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Tempest, meet teapot

July 16, 2013 5 comments

Yes, I can read a calendar. I know it’s only Tuesday, not Sunday, but I thought this might not wait until Sunday.

The “Linus being Linus” issue comes up occasionally, and often with a hue and cry about how mean, nasty and ugly he can be. I’ve called him on things in the past — not that he cares (he doesn’t), but at the time I thought it merited discussion. But back to the latest edition of the blow up, which can be found here, here and here, and you’ll see wherein lies the rub.

Tempest, meet teapot.

This morning on a forum on which I’m a moderator, this issue came up with a statement that Linus Torvalds is “not the hero we may want, but the hero deserve.” I’m not entirely sure what that means, but I do want to talk a little bit about the “hero” thing.

First, in the links above, I can see the merit to both sides of the argument. I fully agree with Linus when he says, and I’m paraphrasing, that we’re not here to please others but, in fact, to do a job and we’re not all here to make each other comfortable. Be who you are and I’ll be who I am and let’s get this done. I can also see Sarah Sharp’s point where behavior interpreted as intimidation and verbal abuse have no place in the process.

It’s a tough call.

So it brings us to where “hero” enters, or doesn’t enter, into it. I respect and honor Linus Torvalds for what he has done, but he’s not my hero (neither is Richard Stallman, but we won’t be dealing with him here). Linus is just a really smart guy who, apparently, has little time for petty nonsense; you might find how he handles that is unsavory. But I don’t because he wants to get things done. He’s not perfect, but he lives with whatever flaws he might have (as we all do, or at least should) and moves forward.

Let’s not forget we’re all here because of what he did in 1991, and that has made all the difference in the world as far as Free/Open Source Software is concerned.

Seriously. Think about the time when some people 22 years ago considered the Linux kernel to be nice, but a stopgap solution until Hurd gets developed.

Then ask yourself this: How utterly, completely, royally, painfully and absolutely fucked would we all be — the entire digital world groaning under the oppressive yoke of Microsoft for loss of a free alternative — if the “prevailing wisdom” had been to wait for Hurd, which finally might be ready, if Debian Hurd is any indication? Arguments for any of the *BSD variants swooping in to save the day in Linux’s place are welcome, but the point remains that without these viable alternatives the entire digital world, and arguably the real world as we know it, would be far worse off than it is now because of Linus’ kernel.

There’s a misconception that the FOSS world is one big kumbaya with hugs all around, daisies floating down from heaven and endless Grateful Dead concerts where Phish or Widespread Panic open for them. Nope. It’s a better world, true, but it’s still the real world where things have to get done and sometimes motivation — even if it’s portrayed as a in-your-face, boot-to-butt modality — still needs implementing by people who have no time for nonsense.

There are thousands of heroes in the wider FOSS realm. They are those who do the work, those 10 percent who chop the wood and carry the water, in a digital sense, for the other 90 percent who range from not ready to contribute — but ideally and hopefully will once they are up to speed — to those who are too lazy to contribute. Today’s heroes in FOSS are not only those in the panthenon of Linux or GNU/Linux — not only the Linus Torvaldses, not only the Richard Stallmans, and certainly not the Mark Shuttleworths (especially not the Mark Shuttleworths) that get put on pedastals by themselves or by others — but those who get the job done. They are far too many to mention here, but you know who they are by their actions, not by the hype.

Want to find a hero? Look in the mirror, and contribute to your favorite project or projects if you’re not doing so already.

See you Sunday.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang 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!

This — just this

July 14, 2013 1 comment

There are time when, I swear, I think people are channeling me. Usually, when this happens, I will point to the article and say, “This — just this.”

Christine Hall did this — just this — recently at FOSS Force. In her article about the myth of too many distros, she eloquently points out things that I have been railing about for years, while pointing out some things I hadn’t touched upon.

Read the article. Do it now — I’ll wait. Thanks for that, Christine, and good work.

Meanwhile, somewhere near Austin . . .
: Also this past week, my good friend and baseball buddy Ken “Go Astros” Starks has taken Reglue to a new level and the clock is running on an Indiegogo campaign to help finance the project.

For the few of you out there who don’t already know this, Reglue (formerly the HeliOS Project, with the HeliOS Project now Reglue’s educational wing) places Linux hardware — desktops and laptops — in the homes of underprivileged kids in the Austin, Texas, area, and they also maintain a computer lab for kids in East Austin.

(In fact, I just found this out watching the Indiegogo video on Reglue, but Reglue is an acronym for Recycled Electronics and Gnu/Linux Used for Education, in case it ever comes up in conversation)

Ken, who is in remission from cancer and has been clocking in long hours in playing catch-up, reported recently that Reglue/HeliOS Project has installed its 1,600th computer into the household of a child who could not afford one any other way.

If you’re going to give to any project this year, this would be the one. Open your wallets and purses for this one, folks.

98 shopping days left: Mark your calendars, folks. There are 98 days left until Software Freedom Day, which is Sept. 21. I’m proud to say that Felton LUG is on the bandwagon for this one this year — I just gave a presentation and rallied the troops for the project at today’s meeting and got a good response. If all goes as planned, we’ll be doing a Lindependence-style event with reps from various FOSS programs and distros at the historic Felton Presbyterian Church hall (historic insofar as it was the site of Lindependence event in 2008).

If you haven’t signed on yet for Software Freedom Day, by all means do so here. Get a team together and organize an event in your area, or if there is one in your area already, get involved. It’s really as simple as this — just this.

See you next week.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang 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!

What you see is what you get

July 11, 2013 4 comments

Surprise: It’s not Sunday, but still here’s a Larry the Free Software Guy blog post.

I was speaking to someone today who was recently “slashdotted” — clearly both a rite of passage and a badge of honor in FOSS circles — and I started to think about my experience on Slashdot a few months ago.

At Linux Fest Northwest, a videographer interviewed me about CrunchBang, and it ended up on Slashdot. No, I didn’t change my surname to “Califero,” as the title shows at the beginning of the video, but never mind. There’s about 18 or so minutes of me talking about CrunchBang — about the same length of time in the gap in the Watergate tapes (purely coincidental, I assure you) — but I thought it was a lot of fun and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

I should mention that although I didn’t respond to any of the comments, I found a great majority of them to be entertaining and hilarious. I am grateful for the entertainment. I could have addressed the phalanx of malcontents who seem to have nothing better to do than post comments on Slashdot articles (that, of course, does not include all commenters, but some), but I decided not to. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a raindrop in the Pacific, so I just enjoyed the moment.

This morning, I thought about the video and the Slashdot experience because there are comments that I thought were unfair and could use clarification.

Specifically, one commenter said that there was an opportunity missed and, to paraphrase, the commenter implied I didn’t “sell” CrunchBang properly. That’s interesting because it wasn’t a sales pitch, and as much as CrunchBang works for me, it might not work for him or her — that’s a determination that one has to make for one’s self by trying it.

In fact, in my opinion, the only thing FOSS advocates for any distro or FOSS program should “sell” is the concept of using whichever distro or FOSS program works for you. If there was anything lacking in the video, it’s this.

As an aside, CrunchBang’s lead developer Philip Newborough himself has said this in the past, and it’s on a slide in my standard CrunchBang presentation: “It is a common mistake to think that every developer wants their project to be widely popular.”

The other thing I wanted to mention — and something else I find humorous — is this: A slew of Captain Obvious wannabes couldn’t help pointing out to me, and to others (which, sooner or later, made their way back to me) that I may not be the most handsome or eloquent “spokesman” for the distro.

First of all, I’m not CrunchBang’s spokesman. That would be Philip Newborough. But let’s put that aside for a second.

It may come as a surprise to some, but I am at peace with the fact that I no longer possess my drop-dead handsome boyish charm of decades past, and I realize my public speaking skills run hot and cold; nothing short of plastic surgery and hair transplants could remotely help the former, and I’m working to be more consistent on the latter.

Other than forum moderator, I hold no official title within the CrunchBang community. I lend my fairly extensive experience as a FOSS exhibitor to CrunchBang at the shows I attend with permission from the lead developer, and I gladly do this at my own expense.

I contribute time, and occasionally money, because CrunchBang is an exceptional project based on a remarkable Debian-based distro backed by a community model of service and cooperation. Being as involved as I am, I feel there are two options I can take: I could say nothing to others about it and keep all this FOSS goodness to myself, or I could let others know about this great thing called CrunchBang and let them decide if they want to be a part of it.

Keeping it to myself would be selfish, so I let others know — yeah, I plead guilty to evangelistic zeal at times, but in the end it’s really up to you to try it and determine if it’s right for you. That last part? I make that point in presentation after presentation I give about CrunchBang and hope it sinks in.

So those of you who aren’t using it, or haven’t tried it, give it a shot and let me know what you think. If you like it? Great. If it’s not for you? OK then, thanks for giving it a shot.

In the end, what you see is really what you get.

See you Sunday.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang 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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