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Resisting temptation

September 13, 2014 1 comment

When I found out on Friday afternoon that the lead developer for Bodhi Linux was stepping down, I went into breaking-news mode and contacted Christine Hall at FOSS Force to let her know that I was sending her a story. As an aside, FOSS Force normally “publishes” Monday-Friday and takes the weekend off, but in this case, this is a story that is too important to wait until Monday.

I called up LibreOffice Writer and went to work.

“Lead developer Jeff Hoogland had an out-of-Bodhi experience on Friday, when he decided to step down . . . .”

No. I didn’t go there.

Instead I wrote this. Also, Jeff spoke volumes in his own blog item on why he’s leaving, and I understand completely. To see what Jeff achieved with Bodhi Linux over the last four years — all while in school, grad school, family life and now with a child — is simply remarkable and I salute him for it. He leaves for someone, or to the Bodhi community stepping up, a very viable Linux distro.

My hope is that someone, or several folks who are already involved with Bodhi Linux, picks up the reins and continue what is one of the better Linux distributions, especially for older machines. I have said in these pages in the past that Bodhi is a viable distro — my only qualm, and it’s a minor one, is that it doesn’t come with enough programs by default and that you have to go get them after installing it. That’s by design — I get that — but it’s not my proverbial cup of tea.

Also — and this is a very important point — it’s not necessarily a flaw because it’s a design of which I’m not fond. It’s called “different strokes for different folks,” and the distro has gained many users with the formula Hoogland developed.

In other words, it may not be for me, but that doesn’t make it bad or lacking in some way.

Which leads us to a broader issue, that of whether a distro like Bodhi should continue to have the opportunity to prosper and thrive. The answer clearly to this is a resounding “yes.”

Some might think that there should be only $ONE_TRUE_DISTRO, and usually that distro is the one they are using. Nothing could be further from the truth, to say nothing of the fact that nothing could be more hilariously arrogant and world-class myopic than holding such a position. Clearly and unequivocally, one of the many strengths of FOSS — perhaps its biggest strength — lies in the variety of 200-something Linux and BSD distros out there. Choice is clearly good, and the competition between having more than one choice raises everyone up — the rising tide making all the vessels rise with the waters.

Bodhi Linux captured a niche and, with continued perserverence, the community taking the reins will have the opportunity to continue to excel.

That’s only fair, and that’s what FOSS is all about.

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.

(Among the many things he does, Larry Cafiero writes news and commentary once a week — and occasionally more frequently — for FOSS Force.)

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Eliminate DRM!

Taking a look a Salix

September 13, 2011 6 comments

There seems to be a mad dash lately of bloggers tripping over themselves to write reviews of Bodhi Linux. Jeff Hoogland and his merry band of developers have come out recently with version 1.2.0 and I’ve put it through some paces. Overall, I like it, but rather than yet another Bodhi review getting lost in the shuffle, I thought I’d put that one off for another time.

I have a MicroPC TransPort T2200 laptop on which I change distros as often as I change socks. OK, that’s an exaggeration, but it is pretty much a test bed for distros I try out.

Several days ago, I was thinking about how I had not really done a lot with Slackware-based distros other than OpenSUSE. I looked for the latest version of Wolvix, which I had written about a few years ago, but found it was discontinued. This is unfortunate, because while writing that blog item a few years ago, I got the sense when talking to lead developer and new-dad-at-the-time Kenneth Granerud that he was on to something.

So after doing a few laps on Distrowatch.com, I settled on Salix, a Slackware-based distro from Europe. According to its Web site, Salix is a linux distribution based on Slackware “that is simple, fast and easy to use.”

No truer words were spoken. After a relatively quick download and installation, Salix flies on the MicroPC laptop.

I opted for the Fluxbox version of the distro — it also comes in Xfce, LXDE and KDE flavors — and the lightweight window manager version does not disappoint. While it might be objectionable to free software purists (and I’m a little flexible on this issue, though I’d prefer the decision of installing it be given to the user), the presence of Flash on the distro out of the box is a plus for those who want to get online and straight over to YouTube. With the Gslapt Package Manager, you can dig around for programs you’d like to add.

It’s refreshing when you don’t have to pop the hood right away. Right out of the box, so to speak, the distro ran flawlessly. Connectivity is a snap, and there have been no glitches with the wireless since using Salix. I added Conky because I enjoy having a rundown of what’s going on beneath the keyboard that sits on my desktop, and I also added Irssi, because that’s what the “cool kids” use to talk on IRC. Why these two programs aren’t already included on distros — I’ve only encountered Irssi being native on Debian — is a mystery.

As a matter of personal preference, I changed the cursor. I have seen this before on Fluxbox-based distros: It comes with the cursor that has a large black arrow and I prefer the smaller white one. With this exception, there was nothing I needed to tweak right away.

Again, I can’t get over the speed of this distro. Salix flies on this laptop, even with multiple programs running simultaneously. I cannot say that for every distro that has graced this laptop. Salix is clearly one of the better distros I’ve come across.

I am not completely up to speed on Fluxbox and its nuances, but I’m getting there. In the hubbub that is known as the current desktop environment soap opera, I’m starting to like window managers more, and you may find that more distro test drives will include them.

The symbol for Salix is the bonsai. Like a bonsai, Salix is small, light and the product of infinite care.

If you have the time and the inclination, give it a try.

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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Eliminate DRM!

Spending the day with an Ocelot

August 14, 2011 3 comments

Yes, I know LinuxCon is next, and that’s in mid-August, but I think they’ve got the publicity thing covered, especially with the 20-year thing and with Linus being there and all. But if you’re going to the next show, make it the Ohio LinuxFest in September. Bradley Kuhn and Cathy Malmrose are keynoting, so you’ll not want to miss that (especially Cathy — Go ZaReason!)

First things first: No one in their right mind would review an alpha version of a distro, just as no one in their right mind would take the advice in a review of an alpha version. I can’t remember who said it recently — for some reason, Jeff Hoogland of Bodhi Linux comes immediately to mind (and if it wasn’t you, Jeff, I apologize) — but reviewing an alpha version is like telling someone how a cake tastes after just trying the batter. So let me make it perfectly clear this is not a review — I repeat, “This is not a review!” I mention this because to the first person that says, “Larry the Free Software Guy reviewed Oneiric and he said . . . ” I’d like to remind you, ahem, THIS IS NOT A REVIEW.

Got it?

After reading a few articles about the Alpha 3 version of Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot and finding that it was available (though it’s a little hard to find — perhaps by design — on the Ubuntu site), I thought I’d give Oneiric Alpha 3 a try since I had a day to spare — actually a unusually slow day at work — and not much else to do with it. Such is my life on a Saturday.

The caveats: I didn’t install Oneiric but ran the distro on the ThinkPad T30 from a USB stick. Also, sucking it up and taking a deep breath, I promised myself I would resist rolling my eyes this time and took a proactive approach to the Unity desktop environment, brushing up a little on Unity before going back in there to avoid repeating my disastrous introduction to it.

I still think that Unity leaves way too much to be desired, however the Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot Alpha 3 remarkably behaved like a version of a distro well beyond the alpha stage. Programs come up quickly — bear in mind again that I’m running this from a USB stick — and there were no noticeable hiccups normally associated with early pre-release versions.

However, I did encounter a crashing program for which I was prompted to file a bug report through Launchpad, which I attempted to do. Unfortunately, when signing in to Launchpad, I was told that I was “stale” — no truer words were spoken, perhaps. After “freshening up” my account, though, I wasn’t able to reproduce the glitch, so I wasn’t able to file a bug report.

But on the whole, if this alpha version is any indication of what Ubunteros have to look forward to in October, this should be a good release.

Things I liked about Oneiric (bearing in mind it’s an alpha) :

  • Despite running from a USB stick, programs respond quickly with a “right out of the box” feel, almost as if the distro is installed on the hard drive.
  • LibreOffice, Firefox and Thunderbird native to Ubuntu 11.10 (though I am told that LibreOffice may not make the Live CD. Rethink that one, guys and gals)
  • Things I didn’t like about Oneiric (and, remember, it’s still in the alpha stage) :

  • Unity (yes, I know you can opt for Kubuntu/Xubuntu/Lubuntu, which I would do if I were an Ubuntu user; probably using Xubuntu)
  • This is probably more of the fact that I’m using old hardware, but the splash screen as the laptop boots looks like a bad acid trip (not that I know what this would be like first hand — no really!)
  • Unity. Oh, did I say that already? Sorry.
  • A pet peeve: I don’t want to use Empathy for IRC, and I know that space on the Live CD is scarce (and I know I can just get it after installing the distro), but you could stand to put something like Xchat or Irssi on for the hardcore IRC types. Just sayin’ . . .

    As the auto ads say, “Your mileage may vary,” and you may have a completely different experience with Oneiric. However, with Alpha 3 being a solid release, with the upcoming tweaks in the next months finalizing it when it’s unleashed on the public in October, there’s a good chance that Ubuntu 11.10 will be a strong, solid release.

    [Want to comment? Please do, but you're going to have to give me a name -- it can be an IRC nick -- and a legitimate e-mail address. If not, it won't appear. That plain, that simple. "Anonymous," "anon" or any variations thereof get held immediately -- if I can't reach you to confirm, then it doesn't run. Same with any suspect comment that can't be confirmed. So let's be above board here.]

    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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  • Take a tablet, call me in the morning

    August 2, 2011 4 comments

    Yes, I know LinuxCon is next, and that’s in mid-August, but I think they’ve got the publicity thing covered, especially with the 20-year thing and with Linus being there and all. But if you’re going to the next show, make it the Ohio LinuxFest in September. Bradley Kuhn and Cathy Malmrose are keynoting, so you’ll not want to miss that (especially Cathy — Go ZaReason!)

    Regular readers of this blog know that I’m not a big fan of tablets. Sure “they’re hip, they’re here, they’re now,” but for the most part, they’re too big for a pocket and too small to do anything meaningful in a way that I would do anything meaningful (for example, write this blog, which I am most comfortable doing on a laptop or a desktop, among other things). Frankly, I’m waiting for the tablet fad to pass, but I’m probably in the minority here.

    I share the same opinion as Jeff Hoogland, whose blog item yesterday entitled “Why the tablet craze?” mentions that tablets “are great novelty items. If you have an extra few hundred dollars laying around and want a new toy _ go ahead and pick one up. Just don’t expect it to magically change your life or make it easier like many commercials would have you think.”

    But I’m talking tablets today because despite the fact that I’m not a tablet user, I’m about to give a huge slap on the back of the head to Apple; unprecedented here for the most part because a.) I used to be an Apple guy in the late ’80s and ’90s, and b.) the one of the reasons I converted to Linux was that MacOS X outpaced the longevity of some of the G3-based iMacs I had — a textbook case of planned obsolescence — and it annoyed me greatly; so much so that I left what has now become, for all practical purposes, “a cult.”

    There. I said it. Despite the fact I’m no longer a “defender of the faith” (see MacMarines in the 1990s, of which I was a member), and despite I think they still make great hardware with a few exceptions — iMac G5: What a dog! — it’s clear that Apple should be taken to task for acting less like an innovator and more like, well, Microsoft.

    Apple legal seems to be working overtime, and a case in point is this: An item in the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia has Apple suing Samsung to take their new Galaxy series off the shelves — they want ‘em destroyed, actually — because Apple accused Samsung of copying the iPad 2 and infringing its patents.

    Let’s concentrate on what “copying the iPad 2″ means. An Apple drone, er rep, in Australia is quoted in the article as saying, “It’s no coincidence that Samsung’s latest products look a lot like the iPhone and iPad, from the shape of the hardware to the user interface and even the packaging.”

    So let me ask this: How is a tablet supposed to be shaped to not look like an iPad? And the user interface? How radically different does that have to be to not look like the iPad?

    More importantly, when you find the competition is getting to close in the marketplace, do you take the game to the courts? Is that how tech business gauges its success now — not on the merits of its hardware, but on the legal abilities of its attorneys? Apparently, that’s the modus operandi for Apple, and many other companies, these days.

    If Apple is supposed to be the world’s coolest uber-company that can do no wrong — as their advocates love to tout ad nauseum — it should be less forgetful about its past when looking toward the future. Arguably, the Macintosh could have gone the way of the Osborne in the ’90s if not for some lucky twists and turns, not the least of which was a cash infusion from Microsoft. I remember because I was there, wishing I had a sledgehammer to throw at the screen after running down the center aisle at Macworld when Bill Gates appeared on it. Also, I’m not saying that Apple shouldn’t guard against copying, but looking like an iPad? Is that the best you’ve got, Apple legal? This is your “A” game?

    This is not to say that I’m defending “poor, defenseless Samsung.” On the contrary: While it’s great they’ve chosen to run the Galaxy on Android, it appears that this legal battle stems more from their heated competition in the marketplace than anything else.

    This is what gives me headaches and has me reaching for a couple of tablets — of the pharmaceutical variety.

    So if I were Etch-a-Sketch, I’d definitely get an attorney and look at Apple’s iPad and the Samsung Galaxy. Yep, some definite similarities there between the product I grew up with and those two, and some that a judge might find interesting.

    Time for a walk in the redwoods.

    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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    How I found Enlightenment

    May 16, 2011 2 comments

    Linux for the GNU South – Attend if you can.

    If you know anything about my past — no, that’s not me on the Post Office walls across the country . . . honest — you’ll know that I was a resident at the San Francisco Zen Center in the early to mid ’90s where, among other things, I was trying to find enlightenment.

    So I’m familiar with the Bodhi tree and with Bodhidharma. Good thing, too, because when trying Bodhi Linux, those leaves from the tree swirling around the screen could be a little disconcerting.

    Jeff Hoogland and his group of FOSS bodhisattvas who put together this distro deserve a gassho in eternal homage for their efforts in producing an outstanding distro. While I am limited to running tests on hardware that is — how can I put this tactfully? — old, the distro ran flawlessly on two laptops — a ThinkPad T30 and a Toshiba Satellite.

    Based on Ubuntu (which is based on Debian, to give credit where credit is due), Bodhi Linux 1.0.0 was a breeze to download at under 400MB and easy to install.

    What you get once you reboot after installation is, well, Enlightenment.

    No, not karmic bliss, but Enlightenment the desktop environment which, in this age of new desktop environments, is a fresh and viable alternative to those now vying for attention in the FOSS world. Enlightenment is a very clean environment with a gradual learning curve that takes some attention at first, but it’s easily adaptable to what you’re used to with a minimum amount of effort (for example — getting the X pointer instead of the triangular Delta thingie is a snap. Sorry, guys, but that big triangle has got to go). Enlightenment is as elegant as it is functional, and in getting used to it quickly, it is one that can appeal to a wide range of users. Also, it looks like a computer desktop, unlike some of the other more popular desktop environment offerings as of late, and that personally is a huge +1.

    The philosophy behind Bodhi Linux installing a system with only a few programs is as logical as it is interesting: It provides the user an opportunity to build the system the way he or she want to build it. This could be intimidating to the newer users, but for those who have been around the Linux block a few times, it’s a welcome option to put together what you want and how you want it. For example, for me, a few apt-gets on the command line later (one of the first, for me, was sudo apt-get install synaptic — OK, so I’m lazy) and I had what I wanted and was on my proverbial way.

    On the old hardware that I’m destined to be stuck with thanks to my economic status as a terminally poor guy, Bodhi runs very well. I can imagine that it probably flies on newer, more powerful hardware (although I understand that Bodhi Linux currently comes in 32-bit version only). Not only this, while I have put back Fedora 15 beta on the ThinkPad — while Bodhi is good, Fedora is my distro of choice — I will keep Bodhi Linux on the Satellite.

    If you have time and want to give it a test-drive, Bodhi Linux can be found here.

    Again, thanks to the Bodhi Linux crew for putting out a good distro and keep up the great work.

    [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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