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Notes, quotes, and smotes

May 4, 2014 3 comments

Sunday morning in Felton is abuzz, first with the Maker Market in the parking lot next to my apartment, complete with a lot of handcrafted items, face-painted children and the luxury — for me anyway — of listening to a great local band, the Coffis Brothers, from the cozy confines of the world’s rattiest, yet most comfortable, couch.

But enough of me and the beautiful day, let’s get back to the blog.

Projectus Interruptus: You have to hand it to Canonical. They paint an awesome — no, and inspirational — picture of what they plan to do, but when it comes to completing the projects? Well, the record there is, at best, spotty. Ubuntu for Android may follow Ubuntu TV as the latest not-ready-for-real-life project, according to an article in PC World. Well, at least they finished Ubuntu One before pulling the plug on this. By the way, has anyone heard anything recently about the smartphone-to-end-all-smartphones that Canonical tried to fund with an Indiegogo campaign?

Speaking of phones . . .
: I finally broke down and got a ZTE Open with Firefox OS on it. My first impressions are that it’s pretty spartan — and when I described it as such to the 20-something clerk at T-Mobile, I answered his blank stare with, “you know, spartan . . . It means austere” — though it works just fine. As I’ve said many times in this blog, I only want my phone to ring, hold a connection, and send/receive text messages; and the latter I could live with or live without. It clearly lacks the bells and whistles that my previous phone, a HTC G2 now handed down to my daughter, had with Android. But I expect this to be temporary as more programs are either developed or more apps are ported from Android and elsewhere. But for the moment, Firefox OS works and works well for my needs. Plus with the orange case with black trim, the ZTE Open phone is in the team colors of my beloved San Francisco Giants.

More on Heartbleed: Simon Phipps absolutely nailed it this week in an InfoWorld article about the OpenSSL’s “unique” license discouraging the necessary scrutiny to avert this crisis. The license in question was a hybrid that doesn’t really lend itself to community engagement, according to David Wheeler, an expert in government use of Open Source Software.

Said Wheeler: “I suspect that more code review and contributions would occur if OpenSSL used a standard widely used license … this awkward licensing situation means that many people who prefer the GPL or LGPL will often not help develop or audit OpenSSL. Some of those who prefer less-restrictive licenses may also be less inclined to help, because again, it is not a standard license.”

Interesting stuff. Anyway, we’ll see you next week.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang Guy, Fosstafarian, Larry the Korora 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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Random thoughts, cheap shots, bon mots

April 20, 2014 2 comments

He has risen on Easter Sunday, and no longer referring to myself in the third person I’ll get a cup of coffee and a bagel and drop off a few tidbits from the week, or weeks, past.

He likes it . . . hey, Matt! After not really taking to it in the same way, Jupiter Broadcasting’s Matt Hartley actually like GNOME enough to start using it on a regular basis, according to an item in his blog this week. “Like the KDE desktop, GNOME 3 is full of functionality if you’re willing to invest a little time configuring it the way you like it,” Matt writes. “Where I think GNOME really shines, however, is that even without additional extensions installed, it’s still a great experience in its overall flow and layout. Less clicks to gain menu access, easily locate needed applications, for me GNOME has it all.”

Am I going to try it again after reading Matt’s glowing praise? Nope. But it does speak to one of the basic tenets of FOSS: Use what works for you.

Maybe FOSS doesn’t suck after all: What I think is the most interesting race today is whether Malaysian Airlines 370 is found before data compromises from Heartbleed can be stopped. Thanks to Heartbleed — the gift that keeps on giving (or taking) and which will be months before a resolution is in place — the failure of open-source OpenSSL has been the “standard” by which all Open Source projects have been pilloried in the mainstream media and, sadly, in some of the eyeball-grabbing ought-to-know-better tech media as well.

Well, there’s no argument that the Heartbleed flaw was a monumental and historic one, however Coverity seems to think that “open source is still well ahead of proprietary software, generating fewer coding defects for every size of project,” according to an article in Network World last week. So while no thoughtful FOSS advocate has ever proclaimed invincibility, it might give one pause to recognize the old Debian adage that “with great power comes great responsibility.” Or in the words of one poster during a debate on this in social media, we need to play more defense and less offense.

Seems like I’m forgetting something: Oh yeah, Ubuntu released another adjective/animal combination starting with the letter T. Yes, it still sends your data to Amazon and eBay by default, and if you’re OK with that, go ahead and give it a shot. If you have to use it, your best bet here would be Xubuntu, judging from past experience.

Now to enjoy some Easter eggs and commune with my Peeps. Happy Easter to those who observe it.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang Guy, Fosstafarian, Larry the Korora 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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Playing catch-up

August 13, 2012 2 comments

Until the apology earlier about not keeping up with Todd Robinson and his somewhat busy August, I realized there were a few other things that caught the old radar here in the hotter-than-average afternoon in the San Lorenzo Valley among the redwoods. So without further adeiu, here we are with a couple of items that may or may not require their own item:

GNOMEbuntu? Well, that’s what some are calling it. On a GNOME mailing list, discussions are being held and options are being bandied about regarding a GNOME-based version of Ubuntu, which I assume would be a version like Xubuntu (which uses Xfce) or Kubuntu (which uses KDE), and the gist of the discussion is what to call it. This comes from discussions at UDS in Oakland back in May, and apparently for several reasons Gubuntu won’t fly (too phonetically close to Goobuntu, which is Google’s version of Ubuntu). While some over in the GNOME camp are perusing the respin books at Ubuntu, another possibility is GNObuntu, or insert your favorite here.

Speaking of GNOME . . .

GNOME OS? Brian Proffitt writes an insightful article about where GNOME is heading — a direction that arguably is taking it on a different tack. Brian quotes GNOME’s Allan Day saying that it’s not going to be a separate distro. But it’s something like that, isn’t it? Well, yes and no. The article brings GNOME’s zeitgeist to the fore, for those who are wondering what’s going on there; that is, when they’re not discussing their Ubuntu spin.

And speaking of GNOME again . . .

Ubuntu’s top desktop environment is . . .: Unity? Nope. KDE? No. Xfce? Unfortunately, no. It’s GNOME Classic — whatever that is (and I’m assuming that it’s GNOME 2.x) — which is used by a total of nearly 60 percent of Ubuntu users, according to an article on an Ubuntu Apocalypse fansite called Ubuntu Vibes. In what is either an enormous failed attempt at humor or complete incompetence in reading their own chart (or, as a third possibility, getting the data wrong in the chart and having their own self-fulfilling prophesy try unsuccessfully to match what they posted), they put up a chart of desktop environment use based on an opt-in program called Popcon. “In all total,” the article states, “2,381,625 machines are submitting installed packages details to Popcon,” and they came up with a chart that shows that most people are using GNOME Classic to the tune of close to six out of ten, although less than 30 percent have installed it in the past 30 days (because, maybe, they’re not installing Gutsy Gibbon?).

My guess is that whomever made this chart read the Popcon data wrong and made the chart accordingly with the faulty data. One might shrug, but to those who have seen this before, it appears that this Canonical/Ubuntu-based site can’t get its facts straight. It will be interesting to see whether someone with some level of responsibility at Canonical/Ubuntu — whether in corporate or on a community level — takes this person aside and say, “Um, this is more than likely wrong, so can you fix this?” But I’m not holding my breath.

Yeah, I said that. So? Rikki Endsley wrote a pretty good piece that, she says, was scooped by someone else, so she posted it on her own blog here. She does a great job, of course, and in the I say something that is not quite . . . what’s the word I’m looking for? . . . evangelical. That’s it: It’s not evangelical. But nonetheless it’s true. Here’s the entire paragraph lifted from the blog item:

“Let me say that you only get one chance to make a first impression,” says Larry Cafiero, a software developer and Fedora fan. “I’d stay away from distros either based on Unity or GNOME 3 because they’re going to be foreign to what the Windows user is used to. That pretty much leaves Linux Mint with their GNOME 2.x-like desktops.” Still, Cafiero thinks that anyone who isn’t willing to put in the small amount of effort required to learn a new system might as well stick with Windows.

Fedora fan? Yes. Though I don’t use Fedora as my primary distro — that honor now goes to CrunchBang Linux, a Debian derivative — I still appreciate highly Fedora’s contributions to FOSS and, having a history with that distro, I like most of the people who are involved in that particular community. I said this and mean it: Anyone who doesn’t want to put the effort into learning Linux or FOSS might as well stick with Windows. It’s the old “leading a horse to water” paradigm — we can tell people how great Linux and FOSS are, but they have to want to try it and use it. The learning curve is now so easily negotiable that anyone with with more than two IQ points to rub together can do it, so frankly I don’t have time for the ones who don’t want, or are too lazy, to use it. For those who have been slamming me because of this quote, that’s what I meant and I stand by it.

There’s a new sheriff in town . . . :” Speaking of CrunchBang, I’ve been involved in that growing and friendly community for about a year now. Since I’m such a forum denizen over that time, they’ve given me a badge and I’m now one of the forum moderators. I’m honored and humbled at being asked, and I know with great power comes great responsibility (I seem to remember that popping up on Debian installs). I’m working my hardest to be Captain America and not Barney Fife (though out of the proverbial starting gate, I seem to be the latter).

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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Veni. Vidi. Odio Unitate

May 28, 2012 6 comments

My apologies for not writing this sooner. I know some of you were waiting with bated breath on Saturday for me to finish my run with Unity, and I had planned to wrap it up on Saturday. But I didn’t. I gave the new desktop environment from Canonical, featured only on Ubuntu so far, an extra day just to see if ultimately there was anything — anything — I am missing.

If you can read Latin, the blog’s title says it all. If you can’t, I’ll get back to that in a minute.

But first things first, I have a hard and fast rule — well two, actually — about using Free/Open Source Software. It’s simple: Find what you like and/or what works best for you and use it; it may not be what I use or it may not be something we agree on, and that’s fine. The second rule is a no-brainer: Contribute back to the distro/FOSS program that you use, whether its with bug reports, coding, documentation or financially; and make sure your digital contributions go upstream where they belong. As you’ve heard me say before, some entities — cough Red Hat and Novell cough and their surrounding communities — do this better than others — cough Canonical cough — though admittedly the latter is getting better at it.

Which brings us to the Latin: After vanquishing one of a plethora of lands he overran while he was doing his thing, Julius Caesar said “Veni. Vidi. Vici.” This, of course translates to, “I came. I saw. I conquered,” a 47 B.C. corollary to Dr. Peter Venkman’s “We came, we saw, we kicked its ass!” in the 1980s movie “Ghostbusters.”

I’ll take it a step beyond: Veni. Vidi. Odio Unitate.

I came. I saw. I hate Unity.

As far as I am concerned and for my own computing purposes, there is truly nothing in Unity to like, and there is nothing here that is new. Let’s put aside the one-size-fits-all-but-not-really-any interface for a moment. It’s bad enough that desktop/laptop Ubuntu users are forced into a rigid interface better suited for a netbook or a tablet, but how is something like Head Up Display an innovation? I could have missed the memo, but how is typing out the program name easier than clicking on an icon? And what does HUD do that something like Konqueror — or even the command line — doesn’t do?

In fact, arguably Unity and HUD are a license to fall into bad habits, which is a hallmark for ease-of-use shortcuts built in to recent Linux user interfaces in order to draw users from other operating systems who, as the indescribably flawed reasoning goes, are drooling Neanderthals because they’re Windows users or lazy hipsters because they use Macs.

So the workaround here is simple. If you absolutely, positively have to use Ubuntu for some compelling reason — your family is being held hostage by a radical offshoot of the Ubuntu Apocalypse, for example — there is a workaround. It’s called Xubuntu. Other workarounds include Kubuntu and Lubuntu as well. For that matter, you could even go to a Ubuntu-based distro like Linux Mint, which gives you the GNOME-as-it-should-be experience in a solid distro.

Of course, if Unity works for you, then use it.

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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That’s my name, don’t wear it out

December 30, 2011 6 comments

Katherine Noyes put together a brief piece for PC World today about Linux release names which, overall, she seems to consider “silly.” In the process, she omits a great bit of detail on the “what” and “why” aspect of distro communities and how they come up with these “silly” names.

Digitally speaking, from a purely anthropological standpoint it is far from silly, and actually it’s quite an interesting topic, though Noyes seems to race through it without giving much detail.

So let me help out here.

SCALE 10XDebian: Release names come from “Toy Story.” As humorous as it is simple, this naming convention is one of the best. An interesting corollary to this is the Debian-based CrunchBang naming convention mirrors the first letter of the current Debian release, but matches it with a character from “The Muppet Show.” So Debian “Squeeze” is translated in CrunchBang to “Statler. “Wheezy” begets “Waldorf.” Statler and Waldorf, of course, are the two old guys in the balcony in “The Muppet Show.”

Linux Mint: I particularly like the naming convention Clement Lefevbre has come up with for Linux Mint. It’s alphabetically a woman’s name ending in “a.” We’re at Julia now. I asked Clement once what he’d do when he got to “Zelda” (or whatever the “Z” name will be for Linux Mint when they get that far . . . and they will), and he said that it was simple: Start with a name beginning with “A” and end the name in “e.”

Ubuntu: We all know the drill here — SABDFL* Mark Shuttleworth comes up with an adjective and an animal with the same first letter and hands it down to a waiting community. Which is in complete contrast to . . .

Fedora: There is a formula here that the Fedora Project adheres to before all hell breaks loose and fistfights break out in the Fedora community while they vote on the release name. The formula is simple: “$CURRENT_RELEASE_NAME is a (whatever it is — i.e., city, body of water, person, thing) and so is $NEXT_RELEASE_NAME.” Looking at Fedora 15 “Lovelock” to the current Fedora 16 “Verne,” it goes like this: James Lovelock was a futurologist, and so was Jules Verne. Now how they got from Verne to Fedora 17′s “Beefy Miracle” is a mystery for the ages.

OpenSUSE: OpenSUSE’s naming convention . . . does OpenSUSE even have a naming convention for releases?

Got a distro that has a naming convention worthy of mentioning? Let me know.

*Self-appointed benevolent dictator for life, for those of you keeping score at home.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software in his new home office.)

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Lies, damned lies and statistics

November 25, 2011 36 comments

After awakening from a Thanksgiving-induced food coma — actually, it wasn’t that bad — most of the daily articles about Linux posted this morning by our friends in Mountain View known as Google revolved around the fact that Ubuntu is dropping like a lead zeppelin in the Distrowatch standings, while Linux Mint is surging.

Ireland 1, Isle of Man 0.

There is no surprise here, at least on Linux Mint’s part. Plus, I think it’s interesting to see how that Unity thing is working out for Ubuntu, and as I’ve said before, I’d venture to say “not very well” (which is why, as a frequent Xubuntu user, I fight the urge to be smug).

All that has been written recently about this issue would normally be interesting except for a couple of unmentioned, and glaring, caveats missing from the stories by those who are ringing Ubuntu’s death knell.

First, Distrowatch numbers are based on page visits, not downloads. Show me the downloads, and then let’s talk. Web page hits don’t tell me if people are actually downloading a particular distro and using it, or if they’re just looking at the pages for whatever reason they might. Page visits might translate into distro downloads, but they also might be visits to forums, wikis, etc., as well. So I’m not convinced this is a valid measurement.

Second, even if you were to use Distrowatch’s page-view metric as your yardstick, you’d still have to take into account that a distro’s recent new version release — Linux Mint and Fedora, while always both close to the top at Distrowatch, qualify here — gets an extra bounce in views by virtue of the fact that, well, these distros have released a new version. An increase in visits from curious folks doesn’t necessarily mean more downloads and subsequently more distro use.

In talking to others and in taking a look at the FOSS landscape lately, my sense is that the numbers for Linux Mint reflect a rising interest that is translating into new users and new community members, whether they’re refugees from Ubuntu, they’re coming over from other distros or just brand new “walk-ins” using Linux for the first time. After all, Linux Mint has done a huge service to FOSS by developing the Mint GNOME Shell Extensions (MGSE) and MATE, and for that reason perhaps people are joining the ranks of the Minted. Couple that with the recent edict of Unity uber alles handed down by Ubuntu SABDFL* Mark Shuttleworth, and you have the recipe for a rise in Linux Mint at the expense of Ubuntu.

But I’d rather have more accurate data to back this up.

Show me the downloads.

*SABDFL — Self-Appointed Benevolent Dictator for Life, a moniker picked up from a recent blog item by Steven Rosenberg. Thanks, Steven.

(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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Put me on a highway and show me a sign

November 3, 2011 24 comments

Bruce Byfield and I don’t always agree. When we don’t, it’s usually a “number-of-angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin” issue; one of minutiae rather than of substance, and sometimes we argue past each other when there’s a misunderstanding on the part of one of us, usually me.

But when we do agree, he’s far better at articulating what I would say. Today, Bruce wrote an exceptional blog item entitled “A Disturbing Dialog About Ubuntu and Unity,” where he points out a moment of clarity in what seems to be the direction of Ubuntu which is outlined in Bug #882274, filed by Tal Liron under the title “Community engagement is broken.”

It’s a bug that apparently won’t be fixed. But don’t take my word for it, go ahead and first read Bruce’s blog item (a repost of the same link above), or read the bug report itself (again, another repost). I’ll wait.

My favorite quote in the whole thing, and there are many, comes from Ubuntu SABDFL* Mark Shuttleworth: “I fully accept that Unity may not be for you. Then don’t use it. On Ubuntu you can choose Unity, KDE, GNOME, XFCE, and many others.”

And there you are, folks — certainly a unique concept of “community” in three words: My way or highway. Go ahead and use one of the other ‘buntus if you so desire, since we’re not changing the flagship for anyone or anything.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog item, Shuttleworth is right about this: If Unity works for you, use it. If it doesn’t, then don’t. There are many other choices out there, and I’d be willing to bet people are choosing “highway” instead of Shuttleworth’s “my way.”

Fortunately, the FOSS highway provides a lot of adequate alternatives: Linux Mint, this lane, exit only. Fedora, next exit. Debian ahead. OpenSUSE, exit 5 miles. You can even get off the main highway and take some of the backroads to some of the less-traveled distros, if you like.

So put me on a highway and show me a sign . . . .

*SABDFL — Self-Appointed Benevolent Dictator for Life, a moniker picked up from Steven Rosenberg’s recent blog item. Thanks, Steven.

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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Eliminate DRM!

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