July 31, 2003
*NIX Mascots Under Fire for Targeting Children

"Like Joe Camel, Tux the Penguin and Beastie are targeted specifically at children. The open source community has gotten away with this kind of 'hook 'em while they're young' advertising for years, and it's time that they have their day in court," says John Burkstrom, the attorney representing the class-action lawsuit that individual parents and parenting groups such as Mothers Intervening in the Compiling or Redistribution of Open-Source SOFTware (MICROSOFT) and Parents Opposed to Open Protocols and Standards (POOPS).

Tingle check

However. One of Bush's virtues, I believe, is his uncomplicated authority. He is clearly a Leader In Charge, commanding a level of unity and loyalty that is without modern precedent.

There is a reason that G.W. was choosen over John McCain... and that is control. McCain couldn't be controlled, George can be...

That isn't a leader... that is a puppet.

Reconsidering Linux

Linux is not a product. Rather, Linux is a collection of software components, individually crafted by thousands of independent hands around the world, with each component changing and evolving on its own independent timetable.

To think of Linux as a product is to freeze an inherently dynamic thing in time and to close something that is inherently open. It cannot be done without losing something--and something significant at that.

No, Linux is not a product. It is a process.

Microsoft Takes Linux For A Test Drive

The project was started in May with an initial goal of determining the effort involved in building the kind of open-source platform that might be found in a typical business environment. "It's an opportunity for learning for us," Taylor says. The goal is to understand "what can you do and how can you do it" using open-source software, he says.

Next, Microsoft plans to create a comparable system using Windows and its own server products to see how Windows and Linux match up side-by-side in a variety of workload scenarios.

Typical Microsoft... doing it backwards.

I don't use Linux because I think it let's me do things Windows does... but better.

I use Linux because it let's me do things Windows won't or can't do.

So... set up your Windows system *first*. Then try to think "outside the box" and do something it "isn't designed for"... then try it with Linux.

Here is an example... take WindowsMe and share files with a Mac via appleTalk.

You can't. Why? Because MS made a "strategic decission" to not let the product provide the functionality... forcing customers that want said functionality to use the next higher level product.

Linux is about *not* forcing.

Stand back and take a good long look at WinXP and WinXP Pro... and think long and hard about how you've crippled WinXP in the networking arena... Why should I have to run WinXP Pro to get the network functionality I can get free with Linux?

Why should a business have to use WinXP Pro instead of WinXP when the only additional functionality they want is file and print sharing?

When you figure this out... you'll start understanding Linux.

July 30, 2003
Open Source In The Enterprise

It fascinates me when I occasionally hear a supposedly reputable IT industry leader proclaim that open source is not yet enterprise-ready. We used to hear this line a lot a couple of years ago, but it is much more rare today. Yet the claim occasionally turns up.

Why? The answer is simple: It seems just about everyone who claims that Linux and open source are not ready for the enterprise has his own enterprise product set to sell you. In fact, every time I have heard this claim in the past six months, it came from a vendor selling a proprietary solution.

The real question today is not, “Does open source belong in the enterprise?” but, “Where does open source fit in the enterprise, and where is it a good fit for my business?” Let’s examine this question closer.

July 29, 2003
Open Source Flying

In the airline market there are now many low-cost carriers who are offering cheap tickets to destinations for which other airlines still sell higher-price tickets. Some European low-cost airlines actually give away a certain number of tickets for free (all the customer actually pays is tax and a handling fee). Flying for free - who could have imagined that back in the days of Pan American? So in a way those cheap airlines can be considered the Open Source providers around flying.

So, how have the cheap airlines altered the marketplace?

Reduced vendor lock-in.

Building a wireless access point on Linux

When the ability to write and modify your own management software is the main objective, a custom-built wireless access point is the way to go. Take a look at what's involved in building a wireless bridge using Linux, including software and hardware considerations.

Linux Access in State and Local Government, Part VI

eGovernment solutions provide communities access to information about government services. Citizens can go on-line and pay taxes, look up deeds, renew their driver's licenses, file complaints and more. In my research of government technology, I have found that eGovernment has created demand for application development.

July 28, 2003
SQL::Translator, The SQL Fairy

The SQL::Translator is a group of Perl modules that converts vendor-specific SQL table definitions into other formats, such as other vendor-specific SQL, ER diagrams, documentation (POD and HTML), XML, and Class::DBI classes.

July 25, 2003
Create Debian Linux packages

Learn the basics of creating Debian packages for distributing programs and source code. This article shows all the necessary components of a package and how to put them together to end up with a final product.

July 23, 2003
Who owns Unix?

What's been missing from the discussion is the fact that, while SCO may be the current owner of the System V code, SCO does not own the Unix trademark and specification. These are the property of the Open Group, a San Francisco-based nonprofit standards organization. This ownership gives the Open Group the power to decide which products can be labeled

July 22, 2003
Information Technology vs. Business Management

A man is flying in a hot air balloon and realizes he is lost. He reduces height and spots a man down below. He lowers the balloon further and shouts, "Excuse me, can you tell me where I am?"

The man below says, "Yes, you're in a hot air balloon, hovering 30 feet above this field."

"You must work in Information Technology" says the balloonist.

"I do," replies the man. "How did you know?"

"Well," says the balloonist, "everything you have told me is technically correct, but it's no use to anyone.

"The man below says "You must work in business management."

"I do," replies the balloonist, "but how did you know?"

"Well," says the man, "you don't know where you are, or where you're going, but you expect me to be able to help. You're in the same position you were before we met, but now it's my fault."


Blosxom (pronounced "blossom") is a lightweight yet feature-packed weblog application designed from the ground up with simplicity, usability, and interoperability in mind.

Access Denied: RIAA, MPAA Blocked From Techfocus

Effective immediately, the RIAA and MPAA will need to find another way to get to Techfocus. In response to their legal targeting of individual file-swappers, access from their known networks to this site has now been blocked. While it may still be possible for them to access Techfocus via address ranges which we're not aware of, they'll otherwise have to use non-RIAA and non-MPAA networks to view the site.

Interesting concept...

Is SCO Bad Not Just for Linux, But Also for America?

Personally, I feel it's time to lay the cards on the table. As a journalist, you are supposed to remain emotionally detached from your subject, but there's no way I can do it anymore when I think about the SCO/Linux situation. I can't remember anything I've covered that has so enraged me as the legal thuggery that SCO is engaging in, and frankly, it's bad for the country.

The IP wars

She dismissed this with a wave of her hand. She, and millions of others, felt they were doing nothing wrong. They might be stealing, but they were stealing from thieves.

This is what the RIAA has never understood. While it is 100% correct in its assertion of legal property rights, it has no moral authority. As a result, its increasingly shrill self-righteousness instills not fear, but contempt, in the minds of most music traders.

July 21, 2003
JavaScript Form Validation Library

This overview of a new kit (val.js) which assembles reliable form validation techniques from the past will explain to you how to use them quickly in your forms. A more complete discussion is available separately, but this document will get you started quickly.

July 17, 2003
RT: Request Tracker, Part 2

In the previous article, I gave an overview of RT, and I installed all of the dependencies and RT itself from a bare Solaris 9 OS install. At that point, I still didn't have a functioning RT installation since I hadn't done any configuration. In this article, I'll cover RT concepts and configuration options, and walk through a simple setup.

Business lessons from the donut and coffee guy

"Next!" said the coffee & donut man (who I'll refer to as "Ralph") from his tiny silver shop-on-wheels, one of many that dot Manhattan on weekday mornings. I stepped up to the window, ordered a glazed donut (75 cents), and when he handed it to me, handed a dollar bill back through the window. Ralph motioned to the pile of change scattered on the counter and hurried on to the next customer, yelling "Next!" over my shoulder. I put the bill down and grabbed a quarter from the pile.

This should be required reading for every CEO in the country.

I am continually amazed at how many businesses decide that the perfect time to piss me off is the exact moment I want to give them money... when I'm in the checkout line!

People and companies that save me time, save me more than money could every replace. They are the ones that get my business.

Event handling in the DOM

Event handling has been part of JavaScript since the language's inception. As described in our event handler tutorial, they refer to specific, user imitated actions within the webpage, such as the moving of your mouse over a link, the clicking on a link, or submission of a form. Thanks to event handling, our scripts are more interactive and are able to perform certain actions depending on the user's.

The DOM of IE5 /NS6 provides expanded methods and flexibility (relative to older browsers) for capturing events. In this tutorial, we explore event handling in the DOM, and the differing support for it in IE5 and NS6 .

Object Oriented Exception Handling in Perl

The main goal of this article is to discuss in detail about exception handling in Perl and how to implement it using Error.pm. On our way, we'll be touching upon the advantages of using exception-handling over traditional error-handling mechanisms, exception handling with eval {}, problems with eval {} and the functionalities available in Fatal.pm. But by and large, our focus we'll be on using Error.pm for exception handling.

Simple Module Tutorial

So you find the Perl docs on modules a bit confusing? OK here is the world's simplest Perl module domonstrating all the salient features of Exporter and a script that uses this module. We also give a short rundown on @INC and finish with a note on using warnings and modules. Here is the module code.


I've seen work like this from Microsoft Research, but it's always struck me as a bit too clever-clever. They always go for the angle of "well, you're makiing a lot of noise and not typing, and the phone is off the hook, so there must be someone else in the room, so I won't display these private messags"-type hints. It's far too deductive: it's smart for smart's sake. And their set-up always makes what I think is a key mistake, which is to work too hard to delegate decisions to the computer. I see this a lot in agent tech; all that bullshit about "My preferences show that you like tasty burgers, and we're in the neighbourhood of a Big Kahuna Burger joint. Let me show you the route.". No. I may well like burgers, but you'll show me the solution when I ask for it. Don't act like a personal assistant, making decisions for me. You're no good at that. Give me more information to make my own decisions. Increase my power, don't bleed it away.

State of the Onion 2003

This is the 7th annual State of the Perl Onion speech, wherein I tell you how Perl is doing. Perl is doing fine, thank you. Now that that's out of the way, I'd like to spend the rest of the time telling jokes.

A centralized server architecture could be the killer Unix app

Ask people why they make the systems decisions they do, and you'll get some interesting answers. Unix and Mac users usually talk in terms of the available technologies and the requirements they're addressing with their chosen platform. A primary driver is something like functionality, sufficiency at lowest cost, or the opportunity to contribute to a community.

Ask the average Windows user or corporate CIO the same question, however, and the primary behavioral determinant usually turns out to be some variation on "I'm doing what everyone expects, because it's what everyone is doing."

It doesn't take Mr. Spock to realize that making systems choices without considering either the technology or the requirements to be addressed cannot possibly be logical.

July 16, 2003
Encrypted Tunnels with FreeS/WAN's x509 Patch

Many types of tunnels can be used and VPNs can be put together in many ways, but the IPsec implementation of Linux (FreeS/WAN) is by far the most secure and compatible way to do it. In this article, I explain how to establish LAN-to-LAN tunnels using the x509 patch and only one static IP address. I also tell you two ways to get around the four tunnel inconvenience.

Connect securely with ssh

MindTerm and socat and VNC, oh my! While the ability to work remotely has always been one of the Linux advantages that system programmers and administrators have most enjoyed, setting up for remote access takes more than one simple recipe.

July 15, 2003
Equinox ESP-2 MI 10/100 Serial Hub

The ESP-2 MI 2-port serial hub by Equinox does its job--enabling serial peripherals to function as IP-enabled devices on the network--efficiently and without any fuss. You simply plug a serial device into the hub, connect the hub to the network and configure the host computer with the software. If you were able to use your device when it was directly attached to the computer's serial device, then you can be using it on the network within ten minutes of unpacking the ESP-2 hub.

Open Source Economics

Now here's an argument even Open Source sympathisers have trouble with, -- the assumption that money must be made for Open Source to succeed. However, the argument is incomplete because it chooses to concentrate on the supply side alone, without regard to the demand side.While it may well be true that no one can make money from Open Source, that should only serve to discourage suppliers of software. On the demand side, however, consumers are saving tons of money by using Open Source. Since a penny saved is a penny earned, there is a strong economic basis for the success of Open Source after all. Someone is saving money, and they will fight to keep those savings.

July 14, 2003
Create Debian Linux packages

Learn the basics of creating Debian packages for distributing programs and source code. This article shows all the necessary components of a package and how to put them together to end up with a final product.

Are You a Sharecropper?

If you're developing software for the Windows platform, yes. Or for the Apple platform, or the Oracle platform, or the SAP platform, or, well, any platform that is owned and operated by a company. They own the ground you're building on, and if they decide they don't like you, or they can do something better with the ground, you're toast. They can ship their own product and give it away till you go bust, then start charging for it; and use secret APIs you can't see; and they can break the published APIs you use. All of these things have historically been done by platform vendors.

July 10, 2003
Trees in SQL

Relational databases are universally conceived of as an advance over their predecessors network and hierarchical models. Superior in every querying respect, they turned out to be surprisingly incomplete when modeling transitive dependencies. Almost every couple of months a question about how to model a tree in the database pops up at the comp.database.theory newsgroup. In this article I'll investigate two out of four well known approaches to accomplishing this and show a connection between them. We'll discover a new method that could be considered as a "mix-in" between materialized path and nested sets.

Fuushikaden Pop-up Calendar

This popup calendar allows the user to scroll through months and pick any year, which is different from other calendars in the sense that the year range is 'unlimited'.

July 02, 2003
BURP (Basic User Registration Package)

BURP is a very configurable user registration system (Password Protection/Membership & Profile Management) for Apache w/mod_perl and the MySQL DB. BURP uses cookies to store user information, keeping DB access to a minimum. It provides the user-info simply via CGI Environment variables, for easy, black-box use with other apps/logging. Directories can be protected by Apache config directives. All its pages are completely customizable through html templates with embedded perl.

Dynamic HTML::Template Database Template

Have you ever wanted to write an HTML::Template script that would display any database query without having to change the template file? Well, this bit of code attempts to do just that. Just supply a query and optional place holders and the code will do the rest. Of course, changing the layout of the table is a manual process, but the number and names of the columns are dynamically supplied.

Linux Access in State and Local Government, Part III

K12 Linux may be the mecca of open-source success. As school districts represent a part of state and local government, one has to wonder how their many case studies are practically unknown. As other sectors of state and local governments struggle with budget deficits, political pressure and uncertainty, Linux school projects represent tangible progress and offer empirical evidence of success.

July 01, 2003

Have you ever wanted to search text stored in your database, but couldn't figure out how to do it efficiently? Are you lazy like me and don't enjoy maintaining reverse indexes, dictionaries, and word scores? You're in luck. The release of MySQL 4.0 has made searching text stored in databases available to the masses.