Monday mornings are not as toxic to me as to others, to hear them tell it. In fact, I have a healthy indifference to Mondays; on a work-week landscape where my first day of the work week at the newspaper is a Thursday, Mondays essentially are my “Fridays.” All of which is to say, that’s not so bad.
Still, coffee would be nice, and while sipping a Kona blend, we can review some of the recent past’s events and articles, like . . .
It’s dead, Jim . . . finally: Novell came up the winner in the SCO case, according to Groklaw, and it looks like this is the end of the line for a one-time tech company turned litigation machine. Judge Ted Stewart ruled that Novell’s claim for declaratory judgment is granted; SCO’s claims for specific performance and breach of the implied covenant of good fair and fair dealings are denied. Denied. Did I mention it was denied? Also SCO’s motion for judgment as a matter of law or for a new trial: denied. Deeee-nyed! So that’s game, set, match. Also, on a personal note, as a MoFo — as in a Morrison & Foerster alum, having worked for the firm in Tokyo — I have to say I’m proud of their work in this case.
Well, duh! Chapter One: Dell, which offers Ubuntu (if you want to wait for it — more on this in a minute), gives those thinking about ordering an Ubuntu machine some reasons for making the switch. While those ordering Ubuntu Dells wait — ask me about ordering one for a client and getting a shipment date in about a month, versus a few days for an identical Windows machine — they can take a look at Number 6 on this list: Ubuntu is safer than Microsoft Windows. You think? Sheesh.
Well, duh! Part Deux: What’s the weak link in the national security in relation to cyber war? Easy question, according to a recent ars technica article: Microsoft Windows. Richard A. Clarke’s new book, “Cyber War: The Next Threat to National Security and What to Do About It,” is still making quite a splash. A quote from the article: “While it may appear to give America some sort of advantage,” Cyber War warns, “in fact cyber war places this country at greater jeopardy than it does any other nation.” The enormous dependence of our financial and energy networks on the ‘Net open us up to potentially devastating online attacks. “It is the public, the civilian population of the United States and the publicly owned corporations that run our key national systems, that are likely to suffer in a cyber war.” Yep, that sounds like Microsoft Windows all right.
What’s that? The sky is falling? It figures that the likes of PC World would take a story involving a relatively obscure IRC server, give said IRC server undue credit for popularity, exaggerate the seriousness of the situation and exaggerate how long it went unnoticed all in one article. But that’s what happened when — HORRORS! — an announcement was made on the Unreal IRCd forum that the Linux version of the popular IRC server Unreal IRCd was contaminated with malware in November 2009, without anyone noticing it. Of course, what the article conveniently fails to mention is that unlike the infections automatically started by the mere presence of Windows, this one had to be downloaded, installed, and configured. That point was glossed over. Another glaring omission: How many in the wild security breaches have there been due to this? I’m not linking to the article — PC World is not getting hits from me — but you can go to LXer and see the article, with responses, if you wish.
I need a refill.
[If you think I don't write enough here, I have a good excuse: I've been blogging at the Lindependence 2008 Felton Diary here. I'll get here when I can.]
I’ve mentioned this before in blogs, but it bears repeating: For years, I have hoped to be a thorn in Dell’s side, the pebble in ol’ Mike’s Gucci loafers about dependability and quality of the machines that came from the Dallas conglomerate.
So when Dell decided to see the light and offer Ubuntu as an OS option, I asked for a nice bearnaise sauce to go with the crow I dutifully, and happily, ate.
Fast forward to late last week, when I helped my commercial neighbor Ron at Long Cabinet Company with the memory on his Dell laptop, it was one of those opportunities to show that what we do, hardware- and software-wise, is not exactly some sort of black magic. In addition, it showed Ron how Dell and Microsoft are working together to make Vista unusable.
Ron’s wife had bought Ron a gig of memory and he asked me to install it. Thanks to Dell — more crow, please — adding memory on the laptops is merely a matter of just removing a panel, popping it in, and putting the panel back on; 60 seconds, tops.
This was the easy part: The harder part, and the part I couldn’t explain other than to say that it’s a huge mistake by both Dell and Microsoft, was trying to justify to Ron how Dell could sell a machine that they said was Vista-ready with “only” 512MB of RAM and how Microsoft could make an “new and improved” operating system that . . . well . . . oh, never mind. In the end, both Dell and Microsoft took a back seat to an explanation of how GNU/Linux doesn’t have the same problems that Ron was experiencing.
One more convert in the making? One can only hope.
(Larry Cafiero runs HeliOS Solutions West in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)
Well, I never said I was perfect. But I reported a story in Open Source Reporter, taking the lead from a blogger, that Red Hat would be the distro of choice in the Dell family of hardware, and imagine my surprise — okay chagrin — when they chose Ubuntu instead (You can read the story by going here; it’s the top story in OSR today).
The marriage of Red Hat and Dell sort of made sense. If Dell had, um, “issues” with providing support for the 500 or so flavors of GNU/Linux out there, business smarts would dictate that they would go with the distro with the deepest customer service. Plus, Red Hat’s enterprise wing could, in theory anyway, seamlessly work itself into that part of Dell’s offerings to businesses who run servers and the like on GNU/Linux (and many who are running on RHEL, like my employer, but I digress . . . ).
However, Ubuntu is an excellent choice to represent GNU/Linux for Dell. Ubuntu, too, has an extensive customer service department — probably to become more extensive thanks to this new arrangement — and it will be interesting to see if and how (especially how, if the “if” is a “yes”) Ubuntu can serve business accounts, if that’s the plan going forward.
I’ll take my crow, fork in hand, with a lot of spices and a significant amount of condiments, please. And in the words of the San Francisco Chronicle’s Jon Carroll, “mea damn culpa” for getting it wrong.
Computerworld reported today (March 1) that Dell has decided to put the brakes on their pre-installed GNU/Linux announcement of a couple of days ago. Typical. This, of course, raises a plethora of questions like:
Did they leave out ” . . . just kidding” from their news release? So let me see if I understand this: Being a newbie-with-portfolio to GNU/Linux, I can install — and have installed — and maintain GNU/Linux distros with roughly two-months of hands-on experience with GNU/Linux. So, Dell can’t install any variant of GNU/Linux on their desktops and laptops? Want some help, guys?
Does Dell really believe they have to test GNU/Linux all over again? File this one in the “let’s reinvent the wheel” drawer which — and I know I promised to play nice with Dell, but I can’t — remains consistent with Dell’s legacy of being an industry follower. Dell spokesman Jeremy Bolen says in the Computerworld article that “[W]hen you talk about an operating system, if Dell is going to install it and test it, it takes a lot of work” before getting it ready for the marketplace. Jeremy, pass this on to your buddy, Mike: It’s not like GNU/Linux is fresh out of the box — we’re reaching the two-decade point of the operating system’s existence fairly soon. Those years are involved with a lot of development, incidentally, which makes GNU/Linux the operating system that, gee, Dell seems to think highly of at the moment. Of course, this “ready for the marketplace” nonsense begs another question.
Does Dell really think there aren’t enough GNU/Linux wonks out there to hire/steal/cajole for tech support? One of the reasons given for what is turning out to be a world-class balk by Dell is that they don’t have training and support in place. That’s fair. So what’s the problem there? Go to any list like LinuxQuestions.org or LXer.com or my Internet hangout, DistroWatch.com, and the experts are there.
This is beginning to look like Dell biting off more than they can chew and starting the world-class backpedaling for which they pay their PR people those high fees. Either this, or the call came down from Redmond . . . .
A news item today at PC World heralds some groundbreaking news in the way of GNU/Linux being preinstalled on Dell desktop and laptop computers. So when I wrote in the Open Source Reporter FAQ that (and I’m paraphrasing here) your Grandma wouldn’t be using Debian, perhaps I had spoken a wee bit too hastily.
This is not to say that the distro on the Dell machines will be Debian, unfortunately, but the PC World article does mention that “other Linux distributions were also suggested by users, and that Dell will look into possible certifications with other Linux brands across its product lines.” All of which means that users may not be locked into Novell SUSE, but that remains to be seen.
But whatever Dell should choose to put on their GNU/Linux boxes, the underlying fact remains that when a corporate giant like Dell — and who hasn’t used a Dell, either at work or at home (and possibly both)? — provides the option away from prepackaging solely the Redmond-based digital sludge masquerading as an operating system they’ve previously offered, you know Dell isn’t doing it out of the goodness of their corporate hearts.
The demand is there, and Dell knows it. For all the nasty things I have said about Dell in the past, most (if not all) of it deserved, I now have to hand it to Dell: Maybe they get it after all.
Arguably, and with all the fanfare the news warrants, if nothing else this signals that GNU/Linux has officially arrived as a mainstream operating system.
Further, given a choice between a bloated operating system like the Microsoft’s new “Vis-duh” and a more streamlined GNU/Linux operating system that frees up the computer workings for more important things, which would you use (especially on a lower-end machine)?
This is not to say that I’m embracing Dell. On the contrary: I know their products well, having used them in the many office environments in which I have worked over the past couple of decades. In my current job, I use a Dell as a copy editor at the Santa Cruz Sentinel. So let me be frank (and children, you can leave the room now): Dell has always lived up to its reputation as manufacturing hardware that absolutely and unequivocally blows. The fact that Windows-on-Dell can easily be described as hell squared is not lost on many people.
Having said this both here and over the last 15 or so years, however, no one is more ready than I am to give Dell another shot in using a Dell box or laptop equipped with GNU/Linux; crossing my fingers all the while that their hardware dependability may have increased as well.
If anything, improved Dell hardware coupled with Linux could just break me from the habit of spitting on the ground every time anyone mentions the computer maker’s name.