The Free Software movement has truly become a global phenomenon. Today, I found a piece of legislation that is currently before the Philippines’ House of Representatives that reads like it was written by Doctor Richard Stallman himself! There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the world has really changed, and it will continue to do so. Ubuntu is evolving as well: I will discuss Ubuntu’s possible move to a rapid release cycle, similar to the one that Firefox recently shifted to. The third story in this week’s round up discusses how the Acer Aspire One has grown into an elder statesman of the GNU/Linux netbook movement. Here are the stories for this eighteenth edition of The Linux Week in Review:
- Rapid Release Cycle For Ubuntu: A Good Idea, or a Recipe for Constant Upgrade Fatigue?
- Acer’s Venerable Aspire One Grows Into A GNU/Linux Stalwart
- The Philippines’ Bold Move Towards Free Software
Rapid Release Cycle For Ubuntu: A Good Idea, or a Recipe for Constant Upgrade Fatigue?
I only use one web browser: Firefox. I love Google and their products: I use Gmail and Google Docs extensively. However, when I find a product that I love, I stay loyal to it. (Unless they screw me over!) Firefox was the first browser that I fell in love with. As good as Chrome is, you will have to, in the words of Charlton Heston, pry Firefox from my cold, dead hands. It is very clear to me that Chrome does provide one VERY good thing, ample competition for Firefox. Firefox was always good, but the quality greatly increased when Google’s Chrome browser began to put a lot more heat on the Firefox development team. One influence that I REALLY like is how Firefox shifted to a rapid release cycle, mirroring Chrome’s approach to software updates. The basic philosophical concept that Firefox and Chrome are trying to get people to accept is this: we are trying to move away from the old concept of software versions. In Firefox’s and Google’s minds, there is really only ONE version of any software that you should be running: the latest one. The reasons for this are obvious:
the latest version will be the most secure because it has fixed all of the security holes in the previous versions (in theory, at least).
It will have all of the latest features.
So the next question is this: why do we even have version numbers at all? That’s a great question. Perhaps version numbers will go away all together in the distant future. It appears that Ubuntu might be jumping on the Firefox/Chrome version bandwagon.
An Ubuntu Technical Board member, Scott James Remnant, has submitted a proposal to shift Ubuntu to a monthly stable release cycle. After having used the Firefox rapid release cycle for several months, I think that this may not be a bad idea, at least not for users. When I first heard the proposal to move Firefox to a rapid release cycle, I balked. I did not like the idea of a new version of Firefox coming out every few weeks. I feared that I would end up suffering from the CUFS, Constant Upgrade Fatigue Syndrome. I first experienced the CUFS in the mid-2000s when I started to use Fedora GNU/Linux. In fact, Fedora may be the grandfather of the rapid release cycle. Initially, I found it unnerving that a new Fedora distro would be released just when I had completely gotten used to the previous one. However, in the end, I got used to the 6 month Fedora release cycle, and I now love it. Upgrading to the newest Fedora is still a little bit of a hassle, it consumes the better part of 1 hour every six months. But the Firefox updates are incredibly fast. I get the constant reassurance of feeling that I ALWAYS have the latest and greatest Firefox. So my advice for the Ubuntu Team is to give it a shot. Ubuntu has already developed something of a reputation for risk taking and bold direction changes.They are still the number one GNU/Linux distro on Distrowatch, followed closely by Linux Mint, so I think that people still like most of what they are doing.
As I have stated in several previous editions of TLWIR, I am, and always will be, a Fedora man. However, I do run Ubuntu on my netbook, and I will continue to do so. I will be watching what Ubuntu does very closely, and I look forward to seeing how the rapid release cycle is received by the Ubuntu community.
Acer’s Venerable Aspire One Grows Into A Linux Stalwart
The Acer Aspire One line of netbook computers were originally released in 2008. In the rapidly changing world of technology, the subsequent years since the release of the first Aspire One seem like an eternity. However, the beauty of GNU/Linux is that it lowers the hardware specification requirements, making “old” hardware seem new. It even makes new hardware better than it would be running anemic operating systems such as Windows 7 Starter Edition. To walk into Best Buy and play with an Aspire One with Starter Edition installed is truly a painful experience. I personally would never buy a device with such a crippled operating system, and this is where GNU/Linux really shines.
I do not own a Aspire One myself; I own a Dell netbook. However, all brands of netbooks have experienced a GNU/Linux resurgence. Tablets are popular, especially the Ipad, but there are many people like me who really enjoy the experience of having a physical keyboard. I write a lot during airline flights, and I find that writing an article using my netbook is a very satisfying experience. I love the great battery life of my netbook, but the thing that I most love the is that the netbook really feels like a miniature version of my desktop and laptop computers. All of my familiar applications are there. This would not be the case if I had one of the current Android or Apple tablets on the market. So this brings me back to the Aspire One. The Aspire One has become a very popular platform on which to install GNU/Linux, helped in part by the weakness of Windows 7 Starter Edition. I was on a flight recently, and the lady next to me was a very nice woman who appeared to be in her late 50s or early 60s. She had an Aspire One with Windows 7 Starter Edition installed. I snuck peaks at her activities out of the corner of my eye as she struggled with her hobbled operating system. I asked her “ma’am, do you mind if I offer you a bit of advice?” She said “please.” I proceeded to give her a quick five minute tutorial on GNU/Linux, and we surfed to the Ubuntu website together on her netbook. “So, Linux and free software are completely free?” she asked. “Yes” I replied. Then she asked the all-important question: ‘Why have I never heard of it?”
In the days after this meeting, I wondered to myself how many people suffer in the same way that the sweet older lady did. How many suffer in silence simply because they think that they have no viable alternatives? Herein lies the beauty of the GNU/Linux revolution, and this is why netbooks are so important. Netbooks are gateway devices. Once one becomes used to GNU/Linux on a device such as the Aspire One, they will naturally gravitate towards running GNU/Linux on their laptops and desktops. This process happened to me, only in reverse. I moved to GNU/Linux on my desktop, and it so impressed me that I installed it on my laptop and other devices. Here’s hoping that the Aspire One lives long and prospers as a GNU/Linux-powered machine.
The Philippines’ Bold Move Towards Free Software
For at least two years, the global economic meltdown has forced companies, individuals, and governments to find ways to save money. What better way to save cash than to move to free software? Companies that don’t want to pay someone outside the company to fix problems can hire people to modify free software source code in house. The Philippines is one nation where a slow but steady move towards free software is about to get some official backing.
House bill number 1011 in the Philippines House of Representatives starts off very boldly: “The era of Free/open Source Software (FOSS) has come.” It only gets better from there. The bill was authored by two brave free software pioneers: Representatives Teodoro A. Casiño and Neri Javier Colmenares. The first thing that the bill does is to establish why FOSS is better than proprietary software. Here is my summary of the bill’s opening points:
- FOSS is cheaper than proprietary software. Not only is the code free, but it can be freely distributed. Try installing your $299 MS Office Ultimate on both your computer and your co worker’s.
- FOSS is flexible and development-friendly. Proprietary software is not. FOSS gives you the source code which you can edit and modify to meet your needs. Proprietary software does not.
- FOSS is interoperable. Proprietary software often is not. FOSS adheres to open standards while proprietary software often tries to lock the customer in to a particular vendor.
- FOSS is safe. Proprietary software often is not. Thousands or millions of eyeballs looking at the source code catch and fix mistakes far faster than what occurs in the proprietary regime.
I have to say, I LIKE THESE GUYS AND I LIKE THIS BILL! Reading this bill has to be incredibly scary for a lot of people. However, everything that the bill’s authors say is true. The bill went on to cite specific instances where companies saved a lot of money with FOSS. The bill cited a couple of remarkable examples:
Intel saved $200 million by switching from proprietary Unix software to free software running on GNU/Linux.
Amazon saved $17 million by switching from Microsoft Windows and its associated products to GNU/Linux and free software.
My question is this: politicians are not stupid. How long will it take before government officials in other countries around the world look at the Philippines bill and ask: why aren’t we doing this? Philippines House Bill 1011 is 9 pages long. I read the entire thing from beginning to end, and it is a great piece of legislation. Hopefully, it will get passed. I only gave a brief glimpse of the contents of the bill, but you can read it in its entirety here: http://www.congress.gov.ph/download/basic_15/HB01011.pdf
Philippines House Bill 1011 is the culmination of decades of hard work by a lot of great people. I was blown away when I saw the definition of Free-Open Source Software in the bill with 7 bullets under it. This ensures that there will be no confusion as to what defines FOSS as the bill is argued. Even a cynical person who believes that some unethical proprietary companies might try to pay politicians to vote “no” on such a bill has to realize this: no one can afford to pay EVERYBODY off. At some point, free software will not be able to be held back. The free market ALWAYS picks the winner, the solution that can provide what the market needs at the lowest cost. The combination of the high quality of free software and its low price, zero, make the outcome inevitable: free software will win in the end. I predict that companies will still be able to make a great deal of money by providing services. Red Hat is a prime example that this does work.
I sincerely hope that you have enjoyed reading the eighteenth TLWIR edition. I strive to make each one better than the last. Have a great week. I look forward to seeing you back here for the next edition of…The Linux Week in Review!
- Acer Aspire. (2011, September 13). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 01:06, September 15, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Acer_Aspire&oldid=450336421
- Noyes, K. (2011, September 10). Will ubuntu linux switch to a monthly release cycle?. PC World. Retrieved September 14, 2011, from http://www.pcworld.idg.com.au/article/400430/will_ubuntu_linux_switch_monthly_release_cycle