Elementary OS – Feeling like paying them?

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I’ve advocated Linux and free software for years.  I still do.

Over the years I’ve also stated many times that proprietary software (and indeed software running on any other license) is fine with me, so long as the user is aware of the limitations and potential consequences of such licence.  That to me is choice, choice on the back of an informed decision and its also choice for the developers.

Elementary OS has a press release on their blog asking users to consider what they pay (or don’t pay) when they download their operating system.

we’ve decided to revise how we promote and handle payments. 

Now the first point is there is nothing wrong with charging money for work and time invested in a project.  Nothing at all.  Elementary OS is fully within its right to want to pay people for the time and work they have put in.  That’s fine.  Where I see the problem is when requests or payment start becoming more of a play on guilt, rather than a request for support.  Let me explain.

I firstly don’t use Elementary OS and certainly for the people over the years I’ve installed Linux for, there are far better (or at least just as good) distro’s in my opinion.  But that’s academic, people do use Elementary OS and I’m sure there are many happy users of it.

We want users to understand that they’re pretty much cheating the system when they choose not to pay for software. We didn’t exclude a $0 button to deceive you; we believe our software really is worth something.

And if I hadn’t read it on the Elemental OS page I wouldn’t have believed it.   Users who don’t/can’t pay are “pretty much” cheating the system?  Fine.  Don’t let them.  Don’t let a user get something for free if you don’t think they should and want paying.  Make it a purchase download.  Have the Elemental OS developers confidence in their product to do this?  It seems not, because if they truly think people are cheating the system by getting something for free then they should remove the ability to get it for free.  Whilst they give a reason for this, we can look at it later in the article.

If you are about to buy a new car and the salesperson says “well you can pay ##### for it or you can get it for free” which one will people choose in the main?  Its a perfectly normal reaction for people to seek out the cheaper option to save money and that goes no matter what pay scale you are on.   There are of course people who will pay regardless and to them any developer should be grateful.

This maybe highlights a big issue of open source software.  Whilst its turning out some of the best packages, there comes a time when someone, somewhere wants paying.  It’s the way of the world and until such time we live in a Star Trek future, things are not going to change.

I would love a world where all software was open source, available to all, but I understand why Elementary OS would want payment.  What I disagree with is the approach they take.  If for a minute all distro’s went pay only and I was buying one, it wouldn’t be Elementary OS.  I’ve my favourites and that isn’t one of them.

And it’s not like we’re making money to buy yachts;

And after the “cheating” comment, we seem to have a justification, is this saying “Hey, give us some cash, we are not living lavish lifestyles here” – fine, develop software elsewhere then.  Better yet, write your own OS from scratch, make it great and then you can have the yachts and you can “rightfully” retain the source code for yourselves.

It’s about asking a fair price to offset the costs of development. It’s about securing the future of elementary OS to ensure we can keep making software that millions of people love and use every day.

Millions of people? Where does this figure come from?  Total downloads? How do they know?  – I don’t want to get into a debate about how many desktop linux users there are on the planet, but looking at Distro Watch as an indicator (non scientific) it ranks Elementary as 9 (and down 900 views)  If the “millions of people love and use” had been referring to Mint I may have agreed.  I would go as far as to say if Mint was a forced purchase and Elementary OS was completely gratis, I’d go for Mint every time.

Another comment, seeming to me to be made in haste:

While we could rightfully disallow free downloads, someone else could take our open source code, compile it, and give it away for free. So there’s no point in completely disallowing it.

Let me change that a little.  Firstly let me ask Elementary to re-read the license.  Then they can add the word “rightfully” to the part that says “give it away for free” also.    And to be fair, I don’t think people would go to the bother of compiling the code and releasing OS free, with so many distro choices, it would be just another re-invention of the wheel and I can’t think of any feature Elementary OS has that is unique to the distro and hankered after by users that couldn’t be adequately accommodated in another distro.    Maybe someone can help there?  I can’t believe its Desktop is the unique feature/selling point in a world where we are migrating rapidly towards the web-based for all but the most traditional of packages. (Talking mainstream users now)

Most of the open source world is similar; Inkscape and GIMP

Distro’s are 10 a penny I’d suggest and in my view Elementary OS is not the definitive desktop Linux distro.   With Inkscape and GIMP all the developers efforts are focused to one project, that one project appears on many distro’s and other platforms.  The idea of contributing to the GIMP devs, I’d suggest is very different to that of a distro, where I’d guess if you used 1 different distro every day for a year you’d still have some left over at the New Year party.  Is that a bad thing in my view?  Not at all.  But putting this sort of approach on your users is a little out of order in my view because they have so much already to choose from.

If we want to see the world of open source software grow, we should encourage users to pay for its development; ……..or developers will have to resort to backdoor deals and advertising.

Reality check here.  The world of open source is growing and its not growing by distro’s or software putting on a guilt trip to their users.   There are many who will find ways to make money from it and best of luck to them, but lets not assume that anyone who comes along and “makes a few changes” is welcome to financial reward.  If you want something from your work, get a job working in a proprietary software house, release proprietary software.  Don’t start working on open source projects and then complain when you’re not getting the lifestyle of Bill Gates.  And back-door deals? what is that supposed to mean? advertising? shovelware? or are you playing on the paranoia of some that certain distro’s can and will be infected by government code set to spy?  Are the Elementary OS team suggesting that if you don’t pay we have a future of shady government deals with code set to intrude on your private life?  Just what are they saying from vague warning they give?

All quotes are from the Elementary OS blog:

The Atari 2600, Stella 3.9.3 & What was wrong with us in the 80’s?

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The 80's.  Great times, great haircuts. And great computing? Read on!
The 80’s. Great times, great haircuts. And great computing? Who didn’t want a Hoff haircut? Read on!

I was born in the mid 70’s and consider myself lucky to have enjoyed the 80’s with the introduction to our home of the Atari 2600.  Like many people reading this article, those will be fond memories of hours spent in-front of a TV playing Space Invader type clones.  It’s funny, just like when you watch old television footage peoples hairstyles and clothes give away the age, so do computer game titles.  Anyone fancy a game of “Room of Doom”? Now, what do you think? Is that a PS3 release or an Atari 2600 one?

For those people who want to relive those memories, help is at hand with Stella – not the drinking sort that keeps me awake all night I hasten to add, but the software which gives you Atari 2600 emulation on your Linux, Apple or Windows PC.

This article is split into two parts, the first being a look at the latest release of Stella (3.9.3) and then I’m going to look a little into what games we were playing in the 80’s and asking the question, what was wrong with us in the 80’s? How were we able to spend so much time with these “games”.  First though lets look at Stella (and if you are not so much into technology talk, skip to the second section)

The Stella package is tiny (around 3mb to install) with a simple but functional UI which allows you to select which directories you wish to load your Atari roms from.  This comes as something of a relief for me as a Linux user, as all too often, upon installing an emulator project, you find there’s no generic UI and have to go to the bother of choosing and configuring a 3rd party one, or worse, mess around in the CLI trying to find the directory in which the roms are supposed to be placed then running the emulator with a plethora of options & flags or if you are very lucky, having a .cfg file to modify.

Using the CLI is not for the expert user, its simple, its just a major pain for the majority of people who see one click fixes for things on other operating systems and have no need for the “power” of the CLI.  I say that not as someone who doesn’t use the CLI, but as someone who has introduced many new users and non-tech interested folk to Linux over the years, who upon seeing a requirement to delve in the CLI go running for the hills.

So rant aside, in very little time you have Stella set up.  It seems to default on standard settings to get you up and running and to be fair you are not going to need to be playing around with them much.  You can of course use your joypad, you can configure all manner of graphical options (and run the emulator full screen) and you can also tweak the system so that it performs at its best.  At this point I’ll say, if you need to tweak the options to get a decent framerate out of this emulator then its time you got rid of your machine, even the oldest of PC’s should have no problems emulating an Atari 2600 and if you find you need to frame-skip to get the emulation running at 100% then take your machine to the natural history museum, where it can sit in with pride next to a skeleton of a Velociraptor.

The recent release has fixed some bugs, from the site:

  • Added bankswitch schemes BF, BFSC, DF, DFSC and 4KSC, thanks to RevEng and CPUWIZ of AtariAge.
  • Updated ROM properties for several ROMs, thanks to Omegamatrix of AtariAge.
  • Fixed program crash when specifying a bankswitch type that Stella didn’t recognize; an error message is now displayed.

And if you are scratching your head after that, just nod and pretend you understand.  Suffice to say fixed bugs = good and take it on good faith that these enhance your experience, even if you’ve not the first clue what they are.

Stella is a very accurate emulator of the old Atari system, easy to use and there’s no reason why you should need any other emulator when Stella accommodates most requirements.  Its a mature package too and even when I reviewed Puppy Arcade (which was a few years ago) Atari emulation was pretty much complete.  It is unlikely you will have any problems with its game library.

What was wrong with us in the 80’s?

Running Stella for more than 10 minutes, may like me have you asking the same question.  In those days computers/consoles and gaming in the home was a new thing and that was great, but how on earth were we able to sit through hour long sessions playing these games when, to be fair they are crap.

It's the Room of Doom running on Stella in Peppermint 4 - What other gaming treats await you within the Atari 2600 library?
It’s the Room of Doom running on Stella in Peppermint 4 – What other gaming treats await you within the Atari 2600 library?

Before you say “don’t use the crap word” or “thats computer history”, I use that word intentionally for effect.  Lets look at this for a moment, regardless of this computing experience in the home being new at the time, the games hardly offered any substance.  Were our brains less developed in those days and even though we were blissfully unaware of what 30 years later would be computing in the home, did our simple minds find frogger et al enough to keep us occupied?

My trip down memory lane playing some of these games lasted all of about 2 minutes.  Dodgy graphics, even dodgier AI and code so predictable (in the case of the bowling game) you could get a strike on every go just by knowing where to place your man.  Why didn’t we see this at the time? Why, at the very least didn’t we say “this is all very predictable and shallow” even though we had never conceived of the idea of GTA or COD?

Apparently there are Atari 2600 enthusiasts, which is something else I cannot fathom.  I can understand collectors, thats different and I know many people who collect retro computers, but are there really people out there deriving fun from ET or the 2600 version of Commando where our “tough” hero loses a life if he touches a building? I don’t remember Arnie having such issues in the film.  Are there people playing “Room of Doom” clapping their hands with excitement as they “progress” further in the game? – I hope not, I really hope not.

For quirky value Stella is excellent, but can I suggest if you start spending hours playing these titles, you calmly get up from your PC and do something else, because if you are having “fun”, there’s something very wrong.  If I have spare time (and thats a rarity) I would not be spending it reliving my Atari days and if I was going to spend it playing games, I’d go to my Playstation.

I do have one observation.  Whilst our 80’s selves may have been happy with mind-numbing shallow games, we were a more patient person.  Try getting far in any of the Atari games – and if you can prevent your brain from melting as its drawn into a quatum singularity of shallowness. they are damn hard.  We now demand more indepth and complex gaming, but it seems the difficulty level has been dropped over the years. All the way through to 16bit computing, I cannot remember completing a game.  Fast forward to today and completing a game is almost a given when you buy that new title.

There’s a little irony in an open source emulator such as Stella, since it is the antithesis of open source in a way – it’s designed to run proprietary software.  Whilst there may be a few hobbyist coders who will be playing about with the system, it doesn’t change the fact that the majority of people will be using this to play proprietary, the big “evil” of the open source world.

I hope you have enjoyed my trip down memory lane courtesy of Stella 3.9.3 and hope you will take it as a slightly tongue in cheek poke at retro computing on the Atari 2600.

The worrying thing is, will we look back in another 30 years and scoff the gaming of today in the same way?

I hope so, I’m still waiting for Holodeck technology to be developed – but that’s another story.

Linux Distro’s, FOSS and the advocates behind them – Some food for thought?

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Since 2008 when OpenBytes was created as a platform to highlight the benefits of GNU/Linux and FOSS itself, little did I know that even though I’ve always kept a foot in the door for the new user (and certainly not gone down the “all or nothing” route some advocates have taken) I too was guilty of forgetting that a “simple to use Distro” is maybe simple to anyone who has had more than a small interest in computers, but the vast majority of people who use their computers have no interest in what’s going on under the hood.   They have no interest in source code (if they even know what it is) and do not see the advantages of FOSS because in their computing lifetime they will not see any benefit to them.  Of course you can argue that even if the end-user is unaware of what FOSS is, they are still unknowingly, gaining benefits of updates, forks or whatever in the future.

I would hope people read the whole (if somewhat long) article because these are my conclusions of many years advocating FOSS and Linux, talking to (and forming good friendships) with the people involved.  I think you will find, if you look back over my years of views that my opinions documented here are no different from those in 2008.  Is this a closure article now my writing interests are diversifying? No, not at all.  For those that don’t know, I’m currently awaiting a release date for my novel and I’m still focused on technology and FOSS, I merely now have less time to dedicate to a subject which is very dear to me.  Over the years I’ve met many advocates of free software, some good and some rather bad.  Bad for many reasons but I do notice a large amount of self claimed “advocates” who have no online presence (except for their posts in forums) who would have you believe in an all or nothing approach and if you can look past their hypocritical (and sometimes vulgar) opinions, I find these people as harmful to would be new Linux and FOSS users as the ones who do anything they can to prevent people using it.

This article has been inspired somewhat by a group of people who for many years (for reasons unknown) have targeted Linux newsgroups and forums with the sole purpose of disrupting the advocacy that occurs.  These “people” will use any means necessary in order to do that and looking at the amount of posts they make all day every day, one has to conclude that either they have a financial interest in free software being hobbled in the eyes of the mainstream, or worse, they merely have nothing else to do but post all day.  One chap in particular who I believe falls into the later category has recently (on top of thousands of words in posts daily) taken to making videos to highlight these “major issues” with Linux.  Now just what an allegedly married man with kids and a computer business is thinking of spending so much time in this way is anyone’s guess but it did help to inspire this article.

Let me give an example of this “man’s” work.  Recently he took to posting a video showing that using KDE and Dolphin file manager, if you put a file to trash then replaced it back to where it came from (in that example the desktop) you couldn’t edit it because of its privileges been changed to read only.  Having not had a need in the past myself this came as a surprise, so I tried it on one of my rig’s.  XFCE DE and PCManFM.  The issue was not emulated and the read/write privileges for that file remained intact, however this example proves two things.  Firstly the depth some people will go to in order to discredit free software and two, for the casual user of tech, did you even understand what I meant by all this?

Who is Linux aimed at?

Most distro’s would boast that they are aimed at new user and expert alike.  Now there are many types of Linux user – the seasoned expert, the casual “know enough” user and the brand spanking new non tech interested user who merely wants to do whatever they do on the computer without having to think about whats running underneath.

Most distro’s hit two of those groups well.  The expert doesn’t need any assistance at all and the casual user has usually dabbled enough to know exactly what they need to do.  The brand new user is a completely different kettle of fish so to speak and this is where Linux fails.

Lets look at Peppermint which is a distro I think very highly of.  Installation was very simple, however it was very simple to someone who has installed Linux before and been presented with less user-friendly options.  Think of one of your non-tech interested friends who use computers regularly – that might even be you reading this article now.  What’s a proprietary driver? Peppermint for example makes it very easy to install these, but if you are not interested in computing, would you know what this meant?  – This is but one example where advocacy and Linux distro’s need to take ownership and realize that if they are to appeal to the mainstream user, these things must be clear, simple and to the point, otherwise it’s another facet of Linux which is a barrier to a new user adopting it.

Whilst the example of file permissions video is an extreme example of a business owner (allegedly) who seems to have more free time than business, it does highlight another issue of Linux – conformity.  I am unclear as to if his discovery is a bug, or maybe some well-intentioned feature, but if indeed it is a feature which the mainstream user wanted, it’s a barrier straight away.

But Linux choice is great?

Absolutely.  I like the fact that I can use KDE on my higher spec’d machine and XFCE where resources are limited – And see? There we go again, advocacy of choice – baffling to anyone wanting to try a different OS for a better experience.  Lets give another example.  I had a friend who wanted to try Linux – mainly because they had been told the experience would be faster than the one they were experiencing currently.  They had performed a little research themselves beforehand and discovered that Linux is sometimes called Ubuntu, sometimes Mint, maybe Sabayon – You get the idea.  Now if the concept of  “flavours” of Linux is not baffling enough, you then have mention of DE’s, file managers and all manner of choices. – All this is great for people who know what this stuff is, but I’d suggest that about 90% of the desktop users have no interest in these things and merely want their computer to perform a task, they may want a faster experience or a more secure one, but as to what is going on underneath, whether the software is proprietary or not, is of no concern.  The majority of users have one computing requirement: “It does what I want it to as quickly as possible and no problems”.  Anything less than this from an OS that is different from the one they’ve used for years and they will go running back to that which they previously used – better the devil you know.

Ethical Software

Proprietary drivers are a good example.  Lets forget about gaming, but on all the rigs I’ve run and installed Linux on, the better performance comes from using proprietary drivers.  Sorry if that offends some people.  Sorry if that’s “evil”, but its the fact.  In fact my experience of the free drivers has been a hit and miss affair.  Whilst I advocate free software, I’m not prepared to gloss over the fact that (certainly on all the set-ups I’ve used) proprietary drivers have performed better.  Now you tell me, if you were to introduce Linux and free software to your Windows using neighbour, would they be interested in listening to a talk on free software and then not having proprietary software in favour of “ethical” software?  I’m sorry – The mainstream are not interested.  Who cares? It’s software? – To be fair to their apathy towards software ethics there are more important things in this world to have a conscience about and even for me, an advocate and user of free software, the “evils” and the “ethics” of free software are well down the list of important issues in the world.

Richard Stallman – A help or hindrance?

There are fewer people who have done more to promote the benefits of free software than Richard Stallman.  Anyone who has followed Mr Stallmans work over the years will see that not only does he have a firm opinion but also sticks with what he says and lives his computing life exactly to his viewpoints with software – that in itself is something worthy of much praise and I hope in the future, he plays a very large part in the computing history books.  But in his dedications I certainly think there are flaws, not flaws in what he says, more flaws in what is expected by him.

In my view, the very last person to appeal to the mainstream non-tech interested user is Mr Stallman. This is not because he is rude or aggressive in his delivery, nor is he aloof or patronizing, its more his unswerving view towards everything which he regards as “ethical”.  For users of free software, Mr Stallman is interesting and provides much food for thought.  For a new user, I would guess he’s baffling, restrictive and certainly not promoting a desirable alternative to say Windows or Mac.  Let me explain.

If we agree that around 90% of the computer using populus have no tech interest, I think we can also say that the vast majority of those non-tech interested also like “fluff” – the bells and whistles that are provided on a new machine when they first switch it on.  Proprietary drivers running in the background, a few proprietary games.  I think you can imagine the type of system they will be running.

Now lets consider what RMS would “approve of” this is rather difficult for me since through the hours of footage I’ve seen of Mr Stallman, he seems more geared around what you shouldn’t use.  But lets imagine something which Mr Stallman would approve of, now imagine presenting that to your Windows using neighbour who doesn’t care about software ethics (or having source code to anything) once you imagine that, I would hope you can see the problem.

The Linux and FOSS world seem to me to be intrinsically linked together in a sort of “all or nothing” type world.  I argue that the reverse should be true.  Why not use Linux yet use proprietary software?  Why not say have a proprietary Operating System and use free software? – If I go to an open air music festival it doesn’t mean I want to wear flowers in my hair and live in a caravan near to Stonehenge.

So what is my answer?

Firstly I think that Linux advocacy needs to be directed at the new user who knows absolutely nothing and has no real interest.  Anyone who does know and you’re merely preaching to the converted.  It’s all well and good RMS talking about software ethics, but the only people he is reaching out to in my opinion are the ones who are already in the know and have made their own decisions.

I think the mainstream distro’s have a responsibility (even with their simple to use installation) to explain and take the users through the steps – the proprietary drivers being an example.  Maybe even have a two option installer, one for the total beginner and one for people whom are comfortable or already know?

I think we also need to speak softly in the ear of the “all or nothing” folk who preach the ethics of free software.  These people whilst get the favour and ear of those in the know do nothing to show the mainstream the value of coming over to Linux.  The aim should be to introduce new users slowly, not throw them in the digital deep and see if they sink.  People (believe it or not) can make up their own mind on where they stand on proprietary, after they have moved from a Windows or Mac machine to Linux.

Hypocrisy? – The Linux gaming and other questions.

Open source gaming can offer many hours of entertainment.  I have reviewed and played many RPG’s which are open source and they have been great.  But when considering the value of open source software, gaming should not be used as an example and I don’t think open source gaming will ever get mainstream penetration for the reasons I list below:

Most of the “popular” open source games are WIP’s.  Whilst the source is open for everyone, how many people have the skills to benefit from it? and why would a hardcore gamer (or a user whom gaming plays a large part in) want’s to play a game whose code (and game is in a state of flux).  People don’t go out and get Grand Theft Auto 5 with a promise “Don’t worry you’ll be able to ride motorcycles in the next version” or “We’ve got someone working on some great features, I know your gun doesn’t shoot straight, but next version we’ll have that sorted”.  Sure, proprietary gaming does have updates, there are sometimes massive problems with proprietary gaming, but as a rule, when you get the latest Grand Theft Auto or similar you get a complete game thats ready to go.  Todays gamer wants it now.  They want it complete.  Open Source gaming does not offer this and even if it did, if we take the popular Alien Arena (FPS) and put it on the PS3 against proprietary alternatives, would it be given a look in? I’d say no.

Many that call themselves open source advocates would disagree with me and list games which are open source and popular and I’ll agree, there are popular games but with todays gamers, can we honestly say Tux Racer offers something more than the experience they would get with say Mario Kart? Is there any benefit Tux Racer has being open source which would appeal or entice the mainstream gamer? I’d say no.  Sorry – the game has a team of dedicated hard-working contributors, the game itself is fun, but it in no way compares to a proprietary equivalent at all.  Want to argue? Try showing Tux Racer to your WII owning neighbour who plays Mario Kart, see what they say.

Now we come to the hypocrisy of some advocates of free software.  Free software is great? Open source is great? Well I’d agree and one of the most popular examples of free software is the emulator.  Retro computing from yesteryear that’s open source. Good idea? Well of course it is.  Emulators are being used in many Linux distro’s and in fact Puppy Arcade dedicates itself to emulating a plethora of old systems that you’ve heard of (and some that you havent).  The trouble is for the open source world is that whilst the popular emulators are open-source, the software which they are designed to run isnt.  A fact which gets conveniently overlooked by some.  It also highlights my point that if open source gaming is so great, how is it that emulators are far more popular and the software being run is proprietary?

The Raspberry PI has been hailed by many as a great piece of kit (and it is, without doubt) but even the PI is running (in some cases) proprietary software with use of emulators.  If your emulator is open source does that discount the “evil” proprietary? I’d say in the case of many of the FOSS advocates it does since they remain very quiet.  I’d expect a boycott of emulators (for the reasons stated above) from them, but instead we don’t get it. (Maybe they are too busy playing SNES Super Mario?)

The market share of Desktop Linux is always up on debate – and I care not for the actual figure.  For the purposes of this article, lets just say it’s between 1-10% (please don’t debate this figure it’s merely for illustration purposes of the point) and I think the contributing factor to the share remaining quite small is that the unrelenting “all or nothing” view pushed by some of the more vocal advocates.

“But open source software is better for the user because  there are no back doors people know exactly what the program is doing!”  Rubbish.  Let me take a current example to highlight this.  But lets firstly remove this myth.  Whilst yes, having the source available enables any back doors to be identified, for the majority of users how do you know that the software your package manager has installed is the same as the source? and even if it is, would you be able to trawl through the code and identify a back-door? I’d suggest the vast majority of open source users (even the experts) would have neither the time or expertise to do that.  It’s ok if you are running a simple little Python script to identify anything untoward, but a binary with thousands of pages of accompanying code? Best of luck.  The other myth about back doors (as current news shows) is that its nothing to do with the software you are running on your machine.  For example, if my Google Mail is being looked at by a government agency, the fact I use Linux and FOSS has no effect on that what so ever.  If my Google drive is being examined, do you think it even factors in that I use FOSS? Of course not.  In addition, if someone wanted to monitor my online activities, then with a court order this could be done at an ISP level. The fact I run Linux or FOSS software again would have no bearing.

In closing

There will never be (in my opinion) a world where there is only open source software and unless the consumer (and that’s a key word here) demands it, there will be no dramatic shift (certainly in the gaming market) towards it.  You only have to look at the most popular BitTorrent client on Windows – it’s not open source, its proprietary, now with the plethora of choice even on Windows for the BT client, why is it that the one which is proprietary is the popular one? It’s because the mainstream don’t care.  You won’t convince them.  So if Linux is to gain further adoption on the desktop (which itself is seeing a decline) then you need to cut back on your “ethics” and consider the “market” in which you are introducing it.  You don’t need to tell me about the benefits and ethics of FOSS.  You probably don’t need to tell most of the people who are reading this (as we already know).  But above all, you certainly don’t want to be preaching it to uninterested potential new users.  You’ll drive them away and back into the arms of a welcoming proprietary environment, that doesn’t baffle them or preach ethics and merely presents them with what they want.


Microsoft begs for Windows Phone developers?

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psgDespite the usual Microsoft PR, Windows Phone (and infact) many of Microsoft’s many “new ideas”, have been met with apathy from the consumer.  Windows Phone has found itself in a catch-22 I believe where the consumer wants the apps and the devs wont come and make the apps they want until they are Windows Phone users.  That in addition to the image of Microsoft in the eyes of the mainstream consumer all leads to apathy at best.

Seemingly now very desperate to attract developer support for its ailing phone ecosystem, Microsoft is running a set of free lectures (or training weekend) where, I am sure you will hear the Microsoft buzzwords of “reaching out” quite a few times as they try to convince devs (and would-be’s) to come over to their platform.

Of course, free lecturers probably are not enough, so as is usual with Microsoft, a gift or two (or the promise of prizes), make this whole weekend seem more like a game-show rather than a training course.  Develop now! Amazing prizes to be won.

Developers go where the consumer are.  The consumers are buying Android and Apple products by the bucket-load.  The emerging form factor of the tablet and the smart-phone will hopefully not be subjected to the Microsoft domination we saw on the desktop for so many years.

Tim (Goblin)


Skype: tim.openbytes


Microsoft take-down requests – needs its own house in order first?

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By now its common knowledge that Google has released publically, figures on the takedown requests it has recieved from copyright holders and their affiliates.  Microsoft figured heavily in this release which is what I wish to look at a little closer and maybe offer some alternative reasoning to the requests themselves.

Firstly, this article is not about the rights or wrongs of IP.  Regardless of your views on file-sharing and copyrighted material/law, I ask those be put to one side for the moment.

I think the one thing we can all agree on is that there are alot of searches (possibly through Google) whereby users are looking for “warez”.   Lets consider something else (again in the ethos of common ground) – as the current law stands, it is perfectly reasonable for Microsoft to make a take-down request of Google, like the idea of copyright or not, currently there is nothing to stop Microsoft (or indeed anyone else) requesting that material/link or whatever gets removed.  Now here though is where further consideration asks some questions which don’t seem to make sense.

Lets say Microsoft is concerned about copyright infringement and file-sharing – whilst they can (as stated above) make requests of Google, one would expect then that they would have cleaned up their own house first (or at least at the same time) – let me explain.  Try a Bing search for MS office on PirateBay – you get a direct link.  If Microsoft is so concerned about its IP then surely its own product should be a top priority to purge of such links?  But then if you consider it further, possibly not.

If we are agreed that Bing would like a slice of the pie that Google has in terms of search numbers and we agree that there are a considerable number of people using Google to search for “warez” – would it be suspicious minded to think that if Microsoft can make numerous takedown requests of Google, whilst keeping Bing “intact”, those that search for warez will be more likely to move over to Bing and thus bring value in terms of usage to Bing?  Whilst that may simply be a creative idea in respect of the recent news, it strikes me as strange that after all those take-down requests of Google, that Microsoft hasn’t even done something so simple as remove all PirateBay entries from its own product.

Maybe there’s someone who can explain why Microsoft hasn’t even seemed to take the most simple steps in keeping its own house in order whilst it is busy tackling Google?  Or maybe someone could say what it actually is that Microsoft is asking Google to take-down?

Personally, I think Microsoft products are moody enough without using a “cracked” version.  I remember the misery of being a Windows user with all the malicious code out there (and I was using a genuine version).  To use Microsoft products and trust in the integrity of a “cracked” version, is akin to putting your wedding tackle into a lions mouth and flicking its love-spuds with a wet towel (Credit for quote: Arnold Rimmer, Red Dwarf)

Do as I say, not as I do!

Some Microsoft Advocates often refer to Linux/FOSS users with the derogatory term “freetard” and even if we look past at the apparent double standards Bing employs in comparison with requests made of Google and we ignore the millions of Windows users using the uTorrent client and downloading copyrighted material, we need only look to Microsoft themselves and a very interesting article by torrent freak, who, after researching a few Microsoft IP addresses, find that records show, their machines have been very busy downloading copyrighted material for free too.  Hypocricy? Would we expect anything less from a company that employs a man someone like Steve Ballmer?

In relation to piracy, it’s alleged by TorrentFreak:

Look up a range of IP-addresses assigned to Microsoft and enter those into the search form on YouHaveDownloaded one by one. While we expected that it might take a while to find one, we already had a handful of offenders after two dozen tries.


Priceless, but hardly surprising.  And in light of “warez” seemingly ok if they are linked in Bing results, should we have expected anything less from Microsoft? – I’ll let you decide.

Tim (Goblin)

If you are new to this blog (or have not yet read it) please take time to view the OpenBytes statement, here.

Skype: tim.openbytes
I can also be found in #techrights, #techbytes on

Nearly half a billion $ lost online – Microsoft’s continuing tale of woe

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Throwing money down the drain - no, we are not talking about consumers who took a leap of faith on an MS project like the Kin, we are talking about Microsoft and its online woes!

Despite what Microsoft advocates may claim about Windows 7 sales or office sales (lets face it there’s no bragging about WP7) they can’t seem to talk up  their online efforts.

It is reported over at Business Insider that this quarter Microsoft lost $476 million on line, with the only light seeming to be they are throwing away less money now than before.  Maybe its a testament to what Microsoft is, in that it can suffer a loss like this without obvious issue and maybe suggests Microsoft will be getting out its patent portfolio very soon to top up its coffers.

With the news that Microsoft is also seeing a decline in 360 sales with an excuse that people are holding back for the 720 it would seem that there will be many a sweaty shirt day for Steve Ballmer in 2012 – he’s going to have to dance like he’s never danced before to get Microsoft going in a product sense.

And take a look at the comments for Windows 8, are you seeing anticipation or excitement? – I’m not, Microsoft are still rumbling at people to “upgrade” XP.

Tim (Goblin)

If you are new to this blog (or have not yet read it) please take time to view the OpenBytes statement, here.

Skype: tim.openbytes

More bad fortune for Nokia – The Microsoft disaster

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As WP7 languishes in (at best) apparent apathy by the masses, is it prepared to suck in anything that surrounds it - such as Nokia with its "agreement" with the platform people don't seem to want?

Microsoft’s WP7 can be summarized by giving the example of a star collapsing in on itself – its dragging everything near it, in with it.  Nokia who to be fair have been suffering of late seem now to be in the death throes since their “arrangement” with Microsoft.

Nokia shares crashed 15 per cent yesterday as the Finnish mobile phone company admitted its profits will be hit by competition


What is maybe more surprising is that it appeared when Nokia took steps to recover, one facet being a Microsoft relationship, many tech writers and commenter saw this coming.  Mr Elop and his “burning platform” (his words) seems to have doused the flames with petrol – figuratively speaking.   In my view, if the allegations of Mr Elop being sent by Microsoft to destroy Nokia are not correct, then it shows on his part a catastrophic failure to be able to lead the company to the slightest glimmer of hope for recovery.

With 14,000 layoffs rumoured and issues with their recent Lumia 900 model, the question now isn’t will Nokia recover its bad fortunes, but more how long has it got left?

With WP7, I’d guess not long.  A reader from the Independent makes the following observation, which certainly goes to explain why the mainstream consumer is choosing Android or Apple products:

Nokia don’t deserve this.  The Microsoft ‘Special relationship’ is a disaster for them.  It’s almost as if Microsoft sent Elop in to destroy Nokia.  Windows Phone stinks.  Nobody wants it.  – On anybody’s hardware, not even Nokia’s.  The situation is now worse than if Nokia had stuck with Symbian.  At least people liked that OS.

I’ve said before that I believe a deal with Microsoft often results in a reverse Midas touch – that which it touches it ruins.

Tim (Goblin)

If you are new to this blog (or have not yet read it) please take time to view the OpenBytes statement, here.

Skype: tim.openbytes