How to compete with free

The NSW Government is considering putting Linux on the laptops for students as a part of the Rudd Government’s “Education Revolution” plan. Good idea!

But you know what will happen, Microsoft will step in and offer XP and Office for cheap (or perhaps even FREE), in order to stop Linux from gaining any momentum in the market. They will also offer discounts to NSW Government Departments on their Microsoft products, if they don’t adopt Linux on these notebooks.

The Victorian Government struck such a deal and as a result, laptops with Windows are cheaper than the Linux version – which comes with a free operating system!

How do you complete with that?

Say tuple, not tupple!

The word tuple is derived from Latin and in mathematics means ‘an ordered set of elements’.

A tuple containing ‘n’ components is known as a n-tuple. For example, 4-tuple (or ‘quadruple’).

We are all familiar with these terms:

and so on..

We pronounce the ‘uple words with an ‘oo’ sound, like quadruple


And not


Likewise, the pronunciation for ‘quintuple’ is


The only time the sound changes is when the suffix changes, like in quintuplet (to make it a noun), which is pronounced


In order for the ‘u’ in tuple to be pronounced as a ‘uh’ sound (like in supple) it should have a double-p. Just like ripple, tipple and of course, nipple.

But it doesn’t. It only has one.

Likewise, if the word as an ‘e’ on the end then the vowel is pronounced in full.

cap -> cape
met -> mete
sit -> site
dot -> dote
cub -> cube

So “tup” (pronounced “tuhp”), should be pronounced “tyoop” when you add an “e”.

Of course there are always exceptions to the rule in English (that’s what helps make English great!), but there is a similar Latin-based word that might shed some light, duple (from the Latin “duplus” meaning twofold or double). This word is only pronounced one way and that is with the full ‘u’ sound (doo-puhl).

If that’s not enough to convince you, here are some examples where the middle vowel (like in duple and tuple) is pronounced as a long sounding vowel


So don’t be a dupe, learn to say tupe!

Fun with GPT

Jason wanted to borrow my server for his work, so this meant I had to re-build my desktop machine so that I could rsync my data across. As the computer only boots Linux, I thought I’d use GPT (GUID Partition Table) instead of the MSDOS partition table. There are 4 hard drives in my desktop, which I want to run in RAID 5.

As the new Ubuntu release Intrepid is almost out, I thought I’d try this too. I set my drives to use GPT, but then realised that I wanted to offset the partition to align the RAID array. Because fdisk does not support GPT partition tables I had to use parted. As time was short (and I am not as familiar with parted) I just thought I would switch back to a MSDOS partition table and get on with it, using fdisk.

I did my usual trick of wiping the first 512 bytes to clear the master boot record and the partition table.
dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sda bs=1 count=512

But fdisk still warned that there was a GPT on the disk.. hmm.. This just didn’t feel clean, so I wanted to solve it.
Continue reading Fun with GPT

Taking a SIP of VoIP

It’s time for me to jump on the VoIP bandwagon..

This was the post I made to the CLUG list the other day. Why? Mendy is moving back to Australia permanently in December (yay!) and in the mean time I want to be able to call her at reasonable rates. Currently this means calling her Macau mobile at a hefty price through Telstra. Once she is back I also want for her to be able to call her parents in Hong Kong for cheap.

I knew about VoIP and had played a little with Ekiga (the open source VoIP client for GNOME), but that was about it. Looking into it seemed pretty complex, with a myriad of providers, software and hardware. I wasn’t quite sure which provider to go with, what hardware I needed and what was the best way to set it all up. What traps were there? As usual, my fellow CLUG’ers came through with great advice, so thanks!

It appeared that the general consensus were things like:

  • Make sure your router supports QoS (Quality of Service), so that the quality of your call doesn’t drop when someone is downloading
  • Get a provider in Australia (preferably your ISP) to reduce latency and help with billing
  • Get an ATA (Analogue Terminal Adapter), so I could use my current analogue phone
  • This is how I got it working..
    Continue reading Taking a SIP of VoIP

    Getting MythTV working is easy

    My good mate Tthu wanted to make himself a mythtv box. He bought an old Dell online and after a trip to the computer fair to get a 500GB SATA hard drive, low profile PCIe video card and a PCI digital TV tuner card, had everything he needed.

    So, at my place we started the install. First thing I noticed was that the video cad had a passive heatsink that took up the space for the only PCI slot in the machine. I gave Tthu the option of waiting and trying to find a more suitable card, or hacking up the box to make it fit. Here began the first of our modifications..

    After removing the heatsink from the GPU, we broke off the part that stuck out over the capacitors and proceeded to bend the other fins over. Isopropyl alchohol and some arctic silver later and it was back together again. Perfect. 🙂

    Then we noticed that the case no longer shut because the hard drive bracket came ever so slightly down onto the back end of the card. I whittled away a little of the PCB, but it wasn’t quite enough. Due to the bracket design, we had to break off a part of the metal. This then allowed us to hack at the bracket itself and with Jason’s trusty multi-tool filed away a perfect gap for the card to slide into (with my trusty Dyson grabbing the filings, of course). Only problem was that the plastic slide rail for the hard drive couldn’t slide in anymore.. so we cut that in half. Done! 🙂

    End result? Machine works perfectly with the video card running at about 80 degrees, which is well within spec. How long it all lasts for remains to be seen! Only problem now is that the TV aerial can’t get any signal in the basement.. Jason, where’s that multi-tool?

    More netbooks..

    Who isn’t making netbooks these days?

    Toshiba has announced a new netbook called NB100, which comes with Linux (Ubuntu 8.04) or Windows XP.

    Samsung has announced the NC10, which comes only with Windows (at this stage).

    Asus has also released the N10, a new notebook based on the Atom – but is not calling it a netbook. It comes with 2GB RAM, NVIDIA graphics and 120GB hard drive. Oh, and it runs Vista, so I guess we can see why it needs more grunt.


    Dell joins the fray

    Dell have finally released their long awaited “EeePC killer” netbook in Australia, the Inspiron 910 (also affectionately dubbed the “Mini 9” – but that just makes me think of a cross between Mini-Me and the Crazy 88 from Kill Bill).

    In the U.S. Dell is selling the Mini 9 in a few different configurations. The pricing starts at US$349 with Linux and US$449 with Windows. I configured the Mini 9 with the same specs as the top Windows version, but with Linux, and it came in at US$494. That’s US$15 more than the Windows version at US$479. Hmmm…

    Unfortunately, in Australia Dell is only selling one model of the Mini 9 and it only comes with Windows.

    So, how does it fair (on paper at least)? Is it really the EeePC killer as some claim? Well in regards to specifications, most of these netbooks are running the same Intel gear, so there won’t be much difference there except that Dell has apparently enabled hyper threading (remember that?). There is currently no dual-core version of the Atom available.

    Time to look at specs and price. The Mini 9 more closely matches the EeePC 901, so I’m going to compare these two.
    Continue reading Dell joins the fray

    Knock, knock. Who’s there? EeePC 1000. EeePC who? Exactly.

    We’ve all heard of the EeePC, Asus’ flagship netbook running Linux that took the world by storm and forged a whole new market for open source software (potentially).

    Ta daa.

    It was a huge success! A singular consciousness that spawned an entire race of machines.. ahh, hang on a sec.. ok yeah, a new race of machines. Now every man and his dog are making them.

    Continue reading Knock, knock. Who’s there? EeePC 1000. EeePC who? Exactly.