Once again, RSS brings me good things in the morning! Todays feed included an article mentioning that Google’s Gmail has increased allowable attachment size from 10MB to 20MB. On the Gmail help site it is officially stated as:

With Gmail, you can send and receive messages up to 20 megabytes (MB) in size. However, the precise amount allowable will depend on the attachment.

Many readers have probably noticed the “the precise amount allowable will depend on the attachment” and are not quite sure what that means. For this reason I quickly jumped into Google Groups in search of an answer. This is the one I found and it makes a lot of sense:

When you add an attachment, the size of a file may increase because
transport encodings are automatically added. (Transport encodings are
the information that allows your message to be safely sent and read.)

The 10MB increase is very welcomed, but I will take th greedy route and say I wished it was increased to around 50MB. I have been treating Gmail as a safe storage place for many of my documents just in case of disaster (that is to my computer, my backup DVDs and my portable hard drive all at once). Hopefully Google is noticing this trend with users and will eventually offer a Google Storage allowing users a simple interface to upload any sized file with a maximum storage capacity of that remaining with the Google account (I would gladly pay monthly for 10GB in Google Storage). Think about it Google!

Embracing the Google,



by Margaret Wilson on

Earlier today my Google Reader fed me some news about Zonbu, the new “$99 Linux PC”. The first thing I should point out about Zonbu is that in order to buy one for $99 you must sign a 2-year contract ($249 without). But what would a contract be without monthly payments? Well, Zonbu has 3 different plans (25GB, 50GB and 100GB models for $12.95, $14.95 and $19.95 respectively). Assuming the middle-of-the-road 50GB plan this amounts to $457.80 (US dollars without taxes) over the 2-year period. What exactly does the subscription get you? According to their website subscription costs provide:

Zonbu offers three different storage plans, all of them with automatic backup, applications and OS maintenance, free upgrade to the latest version of all the applications, three-year free box replacement guarantee, and unlimited Internet support.

Time to get into some of the Zonbu technology. On the Zonbu website the hardware is summarized as follows:

  • Intel-like ultra-low power CPU
  • 256 MB RAM + 2GB flash-based local storage
  • Graphics up to 1400 x 1050 (16 million colors).
    Hardware graphics and MPEG2 acceleration
  • PC-compatible ports for keyboard and mouse
  • 6 USB ports to plug-and-play all standard USB accessories
  • Broadband ready: 10/100MB Ethernet built-in.

While many of components appear lower-end we must realize that this is not a gaming PC or media-editing powerhouse. It is built to be quiet and functional for the average user. Also, the operating system is a custom version of Gentoo that has been tweaked for the specific hardware in Zonbu.

The different capacities mentioned with the three subscriptions revolve around allocated storage space on Amazons S3 servers. This means that all user data is stored on remote servers and uses the flash storage in Zonbu as a cache for the data. I think that this is a brilliant idea, particularly for ensuring protection against data loss. Problems with this concept may include speed of uploading/downloading but I feel that most Zonbu users should not have a problem with these factors. Lets take a look at Amazons S3 pricing. Assuming 50GB of storage and 25GB of uploading/downloading of data throughout the month the total is $12.50 per month. This makes Zonbu’s monthly pricing look even better as it includes all of the other services mentioned previously.

When reading the Zonbu “hands-on” article on Gizmodo I was initially skeptical about the inability to install software, but further reading provided me with a better feeling. First, the subscription services includes OS updates such as new software (and apparently the people behind Zonbu are committed to high-quality open-source software. Also, while I require control over the software on my computer, I do not feel that the target market for Zonbu needs this control. The software list includes most of the open-source software I use right down to using Nvu as a development environment for websites. My readings on both news sites and the Zonbu site I have the feeling that if increased function is required (via software) it will be implemented.

In the hopes of avoiding a comments flame-war I want to say that I do not believe Zonbu will change the way computing is done overnight, but instead, provide an option to the average home user that wants to create documents, browse the internet and interact with media. I think that the use of Amazons S3 servers is a fantastic idea. As network speeds increase I believe that computing in the Zonbu way will take off, but until then slow speeds (even 10Mbit connections) will hinder this adoption.

For a much more complete article (with images and a video) about Zonbu please check out the Gizmodo article here.


Some Aptitude Fun!

by Margaret Wilson on

For those of you out there that use APT as your package manager in Linux, I have something fun for you to try! Open a Terminal and type the following commands:

apt-get moo

aptitude -v moo

aptitude -vv moo

(continue until 6 v’s)

Users of GNOME give this one a shot! Press Alt+F2 to run a command then type “free the fish” and run it!

Not a Linux user? I took a screenshot of Terminal with each command being executed. See it here! If you come across any other “easter-eggs” or fun commands please or post them in the comments.

Recent Dabblings

by Margaret Wilson on

Over the last week I have been testing various Linux distributions to ensure that Ubuntu is the best one for me. There really is not anything scientific to this article as I basically only spent a few hours with each to get a general idea about the system. Yes, I do realize that Linux is meant to be customized and that any distribution can basically look like any other; however, in this case I am just looking at the clean install with no customization. Below are my brief notes on each distro.

openSUSEopenSUSE is arguably the second most popular Linux distribution, next to Ubuntu. I have installed SUSE years ago, but it never stuck with me, which is why I decided to give it another shot. I downloaded the openSUSE 10.2 image file and burned it to disc to install on my laptop. My laptop is a Dell Inspiron 8500 and is approximately 4 years old, but hey, Linux is not so fussy on requirements so I figured it should be more than adequate to run any Linux distribution.

Okay, lets get to the notes on openSUSE. First, the installation wizard is extremely user friendly and anyone who has ever installed Windows will have no problems installing openSUSE. However, installation speed is my biggest caveat. It took almost an hour and fifteen minutes, whereas Ubuntu installs in about 15 minutes. I realize there was more software for openSUSE to install, but anything over 30 minutes is unacceptable. Once installed, openSUSE is a breeze to use. I felt the support for my hardware (particularly wireless card and videocard) was top notch and even better than Ubuntu. During the install you have the option to install either the GNOME or KDE desktop environment (more on this in a future article). Other than the slow installation I can definitely see why openSUSE is one of the most popular distributions.

DebianWhile Ubuntu is based on Debian , I have never actually used the Debian distribution so it was next on my list to try. For this installation I decided to use the “net install”. This allowed me to download a small 200MB image file which begins the install process and then fetches the other packages over the network. Even with the Debian installer grabbing nearly a gigabyte of data over the network the entire installation took approximately a half hour. When I booted Debian for the first time I noticed the desktop looks almost identical to that of Ubuntu. Actually, nearly everything is just like Ubuntu; however, it lacked much of the Ubuntu ease-of-use. While Ubuntu is easy to use for anyone who has ever used Windows, Debian requires a stronger background and should generally only be used by those comfortable with the command line.

Site Map

MEPISFinally we have a Linux distribution named SimplyMEPIS. I installed version 6.5, which was just recently released to public. The MEPIS image disc can be used to load a “live CD” version of MEPIS, allowing users to try it out before committing to an installation (Ubuntu and many other distros have this feature as well). Once the live CD loaded I went ahead and began installing. The installer for MEPIS is very well organized and just as good as those in Ubuntu and openSUSE. Installation was similar to that of Ubuntu and clocked in around 16 minutes. Once complete, I immediately booted into MEPIS and was extremely impressed. The hardware support of my laptop was top-notch and apparently Beryl installs automatically during the MEPIS installation (and works likes a charm). I can’t say enough about the default interace as everything just seems to be perfect. KDE is the default environment, but seems to be customized better than any other KDE default I have seen. MEPIS has remained on my laptop since I installed it and I am confident it will remain. I am hoping to get an install of MEPIS going on my desktop to see how it performs with everyday tasks including virtualization of Windows installs.

If you do not want to give Ubuntu a shot then I highly recommend you give SimplyMEPIS 6.5 a try. I am really looking forward to using it more often in the future. At the moment I am downloading the image files for FreeBSD 6.2 (BSD is Unix-based but different from Linux in some ways…I am hoping to find out how different). I should have more on this and more in the coming weeks.

For those in Canada, have a great long-weekend!



Many times since the inception of Shift+Backspace, friends have approached me asking what open-source software they should be using and where they can get it. Usually I toss out names such as FireFox, VLC, Nvu, and Filezilla. This prompted me to start compiling a list of open-source software I regularly use along with descriptions of the applications. This list is still nowhere near complete; and, after coming across a single website this past weekend it may be transfered to the trash bin.

On the weekend I found opensourcewindows.org, a site listing on the best in open-source software for Windows. They have information and links to over 40 different Windows-based applications with each under a certain category based on the use of the program. Anyone who has tried to download certain open-source applications from sourceforge.net have probably realized it takes digging to get to the actual executables and installation wizards. Well, opensourcewindows.org takes care of this and offers links directly to the download.

Now, I realize that some of my visitors use Mac computers. Lucky for you there is an opensourcemac.org! This is nearly identical to the Windows version of the site but offers links to your crazy .dmg files.

Of course, both of these sites are not showcasing all of the free and open-source applications out there, but rather the best of the best. The creators best sum up their site and open-source software by saying:

“Free and open-source software is good for you and for the world. This is the best Windows [and Mac] software that we know of. No adware, no spyware, just good software.”

I hope you check the site and give some of the applications a try. In the future I will be profiling specific free and open-source programs from the list to give readers further knowledge before jumping aboard. If you have had either pleasant or unpleasant experiences with any of these applications please post in the comments or !

Until next time,


Linux Cartoons

by Margaret Wilson on

I was stumbling across the ‘net last night and came across a website devoted to popular cartoons and their strips that have involved Linux.

Dilbert, March 29 and 30, 1999

Foxtrot, August 16, 1999

Foxtrot, February 2, 2000

If you would like to see more please check out the site. Also, if you ever come across other geeky comments or fun stuff please send the links !Maximizing and minimizing since 1992.


Rockbox for iPod

by Margaret Wilson on

After posting the article on Ubuntu coming to mobile devices I finally remembered that I have been using open-source firmware on my iPod (5th generation) for the last few months. What exactly does this mean? Essentially, I have replaced the existing closed-source Apple firmware with the Rockbox open-source (and multi-platform) firmware. Rockbox allows the user to fully customize the graphical user interface. While customizing the interface with the hundreds of available skins is fantastic, the true beauty of Rockbox comes from the increased function it offers. Most notably of which is offering far more file formats that can be decoded and played compared to the Apple firmware.


While installation of Rockbox was a breeze for myself I would not recommend it to those that are not technically savvy or do not want to “brick” their media player; although it would be fun to take it apart! Another reason for the less tech savvy to avoid Rockbox is that the initial interface is quite “geeky” and may be intimidating/confusing. However, for those tech nuts out there I highly recommend you give Rockbox a shot! If you do not like it you can easily revert to the firmware you initially had from Apple.

At this point you may be intrigued or just want this article to be done. I realize most of my readers with portable media devices most likely have iPods. What exactly does Rockbox add for iPods? Here is an excerpt from the Rockbox FAQ:

“Rockbox for the iPod 4G, Color, Nano and Video models supports a large number of plugins, including games, applications, and “demos” – have some fun when you’ve got some free time to kill, open files with the text viewer, make use of the stopwatch, view some JPEG photos, or turn your iPod into a desktop clock. Also enjoy On-The-Go playlist creation and adjustment, full file bookmarking support and much more.”

Also, if you want to play with Rockbox on my iPod, and I will be happy to show you (this does require you to know me).

Even nerdier,


09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0

Posting this set of hexadecimal numbers may very well get Shift+Backspace in trouble. For those of you who do not know what this number represents it is a key that can be used to break the DRM (digital rights management) on HD-DVD’s. On May 1st 2007 bloggers began posting this number everywhere they possibly could including the creation of songs and videos posted on sites such as YouTube.

Now, the MPAA and has been sending out cease and desist orders and launching lawsuits to thousands of websites that have published this number. Do you recall when DVD was cracked? HD-DVD creators always thought their DRM was 100% uncrackable. Wow, how pompous can you get? When are these massive companies going to realize that DRM is not the solution to piracy? A few weeks ago Apple announced that the iTunes music store was going to be offering DRM-free songs for download. The amount of positive press this garnered was insane and I am sure that Apple is still selling more songs than ever before.

Leaving DRM behind, something in todays business world really bothers me. It seems as though so many companies are trying to fight against piracy and open-sourcedness. Of course piracy is affecting media sales but as long as we see musicians and actors with everything they could ever imaging it will continue (not to mention these new TV shows about record/television/movie executives children who have nothing else better to do). It is time that these media-giants realize that world is changing, there is still billions of dollars to be made but adjustments are necessary.

Okay, this turned into an unorganized rant really quickly. I will write more on these topics in the future. I am not spreading this code because I have used it (or will ever use it) but because I feel that this is a step in finally convincing the corporate world that for every intelligent person they employ there are a thousand who are smarter.

Be sure to read more on the HD-DVD crack, if you search for that string of numbers you will find endless articles regarding it and the massive MPAA takedown-attempts.

Ranted out,


Dell + Ubuntu

by Margaret Wilson on

DellIt’s official! Dell has picked Ubuntu 7.04 as their Linux distribution of choice for offering an alternative to Windows with select computers. It appears as though Ubuntu will be offered and supported by Dell on a few offerings including both desktops and laptops. A Dell spokesman told CRNtech:

“We are finalizing some final details and will provide an update in the coming weeks as to which products will be available. We will offer Ubuntu 7.04 on select Dell consumer products with a range of configuration options.”

You can read the full article here. DesktopLinux.com also posted an article with speculation regarding the specific models that will initially have the Ubuntu option. DesktopLinux followed this with another article about Dell’s move to offering Ubuntu means to the Linux community.

“Dell also is saying something else that’s equally important about the desktopLinux Logo world. It’s saying, for the first time in more than a decade, that standard x86 PC users have a choice. For the first time since OS/2 mattered, users have a choice again. No more are users stuck with Windows. No more are they forced to pay the Microsoft tax.

Even users who never intend on using Linux should be glad to see Microsoft’s iron hand finally lifted, albeit just an inch. Just as the arrival of Firefox forced Microsoft to improve Internet Explorer, the arrival of Linux on a mainstream desktop will force Microsoft to make significant, rather than cosmetic, improvements to its own operating systems.

This isn’t just a big day for desktop Linux users. This is a red-letter day for all PC users.”

-Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols of DesktopLinux.com

It makes me happy to see that Linux advocates are not trying to push Linux operating systems on users but are pointing out the benefits competition has on existing (specifically Microsoft) products. As the Linux and open-source software market share grows, classical software companies will need to adapt to, embrace and flat-out accept the demands of the consumer.

The revolution has begun!!


Net Neutrality

by Margaret Wilson on

Many of you have likely heard this term on the news or read about it somewhere online. There are many websites discussing Net Neutrality and what it means to internet users. Generally, Net Neutrality pushes for an “open” network with no discrimination. The leading advocate is savetheinternet.com and I urge you to visit this site and read their frequently asked questions section to find out more.

Now, this website advocates Net Neutrality in the United States, but Shift+Backspace is based in Canada. Well, the leading Canadian advocate, neutrality.ca, was recently shut down. I had visited this site many times and it provided many Canadian-focused details on Net Neutrality and how to fight for it. It is a tremendous shame that neutrality.ca has been shut down, but other Canadian technology sites have taken notice and are trying to get the word out. First and foremost, Amber MacArthur, a well-known Canadian-born technology expert, has posted a fantastic article on her website about the shutdown of neutrality.ca.

Dr. Michael Geist, a Canadian expert on technology and the law, recently wrote an article titled “The Canadian Net Neutrality Debate“. If you live in Canada and have an internet connection with a large service provider you should read Dr. Geist’s article.

Dr. Geist mentions large Canadian telcos such as Telus, Rogers, VideoTron and Bell Canada and their involvement in Net Neutrality and belief that because they deliver the content they should be the gatekeepers of the content. It is unfortunate to say that I have been a co-op student for Bell Canada twice and worked solely with the Sympatico ISP. I had always enjoyed my time with Sympatico and had hoped to return in the future but as long as Bell is involved in censoring and prioritizing internet traffic I will refuse to work there. I recall the time when Rogers began regulating bit torrent traffic and how many users were switching to Bell because they wanted network access with no discrimination. It looks like members of Bell and the Sympatico team did not notice this trend and have decided to follow suit.

Thanks for reading,