Archive for the ‘open source’ category

Ubuntu Releases 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope

April 24, 2009

Ubuntu released its latest version 9.04 codenamed Jaunty Jackalope. Remember that Ubuntu releases on a six month rotation, but have a two year cycle for LTS (Long Term Support) versions. This new version looks like a good step forward for the development, but if you are using Ubuntu in production services I would keep with 8.04LTS. Ars has a good rundown of the new features. Of particular interest to me is the Netbook Remix version. I have been using the prerelease of this on 8.10. I think this is a bold new step to get Ubuntu specifically tailored for the netbook and I like the design a lot.

As always Ubuntu Servers are bogged down. Expect huge delays and dropped packets if you do the upgrade over the web. One easy way around this is to choose mirrors other than the default (MIT’s is usually running pretty fast). I may drudge up the instructions for upgrading over bittorrent as well.

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Using Android on Netbooks

April 2, 2009

We have talked about netbooks and Google’s Android before. I am pretty excited to see where Google’s Android is headed, and I am very hopefully that netbooks will continue to adopt Linux as a viable OS. Not that I fault anyone for buying a netbook with XP, but as Linux becomes more common on netbooks so too will the OS become more common in the mainstream.

So comes the news that HP is considering using Android in their netbooks. Ars does a good job breaking down the good and the bad. Android isn’t designed for the desktop, at least not yet. The OS is designed more for touch than for external input, but those barriers can be easily overcome. Perhaps the bigger negative is the ecosystem. Android has its own development platform and highly customized kernel. HP already ships with Ubuntu the advantage here is installing all the vast wealth of Linux and Open Source applications. Android would limit that integration with, as of now, a limited iPhone-like app store. However, this disadvantage to the Linux faithful may be an advantage to the Linux noob. If Google is reviewing each application it insures stability and compatability…something Ubuntu can’t do as of yet. It will also be pretty easy to install these applications. With that in mind having Google’s name backing up the otherwise nebulous OS may also be of great importance…who has heard of Ubuntu, but Google is something I can trust.

If HP takes Android in its current state than this is a bad move on HP’s part, but, given the open nature of Android, if they can make it into something truly revolutionary this may be one of the best moves for the Open Source community. Hopefully HP will surprise us all.

Citigroup? Red Hat? ????

April 1, 2009

Citigroup considers acquiring Red Hat?  That is the most wretched thing I’ve heard in a while.  Check out the TR post for more information, and to vote in a poll who really should buy Red Hat (or if no one should buy it, which is what I voted).  

Red Hat’s stock currently runs close to Microsoft’s in value, and if you’re a regular reader of technology news, you already know that Red Hat is arguably the biggest and most famous Linux company.  Its products are especially famous in the datacenter for speed and stability in the server environment.  Citigroup, on the other hand, is one of the more heckled stocks out there, currently under three dollars a share.  Why?????  Why would such a poor company want to buy such a successful one?  More so, why do they feel they won’t run RH into the ground the way they’ve run Citigroup into the ground?

Honestly, if anyone buys Red Hat, it should be a technology company first and foremost.  Red Hat is a highly innovative product and needs to be managed by people who understand innovation.  Also, it needs to be managed by people who understand how to sell and market a large-scale product to large-scale businesses.  Not that Citigroup has no experience with this, but I feel a company like Oracle or IBM would be a better fit.

All the same, Red Hat has done a terrific job of creating, selling, and supporting a terrific product, and I don’t see any reason they need anyone’s help.

Python to get a speed boost by Google

March 27, 2009

If this is true this is awesome news by Google. Python is a scripting language, and as such usually has poorer performance on intensive programming projects. For me, though, I like Python because of its ease of use and flexibility. Google obviously uses Python extensively and effectively. If this new interpreter can really bring about a 5x speed boost than I say it is a win win. It also looks like this new interpreter will help utilize multi-processor and thread hardware.

From the article:

The goal of the Unladen Swallow project is to use LLVM, the Low Level Virtual Machine compiler infrastructure, to build a just-in-time (JIT) compilation engine that can replace Python’s own specialized virtual machine. This approach offers a number of significant advantages. As the developers describe in the project plan, the project will make it possible to transition Python to a register-based virtual machine and will pave the way for future optimizations.

Good luck Google. May you bring it to pass.

mp3HD or FLAC

March 26, 2009

When Apple’s iPod became mainstream and the most popular portable music player with came the standardization of the mp3 file format. In some ways this format has served us well. It simplified things so we didn’t have to worry about compatibility. Despite other formats that are open or better mp3 makes for a universally positive experience. One key feature of mp3 is that it compresses the music file and takes out “unneeded” data. This is why mp3 is dubbed a lossy file format. This is good because file sizes remain small while the whole of the music remains the same. The bad part is that certain aspects, particularly ranges of music, are dropped to save file space. There is great debate about how noticeable or serious this is, but nonetheless mp3s are lower quality than cds. At the time giving up quality for quantity was needed with the small file capacity of most audio players. Even our HD based computers were limited. Today this isn’t so much the case. You can easily get cheap 500GB and even 1TB drives, external or internal, and flash memory is increasing in capacity and decreasing in price. I’m fairly certain I would fill up my 8GB iPhone, but in a few years iPhones will likely have 3-5X the capacity at the same size and price. So we may be at a turning point. A turning point where we can take back quality and still have quantity. This leads to lossless file formats.

Ars ran a good article discussing mp3HD. On the surface it would sound like a good thing. Take the popularity and universality of mp3 and make a lossless “HD” version. There are a few problems in the details as Ars points out. First the basic premise is to have both the mp3 compressed version and a compatible HD version. That is essentially doubling the file size and while capacity is growing the last thing you want to do is add extra burden during the transition. There are few other details, but you can read the article for that. What I want to point out is there is already a gold standard in lossless file formats. It is FLAC. Now yes I am an open source nut, but here me out. FLAC is currently already support in most every audio “mp3” player out there with the exception of Apple’s line of mp3 players. Most people already recognize that if you want a lossless library FLAC is what you use…as such the few store fronts that sell digital lossless files do so in FLAC already. Since FLAC is open source there is no licensing, regional, patent, or development limitations. Basically I am arguing that FLAC is already the platinum standard for lossless formats and because it is open source it becomes a win win situation. Believe it or not mp3 is not an open or free codec. You have to license your product to play the files. When you buy Windows or Mac you are paying to play your mp3s. Now all of that happens in the background, but it is still happening. Now I am not a purist, in fact, my library is mostly made of mp3s. I see no reason to switch to the open OGG format because it isn’t universal. But if FLAC is already well supported and is the non-stated lossless file format why muddy the waters with another closed and licensed product? Believe me when I say that if the world starts heading towards lossless distribution of music Apple will come around.

Honestly, I hope mp3HD never sees the light of day. We have an industry leader and we should keep it that way…and of course since it happens to be open source I am all the more for it. If you are considering going lossless I hope you consider FLAC as your format of choice.

World of Application Launchers

March 16, 2009

I am all about key strokes and not using the mouse. For me I spend a lot of time typing, and stopping to mouse breaks the flow too much. When I first switched to Apple OSX I was at a lose for how to launch applications quickly (like Window+r). What I didn’t realize was the world of application launchers. These are key stroke based applications that allow you to launch programs with a few clicks of the keys (as apposed to the mouse). I call them application launchers, but that is their most basic function and primary I guess.

The leader of this group is Quicksilver. The application at the time was not open source, but it was free. I don’t know if it came first to the bunch, but it certainly was the most mature and created the standard for all other application launchers. My key binding is ctrl+space which opens a box where I type a particular program or command. Mostly I use it to launch programs (it annoys my wife that the doc is virtually empty, why do I need any programs on the doc?). You can also control itunes or send IM’s along with many other features. If you are a Mac user and aren’t using this you need to install it now.

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For Linux there is a nice product called GNOME-do. It is for use in the GNOME desktop which is what is installed by default with Ubuntu. Until recently GNOME-do was pretty weak on features. But recent releases made GNOME-do the quicksilver of the Linux world. It is open source and can do a few tricks outside of launching applications.

For Windows there are a few competitors, but I find Launchy good enough for my needs. Again same concept only for windows. It has been a while since I used Windows so I can’t really speak for what it can or can’t do. It scans your program files to make its list and does a pretty good job. If any of you have experience with the product I would love to hear that in the comments.

So this is the world of application launchers. There is one for each OS. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

O’Reilly’s state of the book market programming languages

February 25, 2009

O’Reilly is releasing their numbers on the book market via programming languages. It is pretty interesting to see where growth was and what languages are more popular than others. For instance they saw the most growth in Python, and saw a pretty significant drop in Ruby and C++, while C# is the most purchased programming language book.

Of course O’Reilly isn’t the end all be all of computer book sales (as in there are other players who may have totally different results) and this is totally just by number units sold, but it is interesting to see what the numbers casually tell you.