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The ’69 Dart of Software

January 13, 2011 1 comment

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I got to my office and it was too cold to work. So I left the frozen tundra of Redwood Digital Research for the cozy confines of The White Raven.

From the comfort of a large coffee and a view of traffic passing New Leaf Market — a solar-powered organic grocery story which has its servers running Red Hat, no thanks to me, but still — I thought about a couple of stories I’d read this past week.

The first was a blog post by an Emery Fletcher which paints Ubuntu as the be-all and end-all of Linux implementation. While I am eternally grateful for Ubuntu’s efforts in promoting Linux in the general public (even if it is to the point of putting itself first and FOSS second, but I digress) and while the blog presents an interesting point about Linux implementation, it’s hard to determine whether this blog item suffers from anything more than mere myopia.

Current versions of Debian, OpenSUSE and Fedora are all as user-friendly as the current version of Ubuntu, but that does not enter into the equation in this blog. That’s unfortunate, too, because what both Fedora and OpenSUSE — with its new Studio spin — have done consistently with each upgrade have been remarkable. Mr. Fletcher may be lacking some perspective — think about where Ubuntu would be without the contributions to kernel development (warning: that link is a PDF file, courtesy of the Linux Foundation) and desktop development without the three distros mentioned at the beginning of the previous sentence — a harrowingly depressing thought, indeed.

The second article — the one from which this blog title derives its name — comes from a comment I made on a discussion in LXer.com regarding this blog item comparing Photoshop and GIMP.

First things first: There are some unqualified truths in life. The sun will always rise in the east and set in the west. The moon controls the tides. The San Francisco Giants will win the World Series only once every half-century.

Above all of the aforementioned is this one: GIMP is not Photoshop.

I’ve used GIMP in a professional setting — namely the newspaper for which I work. Once a long time ago, the paper did not have enough Photoshop licenses to go around for all the editors, so I downloaded GIMP (not requiring a license) and used it to process photos that ended up on the newspaper’s printed page. However — and you knew that was coming — I am fairly well-versed in GIMP and had little problem adapting to its interface; had another editor who is more Photoshop oriented had to do the same thing, s/he may have had a problem or two.

GIMP is an adequate photo manipulation program, but without the army of developers behind it — as Adobe has — it will pale in comparison with Photoshop. Always. So it’s foolish to think that professionals wouldn’t use Photoshop. In other words, if you’re a professional driver qualifying for the Indianapolis 500, you’re not going to strap yourself into a ’69 Dodge Dart to get the job accomplished — you’re going to use the appropriate tool(s) for the job. Conversely, most people don’t need a turbocharged single-seat racing car to go to work and back, and to run daily errands.

Will there be a time when GIMP can rival Photoshop? Not without a huge influx of developers to match what Adobe does. Believe me, every night before I drift off to sleep, I pray to the Almighty that developers will magically appear on GIMP’s doorstep (and the rhetorical doorstep of other FOSS programs) and that Job One will be making a single window interface for GIMP. Please, Lord . . .

Also, calling GIMP a ’69 Dart is not an insult. I had one, and it was the best car I’ve ever owned, VWs included (and those who know me know my loyalties for automotive products from Wolfsburg run deep). The Dart was the most boring and utilitarian car I’ve ever owned, too, but it was still the most dependable and reliable.

Well, now that I’m a bit warmed up, I’ll head back to Redwood Digital.

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

January 5, 2011 5 comments

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Yes, it only comprises a half of a percent — that’s 0.5 percent, if you’re keeping score at home — of all the Linux users. Yes, that translates to a microcosm of Linux users within a microcosm of overall computer users. So I understand if Linux on PowerPC does not apply to you.

But it might.

Regular readers of this blog know I have a soft spot for PowerPC architecture. I was a Mac guy before I was a Linux guy, and I became a Linux guy using Linux on PPC architecture before I finally — finally — warmed up to Intel, AMD and others. You’ve probably read here how well this processor works, and how fondly I remember Steve Jobs doing the Adobe Photoshop demonstration during every Macworld keynote while the PPC processor kicked Intel’s sorry butt time and time again.

While major distros have been making a bee line away from developing for the PowerPC architecture since Apple dumped the processor for the Intel one now in newer Macs, Fedora skipped its development of a PowerPC version of it’s current release, Fedora 14. They joined OpenSUSE in recently saying a hasty “adios” to an architecture that, sadly, is being used less in the hardware world.

[Currently, I have two iMacs at Redwood Digital -- a flavored G3 333MHz and an iMac G4 "desk lamp," both running Debian. Of all distros, Debian has remained consistent in its commitment to updating its PowerPC version of their distro. They also remain committed to developing for Commodore 64 and Atari architectures as well, while we're at it, but I digress.]

But there is good news for those who use the PowerPC: Fedora will be back in the PowerPC fold with Fedora 15, scheduled for release in May.

On behalf of the microcosm within the microcosm, thank you Fedora.

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

August 10, 2010 5 comments

Astute readers of Larry the Free Software Guy might notice a trend in this week’s blogs, and if you said “pop music references,” you’d be right. Yesterday’s “Monday, Monday” is the title of a song by The Mamas & The Papas, and today’s comes to you from the Moody Blues. OK, kids, go ahead and hit Wikipedia to look up those bands we old folks continually talk about . . . .

Tuesday, of course, is farmers market day in the People’s Republic of Felton, the town that had the unmitigated audacity to buy its waterworks back from a multinational and put it back in town hands. And at the ring of the bell at 2:30 to signal the start of the market, Felton LUG was set up and ready to go, with both Frank Adamson and me staffing the table.

That’s Frank in the photo in the article linked above. Frank, an octagenarian, takes a walk about a mile down the hill every Tuesday to staff the Felton LUG table (not to worry, folks — we make sure Frank gets a ride home up the hill, usually with indefatigable FOSS evangelist Bob Lewis or sometimes his wife drives down to pick him up). An Ubuntu user, Frank has been a FOSS advocate for about a year.

With his work with Felton Friends of Locally Owned Water (FLOW) and other activities in Felton (like the Friends of the Library), Frank seems to know everyone in Felton. People come to the table and say hello to Frank, and immediately Frank starts off into his pitch about FOSS and GNU/Linux.

This farmers market table seems to be working well, not only for the LUG — which had nearly 20 people attend the meeting last Saturday — but also for FOSS in general.

People have a general sense of what Linux is — it’s that operating system thing, right? — and seeing it in an arena that’s not normally a “tech environment” makes it a lot less threatening, for loss of a better term. So I would strongly urge everyone who wants to promote FOSS, GNU/Linux and Linux (for those who want to make that distinction, which I don’t anymore) take the word forth to places where you might not normally find tech talk; like farmers markets, or tractor pulls, or gun shows. Anywhere where people congregate is a place where FOSS can be pitched.

Also, one of the funniest things today was handing out stickers to kids. One kid asked for one, and then her friends came up and said, “Excuse me, can we please have stickers, too?” (Such polite kids we have here in Felton.) At one point the kids had come back several times, and they had stuck the stickers on their shirts, so they were wearing Fedora, OpenSUSE, WordPress and the GNU/Linux “Dynamic Duo” gnu and penguin superhero stickers on their shirts. Sure, I bet moms wanted to strangle me, but one dad commented to me about his daughter, “You know, she looks like a stock car,” which I thought was funny.

So Tuesday’s down and Wednesday’s next. Watch this space.

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

May 6, 2010 Leave a comment

One of the great things about someone else writing something you wish you had written — other than the fact that you don’t have to write it yourself — is that now, thanks to the Internet, you can just link to an on-line written work and say, “Yeah, what he said.”

On the issue of getting started with a distro as a contributor — and I hope you are all contributors at some level (and if you’re not, here’s your chance to make up lost ground) — Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier nails it in his latest blog item on the topic.

Go there now — it’s worth the read. Thanks, Zonk!

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