PlayOnLinux-Another human face for wine


PlayOnLinux wizard install window-click to enlarge

A piece of software called Wine lets linux users run a small number of software applications that ordinarily require the Windows operating system.  PlayOnLinux is a free application that puts an easy to follow wizard style interface on top of wine and contains some pre-installed scripts to help load a number of compatible applications.

Since our Mac got fried by a lightning pulse I’ve returned to using Linux Mint full time but did want to access our saved iTunes library. PlayOn Linux has enabled me to easily install a working version of iTunes on linux. I’ve even managed to get a legacy music composition prog installed and working.

So if anyone’s using linux on the desktop or on their netbook like I am and would rather install a few choice  supported Windows applications for use directly within Linux rather than dual booting another OS or using virtualization technologies (the last two requiring a a legal installation OS disc and enough memory and hard space to accommodate the install) then I can heartily recommend looking to see if  PlayOnLinux would suit your own needs.

Other alternatives are Wine-doors (though in need of an update with regard to the available application install scripts) and the commercial (paid for) Crossover Office from Codeweavers.


Standing In The Light Of The MoonOS


I love the modular nature of linux desktops and distributions even if  the growth of the ‘if it’s linux then it must be Ubuntu’ fan-boyism can become annoying (I love Ubuntu but oranges, as they say, are not the only fruit). I’ve been getting close to modifying and customising a linux desktop myself  via remastering and was intrigued to find a desktop that had been built on top of Linux mint, itself a modified variant of Ubuntu.

MoonOS is a project started by Cambodian artist Chanrithy Thim and currently offers desktops based around the fast E17 and LXDE desktop window managers. Both are light enough to be used in virtualised environments with LXDE particularly suited to netbooks, thin client ,remote desktop solutions and low spec computers.It even runs on Google’s Android phone technology.

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Netbook On The Starting Block


With Asus promising a £130 netbook sometime in 2009 the low cost netbook niche is joined by Maplin’s offering which receives a temporary price cut down to just below £140.

This gives you a 7 inch screened netbook with a debian sourced linux pre-installed on a 2GB nand flash inbuilt memory. Expansion via USB and SD cards is possible.


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Flock Gloss Eco gOS And LXDE

Flock Eco Edition

Flock Eco Edition

A clutch of items have grabbed my technical attention over the past few days. The Flock Internet browser, a variant of the Firefox browser has launched two custom versions. One is Flock Eco aimed at accessing eco related information online and the other is Flock Gloss which is aimed at the maybe less worthwhile ‘Entertainment & fashion’ online offerings.

Flock Gloss Edition

Flock Gloss Edition

Next on my radar is yet another version of the Ubuntu sourced linux variant gOS. Version 3 beta has quickly integrated the new lightweight LXDE lightweight X11 desktop. This makes it ideal for legacy low specification computers and emerging netbook and net-top computer systems. This time they’ve integrated Google gadgets into the offering. Downloading is very in demand at the moment and this is only a beta preview Live CD and not recommended as a full install.  A more complete installable version is expected sometime in September.

gOS 3

gOS 3

Parallel to this is UbuntuLite, another version of Ubuntu for legacy hardware and again based around LXDE. The 9Mb iso enables a lightweight install via a series of command line terminal instructions and the installer can then make a customised install. Worth investigating , again, for those of us who help refurbish pre loved computer systems.

Image copyright gOSOfficial Flickr images here

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Virgin Media Internet Connection Problem

Virgin Media IncorporatedImage via Wikipedia

I’ve been experiencing a couple of day of infuriating disconnections from our Virgin media (rebranded NTL) cable based Internet connection. During periods of connectivity I’d managed to look on-line and see that I was not alone.

Before the desperation of trying to embark on the tortuous process that is technical support on the phone I decided to do some troubleshooting myself using my own slightly sad but sometimes useful technical abilities.

I was having to unplug and restart the cable modem up to 10 times a day so the problem needed diagnosing. I noticed that during periods where there were seemingly devoid of an Internet connection I could ping Virgin’s two DNS servers so that suggested to me that perhaps this was some kind of DNS resolution issue.

I then input Virgin’s DNS servers manually into our netgear router & also made sure that the ethernet mac address showing was that of our main computer and not the router after reading that people using routers were having more problems that those where the modem was connected directly to a computer. I had also tried removing the router from the equation but the problem persisted.

So I then dispensed with Virgin’s DNS server addresses and used the third party OpenDNS server addresses input manually into the netgear router and this seems to have resolved our connection reliability issues completely.

If you’re using Virgin’s cable broadband and having similar issues it’s worth trying this solution to see if it also solves your own intermittent connection problems. Many Virgin media cabled areas are experiencing connectivity issues. In some cases it’s the local exchange, in others it’s faulty modems which can be replaced but for us using an alternative DNS service has improved our connection 100%.

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The Beeb Ceeb PC And Me

BBC MicroI read with interest a get together of the creators of the venerable BBC micro computer at the science museum. My first forays into computer network support would have been a part time job in a school which had a room of networked computers that all booted off a 10 MB hard drive (oh the sheer size of it).

Domesday Machine

The same BBC computer was the front end of the Domesday project which many school contributed content to and on completion and publication the school used to hire an appropriate laser disk and computer set-up which was placed in the library for all to access. Via the laser disk we had full motion video and interactivity long before any of us had clapped eyes on or heard about the Internet.

In many ways I.T. support was easier then as we didn’t have virus and worm headaches to worry about although we certainly did have teenage boy hackers even back then who soon learned how to disrupt planned classes with networked messages and other malicious activity.

And What You See Is What You Get

I was never very interested in computers per se. I was more interested in what you could do with them. I was slowly building a business working with video and was fascinated by early crude attempt to capture video stills and even sections of video onto disc for further manipulation and although I never owned a BBC Micro I certainly remember what writing in wordstar was like before the days of wysiwyg word processors and it was a good learning experience.

I was given a pretty free hand to explore the then capabilities and enjoyed the level of creative and technical freedom at a time when computing was in its relative infancy and I was not bogged down with user problems as we only had one dedicated computer room of 27 or so micros and so the main job was essentially to develop uses which was certainly very rewarding and empowering.

Belief in I.T.

The Beeb certainly didn’t have the power of today’s computers but without the distraction of endless upgrade cycles and the Internet it was perhaps easier to stay focussed on the positive aspects of computer aided learning than the belief that would later infect many educational institutions that spending large on computers would automatically push of school exam statistics.

Photo by barnoid under this creative commons license

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Dangerous Knowledge Deja Vu

I got out of working permanently in a company in an IT support role when it became clear that a significant number of people just used IT support as a crutch for not learning how to use computers (not always their fault as often no training was offered and ‘winging it’ was how many got by) and so days were filled with constant calls from people who had no idea how to scan, print, resize, cut, paste, use photoshop, word, excel or practically any piece of softwareSupport adequately enough to get by and no matter how many times you patiently took them through the process or made up a nice step by step ‘how-to’ PDF’s and animated desktop movies for them (which you had to print for them so they could waste more paper and still ignore it), they just didn’t get it.Really they just wanted you to do it all for them.

And once they knew you could do it then their work was your work.

I knew I had to move on for the sake of my sanity when the department responsible for producing a monthly newsletter continued to use photocopiers, scissors and glue to produce the newsletter after having ordered several copies of Quark Xpress (at £800 a piece) and quickly abandoned it after realising that learning to use it was too much time and hassle.

And then the head honcho asked me to print out a photo attachment he’d been sent  in an email so he could view it, unaware that double clicking the file would allow him to view it on his desktop.

After that I decided that it would be better if I just got out and just did the whole job for people at a distance. It worked out better and was less stress for both parties concerned. It’s what we both wanted.

Today I had a brief feeling of deja vu having asked somebody to send me 3 digital photos in an email but was later emailed to inform me it was easier for them to print them out and send them to me in the post.

A little knowledge is a very dangerous thing.

Photo by julianrod under this creative commons license 

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