Are We There Yet?

Bloat in software has to go somewhere, like RAM and storage…“Main system memory in PCs has been trending downward for several years and, in 2014, grew by its smallest percentage since the 1990s. This low growth rate was partially due to changing dynamics within the computer market and the fact that new versions of Microsoft Windows operating systems do not require more system memory, as was the case in the previous two decades. By 2016, IC Insights forecasts that portable personal computing systems (i.e., tablet PCs) will surpass shipments of desktop and notebook PCs, which are often sold with 6GB or more of DRAM today.” According to IC Insights, the bloat of that other OS has not required more RAM for the first time in decades. That never-ending thirst for RAM drove the Wintel monopoly, requiring most consumers and businesses to either install more RAM or to buy a new PC with more RAM.

Inadvertently, this was a driver for adoption of GNU/Linux as one could install GNU/Linux and get better performance in the same amount of RAM, or one could keep an old PC snappy for years longer. GNU/Linux also increased use of RAM as did browsers… but the need to constantly double RAM every few years was gone for those first-adopters of GNU/Linux. Now it’s gone for everyone else. RIP Wintel.

See Market dynamics and technology hurdles reduce DRAM bit volume growth.

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Canadian Valentine

Valentine’s Day is an ancient tradition, mutated from a story of love and devotion by a martyr to a commercial period on the calendar. We all know it’s silly, but it’s fun, and we all love chocolate and roses and…

Well, in IT, I am not so sentimental but I thought these graphs could be Canada’s valentine card to the world. Canada is catching up with the world in adoption of GNU/Linux on desktop clients. I like that.

The “blip” last summer was a sign of things to come. I’m not sure what that was but it’s become an annual event, when the colleges set their students free for the summer. It was huge last summer, over 7% at the peak. Some large move to GNU/Linux was tested. Now, in a little more than a year, usage of GNU/Linux to browse StatCounter’s clients has doubled. If that’s not true love, I don’t know what is. It’s not all Chrome OS, either. GNU/Linux has salesmen in Canada.

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GNU/Linux Is Out Of This World

There are a lot of things I like about FLOSS and GNU/Linux. Most of them stem from the licences involved which basically are conveyed to the user who acquires the software“a distribution created specifically for astronomers, called Distro Astro. This distribution bundles together astronomy software to help users with tasks like running observatories or planetariums, doing professional research or outreach.
From the very first moment of booting up Distro Astro, you will notice that this distribution is aimed at astronomers. The look and feel of items, from the boot splash screen to wallpapers and screensavers, have all been given an astronomical theme. Even the default wallpaper is a slideshow of Hubble images.”
and the sky’s the limit. Literally, the user can do whatever he wants with the software including running it any way he wants, examining the software, modifying the software and distributing the software.

In fact, here’s an example that goes beyond the limit of the sky. It’s a distribution intended for astronomers, professional or amateur, giving a single source of an awful lot of capabilities, data, and software designed to facilitate what astronomers do on the observation side. I studied astronomy at university but never advanced beyond the amateur status. I do have an 8″ Celestron telescope in storage. With some effort, I’m sure I could clean it up, add a controller and use it with this distro next summer. If only I were young again and had the energy… Maybe the grand-kids…

See Linux for Astronomers

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Chromebooks By The Millions

“IDC expects more than 9 million Chromebooks to be sold this year, up from 6 million in 2014, and 2.6 million in 2013. Chromebooks are thin-client devices that access applications over the Internet or corporate network rather than from an internal hard-drive. Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo and others sell Chromebooks, in addition to Google.” There’s some debate about whether 6 or 6.5 million ChromeBooks were sold in 2014, but there’s no debate that they have arrived. While, so far, they’ve caught on with schools, who don’t really want to be in the IT-business, these are general-purpose computers which could be used by anyone who wants a thin client but doesn’t want to run the server… There are a lot of consumers in that category. Many want a PC that turns on quickly and gives them instant access to FaceBook or their e-mail service with a bigger screen and a real keyboard compared to their smartphone.
See Enterprises can now use Dell’s Kace appliance to manage Chromebooks.

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Yes, That Other OS Is Broken And Tagged, “Won’t Fix”

We’ve known for many years that other OS was a hopelessly complex pile of vulnerabilities, but now even M$ acknowledges that.“Unlike recent high-profile vulnerabilities like Heartbleed, Shellshock, Gotofail, and POODLE, this is a design problem not an implementation problem. The fix required Microsoft to re-engineer core components of the operating system and to add several new features.” Server 2003, which is due to go without support this summer won’t be fixed for a recent Patch Tuesday revelation of a vulnerability built-in by design a decade ago and impossible to fix without breaking everything…

Don’t believe it? Believe M$, “The architecture to properly support the fix provided in the update does not exist on Windows Server 2003 systems, making it infeasible to build the fix for Windows Server 2003. To do so would require re-architecting a very significant amount of the Windows Server 2003 operating system, not just the affected component. The product of such a re-architecture effort would be sufficiently incompatible with Windows Server 2003 that there would be no assurance that applications designed to run on Windows Server 2003 would continue to operate on the updated system. “

See what the discoverer says about finding the vulnerabiltiy a year ago… JASBUG Fact Sheet | Critical-Risk Security Vulnerability.

Maybe it’s time people switched to GNU/Linux, an operating system not designed by salesmen. It’s not perfect but at least the bugs are fixable.

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Three Worlds

In IT there are three worlds:

  • old, established markets like USA locked into doing things the old way,
  • old, established markets like Europe locked in but looking for a way forward, and
  • new, emerging markets like India not locked in but knowing they have choices and making them.

These three examples, based on shares of page-views by StatCounter, look quite differently in the web-stats. USA is still locked into Wintel and mostly rebels like me engage with GNU/Linux. We shouldn’t rag on USA too much, however. If you add ChromeOS to the total, they have reached ~3%. India is quite the opposite. Individuals while able to access GNU/Linux on retail shelves, still are only dipping a toe into GNU/Linux. Government, education and business are quite definitely adopting GNU/Linux for the freedom and economy of it. Europe, still different, has many consumers enjoying GNU/Linux at the same time that business and governments are adopting GNU/Linux quite rapidly. It’s all good. There’s room in the world for all. The important takeaway is that almost everywhere GNU/Linux is making progress. That happened more than a decade ago on servers and on the web. Now, it’s happening on clients too. There’s definitely an upward trend to these samples. I like that.

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Millions Of Opportunities For GNU/Linux To Take Over

Low hanging fruit is often picked first. That could happen“Gartner reckons there are eight million Windows Server 2003 OS instances in operation, and SI Avanade reckons that of those instances, a full 20 per cent – 1.6 million – will blow past the 14 July end-of-support date.” with millions of servers running that other OS. The cost of migrating thousands of server-based applications is a huge cost to organizations large and small. Even if all they have to do is move applications to a new server, it’s a big job and M$’s 2003 version is on its last legs.

Typically, organizations are forced at least to review their applications. They have to check out licensing, duplication of function, unused, not useful and other categories. Almost certainly, they will think which, of all these, can be done on GNU/Linux? Not surprisingly, many server-applications can be run on GNU/Linux either as is or with substitutions. The more upgrading can be done by distros rather than local IT, the greater will be the on-going savings due to those who make the effort to migrate stuff to GNU/Linux rather than that other OS.

I migrated an application once. It had a Java front-end on MySQL. Remember Java, the write once, run everywhere software system? Well, some idiot had embedded “C:\” all over the place. I just moved the data to a GNU/Linux system running MySQL and the job was done. Instant access to data, no need for paying M$ for a server-licence, no need to install that other OS, just a few minutes work and it was good to go. Another application was not supported on GNU/Linux clients but GNU/Linux with FireFox worked immediately. Some guys just don’t know about open standards.

No matter. Millions of servers will not be properly migrated to M$’s next release on time so they might as well migrate to GNU/Linux and take charge of their futures rather than be dependent on M$’s schedule and desire for cash. Why should your organization uproot itself because another organization wants a fresh influx of cash? Do the right thing. Go to Debian GNU/Linux and FLOSS. It will work for you, not M$.

See Why 1.6 million people will miss Microsoft's Windows Server 2003 date with fate.

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systemd Or Poettering, Name Your Poison

I’ve been using Debian for many years and rarely had any problem. Since systemd reared its ugly head and Debian “So, summary:
– the world is not perfect
– there are many places where the time can be switched, not only through NTP.
– the hwclock mechanism was perhaps a workaround, but it worked for all of us for many years
– so make sure that something works for all of us is put in place before removing it”
decided to make it the default init, all Hell has broken loose.
e.g. Bug filed in July 2014, and still release-critical today… #755722 – systemd must sync systemclock to RTC on shutdown – Debian Bug report logs.

The issue is the same as I have with the boot-times for my desktop PC, systemd makes assumptions that break Debian systems. In my case, systemd insists on every other service starting and running before attempting to start X, the thing I want up ASAP. In the case of the bug reported above, how the system time was handled over a reboot is changed with systemd. The old behaviour was that the clock was stored and retrieved so things survived reboots nicely. No more. Poettering et al have decided that time should be set by NTP or other means and systemd should not have anything to do with that although systemd is replacing the old init that did… BREAKAGE!!! Now I know why Linus swears so much! If a change to systemd breaks user’s systems, it’s a bug in systemd, not that the world needs to change to be the way Poettering wants. Putting folks who break things in charge of millions of systems is a tragedy of huge proportions. People should not have to rewrite init scripts to switch to systemd. Otherwise, systemd should get the Hell out of our way… or go away…

Fork systemd. Get it away from those fools.

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NComputing Fizzles

Besides having great products a business needs to make sound choices to succeed.“In the third quarter last year, NComputing’s market share slipped to 9 percent from 15.9 percent the same period the year before, and the number of units it sold to customers fell 45 percent, according to research firm IDC. In the first quarter last year, the company saw a 20 percent decline compared with 2013.
"I think that NComputing has reached the end of its capabilities," said Clive Longbottom, an analyst with research firm Quocirca. "Without crossing the chasm to get to the next stage, it will remain a small company — and one that just withers and dies."
Despite the slip last year, revenue remained strong — $140 million, a 56 percent increase over 2013, according to financial research firm PrivCo. However, analysts say the company was probably burning through cash at an even quicker pace to develop new products, which ultimately didn’t sell as well as company leaders promised.”
NComputing succeeded for years, but these days, as thin client technology is taking over the world and competition is heavy they have run out of steam. While unit sales plunged, their revenue increased but not as fast as their costs. They could not adapt and are seeking a buyer.

It’s not, what some visitors here have claimed, that thin clients are junk, destined for the scrap heap. IDC reports that business is maturing with room to grow. In my own experience, thin clients offer several important advantages to users: small size, noise, energy consumption, and greatly reduce the capital cost of client farms while optimizing the production of the powerful terminal servers. On top of that they reduce the number of systems for which an administrator has to worry about the file-system. The only negative is full-screen video tends to be sluggish. NComputing had technology to deal with that but so did others.

See Santa Clara's NComputing is for sale and in deep financial trouble.

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The Weekend Warriors Of Italy Lead The Charge To GNU/Linux Desktops

Good things are happening in Italy, according to StatCounter. From around 2.25% on weekends, they soared to around 3.6% in the last couple of months. If that’s not good enough. The weekday shares rose from ~2% to 3% lately. Wow! What will they do for the rest of the year? Apparently advocacy for FLOSS in government has worked and spread outside the boundaries of government. Genoa, Udine, Umbria, Turin, … have all committed to moving to FLOSS. It’s like Germany with a bunch of Munichs… ;-)

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Christmas In Europe 2014

I’ve often said the webstats available from StatCounter and others are a poor measure of what interests me, GNU/Linux usage on the desktop, but sometimes the data proves useful. e.g. Christmas in Europe 2014. Look at the weekly stats:

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that a boatload of GNU/Linux desktops were turned loose on the web at Christmas. Wikipedia quotes 423million as the number of users of the Internet in Europe. Assuming most of them use desktop one way or another, these web stats could give us an estimate of how many users of GNU/Linux there are. The change was from 1.8% to 2% more or less in the very short period of time around Christmas. 0.2% of 423million is ~800K. IDC estimated that 25million PCs sold in Q4 of 2014 in EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa). Even if all of them sold in Europe for Christmas in 2014( a serious over-estimate), GNU/Linux gifts in Europe may have had 3% or more of that volume… Whatever. GNU/Linux is obviously making a huge impact on the retail trade in Europe, much greater than the ~1% number twits used to trot out.

I think this is due to a combination of factors, all positive for GNU/Linux:

  • OEMs and retailers at last making a serious effort to sell GNU/Linux desktops,
  • the widespread knowledge that GNU/Linux works, e.g. usage in government, business and education,
  • ordinary folks wanting to give/receive what they know, and
  • what M$ feared in the 1990s when PC-prices dropped below $1K, that M$ and its partners can no longer hide the price of that other OS.

This is all good and I see no imminent downside. The more people come to know and trust GNU/Linux, the more popular it will become with the supply-chain, consumers and users of IT.

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Milestone: India Reaches 2% Share Of GNU/Linux Page-views

2015 has been a great year for GNU/Linux on the desktop in India. From around 1.85%, the share of page-views of GNU/Linux has rapidly grown to 2%. It was only that high on one day back in 2012 before this. This is on weekdays, folks. Indians are using GNU/Linux desktops in school and at work. It pays to have salesmen. Thank you, Dell, Canonical, and all the government’s IT folks. I love you. 8-) Let’s hope this trend holds up for a few months more…

See StatCounter

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