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Archive for January, 2008

Smell like I sound

January 26, 2008 Leave a comment

All you ’80s denizens get the blog’s title, no doubt, but unless you spent that decade glued to MTV, the reference may be lost. But with a wink and a nod to those who still admit to being Duran Duran fans (of which I have to say I am not, nor have I ever been), I’ve been feeling a little wolflike lately, hungry or otherwise, thanks to my latest distro foray.

Being the happy distro wanderer that I am, I had a chance to put Wolvix 1.1.0 GNU/Linux, the Hunter version, on a Dell Inspiron 5000 laptop, and it easily enters into the group of distros that I think highly of, in general, and distros that I plan to use day to day, in particular.

Based on Slackware, Wolvix Hunter comes with a pretty wide array of “standard software” that provide the user with an assortment that, in some distros, you have to go get. For my purposes, getting gFTP and Bluefish — two programs I use a lot — without having to use a software updater to get them is a definite plus. Additionally, the number of items that come with Wolvix on the live CD download is probably the best, well-rounded selection of software I’ve encountered on a live CD.

But the most impressive item on this distro — other than it’s faster than I had expected on this Pentium III — is the Wolvix Control Panel. Chock full of every imaginable item you might need for maintenance and upkeep, the panel efficiently puts everything in one place.

Another plus is the Conky system monitor. Having encountered this first on the Fluxbox desktop on AntiX 6.5 Spartacus, I often wonder why this program isn’t more well-known or widely used. Geeky, perhaps, but still something that provides some vital — or at least interesting — information about what’s going on under the hood.

If you’re looking for a distro, you should give Wolvix a test run.

[For those of you keeping score at home, Wolvix joins (in alphabetical order), AntiX, Debian, Fedora, Fluxbuntu, gNewSense, Linux Mint, and Xubuntu in the list of distros I use regularly.]


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Drove my Chevrolet to the levee . . .

January 25, 2008 Leave a comment

Yeah, I said it. Not only that, I meant it.

For those of you who have asked, there’s a very good Q-and-A interview with Ken Starks, a.k.a “helios” of blogging fame and someone who I’m proud to call a brother-in-arms in the FOSS revolution, as well as someone with whom — truth in advertising — I’ve gone into business at HeliOS Solutions, mirroring what he does in Austin here on the Central California coast.

While discussing the Linux and GNU/Linux debate, Ken said that I said this: “Look, my counterpart in California (that would be me) spelled it out best. You don’t call a Chevrolet a Chevrolet every time you say it. Here in the states, it is most often abbreviated to ‘Chevy’.”

And I did say that.

For those of you who have been “calling me on it,” let me remind you that I am merely making an observation on people’s general laziness; if you want to twist this into my lack of advocacy for GNU/Linux, then you might have a future as a Fox News talking head.

I don’t call the OS “Linux” — I make a point of calling it GNU/Linux which, in my opinion, is as it should be. Not only that, I urge others to do the same. However, I’m not going to tar and feather someone for not saying GNU before Linux, for whatever reason. If you drop the GNU because you’re lazy, that’s your business. If you do it because you don’t think GNU deserves to be there, I think you’re wrong and would urge you to rethink your position; regardless, I would defend to the death your right to be “wrong” about this.

Give the GNU its due. That’s my mantra. Incidentally, you’ll notice on the row below has no penguin — a mouse, a sunflower, a Steal Your Face logo . . . oh yeah, and a (ahem) GNU.

So, as helios would say, “all righty then.”

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When dolphins fly

January 16, 2008 Leave a comment

Databases and I don’t get along, period.

That said, I’ll refain from a metric ton of complaints about how databases don’t do what they want on my behalf (which, of course, comes from operator error moreso than anything wrong with the databases themselves — long story).

However, lately I’ve been getting the hang of MySQL thanks to my assignment as GNU/Linux tester for dbEntrance, a MySQL browser currently written for Macs and soon-to-be prime-time for GNU/Linux. With the patience of the Biblical Job, Tod Landis — the lead developer of dbEntrance — has walked me through the nuances of MySQL and as a result, now it’s not the megamystery it has always been.

Now, Sun has bought MySQL for a billion dollars, causing a variety of reactions ranging from a head-scratching followed by a “hmmm,” to all-out “the-end-is-near” panic.

My reaction leans toward the former, with a “huh, how about that?” rather than a “hmmm.”

Why? I think the Jonathan Schwartz years at Sun are different than Sun’s past leadership, and I mean that in a good way; in fact, I mean that in a great way. Not only has Sun liberated Java and also opened Open Solaris, it also puts a lot of work behind OpenOffice. Further, Sun is making its way into academia on behalf of open source projects.

No one is claiming that Sun is perfect, but I’m not sure anyone in the FOSS realm needs to be wailing and gnashing teeth over this deal.

(Besides, anyone who blogs only once or twice a fortnight — as Schwartz and I seem to do — gets my complete understanding and appreciation!)

So this is the kind of deal that comes only once in a blue moon, or as often as pigs — or MySQL dolphins — fly. And rather than bemoaning the fact that MySQL is now a “hostage” of a multinational, I think this should be seen for what it is: a positive step for both companies.

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Categories: dbEntrance, Entrance, MySQL

My last Macworld

January 15, 2008 Leave a comment

Registration for Macworld (in November): $10
Downtown parking in San Francisco: $9
Attending the most disorganized and disjointed Macworld ever: Worthless.

Those of you outside my family who read this blog know that I have an, um, history with Macs. I’m a Mac owner since 1992, a former Mac Marine during the mid-’90s when Apple was circling the wagons, and I am a firm and solid advocate for the PowerPC platform (want to hear my PowerPC speech about how distros are booting a routine grounder by not developing for it? I thought not. But suffice it to say, Thank God for Debian, which has the smarts to keep developing for the PowerPC).

And those who have been keeping score at home know my conversion to GNU/Linux comes at the hands of Apple’s myopic philosophy at the turn of the century in making perfectly good, well-built hardware — and Apple does have the best built, most beautiful hardware — obsolete with its menagerie of predatory cats which are not exactly backwards compatible.

I have been attending Macworlds — whether in San Francisco or in Tokyo — since 1994, which is 14 by my count, and today’s opening was a complete clusterfsck. I don’t know who’s to blame — IDG, the expo’s organizers; or Apple, or the city of San Francisco — but after taking over two hours to get my pass, I had to choose between two different venues. Historically, Macworld took place in the North and South auditoriums of the Moscone Center. This one took place in the South auditorium and something on 4th Street called the West auditorium. Hence, your traffic tie-up in downtown San Francisco comes courtesy of Steve Jobs.

This is not to say that the keynote wasn’t interesting: a wafer-think notebook of which the Apple technician in line in front of me said, “I’m not touching these things — if one comes to my shop, I have the option of putting it in a box and shipping it to Cupertino. If I open something this small, I’ll break it;” as well as now you can get a ton of movies that you can watch on your Mac via streaming video, and a couple of other iPod related niceties.

However, there was nothing extremely compelling this year on the software or accessory side. There was nothing terribly thrilling in the way of hardware — save for the MacBook Sliver (or whatever it’s called — Air, I think) — and peripherals; in fact, most of what was there seemed to be the same hardware/peripherals as last year.

Swag? Fuggedaboudit. Non-existent.

So this is it: The final Macworld for me. From now on, I’m marking August as the month when I go back to Moscone for LinuxWorld.

(Larry Cafiero, editor/publisher of Open Source and Free Software Reporter, is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)

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Days of our lives

January 9, 2008 1 comment

My days tend to run in one of two directions: hardware and software.

Yesterday was a hardware day. I have a house full of old computers liberated — okay rescued, actually — from my employer, who was going to put them on a pallet and send them to some dump somewhere — and I had to do something with them. So I sorted out which worked and which didn’t, which could take distros and which couldn’t, and so on.

Admittedly, these are very old machines — IBM PL series boxes, but some that actually work with distros like AntiX (pronounced “antiques”) Mepis and Fluxbuntu.

The day before was a software day. At the urging of a Cabrillo LUG colleague, I tried Mandriva 2008 and found it pretty interesting. What I liked about it is that it connected to both wireless and ethernet connections fairly easily. What I didn’t like about it is that it took over my machine (to say nothing of a plethora of proprietary software that comes with it . . . hmph).

Tomorrow: A software day, filled with tests of dbEntrance.
[FSF Associate Member](Larry Cafiero, editor/publisher of Open Source and Free Software Reporter, is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)

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Categories: AntiX, Fluxbuntu, Mandriva
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