Please, choose the right format to send me that text. Thanks.
April 13th 2010

I just received an e-mail with a very interesting text (recipies for pintxos), and it prompted some experiment. The issue is that the text was inside of a DOC file (of course!), which rises some questions and concerns on my side. The size of the file was 471 kB.

I thought that one could make the document more portable by exporting it to PDF (using OpenOffice.org). Doing so, the resulting file has a size of 364 kB (1.29 times smaller than the original DOC).

Furthermore, text formatting could be waived, by using a plain text format. A copy/paste of the contents of the DOC into a TXT file yielded a 186 kB file (2.53x smaller).

Once in the mood, we can go one step further, and compress the TXT file: with gzip we get a 51 kb file (9.24x), and with xz a 42 kB one (11.2x)

So far, so good. No surprise. The surprise came when, just for fun, I exported the DOC to ODT. I obtained a document equivalent to the original one, but with a 75 kB size! (6.28x smaller than the DOC).

So, for summarizing:

DOC

Pros

  • Editable.
  • Allows for text formatting.

Cons

  • Proprietary. In principle only MS Office can open it. OpenOffice.org can, but because of reverse engineering.
  • If opened with OpenOffice.org, or just a different version of MS Office, the reader can not be sure of seeing the same formatting the writer intended.
  • Size. 6 times bigger than ODT. Even bigger than PDF.
  • MS invented and owns it. You need more reasons?

PDF

Pros

  • Portability. You can open it in any OS (Windows, Linux, Mac, BSD...), on account of there being so many free PDF readers.
  • Smaller than the DOC.
  • Allows for text formatting, and the format the reader sees will be exactly the one the writer intended.

Cons

  • Not editable (I really don't see the point in editing PDFs. For me the PDF is a product of an underlying format (e.g. LaTeX), as what you see on your browser is the product of some HTML/PHP, or an exe is the product of some source code. But I digress.)
  • Could be smaller

TXT

Pros

  • Portability. You can't get much more portable than a plain text file. You can edit it anywhere, with your favorite text editor.
  • Size. You can't get much smaller than a plain text file (as it contains the mere text content), and you can compress it further with ease.

Cons

  • Formatting. If you need text formatting, or including pictures or content other than text, then plain text is not for you.

ODT

Pros

  • Portability. It can be edited with OpenOffice.org (and probably others), which is free software, and has versions for Windows, Linux, and Mac.
  • Editability. Every bit as editable as DOC.
  • Size. 6 times smaller files than DOC.
  • It's a free standard, not some proprietary rubbish.

Cons

  • None I can think of.

So please, if you send me some text, first consider if plain text will suffice. If not, and no edition is intended on my side, PDF is fine. If edition is important (or size, because it's smaller than PDF), the ODT is the way to go.

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LWD - March 2010
March 4th 2010

This is a continuation post for my Linux World Domination project, started in this May 2008 post. You can read the previous post in the series here.

In the following data T2D means "time to domination" (the expected time for Windows/Linux shares to cross, counting from the present date). DT2D means difference (increase/decrease) in T2D, with respect to last report. CLP means "current Linux Percent", as given by last logged data, and DD means domination day (in YYYY-MM-DD format), and DCLP means "difference in CLP", with respect to last logged data.

Project T2D DT2D DD CLP DCLP
Einstein already crossed - September 2009 54.80 +3.45
MalariaControl >10 years - - 12.12 +0.17
PrimeGrid >10 years - - 11.78 +1.47
POEM >10 years - - 11.52 +0.69
Rosetta >10 years - - 8.61 +0.01
SETI >10 years - - 8.12 +0.05
QMC >10 years - - 8.11 -0.12
Spinhenge >10 years - - 4.46 +0.09

The numbers (again) seem a bit discouraging, but the data is what it is. Now MalariaControl goes up (it went down in previous report), but QMC goes slightly down. All others go up. The Linux tide seems unstoppable, however its forward speed is not necessarily high.

As promised, today I'm showing the plots for Spinhenge@home. In next issue, QMC@home.

Number of hosts percent evolution for Spinhenge@home (click to enlarge)

Accumulated credit percent evolution for Spinhenge@home (click to enlarge)

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Hardware compatibility is better with Windows... not
January 3rd 2010

One of the (few, but legitimate) reasons given by some Windows users to not switch to Linux is that many pieces of hardware are not recognized by the latter. Sure enough, 99.9%, if not all, of the devices sold in shops are "Windows compatible". The manufacturers of devices make damn sure their device, be it a pendrive or a printer, a computer screen or a keyboard, will work on any PC running Windows. They will even ship a CD with the drivers in the same package, so that installation of the device is as smooth as possible in Microsoft's platform. Linux compatibility? Well, they usually just don't care. Those hackers will make it work anyway, so why bother? And their market share is too small to take them into account.

Now, let's pass to some personal experience with a webcam. I bought a webcam for my girlfriend's laptop, which doesn't have one integrated. The webcam was a cheap Logitech USB one, with "Designed for Skype" and "Windows compatible" written all around on the box. It even came with a CD, marked prominently as "Windows drivers". My girlfriend's laptop runs Windows Vista, and I decided to give it a chance, and plugged the webcam without further consideration. A message from our beloved OS informed me that a new device had been plugged (brilliant!) but Windows lacked the necessary drivers to make it work (bummer!). OK, no problem. We had the drivers, right? I unplugged the camera, inserted the CD, and followed the instructions to get the drivers installed. Everything went fine, except that the progress bar with the installation percent went on for more than 12 minutes (checked on the watch) before reaching 100%. After installation, Windows informed me that a system reboot was necessary, and so I did. After reboot, the camera would work.

As I had my Asus Eee at hand, I decided to try the webcam on it. I plugged it, and nothing happened. I just saw the green light on the camera turn on. Well, maybe it worked... I opened Cheese, a Linux program to show the output of webcams. I was a bit wary, because the Eee has an integrated webcam, so maybe there would be some interference or something. Not so. Cheese showed me immediately the output of the webcam I had just plugged, and offered me a menu with two entries (USB webcam and integrated one), so I could choose. That's it. No CD with drivers, no 12-minute installation, no reboot, no nothing. Just plug and play.

Perhaps it is worth mentioning that the next time I tried to use the webcam on the Vista laptop, it would ask me for driver installation again! I don't know why... I must have done something wrong in the first installation... With Windows, who knows?

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LWD - December 2009
December 3rd 2009

This is a continuation post for my Linux World Domination project, started in this May 2008 post. You can read the previous post in the series here.

In the following data T2D means "time to domination" (the expected time for Windows/Linux shares to cross, counting from the present date). DT2D means difference (increase/decrease) in T2D, with respect to last report. CLP means "current Linux Percent", as given by last logged data, and DD means domination day (in YYYY-MM-DD format), and DCLP means "difference in CLP", with respect to last logged data. I have dropped the "Confidence" column, for it gave little or no info.

Project T2D DT2D DD CLP DCLP
Einstein already crossed - September 2009 51.35 +4.24
MalariaControl >10 years - - 11.95 -0.32
POEM 83.4 months - 2016-10-08 11.52 +0.69
PrimeGrid >10 years - - 10.31 +0.46
Rosetta >10 years - - 8.60 +0.10
QMC >10 years - - 8.23 +0.15
SETI >10 years - - 8.07 +0.05
Spinhenge >10 years - - 4.37 +0.15

Except for the good news that Einstein@home has succumbed to the Linux hordes, the numbers (again) seem quite discouraging, but the data is what it is. All CLPs but MalariaControl have gone up (which goes down less than in previous report). The Linux tide seems unstoppable, however its forward speed is not necessarily high.

As promised, today I'm showing the plots for Rosetta@home, in next issue Spinhenge@home.

Number of hosts percent evolution for Rosetta@home (click to enlarge)

Accumulated credit percent evolution for Rosetta@home (click to enlarge)

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LDW - September 2009
September 2nd 2009

This is a continuation post for my Linux World Domination project, started in this May 2008 post. You can read the previous post in the series here.

In the following data T2D means "time to domination" (the expected time for Windows/Linux shares to cross, counting from the present date). DT2D means difference (increase/decrease) in T2D, with respect to last report. CLP means "current Linux Percent", as given by last logged data, and DD means domination day (in YYYY-MM-DD format).

Project T2D DT2D DD CLP Confidence %
Einstein 38.6 days -55 days 2009-10-10 47.11 (+2.60) 16.1
MalariaControl >10 years - - 12.27 (-0.37) -
POEM >10 years - - 10.83 (+0.17) -
PrimeGrid >10 years - - 9.85 (+0.24) -
Rosetta >10 years - - 8.50 (+0.13) -
QMC >10 years - - 8.07 (+0.15) -
SETI >10 years - - 8.02 (+0.02) -
Spinhenge >10 years - - 4.22 (+0.37) -

The numbers (again) seem quite discouraging, but the data is what it is. All CLPs but MalariaControl have gone up, with Spinhenge going up by almost a 0.4% in 3 months. The Linux tide seems unstoppable, however its forward speed is not necessarily high.

As promised, today I'm showing the plots for QMC@home, in next issue Rosetta@home.

Number of hosts percent evolution for QMC@home (click to enlarge)

Accumulated credit percent evolution for QMC"home (click to enlarge)

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Accessing Linux ext2/ext3 partitions from MS Windows
July 2nd 2009

Accessing both Windows FAT and NTFS file systems from Linux is quite easy, with tools like NTFS-3G. However (following with the MS tradition of making itself incompatible with everything else, to thwart competition), doing the opposite (accessing Linux file systems from Windows) is more complicated. One would have to guess why (and how!) closed and proprietary and technically inferior file systems can be read by free software tools, whereas proprietary software with such a big corporation behind is incapable (or unwilling) to interact with superior and free software file systems. Why should Windows users be deprived of the choice over JFS, XFS or ReiserFS, when they are free? MS techs are too dumb to implement them? Or too evil to give their users the choice? Or, maybe, too scared that if choice is possible, their users will dump NTFS? Neither explanation makes one feel much love for MS, does it?

This stupid inability of Windows to read any of the many formats Linux can use gives rise to problems for not only Windows users, but also Linux users. For example, when I format my external hard disks or pendrives, I end up wondering if I should reserve some space for a FAT partition, so I could put there data to share with hypothetical Windows users I could lend the disk to. And, seriously, I abhor wasting my hardware with such lousy file systems, when I could use Linux ones.

Anyway, there are some third-party tools to help us which such a task. I found at least two:

I have used the first one, but as some blogs point out (e.g. BloggUccio), ext2fsd is required if the inode size is bigger than 128 B (256 B in some modern Linux distros).

Getting Ext2IFS

It is a simple exe file you can download from fs-driver.org. Installing it consists on the typical windows next-next-finish click-dance. In principle the defaults are OK. It will ask you about activating "read-only" (which I declined. It's less safe, but I would like to be able to write too), and something about large file support (which I accepted, because it's only an issue with Linux kernels older than 2.2... Middle Age stuff).

Formatting the hard drive

In principle, Ext2IFS can read ext2/ext3 partitions with no problem. In practice, if the partition was created with an inode size of more than 128 bytes, Ext2IFS won't read it. To create a "compatible" partition, you can mkfs it with the -I flag, as follows:

# mkfs.ext3 -I 128 /dev/whatever

I found out about the 128 B inode thing from this forum thread [es].

Practical use

What I have done, and tested, is what follows: I format my external drives with almost all of it as ext3, as described, leaving a couple of gigabytes (you could cut down to a couple of megabytes if you really want to) for a FAT partition. Then copy the Ext2IFS_1_11a.exe executable to that partition.

Whenever you want to use that drive, Linux will see two partitions (the ext3 and the FAT one), the second one of which you can ignore. From Windows, you will see only a 2GB FAT partition. However, you will be able to open it, find the exe, double-click, and install Ext2IFS. After that, you can unplug the drive and plug it again...et voilĂ , you will see the ext3 partition just fine.

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Microsoft produces crap, AMD eats it
June 16th 2009

It's old news, but I just read about in in the Wikipedia article for the Phenom II processor.

Apparently Phenom processors had the ability to scale the CPU frequency independently for each core in multicore systems. Now, Phenom II processors lack this feature: the CPU frequency can be scaled, but all cores must share the same frequency.

Did this happen because of technical reasons? AMD thought it was better to do it? No. As Wikipedia says:

Another change from the original Phenom is that Cool 'n Quiet is now applied to the processor as a whole, rather than on a per-core basis. This was done in order to address the mishandling of threads by Windows Vista, which can cause single-threaded applications to run on a core that is idling at half-speed.

The situation is explained in an article in anandtech.com, where the author mistakes an error on Vista's account with an error in the Phenom processor (bolding of text is mine):

In theory, the AMD design made sense. If you were running a single threaded application, the core that your thread was active on would run at full speed, while the remaining three cores would run at a much lower speed. AMD included this functionality under the Cool 'n' Quiet umbrella. In practice however, Phenom's Cool 'n' Quiet was quite flawed. Vista has a nasty habit of bouncing threads around from one core to the next, which could result in the following phenomenon (no pun intended): when running a single-threaded application, the thread would run on a single core which would tell Vista that it needed to run at full speed. Vista would then move the thread to the next core, which was running at half-speed; now the thread is running on a core that's half the speed as the original core it started out on.

Phenom II fixes this by not allowing individual cores to run at clock speeds independently of one another; if one core must run at 3.0GHz, then all four cores will run at 3.0GHz. In practice this is a much better option as you don't run into the situations where Phenom performance is about half what it should be thanks to your applications running on cores that are operating at half speed. In the past you couldn't leave CnQ enabled on a Phenom system and watch an HD movie, but this is no longer true with Phenom II.

Recall how the brilliant author ascribes the "flaw" to CnQ, instead of to Vista, and how it was AMD who "fixed" the problem!

The plain truth is that AMD developed a technology (independent core scaling) that would save energy (which means money and ecology) with zero-effects on performance (since the cores actually running jobs run at full speed), and MS Vista being a pile of crap forced them to revert it.

Now, if you have a computer with 4 or 8 cores, and watch a HD movie (which needs a full-speed core to decode it, but only one core), the full 8 cores will be running at full speed, wasting power, producing CO2, and making you get charged money at a rate 8 times that actually required!

The obvious right solution would be to fix Vista so that threads don't dance from core to core unnecessarily, so that AMD's CnQ technology could be used to full extent. AMD's movement with Phenom II just fixed the performance problem, by basically destroying the whole point of CnQ.

Now take a second to reflex how the monstrous domination of MS over the OS market leads to problems like this one. In a really competitive market, if a stupid OS provider gets it wrong and their OS does not support something like CnQ properly, the customers will migrate to other OSs, and the rogue provider will be forced to fix their OS. The dominance of MS (plus their stupidity), just held back precious technological advances!

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LWD - June 2009
June 2nd 2009

This is a continuation post for my Linux World Domination project, started in this May 2008 post. You can read the previous post in the series here.

In the following data T2D means "time to domination" (the expected time for Windows/Linux shares to cross, counting from the present date). DT2D means difference (increase/decrease) in T2D, with respect to last report. CLP means "current Linux Percent", as given by last logged data, and DD means domination day (in YYYY-MM-DD format).

For the first time, data for PrimeGrid is included.

Project T2D DT2D DD CLP Confidence %
Einstein 4.5 months +3.5 months 2009-10-14 44.51 (+2.42) 6.4
MalariaControl >10 years - - 12.64 (+0.09) -
POEM >10 years - - 10.66 (+0.19) -
PrimeGrid 75 months - 2015-07-22 9.61 1.3
Rosetta >10 years - - 8.37 (+0.28) -
QMC >10 years - - 7.92 (+0.05) -
SETI >10 years - - 8.00 (+0.06) -
Spinhenge >10 years - - 3.87 (+0.28) -

Mmm, the numbers seem quite discouraging, but the data is what it is. On the bright side, all CLPs have gone up, some almost a 0.3% in 3 months. The Linux tide seems unstoppable, however its forward speed is not necessarily high.

As promised, today I'm showing the plots for PrimeGrid, in next issue QMC@home.

Number of hosts percent evolution for PrimeGrid (click to enlarge)

Accumulated credit percent evolution for PrimeGrid (click to enlarge)

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LWD - March 2009
March 12th 2009

Did I say "bimonthly" in my last report? Mmm, that was 3 months ago... You can read an intro for my Linux World Domination project in this May 2008 post.

As usual D2D means "days to domination" (the expected time for Windows/Linux shares to cross, counting from the present date), and DD2D means difference (increase/decrease) in D2D, with respect to last report. CLP means "current Linux Percent", as given by last logged data, and DD means domination day (in YYYY-MM-DD format).

Project D2D DD2D DD CLP Confidence %
Einstein 107 -144 2009-06-26 42.09 (+4.61) 17.3
MalariaControl >10k - - 12.55 (+0.10) -
POEM 5345 +325 2023-10-30 10.47 (+0.42) 2.5
Rosetta >10k - - 8.09 (+0.10) -
QMC >10k - - 7.87 (-0.04) -
SETI >10k - - 7.94 (+0.06) -
Spinhenge >10k - - 3.59 (+0.24) -

As promised, today I'm showing the plots for POEM@home, in next issue Prime@home.

Number of hosts percent evolution for POEM@home (click to enlarge)

Accumulated credit percent evolution for POEM@home (click to enlarge)

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Fnac selling (almost) only Windows netbooks?
December 17th 2008

It seems that the Fnac (at least the Spanish section) has been remodelling its web recently, which caused some downtime last week, and a really slow experience right now (their webmaster must lack the experience to realize that great changes should be made first in test computers, then moved to production ones. Or maybe they lack the resources to buy a spare server...).

Anyway, I'm visiting the place to check the prices of netbooks, more precisely an ASUS Eee 901, and, to my surprise, the Linux models are gone! I have previously seen both Windows XP and Linux-based netbooks in Fnac, but now only the former seem to survive. I suspect that the XP netbooks are always over-represented in stores, that is, they have many more XP units than Linux ones, even though they are sold on par. Or even more Linux units are sold.

However, this plain and simple oblivion of any Linux offer is outrageous, and can only point to nasty activity by Microsoft, who moves the necessary strings (money when possible, threats when necessary) to secure a niche (that of netbooks), that is one of the biggest market entry points for Linux, and thus the greatest menace to MS's monopoly.

Right nowk, the Fnac Spain "Ultra Mobile" page (can not make a direct link because URLs inside the Fnac site are a thing to fear and hate), shows only one Acer Aspire One with Linux. All other netbooks, including all other Acer Aspire One models, and all Eee PCs, are exclusively Windows machines.

Update: The Linux Eee PCs seem to be back. Maybe it was just an error? Probably I'm just too paranoid :^)

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