Robert Pogson

One man, closing all the windows.

Monthly Archives / April 2010

  • Apr 30 / 2010
  • 4

And it Came to Pass

A while back, I declared 2010 the Year of ARM and predicted by the end of 2010 we would see ARM competing mainstream on desktops and servers. Well, I might have been a few months off, but ARM will make a move within a year. It’s not that I had inside knowledge or can tell the future. It’s just the logical thing to do. If you have a chip that uses less power to get the job done use it where that matters: portables and servers. On portables we want to preserve the battery. On servers, we want to avoid melt-down.

Let’s see… When did I predict the demise of M$? Well, that will come to pass to, but it will take a while longer. I can wait.

  • Apr 30 / 2010
  • 9

Killing Bug #1

Bug #1 affects all GNU/Linux distributions, “M$ has a majority market share.”. The boys and girls at Debian GNU/Linux and Ubuntu are working hard to fix this bug but they cannot do it alone. M$ has enlisted most of the world’s OEMs, retailers, and IT people to work slavishly maintaining a monopoly on the desktop. The GNU/Linux folk need our help to fight for Free Software.

Things we can do that cost little but will have some effect:

  1. Keeping asking retailers for GNU/Linux. Tell them you do not like that other OS and you want a PC that is reliable, does not slow down, does not need re-re-reboots etc. Keep pestering them. They have been saying no one wants GNU/Linux for so long they may believe that is true. Convince them otherwise.
  2. Tell you retailer you will shop elsewhere for what you want because they do not have it. Do not hesitate to use a voice loud enough that a few other customers may hear there is an option.
  3. Have a supply of GNU/Linux installation CDs available on a moment’s notice. Do not miss an opportunity to supply one to any acquaintance.
  4. Offer to install GNU/Linux for folks whose PC has slowed down or been gummed up with malware. Seeing is believing. If they are going to shell out money to fix the problem, it costs them little to try GNU/Linux. For some folks this window of opportunity comes annually.
  5. Ask retailers for products running ARM, not just tiny gadgets but PCs, thin clients and netbooks. Supply them links to suppliers of the products you want.
  6. Have a GNU/Linux PC running at your next social gathering. Someone will be curious and try it.
  7. Support your distro to make it better: testing, debugging, writing documentation, creating graphics.
  8. Talk, blog, boast, shout, show as many people as you can about GNU/Linux. Most already know something about GNU/Linux. Make it something higher on their scale of conciousness, something accessible.

It does no good to point out the negatives about the situation. We must be proactive and show people how their lives will be better using GNU/Linux. Today I showed a man and his niece with a non-booting PC what could be done with GNU/Linux. They are all for it if it saves them the cost of shipping their box by air yet again to the fix-it shop. The machine has been handled roughly too many times that way by its appearance. They have a nice machine but that other OS refuses to run. Chalk up another small victory for GNU/Linux.

  • Apr 30 / 2010
  • 5


It looks as if ASUStek is coming back into the fold of FLOSS with a new product this summer, a tablet-format PC. If it runs Android, is it ARM-based? Amen! That may be the best way for an OEM to escape Wintel. The boss seems to think the pad devices will take 10-20% of the market of netbooks. That is a good vision. Netbooks should also take a percentage of notebooks. I can see within a few years GNU/Linux having 20% share on the low-end devices, including thin clients. After that there is no stopping GNU/Linux on the high end. Too many people will know about it.

  • Apr 30 / 2010
  • 0

“Sources believe”

Digitimes has an article about the stiff competition for notebooks of all kinds globally. There is some debate apparently between IDC and Gartner about who is #1, Acer or HP. It appears that “sources” believe the position will depend on a return to the old days of notebooks, pre-netbook…

“However, the sources believe that as the notebook market will return to focus on traditional notebooks in the second half of 2010, the rankings may reshuffle again.”

I always wonder about unnamed sources. It is very easy for Wintel or Wintel’s partners to put out false news. Alarm bells go off in my head when the sources suggest the good old days will return soon. You cannot put the genie of the netbook back in the bottle. Acer has the inside track distributing such gadgets to ISPs, banks, etc. The developing markets can absorb billions of these things running ARM and GNU/Linux, just not x86 and that other OS…

In physics, this is described as a “population inversion”. A higher energy level of atoms tends to drop to a lower energy level as conditions permit. That is the principle used by many lasers. One atom decaying triggers the others. In IT we have a market that “believes” one needs to sell high-priced devices to make money even as netbook makers are making lots of money, so suppliers are still producing tons of notebooks in the >$500 range while consumers want/need <$300 devices. These sources may be trying to preserve the myth. When Acer forges ahead in the next quarter riding the wave of netbooks, the truth will be clear to all. Then the floodgates of netbooks running ARM and GNU/Linux, to increase margins, will open making my prediction that this is the Year of ARM come true.

Netbooks need lower prices to sell because everyone knows it costs less to produce something that is smaller and has less material. Manufacturers must choose ARM and GNU/Linux because that reduces their costs of production enough to make selling these devices profitable. Unless manufacturers conspire to block ARM+GNU/Linux on netbooks these will take off this year. Conspiracy is not likely because Acer can continue doing what it is doing and climb over HP in the next quarter. Acer will not skip that opportunity for the sake of Wintel. Others will then have to compete by adopting ARM+GNU/Linux. If Acer does not push ARM because Atom is working for them, others will. Enjoy the show.

  • Apr 30 / 2010
  • 4

Success Delayed is Failure

Many are hailing “7″ as a great success. I say not so.

  • “7″ is a bugfix of Vista which was already late
  • XP is still dominant in business

Unless M$ can convince business to adopt “7″ it can hardly be called a success. Recent figures show adoption of “7″ is still slowing and mostly on new PCs. The old XP machines can last several more years. Market acceptance several years later than possible is not success. Of course, GNU/Linux has succeeded in every way but massive adoption, but we do not have a monopoly with OEMs, retailers, and business. M$’s share continues to slide even according to Network Applications.

From M$’s viewpoint, “7″ is a success in that the money keeps flowing in but a failure in that the flow of money is only about 70% of what it could be if they had 100% share of PC production. Putting XP under an old licence on a new machine brings them no joy. That is what business is doing.

The last quarterly report looked good only if you ignore the inclusion of deferred licences from other quarters for “7″. The next quarterly report will be more honest. I look forward to the end of April.

  • Apr 30 / 2010
  • 0
Linux in Education, technology


I just saw an ad on that I have to share. It should read, “Get 1/3 less for your money!”. Rather, M$ states that “1=10″ meaning their restrictive EULA will allow you to connect 10 machines to your PC as a terminal server running their stuff. With GNU/Linux, most modern PCs can run 30 thin clients so you get three times as much computing power for your money.

A GNU/Linux terminal server, sharing using simple X-windows needs:

  • 100 MB per client above the 256MB needed for the OS
  • 100 MHz of CPU frequency per client
  • 1 gigabit/s NIC helps

A typical PC running GNU/Linux uses 1% CPU load per client while pointing, clicking and gawking so 30 clients working hard might reach 30% CPU load. Shared memory in a UNIX OS means only one copy of each application need be in RAM at once. This allows you to use your RAM for users’ data rather than software. 2gB RAM can run the OS and 15 or more users. 4 gB can easily run 30 users simultaneously. At Easterville where I set up a school we used about 3gB per terminal server and rarely reached 50% CPU utilization on dual core CPUs. Imagine how many user we could run on a modern 64 bit CPU with much more RAM!

So M$ is advertising that it is second rate. Pity. They could give customers so much more if they wanted to but they are stuck in their old ways. We should use GNU/Linux to get the best bang for the dollar.

  • Apr 29 / 2010
  • 0

Look What Happens When There is Competition!

  • smartphones – Android growing fast, that other OS shrinking
  • web servers – Apache with GNU/Linux riding high
  • high performance computing – GNU/Linux wins easily – only 1% use that other OS
  • LAN servers – who knows? Too closely tied to that other OS on clients
  • desktop clients – GNU/Linux has 1-10% depending on whom you ask. We know there is not enough competition here thanks to illegal activity by M$ and lax police action.

Spread the word. That other OS cannot compete. It’s too busy working for M$.

  • Apr 29 / 2010
  • 0

Ten Seconds

Are we there yet? That is what we used to ask our parents in the middle of a long ride in the car… Now Phoronix has checked the boot-time of Ubuntu 10.04. No it is not 10s yet on a netbook with SSD but at 18s they are getting close. I cannot wait until they compare “7″ and Ubuntu 10.04. Chuckle… That will be interesting.

The impressive improvement in boot speed results from dependency based booting with some parallel processing. This is new this year in GNU/Linux so there should still be room for improvement. These numbers surely make our XP machines look sick. They are harnessed to 40 gB hard drives but the new SSDs peaked at over 100 MB/s. Will they have to do RAID 0 SSDs to meet the 10s goal? Stay tuned.

The booting process is now very intelligently done. In the beginning we had a tightly-arranged sequential list of steps and everything had to waaaiiiittt for the current step. Occasionally, I have seen 30s timeouts in there…. We live in interesting times. The final straw may be laying out the storage blocks for optimal booting on hard drives. SSDs may benefit a bit from that too as they do have rows. At least one Live CD did that for improved booting.

  • Apr 29 / 2010
  • 5

Batoche + 125 Years

We are approaching the 125th anniversary of the Battle of Batoche wherein the government of Canada crushed the Northwest Rebellion of 1885.

My great grandfather was one of the soldiers raised in Ontario and brought west by the almost-complete Canadian National Railway to fight people who just wanted to be left alone to farm, hunt and fish. These were the Metis descended from French explorers and traders and Cree all over the prairie provinces. Louis Riel had led the first rebellion in 1870 at Winnipeg when the Canadian government had refused to respect the rights of the metis to own land. Riel was the father of confederation for Manitoba but he had to flee to Montana to escape trial when the rebellion collapsed. He was recalled 15 years later when the expansion of the railroad and settlement again threatened Metis land. The Canadian government would not respect these people so they fought back, winning the first few encounters. They could not stop an army supplied with machine guns and artillery, however and they were vastly out-numbered.

The battle lasted just a few days but was one of the darkest periods of Canadian history. The government of our “peace-loving” country rained deadly fire on men, women and children in the village of Batoche. A hundred years later, the same government made the argument that no Canadian had a right to own firearms because they were not necessary for self-defence. Also, a hundred years later, Riel has monuments in Winnipeg, Batoche is a National Historic Site and the Metis are valued members of Canadian society.

  • Apr 28 / 2010
  • 0

GNU/Linux on Fire

Jane Silber, the boss at Canonical, says that Ubuntu has about 10 million installations and is growing at about 10% per month. That would make Ubuntu the 1% that NetApplications sees. Since there are several distros with similar popularity to Ubuntu, we can conclude that the share of PCs running GNU/Linux is a lot closer to 10% than it is to 1%. Indeed, I installed 135 seats of Ubuntu in a school which just count as a few installations because they are mostly thin clients.

Ubuntu gets more than 2300 hits per day on DistroWatch but Fedora, Mint, OpenSUSE, Mandrive, Debian and PCLinux all get over 1000 each accounting for three times as many hits as Ubuntu. That’s 10000 hits per day for the bunch of them. Multiply by 30 days and I can see how you can get 10% growth per month.

Then there’s that gets thousands of new members per month. Their logs show a high proportion of GNU/Linux users visiting the site:

Operating Systems
Windows 52.73%
Linux 40.94%
Macintosh 5.43%

What’s with the high proportion of that other OS? Are a lot of folks migrating and installing their own? Great! The diversity and number of ads on the site shows the advertisers like the traffic, too. There are 4 million posts in the forums and 430000 registered members.

I do not know with precision how many installations or users with GNU/Linux exist but it is huge and growing fast. It has been growing fast for years and will continue as far as I can tell. The conditions that caused people to switch are still around: malware, slowing down, re-re-reboots, price and freedom.

  • Apr 28 / 2010
  • 0

Circular Arguments

As SCOG is circling the drain their arguments are becoming circular:

Without copyright ownership SCO cannot assert rights or bring suit to protect that technology against misuse by third parties, and without the ability to protect the technology, SCO cannot maintain its UNIX business or exercise the full ownership rights to exploit, develop, and defend the core UNIX source code. While SCO could physically continue to sell its UnixWare and OpenServer products without copyright ownership, SCO could not fully maintain its UnixWare business without the ability to enforce the copyrights in the core UNIX technology.

Judge, we need the copyrights in order to sue people for violating the copyrights, so give them to us so we can sue people … HAHAHAHA! That will fly when pigs do!

  • Apr 28 / 2010
  • 0

Fed Up With PCs Not Working?

You are not alone. Consumers are stressed. IT people are stressed.

There is a simple solution that works, use more reliable equipment and software. If you use GNU/Linux you will be able to afford better equipment or build in redundancy. I switched to GNU/Linux ten years ago because my IT was failing hourly. After switching and using the same hardware, I had no failure in six months. That is the reason why people are willing to pay extra for Apple. They should switch to GNU/Linux instead. They will get the reliability of a UNIX-like OS, FLOSS, and suppliers taking pride in their work. The people who produce software that takes minutes to let you log in/out, forces re-re-reboots, invites strangers into your PC etc. obviously have no pride in their work. Instead, all they care about is milking you for money.

From an IT perspective my greatest stress ever was last year when I had to maintain a system against the frequent releases of zero-day malware. I had to personally persuade many machines to update. Some never would. I finally gave up worrying about it when x% of the machines were updated several days after new updates were released. Then I had to decide when to update/re-re-reboot the servers and in what order. That was always exciting as I never knew when one would not re-re-reboot.

This year is much more fun. The next XP machine that steps out of line gets paved with GNU/Linux. ;-)