Teacher confiscates Linux CD and writes angry letter to founder

In latest news, a teacher in Texas saw a student showing off his Linux LiveCD in action. She was so angry that she not only confiscated his CD but wrote an angry letter to the founder of HeliOS, Ken Starks.
Her letter reads as follows:

Upon looking at his computer, I saw he was giving a demonstration of some sort. The student was showing the ability of the laptop and handing out Linux disks. After confiscating the disks I called a confrence with the student and that is how I came to discover you and your organization. Mr. Starks, I am sure you strongly believe in what you are doing but I cannot either support your efforts or allow them to happen in my classroom. At this point, I am not sure what you are doing is legal. No software is free and spreading that misconception is harmful. These children look up to adults for guidance and discipline. I will research this as time allows and I want to assure you, if you are doing anything illegal, I will pursue charges as the law allows. Mr. Starks, I along with many others tried Linux during college and I assure you, the claims you make are grossly over-stated and hinge on falsehoods. I admire your attempts in getting computers in the hands of disadvantaged people but putting linux on these machines is holding our kids back.

Ms. Teacher, first of all, conference is spelt as “conference” and not “confrence”.

Next, how do you assume that no software is free? Are you so uninformed or did just get out of your cave this morning? If you had a problem with Linux during college (which college? I’m dying to know!!) you can’t dump the results of your unsucessful attempts on kids who are eager to learn a new operating system that is far superior to Windows. Kids who want to learn how to use Linux should be allowed to do so and not restricted to the OS shoved down on their throats as the “standard OS”. You are holding the kids back, not poor Ken Starks’ flavour of Linux.

The teacher goes on to say this:

This is a world where Windows runs on virtually every computer and putting on a carnival show for an operating system is not helping these children at all. I am sure if you contacted Microsoft, they would be more than happy to supply you with copies of an older verison of Windows and that way, your computers would actually be of service to those receiving them…”

Karen xxxxxxxxx
xxxxxxxxx Middle School

Very interesting! I’m sure Microsoft is keeping NEA happy. I’ve heard of other teachers who have tried to get Linux installed in their school computers so the kids can learn something other than Windows, and all these teachers have had stiff opposition. Some were told to keep it down or they’d lose their jobs.

Teachers like Karen should be made to attend a lesson in OS tolerance. If they think Microsoft is king because that’s what they were told or because they couldn’t handle Linux, its their problem. I’ve seen 11-year old kids use Linux with ease. Maybe the teacher wasn’t smart enough, maybe she didn’t have the patience, maybe she just couldn’t handle something as hot as Linux. But she’s very wrong to impose her monopolistic beliefs on her students. Its beyond her scope if she doesn’t understand the benefits of something she hasn’t used properly.

Labelling Linux with the wrong tags and forcing kids to grow up on some proprietary software with no scope of imagination or creative thinking is yet another reason for the dumbing down of the school system in America.

Read more here.

Google Chrome: Turn off Password Save

One of the first things I do when I install Firefox is to disable the password save option. I have no intention of letting my username/password pairs get saved automatically for others to view later on.

In Google Chrome, to disable the save-password option, click on the little spanner icon on the top right (beside the address bar), select Options, click on the Minor Tweaks tab and select Never save passwords. If you want to view passwords already saved, click on “Show saved passwords”!

turn off password saving in chrome

turn off password saving in google chrome

UPDATE: Commentator Jim has this useful information to add in the comments section.

Here’s a scenario no one has discussed.

1. Allow Chrome to import information from a previously existing Firefox installation
2. Look at Wrench(Spanner)/Options/Minor Tweaks/Show Saved Passwords
3. Select a site, then click “Show Password”

Your saved password from Firefox is displayed in plain text. Chrome has read your password from Firefox, then made it available to anyone in possession of your machine. Physical security is still the most important aspect of security! We really need the master password now!

Google Chrome Browser is Out

Google released its browser named Chrome this afternoon. After downloading the tiny file (474kb) and installing it, I tried visiting a few sites and they all rendered very fast. CSS support is great in this browser.

Then, I visited my website to see what the user-agent string would be displayed as. I was on Windows XP at the moment. The user-agent string was this:

Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US) AppleWebKit/525.13 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/ Safari/525.13

Okay, I tweaked my browser display code to recognize the Chrome browser, so you can check it here. You should get something like this:

arul john google chrome browser

google chrome browser detect on aruljohn.com

The browser comes with Adobe Flash Player 9 out of the box (unlike Firefox), so you don’t have to install it. Java runtime isn’t installed and I’m not sure if that can be done at the moment.

One of the things I like most about this apart from the speed is the Chrome Inspector. Right-click on any page and select Inspect Element. It will show you a multi-tabbed display of the DOM elements, beginning with html and body. This is very useful for debugging.

chrome > elements

chrome > elements

Selecting the Resources shows a graphical display of the time and size of each components of the current webpage.

chrome > resources

chrome > resources

Yes, there are Firefox add-ons/extensions for this, but I think its great that Google included this in its web browser. Its a boon to those who use Firebug on a daily basis.

As of now, there is only a Windows version, Mac users will have to wait for a little more while.

Go ahead and download it here.

My Perl module – Twitter Badge

I wrote my first Perl module Twitter::Badge sometime back and just released version 0.02 with a minor change.

This module provides you with the API required to check any Twitter’s status and other details. The general procedure is something like this:

1. Install the Perl module with CPAN (Linux, Unix, or Mac) or PPM (if you use Windows).

Using CPAN, you have to do this:

perl -MCPAN -e shell

install Twitter::Badge

If you want to do it in one line:

perl -MCPAN -e 'install Twitter::Badge'

You can also download the source, and build the module with:

perl Makefile.PL


make install

2. After installing Twitter::Badge, test if its running with a simple example.

use Twitter::Badge;

# Try it with my Twitter ID
my $id = shift || 14512139;                   # define the Twitter ID
my $twitter = Twitter::Badge->new(id => $id); # create the object for that ID
$twitter->fetch();                            # get information for this ID

# Display status
print $twitter->name.' says - '.$twitter->text."\n"
    if defined $twitter->text;            # display status
print $twitter->name.' has '.$twitter->followers_count." followers\n"
    if defined $twitter->followers_count; # display follower count

You can find the complete documentation here.

This module is very basic right now and subject to change whenever Twitter changes its XML output.

The latest version of Twitter::Badge is 0.02. You may use it at your own risk.

Let me know if you would like any features added in this module.

UPDATE: I have a couple of screenshots (following Chittaranjan’s post) to help newbies use this module.

Screenshot 1

Twitter badge code

Screenshot 2 [execution]

Twitter badge execution

It can be used in any Perl script, either executed on the command line or for the web.

If you're a Perl developer or have developed simple CGI scripts, this will be a piece of cake for you.

Philippine Weather Service moves to Debian Clusters

pagasa philippines arul johnIn what I consider a very smart and economical move, the Philippine government’s Weather Service PAGASA has moved to a clustered Debian Linux system from the existing SGI supercomputer.

For beginners, the Philippines is prone to floods, cyclones, landslides and other weather conditions. Every typhoon has left footprints of death. The Philippines needs to be on the lookout all the time in order to avoid major catastrophe.

PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration) is their official weather service and issues cyclone bulletins every 6 to 12 hours for all cyclones within the area.

They were apparently using an SGI supercomputer until now ,when they decided to move to a Debian cluster that is made up of 8 PCs, each having a dual 64-bit Intel Xeon processor. The nodes are connected via a gigabit switch.

debian linux arul johnPAGASA preferred Debian because it is the most stable! According to Alan Pineda who works there,

“We tried several Linux flavours, including Red Hat, Mandrake, Fedora etc,” said Alan Pineda, head of ICT and flood forecasting at PAGASA.

“Our ICT group came out with Debian as the most stable in servers, especially when things are being done pretty much in automatic mode. In our workstations the preference among programmers is Ubuntu, which is basically Debian-based,” he said.

This move also saves the cash strapped Philippine government a LOT of money. For the last decade, PAGASA’s SGI supercomputer cost over 200,000 Philippine pesos a month to run. After moving to Debian, the cost has dropped to 10,000 Philippine pesos a month – a huge saving of 190,000 pesos!!

They also saved a lot of money on the setup. The supercomputer cost them 25 million pesos, and the Debian cluster cost them just 2 million pesos which included migration cost and training.

The cluster calculates 3-day forecasts twice daily and uses a lot of free and open source meteoroloical software. PAGASA uses open source all the way, including the German High Resolution Model (HRM), MM5, ETA and Intel FORTRAN.

Everyone seems to be happy with the move.

“We are quite happy with the results so far, considering we haven’t applied assimilation of our radar and satellite products. We believe that as soon as these things are done, we can become even more confident in our long-term forecasts,” Pineda said.

Go Debian!!!

Read more here »

Sun buys MySQL

MySQL has just been acquired by Sun Microsystems. Sun is already known to be one of the largest supporters to open source. Hopefully this is a move in the right direction. Sun already supports Postgre SQL and with this acquisition of MySQL, they may probably phase out one and promote the other.

Read more here.