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…

Follow-up post to Canonical Microsoft

Oh dear.

It seems as though I completely failed to make the point I was trying to make. Sorry.

With the question “Is Canonical becoming the new Microsoft?”, I was trying to ask if the overall level of “bad-karma” that is being directed toward Ubuntu/Canonical was potentially making it into the next entity that the world loves to hate? I wasn’t (as I did actually try to say) interested in the individual issues I listed, but the cumulative level of criticism which, as we all know, Microsoft gets in spades; even though they still manage to sell $20bn of crap software in a quarter.

Nor was I trying to ascertain if Canonical were becoming a global monopoly or an evil empire lead by a sad fat bastard called Steve. I really was just interested in the increasing level of criticism and if there is any likely parallel with firms like Microsoft who are successful (on a financial level at any rate) and yet are hated around the globe by almost everyone I ever speak to.

On a secondary note though, the overall quality of comments was great! The vast majority were well considered and articulated and didn’t turn me into a quivering wreck nor require me to don asbestos pants. Thanks!

It’s definitely working…

My eldest son James, who’s 9, suggested something to me on Saturday morning over breakfast that made me quite proud and very chuffed.

The conversation went something like this:

“Dad, I think you should come to our school and talk to us about what you do. You know, Ubuntu and Open Source and all that.”

“Really James? Do you think so?”

“Yes, you’d have to be CRB checked [sic], but you could come and explain about Ubuntu. If Mr. Jeffs [The Headmaster] knew about it we’d have more money to spend on useful things for the school.”

“That’s interesting James, what do you mean?”

“Well, Ubuntu is free isn’t it. So we wouldn’t have to buy Microsoft Windows any more. And it is better than Windows isn’t it. And it doesn’t get viruses like Windows either does it Dad. So I’m sure Mr. Jeffs would think that it’s a really good thing…”

UbuntuBoth my kids use Ubuntu at home; they are 5 & 9. They skip easily between Ubuntu & the Windows machines they use at school and with their friends. They also switch without difficulty between applications too. When necessary James does his homework in OpenOffice.org and takes a USB stick to school with the files saved in a nasty proprietary format.

Seems like I’d better write a nice letter to Mr Jeffs then hadn’t I?

How to remove Mono from Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala [Updated]

AkhenatenI’ve been mildly intrigued as to why the volume of background noise and character assassination that has surrounded Mono has been on the wane over the last few months. Consequently, I started wondering if there were any obvious reasons for this outbreak of pacifism in what has sometimes seemed like a debating chamber for differing groups of religious fundamentalists.

Some of it is surely to do with Microsoft’s Community Promise made back in July 2009, but I doubt that is really the only reason for the attenuation. I do wonder if Mono might just simply be losing some of its lustre. In August Blackduck reported how the amount of code being written for FOSS projects using C# was pretty negligible at just 1.33% and that growth in C# usage over a 12 month period was virtually zero.

There were also some rather nasty and personal attacks which did nothing to help our community at large nor the reputation of the individuals’ concerned so maybe people have consciously, or subconsciously, decided to just shut-up for a while?

Quite recently Microsoft, along with Intel, announced that they will ship Silverlight on Linux as opposed to using the Microsoft/Novell sponsored Mono project called Moonlight. OK, admittedly this announcement was only for Moblin Linux, but hey, since when has Microsoft ever been transparent about it’s long term objectives or plans? Perhaps, Mono and Moonlight were just too heavyweight for Moblin devices (netbooks and smart-phones typically), or maybe there is more to it. It could be a very good start to a typical Microsoft "Embrace, Extend & Extinguish" strategy. Who knows? But it certainly isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement of Mono and Moonlight is it?

The awkward question: If it’s that easy to port Microsoft Silverlight to Linux, why does the Moonlight project exist at all?

“I’m really clear about our commitment to Moonlight. I see the work we’re doing with Miguel and Moonlight as core to our strategy for delivering implementations for Linux,” says Goldfarb, protesting, perhaps, a little too much. ®

Anyhow, my personal opinion of Mono hasn’t changed much. There are no Mono applications in Ubuntu that make me go weak at the knees and get all excited; far from it in fact:

  • I’ve never really had any need for Tomboy at all and since discovering Getting Things Gnome my jotted notes and todos all go in this great little Python task keeping application anyway. If you have used, or ever wanted to use Tomboy in the past however there is now a clone written in C++ called Gnote. This is in the Karmic “universe” repository and can be installed either from Synaptic, the new Ubuntu Software Centre (now spelt correctly if you use an en_GB locale) or by typing sudo apt-get install gnote.
  • When I last used F-Spot, which was probably back in Gutsy or Hardy days I reckon, it annoyed me that the application wouldn’t automatically delete the pictures off my camera after importing. GThumb did and always has; so no big deal there then. There is also a new kid on the block called Solang that is in the Karmic repos too. I haven’t tried it in anger myself yet but I’ve heard good things from others.
  • Media Players/Managers? “Banshee!” I hear you cry. Well, I’ve never tried it because I don’t have Mono on my Ubuntu desktop or laptops so I can’t say if I like or not as an application. On my Ubuntu machines, the only music player I have tried and actually really liked, is Songbird. There are still a few features missing, but the forthcoming 1.4 release is looking like it will plug some of these gaps. Songbird looks, feels and works fine for my needs.

On the 15th October a very important figure in our community penned his own contribution to this discussion. Jeremy Allison, of Samba fame, wrote a well considered letter essentially calling on the major GNU/Linux distributions to move Mono outside of their default and core repositories. It’s something others, including myself, have discussed before, but likely with a lot less weight than Jeremy’s comments will surely carry.

… I think it is time for the Mono implementation and applications that use it to be moved into the “risky” category, until the patent situation around it is deemed to be truly safe to use by default in Free Software.

Microsoft isn’t playing games any more by merely threatening to assert patents. Real lawsuits have now occurred and the gloves are off against Free Software. Moving Mono and its applications to the “restricted” repositories is now just plain common sense.

Anyway, back to the reason for this post.

In the latest, shiniest, bestest, release of Ubuntu to date, and it really is a cracking release, the desktop version of Karmic Koala (version 9.10) contains two Mono dependent applications in the default install along with the Mono VM and associated libraries etc.

Now, this time, we have 3 ways to go Mono free:

  1. Visit Jo Shield’s blog and get Chicken Little Remix (CLR). Chicken Little Remix (CLR) provides a solution for users who wish to use Ubuntu but would prefer it to not contain any Mono-based software. This 2nd release of CLR, based on Ubuntu 9.10, comes as a livecd with it’s own unique desktop wallpaper and also features replacement applications where appropriate.
  2.  

  3. Use the KDE based Kubuntu instead of Ubuntu, which uses Gnome. (Thanks Mark for pointing out my omission in the comments below)
  4.  

  5. Install the regular Ubuntu distribution and then remove the applications and their supporting packages*. The simple command required goes like this [Update] Thanks to Jo who mentioned the 3 libraries that should also be removed [/Update]:

    sudo apt-get purge libmono* libgdiplus cli-common libsqlite0 libglitz-glx1 libglitz1

    Which should reply with something similar to:

    The following packages will be REMOVED
    cli-common* f-spot* libart2.0-cil* libflickrnet2.2-cil* libgconf2.0-cil*
    libgdiplus* libglade2.0-cil* libglib2.0-cil* libgmime2.2a-cil*
    libgnome-keyring1.0-cil* libgnome-vfs2.0-cil* libgnome2.24-cil*
    libgnomepanel2.24-cil* libgtk2.0-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-web2.0-cil*
    libmono-system2.0-cil* libmono2.0-cil* libndesk-dbus-glib1.0-cil*
    libndesk-dbus1.0-cil* mono-2.0-gac* mono-gac* mono-runtime* tomboy*
    0 upgraded, 0 newly installed, 34 to remove and 0 not upgraded.
    After this operation, 47.8MB disk space will be freed.
    Do you want to continue [Y/n]?

NB: This command was tested on a default installation. The purge switch is designed to remove configuration data too. If you have any important information on your system that might be dependent on these applications, please do your research and backup or copy it first. I test the command in a clean Virtual Machine build before using it on a live system: YMMV.

* If you are aware of any other packages that can, or should be removed, please let me know and I will update the post.

Depending on your vigilance or need, you may wish to install the package called Mononono which will keep a look out for you and alert you if an application tries to install any Mono components.

For those of you who do not happen to be scholars of ancient Egyptian history, the picture at the top of this article is of the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten regarded by some as the first Monotheist:

Akhenaten tried to bring about a departure from traditional religion that in the end would not be accepted. After his death, traditional religious practice was gradually restored, and when some dozen years later rulers without clear rights of succession from the Eighteenth Dynasty founded a new dynasty, they discredited Akhenaten and his immediate successors, referring to Akhenaten himself as ‘the enemy’ in archival records.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia under several free licences.

Our Windows 7 Special Offer

This post is a “reprint” of an email we have just sent to the subscriber list for our Liberation newsletter. The audience is largely UK based businesses and public sector organisations. Should you wish to receive Liberation, you can subscribe here and please feel free to pass it on.


Today, Microsoft invite you to part with your hard-earned cash and upgrade your computers to Windows 7®. If you are one of the majority still using Windows XP, then moving to Windows 7 may not be a pleasant or inexpensive task…

Surprisingly there isn’t actually a way to upgrade your computer from Windows XP to Windows 7 in the traditional sense. You’ll need to back up all your data, re-format the hard-drive and start again from scratch.

Windows doesn’t store your documents, personal information, historical data, emails, passwords, cookies, preferences, settings etc. in one place. So backing up and rebuilding Windows computers is a very time-consuming and complicated process:

  • Work our how many licenses you need then go and pay for them
  • Buy some new storage for all the temporary backup space you’ll need
  • Back up everything on every computer
  • Install the basic operating system
  • Find and install the right hardware drivers for your machine(s). Much hardware may not yet have suitable Windows 7 drivers
  • Register and Activate each new computer, requires you to have network access
  • Find all the disks and license keys for the applications you use, then re-install them. If they are still compatible that is
  • Install & configure the drivers and software for printers and other peripherals. Many peripherals may also not yet have suitable drivers
  • Copy your data and settings etc. back to all the right places on the new system.

Plan for this process taking anywhere between 4 and 8 hours for each and every computer you have.

Gartner estimates that real migration costs will be between $1,035 & $1,930 per user from Windows XP to Windows 7.

Why can’t I upgrade?

Windows 7 Upgrades

Windows 7 Upgrades

That is a good question, and one that we have not seen a good answer to. Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal asked Microsoft about upgrade paths and was sent this matrix showing all the different ways you can’t upgrade from other versions of Windows to Windows 7 (Blue = No upgrade, rip out and replace. Green = in-place upgrade).

Microsoft have also provided a document explaining the same thing in words. There is no upgrade path from any of the following operating systems:

Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows Millennium Edition, Windows XP, Windows Vista® RTM, Windows Vista Starter, Windows 7 M3, Windows 7 Beta, Windows 7 RC, or Windows 7 IDS, Windows NT® Server 4.0, Windows 2000 Server, Windows Server® 2003, Windows Server 2008, or Windows Server 2008 R2.

That’s a complete mess. What can I do then?

You could do nothing and stay on Windows XP for as long as possible. Although we think this will be a very popular choice, staying on a nearly 10 year old OS probably isn’t the best policy for a forward thinking organisation.

You do have a choice

Ubuntu Solution Provider

As you are going to have to rip out and replace your computers’ operating systems anyway, now is a real Carpe Diem opportunity to investigate an alternative (or two) whilst considering your options.

The Open Learning Centre recommends that your organisation investigates the many benefits offered by a modern Linux-based desktop operating system such as Ubuntu. As an authorised Ubuntu partner we can help your organisation with evaluation, installation, testing, migration, implementation, training and support services.

Ubuntu Desktop

Ubuntu Desktop

Ubuntu is a modern, stable, reliable and secure computing platform that includes most of the applications we all use every day, such as a compatible office suite (Word-processing, Spreadsheets, Presentations) OpenOffice.org, email and calendaring, web browsing and image manipulation tools.

Best of all, Ubuntu is free:

Ubuntu is and always will be free of charge. You do not pay any licensing fees. You can download, use and share Ubuntu with your friends, family, school or business for absolutely nothing.

The retail price for a single Windows 7 Professional license is £219.99 and it’s £229.99 for the Ultimate version. This doesn’t include applications either.

Our Offer: On-Site Ubuntu Installation and Training

The Open Learning Centre will visit your premises, install Ubuntu on a suitable computer, and provide approximately 2-3 hours (i.e approx half a working day) of professional training and advice on Ubuntu for £229.991 (inc. VAT). An outline of the training is available on our website. Please contact us to book your Introduction to Ubuntu.

Open your mind to Open Source software today

1. Depending on your location we may need to charge extra for travelling expenses etc.

More book reviews and what I’ve been up to…

I just noticed that I hadn’t posted anything here for what feels like ages – since August the 15th.

So I thought, hmmm, better write something.

But what? A quick update on what’s been going on perhaps? That’ll do…

I’ve been working quite a bit with the brilliant free and open source vtiger CRM recently. Looking at some of the less widely used features and updating our training materials for the recent 5.10 release. I’ve also just submitted a small patch for the Customer Portal feature, to do with its web layout and have been thinking about how best to improve this, and the Webforms modules, to make them easier to customise.

I am also really enjoying using a great little python application called “Getting Things Gnome“. It one of those simple applications which does one job, does it very well and is easy to use. It’s basically an app for jotting down your todo list and making sure you get things done… Here’s what it looks like on my Ubuntu Jaunty desktop:

Getting Things Gnome

Getting Things Gnome

I also had a mail from those nice people at Packt Publishing suggesting two new books to look at and review for them, In fact a co-author of one of them actually requested that Packt contact me to do a review :-) Flattery indeed.

So, we now have four books in the pipeline in no particular order:

Joomla! and Virtuemart

Joomla! and Virtuemart

Building ecommerce sites with Joomla! and Virtuemart. I haven’t started on this one yet, but if you want to buy it direct from Packt just follow this link and we’ll get a few pennies in commission.
Alfresco 3

Alfresco 3

My partner-in-crime at The Open Learning Centre, Alan Bell, is reviewing this book on the also brilliant Alfresco ECMS (Enterprise Content Management System). We’ve just set up a 3.2 community install on one of our own servers and the new interface – called Alfresco Share – is really very cool indeed. Once again if you can’t wait we have a link to Packt’s on-line store where you can purchase the book.
FreePBX 2.5

FreePBX 2.5

Here’s one of the new ones we’ve been asked to take a look at. FreePBX is a very popular GUI to the even more popular Asterisk telephony platform. I am very much looking forward to reviewing this one and the next book. FreePBX 2.5 is available now from Packt’s on-line store.
The Professional's Guide to Asterisk 1.4

The Professional's Guide to Asterisk 1.4

I really like the sound of this one:

Implementing, Administering, and Consulting on Commercial IP Telephony Solutions

  • Written by four Asterisk Professionals, this book brings their years of experience together in an easy-to-understand guide to working with Asterisk in small, medium and larger Commercial environments
  • Packed with hints, tips, and best practice – learn to avoid the pitfalls that can hinder an Asterisk implementation
  • Focused chapters provide thorough, comprehensive, and self-contained instructions on how to deploy Asterisk across different commercial scenarios

This will probably be the first one I read when they arrive next week. It’s hot-off the press, just been released and can be ordered from Packt’s web site here.

My little Asus 1008HA netbook is running very happily with the Alpha build of Ubuntu Karmic Koala. I was at the swimming pool yesterday (not in it but taking my son to his lesson) and using 3G mobile internet to get on line. Battery life is good although not as long as is quoted by Asus. I reckon I get about 3 1/2 to 4hrs of good use. But that is mainly when powering a 3G dongle too – and they get hot. Karmic is shaping up to be a great release I think although to be frank I am really not sure about the new Gwibber interface, and the Empathy IM client hasn’t really floated my boat yet. But hey ho, never mind, at least we have a choice folks.

We are planning some new marketing activities over the coming months, what with the forthcoming release of the best desktop OS of all time and Microsoft releasing their rewrite of Vista, October should be a fun month. Hopefully we’ll have lots of interesting stuff to write about.

In fact I want to share with you a backup script I’ve written in Bash for my home office network and what may well end up being expanded and developed to support some of our commercial systems too. Well I think it’s pretty cool anyway. It wakes up machines in the middle of the night, uses – currently – rsync to back them up, then turns them off again. Configuration is easy and it seems to be working fine. When I get a mo I’ll publish the script source and let you all comment on my terrible bash skills. But I like it…

So there!

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