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Posts Tagged ‘windows’

Windows 2000 Server on a NAS? No, thanks.

Posted by isilanes on January 24, 2008

You would think that, as a researcher in a serious center like the DIPC, one would hardly ever encounter a MS product, at least in the server/cluster section (more than one fellow here has Windows in his/her computer, but don’t tell anyone, it’s a secret).

However, we do have some server running Windows, and its presence is almost transparent for the user (which is good). And I say “almost”, because it stumbled upon one of its “features”, and the sysadmin ended up confessing :^)

The thing is that I happened to try to create a directory with “CO” (carbon monoxide) in its name (it was a dir for a SIESTA calculation), when a dir with the same name already existed, except it had “Co” (cobalt) in the name. Well, the filesystem complained that a dir by the same name already existed! I could not believe my eyes!!

Basically the filesystem would not make any difference at all for different capitalizations. For example:

% mkdir testdir
% mkdir TESTDIR
mkdir: cannot create directory `TESTDIR': File exists

% touch testfile
% rm TESTfile
rm: remove regular empty file `TESTfile'?

The explanation? The directory I was in was exported from a NAS running… ta-da: Windows 2000 Server!

How incredibly stupid and annoying is it to have a filesystem that ignores character case altogether? And how error prone? Because if you are not aware of that, you might delete a file you didn’t intend to!! Someone could try to excuse MS by saying that, OK, that was in 2000. But, look, Linux could tell upper case from lower case since its inception in 1991, and Unix since the seventies! The root of the problem is the filesystem used by the OS, of course. But it so happens that the filesystems used by Linux since 1991 (beginning in ext and then many others) had this capability (and many more), and are free. All that MS had to do was to use them, instead of FAT or NTFS. But instead they chose to develop those (inferior) filesystems in parallel for almost 20 years now. I call that stupidity.

No need to say that the sysadmin of the DIPC absolutely regrets having been naive enough to ever buy that MS crap.


Posted in Windows no-nos | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Re-partitioning a disk infected with Vista to dual-boot with Linux

Posted by isilanes on January 9, 2008

Some time ago I helped a friend to install Linux into a Vista laptop (incidentally, another friend asked me about the subject today). The only aspect I’m covering in this post is the re-partitioning of the disk, which is a wee bit trickier than with XP and previous Windows versions.

With my laptop (one with XP preinstalled), I just inserted my favorite Linux CD, rebooted, and used the built-in partition utility that all Linux installation CDs have to downsize the Windows partition, and then make the Linux partitions in the remaining disk space. With Vista this is not the case. You have to be very careful, because Linux can not resize the Vista partitions (at least at the time of writing these lines). The problem is that Vista uses a modified NTFS format, and Linux can not cope with it yet (read more at my source for this info: pronetworks.org).

You can also find at pronetworks.org a detailed HowTo for making the resizing of a partition. In summary (e.g., for shrinking a partition to make room for Linux):

  1. Go to Control Panel -> Administrative Tools -> Computer Management
  2. Click on Disk Management (under Storage in left hand panel)
  3. Locate partition to shrink, right click on it, and from the context menu choose Shrink Volume
  4. Fill in the self-explanatory dialog box. Basically, enter amount of MB you want the partition to be reduced by.

You will thus end up with a smaller Vista partition, and some empty space. Now, you can insert the Linux CD, reboot, and install Linux in that empty space, without touching the Vista partition.

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Vendor lock-in for dummies

Posted by isilanes on December 4, 2007


Any GNU/Linux user ends up hearing, sooner or later, the Ultimate Argument(tm) from a Windows fanboy:

If Linux is so good, and is given away for free, how can Windows still be so prominent?

Ironically, many Windows users answer the question themselves, when explaining why they can’t make the switch to Linux:

  • There are no games for Linux
  • Photoshop or AutoCAD are vital for me, and they only work under Windows
  • I fear some pieces of hardware won’t work under Linux
  • The web page of my bank only displays correctly under IE
  • My friends/colleagues/business partners share documents in MS Office formats, and I need to be compatible

The concept than embraces all the preceding points, and answers the rhetorical question above, is vendor lock-in. I will try to explain the concept with a humble tale I have used twice so far in comments to entries in Enrique Dans’s blog.

Tales of bicycles and cars

Imagine a country with no bicycles.

One day a guy comes up with the idea of making them, and starts to produce, and sell, bicycles that we shall call of type A. Being an empty market, the A-type bicycles quickly triumph, and the maker makes a lot of money.

But some time later, a second guy devises a better bike design (type B), and decides to produce and sell it. The price and the quality are better, so when people buy a new bike or replace an old one, they tend to buy bikes of type B. Soon enough, the market is dominated by the new, better, bicycle.

Now imagine a country with no cars.

One day a guy comes up with the idea of making cars, and starts to produce and sell cars of type A. As cars need petrol to run, A-type gas stations develop in parallel to car sales. Building gas stations is expensive, but sales are guaranteed, as everyone has or will have A-type cars, and they need A-type petrol: their growth is synergistic.

But some time later, a second guy devises a better car design (type B) and decides to produce and sell it. The price and the quality are better, BUT drivers can not buy B-type cars, because there is no B-type gas station. The problem is that, since noone has a B-type car, making B-type gas stations is doomed to bankrupt. So, no B-type cars are sold, because there are no B-type gas stations, and B-type gas stations will not be made until B-type cars are popular!

The result is a vendor lock-in.


When a market (such as the one in the tale above) is dominated by vendor lock-ins, the producers benefited by the lock-in have little, if any, incentive to make better products. Their sales are guaranteed by the lock-in situation, not by their superior product in a fair market.

On the other hand, other producers will have an extremely hard time for competing, as their products will be almost unusable for the buyers.

The moral is that the lock-in situation is bad for either the potential users of the product locked-out (the B-type car above) and the locked-in one (the A-type car). Even if a consumer would never choose the locked-out product, the lack of competition will adversely affect the evolution of the product they do choose. The lock-in is bad for everyone: all consumers and all producers but the locker ones.

And this relates to Windows vs. Linux in what way?

In a really straightforward way. Microsoft, cunning as they are, have tried their best to get as many lock-ins on the software market as they can. Ironically, instead of abhorring this practice, most Windows users happily continue not only using, but even defending the product. I shudder at the simpleton comment that “freedom is not using Linux, but using Windows and Linux whenever you feel like it”. Literally taken, it is a very wise argument. But unfortunately the reality is not so simple: using Windows helps enforce a lock-in that keeps Linux out (while in this case the contrary is not true). You can not use Windows/Linux 50/50, because Windows asks you for monogamy.

The many lock-ins that MS has forced down the throats of the users, while the latter still claim them to be benefits of Windows include (as mentioned at the beginning):

  • Proprietary communication protocols that will not work with any other OS. This includes modifications on the IE web browser, so that web pages had to be done for it, and then be incompatible with other browsers. Or the MSN protocol, that is kept as closed as possible, to make free clones of the MSN client as little compatible as possible.
  • Proprietary file formats that will not be possible to modify with tools other than the “official” MS ones: WMV for video, DOC, XLS, PPT for office documents.
  • As much “Windows-only” software as possible, including games. Making games for platforms other than Windows ensues the wrath of MS, something that game makers can not take lightly, since their sales depend on the game actually running under Windows.
  • As much “Windows-only” hardware as possible. The first idea that someone gets about an OS is that it is the piece of software that interacts with the hardware. If so, it is astonishing why it is not MS the one incorporating the drivers in the OS, instead of the hardware makers (hardware != software) providing them. We have all grown accustomed to buying printers, mice, external CD/DVD/HDs… with a CD with the “Drivers for Windows 98” or some such. Why? Windows can not make the drivers out of the blue, true. But the hardware makers can just make the necessary data public, so anyone will be able to make drivers. If the maker keeps these specifications secret, they will simply not sell anything.

Posted in This evil world | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Hard links: an example case

Posted by isilanes on November 29, 2007

One argument I tend to hear from Windows users is that in Windows you can do as much as you can with Linux, and that the technical advantages of Linux only show up if you are really an utter geek. This is one of (I hope) a series of entries in my blog, illustrating some cases where this doesn’t hold: I took advantage of tools provided by Linux in a way that anyone could have, not just geeks.

The moral of it all is that Windows encourages a lack of choice and flexibility that makes users tend not to be creative, and think the cage Windows keeps them in is actually a shelter from the storm, when it’s not. They think that what can’t be done with Windows, needs not be done. I think otherwise…

Today I will try to provide an example in which hard links can be useful. Under Windows XP hard links can be created, using the fsutil utility, but only for NTFS file systems, and only by the Administrator account (and only from the command line). If you want to learn more about links and specially Windows links, read this interesting sell-shocked.org article.

The problem

I download a lot of music from Jamendo, using the BitTorrent p2p protocol. After having downloaded a given album, I tend to leave the torrent open, so that people can continue uploading from my computer.

However, I also want to have my music collection tidy and ordered, so I immediately organize the newly-dowloaded songs moving them to a neat directory tree I have, will all my music.

So, there is a conflict between keeping the files in the bittorrent download/upload dir, and properly organizing them. I don’t want to have to wait until I decide to stop sharing a file to organize it, and I don’t want to risk deleting the files if I remove them from the bittorrent client before saving them elsewhere. I could get over all this by simply making a copy of the files… but then I would be filling twice as much disk space, and with GBs of shared files, this is not neat at all.

The solution

What I do is hardlink all the downloaded files to their final location. If I download all torrents to /scratch/ktorrent/, a downloaded album will look like that:

% ls /scratch/ktorrent/album1/
song1.ogg song2.ogg song3.ogg [...]

If I want to save the album under my artist1 directory, I do the following:

% mkdir /scratch/music/artist1/album1
% ln /scratch/ktorrent/album1/* /scratch/music/artist1/album1/

This way all the “song*.ogg” files will appear to be in both /scratch/music/artist1/album1/ and /scratch/ktorrent/album1/ at the same time.


1 – I can keep sharing the files in /scratch/ktorrent/album1/, while listening to and/or manipulating the /scratch/music/artist1/album1/ files as if I had 2 copies of each.

2 – The total size is not affected. The hard links do not “occupy” space (only a few bytes each).

3 – I can delete the files in the shared directory without any fear. Only the “copy” in /scratch/ktorrent/ disappears, while the other “copy” in /scratch/music/artist1/album1/ becomes the only copy (just as if it had always been a “normal” file, and the only one).

Recall that all files are hard links. Normally a given file is the only hard link to a given piece of data in the hard disk, but there can be more “links” pointing to that data. When we remove files, we only remove the “link” pointing to the data.

Posted in Windows no-nos | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

handyfloss meets Windows Vista

Posted by isilanes on November 10, 2007

The setup

A colleague wanted to edit a video (actually, three) for a presentation she intended to make in a laptop with Windows Vista and MS Office 2007. The video was a WMV, and the required edition included removing fragments, changing the speed of one of the fragments (and join it back with the others), and adding a soundtrack.

The problem

She could not, for the life of her, edit the damned thing on a Windows computer.

The solution

Why, Free Software, of course.

The motivation of this post

To help dispell two ideas: that “Windows is easy”, and that “With Linux, you waste your time finding out how to do things”.

The story

Part I – Linux

OK, so I proposed her to use some Free Software called Avidemux. Our first problem was that apparently Avidemux was unable to cut the video in pieces (it crashed at the attempt). After much perusing, and using the humble file command, I found out the reason: the WMV had no playing FPS set. Players, like MPlayer would reproduce it by guessing 25 or 30 frames per second, but editors need a precise value to count on. I readily fixed it by reencoding the video to 25fps with MEncoder:

% mencoder in.wmv -ovc lavc -nosound -fps 25 -lavcopts vcodec=wmv1 -o out.avi

Once a proper FPS given, I used Avidemux to split the file. However, I encountered a second problem: I couldn’t split the file anywhere. I could only cut it at points 10 seconds appart. I had to sweat a bit more to fix that, but I also learned something more in the way. Most (all?) compressed video formats use at least two kinds of frames: normal frames and keyframes. The latter are the frames where any player can seek to in the video. According to the man page of MEncoder:

maximum interval between keyframes in frames (default: 250 or one keyframe every ten seconds in a 25fps movie. […] Keyframes are also needed for seeking, as seeking is only possible to a keyframe – but keyframes need more space than other frames, so larger numbers here mean slightly smaller files but less precise seeking. 0 is equivalent to 1, which makes every frame a keyframe. […]

So here you are: the problem was the default value of some variable called keyint. To make the video seekable to any frame (so it could be cut at any point), I set keyint to 1:

% mencoder in.wmv -ovc lavc -nosound -fps 25 -lavcopts vcodec=wmv1:keyint=1 -o out.avi

Once the movie was split into parts with Avidemux, and the unwanted parts were removed, the next step consisted on playing one fragment faster. The problem here is that I don’t know how to make a variable FPS video, so we had to make it so all the video played at the same FPS, but a part was faster. How? Removing frames, of course. I used MPlayer to deconstruct the relevant fragment into individual frames (in PNG format):

% mplayer -vo png:z=2 fragment

The command above generates a whole lot of 0000xxxxx.png files, with frames ordered by the number in the filename. Next, I deleted every second frame. How? With a stupid GUI I don’t know, but from the command line it is trivial:

% rm -f 00*[13579].png

Now, I just re-constructed the video with half the frames, to get an effectively double-speed video, with same FPS as original:

% mencoder "mf://*.png" -mf fps=25 -o output.avi -ovc lavc -lavcopts vcodec=wmv1

If I am allowed to say it, the effect is really great. You wouldn’t tell the sped-up video from the original, except from the increased play speed.

Using Avidemux for joining the video fragments was a breeze, and it could even be done from the command line:

% avidemux fragment1.avi --append fragment2.avi --append fragment3.avi --save total.avi --quit

The last (Linux) part consisted on adding a soundtrack, which Avidemux can do, from a MP3, WAV, or another video. This was easy.

Part II – Windows Vista

OK, the last Linux step consisted on reencoding the video in some format that Vista could read. This was no immediate task, but after some tests, we made it. Windows Media Player could reproduce the movie with no problem.

Finally, we opened the wonderful Office 2007 in the shiny and new Vista laptop, and created a PowerPoint slide to insert the video (the rest of the presentation was already done). Everything seemed to work, but when we played the presentation, we discovered that either the video or the sound could be played (depending on how we had encoded the video in Linux), but not both simultaneously. WMP would play the videos just fine, but the embedded player in PowerPoint would not… go figure why. After at least 3 crashes of Office (yes, Office crashes), some bitching because we could not make any sense of the new Office interface (we are experienced pre-Vista and Linux users, and Windows is for idiots, right? We must be idioter than average) having to stand the fact that the semitransparent border of a window refused to disappear when we closed it (so we kept working with a blue-greenish stripe across a part of the desktop), and one Windows reboot (yes, Vista still hangs from time to time), we managed to insert and play the darned video. How? We just inserted two videos: one for which only the audio was playing, and another one for which only the image was showing. We then make these two objects to kick off at the same time, et voila!. Not the cleanest of solutions, but with Windows “everything just works”, right?

The moral

The moral of the first step (the FPS not being set) was that I had to play around for a while with my Linux tools, but the culprit was MS, and their lousy WMV. I have never produced a video with no FPS (and all other necessary metadata) set, because my FLOSS tools do it automatically. Secondly, I didn’t waste my time. Thanks to the usefulness of the FLOSS tools, I ended up learning something about movies, FPSs, and that they are required. I also learned about key frames, and seeking and cuting video streams.

On the other hand, for a much simpler job, we spent relatively (and maybe absolutely) longer with Windows, and we did lose our time with it. The problems we encountered with Linux were difficulties of the situation itself: the original WMV was flawed, the AVI we created had too high an inter-keyframe interval… and the FLOSS tools we used helped us fix them and learn in the process. In the case of Windows, the task was so simple, and all the problems we met were created by Vista. We didn’t learn anything from all of our struggle, because we only struggled against Windows (the GUI, the crashes, how to encode the video in Linux so that Vista could read it, why the darned Office would not play the audio or the video), not our problem (editing and embedding the file). All the time was devoted to learning how to overcome the limitations and errors of our tool, not to how to use our tool to perform some task, learning about the task itself in the process. Thus, it was wasted time.

Posted in Evil software | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Un par de comentarios míos en Menéame

Posted by isilanes on November 10, 2007

Sin más razón que alimentar mi ego, aquí copio y pego un par de comentarios míos en una noticia de Menéame (8 razones de un usuario de Windows para no cambiar a Linux).

Me gustan sobremanera los comentarios #19 y #20. Analizadlos con un poco de rigor: los Windowseros “talibanes” (y los Linuxeros críticos) critican Linux porque falta software comercial (juegos y otros) y drivers. Los Linuxeros “talibanes” (y los Windowseros críticos) critican Windows porque se cuelga, porque no es seguro, etc.

Si os dáis cuenta, las ventajas de Windows sobre Linux son ajenas a Windows, mientras las ventajas de Linux son intrínsecas a este. Es decir: mañana las compañías de soft podrían decidir sacar todos sus productos solo para Linux, y la ventaja de Windows se vendría abajo. Al revés, no hay manera en el mundo de que la ventaja de Linux se elimine, a menos que alguien reescriba Windows de cero y lo convierta en UNIX 2.0 o algo así.

Yo alucino con los argumentos pro-Windows de la gente. Tomemos uno muy recurrente en este hilo: MSN. La gente dice que no pueden/quieren dejar de usar Windows porque (entre otros motivos), quieren usar el cliente MSN. El problema no es la calidad técnica de dicho cliente o de su protocolo, porque hay otros protocolos y clientes mejores (eso nadie lo duda). El problema es que MSN tiene un protocolo privativo, que MS puede cambiar como y cuando quiera, y al ser una aplicación popular, la gente se ve obligada o bien a usar clones que por fuerza andarán más “atrás” en compatibilidad y cualidades que el cliente nativo, o a usar el cliente nativo en el OS nativo.

Reflexionemos: estamos diciendo que hay un protocolo inferior que nos obliga a usar un cliente concreto, y este a su vez nos obliga a usar un SO concreto. ¿Y esto es una razón a favor de usarlo? Para mí es una razón en contra de usarlo. ¿Qué garantía de calidad se puede exigir a un productor en un mercado cautivo? ¿Cómo puedo ser tan necio de regalar mi libertad a cierto proveedor, y usar el único producto del mercado que me exige exclusividad, cuando hay otros productos mejores, y que no me la exigen? Si hay un(os) protocolo(s) de mensajería que es(son) abierto(s), y tiene(n) mil clientes diferentes (por lo que puedo elegir cliente) de los cuales muchos son multiplataforma (y por tanto puedo elegir el SO), ¿no es esto, precisamente, una razón poderosa para usar ese protocolo, y no MSN?

Vivimos en un mundo de borregos.

Posted in my ego and me | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

My opinion on Mandriva vs. Microsoft

Posted by isilanes on November 6, 2007

Blog moved to: handyfloss.net

Entry available at: http://handyfloss.net/2007.11/my-opinion-on-mandriva-vs-microsoft/

I have posted about an open letter François Bancilhon, CEO of Mandriva, wrote to Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft.

Here I intend to give proper answer to some comments in the Mandriva blog page, mostly covering ethical and legal issues.

For a complete immersion on the subject, please read the whole letter. For a summary: the government of Nigeria decided to buy 17k computers. Mandriva and Microsoft made offers, and Mandriva won. After the computers being sent to Nigeria, the government of Nigeria contacted Mandriva and informed them that they’d pay the bill, but that they had changed their mind and would install Windows instead.

Now some comments in the Mandriva blog page, and my responses:

Charles said

November 1, 2007 at 3:03 pm

Would you entrust your country’s educational computer future to a company whose CEO writes whiny unprofessional conspiracy theories on his blog? I sure as hell wouldn’t.

Even if bribes were made (and I’m just saying hypothetically ‘if’), the reality is that for this to have happened somebody must have seen value in a Microsoft solution over your ware. It’s your fault for not being able to convince the customer otherwise, not Microsoft’s for behaving like a business.

Grow up.

1) The whole point is that with Mandriva the Nigerian government wouldn’t be “entrusting their country’s educational computer future” to anyone. It’s the other way around! No matter how stupid/lame/immoral/illegal Mandriva and its CEO are, once you make the Linux bet, you are free. You don’t depend on any single vendor for anything. I know it’s a complex concept for a slave-minded Windows user, but Linux is about Freedom. On the other hand, going for Windows implies entrusting yourself to a single company: Microsoft. Would you pledge obedience to an unethical, monopolistic, soulless, predatory and often illegal company? You are doing so by surrendering to MS. Besides, the CEO of Mandriva is not “whining”. He is caring. After all, they got the money, so, if money was his only concern, he’d be happy. But he is concerned about more things, which you seem to be impervious to: the fairness of the deal, the fulfillment of closed agreements, the access of Nigerian youth to Free Software, the respect of MS to anti-monopoly and fair market rules… The wise is pointing the sky, and you look at the finger instead.

2) It is not Mandriva’s “fault”, and MS did not “behave like a business”. If MS somehow bribed the Nigerian government, they’d be seriously breaking international law, violating the rules you rely on to believe you live in a democracy. Not “everything” is permitted in business. A monopolistic holding can not sell products below price (dumping) to eliminate the competitors. It is against law, and, if permitted, it totally damages the consumer in the long run. In the short run, the lower prices are a plus for the consumer, but once the competition is hampered, the company in the monopolistic position can continue abusing the market (raising the prices, lowering the quality, applying arbitrary limitations…).

sarek said,

November 5, 2007 at 3:46 pm


What are you whining about. You have sold your PC you already have your money. If the Nigerians would say, we don’t want to pay for the software because we install Microsoft Windows i could understand your complaining. But you have deliverd your goods, and got payed. What is your problem, if the Nigerians want to convert the machines to a Sony Playstation, that is not you problem, it is their right because they have bought and payed for the goods. I can’t understand all those whining of Linux community against Microsoft, I use Linux myself and the company uses Windows. Linux is not heaven and Microsoft is not Hell. If you look at companies as Suse/Novell and Red Hat, it is no open source anymore (they are copieing the Microsoft marketing strategie).

François, stop whining and use a better sales team

3) Again, François is not complaining for money! He is speaking of fairness, justice, and even the good of the Nigerians themselves. Don’t you get it? Mandriva won the contract, because their offer was better. Any act whatsoever afterwards is a dirty trick (possibly illegal) to impose a worse product that had lost in fair competition. François is worried about Nigerians getting the worse product.

4) About Mandriva getting a better sales team… why should they? They freakin’ won the contract!! Their product is better, and their sales team did convince the Nigerian government. Where did Mandriva fail? They should have bribed the Nigerian government, I infer?

Steve said,

November 5, 2007 at 2:41 pm

Come on guys! Seriously, you wonder why the mass market isn’t taking on Linux in numbers? There’s a number of reasons, but comments like:

“I am proud to be a linux user and i’ll die as a linux user.”

“MS is like a drug dealer”

And then moaning about ethics. Come on – this is business.

5) No. François is not talking only about ethics. Bribing someone to dump the option that won in a public competition and choose the loser option is illegal and unfair. Besides, it is also unethic, and your lame ad hominem attack on Linux users doesn’t “prove” otherwise. What you accuse Linux users of is not unethic, and even if it were, it doesn’t disprove our arguments (read what an ad hominem is, please).

Maybe, just maybe Microsoft presented a really good business case, stating the TCO on a volume licence agreement compared to the Mandrivia option. The cost would be reduced due to the volume licence agreement anyway, and that also includes free technical support to MS.

6) This line of argumentation is irrelevant. Obviously MS might have a better offer than Mandriva. But the public competition was made just for that! Both Mandriva and MS made the offers they considered fit, and Mandriva won. How many times does this need to be said? Mandriva won the competition and MS lost it. If the Nigerian government changed their mind afterwards, it has nothing to do with MS’s merits, because such merits were judged in the public competition that Mandriva won.

Whilst Linux is a great platform, it’s still nowhere near Vista or XP level yet. Whilst Linux is free or very cheap this is OK – but if you compare Vista against Linux and remove the cost out of the equasion then the worlds most popular OS is probably going to win it.

7) You have obviously not used Linux much. The technical competition was lost for Windows long time ago. The only advantage of Windows is that it is more widely used and that more commercial software is made for it, and this generates a vendor lock-in effect. Both effects are external to Windows. Intrinsically, and leaving the price aside, Linux is miles ahead of MS Windows.

That’s just business, we’ve had the same thing happen to us (our company is a web development company. Got Phase 1 done, but support went as they got their system redone by a competitor before we even finished development) Get over it, stop whining like children and start working as a commerical entity rather than hobbyists.

8 ) This is not “business”, this is breaking the law (see point 2 above).

chineme said,

November 4, 2007 at 8:28 pm

I don’t understand what all this fuss is about,Someone buys a laptop or PC that comes pre-installed with windows (also paying for the software) then remove windows and install mandriva no one complains.

Then he do the opposite and everyone takes up arms.

9) You are wrong. If I buy a laptop privately, I can do with it whatever I see fit. But the Nigerian government bought 17k computers with public money. Whenever you do something like that, you have to make (if you live in a democracy) a public competition, to see which provider makes the best offer (to guarantee that public money is spent correctly). This competition was made, and Mandriva won. If, afterwards, and with no further public competition, the government decides otherwise, they are misusing the public funds.

Lets face it the Nigerian government wanted a good cheap hardware deal and they got it and they probably also got a good deal on OS from Microsft as well. So they went for it. What is this Francois complaining about? Wasnt he paid or did they violate a contract that he can sue them for? If they did he can go ahead ad sue and stop whinning.

10) See point 9 above.

Did he ever go to Nigeria to protect his investment? Or did he just read up all the drivel and nonsense about Nigeria being a corrupt country full of spammers like the rest of you and decide to stay away as far as possible.

11) No. What François did was to win the public competition with his better offer. Period. Mandriva’s offer was better, it won, and any other use of the Nigerian money is a misuse on the government’s side, and illegal actions from MS’s side depending on what they did to get the deal.

On spam: I recieve more spam on people trying to sell me viagra or sell me a home ownership loan or even winning a lottery than Nigerians trying to get me to move millions out of the country and I treat them all the same way: I trash them.

Lets concentrate on the real issue being poor marketing and follow up and leave Nigeria’s ethics or lack of it out of the issue

12) The “real issue” is not poor marketing. It is improper assignation of public funds. Read points 9 and 11 above.

Alex said,

November 3, 2007 at 5:46 pm

Dear François,
Your letter show ignorance on your part about black people in general and Nigerians in partucular. Nigerians may be poor now- but they are certainly not stupid!
Your assuption- even though you have dealt with nigerians is that they are ignorant about both business issue and they do not have they technical savvy to make their own decisions- it’s nothing but pure racism. Not racisim out of malice- you seem to demonstarte a sincere ignorance about the abilities of africans.

Incidentlly, only French young people spend more time in education than Nigerians in the whole world- you can check that out
Do you seriously Think Nigerians- some of the best educated people in in African , if not in the world are not clever enough to change from your OS to microsoft’s.

13) You are using a laughable straw man argument. François is not implying that Nigerians are stupid. He (if I understand correctly) is implying that a) MS behaved illegally, bribing the Nigerian government to make it choose an option that had lost in a fair and public competition, over the one that had won, and b) it might be a case of corruption in the Nigerian government side, by knowingly choosing the loser in the aforementioned competition, and hence misusing the public money assigned to buy computers. To “change their mind”, the Nigerian government would have had to repeat the public competition, so that MS could win in a second round.

As a person of Nigerian parentage, when i first read about your deal I was alamed about you supplying your OS to nigerian schools. From what I know about Nigerians everybody used microsoft anyway- Every Nigerian I know- including the teachers who would be using this machnines use microsoft.

The delivery of machine s that are rugged by your company is just the perfect thing for nigeria and her schools.
To me it sounds like the best business outcome- from the point of view of the customer.
They get rugged machines good for their situation, and an os they are used to

I think for once Nigerians have let common sence rather than money to prevail.
Maybe you should press our advantage that they loved your machines to keep your relationship with the Nigerian govermenmt going, so that you get more contracts from the country- Nigerian is a huge country with millions of young people eager to learn. A well considered stategy and long term view by your country in a frican may in the end popularise your OS there as well- believe me there are ways to beat microsoft in a country like nigeria- I mean software design wise

14) Getting computers with Windows is about the worst possible outcome for Nigeria. You say that Nigerians are eager to learn, but on the other hand you say that getting Windows is better, because they are used to it! Staying with the known “bad” thing, not to have to learn the new “good” thing is very bad politics for a developing country.

GvS said,

November 2, 2007 at 4:55 pm

Maybe because Mandriva is just one of 10.000 linux distro’s, and Windows is the defacto industry standard.

15) Windows being the de facto standard is really really bad for the computer users. What this means is that instead of software makers following the standards agreed upon by all agents (makers, users, governments…), it’s the other way around: users, governments and other companies have to follow the decisions of MS. Decisions that are taken to benefit only MS, regardless of how negative they might be for the users. Do you really think this situation is good for you?

If you are running a government, and you have to choose between:
a. A linux distro that my students have a 1% (a very very high estimate) of using in real life (that is working for a company)
b. A M$ solution, they will use in at least 50% (a very very low estimate) of the companies they will ever work for.
Now what do you choose to best prepare your students?

16) Your argument is that people shouldn’t use Linux because people don’t use Linux. Reread it, an realize what a nonsense it is! The correct reasoning is the following:

a) Windows binds you to a vendor (MS) / Linux doesn’t
b) Windows restricts your rights to use, modify and redistribute it / Linux doesn’t
c) Windows artificially restricts (DRM) what kind of media you can play on it / Linux doesn’t
d) Windows encourages you not to learn how the computer works / Linux does the opposite
e) Windows makes you dependent on proprietary formats / Linux doesn’t
f) Windows is bug ridden, unstable and subject to malware / The incidence of these is infinitely smaller in Linux
g) Windows encourages following the beaten path / Linux encourages finding your own way
h) Windows makes you fall in a dependency loop that is hard to get out of / Linux gives you freedom
i) Windows means more money to the already rich / Linux means more power to the user

Now, as a teacher in a developing country, eager to break the chains with the First World domination, to give the most freedom and power to your students, to educate them to learn, and not just repeat what others do without real knowledge… what would you choose to provide your students?

Anonymous said,

November 1, 2007 at 4:02 am


Why are you assuming that Microsoft did something underhanded? It could very well be the case that a deal with Microsoft is more viable for the Nigerian goverment in the longer run –
– Their products are tried and trusted. Yours is still an unknown quantity.
– Their customer support is supposedly very good. How about yours?
– Maybe the TCO for Microsoft’s solution is lower than your solution.

I’m in no way taking sides. But you must be willing to accept the possibility that Microsoft could have presented a better long term deal for them.

17) Did you actually read François’s post? MS lost the public competition. Mandriva won it. MS’s offer could have been better, but it actually wasn’t. Read point 6 above.

djbon2112 said,

November 2, 2007 at 11:37 am

Wow, more bitching from a Linux distro because Microsoft won a deal? Unheard-of!

18) Again the same nonsense! Microsoft LOST the deal. There was a public competition, and Mandriva won. Mandriva and MS had the opportunity to make their best offers, both did, and the government chose Madriva. MS didn’t win the deal: they bribed their way into it. Read points 2, 6 and 9 above, please.

Sorry, but Microsoft makes a better product. You know why? It doesn’t abuse my time.

I’ve tried to use Linux. I’ve tried Ubuntu, and Debian, and Fedora, and countless other distros (yours included) throughout the years. And every time, I’ve run into problems which are so simple to fix in Windows, but take HOURS of my time to attempt to fix in Linux. And I say “attempt”, because 90% of the time, the “solutions” don’t work, and I’ve wasted another hour of my life trying to make something simple (like, a Flash plug-in for Firefox in x64?, to name one of MANY!) work.

A friend of mine said, “Linux is only free if your time is worthless”. Microsoft products work easily, the first time, and don’t waste my life with trivial issues and setup. I can get a Windows Vista box up and surfing the internet, playing games, watching movies, doing ANYTHING you want, in under 2 hours. I’ll take a little “insecurity” (and Windows is only insecure if you’re an idiot) for that!

19) This rant is more tech-related than about the Mandriva vs. MS issue at hand. Anyway, I will comment something: your experience is anecdotal. Windows is easier than Linux if you are an expert in the former, and an ignorant in the latter. I have a long experience in both, and for me Linux is easier. When I an forced to use that pile of crap called Windows I keep finding that I don’t know how to do the simplest things. Maybe it’s because I am more used to Linux… so this proves my point. And there are a lot of things that are really simple in Linux, and are really annoying, or impossible to do in Windows.

You say that “Linux is only free if your time is worthless”. It’s a good point, but rather false. You are assuming that you already know how to use Windows, and that you have to learn how to use Linux. But if you know neither, learning Linux does not necessarily require more of your valuable time. Moreover, all the time I have spent figuring out how to do things in Linux was not wasted time for me. I learned a lot, not about Linux, but about how to do stuff, and how computers work, and how the Internet works, and about security, and about programming, and about an awful lot of things. Linux gave me the marvelous opportunity to learn a lot!

Update: Nigerian government moves back to Mandriva

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Malware: Vista Capable

Posted by isilanes on January 26, 2007

I read, via Kriptopolis (es), that “Tim Eades, senior vice-president of sales at security company Sana Security said that 38 per cent of malware is already Vista-compatible.”

Apparently, and according to an article at ITPro.co.uk, more malware than anti-malware has been already ported to Windows Vista.

Go, Vista, go!

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Windows XP license explained

Posted by isilanes on June 18, 2006

[Update: (Nov 19, 2007) The LinuxAdvocate.org link seems to have disappeared. You can find a related analysis in PDF format at cybersource.com.au]

You can find a nice explanation, in everyday english, of what the different clauses of the Windows XP EULA (End Use License Agreement) mean at: LinuxAdvocate.org.

The original EULA can be found at the Microsoft site, and below is a comparison with the wonderful xxdiff graphical file (and directory) comparator. It proves that the EULA given at LinuxAdvocate.org is correct, because the grey text (the quoted EULA) is equal in both sides, and the only difference is the added (green) sections in the LinuxAdvocate.org side, which correspond to the explanations.

Figure 1: xxdiff of WinXP Eula (right), and LinuxAdvocate.org explanation (left). Click to enlarge

Interesting excerpts:

You agree that at any time, and at the request of content providers Microsoft may disable certain features on your computer, such as the ability to play your music or movie files.

These restrictions apply to all software that you get from Microsoft in the future. Future software may contain further restrictions.

Microsoft may cancel any service that they provide to you at any time and for any reason.

You agree that Microsoft can automatically and without your consent put new software on your computer.

Microsoft assures you that Windows XP Home will work correctly for the first 90 days. They do not assure you that Windows XP Home or any service packs or hot fixes will work correctly after this time.

Uff, follow the link above and read it yourself, because all the clauses are juicy.

Think of the kind of subjugation commercial software asks from you. Think freely. Think free. Think FLOSS!!

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Window Vista: reinventing the wheel

Posted by isilanes on June 1, 2006

[Last reviewed 12-Feb-2007]

I have read at menéame (Spanish) about a Windows Vista review, and I have decided to comment about it here. The original review (in English) here.

The first thing one notices is the blatant copy of many MacOS (as usual) and FLOSS project (Linux and Firefox) features.

1) The Aero User Interface allows for window transparency. Wow, I’d be hard pressed to name a Linux desktop environment that couldn’t do it long ago.

2) You can Alt-Tab (Win-Tab, really) between open windows, having them appear in 3D. This is nice, but similar effects are obtained with 3D-desktop for Linux (only for desktop switching, not window switching), and now with XGL, which I expect to be fully functional much sooner than the Vista release date (mark my words).

3) The desktop supports applets, that, in the long standing Microsoft custom of reinventing the wheel, and then renaming it to pretend it’s something new, they call “Gadgets”. Such gadgets would be things like calendars, weather forecast indicators, clocks… Such things have been long present in Linux with SuperKaramba, gDesklets, and adesklets.

4) IE7 can now read RSS, and supports tabbed browsing. Again, Firefox supported it long ago.

5) IE7 now supports international URLs, such as www.müller.de. Firefox, of course, already supports them. Moreover, the URL display is not correct in IE7, whereas it is in Firefox (see images below):


Figure 1: Internet Explorer 7


Figure 2: Firefox

6) IE7 is said to come with anti-phising settings. Firefox already had extension for that, namely Google safebrowsing, Personal Anti-Phising Sidebar, FirePhish Anti-Phishing Extension or TrustWatch Search Extension by GeoTrust.

7) IE7 has a “MSN search” box next to the URL box (IE6 has it too?), but now it permits to add other search engines. Firefox has had it for ages:


Figure 3: Internet Explorer 7

Figure 4: Firefox

8 ) IPv6 support, I think was present at XP (through obscure commands), now is properly handled. How long has this been correctly handled under Linux?

9) UAC (User Account Control). A garbage far inferior to the user management in UNIX-like systems (I added the boldface bits):

A new User Account Control (UAC) function enables those whose accounts possess administrator-level privileges (or who log on using the Administrator account) to perform actions unavailable to other types of user accounts [it always was like that for UNIX]. Those who lack such rights will be informed that they lack the privileges necessary to run the program [it always was like that for UNIX], and that they should execute it under a different account instead. This doesn’t mean logging out and then logging back in is strictly necessary [it never was in UNIX. su to different user, then exit.], though, because those who have access to privileged account information can always use the “runas” [another MS reinventing and renaming, now for sudo] command to access more privileged credentials.

The guiding idea behind this technique is called the “principle of least privilege” [used in UNIX since the down of times]. Under this doctrine, users who normally work on a Windows machine should log in using ordinary user accounts, so that if they contract a virus or other malware, that unwanted software is a lot less able to do serious damage than if they routinely log in using administrative privileges. But Microsoft hasn’t taken this principle entirely to heart, either. The first user defined during installation is automatically granted administrative privileges. Worse yet, the reserved account named Administrator is not required to have a password to log into the machine!

Moreover, unless under Windows, in UNIX-like systems different users have different privileges regarding reading, writing and executing not only root’s (again, MS renames to “Administrator”) files, but also each other’s files. Maybe I can read some or your files, but not write to them, maybe you can let me write to some of your files, maybe I let you see what’s inside one of my dirs, and open (but not modify) some files in it, and not even open some others.

10) Windows Updates has been improved, but still I can’t see anything that Debian APT, SUSE YaST or RedHat RPM can not do. I can’t see, either, some things that APT, YaST and RPM can do. I don’t know if Window Updates has those capabilities, the review just doesn’t mention them.

11) At startup, it checks whether hard disk defragmentation is necessary. What kind of shitty filesystem needs defragmentation nowadays! Journaled filesystems such as ReiserFS and others certainly don’t!.

12) I quote: “Some things never go away: even for Windows Vista, installing some new system components still requires a reboot.” This is really garbage. In Linux only a kernel reinstall forces a reboot (you can choose not to reboot, just the new kernel won’t be active until you reboot).

13) The review spends 7 of its 40 pages commenting games included with Windows Vista (such as Minesweeper or Solitaire, but also a 3D chess game and some others). While critics for that excess should go to the reviewer, not MS, it is still true that with a long overdue OS, any delay that the polishing of the games could have caused would be criminal.

14) I read in the #218 issue of Computer Hoy (Spanish computer magazine), that the Windows Search utility in Windows Vista has been highly optimized. Basically, so far Search looked up the actual filesystem when looking for some file, whereas now it makes use of periodically renewed indexed lists, that say what is where, so the lookup is much faster. While this is a vast improvement, the Unix/Linux users must be far from impressed. The wheel that Microsoft smartasses reinvented here is the GNU locate, an oooold friend of GNU/Linux users. What the Windows Search did, was similar to the alternative program find.

All in all, I would say that they have spent a few years since Windows XP just polishing the look of Vista, and trying to copy what the FLOSS movement has been innovating. To me, an OS should be completely independent of the look of the desktop, or the games it includes, or how utility applications work. But, well, maybe it’s just me.

Read also: 20 things you won’t like about Window Vista.

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