Sunday, August 21, 2011

protecting a section / paragraph in a document

Here are the two ways which I protect portions of a document:

 ...wanting to protect it often occurs for important content which I'll also frame (hence protecting frames)

But sometimes I just want to protect a block of text to prevent accidental overtyping...

 Create a section, then paste in your text, and then 'protect' the section. Example...

Don't let the actual text (gcc / pthread, etc) put you off, I just wanted to show a real world example.

Here I have included in my document some commands, which I will later use as reference. What I don't want to happen is to accidentally overtype some of those commands whilst editing my document, and losing the concrete reference.

Frames or Sections, both will do a job for you in protecting a block of content - choose whichever you find most convenient :)

Notes and Further Reading:

How to protect a section is discussed in Chapter 4 of the LibreOffice / OpenOffice documentation (links below)

 Chapter 4 pdf is 1.4MB and the .odt version is much smaller.

If you have LibreOffice or OpenOffice installed then you might have local copies accessed by pressing F1 (help)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The 'main' threat - 10-k filings - take aim - fire!

Dominant market players have a substantial revenue stream to protect.

Threats to this revenue stream have to be explained regularly to US shareholders in 10-k filings.

The change in a 10-k filing from year to year can be quite revealing.

It's official - what everyone suspected - Microsoft now sees Google and Apple as it's main threats to revenue. But a more important question is left unanswered*

How Google and Apple can threaten Microsoft business model:

Here is a question that you can answer just be reading Microsoft latest 10-k and without any regard for any competitor.

Which of Desktop/Server, Cloud, or Mobile is Microsoft's 'main' revenue stream? 
That is the *unanswered question which you should answer for yourself.

Firstly it is important to pick your pitch - Desktop/Server, Cloud or Mobile

...which of these 'spheres' you select has a separate set of arguments.

My feeling, Microsoft is trying desperately to reposition itself and wants a foothold in all three, but it is unsure of none of it:

  • Could be that Desktop/Server takes a profit hit soon - many have speculated this is coming in 2012/2013. Hence the rearguard in the 10-k declaration?
  • Could be that Cloud (BPOS and Azure) never really dents Amazon/Rackspace/Google App Engine
  • Could be that Windows Mobile continues to be a resource drain, and despite ridiculous media blitz in Fall 2011, still fails to dent Android market share.  

Considering each of those 3 spheres by company - here are some future fictional headlines - any of which could be true in 2012 / 2013

  • Google Chrome takeup amongst SMEs in Europe shows healthy growth
  • Google Apps deployments accelerate
  • Android app store - new submissions rate is 50,000 per month
Similar fictional headlines, involving Apple taking revenue from Microsoft could be written involving Macbook, iCloud, iTunes.

Linux gets a breather - all good news:

Previously Microsoft only had one 'arch' rival which it liked to talk about in it's 10-k filings - Linux

Microsoft has very few tricks up it's sleeve, that it hasn't already played out in it's attempts to deny market access to Linux.

Foundations have been launched and the GPL3 drafted, in direct response to some of these tricks.

Now Linux can just get on with the job of being the preferred server operating system of High Performance Computing, some of the larger startups, and those who want a secure desktop experience.

In short Linux can take a breather from being the most targeted operating system in history - it's main enemy for the last 10 years, is now turning it's attentions, to it's neighbours in America's West.

Notes and Further Reading:

Sunday, August 14, 2011

When 'denying market access' is dressed up as 'piracy prevention'

How can you prevent a PC manufacturer from bundling Debian or Ubuntu?
Easy, just get them to sign an exclusivity clause in order to allow them to preinstall Windows.

If a domestic supplier of PCs in China makes a PC model (let's say PC500 just to give it a name), in order to be able to preinstall Windows 7, they have to sign an agreement that says that no PC500 models will ever be distributed with anything other than Windows 7.

So if that manufacturer wants to produce 100,000 PC500s with Windows 7, and has a small market of 15,000 it thinks it could serve by preloading Ubuntu, it simply cannot.

Tying up hardware manufacturers so that they cannot preload an alternative OS, is dressed up as a piracy prevention measure, but it seems to me is more about denying market access to newer rival OSs such as Debian or Ubuntu.

The phrase "other unlawfully pre-installed software" appears in the USTR report discussed in this Forbes article.

Because of those tied manufacturer agreements, that unlawfully pre-installed software includes Debian and Ubuntu.

The nonsense in the argument - where is the fallacy?

The argument (from the proprietary software company) goes a little something like this.

We went to china and in this one market, we found that there were 100 PCs that were preloaded with illegal copies of Windows XP
This provides the cover for 'denying market access' which I will return to later.

The Fallacy - some preamble:
        Selling proprietary software that has not been paid for is an offence, so the software vendor has existing recourse to seek law enforcement help, and financial compensation for those 100 PCs preloaded with unpaid copies of Windows XP

The fallacy is the suggestion that there needs to be additional 'legal protection measures' in the form of tied manufacturer agreements.

Tying a manufacturer by creating an additional 'legal offense' and creating a category of 'approved software' is just a cover, to deny market access to vendors wishing to serve local markets with alternative operating systems.

By using these tied agreements the manufacturer who wants to serve a local market with Ubuntu, is forced to create a new model identifier PC500n or similar and go again through the expensive certification processes that lead up to sale through retail channels.

Plenty of manufacturers will baulk at the idea of paying twice for certification process, and this amounts to denial of market access - precisely what the proprietary software vendor seeks to obtain.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

social media - the rebirth of the Stasi

Having watched the Award winning "The Lives of Others" recently, and witnessing the knee jerk reactions to UK unrest, the two things come together in this article.

Here is an extract from a news article following the sporadic looting in the UK that occurred August 2011.

(1) "The use of social media in the unrest looks like a game-changer. But any attempt to exert state control over social media looks likely to fail,"

(2) "A much better approach would be to encourage and support individuals and community groups in identifying alarming developments on social media and even speaking out on the internet against extremists and criminals, and ensuring that the police have the skills and technical support to get pre-emptive and operational intelligence from social media when necessary."
Attributing the comments to an individual, is less important than recognising that if one person can suggest it, then it will occur to others also.

( I have added the numbering to help organise this post )

(1) Proactive monitoring of social media - what the UK is proposing

The only way to 'know' in advance is to monitor social media for keywords and other such broad brush markers - bit like the telephone network monitoring in less enlightened countries.

The question of "When we know they are..." is obviously a thorny one - does a judge get to verify the intelligence gathered is conclusive, or is it just guesswork?

(2) Encourage voluntary creation of groups of 'flaggers' on social media.

This is genius in a rather perverted fashion, and is where the phrase 'Stasi' came in to the article title.

To those not living in the UK, there has been deep cuts in the funding of charities and voluntary organisations.

( I am not going to debate the need for cuts or otherwise - I am aware of the arguments both ways )

So what can all the 'do gooders' who are without an occupation do now? Spy on their own communities of course. They probably spend a good deal of this newly spare time on 'Facebook' anyway, so why not put it to 'the greater good'?

If this does progress, then we have learned nothing from the dismantling of the Stasi in East Germany.

There is a long history of states becoming paranoid about unrest in difficult ideological or financial times.

Encouraging citizens to flag up their neighbours and social media 'friends' who might use a phrase, or have an opinion, they feel is suspect, is the start of a march back to Stasi society.

Notes and Further Reading:

Monday, August 8, 2011

move / resize partitions - the zero cost way

There was a time when resizing and moving partitions required a trip to the computer store for some software.

No longer the case.

GNU Fdisk is a feature rich fdisk replacement that supports many options including:

  • v - move a partition
  • c - rescue a lost partition
  • z - resize a partition
  • h - check the consistency of a partition
  • o - copy the partition over another partition
By default GNU Fdisk will work in 'compatibility mode', so as to aid users who are making the switch from traditional fdisk.

So options v, c, z, h, o would not show in your menu.

However the -G flag turns off the compatibility mode.

By running gfdisk -G /dev/sda the extra options are available.

( Replace /dev/sda above with whatever your disk device identifier is )

In Debian GNU / Linux you will find GNU Fdisk here.

If all this is too much command line, then there is gparted for a clickable alternative:

gparted list and resize

dpkg - non super user - path limitation

Dpkg is the [ command line ] tool for adding / removing packages in Debian and derivatives.

Running dpkg as ordinary user - why would you?

This for me is just about historical working style.

Sometimes I will be doing preparatory work for system changes as a regular user, and just paste my final command into a root terminal

It should not be too hard to leave this behind, but I document it here for posterity and to aid questions by other Debian users.

The complaint above appears because executables such as /sbin/ldconfig are (on some systems) not in the path of a regular user.

Some folks think it right that /sbin/ is not in the path of regular users.

In contrast a super user (root) might have a path that looks like:


Adjusting your way of working (or not) - the options:

So you can just avoid trying to use dpkg as ordinary user, or choose one of the  options below:

  1. Setup sudo to allow a particular (non root) user to run dpkg
  2. Setup sudo to allow a particular (non root) user to run dpkg (passwordless)
  3. Alter $PATH to include /sbin and /usr/sbin
There are security risks involved in doing (2) or (3) above, so I would not recommend them personally.

If you are leaning towards (2), then perhaps a better way is to run 'sudo bash' or similar as a way of switching into a way of adding / removing packages.

Note: You might want to think carefully before making sudo calls passwordless

A good book on Unix / Linux security will cover things like $PATH settings and sudo.

If you are tempted to ignore my warning about security risks of (2) or (3), then you might want to browse such a book.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

folders versus tags - organisation of record collection

Using Gmail & Googledocs gives me an analogy which I will use here.

When organising emails, folders are great, however some folks struggled.

Here is an extract from an email reply from a server provider about Debian Squeeze:
Indeed, it is not a problem - we have quite a few customers who are using - albeit these customers have freshly installed Squeeze from our own images rather than upgrading themselves.
If Gmail only had folders, then this would go in 'datacentre'

Gmail has 'labels', and, if I were the thorough type, then I might give this 3 labels ... 'datacentre', 'debian', 'server'

Only having the ability to label an item once, is precisely the thing that caused Gmail to adopt labels (imap and pop3 have always had folder facilities traditionally)

'New wave' - is it 'pop', 'rock', or 'electronica'?:

The easy answer is to say 'all three', or just accept that somebody came up with the category 'New wave' because it did not conveniently fit into 'pop' or 'rock'

Reading around a few 'New Wave' top tens, here are a random smattering which for my mind, might not be out of place in a bucket labelled 'rock':
  • Talking heads
  • Elvis Costello
  • INXS
  • The Police
  • The Pretenders
However reading through other peoples lists, there are many bands which fit several of the labels 'pop', 'rock', 'electronica', or maybe non at all.

Email search - why bother with labels?

If you have a decent desktop client, then the capable search facilities make multiple labelling less important perhaps.

Using Gmail and Thunderbird together, there might actually be good reasons not to do multiple labelling as explained next.

When you create a label, an imap client will usually pull that down as a 'folder'. If you have many labels and actively multiple label, then you might want to unsubscribe from some of the labels which commonly occur together.

Using too many labels, and multiple labelling, whilst unnecessary (you have search!) might also create a difficulty / annoyance around switching between working in your cloud mail client and working imap on the desktop.

Multiple labelling, then pulling down every label, will probably make you feel that your imap client is not doing a sterling job in managing space / complexity. Simple solution is to use multiple labelling sparingly if at all.

Earlier in this post I mentioned Debian Squeeze, which has Thunderbird 3 prepackaged for you here.