Tagged: opensource

Enough with Linux as a second class citizen!

I’m sick of Linux being treated like a second class citizen. Hardware and software vendors alike almost proudly display “Supported for PC and Mac” tag lines. Technically, that doesn’t even make sense, because both Windows and OS X can now run on pretty much the same hardware. And so can Linux. Even from a market share stand point, I can understand vendors’ desires to advertise out of the box Windows support, but the market share of OS X is not substantially greater than that of Linux (specially if you put together all the different distributions).

But most importantly, I think it just being mean to the open source community. Consider the recent [[http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2008/03/18safari.html|Safari announcement]]. Now it is well known that Safari is based on [[http://webkit.org/|WebKit]] which has its roots in [[http://konqueror.kde.org/features/browser.php|KHTML]], the HTML renderer originally developed by the [[http://kde.org|KDE community]]. To its credit, Apple has showed its interest in giving back to the community and [[http://arstechnica.com/journals/linux.ars/2007/07/23/the-unforking-of-kdes-khtml-and-webkit|WebKit and KHTML developers are collaborating]] to share their innovations.

But then why does Apple release Safari for Windows and Mac only? WebKit works fine on all platforms (both with GTK and QT) so there’s really no good reason. For that matter, what about iTunes? Why isn’t there an iTunes equivalent for Linux from Apple itself? Why does it want to alienate so many iPod and iPhone users who have Linux on their desktop? What about keyboards and wireless mice? Or monitors and hard drives and webcams and tablets and microphones? Or any number of the zillions of peripherals out there.

If you read the news, there is no dearth of evidence that open source in general, and Linux in particular, is impacting our daily lives more than ever before. Even if you don’t realize it. From embedded systems to mission critical systems, from enterprise systems to the OLPC, from news papers to television stations, Linux and open source are every where. For a comprehensive in-depth article and lots of numbers backing these claims, I highly recommend [[http://www.dwheeler.com/oss_fs_why.html|this article]] by David Wheeler. How long will we have to wait before vendors finally accept that this is a customer base that they can NOT afford to ignore? How long will the community will have to keep proving itself over and over again that it is NOT a bunch of nerdy hobbyists who have no connection with reality?

**Update**: Here are some more resources on Linux/open source usage:
* [[http://mtechit.com/linux-biz/|Linux in business]]: business by categories
* [[http://www.aaxnet.com/design/linux2.html|Companies using Linux]]
* [[http://www.desktoplinux.com/index.html|Lots of news about Linux on the desktop]]: several big vendors like Dell and Lenovo now sell laptops and desktops pre-installed with Linux

Unsung heroes of the FLOSS world

How many of you have heard of [[http://moolenar.net|Bram Moolenar]]? He’s the author of [[http://vim.org|Vim]] (now working at Google Netherlands, actually). Probably some of you have heard of him. Maybe many of you have heard of him. But how many of you have heard of Dr. Chip Campbell? Not many, I suppose.

One of the hallmarks of popular F/L/OSS (Free/Libre/Open) projects is the excellent community around them (think Drupal or WordPress). Now, I lurk around on a lot of mailing lists, and one of the friedliest, warmest and educational mailing list I’ve seen is the [[http://www.vim.org/maillist.php#vim|Vim users list]].

I see people asking all kinds of questions on this list. From the very basic editing questions (like “how do I delete a word?”) to some really non-trivial stuff. Rarely have I seen anyone been beaten upon for posting a “silly” question. Not only that, people are quick and clever in responding with solutions. It is not uncommon for a “How do I…” question to get tens of responses — detailing how to do the same thing in several different ways. The depth and breadth of solutions is invigorating and the welcoming attitude of the community is heart-warming.

And so, the point of this point. I just want to thank all these wonderful people (Benji Fisher, Yakov Lerner, Dr. Chip, Antoine Mechelynck, Hari Krishna Dara, Yegappan Lakshmanan to name a few) who have made Vim a better editor for me and countless others.

PS: This has nothing to do with Vim, per se. I had to start off with //some// project, and Vim is as good as any other. I’ll come back to other software some other time — in the meantime, why don’t you go and praise some people from your favorite community. Let them know you appreciate their guidance and support.


I love where [[http://www.kde.org|KDE]] is going with the [[http://appeal.kde.org/wiki/Appeal|Appeal project]]. Its amazing how open source evolves and develops. Over the last 2 years, both GNOME and KDE have come very close to becoming usable by novice computer users as an easy to use, good looking desktop operating system. And I’m pretty darn sure that with Xgl coming up, and increasing interest from ATI and NVidia to cooperate with FOSS desktops, we will very soon be challenging Mac OSX (I won’t even care to mention Vista in the competition).

Computerworld Development Survey

Here’s the [[http://www.computerworld.com/developmenttopics/development/story/0,10801,100542,00.html | survey]]

Here are some of my comments:

* C# seems to be really taking off. [sigh] Now I have learn yet another language. But its fun learning a new language :) However, first I need some interesting project to work on… Will all the talk about [[http://it.slashdot.org/it/05/04/03/0715209.shtml?tid=156&tid=8 | Python moving into the enterprise]] I wonder when it will creep into the top 5 list. Although, somehow even I’m skeptical about writing enterprise application with a language like Python, because it has this scripty, toyish language kind of feel, and something like Java just seems so much more mature and organized. Other factors like IDE and debugging support also make a lot of difference I guess.
* It was interesting to see that open source software is being used more and more in the industry. My take is that commoditized software (like mailing list managers, web servers) are going to be completely dominated by open source. Niche software (like simulation tools, CRM/ERP apps) will still face competition from propritary vendors.
* Everyone seems to be confused about the future of 64-bit. Its obvious that eventually everything will be 64, but recent moves by the industry (IBM withdrew support for the Itanium, for instance) has not done much to bolster confidence in this new architecture.
* UML is going down. I guess that era of software engineering is coming to an end. What is going to be the future in this area? With languages like Python around, I think prototyping will become a much more predominant development model.

Big giants opening up

While SCO continues to chase Big Blue and other tech giants in the Linux feud, other big tech companies have made positive moves towards open source in the past few days.

Sun announced that they intend to open up the source code for Solaris. Google has also announced that they are going to release part of their source code to the open source community. In a surprise move, Microsoft also gave away its Windows Template Library to be hosted at SF.net

IMHO, for most part this opening up is due to fear. IBM and RedHat have been leading the way for profitable commercial development using open source technologies for quite a while now. In the past few years, Sun has seen its server market shrink down, again encroached upon by IBM. With the launch of the Java Desktop System, Sun is now trying to get into the Linux and open source business.

To build a good and reliable brand name with the open source community, Sun needs to show its intent and commitment towards the philosophy that is open source. Sun even announced that they are thinking about opening up Java, though Sun will still strictly control what is and what is not “pure” Java.