Portrait of Edd Dumbill, taken by Giles Turnbull

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What I make

a conference management web application

XTech Conference
a European web technology conference

Linux Fashion Parade

OSCON was a good time. However, one of the things which perennially disappoints me is the number of OS X machines there in the hands of free software hackers. And especially so given the bit in Tim O'Reilly's keynote where he mentioned various ways in which he thought desktop Linux could improve. (Which I suspect means become more like OS X, but that's OK.) I was sputtering to myself saying "but, we've already done that!" to most of them.

I'm going to do something to change this. I've picked up a spare laptop and I intend to configure it with the best emerging Linux software out there. I'll haul it round to conferences, starting with the O'Reilly FooCamp in September, and get the word out about some of the great work happening in the free software world.

There are very few criteria. The software doesn't have to be in production yet, but should expect to be so within a year. The software shouldn't need overpowered hardware. Business or geek oriented software is OK, but I'd like to make personal software my focus.

To give you an idea, here are some of the apps in my current shortlist:

  • Evolution 2.0: mail/groupware
  • X.org/KDrive: composited windowing
  • Beagle: intelligent search
  • Muine: simple attractive music player
  • F-Spot: photo organising app
  • Skippy: Expose workalike
  • Gaim: IM
  • iFolder: easy collaboration.
  • Mono and MonoDevelop: Rapid application development
  • Project Utopia: hardware Just Working
  • Red Carpet: simple software installation

I'm going to use the GNOME desktop as a base, but that doesn't exclude neat applications from other GUI toolkits featuring in the show.

If you have any suggestions for applications worth showing please drop me a mail with recommendations.

I'm also going to be using my new column on O'Reilly Network to do more in-depth previews on some of these new technologies

Installing Linux

As a footnote to this, I should report on some recent experience with installing Linux. In the last three days I've installed Debian, Fedora Core 2 and SuSE 9.1. I regret to say that the standard of Linux installers is still rather mixed.

  • FC2's installer was great: I didn't agree with some of the default choices, but the whole process was painless. The menus were reasonably well integrated when I got into the GUI too.
  • SuSE 9.1's installer was far too hairy, showed me too many internals and asked too many questions. It also failed to configure my well-known video card, which was pretty disappointing. The install also took ages.
  • Debian's installer (sarge) was quick and lightweight. Unfortunately all the questions are only answerable by geeks.

So far I've seen nothing to tempt me away from Debian. FC2's initial installation experience is far superior, but then when you want to add to what's on the CDs (which comes around pretty quickly if you want MP3 playing support!) you get into the horrific RPM searching experience. Although there are various RPM repositories now, they're not a patch on the well-integrated Debian archive.

Am getting progressively more excited about Canonical's new Debian-based distribution from this point of view. My personal hope is that after one or two iterations it'll be a Debian distro I can put in the hands of non-geeks. Right now my Linux recommendations would be FC2 for end-users and Debian for software developers and server applications.

One of the things I've realised over the last half a year, with installing OS X and Windows machines as well as Linux ones, is that the amount of tweaking each of these operating systems needs to live in a heterogeneous network environment is roughly similar. If anything, Linux is the most painless in that case, designed as it is to connect to everything else.

It's when it comes down to personal computing that Linux has some of the distance to make up, as some of the requirements for that environment actively work against all the things that have made it work well in the network setting.

We're making great progress though, and I want to shout about it!

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