Tag Archives: Chrome OS

My search for a “GNU/Linux ‘Shiny’ OS” to be a minimum-cost competitor to Google’s Chrome OS

I think I’ve made it fairly clear that I don’t completely trust Google not to behave like IBM or Microsoft or Apple (in music), if they find themselves in a position of monopoly power in services. I believe there is a significant possibility that the UK government are soon going to jump out of the Microsoft frying pan, into the everlasting fire of Google services, using support for Free and Open Source Software as their excuse. This will delight their Google handlers and perhaps earn them a tickle of their cash-hungry bellies.

As I pointed out in a recent post, use of the Linux kernel and free-to-use services no longer guarantees you any real Freedom. We face a future where cheap Google Boxes in our houses and Google phones in our pockets/handbags will be the portal through which every message we send or receive passes. It seems likely that Google Chrome OS and Android will merge in some way, into an impenetrable fortress, keeping our data safe for us and Google and our government.

We need an alternative. The Free Software movement seems to be blindly following Google towards a destination of its own eventual destruction. What happened to the community’s ideals? Are we so easily bought?

I’m looking for an alternative way forward. I want a simple web and application server constructed and run on FOSS services, available from multiple providers because “The Market is Good” and “Competition Benefits the Consumer”, RIGHT? I only want to use server software that I could take away and have run elsewhere if I was not happy with my service provider and I want a web-based client that uses entirely open Web standards with no proprietary extensions “for greater power” (see: Chrome.) Obviously, as a Real Linux we have the option to also enable local desktop applications, rather than drive consumers to our company shops.

Please tell me if you think there is an obvious alternative FOSS solution to the Google monLOLopoly. If there isn’t then we need to elect one soon because democracy needs choices to stay viable. Our ‘choice of Freedom’ is at risk.

Social vs Capital Part 1

When I joined ‘the computing industry’ (or was it ‘the data processing trade’?,) there were two kinds of computers: those made by IBM and the others. The others came in two flavours: IBM mainframe clones and ‘trying to be different’. Trying to be different was so successful that IBM were eventually forced to try being different to themselves.  The various hardware families all ran different operating systems. Changing hardware required all your software to be rewritten. Moving from IBMish mainframes meant your data had to be translated into ASCII. The proposed solution to the operating system problem was Unix. Unix was created to give hardware independence, through software portability. It was made easier to ‘port’ Unix by writing it in the C programming language rather than the specific assembly language of the hardware.

This revolution happened within AT&T, a company prevented from competing with IBM by anti-trust legislation. Freed from the profit motive, other than the desire to save costs, they did with Unix what was best for everyone. They gave it and its source code away free to anyone who wanted it. More importantly, they allowed its improvement by universities.

Later, the US government started to allow commercial exploitation of Unix by AT&T. Key source code became subject to non-disclosure agreements and the fastest period of cooperative computing innovation up to that point was closed down.

Two important things came out of this disaster – 1) PCs and hence Microsoft and 2) the Berkeley System Distribution (BSD) of Unix and GNU’s Not Unix (GNU), led by Richard Stallman, whose frustration at not having the source code to fix his own printer gave him such a mighty itch, he kick-started the whole Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) movement and it’s biggest success, the Linux Operating System, recently made popular by Google. Bill Gates’ biggest competitor was never Steve Jobs; it was an idea set loose by idealistic academics – that people are stronger when they share the product of their labours, that you pay people for producing, not for the product. This was a harmless ideal at first because large organisations owned the computers that were a key part of the means of production.

I am indebted to Robin Ince again, for pointing out in his TEDx Dublin talk ‘The Mind is a Chaos of Delight’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0pfOHaWeTr8 that Evolution doesn’t predict only “survival of the fittest” but ‘survival of the just good enough not to die’, which I think explains Microsoft’s success, and for poking me in the profit-motive with his blog entry http://robinince.wordpress.com/2013/11/26/i-was-going-to-jump-in-the-canal-to-save-the-drowning-man-but-then-i-thought-whats-in-it-for-me/, to finally start this troubled tale of open software.

FOSS has been running around in the background, largely unnoticed by the lumbering beasts, much like the early mammals. Apple OS X is built on FreeBSD and Google Android and Chrome OS are based on the Linux kernel. In the long run, Apple and Google may look like the last of the small, fast raptors rather than the first intelligent apes, because somewhere along the way, the sharing became one-directional, and their essentially predatory nature struggled to survive as their more social competitors saw the danger and drove them into the swamp.

In forthcoming posts, I plan to look at the dangers the FOSS communities’ dreams of Freedom are facing in the current collision with Capitalism.