Sunday, November 29, 2020

Why BSD Desktops fail

 We have seen many attempts at a FreeBSD based desktop system and inevitably they all fail.  I was a long time user of PC-BSD and  TrueOS and I loved them both.  They were really good BSD desktops and I feel like they worked fine so I was disheartened to hear that it was being discontinued.  But alas it was.  Now some people are quick to point blame.  Some blame Kris, Kris Moore the developer of the system, to the community who just downloads FreeBSD and adds the necessary package themselves and just do it.  BSD is a great system.  There are plenty of reasons to use it.  Its fast, its extendable and its rock solid.  As I type this I am running behind an OpenBSD firewall and I always have a bare metal system running TrueOS for when I have client work to do and for development.  BSD has some advantages to it that makes this Linux distributor use it for many, many tasks.  Little know task, we actually considered the Lumina desktop for Linspire before we settled on XFCE.  So despite fantastic and exciting work by these guys; why do they ultimately fail miserably?

1.  The Community - One of the things that is an advantage for Linux in general is the community.  Despite there being thousands of distribution you have your diehards.  I would say 5% of our business comes from our users recommendations.  You dont have that with TrueOS or PC-BSD.  Most people when they say BSD, they recommend NetBSD or FreeBSD.  Not the desktop centric BSD's.

2.  Missed Oppurtunities - When Sun pulled the plug on Solaris, lets face it Solaris is on life support ONLY, none of the BSD people approached these customers.  Instead these customers started calling us, the commercial Linux distributors, looking for a direct drop in replacement.  I found myself on more than one occasion telling them "Hey look you already have this UNIX expertise, have you looked at BSD because while Linux is UNIX like its NOT UNIX" the same when SCO UnixWare and SCO OpenServer dropped dead, rightfully so, the BSD people just let them all congregate around Linux.  So for any and all BSD people reading this, remember one thing, conversations dont hurt and if they say no, then its no but at least you have the bird in ear..

3.  macOS (and marketing) - Im gonna lump these two together because it makes sense.  FreeBSD developers seriously need to QUIT telling people who ask for a FreeBSD desktop to use macOS.  I look at macOS the same way I do ChromeOS.  macOS uses the BSD kernel, they use the BSD userland tools but the stuff that matters, the stuff people see are Mac tools; Xcode, Visual Studios for Mac, Photoshop, MS Office, FileMaker Pro.  You cannot take a macOS app and run it on FreeBSD like you cant take an Android-on-ChromeOS app and run it on Ubuntu or Linspire.  What the BSD folks need to do is make a desktop system and market it on its own merits.  Speed, app availability and ease of use with GNOME, KDE or XFCE .  Tell them, hey our kernel is used by Apple, Sony, Panasonic and Vizio TV;s but for gods sake when people ask you for a FreeBSD desktop dont say 'buy a mac"

So those are the three major impediments to having a truly successful BSD based desktop.  Also, a side note.  The BSD folks need to be assertive.  Dont give up just because Linux is more popular.  BSD has it own accolades and you need to push those accolades and once again I cant say this enough, push the merits of your own system.  Popularity doesnt mean that you cant create your own market.  I mean if you think popularity means success you are wrong.  If that was the case Apple would have an 80% marketshare.  So if the BSD people want to succeed on the desktop create a desktop that easy to use, easy to install, and that you can get behind.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Why did OS/2 fail and Windows succeed?

 One of the oldest arguments that I participate in is why did OS/2 fail and Windows succeed? IBM clearly had a head start in development of OS/2. OS/2 was clearly superior to Windows 3.x/95 etc and Windows NT was late. So with all those advantages, why did OS/2 fail? I think the blame could be laid at the feet of both Microsoft and IBM. Quick disclosure, I was an OS/2 guy. I used UNIX and OS/2 throughout the 90’s on a regular basis. IBM back in those days was way to corporate. Microsoft was a dirty fighter. Microsoft would often resort to dirty tricks, and still does, to make sure that everyone stays on their platform. They would go over to IBM’s booths at conferences and install malicious code on their systems to cause them to crash to show how “great” Windows was and leave the IBM guys trying to figure out what happened. IBM would not respond in kind. They took the “They go low, we go high” mentality too seriously instead relying on the users to fight back. Microsoft subjected OEM’s to draconian contracts that Im sure if any of them had half a brain their lawyers would have told them how illegal those contracts were. We acquired an OEM manufacturer and I have seen that contract and no, I would have never signed it. Now I call the tech industry the runway contest. Because we all are waiting for each other to fall flat on their face. Me, if you talk crap about me I will roast the ever loving crap out of you until you regret invoking my name and my companies name. IBM also had a problem internally, Dave Barnes, team OS/2 and the users of OS/2 were more enthusiastic about the product than IBM was. I truly believe in those waning days before the launch of Windows 95, IBM was looking for the exit sign and they got it by signing one of those draconian contracts. 

Now, while an intriguing story those are the yesteryear of computer hardware and software. Whats the point? 

I see a lot of similarities in Microsofts behavior towards Linux. Aside from offering schools and hospitals free licenses and support. They have started to encroach on the Linux ecosystem. Now look, I get that Satya Nadella was a UNIX guy. He was a higher up at Sun and he understands the need for interoperability. That Microsoft, while having a major stake in the server market, is extremely under water when it comes to server adoption so Microsoft has a need to cooperate and extend their tools to the Linux platform but its costing us the Linux desktop. Among consumers we are at 1.5% of user share. Corporate wise I would say 5 or 6% but even thats sinking. As a Linux professional I see more and more Linux development houses and clients who use Linux on the desktop moving to Windows 10 and subsystem for Linux. In some ways I feel like we are falling into the same trap of extend, conquer and devour. Is Microsoft genuine on interoperability? or has Satya Nadella invoked the ghost of Sun Microsystems and their old tactics of kill them with kindness?

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Betanews: Linspire 9.0 - Dont buy it

 So today I was sent an article by Betanews that broke down its reasoning for telling its readers to NOT purchase Linspire 9.0 which is our newest release of Linspire.  While I do appreciate Mr. Fagioli's opinions and highly respect him as a journalist there are some things he said that I feel need clarification.  For those of you that missed the release here is a link to it.

In his article, he said that we use the 18.04 codebase and not the 20.04 codebase and that is true and why is that?  Because 20.04 was not available when we started developing Linspire 9.  We started the development cycle back in February 2020 for Linspire 9.  That was well before 20.04 was released.  Linspire is not for the hardiest of Linux nerds.  Those who compile their own kernels or build their own distributions (we do have those utilities available for those who do though) but Linspire is a distribution for people who want a stable and secure desktop for which to use.  Linspire is a distribution for the masses.  People who want to turn on their computer and just have it work.  We at Linspire are not on a race to the finish line where our users and customers are continuous beta testers.  We want to make sure our customers and users will NOT wake up one day and find their systems unusable because of a faulty update (that makes our support team very grouchy) 

Furthermore, is using a tried and true codebase that bad?  Are you going to tell Red Hat's RHEL 8 customers not to purchase RHEL 8 because it uses the 4.18 kernel and an older version of the GNOME desktop?  BTW that's even after their April update.  I bet not.  If customers and users are worried about kernel revisions, the 20.04 kernels are available for download onto a finished system in case you absolutely need them.

To decry Linspire 9 or our team for using a tried and tested base is kind of absurd.  Look at our past record we ALWAYS introduce the newest LTS bases 8 months to a year after they are released because it allows development teams to work out any show-stopping bugs in their code.  This is a practice that we have ALWAYS done.  It's nothing new and it's not anything anyone on the team would apologize for.

Now in this article, he claims we have no compelling reasons to market Linspire 9.0.  How about COMPLETE Microsoft Office compatibility, complete multimedia playback including DVD and Blu-Ray playback, 39 state governments have certified Linspire for use on their own Intranet and office environments and this includes our cloud and desktop editions.

Another point here is that Mr. Fagioli is quick to recommend Windows 10 to his readers because he doesn't like our pricing framework.  A product that is known to be rife with bugs and as stated above one update can render their systems COMPLETELY unusable to the point they have to revert or reinstall an OLDER version just to be able to use their system.  Give me a break.

The last point, Mr. Fagioli is quick to recommend Linux Mint which is fine.  Its a good community-based system because it's free (Oh and he also posted a link to the donate link.  Biased much?) you don't have to purchase it but is quick to leave out the fact and link to Freespire.  Our free and FOSS release which can be downloaded and used on any system that any user wishes.  You can download that here:

In closing, we at PC/OpenSystems LLC have been in business since 2008.  We have been producing Linux and BSD distributions since 2008.  Our company is not only built on trust but also based on building and distributing quality products and doing the right thing by our customers.  Our job is not to make customers work for their computer but to make their computer work for them.  For that reason, I am completely unapologetic. 

If you wish to read his article.  You may do so here.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Why we shut the hell up and went with XFCE (Again)

With the release of Freespire 6.0.3 a lot of customers and users saw that we had yet again gone with XFCE as our user interface.  While this may have irked some people we made this change because of several factors which we will discuss here.

We already had products based on XFCE

While MATE and KDE were great there were a few reasons why we chose XFCE. 

  • It is lightweight
  • Its easier to customize
  • It requires fewer system resources
  • Its more modular

We also have products that already utilize XFCE namely Linspire Enterprise Server and Linspire Workstation.  We also eventually want to release an ARM version of Linspire and XFCE was the easiest, from our current production run, to customize and make it an exact clone of the x86_64 release.  So this would allow us to work with a singular desktop with mere graphical changes versus a lot of infrastructure change.  This also allows us to run on older Chromebooks that may have reached EOL but may not have had the resources to run KDE, Mate or even GNOME.

Development of XFCE is more stable

With Mate and KDE, we had the issue of their development cycle.  Whenever a new release of Mate or KDE was released it would require a lot more testing and rolling out new desktop features.  With XFCE development is a lot slower with new releases coming every 2 or 3 years versus every 2 to 6 months and upgrading an XFCE installation is much easier with a simple repository added and a mere system update without having to worry about broken packages and modules where some core system utility would crash and burn. 

Less Drama associated with XFCE

There seems to be a lot of drama involved with certain sides of the community.  With KDE its the issues of Kubuntu versus Canonical and KDE vs QT where that introduces uncertainty and as a company that markets sells, and develops software for fortune 500 companies and in government and education that also added a certain complexity.  With GNOME and Mate, we found ourselves patching bugs, submitting patches, and those groups rejecting the patch which made us have to basically ship it with our distributions, and when a new desktop release arrives it basically breaks everything again.  With XFCE there is little drama involved and they work well with exterior developers.

Advantages of XFCE

Once again, it's lightweight.  It works well with GTK, QT, and Web-based applications and looks less "ugly" while doing it.  You can run XFCE reasonably well within lower RAM systems.  It allows you to work with multiple classes of systems and also has great touch capabilities for touch screen systems.

All around we made this decision based on what's good for the users, our customers and our companies.  We have perhaps one of the better-looking XFCE desktops and even with our Linspire 9.0 prototypes, people are loving it.

Goodbye macOS X, we hardly knew ya

As everyone knows by now Apple is officially launching macOS 11 which means the end of the line for OS X.  Apple also announced a shift from Intel to its own ARM chip.  While many people in computing today do not remember the 1990's and how big and ambitious OS X was starting with Rhapsody I certainly do.  I was a NeXT guy and was with Apple until they mutilated the OpenStep development environment I look at this in reflection.  In some ways, I feel like Apple is going back in time to the same screwups that almost killed the company in 1997.  Apple is a much stronger company today then it was back then.  It's now worth over a trillion dollars has plenty of cash on the books and is well-positioned to try to be a trendsetter that it couldn't be in 1997.  For those of you, that remember how PowerPC was supposed to change the game, and people were placing the bets that PowerPC was supposed to be the future well we saw how that turned out.

Can Apple do the same thing twice and expect a different result?  In this case, it might be able to pull it off.  In some developers that I have spoken to there is certainly some tension in the air.  The painful reminder of having to maintain two separate code bases for a few years is definitely a nightmare.  A lot of you Apple fans are right now screaming at your computer screen as you read this "ROSETTA!!!!!!!!" let's be real.  Rosetta SUCKED during the PowerPC to Intel transition how well do you think it's going to fare here?  Emulation technologies even as cost-efficient as they are, are great for testing but running high-end productivity software on a regular basis?  C'mon now let's get serious.  The other half of you that agreed with what I just said are going to come back with, "Well most development houses have iOS versions of their software so they can just use that right" and yes they can.  But, Tablets, Phones, and PC's are totally different creatures.  macOS 11 is not going to have touch capabilities.  This means that developers are going to have to write in features that are not found in Phones and Tablets which means more complexity and more dollars spent.  Now let's go beyond developers to the consumer and more importantly Apple's pro customers.  ARM-based systems have not been used as a primary platform for high-end graphics, music, and video production.  The most serious ARM-based supercomputer has over 158 thousand nodes, let's say that again; over 150,000 nodes.  What is Apple's plan?  To bring back an ARM-based Xserve and force customers to buy another system that has 500 nodes just so people can do the comparable work that was achieved using a Xeon based system?

Yes, there is uncertainty about what's going to happen here.  Will the 27 inch iMac just turn into a 27 inch iPhone with a keyboard and mouse?  Only time will tell.  As someone who has devoted his life to technology, I do appreciate the fact that Tim Cook is trying to push Apple to "Think different" again which was one of its most endearing qualities back in 1998.  But do you really think doing the same thing twice will achieve a different result?  But, this is the problem when stock price dictates a companies direction and should Tim Cook screw this up.  Well, there is no Steve Jobs to save them.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Is the Linux desktop dead? The software industries seismic shifts

Being a Linux distributor we get asked all the time if we think the dream of Linux on the desktop is dead.  I personally don't think it is.  Although Microsoft continues to dominate the desktop market with Windows we have had a lot of infiltration into the desktop market.  First, you have to look at what a Linux distribution is.  While some people will point to ChromeOS and Android as "Linux on the desktop" they aren't.  They USE the Linux kernel but you can take the UI and the Application frameworks and move them over to FreeBSD or even a customized version of Darwin and you can accomplish the same product.  What makes ChromeOS and Android successful are their capabilities and features and not Linux.  If you ask the average ChromeOS or Android user if they use Linux they will tell you no.  I personally look at ChromeOS and Android in the same way I look at Tivo.  I don't consider TivoOS a Linux distribution, its a product that uses the Linux kernel.  What I consider a Linux distribution is a product that uses the Linux kernel, the GNU framework and the ability to run the thousands of available Linux applications on the market today without having to jump through hoops to get there.

The Linux desktop has overcome many obstacles that held it back in the past.  Hardware support, ease of use, ease of installation and application support.  Gone are the days of excuses for having to recompile kernel code to get audio and graphics drivers to work properly (for most of the general computing public anyway) Today there are new excuses; Microsofts too powerful !!! Apples to powerful !!!!  Googles too powerful !!!!! and those are just as I sated; excuses.

The Linux community has to channel the words of a man they hated for years.  Steve Jobs and his speech from 1997.  We need to stop saying to ourselves "For Linux to win, Microsoft has to lose"  or "For Linux to win, Apple has to lose" or "For Linux to win, Google has to lose" because NOBODY has to lose because NOBODY is going to win.  Psychologically we are fighting a battle that no one will win or lose.  There are billions of computer users out there.  Windows will not be for everyone, macOS will not be for everyone, and ChromeOS will not be for everyone.  If you look at the US government, for example, they use many different distributions of Linux, they STILL use many flavors of UNIX and they still even use lots of Windows PC's (For you macOS fans who are gonna start typing frantically on your keyboard that I forgot Mac, no I didn't I lumped it in there with UNIX)  There are hundreds of automobile manufacturers on the market today, there are hundreds of PC manufacturers in the world and they ALL do pretty decent business.

So how did the software industry get screwed up so badly?  Because when the software industry was born you had a bunch of dumbasses who didn't know what they were doing and who entered into lopsided deals or flew planes when manufacturers came calling.  You can't really blame Gates or Jobs for what happened at the dawn of this industry.  They filled the nooks and crannies of what these computer manufacturers were looking for and they ran with it.  We as consumers had plenty of opportunities to kick them off the tracks but we didn't.  The software industry is starting to mature.  Its only 40 years old.  The players in the automobile industry didn't stop trying to shank each other until about 60 years after the birth of the first car.  Starting to mature means some companies will live and some companies will die.  Some will be missed and some will be good riddance.

So the question of; Is the Linux desktop dead?  No.  It will never die.  Just like the Windows desktop will never die and the Mac desktop will never die and ChromeOS will never die.  There are plenty of computer users out there and trust me, I have seen it first hand and they are very diverse.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Open Letter to YouTube and Google

To whom it may concern,

Im writing today about two creators that I have gotten to know personally and both I consider friends.  They would be Jared Hockman aka Jared The Vaping Goat and Victor Mullin aka Vaping With Vic.  Both top tier vaping reviewers and personalities on your platform.  Mr. Mullin, you just removed his channel with no clear explanation of what he did wrong or any solution to resolve said issues.  His channel was located here:

Mr. Mullin has been a vast pool of knowledge regarding these products since 2014.  Many new vapers rely on his expertise when making buying decisions pertaining to products that provide a benefit to leading a healthier lifestyle and not getting pulled into buying products that are not a benefit.  More importantly, he has made Tobacco Harm Reduction his occupation.  He relies on his business to feed his family and to live his life.  He doesn't resale, manufacture or distribute these products but he is an expert on these products so people can make a determination and for their safe use.

Mr. Hockman has had his channel struck recently with "community strikes" and has a vast majority of his videos removed.  His channel is located here:

Mr. Hockman doesn't make a living off of his content.  He doesn't ask for anything in return.  He gives selflessly many hours of his life to make content not for profit but for tobacco harm reduction.  For the betterment of people to allow them to live healthier lives.

I am old enough to remember when Google and YouTube both embraced the betterment of mankind.  When many of your original employees had that same selfless drive.  Driven not by profit, not driven for free trinkets but driven to make sure our history, our works, and culture were preserved for future generations.  Even when people told you it was wrong and even when people tried to use the legal system to stop you.  Yet you advanced, you fought to keep moving forward.  It saddens me to see that fighting spirit and that "Don't be evil" attitude drained.

I can say this with absolute certainty.  If you remove these men from your platform you are doing a disservice to public health, your users and more importantly to yourselves.

Thank You:

Roberto J. Dohnert