Archive | March, 2006

US Residents Prefer DSL to Cable?

Over at Ars Technica, Eric Bangeman posts US residents like DSL better than cable. “Broadband adoption continues to climb slowly, and now the question is which form consumers prefer, cable or DSL?” Interesting results. I’m not sure all that many people have the choice, with the requirement that DSL must be installed within a certain distance of a “central office” (CO). We have cable internet for our recreational surfing and hobbies, and business DSL for the home office. The business DSL is slower. Both have been remarkably solid (knock wood). Front-line tech support for both has been clueless, but when you get to a real tech, I’ve been dealt with promptly, knowledgeably and courteously. Pricing is unfortunately not a differentiator as both the local cable and incumbent telephone have no (wired) competition, and satellite doesn’t seem practical.

Printing color business cards with Kubuntu, Officejet d145 and glabels

Beta-testing the “Flight 5” beta of “Dapper Drake” (gotta love the code names!) of Kubuntu (the KDE variant of Ubuntu) and I wanted to print some business cards using the awesome glabels program. My printer is an HP OfficeJet d145 using the optional HP jetDirect 200m network print server. While the distro does support and recognize the JetDirect standard, my particular printer model isn’t on the supplied (and extensive!) printer list. A quick Google points to the printer definition file at Start the print dialogs with System. Administration, Printing off the menu, specify the JetDirect interface and IP address, and pick “Install” to specify the printer model. A couple more clicks and a test page prints successfully. Awesome! Hi-res color printing, support for the network interface, the duplexer and all. How hard can it be?

Dabo Runtime Engine For Windows 0.6.2 released

Ed Leafe announced today: “The Dabo Runtime Engine for Windows is a self-contained environment that allows you to run Dabo on Windows without having to first install all of the requirements. It comes with its own version of Python 2.4.2, wxPython, MySQLdb 1.2.0, kinterbasdb 3.2.0a1, ReportLab v.2463, and several other modules used in Dabo.”

Check out dabo at Dabo is a rich-client application framework for data-centric applications. Written in Python, it provides multiple database support, WinTel, MacOSX, Linux front ends, and some remarkable capabilities. While the entire dabo projects is at version 0.6.2, Ed says that the visual tools are around 0.5 while the actual framework is 1.0+.

CentralLUG, 3 April 2006: MS Office Docs to PDF

The monthly meeting of CentraLUG, the Concord/Central New Hampshire chapter of the Greater New Hampshire Linux Users Group, occurs on the first Monday of each month on the New Hampshire Institute Campus starting at 7 PM. This month, we’ll be meeting in Room 146 of the Library/Learning Center/Bookstore, marked as “I” on this map. Further directions and maps are available on the NHTI site at Open to the public. Free admission. Tell your friends.

This month’s meeting will feature David Berube of presenting techniques to extract content from MS Office documents. From David:

“Microsoft Office documents are ubiquitous. However, the Microsoft Office suite is not available for all platforms and comes with a prohibitive cost attached to it. While a variety of open source readers are available to read the MS Office suite formats, you can‰t always count on the user having installed one these readers. On the other hand, PDF viewers are common, freely available, and have a much smaller footprint than an office suite. This presentation will show you how to programatically convert Word and Excel documents into PDF, using open source tools and PHP.”

More details at about the group are available at

Should be a great presentation. Hope to see you there!

How Important Is Certification?

SysAdmin magazine asks “How Important Is Certification?.” I’ve pushed certification for years and think that certification is what you make of it: a marketing move, a means of self-validation, a way of determining a basic knowledge level, an indication of a self-starter. Paper Tigers abound in all fields. Certification is no panacea. But it’s a start. Eventually, a professional certification and licensing process like that for Engineers is inevitable, providing a balance of both legal protection and legal liability.

Voting Software Glitch Invalidates Local Results

It’s not just the national and statewide election results that are threatened by poor software. Local school district results are endangered too:

“A company that sells and operates vote-counting machines made a mistake programming the machine that tabulated the results of the Monadnock Regional School District election March 14.”

Fortunately, the machine was counting paper ballots so once the glitch was caught, the ballots could be re-run. However, if the vote had been paperless, there might be no way to recapture the initial selections. We need to be awfully careful as we automate voting that both innocent mistakes, as this appeared to be, and malicious tampering isn’t allowed. Publishing the software, vetting and auditing it and the results are necessary. Few processes should be more transparent than voting.

Microsoft: The Road Ahead

Vista problems might be bigger than admitted.

(InfoWorld) – “More delays in the release schedule for Windows Vista revealed Friday hint that problems with getting the OS out the door may be broader than Microsoft has articulated.”

I’m sorry to see Jim Allchin’s departure from Microsoft marred by project Longhorn/Vista hitting the wall. The media went hysterical on Friday with predictions of the death of Microsoft. The parallel news story that Office 2007 is going to be released at the same time (whenever that may be) sent pundits flying to their keyboards with their pre-made Microsoft agendas.

An uncredited “insider” report that “sixty percent of Vista must be rewritten” is the closest thing I’ve read lately to “the sky is falling.” If that’s even within an order of magnitude of being true, the OS that’s been under development since – what, a year before XP shipped? – would not ship until… let’s see, 2001 to 2006, times sixty percent… well. That’s not a month’s shipdate-slip, that’s three years. Not gonna happen. While the product is supposedly in beta now, which should mean feature-complete and just killing showstopper bugs, it’s likely a feature or two (there are two left, aren’t there?) more could be cut to meet whatever arbitrary shipdate they pick. The fact that they have destroyed the trust of their hardware OEMs by missing the holiday season is a sign that something is seriously wrong. But the press hoopla of Friday is unlikely to have brought out the real reasons just yet.

While I think the current hysteria is pretty badly exaggerated, I continue to be deeply skeptical of any new OS that Microsoft thinks they can deploy into the marketplace purely based on hardware turnover and not upgrades. While workstation purchasers at office supply stores may not have another alternative, I’ve encouraged my clients to buy ahead now to lock their systems into Windows XP, avoid the Microsoft upgrade programs, and take advantage of OEM/ISV/Partner arrangements that can get them XP licenses as long as possible. I’ve heard fellow developers already telling their clients “No Vista until SP1!”

Microsoft’s got a tough road ahead.

Fedora Core 5 isos available – grab the BitTorrent while it flows!

Slashdot post: Fedora Core 5 Available. Jan Slupski writes “New release day today. Fedora Core 5 CD images are now available for download (i386, ppc, x86_64) on the ftp servers or via the torrent page.” Linclips also has a short screencast on some of the default functionality.”

Cranked up Azureus to download and share the ISOs for the FC5 DVD and 5-CD set(!) (plus rescue CD). If you like the Red Hat Way and like messing with some of the more experimental stuff out there, Fedora will show you what to expect in Red Hat Enterprise Linux in the next version. For workstations, I’m using a mix of Fedora and Ubuntu. For servers, I set clients up with one of the RHEL flavors. In-house, we’re pinching pennies with Fedora and CentOS.

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This work by Ted Roche is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States.