Editorial Archive

In Praise of the Print Media

There's been a lot of talk lately about the imminent demise of the print media. With the economy in the toilet, subscriber bases shrinking, advertising rates declining, and demographic shift moving many publications' readers ever-older with no younger readers to replace them, it's looking grim. Some cities will be losing their only daily newspaper. Even the New York Times is in danger of going bankrupt. Even with advertising rates putting pressure on net-based publications, online publishing is here to stay. Is there room in this world for printed tech publications?

DTV Transition: Facts and Fallacies

If you live in the United States, then it's almost certain you've heard about this big digital switch that public television is making due to a new US law. If you live outside of the US, I bet you've heard of it anyway since we like to let people know what we're up to. The big day that's coming up -- February 17th, 2009 -- that magical date when all television stations will historically abandon the infamous analog broadcasting for greener, digital pastures -- didn't strike fear into the hearts at my household. We rarely utilize the antenna, and then only two to four times a year for a special program. Nonetheless, we got our hands on one of those nifty coupons anyway and went out to purchase a digital converter for the sake of those few intrinsic public broadcats. Read on for the whole story.

Does Windows Need a Linux Package Manager?

InternetNews.com states: "Microsoft (or a really smart ISV) should build a full application manager for Windows, similar to what most Linux distributions do today." Most Windows applications come with their own distinctive updating mechanism (much like Mac OS X), instead of having a centralised updating location like most Linux distributions offer. While it certainly wouldn't be harmful for Windows to gain such a feature - the question remains: isn't it time we rethink program installation and management altogether?

Unmasked by Counting Threads?

Yesterday, a story made its rounds across the internet. It was picked up by many large news websites, and I'm sure it will be quoted by people until eternity. It was published by a large website, looked all fancy, it had multiple pages - it looked like it was really something. However, anyone with even the remotest bit of knowledge knows that the article was a collection of complete and utter bogus.

The Challenge: the Manageable Computer

Earlier this week, we ran a story on GoboLinux, and the distribution's effort to replace the Filesystem Hierarchy Standard with a more pleasant, human-readable, and logical design. A lot of people liked the idea of modernising/replacing the FHS, but just as many people were against doing so. Valid arguments were presented both ways, but in this article, I would like to focus on a common sentiment that came forward in that discussion: normal users shouldn't see the FHS, and advanced users are smart enough to figure out how the FHS works.

GoboLinux and Replacing the FHS

GoboLinux is a distribution which sports a different file system structure than 'ordinary' Linux distributions. In order to remain compatible with the Filesystem Hierarchy Standard, symbolic links are used to map the GoboLinux tree to standard UNIX directories. A post in the GoboLinux forums suggested that it might be better to turn the concept around: retain the FHS, and then use symbolic links to map the GoboLinux tree on top of it. This sparked some interesting discussion. Read on for more details.

From GNOME to KDE and Back: Computing Habits Hard to Break

"I used KDE as my primary desktop from 1996 through 2006, when I installed the GNOME version of Ubuntu and found that I liked it better than the KDE desktop I'd faced every morning for so many years. Last January, I got a new Dell Latitude D630 laptop and decided to install Kubuntu on it, but within a few weeks, I went back to GNOME. Does this mean GNOME is now a better desktop than KDE, or just that I have become so accustomed to GNOME that it's hard for me to give it up?"

Open Source Risks and Responsibilities

The widespread acceptance of open source continues to grow as a cost-effective alternative to traditional network deployments. Well-known projects such as Linux have proven themselves to be in the enterprise environment, helping to dispel the fear, uncertainty and doubt preceding open source implementations. In the past two years, the industry has begun to shift from a total dependence on proprietary applications to a desire for more cost-effective, scalable and collaborative solutions.

Competition Is Not Good

I hear often that when something new appears that "competition is good". The primary reasons competition is seen as good, are: it drives down prices; it gives consumers more choice; it pushes technology forward, quicker. Competition is not good because: competition is why consumers have to choose between HD-DVD and BluRay; competition is why DRM exists; and more. In this article, each of the supposed benefits of competition will be looked at in more detail.

What Are the ‘Usability Experts’ Doing?

Sometimes, Apple's (or any other software maker's) complete lack of respect for usability never ceases to amaze me. Take today for example. Apart from the close, minimise, and "maximise" widgets Apple places on window decors, there is also a fourth widget programmers on the Apple platform can use. This widget resembles a sort of dash, and is placed on the top right corner of the window decor. This widget is used in many applications, both from Apple as well as from various third parties. It has one function: toggle the visibility of the window's toolbar.

The Workaround Trap

Let me begin by telling you a little story. Some time ago I needed to run a script at work once a day. We had tons of machines ranging from big Unix servers to Linux desktops. Due to various reasons the script could only be run on a desktop machine. However using cron was disabled on desktops. All other machines allowed cron.

Why Solaris and Mac OS X Should Unite

"There are dozens of articles like this one on the net. Over and over people suggested solutions like this for different reasons and although I know that such thing probably won't happen any time soon, from my point of view now it is the best moment ever in the history of both operating systems to merge in a one powerful alliance. And the hell has already frozen over, hasn't it? First I will give short description of both OSes, so we can see the strong and the weak sides of them and see if the combination should eliminate the shortcomings and make the good points even better." Update: Sun is giving out free Solaris 10 DVD sets.

Are We Being Served?

Web 2.0 throws a lot of buzzwords at us. New technology has given us new terms to describe a particular design process. One of these is "user-centric" design. An example of a website that isn't user-centric would be microsoft.com. A static site where the users have no control over the content of the site, nor any choice in what they see. The company displays the information they deem important. This is considered web 1.0. (Note by AS: a new microsoft.com site has gone live since this submission). YouTube and Digg are examples of Web 2.0, user-centric sites whereby the users of the site contribute not only the content that the other users consume, but each user helps decide what content is promoted. Today, I'm going to coin a new term: self-centric design. To define this new term, I will compare OSNews to one of the leading web 2.0 sites: Digg.

Who Dictates The Future of XML?

We are on the brink of a very exciting time. The buzzword-friendly "Web 2.0" is here, and it's most punctuated by three terms: social networking, AJAX, and RSS. Nothing about these things is inherently new - AJAX existed as an ActiveX control present in Microsoft's Outlook Web Access long ago, social networking has existed for some time via sites like Friendster, and RSS is just a style of XML, which has been floating around in mainstream tech circles for about 10 years. But Web 2.0 is here, like it or not. The question is, as use of these technologies begins to become more widespread, how are we going to shape these technologies, and who is going to make those decisions?

On Politics, GNOME, and Mono

Politicians. They are a certain type of people. I do not like them. Many do not like them. I think if there's one thing all of man has in common, whether he be Christian or Muslim, black or white, young or old, American or European, is a dislike of politicians. But then-- why on earth do we allow politics to complicate software? Note: Sunday Eve Column.

Computers: Too Easy to Use

It's conventional wisdom that computers need to be "easier to use." But do they? More reliable, yes. Easier to troubleshoot, yes. But now that so many people use computers so much, I think there's something to be said for making them less easy-to-use and less intuitive.