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Four simple words

January 26, 2014 3 comments

I wrote a blog item back in October 2011 that garnered the highest amount of hits (well into five figures), and the highest amount of comments (around 200), that this blog has ever achieved. Even the follow-up blog item garnered an abnormally high number of eyeballs. No, I’m not linking to either because I’d prefer not to go another round in the ring, so to speak, putting aside the fact that both blogs still get a considerable number of daily hits.

But if you Google “larry fsf” (no quotes), it comes up first — at least it did for me just now (sorry, “Larry Lessig”).

The back-and-forth in the comments is sometimes civil, sometimes not, and since this outpouring of vitriol — mine included — is abnormally high, I have given a lot of thought about the range of civility in the FOSS world.

I’ve been sitting on the following commentary for a long time. I even wrote an unpublished draft months ago that sits in the Larry the CrunchBang Guy draft queue because, well, I didn’t pull the trigger on writing about the incident in that forum which pushed over the first proverbial domino.

Personally speaking, I have no problem with the fact that I’m not going to agree with everyone, nor is everyone going to agree with me. My opinions, here and elsewhere, on the purposes and goals of Free/Open Source Software (or just about everything else) are going to clash with the opinions of others, and I’m at peace with that. In fact, I welcome the exchange of ideas with those with whom I may not agree to see if, perhaps, my mind can be changed, and conversely I would hope that others would take the same attitude. More often than not, I am disappointed here, but never mind. That’s another topic for another time.

So to those who “get it” — those who understand we’re not all of the same mind and there is room for debate and discussion, to say nothing of the fact that one does not have to be disagreeable in order to disagree — a deeply grateful “thank you” goes out to each one who deserves it. This item is not for you, though you’re welcome to continue reading.

It took me awhile to understand this, and as I’ve written in the past, there are times when the “current me” would take the “past me” and slap him in the back of the head, multiple times, and show him the best way, or at least the more civil way, to do things.

But I’m a little tired of appealing to some people — an annoying, yet tirelessly vocal, few — to be more understanding when they seemingly can’t hear me because they need their own individual proctologist to help each of them find their heads.

Nevertheless, this blog is a call out to those who don’t get it: The ones for whom dissent or disagreement is a good excuse to start playing “Call of Duty” verbally, escalating what started as a disagreement or a misunderstanding into a holy war with massive collateral damage.

The problem here is that this lack of civility, this absence of open-mindedness, and this departure from decent behavior scales in an enormous way in FOSS: from the new user warmed in the glow of their new-found FOSS enlightenment thinking their first distro is “the Holy Grail,” to some of those who got the ball rolling back in the day and are responsible for the world-altering digital movement in which we now find ourselves.

Most of the time we wrongfully give a pass to $FOSS_ICON because he or she is just “being $FOSS_ICON” when in reality we should be saying, “Seriously?”

“My way or the highway” is not a FOSS tenet. If you think it is, then the four simple words below are for you.

“Populating forums or IRC channels with troll-worthy posts and abusive behavior is clearly OK, and rules don’t apply to me especially when I have made it my sole purpose in life to shut people up who disagree on this insignificant issue.” If you think this way, then the four simple words below are for you.

“My desktop environment/FOSS program/Linux distro is the digital equivalent of perfection, we should all unite behind one (the one I’m using, of course), and if you disagree, you’re a moron.” If you think this way, then the four simple words below are for you.

“Not being mature enough to handle one’s behavior (or, in some cases, urges) in a large group of people, thereby forcing gatherings to enforce elaborate codes of conduct, is normal and acceptable.” If you think this way, then the four simple words below are for you.

There are more examples, but you get the point.

The Fedora Project, in a motto that embraces that distro’s workings and is oft-quoted in discussions, has boiled this concept down to five simple words: “Be excellent to each other.”

I’ve narrowed it down to four simple words: “Don’t be a douche.”

I’ll let you in on a secret, too: Adhering to these words, whether they’re Fedora’s or mine, also works in real life outside the FOSS realm. Don’t take my word for it — try it for yourself.

See you here next week. Agree or disagree, I’ll still be here, and you’re clearly welcome to return.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang Guy, Fosstafarian, Larry the Korora 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!

May the Fourth Be With You

May 4, 2013 4 comments

In what would rank as probably the shortest Larry the Free Software Guy blog item in the history of, well, Larry the Free Software Guy (and the blog’s predecessor, Larry the Open Source Guy), here’s a classic Mark Terranova mash-up of Red Hat’s Karsten Wade — Obi-Wade Kenobi — and Larry the Free Jedi Guy.

May the fourth — I mean, force — reamin strong with you always.

FOSS Wars 2

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!

Sometimes the best response is a shrug

September 22, 2011 3 comments

This week there was a sort of back-and-forth starting with Brian Proffitt in one blog item about Richard Stallman’s somewhat verbose Guardian article and a response by Bruce Byfield in a blog item about how he notices that lately people are picking on the Free Software Foundation. This kind of tete-a-tete is normally custom made for my participation, and last night I had thought about jumping in with both feet and an arm.

But you know what? Never mind. Just never mind. I had a whole blog item written last night. I went to bed. I woke up this morning and read my item. Then I deleted it. It’s just another “fuel, meet fire” situation that, despite my standard-issue remarkable and compelling prose (ahem), would have just removed focus from more important issues and would have created ill feelings.

So I’m just going to shrug, say “Ho-kay,” and write about something else.

Before I do, however, I will say that I do think Brian is right when he says that the Guardian article is another FSF broadside against open source, and that I don’t agree with Bruce’s arguments that the FSF is being picked on. Let’s look more importantly at the latter: The FSF does a lot of great things on behalf of software freedom, and does so with remarkably few resources. For this we are truly thankful. On the other hand, the FSF tragically has made an exact science of cultivating a “my way or highway” attitude (bring up dissenting viewpoints, as I have, and see how far you go), which makes its prevalent dogmatic stance a formula for organizational rigor mortis. For this reason alone (though there are others I won’t go into here), the FSF hand-delivers invitations for criticism — some of it deserved, some not — rather than than being victims of attacks for whatever reason externally. For all the great things he has done, Richard Stallman is largely responsible for this culture of dogma and rigidity, and when some — not me, but others — equate the FSF to being the FOSS equivalent of the Taliban, I’d like to argue against that comparison but, honestly, I really can’t.

But never mind.

Let’s go from one train wreck to another, shall we?

One of the items that is high on the tech radar today is the fact that Hewlett-Packard is about to push Leo Apotheker off the top of the building (the sentiments of some board members, it’s safe to say) and replace him with — I kid you not — Meg Whitman.

Meg Whitman. I would have prefered Slim Whitman — link to Wikipedia provided so the kids here don’t have to Google him. So while you read who he is, get off of my lawn.

This Whitman-for-Apotheker swap has been described as a “hangover solution” in one ZDNet blog item, a sort of “hair of the dog” after an all-night bender where the first question is, “I did . . . WHAT?!” And the best decisions are usually not made when you’re hung over. Hence we have Meg Whitman waiting in the wings when, according to people at HP, they have a very capable CEO choice in house with Ann Livermore.

While it would probably be best for HP to keep someone in house at the helm — that’s one vote for you, Ann, over Meg — whomever takes over hopefully will say, with one of their first utterances in charge, “Remember what we said about dumping our hardware and WebOS? We take that back.”

That would be nice, but on the whole that, too, probably deserves another shrug.

[FSF Associate Member] (Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software in his new home office. Watch this space.)

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Eliminate DRM!

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