Ex­plor­ing Soft­ware: Bay­trail Re­vis­ited or ‘Older Be­comes Bet­ter’

OpenSource For You - - Con­tents - Anil Seth By: Dr Anil Seth The au­thor has earned the right to do what in­ter­ests him. You can find him on­line at http://sethanil.com and http://sethanil.blogspot. com, or you can reach him via email at [email protected]

The au­thor, who loves to ex­plore soft­ware of dif­fer­ent kinds and their ap­pli­ca­tion on hard­ware de­vices, is also fond of shar­ing his open source phi­los­o­phy!

Iwrote about my ex­pe­ri­ence with the iBall Comp­book in Oc­to­ber 2016. This was an in­ex­pen­sive net­book, barely 1kg in weight. How­ever, I had been sur­prised to find that run­ning Linux on it was not easy. I was sur­prised be­cause the same Bay­trail In­tel Atom CPUs and chipsets are used for Chrome­books, which are based on Linux.

The first is­sue with the Comp­book is that it is a 64bit CPU but with a 32-bit EFI BIOS. The pre­vi­ous ar­ti­cle dis­cussed the com­plex­ity of in­stalling Linux on such a sys­tem and get­ting it to work.

How­ever, even af­ter suc­cess­ful in­stal­la­tion, the sys­tem was un­sta­ble. The Wi-Fi did not work and nei­ther did the sound. I con­tin­ued to use Win­dows 10 on the sys­tem but kept up­dat­ing the sys­tem reg­u­larly. The sys­tem then be­came more sta­ble and the Wi-Fi started to work well, though the sound con­tin­ued to be an is­sue.

Then, af­ter the up­date to Linux Ker­nel 4.14, the sound also be­gan to work, and fi­nally, the de­fault boot op­tion for the iBall Comp­book be­came Linux (Fe­dora 27, to be pre­cise).

Cur­rently, Blue­tooth still does not work, but I do not need it for nor­mal us­age; and I have a USB Blue­tooth don­gle which works fine with the Comp­book.

Re­pub­lic Day hopes

As the switch to Linux on the net­book hap­pened around Re­pub­lic Day, I could not help but re­flect on the ad­van­tages of open source, es­pe­cially in a cul­ture that mea­sures suc­cess based on con­sump­tion and wants each one to con­sume more.

There is no in­cen­tive for open source to slow down sys­tems se­cretly. Even if well in­ten­tioned, the se­crecy nudges peo­ple to buy re­place­ments and land­fills keep get­ting higher.

There is noth­ing that stops a group of peo­ple from im­prov­ing the us­age of Linux on old hard­ware. I am writ­ing this on an HP lap­top that is 10 years old and far too heavy to be called a lap­top, but it works bet­ter than ever on Linux!

By con­trast, there is very lit­tle you can do with an older cell phone, even if you have man­aged not to break the screen!

Mo­bile phones that do not have to be junked

The first smart­phone I de­cided to use had the Fire­fox OS. It was un­der-pow­ered, un­der-con­fig­ured and never got enough peo­ple to use it, and hence did not sur­vive.

There is still hope for a truly free op­er­at­ing en­vi­ron­ment for cell phones, even though there is noth­ing vis­i­ble on the hori­zon. My ex­pe­ri­ence with Comp­book also shows that if hard­ware driv­ers re­main pro­pri­etary and closed, free soft­ware re­mains se­verely hampered. If the sources of driv­ers for var­i­ous phones had been avail­able, I am sure Fire­fox OS would have been flour­ish­ing to­day.

The win­ner should not take it all

A very im­por­tant dif­fer­ence in the phi­los­o­phy of free and open source is that it is not a ‘win­ner takes it all’ model. Even in the case of Linux, there may be nu­mer­ous dis­tri­bu­tions; yet, they co­op­er­ate and ev­ery­one ben­e­fits. There is a very large over­lap and com­mon­al­ity be­tween dif­fer­ent dis­tri­bu­tions. Even the dif­fer­ences are not frag­mented.

A clas­sic ex­am­ple is Pulseau­dio be­com­ing a part of all dis­tri­bu­tions! Many may still hate it be­cause of the prob­lems they faced in the be­gin­ning. The au­dio prob­lems I faced with Comp­book had noth­ing to do with Pulseau­dio, but more to do with the lack of work­ing driv­ers.

You may search for is­sues re­lated to adopt­ing sys­temd to get an idea of how open and pub­lic the dis­cus­sions can be re­gard­ing the choices a dis­tri­bu­tion makes!

Pack­age man­age­ment has not con­verged to a sin­gle sys­tem. APT and RPM may dom­i­nate, but Arch Linux and Gen­too, for ex­am­ple, con­tinue to dif­fer.

Ubuntu tried the Unity in­ter­face but de­cided to give up on it, most likely be­cause many of its ideas may have in­flu­enced GNOME 3, and mean­ing­less dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion (loved by mar­ket­ing folks) is not needed in the open source space.

The dig­i­tal world

So many of the dig­i­tal tools emerg­ing now cry out for co­op­er­a­tive models, as ex­em­pli­fied by the free and open source soft­ware for search, so­cial net­work­ing, news and in­for­ma­tion. Are these ser­vices des­tined to be closed, pro­pri­etary and oli­garchi­cal? Should we have to trust the ven­dor of an auto-driven car when its soft­ware con­cerns us all? I hope not.

My hope is that, like in the case of free and open source soft­ware, in the fu­ture, our lives will get en­riched, even if our wal­lets re­main slim!

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