Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Time to put myself to the test

After my previous post speculating about the possibility that both Apple and Microsoft are lining up a significant change to the open nature of their respective operating systems, I've decided to pose one of the questions to myself... Will I go Linux?

The only way to see if it is a possibility is to test the theory. And by test I mean spend at least a week solely using Linux on my laptop. After a quick poll of my Twitter followers, they pointed me in the direction of Ubuntu and Fedora. I've decided to begin my first week of testing with Ubuntu 11.10. The install went very smoothly, repartitioning my drive and giving me a bootloader menu to select between Windows and Ubuntu. All this within 20 minutes which is much quicker than a Windows 7 install on my laptop, especially when you add in the endless Windows updates.

The first major problem I encountered was that my wireless card was missing the driver. After plugging into my router with an ethernet cable I was soon on the internet and had the driver downloaded thanks to the driver download prompt on the Ubuntu task bar. This seems to be a licensing issue with closed source drivers and including them on the distribution ISO image. At the same time I saw my graphics driver wasn't included either, however the display looked good enough without it and made little difference when installed.

Next I wanted to install a few apps and again thanks to the pretty slick Ubuntu Software Centre I was soon installing a few favourites. Chrom(ium) was a welcome sight along with FileZilla, Eclipse (software development IDE) and a few others. Having Chromium meant I had my bookmarks, extensions, home page set and everything else that comes with the excellent Chrome sync feature. My major gripe with Linux in the past has been installing software. Dependencies which were usually missing and hard to find or the variety of packaging formats that software would be available in was confusing to say the least. Thanks to the Ubuntu Software Centre this seems to be a thing of the past.

So my first few hours of being Linux only has gone quite well. In the coming days I'll be trying to do everyday things like burning a DVD, printing, writing some code, chatting online etc... All of which my Windows 7 install does without even batting an eyelid. And are things Linux too should do without any fuss if it could be seriously considered as the OS of choice of not only geeks but every day consumers. I'll keep you posted!

Monday, 20 February 2012

Chrome for Android the death of ChromeOS?

A few weeks ago Google announced the release of a beta version of Chrome for Android (well Ice Cream Sandwich to be more precise). The initial findings are very positive for what a full release could bring, the obvious being the sync between the desktop version on on your mobile device. But doesn't it kind of limit the advantage a Chromebook running ChromeOS might have had?

For me a tablet like the Asus Transformer Prime is as close to ideal as possible. With its quad core CPU, monster battery life (especially when paired with the keyboard dock) not to mention the flexibility of being either a tablet or laptop with the bundled keyboard dock. Yes it costs more than a Chromebook (Transformer Prime is currently £499 in the UK and the cheapest Chromebook is £299) but the extra value gained with the flexible hardware and software must be close to outweighing the cost.

I guess I'm missing something, but other than the outright price difference, why would you choose a Chromebook with ChromeOS vs an Android device running the Chrome browser?

Friday, 17 February 2012

Will OSX and Windows 8 force geeks to choose Linux?

With details of the next version of OS X (10.8 Mountain Lion) being released through developer previews, one feature has caught the eye of the geek technology press in particular... Gatekeeper. As the OS News article explains "Starting with Mac OS X 10.8, Apple's desktop operating system will be restricted to Mac App Store and Apple-signed applications by default (with an opt-out switch), following in Windows 8's footsteps". To a regular Mac user this kind of change might be at first a tad annoying, but as the Mac App Store has been with Mac users for over a year now I expect they are quite familiar with heading there as the first port of call for any new App search.

As iOS (and Android following on) have shown that their respective software repositories that for the majority of users this is the place you get new software. Games, utilities, themes, stupid sound boards, they are all here. What some people think Apple (and as eluded to in the OS News quote, Microsoft with the upcoming release of Windows 8) are trying to do is to close the box on their respective desktop operating systems. The mobile OS market has demonstrated that if you control the method of new software installation you can generate a huge income stream beyond the initial sale of the OS. This is where Amazon are going with the Kindle Fire, by swapping the Market with their own App Store they can redirect Google's revenue stream from the Market. 

I said earlier that the "regular" Mac user will soon adjust to this. Why? Well they probably also own a smart phone of some variety (I'm willing to make the safe bet that it is an iPhone) so this environment is very natural for them, especially as for the previous few versions OSX has started to look and feel more like iOS (swiping of touch pads, visual tweaks, application porting). The same could probably be said of the typical Windows user. Most of those are locked down in offices anyway with application control managed by the IT support department. The home users too are likely to be smartphone users and/or already own an iPad or similar.

Where does that leave us geeks? In my opinion the first action will be to rebel. The respective desktop OS's will be the subjecting of jail breaking, rooting, hacking* (delete as appropriate for your word of choice for gaining elevated user privileges to the OS). This is already common amongst the geek community for the smartphone world. 

But what will follow? The smartphone world doesn't have the luxury of popping in a DVD with an alternative OS of choice, complete with device drivers tested against your hardware. It is hard enough trying to get an updated version of Android onto your 'already running Android' device!

Thom Helwerda's of OS News made a statement within his article which is what got me thinking "In the end though, it doesn't really matter how geeks like us feel about the war on general purpose computing. We'll always have Linux and the BSDs, and Windows 7 surely isn't going anywhere soon either. We have the options and the knowledge to resist these developments." How many of you 'geeks' would give up on OSX or Windows to keep your freedom of install choice and device functionality?

Pretty much the only thing I don't like about iOS is the lack of configurability. Android by stock has a lot more granularity about it and even the ability to replace the built in apps (messaging for example) which keeps my desire to tinker in tact. Yes I've also rooted as it still doesn't allow me to do a full backup for instance. But there isn't an alternative that offers this without jail breaking, rooting, hacking etc.

So will I (and other geeks) be forced by these likely upcoming changes in Windows and OSX to think twice about my desktop OS? Linux might just offer an alternative in the desktop world where no alternative is available in the smartphone world. 

Thursday, 9 February 2012

HTML5 Mobile Application Development

Ooh how exciting! Look what my work has just bought for me! As the world becomes ever more mobile, we are trying to make all our web services mobile friendly. And rather go down the App route with these offerings, we made the decision that fancy mobile websites would be the more inclusive decision. We don't want to be upsetting the three Windows Mobile 7 users now do we?! And it would mean that yours truly would have to start developing for the dark side (iOS to anyone who doesn't realise that I develop Android stuff!).

An overview as I venture through this book (in slightly more than the 24 hour claim I'm sure) will be popping up on my blog.