A few musings from St Kilda

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Stena brings back smoking

So here it is; Stena Lines new superferry, the Stena Hollandica. It's the largest ferry in the world. It's big and it's impressive, but the most noticeable thing about it is the massive pall of part-bunt diesel that it belches. You see the pall of smoke rising above Landguard Fort before you see the ship itself approaching Landguard Point. I'm sure it's luxurious as promised, but pity about the pollution.

Scram Scammer!

I was phoned today by a guy wanting to tell me of a major problem that was happening to all Windows computers. Curious? I'm fairly well read on these things and hadn't heard anything. He assured me that my computer would be full of errors. Did I have it switched on? I sensed a large and smelly rat.

As it happens the computer was on so I quickly switched from Linux to Windows and he started his game and I started mine as ignorant punter. He took me to Event Manager and asked me to look at the items in it - were there any errors or warnings? In the first folder there were warnings. I looked at a few and they were all the same and actually of no consequence - all networked Windows computers show them by default and that's normal. In another there were errors - but were all "phantom" errors I could explain easily and there were no problems. "You see he said your computer is full of errors. It will crash sooner or later! However, if you pay us £54 a year, our Microsoft trained engineers will sort out all your problems 24/7." At that point I hung up on him fearing his nose might get so long he would do himself an injury.

Why do I post this? As a warning mostly. It's just a telephone version of the scam that pops up saying your computer is full of viruses. You then pay for a program that does little for viruses but supplies your data to crooks worldwide. This is a simpler scam than that. Someone provides you with telephone support to sort "problems" out with your computer - but they are actually non-problems. If you are really concerned about security on your computer, go to someone you know and trust, don't respond to emails or phone calls from people you've never heard of.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Unleash the Lynx

Most people know that I'm a bit of a computer anorak and also know that I don't run Windows (or for that matter very little Microsoft software) on my computer but a version of Linux called Ubuntu. Like Windows it's an operating system and it's just come out in its latest version 10.04 codenamed Lucid Lynx.

So how does it differ from Windows?
Stability - it rarely crashes, and if it does, it doesn't crash the whole system. The main reason for stability is primarily the lack of a registry and the fact that it doesn't need an orderly shutdown to reboot the system.
Security - high security is built in as standard. The kernel is firewalled as standard. You don't require anti-spyware, anti-trojan, anti-rootkit or anti-virus scanning software (although ClamAV is included to filter out malware in emails in case you forward it Windows users). It is very difficult to get bad stuff on your computer or to lose information from it.
Speed - it's fast, very fast - because unlike Windows, it contains a minimum of flabware. Ubuntu Lucid boots to its login screen in under 10 seconds.
Software - there's no fiddling with CDs and DVDs. All Ubuntu software is downloaded and regularly updated from online repositories. By all I mean all. Not just the Operating System but all the software. Ubuntu has about 99% of linux software online and available to download in a few clicks. There are good quality free alternatives to well-known software, particularly Microsoft Office and the awful Microsoft Internet Explorer.
Spondoolies - so how much does it all cost. Nowt. Ubuntu is free and always will be. All the online software is free too. I've only paid for about five pieces of linux software since I started using Ubuntu four years ago and I don't think I use any of it now! Is the software naff if its free? No. It's well used, well-trusted and well-supported software - it just happens to be free. The rule of thumb in computer software it seems to me is that the more money you pay, the less competent and more badly written software tends to be.

What's the drawbacks? For most users, none at all. If you are a gamer then Linux isn't for you. But Linux is a new world for most people. Ubuntu make it as easy as possible for people to migrate from Windows, but you have to unlearn all your bad Windows habits and get used to doing things a different way. It's not harder, just different. Unlike Windows which probably came bundled with your computer, you'll have to install it yourself which can be problematic. To those of us who have experience of fresh installs or re-installs of Windows on computers, Ubuntu problems are usually in the same category of difficulty.

You won't have access to a helpline where you will find help from someone who can't speak English and hasn't got a clue what your problem is. Ever tried ringing AOL? You'll see what I mean. You'll rely on posting your problem in the Ubuntu Forums where other users will suggest what you can do. Anoraks usually answer within an hour or two and usually they are right. Having been a host on tech message boards for AOL, I've found that other users give the most reliable answers, particularly on Linux boards.

Try before you don't buy - Ubuntu is designed to be test run from CD or DVD on any computer (PC or Mac) without disturbing the existing setup. Just download and burn a CD image. Or you can install Ubuntu to run in Windows using a program called Wubi. Or you can even install Ubuntu to run natively on your computer without disturbing Windows (it's called dual boot) if you've got plenty of fee disk space. It means you can play with Ubuntu before committing yourself to using it.

What about my favourite Windows programs? - I still have a couple of those. There is a package call Wine which can run Windows software under Lunix. It's OK on older and simpler programs but for good running I recommend running Windows in Linux using a virtual machine. That's a whole world in itself but easy to set up.

If Ubuntu is more secure, more stable, more technologically advanced than Windows, and free, then why don't more people use it? I'll answer that with a question. Why don't more people trust Jesus? Knowing God and having an eternal hope is free as well and will outlive all human technology; so why don't more people try it?

Knowing Jesus - Jesus can be discovered in your nearest Bible or at www.whoisjesusreally.org
Ubuntu can be downloaded at www.ubuntu.com