Robert Pogson

One man, closing all the windows.

Posts Tagged / GNU/Linux

  • Aug 29 / 2014
  • 3
technology

Geek? Want a Notebook Like RMS? Lemote Yeeloong Could Be The Answer

I guess I am a geek because I knew RMS had a notebook like this so that he could use only Free Software on his PC.“Lemote Yeeloong 8089B 8.9" opensource laptop Loongson CPU inside mini notebook computer linux pc for geek coder” It’s kind of cute and definitely small enough to carry around while travelling. I think it’s a fine example of “small cheap computers”, something minimal but functional. With 1gB of RAM, this could do a lot of browsing or word-processing. With only 160gB of storage, it’s not likely to be the centre of your universe without some auxiliary storage. The processor(Loongson 2F(800-900MHz)) is whimpy so you would have to be patient. For a geek this could be a desirable buy simply for the novelty and purity of software.

See Lemote Yeeloong 8089B 8.9" opensource laptop Loongson CPU inside mini notebook computer linux pc for geek coder.

  • Aug 28 / 2014
  • 12
technology

Resistance to the Linux Desktop Is Futile – Get Over It

Bruce Byfield responded to news that Linus still wants the desktop by trotting out some of the usual ideas and one I know to be false:“Free-licensed desktops have been an alternative now for almost a decade, but many average computer users have no idea that they exist.”

You see, I was out in the world for more than a decade teaching in many different communities all over Canada. At first it was rare to meet anyone who had ever heard of GNU/Linux. After a few years, about 2004, if I recall correctly, I began to visit random communities where one or more people actually had used GNU/Linux. These were communities from about 1K to 4K people in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Northwest Territories and Nunavut, so one person in 1K is tiny but definitely far beyond, “many average computer users have no idea that they exist”. I can promise you that all of the high school and many of the younger students in those communities did learn about it so the proportion abruptly changed to about 1 in 10.

For the past three weeks I have been attending meetings of about 7 people. These are randomly selected people (Diabetes). It turns out that 4 of those 7 (including me) knew you could use GNU/Linux on the desktop and two (including me) had worked in places where GNU/Linux was used on the desktop. That could have been a fluke but it mirrors what I was seeing out there in the world. When I went to a new community, I often asked students if anyone knew of GNU/Linux. At first no one did out of 100-300 students that I taught. A few years later there were always a few students who had used GNU/Linux in some school or other or knew someone who used GNU/Linux. Now we have Chromebooks and Ubuntu and other GNU/Linux PCs selling all over the world.

There’s just no way to put Linus and RMS’ genie back in the bottle. We have a billion people using Android/Linux for pity’s sake and they are not just Apple-like rich folks, but folks from every continent and every walk of life. I would bet that half of all humanity at least knows there are alternatives to Apple and M$’s offerings. That’s a Hell of a lot more users than “many”. There may be “many” that still don’t know but they are certainly not holding back GNU/Linux. The OEMs and retailers who still promote that other OS even though consumers largely reject it are the problem. They had better get on board the FLOSS band-wagon or they will be replaced by other OEMs and retailers as the goto suppliers of humanity.

See Resistance to the Linux Desktop.

  • Aug 28 / 2014
  • 3
technology

Popularity (or lack of it) Of That Other OS on Servers

According to Netcraft, it’s been many years since M$’s OS was so unpopular on servers, like early on in the Age of the Web…

You have to wonder how a company with lots of salesmen, lock-in with OEMs, retailers/channels, $billions in off-shore banks and elsewhere, many thousands of programmers and advertising could be so unpopular. Yes, it’s the same company that was once 95% of OEM desktops and was prosecuted for illegal activity all over the globe. All other things being equal (?) the difference is choice. Someone with the technical savvy to put up a website or to run a webserver, has choice, knows he has choice and makes that choice for convenience, efficiency, reliability, performance or whatever. The consumers usually don’t know they have choice and OEMs and retailers are not helping them find that out. But consumers have choice. They can take a bug-ridden OS from M$ and visit Goodbye-microsoft.com or WWW.Debian.org and fix the problem once and for all. Consumers can also buy a PC with GNU/Linux already installed or find a PC with no OS on which they can in stall GNU/Linux. It’s pretty easy and takes just 15 minutes to an hour or so depending on how slow your PC is. If any problem arises, one can find a solution in seconds using Google or visiting the website of the supplier. You can find many different kinds of GNU/Linux at Distrowatch.com where all the features are displayed. You can install GNU/Linux so it’s very similar to how XP used to work. BTW, that Android smartphone you love has Linux there underneath. You know that’s smooth and reliable. So is GNU/Linux on the desktop.

Advantages? Exactly the same as those folks with all the millions of servers running GNU/Linux and Apache web server:

  • lower licensing fees ($0, it doesn’t get any lower…),
  • reliability (less bloat/fluff, more substance),
  • software designed by techies for techies, not salesmen,
  • oh, and one last thing, permission to run any way you like on as many machines as you like, and you can examine, modify and distribute the software (Software Freedom).

Yes, Victoria, you can enjoy all that your PC can be just like the geeks on the web with their powerful servers.

  • Aug 26 / 2014
  • 8
technology

GNU/Linux Traction On The Desktop

Christine Hall is a wise woman. She wrote, “With the success of Chromebooks, it’s only a matter of time before the OEMs start pushing well designed laptops and desktops with customized versions of Linux installed. It’s bound to happen. Computer makers pay a fortune to Microsoft every year for the privilege of installing Windows. But Windows’ luster as a brand has faded, making this is no longer money well spent.”

I saw that years ago when I worked in schools. We could afford a lot more IT because we used GNU/Linux and the vast majority of users had no problems with it at all. GNU/Linux needs OEMs to offer this desktop to retailers in bulk ASAP. They can make more money through higher margins and the retailers can make more money through higher volumes. It does no one any good to stick with Wintel when it doesn’t sell well at all. OTOH, Android/Linux and ChromeOS are selling like hotcakes and GNU/Linux could offer something more than both on the desktop, all native code.

See Don't Fret Linus, Desktop Linux Will Slowly Gain Traction.

  • Aug 25 / 2014
  • 5
technology

The Magic Of USB Flash Drives

Soon I will go to a meeting where I might have to install Debian GNU/Linux without an Internet connection. To do the job, I made up a USB drive with everything I will need:

To test out this rig, I created a virtual machine and booted it from the USB drive. The default installation was routine, hardly different from any other. When I booted the minimal system, though, the repository in the CD would not work for me and debpartial-mirror didn’t have Debian’s signing keys… so I just used dpkg to install what I wanted.

The local repository I created on the USB drive had all the .deb’s on a single level so dpkg -i debian/pool/*/*/*/*.deb got everything there. It worked very well except that it thought three packages were broken. One was a discrepancy between versions on the CD and in the repository. Another was irrelevant because the package wasn’t likely to be used. One was a missing package. We missed one. Then I started up the GUI and saw this, in all its glory:

So, it’s not exactly like XP. It’s configurable and it fit in 4.3gB on the virtual hard drive. ;-) This is a lightweight setup which should give new life to an old notebook sagging under Vista.

One problem was that I had left out gksu to run synaptic, so I had to download the packages to put in a directory on the USB drive. If I want to offer remote support, I can get openssh-server off the CD. I can mount the CD on a local directory to get at the .deb’s there: mount whatever.iso some_dir/ -o loop,ro.

The entire configuration for debpartial-mirror?
cat /etc/debpartial-mirror.conf
;;
;; debpartial-mirror configuration file.
;;

[GLOBAL]
;; Show debug information?
;debug = DEBUG
;; Mirror destination directory
mirror_dir = /home/pogson/debpartial-mirror/
;; Which architectures should I download?
architectures = i386
;; What should I look for, by default?
components = main
distributions = wheezy
;; What should I get?
get_suggests = true
get_recommends = true
get_provides = true
get_sources = false
get_packages = true
;; Here is our first backend. It mirrors a subset of packages from the
;; Debian official repositories.
[wheezy]
;; Where do we get the packages from?
server = http://http.debian.net/debian
;; Since we specify components and distributions in this section, what we
;; specify here overrides the settings in [DEFAULT].
components = main contrib non-free
distributions = wheezy
;; Only get a subset of the packages in this source.
filter = name:xorg|xfce4|wifi-radar|wicd|iceweasel|libreoffice-writer|libreoffice-calc|gnumeric|vlc|gimp|xfce4-weather-plugin|lightdm|xfwm4|xserver-xorg-|xpdf|ristretto|aptitude|synaptic|gufw|xfburn|net-tools|glib-networking-services|python-numpy|gnome-icon-theme|dconf-service|liblapack3|gksu|openssh-server
;;resolve_deps_using = wheezy
;; And get the source packages as well for this backend.
get_sources = false

Yes, gksu, and openssh-server are in there. I must have messed up my versions as I converged on a solution…(I do need a secretary but can’t afford to pay one)… debpartial-mirror is wonderful because a short list like that pulls in the dependencies too. I can concentrate on what the user needs rather than ~1000 details.

Anyway, Debian GNU/Linux is a powerful operating system with powerful tools to use whether on or off the web and with or without a CD-drive. M$, eat your heart out.

UPDATE At the meeting, the lady had not brought her laptop but we did exchange e-mail address for follow-up. She often travels near my neighbourhood. Interestingly, another participant of the meeting, an active teacher, reported that her school’s secretary uses GNU/Linux on her desktop. Amazing. Usually school secretaries are the most difficult to convert because they have a huge inventory of documents and don’t want to risk upsetting the flow of information.

I even found there is at least one person in that town who does GNU/Linux but he does not provide training, just setup and networking support, exactly the backup we might need. I can provide training if e-mail is working.

UPDATE I redid the filter for debpartial-mirror to include the things I missed before and flashplugin-nonfree too.
"/media/usb1/debian/pool# ls */*/*/*.deb|grep "gksu\|ssh\|flash"
contrib/f/flashplugin-nonfree-extrasound/flashplugin-nonfree-extrasound_0.0.svn2431-3_i386.deb
contrib/f/flashplugin-nonfree/flashplugin-nonfree_3.2_i386.deb
main/g/gksu/gksu_2.0.2-6_i386.deb
main/libg/libgksu/libgksu2-0_2.0.13~pre1-6_i386.deb
main/libs/libssh2/libssh2-1_1.4.2-1.1_i386.deb
main/o/openssh/openssh-client_6.0p1-4+deb7u2_i386.deb
main/o/openssh/openssh-server_6.0p1-4+deb7u2_i386.deb"
All in all there are 1050 packages drawn in. Not bad for a few minutes of my time and 25 minutes downloading automatically with dependencies. Great. It makes for a speedy installation of a very usable system.

"filter = name:xorg|xfce4|wifi-radar|wicd|iceweasel|libreoffice-writer|libreoffice-calc|gnumeric|vlc|gimp|xfce4-weather-plugin|lightdm|xfwm4|xserver-xorg-|xpdf|ristretto|aptitude|synaptic|gufw|xfburn|net-tools|glib-networking-services|python-numpy|gnome-icon-theme|dconf-service|liblapack3|gksu|openssh-server|flashplugin-nonfree"

I hope she drops by so I can try this out “in the wild” so to speak. I have no idea what hardware she has except it’s a notebook with Vista and running at a snail’s pace…

  • Aug 25 / 2014
  • 6
technology

Start Talking About the GNU/Linux Desktop

Linus just mentioned that he thinks GNU/Linux could succeed on the desktop and folks come out of the woodwork dumping on the idea…“The briefest glance at market share data suggests that I’m not alone, either. While hundreds of millions of people want Linux powering their smartphones, and millions of businesses are content to let Linux run their servers, virtually no one wants Linux running their laptops and desktops.” The quotation to the right is from an article wherein the authour in a circular fashion argues that GNU/Linux on the business-desktop won’t succeed because of consumers’ needs… That’s laughable. Business is all about work, after all.

Further, business has no need of “consumery” things to use GNU/Linux for servers. Neither do Google, Munich, Largo, India, Spain,… You get the picture. These folks are assuming nothing is happening with GNU/Linux desktops despite things happening. That puts their entire thesis in the garbage.

If you look at global web-stats for GNU/Linux desktops, you see steady growth in a declining or stagnant market for legacy PCs. That means GNU/Linux is becoming accepted on the desktop by many more than just we geeks. Dell and Canonical have actual salesmen delivering it in China and India. OLPC is delivering it to schools in emerging markets around the world. Governments in Europe are adopting it at a great rate. And yes, even businesses are seeing that GNU/Linux works for them on desktop as well as server.

Shortly, I will be going to a meeting where one participant has asked me for help with GNU/Linux on a notebook. She doesn’t like what M$ does for her there. I’ve made up a bootable USB-drive with the Debian installer and a repository of stuff the typical desktop user will need, including Synaptic and gksu so she can customize her notebook when she gets home. I will start her off with a basic installation of Debian GNU/Linux and add the XFCE4 desktop environment with a selection of a few typical applications: FireFox browser, VLC media player, GIMP image editor, and Ristretto image viewer. XFCE4 is similar to what she liked from M$: XP. If M$ won’t give her what she wants, I and the FLOSS community will. When random people you meet are interested in desktop GNU/Linux, this is no time to abandon this thriving technology. It works for ordinary people.

Nope. If you haven’t already started talking about GNU/Linux on desktops, get going.

See (Or Not) Can we please stop talking about the Linux desktop?.

  • Aug 22 / 2014
  • 42
technology

Notebook Reality

All over the web, supporters of Wintel are celebrating the first quarter of growth in ages. Reality is that the top five OEMs of legacy notebook-PCs had growth in their market shares but the market as a whole only grew 1%.“After seven consecutive quarters of shipment declines, the global notebook PC market improved in Q2’14. According to preliminary results from the NPD DisplaySearch Quarterly Mobile PC Shipment and Forecast Report, notebook PC shipments reached 45.1 million units, up 1% Y/Y.” Meanwhile Android/Linux increases an order of magnitude more than that. Smartphones are shipping more units than desktops ever did and tablets are becoming a mature market. The Wintel PC is becoming a niche market, only thriving with businesses who resist change and need keyboards, large screens and pointers.

NEWS FLASH! You can hook those up to many smartphones and all tablets… Even businesses don’t actually need legacy PCs but they are willing to pay well over the market price for desktop IT because they are afraid to change. Change will happen though. It’s inevitable. Governments are changing because taxpayers demand efficiency. Businesses generally don’t care how wasteful they are as long as revenue covers the costs. Even M$ is insisting businesses change to a cloud model. That opens up M$ to competition everywhere and GNU/Linux and FLOSS on small cheap computers has no barrier but retail resistance. Some governments and businesses already have switched to FLOSS. More will do so in the next year or two. The cost of escaping XP is in their face or recent memory. The cost of switching to GNU/Linux can be less than going to M$’s next lock-in.

See Notebook PC Shipment Results Improve after Seven Consecutive Quarters of Decline, According to NPD DisplaySearch.

  • Aug 20 / 2014
  • 12
technology

Reports Of The Death Of GNU/Linux In Munich Are Greatly Exaggerated

Here and elsewhere we read that the mayor and M$ are drooling to pave over GNU/Linux with that other OS in Munich…“Suggestions the council has decided to back away from Linux are wrong, according to council spokesman Stefan Hauf.
He said the council’s recently elected mayor Dieter Reiter has instead simply commissioned a report into the future IT system for the council.”
Not so. The mayor is grumbling and has asked for a review of IT in general. That’s a normal part of the life-cycle of any IT-system or version of software. I did that at several of the schools where I worked and the decision to go to GNU/Linux occurred frequently. In GNU/Linux, a result could be to go to a later release of Debian, or to adopt LibreOffice 4.x or to go with thin clients almost everywhere…

Of course, the mayor might get a different result if he accepts voluntary labour from M$ or hires his nephew to do the research, but the council is wide awake and understands the issues, so I doubt there will be some coup in IT.

Further, I can’t see this mayor being reelected if he urges the city to spend ~$30million on returning to the fold of M$ rather than maintaining GNU/Linux for peanuts.

See Ditching Linux for Windows? The truth isn't that simple, says Munich.

  • Aug 18 / 2014
  • 1
technology

M$ Craps On Their Own Servers. Why Trust Them With Your Computers?

It sickens me to hear the tripe spouted here all too often that, “You get what you pay for…”, “Starting at 18 Aug 2014 17:49 UTC, we are experiencing an interruption to Azure Services, may include Cloud Services, Virtual Machines Websites, Automation, Service Bus, Backup, Site Recovery, HDInsight, Mobile Services, StorSimple and possible other Azure Services in multiple regions.” “FLOSS can’t work…”, and “developers with stock options in M$ do better…”.

How can that be when M$ is constantly patching mistakes they made years ago designing their systems according to the whims of salesmen and despite $billions in vested, can’t keep their networks going anywhere close to what a couple of good servers can do with GNU/Linux? Then there are the constant stream of re-re-reboots, malware, bugs, slowing down and endless friction due to the restrictive EULA. It’s all so sad that people keep paying this monster straight out of a “B” horror-movie. I recommend Debian GNU/Linux. It’s the right way to do IT.

See Microsoft Azure suffers Total Inability To Support Usual Performance (TITSUP).

See also, The Return of BSOD: Does ANYONE trust Microsoft patches?

  • Aug 18 / 2014
  • 0
technology

Paying For FLOSS

FLOSS, Free/Libre Open Source Software, is not about software that costs $0. Most programmers need to be paid for the time/energy/resources they invest in FLOSS.“A few months ago, the Heartbleed bug was discovered in the OpenSSL cryptography library, which plays an absolutely critical role in securing confidential online transactions. We then discovered that for years this critical piece of infrastructural software has been maintained by a handful of overworked volunteers. The industry was rightly shocked by Heartbleed, and some companies – notably Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Intel, IBM, Cisco and Amazon – agreed to donate $300,000 each over the next three years to support the OpenSSL project.” Those most able to pay for FLOSS are the businesses, organizations and users of FLOSS. Unfortunately, because FLOSS is often obtained, legally, by a $Free download, there is no channel direct from those who benefit to those who produce FLOSS. In some cases that doesn’t matter as some developers do it for the love of some application or the joys of programming. In other cases it matters because unfinished or buggy FLOSS is shipped to places that matter.

Businesses have long contributed to Linux because the kernel runs a lot of their equipment like devices found in PCs or servers. Even ordinary users can contribute by obtaining a Linux credit card. Big businesses have not given much support to the GNU or to most FLOSS applications not widely used in business. It’s time that those who benefit from FLOSS pay for it. Several big businesses may now be supporting OpenSSL (Open Secure Sockets Layer) but they should also be supporting FireFox (Google does), LibreOffice, GNU, vlc, mplayer, xbmc, InkScape and all the rest of the organizations that provide and distribute FLOSS (see Debian’s list of packages for a hint). How about the distros, while we’re at it? Support Debian or SUSE or RedHat. Donate or pay for some of their products. See if FLOSS grows or improves as a result. See if the world becomes a better place. You know you need to do it.

See So the internet's winners are finally chipping in? About time….

  • Aug 18 / 2014
  • 4
technology

Real People Now Ready To Accept A Real OS

Christine Hall writes about the evolution of the mental lock-in of ordinary people using IT.“cell phones and tablets have made people less afraid to move away from their Windows comfort zones. Indeed, I think that people have never been in love with Windows, it’s just what they knew. Now that they’ve seen that they’ve been able to learn to use Android and/or iOS like pros, they’re more than willing to move on when it comes to their PCs as well.” She’s seen what I’ve seen, that ordinary people a decade or more ago likely had no clue about anything except that other OS. Now people are willing to try GNU/Linux much more readily.

When I first taught in the North, no one I met had heard much about GNU/Linux and no one had tried GNU/Linux on a desktop, even myself. After a few years of using GNU/Linux in schools, everything changed. I met students, parents and members of the community who had used GNU/Linux before I arrived and I travelled to a new community almost every year. Students and community members also travel and several in each community had previously installed GNU/Linux or attended a school that used GNU/Linux much as I did. That was before Android/Linux and ChromeOS took off…

Today, a good fraction of humans have used Android/Linux on a PC-like smartphone or tablet and they are unafraid. They are used to operating without a EULA around their necks. They are used to an OS that doesn’t slow down or pick up malware like pocket-lint. They are used to an OS that doesn’t artificially raise the price of their PC. They are ready for an OS not designed by salesmen. They are ready for FLOSS and GNU/Linux on desktop/notebook PCs. Suggest they move on. Suggest they visit Goodbye-microsoft.com if they have the functionality to browse the web left in their PC. Suggest they visit Debian.org too.

See The Time to Recommend Linux & FOSS Is Now.

  • Aug 15 / 2014
  • 32
technology

The Wintel Treadmill As Seen By Gartner

Gartner reflects on the long time taken by businesses to migrate away from XP. They recommend three alternative strategies to avoid these problems with “7″.

Strategy My take…
“Deploy Windows 8 on new PCs as they arrive, thereby phasing Windows 7 out over time as PCs are replaced — this may make sense for many organizations.” This assumes a treadmill model of PC-deployment, a constant stream of new ones replacing old ones. Why? There is no business case to replace anything in business periodically if it’s still working, not chairs, not tables and not PCs. The longevity of XP was partly due to the longevity of the PCs bearing that OS, nearly 8 years. If the OS breaks sooner, change it, not the PC.
“Skip Windows 8 and plan to deploy a future version of Windows (perhaps Windows Threshold or even a release after that) to replace Windows 7 — we believe most organizations will do this. With this strategy, many will not eliminate Windows 7 before support ends unless they budget extra funding to do so.” This is exactly what businesses did with XP. Where’s the recommendation to avoid XP-itis?
“Deploy Windows 8 on all PCs to eliminate Windows 7 — for most organizations, we see little value in doing this, and do not recommend it without a solid business case.” Exactly! This also means there’s no value in replacing “7″ with any future version. Conversely, one can replace XP or “7″ with GNU/Linux and be better off forever: less malware, fewer re-re-reboots, no Patch Tuesdays, no stream of cash for licensing, forever, etc.

No. The correct solution is to just get off the Wintel treadmill. That makes every move in IT make business-sense. Bolstering M$’s business at the expense of your own makes no sense.

See Plan Now to Avoid Windows XP Deja Vu With Windows 7.

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