Archive for June, 2009

Smartphone apps: Where are the unions?

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

A few years ago, no one ever heard of a “smartphone”. A few years from now, every one of us will own one. This has implications for trade unions which we’re not yet facing up to.


Der Präsident lässt peitschen

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

In kaum einem Land der Welt wird die Gewerkschaftsbewegung so heftig unterdrückt wie im Iran. Internationale Gewerkschaftsverbände rufen nun zu einem globalen Aktionstag auf.


World’s unions stand in solidarity with Iranian workers

Friday, June 26th, 2009

Weeks before the disputed Presidential election, long before the explosion of dissent into the streets of Tehran, there were already signs that not all was well in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Mass arrests at May Day demonstrations, suppression of strikes at factories, jailing of leaders of independent trade unions in transport and industry – this was the prelude to hundreds of thousands openly shouting “death to the dictatorship” in the streets of Iran’s capital in June 2009.
The international trade union movement has been increasingly focussed on Iran in the last year and has issued a call for a global day of protest on 26 June to focus attention on the violation of workers’ rights in that country.


iPod for Ubuntu users

Sunday, June 21st, 2009

Screenshot_thumbnail.pngTake a look at this screenshot. Click on the image to enlarge it. Do you see what I see?
In the center of your screen is Apple iTunes software. But look carefully at the top bar, particularly the upper left corner. That’s Ubuntu. What you’re seeing is an implementation of iTunes inside the Ubuntu Linux desktop.
So what?
Well, if you buy an iPod or iPhone, Apple tells you that the only computers that they will work with are Apple Macs and Microsoft Windows PCs. If you run Linux, you’re out of luck.
If you Google around, you discover that there are ways around this. As you’d expect.
Most people suggest that you “jailbreak” your iPod but that is (a) tricky to do for newbies and (b) runs the risk of invalidating your warranty, and screwing up stuff.
You could partition your disk and install Windows in one of the partitions, but when I started reading up on this, I realized that there was a risk of compromising some bits of my system that I didn’t want to touch.
Another approach, which I tried, is to install an app on the iPod called Air Sharing. This allows me to drag and drop files, including music files, from my Linux laptop to the iPod. It works really well, but the problem is that you cannot play those files with the music player. If you double click on a particular music file, you can play it — but you can’t play a number of them, or shuffle them, or do anything a decent music player would do.
I tried to run iTunes in the Windows emulator for Linux, Wine (and yes, I know that means “Wine is not an emulator”), but that didn’t work.
And then I discovered Sun Microsystem’s VirtualBox and everything changed.
VirtualBox is free software which you can download to your Linux desktop.
Once you do so, you tell it to create a new virtual environment and you can set up your operating system (in my case, Windows XP Home) inside that environment (or box).
It takes a while to install Windows XP from CD, but incredibly, it worked. I had Windows working on my Linux desktop, without having to partition my disk.
Once Windows was working inside its little box, I checked to see if it recognized that I had a wireless internet connection. It did. So I downloaded and set up iTunes 8. That worked really well.
The next stage was tricky — how to get iTunes to read all the MP3 files I had created in Linux.
For that, I needed to use Shared Folders inside VirtualBox, which required me to download some additional tools (you’ll be walked through this), and to restart.
I was very happy to see iTunes now recognizing all my music files.
The final stage was getting iTunes to recognize the iPod once it was connected by USB. This was not simple, and required me to play around with user groups on Linux. There’s a lot of stuff about this on the web and it took a while to tweak it all so it worked.
And then, it all just worked. I was syncing my iPod Touch with my Linux-based music collection — without jailbreaks, without partitions.
Life would be a lot easier if Apple would just release a version of iTunes for Linux, but the company is obviously not interested in the millions of Linux users as potential customers of both their hardware (iPods and iPhones) and music. Until they wake up to the fact that we are a market, we need to find ways to get around their stupid limitations — and what I’ve described above is one way to do just that.

iPhone? Who the hell needs an iPhone?

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

thumbtacks-ipod-touch.jpgLook carefully at the image to the left. This is not an iPhone. It is an iPod touch with something that looks just like a thumbtack stuck into the bottom of it.
This thing is actually called a Thumbtack and you can buy one and stick it into your iPod Touch. You can then go to the Apps Store and download a free copy of Skype.
And then you can make Skype calls whenever you’re in range of a wi-fi connection, which for someone like me is nearly all the time.