Smoothwall Firewall project

Tuesday 30 September 2008

Good Talk by Kernel Developer on Linux kernel

While looking for a link on Ubuntu Linux the other day I came across this talk given by Greg Kroah Hartman, a long term kernel developer, at Google in June of this year.

Basically the talk shows the current state of kernel development and how the pace of change is accelerating away from companies that don't participate, including Google.

I found it very interesting, and thought people who visit this blog would as well.

There is also a wealth of other Google Tech Talks which you mind find interesting.

Have a look here:

Saturday 13 September 2008

When is a netbook not a netbook?

Well the rumoured new Dell 12" netbook appears to be on it's way to the UK with a nice new shiny 12" screen and an extremely attractive price. It has everything that the Asus 1000 does, but the CPU speed does look a little odd, but that could well be how the price is being kept down. It's hard to see if this model won't have the function keys like it's smaller brother, but counting the rows of keys on the photo, it would appear not to. The size is obviously increased to house the new screen , and this then raises my question, what are the properties that really define this new genre.

What if Apple launched a 17" version, with the same general internals, a minor tweak here and there, it would appear that it is not the screen size, but the components inside that are defining the standard. Low power usage, battery efficient, enough horsepower to write your blog, this is being done on my 1000, and surf the web, but not enough to play very heavy games , compile new programs or act as a music studio.

It is clearly not the size of the unit that is defining what and where these great little machines will be put to use, but the solid state disk drives and the Intel Atom processors. This is great news for people who have been sitting on the fence waiting to see where this market moves, as I fully suspect we have not seen anywhere near the end of the morphing that can and will occur.

Another positive affect of all these new releases is that the original units prices are only heading in one direction, which makes them more affordable for everyone, and gives Linux even greater exposure. It also raises a nasty spectre for microsoft, as who is going to want pay them £300 for office, when the entire machine only costs £100, their pricing model just doesn't work in this sector.

It also gives Linux one of the best platforms it has ever had, as every netbook sold worldwide now supports Linux guaranteed, no worrying about drivers, they will all just work. This has worked really well for MAC's, and will work just as well for Linux.

The Link to the Tesco Site

Thursday 11 September 2008

Lenovo annoucement is hard to read

Having just read several articles on the fact that Lenovo are changing their strategy towards Linux , the reasons given just don't make any sense to me. The overall argument seems to be that the cost of supporting microsoft on their platforms has been an extremely heavy burden to bare, and they didn't want to duplicate that with another new system. Surely the argument to that is to stop supporting microsoft, and push those support costs back to where they belong, unless there are yet more illegal activities and arm twisting going on than normal. The other glaring hole in this argument is that with Linux you can push the support towards to the community, who will be more than happy to help, or more likely have already fixed any issues that a new user would experience. This appears to me to be very muddled thinking and not much of a strategy at all.

They have though simultaneously announced extra support for Linux across a range of products that will be available to large organisations, plus the launch of their new netbook. This netbook is to go head-to-head with the other Intel Atom suppliers in this ever expanding market, but they are only offering it to certain markets. This is again yet more muddled thinking, from them. Why would you possibly not want to sell units in Europe and North America, surely business is business? With Asus already telling us that they are on course for their 5 million units shipped by the end of the year, and Acer saying their sales are better than expected, it would appear they have got this wrong yet again.

I think the one thing that I can take from this information is that their Linux strategy is in tatters, and they are thrashing around to find a real vision for the future. There are many other companies that have a much better Linux strategy, and they would be the companies that I will be dealing with in the future.

This probably explains why I have never bought anything from this company, and probably never will.

Saturday 6 September 2008

Disappointing launch of new Dell netbook

Like many others with an interest in the mini laptop market, I have followed the rumours and gossip around the new Dell inspiron mini 9 with a watchful eye. So last week is was announced and I nipped over to the Dell web site to order one with Ubuntu pre-installed. I know I have an Eeepc 1000 which I love and am using now to enter this blog. However, I wanted to have a look at this new Dell, and if the rumours were true, then it would only cost me 200 UK pounds.

Well what a disappointment was waiting for me at the Dell site. The only units that were for sale had windows XP home, which is next to useless, even if you love windows. The price was also a real shocker in to the bargain, they wanted 299 UK pounds for this unit, which is only 60 pounds cheaper than my Eeepc. That is a lot of money for a machine that offers nothing over the Asus unit, has a smaller screen, no function keys, a much smaller internal solid state harddisk (16GB as compared to 40GB), and no decent productivity software pre-installed.

I suppose they would argue that they are selling these in competition to the Asus 901, which has a similar specification , but then I found that the argument for the 901 didn't stack up against the 1000 unit either.

I like Dell machines, and bought one of the XPS1330n with Ubuntu as soon as they were released. However I have always believed you should tell it like it is, and I think they have really dropped an opportunity here, and could pay for it. Time as always will be the judge of that one.

If you are looking to get yourself one of these little netbooks definitely do yourself a favour and check out the Asus 1000 if you want the best size screen in the class or the Acer Aspire one if you decide on a 9" screen version. The former offers you a much larger machine for you money and the later offers you much better value for money with the same specifications.

Friday 5 September 2008

Linux netbooks selling extremely well in the UK

Having checked the latest bestseller charts on Amazon over the last two weeks there is one obvious fact that jumps out at you, and that is the rise and rise of the Linux netbook computer. Only this morning, the number one selling unit is the Acer Aspire One with Linpus Linux, and 50% of the top 10 have Linux pre-installed. I also think that Acer have got their pricing spot on, and are making a few other competitors, Dell, look very flat footed.

I think this market is very well suited to Linux, as the crippled version of windows XP home that is supplied on this machines is far less compatible with a modern working environment than is Linux. The powerful facilities offered by Linux , like a built in full feattured office suite, and much better connectivity to a corporate network bode well.

It is refreshing to see this change in the UK, as Britons are conservative by nature, and have had microsoft products stuffed down their throats for so long in school and work, that they seem almost joined at the hip. It is always amazing to me to see the surprise on peoples faces when they see just how powerful and user friendly modern Linux is.

It is good to see choice has broken out in this sector, which is excellent news for everyone, including the microsoft lovers, as they are now going to have to innovate in this sector to stay competitive, as XP is not going to be around for ever, and vista is deader than the dinosaurs, which it truely resembles.

Wednesday 3 September 2008

Googles new browser shows potential - but is it just the start of something bigger?

I suppose a lot of people were caught off guard with the launch on Monday of Googles' new Chrome internet browser. There have been rumours coming out of California for a while about projects they were working on, a Linux OS being the loudest , outside of the published labs site, but this caught me by surprise.

Unfortunately for someone who only uses Linux on all of his machines, I had to dust off my VMware virtual machine with windows XP , to install this beta. Google have told me that they are working hard on the MAC and the Linux versions and they will be delivered soon, but we shall see. If you go to the download site with a Linux browser you can register your email address to be updated when it is ready. Register for Linux version

The install was very painless, and because every person in the office had downloaded the beta, the install executable was already in the networks proxy cache, so it was almost instantaneously retrieved. Installing it was a matter of closing the browser you originally used to download it, so chrome could grab the bookmarks etc, and that was it. As an aside I would recommend reading the comic book introduction to chrome as it does contain some very interesting information on how the browser fits together. I especially like the sandbox security segregation of each tab, and the fact the whole project is open source, and based on the great work of the KDE developers in the form of Webkit.

The first thing that really hits you is the speed of the browser, especially as I was running this in a virtual machine. As this is an early beta it can only improve over time, and must be a real concern for IE8 which is already getting a reputation as being bloated and slow. The interface is uncluttered, which I liked, and the trusty old combo of Ctrl-T gives you a new tab. These tabs are easily moved around , and can be dragged into new windows if you want. The ability to look at the resources that each tab is using is very handy, just by pressing Shift-Escape. You can then click on the nerd button to have a look in more detail. The chrome configuration options offers the usual settings, including the proxy you use, SSL certificates etc.

There is an incognito tab selection, which means that once you kill that tab, all browsing history gets destroyed, and Google says that you might use this for buying flowers for your loved one, I'm sure there are other uses no doubt.The new single URL bar does indeed work well, with anything you type bringing up previously loaded web pages or Google searches. It also remembers searches you did while on Amazon for instance, so they also will appear when you start typing in the bar.

At the time of righting there didn't appear any easy way to install extensions, RSS feeds or manage bookmarks, like Firefox allows, but I'm sure this is coming. Adobe Flash installed easily enough so I can't imagine the guys at Google have left this out of their plans. You can also set-up web application launchers from the options menu, so you can have one-click access to Gmail for instance. This is very similar to Mozilla prism, so not that ground breaking

This is just a first look, and once it is available on Linux, and there are a decent amount of extensions I will take another look and see how it compares with Firefox 3, which to be fair is still a fantastic browser, and the browser I will continue to use for the foreseeable future.

I do think though this raises some very interesting technical and strategic issues. This browser has to be one of the most powerful and technically advanced yet delivered by anyone, and it would not take that much effort to put a small virtual layer underneath it to offer a full solution for SaaS or webapps. This would then create an environment that does not need a monster Intel PC to run on, and could use an Eeepc 1000 or a Dell 910 Inspiron for instance. Could this be one of the pieces with Google Gears that needed to fall into place for Google to offer an extremely lightweight Operating System with embedded Browser? I for one will be watching this part of the potential development space very closely.