This week, The Linux Week In Review hit a very important milestone: the 25th edition. I have thoroughly enjoyed writing this series so far, and I look forward to continuing it for a very long time. This edition added a new feature: videos. I will be adding more video segments to future editions. In The Linux Week in Review 25, I will reveal my thoughts, both good and bad, about Apple’s extremely popular tablet. I will also reveal how the GNU/Linux community could create a hardware/software ecosystem that could dethrone the Ipad.
Here the stories for this week:
- Creating Youtube Tutorials On a GNU/Linux System
- The Ipad 2 – What Apple Got Right and Wrong, From a GNU/Linux Perspective
Creating Youtube Tutorials On a GNU/Linux System
One thing is very clear about Google’s YouTube service: it has revolutionized the art of sharing information with others. YouTube has done the same thing for video information sharing that Wikipedia has done for sharing words: it has unlocked the fervent repository of knowledge stored in every day people. If I want to see how something is done, YouTube is the first place that I visit. For example, as a C++ programmer, I am always looking for innovative new ways to solve problems. When I get stuck, I can usually find a Youtube tutorial that will point me in the right direction. GNU/Linux is a great platform for creating rich video content to share knowledge with the world. Most GNU/Linux distributions come with powerful tools that make masterful video creation possible: GTK-Recordmydesktop, Cheese, VLC, Mencoder, and Ffmpeg are just a few of these tools. In this segment, I will share with you how I create YouTube videos on my Fedora 16 laptop computer. More importantly, I will share WHY I create Youtube tutorials.
Youtube and Wikipedia are the modern day equivalent of the old Farmer’s Almanac, places where curious minds can fill their heads with both useful and arcane information. People that love GNU/Linux and other free software are usually some of the most curious in the world, so it makes them and Youtube/Wikipedia a very natural mix. Youtube and Wikipedia help to make individual Linux users part of a community of people who share knowledge and information in a public forum. In fact, searching for the term “Linux” on Youtube returns 50 pages of hits! So people with Linux expertise clearly want to share what they know. My reason for wanting to share my Linux knowledge was simple: the more that I teach, the more I learn. I have talked to a lot of my colleagues, and most agree that teaching is one of the best ways of learning. The reason for this is that teaching forces you to organize your thoughts on a topic, and to think analytically.
I think that the best way to teach Linux is to start with simple topics, and to then graduate onto more complex ones. I decided to start my first two TLWIR Linux tutorials on relatively simple topics:
- Changing your GDM login photo on Fedora 16.
- Creating and uploading Youtube videos on a GNU/Linux system.
(Note: I initially thought that you had to convert videos created using gtk-recordmydesktop to .avi before you uploaded them to Youtube. This IS NOT true. You can upload your videos directly to Youtube in their original Ogg Theora format with the .ogv file extension)
Here are the first two videos. Enjoy!
The Ipad 2 – What Apple Got Right and Wrong, From a GNU/Linux Perspective
One of my family members has been clamoring for an Ipad 2 for months. Recently, we finally broke down and purchased one. For the last several days, I have had an opportunity to sit down and analyze the device.
The attention to detail that went into the Ipad 2 is phenomenal. The screen is bright, clear, and the multi-touch is extremely responsive. The attention-to-detail extends to every major feature of the device: the subtle beauty of the default background wallpaper, the sharp automatic rotation of the screen from landscape to portrait mode, and the cleanness presented by limiting the number and size of icons on the screen. All of the applications just work: this is not a buggy systems that crashes all of the time. Viruses and malware? Non-existent.
The Ipad 2 does not have Firefox, nor does it allow Firefox into its marketplace. This is because Firefox does not use the Webkit rendering engine. Firefox is the second most popular web browser in the world, so I find this to be a huge problem and oversight. I use Firefox Sync to sync Firefox on all of my devices. There is a Firefox Sync App for the Ipad 2, but it does not sync passwords, only web history and bookmarks. The inclusion of Firefox in the Ipad app store would bring a lot more people into the fold.
While the Ipad 2 is an incredibly well designed-device, I simply cannot endorse it to members of the free software community. Apple’s concept of a “walled garden” is simply far too restrictive for my needs. They seem to lock out applications not based on how good they are, but on how much they could threaten their dominance. The lack of Firefox is one example of restricting a popular application for illogical reasons. There is no technical reason that Firefox should not run on an Ipad 2.
What Can the Linux Community Learn from the Ipad 2?
We in the Linux community already enjoy many of the great features that went into the Ipad 2:
- a high level of program security
- a very stable platform
- efficient code that makes good use of the computing power of the device
The only place that the Ipad surpasses us is in the area of attention-to-detail when it comes to making it easy for the user to use the device. Apple is not perfect in this regard. I found some of the menu options, especially when it came to device settings, to be in confusing locations. But overall, their attention to design and aesthetic details are the biggest things that we could emulate.
What Can the Ipad Developers Learn From the GNU/Linux Community?
The “walled garden” approach doesn’t work as well as a more open design process. They turn away a lot of great software that would make the Ipad experience a lot better for a person like me. For example, the GIMP is free. I am familiar with it. That is what I want to use, not some no name app created by someone who’s reputation I do not know. When you have great, free software applications that have a great reputation, it would be better for Apple to allow these projects onto the Ipad, and to then donate money to their developers to help maintain and improve the application’s quality. LibreOffice is another application that comes to mind. It would be wonderful to create and edit documents on the Ipad using a full-powered office suite like LibreOffice, but I know that it won’t happen anytime soon.
The Ipad 2 shows me what is possible. This is the device that I WOULD buy: a tablet computer running TRUE GNU/Linux with full access to a repository of free software. In other words, if someone could convert my Toshiba Fedora 16 laptop into a tablet, I would buy it….in a heartbeat. Until then, I’m out of the tablet market.
If you have an expertise in ANYTHING, Youtube is a phenomenal place to share that knowledge with the world. It is impressive that Google got this right: you can just record videos from a GNU/Linux computer, upload them to Youtube, and they just work. They get that respecting people’s platforms and choices get you more users, and those users are more loyal to your platform.
Have a great week and happy holidays! I’ll see YOU in the next edition of The Linux Week in Review.