Friday, April 23, 2010

After the Software Wars

After the Software Wars is a book by Keith Curtis about free software and its importance in the computing industry, specifically about its impact on Microsoft and the proprietary software development model.

The book discusses the importance of free and shared knowledge and the sense of community. It provides examples as well as challenges of free software and knowledge resources such as Linux and Wikipedia. It's available for free download in PDF and ePub from the authors site.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Debunking Linux #1: Installing Ubuntu Linux

There are a lot of myths and fallacies surrounding Linux that I hear daily. These myths definitely slow the adoption of Linux by filling the heads of potential users with false information and flat out lies. This is the first of several debunking and how-to blogs I will do to lay some of this mis-information to rest. I hope to do so in a way to does not come across as fanboy-ish. To do this, I will shy away from direct comparisons to other operating systems where it is not relevant and only present the facts through words and related videos. So let's get started.

A myth often heard online is that installing Linux is hard if you don't have a doctrine in computer science, or rather, it's not for the faint of heart. This myth probably stems from it's early days where you had to know a little bit about your hardware to do the install which used an install wizard through the Linux terminal. Even then, if you knew whether your keybord/mouse were serial, at or ps2, and you knew your graphics cards chipset you could do it. Probably the worst part was identifying your monitor refresh rates, which were often published in the manuals or online.

Fast forward to 2010 and Linux is so easy to install, the ability to click a mouse button is the only prerequisite. Not convinced? Here is a short video walkthrough of installing Ubuntu Linux 10.04 (Lucid).

So ready to give it a try? First you will need to Get Ubuntu. You can either download a free ~700MB CD image and burn it to a blank CD or have Canonical send you an installation CD by mail absolutely free, you don't even pay the shipping.

When you have your CD in hand, stick it in your cd tray and reboot your computer. Most Linux distributions come with what is called a Live CD where you can run Linux directly from the CD without affecting your currently installed OS. When you remove the CD and reboot, your computer remains completely untouched. This is a great way to just try it out and take a tour. However, it may not support all of your hardware, may not have all the software you want to test and desktop effects more than likely will not be enabled. As well, the speed of running it from CD will be slow. This is not an optimal experience, but it does give you a little taste without commitment. To enter Live CD mode, click the 'Try Ubuntu' button from the first screen when the CD boots (as seen in the video above).

Another popular choice is called Wubi. This can also be found on your CD when booted to Windows. Executing Wubi.exe will allow you to install Ubuntu as a Windows application and allow you to easily dual boot between the two. Using this method you can experience Ubuntu as an (almost) native install. It can be uninstalled if you wish at any time from the Windows Add/Remove software control panel without any permanent changes to the computer.

The best way to experience it however is to install it natively as the only OS on your computer or as a true dual-boot with Windows or OS X. To install Ubuntu, stick the CD in the drive tray and boot it, then select the 'Install Ubuntu' button and follow the very simple 6 step wizard based installer. All of your hardware will be automatically detected and configured and you will have a fully functioning Linux computer in 10 - 15 minutes.

So is installing Linux hard? Absolutely not, in fact it is one of the quickest and easiest operating systems to install.

Check back later for a tour of the Ubuntu Linux desktop and for future myths debunked and how-to's.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Adobe blocks Linux from ColdFusion Builder

The new ColdFusion Builder IDE from Adobe isn't perfect, but it is the closest thing to a viable IDE ColdFusion developers have had to date. That is of course if you're a ColdFusion developer running Windows or OS X.

I ran the ColdFusion Builder betas as a plugin to my already installed Eclipse, thanks to the great effort by Mark Mandel to extract the appropriate files from the full versions for Windows or Mac. ColdFusion Builder was a nice escape from the slow, buggy and outdated CFEclipse plugin, and with each new beta release Mark had a script to install it on Linux. He was notified however that his methods would no longer work with the final release, and when it came out, sure enough it no longer works.

The code that doesn't work supposedly is the licensing code, however it runs as an Eclipse plugin, written in Java and all other parts of the plugin run great on Linux. Marks scripts did not circumvent any licensing code, and all the beta releases had registration and expiry dates. So this appears to be an intentional move on Adobes part, or if not, a bug that could easily have be resolved for some more market share. They release the ColdFusion Server for Linux, so why not the development tools?

I completely understand the economics and why they may not consider a full native Linux client with support. But I for one would be just as happy to purchase a Windows or Mac version which I could run unsupported on Linux. Although the problem with that is that your Linux version doesn't get counted then, so they never know just how much demand there actually is. We would have bought copies for our entire development team. Seeing as how Adobe has treated Apple second rate with their creative studio products in the past, I really don't have any hope to one day see a working Linux version unless someone cracks the licensing which would then be another product forcing Linux customers willing to pay to be pirates because another corporation won't accept their money.

With the recent backlash at Apple many ColdFusion developers who currently use macs have decided to switch back to Windows (it all just threats at this point however). Why do they not consider Linux to be a viable platform? No ColdFusion Builder support. So now is everyones chance to help shape the future of computing and ColdFusion development, go and vote up support for ColdFusion Builder on Linux. I don't care if you currently use Linux or not, but it is the right thing to do if you believe in choice in computing and the future of technology. Also while your at it vote up support for Flash Builder on Linux. They are largely the same product, Flash builder is bundled with ColdFusion Builder, so they can't do one without the other.