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Tipping the SCALE

March 3, 2013 1 comment

I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining, and certainly I am not. Honest. But one of the problems with working on a show like Southern California Linux Expo and this year’s SCALE 11X leaves me little time to do anything but the wood-chopping and water-carrying that goes with being the publicity chair for the show. Let me be clear: This is not a complaint, but rather an explanation about why you’re not going to get a comprehensive report about the event.

Others are doing that for me, and it was as great as they say it is; possibly moreso.

scale11x-125x125aThe reason SCALE achieves an annual uptick in greatness — and SCALE 11X is no exception — lies squarely with the volunteers who make this work. I have it easy chairing publicity and I’m not referring to what I do so much as the stellar work the Publicity Team does — Hannah Anderson, Dennis Rex, Michelle Klein-Hass, Sam Lee, and Scott Ruecker (remotely — we’ll see you next year, Scott!) all put in a herculean effort to get the word, and photos, out before and during the show. Words can’t describe the effort of those who set up the rooms, those who set up and make sure the AV works, those who make sure the tsunami of humanity coming to register and attend have their badges and swag bags ready, and those who keep the digital infrastructure running to the best of its ability under trying conditions and uncooperative attendees or exhibitors — all these folks get my undying gratitude and they deserve everyone’s deepest thanks. All you guys make it work.

Also, the show doesn’t work without the speakers who provide deeply informative talks on a wide range of topics. One of the telling factors in the success of SCALE 11X is that standing room only was the course of the day for many of the presentations, including the last group of sessions at 4:30 on Sunday afternoon. It’s a testament to the quality of the speakers and their topics, and

And . . . it doesn’t work without the folks who attend — so a big thanks go out to each of the 2,304 attendees at this year’s SCALE 11X. It would have been 2,305 if the pass for Elvis Presley, who had been comped for the show (the King of Rock and Roll should go to the event that goes to 11!), had been picked up, thankyouverymuch.

But a few things bear mentioning:

Tap, tap . . . is this thing on?
I got to speak twice at SCALE, once to the Linux Beginners class at SCALE 11X, where I talked mostly about how not to be intimidated about joining a distro community (“just tell them if they’re not nice to you, I’ll come and make their lives miserable” . . . OK, just kidding). I also held a Birds of a Feather event for CrunchBang, which was attended by about 20 people and my short presentation was followed by a pretty lively discussion.

Pleased to meet you, hope you’ve guessed my name: I have carried on online conversations for years with people and have never met them in person, but occasionally shows like SCALE 11X allows us to meet face to face. I finally got to meet Patrick Stewart’s BFF and Red Hat guy Thomas Cameron, which didn’t go as smoothly as it could have. “Hi, Thomas,” I said, shaking his hand. “How’s it going?” he said. Cue awkward silence. “OK, so let me draw my beard on my face so I look like my Facebook photo . . . ” Hilarity ensued. Apparently I don’t look enough like my former Facebook photo, and thanks to Ruth Suehle for taking my photo with Raspberry Pi on my face — yes, the little motherboard — I now look more like, well, me on Facebook. Whether that’s a good thing or not . . .

Conversely . . .
: Because I have to keep the SCALE media humming, I don’t get to spend nearly enough time with the people I do see somewhat frequently at shows like SCALE. Apologies to Clint Savage, Scott Williams, Scott Dowdle, Christer Edwards, Jeremy Sands, Trevor Sharpe, Deb Nicholson and many others for just saying “hi” and “bye” in the hallways during the course of the show. Of course, a -1 to Mother Nature for keeping Rikki Endsley home in Lawrence, Kan., thanks to a heaping helping of snow.

Thank you, Fedora: For years, I’ve always wanted a Fedora cap. Let me rephrase that: I’ve always wanted a Fedora Project cap, and finally this year the Fedora Project had them in the booth. They also had the Spherical Cow, a.k.a. Fedora 18, in the booth, and one of the perks about making a quick run to the show floor was picking it up. I gave it a quick run, live DVD style, and I think it was worth the wait. I’ll install it and put it through its paces later.

In fact, maybe I’ll just sign off and do that now. See you in Bellingham, Wash., for Linux Fest Northwest at the end of April.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang 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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Eliminate DRM!

Herding cats

February 17, 2013 Leave a comment

It’s February and I’m swamped. It can only mean one thing — this year’s version of the Southern California Linux Expo, more commonly known to the rest of the world this year as SCALE 11X, is finally in the starting blocks and ready to run.

scale11x-125x125aIt’s cat herding time: Yes, getting all the tech and non-tech media to pay attention and come to the event is best described as herding cats, but it’s something I love doing. As the publicity chair for SCALE, I never have a dull moment from, say, Boxing Day in the previous December until the end of the show. With the help of Scott Ruecker, Hannah Anderson, Dennis Rex and the rest of the SCALE Publicity Team, we also get the word out to the wider Linux/FOSS audience to come to the show, or else miss the best Linux/FOSS show in North America.

I mention the glorius burden of my own personal SCALE workload because I’m always there but I can never see any of the presenations I’d like to see. Given the opportunity to see a presentation or several, I’d pick . . . all of them. But most immediately, there are several part of SCALE 11X that are not to be missed:

The Keynotes: Both Matthew Garrett and Kyle Rankin bring excellent topics — UEFI and 3-D printing, respectively — to the keynote talks on Saturday and Sunday mornings. This is the first time in awhile that I’ve thought, “Dang, I have to make both of these.” There’s a good chance I can make one, or maybe (knock on wood) both of them this year, and you should, too.

Most of Friday’s sessions: OK, so cloning technology isn’t up to splitting me into several people and all of them going to different sessions on Friday. But between the Chef Training, the Cloud sessions, the PostgreSQL track, the Mentoring track and the Puppet track, I’d be bouncing like a pinball between them for a better part of the day. To say nothing of the Linux Essentials Prep, which I have to take someday. After all this on Friday, there’s . . .

UpSCALE: I did this once, and I’d do it again if my most excellent partner in digital crime (also known as my daughter Mimi) would join me in taking the stage again. The Friday night to-do is in the form of the Ignite Talks, where a speaker is at the mercy of a timer which is advancing his/her slides at a 20-second-per clip and they’re always fun, mostly interesting and continually a topic of discussion throughout the course of the show.

And then
there’s a line up of speakers throughout the rest of the weekend for whom I’d walk a mile on my knees through broken glass to attend their presentations: Joe Brockmeier, Ruth Suehle, Deb Nicholson, Owen DeLong, Dru Lavigne, Christer Edwards, Jason Brooks, and Thomas Cameron top this list that goes on for quite some time. In addition, we have some first-timers to SCALE who deserve special mention, like retro gamer Guillermo Antonio Amaral Bastidas and Oregon State University Open Source Lab manager Lance Albertson. Heck, even a few current and former SCALE folks come out from behind the curtain and are giving presentations: Stuart Sheldon, Tom King and Jenn Greenaway take the stage as well.

You’ll have to check the schedule here to find out when these folks are speaking. Meanwhile, when I’m able, I’ll be at sessions I can make, but for the most part you can find me in the press room.

I’ll be the one with the string and the catnip.

One more time: We turn it up to 11 this year — a reference many of the folks my age laugh uproariously to, but one which some of the younger speakers may not know. Watch this.

More to follow. Watch this space.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang 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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Eliminate DRM!

Going to 11

February 10, 2013 1 comment

The beginning of the year is always a time when I am absolutely swamped. I kiss my loved ones goodbye and then I immerse myself in the tsunami known as preparation for the Southern California Linux Expo.

scale11x-125x125aThis year, SCALE is turning it up to 11 with SCALE 11X. In its 11th year, SCALE is the first-of-the-year Linux/FOSS expo in North America that usually (except for last year) is held in February during President’s Day weekend. This year, it’s Feb. 22-24 at the Hilton Los Angeles Airport hotel.

An aside: Every year I say that the San Francisco Giants are going to win the World Series. They’ve made me correct two of the last three years, and no one is more surprised about that than I am. Conversely, I also say every year that the upcoming SCALE event will be the best ever, and my record here is always better than two out of three.

The difference here, though, is that I’m never surprised when it comes to SCALE that each year beats the previous one.

This year, we have good reason to expect great things at SCALE 11X. If nothing else that makes the show great, Matthew Garrett will be giving us his insights on breaking free of the UEFI chains in the Saturday keynote.

But we’re getting ahead of the story. There are events, talks, sessions and activities for everyone at every level of experience. And then some. You’ll just have to visit the schedule board here to take a look.

As the chair of the Publicity Team — that’s chief cat-herder for the tech and mainstream press, to most of you — I get to write the publicity blurbs and announcements that go out on a regular basis; even more regular now that we’re on the proverbial doorstep of SCALE 11X. In counting up the number of speakers — not including those all-day sessions which may have more than one — we have 91 speakers over the three-day weekend.

So we have nearly as many speakers as we have exhibitors. Permit me to pause to reflect on that for a moment.

Done.

Also since my duties at the expo tend to keep me in the press room for 95 percent of the show, you can be sure that I won’t miss the Saturday keynote. The topic of Secure Boot and how to get around it is of vital importance and Matthew Garrett’s keynote is one that is not to be missed. But other than that, and a lap or two around the floor to see if the exhibitor’s publicity needs are taken care of, I’ll be sequestered in the press room for a better part of the show.

We turn it up to 11 this year — a reference many of the folks my age laugh uproariously to, but one which some of the younger speakers may not know. Watch this.

More on SCALE 11X to come in the next several days.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang 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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Eliminate DRM!

Never too early for SCALE

October 7, 2012 4 comments

Now that Ohio Linux Fest is in the books and now that the only thing really left on the Linux horizon is LISA in San Diego just after Thanksgiving — but then, LISA is not for us mere mortals, but for the hallowed and revered system administrators. So we get to set our sights on Linux/FOSS events for next year.

Starting in February, we get to turn it up to 11.

The Southern California Linux Expo SCALE 11X takes place in February again — thank goodness — and is scheduled for Feb. 22-24, 2013, at the Hilton Los Angeles Airport hotel. As you might recall, SCALE 10X was moved to January, the weekend after linux.conf.au in Australia. While this caused a moderate amount of hue and cry, it proved that two major Linux events could be held on consecutive weekends on two separate continents.

Fortunately, we don’t have to deal with that exercise again this time, with SCALE 11X returning to its usual Presidents Day weekend schedule in February.

Here’s the lowdown: The call for papers opened about a month ago, and the deadline for submissions is Dec. 10. You’ll be notified by Christmas if your talk has been accepted. A complete run-down of what to do and how to do it can be found here.

Registration? If you’re ready to register, go ahead. You can go here and sign up now.

Matthew Garrett is giving one of the two keynotes at SCALE 11X, and his talk is entitled “The Secure Boot Journey.” He plans to detail his work over the past year – technical, political and diplomatic – in getting Linux to run on Unified Extensible Firmware Interface — more commonly known as UEFI — Secure Boot systems. He will outline the scenario where Linux users could not only be assured that they can run Linux out of the box in UEFI-based systems, but also how Secure Boot can be used to enhance security.

The second keynote has yet to be decided.

The usual tracks will be present as well as the celebrated UpSCALE talks and the legendary Games Event on Saturday night. More information on the keynote and other SCALE 11X developments will be released, of course, as they are confirmed.

Watch this space, or visit the SCALE 11X page at http://www.socallinuxexpo.org

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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Eliminate DRM!

High on the Alto 3880

February 13, 2012 13 comments

Those of you who know me know that I’m an old ThinkPad guy, in more ways than one. I myself am older than many of you reading this — well on my way to AARP membership status as I reach 55 this November — and the ThinkPads I use on a daily basis are themselves old, namely a T30 and an R40.

ThinkPads are painfully utilitarian, amazingly solid, and like the Model T Fords come in a wide variety of colors as long as you choose black. For these reasons, ThinkPads lend themselves to being the laptop of choice for many laptop users, mostly developers. To make them more attractive — for loss of a better word — many a ThinkPad is embellished with stickers on the cover, rivaling the best of the NASCAR field. Mine is no exception: My ThinkPad does its laps with EFF, SCALE 10X, Oregon State University Open Source Lab, Open Source for America, two Google Summer of Code, and No Starch Press stickers gracing the laptop cover.

So when ZaReason sent me an Alto 3880 to put through its paces, my first reaction was, “Wow. This is too nice to put stickers on.”

The Alto 3880’s cover is a very stylish silver and should be kept in its pristine form. A look around the laptop before opening it shows that ports are readily available on the sides — with monitor, ethernet and USB ports conveniently located on the left side instead of on the back. While many might find this a simple design, ThinkPad users would be thrilled to know that the oft-inconvenient ThinkPad reacharound to plug in USB cables or thumb drives is not necessary here. In giving it the once over before opening it, the Alto is light in one’s hands, but it still feels sturdy.

Opening the cover and pushing the on button reveals a screen with remarkable clarity contrasted on a black background and base. If you’re a regular ThinkPad user, the keyboard is different — flat keys at the same level — and takes getting used to. With heavy fingers like mine, the pounding I would normally offer the ThinkPad feels like I’m mercilessly pounding this keyboard and suggests some behavior modification. But ultimately the keyboard is tough enough to withstand it and after adjusting to the new keyboard — wider than the ThinkPad’s — it is easy to adapt to and to get accustomed to the additional real estate for your hands.

Performance wise, the Alto 3880 flies on the trio of distros I used on it, and without boring you with the minutiae, with one exception that turned out to be a software clash, the laptop performed without a hitch. With the 1366-by-768 resolution on a an remarkably clear 14-inch screen, the laptop would make a fine — no, make that an outstanding — replacement for my old ThinkPads.

I used three different distros on the Alto 3880, and each performed well, and each would make a fine choice for the person owning this laptop. The three contestants, for the sake of argument, are Linux Mint and Fedora — both which you can have preinstalled by ZaReason — and CrunchBang, which you can install on your own (until I convince ZaReason to make it a choice). However, as I understand it, if you request a different distro, ZaReason will install it. Or if you want no operating system, they’ll send it like that, too. Unlike other Linux hardware vendors, ZaReason offers a wide choice in this department.

But I digress. Here’s how the distros did:

Alto 3880 with Linux Mint: Originally, the laptop came to me with Linux Mint 12, which is the latest version of the distro with the GNOME 2.x-type desktop. The Alto 3880 did remarkably well with Linux Mint, which is growing on a lot of people (including me). Switching from MATE to GNOME to Cinnamon was a snap, and the performance was outstanding. In one instance on a busy morning where I forgot to plug in the laptop, I got just over four hours from the battery using multiple programs on Linux Mint.

Alto 3880 with Fedora 16: I’m waiting for the myth that Fedora is too “cutting edge” for the average user to go the way of the Studebaker and the hula hoop. It’s just that — a myth — and Fedora 16 runs circles around just about everything else on this machine. After installing Flash so one can — oh, I don’t know — participate in the wider Internet world, the distro and hardware handled everything I threw at it from a video and audio standpoint with aplomb.

Alto 3880 with CrunchBang Statler: The laptop has the horses, so to speak, to run the previous two desktop environments without breaking a sweat. So when faced with handling the Openbox window manager on CrunchBang, the distro soared. Also, the built-in camera worked flawlessly during a Google+ Hangout with the CrunchBang crew.

Alto 3880 strengths

Regardless of what distro is running on it, the Alto 3880 is remarkably versatile and handles a wide range of work without complaint. In fact, the only problem I had was helping my daughter solve what turned out to be a common GIMP and Banshee problem where the programs, both running simultaneously, weren’t playing nice with each other — clearly not a reflection on the hardware. The screen is very clear and handles high resolutions flawlessly, which is a benefit for those who want to do things like watch videos or do intricate graphics work (Note: My daughter Mimi will be writing her own review of this laptop as well). Across the distro board, the audio and video performance was outstanding, with the onboard speakers sounding good enough to forgo plugging in speakers in some cases (though the speakers sounded good, too, when used to watch DVDs). the laptop itself is lightweight but solid, and the design is top-notch — this is a beautiful laptop.

Needs improvement?

There is a lot to like on this laptop, but the one thing that took getting used to is the keyboard. Again, this might be just something for the personal preference folder, but the keyboard at first tends to feel a little light to the touch. Also, the mouse button, which is a single bar at the same level as the touchpad operating on a centered fulcrum (click the left side for the left mouse button, right side for the right) is hard to adjust to when coming from hardware where the buttons are raised. To be fair, it would be difficult to imagine that a ThinkPad-like keyboard would work, design wise, on a laptop like this.

A final look

I don’t have a rating system — stars, penguins, horseshoes, whatever — in place, but if I did I would rank the Alto 3880 very high; for the sake of argument, let’s say 4.5 penguins out of a perfect 5 penguins. Its combination of sleek design and high performance make this laptop one that would easily draw me away from the ranks of the ThinkPad users. The retail price for this machine is $599, which many of you might think is a little high compared to what you could get at Best Buy. But when you consider that when buying from a Linux hardware vendor, you’re not only getting a quality machine with a great OS, your purchase supports FOSS, for starters, by not putting another “sale” in Redmond’s tally. With its wide range of capabilities and performance, the Alto 3880 is a laptop I would be proud to own and, if Uncle Sam is generous with a tax return, would be glad to purchase.

Specs

Screen: 14-inch HD, 1366-by-768 Glossy LED Backlit Display
Processor: Pentium B940, 2 GHz, 2 core, 2 thread
Memory: 4GB DDR-3
Graphics card: Intel Integrated HD Graphics
Hard Drive: 250GB 5,400 RPM (NOTE: Tested with 400GB HD)
Optical Drive: Combo CD/DVD burner
Audio: Speakers above the keyboard for quality sound output
Wireless: 802.11 B/G/N WiFi included and Bluetooth
Reader: 3-in-1 card reader — SD/MMC/MS supported
Camera: 1.3 Megapixel webcam included
Ports: HDMI and VGA monitor ports; Gigabit Ethernet port; ensington lock port; Headphone and microphone jacks; three USB 2.0 ports
Operating System: Your choice from a variety of Linux distros, or no operating system
Battery: Six-cell battery, up to 5 hours
Weight: 4.5 pounds
Price: $599

Coming tomorrow: This . . . is . . . STRATA! A look at the ZaReason Strata 6880.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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Eliminate DRM!

A perfect 10

January 24, 2012 1 comment

I’m going to try to say this in my best movie-preview-guy voice.

More than 100 exhibitors.

More than 130 presentations.

Nearly 2,000 people in attendance.

These factors together are what makes the Southern California Linux Expo SCALE 10X a perfect 10.

With 101 exhibitors, 132 presentations and 1,962 people in attendance over the three-day event (roughly a 9 percent uptick in attendance), SCALE 10X nailed it. I’m going to let Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier take the helm here on this one, since his blog item on the event is outstanding and is something I can’t improve on.

But do you think, for a moment, that would stop me from giving some impressions of the show?

Ha.

Yeah, I’m that guy: OK, so if I thought so many people were that interested, I would have made a bigger deal about it; maybe even holding a press conference or something. But yes, I am now primarily a CrunchBang GNU/Linux user and advocate after ramping down my activities with the Fedora Project (though I did use my pull as a former Fedora Ambassador to help out a Fedoran stuck at the hotel). As I mentioned to just about everyone I saw at the show who asked me about it — that’s about 90 percent of the folks I regularly see at shows — there were really two factors involved: a.) I really like CrunchBang a lot since I started using it six months ago, and I think the distro, their lead developer Philip Newborough, and their community have a lot going for them, and b.) under the skillful guidance of Mark Terranova and Scott Williams and other Fedoristas in California, I don’t think I’ll be missed by the Fedora Project all that much.

There. I’m glad we had this little talk. Now go and try CrunchBang — it’s great.

Hey, don’t I know you? After years of talking with some people through e-mails and online, I finally got to meet a few in person. Both keynoters — Greg DeKoenigsberg and Selena Deckelmann (both of whom did great jobs on their Saturday and Sunday keynotes respectively) — have seen my e-mails but only saw my face for the first time (and me theirs) over the weekend. And also I made a trivia question of Rick Moen, who made it down to L.A. from our neck of the woods in the Silicon Valley, and whom I met for the first time. In a fashion statement worthy of note, Rick only wore T-shirts of software no longer with us — the Caldera shirt on Friday was a nice touch, Rick!

Filling some big shoes: Yours truly took control of the media side of things for SCALE 10X, since Orv Beach was teaching the Linux Beginners Class this year. I know that Orv consistently puts in yeoman’s work on the show every year, but I didn’t realize the volume of releases and announcements sent out during the show. I didn’t get to the expo floor until late Saturday afternoon at the earliest, and I hope I did the show proud in running all things media. Drafting Jason Riker and LXer’s Scott Ruecker (no relation, though names are pronounced the same) to help out was a plus. I’ve also gained a new appreciation for Twitter and, yes, yours truly now can condense a message down to 140 characters.

Best. Compliment. Ever. So during one lap around on the show floor, seeing if anyone needed anything in the way of publicity and the like, I had one exhibtor, a woman, tell me this: “This is a great show. In fact, I worked AVS and this show is much better than that one.” I thought I was more worldly than I am, apparently, becuase I had to ask: “AVS?” “Adult Video Show,” she replied. Ah. So noted. On that note, there’s nothing that can beat that.

Except maybe SCALE 11X next year.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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Eliminate DRM!

Taking a moment to gloat

January 19, 2012 2 comments

OK, so it’s Thursday morning and I still haven’t packed for SCALE, the Enterprise guy is going to be here in about a half-hour to pick me up so I can drive the rental car back here to load up, I have one more SCALE 10X press release to send out before hitting the road, and there’s a Q-and-A interview also I have to post on the SCALE Web site.

But I’ll drop all that for a moment. This is a little more important.

SCALE 10XRecently, tech writers risked grave injury jumping on the “Linux Desktop is dead” bandwagon. Armies of writers marched lockstep to the theme that the desktop needs to have a fork stuck in it — it’s over, kaput, get it a nice casket. What do we have for our departing contestant?

I told them they were all full of crap.

Meanwhile, this morning Steven J. Vaughan Nichols reports that the Linux desktop might just be growing. It seems a Web research firm called Net Applications produced data showing that Linux’s desktop market share has been growing — from 0.97 percent in July 2011 to a record-breaking 1.41 percent as of this month.

OK, guys, now watch your step getting down off that bandwagon.

See you all at SCALE — arriving around 6ish in the white rental car.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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Eliminate DRM!

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