Friday, 14 October 2011

All hail the Ocelot

Linux and open source software isn’t for everyone. But it’s a good way to learn how software is developed and tested.

As well as preying on rodents and resting in trees, ocelots are surprisingly skilled in optimising recently-overhauled desktop environments.
(Photo: Danleo, Wikimedia Commons)

Yesterday (October 13th) was an exciting day for many reasons. It marked the first anniversary of the completion of the rescues of the 33 Chilean miners. Classic 80s movies fans saw the return of Ghostbusters to the big screen. It was also the day to celebrate 65 years since the adoption of the constitution of the French Fourth Republic. All of these fascinating events, however, paled into insignificance against the most eagerly anticipated event of all, which is the release of Ubuntu 11.10, codenamed Oneiric Ocelot.

For those of you who don’t know what's so Oneiric about an Ocelot, I should explain what all the excitement is about. Ubuntu is a Linux-based operating system, which works as an alternative to Windows, and this is their latest six-monthly upgrade. (If you want to know why you’d choose to name an operating system after a South American wildcat, this page should explain.) Like most Linux distributions, it’s free – and not just free to use (like Adobe Flash Player or Microsoft Word Viewer is). It’s free for anyone to copy, modify and redistribute, as long as any derivative you produce is also free to modify. Only a small number of Linux users actually modify software this way, but the fact this is possible has a huge influence on how Linux is developed. Windows fans argue Linux is just a mish-mash of cobbled-together software written in backrooms, whilst Linux fans argue that the open collaborative way Linux is developed is actually better than Microsoft’s work behind closed doors. Anyway, the arguments could go on for years, but this is a blog about software testing – anyone who wants to continue on this subject can read why Windows is better than Linux or why Linux is better than Windows.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Rest in peace, Steve Jobs

The first thing discussed at work today was, of course, the death of Steve Jobs, aged only 56. The news was not entirely unexpected - his retirement from apple earlier this year made many people suspect this day was coming - but few people expected this to happen so soon.

When you're a advocate of Microsoft/Apple/Linux, it's tempting to do nothing but pick faults with the two competitors. I have had a go at Apple for their patent lawsuits against Android smartphones. But that should not distract us from what Apple has achieved under his leadership. Technology is not just about creating something new - anyone, for instance, could have created a miniaturised computer capable of playing MP3 files - it's also about recognising what people want. There is no shortage of inventions out there that failed to take off simply because people saw no point in switching from what they were using before. But Steve Jobs had an extraordinary talent for identifying what will grab people's interest, how to sell these ideas to the public.