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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 I even wrote an unpublished draft months ago that sits in the Larry the CrunchBang Guy draft queue because, well, I didn’t pull the trigger on writing about the incident in that forum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!

Larry in KDE Land

November 25, 2013 7 comments

This week’s blog was supposed to be a look at the newly released Raptor provided by VSIDO, and there is a version now on the soon-to-be-delivered-to-REGLUE ThinkPad T60 (sorry for the delay, Ken). I didn’t spend as much time as I should have with this release — you’ll see why below — and I didn’t want to provide a half-baked report on what is a very solid distro.

But one is forthcoming, I promise, and any delay should not be interpreted as any dissatisfaction on my part — Terry Ganus and his crew at VSIDO are doing great things making Debian Sid work for the average Joe.

However, I fell down the rabbit hole. For the most part last week I had been playing the role of the proverbial moth to KDE’s hypothetical flame. Having spent most of the week trying to plumb the depths of the K Desktop Environment — better known by its initials KDE — and the accompanying software (of which there is much; most of it remarkably cool and some of it undeniably sanity-testing), I think I’m beginning to understand its appeal across a wide range of users.

But first, how I got here. As outlined last week, I tried and liked Korora 19.1 KDE, so much so that I installed it on a fairly powerful laptop, keeping the other laptop that I always carry with me running CrunchBang. This gives me the best of both possible Debian/Red Hat worlds in an overstuffed backpack (the aforementioned T60 stayed at home). As it turned out, my forum account on KDE.org was still active even though I hadn’t logged in since 2009.

Having hardware that could easily pull the KDE load (a very important point here, since that is not common for yours truly), I went exploring.

There are things about KDE that I find mysterious. There are things about KDE that I find inconceivable (I keep using that word: I think it means what I think it means). There are things about the software that I find both compelling and unfathomable at the same time, and I find it a huge credit to the KDE community that they keep providing this software while keeping the cats herded and moving somewhat in the same direction. With enough time, I’ve fathomed things like Dolphin — getting a hold of what it does and nodding approvingly — and KWallet, which is something I don’t really need, but I can see how others with somewhat more complicated lives can utilize it. The stick-poking care in changing and re-changing icons and desktop patterns created, over time, a confidence that increased the more I did it.

So the basis for a quality desktop environment supported with a variety of software — heck, I’ve even made my peace with Konqueror and, this time around, I actually enjoyed using Konversation until finally breaking down and going back to Irssi, which is what the cool kids use — enjoys a comfortable home with KDE and it’s a testament to its far-flung community around the globe.

But there’s one thing I find I have to mention, and I did so on the forum (though I am told that I may be appealing to deaf ears). It is the “march of the icons” on the splash screen at startup, and it’s not so much the icons themselves as much as the different size of the KDE icon in the lineup.

Here’s an example from Fedora 19 (which looks a lot like the Korora startup screen with different branding):

kde2

So we have a hard drive icon, a tools icon, a globe icon, a desktop icon all the same size, and the piece-de-resistance is a twice-the-size-of-the-others KDE icon. It reminds one of Berke Breathed’s character Bill the Cat, who had one normal eye and one that was two or three times the size of the other. Also, if memory serves, the icons were all the same size in KDE 3.5, which is the last one that I used with any consistency before finding it too resource-intensive for my old hardware.

Trivial? In the grand scheme of things, yeah. I get that if KDE wants to make a statement because they’re proud of their work, go for it, dudes, and make it stand out (thought that would not be the way I’d do it). It still looks funny to me, and I would hope that there is some consideration in KDE’s higher echelons to make this KDE icon more in line, size-wise, with the rest of them.

Meanwhile, I will keep poking and probing this desktop environment and someday — someday — I will be enlightened to the true meaning of Nepomuk.

But before that, a VSIDO reports as promised. Scout’s honor. See you next week, if not before.

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!

A week with Korora 19.1 KDE

November 17, 2013 5 comments

I made a joke recently on social media — not a good joke, I’ll be the first to admit — that I had used Korora way back when it had two A’s at the end.

In an indirect way, Korora — minus the second A of the past, but inheriting the long-vowel line over the last A — crossed the proverbial radar again recently and, as it would happen, it got another one-week test drive from yours truly, this time in the driver’s seat of Korora 19.1 KDE “Bruce.”

In a word, “Wow.”

For those of you keeping score at home, Korora is a Fedora remix that “aims to make Linux easier for new users, while still being useful for experts.” It’s a noble effort, to say the least: Fedora, which as I’ve said on a million occasions, does everything right, especially building and maintaining the distro’s software, as well as building or maintaining the community supporting it. The principles driving Fedora are excellent ones to emulate, and to provide an option of a Fedora respin in which everything works right out of the box (*cough* Flash *cough*) is indeed a noble task.

So in taking that route, it bears mentioning that the Korora lead developer, Chris Smart, is a man who lives up to his name.

As many of you know, I’m not stranger to Fedora, yet I threw caution to the wind and opted for KDE, given Korora’s choice of KDE, GNOME, Cinnamon and MATE. Here’s why: First, I haven’t used KDE in quite awhile and I wanted to see what’s new, and secondly, my friend Ken Starks at REGLUE is using it in the OpenSUSE machines he’s building for kids down in Austin, Texas.

On a Dell Latitude D610 with the touchpad turned off in the BIOS (due to the wandering cursor thing that Dell refuses to fix — which is why someone gave this hardware to me, I think), the install went flawlessly and any worry that the 1.5GB of RAM would labor under the weight of KDE was put to rest early. For the week I used the D610 on a daily basis, the only hiccup was in updating which, eventually, was traced back to the flaky wireless where I was rather than to the distro and/or desktop environment.

Other hurdles aside — “Why doesn’t apt-get work on this . . . oh wait.” — getting used to KDE was not as hard as I thought. Much of the habits in using a window-manager based distro like CrunchBang took some unlearning. KDE and I have always had a love-hate relationship, but casting aside any prejudices I had about the desktop environment, I found that the same things that bothered me still do (KDE Wallet – seriously?), but the other facets of KDE Plasma were very workable and spending an entire week tweaking it was both educational and fun. Plus, I think there have been many improvements to much of the KDE software lineup: Using Kmail and Konversation much of the time, they performed flawlessly during the course of the week.

On the whole, I like this distro a lot and I think Korora has a bright future. There is a clear comparison that can be made between Korora and Fedora that mirrors the relationship between Linux Mint and Ubuntu. Just as Linux Mint improves the user experience on that particular Ubuntu-based distro, so then can Korora enhance the user experience on this Fedora-based distro.

Trivial, I know: The naming convention is based on characters in “Finding Nemo” in the same way that Debian’s project names are based on “Toy Story” (or CrunchBang’s is based on “The Muppet Show”). It’s always a source of interest to me how projects are named, and you just have to bear with me on that. But a tip of the hat to Nemo, or in this case, Bruce!

So a word of warning, Kororans: I’ve signed up on your site and I’m going to keep Korora on the Dell for the forseeable future. See you around.

I promised last week to look at VSIDO and we’ll have to take that up next week. Apologies to those who were expecting that today.

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!

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