The HeliOS Project is now.....

The HeliOS Project is now.....
Same mission, same folks...just a different name

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Sunday, May 31, 2009

A hard look at Adobe

Typing with one hand tends to force one to brevity. A seemingly minor injury has caused some temporary paralysis in my left arm so this comes to you courtesy of my right hand. Timing and Fate, being close cousins, have given me a chance to publish something here that I think is not only worthy of your consideration...I believe it merits your action, and mine.

Many who have contributed greatly to our societies began their efforts at a young age. From Edison to Tesla, Einstein to Stallman, their passions and beliefs drove them to ultimately become who they were fated to be. I've recently become aware of a young man who may well evolve into one of our great contributors. We middle-aged folks seem to think we have the market cornered on common sense and good ideas. For the most part, we do.

Every once and a while, someone much older than their years asks to be listened to. Max Shinn has my attention, and I think he should have yours as least for now...for this moment, give Max some reasonable thought and feedback. The comments here have been known to get fairly rough and tumble but for now, if you disagree, do it without discouraging someone who may grow to be the next John Hall.

You never know.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Max Shinn aka Trobonechamp.

When you see Flash, Duck and Cover

The best thing anyone can do to continue making the Internet more closed, restrictive, and prohibiting is to use Adobe Flash as it exists today. The Internet was created to allow for the open and unconfined infrastructure to share information; yet, it is being used today for the opposite purpose: to stop this information torrent. Many people do not see Flash as an issue, and don’t view Adobe as a malevolent authoritarian. In fact, though, Flash is the biggest bottleneck on the Internet’s effectiveness in the same way that the variety of world languages spoken worldwide is the biggest bottleneck on the global social network. A change in Adobe’s business strategy with regards to Flash is the only way to turn this unnecessary throttle on the potential of the Internet-connected community into a true innovation and synergistic technology.

Some may not notice the restrictions we experience in our everyday lives. One such restriction is that of software like Flash. In the video market alone, Flash is the number one method used to control access to “intellectual property”. Flash does much more than just restrict video content, though. Unlike HTML and Javascript, which are saved in human-readable formats, Flash files are in a format that only computers can read, so nobody is able to see exactly what these files are doing to their computers. Because of this, anybody can restrict access to the content of the file itself, or even include viruses or other malicious software through the use of Flash Player.

The biggest restricting factor, though, is the fact that consumers must use the software distributed by Adobe in order to view Flash files in their entirety. This is a major problem because, with a 99% market penetration, Adobe can do anything it would like. Adobe Flash is installed on more computers than even Microsoft Windows, which naturally gives them a huge amount of power. The dependency of people on Flash Player is so great that Adobe could chose any day to shut all installations of Flash Player down until the user payed a $40 ransom fee. If Adobe ever fell short of money, this would be a convenient and no-hassle way to gain money, considering most people would end up paying this fee for access to games, videos, and a multitude of other possibilities online we often take for granted. This is only the tip of the iceberg, though. Adobe could block out competitors’ software, spy on the users, or even include a “back door” to allow employees to remotely control anybody’s computer. With Flash’s massive install base, Adobe could technically do anything they want to your computer.

Devoted individuals have begun developing alternatives through reverse engineering, such as “Gnash” and “swfdec”, but those are still unable to be completed due to the lack of cooperation by Adobe. Adobe initiated the “Open Screen Project” to give the appearance that it promoted choice in platforms and ease any fears regarding Adobe’s obsessive control, yet it really just restates the knowledge that was already gained through the effort of previous reverse engineering techniques. The only benefit of the Open Screen Project was the promise Adobe made not to sue any Flash-alternative projects, yet this promise, in reality, just affirms the excessive control Adobe has over the platform. Recently, Adobe sent a Cease and Desist to SourceForge, a company that hosts community-developed software projects, regarding a hosted project called “rtmpdump”. This project opened up features of Flash to average people that were previously only available in Adobe’s Flash Player. Despite Adobe’s claim to transparency and neutrality, SourceForge was required to remove rtmpdump from its site, confirming yet again the massive amount of power Adobe has.

A further issue with the Flash format is its dependency on software patented by multiple companies. These patents make Adobe’s promise worthless, as other companies also have the right to sue when their own patents are violated. Patent law was created to encourage innovation, but when computers entered the scene, corporations found they could benefit from the law by exploiting loopholes that allowed software to be patented. Eventually, trying to patent as many elementary concepts as possible became a business strategy, and any company who didn’t follow this strategy risked a lawsuit. Software patents have ranged from online tests to pop-up windows to hyperlinks to progress bars. In addition, almost all of the major audio, video, and image formats are or have been covered under numerous patents. As you can well imagine, nearly all computer software is covered by multiple patents from various companies. The biggest companies pool their patents together and agree not to sue each other in exchange for access to the patents from the other biggest corporations. In this way, Adobe cannot be sued for using certain components in Flash, but everyone else can for using those same components.

With the inability for consumers to use any alternative Flash players besides the one created by Adobe, one would expect the official player to be of high quality, right? Studies have found the opposite to be true. Not only does Flash have a huge number of security problems, but it also slows down computers significantly, especially computers that run operating systems other than Microsoft Windows. Flash consumes an average of 50-80% of system resources on Mac OSX. The leading cause of crashes in the Mozilla Firefox web browser, according to the bug reports submitted by users, is the Flash Plugin. Unfortunately, this is something Mozilla cannot improve, no matter how badly their users want it, because Adobe will not allow it. Efficiency can be measured in more than just performance, though. Flash users who want to minimize their carbon footprint will be unhappy to know how negatively Flash affects power usage. Flash, especially banner ads cause ones computer to use much more energy. Simply disabling Flash saves an equivalent amount of power to turning off a light bulb.

The most logical solution to this problem would be for Adobe to allow open access to view, modify, and distribute to the code programmers will understand used to develop Flash. This strategy would have a multitude of benefits for not only consumers and Adobe as a company, but for society as a whole. Collectively, consumers would like the best possible experience online, and Adobe would like to make as much money as possible. Both of these private interests would be stimulated.

Consumers would benefit greatly with Adobe’s decision to allow open and unrestricted modification and distribution to its platform. Consumers would no longer have to worry about what would happen if Adobe tried to exercise excessive control over users, because anyone would be able to modify Flash to exclude the offending features. If this were to happen, Adobe would no doubt lose its reputation; however, if it were to happen today, it is possible that nobody would ever find out. It has been shown by projects such as the Linux kernel that those who can, will make changes to software to scratch personal itches. Corporations will naturally make changes to improve community-developed software when it will help that corporation’s own products. A multitude of corporations currently depend on Flash, making them all candidates to assist in improving Flash Player for the benefit of all. Speed is important to everybody, especially wealthy corporations that want their employees to be as productive as possible. As demonstrated by the Linux kernel, security and stability problems in community-developed software get fixed incredibly quickly.

Adobe is the party that would yield the largest benefit from opening up Flash. Adobe’s business strategy with regards to Flash is to develop a massive number of technologies centering around Flash, and then sell a really expensive software to create Flash videos. The vast majority of these technologies have opened source code to stimulate usage and entice those who like modifiable and redistributable software. Unfortunately for Adobe, these have not penetrated the target market because the product they depend on, Flash, does not allow modification or redistribution. Adobe’s other income with regards to Flash come from licensing versions of Flash Player for use on embedded platforms, such as cell phones. While it is logical to expect monetary reimbursement from large corporations for the ability to use Flash Player, problems arise when these corporations choose not to pay for the license. A notable example of this is with the iPhone. The lack of cooperation by corporations results in Adobe losing control, because it limits access to the software from potential users. Through the exploitation of this target market (all Internet-connected users) Flash has the potential to become a true standard; in this case, Adobe would hold the key to producing content for the standard: “Adobe Creative Suite 4”, its flagship product. Allowing public access and modification to a company’s software is the only way to allow other corporations to help increase that company’s market share. For example, Flash could be improved by search engine companies to allow content to be indexed more easily, benefiting all companies involved and allowing for further standardization.

There are other possible solutions to this problem, though they are not as elegant or effective. For instance, it is possible for some devoted activists to start a new software project to replace Flash. It would have similar features, but would not be compatible with existing Flash scripts. Though many appreciate the value of this type of project, it would nevertheless advance very slowly in what we have come to expect out of modern Internet-based technologies. It would also make extra overhead for the consumer, creating the need to install yet another web browser plug-in. Finally, this solution would divert developer time away from Flash Player alternative projects, such as Gnash and swfdec, which are increasingly necessary, and make it impossible to use the existing jungle of Flash scripts.

Another solution, though much less plausible, is for consumers to stop using Flash altogether. The problems that come attached to this solution are obvious, though. First of all, it is nearly impossible to raise awareness for any cause, especially one that takes a long time for people to understand. In addition, Flash has become too embedded within the lifestyles of many Internet-connected users to “just quit”. With dependencies on video sharing sites, education material, games, and more, only the most devoted users would be able to resist the pressure. This option would be much more effective as a protest technique to convince Adobe to allow modification than it would be as a solution on its own.

As you can see, Flash started out as a slightly obnoxious insect, but it grew over time into the monster that it is today. Adobe has too much control over the software. The control it has makes it impossible for Internet content to be truly accessible to everyone, and requires every user to subject his/herself to Adobe. It also carries a large number of problems along with it that Adobe has no desire to solve, as solving them would not increase its market share. By allowing the modification and redistribution of Flash, both Adobe and its consumers would benefit from the synergy that would be achieved. Nobody can build a skyscraper alone. Until Adobe makes Flash more permissible, Flash users have no choice but to sit in the monster’s mouth and hope it doesn’t get hungry.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

U know Ur Old When...

Your mind is your worst enemy. It whispers to you that you can do things you can or should not.

Yesterday, Justin (more on Justin later) and me loaded 70 crt monitors and about 40 computers into a truck.

From the third floor.

Today I am suffering 80% paralysis in my left arm from ligament strain. It hurts like hell.

(edit - the paralysis
is not permanent...only temporary until it heals. thank you for the flood of concerned emails. I am however physically worthless until it does heal - h)

If there is anyone out there in the Austin area with a couple of hours to spare, we could use a hand unloading this borrowed truck. I am not sure how long our truck-loaning friend will remain friendly to our cause with us binding up his money-maker.

Typed ever-so-one-handedly...


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Fun, Fun...and more Fun

Just posting this here on the outside chance someone wants to be part of the glamor and glitz of The HeliOS Project. A star-studded party after an install-fest? A packed assembly hall lecture listening to the benefits of using Free Software?

Oh no! It's way more fun than that.

We have been gifted 65 Monitors and 20 computers from a company here in Austin. Yeah,,,wait it gets better. They are 21 inch CRT's. We get to hand dolly them down three floors in an elevator and into a waiting truck at the curb! I know, you are bursting with anticipation to be part of this frolicking day. Sadly, there's only room for three people total in the cab of the truck so we are limited in how many people we can include in this joyfest.

If you are off this Friday and want to give us a hand transporting these donations to our warehouse, just comment here and let us know...and try to keep your exuberance in check...

Act like you've been a part of something this glamorous before.

All Righty Then...
Sweat is a good thing.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ya Never Live It Down


Our thanks to J.D. "Illiad" Frazer for the blast from the past.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Coming out of the gates strong...

While we do keep a separate blog for most HeliOS Project stuff, we'd like you to know that this is the time of year we need to secure funding for the second half of the year. As of this posting, we've placed 91 individual computers, over half of The Settlement Home project is complete and we will finish Space12 right after the Linux Against Poverty event is over. Hopefully that event will bring us the LCD monitors especially required for that install.

We know that these are tough times for everyone. I myself am unemployed after being laid off two weeks ago so I am the first to understand how priorities can shift in times like this. Should you be in the position to help see us through the year, we would appreciate you clicking the donate button on the left side of this page. This funding is used for day-to-day expenditures like fuel, incidental parts and the constant small costs associated with our operation.

The vote is not in yet, but there is a possibility that we will be raffling off two really decent computers in the next week. One is an Alienware M5500 and the other is an Acer (don't start it) TravelMate 8210. These are mid to high end machines, running 2 gigs of ram and 160 gig hard drives. Both are dual core and fairly scream through any task you can through at it.

Keep an eye out for this announcement and if the Directors vote in favor of it, we'll rock and roll with the raffle. This isn't exactly a newsworthy blog so it will not receive any real exposure on the net. We would surely appreciate it if you would spread it around to your friends.

All-Righty Then

NetFlix Where Art Thou ?

OK...I think we can put the old wive's tale to bed that Linux Users just don't spend money.

2DBoy will be the first to punch a pin in that bubble.

I could have linked the same data with a personal quote from Kyle from 2DBoy in my blog but that wouldn't have proven much. The fact that Linux Users absolutely destroyed all previous first-day sales of World Of Goo by 40% is a powerful indicator.

What has been proven though is that Linux users will shell out a few bucks for what they want. We have another non-believer in our midst.


This blog is to the point. Help us get the petition link out to as many people as you know.
Pathetically, less than 400 signatures reside on the petition at the time of this post. You don't think it will make a difference?

Oh, let me show you if the Acer deal didn't show you your power.

A few of weeks ago, we highlighted the story of Mark Van Kingsley and his quest for a Dell Studio XPS with Linux pre-installed. Now mark isn't a militant sort of guy...well, yes he is when it comes down to it but he really didn't do anything to merit being transfered to "TEAM BLACKHAWK". Obviously a special ops customer service division to handle Linux Militants. In a word, Mark raised hell over the fact that he couldn't get the machine he wanted. When the agent invoked the Microsoft Licensing Agreement as the reason that he couldn't get said product with Linux, Mark asked them:

"So you mean Microsoft dictates to Dell what they can and cannot sell me?"

The tech responded: "Well you could look at it that way..."

Yeah, I guess we could Mr.-Team-Blackhawk-handler-of Linux-Militants. How else would one look at it?

And just so you know...I realize that Team Blackhawk probably has a completely legitimate roll...somewhere. I can appreciate someone else with an over-used sense of the melodramatic.

Mark wasn't the only one that contacted Dell about this. After we published the story, we received just over 3 dozen emails either asking for the right email address and phone number to Dell or communications telling us that they had already contacted Dell about this silliness.

Just over three weeks later....Voila!

That was just enough time for their techs to get the hardware kinks out of it. Now I cannot with a straight face sit here and try to convince you that we did this...the evidence is empirical at best and with Dell choosing not to answer out calls about it, I guess we will never really know.

But ya gotta wonder....ya really gotta wonder.

So if you would, give us a hand in letting NetFlix know we would very much appreciate joining in on the party. Between the Acer Debacle and the Studio XPS thingy...I think we're on a roll. And you should finally realize the strength you possess.

I'll bring the popcorn.

All Righty Then...

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Acer Debacle - Closing The Chapter

We have had our share of hassles and problems in getting the computers we build to our kids.

And for the record..."our kids" signifies the kids that receive our computers...not at all genetically linked here.

The problem with the Acer TravelMates however, has shown a disturbing trend that has been developing for over a decade. It used to be called "Customer Service"

Now I simply refer to it as "Customer Annoyance."

Not at all catchy or bright, but it gets to my point.

More and more we are spending inordinate amounts of time on hold, listening to inane tele-music or self-hyping ads for the company that is currently wasting your time by making you listen to it. You come close to meditation and prayer, hoping to hear a voice...a real voice, one that will assist you in solving your problem.

In my case, apparently the Deity I prayed to didn't speak English.

Neither did the "real voice" that I hoped for. Not well anyway.

So I want to recap what it took to solve the problem of the TrustedCore Setup Utility that I recently reported on.

The initial problem was that the computer came default with the Trusted Computing Module active. We have written extensively on Trusted Computing...fact is, in 2006, we wrote 11 articles on it. Simply put, this is big brother with it's boot on the throat of freedom. Now while I can see the value in someone losing their laptop and having this feature in place, I have first-hand, experienced the problems it can solve. Apologies were given as I fell into the "1 percent" that suffers its ill sux to be that one percent, trust me.

After trying the obligatory "000000" password, "password" and "acer", I was locked out of the password field to the left. I was then taken to an ominous black screen that said "entry denied". Under that was a 6 digit bracketed number. That number as it turns out, is the magic number you must give to the AcerTech. He then plugs it into the magic decifererererr machine that spits out 6 possible numbers that may or may not work.

They didn't...but fortunately for me, before I had to disassemble the machine and do the DIP switch machination, there was one looooooonnnnngggggg that seldom worked.

Making sure the AC adapter was plugged in, hit the fn + esc key and immediately smush the power button.

Yeah right, like that's going to circumvent this complex security chip.

I'll be damned if it didn't. Unfortunately, it did not work for the second Acer and I ended up with my hands in the guts of said machine. At least I now know what a DIP switch is. But to get to all of that, I had to go through some pretty unreasonable gyrations.

I got serious about resolving this problem on Monday, the 18th of May. My cell phone readout shows a constant connection to Acer Customer Service from 0917 AM until 1128 PM. In that time I was shuffled to three different departments and in the end, each one of their "sessions" ended with the suggestion that I pay the fee to ship the computer to Acer and let them "fix" it for 100 dollars.

The fact that I was a confirm-able charity didn't seem to interest them or sway the suggestion.

Tuesday, the 19th of May I decided on a new tact and began collecting Acer Executive phone numbers and email addresses for my days work. The best I was able to achieve in 2 hours and 57 minutes of phone calls was to talk to some admin assistant "gatekeeper", promising to have the Vice President of Pissed Off Customers call me right back.

Phone's been on since. VPOPOC has yet to ring me up.

On that Wedensday, I decided to start calling area technicians and stores that carried Acer products.

Don't ask...don't even friggin' ask. That was the day I decided that if I wasn't going to be able to get 2 extremely nice laptops operable for my kids, I was going to disassemble them piece by piece and start sending them, return receipt requested", to the various executives of Acer.

It wasn't to happen. Allow me to tell you what else isn't to happen.

And it would have been so much fun.

Michelle Minkin, a friend of this effort and an all-around nice lady; suggested that we auction off the opportunity to destroy these computers. We were almost ready to start soliciting the community for creative ways to make them go BOOM and film it for YouTube consumption.

You are right, it was a juvenile and silly idea. One I personally liked thank you very much. Sure it might have been silly.

So was spending 9 hours of my life seeking the solution for a problem that took all of 1 minute to solve.

I honestly don't know how AcerTech came to find out about our problem but it seems that two of them did at the same time. Both from the same city and extremely close to Austin.

Both were from Acer.

Both offered to help.

I am not sure if they heard about our plight and simply decided to take it upon themselves to fix it or were called from San Jose and told to put the fire out before it spread too far.

In the end, it really does not matter. Given some of the things said during the conversations we had, I would hazard a guess that number two would be most accurate. I am further supposing that there were calls made to different players and within the traceable chain of custody for this laptop to determine if indeed I had legal possession of it. If that's the case, then I can understand to a point. Then again, it shouldn't have taken three days of someone's life to untangle a seemingly small knot.

But again, it really doesn't matter.

What does matter is that there is an entire culture of Customer Annoyance within our society. Companies have gotten too big to care about your piddly-ass little problems and
the structure of Customer Annoyance has become bloated. Having worked in Tech Support myself, I know the Tier one, tier two....structure.

And it sucks.

Especially when you have to threaten to publicly destroy a corporation's property to demonstrate its worthlessness.

All moot now.

We have the laptops fixed and slated to go to good and deserving homes. Equally important, we know that voices joined are voices heard. And that some AcerTech somewhere decided that this had gone on long enough. My personal and sincere thanks to that guy,

Thank you for your voices.

All-Righty Then...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Right Thing Was Done

I'm in a bit of a crunch for time here, I have someplace to be shortly so I will have to be more precise tomorrow.

I received a phone call from an Acer Tech "somewhere". Came across as "unknown number" on my caller ID.

Walked me through a set of fairly complex codes and key combination presses.

One TravelMate 5720 is now unbricked and enroute to possibly change the life of a child.

Or create a MySpace junkie.

We can only influence the first to the best of our abilities.

My warmest and sincerest thanks to a guy who did the right thing...even though he could have lost much for doing it.

All-Righty Then


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Acer Tells Kid's Charity - Pay Up or Shut Up

Yeah, it's my charity...

But that shouldn't matter here. I'd write about this regardless.

About two months ago, nFusion Group LLC, right here in Austin donated a small truckload of computers to The HeliOS Project. 90 percent of these machines were "plug-in ready". I didn't have to crack one case on all but two of them.

It was a pretty and impressive site to behold for us.

These were not cast-off's either. Case on point.

Two Alienware i5500-xxxx laptops and the rest were a mix of mostly Acer TravelMate 5720's and 8210's....throw in a couple of Top of the Line Dells and a toshiba 13 inch tablet laptop and bingo...our kids have computers.

None of these machines were more than two years old and the generosity of nFusion is obvious when you look at the retail prices of these machines sold new. Heck, take a look at what they are selling for at current market prices on ebay and you get a good idea of just how generous a donation this was.

Aside from one of the desktops needing a power supply, everything just worked.

Almost everything.

When I began triaging two of the machines to get them ready for donation to Austin Samaritans and ultimately Nicaragua, I ran across two of the Acer 5720's that had what seemed to be a bios password on them. Not a problem, either flash the bios or pull the battery for some amount of time and problem solved. Not here. Not for these.

What I ran into was something that I have ranted about in the past to the point where I almost bored myself.

Trusted Computing.

What I was running into was what seemed to be an even pre-bios window that read simply:

"Phoenix TrustedCore Setup Utility. It has a field for a password then two arrow-down's to accept - escape.

After stabbing around and getting locked out after the obligatory three attempts, I called Andy Krell, the IT Director at Nfusion. I told him of the problem and he said he would research it and get back to me.

In doing so, Andy assured me that no one remembered putting that "feature" on the computer and that his exhaustive search turned up no setup disks for that situation. He gave me the numbers to Acer Tech and Customer Service and I thanked him for his time.

A word about Andy and nFusion. Aside from their obvious generosity, these folks have bent over backwards to get this issue resolved. What we have are a small number of extremely expensive and much needed laptops that are essentially no fault of nFusion. On two subsequent contacts with Andy, he further went out of his way to go back into the receipts and archives to find out where those disks might be stored if stored at all.

They weren't...and I fully understand that myself. Once you get employee's swapping hardware from one person to another, those disks generally vaporize into the nether-regions quickly.

Acer? I've spent at least 3 hours a day since Monday just trying to get through to someone who can help me. Either the tech support accents are so thick I cannot understand anything or I spend so much time on hold my ear goes to sleep.

These are the numbers I've called.

Let me tell you one particular phrase that these tech support folks did enunciate with clarity.

Credit Card.

After explaining to the fine Acer folks that we were a charity...a largely non-funded charity and that these laptops were meant for disadvantaged kids, it really didn't matter to them.

The bottom line for The HeliOS Project?

"Pay us 100 dollars and we will fix the problem for you. Other than that, you have no other options."

"Good bye."

So...several ideas have come to mind. I have the ability and know-how to disassemble most laptops to the third echelon level of maintenance. I'm thinking of Fedexing one small part each day to one of their top execs until I get their attention. Would I actually do that?

I don't know satisfying as it might be, I doubt it would do anything but cast a bad light on our efforts.

So Acer....a couple of Austin kids that were supposed to get life-changing gifts of technology will not. Thank you for welding closed what might have been an extremely good opportunity for them. Many now will remember Acer for that wonderful attribute.

And no...please...

We will not accept any donations for the 100 dollar extortion by Acer.

If they can't see past their company policy long enough to see an exceptable circumstance...

Maybe that idea of parting out these machines to their execs isn't a bad idea. Maybe purchasing any more of their products IS a bad idea. Maybe returning the product in a less than passive manner might get their attention.

Then again...there are some awfully smart people that read this blog. I am betting we get this resolved among ourselves.

I'm still thinkin' about it.

If you want a Linux machine, check out They do nothing BUT Linux and they were Linux before Linux was cool... They also support financially many Free Software projects.

All-righty Then


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Asking a favor from our friends...

IYCC is a company started by Linux guy Loye Young. Loye manufactured and sold his own brand of computer. It was a beauty...I am facing it right now as I type this. The crashing economy all but crushed this small business. Everything was in place to succeed when the whole thing hit the crapper for him. While he re-groups, he is doing the little things to try to recover until he is in position to tackle the big things.

We can help him by making his simple portal our home page. It is a simple google search portal with some shopping and unobtrusive ads. We ask that when you do any searches, take the time to use his page to do so and from time to time, click an ad there. If you should have the need to do business at Amazon, purchase computer accessories or buy music, Loye makes a pfenning or two from using his portal.

Loye is one of the Good Guys that got kicked in the teeth by the nasty US economy...many of us suffered. Loye has suffered on levels I don't want to go into...suffice it to say, he's lost more than anyone ever deserves to lose.

This isn't really "news" so it cannot be submitted to any of the Linux wires. Please pass it along to your friends if you would. We want to circulate it as much as possible.

Give Loye a hand by doing the simple things above. It's doing most things we do anyway in our day to day computing. If enough of us do it, it could make a difference.

Thank you...sincerely


Living To Hack and Getting It Done

It wasn't too long ago that we met here to talk about a recent youtube clip entitled "Linux Sucks". I stated that it was eerie...I had almost the same thoughts and ideas about 5 years ago...

I just didn't communicate those ideas as well or with the same media Brian Lunduke did.

In my opinion, he presented some valid points...points that have been discussed in ones-ies and two-sies, but never brought together in a complete package like the Lunduke clip.

Whether we agree with him or not isn't the point here...we've fairly well done that.

What we are here now for is to talk about actually moving toward getting it done. First though, let's look at some dynamics of our community...the entire community, not just the developers or code guys.

There is no "leadership" in the Linux Community, and it is that way for a reason...that reason being obvious. One person's vision cannot or should not shape something as globally important as GNU/Linux and Free Software.

There are however, people that lead individual projects within the community. Leadership on that level is paramount to accomplishing anything. Anyone not agreeing with that only need to revisit the Debian debacle. Leadership by consensus isn't's a recipe for inertia. I first became aware of how problematic "group leadership" can be when Matt Garrett resigned from the Debian Team in 2006.

Sometimes people just need to step aside and let competent leadership do what it does best.

Don't let ego hinder a project.

Lead. Competently, and lead by setting the example and not letting ego get in the way of progress or the goal.

Quoted from Ryan Paul in December of 2008:

"Debian's ideological underpinnings are also occasionally an impediment rather than an asset. The project's commitment to democracy and intentional lack of strong centralized leadership sometimes cripples the decision-making process and contributes to an overall lack of direction. Development efforts can be impaired or derailed by endless non-technical disputes over specific ideological issues."

No, this isn't pick on Debian Day. I only set it on the table because I know most everyone either remembers it or was possibly involved in the numerous donnybrooks that ensued. As far as I am concerned, Debian is the cornerstone of GNU/Linux.

So on the project level, what defines a good leader?

First, it's someone with the ideas and the skills to either make those ideas real or assemble the team (s)he needs to make those ideas real.

Oh, Look what I found.

He's asked me not to reveal his name and I will not...he prefers to be referred to as simply HackToLive. Until we can get a program like shortkeys lite in Linux, (hint) I will refer to him as htl. He is a citizen of the EU and has been playing around with various distros and a smattering of coding for a while now. His work is based on Ubuntu and I asked him what he thought he had to offer the community. Ubuntu is pretty good just the way it is. This is what he told me:

I started out calling it "Super Ubuntu". I changed it from Super Ubuntu because I was informed about the ubuntu trademark guidelines, and I did not wanted to comply with them. Canonical (the official ubuntu sponsor) did not force me, and they were ok if I used the name IF I complied with the guidelines. I did this because I now think I have more freedom to do modifications to the OS (not using the "Ubuntu" name).

Super Ubuntu, now referred to as Super OS, started with a simple need: having a Live CD that worked out-of-the-box. "A long time ago" I used Live CDs a lot (now I use mainly Live USBs) , and one thing that frustrated me was having to install flash and MP3 codecs on the Live CD everytime I needed those features! I also know MP3 and flash (and all that restricted/"non-free" stuff) are probably the first things many people install on their Ubuntu systems, so I decided to make their life easier and at the same time promote ubuntu and open-source software.

But that only gives him a jumping-off point for his real innovation.

One of the other problems I found on current linux distros is the hard way to simply run files and install software not in the official repositories (forcing the user to use the command line to simply execute a program as root!), so I came up with App Runner and more recently SRUN (still in beta-testing). Other thing I also do not like is having to wait 6 months for new versions of software, I know there are backports, but they are not really well implemented... a good solution would be portable apps (or self-contained programs), something I am also working on (SRUN + portable apps).

Remember in our earlier article we talked about taking package management, or at least the front end to package management to a unified tool? Look closely as htl's beta projects above...SRUN and portable apps.

This is the beginning of his vision for unified packaging. He plans to work with other distros that want his help after he has the Ubuntu/Super OS project finished.

We talked about vision being part of a good leader. He isn't standing still when that is done. He also wants to improve the upgrade process between releases.

"I think I can make this much easier and less time consuming. Service Packs for Super OS. This would not force the user to re-install Super OS every time a new minor version is out. Service pack 1 is already being worked out, and I expect to release it in less then one month from now. My RoadMap:"

Since The HeliOS Project is constantly fighting the lack of Internet connections when we install for our kids, htl's superdebs and SRUN packaging components are ideal. We have implemented the use of Super OS on all of our installs now and plan to continue doing so. Htl has agreed to work as a HeliOS Project development partner and boy howdy was it needed...I couldn't code my way into a rocking chair.

There are efforts like htl's out there. Mint has done a great job in making the new user's experience easier, as has TheeMann's Ubuntu Ultimate. What we like about htl's Super OS is the direction he wants to take it. He wants to think ahead...not dress up something already pretty...but alter it in a way that leads to other possibilities, from other people.

And that's another thing that makes a good leader.

He's not afraid to be improved upon. It's all about the end result, not the notation behind it giving him credit for the achievement. Nor is he afraid of criticism...honest, non-defensive criticism. You may have questions about security, about the process...things that he may or may not have thought of. This is a good place to bring them up.

My guess is that he'll be watching.

Htl will need help with mirrors. He expects rapid growth once Super OS hits Distrowatch and based on the performance so far on our kid's computers, I am assuming uptake will be brisk. If you have any mirroring space or know of an organization that will mirror Super OS, please contact us via the comments and we will pursue it quickly.

If I were to hazard a prediction, it would be that he'd need the space pretty soon.

All-righty then


Friday, May 15, 2009

A Major Meeting

I am often humbled by some of the comments and emails from people that read this blog. What humbles me the most is when people take time out of their busy lives and actually stop by to visit.

Sometimes from Europe for Kernel's sake...

I mean they had other bid'ness here...but while they were in the neighborhood...

Most every one of them don't want to just visit, they want to help.

Now I don't know what some people expect...there sure isn't any glamor in doing what we do here. Most times it involves manual labor and perspiration.

Sometimes freezing cold with accompanying sleet and rain....21 inch CRT monitors to be carried up three flights of stairs.

not-so-friendly dogs...

You get the picture.

So when people offer to "drop by", I make sure to tell them to wear clothing that isn't GQ and to bring gloves if they have hands that cannot afford to be damaged.

Like chip technicians. I know one in particular that has his hands insured for $750.000.00.

Often though, there isn't much to really do at the time or the only time our friends have to visit is in the evening. One such visit not only surprised made me realize just how good a good friend can be.

He goes by the name of Colonel Panic on the LXer forums. I will let him reveal his actual name if he so chooses. Now the Colonel had been threatening to visit for quite some time so when he said he was "on his way", I checked my watch.

It was 10:30 pm. He wasn't to arrive for another hour.

Not alot of computers to install at that hour either but since I am a diagnosed short sleeper
this didn't present much of a problem. What surprised me most was finding out that the Colonel had driven 4 hours out of his way to meet with me.

Total time of our visit?

About an hour and a half at an all night diner...swilling coffee and intermittently swapping fishing lies and bash scripts. It was one of the most memorable visits I've received.

Those of us who use GNU/Linux and advocate for its use are not usually surprised by the extreme cross-section of Linux Users. Dr's, Politicians, policemen and even Senior Officers in the United States Army.

Now let me tell you...having spent a career in the Army, I know the protocol pretty good. Retiring as a Senior Non Commissioned Officer, I also know the Officer ranking and the nuance therein.

A Major in the US Army has sacrificed and proven a lot to become a Major in the US Army. This isn't a pony-tailed aging hippie tech nerd...this is a person who has proven his or her ability to lead effectively...and lead large numbers of people effectively. He will lead soldiers into battle or pull injured civilians out of tornado-destroyed homes. His responsibilities are awesome...represented by the oak leaves on his collar.

His name is Arick McNiel-Cho and as you may have guessed from the lead-in, he is a Major in the US Army.

And he is an avid Linux User.

Arick and his staff were in Austin on temporary duty (tdy for you army guyz) to look at some battle stuff and investigate it for implementation into various combat scenerios. I'd love to tell you more but I was advised that I shouldn't ask further or he'd have to...

never know.

Arick is a impressive fellow in stature and demeanor. Even someone without any military experience would intuitively know that he held a leadership position. Arick asked me to pick a place where we could go have a couple of beers and spend a few hours talking Linux shop.

With astounding precision, I screwed that up by picking a college bar. I felt like someone's dad, out looking for his wayward daughter.

There were a more than a few there that would give their fathers fits if they knew what their little cupcake was wearing out in public.


At any rate, we spent the next three hours talking bash scripting, advocacy and the general direction in which we wanted to see Linux go. The time really went by too fast. By 11 pm we both realized we had early days ahead of us and shook hands.

My point in all of this?

GNU/Linux has much deeper roots in the American Computer UserBase than most of us realize. The US Army uses the Linux Desktop across many different deployments...not just servers. If Majors in the US Army are using Linux as their only means of operating their computers, we have to ask ourselves "how many more are out there...quietly using Linux and not thinking anything of it?" Carla Schroeder's recent article hits the target like a computer-guided Patriot missle.

And destroying the myth with satisfying carnage.

And I did mention not-so-glorious work and perspiration...

Brian Griffin is a techno-geek. He makes his living on the software side of the house.

He took the Red Pill.

Brian is in Austin visiting family while waiting for new position to come open in Toronto. He emailed me and let me know that he was going to be around and did I need some help.

Ya think?

When the planets finally aligned correctly, Brian was able to meet me so we could move 4 pallets of computer inventory into our new warehouse facility.

This would also be a good time to announce our informal partnership with The Austin Samaritans. Aside from their international work, The Austin Samaritans have a grant to provide computers to disadvantaged kids in South and Central Texas. In exchange for some fairly generous warehouse space, The Austin Samaritans will receive from The HeliOS Project those Pentium II's and III's deemed not powerful enough for our needs. Sometime in the late autumn, I have volunteered two weeks of my life to go with them to Nicaragua to set up a Linux Server System for a hospital. Wanna go with me? Let me know.

It was that un-air conditioned warehouse that Brian Griffin labored in that afternoon.

He busted his butt.

And for that I am thankful...all of us at The HeliOS Project thank Brian for giving us several hours of his day to do the hardest work we do...moving equipment from one place to another. It can be exhausting. Thank you Brian, and may the Universe give you good things in Toronto.

You gave us good things in Austin. As so have all of you who stop by our effort here in Austin Texas.

All-Righty Then

Saturday, May 09, 2009

The Thin Line Between Victim and Idiot

En Espanol

This is not meant for Linux user's consumption...rather it is meant to pass along to your friends that still use windows. It has some irrefutable arguments within.


That's a fairly strong word. I can't think of a situation where most people would not find it offensive.

Or rude.

Let me tell you something else that is rude, the offensive part I will leave to personal opinion.

Asking a friend to repeatedly fix your computer.

Not "fix" as in something inside the computer broke like a hard drive or a power supply.

I'm talking about your forays into Myspace and

I'm talking about having to repeatedly clean the garbage off your computer so it will run halfway decently again.

You seem to have no shame when it comes to this.

I personally stopped "fixing" Windows computers three years ago. That includes my wife's computer. my ex-wife, but that goes a bit farther than the scope of this discussion.

See, many of us have found a way to run our computers where we don't have to worry about that crap anymore.


Many of us have told you of this miraculous operating system and have went as far as to offer to install it on your computer for of charge.

Many of our motives are far from altruistic.

We're sick of cleaning up your messes. If we install GNU/Linux and Free Software on your computer, we simply won't have to be bothered again. I don't speak for all Linux Users...but enough of them to hear the applause in the background.

And trust is a bother, whether we verbalize it or not.

In 2004, a variant of the Sasser worm infected my three-city network, and by the time the dust settled, it had cost me $12,000.00 in business. My machines were fully protected and fully patched. See, that's the problem with Windows exploits. These viruses and worms mutate quicker than the anti virus software makers can issue the fixes. In my case, Symantec was 72 hours away from fixing this variant...I was one click away from disaster.

It's convenient to blame the virus writers and anti virus software makers but ultimately it is your fault you get this crap on your machine. You are using a system that not only allows fosters it. Let it be known that by reading further, you will learn that you have a choice in how you operate your computer. A free-as-in-cost and free-as-in-no-restrictions choice.

You will no longer be able to identify yourself as a victim.

The cost I incurred was in business loss. Today's viruses are not in it for the mischief...they are in it for the money.

Take a look at this.

These people are not going to stop. They are stealing billions of dollars a year by infecting your computers. There is too much money in this for them to even think about taking a break. What's worse, they are operating out of Russia and Nigeria for the most part...we can't get to them to stop them.'s not going to happen to you is it?


It wasn't going to happen to me either.

Linux is an alternative operating system much like Microsoft Windows...and no, it's not a "program". "Programs" run within an operating system. Think of it as a walnut. The shell of the walnut is your operating system. The goods within the walnut shell are the programs.

I'll not bore you with the details. If you are interested in finding out why Linux is safer and better, you can go here, here and here. There is a fairly comprehensive explanation as to why you don't need anti virus software here. Here is an article from a long-time Mac and Windows user who has seen the superiority of Linux and has put it on is own computer.

But this isn't a lesson on computer usage.

It's a wakeup call for common sense.

Did you know that most computer repair shops, once they "repair" your system; project future profits on the fact that you use Microsoft Windows? They know for a fact that you are going to need them again in six months.

They put their kids through private schools and upper-crust colleges because you are a Microsoft Windows User and are not able to adequately protect your computer.

It's getting harder and harder to do so. And don't look to Windows 7 for your will still need to laden your system with the same anti virus garbage and registry cleaners you did with XP and Vista. There's an even money chance that they are going to fail anyway. So you've paid for what?

There is however, a thin line between being a victim and being an idiot. If you do not know you have a choice and bad things happen to you, then you are a victim.

If you know you have a choice and still insist on personally using a system over and over again that will ultimately lead to the same problems....

I think the descriptor of idiot is fair.

You disagree? You know that Windows is the know that it's just a matter of time before you have to do it all over again. You know you have an alternative but you insist on putting the source of the problem back on your computer. You may be uncomfortable with the term "idiot" give me another name for it then.

And if you have to use it at work...I understand. Unfortunately, as flawed as it is, it is still a Windows world. The good news? Slowly but surely businesses across the globe are making the switch. Even those that are not yet Linux companies are letting some employees run their choice of operating systems on their work computers. That choice is Linux.

Look. Here is the way it is.

When you buy a new computer, chances are it will have Microsoft Windows on it. That didn't come free...the price of the computer is jacked up anywhere from $100.00 to $300.00 to pay Microsoft. It's known as the Microsoft Tax. Microsoft has entered into deals with many of the computer manufacturers to insure that Windows is on about every machine they sell. The kicker here? Those agreements are secret and you and I cannot see them. We've written about this before.

Microsoft has a virtual monopoly on new computer sales.

Now there are independents such as that sell nothing but GNU/Linux computers and they are great folks to deal with. In fact, I have never encountered service like Earl and Cathy Malmrose provide....and for the most part, they provide it for free. Dell has also begun selling Linux computers. Do you think Dell would sell a system on their machines that would cause them to lose money or damage their reputation?

When you call Microsoft for support, the first thing they ask for is a credit card.

So suppose you have bought a new computer and here comes the first 90 start getting popups saying your anti virus protection is about to expire and if you want to continue to "be protected", you need to renew your subscription.

What? some anti virus companies go an entire year before they expire but still...eventually you are going to be frightened into shelling out more money in exchange for your peace of mind.

In other words, you have to purchase software to insure the software you've already purchased is going to work. Did you read that carefully? And you are ok with that?

If I did that, I'd be in jail by now...and so would you.

Linux amputates that part of the computing experience completely. Some people cannot get their head around the fact that they don't need to pay this extortion anymore. You have no idea what a sense of liberation this brings. Now some of you are sure to comment:

"I've run Windows for years without a problem."

Congratulations. You wanna Google it and see how many others have not? I suppose as long as your computer is ok, then all is right with the world.

We can open most any attachment without fear...we can visit websites that will bring a Windows machine to its knees...and we don't notice anything. And please...don't be foolish and say that Linux is too hard for the normal Windows user. We have 10 and 12 year-olds picking it up in a couple of hours...they never look back. Entire nations have already or are in the process of switching to Linux. Many countries in Asia and South America have made the switch. India is booting out Microsoft in their schools and migrating to Linux as we speak.

So. You've been told. You do have a choice...and it doesn't cost you one thin dime. If you choose not to at least look into it, and trust me, most of you won't....don't ask us to come fix your infected computers.

We know which side of that thin line you stand.

EDIT: A friend of boh was kind enough to send us this faux-sign...just seemed to fit the theme of the day.

All-Righty Then

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Linux - Dealing with the reality

People that read my blog with any regularity will roll their eyes at the next statement...I believe I've made the point before:

I don't write because I think what I have to say is important...I write to draw your comments.

That's when I begin to understand.

Has my blog been a soapbox? You bet. The biggest, bestest one I could build. But through it all, it has existed as a learning tool for me.

That being said, the Deja Vu article drew some notable comments. I wrote it to state that I had the same revelation the "Linux Sucks" author had recently, only several years before. One comment in particular stood out and I thought I would share it verbatim, as a feature article. Thank you Magice for sharing your knowledge and thoughts. I believe they are important.

All-righty Then


My question to this kind of suggestion would be "then what?". Assume that we succeeded in "unifying" the effort and experience, and GNU/Linux achieves significant market share in desktops, then what? What have we offered to the world but Windows-with-Linux-kernel?

The real meat of GNU/Linux is not about speed, or stability, or usability. These are the result of the real meat, side effects at best. If you wish those that much, you can go for Macintosh just fine. Or some specialized version of Windows. GNU/Linux is not about these. I still put the "GNU/" part there to remind myself that GNU/Linux is all about personality and freedom. That is what this system offers to the world.

True, it takes time and effort to put together a GNU/Linux system. True, it may be weird and inefficient from time to time. But so what? It is, for God's sake, MY GNU/Linux system. It's different from yours. It's unique. It's like how your parents feel about you: you are not the best, but you are theirs, period. They love you, enjoy spending time with you, nurture you, not because you are the best, but because you are theirs.

Same goes of "joy of computing. It's not about showing off, or speed, or stability. It's PC, personal computer. It's mine. It took me a month to put everything together, and it sort of works. However, you know what, I love it. It's mine. I can sometimes even feel its working for me, restlessly overcomes any mistakes I made along the way. It's personal. If I don't like such and such component, well, dead with that. I will switch. I hand-pick the part that I trust and love. My fingerprint is all over the place: it's my personal computer.

Can Windows ever achieve that? Can Macintosh can ever achieve that? Windows Vista is flashy alright, professional alright, but it's someone else, it's something I bought, not built. It's just impersonal, cold, and fake at best (cruel at worst, if you are talking about the EULA).

GNU/Linux is different, that's the main point. It takes time, effort, and sometimes money. It can frustrate me from time to time. But it's like my little kid.

And that's what GNU project offers to the world: a taste of freedom, of possessing your own system. It's the meat of the whole project, and later the whole free software movement. Linux is adopted to be a part of that. Thus, it is best that GNU/Linux stays what it is, "an alternative to the mainstream" (quoted from forgotten source).

If we change, if we "standardize" the system, we just prove one thing: that Thomas Paine and his bunch were wrong after all; or any freedom worshiper for that matter. It is best to have some "developers" to control your system; it's best to hand over your computer to someone else; it's best to not doing anything; it's best to be under control, to be slave, to not think. Freedom, personality, possession are too effort-intensive, too time-consuming. Is that what GNU/Linux about? Oh, sorry. Is that what Linux is about? Is that PC? A brand, sounds good, connote nobility, but denotes nothing but an empty name?

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Deja Vu All Over Again

It was a website called first step into Gnu/Linux and Free Software advocacy.

It wasn't half bad. A good but long-lost friend named Tracy Kuhlman from Oklahoma built the site from a Xoops template and he spent dozens of hours making it work. To my surprise it became fairly popular. A famous Linux journalist, Joe Barr, interviewed me about Lobby4Linux for in 2006.

May God give Love and Rest to Joe's spirit. We lost him about two years ago.

Today Lobby4Linux resides redundantly, safely tarred on several hard drives...existing in it's own little cube. The only changes it sees these days is when I change icon sets and it is dressed by someone's representation of what a tar.gz file should look like. A 4 gig tar.gz file. Every comment made, every article written lays silent inside that cube.

Things change...evolve...

On that venue, in the summer of 2005, I wrote an article that pissed thousands of people off. To date, that article posted the third-most comments we've ever received. Many of them were not positive. I lost friends over it. I made publicly some fairly controversial statements. I said that the current model of the GNU/Linux desktop system would flounder in obscurity until a permanent level of standardization was reached.

And then I crossed the line.

I stated that while I was all for choice and freedom, Linux would continue to simmer on the back burner...never tasted by those seated at the tables out front...never quite done...never quite ready for public consumption. We need to have one distribution method of applications. Deb, rpm, tar.gz, apt-get, emerge = common user information overload. Therefore being ever ignored by the masses.

We needed to think about possibly presenting just one distro to the world.

Mcdonalds. I think their food sucks. Many of you think their food sucks, but we continue to eat it. So why are they successful? In part, because whether you are in Bamberg Germany or Boise Idaho, it sucks exactly the same. Windows is no different as a product. It sucks but people have grown used to the taste of bad software...and they not only accept it, they make excuses as to why they continue to consume it.

Even when they are presented with a better way of doing things.

Because they know what it is going to taste like before they eat it. When they sit down with it in front of them, they are already familiar with it.

I stated that we needed to form a single entity that took in and distributed funds for specific development teams. I even tried to organize it and was screamed at from people on six continents. We could have our Photoshop...our AutoCad...our Garage Band. Developers have to pay mortgages. Love of what they do and the love for their fellow man doesn't keep the repossession agent from the door. Many of you despise it but the fact remains that capitalism's the driving motivation behind the majority of successes at every level.

"Developers have to eat."

That is quoted for a reason.

In the spring of 2009, at a Linux gathering in Northwest USA, a man stood before a large group of Linux Developers and said the same things. I am no smarter than this man, he's forgotten more about GNU/Linux than I will ever remember. I simply gave it some thought before he did.

I wonder how many friends he will lose because he said it.

You be the judge.

All-Righty Then

Who's Running Dell?

The title of this article? It's obviously a rhetorical question.

Unless you are a GNU/Linux User.

If you are a reader of, you have read or have heard about the donnybrooks in the comments section concerning their line of Linux machines. From seemingly hiding the Linux choices to plastering "Dell Recommends Windows Vista" over the top of the Linux ad, things got fairly interesting. At times, members of Dell Management would chime in and do their PR work.

A phrase containing "a grain of salt" comes to mind here.

Mark Van Kingsley is a successful Linux-based business owner in New York. Fact is, Mark started his business based on my Open Sourced business plan. I put months of research and work into it and it is the perfect example of how a business plan should be structured. Mark was even offered loans to start his business based on his revised business plan. Anyone can receive it simply by asking. But I digress...

He decided it was time to get a new desktop. Knowing that Dell had Linux options, he navigated to their website and began his shopping. No one relates an experience better than the person experiencing it, so let me present it straight from the source. What follows is a verbatim account of his experience with Dell Sales on the telephone.

On 4-28-09, I was on the Dell site, looking to purchase a computer. One
of the options was to select Windows, Ubuntu or FreeDOS. I selected
Ubuntu, but it then grayed out all models except the "Inspiron." I
wanted a "Studio" and couldn't do it from the website unless I agreed
to spend 100+ dollars for a MS OS. I tried to build a "Studio" and
then deselect the Windows option, but it wasn't available. I
figured I'd call their customer service line and get this squared
away. When I told the first operator what I wanted, you'd have
thought I asked for powdered water and was quickly transferred to
another operator. Same go around with this one. what I was asking
for wasn't processing mentally.

Finally, I was transferred to (someone who's name I can't recall) at
"Team BlackHawk." I told this gentleman what I wanted, he said he
couldn't send me an unformatted HD, but he could send me one with
Ubuntu or FreeDOS. I was very happy and we continued to customize it
the way I wanted. When all was said and done, I thanked him and told
him I was looking forward to getting my "Studio."

This "Team BlackHawk" member then told me "No, its an Inspiron, not a Studio." I told him...again...that I didn't want an Inspiron. He
started to tell me about the license agreement with MS and I cut him

"I'm not interested in your agreement with MS. I want your product, not theirs."

He told me he could only sell me an Inspiron if
I didn't want Windows. I then asked him "Are you telling me that Dell
Computer can't sell me a Dell Computer, unless MS says it it's OK?"
He said "Well, if you look at it that way..." and again I cut him off:
"How else would one look at that?" After an awkward silence on his
part, I thanked him and hung up.

Isn't that special...

Team BlackHawk.

I wonder if they come to work in Camouflage and fully-armed with assault rifles. One would wonder.

The first two pages of Google search results turned up zilch for any use of Team BlackHawk as it relates to Dell. I didn't bother to search any further. Some of you might suggest that there are other search engines aside from Google.

No there isn't.

I began doing a bit of research to find out why this was so. My first thoughts were that the Inspiron is built with hardware that has been extensively tested with Linux...and I believe that will be the official Dell response.

The Special Forces Dell Sales Representative said differently.

He evoked the Microsoft Licensing agreement. I want to see it.

I think we all should see it. Chances of that happening are as likely as Mark Van Kingsley getting his Studio laptop pre-installed with Linux. So the Microsoft Tax is alive and well at Dell. Mark has promised to follow this up with phone calls to Microsoft to pointedly ask why this is. Let's not hold our collective breath waiting for an answer.

It's a shame to see such a large and powerful company kneel at the feet of Microsoft but I suppose the old adage is true.

"Bowing to another does nothing but give your opponent the opportunity to knock you on your ass."

And is an old adage...about 20 seconds old.

All Righty Then