Robert Pogson

One man, closing all the windows.

Monthly Archives / June 2008

  • Jun 29 / 2008
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Please Use Another Browser!

I was surfing for news about what’s happening in the world. I am a computer geek, but occasionally I like to broaden my horizons. At CNN.com, I came upon an interesting headline and clicked on the link.

“The web browser you are using to view this video is not supported. Please use one of the supported browsers:”

I am trying to wrap my head around this.

  • The World Wide Web allows CNN and me to reach hundreds of millions of people.
  • They chose this medium because of its low cost of entry and universality.
  • They do not want to communicate with 20% of users of the web.

How bizarre. If I were running a business and wanted to reach 1000 million people at no more cost than reaching 800 million, what would I do? That’s a no-brainer. Use standards that everyone can use so that you reach them all. The issue was video. Everyone can use mpg and such. What is the problem???

Sigh. The BBC, CNN and others are shooting themselves in the foot if they want IE/M$-only access. By next year, 20% of clients on the web could be using something other than IE on M$. 20% are using FireFox as I am.

Oh well, dinosaurs have the right to be dinosaurs, but in this case they are choosing to be dinosaurs.

  • Jun 27 / 2008
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Another kink in the web stats.

According to the company, more than 20 million people have downloaded the new AVG 8, and this has caused a huge up-tick in traffic on sites across the web, including The Register. Because the scanner attempts to disguise itself as a real live human click, webmasters who rely on log files for their traffic numbers may be unaware their stats are skewed. And others complain that LinkScanner has added extra dollars to their bandwidth bill. see http://www.theregister.co.uk

A good idea with unintended consequences. AVG is screwing up web stats like NetApplications and W3Counter.

So the picture for GNU/Linux is even brighter than we estimate, because IE is over-represented. ;-)

  • Jun 26 / 2008
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Now, for some fun, a look back at 2007

I was following links when I came across this article, “Dell and Desktop Linux: Can it Work?“, written before Dell came out with Ubuntu. It shows how wrong our conclusions can be based on fuzzy or incomplete information.

Why it Won’t Work

Operating System Two words for the 67,000+ that voted on IdeaStorm for pre-installed Ubuntu, Fedora, or OpenSUSE and the 23,000+ that wanted a no-OS installation option: dream on.

The margins in the PC business are traditionally very tight. As an illustration, analysts have inferred from HP’s last quarterly financials that the company had captured still more of Dell’s marketshare. What led them to draw that conclusion? HP’s earnings went down. Read that again: HP’s share of the PC market increased but their earnings went down because of low PC margins.

With that reality of the market, you can’t expect Dell to further reduce their margins on PC’s by eliminating all of the software they traditionally include and make money on. And besides, Dell isn’t losing marketshare to some no-name whitebox vendor, they’re losing it to HP who offer the dazzling array of Windows Vista Home Basic, Windows Vista Home Premium, Windows Vista Business as OS options.

Support No support infrastructure for desktop Linux is in place. Dell probably isn’t interested in another line of revenue being eliminated.

Hardware Hardware support could be an issue and might limit the number of models that Dell could offer Linux on. Do all of Dell’s consumer products work with Linux? Does Dell want to process a ton of printer returns because of compatibility issues?

Verdict: Best to leave desktop Linux alone.

OK, where did the author go wrong?

  • He did not see the rise of the tiny/low-end notebooks/desktops/thin-client-like/low-powered thingies.
  • He was thinking of Dell’s old customers, not new ones who care little for maintenance contracts or getting the latest hair-drying hardware choked with RAM and big drives.
  • He did not realize Vista would flop because it loaded even the latest machines with unnecessary tasks and so would not be adopted by business, compounding problems with the death/murder/suicide of XP.
  • The sluggishness of US IT markets was not taken into consideration.

Moore’s Law has made a lot of the real-estate on a motherboard wasted space. Who uses 5 PCI slots? Who needs four slots for RAM and 12 drives? The power user or server. The ordinary Joe can run just fine all he needs to do in 512 MB, a flashdrive and a P3-ish CPU. When OEMs realized that the customer needed such products, they pulled out the stops and delivered:

  • Intel and AMD and VIA made chips that run well fanless
  • motherboards with a minimum of real-estate had been out for a while but mostly for thin clients/mobile systems. The low-end works everywhere.

  • ASUS wanted more share of notebooks which were hot in 2007 and made a bold move with the eee PC. Women, children, geeks, ultra-mobile folks loved them instantly. The low price of these things made the price of that other OS stick out.
  • ASUS had to redouble production and stressed the supply chain. How long was that situation going to be a bottleneck?
  • Millions of non-geeks have now seen GNU/Linux in action and like the performance vs price. It works
  • Thin clients which work really well with GNU/Linux and use similar hardware continue to grow rapidly. The new low-end things can serve as portable thin clients.

There are over 6000 million people on the planet. TFA may have been right on for most of 1000 million. The others can now or will soon be able to afford to buy IT at these prices. Dell and the other big OEMs would have been foolish to assume the emerging markets wanted or could afford quad-core 2 gB systems. The author could be forgiven, though. Lots of people who are very vocal on the web live in the world of which he wrote. I, on the other hand, have been writing about shoe-string IT budgets and thin clients in schools for years. In my reality, that other OS has no place and Dell was not serving our needs very well. Last year, I built a system of 153 seats. Dell would have wanted me to order systems five at a time… using a credit card when it would have been much simpler to order what I needed all at once using a purchase order. Also, Dell has given lip-service to GNU/Linux by not advertising it, and hiding it on the website. Also, Dell seems afraid of the term “thin client”. Lo, many in the IT world put down thin clients when in the emerging markets they are nearly perfect tools for a low-maintenance, high-reliability, low-cost system.

Google, with “thin client” site:dell.com finds 16500 hits. Dell’s own search finds 936 including 113 “products” like thin and light notebooks running Vista… Dell’s own search finds only a few products actually called thin clients. A few others are “network computers”. None are below $300 and many bear Wyse name brand. In the real world, millions of thin clients in the sub-$200 range are being sold each year. No one in their right mind would think to run that other OS on them. The licence fee and performance would both be negative hits, just as they are for the new tiny machines.

It is a great time to be involved in IT. A lot of long-held beliefs are being shown to be FUD going down the drain. That old world of IT is growing at a few % per annum while the new world grows at 15-50% depending on the product and location. M$ can no longer sell as it did for a decade as a default hidden on retail shelves because it is just too expensive on the low-end stuff. People who use GNU/Linux a few years on the low-end stuff will know it works when they are ready to buy high-end stuff and the game will be over. Dell and the others cannot ignore that if any of them supplies the new markets because the old way of doing things will cost market share, huge market share. Competition, not the courts have finally fixed M$.

  • Jun 24 / 2008
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Four Years Ago …

Four years ago Charlie Demerjean wrote this at The Inquirer.

In light of the won’t do and can’t do, Microsoft sits there, and watches its market share begin to erode. That’s happening slowly at first, but the snowball is rolling. A few people are starting to look up the hill and notice this big thing barreling down at them, and some are bright enough to step out of the way.

The big industry change is happening, and we are at the inflection point. Watch closely people, and carefully read each and every press release. If you can see the big picture, this is one shift that won’t be a surprise in hindsight.

He was right about everything but did not account for the vapourware of Vista/Longhorn. That froze the market for years, but now the glacier is melting quickly.

see
The IT industry is shifting away from Microsoft
by Charlie Demerjean, December 28 2003.

Since then, the share price of M$ has been mostly flat with a minor pop for Vista in the year of Vista. Check out a ten year chart at NASDAQ. The lack of adoption by business is preventing any pop. The arrival of choice for consumers will be the last straw. That is coming this year.

  • Jun 23 / 2008
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Wintel Cracks

I have been accused of being a zealot for GNU/Linux, hater of M$, and ignorant of Vista. I will own up to the first two, on rational bases. My exposure to Vista has been brief and horrible. I can debate Vista. However, what do the statements by Intel that they will not deploy Vista say? Intel is one of the most tech-savvy firms on the planet. If after a year and a half, they agree with my observations that Vista is a dog and unfit to run on their systems, I can claim the justification that folks who know Vista much better than I come to the same conclusion.

More significantly, this is an assertion by one half of Wintel that things are broken at M$. Where will this lead? Will Intel cling to XP until M$ up-chucks something else? Signs are that it will be Vista II, containing the same useless features that are an advantage only to M$ no matter what the feature is called by the sales department. Will M$ finally get the message that they have to behave and to earn money the old-fashioned way, earning it? Will Intel go to GNU/Linux on the next round of upgrades? MacOS? Roll their own? I doubt they will stampede any particular direction but they will diversify, weakening the dependence on M$ which is a sinking ship. No large organization can risk being locked-in to a supplier which produces a horror like Vista and then pressures customers to migrate to that horror.

About the time of the next release of that other OS, we shall know the truth. Will the monopoly be truly gone or just weakened? I predict the monopoly will fail again to fix Vista because it is not fixable by design. That is the ultimate lock-in, M$ is locked-in too. They cannot free themselves without freeing their customers. If they free the customers, 25 to 50% will migrate to something else, perhaps GNU/Linux because of the proprietary hardware of Apple. If they try to release Vista II, Moore’s Law may get them out of trouble on performance but drives are still the bottleneck. If you need a ton of RAM just to hold files, you might as well use GNU/Linux on a terminal server for a lot less cash. If they try again to lock-in customers to Vista, a lot more will wake up. The low-end has crumbled. Expect the middle to crumble in a couple of years. The high-end may go its own way just because performance is big there.  M$ cannot  impose its machinations on the world and deliver performance.  XP and Vista have shown that. Vista II  will make even the sheeple aware.

see The Inquirer

  • Jun 15 / 2008
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Packing in Shamattawa

It is my last week in Shamattawa. While there have been many disappointments, I have enjoyed seeing the little people acquire new computer skills. I remember the first day I taught the Grade 1s to click a mouse. They were overly enthusiastic. Now they are pretty skilled at running browsers, editors, games and dual-booting.

I arrived with 25 pieces of freight and will depart with about 10, having returned seasonal stuff at Christmas time and eaten a lot. I am making a lot of soup this week to use up my store of sauteed and frozen mushrooms. Combined with catsup and my remaining spices that will make pasta sauces. After my freight departs, I may have to live on low-cal pizza… ;-).

The lab is pretty well the way it will be in the fall. I have installed FireFox rc3/Ulteo/Opera 9.5/Cygwin on all the XP machines that survive. I have installed keys for passwordless login, so the teacher can turn off all the clients whether they run Debian or that other OS from a script. We still have no spare parts or spare servers. We do have some power bars and a 500 gB backup drive that will be useful. I will clean accounts of the graduates. The IT manual will be about 60 pages of all the stuff needed to run everything, the IT plan, and a summary of what has been done. On top of that there will be an inventory. The air-conditioner is still sitting on a table, for want of a hacksaw… If my replacement reads this, he/she should bring some tools.

  • Jun 15 / 2008
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Brazil is on Fire

A press release from IDC about Brazil states:

Ṣo Paulo, Brazil, June 13, 2008 РThe Brazilian IT market continues with strong expansion. IDC predicts that the year 2008 will close with total spending on hardware, software, and services in Brazil at US$23 billion, nearly equal to the US$24 billion expected in the Spanish market. The report, entitled Brazil IT Spending by State 2008, demonstrates that among the emerging BRIC markets, Brazil will only be behind China (US$64 billion) in terms of total IT spending this year.

see Investment in Technology in Brazil Equals That of Spain, According to New IDC Study

Some of that will be spent on GNU/Linux which is hot in Brazil… and China. At a time when the US economy is sluggish this means many global corporations from the US will find more of their business off-shore. If they give customers what they want, it may well be systems running GNU/Linux. Good news.

  • Jun 13 / 2008
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Thin Client Usage Still Growing Rapidly

IDC reported recently that usage of thin clients in APEJ (Asia-Pacific, Excluding Japan) is having continued strong growth:

“The APEJ thin client market is expected to grow strongly over the next five years, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21.4%. This growth will be driven primarily by India and the PRC, with good support from Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand. Encouraged by the increase in operational efficiency that organizations have reaped from server virtualization, companies are now open to the idea of desktop virtualization, and thin clients can play an ideal complementary role as the access terminal across various verticals. The government/education, healthcare, and financial services segments especially, which traditionally have been strong proponents of thin clients, will continue to see expansion over the forecast period.”

see IDC Press Release June 11

It seems most of the market has to do with advances in virtualization. GNU/Linux is very effective with thin clients because the same server can handle many more clients, making the investment in hardware pay big dividends. Pity that so many hobble a terminal server with that other OS. Also the base of users is expanding beyond government and education who were heavy users, having many similar users in systems to financial services.

  • Jun 13 / 2008
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No FUD Here

Linux is the best kernel there is, and the OSes built off of it are the best around. Period.

Get the Facts Straight/

Great article expounding many successful applications of GNU/Linux. Very direct and full of links.

I have been doing some work with that other OS lately, trying to leave the lab in better shape than I found it. Give me GNU/Linux any day. XP is constantly fighting with me for control of my desktop: popups after logging in (how rude!), ignoring clicks (not a multi-user OS, I guess), and slow. Why does what M$ wants to do have priority over what I want to do? I get way better response from a terminal server running 20 sessions of GNU/Linux.

  • Jun 11 / 2008
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Download FireFox 3.0 Soon

Download Day 2008

This could be:

  • a big DDOS on their servers ;-),
  • a means to count FireFox 3 installations, and
  • more good news for FLOSS

Enjoy. I have played with RC1 and it was pretty slick.

You can play with RC3 from this site, or play with the current stable release.

SJVN is claiming June 17 is the day. That would be good for me. I can download onto many computers that day because classes shut down.

UPDATE – They got over 8 million downloads. Wow!. I did two, one for XP and one for GNU/Linux. I even received a

Certificate from Mozilla.

  • Jun 11 / 2008
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US Global Leadership in IT

The US, in business, clings to M$ like a drowning man clinging to a wet cardboard box. M$ is holding them back. When there was nothing but Apple and UNIX on proprietary hardware, the IBM PC and that other OS were helpful to US businesses in getting ahead of the rest of the world but no longer. The FLOSS alternatives are much more flexible, rapid in development and tough. The longer the US clings to M$ the sooner they will lose major advantages of IT: efficiency.

The web stats from w3counter.com show it. No other part of the planet supports M$ more strongly than the US. Support/adoption of FLOSS is growing at rates from 30-50% per annum in the rest of the world but the US is dropping support for M$ by only a few percent per annum. The world will be wired on FLOSS in a few years and the US will still be dominated by M$. Look at the costs:

  • US pays hundreds of dollars per seat on licences to M$
  • US pays hundreds of dollars per seat on malware
  • US discards equipment long before it fails

The cost of IT in the USA is about double what it is in countries where FLOSS is used widely. In any business where IT is a major cost, the USA will have a large disadvantage compared to the rest of the world:

  • financial services
  • R&D
  • education
  • communication
  • multimedia
  • government

The leadership of the US in any of these fields could be gone in five years if things continue as today. Why then, do we read this in CIO Insight?

“many CIOs are taking a wait-and-see approach. Just 6 percent of U.S. CIOs want to take the lead in adopting new technologies, whereas 19 percent of CIOs in China seek such leadership, according to a recent survey of 500 global CIOs conducted by Accenture. Conversely, 54 percent of American CIOs said they’re comfortable being a follower in adopting new technologies, while just 27 percent of Chinese CIOs were content to follow.”

see http://www.cioinsight.com/c/a/Trends/Stormy-Conditions/

Leaders who forget why their companies acquired leadership in their fields are bound to lose that leadership. Brazil, Russia, India, and China are full of ambitious, hard-working people willing to go with what works well. Japan, Indonesia, Germany, France are more cautious but still more accepting of new technology.

  • Jun 10 / 2008
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Recent News from Munich

Because most of the communication about the migration to GNU/Linux in Munich is in German, it is hard to keep track of progress in English. I found a brief summary here.

The Munich IT department deploys LiMux, a customised version of the Debian GNU/Linux distribution. It offers the users the KDE desktop environment, OpenOffice, Thunderbird, Firefox and GIMP. Now a thousand work stations run LiMux. Some 6000 other PCs use OpenOffice. Of all the work stations in the Munich city council’s office, more than 90 percent uses Firefox and Thunderbird.

They are working on replacing 600 applications with web/platform-independent applications. It is the world’s slowest migration but it is still moving ahead. ;-)

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