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The Three Faces of Fedora – Prologue

June 13, 2009 6 comments

Although the title above takes a page from film history, Joanne Woodward won’t be appearing in this blog.

[Okay kids, Joanne Woodward was an actress in the mid-20th Century who was married to Paul Newman, another actor around the same time who retired from acting to race cars and make great salad dressing and cookies. One of her most famous roles was playing the schizophrenic woman in "The Three Faces of Eve," hence the source of the title of this blog series.]

[No, I'm not saying I think Fedora is schizophrenic. I'm just playing off the film title. Sheesh.]

With a few of boxes to spare at the offices of Redwood Digital Research in beautiful downtown Felton, Calif. — no, you can’t have them — I thought I’d run a small experiment: Take Fedora 11 and run it on separate machines with three different desktop environments. You know the lineup — GNOME, KDE and Xfce, which comes as a Fedora spin.

Then, of course, write about the results and observations here.

Starting Monday: The Three Faces of Fedora: GNOME on F11. Watch this space.

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

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Hey, your distro sucks!

March 26, 2009 17 comments

I’m sitting in a room at HeliOS Solutions West/Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, at the foot of the Santa Cruz Mountains, with computers running primarly Fedora. However, there are also boxes (going clockwise from where I’m sitting) running OpenSUSE, AntiX Mepis (it’s old), Debian, Xubuntu and Ubuntu.

“So?” You’re asking yourself, and that’s a valid question. This first-paragraph revelation will make more sense at the end.

Having said this, there are few things I like more than working a booth — usually dbEntrance or Fedora — at various shows, whether it’s a large one like LinuxWorld or the Southern California Linux Expo (SCaLE), or even talking up Free/Open Source Software in the minuscule venue of a LUG meeting.

Discussing in good faith the likeness and difference between distros, between desktop environments, and between FOSS programs is something that is part of the process; the process that helps uplifts all of us — those using different distros, different desktop environments and different FOSS programs — in this thing called the Free/Open Source Software community.

Helping in good faith people who ask — whether it’s something in Fedora that doesn’t work for a user or something in another distro that is not working — is a common and unavoidable occurrence at all show levels, and it’s good to be able to get someone’s problem solved, assuming you show him/her what’s wrong. It’s the teach-a-man-to-fish-and-feed-him-for-life concept in action.

In good faith: Those are the three key words here.

I bring up those three simple words because invariably at Linux shows like LinuxWorld and SCaLE you have some who don’t follow the “in good faith” part of this equation. You know who they are (and you know who you are): These are the folks who will come to any given booth and essentially tell you what’s wrong with your distro/software/hardware, without offering a shred of evidence, an inkling of cause, or the remote possibilty of a solution to their, um, “revealing discovery.”

They’ll continue by asking why your distro/software/hardware can’t solve world hunger, put astronauts on Mars and cure cancer, among other impossibilities.

In short, their schtick is simple: Your distro/software/hardware sucks and you’re pretty lucky I’m here to tell you why.

A word to those who persist in this behavior: Stop.

It may come as a shock to you that you — and you alone — are the only one impressed with your knowledge and self-importance. In reality, everyone else thinks you’re a world-class, Olympic-caliber annoyance. Rather than helping, you’re getting in the way of those who are trying to assist others who may not be as experienced, and certainly aren’t as arrogant, as you.

So either help us with your degree of knowledge without rubbing anyone else’s nose in it, or just step the hell aside.

Folks tried to spar with me at SCaLE last month, but I blew them off — different strokes for different folks. This issue, however, actually came to a head when Red Hat’s Karsten Wade and I were getting dinner to take on the road on Sunday evening and I was confronted by one of the dogmatards whom I had spoken to earlier in the day. Not being in the mood for hearing an additional litany of what was wrong with Fedora, I just nodded and shrugged while being “schooled” about what was lacking in the distro. But Karsten took a more proactive approach, which was described by Karsten’s response to an item in the previous blog post.

Now the reason I brought up Felton: I’m primarily a Fedora user and prefer Fedora over the rest of those mentioned in the first paragraph. However I use the other distros mentioned above. I’m also game to try others; the history of this blog bears me out — google “eight distros a week” and see what you get. Some of the machines here run GNOME, some KDE, some Xfce, and one on Fluxbox. I’m not an expert at any of them, nor am I married to any of them.

Naturally, I’m open to sharing what I do know with anyone who asks. With nearly three years under my belt on the GNU/Linux side of all things digital, I realize that I’m a relative “newb” at this. Surprisingly I’m at peace with that, despite the fact I continue to learn.

So while I’m always interested to hear the error of my ways, whatever they may be, I’m really not interested in matching wits for the sake of matching wits. You want to prove you know more than I do? If that’s the biggest challenge of your day, then let me make this easy for you: You win.

Like most others, I have more important things to do.

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

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Eight Distros a Week: Xubuntu 6.10 Edgy Eft

February 15, 2008 1 comment

[This is the seventh in an eight-part series on distros I use. These observations are based on distros running on one or more of the following hardware: Dell Inspiron 5000 laptop, an brandless Pentium III-based desktop, an IBM PL 300 Pentium II, an iMac G3 (Indigo) and an iBook G3. As the auto commercials say, your mileage may vary.]

You might ask, “Hey, Lar — why are you so far behind? Edgy Eft? You’re already two . . . .”

And I would interrupt and say, “Tsk, tsk, tsk. You know, when Ubuntu made that fatal error of dropping PowerPC support a while ago, 6.10 is the latest I can go on the iBook.” This has been my experience — my foray into the update for 7.04 on the iBook led to a mildly traumatic episode where I thought I had killed the machine, so it was back to the nervous newt (which, if you look it up, is what an “edgy eft” is, after all).

[I understand this is not the case, and I am told that 7.04 and 7.10 both run on PowerPC G3 architecture. If anyone can point out how, I'm all ears.]

A little more history (and thank you for bearing with me): After my first exposure to GNU/Linux with Debian GNU/Linux, Xubuntu was my first other-than-Debian experience and, essentially, it made me what I am today: A happy distro wanderer (and, to some who are somewhat “distro dogmatic,” I am a shameless distro polygamist — and actually I’m at peace with that). Finding the Xfce desktop environment a little perplexing at the time, not to mention a challenge to overcome, the Xubuntu experience was enhanced by the fact that the GTK+ programs were an education to yours truly as a newbie.

As has been a theme in this series, the fact that you can have a desktop environment that does not take up a lot of resources is like having a 426 cubic-inch Hemi planted into a Mini Cooper — the power-to-weight ratio makes the vehicle fly. Xubuntu on the PowerPC G3 in the iBook G3 is no exception to this theme.

There is a debate within the Xubuntu community about whether to include GNOME programs into later editions of the distro. Despite the fact that both sides present good arguments for and against, I think that Xubuntu should stay true to its roots and not weigh itself down.

Of all my portables (and there have only been three), the connectivity of Xubuntu deserves special mention. Despite the fact that Apple’s Airport wireless card has yet to be connectable with any distro — and my guess is that it may never be (thanks, Steve) — the wired connection, whether in my house or in the computer or networking labs in Cabrillo College, has never failed; neither has the iBook had to be reconfigured. I know this ranks way up there in the miracle department, but it’s true (and maybe I’m just lucky). This is not a complaint, but rather I’m sort of awed by this phenomenon that I can’t explain — and, sadly, I can’t repeat this “miracle” with my Intel-based hardware.

With Ubuntu and its family of distros making great strides in the FOSS realm, it is clear that Xubuntu will continue to grow and flourish as part of this tribe. As far as the iBook goes, it has everything it needs , and everything I need, in Xubuntu 6.10 Edgy Eft.

Coming tomorrow: Wolvix 1.1 Hunter (Note: Yes, I know I went out of alphabetical order — I can’t keep track of letters after R. Sorry.)

[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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Categories: Debian, Xfce, Xubuntu
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