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Dropping the grammar hammer

September 5, 2011 5 comments

OK, it’s crunch time. At the end of the week, you should be in Columbus, Ohio, at Ohio Linux Fest –if you’re going to a Linux show before the year’s out, make it this one. This is the last big show on the North American continent until SCALE in January. At OLF, Bradley Kuhn and Cathy Malmrose are keynoting — along with Jon “maddog” Hall — so you’ll not want to miss that (especially Cathy — Go ZaReason!).

Many of you already know this, but for those of you who don’t, I don’t do tech for a living. I’d like to it for a living, and I’m working on that. This is why you’ll find me with my nose in a book, studying for the Red Hat Certified Engineer certification test I’ll take someday (and, if I ever scrape up enough money, Red Hat classes).

What pays the bills — what I’ve done since my first day on the job at The Miami Herald on President Carter’s inauguration day (yes, I’m that old, and get off my lawn) — is newspaper work. I currently work as a copy desk editor at the Santa Cruz Sentinel, but it’s a news career that has spanned three decades, three different media (print, TV and radio) and two continents.

I am a third-generation man of letters: My father was also a newsman and his father was a mailman.

I bring this up because at the Sentinel I am known as the Grammar Hammer; a moniker which I am honored to have and one that I constantly strive to live up to. I have a three-pound sledge at my desk. I wield it with the same conviction and passion that Thor might wield his hammer, only instead of vanquishing bad Nordic guys, I’m vanquishing bad grammar and spelling.

As you might imagine, I spend a lot of time reading; more than I spend writing, as a matter of fact (isn’t that always the case?). In much of the tech realm — most in forums and comment sections — the spelling and grammar aren’t always what they should be for people who, generally speaking, are smarter than the average person (and sometimes are smarter than the things they say. But I digress . . .). In the grand scheme of things, that’s OK — I’m not really that interested in picking nits, gramatically speaking, as much as I am concerned with content.

[Note to those who speak English as a second-, third- or fourth-language. This does not apply to you, and thanks for making the huge effort to communicate in tech's lingua franca. My hat is off to you, and thank your lucky stars you don't have to communicate with me in Spanish or Japanese, the only other two languages in which I can communicate. I dare not say I "speak" them.]

But there are a few things that drive me up the wall and across the ceiling when it comes to grammatical and spelling morsels I see in comments and forums (and even in tech stories and blogs, albeit rarely), like:

MAC, as in Macintosh: It’s not an acronym. Mac is short for Macintosh, the product from the new evil empire based in Cupertino called Apple. It’s big-M small-a small-c. Not to be confused with MAC, as in MAC address, which is the Media Access Control address, and the MAC there should be all upper case. The next person who writes MAC to refer to the Macintosh, I’m going to come through your screen with hammer blazing.

It’s Xfce, but LXDE: With all the desktop hubbub going on, these two up-and-coming environments sometimes get mislabled. I’ve seen it XFCE and Lxde, most recently in discussions on the Felton Linux Users Group, which is going great guns in the desktop debate on the mailing list. I’ve never understood why Xfce is 75 percent lower case, but it is. LXDE, according to its site, is all upper case. Speaking of all upper case . . .

GNOME, not Gnome: This is not a GNOME 3 issue, surprisingly. A general rule of thumb is that if it’s an acronym, it’s all upper case. GNOME originally stood for GNU Network Object Model Environment, though I understand that this was so long ago in a galaxy far, far away that some want to drop the caps. I can live with “Gnome,” but on a purely grammatical stanpoint, I’ll keep capitalizing it, thank you. Besides, GNOME folks, do you really want KDE to be the only major desktop environment to be all caps? Fuel, meet fire . . . .

There are more, of course, otherwise I wouldn’t be the Linux curmudgeon that you all know and love; at least the Linux curmudgeon you all know. But you get the idea.

All of which is to say, when posting here or elsewhere, let’s be careful out there. Dot each i. Cross each t. Don’t dangle your participles.

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.

[FSF Associate Member] (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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My last Macworld

January 15, 2008 Leave a comment

Registration for Macworld (in November): $10
Downtown parking in San Francisco: $9
Attending the most disorganized and disjointed Macworld ever: Worthless.

Those of you outside my family who read this blog know that I have an, um, history with Macs. I’m a Mac owner since 1992, a former Mac Marine during the mid-’90s when Apple was circling the wagons, and I am a firm and solid advocate for the PowerPC platform (want to hear my PowerPC speech about how distros are booting a routine grounder by not developing for it? I thought not. But suffice it to say, Thank God for Debian, which has the smarts to keep developing for the PowerPC).

And those who have been keeping score at home know my conversion to GNU/Linux comes at the hands of Apple’s myopic philosophy at the turn of the century in making perfectly good, well-built hardware — and Apple does have the best built, most beautiful hardware — obsolete with its menagerie of predatory cats which are not exactly backwards compatible.

I have been attending Macworlds — whether in San Francisco or in Tokyo — since 1994, which is 14 by my count, and today’s opening was a complete clusterfsck. I don’t know who’s to blame — IDG, the expo’s organizers; or Apple, or the city of San Francisco — but after taking over two hours to get my pass, I had to choose between two different venues. Historically, Macworld took place in the North and South auditoriums of the Moscone Center. This one took place in the South auditorium and something on 4th Street called the West auditorium. Hence, your traffic tie-up in downtown San Francisco comes courtesy of Steve Jobs.

This is not to say that the keynote wasn’t interesting: a wafer-think notebook of which the Apple technician in line in front of me said, “I’m not touching these things — if one comes to my shop, I have the option of putting it in a box and shipping it to Cupertino. If I open something this small, I’ll break it;” as well as now you can get a ton of movies that you can watch on your Mac via streaming video, and a couple of other iPod related niceties.

However, there was nothing extremely compelling this year on the software or accessory side. There was nothing terribly thrilling in the way of hardware — save for the MacBook Sliver (or whatever it’s called — Air, I think) — and peripherals; in fact, most of what was there seemed to be the same hardware/peripherals as last year.

Swag? Fuggedaboudit. Non-existent.

So this is it: The final Macworld for me. From now on, I’m marking August as the month when I go back to Moscone for LinuxWorld.

(Larry Cafiero, editor/publisher of Open Source and Free Software Reporter, is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)

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Old World guy in a New World world

February 6, 2007 Leave a comment

Despite the fact that my loyalty to my hardware borders on obsessively legendary (or just plain obsessive in legendary proportions), those of you who know me know that I’m a Mac guy. I’ve been a Mac guy since I started working on them at NBC in Burbank in the early ’90s (okay, confessional: Bless me, Father, for I have sinned — I was on the script staff of the Saturday morning sitcom “Saved By the Bell” as the assistant script supervisor). Prior to that, I had built my own PC despite owning an Apple //c (that two-see in English) and leaned toward the Intel side until ’92.

Over the years since my conversion in 1992, I’ve never strayed, facing the east toward Cupertino in homage (except for that one time that I cursed Steve Jobs for killing the Newton, because every Palm Pilot out there ever since could have been, and should have been, a Newton. But I digress . . . ). I was there when Apple circled the wagons in the mid-’90s, and I rode the crest of a victorious wave with the developments of the late ’90s. Apple’s hardware was never in doubt — it was always far superior than anything anyone else put out.

So my collection of hardware — with the exception of a G4 eMac that has been commandeered by my wife — has been of the beige and black variety: PowerBooks (1400, Wallstreet, a 160 somewhere in the house), a PowerMac 9500 with a Sonnet G3 upgrade and, the machine that I now use, a PowerMac G3 minitower, with G4 Sonnet upgrade and 544MB (2×256 plus a 32) RAM. Yes, they’re all old by computer standards, but they all work pretty damn well, and I challenge anyone to prove the same for a Wintel box or laptop of the same age.

That makes me an Old World guy in a New World world.

I bring this up because it seems that the Linux cards are stacked against Old World Macs, which is a pity because Macs tend to live forever. With Apple systematically abandoning its legacy hardware — another pity: Could you imagine General Motors forsaking the 1957 Chevrolet? — it’s not news, or a secret, that Linux developers would benefit from making Linux more available to those people with old Macs (I can’t speak for old PCs, but it’s probably the same situation, or not).

This is not to say it isn’t. I know it is. My PEBCAK exploits in trying to get Linux on my Wallstreet — not to mention the masochistic exercise of trying to put NuBus Linux on the PowerBook 1400c — are the stuff legends are made of. Between the utility of BootX and the zen of miBoot (which seems to hold the answer to the question: What is the sound of one disk clapping?), there has to be a better way of getting Linux on older Macs.

Or not.

Categories: Apple, linux, Macintosh, open source
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