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Alright you drooling idiots! August 3, 2007

Posted by Carthik in commentary.
49 comments

Jem Matzan thinks we technical writers treat you as stupid drooling idiots.

Do I? I can honestly say I don’t. I write for the competent computer user who has switched to Ubuntu. Anything that 90-95% of the people who formerly used Windows or Macs, and are competent enough to help others won’t be published here. Guaranteed. I can say that since I have a target audience of one – myself before I knew what I wrote here. I write so that, some day in the future, when I search for a solution to a problem, I get the pleasure that only a goojà vu (google + déjà vu :)) can provide – finding something you wrote as the result of a Google search is priceless.

There are some authors of blogs that write tutorials and guides that cover all and sundry. The installation of some software that should be pretty straightforward to install, and so on, ad nauseum. I understand that the pleasure of earning a check through Google’s adsense can be great, and I wish these authors good luck. There are also the book equivalent of these sites that really do treat Ubuntu users as dunces.

But Jem, what’s the problem with any of that? The world needed a “Linux for Dummies” – something that is inanely simple to install, setup, use and maintain – and that is exactly what Ubuntu is. Power users don’t need to fear it since it does not take away anything in doing that. So there you are – a Linux-based OS that is simple enough for the stupid and as (if not more) flexible and powerful than the best OSes out there. It’s not like there aren’t books out there that don’t address the intricacies of subjects that are technically complex. The wiki and the Official Ubuntu Book, not to mention all the documentation and books out there for Debian all address the power users’ documentation needs.

I was happy to read that article, especially the parallels drawn with how Mac users were once perceived the way the author perceives Ubuntu users now. I was happy because it is a sign that we are moving in the right direction – towards a “Linux for Human Beings” (regardless of IQ).

Dell to Offer Ubuntu to Consumers May 1, 2007

Posted by Carthik in commentary, interviews, news, ubuntu.
38 comments

So Dell did not get caught in the storm of it’s making – it swept the storm off its feet! This is the day the scales started tipping.

Dell will start offering consumers PCs with Ubuntu 7.04 (aka Feisty Fawn) on its PCs for interested customers. The Dell Ideas in Action Blog announced as much earlier today, stating very clearly that Ubuntu was their distribution of choice, and that they have worked out the specifics of the deal with Canonical, the entity that support Ubuntu’s development. Read Canonical’s brief announcement here. According to Canonical’s Jane Silber, the timing couldn’t be better:

“The market is ready,” Silber said. “We think the combination of the timing, the technology and the partner are aligned to make it happen.”

There is a video interview with Mark Shuttleworth over at the Direct2Dell blog in which he talks about how the deal came about, and how this will make wide Linux adoption a much easier goal to achieve. He’s right when he says that this will increase Linux’s visibility across the board, and draw out closet Linux technologists who will now see some commercial benefit to advertising the Linux expertise they had, but never really talked about before.

I think this is a big step forward – hell, I look forward to answering, “what’s that Ubuntu-thing on your laptop?” with “Haven’t you heard, it comes pre-installed on some Dell PCs?”

Kudos to Dell for following up on their promise to listen to customers. My voted counted, for once. Depending on how many Ubuntu laptops get sold, Dell might just be the trailblazer in making and selling computers – once again. The interesting thing is, I wonder if Dell sees the future, can the others be far behind. Also, going by the example Mark states in the interview about how Linux adoption on servers led to hardware manufacturers ensuring that their stuff was up to snuff on servers, this can only mean better support for Ubuntu from the hardware component and peripheral manufacturers.

Congratulations Ubuntu – stand up and be recognized now!

An Interview with Mark Shuttleworth on Talk Radio 702 April 13, 2007

Posted by Carthik in commentary, interviews, ubuntu.
12 comments

There have been quite a few podcasts featuring Mark Shuttleworth recently.

First there was the interview conducted by Questions Please with questions from ordinary decent people solicited on the Fridge. Then there was the Linux Action Show podcast.

But there is one other interview that seems to have missed all the radars so far. South Africa’s 702 Talk Radio has a podcast in two parts of Mark being interviewed by Aki Anastasiou. Since it is a little difficult to find the links to the mp3 files on the page with the podcasts, here they are: Part 1 and Part 2. Unlike the other podcasts, this one is hosted by a professional radio host. I believe 702 Talk Radio is a regular full-service radio station. I enjoyed listening to the interview last night, where talk ranges from space travel to Ubuntu on the desktop to philanthropy.

I learnt that Da Vinci said what he did about flight, as featured on the wonderful quote on Mark’s homepage before any man had flown. It is obvious once you realize that there were no flying machines in Da Vinci’s time. I love it when I realize something that is obvious and go “D’oh” mentally :) Mark’s expectations for Ubuntu are so rational, it amazes me – I love it that he does not “oversell” Ubuntu as something it is, in his view, not. I find this a welcome change from the normal “My foobar is the best thing that has happened to the planet, evar!” kind of marketing talk.

Two readers commented – and I even received one email – saying more frequent posts of the kind that I have written recently are welcome – that I should not limit myself to writing only helpful tips. That is what encouraged me to write about this interview.

Enjoy the interviews!

Linux is Mainstream, Paul. April 4, 2007

Posted by Carthik in commentary, ubuntu.
162 comments

Paul Thurrott writes at internet-nexus about the previous post I’d written about how more people “want” to use Ubuntu or some other flavor of Linux.

First off, it’s great to have Paul’s attention. Paul is an opinion leader in the Windows-centered world.

I would like to point out some small misconceptions he seems to have:

I never said that most people want to use Linux, or that most people use Windows since they have to. The word I used was more, and in this case, I meant it to mean that the numbers seem to be increasing – which is a good sign, as far as I am concerned.

That aside, the following is what worries me most, Paul says:

The truth is, for most people–like, 99.99 percent of the computing using public–a computer is a tool. What they “want” isn’t a particular OS. What they want is a solution to a problem, or an answer to a need. They want email. They want the Web. They want Office. Games. Digital photos and music.

Paul, we Ubuntu users belong in the 99.99% you mention, too. Have you used Ubuntu lately, and have you been able to compare how easy it is to use Ubuntu on a day to day basis? Heck, it installs much faster and easier than Windows, and if you support open-source friendly hardware providers, like Intel, then everything works great – much faster than you can say “install windows driver”. :)

Then again, he says:

Anyone who stays up at night worrying about OS platforms just isn’t part of the mainstream. That’s not good or bad, it’s just reality.

We Linux users are part of the mainstream now, Paul. Linux is not just for geeks. For one, governments the world over are adapting to change, and thus driving it faster. In a few years, entire cities/states/countries will see vastly increased number of Linux users. People who use them in offices/schools will tell the others. I trust them to. Good news can’t be stopped from spreading. Oh, and Bill Gates’ (or Microsoft’s) first clients were geek hobbyists(a minority that was not part of the mainstream), and computers used to be a hobby back then. Look at where we are now.

While no amount of personal examples from me, or from other Linux users can convince someone that this is the case, it cannot hurt to have a list of “normal” “mainstream” people who use Ubuntu — how they do, why etc. I just checked and there seems to be no such list. If you read this blog, and don’t do programming/computer related stuff for a living, please drop us a comment here, saying you use Ubuntu. Let’s see where this goes.

Our world view is inclusive, Paul – anyone who has the hardware for a computer should be able to use the computer for free. We will get there. Ubuntu is amazingy easy to setup and use. GNOME, even KDE, are much much more intuitive and easy to use (from the usability point of view) than Windows. Of course, this is a subjective statement. I wish there was a study report I could point to. Could Canonical sponsor an Ubuntu Usability Study, comparing it to OSX and Windows? Just so that we have something to point at?

“Want to” Vs. “Have to” April 1, 2007

Posted by Carthik in commentary, microsoft, ubuntu.
43 comments

So what is this ground-shattering revelation that forced me to write at 2:45 AM?

It is one of those things that literally make you sit up, and think for a moment. When you are done thinking, you want to write it down – such thoughts don’t happen too often, you see. So here it is:

More people use Windows not because they want to, but because they have to.
More people use Linux not because they have to, but because they want to.

The balance is tipping. Soon, there will be fewer people who will be willing to do what they have to at a high price, and more more people willing to change things so they can use the platform they want to use.

I’ll probably regret writing this a few years from now. It is, after all, so obvious.
What I won’t regret is writing this down before I go to sleep tonight.

Dell Caught in Storm of Its Own Making? February 21, 2007

Posted by Carthik in commentary, ubuntu.
22 comments

So Dell emulated digg and put the idea to (good) use in letting people submit and vote for ideas to be implemented at Dell. The result was Dell Idea Storm.

Now maybe Dell regrets it, just a wee bit. You see, the popular requests page right now is dominated by Linux-oriented requests. The most popular idea is for machines with Linux (Ubuntu/OpenSUSE/Fedora) pre-installed. Followed closely by an idea to distribute PCs with OpenOffice preinstalled. There are popular ideas that suggest PCs without Windows installed, PCs with open-source Linux drivers etc.

Now, for Dell, it would be a small publicity setback if they do not act on at least a few of these ideas – them being the most popular ideas. It will be interesting to see how it develops. I hope Dell does not just seem to be attentive to customers, and actually gives them what they demand.

I, being the eternal optimist, voted with my mouse for systems with Ubuntu pre-installed.

Of Apples and Oranges, GNOME and KDE February 17, 2007

Posted by Carthik in commentary, gnome, looks and feel, ubuntu.
43 comments

I find it very annoying the the apple developers fail to provide many of the features that have been standard with oranges for years. For example in oranges there is a very hand segment feature which allows the fruit to be broken up into small convenient bite size peaces. With apples the only way to do this is to use a third party utility such as a knife. I have tried to submit patches to get segments into apples but the developers arn’t interested telling me that it is just to much the orange way and thats not the way apples are. Against this kind of mentality what can you do. Lets not even get on to oranges convenient juice feature and how hard it is to get juice out of apples. (Hint requires a full application suit).

This made my day.

So Linus wrote a few patches to make GNOME work his way. The above quote is a comment to that article.

I find Linus’ GNOME-bashing phenomenally, umm, retarded (**). GNOME is made for those who want computers to be usable. I am sure there are many who appreciate KDE’s configurability, but the first feeling that hits me on logging into KDE is a feeling of being lost. I dread having to find something, since it most definitely will be placed in some non-intuitive sub-menu. I dread to think I have a choice to change “anything I want” to the way I want it to be, since I will have to find where to change it first, or what “feature x” is called in KDE. I lack KDE context – maybe with a few months/years of use, I will feel at home in KDE. But that brings home the beauty of GNOME – I felt at home by the time I had logged out of it after the first time I used it recently.

A little bit of history, now, if you will. The first time ever I used Linux was in the Summer of 1999. I was an undergrad back then, and on red hat I had the choice of GNOME and KDE. GNOME use Enlightenment as the window manager back then. I hated it the first time I used it, and I used KDE. But back then I did not have a computer to call my own. So whenever I used Linux (which was like once in two months or so), I used KDE.

The bad impression I had about GNOME persisted in my mind.

Then, when Ubuntu was released, I sort of regretted the fact that it used GNOME by default. Still, now that I had a computer of my own, I decided to give it a shot, after failing to get my network card working with a whole lot of other OSes.

I fell in love with GNOME. It was love at first sight. The emotional response was inexplicable, hence I call it “love” – which is a strong word! I could not figure it out, given my bad memories related to GNOME. Later, I installed Kubuntu as soon as it was available, to see if KDE would be better for me. Surprisingly, after a few months of GNOME, I could not stand KDE.

None of this goes to say that I hate KDE. In fact, I love some things KDE gets right, like how their apps interoperate beautifully (DCOP), and how apps like Amarok blow my socks off. I love the Konqueror idea – one browser to browse everything from files on a remote server, to webpages, to local files. I just happen to love the clean, orgnaized world of GNOME better. I like the way GNOME display fonts on the screen. I don’t want to have to change every little variable to get the perfect system. I want a good, functional, usable system. I will trade-in customizability for usability. Yes, I find GNOME’s lack of some features frustrating. I’d rather live with that than with the frustration of not finding where or how to change behavior “X” in KDE. The knowledge that something is customizable makes me want to customize it, and causes frustration when I am not able to find out how to do it.

Someday, I will do a side-by-side comparison of GNOME and KDE with respect to various factors like usability, features, etc. Finding a baseline list of “which is better” is hard, especially when it comes to usability. Defining a series of “tests” to impartially compare the two systems with regards to usability is hard, if not impossible – and that keeps me from going forward. X vs. XP does a pretty good job of comparing OSX and Windows XP. So, with an investment of a significant amount of time, I should be able to create a comparison. Searching for feature comparisons, or guides to choose from between KDE and GNOME either yield subjective articles, or biased commentary, such as this article. This has to change. There has to be a page to answer the question, “so what is the essential difference between KDE and GNOME, and what can I read to make a good decision regarding which of the two to use?”

Ubuntu & Linspire – So Who Else is Keeping Tabs? February 10, 2007

Posted by Carthik in commentary, ubuntu.
43 comments

So Ubuntu and Linspire have declared their intention to work together toward their common goal of making Linux Universal. You can read the press release here.

Now that you are done reading with that, read the story at desktop linux.

I read them yesterday, and allowed myself a day to think about it. Here are some thoughts, in no specific order, and with no specific intention:

  1. I don’t think Linspire’s primary motivation is to make Desktop Linux popular. I think it is to make a profit. So the “popularize Linux” common goal stops with Freespire, Linspire’s step-brother
  2. Ubuntu is now “upstream” for a whole bunch of distros – each with a different kind of users. “Upstreaming” bugs from Ubuntu to Debian and to the individual packages’ bugtrackers is a really painful process and has been so. The upstreaming problem might get worse with Ubuntu having to deal with bugs from downstream too, about which little can be done except to upstream them to Debain, since that’s how Ubuntu tries to minimize the delta with Debian
  3. Linspire jsut seems to come out the winner in this deal. Ubuntu benefits only by having access to a not-yet-built CNR.com
  4. Mark says in the press release that the CNR system is open – well it is not entirely open source – only the client software is open source. I suppose he meant open as in open for access and use.
  5. Even without the agreement cnr.com would have been usable by Ubuntu users, if I am not missing anything big
  6. The fundamental assumption is that restricted decoders, plugins and apps will now be available “legally” after you pay some money. I’d like to see if this actually turns out that way – that is, to see if w32codecs, libdvdcss2 etc are made available. A cursory search of the current cnr website did not yield these packages – maybe they are just called something else
  7. Ubuntu will now have to face the problems that the software people installed using CNR will create – since the tie-up is official, one can’t say, “well, we don’t support packages from external repositories in the Ubuntu bug tracker

Yes, I am a pessimist, but in thinking about the worst case we find comfort in things that work out well. I hope this was the right decision to make. I can’t forget, however, that there is no way one can stop anyone from using the repositories that Ubuntu’s developers and users garden. It’s probably too early to say it, but I’ll say it anyway — Ubuntu is the New Debian.

Ubuntu Just Sucks Less January 9, 2007

Posted by Carthik in commentary, ubuntu.
64 comments

With the cursory hat tip to Marketing Pilgrim who does a sentiment analysis for firefox Vs. Internet Explorer, lets get started on Ubuntu and Windows. Sorry folks, I just could resist plugging in the words and let them duke it out.

Most interestingly, according to opinmind, 87% of all bloggers who have blogged about Ubuntu like it, as opposed to 67% for Windows. Opinmind seems to be a real neat tool – wonder how many people use it, and in what innovative ways.

Ok, now for the next step, technorati has 1116 results for “Windows Sucks” and only 62 for “Ubuntu Sucks”.

Almost no one thinks Ubuntu sucks, as opposed to a higher of people who think the contrary about Windows, (in the year 2006) according to Google Trends.

Enough with the negative stuff already. One might say that Windows has been around longer, is a market leader, and therefore has more critics than Ubuntu has. Sorry, I couldn’t overlook this myself – so I had to ask Google: What rocks more? Windows or Ubuntu?

3,340 votes for “Windows Rocks” as opposed to(hold your breath) … 21,200 votes for “Ubuntu Rocks”. The 1.5 million odd results for switch to Ubuntu provide a stong hope that this number will keep rising.

Amazing, eh? Now maybe you can pardon me for stealing someone’s idea and creating an article much like the original.

Ubuntu: Mom Loves it! December 17, 2006

Posted by Carthik in commentary, news, ubuntu.
20 comments

A lot of moms (and dads) fall prey to the “Your computer is too old – buy a new one!” scam. First a little explanation as to how the scam develops:

  1. Mom buys new computer
  2. Computer comes with “Free” AOL/NetZero/random ISP account, as well as loads of unwanted software
  3. A month later, the “free” antivirus’ license has expired, so has the “free” firewall’s license
  4. Mom uses computer for 6 months, so do an increasing number of trojans, spyware and adware
  5. Mom finds computer too slow
  6. A visit to the local electronics/computer store is planned
  7. Computer “diagnosed” at $60 per hour
  8. Diagnosis: Computer too old, buy a new one, OR, we can fix it for you in 4 hours (and it will cost $240)
  9. Mom buys new computer
  10. Computers-at-home+=1
  11. GOTO 1

So mom ends up with more than one computer, none of which are “fast” or maybe none of which work reliably and reasonably. What is the fix? Use Ubuntu!

That’s what I learnt from the post at Shooting the Kids(relax, it is about photography) about how his Mom loves Ubuntu.

My mom now owns 3 laptops and two desktops (one I’ve been using for a couple of years) – none of which are older than 5 years. Sound like your parents?…Tired of this trend, I decided to install Ubuntu on my mom’s new laptop…My mom’s become an evangelist to some of her friends. She told me that last week she and her lifelong friend had been on the phone talking about how they love their new Ubuntu systems and comparing cool features they’ve discovered. I think it’s fair to say that Linux has come home.

I admit the guy had to step in to help the wireless card along for one Laptop, but that is not so bad – every once in a while I get calls from people I know asking for help with getting something-or-the-other working in Windows XP! So I think, yes, it is fair to say Ubuntu is coming home.

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