Chris Mostek's articles

Love and war: the Microsoft patent deals

Few events have created more fodder for the blogosphere, more fuel for Microsoft critics and more emotional responses than the Microsoft patent deals with Novell, Linspire and Xandros. While putting together a list of things people hate about these deals is easy, generating a list of positive aspects is much harder. So I tried to take a more balanced approach and put together a love/hate list about these deals.

Tips for transitioning to a GNU/Linux distribution

So, you've made the choice to try a GNU/Linux distribution or distro and have completed the installation. But now what? While doing some spring cleaning on my desk, I came across the notes from my last distro installation. Here are the key tips that made my last transition from Windows to GNU/Linux easier.

My quest to stop dual-booting

I'm still on my quest to stop dual-booting between Edubuntuand Windows XP. The hope is to solely boot into Edubuntu since I've switched the majority of our personal computing over already. The last pockets of resistance were the MS Money and Hallmark's Greeting Card programs. I could address MS Money with GnuCash, a QIF import and a little time (see prior blog Trial Balances and Tribulations). That left the Hallmark program.

Trial balances and tribulations: attempting to import MS Money data

For most of our home computing needs, I've long since transitioned from a Window's environment to FOSS alternatives. Edubuntu as our operating system with the standard list of applications. However, I still dual-boot our system to accommodate a few hold-outs running on Windows.

The most important hold-out is MS Money. I've been using MS Money since the end of 1999 and find the program provides all the functionality, reporting and ease of use to manage our funds. However, I'm getting tired of dual-booting the computer. So, I wanted to try transitioning to a FOSS Personal Finance program. I decided to try importing the MS Money data into Grisbi, KMyMoneyand GnuCash.

A Valentine’s guide to geek behaviors

Ah, February, the month where the young at heart open their hearts, the older at heart open their wallets and any open magazine has a relationship guide. In the interest of fostering improved relationships between geeks and non-geeks, this guide lists some common behaviors or opinions according to my non-geek wife (plus some of her tactics for dealing with these behaviors).

And the survey results say.

  • I believe there does NOT exist a state of too much RAM, too large a hard-drive or too fast a processor.
  • Whatever I'm doing on the computer is important.

Small businesses are ripe for free software

Once upon a time, in a career far, far away, I worked for a very small business. I was tasked with upgrading the OLD PC’s. The budget was so miniscule that literally every penny counted. In the effort to get the best bang for the buck, I stumbled across these programs called free software. “Whoo-hoo, they’re free” I thought. Little knowing how that introduction to free software applications would change my life, I quickly ordered the PC’s without MS Office, downloaded OpenOffice.org instead and saved a few hundred dollars per system.

Fast forward to the future. With much more free software under my belt, I am even more convinced small businesses are a ripe field for free software applications.

Linux software: the kid's plan for an icy day

Hi, it's B and G, the little kids in this house. We've had a lot of ice lately. The TV says we may even lose the electricity. Dad said he needed to write his blog early this weekend. But right now, he is walking around the living room and griping about writer's block. He looks kinda funny.

So we sneaked in here to say what we don't like and do like about the computer. The adults have said what they liked, now it is the kid's turn.

Not everyone is a geek. So why do we act like they are?

Not everyone is a Michael Schumacher, but a lot of people have cars. Not everyone is a Robert Capa, but many of us have cameras. The analogy can apply to computers. Not everyone is a geek, but many people have computers. The diversity of computing skill reflects the diversity in the the real world.

Seems like I’m stating the obvious, until you look at how people at various computing skill levels respond to others.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink

Not long ago, a family member's company discovered their former IT consultant had dealt with them dishonestly. The office had paid him for a number of MS Office licenses, but later found out that only one licensed version been installed on all their systems. Since this was a small business with a limited budget, I suggested they try OpenOffice. But, in the end, they chose to purchase MS Office again.

So I asked, “Why?” The answers were revealing into potential barriers from individuals when recommending FOSS.

The OS Agnostics

The annual choice awards are published in the December issues for many software magazines. A number of the winners were chosen because of their ability to use extensions or flexibility in configuring the software. However, an overlooked and increasingly important attribute to me is cross-platform support or what I laughingly refer to as OS Agnosticism.

Why is cross-platform support important? My personal reasons are:

'Twas the night before Christmas (a FOSS variation)

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the housenot a creature was stirring, just my USB mouse;

The wife and the children are all settled in bed,As I sit at my desk scratching my head.

And while I'm sorting out my thoughts, Music is streaming over Rhythmbox.

The kids enjoyed beating me at Kbattleship.They also think Gcompris is quite a trip.

But TuxPaint is their clear winner. A great little program for little beginners.

A memory boost for an aging bookworm

Our family loves reading. The bookcases are full and most flat surfaces are covered with reading material. The written word seems to flow through our house, making brief stops to be read and then sent on its way. Keeping up with all our books is an activity we just haven't attempted. This weakness has resulted in books that have never been found or returned (plus some generous fines paid to our local library).

For example, while visiting a family member recently, I noticed the book “Maiden Voyage” by Tania Aebi. “I remember really enjoying that book” I said. “You should, that's your book.” was the response, “You loaned it to me months ago.”

I know my memory isn't what it once was, but I don't recall loaning out that book. How many other books have I loaned out? Who else have I loaned books? Not knowing the answers to those questions, I curiously checked the Ubuntu repositories. There I found Tellico and Alexandria Book Manager.

Change is maddeningly inevitable

To broaden or not broaden the GNU/Linux user base. This topic has generated a ton of discussion and emotion within the community. Whatever your particular stance, one thing is guaranteed. Change! And human beings are typically adverse to Change!

Change is maddeningly inevitable. Change may be planned, such as a wedding. Change may be unplanned, such as a job termination. Change may be hard-earned, such as a graduation. Change may be filled with energy and hope. Change may be filled with uncertainty and doubt.

Change is an integral part of our life-fabric

Converting your techno-resistant loved ones

The techo-resistant person in my life is my own spouse. See, my wife loves to work with her hands. Her favorite activities involve knitting or crocheting. She takes balls of yarn and converts them into items of beauty. So, her instinctive reaction to computers and software was “why do I need that” and “what would I have to show for my time”.

However, in the last few years, I converted her into a bona-fide computer user just as I converted her to Chinese food. She is now a frequent user of free software, primarily Edubuntu 6.10 and Firefox 2.0.

So how did I activate her latent geek genes? By following this four step program:

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