Is Windows Spying on You?

I came across several articles today that were a bit disturbing. Apparently some people believe they have found evidence that the US government is using Microsoft Windows to spy on people.

The German military has gone as far as to ban Microsoft software in critical environments. There is also an article about it a The Register.

Here, a German site discusses the issue in English.

There is also some information about the _NSAKEY on Wikipedia.

Try Linux Online

I found a great article on DesktopLinux.com about a web site where you can try Linux online through your web browser.

If you are using Windows, you can go to this page and follow the instructions. It involves downloading an .exe file so if you want to skip that part you can also do it through a Java applet. If you are using Mac or Linux, or are on Windows and want to use the Java applet method, you can go to FAQ page and follow the instructions there for either Linux or Mac. Choose the option that says "Java applet".

(Note: Most people will already have Java support but if you don't have it you can get it at Java.com.)

It may take a minute or two for Linux to load once you start the Java applet, and it will run quite a bit slower than it would if you had it installed on your computer. It is an interesting demo though and worth checking out if you want to try Linux. It is a regular desktop, similar to the one you might find on Windows, with web browsers, office software, email clients, instant messengers, and much more. The desktop is in German on this demo, but you can still browse through the menus and try the software even if you don't speak German.

Linux Demo Screenshots

Here are some screenshots of the Linux test drive, running on a web browser in Windows XP.

This is the KDE desktop loading:

KDE loading in a Java applet on Windows XP

Ubuntu Linux CDs for Sale on Amazon.com

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You can now order Ubuntu CDs on Amazon.com.

Even better, you can order your Linux live CDs from a place like OSdisc.com. If you don't have high-speed Internet, or don't want to take the time to make a Linux live CD, you can order a cheap copy of Linux from them.

You can also order Ubuntu CDs for free at shipit.ubuntu.com, but they can sometimes take a few weeks to arrive. You can probably get express shipping with the Amazon CDs.

More information can be found on the Ubuntu.com web site. I believe that this is the same version that you get if you download it. If it is the same as the downloadable version, it will run as a live CD as well as an install CD.

Ubuntu Live CD Guide

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This section of LinuxForTravelers.com shows you how to create and use an Ubuntu Linux live CD. This tutorial is written for Windows, although the basic process is similar for Mac and you will probably be able to follow along. All screenshots are from the latest Ubuntu 6.06 release.

UPDATE: You can now order Ubuntu CDs from Amazon.com. Check this news post for more information. If you don't have the bandwidth or time to download an Ubuntu CD you can pre-order one from Amazon. Currently the Ubuntu CDs are $9.99 (USD).

Ubuntu Linux is generally used as a regular desktop operating system, but the live CD so good that I'll use it as an example of how to make a live CD.

With the Ubuntu live CD you can surf the web securely with Firefox, edit office documents (including Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint files) with OpenOffice, edit digital photos with the GIMP, make Internet phone calls with Ekiga (compatible with SIP, H.323, Microsoft NetMeeting, etc.), and much more. Unlike with Windows, viruses are not a serious problem with Linux, and since the operating system runs from a CD-R, you will have a fresh operating system on every boot.

Ubuntu Linux is free. The download is almost 700MB so you should have a high-speed Internet connection, or you should go to an Internet cafe that has a high-speed connection. If you don't have access to a high-speed Internet connection, you can order Ubuntu CDs online here and get them shipped to you by postal mail for free.

Ubuntu Linux live CD running GIMP

ZoneMinder, Security Cameras and Linux

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If you run a business that uses security cameras such as a hotel, city hostel, and/or Internet cafe, you might be interested in ZoneMinder — a free Linux-based video camera security solution.

Here is a description from the ZoneMinder web site:

"ZoneMinder is intended for use in single or multi-camera video security applications, including commercial or home CCTV, theft prevention and child or family member or home monitoring and other care scenarios. It supports capture, analysis, recording, and monitoring of video data coming from one or more video or network cameras attached to a Linux system. ZoneMinder also support web and semi-automatic control of Pan/Tilt/Zoom cameras using a variety of protocols. It is suitable for use as a home video security system and for commercial or professional video security and surveillance. It can also be integrated into a home automation system via X.10 or other protocols."

Using Knoppix Linux Live CD to Rescue Windows

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Sometimes a Windows installation will become unbootable. You might turn on your computer one day and see nothing but a mostly blank screen with a confusing error message.

When this happens your files are usually still on the hard drive, but you just can't boot into Windows. The Knoppix live CD is a great solution to this problem becuase it allows you to boot up your computer from a CD and have access to all of your files even if Windows won't boot.

Once you have booted the computer into Knoppix, you can copy the data on your Windows hard drive onto an external storage device like a USB thumb drive or external hard drive, or even a digital camera. (See the note at the bottom of this post.)

MacGyver and Linux Live CDs

In a rescue mission that would make MacGyver proud, Mark Rais writes about his creative use of a Linux live CD and a digital camera to save a friends business report after his friend's Windows laptop died.

"[My friend] was ready to fling...his laptop and himself out the window... So, I pulled a Knoppix Linux Live-CD from my bag and asked him to insert it into his drive... I looked around the room. Spotting his Minolta Digital camera, I asked if it was working and if he had the USB cable for it. Mitch handed me the camera and cable. I inserted it into the laptop USB slot just before I booted Knoppix..."

You can read the full account of how a Linux live CD saved a business report that otherwise might have been lost here.

Internet Cafes: Get a Free Web Site

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If you run an Internet cafe or provide any kind of public Internet access, you can get a free web site and free marketing through LinuxForTravelers.com. Your free web site can be used as your main web site, or as a secondary site to bring more customers to your business.

To qualify for a free web site and free marketing services, you must provide either of the following services:

  1. Have public access computers that run Linux
  2. Allow customers to boot their own Linux live CDs on your computers

For details, send us an email with information about your Internet cafe through the contact form.

Internet Cafes That Run Linux Computers

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There are Internet cafes that run Linux on their computers. There are also many Internet cafes that will let you boot from live CDs.

If you run an Internet cafe or are thinking about starting one, Linux is a way for you to reduce costs and to reduce time spent fighting viruses.

There is a free open-source POS system for Internet cafes that runs on Linux (and Windows) computers called Zeiberbude. Also check out the ZoneCD, a Linux live CD that can help you set up a free wifi hotspot in as little as one hour. A section of resources for Internet cafe owners is coming soon.

If you are in Cape Town, South Africa, check out this Internet cafe that runs Debian GNU/Linux, Cafe Erte. There is also Speed Net Club, a Linux-based Internet cafe in Bangkok, Thailand. A worldwide directory of Linux-friendly Internet access points around the world is coming soon!

Defragmenting the Hard Drive

Defragmenting the hard drive is just one of the hassles of using Windows. Many users do not even know what "defragmenting" the drive means, and their computers may run slowly because of it.

Fragmentation is when files are split into different pieces and are stored on separate places on the hard drive. Over time, more files get split up, and this slows the computer down. To fix it you can use the Windows defragmentation tool. In Windows XP, go to the Start Menu —> All Programs —> Accessories —> System Tools —> Disk Defragmenter.