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The new cool

August 25, 2013 2 comments

[First things first: Some consider today the 22nd "birthday" of the Linux kernel, or at least the anniversary of the legendary e-mail from that Linus guy holed up in his room somewhere in Helsinki. What started with that announcement, augmented by subsequent kernels coupled with various GNU tools added to the mix over time, brings you today to the operating system most, if not all, of you are using right now. So feel free to take some time to keep this in mind today.]

While much of the FOSS world over the past few weeks was either spellbound or insulted by a doomed-to-fail crowdfunding campaign by a large company for a concept smartphone/computer combo, a significant event took place earlier this month that, for all intents and purposes, flew under the radar.

That may have been by design, for reasons I’ll get into later. But various birds-of-a-blue-feather flew in to Charleston, South Carolina, a few weekends ago for Fedora Flock.

For the last eight years, Fedora users and developers have gathered at the Fedora Users and Developers conference, or FUDCon. As an aside, this acronym always grated on my nerves — I get the concept of Con = anti, thus the anti-FUD, but I always thought it sounded goofy.

They’ve taken the concept of gathering together to uplift FOSS a step further at Fedora. Flock is essentially FUDCon 2.0, a brand new conference where Fedora contributors can come together, discuss new ideas, work to make those ideas a reality, and continue to promote the core values of the Fedora community: Freedom, Friends, Features, and First. But in this manifestation of the event, Flock opened up not only to its own community, but also opened up to a growing open hardware community in an effort to create better things together.

Clearly, a gathering of this magnitude only helps to promote FOSS development which in turn helps the wider FOSS community when the results of its development are readily available for use. In addition, the face-to-face aspect should never be discounted, and there’s clearly much in the way of value when you can talk to a team member in person rather than through the ether of an IRC “developer conference.”

That’s where Fedora’s coolness comes in; a cool that’s always been there, but one that should be getting the recognition it deserves.

One of the telling aspects about the increasing coolness of Fedora (and one that made me regret not being in attendance) was this tweet, from Michael DeHaan (the retweet arrow, of course, is mine):

flock

As I mentioned earlier, how did this happen to fly under the proverbial radar?

What used to drive me up the wall and across the ceiling when I was a Fedora Ambassador years ago was the fact that Fedora has never trumpeted its accomplishments as much as it could; in complete contrast to the me-first, us-uber-alles, history-rewriting distro with too many of the same vowel in its name. My guess is that it’s not ultimately important to Fedora to self-promote, but rather it seems what’s important to Fedora is to get things done.

So Flock was promoted within the Fedora community, and with a round of various reports on social media and a couple of stories in the FOSS press, that was the amount of the publicity.

But the real story was that work got done — important work, and work that will benefit everyone across the FOSS spectrum and across software-to-hardware boundaries.

And that, more than anything, is the ultimate in cool.

=====

Well, because I mentioned, at least indirectly, Ubuntu Edge at the beginning, it is my sworn duty to post this. Now that many of you are getting your money back from the failed Ubuntu Edge campaign, why not give a donation to a project that really makes a difference? Give instead to:

Reglue (especially Reglue, which is creating a new generation of FOSS users as you read this sentence)

Partimus (bringing Linux boxes to classrooms in the San Francisco Bay Area, or any other project like it)

CrunchBang (or your favorite distro, if it accepts donations)

Tux4Kids (the folks who bring you Tux Paint and other educational FOSS programs across platforms)

Or even taking a look at the list of projects at Software for the Public Interest and choose one of those.

One more time, with feeling: The final round of FOSS Force’s Best Personal Linux and FOSS Blog poll ends tomorrow. So, if you haven’t done so already and are so inclined, vote here. It’s an honor to be in such great company on this ballot, and I hope when comparing blogs you’ll find this one to be worthy of your vote. Thanks.

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!

O’Reilly, you missed two

July 22, 2012 1 comment

I don’t want to take anything away from the winners of the O’Reilly Open Source Awards for 2012, given out at the big corporate FOSS Kumbaya in Portland known as OSCON this past week. All are very deserving of O’Reilly’s accolades — especially Elizabeth Krumbach, whose work I see on an almost regular basis — and I won’t go into listing the winners or their accomplishments here because O’Reilly has seen to that already.

But there are two — at least two — that were nominated and that O’Reilly missed. The misfortune that these two have been omitted arguably borders on tragic, too, because each of the following folks mentioned below have made significant contributions to FOSS in ways that equal, if not eclipse, those made by some of the this year’s recipients.

Here are two you missed, O’Reilly. Maybe next year you can rectify this.

The first O’Reilly oversight is Bill Kendrick. If you have children, you have probably happened upon Bill’s software opus Tux Paint somewhere along the line. If you don’t, then you may have seen it anyway. In its 10th year, Tux Paint is an award-winning art program for K-6 kids that not only teaches art, but also computer literacy. A long list of schools use it. It’s been open source ever since its inception, and is made for a variety of platforms — the usual suspects of Linux, Mac and Windows. Tux Paint alone should garner Bill the award, with an oak-leaf cluster, but he is even more deserving of the award for developing other educational software like TuxTyping — helping kids learn to type — not to mention Tux, of Math Command — which “lets kids hone their arithmetic skills while they defend penguins from incoming comets,” according to the website. Or, in other words, think of the ’80s arcade game Missile Command, only with math problems instead of incoming nuclear missiles.

[Blogger's note: Bill Kendrick straightens out the personnel lineup for the aforementioned projects here, and a full list of authors and contributors can be found here and here.]

The second oversight is Ken Starks. As those of you who regularly read this blog know, Ken and I go back a ways, back to the days when Ken successfully — miraculously — raised enough money to get Tux on the nose of an Indy car at the Indianapolis 500 back in 2007. The car crashed early in the race — irony of ironies for Linux — and finished last. As long as I’ve known him, Ken has been the most tireless advocate for Linux and FOSS for years. With the HeliOS Project — now REGLUE, an acronym for Recycled Electronics and Gnu/Linux Used for Education — Ken and his merry band of fossketeers get refurbished Linux-based computers into the hands of underprivileged kids in the Austin, Texas, area. Ken was also one of the co-founders of the Lindependence Project, which brought Linux to a small town back in 2008. Currently, Ken’s battle with larynx cancer is limiting his activity, but he is still doing what he can with the hand he’s dealt.

So, how about it, Tim?

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!

Getting out the vote

August 30, 2011 Leave a comment

Yes, I know LinuxCon has come and gone, and I think they’ve got the publicity thing covered, especially with the 20-year thing, the gala party, and with Linus being there and all. The buzz is still going, and that’s good. But if you’re going to a Linux show, make it the Ohio LinuxFest in September. Bradley Kuhn and Cathy Malmrose are keynoting — along with Jon “maddog” Hall — so you’ll not want to miss that (especially Cathy — Go ZaReason!).

With the upcoming deadline for the Linux Journal Readers’ Choice 2011 Awards upon us — it closes this Saturday — other bloggers have been been taking to beating the drum and holding the phone for their favorites.

Not to be outdone, of course, there are a few candidates on the LJ ballot that deserve special mention. If I were campaigning for them, I’d definitely cast votes for items in the following categories (note, however, the list of categories and software on the ballot is long, and they’re not all here):

Best Linux Distribution: No question, hands down. Fedora. Judging which is the best distro is akin to picking the best ice cream flavor — each of us has our own favorites, and hopefully you’ll vote for yours. Mine comes in blue, is based on Red Hat, has the best desktop background release after release (the Design Team at Fedora is the best in the FOSS realm, period), it’s always rock solid, and even if I can’t use the default GNOME 3 desktop, Fedora runs great under KDE or Xfce. Fedora is reaching a point now where the myth that it’s “only for experience users” is falling by the wayside, and if a lack of confidence in your skills has kept you from using Fedora, you should give it a try.

Best Desktop Environment: Oh, look! A minefield! Let’s skip through it! You all know how I feel about GNOME 3; the aspect that I can’t use it due to older equipment moreso than anything else (if I could vote for GNOME 2.32, that would be great). KDE? I like KDE though — truth in advertising — I’m a post-KDE 4.x user and not familiar with the way things used to be (and not familiar with why there’s such a hubbub about it). I don’t know why Openbox and Fluxbox, both windows managers, are in this category, and why isn’t there a separate WM category? How did I vote? I’m cast a vote this year for Xfce, because I’m using it on Fedora 15 and will be using it again on Fedora 16, and while it’s reputation is a lightweight environment, I’m finding there’s a significant degree of tweakability to it. Also, if you really like WMs, I’d vote for OpenBox.

Best Web Browser: Konqueror. Just kidding. While there are some advantages to Konqueror that do not involve Web browsing, for getting on the information superhighway I usually go with Firefox, though on the Windows box at the newspaper I use Chrome. It’s a toss up between those two.

Best E-mail Client: Another minefield and another tough call. What I use most is Thunderbird, because everybody knows the ‘Bird is the word, and it’s always worked well for me. What has always worked well for me in the past, too, and something I’ve always thought was one of KDE’s stars is Kmail, which deserves a vote if you’re so inclined. Claws is something I’m looking to try and haven’t yet, so maybe if it wows me, it can be a leading candidate for 2012.

Best IRC client: Simple — it’s irssi. It’s what the cool kids use, once they graduate past Xchat. Konversation gets high marks, too, and readily available on KDE. But I voted for irssi.

Best Office Suite: OK, here’s where we get to make history. Vote for LibreOffice — it’s OpenOffice as it should be. It would be outrageously cool if LibreOffice took home the prize in this category, for starters because it deserves it, and it would be a good nose-thumbing to Oracle as well.

Best Graphic Design Tool: All of them. I’m serious. If there’s ever been a category where each of the candidates deserves to win, it’s this one. GIMP finally gets a single window, I’m told, thank $DIETY, but I ended up voting for . . . Inkscape. I’m not the artist in the family; that title goes to my daughter Mimi, but having drawn a little, I do like Inkscape a lot.

Best Audio Tool: Audacity. If Carla Schroder uses it and writes a book about it, then I’m there.

Best Kid Friendly Application: Another easy one — Tux Paint. I should be ashamed to admit this, but I’m not: Ever since Mimi was younger and we used Tux Paint together when she was learning her way around a computer, I have always loved this program and I still fiddle with it from time to time when I’m not doing anything else. Also, I count Tux Paint as one of the main influences in cultivating the artistic talent Mimi has shown.

Best Game: As bad as I am at it, I still think Super Tux gets the nod here, as it’s a very creative game. Truth be told, I’ve never played any of the games on the list, except for Tux Racer, and I know my good friend Ken Starks over at the HeliOS Project is a fan of World of Goo.

Best Database: Our first heart-versus-head conundrum. If MySQL were the best, I may not vote for it on principle, but fortunately other databases have knocked MySQL from its perch at the top. I’ve only used two other databases and have liked them both: PostgreSQL and MariaDB. I really want to see MariaDB do well, but PostgreSQL is clearly the best of the bunch.

Best Programming Language: Again, the ice cream comparison comes into play and in my limited programming experience, I vote for what I know best. That would be Python.

Best scripting language: bash — accept no substitutes (OK, ksh if you need to).

Best IDE: Emacs in the hands of someone who really knows what they’re doing (and sadly, that’s not me) is simply an amazing tool. But I’m voting for vim. I can get more done using it, and I’m never backed into a corner, as I am sometimes with Emacs. Sorry, RMS.

Best Package Management Application: If it sounds like it tastes good, you have to go with it: yum. Honorable mention goes to Synaptic.

Best Content Management System: I’ve used Mambo and Joomla! in the past, and those happen to be my CMS roots. However, having used Drupal over the last few months, I have to say that I’ve made the switch. Drupal gets my vote this year.

Best Linux Laptop Vendor/Best Linux Desktop Workstation Vendor/Best Linux Server Vendor: I’m lumping these three categories together because the vote is the same in each category — ZaReason. The Berkeley, Calif., outfit makes outstanding, dependable hardware that’s Linux based (or if you’d prefer, no operating system) and the service is top notch. You’ll have to write in ZaReason in the Best Linux Desktop Workstation Vendor category, but you can mark the ballot in the other two.

Best Linux Book: A real page-turner, especially if you’re into audio — “The Book of Audacity,” by Carla Schroder. Buy it now.

Again, there’s a plethora of other categories that I haven’t touched on. Polls are open until Saturday. Vote early.

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.

[FSF Associate Member] (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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