Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Bless me, Father, for I have mistyped

In my last entry, I wrote that "The n-series is a series of desktop workstations which are sold with "no OS" (actually with a clone of DOS called FreeDOS), which is currently the closest mainstream vendors will get to selling you an OS with Linux (or any flavour of BSD) on it."

I did of course mean that it's currently the closest mainstream vendors will go to selling
consumer PC's with Linux on it - and it's a business desktop!

Sorry for the confusion.

The Two Greatest Barriers to Linux Adoption

There's a meme (which given what the majority of them seem to be about, I prefer to use in the sense of "urban legend") going around that one of the greatest barriers to Linux adoption is the lack of decent tax software.

But the problem with that theory is that most tax software which is only available for Windows (such as those of Intuit, Inc. and its nearest competitor, Peachtree) is geared towards the US or, at best, the US and Canada. The other piece of software whose name I see bandied about most when people refer to "barriers to Linux adoption" is Photoshop, despite the fact that many users of The GIMP feel it is just as easy to do most if not all of what you can do in Photoshop, with the open source graphics program. The problem, of course, is simply that The GIMP's interface is different to that of Photoshop.

So far, government agencies in Extremadura (Spain), Munich, Norway and even Massachusetts have seen the benefits of going over to Linux or at least FOSS software. And despite rants like this, a recent report showed that only a minority of software sold even in the US is closed-source.

In 2002, a report by Infoworld claimed that the UK "was in talks with Microsoft over a single contract to supply its Office and Windows software to the country's 497,600 public servants." That makes UK government one of the biggest users of Microsoft worldwide - indeed it would be nice to be able to give you a link to the site on which I once read that HMG is the world's biggest single user of Microsoft software outside of the US. Without getting into the politics of the fact that public agencies really shouldn't be using proprietary, closed formats from a single vendor, the foregoing facts make it clear that:

The Two Greatest Barriers to Linux Adoption are the US and the UK.

In fact, try doing a search on "n-series" on Dell's US and UK websites: The n-series is a series of desktop workstations which are sold with "no OS" (actually with a clone of DOS called FreeDOS), which is currently the closest mainstream vendors will get to selling you an OS with Linux (or any flavour of BSD) on it. They are available in the US, but not in the UK. So the UK actually gets first place in the list of "barriers to Linux adoption".

This is brought into even sharper relief when you realise that China is about to ship thousands of PC's, of its own design, with a Chinese-designed processor, running Linux - presumably the Chinese government's own distribution, Red Flag Linux - to customers around the country.

Whilst China is hardly the kind of place I would usually be praising (check out for instance the Guardian's recent piece on why the current cosying up to China by Western businesses is a misinformed sham for business reasons, never mind ethical ones) anyone who knows anything about China will realise that it probably has more of a chance to promote and encourage the use of Linux than any other single country in the world. Add to that the One Laptop per Child initiative, which aims to distribute milllions of low-cost PC's running to children around the world, and you realise that without significant uptake in Linux in the next few decades, the US and UK are in serious danger of becoming the closest thing to the world's only Microsoft-only Gulags.

More on this subject, the reasons why, and the reasons why this is bad, in my next entry.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Better Late than Never?

The BBC reports that Bush is set to reveal his Iraq policy.

Only four years late, then. I suppose he thinks he deserves some applause?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

"Define Irony"

In the film Con Air, one of my favourite lines is when the character Garland Greene says:

"Define Irony: Bunch of idiots dancing in a plane to a song made famous by a band who died in a plane crash".

The song in question, of course, is Sweet Home Alabama, and the band is Lynyrd Skynyrd.

But today I think I've found a new (sadly, real life) definition: The extreme-nationalist far right members of the European Parliament have formed a new transnational caucus: The suitably-Orwellian Identity, Tradition and Sovereignty Party, which includes a former British member of the UK Independence Party, a group dedicated to the UK's withdrawal from the European Union.

So, to recast: Define Irony: Bunch of idiots forming a European political party dedicated to the destruction of the European Union.