‘Security’ = Microsoft control

From the Canonical Blog.

Any new Windows 8 PC will have Secure Boot switched “ON” when it leaves the shop and will be able to boot Microsoft approved software only. However, you will most likely find that your new PC has no option for you to add your own list of approved software. So to install Linux (or any other operating system), you will need to turn Secure Boot “OFF”.

Hmmm… I wonder how many computer users will know how to do that — or understand why it might be necessary to do it. Canonical (the company behind Ubuntu) wonders about that too:

Even with the ability for users to configure Secure Boot, it will become harder for non-techie users to install, or even try, any other operating system besides the one that was loaded on the PC when you bought it. For this reason, we recommend that PCs include a User Interface to easily enable or disable Secure Boot and allow the user to chose to change their operating system.

Remembering Dennis Ritchie

My Observer tribute to Dennis Ritchie.

It’s funny how fickle fame can be. One week Steve Jobs dies and his death tops the news agendas in dozens of countries. Just over a week later, Dennis Ritchie dies and nobody – except for a few geeks – notices. And yet his work touched the lives of far more people than anything Steve Jobs ever did. In fact if you’re reading this online then the chances are that the router which connects you to the internet is running a descendant of the software that Ritchie and his colleague Ken Thompson created in 1969.

The software in question is an operating system called Unix and the record of how it achieved its current unacknowledged dominance is one of the great untold stories of our time…

Android’s fragmentation problem

One of my boys has recently adopted my Android phone after his 6-year-old Motorola handset finally gave up the ghost, and it’s been interesting to observe his reactions. On the one hand, he’s charmed by finally having a handheld device that connects properly to the Net and the Web. But his experiences with Android Apps mirror mine, namely that there not much quality control, great variability and many Apps won’t work with lots of handsets. In fact, he’s experiencing the problems that finally drove me to get an iPhone.

What he hasn’t experienced yet, though, is the maddening control-freakery of the mobile carriers in relation to updating the OS on the handset. First of all, they accept no responsibility for the OS; and secondly, even when they grudgingly offer some upgrade facility, it’s often flaky and sometimes requires serious geek skills to implement. A friend of my daughter’s has the same Android handset (a t-mobile Pulse) and when I asked her what version of the OS it was running she said “I think it’s 2 point something”. Surprised (because she is not in the least geeky), I asked her how she’d done the upgrade from the version 1.5 that’s running on my handset. She replied that her brother — who is an engineering student and a real geek — does the upgrades for her. But then she added: “the only problem is that it crashes a bit after he’s done the upgrade”.

Dan Gillmor has an interesting piece in Salon.com in which he explores some of these issues.

The first problem, as I noted in a recent post, is that Google has given the mobile carriers nearly total control over the phones they sell — including the software. In the process, they’re taking Android — an open-source operating system when it gets to the carrier — and turning it into an operating system that removes user choice, by adding software that locks down the devices in ways that are even worse, in some respects, than the famous Apple control-freakery. At least Apple doesn’t load crapware — mostly unwanted, unneeded and un-removable software — onto the iPhone and iPad, as the carriers are doing with their Android devices. This has forced users to jailbreak their Android phones, a perversion of the very idea of openness.

We’ve seen the consequences of mixing manufacturer control-freakery with open source OSs already in the Netbook market, with every vendor offering its own infuriating version of Linux Lite. I’m tired of having to clear the disk of every Netbook I try in order to install Ubuntu. But at least the Ubuntu people take responsibility for their distribution, and they’re very helpful in relation to different brands of Netbook. Google should do the same for Android.

Valuing Open Source software

From Slashdot:

“The Linux kernel would cost more than one billion EUR (about 1.4 billion USD) to develop in European Union. This is the estimate made by researchers from University of Oviedo (Spain), whereby the value annually added to this product was about 100 million EUR between 2005 and 2007 and 225 million EUR in 2008. Estimated 2008 result is comparable to 4% and 12% of Microsoft’s and Google’s R&D expenses on whole company products. Cost model ‘Intermediate COCOMO81′ is used according to parametric estimations by David Wheeler. An average annual base salary for a developer of 31,040 EUR was estimated from the EUROSTAT. Previously, similar works had been done by several authors estimating Red Hat, Debian, and Fedora distributions. The cost estimation is not of itself important, but it is an important means to and end: that commons-based innovation must receive a higher level of official recognition that would set it as an alternative to decision-makers. Ideally, legal and regulatory framework must allow companies participating on commons-based R&D to generate intangible assets for their contribution to successful projects. Otherwise, expenses must have an equitable tax treatment as a donation to social welfare.”

Thanks to Glyn Moody for spotting it.

Linux regaining netbook market share quickly

It’s funny how people become infected with myths of Microsoft omnipotence. After the first rush of Linux-only netbooks and Microsoft responded by extending the life of XP, commentators shook their heads and opined that hope of liberation from Windows were naive. Now comes some interesting news of what market research is showing.

ABI Research published some new data last month and the results may surprise you. They place the 2009 market share for Linux on netbooks at 32% with 11 million units preloaded with Linux shipping this year. In an interview with DesktopLinux.com, Jeffrey Orr of ABI makes clear that dial boot machines (i.e.: the Acer Aspire One AOD250-1613) and machines that are purchased with Windows but later have Linux loaded do not count in the 32% number. That number is pure Linux sales. This data confirms comments made first by Jay Pinkert and later by Todd Finch of Dell that one third of their netbooks sales are Linux machines and that there is no higher return rate for Linux systems than there is for ones sold with Windows preloaded…

And that’s before the Chrome OS machines arrive.

Thanks to Glyn Moody for spotting it.

What Microsoft really thinks of Linux

Well, what it told the Securities and Exchange Commission in its annual 10-K filing.

“Client faces strong competition from well-established companies with differing approaches to the PC market. Competing commercial software products, including variants of Unix, are supplied by competitors such as Apple, Canonical, and Red Hat.”

Translation: Microsoft for the first time acknowledges Linux as a serious competitor to Windows, especially on netbooks.

Thanks to Good Morning Silicon Valley for spotting it.