Saturday, May 26, 2007

Does Open Source move fast enough ?

I ve decided to keep away from very controversial issues so this time i am going to ask another question that has been in my mind for a long time.Does FOSS software move fast enough ?

This is obviously a very ambiguous question so let me clarify.When i say move i mean evolve , progress , adapt to new needs and new technologies.And when i am saying fast enough i mean compared to its greatest opponents , namely ms windows and apple osx and their respective available software.

For a long time i ve been reading in articles and listening to podcasts that open source is moving much faster than closed source and that soon (or perhaps already) it will be open source thats doing the innovation and closed source that will be doing the catching up (talking about desktop computing of course).

Even though there is alot of truth to that (since the time i tried linux for the fisrt time , almost 10 years ago until now theres has been a huge progress and its silly denying that) , i believe this views are exaggerated.Sure configuring hadware , installing codecs and drivers for ntfs , connecting to wireless netowrs and all that have become much easier , but is that all ?Take beryl/compiz for instance.Many people are claiming that the linux 3d desktop is superior to that of vista or osx and takes up fewer resources as well.Even though it definetly uses fewer resources and it can definetly look very fancy i cant agree with that view.Why ? heres why:

Beryl can be extremely problematic

Heres a list of most (but not all) the the problems that i am facing with beryl under feisty:

  1. I cant view videos while beryl is running !
  2. I cant run 3d applications (eg games) while beryl is running
  3. I cant run some 2d applications while beryl is running !! (amaya,mathematica)
  4. Sometimes when i rotate the cube all my windows dissapear completely

Needless to say i am not using beryl very often...If having a 3d desktop under linux can cause all or some of these problems can we honestly say that the linux 3d desktop is better than vista or osx ? I dont think we can.The real problem though to me isnt beryl.The problem is that beryl (compiz to be exact , which causes similar problems) has been around for almost 1.5 years and its offering effects very similar to osx which has been doing that for along time.Is that progress ? I guess it is since at the beggining it was even worse but is it satisfying ?Not to me.By the time beryl is stable enough to be included by default its gonna be old news and the competition may have come up with something better.Shuttleworth said that maybe it will be included by default on gutsy but what if it doesnt ? Then it will take one whole year for Gutsy+1.By then leopard and vista sp1 will already be old.

Again , beryl is an example.Another one i think is indexing.Beagle has been giving me a very hard time and doesnt integrate with the desktop as well as google desktop does for xp.It has been decided that it wont be included by default in F7 (because its too buggy) which is a feature regression!The same goes for distros.What new feature did feisty include that i would find usefull ?Sure it added several features that help new users but there are seasoned users too who have needs as well.

I dont want to sound negative so thats why i want to close with a positive comment.KDE 4 is at the moment my best hope that open source can innovate and produce a piece of software that can add the wow factor to linux.If KDE 4 is close to what the developers are claiming (and i dont see why it wont be) then i am definetly switching and hopefully many windows users are too.KDE 4 to me sounds like the promise of open source progress and innovation coming true.It seems to me that KDE 4 is the only product that contains true innovation and features that can be usefull to all users (not just newbies).Judging by what i know so far its the only thing in the linux world that has the potential of winning people over to the linux side(even though i am wondering how win and osx versions of kde4 will affect that).So , i am looking forward to it !

Do you think that open source is moving fast enough ?

Monday, May 21, 2007

Flood of pointless linux articles

Is it just me or the online linux press is beginning to get flooded by an endless torrent of pointless articles that usually aren't longer than one or two pages and are obviously written by biased people who most of the time don't even know that much about the subject at hand ? Why do people in the open source community have to be so passionate and leave that passion of theirs to cloud their judgment and ultimately lead them to posting articles or blog entries that provide no meaningful information and are clearly not objective nor accurate ?

A characteristic example is the "I hate Ubuntu because of *insert random fact-interpretation* , PCLinuxOS can do everything ubuntu does and much better.

I followed the advice of these authors and played with the 2007TR4 livecd.While it is clearly a very newbie frindly and polished distro , PcLinuxOS just didn't do it for me for the following reasons:
  • My laptop media buttons didn't work,even though they did under ubuntu
  • The internal mic didn't work (ok that didn't work under ubuntu either!)
  • I had to log out and in again for the changes to take effect
  • Some times those changes didn't take effect at all !
  • I couldn't install gaim without enabling extra repositories (no problem for me but if i hadn't used synaptic before...)
  • The versions i found in the repos were a bit older than the ones in the ubuntu repos

Yes picasa and google earth were available for download without enabling their google repositories but is it worth it ? It does have a centralized configuration center but how does that make it bettter than ubuntu ?Is clicking yes twice and typing your password so horribly complicated so that all the codecs have to be installed by default even though there are legal issues ?

Dont get me wrong i am not an ubuntu fanboy trying to defend my favourite distro (even though i am an ubuntu user) , that is not at all my point here.My point is that just because you have reasons to dislike Ubuntu or canonical and perhaps reasons to like PCLinuxOS doesnt justify unsubstantiated rants about how much ubuntu sucks and PCLinuxOS rules.Some things work for some hardware and some people and some things work for others.Granted , ubuntu is not at all perfect but neither is PCLinuxOS or any other distribution for that matter.Arent we missing the bigger picture here by focusing on minor unimportant details and flaming over them ?

Instead of these articles i would prefer to see something like a point by point comparison of these two distros.Is indeed PCLinuxOS's hardware detection better ? Not from my experience but people seem to be claiming that all the time! Why dont we put these beliefs to the test ? Why cant we make a sober assessment of the facts and draw our conclusions without all this emotion getting in our way ?

I d like to stress that Ubuntu vs PCLinuxOS is but an example.This trend applies to other issues like: is linux ready for the desktop ? Is Ubuntu a viable alternative to vista ? and various articles about kde 4 and its "sorry state" (even though the developers made it quite clear that that alpha1 is nothing like the final version and all this time has been spent in developing the API's and these final months will be spent in developing the real frontends and applications...At least wait until some beta version or something before you start dissing the developers!)

Well that was my little rant about pointless articles.Maybe i too exaggerated at some points but i feel the people who are writing these articles are waisting my time and achieve nothing but polarizing the community and diverting its attention from real issues that need be addressed.

What do you think ?