Google ditches Windows on security concerns

Google is phasing out the internal use of Microsoft’s Windows operating system because of security concerns, according to several Google employees. The Financial Times reports that since early January, new hires were still being allowed to install Windows on their laptops, but it was not an option for their desktop computers. Google would not comment on its current policy.

Windows is known for being more vulnerable to attacks by hackers and more susceptible to computer viruses than other operating systems. The greater number of attacks on Windows has much to do with its prevalence, which has made it a bigger target for attackers.

Employees wanting to stay on Windows required clearance from “quite senior levels”, one employee said. “Getting a new Windows machine now requires CIO approval,” said another employee.

New hires are now given the option of using Apple’s Mac computers or PCs running the Linux operating system. “Linux is open source and we feel good about it,” said one employee. “Microsoft we don’t feel so good about.”

Internet addiction

addiction

A recent study by Leeds University has found evidence of a link between excessive internet use and depression. The information was collated from a questionnaire-based study of 1,319 young people and adults, used data compiled from respondents to links placed on UK-based social networking sites.

The respondents answered questions about how much time they spent on the internet and what they used it for; they also completed the Beck Depression Inventory – a series of questions designed to measure the severity of depression. The report, by the university’s Institute of Psychological Sciences, said 18 of the people who completed the questionnaire – 1.4% of the total – were internet addicts.

“Our research indicates that excessive internet use is associated with depression, but what we don’t know is which comes first – are depressed people drawn to the internet or does the internet cause depression?” the article’s lead author, Dr Catriona Morrison, said, “What is clear is that, for a small subset of people, excessive use of the internet could be a warning signal for depressive tendencies.”

This is the first in depth study of its kind in the west and now leaves us to consider what the wider societal implications are. Today in the Guardian there are reports of a couple in Korea who allowed their three-month-old daughter to starve to death while they devoted hours to playing a computer game that involved raising a virtual character of a young girl.

Next Generation Investment

In the UK there is a new grant scheme available for low-income families with children aged 3-9, to get access to a computer and the internet to get online at home.

If you are a low income family in receipt of certain benefits you could qualify for a grant to buy a computer and/or a minimum of one years’ internet access. The programme is aimed at those that need it most and targets families that do not have access to a computer or the internet at home.

Depending on what you need, the grant allows eligible applicants to buy one of the following packages:

1. Full package (a computer, one year’s internet access, service and support)
2. A computer with service and support only
3. One year’s internet access only

I am pleased to see that parents will be allowed to purchase their own choice of pc and software, and that there is telephone support for those who are not familiar with using the internet. I think that this type of investment in children is so important, and will help to reduce inequalities in the education system and motivate children to learn.

Understanding Free and Open Source Software

GNU-Free-as-in-Freedom

There are many misconceptions floating around about free and open source software (foss). The purpose of this article is to address them and to better inform people.

The first response I seem to get when I discuss ‘free software’ is, oh but you have to pay for quality, or maybe, well how can developers afford to give away software for nothing. Well in the first instance, free refers to liberty rather than cost. Freedom to copy, change and modify software and indeed you may actually pay for access to free software, although this is generally not the case. Software code is like any other type of knowledge; it should not be hidden from the user.

Another frustrating and misleading idea is that foss kills innovation. If anything free software is the key to innovative creation, we only need to look at Firefox web browser or WordPress blogs to see non-proprietary software flourishing.

So you may ask why do we need to concern ourselves with free software if proprietary software works and can offer stability? In modern society computers, televisions and mobile phones are commonplace; indeed we have come to rely upon them. The software controls and transmits our sensitive information; we should be in control of this software and have a better understanding of how it works in order to maintain our liberty and control.

Other frustrating misconceptions about foss include political aspects. People at times assume that foss is akin to communism; this is a falsity. You can indeed have private ownership over free software, you can modify at will and can reap the rewards of its use. A free software licence only requires that if you do redistribute the software, that you must keep it free; allowing others to modify and redistribute. Or if you wish to keep your modifications private, you must ensure that the original free software is kept separate and that your addition does not contain the original work. The free software license is simply a legal and ethical contract between the programmer and the end-user.

I feel that whilst this information is relatively basic it is all to often taken for granted or misunderstood, so if this sounds repetitive then humour me please. Oh and Happy New Year!

Winners in the Top 10 Tools for Learning 2009

As usual I was reading planet TALO aka superuser network and read the post “Top Tools for Learning 2009” by Kerrie Smith.

It’s interesting to see that “educators” on the web are doing most of their computing using “Linux” and an “open source” web browser.

Lets look a bit closer at the top 10 software tools:

Many Flavours (cc) kobrasoft
Many Flavours (cc) kobrasoft



I know a secondary school student is more than capable of learning to build and run a web server but the way its taught in schools using IIS is really pathetic. The student doesn’t learn much and does it really empower them? No not all, it cripples them. I remember chatting to a young friend of mine about his early days in high school, he likes computers and studied ICT thinking it would be different in high school but it was the microsoft word training again, he told me he’d previously gone through the word training twice already in primary school. They are taught that pressing the “export as web-page” button is Web development so people should think about how much they can learn about word processing and word processor software on Ubuntu using open source software and compare it to what they learn and do now because obviously they aren’t learning anything useful about web development.

I don’t understand why there isn’t a government policy to have a preference for free and open source software yet or at least equity for students wanting to learn and use GNU/Linux. Imagine you work in a school as a computer/library assistant and there’s 40 or so pentium 3 computers in the store room and you want to use one to add a diskless web kiosk to the library, the computers are in the store room because they were replaced by newer computers with even bigger hard disks (the most expensive component?) and you wonder why they didn’t buy smaller cheaper hard disks if only 5gb of the 80Gb will ever be used, it would probably be worse these days.

Meanwhile the teachers are fighting for disk space on the server. Imagine asking a simple question; “May I use one of the computers in storage to add another computer to the library?”, obviously the first thing is the fact that those computers don’t work with the current version of windows, to cut a long story short if they’ve never heard of GNU/Linux then its likely they will reject the idea and sometimes give ridiculous reasons.

Its also a power issue, proprietary software users know all to well that you can gain power over people using software, its common in things like LMS’s and if you’re the guy who setup the school website then you can give people access to publish. There’s a lot of social politics involved in these things, whoever gets the better computer is not always the person who needs it.

Will the student wanting to use FOSS and GNU/Linux to learn about technology and software be allowed to do that in Australian schools? Choosing an operating system and software is part of the “Information Technology Systems Syllabus”, read the “Sample assessment task 1”. I wonder if the students have any rights or choice, perhaps it falls back to teacher preference.

If the general public knew about Ubuntu and the fact that unlimited copies are available for free, would they want a fair share of the systems running ubuntu in state funded education. Learning about technology shouldn’t be reduced to training kids to use proprietary products.

Most teachers Ive met say they’ve used “Linux” with their students but usually its just for a single day in the year.

So hows your favorite operating system do on the list of the top 500 supercomputers.

49435130_508e39b1fc_re-ality_540x195

How to install Tux Paint stamps

I’ve talked about Tux Paint on this blog over the years and produced an informative and slightly humorous Tux Paint demonstration video back in 2006. The video has been downloaded 1,066 times from internet archive.org and viewed 31500 times not including the 14000 views from the version with low quality audio which Ive deleted.

The most common question I get asked is “how do I get the stamps?“. All of the people who have asked are on the windows platform, I believe this is probably because on Debian/Ubuntu systems the stamp packages are installed with Tux Paint. So rather than continue to reply to all the email and comments I decided to write this howto and perhaps someone will do the screencast version.

Getting Tux Paint stamps for windows and mac osx

The steps are the same, visit the Tux Paint website, chose your operating system then download and install the optional stamps package.

tuxpaint_website_dos_dl
Chose OS then download and install stamps

Some of the people that asked me about the stamps must have been too excited at the time they downloaded Tux Paint and didn’t notice the optional stamps package or perhaps they didn’t install Tux Paint. If you’re having trouble you might need to ask an adult for help, if that fails just go colour.

Tux Paint stamps on Ubuntu

Ubuntu software package managment
Ubuntu software package managment

On Ubuntu we have advanced packaging tools, software management programs and remote software package repositories. Pretty much all the software on my system has been installed this way, its easier and more user friendly then installing software on other systems and the amount of top quality software you can install is amazing. Using search its easy to find cool new programs, for example if you’re a social media guru you might search for twitter, facebook or blog software, if you need a web server running a wiki you might simply install mediawiki and enjoy watching all the system dependencies get met. The two programs I’ll mention are the Ubuntu Software Center and Synaptic.

Ubuntu Software Center

The Ubuntu Software Center is new in Ubuntu 9.10, some people may not have upgraded so we will also look at Synaptic. Synaptic is usually installed on most versions of Ubuntu.

The Ubuntu Software Center is available from the Applications menu.

Ubuntu Software Center
Ubuntu Software Center

Simply use search, type tuxpaint and click the arrow and your done.

Ubuntu Software Center - Search
Ubuntu Software Center - Search

Synaptic

Synaptic is available through System Administration menu.

Again simply use Quick Search and type tuxpaint, Synaptic gives us more information about the packages, to install/uninstall software you tick the box and hit apply.

Synaptic - tuxpaint
Synaptic - tuxpaint

Tux Paint still reigns as the best educational paint software. Usually people are having too much fun with Tux Paint to think of it as an intelligent tutoring system within a highly interactive learning environment.

Tux Paint is available for free and as free software and you can also purchase the CD. It makes a great gift.

When Learning SEO

Don’t Worry About Validation

Being afraid to ask questions to your online community will only hinder your progress. Get your validation from offline sources of your life, like work, sport or hobbies.

Have a Vested Interest

Like a website with a clear commercial nature. If you don’t know what you’re trying to sell and to whom, you will flounder about in mediocrity.

Plan Your Tests

Before you start them. If you’re starting a PPC campaign for example, take the time to read up on different testing methods and the steps involved.

Keep It Simple

It’s easy to become overwhelmed. Take everything one step at a time and don’t be too fancy – you have enough on your plate.

MobilizeThis09

mobilizethis_flyer_logo
Mobilize This09 being held on Friday the 30th of October, brings together those pursuing the active use of mobile technologies and associated digital literacy in their daily lives, teaching and work related duties. The event will be held at Charles Darwin University, Australia – Google map, in the ‘Mal Nairn’ Auditorium. In attendance will be invited guests, Charles Darwin University staff and students and many registered community representatives.

The focus of this years events are on the showcasing of examples of where mobile related learning concepts interface with popular learning design. There will be ample opportunity for online participants to connect with physical activities happening.

As this has both interactive and broadcast free / live to air components to the program there is expected to be a large online audience also.

Please feel free to join in uStream and tell others about the Friday 30th event.

96% of public sector in France is using open source

opensource
Unixmen.com report that almost the entire public sector in France, 96 percent, is using open source, according to a  market survey. The most used applications are database management systems and content management systems.

A research firm, Markness, presented a summary of its report on the use of open source in France on 17 September in Paris. It is based on an on-line survey during in the summer months followed-up by interviews with 160 IT project directors, heads of procurement and other IT decision makers, half of which are employed in the private sector and the other half representing the public sector. Another fifty interviews were held with IT vendors.

Using open source requires firms and organisations to seek technical assistance and support, said 54 and 44 percent of the respondents. It also requires changes to their IT maintenance, said 38 percent. The research firm says that half of the respondents say that the current financial crisis is not a reason to switch to open source. However, to 39 percent this did make it more of an option. In 2011, open source will take up less than 20 percent of the IT budget of public sector institutes. Markness expects the French open source IT market to grow by more than 16 percent in 2011.