Archive for June 2013

Ubiquitous Linux: It’s Everywhere

UbiquitousLinuxSometimes I’m sitting here, trying to come up with something to write and I’m coming up dry. It’s not because there’s nothing going on with Linux. Quite the contrary. Linux is always moving, changing. It’s hard to believe just how ubiquitous Linux is. It’s literally everywhere.

The Obvious

Of course, there’s the obvious places you can find Linux. Android phones, the Internet, and of course super computers. Linux has long dominated those markets, and everybody is pretty much aware of that fact.

The Not So Obvious

Some of the other areas that you can find Linux are pretty amazing. Just check out some of these:

  • Japanese high speed rails.
  • San Francisco High-tech traffic control systems.
  • Toyota In-Vehicle-Infotainment and communications systems.
  • DeLaval robotic cow milking systems.
  • The New York Stock Exchange.
  • CERN’s particle accelerator.
  • Air Traffic Control systems nation wide.
  • United States nuclear submarines.
  • DVR devices.
  • French Parliament.
  • Commercial Bank of China.
  • The U.S. Postal Service.
  • Virgin America
  • etc….

Seriously, the list goes on and on. In a world that’s literally so full of Linux, it seems weird that it would be hard to think of something to write about. About the only place that Linux isn’t so ubiquitous is the desktop computer.

Of course this is why those who don’t have the facts seem to think that no one uses Linux, or that Linux is difficult to use. For those of us that do have the facts, it’s obvious that Windows and OSX are used by a small fraction of the number of users that use Linux on a daily basis.

Can you imagine what this world would be without Linux? It certainly wouldn’t be the world that we know. I guess it would be more like the 80s instead of the 21st century. Maybe Microsoft would have more power over us than they do now? Scary thought, air traffic control powered by Windows. Gives the term “crash” a whole new meaning, or maybe it keeps the old one. Either way, I think if Windows were managing air traffic control, I’d fly less.

I guess I don’t have a lot more to say, but just keep this in mind. Next time someone tells you that no one uses Linux, you should tell them how ubiquitous Linux really is.

Attention Hospitals: Use Linux!

Use Linux!I’ve been pretty quiet lately, and there’s a good reason for this. One Wednesday, my 28 week pregnant wife went into labor. She went in for a checkup because her Braxton Hicks contractions (false contractions) were really bothering her, and she was informed that they weren’t exactly Braxton Hicks. She was admitted the the hospital and started on Magnesium to stop the contractions (28 weeks is really early for those that are unaware) and some steroids to speed lung development in the baby if the Magnesium didn’t work. Fortunately, the Magnesium has seemed to do it’s job, and she’s feeling as well as a 28 week pregnant woman is suppose to feel. They’re releasing her from the hospital today if all goes according to plan, which the nurses and doctors all assure us is what they expect.

During this time, my wife and I have managed to turn our little hospital room into a small computer lab. We’ve got 3 laptops, two tablets, and two smart phones. The hospital is nice enough to provide us with wifi for our Internet surfing needs.

Now that my nerves have settled down a bit from the thought of having a baby that early, I feel the urge to point something out. I feel a little uncomfortable when I see all your medical equipment hooked up to computers running Windows XP.

Yea, Windows XP.

Hospitals, you should really not be using Windows XP for two reasons that I, as a patient, find very important.

Stability

We’re dealing with medical equipment here, so it’s important that it’s available when it needs to be available. While the Windows running medical equipment wasn’t absolutely essential to my wife’s recovery, I would hate to hear of a situation where something catastrophic happened and it resulted in the loss of life. You don’t want to be suffering from a BSOD when the D could be quite literal. I don’t even mean that to sound funny. This is a serious situation, and an unstable operating system like Windows XP could literally cost a patient everything. For me and my loved ones, Windows XP is not nearly up to par. Use Linux! Please.

Security

Beyond the obvious stability issues, Windows XP can’t be counted on for security. I understand that this is medical equipment, and that the doctors and nurses aren’t exactly surfing Facebook on it, but if the patches aren’t kept up to date, they might as well be. I recall at one point in my career that an unpatched Windows XP box would survive less than a minute on the Internet before it was infected with something. Less than a minute!

I understand that Microsoft has fixed most (if not all) of the issues that caused that short infection Window, but new things are popping up for Windows machines literally daily. I don’t want a system with all the medical information of me or a loved one on it to have all the security of a rickety screen door. Windows XP is not what I would consider the peak of secure systems. All it takes is one infected computer inside the network, and hundreds if not thousands of patients information could be floating around on the Internet. This wouldn’t be possible if hospitals just used a system that was less vulnerable to infection than their patients. Please, use Linux!

Available Options

OK, I know that some of the software that they’re using may not work in Linux, but I think my concerns are valid ones. Further, with as messed up as the medical system is in the United States, do you seriously want to throw in licensing concerns and costs to Microsoft?

I brief glance around the web showed me that there are some options available, and if there’s some pressure to move to a more stable and secure environment, I’m sure some of these software companies would comply. There’s nothing for them to gain as a company by not supporting more stable and secure environments.

If you work for a hospital in the IT department, please look into these options. If you don’t work in a hospital and you’re just in one, or if you’re non-IT staff, please ask your IT staff to look into these options:

Speaking for myself and my family, I would feel a lot safer if hospitals ditched Windows entirely. Please, use Linux!

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Linux Desktop

This is NOT a minimal DesktopHow often do you stop to look at your desktop? I can honestly say, I look at my desktop more or less depending on what OS I’m using. Is that weird?

Scientific Study

Today at work, I received a new project. That’s not terribly relevant other that it’s what spurred a revelation. While thinking about how I was going to go about solving a particular problem, I suddenly realized that I was staring blankly at my desktop.

My computer at work is a crappy Windows 7 box that has the hardest time with the most basic tasks. For me to say that I don’t like it would be an understatement, but today I noticed something different. My desktop is a huge mess. There are literally icons and folders scattered everywhere.

Why is this interesting? Well, it’s probably not in all honesty, but this is not typical behavior for me. I usually keep things pretty pristine. I like the minimal desktop look, and having icons and folders scattered is not minimal. After some brief cleanup, and was walking to get lunch, and as I walked through a row of cubicles, I was noticing other people’s desktops too. To a person, they looked like mine. Disaster areas. Garbage scattered hither and yon. Every Windows desktop seemed to be that way.

Finally my day ends, and I’m able to sit down at my home computer for a second. I breathe a sigh of relief when I see my spotless Linux desktop happily waiting for me to do something. Ironically, that something happened to be digging through my old screen shots. As it turns out, every screen shot I’ve ever taken of Windows is piles of icons. Everywhere. Every screen shot I’ve taken of Linux is neatly organized with a fairly minimal desktop.

Does using Linux make me more organized? My “Scientific Study” says Yes! And when I say “Scientific” I mean “Not Scientific at all”. Seriously, this “study” ranks right up there with studies funded by Microsoft “proving” that Windows is more secure or less expensive than Linux. We’re talking utter crap here.

The Question

Still, it’s interesting to me that I work so much differently when I use Linux vs. when I use Windows. Is it more than just me? Go back through your screen shots if you have them. Are you more organized when you’re using Linux than Windows?

My Desktop Gallery

Welcoming FOSS Advocates!

EDIT: THEY’RE LIVE!

Go check them out at http://fossadvocates.org

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FOSS Advocates

 

Today on Google+, a good friend of mine had a big announcement. Since he put it in better words than I can conjure, I’m just going to steal his post and paste it here.

WE’RE READY TO LAUNCH!

Hey guys,

Myself and the rest of the FOSS Advocates team are very proud to announce that the site is pretty much ready to launch. So we have decided to officially launch the site tomorrow at 1500 UTC.

What we currently have
So currently the site isn’t much more than a blog. We have aggregated open source content from around the web, as well as some vanilla content from myself and the rest of the team.

However, we’re not going to remain this way for long, and we took this deliberate decision to launch as we are now so that our readers have something tangible they can visit whilst we’re still working away in the background.

Think of this first release as a kind of open beta. We’re happy with what we have currently, be we’re still working very hard to actively develop the site to make it the awesome place we fully expect it to be.

What’s next?
Once we’ve launched we’re going to immediately start work on phase 2 of the project, which is the community. We’re going to be adding a “social network” to the site (I hate that term, but it’s basically what it is). Were members can engage with on another, share information, and generally “hang out”.

We’re also going to add community forums so that you guys have everything you need to mozy on down and have a good chat to one another. The forums will be a place were you can publicly talk about anything you like that’s related to FOSS (and even some stuff that isn’t). New projects, support, emerging technologies, and general chit chat. It’s a community forum, so you guys set the subjects!

Once this is done we’re going to have a little break and enjoy the fruits of our labour. Me and the rest of the team will be regulars in the forums, and in the community, so you will no doubt get to know us better there.

Once the community is established and it’s nicely ticking along, we will start development on phase three of our project. At this point in time though guys, it’s top secret, but let me assure you that it’s going to be epic! We don’t want anyone else stealing our idea.

Let’s just say that if you’re a project leader, you gonna want to see this. We’ll leave it there for now I think. ;-)

How can I help out?
Once the sites launched we’re going to need your help. In true community spirit, if you have any
feedback, then please contact us on hello@fossadvocates.org- this goes straight to our inboxes so
you will receive a response.

As well as this, you can volunteer to help us out, either by assisting with moderation here on the G+ Community, or by being a guest author on the blog.

If you have any recommendations to interesting FOSS RSS feeds, then by all means run them by us. We’ll take a look, and add them to the site is we think they’re a good fit.

Thank you
Me and the rest of the team still have a lot of work ahead of us. But we’re excited about FOSS Advocates, and we hope you are too. Please feel free to re-share this announcement here on G+, and on other social networks.

If you have a blog yourself, and want to feature FOSS Advocates then please feel free to do so. If you want a direct quote then email us using the address above.

Thanks guys, spread the word, and we look forward to your feedback on the site tomorrow!

–Kev and the rest of the FOSS Adv team

So, you heard it here second. Go and check out http://www.fossadvocates.org tomorrow at 1500 UTC. Check out what the guys over there are offering. It only gets better from here.

Distributions: The Evolution of Linux

Evolution of Linux

 

Having recently said goodbye to two really great distributions in Cinnarch (reborn as Antergos) and Fuduntu (replaced by FuSE Cloverleaf Linux), I was shocked at the number of people that still think there are too many Linux distributions out there. While I was sad to see these two great distributions go, I’m excited for what we’ll see in the future both because of these distributions and because of their teams. This is exactly how the Evolution of Linux works.

What is Evolution?

Evolution is defined as the gradual development of something, especially from a simple to a more complex form. Now what does this have to do with distributions and what does it have to do with Linux?

It’s pretty simple really. Every time a change is made to a Linux distribution, it’s evolving. These changes can be subtle or they can be grandiose. We would never see any of these changes if distributions didn’t bring them to us.

Cold Hard Truth

Here’s the hard part. Not everything works out. Some changes aren’t for the best. Not everything improves things for the masses. What happens to those changes? Well, from an evolutionary perspective, they go extinct. Those changes don’t provide benefits to future generations, so they don’t get passed down and they eventually die out. Changes that do provide benefit to future generations get picked up. They get carried on and they improve future generations so that they can be changed yet again to make even more future generations better.

That’s why it’s better for more distributions rather than less. It allows for more possible paths to see the light of day. I’d rather see a thousand developers show us their visions for Linux than have only the big two giving us what they think is best. You know, Mark Shuttleworth may be right about everything, or maybe Andrew Wyatt’s ideas are better, or maybe Ikey Doherty is right. Or maybe none of them are. Or maybe all of them are, just about different things.

Pick and Choose

Here’s another great thing about Linux: Linux isn’t Windows. I know most of you are giving me a great big “DUH” right now, but hear me out. Windows has, for all intents and purposes, one version. Microsoft decides what to give you and that’s what you get. If Microsoft makes a mistake and you’re a Windows user, you’re screwed. Good luck with Windows 8. If Microsoft does a couple things right and a whole lot wrong, you’re still screwed. In the Linux world, if a single distribution does one thing right, even if it’s a small change to a obscure little library, that change can be picked up and carried on, even if the full distribution doesn’t make it.

How many people remember a company called Eazel? They made a product for Linux, but failed to monetize that product so they ended up going out of business. Thankfully, that product was open source, and still exists today because of it. That product was Nautilus, the file manager used by many distributions to this day.

Conclusion

This is why Linux again is so much better than Windows, and why more distributions are better than less. Any improvement can carry on. If it’s small or if it’s large, it can live on well past the distribution or company that conceived it. It’s sad to see Fuduntu and Cinnarch go, but they’ve brought us new things. Now we have FuSE Cloverleaf Linux and Antergos, which are new opportunities for the improvement of Linux as a whole. The people that created Fuduntu and Cinnarch are taking what they’ve learned and what they made better and bringing that to FuSE Cloverleaf Linux and Antergos, and because it’s Open Source, they’re bringing it to the world as well. I for one, think that’s a very good thing, and I encourage as many people to do it as possible. That’s how the evolution of Linux works.

EDIT:

Shawn W. Dunn (all round nice guy and fellow Montanan) caught up with me over on FOSS Advocates and corrected me regarding FuSE. They’ve instead elected to call the new distribution Cloverleaf Linux.