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Veni. Vidi. Odio Unitate

May 28, 2012 6 comments

My apologies for not writing this sooner. I know some of you were waiting with bated breath on Saturday for me to finish my run with Unity, and I had planned to wrap it up on Saturday. But I didn’t. I gave the new desktop environment from Canonical, featured only on Ubuntu so far, an extra day just to see if ultimately there was anything — anything — I am missing.

If you can read Latin, the blog’s title says it all. If you can’t, I’ll get back to that in a minute.

But first things first, I have a hard and fast rule — well two, actually — about using Free/Open Source Software. It’s simple: Find what you like and/or what works best for you and use it; it may not be what I use or it may not be something we agree on, and that’s fine. The second rule is a no-brainer: Contribute back to the distro/FOSS program that you use, whether its with bug reports, coding, documentation or financially; and make sure your digital contributions go upstream where they belong. As you’ve heard me say before, some entities — cough Red Hat and Novell cough and their surrounding communities — do this better than others — cough Canonical cough — though admittedly the latter is getting better at it.

Which brings us to the Latin: After vanquishing one of a plethora of lands he overran while he was doing his thing, Julius Caesar said “Veni. Vidi. Vici.” This, of course translates to, “I came. I saw. I conquered,” a 47 B.C. corollary to Dr. Peter Venkman’s “We came, we saw, we kicked its ass!” in the 1980s movie “Ghostbusters.”

I’ll take it a step beyond: Veni. Vidi. Odio Unitate.

I came. I saw. I hate Unity.

As far as I am concerned and for my own computing purposes, there is truly nothing in Unity to like, and there is nothing here that is new. Let’s put aside the one-size-fits-all-but-not-really-any interface for a moment. It’s bad enough that desktop/laptop Ubuntu users are forced into a rigid interface better suited for a netbook or a tablet, but how is something like Head Up Display an innovation? I could have missed the memo, but how is typing out the program name easier than clicking on an icon? And what does HUD do that something like Konqueror — or even the command line — doesn’t do?

In fact, arguably Unity and HUD are a license to fall into bad habits, which is a hallmark for ease-of-use shortcuts built in to recent Linux user interfaces in order to draw users from other operating systems who, as the indescribably flawed reasoning goes, are drooling Neanderthals because they’re Windows users or lazy hipsters because they use Macs.

So the workaround here is simple. If you absolutely, positively have to use Ubuntu for some compelling reason — your family is being held hostage by a radical offshoot of the Ubuntu Apocalypse, for example — there is a workaround. It’s called Xubuntu. Other workarounds include Kubuntu and Lubuntu as well. For that matter, you could even go to a Ubuntu-based distro like Linux Mint, which gives you the GNOME-as-it-should-be experience in a solid distro.

Of course, if Unity works for you, then use it.

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 develops business 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!

Being Precise on Unity

May 24, 2012 8 comments

Those who have the great fortune, or have made the great sacrifice, of befriending me on Facebook and/or Google+ have already been alerted to this, um, development.

So let the word go forth that I am using Precise Pangolin — Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, for those of you keeping score at home (though I don’t know why you would) — complete with Unity until Saturday. The reason I am giving it a few days, rather than just one as I did in an earlier blog post extends from a conversation I had with Scott Dowdle on #ubuntu-montana, where he made the poignant observation that it would take more than one day for me to make a fair assessment.

Good point, Scott (and this point, it should be noted, comes from a Fedora guy, for all intents and purposes. Hope that doesn’t blow your cover, Scott!). After a considerable amount of pixels spilled on the miraculous game-changing improvements to Unity and Head-Up (something?) Display that a flock of bloggers and some in the tech press are parroting after being spoon-fed from Canonisoft’s PR department, I am giving it another look to see if I had missed something somewhere along the line.

To be frank — and Frank doesn’t mind — after about eight hours of use yesterday, I’m not seeing anything I didn’t see last time I took Unity for a spin, except for one thing: The welcome relief afterward to get back to another laptop running CrunchBang was beyond description.

Earth-shattering, game-changing improvements — they’re here somewhere, right? I don’t see any, at least not yet. In fact, what I do see is what I saw when I used it originally: the one-size-fits-all desktop environment which arguably doesn’t fit quite right on any of them, coupled with a lack of improved utility that I didn’t already have using other desktop environments or FOSS programs. To say nothing of a desktop environment that insults my intelligence by bending over backwards to do things for me that I have been doing easily on my own since — oh, I don’t know — birth.

What am I missing, Ubunteros?

See you again Saturday.

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 develops business 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!

Categories: Fedora, Ubuntu, Unity Tags: , , , ,

ZaReason Alto 3880: The honeymoon continues

May 22, 2012 6 comments

When I reviewed the ZaReason Alto 3880 earlier this year, I liked it so much I got one, and I told Cathy and Earl Malmrose of ZaReason that I’d write my impressions of the Alto three months later.

That was in February and now it’s May — three months hence — and I have to say that I have not had one bad experience with the laptop.

To recap: Until I gave the Alto a test run, I was a dyed-in-the-wool ThinkPad guy, utilitarian to the core. All my ThinkPads — and there are several — look like NASCAR entries with their sticker-laden covers displaying the best of FOSS programs.

Since February, though, I’ve been using the Alto for hours on end on a daily basis, giving it the rigorous workout that the ThinkPads normally got when I was using them exclusively. The Alto 3880 has proved to be a very tough machine going step-for-step, measure-for-measure with the ThinkPad in all categories.

The advantage that the Alto has over the ThinkPad is that it looks good — no, it looks great — doing it.

Which of course brings me to the keyboard: As I wrote earlier, I thought the keyboard in the Alto 3880, at first touch, was a little light. With the pounding I normally give the sturdy ThinkPad keyboard, I openly worried about my heavy fingers and not-so-gentle touch on what I thought might be a less-than-sturdy keyboard. I was completely wrong about this — the keyboard is tougher than the first impression lets on, and it is one of the Alto 3880’s outstanding features. If it handles the range of tapping I give it — and it has — then it passes that test with high marks.

As I’ve written before, I’m running CrunchBang Statler on this machine and it runs flawlessly on the Alto. In the original blog, I mentioned that I had also run other distros on the Alto as well, but I choose to run CrunchBang for a variety of reasons I write about in another blog. For the unenlightened, CrunchBang — which is on the verge of releasing another version soon — is a Debian-based distro running the Openbox window manager. On the Alto, the combination of Openbox with Debian rumbling under the hood makes this laptop a digital rocket.

The ZaReason Alto 3880 is an outstanding machine that continues to earn my highest recommendation. The specs are here and, as I mentioned in the original blog item, the price is higher than you’d pay for something off the shelf at a big box like Best Buy (and, in a word, don’t!). But the Alto is worth every bit of the extra cost, and one of many features that ZaReason offers is that they provide a wide variety of distros to choose from on their hardware — though I don’t use it often, I understand Linux Mint would be a good off-the-shelf choice — and they even will install a distro at your request.

Like — oh, I don’t know — CrunchBang, if you ask for it.

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 develops business 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!

Test driving Fuduntu

May 18, 2012 3 comments

In my talk at Linux Fest Northwest — and I say this often to anyone who will listen — I mentioned that there is a “digital Darwinism” at play in the FOSS paradigm. That is, distros and FOSS programs rise and fall depending on the quality of the software and the community that gathers around them. Good distros and programs — the “fittest” — survive, and the others, well, not so much.

That’s OK: It may be harsh, but such is the way of the FOSS world.

In case you’re wondering why I’ve started off on a tangent instead of going off on one somewhere in mid-blog, I bring this up because I think Fuduntu is one of those distros that can be a strong contributor to FOSS, not to mention a quality distro coupled with a growing community. That said, it has a bright future.

In giving the latest version of Fuduntu a ride — Fuduntu 2012.2 — it is a refereshing change of pace. Originally based on Fedora but later forked (and the installer will look very familiar to Fedora users), the distro — as the name Fuduntu implies — ties the best of two FOSS giants — Fedora and Ubuntu — and appears to be aimed at newer users, as opposed to the more seasoned veteran.

To say that Fuduntu is aimed at new users is not a knock against it. The distro’s simplicity is its strong suit. Clearly it is tweakable to those who have some Linux experience. But for those who don’t, it’s a distro that will be an easy gateway into the wonderful world of Linux.

Sidestepping all the personal preference nonsense that you don’t really care about — what works for me may not work for you — the distro itself performed quickly and efficiently on both a laptop (a MicroPC TransPort 2000 — an ancient throwback, I know) and a Dell Optiplex GX260 desktop (on the desktop, though, I only ran the live DVD from a USB drive). The GNOME desktop — the GNOME 2.32 version (thank God) — is a welcome sight on this distro. Banshee and VLC media player handle the music and video side of things effortlessly. Chromium is the Web browser of choice on Fuduntu, and it gets good grades for speed and usability. Overall, everything works — and works well — right out of the box.

Though I give Fuduntu high marks across the board, I think the Fuduntu team might want to consider adding an on-board (that is to say, a non-cloud) word processing program. It would beat the current offering of only Google Docs. Again, not to get into my personal preferences since I’m glad to add programs after the default install, a IRC client other than Pidgin (cough, Xchat, cough) would be nice, too.

But on the whole, Fuduntu offers much to a wide range of users.

My mantra is this: “Use what works for you.” Fuduntu is a solid distro and you can give Fuduntu a try by downloading it here.

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 develops business 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!

On the radar

May 16, 2012 2 comments

Without going into minute detail, the last several days have been busy ones where I have been unable to get to a blog post. While this may be refreshing news to some, the proverbial deck has been cleared — almost — and I have a few items upcoming this week and a couple that, to be honest, I’ve been chomping at the bit to talk about.

Like . . .

What the hell, Dell? One of the many bad things about being so busy this weekend and earlier this week is that I missed the bus on giving Dell the slicing-and-dicing and drop-kicking they deserved, and still deserve.

Don’t take my word for it: This is what happens at a Dell conference, attended by Michael Dell, in Copenhagen: “Damn! I did not know the dress code was blue tie and male. I am at Dell’s big summit with Michael Dell in Copenhagen. Here we learn how to say ‘shut up bitch’ and that women don’t belong in tech.” Which, as an aside, prompted this excellent commentary by Molly Wood on C-Net.

Michael Dell, apparently you did nothing here, and you missed a great opportunity. This is what you should have done: a.) taken the Dell employee responsible for organizing this event, slap him on the back of the head and then tell him he has 20 minutes to clean out his office and leave the Dell corporate premises; b.) if the person in charge of Dell Denmark is not the same person as the one involved in the previous step, repeat process on him as well with the same instructions; c.) apologize to the women staff at Dell, women programmers in general, and women everywhere in general for such an arrogant display of misogyny sponsored by your company.

But no. Instead, here’s what we get as a lukewarm apology from Dell via Google+ — not exactly the best outlet for this, by the way. This apology is lacking in several ways: a.) the ratio of “we’re sorry” to “we’re so awesome” should be completely flipped in this apology; b.) Michael Dell was in the room at the time and heard it for himself, lending every reason that c.) the person responsible for arranging for this speaker should be fired, to say nothing of d.) that this apology had to be dragged out of Dell as opposed to them being proactive about it.

Whew. Glad I got that off my chest, so I can continue with . . .

Watch for CrunchBang Waldorf: The CrunchBang Waldorf development builds have been out for a couple of weeks now and I have it running on a ThinkPad T30 — as ancient as it is dependable — and the build is running flawlessly. I can’t imagine that there’s much wrong with it at this point. At least I haven’t been able to break anything on it . . . yet. Philip Newborough has done a great job on the Debian Wheezy-based version of the distro and I’m hoping there’s going to be a new release soon.

Fuduntu, too: As promised in the last blog item where I apologized to Fuduntu project leader Andrew Wyatt (and not to Ubuntu’s self-appointed etc. Mark Shuttleworth, just to quell the rumor spawned by those who didn’t actually read the last blog item), I’m currently running Fuduntu on another laptop, and I’ll be talking about it later this week as well. So far, so good.

The Alto 3880 Honeymoon: A few months ago, I did a review of the ZaReason Alto 3880 laptop and I liked it so much, I got one of my own to use on a daily basis. Over the past few months, I’ve grown to really like the machine to the point where I use it daily (which I’m sure annoys some of the desktops in the lab). I will write about using the Alto over the last few months, and how much I like this machine. And the keyboard thing I mentioned? Not a concern — it’s just as tough as the ThinkPad’s.

Oh, and one more thing: I’m officially changing the acronym SaaS to Sarcasm as a Service and opening for business.

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 develops business 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!

An apology is owed

May 11, 2012 22 comments

It has been brought to my attention that I have been somewhat hard on a particular Linux distro and its esteemed project leader. I am told that I have said some mean and unfair things about this distro and its leader, and that I should take some time to rethink my position on said distro and the person in charge.

I have called this person some nasty names, mostly in private but sometimes in public. I have called him out in on these pixelized pages of Larry the Free Software Guy for what I think — or at least now I realize, I mistakenly thought — were ridiculous moves and questionable motives in making his Linux distribution.

It was arrogant, mean and stupid of me to be so unwaveringly rigid on my criticism over all this time, and I realize now that an apology is owed.

So please accept my heartfelt and sincere apology Andrew Wyatt, lead developer and project leader for Fuduntu, for all the things I’ve written and said about you and your project. Anyone who takes the time to create a Linux distro to push forward the wider FOSS paradigm — in the spirit of community and not with a me-first agenda — deserves much better than the shallow criticism I’ve heaped on you and Fuduntu in the past.

I’m very sorry.

Allow me to make it up to you by giving the latest version of Fuduntu a test drive for a review on this blog in the next few days.

Also, Andrew, I hope we can work together going forward for the betterment of the FOSS paradigm.

[You didn't really think I was going to apologize to The Mark and the Ubuntu Apocalypse, did you?]

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 develops business 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!

Sentinel’s Media Lab and GIMP (no, not related)

May 9, 2012 Leave a comment

A shout-out for the job: As some of you know, I am not only a FOSS advocate, but I am also a newspaper editor; the latter of which pays most of the bills. As such, I’m also part of the Santa Cruz Community Media Lab that is run by the Santa Cruz Sentinel, which is hosting a gathering at Cruzio at noon on Thursday (that’s tomorrow). It’s a sign-in affair with only a few seats left, so you have to RSVP to the Media Lab or e-mail on-line editor Tom Moore at tmoore-at-santacruzsentinel-dot-com.

In my position as big kahuna of tech blogs, if you have a tech blog and you live in the Santa Cruz area, you’ll want to participate in the Media Lab. You can do that by contacting me at the Sentinel at lcafiero-at-santacruzsentinel-dot-com, I’ll be there, waiting by the Windows box.

Single-window GIMP: GIMP 2.8, with its long-awaited single-pane set up (oh, thank God!), is finally here. I haven’t yet put it through its paces, but I did want to mention before I do that this is a welcome improvement. Many folks have gotten used to the multiple windows in GIMP. I have never gotten used to them. In fact, they mock me every time the come up because, invariably, I get lost. That’s an operator error, I’ll be the first to admit, however having just one window to deal with will certainaly help the GIMP-challenged among us. A review is forthcoming.

Remarkably clear and 63 among the redwoods in Felton.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides true FOSS solutions — which no longer includes Canonical/Ubuntu products — in the small business and home office environment.)

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Eliminate DRM!

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