Tipping Points

I don’t often agree with Jim Zemlin but he’s right about FLOSS being widely accepted. It’s the right way to do IT.“2014 was a tipping point where companies decided there was too much software to write for any one company to do it by themselves. They are shedding commodity software R&D by investing in “external R&D” with open source. Those who master the game have a compelling advantage. Those who don’t are getting left behind.” The one anomaly in the game is still that other OS dominating the desktop but that’s slowly changing as GNU/Linux becomes more widely adopted by individuals, organizations and governments. It just makes no sense to pay big money for what you can get for $0 or nearly so. Even M$ has acknowledged that by giving away licences for small cheap computers. Eventually, a large chunk of computers of all kinds will run GNU/Linux and retailers will offer it to consumers everywhere. There’s no reason not to do that. Choice is good for consumers and retailers and OEMs.

The last few years has been some kind of a tipping point. Most OEMs are shipping some GNU/Linux units. Many retailers sell them to consumers. European governments are getting behind a move to accept FLOSS and GNU/Linux for purchases. China, India, Russia, Brazil, and several other governments have committed to FLOSS. The preferences for that other OS and its way of doing things are dying. Many schools run GNU/Linux because it is very affordable and their graduates are filling a demand for an educated workforce. Android/Linux is thriving. There’s no reason GNU/Linux cannot as well. It is better suited to run on legacy PCs than Android/Linux. Large screens matter. Mice and keyboards matter. GNU/Linux works very well with them and the performance continues to improve.

See 2014: The Open Source Tipping Point.

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The Cuban Experiment

The news today is that USA-Cuban relations will return to something more like normal rather than cold war-era. It’s about time. The folks who annoyed USA to the point of madness are mostly dead or teetering on the brink. A whole new generation was being punished needlessly by sanctions for the sins of their fathers.

It hasn’t gone quite there yet, just exchanging prisoners and opening embassies in the near future, but the liklihood is that sooner or later the barriers to ordinary economic/social/political interaction will fall. This really ticks off some so-called “conservative” thinkers in USA but it raises interesting possibilities for me.

The Wintel monopoly could not latch onto Cuba for several reasons:

  • the cubans could not afford it
  • some PCs built by USAian OEMs could not legally be shipped there: HP, Dell?
  • M$ and others could not just open up an office in Havana and go to work…

That leaves Cuba as a somewhat pristine testing ground for the hypothesis that GNU/Linux is “good enough”. StatCounter shows Cubans use GNU/Linux ~6% of page-views. Will this increase or decrease if the embargo is officially lifted? Presumably, eventually, Cubans will be able to afford all kinds of IT. What will they choose? I expect the Chinese will sell/give them whatever they want. There are also some South American OEMs who can cater to their Spanish-language preferences. Will they order up Android/Linux smartphones and tablets or legacy PCs tied to Wintel or GNU/Linux? I would bet that Android/Linux will get their vote because they have no lock-in and Android/Linux is affordable. They may want servers and desktops too, but without lock-in, I would bet the share going to GNU/Linux will be relatively huge, especially considering they are already getting around 6% share of page-views by GNU/Linux. They have a lot of in-house expertise, something that has held back adoption in other places. I think anything over about 10% will unleash a flood of further adoption. It’s not like they are stuck at ~1%.

I expect reforms will allow wider access to IT and to the Internet so in a few years we should have the answer to this question. I don’t think Cubans are locked into Wintel-only applications, nor knowing only that other OS, nor thinking software costs $0, nor requiring compatibility with M$ in any way, so I am optimistic that GNU/Linux will get space on retail shelves, IT departments, and mindshare. It will be interesting to see whether or not global businesses can compete against friendly local operators who have been supplying contraband IT for decades. It will be interesting to see whether or not M$ can compete in a rapidly developing and tiny market. In a country dominated by ’56 Chevies (I’ve driven one…) a lot of market-shifts will come suddenly. I’d bet smaller and cheaper will appeal to this instant market.

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Linux Mint Too Successful

Linux Mint distro had DOSed itself by releasing a too-popular edition.“Our main repository packages.linuxmint.com isn’t currently able to serve connections to everybody. This can result in errors, timeouts and delays in apt-get, and in your update manager.Please switch to a mirror while we fix this situation” I guess that’s the price of fame and hard work, you get more fame and more hard work to do. Let’s hope they can scale up. The hits on Distrowatch should have been a clue but it’s better late than never to add servers.

See The Linux Mint Blog – High traffic on the package repositories.

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How The Mighty Art Fallen (Smartphones)

You can tell Android/Linux is a giant-killer by counting the number of giants killed: two, iOS from Apple and that other OS from M$ (three, if you count Nokia as an entity).“In the smartphone OS market, Android continued to increase its market share with a rise of 22 percent (see Table 2). On the other hand, Windows lost market share.” While M$ is struggling to maintain sales of that other OS on PCs, it’s barely moved the needle on smartphones. Oh yes, they did sell 9 million units but that was in a quarter when Android/Linux sold 250 million units, and Android/Linux did it the hard way in open competition. No hot house monopoly required… Meanwhile, Apple sold 9 million more units than last year while achieving 12.7% market share. Android/Linux got 83%. So, the “one true way” and the company run by “geniuses” giving “creatives” what they want, are holding small niches in a market owned by Android/Linux through FLOSS goodness and ordinary hard work.

See Gartner Says Sales of Smartphones Grew 20 Percent in Third Quarter of 2014.

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Debian GNU/Linux, A Bargain At Any Price

“Self-support Subscription
(1 year) $349USD”
I just stumbled upon RedHat’s price-list for subscriptions/support for RHEL. It reminded me what a great bargain Debian GNU/Linux is:

  • for one low price of $0, you get an operating system you can use anywhere: on your desktop, on your server, on any number of installations, …
  • the software is pretty good. It’s tested about two years before it’s good enough to be released. If you’re only using a few widely used applications, the chances of encountering an unfixed bug or vulnerability are tiny.
  • in addition to Free Software licensing (you can run, examine, modify and distribute the software!) you get the Debian Social Contract, that means you, the user, are being respected and Debian will play “nice” with the Free Software Community. There will be no misusing of the software to achieve some corporate/marketing/ulterior goal.
  • the most important way Debian helps you control your software instead of being controlled by it is the APT (Advanced Packaging Tool). It allows you to update any or all of the software on any or all of your computers with a few clicks. No longer do you have to hunt for drivers/applications/software all over the web. Debian mirrors (hundreds all over the world) are the original “app store”, invented back in 1998 when many were still using Lose ’95, that other OS, and drivers, applications, malware, crashes etc. were nightmares.

Go on, give it a try. You know you want it.

See Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server Operating Systems.

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Highest Performance ARM Desktop Ever

That’s the claim CompuLab (the folks who gave us TrimSlice) makes about their Utilite2 device. I think they are very close to being truthful. Performance is not just about the network, the CPU, the graphics, and RAM. It’s about how it all works together. TrimSlice has a winner every way except in RAM. These days, 2gB is limiting, even for browsing the web. Modern browsers like FireFox and Chrome cache so much stuff and Chrome preloads pages that a user might click, that the browser takes all available RAM and performance drops off in 2gB. On my system, with 4gB RAM and hundreds of processes, Chrome is taking gigabytes of virtual memory and sometimes causes swapping if I have a dozen pages open.

So, with that proviso, I agree that CompuLab’s latest creation is a contender. It is a bit too high-priced when you compare it with some ChromeBooks, though. I don’t see how they can sell millions of units if ChromeBooks cost less, and that’s both ARMed and Inteled ChromeBooks. They want USD$192 for a 2gB unit with wireless. I think that’s marginal. I would consider paying that if it had 4gB RAM and no wireless. I’m wired with gigabit/s copper here. I can see wireless is popular but they should at least cater to us old-fashioned types… The other reservation I have is that CompuLab is an Israeli corporation. Until Israel recognizes Palestine properly and leaves the West Bank and Gaza alone, I am reluctant to do business with any Israeli business. That Israel has a “partner” in USA is not sufficient to make their actions legitimate in my view.

There are other contenders on the market with similar hardware:

  • Nexus 7 tablet for CDN$249 – perhaps the display and battery are not worth $53 but it’s still a good unit and it’s on Walmart’s shelves in Winnipeg so there’s no freight to tack on.
  • You can buy the HTC Desire 510 smartphone for CDN$200 here.

This is already aging technology, so I’d wait a bit for something with more RAM at a lower price. Expect others to be competing for this space shortly. Qualcomm has introduced two more powerful series of processors since the release of this one. They are already appearing in smartphones at high prices. Wait a year or two and they will be in this price-range. Perhaps CompuLab is clearing out old stock of the previous generation… Their next model should be perfect.

See Utilite2 Overview.

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The Good News Just Keeps Flowing

Despite not having enough salesmen and particular applications, GNU/Linux is thriving. It’s just too good to pass up.

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GNU/Linux Desktop Applications

SJVN briefly reviews 6 desktop applications that work for him in GNU/Linux. “Who says you need a Mac or a Windows PC? With the right applications, a Linux desktop is every bit as good as either of the two mainstream desktop operating systems.”We both love GNU/Linux but there are some differences in favourite applications. Here’s why. Continue reading

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Has The Russian Government Moved To GNU/Linux As Planned?

According to StatCounter, there has been a slow but steady shift to GNU/Linux in Russia, with a daily heartbeat. Is this usage in schools and governmental offices as planned? It could be but I would have expected a more dramatic shift than we’ve seen in countries with a more gradual approach to migration. Instead we sell a much less dramatic shift but still with a heartbeat (higher usage weekdays than on weekends) indicating work/school usage.

There is another plan which almost certainly will involve replacing Wintel PCs with GNU/Linux PCs gradually, by a million units per annum, the move to Baikal processors, a derivative of ARM. Recently, in response to sanctions over Ukraine, Russia will officially prefer home-grown “solutions” for IT. There are signs of a digital “cold” war emerging and the world’s IT is dependent on several components originating in Russia. Such pressures will surely accelerate migration to GNU/Linux in Russia. It’s a short cut to independence.

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Taking A Stick To Flouters of EU Procurement Policies

The EU has pretty strongly emphasized that government procurement should not prop up monopoly, yet the practice continues.“Each year 15 per cent of public administrations flout procurement rules by requesting specific brands and trademarks that prevent competition, shows a European study into 12.808 ICT procurement requests published over the past five years. Nearly a quarter of all awarded ICT requests got one single offer, also indicating there is a lack of competition when it comes to government ICT solutions.” The biggest offenders keep asking for M$’s products when they should be asking for competitive tenders for IT. Many requests for proposals are answered by a single supplier, evidence of monopoly, when if the requests were for operating systems or office-suites, there may be many more answers.

The EC has already decided to tighten up its policy.
“EC policy makers recognise that open source reduces their ICT costs, makes possible the modernisation of government services and will strengthen European ICT service providers, Damas said. “Our internal policy is changing, and open source use will be given promoted. When procuring software products, we will consider open source alongside proprietary alternatives, based on value for money. In defined areas, for example Information Systems development distributed externally, we will give open source priority.””

If persuasion and respect for the taxpayers’ money are not enough, it’s time the EU considered some consequences for this abuse. If it’s this bad in the EU, and a large number of requests for products were not even made public, imagine how bad it is in Canada, my country, where the government has only dipped its toe into the pool of FLOSS. It’s time the world stopped giving M$ and “partners” a free ride. The employees of governments are not supposed to be M$’s agents. Employees who flout the rules on M$’s behalf are criminals, not employees upholding their fiduciary responsibilities. If they won’t do that, they should be fired or jailed.

See Report: 15 percent of IT tenders ask for brand instead of solution.

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Using IT Shouldn’t Be Like Hand-carrying Bags Of Money Through Gang-territory But It Is Thanks To M$ And Adobe

“bugs that allow hackers to hijack PCs via Internet Explorer, Word and Excel files, and Visual Basic scripts.
Everyone is urged to install the fixes, as well as a batch of updates from Adobe: a flaw in the Flash plugin is already being exploited by hackers to take over victims’ computers via the web.”
It would be tedious if it weren’t terrifying but just about every month we learn what the malware-industry already knows, non-FREE software stinks. Just using it to do ordinary things the way they were intended to be used exposes one’s IT to all kinds of criminals. Don’t blame the victims. Blame the purveyors of this garbage, M$ and Adobe, who force the world to use their stuff only to be victimized.

Break free of this crapware. Use Debian GNU/Linux, software designed to work for you, not the criminals.

See It's nearly 2015 – and your Windows PC can still be owned by a Visual Basic script.

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Triumph Of Thin Clients

Not only have thin clients triumphed here (except fot the audio problem…) but they’ve triumphed in offices of UK“Strength of feeling and clarity on the benefits of a thin and zero client technology was very apparent with 86% of IT Managers believing ease of use and management was the primary benefit of a thin client infrastructure, followed by energy efficiency (82%) and flexibility (78%). Respondents also cited better cost structure (73%), longer life span (71%) and more secure company data (69%) as major benefits.” housing authorities. They are probably using that other OS but the concept makes a lot of practical sense with any OS. TFA quoted below mentions that only 28% of users of PCs there require video, the achilles heel of thin clients. The Little Woman can only do about 500×300 well on her thin client and some screensavers clog the network…

For everything else, there’s just no reason not to use thin clients. A few applications won’t run on thin clients but it’s usually a licensing thing rather than not being a better way to do the job. One can have a server or cluster of servers run much bigger and badder jobs than the typical PC.

See Battle for the Desktop revealed in latest Housing Association Research.

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