Sunday, February 11, 2007

The OS for which I'd ditch Linux

Yes, you heard that right. There is an OS out there on the horizon for which I would consider leaving Linux.

I've been a Linux loyalist since 1996. It was the answer to my prayers. Brought up on midrange minicomputers, I wanted Unix on my desktop as well, but I wanted it cheap, and I wanted it to make moral sense. To be precise, anything closed or proprietary has always been anathema to me, and that's why I dislike the Mac (closed software on closed hardware) even more than the Windows PC (closed software on open hardware).

Linux has been my darling for more than a decade now, but I now realise it's not Linux I love but the freedom that it guarantees and protects. And there's something around the corner that promises greater protection of my freedom than even Linux.

Version 3 of the GPL is undergoing its finishing touches as I write, and I believe it deals elegantly with two of the latest and greatest threats to user freedom - Digital Rights Management and Software Patents. One would think the next version of the Linux kernel would adopt GPL3, right?

Wrong, apparently. Linus Torvalds, who earned deserved acclaim as a software developer extraordinaire, has demonstrably reached his level of incompetence as a visionary by spurning and condemning this new version of the GPL. [For proof that Linus has this breathtaking blind spot when it comes to the importance of software freedom, one has only to look back at the Bitkeeper episode that left him with egg dripping from his face.]

Ah, but Linux isn't the only Free kernel in town anymore. There's Solaris, and Sun is reportedly looking very seriously at GPL3 for both OpenSolaris and Java. For the FSF, this is unexpectedly good news (if they can look beyond their egos, that is). A major software player (and two major pieces of software) are about to validate their latest license. And OpenSolaris can be the GNU kernel that the Hurd has never been able to become. But of course, as I said, they first have to be able to swallow their pride and quietly set aside the Hurd to adopt OpenSolaris.

Once that's done, we'll have a GPL3-fortified Free kernel running all the GNU and third-party FOSS software we know and love. Technically and legally, it'll be far less vulnerable to competitive attack.

I'm going to use this beast when it comes out. Even though it won't be called Linux.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Vista - The Last Microsoft OS?

OK, that title was deliberately provocative. But my point is very simple. Ubuntu and Fedora have convincingly demonstrated that users don't have to wait months and years to upgrade their operating systems. They can incrementally upgrade parts of their system every single day! My Ubuntu machine shows me a bright orange icon at the top of the screen every now and then to announce newly available versions of all the software I have installed. I have just to click on the icon, examine the list of new application versions, and choose the ones I want to install/upgrade. In minutes, my machine has been upgraded without even a reboot! A lucky few enjoy that luxury today, but with almost universal broadband in the very near future, that will rapidly become the preferred way to upgrade operating system software, - continuously, a little bit at a time. Linux users will always have the most up-to-date version of their distribution. Can users of any other OS say that?

Microsoft is notoriously quick to copy winning features from its competitors, so watch for the company to switch to a fully subscription-based model soon. Pay Microsoft an annual fee, and have a steady stream of incremental upgrades pushed to your computer. No more waiting for years and years for the next version. That move will be the end of monolithic, full versions of Windows, each with a unique name.

And that's why I think Vista will probably be the last Microsoft OS.