I’m sitting in a room at HeliOS Solutions West/Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, at the foot of the Santa Cruz Mountains, with computers running primarly Fedora. However, there are also boxes (going clockwise from where I’m sitting) running OpenSUSE, AntiX Mepis (it’s old), Debian, Xubuntu and Ubuntu.
“So?” You’re asking yourself, and that’s a valid question. This first-paragraph revelation will make more sense at the end.
Having said this, there are few things I like more than working a booth — usually dbEntrance or Fedora — at various shows, whether it’s a large one like LinuxWorld or the Southern California Linux Expo (SCaLE), or even talking up Free/Open Source Software in the minuscule venue of a LUG meeting.
Discussing in good faith the likeness and difference between distros, between desktop environments, and between FOSS programs is something that is part of the process; the process that helps uplifts all of us — those using different distros, different desktop environments and different FOSS programs — in this thing called the Free/Open Source Software community.
Helping in good faith people who ask — whether it’s something in Fedora that doesn’t work for a user or something in another distro that is not working — is a common and unavoidable occurrence at all show levels, and it’s good to be able to get someone’s problem solved, assuming you show him/her what’s wrong. It’s the teach-a-man-to-fish-and-feed-him-for-life concept in action.
In good faith: Those are the three key words here.
I bring up those three simple words because invariably at Linux shows like LinuxWorld and SCaLE you have some who don’t follow the “in good faith” part of this equation. You know who they are (and you know who you are): These are the folks who will come to any given booth and essentially tell you what’s wrong with your distro/software/hardware, without offering a shred of evidence, an inkling of cause, or the remote possibilty of a solution to their, um, “revealing discovery.”
They’ll continue by asking why your distro/software/hardware can’t solve world hunger, put astronauts on Mars and cure cancer, among other impossibilities.
In short, their schtick is simple: Your distro/software/hardware sucks and you’re pretty lucky I’m here to tell you why.
A word to those who persist in this behavior: Stop.
It may come as a shock to you that you — and you alone — are the only one impressed with your knowledge and self-importance. In reality, everyone else thinks you’re a world-class, Olympic-caliber annoyance. Rather than helping, you’re getting in the way of those who are trying to assist others who may not be as experienced, and certainly aren’t as arrogant, as you.
So either help us with your degree of knowledge without rubbing anyone else’s nose in it, or just step the hell aside.
Folks tried to spar with me at SCaLE last month, but I blew them off — different strokes for different folks. This issue, however, actually came to a head when Red Hat’s Karsten Wade and I were getting dinner to take on the road on Sunday evening and I was confronted by one of the dogmatards whom I had spoken to earlier in the day. Not being in the mood for hearing an additional litany of what was wrong with Fedora, I just nodded and shrugged while being “schooled” about what was lacking in the distro. But Karsten took a more proactive approach, which was described by Karsten’s response to an item in the previous blog post.
Now the reason I brought up Felton: I’m primarily a Fedora user and prefer Fedora over the rest of those mentioned in the first paragraph. However I use the other distros mentioned above. I’m also game to try others; the history of this blog bears me out — google “eight distros a week” and see what you get. Some of the machines here run GNOME, some KDE, some Xfce, and one on Fluxbox. I’m not an expert at any of them, nor am I married to any of them.
Naturally, I’m open to sharing what I do know with anyone who asks. With nearly three years under my belt on the GNU/Linux side of all things digital, I realize that I’m a relative “newb” at this. Surprisingly I’m at peace with that, despite the fact I continue to learn.
So while I’m always interested to hear the error of my ways, whatever they may be, I’m really not interested in matching wits for the sake of matching wits. You want to prove you know more than I do? If that’s the biggest challenge of your day, then let me make this easy for you: You win.
Like most others, I have more important things to do.
(Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs HeliOS Solutions West/Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)
A lot has been written so far about what to expect next year — some valid, some not.
But has that ever stopped me from joining the year-end pile-on? Perish the thought.
So here are 10 things to expect in 2009.
Remember, objects may be closer than they appear, and your mileage may vary.
10. 2009 will be the year of Linux. But so will 2010, as well as 2011 and 2012. In fact, by 2013, the last pair of eyes on the planet will finally glaze over when a Linux writer proclaims the following year to be the year of Linux, and the more thoughtful pundits will just know that it’s now understood that the next year will be our year, for whatever reason, and they’ll write about something a tad more significant.
9. Fedora 11 will outshine Fedora 10. As hard as it may be to believe — and after a month I still can’t find a flaw with Fedora 10 — Fedora 11 will be an encore performance of what can best be described as a rock-solid distro, even for machines that go back a few years (in my case, a Dell 5000 Inspiron laptop and a Dell Optiplex desktop). Sadly, people will continue to be under the mistaken impression that Fedora is too “cutting edge” for anyone other than the most experienced superuser who might be too lazy to negotiate the Gentoo labyrinth (yes, that’s a gauntlet thrown at the feet of my Fedora colleagues to work next year on dispelling that stupid myth . . . ).
8. The UFC pits Linus Torvalds and Richard Stallman against each other in a feature bout. What happens though is not one of those ridiculous near-death experiences for some poor troglodyte who normally gets suckered into the ring, but an epiphany for the entire FOSS community: Stallman and Torvalds meet at mid-ring and circle each other warily. Stallman opens the bout by saying maybe he was a little hasty in demanding GNU be stuck on the front of Linux, but Torvalds comes back with openly welcoming the option of joining the two names. Barriers between open source and free software dissolve. GNOME and KDE advocates embrace in a worldwide “kumbaya.” Planets align. Then I wake up.
7. Zenwalk increases the pace of its development. It becomes Zenrun, and in finding that they can add and release improvements to an already above-average distro at an even faster pace, they rename it Zenfly in 2010.
6. Lindependence comes to Redmond, Wash. The hall is rented, the fliers posted, and the riot police stand at the ready, but they remain wary since they don’t want to repeat the WTO fiasco in Seattle a decade ago. Nevertheless, yours truly — in a tribute to another overweight bald guy in the digital industry — opens the event with an insane onstage monkey dance that also brings him to within inches of a heart attack while Ken Starks unsuccessfully diverts the press’ attention. The Digital Tipping Point’s Christian Einfeldt, however, gets it all on video. Meanwhile, Debian, Fedora, Mandriva, OpenSUSE and Ubuntu reps — along with others who choose to join Lindependence in 2009 — hand out live CDs and demonstrate their distros. Yes, that’s Red Hat’s “Truth Happens” video (click here for Quick Time fans) looping in the background all the while.
5. Mandriva gets in touch with its feminine side. This distro renames itself Womandriva and becomes a more reasonable, nurturing distro, finally dropping the adolescent Mandrake zeitgeist from its early days. The distro’s leadership also realizes what a huge mistake it was to let Adam Williamson go and rectifies that situation, adding a huge bonus to his salary.
4. The Madagascar Penguins join Tux as the Linux mascots. Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and the Private make Tux one of their own in their commando unit. Incidentally — this is true (you can look it up) — on the Madagascar DVD, the penguins provide their own commentary on their scenes. When Private is struggling to operate a computer while taking over the ship, Skipper comments, “What are you doing up there, playing Tetris? You told me you knew Linux, Private!” Just smile and wave, boys, smile and wave.
3. Windows 7 will be worse than Vista, as hard as that may be to believe. This development will result in yet another $30 million Microsoft ad campaign diverting attention from this latest offering. Realizing they picked the wrong Seinfeld character in their first campaign, the ad agency casts Jason Alexander with Bill Gates, making Gates look like the “cool one” in comparison.
2. Everyone joins the Ubuntu family. In an effort not to confuse brand new GNU/Linux users with the daunting tasks of trying to wrap their minds around 350 different distributions, distros give themselves new names: Fedbuntu, Debuntu, openBUNTU, Sabayuntu, Damn Small Buntu, CentBuntu, Dreambuntu, Slackbuntu, Pupbuntu, Mepbuntu, gNewBuntu, among others. Solbuntis and OpenSolbuntis also join the ranks.
1. Linux Foundation’s “I’m Linux” video contest’s winning entry grabs an Oscar. After Apple’s “I’m a Mac” ad campaign, and Microsoft following with a painfully original “I’m a PC” theme, the Linux Foundation garners thousands of entries in its “I’m Linux” video contest. The Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences nominates the winner, which ends up awing those judging and the statuette for Best Short Film goes to the winner.
There are other developments, like the conflicts that the new OpenBSD Christian Edition causes, which may be addressed in a later blog.
Have a happy and prosperous new year.
(Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs HeliOS Solutions West in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)
Although they are rare, there are days when two significantly major stories vie for my attention and I have to try to determine which to talk about. In this case, both demand immediate attention, at which time the question becomes, “Which do I talk about first?”
So I have this quarter, I flip it, and it comes up . . .
Crackers do a number on California’s e-voting machine: Here’s the story from TGDaily.com: In summary, a study commissioned by the California Secretary of State has found that several electronic voting machines have serious security vulnerabilities.
The study pitted two cracker teams, better known as “red teams” against voting machines manufactured by Diebold, Hart and Sequoia. The hackers found several security problems and were able to change firmware, access the election database and even open up the machines without detection.
The teams were from UC Davis (Go Aggies!) and UC Santa Barbara (Go Gauchos!). “The red teams demonstrated that the security mechanisms provided for all systems analyzed were inadequate to ensure accuracy and integrity of the election results,” said Robert Abbott, one of the red team leaders.
And why? Here’s one reason: Abbott’s team was able to access election data directly by exploiting vulnerabilities in the Diebold machine’s Windows operating system – an operating system that all three e-voting machines use. They were also able to bypass locks and other physical security with “ordinary objects”.
Matt Bishop of UC Davis complains that his teams didn’t have enough time to fully document all the security vulnerabilities because they study started in mid-June and ended July 20. Bowen had said that the deadline could not be extended because the counties need at least six months to examine the findings. Bishop added that Abbott’s team was close to finding several other problems, but simply ran out of time.
So . . . this speaks volumes about the elections of 2000 and 2004, if anyone is willing to listen. And nothing is really riding on the proper functioning of the voting technology except for democratic principles that are the cornerstone of the republic, if not the fate of the republic itself.
And what came up “tails,” you ask?
The Disconnect That Could Fail Thousands: I’ve never met helios, a long time GNU/Linux advocate named Ken (and unlike Sting or Cher, he has a last name, but I don’t know what it is) whose Blog of Helios is one of the most — if not the most — prolific and informative blog on all matters Penguin. In this recent blog item, helios confronts GNU/Linux’s sacred-cow-du-jour — Ubuntu — and asks why they can’t fix a disk mounting problem that appears (at least to yours truly, a newbie with portfolio) to be easily repaired. Instead of getting a “Hmmm, maybe you’re right . . . ” apparently some in the *buntu Nation have set their sights on him and are branding him an “enemy of the people.” Wrong, folks — helios should be commended for having the cojones to say, “Um, sorry, but it appears to me that the emperor’s wearing no clothes,” and it’s the duty of those who support the emperor to clothe him, rather than just “see” the finery the other yes-men and yes-women see.
This problem that helios brings up with Kubuntu doesn’t seem to be a glaring one. But in comparison, helios outlines a request to fix something he made to Clement Lefevbre of Linux Mint that was fixed relatively quickly. With Ubuntu’s resources — vast by most distros’ standards — why can’t this be addressed and fixed (especially when Ubuntu is now the “face” of GNU/Linux that most of the people see when trying it for the first time)?
Go helios and, as he likes to say, All-righty Then.
(Larry Cafiero, editor/publisher of Open Source Reporter, is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)
Me? Leave things alone? NoooOOOoooo. Not me. I sat at home fiddling with Xubuntu 6.06 on the iMac and wondered aloud, only to the cat, “Gee, you know maybe I didn’t give those other distros a fair shake.” So I went through the drill again, starting around 6 this morning, of adding and removing distros and seeing how they fared.
Again, here are the players: indigo iMac, 256MB RAM (not 128 as I previously mentioned — what was I thinking?), 7GB hard drive, and the 6.10 version of Kubuntu; Gentoo 2006; Slackintosh 11; and Fedora Core 4; some coffee) and the new cat watching this time from the floor while I talked to the computer.
Basically, the test was installing, browsing and tweaking parts of the desktop and, in one case (see below), networking to an eMac.
Kubuntu kalling: I know how kool and krisp KDE is as a desktop. It is. Honest. And I’m not taking anything away from it when I say it’s really not for me. Maybe I’m just not kognizant of how great a product KDE puts out — but I would venture to say that I am. It works really well. I wish I could put my finger on what it is about KDE that leaves me kold. But I can’t, except to say that it’s not for me.
[Note to Linus T.: If you really prefer KDE over Gnome, that's your right, and I will defend it to the death, both yours or mine. However, while I wasn't the one to come up with a kernel that set the industry on fire -- for which all of us are truly thankful -- I don't consider myself an idiot because I prefer Gnome. 'Nuff said.]
Sorry, Slack and Gentoo: Missed again. Someday, when I’m a lot more proficient at GNU/Linux and know can fathom installs with only the command line, I’ll be back.
Putting on a Fedora: Fedora Core 4 was a pleasant surprise once I got it up and running. Not only that, it actually networked with the eMac that my wife has commandeered right away, without my having to prompt it (okay, so it asked me first, but I hadn’t thought of putting it through those paces, to be honest). The only failing seemed to be browsing — pages and e-mail took forever to load. But it looked great and, with some work, I bet it would make a very good PowerPC option for GNU/Linux users.
Meanwhile, over the course of several hours the cat got bored — imagine that — and I went back to Xubuntu.
As I take my head out from under the hood — rhetorically speaking — of my G3 minitower (code-named Wowbagger — and those of you who are “Hitchhiker’s Guide” fans don’t have to ask), a quick scan of the usual Linux news sites, with cup of coffee in hand, accompanies the following “random thoughts, cheap shots, bon mots,” as San Francisco Chronicle sports columnist Scott Ostler likes to say:
Late to the party again: No sooner do I ask for an opinion regarding “GNOME or KDE” that LXer — probably the best Linux new source out there — relays an update from Linux.com on the latest in the desktop environment family feud food fight. For those of you (like me) who missed the original tete-a-tete, apparently Linus Torvalds asked Linux users to use KDE over GNOME because “This ‘users are idiots, and are confused by functionality’ mentality is a disease. If you think users are idiots, only idiots will use it. . . . Please, just tell people to use KDE.’
Not to put out this fire with gasoline, but who exactly are you calling an idiot, Linus?
Are these idiots acutal idiots with room-temperature-in-Celsius IQs? Or are these “idiots” simply people who are either not up to speed on Linux yet (raising hand here), or just people who would rather spend their time on simple computing pursuits rather than concentrating on the minutiae of micro-configuring their desktop?
I happen to use both GNOME and KDE desktop environments — GNOME on Wowbagger and KDE on a G3 PowerBook (code-named Arthur Dent; you’re seeing a trend here, right?) — and to this newbie-with-portfolio, both have their advantages and disadvantages. I like them both — let me repeat that: I like them both.
Of the two, though, I happen to think GNOME is easier to use, even though KDE seems to have a wider variety of things to tweak. This “tweakability” can be a blessing and a curse — the latter, of course, when you configure something you can’t configure back, which has happened to me with KDE. And while I may be the guilty party thanks to a lack of knowledge, I have to say that I’ve never backed myself into a corner configuring GNOME.
As I score it, the advantage goes to GNOME, but you won’t find me calling KDE users idiots. Quite the contrary: Open source and free software is about choices, and rather than degenerating into the Mac-vs.-PC arguments of decades past (What? You mean they’re still going on?), the diversity of desktop environments — and there are more than have been mentioned here — should be celebrated.
What would Jesus boot?: I saw this last month, but I wasn’t going to comment on it until now — Ubuntu Linux 6.06 Christian Edition joins a wide cast of secular Linux distros. Jim Lynch at ExtremeTech.com reviewed it here, and while he addresses the same first question I had — specifically, “why a faith-based distro?” — he also points out some of the features that non-Christians may find appealing.
Lynch writes, “After using it for a while, I realized that the Christian theme in this version of Ubuntu had less to do with appearances and more to do with providing a more wholesome environment with controls on content to keep out some of the adult material available on the Internet.”
So you can hold the jokes about this distro, and I offer a sincere mea culpa for asking, “If you uninstall it, does it reappear three days later?” Mea maxima culpa.
Speaking of distros based on beliefs, Buddhists out there might want to take a look at Zenwalk, the distro formerly known as Minislack.
Signing up: While looking for something else, I happened upon The Linux Counter, where a Linux user can sign up and get a number (like the one in the title of this blog) and register your hardware. “For what reason?” you may ask, and that would be a good question. While I don’t think there’s any real advantage or disadvantage to registering, it’s merely a curiosity and, in some small part, it helps researchers keep track of who’s using what distro on what kind of machine in the ethereal cyberworld.