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Archive for July, 2011

Choice is good

July 31, 2011 5 comments

Yes, I know LinuxCon is next, and that’s in mid-August, but I think they’ve got the publicity thing covered, especially with the 20-year thing and with Linus being there and all. But if you’re going to the next show, make it the Ohio LinuxFest in September. Bradley Kuhn and Cathy Malmrose are keynoting, so you’ll not want to miss that (especially Cathy — Go ZaReason!)

Spending a lazy Sunday at home for a change — thanks to a newspaper colleague who needed Tuesday off (thank you, Kalin) — it might come as a surprise that I found myself at a loss for a topic to write about. So started the usual drill: I always check LXer.com every morning when I wake up, but then went to a couple of other sites, checked my Google Alerts for Linux-related items, and nothing really jumped out at me.

[You might imagine, if you've read this blog regularly in the past, that "nothing really jumped out at me" usually translates to "nothing caused me to get so rabidly incensed that I had to ask someone for a spatula to scrape myself off the ceiling." But I digress.]

Then I went to DistroWatch.com because, frankly, I hadn’t been there in awhile. For those of you who are interested in all things FOSS, DistroWatch is an interesting place to not only keep up with which distros are peaking and ebbing in the great scoreboard of FOSS, but also to see who has released what when, and sometimes, why.

I decided to take a look at how many active distros — including those which also are Solaris- and BSD-based — there are as of today, July 31. It’s down a bit since I last looked, which has been literally several years ago.

We’re “down” to 324, and if memory serves, the last check I did had the active number in the 350s.

This always kick-starts the “how-many-distros-do-we-really-need” debate, which I have always considered a non-starter. I’ve crossed verbal swords in the past with others who say that a figure like 324 is insane, that there are too many distros available and that there should be much fewer distros so we don’t have to bend our brains having to choose.

I say 324 — or whatever the number is or becomes — is a perfect number, and that external forces should decide how many Linux/Solaris/BSD distros there are. These external forces, of course, are both driven by market and Darwinian factors. You make a good, solid distro, foster a good team and growing community around it, the project moves up the DistroWatch list and — ping! — profit. Conversely, you don’t make a good distro, and these forces — especially the Darwinian one — puts you where you belong.

The reality is that out of the 324 active distros listed on DistroWatch, there are probably between 35 and 50 that will be usable by the general public; that is, those whose computer abilities may end at pointing and clicking. And that’s OK, too. I’d just as soon put my mother in a flaming box of dynamite as I would have her use Phayoune Linux on her desktop. [Phayoune users note: Do not flame me -- I am only using your distro as an example in this case. I am sure it's a wonderful distro for those using it in Thailiand, but the point here is that not all distros are for everyone, and that Phayoune may not be for my mother since she's not Thai, for starters.]

[Oh, and Mom, I would never EVER put you in a flaming box of dynamite. No, really Mom. I swear.]

Or here’s another way of putting this in perspective: Don’t look at the list on DistroWatch and make a list of as many distros that come to mind. How many did you get? Ten? Thirty? More? Well, the more you can name, the more in tune you are with what’s going on, FOSS-wise. Don’t consider that a challenge, but just as an indicator of which distros are doing some heavy lifting in the FOSS realm and, in the grand scale of things, are getting things right. Bear in mind, too, that just because you can’t name a distro, it doesn’t mean that it’s not useful or important in its own way; especially if that particular distro is specialized or based on a particular language or culture (see Phayoune, for example).

But the number of distros — whatever it might be — is what it should be.

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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Back to the drawing board, kids

July 26, 2011 2 comments


OSCON 2011
OSCON is going on now, and while I’m not there this year, you can give them my regards :-(

Larry the Free Software Guy, cashing in another grammatical chip in order to refer to himself in the third person, has a choice: He can wallow in self-pity for not being at OSCON this week (it’s not the same without May Munji there at the helm, anyway) or he can talk about one of the best contests of the year, assuming you’re a kid (or you have one) and you want to win an OLPC or other cool prizes.

We’ll definitely go with the latter today.

Wordlabel.com is sponsoring the Tux Paint Kids Summer Drawing Contest, which is open to all children from ages 3 to 12 who live anywhere on the planet Earth.

The contest allows kids a chance to show off their talent “using a great drawing program made especially for kids,” according to the Wordlabel.com site — an understatement if there was one. Over the years, I’ve raved about what a great program Tux Paint is, and my daughter Mimi was essentially raised on it; arguably the artistic talent she now possesses as a teenager was honed using Tux Paint in her younger years.

But officially and for promotional purposes, Tux Paint is an award-winning drawing program that was recently awarded SourceForge.net Project of the Month. It runs on all versions of Linux, Windows (including Tablet PC), Mac OS X 10.4 and up, FreeBSD and NetBSD.

And, of course, it’s free.

Here’s what you get, kids: Prizes will be given to 10 winners, with first prize being an OLPC notepad computer, Sugar-on-a-stick loaded with Tux Paint, a Tux Paint T-shirt and button. Second and third prize winners get an OLPC computer, Sugar-on-a-stick and a T-shirt. The remaining seven that round out the top 10 will receive a Sugar-on-a-stick and a Tux Paint t-shirt.

So how do you, as a 3- to 12-year-old, enter?

Here’s how you do it, kids:

  • Download Tux Paint (assuming, of course, you don’t already have it, and if you don’t already have it, shame on you)
  • Make your drawing in Tux Paint and save it in png format
  • Send your finished drawing, in a png format, to wordlabel@gmail.com and include “Tux Paint” in the e-mail subject line
  • In the email submission include: 1) the artist’s’ name 2) the artist’s age 3) the title of drawing 4) the country where the artist lives
  • All artwork must be the contestant’s original work created on Tux Paint, and only one entry per child. Entries must be received by midnight USA Eastern time on 12 September 2011 to be eligible (that’s 0500 GMT 13 September 2011, for those of you keeping score at home).

    As I’ve said ad nauseum over the years, Tux Paint has been one of my all-time favorite programs. I’ve used it at home, and Mimi and I have had years of fun with it while she was growing up. I’ve used it in a classroom environment as well. Bill Kendrick and the team that produced this program are nothing short of wizards, and my hat has always been off to them. It’s good to see they’re getting some wider recognition through this contest.

    And, of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t end this blog about Tux Paint without saying, “Nah-nuh-NAAAAA!”

    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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    Notes from The Jungle Room

    July 25, 2011 4 comments


    OSCON 2011
    Next up: OSCON. Get there if you can — it’s starting today — and give them my regards because I can’t make it this year :-(

    The new apartment has what is considered by my family a sort of study, but it’s quickly becoming the computer lab that I lost when I gave up my commercial space. That lab, of course, was dubbed “The Jungle Room,” after the man cave at Graceland. The study has been dubbed the same.

    [Yes, if he had done nothing else, Elvis would have earned my respect and admiration for inventing the man cave decades before the concept existed on cable TV. Uhthankyouverymuch]

    Before I continue, allow me a mea cupla: In my last item, I wrote about Openbox and referred to a “desktop” in the same paragraph. Technically, Openbox is a window manager, not a desktop environment, as I was so dutifully reminded by an astute commenter. True. However, when using the term “desktop,” I was actually referring to what one sees on their screen as opposed to a specific desktop environment — my bad for being unclear.

    Nevertheless, as the last moving boxes are being punted out the door (Oh, I will take them down to the recycling bin shortly), I wanted to drop off in today’s blog a couple of items worth mentioning in FOSS news over the last few days, like . . . .

    Mac hardware to get that shiny Chrome look? The VAR Guy drops an interesting hint in a column late yesterday outlining the proposition that Google’s Chrome OS has been compiled for the MacBook Air, thanks to a blogger/hacker named Hexxeh. “It’s a unique utopia, and one that won’t likely exist anytime soon,” he writes. “But the alleged smoothness in which the MacBook Air runs Chrome OS is worth watching.” Indeed, and the VAR Guy promises a review of Chrome OS in the near future. Watch that space.

    Matt Hartley gives us the business: On a couple of rare occasions I’ve crossed proverbial swords with Matt Hartley, but for the most part his articles are informative and newsworthy. Special mention goes to yesterday’s Datamation item about choosing the right distro for your business. In the wrap-up, Matt writes that, “Everyone is going to have different needs. A company’s decision may range from weighing what type of support is needed down to selecting a community-based option over a highly specialized Linux distribution. With every example presented above, the common theme is that Linux offers plenty of choices.” Amen to that.

    At ease, soldier: You find developers of Linux in the most interesting places; like, oh I don’t know, the U.S. Department of Defense, for example. The DOD brings us Lightweight Portable Security (LPS) Linux, which is a live CD focusing on privacy and security. It boots from a CD and executes from RAM, providing a browser, a file manager and some interesing tools. From the screenshots at Unixmen, it looks surprising like . . . Windows. Now if that’s not great camouflage, I don’t know what is. I haven’t tried it yet — I might soon — but if it runs off a CD and has all the tools I can use, it might replace the Ultimate Boot CD and Knoppix CD that I usually carry and often lose.

    Last, but not least . . .

    An extra chair at the dinner table: Until recently, Lubuntu was an independent project based on Ubuntu — Ubuntu with the Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment, or LXDE for short. Starting with Ubuntu 11.10 in November, however, Lubuntu will join the Ubuntu family as an official variant, according to this article on the Liliputing site. Welcome to the family, Lubuntu.

    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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