Virtualbox vmdk image to vdi

One of my VirtualBox virtual machines used the vmdk disk format (From VMWare). Somehow it seemed to be slower than another machine I had running in VDI format (default for VirtualBox >= 4.0).

I had to search the internet a while to find the right solution and it was not complete, so here is my description on how to migrate the virtual machine disk format from vmdk to vdi:

cd <folder where your disk image is>
vboxmanage clonehd somename.vmdk somename.vdi --format VDI

That takes a while. After finished you need to start virtualbox and go into the settings of your virtual machine. Under "Storage" you will still find the old HD file attached to SATA (or IDE) controller. Remove the old one and attach the new .vdi file.

Try starting the virtual machine to see if everything works as intended.

Then shutdown your virtual machine, go to File->Virtual Media Manager and remove the old vmdk file even there. Now you can delete the .vmdk.


The individual desktop

I can see an interesting movement on the market: Many Apple iPhone users seem to lurk towards a Mac when they think of buying a new computer. - And some actually do.

And in my neighbourhood I can count already 6 Macs in the first minute trying to count them.

I find it a good thing, that Macs are increasing. With more people using Macs, companies need to start considering that there is not only Windows and world is colorful.

There is just one thing that I need to make clear: Many Mac users think that they are a special individual with their extraordinary computer and this is not true IMHO.

I can see the following different strategies:
  • Microsoft: Keep compatibility to keep market share but try to offer new GUI stuff that feeds people's enthusiasm and keep some flexibility.
  • Apple: Focus on usability and don't make the user think or choose.
  • Linux: Be open and flexible. Everybody should be able to use it as desired.
I was thinking if there could be the optimal all-use-fitting user interface but I came to the conclusion that there are many different use cases, many different jobs and many people thinking in many different ways.

I think, the Apple way is not the worst, but for those who work a lot with the computer it might be worth to invest a little more time finding the best fitting environment. If you want to be really individual, Linux is the way to go - just search youtube - e.g. for "my Linux desktop" or "top linux distros" to get an idea what people do with Linux.

Related posts: Distribution choice, Popular Ubuntu desktop myths.


Failed user lock-down

Have been on a Citrix Windows 2008r2 server machine where the admins really tried to lock down everything.

The other side is: Some stuff is not working well and I do not wonder because I am pretty sure that a lot of features that have been disabled are required by several pieces of software.

And the funny thing is: You can't really lock out the user on Windows - just to show one simple way to open the command prompt if disabled:

  1. Start Microsoft Word
  2. Press ALT + F11
  3. Press CTRL+G
  4. Type: vba.shell "cmd.exe"
  5. Press Enter
  6. Voila here it is the commandline window.
In the particular case C: drive was disabled and command prompt -  now everything is at hand form the command prompt. You can either try:
vba.shell "explorer C:\Windows"
works either. :-)


Smart Backup on Linux

About two years ago after setting up a Linux server I was asked to create a backup of the last seven days. Reason for this was the idea that if something gets deleted or corrupted it might not be noticed immediately.

The problem was: The hard disk did not have enough free space to hold 7 times the data and at the moment there was no external hard disk available.

I searched the Internet and found a really smart solution - you can find details here on mikerubel.org (rsync snapshots). My final script looks like this:

 rm -rf /data/autobackup/backup.7  
 mv /data/autobackup/backup.6 /data/autobackup/backup.7  
 mv /data/autobackup/backup.5 /data/autobackup/backup.6  
 mv /data/autobackup/backup.4 /data/autobackup/backup.5  
 mv /data/autobackup/backup.3 /data/autobackup/backup.4  
 mv /data/autobackup/backup.2 /data/autobackup/backup.3  
 mv /data/autobackup/backup.1 /data/autobackup/backup.2  
 cp -alv /data/autobackup/backup.0 /data/autobackup/backup.1 > /data/autobackup/0to1.log  
 rsync -av --delete /data/live/ /data/autobackup/backup.0/ > /data/autobackup/last-rsync.log  

If you want to go more into detail - Michael Jakl has posted a variant here (rsync time machine).

Currently in my use case the live part takes 149GB and the whole backup of 7 days takes 161 GB (instead of more than a TB!)

I know, disk space is quite cheap, but the rising amount of data also requires a lot! - In my case:
  1. I already have several external drives (2 HDs where HD images of my work notebook are saved alternating).
  2. Two separate external drives where data only is saved with rsync (to one disk more often to other about once in two months).
  3. I have a 500GB external HD where data is outsourced that I do not need that much or simply consumes too much of my primary HD. That one was not saved in the early times. In the meantime I do sync it to a second one from time to time (people have a lot of external HDs these days but I am not sure if they backup those too...).
Guess what, if I would decide to keep snapshots of several days - way too much for a normal copy x7!


Google Maps issues

A while ago I had problems using Google Maps - I had a slow loading issue which ran into an error.

I found a discussion about this problem where many people were angry at Google because they don't fix this problem.

I found out that the problem was due to my browser security plugins Adblock Plus and NoScript. At least one of those (I think it was NoScript) was blocking the site gstatic.com (and google.com of course or at least maps.google.com). No need to completely disable (which was mentioned also in the discussion), just whitelist relevant sites in those plugins (Check site media information to see loaded images for example).

Some other people mentioned different reasons causing the same problem like:
  • Check your orther privacy or security plugins for blocking maps.google.com or gstatic.com
  • Delete cookies for maps.google.com as well as all temporary internet files (clear cache).
  • Skype extension for Firefox causing the problem.
  • DNS problems (that usually temporarily - to separate this reason from others check availability of maps.google.com and gstatic.com using nslookup and check if it works using a different browser without any plugins - if both works then DNS is not the reason for your problem).
  • if2k (if on Mac).
  • Badly written router firewalls (try deactivating IPv6).
  • Turn off inprivate filtering (if on Windows IE).
  • Windows only: Uninstall Java and reinstall launching as Administrator (Win 7).
  • Your mobile web service provider might have implemented an accelerator reducing image quality - check and turn off on the provider's website.

I am posting this because there were many responses to this and still some are posting without reading the earlier answers offering solutions and it seems that plenty of people experiencing problems with google maps.


Normal.dot in OpenOffice or LibreOffice

Some time ago I was asked where the normal.dot is in Open Office and I was stuck. I don't open the writer and write. I have copied all my templates to ~/Templates. The first action I take when I want to create a new document is to go in the folder where I want to save it, click the right mouse-button, hover on "Create new document" and choose the template of my choice. That way I neither have to think about what type of document (text, graphic, spreadsheet) my template needs to be.

However, most people are just used to just firing up MS Word or if they are on Windows with Open Office they miss the nice template folder and to create a new document from a template within Open Office for me is definitely too many clicks away (3 clicks and 2 double-clicks).

When I was asked for the "normal.dot" I searched a lot and I searched the internet to finally find out, that it is described very well in the Open Office help:

To Create a Default Template
  1. Create a document and the content and formatting styles that you want. 
  2. Choose File - Templates - Save.
  3. In the New Template box, type a name for the new template
  4. In the Categories list, select "My Templates", and then click OK.
  5. Choose File - Templates - Organize.
  6. In the Templates list, double-click the "My Templates" folder.
  7. Right-click the template that you created, and choose Set as Default Template.
  8. Click Close.
It's the same in LibreOffice by the way.

Related posts: Default paper size in Open Office, Firefox change default page format, Locale configuration on Ubuntu.

Default Paper Size in Open Office

Under Linux (or at least under Gnome or Ubuntu) we already had the issue with default paper size in Firefox. Now on my older Ubuntu 10.04 workstation where I have not yet upgraded from Open Office to LibreOffice my wife has a permanent problem with wrong default paper size when using Open Office.

I have examined the situation and found out that in Ubuntu system administration under Printing the default paper size has not been set to A4. OK, but didn't help for OpenOffice.

Finally I gave up finding the problem and started to google. After a while I found a blog entry at "Starry Hope": OpenOffice Default Paper Size for Printing - here the important part:
1. Change the default paper size in /etc/papersize
This is the first place to look and solved the problem most of the time. Simply edit /etc/papersize and change “letter” to “a4″ then restart OpenOffice.

2. Check for settings in ~/.cups
In some cases, CUPS saves printer settings for individual users in their home directory (don’t ask me why). If you see a .cups directory in your home directory, open it and see if “Letter” isn’t set as the default paper size in there. (In my case, I just deleted the .cups directory all together).

3. Check for poorly formatted PPD files
Check the PPD file for your printer in /etc/cups/ppd/ to see if it has errors. Apparently, some PPD files are incorrectly formatted and cause an error. This problem is most commonly discussed in relation to Brother printers. You can find more info in this bug report. - Seems to be fixed.

4. Change DefaultPageSize in SGENPRT.PS
It appears that OpenOffice gets its default media size for some printers from the DefaultPageSize line in the /usr/lib/openoffice/basis3.2/share/psprint/driver/SGENPRT.PS file. More info here.
In my case indeed, changing "letter" to "A4" in /etc/papersize already solved the issue - thanks so much!

Related post: Firefox change default page format, Normal.dot in OpenOffice or LibreOffice.


Outlook Calendar Meetings

When it comes to discussion about alternatives to MS Outlook, a common argument is the unique calendar and meeting request feature. So far I could understand people as it seemed quite comfortable to me (even although nothing beats the Google Calendar).

After working a lot with the Outlook Calendar (although mostly through the web or thank good, integrated with Lightning in Thunderbird), I can tell you: No, the Outlook Calendar is not so good, as you might think!

BTW: Outlook is not the only software supporting such features any more.

Here are a few things that are super-annoying (and I am talking about the 2010 version - so state-of-the-art version):
  • I cannot create an appointment over n hours with one click and drag (this works in Google Calendar and Ligthning for example). I always need to double-click and set the length by adjusting end-time.
  • When I accept a meeting request, in the Outlook Web-Access, the appointment is carved in stone - I cannot change it (apart from background color), however,
  • in the Outlook 2010 desktop application I can change the meeting details - usually I add relevant informations to a meeting, information that I need exactly for that appointment, like addresses, contact phone numbers, conference call numbers etc. So far so good, problem: When the initiator of the meeting makes changes to the event, mine gets updated without notice and my edits are gone! - This also means that if somebody is ill and I change a foreign appointment, I wipe out their notes either - that's crazy!
  • When viewing a shared calendar from another person in web client, the other calendar gets displayed next to mine and not in  an overlapping mode. Do this with 3 and everything gets too narrow to view on a normal laptop display.
Related posts: Outlook 2010 Meeting requests, Thunderbird & the Outlook Global Address book, Popular Ubuntu desktop myths, Maintaining multiple calendars.


Mobile phone situation

I was a Nokia user since about 2000 and it was hard to give up on these high quality phones during the first quarter of this year. I also have seen other phones, like a Sony Ericsson after changing job - and (just to mention one of the few strange UI concepts) I will never understand why it offers switching to flight/airplane mode when I turn on the phone instead of when I am about to switch it off. I have also seen the iPhone (used for about 2 years by my wife).

And now I am looking back to about 6 months of Android use on two different phones. Even my wife switched to Android after an unrecoverable error in mail sync (since then no e-mail access any more on the iPhone). I was not able to fix that due to the poor (or better non-existent) options to clean-up temporary files, cache or application data. There is a simple rule for the iPhone: The user can't ruin the OS, but the user even cannot fix it. Apple did not consider software bugs that affect their bricks.

On the other hand I was able to completely recover after several problems with SD card (resulting in a final permanent failure - hardware defect) on my Android phone.

What they do not tell you while pushing you to buy a smart phone:
  1. You must recharge your smart phone nearly every day!
    The very bad thing with smart phones these days is battery lifetime. And it's the same for the iPhone and for the Android phones. Out of the box most smartphones last a single day of medium usage.
    Fortunately you can optimize battery usage by dimming display, turn off W-LAN, GPS and so on (I will get to this in a another post). I get about 2 days of medium use now - but hey, there have been times where I needed to recharge only after 10 days (like the Nokia 6210). Still very good the Nokia 6310i and later the Nokia E-71 (which I still use as my business phone only for doing calls).
  2. Speaker and Microphone quality drops drastically!
    I don't know a single smart phone which has a real good microphone and speaker. The best I ever experienced was the Nokia E-71. Driving in the car with freehand speaking was still possible even if I was driving on the highway. Nothing can top that! Neither the iPhone or any Android phone reaches that. I am used to say: "With todays smart phones you can do everything but phone calls." In fact, this most important feature gets out of focus.
  3. Radio reception drops.
    Maybe it is just my impression, but the older phones still got radio reception at locations where I don't get connection anymore now.
  4. You are quite naked when you leave the country.
    As soon as you leave the country and roaming gets active, all the network features that require data connection are usually switched off. This means that a lot of features are inaccessible or only at a high cost. However, there are a few exceptions: Three does not charge roaming (neither for calls nor for data) while you are in one of the countries where Three is present. For other countries it means, you need to use W-LAN where possible.
  5. You enter in the world of software updates and even malware.
    With the large set of applications you will now need to update those from time to time and you might either install malware by accident. So this means: Maintenance work.

The good things are:
  1. You get your emails quite as fast as SMS!
  2. Social networking on the go.
    You can go through the news during short waiting times (public means of transport, doctor, queue at the supermarket etc). Such situations are the best opportunity for social networking.
  3. You can manage to-do-lists, expenses etc with the appropriate applications.
  4. You can use your phone as a GPS navigator or photo camera. This means that navigator or photo camera can be left at home, if you don't plan excessive use of them and just use your phone instead.
  5. Web browsing on the go for getting informed.
    While in a foreign city, talking to a friend or to get information to an art you look at, the mobile phone can help you by serving you helpful information.

I first had a ZTE Blade, which although very uncommon, had quite good specifications - "good" in the sense of "in equilibrium". Why I say this? Well, there are already dual-core processor phones, but more power does either consume more battery - combine this with a small phone (= usually smaller battery) and you are done.

In that first attempt I really did not want to spend a lot because what I have seen from the iPhone I was very skeptical, if I really want to have such a "smart" phone. I was quite satisfied with it - of course, pressing the buttons you feel that it is a cheap phone and the touch screen is not the best. Freehand speaking is to forget also.

Now I have an HTC Desire Z. It is only a little heavier than my Nokia E-71 and offers a real keyboard which I like very much in general. A real keyboard is still better than every touch screen. That said, with this phone you have both anyway. For those who plan a more intensive use of the Android phone, the HTC Desire Z is a good choice. I also thought about a Samsung, but from what I heard and read, I expected less battery lifetime of Samsung (maybe also due to more widely used AMOLED displays, which take more than normal LCD as far as I know). Also I like a few features of HTC, like turning/flipping the phone to make it silent or ringing getting near to silent automatically when you take the phone from the table in your hands - as it is now clear that you heard it ringing (but maybe want to take a look who it is before taking the call). Freehand speaking is not quite as good as Nokia, but a lot better than the ZTE. I was able to use it while driving (slowly).

I enjoy the additional features but the last time I left the country, I worried if the battery will last. In the meantime I have 3 multi-loader (capable with adapters to load all type of phones), one in the office, one at home and one that I take with me so I can load the phone even in the car - just to make sure I can get power if it is needed. And battery lifetime can even drop fast if you are not really using it, but you are in an area where it takes a lot of energy to keep being in reach with the next radio mast.

Related post: Efficiently following web news with RSS, Mobile world with Android.


Distribution choice

Lately I am testing a lot of different Linux distributions for the desktop.
There were some discussions about Unity (the new default desktop used in Ubuntu) and Gnome3 (the new Gnome default desktop) and that made me think and test other distributions.

Maybe I should point out the major differences seen in different flavors of Linux. These are the core points where they are different:
  • Base distribution from which it is derived from.
    Many distributions are based on others, only a few are doing everything from scratch in their own way. Some are based on Debian or Redhat for example. Somehow relevant is then also the company that stands behind the distribution as main contributor (if there is one particular company behind).
  • Package Management System - some use apt (debian) some yum (redhat) for example)
  • Default Desktop environment and window managers used (can be Gnome, KDE, XFCE, LXDE, Fluxbox etc etc).
  • Default packaged applications (the set of applications installed by default when installing the distribution).
  • Core objective (be it use as a Server, on the desktop, on routers or net storage systems, etc).
  • Hardware support. Although all Linux distributions share the same core parts (Kernel), different distributions are based on different versions of the kernel, apply different patches and some do add several drivers where no source code is available (while others do strictly include only open-source drivers). Because of these differences not all distributions support all sets of hardware. So it is very probable that this last point is the most important one.
  • Oh, and there are plenty of navigation bars that can be used - for example AWN, Cairo Dock, Docky and many, many more. Those are GUI elements for application launchers, taskbar management and things like that. Here you have to choose - if you are not satisfied with what your favorite distribution brings - mixing them is not a good idea...
Here is an overview of relevant components mentioned above:
For those who are now overwhelmed with options and cannot decide, remember that you can install either all desktop environments together on one machine and decide what you want to use at each login! You can either use Gnome for example but install and run applications written for KDE either while logged in using Gnome Desktop. You can run a mix of Gnome or KDE etc applications, whatever desktop environment you are currently using. So there is no exclusive OR in desktop environment or particular applications. The only thing that is not interchangeable (at least not so easy) is just the package management system - which is usually of secondary importance for the normal user.

Regarding hardware choice there are two options:
  • Inform yourself, what hardware is supported by your favorite Linux distribution and buy those - or
  • Go to any shop of your choice and just tell them that you want a machine that is compatible with "<Put Linux distribution of your choice>" and if not you will throw them their piece back on the counter.
I use a mix of these strategies. :]

For choosing a distribution, my advice is:
  1. Look at the screen shots of different distributions. Those you find horrible to look at in general, are probably the ones you would like less. That said, often it is sufficient to switch the theme to get a much more friendlier desktop.
  2. Watch demo videos of different desktop environments on youtube (or other channels).
  3. Try them. Most Linux distributions offer Live-CDs for download. That means: You download a CD image, burn it on CD and then boot the computer with that CD that offers to start Linux without changing your current installation - everything is run from the CD. That is of course slower as if it would run from the hard disk, but doesn't change anything on your current machine.
  4. Search the repositories (software center or however it is called in the distribution) for applications you might want to try. Don't search for applications by typing "Microsoft Word" - no - try "word processor" or instead of "Excel" or "Photoshop" try "Spreadsheet" and "photo editor". The idea is to use search keywords that describe what you want to do. The reason for this is: For your favorite photo editor you used on Windows might not exist a Linux-version. But there might be plenty of other applications doing the same stuff on Linux.

Here are the distributions I tested since 2005 (skipping all those I only took a very short look at):
  • Fedora (with which I started in about 2005)
  • Ubuntu (my current primary OS in the office and at home in version 10.04 with latest updates). I also tested other flavors like Kubuntu (Ubuntu with KDE), Xubuntu (Ubuntu with XFCE), Lubuntu (Ubuntu with LXDE).
  • Mint (including different flavors)
  • Puppy Linux
  • Debian (Stable and Testing)
  • Zorin OS
Maybe you are missing OpenSUSE here - as it is also a widely used distribution. I skipped it because from all major distributions I know, SUSE is the one that works closer with Microsoft. Because of the business conduct of Microsoft I want to be as far from them as possible and that's why I didn't either test OpenSUSE. Apart from that I heard many complaints about it.

Although I am pretty convinced of the stability of a Debian server, on the desktop even the testing version contains outdated program versions. (On my last tests the second website I visited complained about outdated browser ;-) ).

These are currently my favorite distributions:
  1. Ubuntu (of course, as it is my primary OS, based on Debian)
  2. Mint (based on Ubuntu)
  3. Zorin OS (also based on Ubuntu)
    it quite nicely implements a very Windows 7 like desktop environment. Those who like the Windows 7 taskbar, will like the Zorin OS. Of course it brings a cleaner menu and a package manager - things you don't get on Windows 7 ;-) .
All those offer the install of different desktop environments, so you can hop desktop environment for each single logon. You can find them searching for kubuntu-desktop, xubuntu-desktop or lubuntu-desktop in synaptic package manager.

Remember that depending on your type of job and the needs it brings - and depending on personal flavors you might find a different distribution or desktop environment to fit best!

Related posts: Popular Ubuntu myths, Why I switched to Ubuntu, Going Linux, The individual desktop.


Implementing effective computer security

I am really surprised, how safe people feel in their daily computer work.

Whereever I hear people speaking about viruses and computer security they are quite convinced that a virus scanner is sufficient for secure computing. I can say, that I have removed a lot of viruses from a lot of PCs. Whenever I found an infected PC and ran several antivirus tools in parallel, I got different opinions of the scanners about how many and which viruses were found. If you ask real experts, you will get the answer that
  • there are differences in quality of virus scanner software and that
  • no virus scanner finds all viruses - and last but not least
  • they cannot search for all ever known viruses all the time (because this would simply take too much time - so during normal scans they usually search for the currently most common found viruses.
Running multiple virus scanners at once is usually not really an option because already just having running one, reduces performance drastically.

Apart from that you do not only have viruses. You are surfing to sites in the web that may have got infected and run spying and malicious code in addition to the original website code. A co-worker of mine got infected by a virus by surfing to his online-banking software which got hijacked by a hacker. (Of course, it was a Windows virus...).

In addition to the viruses which come with no or very few action needed to be taken by the user, hackers and spammers try to convince users (by email for example) to take more action, like sending over money or adding malicious code even to their own web pages or browsers (e.g. https://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=31987371885&topic=14985).

I am the first one getting angry when I see too much security. The computer is an important and powerful tool. Whenever I need to work on a machine with limited permissions, I get easily angry if something does not work just because disabled. But: Everyone should implement a little security!

On Windows the easiest is to:
  • install A virus scanner like AVG, Avast, BitDefender or other.
  • use Firefox or Chrome instead of Internet Explorer to browse the internet.
  • get the Addons Adblock Plus and NoScript. The latter can be quite annoying because of many websites not displayed well by default. While not very liked by most end users, I find it being very effective in relation to the additional work necessary. It is a good tool to avoid effects of cross-site-scripting.
  • use an E-Mail client that allows text-only display of messages. Again this might make your emails not very nicely displayed but shows you the real link (in HTML-mails the displayed link can differ from the one called when you click it) and keeps you free from a lot of typical e-mail viruses. Outlook is not the right tool at this point (no version of it). One option is Thunderbird (which I personally love because of the many options and long list of plugins available).
This paired with caution (e.g. not clicking on every link even without reading). Of course, the next level of security would be to get Linux instead of Windows, but I can understand if this is not a realistic solution for you (which applies when you are too dependent from other Windows-only software pieces). I personally found it very effective to install Ubuntu Linux at end users using Firefox with Adblock Plus and NoScript (as mentioned above).

Related posts: Why companies do not use Linux on the desktop, Going Linux.

Why companies do not use Linux on the desktop

There is a very long running discussion on LinkedIn with the headline "Why aren't more corporations using Linux as a desktop OS?" and after a while I had the feeling of the same reasons and arguments returning again and again.

So I went over all the comments again and tried to categorize the opinions (trying to filter out those who already replied earlier with same or similar arguments.

Here is the result with the 15 most mentioned reasons of not using Linux on the desktop - from the opions of the discussing people (the red ones I consider in fact being issues to be solved, my comments in italic):
  1. Slick Microsoft PR, Windows is the defacto standard or simply inherited monopoly. (18 votes)
    This is a fact, but not a reason for using Windows. If so, we would still ride on horses and don't have cars - just because horses were a monopoly for traveling (related to 11.)...
  2. Missing appropriate software on Linux (for particular needs) / Vendor Lock-in. (18 votes) - Mentioned were in detail: Branch specific, special used apps not platform independent and/or not integrated well, AD, Deployment, AS400, Sage, Meeting- and Conference-Software, Photoshop, Exchange-Integration, Smart-Phone-Integration, AutoCAD, Screen Reader, ...
    Yes, this is really an issue - and that is because the fact mentioned above in 1. and hence followed by 6. The result is that many developers and software companies still just focus on Windows.
  3. Compatibility issues Linux-Windows in software when collaborating. (13 votes) - Mentioned were in detail: MS Office vs OpenOffice/LibreOffice, some proprietary formats can't be read, Domain-Integration, Some websites are IE only, General compatibility-fears.
    The MSO vs OOL/LO issue is a really big one because many people write many documents and many people need to collaborate. There are many compatibility issues - already between different versions of Microsoft Office. The 2007 and 2010 docx, xlsx, pptx formats (yes, we have already two variants of the *x-formats) introduce a lot of possible conversion/open/save problems. I could write a long blog post just about those issues. Domain integration I do not consider important as I find the whole domain system outdated looking at current company structures (increasing cooperations between separate companies for example) and how they evolve. To develop IE-only websites nowadays is still done - although completely free of sense.
  4. Too much tech-knowhow needed (just for nerds, servers and/or for commandline junkies). (11 votes)
    In reality, if you want good work to be done, on Windows you also need much in-depth knowhow. It's just, that quite every guy or girl, spent hours in front of the computer gaming, already considers himself/herself a computer guru...
    What simply is not true is, that you need to be a commandline junkie or a nerd to use Linux. Those days are a long gone - Linux has graphical environment!

  5. People already know Windows and are simply resistant to change (and will struggle). (10 votes)
    Most people I met who showed resistance when I talked about Linux, weren't interested that much because they do not use computers that much - use it only when necessary for writing an email or surf some website. Those can be considered to be resistant to computers in general. Although even those could have a better computer experience going Linux, it's usually best to just let them continue until the next virus has biten their OS to death.
  6. Lack of awareness / Ignorance or simply decision of management. (9 votes)
    Yes, is an issue. People simple don't open their eyes. This point is somehow related to 5. I found that most people currently in management, grew up with Windows. That's simply their comfort zone and usually they are so busy and so convinced of themselves that they simply don't consider anything different. This will change over the years, when more people grow up with Macs or Linux machines. I do trust, that even without active marketing, people will notice the advantages plus their current suffering and move over slowly.
  7. (Migration) costs (get it to work, experience, train users etc). (9 votes)
    Related to 10. Of course, when considering a big change (and changing OS in a company is a big change anyway), investment is needed. I also have invested a lot of time into learning Linux, which only at the beginning is really tough until you understood some core things. And for the admins there is a lot more to learn than for the users. In my case I was so annoyed by Windows and the continuous suffering that - when I started - I was sure, it will be worth the investment - and it was! And honestly: Switching from XP to Windows 7 or from Office 2003 to 2010 is also eating a lot of money and requires additional training for the users.
  8. Missing Linux Knowhow (and not enough time to dig into it). (7 votes)
    Related to 7. Of course, in the beginning there is missing know-how. But seriously: Switching from Windows Server 2003 to Server 2008r2 also required additional know-how - even worse - you think, you know it, but then you oversee some relevant changes (like the syswow64 registry hive and separate 32-bit executables in that folder) during your first attempts. You have to struggle with the new versions because Microsoft urges you by quitting support for the older OS versions. In reality you don't even have time to dig into the new Windows details, isn't it? - New details, new problems...
  9. Hardware compatibility issues. (7 votes)
    Yes, you need to take care (which the normal default user does not - or cannot - when buying a new PC). I had problems with particular WLAN-cards, Bluetooth-adapters, sound and video cards first of all. Issue can be widely reduced by buying officially certified hardware for example (either by Canonical or the hardware vendor for example). Dell and Lenovo for example are vendors known to be very compatible with Linux (anyway you need to look at the particular model or just ask the vendor or partner of your choice). I usually recommend people: When buying, tell them that you want a Linux-compatible model - otherwise you will return it back).
  10. Less educated specialists/administrators available or cost more. (7 votes)
    Related to 7. - I am pretty sure that a real good Windows administrator will also ask more. By tendency, there are more people working in Windows environment, but total number of real specialists I think is not significantly more than in Linux world. But I understand, that this can be an issue for a medium-sized or small company just watching out for the cheap administrator around the corner.
  11. People don't want to run risks and do what the others do (using the market leader). (6 votes)
    Related to 1. Of course, if you do something new and you fail, people might argue and ask why the hack you didn't follow what the "expert" says. When you do something new then of course you make mistakes - but you will learn and get know-how. But you can do what fits for you. Doing, what the major part of others do (or recommend), you will never get, what really fits really good for your company.
  12. Better support (because you pay for the software and have a contract). (6 votes)
    This is completely wrong! You can also get payed support in open source world and a commercial company does never give you the guarantee of continued maintenance. In fact I already invested into software technologies and then the vendor discontinued the product (without selling it to somebody else - just let it die). The history of Open Office and Libre Office shows us, that open source is even the better path here. Oracle thinking of unacceptable changes? - The project was forked quasi in an instant! As long there are some folks being interested in it, it can continue to life - even if it's just you - it's your choice.
  13. Windows already there on the shipped PC. (6 votes)
    I have never ever kept the default installation on a PC - neither when I was still using Windows. In most cases it already started with partitioning that was not fitting my desires or needs. Next could be OS language or preinstalled software. And a Linux installation can be either done by a novice - it's easy (at least the Ubuntu, Mint or Fedora distributions - beside others). The only very annoying thing with a Windows preinstalled is: You already paid the license fee to Microsoft in that case and I am pretty sure, that Microsoft is not sad about it, if you overwrite your OS with Linux because: You don't consume bandwith, don't call support, don't ask stupid questions in forums etc - you pay without either asking a service for it...
  14. Too much confusion because many distros, desktop environments. (6 votes)
    Are you confused and don't know what to use? - No problem, I do recommend Ubuntu with it's default desktop - and choose the LTS version. If you don't have an idea what you might want, Ubuntu for sure won't be a bad choice. But the point is: You have the choice! People work in different ways, have different priorities and have different jobs. You might discover later that you prefer a different distribution. You may consult distrowatch.com. At this point I still find the Ubuntu distribution the most stable one (regarding the complete set of applications existing around) offering everything I need regarding features and additional packages.
  15. Windows (and apps) looks/works better, is easier to use and/or has better/more features. (6 votes)
    Simply not true. Why? Regarding the look: There are so many nice themes you can choose - for sure you will find one that you find cool. And of course you can choose a totally different desktop or window manager - there are so many around (you get an overview at wikipedia). Just combine the desktop of your choice with the theme of your choice - watch, what people do show on youtube! Finally you can either make your Ubuntu look like Windows XP or Windows 7 - watch this video. - Regarding the features: A standard Windows installation is totally barefoot and poor in relation to a standard Ubuntu installation. There isn't either Office installed by default (if you didn't buy it alltogether with MS Office included). People who find Linux has poor features sometimes think of particulare Windows software not available or running on Linux - that is more related to 2.
 Hope this helps.

Related posts: Popular Ubuntu desktop myths, Implementing effective computer security, Going Linux, Efficient desktop environment.


Efficiently following web news with RSS

As my productive machines are all running Ubuntu 10.04 where Firefox 3 is still the standard browser. It is not automatically updated due to a policy like "never change a running system". However, you can add another repository from Mozilla to get the latest stable Firefox, which I did a few weeks ago.

So I am probably one of the last persons suddenly missing the RSS feed icon at the right side of the URL location bar.

If you don't know, what RSS is: It gives you the possibility to read new blog and news site entries of different sites all from one place with the ability to track what you already read and what not - more information here.

I found this blog post telling that it got removed with Firefox 4 because only 3 percent of users ever clicked on that icon! - That is crazy! Are there still people surfing manually from one interesting page to the next? - I simply can't believe that!

Although I have upgraded to the latest Firefox already a while ago, I only now noticed the missing RSS button. I think, it is because I already have a quite stable set of feeds I read which does not change a lot any more. Maybe this is a reason for the 3 % statistics mentioned above...

Without RSS feeds I wouldn't be able to follow recent news in my areas of interest. There is so much news published on the internet and there is so few time to read. Without RSS feeds I couldn't get over the massive amount and read just the most important (and really new) information.

With the rising amount of smart phones I find it even more important to have RSS feeds as surfing the web on the smart phone is just annoying.

For all others, missing the RSS feed icon: It's now under Bookmarks -> "Subscribe to this page". You can get back the button by adding it to the toolbar (right-click into a free area on a toolbar and choose "Customize..." - there you find the RSS button which you can drag somewhere onto your toolbars).

Here is my way how I keep up-to-date:
  1. I select sites (Blogs, News-Sites, Forums etc) that publish good content in areas of my interests.
  2. I subscribe to those sites via RSS (clicking the Feedly RSS button) - Feedly is my favorite RSS reader.
  3. Then I categorize the feeds into Computer, Linux, Development, News, Science etc so that I can read news by category when I don't have time to go through all.
  4. Since having an Android smart phone I usually go fast through the headlines by starting the Google Reader Android app Feedly app while on bus or tramway - or waiting somewhere. I star/mark those items I want to read more in detail later or where I want to do more searching on the net for the topic - or if I want to comment later on a particular blog post.
  5. When back on one of my laptops or desktop I go to Google Reader site click the Feedly-button again and switch to starred/read-later items - as the feeds are synced with my smart phone and across different machines whatever has been set to read or marked with a star is the same status on all machines automatically. When I am done with what I wanted to do, I remove the star and done.
Even if you an artist, teacher, plumber or other profession - no matter, there are plenty of sites that might be worth watching. Don't waste time by continuesly surfing from one site to the next where you can't see immediately what you already read and what not!

Related post: Mobile phone situation, Firefox and RSS feeds in Google Reader, Why RSS Feeds and alternatives to Google Reader.


Outlook 2010 Meeting requests

It's been months now that I (have to) deal more intensively with Windows world now. Although you might know that I prefer my Ubuntu desktop over Windows I am not one of the "fan boys" ignoring people's or business needs. Honestly, nobody can accuse me of being ignorant on any of both worlds. And honestly, I cannot recommend anybody to go with Microsoft and Windows as a long-term strategy.

One of the recent changes introduced with Outlook 2010 I want to share with you today:
Imagine, you are using Outlook and create a calendar entry. You want to invite a customer, partner, supplier etc - an external person at another company - to this event. You may further enter some agenda or other information before sending the meeting request. So far so good.

In the past it was known that not all e-mail clients or collaboration suites do support meeting requests. There has been an independent standard defined for sending and receiving meeting requests - it's the ICS format. Even Outlook learned to use that format!

Anyway, not every client is supporting this. Before Outlook 2010 Outlook always sent the meeting information as text also (as by the way all/most other mail-clients and collaboration do also).

With Outlook 2010 they removed the event information as text which might lead to the effect that your invited persons never notice that you wanted them to invite to a meeting. The meeting information is simply missing in the email!

I noticed that just because Thunderbird does not read .ics attachments if Lightning is not installed. Only after installing the addon you get the meeting information displayed. I really don't understand why one line of appointment information text is too much to expect...

Related posts: Outlook Calendar Meetings, Maintaining multiple calendars.


Windows and the command line

If I remember correctly I was about 14 when I wrote my first MS DOS batch file. I can't say that I write many of them but from time to time I think a VB script is too much for just some little work.

On the other hand I began to really learn Linux shell scripting only about 6 months ago. After that I find the Windows batch file language a very poor thing. It has a poor feature set, a lousy documentation and it is buggy. And this still applies for Windows 2008r2 - so I am talking about the newest OS version.

Right now I lost about two hours investigating a problem to find out that the batch file I wrote, did not work. The problem was caused at a completely unexpected place where I had a few lines that I previously tested separately - on the command line.

Guess what: Behaviour may be different if I run a command on the commandline or from within a batch file!

Here is an example - try this on the command line:
set var1=fluffi
echo _%var1%_ _%var2%_
The result will be: _fluffi_ _%var2%_

And now put those two lines into a .bat or .cmd file and run it.
The result is: _fluffi_ __

A pretty difference, isn't it!

In my case I was passing a string like this "blablabla%muh%bla" as parameter to a called program and the parameter did not fully arrive in the batch file while it did when I tried on the commandline.

What's that?!?! - Is this the Microsoft logic? - I think so... one only has to look at the evolution of MS Word...

Oh - I guess you want a solution: In the batch file you have to escape % doubling it - %%.

Related Post: The Microsoft Logic 


Microsoft & Skype

I guess you have not missed the news about Microsoft aquiring Skype. Although Microsoft told they will continue development on all versions of Skype I have my doubts - and so do others too.

Recently Digium, a company that develops an integration for Skype with Asterisk, had to give up because Skype/Microsoft is stopping the partnership - read here.

You are free with your own interpretations on this but I am already searching for a replacement for Skype.

The very sad thing these days is: As soon as a software got really good and really adds value and/or increases your productivity, it gets destroyed somehow - being prices getting too high or not being continued. This way we will never step out of the bronze age of IT...

What you can see here as an example: People often say that in Open Source world you don't have a guarantee that the software is supported and continued. As you see here, proprietary software is not different here. But in open source world there is always the option to fork (see OpenOffice->LibreOffice). This option is missing in proprietary world. So basically in Open Source world you are more safe!

Related post: The Open Source movement.


OpenOffice and LibreOffice starts slow

Sometimes there can be even annoying problems with Open Source software.

A few days ago I got annoyed by OpenOffice starting slow. Then I decided to switch to LibreOffice and first thought it helped. Then a day after it was slow again.

Finally I found out that it starts slow whenever I have the VPN connection open (using SonicWall NetExtender).

After searching the internet a lot without finding anything that helped I landed at LinuxQuestions at this thread: http://www.linuxquestions.org/questions/linux-software-2/double-clicking-on-open-office-files-leads-to-very-slow-opening-808048/

sudo tcpdump -nnl -i any -s 1536 dst port 53

on the commandline discovered that LibreOffice was searching for .(none) via DNS and the VPN inserts it's DNS servers right in front of every other DNS entry in /etc/resolv.conf - grmpf!

So similar to what is mentioned in the thread above, I had to add    myhostname.(none)

to the file /etc/hosts - done. This and some other small, but annoying changes in reality need to be done at each install of a new system. - Of course, there are even more of those annoyances on Windows, but it seems you can't get rid completely of those... :-(

Related posts: Ubuntu 10.04 & docking station part 1 + part 2, Locale configuration on Ubuntu, Firefox change default page format.


IT fallout and buddhism

Today I had two thoughts about today's usual IT landscapes:

  1. Windows is like radioactive fallout on the IT level. People accept it and somehow knowing about the problems and then get killed (through stress and burnout for example) by the effects - slowly and without them either noticing.
  2. I need to take buddha as an example to accept the common IT flaws. Although he has seen the light, he returns in his free decision to this world to help people in their endless suffering. I somehow also feel to have seen the light because I see how things could be done better, but anyway I face Windows again and again at customers. I need to see this as an opportunity to assist people in their suffering. In most cases people are not able to finish their suffering and see the light... ;-)
Related post:  The truth about software.


Thunderbird and the Outlook Global Address book

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have switched job and while I initially had to use the Outlook Web Access (OWA) in the version of 2010 to access my mailbox. At this point I want to be fair and say: Microsoft really improved the web client. You can work with it. I prefer that interface over several others (Hotmail/Live). The other option was to use the real Outlook over a terminal server session or using a virtual machine. I tried both (in version 2007 and 2010) too so I have used all variants. The result is: Outlook still completely sucks! I talked to other people who ever used something different than Outlook in their work (e.g. Thunderbird or Notes) and everybody confirms, that Outlook sucks. People often wonder why I have problems with Outlook when "the whole rest of the world" is fine with it. The reason is: Most people don't know anything else and they got used to suffer. But enough, I want to help out everybody who is in the lucky situation that IMAP protocol got activated in their Exchange branded workplace (in my case they activated it just for me :-) - this is cool). I tried several alternatives for directly accessing the Exchange server without success and I could not occupy the internal IT for hours to figure out, what goes wrong. Opening up the IMAP protocol was the simplest and straight-forward-option.

So I can use the loved Thunderbird again!

But opening up the IMAP is only half the way. You also need to get access to the address book. And here I ran against brick walls in the first step:
  1. Trying to open an LDAP address book pointing to the Exchange server failed in getting no connection (neither port 389 nor 3268 worked).
  2. I figured out the AD (Active Directory) server of the Windows world and used that. It connected immediately to port 389, however then had problems loading the contacts. As I know now, it is a matter of filtering to the correct entry set. However, after failing continously during my first attempts I tried
  3. exporting the global address list from within Outlook into ... well ... anything, I was about to even accept any CSV file, however styled. Completely failed in that too - you can export contacts but not the global address list. You can imagine how happy I was...
Fast forward to my final solution which now supports
  • directly using the global address book via LDAP directly from the server or
  • use a local copy (export+import which you need to do manually from time to time to be up-to-date).
How it is done:
  1. Get the Apache Directory Studio or another LDAP browser tool of your choice that supports an LDIF export. In the Apache Studio case, just extract the package and start it (yes, it's that simple, it's a Java application that runs on Linux and Windows). You need this to first test your LDAP access, if you are not sure about the correct criteria.
  2. Now you need to find out where the AD is hosted. In my case I promised not to ask boring questions to IT (they were already nice enough to open up the IMAP just for me), so I had to find out on my own. I simply checked in to the Terminal Server Session and wrote a little batch file (directly going to the console is forbidden in the terminal server session due to security policies) of the content:

    and just double-clicked it to find the entry "LogonServer", "UserDNSDomain" and "UserDomain".
  3. Now start the Apache Directory Studio and create a new LDAP connection. The connection parameters would be something like:

    (using the information from LogonServer and UserDNSDomain, so e.g. "myserver.mycompany.com").
    Port = 389

    (default LDAP port).
    Logon with UserDomain\yourUserName and your password.
    Click on "Fetch base DNs" to find out the base DN to use - or guess it, it usually is:

    so for example dc=microsoft,dc=com.
  4. Now you would find a lot of stuff browsing through the AD (assuming you have enough read permissions). To find the entries that are displayed in the Outlook address book, you need to filter the information. To do so, create a new search using the base DN above and the following search filter (click on "Filter Editor..." for better formatting):

    Here is the filter again as one-liner - this is how to use it in your Thunderbird:


    In the Apache Directory Studio you can now set the option to "Follow referrals manually" or ignore them completely. Leaving it to automatic can produce errors - especially if AD not well configured (in my case loops are generated when automatically following all referrals). Search scope should be the complete subtree. Check the results by executing the search.
  5. Start Thunderbird and create a new IMAP account (if you didn't already) and create a new LDAP address book (Tools-Address book; File-New-LDAP Directory). Enter Hostname, Port, Base DN as in step 3 and in the "Advanced" tab choose subtree and enter the one-liner version of the filter as in step 4.
    Now you have the direct access version. You now could change settings in Thunderbird (Edit-Preferences-Composition-Addressing) or even configure it for a single account (under Composition and Addressing) to use the LDAP directory for autocompletion, but I found that to be annoying because of the slow Exchange server in my particular case (YMMV). Hence I did not do this but pressed F9 in a new mail to show the contacts sidebar. There I switched to the LDAP address book and can now search and choose addresses if they are not already among my collected addresses. This is BTW the same you get, using Outlook - only those addresses, you already used get auto-completed and the others you need to search manually. A second annoyance is that Thunderbird takes a longer time to really disappear from memory when the LDAP search was used during runtime. So I was not really satisfied with that solution.
  6. Just for performance and to have all autocompleted, I wanted to have a local copy of the address book. I found that the Apache Directory Studio offers an LDIF export feature, which is really the best you can get. Even phone numbers and other properties from the LDAP directory finds the way into the imported address book in Thunderbird. Just right-click the search (it's in the tree on the left-hand side) and choose "Export-LDIF" from the context menu within the Studio and in Thunderbird you go to "Tools-Address Books" and choose "Tools-Import..." - done.
Now you have both - full autocompelete and you can actively search the current LDAP at the server for the case new employees joined the train without the need to export-import all the time. However from time-to-time it makes sense to do a re-import just to have the current entries in the local cache. Fortunately the search is saved in the Apache Directory Studio for later reuse. Thanks to the Apache team for this great piece of software!

Oh, BTW: The local download of the LDAP directory did not work for me (it started but never finished - maybe because of the internal loops).

Hope this helps!

Related posts: Ignorance of the different, Popular Ubuntu Desktop myths, Apple worse than Microsoft, Outlook Calendar meetings, Maintaining multiple calendars.


Popular Ubuntu desktop myths

Some opinions around Ubuntu on the desktop - or Linux in general seem to be never dying although they should be really outdated. A few are:
  1. Linux/Ubuntu is only for PC freaks.
    This is simply not true. Ubuntu/Linux is at least easy to use as Windows. For the normal user it is less painful for sure: You are faster up and running (because after installation also many apps are already there), you don't need to search your shitty licence code you probably already thrown away accidently a year ago, you don't get penty annoying questions when first starting your browser, you can install easily whatever language you need for whatever family member or friend who might visit you and you want to share the computer with, you can buy Ubuntu already installed on a USB stick that you can carry around and use it on whatever computer you go, you can easily use any file as a template and many, many more.
  2. Installation of applications is difficult (need to be compiled).
    There are distributions that compile everything from source, but even there you don't need to do it on your own. Anyway, most distributions don't require compiling things on your own (however, this is always an option you have, even if mostly not recommended). - Installation of software is usually simpler than on Windows: You start a program (menu entry) which contains a list of available applications, you can search, scroll through the list, just tick the checkbox in front of the application(s) you like to install and click "Apply". Download and installation done automatically then. For uninstall - guess what: Just uncheck and apply again. If you are funny, you can search the internet for a more up-to-date installation package or other application not in the repositories and install it by double-clicking it after download just as you do it on Windows. What is so difficult then? Even a trained monkey can do it. ;-)
  3. Everything must be done on the command line.
    Most things nowadays can be done through a graphical user interface also. One reason why much is done on the commandline: It is far easier in a forum or blog post to respond to a question with a few commands that just need to be pasted to a terminal window than it is to explain it with plenty of clicks and menu items (with the ribbons situation is even worse). For the person that receives the help it is also easier. And other than on Windows, everything you can do on the graphical environment you can also do on the commandline. That does not mean you have to do it that way.
  4. Linux looks old-fashioned on the desktop.
    Look yourself and decide: http://www.ubuntu.com/desktop/why-use-ubuntu, http://www.kde.org/screenshots/, http://www.xfce.org/about/screenshots, http://lxde.org/image/tid/1, http://www.linuxmint.com/screenshots.php, http://www.gnome3.org/, http://www.enlightenment.org, - All this can be used in Ubuntu - you can choose!
    Oh, you want Mac-style toolbar on the bottom - or Windows 7 like - look here for example: http://www.omgubuntu.co.uk/2010/04/you-choose-the-best-dock-for-ubuntu-poll/ - again: You choose, what you find efficient and cool!
    What is true, that some older applications are looking ugly because they use old interfaces (sometimes when searching in the repository and try new apps I happen to get such an old-style thingy), but the major part looks very nice.
  5. There are so many variants (of Ubuntu itself and even more if you look at other Linux distributions) so there will be never be a standard.
    The core for Linux is the same for all and the most differences are not in the system but just in the desktop environment or GUI presentation. But this is for your freedom and you can anyway start multiple applications using different GUI frameworks. Keep in mind that all people like to work differently. Everybody has his own preferred way of doing things. Hence should be you computer: It should support you by doing the work they way you like!
  6. Ubuntu is not compatible with Windows.
    This can't be said so generally. It is applications that are not compatible, file formats or protocols and you have to look at those separately. For example: Many widely used file formats (as JPG, PNG, TIFF, PDF, RTF, MP3, AVI and many more) can be handled without problems on Ubuntu. Even the DOC, XLS, PPT Formats can be handled quite good in the meantime. It is Microsoft that continously invents new formats and changes existing formats (see the latest DOCX which is different in MS Office 2007 and 2010, so that you need to save it in a compatible form from within 2010 if you want it to be displayed in the same manner with 2007 - .docx is not .docx!). Ubuntu better supports more open standards than Windows does (e.g. look at the MIME-Format - this is the format used to send e-mails over the internet - and look what you get from Outlook)!
  7. Ubuntu is developed only by students in their spare time.
    Canonical is the company behind Ubuntu, but Ubuntu is based on Debian (look in particular at http://www.debian.org/partners/ for example) and that all is Linux. And many big companies are contributing to Linux! So, if this ever was true, it is not any more since quite a while (see http://www.techrepublic.com/article/linux-standard-gains-big-name-backers/5365462 for example).
  8. Ubuntu is free and hence must be very buggy.
    Wherever software is developed, bugs are introduced. There are not more or less bugs in Ubuntu than on Windows - IMHO. Windows is used by more people and companies and hence there is a higher probability that bugs get found but for Ubuntu it is extremely easy to get involved, report bugs and get in touch with the developers and hence get the bugs fixed. So I think we are pretty at the same level here and there although I think, Ubuntu is more stable (of course ;-) ). And why it is free is because of the Open Source idea where people pay for work being done (new features, bugfixes,...) and not for ... (yes for what?). See "The Open Source idea" for details.
These are just the first examples that come to my mind.

Related posts: Document file format, The community, Going Linux, The Open Source idea, Why companies do not use Linux on the desktop, Distribution choice, Outlook Calendar Meetings, The individual desktop, Efficient desktop environment, A few Linux related videos.

Ignorance of the different

I haven't written since a while. The reason is: I changed job and it has been a stressy time for me.

Fortunately I found a company that accepted that I work on Ubuntu on my desktop. Of course there is Windows stuff to do - which I will do from a virtual machine or via remote desktop.

During my job search and at other occasions I wondered about the big ignorance (it is not always plain unawareness) of people working in the Windows and Microsoft environment. The vast majority of users, IT staff and managers still cannot accept, that the era of the Microsoft-only IT environment will be history in a few years.

Many young people are using Macs (even if it is just because they want to be different or cooler than others in a few cases) for example. I have customers where users are using Macs in the office on their productive workstation - yes, today (I am not talking about a single case only).

And BTW: I don't know a single real person who really tried Mac or Linux and then switched back to Windows. The contrary is true, most I know, didn't look back after two weeks on Ubuntu for example. I am not talking about forum entries of people who tell they switched back to Windows - I don't give much on them after I have seen sooo many forum posts that are so evidently fakes (or paid comments - yes, there are companies where you can pay for manipulating the public opinion through forums, blog comments etc).

Oh, and I have seen people selling Android phones and when I mentioned Linux, they never heard of it - hey it runs on the thingis, you sell!

There are a few things, that are really super-annoying and I start to get angry, when:
  • people assume, that everything other than Windows must be crap (without either looking). How can somebody have such opinion about something they never heard of yet?

  • I report a problem with a website or a service and people ask me what OS I am using (or worse: "What Windows-Version are you using?") and then tell me automatically it must be a problem with my machine or client - even if that has nothing to do with the OS that I am using.

  • when I ask people for help (e.g. just tell me the proxy, I have to use, when I want to use the internet), they see my machine and they immediately tell me - hell, what is this - I cannot support this. - Hey, it's maybe just a DNS or PROXY ip address I want to know - is this really so difficult? I don't ask them to configure my machine for me - I can do it myself.

  • people treat me like a fanatic or fundamentalist, just because I have pretty good reasons to not like Windows and prefer something else. I do accept that other people do not have enough problems with Windows to seriously consider a switch (if you take care you can keep even a Windows system quite stable and performant over a longer period of time - so with good people maintaining the Windows in a company, work can be quite painless with Windows either).

  • especially Windows developers, who think, they know all, and in reality never looked around what is used outside their small world. The vast majority of big sites does not use neither Windows nor MS SQL Server nor .net. Some of the Windows(-only) developers I know seem to be really brainwashed.
These are a few examples. Sometimes I get really tired of trying to legitimate the use of something different.

In reality it would be sufficient to be just accepted, but if I look more deeply into it: I am working to improve customers IT experience since I was about fourteen. And from the deep of my heart, I want to serve the best for the customer. From the current view, it simply does not make sense to write new applications that only runs on Windows if there is a chance to write it in a platform agnostic way. If the application is available for other platforms also then the vendor and customer can be independent from future trends. Even very Windows centric companies nowadays allow iPhones attaching to their networks for example.

So, honestly, I must recommend using Linux, Java or any other open technology and open standard over any proprietary one. - TIFF or PDF for example has not just been adopted by accident. Documented and open standards win in the long run, such as SMTP, IMAP, SSL, MIME and plenty others, that are well established.

Related posts: IT investment, The Open Source movement, Document file format, Data file format.