Bits and snippets

'United we stand, divided we lose subscribers' would be a fitting mantra for the Open Mobile Alliance

IT'S TIME to clean a few things off my desk. I read every e-mail that comes to me, but I don't have time to answer every one of them, even though I do try to respond to most requests for help. Here are a few issues readers have raised that deserve public response.

In a recent column I called for using multiplatform tools to allow for easier porting should you decide to leave your current platform(see " Preparing for change "). I received a shower of messages asking, "What about Java?"

Indeed, this was an oversight. Java is a very useful language for writing platform-independent code. Because I was trying to bring to light multiplatform tools that were probably unknown to most folks, I neglected to mention the one tool that everyone knows. My apologies.

In a lot of organizations, Java seems to be an either/or proposition: Many companies either use it a great deal or almost not at all. As such, it may take quite a bit of work to port a system to Java if it isn't already employed. But it remains a strong option.

Next, a number of folks wrote to me about alternatives to Microsoft Access. Some had questions, and others suggested answers. StarOffice's StarBase came up a number of times, and a few folks mentioned PostgreSQL's GUI as being useful.

But lots of folks seem interested in MySQL. And I see that has a beta version of a new GUI available for download from the Web site. So this looks like a good time to test out the GUI and send feedback to the folks at MySQL AB. I'll bet MySQL AB would be very interested in constructive feedback from people evaluating database solutions.

For folks requesting a report that describes how open source can be used in government, here is one that does a nice job. Check out the Mitre report called "Use of Free and Open Source Software in the U. S. Department of Defense" at .

In another column, I discussed distributions, such as DemoLinux, that allow the user to try Linux without actually installing the operating system on the PC(see " Take it for a test drive "). A number of people wrote in to suggest Knoppix, another distribution that can be used as a demo or rescue CD. From the number of impressive reviews I've read in the interim, I gather that this distribution is worth a look.

Also, readers have complained that some current Linux distributions are too bulky for some old hardware (such as 486s and some first-generation Pentiums). What is needed here is a lighter-weight distribution, such as Peanut Linux, which can do a full install on a 486 or better with 32MB of memory and a 600MB hard drive.

Finally, I received over 100 inquiries regarding the TV time-shifting box I built using open-source software. I have a Web page describing the project at .