PCs with Compulsorily Bundled Software Should Be Outlawed

The Windows Tax

The Windows Tax

I’ve written about the Microsoft Tax many times before and have even had a minor success with regards to getting it refunded.

Now a fellow Open Source blogger and businessman, Dr Adrian Steel of Mercian Labels, is trying, so far without luck, to get the cost of an unwanted Windows License refunded from a company called Fonestop Ltd. He’s kindly providing an ongoing record of the correspondence between himself and the supplier whilst he seeks a fair refund for the software that he does not want nor require.

This example goes a long way to indicate why the bundling of software and hardware in this way is so wrong. It is incredibly hard to buy a computer in the UK that is not already infected with an inefficient, outdated, expensive, bloated and, still alarmingly, insecure operating system called Microsoft® Windows. It is also becoming increasingly difficult to get even a partial refund due to the updated terms in the EULA that comes with version 7 of the OS (you can read most of the license agreements here):

By using the software, you accept these terms. If you do not accept them, do not use the software. Instead, contact the manufacturer or installer to determine its return policy. You must comply with that policy, which might limit your rights or require you to return the entire system on which the software is installed.

In earlier versions the statement about returning the entire system was not there. Here’s what the Vista EULA said:

By using the software, you accept these terms. If you do not accept them, do not use the software. Instead, contact the manufacturer or installer to determine their return policy for a refund or credit.

Reading Adrian’s struggle to get back the money that is rightfully his makes me quite angry. There are plenty of computer users that do not want or need Windows software when they buy a new computer. Even if they are not aware of the great Free Software operating systems such as Ubuntu or Fedora or many others, they probably already have a perfectly legal and valid CD of Windows in a drawer or cupboard anyway. Even I have a legal and valid Windows XP CD in my office; not that it ever gets used nowadays…

So what’s to be done? I really feel like starting some kind of campaign to get the lawmakers here and across the EU to make this kind of practice illegal. I as a consumer should be able to select and buy any computer I like and decide for myself if I wish to pay for a pre-installed operating system or not. That should be a choice I am free to make. Currently, apart from a few very brave and admirable vendors, I do not have this choice. And now it’s even harder to obtain a refund due to the change in the wording of Microsoft’s EULA.

These Brave and Admirable vendors deserve a mention:

  • Brave because I’m sure that they will come under pressure from businesses like Microsoft to bundle their software and conform to the way that they want you to sell Computers.
  • Admirable because they are standing up for something which is good and noble and may not be the most profitable course for their company to take.

As many of you know we started a website some time ago called Naked Computers to track these Brave and Admirable suppliers around the world. It’s been useful to many but it has been quite quiet recently and it could definitely do with a revamp to make it look more appealing (any WordPress Theme designers fancy knocking up a new look and feel for the site?).

In the UK there is one computer supplier that, in my humble opinion, should be applauded for their attitude: Novatech. I think that every machine they sell from their website or retail outlets are offered with or without an Operating System; it’s your choice. It’s quite interesting to look on their site and see just how expensive Windows really is: ~£70 to ~£800 or more!

Recently I noticed Novatech making a few noises on Twitter and I commented positively on their approach to selling naked computers. This was their reply to me:

@opensourcerer Thanks for recommending us, we sell all systems without operating systems as we like to give our customers a choice.

So come on you lot! Let’s try and come up with a plan, ideas and suggestions as to how to go about fixing this problem once and for all… Our company, The Open Learning Centre can host a wiki or something if needed but please use the comments here to start the ball rolling.

Are there any lawyers out there who fancy a challenge? Want to fight for Freedom and allow consumers to make their own choice rather than be forced to pay for something they frequently neither need nor want?

Finally, for those naive souls who believe that an EULA gives you some protection or guarantees, think again…

How to remove Mono from Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx [Updated]

Monogenea

Monogenea

Monogeneans are ectoparasites, meaning they live on the surface of their host’s body (as opposed to inside of it) and feed mainly on mucus and other detritus. To ensure they do not lose grip of their host, Monogeneans have very highly developed attachment appendages such as suction devices, pincers, hooks or spines. Most species require only one host to complete their life cycle and they are mostly hermaphroditic. Monogeneans are a type of Platyhelminthe (flatworm) and as such have only one “opening” where food is ingested and any waste is expelled.
OK, that’s enough of a biology lesson. If you are reading this then you probably know why you are here already.

To remove Mono from your shiny new desktop installation of Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx enter the following command (after taking the usual precautions like backups of your data etc):

sudo apt-get purge libmono* libgdiplus cli-common libglitz-glx1 libglitz1

[UPDATE: Many thanks to Directhex who pointed out my error regarding the need to remove libsqlite0. I've removed it from the command above. He also requested (you can see in his comment below), that I mention that the mononono package is no longer particularly effective at preventing Mono from being installed. Thanks for the prompt Jo, I was going to but I just forgot.]

This is almost the same one as used for the Karmic Koala release (9.10), and for me the result of the above command was as follows:

The following packages will be REMOVED
cli-common* f-spot* gbrainy* libart2.0-cil* libflickrnet2.2-cil* libgconf2.0-cil* libgdiplus* libglade2.0-cil* libglib2.0-cil* libglitz-glx1* libglitz1* libgmime2.4-cil* libgnome-keyring1.0-cil* libgnome-vfs2.0-cil*
libgnome2.24-cil* libgnomepanel2.24-cil* libgtk2.0-cil* liblaunchpad-integration1.0-cil* libmono-addins-gui0.2-cil* libmono-addins0.2-cil* libmono-cairo2.0-cil* libmono-corlib2.0-cil* libmono-data-tds2.0-cil* libmono-i18n-west2.0-cil* libmono-posix2.0-cil* libmono-security2.0-cil* libmono-sharpzip2.84-cil* libmono-sqlite2.0-cil* libmono-system-data2.0-cil* libmono-system-runtime2.0-cil* libmono-system-web2.0-cil* libmono-system2.0-cil* libmono2.0-cil* libndesk-dbus-glib1.0-cil* libndesk-dbus1.0-cil* libnunit2.4-cil* mono-2.0-gac* mono-gac* mono-runtime* tomboy*
0 upgraded, 0 newly installed, 40 to remove and 0 not upgraded.
After this operation, 49.8MB disk space will be freed.
Do you want to continue [Y/n]?

I chose to accept this and proceeded. Of course YMMV so please check carefully before hitting that enter key. The purge switch of this command removes any configuration files as well as the packages themselves.

Compared to Ubuntu 9.10, in 10.04 there appears to be just one new Mono dependant application called gbrainy (in the Games menu) which is described thus: “a platform to train memory, arithmetical and logical capabilities with many sorts of different exercises of different difficulty levels”.

Unfortunately it appears as though the “training” objective of gbrainy might not be realised…

Over the last year or so, the BBC have carried out an experiment which examined “brain trainer” games. Subsequent analysis of the data found that these brain trainers are an empty promise as reported here in The Guardian:

Practising brain-training games will improve your performance on brain-training games, but that effect will not transfer to other aspects of brain function. They will not make you brainier, so you may as well just pootle around on the internet.

It seems that not much grey matter will be lost by removing the gbrainy package then ;-)

Gnote and Getting Things Gnome

Gnote and Getting Things Gnome

The other applications expunged by removing Mono from the default Desktop installation are the same as last year: F-Spot and Tomboy.

For a very similar alternative to Tomboy try Gnote, and as I like task-related management too I also recommend the excellent GTG [Getting Things Gnome] application. To install these two simply type: sudo apt-get install gnote gtg.

The alternative for F-Spot I usually use is a combination of gthumb and Gimp, the latter of which has been removed from the default Lucid desktop install to make space for other things. Both of these applications can be easily installed by a simple sudo apt-get install gthumb gimp command. However there is now a new kid on the block which looks quite exciting called shotwell. Shotwell will be the default camera/image app in the forthcoming Fedora 13 distribution replacing gthumb (as it has no dependencies on Mono in the default desktop installation). It is also, I was pleased to discover, available in the main Lucid repository so can be installed using either the command line: sudo apt-get install shotwell or you can use the very easy and graphically attractive Ubuntu Software Centre (as you can for the other applications listed above also). This is how Fedora describe Shotwell in the preliminary release notes:

Shotwell is an open source photo organizer designed for the GNOME desktop environment and has replaced Gthumb by default in Fedora 13. It supports the following features:

  • import photos from any digital camera supported by gPhoto
  • automatically organize events containing photos taken at the same time
  • use tags to organize your photo collection
  • edit non-destructively when altering photos, without ruining originals or using disk space for each copy
  • publish photos to Facebook, Flickr or Picasa
  • one-click auto-enhancement
  • rotate, mirror, and crop photos
  • reduce red-eye and adjust the exposure, saturation, tint, and temperature of your photos
  • edit any photo, even if it’s not imported to the Shotwell library

I haven’t used Shotwell yet but it sounds like a good one to try out.

There you have it and hopefully that will be it for another 6 months on this subject.

Miserware Energy Saving Software now cross-platform

Perhaps you will recall the Miserware power saving software I blogged about last year?

I’m still running it on all of my machines here and it has been great – I really don’t notice it at all. It just sits in the background and according to the logs is saving between ~20% & ~60% power consumption by my various CPUs. And that’s just what it should do.

Miserware have just (18th Jan 2010) started a new trial programme to celebrate the introduction of the first Beta of the power saving software for that [ahem] other OS, Windows. The trial itself and entry into a competition to win iPod Nanos or Asus PCs is open from today and the Micromiser software is available for: Vista, Windows 7, Windows XP, Debian 4.0, 5.0, unstable, Fedora 8, 9, 10, 11, RHEL 4.7, 5.3, SLES 10 and Ubuntu 7.04, 8.04, 8.10, 9.04, 9.10.

If you want to try it out and join in the trial and competition just follow this link to sign up.

Note: Do please note that (on Linux at least – am not sure about Windows as I don’t use it) there is a script you should run after installation called mw-feedback. It sends back textual information about your hardware. This is a plain text file of mine for Lobsang so you can see what it contains. The purpose is so they can identify any hardware issues with the beta software and also verify the widest range of solutions for which the product is suitable.

Redhat/Fedora drops Mono

It will come as no surprise to regular readers that I am heartily encouraged by this small snippet of news I picked up via Twitter this afternoon (thanks Roy)

From the Fedora Mailing List:

I have now changed the default panel configuration in F12 to include gnote instead of tomboy, and changed comps to make gnote default and tomboy optional.

This won’t replace tomboy in existing installations, but new installations will get gnote instead of tomboy.

This also means that gnote should show up on the live cd (where we excluded tomboy previously, due to no space for mono).

And further on the Wiki we see:

Gnote is installed by default in GNOME for this release replacing Tomboy. Gnote is a port of Tomboy from Mono to C++ and consumes less resources. Gnote is both an applet that can sit in your GNOME panel as well as a individual application you can run within other desktop environments. Fedora Desktop Live CD excluded Mono in the last releases due to lack of space. Gnote will be installed by default in the Live CD as well in this release. Tomboy is still available as a optional alternative.

This is the right thing to do IMHO. I have no problem with Mono being available in the repos for those who wish to use it. I would however much prefer that it is not installed by default on my distribution of choice.

Roy also posted a good article this morning explaining some of the key issues which make Mono such a bitter pill for many. If you care about what software you use, it is well worth reading.

Also, if you want to know how to remove Mono from your Ubuntu distribution:

Update on Miserware Beta – Power Saving on Linux

It’s well over a week now since I started using the Miserware MicroMiser software. I have it installed on all the Ubuntu PCs we have at home and on two laptops too. I have noticed no adverse effects from running the software. In fact you really do forget it is there. (The Micromiser software is packaged and available for easy install on Debian and it’s many derivatives, Fedora, RHEL, and SLES too so you are not limited to just Ubuntu’s Linux)

When I’m travelling around London (as I did quite a bit this week) I tend to take my 10″ webbook netbook device as it is lightweight and easy to cart around. For comms, I have a 3G dongle that gives me Internet access from virtually anywhere. [Ask Daviey just how handy that was the other day ;-) ]

Now, this is by no means a scientific result and I haven’t had time to actually do a proper comparison with and without the Miserware code, but I reckon I’m getting around 30mins more life from the battery since running the Micromiser software. Before installing the code I was getting between an hour to an hour and a half or so of battery life, so I guess that that would equate to an average improvement of around a third.

Those 3G devices get really hot after being on for an hour! They make a really nice hand warmer in the winter though ;-) My lappy is running Ubuntu 9.04 desktop.

The Beta trial is still active and running and Miserware are very happy to have more subscribers sign-up. So If you would like an invite, leave a comment here and I’ll get on it asap.

One point that came up from a couple of people who were interested in taking part in the trial was to do with some restrictions on what you could say publicly about your observations. I am happy to say that Miserware have updated the license to be a little clearer and allow for more information disclosure. Here’s the text of the mail (with obfuscated email address) I received regarding the changes:

Dear MicroMiser beta participant,

Thank you for your involvement in the MicroMiser beta! The response so far has been tremendous and well beyond our expectations. The information we are getting when you run the mw-feedback script is really helping us improve our products and documentation.

The license you agreed to when registering for the beta said you needed permission from MiserWare to publish data reported by our software. We would like to lift this requirement to some extent by allowing you to share performance and power numbers reported by MicroMiser. More precisely our lawyers told us to say it like this:

“You are hereby authorized to disclose information regarding the performance of the MicroMiser software, provided that such information is provided to you in a MicroMiser software report.”

This includes any information (including energy savings information) provided by MicroMiser in any of its log files and/or information reported in tools such as the mw-feedback script which reports system specific information to MiserWare thereby aiding future development and earning you points in the incentive program.

Several folks have asked about benchmarking against other power management software. With regard to benchmarking, we want to clarify the intent of the license. Our intent was not to preclude benchmarking altogether, but to ensure the measurement methodology is fair to all parties. More precisely, our lawyers told us to paste both permissions together:

“You are hereby authorized to disclose information regarding the performance of the MicroMiser software, (i) provided that such information is provided to you in a MicroMiser software report, or (ii) provided that such information is obtained using techniques approved in writing by MiserWare.”

There is no need for you to sign another license agreement as these clarifications simply give you additional permissions under the original license.

These clarifications are the result of your feedback. Please continue to send your comments to f–db–k at miserware dot com . We promise to keep listening.

Regards,

MiserWare

So, if you want to help these guys with their Beta, and get on the incentive program too (I’ve just won and received a really cool green iPod Nano) simply leave me a short comment below.

Power Saving Software for Linux

My friend Alan sent me an invitation to sign up for a beta trial of MiserWare‘s MicroMiser power saving software.

MiserWare MicroMiser is an intelligent software power management solution for x86 servers, laptops, and PCs running Linux. MicroMiser automatically optimizes a system to use energy more efficiently without compromising performance or availability. The MicroMiser Power Management Daemon (see below) when installed on a server, laptop, or PC, matches the energy consumed by the system to the load on the system automatically. MicroMiser typically lowers total system energy use by 10-35% even when a system is 100% utilized. MicroMiser also tracks the energy saved for use in estimating cost savings and carbon emission reductions.

I have installed it on 4 PCs so far and all seems to be fine. Installation is very simple as the download is in a deb or rpm package.

I am especially interested to monitor any battery-life performance improvements on my laptop computers and any savings to my always-on–home-server will be most appreciated. The site has downloads for most of the recent Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, RHEL, and SLES distributions.

It appears to work on VIA C7 chips, and Intel Core2 8X00 and mobile T5000 series. Well, it does for me.

As you can see above, the company claim between 10 and 35% power savings with this software which is definately not to be sneezed at in these frugal times.

If you would like to take part in the beta, leave a comment below (I need your email address, which is not shown if you just fill in the comment form boxes) and I will endeavour to get you an invite.

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