Life & much, much more

Testdriving Skydrive

For those unfamiliar with Microsoft’s answer to cloud storage, [Microsoft Windows Live] SkyDrive offers a website accessible online file manager for free. When I first tested Skydrive many years back, it only offered 5GB storage and had a clunky interface that was a horror to work with.

Imagine my reaction when I heard the bozos who work at the University of Sydney’s excuse of an IT department announced that they were abandoning a personal user folder on the  network and replacing it with a SkyDrive account.

Admittedly after brushing up with SkyDrive’s latest updates, featuring a HTML 5 non-uncanny interface along with 100MB per file with a total size of 25GB per person, my interest in trying out the service was rekindled. They apparently also updated photo sharing and manipulation technologies as well as synchronisation with MS Office. Neither feature of which I particularly need or will use, but a nice touch nonetheless that shows at least some departments in Microsoft care about their products.

Apart from playing with it sporadically, this week I had the fortune (that’s right, I wouldn’t say misfortune) to use it within my average work environment, ie. working with graphics and diagrams and scanned images. My other average work environment involves programming, for which anything other than a vcs repository with a local LAMP setup is inappropriate, but that’s something else entirely.

The Good

When working within a relatively small group for a small design project, SkyDrive is great for collaboration. Not only does it solve the issue of always shifting workstations and having to transfer over resources or source material, SkyDrive acts as a replacement for a Dropbox setup. By this I mean that when SkyDrive is operating under an institution, I can very easily tell it to share a directory with 5 of my friends working on the same project as I am, or otherwise interested in my work.

Along with a drag n’ drop interface, it makes it easy to copy over whatever has changed just by looking at the last modified dates and selected the top X number of entries.

SkyDrive is also quick. It doesn’t dally around like other uploaders and gets straight to the point of dumping your files online just like Dropbox does.

The Bad

Unfortunately it’s also completely inappropriate for my uses. The average design save file can very easily exceed the 100MB per file limit, and even when it doesn’t, having to download a ~50MB file, especially when the connection is spotty, is a pain, and can cost you several hours of productive work, or worse, lose a client.

SkyDrive also doesn’t support incremental updating, which I guess is asking too much, but since people have already been spoilt by Dropbox, which does something alike that, I don’t see why I can’t grumble about it.

Brief Conclusion

Apart from not being useful for my usecase I really cannot find much to critique about SkyDrive. Especially when I rarely see other people making use of Cloud solutions other than Dropbox I’m quite surprised not more people are using SkyDrive. With upcoming integration with Windows 8 (of which I have mixed reactions to) and up to 2GB file transfers, I’d say Kudos, MS. Kudos.

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Playing a song as a background process in Windows

Sometimes you ask yourself how to do cool things like playing a song in the background (ie. no visible interface or application) upon login on a Windows box. Being completely unfamiliar with using DOS I wasn’t quite sure how to go about doing this, but apparently it was quite easy. So here I am documenting it for future "reference". This marks my very first time touching the DOS prompt and indeed any sort of commands in Windows, so please excuse the newbie-format of this post.

Everything is done CLI for obvious reasons – we don’t want any interface for them to turn off our song. So we need a command line music player. mplayer is also available as a command line player on Windows, and so it was my first choice. A quick download of a build without an interface and we were ready to play any song with a *.bat file containing `mplayer "music.mp3"`

The next step is to make it run without the prompt opening up. This is again easily done by executing the bat file via a vbs file with the following content. Creating a shortcut to this vbs file and dumping it in your startup folder is the simplest and most obvious way to make it play on login. Here’s the code:

Set WshShell = CreateObject("WScript.Shell")
WshShell.Run chr(34) & "C:\path\to\my\bat\file.bat" & Chr(34), 0
Set WshShell = Nothing

Now I wanted to be able to change this song whenever I wanted from a central server. Basically it would check whether or not it needs to update the song, and if it does, delete the existing song and download the new song. This is useful to give a little variety in our fun little player. Some things didn’t work quite as I wanted it to so I have probably used the most horrendous of hacks based on what I could garner from various online references.

First I needed a way to download files akin to wget. I found a small program called url2file which did just the thing. I wanted it to check whether or not a song existed on the server, and if it did, download it. However the url2file program didn’t quite play nice with that idea (it would download a 404 page instead of allowing me to tell it not to do anything), and I didn’t know how to check whether or not a file existed on a remote server. So instead I had to make do with a second "notifier" file which, if it contained a certain string, would mean that a new song was available to be downloaded.

It would download that plaintext file’s contents to a tmp file, search in that tmp file for the string we were looking for, and if successful, would delete the existing music file and download the new one to take its place. Unfortunately doing a simple `if %getnew%==yes` didn’t work (explanations welcome!), so I made do with checking the first 3 characters, which did work. Here’s the final code, with the getnew.txt file including just the single word "yes".

del tmp
URL2FILE.EXE http://foobar.com/getnew.txt > tmp
set /p getnew= < tmp
set _part_name=%getnew:~0,3%
if %_part_name%==yes del music.mp3
if %_part_name%==yes URL2FILE.EXE http://foobar.com/music.mp3 music.mp3

Tada, and worked flawlessly. Not bad for a couple hours work from scratch and not knowing anything about DOS at all.

In unrelated news, I’m looking for good bagpipe music.

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If the auto industry makes cars like Microsoft makes Windows?

This is an old one (and I take no credit for it), but cracks me up every time I read it and I’m sure that I’m not the first. However it’s great to share, and here it is … again :)

Bill Gates reportedly compared the computer industry with the auto industry and stated, “If GM had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $25.00 cars that got 1,000 miles to the gallon.”

In response to Bill’s comments, General Motors issued a press release stating:

If GM had developed technology like Microsoft, we would all be driving cars with the following characteristics:

  1. For no reason whatsoever, your car would crash twice a day.
  2. Every time they repainted the lines in the road, you would have to buy a new car.
  3. Occasionally your car would die on the freeway for no reason. You would have to pull to the side of the road, close all of the windows, shut off the car, restart it, and reopen the windows before you could continue. For some reason you would simply accept this.
  4. Occasionally, executing a maneuver such as a left turn would cause your car to shut down and refuse to restart, in which case you would have to reinstall the engine.
  5. Macintosh would make a car that was powered by the sun, was reliable, five times! as fast and twice as easy to drive – but would run on only five percent of the roads.
  6. The oil, water temperature, and alternator warning lights would all be replaced by a single “This Car Has Performed An Illegal Operation” warning light.
  7. The airbag system would ask “Are you sure?” before deploying.
  8. Occasionally, for no reason whatsoever, your car would lock you out and refuse to let you in until you simultaneously lifted the door handle, turned the key and grabbed hold of the radio antenna.
  9. Every time a new car was introduced car buyers would have to learn how to drive all over again because none of the controls would operate in the same manner as the old car.
  10. You’d have to press the “Start” button to turn the engine off.
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Windows 7 “feature”: let’s include XP!

Boring Introduction I recommend you skip reading but you’ll read it anyway.

Firstly, hello Planet Larry! For existing readers, thinkMoult is now also a citizen of Planet Larry, which is governed by a cow named Larry (isn’t Larry a guy’s name?), and is mainly populated by geeky blogs. I decided to delay my next article about the practicality of the open source business model/culture and instead have a very quick post about a feature I read about in Slashdot. The next part of my analysis will likely come soon after.

Ok, now for the actual post itself.

Apparently Windows 7, the upcoming buzz from Windows land will have as a “free” feature (add-on, actually) for its professional and ultimate (hence, not really “free”) editions which will allow virtualisation of the Windows XP operating system. For those casual readers of my blog, it’s like running an operating system on an operating system, a bit like what I did when I reviewed Windows 7, except instead of Linux, you’re running XP on Windows 7. I wrote about how the majority of US businesses had stated that they would not switch to Windows 7 due to worries over compatibility issues, but this just might be overdoing it.

On one end of the spectrum, you have Windows Petite, which is supposed to take over the mini-computer market, with one super feature: you can only run 3 programs at one time. Oooh, then they can advertise along the lines of “Hey guys, we don’t lag at all!“. And then you’ve got the other end of the spectrum where you’ve got two operating systems lumped into one. This got me thinking. What if I wanted to install Windows Ultimate on a netbook, then run XP on it at the same time, will it explode or something? (Wait, do netbooks even support hardware virtualisation?)  Obviously somebody in Microsoft’s marketing departments didn’t talk with the product design department.

Not to mention the support hell it will all create. Where you once had to support 10,000 copies of Windows, you now have to support 20,000. (yes I ripped that shamelessly off somewhere I can’t remember now) Oh, and what was that about Windows stopping their support for depreciated Windows versions? Looks like it might not happen.

Seriously, somebody please help me understand the thinking that goes behind all of this. “Let’s create two products to cover all our bases. One will only allow 3 programs to be run at one time, and another we’ll simply take our 7 year old product we once said we wouldn’t support anymore, and lump it in one big package.

Oh wait a minute, why didn’t they choose to lump Vista with it?

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Windows 7 Review

To those who have been keeping up with all the Windows 7 buzz, this post will seem very “behind the times”. Well, I don’t care :) To those who are just casual browsers of the thinkMoult blog, this might interest you. (Well, it was also in my drafts folder for a long time, and I decided to finish it off)

Let’s start off by saying I do not hate Microsoft with a vengeance. True, I do think their Windows operating system is a flop, but let’s not have that impression taint the new Windows 7, eh? For the more technically inclined, I ran Windows 7 build 7000 – amd64, on a VirtualBox. The actual OS underneath was Gentoo Linux. Let’s take a look at what we see first (after it’s all installed):

windows7_bootup

Well, the install process was…slow. I had to leave it overnight. (started the install at about 12:00AM), and things has a knack of staying at 0%. Choosing the date and time seemed a bit bugged, as I could change the time, but not the date (which was wrong). Of course, the slow install could’ve been because I was running it on a virtual box. (Compared to the Ubuntu install, the Ubuntu was faster, and more user friendly).

The start up screen was nice, and had a flashy little animation showing the Windows logo glowing somewhat. The logon was pretty dumbass proof (type. in. password), and up there you see the screen it shows when you log in. I think there was something wrong because I expected compositing of some sort, but I didn’t get any. So as you can see, the taskbar there is pretty darn opaque. This also meant I didn’t get a lot of the eyecandy, including the well-publisized show desktop effect (which I don’t see what the hype is about anyway).

The taskbar, as you can see, is the most obvious change. The first thought that came across my mind was “This looks like KDE 3.x”. In case you don’t know, KDE is a user interface for Linux, and the 3.x version is … old :) I’m not saying it’s bad, I’m just saying Windows has stolen an old idea of Linux. Apparently each application now only shows as a huge icon on your taskbar. At the same time, you have quicklaunch icons which look pretty much identical. I found it a bit disconcerting at first, but to be honest it wasn’t hard to confuse against. However, this concept also made each application have to group, and since I tend to run quite a lot of applications (especially because Windows doesn’t have any concept of multiple desktops – gosh they are slow) this new task bar would personally act as a cripple to my workflow. It would make it hard to manage a lot of open windows. Especially because it doesn’t show the names of the windows, which can show a lot of useful information (eg: file browser – which folder you are in, web browser – the website you’re on, email client- which folder, irc- which channel, etc). Of course, I’m sure there is a legacy option, but I believe this change was for the worse. The ratio of the size of things on the taskbar to the area of the taskbar seem very uneven, and so I also find that there is a lot of space wasted – which is a sign of bad design. Of course, some times these can have good aesthetic effects, but not in this case (in my opinion).

windows_1

When initally poking around, I was quite impressed with the changes. As you can see, the calculator has been beefed up (small things do count), you can see the grouping in the taskbar, some desktop widgets, and a theme that has been applied. When poking around a bit more, I found that the experience got worse and worse. My initial reaction to the possibility of the themeing support (in the control panel – more about that later) was “finally!”, but apparently all it does is change your wallpaper and your clock design. Ooooh. Innovation. What a anticlimax. The grouping likes to split the tabs in internet explorer into separate items. What a waste of tabs in the first place if you’re going to treat them like separate applications in your task bar. I was also quite disappointed with the packaged set of desktop widgets – hardly any of them would be actually practically useful for me.

windows_2

Next up was IE. They apparently did upgrades. And yes they did. It looks…bulkier than ever. The menus and such take up about 300 pixels, if not more. The bookmark support is pathetic, the url bar doesn’t guess well, the new compatibility mode is well… hell for web designers, as now we’ve got even more stuff to try and insert hacks for, the refresh and stop buttons are put… well, at the opposite end of the interface. This is quite daft to be honest. THe search uses live search which is next to useless, and it still likes to block my downloads randomly. The zoom has improved though, and I have heard the speed has increased, but since I use TMNet as my ISP, this is uncertain. If you look on the taskbar, you can also see that  a little extra line has appeared next to the IE icon, this shows I have more than one tab open. This is useful. However treating tabs as separate applications like I mentioned before, is not.

windows_3

Finally we look at the start menu and the control panel. The conrol panel is a maze. There are about a hundred options, and within them cross links to each option, and further subsections. Take a look at the screenshot. See how many are shown (there are two columns), then look at the scroll bar. Thankfullly they’ve implmented a Control Panel Search option – however the search doesn’t yield very useful results. That control panel really needs to be completely redone -it’s horrible.

The start menu is … well, not much of a huge change since vista.  For some reason they thought it might be a good idea to put a “screen capturing” application as one of the options in the main start menu. Personally I believe that space should be reserved for the most often used and important applications. Oh well. Also, all the other power management options have been put into a menu that you can access when you press a tiny little arrow next to the shut down button. There are 5 options you can do there. So much for keeping things simple – mark my words: that menu’ll confuse people. Oh, and here’s the really great thing, the shut down doesn’t ask for any confirmation. Once you click it (especially easy because it’s right next to “My Programs”, some options, and the power management options) it just shuts down whether you like it or not. Who cares about your work, now Windows wants you to be able to shut down with one click. Might as well pull out the power plug whilst your at it. The lack of session management is also disappointing.

Oh, and finally for general things I didn’t like. The sticky notes seemed to be a whole other application on itself, and not integrated at all. I might be wrong, but that was how it seemed to be managed. Solitaire lagged like crazy (maybe because I was on a VirtualBox, but all the same, nothing else seemed that laggy – just the usual Windows speed). Paint had stolen some ideas from Linux’s KDE Paint (KolourPaint I think it was called) and now has a ribbon – wow, how complex do you want to make it? Also, the file structure has gone bonkers. The Documents and Settings has been replaced by “Users”. Also, who uses My Documents, My Music, and My Pictures etc as they should be used? (eg: Documents only for office docs like .doc, .ppt, etc, music for music files, pictures for picture files) Most people create their own structure all within My Documents. Windows trying to enforce some crappy file directory structure upon people, telling them how it should be organised is pathetic. Especially because now we have My Docuements, My Pictures, My Videos, My Music, My Links, My Saved Games, My Notes, My Bookmarks, and a whole bunch more “My” folders.

Now, it wasn’t all that bad. There were a lot of new special effects, and enough glowing items to make me die of epilepsy if I move my mouse across the screen of the regular file manager. They’ve really overdone the characteristic glossy style that Windows has been employing lately, and though I hate that style, maybe some like it.

A change nonetheless. A change worth a couple hundred bucks and the next gen hardware? Probably not.

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The Dark Side of Linux

e4dee531-59e8-4072-8f27-bad5192ae65cMost people who read this blog will know that I use Linux. Not only do I use it, I recommend it to others quite often. Though I do point out some of the shortcomings that Linux have in my recommendations, most of the time it is generally accompanied with a short excuse that goes something like “Yes but if you configure blahdiblah there are alternatives bladhiblah” and so on. However, Even worse than a potential customer hearing the shortcomings about your product is a customer that has bloated expectations about it, then gets epically disappointed when trying the product out.

So here is my short talk about some of the things we all have to say truthfully about Linux:

No, Linux does not Just Work.

I’m sorry. Though many people would like to say “Ubuntu?” to me right now, it’s pretty much a-given that you have to know how to configure things, how to ask questions in IRC channels, and be brave to edit your system. You wanted free software? You wanted powerful software? You have to work things out yourself.  For this, I recommend that you become familiar with IRC (Internet Relay Chat).  By familiar, I mean you start your IRC client, and leave it running throughout the day. Every so often, pop in there and see what’s going on. You will pick up tips, you will hear things you might want to learn more about. This is the greatest learning centre for Linux in my opinion. In conclusion, make sure you are ready to learn more about your system. If you can’t be bothered, the Linux is not for you.

There is choice. Problem is that there might be too much choice.

Yes. You heard me right. People hear about Windows, Mac, and Linux. Want Windows? Sure, get XP, or if you like slow motion effects, try Vista. Perhaps you might want to wait for Windows 7 to come out too. Mac? Just get whatever is the latest in the store. Linux? *deep breath* Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Ubuntu CE (Christian Edition), Ubuntu ME (Muslim Edition), Ubuntu Satanic Edition, Fedora, SuSe, OpenSuSe, RedHat, Gentoo, PuppyLinux, DamnSmallLinux, Debian, Linux Mint, PCLinuxOS, Mandriva, Slackware, Sabayon, CentOS … hell, the website LinuxCD.org sells CDs (by sell, I mean just enough to cover the costs of some guy mailing you a CD) for over 1000 distributions. Yes, count the zeroes.  That’s a thousand. Choose a web browser? Firefox. Konqueror. Epiphany. Links.  Lynx. Or even a GUI? Most of the people using other OSes would say “What? I can choose a GUI?” Not only that, you can choose from lots of them: GNOME, KDE, CDE, Fluxbox, Blackbox, Awesome, Ratpoison, XFCE. Each has it’s little niche that gives it the zing that might please you. Only tried one? Feel like missing out?  Feel confused which to pick? Yes. Choice. Another problem is that applications are built for different GUIs (I’m talking in non-technical terms here for the majority of users to understand). This means that a program might look really good on one GUI but not on another. Solution? Use GUI-engines. I’m sorry, the first time user would usually think “Hey, ugly” instead of “Woo, time to install gtk-engines-kde”.  In conclusion, unless you’re a person who cares about what applications you use and why, and want your environment customised to please just you and only you, sometimes the huge amount of choice can be a bad thing.

Gaming sucks.

I’m not a gamer. It’s true. I played KingdomOfLoathing.com. Every so often I might try out a MUD (Multi-User-Dungeon – like a command line based game) – that’s basically typing commands like “east, north, kill monster, look, take gold, south, list, buy shoes”. Yes, there are games like that. I’ve made a blackjack game. I play solitaire on my phone. Once in a while, if boredom has played its last hand and I’m in the mood to try something different, there’s always Worms World Party and some sort of Space Fighter Shooter thing on my phone (yeah, it’s a PDA sort of thing). What about my computer? There isn’t even a games menu on it. I’ve got no Linux games installed. The only fun games I’ve tried on Linux (apart from MUD clients) are KTron and Kollision. Those are arcade-ish time waster games. I’ve played Solitaire on my computer too though.  I’m sorry, but with new games coming out like Starcraft (oh, wait, did that come out 10 years ago?) or Halo 3 (wow, I’m out of date), your Linux box is not your penknife.  True, I have got Counter Strike running on my computer via WINE, but WINE is-to put it bluntly- a hack. You are a gamer that can’t live without playing your stuff, Linux is not for you.

The learning curve is steep.

Yes, it’s a whole new world. To survive and appreciate this world you need to have the heart and mind to want to learn about it, use it, and explore.  Otherwise it’s not for you. It seems as though all great things come with a price. (Except that this one is free) You wont find your Microsoft Office here.  You won’t find your Internet Explorer, Microsoft Outlook, or Microsoft Paint.  Yes, you’ll find things which are a hundred times better than them, but at first it’ll be scary, as you’ll be out of your comfort zone.

Hit the ground running, the world is turning.

The very nature of the open-source model is a bit like the self-service checkout systems used at major supermarkets nowadays, says Jeff Atwood. In a nutshell, when you use a self-service checkout system, you are basically doing the job of what the store would normally pay people to do. At the same time, because you are watched by security cameras, you don’t do anything stupid. The big difference is that YOU are the person who wants to get everything checked out as fast as possible, not the normal paid checkout guy. This is a self motivation thing. The result is that you do things the way you want it, and you get it done as fast as you want it.

Similarly, Linux development is done with the same principles. The developers don’t always just make what the user wants them to make, they make what they think will be an improvement. If they decide they want it a certain way, they make it because it’ll benefit themselves, because they enjoy doing it, and because of this, they’ll do it damned fast. Being on a source-compiled Gentoo system, every week I update my system. This is extra maintenance work, but I’m always up to date on what’s new. Trust me, there is A LOT of new stuff all the time. The rate a which things progress is amazing. So if you can’t keep up with it, you’re going to be running on a very jumbled system before long.

You’ll have to go underneath the skin.

The average user has only used graphical applications. If you have no idea what a command line interface is, imagine a computer without images and only able to type in text. Use your imagination and think about a crappily done science fiction movie where computer “hackers” do whiz on their screen, or perhaps those screens you see on the Matrix movie. To really use Linux, you’ll have to learn these commands, how to use them, and so on. This makes the learning curve steep (see previous point), but is also uncomfortable for some users. I know for example I have lost 5gb of information by mistyping a command. In conclusion, you’ll have to learn a lot about how things work, otherwise you’d be clueless and lost on your system.

A Linux user is an independent user.

Don’t always run to your grandson (or other more technologically savvy equivalent) when you need tech help. You need to know your resources. Nobody is going to babysit you. Why do you think sites like JustFuckingGoogleIt or LetMeGoogleThatForYou were made? Learn to use internet search. Learn to look at mailing lists. Look at forums. Look at IRC logs and channels. Read the inline documentation in the config files. And always remember to ask the MAN. (manual) If you aren’t comfortable with doing things yourself, you’re going to worse than a stuck pig doing whatever stuck pigs do.

Well, that’s about it for some of the more darker insight into the world of Linux. This hasn’t been written in the ranting style of Linux Haters Blog, but addresses similar issues in an informational (correct usage of word?) manner. I Hope you found it useful.

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Windows 7

Recently found this very interesting blog post on Planet KDE, and thought I might share it here:

Windows 7 – and what army?

and here’s a link to the Bloomberg article that supports it:

Bloomberg – Click

Oh, and to keep things interesting, here is a screenshot leaked for Windows 7. Apparently they’re going for a clean design and less 3D whizz. In my opinion, KDE still looks better (and the best thing is, you can customise it to look like Windows if you really want to). Compare for yourself? (Click for larger picture)

Oh, and even more hilarious is how their new taskbar at the bottom looks like an almost exact ripoff KDE. Take a look at KDE 3.5 (yes, I know it’s the old KDE) and compare. Launcher, nice big quickstart icons, (ok, the workspaces are missing) task manager, system tray, clock, and even something that looks like the hider arrow on the right.

What can I say? First they steal Mac’s visual effects (ok, Linux stole it too, but we improved it and we’re free software) and made it look worse, then they’re about a year behind on desktop widgets (which Linux has had regularly for quite some time, and Mac same), and well, they still haven’t caught up with the idea of multiple workspaces. Shame. Microsoft. Shame.

For comparisons sake here’s my latest desktop screenshot (which changes almost every week).

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Linux: Open Source Theory

Recently I’ve been rather interested in the whole theory that Linux runs on: Open-Source. Open source software is free software. Free as in freedom, not only free beer. We’ve all heard that phrase before. At the other end of the spectrum is proprietry software, such as Microsoft’s XP, Vista, and the whole series. The main advantage that proprietry software gets over the open-source equivalents is that they get easier access to money, and its this very same money that they can blow on advertising, providing top notch development workspaces, and the like.

Whereas in the open source theory, with Linux being the prime example, we see people dedicating hours of tough work to produce something they’re going to give to everybody. It’s a bit like doing unecessary homework at school – if I’m allowed to use an analogy. The main benefit to the person slaving away their hours is simply self-satisfaction. Whereas the proprietry software folks get some money.

Not to try to suggest anything negative about open-source development, but this is strikingly similar to the idealogy behind blokes who produce computer viruses. Sure, they don’t share their code all the time, and sometimes the incentive behind it is for money, but the rest of the time, they just feel like annoying the heck out of others. This being the Antichrist example of open source probably has a lot to say about why people do things – which is something I’ve been noticing a lot myself lately. Do I feel like I want to start up a huge successful website to get huge amounts of money, or would I rather develop my own skills in other areas that probably won’t immediately give me large sums of cash? The answer at the moment is leaning towards the personal development side of things.

The main point is what happens when open source and proprietry software compete? Proprietry software obviously have the upper hand when getting customers. Open-source is believed to be a lot better/faster/securer method of producing a “quality” product (using the theory of synergy). Proprietry software have more influence over potential business partners and complementary products. Open source guys offer freedom of choice. In my personal opinion, this leads to a total mess of everything. For example:

Windows 95, 98, 2000, XP, Vista.

Linux: Ubuntu (Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Edubuntu), Gentoo, Mandriva, Suse, Debian, Redhat, Mint, Fedora, Sabayon, Xandros, DSL, Slackware, Puppy, Arch, MEPIS, Linspire … and the other 200 or so. Not to mention GNOME, KDE, Blackbox (and deriviatives), Ratpoison, Enlightenment, XFCE, Rox … etc. Each of these with their own versions.

The general outcome of this is that freedom of choice leads to arguments. I’m not saying all open-source folks do this, but we occasionally get the boron who says “Mine is better than yours”. Even right now we have people petitioning for others to say “I like what I choose. You like what you choose. We’re all a big happy family.”

In reality, let’s take a look at how competition actually is. Windows owns 90% of the computer market, with Linux chugging around 1.3-1.4%. Windows (yes, really) owns 70% of the server market now. We also see that for years Linux folks have been predicting the day where Linux will rule the world. 2002? 03? 04? 05? 06? 07? 08? Now what, 09?

Look at reality. Absorb it.

No, seriously. Statistics are probably the most blunt way of expressing things. Can Linux’s market share be accurately measured? What about computers which shipped with Windows but were replaced? What about older computers replaced with Windows? Is open-source dying, when we clearly see applications like Blender, OpenOffice, Firefox and the such rising at such incredible speeds? It doesn’t matter. The fact is, now, we’re not exactly getting anywhere that people can say “wow – I see the light”. Sure, we got some deals with Dell and whatnot which’ll be a popular asset in the future, and we’ve also got “We’re Open Souce” becoming as hip and trendy as “We’re Green” – but in the end, it’s what people see that count.

The real question is, what’s the method to right all this madness and put Linux’s place where it truly belongs? Is using commercialised avenues the right way, does it ruin the whole concept open source is run on?

Yet again, another open-source article ends with no real point being made. I hope you enjoyed reading it, and I’ll probably come up with more meaningful rants in the future.

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Microsoft and Blender – an open-source initiative?

Useful information stuff:
70-642 is one of the most complicated test in 642-642 series, after 642-825 and 642-845 and hence a 70-646 professional cannot attempt it without having a EX0-101 or at least a 642-552 to his credit.

Sometime on May 13th, 2008, Blendernation published an article on Microsoft emails Blender About File Format Support.

It’s time to give my oh-so-awesome comments on this subject. For those that don’t know, Blender is an open-source application used for 3D graphic work (modeling, animation, games, etc). Time to clear up some biased comments here: I use Blender for all my 3D work. I love Blender and therefore I want the best for it. However, a big part of the argument is that Microsoft is a huge commercial monopoly and Blender is a rapidly growing open-source (yes, that means free, and free beer too) application. I use Linux. I like Linux. However, this doesn’t mean that I do not like Microsoft. In fact, it doesn’t even mean I don’t like Windows. Heck, if it wasn’t for Windows, I’d not use a computer like I do today. I feel that Windows doesn’t allow me to have as much freedom on the computer (therefore I prefer Linux), but at the same time it has allowed so many people to easily get introduced to computing without having to learn bash first.

Ok, Let’s get back on topic here. Let’s take a look at Blender’s objectives and how whatever sort of deal with Microsoft might affect it. Number one: Blender wants users. It’s growing. Are you saying that weakening Blender’s power on the most popular operating system out there is going to help Blender? I quote ArtIsLight‘s comment on the Blendernation article:

Getting rid of the Windows port would be a crippling stroke to Blender, as there are so many users that use Windows, in the business world and for personal entertainment. Is giving support (for MS) causing bloated code or excessive work-arounds to get it to work properly on that OS?

I cannot lie that I used Blender on Windows before I made the switch to Linux. I believe that a lot of Blender users out there do use Windows, and Microsoft knocking at the Blender Institutes door asking to see how they can help support their project is going to help Blender. Let’s take a little step back and look at the original post sent to Ton (Blender big boss).

A good user experience of Blender on Windows is good for your project/community and good for Microsoft.

OK. I don’t care how much you hate Microsoft, that statement is true. Let’s take a look at the next lines:

What we are trying to understand is what file formats, which are not open or not fully open, are impeding the optimal experience with your community. If this is an important issue to your users then it also accrues to the experience in Windows.

I’m not a lawyer and nor am I psychic to know exactly what Microsoft is up to. However, the way I interpret that sentence and the rest of that rather short email is that Microsoft wants to help get that .blend format out there with the boys like .3ds. I do not think that all of a sudden Microsoft is going to turn the .blend into a .msblend and call it a not-open format.

Let’s take a look at Ton’s reaction:

I recently was contacted by Microsoft Development, they’ve assigned one of their people with the job to support open source projects better. Yep, I’ve immediately asked for free MSVC Pro licenses! :)

If a single person knows best whats going on with Blender, it’s Ton. The bit that speaks to me most in that quote above is that smiley face at the end. Especially the straightforward quote of “they’ve assigned one of their people with the job to support open source projects better” leaps out at me. I think Microsoft knows that open-source applications are definitely rising to take their place, and they also know that sticking themselves in a tiny circle labeled “this is commercial land” is not going to help. A comment made on the Blendernation article also mentioned that this isn’t Microsoft’s next evil plan to take over some awesome project but simply some good, well thought-out public relations heist. I agree with that.

I personally think anything that will help Blender receive more (good) publicity that doesn’t ruin its strong bases in open-source attitudes, and multi-OS support is good news.

As a final note, Microsoft managed to spur up 238 (no longer counting because comments are closed) comments filled with some seriously nasty flames and bloodthirsty comments about what is meant to represent a truly open community. Let’s set a better example at looking at this issue from Blender’s point of view, and not from which OS is crappier.

The cake is a lie.

Comments? (If you want to flame, send me an email! It’s private and I train GMail’s spam filter! dionmoult[at]gmail[dot]com)