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Once again, Linux Fest Northwest nails it

April 29, 2013 5 comments

[Warning: This will be a long post. For those of you with limited attention spans, for those of you who are too lazy to read, or for those who can't process more than 140 characters at a time, here's the TL:DR version of this blog item: Linux Fest Northwest was enormously outstanding and awesome (attendance is up, too), the CrunchBang booth was a huge success, the CrunchBang talk was well attended, and I stand by the statement I made to Hacker Public Radio last year: This show is so great, I'd walk to Bellingham from California to attend.]

lfnw-badgeBlame the Econolodge in Bellingham, which should be renamed “the Black Hole of the Internet,” for the complete absence of workable wireless connectability which causes me to compress two fantastic days of FOSS festivities into one blog item written after the fact from the Motel 6 in Salem, Oregon (it should be noted that, unlike the Econolodge, the wireless at both Motel 6 venues we stayed at — in Medford, Oregon, on the way up and here in Salem on the way back — has been quite good).

All of which is to say I apologize for the delay in getting this out.

In short, Linux Fest Northwest nailed it this weekend — the LFNW all-volunteer crew had everything up and running flawlessly in a revamped show area courtesy of some remodeling by Bellingham Technical College that included a auditorium that made for an oustanding expo hall and classrooms with world-class electronics (meaning, of course, my presentation worked with a limited amount of pre-talk tweaking at the outset augmented by prayers to the projector gods).

The normal tsunami of attendees came through the expo floor around 9ish on Saturday, bringing with it the usual hubbub of Linux fest questions, comments and observations. At the CrunchBang booth, media and fliers flew off the table, and folks were trying out the distro on both the old ThinkPad T30 and the newer Toshiba Satellite L455 that were featured on the CrunchBang table. The ebb and flow of humanity — I’m guessing around 1,400 attendees, though LFNW is going to release an official figure soon — rose and fell when sessions were on, but on the whole it was an ideal show for the two days. We ran out of media, fliers and everything by the end of the day on Sunday (OK, I gave the remaining five CrunchBang DVDs to the Greater Seattle LUG, but still).

Some vignettes:

Hey, I know you
: I finally got to meet Benjamin Kerensa, with whom I have shared words — mostly kind but occasionally not-so-kind — in the past. Benjamin and his wife staffed the Mozilla table, and it was great to put a face to the name of a true FOSS advocate with whom I can sometimes disagree without either of us being disagreeable (as it should be). Naturally, I’m looking forward to seeing Benjamin and Mozilla at more shows.

Badges? You need steeenkin’ badges: Most folks would find this trivial, but I thought it was fairly cool. The badges for LFNW were small booklets with the speaker schedule printed inside, along with other important information (like directions to the party on Saturday eve). So at the end of your lanyard, you had the entire fest at your fingertips just by looking “inside” your badge (it should be noted, from a logistical standpoint too, that the names were printed on a sticker and put on the badge). Other shows — SCALE, white courtesy phone — need to look at this because it was very helpful.

Lights, camera, action: For some reason, there tended to be a lot of folks there to do media-type work. Hacker Public Radio was there, as usual, doing interviews (of which I was one — thanks!) and Jupiter Broadcasting had the Linux Action Show broadcasting live from their booth on Saturday — it would be interesting to see their take on the show later. Slashdot had an interviewer as well as some independents (e.g., people with video cameras posting independently to YouTube) interviewing folks, and of course I’ve never shied away from a microphone or a camera before. So there are some items of me talking about CrunchBang out there.

15943044This is us: The CrunchBang booth was an unqualified success in large part from the help I got from xor axiom, whom many of you on the CrunchBang forums know (but whose real name is Eric Bortel). About 100 pieces of media were distributed, with the same amount of fliers accompanying them. Last year, we got a lot of “What’s CrunchBang?” This year, there was more “I’ve used CrunchBang before . . . ” so the distro is becoming more well-known. The presentation itself on Sunday morning had about 30 people in attendance and, as the aforementioned new equipment in the classroom helping out, the presentation went off without a hitch.

Sunday’s broadcast: Since Jupiter Broadcasting left the building on Sunday, I decided to crank up one of my favorite Linux podcasts — Linux Outlaws — on the Toshiba to show that, yes, CrunchBang can broadcast with the best of ‘em. So on the relatively solid backbone of the Bellingham Technical College’s network, Dan Lynch and Fabian “Go Penguins!” Scherschel were in the house for Linux Fest Northwest.

Does this joke make me look stupid? OK, maybe it was the delivery or maybe it’s a generational thing. At the end of my presentation I made a point, as I usually do, to say what a great show LFNW is and to thank the volunteers when encountering them for making the show work. The LFNW volunteer staff wears red shirts (you know where I’m going with this). After I asked folks to thank the volunteers, I added ” . . . and urge them not to go down to the planet surface.” Cue crickets chirping. So maybe I won’t be here all week, but still remember to tip your waitress . . .

There is more to follow (including a rant that has more to do with the human condition than with LFNW), but I have to hit the road.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang 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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Eliminate DRM!

North by (Linux Fest) Northwest

April 24, 2013 1 comment

lfnw-badgeToward the end of this week — well, Thursday to be exact — I’ll be loading up the car with a few laptops, about 100 pieces of CrunchBang media (DVDs, not CDs), a paper #! banner, my daughter and her equipment and we’ll head north to Linux Fest Northwest in Bellingham, Washington on April 27-28.

The question now is whether I have the time to swing by Corvallis, Oregon, and maybe stop in to visit Lance Albertson and the folks at both the Oregon State University Open Source Lab and the EECS department at Oregon State on Friday morning . . . .

As those of you who regularly read this blog already know, I say with annoying redundancy that the best Linux/FOSS show in North America is the Southern California Linux Expo. I would say that even if I was not affiliated with it, because it is — an all-volunteer staff puts together a three-day show that clearly rivals the corporate FOSS kumbaya in Portland every summer known as OSCON.

In its 14th year, LFNW is built from the same all-volunteer blueprint; in fact, the folks who put on this fest may claim credit for having a significant hand in drawing up the blueprint since it slightly predates SCALE. This blueprint also is used with other Linux/FOSS events around the country: Indiana Linux Fest, Texas Linux Fest, Ohio Linux Fest . . . the list goes on.

So LFNW is by us for us, and with the attendance growing every year — last year it was around 1,200 for the weekend event — I am always looking forward to going to it. Last year, I said I’d walk to Bellingham to make it to LFNW and I stand by that statement. In short, the show is that good.

15943044I’ll be staffing the CrunchBang booth at LFNW. We also have a Birds of a Feather gathering scheduled for Saturday afternoon and I speak on Sunday at 11 a.m. on “Intro to CrunchBang.” Due to a scheduling conflict with CrunchBang lead developer Philip Newborough, unfortunately we won’t be having him present remotely at the BoF as we did last year.

Last year, flying the CrunchBang flag was quite successful, as I noted here. Many were surprised that we had a booth, some had never heard of CrunchBang (heresy!) and others were glad to see us there. We even got a couple of new users who tried CrunchBang and liked it. Now if I can get another interview on Hacker Public Radio, we’ll be all set.

Watch this space — updates as they develop.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang 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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Eliminate DRM!

Midweek ramblings

April 4, 2013 Leave a comment

Well, on a rainy Thursday after the Giants took two of three games from the Dodgers — always a good thing now that baseball season has started — I thought I’d catch up on a couple of things that crossed the proverbial radar this week.

First, essayist Bruce Byfield wrote an interesting piece on Debian entitled “Nine Myths That Shouldn’t Stop You From Trying Debian,” which can be found here. I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t try Debian — it was my first distro, though I didn’t come back to it for good until about 18 months ago in the form of CrunchBang — but the points that Bruce makes about the perceptions of Debian in the wider FOSS world (and outside, for that matter) are ones that need both correcting, in those cases, or emphasis where it needs it. My favorite of all of them in Number 7: Unstable is Unstable — anyone who has used CrunchBang or the new distro VSIDO, based on Sid, knows what a misnomer “unstable” is, both in the form of much of the software and in the case of Sid itself. Fear of “testing” versions is something that may be falling by the wayside as the average Linux/FOSS user becomes more tech savvy.

Go and read it. It’s a good one.

Then, I sheepishly admit that after paying a bill to our friends at the service of internal revenue on the federal level (for those outside the U.S., those are taxes), I have had to consider parting ways with a laptop I saved from recycling doom, rebuilding it and using it for awhile. It’s a Tosihba Satellite L455 laptop that’s the size of an aircraft carrier, and it’s for sale (first $150 or so takes it). I reinstalled Linux on it, and rather than put on CrunchBang, I decided to use one of the Fedora 18 disks I got at SCALE this year to make the machine more useable for those who may not be regular Linux users (and if a Linux user buys it, then s/he will know what to do in putting the distro of their choice on it).

[Before you even begin to think about starting the question, here's why I didn't install Ubuntu or any of its desktop derivatives: Since the mid-teens -- around Fedora 14, maybe -- Fedora has been user-friendly enough for anyone to use and maintain. If Bruce Byfield wants to REALLY do some mythbusting, he might want to tackle that topic.]

Now I told you that story of the Toshiba to tell you this one: After I installed the “Desktop” version of Fedora 18 — that’s the GNOME desktop for those of you keeping score at home (though why Fedora doesn’t call it the GNOME desktop was always a mystery to me, even when I participated in the Fedora community) — I have to say that GNOME 3 has made great strides in becoming . . . how can I put this tactfully? . . . useable. In fact, it’s very agile and responsive on this 64-bit hardware and, after getting used to it, I can see where both experienced users can tweak it to their satisfaction, as well as how new users can get a handle on navigating it rather easily.

And, unlike Unity, it doesn’t spy on you by default. But that’s another topic for another time.

Time to head to the DMV — the Capitola office is always quick and I’ve never spent more than one hour there — and to the newspaper.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang 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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Eliminate DRM!

Back to the future

October 29, 2012 5 comments

[This item, slightly edited, is copied from an earlier submission to the Larry the CrunchBang Guy blog.]

Unbeknown to my daughter Mimi — and, sadly, I don’t think she reads what her Dad writes in this blog often enough (and if she does, well, consider the surprise spoiled) — she’s about to inherit yet another of Dad’s hand-me-down computers.

First things first: I currently use a ZaReason Alto 3880 laptop running CrunchBang 10 Statler, which is a remarkable machine that, sadly, ZaReason doesn’t make anymore — time and improvements march on, and ZaReason has advanced this laptop series to the current Alto 4330.

My daughter, conversely, has been using for the past few years my old ThinkPad R40, a very sturdy, utilitaran and well-traveled laptop judging by all the stickers on the cover.

Enter a new development: Steam and Valve are ramping up gaming in Linux, and the old R40 — great for her artwork and creating 8-bit music, which takes up most of her digital life — has, well, performance issues when it comes to the higher horsepower needed for games. Her interest in games goes beyond playing them, and with this in mind, I’d like for her to have the better hardware when pitching in on the projects she wants to explore.

Personally, I blame Gabe Newell for Mimi wanting newer hardware, but never mind. Also, for those of you keeping score at home, shelling out for a new ZaReason laptop is out of the question until, at least, Christmas (especially after last week’s $600 car repair which we will not discuss. Ever).

So after saving a ThinkPad T42 from recycling doom recently, I’ve put Waldorf on it — the CrunchBang-11-20121015-i686 version, which works flawlessly (with one caveat, mentioned below) — and I’ll hand down the ZaReason to Mimi.

Now, you go girl.

In the past in other blogs, I’ve said that I am a ThinkPad guy and I have always loved the form factor. That hasn’t changed, and though I’m turning over the keys to the sports car to my daughter and relegating myself to the station wagon, I feel at home with almost any model of ThinkPad.

So back to the hardware I love while looking to the future.

One more thing: There have been installation issues in the past with Waldorf — and, for some reason, it seems to be happening mostly (if not solely) on ThinkPads — where the installation will hang at the “detect disks” point. It came up again yesterday with this current install, and while there’s an extensive discussion involving solutions here, my solution was more simple and straightforward: Disable floppy in the BIOS.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang 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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Eliminate DRM!

Money, meet mouth

October 22, 2012 3 comments

When I wrote my last blog item, I didn’t expect the kind of overwhelming response that I got, for which I am truly grateful. I also want to make sure that credit is given where credit is due: James Eriksen — merelyjim — of Fort Worth, Texas, wrote the original blog post and posted the same in the CrunchBang Talk forum, and I picked up the proverbial ball and ran with it. Thanks, James.

Also, just so you know I also walk the walk of the talk I talk, I had donated some money to a few FOSS projects that are near and dear to my heart. The amount, though stretching a budget that had a small surplus, is not that significant and I’m not aiming to have the spotlight shine on me. But I am proud to admit that I practice what I preach.

So when Ubuntu/Canonical earlier this month asked for a handout, I cut out the middleman and gave directly to Debian instead. You can do the same by going to the Software in the Public Interest site, where there are a whole host of worthy projects that require funding.

Also, to my distro of choice — CrunchBang — I gave a bit. Philip Newborough does an outstanding job and the team of forum denizens answering a tsunami of questions on a daily basis is a textbook case of how FOSS projects should work.

Beth Lynn Eicher’s Africa project got a donation as well — and to those who are still thinking about giving, she could use some help. She’s overseeing a project to get Edubuntu-based machines to schools in Ghana, and she may have to cut her trip short if more funds are not forthcoming.

From the time my daughter was in kindergarten, she was raised on Tux Paint, and for years we used that program. I would even credit the development of her current artistic talent to her use of the program. It was long past time I made a donation to New Breed Software and my apologies to Bill Kendrick and his crew for taking so long while they produced over the last decade some of the greatest educational software on the planet.

The Free Software Foundation has been getting $10 a month from me since 2006. I don’t always agree with the direction the FSF is taking and I find their leadership lacking in many ways, but I do believe in their principles. I also joined the Open Source Initiative when they opened the organization up for membership several months ago, and clearly I don’t see a conflict in belonging to both organizations.

Partimus, REGLUE and other projects near and dear to me, you’re next.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang 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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Eliminate DRM!

‘No thanks. I got Linux’

October 21, 2012 17 comments

Windows 8 will be unleashed, Kraken-like, on an awaiting public on Oct. 26, which is this Friday. For US$79.99 — let’s just round that up to US$80 — one can get the latest version of the Windows operating system which, by many reports, is not ideal yet not as bad a some of the other products Redmond has forced upon the public in the past.

A CrunchBang user with the handle merelyjim posted this thread on the CrunchBang forum under the title, “No thanks. I got Linux” where he thinks that this $80 can be better spent elsewhere — like on your current distro or your favorite FOSS program.

I urge you to read the full text on the link or read merelyjim’s original blog item, but I’ll let merelyjim drive here:

“It’s hard to express what Linux has done for me. I’ve learned more with Linux than I ever did with Windows. I’ve been part of dynamic communities that have engaged in passionate arguments, clever discussions, and crazy flame wars. Like family, you take the crazy (um… that would be me) with the funny. Instead of just allowing me to ‘try and make things work’ on my own, there were those who tried to nudge me along the right path, even when I didn’t want to see it. I have undying gratitude for those who were willing to share their time and experience with me, even though I never knew them in real life.

“So, on October 26th, 2012, instead of giving Microsoft $79.99 for Windows 8 upgrade, I’m going to donate the same amount to the Linux-distro I use the most.

“I invite you to join me in doing this.

“I don’t really care which distro; we’re all family. If you’d prefer, donate to a specific Open Source project, instead. As long as you give something that lets Paypal, Amazon, of Flattr know that something’s going on that day. If you can’t give monetarily, at least spread the word.

“I want the Linux community to show Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Oracle that we matter, we care for each other, and there are a lot more of us than they think. If you contribute, I hope you’ll e-mail or tweet whomever manufactured your machines so they’ll know you use their hardware running a Linux kernel.”

Amen to that, merelyjim.

There are a wide variety of projects you can donate to in the FOSS realm. Start with your distro of choice. Use a particular FOSS program often and find it useful? Most programs have donation links. There are even some projects that are not software related that deserve special mention: REGLUE, formerly the HeliOS Project, provides Linux-based computers to underprivileged kids in the Austin, Texas, area; Partimus puts Linux-based computers in schools in the San Francisco Bay Area; and one project that I find important is Beth Lynn Eicher’s effort to bring Edubuntu-based computers to schools in Ghana.

For those who do not have money to donate — been there, done that — you can always donate time, which in many cases can be more valuable than currency. If you program, there are places where you can pitch in on distros and FOSS programs across the board. Don’t program? Don’t worry — many projects have needs beyond the 0’s and 1’s that include things like documentation (for the writers out there), design (for the artists), translation (for the multilingual) . . . the list goes on. If you have a special skill set, programming or non-programming, there’s something for you to do.

Got some ideas on where to donate? Post them in the comments.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang 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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Eliminate DRM!

A tale of two tablets

June 16, 2012 6 comments

On Monday, Microsoft is supposed to make an earth-shattering announcement in Los Angeles in a press conference so secret that not even the press knows where to go yet. Apparently, they’ll find out where they need to go on Monday morning for this ultra-mega-super-secret “announcement.”

My bet is that they’re buying Nokia. After all, they’ve already planted one of their executives as Nokia CEO, who essentially and for all intents and purposes scorched the Nokia earth below his feet and trashed the company, making it ripe for the picking.

Of course, there’s an outside chance, too, that the conventional wisdom may be correct and they’re going to be releasing their own tablet with Windows 8, which is what the New York Times thinks.

Or Microsoft is merging with Canonical to become Canonisoft. OK, so maybe that’s a stretch.

But I digress. Regardless of what happens in Los Angeles on Monday — tablet or Nokia, or both — let’s say, for the sake of argument, that it has to do with one or both of these two topics.

Buying Nokia? Yawn.

Tablet? Oh, good luck with that. Sarcasm alert: Redmond is a hallmark of product quality and customer service. But seriously, if the tablet is as bad as the software Microsoft has put out for the last, oh, generation or so, coupled with their customer service which is the gold standard of awful, arguably releasing a new tablet with Windows 8 could be one of the biggest disasters since the Hindenberg.

Meanwhile, since we’re on the topic of tablets, let’s come up the coast a bit from the shrouded mystery of Los Angeles to sunny Berkeley, California, where ZaReason is busy putting together the final touches on their own tablet. If the activity in the IRC channel is any indication, they’re pretty close to having something ready for prime time fairly soon.

I had a chance to use the Android version of the tablet — rumor has it that the ZaReason tablet is being engineered with Ubuntu OS in mind — since I was entrusted with some of the ZaReason hardware that was shown at the joint ZaReason-CrunchBang table at Linux Fest Northwest.

Truth in advertising: I’m not a tablet guy by anyone’s definition of the phrase. But that said, many folks are drawn to the smaller form factor, and if that works for you, you should give the ZaReason tablet serious consideration once it’s released. It’s a solid machine, and the Android version we got to display at LFNW was met with a lot of enthusiasm by those attendees who are tablet and Android aficionadoes.

Also, when the ZaReason tablet is released, chances are it won’t be in some sort of secret press conference. And it won’t have Windows 8.

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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Eliminate DRM!

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