Archive for Windows

Protect your Privacy in a Post Prism World

What Microsoft does to Protect your PrivacyWe’ve been hearing a lot about Prism lately. It’s a big topic and a big deal. I hear excuses for it all the time. “If you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about.” “It’s for our security!” Blah blah blah. None of the many excuses I’ve heard have remotely justified Prism to me. That’s one of the many reasons that I rely on Linux to protect my privacy.

Microsoft and the NSA

If you’re using Windows, and you want to protect your privacy, you can spend a lot of money to do it. You can buy packages that will protect Windows. You can upgrade your firewalls. You can install virus and malware protection. You can encrypt your files.

Do you honestly think that will protect you from the NSA and having your data sucked down at will by Prism? Of course it won’t.

The trick here is that Microsoft allegedly is working with the NSA. They’re giving the NSA access and allowing them to bypass their encryption. Nothing you’re installing to protect your privacy is working.

Now, Microsoft has denied that this is the case. What we now have is a case of he said she said regarding your privacy. Who do you believe? And that’s the billion dollar question.

Any OS can be Secured, Sorta

Microsoft would have you believe that Windows can be just as secure as Linux, and they’re doing everything in their power to protect your privacy. The thing is, you have to take their word for it. And that’s not just the case with Windows and Microsoft. It’s the case with any proprietary OS where the code is locked away from the customer. We can’t look and see if what Microsoft is telling us is true. We can’t look and see what Apple is telling us is true.

It’s hidden.

This is where Linux by it’s very nature is better. The code is open, and anybody with an Internet connection can download that code and verify that no NSA snoop has a back door to their operating system. Just by being open, Linux does more to protect your privacy than Microsoft and Apple combined. Combine Linux with tor, and you’re virtually invisible. On top of that, you don’t have to spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars to achieve this. It’s all free.

Protect Your Privacy

Even before Prism, I had a hard time coming up with a good reason to use Windows. Now, post Prism, continuing to use Windows or OSX seems like you’re just wrapping your private affairs in a pretty bow as a gift for anybody that Microsoft or Apple makes a deal with. If you’re even slightly interested in keeping your private matters private, you should be using Linux.

Attention Hospitals: Use Linux!

Use Linux!I’ve been pretty quiet lately, and there’s a good reason for this. One Wednesday, my 28 week pregnant wife went into labor. She went in for a checkup because her Braxton Hicks contractions (false contractions) were really bothering her, and she was informed that they weren’t exactly Braxton Hicks. She was admitted the the hospital and started on Magnesium to stop the contractions (28 weeks is really early for those that are unaware) and some steroids to speed lung development in the baby if the Magnesium didn’t work. Fortunately, the Magnesium has seemed to do it’s job, and she’s feeling as well as a 28 week pregnant woman is suppose to feel. They’re releasing her from the hospital today if all goes according to plan, which the nurses and doctors all assure us is what they expect.

During this time, my wife and I have managed to turn our little hospital room into a small computer lab. We’ve got 3 laptops, two tablets, and two smart phones. The hospital is nice enough to provide us with wifi for our Internet surfing needs.

Now that my nerves have settled down a bit from the thought of having a baby that early, I feel the urge to point something out. I feel a little uncomfortable when I see all your medical equipment hooked up to computers running Windows XP.

Yea, Windows XP.

Hospitals, you should really not be using Windows XP for two reasons that I, as a patient, find very important.

Stability

We’re dealing with medical equipment here, so it’s important that it’s available when it needs to be available. While the Windows running medical equipment wasn’t absolutely essential to my wife’s recovery, I would hate to hear of a situation where something catastrophic happened and it resulted in the loss of life. You don’t want to be suffering from a BSOD when the D could be quite literal. I don’t even mean that to sound funny. This is a serious situation, and an unstable operating system like Windows XP could literally cost a patient everything. For me and my loved ones, Windows XP is not nearly up to par. Use Linux! Please.

Security

Beyond the obvious stability issues, Windows XP can’t be counted on for security. I understand that this is medical equipment, and that the doctors and nurses aren’t exactly surfing Facebook on it, but if the patches aren’t kept up to date, they might as well be. I recall at one point in my career that an unpatched Windows XP box would survive less than a minute on the Internet before it was infected with something. Less than a minute!

I understand that Microsoft has fixed most (if not all) of the issues that caused that short infection Window, but new things are popping up for Windows machines literally daily. I don’t want a system with all the medical information of me or a loved one on it to have all the security of a rickety screen door. Windows XP is not what I would consider the peak of secure systems. All it takes is one infected computer inside the network, and hundreds if not thousands of patients information could be floating around on the Internet. This wouldn’t be possible if hospitals just used a system that was less vulnerable to infection than their patients. Please, use Linux!

Available Options

OK, I know that some of the software that they’re using may not work in Linux, but I think my concerns are valid ones. Further, with as messed up as the medical system is in the United States, do you seriously want to throw in licensing concerns and costs to Microsoft?

I brief glance around the web showed me that there are some options available, and if there’s some pressure to move to a more stable and secure environment, I’m sure some of these software companies would comply. There’s nothing for them to gain as a company by not supporting more stable and secure environments.

If you work for a hospital in the IT department, please look into these options. If you don’t work in a hospital and you’re just in one, or if you’re non-IT staff, please ask your IT staff to look into these options:

Speaking for myself and my family, I would feel a lot safer if hospitals ditched Windows entirely. Please, use Linux!

Antivirus for Linux

LinuxBugIt never fails to amaze me just how the same arguments keep coming up over and over again, like bad pennies. Most of them ignore facts so blatantly it gives me a headache.

The I’m referring to today is the one about Linux Viruses.

First of all, Linux Viruses exist. Yep, it’s true, they exist. There’s actually a couple of them. Wikipedia lists an even 30 of them. There’s even Virus protection for Linux.

True, compared to MacOS and Windows, that’s a drop in the bucket. Barely worth noticing. And that’s where the same old argument comes up time and again.

“The reason that Linux doesn’t have viruses like MacOS and Windows is because it’s not as popular!” The argument is that if more people used Linux, there actually would be viruses for Linux. The completely ignores the fact that the desktop is the exception, not the rule. Linux dominates elsewhere. Servers, smart phones, super computers, etc. Linux is kicking ass and taking names. A virus that could infect all those systems would be hugely valuable both monetarily and for a reputation. Yet, it doesn’t happen.

Even  the ones that already exist pretty much suck compared to their Microsoft and Apple counterparts.

So is there a reason to even consider running anti-virus on your Linux computer? Shockingly, the answer is still yes, but not for the same reasons some Mac users and all Windows users should.

You should run anti-virus on your Linux machine as a courtesy to your non-Linux using friends. Their systems aren’t as impervious as yours, so even though your computer is unlikely to get any infection, the same can’t be said for theirs. This also helps you in the long run when all those non-Linux computers aren’t infected blasting out TBs of garbage data out onto the Internet, slowing your connection down and filling your Inbox with spam.

In the long run, we all win.

Mondays Suck

 

Monday's Suck

The clock on my computer is telling me that it’s 11:20 AM. It’s Monday, and everything has sucked today.

Work

Work drug me out of bed this morning with unresponsive web servers. Intermittent issues are always the worst. Took two hours to track down a web app that was only generating an error on one node of the cluster. Restarted the app and everything worked like a charm.

Phone

I decided last night that I wanted to root my phone. After the ICS update it’s been running so slowly sometimes it takes minutes to just make a call. Apps are barely usable. It’s pathetic really. I found a nice little article over on Lifehacker titled “How to Root the HTC Thunderbolt“. Seems promising since it’s only a couple months old.

First complication: “you’ll just need to download the batch script on this page, run it on your Windows machine, and follow all the instructions.” Ewww, Windows.

OK, this can be dealt with.

I fire up a Windows machine, download the necessary crap, and get my phone in a state that the app requires. OK, let’s fire this baby up!

crashNot only did the phone spontaneously restart, the Windows machine BSODed. I tried it twice more (because I’m stubborn that way) with the same results. It amazes me that people use Windows. What kind of POS operating system takes a complete dump running a glorified batch file? Finally gave up because I have work to do.

Tablet

My tablet is an old beater HP TouchPad that’s hacked to run CM9. Most days it does alright for itself, but lately everything is crashing all the time. I’m not sure if these later CM9 nightlys are just less stable or if the tablet is going down the crapper. Apps like GMail crash. Maps doesn’t even install due to some weird conflict. Google+ crashes. SwiftKey works but the tablet doesn’t seem to recognize that you’re typing on it so you can’t enter text. I get weird digital garbage in the conversation when I use Skype or Google Talk.

I’m about ready for something (ANYTHING) to work today. So damn frustrating. Mondays suck.

 

Microsoft Surface Review

Today I finally managed to get my hands on Microsoft’s newest device, the Microsoft Surface. My wife and I were wandering around our local Best Buy with no intention of buying anything, and there they were, sitting on display next to the Samsung tablets. Given the environment, there were obviously problems, but I won’t hold those against the Surface (despite the fact that the other tablets were all working fine). Here are my impressions of Microsoft’s device.

The Device Itself

Holding the device, I didn’t notice much difference in weight compared to other tablets it’s size. This isn’t a scientific measurement, I just held it. I’m sure there’s a difference, but it wasn’t really noticeable in the few minutes I played around with it. The texture of the device was nice. The design? Not so much. Microsoft decided to go the in the opposite direction from every other tablet maker on the market, and make the device kind of, well, sharp. There are unrounded edges on the device which are apparent as soon as you pick up the device. Personally, I didn’t like it as much as the rounded corners of pretty much every other tablet. I didn’t experience any physical discomfort in holding the Surface, but I only held it for 10 minutes or so. The screen was nice, and the resolution was good.

The OS

2012-12-27 14.31.34Wow, this is opening up a can of worms, but the OS is pretty much everything I expected it to be. Horrible. I’ve only had the chance to try it on a phone before, and I thought it was functional but ugly. On a tablet, it’s even less functional, but still ugly. I opened up several different applications, but the one that jarred me the most was the Office 13 Preview. Opening that app kicked me into Desktop mode immediately. To me, it was akin to reading something and having it ripped out of your hand mid-sentence and having to change your point of view to something different. I didn’t like it at all. One of the other things I noticed when I was trying it out was the picture at left. This is a minor thing, but it popped out at me. When I tried out the login, I realized that I didn’t have the password to get back in. I thought that maybe they left it blank for demonstration purposes, so I tried that. I was wrong in my guess, but when it came back to let me know that, the text didn’t even line up correctly in the box.

Dead Horse

I’m not going to keep going. I didn’t get a lot of time with the device, but in the time I did have with it, I wasn’t impressed. Not everything about the Surface was bad, and if there were no other tablets on the market anywhere (say in some alternate reality where iOS and Android didn’t exist), I’d consider it mostly functional. What I did see was that there was absolutely nothing about this device that would ever make me consider it over more well established players in the market. I mean seriously, I’d even choose an iPad over this thing and that’s saying something.

My Wife’s Thoughts on Linux

Custom Wedding Cake Topper made by Esther Taal: http://www.fliepsiebieps.com/

Right after the start of August, my wife finally had enough of Windows. Her computer crashed, and it was the last straw. I convinced her to try Linux (Ubuntu specifically).

A couple of days ago, I asked her to write me up a small little blurb on what she thought so far. I thought that what she wrote was perfect, so I’m just going to paste let it stand on it’s own merits!


My first impressions of Linux (on my computer)

To start with a little bit of a background, I’ll tell you a little bit about the reasons why Linux has taken up residence on my desktop machine, and what sort of “prior” experience I had with it. I can’t say that I was ever 100% delighted with Windows, and despite the frustrations I’ve experienced with it, Windows has done what I needed and it was there (i.e. it came installed on my computers, ready to go). My games and other applications ran on it. A few things I bought “after market” for my computer, like a TV capture card or somesuch had to be tinkered with a fair bit, but they worked eventually in Windows. It has been this way for me for nearly two decades.

Fast forward to the past 9 months or so. I bought my newest computer when the one before it up and died (in all actuality, the motherboard probably went out, but it was about time for a new one, so why not). It started out that my internet connection would cut out from time to time. That got really irritating after a while, and when my computer died again (with it being less than 6 months old), it was replaced with a new motherboard and all was supposed to be right with the world. Wrong. My internet would still go in and out, and it looked like an issue with the wireless internet adapter. That was, until Mike suggested I try out a Linux bootable CD just for kicks and giggles. And the internet never went out. Shocking.

I’m not afraid of Linux. I know better than to think that Linux is all command line, all intentionally super user-unfriendly, and only designed for computer techy geeks. I mention those preconceived notions because when you mention Linux to someone who has no idea what it is, they just assume that it’s non-graphical and does something really weird. So, again, I’m not afraid of Linux. I’m lazy. I’m too lazy to change off of what was just there and what was working. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, because I had to put a lot of work into making things “go” in Windows, so why would I be afraid of putting in the same amount of work to making things “go” in Linux? I saw my husband with Linux on his machine, and he began playing all of the games that he’d had in Windows. He was starting to sell me.

The breaking point was when my Windows side was not holding a connection to the internet, and it was becoming more of a pain and a time suck to get basic tasks done. Knowing that I wasn’t totally ridding myself of the Windows side, I just said…do it. Mike…do it. Put Linux on. Make it work. So he did. Now here are my perceptions.

Speed: Yeah, there really is no contest. My computer booted Windows pretty quickly (usually), but it boots Linux even faster. I didn’t think that was possible. It loads just about everything just as quickly, if not more so, than Windows. In terms of speed, it also doesn’t seem to slow down when I stress programs out. I’m notorious for having 20-30 different Word/word processing documents open at the same time while grading. Simultaneously having at least a dozen tabs in Chrome going. Throw in a couple of PDFs and maybe a spreadsheet, and that usually slows things down on the Windows side, but I don’t notice a whole lot of slow down on the Linux side.

Programs/Applications: There are a lot of spiffy little applications that go with my Linux side. I think they’re actually a lot easier to get a hold of than something that would be an equivalent in Windows. Little widgets, things for desktop customization and things to make your desktop more streamlined and clean. Honestly, my desktop has never looked so clean (and no, it isn’t because I just haven’t cluttered it up yet!).

OK, now on flip side of things, possible negatives. Ubuntu comes with (I think) Libre office, which has had some quirks (as in, it isn’t Microsoft Office, and although close, it has mangled a few documents, made speakers notes invisible in some presentations, just to name a few). I play a few games, and I know my husband has figured out ways to make them work, those modifications aren’t on my system (yet), and they took a bit of research to figure out. As I said, I play a few games, and rarely, but it could be a bigger problem for those who have a bigger variety of games that they play (that were designed for Windows primarily).

Interface: It doesn’t look like Windows, and there are some differences for those switching over from Windows. Nothing major. There’s no big Start/Windows button. I use alt-tab a lot, and that does work, but a little differently (I actually like the Linux function better). That’s all I’ve got there.

So my initial impression is that it works. That is more than I can say for the Windows side. The speed is faster, the interface is cleaner, and the ability to customize things to look how I want them to look is there and easy to play with. Only downside I see now is that I want my Star Trek Online, The Sims, or Civilization V to run, but no big deal.

Mike asks how it is working for me, and I can see how giddy he is waiting for my response (because he’s converted another…LOL!). I’m not one to get all super excited about my operating systems, but he should know that he’s got a winner on this, even if I’m not going all crazy excited about it on my system now. I’m glad it works. If it makes my husband all happy inside, that’s an added bonus :)

Android: Intent on Winning

I doubt many people were not aware of Apple’s latest announcements concerning iOS. Of course Apple again held their little party and pomped and circumstanced all over. This is to be expected. Pretty much any company making an announcement will do virtually the same thing. What concerns me is the reaction to these announcements in the media.

I ran across a comparison over on PCWorld.

First of all, the comparison itself is bogus. The author took only the features that Apple announced that were new about iOS, and compared other platforms to that list. This automatically gives iOS the upper hand. If I were to list the new features of Android or even Win7Phone and compare those to another platform, it’s going to appear as if the OSs being compared are falling short. Unfortunately, this is pretty normal behavior for PCWorld. There are quite a number of Apple fans on staff and they conceal it rather poorly, if they make an effort at all.

Second of all is the small portion of the chart that I pulled out and posted down below (headers left intact for ease of understanding).

See how the Facebook and Twitter integration for Android is listed as “3rd party apps only”? To me, this is implied inferiority from the creator of this chart. It screams “iOS does this better because it’s integrated and in Android it’s not!” This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way first. The chart is technically correct. Android doesn’t build Twitter or Facebook support directly into the Operating System. Instead it does something much better. Intents.

An intent in Android is a mechanism allowing for apps to communicate with each other. This includes the OS itself.

Using Intents, Android can create very similar functionality to what iOS users see when Apple integrates a service into the OS. Not being integrated is it’s greatest strength. This allows for Android to give integrated type functionality to any application installed on the device. Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, LinkedIn, you name it.

Because the service isn’t integrated, the OS is a lot more versatile.

Allow me to propose a hypothetical. In the not very distant future, Apple trots out iOS6 on it’s new iPhone, complete with it’s neat and spiffy Facebook integration. Shortly after that, there’s a social revolution. A new player appears on the scene. Let’s call it MyFace. Because of several new and really cool features MyFace offers that Facebook doesn’t, users leave Facebook in droves. Facebook becomes a ghost town. iOS users are now finding this new Facebook integration almost entirely useless. Android users simply delete the Facebook app from their device and install the new and really shiny MyFace app. Intents allow for MyFace to be instantly integrated with the device. A year passes, and Apple finally gets around to updating their OS to implement MyFace, removing the now defunct Facebook, only to find that MyFace is old hat. It’s been replaced with a new service, SpaceBook. Android users simply remove MyFace from their device, install SpaceBook, and go on with their social lives. iOS users are stuck waiting, again.

Now, is this analogy plausible? Well, two new and dominating social networks over the course of a two years is pretty far fetched, but that’s not the point. With Android, it doesn’t matter how fast the industry changes. Android changes just as fast. Intents allow for that to happen. iOS is not nearly as agile. It’s slow and dependent on Apple to move it forward.

To often today I’m seeing journalists holding up one of Apple’s greatest weaknesses as if it were one of it’s greatest strengths. Make no mistake, iOS is a dinosaur. It just doesn’t know that it’s extinct yet.

Second Thoughts about Linux

I’ve had people ask when they find out that I’m a Linux user if I miss Windows. Do I ever have any second thoughts about moving from Windows? They think that I have to, or maybe that I’ve never tried a Mac and that’s why I’ve chosen Linux over a Mac.

I recently agreed to help out a friend of mine who’s computer wasn’t working correctly. She dropped her computer off with me, and I setup the beast in an empty space. I fire this thing up to find that it’s running, of course, Windows XP. Everything seems to load up correctly, but the DNS just isn’t working. Pings work, no DNS. I go through the regular fixes and nothing is working.

This isn’t a “please help me fix this stupid Windows XP” type of post. No, it’s nothing like that. I’ve done this exact thing so many times, I can’t even tell you. I couldn’t begin to count. Thousands, if not tens of thousands of times. Every time, it’s the same crap. Infinite amounts of frustration.

See, people are always telling me how hard Linux is to make work. I don’t think that those people have the foggiest idea what goes into keeping Windows up and running correctly. My Linux desktop sits there on my desk, happily running along with never a care in the world. Every (and I mean that) Windows computer I’ve run across has had some type of problem.

So, to all those people out there that wonder if I miss Windows or if I’ve ever had second thoughts? The answer is HELL NO.

That’s all I wanted to say.

The Stupid Overwelms Me

Today I read what I can only say is the most stupid explanation for why people choose Windows over Linux (or Mac for that matter). I couldn’t even think of a response.

Its like this question – if you take a baby girl and a baby boy and place them on a deserted island with just food and water, would they know how to reproduce. The answer is yes they will because it is part of human nature and is natural. As is Windows is natural to a PC. Linux and OS X no matter how good they are, just aren’t a natural choice.

I don’t usually dedicate a whole post to something like this, but the sheer magnitude of the stupid demands it.

Five (Lame) Reasons for Windows 8 (A Linux Users Perspective)?

Today I ran across an article by Preston Gralla titled “Five Reasons You’ll Want Windows 8“. I figured, why not read it? I could use a good laugh.

I didn’t even understand what I was getting myself into. These reasons are sad people. I thought I’d go through them for fun.

  1. Metro:  Seriously? Metro? I will grant that there is some functionality in Metro that is interesting, but damn is it ugly. I have Windows 8 running in a VM on my home computer, and I can’t get over just how ugly it is. Add to this, it just doesn’t seem practical in a non-touch environment. I can see where it would have it’s uses on a tablet or even a phone, but on a desktop computer, it’s terrible.
  2. Built-in apps: I don’t even know what he’s talking about with this one. The built-in apps that I’ve seen in the developer version I’m running are sparse and lame. They operate in a tablet mode (meaning taking the whole screen), and lack functionality that I think would make them useful. Tweet@rama is the example Preston used, and it doesn’t come close to comparing to Tweetdeck.
  3. Cloud integration: Is it 2009 still? Yea, Linux has been doing that since there was a cloud, and Microsoft’s version certainly provides no motivation to switch.
  4. It’s fast: So? Linux is faster. Try again.
  5. New Windows Explorer: This one I thought was the funniest of all of them. The “New” Explorer is virtually identical to the old Explorer, but now it’s got a ribbon! Keep in mind that this is a ribbon that takes up 1/4 of the window, and rarely needs to be used.
Seriously, these are the best reasons you can come up with to try Windows 8? Anyone that’s already using Linux will just look at this and shake their head in wonder. I’m reading it again because I still just can’t believe it said what it said. OK, moving on now.