Monday, December 31, 2007

Mars Impact Probability Increases to 4 Percent

Don Yeomans, Paul Chodas and Steve Chesley
NASA/JPL Near-Earth Object Program Office
December 28, 2007

The impact probability for a collision of asteroid 2007 WD5 with Mars on January 30 has increased from 1.3% to 3.9%.

Pre-discovery observations of asteroid 2007 WD5, taken on November 8, 2007 have allowed its orbit to be refined and the uncertainties for the late January Mars encounter have been improved. The impact probability resulting from the recent orbit refinement has increased to a surprising 3.9% (about 1 in 25 odds). The uncertainty region during the Mars encounter now extends over 400,000 km along a very narrow ellipsoid that is only 600 km wide. Since the uncertainty region intersects Mars itself, a Mars impact is still possible. However, the most likely scenario is that additional observations of the asteroid will allow the uncertainty region to shrink so that a Mars impact is ruled out. In the unlikely event of an impact, the time would be 2008 January 30 at 10:56 UT (2:56 a.m. PST) with an uncertainty of a few minutes.











The current position of asteroid 2007 WD5, with its orbit shown in blue




The current position of asteroid 2007 WD5, with its orbit shown in blue.
The asteroid's orbit stretches from just outside the Earth's orbit at its
closest point to the Sun, to the outer reaches of the asteroid belt at its
farthest.



Updated Uncertainty region at closest approach to Mars




Updated Uncertainty Region for 2007 WD5 at encounter with Mars, shown as white dots.
The thin white line is the orbit of Mars. The blue line traces the motion of
the center of the uncertainty region, which is the most likely position of
the asteroid.





The pre-discovery observations were located by Andy Puckett, a recent Ph.D. from the University of Chicago who has since moved to the University of Alaska Anchorage. Dr. Puckett located the observations in the archive of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey II, which contains extensive repeat coverage of 300 square degrees along the sky's celestial equator. The observations were taken using a 2.5 meter aperture telescope at the Apache Point Observatory near Cloudcroft, New Mexico. For the recent orbit refinement, these pre-discovery observations on November 8 were added to the existing observations provided by the Catalina Sky Survey and Spacewatch observatories (both near Tucson AZ) as well as New Mexico Tech's Magdalena Ridge Observatory.

http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/

Thursday, December 27, 2007

7 Medical Myths Even Doctors Believe

1) We use only 10 percent of our brains.
2)
You should drink at least eight glasses of water a day.
3)
Fingernails and hair grow after death.
4) Shaved hair grows back faster, coarser and darker.
5) Reading in dim light ruins your eyesight.
6) Eating turkey makes you drowsy.
7) Mobile phones are dangerous in hospitals.

For more details you can visit live science website.


Friday, December 21, 2007

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Hello, Android!

Android - An Open Handset Alliance Project.

Finally Google has release there free and open source (foss) mobile platform. Try it out. Here is the link.

http://code.google.com/android/

The Android Developer Challenge will award $10 million to developers who build great applications for Android. So try your luck and creativity. Happy Hunting...

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Mozilla Prism


A new way to have your favorite websites on your desktop.



Here the original link

Monday, November 05, 2007

Linux Timeline

Click on the image to see the large view...

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Top 10 Free Video Rippers, Encoders, and Converters

Top 10 Free Video Rippers, Encoders, and Converters

videoconverterheader.png
So many video file formats, so many handheld video players, so many online video sites, and so little time. To have your favorite clips how you want them—whether that's on your DVR, iPod, PSP or desktop—you need the right utility to convert 'em into the format that works for you. Commercial video converter software's aplenty, but there are several solid free utilities that can convert your video files on every operating system, or if you've just got a web browser and a quick clip. Put DVDs on your iPod, YouTube videos on DVD, or convert any video file with today's top 10 free video rippers, encoders and converters.

10. VLC media player (Open source/All platforms)

vlc.png Ok, so VLC is a media player, not converter, but if you're watching digital video, it's a must-have—plus VLC can indeed rip DVD's, as well as play ripped discs in ISO format (no actual optical media required.) VLC can also play FLV files downloaded from YouTube et al, no conversion to AVI required. Since there's a portable version, VLC's a nice choice for getting your DVD rips/saved YouTube video watching on wherever you go.


9. MediaCoder (Open source/Windows)

Batch convert audio and video compression formats with the open source Media Coder for Windows, which works with a long laundry lists of formats, including MP3, Ogg Vorbis, AAC, AAC+, AAC+V2, MusePack, WMA, RealAudio, AVI, MPEG/VOB, Matroska, MP4, RealMedia, ASF/WMV, Quicktime, and OGM, to name a few.

8. Avi2Dvd (Freeware/Windows)

Make your video files burnable to a DVD with Avi2Dvd, a utility that converts Avi/Ogm/Mkv/Wmv/Dvd files to Dvd/Svcd/Vcd format. Avi2Dvd can also produce DVD menus with chapter, audio, and subtitle buttons.

7. Videora Converter (Freeware/Windows only)

Videora Converter is a set of programs, each designed to convert regular PC video files into a format tailored to your favorite video-playing handheld device. The Videora program list includes iPod Video Converter (for 5th gen iPods), iPod classic Video Converter (for 6th gen classic iPods), iPod nano Video Converter (for 3rd gen iPod nanos), iPod touch Video Converter, iPhone Video Converter, Videora Apple TV Converter, PSP Video 9, Videora Xbox360 Converter, Videora TiVo Converter, and Videora PMP Converter. Lifehacker alum Rick Broida used Videora in conjunction with DVD Decrypter to copy DVDs to his iPod.

Honorable Mention: Ares Tube for Windows converts YouTube and other online videos to iPod format.

6. Any Video Converter (Freeware/Windows only)

anyvideoconverter.jpg Convert almost all video formats including DivX, XviD, MOV, rm, rmvb, MPEG, VOB, DVD, WMV, AVI to MPEG-4 movie format for iPod/PSP or other portable video device, MP4 player or smart phone with Any Video Converter, which also supports user-defined video file formats as the output. Batch process multiple files that AVC saves to a pre-selected directory folder, leaving the original files untouched.

5. Hey!Watch (webapp)

Web application Hey!Watch converts video located on your computer desktop as well as clips hosted on video sites. Upload your video to Hey!Watch to encode it into a wide variety of file formats, like H264, MP4, WMV, DivX, HD Video, Mobile 3GP/MP4, iPod, Archos and PSP. Hey!Watch only allows for 10MB of video uploads per month for free, and from there you pay for what you use, but it's got lots of neat features for video publishers like podcast feed generation and automatic batch processing with options you set once.

4. VidDownloader (webapp)

When you don't want to mess with installing software to grab that priceless YouTube clip before it gets yanked, head over to web site VidDownloader which sucks in videos from all the big streaming sites (YouTube, Google Video, iFilm, Blip.TV, DailyMotion, etc.), converts 'em for you to a playable format and offers them for download. Other downloaders for online video sites buy you a Flash FLV file, but VidDownloader spits back an AVI file.

3. iSquint (Freeware/Mac OS X only)

isquinthero.pngConvert any video file to iPod-sized versions and automatically add the results to your iTunes library. iSquint is free, but Lifehacker readers have praised the pay-for iSquint upgrade, VisualHub, which offers more advanced options for a $23 license fee. Check out the feature comparison chart between iSquint and VisualHub.

2. DVD Shrink (Freeware/Windows only)

Copy a DVD to your hard drive and leave off all the extras like bonus footage, trailers and other extras to save space with DVD Shrink. Download Adam's one-click AutoHotkey/DVD Shrink utility to rip your DVDs to your hard drive for skip-free video play from scratchy optical media.

Honorable mention: DVD Decrypter (beware of advertisement interstitial page), which Windows peeps can use to copy DVDs to their iPods.

1. Handbrake (Open source/Windows, Mac)


Back up your DVD's to digital file with this open source DVD to MPEG-4 converter app. See also how to rip DVDs to your iPod with Handbrake.
handbrake1.png

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween...!

64 Interview answers you need to know

This is a nice article I found from www.crackinterview.info while surfing the web. Hope it will helpful to you.

Q1 Tell me about yourself.
Q2 What are your greatest strengths?
Q3 What are your greatest weaknesses?
Q4 Tell me about something you did – or failed to do – that you now feel a little ashamed of.
Q5 Why are you leaving (or did you leave) this position?
Q6 The “Silent Treatment”
Q7 Why should I hire you?
Q8 Aren’t you overqualified for this position?
Q9 Where do you see yourself five years from now?
Q10 Describe your ideal company, location and job.
Q11 Why do you want to work at our company?
Q12 What are your career options right now?
Q13 Why have you been out of work so long?
Q14 Tell me honestly about the strong points and weak points of your boss (company, management team, etc.)
Q15 What good books have you read lately?
Q16 Tell me about a situation when your work was criticized.
Q17 What are your outside interest?
Q18 The “Fatal Flaw” question
Q19 How do you feel about reporting to a younger person (minority, woman, etc)?
Q20 On confidential matters
Q21 Would you lie for the company?
Q22 Looking back, what would you do differently in your life?
Q23 Could you have done better in your last job?
Q24 Can you work under pressure?
Q25 What makes you angry?
Q26 Why aren’t you earning more money at this stage of your career?
Q27 Who has inspired you in your life and why?
Q28 What was the toughest decision you ever had to make?
Q29 Tell me about the most boring job you’ve ever had.
Q30 Have you been absent from work more than a few days in any previous position?
Q31 What changes would you make if you came on board?
Q32 I’m concerned that you don’t have as much experience as we’d like in
Q33 How do you feel about working nights and weekends?
Q34 Are you willing to relocate or travel?
Q35 Do you have the stomach to fire people? Have you had experience firing many people?
Q36 Why have you had so many jobs?
Q37 What do you see as the proper role/mission of… …a good (job title you’re seeking); …a good manager; …an executive in serving the community; …a leading company in our industry; etc.
Q38 What would you say to your boss if he’s crazy about an idea, but you think it stinks?
Q39 How could you have improved your career progress?
Q40 What would you do if a fellow executive on your own corporate level wasn’t pulling his/her weight…and this was hurting your department?
Q41 You’ve been with your firm a long time. Won’t it be hard switching to a new company?
Q42 May I contact your present employer for a reference?
Q43 Give me an example of your creativity (analytical skill…managing ability, etc.)
Q44 Where could you use some improvement?
Q45 What do you worry about?
Q46 How many hours a week do you normally work?
Q47 What’s the most difficult part of being a (job title)?
Q48 The “Hypothetical Problem”
Q49 What was the toughest challenge you’ve ever faced?
Q50 Have you consider starting your own business?
Q51 What are your goals?
Q52 What do you for when you hire people?
Q53 Sell me this stapler…(this pencil…this clock…or some other object on interviewer’s desk).
Q54 “The Salary Question” – How much money do you want?
Q55 The Illegal Question
Q56 The “Secret” Illegal Question
Q57 What was the toughest part of your last job?
Q58 How do you define success…and how do you measure up to your own definition?.
Q59 “The Opinion Question” – What do you think about …Abortion…The President…The Death Penalty…(or any other controversial subject)?
Q60 If you won $10 million lottery, would you still work?
Q61 Looking back on your last position, have you done your best work?
Q62 Why should I hire you from the outside when I could promote someone from within?
Q63 Tell me something negative you’ve heard about our company
Q64 On a scale of one to ten, rate me as an interviewer.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Dust Arts...

These are actual works of art created with the dust that settled on old cars.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I dont know why

Video created by CSE students for their welcome night.

Dutch Consumers’ Counsel advises against Vista

After more than 5000 complains of costumers about Vista in a month of time, the Dutch Consumers’ Counsel decided to talk with Microsoft. The goal of the negotiations was to give consumers the possibility to downgrade from Vista to XP if consumers had serious complaints about Vista. However Microsoft denied the request, since (according to Microsoft) the computers have been developed for use with Vista and a downgrade to XP will therefore bring along many other issues with the operating system (…?…). To solve some of the problems Microsoft opened a site where people can resolve many of their problems in three steps (site).

But since Microsoft did not co-operate sufficiently, the Consumers’ Counsel still advises people to ask for XP when buying a new computer and only to buy a computer with Vista installed if you are sure you will not run into trouble or if you know you will be able to handle these. Besides they advised vendors to change the operating system for costumers if they request this.

In a previous press release the Consumers’ Counsel already advised people to think about alternatives like Apple’s Mac OS X or the free Linux Ubuntu….

<original article>

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

UL and BA planes collide at Heathrow airport

Two air planes of Sri Lankan Airlines and British Airways collide without any major damage on 16th Oct.
<original video>

11 Reasons to use google apps

Interesting article I found about google apps.
<original one>

By offering low upfront costs, reduced overall risk, instant global reach and access to enterprise-level software solutions, Google Apps provides a compelling opportunity for every organization. Those who capitalize on it will reap significant immediate benefits.

I found the following reasons for why we must use google apps??

1.Eliminate email hassles instantly. No more outages, lost mail, spamming, phishing, viruses, security breaches.

2.Reduce costs. Eliminate the hardware, software, maintenance, upgrades, and services associated with your current environment.

3.Enable collaboration for everyone, from anywhere. Access and collaborate on all your documents and spreadsheets from anywhere in the world via a web browser.

4.Get everyone on the same page. Bring all your key information together in one central, easy-to-use, searchable location.

5.Reduce IT overload. Google handles all technical aspects, freeing up your team to focus on other projects, and allowing you to reduce your online communication and collaboration costs to one low monthly fee.

6.Instantly increase the productivity, knowledge, teamwork, and communication capabilities. Provide instantly accessible tools, including Web-based business class email, online document management, online calendars, blogs, wikis, etc. to your business and your team.


7.Make partnering and out-sourcing more efficient. Create a platform that can seamlessly support virtual ad-hoc teams (without the intervention of an “administrator”), thereby quickly reducing your costs.

8.Increase your peace of mind. With Google’s hosted, fast, safe, and secure file storage, you never have to worry about losing critical business information. You also never have to worry about scalability – Google apps will support any number of users who can be added at any time.

9.Get automatic versioning. Any change to any information in a Google document or spreadsheet creates a new version of the information. Even if a document or spreadsheet is being authored by many users simultaneously, none of the information will ever get lost. If any change is unacceptable, the contents of it can be quickly rolled back to any of its previous states with a couple of clicks.

10.Take advantage of continuous improvement. All Google Apps updates are immediately distributed to all customers. This means that you always have the latest and greatest features immediately available for use in your organization – without doing a thing.

11.New hires are already using this technology. People entering the workforce today have lived and breathed the web since they were in high school. If you don’t provide company endorsed solutions, they will end up using tools that are available on the open Internet until you do.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Hour of time...

Nice story that I received through an email. It have something to share with you...

A man came home from work late, tired and irritated, to find his 5-year old son waiting for him at the door.


SON: "Daddy, may I ask you a question?"

DAD: "Yeah sure, what is it?" replied the man.

SON: "Daddy, how much do you make an hour?"

DAD: "That's none of your business. Why do you ask such a thing?" the man said angrily.

SON: "I just want to know. Please tell me, how much do you make an hour?"

DAD: "If you must know, I make Rs.100 an hour."

SON: "Oh," the little boy replied, with his head down.

SON: "Daddy, may I please borrow Rs.50 ?"

The father was furious, "If the only reason you asked that is so you can borrow some money to buy a silly toy or some other nonsense, then you march yourself straight to your room and go to bed. Think about why you are being so selfish. I work hard everyday for such this childish behavior."

The little boy quietly went to his room and shut the door.

The man sat down and started to get even angrier about the little boy's questions. How dare he ask such questions only to get some money?

After about an hour or so, the man had calmed down, and started to think: Maybe there was something he really needed to buy with that Rs.50 and he really didn't ask for money very often. The man went to the door of the little boy's room and opened the door. "Are you asleep, son?" He asked.

"No daddy, I'm awake," replied the boy.

"I've been thinking, maybe I was too hard on you earlier" said the man.

"It's been a long day and I took out my aggravation on you. Here's the Rs.50 you asked for."

The little boy sat straight up, smiling. "Oh, thank you daddy!" He yelled.

Then, reaching under his pillow he pulled out some crumpled up bills. The man saw that the boy already had money, started to get angry again. The little boy slowly counted out his money, and then looked up at his father.

"Why do you want more money if you already have some?" the father grumbled.

"Because I didn't have enough, but now I do," the little boy replied.

"Daddy, I have Rs.100 now. Can I buy an hour of your time?

Please come home early tomorrow. I would like to have dinner with you."

The father was crushed. He put his arms around his little son, and he begged for his forgiveness.

It's just a short reminder to all of you working so hard in life. We should not let time slip through our fingers without having spent some time with those who really matter to us, those close to our hearts.

Do remember to share that Rs.100 worth of your time with someone you love.


If we die tomorrow, the company that we are working for could easily replace us in a matter of days.

But the family & friends we leave behind will feel the loss for the rest of their lives. And come to think of it, we pour ourselves more into work than to our family.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Dress for Interview

I found this nice article about how to dress for an interview. Hope it will be helpful to most of you.
Click here for the article and give comments for the original writer.

Friday, October 05, 2007

The first Freedomware Gaming Festival

Here is the promotion video...



Check here for more details.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

It's 400th Match for Jayasuriya


Sanath Jayasuriya

Sri Lanka

Player profile

Full name: Sanath Teran Jayasuriya
Born: June 30, 1969, Matara
Major teams: Sri Lanka, ACC Asian XI, Asia XI, Bloomfield Cricket and Athletic Club, Colombo Cricket Club, Marylebone Cricket Club, Somerset

Batting style: Left-hand bat
Bowling style: Slow left-arm orthodox


2nd Oneday International against the England on 4th Oct 2007 is the 400th Oneday International for Sanath Jayasuriya. This is the first time a cricketer pass the 400th match milestone.

Welldone Sanath....!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

I am a MySQL Certified Developer Now...!

Finally completed the Developer Part II exam. Scored 62 out of 70. Its an achievement because I have studied for only 3 days. I studied more than a week for Developer I and got only 58 for that out of 70. Now have to wait another 4 - 6 weeks till MySQL AB mail me the original copy of my certified documents.
Have to thank my company hSenid Software International for the support given and the sponsorship of all the expenses. For Dinesh, Harsha, Jerome, Thilina and all others for the help given.

Its a target achievement of my life.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Twenty20 World Cup...

Indian Cricket Team

Sexy, Pretty Girls, 2020 girls, cheer leaders

Indian Cricket Team

PAKISTANI FANS CHEERING THERE TEAM

Indian Cricket Team

CHEER LEADERS DANCE TO THE BEATS EVEN AS THE CRICKETERS FOCUS ON CRICKET

Indian Cricket Team

THE AUSSIE SUPPORTERS ROOT FOR THEIR TEAM. IS THAT ROOT BEER IN THEIR HANDS?

Indian Cricket Team

A CLOSE ENCOUNTER WHICH DEFINES THE PASSION WITH WHICH THE GAME IS PLAYED

Indian Cricket Team

SINCE WHEN DID THEY INTRODUCE RED CARDS IN CRICKET?

Group Releases Free iPhone Unlock Hack

Just a day after a commercial company started selling an iPhone unlock hack, a hacker group released a free, open-source version.


A hacker group released a free, open-source unlock for Apple Inc.'s iPhone late Tuesday, just a day after a commercial company started selling something similar for as much as US$99 through a network of online resellers.

The iPhone Dev Team, a dozen programmers who began their attempts to break the iPhone's reliance on AT&T in early July, have posted their hack on download servers. According to several sites, including Gizmodo and Engadget, the iPhone Dev Team unlock exploits the same iPhone bug as the for-money iPhoneSIMFree hack to do its magic. The two groups, however, came up with their solutions independently.

But the process isn't for the faint of heart. "This unlock is not for everybody!" the iPhone Dev Team warned. The procedure involves several separate programs -- some of which must be obtained elsewhere on the Internet -- and requires that iPhone owners execute commands from a shell screen on the Mac or PC.

Even so, reports have been posted to the team's site from users in more than 40 countries that the unlock hack works, and after a swap of the iPhone's included SIM card with one from another cellular service provider, that they've been able to access more than 90 different carriers. The iPhone's distinctive Visual Voicemail, which lets users select voice-mail messages rather than listen to them in the order they were received, is missing after an unlock; that feature relies on AT&T's back end. Some users have also reported that the iPhone's connection to YouTube no longer works after the hack is applied.

The iPhone Dev Team is already working on a one-click tool sporting a graphical interface that will unlock an iPhone, but it had not been released as of this morning. "A new version of the GUI tool is almost complete," the group said on its site.

It's likely, however, that any unlock will be undone by the next iPhone update, which Apple has said will be issued sometime this month to give the device new capabilities, such as Wi-Fi downloading from iTunes. The iPhoneSIMFree group, for example, has hammered the caveat into potential buyers' heads: "We cannot offer any guarantee should Apple Inc. choose to re-lock the phone after a future update," it stated in a FAQ.

Resellers of the iPhoneSIMFree hack, who have priced the unlock as low as $45, have repeated the no-guarantee mantra.

Apple has repeatedly refused to comment on the various iPhone unlock hacks -- paid versions or free ones.

How Open Source Software Can Improve Our Library

How Open Source Software Can Improve Our Library

by Eric Hebert

Remember a time when doing research required us to have to go to the library? Your school had one, and that's probably where you spent most of your library time at. If it wasn't your school, then it was probably your local town or city library. Some of these libraries may have been tiny little holes in the wall with just a few thousand books while others were huge university libraries with tens of thousands of books, magazines, newspapers, cd & dvds, microfiche, etc.

The depth a library can have can range greatly; it all depends on how much money that library gets in funding. The big college libraries obviously get the most due to the fact that they are part of an actual business model that produces a significant amount of money. Public libraries on the other hand only get what the government gives them, which in smaller municipalities can be very little.

For many libraries, organizing their books and other media can be a daunting task, especially as the library grows with more material. Years ago we had crude card catalog systems (remember the Dewy Decimal System?) that kept things organized, but were difficult to maintain. With today's computing technology, organizing our libraries has never been easier or more efficient. Gone is the card catalog and in some libraries, it's much easier to locate a book through an internet connection and picking it up upon your arrival, rather then wasting the time scouring the aisles looking for your next read (only to find out the book was never there in the first place).

Now just because the world has been blessed with wonderful software solutions that make everything easier to do, doesn't mean that every library in the universe is using these solutions. As noted above, many libraries do not have huge amounts of money to burn, and any that they do get usually goes to purchasing additional resources for you to have at your disposal (think about how many books get printed in a year).

Because of this need for software (and the installation and training costs associated with any), and the lack of money available to spend on it, many libraries are left to fend for themselves when it comes to staying up to date with the latest technology. Unless, of course, they embrace the open source movement and use some of the countless software solutions available to help out. "Open Source" you say? If you are unaware what open source is, then let me briefly enlighten you.

Most software that we all use everyday is known as "proprietary", which in a nutshell means that it costs money and that the actual code of the software is restricted, in that the code of the software cannot be modified, copied, or changed from its original construction. The code is "unreadable" and pretty much is what it is.

Open source software, on the other hand, is quite the opposite. The open source mentality revolves around sharing and collaboration, and these two important elements describe open source software perfectly. First and foremost, open source software is free for anyone to have; more importantly, not only is the software free, but it is also free for anyone to copy, hack, modify, etc. This increases the possibilities of a software program's potential because of this free-thinking model. Many large groups of programmers have customized basic open source programs into whatever they deemed necessary, and have in turn given these modifications back to the open source community for free where others can continue to build on their work.

There are many different kinds of open source software solutions out there today that could be embraced by the library. There's basic operating systems and document processing programs. Then there's many web-based content management solutions and database driven organization software. So why aren't libraries using these free, open programs to make their lives easier and their libraries better? The answers you'll find lie in an area that one would think to be ironic given the situation - the lack of information. It will be our goal here to outline some of the prominent players in the open source software game and offer solutions to not only portray their role in the modern library, but offer the means to get these programs installed and up and running.

Basic Computer Programs

Ubuntu - the most popular player in the Linux based operating system game. (Linux is the open-source answer to Microsoft's Windows operating system; Ubuntu is a modification of Linux). Ubuntu is a perfect solution for libraries who need to upgrade their older computers using outdated Windows or for bulk computer purchases requiring a new operating system. Many libraries feature computers for users to gain access to the internet, and that being the only function those computers serve. Why pay for all the unwanted things on Windows when you just need to get online? You might be a little scared at first of a new operating system, but just like anything else, the hardest part is getting started. Plus, there's plenty of Ubuntu installation help out there to give you a hand.

Firefox - So, you've installed Ubuntu and are ready to continue a Microsoft-free lifestyle. What next? One of the first things you'll notice is that you have a new browser to surf the web with. No more clicking on that big blue Internet Explorer icon anymore. Instead, you'll be looking for the orange looking fox. Firefox is the Mozzila organizations answer to Microsoft's Internet Explorer web browser, and has taken the web by storm over the past few years as the biggest competitor to IE in quite some time. Firefox offers a much more secure browsing experience compared to IE (mostly because the majority if the population uses IE and that's who the bad guys are targeting). The biggest draw, however, is the modifications that can be made to Firefox through its many plug-ins, which can make using the net more constructive. HINT: Many of the basic programs that come with Windows can be found as a plug-in for Firefox!

Open Office - Another component you'll find bundled with your Ubuntu operating system is a software package known as Open Office. Does "office" sound familiar? Of course is does; you've probably used Microsoft's Office products many times before, including the industry standard "Word", "Excel" and "PowerPoint" programs. Well guess what? Open Office can do the same thing, and you can use both programs to handle each others file formatting (i.e. if someone builds a presentation in Microsoft PowerPoint, then you can edit the same presentation in Open Office). In addition to these must-have programs (either to be used by the library internally or for the patron to use in various projects), Open Office also comes with a calculator, draw, and mathematics program as well. Looks like were beginning to forget about Windows already (and remember, we haven't even spent a dime!)

Thunderbird - Firefox's little brother program, Thunderbird, is the Mozilla foundations open-source alternative to Microsoft's Outlook Express, and is your fourth tool in weaning yourself off of the Windows juice that you have been so accustomed to drinking for so long now. The program works exactly like Outlook, providing you with a secure and safe desktop email solution. And just like Firefox, the open source programming community has created free add-ons to make the Thunderbird email client customized to your liking. If you absolutely need a desktop email client (as opposed to a web-based email client like the recommended Gmail), then Thunderbird is the open source program you need. Windows who?

Songbird - Your fifth and final nail in the Windows coffin is yet another open-source platform built off of the Mozilla platform (which gave us Firefox). Songbird is an open source media player which you can use to play your audio and video files. And just like Firefox and Thunderbird, it can be customized with various themes, plug-ins, and add-ons to make it work differently. Songbird can play any media file format (just in case you have a bunch of WMA files stored on cd's from your Windows days), features multilingual support, and has an integrated web browser without having to leave the player. Break out the black clothes and let's have a moment of silence, as we begin our life without Windows.

Advanced Programs

GIMPshop - So now our library has replaced its Windows operating system, and installed some basic programs to, for the most part, get what most people come to the library to get done. However, what is the library could offer MORE than what patrons are used to using the library computer for, and offer other programs to use? One important but rather expensive software program that is sometimes needed is the ever popular Adobe Photoshop. Because we're cheap and only choosing open-source alternatives, we're going with Gimpshop, a Photoshop alternative. While not as feature rich as Adobe's photo manipulation program, GIMPshop is just as easy to use and will take care of any users basic needs (many, unless seasoned Photoshop pros, will only need the program to so basic tasks anyway).

PDF Creator - The PDF file (short for "portable document format") is an industry standard format that everybody uses everyday. The purpose of creating a PDF file is usually to provide an important document for display that cannot be modified by the reader (unless permission is given). Many programs exist that will enable you to create your own PDF files, but they require you to spend money, which is not in our budget. Instead, we're going to use the open-source PDF creator to take our Open Office files and convert them into professional PDF documents.

Audacity - For those looking to get a little more creative in the library, you'll want to make sure that you can record and edit audio; hopefully, they'll be taking advantage of Audacity, a cross platform open-source program that does just that. In the digital recording industry, there are hundreds of programs with a wide range of features and capabilities, and can cost anywhere from a few bucks to a couple of thousand dollars. Now, no one expects a library to have thousand dollar recording software installed on their computers, but having a basic program sure does help. Audacity will give you the ability to cut, copy, edit, and splice sounds together in a variety of formats. Plus, as it is open-source, it's capabilities are continuing to evolve.

Avidemux - Well we have the means to manipulate our audio recordings, then what about video? Don't worry you budding filmmakers (or librarians looking to produce their own promotional videos, how-to-tutorials, or video book reviews), because the open source community has you covered. Next up on the free software train is Avidemux, a video editing software program for users to edit together online video. Avidemux can take care of simple cutting, filtering, and encoding tasks, and work in a variety of file formats. It's not going to produce any elaborate visual effects for you, but it'll take care of the simple ones and would be a great addition to a library's catalog of resources.

So, we've covered some of the basic and advanced programs that traditionally, would set a library back in terms of finances. By running the above free open sources programs, a library could offer plenty of software resources to it's patrons that if could afford to do in the past. While these programs are free, some of them (especially the photo, audio, and video programs) may be difficult for the first time or novice user to grasp. It will be up to the librarians and staff to educate themselves in order to provide their patrons with the know-how to get the most out of these programs (thus providing the greatest resource a library can offer - assistance in retrieving and properly using available tools and information).

In addition to these tools being helpful to a library's patrons, they are obviously very important to the operations of a library as well, and it will benefit each employee to use the same open source programs for library operations as to educate the employee of the ins and outs of each software program, so that knowledge can then be shared with a patron should a question or problem ever arise. But what of the other computing needs of the library? Obviously we still have some other very important organizing and cataloging needs as we addressed earlier. In addition, a library needs to have a strong online presence and offer their knowledge and support through the internet in order to really provide a resource. Thankfully, there are open source solutions for the library to take advantage in these departments as well.

ILS (Integrated Library Systems)

Koha is a promising full featured open source ILS (integrated library system) currently being used by libraries all over the world. For those of you out there unfamiliar of what an ILS is, well, it is a system of keeping track of the operations of a library - payroll, expenses, purchases, and most importantly, keeping track of the various media being checked out by the librarians patrons. Many smaller libraries cannot afford to purchase, install, and maintain an ILS, and Koha is a perfect alternative. Koha is built using library ILS standards and uses the OPAC (open public access catalog) interface. In addition, Koha has no vendor-lock in, so libraries can receive tech support from any party they choose.

Evergreen ILS is another option when researching open source ILS options. Developed by Equinox Software, Evergreen is a robust, enterprise level ILS solution developed to be capable of supporting the workload of large libraries in a fault-tolerant system. It too is standards compliant and uses the OPAC interface, and offers many features including flexible administration, work-flow customization, adaptable programming interfaces, and because its open source, cannot be locked away and can benefit from any community contributions.

VuFind is a new open source OPAC that you can put over your ILS (in this case, replacing the basic OPAC of Koha). VuFind suggests that is is "the library OPAC meets web 2.0"; it enables users to search through all of your library's resources (as opposed to limited resources through the traditional OPAC) through an easy to use web interface. VuFind is modular, meaning that you are free to only use the components of the program that you deem necessary. VuFind is powered by another open source program known as Solr Energy (Apache Solr, an open source search engine technology). The program is still in beta but is being used by several universities like Drexel and Villanova Universities in Pennsylvania.

LibLime is an open source library automation system and is the library communities most trusted open-source software solution. LibLime provides commercial support services including hosting, migration assistance, staff training, and software maintenance, development, and support. LibLime will help take care of installation of the aforementioned Koha and Evergreen Ils programs if your library does not have the in-house technical support to install it yourself, and because of their expertise in the library environment, are the most educated partners to have when deciding on which solutions to use in your specific library.

Web Publishing

Wordpress started out as a quick, free, open-source solution blogging solution just a few years ago; today it is a perfect alternative to building a web site from scratch. In addition to being free to use (and easy to install), the Wordpress community has exploded, with thousands of users and programmers creating custom themes and plug-ins to completely change the way the software looks and operates. The most important aspect of the software is it's easy-to-use interface and content management system. With it's visual rich editor, anyone can publish text and photos to the web site. Other options include multiple authors (with separate log-ins), built in RSS (Real Simple Syndication) technology to keep subscribers updated, and a comment system that allows readers to interact with the sites content. A fantastic way to communicate with patrons, staff, etc.

Drupal is another open source web publishing option that some libraries may want to consider using. One of the most important aspects of any library is its community, and that's where the technology behind Drupal might come in to play a little better. Many have used the software to build rich community based web sites where many different users can control a large amount of content. Some examples include web portals, discussion sites, corporate web sites, and intranet (internal) web applications. Just like Wordpress, Drupal as an ever growing community of users developing add-ons to make the software work better in addition to providing technical support online to answer any of your installation or maintenance difficulties.

MediaWiki is the original software that powered the famous Wikipedia, which basically allows users to create and edit information from a very simple to use text interface. Another open source wiki platform is TWiki, a flexible and powerful enterprise wiki that is perfect for project management. These wiki solutions can be used as alternatives to the web publishing methods used above, but can better be used as the library's place to keep maintenance and training information available that can constantly be updated as library operations change and develop. Imagine keeping the employee and support community of your library up-to-date with the inner workings through a community wiki, where they can go to troubleshoot any problems that may have been already solved once before in the past.

Conclusion

So, it seem that there are some very powerful solutions available today that could be used to create a much more resourceful library, whether it's a large college or state financed operation, or a local community library that before probably didn't do much for that community in the technology department. By using open source software in the library, money that otherwise would be spent on software solutions can be used for other important resources, such as purchasing additional media resources (books, magazines, dvds), or can be used to hire educated, technical support that provides patrons with the know how to better use already existing resources. In addition, this free software is constantly being updated, changed, and customized to meet the library's needs.

While all of this is fine and dandy, and sounds like the win-win solution for your library, there are still pitfalls and hurdles we'll need to overcome. Hopefully this article provides some introductory information as to how to wean your library off of traditional computing products and dive into the pool of open source resources available today. Many libraries are fully integrated into Microsoft products like Outlook Exchange and have invested a lot of time and money to make these systems work efficiently. Other problems involve the installation, maintenance, and training costs associated with adapting to open source software, as it can be at times difficult to understand at first (mostly because of our dependence on Windows based products); usability is an issue that is being addressed by the open source community daily who is working hard to make these free products easier for all to use and maintain.

As with any form of technology, many usually fear what they are not used to and do not understand. Hopefully, as the word gets out and more of our peers and fellow educators use and promote the open source movement, we will all will embrace and become more comfortable using these open source solutions, and in the future be responsible for contributing and and becoming part of the open source movement.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

12 Tips for GNOME Users

You can visit the original article from this link: http://itmanagement.earthweb.com/osrc/article.php/3698896

As a desktop, GNOME is standard enough that most computer users can feel comfortable within ten minutes of first using it. Yet what always puzzles me is how often people fail to explore it beyond the basics. Possibly, they're conditioned by Windows, which allows relatively limited customization. But, whatever the reason, too often they stoically endure what they could fix if only they could find their way around.

To help users get more out of GNOME, here are twelve features that all users should know. Many of them are not unique to GNOME, except sometimes in their names. But some of them are not immediately obvious, partly because GNOME configuration and system tools are dispersed, rather than being bundled together in a common interface like KDE's Control Center. None are a substitute for a systematic exploration of the desktop, either. However, if you familiarize yourself with these tips, you will be well on the way to taming GNOME for your immediate needs.

Note that the menus mentioned are mostly Debian's. Your own distribution may have slightly different menu items, although the top level ones should be the same.


1) Sound configuration

For some reason, few installation programs in GNU/Linux configure sound for you. Instead, you have to do it after you log in from System - > Preferences -> Sound or Sound Detection, depending on the distribution. From there, you can test whether sound is working. In some distributions, you can also configure the sound architecture to use for system sounds, music and movies, audio conferencing, and mixer tracks. On other tabs of the same window, you can choose system sounds, and enable the system beep.

2) Printer configuration

Like sound cards, printers are rarely configured during installation. Instead, providing you have the root password, you can add a new printer to your system from System ->Administration -> Printers or Printing. Click the New Printer icon, and, after a moment, a wizard opens to step you through the process of setting up a printer. You'll need to know how the printer is connected to your computer, as well as its model and manufacturer.

After a printer is configured, right-click on it to print a test page, and to set properties such as the default resolution.

3) Workspaces

Workspaces are virtual screens. In most distributions, GNOME has four by default -- in Ubuntu, it's two -- but you can have as many as your system's memory allows. Each workspace can have its own name and appearance, and switching between them is as simple as clicking the Workspace switcher on the panel. If you generally work with a clutter of open windows, workspaces are an ideal solution. Not only are they quicker to set up than dual monitors, but they require less of a physical footprint.

4) Panels

Panels are the GNOME equivalent of Windows' taskbar, with a program menu, a notification tray, and a clock. However, panels are far more versatile than taskbars. In GNOME, you can put a panel on any side of the desktop, and even stack several on one side if you want to. You can configure the size of each panel -- which automatically adjusts the size of the icons on it -- as well as its color or background image, and hide it when it's not in use. You can also choose whether to have it centered on the side, expanding as necessary, or automatically filling the side.

Many distributions use two panels by default, with one reserved for the windows list of minimized programs. This arrangement is especially handy with a wide screen monitor.

5) Panel applets

If you've saddled yourself with Windows Vista, you may have noticed the side panel which occupies most of the space gained by having a wide screen monitor. GNOME's version of the side panel are the applets or mini-applications that you can install on the panel. Where Vista has a half dozen applications for its panel -- all ridiculously large unless you need accessibility options -- GNOME comes with forty, all sized according to the height of the panel. These applets range from the frivolous, like Wanda, the fortune-telling fish, to serious ones like a battery manager and trays, a sort of mini-menu to which you can add whatever applications you choose.

You can also download dozens more. One applet that you might want to go out of your way to find is Tomboy, a notes applet on steroids that includes a table of contents and supports hyperlinks and export to Evolution. Another is Beagle, which can search a variety of text and graphics formats, making it perfect for people who drop all their files into a single directory.

These applets and others are installed in the same way as any other package. Once they're installed, right-click a panel and select Add to Panel to see a list of what's available. You may also want to move items from the menu or desktop to the panel. After you add your selections to the panel, you can move them around, and add separators to group the icons on the panel any way that you want.

6) Drop-down calendar

The clock on the panel doesn't just display the date and time. Click it, and it drops down into a calendar for the current month. If you've set any appointments in Evolution, their date is highlighted. Click the highlighted date, and a pane summarizing the day's appointment opens. You can also use the arrows on each side of the month and year to change the calendar display. When you're finished with the calendar, click the clock again, and the calendar retracts, leaving the date and time unchanged.

7) Alacarte menu editor

After many releases without a menu editor, GNOME finally regained one a few versions ago. Alacarte allows you to customize the menu structure for the current user account. A few standard top-level user items cannot be deleted, only hidden, but otherwise you can add any program you want to any menu except (for some reason) Places.

If you are using Debian or any of the many distributions derived from it, check Alacarte for the Debian menu. If it is available, and you're the sort who prefers to have every available program listed in a menu, you may find its complexity preferable to the carefully selected menus found in most modern distributions.

8) Keyboard shortcuts

If you have any tendency towards repetitive stress injuries because of the mouse, then keyboard shortcuts can lessen your summary. Go to System -> Preferences -> Keyboard shortcuts, and you can set up a short cut using any unused combination of keys for two dozen different actions. You might want to give special attention to the shortcut for logging out and opening a terminal, just in case you every find yourself mouseless.

9) File browser

GNOME's default display of folders is hopelessly inadequate: a collection of icons with a tree hidden in a drop-down list that you can only navigate one level at a time. It improves if you selected View -> View as List, but is still weak if you want to browse files. The solution lies in the System Tools -> File Browser menu, which, although still not perfect, at least gives you a usable browser with a proper directory tree.

Both the default display and the file browser are variants of a program called Nautilus. From either one, you can burn CDs or DVDs with a minimum of options. You might also check whether your distribution contains any Nautilus scripts or extensions to extend their functionality.

10) Desktop backgrounds and themes

Most distributions impose their own branding on the look and feel of GNOME. However, you can customize to your own satisfaction in two ways. First, if you right-click on the desktop and select Change Desktop Background from the menu, you can select the desktop background or wallpaper.

To customize the look of your GNOME desktop even further, select System -> Preferences -> Theme from the menu. Most distributions come with at least half a dozen themes, differing in color schemes, widgets, and icons. If more themes aren't available among the distro's packages, then a visit to GNOME Art will give you more. You can also create your own theme, setting your own colors and mixing and matching the widgets and icons from installed themes.

11) Preferred applications

Unlike Windows, many versions of GNU/Linux install with several different applications of each type. To help you work your own way, you can set the default web and mail browsers, as well as the command line emulator that you prefer from the System -> Preferences menu.

12) Accessibility options

If you have visual problems or a condition that affects your coordination, look at the options in System -> Preferences -> Accessibility. They include a screen reader, magnifier, and on-screen keyboard, as well as various settings that affect the responsiveness of the mouse and keyboard. Depending on what your distribution installs, you may have to add a package or two, such as gok or orca, to have all these options available. You may also want to adjust the Fonts in the Preferences menu, choosing one that is larger and easier to read.

Other features

These are only some of the features that can enhance your experience in GNOME. Other features that you might want to explore on your own include the tools in the Preferences menu for customizing keyboard layouts and how the system interacts with removable drives, as well as the tools for configuring power management, the mouse, the screen resolution, and other hardware interactions.

From the Administration menu, you can explore options for handling encryption keys, configuring the Login Window, and setting up networking and shared folders for peer to peer exchanges.

Another menu worth exploring is the System Tools, whose choices includes a reader for system log files and the partition editor, which duplicates and extends the functionality of PartitionMagic. For those who really want to get down and dirty, the Configuration Editor in the System Tools sub-menu allows you to explore the depths of the GNOME registry.

Like any desktop environment, GNOME is second only to the operating system itself in complexity. But if you do a little exploring -- perhaps first in a user account created specifically for the purpose so you don't inconvenience yourself as you're learning -- you can find dozens of ways to improve your everyday computing. GNU/Linux in general and GNOME specifically are designed for hands-on experiences, and if you've chafing at some of the defaults of the desktop, the chances are strong that you'll find the tools to do things your way, if only you dig a little.

Article from Sadeepa's Blog

Interesting one......

http://lankasand.wordpress.com/2007/09/04/best-leo-couples/

But I haven't ask him to write it... :)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Why I’m staying with Debian

Nice article to view...

http://brucebyfield.wordpress.com/2007/09/05/why-im-staying-with-debian

Setting up a new workstation is the easiest time to choose a new GNU/Linux distribution. Having just installed Fedora 7 on my laptop so I’d have an RPM-based system available for my work, I seriously considered ending my five-year endorsement of Debian on my workstation. Perhaps I should follow the crowd and go to Ubuntu? Some other DEB-based distribution? Maybe Slackware or Gentoo to grab a bit of geek-cred? But after debating my choices for a couple of days, I decided to stick with Debian for both technical and philosophical reasons.

Oh, a small part of my decision was convenience. Over the years, I’ve built up three pages of notes of exactly what I need to install, configure, and modify to customize my workstation exactly as I prefer. Probably, I could port most of these notes to another distribution, but I would have to change some of the configuration notes, as well as the names of some of the packages. For better or worse, I’m comfortable with Debian — sometimes, I think, too comfortable.

However, a larger part of my decision is practical. Not too many years ago, Debian held a decided advantage because its DEB packages, if properly prepared, were one of the few that automatically resolved dependencies when you added software. That’s no longer true, of course, but Debian’s policy of packaging everything from kernels to drivers means that many installation tasks are far easier than in most distributions.

Moreover, I appreciate Debian’s policy of including recommended and related packages in the descriptions of packages. These suggestions help me to discover software that I might otherwise miss, and often help the packages I originally wanted to run better.

Another advantage of Debian is its repository system. As many probably know, Debian has three main repositories: the rock-solid, often less than cutting edge stable repository, the reasonably safe testing, and the more risky unstable. For those who really want the cutting edge, there is also the experimental repository. When a new package is uploaded, it moves through these repositories, eventually slipping into stable when it has been thoroughly tested. Few, if any distributions, are more reliable than Debian stable, and even Debian unstable is generally about as safe as the average distribution.

What this system means for users is that they can choose their preferred level of risk, either for a particular package or for their system as a whole. For instance, by looking at the online package descriptions, you can see what dependencies a package in unstable has, and decide whether installing it is worth the risk of possible damage to their system, or else judge how easily they can recover from any problems. This system means that most experienced Debian users have a mixed system, with packages from more than one repository — an arrangement that is far preferable to blindly updating because an icon in the notification tray tells you that updates are available. It also means that official releases don’t mean very much; usually, by the time one arrives, you usually have everything that it has to offer anyway.

In much the same way, each individual repository is arranged according to the degree of software freedom you desire. If you want, you can set up your system only to install from the main section, which includes only free software. Alternatively, you can also use the contrib section, and install software that is free in itself but which relies on unfree software to run, such as Java applications (at least until Java finishes becoming free). Similarly, in the non-free section, you can choose software that is free for the download but is released restrictive licenses, such as Adobe’s Acrobat and Flash players. Although my own preference is to stay with main, I appreciate that Debian arranges its repositories so that I can make my own choice.

Almost as important as Debian’s technical excellence and arrangements is the community around the distribution. This community is one of the most outspoken and free-thinking in free and open source software. This behavior is a source of irritation to many, including Ian Murdock, the founder of the distribution and my former boss, who thinks that the distribution would run more smoothly if its organization was more corporate. And, admittedly, reaching consensus or, in some cases, voting on a policy can be slow, and has problems scaling — problems that Debian members are well-aware of and gradually developing mechanism to correct without changing the basic nature of the community.

Yet it seems to me that Debian is, in many ways, the logical outcome of free software principles. If you empower users, then of course they are going to want a say in what is happening. And, despite the problems, Debian works, even if it seems somewhat punctilious and quarrelsome at times, insisting on a standard of purity that, once or twice, has even been greater than the Free Software Foundation’s. The community is really a daring social experiment, and its independence deserves far more admiration than criticism.

Of course, I could get many of the same advantages, especially the technical ones, from Ubuntu, Debian’s most successful descendant. But Debian has had longer to perfect its technical practices, and, if the Ubuntu community is politer, its model of democracy is further removed from the town meeting than Debian’s. Certainly, nobody can demand a recall of Mark Shuttleworth, Ubuntu’s founder.

Which brings up another point: I’m reluctant to trust my computer to an eccentric millionaire, no matter how benevolent. This feeling has nothing to do with Mark Shuttleworth himself, whom I’ve never met, and who, from his writing, seems a sincere advocate of free software. But one of the reasons I was first attracted to free software was because, in the past, my computing had been affected by the whims of corporation, notably IBM’s handling of OS/2 and Adobe’s neglect of FrameMaker. Trusting my computing to an individual, no matter how decent, seems no better. I’d rather trust it to a community.

And Debian, for all its endless squabbles and the posturing of some of its developers, has overall proven itself a community I can trust. So, at least for the time being, I’ll be sticking with Debian.

Why I’m staying with Debian

Nice article to view...

http://brucebyfield.wordpress.com/2007/09/05/why-im-staying-with-debian

Setting up a new workstation is the easiest time to choose a new GNU/Linux distribution. Having just installed Fedora 7 on my laptop so I’d have an RPM-based system available for my work, I seriously considered ending my five-year endorsement of Debian on my workstation. Perhaps I should follow the crowd and go to Ubuntu? Some other DEB-based distribution? Maybe Slackware or Gentoo to grab a bit of geek-cred? But after debating my choices for a couple of days, I decided to stick with Debian for both technical and philosophical reasons.

Oh, a small part of my decision was convenience. Over the years, I’ve built up three pages of notes of exactly what I need to install, configure, and modify to customize my workstation exactly as I prefer. Probably, I could port most of these notes to another distribution, but I would have to change some of the configuration notes, as well as the names of some of the packages. For better or worse, I’m comfortable with Debian — sometimes, I think, too comfortable.

However, a larger part of my decision is practical. Not too many years ago, Debian held a decided advantage because its DEB packages, if properly prepared, were one of the few that automatically resolved dependencies when you added software. That’s no longer true, of course, but Debian’s policy of packaging everything from kernels to drivers means that many installation tasks are far easier than in most distributions.

Moreover, I appreciate Debian’s policy of including recommended and related packages in the descriptions of packages. These suggestions help me to discover software that I might otherwise miss, and often help the packages I originally wanted to run better.

Another advantage of Debian is its repository system. As many probably know, Debian has three main repositories: the rock-solid, often less than cutting edge stable repository, the reasonably safe testing, and the more risky unstable. For those who really want the cutting edge, there is also the experimental repository. When a new package is uploaded, it moves through these repositories, eventually slipping into stable when it has been thoroughly tested. Few, if any distributions, are more reliable than Debian stable, and even Debian unstable is generally about as safe as the average distribution.

What this system means for users is that they can choose their preferred level of risk, either for a particular package or for their system as a whole. For instance, by looking at the online package descriptions, you can see what dependencies a package in unstable has, and decide whether installing it is worth the risk of possible damage to their system, or else judge how easily they can recover from any problems. This system means that most experienced Debian users have a mixed system, with packages from more than one repository — an arrangement that is far preferable to blindly updating because an icon in the notification tray tells you that updates are available. It also means that official releases don’t mean very much; usually, by the time one arrives, you usually have everything that it has to offer anyway.

In much the same way, each individual repository is arranged according to the degree of software freedom you desire. If you want, you can set up your system only to install from the main section, which includes only free software. Alternatively, you can also use the contrib section, and install software that is free in itself but which relies on unfree software to run, such as Java applications (at least until Java finishes becoming free). Similarly, in the non-free section, you can choose software that is free for the download but is released restrictive licenses, such as Adobe’s Acrobat and Flash players. Although my own preference is to stay with main, I appreciate that Debian arranges its repositories so that I can make my own choice.

Almost as important as Debian’s technical excellence and arrangements is the community around the distribution. This community is one of the most outspoken and free-thinking in free and open source software. This behavior is a source of irritation to many, including Ian Murdock, the founder of the distribution and my former boss, who thinks that the distribution would run more smoothly if its organization was more corporate. And, admittedly, reaching consensus or, in some cases, voting on a policy can be slow, and has problems scaling — problems that Debian members are well-aware of and gradually developing mechanism to correct without changing the basic nature of the community.

Yet it seems to me that Debian is, in many ways, the logical outcome of free software principles. If you empower users, then of course they are going to want a say in what is happening. And, despite the problems, Debian works, even if it seems somewhat punctilious and quarrelsome at times, insisting on a standard of purity that, once or twice, has even been greater than the Free Software Foundation’s. The community is really a daring social experiment, and its independence deserves far more admiration than criticism.

Of course, I could get many of the same advantages, especially the technical ones, from Ubuntu, Debian’s most successful descendant. But Debian has had longer to perfect its technical practices, and, if the Ubuntu community is politer, its model of democracy is further removed from the town meeting than Debian’s. Certainly, nobody can demand a recall of Mark Shuttleworth, Ubuntu’s founder.

Which brings up another point: I’m reluctant to trust my computer to an eccentric millionaire, no matter how benevolent. This feeling has nothing to do with Mark Shuttleworth himself, whom I’ve never met, and who, from his writing, seems a sincere advocate of free software. But one of the reasons I was first attracted to free software was because, in the past, my computing had been affected by the whims of corporation, notably IBM’s handling of OS/2 and Adobe’s neglect of FrameMaker. Trusting my computing to an individual, no matter how decent, seems no better. I’d rather trust it to a community.

And Debian, for all its endless squabbles and the posturing of some of its developers, has overall proven itself a community I can trust. So, at least for the time being, I’ll be sticking with Debian.