Robert Pogson

One man, closing all the windows.

Monthly Archives / May 2010

  • May 31 / 2010
  • 25
Linux in Education, technology

The Big Question

Rob Pregoraro at the Washington Post asks the question, “How can an operating system with those virtues, the open-source Linux, remain confined to a tiny minority of desktop and laptop computers at home? “. He’s missed the mark. GNU/Linux is not confined to a tiny minority of computers at home. It may be in the USA but globally, GNU/Linux is on about 10% of PCs. We know that because Ballmer told us and that was a while ago. 30% of netbooks run GNU/Linux and almost all ARMed devices do not run that other OS.You can buy “no OS” and GNU/Linux PCs from most OEMs and some retail outfits.

The issues he implies are holding back GNU/Linux have nothing to do with many homes where DVDs are not watched. Who ever thought of using a PC to watch DVDs rather than using a DVD player and a television? I have XP machines in this building that have DVD players but do not play DVD movies. Ask the teachers who bought CDs for them. DVD sales fell 9% in 2009. They are not pivotal in the acquisition of a PC used for games, word-processing, browsing, or e-mailing. YouTube distributed more video than Hollywood. YouTube does not distribute DVDs.

No, video is not the holdup. Go into most big box retail stores and you are unlikely to see even one PC with GNU/Linux, not because people will not buy them or use them, but because a seller makes more money selling a more expensive PC, period. It has nothing to do with performance or user-friendliness. It has everything to do with exclusive dealing by M$, OEMs and retailers. Here, I have people walk up to me and ask me to install GNU/Linux on their computers because they have seen how well it works. The world has seen GNU/Linux run rings around that other OS on netbooks and on the web. The world wants GNU/Linux and will get it when they demand it. That is happening now.

Today, I paved over (with Debian GNU/Linux) six brand new PCs sold by OEMs with that other OS because they work much better with GNU/Linux. That is all the reason anyone needs to use GNU/Linux. The rest of the features of GNU/Linux are a bonus. Of a shipment of 12 PCs probably 10 will run GNU/Linux because that is what the end-users asked. A couple are leaving and they do not care what OS is on their PC. Only two asked for that other OS for their own reasons, one of which was for DVDs to play video. The fact that we can create and edit our own video with these PCs running GNU/Linux just as some of the big studios do is all the proof I need to insist video is not a problem for GNU/Linux. If suppliers of DVDs want to ignore GNU/Linux as a market, they may do so at their own peril. GNU/Linux is growing in popularity much faster than that other OS. The new WebM file format and included encoding pretty well guarantee that GNU/Linux will not have this problem much longer. Distributors of video who want to distribute to those using GNU/Linux would be well advised to use WebM.

In this school we have a number of HP CP1215 printers. They are not wonderful but we have a bunch. A teacher in one room is running that other OS. It took two tries to download and install a driver from HP, about an hour of time was wasted. XP could not find it on its own. In GNU/Linux, I plugged in the printer, clicked “find printer” on CUPS (http://localhost:631) and installed the thing in seconds. I have encountered many printers that that other OS offered no help in installing. Same thing with our wireless devices. The installation on XP is the pits. The device is instantly recognized in GNU/Linux. It took two hours to set up a new XP machine to run on our LAN and use our printers for the lady who wanted DVDs to play. Another teacher out of the blue asked me whether an educational CD he had would work with GNU/Linux. I installed Wine and it did. Now we have a GNU/Linux box that can also run malware…

  • May 31 / 2010
  • 0

Sins of Fathers

65 years after the close of WW2 and 93 years after the “Balfour Declaration“, Israel and its neighbours are still squabbling. This time, Israel boarded a ship delivering aid to Gaza and 10 people were killed. 500 were aboard, apparently, unlike routine aid-missions. The group organizing the mission apparently sought confrontation and Israel gave them what they wanted. According to the Law of the Sea, Israel was probably justified in boarding the vessel in order to regulate immigration but that is questionable since Gaza is blockaded but not nominally Israeli territory.

It is high time the Middle East sorted out its problems. They have to live with each other indefinitely and although they do not have to like each other they should end this stupid waste of life, energy and resources over territory and power. If they cannot settle matters by negotiation, peace should be imposed. Neither Israel nor the other countries of the Middle East are powerful enough to defy intervention. Aid, bulldozers and enough military power to make use of force futile should be dispatched ASAP. Humanity needs to police itself sometimes in order that the whole world can share peace and prosperity.

  • May 31 / 2010
  • 0
Linux in Education, Teaching, technology

Cheating at KHangman

I remember playing “Hangman” on the chalkboard of a one-room school-house in the 1950s. It was great sport on rainy/cold/winter days when outdoor recess was difficult. One constructs a hangman’s scaffold with every miss at a guess of a letter in an unknown word. Being “hung” builds vocabulary as one is motivated not to be hung again. It worked for me. Even with my poor memory, I can spell most words I use even without the spell-checker.

The game, KHangman, comes with many distros of GNU/Linux, and offers most of the features of the chalkboard plus you have a clue as to the category of the word and its length. Still, for young children it is challenging. As losing is no fun at all and exploring the dictionary is educational I decided to create an accessory for cheating at KHangman. Here is the code:

echo cheat, copyright 2010 Robert Pogson. You are free to examine, modify, use and distribute this code under GNU GPL v3 or later
echo ln -s anywordlist wordlist in your HOME directory permits changing the wordlist used.
echo Supply a pattern of known and unknown characters marked by a “.”, e.g. .i.n could be lion
echo Type q to quit, PgUp,PgDn,arrows,spacebar to scroll in the list of words
while [ "q" != $REPLY ];do grep ^$REPLY\$ $HOME/wordlist|less;echo Supply another pattern or “q” to exit cheat;read;done

I put this in /usr/local/bin/cheat so it will be in users’ PATH and I create a link on the XFCE4 panel using their “devilish” emoticon to be opened in terminal. This programme basically uses grep to match the pattern of known and unknown letters in the word against a wordlist. I used the Canadian large wordlist which I place a link in each user’s HOME directory (ln -s /usr/share/dict/canadian-english-large /home/someuser/wordlist). That way, users can replace the link for their own purposes. For example, teachers of early years may use a Dolch wordlist or one they make up to meet their educational objectives.

Here’s what it looks like in action. I showed two windows to show the before and after shots of cheat.

The sneaky thing about this programme is that it encourages them to read the dictionary without it being a tedious task, just part of a game in which they are motivated by the base instinct to survive.

  • May 30 / 2010
  • 0

Popularity of GNU/Linux Sites

I was surprised to find my blog was in the top million sites. I wondered how other sites mostly about GNU/Linux fared:

  • – 1203 Wow!
  • – 374497
  • – 2889 Yes!
  • – 19990 Way to Go!
  • – 1860 WhooHoo!
  • – 679 Wow!
  • – 1004 Yay!
  • – unknown
  • – 756 Second Place?
  • – 1865 Wow!
  • – 1363 Wow!
  • – 559204
  • – 580528

Thank you,, for these interesting facts to ponder. It does look as though GNU/Linux interests a lot of people.

For comparison, some sites unrelated to GNU/Linux by content do quite well, too:

  • – 12
  • – 41
  • – 15
  • – 21
  • – 1

I would say the prospects for GNU/Linux are great. There is lots of interest and plenty of room to move up in the world.

Update: Alexa gives us a rating of 249929 in Great Britain but 4 million + overall… Maybe these numbers are a matter of opinion. Oops! I forgot. There are tons of Pogsons in UK. That’s where my ancestors left ca 1860. That popularity may be due to Pogsons checking their name in search engines…

  • May 29 / 2010
  • 0

Tax Man and BSA Join Forces

No one likes tax men because they take our money but they are just doing their jobs. The tax man in Czechoslovakia is doing a bit more. Perhaps to increase tax revenue he is supporting the idea that computers bought without software should not give a tax deduction. How cute. He signed a release by the BSA equating using free software as “piracy”. He’s gone too far.

Watch that your tax man does not go for the same idea. Businesses invest in IT to provide/improve productivity. They should choose the best performance/price and if that is FLOSS on generic hardware it is none of the tax man’s business. Someone should give the Czech government a good kick. Hey! They are having an election! Now is a good time to demand FLOSS be respected by government. Oops! Too late. Social Democrats are winning but have a minority. There could be a right-wing coalition. It could be bad news for FLOSS in Czechoslovakia.

  • May 29 / 2010
  • 2

Linux Hatchet Job

Phoronix must have had a slow news day:

The Huge Disaster Within The Linux 2.6.35 Kernel

The comments are about a kernel in development before a release-candidate and in rapid development, as usual for Linux. For one thing, they do not actually specify what kernel they are excited about. At they talk about “This is a test schedule that runs daily after the test system(s) automatically install the latest mainline Linux kernel.“. The current mainline is 2.6.34.

The Linux folks are doing major surgery on BTRFS, the pet filesystem of Phoronix testing.

The testing Phoronix does may have some use but it is not a reflection on Linux in general just the filesystems and hardware that Phoronix uses that are quite narrow. The code in question is just a tiny percentage of Linux.

Pathetic twits…

“We are also more than happy to work with the Linux kernel community or any other software project in establishing more robust test procedures and greater test coverage. We will work with other vendors too, via our commercial entity.

Stay tuned to see how this bewildering performance problem is resolved and whether such a severe performance regression makes it again into the mainline code-base.”

Yeah. I bet. Who would want to work with such twits? They have never heard of debugging or alpha code or whatever. Linus and his crew know there are bugs. That’s why it is not a release-candidate yet.

  • May 29 / 2010
  • 0

Chickens Come Home to Roost

At the end of the day, chickens like to gather in the shelter of the coop where they feel safe. Novell is having its chickens come home to roost. A couple of years ago they had a pop in business by making a deal with M$. M$ paid them up front and distributed certificates for Suse. Now those relationships are coming up for renewal and Novell is forced to make steep discounts. Customers paying full price might be interested to note that those who obtained the certificates from M$ are getting an 85% discount.

This means Novell is having a bit of a downturn although their other GNU/Linux business is up 46%. Other good news of course is that they have kicked SCO’s butt.

This also indicates that those who tried GNU/Linux are happy enough to keep using it and they do not value the need for support from Novell highly and more continue to ask for GNU/Linux. GNU/Linux is simple, modular and reliable.

  • May 29 / 2010
  • 8


Some comments have derided GNU/Linux showing in the server markets. Here are some facts for 1Q10:

  • Revenue for all x86 servers = $6.8 billion (33.6% year on year growth)
  • Revenue for all servers = $10.4 billion (4.7% year on year growth)
  • Revenue for servers with that other OS = $5.1 billion (28.3% year on year growth)
  • Units shipped for that other OS increased 28.3% year over year
  • Units shipped for x86 = 1.8 million
  • Revenue for servers with GNU/Linux = $1.7 billion (20.4% year on year growth)

AH HA! I can hear the fans of that other OS exclaiming that M$ is eating GNU/Linux for lunch. Not so. x86 servers shipped 1.8 million units in 1Q10. $3.6 billion shipped with neither GNU/Linux or that other OS (largely non x86). That’s about a million other servers. How many do you think had GNU/Linux installed in the shop? It’s not likely that any of them had that other OS since it only runs on x86 (or in a virtual machine).

I think the IDC numbers are suspect because all x86 = GNU/Linux + that other OS. You can buy barebones servers.

  • May 29 / 2010
  • 0

More FUD about GNU/Linux Popularity

There are more sources indicating a trivial share of GNU/Linux in the browsing market. Check this out:

“92% of web sites serve a predominantly United States market (this is an area we would looking to add more diversity in the upcoming months)
32% of web sites we classify as e-commerce sites
29% of web sites we classify as corporate sites
20% of web sites we classify as content delivery (blogs, news sites, etc.)
19% of web sites we classify as “other””

Well, at least they are honest and do not try to represent that their statistics represent the universe of browsing environments. That is how they can with a straight face tell us MacOS has an 11% share and GNU/Linux less than 1%. Come to think of it, how do they get the breakdown of GNU/Linux OS from server logs? My Iceweasel announces Debian but my Google-Chrome browser does not and GNU/Linux is all I use.

These are just more trash statistics telling the world or at least anyone who wants to listen that GNU/Linux is not relevant. Real statistics with pedigree showed that GNU/Linux surpassed MacOS share back in 2003 and has not looked back.

Would IDC produce a 44-page study of GNU/Linux share and charge $4500 for it if the share were 0.5%? I doubt it.

  • May 29 / 2010
  • 0

Technical Computing

M$ has announced a technical computing initiative to help scientists etc. develop software for cloud/cluster computing. They are a little late to the party... The thought that the maker of the world’s worst OS with the most vulnerabilities and the most restrictive EULA has anything to give the world with respect to high performance computing is ludicrous. M$ has ignored everything computer scientists have been telling them for 25 years. One would be very foolish to do anything in computing their way which involves lock-in and bloat both anathema to high performance computing.

89% of the top 500 high performance clusters run GNU/Linux and 1% run that other OS. That will not change any time soon. High performance computing is not about maintaining M$ in the manner to which it has become accustomed.

Scientist: Here we are today in the final moments of our solution to the problem of cancer… Oh, no, not phoning home, NOW! 535000 nodes phoning M$ because the EULA says they can… AAAGGGGHHHH!

IT Guy: I told you so. With gigabit/s connectivity, it will still take 1 hour 35 minutes. Go have a coffee, and a nap.

Later …

Scientist: Well, M$ did donate the software provided we gave them a hearty endorsement. I guess a few minor inconveniences are worth it.

IT Guy: Now the nodes are insisting on a critical update and re-re-reboot. With ripple-on effects this could take all day.

Scientist: How long would it take to convert to GNU/Linux?

IT Guy: 20 minutes to convert the nodes and 45 days to re-write the programme. The stuff M$ gave you does not work on anything but their OS.

Scientist: Sob! I should have listened to you…

This episode of As the Stomach Turns was brought to you buy the letter “e”, the logo for the world’s worst browser/OS integration as determined by the Internation Brotherhood of Malware Artists, and the number 67, the average number of re-re-reboots a node running that other OS needs every year just to stay warm.

  • May 28 / 2010
  • 2


There is a decent article at eWeek: “10 Things Microsoft Can Do To Redefine Itself

Mostly, I agree with them:

  • Security
  • Innovate
  • Search
  • Games and Video
  • Go Social Networking
  • Ignore Apple
  • Hardware, Hardware, Hardware
  • Out with Ballmer
  • More eye candy

Yes, a company with the money and manpower of M$ could do all of these things and be flying in about three years but it will not happen. They are too busy being spiteful and trying to deny success to others. Most of the things on that list are about sharing and M$ does not do that well. Perhaps changes at the top could change the whole spirit of the company to make this all possible but there are forces set up to make change impossible. Even Gates still has a seat at the table. He made his billions but still will not let it go. It will probably take ten years and a few heart-attacks to bring this kind of change. Ballmer says he is all in favour of some of these but there is no movement at all.

M$ has done a few things well to diversify: server software and games but they are nowhere to be seen in search and social networking. Hotmail and MSN are sad things. There are millions who believe the web starts with the blue “e” and those but they often find out they are being throttled. A company who likes WGdisA and UAC and “wait, please wait” just cannot do social. They have all the resources to do everything well but because they cannot let go of monopoly and take a chance on competing on price and performance they are doomed to the tar pits.

Security is a joke with that other OS. You cannot entangle infinite features linking everything to everything, including backwards-compatibility of defects and have security. They have too many customers comfortable with bloat and insecurity to be able to change without a major effort, apologies, re-education and a complete rewrite.

No. M$ is not about to change. They may be motivated in a few years when the market share has sagged to 50% but not before. They can keep paying people to support their monopoly until about that point. Then it will be futile. In the meantime the world continues to advance and leave them behind.

  • May 28 / 2010
  • 0

ARMed Armies Attack

The onslaught of ARMed devices will continue indefinitely. Check out the smartphone/tablet Dell has announced. We still do not know the price of it but all they have to do to get some action is be in the neighborhood of the iPad which has fewer features: no Flash and no phone.

OEMs have been busy for six months or so gearing up for the battle in the market. Consumers will have lots of choice matching up price/performance/features. OEMs are jockying for position to have the right feature-set, price and performance while avoiding mistakes. No one seems to want to be first but everyone wants to join the charge. Dell is using Android on ARM/Snapdragon. It looks good to me. Success for Dell depends on price and advertising. They really need to improve their site but I expect this gizmo will be on the front page for a while.