FLOSS And European Governments

“The French Parliament has last week approved a first draft law for a Digital Republic, which encourages the use of free software by the country’s public administrations. The Assembly (France’s lower house) rejected calls by proponents to make free software mandatory. However, the draft Digital Law does consider source code of software developed by or for public administrations to be public information, which should be made available on request.”
See France Assembly encourages use of free software
While the idea of making FLOSS mandatory went down the drain in France, it’s huge progress that the idea was even conceived and considered. Likely the only reason that requirement was rejected was the fear that certain applications would not be available as FLOSS. It’s time the tail quit wagging the dog.

Governments, if you quit buying their stuff, the “Independent Software Vendors” will make what you want. Don’t enable their monopolistic practices. Encourage competition in the market by using FLOSS. Make vendors compete on merits not marketing machinations.

Over all of Europe, the concept of FLOSS has reached the frontal lobes. The European Parliament is also recommending FLOSS.

Big ideas take some time to be absorbed. At least FLOSS has a foot in the door instead of being locked out as M$ and “partners” designed so long ago.

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How Operating Systems May Affect The US Presidential Election 2016

I had a chuckle yesterday. Rand Paul, one of the GOP candidates stated that the polls were “off” because many young people use smartphones…

I’ve been thinking of this for hours and it occurred to me that Paul is correct. The Donald has been the “front runner” in the polls lately but his supporters tend to be less-educated and older… Oh-oh! Rand Paul, Bernie Sanders and other though have a better connection with younger/more educated folks, you know, the ones with smartphones glued to their hips. The pollsters are likely dialling landlines. The youngsters’ smartphone-numbers may not be in their databases. Ordinarily, I’d say this was a small effect except that The Donald just bowed out of the next debate in Iowa, probably thinking he has a solid lead and has nothing to lose… Instead, a lot of those keen university students with smartphones may well tune in to make their final decision, and Trump won’t even be there. What a difference an operating system can make. What a difference ignoring technology can make.

I noticed too that Trump pays a lot of attention to polls but is utterly ignorant of technology. He was saying that Bloomberg is a “phony” rich guy because his wealth depends on a single technology and could evaporate with a sudden change of technology. Clearly Trump doesn’t get it, that the world has moved on from landlines, and it matters. Just like desktop operating systems, if one is making $millions per annum from using some technology, there isn’t much pressure to change the technology even if it costs $thousands per annum. Bloomberg gets that. Trump doesn’t. Youngsters and Trump’s competitors get that smartphones are as vital as air these days. Trump doesn’t.

UPDATE The results are inmuddled. Despite having tested and trained in the use of M$’s new software for reporting to HQ the results in real time, the parties mumbled that 10% of caucuses had “insufficient staff” and had to rely on consensus by the candidates to get the final results. 16h later there is still ~1% uncertainty, not enough to matter to the order of finish, Cruz first, Trump second, Rubio third, nearly an even split in delegates… So much for Trump’s invincibility/winner-status. The Democrats are little better. Despite far fewer candidates, the margin of Clinton over Sanders is less than the uncertainty in polling results… With such tiny margins in the results, everything must have mattered despite what pundits/fans/apologists proclaimed.

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One Place I Taught

“Four people have been killed and several injured in shootings in the western Canadian province of Saskatchewan, police say.”
See Canada shootings: Four killed in Saskatchewan – BBC News
I taught in many places in northern Canada, good, bad and ugly. La Loche was a mix. Great people, lovely land but with some of the worst social problems of any place I taught. Part of the problem was a huge licquor store right in the town. That’s unusual in the North as licquor is poison in most communities but in La Loche, folks did not need to smuggle in their stuff.

The results were imported into the schools. Many students were not ready to learn and violence was felt in daily “lock-downs”. I was so stressed I could not finish my contract there but left at Christmas time.

One IT-related matter. In La Loche, as elsewhere, I introduced GNU/Linux to students in the lab and they enjoyed a rich computing environment with a wide choice of software. ie. For one assignment, I asked students to do typical word-processing with five different word-processors. The “take-away”? They all work pretty much the same way. At least students learned that M$’s way was not the only way to do IT. On the other hand, I was constantly frustrated by the IT-department. They got the printing configuration wrong in the school and despite many “trouble-tickets” never got it right until I had already resigned. Ever five minutes a teacher or student would interrupt my class with an inability to print. It turned out that the “trouble-tickets” were being edited into indecipherability by two layers of bureaucracy. It was only by face-to-face talks with the IT-people that it was fixed, in spite of rules that protocol was to be followed. Further, my suggestions to ramp up the number of PCs in the school via Computers for Schools were rebuffed. Instead we had a modern school with a 1990s student:PC ratio.

I did meet some wonderful students there though, but most were not from La Loche but bussed in from surrounding communities. Students with goals and reasons to learn were few and far between. Survival was more important. Sad. So much human potential wasted.

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Want Freedom To Choose Your Hardware? Choose GNU/Linux.

“Going forward, as new silicon generations are introduced, they will require the latest Windows platform at that time for support. This enables us to focus on deep integration between Windows and the silicon, while maintaining maximum reliability and compatibility with previous generations of platform and silicon. For example, Windows 10 will be the only supported Windows platform on Intel’s upcoming “Kaby Lake” silicon, Qualcomm’s upcoming “8996” silicon, and AMD’s upcoming “Bristol Ridge” silicon.”
See Windows 10 Embracing Silicon Innovation
So much for “fragmentation” and other “problems” of */Linux and FLOSS. One of the richest corporations on the planet is giving up keeping its software conversant with new hardware. Meanwhile, anyone moving to new hardware can just build a new kernel (or, for Debian, use make deb-pkg and dpkg -i ) and carry on. Life is sweet with software freedom. I recommend Debian GNU/Linux so you don’t have to change your entire software stack just because you buy new PCs or servers.

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We Are There

Oh my! Look what ARMed processors/SoCs they’re putting into smartphones for 2016:

  • 8 to 10 cores,
  • a variety of clocks from 1gHz or so to 2.5gHz,
  • a variety of cores for different loads: A53, A57, and A72,
  • 14-20nm details, and
  • FinFETs

Every player has something wonderful in the pipe but MediaTek has a super-computer shipping today. i.e. It’s already out there being benchmarked and put into smartphones.

I’d thought the current technology (2015) was definitely good enough to replace Beast. It’s possible I will now have to wait a few months for this kind of stuff to come out on server-boards to replace Beast or this could drive down the prices for “old” systems that will do the job. The smartphone chips aren’t optimal for desktops unless you need your desktop to be a phone and can get by with <4gB RAM but they are very close. The server-boards are definitely useful to me and mine.

Are we there yet? Yes. This kind of technology makes the desk-loading PC of decades past almost obsolete. There are plenty of use-cases that don’t need huge local storage, displays, keyboard/mouse and processing power and the smartphone of a few years ago can do the jobs we do. The current wave of new products definitely can do whatever desktop machines did and will make nifty servers too, with a bit of a different configuration, more networking, RAM and storage. 2016 is the year that this hardware makes everything (almost) possible.

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Into The Unknown – Sunday, 2016-01-10

Share of page-views for many countries by all operating systems, mobile or not. Unknown versus Android/Linux
See Top Operating Systems Per Country, 10 Jan 2016
For a long time, I’ve puzzled over what “Unknown” means in StatCounter’s reports. I guessed that it was something to do with Android/Linux because “Unknown” popped up about the same time that Android/Linux disappeared from the “desktop” category. It’s still puzzling but the graph to the right shows some correlation between the share of “Unknown” versus Android/Linux country by country. Against every other OS, the correlation is negative which is what you’d expect in a zero-sum game of operating systems. That is, the higher the share of any other OS, you’d expect that “Unknown” would get a lower share. So, apparently there are Android/Linux devices out there that are unkown to StatCounter, so it classes them as desktops and we get what we get. It’s still not clear whether they are phones, tablets or indeed desktops. I still don’t know of any devices that would have these kinds of numbers that hide the fact of Linux and or Android underneath.
e.g. in

Country Android/Linux Unknown
India 49.20% 12.68%
Tanzania 68.53% 13.73%
Madagascar 27.75% 36.60%
Pakistan 46.09% 7.64%
You’d think “Unknown” would actually be known by someone somewhere with such popularity but I can’t find it. How is it more popular than Android/Linux in some places and StatCounter doesn’t know about it?
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Wintel Is Sick

“Worldwide PC shipments totaled 71.9 million units in the fourth quarter of 2015 (4Q15), a year-on-year decline of -10.6%, according to the International Data Corporation”
See PC Market Finishes 2015 As Expected, Hopefully Setting the Stage for a More Stable Future
Wintel hasn’t seen shipments of PCs like this since 2008 and that was before GNU/Linux and OS/X took a bite. At its height shipments of PCs were ~90million per quarter and M$ had a huge chunk. They still have a lot of PCs but, with thin clients and other operating systems, the share is way down.

There isn’t any end in sight. As ARM and particularly ARM on mobile devices grows Wintel is being squeezed out of personal IT. Long ago, I and many others cut out That Other OS. Now many millions, billions even, are cutting out Intel. Both heads of the Wintel monopoly are diversifying as fast as they can and cutting prices or moving “profit centers” to avoid being trapped under the weight of their own handiwork. The world just doesn’t need either any longer but it does take a few years to switch over so much installed base of IT. It’s a process, not an event, just like sickness. It remains to be seen whether this is a mortal wounding or just an injury both can survive. I expect that both will survive but both will be cut down to size and only get a normal share of the pie instead of the whole thing.

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Got Control Of Your PC?

“According to a report by Woody Leonhard at InfoWorld, the newest version of the KB3035583 update includes a background process which scans the system’s Windows Registry twice a day to see if the values for the four aforementioned registry inputs were manually edited to disable the upgrade prompt. If they were, the process will alter the values, silently re-download the Windows 10 installation files (about 6 GB in total), and prompt the user to upgrade.”
See ‘Get Windows 10’ Turns Itself On and Nags Win 7 and 8.1 Users Twice a Day
If I decide that my computer should behave this way instead of that, it happens my way. I run Debian GNU/Linux. It’s not out to get me. Debian has a “social contract” that commits the organization to work for me and not against me. Besides, GNU/Linux is Free Software so I always have the right to run, examine, modify and distribute the software so even if Debian gets out of line, I still remain in control of my PC instead of being controlled by it.

Those slaves who accept that M$ should run their PC deserve better IT. They should give GNU/Linux a try. It worked for me since the day I first tried it. It will work for you.

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ARMed Explosion – 2016 Edition

We’ve seen ARMed processors coming on strongly in consumer markets and dipping a toe in servers but 2016 seems to be the year that everyone can have what they want using an ARMed processor. Personally, I want a new motherboard for my Beast so I can change from 95W+ with several fans running to fanlessness in ~20W or so apart from hard drives. Last year, few motherboards sporting ARMed processors were available in my price-range, say $200 maximum. This year there are 96Boards/AMD/ARM have developed the “HuskyBoard” which has just about everything I want in an ARMed motherboard:

  • *TX form factor, so I can just screw it in
  • SDRAM sockets so I can have enough RAM
  • 8 core ARM A57 CPU
  • USB
  • SATA
  • A PCI slot so I can add video or networking or storage if necessary

This thing has not been priced yet, but apparently it’s even suitable for desktop users, finally… We are almost there. Later this year there should be competitive models possibly with other/more features or different CPUs. There’s one with 4gB soldered RAM for $600… I think that’s too expensive. We’ll wait and see what else emerges in 2016.

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Linux 4.4 Could Be Released Tomorrow

“Expect final 4.4 next weekend, unless something very unexpected happens.
See Linux-Kernel Archive: Linux 4.4-rc8
I’m looking forward to the new kernel. There’s nothing seriously wrong with the version I’m running but there are always a few improvements that could help and from time to time there are new features. My present kernel, 4.1.x has long term support from Greg Kroah-Hartman and he’s also adopting 4.4.x. That one might outlive Beast as I plan to switch to ARM this year. There are lots of ARMed tweaks in the latest kernel and I may well upgrade to Debian GNU/Linux 9/Stretch in 2016 so I have plenty of positive changes on the horizon.

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Road To Damascus

“Dread started to creep up my spine as I sat there, eyes focused on the Blue Screen of Death. At the time, there were a few spare PC parts around the house but nothing to build a workable desktop from. Luckily, I had a USB stick floating around with a Linux on it, and this USB stick stored a special “Live” version of that operating system. That meant I could plug the USB stick in and run the operating system without needing to install anything on computer..”
See My Open Source Story: Adam Sims
My conversion was a lot less dramatic than Adam Sims. Rather than a single crisis, my revelation was a period of time with frequent failures to deliver a useful desktop. That Other OS was freezing hourly in my classroom. GNU/Linux ran trouble-free for months. I instantly saw the light, however. Since then I’ve grown in knowledge and capability with GNU/Linux just like Sims. The route is not as important as the destination.

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Walking The Dog

I don’t have a dog. I don’t like dogs and they usually don’t like me. I’m a walker. On my walks I’m often accosted by dogs being territorial, despite the municipal by-law stating dogs must not demonstrate aggression on or off their property. Several times I’ve been attacked right on the roadway…

Anyway, yesterday I was walking to check the mailbox when I approached a young lady walking her dog. As usual, I switched to the other side of the road to give them a wide berth. As we met, she spoke to me and asked me to help socialize her dog so I walked across the road to within a couple of metres. The dog was excited but did not snarl, bark or show aggression. Eventually the dog approached, sniffed my shoe and retreated. I thanked the lady for taking care of her dog and carried on. I wish all dog-owners were as considerate. Last year, I changed my route simply because one owner went berserk every time his dog came after me. I wonder where his dog learned that behaviour? That owner didn’t even want to have his aggressive dog on a leash. I had the Animal Control Officer educate him but the dog continued to bark and charge towards the property-line.

I received three more items made in China, my post-Christmas gifts to myself. One item was a clamp-on ammeter. Except for difficulty opening and interpreting the diagram for insertion of batteries it was perfect. The battery-compartment was non-polar as was the cover except for a diagram impressed in the cover. It turns out the cells are to be inserted into the cover of the battery compartment before covering. RTFM didn’t help. It was a hands-on learning experience. Another item was a wad-cutting tool so I can make wads for shotshells. The supplier was one of the few selling a 17mm hollow punch. Everyone else, even locally, wanted to sell me a set of every size known to man except the one I wanted. The third item was a bunch of high-voltage power-transistors. Years ago when I wanted these they were over $10 apiece. My price was less than $1, delivered. Audio power-amps, battery-chargers and an inverter are on the way… Thank you, China.

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