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Linux Fest Northwest makes its mark

May 1, 2012 1 comment

Those of us who have been to Linux shows, or especially have worked Linux shows, in the past know the drill. It’s something out of “Field of Dreams.” If you build it — the “it” here being a Linux event — they will come, and they will all seem to come right at Saturday morning at 9 sharp when the show officially starts.

They did just that at Linux Fest Northwest. Past its first decade of operation, LFNW has established itself as the premiere Linux event in the region and, as I’ve mentioned before, next to the Southern California Linux Expo, it’s the best show on the West Coast. For two days, geeks in the Northwest get to listen to top-notch presenters — as well as people like me — and visit exhibits from distros, software and hardware makers.

The Bellingham Linux Users Group and volunteers from other open source user groups in the area never fail to put on a great expo, and I think I speak for many attendees when I say that I’m deeply grateful for their efforts. About 1,200 people attended LFNW on the campus of Bellingham Technical College over the weekend. Thanks, LFNW folks.

Here’s a look at the weekend:

Not another distro . . .: Bill Smith and his wife Portia staffed the CrunchBang booth with me, and again my thanks go out to them for the help. Visitors to the booth ranged from those who knew what CrunchBang was to those who whined, “Not another distro . . .” To which I replied far too often, “Yes, another distro. This one is Debian with the OpenBox window manager,” before explaining the advantages of CrunchBang. “There’s a digital Darwinism at play here, with the good distros gathering a strong community and thriving, and others . . . not so much.” There were about 150 pieces of media burned — CDs and DVDs — all of which went out the door with prospective users. I, of course, will sit in the corner with the pointy hat because, truth be told, I forgot the banner and the “success kid” stickers made up for LFNW, but we’ll use ‘em next year.

Hello, I’m Greg DeKoenigsberg: The printed program had it right, as did the Web site. But the large poster on the wall on the Haskell classroom building on Saturday morning had Greg’s presentation on the schedule where I was giving the Intro to CrunchBang talk. With LFNW’s permission, Greg and I had switched presentation times more than a week prior to the event, since he was getting in late. But the poster outside the wall had the old schedule. Try as I might — which, of course, was not very hard — I could not convince the folks that I was the Eucalyptus VP. After an announcement that if you were there for Greg’s talk, it would be tomorrow, only a couple of people bailed out. As for my talk, it went as well as my talks usually go — no one was injured and law enforcement officials were nowhere to be found — and Scott Dowdle videotaped it, so as soon as that gets posted, I’ll let you know.

The (two) big thing(s): The big thing at Linux Fest Northwest — not including OpenSUSE rep Bryen Yunashko’s hat — was the Pogo Linux’s booth, which featured a full-fledged, sit-behind-the-wheel racing game with three large-screen monitors, where drivers navigated a course and prizes were given for the fastest laps. No, my racing days are far behind me, but from what I was told by someone who raced cars and turned the second fastest lap on Saturday, it was very realistic. Another big thing — bigger to the Android crowd, apparently, and arguably just as fast as the racing game — was the ZaReason tablet, which many folks tried out at our booth (ZaReason shared the CrunchBang booth at LFNW). Keep an eye on that, since this full-fledged Android tablet will be coming out very soon.

Hands across the water: It was a grand experiment, though operator error by yours truly may have kept it from being a huge success. But during the CrunchBang Birds of a Feather meetup on Sunday morning, we used a Google+ Hangout to raise CrunchBang lead developer Philip Newborough. Sort of. Despite getting dropped a couple of times — once because I hit the wrong key — we got to talk about the show, about what’s coming up for CrunchBang and things along those lines, and it was very informative for those in attendance. Thanks, Philip, and Rebecca Newborough as well, who in her capacity as the CrunchBang Community Leader also participated from the Lincoln side of things.

Bon mots: I’m still apologizing to Deb Nicholson for forgetting her surname in introducing her to Philip Newborough at the BoF on Sunday morning. You know you work with someone in FOSS circles for years and something like this happens . . . . A shout-out goes to Eric Craw, a new CrunchBang user from Washington who converted at Linux Fest Northwest. Not only did he start using CrunchBang, but he already started contributing code back to the project, showing that this is what FOSS is all about . . . . David Whitman of Hacker Public Radio gave me a few minutes of interview time at the end of Linux Fest Northwest, so all that thumping and loading in the background may or may not be audible once the interview is broadcast . . . . I drove 962 miles each way to attend LFNW, but this show is so great that I would have walked 962 miles to get to Bellingham. Again, kudos to the LFNW crew.

Start rumors: In my capacity as publicity chair for the Southern California Linux Expo, I finally got to sit down with my good friends Warren Sanders and Scott Dowdle, and two folks from the Big Sky Country that I hadn’t met — Rocky Mountain College’s Andrew Niemantsverdreit and Gary Bummer, who is Scott’s colleague at Montana State University — and the five of us discussed bringing an event to their area. So be on the lookout for Montana Linux Fest, or something like it, in 2013.

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.

(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!

R-A-M-B-L-I-N-(apostrophe)

August 5, 2010 1 comment

After a week that everyone, including me, could (and probably should) have switched to decaf for a bit, I only have a couple of items to touch on this week.

First things first: Regarding all this hubbub about Ubuntu not carrying its weight in the FOSS world, the firefight seems to have simmered down and cooler heads — not the least of which was Greg DeKoenigsberg who apologized for calling out Canonical — prevailed in the end (though I don’t think you should ever apologize when you’re right, but maybe Greg’s mea culpa is Exhibit A when it comes to discretion being the greater part of valor).

In a blog entitled “Old Wounds,” Greg answers the question why he felt “so compelled to shoot my mouth off in the first place.” Most compelling about this blog post is this paragraph toward the end, which speaks volumes to the core issue:

“As Canonical grows, I hope that it lives up to similarly lofty standards — and part of living up to such standards is bearing an ever-increasing share of the weight. It is my very strong, honest, and believe it or not, largely impartial opinion, that after five-plus years of building a global brand on top of the GNOME platform, Canonical should be doing way more to sustain that platform. And although I understand and agree with the arguments that Canonical contributes in many important ways, I contend that it still isn’t nearly enough. Not if you want to claim the mantle of leadership. You cannot simply talk the talk; you must ultimately walk the walk.”

Agreed. That trumps everything that comes before, my blog on the item originally, Mark Shuttleworth’s ad hominem responses to both Greg and me, and we can get on with life in the happy, healthy FOSS world.

And, to quote Forrest Gump, that’s all I have to say about that.

Singing in IRC: I was demonstrating the /nick feature, for lack of a better term, to someone watching over my shoulder recently and came up with a way to sing on IRC. I put the folks in #scale on OFTC.net through the following ditty:

17:19 lcafiero is now known as Space_Cowboy
17:19 Space_Cowboy is now known as Gangster_of_Love
17:19 Gangster_of_Love is now known as Maurice
17:20 * Maurice speaks for the pompetous of love
17:20 Maurice is now known as lcafiero

And so on. I did the WEEEEE WOOOOOO! verbally, though I probably should have typed that in, too, in retrospect. Thanks, Steve Miller.

[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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Mark Shuttleworth responds

July 30, 2010 7 comments

Mark Shuttleworth responded to the blog item I posted a few hours ago. Rather than have it just get lost in the responses to the previous blog item, I thought I’d reprint it verbatim here.

Mark commented on the previous item:

Larry, it was Greg who used the expression “Hater’s gotta hate”, not me.

Jono has done an ample job of pointing out how the data is a poor reflection of Canonical’s contribution, rather than reflecting poor contribution itself.

And I didn’t call Greg stupid. I said that thinking tribally makes one stupid – it precludes opportunities for rich interactions with interesting people.

Right now, on numerous fronts, developers at Canonical are feeling frustrated because when they try to collaborate with people in upstream projects that are maintained by folks who resent Canonical, they get blocked. One of our developers told me he has taken to submitting patches through a proxy because he does not get reasonable answers when he does so directly.

I can’t think of a better example of tribal thinking making a project stupid: if you’re actively dissing patches labelled “Canonical” and then complaining about the lack of them, “stupid” would be on the more complimentary end of the appropriate epithets.

And I reply:

Mark — First, thanks for responding. I know you’re a busy guy; a different busy maybe than some of us who are promoting FOSS in the trenches, but busy nonetheless. Frankly, I wish I had more time between $DAYJOB_1 and $DAYJOB_2 to address your comment more thoroughly, but I’ll do my best in the limited time I have here (thank God for quick typing).

Also, so you know: I have been an Ubuntu user since 2006 (though no longer on my primary machine — more on this in the next sentence) and a member of the California LoCo since then as well. My business, Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, has several Ubuntu boxes and has converted several small businesses and home offices to Linux and the operating system they use is Ubuntu.

Today, for several reasons, I am primarily a Fedora user. However, my daughter is an Ubuntu user. But rather than rend my garment and wail, “I have no daughter,” I encourage her to use whatever distro — heck, whatever operating system — she likes because FOSS is all about choice (tell you something you don’t know, right?).

We agree that tribalism, as defined in your blog, is bad. There is no place for it anywhere, including Ubuntu. There are aspects of the Ubuntu organization that smack of tribalism — specifically the LoCo program, which I’ll discuss in a minute — that you should probably be aware of. Just a quick warning about the glass houses and stones thing . . .

True, you didn’t actually call Greg DeKoenigsberg stupid, but you did accuse him of tribalism, which is stupid. The implication sticks, even though it wasn’t directly stated. I don’t know Greg well — we’ve exchanged e-mails while he was at Red Hat and, superficially speaking, we’re friends of Facebook — but knowing him even marginally and after reading his blog item, I don’t think he was practicing “tribalism.” As I mentioned in my blog, I think that while Greg may not get a whole lot of points for execution, he does bring up a valid point that I have heard more often than I would have liked.

Bringing this up does not make him a “tribalist.” It makes him someone bringing up a point that you can take or leave (and frankly, if I were a captain of industry and not a guy with two jobs and a passion for FOSS, I’d have probably publicly ignored Greg’s blog altogether and, given the time, looked into it more. I’d also think about going into space again, as that sounds really cool, but that’s another matter).

On the issue of “tribalism,” you might want to give LoCos a closer look because, from a Linux User Group standpoint (I run one of those, too), it seems that LoCos — at least the one that I have the most experience with, here in California — have a “separate but equal” attitude toward participating with LUGs and promoting FOSS. While they’re welcome and urged to participate in our activities for the greater good of FOSS, activities that are LoCo based tend to be Ubuntu-only, which of course is their right, but think about the message it sends.

Also, you mention developer feeling frustrated about contributions that they make being thwarted. That surprises me, and that would definitely be something that would need correcting. I’d be glad, too, to post examples if you could provide them.

Thanks again. Back to work for me.

[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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Pages from playbooks

July 30, 2010 3 comments

Yesterday, Greg DeKoenigsberg wrote a blog item outlining Canonical/Ubuntu’s weak numbers in participating in development for GNOME.

Rather than address Greg’s blog item with a reply that addresses the issue, Mark Shuttleworth decided to take a page from the Fox News playbook — not to mention the Sarah Palin dictionary — in responding to Greg’s blog.

To recap, here is Greg’s blog item, and following it is Mark’s response.

Clearly, Mark can do better than this, and if I were a Canonical/Ubuntu advocate, I’d be a little sheepish about the response. Criticism can be handled by either addressing it or deflecting it, and clearly Mark chose the latter. To call someone a “hater” and calling them “stupid” because they present an argument with which you don’t agree — especially when the numbers are there to show that Canonical/Ubuntu does not pull its weight — is, quite frankly, a load of crap.

Rather than address the fact at hand, we get a liturgy of how “tribalism” (whatever that means) is bad — yes, that’s true, Mark, as you define what “tribalism” is — but how does that apply to the fact that Canonical/Ubuntu has only 1 percent of contributions upstream in the GNOME project? Without begging the question that if it’s 1 percent in GNOME, what is it for Xorg? For the kernel?

Does pointing out that the emperor has no clothes make you a “hater,” or does it just make you observant? Taking it one step further, if Greg is right — and I think he is — doesn’t that call for more intelligent response than “you’re a bad person for pointing this out, and anyone who thinks like you is a divider”?

A more honest response would have been, “Yes, we are lacking in contributing upstream. We have not been involved as long as others, like Red Hat, but we hope to be up to speed in the near future.”

But no: What we get is some of the mudslinging and divisiveness that, ironically, Mark himself rails against.

True leaders know that having shortcomings pointed out to them helps an organization grow, assuming the shortcoming is fixed. It’ll be interesting to see if the true “leaders” in Canonical/Ubuntu actually try to close the gap in contribution upstream, or if they hold fast to Mark’s dictum of “those who are not with us are against us.”

[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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Talkers and doers

July 29, 2010 2 comments

Greg DeKoenigsberg wrote a blog item which wraps up with the following quote: “The world is full of talkers and doers, and in the long haul, people are usually smart enough to figure out which is which.”

While the blog itself is based on a recent presentation by Dave Neary of GNOME regarding contributions, or lack thereof, by FOSS companies and individuals to the GNOME desktop, the underlying theme (for lack of a better term) returns to the upstream argument where, frankly, some entities aren’t pulling their weight on the development end of things — and it applies not only to GNOME, but to the kernel, to Xorg and so on down the list.

So I’m just going stand aside and let you read it, and comment on it if you like.

[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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