I hurt my back quite badly yesterday, which is a shame because I typically do some exercise on Sunday (still a four-times-a-week routine). Yesterday I could barely do a thing at the gym and I just left early. And now I just have some spare time, so let me spill my mind out about a variety of topics that come to mind.
Behind the Interview with Richard Stallman
A few days ago I attended the talk delivered by Richard Stallman just a 10-minute walking distance from my home. It was a brilliant talk that would be enjoyable to all those who think alike. A video will soon be available on the Internet and if there’s no Ogg Theora version available, I will produce one.
Some time ago I did an interview with Richard Stallman and it taught me a little more about the trouble that has become terminology too. There were some interesting conversations predating this, but I won’t bother blogging them at this stage.
Well, not exactly. I can hardly recognise that Web site nowadays. The technology sections are quite vacant, including the GNU/Linux slash UNIX section. It’s like talking to an empty church sometimes. A group of stalkers/trolls still mod every comment of mine down, systematically. There are at least 4 of them. If they are not paid to do this, then they really need a life. Urgently.
Digg is committing suicide too. It won’t intervene to improve quality. It became a link farm and it’s no longer a tech site. I say this as one who left over 14,000 comments in that site (the most among about 2 million registered users). I spend some more time in FSDaily nowadays. Readers there seem to like my writings and I am still active in Propeller too. Both sites are very polite and ‘clean’, unlike Digg. Unlike Slashdot. Once the sites grow they get polluted by companies and trolls. A shame really!
Law is Relative
This old article, Net news ‘threatens court cases, caught my eyes a few months ago. I thought it would affect Groklaw a lot, but no quite so. As PJ told me, “It’s about UK cases, which we don’t cover. I expect it’s about the Paul McCartney divorce.” Ah well…
I suspected I would hear this, but the US could get ‘infected’ by such precedence. Think along the line of s/w patents in the UK. There’s solidarity. Gordon ‘Bilderberg’ Brown (or “Clown” as Stallman called him in his talk) cannot be trusted by anyone but businessmen.
Snubbing Those Whom You Speak About
This one is priceless, but a bit out of date by now. Recently, a couple of open source/Free software topics were covered in Webcasts that I had come across. Believe it or not, only users of proprietary operating systems (Mac OS X and Windows) were allowed to view these Webcasts, one of which was discussing the GNU GPLv3! No shame?
It remains a bit worrisome for a a couple of reasons:
- Reason 1 is that that you are analysts who concentrate on open source software, which the Webcasting facility of chose is inherently incompatible with.
- Reason 2 is that you host a very important discussion about Free software while at the same time shutting out those who probably care the most and are also affected the most.
I can envision more of these faces and voices that say that open source is not ready because “you can’t do Web stuff” and I continue to worry whenever I see ‘us’ doing this to ourselves. This isn’t an isolated incidents, so I chose to speak out. I won’t name the companies or the persons involved.
Please understand that I am not against proprietary software. I use Flash and I used to be using MATLAB when I programmed more frequently. I do, however, use GNU/Linux on all my PCs and situations such as these make it unnecessarily more cumbersome. Let us set an example by ensuring that we don’t ‘pull an iPlayer’ on our peers. Sam Varghese wrote a good article about this topic when ZDNet released videos of Linus Torvalds speaking. They used Flash (version 8+ required) before Adobe made version 9 available for Linux (there was never a version 8). Essentially, Linux users were not able to very the founder of Linux. This is more serious than failing to provide something like Ogg for Richard Stallman or Eben Moglen to view their own interviews because then it’s a matter of philisophy, not just practicality (technical limitations).
<43>Security Firms and Scare Factor
Most O/Ses come with already-known issues. This includes Vista, of course. Leopard too.
Some researchers use the ‘Eee hype’ to draw more attention to flaws in a GNU/Linux distributions. Linux flaws are interesting for the same reason that “man bites dog” is more interesting than “dog bites man”.
Migration Pains and Reviews
Reviews take a long time to write properly because it involves preparation and learning. I do wonder sometimes if assessing an O/S (entirely) takes far more time than reviewing an application. Moreover, what makes me trust reviews is breath of comparison. Reviewing a distro means nothing unless the reviewer has tried many other options, which few people have. I love the reviews from Susan at TuxMachines (she now writes for linux.com as well). She last published a good review/comparison of tiny distros just hours ago.
GNU/Linux and Free Software Difficult to Use?
When assessing GNU/Linux, people tend to forget the need to install drivers, basic additional software (e.g. office suite) and AV software in ‘that other platform’. Giving a barebone installation in both case would make a good benchmark. If only more journalists, for example, came from a *NIX background and then put Windows to the test for a long period of time (giving time for malware to take over the system, maintenance to be required and startup to slow down considerably).
Alexa should make its toolbar available to GNU/Linux, i.e. not Internet Explorer-only. This has gone on for years despite many requests from Linux/Firefox users. The A9 access route (via Firefox) to Alexa is no more. Microsoft eliminated it after a deal 1.5 years ago. What does it all mean? Sites that are less about Webmasters and more about Free software tend to have low Alexa ranks. For what it’s worth, Schestowitz.com is ranked 5188th in Netcraft and BoycottNovell is at around 3900th. It’s nothing to sneeze at, but it works in favour of a crowd of administrators, as opposed to Webmasters. It’s biased. It’s population-dependent. Just like those stupid ‘Web surveys’ which purport to show that GNU/Linux has a low installed base. In Boycott Novell, for instance, about 40% of the visitors use a Free software distribution. Such sites never enter those so-called ‘surveys’ and pie charts that deceive.
Lovely name, Google, but no product yet. Just making a set of specifications and giving a glimpse at manufacturing doesn’t mean it’s up there on the shelf. I personally dumped cellphones back in 2003 and I find it hard to believe that I’ll get back to them (health implications not even being a factor). I hardly ever use even my PDA nowadays. My life is simpler and I go more by instincts, not a prescription of tasks.
As much as I love Android, I’ll have to admit that the design from HTC is not pretty, but fortunately it’s just a platform and many more Android-powered phones will come (HTC in 2008Q1/2). Other people expressed similar thoughts about this design.
Installation is Easy in Free Software Platforms
Get used to something you like and stick with it. Don’t mind the rest.
Many of the fear-mongering persona complain about ‘fragmentation’ in installers. However, since all front-ends are so intuitive, there’s almost no way to be confused. With repositories, everything is also centralised. Additionally, there is the command-line which is more universal (yum/apt-get/others), so people needn’t even be instructed what to click and look at on the screen (“climb up the stair, go left, open door, cross the street” versus just a postal address).
As many articles have recently been stating, package management in GNU/Linux is still vastly superior compared to counterparts. It’s only myths that change perceptions and expectations.
It’s All About Choice in Free Software
Can’t ‘covert’ a friend by liberating his/her PC? You’re probably talking to the wrong person then. Don’t waste your time.
Some people are a lost case because they resist change — any change for that matter — from the very start. Find those who require your help rather than look out for those whom you want to change.
2 quick points worth clarification, regarding choice:
1. If it weren’t Ubuntu on the desktop, it would be another Linux, e.g. PCLinuxOS.
2. GNU/Linux is not just a desktop platform. Many different companies control different areas (some are bigger than a niche). Ubuntu has good presence in only one among many areas. MontaVista controls another, along with Wind River. SGI is strong in HPC. Red Hat is almost analogous to Ubuntu in a sense and it became synonymous with GNU/Linux-based enterprise-level servers.
Not sure which distribution to choose? As many people would say, “try both.” Try three. You can’t try too many, but never make blind choices.
There’s no better/best desktop environment (the same goes for distros). People are different. Try both and see which one you like better. The Portland project will lead to better convergence, so moving from one to another will be even easier. The whole argument about fragmentation is overblown.
There’s something about Apple vanity (as a company, nothing to do with Mac users) that is worrying. With Google’s AGPL snub it seems like Google could use some good toppling too. They sit on a high horse or a throne as long as they thrive and expand. They need to be reminded where they came from. They thrive in faith.
GNU/Linux is actually growing on the desktop. Apple and GNU/Linux don’t fight. They mustn’t. They both grow — together. If tensions arise, it’s probably to do with use of specific programs or means.
Debunking lies is fun too. Here’s a good way to debunk the myth that no progress is made by Free software on the desktop:
“According to DesktopLinux.com’s just completed survey, the number of Desktop Linux users has more than doubled in the past year…”
Apple is growing at fantastic rates as well. We all ought to let Apple grow and diversify the desktop market. Nobody needs to kill anyone. There are plenty of XP escapees to share. UNIX and GNU/Linux can live in harmony. Most Free software is POSIX-compliant.
You’re still reading? Good. The ramble goes on then.
A variety of articles were written recently in response to other articles from the ignorant (legacy-defendant) press. Some people really really want you to believe that if a computer does not run Windows and Microsoft Office, then it’s worthless. The perception that these two cash cows are indispensable is what kept them going. The desktop as it used to be no longer needs to serve quite the same set of roles and tasks. Some company wants you never to know this and thus move on though.
Watching Out for Greek Bearing Gifts
What do you know about the NSA? Do you trust it near your software and hardware? If you are not American, do you know what the NSA mean to your country’s national security?
On the one hand, the NSA likes GNU/Linux for its security, but on the other hand, the NSA adds some assembly code to Linuxes it touches and it already puts back doors in other O/Ses (that’s a fact). SELinux without the NSA would probably be more trustworthy. The “Security” in “nSa” is “national security”, i.e. eavesdropping, not “computer security”.
For those who do not know, back doors have been there in Windows since Windows 95 or Windows 98 (see articles around the Web). Those who want to have privacy ought to go for Free open source platforms. Not all sources of distribution are reliable though. That’s why nations ought to build their own and keep everything transparent for validation by their citizens, i.e. the end users. More eyeballs = shallower level for bug detection… and back doors (deliberate bugs).
Google’s High-end Secrets
Google has developed some really nice software, but being the freeloader that it is, it rarely shares it.
Seriously now, it was about a year ago that Google released a free open source piece that enables scientists to share heaps of data over a fast network. It’s all based on technology Google is itself using to keep the datacentres synchronised. Thanks for sharing, Google. Google, to its credit, does some good things too, including:
- Summer of code funding
- Offering jobs to *NIX admins
- Project hosting
- Patches for Apache, Wine, etc.
- Assorted ports of its software to GNU/Linux
- Development of new FOSS tools and promotion of P/Ls like Python
- Role as a poster child (good publicity for GNU and its power)
- Not-so-discriminatory organisation of information (Microsoft tweaks and censors its own for selfish interests)
- Weakening of one abusive monopoly
I had several interviews with Google in the past, but I doubt I’ll ever work for that company. It’s a nice brand, but it typically just buys most of its software (other companies) and sticks it’s valuable labels on them. That’s not inspirational at all.
Why Schneier is the Ace of Security
In a recent video interview from Australia, Bruce Schneier talked about perceived risk and real risk. Indeed, this is similar to the recent upgrade to OOXML for ‘security reasons’ (why actually patch bugs when you can disable old file types?)
It’s amazing how often fear is used to justify action, or impose action upon others.
Security-wise, this Web site has been fine for a while, but various nice upgrades took their toll and broke some RSS feeds that I am unable to fix. Sorry to those who lost contact with the feeds. Please do come back by changing the URL in your newsreaders. The good news, as far as the blogging software is concerned, is that I began ‘templatifying’ my theme. It’s not finished yet and there are many rough edges at the moment. I could never be bothered to fix them under pressure of time. I’ll get around to it one day. Maybe.
It’s funny when Ubuntu gets its own set of links and own Web sites that are dedicated to just this one Free software distribution. Ubuntu can be seen as just a set of changes to a vast amount of code. It’s not a GNU or Linux replacement. It’s like this distribution has evolved to become its own phenomenon. Some people in TuxMachines are very pissed off about it (“why so many Ubuntu links?!?!”).
There’s life beyond Ubuntu, which I’ve occasionally used and still use since 2004/2005. Exploration is key, and it’s fun! Savour the choice.
Researchers have already indicated that initiatives like LiMO and Android will ensure Linux’s dominance in the long term. The iPhone is a stunning gadget as well, but it remains to be seen how it can harness third-party developers to make it evolve quickly. It seems to be doing fine. Damn, if only it was more open for hackers and tinkerers…
All Your Consoles Are [sic] Belong to the GNU
They used to say that the biggest winner in this ‘console war’ is IBM, which delivers the chips to all 3 major players. But now, GNU/Linux runs on all 3+ units (XBox/360, Wii, PS/3). In 2 cases, Linux even takes advantage of the ‘free razor blade’ (where units are sold at a loss). It’s Tivo saga all over again!
gPC is interesting, but its development team might be too small.
It’s wonderful to see companies taking advantage of the flexibility and choice in Free software (enlightenment and Web apps in this case). They show that nothing should be accepted blindly. Best of luck to them. By the way, they sell these PCs not only in Wal-Mart, but also in smaller shops, so if you don’t like Wal-Mart, you can still get this PC for the same price elsewhere (ZaReason for example).
I hate Intel. My brother in law (actually my only sibling in law) works for them, but what can I do? He is a great person, but Intel’s management is greedy and merciless.
The more important thing for Intel to worry now are the courts around the world. Intel was bribing companies to avoid AMD products (a form of kickbacks). We’re talking about a convicted felon (in Japan) where even the CEO has allegedly destroyed E-mails (evidence). Maybe when the economy collapses some people will return to their senses and find this lost word called “morals”.
I finally have a nice backup mechanism for all the articles that I read and pick. It’s all automated.
Many of these links that I have to press releases and articles just go 404 after a while. For research purposes, that’s just detrimental. That’s why I thought I should start hacking on some automated way of saving and properly filing all pages that I cite (like a crawler). wget to the rescue! Simplicity wins. Less it more.
Some months ago I was given access to the contents of a site called BillWatch. It’s gone now. It’s a shame that the site is no longer out there. It contains a lot of knowledge about Microsoft that is also tightly compressed. It also teaches me a lot about the way things were when I was 16, so I’m catching up with history. I’ve been using the quotes database recently, especially when posting to COLA (USENET). Needless to say, everything I write there is free to use, distribute, and so forth. The goal is to raise awareness, not receive attributions. It’s reassuring to see that dissemination of information is successful and it does have an impact that benefits people’s freedom and brings justice.
Last but not least, I hardly care about Linux (as a kernel) or about money. Some people just get it all wrong. Money is a tool, not a goal. Money can help people reach fulfillment (the real goal in life), but it’s not always necessary. As for Linux and GNU, these are nice ‘tools’ for getting some breathing space and operating with less suppression imposed from above. Noam Chomsky had something very interesting to say in an old video about a person’s needs for a sense of independence, freedom. It’s natural, It’s innate. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs probably fits nicely, as well.
Here ends the ramble, which characterises my general writing style on the Web (I have little patience for polishing text). Enjoy the week to come.