Off the Top: Linux Entries

April 8, 2005

Tech Expo Fose was Ho Hum

I made it to Fose (the government-centric tech trade show) today. I was impressed nor intrigued by extremely little. There was mobile and a very good showing from the Open Source community, old old news to non-government folks. I was completely blown away by many booth's lack of understanding of their own products, particularly the Microsoft booth, I was interested in the One Note as it seemed similar to Entourage's Project (they were unfamiliar with any of the Microsoft Mac products and did not know they made products for the Mac - although they did laugh at my Keynote is PowerPoint with out swearing quip). The MS booth was pushing the product, but nobody seemed to have a clue about it. I was also interested in Groove (I was a fan from when I was using the beta of it many years ago) and wanted to see its current state. Microsoft really needs to hire people who not only care about their products but know about their products and what the company is doing. (This is truly not a Microsoft slam as I am getting some long long lost respect for them on some small fronts.)

I was quite impressed with three booths, Apple, Adobe, and Fig Leaf Software as they were extremely knowledgeable and were showcasing their wares and skills and not goofy side-shows. They had the skills and wares to show off (Blackberry also had a good booth, but I did not have a great interest there).

Apple was showcasing their professional line of hardware, including their servers and SAN, which blew all other server solutions out of the water on price and capability (including Dell and HP). Apple was also showcasing their new OS Tiger, which they were able to show me does search, using Spotlight, in the files comments in the metadata (now labeled Spotlight comments just to make it clear), which will make my life so much wonderfully better, but that is an other post all together. Tiger's Dashboard was also very impressive as it has an Expose-like fade-in ability. I tried asking the same questions to a few different people at the Apple booth and they were all extremely knowledgeable and across the board may have been the most impressive for this.

I hounded Adobe about their InDesign CS2, GoLive CS2 (standards compliance), and Acrobat (tag creation and editing). Not every person could answer every question, but they were able to bring over the right person who had deep knowledge of the product. Adobe has products I like, but there has always been one or two tripping points for me that keep me from fully loving their products and from using their products exclusively in Web development workflow.

The guy at the Fig Leaf booth (a Macromedia training and development shop in Washington, DC. I asked why no Macromedia and was told they pulled out at the last minute, but I had to thank the folks at Fig Leaf as they have the best Macromedia training anywhere in the area (nobody else comes remotely close and most others are a complete waste of time and money). I was really looking for Macromedia to talk about ColdFusion as their last product was so poorly supported by Macromedia it has been strongly considered to drop the product from the workflow. Fig Leaf, not Macromedia was the firm that posted the work arounds to ColdFusion server flaws when you run the CF MX product in a secure Microsoft environment. There is a lot about the Macromedia site that is really difficult to use and it is nearly impossible to find the information you want as well as get back to that same information. Macromedia does make some very good products and they have been very receptive to web standards for quite some time, but there are things that make embracing them so very difficult.

Overall, I got a lot from the show, if only from a very small number of vendors. I think I am finally going to switch up to the Adobe CS2 Premium Suite as it seems like a very good suite, and it has been difficult getting the cross-platform upgrade for the Windows to Mac switch from my PhotoShop 6 license (thanks to help from people in the booth that may be less painful than the two or three hour calls I have previously endured). Also thanks to the faux doctor who handed me a bottle of mint candy pills from the Blackberry booth (chili dog with onions was not good fair prior to going to Fose).

November 17, 2003

This one goes to 80

Dave Weinberger points out gross errors Information Week made when graphically comparing perceived problems with Windows and Linux. The error is that the Windows graphic uses a scale of 80 percent, while Linux uses a scale of 40 percent. When you realize this the differences in perception become huge.

Microsoft shows nearly 80 of those surveyed had concerns about their software quality and vulnerabilities, while Linux had less than 25 percent. More than 60 percent felt the cost of ownership is too high with Microsoft, while far less than 5 percent had the same concern with Linux. The Linux perceived problems revolve around a lack of complete and fully integrated software environment (40 percent), accountability if problems arise (above 35 percent), and lack of clear product road map (35 percent). Each of the Linux perceived problems, once you spend time looking into them, is not really a problem, but more of a lack of a company with a large marketing budget. I am hoping that Novel and IBM can really start making headway in this area. The quality of Linux products is far higher than Microsoft's and for nearly every product that Microsoft pushes there is at least an equal product in the Linux community.

Then again there is Apple too.

November 6, 2003

Choose your candidate by their Web server

In an effort to get in to the swing of things political, what is your candidate running Web site on? The up time of the RNC and DNC is very telling.

November 1, 2003

iPIM and Chandler have a chair at the Personal Info Cloud

There are two articles that are direct hits on managing information for the individual and allowing the individual to use the information when they needed it and share it as needed. Yes, this is in line with the Personal Information Cloud.

The first article, The inter-personal information manager (iPim) by Mark Sigal about the problem with users finding information and how the can or should be able to then manage that information. There are many problems with applications (as well as the information format itself) that inhibit users reuse of information. In the comments of the article there is a link to products that are moving forward with information clients, which also fit into the Personal Information Cloud or iPIM concept. (The Personal Information Cloud tools should be easily portable or mobile device enabled or have the ability to be retrieved from anywhere sent to any device.

The second article is from the MIT Technology Review (registration required) titled Trash Your Desktop about Mitch Kapor (of founding Lotus Development fame) and his Open Source project to build Chandler. Chandler is not only a personal information manager (PIM), but the tool is a general information manager that is contextually aware. The article not only focusses on Mitch and the product (due late 2004), but the open and honest development practices of those that are building Chandler at the Open Source Application Foundation for Windows, Mac, Linux, etc. distribution.

May 26, 2003

Views of the future of software

Every now and then I run across something that really gets me thinking and twisting every way I look at the idea. Dave Winer's Who will pay for software, Pt. I and who will pay, Pt. II along with Tim Bray's Business Ignorance and Try then Buy. These four articles look at the state of the software industry. The consensus, go figure, is not too bright unless one is Microsoft.

As Joshua noted the other day I tend to view Microsoft's products dimmly. This is partly because the Microsoft products are rarely the best in their field, and they rarely have ever been the best. Marketing is Microsoft's strength and they have made a bundle and gained prominance not out of having the best product, but through their business skills.

A few years ago I started on a project that put me back in the UNIX environment, which I dreaded at first as much of my work for the two previous years had been on Windows based systems. I relearned to love UNIX and Linux as my develoment skilss had grown greatly. I found UNIX and Linux gave the developer and SysAdmin far better control and I could control security problems far better than I ever could in the Windows world. I left the UNIX-based project to head back into a Windows world about two or three years ago. In doing so I really wanted to have a UNIX based machine to keep up my skills, I was also in need of a laptop as my old laptop was tied to my project.

I made a decision to buy a Mac TiBook and run Mac OS X. This gave me the laptop, the UNIX underpinnings, and a solid interface. I had not used a Mac since 1990 for work after using friends Macs and loving them. I used Mac's as test environments over the past few years, but the instability of the pre-OS X operating systems and the vast difference in interfaces from Windows and no command line kept me away. From the first month I had my Mac I was in love with it, well it was a frustrating love in the way that you find that perfect mate and they just don't suck and never seem to iritate you. I hated to say the Mac was a computer as it did not cause headaches and did not cause problems. Everything I needed to do for side-projects and even work for a Windows environment was dirt simple and just worked.

This love of simplicity and an aim for perfection at Apple has a new mark for me to evaluate everything that Microsoft does. Granted the Windows software on Mac seems to be far better than the Windows OS versions, sometimes seeming to be an order of magnitude better. The Mac OS X seems to offer a very rare balance, in its simiplicity, beauty, ease of use, and control. While not all of Apple's applications are perfect, they are far better than many other offerings out there.

Apple has a flirting love affair with Open Source applications and has been making it very easy to add Linux-based apps and have them take advantage of the OS X interface, with its X11 (still in beta and it just rocks).

After reading the four articles above I have been somewhat worried that the attempts at great software that bubble up may have a tough road ahead, which is a true shame. A behemoth company that creates mediocre software (MS) may be ruining the opportunities for great software to exist, unless we can find solid methods for funding these great things. Mediocre software leads me to fits of swearing and having another human generation on its way into our home in the next few months I do not want these fits of swearing or the limited view of the world that is nothing like those of us that dream of a better world with computing want to see. I want my child to know that they can have beauty, control, and perfectly built software and operating systems that will help them through life and not provide a means of frustration.

April 19, 2003

Interview with Fink Project Lead Max Horn

OSNews has a very good interview with Fink project leader Max Horn offering insight into Fink (Mac OS X application that allows incorporating Linux/open source applications into the Mac native graphics framework) and Fink Commander development.

January 11, 2003

May 4, 2002

MS security causes sad day

Life sucks when: You have to pull an e-mail account that you manage from service. Particularly when this account is for your Dad. My Dad can be reached at Tom and I will be keeping Thomas. The TJV account is closed.

Why you ask? The account was hacked with the klez virus. He cleaned his hard drive, as he had no choice it or another virus took the hard drive out. He took another hard drive and put it in that machine and started fresh. This may have also infected his new laptop. Yes, all of these machines run Windows (the swiss cheese security system). My dad is more than computer savvy and Windows is not a consumer OS, as it is nothing more than an e-mail away from destroying everything digital you own (among many other issues, which I spend hours assisting friends and relatives with their continual problems with the MS OS). Microsoft continues to lie about its focus on security and the basic problem is the OS itself, it is not secure and it seems it will never be secure. UNIX has some issues, but has many more years of development under its belt, which is why is far more secure. UNIX variants (Apple Mac OS X, Linux, BSD, etc.) all have the advantage of years of experience and advanced developers working on the OS.

Keeping a MS box secure requires somebody with a lot of experience and they are not cheap. The MS total cost of ownership being lower than UNIX is a myth and unfounded. If you have MS open to the outside world (Internet server, DSL at home, or unfiltered (through virus scanner) e-mail, etc.) you need an MS security expert focussed on ensuring the sanctity of whatever is considered valuable on the MS boxes. This person will cost as much, if not more, than a senior UNIX systems administrator (who are, by and large, veterans in UNIX security also as it comes with the territory).

Too many folks (that are near and dear to me) have had MS servers hacked or been victims of viruses in the past couple of weeks. Granted the MS boxes hacked may not have been watched over by MS security experts, but that is what it takes.

Making choices, as far as what language to develop Internet applications, should keep in mind lock in factors. A UNIX only or a Microsoft only solution that requires the application be only run on a certain type of server has never been a great idea. This becomes even more apparent now. In my opinion this has never been a good option. Fortunately, there are many more options available that run on nearly all OS platforms. These include: Perl, PHP, Java (JSP), Python, ColdFusion, etc. Each of these languages have their own plusses and minuses, but if a certain OS platform becomes an unavailable option the applications can relatively easily be moved to another OS. This is not the case with ASP, and even less so the .Net framework (as noted before. Sure ASP can use ChiliSoft, but that is a very short term solution (as you know if you have ever had to use it, it buys you time to recode everything into a portable application language) and requires double to triple the hardware resources to run it compared to ASP on MS or any other language running natively.

All of this is just the beginning of the reasons why I most likely have bought my last Windows machine. The other reasons fall into the areas of trust and pricing. This explanation may follow soon.

April 7, 2002

We have the Way In is a Linux and UNIX response to the lies Microsoft and Unisys tell. The Microsoft reports rely on "executives" views, which are the folks that believe the marketing hype and tie their organizations to poor solutions to their problems. These are the same folks that want to build information applications with out gathering requirements, much like building a house with out a plan and attempting to put up walls and put in windows then laying the foundation. The world is ridding themselves of these poor souls in tech decision-making positions, but not quite quickly enough to help their organizations. I would hate to see the clueless people believing this marketing fluff after the failures of Microsoft and Unisys putting this site together.

March 29, 2002

Fox counters Microsoft's mistruths

After battling the crappy MS OS at work the past couple of days (it locked all users from copying files to the development server only solution was to create a new base directory and copy the old files in with the permissions set like they were on the previous folder), I was happy to see Kevin Fox' response to Microsoft's proposed hipocracy and lies. Microsoft should change their slogan to "We use fear to sell, because are products aren't worth they money you pay". The consolation is I get to come home to Mac OS X and have few if any problems, because it is UNIX at the core. [hat tip Dinah]

March 23, 2002

Linux Journal offeers a great article about the state of Apple OS X written by Brent Simmons and Doc Searls (whom it was wonderful to meet at SXSW). The article gets to the core of what is great about OS X and the stability of the OS and the usability of the OS. Over the past week or so I have grown more iritated with Windows and its foibles of lack of detail in so many areas.

January 13, 2002

A large part of my desire to get an Apple computer that would run OS X, was my work with Unix and Linux over the last couple years. I have loved working in that environment that is stable, lacking confounding DLLs, and easy to manage from the command line. To this end Linux Jounal reviews the recent MacWorld. The article notes many familiar faces between the Linux and Apple conferences, also held in the same building.

January 5, 2002

Dan Gillmore (SJ Merc) discusses Mac OS X showing headway in becoming an OS to be reconned with. He discusses his interaction with the various operating systems that he owns. This article is not only about the OS, but an introspective piece on Dan's own usage patterns.

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