It’s been mentioned in one of my previous posts. Now, I’m putting it forward due to some progress...
I am planning on changing the world with this article. I can’t do it on my own: I need your help.
Well, I must admit that changing the whole world might be a little ambitious. For now, I will settle for the “computing world”.
Right now, the following factors are true:
- Linux has a very viable desktop and office suite—for free. OpenOffice being bloated is basically not an issue anymore, since even a basic computer today will run OpenOffice completely fine. Thanks to Ubuntu, end users can now use Linux and not notice the difference.
In my last post, I was overflowing with praise for the value of Ubuntu for the non-profit world and said I’d discuss “how Ubuntu works” in this entry. Well “how” is beyond my technical expertise and is undoubtedly a complex dance of 0s and 1s and static electricity. What I meant was a little less technical and more practical... just the joy of using it.
Most modern Linux distributions have slick graphical installers, are on single DVD's and install common applications very easily. The installers make software choices that lead new users by the hand with little to go wrong. Life is also easier for us old timers who, in the past, suffered through many configuration files, compiling network drivers and the miscellaneous headaches we encountered trying to get our hardware to work.
As we prepared to open a new Freedom Technology Center in a rehabilitated site in New Jersey, I came to learn that Verizon was capable of offering fiber service at our location. Officially, they only claim to support those using Microsoft Windows and Mac OS/X with their service. In fact, with a little foreknowledge, you can have installed, activated, and use your FiOS service with an entirely free operating system such as GNU/Linux.
While trawling through this week’s normal helter-skelter barrage of free software and open source news items, opinion pieces and analyzing ponderings a couple of pieces caught my eye. These are the BBC’s article entitled “Charity shuns open source code” and Silicon.com’s one called “CIO Jury: The Linux desktop is dead”. When first seeing these pessimistic pieces of free software doom and gloom, I confess my immediate reaction, as an advocate and developer, was one of misery, depression and fed-upness. Was it all worth it? What is the point? Where is the bright side? Should I simply go outside and step under a bus?
After a nice strong cup of coffee and pulling myself together a bit, I examined the articles a little more closely. I discovered that the authors, or originators, of each had, in fact, made a very common mistake while performing free and closed software comparisons that reminded me of the old adage regarding apples and bananas...
Like most people around the world, I have to work to earn a living. And again, like the vast majority of these people, often my work requires me to carry out tasks that I might otherwise find ethically problematic. As a supporter of free culture, I have often found it difficult to reconcile my own convictions on issues such as copyright and DRM with those of my employers. In my current job, this has not been a regular problem.
Security is one of the important reasons GNU/Linux is chosen over MS Windows. Many folks will claim that GNU/Linux just isn’t targeted as often. Could be—but it could also be that it isn’t targeted as often due to its design. SELinux takes this concept one step further. Not just satisfied with the inherent security, SELinux has been developed by a team of concerned professionals and is now included by default in the 2.6 kernel. Yes, you may have SELinux already and didn’t even know it.
The quality publishing around Ubuntu these days cannot be ignored. Another excellent book sits here beside me now, pages flagged with many points of interest. I wasn’t anticipating doing so much detailed reading with this one. After all, I just reviewed another Ubuntu book before this one. How much new information could be in there?
This week, after reading Scott Carpenter’s fun (yet a bit scary) satire 5 ways to save on your monthly software rental bill in the year 2056..., I felt like a fairytale ending. I was after something sort of cool and utopian, where we’re all free and enjoying ourselves. But, when I was speculating about what this fairytale would entail, it brought me around to wondering...
What will happen AFTER the year of Linux on the desktop?
Sometimes I wonder what separates the geeks from the non-geeks. I’ve always assumed I fell into the geek category based on my job and the hours spent with computers on my own time. But, after reading Ubuntu Linux for Non-Geeks, I must not be much of a geek because I found this book to be quite interesting!
For the last couple of months I’ve been on a mammoth trip to the east, or east as far as my home in the UK is concerned, to relatives in Malaysia. As they live in the more rural areas of the country, internet connectivity was not as good as I’m accustomed to and was quite unreliable. So, therefore, I wasn’t able to keep my blog as up-to-date as I would have liked. That’s my excuse anyway, and it sounds so much better than “I was having such a great time I simply let things slip”.
Last week I wrote about using GNU/Linux, and justified why I use it. But, as I confessed, the main reason I started using it wasn't because I'm a rigorous political activist with a go-get-em attitude. I'm Australian, people! America might be the land of the brave, down here we're the land of the apathetic... Anyway, I started using GNU/Linux because it was put in front of me and my old system was taken away. And I could get all embarassed about the beginnings of something I am now a firm believer in, but then I ask myself, does the means justify the end? Does in really matter how and under what circumstances I became involved as long as I'm here now? Does it matter if I'm using it because it's cheap, or because it's better, or because I like the politics? What if I don't give two hoots about the politics? Is there a good way and a bad way to use FLOSS?
When I was last at uni (which I go back to every so often, just to prove to myself that I can’t sit through another degree), I found myself in a situation where I was sitting at a computer in the library of a public high school in Western Australia, trying to write a lesson plan (I was dabbling with the idea of being a high school teacher at the time). It was 40°C (104°F) outside, and inside wasn’t much better. I was sitting on an uncomfortably high plastic chair waiting... waiting... waiting... and that was just for the office suite to load on MS2000.
I own an old, quite customised Thinkpad a21m laptop, which I still use intensively when I’m out of town: with 256 Mb of RAM, a 750 MHz Pentium 3 chip and a 1024x768 screen running off an ATI chip, I can run pretty much all recent GNU/Linux distros around. I also have built a nice living-room warmer based off an Athlon64 X2 3800+ with a big, fat hard disk and more RAM than you can shake a stick at (well, almost). Is there a problem here?
If I tell you that I need to download ten (10) different CD images to install both according to their specificities, maybe you’ll get it.
These days, when one talks about free software, the first word that comes to mind is Linux—be it the kernel or a distribution based on it (which would then be a GNU/Linux operating system, and its flavour marked by a brand name: Red Hat, SuSE, Mandriva, Debian, Ubuntu, Slackware...)
At one time, there was another project worthy of note: BeOS. It wasn’t POSIX-compatible, but it was neat. But now, only free *NIX prevail... really?
Having been engineering director at one company that became public, and a founder and CTO of another, as well as a long time professional software engineer working at such companies as Matushita Electric (Panasonic), and even Rand McNally, yes, the people that make maps, I must admit, in all those occupations, I have at most rather infrequently encountered these Microsoft Windows operating systems I hear so many people talking so much about.
The issue of open source languages and the availability of development tools is a thought process I was having the other day. One of the key tools in the GNU space is the GNU C compiler. Up until its availability on Unix (long before the Linux kernel came on the scene), developing on Unix was limited to whatever tools were made available by the Unix vendor.
Hi all, well it has been a long tiring week. Everyone has those weeks occasionally, the sort of week where the traffic lights are against you. You need to send editors the same documents a couple of times, yes even the mail server is against me and the coffee machine is broken just as you reached the point of no return. Therefore, rather than rave against the world and all its contents. I prefer to look on the bright side and then go get some sleep.
I still see people arguing about whether GNU/Linux is “ready for the desktop”. The truth is, it really depends...
For me, I switched almost “cold turkey” from Microsoft Windows 3.1 to Debian GNU/Linux 2.1 “Slink” in about 1999 or 2000 (at the time, I liked to say I “upgraded from Win 3.1 to Linux”).