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Archive for January, 2012

One way or another

January 28, 2012 3 comments

Originally, I had started a blog item on the newly released, Mideast peace-securing, cancer-curing, saivor-of-all-mankind Head-Up Display from Ubuntu — “head up” what, exactly, is unclear, but not much imagination is needed — in which I promised to try it, but I still wonder aloud about the degree of “innovation” in what appears to be a GUI for the command line, to say nothing of the competing ease between clicking on a menu item versus typing it in a field.

No, I’m going to leave that pinata alone for the moment.

The real news this week is that Cinnamon 1.2, the Linux Mint fork of Gnome 2.x desktop, rolls out and gives an option to those who can’t (due to hardware limitations) — or won’t (due to the fact they don’t like it) — use the latest GNOME 3 version. Linux Mint really nailed it here, but . . . .

I’ll get back to that one soon, too.

What causes the bloggus interruptus today is an exchange I had a couple of days ago on a CrunchBang forum — it was completely tongue-in-cheek by both parties — where doing a task had more than one method to fix what a new user wanted to achieve.

In the exchange what was said, in effect (and in jest), is that you can do it the cool, “l33t h4xx0r” way using the command line, or you can use the n00b-oriented, menu-driven program written for the window manager that comes with the program. While poking fun, the subtext here still speaks to a digital caste system where the more experienced are on some sort of higher plane, either real or imagined (and I choose the latter), than the inexperienced.

Naturally, I concur that there is more than one way to a solution: Yes, the command line is the more direct way to get things done. However, not everyone using Linux — even CrunchBang, if the threads on the CrunchBang forum to which I refer are any indication — is that well-versed in using the terminal, and when it comes to tools, some of the menu-driven ones can be a godsend.

The point I’d like to make is that there are folks out there who have made and maintained programs like Obmenu and Obapps in Openbox, to use the example from the forum exchange, that essentially give the keys to those less experienced to change their digital experience without having to traverse the potential landmine the command line can be for new or less-experienced users.

For that reason, when the tools are available I use them, and when asked on a forum about how to do things and I know an option like this exists, I’ll make this Plan A in my suggestion. Again, there is more than one solution, and if someone goes to the effort of explaining the commands to use in a terminal, more power to them.

(Let me be clear about one thing, too and point this to the new users: Learning some of the more basic commands — even some simple bash scripting — should be part of a Linux users repertoire, and chances are you’ll find it fairly interesting. Or, if you’re like me, you’ll find it fun. But even if you don’t find it fun, it’s something you should know, and I would suggest taking the time to look up how the command line works and why.)

Yes, it may be a little less “h4xx0r” to do it from a program, but using these tools gives those who put in the effort a tip of the hat for going the extra mile and providing a method that helps out.

So to those of you who work on developing tools like Obmenu and Obapps — thanks for your efforts and keep up the work that, though anonymous, is vital to the success of distros everywhere.

We now return to writing another blog item, which is already in progress . . . .

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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A perfect 10

January 24, 2012 1 comment

I’m going to try to say this in my best movie-preview-guy voice.

More than 100 exhibitors.

More than 130 presentations.

Nearly 2,000 people in attendance.

These factors together are what makes the Southern California Linux Expo SCALE 10X a perfect 10.

With 101 exhibitors, 132 presentations and 1,962 people in attendance over the three-day event (roughly a 9 percent uptick in attendance), SCALE 10X nailed it. I’m going to let Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier take the helm here on this one, since his blog item on the event is outstanding and is something I can’t improve on.

But do you think, for a moment, that would stop me from giving some impressions of the show?

Ha.

Yeah, I’m that guy: OK, so if I thought so many people were that interested, I would have made a bigger deal about it; maybe even holding a press conference or something. But yes, I am now primarily a CrunchBang GNU/Linux user and advocate after ramping down my activities with the Fedora Project (though I did use my pull as a former Fedora Ambassador to help out a Fedoran stuck at the hotel). As I mentioned to just about everyone I saw at the show who asked me about it — that’s about 90 percent of the folks I regularly see at shows — there were really two factors involved: a.) I really like CrunchBang a lot since I started using it six months ago, and I think the distro, their lead developer Philip Newborough, and their community have a lot going for them, and b.) under the skillful guidance of Mark Terranova and Scott Williams and other Fedoristas in California, I don’t think I’ll be missed by the Fedora Project all that much.

There. I’m glad we had this little talk. Now go and try CrunchBang — it’s great.

Hey, don’t I know you? After years of talking with some people through e-mails and online, I finally got to meet a few in person. Both keynoters — Greg DeKoenigsberg and Selena Deckelmann (both of whom did great jobs on their Saturday and Sunday keynotes respectively) — have seen my e-mails but only saw my face for the first time (and me theirs) over the weekend. And also I made a trivia question of Rick Moen, who made it down to L.A. from our neck of the woods in the Silicon Valley, and whom I met for the first time. In a fashion statement worthy of note, Rick only wore T-shirts of software no longer with us — the Caldera shirt on Friday was a nice touch, Rick!

Filling some big shoes: Yours truly took control of the media side of things for SCALE 10X, since Orv Beach was teaching the Linux Beginners Class this year. I know that Orv consistently puts in yeoman’s work on the show every year, but I didn’t realize the volume of releases and announcements sent out during the show. I didn’t get to the expo floor until late Saturday afternoon at the earliest, and I hope I did the show proud in running all things media. Drafting Jason Riker and LXer’s Scott Ruecker (no relation, though names are pronounced the same) to help out was a plus. I’ve also gained a new appreciation for Twitter and, yes, yours truly now can condense a message down to 140 characters.

Best. Compliment. Ever. So during one lap around on the show floor, seeing if anyone needed anything in the way of publicity and the like, I had one exhibtor, a woman, tell me this: “This is a great show. In fact, I worked AVS and this show is much better than that one.” I thought I was more worldly than I am, apparently, becuase I had to ask: “AVS?” “Adult Video Show,” she replied. Ah. So noted. On that note, there’s nothing that can beat that.

Except maybe SCALE 11X next year.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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Taking a moment to gloat

January 19, 2012 2 comments

OK, so it’s Thursday morning and I still haven’t packed for SCALE, the Enterprise guy is going to be here in about a half-hour to pick me up so I can drive the rental car back here to load up, I have one more SCALE 10X press release to send out before hitting the road, and there’s a Q-and-A interview also I have to post on the SCALE Web site.

But I’ll drop all that for a moment. This is a little more important.

SCALE 10XRecently, tech writers risked grave injury jumping on the “Linux Desktop is dead” bandwagon. Armies of writers marched lockstep to the theme that the desktop needs to have a fork stuck in it — it’s over, kaput, get it a nice casket. What do we have for our departing contestant?

I told them they were all full of crap.

Meanwhile, this morning Steven J. Vaughan Nichols reports that the Linux desktop might just be growing. It seems a Web research firm called Net Applications produced data showing that Linux’s desktop market share has been growing — from 0.97 percent in July 2011 to a record-breaking 1.41 percent as of this month.

OK, guys, now watch your step getting down off that bandwagon.

See you all at SCALE — arriving around 6ish in the white rental car.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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T-minus 96 hours and counting

January 16, 2012 6 comments

Those who know me well know that, among other things, I really don’t like ice hockey. Oh, I root for the San Jose Sharks in the National Hockey League because they’re the “home team” here, just over the hill in the Silicon Valley (Edit: One thing about hockey I do like is The Green Men at the Vancouver Canucks games — very funny performances outside the visitor’s penalty box). But to be honest, it’s a sport that makes me grind my teeth. The truth of the matter is that I don’t like it because I can’t play it.

SCALE 10XSkating on ice is hard enough. Canadians, Scandinavians and Russians: I know you all have a gene that allows you to turn pirouettes on the ice straight from the womb, and that’s great. But I can’t stay perpendicular for very long while on skates on frozen water. Add to this that I’d have to stay perpendicular on the ice and keep a rubber disk in front of me with a stick; difficulty squared. The clincher? Keeping perpendicular on the ice while keeping a rubber disk in front of me with a stick while people are trying to knock me down (which, of course, would anger me to bodily harm on the ice, and I understand that you can’t legally hit people with your stick, unfortunately).

“So,” you ask, “are we going to get to the point of this blog anytime soon, Larry?”

Yes.

While I don’t like hockey, currently my favorite article of clothing is my SCALE hockey jersey, which is now packed and ready for SCALE 10X. SCALE 10X is being held Friday to Sunday of this week, a mere four days from today, at the Hilton Los Angeles Airport hotel.

A little history: At SCALE 9X last year, the powers that be at the show figured there should be some way to identify the staff on the floor of the show — something that would make them stand out. The result: SCALE hockey jerseys, with the name of the staff person across the back. If you were a speaker, a vendor, an exhibitor or anyone else at the show and you needed something, you needed to give a hip check to the person you saw running around with a hockey jersey.

Or you could find me: I’d be the one in the hockey jersey taking five steps and immediately falling down, but I digress.

I’m giving two presentations at SCALE 10X this year — “User Groups 2.1: Noob Morning in America” (a reprise of last years “User Group 2.0″ talk) at 10 a.m. Friday in the hotel’s beautiful Catalina D room, and “On Beyond Zenwalk” on Saturday at 3 in the hotel’s Los Angeles B room. I’m also your host for the CrunchBang GNU/Linux “Birds of a Feather” event on Saturday evening as well.

Just don’t ask me to shoot and score.

More on SCALE 10X coming this week in this blog. Watch this space.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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A response to a FOSS skeptic

January 10, 2012 3 comments

Don Parris wrote a book a while back called “Penguin in the Pew.” The book is an outstanding guide for nonprofits — aimed at churches, but it can apply to any other nonprofit — in the way to use Free/Open Source Software, which Don like to call “libre,” but you know it’s the same thing.

SCALE 10XWhile the book is due for an update (I say, nudging Don . . .), I also have to confess that I’ve used the points the book makes to apply to the for-profit business advantages of using FOSS in a business environment. This is important to me in my work at Redwood Digital Research, where a great part of our business is to provide small businesses and home offices with FOSS solutions instead of the closed-source proprietary software they are, for the most part, forced to use.

But I digress. Don wrote a brilliant blog item this morning in crossing verbal swords with a FOSS skeptic. It starts out as follows:

“Someone I know well and admire greatly recently sent me a question about the premise of my book, ‘Penguin in the Pew.’ His question, I think, reflects the mindset of many who remain outside the realm of the libre software domain. It has taken me some time to get around to answering his question, but I thought I would expand on my response to him here on my blog.”

And that he does, in a very complete, civil and concise way. It’s definitely worth a read.

Meanwhile, I have two presentations (three if you count the UpSCALE talk I’m doing with my daughter Mimi), a tsunami of press releases and other media work to do for SCALE 10X before next weekend (not to mention studying for the LPI-1 exam), so posts are going to be a little sparse over the next two weeks; unless, of course, they’re about SCALE. That could be disappointing to some and a relief to others.

But, as always, watch this space.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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All in the name

January 4, 2012 24 comments

Several days ago, I wrote a blog item on the subject of Linux distribution release names and the method to the madness behind them. One comment on the previous blog by a Bernard Swiss reminded me that I had missed the best part of the Debian naming convention: “The ‘Unstable’ branch — the one under development to become the next ‘Stable’ release — is always called ‘Sid,’ named after another ‘Toy Story’ character; the boy next door, who breaks all the toys.”

SCALE 10XIndeed. But it started me thinking that not only are the naming conventions for distro version, um, unique, but some of the names of distros themselves — and FOSS software, too — have names only a mother (and their developers) could love.

One Debian/Ubuntu-based distro I’ve always liked — Qimo — seems innocent enough, especially since it is kid-oriented. Of course, when you try to pronounce it phonetically, it comes out “chemo,” as in “chemotherapy.” Actually, that’s not the correct pronunciation for Qimo — it’s really “kim-o,” as in “eskimo,” which is the basis for the name of the this distro. I’m not making this up: The lead developer has a toddler son named Quinn, named in part because the developer Dad is a Bob Dylan fan, and hence the “Quinn the Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)” reference is not lost on the Dylanistas among us.

Or so I was told.

Then there’s the ongoing debate about the acronym for the GNU Image Manipulation Program, more commonly known as GIMP. My friend Ken Starks of HeliOS fame — not exactly a paragon in the defense of politically correctness (to his credit) — has a good point when he says that GIMP is insensitive to those with movement disabilities. While I hope a name change is being considered, I would like to think they’re not doing so at the moment because they’re still working on the single-window thing.

There are two distros now out — both recent additions over the past couple of years — that cry out in harmony for a name change.

The first is DouDou. This, of course, recalls the old Marketing 101 adage about being careful about what you name your product in case it goes out of the country and into a foreign culture and language — the prime example here is the Chevrolet Nova, a hard sell in Spanish-speaking countries as “no va” in Spanish means “It doesn’t go.” (Update: According to Snopes.com, this is false, though it continues to appear in Marketing class texts. Apologies.) The Debian-based DouDou, which like Qimo is aimed at kids, is an outsanding distro that teaches youngsters the finer points of free software — the Web site says, “DoudouLinux can be lent, offered, loaned, copied as often as you want. Just like they do on the school playground! This is fully legal, so DoudouLinux is really risk free from all points of view” — and is available in a wide range of languages.

The source of the name is innocent enough, too: “Doudou” is a French word that means wubby, the teddy bear or the cloth that children carry everywhere and hug very strongly in their arms before falling asleep. But combine a distro for kids with a name that’s a juvenile homonym for feces (for the English-speaking kids anyway), and it becomes a gigglesnort-fest among the youngsters.

Another distro that might consider a name change is Fuduntu. Originally Fedora-based but later forked, Fuduntu earned its name from its ambition to fit somewhere between Fedora and Ubuntu, according to its Distrowatch listing. That’s a lofty goal, and “somewhere between” could be its goal, but there seems to be more of the “untu” and less of the “fed” in this one. Anyway, the Distrowatch listing adds that it is designed to be aesthetically pleasing, and is optimized for netbook and other portable computers, as well as general-purpose desktop machines.

But with a name that begins with FUD, it starts off having to scale a high hurdle of general appeal before it even gets out of the starting blocks. With more than 300 active distros — many of them excellent in their own right — I’m not inclined to use one starting with “FUD.” So I can pass on using it, even if it’s the best, greatest and absolutely, positively the most terrific distro in the history of FOSS.

Finally, there’s a small dynamic tiling window manager for X11 called Scrotwm. Look at that one from a different angle or two, and it become a word that only urologists and others in the medical profession would be comfortable saying in public. According to the Web site, “Scrotwm tries to stay out of the way so that valuable screen real estate can be used for much more important stuff. It has sane defaults and does not require one to learn a language to do any configuration. It was written by hackers for hackers and it strives to be small, compact and fast”

(Edit: Dru Lavigne tells me that Scrotwm is an option for PC-BSD 9, for those of you keeping score.)

Sounds interesting, and since it will probably work pretty well on CrunchBang, I’ll give it a shot. But I am not sure that I’m going to be asking anyone aloud at the LUG on Saturday, “Hey, anyone want to see my Scrotwm?”

Got an interesting name for a distro or FOSS program that I missed? Pass it on.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software at Redwood Digital Research, in the cozy confines of his home office.)

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Categories: Fuduntu, GIMP, GNU/Linux, linux, Linux, Qimo Tags: ,

No predictions in 2012, except . . .

January 3, 2012 1 comment

Normally, I take the time at the end of the year to be a complete goof (and that differs from the rest of the year . . . how?) and write some predicitions for the following year, like I did for 2009 and for 2010. I didn’t make any predictions for 2011 at the end of 2010 — rather, I wrote what I thought I’d like to see in 2011, followed by a Moment of Zen. For 2012, I decided to forego this practice altogether, if for no other reason than I can’t seem to fit a “year of the Linux desktop” joke into the mix.

But there are a couple of things we might see in 2012, like . . .

SCALE 10XLinux Expo Numbers Will Be Up: Don’t let the early curveball fool you: The Southern California Linux Expo SCALE 10X, held in January this year (as in about three weeks from now) in Los Angeles, kicks off the roster of Linux/FOSS expos for 2012, which stands to be the “Year of the Linux Desktop Expo” (See? You knew I’d get the Linux desktop in there somewhere). I’d be willing to bet that it has been obscured on people’s radar because of recently concluded the holiday season, so mark your calendars — and get yourself over to the registration page to sign up if you haven’t done so already. Also, the $109/night deal for SCALE attendees at the Hilton still stands as well. Because a.) what better way would it be to kick off this year and b.) how could you resist a weekend in L.A. with nearly 2,000 of your best friends?

That’s followed by Linux Fest Northwest (I’ll be there), Texas Linux Fest, and a slew of others. Which reminds me . . . .

I’ll be at more shows. Yep, I think I’m going to be heading east of the Rockies this year and submitting papers and venturing off to other shows where I have not yet been. This would include many, if not all, of the Linux expos on the other side of the Continental Divide. That could be an announcement or a warning — you decide.

One more thing: I heard this from more than one person. It could be a rumor, speculation, wishful thinking, acid flashback or whatever form these kind of statements take. I have no proof, just a gut feeling that it’ll happen. I could be wrong, but if I’m not, it’ll change the face of FOSS a little. OK, maybe it will change the face of FOSS more than a little.

It is this: Dell buys Canonical sometime in 2012.

Remember where you read it first.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software at Redwood Digital Research, in the cozy confines of his home office.)

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