Friday, October 20, 2006

Why I Think Inkscape is the Best Software of all Time

Ever since each of us was old enough to hold a stick, we have wanted to draw stuff, on stuff. To make our mark. To create squiggles that mean something, and convey meaning in both time and place with our fellow humans. With the invention of the computer, it was quickly discovered that there was only so much that could be done with keys and the written language. Words do convey meaning, but to create a picture is something so useful that is couldn't be ignored. The mouse was invented, and the drawing tablet, and drawing and computer aided design programs were written which allowed images and pictures and sketches and designs to be created, saved, copied and distributed. Inkscape is a 'really free' drawing package that uses the openly available Scalar Vector Graphics (SVG) format. Together, this means that anything you draw with inkscape today, will always be available to you. Graphics using SVG are starting to appear all over the desktop and the web, and there are some that think, myself included, that it will even challenge the FlashMedia formats, as the dominant image format on the internet. Inkscape is the most widely used SVG drawing tool, it exports to Postscript, PDF and a wide array of other formats, and has a very active development community behind it. I'm looking forward to the next 12 months.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Opinion: 5 Reasons Why Vista Will Be Microsoft's Last General Purpose Operating System

Microsoft Vista is on its way, the beta has been released, and prices have been announced. The last update from Microsoft also contained several fixes for it. Everything looks to be heading the the right direction. so why am I saying that this will be their last general purpose operating system? Here are my predictions for the Australian Operating System Market over the next 12 months, and into the future. 1. Microsoft's Do-not Operate System The release of Vista see Microsoft expanding on their policy on distributing different builds for different types of users. At last count seven different varieties have been listed - Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, Small Business, Enterprise, and Ultimate. While this may be seem like clever marketing, where a user can buy a product that suits their needs, it will be the source of a lot of frustration. There will be features and applications which will be only supported on the more expensive versions. They have tried the software subscription model in the past, and it looks like that are trying it again. Users will realise that when they buy a computer with Vista installed, you won't be getting an Operating System, they'll be getting a Do-not Operate System (DOS). With the inclusion of more Digital Rights Management (Digital Restriction Management) and anti-piracy measures, there will be things that you used to do that will no longer be possible, because Vista and Microsoft won't let you... unless you pay more money. This is not that far fetched. Imagine a world where you will need to buy a licence for every movie that you want to watch, and only those from the specified list. In the above business model, this is not very far off. 2. Linux captures the desktop I don't necessarily like the battle field analogies, but here I am going to make an exception. I have witnessed one public skirmish, and I am pleased to say that for the members of the community that mattered, Linux was the last man standing. It has been predicted for a long time, but the deciding battle will be fought and won by Linux on the desktop in 2006-7. Why? By way of an example, in it's short two year existence, Ubuntu have created and released five(5) full versions of their Linux distribution, each one significantly better than the previous. Based on Debian, which has been around even longer, with backing from Canonical, Ubuntu have build up an incredible amount of experience and expertise around making, producing, and distributing quality software. This all-round, general purpose software is 'really free', and will enable anyone, anywhere, with commodity hardware, to participate in the commercial market place with a fraction of the related expenses that existing companies have. Why would a commercial organization spend money on something that was not going to directly lower expenses and increase profits. Their competitors weren't. News of local and international Free and Open Source projects are being heard, and organizations are starting to listen. Institutions, both Government and Not-for-profit, which supply services to the public are under increasing pressure to supply more for less. They will have to take a long hard look at Vista and try and figure out why they should be paying their money. It will be possible to make money by taking the older PC's, incapable of running Windows Vista, and converting them to workstations running Linux, which will have everything that an organisation needs. -- Watch for it. This will happen very rapidly -- 3. Professional Linux Support Services The increase of use within the corporate environment is being be spearheaded by the the large Linux supporting companies - IBM, Novell and Redhat. From the outsider, they have looked to be struggling to get customers using Linux on the desktop. This is all about to change. With this help, IT departments will find out how easy it is to install, run, and maintain an environment of Linux desktops. There may be an additional catalyst, like a large virus outbreak infecting Microsoft hosts, but this may not be necessary. Sites with web based applications will be able to be rollout/changed immediately, particularly in places like call-centres. Businesses with internal applications written in C# and Java will follow shortly after. As this migration starts, additional savings will become obvious. Ongoing cost of virus protection and software subscriptions will diminish, which in turn can be put back into the organisation as IT training, taken an profit, or feed back to the Free and Open Source software community as contributions or even donations. 4. Linux in the Community The Linux developer community in Australia has begun to engage the rest of the community in areas of mutual concern. Copyright Laws, Digital Rights Management (or Digital Restriction Management) and the Free Trade Agreement are all things which will directly effect every person whether they know about it or not. Software will again become known as something that can be freely and legally shared and developed. Free and Open Source Software will become part of the education of our children. 5. Linux and the Economy Reports will emerge regarding the importance of Free and Open Source Software and Linux to the Australian economy, and the numbers will not be small. There will no longer be any excuses for not supporting its adoption, and government and non-government organisations will be scrambling to maximise the benefits. I would also like to suggest that Free and Open Source software will be a Federal Government election issue in 2007. How each of the major parties approach it is something I can't predict, but they will ignore it to their peril. Free and Open Source software and Linux is not going away, and a government that ignores this is not doing their people any favours. ... so where does this leave Vista? The only market for Microsoft that makes sense to me is the one for embedded computers and appliances. The XBox, Windows OS on mobile phones, and Media Centre are the places where Microsoft are able to use their technology to its best potential, and where people will continue to be willing to pay for it. A buyer of one of these items, purchases them with a particular feature set and use in mind. The hardware and software are purchased together as a complete unit. Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and retailers want to sell lots of identical widgets, which they can service or replace easily. The operating systems required to get these products through the market will need to become more specialised. The days when a general purpose operating system could be used in this case, even on higher performance hardware, has pretty much gone. So what about Vista? This leaves Microsoft, after Vista's release, with two options. Either continue with the with the old Windows model, which doesn't make a whole lot of business sense, or reinvent themselves and again start to make something useful.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Entry in Software Freedom Day Competition

MawsonLakes.Org has been entered in the Software Freedom Day competition for a Power5 server kindly donated by IBM. The category is for Best plan for FOSS deployment project on new server for community benefit, and involves developing the contacts and resources that were on display at the Software Freedom Showcase event. The existing server that MawsonLakes.Org uses is in a desperate need of a upgrade as it is 10 years old, and while it may run for another 10 years, it has been faithfully serving this community 24x7 since 1999.

Future activities and projects - Bar Camps

After the highly successful Software Freedom Showcase, held at the Mawson Centre, Mawson Lakes, MawsonLakes.Org is looking for more interesting projects to get involved in. While organising the above event, we became aware of the 'BarCamp's, which are un-conferences which are held in a very similar way to the way the Showcase was. More details can be found on their website, A group has already met, mostly from those involved in the Software Freedom Day activities to discuss whether a BarCampAdelaide is possible. There was also interest from people involved in the Adelaide multimedia and arts community. A tentative date has been set for March 2007. Watch the above links for more information.