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The mobile revolution gets personal

I'm writing this from CES 2007 — the latest and greatest Consumer Electronics Show, where 140,000 attendees crowd 2,700 exhibits packed into 1,660,000 square feet of space in more halls and hotels than I'll bother to count. There's a lot of noise here, and a certain amount of signal; though the ratio of the former to the latter is no less lopsided than it always is. Everybody's not only showing their good sides, but paying millions to crow about it through mass quantities of advertising and PR.

Yet the whole damn thing got upstaged Tuesday by Steve Jobs and his on-stage announcement of the long-awaited iPhone.

Normally CES and Macworld overlap barely or not at all. But this year the two shows are spread across the same week, forcing many (including yours truly) to choose one or the other — though I know a number of folks who flew to San Francisco for Jobs' speech and then back again. Of course, I chose to spend as much time as possible here at CES, because it's a show packed with Linux stories. (My first report on the show is here. This is second. A third will follow.) Yet, like every reporter here, it was clear to me that the biggest news of the week — or perhaps of the year — was delivered by Apple in San Francisco. more>>

The silent victory of Linux-as-geology at CES 2007

Three years ago, out of more than 2300 CES exhibitors, the word "Linux" appeared in text associated with just 11 of them, in the show's online guide. This year at CES 2007 has more than 2700 exhibitors; yet "Linux" appears in text associated with just 3 companies: Interact-TV, Neuros Technology and Pixel Magic Systems. Yet it is clearer than ever that Linux has become the bedrock on which more and more companies build their solutions. more>>

Embedded in CES

More and more hot new hardware runs on cool and stable Linux, plus a growing abundance of open source building materials. Since relatively few open source components are graced with publicity ambitions (much less departments), they tend not to make themselves obvious. Meaning that reporters like yours truly need to go hunting for them.

So I'd like your help. I'm here at the Consumer Electronics Show — CES — in Las Vegas, getting ready to launch out onto the trade show floors to see What's Up with Linux amongst the 2,700 exhibitors spread across 1.7 million square feet of exhibit space. more>>

Looking Ahead at Ruby in 2007

Last week, I looked back at Ruby in 2006. This week, it's time to look ahead. Here are 10 Ruby things I think are going to be hot in 2007: Refactoring tools — This is something I think there's just too much clamor for (and too much momentum toward) not to hit in 2007. The JRuby team is making steady progress in NetBeans and Eclipse while wierd, wonderful things are being done with code rewriting on top of ParseTree and other tools. This year, we'll be able to stop saying "Yeah, there aren't any tools, but Ruby is still really easy to refactor." YARV — It has already been merged into the Ruby's development tree, now's the time to see it stabilize and speed up. RSpec — RSpec is growing in popularity too. Recently people have asked if it should be included in the Ruby Standard Library (no, probably not), which certainly points to it's popularity. Even the rubinius hackers (see below) are using RSpec to write tests. JRuby — Ruby on the JVM picked up a lot of steam last year, and looks like it's just going to accelerate in 2007. I think it will help bring Ruby into a lot of Java shops, both as an excuse to run Ruby ("Hey, look it's on the JVM. We can still pretend it's Java") and as a vector for cool stuff like RSpec. rubinius — While it might not have the fresh new enterprise smell that JRuby does, rubinius is a pretty sweet project as well. It's already gaining a lot of visibility in the Ruby world, and once regular Ruby apps start running on it, I think we'll see it take off. a Ruby spec — Perhaps the biggest benefit we'll see from rubinius and JRuby is a real spec for Ruby 1.8 (and a test suite to ensure compatibility). This has been a knock against Ruby for a while, and 2007 should be the year the community answers it. more than just Ruby on Rails — 2007 will be the year other Ruby based web frameworks get a bit of the spotlight. Nitro, IOWA and others might not draw as many developers as Ruby on Rails has, but they will influence the Ruby web development landscape. Rake — is a great DSL for build management. Rake is alread moving forward on the JRuby platform, and others will see how useful it can be in 2007. RubyConf 2007 (in Toronto?) — RubyConf 2006 was a huge success, and in 2007 should be even bigger (I just hope I can get a ticket before they sell out). With all the cool things going on in the Ruby world already, RubyConf 2007 should be a Ruby hackers dream! regional conferences — Since not everyone will make it into RubyConf 2007, regional conferences like MountainWest RubyConf and the Gotham City Ruby Conf will step up to fill the void. This year, I expect to see a handful of great regional conferences show up. more>>

The Real Firefox-Killer

Firefox fans will be facing 2007 with more tranquillity than they did 2006. A year ago, it was clear that Firefox's free ride was about to end: after an astonishing five years of inactivity, Microsoft was finally launching an updated version of Internet Explorer. There seems little doubt that much of more>>

Happy New Year - What's Ahead?

Are you glad that New Year only occurs once a year? Who wants to look back and forward on the same day? It's inevitable, I suppose.

Lately, I have reflected a lot on my Linux career in contrast to other IT work and environments. Linux started in 1997 for me and encompassed about nine years. I have looked back and have looked forward to the year ahead. I certainly have plans and hope you do also. But before looking ahead at our plans, we might examine our personal history to give ourselves a context in which to view a future with full knowledge that the best laid plans often go astray. more>>

Directory Services as the Foundation of Organizational Infrastructures

If you have followed any of my last six installments about LDAP, then you know we've taken a technical approach to the subject. I wrote the majority of the material in this series as part of an O'Reilly book entitled "Linux System Administration" or simply LSA. You can find a write-up on the book at this link. more>>

The Buzz About Aldrin

For the past month I've been building and playing with Leonard 'paniq' Ritter's Aldrin, a music production system that combines a tracker-style composition interface with audio synthesis and processing modules called machines. Users of the famous Buzz music software will probably recognize Aldrin's design at once. In fact, it may be fair to describe Aldrin as Leonard Ritter's interpretation of the original Buzz.

For my last blog entry in 2006 I'll take a brief look at the latest public version of Aldrin, then we'll discover just what makes its creator tick in a rather lengthy interview with Leonard Ritter himself. Leonard is a thoughtful and articulate fellow, I hope you enjoy his responses and comments as much as I did. more>>

Ruby in 2006 -- A Retrospective Collection

Well, 2007 is nearly upon us, which means that a lot of people are looking back on last year. The Ruby community is no exception. Why the Luck Stiff has posted the grandaddy of Ruby 2006 retrospectives. But wait, there's more — there are a growing number of local retrospectives as well. I've posted the ones I know about here, and will add more as I find them: more>>

Formatting cells in OpenOffice.org Calc

I've seen spreadsheets that are basically interactive tutorials, and many more loaded with what Edward Tufte refers to as "chartjunk" -- embellishments that do nothing to make the presentation of information more effective. Yet, generally, spreadsheets are treated pragmatically. Certainly, few people worry about their layout than the layout of text documents. Still, even if you share this attitude, learning the basic formatting options for cells in OpenOffice.org Calc can be worth your time. Many of the options directly effect how you interact with spreadsheets, and even the purely visual ones can make your lists and calculations easier to read at a glance. more>>

Can we relate?

Imagine being able to relate to vendors -- productively, on mutually agreeable terms -- rather than just paying them money for whatever they're selling, and occasionally giving them "feedback" through surveys that aggregate our "input" inside some impersonal "customer relationship management" (CRM) system. That's the idea behind VRM, or Vendor Relationship Management. It's the reciprocal of CRM: a toolset for independence and engagement. That is, of independence from vendors and engagement with vendors.

VRM is also a development effort -- ProjectVRM -- that we've started at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. There are no VRM tools yet, so we're starting with a blank slate. We've begun filling that in with a wiki and a mailing list, both open. Find them through ProjectVRM.org. more>>

The Ultimate Distro

The name of Gaël Duval's new distro, Ulteo, with its hint of the word "ultimate", smacks of a certain ambition.  But Duval probably means it in the sense that it is the last distribution you will ever need to install, because thereafter it will "self-upgrade automatically," as the announcement of the alpha release put it.  Ease-of-use has been a constant theme in Duval's work.  When he launched his first distro, Mandrake, in July 1998, one of his stated goals was "to provide a working and easy-to-install linux-distribution to people who don't want to spend too much time in installing and configuring their Linux system : just install it and USE IT."

But if the vision has been steadfast, the path to achieving it has proved somewhat stony.  more>>

Some Ruby Before Christmas

'Twas the Saturday before Christmas and throughout Ruby-land hackers were working, refact'ring by hand. Their programs were written with the greatest of care in hopes that a new VM soon would be there. The newsgroup was still, the irc channels too In light of the quiet, what's a blogger to do? When up on the mail list, there arose such a clatter I sprang to my laptop to see what was the matter. When what to my wondering eyes should appear but a great bunch of news before the New Year. more>>

Looking into the FSF's BadVista campaign

BadVista is the latest in a series of activist campaigns launched by the Free Software Foundation (FSF)in the last eight months. It follows the highly successful Defective By Design campaign against so-called Digital Rights Management (DRM) technologies, and an unnamed effort to encourage the activist media to make free software part of their agenda. Released on December 15, the campaign currently takes the form of a blog site coordinated by John Sullivan, a program administrator at the FSF. The site features a logo with its name over a quartered flag reminiscent of the Windows logo, but in black and with what appears to be a skull in one corner. So far, the contents is mostly the announcement of the site, an explanation of its purpose, and a news aggregate about the problems and limitations of Microsoft's Vista operating system. more>>

A Good Beginning (And Some Holiday DSP)

A t'ai-chi instructor once told me that he considered ten years practice in the art a "good beginning". By year's end I'll have maintained the pages at http://linux-sound.org for more than ten years, so I feel justified claiming that the site is off to a decent start. However, I have a somewhat suprising 10-year celebration announcement: The next edition of the Linux Sound & Music Applications pages (a.k.a. the Linux soundapps site) will be the last under my control. I'll leave it online in a final condition with all addresses checked and repaired, but my tenure as the site's sole maintainer is over. more>>

Unsucking Linux app installation

In Software installation on Linux: Today, it sucks (part 1), Ian Murdoch (whose first name is the second half of Debian) writes, Unless an application is included with your Linux distribution of choice, installing that application on Linux is a nightmare compared to Windows., and proceeds to say exactly how. more>>

What Can't Open Source Achieve in the Next 10 Years?

Exactly ten years ago I was sitting in a small but cosy flat in the west of Helsinki, waiting to interview its owner. He was busy in the tiny kitchen, which lay just past the entrance hall decked out with dozens of cups and shields won at Karate competitions, preparing a cappuccino for each of us. As you've probably guessed, his name was Linus Torvalds - the trophies belong to his wife. more>>

Microsoft Office lock-in and the deal with Novell

I can't urge you strongly enough to read the article entitled How Vista Lets Microsoft Lock Users In. It details how Microsoft has built into Vista the "trusted computing" ability to lock down Office files via DRM such that no unauthorized document reader will be able to decrypt and read them. This is perhaps one of the biggest hidden weapons Microsoft has in its arsenal that could sabotage Linux and OpenOffice.org if Microsoft succeeds in its attempt to plug SUSE and all Novell's "interoperability" bonuses.

Think of this, if you will, as the Tivoization of Office files, only with malicious intent. Microsoft could, indeed, open up the document format completely and swear before God that it will never sue anyone for patent infringement. However, this does not prevent Microsoft from locking Office files in such a way that only Vista users can read them. No one else will be able to do so without the proper authorization, thus rendering the open format and Microsoft compatibility entirely meaningless -- unless, of course, someone agrees to pay Microsoft for the keys to unlock those files. more>>

Miguel de Icaza plays fast and loose with the facts and history

Miguel de Icaza, in this weblog entry says, "Facts barely matter when they get in the way of a good smear. The comments over at Groklaw are interesting, in that they explore new levels of ignorance." This comment rings especially true of his weblog entry. For example, Miguel states...

We have been working on OpenOffice.Org for longer than anyone else has. We were some of the earliest contributors to OpenOffice, and we are the largest external contributor to actual code to OpenOffice than anyone else.

Say what? Who created OpenOffice? Who bought it? Who opened it? Anyone ever hear of Star Division gmbh or Sun? Since when did Novell become the earliest contributor to OpenOffice.org? The earliest and largest external corporate contributor, maybe. I'd like to see some hard facts to back up an assertion like that (not that facts matter, as Miguel admitted), but his hyperbolic boasting of Novell's contribution is obviously overblown. And is a contribution that doesn't make it into the main code base really a contribution? After all, in the same blog entry, Miguel himself makes much of the fact that Novell's OpenOffice.org really isn't THE OpenOffice.org. It's Novell's unique version, patched and modified. more>>

The Ruby Way

I've wanted to tackle Ruby for quite some time. Luckily, Addison-Wesley just sent me a copy of The Ruby Way, Second Edition by Hal Fulton. This is one of those books that makes me think publishers feel the need to sell books by the pound. The sad part about that is that, in many cases, books printed by the pound contain tons of fluff and useless information. Not so with The Ruby Way. Every page contains gems valuable for anyone who wants to program with Ruby.

But this isn't a book review, per se. If it were, I'd recommend The Ruby Way without reservation. Anyone even remotely interested in Ruby should get this book, now. It's worth every penny of $39.99 US.

But here's what really inspired me to write about this book. There are pages upon pages devoted to the unintuitive twists in the Ruby language. There are so many quirks that I'm almost afraid to tackle my first Ruby program. more>>

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