To the chagrin of their competitors, GoogleMail seems to have become almost as synonymous with webmail as Google has with search engine (recently my six year old was explaining to me how he Googled for something at school). GoogleMail is a useful tool and has a lot of advantages over traditional client-server mail accounts, particularly if you are on the move. To be honest those sorts of advantages are present in pretty much any webmail setup: I'm just concentrating on GoogleMail because it's by my experience the most popular. But GoogleMail has one disadvantage, all your messages are stored on Google's servers. If you lose access to Google service or to your account then you lose your e-mails. Fear not oh free software lover, help is at hand in the form of the very useful getmail.
When Google announced their ChromeOS there was a flurry of comment and opinion on what this could mean for the GNU/Linux user and the future of free software. Our esteemed editor, Tony Mobily made a bold statement (albeit framed as a question) at the time that Google's ChromeOS could turn GNU/Linux into a "desktop winner". I'm not sure that it's true.
Whatever happens of course the fact is that when somebody of Google's size and impact enters a market, there will be winners and losers, losses and gains. Now that the dust has well and truly settled let's have another look at the potential impact of ChromeOS.
A lot of people at the moment are immensely intrigued by Google Chrome OS. I won't hide that I am one of them. Google promises a much needed shift in the way small computers work. Problems like software updates, backups, installation, maintenance, viruses, have plagued the world for too long: a shift is way overdue. To me, however, the change about to happen shows us what many people have refused to believe for a long time: KDE and GNOME shot each other dead. I write this knowing full well that I am going to make a lot of people angry. This might be the first time a writer receives very angry responses from both camps -- KDE and GNOME's users might actually (finally?) join arms and fight just to show everybody how wrong I am!
Note: this is a post from one of our readers. I obviously have different views om the topic, but I think it's important to share maruadventurer's views. -- Tony Mobily
1: The Operating system is no longer important. In 2009, people develop for the Web, full stop
There are whole genre of programs that like Photoshop will probably never make it to the web. Practically any program that requires a physical interface will require an OS. CAD/CAM, topology, astrophysics, astronomy, etc. The list is long.
A small revolution in the IT world is about to happen, and we are about to witness it. Microsoft Windows' domination has been challenged many times: first by OS/2 (failed), then Apple (failed), then Java and network computing (failed), then GNU/Linux and Ubuntu (failed, so far). And now, Google's Chrome OS. After such a long list of failures, what makes me think that this latest attempt will actually succeed?
There is a list of factors. Let's have a look.
So, you've heard about Google's free software release of its Gadgets server, and the new "Open Social API". And gosh, wouldn't it be nice if you could provide this technology to your users with your favorite free software Content Management System (CMS)? Since the documentation that comes bundled with Google's release will probably give you simultaneous whiplash and vertigo (with a large side of frustration), here's a breakdown of the problem so you'll know what you're up against, how to go about solving the problem, and plenty of free software resources to help you get there.
A few weeks ago I discussed the main features of the Chrome browser and Google's motives; at that point I was like the poor child, nose pressed against the window pane, looking inside at the sumptuous feast at the master's table. I, like all GNU/Linux users, hadn't been invited. Same as ever. Crossweavers decided to gate crash the party and bring their own drink too. In short, in just eleven days from the launch of Chrome they built a version running under Wine, and although their products are proprietary and they usually reciprocate by giving code back to free software like Wine, this time they gave it away for free. Thus did Chrome become Chromium and I had a chance to download and install it. Reader, I benchtested it.
In a recent article on free software and the Large Hadron Collider I mentioned that here in the United Kingdom The Guardian, a national British newspaper, had founded a campaign called "free our data". They objected to the fact that the Ordnance Survey (and others), funded by the British taxpayer, was charging business and individuals for its cartographic data thus effectively making people pay for it twice. Their campaign is great but until such times as it succeeds an alternative is needed. A free software alternative. Enter OpenStreetMaps.
Google Earth and Google Maps are too well know to require iteration here, but the spectre of proprietary software haunts them. They are not free software. If you want to incorporate any of them into you budding business project and run your software under a relatively permissive licence for others to take up your ideas and improve them you will have to find something else.
Just like Wikipedia, on which it is loosely modelled, OpenStreetMaps is resolutely free software. It is an attempt, by community participation, to map the Earth.
The launch of Google's Chrome has created a frenzy of online activity (just Google it and it will return in excess of fifty one million results), including mine. and already the world and his wife has been busy publicising tips, tricks and hacks. There is absolutely no doubt that Google is very serious about its new baby. They hired no less than four Firefox developers--Ben Goodger, Pam Greene, Darin Fisher and Brian Ryner. Enough said. It wasn't dreamed up on the spur of the moment as another speculative product of the Summer of Code. Can the same be said of Knol? What is it, how does it work and more importantly, does it conform with the principles of free software and is it a serious challenger to Wikipedia?
An increasing number of computer users are turning to online applications instead of ones on their desktop. It started with webmail and has moved to productivity/office tools. With the emergence of online applications that have no desktop equivalent, and mobile devices that are browsers in your pocket, things are looking up. But what about free software? If the software we are using is not run on the computer on our desk/lap/hand what does the licence matter? For some time now I've been reading predictions where the browser will be the computer. Does this future have space for free software?
The annual Google Summer of Code is upon us again. For the uninformed, that's when Google pays hundreds of students and hundreds of mentors to work on free software projects, ranging from AbiSource to Zumastor. This is where great projects like the GDebiKDE installer were created. And this year looks even better than before, with 175 organizations and 1125 students. So today, I'm going to do a short rundown of some of my favorites. I can't fit them all in (let's save some trees!), but these are just some that stood out for me. A little bit of project planning and (why not) luck will definitely make a lot of these possible!
The Google App Engine doesn't really advance the cause of evil all that much, but it's not exactly good, either. Google makes a big deal about its corporate motto, "Don't be evil", but at the end of the day, Google really is just another corporation, no matter how well-intentioned its founders may have been. Regardless of whether the corporation holding the carrot is called "Microsoft" or "Google", developers should think long and hard before following the primrose path towards lock-in to non-standard designs.
I'll admit it. I fell hook, line and sinker for Google's "We do No Evil" claim. I loved Google.com. I host my email accounts on Google using the hosted domains service. I use blogger.com for my tech blog. Google was my home page.
So what changed? I started to sense something wrong a few months ago when I started watching the ads in GMail. They're reading my mail. That's not a revelation of course. Everyone knows that. But the reality of it hit me like a ton of bricks. Some bot in the kingdom of Google is reading my mail and targeting ads directly at me.
There are companies we love and respect. Google is one of them. Regardless of their mistakes, their jet, their priorities in terms of software releases, there is an "innate" trust.
But, is it safe to trust Google?
I am asking this because I got burned. Not by Google, but by Virgin Mobile Australia.
I want to take a detailed look at turbo-charging the Firefox browser with an elite selection of Google utilities. Firefox has its critics and its failings, but it has now been downloaded in excess of 400 million times: and as they say “what flies eat, they can't all be wrong!” Firefox is pretty good out of the box, but everyone knows that the functionality of Firefox is extended massively by the simple addition of extensions, security issues nothwithstanding.
In this article I will talk about how to extend Firefox so that it plays better with Google.
That’s right, they’re the top dogs in the business; with “unprecedented control” in the technology industry and “access to a huge amount of consumer information”. And a concerned member of the technology community recently put out the call for scrutiny on the new big boys in town “from regulatory authorities to ensure a competitive... market”. Sounds like old news, huh? You know which big dirty corporate bad guys I’m referring to? The baddest of the lot... Google of course.
Several blogs and newspapers recently reported that Practice Fusion is partnering with Google, which will provide targeted ads for Practice Fusion's EHR solution. However, while everyone is wondering when and how Google will be getting into Health IT, Google is not (yet) entering the EHR market. Most importantly, Practice Fusion’s business model is trivial to implement using free software. Read on for the all the gory technical details.