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Sometimes the good guys win

November 16, 2012 2 comments

If anyone asks, Ken Starks will tell you this is why you fight whatever misfortune life throws at you, no matter how difficult or heinous, while giving it everything you have and then some.

Because you might just end up prevailing.

Make no mistake: Ken still fights with some health issues. He still lives with his “scarlet letter” — his term, not mine — of having a PVC pipe in his throat and he’s still going to have to receive treatments in the near future that are going to cost into the thousands per, in order to keep ahead of the cancerous curve.

But the throat cancer, which was supposed to log him out for good, is now in remission.

So he lives to fight the good fight another day, and that means bringing technology, powered by Linux, to underprivileged kids in the Austin area thanks to his work with REGLUE.

It means that an eloquent and vocal supporter of Free/Open Source Software, silenced slightly by his previous surgery (his voice is a cross between Don Corleone and Animal on The Muppets, he says), continues to air his opinion, at full blast, on his well-written blog.

It means that one of the good guys — one of the white hats — won.

One more thing: It also means that he gets to go through another ordeal . . . I mean, another Houston Astros season next year. The Astros, now in the American League West, take on a new group of rivals next season, like the Oakland Athletics (and he’s welcome to come out here to California next season to see the Astros-A’s at the Coliseum).

I left Ken on a warm Friday morning in Houston to head back to California after the Giants-Astros series in August. I never told anyone, but I have to confess to having creeping doubts about whether I’d see him again.

Leave it to him to prove me wrong, and I can tell you how he’ll respond: He’ll just chalk it up to my being a liberal. Honest. Then we’ll laugh about that — the tree-hugging Californian and the rock-ribbed conservative Texan — and we’ll move on to the next FOSS issue we’ll be addressing together.

Thanks for getting the better of your disease, Ken. I know I speak for a multitude of folks who would echo that sentiment, and I know an army of folks who are glad you’re on our side in fighting proprietary software.

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!

Play ball

September 3, 2012 4 comments

Warning: Very little of this blog item deals with free/open source software. In fact, with the exception of some historical references or discussions in the periphery, there’s little here on FOSS. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read it; on the contrary, you might welcome the break from my tilting at windmills and read something slightly more important.

This blog deals more with the human condition, or specifically Ken Starks’ human condition, and baseball, as well as why sometimes you need to step outside the proverbial batter’s box to get some perspective.

As many of you already know — and for those of you keeping score at home — back in the spring Ken and I planned to go to the Astros-Giants series in Houston at the end of August. Let me back up: Ken and I have been planning to go to a ballgame since 2008, since we teamed up to organize the Lindependence Project, and never got around to it until now. Last week, he and I went to Minute Maid Park to watch the three-game series and, as one might expect, the Giants swept.

That’s all the gloating I’m going to do. Honest.

As many of you also already know, Ken’s about to go under the knife for larynx cancer surgery, which many of you heard about through FOSS channels; and I would be remiss if I didn’t thank you for pitching in like most of you did. As far as the trip was concerned, we were touch-and-go on whether Ken was able to make the trip due to the fact that he may have had a quick reservation for a table for one at the hospital where his surgery will take place. But finally he was cleared for travel, and we ended up watching the series at Houston.

Let me tell you something about Ken that he relayed to me in conversation between innings, and I don’t think he’d mind if I mention it. I thought the topic was somewhat obvious to me, yet I think Ken may feel it bears repeating.

It is this: Some may be under the impression that he’s down for the count; that he’s lying in bed waiting for death. Clearly he’s not.

I got the impression that he finds it irksome that some may think he is somehow disabled or on the fast track to becoming an invalid. To say Ken has a lot on his plate at the moment is an understatement: In juggling the news of his possible mortality with negotiating the maze of the American health care system, all while continuing his day-to-day life, I think Ken wants folks to understand that he’s still standing.

Whether it’s just his Texan nature or just the fact he’s an incredibly tough guy (and I’d want him on my side in any fight), Ken’s continuing to do what he’s always been doing while he waits for the next step on his fight against cancer. Of course, that would include getting underprivileged kids computers with Linux on them, and promoting FOSS with the same passion and zeal, just as he has been doing all along. In short, he’s just getting things done; not for the accolades or for the fanfare, but because a.) it’s what he does, and b.) it’s the right thing to do.

No, he hasn’t got the strength in his hands that he used to, and there’s a self-consciousness about “the PVC pipe sticking out of my throat” that a bandana conceals. He speaks in a hushed tone now, or what he refers to as his “Godfather voice;” a voice that may even be more quiet in post-surgery. But with each time that Ken gets floored by chemo or radiation treatment — let alone by surgery — it seems he gets up off the proverbial mat, dusts himself off and is asks, “Is that all you got?”

Today, Ken blogged about the Linus Torvalds-Miguel de Icaza dustup when I’m sure he’s had some other, more weighty, things to think about. During my visit to Houston, we talked a lot about how many kids were being helped in Taylor, north of Austin, by Reglue (formerly the HeliOS Project) and how this is going to continue as he recovers. In other words, it was pretty much business as usual with a couple of hurdles in the near future to overcome.

Some of you already know this story: Ken and I would probably have never met, let alone be on speaking terms, if it wasn’t for FOSS. I wrote about it here before he and I actually met in Felton for Lindependence in 2008. Videographer Christian Einfeldt of San Francisco filmed much of Lindependence that year and did an interview with Ken and me that you can find on archive.org if you do a search for Lindependence, so you can see the Mutt and Jeff, the Laurel and Hardy, or the Abbott and Costello first-hand in unedited form.

I’m proud and honored to know Ken and I’m proud and honored to consider him a close friend and a teammate in the wide world of FOSS. And if he gets on base, you can bet I’m going to drive him in for a run, just as I know he’d do the same for me. It’s what players on the same team do.

Play ball.

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!

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!

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