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Archive for May, 2011

Mixing the old and the new

May 28, 2011 7 comments

Linux for the GNU South – Attend if you can.

A lot has been written on GNOME 3 and, truth be told, I don’t have the digital horsepower (yet) to run GNOME 3 to give an adequate assessment. I think I get what they’re trying to do and, to be honest, I’m not sure I agree with the direction GNOME is taking here.

Juan Rodriguez is taking the proverbial bull by the horns and has initiated a project called BlueBubble, which marries GNOME 2.32 to the newly released Fedora 15, “breaking the least amount of packages possible.”

What it does, essentially — or at least in Rodriguez’s opinion — is bring the best of both worlds: Fedora 15 plus the latest version of GNOME before 3.0. The future, he says, can wait.

Rodriguez says that the target audience is the same kind of people who wanted the “Old Coke” to come back when Coca-Cola introduced “New Coke” unsuccessfully decades ago.

He’s also seeking help on this, so if you’re really enamored with GNOME 2.32 and want to see it continue on the Fedora 15 and Fedora 16 versions, contact him — he can be found in many of the Fedora channels on Freenode IRC as “nushio”

Not only this, they already have a cool logo and video.

Go for it, Juan!

[FSF Associate Member] (Larry Cafiero is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation. He is also one of the founders of the Lindependence Project.)
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Kororaa: The little penguin makes a return

May 24, 2011 5 comments

Linux for the GNU South – Attend if you can.

During the course of running the beta for Fedora 15 KDE — Fedora 15 is out now, by the way, and you can get this outstanding release here — I had many problems with connectivity on some hardware running the beta, which forced me to look at alternatives.

It’s not that I wasn’t filing bug reports — I was — but I know enough about my abilities to realize that any contributions I might make to solving the problem would be outweighed by the fact that I’d clearly be in the way were I to try to fix them. Someday that may not be the case, but until then I let those with the heavier developer chops fix the big stuff and I’ll just be over there bowing in homage.

Be that as it may, for several days the Fedora KDE folks were trying to overcome a NetworkManager fiasco which, as far as I could tell as an innocent bystander, stemmed from the Fedora Project’s “GNOME 3 uber alles” focus in Fedora 15. During that time, I took another Fedora-based distro for a few laps.

Kororaa Linux 14 Beta 6, code named Nemo, was — and still is — a pleasant surprise.

Once a Gentoo-based distro that went into hiatus in 2007, Australian Chris Smart brought it back to life on Christmas 2010, basing it on Fedora. Why Fedora? Says Smart: “Essentially, Kororaa has been reborn as a Fedora remix, inspired by Rahul Sundaram’s Omega GNOME remix. It aims to provide all general computing uses out of the box and it aims to include software packages that most users will want.”

Smart and the other contributors at Kororaa hit the mark; in fact, the Kororaa team hits the bullseye in providing a distro with packages that just work out of the box. With the distro based on Fedora 14, it has a solid foundation from which to build, and the Kororaa team has built a solid operating system that those who.

There is an attention to detail balanced by a degree of whimiscal outlook in this distro. First off, the name itself is a variation of the Maori korora, meaning “little penguin.” Focusing on the new user, there are eye-candy features, like the rotating desktop which, for those of us in the AARP set, may be a little disconcerting. One thing I particularly liked — and I’m a sucker for stuff like this — is a default in the terminal that provides color characters. Nice touch.

Running on a ThinkPad R32, Kororaa handles everything I throw at it in typical Fedora fashion — with a “thank you, sir, may I have another?” ability and enthusiasm. Not once did the hardware complain or did programs fail under the trials.

Kororaa has a huge potential to grow to be a player on the Linux scene, and Smart and the Kororaa community can go places with Kororaa should enough people get on board and contribute. Count me in. I see a happy and healthy future for the little penguin.

For more information on Kororaa Linux, go here. To download Kororaa, go here.

[FSF Associate Member] (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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The curse of G-before-N

May 19, 2011 6 comments

Linux for the GNU South – Attend if you can.

During her visit to Budapest where she was part of the Ubuntu Developers Summit, Linux Pro’s associate publisher Rikki Kite posted this on Facebook:

“My geeky friends who pronounce ‘gnome’ as ‘ga-nome’ and ‘gnu’ as ‘ga-new’ might appreciate this -> I saw gnocchi on the buffet at UDS and said, ‘Oh, good, ga-no-kee.’ I ka-new it sounded wrong as soon as I said it.”

To which I reply to Rikki: You mean that’s not how you pronounce it?

Personally, I blame Richard Stallman. It’s an affliction that affects geeks on our side of the proverbial aisle: The “G” factor, where a normally silent letter gets pressed into phonetic service, well, for a couple of reasons. First, because it’s there (and from an engineering standpoint, why would it be there if it wasn’t going to be used?), and secondly, because we’re used to the fact that GNU and GNOME have the “g” — how can I put this? — unsilent, and we’ve been trained, or brainwashed, into putting the “g” in there where it doesn’t belong.

It’s bad enough the little guys in the garden are guh-nomes — even after the recent movie “Guh-nomeo and Juliet” — but there are other places where this arises.

For example, I had to wail and gnash — pronounced guh-nash, right? — my teeth at the various grammatical and spelling errors (not to mention the Giants blowing a four-run lead to the Dodgers) while working at the paper last night.

Surfers in the area, as well as elsewhere, consider things “gnarly” without the “g” sound; except some in Santa Cruz who also use Linux/FOSS and say “guh-narly,” dude.

To say nothing of the fact that we have no pesky gnats — yep, there’s a “g” in there, making it guh-nats — flying around in these parts, but I used to have to deal with them elsewhere.

Anyway, while there may be a cure for this, or at least a 12-step program (“I’m Larry, and I’m a G-oholic” — “Hi, Larry”), I think the better course of action would be to alert the non-geeks around you that you’re going to be using all the letters in the words you use, save for the silent “e” and the silent “k” in “kn-” words.

[FSF Associate Member] (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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Transcript: Larry Cafiero’s press conference

May 16, 2011 2 comments

Linux for the GNU South – Attend if you can.

Editor’s note: On a cloudy Monday in Felton, California, Larry Cafiero held a press conference at the solar-powered Felton Fire Station for the purpose of clarifying his departure from the Fedora Project and to dispel any of the rumors that had been flying around regarding this departure.

A transcript of the press conference follows:

Larry Cafiero: (to himself moreso than the press, as he sits down behind a bank of microphones) Okay, let’s light this candle.

LC: Before we start, I have a statement to read and then, obviously, I’ll take questions.

As many of you know, I recently resigned my office as a member of the Fedora Ambassadors Steering Committee (FAmSCo), my position as a Fedora Ambassador mentor and my membership in the Fedora Project. As I had confided in some of the Fedora leadership a few months ago, I had been planning to relinquish much of my responsibilities in Fedora after OSCON in order to pursue other FOSS projects that I will outline later. I had decided recently to advance the date of my departure. Having been a part of the Fedora Project since 2008, I am proud to have served with a number of outstanding individuals, and some not so outstanding, and I still believe that the Fedora Project is the standard by which FOSS projects should be judged. I am still a Fedora user, first and foremost, despite no longer being part of the project.

I’ll be glad to take questions now.

Reporter: A blog called the Fifth Pillar speculates that you’ll be doing a variety of work with other projects — OMGUbuntu and Gentoo to name two. Even the possibility of drumming for Jono Bacon’s band Severed Fifth was mentioned. Any truth to these rumors?

LC: I saw that blog item by my good friend Mark Terranova. No, there is no truth to any of those rumors, though truth be told I think I could jam with Jono and, probably unknown to Mark, I do play the acoustic Theremin in various folk jam bands. As for Gentoo, that’s a joke since it’s known far and wide that I’ve never been able to get that distro to run since I started using Linux in 2006.

Ultimately, it’s my fault that these rumors got started. One of the things I want to apologize for is how I handled notifying people about my departure, because I really fumbled it badly. To be honest, I didn’t think my departure would matter to anyone outside of those who had an administrative interest in my leaving — those who needed to reassign my duties and replace me on FAmSCo. But apparently a lot of other people who I should have told felt they were left in the dark. While I don’t mean to sound egotistical, I did get a lot of “Hey, what happened?” e-mails after resigning, and I want to apologize to those who were wondering what was going on.

If I had a chance to do it over again, I would have contacted more people to let them know my plans. But here we are, with the barn door open and the horse prancing in the field.

Reporter: To follow up on this one, in the OMGUbuntu graphic, it has you as Yoda calling Mark Shuttleworth a “clown.” Does this reflect your dislike for Shuttleworth or Ubuntu?

LC: No. I don’t dislike Mark Shuttleworth or Ubuntu. Let me give you the short- and long-versions behind this aspect of the story. I made a comment on Facebook on a photo of Linux Pro Magazine’s associate publisher Rikki Kite with Mark Shuttleworth to the effect of, “Nice picture, Rikki, but who’s that clown next to you?” Or something like that. Mostly harmless, and completely tongue-in-cheek. I think Mark Terranova ran with that, referring to a dust-up I had last year with many Ubunteros and Mark Shuttleworth over a blog item I wrote about pointing out another item regarding how much — or actually, how little — Canonical/Ubuntu contributes back to the community in the way of technical support, as well as Mark Shuttleworth’s response to my blog posting.

Because I am critical of some aspects of Ubuntu does not mean I dislike it, or the community. I have used Ubuntu in the past and my daughter is an Ubuntu user. I would say I have differences of opinion on some aspects of how things are done in Ubuntu — regarding how LoCos promote a “separate but equal” policy in keeping LUGs at arm’s length, for example — but I appreciate, deeply appreciate, Canonical and Ubuntu’s artesian contribution to the promotion — the promotion — of Linux. However I don’t think this gives them a pass when their contributions back to the kernel development, for example, are woefully lacking. In other words, I don’t tell the emperor he’s got great clothes when he’s wearing nothing at all.

Also, I like Mark Shuttleworth and I think he’s an interesting guy. Anyone who puts his efforts to the degree that Mark does behind FOSS is OK with me, to say the least. Besides, he’s been to space. The closest I’ve been to space is a Grateful Dead concert.

Reporter: You mention other FOSS project you’re planning to work on. Which are they?

LC: I’ve been working on the Southern California Linux Expo for the last few years, and I want to devote more time to doing press work for it. I think SCALE has the potential to eclipse OSCON as the premiere West Coast Linux event. Also, I am jump-starting the Lindependence Project, and we’ll hold another Lindependence event like we did in 2008 in Felton — only it will be held in conjunction with Software Freedom Day instead of on Independence Day.

One more thing: I have a Facebook app I am working on called Lifeville — so far, it’s a simple script that, when you click on the start button, brings up a message that says: “Real life exists beyond this screen. Your computer is now shutting down. Go outside.” It’s GPLed and CC-licensed.

Reporter: I wonder if you can comment on this line taken from your statement — “some not so outstanding” — meaning, I assume, some people you may have had disagreements or friction with in the Fedora Project.

LC: Yes, I can, and thank you for bringing that up. So much for slipping that under the radar (laughter). Clearly, when you have a group that’s as big as the Fedora community, not everyone is going to be dancing in unison around the proverbial May pole. With strong personalities comes strong disagreements — this is clearly a part of the process.

But since FUDCon, I have felt that there has been some discord in the project that has fostered a lot of ill will. One example of this is a movement started in Europe around “give back our distro” or something along those lines which, personally, I thought was a pitch in the dirt that a lot of Fedora folks who should know better were swinging at. Now I don’t mind disagreeing, but I do mind having people be disagreeable, and those who know me know that, when provoked, I can be disagreeable with the best of them; Olympic-caliber disagreeable. I have to plead guilty to provoking some of the ill-feeling that this issue has fostered, and I am sorry about that. As a part of the leadership at the FAmSCo level, it was probably unacceptable for me to take such a strong stand against against this, despite how stupid I thought it was, and still think it is.

I think, too, there is a degree of burnout involved in my resignation, but much of that burnout was borne of having to do my duties and also participating in this discussions/debates/arguments that took a lot of valuable time and a lot of effort away from what I, and others, should have been doing.

Reporter: So in other words . . .

LC: I’m sorry to interrupt, but I wanted to add one more thing to this in order to give this a clearer context. As I mentioned in the statement, I believe that the Fedora Project does things right, whether it’s engineering an outstanding distro every six months or whether it’s promoting it through an Ambassador program that wrote the textbook on promoting a distro, or a Design team that is second to none. A great part of that is the solid community that drives Fedora, despite a handful of malcontents, and much of the credit can be given to Red Hat for their outstanding support. When a billion-dollar company like Red Hat “gets it” — that is, understands how FOSS works and how they clearly benefit from it — it provides a perfect symbiosis between Red Hat and the Fedora Project where those who are working in the Fedora Project reap the benefits of this relationship.

Reporter: Do you see yourself going back to the Fedora Project at any time in the future, or do you think that you’ll catch on with another distro or FOSS program?

LC: I’d gladly return to the Fedora Project at some time in the future and, as I mentioned, I’m still primarily a Fedora user. One of the things that I’d also like to explore is being a community leader/organizer — or, like Red Hat’s Karsten Wade, a “community gardener” — for a project that I believe in. But while my resume sits on the runway should something in this area come up, I’m still immediately focused on Lindependence and SCALE at the moment.

(Silence follows, with no further questions forthcoming).

LC: OK, so thank you all for coming, and thank you for staying awake.

[FSF Associate Member] (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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How I found Enlightenment

May 16, 2011 2 comments

Linux for the GNU South – Attend if you can.

If you know anything about my past — no, that’s not me on the Post Office walls across the country . . . honest — you’ll know that I was a resident at the San Francisco Zen Center in the early to mid ’90s where, among other things, I was trying to find enlightenment.

So I’m familiar with the Bodhi tree and with Bodhidharma. Good thing, too, because when trying Bodhi Linux, those leaves from the tree swirling around the screen could be a little disconcerting.

Jeff Hoogland and his group of FOSS bodhisattvas who put together this distro deserve a gassho in eternal homage for their efforts in producing an outstanding distro. While I am limited to running tests on hardware that is — how can I put this tactfully? — old, the distro ran flawlessly on two laptops — a ThinkPad T30 and a Toshiba Satellite.

Based on Ubuntu (which is based on Debian, to give credit where credit is due), Bodhi Linux 1.0.0 was a breeze to download at under 400MB and easy to install.

What you get once you reboot after installation is, well, Enlightenment.

No, not karmic bliss, but Enlightenment the desktop environment which, in this age of new desktop environments, is a fresh and viable alternative to those now vying for attention in the FOSS world. Enlightenment is a very clean environment with a gradual learning curve that takes some attention at first, but it’s easily adaptable to what you’re used to with a minimum amount of effort (for example — getting the X pointer instead of the triangular Delta thingie is a snap. Sorry, guys, but that big triangle has got to go). Enlightenment is as elegant as it is functional, and in getting used to it quickly, it is one that can appeal to a wide range of users. Also, it looks like a computer desktop, unlike some of the other more popular desktop environment offerings as of late, and that personally is a huge +1.

The philosophy behind Bodhi Linux installing a system with only a few programs is as logical as it is interesting: It provides the user an opportunity to build the system the way he or she want to build it. This could be intimidating to the newer users, but for those who have been around the Linux block a few times, it’s a welcome option to put together what you want and how you want it. For example, for me, a few apt-gets on the command line later (one of the first, for me, was sudo apt-get install synaptic — OK, so I’m lazy) and I had what I wanted and was on my proverbial way.

On the old hardware that I’m destined to be stuck with thanks to my economic status as a terminally poor guy, Bodhi runs very well. I can imagine that it probably flies on newer, more powerful hardware (although I understand that Bodhi Linux currently comes in 32-bit version only). Not only this, while I have put back Fedora 15 beta on the ThinkPad — while Bodhi is good, Fedora is my distro of choice — I will keep Bodhi Linux on the Satellite.

If you have time and want to give it a test-drive, Bodhi Linux can be found here.

Again, thanks to the Bodhi Linux crew for putting out a good distro and keep up the great work.

[FSF Associate Member] (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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Saturday morning coffee

May 14, 2011 3 comments

One of the great things about The White Raven in Felton — reason number 982 that I come here when I can — is that after dropping off Mimi for her concert over the hill, I can come here at 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning and the coffee is good and there’s Dylan and Hendrix already blasting in the cafe.

So while the wind still whispers Mary, I’m catching up on things.

I promised you a test drive of Bodhi Linux last week. After kicking the tires earlier this week, I’m still driving — in fact, I’m writing this from a ThinkPad running Bodhi and while I will go into detail when I blog about it, overall it’s a solid distro that has done everything I’ve asked it to. Except make me breakfast, but I haven’t had a distro do that yet. Watch this space.

One of the things I wanted to point out with an item today is that we’re ramping up Lindependence again this year to a more regular event. While the debate raged for weeks about when to hold it — on Independence Day or on Software Freedom Day — it was decided to hold it on the latter to give us more time to prepare and to emphasize not the independence of Independence Day so much as to focus on Linux itself and celebrate Free/Open Source Software on a date specific to it.

More to follow on this, too.

That’s what brings me here today — not “here” as in The White Raven, but here in Felton, where we’re moving the office space and preparing for the Felton LUG meeting this afternoon — 2 p.m. at the solar-powered fire station behind the Community Center on Highway 9 (directions enough in Felton). Grant Bowman — a tireless FOSS advocate and wearer of many digital hats — will be giving a Natty Narwhal presentation.

Bob is right: I used to be so amused at Napoleon in rags and the language that he used.

[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 still only a phone

May 10, 2011 1 comment

Larry the Free Software Guy — who, when the occasion arises, always leads off his blog in the third person, rather than to just say “I” since that would be too easy — was about to write about another topic this time around. I owe Jeff Hoogland a blog item on Bodhi Linux, which I tried and liked (more in a later item), as well as the original topic of this missive, which was my take on the new and, um, improved desktop environments in Natty Narwhal and Fedora 15 which are getting a lot of play lately. More on this in another blog, too.

But yesterday I got sidetracked. Blame Android.

Recent history: Kyoko dropped her HTC G2 twice and it went a little loopy, so off to somewhere in Pennsylvania it went for a few days. Meanwhile, I gave her my unlocked Palm Pre 2 to use while it was being repaired and she has taken a liking to it. So we switched phones and I got the HTC when it was returned. As it turned out, rather than blogging, I spent yesterday getting used to my new phone with Android.

I like Android. I mean, I really like it. While I was starting to warm up to WebOS and while I think the HP offering has much in the way of potential, Android is just head and shoulders over WebOS. It is just a great OS for the hardware it’s running on.

This is where the love affair comes to a screeching halt. No matter how great it is, it’s on a phone. It’s running on hand-held hardware which, when looking at it, is still only a phone, when all is said and done.

I know it does a lot of other stuff. Let me explain why I say this, and I’d gladly plead “guilty” to the fact that this is purely generational.

Doing things with the HTC yesterday — calling, texting, checking out the GPS (a very, very cool feature) — was thrilling and filled with “hey, look at this” moments. However, it appears for what I would use the HTC for — primarily using it as a phone and possibily an occasional text message — leaves much of Android’s abilities on the bench, so to speak.

Not only this, it begs the question: Why would I use Gmail or Facebook on such a small screen? Is surfing the Web really a viable option on hardware like the Palm Pre 2 or the HTC? I mean, you can do it, with a lot of pinching and expanding of the screen, but how efficient and logical is that? Do you really need to be that connected?

For all the cool things the HTC G2 does, and for all the cool things that Android does for it (and, again, the GPS is really cool), it is still only a phone. I’ll keep connecting with the wider Internet with the laptop and desktop, thank you.

[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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