Saturday, September 17, 2016

Technology Gift: fresh Linux Mint installation

Technology gift for yourself or a loved one: have an old laptop/desktop computer refurbished by an Open Source Software expert that will install Linux Mint on the hardware, offering a choice of keeping the Windows software as a dual boot operating system, or making the unit a sole Mint installation.

A quick review of the applications available via Mint shows that it runs non-proprietary versions of major (Microsoft/costly) applications:
  • Firefox, Chrome and Opera browsers (instead of Internet Explorer)
  • Libre Office (Writer, Calc, Impress, Dia, Base & Math) instead of MS Office
  • Thunderbird (email) instead of Outlook
  • GIMP (graphics) instead of Photoshop, Paint or Corel)
  • Scribus (desktop publishing) instead of Framemaker
  • VLC, MPlayer, Miro (media players) instead of Windows Media Player
  • Avidemux (video editor) instead of Final Cut Pro
  • KompoZer (WYSIWYG HTML and CSS editor) instead of Dreamweaver
  • ClamWin (virus scanning and definition) instead of McAfee
  • Clonezilla (disaster recovery, disk cloning and deployment) instead of N.Ghost
  • Amarok & Nightingale (music player & manager) instead of iTunes

Other Linux Operating Systems available for installation:
  • Elementary OS
  • Zorian OS
  • UberStudent OS
  • KaOS
  • Antix OS
  • Bohdi OS
  • PepperMint OS
  • Manjaro OS
  • Centos OS
  • Blu OS
  • Fedora OS
  • OpenSUSE OS
  • Debian OS
  • Lubuntu OS

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Open Source and Linux Sources

Years after having tried and liked almost all the applications that make up the Free Open Source Software movement I find myself still asking the same questions that I did when I first starting exploring this realm: Why isn't everybody using FOSS and the myriad of Open Source Operating Systems (OSs) that make up the wonderful world of Linux?

The most obvious reasons stand out: a) folks are not comfortable with OSs that are not sold by Microsoft or Apple b) folks don't care to distinguish between applications that are proprietary (non-free) and those that are truly free. Furthermore, some users understand that a proprietary piece of software (or OS) has been written by coders and developers in one of the many human-readable source code languages and then compiled into binary code (the ones and zeros that the hardware understands). This binary code is what runs the hardware we use (laptops, tablets, etc). The big difference between Open and Proprietary (Closed) software is that the original human-readable code (pre-compiled code) is always available in the Open model, and seldom (if ever) available in the Closed model. Thus, programmers and coders can learn, tweak and improve FOSS, while Closed software offers no tools for growth, just use - the tightly-controlled binary code format excludes all possible tweaks by coders, no matter their caliber.

Recently my own daughter, a teacher and a librarian in the Houston TX area texted me "I don't know anybody who uses Linux". What she received in response was a vitriolic knee-jerk reaction "90% of the Internet runs on Linux... Amazon, Google, DOD, FAA, UPS, Novell, IBM, Panasonic, Cisco, NYSE, Burlington, Toyota, Travelocity and even CERN use Linux... Most of the rest of the world uses it for daily use, especially in educational settings". My reaction to her candid comment bordered on rude.

These events have prompted me to try to present a site where any user can find linked information on FOSS, and on Linux.

* would be a good start.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Why students should learn how to code

Scratch is a programming language and an online community where children can program and share interactive media such as stories, games, and animation with people from all over the world. As children create with Scratch, they learn to think creatively, work collaboratively, and reason systematically. Scratch is designed and maintained by the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab. Dr. Mitch Resnick has an introductory video here: - He sets forth a compelling case for using Scratch to teach coding to youngsters of all ages.

Inspired in no small part by Dr Resnick's work, the Coding Academy of El Paso is now offering coding summer classes. Please visit for information content and class schedules. We use Raspberry PIs as a tool to not only learn coding, but to enable scratchers to use these fully working credit card-sized computers with applications ranging from LibreOffice to Mindcraft.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

FOSS as defined by Wikipedia

Before one goes exploring what FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) is, it is perhaps sound to look at the information that our trusted Wikipedia offers:
Some basic concepts must be clear. One, software begins as a human-readable code that programmers develop. Two, this human-readable source code is then compiled into a binary format, the "language" that the computer's CPU can understand and execute. Three, the binary version of the code is the one that proprietary vendors sell, hiding the human-readable source code from users. Four, the Open Source community provides both the binary and the readable source code, so the user can learn, modify and adapt the code to her needs. What this means is that FOSS provides use, knowledge and generally a free product, while proprietary software provides use, but no knowledge of what different parts of the code do, and no way to correct, modify or update the code you paid for rented?.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Using Open Source Software to post pictures on the web

After helping some friends post their wedding pictures on a web page, I decided to create a small training document that could perhaps help others with the process. I needed, naturally, a web "place" and using Kompozer, LibreOffice Calc, gEdit, and Scribus I came up with the tutorial located at

You can browse everything via a PDF file, or download the Scribus document and read it from there. There are many other references to Open Source Software resources and sites - that's part of what I do.

Alan Hodson aka elptuxman
aahodson at gmail dot com

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What are iK-16Clusters?

   Most educational organizations, beginning at Day Care Centers, want exposure and access to computer-based technology to increase, but realize that providing the hardware and software needed while also preparing teachers to use technology for instructional purposes places on them an emphasis beyond their financial capabilities. Yet, computer knowledge is essential in the present times, so parents view favorably those schools that make an effort to introduce their children to computers at an early age, the earlier the better.

   Modern day classrooms provide access to software for children and access to sites that incorporate computer usage to supplement their curricula, enhancing the educational standard of the school. And in an environment where appropriate hardware is available, more experienced teachers report using technology more often in the classroom when delivering instruction or having students engage in learning activities. (Journal of Teacher Education, April 1, 2008)

   The biggest drawback to being able to provide a technology-rich environment is usually cost, and to a lesser degree, lack of familiarity with the tools. Fortunately, cost is an issue that can be managed effectively by deploying long-lasting Thin Client units, instead of fully loaded "fat" computers. The iK-16Cluster equipment is about 75% cheaper (4 units for the cost of 1), and it comes with a free Operating System (Linux) and free software. This free software is the equivalent of proprietary store-bought applications (in some cases it is even better) and it is licensed to legally be given away to students, so they can use at home the same software they use in the classroom. Most of the free software can be used on PCs and Macs, greatly increasing productivity and familiarity with technology tools.

   With all the recent advances in educational technology, must hardware and software acquisitions target the same expensive sources? The answer is NO. To this effect, a recently retired local technology guru is turning the investment educational business have to make on its head., a local El Paso technology firm, is promoting tailored thin-clients called iK-16Clusters at unbeatable prices.

   These locally installed and configured eco-friendly clients (low power, no moving parts) are mounted on the back of equally green flat screen monitors, and include USB keyboards and mice. Five units are networked to a small-form server running Kubuntu Linux that also acts as a cluster, providing six fully configured access points.

   The robustness of the free Operating System, the fact that it runs all kinds of software with a free license (meaning NO MORE yearly license upgrades of any kind), and the low price (under $2,500) for the whole cluster (1 server, 5 thin clients, monitors, keyboards, mice and cabling) are facts that may win over even the most skeptical decision makers.

   Please visit and take a look at the iK16Cluster information, or better yet, email to schedule a live demo. Small groups are welcomed to the 90 minute presentation. Make an appointment soon - parents and students will appreciate it. An easy to remember link is this

   For Internet purposes, the cluster will work with most cable (Time Warner) or DSL/Uverse (AT&T) topologies. Assistance and installation is available.

   What HodsonDTS can provide to your organization:
  • A six unit Internet-ready lab for under $2,500
  • Free Operating System (Linux Kubuntu)
  • Free software with take-home licensing that includes the following categories: Desktop, Educational, Games, Graphics, Internet, Sound & Video and Utilities (All major applications are included)
  • Local training and workshops
  • Local support and maintenance
  • Help and support for after-hours uses of the cluster, such as clubs exploring Linux, computer science, graphics (Photoshop-type), video and more
  • Free Parent Internet Home-Safety training (configuring home routers and DNS filters to keep unwanted sites off their home computers/tablets)
  • Network configuration (switches, cabling and conduit)
    Mr. Alan Hodson, M.Ed. CEO of HodsonDTS is a K-12 Texas certified teacher with an ample background in technology. He's been an American Schools overseas administrator and a pioneer in educational uses of the Web (MathMagic Internet - 1992). He is an avid proponent of Open Source Software - he chairs the Texas Open Source Software (TOSS) Foundation, and has presented in numerous state venues including TCEA at Austin, Region XV and Region XIX. He's also active with local user groups. Contact him at


Monday, August 8, 2011

The best of software in the worst of times

Updated September 11, 2014

Harsh economic times have forced upon us a "bare bones" approach to many of the decisions that affect our livelihood and endeavors. As a technology advocate, I oftentimes find myself cringing when I hear decision makers turning a deaf ear to one of the best sides of computer technology, the abundant and crystalline fountain of Open Source Software. For the uninitiated, software programs are computer code that has been compiled from human-readable source code into binary code, the language computers understand. Companies in the business of selling software (e.g. Microsoft, Adobe, etc) remove the readable source code from their packaging, and sell only the compiled application, forcing a culture of binary consumers with no access to the source. So what distinguishes Open Source from Proprietary Software is that for every binary Open Source application, the source code is also available for study and, if needed, improvement and modification. What this means in the real world is that for every store product, say MS Office or Photoshop, there is an Open Source (and free) counterpart. In the case of Office it is OpenOffice, an application that comes with a license that even allows you to share it legally. For Photoshop enthusiasts, GIMP is free. See OSLIVING.COM for many other examples.

So in these worst of times, we see companies and organizations cutting back and laying off workers whose skills could actually save them thousands of dollars. Instead of directing their ever shrinking funds into viable alternatives, I see illogical spending on the old mantra "buy and do whatever our time-proven vendors tell us". I see a misguided bare-bone mentality prevailing. So instead of greener monitors and smaller, more energy efficient computers run by employees who understand alternative open source operating systems, decisions are still made to cyclically spend large amounts of money for licenses and upgrades. Some smart organizations are, however, looking at the real basics of computer technology, and using free and Open Source Linux as their desktop and server operating system. They have found that encouraging their employees to use Open Source Software is a good business practice . Companies such as Conoco, CISCO, Google, Mobil, Panasonic, Shell, Toyota USA and organizations like the Government of Mexico City, the US Army and the US Postal Service have embraced Linux. The truth of the matter is that the Internet and other "backbone" network systems run overwhelmingly on Linux servers. The emergence of Linux in the desktop, however, has been slower. With no cost or licensing fees to pay, the savings can add up very quickly and very dramatically. The customers, young minds in the case of schools, have no problem making the adjustments to Linux - Seems like only decision makers who fear change and questions are opposed to the inevitable - the Open Source sharing of computer technology resources for the common good.

When "tightening our belts" becomes necessary due to budget cuts, it is heartening to know that there are viable options to expensive software technology.

Alan A Hodson a retiree from EPISD consults via You can reach him at