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Happy birthday, Debian

August 15, 2013 1 comment

A quick reminder: Despite the fact that it’s still about eight hours to midnight where I am, in many parts of the world it’s already August 16, which is Debian’s birthday.

So raise a glass of whatever you’re drinking (whatever it may be) and wish one of the Linux pioneers a happy and hearty 20th birthday.

Here’s the message from Debian on the occasion.

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!

Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?

August 10, 2013 1 comment

Tomorrow at the solar-powered Felton Fire Station at 1 p.m., the Felton Linux Users Group is holding its monthly meeting, and we’re having a speak from Canonical coming to talk to us.

As one of the founders of the group and usually the one who kicks off the meeting and introduces guest speakers, I get to introduce him to the group before he speaks.

It’s a free ride when you already paid. Anyway, it should be fun.

Meanwhile, some of you may have had my Lavabit address — I had a Lavabit account and used it for CrunchBang/FOSS related e-mails. Of course, you probably heard by now about how Ladar Levison took the site down for reasons he can’t talk about, but are somewhat tied to his protecting the privacy of the 350,000 users on Lavabit (one of whom, reportedly, was an Edward Snowden, of NSA contractor fame).

I’m currently looking for a replacement.

So tomorrow, watch for the weekly Larry the Free Software Guy tome. It’ll be here, right on time.

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!

When did you start?

August 5, 2013 4 comments

Here’s another poll — and no, I’m not in this one — that is somewhat interesting brought to us by our friends at linuxquestions.org.

It’s a simple question: In what year did you start using Linux?

I’m always curious about when people started. I know many greybeards and gurus who were there at the start. It’s one of those perks that come with living close enough to the Silicon Valley to be able to drive a half-hour and be at the center of the digital universe, or so it seems sometimes.

I also know folks who just started as late as a month ago — they’re members of the Felton LUG who have happened upon Ubuntu and have just installed it to dual-boot for now, and hopefully later on they’ll drop Windows and keep using a FOSS-based operating system.

And I know folks who fall between these two extremes.

My vote goes to 2006-07. I started in mid-2006 and the chance meeting with Linux was purely political. I had won an uncontested primary for the Green Party’s nomination for Insurance Commissioner of California and, as a Green, I didn’t take corporate contributions. Faced with the prospect of having to buy Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop to make campaign materials, the IT guy for the California Green Party asked me if I had heard of “Free/Open Source Software.” I hadn’t, but I was quickly brought up to speed: I didn’t need Adobe — there was Scribus and GIMP that would do the same thing. “Oh, and the Mac you have? It will run an operating system called Linux — try Debian and see how you like it.”

[Yeah, I had a Mac and for the longest time I was a big Linux-on-PowerPC guy.]

Long story short: I came up about 47 percent of the vote short of winning the election, no surprise there for a third-party candidate, garnering 2.3 percent (in California, that’s 270,218 folks who voted for me; the highest total for Greens that year). However, during the course of the campaign — driving around California during the campaign — I kept thinking about what a great concept the Free/Open Source Software paradigm is and how beneficial it could be for society in general.

So after the election, I gave up partisan politics to advocate for Free/Open Source Software instead, which is what I’ve been doing ever since.

When did you start? Go vote, and then tell your story in the comments below. I’d be interested to hear when and how you got started.

Oh, and one more thing: If you haven’t voted in the FOSS Force poll, you can do that here.

Oh, and one more other thing: Ubuntu Edge.

There. I said it. Now that I mentioned Ubuntu Edge, I have to post this.

Every time I mention Ubuntu Edge in a blog post, I am going to mention this. I still strongly advocate for folks to donate to the following groups instead of giving millions to Canonical. Give instead to:

Reglue (especially Reglue, for bringing Linux boxes to underprivileged kids in the Austin, Texas, area)

Partimus (bringing Linux boxes to classrooms in the San Francisco Bay Area)

CrunchBang (or your favorite distro, if it accepts donations)

Tux4Kids (the folks who bring you Tux Paint and other educational FOSS programs across platforms)

Or even taking a look at the list of projects at Software for the Public Interest and choose one of those.

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!

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!

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!

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