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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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Mint, Linux Mint

October 12, 2011 10 comments

On Google+ recently, Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols brought back a May 2011 item he posted on Linux Mint because “[w]ith all the chatter on one of my posts about Linux desktops, perhaps it’s time for me to drag out this review of my current favourite Linux desktop.”

It may seem trivial to some, but Steven calls Linux Mint “Mint” throughout the review, and in the back and forth on the comments, that seems to be OK with some. Correction: It seems to be OK with everyone but me. In my opinion, calling it just “Mint” is wrong — especially since the screen shot featured in the article says “Linux Mint” and the symbol is an “LM” — and I find it a little grating to do so, like someone calling me by my last name (Note: Unless you’re a drill sergeant, don’t do that).

So who’s right? Is it “Mint” or “Linux Mint”?

Let’s ask Clement Lefevbre, the lead developer at, ahem, Linux Mint. When I e-mailed him that question — “Mint or Linux Mint?” — he responded with the following:

Hi Larry,

You’re right. The official name is “Linux Mint” and this is what we should call it.

With that said, most people nickname it “Mint”, myself included. I think, when it’s within a conversation or an article, it’s ok to call the distribution “Mint”. It’s like a nickname of sorts. But when referring to it officially, we should use its proper name instead. So for instance, its entry within Distrowatch should not be “Mint”, but “Linux Mint”.

Personally, when I talk about the distribution to other “Mint” users, and when I talk with the other “Mint” devs, we all refer to it as “Mint”. When I adress the public or anyone outside our project, I call us “Linux Mint”.

:)

Regards,
Clement Lefebvre
Linux Mint

So . . . I guess that means that both Steven and I are right then.

A couple of things about Linux Mint, going forward: I’ve used Linux Mint off and on for a couple of years now and I’ve always found it solid; particularly, and most recently, the Linux Mint Debian Edition which runs flawlessly on a ThinkPad R30. Also, I think the naming convention is one of the best: in initial letter order, a woman’s name ending in the letter “a” (I asked Clement once what is going to happen when he reaches “Zelda” — or whatever the “Z” name is — and he said that they’ll start with “A” again, ending the name in “e”)

If it’s up to me, I’ll keep calling it Linux Mint, thank you.

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 has just started developing software in his new home office. Watch this space.)

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Linux desktop: Not pining for the fjords

September 20, 2011 16 comments

When radio became a popular form of entertainment, the prevailing wisdom of the time provided that live theater was dead. Of course, this so-called “wisdom” was just a little off, since live theater “survived” the onslaught of radio entertainment and still lives to this day.

When television became ubiquitous in households across the land, the death knell for movie theaters and radio was sounded by the day’s pundits. There would be no reason to go to the movie theater any longer. Of course, they were wrong again, since movie theaters and radio still exist and are an integral part of the social landscape.

Even the death sentence for newspapers at the hands of the Internet — not the fault so much of the Internet as it is of bean-counting pinheads in publishers’ offices around the world — is still widely premature, though admittedly it doesn’t look good for the printed word.

Now there’s the future — or lack thereof — of Linux desktop, where tech writers are tripping over each other recently to announce its untimely demise.

I’ll just let time prove them wrong.

The problem is, to paraphrase the oft-quoted (and misquoted) Mark Twain on this particular topic, the report of its death is an exaggeration (the popular misquote, “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated,” admittedly sounds better than what Twain wrote to the New York Journal is 1897: ” . . . the report of my death was an exaggeration.”).

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols points out in a recent article that the resounding butt-kicking that Android and Chrome are laying on the digital world these days doesn’t bode well for the Linux desktop. Vaughan-Nichols links to a blog post by Jason Perlow that says that, essentially, we are entering the post-PC era in which, while the x86 may be dead, personal computing across different-sized hardware will continue.

I can see this and generally have no qualms with that, however I think this sales pitch for a brave new world of tablets and smartphones goes overboard. Arguably, what Perlow describes doesn’t sound like post-PC, but rather PC-plus-(fill in your additional hardware here).

Linux’s success in the non-desktop realm is hardly an accident and I am neither belittling it nor taking this for granted. On the contrary: Linux’s superiority in servers, supercomputers and mobile provide resounding proof that it is a successful operating system, to the point where “the year of the desktop” has now become laughable since it is no longer the standard by which Linux’s success should be gauged (if that was ever the case in the first place).

Yet, to those risking injury jumping on the Linux-desktop-is-dead bandwagon, my question is this: Does Linux’s skyrocketing use and popularity in the mobile and tablet realms necessarily mean the “death” of something else in Linux, like — oh, I don’t know — the desktop, as some sort of technological quid pro quo?

I’d say “no,” and I’m willing to bet history has my back.

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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As Linus was saying . . . .

August 3, 2011 4 comments

Yes, I know LinuxCon is next, and that’s in mid-August, but I think they’ve got the publicity thing covered, especially with the 20-year thing and with Linus being there and all. But if you’re going to the next show, make it the Ohio LinuxFest in September. Bradley Kuhn and Cathy Malmrose are keynoting, so you’ll not want to miss that (especially Cathy — Go ZaReason!)

Until recently, I had several of my lab machines using GNOME — until my hardware and I were relegated to second-class status by being only able to use the GNOME 3 Fallback Mode while the rest of the world went on its merry way using GNOME 3. But in the grand scheme of things, that’s OK: Regular readers of this blog also know that in the recent past I have taken both GNOME 3 and Unity to task for bailing on already experienced users in an effort to dumb down the desktop for those who are new to Linux.

Of course, the woe I documented in past blogs about it is nothing compared to the choice words Linus Torvalds has for GNOME 3.

As widely reported by ZDNet and others, Linus had some — how can we put this tactfully? — issues with GNOME 3, which he outlined in a Google+ message.

Also, as Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols points out in the ZDNet article linked above, the request by Linus to fork GNOME 2.x “started in a public Google+ posting by Dave Jones, a Red Hat engineer and one of the maintainers of Fedora Linux, where Jones announced some minor Linux kernel news for a Fedora update. As the discussion continued, Torvalds joined in and remarked, ‘Could you also fork gnome, and support a gnome-2 environment? I want my sane interfaces back. I have yet to meet anybody who likes the unholy mess that is gnome-3.’ “

Well, now . . .

As just about everyone in FOSS knows, Linus is not one to mince words. Not only this, there’s a Wikiquote page that backs up this assertion.

But it’s not like Linus T. becomes Mr. T when in disagreement. Since he is particularly charming and well spoken in person, I would think those words coming from him verbally would not have the same edge as they do when you read them on the screen. Opinionated as he is, it doesn’t appear that Linus is a jerk about taking a stand on an issue, which cannot be said for everyone in the FOSS realm.

I like to think that the GNOME 3 situation is one that’s akin to what happened with KDE 4: The latter had a rough start before levelling out to a pretty decent KDE 4.7. For GNOME’s sake, I just hope this is a repeat of KDE’s experience. Though it appears that GNOME 3 has done something significantly radical in this new desktop, I think the curve for “correction” — for lack of a better term — could be more steep.

But as I’ve mentioned in past blogs, GNOME 3 — and to a great extent, Unity — and their attempts to dumb down the desktop were a mistake from the start. Whether that gets fixed or not remains to be seen.

Now to get those “Linus T. speaks for me!” T-shirts and buttons produced and out . . . .

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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Joining the fray: Why Debian matters

February 7, 2011 11 comments

Registration is now open for SCALE 9X — register now by clicking on the winking penguin.

As mentioned in this blog in the past, and as mentioned to various people who ask, I don’t like the six-month release cycle. I can go further: I hate it. There’s nothing like getting comfortable with a distro, only to be prodded to update to the latest, greatest improvements — in many instances the improvements are both great and welcome, but then the cycle of getting comfortable starts all over again.

This is why we run the office of Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, on Fedora 10. That’s right, Fedora 10; a two-year old version of Fedora which reached it’s so-called “end of life” already. Know why? It has worked since I installed it, and I’ve tweaked it to do what needs to be done to run the business. I’m too busy futzing with other people’s computers and too busy developing our FOSS server project to budget time tweaking the business computer. So I left it at that particular version because, simply, it just works.

So in many ways that we’ll probably not cover here, thank God for Debian and, for one reason for gratitude, its “we’ll release it when it’s good and ready” release cycle. Debian 6.0 “Squeeze” was just released over the weekend and its release prompted a couple of interesting items from two of FOSS’s best writers.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols wrote in a blog item that says that Debian is not as important as it once was. He concludes with the following: “Debian is still important. Its developers do a lot of the hard work of mixing and matching basic Linux components and many open-source programs into the strong, reliable foundation that other versions of Linux, such as Ubuntu and MEPIS use. But, while Linux programmers will continue to appreciate Debian, it seems to me that Debian is becoming increasingly irrelevant to the larger user community that Ubuntu, Mint, Fedora, and openSUSE has brought into the Linux fold.”

Meanwhile, Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier doesn’t exactly concur in his blog item that says that Debian is still relevant; not only this, it matters more than ever.

Give them both a look. I’ll wait.

So who’s right, Steven or Joe?

Yes.

Both are right, to varying degrees, though I think they’re coming at the issue from different perspectives: Steven from the popular use aspect, and Joe from the development and contribution side of things.

Debian never gets the credit it deserves by the wider public, and that may be OK with them; or not. Personally, I think this is a tragedy — my first distro in 2006 was Debian, and while I went to Ubuntu and then to Fedora, Debian was the one where I started. If you started with Ubuntu, you really started with Debian.

That’s because without Debian, there’s no Ubuntu. Without Debian, there’s no Linux Mint. Without Debian, there’s no Mepis. The list goes on, and it’s huge.

[Meanwhile, in a classic case of ADD, I found this link in one of the responses to Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols' blog -- it's an update of a poster we used in Lindependence in 2008 and shows the "family tree" of GNU/Linux. If you look at the chart, you can see all the distros which can trace their roots to Debian.]

So is Debian still relevant? Depends on how you look at it. Is it eclipsed in use by easier-to-use distros, some of which don’t contribute back in proportion to what they take? In that sense, it’s relevancy arguably is waning.

But in uplifting the FOSS paradigm, maintaining GNU/Linux’s progress in development, offering options to architectures that are thought to be extinct, and sending improvements upstream for the benefit of all, and not just for itself, then, is Debian relevant? Yeah. Hell, yeah. Debian is relevant in a big way.

In a big way.

[Incidentally, as an aside, "Squeeze" will go on the PowerPC boxes in the "Jungle Room," the name for the Redwood Digital Research computer lab. Elvis would have wanted it that way.]

And, once again, here are the last three words of a well-traveled Buddhist sutra: “Don’t Waste Time.” Even if it means releasing your distro in more-than-six-month cycles.

[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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Don’t fear the beard

January 27, 2011 9 comments

Registration is now open for SCALE 9X — register now by clicking on the winking penguin.

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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