Dec 14, 2009

Firefox Has Too Many Developers

In its last several releases, everyone's favorite Open Source browser has become an unstable mess of add-ons, plugins, and other hacks that chew up memory like a fat kid with a chocolate-dipped corn dog. In fact, just last week, SecurityFocus released news of a devastating exploit in Firefox 3.5.5 that they blame squarely on its unstable architecture.

From its infancy Firefox has been the product of collaborative effort, unifying code from hackers worldwide. But thanks to the Hayes Law, we see that there is a "sweet spot" to such a development style, and that Firefox has long since left it behind. In the chart below, we can see that the number of Firefox developers has increased exponentially since 2002, and that number will more than double in 2010.

But it's time to be honest: either Firefox, as a modern web browser, will have killer performance on 64-bit, multicore Intel chips or it's not worth downloading and installing. And since, as we have seen in the recent past, that Firefox is actually getting slower with each release, Firefox is certainly a waste of time for anyone who takes their web browsing seriously.

Dec 12, 2009

NetBSD: Bankrupt Software Distribution

Hot on the heels of their NetBSD 5.0.1 release, the NetBSD organization is gearing up for NetBSD 6.0, due in about half a year ("The sixth major release for the six month of 2010!").

To make that happen, NetBSD is asking its industry partners, users, and anyone with spare change to contribute US$60,000. Matt Thomas, of NetBSD's core group, says the money will allow for "network performance improvements and embedded and realtime optimization," meaning NetBSD can finally move onto specialized hardware, an area NetBSD has struggled with in the past.

But is the ultimate goal of $60,000 appropriate for the BSD family's middle child? Is NetBSD a good long-term investment of that kind of money? Is NetBSD even worth the nearly $8,000 raised so far? Why invest in a bankrupt operating system?

Dec 6, 2009

Time to Update the Ol’ LARP Résumé

Eric poured the first of his new bottle of Jägermeister into a glass tumbler, making sure not to spill any drops of the precious thick brown liqueur.

He was warm all over from drinking the last bottle and sweat formed like dew over the numerous crap lines in his forehead. He threw back the shot, slammed his glass down, and brushed a swatch of greasy orange hair out of his eyes.

"Time to get back to work," he said to no one in particular.

Nov 15, 2009

Linux 2012: The Real Disaster

Almost a decade after the Year 2000 Problem, in which two-character date fields threatened the existence of the human race, the computing industry is once again back to worrying about Windows upgrades, Mac one-upmanship, processor numbers, bloated Adobe updates, and the latest MMORPG expansion.

Despite the ease with which software makers updated their date fields and the general tenor of calm today, things are not nearly as stable as one might think they are. Another pitfall lurks around the corner, this time based on the proliferation of GNU/Linux, a free operating system programmed by a worldwide collective of hackers.

Nov 12, 2009

QNX Interface Lags Mac, Windows

I've been a QNX user since 2000, when QNX Software Systems released the new Neutrino-based QNX6 platform. This was a large-but-welcome upgrade: QNX finally had a 32-bit kernel with hard realtime capabilities that ran on multiple microarchitectures. Likewise, the Photon microGUI was much improved and was even impressive for its day.

Apple's Mac OS 9 was working with the Platinum interface introduced in 1997 and Windows, at the time, was still using the Chicago GUI from 1995. QNX took a couple pages from each company's interface book for Photon and the system had a cutting-edge look and feel. But the industry didn't stand still, and Apple and Microsoft both upgraded their graphical user interfaces significantly in 2001.

The GUIs were much improved: Apple's Aqua interface had been the darling of the industry since Mac OS X Beta was available, and debuted to a chorus of praise while Microsoft showed off their Fischer-Price scheme that wowed non-technical users and other lower rungs of society. But QNX stayed still.

Oct 31, 2009

QNX Ignores Desktop Standards, Security

Last May, QNX released a minor update to their flagship operating system, QNX RTOS. The tweaks and optimizations in 6.4.1 kick things up the proverbial "notch" and deliver some surprises too, so long-time users and curious, potential switchers have some things to pore over.

I installed QNX 6.4.1 on a Dell Precision T7400. The system sports eight 3.2 GHz cores and 12MiB L2 cache in two Xeon X5482 quad-core processors running 16GiB RAM. This machine is some serious, high-end iron. It whipped Windows 7 prereleases around like a wrestler with a newborn babe and Ubuntu similarly slid around like race-cars hitting oil on the track: there wasn't anything this colossus couldn't compute.

Likewise, QNX rushed through all but the most demanding tasks. I work at a 3D movie effects studio, which shall go unnamed in this review, and I was curious about QNX's realtime abilities and their effect on rendering. So I began the process of porting some of our in-house custom software to the little microkernel that could. Our software is POSIX-compliant, meaning it should port to any standard Unix, but here I hit my first snag. QNX is anything but standard.

Aug 1, 2009

My Unsettling Ubuntu Experience

I'd been using Ubuntu 9.04's LiveCD feature at work to migrate Windows profiles. Unlike Windows, which never properly migrates user directories no matter how you coax it, Ubuntu's simple drag-and-drop replacement from network backup makes user migration a piece of cake.

I simply booted, configured the network settings, logged into our network backup, and copied the old user directory over top of the new one (we're on a domain). When the user logged back in, their old stuff was all in place. It had really been a lifesaver, and I'd started reading up on it more and started to set up an Ubuntu workstation. But that's when I ran into some weird problems.

After installing and tinkering around on the GNOME desktop, I opened Terminal. After writing some scripts and creating user accounts, a new terminal window opened. I thought this very odd since I hadn't initiated a new session and none of my scripts would have either. As I was about to close it, I paused my mouse. The terminal session had printed something to the screen, seemingly by itself.

trollaxor@ubuntor:~$ *** DO U LIKE GUYS Y OR N

Jul 14, 2009

Google Chrome: Big Brother's Broken Spyware

I just downloaded Google Chrome for Mac and it crashed before I could even open a page. There is no excuse for this; my Mac Pro is perfect in every way with eight 2.93 GHz cores, 32 GB RAM, and a fresh install of Mac OS X Leopard v10.5.7. Ergo any crashing Google Chrome does is Google Chrome's own fault!

Jul 9, 2009

Some Questions & Comments About Firefox 3.5

I have to say that Firefox is getting a lot worse lately. The user experience is in serious need of improvement and development is the pits. I installed the latest "big deal" Firefox update on June 30th. (For some reason they skipped a full four secondary updates, but whatever.) Upon restarting, which took several minutes, I began using Firefox 3.5.

Jun 30, 2009

Playing With Its Wii: Nintendo's 8G Console

Now that the dust has settled in the Seventh Generation console wars, with the Nintendo Wii emerging the clear winner and the Xbox360 and PlayStation 3 duking it out in the dust behind, game manufacturers are already tapping out prototypes of their next-generation consoles in the race for the eighth-generation console war.

At stake is billions in licensing and sales revenue, and each company is straining to optimize its next-generation offering to slaughter its competition. And as before, Nintendo is playing it cool and designing a low-footprint system that will zip between its peers' enormous specs and straight to players' hearts.

Having been conservative in its last two console releases and realizing success from multi-segment appeal and diverse game interaction, Nintendo sees no reason to break this formula. So going by it, you can expect a direct follow-up to the Wii, codenamed "Wii2."

Jun 29, 2009

Apple Will Never Replace Darwin With Linux

Every few months, the Mac web is bombarded with open pleas to Apple, asking—nay, demanding—that Apple swap out the Mach-based kernel that Mac OS X runs on, XNU/Darwin, with Linux. This, of course, ends in with Apple stoically continuing development of XNU/Darwin while fanboys dry their eyes and limp home after their flamewars. The cycle then repeats itself again a few months later like clockwork. The truth of the matter, however, is that Apple will never replace XNU/Darwin with Linux.

Jun 20, 2009

AmigaOS: Dragging Ass into the 21st Century

Fourteen years before Apple released iMovie, Amiga offered video editing for the masses. But no matter how vociferously studios and hobbyists swore by their favored platform, Amiga failed, hard, almost overnight.

Today, the Amiga community is a church of zealots praying desperately to its dead saints of outdated hardware and a primitive operating system using two-dozen year old technology. So what went wrong? What caused Amiga to go from the top of the computing heap to the bargain basement practically overnight?

The answer to that is long, complicated, and slow, just like the course of the Amiga's operating system, which is exactly at the heart of the issue.