day of training through Ruby Power and Light ahead of the conference as well). I'm going to be speaking there too, along with several local Ruby hackers. You can see the speaker list or register for the conference at their website. more>>

Linux needs to disappear

Okay, I confess that I chose this headline to draw you into this blog entry. A more accurate headline would be "Operating systems need to disappear". But I don't want my meaning to be misconstrued. The term "operating systems" would have to include proprietary operating systems. If I say "proprietary operating systems need to disappear", I mean they should be wiped off the face of the earth. When I say Linux should disappear, I mean that end users shouldn't need to know it's there. Big difference. Add to that the fact that I would love to see Linux as the operating system for all computing devices, and there's not much left to use as a headline except "Linux needs to disappear".

Be patient, please, because this is about much more than Linux disappearing. It's primarily about Network Computing, with Zimbra as an example of why this is the future. more>>

Does dual licensing threaten free software?

After the dotcom doldrums of the past five years, there is a new wind blowing through the world of commercial software. It's open source, but not as we know it. The first-generation start-ups like LinuxCare, TurboLinux and even Red Hat, were essentially service companies. Today, an increasingly-favored approach is to employ dual licensing to create two revenue streams: one based on providing services for free software and the other through traditional commercial licenses to products that are generally based on the free software version. more>>