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Test driving Fuduntu

May 18, 2012 3 comments

In my talk at Linux Fest Northwest — and I say this often to anyone who will listen — I mentioned that there is a “digital Darwinism” at play in the FOSS paradigm. That is, distros and FOSS programs rise and fall depending on the quality of the software and the community that gathers around them. Good distros and programs — the “fittest” — survive, and the others, well, not so much.

That’s OK: It may be harsh, but such is the way of the FOSS world.

In case you’re wondering why I’ve started off on a tangent instead of going off on one somewhere in mid-blog, I bring this up because I think Fuduntu is one of those distros that can be a strong contributor to FOSS, not to mention a quality distro coupled with a growing community. That said, it has a bright future.

In giving the latest version of Fuduntu a ride — Fuduntu 2012.2 — it is a refereshing change of pace. Originally based on Fedora but later forked (and the installer will look very familiar to Fedora users), the distro — as the name Fuduntu implies — ties the best of two FOSS giants — Fedora and Ubuntu — and appears to be aimed at newer users, as opposed to the more seasoned veteran.

To say that Fuduntu is aimed at new users is not a knock against it. The distro’s simplicity is its strong suit. Clearly it is tweakable to those who have some Linux experience. But for those who don’t, it’s a distro that will be an easy gateway into the wonderful world of Linux.

Sidestepping all the personal preference nonsense that you don’t really care about — what works for me may not work for you — the distro itself performed quickly and efficiently on both a laptop (a MicroPC TransPort 2000 — an ancient throwback, I know) and a Dell Optiplex GX260 desktop (on the desktop, though, I only ran the live DVD from a USB drive). The GNOME desktop — the GNOME 2.32 version (thank God) — is a welcome sight on this distro. Banshee and VLC media player handle the music and video side of things effortlessly. Chromium is the Web browser of choice on Fuduntu, and it gets good grades for speed and usability. Overall, everything works — and works well — right out of the box.

Though I give Fuduntu high marks across the board, I think the Fuduntu team might want to consider adding an on-board (that is to say, a non-cloud) word processing program. It would beat the current offering of only Google Docs. Again, not to get into my personal preferences since I’m glad to add programs after the default install, a IRC client other than Pidgin (cough, Xchat, cough) would be nice, too.

But on the whole, Fuduntu offers much to a wide range of users.

My mantra is this: “Use what works for you.” Fuduntu is a solid distro and you can give Fuduntu a try by downloading it here.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software 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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An apology is owed

May 11, 2012 22 comments

It has been brought to my attention that I have been somewhat hard on a particular Linux distro and its esteemed project leader. I am told that I have said some mean and unfair things about this distro and its leader, and that I should take some time to rethink my position on said distro and the person in charge.

I have called this person some nasty names, mostly in private but sometimes in public. I have called him out in on these pixelized pages of Larry the Free Software Guy for what I think — or at least now I realize, I mistakenly thought — were ridiculous moves and questionable motives in making his Linux distribution.

It was arrogant, mean and stupid of me to be so unwaveringly rigid on my criticism over all this time, and I realize now that an apology is owed.

So please accept my heartfelt and sincere apology Andrew Wyatt, lead developer and project leader for Fuduntu, for all the things I’ve written and said about you and your project. Anyone who takes the time to create a Linux distro to push forward the wider FOSS paradigm — in the spirit of community and not with a me-first agenda — deserves much better than the shallow criticism I’ve heaped on you and Fuduntu in the past.

I’m very sorry.

Allow me to make it up to you by giving the latest version of Fuduntu a test drive for a review on this blog in the next few days.

Also, Andrew, I hope we can work together going forward for the betterment of the FOSS paradigm.

[You didn't really think I was going to apologize to The Mark and the Ubuntu Apocalypse, did you?]

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software 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!

Marginalia and minutiae

May 3, 2012 Leave a comment

Whew. First of all, I’m sorry I can’t make Utah Open Source Conference this weekend in Orem, but I wish I could. Here’s the thing: When you put two shows on back-to-back weekends, one of them gets the attention and the other . . . not so much. So while I’m still decompressing a bit from Linux Fest Northwest (and while my wallet smolders with burned-through credit cards), I have to pass on what is normally one of the highlights of the year for me. Sorry, guys and gals, you know I love UTOSC but I can’t make it this year.

Just to touch base on a couple of issues today while I still play catch-up after a great weekend in Bellingham:

Single-window GIMP: My prayers to the graphics program gods are answered, finally. Call me slow — I’ve been called worse — but finally GIMP 2.8 is out and, thankfully, it has the single-window that I’ve been waiting for, well, ever since I started using GIMP and would sometimes . . . OK, always . . . get hopefully lost among the multiple panels. Thank you, thank you, thank you, GIMP!

CrunchBang Waldorf right around the corner? The first CrunchBang 11 “Waldorf” development builds are now out — get them here — and it looks like Philip Newborough has produced another winner as soon as it officially leaves the starting blocks sometime soon. Currently I have it running on a ThinkPad T30 and it’s going great guns. If you’re feeling adventurous and want to give the development build a shot, download it and take a few laps.

Mark, Mark, Mark . . . tsk, tsk, tsk: I certainly hope Mark Shuttleworth has tasty shoes, because putting one foot in one’s mouth would require it; to say nothing of how unbecoming whining is, especially from someone trying to be the next Steve Jobs. In this Muktware blog item, The Mark whines about how Red Hat hampered Canonical’s participation with GNOME, which is probably just one observation on the issue, and arguably not exactly an objective one. I didn’t write it, but I wish I had — the first comment on the blog from TheWholeTruth speaks volumes to the real issue.

From Beefy Miracle to Spherical Cow: The Fedora 18 release name was voted on and the results are in: Spherical Cow. That may get the big “huh?” from a lot of folks, but to theoretical physicists and other scientists, Spherical Cow makes perfect sense. Also, it may be a quick sketch, but Juan Rodriguez has drawn an excellent adaptation of the Fedora logo to go along with it, unofficially of course.

One more thing: Happy Birthday to the Godfather of Soul, James Brown. Uhn! Yeah! Get on up-pah, and have a great birthday!

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software 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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Linux Fest Northwest makes its mark

May 1, 2012 1 comment

Those of us who have been to Linux shows, or especially have worked Linux shows, in the past know the drill. It’s something out of “Field of Dreams.” If you build it — the “it” here being a Linux event — they will come, and they will all seem to come right at Saturday morning at 9 sharp when the show officially starts.

They did just that at Linux Fest Northwest. Past its first decade of operation, LFNW has established itself as the premiere Linux event in the region and, as I’ve mentioned before, next to the Southern California Linux Expo, it’s the best show on the West Coast. For two days, geeks in the Northwest get to listen to top-notch presenters — as well as people like me — and visit exhibits from distros, software and hardware makers.

The Bellingham Linux Users Group and volunteers from other open source user groups in the area never fail to put on a great expo, and I think I speak for many attendees when I say that I’m deeply grateful for their efforts. About 1,200 people attended LFNW on the campus of Bellingham Technical College over the weekend. Thanks, LFNW folks.

Here’s a look at the weekend:

Not another distro . . .: Bill Smith and his wife Portia staffed the CrunchBang booth with me, and again my thanks go out to them for the help. Visitors to the booth ranged from those who knew what CrunchBang was to those who whined, “Not another distro . . .” To which I replied far too often, “Yes, another distro. This one is Debian with the OpenBox window manager,” before explaining the advantages of CrunchBang. “There’s a digital Darwinism at play here, with the good distros gathering a strong community and thriving, and others . . . not so much.” There were about 150 pieces of media burned — CDs and DVDs — all of which went out the door with prospective users. I, of course, will sit in the corner with the pointy hat because, truth be told, I forgot the banner and the “success kid” stickers made up for LFNW, but we’ll use ‘em next year.

Hello, I’m Greg DeKoenigsberg: The printed program had it right, as did the Web site. But the large poster on the wall on the Haskell classroom building on Saturday morning had Greg’s presentation on the schedule where I was giving the Intro to CrunchBang talk. With LFNW’s permission, Greg and I had switched presentation times more than a week prior to the event, since he was getting in late. But the poster outside the wall had the old schedule. Try as I might — which, of course, was not very hard — I could not convince the folks that I was the Eucalyptus VP. After an announcement that if you were there for Greg’s talk, it would be tomorrow, only a couple of people bailed out. As for my talk, it went as well as my talks usually go — no one was injured and law enforcement officials were nowhere to be found — and Scott Dowdle videotaped it, so as soon as that gets posted, I’ll let you know.

The (two) big thing(s): The big thing at Linux Fest Northwest — not including OpenSUSE rep Bryen Yunashko’s hat — was the Pogo Linux’s booth, which featured a full-fledged, sit-behind-the-wheel racing game with three large-screen monitors, where drivers navigated a course and prizes were given for the fastest laps. No, my racing days are far behind me, but from what I was told by someone who raced cars and turned the second fastest lap on Saturday, it was very realistic. Another big thing — bigger to the Android crowd, apparently, and arguably just as fast as the racing game — was the ZaReason tablet, which many folks tried out at our booth (ZaReason shared the CrunchBang booth at LFNW). Keep an eye on that, since this full-fledged Android tablet will be coming out very soon.

Hands across the water: It was a grand experiment, though operator error by yours truly may have kept it from being a huge success. But during the CrunchBang Birds of a Feather meetup on Sunday morning, we used a Google+ Hangout to raise CrunchBang lead developer Philip Newborough. Sort of. Despite getting dropped a couple of times — once because I hit the wrong key — we got to talk about the show, about what’s coming up for CrunchBang and things along those lines, and it was very informative for those in attendance. Thanks, Philip, and Rebecca Newborough as well, who in her capacity as the CrunchBang Community Leader also participated from the Lincoln side of things.

Bon mots: I’m still apologizing to Deb Nicholson for forgetting her surname in introducing her to Philip Newborough at the BoF on Sunday morning. You know you work with someone in FOSS circles for years and something like this happens . . . . A shout-out goes to Eric Craw, a new CrunchBang user from Washington who converted at Linux Fest Northwest. Not only did he start using CrunchBang, but he already started contributing code back to the project, showing that this is what FOSS is all about . . . . David Whitman of Hacker Public Radio gave me a few minutes of interview time at the end of Linux Fest Northwest, so all that thumping and loading in the background may or may not be audible once the interview is broadcast . . . . I drove 962 miles each way to attend LFNW, but this show is so great that I would have walked 962 miles to get to Bellingham. Again, kudos to the LFNW crew.

Start rumors: In my capacity as publicity chair for the Southern California Linux Expo, I finally got to sit down with my good friends Warren Sanders and Scott Dowdle, and two folks from the Big Sky Country that I hadn’t met — Rocky Mountain College’s Andrew Niemantsverdreit and Gary Bummer, who is Scott’s colleague at Montana State University — and the five of us discussed bringing an event to their area. So be on the lookout for Montana Linux Fest, or something like it, in 2013.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software 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!

Notes on Linux Fest Northwest

April 30, 2012 10 comments

I’m currently on the road in Oregon, heading back to the cozy confines of the redwoods of Felton, but I wanted to get a couple of notes down before posting a more comprehensive blog item at home about Linux Fest Northwest which was, in a word, outstanding.

First things first: I would venture to guess that there were more than 1,000 folks who showed up to the event, and I’ll try to dig up a more accurate number later. In fact, we had folks checking out the CrunchBang table before we had even set up around 9ish on Saturday morning. While the show, of course, had its Saturday morning tsunami of humanity followed by a more reasonable and slow-paced Sunday, it was never lacking the electricity that Linux expos usually transmit during the course of the weekend. Carl Symons and the rest of the crew at LFNW put on a great show, period.

The CrunchBang table: Bill Smith and his wife Portia did outstanding work staffing the booth, and my thanks go out to them for the help. It should be noted that Bill’s attire — a Tux vest — was great, and Portia had #! painted onto her nails. Needless to say, they were ready for the show. Many visitors to the table already knew what CrunchBang is, and some were, “What’s CrunchBang?” We gave away about 100 pieces of media and displayed on my old ThinkPad T30 and a newer ZaReason Alto 3880 how CrunchBang works across a wide range of computer hardware.

The ZaReason tablet: A last-minute request by computer-maker ZaReason had me splitting the table between CrunchBang and ZaReason, and one of the things that drew attention and cause some buzz is the tablet that ZaReason will be coming out with soon. We had one of them in the booth, and many folks thought it was pretty cool, though one person said it looked too much like an iPad (and I don’t believe that was a compliment).

Friends old and new: Seeing old friends and making new ones is one of the great things about the shows. Great as always to see Rikki Endsley, Robyn Bergeron, Deb Nicholson, Jeff Sandys, Greg DeKoenigsberg and others whose names I’ll remember between Springfield and Felton and try not to kick myself for forgetting while driving. A special shout out goes to Eric Craw, a new CrunchBang user who installed it after hearing my presentation on Saturday and immediately did some programming to submit to the distro.

I’ll get into more of the nuts-and-bolts of the show in the next blog item when I return home, like getting to start my presentation on Saturday morning with “Hello, I’m Greg DeKoenigsberg” (in my best Johnny Cash) and more details on my talk and the hands-across-the-water CrunchBang Birds of a Feather meetup. But it’s about time to get back on Interstate 5 and head south.

(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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PowerPC still lives in Fedora

April 10, 2012 6 comments

For the 0.5 percent of the folks who to which this tidbit pertains — that would be the Linux-on-PowerPC crowd . . . er, group . . . er, trio — the Fedora Project released the alpha version of its Fedora 17 PowerPC version. The release notes are here.

Many long-time readers of this blog who are not family (and even those who are) know that I’ve always had a soft spot for older Macintosh hardware, and those of you who admit to knowing me for a long time know that I’ve had several PowerPC machines running various distros, mostly Debian and Fedora, but a couple of OpenSUSE boxes, too (while it lasted, the G4 tower ran great on OpenSUSE’s PPC version before they gave it the heave-ho). I even mourned briefly against the demise of the PowerPC architecture, but I understand that if 0.5 percent of the Linux community is using a particular architecture, it’s a good idea to probably put resources elsewhere.

So it became Debian who kept the flame alive, until Fedora picked it up again. Thanks, Fedora, and now I’ll try this on the eMac that’s collecting dust in the corner.

(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!

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!

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