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Archive for June, 2011

Somebody give me a cheeseburger

June 12, 2011 5 comments


OSCON 2011
Next up: OSCON.

During my campaign for Insurance Commissioner of California in 2006 — where I just missed being elected to state office by a mere 46.5 percent of the vote — one of my campaign fundraising materials was a handout with a sandwich on it. It said, in effect, that if you give up one of these a week and send the money — $5 per week, in this case — to the campaign, you could have proper representation in Sacramento.

[It should be noted that, as a Green Party candidate, I did not take corporate campaign donations -- not that any were forthcoming -- so I needed a lot of sandwiches to mount an effective campaign. Thank goodness for FOSS, since I didn't have to buy any software, but that's another story.]

Yesterday’s blog item about the Ubuntu earrings that are being used as a fundraiser for Partimus started me thinking about how some people shy away from donating to groups or, in our case, FOSS projects because they think it takes a lot up front.

Nope, it doesn’t have to. It takes one sandwich at a time. Or coffee. Or dessert. Giving up one of these just once a week, multiplied by a significant number of people, can put some well-deserved projects in some pretty good financial shape.

It’s very simple — instead of having that grande iced mochajavafrappamacchiato at Starbucks today, send the money via PayPal to a FOSS project that you use regularly, as a way of saying, “Thanks.”

Give to Partimus, the project that is putting Linux-based computer labs in low-income schools in Northern California (or buy a pair of earrings). Or the HeliOS Project, since “a child’s exposure to technology should never be predicated on the ability to afford it.”

Like GIMP? Give to them here. Don’t like it? Give to Inkscape instead.

The possibilities only end at the number of FOSS programs that are taking donations. Go to the programs that you use and look for a “donate” button.

Then give ‘em a sandwich.

[Extra points to whomever can identify which song the title of this blog comes from. No Googling.]

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

[FSF Associate Member] (Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software in his new home office. Watch this space.)
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Wearing your pride on your . . . ear?

June 12, 2011 7 comments


OSCON 2011
Next up: OSCON.

How would you like to stylishly show your support of Free/Open Source Software and, especially, an organization that sets up Linux-based computer labs in the San Francisco Bay Area’s low-income schools?

ubuntu earringsIt’s simple: With Canonical’s permission, Boutique Academia has teamed up with Partimus — a nonprofit that brings the aforementioned labs to the schools — to offer these Ubuntu-themed earrings.

Partimus is an outstanding organization. The volunteers at Partimus build and maintain computer labs running FOSS software in low income schools. Their efforts have provided computer education — increasingly important in today’s job market — to many children who would not have had it otherwise.

According to the site, these earrings are gold plated and measure ~3/4″. They are slightly domed for depth and are hung on gold-filled hooks.

With the purchase of Ubuntu Earrings, $6 per pair will go directly to Partimus’ operating costs, helping them to expand into more schools.

Clearly more programs like Partimus — and Ken Starks’ HeliOS Project in Austin, Texas — deserve support from the greater FOSS community because it directly addresses the future.

So while my earring-wearing pirate days of yore are long over (Arrrrrr!), someone in my family may get a pair of these.

Thank you, Boutique Academia, for providing this fundraiser for Partimus.

[FSF Associate Member] (Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software in his new home office. Watch this space.)
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Odds and sods

June 11, 2011 1 comment

Linux for the GNU South — it’s going on right now (if you’re reading this the day the blog appears).

Yep, that title — also the name of an album by the Who — is what the British (and, I would imagine, our Canadian neighbors) call bits and pieces; which is what we’re going to talk about today since this week was full of news and I have been staring at my living room thinking, “How the &@%*! am I going to move all this stuff?”

A difference of opinion, or . . . ? Ken Hess writes on ZDNet an item about businesses going (or maybe not going) completely virutal here, but wait — maybe you should keep one or two just in case the cloud dissipates. Contrast this laugher to Caitlyn Martin’s response here, where she calls this “the most ridiculous article I’ve read in a very long time.” Me? I side with Caitlyn — clearly. This is not the first head-scratcher Hess has produced, nor will it probably be the last. A corollary to this is Andy Updegrove’s ominous look at a “cloud-free” future forced upon us here.

Dead horse, meet foot: I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the OpenOffice.org transfer by Oracle to Apache. I’d like to think something good will come of this, but I think that since joining the two projects seems to be all but impossible (for a couple of good reasons, but some not so good), we can thank the suits at Oracle for screwing up an outstanding FOSS project. Meanwhile, for all those who have an interest in keeping what OO.o started going in the right direction, get right over to the Document Foundation and pitch in.

Name, rank, and serial . . . OK, just your name will do: First, thanks for all those who liked the list blog that ran this week. I need to point out a matter of personal policy on this blog: I don’t post responses that are anonymous or come from someone named/called/nicknamed “anonymous” or any variety thereof (i.e., “anon”). I bring this up because I have got responses from people who wouldn’t name themselves — two excellent responses that I would like to post — and I’ve written each of them to ask them to identify themselves so I can post their comments. Initials would work.

Well, I should stop stalling and start packing up.

[FSF Associate Member] (Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software in his new home office. Watch this space.)
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List of the top 10 Linux lists

June 9, 2011 8 comments

Linux for the GNU South — it’s coming up so attend if you can.

Lists: We all make ‘em and, judging by what appears on LXer.com, we all read ‘em. A great majority of them are worthwhile and informative; others, not so much.

Over the last few months, I’ve noticed an uptick in the number of “Top $NUMBER List of $VERY_COOL_PROGRAMS” on LXer.com and thought that perhaps a list of the best lists might be helpful to navigate these uncharted waters.

Doing this list David Letterman style, we’ll start at 10 and work our way down to the Number 1 Linux list over the last few months. Ready?

10. 8 of the Best Free Astronomy Apps — An excellent list for those into astronomy: What could be better than free star charting apps? Me, I’m all in on KStars. Thank Steven Epps for this — many of the lists you’ll find in the ether of the Internet come from him.

9. Fedora 15’s Five Best Features — This review by Steven Vaughan-Nichols should be renamed “Five Good Things about Fedora 15 and a Song of Despair” (with apologies to Pablo Neruda), since he starts out by bemoaning (rightfully) the shortcomings of GNOME 3, and then following up with a list of five good things about the release.

8. 31 Great Tutorials for Inkscape — You might as well call this the Baskin Robbins of Inkscape tutorials, and the Unixmen, who normally have some good tutorials on hand, give us a veritable ice cream store of knowledge on this great software.

7. 7 of the Best Free Linux GPS Tools — Another list from Steve Epps. A program can be found here to let you know where you’re going and where you’ve been.

6. Five Must Have GNOME Shell Extensions — If you’re running Fedora 15 with GNOME 3, this list will come in handy.

5. 5 things I like in Ubuntu 11.04 (Unity) and 10 things which I don’t — Dark Duck likes and dislikes several things about Natty Narwhal, and the interesting perspective here is that some of the likes and dislikes are the same.

4. 9 Good CD and DVD Burning Tools for Ubuntu/Linux — While these aren’t necessarily soley Ubuntu tools, it provides a good list.

3. Top 6 Quicklists for Ubuntu 11.04 Natty to Enhance Unity Launcher Functionality — … and if you said that all in one breath, you get a prize. Manuel Jose seems to be on top of all things Ubuntu, and he gets a prize for providing adequate alternatives for Unity users.

2. 7.5 Reasons to Look Forward to Fedora 15 — Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier adds a list of things that, at the time, were coming up in the now-released Fedora 15, and the half-point goes to . . . nope, no spoiler alert here.

Which brings us to the top Linux list of the past few months, brought to you by LXer.com:

1. 70 Open Source Replacements for Small Business Software — In a word: Damn.

Got an item I missed? Pass it on.

[FSF Associate Member] (Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software in his new home office. Watch this space.)
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Loyal opposition: What it means

June 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Linux for the GNU South — it’s coming up so attend if you can.

More than one person — several actually, none of whom will be named here, to protect the innocent — asked me recently, “Did you see Carla Schroder’s article in LXer.com on Ubuntu?”

I did. In fact, all ego aside (and we’ll wait a few minutes until we’ve had a chance to move that large thing aside), I may have had a hand in this through my contribution to a LXer.com forum item where I said:

“If you’ll permit me a tangent, is Ubuntu “ashamed” to call itself Linux? If you go to their Web page, on the main page you won’t find the word “Linux” anywhere. I finally found it on an “About Ubuntu” page in the second or third paragraph. If you go to the openSUSE main page, Linux is there; same with Fedora and Debian (though Debian goes the GNU/Linux route).

Just wondering aloud . . . .”

Later, if you’re reading along with us on this forum, Carla Schroder (a.k.a., tuxchick) says:

“Ubuntu has many good points, not the least of which are kick-starting serious effort in making a really good desktop Linux, making inroads into the commercial computer market, genuinely welcoming new contributors, and inspiring hosts of respins and derivatives. Think back to the pre-Ubuntu days– Debian releases were stretching out ever longer (over three years!), Mandriva is perennially in crisis, Red Hat is uninterested in the consumer market….hmmm, methinks I spy an article in this subject.” (emphasis added)

So I’ll take a bow for contributing to the inspiration behind Carla writing this article, which is outstanding. Its outstanding nature outshines the fact that there are a couple of minuscule glitches in the article itself — one is that while Red Hat may not care about the desktop market, it established Fedora Core and the Fedora Project at the same time it “went enterprise” (not terribly clear in the article), and Fedora started roughly a year before Ubuntu came along. Also, for all the great things it rightfully says about Ubuntu — let me repeat that, for all the great things it rightfully says about Ubuntu — it still doesn’t address the community’s lack of technical contributions back to the greater FOSS community, for starters.

But let’s not go there now.

Let’s talk instead about how being respectfully critical or showing calm and reasoned dissent contributes to the greater good of all — for those being criticized as well as for those making the observations. Let’s talk about taking what’s being said at face value rather than looking into a subtext that more than likely doesn’t exist.

Bear in mind: When done for the greater good, dissent is not disloyalty.

I’m an Ubuntu user; though it’s not my primary distro of choice, I still use it on a variety of machines. My daughter is an Ubuntu user, and it is her distro of choice, as outlined in our UpSCALE talk (Mimi and I are at the 27:23) at the Southern California Linux Expo this year.

As noted here and elsewhere, I have had differences of opinion regarding how Ubuntu does things, and I have been critical of the credit Ubuntu wrongfully gets for technical contributions made by others. Until this changes, I will continue to be critical of Ubuntu, just as I am critical of Fedora — which is my distro of choice, though I am no longer officially a part of that community — and openSUSE and any other distro or community when criticism is warranted.

My purpose in bringing up shortcomings is to have those in a position to do so correct them — and if I can, I will correct them myself — rather than to berate those doing what I think is misguided or just wrong.

Also, it should be noted that I have also been known to heap praise on those communities that deserve it, bearing in mind that a distro that gets praise one day for doing something good for FOSS may get criticism on another for doing something not-so-good.

The fact of the matter is I don’t expect Ubuntu, Fedora, openSUSE, Debian or any other distro or FOSS program, to be perfect. I do, however, demand distros and communities to live up to the higher standards that we as FOSS users and advocates have set — the most basic of which is that everyone contributes and everyone benefits — and I don’t find this an unreasonable position.

So next time you find someone being critical, ask yourself whether the criticism is valid and if there is a solution to this criticism, other than an ad hominem response (yes, I’m looking at you, Mark Shuttleworth).

Oh, and critics: It’s good to have a solution to go along with your critique. Admittedly, I should do this better, and promise to do so going forward.

[FSF Associate Member] (Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software in his new home office. Watch this space.)
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Like a box of chocolates

June 7, 2011 Leave a comment

Linux for the GNU South — it’s coming up so attend if you can.

A glorious day indeed, filled with a variety of thoughts: While I was out enjoying it, I got to thinking about both the grand-scheme and minutiae goings-on in FOSSland, much of which has everyone asnitter moreso than atwitter.

There’s the OpenOffice.org handoff — or as some would put it, the OO.o drop kick — to the Apache Foundation by Oracle. This comes as no surprise. If Oracle were a good FOSS citizen, they’d have given it to the Document Foundation and LibreOffice would be its rightful heir. But this is Oracle we’re talking about, right? With Oracle finally washing their hands of OO.o, it remains to be seen what becomes of it. But since the barn door has been open for quite some time and the LibreOffice horse is at home out in the pasture, I am not sure if keeping OO.o around would be worth it.

Incidentally, LibreOffice is an outstanding program which kicks serious butt, just as OpenOffice.org did, and it’s nothing short of miraculous that the fork hasn’t missed a beat in transitioning from OO.o. So far, that’s the story of the year for 2011. I use it. I like it. I’m in their camp.

Walking among the redwoods, it’s hard to be annoyed at the new desktop wars: Not GNOME versus KDE, but the systematic “simplicity” of desktop environments like GNOME 3 and Unity. For netbooks and other mobile user interfaces, this may work and may be necessary. I don’t use netbooks or smart phones — I use a desktop or a laptop, and I’d like my desktop environment to look and function like a one. Call me old school, but desktops like KDE — which I’m using more and more as of late — and Xfce are looking better and better.

Also, I don’t assume that people who are new to Linux are complete morons who need a dumbing down of the desktop environment to convince them to join the ranks of FOSS users. But that’s me.

Finally, I live in a great area at the western foot of the Santa Cruz Mountains, the small range that separates the ocean from the Silicon Valley east of here. Not only is the proximity of the Valley a boon, but another of many perks in living here is having folks in the area like Cabrillo College networking professor and Cisco author Rick Graziani. Rick is opening his IPv6 seminars this month to the public — “Everyone is welcome! You do not have to be a former or a current student. All you need is to have an interest in learning more about IPv6 and don’t mind listening to me for a couple of hours,” Rick writes (though prior knowledge of IPv4 is required).

The talks are Thursday, June 23 — Intro to IPv6 — and Friday, June 24 — Intro to Routing IPv6 — at the horticultural building room 5005 at Cabrillo College, 6500 Soquel Drive, Aptos. Both talks run from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

You do need to RSVP to Rick at graziani-at-cabrillo-dot-edu to attend. Tell him Larry the Free Software Guy sent you.

Forrest — Forrest Gump — was right: You never know what you’ll get.

[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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Too nice outside to blog

June 7, 2011 3 comments

Linux for the GNU South — it’s coming up so attend if you can.

Make no mistake: There’s a lot out there to write about, obviously — The OpenOffice.org handoff to Apache, the trials and tribulations of desktop environments and their continual dumbing-down for the dumbest of us, and other stuff. I’ll get to that later, as well as those in Santa Cruz getting a treat later this month with networking professor Rick Graziani from Cabrillo College taking time from the surf — the real surf, with a surfboard as opposed to a motherboard — to explain IPv6 to us.

I still have a few scripts and assorted code, with the Python book close at hand, which will someday be a Facebook app called “Lifeville” — it tells you that you’re spending too much time on the computer, gives you two minutes to save what you’re doing, signs you out of Facebook and then a minute later (just in case you forgot something) shuts down your computer — but not before giving you a message: “Do you use your powers for good or for awesome?” That last quote comes from Fedora Ambassador mentor and all-around good guy, the soon-to-be Rev. Scott Williams.

So despite the weather being quite screwy — even here, at least until today — if you look out your window and see it’s a nice day and the only thing you’re doing right now is reading this blog or being involved in some other frivilous digital endeavor (wait, let me rephrase that . . . .), shut down your computer and get outside.

I’ll make you a deal: If you are lucky enough to have a nice day and you have the time to go outside, I promise to blog later on regaring the items above. I’d do it now, but the day here is too nice.

[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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