Saturday, June 14. 2008
Wine is a way to run native Windows applications without Windows. The Wine project have been able to replicate the APIs required to run quite a number of applications under their environment. It's one way you can run your legacy Windows applications under your Linux desktop. I daily run Wine for a number of applications for business:
Friends, vintners, penguins, lend me your ears: We come not to praise Windows, but to celebrate our increasing independence from it. The final release candidate for Wine 1.0 will appear this Friday (13th), and barring catastrophe, Wine 1.0 itself will be released a few days later.I recently blogged about how hard it is for many small businesses to move off Windows. One way they can (particularly those that are on pre-Vista desktops and don't wish to go to Vista) is to utilise Wine for those legacy business Windows applications that need to run. 8-) This way they can keep their functionality, but move to a more secure, less restrictive (licensing) operating system and a better and more richer computing experience in my opinion. :-) I recently attempted to see if I could run MYOB under Wine. Currently Pauline is stuck on Windows, due to her requirement to run MYOB to do our company books. MYOB ran under Wine without a hitch. :-D Well... until I went to print. It went off to the dark printing gods and spat out an empty plain page -- no matter what I printed. And thus is the reason for this blog post.
— – — – —If anyone does business accounting, you realise printing is a key feature. Many hectares of forests are destroyed each year keeping up with the legal requirement of keeping records accounting records. (Personally we print a lot to PDF -- but still, under Wine this was failing for us!). Scroll through many Linux forums/help sites and you'll hear people whining and complaining about printing under Wine. It seems to have also increased with the introduction of CUPS. From what I could see people where having problems printing to a physical printer most of the time, even though their CUPS printers correctly are represented and available in Wine. (This is exactly what I was seeing -- just blank pages printed). Unfortunately this was going to be a show-stopper. Without a way to print (paper or electronically) for MYOB the idea was dead in the water. I didn't want to run Windows XP in a virtual machine (more on that in my next post over the following days). I decided to sit down and take a bit of a fiddle (that's a technical term!) :-P Really -- if CUPS-PDF didn't work, and my native printers attached, even a Postscript file would be sufficient (I could then feed that into ps2pdf or something similar if I really wanted it in PDF format for Emailing, or just print the Postscript file directly to the printer. I found that within the printing application I could create a virtual printer that printed a postscript file directly to a file in Linux. Okay, that works fine under Linux... Now the big test, did it print fine with MYOB running under Wine? I could see the printer fine (as I could with all the other CUPS printers previously). I bit my bottom lip and hit print. Low and behold... a working report! 8-) Even better I could link the Postscript printer to the CUPS-PDF printer and it would convert it auto-magically into a PDF for me. I since tested a range of applications under Wine and they all seem to be printing. So if you need to print in Wine and don't want a headache, try the local Postscript virtual printer hack. It works well. :-D For those that want to replicate it, here is a series of pictures showing the Postscript printer properties. And if you still don't believe.... here is a sample print job... one in Windows with MYOB and one under Linux
Wednesday, June 11. 2008
I've been hearing ramblings on a few blogs about a little app called Terminator. (No it isn't Arnie hitting ya desktop), but in fact a terminal program that can do split screens and a bunch of other funky stuff.
Here's the blurb straight from the Terminator website:
Terminator is an attempt to maximise useful space on a given desktop for terminals. Iím a sysadmin by trade, so I live in ssh sessions and thus terminals. An extra line here and there over all those hours seems like itís worth trying for.
It can be found in the Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy) repositories, and the Debian Sid repositories.
If you're running those distros, you can just click here to install terminator
Those still stuck on Ubuntu 7.10 (Gutsy) can also install it. Just add the following lines your
I have previously mentioned we're building a new house (both here and here).
Well on Tuesday the building commenced!
Not much to date, but they have done the site preparation, and will be digging the foundations and hopefully laying the concrete slab this week.
Obviously this will be dependent on the actual weather. This week isn't too promising, but next week is! Hopefully a 'few showers' means that work can still progress and that they are only light.
Wednesday A few showers. 16oC
My folks were out at the block (they are also building out at Bannockburn themselves).
They took some photos to show us the progress being made. (Thanks Dad and Mum!) You can click on each image for an enlarged view.
It's great to finally have something happening on the block. It's a little frustrating doing the paperwork dance and it was November when we purchased the block. So just over 6 months later the physical work can now start.
All going well... we'll be in September - October of this year. Truthfully, we'll be happy to be in for this Christmas, anything earlier will be a bonus.
I'll post more photos as the building progresses. We'll be heading down to Bannockburn this weekend and will look at taking more shots, hopefully the plumbing and slab are done by then.
For those that want a reminder of what we're building, here is a copy of the houseplan (well we've made some minor adjustments and the carport is actually a double garage!).
We've just finished the actual final electrical and the network plans for the house.
On top of that we also think we've found the water tank we'll be putting in a 10,200L tank off the side of the house. After we move in I'll probably put another 5,000-8,000L tank off the garden shed. The smaller tank will be used to supply a vegie garden, whilst the larger one will be used for some lawn and drinking water.
I've already been doing a lot of smart planning for the garden/lawns. We'll be laying Sir Walter lawn (or similar) - which is drought tolerant but vibrant in colour.
I'll also be planting a native Australian garden. My parents gave me a wonderful book about Native Australian gardens and designs for my birthday earlier in the year. It is amazing at the rich colour and diversity that is available to us all using our own natives.
It's well worth a read for anyone considering how to reduce their water requirements but keeping a colorful and lively looking garden. Many of our own native plants show the beauty of the traditional European gardens we have traditionally planted. It's not all about mulch and grey coloured foliage!
I've actually requested that all the site excavations from the property be left on site and will be incorporating this into the design of our garden. I'll be creating undulating garden beds, with heavier water thirsty plants at the bottom whilst hardier and less water hungry plants positioned on the top of these mounds. Using this method I can use the 'natural' layout of the land to deliver the right amount of water to the various plants (either with rain or watering).
I think over the next 10 years we'll see more frustrated gardeners who have given up trying to grow a European style garden (without it dying off or turning brown) move across to this style. Like many gardens it can be setup relatively maintenance free, or not. This really depends on the type of garden and time you have available. I'll probably plant for something in the middle. The idea of getting off the computer and doing something with nature is quite appealing.
Monday, June 9. 2008
We all enjoy a good holiday. Getting the time to take one always seems to be the problem for me however. I think I may have just found the answer...
If you're like me you grew up watching The Wonderful World of Disney at 6:30pm every Sunday. Here we marveled at cartoons of Mickey, Goofy and other great Disney characters. (So much so, many the hostnames on my home network are now named after Disney characters! ).
It also introduced us to classic 'childrens' movies like Herbie, 101 Dalmatians, Mary Poppins and Alice in Wonderland.
It's probably the dream of every child to visit the magical place of Disneyland or DisneyWorld.
With the help of Google you can now explore DisneyLand without leaving your chair!
Google has produced a 3D interactive representation of Disneyland inside Google Earth.
If you've got Google Earth installed try the following:
It's nearly as good as being there!
Just think - no more queues for rides, no long-haul flight getting there, and the park is now open 24 hours for you.
Have fun exploring!
Sunday, June 8. 2008
There are many reasons people are stuck on Windows.
For small businesses the main reason is their accounting software.
Like it or not, since the introduction of GST and BAS the days of the shoe-box accounting have disappeared. Every business that wants to keep accurate financial records requires an computerized accounting system.
In Australia, The introduction of GST and BAS has made it difficult for these same people to move over to Linux.
The two most popular Small Business Accounting packages are MYOB and QuickBooks. Both products support the Australian market and handle submissions to the ATO.
Many small businesses look for software that can handle base accounting (less then 25 invoices a week) and an integrated simple payroll module that can pay their employees (1-5 typically).
Both QuickBooks and MYOB operate as closed-source commercial software that runs on Windows (and on Mac - in the case of MYOB). They also integrate heavily into Microsoft Office.
Both business models expect customers to fork our between $500 - $800 for the initial purchase, and anywhere from $200- $500 annually to get 'updates'. For any small business this is a hefty investment just to keep up with the legal requirements of running their business. Calling for support can also attract additional fees on top of the yearly retainer.
As such, many are fearful to move on, but have a love-hate relationship with their accounting software provider. They feel cheated and ripped off (and rightly so). This duopoly has created a handsome cash-cow for both software makers.
The current extortion model used by MYOB and Quicken is best explained by Turbo Cash's explaination (a GPL Windows Accounting package). Unfortunately TurboCash is Windows software and contains no Australian payroll module.
Unfortunately, I am yet to see an OSS Linux accounting software that handles all the features required for an Australian business:
There is both Ledger-SQL and LedgerSMB (a fork of the former) that handle accounting and can be customized to handle GST. Yet, they don't do anything to address BAS reporting/lodging or have a payroll module. As such, both are unsuitable for the Australian SMB market without further heavy lifting.
Their is commercial software like SAGE AccPac available, yet it's quite expensive and more geared towards a medium sized business and thus out of the price range for most small businesses.
One OSS project that did look indeed promising was SYMBOL (Surf Your Money Books On Line). It was written by an accountant from Western Australia and licensed under the BSD license.
I have been in Email discussion with the developer Edward Metcalfe, but it appears he has now moved on from the project and as such the project has stalled. Looking at the CVS repository the last update was unfortunately 13 months ago.
However, the software is indeed functional and delivers on the two items listed above (Australian Taxation/Payroll). Whilst you would need to update the PAYG tax tables (no real show-stopper), it should do the job admirably. ComputerWorld actually ran an article on SYMBOL in Februrary 2007.
Those interested in SYMBOL, will find it is a web-based application so accounting can be down via a regular browser (making it suitable on either Mac/Windows/Linux clients) It runs on a PostgreSQL backend and uses Perl/CGI for the front-end. It also is multi-user based. (One thing software like MYOB and Quicken charge an arm and a leg for!)
The fear of running SYMBOL though in it's current form is that it is unmaintained. It's likely the current government or subsequent ones will indeed look at overhauling the payroll and corporate tax systems (as opposed to just an implementation of the Goods and Services Tax). This would mean that any software a small business adopts would need to address these modification.
The ATO has worked to provide great documentation on the complex tax scheme we have in Australia for software developers. Their Software Developers Website gives test case scenarios and formulas to write compliant and competing software.
I'm in two minds:
Ideally I would love to see a AJAXed based web-version of the application with a modern interface using either the Yahoo UI or the Dojo Toolkit's Dijit and DojoX interfaces.
Either solution would provide an excellent interface and provide the user with an experience that matched a local fat client. Using a web framework like Django and a PostgreSQL database underneath, would make for a solid backend.
I think there is a market for an excellent OSS product to capture the market and knock off this duopoly. However I suspect it will take some committed individuals to pull it off. From the grumblings you hear frequently from small business owners there is a ready market to ditch their over-priced software once a viable and supported solution arises.
Here are some interesting facts about the Australian Small Business Market:
I suspect a lot of OSS developers do a fair amount of moon-lighting and as such require a way to invoice for their work. (Consulting may be your day time job also to pay for the bills, and OSS coding your passion and after hours work!).
So what are your thoughts?
Is there enough interest in getting up an OSS Accounting+Payroll solution for Australian small businesses?
Saturday, June 7. 2008
Jeremy Visser recently reported his content was being ripped off by a shady site called MundoSitio[dot]com.
Looking closer at the site it appears that it's not just Jeremy but anyone that gets syndicated on Planet Linux Australia.
It appears my name is being credited to many of the posts -- and their not even mine!
Whilst they do credit the author (well often incorrectly as me!) and link to the original conent, it's a little rich to be making advertising dollars off our posts. Particularly after I deliberately don't run adverts on my own site (by choice).
I suspect it might be prudent for those running Planet Linux Australia to look at blocking the offending IPs.
Anyone able to come up with the offending IPs to block?
Update: Thomas has posted he believes the offending IP ranges are:
Wednesday, June 4. 2008
On Tuesday, Internode announced that they are now mirroring Sourceforge.
This is fantastic news for all OSS lovers down here in Australia.
Whilst we have had the up and down again service from Optus for some time, it's great to have an alternative. (Having said that - I don't see Optus being offered on Sourceforge any more? Has Optus mirroring disappeared again?)
Even better, customers of Internode will actually get those downloads for free now. (Whilst I don't download Gb's of data each month of Sourceforge, I do grab things regularly off it! -- and every little bit helps.) More importantly, having a speedy mirror to grab code off is what counts.
It's great to see Internode -- a company that uses a lot of OSS software in their service delivery give back to the community that makes it happen.
Their range of free mirrored content is quite appealing. They run their own download mirror site and for a Linux lover there is a huge selection of distros, and updates mirrored. Even better it supports rsync so you can grab your updates quickly and easily! Add to it, now Sourceforge and MajorGeeks (for Windows software lovers). I regularly make use of their free streaming radio content. They have stuff also for gamers (who's got the time ?! ) as well as some other content. You can take a peep here.
The Sourceforge content is hosted here: http://internode.dl.sourceforge.net/ but you'll need to use the Sourceforge website to pick a download, then select Adelaide, Australia from the list of download options. (The direct link to the Internode mirror isn't browsable).
— — —
After reviewing this post, it does sound like an advert for Internode!
Having said that, I've used a bunch of ISPs over the years, and I haven't been happier than I am now with Internode.
The service is always faultless, 13-NODE (Tech support) is answered always promptly by someone who actually understands technical details (and not a messenger service for a tech team).
I've even had technical staff diagnose and fix routing issues whilst I've been on the phone with them!
So if you're in the market for a new ISP, give them a go. Sure, they aren't the cheapest ISP going around, but they are probably the best technical ISP and have some real added bonuses for OSS fans.
Tip: For those that do wish to sign up with Internode, one way to pickup an ongoing discount of 15% is to register as a SAGE-AU member. Get the benefits of being a SAGE-AU member -- and cheaper Internet access. (You will need a valid SAGE-AU membership number to be entitled to the discount).
For me, the cost of the SAGE-AU membership is less than the discount.. so I come out ahead!
Tuesday, June 3. 2008
I used to believe that I was:
Why the hell purely technical people spend all day filling in @#*$@^#$! forms/paperwork for auditors and other pen-pushers is beyond belief.
Don't ask me if I've done your work, it's been 14 days since I've even logged into a Linux system shell due to the amount of bullshit administration crap this beast we call 'the employer' has thrown at me.
At this rate I should have 30 mins in 2 months time, though that's bound to get chewed as some other auditor/manager asking why I haven't done all any technical work by then.
Why a technical company is allowed to be dictated to by clip-board holders and those that have NFI always astounds me.
If you want a company to be productive and profitable, ensure you utilize the skills of those you employ. Don't employ highly skilled technical people and expect them to be satisfied shuffling papers all day. Seriously, monkeys are much cheaper, and don't talk back as much.
Saturday, May 31. 2008
The IEEE's 802.11n standard is supposed to bring high speed wireless to the masses.
It's been in draft longer than most can remember, and from the schedule it appears that it won't be out of draft release and make it to a final specification until Dec 2009. This is from a working party that was setup in January 2004!
Sure there was a rival groups in the early days, but as of July 2005 these rivals (TGn Sync, WWiSE, and MITMOT) all agreed to merge their proposals into the TGn draft.
Last month we saw Draft 4 of the specification approved, and there is already talk of a Draft 5... how many before we get something into our hands?
Sure, there is a bunch of 'Draft 2.0' 802.11n devices on the market. It's risky business deploying one now. Why?
Many believe it will be the silver bullet for networking, with the promise of delivering 600Mbps. Many read that as 'data throughput' - that's not the case, it's raw bit-rate.
How many people to you currently speak to that use an 802.11g network whinge that they aren't seeing 54Mbps transfers?
Expect anywhere between 30-70Mbps in real world data-transfer rates.
Many have moved their cordless phones from the overburdened 2.4Ghz spectrum up to the 5Ghz area. (Just look at any new cordless phone -- most are shipping in this space). 802.11n will operate in both the the crowded 2.4Ghz space and the 5Ghz range.
Expect to see the same issues we saw when 2.4Ghz wireless networks first came out with a range of devices interfering with the 802.11n network. (on either 2.4Ghz or 5Ghz).
MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) does help somewhat, in extending the quality, range and provides multiple streams.
The draft allows for up to 4 antennas on either end, but you'll be lucky to see one of these. Expect dual antennas to be the norm.
In addition, high-throughput will require high performing CPUs (particularly if you have encryption enabled -- which should be unless you want to be wifi-jacked). Home wireless network routers are notorious for having underpowered CPUs... whilst they will get a little jump in grunt, expect them to falter if attempting several large data transfers at the same time.
It appears 802.11n routers will be a mine-field for some time for consumers, there are loads of options and those cheaper ones are likely to miss the bells and whistles... watch out for the cheapies that can't do both bands. Many are working solely in the 2.4Ghz range. Most of those on the market presently are only Draft-2.0 models, so they are quite a fair way from the 'final spec' (We know of 5 drafts at least prior to the final spec).
Ars Technica has a great review on current 802.11n routers. What they have to say doesn't suprise me. These are speeds all running in 802.11n mode and show the average of UDP/TCP throughput results at multiple locations:
For those Aussies wonder what the feet is in metres (well it was a US review).
1 metre ~= 3.28 feet. On the flip side, 1 foot ~= 30.48cms
So these results were measured at: 60.96cms, 7.62 metres, and 10.67 metres. Nothing out of the ordinary and actually relatively close for at least the first two. If you were < 1 metre away, just plug in an Ethernet cable!
One thing 802.11n will deliver is supposedly better range. so those struggling with dropouts on a 802.11g network may like the upgrade... though it will come at a cost. Don't expect the devices to come cheap. A 'decent' 802.11n device currently costs upwards of $200USD.... plus adding in all the cards you'll need, you could be up for some serious dollars.
From all reports if you want the range and speed - get the 5.0Ghz models.. though if it doesn't support 2.4Ghz you won't have backwards compatibility with 802.11g devices.
You will also notice most currently advertise 270Mbps or 110Mbps..... it's no where near real-world results. I would love to see one of these manufacturers demonstrate their delivery of these speeds, to date -- we haven't seen anything near them. Advertising raw bit speed is also misleading and these makers know it... they are aware when people look at speeds they normally are looking at 'real world' speed performances. I expect more outrageous claims to be made and the infamous 600Mbps will soon start to be sprouted. Realistically on a '600Mbps device' -- don't expect anything beyond 80Mbps. See that Ethernet cable isn't looking that old at all.
Me, I'll stick with 802.11g for the time being.. . I only use it currently to get to the Wii and the MythTV box. Occassionally I might use it for our laptops or visitors (if I can't be bothered running an Ethernet cable from the switch).
I'm laying Gigabit Ethernet on Cat6 throughout my new house (48 ports baby! ), and expect that all bar the Wii will be on that.
For streaming High Definition Video, don't expect your sparkling new 802.11n device to handle it, or if it does, don't expect multiple streams.
For a specification that been in the thinking tank now for 4 years, the current speeds are pretty disappointing.
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What I've been listening to
Undecided by Silverchair on
Tue 6 Mar 2012, 11:10:37 AM
Young Man, Old Man by The Dissociatives on
Tue 6 Mar 2012, 11:06:33 AM
black fingernails red wine by Eskimo Joe on
Tue 6 Mar 2012, 11:02:27 AM
Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol on
Tue 6 Mar 2012, 10:57:59 AM
Sour Sour Times by Portishead on
Tue 6 Mar 2012, 10:54:04 AM
She Wants To Move (Album Version) by N*E*R*D on
Tue 6 Mar 2012, 10:50:31 AM
Last Chance by Jet on
Tue 6 Mar 2012, 10:48:39 AM
Sick and Tired by Anastacia on
Tue 6 Mar 2012, 10:45:07 AM
Somethings Gotta Give by The John Butler Trio on
Tue 6 Mar 2012, 10:42:02 AM
Slip Into Something More Comfortable (Instrumental Version) by Kinobe on
Tue 6 Mar 2012, 10:37:20 AM
Sat 2 Aug 2014, 10:19:01 AM
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