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Coming up in 2009

December 29, 2008 11 comments

A lot has been written so far about what to expect next year — some valid, some not.

But has that ever stopped me from joining the year-end pile-on? Perish the thought.

So here are 10 things to expect in 2009.

Or not.

Remember, objects may be closer than they appear, and your mileage may vary.

10. 2009 will be the year of Linux. But so will 2010, as well as 2011 and 2012. In fact, by 2013, the last pair of eyes on the planet will finally glaze over when a Linux writer proclaims the following year to be the year of Linux, and the more thoughtful pundits will just know that it’s now understood that the next year will be our year, for whatever reason, and they’ll write about something a tad more significant.

9. Fedora 11 will outshine Fedora 10. As hard as it may be to believe — and after a month I still can’t find a flaw with Fedora 10 — Fedora 11 will be an encore performance of what can best be described as a rock-solid distro, even for machines that go back a few years (in my case, a Dell 5000 Inspiron laptop and a Dell Optiplex desktop). Sadly, people will continue to be under the mistaken impression that Fedora is too “cutting edge” for anyone other than the most experienced superuser who might be too lazy to negotiate the Gentoo labyrinth (yes, that’s a gauntlet thrown at the feet of my Fedora colleagues to work next year on dispelling that stupid myth . . . ).

8. The UFC pits Linus Torvalds and Richard Stallman against each other in a feature bout. What happens though is not one of those ridiculous near-death experiences for some poor troglodyte who normally gets suckered into the ring, but an epiphany for the entire FOSS community: Stallman and Torvalds meet at mid-ring and circle each other warily. Stallman opens the bout by saying maybe he was a little hasty in demanding GNU be stuck on the front of Linux, but Torvalds comes back with openly welcoming the option of joining the two names. Barriers between open source and free software dissolve. GNOME and KDE advocates embrace in a worldwide “kumbaya.” Planets align. Then I wake up.

7. Zenwalk increases the pace of its development. It becomes Zenrun, and in finding that they can add and release improvements to an already above-average distro at an even faster pace, they rename it Zenfly in 2010.

6. Lindependence comes to Redmond, Wash. The hall is rented, the fliers posted, and the riot police stand at the ready, but they remain wary since they don’t want to repeat the WTO fiasco in Seattle a decade ago. Nevertheless, yours truly — in a tribute to another overweight bald guy in the digital industry — opens the event with an insane onstage monkey dance that also brings him to within inches of a heart attack while Ken Starks unsuccessfully diverts the press’ attention. The Digital Tipping Point’s Christian Einfeldt, however, gets it all on video. Meanwhile, Debian, Fedora, Mandriva, OpenSUSE and Ubuntu reps — along with others who choose to join Lindependence in 2009 — hand out live CDs and demonstrate their distros. Yes, that’s Red Hat’s “Truth Happens” video (click here for Quick Time fans) looping in the background all the while.

5. Mandriva gets in touch with its feminine side. This distro renames itself Womandriva and becomes a more reasonable, nurturing distro, finally dropping the adolescent Mandrake zeitgeist from its early days. The distro’s leadership also realizes what a huge mistake it was to let Adam Williamson go and rectifies that situation, adding a huge bonus to his salary.

4. The Madagascar Penguins join Tux as the Linux mascots. Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and the Private make Tux one of their own in their commando unit. Incidentally — this is true (you can look it up) — on the Madagascar DVD, the penguins provide their own commentary on their scenes. When Private is struggling to operate a computer while taking over the ship, Skipper comments, “What are you doing up there, playing Tetris? You told me you knew Linux, Private!” Just smile and wave, boys, smile and wave.

3. Windows 7 will be worse than Vista, as hard as that may be to believe. This development will result in yet another $30 million Microsoft ad campaign diverting attention from this latest offering. Realizing they picked the wrong Seinfeld character in their first campaign, the ad agency casts Jason Alexander with Bill Gates, making Gates look like the “cool one” in comparison.

2. Everyone joins the Ubuntu family. In an effort not to confuse brand new GNU/Linux users with the daunting tasks of trying to wrap their minds around 350 different distributions, distros give themselves new names: Fedbuntu, Debuntu, openBUNTU, Sabayuntu, Damn Small Buntu, CentBuntu, Dreambuntu, Slackbuntu, Pupbuntu, Mepbuntu, gNewBuntu, among others. Solbuntis and OpenSolbuntis also join the ranks.

1. Linux Foundation’s “I’m Linux” video contest’s winning entry grabs an Oscar. After Apple’s “I’m a Mac” ad campaign, and Microsoft following with a painfully original “I’m a PC” theme, the Linux Foundation garners thousands of entries in its “I’m Linux” video contest. The Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences nominates the winner, which ends up awing those judging and the statuette for Best Short Film goes to the winner.

There are other developments, like the conflicts that the new OpenBSD Christian Edition causes, which may be addressed in a later blog.

Have a happy and prosperous new year.

[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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Eight Distros a Week: Epilogue

February 16, 2008 1 comment

Eight distros. Seven days. One tired blogger.

In seven words, that pretty much wraps up the “Eight Distros a Week” series, named after (of course) the Beatles song “Eight Days a Week.”

I have used more than eight distros — AntiX, Debian, Fedora, Fluxbuntu, gNewSense, Linux Mint, Wolvix and Xubuntu — but these eight are the ones that I use most, talk about most and would recommend to those looking for a distro.

I do sometimes — and have in the past — used others. These include:

Yellow Dog Linux: While Yellow Dog seems to be putting its proverbial eggs in the PlayStation 3 basket, the distro does have a history as being the distro for Macs. Yellow Dog 3 “Sirius” is a better-than-average distro for Old World Macs using BootX on a separate partition, and its Red Hat roots make is very adequate for those Macs that predate the turn of the 21st century. However — you knew that was coming — Terra Soft Solutions, the parent company for Yellow Dog, is not exactly the most user-friendly company, unless you plop down $70 for an “Enhanced User Account” for YDL.net. By the way, if you’re tired of digging around for the download page for Yellow Dog, it’s here. You’re welcome.

Red Hat: I use Red Hat at school (Go Cabrillo College Seahawks!). Red Hat works behind the scenes for a variety of companies with which I have daily contact. As a distro, Red Hat is ubiquitous and there’s really nothing I can add to the volumes written by one of the oldest distros. It’s huge, it works, it’s corporate — what more can you say?

Mandriva: I can’t figure out Mandriva. At a recent installfest at Cabrillo College in Aptos, Calif., an 11-year-old installed Mandriva on his Dell boxes. In the process, I put it on a Dell box that was doing nothing but sitting there, and I thought the distro worked well. But I installed it once on a laptop and, for some reason, when I went to change the distro, the BIOS had changed to where I couldn’t boot from the CD. Easily fixed, of course, but the thing is I didn’t change the BIOS. My wife and daughter didn’t, and neither did the cat. Mysterious, I know, and more than likely it had nothing to do with the use of Mandriva, but until I can explain some of the strange things that happen when I try Mandriva, I’m avoiding it.

Knoppix: I’ve had this Knoppix CD that I’ve been carrying around for nearly two years, but it wasn’t until recently that I used it for an emergency. If there were a Nobel Prize for distros, Klaus Knopper should top the short list — not only was the disk helpful in solving my problem, I kept it on the machine for a significant amount of time while I waded through what it had to offer. It’s great, but I don’t use it too often.

Ubuntu: While I’m happy with Xubuntu, whenever I try Ubuntu on an Intel box or laptop, I keep thinking, “You know, this screams out ‘Debian’ to me,” and I generally lose interest. Another thing that usually keeps me at an arm’s length from Ubuntu is the split-screen syndrome — the Live CD always gives me a bonus in the screen department with two screens, and I know how to fix it (and do), but I have to say I’m just not a bandwagoner, although I recognize and appreciate Ubuntu’s contributions to FOSS.

One of the universal digital truths is that the difference between most distros is painfully minuscule, and that the object with having a plethora of options — some 350 active distros, according to Distrowatch‘s count — is the beauty behind the freedom of choice you have regarding what runs your computer.

[FSF Associate Member](Larry Cafiero, editor/publisher of Open Source and Free Software Reporter, is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)

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Eight Distros a Week: gNewSense 1.1

February 13, 2008 3 comments

[This is the fifth in an eight-part series on distros I use. These observations are based on distros running on one or more of the following hardware: Dell Inspiron 5000 laptop, an brandless Pentium III-based desktop, an IBM PL 300 Pentium II, an iMac G3 (Indigo) and an iBook G3. As the auto commercials say, your mileage may vary.]

A couple of Saturdays ago, I appeared as a guest on KUSP’s GeekSpeak radio show to talk about Free Software, and about two-thirds of what I said on the radio was about gNewSense.

Truth in advertising: I was on with Richard Stallman, who the panelists really wanted to speak to (and rightfully so), and my total contribution to the hour-long radio show was three sentences. But two sentences out of three praising gNewSense isn’t bad.

What I said on the show was that gNewSense was the only completely free-as-in-freedom distros I would recommend, and that I have already had one user converted from a proprietary OS to gNewSense.

The third sentence — I corrected the host on how to pronounce my name, I think.

Nevertheless, of all the distros providing true digital freedom, gNewSense stands out as probably the best performing and most stable distro available. To those for whom complete free-as-in-freedom programs with the distro is of vital importance, gNewSense provides suitable alternatives to other-than-free (for whatever reason) software; Burning Dog, for example, is the free (albeit domesticated?) replacement for Firefox as a Web browser. Rhythmbox works well on a PIII, as does Serpentine.

The KDE version of gNewSense, which I ran on the PIII desktop, ran through its paces flawlessly, although the caveat here is that I didn’t have an Internet connection and couldn’t put it through some on-line tests that I did with the laptop.

Whether you prefer GNOME or KDE — and I don’t mean to start a flame war here, and past posts have outlined where my desktop loyalties lie — bear in mind that both desktops run the OS suitably and makes a strong argument for running completely free.

Further, Ireland is beginning to stand out as a digital leader in Europe — both gNewSense and Linux Mint (which we’ll talk about tomorrow) are two testaments to how Eire is taking a lead in FOSS. So a toast with a pint of stout to the both Brian Brazil and Paul O’Malley — and the rest of the developers of gNewSense on either side of the Atlantic — for providing a great distro.

Coming tomorrow: Linux Mint 4.0 Darnya Xfce

[FSF Associate Member](Larry Cafiero, editor/publisher of Open Source and Free Software Reporter, is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)

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Smell like I sound

January 26, 2008 Leave a comment

All you ’80s denizens get the blog’s title, no doubt, but unless you spent that decade glued to MTV, the reference may be lost. But with a wink and a nod to those who still admit to being Duran Duran fans (of which I have to say I am not, nor have I ever been), I’ve been feeling a little wolflike lately, hungry or otherwise, thanks to my latest distro foray.

Being the happy distro wanderer that I am, I had a chance to put Wolvix 1.1.0 GNU/Linux, the Hunter version, on a Dell Inspiron 5000 laptop, and it easily enters into the group of distros that I think highly of, in general, and distros that I plan to use day to day, in particular.

Based on Slackware, Wolvix Hunter comes with a pretty wide array of “standard software” that provide the user with an assortment that, in some distros, you have to go get. For my purposes, getting gFTP and Bluefish — two programs I use a lot — without having to use a software updater to get them is a definite plus. Additionally, the number of items that come with Wolvix on the live CD download is probably the best, well-rounded selection of software I’ve encountered on a live CD.

But the most impressive item on this distro — other than it’s faster than I had expected on this Pentium III — is the Wolvix Control Panel. Chock full of every imaginable item you might need for maintenance and upkeep, the panel efficiently puts everything in one place.

Another plus is the Conky system monitor. Having encountered this first on the Fluxbox desktop on AntiX 6.5 Spartacus, I often wonder why this program isn’t more well-known or widely used. Geeky, perhaps, but still something that provides some vital — or at least interesting — information about what’s going on under the hood.

If you’re looking for a distro, you should give Wolvix a test run.

[For those of you keeping score at home, Wolvix joins (in alphabetical order), AntiX, Debian, Fedora, Fluxbuntu, gNewSense, Linux Mint, and Xubuntu in the list of distros I use regularly.]


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A day in the life

May 13, 2007 Leave a comment

Invariably, someone will ask me, “How’s your day going?” Most of the time, it’s a family member, but whomever is asking, the answer is usually “great” because, for the most part, it usually is. But what I do during the course of the day, in my capacity as editor/publisher of Open Source Reporter can be revealing.

Or not.

For those of you keeping score at home (and I don’t know why you would, to quote a San Francisco Giants announcer), this is what I do:

  • Turn on Computers 1 through 3 (eMac running OS X version 10.4; Indigo iMac running Xubuntu 6.10 and PowerMac G3 minitower with Sonnet G4 upgrade running Yellow Dog 3.0).
  • From behind the iMac, visit — usually in this order — Linux News, Distrowatch, Free Software Foundation, Open Source Reporter, Mad Penguin, and News Forge, before visiting the forums at Ubuntu (for any developments on Xubuntu), Linux Questions to get most of my questions answered (mostly on GNU/Linux) and gNewSense (which is a distro I don’t yet have because I don’t have the hardware for it, but I like the concept of a completely “free-as-in-freedom” distro).
  • Repeat the previous step throughout the day and contribute where I can and pass on the information I find out on OSR.
  • On another note . . .

    While visiting the Fluxbuntu Web site, I noticed that they had a screenshot for an Old World G3 PowerBook Wallstreet, just like the one I just sold (argh!). So I asked when the PowerPC version of this distro would be ready and I was told that it will be ready within a couple of weeks. I also learned that when you’re in an IRC chat, you don’t have to ask “Can I ask a question” (Duh! Sorry guys, that was me).

    [FSF Associate Member](Larry Cafiero, editor/publisher of Open Source Reporter, is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)

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    Day of the distro

    March 21, 2007 2 comments

    Whew. For the what-to-do-on-your-day-off file, try choosing a distro to go on an indigo iMac, which is what occupied my Tuesday (between trying to figure out why my network fizzled between Macs — something on which I am still working).

    Here are the players: indigo iMac, 128MB RAM, 7GB hard drive, and the 6.10 versions of Ubuntu, Xubuntu and Kubuntu; Gentoo 2006; Debian 3.1r5 (all 14 disks burned — sheesh); Slackintosh 11; OpenSUSE; Mandriva 2005 Limited Edition; and Fedora Core 4; some coffee; daughter Mirano’s observations (likes Mandriva’s Tux with the stars in his eyes) and the new cat perched in my lap after pulling him off the keyboard.

    The winner and new GNU/Linux operating system on this machine: Xubuntu 6.10. More on that in a minute.

    Debian disappoints: I don’t know why — and I’ll be the first to admit that it could be yours truly performing the ritual PEBKAC drill — but every time I try to install any version of Debian on any of my machines, it doesn’t work. I’m crushed because I first tried GNU/Linux using Debian installed on a friend’s machine and liked it. As a sentimental favorite, it’s one I’d really like to use. Yesterday, same thing: Downloads but can’t boot, and now I have 14 disks here . . . .

    Slackintosh, Gentoo and Fedora all gave me the option of the command line from which to continue and my futile efforts to go past that point proved fruitless. Again, the problem very likely comes from operator error, but a little guidance would be nice.

    OpenSUSE provided one of the world’s greatest mysteries. How can an installer just abruptly stop three or four times in exactly the same spot? Neat trick. Next . . . .

    The *buntus, lucky for me, were fairly idiot friendly. But Ubuntu 6.10 had a screen issue (as in an unresolvable black screen problem) that I couldn’t get fixed. Kubuntu was adequate, but the more I use various distros, the more I find myself gravitating toward Gnome rather than KDE for the desktop. Don’t get me wrong: In many ways, KDE is tres cool, but I find some of the features a little bit much for my computing use. But as the auto ads say, your mileage may vary. Xubuntu 6.10 provides a fairly clean and light desktop and it doesn’t appear that the learning curve will be all that great (which is why I avoided Kubuntu).

    So there you have it. As soon as I can get an Intel box (which is soon), I will probably try again, this time with additional distros that provide fully free software (free as in freedom, not price). These include gNewSense, BLAG, Ututo, and a fourth one that Richard Stallman mentioned in his speech in Berkeley that I can’t remember off the top of my head.

    [FSF Associate Member](Larry Cafiero, editor/publisher of Open Source Reporter, is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)

    GNU/Linux and BSD: What a zoo!

    February 27, 2007 Leave a comment

    I realize that this may be old hat — a fedora of any color — to long-time GNU/Linux users, so please indulge me on this discourse into the animal kingdom.

    One of the joys of having my daughter look over my shoulder while dealing with the GNU/Linux learning curve — despite learning a very colorful and spicy vocabulary (okay, that’s a joke: She gets enough of that when I bring her to the newspaper) — is that she’s enamored by the wide variety of characters that symbolize GNU/Linux (and GNU/Solaris) operating systems, to say nothing of those other-worldly (netherworldly?), but unbearably cute, BSD mascots.

    Granted, I’ve weighed in on my animal of use — the beast of burden on my Macs — in earlier blog postings, but as Mirano points out, there sure are a lot of animals out there (“. . . and why no chickens?” since she’s partial to chickens). But this observation, courtesy of a 9-year-old who puts together her own Web site with a classmate, started me thinking: Dang, the ethereal world of free software/open source software is full of animals — and we’re only talking about the mascots here.

    There are the standards
    GNU and Tux, the former for GNU’s Not Unix, and the latter being the ubiquitous, happy penguin Tux, symbolize GNU/Linux, although in the public mindset, these two animals should be thought of together rather than separately. But there has been an effort, especially around those in the free software movement, to rightfully link the two together, so we have GNU and Tux becoming superheroes battling the multinational corporate software hegemony, as shown below.

    As you know, nearly all the wide varieties of GNU/Linux distros have some variation on the theme, but mostly they have Tux as their mascot, without the GNU (pronounced “guh-new”) gnu (pronounced “new”). While we find that unfortunate and hope that developers will rightfully put the two together in their own mindset, and that of the public, we all have our favorites. I can’t get all of them into this blog, but if you comment on which ones I missed, I could give them a fair shake in a later posting.

    Who let the dogs out?
    Not all GNU/Linux distro mascots graze on the African plains or waddle and eat herring: Speaking of standard-bearers, one of the Linux-for-Macintosh pioneers was Yellow Dog Linux, which has long since expanded not only all the latest Mac hardware, but they’ve blazed a trail into the realm of operating systems for Sony’s PS3 — that’s a good dog, Potter! Despite the fact that I have several distros lined up and waiting to audition to be my GNU/Linux flavor of choice, I currently have Yellow Dog 3.0 on the Old World Macs that I use on a daily basis. Speaking of real dogs, Norway’s http://wolvix.org/”>Wolfix keeps the canine motif going, with their symbol being a little more direct: a wolf’s footprint.

    Reptilian GNU/Linux
    All jokes about Novell executives being legless reptiles for entering into an agreement with the evil empire of Redmond notwithstanding, SuSE has been represented by the noble reptilian iguana for years. It comes in a couple of flavors, Novell and their Enterprise Linux and the German-based OpenSUSE.

    Go Dolphins!
    Having grown up in Miami, I know a lot about Dolphins, even the ones that swim in the ocean. So it comes as no surprise that GNU/Linux mascots aren’t limited to land animals. In fact two distros distros — Zenwalk and OpenTLE — take to the seas with their mascots. Zenwalk is a French distro that asks the eternal question: Have you ever tried Zen computing? (although we would have asked, “What is the sound of one app clapping?”), and OpenTLE is a Thai distro for Thai users (and if you visit their sites, make sure you have your Thai fonts, because despite clicking on their British flag link, apparently they’re not ready for English-language visitors yet).

    Back on the savannah . . .
    With its mascot coming from the African grasslands, Nexenta, an American distro, brings an interesting twist to the GNU family: GNU/Solaris running on a Sun kernel. According to its Web site, “NexentaOS is a complete GNU-based open source operating system built on top of the OpenSolaris kernel and runtime . . . . NexentaOS is completely open source and free of any charge. It contains Apache, MySQL, Perl/Python/PHP, Firefox, Evolution, software update manager, Synaptic package manager, Gaim Instant Messenger, abiword, administration & development utilities, editors, graphics, GNOME, interpreters, libraries and many others. All of this is running on the state-of-the-art SunOS kernel.” Naturally they get such a long listing here thanks to the length of the giraffe’s neck.

    The devil made me do it
    Continuing on the mascots-from-hot-places theme, FreeBSD is (as they say on their Web site) “an advanced operating system . . . derived from BSD, the version of UNIX developed at the University of California, Berkeley” (which begs the question: Why didn’t developers adopt the bear, since UCB are the Golden Bears?). BSD distros tend to be devil-themed (like PC-BSD, although you have to go seaside for the OpenBSD’s blowfish), which may or may not lend itself to the suggestion that the devil is in the details, or that they’re hell to work with (and I’m on the side that says they’re not, so keep those cards and letters).

    Lower life forms
    Being lower on the food chain does not reflect the quality of http://www.dragonflybsd.org/”>DragonFly BSD, an operating system and environment originally based on FreeBSD. Going even further down on the food chain — down to plants — a stylized tree represents gNewSense, one of our favorite distros due to its commitment to free software, and Slax has its four-leaf clover (that I’ve overlooked before, but not now) as a symbol.

    Once again, I know I’m missing some of your favorite distros and their mascots — and if so, please comment below and I’ll make sure I get it mentioned in another posting.

    [FSF Associate Member]

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