Showing posts from June, 2012

Yay! iTunes Store for Asia

Categories: Techtoday In light of the news that iTunes has finally opened its door to Asia, its obvious that Apple is prepared to make even more money than every before from the mesmerized masses of monetarily-enhanced Asians. For my part, I felt that getting access to content from the Philippines, China, and Malaysia is long overdue.  Considering how popular the brand is in Asia (and how much of the hardware is produced there) it seems somewhat odd that Apple waited for so long before making the iTunes Store fully accessible to country-specific content. The payment schemes, with some countries being billed in U.S. dollars, was perfected for years, with plenty of Apple users in Singapore, Shanghai, and Manila purchasing apps online despite having access to bootleg content in many places (for around $1.50 per app or $8.00 download-all-you-can). Although I'm not a slave to Apple, their online store, and Apple products (I have a certain amount of loyalty to

Your next browser should be Opera 12

Travails with Mozilla Firefox has made me look further than Google Chrome for an alternate browser in my Linux machines.And obviously, I ended up with an old mainstay, the Opera browser.My experience with Opera over the years has always been disappointing.In previous releases, it had trouble opening "complex" pages like,, and several other sites that Firefox had no problems displaying.However, with Opera 12 several hops ahead of the last version I tried, I decided to give it a shot.I recently installed Opera 12 on Linux and Windows 7 warily but found it to be a revelation - it takes advantage of the broadband speed quite well and gone are the poorly displayed web pages.Having used it regularly for several weeks now, I came up with a list of reasons to keep Opera 12 running on my network:1. Back-up browser. A system should always have a back up browser and even if you prefer Google Chrome or Chromium on your Linux b…

Bumblebee Project for Nvidia Optimus: Ubuntu 12.04 LTS and Ideapad Z360

After being blasted by Linux founder Linus Torvalds in the media, Nvidia responded with a little damage control regarding their lack of support for Linux.  To be fair, Nvidia may not have deserved the harsh words from the Linux developer considering the number of generic Nvidia Linux drivers available on their support website.  However, Nvidia's rebuttal regarding Optimus is somewhat weak - citing the Bumblebee Project for the graphics-switching technology Optimus is a poor example of what they would call support. 

Regardless if the Nvidia Optimus technology has been popular in the laptop market is besides the point.  With all due respect to the great independent developers working on the Bumblebee Project, Nvidia's support for the open source drivers are not only incomplete but inadequate. 

I've tested a few releases of Bumblebee before on my Lenovo Ideapad Z360 which runs the following Optimus-power…

Linux on Film: Supernatural Season 7 Episode 20 (with Felicia Day)

Although Hollywood proudly displays Apple products in 90% of their shows and movies with a middling few points for Microsoft products (such as the TV show "Chuck"), Linux does get a bit of exposure, especially when the producers/directors want to look "technical" and "sophisticated."  Today's Linux on Film entry is an unlikely example with the surprisingly endearing Felicia Day using the command line and an obviously skinned Linux distribution in the Supernatural episode "The Girl with the Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo."  There are several indications to the use of Linux on this episode with the directories using a Unix forward slash, a few instances of a Linux interface, and pseudo-Unix commands and utilities.  Surprisingly, there's a strong evidence Felicia Day's workstation is running a heavily skinned Linux Mint, a very popular Linux distribution.

Getting started with DocBook using XML Copy Editor

Category: Techwriter If you're only getting started with a markup language like DocBook, XML editors can be helpful in learning the different elements, tags, and attributes available in the language.  However, editors won't teach you to write markup and you would still need a reference such as the online Definitive DocBook Guide .  That said, XML Copy Editor, available for Linux and Windows, is a popular XML editor used by enthusiasts and professionals and can be a great tool for learning DocBook. Before beginning, it's important to note that you may still prefer a plain text editor especially if you're accustomed to Notepad+, Gedit,Vim, or Kwrite.   Using an XML editor can be intrusive and difficult to get used to at first but it's a good stepping stone if you want to learn how to author quickly. 
Setting up XML and Adding a DocBook Declaration Before beginning, determine if you want to write an earlier DocBook 4.x version or the somewhat …

Microsoft Windows 8 Tablets: iTunes, skinnable Metro, virtualization, Kinect, and other Questions

Categories: Techtoday Having followed the numerous articles regarding the Microsoft Surface Tablet, I could certainly see the potential for the admittedly  sexy device.   Almost immediately, a few thoughts popped into my head about possible uses for the Windows 8 tablet. Windows 8 and iTunes on a Tablet If the Windows 8 tablet is a fully-featured operating system, this means that users can install Apple iTunes. Now, we all know Apps from the Apple iStore are only compatible with iOS but what I'm talking about are the free podcasts, the MP3s, and the videos.  If you have an iPod Touch then you would have access to all these and more (and even if you didn't, you can still access the content on iTunes anyway).   The Windows 8 Surface will have a USB port according to the specifications on the Microsoft Surface site, which would mean connecting a Touch wouldn't be out of the question. Although there are many users out there who abhor iTunes, there is little…

Where are the Skype Conversation Ads?

Categories: Techtoday Microsoft Skype has announced that Skype will regularly release ads when making free phone calls.  Considering that the service has been abused by users for years, with overseas callers leaving their Skype calls running as they go about their business, it's only a fair trade.  According to the news reports, the "Conversation Ads" will be limited to Skype-to-Skype calls for non-paying users without Skype credit.  To be honest, most people have an innate ability to filter out advertisements anyway, so the advertisements probably won't matter as much.  And if they do click on it on impulse and end up purchasing something on the MicrosoftStore, then good for Skype.      There are a lot of alternatives to Skype though most have never reached the level of brand recognition Skype has reached.  Forums have regularly dissed Skype's voice quality, but the penetration of the utility, which is available in smartphones, tablets, …

Using LyX to Publish or Organize your Journal/Diary

Categories: Techwriter

You don't need to learn LaTeX or Docbook in order to prepare your journals or diaries for printing.  Neither would you need commercial and occasionally expensive software such as Adobe InDesign or Adobe PageMakerMicrosoft Word and LibreOfficeWriter are great word processors but somewhat ungainly and overkill for compiling your digital journal or diary.  Note-taking utilities such as Tomboy, CherryTree, and KeepNote are great for assembling images, HTML, and taking down notes on the go but not exactly the best for typesetting.  

The advantage of LyX is that it structures your journal/diary without much effort.  Moreover, LyX exports the document to PDF, DVI, XHTML, RTF, XML, and LaTeX, for digital publishing and printing (and for your personal archive). 

For this example, the source journal is composed of entries which begin with the date and day.  The end product in mi…

Congratulations Linus!

Linus Torvalds recently received his share of the cash reward from the Technology Academy Finland for being a joint winner of the 2012 Millenium Technology Award.  In a very interesting interview with BBC, Linus opines that selfishness and trust is good for Linux and open source.  It's nice to know Torvalds doesn't believe that open source is a "goody-goody" approach to technology and is very "selfish" though I wish that I can directly contribute to Linux in code rather than being an evangelist or writer.  Even with Mr. Linux himself saying that selfishness is good, I still feel guilty about using the numerous free software written by brilliant developers out there.

Editing EPUB using Sigil and Calibre in Linux Part 2

Category: Techwriter Getting started with Sigil is pretty much the same as using any WYSIWYG application.   Thankfully, it focuses mostly on creating/editing the EPUB file rather than overwhelming you with XML add-ons - it's more of LyX than Adobe Dreamweaver in this regard.  More importantly, however, Sigil also allows writers to edit the XML markup, CSS, and XHTML code without leaving the application.  As an example, this article will focus on creating an EPUB file from a Wordpress blog.  Wordpress blogs are exported in XML and a few steps  are required to transform the text to convenient, readable format.  For the sake of brevity, we will be using raw, unedited text rather than formatted text and we'll be adding images later.  Unformatted Text The advantage of using unformatted text in Sigil is consistency and a cleaner code - you can apply a new CSS without worrying too much about previously applied formatting.  The disadvantage is that you may have t…

Taiwan Computex Booth Babes vs. WWDC's Apple Macbook Pro

Categories: Techtoday Having attended the Taiwan Computex and WWDC by proxy in a parallel universe, were you overwhelmed with this . . . or many, many, of this . . . Same here.  Photo from and

Britannica and Bing Beats

Category: Techtoday As a proud owner of the Encyclopedia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite, I'm pretty happy that Bing has now included Britannica as part of its search results permanently.  Laugh if you will, but I have a huge fondness for the traditional encyclopedia as well as its discontinued rival Microsoft Encarta.  I am, however, somewhat disappointed that the Britannica entry appeared much, much lower than an entry for Wikipedia when I searched for Ben Franklin on Bing.  Hopefully, that would change soon.

Technical Writing with an iMac PowerPC G5 with 512MB of RAM Part 2

Category: Techwriter The Hardware, Operating  System, and Software FYI Technical writers OS X 10.4 and Adobe Suite CS2 exhibits issues with JPEGs and old versions of EPS.  There are some bugs in the Adobe Suite's interface in Mac, though not as much as when running in Windows.  I've never been a fan of shortcuts but feel somewhat ashamed when someone sees me using menus.  However, when technical writing in Mac OSX 10.4 with CS2, shortcuts are essential.  I wore out the paint on the Windows/Super button within a week.  Adobe's Mac shortcuts are fairly intuitive but it's the desktop shortcuts that are infinitely useful (e.g. Taking a screenshot). Notable Applications with Mac OSX 10.4: 1. Dashboard - I never liked widgets in Mac, Windows, or Linux but the Dashboard was especially useless when tech writing. 2. Mac OS 9 compatibility layer - With the glut of available freeware for OSX, there really is no need for running OS 9 unless you're chained to an…

Technical Writing with an iMac PowerPC G5 with 512MB Part 1

The illusion of Apple Mac systems being better at design and graphics persists even today despite obvious hardware similarities and improvements to Windows.  Publishing companies still believe that any type of Mac, even ones running on long-obsolete hardware and software, are superior to Windows when it comes to technical writing and page layouts. However, when your employer or client foists you with an iMac circa late 2003-2004 you have no choice but to work with what you have. The Hardware, Operating  System, and Software Mac OSX 10.4.11 Tiger 1.8 GHz PowerPC G5 512 MB DDR ATI Radeon 9600 128 MB VRAM Adobe Creative Suite CS2 Stuffit Expander LibreOffice 3 for PowerPC Adobe Acrobat 7 The iMac is a classic workstation for technical writing and design and is beloved by veterans.  Once upon a time, the iMac was associated with technical writing and graphics.  But I'm not going to lie.  An iMac with these specifications provide no real advantage over a typical laptop runnin…

openSUSE 12.1 in China: Updating and Mirrors

Category: openSUSE SUSE may boast that its enterprise release is the most popular commercial Linux system in China, but is openSUSE getting the short-end of the stick in the Middle Kingdom? openSUSE 12.1, the latest release for the community version of SUSE, is an excellent and stable release.   I haven't had any issues with KDE or any applications since its release last year.  Although I skirt danger by running updates only once a month, I do this religiously.  Unfortunately, for some reason, Yast has not had an easy time accessing openSUSE repositories very well since arriving in China, leading to long wait times and endless prompts to Abort or Retry.  My Fedora, Ubuntu, and Windows 7 systems connect and update just fine, but openSUSE not only struggles to connect to the servers but fails 90% of the time.  I've done a full installation of applications and updates with Fedora 17, upgraded to Ubuntu to 12.04 LTS, and even tested Windows 8, but openSUS…