Older blog entries for johnnyb (starting at number 44)

My response to a question on a Yahoo newsgroup:

Do YOU see Linux making a big impact on the desktop?


I certainly do. Microsoft relies entirely on the OEMs to survive. In addition, Microsoft's licensing has totally prevented OEMs from differentiating themselves in any way other than price - making their margins horrible. OEMs want to get out and Linux is the best way. The problem is who will be the first to jump. Wal-Mart may well set the standard here and cause a windfall. Remember - Wal-Mart can afford to sell cheaper than ANY other.

On the business front, the value proposition of Linux on the desktop is real and credible. In fact, CIOs are going to be called to account for the places they AREN'T using open software very soon. The only real problem is that people underestimated the time scale required for this change to happen.

However, the first place the desktop revolution is going to happen is schools. This is happening right now all over the country. The early-adopters are starting all over the country. Microsoft has made the donated PCs running Windows essentially illegal - the only real option for donated PCs under Microsoft's new rules is running Linux. Using Linux in a terminal environment, you can do a computer lab with REALLY OLD donated PCs for $6,000 including server, cabling, etc that runs OpenOffice, Mozilla, and all the other wonderful open-source programs.

With Wine's derivatives being as good as they are now, schools can even use their existing software they have purchased.

I think of this in terms of chemistry - the potential energy here is magnanimus, however, it takes a lot of extra energy to start the reaction, unless there is a catalyst of some sort. It's just a simple amount of time before Linux has the buildup it needs to start the reaction.

Reminder to myself to rant about XML styling languages and the current state of XML publishing.

My thoughts on a recent newsforge article:

To the problem of Linux being hard to install, I say phooey. Linux and Windows both have trouble installing, just on different systems. When it does install, Linux is usually easier.

To the problem of third-party package management - that is actually a real problem. There are several reasons and solutions:

1) The dists have done a good job of kitchen-sinking their distribution. Most of what anyone needs is already in the distribution, thus leaving little reason for people writing the applications to make it easy-to-install.

2) package formats cannot contain dependencies. Unfortunately, the current package formats do not have support (that I'm aware of) for shipping all of their dependencies. This can be solved by shell scripts, but because of #1 most people don't bother. However, maybe a universal install script might be a good project for someone. Have a script for collecting dependencies into a .shar file, and extend the .shar file to actually run the installer, which will install whatever dependencies are needed.

3) what is the operating system? The blurring of lines between operating system and add-on is great in Linux. Is Red Hat Linux it's own operating system? Is GNOME it's own operating system? How should someone communicate what operating system a package runs under? I think we need to stop viewing Linux as an operating system, and start viewing the distributions as operating systems. The distributions define their compaitibility requirements, and therefore should be what developers aim their packages for, since it is a stable, known quantity. I know you'll say LSB, but I don't think that the LSB is good for Linux.

Remember how Windows does this - they basically stick a new version of Windows with Office. Have you seen how many .dll's it updates? They basically replace the entire Windows infrastructure when you install Office. Therefore, I think the best way is for developers to ship the dependencies with the programs. Maybe they should also statically link more of their libraries. Maybe the libraries/toolchains should make it easier to choose which libraries are statically/dynamically compiled.

Creating a new section of my web site for a potential consulting business. I'm kind of wavering between staying where I am (EDS), going out on my own, and going with my friend Chris. There's a lot of potential I could do with Chris, but I know he has no clue about free software. Using free software wouldn't be a problem for certain projects, but writing free software I'm sure would be a problem. However, it might be doable over a period of time.

Doing my own consulting business might be good on the side of my EDS job, especially since I work 2nd shift. I'm pretty free until 3, unless you count my family :)

As of right now, I can't do consulting by itself simply because my son requires good insurance (lots of health problems).

Anyway, my site for the theoretical consulting biz is at


The "solving problems" link has a semi-manifesto on which I plan on basing the business around.

Anyway, I have to wait until my wife pops out child #2 anyway (should be any day now), so I can kind of stick it in the back of my mind until life normalizes a little bit :)

Anyway, not sure what I want to do. In addition, I want to be spending more time in the church, but I don't see that happening to a great extent anytime soon.

This is my response to a post on NewsForge about whether or not programmers will get less money with the GPL:

Remember. Your can fulfill ALL of your obligations to the GPL by simply providing them with source on the CD that is covered by the GPL. What this means:

* for consulting work, you get paid the same.

* if an industry group wants you to write an industry-specific application, you get paid the same.

* if you are selling boxed software, you basically will still get paid the same. Why?

a) noone will be able to download it until after people start buying it in the stores, since that's where the source code is.

b) the value of the software in the store is greater than the value of it in cyberspace. Why? Because of the salesperson who can help the user find the software they need.

c) people respect brand names. It's human nature. Build a good brand and your brand will sell at higher prices than the same product from other brands.

d) only offer support on the purchased product.

Doing so will also reduce your R&D time because you will have users who will send you patches for things they want, if they are skilled an interested enough.

Now, if you are overcharging for your product anyway, sure, the market will correct you. However, I wouldn't be proud to say I made a living extorting customers because they didn't have any alternatives.

Users want freedom. They are even willing to pay for it. Remember, a lot of new computer sales were made to young people so they could get a piece of the "free" music. They paid thousands of dollars to get "free" music. Think about that. The money isn't the problem - the freedom is.

Add to this that very, very few people in the U.S. consider piracy to be unethical, and you remove any reason why the GPL would reduce sales on products offered at a reasonable price.

After much complaining about my outdated links, the GNU Compiler Writer's Jump Point has been updated. I haven't kept up with this information in years, so I thought the least I could do is update the links.

Also, I added a new essay on why Christian's shouldn't try to moralize non-believers at http://www.eskimo.com/~johnnyb/spiritual/MoralizingNonBelievers.xml and an essay on the ethical problems with Corporations at http://www.eskimo.com/~johnnyb/spiritual/EthicalProblemsOfCorporations.xml .

In addition, I added a sucky DocBook CSS stylesheet for my articles, and removed the non-DocBook editions. The only one left in that section is the LaTeX one.

Hopefully, I'll get a better CSS stylesheet soon, maybe from the web.

17 Jun 2002 (updated 17 Jun 2002 at 02:49 UTC) »

I know that others have pointed this out before, but it only hit me in a real way a few days ago.

The biggest enemy of Free Software is pirated software.

I have a friend from Church. Almost all of the software on his computer is pirated. He knows it's illegal, but doesn't think it's unethical. He would not pay the money for the software. I didn't ask him directly, but I'm sure if he had to pay for it all, he would be willing to look at Free Software.

In addition to his admitted guilt, he also did not know everything that he did which was illegal. For example, he thought that since he bought a copy of Quickbooks Pro, that he was free to install it on whomever's computer he wanted to. He thought that this activity was perfectly legal, and got very defensive when I informed him that it was not.

I did not have the chance to get around to telling him about the kind of software that allows this freedom, but I may in the future.

Anyway, the problem is how to solve this problem. On one hand, he is not even aware about all of his legal activities, and on the other hand, for those he knows its illegal, he doesn't care. He is a very moral person in general, but it seems that he puts the relative moral value on this subject about on par with the speed limit.

What to do about this? I'm not sure.

One possibility is to start an information campaign similar to the BSA's, but ending with Free Software information rather license compliance information. This would be most effective in Churches, where not breaking laws is one of the things that lends them credibility.

By the way, this conversation has lead me to believe that the actual numbers for piracy are much, much larger than reported, but the actual number would be too embarrassing, and basically prove that such restrictions were not in the public interest.

The following is a satire article I wrote for bowdownbefore.us.

The U.S. congress has decided to take a new tactic to fight global terrorism - Education. The upcoming anti-terror education bill will change the way schools in the U.S. are run, and lobby the rest of the world to do the same. "We're trying to make the world safe from terrorism. If the rest of the world adopts our public education system, then we can make the populace too stupid to do any real damage".

The new bill plans to make testing standards consistent with the wide range of students taking those test. "We want to give tests that don't discriminate based on race, socioeconomic status, or education level".

Will this have a real impact on global terrorism? Unfortunately, at the time of writing, no qualified expert was available to answer this question.

I just realized that I had failed to post this. The last two weeks have been very amazing. Basically, God has been busy at work healing my two-year-old.

First, he had cardiomyopathy that was caused by his mitochondrial condition. A year and a half ago, the doctors said that his heart would always be weak for as long as he lived - there was no possiblity of recovery. Of course, two weeks ago we had another echocardiogram for a checkup, which showed his heart having normal function!

Anyway, in addition, he is learning to walk quite well. Very good for a kid the neuromuscular specialist said would never have the strength even to sit up.

He's also two-and-a-half. That beats the first estimate of his life span (3 days). The second (9 months). And the third (2 years). They also thought that he would be constantly declining. Instead, he is constantly doing better!

Also, mitochondrial disease (Cytochrome-C oxidase deficiency, to be specific in his case) is a muscle disease. According to his doctors, he is showing none of the symptoms of muscle degeneration that are supposed to come with these types of muscle disease.

He is not fully healed. He still has a feeding tube (it used to be because he couldn't eat, now it's because he's stubborn). He still can't talk. However, God seems to be healing him a little at a time.

Anyway, just had to post! Praise God!

New baby coming soon! Andrew Micah has lowered himself, and will probably be out in the next two weeks!

After things get settled from that, I have to figure out what I want to do with myself. Of course, I need to finish my book. But that is an excellent spare-time activity. What I think I'd like to do is essentially what I did with Wolfram Research - help people take control of their software through free software. Of course, with Wolfram Research, I had a quite willing audience who was already doing so to a large extent.

Anyway, Tulsa is much more conservative, so it will definitely be a harder sell. However, I think I could probably make a pretty good case for K12LTSP for schools. Especially if I could get a good deal on licensing for CrossOver if the school had specialized applications.

Anyway, I'd be interested in comments from Linux consultants in other places and what kinds of work they managed to get, and what kind of issues they had to tackle.

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