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Archive for the ‘GNU/Linux’ Category

Free as in freedom from being sued

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Probably everyone and his wife, and their dog, and its fleas have heard by now about the new Microsoft/Novell agreement. While I don’t really care much about most of it, there is one part that I found extremely interesting:

(with) The patent coverage (clause) … the companies are agreeing to work together without suing each other or somebody else. Their agreement provides covenants releasing each other from risk of lawsuit by the other….

This is VERY good news. Mono-based software becomes very prominent in GNU/Linux distros, which, if the above is accurate and will be practiced, up until now were under the risk of being sued for patent infringement for being a clone of the .NET framework. For instance, in Ubuntu, there are three .NET applications that I use(d), Banshee (a music manager), Beagle (Desktop search tool) and TomBoy (Note taking). Granted, I went back to RhythmBox as soon as 6.10 was released, due to Banshee long freezes, and never used Beagle for more than 2 days before uninstalling it, due to HUGE resources usage, and I don’t really use Tomboy, so it’ll probably be the next to go, along with the whole Mono platform, but it’s still a good thing to know.

I still don’t like Mono, I understand the reasons behind using it (C# being the nicer brother of Java and all), but it’s a huge resources hog and unefficient as hell (although I may be wrong about hell here). I don’t know whether it’s due to the project still being in early development (about 2 years), or that the .NET doesn’t work well with Linux, but I still haven’t met one Mono app that I liked well enough to use despite the resources hog.

At any rate, it’s good news. Assuming the information’s correct and that both sides play nice and don’t throw it away in a year or so.

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Written by Erez

Saturday, November 4, 2006 at 1:19

Free as in free-software-only distro

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Ubuntu is a great distro. I use it, love it, advocate it, you name it. It has top-notch hardware recognition, easy to use tools, excellent package management, smooth installation process(es), and cool looking GUIs. There is just one problem with it. It’s not 100% free. They don’t claim to, in case anyone wondered.

So now, a new fork of Ubuntu has arrived, called Gnewsense which takes Ubuntu, strip it from all the non-free/restricted/proprietary parts and voila! 100% free software GNU/Linux distro. It would probably have a lot of difficulties and problems that Ubuntu managed to avoid by using the non-free parts, but freedom was never easy. I’ll try it on the ole laptop, since I don’t think it will work on the desktop, due to those exact issues. But, its one project I’m keeping my eye on and fingers crossed for.

Written by Erez

Friday, November 3, 2006 at 23:34

Cut the Crap, Mozilla.

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In a recent, smug, triumphant, in-your-face, Q&A some guy from Mozilla composed with himself, the following claim has been stated and is repeated here, verbatim, unedited, untouched:

Ultimately, Debian took a position that was consistent with their own policies, and not compatible with some of the exceptions to Mozilla trademark policies that we offered. While we understand and respect their decision not to work with us under our branding guidelines, Mozilla believes that brands like Firefox are important for consumer protection.

You read that right. Consumer Protection. For the sake of all that is good and holy. How and when did the cornerstone of Free-Software become Microsoft? Oh sorry. Make that “cornerstone of Open-Source”. After all, they never did care about Freedom.
Consumer protection my foot. The only thing they need to protect their consumers is against themselves, Digital Restriction Management-stylee.

And what about Firefox 2.0? Turns out it has finally got to the stage it should’ve always been at, which is a total and shameless ripoff of Opera. Hopefully by 3.0 they will get multiple tabbing line and finally be usable. You see, the only real reason to use Firefox has been their position as the free-and-open alternative to MSIE. With the new “consumer protection” phase, that position has become null and void. Use Epiphany, use Flock, use IceWeasel, use whatever fork you want. Just don’t believe the Hype.

Oh, and Mozilla? Trademarking your shit won’t work. Check what Oracle just did to Red Hat.

Written by Erez

Friday, October 27, 2006 at 22:01

Lay down your weapons

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I didn’t think reading the “Beez” recent referance to the GNOME/KDE “wars” would benefit me much, as his latest article was called “3 reasons why NOT to use GNOME“, so one shouldn’t expect too much objectivity/rationality from such a writer. I was happy to find myself wrong.

Not only does the Beez rectify himself by distancing his writing from the X Vs. Y hoards, he also acknowledges the simple truth:

One thing that this war has learned me (sic) is that the smartest people of all are the “civilians”, our users. They just use a mixture of what is there and don’t understand what the fuss is all about. They happily shop in the giant bazaar for whatever they need.

Truer words were never sounded. I use GNOME, I’ve used KDE on occasion, and have tested Kubuntu as a possible replacement for Ubuntu with every of the past releases since 5.10 (Breezy Badger). I kept returning to GNOME, not because it had more features, or because it had more application, or because of quality, or because of configuration issues or because of support for freedom or because of anything. Simply because I like it better. Like. It’s a nice argument isn’t it? I admit openly that KDE is better configurable, has better apps, better quality, is more mature as a project, and is free, while GNOME has some crappy apps, keeps treating his users like idiots (yes, Torvalds is 100% spot on the mark there) and incorporated Mono (as GTK#), but I still like it better. It might be that this is caused by GNOME being the official Ubuntu DE, which means they have sunk more hours of development, refinement and customisation into it, but it can also be because I simply like it more. I really dunno. But I have this weird nagging feeling that a lot of people are like me.

On the other hand, I also hope a lot of people are like the Beez:

I repeat it one more time, I really don’t care what you’re running as long as I don’t have to run it.

Written by Erez

Tuesday, October 24, 2006 at 14:30

Maybe they will finally get it (probably not)

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I’ve mentioned Firefox less-than-total commitment to the Free Software concept in previous posts. It would seem that those guys from Mozilla got the whole deal more than a little bit off. As this article shows, not only does they trademarked the Firefox logo, but also have a clause that stipulating that using Firefox name without the official branding is a trademark violation. Don’t use the Firefox name, you say? Why, thank you, say Debian. Especially since that would release them of the other obligation, that any updates/patches they make to Firefox have to get approved by Mozilla before being implemented. This really gives the whole “FOSS” (Free and Open-Source Software) concept a new twist.

Same issue has been affecting Debian-derivative Ubuntu, who also have been using a customised (albeit ugly) not-trademarked icon for Firefox, apparently against the browser’s license. Debian have already announced that they will re-brand (and most likely fork) Firefox for use in their GNU/Linux distribution, it remains to be seen how would Ubuntu react to this issue.

Written by Erez

Tuesday, October 3, 2006 at 23:48

I use the enemy…

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I never did like Microsoft Internet Explorer. Probably the only time I used it solely was when IE5 came out to an almost empty market, following the collapse of Netscape. Some time later, I discovered Opera, and that, as they say, is that. With Ubuntu being my main desktop OS, I have removed even the existance of IE from my computer.
The problem is, that most companies I’ve need of their web services have not heard about other browsers, and under false claims such as “applying to industry standards” (translation: our web-developer based the site on ActiveX and we don’t want to pay it to re-develop the site) and “supply of the user-base demand” (trans: our IE-only site has 99.9% of IE visitors), not only don’t support other browsers, but also prevent those browsers from accessing the site. And these sites include my bank, college and several others that force me to visit them while at work or (shudder) reboot to windows (which is probably the only reason for me to keep that OS on my machine), moreso, my company product depends on IE and ActiveX, which makes it impossible to run on any GNU/Linux configuration.

As an answer to my woes, comes IE4Linux, a script that installs IE on Wine, making it available for web-developers who need to be able to view their sites on IE and for IE-only sites. I’ve yet to test it, true, but if this works, it might mean that I can (FINALLY) remove my Windows partition and finally be able to use those 15 GB of hard-drive that are rotting away on the Windows partition. But more on that in the future.

Written by Erez

Sunday, September 17, 2006 at 21:18

Is it ready? Do I really care?

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One of the never-die subjects that seems to grace every other Free Software/Open Source/GNU/Linux/Geek/Technological publication since whenever is the “Is GNU/Linux ready for the Desktop”?
It might be “It is ready”, “is it ready to take on Microsoft/others?” or “It isn’t/will not be ready” or “Why isn’t it ready”, or “This year it will be ready” or one of the dozen or so variations on the subject.

The question I’m trying to understand is, why are everyone so concerned about it?
And by “everyone”, I’m not referring to Red Hat, Novell or Canonical, but to the everyday user of GNU/Linux, or even to the everyday non-user. Will GNU/Linux’s “readiness” for the desktop make more people switch? Do GNU/Linux users even want more people to switch? (again, users, not commercial distributers).
The immediate answer is the herd effect, nobody wants to be the only one to do something; we are social beings, after all, and like to know we are part of a communitee. The other side of it, or the practical view, is that more users create what is called the “network effect”, making it the “industry standard”, which is a de-facto standard based on the simple reasoning that “Everyone uses it”. For example, try sending your CV as an .odf file. You’ll probably will get a “please use standard formats” as reply, and by which people mean Microsoft Word .doc format. More users of GNU/Linux on the desktop would mean that open formats will become “industry standards” based solely on the large amount of people using them. Same goes for .ogg instead of .mp3, open video formats instead of the proprietary ones in use today, and so on.
Problem with this argument is that it doesn’t work like this. Being “ready for the desktop”, it seems, mean that people can switch to GNU/Linux without any “loss” on their side. This means that GNU/Linux distributers are allowing restricted/Non-Free formats, drivers and codecs to be installed on the distribution, or even package them with the distro. Open-Office, the GNU/Linux de-facto standard Office Suite jump through every hoop possible to support Microsoft’s proprietary formats such as .doc and .xls.
In fact, it appears that being “ready for the desktop” actually means “being able to play proprietary audio and video formats, and support proprietary document formats such as .pdf and .doc” this in itself is a paradox, because it means creating a network effect on product A, which only exists to re-strengthen product B. In this sense, ESR’s argument that for Linux to survive, it must support proprietary, closed-source and restricted format is actually dangerous, as it means that the stronger GNU/Linux becomes on the desktop, it will only cause Microsoft and other proprietary formats to continue its domination.

The second argument for “being ready for the desktop” is that it will make GNU/Linux more User-Friendly and easier to work with. Question that arises is “who for?” I don’t really see people marching through the streets in anticipation of GNU/Linux being “friendlier” so they could finally make the switch. In fact, most people I know are currently drooling for Vista, not for SUSE. It won’t make much difference for GNU/Linux users, since they already are using the “non-friendly flavour” of GNU/Linux and are, apparently, quite happy with it. Some have even argued (very reasonably, in my opinion), that making GNU/Linux “friendlier” means that basic elements of the system will have to be bended, or broken, such as the multi-user system and the security model, which would, in turn, make GNU/Linux as vulnerable as Windows.

The third argument is that for GNU/Linux to “survive” as an OS, it must become desktop friendly. Sadly, this is as far from the truth as can be. GNU exists for almost 25 years. Linux has just celebrated its 15th year. It may not be “successful”, or take over Microsoft (or Apple)’s place, which, to corporate America is what “survival” means (as in “grow or die”), but the fact being, GNU/Linux isn’t about market share and expansion charts, its about Free Software (GNU) and getting the best tools possible out in the open (Linux). Those won’t vanish even if all commercial distros vanish. In fact, at some levels, losing the commercial support, GNU/Linux might actually florish. Not being forced into the desktop playing field/battleground will “release” GNU/Linux from the need to cater for flashier desktops (i.e. XGL/Compiz and their dependancy on closed-source, proprietary and restricted 3d video cards drivers), or to more media formats, and returning to the Free Software alternative routes, which, in eventuality, might fully realise the true revolutionary potential of the OS.

Fourth, and final, is the “being ready for the Desktop meaning becoming a mature, better OS”. To this we say “Linux != Windows“. Or, more to the point, since “mature” meaning “stop wearing sandals and shorts and start hiring double and triple speaking marketing guys with hairgel and 3 piece suits”, I say, “if the infantile, inherently broken, swiss-cheesed unusable piece of jukny-gunk called windows is what one consideres as a ‘mature operating system’, then I don’t want to grow up.

Written by Erez

Saturday, September 16, 2006 at 17:10

Posted in GNU/Linux