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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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Eliminate DRM!

Why we didn’t elect Meg governor

October 28, 2011 2 comments

You don’t realize how hard it is to type when you open your palm and insert your face.

Meg Whitman, who took the reins of Hewlett-Packard after being trounced in the 2010 California gubernatorial election that cost her and her campaign roughly $43 per vote, decided to bring back the HP consumer hardware, which was a good thing. I even ate some crow, with salt, yesterday in manning up to say something nice about Meg for making this decision.

Today I can thank her for something else: Thank you, Meg, for restoring my confidence in your incompetence.

Now Californians who voted against her — yours truly raises hand here — can be smug about not electing her to Sacramento for a typical Meg move.

An article today states that rather than include the already proven WebOS on the HP Touchpad tablet — which is what it came with until former HP CEO Leo Apotheker had what can best be described as the most profound brain fart in human history in dumping HP’s consumer technology — Meg wants to run the tablet with, wait for it, Windows 8.

Don’t take my word for it. The article by Tom Krazit is here, if you dare.

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.

(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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Eliminate DRM!

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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