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The Battle Rages On: CLI vs. GUI

October 14th, 2010 7 comments

Every now and then, when surfing the blogosphere, I come across waves after waves of postings stating how “Linux needs to rely less on the CLI” or “Windows is perfect for basic users because everything can be done with the GUI”…blah, blah, blah. In fact it was this article that prompted this posting. It gets tiring reading the same things over and over again, but it hasn’t stopped me from adding my 2 cents.

First and foremost, I live by the command line and rarely do things from a graphical interface. Whether it be on a Linux-based operating system, UNIX or Windows, I always have one or two command line terminals open to make my life easier; so be warned that this posting may be a bit biased.

Second, I do not care what a Microsoft Windows user has to say. Even in a Windows operating system, there are those cases when things are accomplished a lot more efficiently on the command line. That is, dealing with network connections via ipconfig, managing storage devices via diskpart to even reconfiguring your power settings via powercfg and more. There are just some things that is much more easily accomplished from the command line in Windows than it is with their graphical interface.

This also includes automation via the traditional DOS-style batching or even with a higher level interpreter such as Python or Perl. When forced to use nothing but Windows in the corporate world, I would always have an installation of Cygwin on the system and prefer working out of that instead.

But a normal user will never have to deal with this in Windows and again that same user would never have to deal with it in Linux; but most of the people I have been hearing complain is the Windows IT administrator. They routinely ask: “Why should I have to open up the command line to do XYZ?” My first response to them has always been, “and you never opened up the command line to release/renew your IP settings with ipconfig?”

Let us stop playing games here and realize that the CLI is not what is hurting Linux’ advancement. The countless amount of graphical interfaces provide all of the general functionality that most basic users rely on. Do these same users use a CLI when configuring their routers, settings television programs to record on their DVRs, manage their applications on their Android products, etc.? Nope. Linux has already proven itself to be very useful without the CLI.

Now the question is, how do we move past these age-old stereotypes and move ahead? Is Google pioneering the way with the Android and what is the, soon to be available, Chrome OS? Is Canonical pioneering the way with Ubuntu? What can we do to defeat these stereotypes and bring Linux to the mainstream? Marketing (since none really exists outside of magazine and Internet advertisements)? I am just tired of reading the same complaints. The CLI is never going to disappear (even on Windows). The GUI is just going to get better but will always lack in the productivity and efficiency brought forth by the CLI. It is what it is, so let us now move on.

A good trivia question: What technology has Microsoft been the first to market?

September 1st, 2010 8 comments

I am currently employed with a large global company, working in a division that strictly focuses on embedded Linux development. Earlier this week, during our lunch hour, as one would expect with a predominantly Linux crowd, we had engaged in a conversation on the following question: What technology has Microsoft been the first to market? And of those technologies, which was developed by Microsoft? The only thing that came to mind was the family of FAT file systems. Early on, they dabbled with UNIX (i.e. XENIX – which was sold to SCO), then acquiring a company for their implementation of DOS. The graphical desktop predates Windows. Their Microsoft Office suite was far from original. None of their hardware technologies were unique (Xbox, Zune, etc.). C# and the .Net framework is just their (re-)implementation of Java (after the whole Sun Microsystems and J++/Visual Studio 6 incident). So I ask the reader: What technology has Microsoft invented to be the first to market?

If their only real product-based contribution to the technology world is FAT, then their is something to be said about the company: they have a damn good marketing team. Who would have thought that a permission-less, fragmentation-prone, non-journaling and pretty much featureless of a file system has been used for the better part of the past 2-3 decades. And the signs of it disappearing are nowhere in site.

Categories: Microsoft, Misc Tags:

Re: Apple. Will history repeat itself?

July 22nd, 2010 3 comments

I have been thinking about this for a short time now. I have been spending some time studying the computing market at various levels and across varying technologies; most recently the focus was more on the mobile computing industry. But before I dive into some of my personal opinions I want to revisit some brief events throughout history:

From the late 70′s to the 80′s Apple markets personal computers with a proprietary operating system tied to its proprietary hardware. They charge high prices in exchange for a feature rich and an evolving simplified UI. During this time period Microsoft is providing their software solutions as a software only company.

Originally built on MS-DOS (with the first stable release in 1985), Microsoft distributes Windows for the Intel architecture. Over time, they pushed a radical idea of providing an operating system that was not tied to specific proprietary hardware. This enabled many hardware manufacturers to install and distribute licensed copies of the operating system. Although not as advanced as Apple’s OS UI, it was just good enough to get most people to become more productive.

Cheaper hardware + Hardware independent software = Cheaper PCs = Microsoft’s success of the desktop market

Truth be told. You did (and still do) get what you pay for. Microsoft’s applications and series of operating systems were never necessarily well known for stability and security. Overall, their approach to business made sense for its time.

But what do you have now? The focus has shifted to mobility. A lot of applications are now provided services over the web (i.e. the cloud) and our mobile devices provide us access to these services. For the past decade Apple has made a huge comeback and found itself a market which has been leading to its recent success. Although, they continue to push their proprietary model on all their products.

While other companies are competing with Apple, the most noteworthy is Google (indirectly via its ad-based model) and specifically the Android operating system. Google has taken more of an open approach to how Android is presented but in the end, similar to Microsoft with Windows, it is designed to run on varying hardware platforms. With a nice UI (maybe not always as crisp and clean as the iPhone’s OS) and a constantly growing Market with tens of thousands of applications to choose from, Android has proven itself to be a very worthy competitor. Its market growth numbers have reflected this and Android is significantly catching up to the power players of the smart phone industry.

My question is: Is Apple doomed to repeat its own history? Should we continue to expect Apple market share growth? Or will this plateau as more and more Android devices flood the market offering more affordable and feature rich mobile computing experiences?

Categories: BSD, Linux, Microsoft, UNIX Tags:

Compatible with…(insert operating system)

June 10th, 2010 16 comments

I don’t get it. Or maybe I am not expected to understand it. Yesterday I went to a local Best Buy retail store to pick up a USB Flash Drive. After doing a quick price comparison I ended up purchasing the Geek Squad (the Best Buy) branded product. The next day I took the device into work and just as I was about to open it I quickly glanced at the back of the package and noticed:

Compatible with Windows 2000 SP4/Windows XP/Windows Vista/ Windows 7, Mac OS 10.x and above.

What about Linux? Coincidentally this device was getting plugged into and used only by a Fedora Linux system. Now I know that this would have worked (despite the package’s information) and not have any problems with ANY Linux and for the most part almost all UNIX -based operating systems. The device (as all other USB Flash Drives) are labeled with a FAT32 file system and Linux, like any other OS kernel can read a FAT32 labeled volume with no problems. On top of that, most mainstream distributions (if not all) enable automount and an auto open of USB storage devices. The user doesn’t need to do it themselves, similar to Windows and the Mac OS. So what is the problem? Why couldn’t the package say “Linux 2.6 and above” or something to that extent?

You would think from a marketing point-of-view it would have been wise to place this on the package for individuals new to the world of Linux and unsure about a few things. Maybe someone new to Ubuntu or Mint or even SUSE just got a netbook with a preloaded Linux-based image on it. They are looking to find some hardware compatible with it and wait a minute the Geek Squad USB Flash Drives sold at Best Buy do not say that they will work. There is a lost sale.

Some of you may think that this is not such a big deal and that I am thinking too deep into this. I don’t disagree. I am thinking too deep into this, but it is only because I am still surprised when I come across things like this. For instance, not too long ago I was looking at laser printers and guess what some said on it (I specifically remember Lexmark):

…compatible with Linux

I remember buying a pack of labels to print names and addresses, guess what the package of labels said on the back:

…compatible with Linux

The list goes on. Whether end-user market share for Linux is 1%, 0.01% or 100%, manufacturers need to get used to the fact that its market share is creeping up especially with the huge influence Linux holds on mobile devices. For instance, when the Android-based tablets come out, people are going to be looking for:

…compatible with Linux” or “…compatible with Android

Categories: Linux, Microsoft, UNIX Tags:

Mozilla Wish List.

May 12th, 2010 4 comments

As long as I can remember I had been using the Netscape web browser which evolved to Mozilla and now Firefox. I still use Firefox and have grown so comfortable with it that I don’t really desire to move onto anything else. Needless to say, Mozilla’s products are not perfect and there is always room for additional features and what I believe to be necessities in order to function in today’s world of computing.

For instance, I wish there was more of a concentrated effort to bring additional usability and manageability of these same Mozilla products (i.e. Firefox, Thunderbird, to even the SeaMonkey suite) where it can truly compete with Microsoft to even IBM’s Lotus in the professional world.

In this initial example I will choose to focus Lotus Notes and SameTime. This application was built around enterprise productivity. Everything is integrated in such a way where I do not only have the ability to work from my e-mail but through SameTime I can easily connect to the same directory of individuals for instant IM messaging. Google saw an advantage to such an approach and had it integrated into their GMAIL web client. So how difficult would it be to have Thunderbird do the same thing? Now, SeaMonkey may be a better candidate for this integration (as it resembles more of what Netscape used to be) but nobody really knows of its existence.

Another example is the way Microsoft integrates all of its products together to provide a complete solution. If I am using Internet Explorer and I click on something that requires Powerpoint, Excel or something else Microsoft developed, there are no problems in opening up those files and working with them in a new tab of my web browser. It could be beneficial for Mozilla to partner up with Oracle and provide similar transparent integration into their products with Star Office and OpenOffice.org. In fact, what is stopping Red Hat, Canonical, Novell or even Oracle from developing such integration modules in their workstation solutions? I always found it annoying that when I click on a PDF file to open it up in a new tab, it runs outside of the browser instead (unless I were to install a third party developed plug-in most of which are written for Microsoft Windows anyways).

Other things that I would like to see Mozilla work on is better management for corporate environments. Internet Explorer has a centralized managed infrastructure in that it can be controlled using Group Policies across an entire network emphasizing consistency. If you need to change the settings across all web browsers in your network, IE makes that easy and realistic. It is not realistic to e-mail co-worker HOWTOs (especially if they do not have the required permissions) nor is it realistic to visit or remote into every node to address those same changes. This form of management also includes patching/upgrading the browser/e-mail clients. Sometimes this needs to be controlled on a corporate basis as opposed to an individual user.

Mozilla has been doing an excellent job in conquering their fair percentage of market share. All without the billions of dollars dumped into marketing (as seen by their competitors). They are a known household name. A lot of end users know what Firefox is. To move on to the next best thing, I feel they need to start concentrating more on the corporate world.

Will Linux succeed through the Android OS?

April 8th, 2010 5 comments

Last week I finally dumped my Blackberry smartphone and got myself one of the Verizon Droid phones; specifically the Droid Eris. I was waiting for the Nexus One to come to Verizon Wireless for quite some time and when I read that it was to be offered through Google only (unlocked and without a contract deal) for $530, I said forget about it. I will go to the store instead and get one of the Droid phones (Motorola Droid & HTC Droid Eris).

Although it is the slightly outdated version 1.5 of the Android OS, I have been spending the past 2 weeks enjoying my new phone and looking forward to the 2.1 upgrade expected by the end of the month. I will admit that during this period, the coolest application I found on the Android Market was the Google Sky Map which I recommend to anyone and everyone.

Anyways, back to the main point of this post, the past weeks gave me much to think about with regards to the future of Linux. Every year we always hear that “this is the year of Linux Desktop” and yet are surprised that nothing has changed from the years prior. Sure Linux is growing on the end user base but it is a very small growth; almost unnoticeable. Looking at it from a positive angle, portions of this growth is a result of the efforts from such identities like Canonical, with their Ubuntu distribution to even the re-spins like Linux Mint, etc. making it more user friendly for Linux newbies. It is also worth noting that distributions like Fedora (Red Hat based) to even openSUSE have also done excellent work in increasing usability on top of performance and appearance. But my question is, where do they stand in the grand scheme of things? Sure these distributions have a future and a strong one at that. I won’t stop using Fedora, Debian or Ubuntu. But deep down, do I believe that they will get the huge market share that they rightfully deserve? No. At least not in the very near future.

What I do see is a trend started by companies like Google and Apple. The trend focus on mobility and portability. Less and less users are running out and buying desktop machines. This idea seemed to have died rendering the concept of a desktop to become obsolete years ago. The focus has been more on the low-cost laptop and netbook devices. On top of that Google does something that they are well known for and it is the idea of creating and promoting a name. For instance, Google is used everywhere to reference the company, their products and even in the form of a verb to search for information. I feel that the same thing may happen with the Android Operating System. The end user market knows what the Android is; not necessarily caring what exists under the hood (i.e the Linux kernel). Android usage has been growing at a rapid rate and provides the majority of functionality that a standard end-user needs with a huge listing of applications offered. Here is an interesting fact: Android enabled phones have jumped from 2% market share in February 2009 to 24% market share of February 2010 (of smartphones).

As of the past 6 months or so, Google has been hyping up their new Chrome OS to be used on low-powered mobile internet device (MID) such as netbooks and possibly lightweight tablet PCs. For those who do not know the details, it is basically a browser running on top of the Linux kernel. The browser desktop environment provides some interesting concepts but will it ever captivate the end user audience enough to dump the one over the other or will it be, at the most, a dual boot option for a quick boot to the Internet?

I for one see a lot more potential with the Android. Maybe customize the desktop to cater to a netbook or tablet PC. Port the Google Chrome web browser over to the OS. Add quick launch apps for Google Docs and then call it a day. I do see success of Linux at the end user market. I feel confident that they will leave Microsoft behind in a cloud of smoke; seeing how Microsoft still focuses on the obsolete desktop environment with some efforts moving slowly toward the cloud. Slowly the “year of the Linux desktop” idea will disappear as more and more individuals focus more on mobility and begin to use web enabled devices and eventually bring on the “year of the Linux MID”.

My question to everyone is: Do you still think Linux has a chance (moving away from the idea of the desktop and focus more on the MID)?

Categories: Linux, Microsoft Tags:

My frustration with Internet Explorer.

February 28th, 2010 7 comments

It is hard to believe that Microsoft’s Internet Explorer still has the majority of market share in the web browser world (62.12%). I am just glad to see the rising popularity of Mozilla Firefox (24.43%), Google Chrome (5.22%) to even others such as Apple Safari (4.53%), Opera (2.38%), etc. Whenever I spend time to do various Javascript to even CSS development for various dynamic webpages, I am always held back by the non-compliant Internet Explorer. Today I will be picking IE8 as it is the latest and greatest from Microsoft.

For instance, I was doing some Javascript development earlier in the day yesterday morning and IE8 would fail on the following code:

<script language="javascript" type="text/javascript">
    grabURL=window.location.href.split("?");
    if(grabURL[1] == null)
        window.location = 'error.html';
    [ ... ]
</script>

Specifically it would fail on the line of code changing the window’s location. I am not looking for any answers or workaround in this blog entry. I am merely venting off some frustration. Why does Firefox, Chrome, Opera and Safari not see any problems with this perfectly legal piece of code and Internet Explorer errors on it? Also, the error never gives a detailed enough reason as to what it had a problem with exactly.

I come across this kind of thing all the time. The above sample of code is one of many I have had to hack around for IE. It becomes very difficult to take the browser seriously but at the same time it is hard not to since they still own a good chunk of browser share.

Categories: Microsoft Tags:

The Disposable PC.

February 16th, 2010 14 comments

I was just having a conversation with a colleague when we had gotten to the topic of the disposable PC.  If you are not familiar with the concept, this post will highlight the details below. When I first dabbled with computers back in the late 80′s, it was an Apple. We didn’t own it. It was available at the local school in the school’s computer lab of no more than 25-30 computers. They were running the Apple IIe and even though they were outdated at the time, they didn’t have the finances to upgrade the systems. By the time the 90′s hit I was already well acquainted with Macintosh line of PCs but again our family didn’t own any. All computers were just too expensive. At around 1995 (maybe a little earlier) our family dropped nearly $2,000 (USD) into a Packard Bell (rated as one of the worst PCs of all time). I am going off of memory but it ran no more than 70 MHz (Intel Pentium) and had no more than 8 or 16 MBytes of EDO RAM. I don’t remember the hard drive space, although I believe it was 2 GBytes supplied from one of the old school big foot drives. The PC came with Windows 3.11 but was soon later upgraded to Windows 95.

Note that I still use those big foot drives. I actually have a few scattered around the house and are used as door stops. It is all about recycling old computer equipment.

So there you have it, that is what almost $2000 bought you. So when you had a problem with your PC, you spent the money to fix. That is you bought all the necessary software or paid the appropriate technicians to handle all of the work. The PC was an investment and you were not going to drop it for anything else.

Flash forward to the year 2001, when Windows XP was released. A decent computer could be purchased as low as $700 USD. That included a licensed copy of Windows XP. Flash forward to the present when mobility is a constant demand, and a decent notebook or even netbook could be purchased at $500 USD. Obviously thanks to manufacturers such as Intel, AMD among others, the prices for hardware components have dropped significantly. It is very affordable to acquire the necessary equipment and has gotten easier to set it up in a home or anywhere else.

When I write about the disposable PC, blame for the creation and maintaining of such a culture does not belong to a single entity. It has gotten to the point where hardware has become so cheap that whenever someone who lacks any real technical knowledge comes across a computing problem (whether it be hardware or software related) has no problem running out and purchasing a new replacement. Microsoft and retail stores add to this culture.

For instance, what happens when you (a non-technical person) are prompted with a bunch of error dialog boxes, a virus or a system crash? If you do not personally know anybody who can fix it, you will take it in to a retail store that offers PC repair services, such as Best Buy. The only reason why I pick on Best Buy is not because I harbor any negative feelings toward them (they are a business selling services and products) but instead because in the late 90′s to around 2001/2 I used to work for them and was familiar with the processes and routines when it came to PC repair.

Note that prices may have changed since then.

To diagnose a PC, it was $60. We would not have repaired the PC, even if the problem was apparent unless this diagnostics fee was paid in full. This $60 was never applied toward any other repairs either. So if we came back saying that your hard drive went bad and you need to replace it and reinstall the OS, you looked at spending another $120 for a hard drive, $60 to re image Windows followed by another $20 or more to install all Windows Updates and/or any other applications or device drivers. Add another $60 if we were able to salvage data from your old hard drive and transfer it to the new one. At times you were looking to spend over $320 for repairing a PC. This could have been more than half the price of buying a new PC. So why invest into something that is already outdated? And if the service prices have increased since then, then what is the point when you can spend $400 or less and get a netbook with a Linux distribution or Windows 7 pre-installed?

Some of you may be asking: how does Microsoft fit into this? Deep down, I believe that more than half of the problems in Windows are intentional primarily because Microsoft (and good for them) is a money making machine. In order for them to make money, the people that sell and repair their products have to make money. I am pretty sure that if Microsoft wanted to invest the time and money to create the most secure and stable operating system, they could. They don’t have idiots working for them. I think it is that “if you scratch my back, I will scratch yours mentality.” It also doesn’t help that whenever a call is placed to a support center or when a PC is brought into a repair shop, the solution usually given by the technician is to re-image Windows. If I have a virus, why can’t you just remove the virus and I will be on my way?

I, as many of my readers, on the other hand know better and choose to rely on something a lot more stable and secure with (insert flavor of Linux or UNIX here). Why be bothered with constantly having to maintain or repair your OS. Sometimes you just need things to work. Maybe that is why you read stories about how repair shops such as Best Buy’s will refuse the repair of a computing device if you are not running a version of Windows. They probably don’t see any money it.

Categories: Linux, Microsoft Tags:

FlexTk article: NAS Performance Comparison

October 8th, 2009 Comments off

Linked from linuxtoday.com, I found an interesting article posted on FlexTk regarding NAS Performance Comparisons between Linux, Windows and OpenSolaris. The results are very interesting. Under each category, comparisons are drawn between:

  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.3 (64-bit)
  • Ubuntu Server 9.04 (64-bit)
  • OpenSolaris 2009.06 (64-bit)
  • Windows Server 2003 (64-bit)
  • Windows Server 2008 (64-bit)
  • Windows Storage Server 2008 (64-bit)

I assume that each operating system is utilizing the default file systems with default settings for that specific release. Red Hat and Ubuntu should be using Ext3-fs, Windows obviously uses NTFS while OpenSolaris is built on top of ZFS. The CIFS/NFS exported share(s) in turn are running on top of these defaulted file systems. Either way, with average overall performance, OpenSolaris seemed to really shine. It also did well in some of the other categories which made sense when knowing the design of the ZFS file system.

Finding Easter Eggs…

September 18th, 2009 3 comments

Yesterday afternoon I was really bored at work and had eventually navigated to a website dedicated to Easter Eggs that could be found on an operating system, software application and more. Naturally I went to the list of operating systems and started looking up the operating systems which were accessible to me. As I read through the Linux and UNIX related ones, I had already known some but there were a few that I was interested in trying.

Seeing how I was on an OpenSolaris laptop I decided to first look through the SunOS list. Unfortunately none of them seemed to work. It would appear that they were taken out. But I did remember one from many years ago that a friend (Marian Lakov) had shown me. Originally found on an installation of RHEL, it was in the man page for the xorg.conf file.

man page for xorg.conf 

Listed under the VIDEOADAPTER SECTION you will read the following: Nobody wants to say how this works. Maybe nobody knows…

If you know of any hidden secret(s) that is not listed on the site posted earlier, please feel free to share.