Archive for the ‘osx’ Category

Microsoft, Apple and the inevitability of openness

September 25, 2007

Tom Raftery thinks that Microsoft will Open Source Windows (or die!). While I agree with Tom that open source is a better model in a lot of ways, I’m not sure if any of them appeal to Redmond.

I don’t think Microsoft will ever open-source Windows. Not because it wouldn’t make for a faster moving, better product, but it forces Microsoft to lose something they hold quite dearly… control. Interestingly, Apple has banked on ‘control’ even more heavily and are reaping rewards from it (for now anyway).

Tom writes about the benefits of open source:

“With open source development, you are getting the “Wisdom of Crowds” –
the more people involved in the development, the better the end-result”

There are a *lot* of people who would disagree with that statement, although I’m not necessarily one of them. One of the problems with open source development is the scattering of resources and lack of focus. In my opinion it is a good thing to have a BDFL (benevolent dictator for life) type of arrangement within an open source project. Design by committee doesn’t always work too well when it comes to making a better product for the consumer. You need to have someone with focus (like Mr. Jobs at Apple), but without all the pomp and circumstance.

It is interesting to watch the Apple model. They try to lock you in at
every step. And while that keeps me away from Apple, I have to say, it
makes things work a lot smoother for them. They design software for
their device and nothing else. They have a focused design philosophy
which is envied by a lot of people. Is it always the best design? Not
in my opinion. But it does make for consistency.

One point Tom makes that I’ve always felt is more powerful than a lot of people realize is:

“In open source projects the code is written by people who self-select for jobs they have an interest/skillset in”

You have people who are doing things because they enjoy them. They’re specialists by default. Imagine having your workplace filled by people who all want to be there. Who all want to make the best stuff they can. This is what can make for a better product. It also makes for stubborn people who won’t just give up. That is why open-source is not going away any time soon.

I think the growth of the open-source philosophy is inevitable. Apple can try as it might to produce finely designed and overpriced products that lock you into their system. Microsoft can keep heading down the road to forced upgrades that nobody really wants or needs. There is simply nothing compelling to me about either company’s products. But still open-source marches on. And not just on the Linux front. Look at Google. Look at OpenOffice. Look at Firefox. Look at Flickr. It ain’t going away, and it ain’t slowing down. And neither Redmond, nor Cupertino can stop it.

While I don’t think Microsoft will open-source their OS, they had better wake up and do something soon before they become even more irrelevant.

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Doc spells out the next challenge for Linux

April 20, 2007

Leave it to the inimitable Doc Searls to frame the bigger picture when it comes to Vista, OS-X and Linux. His recent Linux Journal article is definitely a worthy read, offering up the possibility that we’re reaching for the wrong prize entirely. Here’s a couple of snippets:

A few weeks ago I was talking with folks who worked inside one of the large hardware OEMs. Somewhere in there they told me about their “Linux strategy”. I told them they needed a “Linux strategy” about as much as a construction company needs a “lumber strategy”.

If you’re going to have a Linux strategy, make that strategy about getting past an OS-bound view of the world. Because the big difference between Linux and Windows is that you can build anything you want with Linux. With Windows you can only build what Microsoft lets you build.

And it doesn’t end there:

The Linux community also has to get past the belief that Linux is mostly an alternative to other OSes. The Windows vs. Mac choice is between two silos that both do their best to lock customers in and maximize the dependencies of developers on proprietary platform SDKs and the like. Linux is not an alternative to any platform. It is an alterative to platforms themselves. It is the path to an open marketplace, not just another silo.

An article full of smart, thought-provoking ideas, and not aimed at the typical Linux zealot either. Give it a read right here.

Enough With The Insane Beryl Demos Already!!

January 31, 2007

It’s no secret that I run Linux. More specifically I run Ubuntu 6.10 and use Beryl. I’m quite happy and satisfied with it.

Now since Vista has launched, can somebody point me to a good demo video touting it’s interface features? While you’re at it, please provide a link to a good video demo of the OS-X desktop.

W-w-what the hell? – you might ask. Why would I ask for these things?

I’ll tell you why. I believe that Beryl and Linux can provide at least the equal of the visual desktop experience of Vista or OS-X (and with much lower hardware requirements). Compiz and Beryl have come so far so quickly in their development that it’s hard to imagine they won’t surpass the capabilities of the other two in fairly short order. But here’s the rub:

Almost every Beryl demo I’ve seen cited on Digg and other sites has been a mish-mash of anime wallpaper, speedmetal and hyperfast cube-spinning and window switching. I’d like to be able to show a co-worker or friend a well produced demo of the actual practical capabilites of the Linux+Compiz/Beryl desktop without resorting to the goth-wallpapered, death-metal soundtrack demos I see all over the place.

What better way to convert would-be Vista or OSX users than by offering real-world high production value demonstrations similar to those produced in their own camps. Let’s make the demos match them not only in capabilities, but in taste and style as well. It’s hard to argue when you can demonstrate the same functionality.

Burning menus down in flames or exploding title bars might be neat, but they don’t exactly bolster the argument for our side.

Anybody got any OS-X or Vista demos they care to hold up as shining examples of what a desktop OS should be?

Or of course, if you can point me to a Beryl or Compiz video that already does this, all the better.

Underwhelmed But Happy About It

January 31, 2007

Earl Moore is underwhelmed by the relatively quiet launch of Vista. Actually I haven’t been paying much attention to Vista simply because I’m almost well and truly Linux-ized (is there actually a term for that? – there should be..)

However I did know about it since I caught 5 minutes of CNN this morning where Miles O’Brien talked a bit about it, showing an interview clip with Bill Gates and discussing it very briefly with their financial guy. I shook my head a little and chuckled when Miles ended the segment by stating that a lot of people were saying that Vista brought the Windows desktop experience up to OS-X standards and perhaps more importantly ended off with the comment that people could upgrade to Vista or “just get a Mac”. I betcha Microsoft PR was just gleeful hearing that comment this morning. 😉

I also had a couple of co-workers discussing Vista with me today. Of course I took the opportunity to nod repeatedly – yes it looks quite flashy… yes it supposedly requires lots more hardware power… yes it supposedly really cracks down on pirated applications and media.. ever heard of Linux?… I actually run it at home…yes it is actually free…

The impression I get is that while Vista will be no outright failure (it’ll be installed on virtually every PC you buy) there are more and more Linux and Mac types who will have more and more conversations with their non-techie co-workers and friends just suggesting (not pushing it down their throats) that there *are* alternatives out there. My feeling is that while MS is not ceding it’s king of the hill status any time soon, the earth is slowly eroding under their feet. It may take a long while, but I think it is happening right now.

Combine all those water cooler conversations with the fact that the OS itself might be of diminishing importance as more and more services reside on the net irrespective of OS. The resurgence of gaming consoles at the expense of PC-based gaming also makes switching from Windows to something else significantly easier.

The fact that the launch didn’t seem to generate much fanfare only bodes well for the future in my mind. It would be nice to see some real market competition in OS’s again.

Brief Revisit to XP – DSL Problems and Kudos to Earl

January 9, 2007


I’ve been having intermittent problems with my DSL service over the past couple of months. After behaving itself through most of December, it seems to have reared it’s ugly head again in the past couple of weeks. I won’t go very far into it except to say that it sometimes drops the connection and resyncs every 30 seconds. Other days it stays up steady for hours.

Tonight I got frustrated enough to call technical support. But before I did, I decided to boot up into XP so that I wouldn’t frighten the tech support staff away by telling them I’m running Linux. Of course my worry is that once they hear I’m running Linux they’ll claim that they don’t support that OS and possibly put the blame for my troubles squarely on that.

Now it’s been months since I’ve booted this machine into XP and after 10 minutes I noted three things:

1. Man.. does it ever take a long time to get to a workable desktop!

2. Man.. does it ever load a gi-normous amount of applets into the system tray!

3. Man.. does it ever hound you about updating spyware databases, anti-virus updates, windows system updates, and firewall software updates!

It’s amazing how many little bubbles can pop up once you don’t boot XP for a couple of months. If there’s one thing I love about running Linux (and the Mac guys are no different) is that you don’t have to be running 5 different third party security apps every time you boot up. I made the mistake of double-clicking Firefox before all the applets were loaded, so it took almost a minute for it to appear – all this on a P4-3GHz machine with 1GB of ram. Good god man!

Now just like when you hear a rattle in your car for a week but it seems to disappear when you bring the car in for service, my DSL seemed to be working fine almost the whole time I was on the phone with tech support. But after 10 minutes of describing and discussing the problem, he noted that my line was showing NO DSL service at all from his end. All this while I was clicking and browsing the web. So definitely something is up with the line. He created a ticket (whatever that is) for me and told me my problem was a level 2 tech support staff issue and that they would contact me within a few days. I guess it was out of his league.

So in the end I never had to run through the usual check of DSL settings and connectivity settings in the OS, which means I never really had to boot into XP anyway but at least it reminded me of why I started running Linux. 🙂

In a related note, Earl Moore has a nice writeup of his opinions on running Ubuntu. He gives some honest and practical comparisons between XP, Ubuntu and OS X. And while he prefers OS X (yes Earl, it *is* a slick interface, I’ll give them that), he’s honest in his criticisms and praise of Ubuntu. And kudos to him for trying it out before giving his opinions – nice to hear some realistic non-fanboy real world comparisons.

I’ve never really criticized OS X either way since I’ve never tried it (apart from clicking around on a few machines in the Apple store a couple of times). I’m not a huge fan of Apple’s proprietary nature (nor Microsoft’s) but I do realize they’ve set the bar for UI design. It, (along with honest criticism like Earl’s) gives the desktop Linux community something to shoot for. I think it’s getting there, it’s only a matter of time.