Archive for the ‘operating systems’ Category

Why Linux Will Crush Windows 7 on Netbooks

The explosion of low cost netbooks has inspired Microsoft to release a new, cheap, stripped down version of Windows 7. The Windows 7 Starter Edition, as it will be known when Windows 7 arrives later this year, is designed to compete with Linux on netbooks, but it has a potentially deal-breaking restriction: you can only run three applications at a time.

Microsoft is apparently gambling that mainstream customers will prefer a crippled version of Windows to any version of Linux.

But consider this question: do you like listening to music while you browse the web, chat with friends and download some torrents? Well, pick three because, you won’t be doing all those things at once in Windows 7 Starter Edition. Mind you, it’s not the the netbook can’t handle the workload, it’s because Microsoft thinks netbooks should be crippled.

Of course there are some exceptions to the three-app rule. For example, terminal sessions, Windows Explorer, background processes and apps like task manager or desktop gadgets don’t count. Still, even if you can run a couple extra apps, three main applications is limiting and it shows how much Microsoft misunderstands the netbook’s appeal — netbooks are not crippled laptops, they’re laptops that are “good enough.”

Which is why Microsoft’s Starter edition strategy seems horribly misguided. Netbooks already suffer two big limitations — screen size and cramped keyboards. Why add a crippled operating system to the list?

ZDNet’s Ed Bott took a beta version of Starter Edition for a spin and reports that “when I used this system as a netbook, it worked just fine.”

However, Bott’s definition of a netbook seems to the same as Microsoft’s: it’s a crippled notebook.

“If I tried to use this system as a conventional notebook, running multiple Microsoft Office or OpenOffice apps, playing music in iTunes or Windows Media Player, and using third-party IM programs,” Bott writes, “I would probably be incredibly frustrated with the limitations of Starter Edition.”

Clearly Bott (and Microsoft) view the netbook as a substandard way to work, but that doesn’t fit with my experiences on an EeePC where I am currently typing this post, listening to iTunes, downloading the latest version of Ubuntu via BitTorrent and both Photoshop and Lightroom are running in the background. It’s not the speediest laptop around, but it gets the job done.

Would I like my EeePC as much if it had a crippled version of Win 7? Of course not, I’d think of it as a crippled laptop.

While it remains to be seen how Windows 7 Starter Edition will fare with consumers, there is a potential winner here — Linux.

Linux versions of netbooks are already doing quite well and if Microsoft shoots itself in the foot by crippling its OS, the question becomes less about choosing between Windows and Linux and more about choosing between crippled and “just works.”

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Slick New Ubuntu ‘Jaunty Jackalope’ Springs Onto Netbooks

The latest version of Ubuntu Linux is hot off the press and available for download. The new release, known as “Jaunty Jackalope,” continues Ubuntu’s slow but steady progression with a handful of slick new features, some welcome speed and stability improvements and a new “Netbook Remix” package optimized for the latest tiny laptops.

You can grab your copy of the free operating system from the Ubuntu downloads page. There are versions for desktop and server environments, the Netbook Remix, and versions for 32-bit and 64-bit hardware.

The Netbook Remix is a new addition to the Ubuntu family and offers a stripped down, user-friendly Linux that’s specially optimized for the small screens and limited hardware capabilities of netbooks. Ubuntu’s release notes claim the Netbook Remix will work with Asus’ EeePC 900, Acer’s Aspire One and Dell’s Mini 9 netbooks. However, while it took a little extra tinkering, I was able to get Ubuntu working on my EeePC 1000H as well. The result is a powerful, but simple interface that’s far snappier than competing options like Windows XP.

Overall, I’ve been pleased with Jaunty. To see what’s in store for users, we took the release candidate for a spin earlier this week. We found that none of the changes in Ubuntu 9.04 are earth-shattering, but the subtle changes add up to nicer Linux experience that could go a long way toward winning the much-maligned OS some new fans.

Jaunty Jackalope’s most noticeable change to the user interface is its new notification system. It informs you when new e-mails arrive or friends want to chat, and it informs you of system changes like volume level and battery status. The alerts appear as translucent message windows that pop up, stay for a moment, then fade away — a bit like Growl on Mac OS X.

This represents a break from the traditional way of doing things under GNOME, the graphical desktop environment upon which Ubuntu Linux was designed. It shows an attempt by Canonical, the corporation that oversees the development and distribution of Ubuntu, to provide more useful notices and to do so within a slicker interface than what’s available. GNOME purists may not like Canonical’s decision to create its own system, but the results are quite nice. (Flash demo).

GNOME 2.26, Ubuntu’s default desktop, ships with some improved applications that are installed by default. There’s an improved version of the Evolution e-mail client, which now works much better in Microsoft Exchange environments, and an update to the Brasero app for burning CDs and DVDs.

The overall interface design has been improved, too. Especially enjoyable is the new Ubuntu theme, “New Wave,” which is a nice mash-up between the default Human theme and the dark theme that arrived in Ubuntu 8.10. The Ubuntu team has also made some nice interface tweaks to dialog boxes, loading bars and other UI gadgets that give Jaunty Jackalope a slicker look than earlier Ubuntu releases.

Under the hood, Jaunty brings an updated version of the Linux kernel as well as the latest version of the GNOME desktop. Work on these are ongoing, and each release sees reduced boot times and better overall performance.

Thanks to the new Linux kernel (version 2.6.28) Ubuntu now offers support for the Ext4 filesystem and includes a new wireless package that should help those using newer wi-fi cards. The new Ext4 support isn’t the default choice for Ubuntu yet, but Ext4 does offers a number of advantages over its predecessor including support for larger disks, better defragging tools and a speed boost. However, there are some reports of lost data with Ext4, so proceed with caution.

Also new to this version is experimental support for Eucalyptus, a set of technologies that can be used to deploy a web app server with an elastic block storage (EBS) system, much like Amazon’s EC2 service. Using Eucalyptus, developers can create their own private clouds for storing data and running web apps. The Eucalyptus code is only included in Ubuntu Server, but it’s open-source, so it can be downloaded by anyone.

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File Under: operating systems

Rumor: Windows 7 Release Candidate Due May 5

Microsoft has let slip a date for the much anticipated Windows 7 release candidate. While Windows 7 RC1 is apparently already in the hands of manufacturing partners, users will have to wait until May 5 when the download will likely be available direct from Microsoft.

Of course there’s a good chance that Windows 7 RC 1 will turn up on a BitTorrent server near you well before its official release.

As for the final release, Microsoft still isn’t talking, but Microsoft expert, Mary Jo Foley, says an October release is likely.

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Internet Explorer 8 Auto-Update Coming

The internet explorer team is expected to give IE 6 and 7 users a very visual clue their browsers are woefully outdated: an automatic update prompt.

The update will offer Windows XP, vista, Server 2003 or Server 2008 operating system users three choices: Ask later, install now or don’t install.

The auto-update, if successful, should boost the somewhat flagging Internet Explorer 8 adoption numbers. More importantly, it will also be a great relief to web developers all over the world still making concessions for old bugs and outdated standards still found in IE 6.

It will also allow users the ability to do several new things Internet Explorer 8 enables, as featured by Scott Gilbertson’s “Ten Things to do on the Web When IE 6 is Dead” post earlier this week. Information on the auto-update can be found at the Internet Explorer blog.

Android Developers Get Ready For Cupcake Release

Google released a new software development kit (SDK) Monday for Android developers. The SDK itself allows developers time to prepare their applications for the upcoming Android 1.5 mobile operating system upgrade, codenamed “Cupcake.”

Cupcake is said to include many significant bug fixes and developer APIs. Features to look forward to include:

  • Hardware-accelerated video recording and playback
  • On-screen keyboards and keypads
  • Save attachments from MMS messages
  • Music playback fades when receiving a call
  • An updated browser (using Webkit’s latest core and an optimized JavaScript engine nicknamed Squirrelfish)
  • Copy and paste from within the browser
  • Better search in the music and browser
  • Downloads can be paused
  • Support for third party application updates
  • Interface elements should be faster
  • Better third-party accessory APIs including stereo bluetooth (which means more and better accessories)
  • A slightly nicer looking user interface
  • A more intuitive dialer. No more lockouts when on a call

If you’re anxious to check it out, the SDK download includes an Android 1.5 emulator. However, you should be pretty comfortable with SDKs before attempting to run it.

According to the Android Open Source project, Cupcake is expected to hit devices by Q4. Google points to the Android developers blog for highlights of its new APIs.

The features in the roadmap aren’t too jaw-dropping when compared with the iPhone 3.0 release coming out in June, although still not bad for its second release. Also, there have been hints that Google may also be holding back a secret feature from the public eye. Netbook support, perhaps?

As for the codename? Someone at Google likes cupcakes perhaps a little too much (we’re looking at you Marissa Mayer).