Microsoft Rant

The GPLv3 in Plain English – The Parts Microsoft Worries About

Awhile back I read the small print about Microsoft’s Moonlight software distribution. It specifically mentions the stuff they don’t like about the GPLv3. Interesting. Let’s see what they are worried about.

“Any other license or contract that includes terms similar to the terms in paragraphs 6 or 7 of Section 11 of the GNU General Public License version 3.

How bad could it be?

Linux Microsoft Video

What Happens When You Call Microsoft Support To Remove Linux?

This April Fools’ Day it needs to be special. And by special, I mean truly EPIC.

I’ve been brainstorming for weeks about what I would do, and I’ve had some real killer ideas that would unfortunately fall flat on their face during execution. One idea I had was to bridge the #emacs and #vim internet chat rooms with clones that relayed messages from one room into another, one clone per person. When I saw there was 250+ people in each room, I figured it would be nearly impossible to pull off without a lot of help – someone would notice all the clones and it would be over.

Then a stroke of genius struck me:  For this April Fools’ day, I’ll call Microsoft to help me uninstall Linux. Yes, that’s right. Microsoft would willingly help me uninstall Linux, they even have a Knowledgebase article on it, and all I would need to do is tell them I’m having some problems following the KB article, and they would helpfully guide me through it.

This prank would need PROOF that it happened, not just my word – and nothing is better to prove that something happened than video. But first there were some legalities to figure out… can I record the phone call?

I did some research, and sure enough, Utah is a one-party consent state. If at least one party (aka me) consents to recording, I’m in the clear. However, I’m calling a company based out of Washington – and they’re a two-party consent state (for the most part).

What happens when you’re calling across state lines? Federal law takes precedence as far as I can tell, and that my friends is where I get carte blanche – federal law states that at least one party needs to consent.

Wayne – 1, Microsoft – 0.

I got the camera ready, found my copy of Windows XP Professional Edition, printed out the KB article in case I needed it while my machine was down, and called their support number and drilled down through the voice menus to get to someone who would transfer me to the right person.

Silly youtube disabled embedding. My appologies! Can view the video at the below link.
I don’t want to spoil the fun, just watch the video and see what unfolded.

Linux Microsoft Off-Topic

Microsoft to Yahoo – “We Will Add Your Biological And Technological Distinctiveness To Our Own.”

I’ve gotta give Steve Ballmer and crew a pat on the back. The Microsoft acquisition offer for Yahoo is the most fantastic idea they have come up with since the release of Vista. Unfortunately, Microhoo is not going to topple the top player Google anytime soon in the online advertising world.

You can’t take Microsoft, add Yahoo juice and get something magically better. Microsoft and Yahoo have relatively poor search results when compared to Google. Combined, they also do not have anywhere near the online advertising inventory that Google has available. Google dominates the online office suite (at the moment) with Google Docs, which is what I think got Microsoft on their case.

According to the WSJ, Yahoo is going to reject the offer on Monday. I speculate that Microsoft would raise their offer to $40 a share, they’ll do anything to be second best.

Linux Microsoft

How To: Run Microsoft Outlook “Natively” On Linux Using VirtualBox

There are hundreds of reasons why someone would want to run Microsoft Outlook in Linux, and this guide will show you how from beginning to end.

When I use the term “natively,” I mean fully integrated into the desktop enviroment, NOT an actual native binary Outlook client. Outlook itself runs in a Virtual Machine, but it acts like a pseudo-native application.


Unlike most emulators, VirtualBox allows you move freely between applications, without the constraints of a border around the VM which degrades the user experience. Here’s a picture for a good idea of what I’m talking about.

In the screenshot, there is Outlook 2007, Internet Explorer 7 (browsing Digg of course), and Windows Media Player 11 playing an internet stream, and the start menu sits at the bottom of the screen, while I have the Gnome Desktop menu up at the top.

I personally need Outlook for corporate email, and VirtualBox lets me utilize all of the other tools like IE (and toys, like iTunes) that can’t be experienced without emulation in Linux.

Using VirtualBox, I can seamlessly copy and paste a URL from Firefox in Linux to IE7 to test compatibility with IE. It’s pretty damn slick, and until we see a version of Linux coming straight from Redmond, it’s about as “native” as these proprietary applications will ever be.

Impressed? I certainly was, and to be honest, I’m very jaded when it comes to new technology. Let’s get down to it, shall we? These instructions are written with Ubuntu or Debian in mind, but may vary if using a distro that doesn’t utilize apt-get.

1. Download the VirtualBox binary for your distribution from their website and install it. Usually all you need to do is double click on it after downloading.

Note: Some distributions have VirtualBox within their repositories, but these can sometimes be out of date, and we want to be absolutely certain that we get version 1.5.2 or higher so that we can utilize ‘Seamless Mode’ which makes it so applications we run in the virtual machine show up just like normal windows in Gnome or KDE, instead of bound within a virtual machine window.

2. Add yourself to the vboxusers group.

As always, there are methods to accomplish these by using a GUI, but ultimately it’ll be faster and easier to work in the terminal. We’ll add ourselves to the vboxusers group to use the program, and we must logout and back in again for the group addition to take effect. Change wayne to your own username.

sudo adduser wayne vboxusers

3. Then we download utilities to setup a network bridge from the Linux system to the virtual machine.

sudo apt-get install bridge-utils

4. Now we have to edit the interfaces file to add the bridge interface.
sudo gedit /etc/network/interfaces/
I appended the last three lines (in bold) to this file to make it look like this:

auto lo
iface lo inet loopback
auto br0
iface br0 inet dhcp
bridge_ports eth0

5. Restart networking services to recognize the bridge we just added.

sudo /etc/init.d/networking restart

5a. These commands may be helpful needed if you get errors with the above steps.

sudo rmmod vboxdrv
sudo modprobe -k vboxdrv
sudo chmod 666 /dev/vboxdrv

6. Now we need to create a permanent host interface, so that if we reboot, networking will still be available to the virtual machine. Obviously change “wayne” to your own username:

sudo VBoxAddIF vbox0 wayne br0

7. I tried this twice, and both times at this point my internet connection was hosed. A quick reboot fixed the problem, and I’m not quite sure where to start as far as trying to find the culprit, so we’ll reboot here. If you can find a workaround for rebooting, please leave a comment and I’ll give credit where it’s due.

Barry comments:

The reboot thing seems to be related to setting group membership. I got away with logging out and back in.

8. Open up the VirtualBox program (Found in Applications | System Tools in Gnome), accept the EULA, and register to receive newletters. Click New, and follow the wizard.




Once finished with the wizard, you should have a screen that looks like this:


9. Configuring the Virtual Machine.

Click the settings button in the menu and we’ll go through and change a few settings to gain better performance and get everything set just right. general-advanced.pngIf you have a newer processor that supports virtualization, you will see a performance boost by enabling it in both the BIOS and in the Advanced tab, put a check next to “Enable VT-x/AMD-v”.

virtualbox-cddvdrom.pngTo get install Windows on the virtual machine, we will either need to insert the bootable disc into the CD/DVD-ROM drive, or make an ISO image of the media and point the VM at the image. This setting is found under CD/DVD-ROM on the left. Put a checkmark next to “Mount CD/DVD Drive” and configure this page according to what you need. I found that using an ISO image was easier to use.

If you want to hear the audio notification when email arrives or are using this guide for another purpose (like iTunes) click Audio on the left and put a checkmark in “Enable Audio,” then hit the dropdown and select OSS or ALSA.

The virtual machine isn’t hooked up to the network yet, and to accomplish that, we will use something called “Host Interface” which we setup earlier.

virtualbox-network.pngClick Network on the left, then make sure “Enable Network Adapter” is checked, then where it says “Attached to” select “Host Interface” from the dropdown menu. Type in vbox0 into the Interface Name box.

Press OK and we’re done configuring VirtualBox, and can startup our newly created system and start installing Windows.

Important Note: By default the keyboard and mouse get trapped when you click inside a running VM. Use the right CTRL key (other right) to escape from it. After the next step, this wont be needed.

install-guest-additions.png10. Once finished installing Windows, we’ll need to install drivers for the emulated graphics and networking cards in Windows. Click Devices, Install Guest Additions.

You’ll get a popup in the VM just as if you had put in a new CD. Run the setup and reboot when prompted, that takes care of the graphics drivers and tools to allow us to take advantage of Seamless Mode.

For Vista, there was an additional step needed – updating the device drivers for the emulated AMD PCNET ethernet device. I went into the Device Manager in Windows, right clicked on the Ethernet Controller, chose Update Driver Software and followed the prompts, when asks, I chose to install from a specific location and chose the D:\ drive, and everything worked like a charm.


11. Now that everything with our VM is up and running, prepare to be absolutely amazed at how well VirtualBox integrates the experience of running Windows applications in Linux.

To enable Seamless Mode, press CTRL+L. You’ll end up with something like this:

Now we’re all done. Install Outlook, iTunes, and all your other proprietary applications that do not run well under WINE. That’s not all folks. Did you think all I was going to say was super awesome enthusiastic positive remarks?

Nah. There are problems. Not the type of problems that make innotek’s VirtualBox unusable… No.. there are just some small issues that are minor annoyances.

First, the audio coming from the VM sometimes will take control of all audio coming from the sound server. I know this is how audio works in Linux, and there are workarounds. But do I really want to spend a couple of hours installing Pulseaudio or Jack to gain multiple streams of audio playing at once? Not really. Itwould be nice if VirtualBox would release the sound server when it is done playing something.

Secondly, sometimes there are some pretty massive and frankly, quite ugly video transitions that take place when the VM is using lots of CPU and you try to manipulate windows. Did you think the jarring blackout effect of Windows User Account Control in Vista was bad? This is worse. Far worse. The best fix for this I can find is using the same wallpaper for both machines. Fortunately this quick fix seems to minimize the effect. Also, disabling Compiz Fusion or Beryl will help cut down on the frequency and duration of these episodes, although they still exist. It’s hard to describe, but imagine Windows UAC and multiply it by 10.

Other than those two issues, there is only one more issue to discuss: video performance, or rather, lack thereof. Playing a video on YouTube or any other flash video site and trying to do anything else at the same time results in audio skipping. I realize the video and audio go through multiple layers of two different operating systems and emulation, but you would think it could be fixed. I’m sure it will be fixed eventually, but until that time comes it’s annoying.

These three problems (other documented problems exist, but I have yet to run into them) are probably why VirtualBox doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

If you are still running a dual-booting system, I highly recommend you give VirtualBox a try – who knows… maybe you’ll be able to give up Windows. In the end, innotek’s VirtualBox is an innovative product that provides people who need proprietary applications to get work done the ability to run them without requiring a dual-boot setup.

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Linux Microsoft

notepad.exe vs vi: Which Is More Difficult To Learn? The Answer Isn’t Quite What You Expect.

Migrating from Windows to Linux is no simple task. One of the things that some people complain about is the difficulty of text editing in console mode.

You may or may not know that Notepad.exe is actually pretty damn complicated. Just take a look at all the documented keyboard shortcuts:

New Ctrl+N
Open Ctrl+O
Save Ctrl+Save
Save As Alt, F, A
Page Setup Alt, F, U
Print Ctrl + P
Exit Alt+F4

Undo Ctrl+Z
Cut Ctrl+X
Copy Ctrl+C
Paste Ctrl+P
Delete Del
Find Ctrl+F
Find Next F3
Replace Ctrl+H
Goto Ctrl+G
Select All Ctrl+A
Time/Date F5

Word Wrap Alt, O, W
Font Alt, O, F

Status Bar Alt, V, S

Help Topics F1
About Notepad Alt, H, A

Here are some some undocumented keyboard shortcuts:

Goto Beginning of Next Word: Ctrl+Right Arrow
Goto Beginning Previous Word: Ctrl+Left Arrow

Select From Current Position To Next Word: Ctrl+Shift+Left Arrow
Select From Current Position To Previous Word: Ctrl+Shift+Left Arrow

Select From Current Position to Beginning of Line: Shift+Home
Select From Current Position to End of Line: Shift+End

This list of undocumented keyboard shortcuts for notepad are pretty long, that’s just a start from memory. If you count all the extra undocumented keyboard shortcuts, notepad has tons of functionality that is under utilized.

Did we ever notice or care that notepad had that many shortcuts? Most power users simply knew these shortcut commands by heart and never even had a second thought that notepad was difficult to learn, or poorly documented.

Using the vi editor is not complicated. I think most people just assume at first glance at a huge list of commands that it’s really hard to remember everything. It’s not that hard! Remember how ‘easy to use’ notepad seemed at first? Apply that attitude to learning vi!

The hard part about learning vi is that it doesn’t have a graphical interface for training wheels. You get right dropped right into a window that doesn’t necessarily want to help you get up and running quickly. So here are a few keyboard shortcuts for vi starting from the equivalents for notepad that are listed above:

New vi newfile
Open vi filename
Save :w[Enter]
Save As :w filename[Enter]
Exit :q
Undo u
Cut y
Paste P
Delete d
Find /text
Find Next n
Replace :%s/search/replace/g
Goto :linenumber
Help F1

Here’s where you, my readers come in. I’ve been looking all over, but I just can’t seem to find replacements for the following commands that have similar function without making things difficult:

Copy ?
Select All ?
Time/Date ?
Word Wrap ?
Font ?
Page Setup ?
Print ?

I assume since these were something I couldn’t find really easily that they are probably configuration settings, somewhere, but I’ve been looking for awhile and no luck.

Also, here is a pretty fantastic cheat sheet for vi (or vim) that I’ve found pretty handy:

vi-vim cheat sheet


Few more announcements: Friday is my birthday, and I’ll be out of town. The the next several days will be pretty quiet. I’ll probably do the 6th edition of Linux Nation tomorrow morning, but that should be all you see from me until Monday, and I’ll be back with a vengeance.

Good news if anyone is keeping up with the times here, girlfriend has been quoted as asking, “can’t we just take off Windows?” Needless to day, that experiment is also going much better than I expected.

Also check out the right sidebar, Atlas carrying the Firefox icon was an idea I came up with, it was all done using Inkscape and GIMP. Let me know what you think of it. If you’re too lazy to scroll up, here it is:

atlas with firefox

See ya next week,


Microsoft Tried To Give Me $20,000 Of Software

Ever heard of the MSDN Academic Alliance?   I never have until I took a class at the local college.  Apparently everyone who takes any sort of Computer Science class gets enrolled in this Microsoft program at this institution.

Check this out:

MSDN Academic Alliance

That’s the list in it’s entirety that I can download for free from my school.  I ran some numbers, and the retail value of all of that is more than $20,000!  That’s more than I’ve spent on tuition so far. 

Ridiculous!   20 Grand worth of software and I can’t even use it… I would need to buy another computer to make use of this stuff, and the girlfriend probably wouldn’t approve of that.