Friday, August 29, 2008

Why do I use Linux?

Just got me thinking and I decided to publish my thoughts.

Two main reasons:
1) I do not like lock-in - being forced to stick with one company's products and services.
2) I value my freedom of choice - I do not like my computing experience being directed by some company's vision and marketing goals.

For me to use Linux, I needed to have these conditions satisfied for my three main uses for a computer : Internet, Office & Gaming

First, Microsoft controlled the way I browsed the Internet by forcing me to use Internet Explorer - sites that did not work in Internet Explorer were a pain to navigate.Firefox helped me out of that hole - I could finally browse the Internet and expect the same experience on any operating system Firefox would run on. Google sweetened the deal because I now had a search engine that was not controlled by Microsoft giving me search results that were really useful. Google has gone on to give me more and more reason use it. However, the moment Google becomes another Microsoft is the day I stop using it. Anyway, I was now free as far as browsing the Internet went.

Microsoft still forced me to use Windows - because I had to use MS Office for stuff like resumes, spreadsheets, presentations and the like. OpenOffice helped me out there. I was no longer tied to Windows on the Office front, because OpenOffice worked on Linux as well. Those same documents would open without formatting changes and I could easily adapt my limited MS Office skills to work with OpenOffice - the cost to benefit ratio made it worth it. I was now free on the Office front.

I have always been a gamer - a casual one. Gaming helps me relax and is fairly important to me - I designed my computer so it could cope with the demands of the latest games. However, at this point in time, I am still forced to use Windows to play any game I want to. I hate being in this position and am therefore forced to keep Windows around for when I want to play a game. I do not have the skills to help change the way games work on Linux, but I do have some money and I will try to help the cause the only way I can : by buying video cards from whichever manufacturer gives me drivers that work well with Linux (NVIDIA: I'm looking in your direction - your drivers messed up KDE for a lot of people) and only buying games that also work on Linux. I do not have a lot of money to throw around and I am a statistic, but when multiplied enough, any statistic becomes significant - If enough of us do this, it will eventually change the market and force game companies to take notice and start releasing games that work on Linux as well.

At this point, I must mention id software, a company that has been releasing games for Linux. The game I'm currently playing (and really enjoying) is Quake Wars on Linux. In fact, I'm enjoying it so much that I hardly play any other game. So thank you id, for letting us gamers play on Linux. I will be buying more of your games in the future.

So that's why I'm now using Linux, in a very big nutshell. There are a lot more reasons, but these are the ones that matter the most to me. If you are a developer involved in an open source project, I thank you for helping to make my time at the computer so much more enjoyable.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Do you "take a decision", "make a decision", or decide?

Well, I've heard English spoken in India, the United States, the U.K. and New Zealand. I've heard all three forms being used. Now I'm no grammar nazi nor am I a grammar expert, but which one is correct english? According to Google, all three. General opinion seems to be that "make a decision" is heard more in American English and "take a decision" in British English ("decide" is used across the board). However, "take a decision" is definitely the most rare of the three.

I also came across a Grammarphobia blog entry that seems to prefer "make a decision".

Here's my take on all three used in a simple question:
  1. "Why don't you take a decision?"
  2. "Why don't you make a decision?"
  3. "Why don't you decide?"

  1. This does not sound logical to me. Unless I'm wrong, you can only take something that's been created or conceived of already. A decision does not exist until you create it by deciding, so how can you take it? This only makes sense if someone has already made the decision for you and you're taking the decision and going with it. But "take a decision"? Doesn't sound right. I could definitely see it being used in corporate circles, but I do not agree with its usage.
  2. Implies you're the person who's going to weigh the options and create a course of action based on what you see. That sounds a little better to me.
  3. Pretty much the same as 2, but in my opinion, is more efficient because you're saying more in less words.

I wouldn't take a decision. I wouldn't make a decision. I would decide.

Tense and other factors can definitely affect which of these three are preferable. I only question them in their current form.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Extortion I tell you!

So I'm back from WWDC, Steve Jobs' promise that the iPhone will not cost more than $199 still fresh in my memory and waiting for Vodafone, New Zealand to announce their pricing for iPhone plans, because, well, everyone who isn't an idiot knows that Apple will be getting a cut from the cell phone carrier too.

Well, today Vodafone put their plans up. Guess how much you will have to pay to get the iPhone for $199? $250/month! I'm sorry Steve, I like your iPhone, your AppStore and all its features, but if this is what you really meant at your keynote, I'm staying well away from your device because it's just not worth it. It looks like you just pushed the price up. That leaves me with a problem - what new phone should I buy? (because I do need one)

You know what? Maybe I'll go with a phone where nothing is hidden. I mean nothing. I can get it for US$400 and then decide what plan I want. Yes, it has GPS built-in. Yes, it knows when its being tilted. Yes, it has a touch screen. Yes, I can add however many ring tones I like. Yes, I can make my own applications for it (and I will). No, it doesn't have 3G, but then, Wi-fi is good enough for me...and yes, it has 802.11g. It doesn't look as cool, but it works and by the time I have to buy a new phone again, the playing field will be a lot more even.

I think, Steve, for all practical purposes, you can take New Zealand off the list of countries that you will be selling the iPhone in.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Amazing Browser called Firefox 3

Firefox 3 has been released. Over 26 Million downloads to date. Lots of new stuff under the hood. That new stuff allows for some cool new addons. Here are the 3 addons I cannot live without:
  1. Adblock Plus : Block most of those annoying popups and banners. I find the internet is just so much more enjoyable with this add-on installed. I tell Adblock Plus to allow text based ads, because they don't get in the way, are usually relevant to site content and because I can copy and paste any information I find in an ad to say, an email.
  2. Web of Trust : This one's a beauty - it rates the sites you visit based on universal trafiic light colors - red = dangerous, yellow = caution and green = good/safe. It even rates things like vendor reliability - how else would you have ANY clue as to whether the place you're buying stuff from online has a good reputation or not? Best of all, its community driven, so you know the ratings are coming from other users of the site. Finally, if you want to know why a site has been rated the way it has, there are comments and more details available. In my opinion, this is exactly what is needed.
  3. Foxmarks Bookmarks Synchronizer : An amazingly simple and elegant solution to the problem of keeping your bookmarks the same across the different computers you use everyday. I have several Firefox installations and I move between them several times a day. If I add, update or delete a bookmark on any machine, I know that when I start Firefox on one of my other machines, that change will be reflected in its bookmarks. I don't have to think about it and I like it that way. If I ever need to access my bookmarks outside these 3 computers, well then I can sign into and they are available to me. Yes, I know services like StumbleUpon are available and have been for some time. Have you seen the StumbleUpon add-on? It adds a toolbar and takes up screen real estate. The foxmarks add-on stands out because it does its job in the background. Interesting, isn't it?
Now, there are several other extremely useful add-ons ( I have about 23 installed right now ). Each has its place and makes one little part of using the internet that much more enjoyable. The three in this list are what I consider my "survival pack" - the first two keeping me away from the rubbish on the net and the third serves as my map.