Wednesday, December 1, 2010

How to communicate with the Office of the Dean, CAS-UP Manila

The Office of the Dean, College of Arts and Sciences, University of the Philippines Manila, has VOIP/Chat accounts which you can communicate with regarding issues that you might have with the College. If you want to add them to your contacts, please fill out the form below.

Please note that the accounts are not always online. They have been set up for contingencies and emergencies -- situations when there may be a need for interactive group / multi-party communication and exchanging emails or comments in a status is not the effective way to resolve a problem or issue.

The Office has accounts in Skype, Yahoo! Messenger, and Google Talk. Besides these, you probably also know of the various social networking services that the College has subscribed to to engage its various stakeholders.

We hope that this initiative will be of help to you.

Click here to receive an invite!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Google Docs adds Drawing

This may be late. I probably haven't read a lot of Google Blog posts which resulted to me not knowing about this. Anyway, for those not familiar yet, Google added another service to its Google Docs: Drawing.

Google Drawing is like an online version of OpenOffice.Org Draw, or like the drawing feature of your Microsoft Office suite. Most of the icons are the same, while the basic capability of drawing diagrams is included.

What's the benefit of this new feature in Google Docs? For those into making everything online so that you don't need to save anything in your limited disk storage space (reference: first-generation netbooks), this will be another way to save data online. Another is with the file online, you can be sure that whatever you create will be saved as is when you upload it to your online presentation or document.

This is just a basic observation of the new Google feature. I hope to learn more about this to see how it will help teaching. 'Til next time!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Linux Magazine: Ubuntu 10.04: The Perfect Consumer Operating System?

It’s true, I’ve given Ubuntu a thrashing from time to time, but it was deserved. (See Hey Ubuntu, Stop Making Linux Look Bad and Two Simple Suggestions for Ubuntu) Now, it deserves a little of something else.

Last week the first Beta of Ubuntu 10.04 was released, providing a solid glimpse of what will comprise the final release in a month’s time. It looks damn good.

On the face of it, Ubuntu 10.04 appears to achieve what no other distro has been able to do yet - near perfect integration. From start to finish this looks like a highly professional, sleek, commercial grade operating system. Truly. Whatever Mark Shuttleworth has been doing in his new role, keep doing it, because this release looks to be the best ever (and it’s me saying this, so you know I’m not wetting my pants over nothing).

It’s Got the Look

Promises made, promises lost, we’ve been waiting a long time for a new, fresh, updated look and feel for Ubuntu. Really, no-one really liked the orange and brown, but we did put up with it. Thank the Heavens now we finally have a brand new, sleek look. I like it. I really like it. How else can I put this? It’s awesome.

The boot sequence is a sharp and the new corporate font looks great. Very sleek and modern. Thank goodness that horrible black and white pulsating Ubuntu logo is gone from 9.10!

Lucid  boot splash screen
Lucid boot splash screen

The login screen is simple, but light and well integrated. Here you get your first glimpse of the new color scheme including the new purple background. It does look somewhat Mac-ish, but it works really well.

Lucid  login sreen
Lucid login sreen

Logging into the desktop is where it will hit you. This is no regular Ubuntu. This thing is modern, sleek, purposeful. The default desktop theme is quite dark, much removed from the traditional Human theme and is called, Ambiance.

Lucid default desktop theme, Ambiance
Lucid default desktop theme, Ambiance

However, there also a lighter option called Radiance.

Lucid alternate desktop theme, Radiance
Lucid alternate desktop theme, Radiance

Both sport the new widgets on the left (although in the screenshots they have been moved back to the right), which has caused no end of controversy. Speaking of which, what’s all the fuss about? Ubuntu users are happy to put up with poor quality releases, but move the buttons and all hell breaks lose.

Mark Shuttleworth has made it clear that Ubuntu is not a Democracy and that these decisions are not up for discussion. Quite frankly, that’s fair enough. Each Ubuntu team makes decisions about how things will be and you just have to put up with it, or change it. When it comes to OS X or Windows you are far more restricted than using any Linux distro. If you want ultimate control, fork it and make your own distro. In the mean time, use it, change it, or move on.

Buttons on the left or right aside, the Ubuntu desktop finally looks first class. This new branding is just what the doctor ordered, and will no-doubt make it much more attractive to consumers. Of course, one can also install Gnome Shell to get a taste of what’s to come!

Gnome Shell running on Lucid
Gnome Shell running on Lucid

The Complete Package (almost)

So Mark Shuttleworth’s benchmark for Ubuntu is OS X. This is what he wants to surpass and with 10.04 he’s definitely getting close. Commercial application support is still missing and while the Cloud Service is nice, an integrated backup solution like Apple’s Time Machine would be a great addition.

You can see the focus on this goal all over the distribution. It really is perfectly aimed at the consumer, with carefully chosen applications. The Ubuntu desktop is not designed for the power user, not by default anyway. All of the applications are specifically designed for simplicity and functionality. This new release drops GIMP, which has also caused a lot of controversy. Remember though that Ubuntu has a specific set of goals, focusing on simplicity. What do consumer end users actually want? Something simple. They want to be able to remove red eye from their photos, crop them, rotate them, enhance them and use them elsewhere. If GIMP doesn’t suit that, then out it goes. Simple as that.

Of course, if you still want GIMP then it’s a snap to install. You could even use the new Software Centre, which is starting to take shape very nicely. Once again, you can see here Ubuntu has clearly included the possibility of applications direct from third party vendors. This is nothing new, the partner repository has been around since the beginning, but now it’s plain as day, right there on the desktop. Currently, it only includes Adobe products like Flash, but who knows, perhaps Canonical will strike a deal to create native Linux versions of programs like Photoshop, delivered for a fee directly via Ubuntu’s Software Centre.

Lucid Software Centre
Lucid Software Centre

A perfect example of this desire to simplify the desktop is Simple Scan, a new program to Lucid. While Sane certainly made Scanner Access Now Easy, the user interface left a lot to be desired. Actually using X Sane to scan something is not the prettiest nor easiest of tasks. Simple Scan on the other hand, makes the act of scanning simple (you might have deduced that from the name). It’s a neat little app, that helps make using the desktop that much nicer.

The social networking client Gwibber is now built right into the desktop. Yes, users can connect directly with a myriad of social networking providers right from the comfort of a single user interface. Empathy is there too, integrated into the taskbar and ready to let you chat away on any network you please.

Lucid built in social networking with Gwibber
Lucid built in social networking with Gwibber

What else does OS X have out of the box, that Linux doesn’t? A video editor. That’s right, making its debut in this release also, is PiTiVi, a non-linear video editing program. This is one major application which has been sorely missing from the Linux desktop for far too long.

Over the last year or so, we have seen dozens of these suddenly spring up, and thankfully some are now at the point of inclusion in major distributions. Once again, the fact that Ubuntu includes this by default really shows the market they are going after.

Video editor in Lucid, PiTiVi
Video editor in Lucid, PiTiVi

Also making its debut in this release is the Ubuntu Music store. Tied into the default music player, Rhythmbox, users can purchase MP3 music and synchronise it directly to not only their iPod, but their cloud based account on Ubuntu One. This has been one major feature sorely lacking on the Linux desktop, something that OS X has had well and truly sewn up for far too long.

Unfortunately, only MP3 files are available at present, but hopefully this will be extended to Ogg and more importantly, FLAC, down the road. Still, the ability for Ubuntu to satisfy this important component is crucial to its success in the consumer market. It’s certainly one less barrier to adoption, “Yeah, Ubuntu can sync your iPod and you can even purchase Music. You don’t need iTunes!”

Lucid Online Music Store, available via Rhythmbox
Lucid Online Music Store, available via Rhythmbox

For the first time ever, it looks like a very attractive overall package. It’s focus on simple, useful applications is bound to please consumers (and possibly disappoint power users). All the modern tasks that users perform are integrated right into the desktop, and it’s all done really well. If this was on offer in the computer shops, I’m confident it would be turning heads and making sales (although some might dismiss it as an OS X rip off).

Quality Assurance

My biggest gripe about Ubuntu in the past is its lack of quality. Things break far too often, more often than they should (and more often than they do in other distros), for some reason. We’ve discussed this a lot in the past and I don’t wish to re-hash the same old arguments (but if you’ve only ever used Ubuntu, then you have nothing to compare it to). Still, I have much higher hopes for this release. Why? It’s a Long Term Support release. That means that people who pay Canonical money for support will be looking to upgrade to this stable version. Canonical has to get it right, or it’s really, really going to hurt.

The non-LTS releases are considered stable, but they certainly aren’t given the same attention as those of LTS status. They are built from Debian unstable for a start, whereas LTS is from testing. Still, that’s no excuse for some of the major bugs that have entered the distro, whether they come from upstream or not. This release should be great, but it’s still one month away and its final quality still remains to be seen. At least, we should get better treatment of bugs in this release as it has to be stable for a much longer period. Time will tell, but things should be much improved.

I’m certain that with 10.10, Ubuntu will go back to their old habits. For now at least, it looks like we’ll have a phenomenal release.

With the Lot, Please

This version really looks to have the lot - stable packages, a new look and feel, all the apps that count and near perfect integration. From a consumer perspective, it’s almost the perfect desktop. It includes most things they might want out of the box - browser, social networking applications, multimedia applications, full blown office suite and cloud based synchronisation services. There are lots of bits that Apple doesn’t offer for free and this runs on any computer. Ubuntu has a reputation for being the distribution you give to friends new to Linux when you want it all to just work. Hopefully it will be able to do just that.

If the final quality stands up to the test, this will be one hell of a release. Massive. It’s just the sort of thing you would expect to see for sale on computers at your local department store, and hopefully we will soon see just that. If so, this could be the real beginning of a great new battle with Apple.

Christopher Smart has been using Linux since 1999. In 2005 he created Kororaa Linux, which delivered the world's first Live CD showcasing 3D desktop effects. He also founded the MakeTheMove website, which introduces users to free software and encourages them to switch. In his spare time he enjoys writing articles on free software.

Originally posted

TechRepublic: One big thing Ubuntu can teach Microsoft, Apple, and all CTOs

Ubuntu has earned a reputation as the most user-friendly version of Linux on the planet, but I would argue that the secret of success for Canonical (the company behind Ubuntu) is not really about a great UI or an extensive hardware compatibility list.

What Canonical does really well is to methodically produce incremental upgrades to its OS. It is transparent about its goals and plans, and it releases its software on schedule. In fact, this incremental approach is Ubuntu’s most potent competitive weapon against rivals Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X. It is also an approach that CTOs and other IT leaders who produce software, Web sites, and other product-based Web services can learn from.

Since the first version (4.10) of Ubuntu was released in October 2004, there have been 10 OS releases of Ubuntu (see chart below). During that same time period, there have been three new releases of Mac OS X and two new releases of Windows. If you want to include service packs, then you could kick up the number of Windows releases to four.

This preference toward incremental releases on a reliable schedule is a quality that appeals to IT departments. In fact, many IT leaders have asked software makers such as Microsoft to stop doing massive upgrades, but instead update Windows in smaller steps.

That allows IT to test and roll out OS updates much easier and quicker. IT has become averse to massive software upgrades, like Windows Vista and Windows 7. They cause too much pain — both in hardware/software incompatibilities and user re-training — and don’t offer enough benefits in return to make all of that pain worth the effort.

Some will argue that the business model is the primary reason why Microsoft takes a different approach to upgrades than Canonical. After all, Windows upgrades have a price tag attached to them and all of Ubuntu’s software releases are open source and free of charge (they make their money from support contracts). However, the financial impact is overstated.

Microsoft makes the majority of its money from Windows in two ways:

  1. From the versions of Windows preloaded on retail PCs
  2. From OS licenses sold in bulk to large organizations

No matter which version of Windows is preloaded on a retail PC, Microsoft still makes the same amount of money. The company doesn’t make any more money on a Windows 7 PC than it did on a Windows Vista PC last year.

With volume licensing agreements such as Software Assurance, Microsoft has pushed many organizations into renewable licensing agreements that give them access to all the latest Microsoft software. Whether a company upgrades its machines to Windows 7 or not, it still pays Microsoft a regular licensing fee.

So Microsoft has the financial foundation to switch to a more incremental upgrade cycle. The fact that during the past decade it has moved companies to Software Assurance and that with Windows XP it broke from its version numbering system (the XP was for “eXPerience”), is evidence that Microsoft had been preparing for a day when it would deliver OS updates on a more incremental basis.

But, it never happened. That probably has as much to do with legacy and momentum as anything else. The bottom line is that Microsoft’s huge Windows upgrades have put the OS at risk of massive stagnation, especially in the business world, which largely skipped Windows Vista altogether and is still on the fence about Windows 7. That has left most business PCs running Windows XP, while consumer machines have moved on to Vista or Windows 7.

Conversely, Ubuntu has established a disciplined upgrade cycle, made it a top priority, and stuck to it. Canonical releases a new version of Ubuntu every six months. It has major releases, which it calls LTS (Long Term Support) releases, and those come out every two years. The first one, 6.06, landed in June 2006. The second one, 8.04, landed in April 2008. The next LTS, 10.04, arrives at the end of this month (April 2010).

Ubuntu supports these LTS releases for three years (five years for the server versions). There are companies who only use the LTS versions of Ubuntu for that reason. Canonical supports the interim versions of Ubuntu for 18 months (basically assuming you’ll move to the next LTS version when it arrives).

This type of transparent, methodical, and incremental upgrade cycle is the future of software. If you want to see another example, take a look at Zoho, an online productivity suite that offers an alternative to both Microsoft Office and Google Docs. Zoho pushes out new features, fixes, and updates on a continual basis. In fact, for some products there are Zoho updates as often as once a week.

This is not a matter of resources. Zoho has a very small team. Meanwhile, Canonical only has about 300 employees in the whole company (as well as its volunteer army of open source contributors). This is a matter of focus, priorities, and leadership. The successful software and Web companies of the next decade will learn this lesson well.

Originally posted

Official Google Blog: The next generation of Google Docs

Today we are hosting nearly 400 CIOs and IT professionals from around the world at Atmosphere, our inaugural event at the Googleplex dedicated to cloud computing. The discussion is centered on how companies can focus their technology expertise on projects that truly improve their businesses instead of managing complex applications, technology platforms and devices. We are also sharing details about improvements to Google Docs, made possible by a new codebase that will allow us to deliver richer functionality more quickly.

New document and spreadsheet features
We’ve responded to many of your requests for features you’re used to in desktop software. In documents, we’ve added a margin ruler, better numbering and bullets and easier image placement options. And in spreadsheets, you’ll now find a formula editing bar, cell auto-complete, drag-and-drop columns and other features not possible with older browser technologies.

Higher fidelity document import
We’ve made big improvements to our document upload feature so moving files from your computer to the cloud is easier now. Imported documents retain their original structure more accurately, so you can hit the ground running editing in the browser without having to fix formatting like bullets and text alignment.

Speed and responsiveness
New browser technologies like faster JavaScript processing have made it possible for us to speed up Google Docs significantly. Even very large spreadsheets are fast to work with in your browser now. Applications that run this fast feel like desktop applications but have the unique advantages of being in the cloud.

Faster collaboration
We’ve extended Google Docs’ collaboration capabilities too, with support for up to 50 people working together at once, and in documents, you can now see other people’s edits as they happen character-by-character. And now you can also collaborate on flow charts, diagrams and other schematics in real time with a new editor for drawings on Google Docs.

Learn more about these new capabilities and how to access them on the Google Docs blog, and if you’re with a school, business or organization, we’ve shared more details on the Google Enterprise Blog.

Originally posted

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Thesaurus function in OpenOffice.Org Writer not working

Issue: Thesaurus function in OpenOffice.Org not working
Application: OpenOffice.Org Writer (v 3.1.1)
Operating System: Windows XP, Ubuntu

Enable the Language to use for that particular document / file.

Tools >> Language >> For All Text >> English (If this is the language you wish to use).

After doing this, you may now use the Thesaurus and Spell Checking tools of OpenOffice.Org

Saturday, January 16, 2010

How to make a USB flash drive installer for Windows-based netbooks

Issue: Laptop bootup error message: BOOTMGR is compressed Press Ctrl + Alt + Del to restart.
Cause: Ticking the "Compress drive to disk space" option in hard drive where the operating system is stored
Operating System: Windows XP and Vista
Challenge: Laptop without optical hard drive

Symptom: The computer would only turn on and it would give an error "BOOTMGR is compressed Press Ctrl + Alt + Del to restart." After that, nothing happens.

Resolution: Disable / Untick the "Compress drive to disk space" option in hard drive where the operating system is stored

Required Resources:
  • Windows Installer CD
  • USB Flash Disk (If computer with issue has no optical drive)
  • NoviCorps WinToFlash (downloadable here)
  • Extra laptop with optical drive (If computer with issue has no optical drive)
  • Laptop / computer with issue has USB drive

  1. If laptop (or netbook) has no optical disc drive, create a Windows installer USB flash disk.
  2. Boot from Windows Installation Disc to untick the compression option.
  3. Disable the "Compress drive to disk space" option in hard drive where the operating system is stored
Creating a Windows XP Installation USB Flash Disk
  1. If the computer in question does not have an optical drive, you have to create a Windows XP installation flash disk from a Windows XP installation CD. To do so, download the WinToFlash software here.
  2. The creation of the installation flash disk is fairly straightforward. Prepare your flash drive. Run WinToFlash.exe and choose the wizard.
  3. Windows files path would be your Windows CD and USB drive is your flash disk. Next window will be copying the setup files to your flash drive. In took about 30-45 minutes using a 2 GB flash drive (I believe this result may vary depending on the speed of your source and your USB drive).
Booting up from the Windows XP Installation Flash Disk
  1. With the computer with the problem turned off, insert the installation flash disk. If the computer has an optical flash drive, you may put in the Windows XP Installation Disk if the computer is on, then reboot. Turn on the computer to enter BIOS (This varies depending on the computer. This may be F9, F12, F2 or DEL.).
  2. Set up the BIOS to boot up first from the drive where you have the installation disk (optical or USB flash). Save the settings and Exit.
  3. Upon press the key to choose Boot Device, and select the appropriate drive from the list.
  4. This window will appear. Select 2nd, GUI mode setup. This should allow you to boot using the files in the flash disk but with the settings of your computer's Windows XP.
Disabling the "Compress drive to disk space" option
  1. With the Windows operating system running, go to the drive (not the folder) where you have your Windows operating system files stored. This is usually C:
  2. Right-click the drive and then select Properties.
  3. Untick the "Compress drive to disk space" option and click "Apply." This will attempt to uncompress the drive, and this may say some error messages, such as "unable to." Just select "Ignore All." (In my case, I just let it attempt to uncompress for a minute, after I saw the BOOTMGR file being uncompressed. After that, I discontinued by clicking "Cancel." You may continue the whole process of uncompressing if you have the time.)
  4. Click OK.
  5. Shut down the computer.
  6. Remove the Windows Installation flash disk.
  7. Restart the computer to see if you can log on.
It should start with your normal login window.

If this does not work, try the HP resolution for the same error message here.

Lessons learned:
  1. Do not tick the "Compress drive to disk space" option.
  2. How to repair BOOTMGR is compressed Press Ctrl + Alt + Del to restart here.
  3. How to create USB installer from Windows CD here.
How to Install Windows XP using a USB Drive / Flash Drive the EASIEST way,, accessed January 20, 2010.
NoviCorp WintoFlash.Exe. accessed January 20, 2010.
BOOTMGR Error Message., accessed January 20, 2010