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Twin brothers of separate mothers

April 30, 2008 8 comments

One of us is a battle tested, recently retired career Army man who is a veteran of Operation Desert Storm. The other is a former peace and social justice activist with portfolio who rose through the Green Party’s California ranks before taking up FOSS evangelism with a vengance.

One of us lives in Texas, where the stars at night are big and bright (clap four times here), while the other lives on the Central California coast, where — and it’s a law, I think — every sentence must end with the word ” . . . dude.”

One of us swears by KDE, the other prefers GNOME but really has an affinity for Xfce. One of us calls the operating system “Linux” out of laziness. The other makes a point of referring to it as “GNU/Linux” because the “GNU should get its due.”

Ken Starks and I have our differences. I would be willing to bet he doesn’t think Texas cheated in the Rose Bowl when they beat USC for the national championship a year ago (they did), nor do I think he would agree with me that the former Texas governor cheated in the 2000 election to win the presidency (he did ). Ken grew up a Cubs fan — anyone who knows me knows how much I detest the Cubs (’89 NLCS, anyone?) — but he now follows the Houston Astros, while I live and die, mostly die, with the San Francisco Giants.

Yet it’s safe to say that Ken and I are united in one thing: Promoting Linux (as he’d say) in the home desktop/laptop and small business environment; that, and making sure everyone knows they have FOSS options to their proprietary computing experience.

My introduction to Ken — I haven’t actually met him in person yet — came after what I thought was a slight in a Blog of Helios of one of my heroes, Abbie Hoffman. Yes, for those of you keeping score at home, Ken is the ever-outspoken helios. He and I started exchanging e-mails afterward, discussing — among other things — how to get GNU/Linux (thank you) in front of everyday people who would benefit from being out from under the thumb of Microsoft’s monopoly.

A result of these discussions is our partnership in HeliOS Solutions, where I do what he does in Texas on the West Coast, down to initiating a Komputers4Kids program in Felton. Another result is the project called Lindependence 2008, which we had discussed ad nauseum starting late last summer and had refined through the fliter of The Tux Project in the meantime.

So if you were to tell me a few years ago that I’d be teaming up with a Army vet on a project to save the digital realm for FOSS, I would have laughed myself into a new pair of underwear. If you were to tell Ken that he’d be teaming up with a tree-hugging, pony-tailed hippie, he’d probably have the same reaction.

Yet here we are, and that’s where we should be: United for the operating system, whatever we choose to call it, and united for the promotion of FOSS programs that work as well, and in some cases better, than proprietary software it should replace.

If our partnership is a testament to anything, it shows that promoting GNU/Linux and FOSS transcends background, upbringing and politics. In fact, it even transcends sports in general and, as much as I hate to admit it, baseball in particular.

(And, Ken, Texas did too cheat in the Rose Bowl . . . )

[FSF Associate Member](Larry Cafiero runs HeliOS Solutions West in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)

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Intrepid what?

February 21, 2008 1 comment

The name of the next Ubuntu animal in the menagerie: With its April/October release dates firmly etched in stone, Ubuntu has named its October 2008 release Intrepid Ibex. Interpid what? Ibex — it’s a is a type of wild mountain goat with large recurved horns that are transversely ridged in front (and, dang, those horns are long). Here are the details right from the horse’s, er Mark Shuttleworth’s mouth.

The next set of names that come from Linux Mint, once they reach “Z” (Zelda?) will start again with an “A” but will end with an “e”, according to Linux Mint’s Clement Lefebvre. I mentioned the naming convention in the Linux Mint chapter of “Eight Distros a Week” — it’s alphabetical women’s names ending in “a” — and wondered aloud when they got to “Z,” whether the names restarting with “A” would end in a “b.” Nope, Clem says, they’ll start with “A” but the last letter will be “e.” Nice touch. Thanks for clarifying that, Clem.

G’day, Firefox: While Firefox‘s gains against Internet Exploder generally focuses on the percentages garnered in Europe, the place where Firefox is really taking off is Oceania, where 31 percent of Australians and New Zealanders are using the browser. Those are the results from a French polling firm called XiTi, and the story can be found here. And here in North America? A hefty 21 percent, third behind the Aussies and Kiwis of Oceania and the 23 percent of Europe.

Rolling Funder: The blogger known as Helios — a man who has made it his life’s mission to promote GNU/Linux at every turn — has an interesting concept in a recent blog which, if it works (and my money is on it working), would make a truly sound foundation for building a truly grassroots promotional vehicle for FOSS. I’m very much on board with this one, Helios — count me in.

On the BSD side . . . Steven Rosenberg of Click is smack in the middle of a BSD odyssey which is as intriguing as it is informative and entertaining. Not only this, it has kindled my interest in attempting to get NetBSD running on one of these old Macs just one more time (although, sheesh, Steven — those 5 a.m. posting times on your blog must be murder . . . .).

[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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Drove my Chevrolet to the levee . . .

January 25, 2008 Leave a comment

Yeah, I said it. Not only that, I meant it.

For those of you who have asked, there’s a very good Q-and-A interview with Ken Starks, a.k.a “helios” of blogging fame and someone who I’m proud to call a brother-in-arms in the FOSS revolution, as well as someone with whom — truth in advertising — I’ve gone into business at HeliOS Solutions, mirroring what he does in Austin here on the Central California coast.

While discussing the Linux and GNU/Linux debate, Ken said that I said this: “Look, my counterpart in California (that would be me) spelled it out best. You don’t call a Chevrolet a Chevrolet every time you say it. Here in the states, it is most often abbreviated to ‘Chevy’.”

And I did say that.

For those of you who have been “calling me on it,” let me remind you that I am merely making an observation on people’s general laziness; if you want to twist this into my lack of advocacy for GNU/Linux, then you might have a future as a Fox News talking head.

I don’t call the OS “Linux” — I make a point of calling it GNU/Linux which, in my opinion, is as it should be. Not only that, I urge others to do the same. However, I’m not going to tar and feather someone for not saying GNU before Linux, for whatever reason. If you drop the GNU because you’re lazy, that’s your business. If you do it because you don’t think GNU deserves to be there, I think you’re wrong and would urge you to rethink your position; regardless, I would defend to the death your right to be “wrong” about this.

Give the GNU its due. That’s my mantra. Incidentally, you’ll notice on the row below has no penguin — a mouse, a sunflower, a Steal Your Face logo . . . oh yeah, and a (ahem) GNU.

So, as helios would say, “all righty then.”

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Is it just me . . .?

November 3, 2007 Leave a comment

A lot of times we see or hear things and wonder whether we’re the only ones who get the peculiarity or irony in what has revealed itself.

Like:

Is it just me, or has Ubuntu 7.10 made a significant number of people hit a proverbial “speed bump” in this latest upgrade? The reason I ask — my “upgrade” resulted in getting only a shell that I had never seen before, and as a result I had to revert to reinstalling the prior version of Xubuntu running on this machine — is because others who had done the upgrade had significant problems with their machines shortly afterward (many of whom, of course, righted their machines after a significant amount of adjustments, but is that how upgrades are supposed to work?). Don’t get me wrong: I like all the flavors of Ubuntu, even Kubuntu, but rather than drinking the Kool-Aid, you have to bring this stuff up when it happens for the good of the distro.

Is it just me, or do the these two people deserve more credit than they’re often given: Pamela Jones of Groklaw, and Ken Starks of HeliOS Solutions (also the blogger known as “helios“)? The former has earned my unwavering respect for doing what those in the both the legal and journalistic professions, by and large, have stopped doing; i.e., stopped doing the right thing in their professions. The latter — who as I’ve blogged in the past I have joined in a business venture — is tireless fighter for FOSS in the face of health issues that would floor the strongest of us.

Is it me, or is blogging, as I perceive it, harder than it looks?

[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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It’s official

October 10, 2007 Leave a comment

It’s official:

Steve Ballmer is an world class, Olympic-caliber asshat: Most of us already knew this, of course. But if you’re the CEO of what’s supposed to be the largest software company on this planet, if not the galaxy, shouldn’t you be more concerned about how your newly-released-but-in-the-toilet Vista operating system is (under)performing rather than raising, once again, the laughable specter of suing for patent infringements? Not Steve. Uh-uh. He’d rather talk about how Google reads your mail and how that McCarthyist list of 235 patent violations — which we haven’t seen yet, incidentally — are ready for prosecution. Have you no shame, Mr. Ballmer?

Ken Starks, a.k.a. Helios, is a hero: Most of us already knew this, of course. Apparently, it’s official now, as Carla Schroeder writes here in this LXer.com article praising Ken, whom I am proud to call a brother-in-arms in the FOSS wars, and with whom I am proud to be a partner in flying the HeliOS Solutions flag in the Wild West.

I’m a flake: Most of you already know that, of course (hey, wait a minute . . .). You would think that as editor and publisher of Open Source and Free Software Reporter, I would take the time to meet with OSFSR New Zealand correspondent Penny Leach after she flew all the way to San Francisco — for her work at Catalyst, that is, not to see me (an aside: the days when women would fly great distances to see me are, sadly, long gone — and I’m at peace with that) — but noooOOOooooo. I completely blanked the dates that she was visiting to promote Mahara and Moodle (very cool, check them out), even after recording it on my page at jott.com. My sincerest apologies, Penny. Next time, I promise.

Ubuntu makes it to the NBA, sort of: Tom Krazit, of C|Net, writes here that the Boston Celtics have adopted “ubuntu” as their rallying cry this season. A bunch of 7-foot GNU/Linux users? Not quite. Celtics coach Doc Rivers apparently chose that word “ubuntu” after learning of it while reading about Archbishop Desmond Tutu. For those of you keeping score at home, “ubuntu” has its roots in the Bantu languages of southern Africa as meaning “a philosophy of life that promotes the greater good rather than individual success.” Of course, with the upper case U, Ubuntu is a damn good GNU/Linux distro, and a slam-dunk for anyone using GNU/Linux.

Bonnie Raitt was born to sing ‘Angel From Montgomery’: No, this has nothing to do with FOSS, but there is no one more more suited to sing John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery” than Bonnie Raitt. Period. Don’t take my word for it — see it on YouTube here, and hear a duet with Prine here (note, the latter is not a performance video, but a montage of photos with the duet in the background).

The phone is silent . . . for now: 831-335-7303 is the number for HeliOS Solutions West and for Tux Project in beautiful downtown Felton. When you’re here, don’t forget to grab a cup of joe at the White Raven.

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

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Where’s my red Swingline stapler?

September 26, 2007 Leave a comment

And, no, you don’t need a cover sheet for your TPS Reports . . . .

Several weeks ago, as you may remember (or not), I started giving myself a plethora of busy work in order to avoid rearranging the living room to accommodate several computers that used to live there; the computers with which I do testing, (very) low-level developing and generally a lot of digital goofing off.

But with the availability of office space behind the Felton Trading Post in downtown Felton, California, I have moved the herd of computers — and my operations — out of my living room and into the cozy confines behind Kelly’s store and as a neighbor to the trading post’s other tenant, Melanie the bookseller.

So now, from the one-stoplight town six miles north of Santa Cruz and among the old-growth redwoods, I have set up shop. At 6396 Highway 9, Felton CA 95018 (phone number to come), the following entites are open for business: Open Source and Free Software Reporter, a publication keeping up as best it can with FOSS developments; the Tux Project, a national soon-to-be nonprofit promotional clearing house for all things GNU/Linux; and HeliOS Solutions West, serving the western United States as a model for franchisees to offer GNU/Linux installation and support services (as well as providing Santa Cruz County with the same services).

If you’re in the area, stop by. We’ll keep a pot of coffee on for you.

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

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Categories: Helios, Tux Project

Flipping a coin

July 31, 2007 Leave a comment

Although they are rare, there are days when two significantly major stories vie for my attention and I have to try to determine which to talk about. In this case, both demand immediate attention, at which time the question becomes, “Which do I talk about first?”

So I have this quarter, I flip it, and it comes up . . .

Crackers do a number on California’s e-voting machine: Here’s the story from TGDaily.com: In summary, a study commissioned by the California Secretary of State has found that several electronic voting machines have serious security vulnerabilities.

The study pitted two cracker teams, better known as “red teams” against voting machines manufactured by Diebold, Hart and Sequoia. The hackers found several security problems and were able to change firmware, access the election database and even open up the machines without detection.

The teams were from UC Davis (Go Aggies!) and UC Santa Barbara (Go Gauchos!). “The red teams demonstrated that the security mechanisms provided for all systems analyzed were inadequate to ensure accuracy and integrity of the election results,” said Robert Abbott, one of the red team leaders.

And why? Here’s one reason: Abbott’s team was able to access election data directly by exploiting vulnerabilities in the Diebold machine’s Windows operating system – an operating system that all three e-voting machines use. They were also able to bypass locks and other physical security with “ordinary objects”.

Matt Bishop of UC Davis complains that his teams didn’t have enough time to fully document all the security vulnerabilities because they study started in mid-June and ended July 20. Bowen had said that the deadline could not be extended because the counties need at least six months to examine the findings. Bishop added that Abbott’s team was close to finding several other problems, but simply ran out of time.

So . . . this speaks volumes about the elections of 2000 and 2004, if anyone is willing to listen. And nothing is really riding on the proper functioning of the voting technology except for democratic principles that are the cornerstone of the republic, if not the fate of the republic itself.

And what came up “tails,” you ask?

The Disconnect That Could Fail Thousands: I’ve never met helios, a long time GNU/Linux advocate named Ken (and unlike Sting or Cher, he has a last name, but I don’t know what it is) whose Blog of Helios is one of the most — if not the most — prolific and informative blog on all matters Penguin. In this recent blog item, helios confronts GNU/Linux’s sacred-cow-du-jour — Ubuntu — and asks why they can’t fix a disk mounting problem that appears (at least to yours truly, a newbie with portfolio) to be easily repaired. Instead of getting a “Hmmm, maybe you’re right . . . ” apparently some in the *buntu Nation have set their sights on him and are branding him an “enemy of the people.” Wrong, folks — helios should be commended for having the cojones to say, “Um, sorry, but it appears to me that the emperor’s wearing no clothes,” and it’s the duty of those who support the emperor to clothe him, rather than just “see” the finery the other yes-men and yes-women see.

This problem that helios brings up with Kubuntu doesn’t seem to be a glaring one. But in comparison, helios outlines a request to fix something he made to Clement Lefevbre of Linux Mint that was fixed relatively quickly. With Ubuntu’s resources — vast by most distros’ standards — why can’t this be addressed and fixed (especially when Ubuntu is now the “face” of GNU/Linux that most of the people see when trying it for the first time)?

Go helios and, as he likes to say, All-righty Then.

[FSF Associate Member]

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

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