Archive for February 2012

Current Desktop

I just thought that I’d take this opportunity (since I’m kinda bored and couldn’t think of anything to write about) to post a screen capture of my current desktop.

I don’t know if it’s the people that I hang around with, or if it’s actually more global, but it seems like there’s been kind of a push towards minimalism within the Linux/Unix community. It could be a carry over from the mobile market. Who knows. Regardless, I like the spartan look.

Here’s what I have as of right now.

Open Source Linux has Nothing to Fear from Android

Android has been exploding in popularity since it’s release to the public in 2008. Recently, it’s success has bred a new collection of rumors and FUD. HP’s new CEO Meg Whitman claimed that Google’s acquisition of Motorola would lead to Android being becoming closed source. It seems ridiculous, and is probably just an effort to bring herself more public attention, but there have been some people out in the real world that have also expressed concern. I received a tweet, saying “I am concerned that at the end Android kills the open source Linux community.” I don’t think that will happen. Here’s why.

Linux is open source. Now, this might seem like a great big “Duh” thing to say, but I think it’s important.

Even if Google were to close source Android, the source code is out there. Even Google doesn’t have the power to erase something from the Internet once it’s been put out there. I have yet to see anybody that does short of just throwing the power switch on the whole darn thing. Maybe some strategically placed EMPs covering the globe could pull it off. The Open Source community is far older than Linux, and the Linux Open Source community will exist as long as the community wants it to.

Let’s assume that Android takes off like nothing before it. iOS becomes a fading memory, the only thing left of OSX is the boxes used to prop opens doors and discs that get burned in the microwave for fun. Windows is relegated to a not-so-fond memory of a BSOD. Why would Linux disappear? The Open Source Community is a major contributor to the kernel that drives Android. Yes, there are many multi-billion dollar corporations that also contribute to the kernel, but if those corporations deviate from what the community believes is right, those changes just won’t get incorporated into the kernel.

Even assuming those corporations manage to mount a coup and take over the kernel completely, the Community doesn’t take that kind of behavior lying down. A good example is OpenOffice. When Oracle started being a too heavy handed in their management of the OpenOffice suite, the community rebelled, forked off of OpenOffice and created LibreOffice. Oracle tried to fight the community, but eventually had to concede (ie. they lost badly), donating the entirety of the OpenOffice suite to the Apache Foundation.

No, when it comes to Linux, we don’t have to worry that Android’s success is going to cost Linux in the long run. Meg Whitman can blather any kind of FUD she wants. The Open Source Linux Community is self sufficient. They manage themselves, and they will be around as long as they want to be around. In 50 years, will they still be working on Linux? No one can know for sure, but if they’re not, it’s because they’ve moved on to something they think is better, not because Android succeeded.

Fan of the Bean..

I’ve been reading quite a lot lately about how people are afraid that Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) is already being replaced by Android 5.0 (Jelly Bean). It seems every time I read about this subject, the date of this supposed replacement moves up. First it was the end of this year, then summer, and now I’m reading that it will be as soon as March.

The first thing that I want to point out is that Jelly Bean will not be replacing Ice Cream Sandwich. I don’t want to call Jelly Bean “Android 5.0″ simply because that hasn’t been determined yet. It could very well be Android 4.1 or something similar. Jelly Bean is to be the tablet optimized version of Android, where Ice Cream Sandwich is a phone optimized version of Android. This is no different than the current model of Gingerbread and Honeycomb. While I had hoped that Google would have been farther along in their tablet/phone consolidation, this is not a major change to Google’s playbook.

The second thing that I want to point out is, no one knows when this will be released. I’m doubting that even Google knows at this point, and to make the claim that it could be as early as March is irresponsible. I won’t even tell you that it won’t be March because I just flat out don’t know. Let’s cease the guessing game here folks.

Oh, and if you’re a music fan, I got my title from a song by a band I’ve really loved over the years called The Clintons. Instead of all this guessing and worrying about Jelly Bean, you should go check out their music. It’s definitely a better use of your time.

Response #2

For those that weren’t involved in a recent discussion I had over on a hack piece by Jonny Evans, I wanted to respond to several of the comments put up by one particular individual. It’s unfortunate as he seems relatively intelligent, though amazingly misinformed.

By the way, Linux Rants – what is so great about Android?  What does it do exceedingly better?  I know that it once did OTA updates while iOS did not – and Apple finally “copied” that, but what about graphics handling, gestures, web-browsing?  Is Android superior in those respects?  It won’t be on all devices, but what about on a device with comparable hardware versus an iOS device?

So, there’s comment number two from this individual, or I guess it would be more accurately described as a question.

So, what is so great about Android? What does it do exceedingly better?

I love that you gave me a starting point, but I’ll come right out and say that graphics handling, gestures, and web browsing are probably equal.

No, what’s really great about Android is it’s ability to evolve and adapt to the preferences of the individual.

My current phone is an HTC Thunderbolt. It’s default interface is the HTC Sense, which is OK. I preferred a different launcher, so I changed it. It’s default browser is the unnamed Google browser, but I preferred the Dolphin browser, so I changed it. I have my personal email (several different accounts) and my work email configured in different clients (gotta keep work and home life seperate…. kinda), but I have widgets placed on the same screen so I can check my personal email, my work email, and my text messages with a glance, never opening an app. I have the same thing configured on another screen for my calendars. My default “Home” screen only has a few apps on it, and a picture of my wife and kids (not the same as my wallpaper). There’s nothing that compares to any of that on an iPhone.

The form factor of the HTC Thunderbolt is similar to an iPhone, but if I wanted a hardware keyboard, I have several choices in that regard. I could get a Droid 4, or I could get a Droid Pro, or maybe even a Samsung W899. I might even get lucky and find myself a LG GD910. Variety is nice.

When it comes to software, again Android wins out. What happens when you want an app and it’s just not available in the App Store for your iPhone. Well, you could jailbreak it if you want to void the holy hell out of your warranty. I look for apps in the Android Market. If it’s not there, I check the Amazon App Store. If it’s not there, I search Google and manually download the APK and install it myself. I can do all of this without rooting my phone or really even going that far out of my way. I’m not subjected to the whims of a single company.

I think that’s probably enough for tonight. I really could go on, but my couch is calling me and there’s a cold beer in the fridge. Hopefully, that answered your question.

Response #1

For those that weren’t involved in a recent discussion I had over on a hack piece by Jonny Evans, I wanted to respond to several of the comments put up by one particular individual. It’s unfortunate as he seems relatively intelligent, though amazingly misinformed.

I’ve given technical reasons as to why Android *appears* as a cheap knockoff, when seen running “out in the wild” as they say.  Maybe that approach is not quite correct, but it’s not like I was ever on the debate team….However, what I mean by the “cheap knockoff” term is that when one uses Android, one will run across some functions (not all) that  imitate what was done in iOS from the get-go.  For one, many of gestures, such as pinch to zoom, side-swipes to go from a home screen to another apps screen, and swipe to unlock just don’t work quite as well – on many Android devices.
My EVO is one example, but the Samsung Galaxy Tab and Kindle Fire are good examples, although each implements the Android OS differently.

When I say these functions do not work as well, I mean that they are sluggish, are not as effective for certain situations, such as locking up a Music app on many Android devices.  I typically have to hit the power button on my EVO just to get back to the music app, which is annoying.  It works much better on an iPod Touch.  Typical web-browsing and scrolling is better on the iDevices, thanks to the better graphics handling and more efficient use of resources.  Not to mention that objective C has better memory management capabilities than higher level programming languages like Java, which is used in many Android app (though, not all).  That’s not to say that these features may not work well on another Android device, or on ICS-specific tablets and newer smartphones, but that has been my experience thus far.  The reasons why this experience is lacking, to me, boils down to the slew of technical differences in integration I have hinted at.So, given these deficiencies I and others have seen, plus the fact that Eric Schmidt sat on the Apple board as iOS was in development phase in 2006/2007 and was, indeed, feeding this info all back to the then-Blackberry-like Android OS, Android (for Google’s part)  developed was after the fact of iOS and PARTIALLY copied (or imitated) iOS, is FREE……So it’s close enough to being a copy and it’s cheap and it is not as finely tuned.Granted, Android has not taken on Apple’s iOS path for grouping apps and has maintained an open file system, but even a cheap knockoff can be better at some things.True, Apple took ideas from several players, but it’s not like they had people sitting on those companies’s boards.  Any company can look at another company’s tear-downs on the FCC website and get a handle on the design approach and decisions.  Since both iOS and Android are descendants of Unix, or more BSD in the case of iOS, there will be some commonality, but the public-facing features like the UI and gestures are what matter and Android could have been done much differently.  It could have been implemented as a cloud-based OS to start, for example, and would have then been nowhere even close to iOS!  It could have been more like desktop Linux (certain minimal builds of Ubuntu can run on a rooted Android smartphone).  However, what Eric said was “Hey, let’s do what Apple’s doing.  Let’s beat them at their own game, let’s use capacitive touch-screen based smartphones and let’s incorporate all of the cool gestures….)  Wow, how original!  What Eric Schmidt did was pretty much about as under-handed as you can get.  Oh, and going the write-once, run anywhere route is just a cop-out – granted one that makes sense for Google, given their ad-based revenue stream, but it was a quick road to *market share*.  If you want to debate Steve Job’s little theft from Xerox, that’s fine, but Xerox had gone into an agreement to give Apple access to certain IP and cared nothing about actually turning the GUI into a computing product for mass consumption……

So, there’s comment number one from this individual.

A little context. This comment was a response to a request by me to explain how Android was a knock-off of iOS. His “technical reason” why Android appears as a cheap knockoff was a lack of vertical integration with the hardware. Let’s define “knockoff” here as well:

knock·off  (nkôf, -fn. Informal

An unauthorized copy or imitation, as of designer clothing: “the place to go for quality knockoffs” (Women’s Wear Daily).

OK, so a knockoff is a copy. Claiming that Android is a knockoff of iOS because iOS is vertically integrated with the hardware and Android isn’t just doesn’t make any sense. That’s pointing out a difference, where to show that Android is a knockoff, you’re going to need to point out areas where Android copies iOS.

One will run across some functions (not all) that  imitate what was done in iOS from the get-go.

Like what? Be explicit.

For one, many of gestures, such as pinch to zoom, side-swipes to go from a home screen to another apps screen, and swipe to unlock just don’t work quite as well – on many Android devices.

First, your experience on a particular Android device doesn’t not constitute proof. It’s an anecdote, and is relevant only to you. I could point out that my iPhone3Gs was the worst phone I ever owned. How does that affect the experience of someone other than myself? As to the gestures themselves, they’re definitely not originally iOS either. Most of those gestures date back to the early 80s.

When I say these functions do not work as well, I mean that they are sluggish, are not as effective for certain situations, such as locking up a Music app on many Android devices.

Again, this is more “proof” that doesn’t in any way show Android to be a knockoff of iOS. Claiming that one system does or does not work as well as the other is anecdotal and subjective. Your example of a music app is irrelevant and lacks context. Personally, I use WinAmp as my music player on my Android device. Is that the music app that you’re talking about, or was it a different one. How can you claim that Android isn’t as good as iOS based on an app that can be replaced at any time based on user preferences? Personally speaking, I think that points out a strength of Android.

Typical web-browsing and scrolling is better on the iDevices, thanks to the better graphics handling and more efficient use of resources.

Again, based on what? My personal preference is the Dolphin browser on my phone, but I prefer Firefox on my tablet. How is “typical” web-browsing better on an iDevice than either Dolphin on my phone or Firefox on my tablet. I’d point out that “better” is again subjective. Both Dolphin and Firefox have a plugin interface, allowing me to increase the functionality of the browser. Safari on iDevices does not allow for that.

Not to mention that objective C has better memory management capabilities than higher level programming languages like Java, which is used in many Android app (though, not all).

Again, you’re pointing out differences in the two platforms. You seem to be failing to understand what a knockoff actually is. Whether Objective C has better memory management is also up for debate. One comparison I read reached this conclusion: “Each solution has its own benefits and disadvantages. Although Objective-C’s retain/release runs smoother and faster than Java’s garbage collection, it places a much larger burden on the developer and introduces a much larger risk of memory leaks.” The claim that Objective C has better memory management is still very much in contention.

The reasons why this experience is lacking, to me, boils down to the slew of technical differences in integration I have hinted at.So, given these deficiencies I and others have seen, plus the fact that Eric Schmidt sat on the Apple board as iOS was in development phase in 2006/2007 and was, indeed, feeding this info all back to the then-Blackberry-like Android OS, Android (for Google’s part)  developed was after the fact of iOS and PARTIALLY copied (or imitated) iOS, is FREE.

This  particular portion of your response is just rife with error. Where Eric Schmidt was sitting at any given time does not prove that Android is a knockoff. As you pointed out, Google didn’t write Android, but purchased it in 2005 along with the company of the same name, which was founded in 2003. Long before Apple decided to play in the phone market. In many ways, iOS is much more like a Blackberry than Android ever has been, even in 2006 and 2007. Quite honestly, no version of Android that the public has ever seen has been overly “Blackberry-like”. The cost of Android only points out that Android is less expensive than iOS, not that it’s a knockoff.

So it’s close enough to being a copy and it’s cheap and it is not as finely tuned.

So, you’ve failed in pretty much every way to show that Android is a copy of iOS, but still make that claim. In re-reading your comment several times, it barely looks like you even attempted to show how Android copied iOS. The only feature mentioned was multi-touch gestures, which it’s easy to point out were not invented or pioneered by Apple in anything.

The public-facing features like the UI and gestures are what matter and Android could have been done much differently.  It could have been implemented as a cloud-based OS to start, for example, and would have then been nowhere even close to iOS!

Please explain how the UI of Android is even remotely close to the UI of iOS. It’s also worth noting that Android started out with many “cloud” type features, even though at the time it wasn’t called “The Cloud”. For example, the Google account was configured with the phone, and that account was used to tie Google’s mail and Calendar services to the phone. Also, that account was used to track purchases in the Market, so purchased software could easily be installed on a new device simply by configuring the Google account there. Believe me when I say, Apple is late to the cloud game when compared to Android and Linux in general.

However, what Eric said was “Hey, let’s do what Apple’s doing.  Let’s beat them at their own game, let’s use capacitive touch-screen based smartphones and let’s incorporate all of the cool gestures….)  Wow, how original!  What Eric Schmidt did was pretty much about as under-handed as you can get.

That’s a very interesting theory, but Android isn’t tied to hardware. It runs on a wide array of devices. Yes, some of them use capacitive touch-screens. Some of them don’t. You’re focusing on a single segment of the devices that Android runs on and making general statements about the OS based on that single segment. I’d love to hear you tell me how the Parrot Asteroid is a knockoff of the iPhone.

If you want to debate Steve Job’s little theft from Xerox, that’s fine

Well, it doesn’t really matter if Apple stole the idea from Xerox or not. Apple tried to sue to keep other companies (namely Microsoft) from using ideas present in their GUI, despite the fact that they were not the originators or really the owners of those ideas. Xerox didn’t grant Apple sole ownership of those ideas. Regardless, I had no intention of bringing Xerox up at any point, though it is worth noting that one of the primary features that both Android and iOS share (the icon grid) did originate there, not at Apple. Really, that feature is one of the few that Android and iOS share.