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Long live the laptop

March 22, 2011 5 comments

Linuxfest Northwest 2011 - April 30th-May 1st I’ll be there. You should be there, too.

My good friend and former newspaper colleague Tom Dunlap wrote in a PC World blog yesterday about how many have fallen under the spell of the tablet and are drifting away from laptops and other “real” computers.

Quoting Tom: “Everywhere I go these days, my friends slam laptops. They tell me my PC of choice is a dying breed and sing the praises of their new, ‘post-PC’ Apple iPad.

“They carefully pull out their Apple device. I admire it, then ask: ‘So where do you insert the DVD, how do you bang out a long e-mail on a touch keyboard, and do you know what I paid for my little (Lenovo ThinkPad X30) laptop compared to what you paid for this iPad?’

Good one, Tom. The fact of the matter is — and Tom eloquently outlines it in his blog, so I won’t be echoing it here (except to say, “I agree!”) — there’s a big difference between the tablet which, for all its conveniences, isn’t really a computer, and the desktop or laptop you use for getting things done.

Same goes for my “smart” phone — the only thing I want it to be smart enough to do is take calls and make calls. If I need to check e-mail or text someone, I can do that from my laptop.

Thanks, Tom, for bringing that topic up.

[FSF Associate Member] (Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation. He is also one of the founders of the Lindependence Project.)
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It’s not about you

March 17, 2011 4 comments

Linuxfest Northwest 2011 - April 30th-May 1st I’ll be there. You should be there, too.

As many of you know, I am in the throes of using Fedora 15 Alpha on a desktop box running the GNOME 3 — also innocuously known in Fedora circles as “desktop” — as well as using F15 Alpha KDE on the road warrior laptop, the long-in-the-tooth ThinkPad T30 which, while completely faithful and trusty, is often Exhibit A in the “gee, I wish I had newer hardware” diatribes I often utter.

The F15 Alpha experience so far has been great — the T30 just hums along with KDE 4.6.1 in a way that’s incredibly eerie. Alphas aren’t supposed to run this error-free, I say, knocking hard on wood. The desktop box with “desktop” also hums along as well, error-free like the laptop, but there’s something I can’t put my finger on regarding the GNOME 3 experience so far that is . . . .

Offputting. Well, that’s not exactly the word I’m looking for, but it’s as close as I can come.

I can’t explain it any better than that. There’s something that wants me to keep GNOME 3 at arm’s length, and while I’ll keep “desktop” on the desktop box once F15 is released — for obvious reasons involving the need to keep up with GNOME for — I am not sure it will be my primary desktop environment going forward.

To be honest, I’m a huge GNOME fan and I felt guilty about feeling this way until I read this blog item by Swapnil Bhartiya entitled “My Wife Loves GNOME 3.” The blog item is worth a read — and go ahead, I’ll wait — but to summarize, Swapnil installed F15 Alpha on a machine to review, and his “non-techie” (Swapnil’s words) wife instead took GNOME 3 for a test drive and loved it.

And then it hit me, hopefully without leaving a mark: It’s not about me, or you for that matter.

The “it,” of course, is developments like GNOME 3 and, to a degree, the Unity desktop. The “me” and “you” that make up the “us” in this equation are the experienced user who others come to for advice and answers when it comes to Linux and FOSS.

It’s not about us. It’s about getting the newer users comfortable with Linux/FOSS.

You and I can tweak our desktop environments — heck, our systems, for that matter — to be whatever they want. Those who are new to Linux don’t have that knowledge, let alone the capability.

Add to the mix that netbooks and other mobile devices are eclipsing desktops and laptops — a fact that I find hard to bear, but can’t argue against — and you have a formula that spells the future of desktop environments that puts ease of use and like-minded usability between mobile and laptop/desktop computers in the forefront.

So I don’t feel so bad about getting used to GNOME 3 now, and I get why it’s the way it is. And all those bad things I said about Unity . . . OK, well let’s not get carried away here.

Fedora 15 Alpha is out there. Get it here.

[FSF Associate Member] (Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation. He is also one of the founders of the Lindependence Project.)
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Categories: Fedora, GNOME, KDE Tags: , , , ,

Pleased to meet you

March 14, 2011 1 comment

Linuxfest Northwest 2011 - April 30th-May 1st I’ll be there. You should be there, too.

One of the great things about living where I do is the people by whom I’m surrounded in the FOSS realm. Each community has their peeps that do yeoman’s work on a daily basis to promote Linux and FOSS, and in the Silicon Valley and “over the hill” on Santa Cruz side, we are stocked with great people who do excellent work.

Grant Bowman, as I’ve mentioned before in past blogs, is one of them.

Grant started a discussion on the LUG mailing lists in the Silicon Valley and concludes with this: Is there a “best” way to introduce people to knowing more about computing without limits? Grant’s e-mail eloquently continues in seeking an answer to how we, as Linux/FOSS advocates, can help those who are Linux/FOSS curious experience what we already know is a better way.

We all know there’s not an easy answer to this, and arguably if you get 10,000 people in an arena to answer that question, chances are you’d end up with 12,000 different answers. However, it’s a good issue to discuss to get ideas regarding how to best promote Linux/FOSS with the proviso that there is not a “right,” one-size-fits-all answer.

Putting aside seeking community — going to LUG meetings, for example, and becoming an active member — I’d prefer here to address the one-to-one issue of Linux user introducing a non-user to Linux.

One basis — not the only one, but my own bottom line modus operandi — for determining how best to promote Linux/FOSS is to know why the potential convertee wants to use Linux/FOSS and how he or she plans to use it. Computer experience at this point in the discussion is secondary, though it is something that needs to be addressed early in the discussion.

So I would break the users down into two basic categories: Changers for philosopical reasons and changers for nuts-and-bolts reasons (and I don’t mean “nuts-and-bolts” in a bad sense: What I mean are those who don’t care if their software is “free-as-in-freedom.” They just want to do what they do on their computers to work as they’re accustomed to having it work).

There are others who might fall between these two basic categories — like those who get the philosophical side but focus on the more basic part of having the OS and software “just work” — but for the sake of discussion, let’s just use these two for now.

The inverted pyramid

In the news field, one of the principles of reporting is known as “the inverted pyramid;” an upside-down triangle, actually, where the most important item of the news story (that is, the widest part of the triangle) is at the top, with less important items following in a desending order so, as far as importance goes, the diagram would come to a point at the end where the least important part of the story would exist. The inverted pyramid’s purposes, in journalistic circles, stems from the fact that when there are space considerations in the newspaper — i.e., when the story is too long for the space — the editor can cut from the bottom and what’s lost is not as important as what stays.

How that affects the philosophicals

In the case of those changers who want to use Linux/FOSS for reasons that have to do with not wanting to be chained to EULAs or for reasons revolving around “sticking it to the man,” moreso than anything that has to do with basic functionality, you can start your inverted pyramid with the wide and lofty ideals of free software and how that works. Then you can narrow your discussion down to other principles and maybe functions of how to go about using a Live CD (if they don’t know how to already) and finally reach the tip at the bottom handing him or her the CD and let them know how to reach you if they have questions.

Meanwhile, back with the nuts-and-bolts crowd . . . .

Let’s say that you’re having a discussion with someone who’s giving you the blank, god-will-this-ever-end glazed-over stare while you discuss some of the concepts of free software. That’s a pretty good indication that he or she does not really care about EULAs and the philosophical side of things, and your inverted pyramid doesn’t have to start at the lofty ideals of FOSS. Here you can emphasize some of the functionality of Linux and FOSS programs, with the proviso that “your mileage may vary” (an important point — remember GIMP may not do everything Photoshop can do, but for the amateur photographer, GIMP works just fine). The concepts that the software is “free as in free beer” may also resonate. From there, you narrow your discussion down to how you can try out using Linux/FOSS on with a Live CD, etc., and so on.

Again, these are two extremes where a lot of new users may fall somewhere in between, but some of the more important aspects of introducing and helping new users know and share what we might take for granted.

But bear in mind that when you’re advocating for Linux and FOSS:

  • Know your audience,
  • Bear in mind that while Linux and FOSS benefits everyone, Linux and FOSS are not for everyone, and some may be hesitant and/or may not want to convert (at least at the moment), and
  • Freedom ultimately means being free not to use FOSS if one so desires, which is akin to leading a horse to water and it’s up to the animal whether it’ll drink.
  • I look forward to further discussion on this, and thanks, Grant, for posting this.

    [FSF Associate Member] (Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation. He is also one of the founders of the Lindependence Project.)
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    Giving credit where it’s due: Part Deux

    March 14, 2011 Leave a comment

    Linuxfest Northwest 2011 - April 30th-May 1st I’ll be there. You should be there, too.

    A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog item where I talked about a couple of guys I forgot to mention in an interview with Linux Pro regarding the Lindependence 2008 project a few years ago.

    Like butter, I am on a roll in the forgetfulness department because I also failed to mention another very important person that made Lindependence 2008 a success, and he should have been part of that blog.

    That would be Frank Turner.

    After a very successful career in business management, Frank retired from being a captain of industry — at least in Santa Cruz County — and put his efforts into promoting Linux and Free/Open Source Software. His efforts currently revolve around Web design, as well as developing a program where folks can easily make Web pages with little, or no, experience.

    A few years ago, Frank helped with getting Lindependence 2008 off the ground and did the great signage for the event — taking the ad “Linux on Everything” and blowing it up so it could be seen on Highway 9 to guide people to the event.

    Sorry, Frank, for forgetting to include you in this highly esteemed group of folks who make FOSS work here in Santa Cruz, as well as in the wider world. Thanks, too, for all you do.

    [FSF Associate Member] (Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation. He is also one of the founders of the Lindependence Project.)
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    In a festive mood

    March 10, 2011 1 comment

    Linuxfest Northwest 2011 - April 30th-May 1st I’ll be there. You should be there, too. As well as at the other events mentioned below — go to a Linux fest at a location near you.

    If it’s Thursday morning and it’s 8ish in the morning, it must be The White Raven, home of Larry’s (not me) Famous Chai, and at 8ish, it gives me another chance to blog before taking on the rest of the Redwood Digital world at 9ish

    Someone asked me yesterday, “Hey, Larry the Free Software Guy — Why are you posting a link to Linux Fest Northwest on your blog when it’s a few months away? What about those events that are coming up?”

    That’s a good question that deserves a good answer, and hopefully this will suffice, so bear with me for a short introduction.

    Leading up to the Southern California Linux Expo SCALE 9X, I had a link and a logo for that show. As far as community-run expos go, SCALE is probably the best one of the year, and not only that, SCALE rivals the O’Reilly-run OSCON as perhaps the best show of the year. Without a doubt, SCALE is certainly the better value due to the cost to attend. For a crew of volunteers to put on a highly professional show like SCALE is a testament to the power of community

    [Two things: A truth in advertising moment -- I am a SCALE staffer, a co-chair of the publicity committee, but even if I wasn't somewhat partial to SCALE for that reason, it's still an outstanding show and a huge credit to those who put in the work to make it happen, and happen successfully year in and year out. Secondly, OSCON is an outstanding show and O'Reilly's staff does an outstanding job in putting on this expo as well, and my preference to SCALE reflects the high quality of the SoCal show and does not reflect any shortcoming by the folks who put on OSCON, as blog items in the past have attested to how much I like going to Portland in July.]

    So the questioner is right — there are two shows coming up that deserve special mention, as well as your attendance if you’re within walking/bus/train/driving/flying distance of them.

    Back home again in Indiana, the Indiana Linux Fest, kicks off its inaugural event. According to its site, ILF “is a community F/OSS conference, which is showcasing the best the community has to offer in the way of Free and Open Source Software, Open Hardware, and Free Culture. We are also highlighting the best and brightest from all of these communities from the hobbyist to professional level.” ILF is being held March 25-27 at the Wyndam Indianapolis West, and it’s free.

    Texas Linux Fest is April 2 in Austin. In its second year, TXLF made the excellent call in making Ken Starks its keynoter this year. With the HeliOS Project in Austin, Ken’s been doing great things and it’s about time he’s getting the recognition in FOSS circles for walking the walk while talking the talk in getting Linux boxes into the hands of people to use — in the HeliOS Project’s case, it’s underprivileged kids.

    Both shows have outstanding lineups of speakers and sessions, and frankly I wish I could make both of them. It’s almost worth playing hooky and going to Austin, just to heckle Ken from the cheap seats; don’t worry, Ken, I’ll resist the temptation.

    But it’s worth your while to make the trip to either of these shows, depending on which is more geographically expedient for you. Make the reservation now.

    Meanwhile, at the end of April, you can find me at Linux Fest Northwest. If you’re making that one, I will surely see you there.

    [FSF Associate Member] (Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation. He is also one of the founders of the Lindependence Project.)
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    Watching a pot boil

    March 8, 2011 1 comment

    Linuxfest Northwest 2011 - April 30th-May 1st I’ll be there. You should be there, too.

    So while I download the Fedora 15 Alpha and stare out the window, I’m reminded of the adage that a watched pot never boils, or something along those lines. A watched download never loads, too, so it would probably be a good time to catch up.

    What’s in a name? It’s about that time again. Where Ubunteros have no say in what their release name is — Mark Shuttleworth seems to get that distinction, and with more money than God and a trip into space, that by itself would give him more rights than simple Ubuntu naming — The Mark handed down the latest $ADJECTIVE_PLUS_ANIMAL=SAME_FIRST_LETTER for Ubuntu 11.11. The winner of the “O” derby is Oneiric Ocelot. Oneiric — look it up.

    Meanwhile, on the Fedora side of things, the nominations are open for the release name for Fedora 16 (that’s the one that comes out in November). There are several good choices nominated — my personal favorites are Neuromancer and McLuhan (it’s Marshall McLuhan’s centennial this year, and McLuhan coined the term “the global village;” for those of you under 50, you’re going to have to Google his name) — but a choice that’s gaining traction, thanks to what I consider to be blatant bribery (just kidding, Max), is Beefy Miracle. Long story there, but if you want a look at the nominees, you can find them here.

    But vote for McLuhan when the time comes.

    Wishing and hoping: Speaking of pre-release goodness, GNOME 3 is available for those who wish to give it a test drive, and I downloaded it last night and put it through its paces for a couple of hours. Granted, it was on a USB stick and on a ThinkPad T30 and, as they say in the car ads, your mileage may vary, but it appeared unwieldy at first, despite the fact it’s “made of easy.” As I said at the beginning of this item, I’m downloading the F15 Alpha, so I’ll have a better chance at getting a handle on this, but I really, really want to like this version. But so far, I’ve had a lukewarm experience with it. Unlike other bloggers — one in particular in Europe — who reviewed the desktop before it was out (akin to saying how good cake will taste by only trying the batter), I’m going to reserve judgment until I’ve had a chance to “floor it,” as it were, on the digital autobahn. Until then, I have my fingers crossed.

    Thirty-one more minutes until the download finishes. Time for some 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. He is also one of the founders of the Lindependence Project.)
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    SCALE 9X: It’s a wrap

    March 1, 2011 2 comments

    Yeah, it’s over, but it was an absolutely great show. Visit the site for some of the details, and see you next year in L.A.!

    Just call me the ADD Poster Boy: After winning a Palm Pre 2 from the HP booth, I am finding that I now own a phone that is smarter than me. While I search far and wide regarding its hackability — like, Google: “Can I install Android?” (heh heh heh) — I have to say much of the Sunday/Monday learning curve has taken me away from this blog.

    But now that I’ve figured it out, I can report back about Sunday, the weekend and everything else SCALE 9X. Like:

    More people: SCALE had been flirting with overwhelming success all weekend. Friday’s “problem” at registration was that the folks in that department faced a lot more people than normally come on a Friday, to the point of where 800 of the attendees for the weekend came on Friday. The final tally — 1,802. So 1,002 folks came over the weekend to make this a record year for SCALE, and as a result, it makes the outlook for FOSS this year really robust. So get out there and FOSS it up, folks.

    Better venue: The Hilton went above and beyond to help SCALE be a success. The larger venue made for easier traffic flow in the aisles to the point where it appeared that there were less people at times due to the fact that there were less human jams, save for booths holding raffles (like the HP booth, where yours truly won a Palm Pre 2. Did I mention that?). Most booth folks I spoke to said they were incredibly happy with the event, as were many attendees.

    Better connectivity: The wireless, which was choked last year, performed well after a small hiccup on Saturday morning. Bear in mind that when you get 1,800 geeks in the same area at the same time, your wireless performance may be . . .. how can I put this tactfully? . . . taxed. But the SCALE communications staff nailed it this year and there were few, if any, of the holdups that the show suffered from last year.

    But at this point, you’re probably asking, “But Larry the Free Software Guy, what about Sunday?”

    Sunday was fairly uneventful, as they usually are. Jane Silber of Ubuntonical gave her keynote talk on “The Cloud and Human Beings,” which was well attended. Booths on Sunday took the usual breather since there were less people around — and this serves as a hint to those attending shows: Want to have a longer, more engaged talk with folks in a booth? The second day — in SCALE’s case, Sunday — is the best day to do this. At the Fedora booth, we were able to help some folks with Fedora related problems and got to take more time with issues that came up. Not only this, it allowed me a chance to go swag hunting and this year, rather than taking one of each and backing in the fork lift, I took things I was actually going to read and/or use.

    A couple of notes:

    Nexenta a server darling?
    A couple of server vendors had booths at SCALE, one of which was Pogo Linux, and the server folks seem to have latched on to Nexenta, a Solaris-based OS, as their operating system of choice. Maybe it’s a sign of things to come, but it’s interesting that they’ve taken this Solaris based distro and made it their own.

    Best swag: Rackspace didn’t have the tattoo sleeve at SCALE, so the best SWAG — stuff we all get, for those of you keeping score at home — goes to Softlayer for their flying rings. Honorable mention also goes to The Positive Internet Company for their giraffe toy.

    The legend lives on: The borders on the OpenSUSE booth structure this year are black, where once they were grey. They were grey when I accidentally — accidentally, I swear — spilled coffee on it and possibly stained it when Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier gave me a stuffed lizard for Mirano that year and I spilled coffee on the booth. The legend of the coffee spill lives on and it has grown to become that I had spilled a pot of coffee on the booth, as well as I might have spilled a pot of coffee on Zonker himself in my zeal to trash the OpenSUSE booth. None of which is true, but it makes for a great story of which William Randolph Hearst (“never let the facts get in the way of a good story”) would be proud.

    Meanwhile, 40 minutes later . . . .: For those of you still keeping score at home, I am told it took approximately 42 minutes for Jane Silber to say the word “Linux” in her keynote on Sunday. I wasn’t there — I had a couple of other things to do, so I’m never able to make keynotes — but this was relayed to me by someone who thought that was peculiar. Indeed.

    Now it’s on to Linux Fest Northwest.

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