Out of the box

How cool is this: I just bought a new webcam, from the second-hand shop near my home, on the way home from work. Brought it home, plugged it into this computer and it worked immediately: no need to install drivers or configure anything, just started the software and there I was smiling back at me from the screen. And this is on Linux!

It’s Ubuntu 7.04 to be precise. The Linux version of Skype doesn’t do video so Nic and I used Yahoo Instant Messenger (at her end) and Kopete (at mine) to connect with video while Skype provided the soundtrack and everything worked seamlessly straight out of the box.

I’m celebrating the wonderful world of open source software development. Thankyou everyone who has worked hard to make this stuff just work.


  1. Drew Says:

    Tee hee. Ubuntu is amazing.
    Reminds me of when I first discovered Firefox.
    Do you think it will be as successful? 😀

  2. Mark Says:

    Good question.

    Have a look at this BBC news story.

    The thing I find most fascinating about the increase in popularity of open source software and, in particular of GNU/Linux operating systems is the way the parts all depend on one another. There would have been no Canonical if it were not for OpenOffice.org: Linux was not ready for the desktop until it had a reasonable Office suite, and that would not exist were it not for Sun Microsystems. While I was in Africa I was approached by a friend for advice for friend of hers who was considering a job at Canonical. I had a look at their story then: they have/had an interesting business plan (it might have changed by now) to partner with companies who might want to have their services associated with Ubuntu such as the way Windows 98 used to come with a “connect to MSN” icon.

    “To get this working”, I said at the time, “they have to get Ubuntu to the stage where kids are swapping the latest Live-CDs in the playground”

    I stick by that in principle, but I think these days nobody, kids included, wants to be installing operating systems (ok some of us think its fun, but we are NOT the market that Canonical are aiming at, we are part of its avant-garde), they want to have Ubuntu pre-installed on stuff we use and quietly updating itself when new versions come out. Maybe that means pre-installing on Dell desktops, but there are other interesting markets like portable devices and also the increasing number of embedded devices.

    There is a logo for Ubuntu ad also an African-inspired start-up sound. Its entertaining today to think that it might be the latter that we use to identify the ‘brand’ of OS in our future toys, rather than the former. Like when I arrive in French railway stations and hear the characteristic, and damn annoying chimes that precede their announcements.

    Imagine walking into an airport and hearing a Jingle at the end of a security announcement.

    “Oh, listen, they are using Ubuntu here, that means my PDA will connect automatically and I can use my Ekiga soft-phone for free here”, There’s a somewhat different view of Operating Systems than the one I have been working with up ’till now.

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