sábado, 27 de octubre de 2012

From Junk to a Security Station; How Mepis Gave New Life to a Discarded Computer

Last week, a project that had been brewing for quite a while became a reality. 

We wanted to set up a basic security camera for the office where I work but, as the University is short of budget, all we were given was a webcam.   With that contribution, the whole idea was pretty much a long-term goal (or a dream, to be more honest, given the circumstances).

However, I learned that they were discarding some "old equipment", which included computers.  I asked for one of those machines marked as "not-working" and could get a computer in which Windows XP ran so slowly that you could literally age before being able to type a letter with it.

With that poor wreck of a system, the webcam, and Megatotoro's help, we could make the security system dream a reality.

First, Megatotoro wiped out the HD and installed Mepis 11 to it.  Boy, what a difference a good OS makes!  The computer started performing decently.  To use an analogy, it went from snail speed to that of a marathon runner. 

Second, as the webcam was a Logitech model, Mepis recognized it instantly, without the pain of go driver-hunting.  Ah, and since Mepis has VLC, everything was ready for starting the security cam project.

The streaming capabilities of VLC made it easy to capture video from the webcam and store it as a local file.  I learned how to do this by accident a while ago and the process is rather simple:

1.  Under the menu FILE, I clicked on streaming.
2.  In the window that opens, I selected the tab CAPTURE DEVICE
3.  Now, this is the interesting part.  In the line SELECT DEVICE, I typed /dev/video0, and then clicked on STREAM.  A new dialog (Streaming output) opened and I clicked "next".
4.  Then I selected "show locally" and used the drop-down menu to select VIDEO THEORA+VORBIS (OGG)
5.  Finally, I clicked STREAM and voilà, the webcam started showing and recording video!

The humble computer is now there, working non-stop, like a true champion...And the rest of the workers became interested in Linux when they saw what it can do.

After all, who would have said that a discarded computer was going to resurrect as a modest, but effective security station? And for a total cost of $0? All thanks to Linux, free software, and people who know that the Windows paradigm is not the only reality that there is.


miércoles, 10 de octubre de 2012

Children, beware! This monster came for you!

During the celebration of the Software Freedom day, there were several activities in the University where I work.  I realized that day that the One Laptop Per Child project was working in my country.

The Browser came to get ya!!!
Today, I discovered that the Quiros-Tanzi Foundation, the NGO that handles the XO computers of OLPC, launched its first TV campaign to promote the goal of distributing the inexpensive computers.  The TV ad features a simple concept: children are afraid of a hideous creature called "The Browser," who can find them anywhere.  The point of the ad is that children should not see technology as a monster. Interestingly, this 2009 video proves that even adults ignore what a browser is!

 When I saw the TV feature, I found it rather fun and could not help but to think that it was inspired by the imaginary monster called "the Backson" in a Winnie the Pooh movie.

The case is that "the Browser" is enjoying a wide acceptance and, more importantly, this "monster" has put the OLPC project on our local map.  Of course, I am now waiting to see the reaction of Microsoft and its sidekicks now that children in the country will be exposed to Linux in elementary schools...

You can see the ad (in Spanish) here, followed by my rough translation of the song.

They say that it has donkey ears,
pig hooves, and its body is covered with fur,
he has a giant eye and an awful breath.

The Browser, the Browser,
Everyone, it's the Browser!
The Browser, the Browser
He is coming for us!

Child: "And how does the Browser find you? "
The Browser:  "They are about to tell you"

He can find you inside of the closet,
he can find you in the dark of the night,
and even under your mother's skirt!
They say that he morphs into objects,
he fits in the freezer
and he finds you at the concert...
Everywhere he's going to find you!

The Browser, the Browser,
Everyone, it's the Browser!
The Browser, the Browser
He is coming for us!