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What Steve Jobs got wrong

October 6, 2011 2 comments

First things first: I’ve been using Apple hardware since mid-’80s — that’s right, the mid-’80s. When I worked at Spillis Candela and Partners in Coral Gables, Fla., I did document production for the architectural firm on a Lisa, a $7,000 computer at the time (as an aside, this architectural firm spent $2 million around the same time on a room-sized computer to render 3-D architectural drawings, so it’s no surprise that we had a Lisa in the documentation department).

My first exposure to Linux was Debian on an indigo iMac, which until recently I still had and used, until moving into a smaller space made keeping personal anthropological keepsakes a luxury. We still have an eMac, circa early aughts, in the house as well.

I’ve sung the praises multiple times in this blog about the quality of Apple hardware, especially when it outlived the version of MacOS named for the predatory cat du jour, after which the hardware could be given new life with Linux and FOSS. I’ve converted many Mac users, both PowerPC and Intel, on the basis of their quality hardware matched with the free/open source software paradigm.

As a former MacMarine who circled the wagons in the ’80s and ’90s before Apple made $150 million pact with the devil in Redmond (which, arguably, saved Apple), I understand what Steve Jobs brought to the proverbial table and how significant it is in the march of computer history. Many others are far more eloquently making this point in other writings in the ether of the Internet. It bears repeating that Jobs was a visionary who, through the creations under his leadership in Cupertino, changed the face of consumer electronics.

I get all that.

Despite the fact he locked down Apple hardware and software harder than anyone in history, I think his contributions to the computer world far outweigh his proprietary downside.

But . . .

. . . Steve Jobs blew it when he killed the Newton.

Admittedly, in the annals computer history, this is roughly the equivalent of shortstop legend Ozzie Smith booting a routine grounder in a regular season Cardinals game — rare, but it happened. As the story goes, because the Newton wasn’t his invention or his concept, it was given the heave-ho when Jobs returned to the helm of Apple.

At the time this was a big mistake, and as I watched with my MessagePad 120 in hand, every Palm Pilot that came after the demise of the Newton should have been a Newton. But it wasn’t, because the Newton wasn’t Steve’s baby.

Steve Jobs definitely had done what he had set out to do — put a dent in the universe — and for this reason, he is deserving of all the praise he is getting in obituaries. I’ll go one further: Despite overseeing a technological lockdown of historic and diabolical proportions, Apple — under Jobs leadership — set the bar for hardware development that everyone shoots to match or surpass.

But he should have kept the Newton.

So long, Steve, and thanks for all the Apples.

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.

[FSF Associate Member] (Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software in his new home office. Watch this space.)

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Categories: Apple, Newton, Steve Jobs Tags: , ,

Dropping the grammar hammer

September 5, 2011 5 comments

OK, it’s crunch time. At the end of the week, you should be in Columbus, Ohio, at Ohio Linux Fest –if you’re going to a Linux show before the year’s out, make it this one. This is the last big show on the North American continent until SCALE in January. At OLF, Bradley Kuhn and Cathy Malmrose are keynoting — along with Jon “maddog” Hall — so you’ll not want to miss that (especially Cathy — Go ZaReason!).

Many of you already know this, but for those of you who don’t, I don’t do tech for a living. I’d like to it for a living, and I’m working on that. This is why you’ll find me with my nose in a book, studying for the Red Hat Certified Engineer certification test I’ll take someday (and, if I ever scrape up enough money, Red Hat classes).

What pays the bills — what I’ve done since my first day on the job at The Miami Herald on President Carter’s inauguration day (yes, I’m that old, and get off my lawn) — is newspaper work. I currently work as a copy desk editor at the Santa Cruz Sentinel, but it’s a news career that has spanned three decades, three different media (print, TV and radio) and two continents.

I am a third-generation man of letters: My father was also a newsman and his father was a mailman.

I bring this up because at the Sentinel I am known as the Grammar Hammer; a moniker which I am honored to have and one that I constantly strive to live up to. I have a three-pound sledge at my desk. I wield it with the same conviction and passion that Thor might wield his hammer, only instead of vanquishing bad Nordic guys, I’m vanquishing bad grammar and spelling.

As you might imagine, I spend a lot of time reading; more than I spend writing, as a matter of fact (isn’t that always the case?). In much of the tech realm — most in forums and comment sections — the spelling and grammar aren’t always what they should be for people who, generally speaking, are smarter than the average person (and sometimes are smarter than the things they say. But I digress . . .). In the grand scheme of things, that’s OK — I’m not really that interested in picking nits, gramatically speaking, as much as I am concerned with content.

[Note to those who speak English as a second-, third- or fourth-language. This does not apply to you, and thanks for making the huge effort to communicate in tech's lingua franca. My hat is off to you, and thank your lucky stars you don't have to communicate with me in Spanish or Japanese, the only other two languages in which I can communicate. I dare not say I "speak" them.]

But there are a few things that drive me up the wall and across the ceiling when it comes to grammatical and spelling morsels I see in comments and forums (and even in tech stories and blogs, albeit rarely), like:

MAC, as in Macintosh: It’s not an acronym. Mac is short for Macintosh, the product from the new evil empire based in Cupertino called Apple. It’s big-M small-a small-c. Not to be confused with MAC, as in MAC address, which is the Media Access Control address, and the MAC there should be all upper case. The next person who writes MAC to refer to the Macintosh, I’m going to come through your screen with hammer blazing.

It’s Xfce, but LXDE: With all the desktop hubbub going on, these two up-and-coming environments sometimes get mislabled. I’ve seen it XFCE and Lxde, most recently in discussions on the Felton Linux Users Group, which is going great guns in the desktop debate on the mailing list. I’ve never understood why Xfce is 75 percent lower case, but it is. LXDE, according to its site, is all upper case. Speaking of all upper case . . .

GNOME, not Gnome: This is not a GNOME 3 issue, surprisingly. A general rule of thumb is that if it’s an acronym, it’s all upper case. GNOME originally stood for GNU Network Object Model Environment, though I understand that this was so long ago in a galaxy far, far away that some want to drop the caps. I can live with “Gnome,” but on a purely grammatical stanpoint, I’ll keep capitalizing it, thank you. Besides, GNOME folks, do you really want KDE to be the only major desktop environment to be all caps? Fuel, meet fire . . . .

There are more, of course, otherwise I wouldn’t be the Linux curmudgeon that you all know and love; at least the Linux curmudgeon you all know. But you get the idea.

All of which is to say, when posting here or elsewhere, let’s be careful out there. Dot each i. Cross each t. Don’t dangle your participles.

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.

[FSF Associate Member] (Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software in his new home office. Watch this space.)
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Take a tablet, call me in the morning

August 2, 2011 4 comments

Yes, I know LinuxCon is next, and that’s in mid-August, but I think they’ve got the publicity thing covered, especially with the 20-year thing and with Linus being there and all. But if you’re going to the next show, make it the Ohio LinuxFest in September. Bradley Kuhn and Cathy Malmrose are keynoting, so you’ll not want to miss that (especially Cathy — Go ZaReason!)

Regular readers of this blog know that I’m not a big fan of tablets. Sure “they’re hip, they’re here, they’re now,” but for the most part, they’re too big for a pocket and too small to do anything meaningful in a way that I would do anything meaningful (for example, write this blog, which I am most comfortable doing on a laptop or a desktop, among other things). Frankly, I’m waiting for the tablet fad to pass, but I’m probably in the minority here.

I share the same opinion as Jeff Hoogland, whose blog item yesterday entitled “Why the tablet craze?” mentions that tablets “are great novelty items. If you have an extra few hundred dollars laying around and want a new toy _ go ahead and pick one up. Just don’t expect it to magically change your life or make it easier like many commercials would have you think.”

But I’m talking tablets today because despite the fact that I’m not a tablet user, I’m about to give a huge slap on the back of the head to Apple; unprecedented here for the most part because a.) I used to be an Apple guy in the late ’80s and ’90s, and b.) the one of the reasons I converted to Linux was that MacOS X outpaced the longevity of some of the G3-based iMacs I had — a textbook case of planned obsolescence — and it annoyed me greatly; so much so that I left what has now become, for all practical purposes, “a cult.”

There. I said it. Despite the fact I’m no longer a “defender of the faith” (see MacMarines in the 1990s, of which I was a member), and despite I think they still make great hardware with a few exceptions — iMac G5: What a dog! — it’s clear that Apple should be taken to task for acting less like an innovator and more like, well, Microsoft.

Apple legal seems to be working overtime, and a case in point is this: An item in the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia has Apple suing Samsung to take their new Galaxy series off the shelves — they want ‘em destroyed, actually — because Apple accused Samsung of copying the iPad 2 and infringing its patents.

Let’s concentrate on what “copying the iPad 2″ means. An Apple drone, er rep, in Australia is quoted in the article as saying, “It’s no coincidence that Samsung’s latest products look a lot like the iPhone and iPad, from the shape of the hardware to the user interface and even the packaging.”

So let me ask this: How is a tablet supposed to be shaped to not look like an iPad? And the user interface? How radically different does that have to be to not look like the iPad?

More importantly, when you find the competition is getting to close in the marketplace, do you take the game to the courts? Is that how tech business gauges its success now — not on the merits of its hardware, but on the legal abilities of its attorneys? Apparently, that’s the modus operandi for Apple, and many other companies, these days.

If Apple is supposed to be the world’s coolest uber-company that can do no wrong — as their advocates love to tout ad nauseum — it should be less forgetful about its past when looking toward the future. Arguably, the Macintosh could have gone the way of the Osborne in the ’90s if not for some lucky twists and turns, not the least of which was a cash infusion from Microsoft. I remember because I was there, wishing I had a sledgehammer to throw at the screen after running down the center aisle at Macworld when Bill Gates appeared on it. Also, I’m not saying that Apple shouldn’t guard against copying, but looking like an iPad? Is that the best you’ve got, Apple legal? This is your “A” game?

This is not to say that I’m defending “poor, defenseless Samsung.” On the contrary: While it’s great they’ve chosen to run the Galaxy on Android, it appears that this legal battle stems more from their heated competition in the marketplace than anything else.

This is what gives me headaches and has me reaching for a couple of tablets — of the pharmaceutical variety.

So if I were Etch-a-Sketch, I’d definitely get an attorney and look at Apple’s iPad and the Samsung Galaxy. Yep, some definite similarities there between the product I grew up with and those two, and some that a judge might find interesting.

Time for a walk in the redwoods.

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.

[FSF Associate Member] (Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software in his new home office. Watch this space.)
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More miscellaneous ramblings

May 1, 2010 Leave a comment

In honor of Mailman reminder day — and I know everyone got their monthy reminders today from the various mailing lists that you all belong to — I thought I’d shock everyone by not going six months before blogging again.

Since my mailing list memberships are a smorgasbord of different Free/Open Source Software topics, I’m just going to take this opportunity to catch up on a few — OK, several — topics which I should have touched on over the past few months. Like:

It might work better this way: One day while Mirano and I found we had some time to kill and found ourselves close to a Best Buy (lucky us), we got to give the iPad a try. As some of you know, my distaste is legendary for netbooks and any other technology that’s, well, hard to physically handle. Such is the case with the iPad and, at one point, I was unable to clear the screen. So I instinctively shook it like an Etch-a-Sketch, but bear in mind that doesn’t work. Darling daughter came to the rescue, pushing a big-as-life button on the front to get back to the desktop. I still like the prospect of shaking it like an Etch-a-Sketch to bring it back to the desktop, but I am sure that this is not forthcoming from Apple.

Small, but informative: I didn’t comment on this either way, but the MySQL conference earlier this month in Santa Clara — held under the ominous shadow of the purchase of Sun by a huge database conglomerate whose CEO is also named Larry — was a lot smaller than in years past. Nevertheless, it was a pretty informative event. Working the Entrance booth with Tod Landis and Chris Busick, a few laps around the floor garnered an education in the latest database developments — but don’t ask me to repeat them. It was great to see MariaDB’s Kurt von Finck once again, as well as to talk to the MariaDB folks about their project, now that MySQL may be in peril.

The definition of insanity . . . : SCO’s at it again. They lost by judge (Dale Kimball’s summary judgment ruling) and they lost by jury just recently. Groklaw reported last week that SCO is behaving in the same way expecting a different result by filing papers that, according to The Register’s description, “saying the jury hearing its case over whether SCO owned the Unix copyright, and that found for Novell last month, was either too stupid, too confused or too distracted to grasp the compelling power of its evidence.” Puh-leeze.

Visiting an old friend: When I first converted to FOSS back in 2006 (has it been that long?), I was a regular visitor to Distrowatch; regular visitor as in my morning ritual would include coffee, boot the computer, go to Distrowatch (and then LXer.com), read and sometimes download. I went to the site again for the first time in several months to find it comfortably familiar in look, but with a number of distros I hadn’t heard of before, like Chakra, EasyPeasy, blackPanther, moonOS and ZevinOS, for starters. If ever I have time again, I should download some of them and give them a shot.

More to follow. Watch this space.

[FSF Associate Member](Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)
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Goodbye to an old friend

January 29, 2009 3 comments

Those of you outside my family who regularly read this irregularly scheduled blog know that I often sing the praises of the PowerPC processor and often rail against the indifference that many distros pay toward this great platform.

Of course the reason for this is simple: I’m a Mac guy from way back — from the circle-the-wagons days — and when I made my conversion to GNU/Linux it was Debian on an iMac. That was a couple of years ago, and during that time I have warmed up to other platforms and other distros; as I’ve written before, I even sing the praises of Dell from time to time (especially on their accessibility when it comes to maintenance, but I digress).

One of the reasons I owned Macs for so long is that I feel the quality of machines that Apple produced (not all, but most) running the PowerPC — especially the New World Macs — have a longevity that deserves any given distro’s attention.

Debian. Fedora. OpenSUSE — that’s who’s still developing for the PowerPC. Ubuntu dropped it with either 7.10 or 8.04, I believe (though I keep getting notes from the Ubuntu folks saying I’m wrong — but the fact remains Ubuntu was very public about dropping PowerPC support during a debate in which I took place and lost).

However, with the latest from Fedora and OpenSUSE for the PowerPC, I believe that this battle to keep the PowerPC relevant is being lost. An update from Fedora 9 to Fedora 10 on an Indigo iMac was all but unworkable and an install of OpenSUSE 11 on the same machine was impossible.

There are other factors involved: For example, both Fedora and OpenSUSE have no Live CD version for the PowerPC — and I understand that this may not be possible — and net installs are something that you’d rather not send a new user (heck, I don’t like doing them).

So while I have Debian back on the Indigo iMac in question and Fedora 9 running faithfully on a Blue & White G3, I have to admit that I’ve lost the patience to babysit the constant care and feeding the PowerPC machines. And, regretfully, I will have to put my PPC advocacy on the back burner as we move forward.

Goodbye, old friend.

So while we at Felton Linuxworks won’t turn away folks who want to convert their New World, pre-Intel Macs to GNU/Linux, I will give them the whole lowdown on how most distros aren’t paying attention to the platform, and why.

[FSF Associate Member](Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs HeliOS Solutions West in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)

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Categories: Apple, Debian, Fedora, PowerPC, SUSE

Coming up in 2009

December 29, 2008 11 comments

A lot has been written so far about what to expect next year — some valid, some not.

But has that ever stopped me from joining the year-end pile-on? Perish the thought.

So here are 10 things to expect in 2009.

Or not.

Remember, objects may be closer than they appear, and your mileage may vary.

10. 2009 will be the year of Linux. But so will 2010, as well as 2011 and 2012. In fact, by 2013, the last pair of eyes on the planet will finally glaze over when a Linux writer proclaims the following year to be the year of Linux, and the more thoughtful pundits will just know that it’s now understood that the next year will be our year, for whatever reason, and they’ll write about something a tad more significant.

9. Fedora 11 will outshine Fedora 10. As hard as it may be to believe — and after a month I still can’t find a flaw with Fedora 10 — Fedora 11 will be an encore performance of what can best be described as a rock-solid distro, even for machines that go back a few years (in my case, a Dell 5000 Inspiron laptop and a Dell Optiplex desktop). Sadly, people will continue to be under the mistaken impression that Fedora is too “cutting edge” for anyone other than the most experienced superuser who might be too lazy to negotiate the Gentoo labyrinth (yes, that’s a gauntlet thrown at the feet of my Fedora colleagues to work next year on dispelling that stupid myth . . . ).

8. The UFC pits Linus Torvalds and Richard Stallman against each other in a feature bout. What happens though is not one of those ridiculous near-death experiences for some poor troglodyte who normally gets suckered into the ring, but an epiphany for the entire FOSS community: Stallman and Torvalds meet at mid-ring and circle each other warily. Stallman opens the bout by saying maybe he was a little hasty in demanding GNU be stuck on the front of Linux, but Torvalds comes back with openly welcoming the option of joining the two names. Barriers between open source and free software dissolve. GNOME and KDE advocates embrace in a worldwide “kumbaya.” Planets align. Then I wake up.

7. Zenwalk increases the pace of its development. It becomes Zenrun, and in finding that they can add and release improvements to an already above-average distro at an even faster pace, they rename it Zenfly in 2010.

6. Lindependence comes to Redmond, Wash. The hall is rented, the fliers posted, and the riot police stand at the ready, but they remain wary since they don’t want to repeat the WTO fiasco in Seattle a decade ago. Nevertheless, yours truly — in a tribute to another overweight bald guy in the digital industry — opens the event with an insane onstage monkey dance that also brings him to within inches of a heart attack while Ken Starks unsuccessfully diverts the press’ attention. The Digital Tipping Point’s Christian Einfeldt, however, gets it all on video. Meanwhile, Debian, Fedora, Mandriva, OpenSUSE and Ubuntu reps — along with others who choose to join Lindependence in 2009 — hand out live CDs and demonstrate their distros. Yes, that’s Red Hat’s “Truth Happens” video (click here for Quick Time fans) looping in the background all the while.

5. Mandriva gets in touch with its feminine side. This distro renames itself Womandriva and becomes a more reasonable, nurturing distro, finally dropping the adolescent Mandrake zeitgeist from its early days. The distro’s leadership also realizes what a huge mistake it was to let Adam Williamson go and rectifies that situation, adding a huge bonus to his salary.

4. The Madagascar Penguins join Tux as the Linux mascots. Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and the Private make Tux one of their own in their commando unit. Incidentally — this is true (you can look it up) — on the Madagascar DVD, the penguins provide their own commentary on their scenes. When Private is struggling to operate a computer while taking over the ship, Skipper comments, “What are you doing up there, playing Tetris? You told me you knew Linux, Private!” Just smile and wave, boys, smile and wave.

3. Windows 7 will be worse than Vista, as hard as that may be to believe. This development will result in yet another $30 million Microsoft ad campaign diverting attention from this latest offering. Realizing they picked the wrong Seinfeld character in their first campaign, the ad agency casts Jason Alexander with Bill Gates, making Gates look like the “cool one” in comparison.

2. Everyone joins the Ubuntu family. In an effort not to confuse brand new GNU/Linux users with the daunting tasks of trying to wrap their minds around 350 different distributions, distros give themselves new names: Fedbuntu, Debuntu, openBUNTU, Sabayuntu, Damn Small Buntu, CentBuntu, Dreambuntu, Slackbuntu, Pupbuntu, Mepbuntu, gNewBuntu, among others. Solbuntis and OpenSolbuntis also join the ranks.

1. Linux Foundation’s “I’m Linux” video contest’s winning entry grabs an Oscar. After Apple’s “I’m a Mac” ad campaign, and Microsoft following with a painfully original “I’m a PC” theme, the Linux Foundation garners thousands of entries in its “I’m Linux” video contest. The Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences nominates the winner, which ends up awing those judging and the statuette for Best Short Film goes to the winner.

There are other developments, like the conflicts that the new OpenBSD Christian Edition causes, which may be addressed in a later blog.

Have a happy and prosperous new year.

[FSF Associate Member](Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs HeliOS Solutions West in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)

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Three strikes, you’re out

September 18, 2008 Leave a comment

Apparently, spending $10 million on Jerry Seinfeld and $300 million on an ad campaign in which both Seinfeld and Bill Gates try to show off their “human” side isn’t paying off, and Microsoft is pulling their ad campaign tomorrow, according to this blog item.

In fact, in a classic case of advertising euthanasia, a third episode in the ad campaign may not see the light of day.

Pity.

Not.

The fact is when you compare this ad campaign — which was as mysterious as it was offensive — to others, whether it’s the current “I’m a Mac” or even the legendary “1984” ad, you can see an interesting parallel: Just as Apple blows Microsoft out of the water with its technology — OS X versus Vista? You decide — it also parallels its superiority in its ads. Conversely, Microsoft shows it’s ineptitude both in their inability to hire and execute an effective ad campaign in the same fashion that it produces inadqueate software.

[FSF Associate Member](Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs HeliOS Solutions West in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)

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