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Toys and tools

August 17, 2014 5 comments

LibreOffice plans to come out with an Android version in their efforts to bring their great office suite to the mobile realm, hopefully aimed at Android-based tablets and nothing smaller than that.

No one else has asked yet, so I guess I’ll have to.

Why?

LJ-Extremist-red-stampDon’t get me wrong. I love LibreOffice and use it extensively. The progress that LibreOffice has made in bringing a viable replacement for what passes as office software out of Redmond is nothing short of remarkable. But I think that moving LibreOffice toward mobile is a burdensome load placed on improving development on more useable form factors — form factors like laptops or desktops, which were designed specifically for programs like LibreOffice.

Allow me to tip my hand and point out that you really can’t get much work done on an Android tablet or a Android smartphone, or any other tablet or smartphone for that matter. The form factor wasn’t really designed for it. For all intents and purposes — and marketing types will back me up on this — a tremendous majority of tablets and smartphones are used primariy for very basic digital functions like Web surfing, e-mail, texting, and watching your favorite movies thanks to Netflix. In other words, tablets and smartphones are toys, and LibreOffice wants folks to use them as a tool.

Aye, there’s the rub, as Shakespeare would say, using the LibreOffice word processor on a laptop.

Sure, it can be done: You can use a tablet for word processing or presentation-making, if necessary. But that begs this comparison — you wouldn’t try to cut down a redwood with a pocket knife. With enough effort you can do it, of course, but why would you when you should probably use a tool more appropriate for the job?

It is akin to using Vim or Emacs on Android — it exists and when I had an Android phone, I tried downloading both and using them. Bear in mind that although the phone had a keyboard — a HTC G2 that I passed down to my daughter after getting a ZTE Open with Firefox OS — both Vim and Emacs were hilariously unworkable on such a small form factor. Again, they may work on a tablet, hopefully, but the point remains that if you are doing something important, use the right tools.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang Guy, Fosstafarian, Larry the Korora Guy, and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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Microsoft’s 800-pound gorilla

August 26, 2011 11 comments

Yes, I know LinuxCon has come and gone, and I think they’ve got the publicity thing covered, especially with the 20-year thing, the gala party, and with Linus being there and all. The buzz is still going, and that’s good. But if you’re going to a Linux show, make it the Ohio LinuxFest in September. Bradley Kuhn and Cathy Malmrose are keynoting, so you’ll not want to miss that (especially Cathy — Go ZaReason!)

You might think from the title that this is a blog item about Steve Ballmer. Well, this blog item is about an 800-pound gorilla sitting in the middle of Microsoft’s living room, but it’s not that gorilla.

Microsoft fanboys and fangirls have been in a pants-wetting frenzy over the recent Microsoft 10-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, in which Microsoft removed Linux as a threat in the document. The implication here to the uninitiated is that Microsoft is no longer worried about Linux or, even more misguided, that Microsoft has “won” its battle with the “cancer” they call Linux.

But as Paul Harvey might say, here’s the rest of the story.

A corporation files a 10-K every year and, in it, outlines some of the pitfalls that the corporation may encounter during the course of the year. Not only is it law, but it’s also clearly a cover-your-buttocks mechanism by which corporations can say to stockholders, “See? We told you there were risks, now that our stock tanked” (if that’s indeed what happens).

In 2008, this was in Microsoft’s 10-K report filed with the SEC:

“Our business model has been based upon customers paying a fee to license software that we developed and distributed . . . . In recent years, certain ‘open source’ software business models have evolved into a growing challenge to our license-based software model. Open source commonly refers to software whose source code is subject to a license allowing it to be modified, combined with other software and redistributed, subject to restrictions set forth in the license . . . . A prominent example of open source software is the Linux operating system. Although we believe our products provide customers with significant advantages in security, productivity and total cost of ownership, [blogger’s note: OK, try not to laugh too hard here] the popularization of the open source software model continues to pose a significant challenge to our business model including continuing efforts by proponents of open source software to convince governments worldwide to mandate the use of open source software in their purchase and deployment of software products.”

[As an aside, I wrote a blog item about this in 2008 and I have received multiple hits on that item every day ever since. Every day.]

For 2011, it seems the 10-K adds other factors that would hinder Microsoft. It removes the language that considers Linux a threat and replaces Linux and FOSS with Apple and Google, according to Brian Proffitt’s article on the same issue, “Microsoft disregards Linux as threat. Big mistake.” Brian’s article has a red-lined version of this text, if you want to take a look.

Is it me, or is this a textbook frying-pan-into-the-fire situation? I mean, having to fight Linux and FOSS for market share is one thing — and Windows, um, advocates like to parade around the fact that Linux only has 1 percent of the desktop market, if that.

But now, with Microsoft having to face off with Apple (which is in far better financial straits than Microsoft) and Google (which is in the same excellent financial straits as Apple and far better financial straits than Microsoft), I have to ask: Are the happy-dancing Windows fanboys/fangirls who are so happy about Linux being “vanquished” really that stupid? Would you rather face two stronger adversaries than one smaller one?

With their most recent 10-K filing with the SEC, Microsoft has done the regulatory equivalent of sticking their fingers in their ears, closing their eyes and shouting, “La, la, la — I can’t hear you.”

As Brian points out in his article, Linux is not really out of the picture when it comes to affecting Microsoft’s bottom line. Google’s ChromeOS is Linux and . . . um, there something I’m forgetting about how Linux is trouncing Microsoft in an area where Microsoft can’t get a foothold. Wait, it’ll come to me.

Oh yeah: Android. Based on Linux, Android is cleaning everyone’s clock in the mobile realm, including Apple, and is light years ahead of Microsoft in a category where Microsoft has yet to leave the proverbial runway. Need I say more?

So Microsoft can put a red line through Linux and FOSS and tell the SEC that Linux no longer matters, while Windows partisans pop their corks and chalk up another one for their side. Meanwhile, back on the planet Earth, the reality is much different.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

[FSF Associate Member] (Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software in his new home office. Watch this space.)
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Take a tablet, call me in the morning

August 2, 2011 4 comments

Yes, I know LinuxCon is next, and that’s in mid-August, but I think they’ve got the publicity thing covered, especially with the 20-year thing and with Linus being there and all. But if you’re going to the next show, make it the Ohio LinuxFest in September. Bradley Kuhn and Cathy Malmrose are keynoting, so you’ll not want to miss that (especially Cathy — Go ZaReason!)

Regular readers of this blog know that I’m not a big fan of tablets. Sure “they’re hip, they’re here, they’re now,” but for the most part, they’re too big for a pocket and too small to do anything meaningful in a way that I would do anything meaningful (for example, write this blog, which I am most comfortable doing on a laptop or a desktop, among other things). Frankly, I’m waiting for the tablet fad to pass, but I’m probably in the minority here.

I share the same opinion as Jeff Hoogland, whose blog item yesterday entitled “Why the tablet craze?” mentions that tablets “are great novelty items. If you have an extra few hundred dollars laying around and want a new toy _ go ahead and pick one up. Just don’t expect it to magically change your life or make it easier like many commercials would have you think.”

But I’m talking tablets today because despite the fact that I’m not a tablet user, I’m about to give a huge slap on the back of the head to Apple; unprecedented here for the most part because a.) I used to be an Apple guy in the late ’80s and ’90s, and b.) the one of the reasons I converted to Linux was that MacOS X outpaced the longevity of some of the G3-based iMacs I had — a textbook case of planned obsolescence — and it annoyed me greatly; so much so that I left what has now become, for all practical purposes, “a cult.”

There. I said it. Despite the fact I’m no longer a “defender of the faith” (see MacMarines in the 1990s, of which I was a member), and despite I think they still make great hardware with a few exceptions — iMac G5: What a dog! — it’s clear that Apple should be taken to task for acting less like an innovator and more like, well, Microsoft.

Apple legal seems to be working overtime, and a case in point is this: An item in the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia has Apple suing Samsung to take their new Galaxy series off the shelves — they want ‘em destroyed, actually — because Apple accused Samsung of copying the iPad 2 and infringing its patents.

Let’s concentrate on what “copying the iPad 2″ means. An Apple drone, er rep, in Australia is quoted in the article as saying, “It’s no coincidence that Samsung’s latest products look a lot like the iPhone and iPad, from the shape of the hardware to the user interface and even the packaging.”

So let me ask this: How is a tablet supposed to be shaped to not look like an iPad? And the user interface? How radically different does that have to be to not look like the iPad?

More importantly, when you find the competition is getting to close in the marketplace, do you take the game to the courts? Is that how tech business gauges its success now — not on the merits of its hardware, but on the legal abilities of its attorneys? Apparently, that’s the modus operandi for Apple, and many other companies, these days.

If Apple is supposed to be the world’s coolest uber-company that can do no wrong — as their advocates love to tout ad nauseum — it should be less forgetful about its past when looking toward the future. Arguably, the Macintosh could have gone the way of the Osborne in the ’90s if not for some lucky twists and turns, not the least of which was a cash infusion from Microsoft. I remember because I was there, wishing I had a sledgehammer to throw at the screen after running down the center aisle at Macworld when Bill Gates appeared on it. Also, I’m not saying that Apple shouldn’t guard against copying, but looking like an iPad? Is that the best you’ve got, Apple legal? This is your “A” game?

This is not to say that I’m defending “poor, defenseless Samsung.” On the contrary: While it’s great they’ve chosen to run the Galaxy on Android, it appears that this legal battle stems more from their heated competition in the marketplace than anything else.

This is what gives me headaches and has me reaching for a couple of tablets — of the pharmaceutical variety.

So if I were Etch-a-Sketch, I’d definitely get an attorney and look at Apple’s iPad and the Samsung Galaxy. Yep, some definite similarities there between the product I grew up with and those two, and some that a judge might find interesting.

Time for a walk in the redwoods.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

[FSF Associate Member] (Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software in his new home office. Watch this space.)
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It’s still only a phone

May 10, 2011 1 comment

Larry the Free Software Guy — who, when the occasion arises, always leads off his blog in the third person, rather than to just say “I” since that would be too easy — was about to write about another topic this time around. I owe Jeff Hoogland a blog item on Bodhi Linux, which I tried and liked (more in a later item), as well as the original topic of this missive, which was my take on the new and, um, improved desktop environments in Natty Narwhal and Fedora 15 which are getting a lot of play lately. More on this in another blog, too.

But yesterday I got sidetracked. Blame Android.

Recent history: Kyoko dropped her HTC G2 twice and it went a little loopy, so off to somewhere in Pennsylvania it went for a few days. Meanwhile, I gave her my unlocked Palm Pre 2 to use while it was being repaired and she has taken a liking to it. So we switched phones and I got the HTC when it was returned. As it turned out, rather than blogging, I spent yesterday getting used to my new phone with Android.

I like Android. I mean, I really like it. While I was starting to warm up to WebOS and while I think the HP offering has much in the way of potential, Android is just head and shoulders over WebOS. It is just a great OS for the hardware it’s running on.

This is where the love affair comes to a screeching halt. No matter how great it is, it’s on a phone. It’s running on hand-held hardware which, when looking at it, is still only a phone, when all is said and done.

I know it does a lot of other stuff. Let me explain why I say this, and I’d gladly plead “guilty” to the fact that this is purely generational.

Doing things with the HTC yesterday — calling, texting, checking out the GPS (a very, very cool feature) — was thrilling and filled with “hey, look at this” moments. However, it appears for what I would use the HTC for — primarily using it as a phone and possibily an occasional text message — leaves much of Android’s abilities on the bench, so to speak.

Not only this, it begs the question: Why would I use Gmail or Facebook on such a small screen? Is surfing the Web really a viable option on hardware like the Palm Pre 2 or the HTC? I mean, you can do it, with a lot of pinching and expanding of the screen, but how efficient and logical is that? Do you really need to be that connected?

For all the cool things the HTC G2 does, and for all the cool things that Android does for it (and, again, the GPS is really cool), it is still only a phone. I’ll keep connecting with the wider Internet with the laptop and desktop, thank you.

[FSF Associate Member] (Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation. He is also one of the founders of the Lindependence Project.)
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Looking back, looking ahead

December 29, 2010 3 comments

Now that I have finally disengaged myself from the what is commercially and socially — and for some, spiritually (and God bless you, every one) — known as “the holiday season,” I have been giving a lot of thought to how good a year 2010 was, the Sun purchase by Oracle and the Novell deal notwithstanding, and what 2011 has to offer.

It looks like 2011 will be the year of the Linux deskt . . . I’m sorry, what? Oh. Well, never mind. Let’s skip that one

Looking back at 2010, most recently we had both Russia and Cuba going to FOSS, which must prove Steve Ballmer right about Linux being Communist. After all, I think a young Linus Torvalds was able to see Russia from his house a lot better than Sarah Palin could from Wasilla. Meanwhile, Red Hat — oh, what’s in a name anyway, comrade? — became poised to be the first billion-dollar Linux company and stats show that they are gaining market share in the corporate server world. Go, Shadowman! And there’s that little green space cadet Android making gains in the various markets where it now works. So despite an Apple/Microsoft shell company buying Novell and the other — and more evil — Larry essentially killing open source at what was once the Camelot-esque Sun, 2010 was a good year.

Of course, 2010 would not be complete without the introduction of Chux, the Linux distro developed by Chuck Norris — A Linux designed by Chuck Norris would require no backups, as it would be too scared of Chuck to fail, and the CPUs run faster to get away from Chuck Norris. You don’t boot it, it boots you. Go here to take a look here.

What would I like to see in 2011? Glad you asked. What would be nice would be:

Digital pundits not saying that 2011 is the year of the Linux desktop, because it’s won’t be. And that’s OK. Believe me, until this year when the San Francisco Giants won the World Series, I know the “wait-’til-next-year” drill very well. The year of the Linux desktop will come someday — as it should — but with all the advances Linux is making in server and smaller formats — yes, I’m looking at you, Android — we don’t have to put all our eggs in that basket to determine Linux a success. We don’t have to thump our proverbial chests and say “this year . . . the desktop,” and then when the end of the year rolls around and it isn’t, there’s not a whole lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth. To say nothing of garment-rending . . . . The fact of the matter is that Linux and FOSS are as healthy as they have ever been, Novell and Sun sale notwithstanding.


Go to the show: Linux shows and expos are popping up all over, so you really have no excuse in 2011 not to go to one. The established ones, like the Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE 9X this year) and OSCON, are now being joined by a whole host of other events throughout North America. Most recently, Indiana gets its own Linux festival in March, aptly titled the Indiana Linux Fest. It joins, in order of appearance (off the top of my head — and forgive me if I forget your expo), SCALE, Linux Fest Northwest, COSSFest in Calgary, Texas Linux Fest, Southeast Linux Fest (in the GNU South), OSCON, Ohio Linux Fest, and Utah Open Source Conference. You’ll find me at SCALE, Linux Fest Northwest, COSSFest (hopefully — if they let me out of the country), OSCON and Utah Open Source Conference on an annual basis.

Oh, and one more thing: Lindependence 2011 will be held in early July, around Independence Day, in Felton, California — where Lindependence started a couple of years ago.

Last, but certainly not least:

Large distros carrying their weight in the FOSS realm: First it was the GNOME study by David Neary that had Red Hat, Novell and others carrying the developmental mail for GNOME — Red Hat and Novell with 10-plus percent each — while Canonical came in at, wait for it, 1.03 percent. Fine. That’s been hashed out already both on these pages and elsewhere. But the Linux Foundation released its annual report on Linux kernel development late in the year — go ahead and get the PDF file here — and while you’re at it, you might want to do a search for Canonical to see how often it shows up. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t. And I’m just going to leave it at that, hoping that Canonical and/or Ubuntu shows up on next year’s report.

Let’s all have a great 2011.

[FSF Associate Member] (Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)
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