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Enough of the doom already

December 12, 2011 3 comments

A couple of weeks ago, a blogger at ReadWriteWeb wrote about the demise of Mozilla and Firefox, claiming that the loss of market share and lack of availability on mobile devices — and the departure of Google sponsorship — could lead to Mozilla’s downfall.

Like lemmings, other tech commentators followed along with the same message: Firefox? Stick a fork in it.

SCALE 10XLast week, Hewlett-Packard decided to give WebOS its freedom. Apparently, they let it into the FOSS wild without as much as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. But HP’s intention, I hope, is that they’d like developers to flock to it and help this Linux-based operating system achieve its true potential.

Cue the lemmings again: Most of those providing the tech commentary around this development in opening WebOS have been tripping over themselves to strangle WebOS in the proverbial cradle. Or, as they say in sports circles, they’re risking injury by jumping on the bandwagon.

But while some tech commentators are locked in a battle to the death to see which of them can bury both Mozilla and WebOS — especially WebOS — the deepest, allow me to point out something they might have overlooked: Firefox is still going strong, despite losing market share (and, were I a gambling man, I’d bet that Google stays the course with Mozilla sponsorship despite having their own browser) AND, under better conditions than are currently available to it (and conditions that can be altered and goals achieved), WebOS might just have a shot surviving in the FOSS wilderness as a sort of Davy Crockett of Linux.

You know, kids: Davy Crockett. King of the wild frontier? OK, look him up on Wikipedia.

In any case, I’m going to let Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier drive here, explaining why Mozilla is not on the way out. Brockmeier concludes in his post:

“Even if Firefox remains third in the market, that’s a far cry from “doomed.” We’ve come a long way from a Web that is hostile to any browser that isn’t Microsoft Internet Explorer. Firefox can easily thrive with 20 percent of the market. But I wouldn’t count Team Mozilla out just yet, and though I’ve had my share of frustrations with Firefox I’m not ready to throw in the towel. When you look at the major players here, Mozilla is the only organization that’s I fully trust with my data and a commitment to the open Web. If Firefox is doomed, I’m afraid that would not say a great deal for the future of the Web.”

Which brings us back to the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, er . . . I mean, WebOS.

Let’s go back a bit to square one: After blunders (yes, blunders, plural) of historic proportions this year around their hardware from which they can hopefully recover, open-sourcing WebOS is probably the only thing that HP could have done to save it, and in typical 2011 HP fashion, they fumbled that. That ball is still rolling on the ground.

If — and this is an enormous IF — a community grows around what had been established around WebOS when it started, clearly they’ll have faster development than if they were developing in-house, which obviously is how things in open source work. So from an HP standpoint, that’s a good call. Of course, they could have made this transition a lot more smoothly, but it’s out there now. Arguably, WebOS advocates could be facing the digital equivalent of executing a “Hail Mary” pass to bring back the operating system, but it can be done. Ask Roger Staubach or Doug Flutie (and as a University of Miami Hurricane, bringing up the latter is painful)

I have used WebOS on a Palm Pre 2 while I had it, and I liked it. HP had planned to put WebOS on consumer hardware before, well, you know what happened there. I even went as far as to download the WebOS SDK, which I found my way around fairly easily.

I certainly don’t have the developer skills to do anything other than simple things to make me go, “hmmm.” But others do — some who might benefit from wanting to take this program from certain death at the hands of digital scribes and bring it back. The task ahead of them is herculean, but not impossible.

So in my book, rumors of WebOS’ demise are somewhat exaggerated.

(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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Getting out the vote

August 30, 2011 Leave a comment

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 — along with Jon “maddog” Hall — so you’ll not want to miss that (especially Cathy — Go ZaReason!).

With the upcoming deadline for the Linux Journal Readers’ Choice 2011 Awards upon us — it closes this Saturday — other bloggers have been been taking to beating the drum and holding the phone for their favorites.

Not to be outdone, of course, there are a few candidates on the LJ ballot that deserve special mention. If I were campaigning for them, I’d definitely cast votes for items in the following categories (note, however, the list of categories and software on the ballot is long, and they’re not all here):

Best Linux Distribution: No question, hands down. Fedora. Judging which is the best distro is akin to picking the best ice cream flavor — each of us has our own favorites, and hopefully you’ll vote for yours. Mine comes in blue, is based on Red Hat, has the best desktop background release after release (the Design Team at Fedora is the best in the FOSS realm, period), it’s always rock solid, and even if I can’t use the default GNOME 3 desktop, Fedora runs great under KDE or Xfce. Fedora is reaching a point now where the myth that it’s “only for experience users” is falling by the wayside, and if a lack of confidence in your skills has kept you from using Fedora, you should give it a try.

Best Desktop Environment: Oh, look! A minefield! Let’s skip through it! You all know how I feel about GNOME 3; the aspect that I can’t use it due to older equipment moreso than anything else (if I could vote for GNOME 2.32, that would be great). KDE? I like KDE though — truth in advertising — I’m a post-KDE 4.x user and not familiar with the way things used to be (and not familiar with why there’s such a hubbub about it). I don’t know why Openbox and Fluxbox, both windows managers, are in this category, and why isn’t there a separate WM category? How did I vote? I’m cast a vote this year for Xfce, because I’m using it on Fedora 15 and will be using it again on Fedora 16, and while it’s reputation is a lightweight environment, I’m finding there’s a significant degree of tweakability to it. Also, if you really like WMs, I’d vote for OpenBox.

Best Web Browser: Konqueror. Just kidding. While there are some advantages to Konqueror that do not involve Web browsing, for getting on the information superhighway I usually go with Firefox, though on the Windows box at the newspaper I use Chrome. It’s a toss up between those two.

Best E-mail Client: Another minefield and another tough call. What I use most is Thunderbird, because everybody knows the ‘Bird is the word, and it’s always worked well for me. What has always worked well for me in the past, too, and something I’ve always thought was one of KDE’s stars is Kmail, which deserves a vote if you’re so inclined. Claws is something I’m looking to try and haven’t yet, so maybe if it wows me, it can be a leading candidate for 2012.

Best IRC client: Simple — it’s irssi. It’s what the cool kids use, once they graduate past Xchat. Konversation gets high marks, too, and readily available on KDE. But I voted for irssi.

Best Office Suite: OK, here’s where we get to make history. Vote for LibreOffice — it’s OpenOffice as it should be. It would be outrageously cool if LibreOffice took home the prize in this category, for starters because it deserves it, and it would be a good nose-thumbing to Oracle as well.

Best Graphic Design Tool: All of them. I’m serious. If there’s ever been a category where each of the candidates deserves to win, it’s this one. GIMP finally gets a single window, I’m told, thank $DIETY, but I ended up voting for . . . Inkscape. I’m not the artist in the family; that title goes to my daughter Mimi, but having drawn a little, I do like Inkscape a lot.

Best Audio Tool: Audacity. If Carla Schroder uses it and writes a book about it, then I’m there.

Best Kid Friendly Application: Another easy one — Tux Paint. I should be ashamed to admit this, but I’m not: Ever since Mimi was younger and we used Tux Paint together when she was learning her way around a computer, I have always loved this program and I still fiddle with it from time to time when I’m not doing anything else. Also, I count Tux Paint as one of the main influences in cultivating the artistic talent Mimi has shown.

Best Game: As bad as I am at it, I still think Super Tux gets the nod here, as it’s a very creative game. Truth be told, I’ve never played any of the games on the list, except for Tux Racer, and I know my good friend Ken Starks over at the HeliOS Project is a fan of World of Goo.

Best Database: Our first heart-versus-head conundrum. If MySQL were the best, I may not vote for it on principle, but fortunately other databases have knocked MySQL from its perch at the top. I’ve only used two other databases and have liked them both: PostgreSQL and MariaDB. I really want to see MariaDB do well, but PostgreSQL is clearly the best of the bunch.

Best Programming Language: Again, the ice cream comparison comes into play and in my limited programming experience, I vote for what I know best. That would be Python.

Best scripting language: bash — accept no substitutes (OK, ksh if you need to).

Best IDE: Emacs in the hands of someone who really knows what they’re doing (and sadly, that’s not me) is simply an amazing tool. But I’m voting for vim. I can get more done using it, and I’m never backed into a corner, as I am sometimes with Emacs. Sorry, RMS.

Best Package Management Application: If it sounds like it tastes good, you have to go with it: yum. Honorable mention goes to Synaptic.

Best Content Management System: I’ve used Mambo and Joomla! in the past, and those happen to be my CMS roots. However, having used Drupal over the last few months, I have to say that I’ve made the switch. Drupal gets my vote this year.

Best Linux Laptop Vendor/Best Linux Desktop Workstation Vendor/Best Linux Server Vendor: I’m lumping these three categories together because the vote is the same in each category — ZaReason. The Berkeley, Calif., outfit makes outstanding, dependable hardware that’s Linux based (or if you’d prefer, no operating system) and the service is top notch. You’ll have to write in ZaReason in the Best Linux Desktop Workstation Vendor category, but you can mark the ballot in the other two.

Best Linux Book: A real page-turner, especially if you’re into audio — “The Book of Audacity,” by Carla Schroder. Buy it now.

Again, there’s a plethora of other categories that I haven’t touched on. Polls are open until Saturday. Vote early.

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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Spending the day with an Ocelot

August 14, 2011 3 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!)

First things first: No one in their right mind would review an alpha version of a distro, just as no one in their right mind would take the advice in a review of an alpha version. I can’t remember who said it recently — for some reason, Jeff Hoogland of Bodhi Linux comes immediately to mind (and if it wasn’t you, Jeff, I apologize) — but reviewing an alpha version is like telling someone how a cake tastes after just trying the batter. So let me make it perfectly clear this is not a review — I repeat, “This is not a review!” I mention this because to the first person that says, “Larry the Free Software Guy reviewed Oneiric and he said . . . ” I’d like to remind you, ahem, THIS IS NOT A REVIEW.

Got it?

After reading a few articles about the Alpha 3 version of Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot and finding that it was available (though it’s a little hard to find — perhaps by design — on the Ubuntu site), I thought I’d give Oneiric Alpha 3 a try since I had a day to spare — actually a unusually slow day at work — and not much else to do with it. Such is my life on a Saturday.

The caveats: I didn’t install Oneiric but ran the distro on the ThinkPad T30 from a USB stick. Also, sucking it up and taking a deep breath, I promised myself I would resist rolling my eyes this time and took a proactive approach to the Unity desktop environment, brushing up a little on Unity before going back in there to avoid repeating my disastrous introduction to it.

I still think that Unity leaves way too much to be desired, however the Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot Alpha 3 remarkably behaved like a version of a distro well beyond the alpha stage. Programs come up quickly — bear in mind again that I’m running this from a USB stick — and there were no noticeable hiccups normally associated with early pre-release versions.

However, I did encounter a crashing program for which I was prompted to file a bug report through Launchpad, which I attempted to do. Unfortunately, when signing in to Launchpad, I was told that I was “stale” — no truer words were spoken, perhaps. After “freshening up” my account, though, I wasn’t able to reproduce the glitch, so I wasn’t able to file a bug report.

But on the whole, if this alpha version is any indication of what Ubunteros have to look forward to in October, this should be a good release.

Things I liked about Oneiric (bearing in mind it’s an alpha) :

  • Despite running from a USB stick, programs respond quickly with a “right out of the box” feel, almost as if the distro is installed on the hard drive.
  • LibreOffice, Firefox and Thunderbird native to Ubuntu 11.10 (though I am told that LibreOffice may not make the Live CD. Rethink that one, guys and gals)
  • Things I didn’t like about Oneiric (and, remember, it’s still in the alpha stage) :

  • Unity (yes, I know you can opt for Kubuntu/Xubuntu/Lubuntu, which I would do if I were an Ubuntu user; probably using Xubuntu)
  • This is probably more of the fact that I’m using old hardware, but the splash screen as the laptop boots looks like a bad acid trip (not that I know what this would be like first hand — no really!)
  • Unity. Oh, did I say that already? Sorry.
  • A pet peeve: I don’t want to use Empathy for IRC, and I know that space on the Live CD is scarce (and I know I can just get it after installing the distro), but you could stand to put something like Xchat or Irssi on for the hardcore IRC types. Just sayin’ . . .

    As the auto ads say, “Your mileage may vary,” and you may have a completely different experience with Oneiric. However, with Alpha 3 being a solid release, with the upcoming tweaks in the next months finalizing it when it’s unleashed on the public in October, there’s a good chance that Ubuntu 11.10 will be a strong, solid release.

    [Want to comment? Please do, but you're going to have to give me a name -- it can be an IRC nick -- and a legitimate e-mail address. If not, it won't appear. That plain, that simple. "Anonymous," "anon" or any variations thereof get held immediately -- if I can't reach you to confirm, then it doesn't run. Same with any suspect comment that can't be confirmed. So let's be above board here.]

    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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  • Intrepid what?

    February 21, 2008 1 comment

    The name of the next Ubuntu animal in the menagerie: With its April/October release dates firmly etched in stone, Ubuntu has named its October 2008 release Intrepid Ibex. Interpid what? Ibex — it’s a is a type of wild mountain goat with large recurved horns that are transversely ridged in front (and, dang, those horns are long). Here are the details right from the horse’s, er Mark Shuttleworth’s mouth.

    The next set of names that come from Linux Mint, once they reach “Z” (Zelda?) will start again with an “A” but will end with an “e”, according to Linux Mint’s Clement Lefebvre. I mentioned the naming convention in the Linux Mint chapter of “Eight Distros a Week” — it’s alphabetical women’s names ending in “a” — and wondered aloud when they got to “Z,” whether the names restarting with “A” would end in a “b.” Nope, Clem says, they’ll start with “A” but the last letter will be “e.” Nice touch. Thanks for clarifying that, Clem.

    G’day, Firefox: While Firefox‘s gains against Internet Exploder generally focuses on the percentages garnered in Europe, the place where Firefox is really taking off is Oceania, where 31 percent of Australians and New Zealanders are using the browser. Those are the results from a French polling firm called XiTi, and the story can be found here. And here in North America? A hefty 21 percent, third behind the Aussies and Kiwis of Oceania and the 23 percent of Europe.

    Rolling Funder: The blogger known as Helios — a man who has made it his life’s mission to promote GNU/Linux at every turn — has an interesting concept in a recent blog which, if it works (and my money is on it working), would make a truly sound foundation for building a truly grassroots promotional vehicle for FOSS. I’m very much on board with this one, Helios — count me in.

    On the BSD side . . . Steven Rosenberg of Click is smack in the middle of a BSD odyssey which is as intriguing as it is informative and entertaining. Not only this, it has kindled my interest in attempting to get NetBSD running on one of these old Macs just one more time (although, sheesh, Steven — those 5 a.m. posting times on your blog must be murder . . . .).

    [FSF Associate Member](Larry Cafiero, editor/publisher of Open Source and Free Software Reporter, is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)

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    One in four Europeans choose Firefox

    April 19, 2007 Leave a comment

    An interesting story that originates in Europe today, brought to our attention courtesy of DesktopLinux.com, states that nearly a quarter of European Web surfers do their surfing with Firefox which, according to the story, has the browser market share of 24 percent. When I went to school, that was close enough to say “one in four.”

    “Firefox browser usage has increased substantially — by nearly 5 percent — in Europe over the past year, French web analyst firm XiTi reports,” says the story. “During the week of March 5 through 11, 2007, the open-source browser exceeded 24 percent share of Europe’s browser market, according to the market researcher.”

    Slovenia and Finland have the most per capita users, in the mid-40s percentage-wise, and Germany is in the mid-30s.

    We in the U.S. — with a meager 15 percent of the browsing public using Firefox — are slowly but surely getting on the bandwagon, since figures have Firefox steadily climbing, but a far cry from the 78 percent market share that Internet Exploder forces on most of the public.

    [FSF Associate Member](Larry Cafiero, editor/publisher of Open Source Reporter, is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)

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