Jun 30, 2014 GMTFifteen years ago this week, free software became a major part of my life. It was a change that took me to places I never imagined, and introduced me to people I otherwise would never have met, almost none of which I regret.At the time, I wasn't a complete stranger to free software. I had tried installing Linux a couple of times without any success. My last contract, too, had been documenting a Slackware system, even though it had been described to me, somewhat misleadingly, as a type of Unix.Then, I went to an apparently routine job interview that turned out to be for a writer for a new distribution. By the time the interview was over, I had fallen down the rabbit hole.As Stan Rogers...
Off the Beat: Bruce Byfield's Blog
Jun 27, 2014 GMTLast week, I did a fresh install of Fedora for the first time in several years. The installer, I noticed immediately, had become an example of minimalism -- that is, its screens were heavy on the visual and as light as possible on the words. Almost immediately, I found myself fumbling, trapped in an presentation of information that was foreign to me, and wondering how intellectually limited I must be that I had trouble with such a simple design.At first, I thought the problem was that I am far more verbally oriented than visually. Unlike many people, I never thought found the Debian installer that difficult -- even before the current version was introduced. If anything, the Debian...
Jun 18, 2014 GMTMost modern email readers support encryption, but that's only half the story. Despite the growing public interest in security and privacy, most readers are still designed on the principle that if you want encryption, you will have no trouble figuring how to configure it.To say the least, this is an ungrounded assumption. All too often, poor documentation and interface design, as well as complicated procedures conspire to keep encrypted email out of the reach of all but the expert or patient few. A little research may tell you that you need a PGP public key, but how easy is it to made your email reader aware of the key?Here's how seven of the most popular email readers on Linux answer that...
Jun 10, 2014 GMTThe Free Software Foundation (FSF) took a step in the right direction when it recently released Email Self-Defense, a guide to encrypting email using Enigmail and GNUPG. More screen shots might improve it, but on the whole it's a clear and well-organized explanation of a topic that puzzles even some intermediate users. I suspect, however, that to get people to encrypt email is not so much a matter of releasing clear instructions -- many of which already exist -- as a matter of overcoming deeply embedded attitudes.Admittedly, privacy and personal security have become popular topics in the media over the last couple of years. However, to conclude from this popularity that people actually...
May 30, 2014 GMTBy now, you may have read Mozilla's reluctant decision to ship with the ability to support Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) in Firefox. You may have read, too, the Free Software Foundation's condemnation of Mozilla's decision. Consequently, you may be starting to look for a DRM-free replacement for Firefox.Mozilla's announcement seems to have caught many projects off-guard. However, here are five leading alternatives: SeamonkeySeamonkey bundles a web browser, mail reader, HTML editor and chat application all into one. The project has close ties to Mozilla, and its browser is based upon a relatively recent version of Firefox.Seamonkey did not reply to my request for comment, but its...
May 25, 2014 GMTPositioning picture has been a problem ever since LibreOffice and OpenOffice were OpenOffice.org -- and possibly before. Inserting graphics is no problem, but try to anchor, align, or indent, and the picture changes position, sometimes by a matter of centimeters, but just as often jumping to a different place entirely on the page, leaving users frustrated and uncertain about the solution.Over the years, some palliatives have been discovered. Power Users know that things are more likely to go wrong with the default anchor, To paragraph, and will replace it with As character instead. Often, too, users are unaware that adding a caption throws a frame around a graphic, and choose one when...
May 22, 2014 GMTApple has its Myriad, and IBM its Bodoni. In recent years, though, it has been the turn of free software projects to adopt a typeface as part of their identity.The use of typefaces in branding is nothing new, of course. A consistently used font can immediately suggest a company or group, even to people who have no conscious awareness of typography.However, such concerns are new to free software. The fact that they are becoming common now reflects, perhaps, the increased interest in design and usability encouraged by major projects like Ubuntu and GNOME. A well-chosen font can both complement a theme and increase legibility on the desktop.But the best thing about the branding fonts of free...
Carnegie Mellon researchers say 3 million pages could fall down the phishing hole in the next year.
The US government rolls new best-practice rules for protecting SSH.
Klaus Knopper announces the latest version of his iconic Live Linux system.
All websites that use these popular CMS tools could be vulnerable to denial of service attacks if users don't install the updates.
According to a report, many potential victims of the Heartbleed attack have patched their systems, but few have cleaned up the crime scene to protect themselves from the effects of a previous intrusion.
DARPA and NICTA release the code for the ultra-secure microkernel system used in aerial drones.
Should you trust an online service to store your online passwords?
New B+ board lets you build cool things without the complication of a powered USB hub.
Redmond rushes in to root out alleged malware haven.
New initiative will bring futuristic virtual reality effects to the web surfing experience.