Sunday, 22 November 2009

Will Google Chrome OS Fail?

It might just be me. I might be biased because I'm a Linux user sick and tired of hearing Microsoft FUD about hardware support in Linux. But it seems to me as though the pro-Microsoft author of this article is suffering from a sever case of the skitters.

I mean isn't the writing on the wall for Microsoft and it's supporters? Linux is not as they claimed dead in the netbook market. It's flourishing apparently. Googles Android was not a failure as many predicted. In fact Googles smart-phone OS is gaining market share with ever increasing numbers of handsets appearing all the time while Windows is losing market share on the smart-phone.

Social media sites like Facebook are becoming increasingly important to mobile devices. So important in fact apps on smart-phones to access sites like Facebook seem to be essential features to just sell a handset. However Randall C Kennedy seems to think Googles web-centric netbook OS will fail? He thinks Linux is fatal flaw number one? A web based interface is fatal flaw number 2 and an inflexible hardware platform is also a fatal flaw.

For those reasons Googles web based OS will fail.

Personally I say he's wrong and here's why. People love Google for one simple reason. Google provides insanely useful services to people all over the world. And from the point of view of normal web users at least, those services are totally free of charge. No costs involved.

The Amazon kindle and it's ilk are the second reason. The fact that you can't upgrade a kindle the same way you can upgrade a desktop PC hasn't stopped people from buying them. The fact that the Kindle doesn't play with an iPod hasn't stopped people buying them. Even the fact that Amazon can and will delete your purchases at will for whatever reason it sees fit hasn't stopped people buying the Amazon kindle and similar devices. All of which by the way run an OS based on Linux.

But it's not the OS that's important here. It's how useful the device is to the consumer and how profitable it will be for the vendors. Get those two things right and you have a product you can sell to people with confidence. I strongly suspect netbook manufacturers will put their own spin on the basic Chrome OS user interface as they have done with Android.

Linux as a "device" OS has in fact been extreamly successful. Linux powers everything from toasters and satnavs all the way up to DVD players, smart-phones, ebook readers and beyond. None of these "devices" seem to be "failing". Consumers don't care that these devices run Linux. They just want them to work. Which is a key point Microsoft apologisers like Randall C. Kennedy always deliberately miss.

People don't care which operating system is on their PC, their smart-phone or their netbook. What they care about is, does it work? Does it let them do the things they want to do the way they want to do them? Google are answering those questions. Microsoft keep serving up more of the same.

Now it's interesting to note that while Chrome OS isn't even completed yet. Microsoft apologists have it marked as a failure. Could this be to distract attention away from the failure of Windows 7 to convert the Windows XP faithful? Windows 7 has been such a great success Microsoft and it's army of apologetic bloggers are already talking about Windows 8 arriving in 2012 (the end of the world apparently) and even Windows 9!

It's time the Microsoft faithfull woke up to reality. Microsoft just aren't going to have it all their own way any longer. At least not by playing nice.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Ubuntu 9.10: 64-bit Installation

Okay so I've just installed Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala) to my desktop. It's not going great.

The first attempt was an "in place upgrade". The reasoning behind this was simple. I had a lot of notes in Tomboy Notes that I didn't want to lose. Previous experience has taught me that Tomboy Notes doesn't deal with upgrades well. However Ubuntu One has a Tomboy Notes synchronisation feature. So the reasoning was simple. Do an inplace upgrade. Upload my notes. Do a clean install later if I need to.

After the in-place upgrade was done I noticed the PC was very unresponsive. minutes pass by while I wait for the top panel menus to respond. I don't know what the issue is. But the 32-bit version running on my laptop doesn't suffer from this problem. But hey! No problem. I thought I'd just do a clean install. Same problem!

Now admittedly I did preserve my home directory. So perhaps there's some sort of conflict with my old settings. So my next plan of action is to wipe the system clean and start completely fresh. If that doesn't work I'll install the 32-bit version. Perhaps the 64-bit copy is experiencing issues? Who knows.

It's not all bad though. I have an SLI setup. Previously this would mean I'd have to use the text based installer. But this time the standard live CD handled my dual graphics cards with no issues. The installer can even deal with RAID arrays like Nvidia Stripe. It will even offer to install Ubuntu to the RAID array.

Considering very little seems to have changed on the desktop, RAID and SLI support in the installer would suggest all the big changes (if there are any) in Ubuntu 9.10 have taken place under the hood.

Edit 08-11-2009: As I suspected some settings from my previous installation were causing issues. With a 100% fresh install everything seems to be working fine. My advice is, do a 100% completely fresh install. Remember to back up your /home directory first and anything else you don't want to lose.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Ubuntu One: First Impressions

First off, what exactly is Ubuntu One? Well basically it's a file sharing and synchronisation service from Canonical. The basic package is free and provides a reasonable 2GB of storage. Canonical claims it's your personal cloud.

So my first impressions? It sucks. Canonical produces client software for both Ubuntu 9.04 and Ubuntu 9.10. However support for 9.04 seems pretty feeble. There's no Tomboy notes synchronisation for 9.04 as there is in 9.10. Which makes that feature useless if your not the type to dive in and upgrade all your PCs all at once.

Even worse however is the file synchronisation feature. It just doesn't seem to work. This being the basic concept of the whole package anybody would have thought Canonical would have gone out of their way to make this work. But it seems not.

So far I've been able to get files and indeed whole folders to upload my Ubuntu One storage space. But they don't ever seem to download to the other PC. It doesn't matter which PC does the uploading. The other PC just doesn't "synchronise" with my on-line Ubuntu One storage space.

Now the client software isn't the only way to interact with Ubuntu One. There is a web interface. But then again there are loads of places on-line for me to upload my stuff to that I can later download from using a web browser. The point and attraction of Ubuntu One is the desktop integration. Which just doesn't seem to be working properly.

Frankly I get a better service using the 50MB of free web space my ISP provides me with. It's simpler to set up as well. All I need to do is FTP into my web space from Places > Connect To Server. No software to install. No PPA to setup. Just a user name, password and FTP address. It's also 100% compatible with both versions of Ubuntu I'm using at the moment.

Perhaps Ubuntu One will work better when I'm running Ubuntu 9.10 on both PCs.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Ubuntu 9.10: First Impressions

My first impression of Ubuntu 9.10? A whole lot of people are interested. My first few attempts to download the ISO file resulted in a corrupted ISO. After waiting a few days for the traffic to calm down, I downloaded new ISOs and they work fine.

So far I've only just finished the initial installation on my Dell M1330n laptop. Since I want to take advantage of the new ext4 file system this is a clean install. To get all my applications installed and running I've created a script based on this How To from Ubuntu Forums. Personally I feel strong command line scripting is one of the greatest strengths of Linux. It just makes migrating to a new system so easy.

My laptop is equiped with an SSD. Which is why ext4 is so important to me. So far as I can work out ext4 has supposedly been optimised to work better with SSDs. Boot times are fast. Although I'm not sure if they are a massive improvement on 9.04 which was already very fast at boot time on my laptop.

Speaking of impressive boot-ups! The little animation that appears where the grub menu would normally appear is awesome. If that is the effect using Grub2 has on the overall polish to the OS then Canonical and the Ubuntu devs made an excellent choice here. It makes the OS feel like some sat down and made an effort to polish the final product rather than just make it work.

The new login screen is pretty cool. It functions very smoothly indeed. It was also a bit of a surprise. I can't remember anybody mentioning anything like that would be there. The new functionality (that I've seen so far) is purely cosmetic. However good looking OS that operates smoothly does make using PCs less stressful and irritating. It's reasuring to know that Canonical and the rest if the Ubuntu development team understands little tweaks can make a huge difference to the user experience. The fade to the desktop is very cool. Windows 7 does the same sort of thing. But over all I think Ubuntu does it better with the initial animated logo at the very start, through the updated boot screen to the very smooth new log-in screen, to the desktop. The whole thing just feels more polished than Windows 7.

The wider selection of desktop backgrounds and themes is also a welcome addition. Although I do get the feeling some of the wallpapers were grabbed off the web at random at the last minute. For some reason they just don't seem to fit with the prodominantly dark brown earthy window themes. Just five more minutes of effort could have avoided that. But it's easily fixed.

A big dissapointment was the restricted drivers manager. For some reason it just doesn't seem to work. I had to install my Nvidia drivers from Synaptic manually. Something for Canonical to work on for 10.04.

My next task is to migrate all of my personal data back to my laptop. Which won't be too hard as I don't keep much on the laptop anyway.

Update 03-11-2009: Added link to Ubuntu Forums. Forgot to do that. DOH!

Update 04-11-2009: Some videos to make life more interesting.