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Archive for March, 2007

GNU/Linux meets the Dead

March 24, 2007 Leave a comment

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.

Tux the DeadheadMerging 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.

[FSF Associate Member](Larry the Open Source Guy is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)

Day of the distro

March 21, 2007 2 comments

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.

[FSF Associate Member](Larry Cafiero, editor/publisher of Open Source Reporter, is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)

Nuclear option, or GNU-clear option?

March 19, 2007 Leave a comment

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.

Sincerely,
Larry Cafiero
Editor/Publisher
Open Source Reporter

[FSF Associate Member](Larry Cafiero, editor/publisher of Open Source Reporter, is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)

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