Robert Pogson

One man, closing all the windows.

Posts By / Robert Pogson

  • Jul 29 / 2014
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My old Fujitsu “aircraft carrier” has moved on. The Little Woman’s USB system died today so my old PS/2 keyboard leapt into the breach. I’m using another usb/firewire keyboard. I hate it. It’s too small. The keys are mushy. You push and push until you get a character. There’s no perceptible hysteresis. The travel is about double what I want. I could get used to it or I could buy a new keyboard, eh? ;-)

Fujitsu now thinks “flat” and “thin” is “in”. I don’t. I want a great key with precise travel and give and I want curved because my fingers are on hinges… Cherry makes some great keyboards rated for tens of millions of clicks.

see a review

Well, there’s another reason to keep living, to find the perfect keyboard.

  • Jul 28 / 2014
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Snakes sometimes strangle prey. Maybe dragons do too.

China is a huge emerging market in IT but there are huge stresses building between China and the outside world with IT being crucial.
China has been accused of cyber-warfare and has accused the USA with the same. The NSA has been flushed out as spying on the whole world so China is not alone in resenting that. Check out some news from China. I would not be surprised to see a move to FLOSS and home-grown distros of GNU/Linux in the offing:

  • “Microsoft has confirmed that officials from China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce – the body responsible for enforcing business laws – have visited some of its offices.” See BBC News – China regulators visit Microsoft offices
  • “Kingsoft Co Ltd, a Beijing-based software firm, aims to sell more than 70 percent of its office software through government purchase deals this year after reports said Microsoft’s Office suite had been abandoned by State-level organizations.” See IT vendors in search of new business code
  • “China, too, is stepping up its security protection against US surveillance. In May it announced that the Central Government Procurement Center had mandated all “desktops, laptops and tablet PCs purchased by central State organizations must be installed with OS other than Windows 8″. The Chinese media have painted Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Google, Yahoo and other IT giants as pawns of the US National Security Agency, claiming that foreign technology service providers such as Google and Apple can become cybersecurity threats to Chinese users.” See Cyber cold war likely to continue
  • “The government’s rising fears over information safety may further cut the market share for overseas software enterprises in government procurement, a major profit source for global giants including Microsoft, Adobe and Oracle, analysts said on Monday. “ See Move to domestic software pressures foreign companies
  • “Analysts argued cutting loose with China in smartphone design and manufacturing does not benefit Microsoft, as it aims to become a mobile company similar to Google Inc.
    China is the biggest phone market in the world, it is important to understand the local requirements for Microsoft’s future product development”
    See Fears mount over Microsoft job losses
  • Jul 28 / 2014
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GNU/Linux Works In India

I am tired of reading that GNU/Linux didn’t/can’t make it on the desktop for x,y, or z reasons. It’s just not true. Take India, for example. There, GNU/Linux is used at work by a lot of people and their number is increasing. There are about 30% more users on weekdays than weekends and the rate of growth is more than twice as great on weekdays.

The government of India has taken steps to broaden the use of GNU/Linux everywhere in IT so these trends should continue. While we know Dell and others are selling GNU/Linux PCs on retail shelves in India, there’s lots of room for growth. Seeing skill with GNU/Linux as advantageous for getting jobs and contracts with the government, I expect this trend will grow for quite a while as it has in other countries whose governments are proactive in promoting FLOSS.

See StatCounter’s Top 7 Desktop OS in India From 1 May to 27 July, 2014

  • Jul 26 / 2014
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Tablets Are Doing Well

Oh, the poor desktop PC. First, the notebook overtook them in units sold. Then the smartphone did the same. Now it’s the tablet’s turn“The worldwide tablet grew 11.0% year over year in the second quarter of 2014 (2Q14) with shipments reaching 49.3 million units according to preliminary data from the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker.
…Share outside the top 5 grew to an all time high as more and more vendors have made inroads in the tablet space. By now most traditional PC and phone vendors have at least one tablet model in the market, and strategies to move bundled devices and promotional offerings have slowly gained momentum.”

These are real people and organizations buying these tablets. The real PC is no longer a big box filled with air and fans, but a tiny energy-sipping small cheap computer running */Linux. OK, quite a few run iOS but iOS has certainly lost most of its early lead.

See Worldwide Tablet Market Grows 11% in Second Quarter on Shipments from a Wide Range of Vendors, According to IDC.

  • Jul 25 / 2014
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Chromebooks Accelerate

“Acer has seen booming sales of Chromebooks, including government procurement orders for educational purposes in many countries, and therefore has asked supply chains to increase production to reduce supply shortages, according to company CEO Jason Chen, adding that global Chromebook shipments in 2014 are expected to increase 70% on year.” It’s the netbook all over again. This time Wintel is cutting prices in a big way to try to keep up but the cat’s out of the bag and won’t return. The whole world, OEMs, developers, retailers and consumers know FLOSS works for them and even businesses are buying up Chromebooks. Add this to the tsunami of smartphones and global growth of FLOSS on */Linux looks to be huge.
Think 0.2% of installed base is nothing? Consider that happened in about a year. If there are 1.5billion PCs in the world that comes to 3million units in one year. Will cutting the price of Wintel stop that from doubling this year? I doubt it. While the low price of Chromebooks is appealing, the reliability and ease of use are also important. Further, Chromebooks also have room to drop in price. The most popular notebook on is the Acer 720 Chromebook which was just reduced in price to $179. Can Wintel cut its prices in time to have any effect? I doubt it. Acer and others are maxed out now. By Christmas they will be breaking out.

See Acer sees booming sales of Chromebooks, says CEO.

See also, Why Chromebook Sales Are Surging in Schools, Enterprises

  • Jul 24 / 2014
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Folly – Wintel And “Partners” Response To Competition

There’s this thing about dinosaurs. They were magnificent and perfectly suited to their environment… until the environment changed.“Intel, Microsoft and notebook brand vendors are preparing to push entry-level notebooks priced at US$199-249 in the second half, according to sources from the upstream supply chain.” Wintel is like the dinosaurs when it comes to competition from the small cheap computers. Apparently, they continue to believe it’s only the “little guys” they have to worry about. M$ is giving away its OS to put on small cheap Wintel PCs. Intel is pricing down certain low-power CPUs. There’s nothing wrong with such moves except that it ignores much of the rest of the world and the fact that we can hook a monitor, keyboard and mouse onto a smartphone and get better performance than their offering. What use is a $200 clamshell compared to something that will fit in one’s pocket and which can be used on a desk or on the go? You could pay people to use these notebooks and still have no effect on that competition.

It’s just folly to assume that this move will have any effect on the huge volume of smartphones being sold. They are the real competition. Chromebooks are not the real competition. Chromebooks won’t be affected in the least by lowering prices on Wintel. It’s WINTEL that people are escaping, not high prices. Low prices are just a fringe benefit of using FLOSS on small cheap computers. People are tired of the Wintel treadmill, re-re-reboots, malware and bloat. You can pay people to use Wintel and they will just refuse often enough to affect the bottom line of the proponents of Wintel.

Still, it’s fun to see them try. I bet those machines would work great with GNU/Linux or Android/Linux… ;-) Finally, we won’t have to build a PC from parts to escape M$’s “tax” or Intel’s high prices.

See Vendors partner with Wintel to release US$199-249 notebooks for 2H14.

  • Jul 24 / 2014
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Things That Make Me Go “Hmmm…” – Weather

I was checking the weather. I need rain to fall on my yard or I am going to have to drag out those hoses again…“Likelihood of Precipitation (LOP) as described in the public forecast as a chance of measurable precipitation for a period of time.
Nil: 0%
Low: 40% or below
Medium: 60% or 70%
High: Above 70%”
I was surprised to find that Environment Canada doesn’t think an estimate of a probability could be between 40 and 60%… Hmmm…

My yard has a “medium” chance of getting wet tonight. Clearly, that’s better than 40% or even 50%. I wonder what term they use when the computer spits out 50%. Blank? Unknown? Impossible? Imaginary? Just wondering… As someone who values symmetry and loving the beauty of a normal distribution of natural phenomenae, I think symmetry might help, like making the ranges equal in size, e.g.

Category Range
low p < ⅓
medium ⅓ ≤ p ≤ ⅔
high p > ⅔

That would naturally eliminate a “forbidden zone” of probability, too. Am I just being picky? Should I require more precision for my tax-dollars?

See Winnipeg, MB – 24 Hour Forecast – Environment Canada.

  • Jul 24 / 2014
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Choosing Debian GNU/Linux

Here’s a guy who like me chose Debian GNU/Linux. His tastes are a little different but he gets what he needs because Debian is reliable and diverse.“all the hardware and related software updating works insanely well, even better than at first, which wasn’t bad at all anyway with a minimal amount of research. Easier and far less time (and bandwidth) consuming than Windows with its constant reboot, check for more updates, reboot again, ad infinitum thing, not to mention having to update all the non-native software separately in a piecemeal manner. With Debian (or any Linux really) I can leave the machine running for months, and do, with no issues at all, updating all throughout that uptime. Maybe I’ll reboot for a kernel update just to see if the video driver thing’s been mildly futzed, but as I said, even that’s not been happening for months and months now. It’s rock solid stable and reliable.” It appears that Ubuntu GNU/Linux is more popular but that’s a result of Canonical actually having salesmen and major OEMs helping distribute their product. If Debian had such salesmen, it would not be a clone of Ubuntu GNU/Linux but quite a different fish.

For me, APT, the Advanced Packaging Tool, their “release when ready” approach, and their huge repository are the key features that make Debian GNU/Linux so attractive. I can get almost any PC to do my bidding with it. I too, usually start with a minimal installation, not even one box checked from the installer programme. I then add what I want in a computer system: X, XFCE4, my favourite applications and my favourite servers and databases. That turns any PC with a bit of RAM and CPU into a miniature version of the Internet with powerful nodes and great web applications. I use the browser for most things except polishing stuff for presentations. Debian GNU/Linux works for me.

See the other guy’s view at Two Years With Debian GNU/Linux – An Average Guy's Verdict.

  • Jul 23 / 2014
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Go, Toulouse! City Saves €1.000.000 Via LibreOffice And That’s Not All They Do With FLOSS

It’s rather obvious to me but others still deny:

  1. that organizations of any size can use LibreOffice instead of M$’s offering, and
  2. that organizations of any size can save a bundle of money doing so.

Munich and Toulouse and the government of the UK and … are all strong counter-examples “Software licenses for productivity suites cost Toulouse 1.8 million euro every three years. Migration cost us about 800,000 euro, due partly to some developments. One million euro has actually been saved in the first three years. It is a compelling proof in the actual context of local public finance”to this mystical belief that one needs to spend far more than the cost of IT to get any production from IT. FLOSS works. It’s a GUI. Anyone can use it and the cost of a licence is $0. Is that so hard to figure out? The cost of maintaining and updating the software is less with FLOSS too, thanks to the wonderful FLOSS licences that permit admins to copy/modify/distribute to their hearts’ content.
“50 per cent of the operating systems in Toulouse are based on Linux. These systems support the majority of our intranet, extranet and internet sites, plus some web-based business applications, all based on a LAMP architecture – Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP” Toulouse also uses a lot of FLOSS on the servers for similar benefits. As they modernize their fleet of computers both desktop and server they get all those great benefits everytime they install a machine or an OS or an application. FLOSS is the gift that keeps on giving. I will never forget the first few times I installed FLOSS and GNU/Linux. Stuff just worked so much better and nothing prevented me from providing local services on the network: not budgets, and not licences. I was free to get the best benefit from the expenditure on hardware rather than constantly being prevented from doing what I wanted. Large organizations have the same freedom I experienced although they call it “productivity” and “the bottom line”. It’s all good.

See Toulouse saves 1 million euro with LibreOffice | Joinup.

  • Jul 23 / 2014
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Linux in Education, Teaching, technology

Freeing Education Via GNU/Linux

When I was teaching in small remote schools in Canada’s north, I had the same sorts of problems schools in the south have.“I found that our technology was not up to scratch to meet the needs of our students. We only had a few desktop PCs located in each elementary and middle school classroom, and only a few in our high school computer labs. We definitely needed more machines so students would get more time to work on class projects and do research.” There weren’t enough PCs and the cost of maintenance was prohibitive. Along came GNU/Linux and a lot of problems were solved. We could spend money on hardware (productivity booster) instead of software licences (dead weight). Malware became a distant memory as installed operating systems just kept humming for years. Package management over the network saved tons of work, too.

I went with thin client technology to maximize the benefit of new hardware. Today, schools have the choice of letting Google spend money on hardware so a new kind of thin client, the Chromebook, works for them. It’s all good. They both use GNU/Linux. More money spent on IT goes for the education of students and less on making the rich richer.

See Bridgeport Public Schools Choose Chromebooks.

  • Jul 22 / 2014
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The Monopoly Sinks Slowly Into The West

“Windows OEM non-Pro revenue decreased 9%”
“non-Pro” is the one consumers buy, eh? That means while sales of */Linux are rising everywhere, the empire is collapsing at a great rate, despite economic revival and thriving emerging economies. M$ just isn’t selling what people want, freedom. The “Pro” folks, however, are in a sad state, being led around by the nose by M$, forced forever to keep buying new PCs and software if they want M$’s permission to run their IT…

I recommend they all switch to Debian GNU/Linux. I did years ago and I’m glad I did.

See M$’s latest quarterly report.

UPDATE Another nail in the coffin…U.K. Cabinet Office Adopts ODF as Exclusive Standard for Sharable Documents

See also The Announcement from the Cabinet Office: Open document formats selected to meet user needs

That is a big deal. Once the lock-in of M$’s web-browser and office suite are broken, there’s little to keep many from switching entirely to FLOSS and GNU/Linux. Great news.

UPDATE More on the UK adoption of ODF at The Document Foundation congratulates the UK government for their revolutionary and historical choice of open document standards

  • Jul 22 / 2014
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France, Spain And Greece Loosen Their Shackles

You have to admire the bold moves many European governments have made towards using FLOSS to do their IT. More organizations should follow their examples.

France A parliamentary report recommends securing the Internet from attacks by various players and using more FLOSS.
Valencia, Spain Valencia has saved $millions over the years and it’s not about to stop using FLOSS.
Greece Universities have organized a summer course for civil servants and others who need to learn more about FLOSS and how to use it.

The French report pulls no punches:(translation from French)
On FLOSS, among many other advantages, It helps reduce the dependence, strategic and economic, of France vis-a-vis foreign suppliers: “In these lean times we would find many advantages to using open programs like LibreOffice, OpenOffice or FireFox instead of paying a fortune to Microsoft” emphasized Mr. Francesco Ragazzi

My favourite recommendation?
“promote a progressive migration of their IT infrastructure to FLOSS. This can happen, in particular, by a preference for open source software in tendering procedures for public procurement and the imposition of open standards.”

I couldn’t have written it any better than that.

See also, France parliamentary committee: ‘encourage European open source software market’