CORRECTED – That is one ugly computer – but it’s only $35

This article was take from Australia’s and written by Claire Connelly, supposedly their technology reporter.  I have take the liberty of making a couple of corrections.

That is one ugly computer – but it’s only $35

by Claire Connelly, Technology Reporter

CORRECTION: Claire Connelly is as much a technology reporter as Jen from British TV show “The IT Crowd” is a technology specialist.

WELL that is one ugly computer – but it’s $35 and the size of a credit card so what are you complaining about?

US technology company Raspberry Pi’s CORRECTION: Raspberry Pi is really quite British. creation lets users program their own computer by giving them all the parts they need – including a wireless mouse, keyboard and an SD card reader CORRECTION: One of the most elementary parts of Raspberry Pi is that you get the “ugly” board from the picture and that’s it. No wireless mouse, no keyboard, you have to get that yourself, it does have the SD card reader onboard though..

It contains a Linux processor CORRECTION: There is no such thing as a linux processor. It contains an ARM processor which is capable of running a linux operating system, or what ever operating system someone might come up for it. Much like my MacBook contains an Intel processor which can run Windows, Mac, Linux and many others., memory chips and ports for almost every plug in device you could ever need including USB, HDMI and Ethernet cables CORRECTION: I would certainly not describe this as “almost every plug in device you could ever need,” granted the USB does make a difference..

As for a screen and software – that’s left up to users.

The tiny computers were initially developed to encourage children to get excited about computer programming and other technology – but the device has gotten the tech world in a frenzy.

The Raspberry Pi website crashed under the weight of all the web traffic after the device was made available for sale CORRECTION: To my knowledge, the Raspberry Pi website coped just fine, it was the supplier’s websites that went down. – even after the company limited sales to one $35 computer per customer.

Raspberry Pi has also released a no-frills $25 version that comes with without a case, keyboard or monitor CORRECTION: As discussed earlier, neither device comes with a keyboard or monitor, in fact, you even said yourself that it didn’t come with a monitor! Neither version comes with a case either. Where exactly are you getting your information from? You can’t just make guesses as to what the cheaper version might entail. FYI, the cheaper version has only one USB port, rather than two; it has no onboard networking (so no ethernet port) and its power rating is less..

Both computers contain a 700Mhz Linux processor CORRECTION: ARM Processor, see above., 256 MB of RAM, USB, HDMI, SD, RCA video and 3.5 mm audio ports.

FINAL CORRECTION: It is worth noting that $35 is in US dollars, not Australian Dollars which this article’s target audience are more likely to be spending in. That said, I do not know what the Australian pricing plan is.

End of Quoted Article

I’ve often dreamt about being a technology correspondant, now I think I may be a little over qualified.

The original article can be found here.

And the new meme that was developed within hours of publication featuring Claire Connelly’s face can be found here.

UPDATE – 4th March 2012 23:40GMT:
The Raspberry Pi website did indeed go down for a short period due to high load and so Claire Connelly was indeed correct on that matter.  Also, the meme linked to has been around for a while before this particular article as Connelly chose to write an article on internet trolling.  Thanks to comments for updating me :]

UPDATE – 5th March 2012 00:24GMT:
Claire Connelly has now posted an update to her article correcting her mistakes and sent a message to myself on Twitter:

 Hi Andy. Thanks for taking the time to sub-edit my story. I really appreciate your feedback. It must have taken you a while.  Have you ever thought about becoming a sub-editor? Please accept my apologies for the flaws in that story.  Please see the corrections posted this morning. Cheers

Recycling that old iMac G3 with Ubuntu

In 1998 Apple released what in my opinion, saved the Apple Computer market, they released the iMac.  This computer started a huge change in the computer market and introduced powerful but beautiful machines into our homes and created a fair few, brand new Apple fanboys… and girls.  What a shame they’re 11 years old now and really no use to us now… or are they?

The Rebirth of Cool... again.

I was 10 years old when the iMac was released and I was already a computer nerd so could appreciate a great many things about the iMac that were real game changers.  The first point was obvious.

A computer was always easily identified by two large beige boxes.  One of those boxes would be a large CRT monitor (as flat screen monitors were too expensive and under developed to be the norm) and one would be the actual computer which either sat under the monitor on the desk, or stood as a tower on the floor.  Even now, most desktop computers consist as this tower and monitor style though you’ll find it difficult to find one in beige, in fact, if I gave you a thousand pounds and sent you out into the city to buy a new model beige desktop PC, I’d let you keep the change and the PC if you found one.

The iMac contained the whole computer in one unit, in fact, at first glance most people assumed it to be just a monitor with speakers built in.  At closer inspection though, this monitor had a CD drive on the front of it and ports for the keyboard and mouse to plug into on the sides.  There was no tower.  And this thing was anything but beige.

iMac Flower Shot
This thing was anything but beige.

While Apple claimed that the i in iMac stood for Internet and also I as in the pronoun, the real meaning for this letter was not missed by the design community, the i in iMac stood for Jonathan Ive, the head designer at Apple who as it happens, is now Sir Jonathan Ive after being knighted as part of the Queen’s New Year Honours list and it was Ive’s design that really opened people’s eyes to Apple.

Having a whole machine in one unit wasn’t new to Apple, in fact, the first Apple Macintosh computer was an all in one.  What Ive did was to make the damn thing look good!  iMacs were colourful, rounded, even the mouse was circular, these things looked good.  This was a game changer but one of many.  That sexy looking body caught your attention, now look closer and take a look at what else is new.  I remember the total shock that people had when they realised there was no floppy disk drive.  Apple knew that these things were not going to be needed soon and so did what many were avoiding, they took it out of their computer.  Then they did something big, USB.  Every iMac came with two USB ports with an extra one on your keyboard and that was it, Apple had set the standard.  These computers were great, they didn’t take up as much room as a conventional computer and they didn’t need to be hidden away from your interior designer.

Now of course, we all have a good looking computer, whether you’re running PC or mac.  Hell, my desktop computer is golden, the front of it designed to resemble a classic Nokia mobile phone.  We all learnt a lesson in design with the iMac but it was a daring step, they did look pretty radical and perhaps, after several different versions, the current iMacs on the market aren’t quite as exciting to look at.  But then, times have changed haven’t they, 1998 was fourteen years ago and now it’s 2012.  Well I’ve still got my old iMac, and I don’t want to throw it out.

Bringing the iMac G3 back to life

New iMacs are a very different creature now, they have Intel processors in them just like Windows computers.  Those old original iMacs had PowerPC G3 processors.  These are a very different chip, they run differently, they’re built differently.  Today, you can install Windows on an Apple computer, back then, you couldn’t, the PowerPC chip just isn’t able to run it.  That isn’t because it wasn’t a good chip, it’s because it just runs in a different way than what Windows was made for.  But as things have moved on, now even Apple’s own software won’t run on it either.

The last three versions of Apple’s Mac OS X have been for Intel computers only, Apple turned its back on all those people who had bought computers from them in the past and told them, “if you want to keep up with us, you’ve got to buy a whole new computer.”

My iMac G3 was left with Mac OS X Tiger as it’s final upgrade, after that, it was left to rot, abandoned.  Apple kept making new operating systems: Leopard, Snow Leopard, Lion… my iMac got nothing.  People made software for new Apple Operating Systems, Firefox, Microsoft Office… my iMac started gathering dust as I started using newer machines that could run software that it was too old for.

Firefox doesn't get made for old Mac OSX

And why should they make software for it?  There’s no good reason for a software company like Mozilla to bring out it’s brand new Firefox 9 for Mac OS X Tiger or earlier when everyone is using newer computers.  But I’ll tell you something, Firefox 9 can still run on my iMac G3, just as long as it’s running something better than Tiger, it’s just not made by Apple.

There are still modern, up to date operating systems being made that work just fine on the PowerPC architecture and if you’re feeling brave, you should take a look at them because through Linux, you can recycle that old computer that you had given up on and give it a new lease of life!

This weekend gone, I’ve given my iMac a copy of Ubuntu and I’ll tell you one thing, it’s not just running programs that Tiger couldn’t run, it’s running faster!

My iMac G3 Running Firefox 9 on Ubuntu 10.04
My iMac G3 Running Firefox 9 on Ubuntu 10.04

Installing Ubuntu on iMac G3

Installing Ubuntu Linux on these machine is actually pretty straight forward thanks to the Ubuntu Community who see to the release of PowerPC compatible Live CDs for it.  Though there are more up to date versions you can get (and feel free to try them), I chose to use version 10.04 which is the official Long Term Support version.  In other words, the only one that the folks who make Ubuntu feel is as bug free as it should be.

You can download yourself a copy of Ubuntu 10.04 LTS at this here link that will work on your iMac’s Power PC G3 processor.

There is a bug!

Ubuntu won’t work straight off the disk with the iMac G3 as it can’t quite cope with the graphics on board, resulting in a blank screen.  It’s easy to fix though, just make sure that at the first prompt after booting your machine from the CD, you don’t just type “live” like it suggests, type “live video=ofonly” and then hit enter.

This will start Ubuntu in Low Graphics mode.  Once you’re in, double click to install Ubuntu on the hard drive.  Once you’re done, you’ll want to fix that graphics problem properly, it’s easy to do, just create a text file and copy the text found at this little linky into it.  Now save that file at /etc/X11/xorg.conf and reboot your machine.  Done, you can now get installing all your new software like Firefox 9.  Be warned, there’s a few things that won’t want to be installed on a PowerPC chip, like Chrome for instance but you’ll still get a lot more on there then you were able to before.  Happy recycling.


Lion like scrolling on Ubuntu – Inverse scrolling on Linux

Mac OSX Lion Logo
Lion, the latest operating sytem for mac from Apple.

Any one who has upgraded to Mac OS 10.7 Lion will will have had the new inverted scrolling (natural, as Apple call it) which I described in my last post.

However, while many may have found it irritating at first but chose to power through and get used to it, have got too used to it.  Now, other computers seem just wrong.

I hate it when it turns out Apple were right but it would seem that moving the page up and down rather than the scroll bar really is just, natural.

So here’s how you Linux folk can get Lion like scrolling working on your computer.  I’ve been using Ubuntu but I’m sure we’ll see it working on other distributions.

Right then, open up your terminal, let’s get going. You can click on any of these screen shots to see larger versions.

Your first command is:

xinput list

This will show you a list of devices, work out which one is your trackpad or mouse. From my screenshot, you can see that my Trackpad’s ID is 13.

Now that you know this, it’s time for your second command, incorporating the ID you have found out.

xinput test 13

Replace the 13 with whatever your device ID was.

Now scroll up a little and then scroll down a little, finally press Ctrl+C to end the test. From this you can see the mapping of your scroll function. In my screen shot you can see that my scrolling up as button 4 and scrolling down as button 5, obviously they’re not really buttons but you’re not supposed to think of that ;]

Work out what your scroll button numbers are, you’re going to need them.

Now for the actual change, the button mapping of your device will be set up as something like 1 2 3 4 5. In my case; 1, 2 and 3 are likely left, right and middle button; 4 and 5 we know for my case are the scroll, obviously they may be different for you, take note of these along with the device number you already know.

So of course all we’re needing to do is swap these round, here we go:

xinput set-button-map 13 1 2 3 5 4

Now pay attention to how that’s made up; we’ve got your device number in there (I’m 13 remember) and we’ve flipped round the numbers that we know are mapped to our scrolling, (5 and 4)… also, while I’m patronising you like this, don’t forget those spaces. Now go try it out, look, it’s working! Aren’t you clever.

You’re not done yet!

All you’ve done is make it work for now, the moment you restart your computer, it’s going to go away so let’s just make this thing permanent shall we?

Now you can set up an xorg option (Option zAxisMapping “5 4”) but I’m still in my patronising mood and thinking I should just give you the easy option so all we’re going to do is take that last command we typed in (xinput set-button-map 13 1 2 3 5 4) and make it run on startup.

So open up your System Settings and choose Startup Applications.

Now just click Add and type in the command along with a Name and description. You’re all done, you’re natural Lion like scrolling is all done. Congratulations, you may roar, raaaaaaaaaaaaaa.

Microsoft buys Skype – Will Mac and Linux support Suffer?

Microsoft has agreed to buy Skype for $8.5 billion. That’s an awful lot of money for a company that was recently valued at a lot less and has been struggling to make a profit but what does this mean for Mac and Linux users?

I’m not concerned about the cost and I’m sure that Microsoft will help an already great business go far. What I’m concerned about is the user, specifically, the non Microsoft user.

Microsoft insist that they will keep Skype multi-platform, a feature that has helped keep Skype on top of the Internet Phone market. Skype has feature rich applications for not just Windows, but Macs, Linux and several mobile platforms. I have no doubt that Microsoft will continue development for these platforms but my concern is about the extent to which they will do this.

My primary computers are a Windows 7 desktop and an Apple MacBook running Snow Leopard. I have no bias between Mac and Windows and believe both platforms have their benefits. However, any Mac user can tell you of their frustration with Microsoft Messenger.

On Windows, Microsoft’s Messenger is feature rich. You have winks, web cams, facebook integration, Games, Photo sharing, Video Sharing, Video Messages, Slideshows, the list goes on. However, Microsoft Messenger for mac has very few of these features, in fact, up until a few months ago, it didn’t have Webcam support, something the windows version has had for as long as I’ve known it.

The reason for this is simple, Microsoft doesn’t give enough support to its mac developments team, I remember seeing a support forum on the Messenger for Mac site when people were complaining about the lack of webcam support in which a member of the development team cited lack of funding as an issue. I won’t go into details of the Linux development team… there isn’t one.

So yes, I believe Skype will continue to be available for Mac and Linux but my concern is that with closer integration with the Windows Live Network, will great new features, developed by Microsoft also appear on other platforms and if so, will they keep all platforms in sync with each other.

I don’t want a great new feature appearing on Skype for Windows and having to wait months, if not years, for it to appear on Mac and Linux because Microsoft wants to concentrate on making Skype for Windows.