Artha – A Linux desktop dictionary worth having

The default dictionary that ships with Ubuntu requires one to be online to be able to look up a word. Well what if you are not online or have no internet connection at your disposal at the time you want to look up the meaning of a word? That is where Artha shines.
Artha is a WordNet based thesaurus released under the GPL that works completely offline. It is a “handy thesaurus that focuses on high usability, without trading off simplicity and ease of use. It has the following distinct features that increases its usability:
  • WordNet – Artha harnesses the extensive & in-depth database provided by WordNet. Unlike other dictionaries which goes on-line for every single lookup, Artha works completely off-line; thanks to WordNet for its excellent and cognitive database
  • Hot key Lookup – When you press a pre-set hot key, after selecting some text on any window, Artha pops up with the selection’s definitions looked-up.
  • Regular Expressions Search – When a word is vaguely known, i.e. the user is unclear of its spelling or when it’s start/end alone is known or when the number of characters is known; one can speed up/narrow the search using regular expression to locate the particular word they have in mind.
  • Notifications – Artha can show passive notifications (balloon tips) instead of the application’s window popping up, so that you can continue what you were doing, uninterrupted. (like reading, writing, etc.)
  • Suggestions – When a misspelled word is queried for, Artha gives you its near-match suggestions.
  • Relative to Sense Mapping – Relative words like synonyms, antonyms, etc. that are displayed are many. You might not know to which sense/definition of a word does a relative map to. In Artha, when you select a relative, its corresponding definition is scrolled to and highlighted for easy comprehension.”
For me, the killer feature about Artha is its ability to pop  up a balloon with the meaning of a word which I highlight and press a predefined key. It is really cool and makes using very pleasant in that it gets out of your way while at the same time helping you make sense of whatever it is that you are reading. 
It is available for download source compilation for other distros while both Debian and Fedora together with their derivatives already have it in their repositories.

Linus Torvalds – Time for a Nobel Peace Prize?

I was reading through my morning Google alerts when this story caught my attention. It is an article in which the writer is of the view that it’s high time the father of Linux, Linus Torvalds is awarded with the Nobel Prize for Peace. Below is the story from Ridenbaugh Press/Northwest.  Read it and tell me what you think.
“Former Vice President Al Gore’s visit to Portland today and tomorrow has prompted some Nobel Peace Prize thoughts, and in Oregon the idea of nominating a Northwesterner. The prospect shot around the Portland-area Linux circles (drawing some debate as well as approval as it did), starting with this email from Keith Lofstrom:
      
“Since the Nobel Peace Prize is often given to politicians, some disagree with the choices. But it is often given to non-politicians who create international efforts to change the world for the better.

    Look at the massive international efforts represented by SC09, and realize that much of it started from the work of a 21[-year-old] Finnish college student named after 1962 Nobel Peace Prize winner Linus Pauling. It would be fitting to honor that international effort by giving a Peace Prize to Linus Torvalds, perhaps in 2011 on the 20th anniversary of the August 1991 Linux announcement, or in 2012 on the 50th anniversary of Pauling’s award.

    Linux is one of the largest cooperative international efforts ever undertaken. It inspired Ubuntu, One Laptop Per Child, and many other global projects. Linux conquered the supercomputer space, the server space, the embedded computer space – by peaceful means! Linux helped sequence the human genome, helps protect the world computer infrastructure from viral attack, and is now the pathway for millions to learn computer programming and participate in new international efforts.

    The 2007 Nobel Peace Prize recipient (a politician some disagree with, please disagree in a different thread, thanks) is giving the keynote to SC09 as I write this. Meaning that we are all three handshakes away from the people that decide on future Peace Prizes. Perhaps it is time to launch some messages through our connections and see what makes it to the committee meetings in Oslo.

    According to the list on Wikipedia, the five people to convince are Thorbjørn Jagland (chair), Kaci Kullmann Five (deputy chair), Sissel Rønbeck, Inger-Marie Ytterhorn, and Ågot Valle. We can start by sending them Norsk language Ubuntu disks.

    While I imagine Linus Torvalds would be embarrassed by the attention, it would sure make his parents happy. And it would mean one less Peace Prize for a politician.”

That list of Linux-related or -inspired developments is only partial. Here in the Northwest, for example, we could add the Free Geek operations in Portland, which do a lot of good for not only the low-income people and non-profit groups they are specifically aimed to help, but also almost everyone who comes into contact with them. The effects though have been world-wide, and are accelerating. And could grow faster with a little more attention.

Probably not a lot of Northwest people outside the Linux community know about Torvalds, or that he lives in the Portland area, or that this is one of the true open-source centers around the globe. This would be a dramatic way to find out. “

My views.

In as much as I would love to see someone  the stature of Linus Torvalds claim that prestigious prize, I think it is too early to call it for him. Though Linux has played an important role in the advancement of computing, I still think it’s achievements have been overshadowed by its sometimes extreme dogmatism. For instance, there are those to date who detest the mere mention of the words Linux and profitability in the same sentence.
Also, there are those who do not hesitate to brand as traitors anyone that dares to include some element of proprietary software in a Linux distro, irrespective of the benefit such an inclusion sometimes brings. Though Linux has made great strides in the server market, it is yet to show similar advances in the desktop market. I must however admit, that some distros like Ubuntu and Fedora are really putting Linux onto the desktop of the masses albeit at a slow pace.
I think 20 years is enough time for Linux to have made more gains on the desktop than it currently enjoys. For me, though the server market is very important given today’s highly connected way of living, I still think the success of an OS should be measured by its market share on the desktop. And in this regard, our venerable Linux still has a long way to go.
So if  the call is being made because of Linux, then IMHO I think it’s not yet time. Maybe after the much hyped Google ChromeOS makes it debut and helps move Linux some more into the mainstream, then we can talk again about this call. But for now, I think it’s just not time. What do you think?

Fedora 12 vindicates the Karmic Koala – No OS is perfect.

In a previous post, I had openly stated how I disagree with the way and manner in which people are attacking the latest Ubuntu release code named Karmic Koala , to the extent of likening it to the legendary failure of Windows Vista. Well, to those who expect absolute perfection and a buggless OS, check out this bug in the latest release of Fedora 12.
It is a bug that lets anyone get to install software on a machine they do not have the root password to. Do you see my point now? No OS made of codes can be perfect. If you install Ubuntu and have bugs, that does not mean Ubuntu has failed and that it will be like Vista. Rather than spend time badmouthing Ubuntu because of a bug you have discovered, you could help make the correction by reporting it to the developers. 
Ubuntu Karmic Koala is the best Ubuntu release ever. However, that does not make it immune from errors or bugs. You will encounter them, and the best you can do for yourself and the entire Ubuntu ommunity is to report it to the developers and if you know some coding, help correct it. You can even wipe off Ubuntu from your box and grab any of the 1000+ distros out there and hope to get one without bugs and is absolutely perfect.

Fedora 12 is unleashed – More improvement to the RHEL junior.

Fedora, one of the most popular Linux distributions in the world has released its latest- Fedora 12. Just like Ubuntu, Fedora is also released at a six month interval. According to Paul Frields,  the Fedora Project Leader at Red Hat “Fedora always looks to include the latest cutting-edge features in its distribution and we believe that Fedora 12 stays true to this pattern, packing a lot of punch across its feature set.
“Our community of global contributors continues to expand, with about 25 percent growth in Fedora Accounts since the release of Fedora 11. We’ve also seen more than 2.3 million installations of Fedora 11 thus far, which is a 20 percent increase over the previous release.” 


Fedora 12’s feature list includes:
  • Improved virtualization
  • Better virtual disk performance and storage recovery
  • Reduced memory consumption
  • Modern network booting infrastructure
Fedora 12 also features numerous desktop improvements that all users can see and experience including:
  • An updated Ogg Theora free video codec that works with Firefox 3.5.4 to provide high-quality, downloadable and streaming free media out of the box.
  • Enhanced support for mobile broadband, static, and shared connections
  • Space-saving software package downloads using better compression methods
Some of the many new features in Fedora 12 include:
  • Support for the Moblin Core desktop environment for small display machines
  • PackageKit plugins for automatic software installation from the command line, and support for package installation integrated with a website
  • Automatic bug reporting tool (Abrt) for sending crash information directly to the Bugzilla issue tracker
  • The libguestfs library and tools for working directly with virtual guest disk images without booting the virtual guest machine
  • SystemTap 1.0 with improvements for easier application and kernel debugging and tracing and integration with the popular Eclipse IDE
  • The improved NetBeans 6.7.1 development environment for Java programmers
  • Optimizations for current 32-bit processors including Atom
You can get a full list and details of what’s new in this release here and a video here. As usual, it is available for both KDE and GNOME fans. This distro is surely one of the best out there and gives a preview of what users can expect in the RHEL. You can download a copy of Fedora 12 here and see for yourself.

Fedora Mini – More spices for your Netbook and MID.

If you’ve ever wanted a Linux distro for your mobile device like netbook but never fancied the UNR, then you are in luck. Fedora, one of the big shots in the Linux distro world, now has a Special Interest Group working on a flavor for Netbooks and MIDs.
The new mobile version of Fedora is called Fedora Mini, and according to the Fedora site, is being developed by a group it called the Fedora Mini Specialist Interest Group whose aim is to get Fedora on mobile devices. The statement further continues thus “[i]nitially aimed at ensuring that the hardware used in devices such as Netbooks and Mobile Inter Devices (MIDs) work out of the box with Fedora, [e]ventually, we may also include and build a spin which is targeted at these devices through the use of another user interface experience. It could also be used to produce various spins for Gnome Mobile development, Intel’s Moblin project, Hildon etc.”
According to the site, the new Fedora Mini will initially  run on the Acer Aspire One, Dell Inspiron Mini 9, Eee PC, Fit PC, OLPC and Oswald. It is not yet available for public download but if you are using Fedora 12 alpha, you could test drive it by typing yum groupinstall “Moblin Desktop Environment” and re-login.
I have so far not seen any deifinite time as to when Fedora Mini will be publicly available, but I believe it will not be too long since Fedora may want to counter UNR market dominance in the world of Netbooks and MID

5 things Best Buy employees must know about Linux.

Microsoft, the Redmond giant and vendor of the world’s most troublesome OS, has now taken a different route to publicize its upcoming Windows 7 in October. It is now using deliberate disinformation about Linux to hoodwink unsuspecting employees of Best Buy to sell its new OS. In order to be fair to those being fed with the disinformation in these slides, I am assuming they do not know anything about Linux. The following five points should help clarify issues for them.
Lie no 1- Linux updates require time
This is a lie, and a very weak one at that given the fact that it’s coming from a giant like MS. In the slide, Ubuntu is used as an example to show how updating and upgrading Linux is hard and takes time. If anything at all, updating and upgrading are the easiest things you can do in Linux. One update, and everything on your system is automatically updated. No need to individually select apps to update or upgrade, no need to scour the internet downloading apps from various vendors. Linux updates can take as low as one minute to update depending on the size of update. Updates in Linux are also consistent and very timely. There is not a single bit of consistency in Windows updates whatsoever. Windows updates, because they are very infrequent, make your system very vulnerable to security threats. When you update in Windows, you only update the OS and nothing else. So what is MS talking about? Oh I forgot, it’s just lies! I could go on and on and on.
Lie no 2- Windows offers choice and compatibility
Microsoft claims because you can attach your Ipod and camera to your Windows box, that means they offer you choice and compatibility. Pure hogwash! The last time I checked, I could attach my Nokia and Sony Ericsson phones to my Ubuntu box without any so called PC suite, I can use my Ipod with Banshee music player or Rhythm box , attaching my digicam is a snap, I do not need any driver to get my SD card to be read by my Ubuntu system. Not a single one of these can be done on a Windows box without the help of third party drivers and bridges. Yet MS claims Linux is not compatible and does not offer you choice. Oh I forgot, I can video conference with my blog partners half a world away with Skype. I do not need Windows Live because I am running Linux. Games? I will reserve my words.
Lie no 3- Windows  works with a lot of softwares
Of course Windows works with a lot of softwares since MS has the clout to get more ISVs to develop for the Windows platform. But, Linux has thousands of software available for free download and easy to install. It’s just a matter of knowing what you want to do and searching for the app. Windows? Well, pray to get lucky enough  not to get infected with a virus scouring the net for an app. Yes an app can bear the Windwos logo, but it will cost you good money.
Lie no 4 Linux is difficult to learn
Well, maybe it’s only in the world of windows without gates that a distro like Ubuntu of Fedora is difficult to learn. What MS is not telling you is that even Windows has a learning curve, so if Linux has it, does that make Linux difficult to learn? If an alien should land from Jupiter today, would he automatically know how to use Windows? Every OS out there has a learning curve and neither Windows nor Linux is an exemption. MS talks about support or a step-by-step tutorial. Well, I guess this site answers that assertion.
Lie no 5- Security
This is the biggest, blatant lie of all the propaganda MS has ever come up with. It sometimes takes just hours for a patch to be pushed out to users when a vulnerability is discovered in Linux.You are never alone in terms of security when it comes to Linux. There is a constant look out for security threats in Linux and patches are never far away. Windows updates are pushed out when MS wants and not when it must. Windows is in itself an insecure OS without third party guards like antivirus and antispyware. MS talks about parental control, in what context is it referring to?
I will end my submission here. You can take a look at the slides here and draw your own conclusion. Let me know what you think when you draw those conclusions.

The year of Linux – When will it be?

Every year, there is talk of how Linux is poised to take the world by storm, and after close to twenty years of existence, Linux is still waiting for this day. I have always wondered; when is the year of Linux going to be? Most fanatic Linux proponents seem to get some consolation in believing in such a day when Linux will overtake Windows in terms of market share. Well, in as much as I am a Linux proponent, I am not blind to the hard facts on the ground.
Windows is the dominant desktop OS for a reason. Despite its massive flaws, millions of people still cling to it with all their lives. Why? Because Windows was made for such people- the granny, the pregnant woman, the plumber, the guy who just got his first computer- it is to such people that Windows was made. The developers of Linux distros have got to seriously define to which segment of the market they are making their systems. If they are making it for normal people like me and the other one billion people out there, then they seriously have to focus on usability.
I know distros like Ubuntu and Fedora have done alot in terms of usability, but even those distros still have a long way to go. There simply cannot be a year of Linux when the terminal- the very nightmare of a lot of people- still dominates the Linux desktop.
There is never going to be such a  year as the year of Linux until Linux developers come to terms with the fact that they have got to make Linux for normal people. More and more people want an alternative to Windows, that is a fact, but Linux just does not seem to know how to take advantage of such shift in tastes.Until these five simple but very serious hurdles are cleared, I am afraid to say there is not going to be any such year as the year of Linux.

Linux- 5 steps to a wider adoption.

Linux is the world’s best alternative to Microsoft Windows. It has everything that Windows has always dreamed of having. However, it is a big wonder why after being around for close to 20 years, Linux still has less than 5% of the desktop market share. The solution, I strongly believe, lies in overcoming  five simple but often overlooked barriers which when tackled by all concerned parties, will go  a long way to push Linux to the mainstream everyday computer user.
Step 1- Language
Linux is too full of technical jargon that just puts off the average Joe from even attempting to learn more about it. Though a lot has been achieved in breaking the Linux language barrier in modern distros like Ubuntu and Fedora, there still is a long way to go to make it more appreciable by everyday users. Much should be done to reduce the use of technical jargon to the barest minimum. The “sudo apt-get” type of language must be eliminated. Linux should use the language of everyday people than that of geeks if it is to reach the wider user base and make a meaningful thrust into Windows’ domain.
Step 2- Publicity
There does not seem to be any kind of active publicity going on anywhere- at least from where I stand- that is aimed at creating an awareness about Linux. There are hundreds of millions of people out there who simply have not heard about Linux before. That is a vast market waiting to be tapped. But without the proper publicity by the main Linus distros, such a market lies untapped. Lots of people are fed up with Windows and want an alternative, but how do they get to switch to something they have not even heard of before? It seems to me, frankly, that the few people that use Linux as their OS are doing more to advertise Linux than the distro vendors themselves. The internet is a very great tool that can be used to push Linux to the limelight.
Step 3-Cohesion
The Linux world is simply too fragmented. There are hundreds of distros out there all seemingly competing against themselves instead of against Microsoft. There does not seem to be any kind of cohesion or coordination in the release of the major distros, at least in my view. This has given Linux the very bad image of  looking more like some kind of child’s play OS. The fact that the Linux source code is a public property does not  necessarily mean there should be no cohesion in the Linux world. I strongly believe that a certain measure of cohesion or control would go a long way to make Linux look more professional in the eyes more and more people especially those in the enterprise market.
Step 4- Support
There should be more and more vendor support for the various Linux distros. It is not enough to just refer people to the fora for help. There should be some form of vendor support aside the community support available. This will give Linux a double advantage over Windows given the fact that the Linux community support is generally very helpful. A distro like Ubuntu has recently started offering such a support service and should be commended. More of such much needed initiatives will only go a long way to improve the popular adoption of Linux as an alternative to Windows.
Step 5- Reference manuals
More and more Linux manuals need to be published and promoted by the Linux community at large. More people may consider Linux if they know there is some kind of reference manual available to them- there are more people out there that still view Linux as something from outside of this Earth. There are some really good ones out there, but there is more room to go. More Linux bookshops need to be setup and promoted by the community at large. Some very good Linux reference manuals can be found in this store.
These are 5 simple points that I believe can help increase the wider adoption of Linux by everyday users across the world. What other ways do you think can help make Linux the OS of choice for more and more people? Share your thoughts. Talkback.

Electronic waste menace in Africa- Open Source to the rescue.

There has been a lot of concern about the level of electronic junk and garbage that is flooding into Africa. Most of these junk waste comprise  used computers and accessories. They are  mostly from the advanced countries where the pace of technological change is way beyond that of Africa. 
Virtually all African governments are not sure of how to contain this dumping of garbage in their countries. They are caught between the desire to promote ICT education among their populace through the use of the cheap computers that come in and the hue and cry from the environmentalist about the harm such was is causing to the continents environment. It is indeed a difficult position for any government to be in.
Most African countries are now setting up community driven ICT centers where places are put up and furnished with computers (mostly those that are brought in from the West as waste) for a given village or community to use. However, most of these initiatives normally do not get far due to the relatively high overhead cost of running the computers. It is needless to point out the cost to be incurred in running a pirated (that is what we can afford) copy of Microsoft Windows XP on a computer that was designed for Windows 95 and 98.
Most of the used computers that are brought into Africa virtually end up on the rubbish dump site because most people just cannot get it to run the resource hog of an OS called Windows. It is in this regard that I strongly believe African governments can make some gains from the electronic  “waste” that comes in by looking to very easy, cheap and powerful software alternatives called Open Source .
A computer is not complete without the needed software to run it. If you have the computer and do not have a compatible software, then you still  cannot use it. So if the computers are too old such that running Windows on them is nigh impossible, why not try Free and Open Source OS like Ubuntu   Linux and Fedora. Ubuntu for instance can run on very old hardware with memory as low as 128MB. 
Such resource efficient, powerful and free Linux OS can breath fresh life into computers that otherwise would be written off as dead. So in my view, if African governments really want to make some sense of the environmental situation they are facing, then I think educating people and putting in measures to promote resource efficient softwares will go a long way to help.
All that needs to be done would be to refurbish the used computers and install the free softwares like Ubuntu and Open Office on them.  Giving the old computers a new life through Open Source and Free software will help cut down on environmental degradation, improve people’s access to ICT , create employment for those who will do the refurbishing and educate the young and next generation about better and free alternatives to Microsoft’s resource hog and expensive products.
With Open Source, it is a win win situation. Share your thoughts.

LINUX- CRITICISMS FROM GHANA.

I am an avid fan and faithful user of Ubuntu Linux OS. It is the only OS on my laptop. I personaly do not use MS Windows except at the work place where all the machines are configured with it. I love Linux and the level of security and reliability it gives me. I no longer think of installing all the “antis” that I would have to if I were using MS Windows. No doubt Linux is a great OS platform. But I have my reservations about its ability to take on the Redmond giant or be a viable alternative OS.
The reason is that in my opinion, it is too much of a “geeky” deal. You see, with MS Windows, virtually all the work is done by just pointing and clicking. The average Pc user, who I must admit are the majority, have no time for lots of things that unfortunately Linux requires you to do. 
For instance, if I want an application which is not available in the system repositories, then I would have to Google it. That sounds simple and innocent. But wait a minute, the file I downloaded is in some compressed form where I have to “compile it from sources”. How many home PC users can make sense of that? Or you have a problem with your network and you have to do some “Sudo” this or that to just get things fixed.
Most people are used to just clicking next, next and then finish. Thats it and they have their application installed. Most of the Linux repositories I must admit have vast numbers of applications. But its not always that one finds what he wants and hence to the big G for help.
And then there is the issue of the terminal. Even after using Ubuntu for close to a year, there still are times when I shudder when I have no option than to head to the terminal to get things fixed. The terminal is an integral part of the Linux kernel that is very vital to the system. Unfortunately too, it is the number one thing that drives people away from anything that has to do with Linux. I frankly don’t think people should have to memorize lots of terminal commands just to get basic things like seeing a detailed list of their hardware done. I personally have tried to get some of my friends and colleagues to try Ubuntu, and most of the time they like it initially only to turn away from it completely when it things require the use of the terminal.
You see, I have nothing personal against the use of the terminal, what I wonder however, is whether it can’t just be relegated to the backseat. Where calling on it will always be the last resort. Windows has the command line, but I can’t remember the last time I had to use it when I have a problem on my PC at the work place.
It is very sad to see that Linux has been around for close to 20 solid years but still has less than 1% of the desktop market. I think this alone calls for a rethink in the way that the Linux kernel works. To put is simply, it is just not friendly enough for the average home user who does not care much about the uderlying nitty gritty of the OS. All that lots of people want is to have a PC that works and thats it. When they need something, they just Google it and click next,next and finish. No compiling anything from any sources or “Sudoing” anything. Linux is seen too much as an OS for hobbyists and geeks who just don’t understand why people do not use their creation.
I however have to admit that lots of work has been done to make Linux as friendly to the average user as possible.This is especially true of distros like Ubuntu and Fedora that have made great strides. But there is more work to be done, and I frankly believe that the rise of Linux as a viable OS alternative to Windows will start from the day that it relies less and less on the command line to get things done.
I really love Linux and want to see more and more people use it, but as it things are now, it makes it nigh impossible to effectively evangelize it. I know there are lots of you out there that will disagree with me. But these are just my views and I would very much like to see your comments on what I think.