Thursday, May 27, 2010

What You Use

On my last post, I asked people about what open source applications they use. I received 22 responses, and I was a little shocked. Until now, I had always heard people say that they really don't have any applications in Linux that they miss in Windows/OSX. This has changed. Most people said they use the following:

OpenOffice
VIM (one respondent saying that software isn't operating system without it)
LateX (two mentions, but that's more than other word processors outside of OOo)
Pidgin
Mplayer/VLC
Gimp
Firefox/Chrome

At work, those machines that come in for repair usually have OpenOffice installed. So, I am not all too surprised. I have asked several customers why they chose OpenOffice. Many have responded with the fact that OOo is free (monetarily, most do not understand the concept of open source), and many more responded that they dislike the new ribbon interface of Office 2K7. Mac users tend to use iWork, but many have OOo installed for some less common file formats that iWork does not support.

VLC and Firefox are fairly common as well, although the majority of customers I deal with still use IE (despite having Firefox installed). The main time I see Firefox in use is on Macintosh machines.

So, it seems as if the only applications people miss when using Linux are games and Adobe CS. This will hopefully be less of a problem in the future with Steam coming to Linux. As for the Adobe Suite, I do not see Adobe taking an interest in Linux any time soon, but PlayOnLinux supports some of the Adobe applications. Otherwise, people are forced to look for alternatives to CS. Quite often, people choose Adobe Creative Suite for the layout of the applications, not for their functionality. GimpShop can replace Photoshop, but anything else would require a bit of a learning curve.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What Do You Use?

In all honesty, are there any open source applications that you prefer and would use in exclusion to others? For example, do you like OpenOffice.org more than Microsoft Office or iWork? If so, do you like it enough that you would install OpenOffice.org on any system that you were using (even if your OS were closed source, such as OSX or Windows)? I might could see someone using OpenOffice.org instead of Office 2k7 (as I've met no one who really likes the new ribbon interface), but what about audio programs? Would you use Exaile, Amarok, or Rhythmbox instead of iTunes, Foobar2000, or some other application? I want replies on this.

It has become rather apparent that people are desiring the ability to run software designed for Windows or OSX on Linux. This is double-edged sword. This will of course give Linux an even more expanded library of applications, and applications with which people are familiar. The other side of this is that it does not give developers a reason to write native software for Linux. If we continue on the road toward Windows or OSX compatibility, will it help or hurt Linux?

Personally, I would love to run iWork on Linux. I would love to run iLife on Linux. I would love to run Colloquy on Linux. I would not like to run them in VM seeing as iWork and iLife are larger applications. Running software in a VM also introduces file movement problems, and in the case of iLife and iWork, we also have issues with graphics acceleration being a requirement.

I never have liked any Windows software except for some games. These are usually playable through Cedega, though Steam support is currently broken. I having a feeling that Transgaming will eventually work with a company similar to GameTree and bring Linux most of the games available for Windows. Blizzard will also most likely start churning out games for Linux if Linux were to gain more than 1% to 3% of the market.

All of this, of course, is weighed against my fears that Linux will never gain a large library of commercial software titles to which the vast majority of people are accustomed. I use Thunderbird on nearly any machine. I use KOffice when I have it available (unless I'm on a Macintosh, in which case I use iWork). I use OpenProj, and have never enjoyed any other project management software (though OpenProj is a clone of Microsoft Project). I do like Visio, but I never use it. I usually just use a paint program. But, what do you use?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Is Linux a Religion?

I recently read through a post on "The Blog of Helios". The article was about the troubles of porting Osmos to Linux. There were apparently many struggles with audio and video support, due to the variety of platforms. This isn't surprising when we consider that variety is Linux's main selling point. Don't like [insert feature] in Ubuntu? Try Arch. Don't like [insert feature] in Arch? Try Slackware, ad infinitum. Yet, this hurts developers who are not part of the community and are writing software for a profit. Which distributions should they support? Which audio systems? Which DEs? Which WMs? Which graphics drivers? Which GUI toolkits? And these problems can be more serious than they at first appear. If you make the wrong choices with Linux, you may not just fail to sell the software, you could anger the Linux community and lose sales with other products as well (**cough** KDE4 **cough**).

What was amazing, is that as well written as the article was, the first responder, Gavin, reminded me of one problem within the community itself. Dogma. Instead of just admitting a failure in Linux, the responder unleashed a torrent of freediot-style emotional responses such as "Well, heck, it is not like Windows has a great history lately with its audio stack, either! M$ rewrote nearly the entire stack for Vista..." and proceeded to talk about Microsoft products for a good paragraph or two, which wasn't the subject matter of the article. To Gavin's credit, the rest of his comment was nice in lacking freetard-like responses.

Why do we see this though? Gavin isn't the only person out there to respond this way. As a matter of fact there is a website dedicated to showing this kind of non-sense. Many Linux fans out there have crossed the line from fanboy to zealot, and I am beginning to fear for the community because of it.

The type I am talking about spread their views all over forums everywhere, and try to convert everyone to their line of thinking. This much akin to the Steve Jobs reality distortion field. Linux/Macintosh is king and everything else just sucks. There is nothing either party can point to so as to tell you technically why either system is better than other systems, but they sure do tell you it's better anyway. The facts are that each OS has its time and place in the world, and there is nothing that will change that. Could we live without Microsoft? Sure, we could, but another OS would likely take its place, and the freediots would only have a new enemy.

My fear is that this kind of zealotry will hurt Linux rather than help. If you go out there and offend people, you are not going to sell a product or service to anyone. You will only succeed in putting a fowl taste in people's mouths. This is not dissimilar to the door-to-door religion sales people.

"Have you accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior?" says the salesman.
"No. I'm Jewish," says the home owner.
"Aren't you afraid that you're going to burn in Hell? Only our religion is correct, and you should convert before you're damned forever," says the salesman, and I slam the door on the guy's face for offending me.

The same is happening here. Freediots are going out there and telling people that they were idiots and made the wrong purchase. This is not a cool thing to do, and it's only making Linux look like a joke. If you go out in the world, and tell people you use Linux they will now assume you are some sort of cult-like Helsinki loving wacko. Good job freetards.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Operating Systems on the AAO

Recently, I came into the possession of an Acer Aspire One (AOA150, ZG5). It's a modest netbook with a 160GB IDE, two card readers, 3 USB ports, 1GB of RAM, an Intel Atom N270 CPU, and a really awful touchpad layout. The system came to me with Windows XP Home Edition installed on it, which wasn't really to my liking. This started some massive Linux distribution hopping and operating system hopping. I was trying to find one OS that would be responsive, stable, energy conservative, and one that would support all of the AAOs hardware. The following were my results:

Windows XP Home Edition:
XP Home was the pre-installed operating system. While all of the hardware was well supported, I noticed some severe lag when doing simple tasks. The system would darn near come to a halt when doing something as simple as moving files from one medium to another. This was unacceptable to me. The one thing that was nice with XP Home was batter life. I was able to get nearly 4 hours out of the machine with sound muted, wifi off, camera off, and no USB or SD devices plugged in. With everything kicked up, I got about 2 hours which is still acceptable imo.

Windows 7 Ultimate (x86):
Windows 7 was laggy just like XP Home. Battery life was also very comparable (you have to turn off indexing though, the constant hard drive spin-up will kill you). I did enjoy a few of the new features included in Windows 7. The over-hyped snap feature was very useful considering the limited screen real-estate and widescreen aspect ratio on the AAO. Also, the ability to enlarge text throughout the OS, while keeping the resolution at 1024x768, was great for visibility on the tiny little screen. I was also surprised to see that the integrated Intel video GPU was able to support Aero (and without any lag). Perhaps the best part of Windows 7 on the AAO was the ability to play some rather new games, such as Red Alert 3, Unreal, and some Steam games (though gaming and Aero drained the battery life rather quickly).

Linux Netbook Manglement:
Ubuntu Netbook Remix and Moblin were very responsive, offered great battery life (about 2 hours with everything kicked on, and no noticeable draining of the battery unless viewing video or something similar), were insanely stable, and supported all of the hardware out-of-the-box. My issue with Moblin was in the interface, and the same with UNR. I felt a little bit nerfed on these systems, and both seemed geared toward single tasking.

Haiku OS (an open source BeOS clone):
This was surprising. Haiku ran so well on the AAO that I really didn't want to get rid of it. I had working wireless, sound, video, and USB. The card readers didn't work, and I didn't test the webcam. Speed and stability were the best points. I never waited more than 15 to 20 seconds to be up and running, and I got about 3 hours out of my battery. The desktop layout was also beneficial when dealing with such a small screen. If Alpha 2 can offer some card reader support and webcam support, I will be going back to Haiku. The only real downsides to Haiku were: no wireless encryption (yet {though there is limited support for WEP}), and no card readers. Both are features I can live without, but for the purposes I want to put this netbook to... they were deal breakers.

Ubuntu 10.04 and Solaris:
Once again, the Ubuntu distro put up a darn good fight for my affection. All hardware was working out-of-the-box. Like Windows 7, desktop effects were working also. The desktop layout was annoying, but a quick change to single bar in GNOME fixed that problem. My issue with Ubuntu was actually that of RAM usage (perhaps using Xubuntu would have solved this problem). The machine would use swap quite a bit when simply browsing the web or editing a document. While that may not seem like a really big issue, spinning up the hard drive can drain battery life rather quickly, yielding only 1 hour of battery life. Solaris was actually quite similar on almost all points. The major difference here was the support for the webcam and wireless, both of which were a bit finicky.

Slax (live Slackware):
As with Haiku, I was very pleasantly surprised. Slax hasn't been updated in quite some time, and normally this makes me steer clear of the distribution. Hardware support is notoriously awful with Slax. With that said, it did support everything on my AAO. It was also insanely speedy. It was on par with Haiku in all fields of testing. Even the lack of support for wireless encryption (it does support WEP, does not support WPA without alot of hassle). What it did support that Haiku did not was the card reader. I didn't test the webcam. Another bonus with Slax was that I got to enjoy the awesomeness that was KDE 3.5 :)

*BSD and OSX:
With NetBSD and FreeBSD, most hardware was supported. The notable exception was graphics acceleration, and wireless was a bit quirky (randomly dropping signals, and not always detecting networks that were known to be present). OSX was similar in many ways. While it supported everything except for video acceleration in 10.5, 10.6 had no wireless, and no card readers. In both cases, I was impressed by the things that were supported, as well as by the speed of the systems. OSX failed in one more category: screen use. Having the finder bar at the top, and the dock at the bottom limited my ability to make the most of the screen. iWork drained battery life quickly as well.

Gentoo or LFS:
If you have time to kill, you can try Gentoo. With the latest kernel sources, all of the hardware in the AAO is supported, and if you trim your kernel config you'll be surprised at how swift the AAO can be. Another point here, is that I chose a tiling window manager and mostly CLI applications. With PowerTop and a few other Intel optimizations, I was able to get quite a bit of battery life. It's worth it (LFS not so much, but the same result can be achieved).

The Verdict:
I would highly recommend the following: Haiku, Slax, Gentoo. If you do not mind occasional hic-ups, XP Pro or Home will work nicely as well. With Ubuntu, the battery life is a deal breaker. With Windows 7, if you do not turn off indexing you will be sorely disappointed when you step out for a cigarette, and find that you only have 10 minutes left. BSD, OSX, and the netbook distributions rank in at the bottom of the list. Hardware support for the AAO is lacking with the BSDs, and more so with OSX. The netbook distributions make my AAO feel too much like a phone for my tastes, but if you're into that you'll love them. It should also be noted that I am not too much a fan of the BSDs, and as such didn't take the time to fiddle with them. I am sure that could be made to function beautifully on the AAO.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

(X)ubuntu 10.04

Before I go any further, I'd like to thank Ford for the honor of being allowed to post here at Eleven is Louder. This is my first post, so please try to refrain from throwing any large, heavy, or otherwise dangerous objects at me.

Ubuntu 10.04 [Lucid Lynx] was released a few days ago, and after seeing how well it was working on Ford's netbook, I decided I should try it out as well. My first impression of the system was a very promising one, as I saw how well polished and integrated Lucid's modified version of the GNOME 2 desktop and its default applications were.

In the past, I often found myself unimpressed with Ubuntu's default GUI configuration. I felt that, when compared against the KDE and XFCE desktops, GNOME seemed to be devoid of features, polish, and integration between applications. Until the release of KDE 4.x, I often turned to Kubuntu as my *buntu of choice. However, like many other people who enjoyed KDE 3.5.x, I found myself so disappointed with KDE 4.x that I decided to try something new. As I had already determined that GNOME was not exactly my cup of tea either, Xubuntu quickly became a new favorite for me.

It was for this reason that I decided to install Ubuntu's XFCE 4 variant, as opposed to the vanilla distribution. I have to say, the newest version of the Ubuntu installer is quicker, simpler, and more inviting than past versions. There is less time spent on configuration, though the more advanced settings that were offered in older installers are still accessible. I noticed that the installer also detected my existing Windows XP installation on a separate SATA HDD, and had already configured itself to install grub to that drive. As the files were copied to my HDD, the messages in the installer's main window invited me to explore the operating system further or play a game while I waited for the installation and configuration to complete. All in all, on some strange level, the installation process itself was so pleasant that I somehow found myself feeling better about life in general.

Unfortunately, I overlooked a crucial detail during this whole process. At no point in time did I hear any sound while the live installer was running. After removing my USB flash drive and rebooting, I did what I always do when I first start up my machine, and began rummaging through my music collection for something to enjoy while downloading all of the packages I would need for a project that's currently underway. I was sorely disappointed when I couldn't get anything to play in Exaile, even after installing codecs, checking my settings in alsamixer, and confirming that the correct device was selected for playback. I searched through several forums, and found no posts that were relevant to my situation.

The motherboard in my current machine has some type of Nvidia chipset for the on-board audio device, which doesn't put out enough of a signal to hear even on a high-end set of speakers. Recently, I installed a Sound Blaster card (shown in the lspci output as "Creative Labs SB Live! EMU10k1") in order to remedy this issue.

My next response was to install the vanilla Ubuntu 10.04 distribution, in order to see whether or not the same issue would exist. After being let down by the promising installation process I experienced during the Xubuntu 10.04 setup, I was once again pacified by the Ubuntu 10.04 installer. Once that installation was complete, I decided to explore the customized version of GNOME 2 packaged by default with Ubuntu.

At first, I was rather intrigued by the selection of applications, unfamiliar to me, which were present. I definitely enjoyed being able to access and control all of my communications and social networking tools from a single menu on my panel. The default applications meant for these purposes were quite nice, for the most part.

Gwibber is definitely a neat concept, allowing the user to manage multiple social networking sites from a single application. The interface is simple, but attractive at the same time. Unfortunately, I have to admit, I was not enthused upon finding that it didn't exactly keep me as up to date on Facebook events as advertised.

Empathy is also both simple and attractive, with the ability to connect to a staggering number of instant messaging and chat services. Its few extra features are very nicely integrated into its interface, and it doesn't seem quite as buggy as Pidgin or Kopete. Sadly, it isn't quite as customizable as I would like, and it lacks support for plugins, based on what I saw. I imagine the stability stems from the simplicity, however. I didn't have the opportunity to test my camera or microphone with the client, so I can't provide any information on that subject. Overall, I will say that Empathy is an excellent client for anyone who doesn't need all of the bells and whistles offered by other clients, or for anyone who has grown frustrated with the lack of stability and/or security encountered with other clients.

While I did not delve too deeply into the Evolution mail client and calendar application, I found that it was very effective for basic usage. It was readily functional, without much configuration, and it took no time at all for me to begin comfortably downloading and writing messages. Like just about every application I used for the short time that I had the vanilla Ubuntu distribution installed, the interface was in no way cluttered, and was definitely visually appealing.

Unfortunately, while I will say that this particular version of GNOME that is included is far more to my liking than past versions I've used, I still missed features available in XFCE and its default application set.

After briefly chatting with some people in the #ubuntu IRC channel on Freenode, I decided to install the xubuntu-desktop package. Immediately upon performing said installation, I noticed that my music ceased to play once more, and I had lost my system sounds again. During the installation, I noticed that the package libsdl1.2debian-pulseaudio was removed, and replaced with libsdl1.2debian-alsa. I decided to remove the alsa package, and reinstall the pulseaudio package. I observed no change, and decided to reboot. As the machine was rebooting, I decided to go into the BIOS settings, and disable the on-board audio device, as well.

As I am writing this, I am currently enjoying my favorite Green Room Rockers album, playing in Exaile, with my GUI laid out exactly as I enjoy it, in XFCE 4. Until more time has been allowed for further development on Xubuntu 10.04, I would honestly suggest to those interested in using Xubuntu that they install from a vanilla Ubuntu disk and install the xubuntu-desktop package afterward. I believe that there may be a couple bugs that still need to be resolved with Xubuntu Lucid before it will be completely ready for use, although I may have just needed to disable my on-board audio chipset, as well.

On a final note, I will say that performance has improved drastically with the 10.04 release. Some of the issues I encountered in the previous kernel version have also been resolved. The boot time is only a fraction of what it was in 9.10, and with 10.04 being a LTS release, I am very confident that I will be more than satisfied with the *buntu family of operating systems for quite some time. The speed, security, simplicity, and stability are definitely unmatched by previous releases, and compete well with many of the other systems currently available.

EDIT:

There's one more thing to add. It automatically detected my bluetooth dongle! I've never actually had that happen before. I'm probably more excited about that than I should be. Ok, I'm done now. Really.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Stop Fighting Apple

Lately, there has been a lot of anti-Apple talk around the open source community. To a point, I can see why. Apple took a lot of software packages that those of us in the BSD and Linux communities have loved for quite some time, and they've bundled that software with their own graphics server, desktop environment, and accompanying software; none of which, is open source. What I think bothers people most is that Apple was very successful with their implementation, and none of us were. Heck, we even had a head start. We started off with our software in 1991, while Apple didn't really start using the same software until the 2000s were well under way.

People have also stated that Apple hasn't given back, which is false. WebKit was a modification of KHTML, and was re-released to the community after being made. This has enabled Epiphany, Chrome, Chromium, Midori, and Arora an alternative to Gecko. Almost all of their other open source software packages are available at Apple's Open Source page. So where is the problem? If I went ahead and made a closed-source operating system that leveraged open source tools, and I kept those tools open source... would I be yelled at were I successful? Apple is the single largest vendor of *nix, and the single largest vendor of open source software. Shouldn't we be cheering this as a success for our two main loves? More people are using *nix and open source software now than ever before, thanks to Apple.

I am not really an Apple fan, as I hate Apple's UI and I hate the proprietary nature of their development model. But, I have to give credit where credit is due.

:: EDIT ::
"So your pissed at Apple for not being open enough when it comes to opensource software. And your pissed with BSD for being to open with opensource software. I find it mildly funny how people always say that the GPL is god gift to open source software and everything should be open, free, happy, butterflies, yeh, but oh, if you plan on modifying anything and selling you better make damn sure your making your work free to everyone as well. Seems rather bossy." - KenP

Insanely well stated, even if the language is a bit more offensive than I would normally allow.

My point about Apple being successful (which apparently made quite a few people rather angry), was that Apple's stock prices have skyrocketed, they're making a ton of money, and they are using a software stack with which most of us are quite familiar. The implication is that Apple got something right, and we should try to figure what that is and emulate that. I would imagine that they got four things right: stability, simplicity, marketing, availability of well-known commercial software packages.

I love Linux/BSD/Solaris, and I want to see our OSs succeed. I am merely pointing out the obvious facts. Oh, and Apple only had to keep KHTML parts of WebKit opensource. The actual changes that made WebKit different could have been kept closed, and it would have been perfectly legal. So, Apple is still the good guy on that.