Archive for Operating Systems

Blackberry a Defense for Google Against Rockstar?

If you haven’t been watching the news today, a big bomb was dropped on Google. The Rockstar consortium (Apple, BlackBerry, Microsoft, Ericsson, Sony, and EMC) has sued Google as well as Asustek, HTC, Huawei, LG Electronics, Pantech, Samsung, and ZTE. Is there an obvious and easy way around Rockstar?

Brief History

So what happened is this. Nortel was going bankrupt. Google bid for their patents, but lost out to a consortium of companies. That consortium includes Apple, BlackBerry(then known as RIM), Microsoft, Ericsson, Sony, and EMC. Even at the time, Google’s Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer, wrote that Microsoft, Apple and others were engaging in hostile patent warfare against Android.

Silver Bullet?

BlackberrySo, how can Google and company get around this particular issue? There may be a quick and easy was to do it. Maybe. I won’t pretend to be a an expert at patent law, but I do know that one member of that consortium is not doing particularly well these days. In fact, they’ve been shopping around for a buyer. Blackberry. As a member of the consortium, they would have full rights to the patents owned by the consortium. A purchase of Blackberry by Google would bring ownership of those patents (at least partial) to Google, making the suits against Google moot.

Second Option?

Department of JusticeEven if a Blackberry purchase isn’t a possibility, there’s another possible solution out there as well. During the initial purchase, the DOJ investigated the companies involved because they were concerned (as was I) that the patents being purchased would be used in an offensive against Android. As it turns out, they were right about that (and by extension so was I). The DOJ only approved the purchase with the hopes that Rockstar would only use the intellectual property it purchased strictly to defend itself from Android initiated lawsuits. It may be that the DOJ may not take kindly to this particular aggressive action by Rockstar.

Summary

There’s quite a bit of worry out there today regarding these new suits against Google and the Android ecosystem. I’m not going to say that worry isn’t warranted, but there are options available to Google that could very well make this a minor bump in the road. We’ll have to wait and see how things pan out, but this lawsuit may not be the huge problem so many people think it’s going to be.

Why Can’t I Watch Disney Junior?

Watch Disney JuniorI have three kids 5 and under, and so we’re always looking for a good way to keep them occupied in the car and around town, and they all love Disney stuff. In fact, Disney is the only reason we haven’t completely cut the cord as far as television is concerned.

My wife saw this on TV this morning. There’s an App for the Kindle Fire to Watch Disney Junior. We already knew there was an app for iDevices.

Now, you’d think that because the Kindle Fire is really an Android device, they’d put this out in the Play Store or make it available to more than just the Kindle Fire. You’d think that, but they don’t. This app is listed as incompatible with my Nexus 4 and my Nexus 7, and only exists in the Amazon App Store, despite the fact that Disney has released more apps to the Play Store than the Amazon App Store.

It’s not just the Disney Junior app either. Disney has an app to watch the standard Disney Channel, and to Watch Disney XD. None of these apps are available for Android outside of the Kindle Fire.

Is Amazon paying Apple to keep these apps exclusive to the Kindle Fire, or is Apple intentionally avoiding the Android platform outside of the Fire?

Is Amazon Paying Apple for Watch Disney Junior?

It’s possible that Amazon is paying Apple to keep these apps exclusive. This seems unlikely to me as none of these apps are being billed as exclusive by Amazon. If they were going to pay Apple to keep these apps away from other Android devices, you’d think that they’d brag about it. They’re not bragging, so I doubt that they’re paying Apple for these apps.

Is Disney Intentionally Avoiding Android?

Disney and Apple have had some pretty solid ties in the past. I’m sure we’re all aware that Steve Jobs sat on Disney’s Board of Directors. That was because he was pretty much the owner of Pixar when Disney bought it. As a result of that purchase, Jobs joined the board and became the single largest individual shareholder of Disney stock. Many people probably don’t know that Disney and Pixar weren’t the best of friends until Bob Iger replaced Michael Eisner, and Iger currently sits on both the Board of Directors to both Disney and Apple. Also, the stock owned by Steve Jobs didn’t exactly vanish into the wind when he died. It transferred to the Steven P. Jobs Trust (now the Laurene Powell Jobs Trust) run by his wife. Disney’s ties to Apple are still very strong, so this seems like the more likely choice.

Other Ideas?

There is, of course, a third possibility. I hadn’t noticed the Watch Disney Junior app being available even for the Kindle Fire until this morning. I can honestly say that I don’t know how long it’s been available. The first Amazon review for it shows up on February 16, 2013. That means that it’s only been available on the Kindle Fire for about six months. It’s possible that the app is still in progress for a wider selection of Android devices. Six months seems like a long time if that’s the case, but I’ll admit to not being aware of all the processes required to get an app done at Disney. I’ll update this article if the app suddenly appears on the Play Store.

Regardless, it’s very annoying. I’m not going to buy an iDevice just to have this app. I would like to see the app become available for other Android devices, but it’s been more than a year that it’s been available for iDevices and at least six months for the Kindle Fire. If Disney were going to release it for Android, you’d think they’d have done it by now. Maybe I’m wrong. Let me know in the comments.

Protect your Privacy in a Post Prism World

What Microsoft does to Protect your PrivacyWe’ve been hearing a lot about Prism lately. It’s a big topic and a big deal. I hear excuses for it all the time. “If you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about.” “It’s for our security!” Blah blah blah. None of the many excuses I’ve heard have remotely justified Prism to me. That’s one of the many reasons that I rely on Linux to protect my privacy.

Microsoft and the NSA

If you’re using Windows, and you want to protect your privacy, you can spend a lot of money to do it. You can buy packages that will protect Windows. You can upgrade your firewalls. You can install virus and malware protection. You can encrypt your files.

Do you honestly think that will protect you from the NSA and having your data sucked down at will by Prism? Of course it won’t.

The trick here is that Microsoft allegedly is working with the NSA. They’re giving the NSA access and allowing them to bypass their encryption. Nothing you’re installing to protect your privacy is working.

Now, Microsoft has denied that this is the case. What we now have is a case of he said she said regarding your privacy. Who do you believe? And that’s the billion dollar question.

Any OS can be Secured, Sorta

Microsoft would have you believe that Windows can be just as secure as Linux, and they’re doing everything in their power to protect your privacy. The thing is, you have to take their word for it. And that’s not just the case with Windows and Microsoft. It’s the case with any proprietary OS where the code is locked away from the customer. We can’t look and see if what Microsoft is telling us is true. We can’t look and see what Apple is telling us is true.

It’s hidden.

This is where Linux by it’s very nature is better. The code is open, and anybody with an Internet connection can download that code and verify that no NSA snoop has a back door to their operating system. Just by being open, Linux does more to protect your privacy than Microsoft and Apple combined. Combine Linux with tor, and you’re virtually invisible. On top of that, you don’t have to spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars to achieve this. It’s all free.

Protect Your Privacy

Even before Prism, I had a hard time coming up with a good reason to use Windows. Now, post Prism, continuing to use Windows or OSX seems like you’re just wrapping your private affairs in a pretty bow as a gift for anybody that Microsoft or Apple makes a deal with. If you’re even slightly interested in keeping your private matters private, you should be using Linux.

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

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.

Linux is Perfect for your Favorite Lost Cause

More years ago than I care to remember, I was born. My parents have had to put up with my crap since then. As a parent myself, I have a great deal of respect for that, especially when I have a better idea than most what I’ve put them through.

You’re Having Trouble with What?!?

That being said, nothing tries my patience faster than trying to trouble shoot computer problems for my parents from over a thousand miles away over the phone. I’ve tried several different ways of taking remote control of their computer, none of which seem to prevent them from hosing it up so badly that my remote methods no longer work. Unfortunately, when it comes to computers, they’re a lost cause.

Then events led me to my most recent epiphany. HP made a tablet. The TouchPad. It was brilliant. Only two buttons on it, one on the front, one on the top. WebOS is a snap to use, and it would give my parents the ability to do pretty much everything they do on their computer in a device that even my parents couldn’t screw up (so I thought).

The price was a barrier though. Of course, we all know how that story went. HP (probably more appropriately Léo Apotheker) so screwed up the release and sale of the TouchPad that it didn’t stand a chance in the tablet market. It was too expensive and didn’t have apps. Pretty soon the price dropped, and then again, and then again. Finally it was announced that it was being discontinued and the remaining inventory sold at ridiculously low prices just to get rid of them. I stayed up till 3am and managed to get my hands on three of them. One for me, one for my wife, and one for my parents. My problems are solved (so I thought)!

You’re Still Having Trouble with What?!?

I want to reiterate here that I love my parents, and they’ve put up with my crap for as long as I’ve had crap to put up with. I don’t want to give the wrong impression here.

OK, now that I’ve said that, my parents can even screw up WebOS. Well, not so much screw it up, but they can’t even figure out the most basic task on it. Just a few days ago, I spent over thirty minutes trying to walk my mother through checking her email. CHECKING HER EMAIL!

How Hard Is This?Seriously, I wanted to send her this picture, but I couldn’t think of a way to do it that was less complicated than email that she could actually do. The only thing that came to mind was printing it out, putting into an envelope and snail mailing it to her.

Here’s where the epiphany comes in. It doesn’t matter what OS they’re using, or what hardware they’ve got, or how hard I try to make it easy for them. They’re just a lost cause, and that means that Linux is perfect for them.

Linux for Lost Causes

All this time I’ve been trying to make everything so easy that even they couldn’t mess it up. It led to more and more complex issues for me, but didn’t solve their problems. With Linux, I can easily remote into their computer, their computer is virtually impervious to all of the weird crap that seems to miraculously get installed even though I’m not sure which if them knows how to install stuff, and I can maintain it for them with barely a flip of my wrist at the command line. If my mother can’t figure out how to open her email, I can literally open it for her. Linux is no harder to use than Windows or OSX, so I can’t think of a single reason they shouldn’t use Linux. Really, any one that has a lost cause of their own should be thinking Linux.

Think I’m wrong? Give me an earful.

 

The State of Gaming on Linux

Gaming on LinuxI’ve never been much of a gamer honestly, so how games were doing in Linux really never mattered much to me. When World of Warcraft came out, my entire department bought it and started a guild, so of course I did too. Fade to black… time passes.

I wrote this article last year about how I’d kept a Windows partition around strictly for gaming purposes and how with a little help from Wine, I’d moved past it. More than a year later, I’ve more than passed the need for Windows to play games.

Steam

Gaming on LinuxMan, Steam for Linux. Just today I installed Left 4 Dead 2. I haven’t had the time for an in depth look at every single bit of the game, but from what I’ve seen It’s perfect (despite the fact it’s still in Beta). Portal just hit Linux too. In looking at my Steam library, there’s only three games that aren’t available for Linux yet. Portal 2, which is rumored to be on it’s way as well, Half Life 2, and Half Life 2 Lost Coast*. I’m expecting both of those to come to Linux too since most of the Half Life family of games already has. Steam has opened up a whole ton of games for Linux that hadn’t previously existed.

*UPDATE: Since the original writing of this bit, Half Life 2 and Half Life 2 Lost Coast have become available on Steam. At this point, the only game in my Steam library that isn’t available for Linux is Portal 2, and I’m expecting to see it show up as available soon as well.

Humble Indie Bundle

Gaming on Linux

The Humble Indie Bundle is another great resource for Linux games. In the past it’s bundled games for low prices that you can get for an extremely low price that you can download or add to your Steam library. I’ve picked up a number of really cool games this way, and the proceeds to to charity. You can’t really beat the opportunity to get some cool games and help people out at the same time. Every time Linux users have risen to the challenge and donated more to the cause than any other platform (proportionally speaking of course). I always keep a close eye on their site just so that I’m ready for the next opportunity to get games from them.

Play On Linux

Gaming on LinuxWhen all else fails, there’s always Wine. The best option I’ve found is Play On Linux. It’s got a whole lot of pre-configured options available, so if you’re wanting to play a popular game, chances are there’s a pre-made configuration available for it in Play On Linux. This is what I use to play World of Warcraft and Unreal Tournament. I did use it for Star Trek Online for a while, but that game never really stuck with me. I’ve honestly never tried to run a game in Play On Linux that didn’t work. If you’re a Linux user and you have an old favorite laying around because it’s Windows only, give it a shot.

Games Everywhere

So, I guess the old argument about Linux not having games is fading fast into history. There are literally Linux games coming out every day. But there is one problem with Gaming on Linux that I’ve only recently run into. I’m quickly running out of hard drive space. I’m going to have to do something about that soon.

Antivirus for Linux

LinuxBugIt never fails to amaze me just how the same arguments keep coming up over and over again, like bad pennies. Most of them ignore facts so blatantly it gives me a headache.

The I’m referring to today is the one about Linux Viruses.

First of all, Linux Viruses exist. Yep, it’s true, they exist. There’s actually a couple of them. Wikipedia lists an even 30 of them. There’s even Virus protection for Linux.

True, compared to MacOS and Windows, that’s a drop in the bucket. Barely worth noticing. And that’s where the same old argument comes up time and again.

“The reason that Linux doesn’t have viruses like MacOS and Windows is because it’s not as popular!” The argument is that if more people used Linux, there actually would be viruses for Linux. The completely ignores the fact that the desktop is the exception, not the rule. Linux dominates elsewhere. Servers, smart phones, super computers, etc. Linux is kicking ass and taking names. A virus that could infect all those systems would be hugely valuable both monetarily and for a reputation. Yet, it doesn’t happen.

Even  the ones that already exist pretty much suck compared to their Microsoft and Apple counterparts.

So is there a reason to even consider running anti-virus on your Linux computer? Shockingly, the answer is still yes, but not for the same reasons some Mac users and all Windows users should.

You should run anti-virus on your Linux machine as a courtesy to your non-Linux using friends. Their systems aren’t as impervious as yours, so even though your computer is unlikely to get any infection, the same can’t be said for theirs. This also helps you in the long run when all those non-Linux computers aren’t infected blasting out TBs of garbage data out onto the Internet, slowing your connection down and filling your Inbox with spam.

In the long run, we all win.