remove ads from outlook

I find myself at the moment without a license for Office 365 and for the time being, I’m just using the web-based version of Outlook as found on outlook.live.com. This would probably be bearable only it’s a fair bit irritating to me with their frequent ad rotation/animations as seen in the right panel.

I’m guessing that people in marketing must think that if they’re not irritating, we won’t pay attention to them. But how should rudeness result in a sale? That just defies logic to me but that’s how they think now.

Adding Insult to Injury

Looking into this further, I can see that Microsoft is allowing third parties to track what I do, what I type, etc. I’ll be culling some of these abuses as well.

The Fix

Without further ado, I indicate the work-around to stop their ad server from functioning. I’ve given the instructions for OS X. For a Windows computer, you’d use Notepad to edit c:/windows/system32/drivers/etc/hosts instead.

$ nano /private/etc/hosts
127.0.0.1       ads.adacado.com adacado.com
127.0.0.1       lax1-ib.adnxs.com adnxs.com
127.0.0.1       aka-cdn.adtechus.com adtechus.com
127.0.0.1       a248.e.akamai.net
127.0.0.1       ads.scorecardresearch.com scorecardresearch.com
127.0.0.1       ol.at.atwola.com
127.0.0.1       pixel.advertising.com advertising.com

Initially, you’ll need to supply the you password. When finished adding these lines, you would enter Ctl-O, Enter and Ctrl-X and finally exit. Refresh in your browser and the ads should be gone.

 

Advertisements

experience is simply the name we give our mistakes

September 14, 2017 | Microsoft News Center

REDMOND, Wash. — Sept 13, 2017 — Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday announced that the Windows 10 software — with a slow start so far in customer satisfaction — will get a new name soon.  Terry Myerson, executive vice president, Windows and Devices Group explains:

“I think most of us at Microsoft felt that the Windows 10 name didn’t adequately describe what we were trying to achieve with this operating system. This new name should make it clear what Windows can ultimately do for our customers and how we at Microsoft focus on getting them the best experience possible with instantaneous, streaming updates 24×7 to your desktop, mobile or any device.”

Windows 10 to be renamed

To celebrate the new continuous update feature, Microsoft is renaming Windows 10 to coincide with the upcoming fall update. “The new name is our commitment to up-to-date software, no matter what it takes”, added Terry. “There’s no such thing as too many updates, at least that’s how we think. Our customers shouldn’t have to wait for something as important as a new version of Candy Crush Soda Saga. If we had our way, you’d have the next version of the Microsoft Solitaire Collection app before it’s even been tested by our own QA. Now that’s fresh software.”

“In the past, Windows Update took a back seat to most of what was going on in the computer, like… running a Word document. We feel that updating is much more important than almost anything that our customers could imagine doing with a computer so we are now putting that in the driver’s seat, if you will.”

Windows Update 10

The newly-named Windows Update 10 operating system is a bold new experience for users. With a streamlined, uncluttered interface, customers should find it easy to keep their system up-to-date and all without those unnecessary icons.

Win10

One of the best ways to get the Windows Update 10 update is to upgrade to Windows Update 10 by clicking the following link. More information can be found at https://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-update-10-upgrade.

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) is the leading platform and productivity company for the mobile-first, cloud-first world, and its mission is to update every computer and every organization’s computers on the planet to have the very freshest copy of the X-Box app since we want to sell things online like Apple. All your base are belong to us.

Note to editors: For more information, news and perspectives from Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft News Center at http://news.microsoft.com.Web links, telephone numbers and titles were correct at time of publication, but may have changed. For additional assistance, journalists and analysts may contact Microsoft’s Rapid Response Team or other appropriate contacts listed at http://news.microsoft.com/microsoft-public-relations-contacts. Stop reading this and update your computer. I’m sure there’s a new version that you missed.

so many operating systems, so little time

Sometimes you need to do many things with the same hardware. Say, for example, you might need both Windows 10 and a Linux-type of operating system on the same computer. Here are some of your options for this.

You might say, “why would I want that?” There are times when you want to try out something new. You might need to test software compatibility with something you don’t have currently. You might purchase some new software or a printer which isn’t compatible with your current setup. Or, like me, you might be endlessly curious about the possibilities. You might want to create a smartphone app and need to see how that looks on a variety of phones.

Boot from a “Live” media

In this case, you have Ubuntu on a CD or on a USB thumb drive. You boot to this media and select the live option from the menu (“Try Ubuntu without installing”). You then get a Desktop experience running Ubuntu (Linux) on your existing hardware and you don’t even have to install it in the classical sense. Once you shutdown this system and remove the media, nothing whatsoever has changed on your original hard drive.

TryUbuntu

I’ve used both methods (CD and USB) and will attest that the latter will boot up faster than anything you’ve seen before, I’d guess.

Pros:

  • It’s very fast to boot this way from the USB drive.
  • You can try another operating system without making any changes whatsoever to your existing computer.
  • It makes short work of hacking a Windows-based computer if you don’t know the password(s) and accessing the files on its partitions.
  • It seems to be wonderfully compatible with a variety of computers and laptops without fussing with drivers.
  • Each session takes advantage of all the available RAM.

Cons:

  • Unless you change the defaults, any changes to your Desktop and configuration are lost upon restarting this session.

Set up two partitions and select one upon startup

In this case, you shrink the size of your existing hard drive’s partition to make room for another operating system.  You then install the new operating system to this second partition.

Upon restarting the computer, you then select which partition (operating system) you’d prefer.

GRUB

This technique is often called “dual booting”.

Pros:

  • The settings you change will be saved from one session to the next.
  • In many cases, you can access files on the other partition(s) if you know where to look.
  • You can take advantage of fast hardware like that on an Apple computer to use other operating systems like Linux.
  • Technically, you could install Windows 7 on one partition and Windows 10 on another.
  • This technique can be extended to many operating systems on many partitions.
  • Each session gets all the available RAM.

Cons:

  • You have to reboot in order to get back to the other operating system to use its tools and software.
  • In the case of OS X, major version upgrades usually try to overwrite the menu at the beginning which would normally allow you to select the other partitions. It’s almost as if Apple doesn’t want you to do this and breaks things on purpose, of course. If you’re technically-minded, you can fix this each time however.

Set up a virtual manager (VM) and “spin up” an operating system

This seems to be the preferred and newest method these days. You run a virtual machine manager, create a virtual computer using this technique and then install the new operating system to this.

QEMU

You then boot up the virtual computer and you see this as a window on your Desktop.

XP

Pros:

  • You can copy/paste from a Windows application into a Linux session’s Terminal session or any similar combination of from/to.
  • For demonstrations, you can easily show that something works with multiple operating systems (without rebooting or bringing multiple laptops).
  • Depending upon how much hard drive space, RAM and processor speed you have, you could potentially run several virtual machines at once.

Cons:

  • Technically, it’s the most challenging of the various options and the learning curve is steep.
  • It may require more RAM memory than what you currently have for this to run well.

Progress so far

I have plenty of experience using the first two methods above (live- and dual-boot) but have recently been working with the VM option, as described below.

Dual-boot MacBook

I’ve setup my MacBook Pro to boot both OS X and Ubuntu. It seems to work great so far. I hope to next setup a VM so that I can emulate a Raspberry Pi computer within the MacBook itself (for development purposes).

HP Laptop

I’ve setup my HP laptop to boot Ubuntu and have added a VM which has Windows 10 loaded in it. Remarkably, the Windows 10 install actually works better than the original (native) installation on this laptop.

Multi-boot Raspberry Pi computers (IoT re-purposing)

Since the Raspberry Pi (3 and Zero) computers have an easily-replaceable microSD card in them, I now have a small library of different images with which I may boot any individual computer. It’s just important to label each to avoid confusion.

So I might pull the microSD card for the robotic tank project out of a Raspberry Pi, replace it with the card for the closed ecosystem or for a different project altogether. Once it boots, it’s now a completely different computer, if you will.

microSD

Multi-boot 3D printer

Technically, the Robo C2 printer has a Raspberry Pi computer inside so it makes it easy to boot to different versions of the software. This is useful when you’re modifying things to add on new features, for example.

Smartphone software on a workstation

I’ve also had the opportunity of installing Android on a standard Dell Vostro 200 desktop computer. (It’s good for testing software and websites.)

Cloud-based alternatives

There are entire services available at Microsoft, Amazon and presumably Google in which you “spin up” a virtual computer and remote into it.

Amazon’s offering is called EC2 and I’ve had the opportunity to use it in the past. In the span of two hours, I was able to spin up or “instantiate” a virtual SQL Server in a datacenter somewhere, to upload a corrupt database, fix it there and then to download it back to me. I then killed that virtual server. The total cost was something like $4 to “borrow” their virtual hardware for a couple of hours. Compare this to the cost of purchasing an actual server, paying for Microsoft licensing, waiting for everything to arrive, setting it up, etc. I literally saved thousands of dollars with a service like this.

Microsoft’s offering is called Azure. I can’t say that I’ve used it yet but it works essentially in the same way that EC2 does: define an instance, spin it up and remote into it.

Looks like Google’s offering is their Compute Engine. It sounds like they’re trying to play “catch up” to both Amazon/Microsoft on this one.

There’s another player in this space, MacInCloud.com appears to be offering remote sessions into what are likely discreet/physical Apple computers. For all practical purposes, it would likely behave like a virtual computer might.

Private cloud

And finally, I had the opportunity to re-purpose about eight Dell Vostro 200 computers from work into a MaaS (metal as a service) private cloud. The underlying layer of software which did the cloud part is called OpenStack which allows you—like Amazon itself perhaps—to be the host for spinning up virtual servers.

It takes a lot of work to get the initial one or two computers running for this. But then, using a concept called Juju charms, you select what are essentially recipes of things to install which have complicated inter-dependencies and it seems to make it all work for you. Seeing these things run is pretty impressive given that this is in the free, open-space world.

The future

It’s hard to guess what’s next in this series of events. We may soon be running a VM with Windows 10 on a wearable single-board computer like the Raspberry Pi 3 or similar. In theory, then, you might wear a pair of Google Glass(es) or the Microsoft HoloLens which would interface with the Pi computer via Bluetooth. Given the lack of a keyboard, presumably the interface might be like the Amazon Echo/Alexa service: you ask for something, the system must recognize the command, submit it to a server and display the results or iterate through them via voice.

And yet, given the augmented reality (AR) side of things, you might say “keyboard” and a virtual reality keyboard could appear on the physical horizontal space in front of you and you just “type” on an imaginary keyboard to input data.

The interfaces could evolve to project these virtual keyboard-type interfaces onto an imaginary glass wall in front of you, much the same as you see in sci-fi movies these days. These glass-like devices probably would incorporate an outward-facing camera to catch and interpret your hand movements into discreet commands like typing, page-forward, scroll-down, dismiss window, etc.

GoogleGlassHololens

got chrome?

“Would you like to install Chrome?”, I’m asked a hundred times per day by my default search engine, Google.com. “No, Google. As I’ve already answered a thousands times before this, I don’t want to install another browser on my computer.”

No, Google.  As I’ve already answered a thousands times before this, I don’t want to install another browser on my computer.

In the browser wars, Google hates Microsoft and Microsoft hates Google. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then when you’re using Internet Explorer and you visit Google that they then try to get you to install their own competing browser (Google Chrome). And when I say “try” I really mean “relentlessly nag you to death on the subject“.

The Fix

I’ve posted before about using a custom stylesheet to thwart Google’s Chrome-nag. Here is a new method which seems to be working for me today. I just updated the option for IE -> settings -> Internet Options -> Home Page:

https://www.google.com/webhp??

Normally, that /webhp?hl=ca part is expected to steer Google so that it selects your home language, Catallà, for example. Interestingly enough, Google doesn’t apparently nag people (regarding Chrome) who speak languages other than English!

So we use this knowledge to break the chain of violence, so to speak. Actually, we’re breaking more than that since by putting two question marks we’re technically breaking (okay, “faking out”) the specification for query strings.

the rise and fall of the microsoft empire

1975-1980

Our historical timeline begins in 1975 when an unlikely duo—Paul Allen as Batman and Bill Gates as his awkward “Boy Wonder”—started Microsoft Corporation.  I’m guessing that ro-sham-bo was involved in this decision but incredibly somehow Bill was made the CEO when the company got its start.  Maybe dropping out of Harvard gives you that kind of confidence.

1981BillPaul

1981-2000

Nothing really significant happened until they managed to modify an existing operating system for the IBM PC in 1981 from another company and rename this to MS-DOS. Significant sales of the IBM series of computers and those of their competitors then launched a thirty-year stretch of dominance in the business world in the area of operating systems, software and development platforms.

For most of us, we reasonably dismissed Apple’s hardware and the MacIntosh operating systems as nothing we could seriously use in business outside of the marketing department.

Consumers bought new versions of software and that license was good for life.  It could often be transferred from one computer to the next as long as the last one was de-registered first.  If you built software for Windows, you likely used a Microsoft compiler to do so and you paid for that.  In fact, the Microsoft Technet collection of CDs was quite expensive.

2001

About six years into the “Internet Tidal Wave” as Bill would call it, Microsoft was starting to lose its way.  They tried to dominate in the browser wars but never quite managed to quash the competition.  Others saw their efforts in this area as annoying.  Their software for creating programs, Visual Studio, first hit the scene about four years prior to this.

Google was founded some five years prior and was just beginning to get attention from an investor before they had anything real yet.  In 1999 they moved from their garage to an actual building in Palo Alto.  Yahoo’s popularity as a search engine from a decade ago was waning.  Google’s ad-based revenue from keywords was paying off; they’d planted a money tree which eventually created an entire forest of money trees for them.  It wouldn’t be long until Microsoft’s executives behind closed doors would consider Google their biggest threat.

About this time Apple created a very clever method of provisioning content for one-and-only-one device within the music-delivery space.  The iTunes store would turn out to be the goose that laid the golden egg, as seen in the following revenues.  And yet, it would take years for either Microsoft or Google to realize the beauty in this fulfillment model and to come up with their own versions.

showmethemoney

The “Internet of Things” concept started gaining in popularity at this time.

2009

Microsoft’s attempts at copying Google’s success (MSN Search, Windows Live Search, Live Search) now culminated in the introduction of Bing as their default search engine destination for all things Microsoft.

Apple introduced the first iPhone and the first iPad about this time, noting that the same provisioning model from iTunes was incorporated into both via iOS.  The subscription model of sofware licensing was born with this, if you think about it.  If you wanted to write a program for either, you needed to use Apple’s software to do so.

Google has just introduced Chrome as a browser and would begin their campaign to slowly break Internet Explorer.  The same was true of the Android phone and its related operating system.  It would take a few years for Microsoft to catch up to either the iPhone or the Android before releasing their own app-savvy smartphone offering.

Amazon some three years prior had introduced the beginning of what would be a full complement of cloud-based services to support web development.  It would take Microsoft two full years to realize that they needed to be in this space and they didn’t have their offering ready for a few years more, too late to effectively compete.

Github.com had just celebrated their first year online, hosting over 46,000 repositories by then.  The world of open source was the very antonym to the way that software had been developed prior to this.

The free Ubuntu operating system was released about four years prior to this, backed by the well-funded company Canonical.

2015

Microsoft releases Windows 10, “the last version of Windows” (they claimed).  Rumors suggested that Windows would eventually go from a version-based license model to an annual-subscription model with respect to pricing.  I think it’s safe to say that the market hasn’t really embraced either Windows 8 or Windows 10.

The subscription-based model for Office 365 was introduced four years prior to this so the writing was definitely on the wall:  Microsoft wanted to depart from their former methods of making money and to chase the monthly subscription model.

2015-popular-coding-languages

The world of open source was offering new programmers a wealth of free code.  All they had to do was to take it and make it their own.  Formerly, Microsoft-friendly coding languages like C, C++, C#, VB and .NET dominated the playing field but this graphic shows how the game had changed.

2017

And here we are, present-day.  That curious number 42 now describes the number of years that Microsoft has been around.

Yesterday evening, I attended a very geeky meetup of perhaps fifty or sixty coders and only saw one Windows-based laptop.  Almost everyone had a MacBook of some kind.

I just spent about two hours today installing the free Visual Studio Community 2017 software so that I could—in theory, anyway—alter a free copy of the source code for TightVNC software.  Out of the box, so-to-speak, Visual Studio doesn’t want me to build this project since it uses an earlier target platform (Windows 7 or 8, one would assume).

Microsoft only wants me to make things for Windows 10.

So rather than making it easy for me to build a program that will happily work with Windows 7, they’re forcing me to jump through hoops in order to add the necessary pieces for this to happen.

Add two more hours to this and I find that my installation does not want to download the earlier pieces to allow this to happen.  I’m forced to then upgrade the code to Windows 10 compatibility mode… only to find that the build fails with 528 errors.

The main crux of all these errors appear to be:  “we can’t find common files”.  It’s a very amateur sort of error from a company that’s been providing compilers for several decades now.

I have to think that Microsoft doesn’t want me to do anything with Visual Studio unless it benefits Microsoft.  And this is the core of the reason why I suggest that they’re doomed.

Every time a coder like myself runs into obstacles like these, the usual seed that’s planted inside their head is “this would be easier with another free compiler or another language from someone else”.

2022

Fast-forward another five years and Microsoft will have lost ground on many fronts.  New software development here, there and everywhere will be via some language which wasn’t popularized by Microsoft on computers which aren’t Windows and with browsers which aren’t Internet Explorer or Edge.  Our toasters and refrigerators and our cars will be powered by the Ubuntu operating system or perhaps Debian, a similar free Linux flavor.  These appliances will be connected to our wi-fi and even to the Internet but there won’t be a scrap of anything Microsoft about them.  They’ll be coded up with something that isn’t C#, doesn’t use .NET and doesn’t need Visual Studio in order to compile it.

The only thing with a Microsoft pedigree with some staying power could be some of the websites and services currently served up at Microsoft’s datacenters via Azure.  But Amazon or Google could kill that by simply lowering their own prices for cloud-based services.

ubuntu bash now in windows 10…?

There’s a little-known feature now in Windows 10 which is a fairly awesome piece if you know Linux/Ubuntu and, say, you’re a coder. Microsoft and Canonical got together to add an Ubuntu on Windows subsystem in the 14393.0 “Anniversary Update” OS Build.

The feature is also called the Windows Subsystem for Linux. What’s interesting is that from bash you can actually invoke a Windows executable or one compiled for Ubuntu. It can run DOS batch files as well as shell scripts.

  1. Turn on Developer Mode in Windows 10 -> Settings -> Update & Security -> For developers
  2. Turn on the Windows Subsystem for Linux (Beta) in Windows 10 -> search for “Turn Windows features” -> select Turn Windows features on or off
  3. Restart Windows 10
  4. Go to a command prompt
  5. Enter bash and type a y to continue, noting that this step will take about 20 minutes
  6. When finally prompted, enter a UNIX username (it’s case-sensitive) and a password (again, case-sensitive) which are completely separate from your other credentials

From this point you can run an Ubuntu bash prompt either from the added Start entry or by entering bash in an MS-DOS or PowerShell prompt.

Notes

  • It’s probably not a good idea to use Notepad or similar Windows tools to edit configuration files within the Ubuntu space.
  • You should be able to sudo from this first user as you might expect.
  • Once logged in, you’ll land in a /mnt/c/Users/username location from a Unix perspective.
  • Since the OS is Ubuntu, you would run sudo apt-get update to install things.
  • If you want to invoke Windows executables from a bash session, you probably want to start by adding the SYSTEM32 folder to your path, for example: export PATH=$PATH:/mnt/c/Windows/System32 but since this is UNIX you’ll need to make sure that the capitalization is right for each path.
  • Run lsb_release -a if you’d like to see which release of Ubuntu is running.
  • In theory, you could run bash scripts within a PowerShell script.
  • At this time, it does not support GUI applications.

iphone without itunes

You know how Apple can be sometimes; they feel the need to control everything. So for a Windows-based computer, they want to force you to install the entire iTunes collection of software just so that you can get to your files on your iPhone. As an I.T. person, to me that’s just way too much software to be adding to someone’s computer setup.

Why not?

You might just ask “why not?”  Why not just install iTunes? One of the subtle changes that iTunes makes in terraforming your Microsoft computer for its own needs is to install a variety of software to make things more Apple-friendly.

For example, in an Apple-based network the Bonjour service allows lookups for printers normally but allows for almost any device to broadcast its existence on your network. The downside to adding a different printer lookup service is that you might have a number of printers already which broadcast via Bonjour and can now be seen by your computer this way.  And yet, you might not have a working Microsoft driver installed to make all this happy. The printer when added simply doesn’t work and yet it seems to work for everyone else on the network who didn’t install iTunes. Rule of thumb for success: don’t arbitrarily add services and things unless you exactly know the ramifications for doing so.

Rule of thumb for success: don’t arbitrarily add services and things unless you exactly know the ramifications for doing so.

The problem

If you simply plug in your iPhone into a Windows 7—based workstation you’ll see it download and install a default driver. Unfortunately, the Internal Storage section of this device won’t show anything in it.

iphone-no-driver-yet

The fix

Unbelievably, the fix is much easier than I’d imagined. Immediately upon tethering the iPhone the very first time to the Windows computer the iPhone will buzz twice (telling you not that it’s now charging but it’s trying to tell you that it’s displaying a notification).  The message is crucial to your success but Apple in its infinite wisdom doesn’t decide to wake the phone up for you.  You need to manually wake it up first to see it:

allowthisdevice

Select the Allow option here and suddenly Explorer will now present you with a DCIM folder, below this a 100APPLE folder which contains your images.

iphone-after-allow

Why is this considered a smartphone?

That’s a good question to ask. Why would Apple decide to block access to the phone on a Windows computer by burying its head in the sand when an important access message is being hidden behind a sleep state? I suppose they could suggest that if the phone is sleeping then the rightful owner may not be in control of it and that nobody should have access as a result.

But why not simply bubble that information up to Explorer with a dialog box so that the user will know the status? It just silently doesn’t see anything at all for the device.

If you read the many support threads on the Apple site nobody ever mentions such an easy solution. The reason of course is that Apple wants you to install all of their software on your Windows-based computer, too. The biggest reason is that the iTunes application is a shopping cart and you’re a consumer to them.

windows 10 sucks balls

Seriously. So today’s saga ends with me giving up on my relatively-new Windows 10—based laptop as just a lost cause. Since around November, it’s had its microprocessor firmly stuffed up its I/O port.

The Symptoms

The symptoms began about the same time. The Mail app just failed to sync: no new email.

Further troubleshooting suggested that the wi-fi adapter wasn’t consistently connecting to my own zone and not that of one of my neighbors. Tracking down the correct settings allowed me to definitely not connect to that other zone. Although that worked, still no resolution of the problem.

I thought updating might help. Unfortunately, Windows Update thought that it wasn’t connected to the Internet so I couldn’t update. I could browse the Internet with my browser but it just didn’t think that I was connected to the Internet.

The Attempts

I tried using only the wi-fi. I tried using only an Ethernet connection. Same result.

I tried opening an administrative MS-DOS console and entering a variety of terse commands in an effort to clear my DNS cache, reset my IP adapter’s DHCP lease, reset the WINS catalog, you-name-it.

I tried rebooting. Oh yeah, I rebooted the fuck out of that thing. Still, no-go.

I wanted to adjust the network’s location so that instead of thinking that I’m in a public space, it would know that I’m in a private place. But since it thinks I’m not connected, you can’t do that.

The Research

It turns out that I’m not the only one experiencing this. Almost 70,000 viewers on one Microsoft help page alone and thousands of participants in the discussion. Keep in mind that a subset of the users think that this is an email problem, another just-as-large collection of users think that their Windows Update has a problem, another several thousand think that they have a Firewall problem, another several thousand think that they have an Ethernet adapter problem…, (you get the point).

It looks to me like Microsoft has painted themselves into a corner. If Windows Update now doesn’t function, then you can’t easily push out a fix. You then have to rely upon the millions of users to ask you for help.

The Fix

Fortunately, it hit upon me how I could fix the problem which I now share with you.

buy-a-macbook

Update

Now that I’ve formatted the HP laptop with Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, I’ve been able to spin up a virtual machine and run Windows 10 Pro in it… and it doesn’t have the aforementioned bug.  Read more

ubuntu core on the raspberry pi 3

The fun just never stops here as I begin with a new operating system on a second microSD for my newly-purchased Raspberry Pi 3. This time, it’s Ubuntu Core. This operating system from Ubuntu appears to be a big departure from the Ubuntu server or desktop versions I’m used to. In case you were wondering, I managed to install the new operating system with little trouble. It’s different, though, I’ll be the first to admit it.

Goodbye apt-get, hello snap…

Gone is the usual apt or apt-get interface for fetching code. It’s been replaced completely by snap. Honestly, apt has been the mainstay command for managing Ubuntu (and Linux) for a while now so this is quite the departure from the norm. Snap, in theory, will be a cross-Linux way of deploying code. From my initial research, it appears to be a lot like the Juju Charms for deploying services on a Metal-as-a-Service (MaaS) system. Like Charms, Snaps appear to have an up-stream and down-stream component to them, providers and consumers, if you will.

On the positive side of things, a Snap that you create would work on many different systems. In this way, it works a bit like Java or .net (somewhere, there’s an interpretive layer for the particular hardware but you don’t have to worry about that). Presumably, you mostly just worry about the interface you’re providing and the packaging requirements to create a Snap for submission to the store.

Since Snaps get digitally signed this makes them more like the Apple iTunes store metaphor that Microsoft, Google and everyone else seems to be going with these days. Digitally signing your programs both lowers the risk of rogue/evil code out there but it also puts a middleman into your money stream—someone like Apple will be there to charge the publisher a fee for making money on the store and for signing your developer’s certificate each year. At the moment, Canonical (the maker of Ubuntu) doesn’t charge for a Single-Sign On account but maybe if this becomes popular they will in the future.

Honestly, the entire concept of Snaps appears to be a watered-down clone of Apple’s iTunes distribution model.

Fee Structure for their Store

Not that this information is easily available, I managed to finally find it. From this page on Canonical’s website:

4. Pricing, fees and payment

  1. If you elect to distribute an App without charge, the payment terms of this Agreement will not apply with respect to the free App.

  2. If you set a price for your App we will collect fees from end users that purchase your App at the price you set. Within 30 days of the end of each calendar quarter, we will provide you with a report of the number of copies of each of your Apps sold and the amount of any payment due, which shall be the fee multiplied by the number of copies sold less any applicable taxes and our commission. Our commission is 20% of the total fees charged for the sale of your App, less any applicable taxes.

So they’re charging 20% commission for brokering your Snap. Compare this to Google’s flat 30% commission, Apple’s flat 30% commission plus $100/year developer license and Microsoft’s 30% commission plus $49/year developer license. Note that there are precious few Snaps available. Specifically, only one Snap has a price of $1 at this time and the remaining 547 are free. So until others are charging for their Snaps, don’t expect to make a dime selling yours, in other words. In a free world, nobody will open their wallet nor expect to.

The Future of Snaps

It’s difficult to say whether this entire concept will get traction. Linux has been the free alternative. The people who run Ubuntu, for example, like that aspect about the community. Will these people easily change their stripes and embrace a payment system in the future in which we pay for code? Remember, we’re talking about people who’d rather build from source instead of paying for a binary file. My gut tells me that they’re never going to go for it.

Should I Invest Time in Developing Snaps?

As a developer, having a variety of experience looks good on your résumé so yes, by all means, develop a Snap. And since we developers often communicate our value via our github page I’d suggest that these Snaps be free and open-source if possible.

google stabs again at microsoft

In this entry of the Google/Microsoft war, we see that attempting to visit the Google Fonts API list page results in what is an outright ban of Internet Explorer.  Note that the fonts in practice work just fine in Internet Explorer, it’s just Google doing a denial-of-service for anyone using Microsoft’s browser.

googlefontserror