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Archive for July, 2012

Crazy, but in a good way

July 26, 2012 3 comments

Todd Robinson is crazy. But he’s crazy in a good way.

According to the post on the WebPath Technologies page, Todd, “completely un-assisted, will to attempt to create, and release, a complete desktop operating system each and every day for the period of 31 days, to demonstrate the huge advantages of using open source (shared knowledge) solutions in real-world situations.”

So now we have the “31 Flavors of Fun” experiment.

Thirty-one days in August.

Thirty-one new distros.

Wow.

First things first: I have a history with the Robinsons. Todd and Karlie won’t remember this — obviously with the ton of orders they’ve gotten over the years — but I bought my first distros from On-Disk about six years ago (distros plural because I didn’t know what I wanted and, heck, their prices were pretty cheap — still are). Further, I have kept in touch with Karlie on Facebook while she systematically extricated herself from day-to-day FOSS participation while maintaining a life (imagine that!), and I’ve always found her business advice (and pointers to where to go for business help) to be very helpful.

As you see on the WebPath link above, Todd’s got the reins on this project, but he’s also going to need a little help. As for me, I would like to help where I can, and also I’m going to try out what he produces, writing about the 31 distros as often as possible here on this blog — save for a caveat later in the month of August where I’m going to Houston to take in the Astros-Giants series with Ken Starks (but you can be certain that between innings banter will probably be about this, among a lot of other FOSS topics).

Regular readers of this blog know that I clearly advocate the position that more distros are a better option, and let the invisible hand of the market decide which ones stay and which ones don’t. Chances are that most of the 31 distros Todd comes up with won’t be pressed into common use on a regular basis. It’s like the laboratory-induced elements at the tail end of the periodic table that exist for an instant, and are then gone, only to exist in scientific papers.

But regardless of whether any of the 31 distros become a permanent fixture in the FOSS universe, this is an outstanding project, Todd.

Watch this space, all.

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!

The vision thing

July 25, 2012 5 comments

The Linux Foundation posted this on Facebook this morning: “TODAY’S NEWS: Torvalds, Shuttleworth and other Linux/OSS visionaries to be in Barcelona Nov 5-7. Will you be there?” Of course, it links to the press release here.

I would grant you that Linus Torvalds is a visionary — perhaps, arguably, an accidental visionary in the sense that he never expected the kernel he developed would grow into what it has become. But fortunately for everyone involved, Torvalds is a visionary who has kept a significant degree of humility amid the vast contribution to society he has made.

Looking at the lineup in the press release, I would have put Marten Mickos on the release as a “Linux/OSS visionary” instead. Mickos is the MySQL guy, despite the fact that it has gone through a couple of, um, changes since he sold it to Sun in 2008, and is now in the evil clutches of Oracle. Regardless of what it has become now, MySQL is an important piece of FOSS history, and Mickos deserves the visionary label, along with a degree of gratitude for fostering such an important project.

But Shuttleworth? I’m not so sure how he ranks as a visionary. Doing great work in promoting Linux/FOSS in financially backing Ubuntu is commendable and worthy of praise, but this is hardly “visionary.” Add to this going off on his own to develop things that are generally not used by the wider FOSS community — Unity and HUD come immediately to mind — and arguably he has done more to stifle progress in the wider FOSS world rather than contribute to its advance. How this is visionary remains to be seen.

Further, I think I can put Shuttleworth’s contributions to the wider FOSS paradigm better in perspective with a little help from The Oatmeal here. If Linus Torvalds is Nikola Tesla, then Mark Shuttleworth is Thomas Edison.

No, Linux Foundation, I won’t be going to Barcelona for the European version of LinuxCon. But thanks for asking.

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!

O’Reilly, you missed two

July 22, 2012 1 comment

I don’t want to take anything away from the winners of the O’Reilly Open Source Awards for 2012, given out at the big corporate FOSS Kumbaya in Portland known as OSCON this past week. All are very deserving of O’Reilly’s accolades — especially Elizabeth Krumbach, whose work I see on an almost regular basis — and I won’t go into listing the winners or their accomplishments here because O’Reilly has seen to that already.

But there are two — at least two — that were nominated and that O’Reilly missed. The misfortune that these two have been omitted arguably borders on tragic, too, because each of the following folks mentioned below have made significant contributions to FOSS in ways that equal, if not eclipse, those made by some of the this year’s recipients.

Here are two you missed, O’Reilly. Maybe next year you can rectify this.

The first O’Reilly oversight is Bill Kendrick. If you have children, you have probably happened upon Bill’s software opus Tux Paint somewhere along the line. If you don’t, then you may have seen it anyway. In its 10th year, Tux Paint is an award-winning art program for K-6 kids that not only teaches art, but also computer literacy. A long list of schools use it. It’s been open source ever since its inception, and is made for a variety of platforms — the usual suspects of Linux, Mac and Windows. Tux Paint alone should garner Bill the award, with an oak-leaf cluster, but he is even more deserving of the award for developing other educational software like TuxTyping — helping kids learn to type — not to mention Tux, of Math Command — which “lets kids hone their arithmetic skills while they defend penguins from incoming comets,” according to the website. Or, in other words, think of the ’80s arcade game Missile Command, only with math problems instead of incoming nuclear missiles.

[Blogger's note: Bill Kendrick straightens out the personnel lineup for the aforementioned projects here, and a full list of authors and contributors can be found here and here.]

The second oversight is Ken Starks. As those of you who regularly read this blog know, Ken and I go back a ways, back to the days when Ken successfully — miraculously — raised enough money to get Tux on the nose of an Indy car at the Indianapolis 500 back in 2007. The car crashed early in the race — irony of ironies for Linux — and finished last. As long as I’ve known him, Ken has been the most tireless advocate for Linux and FOSS for years. With the HeliOS Project — now REGLUE, an acronym for Recycled Electronics and Gnu/Linux Used for Education — Ken and his merry band of fossketeers get refurbished Linux-based computers into the hands of underprivileged kids in the Austin, Texas, area. Ken was also one of the co-founders of the Lindependence Project, which brought Linux to a small town back in 2008. Currently, Ken’s battle with larynx cancer is limiting his activity, but he is still doing what he can with the hand he’s dealt.

So, how about it, Tim?

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!

Free Bassel Khartabil

July 15, 2012 4 comments

Forgive me for being a little late with this, but it’s a matter of grave importance that needs your attention and action, if you haven’t acted on it already.

On March 15, 2012, Bassel Khartabil (also known as Bassel Safadi) was detained in a wave of arrests in the Mazzeh district of Damascus, Syria. Bassel is the project leader for an open source web software called Aiki Framework. He is well known in online technical communities as a dedicated volunteer to Creative Commons, Mozilla Firefox, Wikipedia, Open Clip Art Library, Fabricatorz, and Sharism.

In short, Bassel contributes much to the FOSS paradigm. He’s one of us.

Since Bassel’s arrest, his family has received no official explanation for his detention or information regarding his whereabouts. However, his family has recently learned from previous detainees at the security branch of Kafer Sousa, Damascus, that Bassel is being held at this location.

A side note: Human Rights Watch outlines what’s happening in Syria in an interactive map here. This does not bode well for Bassel being detained, incommunicado, for the last four months, and adds geometrically to the urgency of this matter.

EFF is on it, as is the Mozilla Foundation’s Mitchell Baker, who wrote this piece on her blog. C|Net Donna Tam also wrote an article here outlining the situation.

Now it’s your turn.

If you haven’t done so already, visit http://freebassel.org, read up and sign the letter of support. The facebookers among you can go here to do the Facebook thing.

Hashtag for Twitter/identi.ca: #freebassel

Wait. You’re not finished yet.

This is not a criticism of the great work these organizations do, but the International Committee of the Red Cross and Human Rights Watch unfortunately don’t take up the cause of freeing imprisoned individuals — I would be happy to be wrong about this, if someone knows who to contact in these organizations. However, I did find a contact address for a program at Amnesty International called Eyes on Syria which, in effect, is taking names. There’s a link on that page, “Tell Us,” that provides an address to drop them a line.

I wrote the following to Amnesty International and I would urge others to write to AI in your own words (copying my message and sending it as your own is spamming, and I do not encourage that) something along the following lines:

+start+

Dear Amnesty International –

I am writing on behalf of Bassel Khartabil, a free/open source software developer in Syria who has been arrested and detained since March in Damascus. Bassel has been instrumental in various open source software projects like Creative Commons (www.creativecommons.org), Mozilla Firefox (www.mozilla.org), Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.org), Open Clip Art Library (www.openclipart.org), Fabricatorz (www.fabricatorz.com), and Sharism (www.sharism.org).

On March 15, 2012, Bassel Khartabil was detained in a wave of arrests in the Mazzeh district of Damascus. Since then, his family has received no official explanation for his detention or information regarding his whereabouts. However, his family has recently learned from previous detainees at the security branch of Kafer Sousa, Damascus, that Bassel is being held at this location.

More information on Bassel can be found at http://freebassel.org/ which is a Web site set up to help free Bassel.

Ultimately, my hope is that Bassel is freed as soon as possible, and like many in the free/open source software community concerned about his well-being, I am very troubled that he has been held incommunicado for four months. I hope Amnesty International can bring some of the facts of his detention to light, and ultimately can assist in freeing
Bassel.

Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,
Larry Cafiero
Felton, California, USA

+end+

Now let’s get Bassel back home to his loved ones, and let’s get him coding again.

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!

A couple of ground rules here

July 14, 2012 1 comment

One of the good things about having a blog is that I get to set the rules here. Like ‘em or not, they’re the rules. Don’t like ‘em? Don’t read the blog. It’s pretty simple.

I bring this up because lately there has been a person who has commented on several items, and on a couple of them he’s resorted to name-calling and other behavior not welcome here. Other than the one where he called me a “jerk,” which I left — I’ve been called much worse, chances are by much better people — I have deleted the others that were pretty much unacceptable.

So, “Ryan” — if that’s your real name — and everyone else who cares to read this blog, commit this to memory: You want to discuss and debate issues here? Fine, go at it. Want to participate in name-calling and other trolltard behavior? Get the fuck out. Now.

It’s pretty simple, folks. Rule 1: Keep it civil and you’re welcome to stick around. Rule 2: No name-calling, period. Rule 3. I have the final say because it’s my blog, period. When you have a blog of your own, you can make up whatever rules you want.

I’m glad we had this little talk.

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: Uncategorized

Doing things right

July 12, 2012 Leave a comment

A couple of days ago, I had read — but hadn’t confirmed — that Red Hat’s Jaroslav Reznik had been chosen to be the Fedora Project Manager, finally filling the unfillable shoes left empty by Robyn Bergeron when she was given the glorious burden of becoming Fedora Project Leader. So now that this has been confirmed by those who know, I’d like to say to Jaroslav: “Suit up.” And congratulations, of course, are in order. It’s a great choice.

This should come as no surprise. If any entity in the FOSS realm knows how to do things right, it’s the Fedora Project.

Their methodology of engineering and organization — tying together what may seem to be outlying tangents of promotion, design and documentation into a unit which never seems to fail in firing on all cylinders — should serve as the textbook by which all distros should be run.

What often gets lost in the grand scheme of things is that the Fedora Project produces this array of great accomplishments without seeking fanfare or demanding the spotlight, the way some other vowel-laden distros do. They just get things done the way they’re supposed to be done — developing code, pushing that code upstream and providing the organizational trappings that help get it out, releasing every six months, and all for the benefit the greater FOSS community.

Naturally, it helps to have a sponsor that’s the first billion-dollar FOSS corporation. But bear in mind that Red Hat doesn’t get that important and historic designation without the Fedora Project — without Fedora, Red Hat isn’t Red Hat. Each knows the symbiotic relationship one has with the other.

Even in the face of adversity — when people who should know better were doing their best Chicken Little imitations in the face of a UEFI lockout — the Fedora Project simply started working on a fixing the problem. The first solution they have come up with may not be the most ideal, and I’d be willing to bet it’s not the last one, but it’s a start. But then, that’s what industry leaders do — they encounter the problem and fix it.

Without fanfare and without grabbing the spotlight.

As many of you already know, I had the honor of participating in the Fedora Project from 2008 until last summer. In July of last year, I started using CrunchBang, a Debian-based distro originating in England which uses the Openbox window manager. After finding it suited my needs and after using it exclusively for nine months, I finally joined that community earlier this year, determining it to be a better fit for my varied, and hopefully growing, skill set. Naturally, I bring with me all I learned from the Fedora Project, which is much, and naturally I value the friendships and relationships garnered while a Fedorista (I know, I know — it’s “Fedoran,” which of course sounds like an alien, but never mind).

One more thing: It’s nice to be able to say something positive for a change; to be able to write something without having to pry the palm of my hand from my face in order to type. Trust me, the only thing worse than having to point out things gone wrong in FOSS that no one else wants to write about is this: having to take the time to put these wrongs in pixels here in this blog. So with that, even further thanks should go to the Fedora Project.

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!

But wait, there’s more

July 11, 2012 1 comment

One more thing . . .

This really has nothing to do with FOSS per se, but Matthew Inman — you may or may not know who he is, but you would know his work at The Oatmeal — finally prevailed in the completely convoluted lawsuit he was hit with, and the money he raised will go to the National Wildlife Fund and the American Cancer Society.

Details are here.

And remember: Philanthropy > Douchebaggery . . . always.

Way to go, Matthew. And thanks for all the great work you do on The Oatmeal.

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!

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