Thursday, December 20, 2007

Firefox 3 - Beta 2

For the last two days I have been running Beta 2 of Firefox 3. Looks-wise it is almost identical to Firefox 2. Everything (with 1 exception) works the same as before and I don't notice any difference between the two. The only thing is that it feels a bit faster, but, nothing measurable just a feel of faster. The only problem area is Yahoo mail in that it has problems reading my mail, but, I can always go back to version 2. When I get time I will log the whole session and pass the info to the development team for them to review.

The Java based game Runescape works without a problem. I will be trying out a number of other sites and see how it works.

If you want more information you can read MozillaZine.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Spams and Scams

After 2 1/2 years of tracking my email, spam and scams are still show up in my inbasket. No matter what the 'experts' tell us, the spammers will always find a way around their anti-spam routines. Scammers are doing just as well and their messages are getting harder to distinguish from the legit email.

Current spam stats are:

2005 - Legit 50%, spam 50%

2006 - Legit 22%, spam 78%

2007 - Legit 32%, spam 68%

If you get a note from your bank or financial institution asking you to log in for any reason to do some sort of update or verify the 'unusual activity' do not ever click on that link. Your banks or financial institutions will never use that method to inform you of the need to update or verify suspicious activities. Delete the note immediately.

If your ISP offers spam filters make use of them. Our ISP offers it andwe get maybe 1 or 2 spams that make it through the filters. When they do get through I flag the message so that our ISP can improve their filtering.

I also note the spam contents for the business using those services. If it is a company that I know I send that company a short note letting them know that they will not be getting my business in the future. If you get one from a company you know hit them where it hurts... their income by taking your business elsewhere and let them know why!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

It is mostly Plug and Play

I have been doing a lot of playing around with my new Canon digital camera. I bought a new toy to go with it. It takes the SD card and makes it into a USB memory stick. I took out the photos from the wedding and plugged it into my Linux box. Within several seconds it recognized the new hardware and I had a window open in DigiKam and transferring over 800 megs of photos. I like the new hardware as it allows me to show people the photos without plugging in the camera to their machine (I normally don't bring the USB cable when taking pictures). The other nice thing is that I don't have to use the camera and wear out the batteries while viewing the photos.

DigiKam is a nice package and I have been using it for about a month. I have been moving my pictures into it and making suitable backups. Burning CDs is a simple option and it simplifies my task rather than using several programs for the tasks.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Finally updated our last machine

Last week I finally got around to updating my wife's machine to PCLinuxOS 2007. The process when smoothly like the two other machines and took about an hour (including time for the patches). My wife did notice a slowdown in the machine, but, her machine is the slowest in the house (1 Ghz). I did tweak the settings for services and KDE and the response is acceptable to her now (but still slow). It looks like this machine will be repurposed as a file/print server the next time I do an upgrade and buy a newer and faster machine for her.

I have a large amount of photos and I tried digiKam to handle my library. It is a nice package, but, it does take time to learn. I like the burning options and one of my first projects was to create a CD that autolaunched a slide show. My second project was to take a few pictures and make a MPG show out of that. One word of warning, the MPG creation takes a very long time. I did a show with five pictures that lasted about 1 minute and it took about 30 minutes to create the show. I will be playing with the options a lot in the coming weeks as our oldest is getting married and I am one of the wedding photographers.

I bought a new digital camera, a Canon A630. When you do connect the machine up to the PC for file transfer be sure to set the camera to preview mode (shows your photos and not the current view) as the camera/PC will not connect. Once I figured that out I transferred over 850 megs of images and movies without a problem into digiKam.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Another future Linux user

We have been talking to our neighbors about Linux for the last several weeks as they are less than happy with their Windows boxes. It seems that they are tired with the viruses and trojans that keep trying to get on to their machines and the effort they have to take removing them. Last night they came over to see a quick demo of Linux on our home network and a copy of Linux for their machines. We explained what it is and the packages and what a 'distro' was. They were suprised at what they could get free and that it looked almost like Windows with the KDE window manager running. They were also impressed with OpenOffice and the fact that it can read/write Word and XLS files.

We explained to them that not everything for hardware may work and we gave them PCLINUXOS and KNOPPIX on live CDs to try out. We also pointed out that they could make their two machines 'dual boot' and keep Windows, but, use Linux as their main O/S. That way any special programs they can keep and run. I suspect that they will probably be over soon to get our help with setting them up with Linux on their home network.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

State of spam - August 2007

It has now been two months since the spam king Soloway was arrested in the U.S. For a bit my spam volume went down, but, that was only temporary. Other spammers have picked up the slack and the volume is almost back to 'normal' levels. It goes to show that sutting down the spammers won't work, the government should also be going after the ones purchasing the services... follow the dollars and it may help reduce the spam load!

The big trend now is the phony 'greeting card'. It appears that it now is used to insert the payload of the spammers into your machine. When you get one delete it, don't even open it. Part of the spam I have been getting is these and I don't even open them. One good article about it is in the Washington post (July 21st, you can search for the article at

Again I will stress don't open the cards and keep on patching your system, updating your AV software, run a firewall and if something doesn't sound right delete the email without opening it and send the person a short note asking to send it again.

Current stats for my spam:

2007 ---> SPAM = 67.4%, LEGIT = 32.6%

2006 ---> SPAM = 78.0% LEGIT = 22.0%

2005 ---> SPAM = 49.9% LEGIT = 50.1%

TOTAL ---> SPAM = 70.9% LEGIT = 29.1%

Saturday, June 23, 2007


It has been over a month now that I have been using PCLINUXOS 2007 on my machine. My daughter has been running TR4, but, I left here there until I was comfortable with the new version. It has been running solidly on this machine without a glitch, almost.

The only problem I had was with the Palm M130. The application JPILOT would not make a connection to /dev/ttyUSB1 or /dev/ttyUSB0 or /dev/pilot no matter what I did. I checked out the forums at PCLINUXOS, but, everyone who were posting didn't have a fix at that time. Two days ago I did a google search on the problem along with the error message and I found a message on the UBUNTU forum where a person had the same problem, and the solution! The fix was to change the preferences serial rate for both jpilot and the PALM itself to 57600. Shut down jpilot and then you then initiate the sync on the palm first and then press sync on jpilot. The fix worked and all of my hardware is working. As long as you start the sync on the Pilot first jpilot will work properly.

I also found a note in the forums about SYNAPTIC and go into settings, repositories and add 'KDE' to the sections. Basically the sections should contain 'main extra nonfree kde'. I did this and KlamAV was there and I installed it on my system. I use KlamAV as I do bring work home and I like to scan the documents on a regular basis.

My next job this weekend is to update my daughter's machine and then my wife's machine will be upgraded. My wife also wants me to install SCRIBUS on her machine so she can play with it. The only application in Windows on her machine is MSPUBLISHER and she is looking for a good replacement for that application so she can be running everything from Linux.

Sunday, April 29, 2007


Yesterday I installed TR4 on my daughter's machine. I gave her a Compaq 1.7 Ghz machine for her birthday so I re-imaged the machine with Linux and wiped out Windows XP as there is nothing that she needs in Windows that we cannot do in Linux. The machine is a standard P4, 1.7 Ghz, 512Mb, 40Gb HD and a CD. Her old P3 666Mhz machine I will re-image and remove the windows partition from that and make a simple server out of it.

The CD booted easily into the live CD and I ran the script to install. The install routine detected that I had Windows XP installed and asked if I wanted to wipe the whole partition. I let the installer handle the partitioning and in 30 minutes I had a working machine. Running through the various options I noticed that it detected our other two machines and the shared printers and configured her machine to use them. I installed all the games I could find and there was a new educational game that I also installed. She was running the machine without a problem and playing her online games as before, but, gloating that her machine was faster than mine.

The machine was updated with the 8 patches (at that time) and I turned off all of the services that she didn't need to have run. Later I will have to install the firewall and make sure that she can only go to sites that I approve. She has the OpenOffice suite for school homework and the latest version of Scribus if she wants to do DTP.

In closing the TR4 version is quite a solid distro and in my less than humble opinion ready as a general release rather than a test release.

Saturday, April 28, 2007


I have downloaded and burned the TR4 of PCLinuxOS and I am running it now on my normal Linux box, but, only off of the CD. The machine booted up without any problems and I logged into KDE like I normally do. My quick tests:

  • Web Browser - FireFox - Works OK, I am using it now to update this blog.
  • XSANE - Worked without a problem. It auto detected my scanner and I did a quick check there.
  • WebCam - This worked! The new version detected my Labtec camera in Kopete and when I tried configuring it the camera was actually showing images!
  • Printer - It detected and configured my USB printer properly when using the admin center. This is also a first as I had to download and install the SAMSUNG drivers for the ML2010 for it to properly work.
  • Java web game. It launched without a problem. The only problem is that the map in Runscape does not properly render, but, that has been a problem and it appears to be how makers of Runescape use JAVA and not Linux or Java itself. The game itself runs and is quite responsive even using this live CD.
  • Synaptic - Even though the CD has been out for a couple of days Texstar has already made a few updates. I ran Synaptic and it shows 8 updates are available.
  • Digital Camera - I didn't test this as it was in a different part of the house and I was too lazy to walk down and bring it up to test.
  • USB Memory Stick - It detected it been plugged in and asked what you wanted to do. It displayed the contents in Konqueror without any problems. I unplugged the stick and then plugged it back in and it still worked. There was a difference in TR2/TR3 in this and they appear to have to gone back to the original way of how it worked (much like how windows acts). There is no problem if you plug in two USB memory sticks.
  • USB Hard drive - It detected this and there was no problem with the external hard drive.
So far it appears to be a solid release and everything that I have that I tested worked without a problem. The next thing I will be doing in Part 2 is installing it on a test machine to see how it works there.

Friday, April 27, 2007

PCLinuxOS Test Release 4

TexStar has released the fourth and final release of PCLinuxOS. I will be downloading and trying this out on the weekend. I have not had any problems with TR3 on my daughter's machine or as a live CD. There are a few updates and an update to the kernel. The one update I want to really test out is the Java as my daughter plays a web based game using Java and one of the options does not work properly.

The live CD works quite well on my work laptop (Dell Latitude D610) or my home machine. The first test on the new CD will be using my work laptop. I like the live CD as it gives me an excellent tool in an emergency in that I have web access, CD Burner and the OpenOffice suite.

I will be testing a number of things, namely:
  • WEB Cam
  • Digital Camera
  • USB Keys
  • USB hard drive
  • USB Printer

Friday, April 13, 2007

PCLinuxOS Test Release 3

I updated my daughter's machine from Mandriva to test release 3 of PCLinuxOS. I figured that if an eight year old can use it and not crash it too bad then it is a fairly stable release. So far I have not had one crash and a very happy eight year old as she now has all of the cool games that is on her mother's machine. Since it is now in our office I hooked her up to the network and she can play online games, but, only the games that I give her permission to run.

She has been playing Runscape, Barbie, Club Penguin using Firefox and has not had a problem. She now prefers being on her machine and her mother is very happy getting her machine back fulltime. I noticed that they are talking about a test release four and I will install that when it becomes available.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

PCLinux OS Test Release 2

For the past week I have been playing with the second test release of PCLinuxOS. From what I can see I don't see much difference between the two versions. I did a bit more testing and I liked what I see. They did do a bit of cleanup on the graphical side and it looks quite nice. The problems with XSANE running in V0.93 and the workabounds are gone and a normal userid can start scanning without any problems (forgot to take a screen print there).

CD Burning is there and worked off the start without a problem. I didn't do a burn as I have only one CD drive in the system and I was using the live CD for this.

The next thing on my list was to launch Firefox and play a Java based game (Runescape). The only problem was that Java didn't work. I went over to the PCLinuxOS site and found that this was a known problem. All I had to do was download and install libstdc++5. This was a snap with Synaptic and the process was completely painless.

Once that was done I tried again and the Java based game started running without a problem. When I previously tried to do this the map wouldn't launch. Going back to V0.93 I had the same problem. I turned on the trace and found that there was a Java error. I forwarded a note to the website. I guess they have a number of others using Linux with the same problem and they fixed the problem. This is a major bonus as you really need the map at times to help you navigate throughout the virtual world. The rendering and display did take a bit of time so be patient. It took about 30 seconds on my system.

All of the photos here was captured without a problem and stored on disk. The sizes were changed from 1024x768 to 640x480 to keep the image sizes down using GIMP. The editor itself launched a bit slow, but, that is expected when using CD and not a hard drive.

The only problems I had was with the USB memory stick not being recognized, but, I think that may be due to me having too many items in the BUS and it was not a powered BUS.

The distro at this point looks solid for me and I am looking forward to Texstar making this a final release so I can then upgrade my home systems to use this distribution.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

PCLinuxOS 2007 Beta 1

I have had a chance to play a bit with the Beta 1 of PCLinuxOS 2007. This is not a complete exhaustive test of the distribution, but, the major things I work with on my current Linux machine. I was working off of the CD and from what I see it is the same high quality product as PCLinuxOS V0.93.

The test machine was a Dell D610 laptop with 512Mb of memory. The distribution detected all of the hardware without a problem and launched smoothly. I plugged in my USB memory stick and it launched Konqueror showing the contents of the drive. I launched OpenOffice and GKrellm as they are two other packages that I regularly use. To save the screens I used KSnapshot. This was a smooth system even when running from a CD and so far no glitches.

It asks a number of questions when starting the CD and the following are how I answered:
  • Keyboard = US;
  • Timezone = Ontario;
  • Date/Time= Hardware;
  • NTP = ON, allservers;
  • Connection = Ethernet, Automatic IP, Allow users to manage connection.

The last test was using FireFox and a Java based game. The reason I was testing this that my daughter plays an online game with friends and it works in V09.3. The only thing it has problems FireFox has is that the game will not spawn an external window showing the world map. This is not a problem with the Windows version so I know that it is a problem with the site handling Linux. The 2007 version has the same problem, but, it still plays the game. I actually prefer it on the Linux version as it appears to be sharper and cleaner rendered than in Windows.

At this time the team making PCLinuxOS are working on another beta for testing. I don't know what the problem area(s) are, but, they have delayed the release. From what I see and tested the disto appears to be rock solid and I didn't have any problems. I will be trying out the next beta and will be testing other things (CD burning and scanner), but, I am looking forward to upgrade our current boxes at home to use this distro.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Long distance help & Linux

I had an interesting call with my brother last week. He kept his virus scanner up-to-date, but, viruses and spyware still got through his system. I won't name the company that he uses for protection, but, my brother is a bit more than pissed off how easily his system was taken over. He paid for protection and hundreds of the little nasties still got through (yes, hundreds!). He is a bit more computer literate than the average person as he used to work on Unix systems and knows a bit more than the average person about safe computing and locking down a system. I had previously given him links to AVG and CLAMAV and he used those to start to clean his system.

I burned three Linux distros for him and I will be mailing them to him to play with.
  1. PCLINUXOS V0.93 - Really good and we use this on our desktops at home. This is a good live CD for him to play with. The only thing is that CLAMAV is not part of the CD.
  2. Helix 1.8 - Comes with CLAMAV. It also has a good selection of other tools that you can use for intrusion detection.
  3. Insert 1.3.8 - Comes with CLAMAV. It also comes with a good selection of tools.
I have to write up a short cheat sheet for each so he can quickly use them. The upside is that he will also have a usable machine for browsing the net especially if he uses PCLINUXOS. I know the ISP he uses and they offer web based email so he can configure the PPP dialer and use Firefox to access his email.

With his latest experience on how little protection you get in Windows he may be more open to suggestions on Linux. If you are still using Windows are are interested in Linux there are a good number of 'live' distros that you can start with that don't need installing on your computer. You just pop the CD in your drive and boot up the machine. As long as you have the CD drive as a bootable device before the hard drive you are good. If you want to see more Linux distros you can try distrowatch.