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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!

Letting the cat out of the box

June 30, 2013 7 comments

Another San Lorenzo Valley Sunday, charcoal burning everywhere . . .

A few items culled over an unreasonably hot week here in Felton — we’re talking the area being Miami with redwoods (but thankfully without humidity) — include:

Schrodinger’s Cat lives: After a go/no-go meeting last week which sided with the former, Fedora 19 “Schrodinger’s Cat” went gold and gets a non-radioactive green light for Tuesday, July 2. Curious about it, I downloaded the beta and put it on a Toshiba Satellite L455, ahem, “laptop” — a laptop if your lap is the size of, say, Andre the Giant’s — and the silver behemoth ran the beta flawlessly. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t review distro alphas or betas because it’s akin to sticking your finger in a bowl of batter and writing about how good (or bad) the cake will be once it’s finished.

I can tell you this: I do like what Fedora has done with the install process, so much so that it was worth the wait when Fedora 18 was delayed (and I could take this opportunity to launch into why a six-month release cycle leaves a lot to be desired, but I won’t, even though I just did). In addition, I think this one will be a good one, but you’ll have to find out when I write about it next week. Get more information, and take the living cat out of the box on Tuesday, here.

The best distros: Last week, I said that a FOSSForce.com write-up a few weeks ago about what constitutes a community distro was an “uncharacteristically ludicrous article posted by the usually right-on-the-mark” site for FOSS news and commentary. As a blogger, I live in the glass house known as FOSS commentary and, regardless, I still reserve the right to throw stones. I can also admit without reservation or apology that the history of this blog is strewn with dozens of blogged eggs laid over the past several years; enough eggs to feed omelets to a small army during the course of a military campaign.

That said, I should clarify that I thought the message, not the messenger, was sorely lacking. But Christine Hall makes up for the article I slammed, and gains extra yardage on the play, by writing a great “top five” distro article which concludes — spoiler alert — with this: “Just keep in mind, there really isn’t a best Linux distro, or even a list of five best Linux distros. There’s only a best distro for you, the job you need it to do and the equipment on which you need it to operate.”

Amen to that, Christine, and thanks for reciting the Larry the Free Software Guy mantra.

Widespread adoption of Unity? Not exactly: Like FOSSForce.com, LXer.com is also one of my daily stops on the web for news and commentary. Also, more entertaining is visiting the LXer.com discussion forums — yes, that’s a reflection of how exciting my life is; deal with it (I have) — and finding some interesting morsels.

One item has an original poster bemoaning the fact that people continue to beat up on Unity. While I find it hard to agree with his premise — for a variety of reasons on several levels, Unity deserves its reputation as the pinata it has become in the tech press, with little in the way of argument against — it did prompt me to think about this question: If Unity is such an outstanding desktop environment, why hasn’t it been widely adopted by other distros?

Think about it. Personal preferences aside, a metric which speaks to how good, or not, a desktop environment is would be its adoption by other distros. So you could describe Unity as having widespread appeal if you define “widespread appeal” as being adopted by 10 — count ‘em, 10 — distros other than Ubuntu.

If you’re keeping score at home, here’s the list of distros other than Ubuntu using Unity as a default desktop environment (with DistroWatch ranking in parentheses): DreamStudio (49), The People’s Republic of China’s Ubuntu Kylin (105), Hybride Linux (108), Vinux (110), Leeenux (165); Bio-Linux (174), Ubuntu Christian Edition (188), Oz Unity (195), iQuinixOS (261), and Baltix GNU/Linux (274).

OK, so I would argue that it’s not widespread adoption, for reasons I’ve mentioned in past blog posts — the posts you couldn’t scramble and serve with toast.

Oh, and one more thing: Lindependence rides again. We’re going to take Software Freedom Day in September and make it SFD-Lindependence Felton 2012, with all the trappings of the first one. More on this as plans develop. I would urge any group — Linux User Group, FOSS software-specific user groups, even the sectarian Ubuntu LoCos — to participate in Software Freedom Day by signing up here.

See you next Sunday, if not sooner.

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!

Midweek ramblings

April 4, 2013 Leave a comment

Well, on a rainy Thursday after the Giants took two of three games from the Dodgers — always a good thing now that baseball season has started — I thought I’d catch up on a couple of things that crossed the proverbial radar this week.

First, essayist Bruce Byfield wrote an interesting piece on Debian entitled “Nine Myths That Shouldn’t Stop You From Trying Debian,” which can be found here. I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t try Debian — it was my first distro, though I didn’t come back to it for good until about 18 months ago in the form of CrunchBang — but the points that Bruce makes about the perceptions of Debian in the wider FOSS world (and outside, for that matter) are ones that need both correcting, in those cases, or emphasis where it needs it. My favorite of all of them in Number 7: Unstable is Unstable — anyone who has used CrunchBang or the new distro VSIDO, based on Sid, knows what a misnomer “unstable” is, both in the form of much of the software and in the case of Sid itself. Fear of “testing” versions is something that may be falling by the wayside as the average Linux/FOSS user becomes more tech savvy.

Go and read it. It’s a good one.

Then, I sheepishly admit that after paying a bill to our friends at the service of internal revenue on the federal level (for those outside the U.S., those are taxes), I have had to consider parting ways with a laptop I saved from recycling doom, rebuilding it and using it for awhile. It’s a Tosihba Satellite L455 laptop that’s the size of an aircraft carrier, and it’s for sale (first $150 or so takes it). I reinstalled Linux on it, and rather than put on CrunchBang, I decided to use one of the Fedora 18 disks I got at SCALE this year to make the machine more useable for those who may not be regular Linux users (and if a Linux user buys it, then s/he will know what to do in putting the distro of their choice on it).

[Before you even begin to think about starting the question, here's why I didn't install Ubuntu or any of its desktop derivatives: Since the mid-teens -- around Fedora 14, maybe -- Fedora has been user-friendly enough for anyone to use and maintain. If Bruce Byfield wants to REALLY do some mythbusting, he might want to tackle that topic.]

Now I told you that story of the Toshiba to tell you this one: After I installed the “Desktop” version of Fedora 18 — that’s the GNOME desktop for those of you keeping score at home (though why Fedora doesn’t call it the GNOME desktop was always a mystery to me, even when I participated in the Fedora community) — I have to say that GNOME 3 has made great strides in becoming . . . how can I put this tactfully? . . . useable. In fact, it’s very agile and responsive on this 64-bit hardware and, after getting used to it, I can see where both experienced users can tweak it to their satisfaction, as well as how new users can get a handle on navigating it rather easily.

And, unlike Unity, it doesn’t spy on you by default. But that’s another topic for another time.

Time to head to the DMV — the Capitola office is always quick and I’ve never spent more than one hour there — and to the newspaper.

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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