Category Archives: FOSS

FOSS … operating systems

ice covered berries

Icestorm – December 2013

Although FOSS advocates, we do use proprietary operating systems such as Microsoft and Apple operating systems for specific tasks (although for some of these tasks we could use FOSS) and most of all for testing our creations on different systems, even if they are developed entirely with FOSS tools. And for development we typically do use FOSS tools, including the operating system.

In our case we use Linux. To keep it simple, just like most people, we speak of Linux as an operating system, but it isn’t. It is a kernel (the core system) around which the operating system is built with all kinds of additional software. Linux (the operating system, not the kernel) also comes in different varieties, called distributions or distros for short. There are an amazing number of Linux distros out there. Amongst the best known are Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, OpenSuse and Slackware. Often these come themselves in different varieties, such as desktop versus server varieties, but also often varieties based around different window managers. So it definitely is not a ‘one system fits all’, which it typically is with proprietary systems.

We use a few specific varieties of Ubuntu, according to the different characteristics of different pieces of hardware we use. We are aware that we could use any number of other distros just as effectively, but our familiarity with Ubuntu, and specifically with its package manager (Synaptic), has made us stick with Ubuntu. All be it not the main variety known as Ubuntu, with its Unity window manager. It would take us too far at this moment to explain this. But we would like to point out that this should not at all be interpreted as criticism on the Unity system. As a matter of fact we consider Ubuntu to have been ahead of the curve with Unity, in comparison with its proprietary competition when it comes to integrating smartphone, tablet, netbook, notebook and desktop computing. Development however is typically done on desktop computers, and big screens, and ‘touch’ doesn’t come into it.

A traditional desktop window manager based on KDE or older GNOME derivatives therefore is our preferred choice. Ubuntu officially supports such a version, called Kubuntu. On lower performing hardware, one might want to have a look at Xubuntu, or even Lubuntu. Also note that even on these versions running on older, lower spec equipment, you would still be running a kernel that dates back only a few months and with software which was updated, well, in Linux, that could well be today…

It may surprise you that beneath the surface there are quite a few similarities between the Apple Mac operating system and the Linux distros. The reason being that the Linux kernel was created to mimic the Unix operating system, and years ago Apple switched from its own system to one based on a version of Unix. This stems from Job’s short stint with a company called Next, which after limited success in hardware (NextCube), open sourced its NextStep operating system (Unix based). NextStep led to the new Apple OSX operating system. Of course depending on the window managers used by any given Linux distro, it may look more similar, or less, or even not at all like a Mac system. Some mimicked MS Windows systems, some even the old Amiga systems.

As a matter of fact there are also some Unix distros available for free use, such as FreeBSD and OpenBSD.

Point is, we have an abundance of choice, or what in French may be expressed as: l’embarras du choix’.

Chris Rogiers for CeaRO Corporation, January 16th, 2014

FOSS for developers … what is out there?

twig with ice covered berries

Icestorm – December 2013

There is all kinds of FOSS software out there. From operating systems all the way up to web server, mail server, instant message servers, cloud systems, social networking systems, blogging systems, database systems, graphical editing software, office suites, … You name it, and it probably exists as FOSS.

Not only does it exist as FOSS, but it may very well be freely available for different operating systems. This allows you to limit yourself to using free software on non-free operating systems.

In most cases this software will function identically in different operating systems, and certainly will be able to exchange its data files across different operating systems. There are two big advantages to this.

First, it allows people on different operating systems to use the same software and exchange their data amongst each other.

Secondly, it allows for people to gradually acquaint themselves with software before they switch to a free operating system, and when they do to immediately be productive and feel at ease. Typical examples for general use are OpenOffice and LibreOffice, and Eclipse and NetBeans for full blown integrated development environments.

This post is just a general introduction to what is out there as FOSS. Separate post will give more details about some of the software we use or at least know of.

Chris Rogiers for CeaRO Corporation, January 16th, 2014

FOSS…why use it?

ice covered berries

Icestorm – December 2013

Well we can think of a number of different reasons. We also do understand that for some people and their needs, FOSS may not provide all they need. Nor do I believe that FOSS software is per definition better or safer in use than proprietary software.

But for us there are and have always been enough good reasons to use FOSS software either on its own or in combination with proprietary software. But the reasons for it also have a lot to do with the fact that we are developers and experimentors.

So here are the reasons which come to mind and which apply to our preference for using mostly FOSS software:

        • price of course;
        • community based support;
        • open file formats;
        • ample choice;
        • mostly good enough for our needs;
        • no use impediments.

Price needs to be seen as more of a reason than just the purchase price for any given piece of software. As developers and experimentors, we like to fully try out all kinds of software before we commit to it. If we had to pay for the ones we keep using as well as for the ones we abandoned, we would end up really poor. We often try to use software on different systems. If we needed to buy separate licenses for each install… We often move from one system to another, or drastically update hardware. Proprietary software often takes a dim view of these practices. Small businesses do not need to buy additional licenses as they expand their workforce. Free lancers can choose the software most appropriate for a given project and then abandon it, moving on to their next project, using different tools and yet not spending more money. That is what I mean by no use impediments.

Chris Rogiers for CeaRO Corporation, January 16th, 2014

FOSS…what is it? Where does it come from?

ice covered tree branches

Icestorm – December 2013

Let’s get back to what I mentioned in our very first post: FOSS.

As said before it stands for free and open source software. And I am not going to talk here about the different licensing systems and how they refer to FOSS. I know there are a lot of different licenses in use, even for software which you are free to use, and often free to use for your own private, public or even commercial purposes. Examples are GPL2, GPL3, MIT, Apache, Mozilla…

The software may be written by a community of people who spend their time and efforts freely on a piece or system of software they are passionate about. Sometimes these communities are supported by commercial organizations. In which case the commercial organization may derive publicity, shared software in its commercial offerings or service and support contracts from it.

But it may also be the property of a commercial organization and written by their employees or bought by acquiring a company, which developed it or bought it or by buying out a community project . Examples of these are two IDEs (Integrated Development Environment): NetBeans (formerly owned by Sun, now by Oracle) and Eclipse (IBM) and the MySQL database (Sun, Oracle).

Sometimes when a piece of software moves from the community to a privately owned status, people loose confidence in the future of the product, but being open source, the original community group or a newly developing one may fork the software and further improve it and expand it. That is what happened with OpenOffice, which led to LibreOffice (office suites). MariaDB is considered the alternative to MySQL.

For us, developers, it does not necessarily matter where it comes from or where it is going. Somehow there always have sprouted up enough free alternatives, when needed. We have never been caught out by a file format which was no longer supported nor by not having access to files which are in proprietary formats.

Chris Rogiers for CeaRO Corporation, January 16th, 2014