That was the question du jour today: While caught in traffic on my way to pick up Mirano at school and with the thought of what is on my computer planted firmly on my radar, it occurred to me that I don’t really know how to pronounce the operating system I now have on the iMac.
Is it eks-ubuntu? Eks-buntu? Zoo-buntu? Zhoo-buntu?
I find when I return home that it’s been a significant discussion in the Ubuntu forum, and while everyone seems to be right — or, at least, everyone has an excellent point in pronouncing it the way they do — pronouncing it zoo-buntu as I had been doing all this time is currently the most popular and might be the correct pronunciation.
Might is the key word here. You see, in the international scheme of things, where — oh, I don’t know — English is not the only language spoken, there seems to be some alternatives; alternatives that deserve strong consideration, rather than just attaching my own native language’s rules when it comes to “x” in front of a vowel (think “Xerox, Xanax,” etc.).
According to one post, from RaiSuli: “I pronounce it Zoobuntu but I know that in German it would be pronounced as Ksubuntu.”
Or then there’s the Spanish version, where the “x” like in Oaxaca is pronounced like an “H,” making it hoo-buntu, and I could go for that (thanks, pdxuser).
Says pdxuser: “I did some research, and it turns out that in Xhosa and Zulu, an X is a clicking sound. And you thought people look at you weird when you say Ubuntu….”
But then again, Xubuntu — however it’s pronounced — is based on the Xfce desktop, and that’s really pronounced Eks-eff-see-ee. All of which is to say eks-ubuntu or eks-buntu also has a considerable amount of merit.
If it interests you, take a look and see what you think.
Me? Leave things alone? NoooOOOoooo. Not me. I sat at home fiddling with Xubuntu 6.06 on the iMac and wondered aloud, only to the cat, “Gee, you know maybe I didn’t give those other distros a fair shake.” So I went through the drill again, starting around 6 this morning, of adding and removing distros and seeing how they fared.
Again, here are the players: indigo iMac, 256MB RAM (not 128 as I previously mentioned — what was I thinking?), 7GB hard drive, and the 6.10 version of Kubuntu; Gentoo 2006; Slackintosh 11; and Fedora Core 4; some coffee) and the new cat watching this time from the floor while I talked to the computer.
Basically, the test was installing, browsing and tweaking parts of the desktop and, in one case (see below), networking to an eMac.
Kubuntu kalling: I know how kool and krisp KDE is as a desktop. It is. Honest. And I’m not taking anything away from it when I say it’s really not for me. Maybe I’m just not kognizant of how great a product KDE puts out — but I would venture to say that I am. It works really well. I wish I could put my finger on what it is about KDE that leaves me kold. But I can’t, except to say that it’s not for me.
[Note to Linus T.: If you really prefer KDE over Gnome, that's your right, and I will defend it to the death, both yours or mine. However, while I wasn't the one to come up with a kernel that set the industry on fire -- for which all of us are truly thankful -- I don't consider myself an idiot because I prefer Gnome. 'Nuff said.]
Sorry, Slack and Gentoo: Missed again. Someday, when I’m a lot more proficient at GNU/Linux and know can fathom installs with only the command line, I’ll be back.
Putting on a Fedora: Fedora Core 4 was a pleasant surprise once I got it up and running. Not only that, it actually networked with the eMac that my wife has commandeered right away, without my having to prompt it (okay, so it asked me first, but I hadn’t thought of putting it through those paces, to be honest). The only failing seemed to be browsing — pages and e-mail took forever to load. But it looked great and, with some work, I bet it would make a very good PowerPC option for GNU/Linux users.
Meanwhile, over the course of several hours the cat got bored — imagine that — and I went back to Xubuntu.
It’s interesting how those urban stories become urban legends (no, Bill Gates is not going to give you his fortune if you pass on that e-mail — sheesh) and how myths become become truths when repeated often enough.
Last week, the paper at which I work had a headline on a story that said that the U.S. had the most hackers in the world. Under my definition of hacker this would be welcome news, but the article continued to implicate those who “hacked” as people who did illegal things via computers.
Those aren’t hackers. Most of you know who Eric Raymond is, but for those of you who don’t, the author of “The Cathedral and the Bazaar” — arguably a defining book regarding open source software — has something to say about hackers; real hackers, that is.
Raymond says that hackers — “a community, a shared culture, of expert programmers and networking wizards that traces its history back through decades to the first time-sharing mini-computers and the earliest ARPAnet experiements” — originated the term as a positive one. Hackers built the Internet, Raymond continues, made Unix what it is today, run Usenet, and generally make the World Wide Web work.
He continues later to say, “There is another group of people who loudly call themselves hackers, but aren’t. These are people (mainly adolescent males) who get a kick out of breaking into computers . . . . Real hackers call these people ‘crackers’ and want nothing to do with them . . . .”
Raymond continues later: ” . . . [B]eing able to break security doesn’t make you a hacker any more than being able to hotwire cars makes you an automotive engineer.”
Hackers build things, and crackers break them.
I think about this every time I look at the Free Software Foundation business-card disk that doubles as my membership card, especially at the signature by Richard Stallman (I asked him to autograph it, sheepishly, after the stellar speech he gave at the University of California last month) which says, “Happy hacking!” To be a hacker would be a badge of honor I’d gladly wear.
Let’s talk avatars: I’ve never had one, only because my only experience with them have come at the hands of playing fantasy sports on Yahoo!, and because Yahoo! doesn’t have a balding, bearded 50-year-old avatar, I considered myself out of luck.
So after signing up to ask a question in the Ubuntu forums about why Xubuntu acts the way it does (and the question was answered quickly), I poked around in my profile to see what this avatar thing was all about. To my pleasant surprise, I found that I could make one within a various set of parameters and file types, and this allowed me to give GIMP a pretty good going-over.
Merging two of my favorite things — GNU/Linux and the Grateful Dead — I made up the following avatar: Tux bearing the legendary Steal Your Face logo. I believe this avatar is in the area of 60-by-80 pixels and, if you like GNU/Linux and the Dead, feel free to use it. It was either that, or get the bears to wear Tux shirts, or have the dancing terrapins at Terrapin Station beating a tambourine with Tux on it. The possibilities of merging the two are boundless.
For my next trick, maybe using ImageMagick next time, we can have the Xubuntu symbol on Tux’s belly . . .
Nevertheless, again, it’s out there and it’s free to use. Credit me if you like, but it’s not mandatory.
Whew. For the what-to-do-on-your-day-off file, try choosing a distro to go on an indigo iMac, which is what occupied my Tuesday (between trying to figure out why my network fizzled between Macs — something on which I am still working).
Here are the players: indigo iMac, 128MB RAM, 7GB hard drive, and the 6.10 versions of Ubuntu, Xubuntu and Kubuntu; Gentoo 2006; Debian 3.1r5 (all 14 disks burned — sheesh); Slackintosh 11; OpenSUSE; Mandriva 2005 Limited Edition; and Fedora Core 4; some coffee; daughter Mirano’s observations (likes Mandriva’s Tux with the stars in his eyes) and the new cat perched in my lap after pulling him off the keyboard.
The winner and new GNU/Linux operating system on this machine: Xubuntu 6.10. More on that in a minute.
Debian disappoints: I don’t know why — and I’ll be the first to admit that it could be yours truly performing the ritual PEBKAC drill — but every time I try to install any version of Debian on any of my machines, it doesn’t work. I’m crushed because I first tried GNU/Linux using Debian installed on a friend’s machine and liked it. As a sentimental favorite, it’s one I’d really like to use. Yesterday, same thing: Downloads but can’t boot, and now I have 14 disks here . . . .
Slackintosh, Gentoo and Fedora all gave me the option of the command line from which to continue and my futile efforts to go past that point proved fruitless. Again, the problem very likely comes from operator error, but a little guidance would be nice.
OpenSUSE provided one of the world’s greatest mysteries. How can an installer just abruptly stop three or four times in exactly the same spot? Neat trick. Next . . . .
The *buntus, lucky for me, were fairly idiot friendly. But Ubuntu 6.10 had a screen issue (as in an unresolvable black screen problem) that I couldn’t get fixed. Kubuntu was adequate, but the more I use various distros, the more I find myself gravitating toward Gnome rather than KDE for the desktop. Don’t get me wrong: In many ways, KDE is tres cool, but I find some of the features a little bit much for my computing use. But as the auto ads say, your mileage may vary. Xubuntu 6.10 provides a fairly clean and light desktop and it doesn’t appear that the learning curve will be all that great (which is why I avoided Kubuntu).
So there you have it. As soon as I can get an Intel box (which is soon), I will probably try again, this time with additional distros that provide fully free software (free as in freedom, not price). These include gNewSense, BLAG, Ututo, and a fourth one that Richard Stallman mentioned in his speech in Berkeley that I can’t remember off the top of my head.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Daniel Koc of polishlinux.org has written an article, translated from Polish to English, about Microsoft “going nuclear” on the Free/Libre Open Source Software movement. His article in translation, which I think is a good read, is here. My reply, which appears here verbatim, is below. As I outline in my reply, I believe we should exercise a GNU-clear option instead, informing the masses about free software and its benefits to computer users in particular and to society in general and I’d be willing to discuss this further, both here and in articles at Open Source Reporter.
[This reply also appears in Larry Cafiero's blog, Larry the Open Source Guy. I attempted to post earlier, but my reply locked in my browser and I had to rewrite it.]
Thank you, Daniel, for providing a very interesting and enlightening perspective on what the FLOSS movement is up against. While I agree with what you have written, I would like to touch on a couple of points you make.
The possibility of Microsoft playing “the nuclear card” in trying to quash FLOSS, although an option of which we should remain aware, is extremely remote. Just as in a real-life nuclear scenario, both sides would perish if Microsoft tried this. As greedy and controlling (and possibly malicious) the Gateses and Ballmers of the world might be, they are intelligent enough to realize that if they used this option, their own destruction would follow.
So Microsoft may present a facade of maniac behavior with a real or imagined “nuclear threat,” but we know better. These “street racers,” as you call them, will indeed turn the steering wheel at the last moment because their own vast riches and profits will evaporate if they don’t.
They know that. And because we also know that, too, we can free ourselves from the submission that this sort of threat tries to impose on both us — those of us working to bring FLOSS to the masses — and the computing public in general.
Rather than the “nuclear threat,” Microsoft is taking a page from the U.S. foreign policy playbook. How? History shows that between 1945 to the fall of communism in the former USSR, the U.S. used a policy of “containment” against the USSR, stopping the spread of communism through covert operations or brute force in other countries (a policy that, as a U.S. citizen who has lived through most of it, is completely shameful; but I digress). Substitute “Microsoft” for “U.S.” and “FLOSS” for “communism” in the preceding sentence and you have the same situation today when it comes to where we, as a digital society, stand.
So while we should be aware of larger “weaponry” in Microsoft’s arsenal, focusing on the constant stream of FUD flowing from Redmond could be of more immediate importance; this FUD campaign primarily consists of the myth that FLOSS is on the margins and cannot be mainstream. We know better, and it’s incumbent on us to make sure everyone knows the truth. Coupling the fact that the FLOSS movement is making gains at a time when public distrust of Microsoft continues to rise, we have an opportunity to provide another option.
Promote and exercise the “GNU-clear option,” instead of the “nuclear option.”
The GNU-clear option is not a proposal to “reinvent the wheel” — the blueprint and philosophy that guides the FLOSS movement is well established and continues to provide a firm foundation on which to build the movement. Among other things, the GNU-clear option offers the choice that the myths about FLOSS can be busted and it truly can transform both the personal computing experience and society as a whole, despite lies to the contrary pumped out of corporate headquarters around the world and printed/broadcasted by a spoon-fed corporate media.
Let me give you an example: When was the last time you spoke to anyone — anyone who was not a computer person, that is; just a friend, relative or even a good-looking guy (or gal) at the bar or pub — about FLOSS? Today, I hope, but if not, make a point to do so. My conversion to FLOSS came as a result of a simple conversation with a supporter during my campaign as Green Party candidate for Insurance Commissioner in California last year — a conversation that lasted only a few minutes (including the exchanges of e-mails), but it clearly made a huge impression. I can’t code to save my life, but as a journalist I can publish a magazine (which premieres in July) and maintain a Web site to promote FLOSS principles to those non-geeks wishing to learn more.
That is my contribution. And we all have contributions to make — none of which are too small or insignificant — in bringing FLOSS to the mainstream and fighting the corporate paranoia and maniac behavior that gestates in their boardrooms and executive offices.
Ultimately, a corporate strategy based on fear and manipulation of the public will fail, allowing us to prevail.
Thank you for this article, Daniel.
Open Source Reporter
Finally grabbing a minute from my duties (in no particular order) as Dad, chauffeur, daily newspaper copy editor, raffle-ticket seller, Green Party official, honey-do husband and Open Source Reporter editor/publisher/webmaster, allow me a few random thoughts, cheap shots and bon mots (to quote the San Francisco Chronicle’s Scott Ostler):
Lost in the shuffle: While panic reigned for the last couple of weeks regarding Daylight Saving Time being moved up a couple of weeks and while the Y2K-like distress accompanied the advent of yet another meaningless time change (which, incidently, should be abolished), did it occur to anyone to . . . ahem . . . just go into your preferences, find the time/date item and just set the clock ahead an hour? Sheesh.
C’est Ubuntu: This just in from across the Atlantic — the French government has decided to forego Windows and have the government work with an open source operating system, specifically the GNU/Linux distro known by all (and loved by many) as Ubuntu. Starting in June, 1,154 desks of the legislators and their parliamentary assitants in the National Assembly will feature GNU/Linux-based computers. Allez, France! “More on the story,” as we say at OSR, from C|Net can be found here. But wait, there’s more . . .
Who’s carrying the ball for Open Source in England? It ain’t Labour, surprisingly. The Conservatives have run with this issue, as shadow chancellor George Osborne has been saying to all that will listen that a Conservative government will insist all software is open source would cut the the UK’s IT costs by 5 percent. Hello, Tony? More on the story, again, from Britian’s IT Contractor here.
Gentoo hubbub: The GNU/Linux distro known as Gentoo has fallen on hard times. Or has it? DistroWatch, an above-average source of news in the GNU/Linux world, touched off a bit of a back-and-forth firestorm on the site’s weekly report. What more interesting than DW publisher Ladislav Bodnar’s story about Gentoo is the firefight in the reader comments that are linked at the bottom of the report’s page. In his story, Bodnar writes that “[F]urthermore, one has to wonder: with the amount of time some of them spend flaming other people on the various mailing lists and planet blogs, do they actually have any time for coding?” So how do some of the pro-Gentoo people respond? With flamethrowers blazing, of course. A legitimate question, Ladislav, and a good story that, flaming aside, has resulted in a good discussion on your great site. Stick to your guns.
What will it be, Steve?: Those of you who know me — those three of you outside my family now reading this — know that I’m a completely committed Mac guy. Despite the fact I have taken the free software and open source software path, I still think that Apple still makes the best built hardware, period. I say this because having been faithful to the hardware for the last 15 years, I’m siding with DefectiveByDesign.org in asking everyone to sign a petition going to Steve Jobs to “set the ethical example” by eliminating digital rights management (DRM) from iTunes. You can click on the gif at the left to sign the petition (go ahead, but don’t forget to come back). The petition responds to an open letter Jobs wrote on DRM last month. C’mon Steve: Other than axing the Newton (yes, finally I’ve forgiven you for that), your record has been flawless, and those of us who are eternally grateful to you for saving Apple hope you will continue to do the right thing. Keep it up by keeping your word on April 1.
Who left the dog out? Yep, I did. My apologies to the well known, and fairly loved, GNU/Linux distro known as Puppy — a dog that didn’t make it into my GNU/Linux zoo tome a few blogs ago. It should have, and I really did plan to put it there, but I forgot. Here, have a Milk Bone, Puppy folks, and thanks for sparing me the embarrassment of notifying me personally in very civil e-mails — rather than frying me, Gentoo-supporter style, on my own blog.