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Random Tuesday thoughts

December 3, 2013 2 comments

Not being one to let the calendar get in the way of when I post, I had a few random thoughts after visiting the normal digital hangouts and haunts during the course of an increasingly cold Tuesday. Like . . .

FOSDEM’s seeking a few good distros: Joe Brockmeier passed along to me a message about FOSDEM hosting a cross-distribution miniconference on Feb. 1-2, 2014, seeking submissions of talks, Birds of a Feather (BoF) sessions, or round-table discussions from any interested representatives of Linux distributions or individuals who have a topic of interest related to Linux distributions. Got a proposal? Go here and submit it through Pentabarf, the FOSDEM proposal system (though it would be a good idea to check with Joe first — Joe outlines all of this here on his blog). Good luck in Brussels!

Test, test . . . is this thing on?: Chris Smart, the lead developer at Korora, is looking for a little help in testing Pharlap, a new driver manager for Fedora and a replacement for Jockey in the next version of Korora. Pharlap is shipping with Korora 20, and Smart hopes to get it into RPMFusion down the line, but it needs some testing. He talks about it in his blog, and if you have the time, the skills and the inclination, you might want to help out.

Unicorns, the Loch Ness Monster, Ubuntu TV: One of these things is not like the others. Oh, wait: They’re all alike. Christopher Tozzi, whom many of you know as The VAR Guy, talks to Canonical in his latest item, “Canonical: Ubuntu TV Lives, But Linux Smartphones Come First.” The definition of “life” being broad as it might be, yours truly still would like to call shenanigans with impunity on the folks from the Isle of Man. Why? Simple: Canonical featured Ubuntu TV last year (2012, for those of you keeping score at home) at CES — not a small, inexpensive venue for a coming-out party — and now Jono Bacon follows up with a quote in the article that Ubuntu TV is “still not as complete as we liked it to be” nearly two years after the fact. If Ubuntu TV lives, that’s really not much of an existence, is it?

One more thing: The Linux Journal Readers’ Choice Awards are out. Not a lot of surprises, but something that deserves special mention is Aaron Seigo reflections on KDE’s excellent showing — a leader at 30.6 percent, putting together votes for KDE and KDE Plasma — in the Desktop Environment category.

See you Sunday, if not before (and Felton LUG members, bear in mind there’s no meeting this Sunday. Enjoy the yuletide holiday instead and see you in January).

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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Larry in KDE Land

November 25, 2013 7 comments

This week’s blog was supposed to be a look at the newly released Raptor provided by VSIDO, and there is a version now on the soon-to-be-delivered-to-REGLUE ThinkPad T60 (sorry for the delay, Ken). I didn’t spend as much time as I should have with this release — you’ll see why below — and I didn’t want to provide a half-baked report on what is a very solid distro.

But one is forthcoming, I promise, and any delay should not be interpreted as any dissatisfaction on my part — Terry Ganus and his crew at VSIDO are doing great things making Debian Sid work for the average Joe.

However, I fell down the rabbit hole. For the most part last week I had been playing the role of the proverbial moth to KDE’s hypothetical flame. Having spent most of the week trying to plumb the depths of the K Desktop Environment — better known by its initials KDE — and the accompanying software (of which there is much; most of it remarkably cool and some of it undeniably sanity-testing), I think I’m beginning to understand its appeal across a wide range of users.

But first, how I got here. As outlined last week, I tried and liked Korora 19.1 KDE, so much so that I installed it on a fairly powerful laptop, keeping the other laptop that I always carry with me running CrunchBang. This gives me the best of both possible Debian/Red Hat worlds in an overstuffed backpack (the aforementioned T60 stayed at home). As it turned out, my forum account on KDE.org was still active even though I hadn’t logged in since 2009.

Having hardware that could easily pull the KDE load (a very important point here, since that is not common for yours truly), I went exploring.

There are things about KDE that I find mysterious. There are things about KDE that I find inconceivable (I keep using that word: I think it means what I think it means). There are things about the software that I find both compelling and unfathomable at the same time, and I find it a huge credit to the KDE community that they keep providing this software while keeping the cats herded and moving somewhat in the same direction. With enough time, I’ve fathomed things like Dolphin — getting a hold of what it does and nodding approvingly — and KWallet, which is something I don’t really need, but I can see how others with somewhat more complicated lives can utilize it. The stick-poking care in changing and re-changing icons and desktop patterns created, over time, a confidence that increased the more I did it.

So the basis for a quality desktop environment supported with a variety of software — heck, I’ve even made my peace with Konqueror and, this time around, I actually enjoyed using Konversation until finally breaking down and going back to Irssi, which is what the cool kids use — enjoys a comfortable home with KDE and it’s a testament to its far-flung community around the globe.

But there’s one thing I find I have to mention, and I did so on the forum (though I am told that I may be appealing to deaf ears). It is the “march of the icons” on the splash screen at startup, and it’s not so much the icons themselves as much as the different size of the KDE icon in the lineup.

Here’s an example from Fedora 19 (which looks a lot like the Korora startup screen with different branding):

kde2

So we have a hard drive icon, a tools icon, a globe icon, a desktop icon all the same size, and the piece-de-resistance is a twice-the-size-of-the-others KDE icon. It reminds one of Berke Breathed’s character Bill the Cat, who had one normal eye and one that was two or three times the size of the other. Also, if memory serves, the icons were all the same size in KDE 3.5, which is the last one that I used with any consistency before finding it too resource-intensive for my old hardware.

Trivial? In the grand scheme of things, yeah. I get that if KDE wants to make a statement because they’re proud of their work, go for it, dudes, and make it stand out (thought that would not be the way I’d do it). It still looks funny to me, and I would hope that there is some consideration in KDE’s higher echelons to make this KDE icon more in line, size-wise, with the rest of them.

Meanwhile, I will keep poking and probing this desktop environment and someday — someday — I will be enlightened to the true meaning of Nepomuk.

But before that, a VSIDO reports as promised. Scout’s honor. See you next week, if not before.

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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A week with Korora 19.1 KDE

November 17, 2013 5 comments

I made a joke recently on social media — not a good joke, I’ll be the first to admit — that I had used Korora way back when it had two A’s at the end.

In an indirect way, Korora — minus the second A of the past, but inheriting the long-vowel line over the last A — crossed the proverbial radar again recently and, as it would happen, it got another one-week test drive from yours truly, this time in the driver’s seat of Korora 19.1 KDE “Bruce.”

In a word, “Wow.”

For those of you keeping score at home, Korora is a Fedora remix that “aims to make Linux easier for new users, while still being useful for experts.” It’s a noble effort, to say the least: Fedora, which as I’ve said on a million occasions, does everything right, especially building and maintaining the distro’s software, as well as building or maintaining the community supporting it. The principles driving Fedora are excellent ones to emulate, and to provide an option of a Fedora respin in which everything works right out of the box (*cough* Flash *cough*) is indeed a noble task.

So in taking that route, it bears mentioning that the Korora lead developer, Chris Smart, is a man who lives up to his name.

As many of you know, I’m not stranger to Fedora, yet I threw caution to the wind and opted for KDE, given Korora’s choice of KDE, GNOME, Cinnamon and MATE. Here’s why: First, I haven’t used KDE in quite awhile and I wanted to see what’s new, and secondly, my friend Ken Starks at REGLUE is using it in the OpenSUSE machines he’s building for kids down in Austin, Texas.

On a Dell Latitude D610 with the touchpad turned off in the BIOS (due to the wandering cursor thing that Dell refuses to fix — which is why someone gave this hardware to me, I think), the install went flawlessly and any worry that the 1.5GB of RAM would labor under the weight of KDE was put to rest early. For the week I used the D610 on a daily basis, the only hiccup was in updating which, eventually, was traced back to the flaky wireless where I was rather than to the distro and/or desktop environment.

Other hurdles aside — “Why doesn’t apt-get work on this . . . oh wait.” — getting used to KDE was not as hard as I thought. Much of the habits in using a window-manager based distro like CrunchBang took some unlearning. KDE and I have always had a love-hate relationship, but casting aside any prejudices I had about the desktop environment, I found that the same things that bothered me still do (KDE Wallet – seriously?), but the other facets of KDE Plasma were very workable and spending an entire week tweaking it was both educational and fun. Plus, I think there have been many improvements to much of the KDE software lineup: Using Kmail and Konversation much of the time, they performed flawlessly during the course of the week.

On the whole, I like this distro a lot and I think Korora has a bright future. There is a clear comparison that can be made between Korora and Fedora that mirrors the relationship between Linux Mint and Ubuntu. Just as Linux Mint improves the user experience on that particular Ubuntu-based distro, so then can Korora enhance the user experience on this Fedora-based distro.

Trivial, I know: The naming convention is based on characters in “Finding Nemo” in the same way that Debian’s project names are based on “Toy Story” (or CrunchBang’s is based on “The Muppet Show”). It’s always a source of interest to me how projects are named, and you just have to bear with me on that. But a tip of the hat to Nemo, or in this case, Bruce!

So a word of warning, Kororans: I’ve signed up on your site and I’m going to keep Korora on the Dell for the forseeable future. See you around.

I promised last week to look at VSIDO and we’ll have to take that up next week. Apologies to those who were expecting that today.

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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Lift up your Voice

November 11, 2013 5 comments

Some of you — especially those of you in the U.K. and in Europe — may have already heard this, but a trio of former Linux Format writers are banding together to produce a new monthly Free Software and Linux magazine called Linux Voice scheduled for a February 2014 release.

The three — Andrew Gregory, Mike Saunders and Ben Everard — are funding Linux Voice through an Indiegogo campaign that comes in well under Canonicalesque $32 million (though I’m sure these guys would take $32 million if they could get it). However, the most interesting part of this, the unique twist to their business plan, is outlined specifically in these two items:

Half the profits will go back to Free Software and Linux communities, and our readership will choose where the money goes. As it says on the site, “We want to sponsor projects, events, developers, and evangelise the cause. We want to build long-term relationships with the people we sponsor, so there’s less uncertainty for projects year-on-year.”

Content will be published for free after 9 months, and they aim to use an open source/Creative Commons licence. “We want to create a library of our tutorials, interviews, features and code that is accessible to everyone, whether that’s a Python tutorial for a 10 hour flight, or a Raspberry Pi class guide for a school club. We don’t believe in charging several times for the same ‘evergreen’ content,” the proposal says.

This campaign happened across my radar while reading the CrunchBang forums. CrunchBang lead developer Philip Newborough (corenominal) posted it there, and he has a more-than-slight interest in this. The guys who are starting the magazine have been good to CrunchBang in the past, and if you look at the cover on the Indiegogo page, there’s already a review of CrunchBang seemingly slated for the edition. So corenominal has replaced the usual “be excellent to each other” forum fortunes with an ad to this campaign and he will leave the ads running for the remainder of the Linux Voice funding run, which ends near Christmas.

Well, two can play at this game, Mr. Newborough :-) I’ll do the same on this blog, keeping an ad or a mention for Linux Voice’s Indiegogo campaign until the campaign ends. It will run at the bottom of each Larry the Free Software Guy blog item, like this:

linux-voice

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!

Categories: linux, Linux Tags: , , , ,

Apoplectic? Moi?

November 10, 2013 6 comments

I can imagine that in the wake of, um, events over the past few weeks regarding Mark Shuttleworth’s and Canonical’s, um, behavior, many of you might think that I was apoplectic about it; green-enraged, up-the-wall-and-across-the-ceiling furious about being tagged a Teabagger by The Mark, to say nothing of the cease-and-desist letter sent by Canonical to Micah Lee regarding fixubuntu.com.

Nope.

Shuttleworth needs to learn a lot of things, one of which is a closer look at the American political system, not to mention how the closely the playbooks of Canonical and the right-wing Tea Party are related. Also, we already know that The Mark has offered a non-apology apology — akin to the “non-denial denials” we used to get from the White House during the Watergate scandal — where he says, among other things, he might have offended the Tea Party with his remarks (note FOSSForce.com — no smileys here, so I guess he was serious) and he says our framework may vary when judging Canonical’s behavior.

You nailed it on the last one, Mark.

But the big picture? It’s saddening moreso than maddening.

One thing from this whole situation that bears pointing out is that when long-time Ubuntero Aaron Toponce leaves Ubuntu, it’s a serious matter. Aaron’s blog item is worth a read, as are the comments. Especially the comments: What’s monumentally ironic is that Jef Spaleta — with whom I run neck-and-neck for the title of Canonical/Ubuntu Public Enemy No. 1 — actually urges Aaron to rethink leaving Ubuntu and sticking it out, trying to change Ubuntu from within. Jono Bacon? He waves and says “good luck.”

There’s a conclusion to be drawn there, but I’ll leave you to make your own.

Actually, what has kept my attention is looking at doing some more testing now that I have some more hardware to test upon. The two distros I’m going to give a test-drive this week — wait for it — are VSIDO Raptor Fluxbox because, well, it looks like Terry Ganus has been going great guns on his Debian Sid-based distro and he just released this guy at the end of last month, and Korora 19.1, now coming in Cinnamon and MATE flavors.

But that’s for next week. See you then, if not sooner.

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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ZaReason I use this hardware

November 6, 2013 6 comments

After nearly two years of daily use sometimes for double-digit hours a day, the left-click button on the ZaReason Alto 3880 finally surrendered. No mas, no mas. To be fair, my game-playing, Steam-testing daughter was using the Alto and it stands to reason that the left-click button — widely used in whatever she was playing or, ahem, “testing” — would give up the ghost at some point; for it to last as long as it did under the pressure of higher scores (and making games safe for Linux) is in fact remarkable.

But “remarkable” doesn’t stop there. A note to ZaReason and back to ZaReason in Berkeley, California, it went. Remarkably quickly, it came back to me just under a week later.

Now the Alto gets a reprieve. I’m taking back the laptop to do more sane things like coding, maintaining certain forums and sites, and doing all the things I do with “the football,” the laptop that accompanies me everywhere. It gets a fresh install of CrunchBang 11 “Waldorf” and back to work it goes. The ThinkPad T60 that once served as the daily lappie gets an extended vacation and goes back to the lab for software testing.

So many thanks, ZaReason, for making quality hardware and, when it succumbs to the slings and arrows of way-too-extreme use, backing it up with outstanding service. You have earned yet another lifelong customer.

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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On a quiet Sunday

October 20, 2013 10 comments

The weather is starting to cool off and the sky was an incredible blue today, so much so that I was taken away from today’s digital dealings — not the least of which was this blog and installing Salix OS on a Dell Insprion D610 (wicd, my mortal enemy, we meet again!) — so I did the install and I confess I went outside and enjoyed the day.

So that’s why you’re getting this blog on Sunday evening. Apologies to those expecting it earlier in the day.

Nevertheless, last week the Italian blog Magliettabianca published online the second of its two-part interview with Larry l’uomo Software Libero (the original English from which the interview is translated into Italian is here). Bear in mind that I’m not used to being on the other side of the questions, so when I was asked who true leaders of FOSS were, I booted what was a routine grounder.

The first thing I thought was, “Oh, crap — I’m going to forget someone,” and I did; a lot of folks.

In answering, after talking about Linus Torvalds and Richard Stallman, I started with the people I could think of right off the top of my head that I’ve respected and admired: Jon “maddog” Hall, Aaron Seigo, Patrick Volkerding and Bill Kendrick, before shifting genders to include the women who make FOSS work: Dru Lavigne, Robyn Bergeron, Deb Nicholson, Elizabeth Krumbach Joseph and Selena Deckelmann. I knew there were others that I couldn’t think of and I said so in answering the question.

So I feel bad for leaving out a whole battalion of folks who could easily be considered FOSS leaders: Lance Albertson at the Oregon State University Open Source Lab; Usenix’s Julie Miller as well as her Usenix colleague Rikki Endsley, Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier, San Francisco State University’s (and OLPC advocate) Sameer Verma, Amber Graner at the Open Compute Project, Ken Starks of Reglue, Ilan Rabinovitch and Gareth Greenaway at SCALE . . . the list is almost endless.

More importantly — and I’m sorry I didn’t make this point in the interview — what makes FOSS work is everyone who chops wood and carries water, so to speak. Leadership is fine, but it’s getting the mundane things done that counts, so to all who do the work for whichever FOSS program you’re involved in, our gratitude is boundless.

I wish I had thought to say that during the interview. Next time . . .

One more thing: Mark Shuttleworth seems to have ruffled some feathers in KDE circles with his latest blog post, which of course won’t be linked here (but rest assured it is easily found). Shuttleworth, who has often displayed a tell-tale estrangement from reality, makes a couple of bizarre assertions, like saying that Canonical’s critics twist the English language (like he never does that . . . ) and likens Ubuntu/Canonical critics to the Open Source Tea Party — painfully ironic since the playbook of both the Tea Party in the United States and Canonical are strikingly similar.

Nevertheless, the beef revolves around Mir, of course, and rather than outline the hubbub, I’m going to give the keys to the blog now to KDE’s Martin Graesslin and his blog and let him drive. I have a rule that whenever someone says something far better than I can, I let them have the soapbox. And Martin speaks for me here.

Have a great week and see you next Sunday, if not sooner. Now to tackle this install and see if I can prevail over wicd.

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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