Category Archives: Open Source

Open Source

Diaspora Alpha Impressions

Diaspora Alpha Impressions

 

3 days ago, I got an email in my inbox from the folks at Diaspora. I finally got an invite to theВ Diaspora AlphaВ after almost a year of waiting! Thats right. Last year atВ joindiaspora.com, I submitted my email and requested an invite. Because it took so long, I thought the project was dead. Now Im in! Ive always been a strong supporter of open-source projects and freedom. Diaspora is both these things. On their website, you are greeted with 3 main principles:В choice, ownership, and simplicity. You have the choice of who you want to share photos and information with. You own all your pictures and posts. Privacy settings and options are simple and clear. This sounds good, right? Finally, an open-source social network. Lets see how well these guys are doing. Ill walk you through my first impressions.

 

Registering

Registering for the site is very simple. You simply fill out a username, password, and email address. There was no email confirmation. Diaspora asks you to fill out a display name, a short bio, and up to 5 interests. Once you continue, you head to their main page. This displays the Stream. From here, you see your profile with an automated posts. Apparently, everyone goes through this. Here is an example of what it looks like:

 

Hey everyone, Im #NewHere. Im interested in #android, #linux, and #sailing.

 

Basically, you have some hashtags(#) showing your interests and another one saying that youre new. This is a nice little way for people to greet new members.

 

Initial Impressions

Unfortunately, thats about the only way to connect with people. I dont have a real Facebook or Google+ account so Im not too familiar with how things work there but they all look similar visually. My immediate impressions were most people that joined are into technology. Mainly Linux and other open-source projects. You constantly see hashtags of #linux, #ubuntu, #kde, #android, etc. There doesnt seem to be an option to search for people by location, school, or work. I know the site is still in Alpha but connecting with strangers from the main stream can only get you so far. For a social networking site, you kind of want to connect with people you know. Luckily, you can connect Diaspora to services like Twitter, Tumblr, and yes, even Facebook. I understand that connecting with Facebook may be a conflict of interest since they are competing services, but Diaspora is no where near as popular as Facebook. In that case, I suppose its a good move. One immediate bug that I noticed was a 500 internal error when I tried adding a hashtag to follow. Its not perfect. A few bugs are expected from an alpha release.

Features

The site doesnt have much features. Unless you already have friends on Diaspora, theres not much to do. Ive tried looking for people but nobody I know in real life is a member. As a matter of fact, I dont think too many people have ever heard of Diaspora. There are no games for you to pass the time. Facebook made that popular with their Mafia Wars and their Farmvilles. Another thing that seemed to be missing is a photo album. I uploaded a profile picture and decided to change it. When I replaced it, the original disappeared so I had to re-upload it. After playing the runaround, I finally figured out that I had to post a picture on my stream in order have it save to my photo album. I cant even call it a photo album because when you click on your profile picture, it brings up all the pictures youve uploaded. This may include funny pics, clipart, infographs, or whatever youve attached to a post. Theres no way to organize them or tag people like Facebook or PicassaWeb. At the time, they were the only social network to sort different people into different groups. Diaspora calls this aspects. Basically, you can sort people you know into groups like family, friends, work, acquaintances, or whatever you so choose. This is a neat feature 2 years ago but since then, Google+ has borrowed that idea into what they call circles. Its basically the same thing.

 

Final Thoughts

We go back to the three things they advertised on their main page. Choice, ownership, and simplicity. Well, Diaspora sure is simple. If by simple, they mean less featured, theyve done their job. Simplicity is good for beginners, but once people get familiar with the site, theyre going to want more features. Ownership is a great concept. Lots of sites have terms saying that they own everything you post. This means they can sell all your information, including your pictures, to shady folks like advertising firms. This essentially protects you from such abuse but to the common folk, its not a priority. Lots of people complain about Facebook selling users date but they still use it. Out of the 3, choice, is probably the main reason people joinВ Diaspora. I want the ability to choose who views my profile. The concept of privacy is a big deal for users. Whats interesting to note is the fact that Google+ implemented circles which is basically the same thing as aspects. Now the question is, Do people care if Google sees your profile? My guess is, No. People use Google every dayВ and they have built a strong trust with their users.

 

What does Diaspora offer thats new? Well, so far, nothing. When it was announced, it gained lots of steam with the media. People areВ attracted to the concept of ownership and freedom. Since then, some of the buzz has fizzled. I feel that Diaspora is not developing fast enough. I understand that theyre an open-source project and they dont have money to speed up progress, but going after Facebook and Google will be a massive undertaking. For a social network to be successful, they need to have a large community. In order to attract users to join, they need more than concept. They need an edge. They need to offer users something different. They also need more features like albums, tagging, and the ability to search for classmates and co-workers. Theres a stalker-ish vibe every time I make a search since I have to type in someones full name. It would makes users feel better finding friends by accident than literally searching for their names. Its kind of creepy if you think about it. I understand the work involved in coding these features but lets face it, wereВ spoiled. Also, with Google+ in the picture, people wont care anymore. They would rather pick the lesser of two evils than wait around for an open-source alternative. From what Ive seen so far, only Linux geeks and computer nerds hang out on Diaspora. And lets face it, not everyone will care about Diasporas mission. Most people are willing to accept some privacy issues as long as they have a big community. Fortunately, I am the exception and Im glad there are other like-minded people out there.

 

TLDR

Diaspora Alpha has promise but lacks some key features to compete. SlowВ development.

 

Pros: Looks clean and simple. No ads.

 

Cons: Not much to do. Small community. Still in Alpha after 1 year+

 

Check them out for yourself @ joindiaspora.com

Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal Is Here!

Narwhal Is Here!

Today marks the launch of Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal. This was a particularly important and different update. This is the first Ubuntu to launch with the Unity desktop as the default environment. Ive express some negative opinions about Unity in previous posts but I will probably try this one out anyways to see how stable it is. Natty Narwhal marks another first for Canonical. This is also the first Ubuntu distro to launch without a release candidate(RC). Natty Narwhal went straight from beta to release. Usually, it goes from Alpha, Beta, RC, and finally, launch. Skipping without a RC has me wondering if there are bugs still lurking. The new Unity desktop is also going to split the community.

 

 

Ive had mixed feelings about their 6-month release cycles. On one hand, its nice that theres always an update around the corner but on the other, I wish they would take their time getting things stable. Hardy Heron was probably the worse release Ive experienced but seeing how new Unity is, that may change. Ive tried Unity in the past and it was horrible. IllВ reserveВ final thoughts later this week when I get a chance to test it out. Click the link below to grab a copy.

 

 

KDE Pays Homage: Congratulates GNOME

KDE Congrats GNOME

Today was a big day in Linux. theВ GNOME ProjectВ launched version 3 of it popular desktop environment. Not only that but KDE had some kind words to say about them. In a show of respect, KDE announced that their official April updates will be codenamed: Congrats.

 

KDE said,

The codename Congrats dedicates this release to our friends over at the GNOME camp, who release a new major version today.

 

 

This April update will bring KDE up from 4.6.1 to version 4.6.2. This update will consist of bugfixes and translation pages improving on the Plasma Desktop and Netbook interface. This news comes at a strange time since many people(like me) have switched to KDE in light of the recent GNOME 3 changes. Perhaps there is a hidden snipe in this that were not aware of. Or perhaps Im just stirring up gossip. Ether way, check the GNOME and KDE sites to see the official changes and updates.

 

Choqok Fixes Crash On Startup Bug: 1.1 Released

Choqok 1.1

Choqok, the popular KDE miro-blogging(Twitter) client today released version 1.1 codenamed “Sizdah Be-dar“. Many KDE users were left with a broken Choqok as it would suddenly crash on startup all the time. After digging the web for answers, I realized I wasnt alone. Like any open-source project worth their salt, the guys at Choqok recognized the bug and put it on priority for a fix.

 

You can download Choqok(source) on the official site here. If you already the Kubuntu PPA in your source list, open KPackageKit, go to Software Updates, then click check for new updates.

 

 

A Unified Linux?: The Canterbury Distribution

The Canterbury Distribution

Is this a strange April Fools joke or is this for real? Debian, Arch Linux, Gentoo, Grml, and openSUSE announced today that they will be merging efforts to produce a unified Linux.

 

All of these respected websites have The Canterbury Distribution listed on the homepage. The features and goals are listed as:

 

  1. Simple as Arch technologically simple and bleeding edge.
  2. Stable as Debian highly dependable.
  3. Malleable as Gentoo you get what you really want.
  4. Live as Grml readily usable.
  5. Openminded as openSUSE broad and welcoming for everyone

 

 

 

 

A truly unified Linux has been the dream of many users including myself. I always wanted a universal way to install apps and open/run files. Ubuntu has been the closest thing we have to a unified Linux but its current movement towards the Unity desktop has actually cause its user-base to fragment. These sites say more news will be released in the upcoming days so lets hope this is real. I am really excited to see what comes out of this.

 

 

*UPDATE: Canterbury was an April Fools joke. I guess having a unified Linux distro was soВ ridiculous, these guys had to get together to laugh about it. Wanna hear a better joke? 2011 is the year of the Linux desktop.