Archive for the ‘Ubuntu’ Category

Time to take another look at Linux

May 13, 2009

I went to a man’s apartment today on a business matter and while there I noticed that he had an old thick book about Red Hat Linux on his shelf.  At one point I made a comment about it and how I had switched to Linux and that it was getting more popular.

He made a terse comment about how he had tried it and it was much MUCH too difficult for average users to use and so would never really go anywhere.

(O Rly? ;)

So during a break I showed him the Ubuntu website and we downloaded an ISO in the background and then later burned it on his XP system and booted from it.  His face went something like this:





Because suddenly he was staring at a fully graphical OS booted entirely from a CD…  that didn’t have any malware issues…  and that was free.  And then I pointed out to him that Dell sells Ubuntu systems.  And HP is now selling modified-Ubuntu-based systems.

Having used Ubuntu continuously since early-2005 (yay Warty! :) I don’t notice the release-to-release improvements nearly as much as those who haven’t seen Desktop Linux in almost a decade ;)  But for those who haven’t tried Linux (in general) or Ubuntu (specifically) in even just a year, its time to try it again.  It’s like watching a child growing up (there is of course room for improvement, but it’s getting excellent grades here and there :).


Disappointment with Dell’s “Inspiron Mini 9”

September 4, 2008

Dell finally released their “Inspiron Mini 9″ (aka 910, aka E) and I’m not impressed; they didn’t meet the expectations that had been set in the media prior to release.  Here are four gripes I can list:

1. This is probably the most obvious; the base model is NOT $299.  Hopes were high that Dell would have the best deal around and set a new price-point that would help establish a sub-$300 market for netbooks. [update: also, low-end notebooks tend to be ~$400 these days… except with better specs.  So unless you specifically want/need a very small form factor (e.g. for children’s small hands) it makes more sense to get a cheap notebook.]

2. Dell’s pricing-shenanigans with Ubuntu vs Windows… AGAIN; it turns out that for the same hardware, systems with Ubuntu are at least as expensive and sometimes even more expensive!  Bad Dell!

3. Its not Ubuntu proper or Ubuntu’s Netbook Remix, its something called “Mini OS powered by Ubuntu 8.04″.  Um… ok… not what I wanted though…

4. The specially-designed keyboard, upon which allegedly the Mini 9 has been delayed for so long, has an “appalling” layout.

Oh well…

This made me laugh :)

August 11, 2008

So I’m checking my e-mail and there’s a new comment to Ubuntu’s Bug #1 (“Microsoft has a majority market share”)

Help. I’m writing in from Ohio, in the United States.

I recently attended a cookout with an Acer Aspire One with Ubuntu by my side. When asked what it was, I said it was a notebook with Ubuntu, which is a type of Linux, which is an operating system. The general reply was that their computers ran Dell operating systems.

Please send men in Human-themed suits to aid these poor people who didn’t even realize that there were other options beside Windows (honest – they thought Mac’s were just Windows boxes with prettier cases.)

Please… I don’t know how much longer I can last with my efficient computers and lack of viruses.

Update August 18, 2008: A little amusement I discovered while experimenting in VirtualBox; Word95 vs. teh iNTERWEB:

Update August 28, an ubuntu UK ML post (via Groklaw’s News Picks quoting The Open Sourcerer)

Desperately seeking Ubuntu Webbook – with Bolt Cutters!

In Bracknell, the Carphone Warehouse Webbook (Elonex) with
preinstalled Ubuntu which is included in one of CPW’s deals is in such
extraordinary demand that the recent display item in CPW Bracknell
Princess Square shopping mall was stolen last week by desperate people
using *bolt cutters*!

The many larger laptops with Vista installed were left untouched. Sad
eh? Even thieves don’t want Vista.

The Webbook was secured using a kensington similar stranded wire lock,
so I guess the culprits even had some angle grinding to do later, to
remove the lock itself.

The desparate act took place in a normal shopping day in broad
daylight, and the miscreants were seen making off at speed,
unencumbered by antivirus or other unnecessary items which might have
slowed them down!

Like most shopping malls, there is security video in operation, I
trust that it will be put to good use.

Towards a “Microsoft-free world”

August 8, 2008

[Update August 8: I note, via Groklaw’s News Picks that Two security researchers have developed a new technique that essentially bypasses all of the memory protection safeguards in the Windows Vista operating system […] By taking advantage of the way that browsers, specifically Internet Explorer, handle active scripting and .NET objects, the pair have been able to load essentially whatever content they want into a location of their choice on a user’s machine.  Researchers who have read the paper that Dowd and Sotirov wrote on the techniques say their work is a major breakthrough and there is little that Microsoft can do to address the problems. The attacks themselves are not based on any new vulnerabilities in IE or Vista, but instead take advantage of Vista’s fundamental architecture and the ways in which Microsoft chose to protect it. “The genius of this is that it’s completely reusable,” said Dino Dai Zovi, a well-known security researcher and author. “They have attacks that let them load chosen content to a chosen location with chosen permissions. That’s completely game over. “What this means is that almost any vulnerability in the browser is trivially exploitable,” Dai Zovi added. “A lot of exploit defenses are rendered useless by browsers. ASLR and hardware DEP are completely useless against these attacks.” […] “This stuff just takes a knife to a large part of the security mesh Microsoft built into Vista,” Dai Zovi said. “If you think about the fact that .NET loads DLLs into the browser itself and then Microsoft assumes they’re safe because they’re .NET objects, you see that Microsoft didn’t think about the idea that these could be used as stepping stones for other attacks.” So much for “the most secure” OS.]

John C. Dvorak has a column up, comparing Microsoft to a ‘Spandex Granny‘:

Vista is essentially the old hooker with a bad facelift and too much makeup. She also can’t remember her customers. Microsoft cannot seem to arrive at this self-realization, and, instead, hopes to be the debutante forever. The situation is beginning to take on the feeling of a Tales from the Crypt story—both sad and creepy. […] Microsoft has seen better days, like an athlete at the end of a career. Some endings are good, some are bad. I hope Microsoft will find one of the good ways. Pretending to be a small, agile company after 20 years isn’t working.

And so with that lovely introduction, let’s segue to what Linux is up to:

“For the first time, IBM and leading Linux distributors Canonical/Ubuntu, Novell and Red Hat will join forces globally with their hardware partners to deliver Microsoft-free personal computing choices with Lotus Notes and Lotus Symphony in the one billion-unit desktop market worldwide by 2009. Citing shifting market forces and the growing demand for economical alternatives to costly Windows and Office-based computers, the four leaders sense an ideal set of circumstances allowing Linux-based desktops to proliferate in the coming year. Linux is far more profitable for a PC vendor and the operating system is better equipped to work with lower cost hardware than new Microsoft technology. “The slow adoption of Vista among businesses and budget-conscious CIOs, coupled with the proven success of a new type of Microsoft-free PC in every region, provides an extraordinary window of opportunity for Linux,” said Kevin Cavanaugh, vice president for IBM Lotus Software. “We’ll work to unlock the desktop to save our customers money and give freedom of choice by offering this industry-leading solution.”

Zimbra, the open-source e-mail software that Yahoo acquired for $350 million last year, is officially coming to Ubuntu Linux. Coinciding with this week’s LinuxWorld conference in San Francisco, Zimbra has announced a partnership with Ubuntu parent company Canonical. Ubuntu users have been able to access Zimbra for the past year. But now, the e-mail software will be in the Ubuntu Partner Repository [the package name is zdesktop, just FYI], providing easy access to both offline and online Yahoo Mail, Gmail, AOL Mail, and any IMAP or POP e-mail accounts. Zimbra also offers document and spreadsheet functions, as well as mashup features with services like Flickr,, and Yahoo Maps.”

“Bob Sutor, VP of open source and standards at IBM, told attendees of the LinuxWorld Conference in San Francisco, that what the open source community needs to make Linux popular as a desktop OS used by consumers and businesses are “some really good graphic designers.” “Stop copying 2001 Windows. That’s not where the usability action is,” Sutor said during his afternoon keynote. […] Sutor said he believed the many open source licenses, as well as the many software standards bodies, that exist today, would eventually dwindle to only a few. As it is now, five or six open source licenses cover more than 90% of the available software today. […] Going forward, however, the Linux community had to be conscious of the “enemies of open source” and couldn’t rest. Although Sutor didn’t say who these enemies are, Microsoft has certainly been a major detractor.”

“For customers in the United States […] the Dell XPS M1530n and Studio 15n notebooks are now available with Ubuntu 8.04 factory installed.”

The march to 2010

July 25, 2008

Today I read an article that reiterated a point I made in my original 2010 post. Quoting “Redmond Channel Partner Online” then:

“[Microsoft people] just believe that their products are far superior to everything else in the market. That culture has permeated every employee in the company”

And now, from Ballmer himself:

“we are the best in the world at doing software and nobody should be confused about this. It doesn’t mean that we can’t improve, but nobody is better than we are.”

The hubris and downright vanity Ballmer shows in that statement, especially given what we actually KNOW about Microsoft, reveals a leader enthusiastically marching his troops towards the edge of a cliff.

Meanwhile, the realities on the ground are that Apple has pretty much captured the high-end market and today I read that Ubuntu has won a battle for the low-end market in the ‘race to the bottom’:

Essentially, all major computer retail stores will carry computers with Ubuntu pre-installed by the end of 2008 or early 2009, predicted a Canonical manager who met with The VAR Guy at OSCON. But this isn’t another Linux desktop PC story. In this case, the computers are Netbooks (also known as sub-notebooks). Here’s the scoop. At least two “multinational corporations” (translation: Big PC or consumer electronics companies) have agreed to preinstall Ubuntu Netbook Remix edition on forthcoming sub-notebook devices, according to Gerry Carr, a Canonical marketing manager. In a bold prediction, Carr said Netbooks running Ubuntu would be available in all major U.S. computer retail stores by late 2008 or early 2009. He called the Netbook’s arrival a “rare opportunity for Linux” to succeed as a pre-installed operating system on retail hardware.

I can pretty much guarantee that one of the two is Dell and that theirs will look like this:

(I know what I want for my birthday :)

Update August 6: One wonders if the second ‘multinational corporation’ is Acer.  They were quite disappointed with Vista and have said that as a result they had “shifted towards Linux”; today when I read the Staples flyer (aside: I note that Staples seems downright embarassed to mention “Vista” when advertising its computers; the only mention on a computer in this flyer is on one system: “Includes Windows Vista Business and Windows XP downgrade disk”.  Ouch.) that came in the mail, it fairly prominently features the Acer Aspire One for $350.  It runs “Linpus Lite” Linux, but I would not be overly surprised if they switched to Ubuntu for future models…

Update August 25, 2008: The NY Times has an article up talking about the falling price of netbooks, predicting “In the near future, netbooks could sell regularly for $299, and might well drop by the holidays to $249.” :-)  Also, I note some supposed Dell 910 specs and screenshots.

Breaking the Camel’s Back

July 9, 2008

Most people have heard the phrase “the last straw“.  When it comes to Microsoft, people will moan and groan that they wish their Vista computers didn’t suck so bad.  Yet they still bought them, many even knowing Vista’s reputation.  Most knowing, first hand, Microsoft’s reputation.  Why?  Because that’s what they came with.

After reading my 2010 post, “John” added a comment to to Ubuntu’s Bug #1: “all we need to do in order to get rid of Microsoft once and for all is cutting their connections with hardware vendors […] bundling Windows with the majority of new computers (most notably laptops) and therefore denying ICT users’ the right to freely choose their OS is probably the the fundamental cause of all this mess. […] i suggest we should do our best to make bundling illegal

Imagine for a moment what only allowing blank computers to be sold would do for Linux adoption.  Yet its a harsh remedy; OEMs wouldn’t be able to sell functional products and average users would be forced to do something they just do not do right now because it seems scary: install their own OS.  What is really needed is some way of making that final purchase step for the consumer just ever so slightly too painful to bear: add up all the grief you’ve ever had with Windows, all the terrible things you’ve ever heard about Vista, [update July 28: for real, here and here] and just make one last annoyance visible for the consumer to reflect upon before finalizing their purchase: the ‘Microsoft tax‘…  Here’s what I replied for Bug #1:

I’ve been thinking about this thread on-and-off all day and just a few minutes ago a possible solution struck me:

What if OEMs were required to sell the software separately from the hardware, BUT still be allowed to preinstall?  Specifically, think of this scenario:

Major OEM makes notebooks and preloads them with Windows, but does NOT activate them.  The notebook has one price and a sealed envelope with the OEM Windows Key Sticker, backup CDs, etc. has a different price.

If the user wants to buy Windows for the notebook, they just pay the extra $ for the envelope too and when they first bootup the machine they enter the code and affix the sticker as per the EULA.

Oh wait, what’s that other stack of disks next to the Windows envelopes?  Ubuntu Linux disks?  What’s that you say; they’re FREE?   And Ubuntu can do pretty much everything Windows can and a few things it can’t?  And if I don’t like it I can come back next week and still buy the OEM Windows disks?  Hmm…

In this sort of environment, how long do you think Microsoft would last? O:)  How long would it take for the OEMs to just start preloading Ubuntu to save the hassle?  Is anyone, perhaps starting in Europe, up for a little legislation? >:)

Update: Speaking of Vista’s reputation, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I note today that MS is planning on spending “hundreds of millions of dollars” to “overcome the common view that Windows Vista is a failure”.  Wouldn’t this be like spending lots of money to counter the ‘common view’ that Ishtar, Waterworld or any of these weren’t that good?  Perhaps instead of using that money to pretend that a sucky product isn’t, they should partially reimburse past buyers, or discount future sales, or maybe just invest in making the current or next product better.

Also, I note that there’s an article up mentioning that businesses that want to switch away from XP can save one to two thousand dollars per seat in hardware and software costs by switching to Linux and reusing old boxes instead of Vista on new machines.  But if you do that, how will Microsoft pay for the ads that tell you what a great deal you got running Vista? ;)

Ubuntu 8.04.1 due July 3!

July 2, 2008

The very last entry in the HardyReleaseSchedule page states:

July 3rd /!\ Ubuntu 8.04.1

This is Hardy with all the updates since 8.04 was released three months ago; the .2 release will be in six months (three months after 8.10 is released).

[Edit July 3: The release announcement has been made; its out so grab a copy!  The most notable improvement IMHO is that “Firefox has been upgraded to the final 3.0 release from Mozilla” but there are lots of other improvements too :]

Ubuntu Release Schedule

Recent Windows XP Refugees should take note of Ubuntu as a way of sidestepping a Vista ‘upgrade’ or the significant hardware cost of purchasing a new Mac.

Ubuntu is THE ‘Linux Home Desktop’ distro; now onto the desktop wars

April 18, 2008

Just added another comment to Ubuntu Bug #1:

Two years ago Michael Dell said:

“People are always asking us to support Linux on the desktop, but the question is: ‘Which Linux are you talking about?’ If we say we like Ubuntu, then people will say we picked the wrong one. If we say we like and support Ubuntu, Novell, Red Hat, and Xandros, then someone would ask us, ‘Why don’t you support Mandriva? The challenge we have with picking one is that we think we’d disenchant the other distributions’ supporters. It’s not that there are too many Linux desktop distributions, it’s that they’re all different, they all have supporters, and none of them can claim a majority of the market. If you look at DistroWatch, you’ll see zillions of these distributions. Which one should we do? And, everyone keeps telling us that they want different distributions. So, our conclusion is to do them all and let the customer decide.”

A year ago they started selling Ubuntu systems.

[Update: right now, “sales of Linux on Dell computers continue to grow“]

Today I read this:

No Consumer Linux from Novell or Red Hat

Basically, Novell and Red Hat won’t be trying to get consumer desktop market share, focusing instead only on the ‘enterprise’ desktop market; Fedora and openSUSE thus appear to be relegated to ‘hobbyist OS’ level.  Ubuntu is now THE distro of choice for home use, with no major competitors, but I think we’ve known that for some time:

fedora debian ubuntu suse mandriva

(note that we’re due for a big bump in the search results in about a week :)

So going forward with Hardy, its time to focus on a new trend graph:

xp vista ubuntu apple


XP is on its way out; Vista is mediocre at best and an excellent example of bloatware, but still has inertia helping it along; OS X is tied to Apple’s hardware, so the mid-to-high end of the market.

There’s going to be a tipping point soon; the “race to the bottom” that Sony, et al are terrified of: $300 (or less) sub-notebooks and similar devices.

That’s not Apple’s market.  Vista won’t run on them.  XP, even discounted, would add a significant percentage cost.

Then there’s Ubuntu :)

I hope to see Hardy Heron really take flight and see some Ubuntu preloads from new sources this year.  On store shelves for Christmas would be nice :)

[Update April 25: Hardy was released yesterday; go grab your copy! :]

Update May 20: Apple now makes two-thirds of all PCs that are $1000 or more!  Looks like they’ve won the high-end of the market.  Also of note, Ubuntu has set a time schedule for LTS point releases (the first comes 3 months after a LTS release, followed every six months until the next LTS release) and confirmed that the next LTS release will be in April 2010 (unless Linux vendors decide to synchronize releases…)

Update June 11: And here’s Ubuntu looking to fuel the ‘race to the bottom’:

Mark Shuttleworth, who runs Ubuntu’s distribution arm Canonical, says top PC makers are turning to him to help build out the next generation Internet notebook devices, or “netbooks.”

In a Monday item on his blog, Shuttleworth provides more detail about the effort, what the technology aims to do, and how it aims to do it.

“The Canonical OEM team has been approached by a number of OEM’s who want to sell netbooks (small, low-cost laptops with an emphasis on the web) based on Ubuntu,” Shuttleworth writes. “Almost universally, they’ve asked for standard Ubuntu packages and updates, with an app launcher that’s more suited to new users and has the feeling of a ‘device’ more than a PC.”

Spiffy Application in Ubuntu Hardy: Prism

April 5, 2008

For certain websites that one uses almost like a separate program, e.g. Gmail, it would be handy to have them running as a separate instance, not linked to your other Firefox windows.  There is a Firefox extension that can supposedly do this, Prism for Firefox, but the other day I tried it and it didn’t work in Ubuntu Hardy (which is still pre-release FYI).  However, today I noticed that there is a prism package in the universe repository and several dependant packages:


Wow!  Very cool!  The Gmail one works beautifully BTW :)

An Unscientific Poll

April 5, 2008

On a whim I did some Google searches:

I love Ubuntu” ~41,200 hits

I hate Ubuntu” ~1,680 hits (~4% of Ubuntu love)

I love Windows” ~37,400 hits (including facetious uses of that ;)

I hate Windows” ~61,100 hits (~163% of Windows love)

So using this unscientific poll, we can surmise that people’s experience with Ubuntu is generally far more pleasant than with Windows ;)

In a slightly related note, Bill Gates seems to be cementing the Vista-as-Windows ME 2007 reputation by claiming that “Sometime in the next year or so we will have a new version” of Windows.  Never mind that its complete vaporware at this point; perhaps he thinks the message he’s projecting is that “I’m super-enthused about what [Windows 7] will do in lots of ways”… yet what people are actually hearing is ‘avoid Vista’; the results are predictable: people will stick with XP for now if they can, get a Mac if they can’t or maybe even dabble with Linux; Hardy is looking so pretty that it absolutely blows away anyone who hasn’t looked at Desktop Linux in the last couple years (and the EULA can’t be beat :).

[Update: for more unscientific fun, see the comments ;]