I don't think many people have realised that we are on the verge of a technological revolution. The computing world is changing, and this is the first time GNU/Linux is catching the revolution as it begins. Computers are getting smaller and smaller, while phones are getting bigger and bigger. Everybody can see that they are about to converge -- but in what form? Well, the answer is: GNU/Linux -- before anybody else. The ingredients? A great GNU/Linux distribution, a leader with the right vision, and a few very bold, ground-breaking choices. Mix it well: the result is Ubuntu Touch.
News about the lawsuit between Oracle (which owns Java) and Google (which uses aspects of Java in Android) are resonating far and loud at the moment. At this point in the article, I should summarise the story: the trouble is that a summary at this point is impossible. The main problem is with Oracle, and their inability to understand free software.
The number of people using Linux (and I mean Linux the kernel) and free software in general has exploded in the last 2 years thanks to Android and Google. Even if you want to discard phones and only count the tablets (which are starting to get very close to laptops in terms of what you can do with them), the number of new users is huge. And yet, we are all hostage of a choice -- a bad choice, in my humble opinion -- that Google made: Java.
Got an ASUS Eee PC netbook lying around gathering dust? Thanks to the Android x86 project, you can turn it into a neat little device running the latest version 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich of the Android OS. Installing Android x86 on a regular netbook is not just a geeky way to kill time. If you want to check out the latest version of Android, and you don't feel like forking out for the latest smartphone or tablet, you can repurpose your old netbook as an Android testing platform. If you already have an Android device, but you don't want to go through the rigmarole of rooting it, running Android x86 on a netbook (or as a virtual machine using either Oracle VirtualBox or QEMU virtualization software) provides a perfect solution to the problem.
I write this article exactly 24 hours after receiving my Galaxy Tab 10.1. It's something I've been wanting for a long time. I had to wait for the dispute between Apple and Samsung to settle (Samsung actually lost on millions of dollars worth of sales thanks to software patents, but that's another story). After all that, I came to the realisation that we are in front of a forking path. On one side there is the death of GNU/Linux as we know it. On the other side, there is a new exciting world where free software is still relevant. I am not writing this just to be "sensational": here is why.
This is getting seriously ridiculous. Relative to the power and feature sets computers are getting cheaper and cheaper. But they don't come much cheaper than the Raspberry Pi, a $25 computer designed specifically to encourage children to program. My colleague, Ryan Cartwright wrote about it right here on FSM.
This year seems to been continuing where last year left off: Oracle/Sun, OpenOffice/LibreOffice, Ubuntu and Wayland/Xorg. Now, it's the turn of Nokia and Microsoft. When I heard the news that Nokia was switching from the Symbian OS to Windows 7 for their smartphones my first reaction was: "another Microsoft patents land grab" but this article is not about the proverbial beast of Redmond but about why Nokia chose it over Android and more importantly, given the increasing convergence of laptops, smartphones and tablets, answering the question: just how free is Android and what is the relationship with GNU/Linux?--and I suspect that I'll be needing my asbestos delicates.
Apple is doing it again: they are releasing an app store for OS X on the 6th of January. Just like the iPhone app store, and the Android app store, this is going to be a hit: the OS X ecosystem will get a giant boost from it, and we are left -- once again -- with a lot to learn. Before you mention that GNU/Linux doesn't need an app store because it's free software, and before you even say that GNU/Linux already has an app store through one of the many software managers (Synaptics, Ubuntu Software Center, apt-get), please read this article.
There has been a lot of talking, lately, about Google's Chrome OS. People didn't take it too seriously initially; then, last week, Google started sending out demo netbooks which ran -- hear hear -- Google Chrome OS. Google Chrome OS is based on Google's browser, Chrome -- hence the name. The idea is that all you run on your laptop is your browser -- that's it. But this raises a lot of questions. In this article I propose a possibly interesting solution to Google's issues, and how a possible (and not-so-painful) merge with Android should be possible.
Multi-touch is the future of computing – from phones to tablets. And the future is almost here -- or, maybe, it's already here. But what free software platforms can provide a viable alternative to catch up with and rival Apple?
Since 2001, Microsoft has been trying to sell Tablet PCs running the same Windows XP user interface as ordinary computers but they never really took off. What Apple has shown us with the iPhone and iPad is that only a user interface designed from the ground up for touch screens can live up to the expectations we have of tablets: intuitive, fast and fun. But a couple of free software platforms are shaping up to become viable alternatives to Apple's walled garden. I'm going to look at Android, Ubuntu's Unity and MeeGo.
Last night, I spent about 3 hours finally gaining "root" for my Motorola Backflip (starting from midnight...). As far as I am concerned, last night my Backflip wasn't actually mine. Now, it is. I can finally run programs that require root access, and -- more importantly -- do tethering.
Manufacturing has been getting smaller, cheaper, and more flexible for years. It's now possible to make products as sophisticated as smart cel-phones, PDAs, toys, clothing, books, and even houses in almost any shape or form you want down to very small numbers. The mass production barrier has fallen, so that today, it's possible for a home inventor, hobbyist, or crafter to create almost anything by assembling one-off manufactured components, either from a service or from affordable home-fabrication equipment (or a combination of these).
I am typing this as I am finally connected in shell to my Android phone. The prompt reminds me that it's based on the Linux kernel (it's free), the Dalvik virtual machine (it's free), and free libraries. Millions of Android devices are shipped every day, each one is a Linux system. Today, it's phone. Soon, it will be tablets: Android 3.0 (coming out at the end of the year) will finally be very suitable for tablets. Apple alone will have to face fierce competition on pretty much every front. Microsoft... who? They are more irrelevant every day. I should be happy, right? Well, sort of. Looking back at how long it took me to get this shell prompt makes me worried. Very worried. We are heading towards a world where we no longer own the hardware we buy -- and there is no point in having free software if you can't own your hardware.
Latest from the Bizarre Cathedral.
Like many free software users, I am greatly encouraged by the number of mobile phones that are starting to come out running some form of embedded Linux-based OS. Nokia's Maemo and Palm's webOS are shaping up and it seems every day we hear of yet another Android device. All of this is good news, but just how useful are these free software phones to the free software lover? Not as much as they could be it seems.
What's in a look? Before Apple started making immensely slick, sexy hardware, the main issues were always "specs", "graphic cards", "memory". Then, the game changed. People started buying Apple computers because they looked good -- inside and out. Their computers (and gadgets) are immensely appealing. Their operating system, OS X, is a pleasure to look at. When the iPhone was announced, I knew it was going to be the equivalent of Naomi Campbell in the cell phone world. And I was right.
Are iPhones just too sexy to compete against them?
Latest from the Bizarre Cathedral.
About five years ago, it was clear to me that personal computers would disappear... in our pockets. Along many other analysts, I could see computers getting smaller and smaller, and mobile phones getting busier and busier. Eventually, my dream-prediction said, it wouldn't quite be "one computer on every desk" but a much more exciting "one computer in every pocket, and one monitor/keyboard paid on every desk".
We are getting there, and yet again GNU/Linux is missing that train.