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How we do things here

March 22, 2012 2 comments

This is how things are done in these parts: I don’t want to speak for him because I know my friend Don Parris has his own explanation for it (which he outlines on his blog here), but it appears that while building up his bash scripting skills, he noticed a certain finality to deleting filed in bash. So he wrote a script to keep the files around in case there’s an “oops-I-needed-that-file-after-all” moment.

So Don did what we do in these parts, this paradigm known as FOSS: He wrote his own script. Not only this, he put it under the GPL and put it out for the benefit of the wide world to use.

Is it something that will be widely adopted and catapult Don to a nomination for the Nobel? Probably not. But for those of us who would use it, it’s a pretty nifty tool, and my hat is off to Don and the Bash Trashman (which you can get at the link two paragraphs up, and note to Don: I sort of like Brash myself, but snicker uncontrollably at the thought of calling it Bashmaster, a la Bassmaster).

Because that’s how things are done here.

There’s a flip side to this coin, too: It’s when someone visits to a distro or a project and tells the community “Hey, you can do things better. Let me tell you how.”

I bring this up in the wake of a thread in the CrunchBang forums around what might — might — constitute improvements in that particular distribution. That’s reason number one. The second reason is that I’m guilty of this, too, and learned my lesson years ago.

While there is always room for improvement in anything, the changes the original poster suggests are things that are already found commonly in other distros and, arguably (as noted in the thread) CrunchBang’s strengths lie in what it “lacks” in the way of digital creature comforts as much as it lies in the great job Philip Newborough has done in putting together an Openbox-based distro that’s fast on old hardware and lightning quick on the newer stuff.

You’ve heard me say this before, mantra-like, and I’m going to have this etched on my tombstone: Use whatever distro/FOSS program works for you. This is one of those basic truths, like the inevitability of death and taxes and the inability to comprehend how gravity works, understanding the Wankel engine or the end of “2001: A Space Odyssey.” To go to one community set in their ways and say, “You know, you’d be a lot more popular if $LIST_OF_REASONS” doesn’t fly because, in the constellation of the 320-something distros in the Linux/BSD universe, there’s a distro out there that will do exactly what you want it to do. As it should be. And if this one doesn’t do it for you and you’re not using one that does work for you — opting to try to change it to your tastes instead of changing yours to fit the distro — you’re falling into the trap outlined in that popular Southern expression: “Never teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time, and it annoys the pig.”

To his credit (and I’m assuming the original poster is a he), the original poster has stuck with CrunchBang and he seems to be working out some of the bugs he’s finding. Also, one of the things I hope he’s finding is that there is a wealth of knowledge and education a question away in the CrunchBang forums, which is a huge and positive testament to that particular community.

As an aside, I use CrunchBang regularly as my primary distro because a.) I like it and b.) it does what I need it to do across a wide range of hardware which, say it with me, means it suits my needs. The fact that it’s a community with a wide range of smart people is a perk.

Which is as it should be.

(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!

A response to a FOSS skeptic

January 10, 2012 3 comments

Don Parris wrote a book a while back called “Penguin in the Pew.” The book is an outstanding guide for nonprofits — aimed at churches, but it can apply to any other nonprofit — in the way to use Free/Open Source Software, which Don like to call “libre,” but you know it’s the same thing.

SCALE 10XWhile the book is due for an update (I say, nudging Don . . .), I also have to confess that I’ve used the points the book makes to apply to the for-profit business advantages of using FOSS in a business environment. This is important to me in my work at Redwood Digital Research, where a great part of our business is to provide small businesses and home offices with FOSS solutions instead of the closed-source proprietary software they are, for the most part, forced to use.

But I digress. Don wrote a brilliant blog item this morning in crossing verbal swords with a FOSS skeptic. It starts out as follows:

“Someone I know well and admire greatly recently sent me a question about the premise of my book, ‘Penguin in the Pew.’ His question, I think, reflects the mindset of many who remain outside the realm of the libre software domain. It has taken me some time to get around to answering his question, but I thought I would expand on my response to him here on my blog.”

And that he does, in a very complete, civil and concise way. It’s definitely worth a read.

Meanwhile, I have two presentations (three if you count the UpSCALE talk I’m doing with my daughter Mimi), a tsunami of press releases and other media work to do for SCALE 10X before next weekend (not to mention studying for the LPI-1 exam), so posts are going to be a little sparse over the next two weeks; unless, of course, they’re about SCALE. That could be disappointing to some and a relief to others.

But, as always, watch this space.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing 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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