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List of the top 10 Linux lists

June 9, 2011 8 comments

Linux for the GNU South — it’s coming up so attend if you can.

Lists: We all make ‘em and, judging by what appears on LXer.com, we all read ‘em. A great majority of them are worthwhile and informative; others, not so much.

Over the last few months, I’ve noticed an uptick in the number of “Top $NUMBER List of $VERY_COOL_PROGRAMS” on LXer.com and thought that perhaps a list of the best lists might be helpful to navigate these uncharted waters.

Doing this list David Letterman style, we’ll start at 10 and work our way down to the Number 1 Linux list over the last few months. Ready?

10. 8 of the Best Free Astronomy Apps — An excellent list for those into astronomy: What could be better than free star charting apps? Me, I’m all in on KStars. Thank Steven Epps for this — many of the lists you’ll find in the ether of the Internet come from him.

9. Fedora 15’s Five Best Features — This review by Steven Vaughan-Nichols should be renamed “Five Good Things about Fedora 15 and a Song of Despair” (with apologies to Pablo Neruda), since he starts out by bemoaning (rightfully) the shortcomings of GNOME 3, and then following up with a list of five good things about the release.

8. 31 Great Tutorials for Inkscape — You might as well call this the Baskin Robbins of Inkscape tutorials, and the Unixmen, who normally have some good tutorials on hand, give us a veritable ice cream store of knowledge on this great software.

7. 7 of the Best Free Linux GPS Tools — Another list from Steve Epps. A program can be found here to let you know where you’re going and where you’ve been.

6. Five Must Have GNOME Shell Extensions — If you’re running Fedora 15 with GNOME 3, this list will come in handy.

5. 5 things I like in Ubuntu 11.04 (Unity) and 10 things which I don’t — Dark Duck likes and dislikes several things about Natty Narwhal, and the interesting perspective here is that some of the likes and dislikes are the same.

4. 9 Good CD and DVD Burning Tools for Ubuntu/Linux — While these aren’t necessarily soley Ubuntu tools, it provides a good list.

3. Top 6 Quicklists for Ubuntu 11.04 Natty to Enhance Unity Launcher Functionality — … and if you said that all in one breath, you get a prize. Manuel Jose seems to be on top of all things Ubuntu, and he gets a prize for providing adequate alternatives for Unity users.

2. 7.5 Reasons to Look Forward to Fedora 15 — Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier adds a list of things that, at the time, were coming up in the now-released Fedora 15, and the half-point goes to . . . nope, no spoiler alert here.

Which brings us to the top Linux list of the past few months, brought to you by LXer.com:

1. 70 Open Source Replacements for Small Business Software — In a word: Damn.

Got an item I missed? Pass it on.

[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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Fools one and all

April 1, 2011 6 comments

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

[Update: OK, WordPress, very funny: When you go to look at your blog stats, the real number is on the bar chart, but the bar on the bar chart it set at astronomical heights.]

So far, the pickings began somewhat slim on the tech news front regarding har-de-har-har April Fools’ Day joke news, but it seems to be picking up as of around 9 a.m. Pacific Time — and by this time, which is dusk or later in Europe and night in Asia, the stories should be out and read by now.

The best of the tech so far are these two:

— That KDE is the prize in a raffle, outlined on the KDE site here. I’m just wondering if those who are “offering” are clear on the concept of “prize.”

– Marcel Gagne gives us probably the best written one of the day with his Microsoft buys ReactOS for billions, which you can read here. It had me going before the first cup of coffee this morning.

One that would get a thumbs up except it glosses over an issue that Canonical/Ubuntu would just as soon hide in the dungeon and make believe everything is just peachy is the real identity of “Canonical/Ubuntu critic extrordinaire” Jef Spaleta — according to Jono Bacon’s blog, it’s Jono Bacon himself.

While tongue was planted firmly in cheek and while there was snickerable material in the blog — even the real Jef himself and Mrs. Jef responded to the blog — it makes light of the issue that Jef rightfully and, to his credit, consistently raises: For example, that of Canonical/Ubuntu’s contribution, or lack thereof, to kernel development and other aspects of FOSS where they reap the benefits without putting in the work.

I replied to Jono’s blog, paraphrasing the late Sen. Lloyd Bensten, who said this to then Vice President Dan Quayle in the debate in ’88: “I served with Jef Spaleta. I know Jef Spaleta. Jef Spaleta is a friend of mine. Jono, you’re no Jef Spaleta.”

One blog falters to the point of faceplanting: Sam Varghese writes on ITWorld — not linked here in principle — that the Linux kernel will be released under the BSD license. This would be a good one in theory, but in execution it tends to go off on a “wink-wink-nudge-nudge” tangent that makes it implausable from the start. Secret meetings in Tegucigalpa? Riiiiiiiiiiiight.

There are also trappings of mirth in some Facebook statuses: The Rude Pundit (warning: though politically appropriate in my opinion, foul language abounds), a liberal blogger who is on top of my list of non-tech reads, gets an honorary degree from Bob Jones University. Also, Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier throws up his hands and goes over to KDE — ha ha, funny guy, that GNOME media guru.

It’s still early in these parts, so maybe a Hail Mary pass will find its way to a receiver during the course of the day. Or not. Just bear in mind that it’s April 1, and that your shoe is really not untied. Or worse.

[Another update, pointed out by Juan Rodriguez below in the comments: Juan, aka Nushio, gets high marks for his "Fedora Cheat Ball." Link is in the comments -- go take a look.]

[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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SCALE 9X: It’s a wrap

March 1, 2011 2 comments

Yeah, it’s over, but it was an absolutely great show. Visit the site for some of the details, and see you next year in L.A.!

Just call me the ADD Poster Boy: After winning a Palm Pre 2 from the HP booth, I am finding that I now own a phone that is smarter than me. While I search far and wide regarding its hackability — like, Google: “Can I install Android?” (heh heh heh) — I have to say much of the Sunday/Monday learning curve has taken me away from this blog.

But now that I’ve figured it out, I can report back about Sunday, the weekend and everything else SCALE 9X. Like:

More people: SCALE had been flirting with overwhelming success all weekend. Friday’s “problem” at registration was that the folks in that department faced a lot more people than normally come on a Friday, to the point of where 800 of the attendees for the weekend came on Friday. The final tally — 1,802. So 1,002 folks came over the weekend to make this a record year for SCALE, and as a result, it makes the outlook for FOSS this year really robust. So get out there and FOSS it up, folks.

Better venue: The Hilton went above and beyond to help SCALE be a success. The larger venue made for easier traffic flow in the aisles to the point where it appeared that there were less people at times due to the fact that there were less human jams, save for booths holding raffles (like the HP booth, where yours truly won a Palm Pre 2. Did I mention that?). Most booth folks I spoke to said they were incredibly happy with the event, as were many attendees.

Better connectivity: The wireless, which was choked last year, performed well after a small hiccup on Saturday morning. Bear in mind that when you get 1,800 geeks in the same area at the same time, your wireless performance may be . . .. how can I put this tactfully? . . . taxed. But the SCALE communications staff nailed it this year and there were few, if any, of the holdups that the show suffered from last year.

But at this point, you’re probably asking, “But Larry the Free Software Guy, what about Sunday?”

Sunday was fairly uneventful, as they usually are. Jane Silber of Ubuntonical gave her keynote talk on “The Cloud and Human Beings,” which was well attended. Booths on Sunday took the usual breather since there were less people around — and this serves as a hint to those attending shows: Want to have a longer, more engaged talk with folks in a booth? The second day — in SCALE’s case, Sunday — is the best day to do this. At the Fedora booth, we were able to help some folks with Fedora related problems and got to take more time with issues that came up. Not only this, it allowed me a chance to go swag hunting and this year, rather than taking one of each and backing in the fork lift, I took things I was actually going to read and/or use.

A couple of notes:

Nexenta a server darling?
A couple of server vendors had booths at SCALE, one of which was Pogo Linux, and the server folks seem to have latched on to Nexenta, a Solaris-based OS, as their operating system of choice. Maybe it’s a sign of things to come, but it’s interesting that they’ve taken this Solaris based distro and made it their own.

Best swag: Rackspace didn’t have the tattoo sleeve at SCALE, so the best SWAG — stuff we all get, for those of you keeping score at home — goes to Softlayer for their flying rings. Honorable mention also goes to The Positive Internet Company for their giraffe toy.

The legend lives on: The borders on the OpenSUSE booth structure this year are black, where once they were grey. They were grey when I accidentally — accidentally, I swear — spilled coffee on it and possibly stained it when Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier gave me a stuffed lizard for Mirano that year and I spilled coffee on the booth. The legend of the coffee spill lives on and it has grown to become that I had spilled a pot of coffee on the booth, as well as I might have spilled a pot of coffee on Zonker himself in my zeal to trash the OpenSUSE booth. None of which is true, but it makes for a great story of which William Randolph Hearst (“never let the facts get in the way of a good story”) would be proud.

Meanwhile, 40 minutes later . . . .: For those of you still keeping score at home, I am told it took approximately 42 minutes for Jane Silber to say the word “Linux” in her keynote on Sunday. I wasn’t there — I had a couple of other things to do, so I’m never able to make keynotes — but this was relayed to me by someone who thought that was peculiar. Indeed.

Now it’s on to Linux Fest Northwest.

[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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Joining the fray: Why Debian matters

February 7, 2011 11 comments

Registration is now open for SCALE 9X — register now by clicking on the winking penguin.

As mentioned in this blog in the past, and as mentioned to various people who ask, I don’t like the six-month release cycle. I can go further: I hate it. There’s nothing like getting comfortable with a distro, only to be prodded to update to the latest, greatest improvements — in many instances the improvements are both great and welcome, but then the cycle of getting comfortable starts all over again.

This is why we run the office of Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, on Fedora 10. That’s right, Fedora 10; a two-year old version of Fedora which reached it’s so-called “end of life” already. Know why? It has worked since I installed it, and I’ve tweaked it to do what needs to be done to run the business. I’m too busy futzing with other people’s computers and too busy developing our FOSS server project to budget time tweaking the business computer. So I left it at that particular version because, simply, it just works.

So in many ways that we’ll probably not cover here, thank God for Debian and, for one reason for gratitude, its “we’ll release it when it’s good and ready” release cycle. Debian 6.0 “Squeeze” was just released over the weekend and its release prompted a couple of interesting items from two of FOSS’s best writers.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols wrote in a blog item that says that Debian is not as important as it once was. He concludes with the following: “Debian is still important. Its developers do a lot of the hard work of mixing and matching basic Linux components and many open-source programs into the strong, reliable foundation that other versions of Linux, such as Ubuntu and MEPIS use. But, while Linux programmers will continue to appreciate Debian, it seems to me that Debian is becoming increasingly irrelevant to the larger user community that Ubuntu, Mint, Fedora, and openSUSE has brought into the Linux fold.”

Meanwhile, Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier doesn’t exactly concur in his blog item that says that Debian is still relevant; not only this, it matters more than ever.

Give them both a look. I’ll wait.

So who’s right, Steven or Joe?

Yes.

Both are right, to varying degrees, though I think they’re coming at the issue from different perspectives: Steven from the popular use aspect, and Joe from the development and contribution side of things.

Debian never gets the credit it deserves by the wider public, and that may be OK with them; or not. Personally, I think this is a tragedy — my first distro in 2006 was Debian, and while I went to Ubuntu and then to Fedora, Debian was the one where I started. If you started with Ubuntu, you really started with Debian.

That’s because without Debian, there’s no Ubuntu. Without Debian, there’s no Linux Mint. Without Debian, there’s no Mepis. The list goes on, and it’s huge.

[Meanwhile, in a classic case of ADD, I found this link in one of the responses to Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols' blog -- it's an update of a poster we used in Lindependence in 2008 and shows the "family tree" of GNU/Linux. If you look at the chart, you can see all the distros which can trace their roots to Debian.]

So is Debian still relevant? Depends on how you look at it. Is it eclipsed in use by easier-to-use distros, some of which don’t contribute back in proportion to what they take? In that sense, it’s relevancy arguably is waning.

But in uplifting the FOSS paradigm, maintaining GNU/Linux’s progress in development, offering options to architectures that are thought to be extinct, and sending improvements upstream for the benefit of all, and not just for itself, then, is Debian relevant? Yeah. Hell, yeah. Debian is relevant in a big way.

In a big way.

[Incidentally, as an aside, "Squeeze" will go on the PowerPC boxes in the "Jungle Room," the name for the Redwood Digital Research computer lab. Elvis would have wanted it that way.]

And, once again, here are the last three words of a well-traveled Buddhist sutra: “Don’t Waste Time.” Even if it means releasing your distro in more-than-six-month cycles.

[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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Don’t fear the beard

January 27, 2011 9 comments

Registration is now open for SCALE 9X — register now by clicking on the winking penguin.

During the 2010 baseball season, the San Francisco Giants — the World Series Champion San Francisco Giants (yours truly never tires of saying that) — had a slogan, “Fear the Beard.” Most of the pitching staff — relievers and closer Brian Wilson specifically — were bearded pitching machines mowing down opposing batters.

Historically speaking, the tech realm and beards have never been too far apart, at least for the men. As such, there are some in the FOSS realm who deserve special recognition for not only advancing free/open source software, but also for forsaking the razor and putting a hairy face forward.

This blog item deals with beards specifically, so those with FOSS’s most awesome goatees — like Red Hat’s Karsten Wade, freelance FOSS journalist Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier and Oregon State University Professor Carlos Jensen, all of whom would definitely get top honors in this category — aren’t included here. Sorry, guys. Same with moustaches: For example, Mark Terranova’s ‘stache belongs in any facial hair Hall of Fame; a piece of work that would easily get him membership in The Village People — and I mean that in a good way (however, truth be told, when he’s got a beard, Mark runs with the best of ‘em).

Here is a sampling of what I find are the best beards in FOSS, in no particular order other than to say that if anyone got a first prize, it would have to go to . . .

Jon ‘maddog’ Hall: Despite getting a lot of input from those who think Richard Stallman should get top billing, sorry, RMS: Maddog takes the prize as the FOSS advocate with historically the best beard in the realm, to which picture at right will attest. Or you could look up Father Christmas in the dictionary and, chances are, you’ll find maddog’s picture with the definition. Despite recently going for the Sean-Connery-as-Indiana-Jones’-Dad look (see next paragraph) to go along with the 70 or so pounds he dropped — a great thing, indeed — Hall’s beard has always been the standard of epic in the FOSS beard pantheon.

[Maddog, shown at left in his new closer cropped form, comments in response to an e-mail: "And for beards, I could NEVER understand why someone would want to put a very sharp instrument close to their throat when they are only partially awake. I have not shaved since 1969 . . . ." Also, to the youngsters out there, maddog has a message: "I am glad that you are twenty . . . I enjoy seeing your youthful energy and beauty, and some days when I wake up and I am stiff, I wish I was twenty again . . . but I only wish that for about fifteen minutes." Amen to that!]

Richard Stallman: Most people I’ve talked to about this have said, after they stopped laughing at the topic (“No, really, I’m writing on the BEARDS of FOSS . . .”), that RMS should have the top spot, and in lieu of Jon ‘maddog’ Hall’s change in appearance, they might be right. The bearded face that launched a thousand tools to make the Linux kernel run, and launched a free software movement to boot, has been the one most commonly associated with free-as-in-freedom software. Not only this, he also sidelines as a saint — if you’ve never seen the St. Ig-GNU-tius schtick, check it out. I first saw this several years ago when Stallman spoke at UC Berkeley, and it never gets old despite being bearded (and I mean that in a good way).

Timothy Budd: If you are now, or have been, a student of computer science at a university, there’s a chance you may have had a class with a textbook Timothy Budd had written. An associate professor of computer science at Oregon State University — Go Beavers! — Tim has written a dozen textbooks on object-oriented programming, data structures and Leda, a multi-paradigm programming language that yours truly admits to not understanding at all. Be that as it may, Tim’s advocacy for FOSS during his time at OSU — he has had me as well as others speak to his graduate classes on FOSS — and his healthy crop of hair on his chin garners him a spot on the list. Besides, since he is well known by his students for his use of the term “Administrivia,” he gets on the list by simple use of that bearded word alone.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols: Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols’ beard is one that most FOSS users and advocates are accustomed to seeing on a nearly daily basis when reading the latest developments in Free/Open Source Software news. Whenever there’s news to be delivered, the FOSS community can count on Steven being the one who brings it to us; not only this, usually Steven is first with the news, which should garner him the nickname “Scoop.” Now writing for ZDNet as well, Steven gets what is rightfully more exposure in writing news that’s important to us — and to everyone else, for that matter. Steven gets extra points for being a Asheville Tourists fan — the Tourists being one of the most unique mascot names for a baseball team in the country.

Me: In an unprecedented display of unabashed ego worthy of another Larry — the CEO of Oracle whom, incidentally, has what’s trying to be a beard on his face, but not doing a very good job of it (but I digress) — I like to think that my beard would rank up there among bearded FOSS titans, not because of any accomplishment of my own — OK, the Lindependence Project . . . maybe — but just by the mere fact that it grows, with Wolfman-like speed, on my face. Herein lies the story: I’m a werewolf. Just kidding — I grew first grew my beard after Jerry Garcia died in Jerry’s honor, but my family hated it. So I went back and forth between having it and not having it until making a pact with my family: Even-numbered years, a moustache; odd-numbered years, the beard.

I’ve missed a lot of people, which is where you come in: Who did I miss and why is should their beard be in the FOSS Hairy-Faced Hall of Fame?

[Photos of Jon "maddog" Hall, Timothy Budd and Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols used by permission. The photo of Richard Stallman was taken by Copyleft and appears here under the GPL and CC-Share-Alike licenses afforded by the photographer. I haven't decided to give myself permission to use my photo, but it's probably OK.]

[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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Wednesday Morning, 3 a.m.

August 11, 2010 Leave a comment

Sleepless in Felton . . . sort of. Actually, while I load Blender on the laptop, I’ll weigh in during the quiet of a San Lorenzo Valley morning, complete with raccoons and skunks fighting in the near distance.

So while Blender goes through the motions — more on why I’m fiddling with this another time — I keep thinking about an article I read yesterday about how Linux is winning.

It’s an interesting perspective, worthy of discussion if one is so inspired. It is written from a corporate standpoint, so those of us at on the front lines of converting people to GNU/Linux may not relate directly. But still . . . at the moment, there aren’t any replies to the article. But chances are there will be.

While it doesn’t keep me up, there has been some rumblings about the fate of OpenSolaris, where finally a fork — or actually a “spork” — of OpenSolaris has manifested itself in the form of Illumos which is led by Nexenta.

Earlier this week, Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier asks the question, should OpenSolaris die? Zonker makes a compelling argument, complete with a heaping helping of history, for those working on OpenSolaris to come into the Linux fold, or failing that, at least to FreeBSD.

I don’t want to be a spoiler, but Zonker concludes toward the end of his blog with this: “It seems to me that it’d be a better world for software freedom and free *nix in general if the Solaris die-hards sucked it up and helped work on Linux. Failing that, FreeBSD. Either way, it’d be an improvement over trying to ‘spork’ OpenSolaris when the effort would be more effective elsewhere.”

Agreed.

My limited experience with OpenSolaris is trying to see if it would work on an old, trusty and ever-present Ultra 10 Sun box in the Redwood Digital office. But since Sun boxes account for even less, percentage-wise, than PowerPC Macs, not even OpenSolaris would make a version for them.

Forgetting your roots: Never a good sign.

Time to throw an old shoe out the door to break up the disagreement between nocturnal creatures.

[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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Zonker nails it again

June 16, 2010 Leave a comment

One of the great things about people writing things that you have been thinking — let alone things you wish you had written — is that you don’t have to do it yourself.

So, thanks to Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier for writing this on the Linux Magazine site about the “Party of Gno,” with some words that hopefully the Free Software Foundation will take to heart.

My thoughts exactly, Zonk.

[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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