Linux on the cusp of 2010

December 31, 2009

We’re almost at 2010 and so I thought I’d revisit my 2010: The year of the Linux Desktop post. But rather than start with Linux, I want to start with Apple…

I noticed a story “2010: The year of the Mac?” which derisively began “It’s almost a pathetic assertion: This year, the Mac will break out of its ghetto and become a mainstream computer for individuals and businesses alike.” The author doesn’t understand what Apple wants to be (that is to say, what Steve Jobs wants Apple to be ;) I wrote back in late 2007 that “Apple will tend to restrict itself to the mid-to-high-end market”.  And you know what?  Apple won it; they now get 90+% of sales of $1K+ systems; this is where the largest profits are made and Microsoft has effectively been banished from this segment. Apple also has done well with its iPhone and of course its iPods; these are tech products with significant market share that do not run a Microsoft OS and do not necessarily need one to interface either; as Microsoft absolutely requires monopoly conditions to maintain its business, anything that reduces dependence on Microsoft will cause its empire to shrink.  There are now persistent rumors that Apple is going to release some sort of Tablet Machine that will likely sell below $1K; this will further pressure OEMs that currently preload Windows to compete on price…

Which still doesn’t bring me to Linux yet ;) In the refs to the 2010 article I included a letter that I wrote to ESR regarding his predictions about RAM in computers: by 2008, he wrote, we should see 4GB of RAM in “low end” desktop machines and 16 GB in “high end” ones. However, this did not foresee the transition from majority desktop to majority notebook form factor, the current emergence of netbooks, which have begun to displace some notebook sales (see also here) and which tend to have Windows XP preloaded… at least for now; it uses MUCH less RAM than Vista did! ;) Notebooks tend to use less RAM than desktop machines and netbooks less than notebooks; it is still possible to buy a notebook (albeit refurbished) from FutureShop here in Canada with 512 MB of RAM!  Even the average netbook only has 1GB of RAM and low end notebooks typically come with 2, 3 or 4 GB of RAM.  All this has helped drop the price of off-the-shelf notebooks considerably.  Netbooks still tend to be in the $300 range (the same as last year, but with a larger screen and other ‘improvements’; Microsoft has been pushing for this to keep prices artificially high: “What’s the industry’s advantage in saying lets drive this thing to rock bottom…What we are enabling with Windows 7 [is the ability] to try to maintain higher average selling prices…This doesn’t have to be about who can get to $199 first.”)

And this brings us, finally, to Linux. Currently about a third of netbooks are being shipped with Linux globally and this should rise to a majority by 2013. This is the beginning of Linux taking over the low-end of ‘desktop’ (that is, ‘not server’) computing. What I think will happen this coming year is going to be a convergence of technologies that are going to result in that sub-$200 machine, and it won’t have Windows XP or 7 on it.  But unlike the current generation of netbooks that are Intel Atom-based, these will run on ARM processors. Predictions include that 20% of 2010’s netbooks will have ARM processors and the amount will be over half by 2012. And while Google’s Android will be on some of them, Ubuntu stands to grab a large amount of the market with its 10.04 LTS release.

So, will 2010 be the year of ‘desktop’ Linux? I think yes, but in a way that I didn’t quite imagine in 2007. The “major commerical apps designed to run on Linux” aren’t “designed to run on Linux” per se; they’re designed to run in standards-compliant web browsers (e.g. Firefox) and are ‘free’ (gratis) ala Google (mail, maps, news, etc.)  The low-end of computing will be amazingly inexpensive, almost disposable in the new and uncharted sub-$200 range (the “race to the bottom“).  We probably will see lots of Asian OEMs that most in the west have never heard of before cranking these out (perhaps even toy manufacturers; look at this one that uses rechargable AA batteries! :-), while the bigger ones attempt to maintain their Windows-based notebook sales.

An example of what I hope to see for specs on a 2010 Linux netbook:

Ubuntu 10.04 LTS
Pixel Qi Monitor (10″) [read more]
ARM Processor (2 GHz Dual Core)
1 GB RAM (DDR2 or 3)
Fast SSD (8 or 16 GB)
Cost <$200

a backlit keyboard, lots of USB ports and wireless n would be nice too, but those would probably cost extra ;)

Update Jan. 7, 2010: An article mentioning ‘smartbooks’, an intermediate between smartphones and netbooks, and predicting ARM/Linux ones to do well in 2010. But THIS ARTICLE has the real deal; a gorgeous and incredibly thin 12″ ARM “smartbook” which “runs full Ubuntu plenty well”. Look at the pics and watch the video…


Morbid Fecundity

December 29, 2009

Pictures of ‘Octomom’ ready to burst are disturbing enough (while this is cute, this is not!) and the decision by ‘Jon & Kate plus 8‘ not to selectively reduce becase of their religious beliefs should be a warning about faith versus common sense (because adding more kids is always so good for a relationship), but the other day I was browsing the news and I found this:

Michelle Duggar Gives Birth To 19th Child Via C Section

The thing that especially disturbed me was this line:

The Duggars belive [sic] that every child is a gift from God and do not use any contraception.”

Which prompted me to leave a comment:

“There’s something wrong with that along the lines of a morbidly obese person stating that ‘every inch of waistline is a gift from God and that they do not use any dietary restrictions’.”

Even more disturbing than them are things like the Quiverfull movement; its ‘gluttony for god’ but with babies instead of food.

The quote that springs to mind is: “The command “Be fruitful and multiply” was promulgated, according to our authorities, when the population of the world consisted of two people.” William Ralph Inge, More Lay Thoughts of a Dean, 1931 [source]

Browsers of Europe

December 21, 2009

I took a blank country map of Europe and colored it in; orange is countries with significant Firefox 3.5 plurality as per StatCounter, blue is the same but for IE, while red are countries with unusually high Opera usage (note that in the Russian Federation for example, Firefox 3.5 usage is actually slightly higher than Opera version 10.0, but it is remarkable to see the latter at >20%!)

The fact that browser distribution is not randomly distributed across European countries, but appears to closely follow traditional regional boundaries is somewhat surprising and suggests that there are significant cultural factors that affect browser choice.  Note for example the large gap that StatCounter shows between Germany with ~60% Firefox and ~25% IE (so over 2:1) and its neighbors France with 55~60% IE and 30~35% Firefox and Denmark ~60% IE and ~25% Firefox (basically the opposite).  One wonders how this will affect the IE ballot screen.  My suspicion is that it will increase non-IE usage, but only proportionally to existing non-IE usage; in some nations where Firefox 3.5 is close to the most used version of IE (especially where those countries are near the ‘Firefox region’… possibly Italy or Sweden?), that could well push it past a tipping point, but west Europe looks like it’s going to hold onto IE the longest.

Another wrinkle is Chrome; Google’s browser is making some headway in Europe and a brief eyeballing of the data gives me the impression that it will do very well in the coming years… but probably more in certain regions than others; the Balkans seem to have relatively high Chrome usage already (Chrome as the alternative to a majority Firefox would be interesting to see!) and some west European nations might eventually see Chrome nipping at Firefox’s heels for second place, but that’s too far out into the future to accurately predict.  I suspect that Safari won’t make too many inroads; I just don’t see it having massive appeal outside of Macs.  Opera will continue to maintain a substantial user base in east Europe, but my gut feeling is that with more browser choices, they will get further lost in the shuffle as ‘yet another alternate browser’ where they don’t have a major presence already.

And that’s how things look to me at the end of 2009.

High Firefox Usage Regions in Europe

December 21, 2009

This is from an e-mail I just sent out… it sure got the gears turning :)

Europe is the only major area where Firefox 3.5 has plurality:

And in Europe I note the countries with significant Firefox 3.5 plurality:

Albania, Austria, Bosnia & Herzigovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia*, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland.

*An aside: wow, look at IE6, 7, 8 and Chrome each ~8%:

Also note countries where the browser wars are completely different, like Ukraine and Russia, where Firefox 3.5 and Opera 10 are roughly tied for the top browser versions…

and Belarus, where nothing beats Opera 10:

Now what’s even more interesting to me (and a trend that I had previously noticed on the XitiMonitor (now AT Internet Institute; graphs of market share) is that if you take that list of European countries and put them on the map, they basically (except for island Iceland) form a contiguous block:



Luxembourg Germany Poland
Germany Czech Slovakia
Switzerland Austria Hungary Romania Moldova
Slovenia Croatia
Bosnia & Herzigovina Serbia
Montenegro    Bulgaria
Albania    Macedonia

(hope that formatted well)


* Finland (which has a rather unique history and might be thought of as another eastern baltic state)
* Baltic States:
* Central Europe:
* Balkans:

This is somewhat remarkable to me that a web browser can clearly highlight cultural regions… I have noticed in the past that IE6 is very strong in China and the surrounding regions… Maybe I need to make a map :)

StatCounter: Firefox 3.5 to become world’s most used browser version imminently

December 16, 2009

Notice a trend?

Also, with Firefox 3.0 coming to the end of its life at the end of the month, we should see a good spike in 3.5 usage.

Honolulu Mystery

December 9, 2009

The other day I commented on a Facebook post by Ricky Garduno, who does the excellent (and often disturbing) webcomic 1930 Nightmare Theater on Dumm Comics, that “pictures like this [from WWI] haunt me” (“and speaking of trench rats… something for your nightmares“)

Today, I wrote: “maybe it was those posts about WWI, but I remembered something nightmarish and thought I’d share it with you. It’s from a quite awesome book from 1927 called Count Luckner the Sea Devil which recounts the true story of Felix von Luckner and especially his participation in WWI, but the part I want to mention is on pages 35-37:”

In Honolulu I came upon a mystery, a fantastic mystery. It sounds unbelievable. I, myself, cannot explain it. Someday I hope to meet someone who can. One of the cabin boys aboard the Golden Shore was a German named Nauke. He was a violin maker by trade who had lost all his money and put to sea. We became fast friends. At Honolulu, Nauke invited me to go ashore with him. He brought along a can of condensed milk, a delicacy he knew I liked. We went sightseeing, and one of the sights was that of royalty. We stood outside of the palace grounds and watched the Hawaiian potentate while he had tea. He sat in a reed chair, and a couple of his wives stood beside him. A well-dressed gentleman who seemed to be on a stroll came up to us and began to talk to us in English.

“Don’t waste your time on anything like that,” he said. “Why not see the hula-hula dance?”

Nauke and I said all right, because the hula-hula was just what we did want to see.

The gentleman asked whether we had any better clothes to wear, to which we responded that we had not.

“It doesn’t matter,” he said, “I will provide you with a suit each.”

He took us to a carriage drawn by four mules, and we all got in. I remarked to Nauke that the gentleman seemed to be a man of means. The gentleman turned his head.

“You mustn’t talk so much,” he said in German.

We came to a sugar plantation outside the town. The carriage stopped. Our host led us to a field path, until finally we came to a European house that had an air of distinction. Young colts grazed within a fence. Through the large windows of the stately villa I saw a row of large black tables such as are used in Germany, in a lecture room. Our host told Nauke to wait outside, and got a piece of cake for him. I whispered to Nauke not to go away.

I felt very strange on entering the house. The man showed me into a room next to the hall with the many tables. He was about to lock the door. I asked him not to. In the room was a long black table like those I had seen in the other room. The man said he was going upstairs to get a measuring tape. While he was gone, I noticed that under the table were two long narrow boxes with heavy locks on both sides. What if I should end up in one of those boxes! But I was confident. What had I learned boxing for?

The stranger returned with a tape. He measured my arm. Unlike a tailor, he measured from wrist to shoulder instead of from shoulder to wrist.

“Thirty,” he announced, repeated it once, and muttered several other numbers between his teeth.

He pulled my coat halfway down my back, thus hindering my arms. He remarked that the light was poor, and turned me so that my back was toward the outer door. I could hear a creaking that told me that someone was moving behind that door. I noticed on the floor below the lower part of the table a disorderly pile of old clothes which looked as though they might be sailors’ togs. The gentleman took off my belt and laid it on the table. Attached to the belt was my knife case. It was empty. I wondered where my knife might be. I remembered having it that morning. I had peeled potatoes with it. My blood froze as between empty bottles on the window sill I saw a chopped off human thumb with a long sinew attached. The gentleman was about to let down my trousers, which would have kept me from running.

I jerked my coat back into place, knocked the man down with a heavy blow, grabbed my empty knife case from the table, kicked open the nearest door to the open, and jumped out, shouting for Nauke. He appeared, still munching his piece of cake. We ran out into the plantation and threw ourselves down among the cane. There was the sound of a whistle and of galloping horses and running men. They were hunting for us along the roads. We groped our way among the fields, and, after losing our way several times, finally reached the beach.

We looked up an English-speaking policeman and told him our story. He shrugged his shoulders and said it would take a special force of detectives to discover how many sailors had mysteriously disappeared on the islands. Our captain merely remarked that we deserved a good thrashing for going ashore. We sailors on the ship laid a plan to take the plantation by storm on the following Sunday. But on Friday a quarantine was proclaimed, due to some infectious disease that was spreading, and the raid was off. In later times, I often inquired about the strange circumstance, and heard tales of white sailors disappearing on the islands, but never a solution of the mystery.

Ubuntu compatible hardware: SanDisk Sansa Clip+

December 5, 2009

Looking for an MP3 player that works well with Ubuntu as well as supporting OGG and FLAC formatted files?
SanDisk makes one called the Sansa Clip+

SanDisk Sansa Clip+

I just bought one for my daughter; she’s liking it very much thus far! :)

If you want video playback as well, SanDisk also makes the Fuze which has similar OS/format support mentioned on their site.

64-bit Flash in Ubuntu

November 9, 2009

So I upgraded to Karmic and Flash seems odd; it could be because I was running the 32-bit version in 64-bit Ubuntu (via the flashplugin-installer package; it seemed to work fine in Jaunty *shrug*) but whatever the reason, I decided to try Adobe’s 64-bit version of Flash 10.  It works well (seems a bit slower than 9, but at least it isn’t acting up) and installation is really easy!

(0) Uninstall Flash

(1) Download the .tar.gz file from the bottom of this page. (Link corrected Dec. 1)

(2) Extract the .so file (double click the .tar.gz and Archive Manager will start)

(3) Put it in the .mozilla/plugins directory of your home folder (go to your home folder, View -> Show Hidden Files, and create the plugins dir if it doesn’t already exist.

Done!  Restart Firefox and test here.

Update Dec. 16: version was released on Dec. 8

World of Goo Turns 1: “Pay whatever you think it’s worth” this week

October 15, 2009

I note (via Joystiq) that World of Goo is on sale this week and you can name the price!  If you haven’t gotten it for Ubuntu already, grab it now! :)

Update: The sale has been held over until Oct. 25!

Update 2: Here’s a comment I made on that last link:

I sent in an e-mail with an idea, but I haven’t heard back, so I’ll just leave a note here and see what people think:

Basically, Linux is very cool, but suffers from a lack of high-quality games. WoG is a high-quality game available for Linux, but is neither “free” in either the gratis or libre senses of the word and so can’t get redistributed in the ‘brain dead easy’ repository systems that makes distros like Ubuntu a joy to install programs on.  WoG’s sales (quantity multiplied by price) will end up declining over time.  Thus, it should be possible to figure out how much $ it would take now to make WoG gratis (think area under a curve) for Linux in the future.  And I would like to help raise funds for that :)

The thought of a worldofgoo package in Ubuntu’s multiverse repository for the LTS release that’s due in April is so neat!  Open sourcing it would be even better, but probably a lot more $$$ and later in the future, ne?  So baby steps first…

How about this for a price suggestion:

181/4830 responses in the survey mentioned Linux (177) or Ubuntu
There were ~57K purchases, so >2K of those were likely for Linux
The average price seemed to plateau around $2.50
So the Linux share of $ was probably on the order of >$5K
Thus >$250K/yr assuming continued sales at that level.

For the sake of argument let’s say that sales for the Linux port will drop by half every year:

2009: 250K, 2010: 125K, 2011: 62.5K, 2012: 31.25K…

the sum of that series would have a limit of $500K.

If we raised $500K, would 2D Boy make WoG for Linux gratis? :)

Guess who wrote this…

October 8, 2009

“The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still purely primitive, legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. […] the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstition.”

Answer after the break… Hint: the original was in German.

Read the rest of this entry »