I’ve written here about using three different wikis in the past
- Mindtouch‘s Deki Wiki on an Ubuntu server on my home network
Deki Wiki’s a product with real potential but it seems that up to date and timely documentation for the most popular Linux distribution (Ubuntu) is too much to ask. After all, you might not then need a support contract. Besides which, the superficially attractive WYSIWYG editor would try the patience of anyone who had to use it for long.
A pity really, as a little extra polish would see more of the downloads converted to long-term users. For me it filled a need during my studies, then I decided to let it rest — for now.
Meanwhile, I’ve had a little, low-powered server box sitting mostly idle, waiting for a Linux distribution suitable for home server use.
A Linux Appliance
An Ubuntu server running Deki Wiki and also providing some Samba-powered storage was as close as I got to Linux-powered information appliance — besides the ReadyNAS storage system in the hall cupboard.
Ubuntu is not bothering with the home server / appliance market. Canonical’s twin thrusts are the desktop and the corporate server markets, and in the latter the money is probably to be make in cloud computing services.
Mark Shuttleworth’s recent blog post on the long-awaited new design for the Ubuntu desktop was a litle disappointing. I got as far as
The use of Aubergine indicates Commercial involvement of one form or another, while Orange is a signal of community engagement.
before laughing aloud. A nice new font, but otherwise it’s design homeopathy.
Harmless, perhaps, but again it’s a reminder that the zen of Steve Jobs is in what to leave out. I have some sympathy: After years of criticism of Ubuntu’s user interface the pendulum swung a little too far in getting away from the one colour (brown) fits all.
Today’s Wall Street Journal, to which I will not link (I got a malware alert on the page), featured a story on how 10,000 Microsoft employees were covertly using iPhones! If you pause to wonder if the love that dare not speak its name is aubergine or orange you realize what foolishness this dichotomy is, at some level. That’s not to deny the existence of market segments.
An iPhone is an iPhone and you make it your own with your own choice of applications — so easily acquired that your grandmother could find and deploy new ones.
Regrettably, only Microsoft is offering iPhone kind of ease of use in the home server market. Its Windows Home Server (WHS) offers simple storage pooling and other features that are simply not available in any out-of-the-box setup for Linux.
You would think that someone would take Ubuntu server edition and repackage it (with a grahical UI for a start), but alas, it hasn’t happened.
But the application catalogue is clearly the way to go. The next version of WHS will have one.
All is not lost on the Linux front
There is Amahi.
Amahi is a home server system based on Fedora 12 and with a catalogue of easy-to-install applications (available; in the pipeline). Unfortunately, I don’t get the impression that an Ubuntu version is on the cards any time soon, though a lead developer is being sought for this.
However, it’s still worth a look. It’s surprisingly polished, all things considered.
One minor annoyance is that the Amahi community is sold on the idea of the “Home Digital Assistant” (appliance would be better) and uses the term HDA everywhere. I didn’t come across what it meant immediately.
I’m running it on a headless box connected to my desktop KVM. More about applications later.