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Changing teams

August 16, 2008 3 comments

Growing up in the Maspeth section of Queens, my father grew up a New York Giants fan — the baseball Giants that played at the Polo Grounds, not so much the football Giants (although I believe he never forgave Frank Gifford for fumbling away the championship 50 years ago). If you fast forward to 1987, I moved to San Francisco from Miami (long story) and picked up where my father left off, being the second generation of Cafiero to live and die with the orange and black.

My father’s favorite Giant was Mel Ott, but then there were also Johnny Mize, Carl Hubbell, Eddie Stanky. And there was Bobby Thomson, who hit the legendary home run the year my parents were married. I got to San Francisco in ’87, the year Candy Maldonado lost a ball in the lights against the Cardinals in the playoffs which brought me, and the Giants, back to earth. Two years later, it was Will Clark acing the Cubs’ Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams in the league championship, sending the Giants to “Bay’s-ball” against Oakland and to the first World Series interrupted by a natural disaster.

In addition, I have five Croixs de Candlesticks — awarded to Giants fans who braved the elements at Candlestick Park during extra-inning games — on a cap which also bears the ’89 National League Championship pin.

What does this have to do with FOSS? The reason I’m waxing nostalgic about the Giants is because it looks like I’m going to have to leave them on Oct. 1: Microsoft attorney Bill Neukom takes control of the ballclub in October as president.

It’s impossible for me to support a team that is run by a shill who has made his fortune representing a company that has made its sole raison d’etre squelching any semblance of digital choice; all that while forcing on the public some of the worst software in the short history of personal computing.

This may not make a lot of sense to the Europeans reading this. But imagine a Manchester United fan having to switch his or her support to Manchester City; Real Madrid to Barcelona; Juventus to AC Milano; All Blacks to Australia. Change can be necessary because team allegiances should include principles and mean more than just root, root, root for the home team.

So once this season ends, I’m going to hang up my hat, hang up the jacket and shop around for another team to support. The Oakland Athletics, more than likely, will keep my heart in the San Francisco Bay Area. But perhaps I’ll take the winter off while hoping the San Francisco 49ers do something resembling anything (thanks, Pam) and also root for the Canadian Football League’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats, since co-owner Bob Young is one of the founders of Red Hat.

Go Cats.

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

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Eight Distros a Week: Epilogue

February 16, 2008 1 comment

Eight distros. Seven days. One tired blogger.

In seven words, that pretty much wraps up the “Eight Distros a Week” series, named after (of course) the Beatles song “Eight Days a Week.”

I have used more than eight distros — AntiX, Debian, Fedora, Fluxbuntu, gNewSense, Linux Mint, Wolvix and Xubuntu — but these eight are the ones that I use most, talk about most and would recommend to those looking for a distro.

I do sometimes — and have in the past — used others. These include:

Yellow Dog Linux: While Yellow Dog seems to be putting its proverbial eggs in the PlayStation 3 basket, the distro does have a history as being the distro for Macs. Yellow Dog 3 “Sirius” is a better-than-average distro for Old World Macs using BootX on a separate partition, and its Red Hat roots make is very adequate for those Macs that predate the turn of the 21st century. However — you knew that was coming — Terra Soft Solutions, the parent company for Yellow Dog, is not exactly the most user-friendly company, unless you plop down $70 for an “Enhanced User Account” for YDL.net. By the way, if you’re tired of digging around for the download page for Yellow Dog, it’s here. You’re welcome.

Red Hat: I use Red Hat at school (Go Cabrillo College Seahawks!). Red Hat works behind the scenes for a variety of companies with which I have daily contact. As a distro, Red Hat is ubiquitous and there’s really nothing I can add to the volumes written by one of the oldest distros. It’s huge, it works, it’s corporate — what more can you say?

Mandriva: I can’t figure out Mandriva. At a recent installfest at Cabrillo College in Aptos, Calif., an 11-year-old installed Mandriva on his Dell boxes. In the process, I put it on a Dell box that was doing nothing but sitting there, and I thought the distro worked well. But I installed it once on a laptop and, for some reason, when I went to change the distro, the BIOS had changed to where I couldn’t boot from the CD. Easily fixed, of course, but the thing is I didn’t change the BIOS. My wife and daughter didn’t, and neither did the cat. Mysterious, I know, and more than likely it had nothing to do with the use of Mandriva, but until I can explain some of the strange things that happen when I try Mandriva, I’m avoiding it.

Knoppix: I’ve had this Knoppix CD that I’ve been carrying around for nearly two years, but it wasn’t until recently that I used it for an emergency. If there were a Nobel Prize for distros, Klaus Knopper should top the short list — not only was the disk helpful in solving my problem, I kept it on the machine for a significant amount of time while I waded through what it had to offer. It’s great, but I don’t use it too often.

Ubuntu: While I’m happy with Xubuntu, whenever I try Ubuntu on an Intel box or laptop, I keep thinking, “You know, this screams out ‘Debian’ to me,” and I generally lose interest. Another thing that usually keeps me at an arm’s length from Ubuntu is the split-screen syndrome — the Live CD always gives me a bonus in the screen department with two screens, and I know how to fix it (and do), but I have to say I’m just not a bandwagoner, although I recognize and appreciate Ubuntu’s contributions to FOSS.

One of the universal digital truths is that the difference between most distros is painfully minuscule, and that the object with having a plethora of options — some 350 active distros, according to Distrowatch‘s count — is the beauty behind the freedom of choice you have regarding what runs your computer.

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

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Eight Distros a Week: Fedora 7 / Fedora 8

February 11, 2008 2 comments

[This is the third in an eight-part series on distros I use. These observations are based on distros running on one or more of the following hardware: Dell Inspiron 5000 laptop, an brandless Pentium III-based desktop, an IBM PL 300 Pentium II, an iMac G3 (Indigo) and an iBook G3. As the auto commercials say, your mileage may vary.]

They say timing is everything. I use Fedora 7 on a machine on which I do development work for a program called dbEntrance, a very cool (in my opinion) MySQL browser that currently runs on Mac OS and Windows, and will soon to be ready for GNU/Linux prime time.

So just when I get around to upgrading to Fedora 8, an announcement rolls around that Fedora 9 is in the proverbial starting blocks, ready for the starting gun to go off.

Argh. Now do you see why I lean toward Debian’s, um, release schedule?

On a philosopical level, Fedora — Red Hat sans rouge — gets high marks for standing behind both free software and open source software, often joined at the hip as Free/Open Source Software (or FOSS) despite nuances that make them different; note its commitment to Ogg as opposed to mp3, for example. And the Fedora community wraps this philosophy into a pleasantly dependable and blazingly quick pair of distros in Fedora 7 and 8.

On this brandless Pentium III machine I call “Frank” (short for Frankenstein, since it has come to life as the result of putting a variety of computer parts together), both Fedora 7 and 8 tackle whatever I choose to throw at it. Unlike Steve Ballmer, I have yet to throw a chair at it, however having used this machine to work on the dbEntrance project and a couple of other test projects, adding and taking away programs en masse, Fedora has been one of most solid distros I’ve used.

Not only this, the security provision that are native to Fedora — SELinux and the like — deserve special mention, not because of any real or imagined threat, but having it there is a security blanket that gives a user one less thing to think about. Also, Fedora does away with one of my pet peeves — most distros put the Terminal in the Accessories listing on the drop down menu (Argh, how I hate that! It’s more than an accessory!). Fedora’s drop down menu has it in system tools, where it belongs.

Ironically, I use Fedora most as a “work distro” — that is, it’s the one I use on a machine on which I do testing and development work — however, it’s a lot more well-rounded for regular home computer use. I say “ironically” because the distro’s appearance itself is incredibly clean and, well I’ll say it, disarmingly beautiful out of the box. The way I use it borders on criminal — in using Fedora for solely testing purposes, I feel like I’ve hired Julia Roberts to do my gardening; naturally she could do it, but her talents clearly lie elsewhere.

Dare I say it? Pun alert: A “tip of the hat” to the Fedora community (sorry) for making such a great, and attractive, distro. We promise to get to Fedora 9 when we have a chance to catch up.

Coming tomorrow: Fluxbuntu 7.10

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

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Categories: Fedora, Red Hat

Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right . . . (stuck in the middle with GNU)

July 21, 2007 Leave a comment

The groundswell of FUD lately arguably can be a cause for concern in GNU/Linux circles. Interestingly, one of the tell-tale signs whether that Web-based story you’re reading has all the hallmarks of propaganda, at the least, and more than likely is outright FUD, at the worst, is whether the site is sponsored by your friendly neighborhood Redmond death star.

So while clowns like Kevin Carmony keeps blogging about how he’s “improving” Linux with the help of Microsoft (waiting for the laughter to die down), more FUD makes its way to the ethereal Internet thanks to a new joker by the name of Alexander Wolfe.

Wolfe, whose “Wolfe’s Den” appears as the “Chips, Vista and Advanced Technology” blog on the Information Week Web site (did you notice the word Vista in there?), wrote in the latest installment on his blog that — horrors! — there are too many Linux distros to choose from.

He makes the self-serving pithy observation that, since there are so many distros, that “Linux is a forking mess.” As if we should only have one or two choices in computing, rather than the 300 choices of GNU/Linux distros (and those are the active ones) offer.

That’s because freedom — whether in computing or in the rest of everyday life — is about choice, and it’s unfortunate that Wolfe doesn’t get it. But then, most corporate lackeys beholden to the party line of their corporate masters don’t; or if they do, they wallow in hypocrisy while ignoring the truth.

Wolfe also operates under the false assumption that all GNU/Linux distros are all competing against one another for the attention of the average user. Wrong again, Alex: Needless to say the distros that are business oriented — your Red Hats and Novells — are going head to head to slice up the corporate IT pie. But distros like Puppy and Slackintosh competing for IT departments’ attention? Sorry, chump, even the greenest of GNU/Linux newbies realizes that this isn’t true. Pity you don’t — or refuse to — get it, Alex.

Also, the argument of distro-as-religion (Wolfe quotes an outdated story on Distrowatch.com) gets beaten to a pulp. That may have been the case at one time, but Alex seems to have missed the trend toward “distro polygamy” that permeates the current GNU/Linux zeitgeist. To wit: This blog is being written on a iMac running Xubuntu 7.04; next to it is a PowerMac G3 running Yellow Dog 3.0; across the room are two Dell Optiplex GXa machines — one running Linux Mint 3.0 Xfce and the other awaiting its install of Mepis AntiX (thank you, anticapitalista). So some may be beholden to one distro; many of us aren’t.

When you read something about how too many distros is a bad thing, especially when it’s written by a Vista columnist, you can be sure that propaganda is at the forefront. Please read it accordingly.

[FSF Associate Member](Larry Cafiero, editor/publisher of Open Source Reporter, is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)

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Civil war? What civil war?

July 3, 2007 Leave a comment

Leave it to Lindows — I’m sorry, “Linspire” — chief FUD officer Kevin Carmony to try to make Benedict Arnold into a freedom fighter. In his June 27th bleatings — I mean, “writing” — about the possibility of GNU/Linux splitting into two separate camps, he says that this is “nothing new for Linux.” True. And also, he outlines the difference between advocates of KDE and Gnome, Debian and RPM (and I’m assuming here he’s talking about the installers) and Distro A and Distro B.

However, that’s where reality stops and fantasy steps in.

Carmony says: “These divisions are quite material, and dilute significant energy and efforts across competing standards. However, we accept this as the price we pay for freedom of choice.”

That’s Kevin’s world. Meanwhile in GNU/Linux circles on the planet Earth, not much can be further from the truth. Where are these so-called “competing standards” — Debian installer vs. RPM? You use one, or the other, and either (or both) work for you. Or not.

As for desktop environments, I don’t use KDE because I actually prefer Xfce as a desktop enviroment. Having tried it, I understand how cool KDE is (and it is). It doesn’t stop me from recognizing the contributions KDE makes to distros that offer it, and I certainly don’t belittle the efforts that KDE folks put into their environment. But it’s just not me; so far, I’m a Xfce guy.

This is not a “division” — this is just a variety of people using the distro of their choice. And in nearly all cases, a great majority of distro users like their distro but don’t wish any other distro ill, save for maybe the ones who pay protection money to the racketeers in Redmond.

I can’t be in the minority in seeing a distro I don’t use as a potential one to try, rather than one to bash. But even if you did favor one distro family — Debian or Red Hat or whatever — over another, the variety of distros out there makes the landscape more familial rather than adversarial.

To bludgeon and obliterate another distro because it’s not the one you use — that’s so Microsoft. So much so, Kevin, that it’s been my observation over the past year or so that this is not the prevailing mindset in the GNU/Linux field — unless you sell out your distro to the nearest digital centurion for 30 pieces of silver.

Speaking of Microsoft, Carmony also tries to take “high morale ground” (note to Kevin: Get a better writer and editor for your stuff — it’s “high moral ground”) in preaching that GNU/Linux developers ought to respect the IP of others, but he makes no mention about how Redmond has little, if any, respect for IP until they can unleash their legal dobermans.

So, vaya con Dios, Lindows — I won’t be using you, and I won’t be considering you a true GNU/Linux distro any longer. And you can bet I’ll keep laughing with everyone else when your misguided mantra of achieving a better Linux through Microsoft comes up.

[FSF Associate Member](Larry Cafiero, editor/publisher of Open Source Reporter, is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)

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Red Hat, Ubuntu to Microsoft: Go to hell

June 20, 2007 Leave a comment

According to a report from Down Under — this story from ZDNet Australia, to be exact — two of the largest GNU/Linux distros, Red Hat and Ubuntu, have told the death star in Redmond to take a hike.

red hatAccording to the story, Red Hat referred back to a statement written when Microsoft revealed it was partnering with Novell, saying that its position remained unaltered. Red Hat director of corporate communications Leigh Day added: “We continue to believe that open source and the innovation it represents should not be subject to an unsubstantiated tax that lacks transparency.”

“An unsubstantiated tax that lacks transparency” — you mean like protection money you’d pay to a racketeer?

ubuntuCanonical’s Mark Shuttleworth said Ubuntu stands to benefit from improving interoperability between Linux and Windows, but finds that the threat of patent infringement Microsoft has made “have [no] legal merit, and they are no incentive for us to work with Microsoft on any of the wonderful things we could do together.” Shuttleworth also finds significant fault with Microsoft’s Open XML.

“I have no confidence in Microsoft’s Open XML specification to deliver a vibrant, competitive and healthy market of multiple implementations,” Shuttleworth said in a blog entry. “I don’t believe that the specifications are good enough, nor that Microsoft will hold itself to the specification when it does not suit the company to do so.”

So to Novell, Xandros and Linspire — oh, I’m sorry, “Lindows” — , that’s how you should have played it.

[FSF Associate Member](Larry Cafiero, editor/publisher of Open Source Reporter, is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)

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Categories: Red Hat, Ubuntu
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