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Zonker nails it again

June 16, 2010 Leave a comment

One of the great things about people writing things that you have been thinking — let alone things you wish you had written — is that you don’t have to do it yourself.

So, thanks to Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier for writing this on the Linux Magazine site about the “Party of Gno,” with some words that hopefully the Free Software Foundation will take to heart.

My thoughts exactly, Zonk.

[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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I’m baaaaaaaaack

April 30, 2010 1 comment

As I’ve said ad nauseum — Latin for “if he says that one more time, I’m going to throw up” — I only write things when I have something to say. What I have to say today is simple — I’m back.

Going through the last few months of observations, I have only this to offer:

  • Tragically, I missed LFNW: Next to the Southern California Linux Expo, Linux Fest Northwest is probably my favorite event of the year, in an area that’s definitely one of my favorite places on the planet. Heck, on their Web site leading up to the event last weekend, my head was in one of the revolving pictures — the one just after John “Mad Dog” Hall. Yes, incidentally, that is my better side. From what I am told, the event was a success. Next year, guys.
  • What’s in a name? Can I get a show of hands of folks who find the “Linux” and “GNU/Linux” naming debate as counterproductive to FOSS, in general, and to the FSF, in particular, as I do? Ah, I thought so. As an aside, Richard Stallman will be speaking at Stanford today, and if you have a chance, you should go. However, an invitation to have him come to Felton to speak at the Felton Linux User Group the following day turned into an “agreement to disagree” (at least on my part) on whether the simple term “Linux” implies that the history of Free Software starts in 1991 and that “LUG” doesn’t give credit where credit is due. Yet, I would be hard pressed to find a regular GNU/Linux user who doesn’t know GNU’s history and it’s relationship to the Linux kernel, but Stallman disagrees. But rather than speak to our group — a group which, per capita, probably own more “Free Software, Free Society” books and T-shirts than any other LUG — because in his estimation we are not “GNU-friendly” enough, San Francisco LUG posts on its mailing list an announcement that he’ll be speaking at Wordcamp in San Francisco on Saturday. And that’s fine — he can reach more people and he should be where he can get wider attention — but take a look at those less-than-GNU-friendly sponsors on the site! (Go ahead, I’ll wait).
  • So that’s what all the hubbub is about: I downloaded Ubuntu 10.04 and put it through its paces on the laptop and desktop (the Live CD only), and yep, the buttons on the left are, at first, a tad annoying and something to get used to. However, that’s minor, compared to the release itself, which is stellar. Not only this, there was an 11th hour bug where dual-booters couldn’t boot into anything other than Ubuntu — for dual-boots with Windows, I’d consider this a feature — and that was corrected before the version was released into the wild. Good work, Ubunteros.
  • [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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    Eight Distros a Week: gNewSense 1.1

    February 13, 2008 3 comments

    [This is the fifth 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.]

    A couple of Saturdays ago, I appeared as a guest on KUSP’s GeekSpeak radio show to talk about Free Software, and about two-thirds of what I said on the radio was about gNewSense.

    Truth in advertising: I was on with Richard Stallman, who the panelists really wanted to speak to (and rightfully so), and my total contribution to the hour-long radio show was three sentences. But two sentences out of three praising gNewSense isn’t bad.

    What I said on the show was that gNewSense was the only completely free-as-in-freedom distros I would recommend, and that I have already had one user converted from a proprietary OS to gNewSense.

    The third sentence — I corrected the host on how to pronounce my name, I think.

    Nevertheless, of all the distros providing true digital freedom, gNewSense stands out as probably the best performing and most stable distro available. To those for whom complete free-as-in-freedom programs with the distro is of vital importance, gNewSense provides suitable alternatives to other-than-free (for whatever reason) software; Burning Dog, for example, is the free (albeit domesticated?) replacement for Firefox as a Web browser. Rhythmbox works well on a PIII, as does Serpentine.

    The KDE version of gNewSense, which I ran on the PIII desktop, ran through its paces flawlessly, although the caveat here is that I didn’t have an Internet connection and couldn’t put it through some on-line tests that I did with the laptop.

    Whether you prefer GNOME or KDE — and I don’t mean to start a flame war here, and past posts have outlined where my desktop loyalties lie — bear in mind that both desktops run the OS suitably and makes a strong argument for running completely free.

    Further, Ireland is beginning to stand out as a digital leader in Europe — both gNewSense and Linux Mint (which we’ll talk about tomorrow) are two testaments to how Eire is taking a lead in FOSS. So a toast with a pint of stout to the both Brian Brazil and Paul O’Malley — and the rest of the developers of gNewSense on either side of the Atlantic — for providing a great distro.

    Coming tomorrow: Linux Mint 4.0 Darnya Xfce

    [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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    Notes, quotes and gloats

    February 6, 2008 2 comments

    Driving Mister Stallman: My 1994 Jetta (with the specialized California license plate “GNU LNUX”) and I had a special guest over the last few days: the Free Software Foundation’s Richard Stallman. RMS, as he is known, needed transportation from Palo Alto to Santa Cruz on Saturday morning, and at 8 a.m., we appeared at the doorstep of the home at which he was staying for a ride to KUSP in Santa Cruz for an appointment with a radio show.

    After a spot of tea, we loaded up the Jetta and headed southwest. For the most part, RMS kept to his work on his laptop in front of him as he rode in the passenger seat (no, I don’t know what he was working on — I didn’t look) but we did have time to talk about some of the upcoming events — the radio show, his Op-Ed piece running in the Sunday Santa Cruz Sentinel and his talk on Monday at Cabrillo College. He also commented on the road noise my car makes, but after 274,000 faithful miles, the Jetta can play Sousa marches with every passing mile for all I care.

    On Tuesday morning, I drove RMS from Santa Cruz to the San Francisco airport, and the trip was a little more conversational. While negotiating the twists and turns of Highway 17 over the Santa Cruz Mountains (hoping all the while I didn’t hit anything, lest his laptop become a permanent part of RMS’s forehead thanks to the driver side airbag), we talked about a GNU-friendly “Intro to Unix/Linux” textbook (which may soon be available — watch this space) and how much alike surfing and love are. Other topics — the folly of highway expansion in the face of peak oil and a McAfee billboard on Highway 101 that said “Hackers are bad” — led us both on conversational tangents punctuated by work on his laptop.

    We arrived at SFO after a side trip to Palo Alto to the home he had stayed in before to pick up an item he had forgotten. At 11, he had plenty of time to catch his plane. As we shook hand to take leave of each other, he left me with two words (and you can say them with me): “Happy hacking!”

    [Note to P.L.: Not to worry -- I didn't tell RMS about the dream you had about him.]

    Blue Screen of REAL Death: The Defense Department and Boeing plan to base their new Future Combat Systems not on Microsoft Windows, but on a GNU/Linux based system using Red Hat. The reason the generals made is clear — they don’t want to be beholden to Microsoft — but another more important issue arose, this from John Williams, a sergeant at the Boeing plant in Huntington Beach: “Soldiers don’t care about software,” he said. What they care about is “if it’s going to work.” That means the men and women on the ground have their lives depending on software, and that software has got to work or the result could be fatal. So, arguably, that counts Microsoft out.

    [So how far did that chair travel, Mr. Ballmer?]

    Coming soon (like tomorrow): Starting tomorrow, I am going to release eight straight blogs on eight distros I use and particularly like, and why. Call it “Eight Distros a Week” if you like, because I plan to. In any case, hope you enjoy it. Up tomorrow: AntiX 6.5 Spartacus and 7.0 Lysistrata.

    [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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    Miscellaneous ramblings

    September 9, 2007 Leave a comment

    Back to school: The last time I had a college ID, Gerald Ford was president, disco was ravaging the country and I — try not to laugh — entertained thoughts of studying architecture. Of course, Ford passed away and disco faded away (only to become part of a ’70s-based sitcom) and my all-but-non-existent math skills had no chance to fade away, guiding me from this failed endeavor to become the next Frank Lloyd Wright and propelling me into the writing field.

    But 32 years after proudly graduating at the middle of my class from Monsignor Edward Pace High School in Opa Locka, Fla., I am a college student again, this time at Cabrillo College in Aptos, Calif., where my sole class to date is Intro to Unix/Linux.

    Jim Griffin, a pretty enthusiastic and all-around good instructor, teaches the course. I have about 30-some-odd (meaning there are about 30, some of them odd) classmates and the course seems to be pretty easy, so far — that year of self-study masquerading as throwing myself into FOSS didn’t hurt. Needless to say, I will keep you posted on the class and my yet-to-be-announced efforts to start a Cabrillo LUG. Oops . . .

    Born free: A couple of those who commented on the blog’s name change — as well as those of you who e-mailed me personally — seem to think that I am a recent convert to free software. Nope — I’ve always been on the side of “free as in freedom” (although I have absolutely nothing against free beer!) since I converted to the FOSS side. Again, with what’s being touted these days as “open source” not being so — or defined in a kind of “1984” doublespeak — and when even the OSI is having a hard time redefining what “open source” is, then clearly it was time for a name change.

    RMS . . .SF . . OK?: Richard Stallman does a series of talks in Northern California this week: Stanford on Monday (Sept. 10), San Jose State on Tuesday (the 11th), Berkeley on Wednesday (the 12th) and the University of San Francisco (a block from where I used to live when I first moved to San Francisco) on Thursday (the 13th). The Berkeley event may need an RSVP, but the others are free — as in freedom and free beer. A schedule is available from the Free Software Foundation — click on the day of the week for the event time and location.

    Hello, Columbus: For those of you Buckeyes (and those of you in the neighboring states) finding yourselves with free time on Saturday, Sept. 29, make your way to the Greater Columbus Convention Center for Ohio LinuxFest 2007. Fedora’s Max Spevack and Bradley Kuhn, of the Software Freedom Law Center, are keynoting. From what I’m told, it looks like it is ramping up to be a good event — don’t miss 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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    Hackers: Good – Crackers: Bad

    March 25, 2007 Leave a comment

    It’s interesting how those urban stories become urban legends (no, Bill Gates is not going to give you his fortune if you pass on that e-mail — sheesh) and how myths become become truths when repeated often enough.

    Last week, the paper at which I work had a headline on a story that said that the U.S. had the most hackers in the world. Under my definition of hacker this would be welcome news, but the article continued to implicate those who “hacked” as people who did illegal things via computers.

    Those aren’t hackers. Most of you know who Eric Raymond is, but for those of you who don’t, the author of “The Cathedral and the Bazaar” — arguably a defining book regarding open source software — has something to say about hackers; real hackers, that is.

    Raymond says that hackers — “a community, a shared culture, of expert programmers and networking wizards that traces its history back through decades to the first time-sharing mini-computers and the earliest ARPAnet experiements” — originated the term as a positive one. Hackers built the Internet, Raymond continues, made Unix what it is today, run Usenet, and generally make the World Wide Web work.

    He continues later to say, “There is another group of people who loudly call themselves hackers, but aren’t. These are people (mainly adolescent males) who get a kick out of breaking into computers . . . . Real hackers call these people ‘crackers’ and want nothing to do with them . . . .”

    Raymond continues later: ” . . . [B]eing able to break security doesn’t make you a hacker any more than being able to hotwire cars makes you an automotive engineer.”

    Hackers build things, and crackers break them.

    I think about this every time I look at the Free Software Foundation business-card disk that doubles as my membership card, especially at the signature by Richard Stallman (I asked him to autograph it, sheepishly, after the stellar speech he gave at the University of California last month) which says, “Happy hacking!” To be a hacker would be a badge of honor I’d gladly wear.

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

    Richard Stallman at Berkeley

    February 26, 2007 Leave a comment

    Richard Stallman and others in the free software movement may not like my choice of words to describe his speech on Friday, Feb. 23. But to quote a large software conglomerate way north of here: Wow.

    Tod Landis, the Technical Editor of Open Source Reporter, and I drove up to Berkeley from Santa Cruz to see Stallman speak (but not before picking up mutual friend, uber-geek and Web host operator without peer Cameron Spitzer on the way in San Jose), and Stallman did not disappoint. In fact, he was engaging, funny, passionate and thought-provoking during the course of the two hours in which he spoke.

    More importantly, Stallman was convincing about the need to promote the free software philosophy and further the free software movement. Specifically, he touted the need for people to get involved not only with the Free Software Foundation, but also with some of the FSF’s projects, primarily their efforts around stopping DRMs and Bad Vista (both of which can be found on the FSF site).

    Also, he explained how GNU was really a significant part of the operating system everyone calls “Linux,” and that because Linux is only the kernel and all the other aspects of the operating system were from GNU. Hence, it should rightfully called GNU/Linux instead of just “Linux.”

    So noted, Professor Stallman: We at Open Source Reporter have made a note of it, and will refer to all operating systems as such in the future.

    He also revealed what he uses on his computers (Blag), and stated that there were only three distros that provided fully free software: Blag, gNewSense and a third one that I didn’t get (Ulteo, maybe?).

    As one of the crowd’s non-geeks (or as a geek apprentice, perhaps), my observation is that Stallman comes across as a very eloquent and very engaging in presenting his views to the audience. I understand his passion and urgency in promoting things like abolishing DRMs and calling Vis-duh and Microsoft on their individual and collective shortcomings. He effectively and convincingly lays out the reasons why free software and open source software are different, and how open source could stand to be more like free software.

    Stallman’s “Saint Ignutius” schtick was very entertaining, and in ordaining the crowd into the Church of Emacs, he warned that as adherents we should “beware of Vi, Vi, Vi — the mark of the beast” (get out your geek-to-English dictionaries: Vi is another editor, and VI of course is the Roman numeral for six; hence six-six-six, ba-da-boom!).

    The talk was attended by between 75-100 people, mostly Cal students with a few of us older folks in the audience.

    I understand that the audio for this speech is supposed to be available on the Free Software Foundation’s Web site (http://www.fsf.org), but I haven’t found it yet. It would be good to give it a listen, because it touches firmly on the need for free software, and how we should go about promoting it.

    I came away from this speech with a better understanding of free software, converted to the free software movement, and with a couple of items of worth — a FSF lapel pin and a Richard Stallman autograph on my FSF card.

    [FSF Associate Member]

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