Tag Archives: Operating system

I’m making my own slate/tablet (I’m not joking)


Image representing iPad as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

I’m tired of people talking about tablet/slate is the future of personal computing. I mean I’ve built my own PCs all this time so why don’t I start making my own slate if that is really the future?

Many people think iPad is the best tablet so far. I beg to differ. It’s probably the worst since it has no USB port, it does not use desktop OS, and it has no memory card slot. So you’re asking why does using a full-fledged desktop OS matters to me? Read on.

Before I go further, I’d like to tell you how important to have at least one USB port on a slate. Imagine this; we should already know by now that iPad in 2 versions; the 3G and non-3G. People with money would normally go for the best their money could buy. For poorly paid public servant like me, it’s just normal to opt for the cheaper one, which is in this case the non-3G one. Practically it’s cheaper to buy the non-3G and then plug my existing USB 3G modem (or even 3G-enabled phone) and I’m good to go. Besides, even if the slate does not have a memory card reader, I can always plug a USB card reader too, should there’s a need to do so. Not to mention the freedom to directly connect my other devices such as phones, digicam, mp3 player, etc. without the need of a PC as a mediator. It would also allow me to expand the built-in memory by plugging in USB flash drives. See how cool it is to have a USB port? The presence of USB ports on some Windows slates makes them the winner over iPad.

Talking about connectivity, the non-3G iPad would only benefit home users, provided that the house is equipped with wi-fi. Travelers and road warriors would be happy with the 3G version, but that’s it, they’re restricted to 3G only. Since many new ISPs have started rolling out WiMax services, even the 3G version of iPad is out of luck, as there is no way to plug in USB WiMax modem to it. That’s why I’d like to stress out that having USB port is as important as having the core of the tablet itself. Not only it allows the slate to have extra features, it may also doubles the existing features.

Now, into the OS as I promised earlier. I don’t mind if people prefer to put/use a specially developed mobile OS for tablets. However I can’t accept it if people think tablets must use mobile OS instead of desktop OS, citing issues like battery life, “overkill”, etc. I’m not really sure about the “overkill” part as I never think desktop OS is too much for a tablet, because even netbooks can accept them. However when it comes to battery life, actually it’s the goal of all desktop OS to become most power efficient and it doesn’t have to be for mobile OS only. Besides the battery life is usually determined by the CPU. That means even if the OS is power efficient, if the CPU is power-hungry then even a tablet with power-optimized mobile OS would have it’s battery juice drained in no time. For an analogy, imagine comparing a 3GHz Intel Pentium-powered PC with a 3GHz Intel Core-powered PC. Install both PCs with Windows 7 Ultimate and I’m pretty sure the latter would be the winner for consuming much lower power despite using the same OS.

For me, no matter how people want to push the usage of a mobile OS in a tablet, a tablet must be powerful enough to support at least Windows 7 in it, should there are people who want to use it in a tablet. People should not think that “a slate is a smartphone+ and it should have similar battery life to a smartphone”. It is a ridiculous idea to believe that way. Sure it’s welcomed to see a tablet that can run as long a smartphone does but it’s still pretty much unrealistic and just a wishful thinking. A tablet is good enough if it could run continuously (with 3G/wi-fi on) for 6-8 hours with single full charge.

Actually what you do with a tablet is all that matters, not the OS inside it. If tablet is really the future of personal computing then doesn’t that means it would need the OS of personal computing know to everybody (Windows/Linux/BSD/OSX/etc.)? Really most people have fallen victim to the illusion made by Apple that now they believe the reason iPad is popular is because of its OS. They’re totally wrong. iPad was popular because it was from the “new” Apple (Apple under Steve Jobs management). Just a matter of fact, everything that comes from Apple since the return of Steve Jobs would sell, no matter how feature-poor they are.

I believe people would still buy the iPad even if it was loaded with OSX instead of iOS. Likewise, I don’t think Fujitsu’s tablets would become as popular as the iPad too, even if they had some mobile OS pre-installed. After all, reputation helps a lot here. Many people don’t know the truth behind the OS selection for iPad. The initial plan was to use OSX but they had a hard time to re-scale OSX’s kernel for lower-powered mobile use. Therefore they went to recreating/redesigning the OS again, and that explains why the earlier versions of iOS were all “unfinished products”, rolled out prematurely to meet its users with no copy-paste, no multitasking, etc.

Talking about reputation, since I’m anime fan too, I’d like to touch a bit about anime as well. It was reputation and hype that helped popularized Panty & Stocking anime a while back. People have known GAINAX for a long time, and people have known them for their good works. However I bet P&S would be as popular as we know it today if the exact thing was made by some American cartoon studio or even by some Asian animation studio outside Japan. Instead it might have ended up being known as yet another cartoon with Powerpuff Girls style animation, and wouldn’t make it to either Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon but would be aired in the midnight adult slot in some US TV channels due to its dirty jokes. In other words, people who have fallen for P&S is just like those people who have fallen victim of the illusion created by Apple as I explained in earlier paragraph.

The biggest lie the IT world have told me (resurfaced)


 

Windows XP Virtual Machine on a Mac
Image by scottpowerz via Flickr

 

My first experience with Linux was 10 years ago. Although I started my computing experience earlier than that (I attended computer classes since 1995) but I remain a n00b because the beige boxes scares me. I only started falling in love with computers and IT stuff when my father purchased our first family PC (powered by Pentium III) in year 2000. By having our own PC I can freely tinker around it without having to worry too much. Although the PC was pre-installed with Windows 98 SE, an article in local PC magazine drove my curiosity to try Linux and ended up installing RedHat in a dual-boot environment. I admit that I fell in love in Linux but I love Windows more because of it’s ease-of-use thus I set Windows as the default OS. Actually nobody in my family knows there’s Linux in the PC because it is only bootable via a boot diskette. Despite using Windows most of the time, I keep using Linux occasionally out of curiosity and started mastering it unknowingly in the process.

A couple of years since my introduction to Linux, I learned about the existence of special kind of software that would allow me to use Linux without having to set my beige box to dual-boot system. The software is known as virtual machine. I installed Connectix Virtual PC and began experimenting with various Linux flavors, often more than 2 at one time. Sure, having such load in a Pentium III box with maximum RAM of only 512MB is a pain but for a geek it was a pain worth bearing. However it still does not enough to make me a Linux convert because I still think that Linux was still immature for a beginner’s use. It was during the same time I introduced Linux to my family and nobody accepted it. Yes, the heavy reliance on CLI freaked my family members and unlike Windows which they can fix themselves, they’d left dumbfounded should they face problems in Linux. And I was more convinced that Linux is still not good as a beginner’s OS. Well, perhaps I’ve used the wrong distro but how should I know if the one I’m comfortable with may be too scary for others?

Fast forward a few years and I’ve almost gave up being a Linux evangelist to my family. Yeah, I know it wouldn’t succeed because I still not using Linux as my main OS up to that time. It’s not that I don’t want to but virtualization software consumed too much of my limited system resources, although my PC was among the most powerful of that time. Even if I set my PC into a dual-boot machine and dedicate all system resources to whatever OS I booted, it wouldn’t help either because I’m not happy with the hassle of having to reboot the machine just to switch the other OS. Then I think why not the computer developers simplify it? My computing knowledge were pretty much limited on that time. All that I could think for improvement is either to make the virtualization less resource hungry or something that I described as “hardware-level virtualization”. The former might be impossible because no matter how small footprint the virtualization software has, the overall system resources is still shared among the host SO and the guest OS. For the latter, I thought it was ridiculous until I read an article in another local PC magazine about the so-called “hardware-assisted virtualization” in 2005, around the same time of the emergence of multi-core consumer CPU.

From what I understood about hardware-assisted virtualization, it’s similar to my vision of hardware-level virtualization, where system resources are partitioned at hardware level instead of in software level as in the traditional software virtualization. In the article both AMD‘s “Pacifica” and Intel‘s “Vanderpool” were mentioned well. I thought the technology I’ve been waiting for has arrived but I was wrong. It’s all liars. The article mentioned about having a machine where we can boot into both system at one time without the need to install the virtualization software and we can switch between the OSes in real-time without having to reboot the system (let’s call it “double-boot” instead of dual-boot) or reloading the same OS without restarting it. Sounds nice because should the current working environment crashed, the loaded copy of the OS would take over and this could be done without the user noticing it. However I still haven’t seen my dream of “double-boot” system become true despite the technology is already available. The technology becomes useful only if the virtualization software is installed, which means it still need the host-guest relationship between the OSes, of which I think kills the purpose of having the hardware-level virtualization. I am highly disappointed. However there was one time in local PC expo where I saw an Apple representative demonstrated switching between Mac OS X and Windows XP in real-time using certain key combination. I asked him whether there are any virtualization software installed or not and he answered me the Mac only use Bootcamp. I’m not sure though whether it’s true or there were just some tricks because I never really have a chance to use Windows on Macs but whatever system it is, I only want to see the “double-boot” system become true.

How often I should have major upgrades f…


How often I should have major upgrades for my OS? Even if there are free annual major upgrades for my system, I won’t be happy either if it involves huge downloads every time that happens. Yes, I’m referring to a certain specific free Linux distro where the company that maintains it promised the user that the major OS upgrades will be available every 6 months or so, more or less. Luckily transferring user preferences and settings in Linux is not as tricky as in Windows because no system registry is involved, which means things won’t be too disastrous even if the upgrades didn’t run smoothly. The worst you’d do is most probably to fresh install the system, recreate your user account and manually patching/transferring all your previous settings to your current installation. But then again it doesn’t change the fact that I hate mandatory huge downloads like system upgrades as I mentioned above. If that’s the case (inevitable huge downloads) I rather getting major upgrades only after every 2 or 3 years than doing it twice or even once every year. I know major upgrades always associated with major security concerns but for something that “as big as an OS”, I think having to do it each year is too much to the point of annoying. Yeah, I might be able to skip it but chances are newer apps might only be optimized for the upgraded system only, rendering most users would feel like being ‘forced’ to do the upgrades. Besides I think annual major upgrades for free OS doesn’t really makes sense since there’s nothing to sell in the first place. At least in Windows world, although only having major upgrades once every 2 years or so, it does makes more sense as those upgrades are something they’re selling, something they (Microsoft) are making money from.

Will Apple be run out of business if the…


Will Apple be run out of business if their so-called ‘platform’ is open and they allow people to install Mac OS X on non-Macs? Well, contrary to popular belief that Apple is a strong IT company (based on their current performance), coupled with the fact that Apple ‘platform’ is not really a platform anymore since their transition to x86 CPU (intel), things may not favoring Apple much in those situations. In fact they are not too confident that they may prevail as strong as they are right now should the above situations ever happened, which explains why it is not legally possible to clone a Mac today. Heck if they are confident enough they should have removed all kind of vendor-locking on their products and prepare themselves to compete in a completely open a and fair market as a standalone brand.

Linux should learn more from Windows too…


Linux should learn more from Windows too; ie. to use proper, corresponding icon for its executable files. Executable files are programs that comes with applications, together with their own set of icons. The problem is the icons are only available for applications menu and desktops but why not the executable files as well? I remember having a hard time browsing the usr/bin folder searching for the executable file of Transmission (the bittorent client) by looking at file names instead of trying to notice the familiar Transmission icon. Yeah I found it but I can do it much faster in Windows thanks to the usage of corresponding icon for Windows applications. Besides in Windows applications are usually sorted out properly in their own program directories with proper application naming (Program Files/App name) instead of dumping all cryptically named executable files in only one place. Besides why the heck the system still use almost-cryptic acronymic naming of directories like ‘usr’ instead of ‘user’ or ‘bin’ instead of ‘binary’ or ‘lib’ instead of ‘library’? (And strangely enough they can use four-letter words for some other directories like ‘home’ and ‘root’?). And what the heck the ‘sda’ is actually? (yeah, I know what ‘sda’ is but that one is just me exaggerating to show you how cryptic directory naming in Linux can be). Linux is already decades in development yet the developers still refuse to abandon UNIX system convention? C’mon, it’s just a matter of a few additional letters so it shouldn’t hurt for that much of extra work. And isn’t modern Linux is supposed to be a hybrid and pragmatic standalone system instead of being heavily and strictly modeled after UNIX? It’s been decades since the first version of Linux being coded so today it should be made less like UNIX now while still remaining POSIX-compliant. Heck, even Mac OS X and Windows NT* are completely POSIX-compliant but managed to exist as a completely different system. In other words, modern Linux should be partially modeled after other systems as well if it wants to ‘seize’ the OS market domination from Windows.

*WinNT may or may not fully POSIX-compliant but I don’t fuss over the details. Nobody really care whether I’m correct or not because there’ll always be people disagreeing with me whether I’m right or wrong.

I got my first Ubuntu live CD around 5 y…


I got my first Ubuntu live CD around 5 years ago which was distributed free in a local PC expo. When I tried to run it on my laptop, I waited for 15 minutes and nothing happen so I was badly disappointed. By that time I’m already have 5 years of Linux experience so I don’t mind at all installing Ubuntu but having to run it as a live CD first before I can install it is too much of a hassle. Why didn’t they make the CD starts with 2 options?; ie. to run as live CD or to install? If not I might have started using it since that time until today.