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Archive for the ‘Raves’ Category

GNU Octave a Compatible Drop-in Replacement for MATLAB

Over the past couple of months I have been assessing the combination of Octave with some other free/libre software such as Scilab and QtOctave. I did this as part of my existing job in research, as my blog posts ought to have revealed on occasions. I’ve been using MATLAB for the best part of a decade and was at one time ranked #1 in the world for my contributions to MATLAB Central. That, however, changed several years ago when I came to grips with the fact that my free/libre code for MATLAB only helped promote the underlying stack which included MATLAB, a nasty piece of highly expensive proprietary software with BSA bullies behind it. MathWorks is exploiting free labour of many people to sell its non-free software. I can vividly recall Slashdot comments stressing this point, which profoundly changed my attitude towards MATLAB. So I turned to Octave, as I did half a decade ago, but this time it was a lot more mature. People recommended to me programs other than Octave, too. I checked these under different distributions of GNU/Linux and even Windows, which many people out there continue to use, especially on their desktop. I helped some people dump MATLAB. I saw how easy it was.

MATLAB is used extensively in research and in the industry, sometimes even in hospitals (when I was 22 I was asked to help a professor with that). In many cases, it boasts more features than anyone would ever need*. Does a university student really ever use more than the basic functions? Are companies really willing to spend thousands of dollars per year just ‘renting’ a licence for one or two copies of MATLAB, which keeps nagging them for it assumes they are so-called ‘pirates’ (and the BSA comes knocking to ensure there are up-to-date licensing instances)? The answer is usually “no”, but users of MATLAB may not know that software already exists to offer them an alternative, just as Firefox helps replace Internet Explorer and also outperform it in many technical ways. Since MATLAB and Octave are mostly compatible, moving from one to the other is not hard and this reduces risk of being too dependent on one single company, especially if one switches over to Octave and then uses the no-cost redistribution rights to just expand operations to as many machines as are available. Octave runs exceptionally well on GNU/Linux, so no licence of Windows is required, either. In the coming days I’ll continue to post examples of what can be achieved with the more advanced functionality of Octave, including 3-D and video. It’s impressive and it by far exceeds my expectations given what I found in it around 5 years ago.
* There is a famous saying that goes like, “80% of the users of Microsoft Office only ever use 20% of its features.”

Some New Para-sites

IF traffic-jackers are a sign of Website maturity, then the mysterious birth of and should be a compliment. I had similar ‘issues’ over a couple of years ago. I wonder what other domains were born to capitalise on typos or a name.

Red Hat’s All Right!

NOW here’s a company that has so far shown that you can make a lot of money without annoying the community, without doing proprietary stuff (RHEL code is still available if you jump through hoops), and without strutting around in suits, commissioning ‘studies’, and making kitschy adverts.

If you think that Red Hat’s business is plateauing, you’re focusing on the wrong area. It’s not about middleware (e.g. JBoss). Global Desktop is coming next month and Red Hat already has an agreement for deployments (Australia at the least, probably with H-P and other OEMs/ VARs). If Red Hat can do on the desktop what it has done in the server room, then the future is bright for digital independence. Ubuntu (Canonical) also leaves me optimistic.

For the record, this is not “O/S war”. This is not a “my dick is bigger than yours” thing. It’s about freedom, which isn’t the case in an Apple vs. Microsoft debate (both are proprietary and lock-in oriented). Microsoft sees Linux as war and treats it in this way using propaganda (blatantly anti-Free software advertisements). It’s time to demand change.

Netscape and Digg Kings of the Hill

Wikipedia statistics

WEB statistics/tracking services share some very encouraging figures which suggest that Netscape and Digg lead the pack of social-driven news sites. As I am active on both sites, I am more than pleased to see this. Some time this weekend I will have submitted my 10,000th story to Netscape.

Knowing that Netscape attracts roughly 5 million unique users per month, I am certain that my contributions have an impact. They primarily promote digital freedom — something which I passionately believe in and therefore perpetually promote.

Second Interview with Google

Googleplex in London
Image of Googleplex in London (from ZDNet gallery)

LAST night I had my 2nd interview with google (a *nix systems administration position). What is noteowrthy is that I did not apply for a job. I was contacted by Google owing to my involvement and work on the Web. I am patiently waiting to hear their decision (should take several days), but I am pessimistic. Some questions were really hard and I needed hints. These questions were less analytical than I had expected.

Raves Du Jour

My opinion has just appeared in a CRN article. To quote the relevant bit:

“I have a gripe with what you claim and suggest. Essentially you propose robbing users from choice and diversity. Monocolutre is what GNU/Linux is here to address/tackle. Isn’t that what SLED is for? Corporate uniformity?

Why eliminate all others as contenders? And why spread FUD about compiling packages when there are such huge Ubuntu repositories?”

I referred to the original article in a previous blog post — that which motivated me to address the author. It seems as though, exposure-wise, the sun has begun to shine my way. I received the following E-mail last week (anonymised; anon replaces names/titles).

Hey there Roy,

I bet you’re getting a lot of email these days, thanks to Jason Calacanis’s post. So I’ll be quick.

You probably know anon, thanks to his blog (#36 in the world or thereabouts), his anon venture, and his books like anonand anon. Well, he’s got a new book coming out in August–called anon–which covers anon‘s best blog posts and rants and remarkable ideas of the last decade.

I’ve got a limited number of early books on hand. Any interest in a free copy? No strings attached.

I was shocked to find myself in such honourable position. I hope it’s all sustainable.

Digg’s Effect on Search Engines

The Digg front page

I must admit that I have fallen in love with the ‘Digg (sub)culture’. And primarily owing to Digg (and its saturation of dynamically-generated pages), the number of hits for my surname is growing at a wild pace across search engines. It is approaching one million in Google (Interesting fact: if I received a penny for every hit that is added to Google, for example, I would be able to make ends meet). This wasn’t intended; rather it’s a side effect that I have just become aware of. I tend to have a consistent username, which is always available due to the small size of my family.

I suspect that, at the moment, Digg boasts over 10 million subscribed members who are largely interested in information technology. Many will be exposed to the virtues of GNU/Linux and Open Source, which seems encouraging to me. At the time of writing, 4 of my submissions appear in the front page, among 15 submissions in total. That’s almost a third of a front page, whose domains’ Alexa traffic rank is among the top 100 sites on the Web. What an overwhelming experience.

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Original styles created by Ian Main (all acknowledgements) • PHP scripts and styles later modified by Roy Schestowitz • Help yourself to a GPL'd copy
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