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Getting out the vote

August 30, 2011 Leave a comment

Yes, I know LinuxCon has come and gone, and I think they’ve got the publicity thing covered, especially with the 20-year thing, the gala party, and with Linus being there and all. The buzz is still going, and that’s good. But if you’re going to a Linux show, make it the Ohio LinuxFest in September. Bradley Kuhn and Cathy Malmrose are keynoting — along with Jon “maddog” Hall — so you’ll not want to miss that (especially Cathy — Go ZaReason!).

With the upcoming deadline for the Linux Journal Readers’ Choice 2011 Awards upon us — it closes this Saturday — other bloggers have been been taking to beating the drum and holding the phone for their favorites.

Not to be outdone, of course, there are a few candidates on the LJ ballot that deserve special mention. If I were campaigning for them, I’d definitely cast votes for items in the following categories (note, however, the list of categories and software on the ballot is long, and they’re not all here):

Best Linux Distribution: No question, hands down. Fedora. Judging which is the best distro is akin to picking the best ice cream flavor — each of us has our own favorites, and hopefully you’ll vote for yours. Mine comes in blue, is based on Red Hat, has the best desktop background release after release (the Design Team at Fedora is the best in the FOSS realm, period), it’s always rock solid, and even if I can’t use the default GNOME 3 desktop, Fedora runs great under KDE or Xfce. Fedora is reaching a point now where the myth that it’s “only for experience users” is falling by the wayside, and if a lack of confidence in your skills has kept you from using Fedora, you should give it a try.

Best Desktop Environment: Oh, look! A minefield! Let’s skip through it! You all know how I feel about GNOME 3; the aspect that I can’t use it due to older equipment moreso than anything else (if I could vote for GNOME 2.32, that would be great). KDE? I like KDE though — truth in advertising — I’m a post-KDE 4.x user and not familiar with the way things used to be (and not familiar with why there’s such a hubbub about it). I don’t know why Openbox and Fluxbox, both windows managers, are in this category, and why isn’t there a separate WM category? How did I vote? I’m cast a vote this year for Xfce, because I’m using it on Fedora 15 and will be using it again on Fedora 16, and while it’s reputation is a lightweight environment, I’m finding there’s a significant degree of tweakability to it. Also, if you really like WMs, I’d vote for OpenBox.

Best Web Browser: Konqueror. Just kidding. While there are some advantages to Konqueror that do not involve Web browsing, for getting on the information superhighway I usually go with Firefox, though on the Windows box at the newspaper I use Chrome. It’s a toss up between those two.

Best E-mail Client: Another minefield and another tough call. What I use most is Thunderbird, because everybody knows the ‘Bird is the word, and it’s always worked well for me. What has always worked well for me in the past, too, and something I’ve always thought was one of KDE’s stars is Kmail, which deserves a vote if you’re so inclined. Claws is something I’m looking to try and haven’t yet, so maybe if it wows me, it can be a leading candidate for 2012.

Best IRC client: Simple — it’s irssi. It’s what the cool kids use, once they graduate past Xchat. Konversation gets high marks, too, and readily available on KDE. But I voted for irssi.

Best Office Suite: OK, here’s where we get to make history. Vote for LibreOffice — it’s OpenOffice as it should be. It would be outrageously cool if LibreOffice took home the prize in this category, for starters because it deserves it, and it would be a good nose-thumbing to Oracle as well.

Best Graphic Design Tool: All of them. I’m serious. If there’s ever been a category where each of the candidates deserves to win, it’s this one. GIMP finally gets a single window, I’m told, thank $DIETY, but I ended up voting for . . . Inkscape. I’m not the artist in the family; that title goes to my daughter Mimi, but having drawn a little, I do like Inkscape a lot.

Best Audio Tool: Audacity. If Carla Schroder uses it and writes a book about it, then I’m there.

Best Kid Friendly Application: Another easy one — Tux Paint. I should be ashamed to admit this, but I’m not: Ever since Mimi was younger and we used Tux Paint together when she was learning her way around a computer, I have always loved this program and I still fiddle with it from time to time when I’m not doing anything else. Also, I count Tux Paint as one of the main influences in cultivating the artistic talent Mimi has shown.

Best Game: As bad as I am at it, I still think Super Tux gets the nod here, as it’s a very creative game. Truth be told, I’ve never played any of the games on the list, except for Tux Racer, and I know my good friend Ken Starks over at the HeliOS Project is a fan of World of Goo.

Best Database: Our first heart-versus-head conundrum. If MySQL were the best, I may not vote for it on principle, but fortunately other databases have knocked MySQL from its perch at the top. I’ve only used two other databases and have liked them both: PostgreSQL and MariaDB. I really want to see MariaDB do well, but PostgreSQL is clearly the best of the bunch.

Best Programming Language: Again, the ice cream comparison comes into play and in my limited programming experience, I vote for what I know best. That would be Python.

Best scripting language: bash — accept no substitutes (OK, ksh if you need to).

Best IDE: Emacs in the hands of someone who really knows what they’re doing (and sadly, that’s not me) is simply an amazing tool. But I’m voting for vim. I can get more done using it, and I’m never backed into a corner, as I am sometimes with Emacs. Sorry, RMS.

Best Package Management Application: If it sounds like it tastes good, you have to go with it: yum. Honorable mention goes to Synaptic.

Best Content Management System: I’ve used Mambo and Joomla! in the past, and those happen to be my CMS roots. However, having used Drupal over the last few months, I have to say that I’ve made the switch. Drupal gets my vote this year.

Best Linux Laptop Vendor/Best Linux Desktop Workstation Vendor/Best Linux Server Vendor: I’m lumping these three categories together because the vote is the same in each category — ZaReason. The Berkeley, Calif., outfit makes outstanding, dependable hardware that’s Linux based (or if you’d prefer, no operating system) and the service is top notch. You’ll have to write in ZaReason in the Best Linux Desktop Workstation Vendor category, but you can mark the ballot in the other two.

Best Linux Book: A real page-turner, especially if you’re into audio — “The Book of Audacity,” by Carla Schroder. Buy it now.

Again, there’s a plethora of other categories that I haven’t touched on. Polls are open until Saturday. Vote early.

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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Does it matter what Linus uses?

August 11, 2011 19 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: I’m certainly not calling out Marcel Gagne for getting it wrong in a recent blog post — the “it” in question is that Linus Torvalds uses Linux Mint. On the contrary — to his credit Marcel corrected himself and, hey, it could have happened to anyone.

Also, we’re not going to go to the GNOME thing right now, at least not right way, despite the fact there has been a parade of “me toos” following Linus’ unhappiness with GNOME’s new desktop offering.

But it occurred to me today after reading Marcel’s mea culpa that, in the grand scheme of FOSS things, it really doesn’t matter what Linus uses. Before you all collectively brand me a heretic, allow me to explain.

Linus has been quoted in the past as being a Fedora user, because it worked on the PowerPC hardware he was using. That’s great — he joins thousands of others using Fedora. He may not be one now, and if that’s the case he’d join thousands of others not using Fedora. There’s also an instance in the past — the distant past, as opposed to a week or two ago — where he switched desktop environments.

All that’s OK.

It means Linus is like us.

Think about it. Which of us has not switched distros or desktop environments? Which of us has not expressed extreme displeasure over a program or desktop environment and made that dissatisfaction public on mailing lists and/or forums? We certainly allow ourselves the luxury of making these switches — on a whim or more — so shouldn’t we grant that same right to the man who brought us where we are today?

The question isn’t so much “What distro does Linus use?” as much as possibly “How many distros does Linus use?” Think about it and put yourself in Linus’ shoes. You have your favorites, and so does he. If you have a chance, and the hardware, to use more than one distro, wouldn’t you? I bet Linus would.

Or not, if you — or Linus — are really enamored and happy with one and truly want to stick with it.

I am primarily a Fedora guy — that has been mentioned in this blog often in the past. But while Fedora KDE runs on my constant companion, also known as “the football” and the laptop that never leaves my side, I also have machines running Debian, Kororaa and CrunchBang (we’re going to need a moment of silence for a recently departed Fujitsu laptop once running Bodhi Linux, which went to its final rest through no fault of the distro).

Why four different distros? Simple: It’s because I like those distros and I have the hardware that will run them.

And that’s as it should be.

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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Kororaa: The little penguin makes a return

May 24, 2011 5 comments

Linux for the GNU South – Attend if you can.

During the course of running the beta for Fedora 15 KDE — Fedora 15 is out now, by the way, and you can get this outstanding release here — I had many problems with connectivity on some hardware running the beta, which forced me to look at alternatives.

It’s not that I wasn’t filing bug reports — I was — but I know enough about my abilities to realize that any contributions I might make to solving the problem would be outweighed by the fact that I’d clearly be in the way were I to try to fix them. Someday that may not be the case, but until then I let those with the heavier developer chops fix the big stuff and I’ll just be over there bowing in homage.

Be that as it may, for several days the Fedora KDE folks were trying to overcome a NetworkManager fiasco which, as far as I could tell as an innocent bystander, stemmed from the Fedora Project’s “GNOME 3 uber alles” focus in Fedora 15. During that time, I took another Fedora-based distro for a few laps.

Kororaa Linux 14 Beta 6, code named Nemo, was — and still is — a pleasant surprise.

Once a Gentoo-based distro that went into hiatus in 2007, Australian Chris Smart brought it back to life on Christmas 2010, basing it on Fedora. Why Fedora? Says Smart: “Essentially, Kororaa has been reborn as a Fedora remix, inspired by Rahul Sundaram’s Omega GNOME remix. It aims to provide all general computing uses out of the box and it aims to include software packages that most users will want.”

Smart and the other contributors at Kororaa hit the mark; in fact, the Kororaa team hits the bullseye in providing a distro with packages that just work out of the box. With the distro based on Fedora 14, it has a solid foundation from which to build, and the Kororaa team has built a solid operating system that those who.

There is an attention to detail balanced by a degree of whimiscal outlook in this distro. First off, the name itself is a variation of the Maori korora, meaning “little penguin.” Focusing on the new user, there are eye-candy features, like the rotating desktop which, for those of us in the AARP set, may be a little disconcerting. One thing I particularly liked — and I’m a sucker for stuff like this — is a default in the terminal that provides color characters. Nice touch.

Running on a ThinkPad R32, Kororaa handles everything I throw at it in typical Fedora fashion — with a “thank you, sir, may I have another?” ability and enthusiasm. Not once did the hardware complain or did programs fail under the trials.

Kororaa has a huge potential to grow to be a player on the Linux scene, and Smart and the Kororaa community can go places with Kororaa should enough people get on board and contribute. Count me in. I see a happy and healthy future for the little penguin.

For more information on Kororaa Linux, go here. To download Kororaa, go here.

[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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