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Hanging with the outlaws

March 20, 2013 7 comments

Sitting at my desk at the newspaper a week ago, I got a tweet from CrunchBang’s lead developer Philip Newborough: They’re talking about you on #LO.

Hmmm. It’s not the first time I’ve been talked about, and thanks to the heads-up from Philip, I got to sit in on a taping of Linux Outlaws No. 302, which is now out in the wider world here. The quote that gave me worldwide renown, at least on Linux Outlaws, was from a recent blog about Ubuntu: “The gravity with which Canonical pulls Ubuntu further from its original FOSS orbit is nothing short of tragic.”

Linux Outlaws, according to their page, talks about anything that runs on Linux, about open source software on other platforms and many other things. Dan Lynch and Fabian Scherschel are the hosts of Linux Outlaws, and the pair go into great detail on the news and other happenings in the Linux/FOSS world. As described on the site, listening to the show is very much like listening to two friends sitting in a pub, having fun and talking about things they find interesting — and thanks to the modern miracle of podcasts, it’s like you’re there with them, pint in hand.

There is gratuitous swearing and neither Dan nor Fabian pull any punches when describing shortcomings or stupidity, intentional or not, and calling people out for it. Ranting seems to be par for the course — again, in a good way, and Dan tends to be low-key and methodical in his analysis while Fabian positions himself on opposite side of that spectrum, sometimes redlining the needle on the rant tachometer. It’s all thought-provoking and informative, punctuated with humor and hilarity.

Of course, while Linux Outlaws is not for the faint of heart, it’s still clearly worth a listen.

I haven’t had a chance to listen to the edited podcast yet, and as I write this, they’re doing the live taping of Episode 303 — and I find myself having to explain to my colleagues what I’m laughing at (long story). However, the live broadcast for 302 was incredibly entertaining, and they have earned a regular fan here.

Keep up the great work, guys!

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 in his individual consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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Munich gets it right

November 26, 2012 Leave a comment

The fact that the German city of Munich has been using their own version of Linux and Free/Open Source Software in its municipal day-to-day workings is not news. It’s also no secret that the city of Munich was also saving money in the bargain as well, as the Lord Mayor (yeah, they have those in Munich) reported to the council; a savings of around 4 million euros, by the Lord Mayor’s estimation, according to a March 2012 report.

The problem is that the Lord Mayor was a little off — about 6 million euros off, as a matter of fact.

An article in The H last week reported that the savings to the city of Munich, thanks to its home-grown LiMux Linux operating system and FOSS programs like OpenOffice, have saved with German city 10 million euros.

The article itself breaks down the savings very nicely, and I don’t want to get into the OpenOffice/LibreOffice debate here (though, arguably, they can use LibreOffice just as easily, in my opinion, and they’d be better off doing so).

But what it comes down to is this: If Linux and FOSS can save a city like Munich this much money, how much could it save the cash-strapped cities, counties — heck, even states and this nation — by implementing Linux and FOSS at various government levels? This is not a new question, and I know groups like Code for America get it.

Armed with this information from Munich, it’s probably a good time to ask this question at city council halls far and wide.

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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Back to the future

October 29, 2012 5 comments

[This item, slightly edited, is copied from an earlier submission to the Larry the CrunchBang Guy blog.]

Unbeknown to my daughter Mimi — and, sadly, I don’t think she reads what her Dad writes in this blog often enough (and if she does, well, consider the surprise spoiled) — she’s about to inherit yet another of Dad’s hand-me-down computers.

First things first: I currently use a ZaReason Alto 3880 laptop running CrunchBang 10 Statler, which is a remarkable machine that, sadly, ZaReason doesn’t make anymore — time and improvements march on, and ZaReason has advanced this laptop series to the current Alto 4330.

My daughter, conversely, has been using for the past few years my old ThinkPad R40, a very sturdy, utilitaran and well-traveled laptop judging by all the stickers on the cover.

Enter a new development: Steam and Valve are ramping up gaming in Linux, and the old R40 — great for her artwork and creating 8-bit music, which takes up most of her digital life — has, well, performance issues when it comes to the higher horsepower needed for games. Her interest in games goes beyond playing them, and with this in mind, I’d like for her to have the better hardware when pitching in on the projects she wants to explore.

Personally, I blame Gabe Newell for Mimi wanting newer hardware, but never mind. Also, for those of you keeping score at home, shelling out for a new ZaReason laptop is out of the question until, at least, Christmas (especially after last week’s $600 car repair which we will not discuss. Ever).

So after saving a ThinkPad T42 from recycling doom recently, I’ve put Waldorf on it — the CrunchBang-11-20121015-i686 version, which works flawlessly (with one caveat, mentioned below) — and I’ll hand down the ZaReason to Mimi.

Now, you go girl.

In the past in other blogs, I’ve said that I am a ThinkPad guy and I have always loved the form factor. That hasn’t changed, and though I’m turning over the keys to the sports car to my daughter and relegating myself to the station wagon, I feel at home with almost any model of ThinkPad.

So back to the hardware I love while looking to the future.

One more thing: There have been installation issues in the past with Waldorf — and, for some reason, it seems to be happening mostly (if not solely) on ThinkPads — where the installation will hang at the “detect disks” point. It came up again yesterday with this current install, and while there’s an extensive discussion involving solutions here, my solution was more simple and straightforward: Disable floppy in the BIOS.

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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Money, meet mouth

October 22, 2012 3 comments

When I wrote my last blog item, I didn’t expect the kind of overwhelming response that I got, for which I am truly grateful. I also want to make sure that credit is given where credit is due: James Eriksen — merelyjim — of Fort Worth, Texas, wrote the original blog post and posted the same in the CrunchBang Talk forum, and I picked up the proverbial ball and ran with it. Thanks, James.

Also, just so you know I also walk the walk of the talk I talk, I had donated some money to a few FOSS projects that are near and dear to my heart. The amount, though stretching a budget that had a small surplus, is not that significant and I’m not aiming to have the spotlight shine on me. But I am proud to admit that I practice what I preach.

So when Ubuntu/Canonical earlier this month asked for a handout, I cut out the middleman and gave directly to Debian instead. You can do the same by going to the Software in the Public Interest site, where there are a whole host of worthy projects that require funding.

Also, to my distro of choice — CrunchBang — I gave a bit. Philip Newborough does an outstanding job and the team of forum denizens answering a tsunami of questions on a daily basis is a textbook case of how FOSS projects should work.

Beth Lynn Eicher’s Africa project got a donation as well — and to those who are still thinking about giving, she could use some help. She’s overseeing a project to get Edubuntu-based machines to schools in Ghana, and she may have to cut her trip short if more funds are not forthcoming.

From the time my daughter was in kindergarten, she was raised on Tux Paint, and for years we used that program. I would even credit the development of her current artistic talent to her use of the program. It was long past time I made a donation to New Breed Software and my apologies to Bill Kendrick and his crew for taking so long while they produced over the last decade some of the greatest educational software on the planet.

The Free Software Foundation has been getting $10 a month from me since 2006. I don’t always agree with the direction the FSF is taking and I find their leadership lacking in many ways, but I do believe in their principles. I also joined the Open Source Initiative when they opened the organization up for membership several months ago, and clearly I don’t see a conflict in belonging to both organizations.

Partimus, REGLUE and other projects near and dear to me, you’re next.

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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‘No thanks. I got Linux’

October 21, 2012 17 comments

Windows 8 will be unleashed, Kraken-like, on an awaiting public on Oct. 26, which is this Friday. For US$79.99 — let’s just round that up to US$80 — one can get the latest version of the Windows operating system which, by many reports, is not ideal yet not as bad a some of the other products Redmond has forced upon the public in the past.

A CrunchBang user with the handle merelyjim posted this thread on the CrunchBang forum under the title, “No thanks. I got Linux” where he thinks that this $80 can be better spent elsewhere — like on your current distro or your favorite FOSS program.

I urge you to read the full text on the link or read merelyjim’s original blog item, but I’ll let merelyjim drive here:

“It’s hard to express what Linux has done for me. I’ve learned more with Linux than I ever did with Windows. I’ve been part of dynamic communities that have engaged in passionate arguments, clever discussions, and crazy flame wars. Like family, you take the crazy (um… that would be me) with the funny. Instead of just allowing me to ‘try and make things work’ on my own, there were those who tried to nudge me along the right path, even when I didn’t want to see it. I have undying gratitude for those who were willing to share their time and experience with me, even though I never knew them in real life.

“So, on October 26th, 2012, instead of giving Microsoft $79.99 for Windows 8 upgrade, I’m going to donate the same amount to the Linux-distro I use the most.

“I invite you to join me in doing this.

“I don’t really care which distro; we’re all family. If you’d prefer, donate to a specific Open Source project, instead. As long as you give something that lets Paypal, Amazon, of Flattr know that something’s going on that day. If you can’t give monetarily, at least spread the word.

“I want the Linux community to show Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Oracle that we matter, we care for each other, and there are a lot more of us than they think. If you contribute, I hope you’ll e-mail or tweet whomever manufactured your machines so they’ll know you use their hardware running a Linux kernel.”

Amen to that, merelyjim.

There are a wide variety of projects you can donate to in the FOSS realm. Start with your distro of choice. Use a particular FOSS program often and find it useful? Most programs have donation links. There are even some projects that are not software related that deserve special mention: REGLUE, formerly the HeliOS Project, provides Linux-based computers to underprivileged kids in the Austin, Texas, area; Partimus puts Linux-based computers in schools in the San Francisco Bay Area; and one project that I find important is Beth Lynn Eicher’s effort to bring Edubuntu-based computers to schools in Ghana.

For those who do not have money to donate — been there, done that — you can always donate time, which in many cases can be more valuable than currency. If you program, there are places where you can pitch in on distros and FOSS programs across the board. Don’t program? Don’t worry — many projects have needs beyond the 0′s and 1′s that include things like documentation (for the writers out there), design (for the artists), translation (for the multilingual) . . . the list goes on. If you have a special skill set, programming or non-programming, there’s something for you to do.

Got some ideas on where to donate? Post them in the comments.

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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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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A tale of two tablets

June 16, 2012 6 comments

On Monday, Microsoft is supposed to make an earth-shattering announcement in Los Angeles in a press conference so secret that not even the press knows where to go yet. Apparently, they’ll find out where they need to go on Monday morning for this ultra-mega-super-secret “announcement.”

My bet is that they’re buying Nokia. After all, they’ve already planted one of their executives as Nokia CEO, who essentially and for all intents and purposes scorched the Nokia earth below his feet and trashed the company, making it ripe for the picking.

Of course, there’s an outside chance, too, that the conventional wisdom may be correct and they’re going to be releasing their own tablet with Windows 8, which is what the New York Times thinks.

Or Microsoft is merging with Canonical to become Canonisoft. OK, so maybe that’s a stretch.

But I digress. Regardless of what happens in Los Angeles on Monday — tablet or Nokia, or both — let’s say, for the sake of argument, that it has to do with one or both of these two topics.

Buying Nokia? Yawn.

Tablet? Oh, good luck with that. Sarcasm alert: Redmond is a hallmark of product quality and customer service. But seriously, if the tablet is as bad as the software Microsoft has put out for the last, oh, generation or so, coupled with their customer service which is the gold standard of awful, arguably releasing a new tablet with Windows 8 could be one of the biggest disasters since the Hindenberg.

Meanwhile, since we’re on the topic of tablets, let’s come up the coast a bit from the shrouded mystery of Los Angeles to sunny Berkeley, California, where ZaReason is busy putting together the final touches on their own tablet. If the activity in the IRC channel is any indication, they’re pretty close to having something ready for prime time fairly soon.

I had a chance to use the Android version of the tablet — rumor has it that the ZaReason tablet is being engineered with Ubuntu OS in mind — since I was entrusted with some of the ZaReason hardware that was shown at the joint ZaReason-CrunchBang table at Linux Fest Northwest.

Truth in advertising: I’m not a tablet guy by anyone’s definition of the phrase. But that said, many folks are drawn to the smaller form factor, and if that works for you, you should give the ZaReason tablet serious consideration once it’s released. It’s a solid machine, and the Android version we got to display at LFNW was met with a lot of enthusiasm by those attendees who are tablet and Android aficionadoes.

Also, when the ZaReason tablet is released, chances are it won’t be in some sort of secret press conference. And it won’t have Windows 8.

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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