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Don’t fear the beard

January 27, 2011 9 comments

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During the 2010 baseball season, the San Francisco Giants — the World Series Champion San Francisco Giants (yours truly never tires of saying that) — had a slogan, “Fear the Beard.” Most of the pitching staff — relievers and closer Brian Wilson specifically — were bearded pitching machines mowing down opposing batters.

Historically speaking, the tech realm and beards have never been too far apart, at least for the men. As such, there are some in the FOSS realm who deserve special recognition for not only advancing free/open source software, but also for forsaking the razor and putting a hairy face forward.

This blog item deals with beards specifically, so those with FOSS’s most awesome goatees — like Red Hat’s Karsten Wade, freelance FOSS journalist Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier and Oregon State University Professor Carlos Jensen, all of whom would definitely get top honors in this category — aren’t included here. Sorry, guys. Same with moustaches: For example, Mark Terranova’s ‘stache belongs in any facial hair Hall of Fame; a piece of work that would easily get him membership in The Village People — and I mean that in a good way (however, truth be told, when he’s got a beard, Mark runs with the best of ‘em).

Here is a sampling of what I find are the best beards in FOSS, in no particular order other than to say that if anyone got a first prize, it would have to go to . . .

Jon ‘maddog’ Hall: Despite getting a lot of input from those who think Richard Stallman should get top billing, sorry, RMS: Maddog takes the prize as the FOSS advocate with historically the best beard in the realm, to which picture at right will attest. Or you could look up Father Christmas in the dictionary and, chances are, you’ll find maddog’s picture with the definition. Despite recently going for the Sean-Connery-as-Indiana-Jones’-Dad look (see next paragraph) to go along with the 70 or so pounds he dropped — a great thing, indeed — Hall’s beard has always been the standard of epic in the FOSS beard pantheon.

[Maddog, shown at left in his new closer cropped form, comments in response to an e-mail: "And for beards, I could NEVER understand why someone would want to put a very sharp instrument close to their throat when they are only partially awake. I have not shaved since 1969 . . . ." Also, to the youngsters out there, maddog has a message: "I am glad that you are twenty . . . I enjoy seeing your youthful energy and beauty, and some days when I wake up and I am stiff, I wish I was twenty again . . . but I only wish that for about fifteen minutes." Amen to that!]

Richard Stallman: Most people I’ve talked to about this have said, after they stopped laughing at the topic (“No, really, I’m writing on the BEARDS of FOSS . . .”), that RMS should have the top spot, and in lieu of Jon ‘maddog’ Hall’s change in appearance, they might be right. The bearded face that launched a thousand tools to make the Linux kernel run, and launched a free software movement to boot, has been the one most commonly associated with free-as-in-freedom software. Not only this, he also sidelines as a saint — if you’ve never seen the St. Ig-GNU-tius schtick, check it out. I first saw this several years ago when Stallman spoke at UC Berkeley, and it never gets old despite being bearded (and I mean that in a good way).

Timothy Budd: If you are now, or have been, a student of computer science at a university, there’s a chance you may have had a class with a textbook Timothy Budd had written. An associate professor of computer science at Oregon State University — Go Beavers! — Tim has written a dozen textbooks on object-oriented programming, data structures and Leda, a multi-paradigm programming language that yours truly admits to not understanding at all. Be that as it may, Tim’s advocacy for FOSS during his time at OSU — he has had me as well as others speak to his graduate classes on FOSS — and his healthy crop of hair on his chin garners him a spot on the list. Besides, since he is well known by his students for his use of the term “Administrivia,” he gets on the list by simple use of that bearded word alone.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols: Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols’ beard is one that most FOSS users and advocates are accustomed to seeing on a nearly daily basis when reading the latest developments in Free/Open Source Software news. Whenever there’s news to be delivered, the FOSS community can count on Steven being the one who brings it to us; not only this, usually Steven is first with the news, which should garner him the nickname “Scoop.” Now writing for ZDNet as well, Steven gets what is rightfully more exposure in writing news that’s important to us — and to everyone else, for that matter. Steven gets extra points for being a Asheville Tourists fan — the Tourists being one of the most unique mascot names for a baseball team in the country.

Me: In an unprecedented display of unabashed ego worthy of another Larry — the CEO of Oracle whom, incidentally, has what’s trying to be a beard on his face, but not doing a very good job of it (but I digress) — I like to think that my beard would rank up there among bearded FOSS titans, not because of any accomplishment of my own — OK, the Lindependence Project . . . maybe — but just by the mere fact that it grows, with Wolfman-like speed, on my face. Herein lies the story: I’m a werewolf. Just kidding — I grew first grew my beard after Jerry Garcia died in Jerry’s honor, but my family hated it. So I went back and forth between having it and not having it until making a pact with my family: Even-numbered years, a moustache; odd-numbered years, the beard.

I’ve missed a lot of people, which is where you come in: Who did I miss and why is should their beard be in the FOSS Hairy-Faced Hall of Fame?

[Photos of Jon "maddog" Hall, Timothy Budd and Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols used by permission. The photo of Richard Stallman was taken by Copyleft and appears here under the GPL and CC-Share-Alike licenses afforded by the photographer. I haven't decided to give myself permission to use my photo, but it's probably OK.]

[FSF Associate Member] (Fedora ambassador 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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Looking back, looking ahead

December 29, 2010 3 comments

Now that I have finally disengaged myself from the what is commercially and socially — and for some, spiritually (and God bless you, every one) — known as “the holiday season,” I have been giving a lot of thought to how good a year 2010 was, the Sun purchase by Oracle and the Novell deal notwithstanding, and what 2011 has to offer.

It looks like 2011 will be the year of the Linux deskt . . . I’m sorry, what? Oh. Well, never mind. Let’s skip that one

Looking back at 2010, most recently we had both Russia and Cuba going to FOSS, which must prove Steve Ballmer right about Linux being Communist. After all, I think a young Linus Torvalds was able to see Russia from his house a lot better than Sarah Palin could from Wasilla. Meanwhile, Red Hat — oh, what’s in a name anyway, comrade? — became poised to be the first billion-dollar Linux company and stats show that they are gaining market share in the corporate server world. Go, Shadowman! And there’s that little green space cadet Android making gains in the various markets where it now works. So despite an Apple/Microsoft shell company buying Novell and the other — and more evil — Larry essentially killing open source at what was once the Camelot-esque Sun, 2010 was a good year.

Of course, 2010 would not be complete without the introduction of Chux, the Linux distro developed by Chuck Norris — A Linux designed by Chuck Norris would require no backups, as it would be too scared of Chuck to fail, and the CPUs run faster to get away from Chuck Norris. You don’t boot it, it boots you. Go here to take a look here.

What would I like to see in 2011? Glad you asked. What would be nice would be:

Digital pundits not saying that 2011 is the year of the Linux desktop, because it’s won’t be. And that’s OK. Believe me, until this year when the San Francisco Giants won the World Series, I know the “wait-’til-next-year” drill very well. The year of the Linux desktop will come someday — as it should — but with all the advances Linux is making in server and smaller formats — yes, I’m looking at you, Android — we don’t have to put all our eggs in that basket to determine Linux a success. We don’t have to thump our proverbial chests and say “this year . . . the desktop,” and then when the end of the year rolls around and it isn’t, there’s not a whole lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth. To say nothing of garment-rending . . . . The fact of the matter is that Linux and FOSS are as healthy as they have ever been, Novell and Sun sale notwithstanding.


Go to the show: Linux shows and expos are popping up all over, so you really have no excuse in 2011 not to go to one. The established ones, like the Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE 9X this year) and OSCON, are now being joined by a whole host of other events throughout North America. Most recently, Indiana gets its own Linux festival in March, aptly titled the Indiana Linux Fest. It joins, in order of appearance (off the top of my head — and forgive me if I forget your expo), SCALE, Linux Fest Northwest, COSSFest in Calgary, Texas Linux Fest, Southeast Linux Fest (in the GNU South), OSCON, Ohio Linux Fest, and Utah Open Source Conference. You’ll find me at SCALE, Linux Fest Northwest, COSSFest (hopefully — if they let me out of the country), OSCON and Utah Open Source Conference on an annual basis.

Oh, and one more thing: Lindependence 2011 will be held in early July, around Independence Day, in Felton, California — where Lindependence started a couple of years ago.

Last, but certainly not least:

Large distros carrying their weight in the FOSS realm: First it was the GNOME study by David Neary that had Red Hat, Novell and others carrying the developmental mail for GNOME — Red Hat and Novell with 10-plus percent each — while Canonical came in at, wait for it, 1.03 percent. Fine. That’s been hashed out already both on these pages and elsewhere. But the Linux Foundation released its annual report on Linux kernel development late in the year — go ahead and get the PDF file here — and while you’re at it, you might want to do a search for Canonical to see how often it shows up. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t. And I’m just going to leave it at that, hoping that Canonical and/or Ubuntu shows up on next year’s report.

Let’s all have a great 2011.

[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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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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Miscellania missive

May 11, 2008 Leave a comment

First things first: Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there, including my own as well as my wife, who is the mom of our daughter. Here’s a white carnation . . . .

Thanks, Congress: Most people, including me, thought Democrats were swept into both houses of Congress in 2006 on the wave of correcting the misdirection in which the nation found itself up to then and promote reform measures aimed at helping the people over corporations. Silly me. Unfortunately, this course remains unchanged, and Democrats instead have come up with starting-block totalitarian measures like H.R. 4279, the Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property (PRO IP) Act (Note: Is there a Federal Bureau of Acronyms which has the responsibility to name legislation? Sheesh). This bill, passed by the House last week, creates a “top copyright cop” at the federal level and does the following, according to the bill’s author, Rep. John Conyers (who should know better): prioritize intellectual property protection to the highest level of our government; make changes to IP law to enhance the ability of IP owners to effectively enforce their rights; make it easier to criminally prosecute repeat offenders; and increase penalties for IP violations that endanger public health and safety. IP violations that endanger public health and safety? The only thing the House didn’t do is gift-wrap this for the RIAA and MPAA. Hats off to Rep. Zoe Lofgren, who said ” The recording industry has made a business out of extorting money from students” whose computers are used by others for illegal downloading. “This could be the same type of situation.” More on the story here; and don’t forget to write or call your Senator, if you’re so inclined, since the legislation is bound for the Senate.

An aside: This has nothing to do with the digital realm, but it’s pretty awe-inspiring nonetheless. In fact, if this feat does not make your jaw drop, you’re either dead or you don’t follow baseball (which begs the question, “Why live?”). Yesterday, starting pitcher Tim Lincecum of the San Francisco Giants struck out the first three Philadelphia Phillies batters on 11 pitches — three pitches to the first batter, four to the second and four to the third — in the top of the first inning. Wow. That’s what I call “dealing.”

Oh, and don’t forget: I’ve separated out the Felton stuff into its own blog here.

Sunny and clear, 58 degrees and rising — time to go to Mother’s Day brunch.

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

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Twin brothers of separate mothers

April 30, 2008 8 comments

One of us is a battle tested, recently retired career Army man who is a veteran of Operation Desert Storm. The other is a former peace and social justice activist with portfolio who rose through the Green Party’s California ranks before taking up FOSS evangelism with a vengance.

One of us lives in Texas, where the stars at night are big and bright (clap four times here), while the other lives on the Central California coast, where — and it’s a law, I think — every sentence must end with the word ” . . . dude.”

One of us swears by KDE, the other prefers GNOME but really has an affinity for Xfce. One of us calls the operating system “Linux” out of laziness. The other makes a point of referring to it as “GNU/Linux” because the “GNU should get its due.”

Ken Starks and I have our differences. I would be willing to bet he doesn’t think Texas cheated in the Rose Bowl when they beat USC for the national championship a year ago (they did), nor do I think he would agree with me that the former Texas governor cheated in the 2000 election to win the presidency (he did ). Ken grew up a Cubs fan — anyone who knows me knows how much I detest the Cubs (’89 NLCS, anyone?) — but he now follows the Houston Astros, while I live and die, mostly die, with the San Francisco Giants.

Yet it’s safe to say that Ken and I are united in one thing: Promoting Linux (as he’d say) in the home desktop/laptop and small business environment; that, and making sure everyone knows they have FOSS options to their proprietary computing experience.

My introduction to Ken — I haven’t actually met him in person yet — came after what I thought was a slight in a Blog of Helios of one of my heroes, Abbie Hoffman. Yes, for those of you keeping score at home, Ken is the ever-outspoken helios. He and I started exchanging e-mails afterward, discussing — among other things — how to get GNU/Linux (thank you) in front of everyday people who would benefit from being out from under the thumb of Microsoft’s monopoly.

A result of these discussions is our partnership in HeliOS Solutions, where I do what he does in Texas on the West Coast, down to initiating a Komputers4Kids program in Felton. Another result is the project called Lindependence 2008, which we had discussed ad nauseum starting late last summer and had refined through the fliter of The Tux Project in the meantime.

So if you were to tell me a few years ago that I’d be teaming up with a Army vet on a project to save the digital realm for FOSS, I would have laughed myself into a new pair of underwear. If you were to tell Ken that he’d be teaming up with a tree-hugging, pony-tailed hippie, he’d probably have the same reaction.

Yet here we are, and that’s where we should be: United for the operating system, whatever we choose to call it, and united for the promotion of FOSS programs that work as well, and in some cases better, than proprietary software it should replace.

If our partnership is a testament to anything, it shows that promoting GNU/Linux and FOSS transcends background, upbringing and politics. In fact, it even transcends sports in general and, as much as I hate to admit it, baseball in particular.

(And, Ken, Texas did too cheat in the Rose Bowl . . . )

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

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Notes after recovery

August 13, 2007 Leave a comment

First things first: I lied. In my last blog item, I said that I wasn’t going back to Linux World on Wednesday after a long, hard and profitable Tuesday. But with both San Francisco — the world’s greatest city — and Linux World being a two-edged bulb drawing this moth to its luminescence, I put aside home projects (remember the project having to do with rearranging the living room? Working on it . . .) and went back for another day.

Fortunately, I had my swag limiter on and didn’t end up with further arm injury. I know the stuff is free and I know that companies love to give the stuff away, but — hey — how many can insulators can you really use?

Let’s talk hardware: Something that I am woefully deficient in — both physically and mentally — is hardware. We don’t cover it enough at Open Source Reporter, and we plan to change that and increase our coverage. Without the hardware, the software isn’t worth much, now is it?

I spent the better part of the day getting schooled by some of the hardware manufacturers at the show; mostly by Fujitsu, which has a great selection and had very knowledgeable people working the show. Very patient people, too, because I think I should have won prizes — more T-shirts — for “dumbest questions of the show.”

Readers will be seeing more about hardware in OSR in the coming months — partially behind this effort, needless to say, is prodding hardware manufacturers to ideally open up their drivers to accommodate GNU/Linux or, at least, to get them to develop drivers if they don’t want to share the code — and we will devote a section to it in the print publication in January.

Creative Commons / Free Software Foundation / Electronic Frontier Foundation: You guys did a great job at the show, with CC providing the Fedora disks, FSF providing (as always) great information and some very cool stickers (thanks for the GNUs) and EFF having probably the best “join us” offer — a “SWAT-team” like cap in black with a stark EFF in white on the front. It’s great to work with and support these groups solely for the vital work they do; their swag is just icing on the cake.

They Might Be Giants: I got to see the San Francisco Giants game on Monday night against the Washington Nationals, hoping Barry would swing into history that evening. But it was not to be. However, I did see a great extra-inning game that the Giants uncharacteristically won. And Barry now holds the record anyway thanks to Tuesday’s swat, and the Giants are still numero uno in these parts, National League West standings be damned.

More to follow — with the exception of the Giants — on the pages of OSR and in this blog.

And as Helios likes to say: All-righty then.

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

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