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Down on the farm(ers market) with Linux

July 17, 2010 1 comment

Colonel Panik, my good friend and constant commenter to this blog, asked me to give you all some insights about what we’re finding at the Felton Farmers Market every Tuesday.

An order is an order, and Bob does outrank me.

So here’s what we’re finding in Felton:

More people are using Linux than come to the Felton LUG meeting: We’ve encountered roughly a dozen people in two weeks who live in Felton who use Linux who we’ve never seen at a meeting. My oft-echoed question, “Have you heard of Linux?” has been met with a constant “Yes,” and many of the people who have, and who have used (or are using) it are already using Ubuntu. I like to think this has something to do with the Lindependence events back in 2008, not to mention the Software Freedom Day events we’ve had here since 2007, but there’s no hard evidence to back this up. It’s just a hunch.

Most people are looking for digital alternatives: There are only a handful of people — I can only think of two in two weeks that we’ve had the table — that have no interest in FOSS after explaining what it is. In fact, a lot of people are looking for alternatives to the laundry list of maladies that accompany their daily Windows experience. In fact, easing them into FOSS with the OpenCD is a good way to introduce them to programs like OpenOffice.org and GIMP, and eventually we can get them to change operating systems to something — oh, I don’t know — free as in freedom and price?

“. . . I haven’t used it, but my $FAMILY_MEMBER has”: This is a common response by those who have not used Linux/FOSS themselves. This is a promising sign. Even though they may not be using it, at least they’re aware of it. Those who went home with a disk hopefully will know more about it and come back the following week with questions.

There are other things that amaze me: The Google engineer who stopped by the table — “Oh, I’d better know what Linux is.” — and others who work “over the hill,” as we call the Silicon Valley, who would stop with strawberries in hand to take a look at what we had, and take a disk or two to try out. Also, what amazes me is that a lot of youngsters — teens, of course — who have used FOSS and don’t mind spending their time at the table talking about things like “Will GIMP ever have only one window?”

Thanks for helping at the booth so far go to: Bob Lewis, my partner in Felton LUG organizing, who is one of the most sensible and passionate Linux evangelists I know; Karsten Wade, who brings his vast knowledge and rapier-quick wit, and OpenSource.com swag, to the table; Frank Adamson, the Ubuntu-using octogenarian who took his daily mile-walk to come to staff the table; and to Peter Belew, for making his talents available at the table.

See you next Tuesday. Coming up next: Reports from OSCON.

[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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Making the grade

May 13, 2010 1 comment

The Guide to Computer Training listed its Top 50 Open Source blogs on Tuesday, and included in the 50 — at number 20, no less (though I realized later that the list is in alphabetical order, so I didn’t really finish way ahead of Slashdot) — is yours truly and this blog.

After I picked myself up off the floor, I have to say I am beyond honored. It’s good to be in the company of these folks who regularly write about FOSS, GNU/Linux and Linux, especially Bruce Byfield, whose essays masquerading as blog posts appear thanks to Linux Magazine.

However, there are several blogs which stand head and shoulders above this one that deserve to be on that list which, for whatever reason, didn’t make make the cut.

So if you’re here from the Guide to Computer Training site, welcome, first of all; second, you need to add these five blogs — five which come immediately to mind, though there are many more — to the list that the previous site provides (as well as other blogs which readers are urged to add to the list in comments below):

Click, by Steven Rosenberg: This blog, which appears on the Los Angeles Daily News’ site, is always chock full of information as Steven traverses the Free/Open Source landscape using both GNU/Linux and BSD. Most, if not all, of his Debian/Ubuntu adventures are very informative and I’ve learned something from all of his blogs, even when I’ve disagreed with him (which, to my knowledge, has only been once).

Shallow Thoughts by Akkana Peck: Don’t be misled by the title — this is far and away the most educational blog over a wide variety of FOSS programs and issues that I have ever read. And it’s not the blog so much as Akkana writes about — and links to — her tutorials in the blog. All her tutorials are absolute gems, and our Christmas cards last year were produced, in large part, thanks to her GIMP tutorial. Since I live just “over the hill” from the Silicon Valley, I get the bonus of hearing her speak when she addresses local LUGs. But if you can find talks she has done, like her presentation on “Make Your Old Laptop a Ferrari” she gave at the Southern California Linux Expo earlier this year, it’s time well spent.

Blog of Helios by Ken Starks: To say that working with Ken is an honor would be a gross understatement. I met Ken when I gave him $10 toward putting Tux on the nose of an Indy car during the 2007 Indianapolis 500. Ken came to California during Lindependence in 2008, where we invited the entire town of Felton, California, to a church hall to see Linux and take home a Live CD or two. Now, Ken is giving underprivileged kids in the Austin, Texas, area a leg-up in providing Linux boxes to them through the HeliOS Project. Ken’s blog points out the highs and lows of bringing FOSS to the world, and his down-home humor that’s reminiscent of fellow Texan Jim Hightower — oooh, he’s going to hate me for saying that — is always a plus.

Dissociated Press by Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier: Zonker’s claim to fame, other than a nickname he picked up in college, is that he was the OpenSUSE Community Manager for the last couple of years. But what’s probably more interesting — and thankfully more important to those of us promoting FOSS — is that Joe’s talent and skill as a journalist precede, and thankfully now follows, his gig at OpenSUSE. He could be writing for any publication on any topic, but thankfully he’s writing about FOSS.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols‘ Computerworld Blog: More times than not, Steven is first out of the gate with FOSS news and developments, which alone would make his blog a must read. What’s more — and I mean this as a compliment — Steven’s not afraid to “go off the reservation” and write about non-FOSS issues as well. Everything on the blog is written with an artesian depth of understanding that points to his wide experience, and I get the sense that he embraces, Mencken-like, being FOSS’s resident curmudgeon. But I could be wrong . . . .

There are others that deserve to make the cut as well, and I’d urge you to add them to the comment list below.

And thanks, Guide to Computer Training — I will try to live up to your standards in being one of the Top 50.

[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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GNU/Linux meets the Dead

March 24, 2007 Leave a comment

Let’s talk avatars: I’ve never had one, only because my only experience with them have come at the hands of playing fantasy sports on Yahoo!, and because Yahoo! doesn’t have a balding, bearded 50-year-old avatar, I considered myself out of luck.

So after signing up to ask a question in the Ubuntu forums about why Xubuntu acts the way it does (and the question was answered quickly), I poked around in my profile to see what this avatar thing was all about. To my pleasant surprise, I found that I could make one within a various set of parameters and file types, and this allowed me to give GIMP a pretty good going-over.

Tux the DeadheadMerging two of my favorite things — GNU/Linux and the Grateful Dead — I made up the following avatar: Tux bearing the legendary Steal Your Face logo. I believe this avatar is in the area of 60-by-80 pixels and, if you like GNU/Linux and the Dead, feel free to use it. It was either that, or get the bears to wear Tux shirts, or have the dancing terrapins at Terrapin Station beating a tambourine with Tux on it. The possibilities of merging the two are boundless.

For my next trick, maybe using ImageMagick next time, we can have the Xubuntu symbol on Tux’s belly . . .

Nevertheless, again, it’s out there and it’s free to use. Credit me if you like, but it’s not mandatory.

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

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