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Unpacked and back, but Microsoft is still here

July 19, 2011 Leave a comment


OSCON 2011
Next up: OSCON. Get there if you can, and give them my regards because I can’t make it this year :-(

For those few of you who might have missed this blog, I do apologize. As many of you know, I have moved about three miles down the road to beautiful downtown Felton, about a half-mile south of the traffic light on Highway 9 — say it with me: “That enough directions for Felton.” It has taken me fairly close to a month to unpack and sort out the new place; unpacking included taking things out of boxes, asking “Do I really need this?” And then putting away what I do need and taking what I don’t to the Abbot’s Thrift Store down the street.

But enough about me.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols recently wrote a piece on ZDNet that has caused some brouhaha in Linux and FOSS circles. It’s a classic tempest-in-a-teapot issue: Microsoft — horrors! — is one of the top five corporate contributors to Linux kernel development and, if you just read the headline, it implies that Microsoft is fifth on the list top contributors.

Well, to paraphrase Paul Harvey (you’ll have to google him, kids), here’s the rest of the story: Microsoft is fifth on the list of corporate contributors to the Linux kernel and 15th overall on the list. They’re behind Red Hat, Intel, Novell and IBM on the corporate list, and 15th overall.

While SJVN aptly outlines the scenario which causes Microsoft to come to the table — virtualization — what is not said, but stands out, to me is that between the four corporate contributors ahead of Microsoft and the 15th overall position that Microsoft holds are 10 non-corporate contributors to the kernel, meaning for all intents and purposes, individuals who are working for the greater good and not for some corporate benefit that Linux provides.

I have not had a chance to see the original article on Linux Weekly News from which SJVN bases his column, thanks to not having a subscription. But I would be interested to see who and what is ranked where.

[Also, I'm not going anywhere near remotely bringing up where Canonical is on the list of corporate contributors to the Linux kernel. Uh uh. Not me. No way.]

Of course the FUDmeisters are spinning this for all it’s worth – Stop the presses! Microsoft a top Linux kernel contributor! — but SJVN puts it all in perspective and while it’s certainly decent of the corporate giant from Redmond to help improve Hyper-V and Linux interoperability, it’s not a sign of the apocalypse by any matter of means.

However, as one comment to SJVN’s post points out, you don’t turn your back on a coiled snake.

Watch this space, as well as that snake.

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.

[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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The curse of G-before-N

May 19, 2011 6 comments

Linux for the GNU South – Attend if you can.

During her visit to Budapest where she was part of the Ubuntu Developers Summit, Linux Pro’s associate publisher Rikki Kite posted this on Facebook:

“My geeky friends who pronounce ‘gnome’ as ‘ga-nome’ and ‘gnu’ as ‘ga-new’ might appreciate this -> I saw gnocchi on the buffet at UDS and said, ‘Oh, good, ga-no-kee.’ I ka-new it sounded wrong as soon as I said it.”

To which I reply to Rikki: You mean that’s not how you pronounce it?

Personally, I blame Richard Stallman. It’s an affliction that affects geeks on our side of the proverbial aisle: The “G” factor, where a normally silent letter gets pressed into phonetic service, well, for a couple of reasons. First, because it’s there (and from an engineering standpoint, why would it be there if it wasn’t going to be used?), and secondly, because we’re used to the fact that GNU and GNOME have the “g” — how can I put this? — unsilent, and we’ve been trained, or brainwashed, into putting the “g” in there where it doesn’t belong.

It’s bad enough the little guys in the garden are guh-nomes — even after the recent movie “Guh-nomeo and Juliet” — but there are other places where this arises.

For example, I had to wail and gnash — pronounced guh-nash, right? — my teeth at the various grammatical and spelling errors (not to mention the Giants blowing a four-run lead to the Dodgers) while working at the paper last night.

Surfers in the area, as well as elsewhere, consider things “gnarly” without the “g” sound; except some in Santa Cruz who also use Linux/FOSS and say “guh-narly,” dude.

To say nothing of the fact that we have no pesky gnats — yep, there’s a “g” in there, making it guh-nats — flying around in these parts, but I used to have to deal with them elsewhere.

Anyway, while there may be a cure for this, or at least a 12-step program (“I’m Larry, and I’m a G-oholic” — “Hi, Larry”), I think the better course of action would be to alert the non-geeks around you that you’re going to be using all the letters in the words you use, save for the silent “e” and the silent “k” in “kn-” words.

[FSF Associate Member] (Larry Cafiero runs Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation. He is also one of the founders of the Lindependence Project.)
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Pleased to meet you

March 14, 2011 1 comment

Linuxfest Northwest 2011 - April 30th-May 1st I’ll be there. You should be there, too.

One of the great things about living where I do is the people by whom I’m surrounded in the FOSS realm. Each community has their peeps that do yeoman’s work on a daily basis to promote Linux and FOSS, and in the Silicon Valley and “over the hill” on Santa Cruz side, we are stocked with great people who do excellent work.

Grant Bowman, as I’ve mentioned before in past blogs, is one of them.

Grant started a discussion on the LUG mailing lists in the Silicon Valley and concludes with this: Is there a “best” way to introduce people to knowing more about computing without limits? Grant’s e-mail eloquently continues in seeking an answer to how we, as Linux/FOSS advocates, can help those who are Linux/FOSS curious experience what we already know is a better way.

We all know there’s not an easy answer to this, and arguably if you get 10,000 people in an arena to answer that question, chances are you’d end up with 12,000 different answers. However, it’s a good issue to discuss to get ideas regarding how to best promote Linux/FOSS with the proviso that there is not a “right,” one-size-fits-all answer.

Putting aside seeking community — going to LUG meetings, for example, and becoming an active member — I’d prefer here to address the one-to-one issue of Linux user introducing a non-user to Linux.

One basis — not the only one, but my own bottom line modus operandi — for determining how best to promote Linux/FOSS is to know why the potential convertee wants to use Linux/FOSS and how he or she plans to use it. Computer experience at this point in the discussion is secondary, though it is something that needs to be addressed early in the discussion.

So I would break the users down into two basic categories: Changers for philosopical reasons and changers for nuts-and-bolts reasons (and I don’t mean “nuts-and-bolts” in a bad sense: What I mean are those who don’t care if their software is “free-as-in-freedom.” They just want to do what they do on their computers to work as they’re accustomed to having it work).

There are others who might fall between these two basic categories — like those who get the philosophical side but focus on the more basic part of having the OS and software “just work” — but for the sake of discussion, let’s just use these two for now.

The inverted pyramid

In the news field, one of the principles of reporting is known as “the inverted pyramid;” an upside-down triangle, actually, where the most important item of the news story (that is, the widest part of the triangle) is at the top, with less important items following in a desending order so, as far as importance goes, the diagram would come to a point at the end where the least important part of the story would exist. The inverted pyramid’s purposes, in journalistic circles, stems from the fact that when there are space considerations in the newspaper — i.e., when the story is too long for the space — the editor can cut from the bottom and what’s lost is not as important as what stays.

How that affects the philosophicals

In the case of those changers who want to use Linux/FOSS for reasons that have to do with not wanting to be chained to EULAs or for reasons revolving around “sticking it to the man,” moreso than anything that has to do with basic functionality, you can start your inverted pyramid with the wide and lofty ideals of free software and how that works. Then you can narrow your discussion down to other principles and maybe functions of how to go about using a Live CD (if they don’t know how to already) and finally reach the tip at the bottom handing him or her the CD and let them know how to reach you if they have questions.

Meanwhile, back with the nuts-and-bolts crowd . . . .

Let’s say that you’re having a discussion with someone who’s giving you the blank, god-will-this-ever-end glazed-over stare while you discuss some of the concepts of free software. That’s a pretty good indication that he or she does not really care about EULAs and the philosophical side of things, and your inverted pyramid doesn’t have to start at the lofty ideals of FOSS. Here you can emphasize some of the functionality of Linux and FOSS programs, with the proviso that “your mileage may vary” (an important point — remember GIMP may not do everything Photoshop can do, but for the amateur photographer, GIMP works just fine). The concepts that the software is “free as in free beer” may also resonate. From there, you narrow your discussion down to how you can try out using Linux/FOSS on with a Live CD, etc., and so on.

Again, these are two extremes where a lot of new users may fall somewhere in between, but some of the more important aspects of introducing and helping new users know and share what we might take for granted.

But bear in mind that when you’re advocating for Linux and FOSS:

  • Know your audience,
  • Bear in mind that while Linux and FOSS benefits everyone, Linux and FOSS are not for everyone, and some may be hesitant and/or may not want to convert (at least at the moment), and
  • Freedom ultimately means being free not to use FOSS if one so desires, which is akin to leading a horse to water and it’s up to the animal whether it’ll drink.
  • I look forward to further discussion on this, and thanks, Grant, for posting this.

    [FSF Associate Member] (Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation. He is also one of the founders of the Lindependence Project.)
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    Another Saturday Night

    August 14, 2010 1 comment

    Amid the recent — and completely minor — hubbub around politics injected into Linux User Group discussions on the Berkeley LUG mailing list, it’s interesting to see how FOSS and GNU/Linux can bring people of different political stripes together.

    Exhibit A: Ken Starks and me.

    Ken and I put together Lindependence 2008, an effort that brought Linux and FOSS to Felton, California, through a series of miniature GNU/Linux and FOSS expos at the Felton Presbyterian Church hall in July of 2008. Various distros — Fedora, Mandriva, Ubuntu and Debian, to name four — had tables set up at Lindependence, as well as FOSS programs like OpenOffice.org. Representatives from each of the distros and programs had representatives on hand, and the idea was to convert the town to Linux and FOSS.

    Ken, a Texan, is an Operation Desert Storm vet and as Rebublican as you can get; a dyed-in-the-wool conservative. Those who know me know that I’m an unapologetic lefty no longer affiliated with any political party, and many of you are already tired of hearing me tell of my Green Party candidacy for statewide office in California (for those who aren’t keeping score at home: In 2006, I was the Green candidate for Insurance Commissioner and got the most votes of any Green statewide that year — 270,218 votes, 3.2 percent).

    But recently, I was looking at some clips from video that a San Francisco filmmaker, the Digital Tipping Point’s Christian Einfeldt, shot on Lindependence 2008 featuring Ken and me, and thinking about how despite our differences, those of different political views can work together for FOSS and GNU/Linux, even though each is approaching it from different directions — ranging from either from a purely libertarian (small “l” to describe the philosophy, not the capital “L” political party) perspective to from the anti-corporate, anarchist (in the true sense of the word) paradigm.

    [Ken and I, of course, fall somewhere in between, far from either end, of both extremes.]

    In watching some of the clips that Christian had shot at Lindepdence 2008, I found one where I said something to the effect that I would never talk to Ken if it weren’t for our shared passion for FOSS and Linux, as he would say (GNU/Linux as I would say), because of our political differences.

    I’d like to publicly take that back.

    Thanks to this experience, I have since been convinced that you can work across political divisions to achieve a common goal, i.e., Linux and FOSS adoption, and as a result I welcome the opportunity to work with those with whom I may not share a political philosophy.

    Despite our political differences, Ken and I worked well in getting Lindependence 2008 going. Further, I’m proud to serve on the board of a project that Ken chairs, the HeliOS Project, which provides Linux-based computers to underprivileged kids in the Austin, Texas, area.

    In conclusion, there’s a lesson to be learned here, for the observant.

    [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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    Categories: GNU, GNU/Linux, open source Tags: , , ,

    It’s Friday, I’m in love

    August 13, 2010 4 comments

    Ah, love! The Cure’s song that carries today’s blog title bounces gently off the walls of the office while I think about the things I love about GNU/Linux (or Linux, if you’re so inclined).

    Like . . .

  • A multiplicity of distros: Oh, 350-odd (and some not so odd) active Linux distributions in their wide range of uses, even though about 50 of them are relevant and regularly used by the GNU/Linux-using public. Some think that’s too many, but I would disagree: Distros are like ice cream, and you pick the flavor that suits your taste (not to mention your needs) and use it. I’d prefer to have hundreds to choose from rather than have a Baskin-Robbins limitation to 33 flavors. [Those who know me know I'm a Fedora guy, but the boxes at Redwood Digital also run Debian (especially on the Macs), Ubuntu, OpenSUSE, and a PII box with AntiX Mepis.] To appreciate the amount of choice we have, a visit to DistroWatch might be in order.
  • A variety of desktops: Who’s limited to what environment appears on our screens? We’re not. Thanks to the big daddies — GNOME and KDE (the former which I use most often and the latter which I’m growing to like more over time) — and to those desktop environments which leave the processor’s horsepower to more important digital matters — take a bow Xfce and LXDE — we have a wide range of options. Of course, if four isn’t enough, throw in IceWM and Flux and . . . .
  • The busy Beavers at Oregon State: The crew at Oregon State University deserve special mention. Chances are when you download a FOSS program or a distro, it comes to you directly from beautiful downtown Corvallis, Ore., home of the Oregon State University Open Source Lab (well, OK, perhaps OSU isn’t downtown per se, but you get the point). Kudos to OSL operations boss Jeff Sheltren and infrastructure architect Lance Albertson, as well as the rest of the OSL’s staff, for keeping the FOSS programs available. In addition, the OSL’s efforts hardly pale in comparison with the dedication and commitment to FOSS in OSU’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department, which is responsible for the Oregon State Wireless Activity Learning Device (or OSWALD). A tip of the hat — a Fedora, of course — to EECS faculty professors Tim Budd and Carlos Jensen for the OSWALD, and great work, all.
  • Showtime: The various Linux/FOSS shows and expos throughout the year are great to attend — the ones I can make, like the Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE) and OSCON are the ones around which I plan family vacations. Throw in other shows into the mix like the Utah Open Source Conference in October and the other standards like Southeast Linux Fest, the OLFs (Ohio and Ontario Linux Fests), Calgary Open Source Systems Festival (COSSFEST), while tossing in new shows like Texas Linux Fest, and the calendar is full of opportunities to promote FOSS and learn a thing or two if you aren’t careful.
  • My peeps: You all know who you are, and don’t think for a minute I’m going to try to name all of you because I’ll forget someone and then they’ll feel bad and I’ll hate myself for forgetting for years to follow. Thank you to those who make everything work across distro, desktop and program borders — you are truly the heroes of FOSS and have my undying respect, gratitude and love.

    [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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  • Any given Thursday

    August 12, 2010 3 comments

    Linux Today has been gracious enough to post the Tuesday blog post and the responses to it on that page hit home with a topic — Linux evangelism — that needs to be discussed.

    This is very important, so pay attention.

    Important point number one: How you present FOSS is probably more important than actually promoting Linux and FOSS. Let me say that again: How you present FOSS is probably more important than actually promoting GNU/Linux and FOSS.

    [Yeah, I said it twice, but not because of the Linux-vs.-GNU/Linux thing, though that was very convenient, huh?]

    This is how we do it in Felton Farmers Market table: We essentially ask “Do you know about Linux?” If not, we explain what it is. If so, we ask them about their experience. What we stress is, in both cases, “Remember, you have a choice.” And the choice is simple — either you can have an operating system and software that you own (and is not licensed to you) or you can have an operating system and software that puts you at the mercy of those who own it (i.e., Microsoft, Apple, etc.).

    Yes, it may take a little work to get up to speed, but the trade-off is that you’re essentially free of viruses, spyware, malware, etc., and your system (especially an older one) will run faster. Also, if you need help, we let them know that the Felton Linux Users Group (for which the table is set up) can help.

    The key operating word here is choice: You give the people the choice of whether they want an operating system and software that is theirs to own, that is free (as in beer/KookAid/bottled water/whatever as well as in freedom) and that, with a little work, they can control more easily than what they might have now.

    Or they can choose not to change, and that’s completely up to them, which — another important point — is a decision that should be respected no matter how wrong we might think it is.

    Which, of course, brings us to . . .

    Important point number two: There’s no need, let alone no room, for zealotry. The zealotry that’s often masked as evangelism harms GNU/Linux and FOSS far more than it helps.

    Think about it in these terms — and this is not to cast evangelicals in a negative light, but just to use some of the more zealous, overbearing ones as an example — how effective are those Bible-thumpers you may encounter, telling you you’re going to roast like a July 4th marshmallow in the eternal fiery pits of hell’s damnation unless you embrace $RELIGION that they profess? Does that kind of pitch fill you with instant inspiration to take them up on their cause, or does it fill you with an overwhelming desire to find the nearest hose and spray them down?

    Same thing with Linux/FOSS zealots: If you horse-collar people and tell them they must use GNU/Linux and FOSS or they will die, then you’re acting no better than the misguided evangelicals mentioned in the previous paragraph.

    We have all been “filled with the Holy Spirit,” to use a Christian term for divine inspiration, at some point in our conversion to Linux/FOSS and it’s only natural to want people to know what we know, and to experience what we experience, when it comes to our operating system and software. But . . .

    Important point number three: People are people. Some people take pride in their car or house and are constantly doing work on them; whether it’s tuning up or doing repair work themselves on their car, or being on a first-name basis with the guys and gals at Lowe’s or Home Depot while making their home their personal pride and joy.

    Then again, some people have ratty cars that are driven into the ground and live in the hovel to which their mail goes — because they don’t care.

    [This is not to say that people who drive ratty cars don't care. I drive a '92 Toyota Paseo with 316,000 miles because it's all I can afford. It looks like death warmed over, but I do regular maintenance on it and it runs like a champ.]

    Some people — more than likely in the first category — are the ones who are more likely to consider their computers as more than just an appliance; the latter may not consider their computers anything more than a television screen with a keyboard.

    It’s those in the first category that realize what they have in a personal computer (i.e., more than just an appliance) that tend to want to know more of the options in the digital realm. Hence, most of those we encounter at the farmers market fall into the first category.

    Those in the second category, well, fall under the “Lead-a-horse-to-water” group. You may not be able to make them drink, and while no one really deserves the slings and arrows that befall Windows users, people have to want to get themselves out of that quagmire before they can actually get out of it. Whether they have to “hit bottom,” as they say in AA circles, is worthy of debate, but the main thrust is that they have to want to help themselves.

    So to recap: We have most, if not all, of the solutions for everyone to have a free-as-in-freedom digital experience through GNU/Linux and FOSS. It is open to everyone and anyone who wants to participate — at whatever level fits their comfort zone — and the community aspect is one that has the ability to reach far beyond merely the technical realm.

    A lot of people, to varying degrees, “get it,” and most, sooner or later, they will change from using Windows/Mac to Linux/FOSS. Some don’t, and while that’s unfortunate, it’s their choice.

    And that’s what this is about — the freedom to choose.

    If you’ve read this far, thanks for staying awake.

    [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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    Coffee, Newspaper, Linux and FOSS News

    July 13, 2010 1 comment

    As the sun makes its way over the Santa Cruz Mountains on a Tuesday morning — don’t forget the Farmers Market and the Organic Software table in Felton, folks! — the daily ritual of dragging myself into a new day begins.

    Coffee. A look at the news around the world. Then the important stuff: LXer.com for the news of all things Linux/FOSS.

    [Incidentally, our friends at Google need to look at something, and I'll bring it to their attention later. Maybe I'll drop a line to WordPress, too. It seems that no matter how I tag my blog, the only way I can get the Alerts to pick up Larry the Free Software Guy for the benefit of those searching for "Linux" is to put "Linux" in the title. Selfish, I know, but maybe you should get used to seeing Linux in the title of upcoming blogs.]

    Meanwhile, back at the blog: Here are a few things that caught my eye this morning:

    Antiquated? Phoronix publishes an article entitles “How an Old Pentium 4 System Runs with Ubuntu 10.04, 10.10″ and their description of “old” is, “This antiquated system has an Intel Pentium 4 2.8GHz CPU, 512MB of RAM, an 80GB IDE hard drive, and an ATI Radeon 9200PRO AGP graphics card.” Antiquated? Are you kidding me? That’s about as antiquated as a 2006 BMW. C’mon, Phoronix — either do better editing or give us something really antiquated, like a Pentium with Roman numerals.

    Ground-floor opportunity, unlimited potential: The VAR Guy writes about the health care track at OSCON next week in Portland. “The health care sector is set for a technology-driven transformation as the federal government pushes adoption of electronic health records and pursues national health information exchange. Hardly surprising, the Open Source Convention (OSCON) has a health care track that will focus on open EHR/EMR software and the government’s standards-based Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN) among other topics. What’s in it for VARs? Here are some clues.” And the clues follow. But as those who know me know how I can drone on about this, I think health care software is a huge opportunity for FOSS developers, not to mention making open source inroads in an industry that needs to be in the public domain in the first place, and it’s nice to hear it from someone else.

    Oh, and it’s not dead yet: While this wasn’t in the news today, I’ve finally gotten over the eye-rolling aspect of, yet again, SCO not fully grasping basic legal tenets in losing yet another case and now plan to appeal Judge Ted Stevens’ ruling upholding a jury verdict made after oral hearings that Novell had retained the copyright to Unix when it sold its Unix business to SCO. According to this brief item on H online, it’s not over yet and the partners at Boies Schiller & Flexner LLP have taken Stick A to beat Dead Horse B.

    Felton Farmers Market, 2-6:30 p.m., St. John’s Church parking lot, about 3/4 mile south of the traffic light on Highway 9 (all the directions you need in Felton). And don’t forget — Major League Baseball All-Star Game is tonight. Go National League.

    [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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