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Archive for December, 2006

Open Source Software in British Education

Macs cluster

A short essay of mine has been published over at It is a short writeup which, at least at the time, contained ‘inside information’ from a project that I am involved with. The unedited version lies below:

By its very nature, learning involves exploration. Exploration requires transparency, versatility, and openness. Therefore, one of the areas that benefits education the most is the Open Source paradigm for development, collaboration, as well the widespread use of Open Source software.

There is an ongoing debate in the United Kingdom. The Open School Alliance recognised the fact that an Open Source approach to education would benefit the students not only by providing necessary skills, but also by reducing costs. There is an absurdity which took many observers’ attention. While recommendations are made by a government body called BECTA to acquire Open Source software in schools, facts on the ground suggest that these recommendations are completely ignored. Instead, pricey proprietary software is being acquired. It restricts the scale of knowledge offered to students, as well as leads them to depending on companies.

Members of the parliament have entered this vibrant discussion. They are presently working to reverse the worrisome trend. They wish to introduce more schools Open Source software rather than retain a state of ‘neutrality’ wherein vendors use incentives to promote their closed systems. To date, eighty-six members of parliament have questioned the exclusion of open source software from UK schools. They respond to an early day motion (EDM) tabled by John Pugh.

John Pugh MP has recently said: “In my experience a school is a key part of the community and as such has a role to play in the economy of that community — the emphasis on somethings seems to be local supply but not for information technology.”

In journalism, just like in school and academia, one needs to find a state of independence from industry. This rationalises a symbiotic relationship that exists between the community-oriented approach — that which replaces reliance on products and their vendors — and its appraisal. This culls out the tendency to incorporate bias, whether deliberately or not.

We sent the word out to the press/wires the other morning. We have approached the 100-MP milstone with 97 signatures by now.

Related links:

Related articles for some context:

Oracle Cannot Steal Linux from the Community

Let us suppose that Red Hat was right all along. RHEL is Unfakeable, not Unbreakable. Despite the predatory betrayal and the decreased support costs, Oracle can only attract 300 downloads per day.

In the first 30 days, we had 9,000 downloads of Unbreakable Linux from our website and hundreds of customers connecting their servers to our network.

This brings us to Novell’s GPL ripoff/sellout. Novell may suffer from the same PR backlash. It can never use organic surveys to attract informed customers, let alone a few optimistic minds, whose mind is disconnected from that of the beyrayed developers and peers.

Related articles:

Unbreakable Linux still unproven, analyst warns

IT managers running Red Hat Linux should think carefully before making the switch to Unbreakable Linux, the new Linux distribution that Oracle Corp. announced last month.

Our View: Don’t Fear Oracle’s Linux

Opinion: Oracle’s move will actually help Red Hat by boosting Linux’s already-growing presence in the enterprise.

Red Hat Dismisses Threat Posed by Oracle and Microsoft

Red Hat Inc’s executive vice president of worldwide sales, Alex Pinchev, has dismissed the impact that Oracle Corp’s entry into the Linux support business could have on Red Hat, insisting Oracle does not really know what it is doing.

Oracle up to bat: Red Hat bashing possible

The wild-card in all this is Oracle’s take on its Linux support initiative and what that means for Red Hat. Now it is possible Oracle won’t mention Linux, but typically Larry Ellison slaps some rival around and talking trash against SAP has got to be getting old.

Addendum: for the sake of comparison, Novell sees roughly 5,600 downloads a day; RHEL (not Fedora) is donwloaded about 12,500 per day. The moral of the story is that those who play fair certainly appeal to the customer. In fact, based on the latest from MarketWatch, “Red Hat is expected to report earnings per share of 12 cents for the third quarter, according to analysts polled by Thomson First Call.

How Open Source Software Prevents Lockins & Data Loss

Iron links

Break the shackles.Don’t let your data get
locked and the vendor have the key

MUCH has been said on the topic, but here is the gist. Open source, standards-based applications are much safer to choose. You know you will be able to access your data in the future.

Example: Can one truly open and recover, let us say, an Outlook 3 profile? Can one analyse its data once identified and recovered from an old computer? The matter of fact is that commercial vendors seek to make old versions obsolete. This leads to (frequently forced) upgrades which bring in revenue.

Open source programs don’t have the same interests and motives. They use standard data formats. If not properly documented (a rarity) the source code is available, in order for the data to be imported or parsed for subsequent use. Proprietary software does not have this merit. It is based on the lockin principle/stategy, which benefits the vendor, not the customer.

Alexa Versus Netcraft Ranks

Wikipedia statistics

I will start with a proposition that I repeat rather often: Alexa ranks are flawed. Usually, for most sites, they are utterly meaningless.

It is difficult to argue this when faced with Alexa-happy people, but the figures cannot be trusted. It is a toolbar that acts in a similar way to spyware which drives these ranks. The A9 toolbar for Firefox used to have the same effect. Recently however, Microsoft grabbed A9 by the balls and forced them to drop the toolbar. No more Alexa manipulation on Macs and Linux boxes. So where do we end up?

Alexa aligns with Webmasters’ surfing habits. Netcraft figures, on the other hand, align better with system administrators’ surfing habits. The two can intersect. The shown figures are, by default, calculated from a three-month average of pageviews. One can view daily reach though to see how it goes willy-nilly when a few regular visitors use the toolbar. The exception to this might be the very top sites, although the definition of traffic still matters.

Manipulation gets harder at that stage where top sites get ranked. Many people game Alexa as well. Do not trust Alexa ranks. Ever. Use Netcraft if you want something that’s not just an alternative, but is also better in the sense that fewer people game it. Here are some example statistics from two top site.

  • Netcraft rank for Netscape: 341st
  • Netcraft rank for Digg: 867th
  • Alexa rank for Netscape: 479th
  • Alexa rank for Digg: 79th

See? No alignment between Netcraft and Alexa figures at all. Not even for top sites. These so-called ‘realistic’ figures collide and contradict one another. Alexa has become one these “everybody steals, so I can as well” sort of thing… grossly biased. While people continue to game Alexa it remains a strange animal.

The End of Corruption Assisted by Media Control

Bill Gates
Bill Gates arrested in his younger days (photo in public domain)

ANYONE who has followed my writings in recent years already knows that I have a strongly negative view on Microsoft. I perceive them as an enemy to capitalism because they push it to the radical end and become extremely predatory. This ruins the perception of a healthy democratic and capitalistic society/industry. They strive to establish an economy that is a monopoly or an oligopoly. Capitalism is about competition, not a collective effort that’s not open to alternatives (i.e. closed).

To me, you see, Microsoft Corporation is the equivalent of a military country. It can be quite political too. Over the years Microsoft has used almost every fraudulent practice out of the criminal’s book. The authorities tend to turn a blind eye because it serves them well, locally at least. Each action that can be considered fraudulent was coming from one among different available tactical classes. Collectively, this force was essentially used to attain a dangerous monoply over everything. The extension is/was endless and corruption has reached governments too, even overseas.

There is plenty of evidence to support this. I have just grown a little tired of linking and referencing the sources. More worryingly, on top of all this mess, some people, albeit not the most talented ones, have worked for Microsoft. Knowingly or unknowingly they have become similar to those people who 50 years ago claimed that they were “merely following orders” (make no comparsions though). Ballmer and his gang, sheltered by radical governments with personal interests, continues to pollute the planet and kill the middle class, leading to supression, and destroying humble businesses. What’s to gain? Ego and a sense of total control, to them.

Rebellion is here though and the entity which has become an enemy rather than a Big Brother will soon be overthrown. The change will begin (and has begun) outside the United States. It takes only a few over-the-line reactions and sharing of information (largely thanks to the Internet) to reveal the plot and respond accordingly. That’s what I have been spending a lot of time on recently. I merely pass information around, backed by news stories and facts. The truth will win. Mainstream media is often controlled by companies and it is thus moderated by them. Open information and open sontent, much like open source software, is the worst of enemies to corrupt entities. Transparency helps our world.

Closing the Novell Story

[I have decided that this may be my last Novell-related post to this blog. I will soon return to the old format, which is broader]

We recently mentioned an E-mail which suggested that Stuart Cohen’s departure from OSDL was related to Novell. There is a now a more formal statement from InformationWeek.

Cohen angered members of the open source community last month by endorsing Novell’s agreement with Microsoft to work on interoperability between Novell’s Suse Linux and Windows. Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer’s subsequent comments that Linux most likely contains Windows code didn’t help.

Education from Novell and Microsoft

Novell is certainly growing up. From being a Windows basher, for example, it has become its friend. Even the Web site was modified to reflect on this sudden change of heart. But what happens when Novell starts teaching Windows? As it stands, Novell now offers training courses that involve Windows and it does this jointly with Microsoft. Times are truly changing. The site states:

Microsoft and Novell are coming together — to help you operate better and achieve your key technical and business goals.

I wonder how this blends, if at all, with the fact that Ron Hovsepian foresees a servitude for Linux (or more specifically—Novell Linux). Novell seems to believe that Linux should be virtualised under Windows and the coupon promise from Microsoft is clearly less than meets the eye.

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