Comux 000001

maybe next i should pick on the openSUSE color scheme so i don't get crucified by the Ubuntu fans


Fedora and the WizardPen Tablet of Genius

A few days on from some OS experimentation, and Fedora 10 on the eee is still running strong. Since then i have experimented with several tasks that i normally attempt on a new OS. One of these tasks is to get my tablet ( Genius MousePen 8x6 ) working. Other than being really good ( enough for me to stop using openSUSE on my eee ), it seems that Fedora has a few other surprises.

Downloading the wizardpen driver from the usual place, and performing the usual configure and make on the extracted source, the wizardpen_drv.so file is located in src/.libs. Once this is copied to the Xorg input modules directory ( /usr/lib/xorg/modules/input/ ), the next step involves editing the x.org config file, usually located at /etc/X11/xorg.conf.

So, as i have done for the last 8 years, i opened up a terminal and cd to /etc/X11, and vi xorg.conf. Momentarily i assumed that i had made a mistake, since "new file" was printed at the bottom of the screen. After triple checking the directory and filenames, i realised that there was no xorg.conf in this directory. My first reaction was that ( being a Fedora newbie ) it must have been in a different directory, so after searching through all the obvious directories and finding nothing, i decided to check online. The first relevant forum post states that Fedora does not have an xorg.conf file anymore. Once i had recovered from this news that had just shattered my view of the XServer, i read on. Turns out that it's all auto configured, since X can now dynamically load input drivers instead of having a single fixed config file. After a few minutes of thought and a considerably strong drink to calm the nerves, i looked up some more details on getting the tablet to work. ( Note: it is possible to have an xorg.conf, but it needs to be generated by installing system-config-display and saving those settings, thereafter X will use the newly generated xorg.conf )

With some decent Google search terms, i located a suitable forum post about using the wizardpen tablet under Fedora. Reading down to an entry by user Vikswd, i followed his/her simple instructions, logged out, plugged in the tablet, and it was working. Besides the initial recovery time after seeing no xorg.conf, this was the shortest time that it has taken to get my tablet working under any OS. I suspect that this setup might work for any Linux using the new Xorg with hot pluggable input ( 1.5 i believe ), but i have not tested it and will the moment i have a chance.  This is how it's done:

  1.  Make sure you have built and installed wizardpen_drv.so into the /usr/lib/xorg/modules/input directory. If you don't know how to do this there are many forum posts on the subject and it is really simple.
  2. Find the hardware name of your device by performing either:
    cat /proc/bus/input/devices
    grep -i name /proc/bus/input/devices
    In the output will most likely be something like UC-LOGIC Tablet WP8060U... remember this.
  3.  Create a new file: /usr/share/hal/fdi/policy/20thirdparty/99-x11-wizardpen.fdi
  4.  Edit this new file as root user, and put in the following content:
    <?xml version="1.0" encoding="ISO-8859-1" ?>
    <deviceinfo version="0.2">
     <!-- This MUST match with the name of your tablet -->
     <match key="info.product" contains="NAME OBTAINED FROM STEP 2">
      <merge key="input.x11_driver" type="string">wizardpen</merge>
      <merge key="input.x11_options.SendCoreEvents" type="string">true</merge>
      <merge key="input.x11_options.TopX" type="string">10</merge>
      <merge key="input.x11_options.TopY" type="string">10</merge>
      <merge key="input.x11_options.BottomX" type="string">32747</merge>
      <merge key="input.x11_options.BottomY" type="string">32762</merge>
      <merge key="input.x11_options.MaxX" type="string">32747</merge>
      <merge key="input.x11_options.MaxY" type="string">32762</merge>
  5.  Plug in the tablet, and log out. This should do it. If not, hit Ctrl+Alt+Backspace for good measure ( twice if openSUSE 11 or above ) and that's it. Pressure sensitivity will work in Gimp by activating it under input devices in Gimp Preferences.
  6. As noted in the forum post, if something did go wrong, check your /var/log/Xorg.0.log for a (EE) line, possibly by doing something like grep EE /var/log/Xorg.0.log 

That is really quick and easy, took me less time to do than running the tablet driver installer on Windows! Since then, i have been thoroughly enjoying having my tablet working again, since it has been roughly a year since i actually tried to draw anything. Some 800x480 KDE/eee backgrounds that i have done can be found here. The XML posted above is very similar to the traditional config, and modifying it would be a simple matter of adapting your usual settings ( based on the output of the wizardpen-calibrate app that gets built with the driver ). As always with my posts ( especially the How-To style ones ), any extra notes or different methods are appreciated in the comments. The more we can help the community, the better.


Ubuntu and Back Again, a Scenic Journey

Following my blog entry on the unetbootin application, it was only logical that i review what exactly i did with the app. Since many people who have read my blog see me as a hater of freedom and an exclusively openSUSE user, i thought its about time i gave the free software community's little darling, Ubuntu, another shot. It's been a while since i've installed an OS other than openSUSE, mostly due to moving across the world and not really having a spare PC to mess around with ( since the EEE was also my wife's work PC, and the scene isn't pretty if i break it for a day ). Last time i tried a different OS must be about the same time last year ( Christmas cheer and all ), and it was Ubuntu. This time, i've experimented a bit and went through several OSes, and my results are not what some readers might expect. Even i didn't expect what happened...

I'm a software enthusiast, always looking to try something that looks interesting, free or not. As a programmer i prefer seeing source code, and my intrigue in different software often stems from wondering how it works. When people insist that something is good, then i must try it. Discovering unetbootin was an indirect result of this. People keep telling me how good Ubuntu is, so i thought i should try it on the EEE.


Knowing that there is a large EEE community, i figured that i'd try out the first EEE distro that i found, ubuntu-eee. Turns out that this uses unetbootin to get it onto a flash drive and boot ubuntu-eee. And hence my discovery of this awesome application. So i did the deed, and fired up ubuntu-eee. As you'd expect from a EEE distro, everything worked out of the box. It even had a "cute" netbook interface which made me feel like i was operating a mobile phone, but knowing that it was easy to get rid of, i proceeded to install the os ( which is really simple with Ubuntu as always ). Install was easy, everything went as expected, and i booted to the netbook interface. A few terminal lines later ( i felt right at home because apt's terminal interface isn't so different from zypper - i know apt came first don't crucify me for that ), and i had a sort of traditional Ubuntu interface. Gnome menu bar and desktop. Now i'm a KDE user, and my reasons for not using Gnome could be an entire blog post, so i need KDE installed. And not just any KDE, i want to be using at least 4.1.2 or ( preferably ) 4.2 Beta 2. Then i discovered that ubuntu-eee was based on 8.04LTS, and i needed to upgrade to 8.10 to get any decent KDE 4 support ( as per a forum post i found ). Sadly upgrading Ubuntu works only half of the time ( heard too many complaints from Ubuntu users ) and requires 1.2GB of harddrive space, which my EEE 701 can't handle. So without being able to upgrade i couldn't find a way of getting KDE 4. So i figured i'd move on to more familiar ground, and decided to check out what unetbootin could do.

openSUSE Factory:

As a normal openSUSE user who likes to have the latest software ( even unstable versions sometimes ), openSUSE Factory is a logical choice. I finally discovered the flexibility of the SUSE installer, the fact that a 20MB image can install from anywhere! A network connection is all that is required, so after using unetbootin to get the image onto the USB stick, i noted down the Factory url and rebooted. The installer started up in an old school NCurses environment and asked me for CDROM 1. Hitting cancel, i was given the option to perform a network install and all was needed was to enter the URL, and the usual graphical openSUSE installer popped up. As much as this was more complicated that from a live disk, it's rather flexible so i wasn't unimpressed. 3GB of rpm downloads later, and i had what appeared to be openSUSE 11.1. Interestingly it was labeled as openSUSE 11.2 Alpha, but at first i took no heed to this. Only when i attempted to use the great 1-Click install mechanism, did that become a problem. For some reason, it refused to register me as openSUSE Factory, and YaST wouldn't install anything from the 1-Click install site. This is a big piece of why i like openSUSE so much, and i figured that without this, i might as well be using Mandriva or Fedora ( for want of another RPM distro ). Gladly, all EEE features were working as expected. Other than that, it was kind of slow, considerably more so than the openSUSE 10.3 install i had left just 3 days before. I figured some of that was to do with KDE 4 running ( as opposed to XFCE which i had ) but none-the-less it was too slow for my daily use. I figured after a day or so, that i didn't give an Ubuntu based distro a decent chance, and since a colleague was saying that my experience of Ubuntu was poor because it was ubuntu-eee, i thought i should keep up the experiment.

Kubuntu 8.10:

So i got the next distro and booted it up. As per usual, Kubuntu came as a live distro, with option to install, so i jumped right in. After the painless install process, i booted into a clean Kubuntu install for the first time. There were two things that i noticed instantly. Firstly, there were updates available. Secondly, my wifi driver wasn't working and i had no internet access. So how exactly did it know about the updates? I'm still debating the ways in which this might have occured but haven't yet thought up a reasonable answer. Maybe it should have been called Omnipotent Ibex. So i pulled out a lan cable, fired up konqueror and did some browsing. It turns out that even though 8.10 claims that the EEE 701 wifi card is in the driver list ( in use and working ), it isn't. Many posts are in forums about this, and there is no official kernel support for this card. There is however a EEE kernel which i proceeded to install following a few command line tricks. It was at this point i really missed the 1-Click install, since i prefer as little command line interaction as possible. So after a reboot, everything was working ( and i put that lan cable away ). So now to get some software. The Adept software manager was the only software installer available, so i played around for a while and wasn't too impressed. I needed finer control of the packages i wanted, and i remembered that Synaptic package manager should be here somewhere. Oddly i had to install it! This is really odd for me, because even OpenOffice was installed, which should never be on the EEE 701. Given that, i installed Synaptic and removed Oo, and then continued setting up all my usual stuff, gimp, abiword and others. One thing that did impress me was that since the install, compositing had been running perfectly ( thanks KWin ), and really smoothly too. Being somewhat impressed i kept playing around for a while, but couldn't help feeling that it was still not much faster than openSUSE, even without Compositing. Boot time was still long, and as with every distro i've tried on either of the ( widescreen ) laptops, boot process still spams text ( in Kubuntu's case, it starts with a graphical logo and then returns to a full text boot ). Feeling somehwat ok with Kubuntu, i only have a few complaints. Firstly, there is no centralized system admin tools, and knowing that only Mandriva and SUSE focus on this, i'm ok to accept it if decent admin tools are provided. With Kubuntu this was borderline, but still ok. It's enough for most users, and i could see why people would be more than happy to accept this given that their hardware all worked perfectly with the OS. I really dislike the Synaptic package manager, as it it somewhat difficult to tweak the installed packages to a point where there is minimal disk usage, but everything still works. Some packages won't deselect no matter what, and i feel that i need more control over my system. Overall though it felt good, if not a little to slow. Yes, i am giving Kubuntu an thumbs up! There is also something about Ubuntu, which is my main reason for not using it, that it feels very raw. It's hard to describe, but i've always thought of Ubuntu as feeling like someone might imagine a community distro. There's something rough about it, like a bunch of people hacked together some tools and gave it a name. Maybe it's because i have very little Debian experience, and that is just the feel of Debian, but i like things to feel like they are products, not progressions. This aside, i could live with Kubuntu, and so, i decided to download some Live ISO's ( onto an external HDD ) and try out unetbootin's set up from ISO feature. And then i met Fedora 10.

Fedora 10:

At first booting the live distro with no intention to install, something struck me. There was no streaming text on boot. It seems that if Fedora cannot find a resolution for boot, it does an NCurses style loading bar which still looks impressive given i've been staring at scrolling text for the last year. A small thing, but still a nice little bit of polish. KDE 4.1.3 starts up, and i notice immediately that it feels just like what i'm used to, on the other laptop! The speed was incredible. Granted, the compositing was disabled, it felt ridiculously fast. I also realised that the wireless networking was working perfectly and somehow seemed to connect quicker than i've ever seen network manager connect. This wasn't just perception, and i think there is some preloading trick somewhere, or maybe i'm just used to bad drivers. It seems like a Fedora KDE live cd, is really a KDE cd! There was no OpenOffice ( for that i'm grateful ), and KOffice was installed by default. There was almost nothing non-KDE or non-Fedora, which was interesting, because even ubuntu using some Gnome stuff on Kubuntu. I also noticed that they had backported panel hiding to plasma, which was a pleasant surprise ( given on Kubuntu i was used to having the panel on the left ). Menu icon was themed ( unlike Kubuntu ) and overall it felt really well put together. The Fedora themes are also beautiful, and i must admit that i've always disliked the default color scheme of Ubuntu and openSUSE always overdoes the green, so the blue of Fedora 10 is a rather nice change. Given that i was rather taken aback by a distro i've never given more than 20 minutes to, i figured i'd install it knowing that i could always go back to Kubuntu. The install was the simplest yet, even  easier than Kubuntu's which really impressed me. Simple process, done, and after a reboot, i had a Fedora 10 EEE. Again the boot process was covered up by the nice loading bar. Desktop speed was even faster installed, to be expected, and overall a great feel. Trying to install software wasn't as simple as on Kubuntu, given that the software installer is the rather new KPackageKit, but once i was used to it, it was relatively impressive. It still needs some work, but i have a lot of faith in the KDE team, so i'm willing to keep using it. One issue, for example, was that it wouldn't install a non-trusted RPM, so i was forced to do a command line install. Seems this is a known issue and i think it has to do with PolicyKit. On that note, Fedora has a really nice Authorizations dialog, allowing you to set things like that and grant the user whatever permissions are needed Generally the tools were just enough for my EEE, and the OS was the fastest so far. As far as KDE use goes, they did really well, by far better than Kubuntu and openSUSE. Although i miss YaST, Fedora makes me feel comfortable enough to not need it. I decided to try one more Live distro, Mandriva 2009.0, but that failed on boot, although i won't deny being slightly relieved that i didn't have to relinquish Fedora.

The result really surprised me in the end, but i have to say that Fedora is the best distro i've put on the EEE so far! The perfect tradeoff between speed and beauty ( with KDE 4.1 ), they have really done a fantastic job of making sure that the core elements are provided without losing any performance. I still need to retry Mandriva and openSUSE 11.1 ( not that factory nonsense ) to be fair, but i'm not convinced that they will be able to dethrone Fedora.



Get Your Fresh OS on a Stick!

Recently i discovered an application that falls into a class of applications that stick in my mind for a long time. This includes apps like the SysInternals process manager for Windows ( because sometimes i like end task to end a task ). This application is called unetbootin and can be found here.

It is an app that allows you to install one of many listed operating systems onto a flash drive or potentially any disk. It makes the disk bootable, and comes with a list of most of the decently known Linux distros. And i say decently known, because distros such as Mint, CentOS, DSL, Puppy and others are included. It also allows you to download an iso image of your favourite distro and let unetbootin use the iso to create a bootable USB stick for you. It has a really simple interface and very seldom fails to do what you expect of it.

So why would i want something like this. Other than not caring to have lots of dvd's to burn, i also have an Asus EEE 701 with no external dvd drive, all i have is an old 1GB USB stick. So OS installation is not easy. Unetbootin allows me to change my OS as often as i want, which is exactly what i have done. The article following this will cover my adventures in switching OS... a few times.


Making Games and Stuff

Since i am a game developer, it might be nice for any readers that i might have to see what i have done. I work for a dutch game developer Codeglue, and our first iPhone game hit the App Store yesterday. The game is on special at $2.99 until 5 Jan. Myself and Harald Maasen were the two lead developers on the project, with my main focus being on the graphics engine ( or at least that's what i'm most proud of ). The game is called HydroTilt, and its basically a 3D puzzle game based on rolling a water droplet around a level, collecting a "cool" block that turns you into ice, and carrying it to the finish. The levels become progressively harder with more puzzles to solve, and a skill based challenge in getting the elusive crystal to unlock a special treat. On the surface it sounds like a great idea, but it really needs to video to show how awesome this game is:

As you can see, the graphics are really easy on the eyes and the gameplay is intuitive. We at Codeglue are really proud of this game ( especially the game's lead designer Tom Rutjens ) and hope to see it do well in the App Store. The game is produced by Peter de Jong, and published by Publisher X. A review was done by Touch Arcade here, and i will probably post many more links to reviews of the game. if any reader does download it, i would greatly appreciate it if you could post a video of the credits on youtube, veoh or any other video site and send me a link. Other than having my name in it, there is something special about the credits ;)


Lancelot, and the Knights of the Plasma Widget

As controversial as it has been, i've been a supporter of KDE 3's Kickoff menu ( as introduced by openSUSE Linux ), and hence a supporter of the new KDE 4 default menu. There are some vocal protesters, but i feel that this sort of menu is a huge leap forward in general, and something with the ability to type instead of searching through tonnes of submenus is a great relief to me. Adding a few tabs for useful items adds more usability and helps with the overall feel of the menu. While i have heard of the Lancelot menu/application launcher, i had never used it until today. So what is Lancelot? I think the best description requires some images. So i opened up KSnapshot and used some of its great features to just snap a picture the KDE default menu and then Lancelot.

KDE 4 default menu has the text entry bar at the top, allowing me to type just a few letters to find the application i am looking for. The tabs at the bottom allow me to select applications and browse the menu in a simple, yet sophisticated manner. Instead of cascading submenus all over, the menu that you browse to scrolls into the pane as the previous one scrolls out, keeping things small and ordered. The biggest disadvantage is that it is difficult to navigate up the tree of this menu quickly, as there is only a button to take you back up one level. The concept of breadcrumbs ( as with Dolphin or Finder's path bars ) would be great.

Lancelot has some similarities with overall appearance and feel. Also having several tabs for different things, although it does put the Shutdown/Logout items on the main canvas of the menu. Again, it has a text entry bar, allowing me to locate applications within seconds instead of browsing the whole menu. Another brilliant feature is that Lancelot has not only breadcrumbs, but also shows the previous menu in a compressed space next to your current ( you can configure the number of parent menus visible ). Here you have the option to select the menu you would like to be in from the breadcrumbs or the previous menus on the side.

As someone who is a stickler for usability and efficiency, this sort of project is really brilliant. The fact that there is competition between different menu systems is part of what gives open-source operating systems an edge over the commercial ones. The lack of alternatives in Windows and Mac limit their drive to improve the existing one, and result in the lack of efficiency in operating your desktop. While the days of Linux playing catchup to proprietary systems are gone, i feel that the KDE project is now the leader in innovation over all the platforms. Plasma is ever so controversial, but many great innovations have been, and the ideas in Plasma are going to be copied and change the desktop forever. Widgets like Lancelot are proof thereof, congrats to Ivan Čukić and the other guys working on it. The main issues people have with Plasma are to do with stability, and i still find the occasional issue ( normally because i still have old libraries ), but 4.2 is looking to be a release that might lead to mainstream uptake of the KDE 4 series. On another note, well done to the openSUSE team, the openSUSE Plasma theme is really looking great!


More Pre-installs, More Market Share

On the continued note of discussion about Linux and what it's main source of expansion is, it seems that HP have made a deal with Novell. The intention is to deliver HP computers with SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop ( SLED ) to schools and businesses. This is the first time that HP plans to sell pre-installed Linux since 2005, which is a long time in the Linux world. HP Software Product Marketing Manager, Lance Stevens, cites this decision being based on low uptake of Windows Vista and Netbook popularity. The company plans to offer the Compaq dc5850 at $519. This news comes from a link shared to me via Google Reader, the article is in dutch.

This comes just a month after the news that the Windows market share has dropped below 90%, i might wonder if this news might encourage other manufacturers to do the same. So what does this mean for the Linux community. Truth is that most Linux users won't buy this particular PC, but it is targeted at businesses and schools anyway. What it does mean is that, in my opinion, Linux market share is about to hit the 1% mark. And it will continue to head up, as long as hardware manufacturers do this. The advantages of this knock back onto the causes. As more hardware manufacturers decide to pre-install Linux, drivers for Linux will improve and more applications that are important to people will become available ( or better ), and so more hardware manufacturers will pre-install Linux. This is exactly the sort of effect that has been created by Netbooks and their ongoing growth. Linux drivers are at their most compatible, i was greatly surprised a few months back when i installed openSUSE 11.0 Linux onto an Acer Travelmate laptop and didn't need any drivers, special installs or hacks to get anything working. Everything was perfect out of the box, and that is really impressive considering the usual issues with laptop WiFi, Lan and function keys. Added to this, i haven't had any issues with Linux ( openSUSE and Mandriva at least, Ubuntu had some issues with two network cards back then ) on a desktop for years. Now with MadWifi available under GPL v2, it can be integrated into the mainstream kernel, adding more network support. Add to this a whole list of out of tree drivers being cleaned up and new ones being added by the Linux Driver Project, and things are looking great for the future of pre-installed Linux.

So where do these market share stats come from? Here! It's interesting to note that Apple's market share also jumped a percentage point in correlation with the iPhone sales boosts. Interesting considering that you need a Mac to develop for an iPhone huh? I wonder how many Mac minis are going to start gathering dust after the iPhone fad dies down?

EDIT: There are also stats available here ( thanks L4Linux ) which put Linux market share at 2.11%. This stats site has a smaller sampling area than the other one i listed ( 50 million p/m vs 160 million p/m ), but it is still interesting to see.


Linux is NOT a Crusade!

After my article about Novell, i received at least one comment ( and more always come in ) which makes me really annoyed. Although i replied in a lengthy fashion, i feel it deserves its own article. It's something that gets to me, and i just don't understand the mentality behind it:

Why do so many people treat Linux as a crusade?!?

I really don't get it. I have stated my reasons for using Linux, none of which come down to some arbitrary ( almost religious ) crusade against Microsoft. I've been part of the free software community for a while, and have noticed that it seems to be more against Microsoft than Apple, which honestly i find really odd. I see free software as something that i don't pay for and that i can do whatever i want with. But i also need to be practical.

I don't hate NVidia because i have to install a binary blob if i want some decent 3D Graphics, nor do i blame the kernel developers, because what they do isn't easy, even with hardware specs.

I don't hate Opera because i can't see their source code. Sure, it'd be really nice, but the software costs nothing, and in my opinion, is better than the alternatives. Browsing is really high on my priority list, so i want the best experience i can get.

I don't hate Microsoft because they were early to the desktop OS market and Apple made some silly business decisions ( which they still stick to oddly enough ). I'm referring to their insistence of bundling the OS with the hardware. Had they decided to put in the effort and build a kernel to support anything, they'd probably be number one and Microsoft might be known for something else.

What i do hate is people who think it is their task ( or maybe righteous calling ) to hate Microsoft for having built a business out of their OS market, such that it is hard for anyone else to enter the market. That's capitalism people. Microsoft just conduct business in the way that almost any other company in a capitalist industrialized society does. I'm not so much into big business, i dislike all the trickery and deceit, but that's just how it is. If something else that is better than Windows ( in cost or features ) comes along, it will slowly gain market share, but for that to happen, people need to have a reason to switch. Cost and features is part of it, but so is community interaction.

Years ago i installed Mandrake ( now Mandriva ) Linux on my mothers home PC, and she loved it. But there were problems. She couldn't walk into a shop and buy any hardware, she needed to call me first to see if it would work. She also had issues receiving and sending certain files to friends via email, such as Microsoft Word documents. Your normal non-tech member of society finds these things to be an issue. It's not Microsoft's fault. But so many people in the Linux community love to blame them for it. As Linux grows in popularity, which it clearly is, more hardware manufacturers will strive to support Linux. And with forward thinking companies like Novell, document, service and protocol compatibility will slowly fall into place. The Wine project is another great idea, and allows people to run Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop on Linux. Personally, i have no need for either of those, but not one of the professional artists that i have worked with would replace Photoshop with Gimp ( even tho i prefer Gimp ). Samba allows for protocol compatibility, again making life easier to integrate a network of mixed OS. And there are some zealots out there saying, "But why mix them, you don't need Windows and Mac, just use Linux", but that's not the way it works in big business.

So why should i care if some people are getting a bit overzealous?

Firstly, it gives me a bad name. When i say i'm a Linux user, some people actually say, "Oh, one of those" or "Ok, i won't mention Microsoft" or even hide an XBox behind a curtain and put away their Windows Mobile phone. And honestly, i don't like that. If i were to buy a gaming console ( other than my Wii ), i'd probably buy an XBox. Shock, Gasp, Horror, Linux guy wants XBox. My reasoning is that out of the 3 big current generation consoles, Microsoft have the best community support. If i have access to a Windows PC, i can make a game and sell it on the XBox. Sony and Nintendo don't allow that.

Secondly, what might rise if some Tux Crusade destroys Microsoft? Linux doesn't have the market share yet, so it'd probably be Apple. I'm very convinced that on the scale of proprietariness, Apple rank higher than Microsoft. One OS, only Apple hardware, no attempts to disassemble anything, we can't try and install the OS anywhere, their EULA even prevented users from using their own boot camp ( no other OS on the hardware ), and i'm not allowed to talk about the rest. And in my opinion, i'd rather use the Windows desktop to the Mac desktop. Kernel, not so much, Mac is much more stable and less issues with malware and viruses, but the coming from a Linux background where i feel Windows isn't configurable enough, OS X doesn't even have a task manager/bar/window list. I can't even change the shortcuts, so after a day of work i come home and have to get used to Alt+Tab again, and Home and End actually doing what i expect. So i'd rather have Microsoft, who seem a little willing to bend to pressure, up there than Apple.

Thirdly, it maintains the general view of Linux as a geek OS. Bearing in mind that the people who shout loudest are most frequently recognized, i don't like the thought of the Linux user base of consisting only of a bunch over overzealous nerds. I've heard of shop assistants say, "Use Linux if you want to write your own drivers", which is the rubbish that prevents adoption. If it's not for everyone, then the free software movement has failed. Anyone should feel comfortable using it in the way they want, and as a Linux contributor, it's part of my job to assist people in feeling good about using Linux, not complaining that things don't work as they should ( like myself and my colleagues do when using Mac OS X ).

And finally, it scares people. I've seen articles where people refer to Linux as a cult. People warn of getting in the community, saying that its like a secret organization that you need a special handshake ( or maybe some driver code ) to join. This is not good for Linux as a product. Maintaining a cult status will always scare people ( you may think the Jedi cloak is cool too, but the girl next door is really afraid of you ), so at some stage someone well known needs to come in and dispel these myths. And when Microsoft become the biggest seller of SUSE Linux, these myths move away quickly.

This rampant crusade does nothing but tarnish the image of the Linux community and really prevents people from moving forward. Maybe i'll get zealous about it when i can visit a Flash heavy site in any Linux browser and not fear the consequences, or walk into a shop and just buy some hardware knowing that it'll plug and play, or when i can buy a game that'll just run. 

And for that i'm very thankful that Novell have a Silverlight port, because it means that i don't fear visiting some Silverlight sites. I'm thankful for the Linux Driver Project, because maybe soon i won't have to look up hardware details online before buying something. I'm thankful for Wine, because i can play Red Alert 1, Starcraft, Diablo 2, and many other games. I'm thankful for Mono, because the .NET framework doesn't suck, and if i do need to write something that it is suited for, i can without buying Windows. I'm thankful for Canonical for making the community that develops for Linux bigger. I'm thankful for Trolltech, because they helped make KDE the next gen desktop that it is becoming. And all of the people behind these things deserve credit. Because they don't just sit at home and complain about the unfairness of business in a capitalist society, and they accept that it is merely the way it works. And maybe all the Microsoft haters should stop trolling the internet for porn and places to spread their word, and actually get involved. Make an icon, put up a banner, write an unbiased article, anything to make a difference to the community, and invite new users. Make Linux more friendly. Help a new user. Because at some stage, we were all n00bs, and it sucked. The constant banter about how evil Microsoft is doesn't benefit anyone, so stop wasting time on it and do something productive!


Novell and what they bring to the party

It's almost time for another openSUSE release, and i'm sure there will be many articles written about it in the near future. openSUSE 11.1 plans to bring a whole bunch of new features to the desktop. But what about the company behind the SUSE logo? Novell get a lot of bad press, but do they really deserve it? Not that many people know about some of the projects Novell are behind, so i thought i'd give it a bit of research and find some of the forward thinking things that Novell is doing. This is just a small list of the projects that i thought to be important, any additions are welcome. Some of these are well known, but i do hope to surprise you...

  1.  Mono. "is a cross platform, open source .NET development framework". Simply put, ASP.NET, C#, and Winforms can all be run on Mac/Linux/Windows with Mono. They can also be developed ( using Monodevelop ), allowing for more people to use Linux to develop server applications and all the other stuff that people buy Windows licenses for. If i was head of a software team ( maybe one day :) and i had to do something in .NET, i'd probably opt to use Mono. Most of the Mono work has come out of the infamous Microsoft deal, but how can this project be a bad thing?
  2.  Moonlight. "is an open source implementation of Microsoft Silverlight for Unix systems". Based on Mono, Moonlight 1.0 is a Silverlight 1.0 compatible plugin, finally bringing a decent Flash competitor to the Linux desktop. Why is this a good thing, encouraging use of a Microsoft standard? Because Flash for Linux sucks. And without competition why should Adobe make it better? Silverlight is based on .NET and much better technology than Flash. I'm not a C# fan, but it's so much better than ActionScript. And since Novell have access to some of Microsoft's inner workings, Moonlight is actually really good.
  3.  Go-OO. Basically Novell's spin of Open Office. It's an attempt to take Open Office from the proprietay grip of Sun and give it to the community. Sun have a very bad history with community projects, and while they are pro open source, they don't normally give the community freedom to contribute to the projects. It goes without saying the Go-OO has better Microsoft compatibility. It also features SVG, VBA ( Visual Basic ), rich fields, and multimedia support, 3D transitions, and an optimized Calc solver. Most of these are community add-ins that Sun rejected.
  4.  Linux Driver Project. Technically it was started by GregKH, a kernel developer, who wanted to do this in his free time. Novell ( his employer ) thought it was a great idea, so they decided that he should do this as part of his job. The aim of this project is to create Linux Kernel Drivers ( under GPL v2 ) for different devices. Hardware manufacturers can contact this group, and request that a driver is made. The group is willing to sign non-disclosure agreements, as long as the final driver is GPL v2.
All of these things are of great long term benefit to the Linux platform. Whether it's just more compatibility with Microsoft or making products for Linux better, they do more than their share of work. The idea of having .NET available on Linux is fantastic, and while some people are against it, it's very much like Wine in a sense. Businesses and individuals are far more likely to adopt a Linux distro if there are more applications that they are comfortable with. I know many people who would use Linux if they could play their games, and many businesses who would if they could run their software or use their hardware, so any steps to making this happen are welcome. And what's more, is that this compatibility is free.


Opera 10 Alpha 1 and testing the Acid

Opera 10 alpha 1 is out... and guess what??

It really is an awesome release!


Opera 10, another great update, another cheesy name

Opera, my favorite browser, is heading toward another release. Opera 10 is due sometime next year, but word has it that the first alpha will be out in the next 2 weeks!! Of course there are many reasons why people use Opera above another browser, Speed Dial, Mouse Gestures ( seriously, i can't live without them anymore ), Opera Link ( sync of all the important stuff ), Custom searches and a pretty decent mail client and feed reader. So what are they adding this time?

Of course there is always a bit of an interface upgrade with Opera, as is expected for every major release. We saw this for 9.5 and i get the feeling that it is a taste of what 10 will look like. The are also throwing in an upgrade of their layout engine, Presto. This means faster rendering, and as always, more compatibility. Always more widget enhancements, and that little bit more security that they always give you in Opera. Two of the big new features that are expected are the inline spell check ( useful for people who still suck at typing like myself ), and an auto update feature!

Oh, and the name... Peregrine.

UPDATE: As confirmed by Opera on twitter first alpha comes tomorrow! I was guess next week, but i'm glad i was wrong!