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We’re everywhere

August 3, 2014 1 comment

My good buddy Ken Starks is never at a loss for a good Linux tale.

A master at putting Linux boxes in front of underprivileged kids in Texas through Reglue, Ken is also a master of weaving a folksy story in the tradition of other Texas wordsmiths like Jim Hightower (oooh, he’s going to hate me for that), and his latest installment on FOSS Force is one shining example.

Go ahead and read it. I’ll wait. As is usually Ken’s standard fare, it’s a good story.

LJ-Extremist-red-stampKen’s FOSS Force item puts the exclamation point on the fact that Linux users are everywhere, whether any of us have had direct involvement or not in introducing someone to it. Not only that, it accents the fact that the general reach of Linux is much further than the arm’s length we expect it to be when we hand someone a live disk or live USB stick and give them some instructions on how to use it.

Many of us who advocate for the adoption of Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) have been waiting for the day when we can say, “Yeah, we’re ready for prime time.”

So, yeah, we’re ready for prime time.

When the Felton Linux Users Group hosted the table promoting FOSS as “organic software” (no artificial additives or preservatives, all natural 1’s and 0’s) at the Felton Farmers Market in the past, we would encounter many Linux users who were introduced by friends or neighbors. These were people we know from our town — it’s not very big — and for whatever reason they had for not coming to meetings, they used Linux and were happy with it.

It’s not perfect. You still have to pay attention to your hardware and software when using Linux, much in the same way you pay attention to your house as a do-it-yourselfer who frequently haunts Home Depot or Lowe’s. As mentioned with mantra-like frequency in this blog, Linux and FOSS work best for those who consider hardware as more than just a toy or a diversion, and paying even a marginal amount of attention to it, not to mention learning some of the most basic maintenance practices, pays huge dividends.

So we’re everywhere.

ONE MORE THING: Speaking of friends, Don Marti posted an interesting blog item where he asks if you’re seeing buttons on his page. Are you? If you are, you need to get Disconnect or Privacy Badger (Shameless plug: I use Privacy Badger and I think it’s fantastic — thanks, Electronic Frontier Foundation).

As a Privacy Badger user, I get a small button saying “Privacy Badger has replaced this button.”

Good exercise, Don. Thanks for posting 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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Eliminate DRM!

Making do with the iguana

November 4, 2013 1 comment

Ken Starks, my good friend in the Lone Star State, was firmly plopped into a predicament recently when SolusOS sadly suspended operations. We’ll look at Ken’s solution in a minute, but I wanted to give the passing of SolusOS its due: I tried it, liked it, I thought Ikey Doherty was on the right track and, sadly, I find it incredibly unfortunate that there were not enough hands on deck to keep the distro going.

So Ikey suspended operations. Perhaps someone will pick up the ball and run with it, but that remains to be seen.

On several occasions, I’ve given this assessment of how distros thrive or die: In short, I’ve said that distros live and die by their quality and what they have to offer; the better ones keep going, and the not-go-good ones atrophy to varying degrees before becoming obsolete.

I was wrong, and I apologize now, when I said only bad distros go by the wayside. I’ve changed my tune accordingly.

Sometimes good distros get suspended in the limbo of closing up shop due to various reasons — life changes by the lead developers and/or higher-ups, a shrinking community that cannot maintain the distro because, well, there are only 24 hours in a day, or any other reasons that a distro stops moving forward.

SolusOS falls under this category, just as Wolvix did several years ago (shortly after I reviewed it here — hopefully that is a coincidence). Wolvix, a Slack-based distro, was developed by a single lead developer and had, for all intents and purposes, one of the best control panels I’ve ever seen in a distro — an excellent control panel I haven’t seen since.

Anyway, back to Ken’s predicament: I know that Reglue, the Austin outfit that keeps Ken out of trouble while he supplies underprivileged kids with Linux boxes in the area, was planning to use a verison of SolusOS for its hardware, along with the educational respin of Linux Mint 13/Cinnamon by Randy Noseworthy (no, he and I are not twins, as someone suggested recently, though we have never been seen in the same place at the same time) and also with the Zorin 6.4 educational spin.

Not anymore: Ken writes very eloquently, as usual, here and finds that the next candidate up for the kids in Austin with the Reglue hardware is OpenSUSE: Education-Life.

That’s a good call. OpenSUSE does not get the skylit, red-carpet adoration and accolades many think it deserves, but it consistently puts out a solid distro with a solid community. Also, since Ken is a keen observer on distro quality and ease of use (or lack thereof), it’s a great endorsement for OpenSUSE for Reglue to be at the top of the list.

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!

The Reglue $32,000 Campaign Challenge

July 29, 2013 14 comments

At this point, the Ubuntu Edge Indiegogo campaign for $32 million is just north of $7 million.

At this point, the Reglue Indiegogo campaign for $32,000 is just south of $4,000.

And that’s after Mark Shuttleworth kicked in $1,000 to the Reglue campaign (a sincere thank you for that one, Mark; sincerely and seriously — no snark).

If you do the math, $32,000 is 0.1 percent — one-tenth of one percent — of $32 million. But I hate fractions and decimal points, so I’m going to round up the figure to, oh, 10 percent by throwing out the decimal point and swapping the digits instead.

With this 10 percent factor, I hereby throw down the gauntlet to each and every Ubuntu Edge contributor.

Here’s the challenge: You bought an Ubuntu Edge phone for $600 or $800 already? Great. If you can afford to spend that much on a phone, you can kick in 10 percent of that to the Reglue Indiegogo campaign to help underprivileged kids around Austin, Texas, get Linux boxes, as well as providing the upkeep and day-to-day operations of nine computer learning labs in and around Austin.

You didn’t buy a phone, but you believe in Canonical’s project enough to place some money down? Fantastic. Now, how about about donating 10 percent of what you gave to them to a project that not only provides the aforementioned Linux boxes and computer labs, but also provides Internet connectivity to the most needy of their clients?

That’s all I’m asking, Ubunteros: 10 percent of what you gave to Ubuntu Edge.

[This is not to say that those who didn’t donate to Ubuntu Edge are exempt. If you are a good Fosstafarian and want to see the good that Reglue does succeed, by all means donate.]

Bonus: Here’s your chance to make me eat proverbial crow, Ubuntu fans. I’ll sit in the digital sideshow dunk tank and let you throw baseballs to put me in the water. If you donated to BOTH Ubuntu Edge and Reglue — your Reglue donation must be at least 10 percent of your Ubuntu Edge donation — you have accepted the challenge, so post a comment to this blog with your real name and the amount of your donations to each. Upon my confirmation of both donations, I will comment back with a statement and/or observation to each and every comment about what Ubuntu is/has been doing right and/or something positive about Ubuntu.

Double bonus: Want to see me eat my words for an entire month? How’s this? If Reglue makes its goal of $32,000 — with or without the help of Ubuntu users and fans — I’ll write a month of Sundays of Ubuntu blog posts extolling the glory that is the adjective-and-the-animal-with-the-same-letter. That’s a month of Larry the Free Software Guy blogs, which run on Sundays, accenting the greatness that is Ubuntu. The top four Ubuntu Edge/Reglue donors (top Ubuntu Edge donors to Reglue, that is) each get to pick one of the four topics for four consecutive Sunday LtFSG blog items singing the glowing praises of Canonical, Ubuntu or both.

[Looking at the proverbial scoreboard, the top donor in this category so far would be Mark Shuttleworth. How about it, Mark? Think you can rally your troops?]

There you go, folks. You have a few weeks left. Feeling up to the task?

=====

Oops, I did it again: Every time I mention Ubuntu Edge in a blog post, I am going to mention this. I still strongly advocate for folks to donate to the following groups instead of giving millions to Canonical. Give instead to:

Reglue (especially Reglue, for reasons mentioned above)

Partimus (bringing Linux boxes to classrooms in the San Francisco Bay Area)

CrunchBang (or your favorite distro, if it accepts donations)

Tux4Kids (the folks who bring you Tux Paint and other educational FOSS programs across platforms)

Or even taking a look at the list of projects at Software for the Public Interest and choose one of those.

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!

How it’s done

April 9, 2013 2 comments

I haven’t tried SolusOS yet — it’s on my list of things to do and, without casting aspersions on its list-ranking because I really have a lot to do on a daily basis, it’s somewhere in the 40s on my list of things to do and I’m still on, oh, Number 11 at the moment.

However, people I trust about these things — Ken Starks at Reglue, in particular — loves this distro and his word is as good as gold. So if he says that SolusOS is a good distro, you can bank on it being so.

Ikey Doherty, the lead developer for SolusOS, posted a brief blog item today saying that they’re going back “to the old ways” from releasing planned ISOs. Instead they’re going to put out frequent releases for testing in order to restore the sense of everyone working together as a community.

Transparency: That’s how it’s done here in the FOSS paradigm. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to try making a dent in this list in order to get to trying out SolusOS.

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!

Sometimes the good guys win

November 16, 2012 2 comments

If anyone asks, Ken Starks will tell you this is why you fight whatever misfortune life throws at you, no matter how difficult or heinous, while giving it everything you have and then some.

Because you might just end up prevailing.

Make no mistake: Ken still fights with some health issues. He still lives with his “scarlet letter” — his term, not mine — of having a PVC pipe in his throat and he’s still going to have to receive treatments in the near future that are going to cost into the thousands per, in order to keep ahead of the cancerous curve.

But the throat cancer, which was supposed to log him out for good, is now in remission.

So he lives to fight the good fight another day, and that means bringing technology, powered by Linux, to underprivileged kids in the Austin area thanks to his work with REGLUE.

It means that an eloquent and vocal supporter of Free/Open Source Software, silenced slightly by his previous surgery (his voice is a cross between Don Corleone and Animal on The Muppets, he says), continues to air his opinion, at full blast, on his well-written blog.

It means that one of the good guys — one of the white hats — won.

One more thing: It also means that he gets to go through another ordeal . . . I mean, another Houston Astros season next year. The Astros, now in the American League West, take on a new group of rivals next season, like the Oakland Athletics (and he’s welcome to come out here to California next season to see the Astros-A’s at the Coliseum).

I left Ken on a warm Friday morning in Houston to head back to California after the Giants-Astros series in August. I never told anyone, but I have to confess to having creeping doubts about whether I’d see him again.

Leave it to him to prove me wrong, and I can tell you how he’ll respond: He’ll just chalk it up to my being a liberal. Honest. Then we’ll laugh about that — the tree-hugging Californian and the rock-ribbed conservative Texan — and we’ll move on to the next FOSS issue we’ll be addressing together.

Thanks for getting the better of your disease, Ken. I know I speak for a multitude of folks who would echo that sentiment, and I know an army of folks who are glad you’re on our side in fighting proprietary software.

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!

Play ball

September 3, 2012 4 comments

Warning: Very little of this blog item deals with free/open source software. In fact, with the exception of some historical references or discussions in the periphery, there’s little here on FOSS. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read it; on the contrary, you might welcome the break from my tilting at windmills and read something slightly more important.

This blog deals more with the human condition, or specifically Ken Starks’ human condition, and baseball, as well as why sometimes you need to step outside the proverbial batter’s box to get some perspective.

As many of you already know — and for those of you keeping score at home — back in the spring Ken and I planned to go to the Astros-Giants series in Houston at the end of August. Let me back up: Ken and I have been planning to go to a ballgame since 2008, since we teamed up to organize the Lindependence Project, and never got around to it until now. Last week, he and I went to Minute Maid Park to watch the three-game series and, as one might expect, the Giants swept.

That’s all the gloating I’m going to do. Honest.

As many of you also already know, Ken’s about to go under the knife for larynx cancer surgery, which many of you heard about through FOSS channels; and I would be remiss if I didn’t thank you for pitching in like most of you did. As far as the trip was concerned, we were touch-and-go on whether Ken was able to make the trip due to the fact that he may have had a quick reservation for a table for one at the hospital where his surgery will take place. But finally he was cleared for travel, and we ended up watching the series at Houston.

Let me tell you something about Ken that he relayed to me in conversation between innings, and I don’t think he’d mind if I mention it. I thought the topic was somewhat obvious to me, yet I think Ken may feel it bears repeating.

It is this: Some may be under the impression that he’s down for the count; that he’s lying in bed waiting for death. Clearly he’s not.

I got the impression that he finds it irksome that some may think he is somehow disabled or on the fast track to becoming an invalid. To say Ken has a lot on his plate at the moment is an understatement: In juggling the news of his possible mortality with negotiating the maze of the American health care system, all while continuing his day-to-day life, I think Ken wants folks to understand that he’s still standing.

Whether it’s just his Texan nature or just the fact he’s an incredibly tough guy (and I’d want him on my side in any fight), Ken’s continuing to do what he’s always been doing while he waits for the next step on his fight against cancer. Of course, that would include getting underprivileged kids computers with Linux on them, and promoting FOSS with the same passion and zeal, just as he has been doing all along. In short, he’s just getting things done; not for the accolades or for the fanfare, but because a.) it’s what he does, and b.) it’s the right thing to do.

No, he hasn’t got the strength in his hands that he used to, and there’s a self-consciousness about “the PVC pipe sticking out of my throat” that a bandana conceals. He speaks in a hushed tone now, or what he refers to as his “Godfather voice;” a voice that may even be more quiet in post-surgery. But with each time that Ken gets floored by chemo or radiation treatment — let alone by surgery — it seems he gets up off the proverbial mat, dusts himself off and is asks, “Is that all you got?”

Today, Ken blogged about the Linus Torvalds-Miguel de Icaza dustup when I’m sure he’s had some other, more weighty, things to think about. During my visit to Houston, we talked a lot about how many kids were being helped in Taylor, north of Austin, by Reglue (formerly the HeliOS Project) and how this is going to continue as he recovers. In other words, it was pretty much business as usual with a couple of hurdles in the near future to overcome.

Some of you already know this story: Ken and I would probably have never met, let alone be on speaking terms, if it wasn’t for FOSS. I wrote about it here before he and I actually met in Felton for Lindependence in 2008. Videographer Christian Einfeldt of San Francisco filmed much of Lindependence that year and did an interview with Ken and me that you can find on archive.org if you do a search for Lindependence, so you can see the Mutt and Jeff, the Laurel and Hardy, or the Abbott and Costello first-hand in unedited form.

I’m proud and honored to know Ken and I’m proud and honored to consider him a close friend and a teammate in the wide world of FOSS. And if he gets on base, you can bet I’m going to drive him in for a run, just as I know he’d do the same for me. It’s what players on the same team do.

Play ball.

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.

(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!

O’Reilly, you missed two

July 22, 2012 1 comment

I don’t want to take anything away from the winners of the O’Reilly Open Source Awards for 2012, given out at the big corporate FOSS Kumbaya in Portland known as OSCON this past week. All are very deserving of O’Reilly’s accolades — especially Elizabeth Krumbach, whose work I see on an almost regular basis — and I won’t go into listing the winners or their accomplishments here because O’Reilly has seen to that already.

But there are two — at least two — that were nominated and that O’Reilly missed. The misfortune that these two have been omitted arguably borders on tragic, too, because each of the following folks mentioned below have made significant contributions to FOSS in ways that equal, if not eclipse, those made by some of the this year’s recipients.

Here are two you missed, O’Reilly. Maybe next year you can rectify this.

The first O’Reilly oversight is Bill Kendrick. If you have children, you have probably happened upon Bill’s software opus Tux Paint somewhere along the line. If you don’t, then you may have seen it anyway. In its 10th year, Tux Paint is an award-winning art program for K-6 kids that not only teaches art, but also computer literacy. A long list of schools use it. It’s been open source ever since its inception, and is made for a variety of platforms — the usual suspects of Linux, Mac and Windows. Tux Paint alone should garner Bill the award, with an oak-leaf cluster, but he is even more deserving of the award for developing other educational software like TuxTyping — helping kids learn to type — not to mention Tux, of Math Command — which “lets kids hone their arithmetic skills while they defend penguins from incoming comets,” according to the website. Or, in other words, think of the ’80s arcade game Missile Command, only with math problems instead of incoming nuclear missiles.

[Blogger’s note: Bill Kendrick straightens out the personnel lineup for the aforementioned projects here, and a full list of authors and contributors can be found here and here.]

The second oversight is Ken Starks. As those of you who regularly read this blog know, Ken and I go back a ways, back to the days when Ken successfully — miraculously — raised enough money to get Tux on the nose of an Indy car at the Indianapolis 500 back in 2007. The car crashed early in the race — irony of ironies for Linux — and finished last. As long as I’ve known him, Ken has been the most tireless advocate for Linux and FOSS for years. With the HeliOS Project — now REGLUE, an acronym for Recycled Electronics and Gnu/Linux Used for Education — Ken and his merry band of fossketeers get refurbished Linux-based computers into the hands of underprivileged kids in the Austin, Texas, area. Ken was also one of the co-founders of the Lindependence Project, which brought Linux to a small town back in 2008. Currently, Ken’s battle with larynx cancer is limiting his activity, but he is still doing what he can with the hand he’s dealt.

So, how about it, Tim?

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.

(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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