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Archive for February, 2008

Intrepid what?

February 21, 2008 1 comment

The name of the next Ubuntu animal in the menagerie: With its April/October release dates firmly etched in stone, Ubuntu has named its October 2008 release Intrepid Ibex. Interpid what? Ibex — it’s a is a type of wild mountain goat with large recurved horns that are transversely ridged in front (and, dang, those horns are long). Here are the details right from the horse’s, er Mark Shuttleworth’s mouth.

The next set of names that come from Linux Mint, once they reach “Z” (Zelda?) will start again with an “A” but will end with an “e”, according to Linux Mint’s Clement Lefebvre. I mentioned the naming convention in the Linux Mint chapter of “Eight Distros a Week” — it’s alphabetical women’s names ending in “a” — and wondered aloud when they got to “Z,” whether the names restarting with “A” would end in a “b.” Nope, Clem says, they’ll start with “A” but the last letter will be “e.” Nice touch. Thanks for clarifying that, Clem.

G’day, Firefox: While Firefox‘s gains against Internet Exploder generally focuses on the percentages garnered in Europe, the place where Firefox is really taking off is Oceania, where 31 percent of Australians and New Zealanders are using the browser. Those are the results from a French polling firm called XiTi, and the story can be found here. And here in North America? A hefty 21 percent, third behind the Aussies and Kiwis of Oceania and the 23 percent of Europe.

Rolling Funder: The blogger known as Helios — a man who has made it his life’s mission to promote GNU/Linux at every turn — has an interesting concept in a recent blog which, if it works (and my money is on it working), would make a truly sound foundation for building a truly grassroots promotional vehicle for FOSS. I’m very much on board with this one, Helios — count me in.

On the BSD side . . . Steven Rosenberg of Click is smack in the middle of a BSD odyssey which is as intriguing as it is informative and entertaining. Not only this, it has kindled my interest in attempting to get NetBSD running on one of these old Macs just one more time (although, sheesh, Steven — those 5 a.m. posting times on your blog must be murder . . . .).

[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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More news, blues and reviews

February 17, 2008 Leave a comment

Five to go: Alastair Otter of Tectonic has written an excellent article about five must-have programs for GNU/Linux. Two of them I can vouch for because, frankly, I swear by them — gFTP and Bluefish. Bluefish deserves special mention because while it’s an immensely powerful editor aimed toward programmers and Web designers, it’s still easy enough for newbs like, um, yours truly to use. I will have to give Inkscape a try.

Taking stock in New Zealand: Not to be outdone by the New York Stock Exchange, the New Zealand Stock Exchange is moving to a GNU/Linux platform for its settlement and clearing system, replacing its existing HP NonStop platform and applications in order to reduce cost and increase flexibility, reports Computerworld.

Free idea for fundraising: This is just a thought I had while drifting off to sleep a few days ago, and could very well attest to my waning sanity. But if I were to hold a GNU/Linux festival — listening, LinuxFest Northwest folks? — I’d have a booth at one end of the auditorium (away from everything else) at which I’d have chairs where people, for a buck or maybe more, could throw them. After throwing them, they would get a certificate saying “My chair-throwing abilities qualify me to be Microsoft’s CEO” or something along those lines. And maybe a thumb drive or other small prize could go to the person whose chair throwing talents made the chair go the furthest distance. Okay, it was just a thought . . . .

Shameless self-promotion: On Thursday, the membership who attended the Cabrillo College GNU/Linux Users Group elected me president for the Spring Term, and now the decision goes by e-mail vote to the entire membership. If you’re a Cabrillo College student and you have even the slightest interest in FOSS, I urge you to a.) get involved with the GLUG (that’s the sound “free beer” makes when you drink it), and b.) vote for the current slate of officers, which also includes Alexis Chen for vice president, Theodore Goodman for treasurer and Jon Colby for secretary.

My red Swingline gets a new home: When March comes in like a lion — as it’s supposed to — HeliOS Solutions West should be in new office space in Felton at the Felton Center. As you may recall, we were burned out of our offices when the Felton Trading Post caught fire back in November — Kelly and Melanie of the Trading Post have since moved up the street, but I have been working out of my home (which, of course, is sooooo endearing to my spouse). Film at 11.

[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: Bluefish, gFTP, Inkscape, Tectonic

Eight Distros a Week: Epilogue

February 16, 2008 1 comment

Eight distros. Seven days. One tired blogger.

In seven words, that pretty much wraps up the “Eight Distros a Week” series, named after (of course) the Beatles song “Eight Days a Week.”

I have used more than eight distros — AntiX, Debian, Fedora, Fluxbuntu, gNewSense, Linux Mint, Wolvix and Xubuntu — but these eight are the ones that I use most, talk about most and would recommend to those looking for a distro.

I do sometimes — and have in the past — used others. These include:

Yellow Dog Linux: While Yellow Dog seems to be putting its proverbial eggs in the PlayStation 3 basket, the distro does have a history as being the distro for Macs. Yellow Dog 3 “Sirius” is a better-than-average distro for Old World Macs using BootX on a separate partition, and its Red Hat roots make is very adequate for those Macs that predate the turn of the 21st century. However — you knew that was coming — Terra Soft Solutions, the parent company for Yellow Dog, is not exactly the most user-friendly company, unless you plop down $70 for an “Enhanced User Account” for YDL.net. By the way, if you’re tired of digging around for the download page for Yellow Dog, it’s here. You’re welcome.

Red Hat: I use Red Hat at school (Go Cabrillo College Seahawks!). Red Hat works behind the scenes for a variety of companies with which I have daily contact. As a distro, Red Hat is ubiquitous and there’s really nothing I can add to the volumes written by one of the oldest distros. It’s huge, it works, it’s corporate — what more can you say?

Mandriva: I can’t figure out Mandriva. At a recent installfest at Cabrillo College in Aptos, Calif., an 11-year-old installed Mandriva on his Dell boxes. In the process, I put it on a Dell box that was doing nothing but sitting there, and I thought the distro worked well. But I installed it once on a laptop and, for some reason, when I went to change the distro, the BIOS had changed to where I couldn’t boot from the CD. Easily fixed, of course, but the thing is I didn’t change the BIOS. My wife and daughter didn’t, and neither did the cat. Mysterious, I know, and more than likely it had nothing to do with the use of Mandriva, but until I can explain some of the strange things that happen when I try Mandriva, I’m avoiding it.

Knoppix: I’ve had this Knoppix CD that I’ve been carrying around for nearly two years, but it wasn’t until recently that I used it for an emergency. If there were a Nobel Prize for distros, Klaus Knopper should top the short list — not only was the disk helpful in solving my problem, I kept it on the machine for a significant amount of time while I waded through what it had to offer. It’s great, but I don’t use it too often.

Ubuntu: While I’m happy with Xubuntu, whenever I try Ubuntu on an Intel box or laptop, I keep thinking, “You know, this screams out ‘Debian’ to me,” and I generally lose interest. Another thing that usually keeps me at an arm’s length from Ubuntu is the split-screen syndrome — the Live CD always gives me a bonus in the screen department with two screens, and I know how to fix it (and do), but I have to say I’m just not a bandwagoner, although I recognize and appreciate Ubuntu’s contributions to FOSS.

One of the universal digital truths is that the difference between most distros is painfully minuscule, and that the object with having a plethora of options — some 350 active distros, according to Distrowatch‘s count — is the beauty behind the freedom of choice you have regarding what runs your computer.

[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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Eight Distros a Week: Wolvix GNU/Linux 1.1 Hunter

February 15, 2008 3 comments

[This is the last in an eight-part series on distros I use. These observations are based on distros running on one or more of the following hardware: Dell Inspiron 5000 laptop, an brandless Pentium III-based desktop, an IBM PL 300 Pentium II, an iMac G3 (Indigo) and an iBook G3. As the auto commercials say, your mileage may vary. NOTE: This is an edited version of an earlier blog item on the same topic.]

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 a recent 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.

Overall, Wolvix gets high marks and is definitely worth a try.

Coming tomorrow: Epilogue

[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: Wolvix

Eight Distros a Week: Xubuntu 6.10 Edgy Eft

February 15, 2008 1 comment

[This is the seventh in an eight-part series on distros I use. These observations are based on distros running on one or more of the following hardware: Dell Inspiron 5000 laptop, an brandless Pentium III-based desktop, an IBM PL 300 Pentium II, an iMac G3 (Indigo) and an iBook G3. As the auto commercials say, your mileage may vary.]

You might ask, “Hey, Lar — why are you so far behind? Edgy Eft? You’re already two . . . .”

And I would interrupt and say, “Tsk, tsk, tsk. You know, when Ubuntu made that fatal error of dropping PowerPC support a while ago, 6.10 is the latest I can go on the iBook.” This has been my experience — my foray into the update for 7.04 on the iBook led to a mildly traumatic episode where I thought I had killed the machine, so it was back to the nervous newt (which, if you look it up, is what an “edgy eft” is, after all).

[I understand this is not the case, and I am told that 7.04 and 7.10 both run on PowerPC G3 architecture. If anyone can point out how, I'm all ears.]

A little more history (and thank you for bearing with me): After my first exposure to GNU/Linux with Debian GNU/Linux, Xubuntu was my first other-than-Debian experience and, essentially, it made me what I am today: A happy distro wanderer (and, to some who are somewhat “distro dogmatic,” I am a shameless distro polygamist — and actually I’m at peace with that). Finding the Xfce desktop environment a little perplexing at the time, not to mention a challenge to overcome, the Xubuntu experience was enhanced by the fact that the GTK+ programs were an education to yours truly as a newbie.

As has been a theme in this series, the fact that you can have a desktop environment that does not take up a lot of resources is like having a 426 cubic-inch Hemi planted into a Mini Cooper — the power-to-weight ratio makes the vehicle fly. Xubuntu on the PowerPC G3 in the iBook G3 is no exception to this theme.

There is a debate within the Xubuntu community about whether to include GNOME programs into later editions of the distro. Despite the fact that both sides present good arguments for and against, I think that Xubuntu should stay true to its roots and not weigh itself down.

Of all my portables (and there have only been three), the connectivity of Xubuntu deserves special mention. Despite the fact that Apple’s Airport wireless card has yet to be connectable with any distro — and my guess is that it may never be (thanks, Steve) — the wired connection, whether in my house or in the computer or networking labs in Cabrillo College, has never failed; neither has the iBook had to be reconfigured. I know this ranks way up there in the miracle department, but it’s true (and maybe I’m just lucky). This is not a complaint, but rather I’m sort of awed by this phenomenon that I can’t explain — and, sadly, I can’t repeat this “miracle” with my Intel-based hardware.

With Ubuntu and its family of distros making great strides in the FOSS realm, it is clear that Xubuntu will continue to grow and flourish as part of this tribe. As far as the iBook goes, it has everything it needs , and everything I need, in Xubuntu 6.10 Edgy Eft.

Coming tomorrow: Wolvix 1.1 Hunter (Note: Yes, I know I went out of alphabetical order — I can’t keep track of letters after R. Sorry.)

[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: Debian, Xfce, Xubuntu

Eight Distros a Week: Linux Mint Daryna 4.0 Xfce

February 14, 2008 3 comments

[This is the sixth in an eight-part series on distros I use. These observations are based on distros running on one or more of the following hardware: Dell Inspiron 5000 laptop, an brandless Pentium III-based desktop, an IBM PL 300 Pentium II, an iMac G3 (Indigo) and an iBook G3. As the auto commercials say, your mileage may vary.]

This started out as observations about Linux Mint Cassandra 3.0 Xfce. However, not having been to the Linux Mint site recently, I visited last week and noticed Clement Lefebvre and the crew at Linux Mint had brought another “woman” — Daryna — with the brand spanking new Xfce 4.4.1 desktop. So Cassandra has company in these observations because the Xfce version of Daryna is available.

[The Linux Mint naming convention is interesting. As I'm told, it goes alphabetically by woman's first name with the last letter of the name ending in "a" so Ada was followed by Bianca, which was followed by Cassandra, followed by the current Daryna (next, um, Edwina? Eliza? Emma?). Apparently when they reach Z (Zelda?) they will start at women's names beginning with "a" again, but then end the name with a different letter, although I don't know if the name will end in a "b" . . . .]

So while I have not tested Daryna extensively — and I don’t think that Daryna’s Xfce version is final and two days of fiddling does not qualify for a thorough test — I can say, at first look, that Daryna is both solid and impressive. I did not go the Compiz route on this one — as a self-proclaimed (and proud of it) “old guy,” I don’t mind having a desktop that is two dimensional and, if I had my druthers, they would all be 2-D — however with 256 MB of RAM under the hood, Daryna Xfce still works adequately and quickly on a Pentium III desktop.

Probably the most impressive features that comes with Daryna — and a couple of very cool improvements on any distro I’ve seen — are the MintInstall and MintUpdate features, the latter of which allows a security level that lets the user know how safe programs are to apply. “Safe,” of course, is subjective here, but it serves as a good indicator to those who might be new to the distro in particular, or new to GNU/Linux in general.

Before the building fire in what was once my office (none of my stuff was damaged, although some of the boxes have a smoky, barbeque scent to them), I used to use a desktop PIII with Cassandra Xfce on it. One of the reasons that I haven’t been around at Linux Mint was that I was completely happy with Cassandra Xfce, which suited my purposes. But what happens? Along comes Daryna and she completely sweeps this distro polygamist off his feet.

[The irony of this observation coming out on Valentine's Day is probably not lost on the more astute of you out there.]

So coupling Daryna with Xfce — even though this version also comes in GNOME, KDE and Fluxbox versions — is a natural, and as I mentioned yesterday in the gNewSense item, Ireland is doing itself proud in the FOSS department by providing the world with solid distros.

Thanks, Clement and Linux Minters.

Coming tomorrow: Xubuntu 6.10

[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: Linux Mint

Eight Distros a Week: gNewSense 1.1

February 13, 2008 3 comments

[This is the fifth in an eight-part series on distros I use. These observations are based on distros running on one or more of the following hardware: Dell Inspiron 5000 laptop, an brandless Pentium III-based desktop, an IBM PL 300 Pentium II, an iMac G3 (Indigo) and an iBook G3. As the auto commercials say, your mileage may vary.]

A couple of Saturdays ago, I appeared as a guest on KUSP’s GeekSpeak radio show to talk about Free Software, and about two-thirds of what I said on the radio was about gNewSense.

Truth in advertising: I was on with Richard Stallman, who the panelists really wanted to speak to (and rightfully so), and my total contribution to the hour-long radio show was three sentences. But two sentences out of three praising gNewSense isn’t bad.

What I said on the show was that gNewSense was the only completely free-as-in-freedom distros I would recommend, and that I have already had one user converted from a proprietary OS to gNewSense.

The third sentence — I corrected the host on how to pronounce my name, I think.

Nevertheless, of all the distros providing true digital freedom, gNewSense stands out as probably the best performing and most stable distro available. To those for whom complete free-as-in-freedom programs with the distro is of vital importance, gNewSense provides suitable alternatives to other-than-free (for whatever reason) software; Burning Dog, for example, is the free (albeit domesticated?) replacement for Firefox as a Web browser. Rhythmbox works well on a PIII, as does Serpentine.

The KDE version of gNewSense, which I ran on the PIII desktop, ran through its paces flawlessly, although the caveat here is that I didn’t have an Internet connection and couldn’t put it through some on-line tests that I did with the laptop.

Whether you prefer GNOME or KDE — and I don’t mean to start a flame war here, and past posts have outlined where my desktop loyalties lie — bear in mind that both desktops run the OS suitably and makes a strong argument for running completely free.

Further, Ireland is beginning to stand out as a digital leader in Europe — both gNewSense and Linux Mint (which we’ll talk about tomorrow) are two testaments to how Eire is taking a lead in FOSS. So a toast with a pint of stout to the both Brian Brazil and Paul O’Malley — and the rest of the developers of gNewSense on either side of the Atlantic — for providing a great distro.

Coming tomorrow: Linux Mint 4.0 Darnya Xfce

[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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