It was a good week for Linux last week, as it began its 18th year with two significant coups.
Generating the most excitement, perhaps, was the long-awaited release on Wednesday of Adobe Flash Player 10, now available — for the first time ever — in a variety of convenient packaging formats for Linux.
Finally, a seat at the table!
“It is great to see Adobe taking this step, which should make it easier on new Linux users,” wrote Thomas Teisberg on the Linux Loop.
“This is Adobe’s concession and nod to Linux — Linux is important and worth porting commercial applications to,” Slashdot blogger yagu told LinuxInsider. “Many open source and Linux advocates — I’ll refrain from calling them zealots — shudder at the prospect of proprietary products like Flash in their universe, but it’s mainstream products like these that are just as important to Linux’s success as Linux itself. I thank Adobe for their contribution, late or not. Good for them.”
What, No 64-Bit Version?
Of course, many are still hoping Adobe will go further and release a 64-bit version of the software.
“My theory is that Adobe’s Flash player is a horrible hack that is so utterly fragile and bug-ridden that Adobe can’t actually make a 64-bit version without doing a full rewrite,” wrote Omnifarious on Slashdot, where more than 400 comments had been made by Friday.
Until such a feat is performed, however, “the contortions I have to put my system through to get it working have been annoying,” Montreal consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack told LinuxInsider.
Others, meanwhile, simply declined.
“Flash sucks in general. Now Linux users have as up-to-date crap as Windows users, hooray!” Slashdot blogger Mhall119 told LinuxInsider. “I think I’ll still use the FlashBlock extension for Firefox. When Adobe releases their Creative Suite for Linux, even if it’s a year behind Windows, that will be something to talk about.”
All Ubuntu, All the Time
Then, of course, there was the news that the Wikimedia Foundation — operator of Wikipedia and other sites — has decided to move all 400 of its Web servers from a combination of Ubuntu and Red Hat products exclusively to Ubuntu Linux Version 8.04.
“We still have a tiny technical staff, and re-organization of things that got thrown together in a hurry long ago is an ongoing task,” wrote Wikimedia staffer Brion Vibber on Slashdot, where some had expressed surprise that a mix had been used for so long.
While the topic generated a fair bit of discussion across the blogs — including also LXer — not everyone saw cause for excitement.
‘Worth Bragging About’
“Wikimedia has been using Linux on its servers for a while; the only real news is that they’re standardizing on one distro, instead of the collection that they had been using,” Mhall119 said. “And that’s not really very interesting news. It’s good news for Ubuntu — having such a highly visible client may help them compete against Novell and Red Hat — but I don’t see it bringing any major changes.”
On the other hand, “I think the more important news for Linux is that Wikipedia uses Linux!” yagu said. “While most people don’t really care, it’s something worth bragging about occasionally.”
Most people assume “Microsoft runs the world,” yagu added, but many “would be surprised (and maybe even amazed) if they knew how much of their world is run on Unix. It’s worth noting that for really hard, really big and really important uses, Linux is well-represented.”
For Ubuntu, meanwhile, “this is a great accomplishment, as it’s emerged as a favorite distribution,” he said. “Ubuntu demonstrates Linux *can* be easy to use and functional.”
Blog Action Day 2008
Even as Linux gained some ground on a market level last week, however, others were wondering if it could help bring about changes of an entirely different kind.
Specifically, in honor of Blog Action Day this past Wednesday, many were asking how Linux (among many other agents of change) can help reduce poverty, which was the annual event’s 2008 theme.
“There is a popular saying that goes like; “Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to use a cheap Linux powered computer and you have fed him for a lifetime,” noted a blog posting on the topic by Pavs on LinuxHaxor.
Advances made recently in Brazil, Macedonia, Kerala, Russia and India — among others — suggest Linux may have a role to play in fighting the global problem, Pavs noted.
Helping the Poor
The topic was also picked up on the Linux Loop, where Teisberg noted obstacles including education, Internet costs, Windows compatibility, piracy and physical distribution.
“I don’t think there’s anything Linux, or technology in general, can do to reduce poverty,” Mhall119 said. “Certainly the poor are not poor because of the cost of proprietary software. That said, while Linux can’t reduce poverty, it can still help those who are in poverty.”
OpenOffice.org is an example, he added. “If someone is trying to improve their lot by getting an education, and they don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on MS Office to do their school work, that’s a bonus for them,” he explained.
Indeed, “Linux users and Linux developers can do a lot to help the poor,” added Mhall119, who recently set up a second-hand computer with Linux and educational games for kids and gave it away to a day-care facility he knew couldn’t justify the expense of getting something like that loaded with proprietary versions.
Hands-On Help With Linux
“The response I got back on that, from the teachers and the toddlers, has been amazing — so amazing, in fact, that I’ve started a charitable organization that takes donated hardware, puts Linux and Linux games on them, and donates them to kids in need,” Mhall119 added.
“We’re just getting it started, but already we’ve had almost 50 computers donated to us,” he said. “We couldn’t do this with proprietary software — the licensing costs of the software would make it impossible. But because of the GPL, BSD, MIT and other open source licenses, I can.”
Now that, dear readers, is something to brag about! To learn more, visit the project’s site.