Yesterday I learned Drobe, THE site for Risc OS and Acorn news was closing as its news service, thus remaining in archive-only mode. I have never used Risc OS or an Acorn and there is none in my classic computers collection but it is still sad news.

But I digress.

I cannot remember how but somehow, via Drobe, I discovered Risc OS had an Internet browser called NetSurf and it was available for Linux now. I backported the latest version (2.1) for Hardy and Jaunty.

Rendering-wise, it’s not too good. Plugins did not work for me and I’d say JavaScript is not working either. But there are some interesting points: NetSurf has its own rendering engine, split in several libraries:

Everything is MIT licensed.

Summary: NetSurf 2.1, libnsgif, libnsbmp, libparserutils and libhubbub are now available for Hardy and Jaunty from my PPA

PPA means “personal package archive” and it’s exactly what the name says: a repository of .deb packages for some Ubuntu version(s).

It’s a very convenient way to make packages available to other people: you submit the source package and a pool of virtual machines build the packages for different architectures (i386, amd64 and lpia; the ones supported by Ubuntu).

Canonical launched PPAs in the summer of 2007 in beta. I can’t remember when I joined the program but I immediately loved it: it made very easy for me to make packages available for several machines in several different locations. Easier than carrying a USB pendrive.

My PPA has had packages for virtually every version since Dapper but due to disk-space restrictions, I had to remove everything but Hardy and Jaunty.

What can you find in my PPA? A lot of stuff, really. What people tend to thank me the most for? Recent (meaning “usually the latest one”) versions of Firefox, git, Samba, CMake, Boost, Qt, glib and gtk, Wt, Valgrind, Pango, Doxygen, GStreamer, asciidoc, KDevelop4, QtCreator, the NVidia graphics driver, OpenVPN, Subversion, VLC and some other packages (even Open Cobol 🙂 ).

Generally, the same packages are available in the same version for all the distributions I’m “supporting” (keep in mind this is a best-effort repository: I can’t and won’t offer any warranty!). From time to time, it’s just too difficult to backport something (it requires too many dependencies to be backported too) or there are technical limtations (for instance, recent versions of VLC won’t build on kernel 2.6.24, which is the default kernel on Hardy, so the latest VLC for Hardy in my PPA is 0.9.4 -Hardy came with 0.8.6-)

I am adding two new categories to this blog: Debian and Ubuntu.

In the Debian category I will blog about the packages I maintain in Debian. As I am not involved in politics or technicalities in Debian, don’t expect too much posts about that.

Now for the Ubuntu category. I’m taking immediate action to try and fix the low profile my PPA has had so far in the Ubuntu community, something I talked about recently. I think my PPA is very useful for many people (from time to time, I receive e-mails thanking me or requesting new backports/packages). Given that I do a lot of backporting, this category will have quite some activity.

Getting included in Planet Ubuntu is proving to be quite difficult due to bureaucracy.

On one side, I’m too technical to apply for plain Ubuntu membership.

On the other side, given that all the work I do in my PPA (mostly backports for Hardy and Jaunty, but also some new packages not yet accepted in Debian) I do it on myself, with no external help, I don’t have a history of collaboration with other Ubuntu members/developers/MOTUs. Which means I don’t get any endorsement in my MOTU application.

In the end, I have the largest PPA in Launchpad, providing lots of backports for Hardy and Jaunty, but very few people know about it because I can’t blog about my backports in Planet Ubuntu. Weird.

This is a response to What Sun Should Do by Tim Bray

What Sun should do is making sell Sun products easy. Maybe in the US it’s easy to buy Sun through the reseller/VAR channel but it’s not in other countries.

For instance, in Spain none of the major wholesalers (Ingram Micro, Techdata and Esprinet) sell Sun products (they are not even in their product catalog!)

When we the VARs want to sell a Sun product to a client, we have to go through very particular wholesalers (it used to be General Electric Access Distribution, now it’s AVNet), with a very very poor service: you need to phone them and ask for a quote, and they may take as long as ONE SOLID MONTH to answer you. This is unacceptable and it’s the reason I have not sold any Sun product in the last 5 years, even though many times they were the best option: they took too long to answer and many times they configuration I was quoted was not the one I asked for. In addition to that, when GEAD was merged into AVNet, we were not contacted at all.

Sorry but with those extremely poor sales tactics, I’m not surprised Sun is doing so bad.

Of course buying directly from Sun works but that’s a very small market here in Spain: 90% of our business are SMBs and

  1. They don’t have qualify for a Sun Sales person, and/or
  2. They won’t phone Sun because they don’t want to deal with the intrincacies of IT: they rely on VARs and IT resellers

So Sun, here is my advice: help us the VARs and resellers sell your stuff and your sales will soar. Start an aggressive (and I mean REALLY aggresive) campaign among wholesalers, VARs and resellers, and clients will start buying Sun hardware, software and support contracts. Help us help you. We really want.

In addition to that, if you supported KDE4 as the default desktop instead of CDE or Gnome, I’m sure you’d sell more workstations among design and graphics departments: a designer who sees a KDE 4.2 desktop with all fancy effects and graphics, is a designer who truly believes that workstation is capable of doing Maya.