Austin Install Fest Tomorrow (8/1/2009)

Bill Gates says he started out “with a vision of a computer on every desk and in every home.” While this admirable goal may have seemed ridiculous to some at the time, it now seems almost a reality in the United States. Most people I know own at least a desktop or laptop, if not both. Still, there are many who depend on public libraries or friends for a computer, and this can put kids in school at a disadvantage if they don’t have a computer. It isn’t just about the Internet, either. How can a child ever discover an affinity for computer science without a computer?

Linux Against Poverty is taking steps to help kids from low-income families in the Austin area have access to computers in their own homes. Tomorrow they will be coordinating an “install fest” using older but serviceable hardware and fresh Linux installations. They are still taking donations of older hardware, so if you live or work in the Austin area, why not get that old desktop or laptop you don’t use any more out of the closet and drop it off?

Check out the Linux Against Poverty website for what kind of systems they can use and where you can drop off that older hardware. There is also a Facebook page and a LinkedIn group.

For those of us outside the Austin area, what about this idea? Is it something we could replicate? Modify?

The Power of Voice over IP Applications

(By Aaron Magruder, originally posted on the NonStop Networks blog. Republished by permission.)

Every business has at least one of the following general objectives.

  1. Increased Productivity
  2. Be more Efficient
  3. Decrease Cost
  4. Increase Revenue.

Voice over IP applications have endless capabilities to do just that, all from your phone and without turning on your computer!

Common VoIP Applications

  • Automated Dial out capabilities for client reminders (appointment, payment, collection, office closings). Don’t spend hours of your day manually calling clients.
  • Album – Provide revenue generating advertisement, show case your products, training, employee roster, etc
  • Client Billing – Ensure every second of your phone calls are tracked and billed to the correct client. On average, 30 minutes of your day is not billed. That’s 120 hours a year! What is your hourly bill rate?
  • Call Recording – Record important phone calls even after you hang up the phone, book mark and comment different parts of each conversation
  • Safety Alerts – Alert office of emergency
  • RSS Feeds and Weather
  • Clock In / Clock Out

Physician

  • Automate patient checking by turning the IP Phone into a kiosk
  • Patient Management – Prerecorded appointment reminders
  • Call Recording for Dictation and e-mail wav file to transcription office

Legal

  • Client Billing – Client matter entry and phone call validations.
  • Firm-Client Interaction – Appointment and billing reminders from the firm to the client using the dial-out application.
  • Firm Productivity – Call coverage for status visual on employees.

Retail

  • Task Management – List daily task for employees at set times, check off when completed. Escalate to manager when task is not completed.
  • Employee Recognition
    Send employees alerts to recognize outstanding performance.

General Office and Manufacturing

  • Encompasses the majority of the applications listed above.

Summary

“IPsmartSuite is a ‘business-intelligent’ communications solution for the challenges facing small business. It is an out-of-the box, easy to deploy and manage solution aimed at small companies who do not have an IT staff. IPsmartSuite streamlines everyday business processes used by small companies. IPsmartSuite uses the IP Phone to manage daily functions such as staffing, task management, payroll controls, billing, appointment reminders – even emergency response.”

Aaron Magruder (816) 566-0017

NonStop Networks, LLC

Ubuntu is Stuck in My Head

People are creatures of habit. This truth was illustrated most clearly to me the first time when I was in Junior High and one of the teachers pointed out to a class I was in that although there were more seats than students in the room and we had no assigned seating, we all sat in the same places every day. So, when I consider the difficulty even good Linux distros (like Ubuntu) have in making headway into the market I am not surprised. No matter how much better than Windows an open source operating system may become, people will still drag their feet to adopt it.

Since early December of last year (2008) my family has been using Ubuntu 8.10 on our home desktop. My intention was to set it up for dual-boot with Windows XP on the other partition, but that didn’t work out. My wife and daughter experienced no problems adapting to Ubuntu, due largely to the fact that most of their computer activity is in the browser. So long as the connection is good and both sound and video work, they are happy. It was an entirely different situation with my seven year old son, who loves to download and play games. While I was glad he wouldn’t be able to (unintentionally) load our computer down with viruses, spyware and adware, I was sorry to spoil his fun.

So, not long ago I downloaded VirtualBox OSE from the Ubuntu repositories and used the Windows XP install CD that came with our computer to set up a virtual machine for my son. I showed him how to access and use it. After a few days I asked if he’d been using it, and he said “no”? Why? “Ubuntu is stuck in my head.”

Indeed, we are creatures of habit. My son became accustomed to Ubuntu and ended up with it “stuck” in his head. After a little more encouragement he has started playing some of his games using Windows. I’m glad. Although I hope he’ll be a regular open source user and perhaps (dare I dream?) developer in later life, and for routine computer activity he surely won’t bother with firing up the virtual machine, he needs to live in a Windows world. At school that is what they have and that’s what he’ll see for the most part, until enough people try Linux long enough to get it stuck in their heads too.

Fun with VirtualBox

For several months now my family and I have been off of Microsoft Windows. I installed Ubuntu 8.10 on the home desktop (click here to see why dual boot didn’t work in this case) and the computer I use at work is an iMac. I now also have a laptop running Ubuntu 9.04. Our only contact with Windows has been at the homes of friends. Still, my 7 year old son has complained occasionally about wanting to download games that only run in Windows. Sure, they are probably laden with spyware and adware, but all he knows is that there are things he could be playing but can’t. That’s where my fun with VirtualBox began.

Someone will ask if I tried Wine, an application which enables users to run Windows programs on computers using other platforms. The answer is yes, of course I did, but it never worked correctly. Games especially froze up, generally before they even started. While Wine may be good for running Excel on a Linux computer (but then, why not just use OpenOffice.org?) and some other office software, from what I have seen Wine is not yet in a place where it really solves the problem for a majority of applications.

Not long ago I used VirtualBox OSE on my laptop to try out the Android Live CD, so it was fresh on my mind as I dug out the re-install disks for Windows XP that came with our desktop. The tag with the Windows product key is still on the case, so I knew I had everything I need on that end of things. I wasn’t sure how well Windows would work in this environment, or how VirtualBox would handle it.

After inserting the CD (no reboot, of course) I went through the steps on VirtualBox to set up a new machine. If you don’t have a copy of VirtualBox, you can download it here or from the Ubuntu repositories (check Synaptic Package Manager for it). Once everything was in place, I started the machine. It read the CD, just as though it were a computer booting up, and began the install process.It’s funny how much the Windows XP install screen resembles the blue screen of death. Installing Windows takes far longer than Ubuntu. The former took me around an hour or so, not counting the half hour of frustration I spent calling Microsoft’s automated product registration line the next day, while the latter takes all of 20 minutes, if that much.

When finally it was installed I still had to do some tweaking. Most importantly I had to install the “Guest Additions” so I could expand the screen out to full size and I also had to turn the sound on in both VirtualBox for that machine and verify it in Windows itself. Internet Explorer 6 is what came on the CD, so I upgraded that right away. My wife complained about the ugly Windows field in the desktop background, and since I figured my son would be the one using it the most, I found a cartoon penguin flying with a jet pack. The following is how it looks in full screen mode:

Sitting at the monitor you would have no idea that Windows isn’t running fully installed on the computer. It is installed in VirtualBox and behaves so far as I can see just as it would if it were directly installed on the desktop.

Having done all that during some free time over a couple of days (remember, I had to make the registration call and do a little customizing) I realized I could do something similar on my Mac at work.

Although I’m glad my workstation is a Mac and not a Windows PC, I’m not a fan of Mac. I don’t like how it looks or functions. A couple of my regular tasks at work requires it, though, so there I am. With VirtualBox I was able to get Linux Mint 7 set up in about 15 minutes during a break. Here’s a screenshot of it full screen on the Mac:

This was taken after I had already changed the desktop background and icon style. The menu is open so you can see how that looks. Again, just like Windows XP in VirtualBox on my home computer, when Linux Mint is set to full screen you really would not know that it wasn’t the primary OS on the system.

VirtualBox is great for running software that isn’t compatible with your primary OS, and for trying out different distros as full installs rather than mere live CDs. I’m having fun with it and finding it to be very useful.

Open Source Future

There are essentially two types of software: proprietary and open source. Proprietary software may be sold (Microsoft Windows comes to mind) or given away (shareware or freeware). In either case, the source code behind proprietary software is subject to legal protections. Programmers are not to access, modify or redistribute proprietary code. Open source software, on the other hand, is has completely “open” (accessible) code which can be manipulated and shared freely. It is my opinion that although much of what is in common use today is proprietary, such will not always be the case.

Proprietary software made sense before high speed Internet access and relatively high-powered computers were available to the public. Specialists in computer science needed to be on the payroll to develop software in a closed setting, and the resulting product was (and still is) distributed via floppy disks, CDs and pre-installed on hardware. While the open source community is decades old, in recent years the heightened connectivity of online forums has permitted rapid growth and development.

There is now so much open source code out there, and more being generated every day, that it is becoming almost nonsensical for companies to spend money on licensing for proprietary software. What seems more reasonable is a mixed approach. Rather than buy proprietary software, companies can (and should) grab open source software and either use it as is or pay developers to tailor it to specific business needs. This, I think, is the future of software.

What do you think?

Colaboração, Software Livre e a Fé Cristã


“Da multidão dos que creram, uma era a mente e um o coração. Ninguém considerava unicamente sua coisa alguma que possuísse, mas compartilhavam tudo o que tinham.” – Atos 4:32 NVI

O comunismo voluntário não continuou muito tempo na igreja do primeiro século. De fato, pareça que foi abandonado depois da perseguição que espalhou a igreja de Jerusalém. Algumas seitas de cristianismo ao longo da história desde então tentaram adoptar esta maneira de viver, mas na prática não durou muito tempo. Mesmo que não faz muito sentido viver assim hoje em dia, acredito que a atitude é boa, uma que podemos também procurar em certos aspectos da vida. Uma área interessante para mim é de software livre.

Existe software feito por empresas e vendido para o público, como o Microsoft Windows. Este software tem um preço e fazer copias para distribuir sem pagar é pirataria. A outra opção de software é livre, muitas das vezes de código aberto. Aplicativos como AbiWord, Firefox e Gimp são exemplos de software livre. O Ubuntu (o sistema operacional baseado em Linux) também é software livre.

Software de código aberto é feito por comunidades que se formam através da Internet. Desenvolvedores voluntários colaboram na criação e aperfeiçoamento do software. Usuários que descobrem falhas (“bugs”) podem ajudar através de relatos dando esta informação para os desenvolvedores. Todos podem espalhar o software, uma vez que não existem muitas restrições.

Estas comunidades de software livre existem sem nenhum laço com a igreja, mas já que a atitude de possuir e compartilhar está em completa harmonia com o caminho de Cristo, não vejo porque os cristãos não estão mais “por dentro.”


Verifique Também:

Last Day on Earth and Planning for the Future

Living as though this day were my last makes no more sense to me than “living for the moment.” Both options are short-sighted, untenable and ultimately unsatisfying.

Think about it. A person who truly “lives for the moment” is, at least on some level, irresponsible. Someone like this lacks poor judgment and is capable of getting himself into some pretty unpleasant situations. I’ve found that people who say they live this way really don’t, because if they did a lot more of them would be ridden with STDs and incapable of functioning in society. Even the attempt to live this way threatens the safety and sanity of the individual and those around her.

What about living as though this day were your last? Not such a bad idea, right? Seemingly endless poems, novels, TV shows and movies have promoted idea, and to some extent it makes sense. Most of us don’t live our daily lives with an awareness of our own mortality, and when faced with tragedy we try to shield ourselves from it.

Have you ever yourself hearing about a car accident and then feeling satisfied when you learn that the driver was drunk or had a heart attack that caused the crash? A drunk person is irresponsible, so the accident could have been avoided, and you would be able to avoid such a situation. A heart attack is somewhat out of your control, so you can chalk it up as a freak incident that possibly was aggravated by too many fatty foods over a lifetime. Either way, you are off the hook. Trouble is, you aren’t. You really are still mortal, and accidents still happen.

In this context, living as though today were your last seems to be sensible. Go sky diving, hug your kids, read the Bible, make love to your spouse, travel the world, drink life to the max. So, are you going to quit your job? Maybe you love your work, but most of us wouldn’t do it on the last day of our lives knowing it was the last day. If you really want to live each day to the fullest, as though it were your last, you need to be independently wealthy, or else have incredibly simple (or perhaps somehow profitable) desires in life.

A better approach seems to be to acknowledge your mortality as each day begins, understand that you may not make it to see the sunset, but plan as though you have some years ahead of you. Nothing would ever be accomplished in our personal lives or as a society if everyone simply ignored tomorrow.

Some things take time. One of my dreams is to establish a non-profit that helps promote science and technology training in Brazil, South America. In the meantime I need to pay the bills, be a good father to my children and devoted husband to my wife. In the midst of that I must find the time, energy and dedication to learn my way around IT and programming. If I were living today as though it were the end, I would lack the consistency my wife and kids need from me and the foresight to work towards my goals.

“Remember your creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come, and the years draw near when you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them’” (Ecclesiastes 12:1 NRSV).