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Zonker nails it again

June 16, 2010 Leave a comment

One of the great things about people writing things that you have been thinking — let alone things you wish you had written — is that you don’t have to do it yourself.

So, thanks to Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier for writing this on the Linux Magazine site about the “Party of Gno,” with some words that hopefully the Free Software Foundation will take to heart.

My thoughts exactly, Zonk.

[FSF Associate Member](Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)
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Pass the coffee

June 14, 2010 3 comments

Monday mornings are not as toxic to me as to others, to hear them tell it. In fact, I have a healthy indifference to Mondays; on a work-week landscape where my first day of the work week at the newspaper is a Thursday, Mondays essentially are my “Fridays.” All of which is to say, that’s not so bad.

Still, coffee would be nice, and while sipping a Kona blend, we can review some of the recent past’s events and articles, like . . .

It’s dead, Jim . . . finally: Novell came up the winner in the SCO case, according to Groklaw, and it looks like this is the end of the line for a one-time tech company turned litigation machine. Judge Ted Stewart ruled that Novell’s claim for declaratory judgment is granted; SCO’s claims for specific performance and breach of the implied covenant of good fair and fair dealings are denied. Denied. Did I mention it was denied? Also SCO’s motion for judgment as a matter of law or for a new trial: denied. Deeee-nyed! So that’s game, set, match. Also, on a personal note, as a MoFo — as in a Morrison & Foerster alum, having worked for the firm in Tokyo — I have to say I’m proud of their work in this case.

Well, duh! Chapter One: Dell, which offers Ubuntu (if you want to wait for it — more on this in a minute), gives those thinking about ordering an Ubuntu machine some reasons for making the switch. While those ordering Ubuntu Dells wait — ask me about ordering one for a client and getting a shipment date in about a month, versus a few days for an identical Windows machine — they can take a look at Number 6 on this list: Ubuntu is safer than Microsoft Windows. You think? Sheesh.

Well, duh! Part Deux: What’s the weak link in the national security in relation to cyber war? Easy question, according to a recent ars technica article: Microsoft Windows. Richard A. Clarke’s new book, “Cyber War: The Next Threat to National Security and What to Do About It,” is still making quite a splash. A quote from the article: “While it may appear to give America some sort of advantage,” Cyber War warns, “in fact cyber war places this country at greater jeopardy than it does any other nation.” The enormous dependence of our financial and energy networks on the ‘Net open us up to potentially devastating online attacks. “It is the public, the civilian population of the United States and the publicly owned corporations that run our key national systems, that are likely to suffer in a cyber war.” Yep, that sounds like Microsoft Windows all right.

What’s that? The sky is falling? It figures that the likes of PC World would take a story involving a relatively obscure IRC server, give said IRC server undue credit for popularity, exaggerate the seriousness of the situation and exaggerate how long it went unnoticed all in one article. But that’s what happened when — HORRORS! — an announcement was made on the Unreal IRCd forum that the Linux version of the popular IRC server Unreal IRCd was contaminated with malware in November 2009, without anyone noticing it. Of course, what the article conveniently fails to mention is that unlike the infections automatically started by the mere presence of Windows, this one had to be downloaded, installed, and configured. That point was glossed over. Another glaring omission: How many in the wild security breaches have there been due to this? I’m not linking to the article — PC World is not getting hits from me — but you can go to LXer and see the article, with responses, if you wish.

I need a refill.

[FSF Associate Member](Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)
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Res publica non dominetur

June 9, 2010 2 comments

With the passing of legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, I was reminded of the IBM “Prodigy” ad in which he appears. “Prodigy,” quite frankly, is the best tech ad ever — ever (sorry, “1984,” despite Apple’s ad introducing not only the Macintosh but Ridley Scott’s directing prowress) — and it joins Red Hat’s “Truth Happens” (QuickTime / OGG versions) as two short video pieces I show people when talking about GNU/Linux.

The ad is here on YouTube. Take a minute and 33 seconds to watch. I’ll wait. You may want to keep it open in another window to refer back to it.

What occurred to me while watching Wooden tell the kid, “A player who makes a team great is more valuable than a great player. Losing yourself in the group, for the good of the group, that’s teamwork” (emphasis mine), was that this quote applies not only to basketball in particular or sports in general, but specifically to those participating in making Free/Open Source Software work.

Watching the ad, then, with an eye toward how IBM addresses FOSS allowed me to watch with a new perspective. Other aspects of the ad also draw the same conclusions — pointing to the FOSS paradigm — even though all of those who instruct the lad don’t impart anything that can be directly tied to FOSS.

An anthropologist tells him “Homo habalis was the first to use tools.” It rings true because we are the first to use tools that we can’t actually hold — the digital bits and bytes that course through our hardware and over the World Wide Web.

Harvard professor and Boston police harrassment victim Henry Louis Gates tells the boy, in what I think is the most profound English sentence in the ad, “Collecitng data is only the first step toward wisdom, but sharing data is the first step toward community.” No additional commentary is needed there, and the overwhelming irony of having someone named Gates imparting something so profoundly insightful about the open source paradigm is almost too perfect.

A poet speaks: ” Poetry. There’s not much glory in poetry, only achievement.” Replacing “poetry” with “FOSS programming” is a simple and complete fit.

Even the male narrator says, after the poet: “What he learns, we all learn. What he knows, we all benefit from.” Where have we experienced that before?

Author Sylvia Nassar and actress/director Penny Marshall: Nassar says “One little thing can solve an incredibly complex problem,” and who hasn’t been there scripting or programming? Can I see a show of hands? I thought so. Marshall: “Everything’s about timing, kid.” Indeed.

Skipping over the businessman and the pilot — though the businessman does teach “constant improvement,” which is a FOSS tenet — we get to the heart of the ad: The Latin teacher and the plumber — the intellectual and the worker — both stating profound truths that apply to life in general and FOSS in particular.

The Latin teacher: “Res publica non dominetur,” which translates, as far as I can tell, literally to “(The) thing of the public (let) not be dominated” — more idiomatically, “Don’t let something that belongs to the public get taken over by a despot” (thanks, Willy Smith, for the quote on the translation, from his more eloquent blog on the “Prodigy” ad here). Like the Gates quote, notihng to add here, however I think I’m going to add that phrase to my personal Coat of Arms.

And the plumber, with the most succinct and direct quote: “Plumbing. It’s all about the tools.” Which the same can be said for FOSS: It’s all about the tools.

The others may or may not speak directly to the FOSS paradigm and philosophy, with the remote exception of Muhammad Ali’s chiling yet inspiring two sentences: “Speak your mind. Don’t back down.” I’m trying to find where the guitar player, the soccer player, the astronomer and the pilot fit in, but nevertheless, it seems that seven years ago, IBM did the Free/Open Source Software community a huge favor by producing this ad.

[Thanks again to Willy Smith for his insightful blog, which not only helped me translate the Latin, but also points out better than I do the FOSS nuances of this ad.]

[FSF Associate Member](Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)
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