Robert Pogson

One man, closing all the windows.

Posts Tagged / GNU/Linux

  • Sep 02 / 2014
  • 0

Mindshare-Momentum For FLOSS

That other OS is a total mess. It has been from the beginning when salesmen decided what an OS should be and“Windows is a total mess. A lot of those involved in developing it have left and it truly shows. Just look what a mess recent releases of Windows have been, both when released and when patched (bricked)” violated every rule in the book and even common sense. It’s worse today because of the huge installed base forced on the world. Now the damage done by every flaw costs the world $billions and it’s not “economic activity” but waste, crime, and brutally unreliable IT.

That’s the reason I got away 15 years ago. It’s too bad the world has endured so much harm all these years before coming to its senses. The world now sees that FLOSS works. Just about everyone has used Android/Linux and knows it works. Just about everyone has used web applications running on GNU/Linux and knows it works. The poor souls still using that other OS are locked in miserable dark damp cells peering at a vibrant world outside.

All the FUD has failed. The diversification has failed. The bullying and dirty tricks have failed. It’s just been too slow a process but finally it’s happening.

See Moving Away From Windows to GNU/Linux and the Abandonment of Windows as the Modest Proposal These Days.

  • Sep 02 / 2014
  • 0

Overturning The Distro

The systemd folks have an agenda, changing everything. While I, like many others, resist change I want to have some idea of where we are going and how we are gong to get there.“we push quite a few problems into btrfs, that other solutions try to solve in user space. One of them is actually signing/verification of images. The btrfs maintainers are working on adding this to the code base, but currently nothing exists. This functionality is essential though to come to a fully verified system where a trust chain exists all the way from the firmware to the apps. Also, to make the home sub-volume scheme fully workable we actually need encrypted sub-volumes, so that the sub-volume’s pass-phrase can be used for authenticating users in PAM.” One idea is that they will choose a single file-system, btrfs, and use some of its features/complexity to standardize the GNU/Linux file-system, versioning of software, production, distribution and installation of software. They seem to want to turn the GNU/Linux PC into something more like Android so that developers will have a standard target and more control over the run-time environment.

Ewww! This might be fine for the developers, OEMs, and perhaps distro-makers who could share their efforts more efficiently but what of the end-user? No choice of file-system? Umpteen versions of libraries in umpteen branches of the file-system? Relying on the file-system to de-dupe stuff and secure everything?

Imagine the fluff that will replace our solid, dense, reliable distros like Debian GNU/Linux. Imagine how little control the end-user will have over anything. Imagine how complex an installation will become for ordinary folks. Imagine how much expertise will be required to fiddle anything on a GNU/Linux system. Will such systems even be GNU/Linux any longer? Not likely. It’s just not UNIXy enough.

Is this better, desirable at all or necessary? I don’t see it. Is this the evolution of what AT&T and GNU started so long ago? Nope. It looks like starting over from scratch. Is this going to delay, undermine or prevent domination of the world of IT by GNU/Linux? Almost certainly. I can see this process taking a decade or longer. Look how long it took us just to get OEMs to install GNU/Linux. How long is it going to take them to install something few if any understand? Ages. I’m too old to wait for that. I’ll stick with Debian for now. Oops. I’ve just installed systemd on all my machines…

See Revisiting How We Put Together Linux Systems.

  • Sep 01 / 2014
  • 0

Time For the GNU/Linux Desktop

Gary Newell has a thoughtful article on the relationship between the GNU/Linux desktop and that other OS.“Why does it have to be one thing or another?. For Windows to survive must Linux die and for Linux to succeed does Windows have to die? Of course not. The people who want to use Linux will and those who don’t won’t.” His facts are true but he comes to the wrong conclusion by omitting one important fact, M$ is out to get us.

Let’s not forget history:

  • 1997 – When faced with the “horror” of sub $1K PCs M$ wrote, “current PC technology is totally sufficient for most office tasks and consumer desires and that any performance bottleneck is not in today’s PCs but in today’s COM pipes. This in itself might slow down replacement cycles and life time shortening until we find true MIPS eating applications- a priority not only INTEL should subscribe to.” Ever since, M$ has continually taken actions to slow PCs down through use so consumers and businesses will continue to buy new machines with new licences. We don’t need that.
  • 1997 – Paul Maritz wrote, “The real issue deals with not losing control of the APIs on the client and not losing control of the end-user experience. For Netscape this is synonymous with winning the browser battle. That is because they don’t have Windows. We have an asset which has APIs and control the end-user experience: Windows.” In the browser war, M$ deliberately used tying to that other OS as a tool to damage a competitor. IT is supposed to be about the most efficient way of creating, finding, modifying and distributing information, not killing competition and leading users around by the nose. We don’t need that.
  • 1995 – S. McGeady wrote, “On August 2. 1995. in a meeting of Intel and Microsoft executives, Bill Gates told Intel CEO Andy Grove to shut down the Intel Architecture Labs. Gates didn’t want IAL’s 750 engineers interfering with his plans for domination of the PC industry. Gates made vague threats about support for other platforms. and on the same day he announced a major program to support Digital Equipment’s Alpha microprocessor, an Intel competitor. Gates was livid about IAL’s investments in the Internet and wanted them stopped. All of this was said in the presence of executives from both companies.” M$ set out to stifle all innovation related to basic utilities in IT by fair means or foul. We don’t need that.
  • 2004 – The European Commission finds M$ disrupted interoperability in IT. We don’t need that.

So, treating M$ as just another supplier in the IT-playground is a major omission in the argument. M$ is out to get us and is not a neutral business. Therefor we should prefer every other option before them including GNU/Linux on our desktop/notebook PCs simply because GNU/Linux is not out to get us and the authours are entirely motivated to provide good software at the lowest price and fewest burdens. That, to me, overrules all of Newell’s arguments which assume M$ is benign.

M$ has deliberately violated the laws of competition in USA and elsewhere repeatedly, systematically and with malice. They are out to get us. At first they got an exclusive deal with IBM to get their foot in the door, piggybacking on IBM’s branding with business, then they demanded exclusive deals with ISVs and manufacturers, then they punished any manufacturer who stepped out of line and installed competing products, then they created an endless chain of incompatible file-format changes and created whole industries based on the existence of overly complex secret protocols and finally forced the world to accept a closed standard as an open standard… That whole burden has served to render IT more expensive to own and to operate and much more fragile than it should be just on technical merits.

Allowing that other OS to live side by side with GNU/Linux is neither essential nor desirable. The cancer that is M$ needs to be cut out of IT for good. There may be some who prefer the devil they know but the new folks and the folks who come to the light of FLOSS don’t need to leave any oxygen for M$ lest the cancer grows again.

See Linux has run out of time – I looked into the trap, Jim.

  • Aug 31 / 2014
  • 12

Statistics On GNU/Linux Usage, Wherever We Can Find Them

Blush! A huge porn site has released its figures…
“The numbers for Linux based operating systems are bang-on – 1.7% of Pornhub traffic and 1.7% of desktop penetration as reported by Net Applications in July 2014.

24% of Pornhub’s Linux users are based in the United States, followed closely by 23% in India. As we discovered in a previous section, this likely explains the high search ranks of ‘Indian’ and Indian pornstar ‘Sunny Leone’. The United Kingdom and Germany both account for around 5% of Pornhub’s Linux traffic.”
Assuming Nature is global, this might be meaningful in the search for GNU/Linux usage. Key numbers are 1.7% globally and 24% or so from each of India and USA, putting the lie to the “wisdom” that GNU/Linux plays in small niches. USA is where a lot of GNU/Linux developments take place and India is a country where Dell does sell GNU/Linux SKU’s openly in huge numbers and governments use GNU/Linux.

See OS Battle – Porn by the Platform.

  • Aug 30 / 2014
  • 0

Investing In FLOSS Pays Dividends

There’s more than one way to pay for software and investing in FLOSS is hard to beat. Rather than just paying licensing fees, Walmart pays programmers to contribute to a FLOSS project for a component of their websites."every five startups using Hapi translated to the value of one full-time developer, while every 10 large companies translated to one full-time senior developer." In return for its extra work on open development, Walmart gets high-quality programming at a cost far below that of recruiting and retaining extra staff. In turn, this demonstrable return allows the company to justify further development investment because "by paying developers to work on Hapi full time, we get back twice (or more) that much in engineering value." Because other businesses do the same, Walmart gets the services of many programmers while only paying for a few. That’s good business.

When businesses realize that they can do this for their entire software stack from server to client, they can save a bundle on their entire IT expenditure and get better and more flexible software. Businesses should all invest one way or another in FLOSS. It pays.

See Walmart's investment in open source isn't cheap.

  • Aug 29 / 2014
  • 6

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
  • 19

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

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 or 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 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

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

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.

;; 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.
;; Where do we get the packages from?
server =
;; 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"
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

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

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.