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boy 2.0

boy 2.0 Ben Elias Tisdale-Hall sign with photo

On Thursday November 29, 2007 at 04:54 AEDT, Ben Elias Tisdale-Hall was born at the Angliss Hospital's Family Birth Centre! He was a big 4.14kg (or 9lb 2oz) boy. All doing well.

Here is a quick changelog for those who are interested.

  • 0100 Julie wakes up with early labour signs
  • 0200 Julie tries waking me up
  • 0205 I finally come to my senses and get up
  • 0215 We ring the hospital
  • 0250 We arrive at the hospital
  • 0454 Our little bundle of joy arrives into the world
  • 1 Dec 2007 Julie and I finally agree on the name

Noah is really getting into being a big brother. Having Julie's mum around has made things a lot easier. Second time around everything seem to come more naturally, but it is more chaotic with 2 little ones to look after.

Later this week I should catch up on my mail and RSS feeds

Selling the Sun Fire T2000

I have finally gotten around to listing my Sun Fire T2000 which I won from Sun on ebay. If you are in the market for an almost new Sun Fire T2000, checkout the listing on ebay.

If it doesn't sell, I will be looking at other options for off loading it. It is overkill for my home office, and too noisy.

To keep sweet with the ebay ToS, I can only accept offers via ebay until the auction has ended. If you want to make an offer, check out the ebay listing.

The server will run Solaris, Gentoo or Ubuntu 6.10 and maybe other variants of Linux.

Update: I just sold the server - YAY! [25Nov2007]

My New Toy - The Nokia N95

About 7 weeks ago I bought a Nokia N95 and I love it. I considered the Neo 1973 from openMoko, a completely open phone platform was appealing, but at the end of the day it isn't certified for Australia, it doesn't have WIFI or a camera nor does it do HSDPA/3G, all things on must have list. The iPhone was never in the race.

I picked up phone for just over 800AUD via ebay, they have since dropped a little in price. It is an Australia version with full local warranty support. The only downside is that it a 3 branded version, not a generic, but hey it works.

The phone got a real work out during my trip to Norway and it worked well. The GPS is a little slow to lock, but once it gets a lock it is right to go. The wifi works well. It is handy knowing if wifi is available somewhere before booting your laptop. I took a stack of pictures with the 5M pixel camera, the ones in bad light or inside aren't fantastic, but when taking shots outside it works a treat. The "DVD quality video" is pretty good too. It makes better movies than our old DVD based handycam. I am planning to use the phone at the birth of my second child (due any day now).

As I expected the phone "just works" as a standalone device, but the real test is how well it works with a Linux desktop. I can report that with Ubuntu 7.10 (aka Gutsy Gibbon) the N95 works well for all the stuff you really need. Below is a couple of quick mini howtos for a few things that you might want to with your N95. Some of the instructions are generic enough that they may work with little (or no) change with other handsets.

Disclaimer: I accept no responsibility for any data loss or stress caused by you following these instructions. Also you should carefully check your warranty before trying any of this. That said - "I just worked for me".

Pairing

For the bluetooth related stuff below you will need to pair your phone and PC. The quickest and easiest way to do this is using the bluetooth-applet. Here is how to do it:

  • Install the bluez-gnome deb - sudo apt-get install bluez-gnome
  • Once installed you should have a bluetooth icon in your GNOME system tray, if not just run "bluetooth-applet &" from the console
  • Right click on the icon and click "Browse Devices"
  • Your phone should be in the list, click on it and then click the Connect button
  • On your phone enter a 4 digit PIN when prompted - it can be anything you like
  • The bluetooth icon will then flash, click on it and enter the same PIN
  • Now your phone and PC should be paired
  • To make sure they are paired we will connect via obex-ftp
  • Right click on the icon and click "Browse Devices"
  • Your phone should be in the list, click on it and then click the Connect button
  • When prompted on your phone allow the connection
  • Nautilus should now launch and you you 2 folders "C:" (internal phone memory) and "E:" (microSD card)

Your PC and N95 are now paired and should be able to communicate via bluetooth without any problems.

Exchanging Files

Copying files to/from the N95 can be a little slow. Lets go from slowest to fastest.

Bluetooth

Copying files using bluetooth is very simple with a gnome desktop and the N95 using OBEX-FTP. Just install OBEX-FTP support for nautilus - "sudo apt-get install gnome-vfs-obexftp". Anytime you want to access the files on your phone via obexftp, just fire up nautilus and type "obex:///" and wait for a list of devices to be displayed. Double click on your phone and you are right to go. It can be rather slow copying files from your phone to your PC this way, but if you don't want to find cables or card readers it works. By slow I mean 30mins for a 100Mb video to copy.

There is also the gnome-obex-server package, which allows you to push content from your phone onto your PC, but I found this slow and I had to jump through too many hoops on the phone to send a file.

USB Cable

The N95 comes with a USB cable with a mini USB connector for connecting your N95 to your PC. When you plug the cable in the phone asks you which mode you wish to use. If you select Mass Storage it is treated like a usb mass storage device by and gnome-volume-manager, so it is mounted as soon as you plug it in. You are then able to access your microSD card.

I haven't been able to get the "Media Player" mode to work with the desktop music players I have tried it with - Rhythmbox, Banshee and Amarok. When used in "Mass Storage" mode it is possible to use File > Scan removable media in Rhythmbox.

Card reader

This is the fatstest way to read data from the microSD card. On the N95 press the power button for half a second, scroll down the list of options and select "Remove memory card", then remove your card from your phone. Now just put in into the SD card adaptor that came with the phone and use it like a normal SD card. Transfers speeds are quite good using this method.

Sync

Setting up sync with the N95 and opensync was relatively painless. I am syncing contacts with evolution, I have also tried with calendar events, which seemed to work as well, I haven't tried todos as I don't use them.

Start off by installing the bits we need

$ sudo apt-get install multisync-gui opensync-plugin-evolution opensync-plugin-syncml

This should also install all the dependencies needed to make opensync work.

On the N95 go Menu > Tools > Sync > PC Suite > Edit Sync Profile. First start by editing the settings under Applications. Lifeblog, Text messages and Bookmarks aren't supported by opensync, so disable them but setting "Include in sync" to No. You can also disable Calendar, Notes (really ToDos) if you wish.

As I had already transferred contacts from my old SE v600i to the N95 and I wanted to sync with an existing addressbook I had some issues. Namely 2 contacts didn't want to sync - I never found out which ones. So I found the easiest way to setup the sync was to create a new addressbook in evo.

  • Go into contacts ([ctrl]-2)
  • From the menu select File > New > Addressbook
  • Fill in the information - Type: "On This Computer", Name: "Phone" (or something else that makes sense for you
  • Click OK
In your GNOME menu under accessories, select multisync-gui. Now we need to create the sync pair.
  • Click the Add button
  • Give the group a meaningful name, such as "n95-evo" and click apply
  • Click the edit button for your new group
  • Tick the checkboxes for those sources which you don't want to use - you must disabled note as this isn't supported by the N95, this list should match the config on your phone
  • Click the Add Member button
  • Select Evolution 2.x from the list of options and Click Apply
  • Select which addressbook you want to sync with - in our case "Phone" (or which ever one you created above)
  • Click the Add Member button
  • This time select SyncML over OBEX Client
  • This where your XML hacking skills come into it (or you can just use my config
    <config>
    	<bluetooth_address>AD:DR:OF:MY:FO:NE</bluetooth_address>
    	<bluetooth_channel>10</bluetooth_channel>
    	<interface>0</interface>
    	<identifier>PC Suite</identifier>
    	<version>1</version>
    	<wbxml>1</wbxml>
    	<username></username>
    	<password></password>
    	<type>2</type>
    	<usestringtable>1</usestringtable>
    	<onlyreplace>0</onlyreplace>
    	<recvLimit>0</recvLimit>
    	<maxObjSize>0</maxObjSize>
    	<contact_db>Contacts</contact_db>
    	<calendar_db>Calendar</calendar_db>
    	<note_db>Notes</note_db>
    </config>
    
    		
    Change AD:DR:OF:MY:FO:NE to the address of your phone Note: I have only been able to get the N95 to sync with opensync using bluetooth.
  • Click Close
  • Click the "Refresh" and the sync should start
  • You have now synced your Nokia N95 with your Linux desktop! YAY!
  • All of your contacts from your phone should now be added to your evo addressbook
  • In evolution, copy any contacts from other addressbooks to the "Phone" addressbook
  • In multisync-gui click the "Refresh" button again and wait for the sync to complete

After I make changes to either either my N95 or evolution contacts I sync them. If you are also syncing your calendar you probably want to sync at least daily

Occasionally you may get conflicts. The GUI allows you to choose which one you want to keep. Having merge support in the GUI would be nice, but I can live with one taking precedence over the other on a per record basis.

Firmware Upgrades and Installing Maps

You need a real box Windows XP to upgrade the firmware or install full maps on the phone. I quickly tried using the usb support in qemu to connect the phone to a virtual version of XP, but I couldn't get it to work. It would be nice if Nokia offered firmware upgrades "over the air" so you could just use WIFI to upgrade the phone's firmware.

You can load map data as you move around, using mobile data, but this is an expensive way of doing it. You only need the map loader software installed on the Windows machine and then you can use the phone in mass storage mode of the microSD card to load the map data. I might try loading map data via qemu one day, but I have all the maps loaded that I currently need.

Software

In terms of what extra software you might want to install on the phone, here is a list of what I am using:

  • PuTTY - SSH on the phone, it is handy when I really need SSH and I don't have my laptop with me. Goota love a phone running SSH2 with public key authentication.
  • VNC. There is a Symbian sponsored port of TightVNC now available for the N95 and other S60 handsets. I am yet to get working properly
  • Fring is a free (as in beer) VoIP and IM app for mobile devices. It works pretty well. I have some issues using it with NodePhone, but I probably just have to tweak something there
  • I am also running the Lotus Sametime client, so I can keep in touch with the ReSight team out on the road. Pidgin is still the best Sametime (or general IM) client I have found, but there is no symbian port (hint hint)

Where is opera mini? I removed it, as I found the WebKit based browser on the N95 nicer in the longer run. It might use more bandwidth, but that is fine when using WIFI for most of your browsing anyway.

Overall

The Nokia N95 is certainly one nice handset. The battery life sucks - mine goes on charge every evening. The phone will never win an award from the FSF for freedom, but it never set out to do that. It sets out to be an all in one device and I think it achieves that goal pretty well. It is certainly usable under Linux, even if it does have some distance to go before it can really be considered truly Linux friendly.

About 7 weeks ago I bought a Nokia N95 and I love it. I considered the Neo 1973 from openMoko, a completely open phone platform was appealing, but at the end of the day it isn't certified for Australia, it doesn't have WIFI or a camera nor does it do HSDPA/3G, all things on must have list. The iPhone was never in the race.

I picked up phone for just over 800AUD via ebay, they have since dropped a little in price. It is an Australia version with full local warranty support. The only downside is that it a 3 branded version, not a generic, but hey it works.

The phone got a real work out during my trip to Norway and it worked well. The GPS is a little slow to lock, but once it gets a lock it is right to go. The wifi works well. It is handy knowing if wifi is available somewhere before booting your laptop. I took a stack of pictures with the 5M pixel camera, the ones in bad light or inside aren't fantastic, but when taking shots outside it works a treat. The "DVD quality video" is pretty good too. It makes better movies than our old DVD based handycam. I am planning to use the phone at the birth of my second child (due any day now).

As I expected the phone "just works" as a standalone device, but the real test is how well it works with a Linux desktop. I can report that with Ubuntu 7.10 (aka Gutsy Gibbon) the N95 works well for all the stuff you really need. Below is a couple of quick mini howtos for a few things that you might want to with your N95. Some of the instructions are generic enough that they may work with little (or no) change with other handsets.

Disclaimer: I accept no responsibility for any data loss or stress caused by you following these instructions. Also you should carefully check your warranty before trying any of this. That said - "I just worked for me".

Pairing

For the bluetooth related stuff below you will need to pair your phone and PC. The quickest and easiest way to do this is using the bluetooth-applet. Here is how to do it:

  • Install the bluez-gnome deb - sudo apt-get install bluez-gnome
  • Once installed you should have a bluetooth icon in your GNOME system tray, if not just run "bluetooth-applet &" from the console
  • Right click on the icon and click "Browse Devices"
  • Your phone should be in the list, click on it and then click the Connect button
  • On your phone enter a 4 digit PIN when prompted - it can be anything you like
  • The bluetooth icon will then flash, click on it and enter the same PIN
  • Now your phone and PC should be paired
  • To make sure they are paired we will connect via obex-ftp
  • Right click on the icon and click "Browse Devices"
  • Your phone should be in the list, click on it and then click the Connect button
  • When prompted on your phone allow the connection
  • Nautilus should now launch and you you 2 folders "C:" (internal phone memory) and "E:" (microSD card)

Your PC and N95 are now paired and should be able to communicate via bluetooth without any problems.

Exchanging Files

Copying files to/from the N95 can be a little slow. Lets go from slowest to fastest.

Bluetooth

Copying files using bluetooth is very simple with a gnome desktop and the N95 using OBEX-FTP. Just install OBEX-FTP support for nautilus - "sudo apt-get install gnome-vfs-obexftp". Anytime you want to access the files on your phone via obexftp, just fire up nautilus and type "obex:///" and wait for a list of devices to be displayed. Double click on your phone and you are right to go. It can be rather slow copying files from your phone to your PC this way, but if you don't want to find cables or card readers it works. By slow I mean 30mins for a 100Mb video to copy.

There is also the gnome-obex-server package, which allows you to push content from your phone onto your PC, but I found this slow and I had to jump through too many hoops on the phone to send a file.

USB Cable

The N95 comes with a USB cable with a mini USB connector for connecting your N95 to your PC. When you plug the cable in the phone asks you which mode you wish to use. If you select Mass Storage it is treated like a usb mass storage device by and gnome-volume-manager, so it is mounted as soon as you plug it in. You are then able to access your microSD card.

I haven't been able to get the "Media Player" mode to work with the desktop music players I have tried it with - Rhythmbox, Banshee and Amarok. When used in "Mass Storage" mode it is possible to use File > Scan removable media in Rhythmbox.

Card reader

This is the fatstest way to read data from the microSD card. On the N95 press the power button for half a second, scroll down the list of options and select "Remove memory card", then remove your card from your phone. Now just put in into the SD card adaptor that came with the phone and use it like a normal SD card. Transfers speeds are quite good using this method.

Sync

Update: I am no longer using OpenSync. I am using Funambol's S60 SyncML app, which works a treat for syncing with my Zimbra server.

Setting up sync with the N95 and opensync was relatively painless. I am syncing contacts with evolution, I have also tried with calendar events, which seemed to work as well, I haven't tried todos as I don't use them.

Start off by installing the bits we need

$ sudo apt-get install multisync-gui opensync-plugin-evolution opensync-plugin-syncml

This should also install all the dependencies needed to make opensync work.

On the N95 go Menu > Tools > Sync > PC Suite > Edit Sync Profile. First start by editing the settings under Applications. Lifeblog, Text messages and Bookmarks aren't supported by opensync, so disable them but setting "Include in sync" to No. You can also disable Calendar, Notes (really ToDos) if you wish.

As I had already transferred contacts from my old SE v600i to the N95 and I wanted to sync with an existing addressbook I had some issues. Namely 2 contacts didn't want to sync - I never found out which ones. So I found the easiest way to setup the sync was to create a new addressbook in evo.

  • Go into contacts ([ctrl]-2)
  • From the menu select File > New > Addressbook
  • Fill in the information - Type: "On This Computer", Name: "Phone" (or something else that makes sense for you
  • Click OK

In your GNOME menu under accessories, select multisync-gui. Now we need to create the sync pair.

  • Click the Add button
  • Give the group a meaningful name, such as "n95-evo" and click apply
  • Click the edit button for your new group
  • Tick the checkboxes for those sources which you don't want to use - you must disabled note as this isn't supported by the N95, this list should match the config on your phone
  • Click the Add Member button
  • Select Evolution 2.x from the list of options and Click Apply
  • Select which addressbook you want to sync with - in our case "Phone" (or which ever one you created above)
  • Click the Add Member button
  • This time select SyncML over OBEX Client
  • This where your XML hacking skills come into it (or you can just use my config
    <config>
    	<bluetooth_address>AD:DR:OF:MY:FO:NE</bluetooth_address>
    	<bluetooth_channel>10</bluetooth_channel>
    	<interface>0</interface>
    	<identifier>PC Suite</identifier>
    	<version>1</version>
    	<wbxml>1</wbxml>
    	<username></username>
    	<password></password>
    	<type>2</type>
    	<usestringtable>1</usestringtable>
    	<onlyreplace>0</onlyreplace>
    	<recvLimit>0</recvLimit>
    	<maxObjSize>0</maxObjSize>
    	<contact_db>Contacts</contact_db>
    	<calendar_db>Calendar</calendar_db>
    	<note_db>Notes</note_db>
    </config>
    
    		
    Change AD:DR:OF:MY:FO:NE to the address of your phone Note: I have only been able to get the N95 to sync with opensync using bluetooth.
  • Click Close
  • Click the "Refresh" and the sync should start
  • You have now synced your Nokia N95 with your Linux desktop! YAY!
  • All of your contacts from your phone should now be added to your evo addressbook
  • In evolution, copy any contacts from other addressbooks to the "Phone" addressbook
  • In multisync-gui click the "Refresh" button again and wait for the sync to complete

After I make changes to either either my N95 or evolution contacts I sync them. If you are also syncing your calendar you probably want to sync at least daily

Occasionally you may get conflicts. The GUI allows you to choose which one you want to keep. Having merge support in the GUI would be nice, but I can live with one taking precedence over the other on a per record basis.

Firmware Upgrades and Installing Maps

You need a real box Windows XP to upgrade the firmware or install full maps on the phone. I quickly tried using the usb support in qemu to connect the phone to a virtual version of XP, but I couldn't get it to work. It would be nice if Nokia offered firmware upgrades "over the air" so you could just use WIFI to upgrade the phone's firmware.

You can load map data as you move around, using mobile data, but this is an expensive way of doing it. You only need the map loader software installed on the Windows machine and then you can use the phone in mass storage mode of the microSD card to load the map data. I might try loading map data via qemu one day, but I have all the maps loaded that I currently need.

Software

In terms of what extra software you might want to install on the phone, here is a list of what I am using:

  • PuTTY - SSH on the phone, it is handy when I really need SSH and I don't have my laptop with me. Goota love a phone running SSH2 with public key authentication.
  • VNC. There is a Symbian sponsored port of TightVNC now available for the N95 and other S60 handsets. I am yet to get working properly
  • Fring is a free (as in beer) VoIP and IM app for mobile devices. It works pretty well. I have some issues using it with NodePhone, but I probably just have to tweak something there
  • I am also running the Lotus Sametime client, so I can keep in touch with the ReSight team out on the road. Pidgin is still the best Sametime (or general IM) client I have found, but there is no symbian port (hint hint)

Where is opera mini? I removed it, as I found the WebKit based browser on the N95 nicer in the longer run. It might use more bandwidth, but that is fine when using WIFI for most of your browsing anyway.

Overall

The Nokia N95 is certainly one nice handset. The battery life sucks - mine goes on charge every evening. The phone will never win an award from the FSF for freedom, but it never set out to do that. It sets out to be an all in one device and I think it achieves that goal pretty well. It is certainly usable under Linux, even if it does have some distance to go before it can really be considered truly Linux friendly.

Happenings

I am still alive. I had planned to blog regularly while I was in Norway, but that didn't happen for various reasons - mostly lack of time. I have a backlog of stuff to post now.

Norway was great, ReSight are a great company to work for. It now looks like we will get a stable release of phpGroupWare's HEAD branch out this year. yay! I plan to blog more about what is happening with phpGW and ReSight - watch this space.

Bangkok is an insane place. I realised that having a fight over 6AUD was pointless and gave up - scammer^Wtuk tuk driver 1, stupid tourist 0. I think if I go back to Bangkok

Russell Coker has started an unofficial Linux Users Victoria (LUV) Planet, which I am syndicated on - hi all :)

phpGroupWare @ Solutions Linux 2008?

Over the last few years phpGroupWare has been involved with the Solutions Linux Conference and Expo in Paris. We have had speakers at workshops promoting the project. In 2008 we may even be exhibiting - that is still being finalised.

Solutions Linux is one of the biggest events on the French FOSS business calendar. Given phpGW's large french user base, it is appropriate that we are represented at the event.

One issue I have with SL is their website. Most of it is bi lingual which is great. The downside is their signup form. That is an ASP.NET page running on IIS stuffed into an IFRAME. It is bad enough using MS technology to promote an event which claims it is "dedicated to the exchange of free software solutions for business, public services and administrations", but to use a broken script is pretty form in my book. Someone really should recode it in PHP so it fits with the rest of the site.

Solutions Linux 2008 Registration page with ASP,NET error screenshot

Ignoring the problems with the website, I would love to attend SL2008, but i doubt I will have the spare (time or) cash for the trip. Our french team is competent and growing so I am sure they will do a great job.

skwashd services pty ltd Trading as Dave Hall Consulting

After a visit to the accountant today, I decided to switch from a sole trader to a company structure. There are many benefits to my business structuring things this way. For my clients it will be business as usual, just a change to the letterhead and bank account details. For me, it involve more bookkeeping, which may not necessarily be a bad thing

Getting the company up and running took 10 minutes on website, and a small payment to the business which set it up for me - too easy. Getting a new ABN and other stuff done with the tax office was a waste of an hour, if I had more time I would blog about it. At the end of the process a got a "your session has expired" message. Hopefully a real person at the ATO will be more useful tomorrow.

Now I have a few things to arrange/update over the next few days. Hopefully I can get it all sorted before I head off to Europe.

Ubuntu Gutsy

For the last few weeks I have been running the upcoming Ubuntu 7.10 release (aka Gutsy Gibbon) on my laptop, which is also my primary PC. I know the ubuntu team don't recommend this, but I find it the best way for me to test stuff. Here is a quick run down of the things I have noticed. This isn't intended to be a comprehensive review, just a stuff I have noticed highlights.

Evolution

One of the best features I have found so far is in evolution. When sending a message which contains keywords, such as "attachment" or "attached" and you don't have an attachment, evo will nag you about it. It has saved me a few times already. Evolution warning about lack of attachment screenshot The other feature I like about evolution is that there is finally a panel notification icon, the annoying thing is that clicking it doesn't give evo focus. The xchat (not the gnome version) panel icon (available since Feisty) gives xchat focus when you click the icon - the same with liferea. I plan to file an RFE for this when I get some time. Evolution panel notification applet Another annoyance bug in evolution has been fixed, now when you copy text from an addressbook entry in view mode it only copies the highlighted text, not a whole vCard. YAY!

Desktop Search

The Tracker desktop search tool seems pretty nice. I got sick of beagle about a year ago and ditched it. Initially tracker made my PC unusable as it tried indexing everything in my home directory - including a few gig of legitimately owned ripped music. Tracker seems quicker than beagle and less resource intensive.

Conduit

Conduit finally works for me! The bug I reported was fixed 0.3 and gutsy ships with 0.3.2. I have played with it a bit and like the idea of it. I still need to find a real world useful task for it.

Liferea

Liferea is one of my top 5 apps. There has been no real changes between Feisty and Gutsy, except there are 2 really annoying bugs, feed names keep on being changed back to default and you can no long use "mark as read" for group level folders - I need to check if that one has been reported yet. Earlier builds had problems with recording which posts had been read, which was driving me crazy - I am glad that it has been fixed.

Printers

The GNOME printer management tool has had a facelift or been replaced. The about dialog box says it is called "sysconfig-config-printer.py" from Red Hat. Although I used to like having a "folder view" of all of my printers, the new layout makes it a lot easier to access everything quickly. GNOME system-config-printer.py screenshot showing new layout

Network Manager

I know there are some people who love Network Manager and those who hate it. I am mostly in the first camp, but there are somethings which annoy me about it. I need to file an RFE so you can use a VPN while using a PPP connection - currently you need to use a wired or wifi connection to use a VPN. PPP in general is a bit buggy, when you tell it create a PPP connection it won't try again until you click disconnect then connect again. It also lacks all the options you need for using PCMCIA/USB mobile data modem cards. It still does 80% of what I need. I will get around to reporting all this on launchpad.

Other Applications

There doesn't seem to be any significant changes to the other applications I use daily. Gutsy currently has pretty recent versions of most apps. Here is a list of some of them.
  • The GIMP - 2.4.0-rc2
  • Pidgin (formerly GAIM) - 2.2.0
  • OpenOffice.org - 2.3.0
  • Rhytmbox - 0.11.2
  • FSpot - 0.4.0

Look

Every new release of Ubuntu/GNOME I find myself in 2 minds about the look of it. I am finding it increasingly difficult to find icons I am happy with. For example I liked the look of GAIM far more than I do Pidgin, and this is now the 3rd release where the icons in evolution have changed. Maybe I am just getting old, but I think I liked it more the old way. Then again some of the other new icons look very slick. I plan to try using the Tango icons for a week to see if they are better than the gnome default. I can't run all the Compiz bling on my laptop - damn buggy proprietary drivers. I have better things to do with my CPU cycles anyway. The new appearance manager takes a little getting used, but I think it is better than having 4 or 5 different menu options. GNOME appearance manager screenshot

Overall

Overall I think the Gibbon is shaping up to be a solid release for Ubuntu. The team still have a couple of weeks before the release is due. Based on how far things have come in the last 3 week or so I have been using Gutsy, I think it will be a fine release. Once it goes final I think it is a worthwhile upgrade, unless you are a LTS only user - then you have to wait another 6 months for 8.04 aka Hardy Heron.

phpGroupWare gets a Commercial Partner

All the pieces are now in place, so I can make the announcement.

phpGroupWare now has a commercial partner - ReSight AS of Norway. Over the next 12 months ReSight will be working with several partners, including Bergen Bolig- og Byfornyelse KF, MIT FabLab Norway and others to enhance phpGroupWare. Most of their work will be centred on the property module, written by Sigurd Nes.

Sigurd has done a great job in pulling this off. When he first told me about this deal in Paris last year I thought that I sounded interested, but I didn't see much of a role for me in the deal. Later I learnt that it was happening and Sigurd was pushing for me to have a role. I really appreciate the effort Sigurd has put into arranging this. I think this deal is testament to Sigurd's skills as a developer and negotiator. I also think it shows that phpGroupWare is a serious business tool.

For my part in the deal, I have been contracted by ReSight for 12 months starting 1 October 2007. I will be working as an engineer and also helping to guide and drive the project. I will be meeting with ReSight in Norway from 5 October until the 18th. Other trips to Norway are likely. I am pretty excited about all of this. Not only does it mean that I am paid to work on phpGroupWare, but it means that the project has a committed commercial partner who is trying to work closely with the existing developers and participate in the community.

I believe things are starting to look pretty good for phpGroupWare. The ReSight deal is just one of several things which has come off in the last few months that really helps the project. Johan has contributed a native php implementation of SyncML as part of the Google Summer of Code program. Don from Blue GNU has been blogging about phpGW and getting it widely syndicated. The user list seems more active too. I hope all this means that we can build up enough steam to finally get 0.9.18 out some time soon.

If anyone is interested in meeting me while I am in Europe, we are planning an informal meet up in Copenhagen, Denmark on Saturday 6 October 2007. If you are interested, please contact me, and we will try to work something out. The rest of my time in Norway is still somewhat unplanned, so I can't really make any commitments. So far Johan is confirmed and Micke Larsson is a maybe. If there is enough interest and we formalise arrangements I will post the details on the lists and/or on my blog.

phpGroupWare Articles

Don (D.C.) Parris has started a series of articles about phpGroupWare over at Blue GNU. The articles are well written and provide a lot of good information for new users. I hope Don keeps on writing good stuff for us to link to.

The articles have also been syndicated by others which should help raise the profile of the product.

I will have another big phpGroupWare related announcement some time this month. Things are looking pretty good for the project. Stay tuned.

Facebook a $5bil Waste of Time or a Major Cash Cow for Peddlers of FUD?

On Monday Fairfax (and others) were running a story about how employees using Facebook could cost companies a fortune in lost productivity. Facebook labelled a $5b waste of time was a catchy headline. The article quotes some back of the envelope calculations done by SurfControl. Basically they claim each Australian business has 1 employee using Facebook 1 hour per day (costing the company $6200 a year), and as there are around 800,000 businesses in Australia, so it costs the economy over 5bil AUD. I haven't seen the full report only the media coverage, but I can fairly confidently say that the 800,000 figure includes sole trader businesses and other small businesses which do not employ anyone or use computers. I read several blog posts on the issue, most comparing using Facebook to personal phone calls/email etc. I think the comparison is fair. So far I haven't seen anyone pick up the source of this "news". SurfControl clams that they protect
organizations with multiple layers of threat protection that filter inbound, outbound and internal Internet traffic.SurfControl's Enterprise Protection Suite protects multiple threat vulnerability points - Web, E-mail, IM, P2P and Mobile desktops - and is supported by SurfControl's worldwide Adaptive Threat Intelligence Service to provide customers with early detection of emerging threats, real-time updates and continuous protection.
Source SurfControl Mission Statement I am sure SurfControl would happily tell anyone contacting them, as a result of the press coverage, to purchase one of their filtering products. I wonder if SurfControl will be releasing a new report on how to peddle FUD to boost sales. Any sane business will have internet use policies for their staff. Businesses who are concerned about what their staff are accessing on the internet can implement a very simple transparent proxy using squid, SquidGuard and iptables running on low end hardware using Linux. I suspect that Facebook doesn't mind such publicity. Businesses such as Facebook rely on word of mouth and the SMH story helps them raise their profile.