Horning in on a pair of laptops

June 5, 2014 6 comments

This is a tale of two laptops, the two that often accompany me — individually or occasionally together — when I leave the house.

I like them both. But now I sit on the horns of a dilemma because I don’t know which should be my Number One.

One is a behemoth: The Toshiba Satellite L455 is nearly big enough for me to live in, should I become homeless. It’s got a nice screen, 4GB of RAM, and a lot of other things going for it. Despite its anchor-heavy weight, it is a spotless machine, and over the past several weeks it has served as my daily road warrior.

The other has been at my side for as long as I’ve ever owned hardware: An IBM ThinkPad T60. This laptop has only 2GB of RAM — only, he says — in the standard-issue workhorse in years past of the Linux set. The years and conferences have left its mark on this one, with stickers on the cover that would put any NASCAR racer to shame. The wireless card in this machine deserves special remark — I can pick up wifi from rural Canada with this ThinkPad (OK, a slight exaggeration), and the square screen allows a larger workspace than the Satellite.

The Satellite weighs about a ton and a half and I schlep it around with a Targus backpack. The ThinkPad is a lot lighter and goes in a Dell laptop bag ($2.50 at the Abbot’s Thrift Store on half-price day).

The Satellite has a slightly larger hard drive — not the original equipment, since I saved this laptop from recycling doom when my former employer was about to throw it out, sans hard drive and memory (“Hey, do you have any use for this laptop?” “Um, yeah.”). The ThinkPad, though with a smaller drive and less memory, never fails to get the work done that I expect from it.

Therein lies probably the tipping point: I can depend on the ThinkPad to handle everything, where the Toshiba, with its bigger drive and more memory sometimes falls short of expectations. Not wanting to get into the “inside baseball” of distro nuances on particular hardware, generally speaking the Toshiba has sometimes found ways to be — how can I put this tactfully? — uncooperative with some distros.

So I’m thinking about going back to the ThinkPad as the primary outside-the-home hardware, and I wanted to see what others thought either way, pro or con, left or right, good or bad.

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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A walk on the wild side

June 1, 2014 2 comments

As some of you already know, recently my good friend and Felton LUG co-founder Bob Lewis graced me with an old Sony Vaio laptop of circa 2004 vintage. As I wrote in another blog, getting it to run Linux did not go smoothly.

In fact, the laptop has rightfully earned its current nickname: The Vaio of Doom.

[An aside: Apparently this machine sat in its box on a shelf somewhere possibly for the duration of its life, because when I unboxed it, it was good as new, with Windows disks and warranty paperwork. My first reaction was to contact Ken Starks at Reglue to see if this was a machine he could use. He responded fairly promptly: "No!" And after last week's trials and tribulations, I can see why.]

So I got three Linux distros — Korora 20 Xfce, CrunchBang Waldorf and AntiX Luddite — to work well enough to make this a useable laptop.

But did I stop there? Perish the thought.

One of the benefits of living so close to a state park full of redwoods is that walks through the forest allow me to think about things; some thoughts are profound, and some aren’t. I’ll let you decide where this one falls on that spectrum: “Hmmm, I wonder if the Vaio of Doom would fare any better with BSD . . . .”

As I may have mentioned in past blogs, FreeBSD founder and current iXsystems CTO Jordan Hubbard lives just down the street from me. It should be noted that I live on Highway 9 in the Santa Cruz Mountains and that my “street” runs from Santa Cruz to Saratoga, and Jordan is just up the road about six miles in Boulder Creek. So it’s not like I can just go up the street to his house and borrow a cup of sugar. However, a few years ago I met his wife, who is the accountant for a commercial neighbor. She came into the shop drawn by the Linux signs and said she was glad to see Tux in the window. “Do you know Jordan Hubbard?” she asked. (“Not personally”) “He’s my husband . . . goodness, you fell out of your chair. Are you all right?”

But I digress.

A short trip to Distrowatch.com to see what’s shaking on the BSD front (and, of course, find the link to download the iso files), and I ended up with the top BSD distro on the list: FreeBSD.

Because one of the more, um, charming facets of the Vaio of Doom is that I can’t boot from a USB stick, so DVD burning was the order of the day. So on another machine, I burned a FreeBSD DVD, stuck it in the VoD and off we went.

Install. Reboot. And . . . command line prompt. Hmmm. Let’s try startx. Nope.

The takeaway from this attempt is this: The most endearing facet of FreeBSD is its documentation. That’s not a snarky put-down — the documentation was easily navigated and the process to put a desktop on it and add software was unequivocally clear; perhaps the best documentation I’ve seen ever. Ever. But it was a lot of work, but clearly an education on several levels, for one afternoon. I was told by a few astute folks that FreeBSD is not the most ideal BSD to run on a laptop. A server? Yeah. But a laptop? Not quite.

Try PC-BSD, they said.

Back to Distrowatch. Download iso, burn DVD, insert DVD, reboot. Wait. Install.

Much better. PC-BSD provided me with what I needed to just reboot and be on my way — the KDE desktop along with a lot of extra software like VLC so I could do “The West Wing” test (pop in a DVD of the Aaron Sorkin classic and see how the computer handles it). The Vaio of Doom passed that test with flying colors, and I got to watch “The Stackhouse Filibuster” (Season 2, Episode 17, I think) without interruption. I’ll probably spend part of today doing things like changing the wallpaper and adding software, since the software manager is a bit of a mystery.

Having spent a few days with BSD, I have to say that it is a lot friendlier than I expected — I don’t know if it is just a lack of experience or just believing various horror stories, all untrue, about Unix. It’s not the wild and crazy jungle I had thought it was. The Vaio of Doom and PC-BSD seem to be as good a fit as the other three Linux distros mentioned earlier.

We’ll continue to experiment on this machine until we find the ultimate distro to work on it. Meanwhile, LibreOffice needs to be installed.

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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Categories: FreeBSD, linux, Linux, PC-BSD Tags: , , , ,

But wait . . .

May 26, 2014 3 comments

To be honest, I’m not really obsessed with this topic; at least I’m not paying as much attention to Ubuntu/Canonical’s replacing Jono Bacon as people think I am. But a wide variety of people — from those who consider me detestable scum (single file, folks, one at a time) to those who either are, or think they are, giving me inside information — have not been shy about sharing what they know or what they suspect.

You might think that I would say, “Stop,” but it’s all somewhat interesting, in the same way watching two hockey players converging on a puck near the board is interesting. Interesting, but not terribly important.

But one thing that popped up on the radar late last night/early this morning is that Jono Bacon could be “irreplaceable” in Canonical’s eyes. That is, the scenario presented is that Jono’s position would not be filled, and the “community leader” would be a committee with the newly minted Ubuntu Community Liaison position (previously referred to as the “monkey boy” position) being the go-between between the Inner Party at Canonical and the Outer Party of what’s left of the community.

Draw your own conclusions about how this particular scenario translates to Ubuntu’s commitment to community.

But it’s an interesting scenario, to be sure: Certainly better than the one where Mark Shuttleworth takes over as Community Leader as a cost-cutting move (don’t laugh, that was sent to me as a scenario).

One more thing. To those who laughably think they’re getting a dig in by asking me why I’m not focusing on who’s replacing Robyn Bergeron as the Fedora Project Leader, here’s why I’m not really too concerned about that.

If I were a betting man, my money would be on Tom Callaway to be the next Fedora Project Leader. He is a natural choice, and he’ll be a fantastic choice to lead Fedora, a distro that on every level, in every facet of development and community, does things right.

Remember where you heard it first.

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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Will Canonical name a new Pope?

May 25, 2014 9 comments

Bryan Lunduke, who can best be described as one of Linux/FOSS’s top raconteurs (though others have described him to me otherwise, unfairly I would say), wrote what can be described as a moving tribute to Jono Bacon wrapped in his look back — and forward — for Ubuntu.

The problem with a glowing tribute wrapped in this kind of subjective analysis, without challenge, is that it likely becomes history when all facts aren’t represented. The most poignant example of why other voices and expanding on facts is necessary: When a story broke a couple of years ago that the computers at CERN run Linux, that overwhelming story somehow became the computers at CERN run Ubuntu, and years from now people could look back and make this fact rather than fiction.

So let’s set the record straight on that one: At CERN, the heavy metal that runs the important stuff runs on Scientific Linux. Higgs Boson was discvered in large part thanks to Scientific Linux, and Ubuntu is not within several light-years of being a factor. And that, friends, is what history should reflect, not the results of a bunch of “gee-whiz” posts saying Ubuntu discovered Higgs Boson.

So it stands to reason that Bryan’s assessment will carry a lot of weight over time, but I’d like to add a footnote or two going forward.

When he writes that “Ubuntu has, over the last several years, captured significant market share, especially in the consumer-oriented Linux space. I would posit that a big reason for that is Jono,” Lunduke hits the bulls-eye. If he does nothing else for the rest of his life, Jono’s accomplishments at Ubuntu would be a huge legacy which many, including me, find awe-inspiring and unequivocally admirable.

However — and you knew that was coming — there’s this, almost in the same proverbial breath: “. . . Mark Shuttleworth (who has acted as a sort of elder statesman for the project, aka “Self Appointed Benevolent Dictator for Life”) and Jono Bacon (who has, in many ways, played the role of the mascot).”

Nope. It should be, ” . . . Mark Shuttleworth (who has acted as a sort of arsonist) and Jono Bacon (who has, in every way, played the role of the fireman).”

Bryan, Shuttleworth a “statesman”? If the synonym for “statesman” is “douchebag,” then again you’re right on target.

Sadly, Bryan has his Wile E. Coyote moment in this piece comes when he compares what I guess is Jono Bacon’s visibility to the leaders of the Fedora Project when he asks, “When you think of, say, Fedora, who do you think of?”

Well, Bryan, I think of Greg DeKoenigsberg, the Fedora Project Leader who got the ball rolling around Fedora Core 5 — as it was called back then — and who is now providing the same outstanding leadership at Eucalyptus. I also think of Max Spevack, who took FOSS leadership to a new level before ending up at Amazon. I think of the steady guidance and innovative changes under the leadership of Paul Frields and Jared Smith, and the cool-headed organizational skills and problem-solving abilities that Robyn Bergeron — the first woman to lead a distro — provided in some of the rough waters she faced during her tenure.

So “when I think of, say, Fedora,” Bryan — or “when I think of, say, Debian or OpenSUSE” — I think of people who get the job done and leave their distro, and the wider FOSS landscape, a better place without monopolizing the limelight or pilfering undue credit. No star value among their ranks, to be sure. Just accomplishments. Arguably, Jono did more for Ubuntu than “be a star,” but when you invite this kind of comparison, Bryan, that’s what you end up with.

Arguably it would appear that Bryan’s point here is that while Fedora, OpenSUSE, Debian and other distros have been doing the heavy lifting for Linux and FOSS, Jono and Ubuntu have been basking in the warm glow of the spotlight.

I would agree with that 100 percent.

Nevertheless, the understudy now becomes the focus: The decision to replace Jono will be a remarkably important one for Canonical to keep whatever momentum they have, despite Shuttleworth’s hubris-based attempts to derail it.

No one with two brain cells to rub together thought for a split second that I’d be replacing Jono Bacon. Apparently, some of you completely missed the satire here. Of course, if they had completely lost it in the upper echelons of Canonical (well, they may have already, but speaking solely on the issue of replacing Jono Bacon) and decided to hire me, it would be my duty to turn them down, and I would. I also would have turned them down if they offered me the applied-for Canonical position of monkey boy to the Community Leader, however for the record Canonical beat me to it, wiping the last tears of laughter from their eyes before writing the standard rejection note, no doubt.

So who should replace Jono?

My choice, and I hope it’s not el beso de la muerte (that’s the kiss of death, to those who don’t speak Spanish) for me to say it, is California LoCo leader Nathan Haines, who I’ve mentioned in an earlier blog post. Again, I have known Nathan for years and he has been an eloquent advocate and steady leader in the California LoCo for quite some time. There are few in FOSS for which I have as much respect as I do for Nathan, and his leadership skills are top-notch. If Canonical misses the chance to hire Nathan as their Community Leader, they should at least — at the ultimate very least — make him the Community Leader’s monkey boy.

But after thinking about it for awhile, my guess is that Jono’s successor will be Alan Pope, Canonical’s engineering manager, podcaster and all-around good guy. He may not be able to play electric guitar as well as Jono Bacon, but he has the right stuff — for example, a likeable demeanor and a knack for diplomacy for starters, and the same ability to perform the same foot-from-mouth extraction that Jono always performed on Shuttleworth. He would be a good fit for Ubuntu.

So the question becomes this: Are we going to see white smoke from the chimneys at Canonical if they elect Pope?

But wait, there’s more . . . .

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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Happy Birthday, Bassel

May 22, 2014 Leave a comment

Today marks 799 days that Bassel (Safadi) Khartabil has been detained by the Syrian government. It is also his 33rd birthday today, and as this EFF article — one of many good ones floating around today — aptly points out, “Bassel has not been able to write code, or tweet, or hug his family, or do any of the other things that he should have been doing over the past few years.”

A recap: On March 15, 2012, Bassel was detained in a wave of arrests in the Mazzeh district of Damascus, Syria. As I wrote back some time ago, Bassel is the project leader for an open source web software called Aiki Framework. He is well known in online technical communities as a dedicated volunteer to Creative Commons, Mozilla Firefox, Wikipedia, Open Clip Art Library, Fabricatorz, and Sharism.

The EFF link above can guide you to some valuable resources in finding out more and/or particpating in helping to make the wider public aware and to ultimately work to free Bassel.

Bassel has contributed much to the FOSS paradigm, and we look forward to the day when he can continue.

He’s one of us.

Let’s get Bassel back home to his loved ones, so he can resume his life and, once he’s ready, let’s get him coding again.

[P.S. -- An afterthought, because I'm not tooting my own horn, surprisingly: A while ago -- maybe a year -- there was a move to have people fast on behalf of Bassel's plight. The link is no longer active, but I still fast on Fridays.]

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 in his home office as a consultant providing FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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Yes, I did that

May 20, 2014 13 comments

No, I have not lost my mind (assuming I had one in the first place). No, I have neither had a change of heart nor have I turned my coat traitorously in doing what I’m about to tell you.

But yes, I applied on the Canonical web site to replace Jono Bacon as Ubuntu’s Community Leader. Now while I wait for the laughter to die down, and while quite possibly Mark Shuttleworth is laughing himself into a new pair of underwear somewhere on the Isle of Man, I should say that I am serious about my qualifications for this position, as outlined in my resume and cover letter.

No one realizes more than I do that I would need a massive cold front to move into hell rather quickly, freezing it over and providing ideal ski conditions, before I have anything resembling a remote chance for the distant possibility of being mildly considered for this stellar position. I get that, and despite the fact there are others who are qualified who might have an advantage in loyalty to Ubuntu and Canonical, I don’t think my qualifications pale in the least.

But as someone who has praised Ubuntu/Canonical when it was warranted, and pointed out the multiplicity of flaws when they’ve raised their ugly heads, I can say that — agree or not — I have always been honest in my commentary and observations about the distro and its community. Frankly, I don’t care that some consider me a pariah — that for years I’ve been considered by some like the evil wrestler playing havoc on the heroic fan favorite in the ring — because I live to a higher standard that Polonius eloquently nailed in “Hamlet” when he said the following:

“This, above all: to thine own self be true.”

So I don’t find it ironic or hypocritical that I’m applying. Nor do I find it hyperbolic when I say that my qualifications clearly meet and exceed the position being vacated by Jono Bacon. My sincere hope is that the next Ubuntu Community Leader adequately fills Bacon’s humongous shoes — who I think could do that, other than me, follows — and Canonical would be well advised to look outside its ivory tower (and, by the way, it could do worse in not hiring me). I am not a yes-man, and my guess is that Bacon and Mark Shuttleworth are surrounded by them already.

But enough about me.

Jono Bacon’s departure leaves a fairly significant vacuum and there are a few people who, off the top of my head, would excel at this.

If I were Mark Shuttleworth — and he and the Ubuntu Community no doubt regularly breathe a huge sigh of relief that I’m not (as do I, believe me) — I would pay a king’s ransom to Elizabeth Krumbach Joseph, who would absolutely nail it if her community work over the last several years is any indication. She is seemingly tireless in her advocacy and her ubiquity when it comes to being a mainstay at just about every Linux/FOSS event — large or small, whether as a keynoter or a speaker, a booth staffer, or even a speaker to smaller groups — is unparalleled. However, in talking with her this morning, she said she’s happy on the software side of things and wants to stay put.

Pity. Elizabeth has a uniting presence which would serve Ubuntu well during transitional, and arguably difficult, times.

My next draft choice would be Nathan Haines, whom I have known for years and who has been an eloquent advocate and steady leader in the California LoCo for quite some time. Nathan and I have sparred, locked horns, and debated many FOSS/Ubuntu issues over the years, and while we may not ultimately sway each other in the end, he has always been civil and smart in his arguments, and he understands a concept — lost on many — that people can disagree without being disagreeable. There are few in FOSS for which I have as much respect as I do for Nathan, and his leadership skills are top-notch.

Another name that keeps coming up is Mark Terranova. Many might consider Mark as FOSS’s “court jester,” and not being above putting on the Linux penguin suit or the “Beefy Miracle” hot dog suit in the cause of promoting FOSS clearly shows there is no one more passionate than Mark in promoting the open source ideal, both inside and outside the digital realm. What many don’t know about Mark is that he also possesses a wealth of organizational talent to go along with an above-average eloquence behind the podium. Mark’s advocacy has stretched across a matrix of different distros, and that would be a plus in this case.

Chances are Canonical will be hiring from within to fill Jono’s position. My fondest hope is that they pick someone from the wider community, rather than pick someone from the “Inner Party,” to invoke Orwell. I am hoping Nathan and Mark have both applied, and I hope Nathan and Mark are being considered.

And I hope they even pause from laughter momentarily to consider the guy who browbeats them into living up to the lofty FOSS ideal. I would certainly appreciate that.

Oh, before I forget: Here are the hashtags — #TeamMark for discussion about Mark Terranova being Ubuntu’s Community Leader; #NathanTheNewJono for Nathan Haines getting the post; and #TeamLarry for yours truly.

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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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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