My TV runs Linux!

I was browsing through the manual for my new TV, when I saw a reference to the GPL.

This product uses some software programs which are distributed under the GPL/LGPL license. Accordingly, the following
GPL and LGPL software source codes that have been used in this product can be provided after asking to
GPL software: Linux Kernel, Busybox, Binutils
LGPL software: Glibc, ffmpeg, smpeg, libgphoto, libusb, SDL

Now, how do I get root? 🙂

Google’s Chromium OS

The other day, Google released its open source operating system. This has been expected for some time, and I was keen to have a look.

Well following some instructions, I managed to fail to compile my own image of the new operating system. Having quickly bored of trying, my next option was to download a pre-compiled version. This was easy to find, and ended up with having a VirtualBox appliance on my hard drive.

Now this is very early software, so it would be unfair to be critical. However, it does look promising. For someone who only used a computer to email and surf the web, it would be great.

It has been suggested that it will another year before this becomes a full release. In the mean time, I intend to keep an eye on it.


Its that time of year again!

Free Ubuntu Book

I am sure there are lots of great resources for getting to grips with Ubuntu and Linux in general. However, I remember my first tentative steps were helped along by being able to read a manual. So having a reference work freely available for Ubuntu is great.

To be honest, I cant claim to have read this book, but I like the idea of giving the PDF away for free. Certainly more than a few people who read the PDF will be motivated to buy the printed copy. Check it out for yourselves at

Google Chrome

This has been rumoured for a long time. Now it is here. Google have created their own web browser. Unfortunately it is only for Windows at the moment, but I understand that it will eventually be available for Linux.

In the mean time I plan on using it at work.

First impressions are that it is very fast. Certainly on Google pages such as Gmail and Google Maps. Even Openstreetmap seems very smooth.

As it is Open Source, I hope that it has the desired intention of moving the whole browser world forward. The next question is, how long before I start to see Google Chrome appear in the logs of my web server?

Free Software

This is an article from the BBC website by Richard Stallman. It is a fair reflection of why I use Linux. Sorry, GNU/Linux.

It’s not the Gates, it’s the bars
By Richard Stallman
Founder, Free Software Foundation

To pay so much attention to Bill Gates’ retirement is missing the point. What really matters is not Gates, nor Microsoft, but the unethical system of restrictions that Microsoft, like many other software companies, imposes on its customers.

That statement may surprise you, since most people interested in computers have strong feelings about Microsoft. Businessmen and their tame politicians admire its success in building an empire over so many computer users.

Many outside the computer field credit Microsoft for advances which it only took advantage of, such as making computers cheap and fast, and convenient graphical user interfaces.

Gates’ philanthropy for health care for poor countries has won some people’s good opinion. The LA Times reported that his foundation spends five to 10% of its money annually and invests the rest, sometimes in companies it suggests cause environmental degradation and illness in the same poor countries.

Many computerists specially hate Gates and Microsoft. They have plenty of reasons.

‘Solicit funds’

Microsoft persistently engages in anti-competitive behaviour, and has been convicted three times. George W Bush, who let Microsoft off the hook for the second US conviction, was invited to Microsoft headquarters to solicit funds for the 2000 election.

Many users hate the “Microsoft tax”, the retail contracts that make you pay for Windows on your computer even if you won’t use it.

In some countries you can get a refund, but the effort required is daunting.

There’s also the Digital Restrictions Management: software features designed to “stop” you from accessing your files freely. Increased restriction of users seems to be the main advance of Vista.

‘Gratuitous incompatibilities’

Then there are the gratuitous incompatibilities and obstacles to interoperation with other software. This is why the EU required Microsoft to publish interface specifications.

This year Microsoft packed standards committees with its supporters to procure ISO approval of its unwieldy, unimplementable and patented “open standard” for documents. The EU is now investigating this.

These actions are intolerable, of course, but they are not isolated events. They are systematic symptoms of a deeper wrong which most people don’t recognise: proprietary software.

Microsoft’s software is distributed under licenses that keep users divided and helpless. The users are divided because they are forbidden to share copies with anyone else. The users are helpless because they don’t have the source code that programmers can read and change.

If you’re a programmer and you want to change the software, for yourself or for someone else, you can’t.

If you’re a business and you want to pay a programmer to make the software suit your needs better, you can’t. If you copy it to share with your friend, which is simple good-neighbourliness, they call you a “pirate”.

‘Unjust system’

Microsoft would have us believe that helping your neighbour is the moral equivalent of attacking a ship.

The most important thing that Microsoft has done is to promote this unjust social system.

Gates is personally identified with it, due to his infamous open letter which rebuked microcomputer users for sharing copies of his software.

It said, in effect, “If you don’t let me keep you divided and helpless, I won’t write the software and you won’t have any. Surrender to me, or you’re lost!”

‘Change system’

But Gates didn’t invent proprietary software, and thousands of other companies do the same thing. It’s wrong, no matter who does it.

Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, and the rest, offer you software that gives them power over you. A change in executives or companies is not important. What we need to change is this system.

That’s what the free software movement is all about. “Free” refers to freedom: we write and publish software that users are free to share and modify.

We do this systematically, for freedom’s sake; some of us paid, many as volunteers. We already have complete free operating systems, including GNU/Linux.

Our aim is to deliver a complete range of useful free software, so that no computer user will be tempted to cede her freedom to get software.

In 1984, when I started the free software movement, I was hardly aware of Gates’ letter. But I’d heard similar demands from others, and I had a response: “If your software would keep us divided and helpless, please don’t write it. We are better off without it. We will find other ways to use our computers, and preserve our freedom.”

In 1992, when the GNU operating system was completed by the kernel, Linux, you had to be a wizard to run it. Today GNU/Linux is user-friendly: in parts of Spain and India, it’s standard in schools. Tens of millions use it, around the world. You can use it too.

Gates may be gone, but the walls and bars of proprietary software he helped create remain, for now.

Dismantling them is up to us.

Richard Stallman is the founder of the Free Software Foundation. You can copy and redistribute this article under the Creative Commons Noderivs license.

More fun with Povray

From time to time, I get the the urge to play with Povray.

As can be seen, I am in the process of modeling my home. The idea was I could try out different arrangements of furniture and stuff, and get a view of what it looks like. We even may move some walls around, and this should help to give a feel for how it could look.

At the moment, I am still putting the walls in place. Two big gaps are the fire place, and the front door.

SATA DVD Burner with LightScribe

As mentioned before, I have a new DVD Burner. After getting it to work, I needed to start using it. The first pack of media that I bought had the LightScribe surface. For those that don’t already know, LightScribe is a technology developed by HP that uses the DVD burner laser to effectively print directly onto the surface of special discs. Now I need to get this to work with Ubuntu.

First I went to the download area of the LightScribe website, and in the pre-release area, they have a few Debian packages that are compatible with Ubuntu. I installed these following the instruction provided, and started to use the simple labeller application.

This worked great, but is limited only to the most basic format of label, which consists of only two lines of text with a few provided graphics in a narrow band near the centre of the disk. My handwriting is not the best, so was happy with this as a simple solution, but it would be nice to have more.

I did a quick search to see if anybody has made any other label software for Linux that can use LightScribe, and drew a blank. This seems strange to me as HP have made the API available and even provide a sample application with the SDK. It would be nice to one day bite the bullet and have a go at writing my own application. Maybe this is the one!

A little bit of further research and I found LaCie have provided a LightScribe program for Linux. Initially I discarded this, as I was sure that it would be somehow crippled to only work with LaCie drives, and not with my Samsung one. Well it turns out that it is not. I only need to download the application, as I already had the LightScribe support files from the LightScribe site.

The LaCie software makes a good companion to the LightScribe software. The LaCie software only prints graphics, but will print to the full face of the disk. The clever thing with LightScribe is that the drive is able to recognise the position of the disk, so I can use the LaCie program to put a picture on the lower half of the disk, and leave the top area blank. I can then use the LightScribe simple labeller program to add a line of text. It is even possible to print the same label twice to get a darker image.

So I am happy. I have a method of marking my disks that looks smart, and it all works in Linux. I could really do with making a template for Gimp or Inkscape so that I can generate images easily, but that can wait. I now need to work on a few recipes to cook up some content suitable to burn.

SATA DVD Writer issues!

I decided to buy myself a DVD Writer. A quick search and I decided to get a SATA device from Samsung that has LightScribe. I have a SATA controller on my motherboard, and I don’t like the idea of buying old technology, so I wanted a SATA interface.

I did a quick check to make sure that there was a good chance such a device would work with my Ubuntu desktop system. No major issues were highlighted, so on Tuesday I went bought the drive. I guessed that it would be only a few minutes to install, and then I would be up and running.

How wrong was I? To cut a long story short, I found that I have two different SATA controllers on my motherboard. One is incorporated in the southbridge, and one extra one. If I plugged the DVD into the extra one, then the machine would not even complete the POST. If I plugged it into the one on the southbridge, it would boot, but very slowly, and the DVD would not work, and the lots of error messages would fill dmesg.

It turns out that I have an early motherboard with SATA, and that it is not very good. Eventually I gave up trying to get it to work, and just bought a new SATA controller card. Now the machine boots without errors. Next thing is to learn how to create DVD’s and see if I can get LightScribe to work.