Saturday, July 24, 2021

Linspires new direction explained

 For the past year we have internally at PC/OpenSystems LLC launched a project called CLOUD9.  The aim of this project was to create an OS that utilized cloud apps in replacement of traditional desktop applications.  Some of those manifested themselves into Xandros Cloud but we wanted to bring that to all of our desktop users.  Some of the efforts were successful (Xandros Cloud Office 365 was our best seller for our education customers and some of our enterprise customers)  But we wanted to make the best Cloud centric OS that we could.

First, we created a Chromium OS build of Freespire (Which I personally liked) The problem with ChromiumOS was that it relied solely on web apps during our focus groups and user testing we found that some users still want to run some traditional desktop apps (Gimp, Krita, Video editing software, music and video players) and while ChromiumOS has Crostini but it is not enabled by default.  The other issue was it was not easy to install.  This was before Google integrated the Neverware installer.

Second, we created an Android build.  Which again I liked.  But it was still too much of a desktop OS and relied on packages being installed from the Google Play Store.

Third, what culminated in Xandros Cloud which was use our traditional base and to pre-install Google or Microsoft's services.  This was the direction we ultimately decided to go and there are a few reasons.

  1. Ease of use.  Freespire, Linspire and Xandros are by far the easiest Linux distributions for the average computer user.
  2. Software availability.  Not only do users have the ability to use apps from the Ubuntu repositories, native Debain/Ubuntu packages, FlatPak, Appimage and SNAPS but users do not have to rely on some obscure framework which may or may not work and that is in perpetual beta for years on end.  Apps are available to be fully installed on the system and new apps available through the software center.
  3. Users wanted native speed and full availability without having to rely on container technology
  4. User focus groups and beta testing.  During our testing we found that users had much more success with our traditional distributions.  We discovered that users very rarely use LibreOffice and Thunderbird the apps we found they most used were Google Chrome, Gmail and Google Office or Microsoft Office 365 (This includes Word, Excel, Outlook, Teams, OneNote etc.)  
So, we have made several changes to Freespire, Linspire and Xandros.  Linspire and Xandros will now offer cloud apps for the tasks of office suites, calendar, e-mail, and online storage.  What will the new direction offer us?

  • Refined distribution.  Uses less resources and smaller ISO images.
  • It allows us to run on more Intel based Chromebooks that have reached EOL and allows users to take even more advantage of their current hardware investments.  Users and customers will be able to download an ISO and upgrade their current systems.  No new hardware purchases necessary unless that system is older than 5 years.
  • More secure to attacks because of smaller attack surface.
  • There will be less of a need to create custom distributions for customers because of the common base resulting in lower prices for our customers.
  • No preconceived notions of apps and services customers and users want to use.  Customers and users decide for themselves
  • Most state governments, federal facilities, enterprise users and educational facilities already certify Google Chrome in their environments and test their internal and public web properties on Chrome and Chromium.
  • Makes us more competitive with ChromeOS and CloudReady.
  • We will continue to work with Google to make sure that we stay compatible with the Admin console.
What can you expect from the new distributions: 

Freespire 7.7 will continue to be our free to download and redistribute distribution and will not be distributed with proprietary codecs.  Freespire will include, Chrome and IceSSB.  It will also include Geary mail client, games, Parole media player and Rhythmbox.  It will be delivered sans any Google or Microsoft services and users can decide what services they wish to use by default.

Linspire 10 SP 1.5 will include all of Googles services.  Docs, Gmail, Google Drive, Google Calendar, Google Keep, YouTube, Google Maps and Weather.com.  Local apps will include Chrome, IceSSB, Video Player, Rhythmbox, Games, Shotwell and Krita.  It will include all proprietary multimedia codecs and  DVD/Blu-Ray support.  

Xandros OpenDesktop 2021 will come in two flavors.  Standard Edition with all the Google services preinstalled and Office 365 edition which will utilize Microsofts web services.  With the Office 365 edition Bing will also be the default homepage and the default search engine in Google Chrome.  Both will ship with .NET Core, Powershell and Visual Studios Code.  Local apps will include, Chrome, Video Player, Rhythmbox, games, Shotwell and Krita for image editing.  Both editions of Xandros OpenDesktop will also include all the proprietary media codecs and DVD/Blu-Ray support 

Xandros OpenServer and Xandros Terminal Services will not be affected by these changes.

We look forward to bringing you these new products and look forward to servicing our customers and users for years to come.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Microsoft Edge on Linux


 When Microsoft announced they were porting Microsoft Edge to Linux there were three reactions.  The first reaction was meeeh who cares.  The second reaction was "NOOOOOO NEVER!!!!!!  I WONT TAINT MY LINUX SYSTEM WITH MICRO$OFT SHIT!!!!!"  The third reaction was optimism with a pinch of skepticism.  This is not the first time Microsoft has ported its web browsers to an alternative Operating System platform.  Microsoft had IE on Macintosh and they had also ported IE to Unix.  I used IE for Unix and while it worked great it looked out of place and that is because when it came to the UI elements not a lot of work was done on that front and it didn't last long before Microsoft quit.


Now enter Microsoft Edge.  Microsoft decided that they were going to change the underlying engine to a Chromium base.  Chromium is the open source engine and browser that lives in Chrome and Chrome OS.  Microsoft released their final version on Mac OS, iOS, Android and on Windows and promised a port to Linux.  The beta version of that dropped last Oct.  While I dabbled in it I recently started using Microsoft Edge on Linux full time and I have to say.  It is pretty great.  It is extremely fast, uses the same extensions that you find on Chrome and uses native hardware acceleration.  If you are using Facebook messenger or Google Meet it automatically chooses your input devices which is a vast improvement over its earlier betas.  Microsoft Edge for Linux also allows users to take full advantage of Microsoft's services.  If you are an IT shop that uses both platforms, Windows and Linux, Microsoft Edge for Linux also is a great tool for interoperability.  The one improvement you can take note of is the speed.  Microsoft Edge is perhaps the fastest Chromium based browser I have used.  Now, there are some downsides.  Netflix performance needs some improvements in Edge for Linux.  Another downfall is that its still only a Beta product.  For some people that will be a turnoff and there has been no statement from Microsoft when it will reach gold status.


Do I think the mass of Linux distributors will move to bundle Edge in lieu of Firefox and Chrome?  No.  In the Linux community there is still a lot of hesitancy when it comes to Microsoft and per past behavior Microsoft can get a little wishy washy on its nix support.  IE for Unix was a great product.  The only problem is that product was short lived.  But, I'm optimistic because this is a new Microsoft.  Satya Nadella GETS open source and he GETS user preference and he understands that not everyone will want to use Microsoft products.  Working with a lot of clients who use mixed environments Powershell, Visual Studio CODE, Teams and SQL Server have alleviated a lot of pain and I can imagine Microsoft Edge for Linux will also be a huge product for those clients.  In the high order bit, would we as a Linux distributor make Microsoft Edge our default browser?  Probably.  I look at software like this.  Who makes the best tools and the most polished software?  I do not get in religious fights.  I would need some assurances that Microsoft Edge will not disappear in 9 months. We currently bundle CODE and Powershell in Xandros and Powershell in Linspire.  People who want to use Firefox or Chrome can always just uninstall Edge and use whatever browser they like.

Until next time....





Wednesday, February 10, 2021

The future of our products

 As you guys have seen we launched Linspire 10 on Feb 8, 2021.  The acceptance of that product has been overwhelming.  Much more overwhelming than we have experienced on any of our past product launches.  Which we do appreciate.  But Linspire 10 and 11 by extension which is what we are putting together for testing right now is in no means a culmination of our efforts.  After Linspire 11 there will be many changes to the distribution some of which some will like and as always some will hate.  If we could make the ONE distribution for everyone so that we could see wide acceptance we would do it.

Linspire 11 will mark the last release of Linspire based on Ubuntu.  With Linspire 12 we will be returning to Debian Stable.  That is one of the reasons we have moved to GNOME because we want that vanilla GNOME experience because in the market that we are in which is the commercial Linux desktop market in the US, GNOME is the desktop of choice.  Some people will love it, some people will hate it but see above.  We are also making the return to Debian Stable because there are some things in Ubuntu that we don't like.  We feel that Debian Stable is malleable enough that we can make it our own and stay within the parameters of free software as defined by the FSF for Freespire.  I have always said since day one almost 13 years ago that with our products I want to be able to give back to the community and NO ONE can say we haven't had a version of the product that wasn't free to download, redistribute and spin any which way the users wanted.  

In a couple of weeks we will be releasing Freespire 7.2 which will also be based on GNOME and Linspire 10.0.1 which will fix some issues that users had with the RTM release of Linspire and that happens with any software release.  People have issues.  Some of them are small and annoying and others are large and meandering  

Starting in April, we will be following the same practice we do with Xandros.  There will no longer be a digital download option.  Everyone will get a PHYSICAL copy of the software.  If you are an international customer or just want a download to be able to use Linspire right away we will do that as for updated ISO's we will provide those through download as well.  That's how we deliver Xandros and customers like it.  Some will like it and some will hate it; see above.

As for Xandros; we are currently working on Xandros.  OpenDesktop 2021 is already in alpha.  Xandros OpenServer 2021 will continue to be free for download for anyone who wants to do self support of course there will be a supported option as well.  Xandros Cloud is going away and we will be introducing Xandros Core which will be like Cloud and we will build in the Chromebook support and people can still use it like Cloud.  They can continue to run it as a ChromeOS alternative or if they want to use it on a Point of Sale system they can; its a very flexible system.  If they want to run it on a single board or IoT system they can do that as well.

I'm very excited about the future of our product lines.  For those that want to troll or be insulting to myself, the company and our employees you will continue to be blocked and continue to be excluded from the conversation.  For those that want to offer valid feedback and who want to contribute to our continued success; Welcome.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Why is Apple dumping Intel?

 When Apple had revealed that they are dumping the Intel processor and going with their own chip many people had their doubts, including myself that Apple was making a dumb move.  With all the pundits throwing their two cents into it Im more convinced than ever its a pretty dumb move.   While their benchmarks are pretty impressive I think Apple will have the infrastructure and software developers will have the same issues they had when Apple was on the PowerPC.  Now at WWDC Apple gave us the excuses on why they are moving to ARM and their own proprietary chip.  So we heard the excuses lets go over the real reasons.

Think Different

When Apple moved over to the Intel chip they had very little justification as to why they  were charging so much money  for a system that was severely under powered.  Now back in the PowerPC day Apple severely skewed the benchmarks so that they could claim their machines were faster than a standard PC and the only people that believed it were Apples idiot customers but when Apples systems became a standard PC they had a hard time coming up with an excuse.

Hackintosh

Lets face it Apple didnt like the hackintosh market.  Apple from day ONE has always been that company that didnt like to share and sure as hell HATED that people could get their software to run on any kind of generic hardware.  Apple is the company that spent REAL money paying off Linux distributors who were even nominally successful mimicking Apple's desktop environment because Apple figured out it was easier to pay them off for $20,000 to get them to stop rather than gambling with the courts and having to pay $100,000 dollars in lawsuits for principle alone.

Control

As I stated above Apple loves to control their own platform and riding with Intel after 5 years when Apples hardware was pretty much dead  because macOS quit supporting it , users were just installing Linux or Windows and they went on their merry way.  Mark my words, Apple will make it as hard as they can for Linux to run on their M1 hardware because they want to KEEP their customer base.  They will pull a Sony and probably be more tyrannical than Sony to make sure Linux does not run on that hardware and make it as difficult as they can so that no user will want to go through the hassle and the headache and rather dish out the dinero just to get the latest and greatest Apple hardware and software.

So anyone who has their hopes up that those delicious benchmarks on Apples M1 system will roll over when they try to rock Linux or BSD on the M1 system WAKE UP!!!! Linux, BSD and Windows is one of the biggest reasons why Apple is moving over to their own custom silicon.  Apple wants to preserve their customer base and they want their users to stick with Apple hardware in concurrence with Apple software for years to come.

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.

https://www.linspirelinux.com/2020/08/linspire-90-released.html

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:

https://www.freespire.net/

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.

https://betanews.com/2020/08/13/linspire-9-linux-money/

Linspires new direction explained

 For the past year we have internally at PC/OpenSystems LLC launched a project called CLOUD9.  The aim of this project was to create an OS t...