Posts Tagged ‘review’

Bitlbee FTW!

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

I’m old-school. No, really. Even in this day and age of graphical desktops (and, hey, I could hot-desk X11 sessions at home with my smartcard if I really wanted to) I keep an ssh tunnel open to a friendly server, with GNU screen and irssi in there. And that’s my Instant Messaging setup. Kopete is nice (er .. usually, although I haven’t managed to get it to do anything useful in Solaris yet), but misses the always-on functionality of screen.

But irssi is an IRC client, and the FSFE uses Jabber for much of its communication. There’s #fsfeurope on Freenode, but other than that .. the Fellowship page on communications channels is a good resource. I briefly mucked about with irssi-xmpp plugin on FreeBSD, but couldn’t get any useful functionality out of it. It also seemed quite complicated to set up right.

Enter BitlBee, which bridges some other IM clients to IRC, by acting as an IRC server locally. This is one of the rare times that I’ve rushed up to one of the developers of an application and gushed “I love your app! It improves my life!” Well, I’ve met Jelmer enough times at various conferences, I think I can take liberties like that 🙂 The FreeBSD port installs flawlessly, has a few issues when running in jails and segfaults on OTR requests, but those are technicalities: the functionality and the level of guidance given by BitlBee (the in-channel help is excellent) makes it dead simple to set up and use. And as a consequence, I now have 4 IRC channels (#ebn and #kde4-solaris among them) and 3 Jabber groupchats open (including the Fellowship channel), in screen, on my server, where I can enjoy years of uptime and uninterrupted conversation.

Thanks Jelmer, Maurits and Wilmer.

The Economist on Clouds

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

Last week’s The Economist has a leader article titled “Battle of the Clouds” and a six-page briefing “Clash of the Clouds.” It contains some interesting tidbits, such as labeling Apple’s key market “digital music”, Microsoft’s as “operating systems” (with 93% market share) and Google as “search.” Funny, I would have expected “online advertising” for the latter.

Anyway, there are two key — and somewhat contradictory — parts to the leader article. It starts off like this (edited for brevity):

The new approach has great promise. It makes life easier for consumers and cheaper, too: many cloud services are free, supported by advertising or subsidised by users who pay for a premium service. — The Economist, 17/10/2009, p. 13

I find it hard to believe that a massive shift to cloud computing — as in supporting everyone’s email and document handling — could ever be advertising supported, and the rates for maintaining massive amounts of servers for a broad slice of the population can’t be kept low for very long. Any user is going to consume a non-negligable amount of resources (electricity) in the course of a working day one the server end — that needs to be recouped.

The other end of the same leader article is headed “A storm brewing?” and touches on the issues and social implications of cloud computing. Something the FSF and FSFE have been concerned about as well. Here my feeling is that the article has done reasonably well: it mentions technological lock-in, “favour service providers who allow them to switch between services without too much hassle,” privacy implications, “most users will be happy to trade some privacy for free services,” (cue Ben Franklin) and data integrity and sustainability, “data stored in the cloud may not be safe.” Yes, those are the umbrella problems of clouds. For now, local storage and local computing are the best bet to avoid those problems and keep out of the rain.