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Colin Charles: A new phone, new for 9 months?

Planet LCA 2009 - December 16, 2012 - 20:58

Apple is right. What sucks is that they make you wait one whole quarter before you get the new iPhone. So you really only have it as a “new phone” for 3 quarters. A mere 9 months.

I remember similar priced smartphones, like the Nokia Communicator, be the device to have for up to 36 months. When was the last time your iPhone device lasted for 36 months? Software wise, it usually does well though (kudos Apple, you didn’t screw up like the iPad). When was the last time you used a similar priced Android phone for 36 months?

Related posts:

  1. HTC, Android, Facebook
  2. The Android User Experience
  3. Messenger apps revisited
Categories: Aligned Planets

LCA2009 News: Inventor of the Web to Keynote Linux Conference

Planet LCA 2009 - December 14, 2012 - 17:51

Australia's premier open source conference, linux.conf.au, are very proud to announce the fourth and final keynote speaker for 2013. Sir Tim Berners-Lee is best known for inventing the World Wide Web in the late 1980s, and is now the Director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which oversees web development around the world. Sir Tim Berners-Lee is appearing at linux.conf.au as part of his visit to Australia in January 2013, with support from a consortia of sponsors. The full details of the tour and sponsors are available at http://tbldownunder.org/

Sir Tim Berners-Lee was knighted in 2004 for his work on HTTP and the World Wide Web, and was elected as a foreign associate of the United States Academy of Sciences in 2009. He is also the 3Com Founders Professor of Engineering at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence (CSAIL) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). This is Sir Tim Berners-Lee's first visit to Australia in over a decade, and his linux.conf.au keynote speech is set to be the only technical talk during his Down Under tour. This talk is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Aussie geeks to see and hear the inventor of the web.

The keynote from Sir Tim Berners-Lee rounds out a full conference schedule, with other keynotes being given by fellow internet pioneer Radia Perlman, Chumby co-inventor Andrew 'bunnie' Huang, and Debian guru Bdale Garbee.

linux.conf.au attendees will have the opportunity to see Sir Tim Berners-Lee keynote on Thursday 31 January. There are still some conference tickets available from the conference website at http://linux.conf.au, but for those not attending the conference, keynote-only tickets and one day Open Government event tickets (including the keynote) are available for purchase from http://lca2013.eventbrite.com.au/

For more information on this jam-packed schedule, visit http://linux.conf.au/programme/schedule

About linux.conf.au

linux.conf.au showcases the best of open source and community-driven software and hardware, and it’s coming to the Australian National University from 28 January to 2 February, 2013. The conference provides a great opportunity for open source developers, users, hackers, and makers to share their ideas and further improve their projects.


Michael Still (Conference Director) +61 2 6140 4546 media@lca2013.linux.org.au

Categories: Aligned Planets

LCA2009 News: Childcare at LCA

Planet LCA 2009 - December 11, 2012 - 22:06

A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far … hold on. Let’s start that again. A long, long time ago, when the LCA 2013 team were first talking about putting a bid together (ah! We were so young and innocent then!), one of the big things we wanted to make sure we got right was making the conference accessible for parents and their children. We understand that not all parents have a partner who can (or want to!) take the kids on the partners’ programme, that sometimes both parents are interested in the conference, and that childcare for a week in January can often be difficult, expensive, or just impossible. Many of our core organisers have children, and it’s a problem we’ve all had to deal with in different ways at some stage.

With all that in mind, we’ve decided to continue what LCA Ballarat started, and provide a childcare room not too far away from the main conference venue where you can chill out with the kids, put them down for a nap, feed them, or give them a little time to play (and you a little time to sit down!). We’re taking it one step further, though, by also providing qualified and certified childcare workers to be in the room as well. Of course, you’re welcome to stay with your children for as long as you want to, but when you want to head out to that talk, you can do so safe in the knowledge that your children are in good hands.

We intend to stock the room with a whole bunch of fun things, including toys, video games, and DVDs. We also hope to be able to offer some bedding for naps (for the little people!), and some supervised outdoor play time.

For more information, and to get specific details about the childcare arrangement for the conference, you need to be on the parents mailing list. This is also the place where parents can discuss their arrangements, and make sure that the conference is going to be just as much of a party for their children as it is for the big people. Sign up here: http://lists.lca2013.linux.org.au/mailman/listinfo/parents_lists.lca2013.linux.org.au

Read this post on our blog

Categories: Aligned Planets

LCA2009 News: Wednesday Night BOFs

Planet LCA 2009 - December 11, 2012 - 22:04

So it turns out there are a whole heap of things that need to be organised for an LCA. But, just like in the rest of life, sometimes the best parts are the impromptu ones. You’ll have heard people refer to the ‘hallway track’ at conferences, and we here at LCA HQ want to make sure there are plenty of opportunities for you to meet up with your friends in the hallway in between talks. But what happens when you really want to meet up with other people who are interested in the same things you are, and five minutes between talks just isn’t enough? Well, you have a BOF of course!

Birds of a Feather sessions are a regular feature at LCA, and this year we decided to change things up a little so that there is more time for more BOF goodness. Normally, the Wednesday night of an LCA is given over to the Professional Delegates’ Networking Sessions (PDNS). We decided to reshuffle the PDNS to a breakfast, so we can give over Wednesday night to BOFs instead (we heard you liked BOFs, so we added more BOF to your BOF!).

Basically, the plan is thus: Wednesday afternoon, once you’ve gotten your fill of the day’s sessions, you have a choice. You can head on back to your accommodation, go out for dinner with friends, or just chill out for a while (let’s face it, by Wednesday afternoon we’re all feeling pretty exhausted!). Or you can grab your fellow birds, check their feathers, and head off to a meeting room in the conference venue to kick on.

So, if you want to organise a BOF, we suggest you head over to the wiki page, and start organising! If you just want to join the BOF party, then keep an eye on that page, and keep Wednesday night free.

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Categories: Aligned Planets

LCA2009 News: Bus Information

Planet LCA 2009 - December 11, 2012 - 22:02

One of the things that is really important to us here at LCA HQ is being as environmentally responsible as we possibly can. Which turns out to be not actually all that easy when you need to get seven or eight hundred people from all over the place into the city for the event.

So one of the first things we thought we wanted to do when we put together our bid was to try and make travelling to the conference as green as possible. We’ve managed to pull together a few different things that we hope you can work into your travel plans, and do a little bit to help our planet:

If you’re travelling from Sydney consider taking a Murray’s coach to Canberra. The coach only takes three hours, and the carbon impact of a coach ride is around 36 kg of carbon versus 190 kg for a flight. Even better, the coach is only $15 each way! Bargain! We’re also going to run a free shuttle from the Jolimont Centre where the buses come in to the conference venue and accommodation. The shuttles will run from 10am to 6pm on the Sunday before the conference, and 9am to noon on the Monday. To get you back after LCA ends, shuttles will run from noon to 9pm on the Friday at the end of the conference, and from 10am to 6pm on the Saturday.

If you are flying to Canberra then we have a free shuttle service to and from the airport, so you don’t need to take a taxi. The shuttle is the same one which stops at Jolimont for the bus people, so it also runs from 10am to 6pm on the Sunday before the conference, and 9am to noon on the Monday. To get you back after LCA ends, the shuttles will run from noon to 9pm on the Friday at the end of the conference, and from 10am to 6pm on the Saturday.

The ANU campus is big and we understand that for some people a ten minute walk to the keynote in the morning is a bit of a challenge. We of course want to encourage you to walk, but for those who would prefer to take a bus, we are running limited shuttles from the ANU accommodation to the keynotes each morning. We will also provide limited shuttle service back to the accommodation at the end of each conference day.

We are providing buses for all the off-campus social events as well. Details will be provided as we get a bit closer.

Don’t forget that we are also stealing 2012’s excellent idea and selling trees as a carbon offset option during registration. It doesn’t cost much, but it makes a big difference.

We’re all ears if you have other ideas about how to make the conference as environmentally friendly as possible. Send them to contact@lca2013.linux.org.au!

Read this post on our blog

Categories: Aligned Planets

Mary Gardiner: Mourning the Squeezebox

Planet LCA 2009 - December 10, 2012 - 17:55

Logitech has discontinued their Squeezebox line of wireless music players.

Background: the Squeezebox was a device originally by Slim Devices, later acquired by Logitech. The Squeezebox (SB) originally supported playing music which was streamed over your home over a custom protocol, it involved running a server process written in Perl on the machine which contained the music. For several years, there has also been a My Squeezebox service which streams music over the Internet. The server/My Squeezebox can in turn stream podcasts, radio stations and so on.

We bought our first Squeezebox in, I think, 2008, which drives some Yamaha reference monitors I’ve had since 2001 (and then spent 7 years searching for a half decent networked music playing solution in order to use them more than occasionally) and added a Squeezebox Boom, which is about the size of a classic micro hi-fi system and has built-in speakers, a year later. We’ve been using them ever since. Both were already discontinued models in favour of the SB Touch and SB Radio, but were receiving firmware updates and support. All support for the entire ecosystem is now being ended by Logitech, in favour of the Ultimate Ears (UE) brand, which so far contains one wireless music player, the UE Smart Radio.

Possible replacements:

The Logitech UE system. Pros: I believe it’s similar hardware, and the SBs have worked well for us. Cons: the UE line only contains one wireless player right now, the UE Smart Radio, and it does not support use of your own speakers. UE devices do not understand the SB protocol, so unless we junked our SB devices we’d need to run two server processes and would lose things like syncing all our players to play the same thing at the same time. Linux is no longer officially supported for running the server software. In addition, I haven’t got confirmation of this, but it seems it is impossible to use the UE Smart Radio without signing up for an online service, which raises the spectre of not being able to play my music when the ‘net is down, or possibly at some point in the future having the UE suddenly stop working forever, when that service is in turn discontinued.

The Sonos. Pros: I don’t follow the wireless music market closely, but I understand this is the brand that’s associated with quality music engineering. Technically, it can stream music from a SAMBA share as well as from the Internet. Cons: it too has made its deals with the we’re-watching-you devils: It will only play RadioTime’s approved podcasts, obviously there’s a workaround involving downloading to the SAMBA share we would use, but that’s still annoying. We again lose the house-wide syncing if we keep our (not cheap, and still functional) SB devices in the house. The podcast thing suggests that the Sonos may also be vulnerable to “do the players still work if Sonos goes away?” concern, but again, I don’t know.

The Roku Soundbridge. Pros: I believe it understands the SB protocol, which means it would be the best fit for our existing music network. Cons: there only seems to be one model in its lineup too, a speakerless one. I’m not intending to buy separate speakers for every room we want music in. Otherwise this is probably the most seamless replacement for an SB.

Bluetooth speakers. Or I guess a receiver, in the case of my reference monitor. Pros: a bigger market to buy from, way less vendor-dependent (even if documented) custom streaming protocols to deal with. Cons: Bluetooth support, or alleged support, in car stereos has not endeared this solution to me, to me Bluetooth means “does not work-tooth”. I have no idea how to achieve the multiple rooms with the same music effect either. And it then leaves the problem of queueing up the music on the headless server. I spent several years seeing how bad all MPD clients could be, I’m not keen to go back to that. In addition, we have enough trouble getting 802.11 signals to span our house, never mind Bluetooth.

I think at this stage, given that luckily the SBs are not going to stop working unless the hardware fails or the software stops running on later versions of Linux (both are possible, of course), that what we’ll probably do is try and snag a SB Radio or two before they get too hard to get hold of, stick with them and our existing devices until the bitter end, and then hope that Bluetooth or some later protocol and its Linux support are up to what we want to do. Since we aren’t likely to subscribe to streaming services in the very near future, this is viable.

If Logitech eventually puts out firmware support for the UE protocol onto older SB hardware, as Gadget Guy suggests they will (but there’s no sign of it on the Logitech forums), it will be more tempting to move to UE than otherwise, at least if the server is known to work on Linux. Otherwise, an additional strike against Logitech products is that they’ve substantially damaged my faith in their longevity. Quoth Matthew Moskovciak on CNET It may be wise to see how Logitech handles its Squeezebox customers before committing to the new UE ecosystem. There’s probably 12 to 24 months of endgame in that.

Update: Sue Chastain has more info, including an apparent confirmation that the UE Smart Radio will indeed not work in the absence of an Internet connection, even when playing locally stored music.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Australia.

Categories: Aligned Planets

Colin Charles: Comments are back

Planet LCA 2009 - December 3, 2012 - 21:36

Just half a year in, and comments are back. Received too much feedback on various channels that comments are required. Still haven’t found a way to “sync” comments across all social networks, killer solution still pending :-)

Related posts:

  1. No more comments
  2. Of comments to Evolution
  3. YEOLSIMHI haeyo
Categories: Aligned Planets

Colin Charles: Oracle’s advertising needs to be more truthful

Planet LCA 2009 - December 3, 2012 - 01:44

I’ve always wondered how Oracle was getting away with its rather mocking advertising. Usually seen on the front-page of the WSJ on a daily basis. Apparently, they’re not.

Taken January 14 2008, on the front page of the WSJ

Related posts:

  1. ChurpChurp alcohol advertising on Twitter
  2. Vertical job advertising
  3. Vice-advertising moving to various Internet mediums
Categories: Aligned Planets

Colin Charles: The Paradise on a retail sales experience

Planet LCA 2009 - December 2, 2012 - 21:38

I just saw a preview on BBC for The Paradise. It is a costume drama about an upmarket department store. What impressed me was how Denise Lovett (played by Joanna Vanderham) made a sale of a tea dress (see a video of what’s behind the character of Denise). She had great tenacity and drive in what she did.

It goes something like this: Denise is the new salesgirl at The Paradise. A snooty rich woman comes in and the sales lady tries to tell her to buy an off-the-shelf dress. Miss snooty is taken aback that a woman of her stature would buy something off-the-shelf. The sales lady commands the girl (Denise) to show how the dress will look on an actual live model. Denise takes too long and realises that she can’t fit into it as its two sizes smaller. Then she speaks up and makes her forthcoming pitch. About how the dress will look well on Miss snooty. How that is all that matters. How its been curated/hand-picked by the store owner. How its the talk of the town in Paris today. How it will be the talk of the town in London next month. How it can be sent to her home to try herself. And she tops it off with a guarantee – if you don’t like it, the sales lady will relieve her of her position. Miss snooty agreed.

It reminded me of what’s wrong with retail experiences today. It showed me how it would be nice to fix it. Most retail experiences today are no different to buying online.

In the old days (at least on this set), to sell a dress there were 3 people. Two sales assistants, one “girl”, who would live model clothes for you. Contrast this to today where sales assistants usually do not even bother to talk to you. When was the last time a sales assistant knew a lot about the product and sold you on it based on her knowledge?

I can’t find The Paradise on BBC’s iPlayer, so I’ll try to go old school and look for some DVDs. Season 1 is 8 episodes, and I reckon you can mine a lot of interesting sales advice from it. Its renewed for Season 2 as well from what I gather.

Related posts:

  1. The Apple Store Malaysia Phone Experience
  2. Sales per pax
  3. Server buying experience
Categories: Aligned Planets

Colin Charles: Tablet strategy thoughts

Planet LCA 2009 - December 2, 2012 - 10:49

In my continuing quest to see how my tablet strategy is going to be going forward, I walked into an Apple reseller yesterday, in Singapore. I typed on the retina iPad, and realised that I was using only about four-fingers. This tells you that even before in landscape mode, I was never typing like I do with a keyboard. Or maybe I never really type that way, who knows? :)

I then tried typing on the iPad Mini. I found that I could reliably, in landscape mode add text, without much ado. It goes back to dimensions. The iPad Mini isn’t really a 7? tablet, its almost an 8? tablet.

Typing is not a good idea on the Nexus 7. I’ve tried to do so in Evernote today, and the keyboard takes up about half the screen. Its error prone, and I end up always going back to portrait mode for typing.

Asking the retail assistant if they had the iPad Mini in stock, they said they did. But it was only the 64GB version. This is how I bought my first iPad on the day/second day after it was released in the USA – it was the only available sized model. Never again will I make such a decision. 16GB or 32GB is all I’m after at best (probably the former).

All in, I decided to go home, and give the Nexus 7 a fighting chance. I’m going to load up all the software I use regularly or find equivalents. This means paying for an equivalent of Instapaper. This means finding an alternative to GoodReader whom have no plans to make an Android version. But what about those travel apps that I use infrequently, but are invaluable when I visit a place? 

Its these “what if” applications that make iOS popular. Most people are happy with a small number of apps, but there are scenarios where you need more.

Related posts:

  1. Typing on tablets – 7? vs 10?
  2. my pre-upgrade iOS6 thoughts
  3. Why the mini iPad?
Categories: Aligned Planets

Colin Charles: Upgrade path for tablets like a computer?

Planet LCA 2009 - December 2, 2012 - 10:48

Tablets are great for consuming & creating content (with the right size). Have we thought how long we are to use a tablet for?

I would like to consider cost vs. long-term computing utility, with OS upgrades. Warranties are also thrown into the mix, alongside TCO.

With phones, this is a tad easier. Many people have 2-year contracts, so they use their phone for 24-months. The upgrade cycle from what I’ve read/anecdotally is usually around 18-months on average (sorry, no references). Phones are subsidized (heavily in countries like the USA where they are locked; not so much in Malaysia where consumers are conned). Any additional time over 24-months is probably borrowed time (in the USA, Apple sells warranties for 2 years on their iPhones; in Malaysia there is no such thing as AppleCare+).

With laptops & desktops, warranties usually last 3 years (with the extended warranty option). This is a sensible amount of time to use a computer (36 months). Of course people extend the use of this and there is always a second-hand market, so the useful life of laptops & desktops can be extended quite a bit. My MacBook Pro which I use daily is already 42 months old (yes, I know it is out of warranty and time for an upgrade). The operating system can generally be upgraded from version to version without much issues (this is true for OSX, Windows, Linux).

What about tablets? If you buy a cheap device like a Nexus 7, it comes standard with Android 4.0. I guess the latest update is Android 4.2, but how long do you expect there to be upgrades?

In contrast, what about if you buy the cheapest iPad? Cheap for tablets usually relates to size, and the smallest iPad is 16GB in size. How long do you expect to get upgrades?

What happens if you buy the largest-sized tablet? Do you feel further entitled to get upgrades for longer? The increments roughly are about USD$100 per size upgrade (16->32->64GB).

For the cheapest iPad (16GB iPad4), you can already purchase a netbook/cheap desktop. You will get OS upgrades for a long time using a PC, but on a tablet, you may at most, get 2 years. 

Companies are now rolling out tablets in droves. Where are the TCO studies for this? I’m not saying Apple’s 2 years are bad. There are many Android-powered devices that have gotten less than that in terms of OS-upgrades.

How is group IT managing this new cost? What happens to older tablets?

Related posts:

  1. my pre-upgrade iOS6 thoughts
  2. Typing on tablets – 7? vs 10?
  3. Why the mini iPad?
Categories: Aligned Planets

Colin Charles: Digital loyalty in the age of Passbook

Planet LCA 2009 - December 2, 2012 - 10:40

I’ve been watching the digital loyalty space quite closely (see: THE CHOP SPACE (DIGITAL LOYALTY CARDS) IN MALAYSIA). I love being loyal to a business that rewards me. This forms the basis of how I choose what airline (alliance) to fly, or what hotel (chains) to stay at. I’m fortunate enough to be able to use multiple alliances and chains as I spend hundreds of days on the road every year, and live in a location where my business prospects are limited.

Why are digital loyalty cards great? I’ll let you in on a secret: I hate fat wallets. I’m sure you do too. My wallet is a Mighty Wallet, given to me as a gift at Christmas 2011 from Sara. It holds my essentials: credit cards, ATM cards, ID, drivers license, and cash. It expands to hold receipts and contracts when I decide to process them. Its unlike any leather wallet I’ve ever used as it doesn’t crack, expand out-of-shape or require care. My only complaint is that it is a little faded; I guess it just brings out its character.

Where did all my physical loyalty cards go? My old business card carrying case. In there is my Founder’s Card. My hotel loyalty cards from Hyatt, Starwood, and InterContinental. My Regus card. Two travel insurance cards. My Haagen-Dazs ice cream discount card. My Coffee Bean & Starbucks stored value cards. And many, many more. You get the drift I’m sure. Where does my business card carrying case go? Into my backpack.

In Malaysia, when I last counted, there were four playing in the digital loyalty space. There are many more that have launched since that post, and it has only been about two months since then.

What has this caused? Fragmentation. There is no one digital wallet for my needs. Instead of filling up my business card wallet, I’m filling up my phone with loyalty card applications (which you can now group thanks to folders). They all essentially do the same thing: scan some QR code. These wonderful applications have taken the physical cruft problem into the digital world. To some extent, it is worse because everytime they push an update, I have to download megabytes worth of application to my phone. Some turn on default sharing to Facebook which annoy me to no end (but apparently, merchants love it).

Google may have a solution to this. They call it Wallet. But its far from ready to take over my physical wallet & NFC has been around since 2006 in many a trial. A more elegant solution to me that I’ve seen work and have many people embracing it (including Starwood, Hyatt, Valet, etc.) is Passbook. You can use the Pass Kit APIs in your application. Passbook is more than just loyalty cards: boarding passes, tickets, etc. can be stored there. And it is location aware.

The best part about Passbook? You can use the PKPass files, and it works on Android phones with an application like PassWallet. How far Apple allows this is a good question, but we’ll leave that thought to another day.

Last week, Nazrul pointed me to an article: How to get your business on Apple’s Passbook.

I then heard Joe Beninato of Tello on This Week in Startups #298 and it hit me. Not only do you keep loyalty cards (via Tello’s PassTools – events, boarding passes, coupons, store cards, etc.), you can also provide feedback. User generated content (UGC) with a reward so to speak. So thats Yelp + digital loyalty. Malaysia isn’t a market where customer service is winning – many people expect more, and it is generally crap. Guess the private feedback option makes sense ;) The analytics feature is pretty standard for digital loyalty platforms – if you don’t have one now, you’re as good as dead.

Can Tello work in Malaysia? Possibly the Klang Valley/Penang (just like all these digital loyalty card services). You really need higher end phones for this sort of thing to work. Singapore is decidedly the land of iOS, so it might do a lot better there. It isn’t clear if there will be Android support or not. Android is growing in leaps & bounds, so I’m inclined to think this platform is rather important.

Why is UGC important? This digital loyalty business hits on two fronts: you have to grow the business by getting merchants as well as users. It really is a chicken & egg situation, because users do not come if there are no merchants, and merchants do not embrace if there are no users. UGC not only encourages others to visit the place (see how Yelp, Qype, Tripadvisor work), the feedback mechanism allows owners to write back. Overall, value provided for both the business owner & the user.

That said, not a single Malaysian company that I know of has started using Passbook, with the exception of Malaysian Airlines (their services might not be up to par, but their technology is usually ahead). I’m in Singapore as I write this and I’ve not seen a Singaporean establishment use Passbook either. There has been mention that Jurong Point, a mall, has started using it, and the claim is that they’re the first in Singapore to do so. I’ve never been to Jurong Point, and I don’t expect many people that don’t live there visit it either, but it could be a great case study. I expect great movements in this space come 2013 (after all, iOS6 is just a few months old now, it will get more mainstream next year; also the iPhone 5 is not even sold officially in Malaysia yet).

Related posts:

  1. The chop space (digital loyalty cards) in Malaysia
  2. iOS Cards
  3. Digital Media Consumers
Categories: Aligned Planets

LCA2009 News: Debian Guru to Keynote Linux Conference

Planet LCA 2009 - November 30, 2012 - 22:23

linux.conf.au, Australia’s premier open source conference, have announced their third keynote speaker for 2013. Bdale Garbee is best known for his pioneering work with Debian, and for open source community-building efforts with the Linux Foundation, Freedombox, and Software in the Public Interest (SPI). He is a regular presence at linux.conf.au, wowing many recent conference-goers with his rocketry exploits and other hobby activities turned into open source projects.

Bdale made his first contribution to free software in 1979, and has extensive experience in hardware design, Unix internals and embedded systems. He recently retired from long service as HP's Chief Technologist for Open Source and Linux, and now serves as President of Software in the Public Interest, and on the boards of directors of the Linux Foundation and the Freedombox Foundation. In 2008, Bdale became the first individual recipient of a Lutece d'Or award from the Federation Nationale de l'Industrie du Logiciel Libre in France.

The keynote speech, titled "The Future of the Linux Desktop", is inspired by Bdale's observation that free software has been less successful in the traditional desktop and notebook markets than in many other contexts. After a long period of optimism, it is becoming less and less clear when "the year of the Linux desktop" might happen, if ever! Bdale will discuss how and why he thinks we ended up in this situation, and offer thoughts on how the Linux desktop software community might refocus on building a compelling Linux desktop environment.

For more information on the talks scheduled to be presented at linux.conf.au this year, visit https://linux.conf.au/programme/schedule.

About linux.conf.au

linux.conf.au showcases the best of open source and community-driven software and hardware, and it’s coming to the Australian National University from 28 January to 2 February, 2013. The conference provides a great opportunity for open source developers, users, hackers, and makers to share their ideas and further improve their projects.


Michael Still (Conference Director) +61 2 6140 4546 media@lca2013.linux.org.au

Categories: Aligned Planets

Colin Charles: FaceTime long overdue to be an open standard

Planet LCA 2009 - November 29, 2012 - 22:52

When FaceTime was announced, it was said to be built on open standards and it would be open allowing others to build on top of it. This was in September 2010. 

It has been over two years, and there is no such thing as an open standards compliant FaceTime. Today you still need to use an iPod Touch, iPad, or iPhone to make use of FaceTime.

When I unboxed my Nexus 7 tablet, the first question Sara asked me was if we could now FaceTime using that tablet. You see, we’ve gotten quite used to using FaceTime to keep in touch with each other as we are frequently thousands of miles apart, as I travel a lot.

Lately, Apple has even enabled FaceTime over 3G if you have an iPhone 4S or greater. I’m sure they fear that if it were an open standard, it would probably work on my iPhone 4 as well, thru third party software.

Most importantly as to why I’d like to see FaceTime to be an open standard? Ubiquity. Wouldn’t it be nice if I could use an Android tablet to talk to an iPad?

There was a 3G video standard quite some time back. I think Nokia might have pioneered it. Video calling over 3G was made popular on the Three network in Australia for example. This was in the early days of 3G usage (most phones still did GPRS, then EDGE, back then). I recall being able to make 10 minute calls over Three for free. It meant many people carried one regular phone, and one Three phone. Most importantly, this was based on open standards: an LG phone, spoke perfectly to an Ericsson one, which in turn spoke perfectly to a Nokia one.

I recall Apple denouncing video calling over the 3G network when FaceTime was launched. You needed bandwidth they said, so the experience was best delivered over WiFi. With the advent of LTE, they now believe you can do it over the wireless networks (in iOS6). But you’re locked in with whom you can speak to – other Apple users.

So, the late Steve Jobs vaguely promised that FaceTime would be open. Will the current Tim Cook make this happen?

Related posts:

  1. Notes from the Open Mobile Exchange
  2. What a standard means (and why you should sign the NO OOXML petition)
  3. Unexcited by Apple Music event announcements
Categories: Aligned Planets

Sridhar Dhanapalan: Interviews from the field

Planet LCA 2009 - November 29, 2012 - 11:58

Oracle, a sponsor of OLPC Australia, have posted some video interviews of a child and a teacher involved in the One Education programme.

Categories: Aligned Planets

Colin Charles: Typing on tablets – 7? vs 10?

Planet LCA 2009 - November 28, 2012 - 20:08

I wrote this post entirely using my Nexus 7 (a 7? tablet). I found that I couldn’t type well using it. I had to use it in portrait mode, and use my thumbs to type, which meant that it was utterly slow to generate a post.

On my 10? iPad, I can comfortably type using the virtual/on-screen keyboard in landscape mode. In portrait mode it is nigh impossible.

In either situation, I’m naturally faster using a regular keyboard, and I do have an Apple Wireless Bluetooth keyboard for this purpose.

I’m now toying with the idea of getting a new iPad (retina display, 4th gen) or an iPad Mini. I’m enjoying consuming content on my Nexus 7. I wonder if I can justify creating more content on the iPad retina? Or do I just satisfy myself with a low-res iPad Mini, which will get updated to a retina display in a year or so?

Others have written about the typing situation: typing on iPad mini, John Gruber hunts & pecks.

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Categories: Aligned Planets

LCA2009 News: Golden Ticket Winner Announced for LCA

Planet LCA 2009 - November 28, 2012 - 18:04

Open source conference, linux.conf.au, is being held in Canberra at the Australian National University in January 2013, and the organisers have just announced the winner of a free 'Golden Ticket'. The Golden Ticket draw offered a free professional level registration to one submitter who did not have a presentation selected for the conference programme. The intention was that adding a prize to papers submissions would encourage people who would otherwise not submit to "give it a go".

linux.conf.au is pleased to announce that the winner of the Golden Ticket draw is Gavin Jackson. Gavin is a Canberra resident who has attended several linux.conf.au conferences previously at his own expense. He says he is "absolutely thrilled and grateful to be attending the event as a delegate and [I am] looking forward to networking with other members of the LCA community and sharing war stories, tips and beers."

Apart from the obvious cost savings of using Linux and open source software, Gavin says he appreciates how responsive and helpful the open source community is, and how much technical knowledge exists locally in the Australia and New Zealand region, which is clearly demonstrated at linux.conf.au

At the time of this announcement, the 2013 conference has already sold well over half the ticket allocation. With two of the four keynote speakers still to be announced, tickets are selling fast and are likely to be sold out before the doors open on 28 January.

For more information about the conference, check out the website http://linux.conf.au.

About linux.conf.au

linux.conf.au showcases the best of open source and community-driven software and hardware, and it’s coming to the Australian National University from 28 January to 2 February, 2013. The conference provides a great opportunity for open source developers, users, hackers, and makers to share their ideas and further improve their projects.


Michael Still (Conference Director) +61 2 6140 4546 media@lca2013.linux.org.au

Categories: Aligned Planets

Colin Charles: Trip report: Tech Planet 2012

Planet LCA 2009 - November 26, 2012 - 22:18

I’ve had many dealings with SK Planet, in South Korea, so when they asked me to speak at their inaugural Tech Planet, I jumped at the opportunity. I was already pre-given a topic titled “NewSQL”, so I talked about the evolution of SQL -> Big Data -> NoSQL -> NewSQL, all thanks to papers written by Google research, and then focused on how MySQL & MariaDB is gaining many new interfaces: mariasql, HandlerSocket, dynamic columns, memcached InnoDB plugin, node.js with NDBCLUSTER, CassandraSE, LevelDB, Galera Cluster and more. This is a topic I will talk more about later.

The event was great. It started with a speaker’s dinner in where the CTO of SK Planet & multiple VP’s dined with the speakers. We had a private room at the InterContinental COEX, and started with smoked salmon, Russian crab meat & cream cheese. This was followed on quickly by crab meat soup. The main course was beef tenderloin, mero fish & steamed black rice, asparagus and black garlic. We ended with a cranberry tian with raspberry sauce. This was filled with lots of Equus red wine. 

The next day, we had the day of the event itself and it was huge. There were probably over 800 attendees, and SkySQL had a booth maintained by the Korean partners: OSS Korea, PrixMedia, and Oh New Innovation. This was followed by lunch with the CEO of SK Planet with great conversation & food. Started with tuna & avocado, to clear the palate, some lemon sorbet, and a great main consisting of beef tenderloin & king prawn with red wine sauce. We had much to chat about, and as lunch came to a close, it was time for me to give my talk.

It was well attended, there were some good questions, and there are naturally some good action items. I’m glad that the whole ecosystem provided me multiple opportunities to talk about amazing work being done. The press covered the Tech Planet event. I managed to snag an interview as well. More photos of the event at my techplanet2012 tag on Flickr.

All in, an exciting space to be in now. Thank you so much for SK Planet for the invite, and I look forward to being around in 2013.

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Categories: Aligned Planets

Colin Charles: Inventing the world

Planet LCA 2009 - November 26, 2012 - 16:15

I caught Made in China on Sundance over the weekend. It was all about the pursuit of an inventor and the trials & tribulations he faced thrown into a new land. It even won several awards. Good film, recommended watch.

It reminded me of my childhood. My job description for the future? I always said I would be a scientist. I always liked building things, from the time I was a kid. When people got toys when they were three years old, I got extension wires. I got my first computer when I was five years old (a family unit no less). This was in 1989. I built computers, soldered circuit boards, basically made things – invention was fun, as were trips to the then Radio Shack in Bangsar, and Pasar Road when I grew a little older.

Building things seems to be coming back with the Maker movement. Many people are inventing the web as we can see. Many people are also copying such inventions. This happens in software as much as it does in the physical world.

Somewhere along the way, I think I’ve lost my way towards invention. Deals. Financing. Chasing the next big thing. News rot. Running the rat race. I think many people are in the same predicament.

For me, it is a great time to reflect. I’ve had a bumper year, I’m spending some time off, and I want to get back into creation. Invention. Some call this maker time/shifting to maker mode.

Sometimes it pays to step back, look at things from a macro perspective, plot, then execute.

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Categories: Aligned Planets

Keith Packard: MicroPeak

Planet LCA 2009 - November 23, 2012 - 12:12
MicroPeak — tiny peak-recording altimeter now available

MicroPeak is a miniature peak-recording altimeter. About the same size and weight as a US dime (with battery), MicroPeak offers fabulous accuracy (20cm or 8in at sea level) and wide range (up to 31km or 101k’).

  • Uses the Measurement Specialties MS5607 barometric sensor.

  • Includes built-in battery holder for easily replaceable CR1025 lithium battery

  • Compact design is only 18mm x 14mm or 0.7” x 0.56”. Weighs 1.9g including the battery.

  • Low power design lasts for over 40 hours in flight.

  • Auto-poweroff on landing.

  • Learn more at the Altus Metrum web site

  • Buy these at the gag.com web store for Altus Metrum products

The size of the board was predicated with the premise that we needed a battery included to avoid having wiring running between the altimeter and the board, we found some small lithium coin-cell battery holders for the CR1025 battery. These battery holders are rated to hold the battery secure up to 150gs.

We’d already started playing with the Measurement Specialties MS5607 pressure sensor which offers amazing accuracy while using very little power. Taking full-precision measurements every 96ms consumes about .2mA on average. Once on the ground, we stop taking measurements entirely, dropping the power use to around 1µA. It’s also pretty small, measuring only 5mm x 3mm.

For a CPU, this little project didn’t need much. The 8-bit ATtiny85 comes in a 20qwfn package which is only 4mm x 4mm. When run at full speed (8MHz), it consumes a couple of mA of power. Reduce the clock to a pokey 250kHz and the CPU has enough CPU power to track altitude while consuming less than .2mA on average.

To avoid losing the battery, we wanted to avoid having it removed while the board wasn’t in use. So, we added a little power switch to the board. The one we found is good to at least 50g.

Finally, we wanted to find a nice bright LED to show the state of the device and to blink out the final altitude. The OSRAM LO T67K are bright-orange surface-mount LEDs that run happily on 2mA.

We used OSHPark.com to create prototype circuit boards for this project. Because of the small size of the board, each prototype run cost only $2 for three boards. It takes a couple of weeks to get boards, but it’s really hard to beat the price.

All of the schematic and circuit board artwork are published under the TAPR Open Hardware License and are available via git.

All of the source code is published under the GPLv2 and is included in the main AltOS source repository.

Categories: Aligned Planets
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