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Doing things right

July 12, 2012 Leave a comment

A couple of days ago, I had read — but hadn’t confirmed — that Red Hat’s Jaroslav Reznik had been chosen to be the Fedora Project Manager, finally filling the unfillable shoes left empty by Robyn Bergeron when she was given the glorious burden of becoming Fedora Project Leader. So now that this has been confirmed by those who know, I’d like to say to Jaroslav: “Suit up.” And congratulations, of course, are in order. It’s a great choice.

This should come as no surprise. If any entity in the FOSS realm knows how to do things right, it’s the Fedora Project.

Their methodology of engineering and organization — tying together what may seem to be outlying tangents of promotion, design and documentation into a unit which never seems to fail in firing on all cylinders — should serve as the textbook by which all distros should be run.

What often gets lost in the grand scheme of things is that the Fedora Project produces this array of great accomplishments without seeking fanfare or demanding the spotlight, the way some other vowel-laden distros do. They just get things done the way they’re supposed to be done — developing code, pushing that code upstream and providing the organizational trappings that help get it out, releasing every six months, and all for the benefit the greater FOSS community.

Naturally, it helps to have a sponsor that’s the first billion-dollar FOSS corporation. But bear in mind that Red Hat doesn’t get that important and historic designation without the Fedora Project — without Fedora, Red Hat isn’t Red Hat. Each knows the symbiotic relationship one has with the other.

Even in the face of adversity — when people who should know better were doing their best Chicken Little imitations in the face of a UEFI lockout — the Fedora Project simply started working on a fixing the problem. The first solution they have come up with may not be the most ideal, and I’d be willing to bet it’s not the last one, but it’s a start. But then, that’s what industry leaders do — they encounter the problem and fix it.

Without fanfare and without grabbing the spotlight.

As many of you already know, I had the honor of participating in the Fedora Project from 2008 until last summer. In July of last year, I started using CrunchBang, a Debian-based distro originating in England which uses the Openbox window manager. After finding it suited my needs and after using it exclusively for nine months, I finally joined that community earlier this year, determining it to be a better fit for my varied, and hopefully growing, skill set. Naturally, I bring with me all I learned from the Fedora Project, which is much, and naturally I value the friendships and relationships garnered while a Fedorista (I know, I know — it’s “Fedoran,” which of course sounds like an alien, but never mind).

One more thing: It’s nice to be able to say something positive for a change; to be able to write something without having to pry the palm of my hand from my face in order to type. Trust me, the only thing worse than having to point out things gone wrong in FOSS that no one else wants to write about is this: having to take the time to put these wrongs in pixels here in this blog. So with that, even further thanks should go to the Fedora Project.

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 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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News flash: Sky NOT falling

June 8, 2012 9 comments

I wasn’t going to weigh in on this issue because it was really is not the huge, Chicken Little-esque matter some people — some people I once held in high esteem — are making it out to be. I’ve commented on this on social media outlets and in e-mail exchanges, and frankly I’m a little surprised at how this infinitessimally innocuous development has caused some in our happy little FOSS circle to become Harold Camping.

Actually, I’m going to let Brian Proffitt drive here, since he explains the whole Fedora/UEFI issue pretty well. In his blog, Brian points out that it is hardly an ideal situation, but it’s a trade-off. Not a very palatable one, but nonetheless a trade-off.

In fact, we can summarize Brian’s blog in a few words: The situation sucks. He’s absolutely right. But it is what it is, and it’s the most immediate of several upcoming ways around the UEFI lockdown for those who buy new machines and want to dual-boot (of course, the real solution here is not to buy UEFI-based hardware in the first place, opting for a Linux-based provider like ZaReason, but I digress).

Contrast that blog post with a hyperbolic rant on LXer.com, where the writer takes a corpo-babble press release from Red Hat writtin on behalf of Tim Burke and focuses in, laser-like, on probably the biggest non-sequitur wrapping up the missive.

Are you kidding me?

For the benefit of those who might need a team of proctologists to find their heads, let’s recap, shall we? No one does more for Linux and FOSS across the board — developing software and pushing it upstream, for starters — than Red Hat and Fedora. They do it pretty much thanklessly and while much of their efforts have made Red Hat a billion-dollar entity, they give back substantially to the FOSS community. Essentially calling Microsoft’s bluff on UEFI with this particular action is not capitulation, it’s just yet another thing Fedora and Red Hat are currently doing in order for people to be able to use UEFI-based hardware going forward.

[Which, of course, brings up a laughable e-mail exchange where someone wrote to me, in effect, "If Canonical did this, you'd be all over them." Actually, I wouldn't. First, if Canonical ever tore itself away from admiring itself in its own corporate mirror to do something to contribute back to Linux/FOSS in a substantial way, I'd probably die from the shock. Assuming I survive the shock, I'd give them credit for it once I regained consciousness.]

So while no one has said this yet, I will: Thank you, Fedora and additional thanks to Matthew Garrett, who has pretty much on top of this from the outset.

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 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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Categories: Brian Proffitt, Fedora, Red Hat

The far and the wide

July 21, 2011 2 comments


OSCON 2011
Next up: OSCON. Get there if you can, and give them my regards because I can’t make it this year :-(

A wide assortment of issues and items have cropped up in the last several days, all of which are newsworthy and most of which cry out for comment. On the latter, that’s what I do. After all, they don’t call it “commentary” for nothing.

So let’s take a look at some of these digital news blurbs, like

RMS: Just say no to the Cloud: For once, I am completely and unequivocally behind the man behind the GNU. Richard Stallman wrote an article appearing in the electronic version of Der Speigel outlining the dangers of so-called cloud computing. It’s fairly simple — your data, held remotely, is not really your data since you don’t have possession of the drive that physically holds it. Yep, call me “old school” about this, and I’ll thank you for it.

But why is it in Orlando? The release schedule for Ubuntu 12.04 is out and it looks like the UDS — that Ubuntu Developer Summit to the unenlightened — will take place at the end of October or early November, in Orlando, Fla., as usual. Why? Disney World? Who knows?

Who’s on first? Though not a news item per se, Carla Schroder wrote an excellent piece on Linux.com about how to find out who and what is on your network. The Linux.com tutorials and “weekend projects” are generally top notch and very educational, and this one in particular takes one through how to go about doing some router spelunking.

Meanwhile back in the Sunshine State . . .: Florida is getting a lot of attention. Red Hat is holding its North America Partner Conference on Oct. 25-27 in Miami. That’s about 240 miles south of Orlando, where the UDS will be taking place about the same time, possibly. It’s a straight shot down the Florida Turnpike, if you’re interested. According to the VAR Guy, “the event signals a shift for Red Hat, which previously lumped partners and customers together at the annual Red Hat Summit.”

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have an appointment to fiddle with a newly installed version of CrunchBang.

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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Unpacked and back, but Microsoft is still here

July 19, 2011 Leave a comment


OSCON 2011
Next up: OSCON. Get there if you can, and give them my regards because I can’t make it this year :-(

For those few of you who might have missed this blog, I do apologize. As many of you know, I have moved about three miles down the road to beautiful downtown Felton, about a half-mile south of the traffic light on Highway 9 — say it with me: “That enough directions for Felton.” It has taken me fairly close to a month to unpack and sort out the new place; unpacking included taking things out of boxes, asking “Do I really need this?” And then putting away what I do need and taking what I don’t to the Abbot’s Thrift Store down the street.

But enough about me.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols recently wrote a piece on ZDNet that has caused some brouhaha in Linux and FOSS circles. It’s a classic tempest-in-a-teapot issue: Microsoft — horrors! — is one of the top five corporate contributors to Linux kernel development and, if you just read the headline, it implies that Microsoft is fifth on the list top contributors.

Well, to paraphrase Paul Harvey (you’ll have to google him, kids), here’s the rest of the story: Microsoft is fifth on the list of corporate contributors to the Linux kernel and 15th overall on the list. They’re behind Red Hat, Intel, Novell and IBM on the corporate list, and 15th overall.

While SJVN aptly outlines the scenario which causes Microsoft to come to the table — virtualization — what is not said, but stands out, to me is that between the four corporate contributors ahead of Microsoft and the 15th overall position that Microsoft holds are 10 non-corporate contributors to the kernel, meaning for all intents and purposes, individuals who are working for the greater good and not for some corporate benefit that Linux provides.

I have not had a chance to see the original article on Linux Weekly News from which SJVN bases his column, thanks to not having a subscription. But I would be interested to see who and what is ranked where.

[Also, I'm not going anywhere near remotely bringing up where Canonical is on the list of corporate contributors to the Linux kernel. Uh uh. Not me. No way.]

Of course the FUDmeisters are spinning this for all it’s worth – Stop the presses! Microsoft a top Linux kernel contributor! — but SJVN puts it all in perspective and while it’s certainly decent of the corporate giant from Redmond to help improve Hyper-V and Linux interoperability, it’s not a sign of the apocalypse by any matter of means.

However, as one comment to SJVN’s post points out, you don’t turn your back on a coiled snake.

Watch this space, as well as that snake.

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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Transcript: Larry Cafiero’s press conference

May 16, 2011 2 comments

Linux for the GNU South – Attend if you can.

Editor’s note: On a cloudy Monday in Felton, California, Larry Cafiero held a press conference at the solar-powered Felton Fire Station for the purpose of clarifying his departure from the Fedora Project and to dispel any of the rumors that had been flying around regarding this departure.

A transcript of the press conference follows:

Larry Cafiero: (to himself moreso than the press, as he sits down behind a bank of microphones) Okay, let’s light this candle.

LC: Before we start, I have a statement to read and then, obviously, I’ll take questions.

As many of you know, I recently resigned my office as a member of the Fedora Ambassadors Steering Committee (FAmSCo), my position as a Fedora Ambassador mentor and my membership in the Fedora Project. As I had confided in some of the Fedora leadership a few months ago, I had been planning to relinquish much of my responsibilities in Fedora after OSCON in order to pursue other FOSS projects that I will outline later. I had decided recently to advance the date of my departure. Having been a part of the Fedora Project since 2008, I am proud to have served with a number of outstanding individuals, and some not so outstanding, and I still believe that the Fedora Project is the standard by which FOSS projects should be judged. I am still a Fedora user, first and foremost, despite no longer being part of the project.

I’ll be glad to take questions now.

Reporter: A blog called the Fifth Pillar speculates that you’ll be doing a variety of work with other projects — OMGUbuntu and Gentoo to name two. Even the possibility of drumming for Jono Bacon’s band Severed Fifth was mentioned. Any truth to these rumors?

LC: I saw that blog item by my good friend Mark Terranova. No, there is no truth to any of those rumors, though truth be told I think I could jam with Jono and, probably unknown to Mark, I do play the acoustic Theremin in various folk jam bands. As for Gentoo, that’s a joke since it’s known far and wide that I’ve never been able to get that distro to run since I started using Linux in 2006.

Ultimately, it’s my fault that these rumors got started. One of the things I want to apologize for is how I handled notifying people about my departure, because I really fumbled it badly. To be honest, I didn’t think my departure would matter to anyone outside of those who had an administrative interest in my leaving — those who needed to reassign my duties and replace me on FAmSCo. But apparently a lot of other people who I should have told felt they were left in the dark. While I don’t mean to sound egotistical, I did get a lot of “Hey, what happened?” e-mails after resigning, and I want to apologize to those who were wondering what was going on.

If I had a chance to do it over again, I would have contacted more people to let them know my plans. But here we are, with the barn door open and the horse prancing in the field.

Reporter: To follow up on this one, in the OMGUbuntu graphic, it has you as Yoda calling Mark Shuttleworth a “clown.” Does this reflect your dislike for Shuttleworth or Ubuntu?

LC: No. I don’t dislike Mark Shuttleworth or Ubuntu. Let me give you the short- and long-versions behind this aspect of the story. I made a comment on Facebook on a photo of Linux Pro Magazine’s associate publisher Rikki Kite with Mark Shuttleworth to the effect of, “Nice picture, Rikki, but who’s that clown next to you?” Or something like that. Mostly harmless, and completely tongue-in-cheek. I think Mark Terranova ran with that, referring to a dust-up I had last year with many Ubunteros and Mark Shuttleworth over a blog item I wrote about pointing out another item regarding how much — or actually, how little — Canonical/Ubuntu contributes back to the community in the way of technical support, as well as Mark Shuttleworth’s response to my blog posting.

Because I am critical of some aspects of Ubuntu does not mean I dislike it, or the community. I have used Ubuntu in the past and my daughter is an Ubuntu user. I would say I have differences of opinion on some aspects of how things are done in Ubuntu — regarding how LoCos promote a “separate but equal” policy in keeping LUGs at arm’s length, for example — but I appreciate, deeply appreciate, Canonical and Ubuntu’s artesian contribution to the promotion — the promotion — of Linux. However I don’t think this gives them a pass when their contributions back to the kernel development, for example, are woefully lacking. In other words, I don’t tell the emperor he’s got great clothes when he’s wearing nothing at all.

Also, I like Mark Shuttleworth and I think he’s an interesting guy. Anyone who puts his efforts to the degree that Mark does behind FOSS is OK with me, to say the least. Besides, he’s been to space. The closest I’ve been to space is a Grateful Dead concert.

Reporter: You mention other FOSS project you’re planning to work on. Which are they?

LC: I’ve been working on the Southern California Linux Expo for the last few years, and I want to devote more time to doing press work for it. I think SCALE has the potential to eclipse OSCON as the premiere West Coast Linux event. Also, I am jump-starting the Lindependence Project, and we’ll hold another Lindependence event like we did in 2008 in Felton — only it will be held in conjunction with Software Freedom Day instead of on Independence Day.

One more thing: I have a Facebook app I am working on called Lifeville — so far, it’s a simple script that, when you click on the start button, brings up a message that says: “Real life exists beyond this screen. Your computer is now shutting down. Go outside.” It’s GPLed and CC-licensed.

Reporter: I wonder if you can comment on this line taken from your statement — “some not so outstanding” — meaning, I assume, some people you may have had disagreements or friction with in the Fedora Project.

LC: Yes, I can, and thank you for bringing that up. So much for slipping that under the radar (laughter). Clearly, when you have a group that’s as big as the Fedora community, not everyone is going to be dancing in unison around the proverbial May pole. With strong personalities comes strong disagreements — this is clearly a part of the process.

But since FUDCon, I have felt that there has been some discord in the project that has fostered a lot of ill will. One example of this is a movement started in Europe around “give back our distro” or something along those lines which, personally, I thought was a pitch in the dirt that a lot of Fedora folks who should know better were swinging at. Now I don’t mind disagreeing, but I do mind having people be disagreeable, and those who know me know that, when provoked, I can be disagreeable with the best of them; Olympic-caliber disagreeable. I have to plead guilty to provoking some of the ill-feeling that this issue has fostered, and I am sorry about that. As a part of the leadership at the FAmSCo level, it was probably unacceptable for me to take such a strong stand against against this, despite how stupid I thought it was, and still think it is.

I think, too, there is a degree of burnout involved in my resignation, but much of that burnout was borne of having to do my duties and also participating in this discussions/debates/arguments that took a lot of valuable time and a lot of effort away from what I, and others, should have been doing.

Reporter: So in other words . . .

LC: I’m sorry to interrupt, but I wanted to add one more thing to this in order to give this a clearer context. As I mentioned in the statement, I believe that the Fedora Project does things right, whether it’s engineering an outstanding distro every six months or whether it’s promoting it through an Ambassador program that wrote the textbook on promoting a distro, or a Design team that is second to none. A great part of that is the solid community that drives Fedora, despite a handful of malcontents, and much of the credit can be given to Red Hat for their outstanding support. When a billion-dollar company like Red Hat “gets it” — that is, understands how FOSS works and how they clearly benefit from it — it provides a perfect symbiosis between Red Hat and the Fedora Project where those who are working in the Fedora Project reap the benefits of this relationship.

Reporter: Do you see yourself going back to the Fedora Project at any time in the future, or do you think that you’ll catch on with another distro or FOSS program?

LC: I’d gladly return to the Fedora Project at some time in the future and, as I mentioned, I’m still primarily a Fedora user. One of the things that I’d also like to explore is being a community leader/organizer — or, like Red Hat’s Karsten Wade, a “community gardener” — for a project that I believe in. But while my resume sits on the runway should something in this area come up, I’m still immediately focused on Lindependence and SCALE at the moment.

(Silence follows, with no further questions forthcoming).

LC: OK, so thank you all for coming, and thank you for staying awake.

[FSF Associate Member] (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.)
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Blog-free November

December 3, 2010 2 comments

Larry the Free Software Guy — who doesn’t really like to refer to himself in the third person, but would rather do that than start this a blog post with “I” — gave you all a gift with a blog-free November.

Sorry to yank that out from under you, because there’s a lot going on in the FOSS world as we race into the commercially driven holiday season.

First things first:

Support Partimus: Six schools (so far) in the San Francisco Bay Area run GNU/Linux labs thanks to the efforts of Partimus, a nonprofit organization that provides repurposed computers running free software to students and schools which need them. Partimus is holding its first fundraising event on Dec. 15 from 5-7 at the Creative Arts Charter School, 1601 Turk St., in San Francisco. Register here, and even if you can’t make it, donate anyway — be a benefactor and fill in what you can afford — since it’s the kind of project that lifts FOSS and makes it more ubiquitous.

Sharpen your No. 2 pencils: In a little over a week, the Call for Presentations for the Southern California Linux Expo SCALE 9X closes. December 13 is the deadline and if you’re inclined to give a talk, submit your proposal here. Judging by the resounding success of my presentation at the Utah Open Source Conference, I have submitted an updated, new-and-improved version of “User Groups 2.0: Noob Morning in America” for SCALE. The laser show introduction is something that is not to be missed.

[Note: OK, so there's no laser show, but the presentation is a good one, in my humble estimation.]

Back home again in Indiana: Another expo that has arrived on the FOSS scene is the Indiana Linux Fest, which recently announced its dates and location. The inaugural Indiana Linux Fest will take place on March 25-27, 2011 at the Wyndham Indianapolis West hotel near the Indianapolis International Airport. The growing number of shows is a testament to FOSS’s strength and growth, and for those in the area — or even if you feel like heading to Indianapolis in a month other than May — you can race on over for ILF.

Saluting the kernel: The Linux Foundation released its report on development of the Linux kernel, and Red Hat still leads on the corporate side of things. Red Hat contributed 23,356 changes to the kernel since the release of version 2.6.12 on June 17, 2005, according to the report amounting to 12.4 percent of the total. Among corporate contributors, Novell was next with 13,120 changes (7 percent), followed by IBM (13,026, or 6.9 percent) and Intel (11,028, or 5.8 percent). But the greatest number of changes, the report notes, was made by people who were classified as being of unknown affiliation (35,663, or 18.9 percent). Another category of developer, of “none” affiliation, also made a sizeable contribution – 12,060 changes or 6.4 percent.

[A certain corporate entity based in Malta seems to be missing from this report, and you can read the PDF verison of the report here and determine which one that might be.]

So, did you miss me?

There’s a lot more where that came from and a lot of developments going forward. Watch this space.

[FSF Associate Member] (Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)
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Res publica non dominetur

June 9, 2010 2 comments

With the passing of legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, I was reminded of the IBM “Prodigy” ad in which he appears. “Prodigy,” quite frankly, is the best tech ad ever — ever (sorry, “1984,” despite Apple’s ad introducing not only the Macintosh but Ridley Scott’s directing prowress) — and it joins Red Hat’s “Truth Happens” (QuickTime / OGG versions) as two short video pieces I show people when talking about GNU/Linux.

The ad is here on YouTube. Take a minute and 33 seconds to watch. I’ll wait. You may want to keep it open in another window to refer back to it.

What occurred to me while watching Wooden tell the kid, “A player who makes a team great is more valuable than a great player. Losing yourself in the group, for the good of the group, that’s teamwork” (emphasis mine), was that this quote applies not only to basketball in particular or sports in general, but specifically to those participating in making Free/Open Source Software work.

Watching the ad, then, with an eye toward how IBM addresses FOSS allowed me to watch with a new perspective. Other aspects of the ad also draw the same conclusions — pointing to the FOSS paradigm — even though all of those who instruct the lad don’t impart anything that can be directly tied to FOSS.

An anthropologist tells him “Homo habalis was the first to use tools.” It rings true because we are the first to use tools that we can’t actually hold — the digital bits and bytes that course through our hardware and over the World Wide Web.

Harvard professor and Boston police harrassment victim Henry Louis Gates tells the boy, in what I think is the most profound English sentence in the ad, “Collecitng data is only the first step toward wisdom, but sharing data is the first step toward community.” No additional commentary is needed there, and the overwhelming irony of having someone named Gates imparting something so profoundly insightful about the open source paradigm is almost too perfect.

A poet speaks: ” Poetry. There’s not much glory in poetry, only achievement.” Replacing “poetry” with “FOSS programming” is a simple and complete fit.

Even the male narrator says, after the poet: “What he learns, we all learn. What he knows, we all benefit from.” Where have we experienced that before?

Author Sylvia Nassar and actress/director Penny Marshall: Nassar says “One little thing can solve an incredibly complex problem,” and who hasn’t been there scripting or programming? Can I see a show of hands? I thought so. Marshall: “Everything’s about timing, kid.” Indeed.

Skipping over the businessman and the pilot — though the businessman does teach “constant improvement,” which is a FOSS tenet — we get to the heart of the ad: The Latin teacher and the plumber — the intellectual and the worker — both stating profound truths that apply to life in general and FOSS in particular.

The Latin teacher: “Res publica non dominetur,” which translates, as far as I can tell, literally to “(The) thing of the public (let) not be dominated” — more idiomatically, “Don’t let something that belongs to the public get taken over by a despot” (thanks, Willy Smith, for the quote on the translation, from his more eloquent blog on the “Prodigy” ad here). Like the Gates quote, notihng to add here, however I think I’m going to add that phrase to my personal Coat of Arms.

And the plumber, with the most succinct and direct quote: “Plumbing. It’s all about the tools.” Which the same can be said for FOSS: It’s all about the tools.

The others may or may not speak directly to the FOSS paradigm and philosophy, with the remote exception of Muhammad Ali’s chiling yet inspiring two sentences: “Speak your mind. Don’t back down.” I’m trying to find where the guitar player, the soccer player, the astronomer and the pilot fit in, but nevertheless, it seems that seven years ago, IBM did the Free/Open Source Software community a huge favor by producing this ad.

[Thanks again to Willy Smith for his insightful blog, which not only helped me translate the Latin, but also points out better than I do the FOSS nuances of this ad.]

[FSF Associate Member](Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)
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