Archive for the ‘Software’ Category

MySQL bought. Suprise, I love it!

Friday, January 25th, 2008

Yet another company has bought an open source company. Sun bought MySQL AB. Now if you’re up on your open source history you’ll also know that Sun started StarOffice that broke off into the open source OpenOffice. So, Sun’s no stranger to open source.

The first feeling of disgust that will probably first hit your gut is that, “Hey it’s free software. Sun is going to take it and try to monetize it.” Well, I’m sure you’ve probably calmed down by now and realized that it really is a company and they’re not a non-profit (The story here is a link to a blog post on how much is an open source company worth).

So, aside from all that… Here’s my thought. In a constant effort to best Microsoft I see a real opportunity that the corporate world can use from open source. The one thing: Microsoft Access and SQL Server now can be done with OpenOffice Base and MySQL server.

Access was one of the killer apps that make it difficult to leave the windows world totally. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Microsoft hater but I do want to go to a pure Linux desktop especially in the enterprise. Say what you like but Access is a great low end database platform. It also keeps people tied into .Net, ADO, and Visual Basic. It seems that nobody even notices this primary organ in the commercial platform body.

Here’s what I think Sun should go for. Tightly integrate Base and MySQL then roll in a report writing software or just acquire a company doing that. Don’t worry, I’ve done the work for them. They should also buy or ally themselves with Jaspersoft or Datavision. The reason being, Crystal Reports. The unknown key to the empire.

If you’ve never heard of Crystal Reports then you don’t really work in a corporate setting. The majority of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Contact management software for the enterprise are printed through a seperate licensed product called Crystal Reports. Some times you could be offered the ability to buy it yourself and integrate it into the product through pre-configured links that replace the products’ bare-bones reporting software. Business Objects owns Crystal Reports and has developed a Linux server version of the software that develops reports with a watered down web based interface. SAP is the leader in ERP software and they bought Business Objects in order to own Crystal Reports which is a similar chess move. This way they stave off Oracle. In turn Oracle bought Seibel and Sleepycat software to threaten SAP and MySQL respectively.

Sun’s challenge is as follows: Make Base and MySQL drop in replacements of Access and SQL Server. Throw in reporting software and you’ve given yourself the ability to sneak into corporate environments everywhere. Digging into Microsoft and Oracle’s pockets and padding their own.

This is where Sun makes it’s money. Nobody’s buying Sun servers or Solaris (Let’s be real with ourselves). So, they sell companies on the workstations with Java on them (seeing as how both report writers run on Java as well as Windows, Linux, and Mac). Bingo! You have hardware sold, you get your foot in the server room door, and you have a drop in replacement giving companies open source with a commercial aftertaste.

Sun I don’t mind getting a little server for this grand idea and you can say it was your idea.

Your ultimate USB drive toolkit

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

Being a computer guy I’m often asked by people to look at their computer and tell them what’s wrong or can I help them figure something out. For that reason, I’m doing this post on some real tech tricks to make you look like a star. All that from a USB drive.

The first thing you have to realize is that being prepared for anything is always your goal. I’m never unarmed. There are a couple things that are always on my person like most men: wallet, keys, watch, cell phone, and most times my PDA (an HP IPAQ) . Turning any of these items into multipurpose tools makes you ready for anything. Women can of course get more mileage out of this because they carry a purse. Now, for the really techy, I will continue with a blog post on the ultimate home support system because there are a lot of times I connect to my systems at home from a client’s site. I put a USB stick on my keyring that has a ton of goodies as well as my IPAQ. Today we’ll focus on the USB stick.

For the quick and easy route I’d suggest a simple USB stick (doesn’t have to be U3) but you want it to 1 gig or bigger. This will work on a drive as small as 128mb but I always like to keep extra space on the drive in case I need to copy a lot of files over to it for backup purposes. The last thing you want to do with a machine that is on it’s last leg is turn it off and hope it comes back on.

For a long time now I’d been downloading applications individually and copying them to the drive. You’re still going to install some extra ones to the drive but first download this handy set of tools: PCRepairsystem.zip . It’s a fabulous set of tools from the site Daily Cup of Tech. It’s a zip file that you just download and extract to your USB drive. Pull out your drive and stick it back in and you’re done! Well, almost done. When you put it in it puts a little coffee bean next to your computer’s clock on the task bar. Right clicking on that clock brings up a list of programs that do everything from drive repair to rootkit revealers to CD burning. These will serve you well. Get to know what each program does and you have most everything you need.

Next make a visit to www.portableapps.com. This site is full of applications that you may already be using all the time except these are made to run straight from a USB drive. Believe me, having access to a computer and not having administrative rights can totally shut you down because you can’t just download and install the applications you wanted until this.

Take a look around and get what you like. These are some of the ones that I put on my stick and the reasons why.

Firefox: Always want a fully capable web browser.
Clamwin: To be able to walk up and scan a computer for virus’ is absolutely essential.
WinSCP: If you have access to another machine with a secure connection you can FTP or SSH to and from it. Openoffice: A full Microsoft Office competitor on a USB stick? You can’t beat that.
VLC: Will view any video or play any audio.
Gimp: A Photoshop like program. You may need to resize or edit photos or something for someone.

Now with all of these you have to save the file to your desktop then install them and give your USB drive letter in the install path. For example, where it says “Install path: \openoffice” put H: (or whatever your drive’s letter is) in front to make it H:\openoffice.

In closing, I’d suggest you open every program you put on your USB drive before leaving home. The last thing you want to do is be surprised while you’re on location. A good example of this is that the first time you run Clamwin it wants to download the virus database. Assuming you’re at a site with dialup or no internet on the machine you’ve just wasted a ton of time or won’t even be able to fix the problem.

Also, the program SIW on the PCRepairkit should be your first stop when looking at a system. It will tell you everything about the machine. Save this to your USB stick. Should anything happen to the computer you know what it had before.

That’s it! Go out there and make the world a better place with safe computing.

Oh, and just for your convenience, keep some music, podcasts, or things to read on your USB stick. You might get stuck somewhere for a long time. No need to be bored while a virus scan or drive repair runs.  I also put my resume on the drive.  As a consultant you have this time as a window of opportunity if someone really likes you and may have a big project coming up.

Too much choice in Open Source software

Sunday, November 11th, 2007

www.ted.comI watched a fascinating lecture on the Internet today (www.ted.com) The speaker gave a talk on the misconceptions of: choice and happiness. I found this extremely interesting and relative to how open source works. In a capitalistic choice driven society like the United States (my home) it feels almost sacrilegious to say. It is however, true. Let’s delve further into it.

What software can you say people are truly happen with in open source? Without a doubt I would say: Firefox, MySQL, and Apache. Let’s look at why. Of the top of your head, what are your choices? Not many. I’m sure you’re probably thinking “What’s that browser’s name?” for a second referring to Opera or “I heard I can run a lighter webserver” referring to Lighttpd. Fact of the matter is more often than not it’s either Firefox (or a perversion of it like Swiftfox packaged with some Linux distros) or you Operating system default such as Internet Explorer or Safari. PostgresQL is a choice to MySQL but who offers anything else? There are tons more but as long as you don’t think about those you’re happy in your MySQL world.

“Why is this good?” you may ask. My answer is simple but don’t stop reading after I answer, there’s more. It keeps programmers focused in the right directions.

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MS Office is now the bullseye

Monday, September 24th, 2007

I’ve never smoked cigarettes but for a couple years now I’ve totally understood that addiction. I’ll tell you what mine has been: Microsoft Office. I’d do anything to get a hold of it in my past. I worked a deal a while back to buy some licenses from a vendor that I bought a lot of products through so I still use it. However, that was quite a few years ago and right now I’m seeing no compelling reason to upgrade to Office 2007. FYI, my wife’s new Macbook came with Office 2007 so I may play with it more there.

I’ve blogged a long time ago about my dependence on Microsoft Outlook and Access. I’ve been trying to find a way around them to little avail. Well, that’s what it would seem like but I actually have found solutions but I still have that Office monkey on my back. At home and for my consulting I work in Linux, Windows, and Mac and one of the major themes of this blog is working well in all three or whatever you’re given. Well, with my laptop I primarily boot into Linux, my desktop I primarily use Windows and and my wife is on a Mac. The rest of my systems are a mixture of the three except I run all Linux servers. So, for consistency at home and for offices I really want to run the same software throughout.

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Convenient security

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

Ok, ok I’ll admit it. I preached the words I didn’t heed. My name is Phillip and I used to be insecure.

These would be the words I’d utter if there was an insecurity annonymous meeting. Without that facility to purge my transgresssions I will say them here. At work and for clients security was job one but at home… I was that guy with all the open routers. I was that guy with easy passwords. I’m not proud of my past I can only move on to help others.

In all seriousness, though, I was like many people. Insecure because we were too lazy to take the extra steps. Security always adds extra things to think about and that’s extra work. There are many good reasons for it though. First, I’ll give you the top 5 reasons people are insecure and then easy steps that remedy these problems.

1) “I don’t have anything anybody really wants.”

Know it or not there is so much information about you that can be known from a simple scan of your computer that can be used to get access to using your identity.

2) “I don’t leave my laptop laying around so anyone can touch it.”

Most security breaches aren’t from the intruder physically touching your machine. It’s from internet access to it. Especially when they know it’s idle.

3) “I use WEP encryption on my wireless. That’s good enough.”

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Do we need more features or more productivity

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

Lets face it people. Software does everything under the sun. It does even more with a little bit of tweaking knowledge. Let’s just look at the example of Microsoft Excel or Openoffice.org’s Calc. What else can you really do with a spreadsheet? At the same time the problem is if they don’t come up with something crazy to say is a new feature then you’ll feel they’re falling behind.  In a previous post (Visionary vs. Reationary) I said that Lotus 1-2-3 fell behind and eventually got forced out of the market.  What happened is that while they realized that they did all that needed to be done at the time for spreadsheets they sat on their hands not thinking about one small thing.  A pretty look in windows.  Microsoft didn’t miss this and stole their market and did the same to dBase.

My thinking here is that people are not really looking into the program they’re using to figure out how to be more productive.  I know. I know.  Here I am again always forcing you to do more work.  Your life is probably busy enough.  However, for the most part software has gotten like computer monitors.  The technology has pretty much come to a standstill but for a good reason.  It’s already good enough.  Now, I’m not talking about applications for multimedia or graphics because that’s always changing and growing but Microsoft Word?  DONE!  Word processing, spreadsheets, presentation software, and almost email (Outlook and MS Access are still the killer business apps that I can’t totally leave Microsoft for or I’d be 100% Linux).

It seems one group of people realize this.  Google.  They bought the company Writely a while back so that they could use they’re online word processor.  They’re putting a whole suite of applications online and don’t worry about training because if you use any one at home you can figure out theirs.  They’re all really the same.

My conclusion is simple.  The ball is in your court.  Microsoft Office 97 did everything you need to do things today the same way.  Openoffice is free and so is Google‘s office suite and they do everything you need.  The Mac desktop and the Linux Desktop do everything you need just because all the main programs are the same for the majority of users.  It’s not your computer’s limitations anymore.  It’s YOU.  Doing just enough won’t do anymore.

Visionary vs. Reactionary

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

The world is a very predictable place in a lot of ways. I have yet to document my methodology for picking winners but I have to learn to truly take advantage of this ability. As a person who is big on the stock market but only puts money on stock with a widget that I use like a fantasy league (and yes I’m winning a lot with my starting line up) you can tell how much I really jump out on a limb for new ideas in areas outside my expertise.

Thus my commentary today was a throw back to a conversation I had earlier with a friend of mine that I just figured out was a tech guy of the Cisco router persuasion. My cousin in tech enlightened me on the fact that he is big into Voice over IP and it took me back for a second. I knew that would be a big winner. I remember at the time telling a friend of mine that was a telecommunications guy, “I don’t think people are really going to want to pay $50,000 for a phone system just to get 20 phone lines in the near future. You should really get your Cisco or Nortel certifications in this area and stay ahead of the curve.” Of course I laughed talking to my new cousin in tech about where that person is now relating his staunch rebuttal of “This will NEVER dry up” as the calling card of the VHS over DVD guys.

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Sonos is slick but VLC is free

Friday, June 29th, 2007

VLC picture

I must say, I do a LOT of web browsing and a decent amount of blog reading and I came across a great idea for my house as it may be for yours as well. The original blog post was on a site call the Infected project (link to article). The article was on an easy way to set up the Video LAN Client (VLC) media player to be controlled remotely by a web interface.

Let’s start by saying, VLC is my media player of choice on every OS. I use it on Windows, Linux, and Mac and I LOVE IT. I turned my kids onto it about two years ago and they stopped using all other MP3 and video programs. It does it all and it’s a great open source program. As fickle as teens are if my oldest son says it even looks better you should believe him.

After I read the blog post I got a million ideas. First, most people have more than one computer in their house. Second, these computers are usually connected to the internet thus they are connected to each other. This made me think of a lot of great ideas for whole house audio. My older boys play music in their room all night. Thing is, when they go to sleep I end up roaming the house at 2 AM turning off their music. Now I don’t have to. I can control their VLC player from my handheld PC in my room. My 5 and 9 year old go to sleep listening to soft music from their computer. Knowing their IP address allows me to turn on/off their music or change it. Even better, I can lower the volume while I’m sitting in my room on my laptop doing some late night surfing. (more…)

RealPlayer 11 – Best new application of the year? Maybe.

Thursday, June 21st, 2007

realplayer11-main.jpg

An email request was sent to me by a friend of mine named Belinda about what she thought would be really groundbreaking news. This marketing exec extraordinaire need the scoop so I had to check this out. Your friendly neighborhood computer guy was hot on the case.
The application was the old school media favorite RealPlayer with a new facelift and a couple of new features. I’ve been well versed in the Real product line for quite some time. It’s been a great program to me but for some reason I have found it’s support of some codecs and the download of compatible ones to have many needs to be desired when great programs like VLC have less glitz but get the job done.

RealPlayer has put in a little glitz but it has one great super fantastic thing. It will save videos from the web to your hard disk. Yes, that is what it sounds like. You can go on youtube.com and see a video you like and save it to your hard drive. Watch it over and over again or give it to a friend (let’s get back to that friend part in a moment). Once installed it will make Firefox and Internet Explorer have a little box on the cursor whenever you move the mouse over a web video using Flash, Mpeg4, and a lot more. Seeing as how the beta will be available to the general public in a matter of days I expect more codecs will be added before the final release. This is as groundbreaking as Belinda thought it would be. I got kind of excited of using this oldie but goodie. However, I found a couple chinks in it’s armor that the future may hold.

The Rhapsody music system was easy to get up and running and is a good iTunes on some levels but seriously NOTrealplayer_.jpg iTunes (even though I’ve said why I really don’t like iTunes article:”iTunes sucks”) but still not shabby.

The most serious problem is Digital Rights Management (DRM) compliance. Real has stated for the record that they will comply with whatever DRM a website has in place. This hurts the internet in a couple ways. DRM is a tricky subject that I won’t throw in my two cents right now. However, Apple has in the last couple weeks that it is now against DRM and is trying to figure out it’s exit strategy for using it but may not totally come for at least a year or more if ever. This move by Real will fuel it. What will happen is sites like youtube.com will lose the exposure that they enjoy if people start copying their videos off and sharing them without using a youtube link. Thus their next logical option will be to DRM all of their content to stop RealPlayer from taking the content and spreading it through more nefarious means.

Will DRM become rampant on the internet to stop RealPlayer’s cool new features? Is the demise of DRM still imminent?

My take is, RealPlayer is real big and really nice. Definitely worth trying out the second it becomes available. Save a couple of videos for your personal collection. The file naming convention still has a couple tweaks needed to smoothly put your saved files where you want in a nice way but that also may be tweaked soon. Hopefully, Real puts all these features in the open source version Helix. This way programmers all over the internet will take out the icky problem that they may great.

Linux for the kids

Thursday, June 14th, 2007

logonew.gifvs. word.jpg

There’s the old favorite saying, “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach him to fish and he’ll eat for the rest of his life.” Let’s focus on a little teaching to fish for a minute.

I’m big on using Ubuntu but I especially get a kick out of speaking at a convention or being at a tradeshow and saying, “Please, my 5 and 9 year old have Linux on the computer in their room.” The reason I love saying this is because it gives them something a little better than what they get using anything else. It teaches them good computer skills that will serve them well using Windows, Mac, or whatever else comes down the road.

Let’s face it. Techy guys are a very opinionated bunch. Open source communities are groups of people that waste no time telling you their opinion on why something sucks. Thus they tend to write software with not sucking in mind. I’m not trying to tell you that Open source software never sucks. That’s a story for another day. The one thing I do find in it is a grasp of the basics.

Getting my 9 year old to write his homework using OpenOffice instead of Microsoft Word proved to be a less daunting task that I thought it would be. The reason being is that children haven’t gotten bogged down by the many years of “I have to do it this way” that many adults have. Their more apt to try and figure out how to get the result if you just tell them to figure it out.

frozen-bubble.jpg

I tend to start my 5 year old off with a little game called Frozen Bubble. It’s addicting and fun but it gets them to enjoy the environment their in as opposed to the strictly Windows world I have for the older boys (due to the graphical games that will only run on Windows for now).

Consider it future-proofing your children. The skills that they learn using a Linux computer will translate over the Mac and Windows. I’ve even found that a lot of the key strokes are the same as well. Let your children learn how to use a word processer not how to use Word.