Happy New Year 2008 to you all

Happy New Year 2008

I would like to take this opportunity to wish all our readers, friends and associates, as well as our enemies, a very happy & prosperous New Year 2008.

No Word Processor or Office Suite? Microsoft Office too expensive for you?

Go Open Source!

Microsoft Windows PCs, unlike the various Linux distros, do not, generally, have any word processor, bar the little “Notepad”, included and you have to get the word processor, and other office applications, be this spreadsheet, or what-have-you, extra. The idea, obviously, is that, if you want proper word processing capability, and other office applications, you go and buy Microsoft's own product, namely Microsoft Office. Microsoft Office, however, is highly overpriced and even ordinary MS WORD costs far too much for what it is. So, what to do if there is a budget or no budget for such applications but you must have them. And let's face it, you do need at least a decent word processor aboard your PC. So what is the answer?

Go Open Source!

There is the best on in the stable, and it is FREE; free as in freedom and free as in free beer (as I have said already, mine is a Guinness), and that is Open Office. And while I highly recommend Open Office in general, at least Version 2.0.0, do read my piece on Open Office first here, here and here. Open Office 2.0.0 works perfect for me and I shall stick with that on both Windows and Ubuntu Linux (at least for the time being until I get the RAM upgraded on both PCs). The problem for anyone else out there is that Open Office version 2.0.0 is no longer available for download. It was included, however, in Open CD 3.1which also is NO LONGER available for download, I know that – but ICT Review is making this CD available to anyone who has a low-memory PC (256MB and below) on XP or other Windows versions.

Star Office is a commercial open source office suite based on Open Office, and, like Open Office, comes from the stable of Sun Microsystems. This one, however, has to be bought rather than downloaded free. It is still only a fraction in cost of Microsoft Office, though.
Occasionally you can get a free fully featured and working download of this software which is a slightly older version made available via one or the other download source.

In addition to that there are a small variety of other office suites about that are based on Open Office and that are available for free download at times via various outlets.

The great thing about Open Office office suite is that all files can be saved as MS Office compatible ones and therefore interoperability is possible, to a degree.

Why do I say “to a degree”? Simply because until Open Document Standard is implemented throughout by Microsoft – something they seem rather very reluctant to do – it will always be interoperability to a degree only.

Some files created in Open Office, whether in writer or in other applications of Open Office, do not 100% display in the same way in MS Office programs, whether in WORD or elsewhere.

Even for the person who has used MS Office before switching to Open Office should not take too much of an effort, However, you have to realize that Open Office if not MS Office and some of the keyboard shortcuts, for instance, are different and also picture handling in Writer is different to MS WORD. Once you have gotten used to it, though, I am sure, you will enjoy using Open Office.

I use both system, e.g. I use WORD – could not afford the entire MS Office – on the Windows PC together with Open Office, but Open Office more than MS WORD, and I originally came from WORD. This is a WORD 2000 copy so you can tell how long I have had that one. It has gone through a number of PCs by now.

While there are some things were MS WORD maybe, just maybe, slightly superior, such as in the handling of photos/graphics in text and to the insertion of page numbers, for instance, the fact that it is open source and FREE compensates for that in the end, I am sure.

Also, the interface, that is to say, the tools bars don't looks as pretty in Open Office as the do in MS Office. Then again, is that that important? The important part, in my opinion, is that it works and that it certainly does.

© Michael Smith (Veshengro), December 2007

As indicated, copies of OPEN CD 3.1, which contains Open Office 2.0.0, can be had from ICT Review against a donation for the work of the Romani Institute.
Please use the “comment” feature to contact me with your email. As comments are moderated those details will not go live. Please do not , however, add any comments that you would like published to that particular post with your details, for it is either a case of publishing the entire post or rejecting the entire post.
Maybe Blogger will find a way of making actual editing of a posts possible one day.


European Governments adopting Open Source and Open Format

Some while back already apparently the French Gendarmerie took up Open Office (OpenOffice.org) on their, though still, Windows systems, that is to say, desktops and such. Then reports mentioned that the City of Vienna – must check on how they are doing – that the municipality was adopting Open Source, e.g. Linux, on servers and desktops. As fas as I understand some German local governments also have gone over to Linux on the desktop and other Open Source applications.

Also in the UK some local governments are taking up Open Source Office suites, for instance, Open Office and the commercial version, Star Office.

Now the Netherlands had gone and really upset Microsoft – don't you just love the Dutch – by talking, and I think it is more than just talking, of implementing Open Source and Open (Document) Format all throughout the government and semi-government agencies in that country.

Norway too is going a similar route and this, hopefully, together with what other countries, local governments, schools, and agencies, are doing around the world as regards to using Open Source throughout will soon bring about the time for Open Office and especially Open Standard to be the standard.

This can only be good for all of us, especially if Open Source Operating Systems, such as the various Linux distros, and other Open Source applications remain free; free as in freedom and free as in free beer (make mine a pint of Guinness please).

Several PC manufacturers are now going the route of providing computers, PCs as well as Laptops, pre-installed with Linux operating software and open source applications. A Dell PC at £300 with Linux and Open Office is not bad going though I have done that cheaper still myself. I have a second-hand Compac Evo that I loaded with Ubunto. The PC was £75 but, OK, it needed an FST monitor for just over £100. But then the operating system cost me nothing and came with everything: Thank you Ubuntu.

We can only hope that open source operating systems, especially Linux, and open source applications – free – will become the norm. That way the Internet will also become much more Firefox friendly and all websites will then be full accessible to the Linux man, woman or child.

© Michael Smith (Veshengro), December 2007

Students rehab old computers for families in need

by Margarita Raycheva

Students in the technology club at Gov. Thomas Johnson Middle School opened their Christmas workshop a few weeks ago.

Instead of toys and games, they stocked up on donated computers. Then, they rolled up their sleeves, and armed with new software and cleaning supplies, set off to refurbish and turn the computers into functional and much-needed presents for needy families in the area.

The idea is to finish before Christmas so that students who don’t have a computer at home can use one to study during winter break, said Anthony Bollino, technology coordinator at the school.

‘‘[The computers] are not going to be something that you can go home and play Halo 3,” Bollino said. ‘‘But they will be able to do school work.”

Bollino started the project together with 15 students in grades six through eight in the school technology club. The group hopes to have 16 computers cleaned and set up with new software by the beginning of December.

When the first batch of computers is ready, Bollino’s students will write letters to financially disadvantaged families in the community and invite them to take advantage of the initiative.

The project, so far, has been successful among students who get to learn about computers while clocking in hours for community service, Bollino said.

‘‘They like ... learning how to set up a computer with an operating system and software,” he said.

In the coming weeks, Bollino’s students will be working with Chris Gregan, founder of Aptenix Open Desktop Consulting in New Market, who offered to teach students about open-source software.

Open-source software allows free access to applications equivalent to systems such as Windows XP, Microsoft Word and Microsoft Office.

It was developed as an alternative for small businesses and nonprofits that don’t have the resources to equip computers with expensive versions of these programs, Gregan said.

When he starts working with Bollino’s students, he will help them set up the 16 computers with software, which could otherwise cost up to $2,000, Gregan said.

‘‘I’ll be walking them through the basic installation of an operating system,” he said.

The special software will equip the computers with programs allowing students to write papers, make PowerPoint presentations, do basic video and photo editing and even manage a family budget, Gregan said.

With the help of the community liaison at TJ Middle, Bollino has already identified some families that may be interested in trying out the computers.
If more students and families express interest, the technology club may be able to prepare a few more computers, Bollino said.

‘‘We do serve many families that are economically disadvantaged,” Bollino said.

To find out more about the initiative, contact Anthony Bollino at Gov. Thomas Johnson Middle School at 240-236-4900.


Open Office 2.0.2. & 2.0.4 issues...

I did promise that I was going to contact them and a couple of days ago I have finally gotten a reply of sorts from Open Office.Org (nothing from Sun Microsystems itself as yet) but must say that the reply leaves much to be desired...

I quote:

Please, subscribe to the list from http://www.openoffice.org/mail_list.html.

We also have a support project, , which
lists free community support as well as commercial support.

And, try our set up guide,

Sophie Gautier
OOo Community member


Honest, I do not need to be pointed to the setup guide and it would not be very helpful for anyone expecting something to work “out of the box”, so to speak. It is, therefore, not surprising, that the majority of people stick with “commercial” programs, thinking to get a better service there. The open source community must improve its “customer relations” for sure, if we ever hope that the general user will switch to open source software.

This is not going to make me stop using Open Office or open source software but I will be sticking with Open office 2.0.0. until such a time that I can find an updated version that works well with my setup. I do love Open Office 2.0.0 so far and am even using the writer more nowadays than I do MS WORD 2000.

If any of our readers have similar problems with Open Office 2.0.2 or 2.0.4 and have lost their working copy of Open Office that worked for them we are happy to make available copies of Open CD 3.1 which contains Open Office 2.0.0, the version that works absolutely fine with my setup now and always has done so, available at cost and a little donation towards the work of the Romani Institute.

© M Smith, December 2007

Symantec Screwup Is 'Worse Than Any Virus'

... states president of Solid Oak Software

A routine update from Symantec Security Response wreaked havoc on a California company's clientele when it inadvertently tagged a program produced by Solid Oak Software as a virus and cut off the Internet access of Solid Oak customers.

Symantec released a virus definition update that incorrectly identified Solid Oak's CyberSitter filtering program as a virus. Depending on the version of Symantec's Norton Antivirus product that Solid Oak customers were running, CyberSitter files were either deleted or banned from use by Norton, according to Solid Oak.

On Friday, a Symantec spokesman said that the company had issued a fix.

Before that, however, Solid Oak customers including schools, libraries and personal accounts, were not provided with a recovery mechanism and subsequently lost Internet access. Solid Oak did not have an exact number of those affected, but it likely numbers in the tens of thousands, according to a spokeswoman.

Customers have had to re-install entire operating systems and software, she said.

This is the third time in less than a year that Symantec's Norton products have caused severe damage to computers running CYBERsitter software offerings, said Brian Milburn, president of Solid Oak Software, in a statement. "In my opinion, Norton products are worse than any virus I can think of," he said.

"We have thousands of users with no Internet access and all Symantec has done is to provide our mutual customers with a non-functioning support number that tell them to use on-line support," Milburn added. "The problem is even worse because it is the holiday season. Users are trying to order gifts on-line and they can't."

A Symantec spokeswoman said Thursday the company was "researching" the problem. On Friday, the company issued the following statement:

"On December 5, Symantec moved the detection of an application called CYBERsitter from trackware into a new category called parental controls. Both categories are considered security risks, and Symantec provides its customers with the option of allowing the technology to function as intended or blocking it. During the category switch, behavioral technology in Symantec products detected CYBERsitter as Bloodhound.unknown and restricted Internet access.

"To restore full Internet access, Symantec advises affected customers to temporarily turn off AutoProtect, run LiveUpdate and then turn AutoProtect back on," Symantec said in the statement, which was issued by spokesman Mike Bradshaw. "This will install the most current set of definitions which classify CYBERsitter as a parental control."

The question that one would have to ask is how a company like Symantec can decide that a legitimate piece of software, indented to be a “ parental control” program, is, according to them, a security risks? Why, please?

Maybe the current users of Symantec's Norton anti-virus and security software should look for another provider of such software; possibly even a program that is free instead of costing lost of money and then not working all that well? I could recommend one there for sure, especially for private and/or school use.

Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Online Security

The recent data leak by HMRC, the British Revenue and Customs Service, in the form of mislaying in the post two CDs, has basically led to 25 million people potentially loosing their identity.

Social networking on Facebook (and other such sites) is leading to people's identities being compromised online – though in this case this is due to what often could only be described as “stupidity”.

The question is “how safe are you online?

If you are using the Internet with a Windows based PC you must have anti-virus software, as well as anti-malware software, and you must have this updated regularly. Daily, at least once a day, as far as anti-virus program is concerned.

A note of caution here: there are some people who think that running more than one anti-virus program will make for better protection. The truth is that is won't and the two or more anti-virus programs may just about clash and fight each other.

This does not hold true, in general, as to anti-malware software. A number of programs, some often doing slightly different tasks than the other, live quite happily together on the same PC. As said, for anti-virus software this is not the case.

You also must have a firewall, at least a software one, better still software and hardware firewall.

Let us start with the Anti-Virus software.

Obviously there is a lot of software out there on the market, many of them making lots of claims as to being better than the competition. They all would, wouldn't they? And many people think that they must have the big brand name software, like Norton Anti-Virus, or Norton Security Suite, from Symantec, or McAfee, or others which all cost lots of money and many folks think that the more they cost the better the product must be.

This is, however, not (always) the case. Yes, it is true that often you get what you pay for and if it is cheap or even free then it may not be as good as the paid for stuff. While this may be the case with most things to some degree with software, however, it is very rarely the case.

For quite a number of years by now I have used, and still use, a free Anti-Virus program called AVG from a company called Grisoft, based in the Czech Republic, and the AVG Free Anti-Virus software of mine has caught and isolated the viruses that colleagues and friends of mine were also sent and whose programs, Norton and McAfee, respectively, which, like my AVG were updated religiously, failed to capture and could also not isolate.

All I can say that AVG Free, now version AVG 7.5, has been performing well for me, with one exception and that was when a Trojan Horse virus was sent to me but not via an email bu via an open port in a chat room. This is where often any such protection software fails and you have to ask yourself as to whether using such places is safe for you or not.

In all other instances AVG Free has done its job, and, if would appear, far better than the paid for programs. No, before you ask, I do not work for AVG nor do I get paid by them. Chance would be a fine things but...

As I have said already, daily update for anti-virus program is a must and every time that I go live on the Net I let the AVG program check for new updates. In fact Grisoft.com does make updates available sometimes several times a day. So, as a rule: when online check for anti-virus updates.

There is no need to pay for protection software, none whatsoever.

The same also holds true for Anti-Malware software, as well as Firewall, and others.


Under malware we understand all those little programs that are called cookies, and there are good cookies and bad cookies, and other tracking files, as well as a variety of others, such as so-called spyware, including keyloggers.

Again, having good programs, and here you can indeed run more than one, again is a must but, once again, there is no need to pay good money out for any of them.

My recommendation for anti-malware software are Spybot Search and Destroy, Spyware Blaster and Ad-Aware.

There is no problem running those three together on the same machine; I have been doing so for ages on a variety of Windows operating systems.

Each of those works a little different and together they make a good package as there are chances that one program will not attack something that another will.

Spybot Search and Destroy has a resident shield that basically immunizes the PC against blacklisted programs as well as blacklisted sites. In addition to that Spybot S&D has a scanning feature for malware and can remove those that it finds.

Spybot S&D also has a nigh military grade fire shredder that is found under advanced tool with which you can erase, to have virtually to no trace left of the files, material from your PC that might be able to incriminate you should it fall into the wrong hands.

In addition to those items discussed above you do need, no two ways about it, at least a software Firewall and I can highly recommend another free program here (oh, yes, they also have a version you can pay for but no need to get that one) and that is ZoneAlarm.

A firewall is intended to protect you and your PC from hacking attempts and in proper stealth mode your PC is nigh on invisible bar to the websites.

A hardware firewall in addition to a software one is still better than just the software one but hardware firewalls, good ones, are not cheap and for general use it may not be necessary though I'd love to test drive one some day.

In order to be even safer than with the above mentioned, and you also have to use your own head to make sure that your information stays with you and you alone, you may want to consider a different browser for surfing the Internet.

The Internet Explorer from Microsoft is very vulnerable to attacks and the way it works also leaves you, the user, and your PC, open to attacks via various means. One of the favorite of malware writers is using Active X as a medium on a website and with Internet Explorer every items of malware and hijackers, etc. immediately install without you, as user, knowing it. Been there and done it, so to speak, in the very beginning when I was rather naïve as well.

My recommendation is that if you want to be safe on the Net and protect yourself then download Firefox Browser from Mozilla.org. Here you get prompted if a website wants to install an .exe fire, for instance, by means of a pop-up box that states “you have chosen to download... what do you want Firefox to do with this file” and you have the option to “open”, “save to disc” or “cancel”. If you have not actually clicked to download a program, and any .exe file basically is that, then the action to take in that case is “cancel” and immediately leave the site you are on.

Once again to recap. For personal use you do not have to go and purchase Norton, McAffee or any other such software packages. There are enough free programs out there that perform equally well if not, as I explained, better even than the paid for competition.

In addition to all those programs your own vigilance is also called for. Do not fall for the scams of “you have won the lottery”. They do not notify over the Internet. Not fall into the banking scam trap or any of the others. Any offer that sounds too good to be true more than likely is and your bank will not send you an email to give you password and PIN or what-have-you over the Internet. If you think it is from your bank, phone them and check. More than likely it is not.

On social networking sites do not give name, address, telephone number and such details, especially not in a public profile. Any such information is on a “need to know” basis and the general public does not need to know. Your handle, as they used to call that in CB Radio jargon, and your interest are enough. I also would suggest do use an avatar and not a real picture.

Remember: Your Internet safety and security is only as good as you. You can have all the software and even hardware firewall But if you slip up then nothing will help. If you are gullible and naïve and fall for scams or open emails with attachments without checking and double checking then then there is little that will protect you. A virus can even come from a friend without the friend knowing it or with his or her name having been cloned by the virus senders. Never open attachments unless you are really, really sure about that your friend or family member has sent you a document, photograph or whatever via email.

It a jungle out there. So let's be careful.

One little final note before I go: If you really want to be sure that you are safe then the only recommendation one could make is to use Linux operating system instead of Windows but, alas, not all websites work with Linux and Firefox 100%.

© Michael Smith (Veshengro), December 2007

I Need A New PC...

...is what I hear people say so very often, stressing the NEED bit.

When one inquires as to why the NEED a new computer they invariably reply that their current PC is OBSOLETE because processors are now this and that and that fast and their old on is a little slower.

Asked then as to whether they can no longer do all the things they need to do on their old PC the answer normally is that they still can do everything very well and that their PC is still doing all the work they need and want it to do. So, then I want to ask, “why they do they think they need a NEW PC” which, theoretically, next week will be obsolete yet again.

The truth is, and that is what I am trying to say here, that you do not, for ordinary work, have to have the fastest super-fast processor in your PC. If it works do NOT replace it.

The same, basically, applies as to upgrades of the Operating System, to some degree. It is a shame though that the likes of Microsoft insist that they have to remove support from Operating Systems, like they did, recently with Windows 98SE, that for some people still was performing well, and the OS that was based on 98SE, namely ME, and have now – or are doing so – also with Windows 2000, so I understand.

We all, I am sure know, that this is all a ploy by them to be able to sell new operating systems, such as XP and the new Vista. The latter which is still basically outlawed, and I kid you not, by most public bodies in the UK and the USA, such as government offices ad police agencies. The FBI will not permit it on its machines, so I understand, for the next couple of years at least, and the same is the policy with the UK government, central and local. The same holds true for Internet Explorer 7. In some local authorities that I know of in the UK it is a disciplinary offense to install IE7 on your desk PC in your office.

Their security guys have ruled both unsafe, for the moment at least. So much for the Vista hype.

I know the rumor has it that in due course – the next couple of years – Microsoft is going to remove support from Windows XP in order to force Vista onto the users.

Well, if and when that happens, I guess it is time to completely migrate over to Linux for I am sure that by that time all websites will be completely Firefox compatible and will no longer in any way, shape or form, require Internet Explorer.

Again, before I digress completely; there is no need to get a new PC in most cases. Upgrades of the internal hardware, sometimes is a good idea, such as fitting more RAM, that is to say more memory, to the PC and also, where possible some more USB ports (sockets). But a new machines is in most cases not a necessity and I would always advise against it for the ordinary user and even for the non-profit organizations.

Aside from the cost to the budget there is the cost to the environment that we must consider.

So, do not buy a new one unless your present PC really can no longer perform the tasks that you need it for or it has given up its ghost proper.

© Michael Smith (Veshengro), December 2007

'Kill switch' dropped from Vista

Microsoft is to withdraw an anti-piracy tool from Windows Vista, which disables the operating system when invoked, following customer complaints.

The so-called "kill switch" is designed to prevent users with illegal copies of Vista from using certain features.

But the tool has suffered from glitches since it was introduced with many Windows users claiming that legal copies of Vista had been disabled.

Microsoft says its efforts have seen a drop in piracy of its software.

In a statement released by the company, Microsoft corporate vice president Mike Sievert, said: "Users whose systems are identified as counterfeit will be presented with clear and recurring notices about the status of their system and how to get genuine copies."

'Take action'

"They won't lose access to functionality or features, but it will be very clear to them that their copy of Window Vista is not genuine and they need to take action."

Microsoft has described the new approach as a "change of tactics". It said efforts to tackle piracy had seen numbers of fake copies of Vista at half the level of XP, the previous Windows operating system.

The change will take effect with the release of Service Pack 1, a major update to Windows Vista.

Customers who buy a copy of Windows Vista or have the operating system (OS) installed when they buy a new PC are required to validate the OS with Microsoft.

An online tool, called Windows Genuine Advantage, checks the authenticity of the OS to determine if it was legally acquired.

The tool can "lock" Vista from further use if it believes it is an unauthorised copy. But many users have complained that the system is not working because legally bought copies result in error messages.

It was introduced in 2006 as a voluntary option, but became mandatory with the release of Vista, and had problems from the day it was introduced. Mr Sievert added: "It's worth re-emphasising that our fundamental strategy has not changed.

"All copies of Windows Vista still require activation and the system will continue to validate from time to time to verify that systems are activated properly."

Microsoft said it had pursued legal action against more than 1,000 dealers of counterfeit Microsoft products in the last year and taken down more than 50,000 "illegal and improper" online software auctions.

Story from BBC NEWS:


Well, still best to go for and Open Source OS, whether Linux or BDS (though I have no experience of the latter). Ed.

Ofcom Flexes Muscle over Broadband

Not only does Ofcom believe that internet users are being short-changed when it comes to their broadband speed but it is also concerned about the sector's ability to match speeds being delivered in other parts of the world.

The regulator is concerned that UK internet services are inferior to those enjoyed in countries such as Japan, Korea and Germany, where speeds of up to 100Mbps are available. (does anyone really want it THAT fast – think of viruses???)

Our Minister for Competitiveness, Stephen Timms, took time out from election speculation to warn broadband companies that the government could intervene to hasten the roll-out of high-speed services. One option is known as "fibre to the kerb" which could offer speeds of up to 50Mbps. Accountants and taxpayers might be perturbed to hear that a nationwide fibre network might cost £15bn!

Ofcom also plans to examine regulation and competition options for the broadband network, to ensure operators perform in a similar fashion to that which makes BT's network accessible to competitors.

A recent survey has suggested that 62% of UK broadband clients archive less than 50% of anticipated connection speed. And 25% of the 180,000 surveyed achieve no more than a quarter of the maximum advertised speed. As a result, Ofcom is being pushed to introduce mandatory information provision from internet service providers (ISP's) about the actual speed customers are likely to receive, similar to interest rate regulations applied to credit card companies.

The speed of up to 100Mbps (currently in London we are heading for the 50MB if I am not mistaken) all fine and good but in all truth speed as regards to downloads and uploads only means that much and are all dependant on the speed of the Internet at the time of use. If there is heavy traffic, then same as on the highways, there is congestion, and at times it slows down to an absolute crawl and even with 100Mbps you will get no faster down- or upload than with 1MB. That's the simple fact whatever some may claim and think

If we think that we have got it bad here with out broadband connections let's spare a thought for our cousins across the big pond. In the USA, this great world leader, broadband can only be had, it seems, near the major towns and cities. Outside such places broadband simply cannot be had and everything is 56kb or even 33kb dial-up. There is satellite service available in most instance but it is very slow but also very expensive - $1000 annually has been mentioned to me.

Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Open Office – Update

Having, in a previous article, mentioned the problems that I have encountered when I upgraded from my previous and well working version of Open Office, that is to say Version 2.0.0 (not 2.0.2 as I previously thought I had been using prior to said upgrade), I have to now also report that even version 2.0.2, which I installed after the debacle with 2.0.4, suffers from the selfsame problems, at least in my computing environment.

You may recall me mentioning that I found that version, e.g. 2.0.2, on an older version of Open CD and that I installed that on in place of Open Office 2.0.4 I was having issues with. However, during use, especially with the Firefox browser in use and online the Writer of Open Office 2.0.2 slowed down in the same way as with version 2.0.4. and it also halted.

Everyone can, I am sure, understand my frustration with this and that this did not make me, as we say, a “happy bunny”. Luckily, however, I found in my collection of downloaded Software burned onto CD a copy of a rather old version of Open CD, namely Open CD 3.1 and, thankfully, that contains the old version of Open Office that I used previously and which I loved, e.g. Open Office 2.0.0, and had on my PC before.

So, back to the drawing board, I thought. I uninstalled Open Office 2.0.2 an reinstalled the much older version and, voila, all is well. It runs faster as word processor and more efficient, in my tests, than my version of MS WORD 2000 and yes, I am happy again.

Why, you may ask, do I run Open Office and MS WORD. Firstly it is only MS WORD, which was an OEM piece of software that came with one of my old PCs, and not the complete MS Office and for my money, or better the lack thereof, I have installed Open Office to be able to read MS Office files, such as Power Point, and such.

Why do I still have MS WORD installed when Open Office can do the same stuff?

Well, some people, unfortunately, still make “plug in” programs, such as those from Avery, that only plug in to and work with MS Office, such as WORD, and such plug-ins do not work with Open Source Software, whether Open Office, Star Office (which is based on Open Office), Abi Writer, or others.

Having, as said, reinstalled Open Office 2.0.0, I am now, once again, a very happy user of Open Office, though I must say that it is the program's word processor. e.g Open Office Writer, that I use most, over all other applications of Open Office.

In use I have now also discovered that on Windows machines Open Office 2.0.0 Writer uses less in kilobytes when saving as a .doc file than does MS WORD. While this may only be minute it still is something to be happy about. It would appear that MS WORD's minimum for any document saves if 21 kilobytes, even if the file just contains a word or two, while Open Office Writer is happy to save that with 6 to 7 kilobytes less. So, methinks, a great thumbs up for Open Office.

Another great feature of Open Office is the instant one-click facility to save files directly to PDF.

My experience with Open Office proves, yet again, the old adage – no, not the one that “you get one you pay for” - nothing in the case of Open office – of “if it ain't broke don't fix it” and “if things work leave well alone.”

The same holds true also for the Linux Box, that is to say, any PC which has Linux installs and works away happily. By all means take patches but DO NOT upgrade to another version. But then that is just my opinion. The same, in my view, holds true also for hardware. More about that in another article to come.

Too many people think that they MUST have the latest fastest processor, etc. and that their PC that are twelve to eighteen months old are obsolete. But, if your computer can do, without problems, what you want it to do, I would advise against getting a new one.

© Michael Smith (Veshengro), December 2007

Kenyan anti-piracy drive boosts Open Source Systems use

A recent crack-down on piracy in Kenya has driven a number of internet cafes to open source.

The Business Daily in Nairobi reported that the raids on the internet cafes came after the expiry of the October 30 deadline set by the Kenya Copyright Board.

Interestingly, the estimated value of the pirate software found on confiscated machines was just short of the value of the machines themselves.

Business Daily reported that 50 computers containing unlicensed versions of Microsoft Windows Office 2003 were confiscated in the raids. The computers were valued at 1.5 million Kenyan shillings (R162,000) while the cost of Windows and Office were estimated at 1.4 million Kenyan shillings (R151,000).
To avoid prosecution, internet cafes are now forced to choose between costly Microsoft licences, open source solutions or closing down.

Irene Wambui, a unit manager at Wang' Point Telecenter opted for installing genuine Microsoft software told the daily: "The shift however came at a cost. While the value of our previous machines were 10 000 Kenyan shillings (R1,082) we had to spend 60 000 Kenyan shillings (R6,497) for each of our 17 machines."

Another cafe owner who opted for open source software explained his reasoning to Business Daily:
"At first when Microsoft officers visited us, they convinced us on the importance of operating on genuine software which we didn't object to, but the manner they are doing it cannot let us sustain our businesses," he said.

His dilemma started when Microsoft sent him a letter stating that they would want him to legalise his operating system. However , he says that his business is operating on Windows 2000, but then Microsoft asked them to upgrade to Windows XP. "After testing the Windows XP, we found that it was not suitable for us but they insisted that we must go that way," he claimed.

He welcomed legalising software on Windows 2000, to which Microsoft says they did not want to license what they don't support.

So, he embraced Open Source. "At first I was hesitant but with what am experiencing, I wish I had gone Open Source long time ago. It did not cost me anything. I closed for two days and installed all the machines with the Open Source software" he says.

He adds that if he was to go the Microsoft way he could be forced to increase his charges from 50 cents [R0.054] to 5 shillings [R0.54] per minute of surfing "to recover his costs."

Source: Tectonic

5 Common Problems that Can Slow You Down

1. A Cluttered Registry
The longer you use Windows, the more cluttered your registry can grow, especially if you regularly install and uninstall software. Some applications, known as "orphan" registry entries, don't remove all traces of themselves when uninstalled, causing problems such as sluggish performance, system lockups, or a bloated registry that takes longer to load. The easiest way to clean your registry is to use a registry cleaner, such as PC Tune-Up. With the click of a button, PC Tune-Up will scan your registry for these fragmented files, bring them together, and safely remove them. This is what most geeks advise.

Personally, I do advise caution here: Unless you know what you are doing, even with Registry Cleaner programs, damage can de done here. I have personally encountered that and lost vital links, so-called “DLLs” and my operating program ceased working.

2. Full Hard Drive
It is possible that your hard drive might actually be too full of data to function properly and efficiently. You should have at least 2 - 3MB of free space for programs to run smoothly. If you don't have this much free space, you can delete unused programs on the C: drive. Check your C: drive to see how much space you have on your computer. You can do this by going to Start > My Computer > C: drive. Click on the C: drive and it will tell you how much free space you have under 'Details' on the left bar.

To delete a program that is unused and that you are hardly going to use again you must use the uninstall function of the program itself (if it has one) of uninstall the program via the “Add/Remove” section in “Control Panel”.

Also, often defragmenting the hard drive, generally the C-drive, of you PC can speed the operations of the PC up to some degree. This is because defragmenting brings together the fragments of programs and files that are often scattered all over the hard disc. Windows – and it appears that Windows is the only operating system – but I could be mistaken – that is plagued by this fragmentation problem – has a built in utility to defragment the hard drive under system tools and it is advisable to check on this every now and then. Windows XP will test the drive when initiated to “defragment” as to whether or not the drive does need defragmenting. Older Windows programs, which are no longer supported, such as WIN 9x, and WIN 2000 did not have that check facility and you had/have to use your own judgement as to defragment or not.

3. Not Enough Memory
It's important to have enough memory on your computer to keep programs running smoothly, especially if you have large programs, or play a lot of PC games. It is recommended that you have at least 512MB on your PC, although at this point, 1GB seems to be the sweet spot. The amount of RAM your PC has can be checked by right-clicking 'My Computer' and choosing 'Properties'. If you need to upgrade your RAM, be sure to check your local retail ads for sales. You can usually get a RAM upgrade at a great price.

There are still people who have, like me, less than that on my machines. Linux works sweet with less than that in RAM and all its components but on Windows this seems to become a problem. Why, on the other hand, beats me. Why do programs get more and more bloated and still do not do much more than their older cousins, is a very valid question, methinks. Sometimes one could wonder whether the is a conspiracy going on between hardware and software makers.

Too Many Start-Up Programs
When you boot your computer, there are several programs that automatically start behind the scenes. These programs eat up your computer's available processing capacity and slow it down dramatically. Most likely, you don't need all of these programs to automatically start when you boot your computer. Here you can get dedicated programs to remove such unwanted programs from your startup but I sometimes wonder whether that is all really worth it.

Spyware and Malicious Programs
If you have ever experienced annoyances such as a new toolbar in your Internet browser, or a new startup page that you did not set, you are likely plagued with spyware.

This is where the need for anti-virus and anti-spyware software comes in. You do not need to go and spend lots of money on such programs; many can be had for free that work as well if not better than their paid-for cousins. (Article on that subject to follow).

Open Office 2.3...

...A "Review" and a Warning!

While I am a great advocate, and you will all come to realize that in my posts to come, and I do use and like Open Office in general, I must advise anyone against installing and attempting to use the latest version of Open Office, namely, version 2.3.

For the second time I have upgraded Open Office 2.2, which worked perfectly, to the latest version (as the program kept telling me that there is a new version available), version 2.3, and it still is about as good as the first version of 2.3 that I installed about a couple of months ago.

The Open Office Writer in Open Office 2.3 takes several minutes – still – on my Compaq Evo Pentium IV with XP Pro and then, when it is finally open, and you start typing away it stops after a few characters and sits there for another couple of minutes thinking about what it is going to do next. There appears to be some serious flaws and bugs still in that version of Open Office and that is the reason why I would advise anyone against updating/upgrading. Or at least, if you intend to do so, ensure that you have a copy of your previous version available so that, should you have problems developing, you can revert back to the older version. You will have to “manually” uninstall the updated version however before you can revert to the older version.

I have used Open Office Writer (and other parts of Open Office) on Linux Ubuntu “Dapper Drake” on the same type of Compaq PC (I run two of them with the two different operating systems) the way it came installed for the last year or so and I have come to really like it and I also find on the Windows XP Pro machine the Open Office Writer at times can be more useful than Microsoft WORD 2000 that I run also.

I am not certain of the version of Open Office on my Linux Ubuntu PC but I believe it to be version 2.0 and it works a treat.

I hope to be able to contact Sun Microsystems with the fact that there seem to be bugs or whatever in Version 2.3 of Open Office and maybe someone will have a way of finding what is wrong with it. I am not programmer and no geek who knows how to trace such fault. All I know that the program is probably the slowest version of Open Office that I have ever encountered. In fact version 2.0 and 2.2 are performing very well.

© Michael Smith (Veshengro), November 2007