I was poking around through some resources and came across this website called worrydream.com. You really need to take a look at it. I'll wait here.
Wasn't that awesome? What an interesting approach to dealing with information! ... extremely visual... extremely interactive...
What makes this especially cool is that this site is driven by OpenLaszlo, the open-source, Rich Internet Application platform. I'm running Firefox on Linux and it worked just fine for me. Of course, there are some issues with a site like this. OpenLaszlo uses the Flash player to operate, and so it is only available in environments where Adobe is supporting a Flash plugin. (For example, the site does not work on my Droid right now.) There are some open-source alternative flash players, but these are fairly fledgling projects and likely suffer from trying to recreate rather than to create. It would be interesting to see if standards around RIA evolve to the point that there are more solid choices in this arena.
Another issue with worrydream.com is accessibility. As a user, I am blessed to be able to ignore such issues. My eyesight is good enough and I can click around with no problem. However, as an editor I've become painfully aware of these issues and the potential impact that they can have for users. As a sort of eye-candy site, worrydream.com is not necessarily intended to be accessible, and someone with special needs may not really be missing out on anything that they would find valuable. However, if this was a commercial site the designer would have been leaving out a chunk of his audience who might provide business. He'd probably be in violation of some laws as well. It's a difficult problem where technology is both a savior and an obstacle.
Yet, I admit that I would really like some of my work to feel more like what I saw on that web site. I like the almost tactile nature of grabbing things. I know that it's probably not for the masses, but I would prefer an environment that wasn't all about shoving a little arrow around the screen all the time.
Is worrydream.com the future? Who knows. The designer has used his skills to help build other OpenLaszlo-based sites. Maybe there is a new world around the corner.
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cmw.osdude 120000QT77 Tags:  teaching learning linux schools education students technology open_source opensource 3 Comments 6,558 Views
Alas! LinuxCon has begun and I'm stuck here, up to my-- well... never you mind! I'm just not there this year. However, conventions about opensource things are increasingly friendly to virtual participation, so maybe I'll be able to look in a little.
Today I already saw an interesting area on Open Source Education. I will continue to say that I think that good use of open source technologies in any school curriculum will go a long way to making kids smarter and more in-tune to technology. Why? Because open source is about technology! it's about how things work and why they work. It's the technological equivalent to those little plastic models that showed you the transparent person with all the guts showing. OK... maybe it's not that graphic... but the skin is certainly pretty easy to peal back.
Right now I haven't seen a lot of education in primary schooling which teaches kids how to enjoy getting into what makes technology happen. I think they get exposed to some commercial tools, but does that really teach what they need? Linux and open source software create an environment where kids can work with any aspect of the infrastructure, from basic program usage to development to security to... I've said it all before! I just can't believe that there aren't more teachers out there who are excited about technology helping their students to do cool stuff. Maybe there are many and I just don't hear about them. Even so, it shouldn't be pockets of experimentation it should be a core value. Open source environments allow you to dissect technology like a frog. It provides complete transparency down to any level that you want to explore. Any children who get a grounding like that are going to skyrocket ahead.
Maybe it's a money thing. Maybe the issue is that funding and free products all go together and a system that centered learning on an open-source environment would have to give up a lot. Maybe there's pressure not to go there by... er... "Them!" (Giant ants?) I really don't understand.
I will say that the availability of open-source software gave me learning opportunities that I never would have had otherwise. I still go and tinker with different technologies because it's so easy to get a basic start with things that are open. That knowledge allowed me once to secure a lab so tightly that we upset the security people (because they couldn't scan it to tell us whether or not it was safe). I want kids and up-and-comers to have that same joy of learning, discovery and exploration that I enjoy. I hope it becomes more available-- or should I say permitted.
Linux Hype vs. Reality
Dang! While I was scribbling on the stuff above this story from opensource.com came up about a panel discussion on the perception and reality of Linux today. Wow! I would have loved to have been in that room! Check it out! Bottom line, Linux is not going anywhere and there is nothing really stopping you from putting to work for you now... if you really want to...
How's your second Life?
I know that Second Life is not as fully buzzword compliant as it used to be, but I wandered back in to look around and realized that there is some cool stuff there. For example, I attended a live concert with some good music and then had a wonderful conversation with someone about life the universe and everything. Second Life can be a diverting way to interact with people. So, I'm proposing an experiment. I have staked out a location on IBM's property: You can reach it by going here: http://slurl.com/secondlife/IBM%20Business%20Center/68/164/32. This is not my official office. (I'm not actually important enough to have my own designated space in IBM's land. *sigh*) However, it looked like the sort of place that a group of people could sit around and talk about stuff. So, I'm going to try to find a spot on my calendar where I can go and hang out there and anyone who wants to join me is welcome. We can talk about living the open-source lifestyle. If you go there now you'll probably find me sleeping. Feel free to tap me for a friend request. My user name is "Cmwalden Newman" in the weird language of SL.
'nuff for now!
cmw.osdude 120000QT77 Tags:  desktop windows linux opensource open_source 3 Comments 7,395 Views
I was catching up on my slashdot articles and found an interesting note about a major computer manufacturer (hint: you'll find out who it is if you follow the links) who has been dancing in and out of the closet issue about supporting Linux as a viable option for users. Their latest round has boiled things down between Windows and Ubuntu. They have made the following conclusions about which choice you should make:
It's hard to argue with the points that if your computing is largely wrapped in Windows proprietary software that you should be using Windows. It's also hard to argue with the idea that you should use Ubuntu if you are interested in open source programming. I guess where I disagree is that idea that Windows is the best starting place for people who are new to computers.
I've been away from Windows for a while. I can never completely escape it, because people I know who have Windows still ask me for help with problems. I have noticed that as things have passed through Window XP, then Vista then Windows 7 (Vista 2.0) that I have more and more difficulty keeping up with how to configure things. I can always find the answers with a quick web search, but the point is that I have to look it up. If it was truly easy and intuitive then it would naturally lead me to the answers. So, why would starting with Windows put a new user at an advantage?
If you are new to computing then you don't have any expectations. You are learning technologies from the beginning. At that point I don't see that either system would make any difference to you. Sure, you might have more Windows users to throw rocks at-- I mean more Windows users within a stones' throw to help you out... but you might also know a few people who use Linux. Ubuntu has an easy install, an almost magical way of finding and installing software. The default settings are all pretty reasonable for a typical user. It's designed to connect you to the Internet and get you browsing with no special software loads or changes.
In addition, someone new to computers would have access to tools for art design, media editing, programming, security, and any number of other interests. All they have to hit the button and it's theirs. True, the applications may not be the most common commercial editions of these tools, but this person is new. They are trying to learn how technologies work. How better to introduce them than to provide freely available resources that will let them experiment. As an example, I'll give GIMP (which has a very nice article in the Open Source zone right now). GIMP stands for the Gnu Image Manipulation Program. It's an editor that provides enormous capabilities to edit photos and other pixel-based graphics which you would use on the web and in documents. It rivals Adobe Photoshop in its functions and I have actually used tutorials that were written for Photoshop to learn skills in GIMP. Someone learning about pixel-editing can learn a great deal with this tool and put out results that are usable by anyone. (GIMP supports a ridiculous number of graphic formats.) There are many other applications that are similar.
I really want to challenge this last point. In fact, I think that someone new to computers who starts with Linux will fail to develop a number of bad habits that seem to occur with people who grow up with Windows. They'll find community assistance early on. (The Ubuntu help forums are very friendly and usually provide tutorial-quality answers for solving problems.) They'll learn that there are options available for software and that they can and should make choices when they select a tool. They'll grow with their curiosity rather than be driven by fear that they may or may not be licensed correctly for what they are doing.
I know many will disagree with me, but I'd love a chance to take a group of kids and raise them through a Linux program versus a Windows curriculum. I think the Linux kids will have a broader more creative view of technology and will dive into a community-drive, open, global world. I think they'll be people who look for solutions rather than waiting for answers. It could be a beautiful thing.
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I receive a lot of SPAM in my email. Some of it is fairly entertaining. Here his one I got today:
ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL CRIME COMMISSION (EFCC) #15 AWOLOWO ROAD, IKOYI, LAGOS. NIGERIA Motto:Eagle Eye Of The Law. Re:Payment Notification, We are writing to know if it is true that you are DEAD? Because we received a
... and my response:
Mr. Graham is correct. I was crushed beneath the wreckage in that train crash in
Last Friday my wife broke her arm. She's OK, but it's involved a good deal of interaction with the modern healthcare system. Yesterday she had surgery to install a plate to help the bones heal correctly. It's all straight-forward and things should be fine, but it has created a good deal of chaos. The experience had some negative sides which added fear and uncertainty in places where it was not necessary, partly with the way that our data was handled. Here's video I shot of my thoughts while I was waiting for her to get out of surgery.
She came out fine and the adventure continues, but this sort of thing really impacts people's confidence in the service they receive. It also impacts your ability to provide service by creating loops which heighten frustration and emotion when it could be helping to make people more efficient and effective.
Today I'm helping to take care of her so I won't be producing much else. I thought I'd share this in "the moment". Later on I'll be able to look at it more logically. Right now I'm immersed in the humanity of it. I suppose that every service should be focused there.
Hello, world. I am updating my Ubuntu desktop to 12.04. If I seem to have disappeared, you'll know what happened.
Actually, I expect it to go very smoothly. My [Linux] updates typically do. Of course, the first thing that I will do is replace that Unity trash with Gnome or something. Fortunately, I get the choice on things like that. Sorry, Windows and Mac folks. It sucks when they change your interface forever.
cmw.osdude 120000QT77 Tags:  oracle libreoffice openness openoffice.org 2 Comments 6,190 Views
[Remember that even though I work for IBM I am an individual with my own thoughts and ideas. Anything I write here may not necessarily represent the views of the IBM Corporation or its partners... though I'm hoping that's only a matter of time before they catch up.]
I've been itching to write about this for a couple of days. Thanks to the hardworking guys behind the scenes at developerWorks who had to deal with some very unpleasant technical issues which made this community unavailable for a while. The put in a lot of hours and effort to get everything back up the way it was supposed to be.
First, let me point you to this: Oracle Announces Its Intention to Move OpenOffice.org to a Community-based Project
From what I understand, Oracle has decided to remove OpenOffice.org from it's commercial development and is essentially setting it free into the community. How did this happen?
Shortly after Oracle acquired Sun, the developers working with OpenOffice.org wanted to know the plan. The open-source software suite, which evolved from StarOffice, has been a serious contender with Microsoft Office. The acquisition could be a real boon for the suite, or a problem.
The first sign of Oracle's handling of this project was their move to charge for the Microsoft Office Plugin to handle the Open Document Format. The plugin was not open-source, but Sun had offered it for free as a way for OpenOffice.org users to easily exchange documents with Microsoft Office users. I employed this strategy myself from time to time to encourage someone to accept an Open Document file rather than having to save it as a Microsoft document. Oracle began to charge for the plugin, and charge mightily. What was once a free plugin became $9000 dollars (with an optional $1980 annual maintenance fee).
In September of 2010, some of the core developers of OpenOffice.org took a bold step. They started the Document Foundation. Their idea was to fulfil the promise of independence written into the original charter. Oracle was invited to join this organization. Another project was formed, forking from the OpenOffice.org code of the time. LibreOffice was unencumbered and reworked to remove anything that might cause complications, such as the OpenOffice.org logos. I switched to LibreOffice almost immediately and had no problems with it.
Oracle's response to this activity was to ask the leaders of The Document Foundation to leave the OpenOffice.org council, citing a "conflict of interest." In response to this, 33 developers resigned from Oracle and moved their work to LibreOffice. This action was accompanied by an open letter to the community explaining their perspective.
I suspect that losing that number of developers who were familiar with a popular project was a blow. Everything seemed to go quiet on that front for a while. LibreOffice got a few updates and seemed to get its feet under it. Then, almost a year after this begins, Oracle announces that it is setting OpenOffice.org free.
There are a lot of perspectives on this, to be sure. Some may feel that this is a major defeat for the idea of a Microsoft Office alternative because Oracle might have driven OpenOffice.org into a lot of environments by making it a part of their application solutions. Who knows? What I do know is this makes some strong statements about open-source software and community development. Here are a few things that I take away:
We'll see if LibreOffice and OpenOffice.org come back together in some way. From a branding perspective that would be good because normal humans get too glassy-eyed about software forks that are a little more tolerated by dedicated open-sourcers. Whether they do or not, I think the community should consider this a victory for the cause of open software.
 - LibreOffice Getting Started Guide, p. 4, A short history of LibreOffice.
cmw.osdude 120000QT77 Tags:  opensource open_source phone android gartner development education ted learning 2 Comments 9,240 Views
I moved to a smart phone within the last year. In the past I hadn't really needed one. When I went somewhere I typically had my laptop with me, so I usually hid behind that. However, as my role became more and more driven by general email and Internet access rather than specific proprietary programs I realized that I wanted to have more access and functionality without lugging the computer around all the time. If you know me at all, you know I'm a Linux nut, so I naturally gravitated toward an Android phone. I love it. The openness suits me and I get to use my curiosity and ability to tinker to my advantage.
Apparently I'm not the only one who sees advantages to Android. If
Gartner is correct, Android will overtake the other options and become
the dominant mobile operating system. I think that the openness is the
Mild tangient: I'm not a big cook, but I enjoy cooking when I can.
The only cooking show that has managed to grab me is Good Eats
Brown. Why? Because where most cooking shows are about watching
someone else cook, Good Eats is about me cooking. Each episode
explores a cooking concept and explains to me how and why it works. He
gets into the science of cooking so I know why doing certain things to
food makes it taste better. I leave with tools and techniques to help
me cook rather than just a pretty picture and a link to recipes that I
will never look up. One of Alton's key concepts is that nothing in
your kitchen should only do one thing. Therefore he prefers something
conventional, like a steel mixing bowl, to a gadget, like an electric
popcorn popper. The more flexible the tool, the better it is in the
Back now: Open environments like Linux and Android have that same flexibility that I like. They can be set up to do one thing very well, but they still have the functionality to do other things as well. They foster a multi-functional approach rather than a "gadget approach." Ultimately as more and more of our devices talk to each other, having open standards and flexibility is going to be much better than "duct-taping" everything together. I'm really anxious to see where all of this goes. If Android dominates the phone market it will also dominate the market for other devices like DVRs, smart TVs, smart appliences and vehicles (not to be confused with the Smart Car which is a strange, freakish thing). This could all get very interesting.
Other ways to learn
I got a tweet today from opensourceway. It was a presentation from the TED conference that explored the idea of children learning without teachers. Basically a gentleman made a computer available to kids on the street in India, with no instructions and no supervision to see what they would do. The results are amazing and call questions on many of my presuppositions about learning. If I'ved done this correctly you can just view it below. If not you can find it at the source.
cmw.osdude 120000QT77 Tags:  opensource encryption security open_source linux firefox 2 Comments 7,869 Views
If you are a Firefox user, you may have heard about the vulnerability discovered which could allow malicious web sites to steal passwords that you have stored in your password safe. You didn't know that? It could suck. I don't have the details, but you can get a hint in the description of the session "Breaking Browsers: Hacking Auto-Complete" at the upcoming Blackhat conference. (That's were security-conscious people get together and talk about bad-guy stuff.)
The upshot is that after this conference, the precise method for doing
this will be out in the open, and there may be a lot of enterprising
hooligans who immediately make use of it. Get your passwords out of
Firefox now! I found a handy tool that
will look pull the passwords from your local repository and help you
dump it into another format before you clear them out of Firefox. I
know that sounds alarming, but you save it to your local system and run
it from there. (It will warn you if you try to run it from the
Internet.) It will show you a list of your passwords and let you copy
them into another file. I dumped them into a spreadsheet. (ODS format, of course!)
So... what to do with this file. I don't feel much better having a
spreadsheet laying around on my system with passwords to everything.
True, it's much less likely that someone will poke around on my file
system than that people will mess with my browser... but it's still not
a good idea. It's time to crank up the encrypted file space!
I've talked from time to time about working with encrypted file systems, but not much beyond that. But now it's pretty urgent and I want to make sure that I have an easy-to-use space available right now for this and other sensitive information for which I need better habits. I know that encryption sounds hard, but it's really not that bad. There's a lovely open-source, multi-platform tool called TrueCrypt that makes this all pretty easy to handle. Don't think encryption will make that much of a difference? Take a peek at this article on how long it takes to break passwords of varying complexity. Good encryption with a good password will likely surpass the attention span or statute of limitations for most situations.
How easy was this to do? I installed TrueCrypt, which took a few
minutes of downloading and script-running. I fired up the program
which, incidentally, had a nice GUI. I created a 1GB volume which
resides as a file on my file system. It's formatted internally just
like a file system and it mounts that way too. I could easily have put
it on a flash drive if I wanted to. TrueCrypt also supports encrypting
partitions. Now I have a moderately safe repository that I can save my
spreadsheet into. I can mount it when I need to and not have to do
anything too weird with it. I can also keep multiple things in it,
consolidating my secured items. In Linux, and Mac OSX as well, I
think, it's easy to make a relative pointer to a file. That means that
I can take some key configuration and data files and store them in my
encrypted area, but allow the applications to deal with them as though
they were standard. I can explain that in more detail if someone is
interested. There is probably a way to do that in Windows by now, but I just don't know what it is. Maybe someone can fill us in.
So, I'm sorry to bear the news. I rather like the convenience of
the password safe... but it's just not safe right now. And don't feel
that putting Firefox's password file in your encrypted volume will
help. The problem is that Firefox will give up your password if it's
asked in the right way. We need to make sure that Firefox doesn't know
the password. Ultimately I'm sure this will be fixed. Then it may be
safe to go back. There are also other password safe tools that might
be helpful... but for now, I think I'm going to go with the
old-fashioned copy and paste approach with the spread sheet.
I hope that all of you will take this stuff seriously and give TrueCrypt a try.
We really do need to start taking personal responsibility for securing
our communications. Government is too slow and to clumsy to do it for
us (not to mention that they don't want anything to be secured from them).
Manufacturers have too many points of view to accomodate to make it
automatic. It has to be the right solution for you. Start with this
and before you know it I bet you'll be asking me about encrypting your
Valerie Skinner commented that she's run across a lot of technical people who got their start on the Commodore 64. I was one of them!
William Shatner and the Vic20
The Commodore 64
Bill Cosby for TI
Ahhh! Those were the days!
cmw.osdude 120000QT77 Tags:  austin support openness open_source community music 2 Comments 6,707 ViewsModified on by cmw.osdude
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