Tag : windows

Pre-installed Windows and competition in the European Union

Did you manage to buy a new computer (desktop or most commonly a laptop) and avoid paying for the pre-installed Windows, even if you do not intend to use it? Even if you already have a license (such as with those MS Academic licenses from your school)?

Let’s dig some numbers for Europe.

StatCounter statistics for the use of Linux in Europe

StatCounter statistics for the use of Linux in Europe

According to StatCounter, in Europe about 1.15% of the Internet users use GNU/Linux.

According to the Internet World Stats, in 2010 there are about 475 million Internet users in Europe.

Therefore, the Linux users in Europe (EU) amount to 1.15% of 475 million = about 5.2 million Linux users.

Let’s assume that 5 million of these Linux users in the EU ended-up buying a computer pre-installed with unneeded Windows software (Windows XP, Vista or 7, and maybe Microsoft Works). In addition, let’s assume that the cost of the unneeded software is €50, which is a heavily conservative value since the unsubsidized price for Windows Home Premium 7 is about €70 (ex. tax). These figures bring the minimum cost that the 1.15% of EU consumers probably paid without any need to 5 million users * €50 / user = €250 million and most probably much higher.

What can we do about this?

The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure and the French speaking Libre Software Users’ Association started an initiative, “Share your operating system bundling tales with the EU”, where consumers can report competition problems that affect them.

Here is the press release,

Berlin, Paris Apr 14th 2011 — The FFII and AFUL ask consumers affected by operating system bundling or businesses involved in bundling to provide their evidence to the European Competition authority.

My choice is Debian GNU/Linux, explains FFII Vice president René Mages. Why have I been compelled to pay and erase Windows 7 at purchase time?

The European Commission admits it was aware of the difficulties encountered by consumers who want to purchase a PC with a non-Microsoft operating system or without any operating system at all. But they also say they lack evidence suggesting that this is the result of practices in violation of EU competition rules.

We want to crowd source the collection of evidence, says AFUL’s President Laurent Séguin. If the EU finds anticompetitive agreements that foreclose competition or abuse a dominant position on the relevant market, that would be a magic bullet.

So, what we can do is visit the European Commission Competition website and report our experiences in buying computers while being forced to get pre-installed Windows although we do not need it.

Let’s look at the form,    DISCLAIMER: These are my personal views on how the form could be filled in. If there is a mistake/ommission, please write in the comments and I’ll correct.

Fill in your details

Fill in your details

Here just fill in your details. You can also select the appropriate language at the top-right drop-down menu.

About which undertaking or group do you wish to inform?

About which undertaking or group do you wish to inform?

Here you mention that you want to talk about Microsoft, and about one or more computer manufacturers that you where unable to get a computer without pre-installed Windows. It is the lack of choice when buying a new computer. We need choice for the operating system of the computer we plan to buy. For computers, the need of choice for the operating system is critical, as there are viable alternatives such as Linux, which about 5 millions EU citizens already use.

2. To what economic sector is your information related?

2. To what economic sector is your information related?

This is an easy one, select Information technology (computers, softwares).

What is the matter about which you inform? When did it come to your attention?

What is the matter about which you inform? When did it come to your attention?

  1. You can talk about the inability to find a suitable computer for your needs that does not come with pre-installed Windows.You might use another operating system such as GNU Linux or you might already have a Windows license (due to an academic program from your school).
  2. If you have a personal experience to share regarding a computer manufacturer and Microsoft software, you can add it here. If you tried to buy a computer without Windows and you had to pay more, or go into great inconvenience, add it here.
  3. Add examples that show since when you have been faced with this issue.
4. What result do you hope to achieve?

4. What result do you hope to achieve?

Here you can say that you want to be able to buy a computer with a choice for the operating system. There are options for alternative operating systems, such as GNU/Linux or even FreeDOS (sort of a token operating system useful if you already have a Windows license).

You can also add that you would like transparency in the agreements between Microsoft and the manufacturers so that when you “build” your desired computer, you can change the operating system as you can change the type of CPU, RAM, or whether you want Bluetooth, 3G and a webcam.

Moreover, you can stress that you want to de-bundle Windows from the computer. You want transparency for the price of the operating system and ability to switch, as you can switch between service providers.

Finally, there is a special relationship between Microsoft and computer manufacturers, where the manufacturers end up promoting Windows software from their websites and advertising material, in order to receive discounts from Microsoft. This special relationship between Microsoft and the manufacturers is unfair, limits choice and hurts competition. It does not provide a level playing field to other operating systems, and the EU consumer is the victim. You would like the European Commision to investigate these agreements between Microsoft and the computer manufacturers.

Have you already contacted the Directorate-General for Competition or other national competition authorities or national regulators in order to obtain assistance?

Have you already contacted the Directorate-General for Competition or other national competition authorities or national regulators in order to obtain assistance?

Here specify whether you already contacted the EU or national bodies for this competition issue.

Supporting documents

Supporting documents

You can select whether you want the information that you provide to pass to another competition authority if this one is not entitled to deal with it. Apparently this is the competition authority for the bundling problem of Windows, therefore it is up to your discretion if you feel to say no.

If you have supporting documents, such as emails or letters that show the efforts you went through to find a computer without pre-installed Windows, you can add them here. If there are several documents, you can simply ZIP them into one.

Laptop without Windows, an update for Dell, Asus, Acer, Compaq

It is very difficult to buy a computer without Windows (that is, to buy it with either Linux, FreeDOS or no OS) in the European market.

Why would you want to buy a laptop without pre-installed Windows?

  1. Because you are simply not going to use Windows (for example, you plan to use a Linux distribution)
  2. Because your school has an Developer Academic Alliance (formerly MSDN AA) with Microsoft and they provide the Windows software for you
  3. Because your organisation has a company-wide agreement for Microsoft software, and you do not wish to pay twice for Windows.
  4. Because you somehow have a Windows license or Windows package installation box already.

Sadly, when talking to the sales personnel of a manufacturer, it might look an easier strategy to just mention points 2 or 3. There is already some prior knowledge with the sales personnel that large organisations do not need the pre-installed Windows software.

Dell used to sell the N Series laptops with Ubuntu Linux, however they do not sell them anymore, at least in Europe. I contacted a Dell customer care manager on this issue and I was told that N Series laptops are available when you call Dell Sales by phone. I did just that, however the telephone salesperson explained that they do not have N Series laptops anymore. He verified with his own manager.

Dell does sell netbooks with Ubuntu Linux in Europe. For example, the Dell Mini or the Dell Latitude 2100. The situation with the netbooks is almost perfect, but…

Dell UK Latitude 2100, Choose early between XP or Ubuntu

What would be desirable is to provide the option, when you customize the Latitude 2100, to be able to select the operating system under the Operating System options. In this way, the customer is in a position to make a better decision between the differences of the two options.

Dell Greece, select the operating system while customizing the computer

In a regional Dell website, it is possible to select the operating system while you are customizing the computer. In this case, when you select Ubuntu Linux, you can easily see that you are saving €30 compared to the initial price.

It is not clear why Dell UK and Dell Germany do not provide the facility that we see with Dell Greece. Normally the localised editions of a website take any changes later than the main languages (English, German).

Updated (soon after posted): It is possible to get the Dell UK page for the Latitude 2100 so that both pre-installed Windows and Ubuntu appear in the same section. It might be an update that has been rolled out just recently. When you visit the Customise page,  you can now see that by selecting pre-installed Ubuntu Linux, you save £24 compared to pre-installed XP.

What would be ideal is for the consumer to have the option to avoid the pre-installed Windows, in a way shown above at the Dell Greece website for the Latitude 2100. Having options for Ubuntu Linux or FreeDOS (for those who already have a Windows license) would be the best value for the customers. This would make Dell the best company around.

So, what’s going on with the other laptop manufacturers?

Acer, Asus, Compaq and HP do not appear to sell computers without pre-installed Windows to the European market. I have not been able to locate retailers that would sell a laptop with FreeDOS, let alone a Linux distribution.

Is this the case with Acer, Asus, Compaq and HP in other markets?

Acer Laptop with FreeDOS (SE Asian market) Asus Laptop with FreeDOS (SE Asian market) Compaq Laptop with FreeDOS (SE Asian market)

This is an example of laptop models from the SE Asian market. The laptops come with FreeDOS and if you want pre-installed Windows, you pay extra (€53 or $74). The quoted price for the laptop is not subjected to local tax for the specific SE Asian country. Here is the price equivalent for each laptop,

Acer: €325 or $460

Asus: €525 or $745

Compaq: €365 or $515

Manufacturers such as Lenovo and Toshiba appear as black sheep to me, regarding the European market. Lenovo is supposed to sell laptops with SuSE Linux, however I could not find an example. Toshiba is completely out of the radar. They might not be a big laptop manufacturer.

What would be great for the European customer is to have the option to buy a product without pre-installed Windows. And this option of buying a computer without pre-installed Windows should be a visible and accessible option.

Microsoft Windows tax refund, from Dell

So I got a new computer from Dell UK. Unfortunatelly it came with Windows Vista Home Premium (32-bit) SP1 and Microsoft Works 9.0, which I did not intend to use. I contacted Dell Customer Care last Wednesday and they promised to call me back to inform me of their course of action. On Thursday morning I got a call that Dell is in the process to issue the refund and that they will contact me during the coming week when they actually issue the refund. I got the call today Monday at 15:09 that the refund has been issued, £31 for Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 and Microsoft Works 9.0.

Dell Credit Note (refund) for Microsoft Windows Vista SP1 and Microsoft Works 9.0

In detail, the Credit Note says

Item No.  Description                    Quantity Unit Price  Net  VAT
          Cust Invd b4 parts recd 3rdpty    -1      26.96   -26.96  S

  VAT Summary                                      Subtotal   -26.96
                                                   Freight      0.00
   VAT    VAT Rate      GBP        GBP             VAT £       -4.04               
   Type     %       Total Net £   VAT £                
    S      15         -26.96      -4.04           
                                                   Total      -31.00

Now, that was the short story for getting my Windows refund. The long story was that I had to go through several weeks of effort to figure out how to get a new computer without Microsoft software. I contacted by phone both Dell and Microsoft and I estimate I was on the phone for about four hours in total. To save you the effort, here are some tips,

  1. You will get stonewalled. I did not get any reliable information on how to buy a computer without Microsoft software while I was researching my options. I actually gave up and proceeded with buying a computer with Windows, considering that my last resort was to use the EULA method as soon as I got it delivered (I would not accept the EULA, thus I would be entitled for a refund or credit).
  2. Apart from phone calls, I spent some time on Dell Chat. In one case, I was told that I can get a computer from the Latitude range with FreeDOS. They would have to get the precise configuration of the computer so that they can give me a quote. We made sure that the configuration was correct (the one in my basket with the one I would get the quote for). It sounded very promising, however, at the end the computer with FreeDOS would be about £30 more expensive than Vista. I asked for clarification on this issue but I did not get any.
  3. You will be often told that you are the first person that asks for a computer without Microsoft software. Try to think that you are a pioneer and don’t feel let down.
  4. When calling by phone, avoid using premium telephone numbers. Get a good SIP account and configure Ekiga or SFLPhone (has recording feature). For Dell UK, try 01344 373727 which apparently is fine even if you are not a Public sector customer.

Microsoft Vista first boot screen, EULA or refund/credit.

By using the software, you accept these terms. If you do not accept them, do not use the software. Instead, contact the manufacturer or installer to determine their return policy for a refund or credit.. (why are there two dots? — simos)

When you first boot a new computer that has Windows pre-installed, you are presented with the above screen. Why would Microsoft give the option to reject their software? I believe the reason is that they want to enter into a contract directly with the customer, thus there is no issue with removing this facility in future versions of Windows (probably for similar reasons, Hotmail now supports POP3, apparently so that small mobile devices can retrieve e-mail. You can now migrate from Hotmail to GMail easily.). However, the whole environment is setup in such a way that virtually noone would be able to pursue a successful refund. One has to scroll the tiny text box in order to find the pictured paragraph (no option to print!). Even the Microsoft Customer Care EMEA are not aware of the option not to accept the EULA.

In your case, if you do not intend to use the pre-installed Microsoft software (apparently includes the case where you already have a license, such as an Academic License), you have the option to reject for a refund or credit. Simply press the Shutdown button and do not accept the license. Then, get on the phone.

Antirrhinum (Snapdragon)

I installed Ubuntu 9.04 (x86_64) and the computer runs fine ;-).

It was unexpected when Intel got a heavy fine from the EU for anticompetitive practices. Does this practice by Microsoft (making it extremely difficult to obtain a refund or credit) constitute an anticompetitive practice?

Γράμμα από τον κ. Μπιλ Γκέιτς #2

Μιλήσαμε πρόσφατα για ένα γράμμα από τον κ. Γκέιτς για να προστεθούν χαρακτηριστικά στα έγγραφα γραφείου που να κάνουν δύσκολη τη πρόσβαση από τρίτους κατασκευαστές.

Θα μιλήσουμε τώρα για ένα ακόμα γράμμα από τον κ. Γκέιτς για να προστεθούν χαρακτηριστικά στο BIOS των υπολογιστών ώστε να είναι δυσκολότερη η λειτουργία από τρίτα λειτουργικά συστήματα.

Email by Bill Gates to Microsoft to make ACPI misbehave for Linux

Email by Bill Gates to Microsoft to make ACPI misbehave for Linux

Μπορείτε να δείτε το πλήρες κείμενο από τα τεκμήρια της δίκης μεταξύ Comes και Microsoft, που έγινε στην Αμερική πριν από μερικά χρόνια.

Το κείμενο στα αγγλικά,

From: Bill Gates
Sent: Sunday, January 24, |999 8:41 AM
To: Jeff Westorinon; Ben Fathi
Cc: Carl Stork (Exchange); Nathan Myhrvofd; Eric Rudder
Subject: ACPI extensions

One thing I find myself wondering about is whether we shouldn’t try and make the “ACPI” extensions somehow Windows specific.

If seems unfortunate if we do this work and get our partners to do the work and the result is that Linux works great without having to do the work.

Maybe there is no way to avoid this problem but it does bother me.

Maybe we could define the APIs so that they work well with NT and not the others even if they are open.

Or maybe we could patent something relaled to this.

(πηγή: τεκμήριο δίκης μεταξύ Comes και Microsoft)

Το κείμενο στα ελληνικά (με ελεύθερη μετάφραση):

Από: Bill Gates
Στάλθηκε: Sunday, January 24, |999 8:41 AM
Προς: Jeff Westorinon; Ben Fathi
Αντιγραφή: Carl Stork (Exchange); Nathan Myhrvofd; Eric Rudder
Θέμα: ACPI extensions

Ένα πράγμα που με απασχολεί είναι το αν θα έπρεπε να κάνουμε τις επεκτάσεις ACPI να είναι ειδικές για Windows.

Φαίνεται να είναι ατυχής κατάσταση αν κάνουμε τη δουλειά και οι συνεργάτες μας κάνουν τη δουλειά, και το αποτέλεσμα είναι να δουλεύει στο Linux δίχως να χρειάζεται να κάνει τη δουλειά.

Ίσως να μην υπάρχει τρόπος να το αποφύγουμε, αλλά με απασχολεί το ζήτημα.

Ίσως να μπορούσαμε αν καθορίσουμε τα API ώστε να δουλεύουν καλά με NT και όχι με τους άλλους, ακόμα και αν είναι ανοιχτά.

Ή ίσως να μπορούσαμε να πατεντάρουμε κάτι σχετικό.

(πηγή: τεκμήριο δίκης μεταξύ Comes και Microsoft)

Είναι σημαντικό να προσέξουμε ότι το παραπάνω γράμμα δεν είναι τεκμήριο ότι η Μίκροσοφτ έκανε όντως τέτοιες ενέργειες. Ο κ. Γκέιτς ήταν εκείνο το διάστημα CEO της Μίκροσοφτ, και η δουλειά του ήταν να κατευθύνει την εταιρία. Οι δε υπάλληλοι δούλευαν στην κατεύθυνση του CEO.

Το μήνυμα που πρέπει να κρατήσουμε σε κάθε κατάσταση είναι ότι το παραπάνω γράμμα δείχνει τη συμπεριφορά της εταιρίας στο χώρο της πληροφορικής. Ως καταναλωτές, η συμπεριφορά αυτή είναι πολύ αρνητική.

Δείτε το άρθρο του Λευτέρη για ένα πρόβλημα χρήστη με τη μητρική του και το ACPI.

thersa.org.uk, infected.

Probably through SQL injection, this page of thersa.org.uk links to a javascript file from some server in China

The screenshot shows the thersa.org.uk website has been infected, and users that visit it end up running in their browsers malicious JavaScript code. The code loads Javascript files from the .cn and the .la domains.

There is a reference in one of the files to a cookie named killav (Kill Antivirus?) that may disable some antivirus programs.

In addition, one of the JavaScript files checks which browser you have. If you have Internet Explorer 6 or 7, it loads some exploit which attempts to run binary code. If this succeeds, you are infected. If you have Firefox, it does not attempt to perform an infection, and it goes to the next phase.

The next phase is to open up pages to sites in China. It appears to me that the bussines plan in that case is to generate revenue from ad hits.

The worst thing however is if you get infected. Unpatched windows systems are at the mercy of these attackers.

One way to mitigate such risks is to use Mozilla Firefox, and have the NoScript add-on installed.

Update 5 June 2008:

The RSA updated their website by moving it away from Windows and ASP, to open source software. They are using Centos Linux, Apache, and an open-source CMS. Therefore, the above security risk does not apply any more.

FOSDEM ’08, summary and comments

I attended FOSDEM ’08 which took place on the 23rd and 24th of February in Brussels.

Compared to other events, FOSDEM is a big event with over 4000 (?) participants and over 200 lectures (from lightning talks to keynotes). It occupied three buildings at a local university. Many sessions were taking place at the same time and you had to switch from one room to another. What follows is what I remember from the talks. Remember, people recollect <8% of the material they hear in a talk.

The first keynote was by Robin Rowe and Gabrielle Pantera, on using Linux in the motion picture industry. They showed a huge list of movies that were created using Linux farms. The first big item in the list was the movie Titanic (1997). The list stopped at around 2005 and the reason was that since then any significant movie that employs digital editing or 3D animation is created on Linux systems. They showed trailers from popular movies and explained how technology advanced to create realistic scenes. Part of being realistic, a generated scene may need to be blurred so that it does not look too crisp.

Next, Robert Watson gave a keynote on FreeBSD and the development community. He explained lots of things from the community that someone who is not using the distribution does not know about. FreeBSD apparently has a close-knit community, with people having specific roles. To become a developer, you go through a structured mentoring process which is great. I did not see such structured approach described in other open-source projects.

Pieter Hintjens, the former president of the FFII, talked about software patents. Software patents are bad because they describe ideas and not some concrete invention. This has been the view so that the target of the FFII effort fits on software patents. However, Pieter thinks that patents in general are bad, and it would be good to push this idea.

CMake is a build system, similar to what one gets with automake/autoconf/makefile. I have not seen this project before, and from what I saw, they look quite ambitious. Apparently it is very easy to get your compilation results on the web when you use CMake. In order to make their project more visible, they should make effort on migration of existing projects to using CMake. I did not see yet a major open-source package being developed with CMake, apart from CMake itself.

Richard Hughes talked about PackageKit, a layer that removes the complexity of packaging systems. You have GNOME and your distribution is either Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora or something else. PackageKit allows to have a common interface, and simplifies the workflow of managing the installation of packages and the updates.

In the Virtualisation tracks, two talks were really amazing. Xen and VirtualBox. Virtualisation is hot property and both companies were bought recently by Citrix and Sun Microsystems respectively. Xen is a Type 1 (native, bare metal) hypervisor while VirtualBox is a Type 2 (hosted) hypervisor. You would typically use Xen if you want to supply different services on a fast server. VirtualBox is amazingly good when you want to have a desktop running on your computer.

Ian Pratt (Xen) explained well the advantages of using a hypervisor, going into many details. For example, if you have a service that is single-threaded, then it makes sense to use Xen and install it on a dual-core system. Then, you can install some other services on the same system, increasing the utilisation of your investment.

Achim Hasenmueller gave an amazing talk. He started with a joke; I have recently been demoted. From CEO to head of virtualisation department (name?) at Sun Microsystems. He walked through the audience on the steps of his company. The first virtualisation product of his company was sold to Connectix, which then was sold to Microsoft as VirtualPC. Around 2005, he started a new company, Innotek and the product VirtualBox. The first customers were government agencies in Germany and only recently (2007) they started selling to end-users.

Virtualisation is quite complex, and it becomes more complex if your offering is cross platform. They manage the complexity by making VirtualBox modular.

VirtualBox comes in two versions; an open-source version and a binary edition. The difference is that with the binary edition you get USB support and you can use RDP to access the host. If you installed VirtualBox from the repository of your distribution, there is no USB support. He did not commit whether the USB/RDP support would make it to the open-source version, though it might happen since Sun Microsystems bought the company. I think that if enough people request it, then it might happen.

VirtualBox uses QT 3.3 as the cross platform toolkit, and there is a plan to migrate to QT 4.0. GTK+ was considered, though it was not chosen because it does not provide yet good support in Win32 (applications do not look very native on Windows). wxWidgets were considered as well, but also rejected. Apparently, moving from QT 3.3 to QT 4.0 is a lot of effort.

Zeeshan Ali demonstrated GUPnP, a library that allows applications to use the UPnP (Universal Plug n Play) protocol. This protocol is used when your computer tells your ADSL model to open a port so that an external computer can communicate directly with you (bypassing firewall/NAT). UPnP can also be used to access the content of your media station. The gupnp library comes with two interesting tools; gupnp-universal-cp and gupnp-network-light. The first is a browser of UPnP devices; it can show you what devices are available, what functionality they export, and you can control said devices. For example, you can use GUPnP to open a port on your router; when someone connects from the Internet to port 22 on your modem, he is redirected to your server, at port 22.

You can also use the same tool to figure out what port mapping took place already on your modem.

The demo with the network light is that you run the browser on one computer and the network light on another, both on the local LAN (this thing works only on the local LAN). Then, you can use the browser to switch on/off the light using the UPnP protocol.

Dimitris Glezos gave a talk on transifex, the translation management framework that is currently used in Fedora. Translating software is a tedious task, and currently translators spent time on management tasks that have little to do with translation. We see several people dropping from translations due to this. Transifex is an evolving platform to make the work of the translator easier.

Dimitris talked about a command-line version of transifex coming out soon. Apparently, you can use this tool to grab the Greek translation of package gedit, branch HEAD. Do the translation and upload back the file.

What I would like to see here is a tool that you can instruct it to grab all PO files from a collection of projects (such as GNOME 2.22, UI Translations), and then you translate with your scripts/tools/etc. Then, you can use transifex to upload all those files using your SVN account.

The workflow would be something like

$ tfx --project=gnome-2.22 --collection=gnome-desktop --action=get
Reading from http://svn.gnome.org/svn/damned-lies/trunk/releases.xml.in... done.
Getting alacarte... done.
Getting bug-buddy... done.
Completed in 4:11s.
$ _

Now we translate any of the files we downloaded, and we push back upstream (of course, only those files that were changed).

$ tfx --project=gnome-2.22 --collection=gnome-desktop --user=simos --action=send
 Reading local files...
Found 6 changed files.
Uploading alacarte... done.
Completed uploading translation files to gnome-2.22.
$ _

Berend Cornelius talked about creating OpenOffice.org Wizards. You get such wizards when you click on File/Wizards…, and you can use them to fill in entries in a template document (such as your name, address, etc in a letter), or use to install the spellchecker files. Actually, one of the most common uses is to get those spellchecker files installed.

A wizard is actually an OpenOffice.org extension; once you write it and install it (Tools/Extensions…), you can have it appear as a button on a toolbar or a menu item among other menus.

You write wizards in C++, and one would normally work on an existing wizard as base for new ones.

When people type in a word-processor, they typically abuse it (that’s my statement, not Berend’s) by omitting the use of styles and formatting. This makes documents difficult to maintain. Having a wizard teach a new user how to write a structured document would be a good idea.

Perry Ismangil talked about pjsip, the portable open-source SIP and media stack. This means that you can have Internet telephony on different devices. Considering that Internet Telephony is a commodity, this is very cool. He demonstrated pjsip running two small devices, a Nintendo DS and an iPhone. Apparently pjsip can go on your OpenWRT router as well, giving you many more exciting opportunities.

Clutter is a library to create fast animations and other effects on the GNOME desktop. It uses hardware acceleration to make up for the speed. You don’t need to learn OpenGL stuff; Clutter is there to provide the glue.

Gutsy has Clutter 0.4.0 in the repositories and the latest version is 0.6.0. To try out, you need at least the clutter tarball from the Clutter website. To start programming for your desktop, you need to try some of the bindings packages.

I had the chance to spend time with the DejaVu guys (Hi Denis, Ben!). Also met up with Alexios, Dimitris x2, Serafeim, Markos and others from the Greek mission.

Overall, FOSDEM is a cool event. In two days there is so much material and interesting talks. It’s a recommended technical event.

ert-archives.gr: “Linux/Unix operating systems are not supported”

ERT (Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation) is the national radio/television organisation of Greece.

ERT recently made available online part of its audio and video archive, at the website http://www.ert-archives.gr/

When browsing the website from Linux, you were blocked with a message that Linux/Unix operating systems are not supported. This message was appearing due to User-Agent filtering. Even if you altered your User-Agent, the page would not show the multimedia.

There has been a heated discussion on this on local mailing lists, with many users sending their personal polite comments to the feedback page at the ERT website. Many individual, personal comments have value and are taken into account.

Since today, http://www.ert-archives.gr/ does no do filtering on the User-Agent, and has changed the wording at the support page saying that

Σχετικά με υπολογιστές που χρησιμοποιούν λειτουργικό σύστημα Linux σχετικές οδηγίες θα υπάρξουν στο άμεσο μέλλον.

which means that they will be providing instructions for Linux systems in the immediate future.

Going through the HTML code of http://www.ert-archives.gr/ one can see that the whole system would work well under Linux, out of the box, if they could change

<embed id=”oMP” name=”oMP” width=”800″ height=”430″ type=”application/x-ms-wmp


<embed id=”oMP” name=”oMP” width=”800″ height=”430″ type=”video/x-ms-wmp

Firefox, with the mplayerplugin, supports the video/x-ms-wmp streaming format. You can verify if you have it by writing about:plugins in the location bar and pressing Enter. For my system it says

Windows Media Player Plugin

File name: mplayerplug-in-wmp.so
mplayerplug-in 3.40Video Player Plug-in for QuickTime, RealPlayer and Windows Media Player streams using MPlayer
JavaScript Enabled and Using GTK2 Widgets
MIME Type Description Suffixes Enabled
video/x-ms-wmp Windows Media wmp,* Yes

I am not sure if the mplayerplugin package is installed by default in Ubuntu, and I do not know what is the workflow from the message that says that a plugin is missing to the process of getting it installed. If you use the Totem Media Player, it instructs you to download and install the missing packages. I would appreciate your input on this one.

A workaround is to write a Greasemonkey script to replace the string so that Firefox works out of the box. However, the proper solution is to have ERT fix the code.

I must say that I would have preferred to have Totem Movie Player used to view those videos.
ERT Ecology
I just finished watching a documentary from the 80s about ecology and sustainability of the forests on my Linux system. It is amazing to listen again to the voice-over which is sort of a signature voice for such documentaries of the said TV channel. The screenshot shows goats in a forest, and mentioning the devastating effects of said animals on recently-burnt forests.

Update (22Mar08): The problem has not been resolved yet. Dimitris Diamantis offers a work-around at the Ubuntu-gr mailing list.

OpenOffice Writer training notes (request: make training video plz!)

OpenOffice.org is one of the most important layers of the open-source stack. Although it does a superb job, we really need to make effort to get more users working on it.

Here we present training notes for the use of Writer, the word processor component of OpenOffice.org. We aim to make the best use of styles by creating well-structured documents. What we show here is built on work of others, including the OpenOffice Linux.com articles by Bruce Byfield, the amazing OpenOffice.org documentation and the spot-on article of Christian Paratschek at osnews.com. Actually, the following follow more or less Christian’s article.

When training in OpenOffice.org, it is important to create a fluid workflow that starts from the basics and increases gradually in complexity. It would be great if someone could turn the notes in a training video.

  1. We start of with running OpenOffice.org Writer. The default windows appears. Compared with other word processors, in OOo we see this text boundary in the document (the dim rectangle that shows the area we can write in). We mention we can show/hide it with View/Text boundaries.
  2. When creating a document, it is good to set the properties such as Title and Subject. We do that from File/Properties/Description. It may look too much effort now, but it will help us later wherever we want to write the document title or subject. Use Using OpenOffice.org Writer for title and How to write nice document in OpenOffice.org Writer for subject.
  3. Writer supports styles which makes life much easier. You probably have used styles before; using Heading 1, Heading 2 for headings so that you can create easily the Table of Contents. Writer has a Styles and Formatting window that is accessible from the icon/button near the File menu. The icon looks like a hand clicking on a 3×3 grid. You can also get the windows from Format/Styles and Formatting, or by simply pressing F11. Once you do that, you get a floating window. You can dock it by dragging it to the right edge of the Writer window. If you are into 3D desktop, it may not be easy to dock (it automatically switches to another side of the desktop cube). In this case, use the key combination Ctrl-Shift-F10 to dock the Styles and Formatting window. It is good here to resize the document (that is, change the magnification) so that it appears centered with little empty space around.
  4. Writer supports styles, not only for Paragraphs (like Heading 1) but also for Pages. See the status bar at the bottom of the Writer window; it mentions Default which is the default page style. When we write a document, the first page is good to have a distinct style that is appropriate to the properties of a first page. This includes, making sure the second page appears empty, the page gets no page numbering and so on. On the Styles and Formating dock we select the Page styles tab and we double-click on the First Page style. This will set the current page to the First Page style, and we can verify visually by looking at the status bar (Now First Page instead of the old Default).
  5. We are not writing yet; lets create the subsequent pages first. To do so, we insert manual breaks in our document. Click on Insent/Manual Break…/ and select to insert a Page Break. As style for the page after the break choose the Index page style, tick on Change page number, and make sure the numbering starts from 1. Click OK. Proper documents start numbering from the Index page. The Index page is the page we put the Table of Contents, Table of Figures and so on.
  6. Make sure the cursor is on the new page with the Index style. We need to create a new page break, so that we can get writing the actual document. Click on Insert/Manual Break…/ and select a Page Break. As style for the page after the break you can choose Default. Leave any page numbering settings as is because it inherits from before. Click OK.
  7. Now, to view what we have achieved, let’s go to Print Preview, and choose to see four pages at a time. We can see the first page, another page which is intentionally left blank, the Index page and the Default page. Close Print preview and return to the document.
  8. Now let’s go back to the first page. We want to put the title on the first page. Nothing extravagant, at least yet. What we do is we visit the Paragraph styles and find the Title style. While the cursor is on the first page at the start, we double-click on the Title style. The cursor moves the the center of the document and we can verify that the Title paragraph style has been applied; see on the right of the Styles and Formating icon on the top-left of the Writer window. Shall we write the title of the document now? Not so fast. We can insert the title as a field, because we already wrote it in the properties at the beginning in Step 2. Click Insert/Fields/Title.
  9. Now press Enter; the cursor moves down and it somehow automatically changes to the Subtitle style. Styles in OpenOffice allow you to choose a Next style (a followup style) and in this case, when someone presses Enter on the Title style, they get a new paragraph in the Subtitle style. While in the line/paragraph with Subtitle style, click on Insert/Field…/Subject. Fields in OpenOffice.org appear with a dark gray background; this does not appear in printing, it is just there to help you identify where the fields are.
  10. Now lets move to the last page, the page with Default style and write something. Select the Heading 1 paragraph style and type Introduction. Press enter and you notice that the next style is Text body. Text body is the natural paragraph style for text in Writer (most documents have the default Default paragraph style which is wrong). Now write something in Text Body such as I love writing documents in OpenOffice.org Writer. Copy the line and paste several times so that we get a nice paragraph of at least five lines. Make sure when pasting that after a full stop there should be a single space, then the new sentence starts.
  11. Press Enter and now we are ready to add a new heading. Type Writing documents and set the Heading 1 paragraph style. Press Enter and fill up a paragraph with more of I love writing documents in OpenOffice.org Writer.
  12. Press Enter and create a new section (add a Heading 2, name it Writing documents in style and fill up a corresponding paragraph).
  13. Press Enter and create a last section (add a Heading 1, name it Conclusion, and fill up a corresponding paragraph style).
  14. Now we are ready to place the cursor at the Index page we created before, and go for the Table of Contents. Click on Insert/Indexes and Tables/Indexes and Tables. The default index type is Table of Contents. We keep the default settings and click OK. We get a nice looking table of contents.
  15. At this stage we have a complete basic document, with first page, index page and default page.

The next set of steps include more polishing and adding extra elements to our document.

  1. The text body style is configured to have the left alignment by default. Normally, one would select paragraphs and click on a paragraph alignment button on the toolbar to change the alignment. Because we are using styles, we can modify the Text Body style to have another alignment, and presto the whole document with text in the same style follow suit. In the Styles and Formating dock, at the paragraph styles tab, select the Text Body style. Right-click on the Text Body style and choose to Modify style. Find the Alignment tab and choose Justified as the new alignment for Text Body paragraphs. Click Ok and observe the document changing to the new configuration.
  2. It is nice to the section numbers on the headings, such as 2.1 Writing documents in style. To do this, we need to change the default outline numbering. Click on Tools/Outline numbering… and select to modify the numbering for all levels (under Level, click 1-10). Then, under the Numbering group, change the Number option from the default None to 1, 2, 3, …. Click OK and the number is changed in the document.
  3. Go back to the Table of Contents. You notice that the numbering format does not look nice; some section numbers are too close to the section names. To fix, right click on the gray area of the table of contents and select Edit Index/Table. In the new dialog box, select the Entries tab. Under Structure and Formatting you can see the structure of each line of line in the table of contents table. The button labeled E# is the placeholder for the chapter number. After that there is a placeholder that you can actually type text. In our case we simply click and press the space bar to add another space. We then click the All button and finally click OK. Now, all entries in the Table of contents will have a space between the chapter number and chapter title.
  4. In order to add a footer with the current page number, click on Insert/Footer and pick Index, then Default. Both the Index and the Default style of pages get to show page numbers. Then, place the cursor in the footer area and Insert/Field/Page Number. You can modify the Footer paragraph style so that the text alignment is centered. You have to insert the field in both an Index page and a Default page.
  5. The page number in the Index page is commonly shown in Roman lowercase numbers. How can we fix that? We simply have to modify the Index page style accordingly; click on the Page Styles tab in Styles and Formatting, click to modify the Index page style, and at the Page tab in Layout Settings select the i, ii, iii, … format. Click OK.
  6. It would be nice to have the title on the header of each page, either Index or Default. Click on Insert/Header and add a header for Index and Default. Then, place the cursor in the header for both styles and click to add the Title field (Insert/Field/Title). Would it be nice to put a line under the header? The header text has the Header paragraph style. In the Styles and Formatting, click the Paragraph styles tab and select the Header paragraph style. Right-click and choose to Modify. In the Borders tab enable a bottom line and click OK.

OpenOffice.org Writer in Style

You can download this sample document (.odt) from the link Using OpenOffice.org Writer.

I’ll stop here for now. There are more to put such as Table of Figures, Index of Tables and Bibliography.
It would be good to leave feedback if there is interest to work on this direction.

Update 15Mar2008: This appears to be a Farsi translation/adaptation of the article.


(see http://www.guadec.org/schedule/warmup)

At the first presentation, Quim Gil talked about GNOME marketing, what have been done, what is the goal of marketing. He showed a focused mind on important marketing tasks; it is easy to get carried away and not be effective, a mistake that happens in several projects.

The next session was by Tomas Frydrych (Open Hand – I have their sticker on my laptop!) on memory use in GNOME applications. Many people complain that XYZ is bloated. However, this does not convey what exactly happens; pretty useless. In addition, the common tools that show memory use do not show the proper picture because of the memory management techniques. That is, due to shared libraries, the total memory occupied by an application appears very big. A tool examined is exmap. This tool uses a kernel module that shows memory use of applications by reading in /proc. It takes a snapshot of memory use; it’s not real-time info. It comes with a GTK+ front-end (gexmap) that requires a big screen (oops, PDAs). However, it is not suitable for internet tablets and other low-spec devices. Therefore, they came up with exmap-console which addresses the shortcommings. It has a console interface based on the readline library.

Here are the rest of my notes. Hope they make sense to you.

. exmap –interactive
. ?: help
. Head: quite useful (dynamic allocation)
. Mapped:
. Sole use: memory that app is using on its own (rss?)
. “sort vm”
. “print” or “p”
. “add nautilus”
. “clear”
. “detail file” (what executables/libs loaded and how much consume)
. “detail none”

Sole use
. valgrind, to analyse Sole Use memory?
. “detail ????”

Lots of small libraries: overhead

Looking ahead
. Pagemap: by Matt Macall
. http://projects.o-hand.com/exmap-console/

. Sole use: ~18MB ;-(

Tomas was apparently running Ubuntu with the English UK locale. The English UK translation team is doing an amazing job at the translation stats. Actually, most messages are copied, however with a script one can pick up words such as organization and change to organisation. The problem here is that, for example, the GAIM mo file is 215KB (?), however for the British English translation the actual changes should be less than 2-3KB. Messages that are missing from a translation mean that the original US English messages will be used. I’ll have to find how to use msgfilter to make messages untranslated if msgid == msgstr. Where is Danilo?

After lunch time (did not go for lunch), I went to the Accerciser session. Pretty cool tool, something I have been look for. Accerciser uses the accessibility framework of GNOME in order to inspect the windows of running applications and see into the properties. A good use is to identify if elements such as text boxes come with description labels; they are important to be there for accessibility purposes (screen reader), as a person that depends on software to read (text to speech) the contents of windows.

The next session was GNOME accessibility for blind people. Jan Buchal gave an excellent presentation.

My notes,

. is from Chech republic, is blind himself. has been using computers for 20+ years

. from user perspective
. users, regular and irregular 😉
. software
. firefox 3.0beta – ok for accessibility other versions no
. gaim messenger ok
. openoffice.org ok but did not try
. orca screenreader ^^^ works ok.
. generally ready for prime time
. ubuntu guy for accessibility was there
. made joke about not having/needing display slides ;-]
. synthesizer: festival, espeak, etc – can choose
. availability of voices
. javascript: not good for accessibility
. links/w3m: just fine!
. firefox3 makes accessibility now possible.
. web designer education, things like title=””, alt=”” for images.
. OOo, not installed but should work, ooo-gnome
. “braillcom” company name
. “speech dispatcher”
. logical events
. have short sound event instead of “button”, “input form”
. another special sound for emacs prompt, etc.
. uses emacs
. have all events spoken, such as application crashing.
. problems of accessibility
. not money main factor, but still exists.
. standard developers do not use accessibility functions
. “accessor” talk, can help
. small developer group on accessiblity, may not cooperate well
. non-regular users (such as blind musician)
. musicians
. project “singing computer”
. gtk, did not have good infrastructure
. used lilypond (music typesetter, good but not simple to use)
. singing mode in festival
. use emacs with special mode to write music scores (?)
. write music score and have the computer sing it (this is not “caruso”)
. gnome interface for lilypond would be interesting
. chemistry for blind
. gtk+
. considering it
. must also work, unfortunately, on windows
. gtk+ for windows, not so good for accessibility
. conclusion: free accessibility
. need users so that applications can be improved
. have festival synthesizer, not perfect but usable
. many languages, hindi, finnish, afrikaans
. endinburgh project, to reimplement festival better
. proprietary software is a disadvantage
. q: how do you learn to use new software?
. a: has been a computer user for 20+ years, is not good candidate to say
. a: if you are dedicated, you can bypass hardles, old lady emacs/festival/lilypond
. brrlcom, not for end-users(?)
. developer problem?
. generally there is lack of documentation; easy to teach what a developer needs to know
. so that the application is accessible
. HIG Human Interface Guidelines, accessible to the developers
. “speakup” project
. Willy, from Sun microsystems, working on accessibility for +20 years, Lead of Orca.
. developers: feel accessibility is a hindrance to development
. in practice the gap is not huge
. get tools (glade) and gtk+ to come with accessibility on by default
. accessibility
. is not only for people with disabilities
. can do amazing things like 3d interfaces something

These summaries are an important example of the rule that during presentation, participants tend to remember only about 8% of the material. In some examples, even less is being recollected.

Ubuntu 7.04 DVD edition 4.3GB: done

Have been trying to download Ubuntu 7.04 DVD edition for the last few days. I use the amazing wget program with the command line looking like

wget -c http://www.mirrorservice.org/sites/cdimage.ubuntu.com/cdimage/releases/7.04/release/ubuntu-7.04-dvd-i386.iso

I started off the download in Windows, and over the course of the days I would interrupt and restart the download depending on what I was doing (the -c parameter lets you do that). To make it easier, I wrote a batch file with the command. I named the batch file CMD.BAT and I placed it in my home folder. All nice and well.

While the download was running, I wanted to open a new command prompt window, so I clicked on Start/Run…
Instead of getting a blank command prompt window, I get another instance of a wget download, for the same file. What does that mean? Well, YOU CAN BYPASS Start/Run… BY SIMPLY ADDING CMD.BAT IN YOUR HOME FOLFER.

Sadly, wget does not do any file locking, so I was expecting the worse. I let the download continue anyway and then I would check the checksum.

Download finishes, the checksum is wrong :(.

What to do now?

I kept a note on the file size when both wget commands where running on the same file. So, I should simply cut off the bad part and continue the download from there. Booted in Linux and I did a

split -b 3750000000 ubuntu-7.04-dvd-i386.iso

Two file were created, xaa and xab. I throw away xab and I rename xaa into ubuntu-7.04-dvd-i386.iso.
Now, ubuntu-7.04-dvd-i386.iso contains the correct content but is not the full size. So, I continue with

wget -c http://www.mirrorservice.org/sites/cdimage.ubuntu.com/cdimage/releases/7.04/release/ubuntu-7.04-dvd-i386.iso

Once completed,

$ md5sum ubuntu-7.04-dvd-i386.iso
ca609edf086eea0c821ba34a5c0a709d ubuntu-7.04-dvd-i386.iso

which is the same checksum reported at


Thunderbird 2 (νέο!), και στα ελληνικά!

Είναι διαθέσιμο το Thunderbird 2 από σήμερα, και είναι και διαθέσιμο και στα ελληνικά!

Χίλια μπράβο στον Κώστα Παπαδήμα.

Καινοτομίες του Thunderbird 2:

  • ετικέτες στην αλληλογραφία σας όπως και στο Gmail
  • Βελτιωμένο theme
  • Οδηγός ρύθμισης αλληλογραφίας GMail
  • Εγκαταστάτης Windows βασισμένος στον Nullsoft Installer· στην εγκατάσταση σε Windows θα δείτε ελληνικά σωστά κατά την εγκατάσταση και λύνει ένα πρόβλημα στις κωδικοποιήσεις
  • και πολλά άλλα

Connecting to Bluetooth devices between Linux and Windows

A common issue that arises when you connect your laptop to your Bluetooth device (such as mobile phone), is that the device forges a unique authentication with the Bluetooth stack of the operating system. What that means is that if I pair my laptop with my phone in Linux, the pairing works only in Linux. When I boot in Windows, I have to remove the pairing from the phone and establish it again in Windows. Then, when I connect to Linux I need to remove the pairing and establish it again, and so on.

The reason for this problem is that we use a single USB device (whether a dongle or module) that has a single MAC address. The mobile phone differentiates between pairings based on the MAC address.

Therefore, how can we solve this issue? A search with Google shows that it is a known issue with no answer yet. There are two avenues to fix this problem;

  1. get the Linux bluetooth stack to change the MAC address so that a second pairing will be possible. I am not sure if it is possible as some of the security functions probably take place on the Bluetooth hardware. Currently hciconfig does not offer an option similar to ifconfig eth0 hw ether 00:11:22:33:44:55.
  2. find the authentication data of the pairing on Windows and convert to the format that the Linux stack understands and accepts. In this way, a single pairing will work for both operating systes.

I do not have a solution yet. If someone can looking into these it would be great!