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Make it so, SCALE

November 29, 2011 2 comments

A little history: Mimi Cafiero (yes, that’s my girl) and Malakai Wade, two teenage girls who are helping to organize SCALE 10X’s young people’s conference, staunchly proclaimed that, “We are not kids.” So the title of SCALE 10X Kids Conference was in peril from the start.

Yet in discussion on the mailing list on the name that shortly followed, Jenn Waterman had the perfect solution in a one-line e-mail:

“I would like to suggest ‘SCaLE: The Next Generation’ :)”

So after a little more discussion, the organizers for the event made it so. The SCALE Kids Conference became SCALE: The Next Generation.

Yesterday, the Southern California Linux Expo officially announced their conference for the next generation of free and open source (FOSS) community enthusiasts. SCALE: The Next Generation will be held Saturday, January 21, 2012, at the Hilton Los Angeles Airport hotel.

In their announcement, they invite the youth of the FOSS community to share their enthusiasm and excitement about FOSS projects with the other young people.

Talk submissions are reviewed by a committee of youths, parents, and volunteers planning the conference and evaluated solely on their merits. SCALE requests that submission dates be strictly honored in order to provide the committee enough time to choose the best set of proposals.

Presenters will have the opportunity to give a 20- or 45-minute presentation, and the desired time slot be mentioned in the submission.

The goal of both SCALE and SCALE: The Next Generation is to educate and encourage excitement about FOSS. Because of this, all presentations should be submitted in a free and open format, such as OpenDocument Presentation (ODP) or PDF formats.

Additionally the conference will also provide space where the next generation FOSS enthusiasts can see FOSS program and hardware projects in action. SCALE encourages those youths interested in showcasing a project that they themselves are involved in or simply excited about, to submit a one paragraph description about the project and what attendees can hope to see.

Submissions for both presentations and demonstrations should be emailed to gareth@socallinuxexpo.org

Important dates to keep in mind: Invitation for Participation Opens on Nov. 29 (yesterday); Invitation for Participation Closes on Dec. 19; and SCALE: The Next Generation takes place on Jan. 21, 2012.

Come on, kids . . . er, I mean, next-generationers — get those talks in and be a part of this historic conference.

(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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Eliminate DRM!

What’s that sound?

November 27, 2011 6 comments

Originally I had planned to write about Philip Newborough of Lincoln, England, who some know as corenominal and who even others know as the lead developer of CrunchBang GNU/Linux. The tale I had originally conceived to put on pixels here was how Philip not only talks the FOSS talk, but he also walks the FOSS walk: He has decided to leave gainful employment recently in order to concentrate on developing CrunchBang.

That’s no small feat, for starters, and it takes an enormous amount of courage to make that proverbial leap, especially when one has a family, as Philip does. Additionally, this leap of faith multiplies by a factor of several due to the enormous amount of confidence in the project one must have to press forward with this life-altering change.

Fortunately for Philip, his Debian-based distro CrunchBang does not let him down.

And while I had planned to write about Philip and how he took the plunge, I thought it would be a better blog to talk about the improvements he has made to what can clearly be described as the best distro you’ve never heard of.

With the cacophony of writers singing the praises of Linux Mint on the release of Linux Mint 12 Lisa, it might be a good idea to listen to the more dulcet tones of a Crash and a Bang and take a look the new release of CrunchBang Statler as well.

Over the weekend, Philip made available some updated CrunchBang Statler images. The changes were somewhat profound and, as Philip points out in his blog, “the new images are not really about additional features, but more about what has been removed and/or cleaned up (although there are a few new features to look forward to).”

CrunchBang is going the window manager route with Openbox, so that means Xfce version of CrunchBang is retired. the main thing to have been removed/retired is the Xfce version. “Besides,” Philip writes, “there are plenty of brilliant Xfce based distributions available, and if you know what you are doing, installing Xfce under Debian is really not too difficult.”

GDM? Gone, and it’s replaced by SLiM.

Plymouth? Gone, and the decision to remove it was really a personal preference. “I apologise to any bling lovers, but personally, I believe that graphical boot loaders take away more than they give,” Philip writers. “Also, CrunchBang is not really an exercise in branding and so removing a flashing logo is not a problem at all.”

So what’s new and/or added to CrunchBang Statler?

Openbox 3.5 — The latest and greatest version of the window manager.

Iceweasel/Firefox 8 replaces Chromium 9 — CrunchBang seems to switch back-and-forth between default browsers, according to Philip, probably like a lot of users
do. “I do not think this is problem, but merely reflects the state of browser development and availability at the time.” Agreed.

Geany replaces gedit — Geany is highly configurable, has lots of great plugins and is desktop environment independent. So it serves as an adequate replacement.

Gigolo and Thunar for managing connections to remote file systems — CrunchBang Statler includes Gigolo, configuring it to work out-of-the-box with Thunar. It is now simple to connect to remote file systems via SSH and Samba, among others.

LibreOffice replaces OpenOffice.org — Writes Philip: “Actually, CrunchBang ships with AbiWord and Gnumeric, but many people choose to install a more feature rich office suite via the CrunchBang post installation script. The script has been changed to suggest LibreOffice.”

I’ve been using CrunchBang since July on a second laptop that usually accompanies me wherever I go (long story there, but part of it can be found in an old blog here). I have always liked the speed CrunchBang afforded this old laptop, and if it runs this well on older hardware, it must fly on newer machines.

You can easily consider me a convert to the ranks of the CrunchBangers, and as such I put my money where my mouth is, so to speak. Philip and CrunchBang are raising funds to get things off the ground, and I’d invite you to join me in donating to help CrunchBang along.

So thanks to Philip and the CrunchBang team for making an excellent distro.

(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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Eliminate DRM!

Lies, damned lies and statistics

November 25, 2011 36 comments

After awakening from a Thanksgiving-induced food coma — actually, it wasn’t that bad — most of the daily articles about Linux posted this morning by our friends in Mountain View known as Google revolved around the fact that Ubuntu is dropping like a lead zeppelin in the Distrowatch standings, while Linux Mint is surging.

Ireland 1, Isle of Man 0.

There is no surprise here, at least on Linux Mint’s part. Plus, I think it’s interesting to see how that Unity thing is working out for Ubuntu, and as I’ve said before, I’d venture to say “not very well” (which is why, as a frequent Xubuntu user, I fight the urge to be smug).

All that has been written recently about this issue would normally be interesting except for a couple of unmentioned, and glaring, caveats missing from the stories by those who are ringing Ubuntu’s death knell.

First, Distrowatch numbers are based on page visits, not downloads. Show me the downloads, and then let’s talk. Web page hits don’t tell me if people are actually downloading a particular distro and using it, or if they’re just looking at the pages for whatever reason they might. Page visits might translate into distro downloads, but they also might be visits to forums, wikis, etc., as well. So I’m not convinced this is a valid measurement.

Second, even if you were to use Distrowatch’s page-view metric as your yardstick, you’d still have to take into account that a distro’s recent new version release — Linux Mint and Fedora, while always both close to the top at Distrowatch, qualify here — gets an extra bounce in views by virtue of the fact that, well, these distros have released a new version. An increase in visits from curious folks doesn’t necessarily mean more downloads and subsequently more distro use.

In talking to others and in taking a look at the FOSS landscape lately, my sense is that the numbers for Linux Mint reflect a rising interest that is translating into new users and new community members, whether they’re refugees from Ubuntu, they’re coming over from other distros or just brand new “walk-ins” using Linux for the first time. After all, Linux Mint has done a huge service to FOSS by developing the Mint GNOME Shell Extensions (MGSE) and MATE, and for that reason perhaps people are joining the ranks of the Minted. Couple that with the recent edict of Unity uber alles handed down by Ubuntu SABDFL* Mark Shuttleworth, and you have the recipe for a rise in Linux Mint at the expense of Ubuntu.

But I’d rather have more accurate data to back this up.

Show me the downloads.

*SABDFL — Self-Appointed Benevolent Dictator for Life, a moniker picked up from a recent blog item by Steven Rosenberg. Thanks, Steven.

(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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FOSS over Miami

November 17, 2011 4 comments

Here’s a little Larry-the-Free-Software-Guy history for those of you who don’t already know it: I grew up in Miami and didn’t move to San Francisco until I was 29 (and that was the summer of 1987, so you can do the math). More specifically, I grew up in a strip of unincorporated Dade County sandwiched between North Miami and North Miami Beach. So you’ll understand why I have a tendency to pull for the Dolphins and the U on occasion, and I don’t think twice about driving 30 or so miles down Highway 1 into Monterey County to visit The Whole Enchilada because it has the only Key Lime Pie in this region close enough to be considered Miami-class. Listening to Jimmy Buffett puts me back among the palm trees, retroactively sweating in the 80 degree/90 percent humidity coziness for which South Florida is known worldwide.

But let’s put the nostalgia aside for a moment.

While I was reading a Google feed about Linux, something caught my eye — specifically, a Linux-based cafe/tech store called Planet Linux Caffe, 1430 Ponce De Leon Boulevard in Coral Gables. The store/cafe was mentioned on the Miami Linux Users Group page (MIALUG) — another discovery, and I’m glad to see there’s a growing Linux User Group in South Florida, too — and to go to the cafe’s menu page to order KDE or GNOME to go with the Ubuntu you can drink during or after your meal.

[Extra credit points go to the cafe for having a “Bodhi Linux” on the menu as well.]

This is a great idea — a FOSS-based cafe where folks can pick up a Drupal while learning Drupal, where people can get together over Gentoo and discuss the latest FOSS developments. Order me a Debian to go, please.

So if you’re in the South Florida area, either visiting or residing there, the Planet Linux Caffe should be on your list for a visit; multiple visits if you live there. For those of you FOSS folks who live in South Florida, get involved, too with MIALUG.

(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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Scaling up for SCALE 10X

November 10, 2011 7 comments

The fall and winter may turn our attention to the holidays — pick whichever one you choose to celebrate in your own way — but the folks at the Southern California Linux Expo are busy putting together what could turn out to be a landmark FOSS event for North America.

The Southern California Linux Expo — SCALE 10X — celebrates its 10th year when it opens on the Martin Luther King holiday weekend (Jan. 20-22). As this is a month ahead of the usual February date for SCALE, things seem to be coming together for the event.

SCALE started 10 years ago with a single day event at the University of Southern California with two tracks and 400 attendees. Considering that SCALE 10X will be a three day event, with as many as a half-dozen tracks and possibly as many as 2,000 attendees, it’s clear that FOSS is alive and thriving.

The response to the Call for Papers — which closes next week on Nov. 17 — has been strong, so get those papers in, if you haven’t already. A winner for the design contest, which allowed artists to design the logo to go on signs, swag and other SCALE 10X items, has been chosen (I know who it is — nee nur nee nur — but a release is going out on it later so everyone will know).

Some of the “usual suspects” for all day events — Fedora with their Fedora Activity Day and Ubuntu with UbuCon, for starters — are already on board, as well as SCALE University being in session again this year. In addition, the annual DevOpsDay LA and PGP Keysigning party are on tap again this year.

What deserves special mention are two things new to SCALE this year: Linux Beginner Training and SCALE Kids Conference.

Linux Beginner Training is targeted for the absolute Linux beginner, or for someone who’s interested in Linux but has no idea how to get started. The course will run all day Saturday and Sunday and consists of a half-day of introductory and overview tutorials, followed by a day and a half of intensive training in how to install, configure and maintain a Linux desktop installation. Not a bad deal for $25.

SCALE Kids Conference — soon to be “SCALE: The Next Generation” — lets the FOSS community leaders of tomorrow spotlight their talents and ideas today. Open to kids 10 and older, the goal of conference is to be as “kid driven” as possible, offering a unique opportunity to see & experience the inner workings of planning a conference. Kids will be able to determine the content and help steer the direction that this mini-conference will take.

As developments occur, I’ll report them, but meanwhile if you want to keep up on your own — not to mention registering early for SCALE 10X (always a good idea) — you can do so here.

See you in Los Angeles.

[The truth-in-advertising small print: I have worked as a volunteer for SCALE for the last three years, and I serve on the Public Relations Committee as a co-chair as well as a press liaison for the event.]

(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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Eliminate DRM!

Three for the road

November 9, 2011 1 comment

It’s one of those days: Driving a lot today taking family from point A to point B allows one a significant amount of thought that can go into a blog post. But we’ll have to tackle the weightier issues of FOSS another time in order to give you a few tidbits, like

Take ‘er down, ensign: Fedora 16, with the release name Verne (as in Jules, as in “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” — hence the submarine motif), is ready and available from the Fedora Project. This one is a keeper — a solid release. Kudos to the Fedora Project team once again. Clearly there will be more on this in forthcoming blog item.

SCALE 10X registration opens: Yep, that’s right. It’s only November, but since SCALE 10X happens a month earlier next year — the Martin Luther King Day weekend in January — things are ramping up for the Southern California Linux Expo. Want to go? Head on over to the site and register.

You don’t have to live like a refugee: Michelle Blowers wrote in her blog yesterday about the open arms Debian has for anyone — from developers to users — who are unhappy with the direction Ubuntu is taking to “return home.” Without Debian, of course, there’s no Ubuntu, so keep in mind your lineage, Ubunteros.

Now to go pick up my daughter from her science class . . .

(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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Where desktop sanity prevails

November 7, 2011 11 comments

While the knock-down drag-out debate over the great leap in desktop environment “developments” has raged over the last several months, Clement Lefebvre and the team over at Linux Mint have been taking a more sane and sound approach — mostly under the radar — to the whole desktop interface hubbub.

Thankfully this approach comes with enormously positive results: Desktop environment developments on tap for Linux Mint 12 could be an enormous boon for both Linux Mint itself and for other distros choosing to integrate some or all of these UI developments.

Lefebvre outlines in great detail what’s in store for Linux Mint 12 in a blog item posted Friday. After apologizing to folks for not being more forthcoming with the changes — “The reason we’ve been so silent is because we didn’t want to promise something we could not guarantee,” he writes — Lefebvre delves into an excellent solution to the whole desktop fiasco, which includes:

An improved GNOME 3 experience thanks to Mint GNOME Shell Extentions: To their credit, Linux Mint stuck to their GNOME 2.32 guns in Linux Mint 11. However, realizing that the writing was on the wall for the lack of future for GNOME 2.32 (more on this later), Lefevbre and the Linux Mint team put together a set of extensions — MGSE — which “makes it possible for you to use Gnome 3 in a traditional way. You can disable all components within MGSE to get a pure Gnome 3 experience, or you can enable all of them to get a Gnome 3 desktop that is similar to what you’ve been using before. Of course you can also pick and only enable the components you like to design your own desktop,” according to Lefevbre.

As an aside, if you’ll permit me a Captain Obvious moment, this is how things work in the FOSS realm. Ideally, extensions like MGSE can be picked up by GNOME and integrated into later updates or releases of the desktop environment, providing a lot more flexibility for users who may be using another desktop because of GNOME 3’s rigidity.

Check MATE: Not one to shy away from herculean tasks, the Linux Mint team will try — try is the key word here — to provide MATE, a fork of Gnome 2.32, on Linux Mint 12. Conflicts between GNOME 2 and 3 are many and profound, which makes this an arduous task to provide that GNOME 3 and MATE will coexist peacefully on your computer, switching freely between desktops from the login screen. But Lefevbre sounds hopeful: “Conflicts with Gnome and the migrations of applications and themes are easy to fix. So if MATE makes it to our liveDVD, it’s likely to come with some rough edges but with your feedback we’ll be able to solve most problems very quickly.”

Linux Mint 12 is expected to be released later this month, around the 20th. A release candidate could be available by the end of this week.

Numbers being what they are — mostly misleading on Distrowatch for any category past seven days (it’s a “lies, damned lies and statistics” situation, as outlined by Mark Twain, for any category other than a week) — it’s this kind of listening to the community, and responding in a positive manner, that makes Linux Mint a rising popular choice when it comes to Linux distros.

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.

(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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Eliminate DRM!

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