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Archive for January, 2012

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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Eliminate DRM!

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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Eliminate DRM!

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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Eliminate DRM!

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