A first look at Collabora/LibreOffice online (and a little bit of frustration)

Recently, I read a blog article by Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols about an initiative from Collabora, an “Open Source consulting” firm, OwnCloud, an Open Source Cloud solution and the well-known LibreOffice office suite (actually a fork of OpenOffice.org, which itself is a fork of StarOffice), to release an online version of LibreOffice. Finally!

Obviously, I was intrigued…

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Mandrake, Mandriva, Mageia, OpenMandriva… FOSS is FOSS!

Yesterday we learned that Mandriva, the company, was shutting down. I read a lot of sad comments on Twitter about it and realized that few of those guys seemed to be aware that actually Mandriva, the company, wasn’t doing a Linux distribution anymore for several years. The Mandriva Linux distribution, which earlier forked as PCLinuxOS, Mageia and others, is now OpenMandriva.

And as someone tweeted it, “FOSS is FOSS”. True!
That’s the power of FOSS that projects keep alive, and that’s the reason why I think that creating Mandrake Linux 17 years ago was not totally losing my time.

Now, we don’t have to be sad: we have pushed Linux to massive adoption and these have been awesome years! Now the Linux kernel is running millions smartphones worldwide, but the story is only starting! Let’s focus on today’s IT concerns: privacy and the Google hegemony. And a lot more fun stuff actually! Want to be part of it?

Gaël Duval – interested in Open Source, mobile operating systems and data privacy? Follow me on Twitter!

iPhone 6 preview…

Apple, if the iPhone 6 is looking like that, I think I’ll give you more Euros (after iPhone 1, 3G and 4…). But if you keep on releasing an horrible one like the iPhone 5 that is way TOO LONG (reminds me of some old Nokias…), I’ll give up with Apple and switch to Samsung.

And the new software revolution is coming (faster than you think)

html5During the past week, I’ve read a number of small news related to HTML5/JS developments such as the “world’s first HTML5 SIP client“. I’ve also played with a few online HTML5/JS applications that I’ve found rather impressive. And I’ve learned that several software vendors, such as Adobe and Google, were abandonning Linux support for several desktop applications. Earlier, there’s been Google Chrome OS, and more recently a new project announcement: Boot to Gecko (in short: Linux kernel+a web browser as a desktop) has been started by the Mozilla Foundation. All these news may not sound very impressive if you consider them separately, but if you put them together, then you should see something like a big light bubble switching on to say “something is happening”.

And yes something is happening: HTML5/JS is becoming a real alternative to traditional desktop applications programming. Thanks to the recent and major improvements in the speed of JavaScript engines in web browsers (especially Chromium & Firefox), it’s opening the door to a new wave of applications that can, in my opinion, replace most existing legacy desktop applications, moving them to the web, adding the benefit of efficient online services, while offering the capability to be usable offline since most of the code will run client side. To top it all, HTML5/JS applications will naturally be cross-plateform so you get rid off the nightmare of MacOS/Linux/Windows/iOS/Android etc. development & maintenance.

Now, of course, my bet is that some desktop software developers will say that JavaScript is just crap, and that they’ll stick with the languages they have learned and learned to love all those years.
But, you’ll have a part of those developers who get the story and massively jump on the HTML5/JS bandwagon, moving the software world to tomorrow, and creating new software stars. Over the years, the small part will grow quickly, because the world is open, because access to IT resources is cheaper and cheaper, because there are 6 billions brains on this planet, and because the number of young people in the world has never been higher.

This is good news in my opinion for at least for two reasons:

  • regular software vendors are too big, too old, they are lacking flexibility, so they are going to miss the opportunity (which for them, is indeed more a nightmare than an opportunity). They will try to resist and/or try to port their existing software to HTML5/JS, but this takes time and is quite unlikely to happen massively. This will open the door to new software companies, that are going to start from scratch and write history
  • this can be the start of the end of all these iOS/Android applications as they exist today, which I see just like a remembrance of the past software world, that won’t last longer than a few years because it will be easier to write online applications that can run client side, while not maintaining it on too many plateforms, and not being forced to go through smartphone vendor’s facist processes such as the “AppStore nightmare”.

Finally, all the desktop part of operating system is going to move to a web/HTML5/JS component that can display and run applications. This component can run on any OS (that is very likely to be Linux because who wants to pay to maintain that part anymore?). Then you get rid of the traditionnal desktop environment as we know it: no more Windows, MacOS or Linux desktops, but a web-oriented desktop that rely on open standards.

Will HTML5/JS help the future of software to be better than what it used to be? Will it be Open Source?

An OS in the Public Interest – a Mandriva Linux Foundation?

TerreLast week, I received, in CC:, an email from a Mandriva Linux developer. This email was entitled “A foundation for Mandriva Linux *NOW* or Mandriva Linux to *DIE*?”

That suggested to me that maybe Mandriva was not going very well. This, of course, hurted me. At the same time it leads to the interesting question of a Foundation for a project like Mandriva Linux.

This is interesting because I remember we first discussed the question of a Foundation for Mandrake Linux back in 2000 or 2001. And we decided that it was a good idea. But we were too busy to really take care of it at the time. And in 2012 there is still no such organisation.

Mandriva Linux, earlier Mandrake Linux, is an interesting case of a Linux distribution who had a HUGE success worlwide, as the first popular Desktop Linux distribution. Remember in the early 2000 days, you could find a Mandrake Linux package in every bookstore in the USA, and it was widely available in Europe too. Then, it became very popular in other countries, and I still have a collection of several Mandrake Linux localized for Japan, Russia and other countries.

It has been distributed in thousand magazines and is still… one of the most downloaded Linux distributions. Still many young people tell me they have started Linux with Mandrake Linux because it was easier to use. I hadn’t expected it’s been so huge actually.

At the same time, the business for MandrakeSoft/Mandriva has always been a headache. The reasons are multiple, one of them is certainly the lack of an adequate business model, and this could be discussed for hours.

As a result, I understand that the existence of Mandriva Linux is now subject to speculation; not because of the product or the project, but because every month developers have to be paid and if the business is not good enough, soon comes a day when there is no more money to pay developers.

But I know about natural selection, and the fact that Mandriva is still here means a lot. This project has deep and strong roots. It has an intrinsinc vital force that lead it to the age of 14 yo, despite all the financial issues.

So, more and more I think that Mandriva could be a good candidate for an “Operating System in the Public Interest”.

Why an OS in the Public Interest?

We see less and less freedom in Operating Systems. People are locked by proprietary OSes. They can’t do what they want, they have lost a lot of Freedom. Before there was Windows, that was seen as evil. New comers are still worse.

MacOS or iOS are terrible in that matter (which is hard for me as I love the technologies of iOS and most Apple products). When you are in the Apple world, you are absolutely locked in the Apple world. Even what is displayed on your iPhone or iPad, you can’t redirect legally elsewhere than to a Mac or to an Apple TV.

Now take Google: they really want to have you in their ecosystem, they do anything to lock you and look friendly with you. But Facebook, Twitter and Google know everything about you. They want to control everything. As a result your life is, want it or not, partly controlled by those private and for-profit companies.

And Google with Android, what are they doing? they are just transforming a kernel in the public interest into software for shareholders interest, and grow your jail-ecosystem.

Projects in the Public Interest?

There is Wikipedia which is an awesome success. There is OpenStreeMap. There are others project as well that are in the Public Interest, which means in the Human Interest, and not in the shareholders interest, and independent.

On the OS side, there is Debian already, and Debian is huge. But Debian is still for servers & geeks. Ubuntu? Good on the desktop, but is holded by Canonical. It’s not in the Public Interest.

There is the Linux Foundation too. It’s very nice and I’m happy that it exists, but it’s for low-level kernel development.

So, if I was 24 again… 🙂 I would try to build a Foundation that would focus on delivering great Operating Systems in the Public Interest, both for PCs and tablets and smartphones.

Such a Foundation would need great engineers and visionary people to release great and easy to use software products for people with all guarantees of independency, security and privacy for their users.

It would, of course, need some financial resources. But when you do a huge Foundation, you find the money. Many people are ready to donate when they know that they are contributing to something good. The public sector, governements can donate. And you can build an ecosystem where some private, commercial companies sell services around the product. So in the end they can support, even financially, the OS in the Public Interest.

Most big infrastructures (roads, electricity, telecommunications) have been started as public projects, for the people, because people need interoperability and freedom. I think Operating Systems are infrasture components too, so we need an OS in the Public Interest, at least as an alternative for people who want to be free.

Gaël Duval, Mandrake Linux Founder.

Interested in open source, mobile operating systems, data privacy? Follow me on Twitter

Diclaimer: I’ve not been involved in Mandriva since March 2006.

Will RFID re-materialize digital content (in a poetic manner)?

It’s been more than 10 years that music has entered the digital area, as an insidious process that has reach a point where most teenagers just don’t buy audio CD anymore. Instead, they listen to songs on their iPod. The same process has applied to other artistic contents, including movies, and now it seems that the book, you know, that object with many sheets of paper, is going to decline in favor of iBooks, Kindle books and others.

leafEven me, while still listening to my CDs (and planning to retrieve a vinyle turntable because the _sound is better with vinyl plates_), I’ve started to use the iPod stuff on my iPhone, and I confess I already purchased some songs on iTunes, even some full albums.

As a result, it seems that this dematerialization process is ineluctable, and that the real world, I mean the one with objects that weigh and that you can pick up with you hand, is about to become an empty space with just some humans interacting with digital devices.

The situation seemed to be sadly desperate and the future was dark. Until yesterday.

Yes, yesterday, I attended the first “HackDays Paris”, a 40-hour intensive hacking marathon where we were demoed 47 awesome projects. One of them was “#45 Noise-it-yourself”, created by a team of 3 hackers lead by Olivier Brechon.

The “#45 Noise-it-yourself” prototype (which won the first prize) is a box where you can put objects. You can put small objects in it. Maybe you can put a sleeve, or a CD-case, or a card or whatever that is not too big, depending on the size of the box of course. At his point you may think that Ulteo is killing my neurons or maybe I need to sleep. But wait! it’s not finished.

The box has a _RFID sensor_. And objects you put in it have tiny RFID stickers on.

Got it? You connect the RFID sensor to some information processing system, such as a computer or a more basic electronic device, and you know which object has been put in the box. So you can trigger some corresponding actions that start when a an object with the RFID sticker is put in the box, such as starting a song (from Jamendo, Last.fm, Deezer, or your favorite VLC player).

So now you can put an autumn leaf into the box, and this will start “Les feuilles mortes” by Yves Montand (remember: it was Hack Days _Paris_). In a more Rock fashion, it could start “Les feuilles mortes” by Iggy Pop (or maybe like me you would prefer another song by Iggy, but in this case you may prefer another object than a leaf).

So imagine that you have that device, and programmable RFID stickers, you could have your songs, or full albums, represented by the object of your choice. Whereever you want them, ordered or not. Drop the object in the box and you get the music you want. No need to click a mouse or touch a screen anymore to listen to music. Great!

Of course, it could start movies on your TV or your computer, the same way. How great and instinctive it would be for a 2 years old child to watch his favorite Barbapapa episode just by putting a small Barbapapa figurine or a card with a visual resumé of the episode. And maybe you can put that stickers on your books so that you throw the book in the box and then you can get the content displayed on your iPad or Kindle. (In that particular case, maybe that reading the book directly could be a good option as well.) Or maybe even run a software?

Of course, that could also be a nice business model for music labels, software makers, movie makers. They can distribute the RFID identities that would fit the purchased content, you could load them into RFID stickers. Or even sell cards or… various objects with the RFID stick already in place and loaded with a digital label.

And the concept could even be extended to other fields and other purposes… And some other ways than “putting in a box” can be done, such as approaching the object from your smartphone or computer.

Last, why not imagine a variant that would use QR codes instead of RFID stickers? The sensor is likely to cost little though.

So maybe I missed something before yesterday’s presentation, and that it already exists as real devices? In this case, please tell me! 🙂