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I’ve been doing a bit of playing about with OpenSolaris Belenix (yet another Unix-based OS, but this time based on Sun’s commercial Solaris product). If you’re interested, I got it off the cover DVD of the latest edition of Linux Format (Issue 79).

I’d really love to get stuck in to OpenSolaris and do the old Apache, PHP and MySQL compile to get myself acquainted with the system, but at the moment I can’t seem to get a network connection. At all.

And that is a shame as it means I can’t really run a web server. I’ll keep you posted.

RenameIt – my second OSS app

First of all, yes, I cross-posted again. I’m sorry, but that story was big and I couldn’t be bothered rephrasing it just for this blog.

Now, onto the subject of RenameIt. Now I’ve been needing to do some batch renaming of photos recently on Windows, so I thought I would build a batch renaming tool. Yes, I could have downloaded one of the many already built freeware ones, but, where’s the fun in that??

So I set about using Visual Basic 2005 Express Edition to make a batch renaming application which would be fully open source under the GPL.

And my result can be downloaded, both an installer and the VB source files. Enjoy, and if you like it, post a comment. It does need the .NET Framework 2.0 installed to run. No, it’s not cross-platform, but Linux has many open source batch renamers (KRename, for example), and I don’t yet have a Mac.

Get the installer here.
Get the source code here.

Apple Boot Camp

Apple have officially released Boot Camp, a public beta version of a patch to make Intel-powered Macs to run Windows. Yes, you read that correctly, Apple released a patch to run Windows on the Mac.

The patch works a bit like the hacked-up bootloader for Windows XP, developed by some enthusiasts to try and get Windows running on some Macs, which was largely a success. Boot Camp, however, provides a GUI (graphical user interface) for installing Microsoft Windows alongside Mac OS X. From the official Apple press release:

Available as a download beginning today, Boot Camp allows users with a Microsoft Windows XP installation disc to install Windows XP on an Intel-based Mac®, and once installation is complete, users can restart their computer to run either Mac OS® X or Windows XP. Boot Camp will be a feature in ‘‘Leopard’,Â’ Apple’Â’s next major release of Mac OS X, that will be previewed at Apple’Â’s Worldwide Developer Conference in August.

So in Mac OS X Leopard, you will have a dual boot system built directly into the Mac operating system. Apple go on to say that:

“Apple has no desire or plan to sell or support Windows, but many customers have expressed their interest to run Windows on Apple’Â’s superior hardware now that we use Intel processors,” said Philip Schiller.

This seems quite a big step to take for Apple, who seem to be embracing the idea that people will switch to Mac if they can run their Windows applications at the same time. Robert Scoble (a Microsoft employee) seems to think that Apple are listening to bloggers, and have made this decision as a direct result of what people want, thinking it might boost Mac sales.

Will it boost Mac sales, and get more people using Macs? Or will people just buy nice-looking hardware to run Windows on? It seems only time will tell what this momentous move by Apple will do for it, or against it. No official word from Microsoft about this yet, but I’ll follow up when there’s news.

[Cross-post at Gizbuzz]

Mod_rewrite trouble

OK, this is really starting to irritate me now. I’ve been playing around trying to get Apache’s mod_rewrite to behave and I’m having no luck, I’ve Googled and visited about every single mod_rewrite tutorial there is, so I’m starting to lose patience now.

I’ll get there eventually.

What? Vista blocked in the EU? Not likely

According to the Unofficial Windows Vista Weblog, the EU aren’t happy about some of the new integrated features planned for Windows Vista. You can read that story here (I wrote this one at Gizbuzz), here (the Vista Weblog) and here (Yahoo News).

To be honest, I think that the Vista Weblog have blown this a little out of proportion. I think that it might be likely that Microsoft be forced by the EU to remove some of the new bundled features of Windows Vista (perhaps Windows Defender, their anti-spyware client?) just for Europe. As I mentioned, they were forced to do this before, with Windows Media Player, and ‘N’ versions of Windows XP were released in Europe without WMP. If anything comes of this story, it will be that Microsoft might have to do the same thing again with the disputed features (probably Windows Defender, or Windows DVD Maker or one of those new programs).

However, the EU might be a little more harsh about it, and say that they must remove the features for all copies of Vista shipped in the EU, and have the bundled products sold separately.

Anyway, it remains to be seen, and this story might still be speculative. So there’s your warning, don’t rely on these sources to be 100% accurate (I’ve already said this in my post).

My Firefox Extensions

Just in case anyone’s interested (unlikely, I know), these are the Firefox extensions that I have installed. I’ve taken this screenshot from my Windows box, but they’re also installed (with the exception of IE Tab), on my SUSE and Fedora Core Linux setups.

I’m now going to go through and say what I find useful about each one.

DOM Inspector:

Comes with Firefox I think, so I don’t really know about this one.

Firefox Showcase:

This is a really cool extension, a bit like IE7’s Quick Tabs that allows you to see and organise all your currently opened tabs/windows with a press of F12. I originally blogged about this here, back in February, but I still think it’s cool.

Download here


Another one that comes with Firefox, for sending bug reports back to Mozilla. Not too interesting really.

IE Tab

This is useful for those stupid sites that don’t work properly in Firefox, and you’re forced to use the dreaded IE (just be careful of the security vulnerabilities). It loads the desired page inside a Firefox tab, just using the IE rendering engine. Of course, this one works only on Windows, so it does mean those stupid sites might force me to use a different computer. Grrr. Open standards, people.

Download here

User Agent Switcher

This is the first place to go if a stupid site says “please open this page in Internet Explorer and try again”. Grrrrrr. It simply switches the User-agent header sent by Firefox, so it can ‘pretend’ to be IE, while really still being Firefox. Most stupid sites work when you do this, so that’s why it comes first. And cross-platform too.

Download here


This is so cool, and really should already be in Firefox. Hopefully something like this will get into Firefox 2.0. What it does is it creates a nice GUI view of an RSS or Atom feed, so that if you view a feed directly (for example it will display a nice Safari-esque page with the latest stories ordered by date, rather than the ugly XML source. Go on, try it.

Download here

Google Toolbar for Firefox

Extends on the Firefox search box with PageRank display, convenient access to Google Desktop, Blogger, Gmail etc. and it’s looks just a bit cool as well.

Download here

Google Safe Browsing

Now this is very nice. A neat anti-phishing extension from Google, exclusive to Firefox that gives you an alert if you are on a suspected phishing site. I’ve never needed to use it yet, but it’s always good to know you’re safe. Privacy people/paranoids, you might want to steer clear as it does have to send the URLs you visit to Google, although they promise they don’t keep this information.

Download here


Quite cool, it gives you a ‘visual history’ with screenshots of pages you’ve visited, for example, hovering over the back button shows a mini-screenshot of what the last page you visited looks like. Very useful if you forget what a site’s called, but you know what it looks like. It also has a handy triple-click magnifying glass feature, so you can get closer to your webpage.

Download here

Finally, the extension for the popular Web 2.0 social bookmarking service It gives you tagging features built directly into Firefox with a tag button for your toolbar and new menu. Admittedly, I don’t use this that much, but it does come in useful from time to time.

Download here

Whew! Well, there’s my Firefox extensions, I’d love to see some comments sharing your favourites too.

Text Editor

OK, I’ve been meaning to do this for a while. A while ago I started building a very small project in Visual Basic 2005 Express Edition (for Windows only, I’m afraid). It was basically going to be a Notepad replacement with some really cool features. It has got the really rubbish name of Text Editor, and I’ve finally decided to release what I’ve done so far to the community.

So here it is, fully open source and licensed under the GPL.

Get the installer here.
Get the source code here.

Enjoy, and I hope to make it even better soon. Use it at your own risk, though and it does need the .NET Framework 2.0.


I’ve started work on a new web development project. As ever, details at the moment will be sketchy. All I can tell you is that it’s codenamed Kite, and it’s going to hopefully be a next-generation instant messaging system (currently only by a web interface), but with an interesting twist.

I’m currently doing preliminary tests on the concepts behind Kite, and have already built a basic 2-user Ajax-powered messaging system, with more to come soon.

Stay tuned for info on Kite…

France, you rule!

I know this isn’t a new story, but French police are switching their desktops from using Internet Explorer to Mozilla Firefox. They’ve also switched from Microsoft Office to Now this is progress; c’est fantastique (sorry). France seem to be the only country in Europe to actually recognise there is an alternative to using Windows, IE and MS Office (hey, a new acronym – WIM). I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with using Microsoft solutions, I’m just saying that it’s wrong when everyone uses Microsoft solutions. It’s like putting all your eggs in one basket, although it’s already happened around the world (MS advocates/employees, I’m posting this using Windows and Firefox and have Microsoft Office Outlook open).

Also, the French financial government department are evaluating a move to their desktops to Linux. Considering Microsoft’s ad campaigns about “lower TCO with Windows”, you’d think financiers among all people would know about TCO, wouldn’t you? It remains to be seen what their decision will be.

Also, considering the latest draft law to open up DRM submitted by French MPs (see my previous post), it seems the French know where it’s at, and are pushing in the right direction to create open standards.

Before the Microsoft and Apple people start yelling at me again, I’m not against proprietary software. I use proprietary software and open source stuff every day (both willingly). I think there is a place for proprietary and a place for open source. What I don’t agree with is when companies lock open source solutions out of new and emerging technologies, by closing their standards and patenting stuff.

Open standards are great. Think about it; the only reason the internet is as popular as it is today is because it is based on open standards. TCP/IP, HTTP and HTML can all be understood and built into by any platform. Imagine what it would be like if one company controlled all these standards with, say, a patent. Open source would immediately be locked out for a start, if a patent was involved, and other companies would end up having to pay fees. People would have to pay this parent company to set up a website, to use their technology. We’d be in a mess, basically.

So make your choice about what solution to use. Choose the solution that is best for the job, whether that be a proprietary solution or an open source solution. But, please, be aware of the alternatives and if you’re pushing the next-generation internet, make it an open standard. Thanks, the [open source] community thank you, and it’ll probably be more popular too.

French draft law to open DRM

I know, I really should have learnt my lesson about cross-posting by now, but this is a quite interesting story that I found and posted, and it will be interesting to see what the response of Microsoft and Apple to this, as I’m sure they won’t like it.

As I explained, it’s Apple’s marketing strategy to lock iTunes to the iPod, and Microsoft’s to sell out their standards to hardware manufacturers, but neither will enjoy releasing source code, or whatever it is that the French law advises.

Still, in my opinion it’s a good move for the French to take, as there can be nothing wrong with having open standards that all platforms can tap into. Hey, it might even get WMA DRM and iTunes music on Linux…