Since When Did IT Reach Rockstar Status?

18 11 2008

I’ve been seeing advertisements like this more and more recently. As if IT is more glam than the likes of Guns N’ Roses or your favorite 80’s hair metal band. Did I miss the tour bus or something? Last time I checked IT is by the geeks for the geeks.

ReadWriteWeb posted an article describing the Top 10 Traits of a Rockstar Software Engineer. WTF? You’re telling me using design patterns will get me chicks? If you’re sitting at your office desk right now please take a look around and spot any rockstars. You might catch a glimpse of a guy whose vision has deteriorated over years of monitor glare. The most street cred anyone has is probably the old COBOL programmer who somehow managed to survive the 60’s after a decade of bad acid trips.

Listen, IT is not cool. You don’t get to rock out with your cock out or anything close. You’ve got a bunch of business stiffs who give you money, and a handful of nerds who build hooziwhatsees with that money. No face melting guitar solos, no crazy parties (Maybe if you hang with me at JavaOne), just a fat paycheck at the end of the day to frivolously spend to your liking. Maybe IT folks can be rockstars after all?

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What is LAMP?

16 07 2007

This post is now available on my new blog The IT Report:

http://theitreport.com/entries/linux/what-is-lamp





Wake Up and Smell The Concrete – You’re Using Open-Source

11 07 2007

I would like to point out that no matter which operating system you may be using, we all have reaped the benefits of open-source. Believe it or not, there is a little bit of free software goodness in all of us:

Windows Users

  • I’d say browsing the internet is a must these days. Did you know that the TCP/IP stack in Windows is based off of the original code that was licensed by BSD?
  • Firefox is clearly gaining new ground on Internet Explorer’s turf. The Mozilla Foundation is all about the open-source baby.

Mac users

  • The entire OS X operating system is based off of the Darwin kernel which, surprise surprise, is a UNIX variant.
  • KHTML is the engine that renders web-pages in Safari. Yup, another gift given to you by the free software foundation.
  • Have you ever printed out a report on your Mac? You just used CUPS which is the Common UNIX Printing Service.
  • Apple has plans to ditch Microsoft and go completely with Open Office in the near future. It just feels better to be using open standards no?

Linux Users

  • Do you even have to ask? The entire operating system and included applications are all open-source.

The Web

  • Whenever you visit a website like Digg the content is automatically updated and generated for your viewing pleasure. Chances are its running on the LAMP stack – Linux + Apache + MySQL + PHP, check check check and check for open-source.
  • Google is my best friend. They also run Linux clusters so you get your search results in under a second.
  • Developers pay attention, Java is the most popular enterprise platform, and Sun just opened up its source for our hacking pleasure.
  • Whenever you blog on WordPress, or Drupal just know it was built using open source tools, and licensed under the GNU.
  • When I want information I go to Wikipedia. Wikipedia runs off of the open-source software MediaWiki which is also under the GNU.

Electrical Devices

  • Intel based computer’s have open source drivers. This means compatibility for everyone.
  • Set-top boxes like TiVo are using open source software to get you goodness on the big screen. MPlayer anyone?

As you can see open-source is all around us. The points I have mentioned are nowhere near the extent and true caliber of what open source delivers to us on a daily basis. Please enlighten me with your thoughts.





Features Ubuntu is Lacking

7 07 2007

In my last post I mentioned why I chose Ubuntu over Windows. I stand by my comments, however I would like to shed some light where Ubuntu and Linux need a little work:

1. Not All Hardware is Supported

Though this is not Ubuntu’s fault, there are still hardware that does not work. This is due to the fact that some manufacturers don’t write drivers for Linux. I personally have not had any hardware problems myself, I am running a Dell 700m laptop with many different accessories such as a Western Digital external hard-drive. a Motorola bluetooth dongle, and headset which all work under Linux hassle free. Some home printers do not have drivers for Linux which can make printing a chore. There are ways to get around this, but the general user just wants everything to work out of the box.

I have good news however. Linux is gaining marketshare and with Dell selling Ubuntu amongst its retail channels will give Ubuntu more recognition which will result in manufacturers supporting the community with Linux drivers. There is also a community effort to reverse engineer drivers for new hardware which will help as well. Intel provides open-source drivers for all of their hardware making Lintel (Linux + Intel) a viable solution.

2. Lack of Professional Software

Photoshop is the industry standard graphics editing solution. Currently it is only available for Windows and OS X – leaving Ubuntu in the dust for the professional artist. Yes there are ways to get Photoshop running with Wine, or use Gimpshop (somewhat of a Photoshop clone) but again the average user does not want to have to mess with this. As I’ve stated before, with Linux popularity on the rise we may soon see more commercial development. Google and IBM are some of the biggest contributors to open-source.

3. Where Are The Games?

Linux gets no love from game developers. Microsoft has developers using Direct X which of course is proprietary to Windows. Linux is able to do almost anything you want it to do, given you perform some hacks and tweaks here and there. I’ve seen popular games like World of Warcraft run in a Linux environment – but the common motif here is concern for the average user.

4. Breakfast

Ubuntu can’t make your eggs sunny side up in the morning, but neither can any other operating system. Expecting a system to do anything and everything is a dream come true, but not always practical. Though this is no excuse for Ubuntu to sit back and relax. On a positive note, it is able to perform many tasks to make everyday life easier. If Ubuntu can jump through these hurdles – ladies and gentlemen we have a damn near perfect operating system.

*Notice how the features Ubuntu/Linux lacks are not really features in the software itself – it is the lack of 3rd party support from other manufacturers and vendors.





Some Reasons Why I Choose Ubuntu over Windows

6 07 2007

I grew up with Microsoft operating systems. I’ve been through MS-DOS 5.0, Win 3.1, Windows 95, 98, Millenium Edition, NT 4.0, 2000, and XP. Notice how I stopped there. After over a decade of Windows, I decided to give Ubuntu a try and now have no reason to install Vista. Here are ten reasons why I chose Ubuntu:

1. Performance

I think its pretty ridiculous to require at least 1GB of RAM, a dedicated graphics card (Aero), and additional USB thumb drives (ReadyBoast) to be able to run an operating system. Vista I’m looking at you. Ubuntu simply runs faster and does not demand that much hardware to do so – thats the beauty of the Linux kernel.

2. Applications out of the Box

The Windows’ application set is pretty weak right after a fresh install. You get a calculator, notepad and other archaic remnants of software developed in 1995 when Windows 95 was released. Ubuntu comes with Open Office, The Gimp (image editor), GAIM (instant messaging), and RhythymBox (music organizer) just to name a few.

3. Package Manager

When I do need to install software, I can search for whatever I want from the Universal Repository in Ubuntu. I can install or remove batches of programs in a single run. Not only this, but all my software updates automatically because Ubuntu (or Linux in general) uses the concepts of packages. In Windows, installing removing, and updating programs is painful and a lengthy process. A package manager makes things quick and smooth – not to mention software in the universal repository has been tested by the community to not break your system. You can’t garauntee that in Windows when you’re downloading executables from anywhere on the net.

4. Security

I don’t have to worry about viruses or spyware. Yes this sounds like an Apple fanboy thing to say, but its true. Linux is a derivative of UNIX which was built on the foundation of robustness and security. I’m not going to get into the details as to why it is more secure unless you want an operating systems lecture – but not having to run additional scanning software I get my beloved CPU cycles back, giving me better performance =D.

5. A Real Terminal

Use bash, the default terminal in Ubuntu for five minutes and you’ll see just how powerful it is compared to the Command Prompt. In fact the command prompt can’t really do much except for launch applications without having to install perl or other GNU libraries on top of it. With Bash I can write scripts gallore to extend the functionality of Ubuntu and make my life easier.

5. Restarting Your Computer Sucks Part 1

Ubuntu hardly ever requires a restart, but in the case you do need to restart its usually not the kernel that froze but your window manager. In Ubuntu I can restart my window manager without restarting my entire machine by pressing CTRL+ALT+BACKSPACE. This is about a three second process. What happens when your screen freezes in Windows? You warm up a bowl of Easy Mac while you wait while Windows restarts.

6. Restarting Your Computer Sucks Part 2

Updates are a good thing, they patch up holes in software and make things run smoother. Whats bad is having to restart your computer when you have to make an update, ahem – Windows. In Ubuntu you can receive thousands of updates without having to restart your computer, in fact you can even download a new kernel and still be running the previous one. This is what software engineers dub “robustness.”

7. Six Month Release Cycle

Ubuntu is released with better features every 6 months. I would be pretty disappointed to have waited 5 years for Vista to see that its merely a dumbed down version of XP with a skirt.

8. No Pirating Necessary

With Ubuntu I don’t have to pirate my operating system. Its free. So is the included software. Even if you don’t pirate Windows you still feel the backlash from Microsoft because you are forced to download spyware such as Microsoft Genuine Advantage which verifies that your software is legit. Even if you’re the good guy you’re stuck paying over $200 for an operating system with spyware installed by default.

9. Choice

The Linux philosophy is about freedom. I have a choice between which window manager I want to use, I can extend any part of my operating system, I can tweak it to perform and look the way I want. Ubuntu is a reflection of me. In Windows you’re pretty much stuck with one interface, and no individuality. Maybe this was acceptable for older folks, but for those of us who are Generation Y – self expression are our strengths.

10. Community

Ubuntu stands for humanity to others. The Ubuntu community can help me answer any questions I have or solve any problems within one day. Thats a very quick response time, and the amount of knowledge in the forums, wiki’s, and blogosphere is astounding. I learn more and more every day. Granted, there are lots of Windows help on the internet, but nowhere is it as close to being streamlined as the Ubuntu team.





Free Software Licenses in a Nutshell

30 06 2007

When I jumped into the Linux/open-source world I didn’t know nor care about the different licenses software had attached with it. I guess I was used to adhering to whatever license that was forced upon me by Microsoft. Now I have a choice. There are many software licenses out there – here are a few popular ones in a nutshell:

GPLv1

The General Public License is the foundation for many other licenses. It is the most popular license in open-source and prevents copyleft – restrictions on distributing copies and modified versions of a work for others and requiring that the same freedoms be preserved in modified versions. GPLv1 states that all binaries must have human readable source code attached in the distribution. It also indicates that another license that your software may carry cannot restrict clauses in the GPL. Many software vendors will try and use that as a loophole to benefit from open source while retaining their enhancements to themselves.

GPLv2

The major change in v2 is the Liberty or Death Clause in Section 7. This states that if your software has some restriction where it violates GPL-covered property, then it cannot be distributed. For example, if a legal ruling states that they can only distribute the software in binary form, they cannot distribute it at all. The Linux kernel is covered by this license currently, and the license prevents others from just taking the source, modifying it and not contributing back to the community that founded it.

LGPL

Known as the Lesser General Public License, its name is reflective of its clauses – it has less restrictions. LGPL lets you distribute modified work that is linked to free or proprietary software. For example, if you write a media center application ontop of the MPlayer library, under the LGPL you are allowed to distribute the software regardless of the MPlayer library being open-source or binary. This was instituted to give users more freedom.

GPLv3

This is license was just recently published and addresses the issues of cross-patent licenses and anti-tivoization. Cross patent licenses for example, the Novell-Microsoft agreement, under the GPLv3 indicates that you cannot convey your product to a distributor who will charge their customers for your work. The license is also meant to require Microsoft to extend the patent licenses it grants to Novell customers for the use of GPLv3 software to all users of that GPLv3 software; this is possible only if Microsoft is legally a “conveyor” (distributor) of the GPLv3 software.

Tivoization is the creation of a system that uses copyleft protected software but includes hardware that restricts users from running modified versions of the software on the hardware. It is named after TiVo because it uses open-source software, however that software when modified deems your TiVo device unusable, and is illegal under the the GPLv3.

BSD License

The GPL requires derivative work to be released according to the GPL while the BSD license does not. Essentially, the BSD licence’s only requirement is to acknowledge the original authors, and poses no restrictions on how the source code may be used. As a result, BSD code can find its way into proprietary software that only acknowledge the source. For instance, the IP Stack in Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X are derived from BSD-licensed software.

MPL License

Source code copied or changed under the MPL must stay under the MPL. Unlike strong copyleft licenses, the code under the MPL may be combined in a program with proprietary files which would otherwise be derivative works of the MPL code. For example Netscape 6 and later releases were proprietary versions of the Mozilla Application Suite. For these Netscape releases, AOL was also exercising the exclusive rights to proprietary versions that the another license provided to itself.

I have merely skimmed the surface of the purpose of licenses in the free software world. I did not mention dual licensing, or compatability between different licenses, or the myriad of other licenses available for that matter, though I encourage you to do some extra reading if you’re interested! Again, I am not a lawyer nor am I very familiar with the technical aspects of the licenses, so please correct me if there is a mistake or post a comment if you have anything to add!

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Google Desktop Search vs Tracker

29 06 2007

After reading Mohammad’s blog post about Google Desktop, I thought I’d take it for a spin since I’m a GDS fan when I’m on XP. Though I’ve only been using it for two days, I soon realized that I am going back to Tracker. Here’s why:

1. Memory Footprint

GDS is costing me 50MB+ for the search utility, the indexing process, and the tray icon. Tracker peaks at about 4MB for me – and that includes the indexing process.

2. No Deskbar Integration

With tracker I can integrate it into my deskbar. I can launch apps, search the web/desktop, and run system level commands from one place. GDS is limited to only searching the web/desktop, so as a power user I’m still stuck using 2 applications, when I can be using one integrated solution. I hope in the future we will be able to integrate GDS into the Deskbar, but it seems unlikely since GDS is a closed-source binary.

3. Firefox Results

GDS displays search results in Firefox. Though this is nice, we all know that FF isn’t the fastest loading application in our toolbox. Tracker has its own native GTK+ search window which loads up a lot quicker.

3. Privacy

If enabled, Google can monitor your usage, which they claim is non-personal information. I’m still a bit weary about anyone collecting my data for that matter, even if its Google who sees, hears, and speaks no evil. Tracker just does its job, it searches. No fuss or hassle.

One thing I will note however – GDS is blazing fast. It picks up search results as I type, faster than Tracker. The speed difference isn’t enough to outweigh its large memory footprint though. I am indexing my root folder which is the culprit for GDS eating up my memory, but if Tracker can do it efficiently, I expect the boys at Google to do so as well =).