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Archive for January, 2009

Right, I gave the brandnew KDE 4.2 a try. I ran into a few bugs but I was quite impressed to see a KDE4 Desktop that is ready for users and the Plasma user interface concept finally starts to make huge sense to me. What I also noticed is that my PC is getting outdated and slow. It is not a fault of KDE developers. KDE4 will rock. Vista won’t run on that machine either.

Then I downloaded Knoppix 6 out of my curiosity in LXDE. Knoppix is a live-CD distribution, some call it the mother of all live-CDs. A few years ago Klaus Knopper demonstrated with his nice preconfigured Knoppix that a more desktop-friendly Debian is possible and you can carry it around with you on a cd. Knoppix featured KDE as its desktop environment. At some time Knoppix CDs becam as ubiquitious as formerly “AOL-CDs” or as my grand-grandmother used to say, as “field beans”. In my collection I even have a Knoppix CD with the logo of SUN Microsystems. When the Knoppix live-CD was replaced by a live-DVD my computer failed to boot it but you didn’t need Knoppix anymore as there were many alternatives.

Now Klaus Knoppers gets back to the electronic frontier. Back to basics. With Knoppix 6 it looks more hackish but Knoppix is an innovation showcase in terms of speed optimisation and resources. When you boot the CD(!) you have to manually type knoppix. It will boot up the lx desktop environment in almost no time. As I had the comparison with KDE 4.2 on the same machine the desktop feels amazing. OpenOffice aside applications start up very quickly. You start it and it is there. The whole live-CD felt “ncurses”. I found out by my own surprise that this is actually the innovation I really want. I just want a very responsive desktop, no blink blink. I run LXDE on my computer, but the Knoppix CD was even much faster and felt better. “Feeling” and intuition is the best indicator of Desktop Experience, and you need to find out what makes you happy and feel great as a user. I started to work without taking much notice that this was a live CD. Gnome Mplayer plays your mp3 files. Iceweasel gets you in javascript trouble. Paradise. The essential tool missing was irssi, oh well…

KDE 4.2 is impressive but Knoppix 6.0 impressed me. It is because both releases are completely different.

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As expected the desktop environment KDE 4.2 is released.

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Adobe opens its Flash streaming protocol RTMP as part of its open screen initiative. The move to open RTMP comes as competition with the Microsoft alternative Silverlight heatens up. Adobe currently dominates the field of streaming with its Flash technology, used by video portals such as Youtube. But competitor Microsoft recently won showcases as the Olympics and the Obama inauguration for its Silverlight technology with strong .NET integration. Other beneficiaries of the competition include the users on other operating systems. Microsoft sponsors via Novell the Moonlight project for an implementation of Silverlight for Novell’s SuSe Linux operating system. Flash is reimplemented via the ambitious Gnash free software project and Adobe updated its own binary plugins for Linux. Enthusiasts of world wide web technology advocate the future was html5 instead of both offerings. Streaming technology is a patent minefield, so little can be told about the openness of the specifications.

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Update of the EUPL

The European Commission has updated the European Union Public License (EUPL): Seven clarifications were made that did not attempt to change the original meaning. The EUPL 1.1 is made available in all official languages of the European Union and the originators ensure that is is compatible with national copyright laws in all member states. The EUPL thus reaches a maturity other licences cannot provide and – unlike the GNU General Public License – it stays politically neutral and does not dillute the ownership attribution for your work.

For software developers, in particular from the public sector, the EUPL should be considered when you start new openly licensed software projects.

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LXDE keyboard

Windows d shows the desktop, no windows

ALT TAB cycles between different application windows

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LXDE as a Desktop Environment does not attempt to cause irritation for former users of Windows. It is different but its developers are not desperate to show that it is different. The desktop choice is today characterised by indifference and what really matters for LXDE is a leadership in the categories performance and memory footprint while at the same time you should not miss any essential features of a modern Desktop Environment.

What feels different for experienced Windows users with LXDE is the Window manager. You don’t know what that is? Doesn’t matter. Let’s fix it.

The default Windows Manager of LXDE is called Openbox and you can tweak its settings with a tool called “Openbox Configuration Manager” or “obconf”.

Select the panel “Mouse” and set here the following options:

  • Double click on the titlebar: Maximizes the window.
  • Double click time: 350ms (or more).

Clicking with your mouse on the top title bar will now maximize the window. There are also many other settings you can configure. Openbox is very fast, flexible and provides you with choice.

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Netbooks are popular, and Acer has to follow the trend of 10 inch screens. Existing Acer One models had a 9 inch screen but in November a 10 inch model was announced. Yesterday it was made official, you can buy them now.

The cheap netbook class finally is entering the segment where high-priced subnotebooks were 2 years ago and the subnotebook market is eaten up by cheap and trendy models as the Acer One. Now we understand why notebooks beeing “thin” was the Apple market hype.

Here a picture of the 10 inch Acer One.

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The European Union DG Competition followed up to the complaint from Norwegian Web-Browser manufacturer Opera with a preliminary “statement of objections” this month.

The SO is based on the legal and economic principles established in the judgment of the Court of First Instance of 17 September 2007 (case T-201/04), in which the Court of First Instance upheld the Commission’s decision of March 2004 (see IP/04/382), finding that Microsoft had abused its dominant position in the PC operating system market by tying Windows Media Player to its Windows PC operating system (see MEMO/07/359).

The evidence gathered during the investigation leads the Commission to believe that the tying of Internet Explorer with Windows, which makes Internet Explorer available on 90% of the world’s PCs, distorts competition on the merits between competing web browsers insofar as it provides Internet Explorer with an artificial distribution advantage which other web browsers are unable to match. The Commission is concerned that through the tying, Microsoft shields Internet Explorer from head to head competition with other browsers which is detrimental to the pace of product innovation and to the quality of products which consumers ultimately obtain. In addition, the Commission is concerned that the ubiquity of Internet Explorer creates artificial incentives for content providers and software developers to design websites or software primarily for Internet Explorer which ultimately risks undermining competition and innovation in the provision of services to consumers.

Read the European Union press release here. The ruling comes a bit as a surprise now. Opera is deeply concerned about openness of standards.

As the tying case is pretty solid it looks like Microsoft will have to give up that competitive advantage. As in the US there is still the political path of influencing the regulators. The Chinese Shop expects them.

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Confessions of a longterm KDE user:

I used to be a KDE user. I thought KDE 4.0 was such a disaster I switched to GNOME. I hate the fact that my right button doesn’t do what I want it to do. But the whole “break everything” model is painful for users and they can choose to use something else.

A painful transition process characterises many mature technologies. WindowsXP users hesitate to switch to Vista although it is bundled with their brand new hardware. Vista development itself was a huge delivery failure. KDE 3.5 users waited for ages to see KDE4 released while KDE3 as a development platform was stalled. When KDE 4.0 was released it turned out to be developers-only. No one knows if KDE 4.2, to be released early next week, is finally ready to meet user expectations. So is the don’t-break-anything principle the way to go? I don’t think so. It is rather important to carefully plan soft migration scenarios.

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Recently Microsoft has released an update to the Azure SDK. Windows Azure is a cloud services operating system that serves as the development, run-time, and control environment for the Azure Services Platform.

A sponsored paper of David Chappell explains the Azure plattform: Azure is depicted as a bundle of .Net, Live and SQL services.

In other words Azure uses an existing software stack bottom-up and packages it for a cloud strategy. My open question is how that Azure strategy would actually translate into downstream innovation and repositioning.

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