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17-Jan-14

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The GNU Software

29-Jan-18

This is a free software that was first launched by Richard Stallman in 1983. In the spirit of the free software, many people have been developing it since its launch, in order to improve their computing. The GNU software guarantees the users all the rights and freedoms of the free software like, copying, sharing, and modifying, among others. This software relied on the Emacs text editor when it was first developed. This was a big hurdle in making the software free and thus the developers created their own C compiler, editor, and other Unit tools. These tools were developed in 1987. The tools have been undergoing various updates over time, from the initial kernel version.

GNU Tools

The development of the GNU tools enabled the use of GNU in developing programs. The initial goal was to make applications similar to the Unix System that GNU was able to run through they were not identical. The GNU had the capability to run file names that were longer, unlike the Unix. Further, GNU was able to run programs with longer version numbers and a system safe for crashing. Richard Stallman has been instrumental in the GNU project. He authored a majority of writings for the project and drove its development by providing freedoms to the users.

Support Mobilization

In order to mobilize support and participation from others in developing the GNU software, the developers came up with a manifesto. Through this, programmers were supported by engaging them in areas that interested them most, and where they were able to give in their best. The project also won the support of many well-wishers who could donate money, parts from computers, and also volunteer their time to participate in writing codes from the program. The GNU manifesto is the fundamental guiding criteria for the free software world. The manifesto listed the four freedoms that guide the free software development and control.

Ways of Obtaining the GNU Software

The GNU software can be obtained through several means. First is through download from their website. Secondly, one can obtain a copy of the software from a friend. Thirdly, at the point of a computer purchase, one can be lucky enough to buy a computer that is already pre-installed with the GNU software. Some companies offer such computers. A user can also get the GNU software by downloading it for free from the web.

Users can also get access to the sources of the preferred package and then develop them. Some users prefer to keep the hosting at the GNU website, while others host the programs on alternative sites of their choice. The program developed can be further shared with others without any restrictions being imposed on the users.

Travel Agency System – 5 Things It Must Have

21-Jan-18

Today’s world has undergone a lot of changes, due to the disruptions brought about by technology. A lot of things that used to be done manually in the past are now done using some computer systems and programs. This improves efficiency as a lot of time is saved and it is also a big boost to businesses. The system adopted, however, need to be highly reliable so that the business is not affected negatively. An example of a business that can highly benefit from the use of computer systems is a travel agency. Software that is required for any business depends on the specific business needs. After assessing the nature and needs of travel agencies, these five things must be put into consideration.

I. Reservation Management

This is a fundamental feature in the travel agency system. Reservations are very important in the travel agency business, however difficult to get. A good software system should have the capability to track reservations, from the time they are placed up until the end. The reservations are the main source of income for the travel agencies, but the process can be very time-consuming. This is why it is important to have the process flow fully automated. The system should also be able to issue all types of documents including the financial documents such as invoices and payment confirmations. It is therefore paramount that the system for any travel management should have the reservation management. Any proprietor looking for a system for their travel agency business should consider this before the acquisition of the system.

II. Multiple Sales Channels

The travel agency system should be able to support the sales of the business through various channels. Sometimes the agency needs to close sales online, but there are also other sales that need to be tracked offline. The system should have the capability to record all inquiries from prospective customers and leads from other agencies. This is mostly done manually and the travel agencies should consider this before buying a system for their agencies. The system should have room for tracking sales that are initiated through phone calls, physical office visits, and also those initiated through visits to the company’s website.

III. Management of Inventory

When in business, there is a potential danger of running out of stock. The danger runs even in the services industry, like a travel agency. Customers would be very disappointed if they paid for products only to be advised later that the products are no longer available. It is, therefore, important that the travel agency system is able to track the level of stock available, the prices of those products, and get an alert of when to stop further sales. In addition, travel agencies must look for modern systems that notify them when the inventory level is running low.

IV. Flexibility

The hospitality business is random. Different customers have different needs and preferences. It is therefore not easy to have all the products that the business handles pre-installed in the travel agency system. Customers will from time to time ask for products that are not available, from the company’s system. A good system is one that makes room for some adjustments to the unexpected situations. Most computer systems work within strict rules and guidelines, which could highly inconvenience the business where many exceptions exist. It is, therefore, important to buy a system that accommodates most of the firm’s needs. This will improve efficiency and save a lot of time for the company.

V. Reports

Lastly, a good travel agency software should be capable of producing reports for the company. The company owners should be able to give a clear insight into the company. Reports on things like the level of sales, the distribution of the sales to the various suppliers, and so on, are important in informing the future direction of the business.

Understanding Linux and the GNU System

15-Jan-18

One of the most widely used software on the GNU Project is the Linux that is a modified version of the GNU system. Many users do not realize this fact even as they continue to use the system. Linux is a kernel that is an important part of the operating system but usually useless on its own. It only operates when set up as a complete operating system and this is done by combining it with the GNU operating system. This makes it complete and is normally referred to as the GNU with Linux or simply the GNU/Linux. Some people mistakenly call the whole system “Linux”, mostly since they don’t understand the difference between the kernel and the whole system.

Though programmers know the difference between the kernel and the whole system, they have often heard the system being called after the kernel and have gone ahead to look for justification for the naming. Some tend to believe that once the kernel was written, the users looked for other free software to use with it, and they found a Unix-like system that was readily available. The GNU Project had been working to the same end since 1984, and thus what the users of the kernel found, was not by accident. The free software had been designed in line with the GNU Manifesto which aimed at developing a free system called the GNU. The plans for the GNU project had also been outlined and this drove the development of the free Unix-like system. The Linux was thus designed to complement the GNU system.

The GNU Project

The GNU Project set out the software to be an integrated system from the initial stage instead of having a collection of some programs deemed useful. The project made an analysis of the programs required to make the complete free system and these were systematically identified, written and launched. The programs included games like the GNU Chess as it figured out a complete system would need them.

Making the Linux work with the GNU was one of the hardest tasks for the project. Some components of the GNU required a complete overhaul to work with Linux. In some instances, Linux related extensions were written to make the system fully integrated. This was not a simple job and it required full support by all the stakeholders. Fortunately, the GNU Project team did not fall short of the much-needed support and this ensured that the system was fully integrated.

The GNU/Linux software has today developed into many different variants with some of them having the non-free software. Other variants have completely free software as per the GNU philosophy. Irrespective of this, it is important to stop the ambiguity associated with the Linux/GNU system with many people referring to the system just plainly as Linux. It is important to note that the Linux is the kernel and that the system as a whole is called the GNU system.

Artificial Intelligence’s White Guy Problem

10-Jan-18

The growing use of artificial technology presents the world with a myriad of challenges. Its use is creating a lot of inequalities in the judicial and legal systems, at homes, and workplaces. The systems are being fed with some forms of discrimination based on sexism and racism. When this is fed into the algorithms that drive the artificial intelligence, the systems are affected in the way they churn out data when analyzing some situations. For instance, it affects the way people are categorized and also how advertisements are sent to users of the systems.

Some applications like Google’s photo application were found to be tagging photos of black people as gorillas. Similar problems have been noted in Nikon’s software installed in their cameras which misinterpreted pictures of Asian people to be blinking. Further, the HP’s web-based camera had problems in identifying images of people with dark skin tones.

Artificial Intelligence in Decision Making

These problems are fundamentally caused by the kind of data fed into the system when developing them. The system uses that data to make predictive analysis in future situations. The algorithms remain largely proprietary and thus secrets to the developers. The use of these systems in the legal process is widely practiced in the United States. Judges make risk assessments in some cases using machine driven technology. However, the judges do not understand the logic behind those machines even though they rely on them to make conclusions.

The use of artificial intelligence has revealed similar challenges in the policing department. Police use the systems to roll out predictive policing, but this is resulting in a vicious cycle of the problems already existing. For instance, the systems predict more policing in areas that are predominantly black and less in those predominantly white. More arrests could thus continue coming from the areas with over-policing, while crimes in other areas go unnoticed. Consequently, historical injustices based on discrimination could be revived through the digital systems if this is not fixed. The discrimination does not end at that. Google’s ads for higher paying jobs were found to be more skewed to men than women.

Reliving the Dark Past

The artificial intelligence systems are likely to reflect the old biases when not looked into with the aim of solving the stereotypes and discriminations. The development of the systems highly reflects the values of the companies that create them. The best way to resolve these challenges would be through having inclusion in the companies from the board levels to management and the people who make the designs and implementation of the artificial intelligence systems. The solution to the discrimination present in the artificial intelligence systems will be helpful in addressing the challenges that might crop up in the development of future projects and even create solutions to them before they emerge.

Who is John Gilmore?

03-Jan-18

John Gilmore is a household name in the technology sector. He is highly credited for his contribution to the free software. With his extensive skills in technology and software to be specific, he has shared his insights in several GNU projects. Among these projects are the GNU Debugger, GNU Radio, and the flash movies. In addition, this software guru is the founder FreeS/ WAN project. Through this project, he has managed to promote the encryption of the internet traffic.

Contributions

Additionally, there are other immense contributions that John has done in the software sector. This includes founding the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Cygnus solution and the alt*hierarchy. In addition, he has contributed to the liberalization of the software world and has made a remarkable impact on the liberalization of the society. For instance, he has previously sued the Federal government accusing them of restrictive and secretive laws in the travel industry. Though he lost the case, challenging the constitutionality of the secret travel laws, the case made a major contribution in rethinking the openness and liberalism.

Achievements

Moreover, Gilmore has been vocal in advocating for reforms in the drug policy. He has been advocating for the relaxation of the drug laws and an end to the war on drugs. He has given financial support to many organizations championing for relaxation of the laws on drugs. The aim of fighting the war on drugs is to reduce the impact it has on free citizens. Most of his energies and support, however, have been spent on the advancement of the free software agenda. He worked closely with Richard Stallman in the Gnu Project.

Gilmore is the owner of the domain name toad.com. The domain is one of the oldest .com domains that have remained active over time. The toad.com runs an open mail relay which has been criticized by some as a haven for spammers. The open mail service has been important to travelers as it helps them send emails in an easy and convenient way. Critics of the open relay, however, contests that there are many alternatives for travelers through which they can still send emails.

Gilmore’s Career Venture

Gilmore’s first venture into the software world was through the Sun Microsystems, where he was one of the earliest employees. He would later co-create various programs like the Cygnus Solutions, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation among others. He has spent most of his life in programming, designing both software and hardware, and in entrepreneurship. A good portion of the wealth he has created has gone into the support of societies through acts of philanthropy. This successful entrepreneur is also a great supporter of open societies. Through them, he is working hard to get people into thinking about the future of the societies they are building, both on computers and in the real world.

Technology Is Making the World More Unequal

22-Dec-17

Technology is to blame for harboring the growth of some level of inequality in the world today. The use of surveillance technology makes it easier for the corrupt governments, to survey on any opposition that could curtail their corrupt practices. The rich elite minority abuses power and gets away with it as they are able to keep the dissidents at bay. This makes inequality more stable as the minority elites are able to advance policies that favor their agenda. As a result, the majority poor end up resenting the rich minority. This is due to some policies the rich minority advance that continues to oppress the poor. Since wealth comes with political influence, the rich are able to pass policies without much opposition.

These policies advanced by the rich, are defeated over time through revolutions or extensive reforms in the governments. This has been done in places like Brazil and Sweden. Some societies have prevented the collapse by convincing the elites to hand over some bits of their ill-earned wealth to the rest of the country. The masses, however, eventually develop resentment against the oppressors and emerge through revolutions.

However, technology is making it difficult for the masses to revolt against the oppressors. This is because people trying to revolt against the ruling minority are surveyed and identified early in advance. Once spotted, the dissidents are cruelly dealt with through torture and detentions. In some cases, the dissidents are faced with execution. In some countries like Ethiopia, critics of the ruling elites including those in the media are dealt with after being surveyed through the use of sophisticated surveillance technology.

Disparities in the Economy

Other aspects of inequality resulting from technology use are the rising levels of disparities in income distributions. While low-income countries are using technology to close the gap between the rich and the poor, the technologically advanced countries are experiencing disparities never experienced before. Labor saving technology is employed and this leaves a lot of people without employment opportunities. The jobless are left to work in healthcare and retail jobs, which are less paying and this leaves the workers with fewer incomes.

At the same time, the technology employed is owned by a few rich, who continue to generate a lot of income from the sale of the labor-saving technologies. These income disparities are epitomized by the large income disparities in the Silicon Valley. The region has the highest income median of about $94,000. This is higher than the national median of about $53,00. The region has also some of the most expensive houses which mean that a lot of people cannot afford decent housing. This has led to a very high number of people being homeless.

Why “Free Software” is better than “Open Source”

18-Dec-17

The definitions of free software and open source software could bring about some ambiguity and confusion, but there lies a fundamental difference between the two. As much as they can be seen as two parties within the same community, their definitions present different ideas. They work closely especially on the practical recommendations of the free software community.

The free software and the open software differ on some basic principles, but most of their practical recommendations are similar and agree with each other. The two are not enemies, but rather their enemy is the proprietary software. However, comparing the two terms, free software is found to be a better term than open source software due to the following reasons.

Ambiguity

The term “free software” has some unintended semantic ambiguity where people are led to thinking that it means software that is obtained free of charge. The intended meaning, however, is that the software gives the users certain freedoms. The free software community has tried to eliminate this problem by giving a clear definition of free software. However, this cannot completely eliminate the problem. Several suggestions for the replacement of the name have been fronted but found to have similar challenges, or even worse. One of the terms fronted to replace free software is the open source software. Its definition did not fully comply with the requisites of the free software and was found to be looser. It also accepted some restrictive software that is not allowed under the free software.

Fear of Freedom

The supporters of open source software prefer the term over free software since the free software is too loud on discussing some ethical issues and freedoms. This creates uneasiness in some people as they prefer to keep quiet as it is more acceptable to the business practices. This is a common practice among the software distributors who even go an extra mile to add some proprietary packages, to the free software and this sells as an added advantage to its users. The free software, on the other hand, wants the freedom to be talked about frequently so that its users can appreciate it.

When users are made aware of the freedoms the free software presents, they will not compromise them for the sake of proprietary software that pretty much has the same features as the free software. Many companies with proprietary software have lured users into switching to their software and most users have fallen prey. Only those who have appreciated the freedoms given by the free software have remained loyal. The solution to this challenge would be more talk about the freedoms and also teach about the free software in schools. Since this is not happening, it will continue to suffer from the quietness.

How to Run Your Small Business with Free Open Source Software

15-Dec-17

Businesses can take advantage of the vast open source software that is available for download for free. The major setback for this software is lack of support though it can be sought at a fee from the author or third parties. The support for free software is also readily available on the commercially licensed versions of the software. There are various options that make it possible for businesses to run on free software. They include:

Office productivity Suites from Open Source

The Microsoft office can easily be substituted with the open source software available at no fee, thus making financial savings for the business. Even if one was to use the Microsoft Office software, support from Microsoft would not be necessarily required. Only a few companies get such support from Microsoft. Therefore, when a business acquires a free software that pretty much works the same as a Microsoft Office, it can work without requiring day-to-day help from the authors of free software. Though the open software suites don’t have as comprehensive features as other proprietary software, the features available are sufficient for running a business. In fact, most users don’t make full use of all the features available on the proprietary software.

Accounting Applications from Free Software

The open source applications provide good alternatives to the existing commercial packages. For instance, the GnuCash has lifted the workings of the small businesses by helping them in applying principles of accounting. This ensures that the businesses balance their books professionally and are able to make reconciliations with the bank accounts. It helps the businesses, particularly the small businesses to make accurate financial reports.

Businesses that sell their products online can also get support from the open software by using the available open source e-commerce tools. The tools have all the features that support the end-to-end process of the e-commerce business. That is, from the presentation of the products, the shopping carts, checking out and making payments for the goods selected. Examples of such tools are the OpenCart and Prestashop.

Open source software is also available for the customer relationship management.

There are good alternatives to the Oracle system and Salesforce.com which are widely used by most companies. The alternatives to this widely used software include SugarCRM Community Edition and OpenCRX. These softwares have the capability for full automation of the sales force. The software comes a long way in improving the relationship between the business and the partners, customers, suppliers and the intermediaries. This is a good alternative for small and medium-size businesses as it saves a lot on their expenses while at the same time enjoying the benefits enjoyed by users of the similar but proprietary software.

How to Build a Bot that Travelers Will Love

09-Dec-17

Chatbots have become crucial tools in the travel industry. They are programs that use artificial intelligence to simulate human conversation. The programs are expected to take the lion’s share of digital bookings in the next two years as they are expected to be responsible for about 70 percent of the mobile bookings. This will highly disrupt the travel business, and it’s therefore, important that the travel agencies build the best bots for their businesses. For the travel agencies to build bots that travelers will love, the following points are essential.

Security

Safety measures are a primary requirement for online trade platforms. The platform users need to be assured that their payment details and other personal details like passport numbers remain safe, after using these platforms. The customer’s information should be safeguarded irrespective of the platforms that the travel agency uses. This can be done through the use of end-to-end encryption, having timeouts on the system, requiring retina scanning or touch ID, and self-destruction of messages, that are deemed personal and private. These measures will encourage users to use the platforms and have confidence in them. Consequently, it will increase the uptake of the programs, and this is a definite boost to the business.

Choose a Single Skill

One should adopt a chatbot after analyzing the most challenges that the customers are facing. This will ensure that the chatbot developed, has skills that can respond to most of the questions that the customers will ask. Before adopting a bot for the business, the buyer must ensure that it is personalized, in a unique way that is different from others in the market, and that it meets the needs of the target market. Proper analysis of the customer segment is important as this determines the kind of chatbot adopted for that business segment.

Provide Human Support for the Artificial Intelligence

A lot of companies using chatbots allow them to communicate with customers, using artificial intelligence only. The only point when the customers are transferred to human operators is when bots are unable to find a solution to the customers. This is not a good practice as chatbots alone cannot reply to custom requests. They should be assigned only the roles and tasks that can be fully automated. As a result, the customers must be made aware that they are talking to bots, as this will minimize confusion and disappointment to the users.

User Experience

The user’s experience should be improved by having a bot that can provide all the details required. This is because customers can be impatient, or lack time to browse through all the details they are looking for. A bot should, for example, give several options for hotels that the customers are searching for and also provide details like cancellations fees.

Be in Touch with Users

The users should be followed up even after they have been served. This helps in getting feedback on the services offered by the company. The messages sent to customers express their care and concern, and also make suggestions for local restaurants, which they could consider as alternatives. A good chatbot will convert a user into a lifelong customer by encouraging them to come back for services.

Create a Chatbot for Different Languages

It is important that the chatbot communicate in a variety of languages, so that language a barrier can be eliminated as much as possible.

Creation of Extra Value

Lastly, the bot should do an extra thing than what the website or other applications do. The user should get more services and value from the bot unlike when they use the website.

Free Software

07-Dec-17

The opposite of free software is proprietary software. The distinction lies in the freedom the software allows its user, and not in the price. Software is said to be free if it gives the user the freedom to make changes like improvements and other modifications. Users of proprietary software are generally restricted from studying how the software works, sharing it with others, or trying to make modifications. Such attempt could land them in jail or face fines and penalties. The users are supposed to follow the guidelines and restrictions provided, under the fine prints of the terms and conditions of use, which they agree to while installing the software.

Whether a software is obtained free of charge or for a fee, does not define whether it’s free or not. Rather, it is some four basic freedoms that determine whether the software is free or not. These basic freedoms and privileges are.

Freedom to Run the Program

This freedom allows the user to run the program for any purpose, and on any kind of computer system. In this case, the right and purpose of the user override that of the developer. Therefore, the developer cannot impose any restrictions on the user. Consequently, the user can further share the program with a third party, who will as well have the right to use it without any restrictions being imposed on them.

Freedom to Study how the Program Works

This enables the user to do their computing the way they wish. It is paramount for the user to have access to the source code. This right has been instrumental in driving the development of the free software products. The free software users are able to make adjustments to the programs and these adjustments can be adopted by specific users or globally.

Free Distribution of Copies

The users are free to make a distribution of copies of the software at their will. Once a user obtains the free software, they are not restricted from sharing the programs with their friends or any other people they wish to share with.

Distribution of Modified Copies

Lastly, the user can also distribute the modified copies of the software. The user is required to give the community access to the source code so that they can benefit fully. The modified copies can be used privately or shared and there is no precondition to notify anyone of the modifications. The user can also publish the changes if they wish to, and this does not require any preconditions to be met as well.