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A Week in Limbo, Day 1: Under the hood

December 19, 2011 1 comment

Memory fails me at the moment (age is cruel) and I’m too much on a roll in the throes of testing to Google it, but it was either Peter Parker’s uncle — or Voltaire — who said, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

The ZaReason Limbo 5440 give a user great power, and with it comes a certain degree of responsibility. Speaking of which, one of the responsible things you can do is take control of your computing — I know I’m preaching to the choir here, so to speak, but in the off chance a new Linux user is reading, that’s what it’s all about.

In that regard, one of the things that ZaReason does, to its credit, when sending out new machines is to point out in packaged documentation where to get help — a useful page for anyone, from the new Windows refugee to the experienced Linux user. “We build these systems so they just work,” it says, (and I would add, with great understatement), and it urges folks who encounter a problem to a.) try to figure it out — “The more you play with your system, the more you know about it,” tweaking it until it’s yours, and then b.) figure out how you want to solve any problems that arise — message board, online support, e-mail, phone, etc. It’s also has a list of places where you can find help in these ways.

But I digress.

SCALE 10XNow, a confession: I haven’t had new hardware since I plunked down $2,500 a couple of decades ago as one of the first purchasers of the Apple IIc — excuse me, the Apple //c — and a daisy-wheel printer. While the laughter dies down, let me confess too that all of my Linux boxes and laptops have been hand-me-downs and castaways, computers brought back to life (and even passed on by me to others) thanks to the modern miracle of Linux, GNU/Linux, *BSD and other stars in the FOSS constellation.

Also, I’ve never had a computer with more than one processor, let alone more than one internal hard drive. Having three drives is daunting, but the situation is enviable. What’s also enviable is a computer that boots in less than 30 seconds. So this is what up-to-date computing is like: The i5 Intel processors (processors, plural) hum along without a hitch, and the ZaReason Limbo 5440 becomes Nirvana for the user.

Kid, meet candy store.

The multiple drives piqued my interest and I went a little deeper as I went under the hood. I wanted to learn more about how three drives can be juggled or used in harmony. I did some homework and asked ZaReason CTO Earl Malmrose and he explained further: The drives are currently installed as a RAID-5 array which, for those of you who are not up on it (and that included me until about an hour ago), you could remove any one of the drives without losing a byte of data. The RAID-5 array is a high-end feature that separates the ZaReason Limbo 5440 from the competition. “Forgive me for showing off,” Malmrose concluded.

You are clearly forgiven, Earl.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about how Fedora 16 Desktop version — that’s GNOME 3 for those of you keeping score at home (though, truth be told, why they can’t just call it Fedora 16 GNOME is a mystery) — runs on this machine. Spoiler alert: Now that I’ve had a chance to use something other than GNOME’s “fallback mode,” I might just say a nice thing or two about GNOME. Might.

“A Week in Limbo Series” (for those of you keeping track)
A Week in Limbo, Day 0
A Week in Limbo, Day 1: Under the hood

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started testing and developing software in his new home office, which is the development side of Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, United States.)

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Eliminate DRM!

A Week in Limbo: Day 0

December 18, 2011 9 comments

When ZaReason CEO Cathy Malmrose asked me recently who I thought would make good reviewers of the Berkeley-based company’s hardware, I gave her a list of names of those I thought would give the hardware a good going-over. Selfishly, one of the names listed was mine, offered mostly in the finger-crossed hope that I’d be chosen to test the hardware and write about it here.

A few weeks after our conversation — specifically, on Friday — our friendly neighborhood UPS guy delivered a ZaReason Limbo 5440 desktop unit for me to put through its paces.

SCALE 10XI’m grateful that they chose me, and the ZaReason folks know me too well: On the Limbo 5440 they had installed Fedora 16 (awww, thanks guys!)– ZaReason provides their products with a choice of distros, with the latest version of Fedora, Debian, Linux Mint or Ubuntu/Kubuntu/Mythbuntu/Edubuntu/Ubuntu Studio available, along with a “no operating system” option — so they know what I wanted off the bat.

This particular mid tower, a low-cost box starting at $499 which is built for expansion, was delivered with a plethora of upgrades: a Dual Core Intel i5-2500M (at a screaming 3.3GHz), 8 GB of RAM (DDR 3-1600) and three — count ‘em, three — 500 GB drives turning a cool 7,200 RPM each. This particular model, with the additions, goes for $945.

So here’s the deal: With this box in my possession for a week, I will use it until Christmas Day (as an aside, my daughter Mimi — the Ubuntu user in the family — will also use it and give her impressions as well) and write an item every day entitled, wait for it, “A Week in Limbo,” Days 0 through 6, with the epilogue at the end serving as the wrap-up review of the hardware.

I’ve added a few programs that I would normally use during the course of my usual digital — LibreOffice, GIMP and XChat, for starters (more to follow, obviously) — and during the course of the week I’m also going to use other distros on the Limbo to see how it works.

Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at some of the nuts-and-bolts features of the desktop, as well as some impressions of the Limbo 5440. Watch this space.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software in his new home office.)

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Eliminate DRM!

Put me on a highway and show me a sign

November 3, 2011 24 comments

Bruce Byfield and I don’t always agree. When we don’t, it’s usually a “number-of-angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin” issue; one of minutiae rather than of substance, and sometimes we argue past each other when there’s a misunderstanding on the part of one of us, usually me.

But when we do agree, he’s far better at articulating what I would say. Today, Bruce wrote an exceptional blog item entitled “A Disturbing Dialog About Ubuntu and Unity,” where he points out a moment of clarity in what seems to be the direction of Ubuntu which is outlined in Bug #882274, filed by Tal Liron under the title “Community engagement is broken.”

It’s a bug that apparently won’t be fixed. But don’t take my word for it, go ahead and first read Bruce’s blog item (a repost of the same link above), or read the bug report itself (again, another repost). I’ll wait.

My favorite quote in the whole thing, and there are many, comes from Ubuntu SABDFL* Mark Shuttleworth: “I fully accept that Unity may not be for you. Then don’t use it. On Ubuntu you can choose Unity, KDE, GNOME, XFCE, and many others.”

And there you are, folks — certainly a unique concept of “community” in three words: My way or highway. Go ahead and use one of the other ‘buntus if you so desire, since we’re not changing the flagship for anyone or anything.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog item, Shuttleworth is right about this: If Unity works for you, use it. If it doesn’t, then don’t. There are many other choices out there, and I’d be willing to bet people are choosing “highway” instead of Shuttleworth’s “my way.”

Fortunately, the FOSS highway provides a lot of adequate alternatives: Linux Mint, this lane, exit only. Fedora, next exit. Debian ahead. OpenSUSE, exit 5 miles. You can even get off the main highway and take some of the backroads to some of the less-traveled distros, if you like.

So put me on a highway and show me a sign . . . .

*SABDFL — Self-Appointed Benevolent Dictator for Life, a moniker picked up from Steven Rosenberg’s recent blog item. Thanks, Steven.

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 has just started developing software in his new home office. Watch this space.)

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Eliminate DRM!

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