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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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Eliminate DRM!

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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Eliminate DRM!

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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Eliminate DRM!

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