Archive

Archive for December, 2011

A Week in Limbo, Day 1: Under the hood

December 19, 2011 1 comment

Memory fails me at the moment (age is cruel) and I’m too much on a roll in the throes of testing to Google it, but it was either Peter Parker’s uncle — or Voltaire — who said, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

The ZaReason Limbo 5440 give a user great power, and with it comes a certain degree of responsibility. Speaking of which, one of the responsible things you can do is take control of your computing — I know I’m preaching to the choir here, so to speak, but in the off chance a new Linux user is reading, that’s what it’s all about.

In that regard, one of the things that ZaReason does, to its credit, when sending out new machines is to point out in packaged documentation where to get help — a useful page for anyone, from the new Windows refugee to the experienced Linux user. “We build these systems so they just work,” it says, (and I would add, with great understatement), and it urges folks who encounter a problem to a.) try to figure it out — “The more you play with your system, the more you know about it,” tweaking it until it’s yours, and then b.) figure out how you want to solve any problems that arise — message board, online support, e-mail, phone, etc. It’s also has a list of places where you can find help in these ways.

But I digress.

SCALE 10XNow, a confession: I haven’t had new hardware since I plunked down $2,500 a couple of decades ago as one of the first purchasers of the Apple IIc — excuse me, the Apple //c — and a daisy-wheel printer. While the laughter dies down, let me confess too that all of my Linux boxes and laptops have been hand-me-downs and castaways, computers brought back to life (and even passed on by me to others) thanks to the modern miracle of Linux, GNU/Linux, *BSD and other stars in the FOSS constellation.

Also, I’ve never had a computer with more than one processor, let alone more than one internal hard drive. Having three drives is daunting, but the situation is enviable. What’s also enviable is a computer that boots in less than 30 seconds. So this is what up-to-date computing is like: The i5 Intel processors (processors, plural) hum along without a hitch, and the ZaReason Limbo 5440 becomes Nirvana for the user.

Kid, meet candy store.

The multiple drives piqued my interest and I went a little deeper as I went under the hood. I wanted to learn more about how three drives can be juggled or used in harmony. I did some homework and asked ZaReason CTO Earl Malmrose and he explained further: The drives are currently installed as a RAID-5 array which, for those of you who are not up on it (and that included me until about an hour ago), you could remove any one of the drives without losing a byte of data. The RAID-5 array is a high-end feature that separates the ZaReason Limbo 5440 from the competition. “Forgive me for showing off,” Malmrose concluded.

You are clearly forgiven, Earl.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about how Fedora 16 Desktop version — that’s GNOME 3 for those of you keeping score at home (though, truth be told, why they can’t just call it Fedora 16 GNOME is a mystery) — runs on this machine. Spoiler alert: Now that I’ve had a chance to use something other than GNOME’s “fallback mode,” I might just say a nice thing or two about GNOME. Might.

“A Week in Limbo Series” (for those of you keeping track)
A Week in Limbo, Day 0
A Week in Limbo, Day 1: Under the hood

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started testing and developing software in his new home office, which is the development side of Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, United States.)

Add to Technorati Favorites EFF Binary Freedom Dead button Wordpress button Xfce button dbEntrance button AntiX 7.0 fedora badge Xubuntu GIMP Scribus Linux Mint Kororaa Salix OS Fluxbox Conky Thunderbird LibreOffice Crunchbang Bodhi Linux PostgreSQL identi.ca python scale 10x

Eliminate DRM!

A Week in Limbo: Day 0

December 18, 2011 9 comments

When ZaReason CEO Cathy Malmrose asked me recently who I thought would make good reviewers of the Berkeley-based company’s hardware, I gave her a list of names of those I thought would give the hardware a good going-over. Selfishly, one of the names listed was mine, offered mostly in the finger-crossed hope that I’d be chosen to test the hardware and write about it here.

A few weeks after our conversation — specifically, on Friday — our friendly neighborhood UPS guy delivered a ZaReason Limbo 5440 desktop unit for me to put through its paces.

SCALE 10XI’m grateful that they chose me, and the ZaReason folks know me too well: On the Limbo 5440 they had installed Fedora 16 (awww, thanks guys!)– ZaReason provides their products with a choice of distros, with the latest version of Fedora, Debian, Linux Mint or Ubuntu/Kubuntu/Mythbuntu/Edubuntu/Ubuntu Studio available, along with a “no operating system” option — so they know what I wanted off the bat.

This particular mid tower, a low-cost box starting at $499 which is built for expansion, was delivered with a plethora of upgrades: a Dual Core Intel i5-2500M (at a screaming 3.3GHz), 8 GB of RAM (DDR 3-1600) and three — count ‘em, three — 500 GB drives turning a cool 7,200 RPM each. This particular model, with the additions, goes for $945.

So here’s the deal: With this box in my possession for a week, I will use it until Christmas Day (as an aside, my daughter Mimi — the Ubuntu user in the family — will also use it and give her impressions as well) and write an item every day entitled, wait for it, “A Week in Limbo,” Days 0 through 6, with the epilogue at the end serving as the wrap-up review of the hardware.

I’ve added a few programs that I would normally use during the course of my usual digital — LibreOffice, GIMP and XChat, for starters (more to follow, obviously) — and during the course of the week I’m also going to use other distros on the Limbo to see how it works.

Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at some of the nuts-and-bolts features of the desktop, as well as some impressions of the Limbo 5440. Watch this space.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software in his new home office.)

Add to Technorati Favorites EFF Binary Freedom Dead button Wordpress button Xfce button dbEntrance button AntiX 7.0 fedora badge Xubuntu GIMP Scribus Linux Mint Kororaa Salix OS Fluxbox Conky Thunderbird LibreOffice Crunchbang Bodhi Linux PostgreSQL identi.ca python scale 10x

Eliminate DRM!

Enough of the doom already

December 12, 2011 3 comments

A couple of weeks ago, a blogger at ReadWriteWeb wrote about the demise of Mozilla and Firefox, claiming that the loss of market share and lack of availability on mobile devices — and the departure of Google sponsorship — could lead to Mozilla’s downfall.

Like lemmings, other tech commentators followed along with the same message: Firefox? Stick a fork in it.

SCALE 10XLast week, Hewlett-Packard decided to give WebOS its freedom. Apparently, they let it into the FOSS wild without as much as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. But HP’s intention, I hope, is that they’d like developers to flock to it and help this Linux-based operating system achieve its true potential.

Cue the lemmings again: Most of those providing the tech commentary around this development in opening WebOS have been tripping over themselves to strangle WebOS in the proverbial cradle. Or, as they say in sports circles, they’re risking injury by jumping on the bandwagon.

But while some tech commentators are locked in a battle to the death to see which of them can bury both Mozilla and WebOS — especially WebOS — the deepest, allow me to point out something they might have overlooked: Firefox is still going strong, despite losing market share (and, were I a gambling man, I’d bet that Google stays the course with Mozilla sponsorship despite having their own browser) AND, under better conditions than are currently available to it (and conditions that can be altered and goals achieved), WebOS might just have a shot surviving in the FOSS wilderness as a sort of Davy Crockett of Linux.

You know, kids: Davy Crockett. King of the wild frontier? OK, look him up on Wikipedia.

In any case, I’m going to let Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier drive here, explaining why Mozilla is not on the way out. Brockmeier concludes in his post:

“Even if Firefox remains third in the market, that’s a far cry from “doomed.” We’ve come a long way from a Web that is hostile to any browser that isn’t Microsoft Internet Explorer. Firefox can easily thrive with 20 percent of the market. But I wouldn’t count Team Mozilla out just yet, and though I’ve had my share of frustrations with Firefox I’m not ready to throw in the towel. When you look at the major players here, Mozilla is the only organization that’s I fully trust with my data and a commitment to the open Web. If Firefox is doomed, I’m afraid that would not say a great deal for the future of the Web.”

Which brings us back to the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, er . . . I mean, WebOS.

Let’s go back a bit to square one: After blunders (yes, blunders, plural) of historic proportions this year around their hardware from which they can hopefully recover, open-sourcing WebOS is probably the only thing that HP could have done to save it, and in typical 2011 HP fashion, they fumbled that. That ball is still rolling on the ground.

If — and this is an enormous IF — a community grows around what had been established around WebOS when it started, clearly they’ll have faster development than if they were developing in-house, which obviously is how things in open source work. So from an HP standpoint, that’s a good call. Of course, they could have made this transition a lot more smoothly, but it’s out there now. Arguably, WebOS advocates could be facing the digital equivalent of executing a “Hail Mary” pass to bring back the operating system, but it can be done. Ask Roger Staubach or Doug Flutie (and as a University of Miami Hurricane, bringing up the latter is painful)

I have used WebOS on a Palm Pre 2 while I had it, and I liked it. HP had planned to put WebOS on consumer hardware before, well, you know what happened there. I even went as far as to download the WebOS SDK, which I found my way around fairly easily.

I certainly don’t have the developer skills to do anything other than simple things to make me go, “hmmm.” But others do — some who might benefit from wanting to take this program from certain death at the hands of digital scribes and bring it back. The task ahead of them is herculean, but not impossible.

So in my book, rumors of WebOS’ demise are somewhat exaggerated.

(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.)

Add to Technorati Favorites EFF Binary Freedom Dead button Wordpress button Xfce button dbEntrance button AntiX 7.0 fedora badge Xubuntu GIMP Scribus Linux Mint Kororaa Salix OS Fluxbox Conky Thunderbird LibreOffice Crunchbang Bodhi Linux PostgreSQL identi.ca python scale 10x

Eliminate DRM!

Don’t forget the folding

December 7, 2011 3 comments

With the recent discovery of an earth-like planet kick-starting it, SETI is now looking for more extra-solar planets. While their fundraising machine seems to be shifting into gear, it remains to be seen whether SETI’s going to ask us to link our computers again to help out with the crunching the data.

Hopefully, a “yes” answer will be forthcoming.

SCALE 10XThe reason I bring this up is because the Felton Linux Users Group is involved in a SETI-like project hosted by Stanford University called Folding@home. Folding@home is a distributed computing project — people from throughout the world download and run software to band together to make one of the largest supercomputers in the world.

According to its site, Folding@home uses novel computational methods coupled to distributed computing, to simulate problems millions of times more challenging than previously achieved. Protein folding is linked to disease, such as Alzheimer’s, ALS, Huntington’s, Parkinson’s disease, and many cancers. When proteins do not fold correctly (i.e. “misfold”), there can be serious consequences, including those aforementioned diseases.

So Felton LUG contributed by forming a team and letting our computers run the data in the background. Just like when SETI was looking for ET, Folding@home looks for cures; both a worthy use of extra processor time.

In addition, Christer Edwards — those of you who run in desktop environment circles will know that name — has developed software to go along with Folding@home called, wait for it, Origami. Check it out.

The Felton LUG team is 212524 and you’re welcome to join us. If you want to form your own team, there’s a link on the site to do that.

Thanks in advance for your help.

[New blog announcement: Since I’ve been spending a lot of time using CrunchBang and since it’s staying on my second laptop, I’ve started a blog called “Larry the CrunchBang Guy” to write on CrunchBang-specific topics and commentary. Some of the items on this blog that deal with CrunchBang will also appear on that blog, as well as CrunchBang adventures that may not show up on Larry the Free Software Guy.]

(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.)

Add to Technorati Favorites EFF Binary Freedom Dead button Wordpress button Xfce button dbEntrance button AntiX 7.0 fedora badge Xubuntu GIMP Scribus Linux Mint Kororaa Salix OS Fluxbox Conky Thunderbird LibreOffice Crunchbang Bodhi Linux PostgreSQL identi.ca python scale 10x

Eliminate DRM!

Five for Friday

December 2, 2011 Leave a comment

Whew. Wrapping up the week after a 24-hour power outage in the wake of 70 mph gusts here in the Santa Cruz Mountains on Wednesday and Thursday, we have the following tidbits:

Speaking at SCALE: The SCALE team has been busy putting together the Southern California Linux Expo — that’s SCALE 10X for those of you keeping score at home (and, as Giants play-by-play guy Duane Kuiper once added, “but why would you?”) — and they’ve finalized the speakers for the sessions in the three-day first-of-the-year Linux expo in North America. It’s a good lineup — yours truly had a talk accepted, and I know for sure that my neighbors over the hill Alison Chaiken and Akkana Peck are also in the lineup — and when the list has been finalized, we’ll announce it here as well. Of course, yours truly and darling daughter have planned another upSCALE talk which should not be missed at SCALE 10X. Registration is open — don’t wait: Click here to register. I’ll wait.

SSHHHHHHHH: Carla Schroder wrote an excellent piece on tips and tricks for OpenSSH. For the uninitiated, OpenSSH is a powerful tool that lets you run applications remotely and allows you share files without having to set up a file server. If this interests you –and even if it doesn’t — it’s worth a look.

And they all came out and said “try me”: The last few weeks have seen a tsunami of releases. November saw a flurry that included Fedora 16, the rolling release of OpenSUSE 12.1 (which, of course, begs the question: What happened to plain ol’ 12?), Linux Mint 12 Lisa and CrunchBang’s Statler. I’ve written about the latter and I’m more enamored each day with it, and I’ll get around to the others next week. Cross my heart and scout’s honor. Meanwhile, if you wanted to visit them and get a copy for your own personal test drive, no one would be happier than me.

You animal: Rikki Endsley wrote this outstanding piece on Network World entitled “Everything I Needed to Know about Linux I Learned from My Pets.” The first line: “My relationship with my motley crew of cats and dogs is similar to my relationship with Linux. In both cases, I’ve learned that patience pays off, and life is better with than without them.” Indeed.

Thinking globally, acting locally: Mother Nature is being reasonable just in time for Felton LUG to meet. As those of you locals know, we had to move the meeting to the first Saturday for November and December because of the CERT training (they are the emergency responders in crises, so we thank them and let them have our spot whenever they want) on our usual second Saturday of the month. For those of you who are still awake, Felton LUG will meet tomorrow, 2-6 p.m., at the solar-powered Felton Fire Station behind the Felton Community Center. No program this month — run what ya brung — and there could be an installfest kicking off January 2012.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

(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.)

Add to Technorati Favorites EFF Binary Freedom Dead button Wordpress button Xfce button dbEntrance button AntiX 7.0 fedora badge Xubuntu GIMP Scribus Linux Mint Kororaa Salix OS Fluxbox Conky Thunderbird LibreOffice Crunchbang Bodhi Linux PostgreSQL identi.ca python scale 10x

Eliminate DRM!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 81 other followers