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What you see is what you get

July 11, 2013 4 comments

Surprise: It’s not Sunday, but still here’s a Larry the Free Software Guy blog post.

I was speaking to someone today who was recently “slashdotted” — clearly both a rite of passage and a badge of honor in FOSS circles — and I started to think about my experience on Slashdot a few months ago.

At Linux Fest Northwest, a videographer interviewed me about CrunchBang, and it ended up on Slashdot. No, I didn’t change my surname to “Califero,” as the title shows at the beginning of the video, but never mind. There’s about 18 or so minutes of me talking about CrunchBang — about the same length of time in the gap in the Watergate tapes (purely coincidental, I assure you) — but I thought it was a lot of fun and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

I should mention that although I didn’t respond to any of the comments, I found a great majority of them to be entertaining and hilarious. I am grateful for the entertainment. I could have addressed the phalanx of malcontents who seem to have nothing better to do than post comments on Slashdot articles (that, of course, does not include all commenters, but some), but I decided not to. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a raindrop in the Pacific, so I just enjoyed the moment.

This morning, I thought about the video and the Slashdot experience because there are comments that I thought were unfair and could use clarification.

Specifically, one commenter said that there was an opportunity missed and, to paraphrase, the commenter implied I didn’t “sell” CrunchBang properly. That’s interesting because it wasn’t a sales pitch, and as much as CrunchBang works for me, it might not work for him or her — that’s a determination that one has to make for one’s self by trying it.

In fact, in my opinion, the only thing FOSS advocates for any distro or FOSS program should “sell” is the concept of using whichever distro or FOSS program works for you. If there was anything lacking in the video, it’s this.

As an aside, CrunchBang’s lead developer Philip Newborough himself has said this in the past, and it’s on a slide in my standard CrunchBang presentation: “It is a common mistake to think that every developer wants their project to be widely popular.”

The other thing I wanted to mention — and something else I find humorous — is this: A slew of Captain Obvious wannabes couldn’t help pointing out to me, and to others (which, sooner or later, made their way back to me) that I may not be the most handsome or eloquent “spokesman” for the distro.

First of all, I’m not CrunchBang’s spokesman. That would be Philip Newborough. But let’s put that aside for a second.

It may come as a surprise to some, but I am at peace with the fact that I no longer possess my drop-dead handsome boyish charm of decades past, and I realize my public speaking skills run hot and cold; nothing short of plastic surgery and hair transplants could remotely help the former, and I’m working to be more consistent on the latter.

Other than forum moderator, I hold no official title within the CrunchBang community. I lend my fairly extensive experience as a FOSS exhibitor to CrunchBang at the shows I attend with permission from the lead developer, and I gladly do this at my own expense.

I contribute time, and occasionally money, because CrunchBang is an exceptional project based on a remarkable Debian-based distro backed by a community model of service and cooperation. Being as involved as I am, I feel there are two options I can take: I could say nothing to others about it and keep all this FOSS goodness to myself, or I could let others know about this great thing called CrunchBang and let them decide if they want to be a part of it.

Keeping it to myself would be selfish, so I let others know — yeah, I plead guilty to evangelistic zeal at times, but in the end it’s really up to you to try it and determine if it’s right for you. That last part? I make that point in presentation after presentation I give about CrunchBang and hope it sinks in.

So those of you who aren’t using it, or haven’t tried it, give it a shot and let me know what you think. If you like it? Great. If it’s not for you? OK then, thanks for giving it a shot.

In the end, what you see is really what you get.

See you Sunday.

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!

Dear Schmuck

May 3, 2013 9 comments

[For the benefit of everyone involved -- the reader, the subject, the blog, and of course yours truly -- I decided to wait a few days to write this blog post in order to allow cooler heads, specifically mine, to prevail. As many of you know, I can be mercilessly unkind when annoyed or provoked, and with the glorious burden of being able to use the English language like a Ginsu knife, I learned long ago not to shoot from the hip, so to speak, in order to keep any incensed writing from including body counts. However, to set the stage here, a person who visited the CrunchBang booth at Linux Fest Northwest over the weekend -- clearly new to attending shows and new to the Free/Open Source Software paradigm -- could stand to use an attitude adjustment. Whether or not the person in question reads this is not as important as getting this out there.]

Dear Schmuck:

First, let me welcome you to Linux Fest Northwest — the second best show on the U.S. West Coast (next to the Southern California Linux Expo) — and also let me welcome you to the wider Free/Open Source Software paradigm. It’s clear that you’re new in these parts and chances are this is your first show.

I also see that you’re inspired by FOSS, and that’s outstanding. I’m truly glad for you. From your enthusiasm and the gleam in your eye, I can tell that you’re on a mission; it’s the same mission in which everyone in the room is involved to varying degrees; otherwise, we would be spending our weekend elsewhere. Clearly I’ve walked a mile in your proverbial moccasins — and I sheepishly admit that when I started on the FOSS path I acted from time to time like the quintessential douchebag at which you excel at this very moment (more on this later) — so let me point out a few things that could help you going forward.

Bear in mind that what I’m suggesting are things that just might make your life in FOSS circles a little more pleasant and, more importantly, just might make you a little more bearable to the people around you, both inside FOSS circles and in the wider realm of life. It may not seem like it, but I’m trying to help you here, so listen.

First, this is how conversations work: You say something, then you stop talking and listen to the other person as he or she offers a response. Let me repeat that: “You stop talking and listen to the other person as he or she offers a response.” You’re truly allowed to stop talking. Honest. Streams of consciousness are nice, but in a conversation — again, when one person says something to another and the first person allows the second to respond — you allow the person you’re talking to (not talking at) to respond to what you have said.

Got that? Good, because there’s more to this: A significant part of the conversational process involves allowing the person with which you’re conversing to, at the very least, complete a sentence. You didn’t notice this, obviously, but in our entire exchange, I was unable to complete a sentence thanks to your constant interruptions. You truly need to work on that.

Second, I understand your desire to promote your FOSS product and I also understand that you are immeasurably proud of it. Good for you, Sparky. However, rather than putting down comparable products with faulty arguments, you might want to listen to people who have used the product you’re blasting to a.) learn more about the products you’re criticizing, and b.) maybe learn something, period. “People who have used the product,” in this case, would be me, and I’ve used the products in question for years. If you were to listen, I could provide you with some insight into the other products; products again with which I have first-hand experience. But rather than do the smart, logical thing, you choose to remain a bloviating advertard parroting marketing jargon. I could have told you how full of shit you were, but I didn’t because I thought it would sail past you like a puck past a helpless goalie after a Sidney Crosby slapshot. Just like everything else I had said between all your interruptions up to that point.

As an aside, I told you I was familiar with your product after going to your website several months ago. I haven’t been since, and what I didn’t tell you was that your website, well, blows goats. You might want to use — what do you call it? — correct grammar, spelling and punctuation. Why focus on this triviality? Because if you can’t be thorough and precise with your web presence, how can I trust you to be thorough and precise with the quality of your product?

So here’s a quick recap:

– Shut the hell up and listen to the person/people you’re conversing with, and

– Your product isn’t perfect, other products have features yours doesn’t, and as hard as it might be to admit to yourself, you don’t know everything. In fact, you know less than you think, which makes listening to others that much more important.

Again, I’ve walked a mile — hundreds of miles at this point — in the proverbial shoes you’re now donning for your travels along the FOSS path. I, too, started out “filled with the Holy Spirit,” the divine inspiration that Catholics and other Christian denominations refer to when enraptured by the missionary zeal of spreading “the word;” in our case, the Free/Open Source Software paradigm. And I would have saved myself a lot of profuse apologies, needless backpedaling and multiple hurt feelings had I been told all this by someone else when I had started out back in 2006 when I “knew everything” about FOSS.

So you’re welcome.

Despite our minuscule differences and preferences in software and hardware, in the FOSS realm there is really no “us and them.” There’s just “us” to varying degrees of participation. Understand that and you’re more than halfway there.

Hope you enjoy the fest.

Larry the Free Software Guy

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!

Linux Fest Northwest reprise

April 30, 2013 1 comment

lfnw-badgeWhew. That drive from Felton-to-Bellingham-and-back gets longer and longer. But it goes without saying, of course that it’s well worth it. The 14th annual Linux Fest Northwest was a success and while they take a break before getting ready for next year’s event — April 26-27, 2014, at Bellingham Technical College — I’m going to make my reservation at the Hampton Inn right now so I don’t forget.

A few parting random thoughts, cheap shots and bon mots:

Close, but no cigar: Bryan Lunduke, of “Linux Sucks/No It Doesn’t” presentation fame (along with other hats he wears in the FOSS realm), wrote an article on Network World about how you should go to Linux shows. He is right: You should go to the nearest show to you, and his article is a definite read. I’ll help Bryan out here by telling you to go to Texas Linux Fest in Austin (looks like I’ll be there) on Memorial Day weekend, Southeast Linux Fest (SELF: Linux in the GNU South) in Charlotte in June, OSCON in Portland in July, and then Ohio Linux Fest usually wrapping up the year in September.

Where Bryan missed the mark in his article was here: “SCALE, itself, is similar in size to Linux Fest NW and is a solid destination, with some great speakers every year.” Great speakers and solid destination? Check. But similar in size? Both shows have enjoyed a steady increase in attendance and participation for the last several years, which is a huge testament to the work put in by the volunteer-based organizations behind both shows. Further, the improvements made to Bellingham Technical College are nothing short of outstanding. However, Linux Fest Northwest doesn’t enjoy the same advantages that SCALE has in being in a major metropolitan area based at a hotel located within range of a Matt Kemp home run from a major international airport. That said — and this is certainly not to take anything away from Linux Fest Northwest, which is a great show — SCALE is a somewhat larger show with around 100 exhibitors and more than 90 speakers. I’m not tweaking LFNW’s nose, so to speak, I just wanted to correct this.

15943044On the expo floor: Regardless of the show’s size, it’s always great to see new people and old friends. CrunchBang had the great luck in geography of being next to the main LFNW table, so I had a chance to catch up with Bill Wright and the other show folks at length. We also had the privilege of having the LFNW totem in the corner behind us as well. The attendance for the event was pretty high, and I would guess that it’s around 1,400 judging by the degree of folks coming to the CrunchBang booth during presentations and between them. The steady stream of folks regardless of the time of day was a promising sign and speaks to the strength of the show.

Bellingham Technical College FTW: BTC has always been a great host for Linux Fest Northwest, and the improvements in the building this year — both in the classrooms and in the auditorium which hosted the expo floor — made the show go from great to outstanding. As a speaker, it was great to use top-notch AV equipment for which I didn’t have to sacrifice a chicken to the projector gods for my presentation to work (NOTE: No chickens, or any other animals or humans, have ever been harmed in my appeals to any diety in allowing my presentations to work). The expo floor itself was spacious — at least on our side — and I didn’t hear any complaints from any of the vendors about the show.

Et cetera: As you may recall from yesterday’s blog item, I had the great misfortune to stay at the Econolodge this year. Next to the hotel is the Slo-Pitch sports bar, which has about 40 screens showing different sports (30 of them, I swear, were tuned Seattle Sounders football, er, soccer) along with food. Note to the cook: A tuna melt is given that name because it has a certain quality about it, like, what’s it called? Oh yeah, cheese . . . . Thanks, OrangeFS, for the great swag — great as in lens cleaners for those of us wearing glasses, that is . . . . Great to see the following: Deb Nicholson, as always; Scott Dowdle and Gary Bummer, both coming in from the Big Sky country’s Montana LUG; everyone at the Fedora booth (Robyn Bergeron, Ian Weller and Adam Williamson — a lot of distro/programming brain power in that group); Ross Brunson of Linux Professional Institute; Red Hat’s Thomas Cameron and his three presentations; OSU Open Source Lab’s Lance Albertson and his three presentations (OK, two-and-a-half); Bill Wright and all the other LFNW crew, who put together this great show; David Whitman of Hacker Public Radio, always keeping everyone informed; Owen DeLong, the pied piper of IPv6 who fills up rooms with those wishing to learn about the new Internet Protocol; David Nalley, albeit briefly; and probably several I’m forgetting (if I didn’t mention you, it was good to see you but my memory is not . . . what was I saying again?).

How not to do things: Completely unrelated to the greatness that was LFNW this year, I encountered a personality who visited the booth who was new to this kind of thing (or so it seemed) and who is desperately in need of some attitude adjusting. That will come in a later post.

All in all, it was a great show. Thanks to everyone involved, and I’m definitely in for 2014.

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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