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Coming up in 2009

December 29, 2008 11 comments

A lot has been written so far about what to expect next year — some valid, some not.

But has that ever stopped me from joining the year-end pile-on? Perish the thought.

So here are 10 things to expect in 2009.

Or not.

Remember, objects may be closer than they appear, and your mileage may vary.

10. 2009 will be the year of Linux. But so will 2010, as well as 2011 and 2012. In fact, by 2013, the last pair of eyes on the planet will finally glaze over when a Linux writer proclaims the following year to be the year of Linux, and the more thoughtful pundits will just know that it’s now understood that the next year will be our year, for whatever reason, and they’ll write about something a tad more significant.

9. Fedora 11 will outshine Fedora 10. As hard as it may be to believe — and after a month I still can’t find a flaw with Fedora 10 — Fedora 11 will be an encore performance of what can best be described as a rock-solid distro, even for machines that go back a few years (in my case, a Dell 5000 Inspiron laptop and a Dell Optiplex desktop). Sadly, people will continue to be under the mistaken impression that Fedora is too “cutting edge” for anyone other than the most experienced superuser who might be too lazy to negotiate the Gentoo labyrinth (yes, that’s a gauntlet thrown at the feet of my Fedora colleagues to work next year on dispelling that stupid myth . . . ).

8. The UFC pits Linus Torvalds and Richard Stallman against each other in a feature bout. What happens though is not one of those ridiculous near-death experiences for some poor troglodyte who normally gets suckered into the ring, but an epiphany for the entire FOSS community: Stallman and Torvalds meet at mid-ring and circle each other warily. Stallman opens the bout by saying maybe he was a little hasty in demanding GNU be stuck on the front of Linux, but Torvalds comes back with openly welcoming the option of joining the two names. Barriers between open source and free software dissolve. GNOME and KDE advocates embrace in a worldwide “kumbaya.” Planets align. Then I wake up.

7. Zenwalk increases the pace of its development. It becomes Zenrun, and in finding that they can add and release improvements to an already above-average distro at an even faster pace, they rename it Zenfly in 2010.

6. Lindependence comes to Redmond, Wash. The hall is rented, the fliers posted, and the riot police stand at the ready, but they remain wary since they don’t want to repeat the WTO fiasco in Seattle a decade ago. Nevertheless, yours truly — in a tribute to another overweight bald guy in the digital industry — opens the event with an insane onstage monkey dance that also brings him to within inches of a heart attack while Ken Starks unsuccessfully diverts the press’ attention. The Digital Tipping Point’s Christian Einfeldt, however, gets it all on video. Meanwhile, Debian, Fedora, Mandriva, OpenSUSE and Ubuntu reps — along with others who choose to join Lindependence in 2009 — hand out live CDs and demonstrate their distros. Yes, that’s Red Hat’s “Truth Happens” video (click here for Quick Time fans) looping in the background all the while.

5. Mandriva gets in touch with its feminine side. This distro renames itself Womandriva and becomes a more reasonable, nurturing distro, finally dropping the adolescent Mandrake zeitgeist from its early days. The distro’s leadership also realizes what a huge mistake it was to let Adam Williamson go and rectifies that situation, adding a huge bonus to his salary.

4. The Madagascar Penguins join Tux as the Linux mascots. Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and the Private make Tux one of their own in their commando unit. Incidentally — this is true (you can look it up) — on the Madagascar DVD, the penguins provide their own commentary on their scenes. When Private is struggling to operate a computer while taking over the ship, Skipper comments, “What are you doing up there, playing Tetris? You told me you knew Linux, Private!” Just smile and wave, boys, smile and wave.

3. Windows 7 will be worse than Vista, as hard as that may be to believe. This development will result in yet another $30 million Microsoft ad campaign diverting attention from this latest offering. Realizing they picked the wrong Seinfeld character in their first campaign, the ad agency casts Jason Alexander with Bill Gates, making Gates look like the “cool one” in comparison.

2. Everyone joins the Ubuntu family. In an effort not to confuse brand new GNU/Linux users with the daunting tasks of trying to wrap their minds around 350 different distributions, distros give themselves new names: Fedbuntu, Debuntu, openBUNTU, Sabayuntu, Damn Small Buntu, CentBuntu, Dreambuntu, Slackbuntu, Pupbuntu, Mepbuntu, gNewBuntu, among others. Solbuntis and OpenSolbuntis also join the ranks.

1. Linux Foundation’s “I’m Linux” video contest’s winning entry grabs an Oscar. After Apple’s “I’m a Mac” ad campaign, and Microsoft following with a painfully original “I’m a PC” theme, the Linux Foundation garners thousands of entries in its “I’m Linux” video contest. The Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences nominates the winner, which ends up awing those judging and the statuette for Best Short Film goes to the winner.

There are other developments, like the conflicts that the new OpenBSD Christian Edition causes, which may be addressed in a later blog.

Have a happy and prosperous new year.

[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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News, blues and reviews

December 13, 2007 Leave a comment

For some reason, I can’t recall whether being a student was an incredible chore while I was doing it back in the disco era, or whether things have changed — or I have changed — to make modern-day matriculation a hell of a lot of work.

I would put my money on the fact that I may have lost an intellectual step or two over time.

But studies in general — and a shell script project that is both intriguing and harrowing — have kept me from the hallowed halls of this blog until now; not to mention life in general as well.

But there have been some developments of note over the past several weeks that deserve mention, like

Two Koreas, One Distro: According to this Information Week article, folks in South Korea speak of folks in North Korea more as lost brothers than bitter enemies. Over the years the two have made various rapprochements, but now it looks like North and South are teaming up on a whole new kind of joint project: a Korean-language GNU/Linux distribution called Hana Linux. And the GNU shall lie down with the penguin . . .

Pirates have standards, too: So maybe it’s not just paying customers who aren’t happy with Vista — even pirates are shunning it, according to this blog item. Microsoft gleefully reported Tuesday that the rate of piracy of Vista compared to XP is about half — the mandarins in Redmond claim this is because of their anti-piracy features in Vista — the one that accusses paying customers of being thieves when it doesn’t work quite right — but some of us know better. Pirates have standards, too, and Vis-duh just plain blows on a variety of levels.

[In a related item, 90 percent -- that's 9 out of 10, for those of you keeping score at home -- of IT professionals would rather eat plutonium than foist Vista on their companies. Okay, so I overstate it, but 90 percent of IT professionals have concerns about Vista that are strong enough to shun it, and more are migrating away from Winblows. Don't believe me? Here's the Slashdot article].

Distros I like: The more I use the Fluxbox desktop environment, the more I like it on whatever distro I’m using (oh, and my distro polygamous ways have been documented here and elsewhere — there’s a 12-step program for it somewhere, no doubt) . I have been using Fluxbuntu on a Pentium II and it works pretty well. But more recently, I salvaged a Dell Inspiron 5000e laptop from certain doom at the hands of my employers and have given it a new home and a new distro that I particularly like: Mepis AntiX 7.0, code named Lysistrata (the name enough — from the play of the same name by Aristophanes — is reason to give the distro some attention), which absolutely flies on this machine.

Example: 48 seconds to boot. That’s not a typo — 48 seconds. I’ve never had a computer boot that fast.

More to follow. In the words of the renowned Helios, “All righty then.”
[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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Eliminate DRM!

It’s official

October 10, 2007 Leave a comment

It’s official:

Steve Ballmer is an world class, Olympic-caliber asshat: Most of us already knew this, of course. But if you’re the CEO of what’s supposed to be the largest software company on this planet, if not the galaxy, shouldn’t you be more concerned about how your newly-released-but-in-the-toilet Vista operating system is (under)performing rather than raising, once again, the laughable specter of suing for patent infringements? Not Steve. Uh-uh. He’d rather talk about how Google reads your mail and how that McCarthyist list of 235 patent violations — which we haven’t seen yet, incidentally — are ready for prosecution. Have you no shame, Mr. Ballmer?

Ken Starks, a.k.a. Helios, is a hero: Most of us already knew this, of course. Apparently, it’s official now, as Carla Schroeder writes here in this LXer.com article praising Ken, whom I am proud to call a brother-in-arms in the FOSS wars, and with whom I am proud to be a partner in flying the HeliOS Solutions flag in the Wild West.

I’m a flake: Most of you already know that, of course (hey, wait a minute . . .). You would think that as editor and publisher of Open Source and Free Software Reporter, I would take the time to meet with OSFSR New Zealand correspondent Penny Leach after she flew all the way to San Francisco — for her work at Catalyst, that is, not to see me (an aside: the days when women would fly great distances to see me are, sadly, long gone — and I’m at peace with that) — but noooOOOooooo. I completely blanked the dates that she was visiting to promote Mahara and Moodle (very cool, check them out), even after recording it on my page at jott.com. My sincerest apologies, Penny. Next time, I promise.

Ubuntu makes it to the NBA, sort of: Tom Krazit, of C|Net, writes here that the Boston Celtics have adopted “ubuntu” as their rallying cry this season. A bunch of 7-foot GNU/Linux users? Not quite. Celtics coach Doc Rivers apparently chose that word “ubuntu” after learning of it while reading about Archbishop Desmond Tutu. For those of you keeping score at home, “ubuntu” has its roots in the Bantu languages of southern Africa as meaning “a philosophy of life that promotes the greater good rather than individual success.” Of course, with the upper case U, Ubuntu is a damn good GNU/Linux distro, and a slam-dunk for anyone using GNU/Linux.

Bonnie Raitt was born to sing ‘Angel From Montgomery’: No, this has nothing to do with FOSS, but there is no one more more suited to sing John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery” than Bonnie Raitt. Period. Don’t take my word for it — see it on YouTube here, and hear a duet with Prine here (note, the latter is not a performance video, but a montage of photos with the duet in the background).

The phone is silent . . . for now: 831-335-7303 is the number for HeliOS Solutions West and for Tux Project in beautiful downtown Felton. When you’re here, don’t forget to grab a cup of joe at the White Raven.

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

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Eliminate DRM!

Ground control to Major Bill

August 25, 2007 Leave a comment

If you’re a Vista user, the next two words are for you: “Uh oh.”

If you can get your Vis-duh back up and running — the big “if” in the next couple of days — chances are Microsoft will think you’re a criminal, or at least that’s what your pop-up screen will tell you.

Windows Genuine Advantage has gone down, suffering a worldwide outage causing problems galore, according to this article in Ars Technica. Not only is it down, but if you try to reinstall Vista or WGA, apparently you get a pop up saying that you’re a crook. Don’t believe me? Go to Microsoft’s Windows Vista Validation Issues forum.

Probably the best thread of the bunch starts off with “Everybody just calm down,” and you can see how, in the ethereal environment of the World Wide Web, Vista users are grabbing the pitchforks and torches and going after a guy named JohninTN, whose answer to this, um, problem is for those who spent their hard-earned money on the latest Windows operating system to “go out in the sun” and get away from their computer for awhile.

Whoops. Wrong answer.

Let’s assume for a moment that this is not the official Microsoft position on this, but some techs, according to the Ars Technica story, are telling people that WGA may not be working until Tuesday (Aug. 28).

Maybe going outside is the right answer after all.

Then, after enjoying the day, return to your desk, and if you’re able to use the Internet on your Vista box, you might want to go visit the Ubuntu web site and download the Live CD (or, in the alternative, ask them to send you one. They’ll do it, too).

P.S.: As a footnote, this has happened before . . . .

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

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Eliminate DRM!

Categories: Microsoft, Ubuntu, Vis-duh, Vista

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

July 21, 2007 Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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It’s official: Vis-duh blows

April 23, 2007 1 comment

While Bill Gates tours China shilling Windows XP for the Chinese equivalent of $3 — thus putting a variety of software pirates out of business there — Charlie Demerjian of The Inquirer tags along, reporting a unique perspective for his publication.

Demerjian says the fall of Redmond’s evil empire is imminent and his story makes some very salient points.

Demerjian’s dispatch in The Inquirer outlines that actions speak louder than public relations. “With two overlapping events, Microsoft admitted what we have been saying all along, Vista, aka Windows Me Two (Me II), is a joke that no one wants,” Demerjian writes.

In other words: It’s official — Vista blows.

Dell knows this. They’ve pulled Vis-duh off their machines, putting Windoze XP back on their boxes, all the while still considering a GNU/Linux distro to offer customers. Normally, computer makers knuckle under to every whim from Redmond, but not this time. Dell backpedaled, Redmond be damned.

Combine this with Gates’ attempt to stave off Linux in China, and Demerjian may have a good point.

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

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Categories: Vis-duh, Vista

Does Dell finally get it?

February 26, 2007 Leave a comment

A news item today at PC World heralds some groundbreaking news in the way of GNU/Linux being preinstalled on Dell desktop and laptop computers. So when I wrote in the Open Source Reporter FAQ that (and I’m paraphrasing here) your Grandma wouldn’t be using Debian, perhaps I had spoken a wee bit too hastily.

This is not to say that the distro on the Dell machines will be Debian, unfortunately, but the PC World article does mention that “other Linux distributions were also suggested by users, and that Dell will look into possible certifications with other Linux brands across its product lines.” All of which means that users may not be locked into Novell SUSE, but that remains to be seen.

But whatever Dell should choose to put on their GNU/Linux boxes, the underlying fact remains that when a corporate giant like Dell — and who hasn’t used a Dell, either at work or at home (and possibly both)? — provides the option away from prepackaging solely the Redmond-based digital sludge masquerading as an operating system they’ve previously offered, you know Dell isn’t doing it out of the goodness of their corporate hearts.

The demand is there, and Dell knows it. For all the nasty things I have said about Dell in the past, most (if not all) of it deserved, I now have to hand it to Dell: Maybe they get it after all.

Arguably, and with all the fanfare the news warrants, if nothing else this signals that GNU/Linux has officially arrived as a mainstream operating system.

Further, given a choice between a bloated operating system like the Microsoft’s new “Vis-duh” and a more streamlined GNU/Linux operating system that frees up the computer workings for more important things, which would you use (especially on a lower-end machine)?

This is not to say that I’m embracing Dell. On the contrary: I know their products well, having used them in the many office environments in which I have worked over the past couple of decades. In my current job, I use a Dell as a copy editor at the Santa Cruz Sentinel. So let me be frank (and children, you can leave the room now): Dell has always lived up to its reputation as manufacturing hardware that absolutely and unequivocally blows. The fact that Windows-on-Dell can easily be described as hell squared is not lost on many people.

Having said this both here and over the last 15 or so years, however, no one is more ready than I am to give Dell another shot in using a Dell box or laptop equipped with GNU/Linux; crossing my fingers all the while that their hardware dependability may have increased as well.

If anything, improved Dell hardware coupled with Linux could just break me from the habit of spitting on the ground every time anyone mentions the computer maker’s name.

[FSF Associate Member]

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