SBLUG list


Sorry to post this on a blog (I’ll remove the blog when I resolve my issue)…

I can’t register for the sblug mailing list using the email address

If someone could point me in the right direction? – I tried emailing the list admin, but have not received a reply after two days.



Proprietary Software in Education

I know that many people promote the benefits of open source software, and there are many.. but there is also a greater question of the benefits surrounding adapting an “open source” philosophy.

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) began as the results of a computer company not opening its software up to an academic institution so that academics could analyse and learn from the source code. To me, this seems like a perfectly acceptable reason to reject software in an academic institution, and I admire them for doing so. However, academia has got increasingly lazy.

I recently created and ran a web-based experiment using a SSL apache webserver, and php-mysql for a cognitive psychology project at MMU Cheshire. It was extremely well-received by the academic staff, a couple of which urged that I write a report so that my web-based project could be published. I have yet to write the report, due to a lack of time, (I’m busy publishing blogs and writing dissertations,) and to do with the representation to the target audience.

It was my first real programming project. I have been playing with Linux for the past couple of years, and contributing the community in other ways, but this was my first software project. 32 hours later, and with the help of a trial edition flash movie maker (due to ease of use, rather than lack of technology on the part of OSS) I had created the site. I was really pleased with how the experiment went, and I managed to complete the experiment successfully.

My cousin got in touch with me yesterday as he wanted help with his web-site to publish his first-year industrial design portfolio. I set him up with a quite drupal site, and it looked professional and fulfilled the criteria within 10 minutes. However, he then told me the course had been on ‘dreamweaver’ and that he had to do it using that. I asked him if he had a coy, and he’s conveniently ‘downloaded a copy off limewire.’ Why are Universities promoting piracy, when the same project can be more conveniently done using FLOSS.

It’s not really teaching anymore though is it. I mean, I am currently studying Business and Psychology at MMU Cheshire, and as part of our course we were ‘trained’ to use SPSS, a proprietary statistical software package, to analyze our data. I used to be good at Maths at school, but being limited to learning how to use the software to do it, instead of learning the mathematical formulae has put a ceiling on what I am capable of doing. Unless I’m prepared to join the majority and fork out a handsome sum on SPSS, the ‘statistical psychology’ module is a complete waste of time.

I really hope we correct this massive error before it goes to far. There are far too many universities in England as it is. Many of them are ‘training’ rather than ‘teaching.’ Open Source software is not in this case an answer, but it can offer a route out in many cases. I’d love to hear other peoples opinions on this, so please either blog about it or leave me a comment on the blog.


Today I was added to the SBirmingham Linux User Group’s ‘Planet.’ For those of you that don’t know, this is a place where lots of blogs are presented on the same page, with the premise that many of them will have gravity – in that they have a collective purpose.

In order to submit a blog, you also are requested to provide a hackergotchi (small image to appear next to your name). I didn’t have one pre-prepared and (, as I am meant to be working on my dissertation,) decided to leave it to fate and be randomly assigned an 80’s cartoon themed hackergotchi. I GOT SUPERTED!!

I’m not going to change this, as I believe that superted is a good enough analogy for what I intend to become. With a little sprinkling of fairy-dust from mother nature (linux), I can do stuff that a normal programmer (bear) cannot do. I will defeat Bill Gates’ (Texas Pete) Steve Ballmer (Bulk) and Steve Jobs (Bones).

With my trust friends in the linux community (epitomised by the character Spotty Man) I will be able to overcome many problems.

It is with this randomness that I introduce myself to the other bloggers on the SBLUG planet.

The Girl Next Door – moral fibre

Ok, so I’ve just finished watching the film “The Girl Next Door,” and whilst to most people (myself included) it does appear to be one of the most wonderful chick flicks going – it does have an amazing message. I think the film does a great job of making that message be broadcast loud and clear, but I also think it’s important that people can relate it to the current world. The world we live in today. How relevant is the message to society?

One of the most interesting things about society, is how dynamic it is, in manyu ways like language. It only takes one or two people to change away from the norm, and it can suddenly change to being the norm. Ten years ago, how many people were using the word ‘blog’ for example? However, it is very often an individual’s actions that can shape the actions of society. We are therefore left with a societal paradox, whereby it is enforced by a group, created by an individual, but attributed to everyone and no-one all at the same time.

The main ‘moral’ to come out of the film is the concept that as long as you put the thing that is most important to you before everything else, then you can be at peace. In the world today, we are faced with massive issues. Global Warming, Terrorism and the ills of society are constantly paraded on our TV screens as examples of how we are failing as a society, of how society has ruined this paradise we live on. However, the vast majority of people look at the individuals and see the good. There are very few people that would look at a room of juveniles, and automatically discriminate negatively towards them. However, expand the problem to society as a whole, whereby the individual is “disindividualised” and we’re made to look at a “bigger picture” and most people would discriminate. Why?

If we look at how societies have developed over the last few centuries, I think a few interesting patterns have emerged. Why is it that there are so few names? People have lived in small communities due to an inability to travel. People were forced to move into cities when villages stopped clubbing together and working out how to sustain themselves as a community. Today, there are ghost-villages across Europe with “summer houses” for the wealthy to live in three or four weeks a year (often not even that). What impact does this have on society?

Global media is also another example of how we have gotten rid of the individual. There’s no need for an individual news item to be reported anymore really, unless it’s an unusual event. Road accidents, nearly all of which have a major impact on the individuate are more often than not reported as statistics. Immigration is another concept that is constantly reduced to numbers. As said in the prisoner, a 70s series filmed at Postmeridian, “I am not a number.” Mandela talks of being la labeled prisoner “46664,” and how the de-huministaion negatively affected his individual status. We reduced people to be part of a group, and the outcome is negative. Group hooliganism by respected members of society exposed through football violence.

I attended Mass at St. Chad’s Cathedral in Birmingham, UK on Easter Monday for the annual Easter Monday “Men’s Mass.” Despite waning numbers, I have attended for as long as I can remember accompanied by my two grandfathers, my dad, and brothers. At this mass, the archbishop Vincent Nichols urged us to throw out tolerance when dealing with immigration. You may say that is a drastic view.. but let me explain. Tolerance, by definition, is to “cope with something one may not particularly like.” Such as having an itch and failing to scratch it. I can tolerate the itch, but invariably you end up scratching it. Tolerance regarding immigration is like building an igloo in the Sahara – It’s not a lasting solution, it will melt.

So why is the girl next door relevant to the previous ramblings of a inexperienced 21-year-old?

The message to come out of the girl next door, is to work out what is important to you, and do everything you can do to get this. I don’t think there is another truer lesson to be learned. If we try and put more than one thing as being of utmost importance, then we compromise the “most important” straight away. If we regard ourselves as having “being a Catholic” as being of utmost importance, then how is it possible to function properly in our material world, when there is so much “solvable injustice” being forced by our “society” on people elsewhere, sharing this earth?

My argument is that you can only have one true focus, and if we all have one true focus then the world would be a much better place for it. It may be a while before you work out what your true focus is, and I’ve no doubt that through disillusionment or through events the focus may change, there can never be simultaneous foci in a persons life. In order to encourage the positive advancement of society, and the end of the induced-friction placed between people with differences, we need to understand things that join us, rather than analyse the things that divide us.

Jesus said “Love one another as I have loved you.” & “There are three things important in lfe, faith, hope and love. but the greatest of these is Love.”

He is a common prophet in both Islam and Christianity. Through listening to the media, I am told that holy-jihad is in the Koran. I am told this constantly. There are programs on TV showing the terrorists, the extremists. I would love to see a program on what Jesus means to Muslims. This is my interpretation of moral fibre. And although we’re laying fibre-optic cable for the future, moral fibre is fast disintegrating – and as good as the internet is.. Moral fibre is infinitely more important.

Kernels and Mis-installations

Wow. I’m impressed with my own ineptitude.

I was installing gentoo linux on a box that previously had on it suse and ubuntu. Now – how many of you rate the chances of that setup (with ubuntu and suse being spread across three partitions, that were combined pre-installation) resulting in an ubuntu-desktop running off my newly installed gentoo kernel, with the rest of the gentoo system invisible?

I managed it, and I have no idea how – I’d love to retrace my steps and find out, but it’s just not going to happen (I haven’t got another 4 hours to waste).

If anyone can give me a clue as to how I could have possibly acheived this? – please leave a comment as I’m itching to know.

Computer Controlled Homes

Whilst for many people, the idea of a computer controlled home may be scary, or indeed something limited to sci-fi movies, I believe I’m only about three years away from having most of my home controlled for me via my mobile phone.

I’ve been lurking on a list for the openmoko project. Their aim is to create a completely open source phone firmware, so that other developers can build applications that will work of different phones, that can be customised, and provide the end user with a phone configured “how they want it.” Whilst this had some obvious advantages, it has many subtle advantages too.

Today, I came across a website called, after seeing it mentioned on the list. I was completely overwhelmed. Here is an open source solution for managing your home digitally. The majority of people will not have the expertise and/or patience to take advantage of the free software, thus the developers obviously though it would only ever be a good thing to release it to open source development. It is software that can be used to control everything electronic in your house, plus it even is able to use face recognition to let certain people in and out of the house, and other people in and out of the house. It also records faces of people visiting the house, sends a text to your phone if someone attempts to get in while you’re out of the house. Have a look at the site, it can do loads!

So, this brings me to my point. If software like this can be made available to the masses, it’s not going to be long before the home is completely computer controlled – it’s becomng more a case of whether people want to let the technology into their home, rather than waiting for the techonology to be designed. It’s all there and waiting, and I cannot wait to take advantage of it.