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Perspective: Do you have it?

August 4, 2013 7 comments

[Blogger's Note: FOSS Force, which provides news and commentary on all things Free/Open Source, currently has a poll running to rank the Best Personal Linux or FOSS Blog, in which they include Larry the Free Software Guy. All the blogs are excellent, but I shamelessly admit that this is an appeal to vote for me. So if you like this blog, use one of your two first-round votes -- yes, you have two votes to vote for two blogs (not two of the same one) -- to vote for Larry the Free Software Guy. If you don't like this blog, cast your votes for two of the others: I'd vote for Ken Starks' Blog of Helios or write in Jim Eriksen's Jim's 2011 blog at http://jims2011.blogspot.com (write-ins must be accompanied by the URL). And whomever you choose in the privacy of the digital voting booth, thank you for voting!]

Grab some coffee. Perspective is important, and you’re going to be here for awhile.

mark_32milI had been sitting on this since midweek, thinking, “Well, if I give it a few days of thought and reflection, today’s post might be a more well-rounded item than shooting from the hip.” Which, of course, is true. If there’s anything I’ve learned in blogging as Larry the Free Software Guy over the past several years, it’s that when shooting from the hip, body counts usually follow.

That said, despite a litany of questionable and debatable premises involving unwashed masses, sitting around wringing our hands (I don’t know anyone doing that, do you?) and Windows’ “success” being the result of something other than having a monopoly in the market — maybe this is all sarcasm that I missed on multiple readings? — FOSS Force’s Christine Hall somehow miraculously reaches a valid conclusion in her midweek article about Mark Shuttleworth.

Forget nitpicking about certain points Hall makes that are well off-base — Ubuntu/Canonical’s lack of contributions back to the community is widely documented, and if someone brought Cadillac blueprints to the Yugo factory, the Yugo folks would probably laugh themselves into a change of underwear before asking, “Do you realize how much it would cost to retool our factory — any factory — to make a car for which the factory was not designed?”

Never mind all that: Christine Hall is right that Mark Shuttleworth has made a solid contribution to the desktop, and it’s a contribution for which we are grateful. No one has ever disputed that. However, it’s a contribution nestled upon laurels that are well-rested upon, and one that is well past its prime. Where once it was about putting Linux in front of people, it’s now about putting Mark’s Linux — his own Ubuntu OS brand of Linux — front and center and in the public eye.

That’s how the real world works, boys and girls. We get that. It’s unfair to think that Mark Shuttleworth shouldn’t make a profit on the heavy investment he’s made. That’s not — nor has it ever been — the issue here. What actually has been front-and-center is a variety of issues including, but clearly not limited to, treating the community in a less-than-open manner, picking up the mantle of Apple’s “reality distortion field” in taking credit for things it does not deserve (Debian is part of Ubuntu’s ecosphere — really, Mark?) and repeating once again not contributing back to FOSS in a manner expected of a entity that claims to be a leader in the field. Especially contributions back to FOSS, looking at the last couple of years: If the widespread adoption of Unity, to say nothing of the wider community’s embracing Mir so far, is any indication of Ubuntu/Canonical’s contributions back to the wider FOSS world . . . oh, wait.

So Mark Shuttleworth laid the groundwork for his enterprise on the backs of trusting developers contributing to a project which started out as a community effort, and now he’s ramping it up a notch, in a corporate way, to recoup his investment.

Again — regardless of whether it’s right or wrong, whether we agree or disagree, whether or not we think it’s disingenuous of Ubuntu to eventually coerce long-time community members to become serfs to Canonical’s profit margin — we get that. That’s how this works. Deal with it.

Which brings up another interesting scenario: Let’s say Canonical is wildly successful at Ubuntu Edge, goes off on that tangent as the phone/computer-hybrid-king-of-the world and leaves the FOSS realm to — pardon the pun — its own devices. It may even change licenses, or may even become closed: Taking into account the remote, but entirely possible, page from the Steve Jobs playbook that Mark Shuttleworth may choose to close the code, making Canonical into Canonisoft.

Would we even miss them once they’re gone?

A few years ago on a road trip to Linux Fest Northwest, Red Hat’s Karsten Wade and I had a discussion around this question: If Red Hat immediately pulled the plug on Fedora (or if Red Hat just disappeared — relax, Mark, that’s not happening), would Fedora exist? Assuming that all the data for the distro existed somewhere, which it does, the community would still continue in some form. But the consensus was that Fedora would continue without Red Hat if Red Hat didn’t exist.

The same could be said for Ubuntu, if Canonical ceased to exist. Ubuntu would clearly still exist, espcially since it has the luxury of having Debian as a fallback.

So while you are chowing down on this food for thought — well, a feast for thought worthy of Henry VIII — keep in perspective that Linux and FOSS have been growing and thriving before Ubuntu came along, and it will continue to grow and thrive whether Ubuntu/Canonical stays or goes. To say nothing of that desktop/laptop Linux and FOSS will continue on its march of progress, though I’ve already addressed that here.

This blog post could end here, except there’s dessert at 140-characters-per-spoonful, thanks to a series of tweets last night with the hashtag #linuxmalaise posted by my journalistic colleague Steven Rosenberg (Steven and I both work for different newspapers the same newspaper chain, though we both blog independently of our employers). If you’re not following @passthejoe, you should.

On Saturday night, Steven posted a series of interesting tweets that you should read, starting with:

“Is it just me, or do I sense a profound malaise in the #linux world? #linuxmalaise”

Which of course segues eventually to:

“So many put so much hope into the @Ubuntu basket, and after @canonical lost its mind over the past few years … #linuxmalaise”

There are others, but you get the idea. The fact of the matter is that Steven brings up a lot of things that many won’t say. Take a look.

Meanwhile, I think #linuxmalaise is a very valid subject to be discussing, so thanks for bringing it up, Steven (and I hope a blog post on it is forthcoming).

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!

I endorse this message

August 1, 2013 Leave a comment

FOSS Force, which provides news and commentary on all things Free/Open Source, currently has a poll running to rank the Best Personal Linux or FOSS Blog, in which they include Larry the Free Software Guy.

The key word here is “personal” — the commercial guys and gals who blog for larger e-publications are not part of the equation here.

I’m truly honored and humbled to be nominated. Thank you, FOSS Force.

So, if you have a minute or two to spare and are so inclined to vote for me here (he asks, groveling), I would be eternally grateful. Also, if you’re so inclined, feel free to repost this item on the social media outlet(s) of your choice, and tell your friends, family, milkman, letter carrier and everyone you meet on a daily basis to vote for me as well.

Also, in the first round you can vote for up to two blogs. This means, of course, you can vote for Larry the Free Software Guy AND another blog (but not for me twice, sadly — at least for me). Bear in mind, too, that FOSS Force has but the hammer down on multiple voting, so you can only vote for two blogs once and that’s it; as it should be.

I cast my two votes for me and for Blog of Helios, Ken Starks’ blog. It was a tough call because all the blogs listed are quality personal blogs and it’ll be interesting to see who makes it through the first round.

Bear in mind, too, that write-in votes (one of your two, of course) are also accepted. Make sure you write in the name of the blog AND the link (very important for your write-in vote to count).

For example, your write-in vote would look like the following: Larry the CrunchBang Guy http://larrythecrunchbangguy.wordpress.com

[See what I did there? :-) ]

The deadline for the first round of the poll is August 12th. Then, should I be fortunate to make the first round, you will hear more campaigning going forward.

Got a favorite? Post it below in the comments.

Thanks again, FOSS Force. See you at the polls.

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!

Taking the day off

July 21, 2013 Leave a comment

When the sky is this blue and the temperature is not blazing — a rarity in the San Lorenzo Valley during this hotter-than-average summer — it’s hard to concentrate on the screen in front of me and the words that are growing more meaningless with each one added to this paragraph.

So to hell with today’s blog. I’m going outside.

But before I go, there are a couple of things on the radar, of which you should be aware.

First, there’s an OLPC tablet now on sale out there at Walmart and hopefully other places (hopefully, I say, because not even that would get me into a Walmart). While I’m not crazy about the fact that it’s Walmart taking the lead here in selling it, I think it’s a good way to get some funding into the program — middle-class Americans kicking in by buying the tablet.

Sadly, the nimrods at Popular Science don’t think so and ask, in an online article, if the OLPC project has lost its way. Of course the question of whether Popular Science has lost its way is arguably more relevant, but let’s put that aside. The editors there may want to find their way to the nearest team of proctologists in order to help them find their heads.

My hat’s off to the OLPC folks for making this available, and to seek alternative sources of funding where sources are drying up. I think the tablet, though not a replacement for the XO, can be seen as a viable alternative to the original hardware, which incidentally could work in some environments. Also, making it available to the public can only help matters in making the hardware acceptable.

No, I’m not linking the article since I don’t want to drive viewers to the page. Use your friend Mr. Google if you have to go read the article, or you can just go to PopSci.com and see if you can find it there.

Oh, and if you’re an Ubuntu user who has an account on the Ubuntu forums? Congratulations, someone may now have your password. It seems our friends at Canonical — wait, that would be “your friends at Canonical,” because I am sure no one there would consider me their friend, if they wanted to keep their jobs and/or standing in the community — has suffered a massive data breach on its forums. All usernames, passwords, and email addresses were stolen.

Here’s ZDNet’s take on the story.

It would probably be a good idea to change your passwords across the board, if the password for your Ubuntu forum login is the same, or close, to other accounts elsewhere.

So now that I’ve fixed that — I did have an Ubuntu forum account from years ago, though I haven’t been there in at least two years (but why risk it?) — I think I’ll go outside.

[Postscript: Yesterday I realized that it was two years ago on July 20 that I had first posted to the CrunchBang forums and, after writing a blog item about the distro, I became a regular user of the Debian-under-Openbox system. I still use other distros on hardware I have in the house -- primarily Fedora, but other distros as well -- however CrunchBang is on the day-to-day ThinkPad that never leaves my side (awkward, of course, when I'm in the men's room, but still). Thanks for a great distro, Philip Newborough.]

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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