Archive for the ‘Linux’ Category

So, Google released it’s web browser, Chrome, to much fanfare last week.  Right now, only a Windows version is available, but the WINE developers worked quickly to release a patch that allows Linux users to run Chrome.  Here’s the proof:

The directions are available from Ubuntu Geek.

I already used Chrome on my Windows XP computer at work.  It’s ok.  Nothing spectacular.  Sure, it isolates tabs as separate processes so it won’t crash completely, but how often does Firefox crash?  For me, extremely rarely.  It’s also supposed to be faster, but we’re talking about shaving milliseconds off rendering time.  If you are a human being, you won’t notice the difference.  All of the major browsers render in a reasonably timely manner, as far as I can tell.  Chrome also, at this point, doesn’t have extensions that my web browsing experience depends on: Adblock Plus, Element Hiding Helper, Better Gmail 2, etc.

I think I’ll stick with Firefox for now.

Also, the release of Google Chrome has sparked a lot of discussion and debate on Ubuntu Forums.  Imagine what the reaction would be if they ever released a much-mythologized operating system?


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My new favorite theme.

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The Human Elephant Savanne icons go great with the Ubuntu Human theme.  Compare to the default:

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Information Week reports on an analysis by the web monitoring firm Pingdom, which revealed that Microsoft has the most “reliable” update service, better than Mac, and much better than Ubuntu.   Microsoft’s update service had an uptime of 100% in the second quarter of 2008, while Mac’s was 99.9%, and Ubuntu’s was 98.6%.

Of course, this single metric doesn’t tell you much about the overall quality of the update service.  How about the quality of the updates themselves?  How many vulnerabilities were fixed, and how many vulnerabilities were introduced that need further patching?  How about the length of time that it takes to get updates, especially those that address critical security vulnerabilities, out to the public?  I’d rather have to wait a couple of hours to get an update because the server is down than to wait weeks or months because the software developers haven’t completed the patches.  The fact still remains that updates take significantly longer to get to Windows users than to Ubuntu users, and GNU/Linux is still a more secure operating system.  Pingdom’s analysis is worthless.

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It’s a cliche question, I know.  But if we want to answer it, we have to consider the people who use computers.  In my mind, there are three kinds of computer users.

Basic: These folks treat a computer as a tool.  It is a means to an end.  They use it to communicate with people, socialize, find information, make purchases, or watch videos.  They don’t give a fig what the operating system is called.  However, they display the most psychological inertia to trying new things.  Like all forms of brand loyalty, they are used to a particular desktop environment and find it onerous to change.  Most likely, they had to endure a steep learning curve to achieve the level of computer mastery that they currently have, and they don’t want to start over.

Enthusiast: These folks display a higher level of interest in computers.  They like to tinker with their desktops, change themes, experiment with new apps, and so on.  They spend a lot of time on their computers and on the Internet.  They are advanced enough to solve many desktop issues and are probably considered “the computer guy” by their basic user friends.

Expert: These folks usually work in the IT industry.  They understand the inner workings of software and/or hardware.  They are your software developers, hardware manufacturers, webmasters, and so on.

Up until about five years ago, GNU/Linux was an operating system for experts only.  I consider myself to be an enthusiast, and while I experimented with several Linux distros in the late 1990s, I repeatedly gave up them.  However, about five years ago, Linux advanced to the point that enthusiasts could use it.  I started using Ubuntu three years ago.  There were hurdles along the way, but I never considered abandoning it in my latest foray into open source software.

However, even I will admit that Linux is still not developed enough for basic users.  Codec and driver limitations mean that you have to do some background research before you commit to using Linux, and you may have to find solutions to common problems on forums or elsewhere.

The question remains, when will Linux be ready for basic users?  I think that is when it will be “ready for the desktop” in the sense that most people mean it.  Given the rapid pace of development in recent years, I’m hoping that time will be within five years.  GNU/Linux must address not only the driver issues and major outstanding bugs, but it should make the learning curve smoother by offering tutorials.  It should hold the user’s hand at first.  Remember what a fresh install of Windows 98 looked like?  There was an arrow in the panel pointing to the Start button.  That’s the kind of help that Linux should offer if it ever wants to conquer the basic user group.

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There’s a video of LinuxMCE, which uses Kubuntu, available on Google Video.  It’s still in development, but it looks very promising.  The menu graphics could improve, but I’m sure it will be endlessly themable, and the functionality looks outstanding.

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Debian Hardened

Today I found a great tutorial on “hardening” a Debian installation, which implements all of the features described in my last post, and a few more.

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