not all change is progress
April 26, 2015
Direct download links: MP3 & Ogg
There’s a growing trend for distros to seek partnerships with hardware vendors, and this show we looked at the fruits of one such deal. After reviewing two laptops from a UK company that ship with Ubuntu MATE pre-installed, we wondered how beneficial this approach really could be in helping foster the greater adoption of Linux we all want to see.0:02:54 News
Ubuntu 15.04 released
Can Canonical Count?
Ubuntu Desktop to Eventually Switch to Snappy Packages by Default
Android gets a “Trusted Voice” smart lock
Google Handwriting Input in 82 languages on your Android mobile device
Better presentation of URLs in search results
Reaching and re-engaging users on the mobile web
Ads Take a Step Towards “HTTPS Everywhere”
Google May Offer New Way to Target Ads
First GitHub Transparency Report Published
ZFS coming to Debian proper
Ardour 4.0 released
Vocal 1.0 Now Available
Bringing Tizen to a Raspberry PI 2 Near You
A huge thank you to Glen Skiner for the PayPal donation, johanv for the Flattr, and to all of our regular Monthly Supporters – thanks, guys!
Julian Overall, Ivor O’Connor and Pete all added to the debate on customisation, and how welcome (or off-putting) this can be for end users.
Henry Sprog echoed some of our own thoughts on the responsibility of parents concerning the use of technology by their offspring, and Brad Alexander offered an alternative perspective on the topic of political correctness.
Florian got in touch to say that Joe’s experience of poor sound from the RPi2 is, sadly, not unique, and Драгица Ранковић expressed her frustration at the amount of coverage we give to mobile technology.
On the topic of crypto-currencies, John Whitmore wondered why nobody has thought to implement one based on a stamp scrip system modelled after the Wörgl or Iowa experiments? And sticking with financial matters, Daniel had some suggestions for us around transparency and support for our favourite FOSS projects.
1:03:36 Entroware Ubuntu MATE Laptops
With many distros increasingly seeking hardware partners to provide an out of the box Linux experience, we looked at the Apollo and Proteus laptops from UK supplier Entroware, and also chewed over how much such partnerships really help the broader Linux ecosystem.
Security on the computer you carry with you everywhere, that knows all your contacts, RL and virtual, and knows where you are and is equipped with a mic and a camera (if not two or more)?!? You tinfoil hats!! :D
The SFLC saying ZFS on Debian is OK means it’s fine to load CDDL licensed code (with isn’t GPL-compatible but Free software nonetheless) into a running Linux kernel – even under Debian’s strict rules. With their `dkms` it’s probably just a matter of `apt-get install zfs-modules` and you’re good to go. Besides the inferior stability of ZFS on Linux compared to FreeBSD or Illumos of course ;P
> The SFLC saying ZFS on Debian is OK means it’s
fine to load CDDL licensed code
> (with isn’t GPL-compatible but Free software nonetheless) into a running Linux kernel
> – even under Debian’s strict rules.
I.E. modules are _not_ legally derived works, Greg KH is full of it, and the split between Eben’s Software Freedom Law Center (ok with ZFS) and Bradley’s Software Freedom Conservancy (suing VMWare) has become a yawning chasm.
But that’s just my guess. From a great distance. With popcorn.
There’s a difference between linking/loading non-GPL modules in your kernel and taking GPL-licensed drivers, modify them for your OS and distribute them to your customers w/o providing source ;)
If Vmware can’t proof they got rid of any GPL code they have to provide the customers with the code including any modifications.
I believe buying a laptop from a store like Entroware supports the Linux ecosystem, even if they weren’t donating a share to other projects, by creating a demand for laptops coming with Linux pre-installed. I think it would be very helpful for new users to be able to point at a store where they can get a laptop with Linux pre-installed and supported. If we only install Linux ourselves, I believe only geeks will ever use GNU/Linux on the desktop. Hopefully the Steam Machines might change this and make Linux computers more accessible.
However, I have never myself bought such a computer; all have been regular Windows computers. So even though I see value in buying from a Linux vendor, I would rather install Linux myself and get it like I want it and save some bucks. For example, my latest laptop purchase was a used Thinkpad T440 with Windows pre-installed, which I wiped and put Fedora on it.
I’m actually a bit concerned about phones becoming more and more locked down, and thus excluding hobbyists.
In the wake of the Snowden revelations all the major companies are trying to prevent our insane out of control security services from locking them out of giant markets like China and India. Alas the difference between proprietary lock-in and NSA lock-out is one of those quantum things that collapses if you look at it too closely. At last month’s Embedded Linux Conference and Intel guy gave a talk about the new boot mechanisms for android M where _if_ the vendor allows you to load your own key into the keychain and thus sign your own kernel (unsigned is no longer an option), every time the phone boots using the new key it puts up a warning screen and requires you to click ok to finish the boot. (Because they’re worried about the “evil butler” problem.)
I see billions of annual phone sales producing billions of obsolete phones three to five years later, and if a ten year old girl in rural india is to learn programming, inheriting her mother’s old phone is a lot likelier path forward than scraping up $35 plus shipping for a raspberry pi. (In both cases fishing an old usb keyboard, hub, and mouse of out a trash heap might happen. Then again if you need to buy a USB->hdmi adapter or chromecast to hook up to the family’s 10 year old TV, you might as well go with the pi.)
I’m hoping we can convince vendors to release proper unlocking instructions for the old phone models. It’s easy to add a chroot environment to an existing android system, within which you can build a new system image. But installing that new system image is going to be a fight.
(Sigh. It’s a bit like going back to mainframes again. Your sysadmin is in another state and getting their attention involves an act of congress, so you can make apps but can’t change the OS because they’re special and you’re not. Where new systems programmers come from in this setup, I have no idea.)
Will you be posting your full notes on the reviewed laptops? It sounds like you tried a whole bunch of stuff I never even consider when moving people over to Linux. I just boot the Live CD/USB and check dmesg for anything that looks critical and then maybe give the web a quick browse to make sure that internet and the desktop work smoothly. A reference/starting-point might be useful.
Less importantly, I laughed a little at the comment on people listening on desktops. I am a frequent victim of the wait-that-sounded-interesting rewind since I mostly listen on a desktop while at work. As far as a pod-cacher (using the term loosely), I went the cowboy route and scripted my own in python. Drop the script in cron.daily and I have an instant pod-cacher with optional GUI for browsing entries (aka file manager).
One final question. I heard Paddy call ZFS large and bloated. It caught my interest, because the benefits touted by the COW file systems seem to be warranted to some degree (the ease of making your own time machine via snapshots). Is the issue strictly with things like raid and logical volumes being folded into the file system? I would be interested in reading more.
I used to listen to podcasts with Audacity. I’d put it on repeat mode and slowly cut out those pieces I had heard. That way I was sure I got everything. Might help for those shows that have good content.
ZFS would be fantastic. I would love to have it.
@Драгица Doug Hill provides a viewpoint clearly needed in today’s culture just as the FSF provides a viewpoint necessary for software freedom.
Almost everything requiring electrical power nowadays is
a computer, many of them general purpose only with
software limiting features. Current cars are collections
of dozens of interacting computers. All of them
Do you want anyone messing with them because the laws say you can’t even look at what’s happening in things you own and the manufacturer doesn’t care about security in a model from 3 years ago?
Cory Doctorow has some valuable thoughts on the issue,
you should give them a read:
I don’t think the new directed Google ads are as dastardly as they sound. The retailers don’t need to disclose anything to Google because Google already knows you are on their mailing list. Have you seen in the latest Gmail UI how the Inbox now has a “promotions” tab? So this isn’t some new concern over privacy, but the same one as before – namely Google can read your mail, and will target ads to you accordingly. It sounds like all that has changed is that they found a new way to sell this service.
I would pay an extra hundred or two for hardware shown to support Linux and was also local to me. In fact I did pay extra last decade when Dell first came out with Linux pre-installed on their laptops. (Now however Dell charges less if you allow them to put on Ubuntu.) Furthermore Ubuntu is an option on many of Dell’s laptops and not just the XPS13. See http://configure.us.dell.com/dellstore/config.aspx?oc=cupmws6800w7p&model_id=precision-m6800-workstation&c=us&l=en&s=bsd&cs=04 for example. Notice how they give you an option of Windows, Ubuntu, Redhat, etc..
Hopefully https://entroware.com/store/ will continue to grow and become quite successful in the UK selling Linux. Maybe they can distinguish themselves by pre-installing Mint, Fedora, and OpenSuse. Should not be hard and then they’d stand out.
I’m seeing a real dilemma here: purchasing a big-brand device with Linux pre-loaded (like Dell’s XPS13 Developer Edition) seems to yield a lower rate of problems at a lower price, but transfers your money to corporations whose enthusiasm for openness can at least be reasonably doubted. Purchasing a custom-made device from a small, Linux-enthusiastic company seems to risk tech hassles. Isn’t there a good middle ground? Where are the leasing options?
Were I’m coming from to reach that conclusion: I helped my mom to a pre-installed Ubuntu laptop from a small local retailer about a year ago to replace her WinXP desktop PC. Unfortunately: botched order, system errors after auto-updates within LTS dot releases and some small, but show-stopping bugs like silently switching the keyboard language back to English at the login screen. If it happened to me, I probably could have googled the solutions, but trouble-shooting that over the phone… Should we have tried installing Debian Stable? Or be generally grumpy about and tell her to start saving for a MacBook?
We appreciate the direct and constructive feedback from the podcast (we have recently become fans of the show). There’s just a couple of things that we would like to address:
– The Nvidia drivers are working completely fine in Ubuntu and Ubuntu MATE 15.04 (according to our extensive testing) on all units, due to the updated X server. We have tried to induce issues and have found that the existing problems found in 14.10 units were no longer there.
– The OEM install problem you mentioned could not be replicated in-house and we have not had any support tickets on the issue, but we will definitely be investigating it further.
– We are taking steps to rectify the driver concerns on the Apollo touchpad, we’ll let you know how we get on with this.
– The minimum order required for bespoke keyboards with the tux logo in lieu of the windows key are currently out of range for now, as we have been trading for a little under a year. We are of the opinion that leaving the Windows key uncovered would be a breach of taste for most users and our existing customers seem happy with this decision. Obviously, as sales pick up, we will be looking for a more integrated solution.
– Yours concerns regarding VAT registration were very important to us and we think that you have hit the nail on the head. We intend to be able to cater to business customers as much as individuals and we have done our research in this respect. Entroware will hopefully be VAT registered within the next couple of months.
– The issues you raised with regards to pricing are due to our young position in the market. While there are much larger companies than us who can benefit from better economies of scale and offer more competetive pricing, other large international companies have remarkably similar prices to us for similar specifications. That being said, as orders begin to increase, we can still revisit our pricing (we do not want to penalise people for wanting to have Linux preinstalled). Opting for a kickstarter campaign would have eased this immensely, but we’d prefer to build upon community feedback and customer experiences, due to the false promises that can arise from said campaigns.
Long story short, we have some work ahead of us and your feedback has really helped to refine our direction. Thanks for taking the time to check out our machines and we’ll keep you up to date of any developments.
Thanks for the review of the “Linux” computers. The reason one would buy a laptop preloaded with Linux (in this case Linux Mate) is to avoid any incompatibilities with drivers, etc. The fact that the computer you tested does not have support for two finger scroll is a deal breaker. Again one buys a quote linux based computer to avoid any driver issues etc. Otherwise, as you two mentioned, it is cheaper to buy a computer and then load a linux distro.
Thanks for the honest reviews
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