2008-08-31: Minor Comfort Is Still Comfort
In the August 2008 survey we received responses from 176,748,506 sites. This month's overall growth of 1.3 million sites reflects Apache's growth of 1.2 million and Google's gain of half a million sites, but a loss of 760 thousand sites using Microsoft IIS.
Aside from Apache's and Google's leading growth, Igor Sysoev's nginx shows the next largest gain, climbing by 170 thousand sites to a new total of 2.4 million and retaining its position as the 5th largest web server vendor.
It is good to see Apache's dominance reduced from where it was a couple of years back, but it is still good to see that the growth of the leading proprietary (closed source) Web server's market share stalling and even reversing a little bit. It was somewhat disappointing to see lighttpd's share dropping, however, because it is the leading alternative FLOSS server. It would be good to have four or five different non-proprietary Web servers leading the pack, with closed-source proprietary software bringing up the rear.
The best news, of course, is that proprietary software is soon to be pushed to the edges of the market--to become niche products, instead of general-use products--but we cannot see it yet, not even in this market. There is still some growth in some proprietary products, and some proprietary products continue to have distinct advantages over some of their more open competitors. The power of community is erasing that advantage in most places it exists, but there is also corporate inertia to overcome. I would like to see most proprietary products pushed almost completely into special-purpose niches of server-side markets over the next ten or twenty years.
There will always be small, special-purpose areas where there is enough potential revenue to attract specialists who can sustain an advantage over their community-developed competitors for some long period of time. In the general market, however, the power of community-based development is so much that I cannot expect proprietary products to remain competitive much longer. Also, there are some smaller niche areas that are not able to support specialized proprietary developers, but may be able to support community-based development.
2008-08-17: "Mojave Experiment" Cannot Hide Vista's Failings
So I went down to a retail store and picked up an HP something-or-other with 3GB of RAM.
Unfortunately, it came with Vista pre-installed. Fair enough. It has been a year since I last struggled with with it. Perhaps SP1 has fixed some of the most glaring issues.
First impression: All sorts of unwanted stuff is automatically starting, from first-run licensing wizards to ?update your software? wizards, to the ?welcome center?. Control-Alt-Delete will still let you bring up the task manager, which you can use to kill the wonderful tell-you-about-your-computer video. Now to turn off the welcome center?s run-at-startup function. Huh? Where is it? Oh, there it is, in the control panel. I realize that every application on the system (in addition to the operating system) needs to have someone accept the license. However, having them all pop up at once (modal dialog boxes, the most user-unfriendly thing on the planet) when you turn the computer on is not a good first impression.
My experience is not unique. Indeed, so many people dislike Vista that Microsoft has had to resort to "Pepsi challenge" type marketing to shore up its sagging sales. And it may even boost their sales, but it isn't the non-users of Vista they need to worry about--they should fear those who have used Windows XP, or Mac OS X, or any recent Linux distribution, who then get stuck with a Vista-powered computer. In particular, any "power user" who expects to have control of his or her computer will be disappointed in the tightly-restrictive "security nanny" nature of Vista.
Behind the glossy "Aero" interface (which many Vista computers, including mine, cannot display), Vista has little improvement in what it does for the end-user. Certainly nothing that was worth the several years of work that went into making Vista. Vista does improve its security posture (by ending the practice of defaulting to giving all system users full admin rights), which breaks many software programs--before, one could store user data and preferences in the program's folder, because most users had "write" privileges there. Still, "User Account Control" (UAC) is invasive and intrusive with its constant prompting. At the same time, those constant pop-ups teach users to ignore the message and just click "Allow". Apple was right with the "cancel or allow" advertisement last year.
Another area where many users have yet to discover Vista's built-in flaws is its technological usage restrictions (TUR, often euphemized as DRM). Without specific anti-theft technologies built into a connected device, playing high-quality audio or video through that device is not possible. There are already occasional anecdotes about not being able to play home-made video at high resolution because of this. It may take another year or two before this rises high enough in consumer consciousness to become a major obstacle to sales of Vista. Perhaps it will be too late by the time people become aware of the usage restrictions deeply embedded in the operating system.
Even with all of this built in, Vista is still susceptible to the "Antivirus XP 2008" malware. This means that as soon as someone figures out how to hijack the Windows Geniune Advantage snoopware to surreptitiously collect banking and identity information for the scammers, Vista will become a very fruitful field for them. To be honest, this malware also afflicts WinXP, as does the WGA snoopware, so rolling back to XP offers no protection against this threat.
Many people with Vista computers are replacing it with WinXP, with Linux, or buying Macs to replace the Vista. A tech guy at work was recently so disappointed with his new Vista laptop that he ordered a Mac and persuaded another person who was going to buy a laptop to go with a Mac as well. And I made no secret of my feelings toward my own Vista computer.
In fact, after playing around with Ubuntu on my HP laptop, I have now completely replaced all other operating systems with Ubuntu 8.04 AMD-64 desktop edition. I originally had the 32-bit x86 version, with less than half the hard drive. However, in the time since I installed Ubuntu, I booted into Windows three times, two of which were unsuccessful searches for a specific file, and the third was to burn the restore partition to DVD in case I transfer the computer to someone who really wants Windows Vista.
2008-08-08: 3% Of UK PCs Sold With Linux
LINUX HAS MADE headway in Microsoft's UK heartland, the PC sales channel. The number of machines shipped with Linux preloaded on them has multiplied a whopping 28 times since Microsoft launched its Vista operating system in January 2007
The Linux share of this route to market has edged up ever since the Vista launch. Then it broke the two per cent barrier in May after the latest release of Ubuntu, the strain of Linux most capable of kicking Microsoft in the shins.
While it will be years before we can really see it, Microsoft is in decline, and Windows Vista is the proximate cause. While Vista retains a huge fraction of the market sales-wise, end-users have rejected it, and continue to do so. They reject it for its annoying and intrusive so-called security features, such as User Account Control (UAC), and will reject it even more once they move to high-definition video and find that Vista has technological usage restrictions (TUR, often misnamed as digital rights management/DRM) deeply embedded into the OS, such that simple things like copying your own home videos will be blocked because it cannot verify that a corporate distributor grants you the right to copy them.
Further, MSFT miscalculated just how much governments meant it when they said they wanted open standard file formats for their documents--they came up with MS Office 2007 with horrifying interface and file format changes in response--and just how large of a backlash they would feel for resisting the already-standardized OpenDocument Format (ODF). Microsoft has announced that it will integrate ODF functionality in a patch to be delivered next year, while they will still not fully support their own standard, OOXML (Office Open XML). This means that the greatest portion of MSFT's publicity among technically-savvy people and both open technology & open government activists has been negative for the past two years.
One of the great benefits, I think, will be that software companies will have to make their products a lot better at cross-platform functionality. Device-makers, too, will adapt or die. Platform lock-in will almost die. (I'd expect surviving proprietary companies to try to keep it, but it may be the thing that finally kills their businesses the way that planned obsolescence put the Detroit automakers on the slide to nowhere.)