Entries Tagged as 'Communications'

Ubuntu – Desktop Search

Microsoft has really shown the power of desktop search in Vista and Windows 7; their newest Desktop Search Engine works, and works well… so in my quest to migrate over to Linux I wanted to have the ability to have both a server style as well as a desktop style search.

So the quest begun… and it was as short a quest as marching on the top of a butte.

I started by reviewing what I could find on the major contenders (just do an Internet search, and you’ll only find about half a dozen reasonable articles comparing the various desktop search solutions for Linux)… which were few enough it didn’t take very long (alphabetical):

My metrics to evaluate a desktop search solutions would focus on the following point:

  • ease of installation, configuration, maintenance
  • search speed
  • search accuracy
  • ease of access to search (applet, web, participation in Windows search)
  • resource utilization (cpu and memory on indexing and searching)

I immediately passed on Google Desktop Search; I have no desire for Google to have more access to information about me; and I’ve tried it before in virtual machines and didn’t think very much of it.

Begal

I first tried Beagle; it sounded like the most promising of all the search engines, and Novel was one of the developers behind it so I figured it would be a stable baseline.

It was easy to install and configure (the package manager did most of the work); and I could use the the search application or the web search, I had to enable it using beagle-config:

beagle-config Networking WebInterface true

And then I could just goto port 4000 (either locally or remotely).

I immediately did a test search; nothing came back.  Wow, how disappointing — several hundred documents in my home folder should have matched.  I waited and tried again — still nothing.

While I liked what I saw, a search engine that couldn’t return reasonable results to a simple query (at all) was just not going to work for me… and since Begal isn’t actively developed any longer, I’m not going to hold out for them to fix a “minor” issue like this.

Tracker

My next choice to experiment with was Tracker; you couldn’t ask for an easier desktop search to experiment with on Ubuntu — it seems to be the “default”.

One thing that’s important to mention — you’ll have to enable the indexer (per-user), it’s disabled by default.  Just use the configuration tool (you might need to install an additional package):

tracker-preferences

Same test, but instantly I got about a dozen documents returned, and additional documents started to appear every few seconds.  I could live with this; after all I figured it would take a little while to totally index my home directory (I had rsync’d a copy of all my documents, emails, pictures, etc from my Windows 2008 server to test with, so there was a great deal of information for the indexer to handle).

The big problem with Tracker was there was no web interface that I could find (yes, I’m sure I could write my own web interface; but then again, I could just write my own search engine).

Strigi

On to Strigi — straight forward to install, and easy to use… but it didn’t seem to give me the results I’d gotten quickly with Tracker (though better than Beagle), and it seemed to be limited to only ten results (WTF?).

I honestly didn’t even look for a web interface for Strigi — it was way too much a disappointment (in fact, I think I’d rather have put more time into Beagle to figure out why I wasn’t getting search results that work with Strigi).

Recoll

My last test was with Recoll; and while it looked promising from all that I read, but everyone seemed to indicate it was difficult to install and that you needed to build it from source.

Well, there’s an Ubuntu package for Recoll — so it’s just as easy to install; it just was a waste of effort to install.

I launched the recoll application, and typed a query in — no results came back, but numerous errors were printed in my terminal window.  I checked the preferences, and made a couple minor changes — ran the search query again — got a segmentation fault, and called it a done deal.

It looked to me from the size of the database files that Recoll had indexed quite a bit of my folder; why it wouldn’t give me any search results (and seg faulted) was beyond me — but it certainly was something I’d seen before with Linux based desktop search.

Conclusions

My biggest conclusion was that Desktop Search on Linux just isn’t really something that’s ready for prime time.  It’s a joke — a horrible joke.

Of the search engines I tried, only Tracker worked reasonably well, and it has no web interface, nor does it participate in a Windows search query (SMB2 feature which directs the server to perform the search when querying against a remote file share).

I’ve been vocal in my past that Linux fails as a Desktop because of the lack of a cohesive experience; but it appears that Desktop Search (or search in general) is a failing of Linux as both a Desktop and a Server — and clearly a reason why choosing Windows Server 2008 is the only reasonable choice for businesses.

The only upside to this evaluation was that it took less time to do than to read about or write up!

Originally posted 2010-07-06 02:00:58.

Swarms

No, not a swarm of bees, wasps, hornets, or yellow jackets — I’m talking about file sharing technology.

First, there’s absolutely nothing illegal or immoral about using file sharing technology for file sharing and distribution, just as there’s nothing illegal or immoral about using hyper-text (http) or file transfer (ftp) technology.  It all has to do with the content you’re trying to exchange, not the system you’re using to exchange it.

There are many legitamate uses for BitTorrent and other P2P technologies.  Here’s a perfect example.

A small company has a number of offices spread throughout the world, and no one location has an internet connection with significant bandwidth (let’s say for argument, they all had a high end class of DSL service, but none of them have fibre).  This company would like to distribute it’s trial software, but because of the economics can’t afford to pay for additional bandwidth or for a content delivery system — they could opt to “aggragate” the bandwidth of all of their offices by providing a torrent and running torrent servers at each location — that would allow the nodes with the most bandwidth available to satisfy requests, and any individuals who had downloaded the software and elected to continue seeding would be able to source it as well.  While no one individual might get the software as quickly (though that’s not necessarily true), many more people would be able to get the software sooner, and at no additional cost; thus the company could meet it’s budgetary constraints and might not have to consider increasing the amount they need to charge for the software to cover operating expenses.

Swarming technology is real, it’s practical, and it’s a solution for a number of problems.

Swarms are highly fault tolerant, they’re highly distributed, and they dynamically adjust to changing conditions…

While any technology can be abused and misused, there’s nothing inherently bad in any of the P2P technologies.  Just because bank robbers use pens to write hold up notes we didn’t outlaw the pen or pencil…

Originally posted 2009-01-12 12:00:19.

Anti-Malware Programs

First, malware is a reality and no operating system is immune to it.

Malware is most common on operating systems that are prevalent (no reason to target 1% of the installed base now is there); so an obscure operating system is far less likely to be the target of malware.

Malware is most common on popular operating systems that generally do not require elevation of privileges to install (OS-X, *nix, Vista, and Server 2008 all require that a user elevate their privileges before installing software, even if they have rights to administer the machine).

The reality is that even a seasoned computer professional can be “tricked” into installing malware; and the only safe computer is a computer that’s disconnected from the rest the world and doesn’t have any way to get new software onto it (that would probably be a fairly useless computer).

Beyond exercising common sense, just not installing software you don’t need or are unsure of (remember, you can install and test software in a virtual machine using UNDO disks before you commit it to a real machine), and using a hardware “firewall” (residential gateway devices should be fine as long as you change the default password, disable WAN administration, and use WPA or WPA2 on your wireless network) between you and your high-speed internet connection; using anti-malware software is your best line of defense.

There are a lot of choices out there, but one of the best you’ll find is Avast! — there’s a free edition for non-commercial use, and of course several commercial version for workstations and servers.

My experience is that on all but the slowest computers Avast! performs well, and catches more malware than most any of the big-name commercial solutions.

For slower computers that you need mal-ware protection for, consider AVG (they also have a free version for non-commercial use); I don’t find it quite as good as Avast! at stopping as wide a range of threats, but it’s much lower on resource demands (and that helps to keep your legacy machine usable).

Originally posted 2009-01-02 12:00:01.

The Anti-Green – Junk Mail

Why does the United States Postal Service encourage companies to send “Junk Mail” by substantially reducing the costs of distributing it?

It just doesn’t make sense.

Sure, I understand that it may actually cost the post office a little less to distribute junk mail than it does to distribute first class letters and such — but take a look at how little junk mail you even look at… and how much ends up in your recycle bin (and I’m not even going to bring up the large number of people who probably don’t recycle since they don’t have curb-side recycling programs).

America needs to take action to reduce it’s carbon footprint — and as I have pointed out for the last few days it would be extremely easy to make a fairly substantial improvement without sacrificing anything most consumers care about — and in fact, it would probably improve the quality of life for most Americans not having a mailbox full of junk mail they have to sort through so as not to miss something that might be important.

Sure, the post office would probably have to raise the cost of postage, and possibly reduce the service level (hey — I have no problem with mail not being delivered on Saturday — of maybe being delivered only on alternate days or only a few days per week).  The overall effect would be a decrease in the waste (of natural resources and energy).

Originally posted 2010-05-10 02:00:50.

OS-X – Desktop Search

I’m posting this mainly to illustrate that not Microsoft alone get’s the importance of desktop search — Apple’s Spotlight provides much the same level of functionality as Windows Search in an equally seamless implementation.

So the question (once again) is why are all the Linux based desktop search solutions pathetic?

Originally posted 2010-07-20 02:00:15.

Beware of vendors that support SPAM!

I’ve know for a very long time that many websites that sell goods and services to consumers also sell (or trade) the email addresses they register.

SPAM (Unsolicited Commercial Email – UCE) is when any entity sends you an email soliciting money for goods or services that you have not specifically requested.

Thus, when one company provided email marketers your email address (without your express permission) they are supporting SPAM, and companies that support SPAM are no better than the SPAMmers themselves since they are making money from SPAM.

But how would you know who sold your email address?

That’s easy, for years I’ve provided each vendor I do business with a unique email address which tracks any and all mail back to them.

Recently I found that a company I purchased a couple items from — CDR DVD Media ( www.cdrdvdrmedia.com ) sold or traded my email address to an email marketer.  What’s really funny in this is that CDR DVD Media uses Yahoo! (a company that purports to oppose SPAMming and hold it customers to high anti-SPAM standards) to process orders (so it appears it’s easy for Yahoo to talk the talk, but maybe they should walk the walk and actually adopt a ZERO tolerance policy against SPAMmers and their customers that support them — oh right, that means Yahoo would cut into it’s revenue stream, and they really probably only want to prevent SPAMming from free customers).

My policy (and I recommend it become you policy) is that you NEVER do business with SPAMmers or companies that support SPAMming.  Of course, I warned of the growing problem of SPAM/UCE over 15 years ago… and it’s easy for any and everyone to see now what burying your head in the sand does to prevent greedy marketers from breaking the law (yeah — SPAM is against the law in a number of states; and often SPAMmers steal services to send out their message).

Originally posted 2009-07-31 01:00:24.

Air Time Free

If you have a flat rate cellular voice plan, you may not be interested in this article; but for most of us who simply don’t have cost effective options for flat rate plans this might help cut down on cellular bills.

Most cellular telephone companies off the ability to add one or more telephone numbers to your cell plan that will not be charged air time for inbound or outbound calls.  It goes by various names, A-List, Friends & Family, My Favs, My Circle, etc.

Unfortunately, all of them limit the number of telephone numbers you can designate as air time free to a fairly modest number.

But… by using Google Voice, you might find that one air time free number is really all you need to greatly reduce your monthly cellular expenses.

You can go to Google and read a fair amount about Google Voice, they’re adding new features all the time so I won’t even try and cover all of them; just a few that might be of help to you (by the way, the “Call Me” widget on my web site uses Google Voice, and it’s no cost to the caller or me).

So how exactly can you use Google Voice — or really what will be covered in this post is how I use Google Voice.

First, I setup a Google Voice account a few months ago, mainly to be able to give out a telephone number that I wouldn’t be bothered answering when I didn’t want to, and still be able to get voice mail (at my convenience).  Mainly I wanted to do this because I’m going to disconnect my home phone (AT&T offers “naked” DSL here, and since all my home phone does is provide telemarketers with a number to call I really don’t see a reason to ever answer it).

The Google Voice line worked great for receiving messages; I got them in my email inbox, and more times than not the voice to text transcription wasn’t very useful, but I could just click the link and listen to the message as well.

Second, I added my Google Voice number to my Verizon “Friend’s & Family” (what AllTel used to call “My Circle”) so that it would be air time free.  Partially because there would be times when I wanted to actually route my Google Voice number to a phone so I could answer it (say when I was expecting a call), but mostly so that I could use Google Voice for outbound calls to people who were not going to be air time free.

So to use Google Voice for air time free outbound calling you need to log onto the Google Voice web site (there’s a mobile version of it as well, so if you have an unlimited data plan you don’t even need to be near a computer to make use of it) and simply instruct it to make a call.  What happens is Google Voice calls you, then calls the number you instruct it to call and conferences you together.

To make all this air time free, you need to setup Google Voice to present you Google Voice call on inbound calls (that’s the number you specified as air time free with your cellular provider).  This, unfortunately, means that you don’t know who’s calling, but there are some Google Voice features that help there too (I’ll let you go through all the features yourself).

For outbound calls you could setup Google Voice to present your actual telephone number, but it makes more sense to have your Google Voice number presented (especially for toll free calls, remember that they always get your telephone number).

Now you might not care whether or not you get charged air time for a quick call to your doctor’s office to confirm an appointment, but when you’re going to be on the line with customer service for half an hour (or more) you might want to think about the extra step of using Google Voice.

Now let me make it perfectly clear.  I don’t trust Google with my personal and confidential information, so I would never have any sensitive data go through a Google Voice call; but hey, when it’s something like a customer service call people I don’t really trust with my information already have it.

You can request an invite to Google Voice, it’ll probably take ten days to two weeks before you get it.  I’d recommend setting up a Google Mail account as well (you can forward the message from the Google Mail account or you can directly access the Google Mail account with POP3/IMAP4) to go along with Google Voice.  In fact, even if you don’t expect to use Google Voice much, I’d say go ahead and setup an account now.

Also, Google Voice will be adding VoIP (SIP) service (they purchased Gizmo5) soon.

Originally posted 2010-02-10 01:00:49.

Consumer Cellular

Consumer Cellular is a “discount” cellular provider (apparently a Verizon Wireless MVNO) that offers no-nonsense plans with no contract and low rates for users who only occasionally use their cell phones and the ability to change your plan at will.

Let me underscore that I don’t have any personal experience with Consumer Cellular, so I can’t vouch for their service — so my recommendation is keep a copy of the information from their web page in a PDF and pay with a credit card; that way if you find they don’t live up to their end of the “bargain” just work with your credit card company.

http://www.consumercellular.com/

Originally posted 2010-04-28 02:00:11.

NetTalk

UPDATE:  NetTalk’s growth has cause many individuals to have issues with placing and receiving calls, if your VoIP service is intended to be your only phone line you may want to think twice about going with NetTalk — particularly as long as they maintain their “no refunds” “no credits” policy… though realistically if you find they don’t live up to what’s reasonably expected, your credit card company will probably be happy to open a charge dispute for you and return your unpaid service… but I personally seriously question companies that don’t feel they need to supply the services they sell to consumers.

NetTalk VoIP services are inexpensive, easy to use, and work faily well… much less than services like Vonage or services from your cable or xDSL company.

$69.96 for the first year (that includes the purchase of a small VoIP adapter — NetTalk Duo — that can plug into your Ethernet router or your computer); then $29.95 per year after that (there are discounts for multi-year pre-pay).

 

NetTalk had a buy-one-get-one free special, and has had several discount codes; hopefully one of these two will still work for you to purchase the first year of service and NetTalk Duo device.

DUOAPP25OFF = 25% Off
DUOAPP50OFF = 50% Off


 

NetTalk Duo NetTalk Duo II NetTalk Duo WiFi


 

Nettalk Calling Features

 
 

FAQ’s on Nettalk Calling Features

3-Way Calling

Press the Flash button (or the hook) during a call. Once you hear the dial tone, dial the second party. When the second party is connected, press the flash button again to conference in the first party. There will be a three-way connection!

Call Waiting Once you hear the tone signaling a second call coming into your line, simply press the Flash button (or the hook) on your phone.

 

Caller ID

With VoiceLine Caller ID, you will see the phone number of the party who is calling you — even when you are on the other line.

You must have a phone equipped with a caller ID display.

 

Below are the dial codes for some popular VoiceLine calling features.

Action Dial Code

Selective Call Acceptance

Receive only calls from telephone numbers on your pre-defined acceptance list. *64

Deactivate feature and receive all calls. *84

 

Selective Call Rejection

Block only calls from telephone numbers on your pre-defined rejection list. *60

Deactivate feature and receive all calls. *80

Anonymous Call Rejection

Block all calls whose telephone numbers are hidden due to the caller purposely blocking that information. *77

 

Call Blocking

Deactivate feature and receive all calls. *87

Send all calls to a pre-defined destination #. *72

Send all calls to VoiceMail. *72123

Send all calls to a destination #. *72 [phone num]

 

Call Forwarding*

(All Calls/ Unconditional)

Deactivate feature & receive all calls. *73

Call Return Call the last person who called you. *69

Do Not Disturb Block incoming calls. *98

 

Speed Dial

Dial a number using a speed dial code. **[code]

Redial Call the last number you dialed. *66

Assign a phone number to a speed dial code. *97

VoiceMail

VoiceMail Access the VoiceMail system to record a greeting or hear your messages. 123#

* When you forward calls, the inbound and outbound calls are priced according to your calling plan.

 

Originally posted 2011-08-10 02:00:09.

Facebook

First, I don’t get Facebook, to me it’s just a site where people who don’t have a life try to pretend the do… but even if you are “into” Facebook, I’m not sure why anyone would have  invested in the Facebook IPO… let’s look at the ethics of Mark Zuckerberg (co-founder of Facebook).

The predecessor to Facebook, Facemash was populated with pictures that Zuckerberg obtained by hacking into system that had private dormitory ID image… something that should have gotten him expelled from Harvard, or thrown in jail.

Then, he went on to launch Thefacebook, and he did that by misleading a three other students into helping him build it.  Then Zuckerberg refused to give them a share of what they’d worked on, until the three filed a lawsuit (it was settled out of court).

So with a person like that at the helm of Facebook, why would we be the list bit surprised that they may have overstated their value and may have only disclosed their actual valuation to large investors (we’ll have to wait for the SEC investigation to finish to know what actually happened).

And yet millions and millions of people “trust” Facebook with their personal and confidential information — even though Facebook doesn’t really provide any controls over how that information might be used.

My advice, dump Facebook now.  Whether we’re talking about the stock you may have been conned into purchasing or the social network your use makes a very few people very wealthy off of.

Originally posted 2012-05-29 02:00:47.