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Archive for August, 2010

Any given Thursday

August 12, 2010 3 comments

Linux Today has been gracious enough to post the Tuesday blog post and the responses to it on that page hit home with a topic — Linux evangelism — that needs to be discussed.

This is very important, so pay attention.

Important point number one: How you present FOSS is probably more important than actually promoting Linux and FOSS. Let me say that again: How you present FOSS is probably more important than actually promoting GNU/Linux and FOSS.

[Yeah, I said it twice, but not because of the Linux-vs.-GNU/Linux thing, though that was very convenient, huh?]

This is how we do it in Felton Farmers Market table: We essentially ask “Do you know about Linux?” If not, we explain what it is. If so, we ask them about their experience. What we stress is, in both cases, “Remember, you have a choice.” And the choice is simple — either you can have an operating system and software that you own (and is not licensed to you) or you can have an operating system and software that puts you at the mercy of those who own it (i.e., Microsoft, Apple, etc.).

Yes, it may take a little work to get up to speed, but the trade-off is that you’re essentially free of viruses, spyware, malware, etc., and your system (especially an older one) will run faster. Also, if you need help, we let them know that the Felton Linux Users Group (for which the table is set up) can help.

The key operating word here is choice: You give the people the choice of whether they want an operating system and software that is theirs to own, that is free (as in beer/KookAid/bottled water/whatever as well as in freedom) and that, with a little work, they can control more easily than what they might have now.

Or they can choose not to change, and that’s completely up to them, which — another important point — is a decision that should be respected no matter how wrong we might think it is.

Which, of course, brings us to . . .

Important point number two: There’s no need, let alone no room, for zealotry. The zealotry that’s often masked as evangelism harms GNU/Linux and FOSS far more than it helps.

Think about it in these terms — and this is not to cast evangelicals in a negative light, but just to use some of the more zealous, overbearing ones as an example — how effective are those Bible-thumpers you may encounter, telling you you’re going to roast like a July 4th marshmallow in the eternal fiery pits of hell’s damnation unless you embrace $RELIGION that they profess? Does that kind of pitch fill you with instant inspiration to take them up on their cause, or does it fill you with an overwhelming desire to find the nearest hose and spray them down?

Same thing with Linux/FOSS zealots: If you horse-collar people and tell them they must use GNU/Linux and FOSS or they will die, then you’re acting no better than the misguided evangelicals mentioned in the previous paragraph.

We have all been “filled with the Holy Spirit,” to use a Christian term for divine inspiration, at some point in our conversion to Linux/FOSS and it’s only natural to want people to know what we know, and to experience what we experience, when it comes to our operating system and software. But . . .

Important point number three: People are people. Some people take pride in their car or house and are constantly doing work on them; whether it’s tuning up or doing repair work themselves on their car, or being on a first-name basis with the guys and gals at Lowe’s or Home Depot while making their home their personal pride and joy.

Then again, some people have ratty cars that are driven into the ground and live in the hovel to which their mail goes — because they don’t care.

[This is not to say that people who drive ratty cars don't care. I drive a '92 Toyota Paseo with 316,000 miles because it's all I can afford. It looks like death warmed over, but I do regular maintenance on it and it runs like a champ.]

Some people — more than likely in the first category — are the ones who are more likely to consider their computers as more than just an appliance; the latter may not consider their computers anything more than a television screen with a keyboard.

It’s those in the first category that realize what they have in a personal computer (i.e., more than just an appliance) that tend to want to know more of the options in the digital realm. Hence, most of those we encounter at the farmers market fall into the first category.

Those in the second category, well, fall under the “Lead-a-horse-to-water” group. You may not be able to make them drink, and while no one really deserves the slings and arrows that befall Windows users, people have to want to get themselves out of that quagmire before they can actually get out of it. Whether they have to “hit bottom,” as they say in AA circles, is worthy of debate, but the main thrust is that they have to want to help themselves.

So to recap: We have most, if not all, of the solutions for everyone to have a free-as-in-freedom digital experience through GNU/Linux and FOSS. It is open to everyone and anyone who wants to participate — at whatever level fits their comfort zone — and the community aspect is one that has the ability to reach far beyond merely the technical realm.

A lot of people, to varying degrees, “get it,” and most, sooner or later, they will change from using Windows/Mac to Linux/FOSS. Some don’t, and while that’s unfortunate, it’s their choice.

And that’s what this is about — the freedom to choose.

If you’ve read this far, thanks for staying awake.

[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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Wednesday Morning, 3 a.m.

August 11, 2010 Leave a comment

Sleepless in Felton . . . sort of. Actually, while I load Blender on the laptop, I’ll weigh in during the quiet of a San Lorenzo Valley morning, complete with raccoons and skunks fighting in the near distance.

So while Blender goes through the motions — more on why I’m fiddling with this another time — I keep thinking about an article I read yesterday about how Linux is winning.

It’s an interesting perspective, worthy of discussion if one is so inspired. It is written from a corporate standpoint, so those of us at on the front lines of converting people to GNU/Linux may not relate directly. But still . . . at the moment, there aren’t any replies to the article. But chances are there will be.

While it doesn’t keep me up, there has been some rumblings about the fate of OpenSolaris, where finally a fork — or actually a “spork” — of OpenSolaris has manifested itself in the form of Illumos which is led by Nexenta.

Earlier this week, Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier asks the question, should OpenSolaris die? Zonker makes a compelling argument, complete with a heaping helping of history, for those working on OpenSolaris to come into the Linux fold, or failing that, at least to FreeBSD.

I don’t want to be a spoiler, but Zonker concludes toward the end of his blog with this: “It seems to me that it’d be a better world for software freedom and free *nix in general if the Solaris die-hards sucked it up and helped work on Linux. Failing that, FreeBSD. Either way, it’d be an improvement over trying to ‘spork’ OpenSolaris when the effort would be more effective elsewhere.”

Agreed.

My limited experience with OpenSolaris is trying to see if it would work on an old, trusty and ever-present Ultra 10 Sun box in the Redwood Digital office. But since Sun boxes account for even less, percentage-wise, than PowerPC Macs, not even OpenSolaris would make a version for them.

Forgetting your roots: Never a good sign.

Time to throw an old shoe out the door to break up the disagreement between nocturnal creatures.

[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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Tuesday afternoon

August 10, 2010 5 comments

Astute readers of Larry the Free Software Guy might notice a trend in this week’s blogs, and if you said “pop music references,” you’d be right. Yesterday’s “Monday, Monday” is the title of a song by The Mamas & The Papas, and today’s comes to you from the Moody Blues. OK, kids, go ahead and hit Wikipedia to look up those bands we old folks continually talk about . . . .

Tuesday, of course, is farmers market day in the People’s Republic of Felton, the town that had the unmitigated audacity to buy its waterworks back from a multinational and put it back in town hands. And at the ring of the bell at 2:30 to signal the start of the market, Felton LUG was set up and ready to go, with both Frank Adamson and me staffing the table.

That’s Frank in the photo in the article linked above. Frank, an octagenarian, takes a walk about a mile down the hill every Tuesday to staff the Felton LUG table (not to worry, folks — we make sure Frank gets a ride home up the hill, usually with indefatigable FOSS evangelist Bob Lewis or sometimes his wife drives down to pick him up). An Ubuntu user, Frank has been a FOSS advocate for about a year.

With his work with Felton Friends of Locally Owned Water (FLOW) and other activities in Felton (like the Friends of the Library), Frank seems to know everyone in Felton. People come to the table and say hello to Frank, and immediately Frank starts off into his pitch about FOSS and GNU/Linux.

This farmers market table seems to be working well, not only for the LUG — which had nearly 20 people attend the meeting last Saturday — but also for FOSS in general.

People have a general sense of what Linux is — it’s that operating system thing, right? — and seeing it in an arena that’s not normally a “tech environment” makes it a lot less threatening, for loss of a better term. So I would strongly urge everyone who wants to promote FOSS, GNU/Linux and Linux (for those who want to make that distinction, which I don’t anymore) take the word forth to places where you might not normally find tech talk; like farmers markets, or tractor pulls, or gun shows. Anywhere where people congregate is a place where FOSS can be pitched.

Also, one of the funniest things today was handing out stickers to kids. One kid asked for one, and then her friends came up and said, “Excuse me, can we please have stickers, too?” (Such polite kids we have here in Felton.) At one point the kids had come back several times, and they had stuck the stickers on their shirts, so they were wearing Fedora, OpenSUSE, WordPress and the GNU/Linux “Dynamic Duo” gnu and penguin superhero stickers on their shirts. Sure, I bet moms wanted to strangle me, but one dad commented to me about his daughter, “You know, she looks like a stock car,” which I thought was funny.

So Tuesday’s down and Wednesday’s next. Watch this space.

[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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Monday, Monday

August 9, 2010 2 comments

One of the more peculiar items I find when checking my blog stats is that I still get hits for a blog item I wrote in 2008 — 2008 — about Microsoft’s 10-K report that year and how it implies how good the open source paradigm might be compared to its own software and its own business model.

Bear in mind that one of the purposes of a 10-K report — somewhat like the medical disclaimers you hear on drug commercials that, after listening to it, would make any normal person avoid the drug at all costs — is to outline any potential pitfall in buying stock in the company you’re considering so you can’t sue them if, well, the stock goes south; way south.

Why the blog item keeps getting hits is beyond me, but for those who keep reading it, thanks.

A brave man: My friend Steven Rosenberg, who writes a tech column for the Los Angeles Daily News, wades into uncharted territory in his column today, where he outlines dual-booting a Lenovo with Fedora and . . . wait for it . . . Windows 7. As always, Steven’s blogs are always informative and instructional, and the reasoning behind his using the Xfce spin of Fedora is something that hadn’t occurred to me before. Steven says in the blog that he “prefer(s) the Xfce tools over those in GNOME. I like the Thunar file manager, the way you can ‘minimize’ a window but keep it visible on the desktop, I like the look (and speed; these helper apps are super-quick) and functionality of the Xfce terminal and Mousepad text editor. The Xfce configuration apps all work great, and there are plenty of them.” Nice work, as always, Steven. Keep us posted on this dual-boot adventure.

Survey says: Ken Starks over at the Blog of HeliOS has a fairly interesting survey to be taken, if you have several minutes. Tell Ken how you use GNU/Linux or Linux and help him out.

Now, who wants more coffee?

[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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R-A-M-B-L-I-N-(apostrophe)

August 5, 2010 1 comment

After a week that everyone, including me, could (and probably should) have switched to decaf for a bit, I only have a couple of items to touch on this week.

First things first: Regarding all this hubbub about Ubuntu not carrying its weight in the FOSS world, the firefight seems to have simmered down and cooler heads — not the least of which was Greg DeKoenigsberg who apologized for calling out Canonical — prevailed in the end (though I don’t think you should ever apologize when you’re right, but maybe Greg’s mea culpa is Exhibit A when it comes to discretion being the greater part of valor).

In a blog entitled “Old Wounds,” Greg answers the question why he felt “so compelled to shoot my mouth off in the first place.” Most compelling about this blog post is this paragraph toward the end, which speaks volumes to the core issue:

“As Canonical grows, I hope that it lives up to similarly lofty standards — and part of living up to such standards is bearing an ever-increasing share of the weight. It is my very strong, honest, and believe it or not, largely impartial opinion, that after five-plus years of building a global brand on top of the GNOME platform, Canonical should be doing way more to sustain that platform. And although I understand and agree with the arguments that Canonical contributes in many important ways, I contend that it still isn’t nearly enough. Not if you want to claim the mantle of leadership. You cannot simply talk the talk; you must ultimately walk the walk.”

Agreed. That trumps everything that comes before, my blog on the item originally, Mark Shuttleworth’s ad hominem responses to both Greg and me, and we can get on with life in the happy, healthy FOSS world.

And, to quote Forrest Gump, that’s all I have to say about that.

Singing in IRC: I was demonstrating the /nick feature, for lack of a better term, to someone watching over my shoulder recently and came up with a way to sing on IRC. I put the folks in #scale on OFTC.net through the following ditty:

17:19 lcafiero is now known as Space_Cowboy
17:19 Space_Cowboy is now known as Gangster_of_Love
17:19 Gangster_of_Love is now known as Maurice
17:20 * Maurice speaks for the pompetous of love
17:20 Maurice is now known as lcafiero

And so on. I did the WEEEEE WOOOOOO! verbally, though I probably should have typed that in, too, in retrospect. Thanks, Steve Miller.

[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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