Archive for July, 2010

Reddit’s Interview with Richard Stallman

Recently, Reddit users were given the opportunity to ask RMS (Richard M. Stallman) questions. The top 25 were answered by RMS here.

For anyone who doesn't know who RMS is, he is the founder of the GNU project. He wrote Emacs and the GCC compiler. Much of what makes up a "GNU/Linux" (don't ever let him hear you call it "Linux"), is the GNU tools. Linux itself is just the operating system kernel. Although the OS kernel is a very important part of the OS, a base GNU/Linux system has a ton of software from the GNU project as well. The OS doesn't work without the kernel, and it doesn't do much without the GNU tools.

RMS answered most of the questions as I would expect. The one question that stood out to me, although I haven't made it through the entire list yet, is number 7. The question relates to how the open source world can't create tax software and games that can compete with proprietary software. It's a very good question. RMS mentions that the Free Software Foundation in Latin America does have free tax software. He also says

I don't know whether our community will make a "high end video game"
which is free software, but I am sure that if you try, you can stretch
your taste for games so that you will enjoy the free games that we
have developed.

Now, this is the part that really made me think. I've always been an advocate of free software, but do I really want to rely on free software to produce video games that compete with some of the games I play on PS3? I truly wish that they could make them, because I'd love it, but I don't see it happening. Another major point to that comment is that games have always been the driving force in computer hardware improvements. The computer systems we have right now are only this good because of games.

That may be hard to believe, but for anyone that's been playing PC games for decades, it's common sense. Video games are it. That's what all of this technology was built on. You were either playing games or writing them. Sure, computers have many other useful features, but games are responsible for these beautiful user interfaces and awesome sound.

Games kept getting better. Hardware kept getting better. A huge majority of the research and design came from game sales. All of that wouldn't have happened without proprietary games.

RMS knows that, but RMS isn't worried about games at all. RMS is worried about software freedom and he has many good points. Those same points could be applied to many industries. To me is seems like the old communism vs. capitalism debate. Extremes on both sides suck. It's the happy medium we should strive for.

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LXDE – The Light-weight Linux Desktop Environment

I was reading a post over at the Linux Mint Blog and found that I'm a bit behind on my Linux news. I've never heard of LXDE. Now my desktop environment of choice is Gnome, usually. I also like XFCE, but Gnome has all the features and rarely lets me down. I like the variety in Linux so I was glad to see yet another desktop environment.

LXDE seems to be geared toward netbooks and other cloud-client computers. Linux has many light-weight desktop environments, and even though I like variety, sometimes I wish that they would all come together and work together.

This leads me to a pitfall of open source. It's also an advantage. Those are complete contradictions, but there's really no other way to explain it. I lean more toward the advantage side of things but sometimes I wonder if the different projects could be merged as much as they are split.

It seems that it's perfectly logical for developers to split from a project and create a fork, but rarely do two projects merge to form a super project. Perhaps open source in general needs more merging to balance out the massive amounts of forks....just a thought.

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What’s Killing Linux and Software Freedom?

I know many will say "we knew that already" when they read what I'm about to write, but I just came to this realization today. I was reading a blog title "I miss using Linux". The author was describing some of the reasons he can't avoid using Windows.

There are many good reasons like the ones he offers. Some people want to game, but game companies just don't make games for Linux because it isn't popular enough. Others need certain programs that are only available for Windows. Whatever the reasons, it's not going to be the "year of the Linux Desktop" any time soon.

One part that really stood out to me about the post was the reiteration that Photoshop was a main reason for not using Windows. I would actually go so far as to say that the entire creative suite is a major reason more people don't switch to Linux completely.

Sure, one could possibly run it in a VM but that's not a good solution. If you need a VM of Windows, why not just run Windows, right? That's the correct reasoning if you ask me, and I'm a Linux advocate. The problem could be that more people are procrastinating truthfully. They simply don't want to switch completely or don't feel comfortable enough in Linux to use it full time. I don't think this is the prime reason, but for some it could be a factor.

Adobe is the problem, at least in my mind. Adobe is the last non-open company. Microsoft office uses an open document format finally. There is a lot of compatibility with Open Office. Most other programs have decent open source alternatives. Even Photoshop has a decent open source alternative in the Gimp, but some people don't think it is enough. Adobe has a lock on a lot of the media on the web right now with Flash, even though there are better alternatives to using Flash, most sites use it.

Adobe is holding back Linux. Rather, our dependency on Adobe products is holding back Linux tremendously. There would be a lot more people to adopt Linux if the Creative Suite was available in it. There would be a lot of people adopt Linux is Flash was no longer the defacto standard for media on the web.

Apple has the right idea by not including Flash support on the iPhone. This will help push us away from the closed-standard. I'm for this change.

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Driver Scanning Scammers

I was trying to locate a simple audio driver for a Windows XP VM I have. Basically, I'm in Linux and I want to watch Netflix but my main VM is having trouble with SilverLight for some strange reason, and rather than deal with that, I decided to use a spare VM. The movies play but I don't have sound in that VM. I realized that the VM was an N-Lite created image, which means that most of the drivers were stripped out of it. So I decided to find the driver and install it.

This is when I started getting furious. The problem is, when you search Google for driver downloads, you will undoubtedly run into nothing but scams. This is the same for Bing and Yahoo. The entire first page of just about any driver download search will have nothing but scams. By scams I mean people trying to get you to download software that costs money, just so you can download and install FREE drivers for you hardware that you've already bought.

So, looking through these scams I realized that there are at least three different pieces of software everyone is trying to sell. The first one I ran into was Driver Detective. This seemed to be the most spammed software out there. Tons of fake sites with fake "Thanks" comments on them, but no true download for your driver, blanket the first page of search results. These sites don't actually have the driver, only a download link for the DriverDetective software. Whether or not the driver detective software works isn't even the questions. The tactics used to sell this software make it nearly impossible for even a very computer-literate person to find the driver they need.

It's days like this that make me appreciate some of the OEMs like Dell, which make it very easy for customers to find drivers. Undoubtedly the adsense to the right of this post will have links to driver software, but that is expected, those are ads. They clearly say so. They are required to disclose what they are selling.

If you run into this problem, here's probably the easiest way to find the correct driver for your system. Open up device manager. This is usually accomplished through the Windows Control Panel. Once there, find the problem device, with the exclamation point beside it, and right click on it. Choose "Properties". Go to the details and look for the VEN and DEV ids. These should each be four characters long. Pull up http://pcidatabase.com on your browser. Search for those ids. You should get the manufacturer and device from that. This will at least help narrow down what driver you need. Get the drivers from the manufacturers website. Don't even bother Googling it.

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