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Notes, quotes, and smotes

May 4, 2014 3 comments

Sunday morning in Felton is abuzz, first with the Maker Market in the parking lot next to my apartment, complete with a lot of handcrafted items, face-painted children and the luxury — for me anyway — of listening to a great local band, the Coffis Brothers, from the cozy confines of the world’s rattiest, yet most comfortable, couch.

But enough of me and the beautiful day, let’s get back to the blog.

Projectus Interruptus: You have to hand it to Canonical. They paint an awesome — no, and inspirational — picture of what they plan to do, but when it comes to completing the projects? Well, the record there is, at best, spotty. Ubuntu for Android may follow Ubuntu TV as the latest not-ready-for-real-life project, according to an article in PC World. Well, at least they finished Ubuntu One before pulling the plug on this. By the way, has anyone heard anything recently about the smartphone-to-end-all-smartphones that Canonical tried to fund with an Indiegogo campaign?

Speaking of phones . . .
: I finally broke down and got a ZTE Open with Firefox OS on it. My first impressions are that it’s pretty spartan — and when I described it as such to the 20-something clerk at T-Mobile, I answered his blank stare with, “you know, spartan . . . It means austere” — though it works just fine. As I’ve said many times in this blog, I only want my phone to ring, hold a connection, and send/receive text messages; and the latter I could live with or live without. It clearly lacks the bells and whistles that my previous phone, a HTC G2 now handed down to my daughter, had with Android. But I expect this to be temporary as more programs are either developed or more apps are ported from Android and elsewhere. But for the moment, Firefox OS works and works well for my needs. Plus with the orange case with black trim, the ZTE Open phone is in the team colors of my beloved San Francisco Giants.

More on Heartbleed: Simon Phipps absolutely nailed it this week in an InfoWorld article about the OpenSSL’s “unique” license discouraging the necessary scrutiny to avert this crisis. The license in question was a hybrid that doesn’t really lend itself to community engagement, according to David Wheeler, an expert in government use of Open Source Software.

Said Wheeler: “I suspect that more code review and contributions would occur if OpenSSL used a standard widely used license … this awkward licensing situation means that many people who prefer the GPL or LGPL will often not help develop or audit OpenSSL. Some of those who prefer less-restrictive licenses may also be less inclined to help, because again, it is not a standard license.”

Interesting stuff. Anyway, we’ll see you next week.

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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Random thoughts, cheap shots, bon mots

April 20, 2014 2 comments

He has risen on Easter Sunday, and no longer referring to myself in the third person I’ll get a cup of coffee and a bagel and drop off a few tidbits from the week, or weeks, past.

He likes it . . . hey, Matt! After not really taking to it in the same way, Jupiter Broadcasting’s Matt Hartley actually like GNOME enough to start using it on a regular basis, according to an item in his blog this week. “Like the KDE desktop, GNOME 3 is full of functionality if you’re willing to invest a little time configuring it the way you like it,” Matt writes. “Where I think GNOME really shines, however, is that even without additional extensions installed, it’s still a great experience in its overall flow and layout. Less clicks to gain menu access, easily locate needed applications, for me GNOME has it all.”

Am I going to try it again after reading Matt’s glowing praise? Nope. But it does speak to one of the basic tenets of FOSS: Use what works for you.

Maybe FOSS doesn’t suck after all: What I think is the most interesting race today is whether Malaysian Airlines 370 is found before data compromises from Heartbleed can be stopped. Thanks to Heartbleed — the gift that keeps on giving (or taking) and which will be months before a resolution is in place — the failure of open-source OpenSSL has been the “standard” by which all Open Source projects have been pilloried in the mainstream media and, sadly, in some of the eyeball-grabbing ought-to-know-better tech media as well.

Well, there’s no argument that the Heartbleed flaw was a monumental and historic one, however Coverity seems to think that “open source is still well ahead of proprietary software, generating fewer coding defects for every size of project,” according to an article in Network World last week. So while no thoughtful FOSS advocate has ever proclaimed invincibility, it might give one pause to recognize the old Debian adage that “with great power comes great responsibility.” Or in the words of one poster during a debate on this in social media, we need to play more defense and less offense.

Seems like I’m forgetting something: Oh yeah, Ubuntu released another adjective/animal combination starting with the letter T. Yes, it still sends your data to Amazon and eBay by default, and if you’re OK with that, go ahead and give it a shot. If you have to use it, your best bet here would be Xubuntu, judging from past experience.

Now to enjoy some Easter eggs and commune with my Peeps. Happy Easter to those who observe it.

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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Meanwhile, back at the blog . . .

April 16, 2014 Leave a comment

First things first: I hate being a statistic (I’m truly sorry, Mr. President). But as of a few Fridays ago, I have become a minuscule uptick — or at least, in a very infinitesimally small way, preventing a downturn — in the U.S. unemployment rate. In short, the Santa Cruz Sentinel laid me off after 11 years of editing, which capped a 37-year run in various media, mostly in newspapers.

But never mind. Let’s just leave this at “unemployment sucks,” and move on, shall we?

I bring this up to explain my absence. What I have been doing — NSA take note and pass this on to the Labor Department — is looking for work and hatching some other diabolical schemes, not the least of which is reviving the Lindependence Project to do more events this year. Film at 11.

Now with more free time than I can eat, I can do things like write this blog once again on a regular basis. With this additional time when I’m not looking for work (hello, California Employment Development Department), I also have time to squirrel around with some hardware and software in the home lab which, as you may recall, is dubbed The Jungle Room.

Elvis fans can explain that one to you.

Anyway, while cleaning the house the other day, I found a IBM ThinkPad T60 in a box, partially disassembled, and needing a hard drive. More cleaning later, I found a hard drive for it — such is life in Casa Cafiero, because where people find change between the cushions of their couch, I usually find things like a 1 GB laptop memory chip (don’t laugh, that really happened).

In my backpack, I had a Fedora 20 disk from SCALE 12X so I assembled the T60 and after some wailing and gnashing of teeth with the newly found hard drive (I love GParted to death — honest. And I will name the rest of my children GParted, if it ever comes to that), I installed the Fedora 20 “Desktop Edition.”

Translation: “Desktop Edition” means GNOME. It has always been a mystery why they didn’t just call it Fedora $NUMBER GNOME, but they don’t. It’s Desktop Edition, wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more. I’ve written about the current GNOME desktop before — in each case, I believe I hated it — but I thought I’d give it another try.

The jury has reached a verdict, your honor: It’s still not for me.

I’m not doing a swan dive onto the dogpile currently burying GNOME in the wake of its recent financial problems. On the contrary: If I can say something positive about it, setting up the desktop the way you want it seems to be easier than it was when I originally tried it years ago. Also, this may be damning by faint praise, but at least GNOME 3.x doesn’t call Amazon saying, “Hey, here’s Larry’s data” (and I think that’s because, well, “erm . . .” they don’t have root, and I trust them moreso than the U-laden distro).

So I’ll be changing this back to something with real, honest-to-$DIETY icons and a desktop environment, which will bring me to KDE or Xfce. Also, I think I’m going to start using Fedora again a little more regularly.

It’s good to be back.

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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Categories: Fedora, GNOME, KDE, linux, Linux, Xfce Tags: , , , , ,

Random Tuesday thoughts

December 3, 2013 2 comments

Not being one to let the calendar get in the way of when I post, I had a few random thoughts after visiting the normal digital hangouts and haunts during the course of an increasingly cold Tuesday. Like . . .

FOSDEM’s seeking a few good distros: Joe Brockmeier passed along to me a message about FOSDEM hosting a cross-distribution miniconference on Feb. 1-2, 2014, seeking submissions of talks, Birds of a Feather (BoF) sessions, or round-table discussions from any interested representatives of Linux distributions or individuals who have a topic of interest related to Linux distributions. Got a proposal? Go here and submit it through Pentabarf, the FOSDEM proposal system (though it would be a good idea to check with Joe first — Joe outlines all of this here on his blog). Good luck in Brussels!

Test, test . . . is this thing on?: Chris Smart, the lead developer at Korora, is looking for a little help in testing Pharlap, a new driver manager for Fedora and a replacement for Jockey in the next version of Korora. Pharlap is shipping with Korora 20, and Smart hopes to get it into RPMFusion down the line, but it needs some testing. He talks about it in his blog, and if you have the time, the skills and the inclination, you might want to help out.

Unicorns, the Loch Ness Monster, Ubuntu TV: One of these things is not like the others. Oh, wait: They’re all alike. Christopher Tozzi, whom many of you know as The VAR Guy, talks to Canonical in his latest item, “Canonical: Ubuntu TV Lives, But Linux Smartphones Come First.” The definition of “life” being broad as it might be, yours truly still would like to call shenanigans with impunity on the folks from the Isle of Man. Why? Simple: Canonical featured Ubuntu TV last year (2012, for those of you keeping score at home) at CES — not a small, inexpensive venue for a coming-out party — and now Jono Bacon follows up with a quote in the article that Ubuntu TV is “still not as complete as we liked it to be” nearly two years after the fact. If Ubuntu TV lives, that’s really not much of an existence, is it?

One more thing: The Linux Journal Readers’ Choice Awards are out. Not a lot of surprises, but something that deserves special mention is Aaron Seigo reflections on KDE’s excellent showing — a leader at 30.6 percent, putting together votes for KDE and KDE Plasma — in the Desktop Environment category.

See you Sunday, if not before (and Felton LUG members, bear in mind there’s no meeting this Sunday. Enjoy the yuletide holiday instead and see you in January).

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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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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On a quiet Sunday

October 20, 2013 10 comments

The weather is starting to cool off and the sky was an incredible blue today, so much so that I was taken away from today’s digital dealings — not the least of which was this blog and installing Salix OS on a Dell Insprion D610 (wicd, my mortal enemy, we meet again!) — so I did the install and I confess I went outside and enjoyed the day.

So that’s why you’re getting this blog on Sunday evening. Apologies to those expecting it earlier in the day.

Nevertheless, last week the Italian blog Magliettabianca published online the second of its two-part interview with Larry l’uomo Software Libero (the original English from which the interview is translated into Italian is here). Bear in mind that I’m not used to being on the other side of the questions, so when I was asked who true leaders of FOSS were, I booted what was a routine grounder.

The first thing I thought was, “Oh, crap — I’m going to forget someone,” and I did; a lot of folks.

In answering, after talking about Linus Torvalds and Richard Stallman, I started with the people I could think of right off the top of my head that I’ve respected and admired: Jon “maddog” Hall, Aaron Seigo, Patrick Volkerding and Bill Kendrick, before shifting genders to include the women who make FOSS work: Dru Lavigne, Robyn Bergeron, Deb Nicholson, Elizabeth Krumbach Joseph and Selena Deckelmann. I knew there were others that I couldn’t think of and I said so in answering the question.

So I feel bad for leaving out a whole battalion of folks who could easily be considered FOSS leaders: Lance Albertson at the Oregon State University Open Source Lab; Usenix’s Julie Miller as well as her Usenix colleague Rikki Endsley, Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier, San Francisco State University’s (and OLPC advocate) Sameer Verma, Amber Graner at the Open Compute Project, Ken Starks of Reglue, Ilan Rabinovitch and Gareth Greenaway at SCALE . . . the list is almost endless.

More importantly — and I’m sorry I didn’t make this point in the interview — what makes FOSS work is everyone who chops wood and carries water, so to speak. Leadership is fine, but it’s getting the mundane things done that counts, so to all who do the work for whichever FOSS program you’re involved in, our gratitude is boundless.

I wish I had thought to say that during the interview. Next time . . .

One more thing: Mark Shuttleworth seems to have ruffled some feathers in KDE circles with his latest blog post, which of course won’t be linked here (but rest assured it is easily found). Shuttleworth, who has often displayed a tell-tale estrangement from reality, makes a couple of bizarre assertions, like saying that Canonical’s critics twist the English language (like he never does that . . . ) and likens Ubuntu/Canonical critics to the Open Source Tea Party — painfully ironic since the playbook of both the Tea Party in the United States and Canonical are strikingly similar.

Nevertheless, the beef revolves around Mir, of course, and rather than outline the hubbub, I’m going to give the keys to the blog now to KDE’s Martin Graesslin and his blog and let him drive. I have a rule that whenever someone says something far better than I can, I let them have the soapbox. And Martin speaks for me here.

Have a great week and see you next Sunday, if not sooner. Now to tackle this install and see if I can prevail over wicd.

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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Passing it along

September 1, 2013 14 comments

Last week, one of my news colleagues posted on social media that her laptop had died, and her two boys were in need (so said their Silicon Valley school) of more than just the cheap tablet she had bought recently at a local big-box electronics store.

About the same time I read of her situation, I had been working on a ThinkPad T30 with a misbehaving wireless card — no, “misbehaving” is too kind, as it was definitely on strike — and I thought it might be a good idea to pass along this old guy, adding an old-school PCMCIA wireless card, so the boys would have something to use for the upcoming school year.

Calls were made, thanks were given, and my colleague — a columnist who works from home “over the hill” in San Jose — will pick up the T30 on Wednesday.

This old T30 was once my “road warrior” before I got the ThinkPad T60 that now fills this role. I think of the T30 in the same way that Neil Young thinks of his instrument when he sings “This Old Guitar” — “This old guitar ain’t mine to keep / It’s mine to play for a while” — and while the T30 may not be ideal for a couple of kids going back to grade school this month, it’ll do until something better comes along.

So I added memory I had lying around, wiped the drive and set out for a distro that I think would be good for them. Knowing they have used Windows before and are used to icons and drop-down menus, I counted out both Unity and GNOME desktop environments right off the bat. Also, while splitting hairs here, I also passed up CrunchBang, which is Debian under the Openbox window manager, despite the fact I think beginners would easily adapt to it.

I’d like them to have a good Linux experience right off the bat, so I thought a lot about what to install on the T30.

I finally decided on, wait for it, Fedora 19 Xfce.

Why? A couple of reasons right off the bat: First, I get that I’m quite possibly the only person on the entire planet that acutally doesn’t think that Fedora is solely a “bleeding edge distro only for the most brilliant and cutting-edge Linux users” — I firmly believe that anyone with a few IQ points to rub together, to say nothing of bright kids, can use it. Second, as I mentioned earlier, I wanted to give the boys something with icons and menus; in other words, something that was not entirely foreign to them.

Choosing a desktop environment was not easy. Though I only have it on one machine in the lab, I like KDE and all the great developments KDE brings to FOSS. But I am way more familiar with Xfce and have used it more often; my second distro back in 2006 was the Dapper Drake version of Xubuntu. So it’s a matter of convenience: If anything goes wrong, I’d be able to help quickly. I also installed Flash — Fedora doesn’t come with it natively, to their free-software credit, but it’s necessary especially in a school setting until Gnash is up to speed — a necessary evil maybe, but still necessary. So it’s there.

So on Wednesday, the cat’s out of the bag: They get Schrodinger’s Cat with the Xfce desktop on a T30 with a collection of stickers on it that rivals any NASCAR racer. They’ll get the SELinux lecture upon my handing it over to them, and a few tips about how to handle the the flashing light of the Automatic Bug Reporting Tool.

I’m also going to give them a copy of “Snake Wrangling for Kids” with the hope that maybe one of them will like Python enough to start fiddling with it.

Let’s see how this goes.

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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