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Donations to Wikipedia
November 20th 2008

As they do periodically, these greedy bastards benefactors of humanity at Wikimedia Foundation are rising money to pay for the infrastructure that that a service like Wikipedia offers.

Since I shelled out some euros to them, I see no reason not to encourage the (many) readers of this blog to do the same:

Wikipedia Affiliate Button
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La jungla de internet móvil: simyo contra Movistar, Vodafone y Orange
October 24th 2008

Ya comenté en un post anterior los pros y contras que encontraba para contratar Orange o simyo como proveedor de internet móvil. Finalmente escogí simyo, con quien no tengo en principio queja, excepto que en general es más lento e irregular de lo que esperaba (pero temo que sea un problema inherente al uso de red de telefonía móvil).

Con el tiempo he ido viendo cada vez más anuncios de internet móvil, por la calle y en televisión. Obviamente los que más machacan con el tema son los ladrones de Movistar, como con todo con lo que creen que pueden sacar tajada engañando proveyendo de un servicio a la gente.

Lo que me indigna es lo absolutamente vergonzosas que son las ofertas de los principales operadores (Movistar, Vodafone y Orange), respecto a otras como la de simyo. Por ello, voy a hacer una mínima comparativa, y que el lector saque conclusiones.


Se ha comparado un producto de cada empresa, teniendo como características una tarifa plana hasta cierto volúmen de datos mensual. Tras ese gasto la velocidad ofrecida baja en todos los casos, pero no se cobra más por ese volúmen extra. Los precios son con IVA.


Compañía Ancho de banda Precio Límite datos Velocidad tras límite Permanencia
simyo 3.2 Mbps 28.99 € 5 GB 128 kbps 0
Movistar 3 Mbps 45.24 € 1 GB 128 kbps 18 meses
Vodafone 3 Mbps 45.24 € 1 GB 128 kbps ns/nc
Orange 3.6 Mbps 45.24 € 5 GB 128 kbps 18 meses

Notas adicionales

  • El módem USB de simyo es libre. Los demás son cada uno exclusivo de su compañía.
  • Vodafone excluye expresamente el tráfico p2p (compartición de ficheros). Simyo lo permite expresamente, diciendo que pudiera ralentizarse en caso de congestión de red.


¿Hace falta añadir algo?

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Installation of simyo Huawei E220 under Linux
October 3rd 2008

Last friday I wrote about how to install a Huawei E220 modem under MacOSX. Today I will write the corresponding HowTo for Linux.

Usually installation of hardware with non-free drivers is a bit more difficult in Linux than in MacOS and Windows, because the drivers are only made for the latter two. However the E220 is well supported by the Linux kernel (starting at 2.6.20, apparently), so we only need to tweak some configuration files.

1 - Make the system see it properly

The Huawei E220 is a dual machine: apart from being a modem, it is also an USB flash device, with some space to save the Mac/Windows drivers, so that it will "autoinstall" when plugging it under those OSs.

This adds a small level of difficulty, because we have to make sure that the OS sees it as a modem, not as a storage device. In principle the command dmesg (or the file /var/log/messages) will tell us about it. However, I have had it work when dmesg would say that it was a storage device!

The short story is that some kernel modules must be loaded, and some others unloaded, when you plug the device. Needed modules: option, usbserial, ppp_async. Must not be present: airprime. In my case usb_storage made no harm, some people say you should unload it. For airprime not to be automatically loaded, put it in some blacklist file in /etc/modprobe.d/. I decided to add the following line to /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist-modem:

blacklist airprime

You can ensure the required modules are loaded by taking advantage of udev, but it is not really necessary (in my case it wasn't). udev can also give you a consistent name for the modem. For me the relevant device was always /dev/ttyUSB0, but you can make it /dev/huawei if you will. For that, you can put the following optional rules in a file in /etc/udev/rules.d/ (for example create 55-huawei.rules):

BUS=="usb", SYSFS{idProduct}=="1003", SYSFS{idVendor}=="12d1", NAME="huawei"
BUS=="usb", SYSFS{idProduct}=="1003", SYSFS{idVendor}=="12d1", RUN+="/sbin/modprobe option"
BUS=="usb", SYSFS{idProduct}=="1003", SYSFS{idVendor}=="12d1", RUN+="/sbin/modprobe ppp_async"

Two notes: the strings in idProduct and idVendor are obtained running the command lsusb when the modem is plugged. It will show something like:

Bus 003 Device 005: ID 12d1:1003 Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd. E220 HSDPA Modem

This is a very neat trick for any USB device we want to manage with udev. The second note is that kppp (see later) only allows to choose a modem device from a list. If you make the modem be /dev/huawei, you will not be able to use kppp, since that device won't appear in the list.

2 - Configure wvdial / kppp

You can make use of programs such as wvdial or kppp to make the actual connection. I use kppp myself, but that's up to you (wvdial is apparently more flexible).


To use it you have to create a /etc/wvdial.conf file. You can achieve this by running wvdialconf as root, or editing the file by hand, if you are brave.

For me, the output of wvdialconf yielded:

Editing `/etc/wvdial.conf'.

Scanning your serial ports for a modem.

Modem Port Scan<*1>: S0 S1 S2 S3
WvModem<*1>: Cannot get information for serial port.
ttyUSB0<*1>: ATQ0 V1 E1 -- OK
ttyUSB0<*1>: ATQ0 V1 E1 Z -- OK
ttyUSB0<*1>: ATQ0 V1 E1 S0=0 -- OK
ttyUSB0<*1>: ATQ0 V1 E1 S0=0 &C1 -- OK
ttyUSB0<*1>: ATQ0 V1 E1 S0=0 &C1 &D2 -- OK
ttyUSB0<*1>: ATQ0 V1 E1 S0=0 &C1 &D2 +FCLASS=0 -- OK
ttyUSB0<*1>: Modem Identifier: ATI -- Manufacturer: huawei
ttyUSB0<*1>: Speed 9600: AT -- OK
ttyUSB0<*1>: Max speed is 9600; that should be safe.
ttyUSB0<*1>: ATQ0 V1 E1 S0=0 &C1 &D2 +FCLASS=0 -- OK
WvModem<*1>: Cannot get information for serial port.
ttyUSB1<*1>: ATQ0 V1 E1 -- OK
ttyUSB1<*1>: ATQ0 V1 E1 Z -- OK
ttyUSB1<*1>: ATQ0 V1 E1 S0=0 -- OK
ttyUSB1<*1>: ATQ0 V1 E1 S0=0 &C1 -- OK
ttyUSB1<*1>: ATQ0 V1 E1 S0=0 &C1 &D2 -- OK
ttyUSB1<*1>: ATQ0 V1 E1 S0=0 &C1 &D2 +FCLASS=0 -- OK
ttyUSB1<*1>: Modem Identifier: ATI -- Manufacturer: huawei
ttyUSB1<*1>: Speed 9600: AT -- OK
ttyUSB1<*1>: Max speed is 9600; that should be safe.
ttyUSB1<*1>: ATQ0 V1 E1 S0=0 &C1 &D2 +FCLASS=0 -- OK

Found a modem on /dev/ttyUSB0.
Modem configuration written to /etc/wvdial.conf.
ttyUSB0: Speed 9600; init "ATQ0 V1 E1 S0=0 &C1 &D2 +FCLASS=0"
ttyUSB1: Speed 9600; init "ATQ0 V1 E1 S0=0 &C1 &D2 +FCLASS=0"

And my current /etc/wvdial.conf looks as follows:

[Dialer Defaults]
;Init1 = ATZ
Init2 = ATQ0 V1 E1 S0=0 &C1 &D2 +FCLASS=0
Modem Type = Analog Modem
ISDN = 0
New PPPD = yes
Modem = /dev/ttyUSB1
Baud = 9600

[Dialer simyo]
Dial Command = ATDT
Phone = *99#
Init2 = ATZ
Init4 = ATE0V1&D2&C1S0=0+IFC=2,2
Init3 = AT+CGDCONT=1,"IP","";
Stupid Mode = 1
Modem Type = Analog Modem
ISDN = 0
Modem = /dev/ttyUSB0
Username = whatever
Password = whatever
Baud = whatever

In bold, the relevant user-provided settings. In italics, some items in which you can put whatever, because it doesn't seem to make a difference.

To connect, run wvdial simyo (or whatever you put in the "[Dialer xxx]" setting above), in the command line. To terminate, Ctrl+C.


This is the one I use. To open the config/run dialog, run kppp (you can do this as user). There you will have to configure two things: the account and the modem. By pressing "Configure" you will be presented with a window with four tabs. In the first one you will create a new account, in which the relevant data is:

  • Phone number: *99#
  • Authentication: PAP/CHAP
  • Callback type: none

In the second tab you will configure the modem:

  • Modem device: /dev/ttyUSB0
  • Flow control: Hardware
  • Line termination: CR/LF
  • Connection speed: 921600

Please note that those are parameters that work for me. I can not assure that they are the "correct" ones. I have player around with different values, and many times the modem would work all the same with different settings. If you find some error in my setup, please tell me :^)

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Wikipedia is down
September 30th 2008

Wikipedia seems to be temporarily down... see below (click to enlarge):

How will the western civilization survive this!

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Installation of simyo Huawei E220 under MacOSX
September 26th 2008

I recently subscribed to simyo's mobile internet service. I was considering also Orange, as explained in a previous post (es), but simyo's offer is better.

I am writing how to make the modem simyo provides (the commonplace Huawei E220) on MacOSX first, because apparently the PIN has to be deactivated for the modem to work in Linux. I have to admit that in MacOSX installation was a breeze.

Software installation

Start MacOS, then plug the USB modem. A window will open automatically, with two objects inside: "MobileConnect" and "User Manual". The former is the installer binary, and the latter is a folder with the manuals in PDF format (for me, they were in English and Spanish).

Clicking on the "MobileConnect" icon the installer will start, and after being asked to accept an EULA, then introduce the admin password, then choosing a location for placing the files (actually just a hard disk, not a concrete dir), the installer does its thing.

Profile setting

After that, we only need to configure a connection in the "Mobile Connect" window that opens automatically after installation. For that, click on "Setting..." and create a new profile. If you read the manual (see above), it is easy to fill in the blanks. In short:

  • Profile name: whatever you want
  • Access Point Name: this is the APN value that simyo tells you in some paper (
  • Telephone number: *99#
  • Account name: irrelevant
  • Password: irrelevant

Save the above, then choose the profile you just created in the drop-down list in "Profile name", then hit the "Connect" button. If after saying "Dialing up, please wait", it tells you "Connection succesfull!", then everything is fine!

PIN deactivation

Apparently using the modem under Linux requires that the PIN is deactivated. Doing that under MacOSX is easy: when the "Mobile Connect" window is active, go to the "Manage PIN" drop-down menu in the top bar. There you can find "Activate", "Deactivate" and "Modify". Self-explanatory, ain't it?

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DreamHost makes me happy again: free backups
September 15th 2008

Perhaps you are aware of my first (and last so far) gripe with DreamHost: as I wrote a couple of months ago, they wouldn't let me use my account space for non-web content.

Well, it seems that they really work to make their users happy, and probably other people requested something like that, and read what the August DH newsletter says about it:

In keeping with my no-theme theme, uh oh, I think I just made a destroy-the-universe-LHC-style self-contradiction, here's a new feature that pretty much has nothing to do with anything I said in the introduction!

Now, you know how we give out a LOT of disk space with our hosting? Well technically that space is only supposed to be used for your _actual_ web site (and email / database stuff) .. not as an online backup for your music, pictures, videos, other servers, etc!

Well, just like every other web host does, we've been sort of cracking down on that some lately, and it seems to catch some people by surprise! Nobody likes being surprised, especially in the shower, which is where we typically brought it up, and so now we offer a solution:

You CAN use 50GB of your disk space for backups now! The only caveat is, it's a separate ftp (or sftp) user on a separate server and it can't serve any web pages. There are also NO BACKUPS kept of THESE backups (they should already BE your backups, not your only copy), and if you go over 50GB, extra space is only 10 cents a GB a month (a.k.a. cheap)!

Thanks, DreamHost, for showing me that I made a good choice when I chose you!
Update: apparently only SFTP works (or FTP if you are idiot enough to enable it), but not scp or any SSH-related thing (rsync, ...). I hope I find some workaround, because if not that would be a showstopper for me.

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Orange contra simyo
September 10th 2008

Estoy en proceso de selección de una compañía que me dé acceso a internet móvil. Es decir, poder conectarme a internet a través de la red de telefonía móvil, usando para ello una tarjeta SIM como la de los móviles, y un módem habilitado para usarla.

He seguido (de lejos) la evolución de los precios y servicios ofertados por las compañías de telecomunicaciones españolas, y la verdad es que no podían calificarse más que de estafa, o quizá "robo" es una palabra mejor. Sin embargo creo que ahora mismo es el momento en que los precios empiezan a ser competitivos (aunque no los de todas las compañias). Movistar y Vodafone parecen ofrecer basuras de calibre considerable, pero hay dos productos que me han llamado la atención: Internet Everywhere de Orange, y Tu propio internet móvil de simyo.

Ambas compañías ofrecen un servicio similar, que se puede resumir en:

  • Tarifa plana
  • Velocidad 3.6 Mbps hasta 5 GB mensuales
  • Tras consumir 5 GB se puede seguir navegando a 128 kbps sin coste adicional
  • Módem USB Huawei E220, que he leído que está soportado bien por Linux

La diferencia entre ambas es básicamente el precio (siendo simyo bastante más barata). A continuación resumo puntos a favor y en contra para ambas, y animo al amable lector a que me dé su opinión sobre el tema, si a bien tuviera.



  • Tiene tiendas físicas donde acudir
  • Regala el módem


  • El precio es más caro (39 eur/mes + IVA).
  • Exige compromiso de permanencia de 18 meses
  • Siendo una de las tres compañías que forman el oligopolio de las operadoras móviles en España (con Vomistar y Robafone), contratarla supone apuntalar su dominio (y poder para abusar del cliente), y ahogar a la competencia minoritaria



  • Mucho más barato: 24.99 eur/mes + IVA).
  • El módem es libre (el de Orange creo que no).
  • Me gusta más su política de funcionamiento, la idea de "no frills", y lo que conlleva.
  • Aunque respaldada por KPN, simyo es una compañía minoritaria en España. Por ello, contratar sus servicios activa una sana competencia en el mercado.


  • Sólo puede accederse a la compañía por internet.
  • El módem hay que comprarlo, por 99 eur + IVA.

Todo lo anterior podría resumirse simplistamente en que Orange te regala los 99 euros del módem, mientras que simyo te cobra 14 euros menos al mes. Si esto fuera cierto, en 7 meses uno habría amortizado el módem en simyo (y tengamos en cuenta que Orange pide 18 meses de permanencia, y simyo 0). En los 18 meses de permanencia de Orange uno habrá gastado 18x39 = 702 eur (más IVA), mientras que en simyo habrían sido 99+18x25 = 549 eur (más IVA). Esto supone un ahorro de 150 euros en año y medio.

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First DreamHost disappointment
July 11th 2008

I will simply copy&paste an e-mail interchange between DreamHost and me, with a few extra comments (some data substituted by "xxxxx"):


Dear Iñaki,

Our system has noticed what seems to be a large amount of "backup/non-web" content on your account (#xxxxx), mostly on user "xxxxx" on the web server "xxxxx".

Some of that content specifically is in /home/xxxxx (although there may be more in other locations as well.)

Unfortunately, our terms of service ( state:

The customer agrees to make use of DreamHost Web Hosting servers primarily for the purpose of hosting a website, and associated email functions. Data uploaded must be primarily for this purpose; DreamHost Web Hosting servers are not intended as a data backup or archiving service. DreamHost Web Hosting reserves the right to negotiate additional charges with the Customer and/or the discontinuation of the backups/archives at their discretion.

At this point, we must ask you to do one of three things:

* You can delete all backup/non-web files on your account.

* You can close your account from our panel at:
(We are willing to refund to you any pre-paid amount you have remaining, even if you're past the 97 days. Just reply to this email after closing your account from the panel).


* You may now enable your account for backup/non-web use!

If you'd like to enable your account to be used for non-web files, please visit the link below. You will be given the option to be charged $0.20 a month per GB of usage (the monthly average, with daily readings) across your whole account.

We don't think there exists another online storage service that has anything near the same features, flexibility, and redundancy for less than this, so we sincerely hope you take us up on this offer!

In the future, we plan to allow the creation of a single "storage" user on your account which will have no web sites (or email). For now though, if you choose to enable your account for backups, nothing will change (apart from the charges). If you want to enable backup/non-web use on this account, please go here:

If you choose not to enable this, you must delete all your non-web files by 2008-07-16 or your account will be suspended.

If you have any questions about this or anything at all, please don't hesitate to contact us by replying to this email.

Thank you very much for your understanding,
The Happy DreamHost Backup/Non-Web Use Team

My answer:

Dear DreamHost Support Team,

I fully understand your point. Though apparently sensible, a detailed analysis shows that the policy you cite from the TOS makes little sense.

Right now I have a 5920 GB/month bandwidth limit, and a 540 GB disk quota in my account, both applied to web use. My current use in this regard is less than 4 GB disk space (0.7% of my quota), and my estimated bw use at the end of the present billing period will be around 0.2 GB (33 ppm (parts per million) of my current (and increasing) bw quota).

Now, on the other hand, I have some 50-100 GB of data (less than 20% of my disk quota!!) that I want to keep at the servers (for whatever private interest, that I do not need to disclose, but I will: backup and data sharing among my different PCs). Keeping this data up to date could cause between 1 MB and 1 GB worth of transfers per day (30 GB/month at most, or 0.5% of my bw quota).

All of the above raises some questions:

1) Why on Earth am I granted such a huge amount of resources that I will never conceivably use? Maybe just because of that: because I will never use them?

2) Why am I prevented of using my account in the only way that would allow me to take advantage of even a tiny part of those resources?

3) In what respect is the HD space and bw used up by a backup different from that used up by web content? Isn't all data a collection of 0s and 1s? How can a Hosting Service, ISP, or any other provider of digital means DISCRIMINATE private data according to content?

4) Regarding the previous point, how is DH to tell if I simply move the backup dirs to the folder? I have to assume that if I make my backups visible through the web (which I can prevent with file permissions), then it makes them 100% kosher, since they become "web content" that I am allowed to host at DH?

It seems to me that you are renting me a truck to transport people, then frown at me if I take advantage of it to carry furniture. Moreover, you are advising me to keep the truck for people and rent small vans for the furniture.

[snip irrelevant part]

Believe me, I am willing to be a nice user. I just want to be able to use the resources I pay the way I need.


Their answer:

Hello Iñaki,

1) Why on Earth am I granted such a huge amount of resources that I will never conceivably use? Maybe just because of that: because I will never use them?

Some people will. Admittedly, very few do, but to be perfectly blunt, overselling is actually a vital part of our (and ANY) web host's business model:

2) Why am I prevented of using my account in the only way that would allow me to take advantage of even a tiny part of those resources?

That's an exaggeration, to be honest. Anyone can use up to the entire amount of their bandwidth and space, providing they use it for the purpose intended. If we ever open DreamStorage, you'd be welcome to use that space for backing up your data.

3) In what respect is the HD space and bw used up by a backup different from that used up by web content? sn't all data a collection of 0s and 1s? How can a Hosting Service, ISP, or any other provider of digital means DISCRIMINATE private data according to content?

Well, just as we have...there's a ton of data in a non-web-accessible directory. That's a pretty good tip that something's up. By your argument, we couldn't take down someone for copyright, or even child porn violations, as it's just "a collection of 0s and 1s", and who are we to "discriminate"? Our Terms of Service, which you agreed to 2008-02-22 at 3:39pm. If you didn't agree, this simply wasn't the service for you.

4) Regarding the previous point, how is DH to tell if I simply move the backup dirs to the folder? I have to assume that if I make my backups visible through the web (which I can prevent with file permissions), then it makes them 100% kosher, since they become "web content" that I am allowed to host at DH?

Honestly, we're not going to let you off on some weak technicality. If you don't wish to comply with the ToS, we've even allowed you the option of receiving a prorated refund, regardless of how far out from your 97 day guarantee you are. We have no desire to lose your business, but your truck analogy is almost there. We're offering you trucks for transporting furniture...and we're doing it at a nice low rate. But we do require you actually use them. We count on the fact that very few people are going to be moving furniture 24/7, but if someone wanted to use it to it's fullest, they could. However, that doesn't mean you get to rent the truck, park it somewhere, and use it as a free self-storage unit. We want the truck if you're not using it for it's intended

[snip irrelevant part]

Let me know if you have any other questions.


Jeff H

My final answer:

Hi Jeff,

Thanks for the kind answer! This kind of support is what gives DH an edge over other hosting providers. Keep it up.

What I say in my second point is not an exageration. It's the plain truth: if not for backups, I will never use 1% of my quota. I mean *I* won't. Don't know about others, just me.

It seems a little unfair that some guy with 500 GB of HD use and 5800 GB/month of bw use is paying 8$/month as I am (I don't recall the exact amount), while I am using 4 GB and 0.2 GB/month. Then I want to use 80 GB and 30 GB/month and I have to pay an extra 16$. That's a total of TRIPLE that of the aforementioned guy, while I'm still using 6 times less HD and 200 times less bw.

I would love to pay for some resources, and administer them as I like, be it for web, backup, svn, or whatever. What I meant with my third point is that 100 MB of my backups "hurt" the system as much as sb else's 100 MB of web content, so I can't see the reason to make the user pay a separate bill for "backups". Just make ftp traffic count against the disk/bw quotas and that's it! You could then stop worrying about "fair" use.

But that's pointless ranting on my side. Thanks for the attention. I will consider what to do in the light of the information you provided me.


I just want to point out how ridiculous their answer to my third point above is. DH tells me that they should be able to discriminate my data according to content (or use), because the opposite would supposedly allow me to break the law with copyright violations or child pornography. To follow with the truck metaphor, I am renting a truck from them, to carry furniture around. Since I don't use up all the space in the truck, and I have a fridge I want to move, I put it into the truck. Now DH wants to patrol what I carry in the truck, and tell me that the fridge is not allowed, because it is not "furniture". When I complain, and say that what I carry in the truck they lend me is none of their business, they answer that it is, because I could well be using the truck for drug smuggling. That's really lousy reasoning. If I use the truck for carrying something illegal, then the police will sort it out, not the renting company. It is the general Law that will tell me what I can use the truck for, not the renting company.

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LWD update
June 15th 2008

This is a (in principle, monthly) update to my "Linux World Domination" project. You can read the intro in this May 2008 post.

The data presented is different from the one in the aforementioned post:

  • Mac is dropped from it
  • Predictor@home is also dropped
  • Two projects have been added: POEM and Spinhenge
  • D2D means "days to domination". The expected time for Windows/Linux shares to cross, counting from Feb 3, 2008.
  • DD2D means difference (increase/decrease) in D2D, with respect to last report (a month ago)
Project D2D DD2D Confidence %
Einstein 185.1 - 21.8
MalariaControl 829.9 -1.1 15.5
POEM never - -
QMC 1961.7 +122.7 6.1
Rosetta 1301.7 - 3.8
SETI 4196.5 -370.5 2.9
Spinhenge - - -

Except for QMC@home, all the projects have reduced the D2D. Rosetta and Einstein were expected to never lead to LWD, and now they are.

See you next month!

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Firefox 2 beats IE6 at my site
April 29th 2008

I regularly check the visit stats at this blog, and today is the first time that the browser with most accumulated visits is Firefox and not Internet Explorer. IE began ahead because some Chinese hacker(s) used the Windows XP/IE6 duo to try some nasty things at the site, and generated a lot of visits. After I banned these IPs, the visits from Firefox users have gone up steadily, and now the total visit stats are:

  1. Firefox 2 (33.5%)
  2. Internet Explorer 6 (32.6%)
  3. Firefox 1.0 (10.4%)
  4. IE 7 (4%)

Regarding OSes, Windows XP is still the most prominent one, with 53% of the visits, followed by generic Linux at 12.9%, then other versions of Windows and specific Linux distros.

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