What’s the current state of Windows Anti-Virus?

One of our co-op’s clients asked me what I use for anti-virus at the moment and tips for what they should use on their Windows system.

Well, flame me now, but I don’t actually use any anti-virus at the moment: I rely on system security, firewalling and intrusion detection. The diversity of GNU/Linux software – and I use some pretty odd stuff – probably helps too. Even if I did want to run antivirus software, most of what’s available for GNU is actually aimed at detecting and preventing transmission of Windows viruses. There are few real-world GNU viruses and fewer attack opportunities left open.

Also, I prefer firewalling and fairly paranoid security settings because, like an antibiotic, an antivirus is only effective once the virus is already on your system somehow – hopefully held in quarantine by the browser or email client and not actively malignant in the processor.

There’s quite a list at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_antivirus_software#Microsoft_Windows but I expect most of the purchase-free proprietary ones (labelled as “Free” or “Freemium” but you usually pay by watching adverts) will try to sell you upgrades, as that’s how their production is funded. If you don’t mind doing such things, you can disable the ads in at least one of them

The only very free ones I found were Immunet (also funded by upgrades – not sure if it’s actually Free and Open Source Software) and ClamWin (donation-funded) which both use the same scanning engine. If I had to use Microsoft Windows, I think I’d probably use and donate to ClamWin, install the (altruism-funded I think) Clam Sentinel alongside it and be rather cautious about what I downloaded or used online. I’m a bit worried that it doesn’t do great in reviews, though. What do/would you do?

I don’t really know about paying for security. The only paid product I’ve really seen has been Norton and that seemed no better than the ad-funded ones, still getting in the way and always trying to sell upgrades. It also irks me that there’s this huge market just to fix fundamental defects in Microsoft’s product. There’s a Microsoft Security Essentials add-on listed on Wikipedia, but it does fairly badly in this PC Magazine review – and do any of them do intrusion detection?

And finally, if you do decide to download something new, I strongly suggest getting it from a trusted source and/or triple-checking the link with wikipedia, a magazine review like CNET and a search engine. Don’t just trust a search engine, because fake antivirus software is a big way of getting viruses and worse onto computers: there’s even one calling itself “Microsoft Security Essentials 2011”!

Posted in Community, Education, Training and Information, GNU/Linux | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Wireless Networking on this Clevo

This Clevo laptop is a new machine and like a lot of new machines, not all of its hardware has drivers in the current stable release of debian.

Happily, there is a driver for its rtl8723ae wireless networking device in the later 3.8 Linux kernel versions. So it’s just a case of installing the package called “kernel-package” and following the instructions in it, to make a new linux-image package with the latest drivers in it.

One small thing which tripped me up is that you usually need to write “make-kpkg –rootcmd fakeroot –initrd kernel-image” now. I forgot the “–initrd” option at first.

Posted in GNU/Linux | 5 Comments

Debian Project Leader 2013 election campaign links: part 1

This is basically a link-post to the Debian Project Leader election email discussions on GMANE’s blog-style interface to debian-vote. After only 3 days of the 21, there’s already a pageful, so if I don’t start collecting links now, I’ll probably miss some. Right or wrong, I’ve grouped these into three topics:

The Job

  1. Why do you think you are a good candidate for DPL (10 Mar 2013)
  2. How do you plan to represent Debian externally? (10 Mar 2013)
  3. about a DPL board (12 Mar 2013)
  4. DPL term duration (12 Mar 2013)
  5. Work balance and traveling (12 Mar 2013)
  6. trying to do awesome and risking to fail (11 Mar 2013)
  7. To Lucas: how do you plan to push your ideas (12 Mar 2013)
  8. All candidates – quotes for the press if you win (13 Mar 2013)


  1. using debian funds for Debian’s hardware infrastru (12 Mar 2013)
  2. Usage of Debian’s Money (12 Mar 2013)
  3. Debian’s relationship with money and the economy (12 Mar 2013)

Project Management

  1. getting new people to Debian (10 Mar 2013)
  2. Free Software challenges and Debian role (11 Mar 2013)
  3. Development and technical issues and challenges (10 Mar 2013)
  4. Are there problematic infrastructure or processes in Debian? (12 Mar 2013)
  5. to Moray: encourage teams to take interns (11 Mar 2013)

So, what do you think are the key points or differences? Leave me a comment, or get involved in the discussions. Campaigning ends and voting begins 30/31 March.

Posted in Community, Democracy, GNU/Linux, SPI | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

In Praise of Consensus

The constitution of the debian operating system project says things like “consistent with the consensus of the opinions of the Developers” at various points but doesn’t say how strong a consensus or how the project will test for consensus. I think those were mistakes, breaking a couple of the conditions for consensus.

Wikipedia’s understanding of consensus is even worse. Wikipedia seems to treat consensus as a synonym for unanimity. Its testing methods allow an infinite loop to form where the casual observer can’t differentiate between a controversial proposal and consensus. I think those were mistakes.

These famous-but-imperfect implementations frequently lead to misdirected rants which seem to misunderstand consensus as requiring perpetual bikeshedding. Apache’s implementation is rather better – and it may surprise you to learn that our co-op is mostly run by consensus.

There are two key differences which I feel makes consensus work for us: we’ve set limits beforehand on some decisions where we need to act fast – where not making a decision would usually be the same as making a bad decision – and our methods of testing for consensus are better. We test for consensus with secret-at-vote-time-but-published-after straw polls, or using Crowd Wise by email.

I summarise Crowd Wise as follows: gather all ideas plus option 0 (do nothing) if possible, carry out a de Borda (preference) voting round 1, merge/amend/consolidate ideas, voting round 2 if needed. It does still work better if participants put their ego aside a little and co-operate, but it does put limits on non-co-operators.

Anyway, as described in Xana/ xana2/ bamamba/ Why Russ is wrong, debian isn’t exactly using consensus much at the moment, anyway. Should we try to fix its bugs? Do you know other projects where consensus is working?

Posted in Autonomy, Democracy, Education, Training and Information, Membership | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Clevo 7872-9040/A built Jan 13 with Debian 6

My trusty Asus seems to have succumbed to graphic fault. I got an OS-free Zoostorm as its replacement, to avoid paying the MS tax. Zoostorm is one brand that Clevo laptops are sold under.

It was actually a Clevo 7872-9040/A built Jan 13. I installed Debian 6 on it. The download button was easy to spot on the front page, but I actually used mini.iso so I could use a smaller usb stick. The first larger stick I tried was a dud and I’m not sure where other sticks went in the move.

The base installation went fine and most things went well, but the wireless networking and sound required an upgrade, but more on that next tech post.

Posted in GNU/Linux | Leave a comment

One of them, one of us

Interesting stuff is happening again and I’m doing a bit of travelling where I’m not driving much, so I can write some blog posts. If this train stops bouncing quite so much!

I think most readers are interested in technology and collaborative work, so it makes sense to alternate those two themes most of the time. So that’s what I’ll aim for, probably a few posts each week for the next few weeks.

Let me know in the comments or our co-op’s contract form if there’s anything in particular you’d like us to cover, else I’ll start with my recent experiences installing Debian 6 on a new laptop and the fun of running a business at tax return time.

Posted in Cooperatives, GNU/Linux | Leave a comment

We Have Moved! Again!

With immediate effect, our co-op is now at:

384 Lynn Road, Setchey, Norfolk PE33 0PD

Please send any official post there instead of Somerset or London, because the forwarding is slow and I expect it to miss a few items.

Our telephone numbers and email addresses remain the same, of course. It’s still best to use the contact form on our website.

Posted in Cooperatives, Education, Training and Information | Leave a comment

Please vote for police commissioners

Contrary to http://blog.einval.com/2012/11/13, I’ve just been and voted (four times, or 2×2 – one for me, one as a proxy) for a police and crime commissioner. I agree with much of what Steve writes and more besides. It’s a very bad election. But I voted for three main reasons: Firstly, parties I don’t like will get their core vote out anyway. If we don’t turn put, the election becomes more about party structures, less the popular wish. Secondly, democracy is imperfect, but it’s the best we’ve got. I’ve interacted with two appointed police authorities and they’re rubbish and they’re untouchable/unaccountable. Thirdly, I expect policing to be a hot topic here if the government do actually try to build the incinerator that 65,000 people/90+% voted against. Best try to get a non-gov commissioner now, I think. So that’s why I’ve voted and encouraged other members of our co-op to vote.

Posted in Democracy | 1 Comment

Adrift @coopsutd in @coopParty workshop


Welney washes

Sometimes I felt at home at Cooperatives United, like at the wonderful fringe dinner at Eighth Day last Thursday night. Sometimes I felt overwhelmed by the flood, like at the cooperative party workshop on Friday morning.

The workshop addressed the key questions: why do we want cooperative politicians, what could they do and what are the needs and challenges facing them?

Personally, I felt the first is obvious and the answer is all the second. It’s both frustrating (few ask why other movements want to influence politicians) and reassuring (no taboo topics) that the first question is asked.

There were many fascinating answers to the other two questions from around the world. As so often with workshops, few hard conclusions were reached, but I think some interesting conversations were started there, which we might hear again in the future.

What would I call the top challenge? Persuading open and transparent co-op members to join the party. I’ve written about my difficulty with joining political parties in the past, as some forms of collective responsibility are against my beliefs and I’m not sure that joining a small party will help anyone much, but I think I’ll take another look at the cooperative party, all the same.

The picture above is of the Welney washes, some miles south-west of Lynn. It’s a stunning wetland environment, and it surprises me every time the train crosses the floods, as it did on the way to Manchester. And yes, I’ve shoehorned a picture I liked into this article!

Posted in Cooperatives, Democracy | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Why co-ops and social enterprises should avoid publishing Word files

I sometimes ask other co-ops and social enterprises to publish things as web pages, PDFs, ODFs or basically any standard format instead of Microsoft Word Doc files.

Doc files have the practical problem that they look different even in different versions of Microsoft Word, but also, Microsoft is not a co-operative (a private-sector firm oft accused of bring a monopolist, in fact!), whereas PDF, ODF and so on are more co-operatively developed, so I feel that we should support the better alternatives.

The usual first move is to PDFs. I don’t like them as much as web pages (it’s a file to download and open in an app or plugin, rather than something I can just read without interrupting my flow), but the process is basically the same. Just upload a PDF where you would have uploaded a Doc.

Occasionally, I get a reply saying that PDF is no better than Word because Adobe are also a private-sector supplier and therefore not much different from Microsoft (not as big, though?), while doc files are an ISO standard too.

I’m careful to suggest using ISO PDFs rather than Adobe PDFs. Although PDF started with Adobe, it was given to an independent ISO process (currently co-chaired by someone from Microsoft, which amuses me) and so software to read it has been developed by a wide range of people, including our co-op in a small part. You can find some non-Adobe software for reading PDFs at http://pdfreaders.org – there is also alternative PDF creation software, such as that built-in to libreoffice, but I don’t know of a good similar listing for them.

Microsoft have only given part of Doc (called Docx) to the ISO process and there is a limited range of other readers for it, which suffer the same “different on every version” problem as Word as far as I’ve seen. There’s also the added complication that Microsoft Office reportedly won’t comply with the Strict standard before Office 2013…

More widely, Microsoft are so un-cooperative that they don’t seem to want to share a marketplace with anyone else and have been hauled in front of regulators numerous times for monopoly offences. They seem to be on their way there again.

So Adobe is not great (does its best to continue marketing and extending PDF as if it had sole control), but Microsoft is much worse.

ISO ODF and web pages are other possibilities. The ODF standards are mainly developed by the democratic non-profit Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards, while web standards are mainly developed by an unincorporated trade consortium, the W3C. While they are not themselves co-operatives, co-operatives can be members of both of those.

So, whatever the problem, please prefer to publish web pages, PDF or ODF files, rather than Microsoft Word Doc files.

Posted in Cooperatives, Education, Training and Information, Web Development | 3 Comments