Diary of a Mad XGL Addict

posted in: Free Software, Technology | 4

I tried to leave it…I really did. Since my last post, I’ve struggled with the realization that, in less than an hour, I became addicted to Xgl. I can’t live without it. My MotherBrain computer is now permanently occupied by a foreign power (Gnome). OK, not permanently, just until KDE adds support for it.

It’s not so bad, though. Gnome is, after all, free software in every sense of the word. Also, I can still run any of the programs that I run with KDE.

Regarding the whole Direct Rendering thing, it is supposed to work with the current Nvidia driver on my GeForce FX 6200, but it does not. Anyway, I have to start another regular X server on another screen to play games. Surprisingly, this works well. After all, running games in Window-Maker or some other light window manager is much faster anyway. In the past, I’ve often run intense games in failsafe X.

Gawsh, I sound like a total addict. What did I expect though? It’s like eating steak for the first time. You just can’t go back to your old hamburgers. I’m an Xgl-fiend. As I’m writing this, I’m contemplating how to get it working on this iBook. I’m sick… 🙂

Simplicity is the new Complex

posted in: Free Software, Technology | 1

I think simplicity is SO underrated. In the software world, people are always complaining about how complex things are. Being someone who “unofficially” provides tech support for an entire staff of teachers, I cannot tell you the number of times that people have tried to send e-mail attachments and failed.

My wife, who is no idiot, but who is certainly not a techie, needed to send a picture of herself to her father. Of course, she is running SuSE Linux 10.0 on a laptop, with KDE as her default desktop. She had Digikam open, looking at her picture, and she asked me, “How do I make this an attachment in my e-mail?”

At first, I was going to explain to her how she can go into the menu in Kmail and click, “attachment” or something like that. But then I thought, “Why make it hard, when KDE makes it easy.” Everything is integrated so well in KDE. So, I said, “Why don’t you just try dragging it?” (having NO idea whether or not that would actually work).

She clicked and dragged the picture from digikam into the e-mail that she was preparing to send to her father. Poof! A little message popped up and asked if she was trying to make an attachment. She clicked it, and voila! Who said things have to be complicated to be good?

Netflix or Noflix, Back to Bittorrent

posted in: Technology | 0

Apparently, Netflix has been throttling shipments of DVDs to their frequent customers. They have some type of electronic system that automtaically detects when you send back your DVDs quickly and withholds your shipments to reduce the overall number that you can receive in a month. That way, they make more profit off of the infrequent users.

It’s kind of funny. With the movie industry trying to encourage people not to download pirated movies, you’d think they’d be a little nicer to the honest citizens, like us, who want to watch movies but who don’t want the commercials and junk that comes with cable TV.

Instead, they pull stunts like this, and I think it’s about time for me to fire up Bittorrent.

When will they ever learn?

Web Security

posted in: Technology | 1

I am again battling an attacker on the web server. I’ve now concluded that, in almost every case, the attacker has entered from OneUmmah.net So, for the time being, that site is completely offline and locked out, even from its own users. That means that Muslim Writers Society is also down for now. InshaAllah, this will not last the entire day.

I am implementing some much-needed security measures (including disabling wget, curl, fetch, lynx, and any other method of downloading files). Almost without exception, the attacker has used wget, curl, and fetch. Also, OneUmmah’s CMS needs to be updated to the latest version to patch any of the obvious PHP security holes.

I guess I should have known from the beginning that OneUmmah.net would be the main target. It is one of the larger, longer-running Islamic sites on the web (since 1999). Other major sites, such as al-islam.org, link to it. So, it should have been no surprise to me that someone would attack it, especially in light of the constant anti-Islamic rhetoric that hapless doornails post on MuslimMessage.net.

I also have to apologize to any of the secondary sites that are hosted on OneUmmah.net. It does not affect our other hosted TLD sites on LanternTorch.net, but it certainly affects any subdomains.

For anyone who needs some Apache server security solutions, please check out ModSecurity.

The Future of x86 computing

posted in: Technology | 0

As many may already know, Apple recently announced their first transition to x86 processor-based computers, a high-end laptop replacement for the now retired PowerBook. They have named it “MacBook Pro,” which is not a very enlightened name (not that any of their names are), but this one is particularly McDonald’s sounding (kind of like the Mac-Mini).

Once you get over the whole name thing, we have to acknowledge that this is an important step in the right direction. Having Apple software on x86 means that there will be more software standards and more compatibility across the board. Apple, which has been more forthcoming as far as releasing source code (Darwin and Safari for example), than Microsoft, has the opportunity to bridge the gap that currently exists between proprietary and free software. Apple has also been more willing to work with standards (such as the more standards-compliant browser, Safari contrasted with the coding disaster that is Internet Explorer). Porting applications to and from OS X should be much easier with a standard processing platform, if they are willing to cooperate.

Whether or not that will actually happen remains to be seen. What we should hope for is that open standards will prevail over patents and proprietary licenses. We already know that GNU/Linux and BSD-variants run on nearly all platforms, including PPC. Now, that will be expanded to a new area of Dual core Intel-based systems. It is also significant to note how much the free software movement has already taken advantage of the AMD64 processors. All of this leaves “Wintel” in the lurch trying to catch up with current standards.

Right now it would seem that Vista will be another mess of licenses, activation, and pirating. Nevertheless, the hope is that increased pressure from a growing free software movement will leave no room for anyone to choose proprietary software. It has always been a pain for someone who prefers the Apple hardware, to have to deal with the PPC binary incompatibility with x86 binaries. With that problem most likely eliminated, the only question to ask is why would anyone prefer proprietary software?

Contrary to what some people have written, x86 Macs will not increase competition for Linux, instead they will increase the likelihood that someone will explore an alternative to Windows and ultimately learn about the undeniable benefits of moving from partially free software (OS X) to completely free software.

$100 Laptop for kids

posted in: Free Software, Technology | 0

MIT Media lab has started a project that will put $100 laptops in the hands of children who normally wouldn’t have them in countries where, in some cases, they do not even have electricity.

The students will be able to use the laptops at school and at home. One power solution possibility is a crank generator that will power up the laptop’s battery. The best part of all is that these laptops will run a version of GNU/Linux (http://www.linux.org).

For more info, check out the MIT Media Lab site (http://laptop.media.mit.edu/).

Opera is now Free?

posted in: Technology | 0

The techie news sites are lighting up with reports of Opera, the
alternative web browser, going free. Yes, that’s right. It
is now free of charge and can be downloaded from Opera’s web
site. I’m not going to provide the download link. I’m sure
you can find it on your own, but I would like to provide the results of
my little probe into this new operatic freedom. I decided to
download it (not because I wanted to use it but because that was the
only place I could find the End User License Agreement). I’m
probably violating their copyright by reproducing this here, but oh
well. They can sue me for the lint in my pocket.

All emphasis is mine:

You may not use the Software on non-PC products, devices, or
embedded in any other product, including, but not limited to, mobile
devices, internet appliances, set top boxes (STB), handhelds, PDAs,
phones, web pads, tablets, game consoles, TVs, gaming machines, home
automation systems, or any other consumer electronics devices or
mobile/cable/satellite/television or closed system based service.

You may not sell, rent, lease or sublicense the Software, without the explicit
written consent of Opera Software ASA.

The Software is protected by copyright laws and international treaties.

All intellectual property rights such as but not limited to patents,
trademarks, copyrights or trade secret rights related to the Software
are the property of and remains vested in Opera Software ASA/its

You shall not modify, translate, reverse engineer, decompile or
disassemble the Software or any part thereof or otherwise attempt to
derive source code or create derivative works therefrom.

You are not allowed to remove, alter or destroy any proprietary, trademark or copyright markings or notices placed upon or contained with the Software.

As you can see, Opera is now free as in beer. It is not, however,
free as in freedom. When it asked me if I agreed or disagreed to
the EULA, I clicked disagree because I was just being honest.Â
Well, it closed the installation program. Hmph!

(By the way, I’m typing this on Firefox (http://www.spreadfirefox.com)).

Colored Bash

posted in: Free Software, Technology | 0

When I first opened the terminal in Mac OS X, I noticed two things: 1. The fonts looked awful. They did not antialias the fonts. I’m sure many of the hardcore UNIX-heads prefer it that way. Well, I’m used to KDE (http://www.kde.org) Konsole, which has nice looking fonts.

2. Like all BSD (http://www.bsd.org/)s, it uses tcsh by default instead of bash. Not a problem for me because, when I installed KDE (http://www.kde.org), Konsole defaults to bash.

Oh, wait, that makes three things I noticed. The third thing is that the terminal had no color. There was no color-coded “ls” that I’m used to with Linux (http://www.linux.org). It turns out that, for whatever reason, Apple did not ship it with the color coding. So, I downloaded fileutils-4.1 and compiled it. That gave me the color coding, but how to enable it by default?

Someone’s blog (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blog) (sorry don’t remember who) told me to use an alias in the “.bashrc” file in the home directory (i.e. ~/.bashrc). A simple one-liner:

alias ls=”ls –color=auto”

Now, I have pretty colors. Seriously, it’s not just so it looks nice. It’s a lot easier to tell what is a folder and what is a file when the folders are blue. Also executable files show up in green.