Monday, April 22, 2013

Linux Mint Debian

I came across a review of Linux Mint Debian Edition recently and decided to try it out. The review is quite comprehensive as to how Mint installs, what it looks like, and the software it comes with, so I'm just going to add a few points of my own.

Linux Mint Debian Edition is based on "tested snapshots of Debian Testing", so you get more recent software than Debian Stable, but with a more stable system than Testing. Debian Testing has been frozen for months as the bugs are knocked outgoing towards the new stable version, and even before that it had been pretty stable for many months. No surprise that Debian Mint is also very stable. I don't know what it will be like when Testing is unfrozen and a cascade of new updates arrives. It would have been more interesting to test it then. Maybe I'll try it again in a couple of months when Testing really is ahead of Stable.

The Desktop I tried was Cinnamon, which is Gnome 3 molded into the shape of Gnome 2, or a classic Windows desktop paradigm. Debian Testing may be going to become Stable in a few days, but Cinnamon still inherits a bug I've seen for a year or so using Gnome 3 in Debian Testing. A blue artifact appears in the top left corner of windows, probably a bug in my graphics card with whatever Gnome 3 and Cinnamon use for compositing.

Cinnamon is going to be perfect for anybody coming from Windows XP, or Gnome 2, and who wants to stick with the same desktop paradigm. It looks good and works smoothly as installed.

However, it does adopt the drawbacks of the old desktop paradigm: redundant icons with duplicated functionality and inefficiency in a cluttered window switching mechanism.

The panel has a launcher for Firefox. OK, convenient, but when you launch Firefox, you see the same Firefox icon in the window button next to it. Clicking the launcher button again launches a new Firefox Window.

Windows 7 has shown that there's a much more efficient way to use program icons in the panel: as a launcher and window button.

Open a lot of applications and the window buttons in the panel soon become small and unreadable- just like in Windows XP or Gnome 2. There doesn't even seem to be a way to group windows.

Gnome 3 came about to take advantage of modern graphics cards, whereas the old Windows XP paradigm, which actually dates back to Windows 95, dates from a time when computers didn't have this graphics performance. Windows 95 couldn't show you thumbnail images of open windows when you hovered over an application icon, but Windows 7 can. Gnome 3 can do it with a hot corner or Alt Tab, so why can't Cinnamon do it? Cinnamon enforces the non-use of functionality that is available in Gnome 3, retaining a drawback that dates from seventeen years ago and a time of very limited computer hardware capability.

C'mon Cinnamon, get with the 21st century! Let's have a modern window switching mechanism.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Banners Broker

Having had an interest in computer malware for almost ten years now, I've come across some very unscrupulous internet advertising operations- the sort that try to install advertising software on computers by exploitation of security vulnerabilities or social engineering, and make it as difficult as possible to uninstall it. The people behind such operations may masquerade as legitimate, but they are crooks.

Perhaps that's why when somebody suggested I put some money into the Banners Broker company I smelled a rat. It claims to make you money by buying and reselling internet advertising. At first look, perhaps plausible, but schemes to make huge amounts of money from internet advertising can be crooked.

I'm also suspicious of money making schemes that require no work or expertise, especially ones that seem to guarantee a return.

I Googled the company and found that it was a Ponzi scheme, promoted by a bunch of obvious con men and women. The evidence for this was clearly available, and I didn't want anything to do with the company. It seemed likely at the time that the scheme was close to collapse, but it still seems to be trying to attract new money (although not paying out any more). 

For this reason I've decided to post the information I've come across in the hope that it may reach somebody tempted to put money into the scheme or a similar one. The business model of the scheme is totally implausible- this has been well documented- and the suspension of disbelieve seems to depend a sense of entitlement- there are millions of dollars moving around the internet in advertising, why shouldn't some of those dollars fall into my lap?

Because you don't deserve it: there's no way Banners Broker makes money legitimately, only by drawing in new suckers. Don't be one. Check out the evidence.

A web developer looks at the business model.

An internet advertiser looks at the business model.

Another internet advertiser looks at the business model (update here).

An online advertising expert looks at the business model (update here).

A web site publisher looks at the business model.

A make money online website looks at the business model.

A blog on internet cybercrime has pictures of Banners Broker's obviously fake headquarters.

Finally, has a thread on Banners Broker.

Debian gets multimedia support!

As of course users of Debian Testing have probably noticed (especially if they read this blog), Debian Wheezy has multimedia support:
Multimedia support
  • In Debian wheezy, ffmpeg has been replaced by the libav fork, which is considered to feature a more conservative release process and thus fit better to Debian's needs. It provides all libraries and prepares an upgrade path for existing application packages. 
  • Debian wheezy comes with full-featured libav (formerly ffmpeg) libraries and frontends, including e.g. mplayer, mencoder, vlc and transcode. Additional codec support is provided e.g. through lame for MP3 audio encoding, xvidcore for MPEG-4 ASP video encoding, x264 for H.264/MPEG-4 AVC video encoding, vo-aacenc for AAC audio encoding and opencore-amr and vo-amrwbenc for Adaptive Multi-Rate Narrowband and Wideband encoding and decoding, respectively. For most use cases, installation of packages from third-party repositories should not be necessary anymore. The times of crippled multimedia support in Debian are finally over!

Debian Wheezy set for release on 4th/5th May

We now have a target date of the weekend of 4th/5th May for the release. We have checked with core teams, and this seems to be acceptable for everyone.  This means we are able to begin the final preparations for a release of Debian 7.0 - "Wheezy".
The intention is only to lift the date if something really critical pops up that is not possible to handle as an errata, or if we end up technically unable to release that weekend (e.g. a required machine crashes or d-i explodes in a giant ball of fire).