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Drivers in Linux: ndiswrapper and the demise of Windows XP

With the impending demise of Windows XP (even though it has recently been announced that XP will now continue to receive updates until July 2015), the prime time for migrating casual Windows users to Linux is nigh.

However, one crucial aspect remains: driver support.

Some will be swift to point out that in-kernel driver support has come leaps and bounds lately, and most things just work “out of the box.” Unfortunately, that is not sufficient in the Real World. Read more

Response to: Foster Care After 18

The Guardian is reporting on new legislation for England where foster children will be allowed to continue to have foster parents until the age of 21, up from 18 previously.

This is not an effective solution to the core problem of dealing with adulthood, and an exposé of comments from some ex foster-children shows this: for those of us who are lucky to have our parents, they remain still our parents, whether we’re four, fourteen or forty. Read more

Response to: Will 2014 be the “year of the Linux Desktop”?

An open poll for opinions on Linux Voice.com asks whether the tired and still popular question “is 20XX going to be the year of the Linux Dsktop” is still relevant.

My take on it is as below – but in brief (TL;DR) it is no longer relevant technologically, it is relevant and in progress from an industrial point of view, and is is most definitely still relevant when it comes to users at home, with no technical skills. The question beyond that is, do we even want non-techies using Linux? Read more

Resource Forks, large files, and FAT32 – and still no cross-platofrm standard

Here are a few things I learned in a recent experiment in backing up, erasing, and restoring a Mac.

  1. Use HFS to back up from Mac to Mac (to preserve idiosyncratic Mac structures like the ResourceFork)
  2. If you want to allow access to the backup in other operating systems use FAT32 (the only file system which Mac/Win/Linux can all read AND write to)
  3. But you will lose the following:
    1. any file larger than 4 GB (hard limit on FAT32 filesystem)
    2. you will lose anything that relied on the presence of a ResourceFork in the file.

Read more

The Surf

I was reading an article on why DRM has always been a bad idea, with mounting evidence to show it when the following came to mind:

Spread out your arms to stop the waves
From crashing into your lovely little sand castle
And be vanquished by its might

Or swim out into the unknown waters
Tussle with the ever changing unmarked currents
Fight to stay afloat in these tides

And then turn shorewards once more
Rush in with the swell and the implacable force of nature
Ride in on a wave of victory


Response to: You and Yours’ Learning Special

You and Yours (BBC Radio 4) is currently doing a Boxing Day Special on learning – I agree with a lot of what is being said, but I feel there’s one thing they skipped over: rather than being task focused in learning, it is important to first know why we’re learning… This is what I wrote to them via their website (though they’re not taking listener input this time around – probably a reduced team):

I am self taught in a number of disciplines. Some of these I started with a basic course before taking the rest on myself (programming, guitar), some I bootstrapped my learning using magazines and online articles (photography, cooking, singing, computer administration). I was, academically, not very proficient… at all.

I find that learning only happens properly when you want to answer a question – even if you start out wanting to learn about an entire field of knowledge (mathematics, nutrition, English, an instrument, the intricacies of opera and ballet…), it comes down really to want to answer a specific practical question you are curious about. Using an Internet search engine helps to find more words to ask about, find other connected ideas, and forums allow discussion – even better if you find people to talk to in real life.

And, as with all learning, questions beget questions and soon you’re learning more than you set out to….

Of nesting Latin grammar in English

Are you That Person – the one who insists “you mean, there are viri going round, not viruses?” Or that “a single piece of data is a datum.” Whooptidoo – you took Latin in First Grade and now you’re an expert.

I find it rather preposterous to make deliberate use of foreign grammatical rules in the middle of an English sentence, not to mention pompous trying to “correct” other peoples’ use by introducing such jarring disjunction.

Latin words in English are loanwords, as from any other language. The English language, as you might already know, has appropriated numerous words from all over the world, but has long treated them as English grammatically.

You never say that you’re going to order two pizze with your friends; nor do you complain about a single pieróg falling off your plate; news reports might talk about “tycoons” even though the original Japanese distinguishes plurality by context (like the word “sheep” in English); and popular parlance has people talking about French chateaus, instead of the châteaux (note that the “x” is silent, such that there is no phonetic difference between the singular and plural forms). Read more

The Best Newbie Distro is You

Whether they love it or loathe it, they'll need to brace for impact.

Whether they love it or loathe it, they’ll need to brace for impact.

Oft asked is the question, “What is the best Linux for beginners?” It is The First Question, the one that hopefully brings one more user away from the wholly proprietary desktop. And oft is the query answered with the name of a distro, straight, with no introduction, discussion or consideration.

A post I came across on LinuxInsider collated a few suggestions, but most pertinently concluded that the actual distribution does not matter quite so much as how much you are willing to help the new user. Dedoimedo guest posted at netrunner-mag.com how he imagined on-boarding an enthusiast would go.

I would like to point out how it is for the fearful – those who are needing to move because XP is running out, or who’ve bought a new PC with (woe!) Windows 8 preinstalled, or that friend for whom you’ve acquired an old laptop in serious need of a rejuvenation… Read more

Paying for Free Software

Who to pay money to when you’ve finally gotten round to the free software world?

Back when I was a student, and then when I was not working a terribly well-paid job, I couldn’t afford to fork over any significant amount of cash – so to those of you who are still in that situation, fret not the question!

But I now have a salary with which I can afford to financially support some (but not all) of the projects I have been using for free (gratis) for so long. I’d like them to stay free, both gratis and libere, and for that, some funding will likely not go unwelcome.

So how much to set aside? How often to pay in? And to whom?

I was going to post this to Ask Slashdot, but the question has already been answered there – though not particularly to my satisfaction.

The following are how I am sorting the projects in my mind, and will probably pick one from each every 3 months or so to give some of my budget to. Read more

Installing GNU/Linux over multiple paritions or disks

Installing software is generally a breeze – run the installer, select the defaults, and hey presto, software installed! Even when installing a new operating system, be it Windows, Mac, or user-oriented GNU/Linux distributions, there are generally sensible and useful defaults provided. But sometimes, the defaults are not enough. Sometimes you need a manual install.

GNU/Linux systems allow you to install your system such that the system files, programs and suchlike all reside on one partition, and the user files, preferences, settings, browsing histories etc reside on another. This is useful at least in two typical scenarios:

  1. Isolating the user files (which live under the /home section of the GNU/Linux filesystem) from the rest of the OS allows you to reinstall the operating system any time, without affecting the user data
  2. If you have a SSD (solid state drive)/HDD (hard disk drive) pair in your computer, you can put your system and swap space on the faster but smaller Solid State Drive, and keep your user files on the slower but significantly larger Hard Disk Drive

This post is aimed at answering the following questions:

  • What are the differences and advantages of SSDs and HDDs each?
  • How do I install Linux using manual partitioning?
  • How do I use mount points in a manual install?
  • How do I reinstall Linux without changing my /home directory?
  • How do I install one Linux system on two different disks?
  • How do I isolate my /home directory on a different partition?
  • What is a SWAP partition/virtual memory?

Read more