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Online Textbooks: An opportunity for open standards

 

I recently finished my first school year that I used online textbooks exclusively. In short I hated every moment of it; this experience was by far the most frustrating experience that I have ever had. Either the books wouldn't display properly on my Linux box or my browser of choice (Firefox) or they would operate at a crawling pace. I even had one textbook that wouldn't let me log in to it for most of the school year (calculus textbooks are optional anyways).

 

There is a desperate need for a good platform to publish online textbooks and I believe the open source community can provide just the answer we need. Not only would its freedom from corporate (publishers) influence be beneficial but it would free students from proprietary software later in life. Richard Stallman was correct on this topic:

What schools should refuse to do is teach dependence. Those corporations offer free samples to schools for the same reason tobacco companies distribute free cigarettes to minors: to get children addicted. They will not give discounts to these students once they've grown up and graduated.

Teaching independence from a particular piece of software, kind of software or software company enables students to form and to take their place in a competitive market.

 

That being said, this textbook platform must be of the highest quality to dominate the market. Here are a few guidelines I would like to suggest.

 

Completely opensource and implement open standards

This is obvious but nevertheless extremely important. Opensource frees students for their future but the use of open standards also frees students in the present. When a textbook uses open standards it allows the student to use the environment he or she deems best for his or her academic experience. Some examples of open standards include: HTML, an decent video encoder (perhaps one could finally be made!), and JavaScript.

 

All forms of DRM must also be absent from this platform. DRM further limits the students' choice of computing environment. DRM also gives complete control of the user experience to the textbook publisher rather than the user.

 

Completely free of Flash:

This falls in the same category as open standards but I want to emphasize it. Flash makes using non-Apple and non-Microsoft systems, difficult, to say the least. Flash is also very insecure and slow. I've waiting as long as two minutes to flip a page and often times the page would fail to load forcing me to start all over. I can't say this any more creatively: Flash is not a good idea. Period.

 

Allow copy and paste:

This also goes along with open standards, especially HTML. Why would a company want to stop me from doing this? My school already payed for the book. Am I really going to copy and past it and send it to a class mate? Additionally, if the book is delivered using a high end platform, paying for the book will be worth it. Furthermore copying and pasting are very useful for the student. Few things are more irritating than having to type a selection from my Literature book into a paper or report I am writing. It's rather ridiculous when the student is using an online textbook and still has the limitations of a paper textbook.

 

 

 

Influenced more by an operation system than a paper book:

It's time to ditch the page by page model. This isn't a paper book why do we think that model will still work? I believe an operating system is a more apt model for an online textbook. This would allow the textbook to be more than just text on a page; it would allow it to be interactive. Math lessons could be taught through interactive examples not just written examples which are hard to understand for the more math challenged among us. Video can be integrated into the text. Open third party APIs would allow apps to be made to organize and complete homework (both on the student and the teacher side). This would provide an all inclusive academic experience for a class.

 

Free from a single corporate influence:

A singular corporate influence will try to push DRM instead of a high quality platform because it is cheaper. Moreover, a single corporate influence will seek to lock the platform down for just that corporations' (most likely a publisher) books. This also disrupts the user experience. Not all teachers will want to use books from the same publisher. Different publishers have different strengths. The Math teacher may want to use one publisher while the Computer Science professor may want to use a different publisher. A better model would be for many publishers to publish on this single platform and sell their books inside that platform. This would allow freedom for the teachers and provide a succinct experience for students.

 

This may seem like some kind of unattainable utopia but I believe with the collective power of the opensource community along with power of the education community it can be done. It is time we take this opportunity to provide better educational solutions for both teachers and students and set the example for education in the digital age.

 

Sources:

Stallman, Richard M. "Why Schools Should Exclusively Use Free Software." . N.p., 1 Apr. 2013. Web. 5 Feb. 2014. <https://www.gnu.org/education/edu-schools.html>.

 

Linux Shell Tip: Remove files with names that contains spaces, and special characters such as -, --

In Linux or Unix-like system you may come across file names with special characters such as:

  • -
  • --
  • ;
  • &
  • $
  • ?
  • *
  • White spaces, backslashes and more.

In this quick tip I am going to show you to delete or copy files with names that contain strange characters on Linux.

Sample file list

Here is a sample list of file names:

file-1

The problem and solution

Your default bash shell considers many of these special characters (also known as meta-characters) as commands. If you try to delete or move/copy such files you may end up with errors. In this example, I am trying to delete a file named '>file':

$ rm >file

Sample outputs:

rm: missing operand
Try `rm --help' for more information.

The rm command failed to delete the file due to strange character in filename.

Tip #1: Put filenames in quotes

The following command is required to copy or delete files with spaces in their name, for example:

$ cp "my resume.doc" /secure/location/
$ rm "my resume.doc"

The quotes also prevent the many special characters interpreted by your shell, for example:

$ rm -v ">file"
removed `>file'

The double quotes preserve the value of all characters enclosed, except for the dollar sign, the backticks and the backslash. You can also try single quotes as follows:

$ rm -v 'a long file   name  here'
$ cp 'my mp3 file.mp3' /backup/disk/

Tip #2: Try a backslash

You can always insert a backslash (\) before the special character in your filename:

$ cp "my\ resume.doc" /secure/location/
$ rm "\*file"

Tip #3: Try a ./ at the beginning of the filename

The syntax is as follows to delete a file called '-file':

$ rm -v ./-file
removed `./-file'

The ./ at the beginning of the filename forces rm not to interpret - as option to the rm command.

Tip #4: Try a -- at the beginning of the filename

A -- signals the end of options and disables further option processing by shell. Any arguments after the -- are treated as filenames and arguments. An argument of - is equivalent to --. The syntax is:

$ rm -v -- -file
$ rm -v -- --file
$ rm -v -- "@#$%^&file"
$ rmdir -v -- "--dirnameHere"

Tip #5: Remove file by an inode number

The -i option to ls displays the index number (inode) of each file:

ls -li

Use find command as follows to delete the file if the file has inode number 4063242:

$ find . -inum 4063242 -delete

OR

$ find . -inum 4063242 -exec rm -i {} \;

Sample session:file-2

For more information and options about the find, rm, and bash command featured in this tip, type the following command at the Linux prompt, to read man pages:

$ man find
$ man rm
$ man bash
 

10 Linux Bash and KSH Shell Job Control Examples

Linux and Unix are multitasking operating systems i.e. a system that can run multiple tasks (process) during the same period of time. In this new blog series, I am going to list the Linux and Unix job control commands that you can use for multitasking with the Bash or Korn or POSIX shell.

Read more: 10 Linux Bash Shell Job Control Examples

 

cwrap 1.0.0 - Testing your full software stack on a single machine

FOSDEM/Brussels
 
Sunday, February 2nd 2014, Version 1.0 of cwrap, a project to test your full software stack, has been released at FOSDEM. cwrap is a set of tools to create a fully isolated network testing environment to
test client/server components on a single host. It provides synthetic account information, hostname resolution and privilege separation support. The heart of cwrap consists of three libraries you can
preload in any executable.
 
The cwrap project does not require virtualization and can be used to build environments on different operating systems. The project consists of a socket wrapper, NSS module wrapper (users, groups,
hosts), and a (s)uid wrapper with support for GNU/Linux, BSD and Solaris.
 
The origin of these wrappers is the Samba project, where the wrappers have already been in use for many years to successfully test the SMB and other protocols'implementations. Now it is possible to use them
outside of the Samba project. The wrappers have been enhanced with new features.
 
Learn more at http://cwrap.org/
 

How to update Ubuntu 12.04 LST

First thing you should do just after the installation is updating the Ubuntu. Ubuntu 12.04 is the LST version and would be supported until April 2017. If you have Ubuntu 12.04 freshly installed, very first thing after installation is to update all the repositories. This would save you from unmet dependency errors.

Read complete step by step Guide here

How to update Ubuntu 12.04 LST

 

Linux Game Sales Statistics From Multiple Developers

GamingOnLinux.com reached out to multiple game developers to get insights into how well their games are doing on Linux and these are the results.

http://www.gamingonlinux.com/articles/linux-game-sales-statistics-from-multiple-developers.2963
 

dstat Tool to Monitor Processor, Memory, Network Performance on Linux Server

Dstats is a versatile resource statistic tool. This tool combines the ability of iostat, vmstat, netstat, and ifstat. Dstat allow us to monitor the linux server resources in real-time. When you need to gather those information real-time, dstat will fit your need.

Read more... Comment (0)
 

Linux ip Command Examples

I am a new Linux system admin user. How do I use ip command line utility to display or configure networking, routing, and tunnels on Linux operating systems? How do I configures or displays network interface parameters for a network using TCP/IP on Linux operating systems? The ip command is used to assign an address to a network interface and/or configure network interface parameters on Linux operating systems. This command replaces old good and now deprecated ifconfig command on modern Linux distributions.

Linux ip Command Examples

 

My Nerd Life: Too Loud, Too Funny, Too Smart, Too Fat

Carla Schroder is a self-taught Linux and Windows sysadmin and the author of the Linux Cookbook and writer of thousands of Linux tutorials.

If there is only one message you take away from reading this, let it be this: Linux and FOSS do not need more glamorous elite uber-rockstar coders. We need more ordinary, dedicated individuals from all walks of life contributing however they can. Just plain ordinary people with whatever they have to offer.

I am a born nerd, born to take things apart and put them back together, and to combine unlike things in imaginative ways. I am one of those people you never want to go shopping with, because I have to stand in front of any item I might ever under any circumstances consider purchasing, and work through in my head the nine zillion ways in which I might use it ... and then move on to the next item and repeat the trance. Because why not? Is it not all about possibilities?

Read more... Comment (18)
 

Ubuntu 14.04 (Trusty Tahr) - Alpha 1 Released ! Time to Upgrade !

Even though the release of Ubuntu 14.04 Trusty Tahr is scheduled on April 17, 2014, you can enjoy using it today. Yes, the first alpha of Ubuntu 14.04 Trusty Tahr is available for the users. This article will help you to upgrade to Ubuntu 14.04 from Ubuntu 13.10 Saucy Salamander.

Before Upgrading:

1. Make sure that you are having the backup of all important data.
2. All the third party repositories should be disabled.
3. Owners of production systems are advised to wait till April 17 for the final release.

Read more at YourOwnLinux

 

My Nerd Story: From Record Store Clerk, to Tech Journalist and Community Manager

Rikki Endsley is a technology journalist and the USENIX Association’s community manager. In the past, she worked as the associate publisher of Linux Pro Magazine, ADMIN, and Ubuntu User, and as the managing editor of Sys Admin magazine. Find her online at rikkiendsley.com and @rikkiends on Twitter.

I've been a writer for as long as I can remember, which is why I was thrilled to receive an electric typewriter as a high school graduation gift in 1988. Asking for a computer was never something I considered. I don't remember ever being exposed to computers while I was growing up. After high school, I didn't even use my new electric typewriter for a while. Instead, I took a year off, continued working my record store job, and saw dozens of great bands.

My nerd story starts at a record store, with a cash register and a Schwann catalog.

Read more... Comment (3)
 
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