As mentioned in this blog in the past, and as mentioned to various people who ask, I don’t like the six-month release cycle. I can go further: I hate it. There’s nothing like getting comfortable with a distro, only to be prodded to update to the latest, greatest improvements — in many instances the improvements are both great and welcome, but then the cycle of getting comfortable starts all over again.
This is why we run the office of Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, on Fedora 10. That’s right, Fedora 10; a two-year old version of Fedora which reached it’s so-called “end of life” already. Know why? It has worked since I installed it, and I’ve tweaked it to do what needs to be done to run the business. I’m too busy futzing with other people’s computers and too busy developing our FOSS server project to budget time tweaking the business computer. So I left it at that particular version because, simply, it just works.
So in many ways that we’ll probably not cover here, thank God for Debian and, for one reason for gratitude, its “we’ll release it when it’s good and ready” release cycle. Debian 6.0 “Squeeze” was just released over the weekend and its release prompted a couple of interesting items from two of FOSS’s best writers.
Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols wrote in a blog item that says that Debian is not as important as it once was. He concludes with the following: “Debian is still important. Its developers do a lot of the hard work of mixing and matching basic Linux components and many open-source programs into the strong, reliable foundation that other versions of Linux, such as Ubuntu and MEPIS use. But, while Linux programmers will continue to appreciate Debian, it seems to me that Debian is becoming increasingly irrelevant to the larger user community that Ubuntu, Mint, Fedora, and openSUSE has brought into the Linux fold.”
Meanwhile, Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier doesn’t exactly concur in his blog item that says that Debian is still relevant; not only this, it matters more than ever.
Give them both a look. I’ll wait.
So who’s right, Steven or Joe?
Both are right, to varying degrees, though I think they’re coming at the issue from different perspectives: Steven from the popular use aspect, and Joe from the development and contribution side of things.
Debian never gets the credit it deserves by the wider public, and that may be OK with them; or not. Personally, I think this is a tragedy — my first distro in 2006 was Debian, and while I went to Ubuntu and then to Fedora, Debian was the one where I started. If you started with Ubuntu, you really started with Debian.
That’s because without Debian, there’s no Ubuntu. Without Debian, there’s no Linux Mint. Without Debian, there’s no Mepis. The list goes on, and it’s huge.
[Meanwhile, in a classic case of ADD, I found this link in one of the responses to Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols' blog -- it's an update of a poster we used in Lindependence in 2008 and shows the "family tree" of GNU/Linux. If you look at the chart, you can see all the distros which can trace their roots to Debian.]
So is Debian still relevant? Depends on how you look at it. Is it eclipsed in use by easier-to-use distros, some of which don’t contribute back in proportion to what they take? In that sense, it’s relevancy arguably is waning.
But in uplifting the FOSS paradigm, maintaining GNU/Linux’s progress in development, offering options to architectures that are thought to be extinct, and sending improvements upstream for the benefit of all, and not just for itself, then, is Debian relevant? Yeah. Hell, yeah. Debian is relevant in a big way.
In a big way.
[Incidentally, as an aside, "Squeeze" will go on the PowerPC boxes in the "Jungle Room," the name for the Redwood Digital Research computer lab. Elvis would have wanted it that way.]
And, once again, here are the last three words of a well-traveled Buddhist sutra: “Don’t Waste Time.” Even if it means releasing your distro in more-than-six-month cycles.
(Fedora ambassador 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.)
No one is more surprised than I am that in my predictions last year, I actually got one right (namely, Number 9, about Fedora 11 being a great release). But one out of 10 is not a good average and, arguably, I can’t really top last year’s list this year, due to not enough inspirational events on the horizon.
But will I let 2010 pass without a several timely predictions? Hardly. As 2009 was a banner year for potential happenings that didn’t quite come to pass, this year lacks the inspiration that last year carried. But that would never stop me from delving into a preview into the new year, done again in David Letterman-list style:
10. 2010 will absolutely, positively, without a doubt be the year of the Linux deskt . . . oh, never mind. The year of the Linux desktop will come along around the same time that there’s a definitive, agreed-upon answer to the question, “What is cloud computing?”
9. MySQL gets a name change: With the purchase of Sun by Oracle, MySQL won’t be yours, or mine, or anyone else’s SQL for that matter. If anything is certain, it is the Oracle CEO’s now, which is why in 2010 the name of the world’s most popular open source (until recently?) database becomes LarrySQL.
8. Mr. T tosses his last grenade for World of Warcraft, converts to Battle for Wesnoth: Don’t take my word for it. Here’s a transcript of his side of the phone conversation — “Of course, sucka . . . Mr. T really is a hacka, fool, when he ain’t doin’ cookin’ shows . . . Ah pity the fool who plays World of Warcraft now that I’m into Battle for Wesnoth . . . Sure, I brought along my Mr. T grenade, ’cause I make this game look good!” Murdock!
7. OpenSUSE changes reptiles: The GEICO gecko replaces the long-standing lizard as the OpenSUSE symbol, and becomes its reptilian spokeslizard. The German distro gets an Australian native in an effort to foster true internationalism.
6. Linux Mint goes upscale: Having gotten tired of the minty freshness and looking to appeal to more cosmopolitan tastes, Linux Mint will change over the course of the year to something a little more contemporary. It becomes Linux Merlot, with a bouquet that resonates from the north side of the vineyard slope. The distro will go a lot better with most cheeses.
5. Also, Linux Mint forks into a smaller distro: Linux Mint developers who don’t drink wine, or anything else alcoholic, will fork the distro and make a version that will only run on thin clients, making it . . . say it with me . . . Linux Thin Mint. Monty Python fans continue to roll on the floor at the mere reference.
4. A farm version of the OLPC XO is developed: The One Laptop Per Child project provides a new version of the nearly indestructable XO laptop that is specifically geared toward those children who live on farms. Rather than calling it the XO, this version is called the EIEIO.
3. Mandriva creates an educational version: I missed by a mile last year on the prediction that Mandriva would explore its feminine side and release a more sensitive, nurturing distro called Womandriva. So shoot me. This year, Mandriva releases an educational version called Childriva. Count on it.
2. Sugar on a Stick expands: Sugar on a Stick, otherwise known as the Sugar Learning Platform, leaves the realm of simple USB sticks and thumb drives, and will provide its desktop atop Fedora on other types of “sticks,” like hockey sticks, incense sticks and fish sticks.
1. The Free Software Foundation expands, finally, into brewing: Walking the walk after talking the talk for so many years, the FSF has always had free software covered, so finally they brew Free Beer (cc) in 2010, a fine Boston lager with a recipe that is released under the GPL. While free as in freedom only — it’s comparably priced with other fine beers — all those free-as-in-freedom microbreweries can fork the brew under their own label, so long as they release their recipes under the GPL.
Happy New Year to all.
(Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs 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.)