Archive for May, 2008

Al Qaeda

We learned recently that their number two leader was killed in Iraq. Well, allow me to correct that.

Al Qaeda’s number two, at that moment in time, was killed in Iraq. Within minutes there would have been a new number two. We may, from time to time, have our hollow little victories, but for each terrorist in the middle east we kill, ten, a hundred or even a thousand more will join.

Our attempt of forcing our way of life upon a people who are not really interested in us, or our way of life, has been doomed to failure from the start. President Bush and Tony Blair have been proved, in Arab eyes, to be dishonourable men (weapons of mass destruction). This has fuelled all the suicide bombing recruits, and there is a never ending line waiting for their seventy-two virgins. (Could there be men amongst them, I ponder?)

One of my favourite ‘one liners’ is: “If we weren’t over there bombing them, perhaps they wouldn’t be over here bombing us?” We are occupying Iraq and Afghanistan and bombing and killing the inhabitants. We are also providing the framework for their inhabitants to bomb and kill each other. For what? Democracy? I don’t think so. In Iraq’s case, it is oil, there can be no doubt about that.

Those who have seen my earlier blogs may recall my favourite Latin phrase… “Cui Bono?” or “who benefits?”. It isn’t the Muslims. So who is benefiting? Well, there is the “arms industry” that’s for sure. And, of course, the politicians as they are seen to be extra important in times of battle, and whether some of them actually get kick-backs from the arms manufacturers will probable never be fully known.

There is another Latin phrase which goes with Cui Bono. This is “Cui Malo?” which means “who suffers a detriment?” OK, who is suffering, apart, of course, from the hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis and Afghanistanis? Well, there are our citizens, frightened of going too near very crowded places in case of attack by a suicide bomber, there are the police forces, seriously depleted because their top officers have been taken to fight “terrorist” crime, There are Americans and Brits travelling around the world, finding themselves unloved. Then we have our government politicians, who together with the Lords of Industry, Newspaper Barons, and other “important” people who want to keep the rank and file, just that, a rank and file! They now have new weapons to use against us. Such as security: more passes, the introduction of ID Cards. Travelled anywhere by air recently?

You have already read my comments on money laundering and how this does not affect the real money launderers, just us when we want to change banks. Suggested, no doubt by the bank chiefs! And, of course, we’ll never win the “European Song Contest” again.

Ampers.

PS You really will understand more about what goes around you if you use the expressions “cui bono” and “cui malo” with just about everything you hear that the politicians are advocating!

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Is Linux expanding?

And if so, what can the reasons be for it?

If you look at the world, and how Linux has spread just in the last three years, you will find it is growing exponentially. Ubuntu alone has over 9,000,000 installations around the world. A lot of them in Asia and Africa. A small figure but not bad, considering that nowadays they are battling against well established Windows and OS X. Then there are all the other distros (distributions of Linux) of which Red Hat is even more popular than Ubantu.

Oil prices are increasing, US expenditure (on their 702 military bases in 130 countries) including their battles in Iraq and Iran are costing a trillion dollars a year. The dollar is diminishing as it is not based on anything solid – and their Government (and ours) are printing money, almost daily, to fuel supply. What will this all mean?

It could well mean that people will have to start cutting costs, not just in their computer software but in all walks of life. As I mentioned above, Britain is following the same path and I have already started to move my savings into Gold as have many Americans. The US Government are trying to bring in legislation to stop people doing this so this British based business will be banned for Americans quite soon.

When I say things like: I think Linux is getting more popular, I am thinking of every aspect. As you know we, and the Americans, are pretty much hated around the world. This is one reason why a lot of third world countries are taking up Linux rather than Microsoft or Apple as their operating system. The European governments also, I have heard, fear the American government may have forced Microsoft to introduce code that may eventually turn out harmful to them. We already know that our computers send Microsoft information about our computer operations on a daily basis.

Although a lot more Ubuntu Linux distributions are downloaded than this figure, Canonical estimates there are approximately 9,000,000 users of Ubuntu and its derivatives around the world. And growing with each release.

Microsoft has also caught a bit of a cold with Windows 6 (Vista) and recently they announced they were bringing the launch of Windows 7 forward a year. And some say their announcement of increasing the life of the home edition of XP is because they don’t want to lose customers to Linux. I didn’t believe this at first but began to wonder when they persuaded the OLPC organisation (one laptop per child) to add Windows to their portable PC to co-exist with Linux. There would be no reason why OPLC would have accepted this if Windows wasn’t given them supplies totally free.

Linux has grown enormously in the last three years, and the growth of the Indian and Chinese economies are really expanding. MS and Apple are produced in countries that are not liked or respected and, in addition, these are people who like to wheel and deal and love a bargain. “Free” is a bargain, if it works – and as I said – Linux is getting better every day.

I take a keen interest in world politics and world economics and it is because of this that I think Linux will come into its own within five to ten years. Those who understand the Bell curve in marketing will have realised that the present users are part of the “15% early adopters”. There is a simplified version on this website.

Ampers

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Keep it simple, stupid (K.I.S.S.)

I want to tell you a story about Network Marketing. It is not really what this blog is about, but it helps to illustrate the point I will be making afterwards. First of all, I will tell you that I am not involved in any way with Network Marketing and wouldn’t be in any way!

Network Marketing originated in Japan and I believe became successful enough to have people selling cars this way. The Americans took it to heart but they had good sense in that they understood the principles behind it. Something the Brits never did.

The Americans would come in at the lowest level and be happy being an agent for their distributor. They would potter around at weekends making the odd sale here and there. As their reputation spread and their friends introduced our agent to others, he made more contacts, made more friends and sold more products. After a year or so, he would ask if some of his customers would be interested in doing the same. He would keep everything simple, and after a while would have four or five people working for him. His sales would increase and he would become a distributor. It would have cost him nothing, and he would not have ended up with a garage of unsold, and more important, unsaleable stock.

In Britain, we did things differently. We didn’t want others to make money out of us (a British trait) so bought a garage full of stock so we could be a boss all at once. Selling to householders was beneath us, so we told tall stories of how much we were earning, to get others to buy in as distributors, thus pushing us up the line. We also made the whole routine more complex as our egos wouldn’t allow us to be in something so simple.

So Network Marketing got, in this country, a justifiably bad name. And the unfair claim that it was immoral. The top man sold his stock to a middleman, who sold the stock to a distributor, who sold the stock to a dealer. That’s how business works, dammit! In the ordinary business world, the manufacturer sells his stock to a distributor, who sells it down to the wholesaler, who then sells it to the shop. If there is a difference here, I must be missing something.

Meanwhile, back to the Americans. Yes, Network Marketing is still alive and well in the USA and I personally know two families involved with it. One whose father started it when he was 25, left work and made it full time at 33 and by the time he was in his early forties he retired, and he and his wife moved to the west coast and left his children running the show. He is in his seventies now and still gets a share of commission from the huge business he built up.

The other is in his sixties, but loved his work so ran this as a sideline for most of his life, but has never wanted for anything although he is nowhere as rich as the first guy.

But we can’t do this in the UK so don’t try!

Long intro, short theme…

My beef here is, why do we British try and make sure we make things so difficult. Take Income Tax. If we abolished it and put the money on purchases, what would happen. We would get rid of thousands of government employees and force them out into the real world at a stroke. Save a fortunate on their index linked pensions, wipe out the black market and tax evasion, and people would end up saving more which – in the longer term – would benefit our country more. Simple, but too simple, we must complicate the system or we can’t justify our massive egos.

If I said to you, pay me £50 a week and I will protect your home from vandals. You would go screaming to the police. But why? What am I doing that the government is doing to you through Income Tax? If you don’t pay me I will smash your windows. If you don’t pay the government you will go to prison. If there is a difference here once again, I must be missing something!

But I am just giving an example here. I am not necessarily advocating abolishing Income Tax. What I am saying is, let’s remember the old Marketing saying, K.I.S.S. And use it more often in all walks of life. K.I.S.S. Stands for “Keep it simple, stupid”. The stupid is you for making life so complicated.

Use this word. Every time you are arranging something, say to yourself three times “Kiss, kiss, kiss” and try and do whatever you are doing in a more simple way.

Life will become much easier for you.

Ampers

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Teleworking

Now that climate change has taken hold and the summers are cold and wet, and the overall land temperatures have plummeted, we can see that the pundits are still being wheeled in to prattle on. On Radio Four this morning we had two of them nattering on, and John Humphries was just too exasperated to even try to correct them.

Surely the answer nowadays should be to promote teleworking. What with Computers, VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) the Internet, PDAs (Personal Digital Assistant, such as a Palm) and mobile phones, coupled with the cost of petrol, public transport, and the violence out there on the “streets” there was never a better case for management to consider having staff working from home.

But, alas, it is management, who don’t trust their staff, who are at fault. There are two issues here, people who don’t trust others are often untrustworthy themselves – which is why they don’t trust others. The other issue is that people who are obviously not trusted tend to be less trustworthy than those who are trusted by others. A bit of a vicious circle really isn’t it?

In addition to this, staff are often a lot more intelligent than they seem. The trouble is, you hire a new clerk and they don’t take any initiative and just “follow orders”. One should ask “why” rather than condemn. Perhaps that youngster has had his initiative “knocked out of him” by a previous employer and feels he has “learned his lesson”. If you manage staff, the best management book (and I have read, literally, hundreds) is a short 150 pager, costing a little under a fiver, called The One Minute Manager meets the monkey. There are a whole lot of these books in the series but this is the only one I recommend. It teaches you to take this poor sod and recreate his initiative again so he can become a pillar in your company – and will worship you – no doubt – in the process.

But I digress. I do know of one company who have taken Teleworking to its natural conclusion. It is a top rate company in the Financial Services industry. They are Management Consultants who tend to train the trainers in the companies they service. Amongst their clients are all the UK banks, some European and American banks, most of the building Societies, and more recently, the Post Office and the Department of Works and Pensions.

The core staff of the company are four directors and one executive in charge of administration and accounts. They all work from home, using computers, cell-phones, the Internet and their PDAs. Each home is provided with ADSL and there is an SDSL line in one of the houses with a server and each staff computer is linked to this using a VPN so all the company data is on the respective machines and also on the company server to ensure proper backups. In addition, full use is given to call forwarding so rather than answering machines and voicemail, calls to the director/consultants are rerouted directly to the “office” at the admin exec’s home.

In addition to the top five, there are about thirty independent consultants who are called on from time to time according to their expertise and the new job in hand. Eight years ago they operated out of an office in the City of London and when they went “teleworking” in earnest, each member of staff received a large rise out of the large pot of money saved. A big difference as most people are offered lower salaries for working from home! Not to mention the ten hours a week travelling saved. Every two weeks all team members met in the centre of London for a meeting (often at the Institute of Directors) so they had personal contact.

My wife, the administrative manager, has been with the company since the nineties and loves working for them. She has retired recently but still works for them one morning a week handling all the accounts. She is a highly trusted member of staff and part of her accounts work is to pay the salaries, and to record invoices, deciding when they should be paid, and then writing and signing the cheque. Not really something I recommend as controls should always be put in place. But if you had met my wife it might be easier for you to see why she is trusted so much.

So my point here is, teleworking is possible and can work. I am not suggesting that other companies do as much but why not try dipping your feet in? Initially find out which members of staff can do their work efficiently at home. Then find out whether each had a “space” at home where they could work away from their children and wife. Train them in how to deal with requests from their spouses and children. The best one is, “If I don’t produce, they will stop this and bring me back into the office

Set up a management oversee solution responsible for kit, expenses etc. Don’t be too concerned about cost, you can always end the experiment and bring the kit back into the office, if the experiment is successful, but then once you have everyone working from home, you can downsize your office space and have different employees coming into the office one day a week but each group on different days. Most companies who have tried this report that they get far more work out of their staff.

If the subject is of interest, type: teleworking information into Google and a wealth of useful information will appear. Most of it is well worth reading.

Ampers

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Did you watch the Grand Prix this Sunday?

Lewis Hamilton won the race and is now in front with points for the World Championship.

Here is a young man who has done so much more for race relations in Britain than, for example, Trevor Phillips OBE and the rest of the Intelligenzia!

One thing you can be sure of; McLaren did not give their car to Lewis because they wanted to give a black person a chance. McLaren didn’t give their car to Lewis because he is a nice clean-cut, well-spoken and personable young man. Lewis got his place on the team because of his terrific hard work over at least 15 years of racing. The earliest win I can find was at the age of ten in go-karting when he was the British champion–although he did start racing two years earlier.

Lewis is a true celebrity in as much as he is truly famous, works hard and has been consistent for 15 years at his profession and, in addition, refuses to join the “television celebrity set“. That alone puts him high up my list of true celebrities.

Keep up the good work, Lewis, and help be an ideal figurehead for your brothers and sisters all over these islands who desperately need proof that hard work and diligence really can make a difference.

Ampers

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I plead guilty Mi’lord

In my younger days I believed what I read in newspapers and what I watched on television. I am referring to the news of course. I never really believed that there was a “Superman“, or “The Incredible Hunk”!

The trouble was, like so many other people, I was busy making a career for myself, marrying the right girl, and although working hard, spent a lot of my after hours time playing hard.

Alas, because I accepted everything, the country is in the state it is today. For this I would like to apologise to all the people in our islands. I plead “Guilty”.

I should have taken more of an interest in politics. But I don’t think that would have been the answer. I should, rather, have taken more of an interest in the welfare of my country. The difference here is, I admit, semantics, but this would have included politics, rather than have been just interested in politics alone.

I should have read the political pages in the newspapers more, and then have questioned what I was being told. I should have joined a discussion group once a week where we could have analysed the newspaper headlines. Then perhaps joined a political group and, with thousands of others, helped build it up.

But I didn’t. I was more interested in my future, rather than my country’s future. Never realising that they are inexplicably linked.

More fool me.

I often see people who have had an upset with their bank manager, so they move banks with all the upheaval that this creates. If I disliked my bank manager, I just changed branches. No upheaval, but that bank manager is out of my hair.

The same with political parties. Lets, for the purpose of this article, just include the two main parties. Those who hate businesses and want to bring people down to a lower common denominator might join the Labour party. Those who would rather raise people’s aspirations to the next plain, and realise that by helping business you create more jobs, might join the Conservative Party.

OK, I can see your thought processes working, you are thinking “He’s a Tory”. But you’d be wrong. Granted if these two parties were my only choice, I would favour Cameron to Brown any day. But let me explain why I used to be a Tory.

My mother was so left wing, she’d be in the left wing of Old Labour. When I was old enough to vote, I sat down and thought about it. I was young and wanted a job, and wanted a choice of jobs, so I decided that a party who favoured business might be the party I should vote for, so I became a Tory voter. I even rose to Chairman in the Young Conservatives. But now must admit to you that it was “Bar Chairman”. We had our own dedicated bar with two draught beers, 8 bottled beers, and masses of aperitifs, spirits and brandies together with a good selection of soft drinks. I ran that bar with a team of six.

I became political in the seventies and never forgave the Conservatives for knowing they were taking us into the forerunners of a political union when they joined the Common Market. Ted Heath, before he died, admitted it on television as, when he was asked by the news anchor if he “knew the Common Market would develop into a Political Union” answered, and these were his exact words, I repeat, his exact words – on television:Of course I bloody did!”. The absolute arrogance of the man.

Margaret Thatcher got the heave because ordinary people didn’t take an interest in their futures and we had one disastrous Conservative leader after another. People still don’t take an interest in their future, and now we have Gordon Brown.

I can’t help thinking that “People get the government they deserve.

Referring to my bank manager story, what I am saying here is, if you had “got involved” right from the beginning, then rather than changing your bank (party) you could campaign to change your branch (leader). So much more important if the party you joined was the party you identified with. How unhappy you would be if you were a Socialist who hated the “nobs” and never wanted to aspire to be one of them, or if you were a Conservative and hated a party who tried to bring everyone down to the lowest level.

We deserve Gordon Brown because, as a nation, we have done nothing about our rulers for decades.

Our NHS is bankrupt, our schools are failing us. The breakdown of the family and the laws disallowing parents and teachers to slap children has led to the masses of feral “animals” who roam our streets. European laws stifle our agriculture, our fisheries, and much of our remaining industry. “Health and Safety” and “Political Correctness” are stifling the Anglo-Saxons ability of independent thought. And I read recently that Gordon Brown as Chancellor has been the cause of an extra 800,000 additional Public Sector jobs since 1997.

No country can succeed if it manufactures jobs. All organisations should be lean. It is only by subscribing to this philosophy that our country can grow rich enough to provide “real jobs” for everyone.

So my Rant, and rather rambling message here is, I hope, still very clear. If you don’t put something into this country, you will get less and less out of it. I have little sympathy for a pensioner who complains about the value of his pension, if he has not done his “bit” to get the government he thinks he deserves. I am a pensioner (68) and do deserve more as I have spent a lot of my time trying to make changes.

But alas there were so few of us out there.

Ampers

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… you’d best do something About it!

Everywhere I go, people are complaining. But 99.99% of them do absolutely nothing about it. And then complain because matters don’t improve or don’t change.

And the excuses are oh so amusing. “I don’t have time.” “It won’t make any difference.” “Someone else will do something.”

No, someone else can’t do anything, not without your help. And, you are wrong, if you do something, together with others, it will make a difference. If you don’t have time, then nothing will get done, so why waste precious energy complaining?

But it isn’t just people complaining. People develop a “comfort zone” around them and are happy to remain in that warm comfortable and pleasing area.

These include managers, directors, housewives, clerks, restaurant owners and chief constables.

The Richard Branson’s of this world know that to succeed where others fail takes many steps, but the first step of any importance is to break out of your comfort zone. It is only by breaking out of your comfort zone that you will begin to put in place the other steps needed to succeed.

The more alert amongst you will have seized on my words “chief constables” and began to wonder if this is what my blog is really about.

You’d be right.

I read on the Telegraph website this morning, an article about Bernard Hogan-Howe, from Sheffield, a man who was the product of a one-parent family but who managed to get A Levels at school. His second job, after a stint as a laboratory assistant, was that of a Police Constable who soon made such a huge impression on his superiors that they sent him to Oxford University to study law. Clearly someone from a poor family who had the gumption to pull himself up by his braces and make something of himself.

Andrew Pierce of the Telegraph wrote: “Mr Hogan-Howe’s Merseyside police force has, for the second year running, reported the largest fall in crime, down 18 per cent after an 11 per cent drop last year. His no-nonsense approach appears to be working, making him a serious contender to replace Sir Ian Blair as the Metropolitan Police Commissioner. “

So what can we learn from this? Evidently he is doing something right. This is a chief constable who believes in zero tolerance, people with knives are immediately arrested whether the knives have been used or not.

He is only one man who wanted a safer place for people to live in. So he joined the police force and diligently rose through the ranks until he was in a position to do something about it.

I am not advocating that everyone be so dedicated when they complain about things. One doesn’t have to take such drastic steps. But how many of you, who do complain, spend their evenings sitting on their arses watching television. The biggest way known to debilitate man? Why not give up an evening or two to pursue that which you are unhappy about?

If everyone, of working age gave up one evening of three hours a week, that would be approximately 624 man weeks, a huge amount of time and effort being put in to solve our problems. That is 12 man years – and these working population figures were based on the 2005 census before the huge influx of people from the EU into these islands. A man week (or man month or man year) means a collection of all the peoples efforts added together and treated as if it were one person. It is a standard unit of measurement in these issues.

So let’s take a look at these excuses again?

I don’t have time.” “It won’t make any difference.” “Someone else will do something.”

If you say you don’t have the time, are you saying you don’t spend lots of time watching television or drinking in the pub?

If you say that it won’t make a difference, your tiny share could be part of twelve man years every year. OK, not everyone else is doing this, but there are thousands of people out there who, instead of complaining, are doing a small “bit” to try and make a difference.

Finally, saying someone else will do something just means you won’t be adding your tuppence worth to the collective effort. And whereas doing something by yourself may not make a difference, withholding your share for the collective effort could ensure that effort fails.

Ampers.

The full Daily Telegraph article is here

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Five Common Misconceptions About Linux

The following post posted on the Linux-Ubuntu forum and as it is recognised that most Linux information, operation systems and programs are free, I have taken the liberty to reproduce it. If the owner would like it removed, it will be removed immediately, and if anyone knows who wrote it I will immediately give them the credit, and in the meantime try and contact them for permission to keep it up on my blog.

The hailo technology Having used Linux solely for nearly four years now, I’ve gained a respect for what Linux can and can’t do. By no means is it the perfect solution for every problem, but there are some misconceptions heard again and again that I plan to set straight.

1. Linux is Behind the Times

One comment heard often is “Linux was five years behind XP, and it’s 10 years behind Vista!” Well, here are some facts:

  • Windows began separating the basic user from the administrator account by default in Vista, over 15 years behind Linux.
  • Windows added a firewall in 2001, over seven years behind Linux’s 1994 addition of ipchains.
  • Linux was the first operating system with x86_64 support, beating Windows XP Pro x64 by two years.
  • Windows added an attractive 3D accelerated graphical interface in Vista, a full year behind Linux’s XGL.
  • Linux’s package management system can install, uninstall, and update software from one interface. Everything installed from Apache to OpenOffice and Quake 4 may be updated with one press. Windows has nothing like this on the road map.
  • And Linux isn’t slowing down. The Xen project has added an incredible level of virtualization to Linux, with more work going into the kernels development to add enterprise ready virtualization built-in [4]. Microsoft promised built-in Xen-like virtualization in Windows Server 2008 next year, but has announced that feature has been delayed and should be available sometime after launch [1], possibly in SP1, meaning Linux will lead with built-in virtualization by at least a couple of years before Windows catches up.

2. Linux is Hard to Use

Many have never realized they were using Linux, and haven’t used it on a desktop. More troubling is the fact that lots of technically inclined persons tried Linux during the hype of the dot-com bubble, wrote it off and never revisited it. These along with other factors have left many thinking Linux is hard to use.

Well, enter the modern Linux distribution, such as Ubuntu. Ubuntu has an easy to use graphical interface that’ll remind Macintosh fans of OS X. Optionally many other interfaces are available ranging from Windows XP duplicates to interfaces focused on certain areas, such as low system requirements or high-end graphical effects. Beyond this many common tasks and features, ranging from system updating to system wide indexing, are all handled automatically by default.

This all extends to every level of Linux use. Novell’s Yast for example provides an easy to use GUI for everything from installing and updating software to managing DNS, email, and web servers, and basically anything else an administrator could think of. No command line or configuration files, unless desired.

To top it all off the installation is world class. The Ubuntu installation is done from within a fully functioning environment allowing web browsing, game playing, or or even the writing of a report all as the installation wizard ensures the install goes off not just without a hitch, but in a manor where the user doesn’t need to know anything beyond how to click next, unless they want to.

3. Linux isn’t Compatible with anything

Everything from Maya and Oracle to Firefox run on Linux natively. Games ranging from the Doom, Quake, and Unreal Tournament series to smaller gems like Darwinia all run native on Linux as well.

Beyond native applications free (non)emulation software called WINE, as well as commercially supported options like CrossOver and VMWare, allow users to run everything from iTunes to MS Office and Photoshop, and the $5 a month Cedega lets gamers play hundreds of Windows only titles, from Battlefield 2142 to World of Warcraft.

Finally alternatives to Windows only software can replace current systems with little to no extra work. Apache can run ASP code, OpenOffice can read and save Microsoft formats, and every major distribution can join a domain, or just browse Windows file and printer shares, with ease.

Hardware support is equally incredible, in fact Linux supports more hardware than any other operating system. From hand-helds to mainframes and everything in between, including equipment considered legacy and no longer supported by Windows, the chances are if connected to a Linux box it’ll just work. Despite popular belief this does include a vast majority of consumer equipment as well, from digital cameras to iPods and 3D accelerators to wireless cards.

4. Linux isn’t Enterprise Ready / No One Uses Linux

Amazon and Google would disagree as they’ve built their technology off Linux. PSA Peugeot Citroen, the second largest car manufacturer in Europe, have also announced earlier this year they’ll be moving not only their 2,500 servers over to Linux, but also their 20,000 desktops. Other companies like IBM and Novell have reinvented themselves using Linux as the base, and government deployments from Brazil and India to China and others promise to add tens of millions of new users to the Linux community.

This isn’t even including the countless smaller government deployments like the city of Munich, the Indiana school system, or the U.S. Army’s Land Warrior program. Paired with millions of users via the One Laptop per Child initiative and massive academic deployments, this means that outside of the United States the world is positioning Linux to be the foundation of computing for their children.

Of course Linux works fine outside of the enterprise. Whether it’s browsing a website, chatting on a cellphone, checking email, getting cash from an ATM, or even just kicking some anti-lock brakes into action, there’s a fair chance Linux is in control.

Then again Linux also accounts for an estimated 70% of the super computing market. That means Linux has huge footholds in the embedded, server, and high-end market, leaving the desktop arena clearly in its sights.

5. Linux isn’t Professionally Developed or Supported

It’s true Linux started at the hands of a single college student, but that’s not true today. Linux is now a multi-billion dollar global technology. The vast majority of code is now contributed by professional programmers. Over the last year major code modifications have been submitted by IBM, Intel, Novell, VMware, and countless other big technical players. Beyond actively developing code others, such as Dell, have begun pushing vendors to develop higher quality Linux software. And this isn’t even going into the academic or government development, such as the security patch set developed and deployed by the U.S. National Security Agency for internal use, but available to anyone who wishes to use it, SELinux.

Support has taken on the same level of professionalism. Countless forums, IRC channels, and wikis are of course still available. But beyond that help can be sought from one of many books, certifications, or by contacting any one of the major players from IBM and Oracle to Novell and Red Hat. If 24/7 global support in a dozen different languages is needed, it’s just as available as free community support.

That about covers it. There are many other areas of interest, but those listed above are certainly some of the biggest misconceptions heard about Linux on a regular basis. Overall it just comes down to ignorance, be it having never used Linux, or having not used it in the past few years of heavy evolution. Of course Linux isn’t without its faults, just like all software, but that’s for another article. What it really boils down to is a responsible administrator has to do what’s best for the company cutting the checks, and that includes keeping an open mind and evaluating all options, even open source ones.

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I had intended to write something along the very same lines as the anonymous author but there is no point in re-inventing the wheel, and he (or she) has done a far better job than I could have.

Ampers.

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Britain going to the dogs.

I remarked to someone at a press drinks do recently that the problem with Britain is that the stupid people are rising to the top. He was a stranger and I evidently touched a raw nerve as he snarled at me with; “You’re just against the working class!” I didn’t bother to argue and changed my talking companion pretty damn smartly.

Why he would think I was getting at the working class, I have no idea. ‘Stupid’ has nothing to do with ‘class’. There are bright people in all classes just as there are stupid people in all classes.

However, don’t you think, when you watch television – and read the newspapers – it is the stupid people who seem to be rising to the top? Whether politicians – and here I do not consign my remarks for any particular party; or celebrities – here, unlike politicians, they all seem pretty stupid; business people – just look at the terminal 5 fiasco; local government, newspaper editors – and television producers; the list could go on indefinitely.

The following is the philosophy of Charles Schultz, the creator of the ‘Peanuts’ comic strip. You don’t have to actually answer the questions. Just read the questions straight through, and you’ll get the point.

1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world. 2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners. 3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America. 4. Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize. 5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winner for best actor and actress. 6. Name the last decade’s worth of World Series winners.

How did you do? The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday. These are no second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields. But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners .

Here’s another quiz. See how you do on this one:

List a few teachers who aided your journey through school. 2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time. 3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile. 4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special. 5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with .

Easier? The lesson: the people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the ones that care.

So next time you crave to see a celebrity, just remember, they are one minute wonders. They don’t count. The people who matter are those who you love, and who love you. And when you see stupidity around you, talk about it, discuss it… if everyone did this, hopefully the dross may sift down to the bottom where it belongs.

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Politicians are hazardous to your health.

I think there should be a government health warning on every utterance made by a politician. However, last night I was invited to attend a “Bruges Group” meeting where I was fortunate to hear Douglas Carswell MP speak, and unfortunate to hear Frederick Forsyth ramble on.

This may seem a little unkind as Freddie is quite a nice chap but he does have this bee in his bonnet about the UKIP and how a vote for UKIP lets in Labour. Now I am no longer connected with UKIP and don’t vote for them any more. However, the way FF goes on, I am almost persuaded to vote for them next time around! Freddie has no idea of the British tradition of winning the hearts and minds of people. And he certainly doesn’t understand that UKIP party members don’t care whether Labour, the Lib-Dems, the Conservatives, or Uncle Cobley get in. They are only interested in building up their party. Freddie was wrong in his assumption that UKIP only consisted of ex-Conservatives. How dare he assume that only Conservatives have patriots in their party.

We did learn from him that if the Lisburn Treaty goes ahead – only the Irish seem to be having a referendum – then this gives power to the Commissioners to introduce any legislation they wish in the future without the need for further treaties (which means further permission) by member states.

I think that it is time for Frederick Forsyth to hang up his speaking hat before he starts to alienate his public.

I then had the pleasure of listening to Douglas Carswell MP (Harwich) speak. He is young and vibrant, and has only been an MP for three years; he has some really good ideas and I wouldn’t at all be surprised if he was a Libertarian – of whom we need more in the Conservative party. You can see where you really stand by doing the world’s smallest political quiz – although only ten questions to answer, you need to study each one carefully and think about the implications.

Douglas told us that Britain had become a Quango state and that most of the rules were made by unelected people. This is something my friends have heard me say for years. And the people who make the laws are not just Quango members. These are people who decide on who leads the parties, and who wins an election. We only pay lip service to democracy in this country and I am glad we now have the occasional MP who has worked this out for himself.

Douglas also queried Freddy’s assumption that so many of the new MPs are anti-EU. He says the constituencies mostly try to choose pro-EU newcomers as this is what is wanted “way up high” . One idea of Douglas to counteract this pressure, which I thought was very imaginative, is that the Conservatives should take a lesson from the American format and have primaries, not necessarily to elect a leader, but to actually elect the MP in each constituency.

This would mean that as many candidates who wanted to stand could and, over a period of a few months, and many speeches, conservative members could quiz and learn just what type of candidate each of them were. One of the reasons why 40% of people no longer vote in this country is that they know nothing changes. An idea such as this would stir the hearts and imagination of Conservative ex-voters. But I think he is pixxx whistling in the wind as the party machine would be appalled at such independence and democracy. Keep trying Douglas, try and wear them down.

One of the questions afterwards to Freddy was that he was wrong about UKIP, and that the leader of UKIP had said that if any Conservative would sign a pledge to support the “Better off out” campaign, UKIP would not field a candidate opposite and would also campaign to get that Tory MP out.” Freddie said such a pledge was unrealistic and it should have been enough for the MP just to say he supported not staying in the EU in principle only. The audience laughed long and hard at such naivety.

It was an interesting meeting and I enjoyed the odd glass of wine afterwards and met up with two people I knew from the past (Linda Jenkins who wrote “Britain Held Hostage” and other books, and Tony Scholefield who I met at UKIP NEC meetings many years ago).

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We take it for granted.

I purchased an item on eBay recently. It was for a charger for one of my many gadgets – and they sent the wrong one.

Back in the old days I would have spent hours on the phone, describing exactly what they sent and even then have someone the other end thinking I was stupid and just didn’t understand whether I had the right thing or not. Now, I whipped out my digital Camera, photographed the plug showing clearly the top of the mains end and the other “gadget in” end in the same photograph. Transfer into my computer, a quick snip so that the background was eliminated, a press of a button and the photo was attached to a new email and whisked off to the the supplier. All within a minute or so. Half an hour later a email back saying new one in the post, apologies, and that a reply paid label would accompany the new goods for me to return.

Sometimes we are watching a film on TV and my wife would ask, who is that actor? A short conversation would ensure and we would remember another film the actor was in. Onto the Internet to The International Movie Database and I would type in the film we remembered the actor to have been in. A quick look at the cast would normally trigger a name, but if not we would compare the cast list with the one we were watching and come up with a solution. The other night we saw a film and I recognised an actress who was in the Zoo Game, a quick check in imdb.com and yes, it was Lili Palmer.

Since I discovered “Google Reader” I have stopped watching the news all that much on TV – now just lunchtimes. I am a political animal and with Google Reader I have all the news that interests me come straight to my desk. I never have to go and search for it. That, and the very useful “Google News” keeps me abreast of the world, the IT world which is of interest, my political world and any other interests I may have at the time. It is up to me, on a day by day basis, to decide what is of interest to me.

I am rapidly approaching 69 so should be able to remember life before the Internet. But, you know, it is not so easy. It just shows how used to, and dependent of, something we can be.

Those who know me personally may remember something I said in the late seventies, not long after the Commodore PET, the Apple 2e and the Tandy 80 came out. I said “This electronic revolution is going to be different to the industrial revolution as it will fire up people’s imaginations much more. Unlike the industrial revolution this one will never settle down.” And I have certainly been proved right.

I think we made a wrong decision after WW2 in that we tried to match the Americans with their huge factories and mass manufacturing. The children of our artisans and craftsmen wanted immediate money and went to work in the factories so, for a time, our crafts were starved of talent. However, I am a firm believer that Mrs Thatcher may yet be proved right in closing down non-performing industries and promoting the smaller new industries.

And now the dependants of those fantastic craftsmen are back, as system analysts and programmers, making computers sing for us. Take America for example. We can’t match them for their products for home and business PCs but our craftsmen in this industry are sought after all over the world. But the sort of software they produce fit into aircraft that fly close to the ground at a thousand miles an hour. I am not too sure of the following and I have searched – there is a story going around that the Pentagon had a rule that only Americans could work there, but they had it changed so they could employ British computer programmers.

More of a ramble today, rather than a rant. But at least I am not talking about Linux 🙂

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Trading on the Internet

If you are purchasing anything on the Internet and it is being despatched by any means other than the Royal Mail (which is beyond redemption) what sort of delivery notification is acceptable to you?

Bearing in mind that the Internet, unlike the post, is in the “here and now”. We can order in seconds so delivery in weeks or, to a lesser extent, days, is just no longer acceptable.

If you order from Tesco’s website, they will not only give you a day, but will also give you a two hour slot when they will call. And if you order your life-juice from Majestic Wines, they will do the same, but woll often, if you order early enough, deliver the same day. And they will ring you to arrange a time|!

Having to stay in for a whole day, especially when you are uncertain they will even call that day, is just no longer acceptable. We accept that Tesco and Majestic always have a branch near you, so a two hour slot for them is no big deal. National companies are different. But there is no reason why they cannot offer a morning or afternoon slot, some even give a four hour slot. We are all busy people, yet they expect us to wait in at their beck and call.

Websites differ from company to company. Some are very good and make it easy to order. Others are just terrible and one gives up in despair and Googles the next supplier. The world wide web has been around since 1991, the Internet since the fifties, but many companies just don’t understand how to make money trading on the web.

The people who do know, have their own servers and have the whole ordering position so automated that, although you have ordered and paid, and have received your invoice, and the money transferred out of your credit card, the first human in the company who knows you have contacted them is the warehouse man who collects your product and wraps it up for the courier. This is the only way to really compete on the Internet as people expect low prices and if you want to stay in business and make a profit, you have to totally automate, and trade in bulk.

Amazon normally have good prices (although I have just purchased an HP C7280 direct from HP which was £149 instead of £199 from Amazon) and one is willing to put up with no ability to telephone, and very difficult to leave them a message. However, if you don’t have low prices and still make it difficult for a personal contact you are defeating the objective of buying low with no customer support, or paying full prices and still not getting customer support.. This is just not on.

We won’t even go into the realms of 0870, 0871 and 09xx numbers!

What we want is either full customer service at high street prices, or a good automated site offering extremely low priced items. Preferably both, but we need to be a little reasonable here.

It is not as hard to “complain” with a faceless website as you might imagine. “Do it my way”. I complain by simply going to the next company on the Google list. If they haven’t made it easy for me to complain, then they just won’t know they have lost any business. That is the fastest way to go into liquidation.

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I have just read a book.

Not the first book I have read, I hasten to add, but one so powerful that if there is only one thing I regret in life it is that I am no longer a working man (I am retired) so I cannot take heed to the excellent ideas in this young man’s book.

It is called simply, “The four hour work week”, and was written by Timothy Ferris. It can be purchased at Amazon. The web page for Amazon UK has the paperback version now on sale, although I purchased the hardback at Amazon US.

The book tells you how you can make money, reduce your working week to four hours, which can be accomplished anywhere in the world. I will explain.But before I do, you should note that if you click on the above heading for this article you will be taken to his own website about the book.

First of all the reader is asked whether they want to be a worker or the boss. Then we learn that neither of these choices are the right one. Naturally, to make money, you don’t want to be a “worker” but we then learn that being the boss just increases your work load and, instead of a four hour work week, we end up with a fourteen hour work day. No, Timothy says, you need to be the owner. And then employ a boss and workers.

Once we get our head around that, he then destroys our illusion and says that rather than own the company, we want what he calls (for want of a better word) a “muse”. A muse is a way to earn money without a boss, but without the owner getting caught up with it.

The author jokingly gives his occupation as a “drug dealer” and that is what exactly he is. If you go to his “drug dealing website, you will find out what sort of drugs he deals in.

Timothy has the manufacturer package and post the orders, he arranges others to collect the mail, bank the cheques, and email his “outsourced” administration the orders. The drugs are posted whilst he is travelling around the world enjoying himself.

The author says one should outsource anything that is repetitive. He uses two companies in India. One (£6.50 an hour) who handles strictly business things where he is given an account manager and they farm his requests out to the department best suited for the task, and a personal company for other chores of a personal nature (£3 an hour) who gives him his own “social secretary”. He often emails a job to them just before he goes to bed, and the results are in his email box in the morning. Timothy spends so much time travelling he didn’t have a girlfriend so he got his Indian secretary to arrange a day full of meetings for girls who were looking on the websites for boyfriends and has been with the one he chose for six months now.

Timothy is 29 and is a very bright young man. He travelled to Brazil and studied Tango dancing and won the world championships and is in the Guinness book of records as someone who has won with the minimum of dancing experience. He studied kickboxing in China and won their National Kickboxing Championships. The way he did so is absolutely hilarious, but you must read the book for that story!

He says when he realised that people worked 10-14 hour days for forty years before retiring, he had decided this was not for him. In addition, with the way money devalues, there is no certainty you will be able to afford all that much when you do. So he takes mini-retirement breaks of a few months a couple of times a year and gets his fun as he goes through his working life.

Although retired, I have taken some of his advice to heart and have already freed up a lot of time each day.

A lot of his stories are unsubstantiated and, whether they are true or not I really don’t know and up to a point, don’t really care. However there are many very good ideas which a wise user might employ. My advice to any reader is to read the book right through, and then again a few weeks later. But this time cherry-pick those ideas which you think might work with your circumstances. Then your money will be well spent.

Timothy has also got a good marketing brain. He has a website and is continuing to add bonus information there, but you have to log in each time you visit. The password changes automatically each day you visit. When you log in it asks you for a password based on a page number in his book, and the umpteenth word in the umpteenth paragraph on that page. So you ask your friends to buy the book as, if you lent it to them, you could not log into the website.

Yes, a smart cookie.

Ampers.

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