Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Why I think Canonical will go bankrupt by 2016






Why I appreciate Canonical

If you follow me on google+ you've heard me make some rather snarky and negative remarks about Canonical.  You probably expect I'll spend this entire post ripping on the company.  I will be negative later, but I thought I would temper that with a discussion of what I appreciate about Canonical.

I have to admit Mark Shuttleworth has done the Linux community and the world a service by creating and funding Canonical.  The creation of an easy package managing system that makes Linux more approachable has been very helpful. They have helped develop some useful utilities and have funded other open projects. Despite the fact that I don't think they will succeed I am glad they are working on MIR and Ubuntu Touch. We need a replacement for X and the more people trying the better.  Also, a truly open mobile platform would be excellent.  If there was no Canonical there would probably not be Linux Mint, my distro of choice.

I wrote a list of things to say in this section and at the very top I had, "helped popularize Linux". But after some thought I realized that isn't true.  Linux still has less than two percent of the desktop market.  If you count Android as Linux yes it has a dominating position in the smartphone arena but that really had nothing to do with Canonical.  There are Linux servers all over the world but most of those are RHEL(Redhat Enterprise Linux), Debian, or CentOS.


What I don't like about Canonical

All the above being said, I have reasons to dislike Canonical. Over the last few years Canonical has been taking an increasingly controlling almost proprietary view of Ubuntu.  A classic example of this behavior can be seen in the Unity user interface. They had shown hints of it in the Ubuntu netbook remix but I don't think must people saw coming the announcement that Unity would be default user interface in Ubuntu.  Despite significant backlash from the community Canonical has stayed resolved to their determined course. When the community requested the ability to move the dock Canonical refuse thinking that their internal design decisions were more important than community desires.  Canonical seems to have an our way or the highway mentality.  You can see this attitude in other projects Canonical have thrown over the wall. Wayland wasn't going how they wanted so instead of working with that community they go off and do MIR. If you had a parent teacher conferences with Canonical's teacher I think you might get feedback like "doesn't play well with others".

Whenever one of these controversies explode and the community gets into an uproar, some official from Canonical gives an interview or writes a blog post. Whether it's Shuttleworth or perhaps Jono Bacon I get the same vibe every time, an odd mix of both arrogance and defensiveness.  I had an example url but I've since lost it.  They oscillate between claiming they are revolutionary and the greatest thing ever and then whine about how mean people are to them.  I admit this is a more petty annoyance but this is my blog.

I am going to keep the above paragraph just for the ironic timing.  Just recently Shuttleworth posted a blog post that represents exactly what I am talking about.

 13.10 is a very special release for me because I think we are leading the GNU/Linux world into a very important arena, which is mobile personal computing. Canonical has its fair share of competitors and detractors who love to undermine the work it does, but I think that wiser heads appreciate the magnitude of the effort required to break this ice, and the extent to which it has taken courage and grace under fire for this team to deliver such a sharp 1.0 of the mobile experience for Ubuntu.
 We are the greatest thing ever and people are so mean to poor little us.

Mir is really important work. When lots of competitors attack a project on purely political grounds, you have to wonder what THEIR agenda is.

Why I think Canonical will go bankrupt by 2016

Now for the meat of the matter. Being a private company it is hard to get a real take on Canonical's financial direction and plans.  We don't get to see actual expense accounts, budgets, etc. We have to go on what we can see from the outside and what Canonical chooses to disclose.

I highly recommend checking out this article from wired UK. A very interesting read that tells us that Canonical isn't currently profitable and gives some insight into Shuttleworth's thought process. We can figure out Shuttleworth's early plan for profitability by looking at Ubuntu's famous Bug #1. "Microsoft has a majority market share." What does this tell us about the early direction? Canonical wanted to capture a good chunk of the desktop market.  Obviously a very different strategy than Redhat and their push toward the enterprise server platform. Even with offering the the OS for free there would have been many ways to make money after capturing half the desktop market. All those machine with Ubuntu One on them would have been a nice steady stream of money. Agreements that could have been made with various third parties to include software etc would have kept the cash flowing.  If by some chance Ubuntu could have become popular as an enterprise desktop just imagine all those support contracts.  Alas the linux share of the desktop has only increased slightly since the Ubuntu was released.  Linux sits at an anemic 1.66%.

Despite the lack luster performance of Linux in the desktop space, Canonical has continued on its mission. They've branched out to take a small share in the server market. In recent years, it seems almost as if they have been randomly trying out ideas. Canonical has talked of TVs and embedded devices.  Now they are making a big push into the phone/tablet space. At the time each of these seemed like a desperation move and they may well be.  What has become clear is that Canonical is banking its future a creating a unified system across several different types of devices and in capturing some significant share of the phone/tablet market.  In order for this to happen Canonical has to do two things.  First the "easy" part. Actually create a unified experience across phone, TV, and laptop. Secondly they have to acquire a sizable share of the  market.  I can see number one being accomplished. That is just a technical challenge and the open source community tackles those well. The problem will be getting a wide adoption of this new platform.  Let us a take a look a bigger more successful companies attempt to enter this market.  Microsoft entered the modern smart phone market almost three full years before Canonical. Microsoft a company with massive reserves of cash, the ability to advertise like mad, and make backroom deals(say purchase a phone company) with third parties to try and force the adoption of their product and they have failed to take more that 5% of the phone market. Canonical lists a number of member for it's Carrier Advisory Group but what this actually entails is not clear. So what we have is a company with an order of magnitude less resources entering a market far too late to make an impact.

At some point soon the realization will dawn on Shuttleworth that his dream of profitability for Canonical will remain but a dream. He will need to cut his loses and shutter much of Canonical.  Will they actually declare bankruptcy?  I have no idea. As a private company we can't see their financial statements. I have no idea what their current debt burden is. But he can't keep pouring money into a sink, even if it produces many good results for the overall software community and the world.  I see him reducing Canonical to only the profitable sections or shutting it down completely. I see the Ubuntu touch/edge as Canonical last big push to profitability and after that fails, an ending.




The Canonical logo is trademarked and used here in accordance with Canonical's intellectual property rights policy.  Obviously I don't work with or am associated in any way with Canonical. Yes I actually read it :)

Monday, July 22, 2013

Long term review (4 months) of the Acer Aspire one netbook


I have been a huge fan of the netbook form factor ever since I had my Asus 701 in 2007. And trust me that device had some problems.  I so liked having a really small clamshell form factor that I have had a netbook in my computing arsenal ever since. Despite a few problems, my previous netbook, a HP mini 210, filled my needs.  Will the Acer Aspire One be better?

Specifications:

Processor 1.0GHz AMD C-50 dual-core
Memory 4GB, 1,066 MHz DDR3
Hard drive 500GB, 5,400rpm
Chipset ID 1510
Graphics AMD Radeon HD 6250
Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
Dimensions (WD) 11.2x8 inches
Height 1 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 11.6 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 3.0 pounds / 1.36 kg
Video HDMI, VGA
Audio Stereo speakers, headphone/mic jacks
Data 3 USB 2.0, SD card reader
Networking Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi

How I use it(Use case):

Writing dominates my use of the netbook. I just can't seem to sit at my desk and write so almost all writing has to be done mobile like. Several different mobile devices have been my writing companions.  Even including and old Sony Clie PEG-NR70 with a fold out docking keyboard. I also use the netbook in the home the same as a lot of people use a tablet.  It sits in the living room and I surf the web and check email, twitter, etc.

As part of testing the acer aspire one for review, I tried to use it as my main computer for a month.  I turned off my desktop computer and hooked up the Aspire One to my HD monitor, external keyboard and mouse, and an external hard drive. In this form I tried to do all the things I would normally do. Code using an IDE(eclipse in this case), edit video, and even game.

How did it do(performance):

So first let us take a look at when I used it as my primary computer. I will admit right off the bat to being impressed.  My last netbook would never have handled the work load.  I've found that this dual-core 1GHz processor can really get the job down. It managed to run almost all my programs without almost any noticeable lag or slowdown. Yeah things took longer to start up, and it took forever to render out the video below, but actually using the apps was not frustrating.  Gaming was a different matter. Obviously I was not going to be playing the latest triple A titles.  I installed steam, a great services for machines without drives, I installed a few older games and tried them out.  Pretty much anything 2006 or earlier worked. Newer low resource  intensive games like FTL worked fine as well. To bide my time I played the old GTA3 games.  I did encounter two hardware hitches that caused some annoyance. While playing games the HDMI connection would sometimes flack out for a short amount of time. The external monitor would go blank for about a second like it had lost connection. Secondly, when coming out of the sleep mode the netbook would not recognize the keyboard and mouse connected to an external usb hub.  I had to plug the keyboard and mouse directly into the machine.

As you can imagine, if the Acer Aspire One can handle that it works well in normal living room usage. If you tax it, it can stumble a bit. As I am writing this review I have an HD video stream running, a java chat client, and a couple of javascript heavy site loaded. I am getting a little lag and stuttering from the video. Battery life can vary wildly.  When streaming HD video the fans kick up to full blast and it can be a stretch to reach four hours of battery life.  In a more surf the web and write mode it is not unusual to get almost six.  In normal use the netbook sits in the living room for three days and then I need to recharge it. Some function keys can help you extend the battery life. You can turn the wireless off when writing.  Does not do me much good since I am usually streaming music while writing. A key puts it to sleep, which frankly seems pointless when I can just put it to sleep by closing the lid.  Finally, a button turns the screen off which is great when I have it hooked up to the stereo to stream music.

 I have a bigger issue when writing. They keyboard and the track pad have been causing me problems.  The HP mini had a great chicklet style keyboard.   The quality may not have been great but it had good action and a rarely hit the wrong key. The Acer Aspire one has bigger keys but for some reason I had a lot of trouble learning to be able to type at my normal speed on it.  I kept hitting the wrong key or the keys our of order. They keys have some wobble so if you don't hit near the center of the them you can hit the key next to it.  Something that bothered me at first but I have learned how to type on it. The trackpad also causes problem while typing. It is a synaptic track pad but unlike others I can't find any option to not accept clicks while typing.  You know how some trackpads won't take a click or a touch if you have hit a  key in the last second.  A function key exists turn off the trackpad completely.  So I end up using an external wireless mouse a lot.  In my opinion, it is not the best solution.

Hardware:

As I mention in the video below, the Acer Aspire One possesses excellent build quality. The other netbooks I have owned suffered from netbook build quality.  Things felt loose, the plastics seemed cheap, and things began to fail pretty quickly.  None of this is true with the One.  The plastics are thick and seem to be of top quality.  The whole package holds together with a nice solidness.



The keys wobble some but this seems intentional and not a sign of poor quality.
picture of keyboard





All the ports(3 usb 2.0, VGA, HDMI, ethernet, card reader, and audio in and out) are all easily accessible on the right and left side of the netbook.




By putting such a nice screen  on this Acer has really upped the usefulness of the netbook. The main problem with the screens on my older netbooks wasn't that they were ten inches and not eleven.  1024 x 600 just isn't enough pixels.  I often couldn't fit enough of a web site on the screen to read the thing easily.  The eleven inch screen with  1366x 768 provide plenty of pixels and space for doing what needs doing.



Final Thoughts:

Safe to say I really like the Acer Aspire One.The whole package comes across as competent and complete. It is big enough to be useful, heavy enough to feel solid, and yet small and light enough to be really portable.  I can toss it in my hipster bag that is made to hold an Ipad.  I do not see myself replacing this for at least a couple of years. I could see some people using this as their only computer.  If you needs are facebook, email, and surfing the web, why pay more for a tablet that doesn't have a keyboard.  For around three hundred US dollars you can get a really capable machine. My poor tablet sits neglected hooked up only to the stereo to stream music.

So I waited months to write this review in hopes that I would collate a bunch more information and be able to produce a much longer and more in depth review. As you can see I did really produce a review of any more depth than I could have done after about a week of use.  Yes I have some longer term testing of battery life and build quality but neither of those really could have just been follow ups to a quicker review. I am just not sure this longer wait for a review improved anything.  And by this point is it useful?  The Acer Aspire One has been out now for awhile. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

My weekend sans social media

My original plan for the weekend involved driving up to Chicago to see my Dad and friends.  After those plans changed, I sat around Friday night trying to plan my weekend.  I decided not to do much at all.  I accomplished this goal in an exemplary manner.  I also decided to take a social media, or as I prefer to call it online community, break.  This allowed me to take stock of my current online life.  So in what way do I currently interact with people online?

Email: I actually kept doing this over the weekend.  I have to read email in case something goes wrong at work.  Email is one of the oldies but I still really like it.  You can be as short or verbose as you want.  An immediate reply is not needed so you can read at your own pace and respond when  you want.

Twitter: Probably my most common online interaction.  I use it on my phone, my tablet, and on my computer when at work or home. When I wake up in the morning one of my rituals is to look through all the tweets while I was asleep. Disconnecting from twitter for the first time in probably a couple of years I learned something I don't like about it.  The immediacy of twitter requires you to almost constantly be looking at it.  I follow enough people that if I don't check about every hour it gets daunting. The first day I wasn't reading twitter I got anxious.  What was a missing?  Did someone just announce something important.  Yeah you can scroll back(I didn't go back and read my feed after I came back online).  It helped me confirm my love for email and blogging.  They let you proceed and your own pace.

Blogs: I've rediscovered my love of blog reading.  Like I said above, I can approach them at my own pace.  I know it will still be there when I am ready. I read a lot of personal blogs and I love catching up on peoples lives. Once my weekend was over there sat all my blog friends in my reader just waiting to start my week.


Message Boards/Forums: Another old technology but also one of my favorites. I've been active on message boards since the mid nineties.  I still frequent a few message boards, mostly around sports teams. It was hard this weekend because there were two big loses and nothing is better than going on a message board and seeing all the fans panicking and complaining.

IRC: IRC is one of the oldest if not the oldest form of online chat.  I first logged onto an irc chat in 1991. There are a couple of rooms I still somewhat frequent.  My irc time has continued to drop over the last few years.  I didn't find it hard to give this up.


Reddit:  A warning up front: Don't ever go to reddit, EVER!  It's s horrible place.  I like to call it the greatest collection of morons humanities ever produced.  And yet for some reason I am addicted to looking at it almost constantly throughout the day.  What I mostly get from reddit are laughs.  I sometimes laugh at the content but I mostly laugh at the people.  After this weekend I realized I am just a happier person if I don't read reddit.  So back on the banned list it goes.

Google+:  Google+ is interesting.  It's basically facebook for people I don't actually know but find interesting.  If you are a geek it's a fun place full of interesting people.  But even with that my use has steadily been growing less of the past months.  I hardly post anything there anymore and I don't really read that much.  I've actually put a lot of people I follow into a list where I don't really see any of their stuff.  I dutifully open google+ every morning and then hardly look at it.

pinterest:  I joined pinterest to have a place I could just put recipes I found on the web.  In a world of snark and negativity, pinterest soothes with its nice community and pleasant  pictures. The truth is I don't pin much and only go there about twice a day.  So not using it was easy.

Facebook:  You probably wondered when I would get to it.  I have a facebook account but I don't use it or post there.  To be blunt, I hate facebook. I am writing a long post on why I think facebook is evil and should be destroyed in a glorious cleaning fire :)

What where my take aways?  I love blogging, but already knew that.  I hate reddit but already knew that.  I just decided to block it from my laugh.

Cross posted on my personal blog  http://www.wonky73.com/2013/03/my-weekend-without-social-media.html

Friday, March 1, 2013

SSDs be fast yo

So my SSD finally arrived after they made sure it took the stated eight days.  The process for installing the SSD was really easy and I didn't bother taking any pictures.
Basically:
  1. Undo one screw on the back panel and pull it off
  2. lift up the HDD unscrew two screws on the little chassis 
  3.  pulled off the padding that was on the HDD and put it on the SSD
  4. Attach the SSD to the chassis with two screws
  5. Put the back panel back on 
I then installed windows, all the drivers, and ran a few speed tests


DriveBootHybernate
HDD57.134.6
SSD29.620.6

I ran crystaldiscMark:


It sure has made a speed difference.  Not having used the netbook significantly with the HDD I don't know If I will really notice the difference but I am sure it will help.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Taking the long way round

To go along with my new netbook I purchased an SSD from www.tigerdirect.com. They had a sale. Ninety dollars for 120 GB, a pretty good deal. I picked the the free shipping which they claim takes 8-10 days.  I was in no hurry so I didn't care about it taking that lone.  Once get the confirmation that it had been shipped I went to check the tracking number just for fun.  I saw that it was coming from Carol Stream Illinois.  This is great I thought.  I live in Illinois. No way this will take 8 days.  They then proceed to ship it to Missouri.  Where it sits for a few days.  Finally today they are shipping it to me.  It won't take 8 days, only 7.  I guess I got that going for  me.

Update:  Somehow they did manage to make it take 8 days to ship something 100 miles.

Friday, February 22, 2013

You may have noticed a change

You may have noticed something different around here. Though I highly doubt it because almost no one ever read this blog.  I don't know what I need to do to appease you people. I mean I had at least six posts in the three years I've had this domain :)

Yes I've switched from self hosted wordpress to blogger. Why? I did not have any problems with Wordpress. In fact I really love it. I highly recommend it.  I consider it the best blogging platform out there.  Continuously maintained with a long list of useful addons it tends to kick bloggers patutty.

In 2006 I purchased a hosting package from 1and1 http://www.1and1.com it included five domains and some hosting with access to ftp and mysql.  My plan at the time was to invent the next big internet sensation.  I never did. All I ended up with were a couple of Wordpress blogs.  Recently I checked out how much the plan was costing.  It had escalated to almost four times what I was initially paying.  None of this was underhanded by 1and1.  They had been sending me invoices the entire time and keeping me informed.  I just didn't pay attention. 

I realize now that I will never build a great internet phenomenon. All I really want is a couple of blogs.  So I threw up a couple of blogger blogs (actually re-opened one I had had since 2003), redirected the domains, and cancelled my 1and1 package.

As you can see I am just using a standard theme at this time.  If I feel like it I will update it a little bit. Like usual I had grand plans when I registered this domain years ago.  I imagined making some money off it.  Perhaps having some adds and affiliate links.  Now I'll just be happy if I happen to write a post every once in awhile.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Clearing out a BIOS password on an acer aspire one

My mom set out to look for a new laptop recently. She had been using the same one for years. Not a good one to start with, it had long lived past it's usefulness. She wanted something small and fairly cheap.  Her needs aren't great.  She decided on a netbook, the acer aspire one 722.

Somehow in the first day she managed to set a bios password and a windows password that didn't work anymore.  From talking to her over the phone it sounded like she had put a password on the hard drive.  Thus encrypting the drive and making it useless.  Acer wanted $100 to fix the password problem.  So my mom decided to buy a new version of the same netbook and give me the one with the broken password.  I thought if nothing else I could put a spare hard drive in it and have a new netbook to replace my old hp.

Once I got my own hands on the netbook, I quickly realized it was a bios password and not an encrypted hard drive.  To google I hurried and searched for how to clear the bios password from an acer aspire one. It took a bit of searching but I eventually found this forum thread http://www.laptop-forums.com/aspire-one-ao722-bios-recovery-t23653.html

I followed the instructions and it worked. I am going to do a slightly more detailed instructions below since a few steps were left out or unclear in the forum post.

  1. Go to http://www.acer.com and download the latest bios for you model from the support area. Mine is the 722
  2. Format a USB stick using the FAT filesystem
  3. In the DOS directory of the extracted bios zip file is a .bin file.  Mine was P1VE6111.bin
  4. Copy that .bin file to the USB stick and rename to BIOS.fd
  5. Remove the battery and power cable from the aspire one
  6. Plug the USB stick into a USB port.  I used the one on the left side of my aspire one 722
  7. Press and hold "fn" and "esc" keys.
  8. Plug in the AC cord
  9. While still holding the "fn" and "esc" keys push and release the power button 
  10. Continue to hold the "fn" and "esc" key until it starts beeping (boy are they loud)
  11. It will beep loudly for about a minute
  12. Then after another minute or so it will reboot and you should be able to access the bios without a password.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Welcome to tech-surge

What is tech-surge.com(pronounced tech dash surge)? It’s my personal tech and gadget blog. I have been in the computing industry for over ten years and a fan of gadgets all my life. I started this blog as a place to put some of my thoughts about programming, technology, and the world of gadgets. This isn’t an attempt to get rich and famous.
What is the tech-surge difference? It can best be summed up with the phrase long form. I subscribe to many tech blogs via rss and twitter and I’ve noticed an inundation of shallow content. For about a week I followed one tech blog on twitter. Everyday I’d drown in twenty to thirty tweets for blog posts that where nothing more than half a press release, a image, and maybe one sentence of comment. Even the bigger blogs don’t seem much better. Where are the long term reviews? It’s all about bling and short term SEO. How about you give me an update on that laptop you’ve been using for six months.
Since I am not trying to make a living with this blog I am free from the drive to be the first and the fastest. Also, those popular sites have staff. My staff is me and I have a real job and other things to do with my time than to try and keep up with every press release. I find motivation is also a problem, so if I keep the topics to things I am interested in, that only increases the likelihood of more content.