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Looking back, looking ahead

December 29, 2010 3 comments

Now that I have finally disengaged myself from the what is commercially and socially — and for some, spiritually (and God bless you, every one) — known as “the holiday season,” I have been giving a lot of thought to how good a year 2010 was, the Sun purchase by Oracle and the Novell deal notwithstanding, and what 2011 has to offer.

It looks like 2011 will be the year of the Linux deskt . . . I’m sorry, what? Oh. Well, never mind. Let’s skip that one

Looking back at 2010, most recently we had both Russia and Cuba going to FOSS, which must prove Steve Ballmer right about Linux being Communist. After all, I think a young Linus Torvalds was able to see Russia from his house a lot better than Sarah Palin could from Wasilla. Meanwhile, Red Hat — oh, what’s in a name anyway, comrade? — became poised to be the first billion-dollar Linux company and stats show that they are gaining market share in the corporate server world. Go, Shadowman! And there’s that little green space cadet Android making gains in the various markets where it now works. So despite an Apple/Microsoft shell company buying Novell and the other — and more evil — Larry essentially killing open source at what was once the Camelot-esque Sun, 2010 was a good year.

Of course, 2010 would not be complete without the introduction of Chux, the Linux distro developed by Chuck Norris — A Linux designed by Chuck Norris would require no backups, as it would be too scared of Chuck to fail, and the CPUs run faster to get away from Chuck Norris. You don’t boot it, it boots you. Go here to take a look here.

What would I like to see in 2011? Glad you asked. What would be nice would be:

Digital pundits not saying that 2011 is the year of the Linux desktop, because it’s won’t be. And that’s OK. Believe me, until this year when the San Francisco Giants won the World Series, I know the “wait-’til-next-year” drill very well. The year of the Linux desktop will come someday — as it should — but with all the advances Linux is making in server and smaller formats — yes, I’m looking at you, Android — we don’t have to put all our eggs in that basket to determine Linux a success. We don’t have to thump our proverbial chests and say “this year . . . the desktop,” and then when the end of the year rolls around and it isn’t, there’s not a whole lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth. To say nothing of garment-rending . . . . The fact of the matter is that Linux and FOSS are as healthy as they have ever been, Novell and Sun sale notwithstanding.


Go to the show: Linux shows and expos are popping up all over, so you really have no excuse in 2011 not to go to one. The established ones, like the Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE 9X this year) and OSCON, are now being joined by a whole host of other events throughout North America. Most recently, Indiana gets its own Linux festival in March, aptly titled the Indiana Linux Fest. It joins, in order of appearance (off the top of my head — and forgive me if I forget your expo), SCALE, Linux Fest Northwest, COSSFest in Calgary, Texas Linux Fest, Southeast Linux Fest (in the GNU South), OSCON, Ohio Linux Fest, and Utah Open Source Conference. You’ll find me at SCALE, Linux Fest Northwest, COSSFest (hopefully — if they let me out of the country), OSCON and Utah Open Source Conference on an annual basis.

Oh, and one more thing: Lindependence 2011 will be held in early July, around Independence Day, in Felton, California — where Lindependence started a couple of years ago.

Last, but certainly not least:

Large distros carrying their weight in the FOSS realm: First it was the GNOME study by David Neary that had Red Hat, Novell and others carrying the developmental mail for GNOME — Red Hat and Novell with 10-plus percent each — while Canonical came in at, wait for it, 1.03 percent. Fine. That’s been hashed out already both on these pages and elsewhere. But the Linux Foundation released its annual report on Linux kernel development late in the year — go ahead and get the PDF file here — and while you’re at it, you might want to do a search for Canonical to see how often it shows up. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t. And I’m just going to leave it at that, hoping that Canonical and/or Ubuntu shows up on next year’s report.

Let’s all have a great 2011.

[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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Happy birthday, Debian

August 17, 2010 Leave a comment

Recently — I think it was Sunday — Debian turned 17. While not yet quite old enough to drink or be drafted, it has still matured well and has been a standard bearer for GNU/Linux for a better part of its lifespan; arguably it has been the standard bearer for its entire life. Further, Debian can be blamed for allowing just about anything to run on Linux — Mac 68K series, PowerPC, Sparc, toaster ovens, electric toothbrushes, even Atari and Commodore 64, so I’m told.

My first exposure to Debian was on a PowerPC-based Indigo iMac, which I still have and which is still running upgraded versions of Debian. In a FOSS world where six-month release cycles are the unfortunate norm, Debian stands out by providing updates to the system when it’s good and ready.

My hat — a Fedora of course — is off to Debian. Thank you, guys and gals, for all you’ve done and for all you do.

Go here to wish Debian a happy birthday and share your experiences with them. If you like, tell them Larry the Free Software Guy, who cut his teeth on Debian, sent you.

Now get out your natty clothing because tomorrow we’re going to a couple of shows.

[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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Zonker nails it

May 6, 2010 Leave a comment

One of the great things about someone else writing something you wish you had written — other than the fact that you don’t have to write it yourself — is that now, thanks to the Internet, you can just link to an on-line written work and say, “Yeah, what he said.”

On the issue of getting started with a distro as a contributor — and I hope you are all contributors at some level (and if you’re not, here’s your chance to make up lost ground) — Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier nails it in his latest blog item on the topic.

Go there now — it’s worth the read. Thanks, Zonk!

[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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Hey, your distro sucks!

March 26, 2009 17 comments

I’m sitting in a room at HeliOS Solutions West/Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, at the foot of the Santa Cruz Mountains, with computers running primarly Fedora. However, there are also boxes (going clockwise from where I’m sitting) running OpenSUSE, AntiX Mepis (it’s old), Debian, Xubuntu and Ubuntu.

“So?” You’re asking yourself, and that’s a valid question. This first-paragraph revelation will make more sense at the end.

Having said this, there are few things I like more than working a booth — usually dbEntrance or Fedora — at various shows, whether it’s a large one like LinuxWorld or the Southern California Linux Expo (SCaLE), or even talking up Free/Open Source Software in the minuscule venue of a LUG meeting.

Discussing in good faith the likeness and difference between distros, between desktop environments, and between FOSS programs is something that is part of the process; the process that helps uplifts all of us — those using different distros, different desktop environments and different FOSS programs — in this thing called the Free/Open Source Software community.

Helping in good faith people who ask — whether it’s something in Fedora that doesn’t work for a user or something in another distro that is not working — is a common and unavoidable occurrence at all show levels, and it’s good to be able to get someone’s problem solved, assuming you show him/her what’s wrong. It’s the teach-a-man-to-fish-and-feed-him-for-life concept in action.

In good faith: Those are the three key words here.

I bring up those three simple words because invariably at Linux shows like LinuxWorld and SCaLE you have some who don’t follow the “in good faith” part of this equation. You know who they are (and you know who you are): These are the folks who will come to any given booth and essentially tell you what’s wrong with your distro/software/hardware, without offering a shred of evidence, an inkling of cause, or the remote possibilty of a solution to their, um, “revealing discovery.”

They’ll continue by asking why your distro/software/hardware can’t solve world hunger, put astronauts on Mars and cure cancer, among other impossibilities.

In short, their schtick is simple: Your distro/software/hardware sucks and you’re pretty lucky I’m here to tell you why.

A word to those who persist in this behavior: Stop.

It may come as a shock to you that you — and you alone — are the only one impressed with your knowledge and self-importance. In reality, everyone else thinks you’re a world-class, Olympic-caliber annoyance. Rather than helping, you’re getting in the way of those who are trying to assist others who may not be as experienced, and certainly aren’t as arrogant, as you.

So either help us with your degree of knowledge without rubbing anyone else’s nose in it, or just step the hell aside.

Folks tried to spar with me at SCaLE last month, but I blew them off — different strokes for different folks. This issue, however, actually came to a head when Red Hat’s Karsten Wade and I were getting dinner to take on the road on Sunday evening and I was confronted by one of the dogmatards whom I had spoken to earlier in the day. Not being in the mood for hearing an additional litany of what was wrong with Fedora, I just nodded and shrugged while being “schooled” about what was lacking in the distro. But Karsten took a more proactive approach, which was described by Karsten’s response to an item in the previous blog post.

Now the reason I brought up Felton: I’m primarily a Fedora user and prefer Fedora over the rest of those mentioned in the first paragraph. However I use the other distros mentioned above. I’m also game to try others; the history of this blog bears me out — google “eight distros a week” and see what you get. Some of the machines here run GNOME, some KDE, some Xfce, and one on Fluxbox. I’m not an expert at any of them, nor am I married to any of them.

Naturally, I’m open to sharing what I do know with anyone who asks. With nearly three years under my belt on the GNU/Linux side of all things digital, I realize that I’m a relative “newb” at this. Surprisingly I’m at peace with that, despite the fact I continue to learn.

So while I’m always interested to hear the error of my ways, whatever they may be, I’m really not interested in matching wits for the sake of matching wits. You want to prove you know more than I do? If that’s the biggest challenge of your day, then let me make this easy for you: You win.

Like most others, I have more important things to do.

[FSF Associate Member](Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs HeliOS Solutions West/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

Linux World, Day 1 (Tuesday)

August 6, 2008 1 comment

First things first: If you’re at Linux World in San Francisco this week, feel free to stop by the Fedora booth and say hello. For those of you keeping score at home, I’m a Fedora ambassador and I’ve been staffing the booth at the exhibition. If you aren’t at the show, you’re missing a good one. More details to follow.

Without further adeiu:

Hopping: The word from the floor is that this is a more subdued Linux World than years past, according to those who stopped by the Fedora booth (where I essentially was stationed all day). I couldn’t disagree more — this place was absolutely hopping on Tuesday and materials and media flew off the Fedora table. A very healthy crowd traversed the floor of the exhibition throughout the day, tapering off during times when sessions were, well, in session.

The crowd on day one was also a huge cross-section of people with a wide range of abilities. Those who are new to GNU/Linux and FOSS — those are the folks whose eyes are a tad wider than the others — were very receptive to our neighbors and us (we’re bounded on the north by Creative Commons, on the south by Bay Area LUG). All were great — and I certainly hope that those who are new to this find the same passion and satisfaction in FOSS that most of us already share.

Observation: Those show-goers who have more experience in GNU/LInux and FOSS generally fall into three categories: uniters, dividers and whiners.

The uniters “get it.” — they understand that, for all intents and purposes, we’re all in this together. Those are the folks I’ve talked to who may not use the same distro or desktop environment that I use, but realize that what’s good for one is good for everyone — we all rise up together. Generally speaking, these are the open-minded folks who keep FOSS afloat, regardless of one’s preferences.

The dividers, well, just don’t get it. The dividers, of which unfortunately there are many, would rather talk about how great their distro is and not pay attention to what you — another distro user — has to say. They come in different levels and garden varieties, but let’s look what could be (could be) more than coincidental happenstance on Tuesday. Exhibit A presents several CentOS users who have come to the Fedora booth to, essentially, tell us how great their distro is in comparison to ours; some without the courtesy to me (or anyone else) to hear us out about why we prefer our distro.

[Note to CentOS users at the show or beyond: Feel free to flame here, but bear in mind that I think CentOS is an excellent distro. However, if the centerpiece of CentOS's marketing plan is to trash other distros, then you may want to try something else.]

While I’m not one to shy away from a debate (or worse), I do have my diplomacy hat on during the show, so you won’t hear any arguments from me.

The whiners: That’s pretty self explanatory, and in more than a few instances, the reason they’re whining has something to do with a facet of a distro — any distro — that’s sort of impossible to address, at least digitally; and if it is addressable digitally, it’s so far removed from the normal course of the average computer user that it’s not included in the release (which begs the question for those advanced users who also double as whiners: Want that feature? Ever think of contributing it?). But this is what we hear: “You’re distro won’t run on my toaster and won’t walk the dog in the morning. What’s wrong with you guys?” A shrug and a smile kind of sends them on their way, and I’m not convinced there’s much we can do about them.

Who’s here: While the usual cast of characters are here, a couple of folks who deserve special mention are here so far and have stopped by the booth. Cathy and Earl Malmrose have the ZaReason booth up and running great guns a few booths down from us — go guys! Tod Landis of dbEntrance also came up from Boulder Creek and spent some time in the booth. Christian Einfeldt of the Digital Tipping Point, camera always at the ready, also got yet even more footage around the Lindependence event from the floor of the exhibition.

[Again, let me emphasize, as I did on camera, that I am not a slob — if it appears I haven’t shaved in several days, it’s because I haven’t: I’m regrowing my beard so I look more like my picture here.]

More from the floor of the show on Wednesday as things develop, connectivity willing.

[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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WWJR: What would Jesus run?

March 28, 2008 6 comments

You would think that during the 13 years of Catholic school I proudly survived (one, interestingly, in which Bill O’Reilly was my 10th grade American History teacher at Monsignor Edward Pace High School in suburban Miami), I would have remembered the part about Christianity and capitalism being one and the same thing.

Yet, over the last couple of days, I’ve had interactions — I wouldn’t necessarily call them “conversations” — with a Christian blogger who posted comments on my last two blogs, and who seems to think that those of us who are advocating FOSS are a bunch of pot-smoking, porn-surfing “librals”(his word, not mine) who are part of a communist plot to overrun the U.S. Not only this, it appears his beliefs run along the lines that Christianity and capitalism are synonymous, inseparably joined at the hip.

[As an aside, there is a great song by Todd Snider, “Conservative Christian Right-Wing Republican Straight White American Males” and the YouTube watch is well worth it.]

Nevertheless, the false theory that capitalism and Christianity are one and the same — the CEO Jesus Version 1.0 that this blogger seems to deify — started me thinking about a couple of things, namely:

  • He’s wrong about Jesus being a hardline capitalist, and I’ll just point to Matthew 21:12 for starters (other examples abound in the Bible), where ” . . . Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves . . . .” Of course, that would give Jesus something in common with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in the furniture tossing department, but I digress; and
  • If Jesus were a computer user, he’d definitely use GNU/Linux and not BSD, for clearly symbolic reasons. But what distro would he run?

Someone already beat me to the second part of that thought, actually. In the blog openjesus.org, Jesus “wrote” last May the following item:

“In my office I have a few machines, none more important than my Ubuntu box called king. I recently upgraded it to Feisty Fawn, so like some of you I’m going through a bit of an adjustment with some little things. Beryl quit working right, for instance. I could throw a miracle at it or fire up the old omniscience to just know how to fix it, but sometimes even Jesus likes to work things out. I’m a pretty good troubleshooter in my own right, I’ll have you know, and as a recent convert from Gentoo I sort of need something to be broken a little bit to really feel like my Linux desktop is dialed in. I’m sure some of you understand.”

As I wait for the laughter to die down, I have to say that this site could very well be the best satirical site ever (and the line about Gentoo — very true!). No, I’m not just saying that to curry favor with the author.

But it may answer the question what Jesus would run on his desktop. I would have voted for Ubuntu Christian Edition, but never mind. Now His laptop . . . I would be willing to bet Debian is somewhere in the mix, whether it’s Etch or a distro in the Debian family.

[FSF Associate Member](Larry Cafiero is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)

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