Chris DiBona recently showed the antivirus software industry who’s boss. He slapped them around like the proverbial red-headed step-child. Kudos to Mr. DiBona for being one of the few industry giants with the chutzpah to speak the truth; a truth thought by many, but one that most would NEVER publicly voice. Libreoffice is built on the hard work of great supporters who create a lot of wonderful tools for the office suite, usually voluntarily. The Ipad 2 is a great device with very poor support for free software. Finally, Linux Mint has risen to the front of the GNU/Linux queue.
The Linux Week in Review 26 features the following thrilling tales, full of excitement and suspense:
- Google’s DiBona Versus Antivirus Experts: DiBona Wins Round One!
- Templates Make the LibreOffice World Go Round
- The Ipad 2 Slams the Door On Ogg Vorbis
- Linux Mint Becomes the Dominant GNU/Linux Distribution
Google’s DiBona Versus Antivirus Experts: DiBona Wins Round One!
The antivirus industry DOES employ a lot of people. For this, I am grateful. However, those highly skilled engineers could be employed in another endeavor: making Windows secure BEFORE it is released. If Microsoft applied a more open development platform, it could pay the people employed at antivirus companies to find bugs and flaws in Windows before the release of a Windows version. If they employed this technique, antivirus software would become a thing of the past in the Windows world. I would employ engineers to rethink the Windows model to make it inherently secure. Here is an idea: the POSIX system incorporated into Unix, Linux, BSD, and MacOS seems to be working very well. Why not shift Windows to this system with the help of the antivirus industry? As Chris DiBona points out with his quote below, the industry is now taking advantage of the fears generated by the Windows ecosystem to create the same feelings in the mobile sphere.
I absolutely agree with Chris DiBona, Google’s Open Source Programs Manager, in his quote below:
“Yes, virus companies are playing on your fears to try to sell you bs protection software for Android, RIM and IOS. They are charlatans and scammers. IF you work for a company selling virus protection for android, rim or IOS you should be ashamed of yourself. ”
For years, I have watched as unscrupulous and non-reputable vendors have preyed on the fears of the unknowing, and the non-technical. I know this from personal experience. I started my computing path as an extremely non-technical user back in 1994. I was completely computer-illiterate. Over the course of the next decade and a half, I absorbed virtually every aspect of computing and computer science to become an expert in many areas. In doing so, I have seen every trick in the book. A lot of these security experts know very well that the root of the security problem is most often poor practices on the part of users. Here are some examples:
- Mind-numbingly short passwords.
- Passwords based on birthdays, and other easily guessed information.
- Logging in to sensitive websites from public locations.
The fact of the matter is that no amount of antivirus software is going to overcome poor practices by computer users. The solution is to train people on how to safely and securely use their devices. The Linux kernel used by Android, and the Linux-based user security model of Android, mitigates much of the risk of damage due to viruses and malware. In other words, Linux was built from the ground up with security at the forefront, and the security experts are choosing to ignore this fact. Android inherited Linux’s security model, and thus is far more secure than Windows traditionally has been. Apple’s IOS, being descended from Linux’s cousin, BSD, shares this inherent security. So to try to make Android users feel that they are operating on an inherently insecure system is both blatantly dishonest and obviously self-serving. If you can scare people half to death, they will buy more of your antivirus product. Hopefully, those in the antivirus industry who engage in dubious practices will heed Mr. DiBona’s call to take the high road.
Templates Make the LibreOffice World Go Round
Like many who use office software at work, I have been using Microsoft Office at work for many years. I have developed pretty good skills at making Excel spreadsheets and Access databases. Those years of practice in Office have really paid off in my Linux usage because doing most things in LibreOffice is fairly similar to doing them in MS Office. One great thing about LibreOffice is that it runs on Linux, Mac, and Windows. Another great thing is that people freely donate so many extensions and templates that expand LibreOffice’s capabilities. I downloaded one such template today made by another LibreOffice user. The template is a Personal Budget template that automatically calculates all of your monthly and yearly expenses after you fill in the applicable data. It is very nice work indeed! LibreOffice templates and extensions are free, and are licensed under the GPL or LGPL licenses. You can visit the LibreOffice extensions and templates home here: http://templates.libreoffice.org/
The Ipad 2 Slams the Door On Ogg Vorbis
How bad is this situation? It is one of the worst situations that I have ever seen. I have never owned a device that prevented me from downloading a perfectly safe file.
Think about this for a second:
An Ipad 2 will not even allow you to download an Ogg Vorbis file onto it! I cannot even download my own oggcast onto an Ipad 2.
An Ogg Vorbis file is not a virus. It is not malware. It is not a Trojan. But Apple has made the decision for ALL Ipad 2 owners that Ogg Vorbis is not acceptable. This is EXTREMELY disturbing.
In The Linux Week in Review 25, I presented a short review of the Ipad 2. While I said that it is a extremely well-designed device, I concluded that I could not endorse the Ipad 2 as a good purchase for the free software community. As I have continued to “play with” the device, I have found some other disturbing trends: the Ipad 2 seems to have a level of disdain for free software. VLC, one of the most popular audio/video programs in the world is completely absent from the Apple Apps Store. Of course, this is due to issues with the Apps Store’s desire to not comply with version 3 of GNU’s GPL license. However, there is no technical reason why the Ipad 2 should not be able to play Ogg Vorbis files. I have an eight year old Neuros Digital Audio Computer than can play Ogg Vorbis Files! Apple has every right to restrict what can play on its device, but this is an absolute deal killer for me, and it should be for anyone who uses free software. I listen to a plethora of Linux oggcasts, and I simply can’t walk around with a computing device that will not play them for reasons that make no logical sense. Can someone please give a rational explanation why the Ipad 2 should not be able to play Ogg Vorbis?
The problematic issue that this problem brings up is one that HTML 5 is supposed to help fix. The dream for the future is that one should not have to worry about which device they use: all of your devices SHOULD be able to play all of your content seamlessly. In this regard, the Ipad 2 appears to be a huge step backwards, in my opinion. My final conclusion is that the Ipad 2 is a wonderfully designed tablet, but it suffers from very poor planning in terms of software/codec implementation and support. My recommendation to Apple would be to dismantle the entire Apps Store process, and to rebuild it from scratch, using a far more open paradigm. I would also urge them to find a way to resolve the GNU GPL 3 conundrum so that GPL v. 3 apps could actually exist in the apps store. Right now, it seems as though this could NEVER happen. However, one significant unknown that could be a game changer is Google’s VP8 codec. Google made this codec open source and patent royalty free when they bought it several months ago. VP8 is basically Ogg audio in a Matroska container. If VP8 takes off due to Google+ and Google music, it may place Apple into a position of having to support VP8/Ogg Vorbis. I am praying for this outcome. As such, I have decided to only support Google+ on my personal website. I have only Google+ buttons on my content, no Facebook Likes or Twitter shares. If people concentrate their support behind Ogg Vorbis and VP8, it will send a very powerful message to Apple: People are capable of making their own decisions!
Linux Mint Becomes the Dominant GNU/Linux Distribution
I have never used Linux Mint, but I have used Ubuntu. Linux Mint recently passed Ubuntu as the most popular GNU/Linux distribution on Distrowatch.com. This is an extremely significant development since Ubuntu had been the most popular GNU/Linux distribution for years. It appears that an important lesson is being taught to Canonical. This lesson is universal: if you listen to your customers, you will succeed, if you don’t, you will fail. I don’t believe that Ubuntu will fail; I believe that they will adapt. Whether you are developing Windows, or Linux, or Audacity, or whatever, it is important to LISTEN CAREFULLY to what you users need and want. If you don’t, you will inevitably lose them. Linux Mint listened to its users, Ubuntu did not do so to the same degree. I believe that the designers at Ubuntu will listen much more carefully in the future. I anticipate that future Ubuntu releases will come much closer to what Ubuntu users want and expect. Taking a close look at Linux Mint 12 might be a great place for the Ubuntu engineers to start.
I am a Fedora user, and Fedora has maintained its following pretty well. I love Fedora 16! I don’t know how much research Red Hat does into how much its users like each Fedora release. However, I do sense that Fedora is fairly cautious about making major design changes from one release to the next. The move from Gnome 2 to Gnome 3 in Fedora 15 was the most radical change that I ever experienced in my seven years with Fedora. I think that the rise of Linux Mint will make every GNU/Linux distribution more cautious about introducing radical changes too quickly. I wish Fedora, Ubuntu, Mint, Suse, and all GNU/Linux distros success moving forward!!
Thank you for reading The Linux Week in Review 26. I look forward to reading your comments at BeginLinux.com. I’ll see you in the next edition!
“Google Open-sources VP8 & Choses Matroska « Mosu’s Tips & News from the Matroska World.” Mosu’s Tips & News from the Matroska World. Web. 27 Nov. 2011. <https://www.bunkus.org/blog/2010/05/google-open-sources-vp8-choses-matroska/>.
Dunn, John E. “Ubuntu Shows DistroWatch Decline as Mint Soars | PCWorld.” Reviews and News on Tech Products, Software and Downloads | PCWorld. Web. 27 Nov. 2011. <http://www.pcworld.com/article/244950/ubuntu_shows_distrowatch_decline_as_mint_soars.html>.