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17 April 2017

Why Gnome 3 can not replace Unity 7

For a few seconds I thought it was just an April Fool's prank, but the date of the article dismissed any doubts. Canonical is to put an end to user interface development towards the vision of Convergence. The arguments are pretty compelling: the market does not exist. Four years after the Ubuntu Edge campaign it is indeed startling that not a single carrier joined in to experiment the novel concept.

Together with this shock announcement there was something far more overreaching: Canonical is to drop Unity 7 from Ubuntu in 2018. The desktop environment developed in house is to be replaced by Gnome 3. Further news reinforced the trend: staff to be laid off and the CEO stepping down. Canonical seems to be abandoning user interface development all together.

It was great while it lasted, but after almost five years using Unity 7 it is time to move on. But where to? Is Gnome 3 really an appropriate replacement? Below the fold is a detailed account of my experience of two days of work on Gnome 3.

15 April 2017

Time is ripe for open source labelling

In what is largely an acknowledgement to the influence open source has today in the software industry, it is becoming increasingly common for corporations to promote commercial products as open, when they are anything but.

Beyond the obvious ethical objections to this practice, the negative impact it has on the industry is to no one's interest. Open source products are often developed with public money, be it through research programmes, public administration initiatives or local authorities. These initiatives have created an implicit open source brand, synonym with freedom of development and local based support and maintenance.

By misleadingly identifying their products as open, corporations cash on the open source brand, essentially promoting monetary flows that invariably end outside Europe. This is a complete subversion of the economic and social dynamics of open source software.

05 March 2017

Tailor made politics

2017 is election year in various economic heavy weight members of the EU. The Netherlands comes first, with the suffrage scheduled for the 15th of March.

Polls keep showing the PVV of Geert Wilders ahead, with twenty odd percent of votes, almost double of the record score the party obtained in 2010. In face of such projections the foreign media focuses almost exclusively on Wilders, the candidate that easily produces sensational headlines with his extreme right rhetoric.

If the rise of Wilder's party is substantial, more important is what is happening with the remaining parties.

This article first appeared in Portuguese language at BomDia.eu.

25 February 2017

Cobalt and other resource scarcity stories

Image from Wikipaedia.
Various natural resources have been popping up in so called business news in these first weeks of 2017. As the world economy gets up to gear again, the struggle of Man against the finiteness of planet Earth becomes salient once again.

Overnight, an obscure metal seems to be setting an entire industry into peril. As remarkable as the news itself is the lagging response of the mainstream media to these matters, apparently only able to report on resource constraints only in the face of acute scarcity.

02 February 2017

The Nemesis

This is a translation into English of an article originally written in Portuguese for BomDia.eu.
I had in a previous career a diplomatic post where I helped bring down the Soviet Union. So maybe there's another union that needs a little taming.
It was this way that Theodore Malloch described the functions he will soon take by the EU, as ambassador of the USA. This is in no way a lapsos linguae, but rather a symptom of an overt drive by the USA to dismantle the EU. The support provided by the US government to euro-phobic politicians, or the announced arrival to Europe of BreitbartNews (an extreme right propaganda medium whose director integrates the new US government) are other pieces of the same puzzle.

Irrespectively of the credibility one may lend to personalities like Theodore Malloch, it is important to understand the root of this threat to the European Union.

11 December 2016

This could be it for Silver

Commodities headlines have been dominated again this year by petroleum. Sluggish prices, falling extraction rates and exporting nations in trouble have provided much fodder for the specialised media. As a matter of fact, prospects have not changed that much from last year, in spite of a deeper than expected fall in extraction rates.

There are other natural resources though, that provide perhaps a more vivid view of your relationship with the finite planet we leave in. Recent data dug out by Steve StAngelo at the SRSRocco Report points to a peak in world Silver extraction in 2015. The likelihood of this being a terminal peak is rather high, more so than 2015 setting the terminal peak for petroleum.

05 December 2016

EROEI estimates show PV to be a fully mature technology

"The EROEI of Photo-Voltaics can be whatever you like these days" a friend of mine said once after attending a bio-physical economics conference. It epitomises a growing problem in this field, while the broad concept of net energy or Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROEI) is broadly accepted there is no unified methodology for its calculation. Different researchers apply different methods producing markedly different results.

Photo-Voltaics (PV) is energy source where this problem has been more acute. Equipment and installation prices collapsed four or five fold since 2010, but published EROEI studies have not converged; in fact it appears they dispersed even further.

Fortunately, another friend, Rembrandt Koppelaar, has recently finished a study assessing these assorted EROEI estimates, entitled Solar-PV energy payback and net energy: Meta-assessment of study quality, reproducibility, and results harmonization. As it turns out, low EROEI figures are largely an artefact of outdated data and double accounting. A message by Rembrandt summarising the results of his study is reproduced below.