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User Journal

Journal Journal: Food for thought: why free software is like good food.

This is the outline for my Toastmasters Program Project 03 .. some food for thought.!

Last week when I talked about free software, most of you here registered blanks.
This week, I will try again and this time round,
I will relate free software to something close to everyone's heart: food!

Everyone like good food, in particular singaporeans.
Whenever we discover good food at a restaurant or coffeeshop,
we would bring our friends and family there
and then encourage everyone to eat and grow fatter in the process.

I think most of us here, after eating the good food,
would simply call for the bill, compliment the cook perhaps
and then walk away and to patronize the place again
some other day when you have a craving.

I am wondering if any one of you here would ask for the recipe?
Yes, the recipe.
The list of instructions on how one can prepare the food.
The recipe will tell you what are the ingredients,
the actual steps and process of cooking that particular dish.

But why would one want to ask for the recipe why you can simply
go back to that restaurant or coffeeshop?
Firstly, cost.
If you are like me, you would never have enough.
You would like to eat until your stomach really cannot take it.
If that is the case, you will end up paying a lot.
So if you have the recipe, you can cook up as much as you can eat.

Secondly, the food is good but it might not suit your taste perfectly.
You might like it better with more vegetables or less spicy.
In short, you want to customise it or improve upon it.
With the recipe, you have the ability to simply make the food
taste even better to your liking.
You are then welcome to share this improved recipe with
anyone who is keen to learn.

Thirdly, you cannot always depend on the source.
Perhaps, you have a craving for this food on a holiday
but the restaurant or cafe is not open then.
Or you wanted to add in additional stuff to your dish
such as more vegetables or more meat but the chef would simply not comply
because that would alter his or her signature dish beyond recognition.
All in all, you do not want to be held hostage where your stomach is concerned.

So now you have the motivation to ask for the recipe.
We now come to the question of why the chef will share the recipe with you.
If you think about it, the recipes of all the world's famous dishes
are all open and freely available.
For example, you should be able to find the recipes of dishes
such as the Beijing Roast Duck or the Buddha Jumps Over The Wall
in books or in the Internet.
In addition, you must have watched some TV programmes whereby famous chefs
show you step-by-step how their signature dishes are prepared.
Really, what the chefs are selling to you is not the good food itself
but more of their art of cooking.
Perhaps, I should give you some time to digest this?
Therefore, a good chef will not hesitate to give you the recipe
because he or she knows that it takes a lot more than just the recipe
to cook up the dish.

Suppose you somehow managed to get the recipe somehow,
you may wonder what you can do with the recipe since
you probably, like me, only know how to eat and do not know how to cook at all.
No problem, what you can always do is to get someone else
to cook and you can volunteer to wash the dishes.

So much for food, I shall now briefly relate what I have said to free software.
In the context of software, source code is like the recipe.
It contains instructions for the computer to build the software.
And free software is a special type of software that comes with the source code.
With the source code like the recipe, one can easily make enhancements
or customization to the software.
You may not know how to program but you can always get someone else to do it.
You are then free to pass the improved source code to anyone else who could then
further contribute to continuous software development.
With the source code, you are also entitled to make as many copies
as you need without the need to fork out a large sum.

In conclusion, I have related on how free software is like good food.
They give you the freedom to freely modify and distribute the underlying
the source code or the recipe.
I hope I have provided you with some food for thought this evening.
Thank you!

User Journal

Journal Journal: Fair use of Red Hat(R) Linux trademarks

Take a look at the above URL and you will realise that Red Hat, Inc has recently modified (update -17 Aug 02: ok, I heard it's been since the release of RHL 7.2) its trademarks rules. OK, the hardest hit are those selling GPL'ed CDs (such as Linux Central). They cannot even place the phrase "Contains Red Hat(R) Linux X.X" anywhere on the CD (even with disclaimer that this is not an official Red Hat(R) product). Clearly, Red Hat, Inc is trying to prevent all GPLed CD sellers from selling Red Hat(R) Linux GPLed CDs. The specific URL on this is:

No big deal to you perhaps especially if you do not buy from these CD sellers or if you do not use Red Hat(R) Linux (of coz). However, please appreciate that this is technically a workaround of the GPL using legal means and if they can do this now, they can easily extend and find other ways to circumvent GPL in order to do you-know-what.

I am wondering how Linux Central is going to resolve this (other than paying a potentially big royalty fee). Anyway, the only CD seller that I have noticed to have taken the aprioprate action is It actually refer its Red Hat(R) Linux CDs as XXX XXX Linux CDs. Haha ...

Update (17 Aug): I just came to know that has referred its RHL (Download edition) CDs as Pinkties CDs. LOL

Related articles:

o Red Hat revamping trademark policy in response to community questions

o Red Hat Trademark Fiasco

o Red Hat Allegedly puts Foot Down on Trademarked Brand Name

o Bob Young -- Regarding Amazon's concerns over fake Red Hat product

User Journal

Journal Journal: the inevitable SUN(R) set in the land of GNU/Linux

Most would tell you that sunsets are romantically beautiful and leave behind a tingle of good feeling. The way I see sunsets sometimes is that the sun is going to be out soon.

OK, you may give yourself a pat on your shoulder if you think that I am trying to refer to Sun Microsystems(R). Oh yes, I am referring to Sun Microsystems(R) in its GNU/Linux (ad)ventures. If you have been following, you would have read all about Sun Microsystems(R)'s relative failures in using GNU/Linux to further its competitive advantages, unlike IBM for example (but then IBM has a lot of money to burn, just for fun). Well, I guess the main reason is that Sun Microsystems(R) is still very much a hardware vendor and hence they cannot give up Solaris completely for GNU/Linux. True, Solaris is good but it lacks the vast potential of GNU/Linux (even if Solaris is to be open-sourced now, it would never reach the same level as that of GNU/Linux). Until and unless Sun Microsystems settles for only one OS, it will enjoy limited successes in attracting GNU/Linux-related businesses. Why would one buy a Sun Microsystems(R) box that can run two types of un*x? Sure, it does not make sense even to Sun Microsystems(R) who has to devote some scarce resources for GNU/Linux-related developmental efforts.

Another gripe that the GNU/Linux community has with Sun Microsystems(R) is the level of support of Java on GNU/Linux. Sun Microsystems(R), for the sake of goodwill, should make Java easy available for GNU/Linux. Sure, there are many licensing concerns but all these are typically paperwork (more work for the lawyers, why not) and get Java natively supported in all GNU/Linux.

Sun Microsystems(R) has also recently launched its own GNU/Linux distribution for a series of hardware. Two issues: firstly, no support if you do not purchase the hardware and secondly, it's its own distro and as such adding to the fragmentation pie. Of course, I understand it would be more expensive and not to mention, might be strategically unsound (by classic management rules) to get Red Hat(R) for example to provide the GNU/Linux OS but it is not exactly doing itself a favour by not co-opting one of the major distro-providers. Sun Microsystems should have gotten into an alliance or something and reduced some duplication efforts. It is why IBM does not start its own distro but instead provided help to the general GNU/Linux community at large. No prizes for guessing that you-know-who is sniggering behind the scene at Sun Microsystems(R)' antics.

Sure, there are some other issues that I would to bring up (if I got the time) but they are generally less pressing .. to as whether we will get to see a sunrise the next day will have to depend on Sun Microsystems(R) itself. The ball is literally in their court.

User Journal

Journal Journal: use of copyright to enforce copyleft

It is perhaps an (seemingly tragic) irony that free software licences such as GNU GPL and the other restrictive open source software licences need to depend on the law to make them work. Granted that Richard Stallman seldom need to invoke the law to invoke the GPL, one question is in such a lawsuit, how does the judge or jury determine whether the defendant did not use any GPL'ed code of the plantiff (most probably Richard Stallman)? Definitely, the (offending) code must be revealed somehow for inspection. The multi-million question is who (or what) shalt perform the inspection? Grep?

Another issue worthy of discussion is whether the state or government agencies should deploy proprietary software whereby the source code is not readily available for inspection for security vulnerabilities and stuff that matter? How can the state of government agencies trust the software vendor "not to working for the other side". This is probably why governments such as China are saying "no" to closed-source software. Apparently, the trend is catching on with more government initatives to consider open source software (and then to make the evident switch). Hmm, I might consider doing a case study on this issue if more and more materials surface.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Tom Clancy's (computer game)

Hands up if you have played Tom Clancy's computer game (which unfortunately is only available in the Windows(R) platform). Tom Clancy's is a turn-based software empire-building game that surprisingly and chillingly realistically stimulates the real software business world out there.

Buy over startups or even large companies (if you have the cash), sabotage your enemies, poach key personnel, open source your products, market aggressively, fend off anti-trust cases .. they are all part and parcel in the name of the game. To win, one really needs to be ruthless. Having a high-quality product does not mean anything if one cannot erode opponents' competitive advantages through legal or/and underhand methods.

It is definitely not an easy game although at the end of the day, if you ever emerge as a complete victor (there can only be one), you might get to understand Bill Gates a little. Of course, it might not be a big deal but a chinese saying goes by "knowst thyself and thy enemies well and thou shalt win all thy battles". Beats playing X-Bill anytime ... hehe

User Journal

Journal Journal: is Transgaming for real?

Its recent release WineX 2.1 can play Warcraft 3, Civilization 3, Black & White and others! Wow, if this is really true, things are going to look better and better for GNU/Linux users who are coincidentally gamers ..

Anyone who has tried WineX 2.1? Comments?

User Journal

Journal Journal: Real(ly) going open source 3

RealNetworks, you know it's the company that bring you RealPlayer, Real Audio and (I think) the first Internet multimedia streaming, is going open source via a dual-licensing scheme in an effort to resist the domineering efforts of you-know-who. In addition, it should come to no surprise that RealNetworks wanted to tap on the talents of volunteer (read free) hackers.

It seems that this dual-licensing software developmental paradigm has seemed to catch on particularly in areas where you-know-who has a presence (in fact, you-know-who seems to be absent from nowhere). With Netscape/Mozilla and Staroffice/ already in the bag, we should expect more to come along this way. Isn't there any better way? Perhaps but why deviate from a workable plan? A sure blueprint for success (or total failure depending on how you see it)

User Journal

Journal Journal: Eric Allman in Singapore

I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet Mr Eric Allman (the author of Sendmail) in person when he came to Singapore, presumably on a business tour and gave a talk in a local university (of which I am a student in). While he is a very interesting fellow, his talk bordered on the brink of being a cure for insomnia because he only talked about some history of the Internet (for what? none of the attendees are history students) and some general issues on email and nothing (really) about Sendmail. It was disappointing for me because I thought he would be lecturing on the technalities on Sendmail. I would later understood from the organiser that it was the organiser's intention not to have Mr Allman to talk about his Sendmail. What a shame.

Unfortunately, there seems to be quite a few of qmail fans attending the talk and hence I could detect a tinge of hostility during the Q&A session. Bad qmail fans, go away!

User Journal

Journal Journal: software piracy in south east asia 1

I am a south-east asian and I can tell you what software piracy in south east asia is all about. Pirated software are essentially learning and evaluation versions for the masses; one can have the latest and best software for mere peanuts. Software is pretty useless if one does not use it or learn how to use it. The governments close one of their eyes because they know pirated software is needed to promote IT literacy which would in turn boost their economies with a more skilled workforce. How else would so many students know how to use Microsoft Visual Studio or so many of those not in the IT industry know how to use Microsoft Office. They had to start from somewhere and that somewhere is usually at home (or even workplace) with pirated software.

Now that the IT literacy rates have improved vastly over the year, those software companies (with Microsoft) which have been hovering like watchful hawks (or vultures as some would prefer), started to swoop for their right of prey (in truth and law, they deserved to be compensated in one way or another). Software audits are no longer done in a hush-hush manner and whistle-blowers are rewarded for squealing on their usually ex-employers. The governments can no longer act blur to the illegal use of software, use of illegal software and the illegal software itself otherwise it would face multiple sanctions. Raids on software pirates were widely successful (someone has to be the scrapegoat) and pleasing to the various software companies (I am actually still wondering on their real reactions). Education is in place to steer the people to the right way of using the software. It's harvest time for the software companies (or is it not)!

Then something peculiar happened. In fact, this is still in the trickling stage and I invite you to witness this phenomenon together. Someone started to invite Mr Penguin (GNU/Linux) around. Suddenly, people are realising the virtues and strength of free and open source software such as GNU/Linux. They are not exactly difficult to pick up because the fundamentals are already in place. Some governments made a knowingly wry smile; an almost suppressed one. Some of them still need the support from software companies such as Microsoft but some other governments have decided to be anti-western (what has it got to do with software, no one really knows) and to adopt free and open source software which is supposed to belong to everyone on earth.

Ah, socio-economic and political tides know no magnitude and directions. Hear Hear. Alas, only in my birthplace are our countrymen forever doomed to stand in the shadow of others because we are too small to be a giant.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Joy of Linux?

Wondering if any of you here have read the book "Joy of Linux" by Michael Hall and Brian Proffitt? What do you think of this book? My opinion of this book is that it does explain, in some details, why GNU/Linux is popular with some folks. It is not so much a history textbook in the likes of "Rebel Code: Linux And The Open Source Revolution" by Glyn Moody and "Free for All: How LINUX and the Free Software Movement Undercut the High-Tech Titans" by Peter Wayner. A comic book featuring the Linux Lass (from the Joy of Linux) will be very interesting. If you don't know what I am talking about (it's fine), pop over to

For those who want to know more about this book, you may refer to

User Journal

Journal Journal: turbolinux some more

Turbolinux has issued a serious rebuttal to fend off rumours that it is going to close down although it ominously admitted that it would need to restructure its US operations due to the last-second pullout by an investor. So what can we make out of this case? Was it good for LinuxGram (the original source of the "rumour") to point out TurboLinux might be facing some problems? What are LinuxGram's and LinuxToday's agenda in surfacing this? One can always look at it in the two sides of the coin. The negative side is that unfounded rumours might ruin the company's reputation albeit temporarily but definitely could be disastrous enough to smear dirt on the chastity (tomato ketchup on satin will never go away without the help from the laundry). The positive part is that the Linux Community is very responsive and sensitive towards the health of all Linux commercial (as well as non-commercial) entities and the Community has an interest to keep companies healthy. Whenever anything seems to go wrong, point it out and then fix it. The Community can help.

User Journal

Journal Journal: turbolinux no more?

I was alarmed when I reloaded my LinuxToday webpage this morning only to find a link citing that TurboLinux is going to close shop, pack their bags and go home after a long arduous struggle to float in the bottomless sea of what-they-called-the-real-world. Huh? was my first reaction. While I do not pay much attention to Turbolinux usually, I know that they are doing alright in Japan if not in Asia in general. They are also offering valuable professional services such as clustering and stuff that matters. Then, how can it suddenly slide to the brink of non-existency? It is rather hard to fathom this truth but hopefully, Turbolinux would quickly issue a rebuttal complete with supporting information that they would probably still be around to witness the dethrone of MS by GNU/Linux.

User Journal

Journal Journal: 1.0 - In a nutshell

Copyright (c) 2002 William Ku
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document
under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1
or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation;
with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no
Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license can be accessed at

Part 3 of 3

Some concluding remarks
I would consider that with its present extensive set of
features and being in the state of continous improvement, can give
Microsoft(R) Office and Staroffice(R) a really good run for their money.
For GNU/Linux users, is the much-awaited boon that fill
in the void of a complete and integrated office productivity suite. For
Microsoft(R) Office users, might just provide the break
from the dependence of Microsoft(R) products. One can have a completely
free (and yet fully functional) office workstation (that is, minus the
hardware costs). Do give a try; you will not regret it!

System requirements
------------------- is available for the Microsoft(R) Windows, SPARC and
GNU/Linux platform. A Macintonish version is on the way. As for
hardware requirements, is not quite as resource-hungry as
Microsoft(R) Office or Staroffice(R) but it require at least a decent
Pentium(R) PC with 64 MB RAM and some 250MB of hard disk space. I would
encourage that for a smooth performance, install it in a
PC with lots of RAM; you would feel the blazing difference in speed.

Installation matters
Installation of 1.0 is generally such a breeze that it is
not worth mentioning anything about it.

Where to get (only for those staying in Singapore)
You can download your copy from one of the mirrors listed at An
unofficial mirror is at
Alternatively, you can buy an unofficial CD (containing
both Microsoft(R) Windows and GNU/Linux versions) from Mynasoft

Differences between Staroffice(R) and
According to the website, the main differences between
Staroffice(R) and are mainly that does
not contain certain components of Staroffice(R) such as certain fonts,
the database component (Adabas D), some templates, clip art gallery,
some file filters and some other minor features. The average user will not feel the absence of these differences.

Always refer to the Office Suite as;
Openoffice or Open Office are not acceptable for legal reasons.

User Journal

Journal Journal: - The 5 pillars

Copyright (c) 2002 William Ku
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document
under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1
or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation;
with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no
Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license can be accessed at

Part 2 of 3 1.0
There are 5 main components in 1.0. They are Writer,
Calc, Impress, Draw and Math. Writer is a word processor; Calc is a
spreadsheet application; Impress is a presentation application where
you can create slides like in MS PowerPoint(R); Draw allows you to
express your creativity as a digital graphic artist; Math makes the
construction of mathematical equations look almost as good as
handwritten ones.

Used to Microsoft(R) Word? Its universal loved look-and-feel has been
adopted and adapted by most of its successful alternatives such as
StarWriter (from StarOffice(R)), KWord (from KDE's KOffice) and Abiword.
In this "attack of the clones",'s Writer is no different
and its look-and-feel will immediately set you in ease; you can start
using it immediately!

The usual features are all there: popular fonts, style formatting,
tables, spellcheck and others-you-name-it-they-should-have-it. If you
found that your favourite feature is missing, you can actually visit the website and make a request for this particular feature
and the chances are that it will get implemented if this feature is also
being requested by other users. Found a bug? Report it too and get it

For those who are worried about document inter-compatibility, the
support for Microsoft(R) Word documents is reported to be better than
before (as in Staroffice(R) although there are still a few Microsoft(R)
Word features that Writer could not decipher. You can save in
Microsoft(R) Word 97/2000/XP, 95, 6.0 formats although features will be lost. In addition, there is no
support for WordPerfect documents.

Microsoft(R) Excel is yet another Microsoft(R) killer application for
which Calc,'s spreadsheet component, is a good
substitute. Plot pie-charts, define functions to compute consolidating

Support for Microsoft(R) Excel documents is just as good. There are no
problems opening some of my important Excel files; no losses in format
too. Calc can save in Microsoft(R) Excel 97/200/Xp and 95 format.

Impress your peers with a non-Microsoft(R) PowerPoint presentation. The
usual transition animation and effects are included along with a host of
other unique ones. An integrated drawing tool (Draw) complements
Impress,'s presentation component, well and allows the
creative user to draw specific clip arts for the presentation. Functions
for some fancy font design and 3D effects & animations are also

Draw is's drawing tool to churn out 2D clip art. 3D
animations and effects are also possible. While Draw is meant as a
complementary tool to Writer, Calc and Impress, it can be used as a
standalone. However, there is no provision to save in any graphics
format which clearly reduces the reusability of the masterpieces that
the user has created.

Draw cannot compete with digital graphics applications such as Adobe(R)
Photoshop(R) and GIMP but it would suffice for simple drawing. For
those who wanted to dabble in digital art, Draw might be the initil
stepping stone that you are looking for.

Anyone who needs to prepare documents containing mathematical equations
would know that it is not easy to find an application that combines the
required presentation of word processing and the representation of
mathematical equations to look like as if they are hand-written. Even
Microsoft(R) Word and its companion Maths Equation Editor do not fully
satisfy this requirement. As such, many have turned to typesetting
software such as LaTex but at a tradeoff of complexity and the power of
word processor software.

Math,'s mathematical equation editor, can be helpful in
this aspect. As with LaTex, the user will input commands to specify the
type of equations that are needed. In Math, each equation can be saved
as an embedded object to be used with the other
components and thus allowing for an integrated presentation. However,
the reusability of these Maths objects is restricted to within (and Staroffice(R)).

User Journal

Journal Journal: - Introduction

Copyright (c) 2002 William Ku
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document
under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1
or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation;
with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no
Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license can be accessed at

Part 1 of 3

You may have heard of Sun Microsystems(R) Staroffice(R) which is being
offered as a viable and cheaper alternative to Microsoft(R) Office(R). is the open source (or free) cousin of Staroffice(R).
Staroffice(R) used to be free as in you can freely download and install
in as many computers as you like but Sun Microsystems(R) has recently
decided to charge for Staroffice(R). However, pleased do not fret as will always be free and we are going to show you in this
article how and why instead of MS Office(R) and
Staroffice(R) is for you. was started as a community project whereby the source
code of certain parts of Staroffice(R) were released to the public for
volunteers to work on and improve upon them. While these improvements
will always be made freely available to the public, Sun Microsystems(R)
reserves the right to incorporate the improvements to StarOffice(R)
which is still a closed-source project. For those of you who are
familiar with the Netscape/Mozilla story, it is the same model that
Sun Microsystems(R) is using. You might be wondering that if that is
the case, StarOffice will always be the better product. However, this
may not be the case since is constantly being improved
by expert programmers all around the world who have kindly contributed
their time towards this community cause and improvements are being made
available quickly in the form of frequent software upgrades (could be in
the space of a few weeks) while new versions of Staroffice(R) (and
Microsoft(R) Office are typically only made available between intervals
of several months. has since evolved and come of age. Recently, its
milestone 1.0 Office Suite was released and we are going
to show you how and why 1.0 will work for you.

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