FOSS Force http://fossforce.com Keeping tech free Fri, 27 Mar 2015 22:34:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 KDE Tops Poll http://fossforce.com/2015/03/kde-tops-poll/ http://fossforce.com/2015/03/kde-tops-poll/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 17:18:31 +0000 http://fossforce.com/?p=1249094 It didn’t take nearly as long to count the votes for our desktop poll as it did for last week’s distro poll, mainly due to the fact that not as many of you voted, but also because there aren’t nearly as many desktop environments and window managers as their are Linux distros. Also, unlike the [...]

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It didn’t take nearly as long to count the votes for our desktop poll as it did for last week’s distro poll, mainly due to the fact that not as many of you voted, but also because there aren’t nearly as many desktop environments and window managers as their are Linux distros. Also, unlike the distro poll, there was a clear cut winner instead of a virtual tie.

KDEActually, of course, it’s not about winners and losers. It’s about what you like. It’s about preferences. After all, unless you’re a diehard command line person, the desktop is how you interact with your computer.

Again this year, KDE tops the list with a commanding lead, piling up over a quarter of the 617 votes cast. This is a huge drop from the 70 percent showing it made the last time we conducted a desktop poll, back in January and February of last year. In that poll, however, users were only given three desktop choices — KDE, GNOME 3 and Cinnamon. This year, voters were served up a menu that included eight popular desktops from which to choose. As in last year’s poll, voters could also opt to place write-in votes.

Why KDE? According to your comments, there were two major reasons: stability and configurability, with many of you saying, “It just works.” But there seemed to be some disagreement over whether KDE’s legendary configurability is as great as it once was.

“I use a slimmed-down KDE4 Plasma desktop for the same reason I use Gentoo, serious configurability/customizability,” wrote a reader named Duncan. “Though, unfortunately, KDE4 lost a lot of that configurability, that being the biggest reason I use a lot less KDE now than I did back in the KDE3 era.”

Not so fast, chimed in another reader with the handle Unbenkownst: “I don’t think KDE4 has less options than KDE3 — though that might really have been the case on the first versions, maybe up to KDE4.3.”

Xfice took second place, with nearly 18 percent of the vote. Although this strong showing might seem a little surprising to some, the use of this lightweight but conventional desktop has definitely been on the rise in recent years: compare this year’s 110 votes with last year’s 22 write-in votes for example.

“I had to go with Xfce, it has all the features I want,” wrote Don Cosner. “Other DE’s keep taking away and adding back features, but Xfce takes a conservative approach to development.” Others mentioned Xfce’s sparing use of system resources as being important to them.

From the looks of things, GNOME might finally be on something of a comeback after several years of declining use. A year ago, in a field of three, which should’ve worked to its advantage, the once most popular Linux desktop picked up less than six percent of the votes cast. This year, as one out of eight, it made an impressive third place showing with over fifteen percent of the vote. We’ll be interested in seeing if this is the beginning of a trend.

Although we only allowed voters to choose one desktop in the poll, many of you indicated that you use multiple desktops — sometimes on the same machine and often across many machines.

“Depends on what hardware I use,” wrote Abdel. “Unity and Gnome for powerful machines. Xfce for middle-range ones. LXDE, Enlightenment and Openbox for the less powerful ones.”

A regular commenter on FOSS Force, tracyanne, also uses multiple desktops. “I use Unity most; it’s on my primary laptop. My recording studio laptop runs Ubuntu Studio, so that’s Xfce, my media center runs Ubuntu with GNOME 3 Legacy, and finally, a spare machine runs Linux Mint with Cinnamon. My partner runs Xubuntu with, of course, Xfce,” she wrote, then added: “I guess FOSS Force dislikes Unity so much they won’t include it as an option.”

Oops! We forgot to include Unity as a poll answer — and many of you noticed.

“Seems odd you don’t have Unity on list,” wrote cmcanulty. Another reader, joncr, agreed: “Suggests either obvious error or obvious bias. Whatever the final result, a batch of trollers will use it to trumpet ‘Unity No One’s Favorite.'”

The omission was merely a mistake, and not meant as editorial commentary. When we realized what we’d done, we had a collective palm-to-face Homer Simpson “Doh!” moment, and a few of us even muttered the “S” word under our breaths. We apologize to the folks at Canonical and to all the folks who work and play using Ubuntu and the Unity desktop.

In spite of this omission, Unity did pretty good for itself as a write-in candidate. With 30 votes, it picked up more write-ins than any other desktop and took sixth place in our poll overall.

The poll also revealed that many of you opt to use window managers instead of full fledged desktop environments, as six separate window managers picked up a total of 33 votes.

Desktop Votes
KDE 157
Xfce 110
GNOME 95
Cinnamon 83
MATE 56
Unity 30
LXDE 26
*Fluxbox 9
Enlightenment 8
*Openbox 8
*i3 7
Pantheon 5
*Awesome 5
*Window Maker 3
*xmonad 2
LXQt 1
Trinity 1
ROX 1
* Denotes window manager instead of DE.

Thanks to all of you for taking part. We’ll do it again next year.

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When SCO Was Cool http://fossforce.com/2015/03/when-sco-was-cool/ http://fossforce.com/2015/03/when-sco-was-cool/#comments Wed, 25 Mar 2015 15:57:52 +0000 http://fossforce.com/?p=1249083 The headline sounds like heresy, I know, but put down those pitchforks and torches and hear me out. By now, you’ve probably all heard the news that the zombie lawsuit brought about by SCO against IBM has reared its ugly head and has started bellowing “braaaaaaains” once again.

But the fact of the matter is [...]

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The headline sounds like heresy, I know, but put down those pitchforks and torches and hear me out. By now, you’ve probably all heard the news that the zombie lawsuit brought about by SCO against IBM has reared its ugly head and has started bellowing “braaaaaaains” once again.

But the fact of the matter is this: At one time, SCO was cool.

SCO logoSCO started out here in my neighborhood, essentially, in Santa Cruz, California. It was called The Santa Cruz Operation (hence, SCO). That manifestation of SCO was founded in 1979 by Larry and Doug Michels, a father and son, as a Unix porting and consulting company which, over time, developed its own brand of Unix. In his book “The Art of Unix Programming,” Eric Raymond calls SCO the “first Unix company.”

As the story goes, the first SCO was sold to Caldera, a Linux company, in 2001 and rebranded The SCO Group, which moved it to Utah and made it a litigation company, and we pretty much know the rest of the story from there.

However, at its peak, and before its imminent downfall post-sale, the company employed about 1,500 employees across the globe, and just over 1,000 in Santa Cruz, making it the largest employer in Santa Cruz at the time.

The reason I bring this up is because there are a lot of folks in these parts – some of them still teaching Linux and Unix at Cabrillo College (the local community college) and many of whom are involved in their own tech endeavors (like Cruzio, the largest ISP in the area) –- who started or advanced their digital careers with SCO and will attest to the fact that the then-SCO was a pretty advanced company which cared a lot more about software than lawsuits.

So much of the tech on “this side of the hill” – that is, the side of the hill by the water, as opposed to “the other side of the hill,” which is the Silicon Valley – was borne of the experiences garnered at this one hallowed Camelot by Monterey Bay.

So pre-sale SCO –- the original SCO –- wasn’t the evil entity it is now, and by no means is this recollection an endorsement of what the current manifestation is doing in the courts. It just serves as a reminder that sometimes things –- good things –- can go south very quickly and become the complete opposite of what the original folks had in mind.

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Google Wants to Be Super Nielson http://fossforce.com/2015/03/google-wants-to-be-super-nielson/ http://fossforce.com/2015/03/google-wants-to-be-super-nielson/#comments Tue, 24 Mar 2015 16:55:01 +0000 http://fossforce.com/?p=1249031 Last night I bought a Tracfone online. This morning, when I bring up FOSS Force on the browser, I’m greeted by an ad hawking Tracfones. Likewise, a few months ago after I purchased a coolant reservoir for my 27 year old BMW, I was greeted by ads on every site I visited for companies specializing [...]

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Last night I bought a Tracfone online. This morning, when I bring up FOSS Force on the browser, I’m greeted by an ad hawking Tracfones. Likewise, a few months ago after I purchased a coolant reservoir for my 27 year old BMW, I was greeted by ads on every site I visited for companies specializing in parts for old BMWs. We’re all used to this, right? Even if we just conduct a simple Google search, we’re liable to be followed around by ads pertaining to that search for hours, if not days or weeks.

Google Fiber logoWell, guess what? This sort of targeting is coming to your TV soon.

Ad buyers have been saying for quite a while that television advertising is something of a bargain these days when compared to the prices they’re paying to advertise on the Internet. Much of that has to do with targeting, which Google has perfected to a surgical science on the Internet, with a precision that pretty much hasn’t been possible on television. On TV, a company selling articles which primarily appeal to young teen age girls, for example, can buy time on a show that has high numbers in that demographic, but that’s about it — and that’s kept television time relatively cheap.

With the Internet, ad campaigns can be targeted much more narrowly — such as to consumers who’ve already shown an interest in similar products, guaged by their surfing habits. Better yet, by using the pay-per-click model, advertisers don’t have to pay a dime for ads until a user actually clicks on an ad to further investigate the product or service. There’s a rub, however. Those clicks are pretty damn expensive these days, often costing the advertiser a couple of bucks or more for each click — which more often than not isn’t going to result in a sale. This can make acquisition costs for new customers astronomically high.

Now, according to an article published Friday by Adweek, Google plans on changing all that through technology it’s developing to use on its Google Fiber network.

“‘Fiber TV ads will be digitally delivered in real time and can be matched based on geography, the type of program being shown (sports, news, etc.), or viewing history,’ the company explains in a blog post….

‘Like digital ads, advertisers will only pay for ads that have been shown, and can limit the number of times an ad is shown to a given TV. We’re excited to see how this test progresses, and we’re looking forward to hearing from local businesses and viewers along the way.'”

Although it might seem to be good news that Google promises to let viewers opt out of having their viewing history tracked, it’s doubtful that this will be enough to satisfy privacy advocates, as pointed out Saturday by Ian Paul on PCWorld.

“Google Fiber’s program will likely raise privacy concerns since the company wants to target advertising based on viewer habits. Privacy is a little bit different, however, with Google the cable/Internet provider versus Google the online monolith.

“First, Google Fiber already knows a customer’s physical location in order to deliver its services and monthly bills. Showing ads based on current programming also shouldn’t be a problem since it’s just a more precise version of the demographic ad targeting that happens now. But storing your viewing history to target ads is new and that’s where some subscribers may be uncomfortable—especially if it gets tied to your Google account.”

For the time being, if we keep our blinders on this all seems to be rather benign — but how long until it morphs into something more malignant?

Remember, Google Fiber is essentially an ISP, with the main purpose of bringing the Internet to subscribers computers and mobile devices. How long before Google decides to also take into account data they’ve collected on subscribers’ surfing habits when deciding what ads to insert into reruns of Gilmore Girls? Is the day coming when we buy an air filter for an old 70s model Dodge online and are then inundated for a couple of weeks by TV ads for businesses specializing in old Mopar parts?

As they used to say on an old TV show: You can bet your bippy on it.

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Reglue & Sébastien Jodogne Receive FSF Awards http://fossforce.com/2015/03/reglue-sebastien-jodogne-receive-fsf-awards/ http://fossforce.com/2015/03/reglue-sebastien-jodogne-receive-fsf-awards/#comments Tue, 24 Mar 2015 01:50:54 +0000 http://fossforce.com/?p=1249041 Ken Starks put another well deserved feather in his cap on Saturday when he accepted an award for Reglue from the Free Software Foundation (FSF) at the LibrePlanet conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Reglue was announced as this year’s winner of the Project of Social Benefit Award by FSF executive director John Sullivan, who also announced [...]

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Ken Starks put another well deserved feather in his cap on Saturday when he accepted an award for Reglue from the Free Software Foundation (FSF) at the LibrePlanet conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Reglue was announced as this year’s winner of the Project of Social Benefit Award by FSF executive director John Sullivan, who also announced that Sébastien Jodogne had won this year’s award for Advancement of Free Software. The event took place on the MIT campus.

For those of you who are new to the FOSS community, Ken Starks founded the nonprofit Reglue, then known as the HeliOS Project, in 2005 to put refurbished computers in the hands of school aged children whose families couldn’t otherwise afford them. In the ten years since its inception, Reglue has placed over 1,100 computers with children living in the Austin, Texas area, and has been both a model and inspiration for other organizations with similar goals across the country.

Starks told the FSF: “A child’s exposure to technology should never be predicated on the ability to afford it. Few things will eclipse the achievements wrought as a direct result of placing technology into the hands of tomorrow.”

In addition to receiving the award for Reglue, Starks was also a speaker at this year’s LibrePlanet, no small feat considering that he had his larynx removed in January of this year, which left him totally mute. He “spoke” by means of text-to-speech software.

Starks is also a columnist for FOSS Force; his column appears every Tuesday morning.

Sébastien Jodogne was given his award for his work on the project Orthanc, which is working to bring free software to medical imaging and eliminating vendor lock in.

Said Jodogne: “Technology and humanism are often opposed. This is especially true in the healthcare sector, where many people fear that technological progress will dehumanize the treatments and will reduce the patients to statistical objects. I am convinced that the continuous rising of free software is a huge opportunity for the patients to regain control of their personal health, as well as for the hospitals to provide more competitive, personalized treatments by improving the interoperability between medical devices.”

LibrePlanet is an annual conference for free software enthusiasts.

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Poll Results: Ubuntu & Mint End in Near Tie http://fossforce.com/2015/03/poll-results-ubuntu-mint-in-near-tie/ http://fossforce.com/2015/03/poll-results-ubuntu-mint-in-near-tie/#comments Sat, 21 Mar 2015 05:01:31 +0000 http://fossforce.com/?p=1249000 The FOSS Force Linux Distro poll is now one for the record books. The poll, which ran for a week, finishing just before midnight on Wednesday, asked the simple question, “What Linux distro do you use most?”

We figured this would be a popular poll going in. What we didn’t know was exactly how popular. [...]

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The FOSS Force Linux Distro poll is now one for the record books. The poll, which ran for a week, finishing just before midnight on Wednesday, asked the simple question, “What Linux distro do you use most?”

We figured this would be a popular poll going in. What we didn’t know was exactly how popular. By the time the dust had settled, over twenty-five hundred of you had voted — more than double the previous FOSS Force poll record, set back in 2013 for the third and final round of our Best Personal Linux or FOSS Blog poll. Back then, a little over a thousand of you voted, leading us to think we’d crossed the Rainbow Bridge into Valhalla.

This poll is closed! Poll activity:
start_date 2015-03-11 00:36:43
end_date 2015-03-18 23:59:00
Poll Results:
What Linux distro do you use most?
Linux Distro poll results before adjusting for write-in votes. A list of the adjusted results are available at the bottom of this article.

This poll was one for the record books in other ways as well. In our article introducing the poll, published the morning after the poll went up, we invited you to share your reasons for your vote. Again, you responded with gusto, producing 100 comments — more than doubling what we’ve seen before.

The poll itself proved the old adage that things aren’t always what they seem.

When the poll went inactive on Wednesday night, it seemed that Linux Mint was the winner by the slight margin of thirteen votes over Ubuntu. However, after the write-in votes were counted, it turned out that Ubuntu had won, albeit by an even slighter margin of eleven votes, less than a half percent of the votes cast and well within the margin of error even in a scientific poll — which our poll certainly wasn’t — technically qualifying this as a tie.

Ubuntu was the only distro in the field of answers which gained additional votes from write-ins. Some Ubuntu voters, it seems, weren’t content to simply vote for Ubuntu — some wanted to make sure we knew which desktop environment they use as well. This might be because Ubuntu has made the use of various desktop environments something of a cottage industry, or it could be that Ubuntu users are prone to trying numerous desktops due to disgruntlement by some over Unity and GNOME.

Write-in votes were important to poll results in other ways as well. Two of the top ten distros got there by way of write-in votes alone — and a total of four not listed distros ended up ahead of distros offered by default by way of write-in voting.

The results also showed a paradoxical mix of diversity and conformity. Although 67 distros were included in the results, about 80 percent of the vote went to just five distros. Indeed, the top two vote getters accounted for over 35 percent of the votes cast.

Anyway, it’s all over for the Linux Distro poll. Well, maybe not — we’re considering turning this into an annual event, as we’ve done with our Desktop Environment poll.

If you’re interested in seeing how your distro fared, we’ve included the results below.

Distro Votes
Ubuntu 473
Linux Mint 462
openSUSE 417
Arch 276
Debian 192
Fedora 190
Manjaro 67
CentOS 50
*PCLinuxOS 49
*Gentoo 36
*Slackware 35
Mageia 31
*Kubuntu 30
elementary 29
Antergos 24
Xubuntu 22
Bodhi Linux 13
Lubuntu 12
Kali Linux 5
Linux Lite 5
Netrunner 5
CrunchBang 4
Korora 4
Chakra 3
LMDE 3
MX Linux 3
Puppy Linux 3
Solydx(k) 3
Deepin 2
Funtoo Linux 2
KaOS 2
LXLE 2
NixOS 2
OpenMandriva 2
Sabayon 2
Tiny Core Linux 2
Void Linux 2
* Write-in distros that received more votes than some of the offered poll choices.

Honorable mention to distros receiving one vote: Alpine Linux, aptosid, BackBox, Black Lab Linux, ChaletOS, Edubuntu, Fatdog64, GoboLinux, KNOPPIX, Makulu, Mozillux, Mythbuntu, Nova, Open Xange, Oracle, Peppermint, Pinguy OS, Point Linux, Raspbian, RHEL, ROSA, Salix, Scientific, SparkyLinux, Trisquel, Ultimate Edition, Voyager, VSIDO, Zorin OS and #!++ Beta.

Is there anything that you found enlightening in our poll results? Anything surprising? Maybe even disappointing? If so, let us know in the comments.

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Fedora Seeks Diversity Advisor http://fossforce.com/2015/03/fedora-seeks-diversity-advisor/ http://fossforce.com/2015/03/fedora-seeks-diversity-advisor/#comments Fri, 20 Mar 2015 15:26:13 +0000 http://fossforce.com/?p=1248971 In lieu of a weekly wrap-up which normally appears here at the end of the work week, I’m going to report on something I think deserves its own special mention.

The Fedora Project — mythically known as the “bleeding-edge distro” which only experienced users can use, but which in reality can be used easily by [...]

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In lieu of a weekly wrap-up which normally appears here at the end of the work week, I’m going to report on something I think deserves its own special mention.

The Fedora Project — mythically known as the “bleeding-edge distro” which only experienced users can use, but which in reality can be used easily by anyone from kids to grandmothers — understands the unique connection between diversity and open source. They are looking for a Diversity Advisor, and they’re seeking your help.

Fedora logo“Increased diversity is crucial to the future of open source,” their post states. “A range of contributors from varying backgrounds brings broader experience to the table, which makes for healthier projects — and ultimately better software. To make Fedora a more diverse community, the Fedora Council (our new governance and leadership body) has an open position for a Diversity Advisor, and we need your help to find the perfect person for this role.”

First they want to put a search committee in place “to find the most awesome and incredible human being for the job — and this message is the invitation to join the community.”

Here’s the job the search committee will seek to fill: “The Fedora Diversity Advisor will lead initiatives to assess and promote equality and inclusion within the Fedora contributor and user communities, and will develop project strategy on diversity issues. The Diversity Advisor will also be the point of contact for Fedora’s participation in third-party outreach programs and events.”

Do you want to be on the committee that will be seeking to fill this job? You have until March 31 to apply and the information is all in the link above.

I am sure a lot of qualified people will lining up for a crack at the Diversity Advisor once the committee has been formed, and it would be interesting to see who ends up in the position. Rest assured you won’t have competition from me in the resume race. While I’m sure I qualify and while I think I’d make a pretty good Diversity Advisor by various metrics Fedora may be using, I firmly believe that I am hamstrung by a demographic reality: No matter how qualified, the last person promoting diversity should look like 90 percent of the tech field (i.e., a middle-aged, straight white guy).

And if you want to be on the committee given the job of finding just the right person — good luck!

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What’s Your Desktop Environment? http://fossforce.com/2015/03/whats-your-desktop-environment/ http://fossforce.com/2015/03/whats-your-desktop-environment/#comments Thu, 19 Mar 2015 16:36:46 +0000 http://fossforce.com/?p=1224756 The Linux distro poll is over and we’re crunching the numbers for an article to go up later today. However, first we want to introduce our second annual Desktop Environment poll.

It only seems fitting, somehow, that we would follow up our what’s-your-distro poll with a Linux desktop poll. After all, we see and interact [...]

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The Linux distro poll is over and we’re crunching the numbers for an article to go up later today. However, first we want to introduce our second annual Desktop Environment poll.

It only seems fitting, somehow, that we would follow up our what’s-your-distro poll with a Linux desktop poll. After all, we see and interact with our desktop everyday — but we never “see” our operating systems — meaning most users actually have a better understanding of their desktop environment or window manager than they do with the underlying distro. So much so, that many users — especially outside of the *nix world, often think of their desktop environment as the operating system.

This poll is closed! Poll activity:
start_date 2015-03-19 00:05:02
end_date 2015-03-26 11:01:04
Poll Results:
What Linux desktop environment do you use most often?

Take Windows, for example, where outside Windows 8, there’s pretty much been only one desktop environment since Windows 95, so Windows users can be excused for thinking that the user interface is the actual Windows operating system. The same could be said of the Apple ecosystem, where the OS X operating system is considered by most users as being one and the same with the OS X user interface.

This isn’t the case so much with Linux, because users can choose from a long list of desktop environments to install atop any distro, changing the entire look and feel of their system. You can have Mageia and PCLinuxOS both running KDE natively — but you also can run KDE as your desktop in Fedora, even though Fedora defaults to GNOME.

And although KDE is always KDE, meaning it’s pretty much the same no matter what the distro, there will be differences between the KDE experience across various distros. The same would be true of any other Linux desktop, from Enlightenment to Xfce.

So, what desktop do you use?

In our last desktop poll, which went up in January of last year, KDE won by a landslide, pulling in 372 out of a total of 529 votes — a whopping 70.3 percent. Second place wasn’t even close: GNOME 3 with 43 votes, or 8.1 percent. Third place honors went to Cinnamon, with 31 votes for a 5.9 percent showing.

This year’s poll asks the simple question, “What Linux desktop environment do you use most often?” A field of eight popular desktop environment are offered as choices, along with an “other” option, with a text box for typing in a name for a write-in vote. Those placing write-in votes should only write-in the name of one desktop. Write-in votes that include more than one desktop will not be counted. Users who prefer a simple window manager over a full blown DE should write-in the name of the window manager they most often use — we’re counting those too.

The poll went up on our front page a little after midnight this morning and will run through Wednesday night. Access to the poll is available either through this article, or on our front page.

We’re also interested in the reasons behind your desktop choice, so we’re asking you to let us know in the comment section below. We’ll fill you in on the results one week from today.

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FOSS & Accessibility: The New Frontier http://fossforce.com/2015/03/foss-accessibility-the-new-frontier/ http://fossforce.com/2015/03/foss-accessibility-the-new-frontier/#comments Wed, 18 Mar 2015 17:48:21 +0000 http://fossforce.com/?p=1218055 Charlie Kravetz said he was a little nervous at SCALE 13x. Not only had his presentation slides gorped about a week ahead of the expo (he got them back together and working, of course), it was Charlie’s first time speaking in front of a group. And the message he wished to convey in his talk, [...]

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Charlie Kravetz said he was a little nervous at SCALE 13x. Not only had his presentation slides gorped about a week ahead of the expo (he got them back together and working, of course), it was Charlie’s first time speaking in front of a group. And the message he wished to convey in his talk, “Accessibility in Software,” was an important one.

Charlie stepped up to the plate at SCALE 13x and knocked it out of the park.

Don’t take my word for it. Watch the video, which is available online.

Truth in advertising: I cheated. I wasn’t supposed to watch the live feed of Charile’s presentation during SCALE 13x because there’s a de facto rule about watching presentations in the hotel while they’re going on. But I was working in the media room and couldn’t get over to Century AB, the room where Charlie spoke.

The reason I mention this is that I was moved and inspired by Charlie’s talk, even watching it while doing other duties in the media room. I would suggest you watch too before reading further. It was a real eye-opener from a first-time speaker. It wasn’t so much his delivery — clear and concise in a very folksy manner — but what was revealed in the talk that made it so enlightening.

Knocking on wood, I have no use for accessibility software, so it’s not something I think about often. Not yet, anyway. In fact, it seems that unless you’re a developer with some sort of disability, you probably don’t think of accessibility software at all.

This needs to change, and change quickly. Despite a wide range of philosophical viewpoints about the purposes of technology — ranging from simply lining one’s pockets to a keystone in helping humanity advance (I’m firmly in the latter camp) — there’s an opportunity in the wider world of software to make advancements in accessibility; to make technology work for those who need it.

So this is the gauntlet being thrown at the feet of any developers wishing to pick it up: I’m in — with what limited programming skills and wealth of documentation and organizational skills I have — with helping folks like Charlie and my FOSS Force colleague Ken Starks organize, produce and promote FOSS accessibility programs. It’s a natural use — probably the most fundamental use — of technology: to able the disabled as much as possible.

The choices are simple: Do you want to produce the next Angry Birds — entertaining but not uplifting — or do you want to help give speech to the silent? Do you want to develop “the next big thing”(TM) or do you want to help those with communications disabilities communicate — receiving and transmitting communications — like everyone else? At its most base level, do you want to write software that helps the wider world rather than one that just helps a few?

The choice is pretty clear.

Are you in? Mention what you’d like to do in the comments below and feel free to contact me at lcafiero at fossforce dot com if you’d prefer.

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The Ubuntu, Microsoft & SUSE (Bermuda) Triangle http://fossforce.com/2015/03/the-ubuntu-microsoft-suse-bermuda-triangle/ http://fossforce.com/2015/03/the-ubuntu-microsoft-suse-bermuda-triangle/#comments Mon, 16 Mar 2015 04:37:35 +0000 http://fossforce.com/?p=1180645 There’s little doubt that a few eyebrows were raised by the news on Friday, when Larry Cafiero reported on FOSS Force about Canonical’s partnership with Microsoft involving Microsoft’s OCS hardware and Ubuntu’s open source Metal-as-a-Service (MAAS) deployment product. Those with a little memory might wonder if this is a case of history repeating itself, as [...]

Continue reading The Ubuntu, Microsoft & SUSE (Bermuda) Triangle

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There’s little doubt that a few eyebrows were raised by the news on Friday, when Larry Cafiero reported on FOSS Force about Canonical’s partnership with Microsoft involving Microsoft’s OCS hardware and Ubuntu’s open source Metal-as-a-Service (MAAS) deployment product. Those with a little memory might wonder if this is a case of history repeating itself, as we’ve seen Microsoft court aspiring princess distros before, with SUSE, not long after the distro was purchased by Novell, a company with an uneven history.

Ubuntu plus Microsoft

A graphic from the Ubuntu web site, touting the distro’s partnership with Microsoft.

Shortly after the turn of the century, Utah based Novell, desperate to stem shrinking revenues, announced it’s intentions of becoming a major Linux and open source player. During the 1980s and 90s the company had flourished in the networking market with its NetWare operating system, a business that was by 2001 in rapid decline, mostly because Windows was now able to network out-of-the-box, and partly due to a customer relations fumble by CEO Eric Schmidt which resulted in the loss of much of the company’s installed base.

In 2003, to establish its open source cred, Novell went on a buying spree, which began in August when it spent an undisclosed amount to acquire Ximian, the open source company behind Evolution, Mono and Red Carpet, the later being an early attempt at an universal package manager for Linux, a precursor to Linspire’s Click & Run. In November, just three months later, Novell spent $210 million, partly financed by an investment from IBM, to purchase SUSE (then SuSE), which was at the time one of the top three Linux distros by most estimations.

Although Novell’s move to open source was slowly paying off and generating substantial income, the new revenue stream wasn’t enough to replace income loss from its declining NetWare business. In spite of massive cuts, the company was bleeding. Wolves were circling, with each wanting a piece of the Novell carcass — even Microsoft, as it turned out.

But Microsoft wanted to keep Novell alive.

In November, 2006, three years after acquiring SUSE, Novell received an eleventh hour bail out when it entered into a joint compatibility and patent agreement with Microsoft. In the pact, Microsoft agreed to pay SUSE $348 million up front and $46 million annually for five years, with return payment by Novell being mainly in the form of support subscriptions for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES).

SUSE logoThis put Microsoft in the business of selling Linux, which they did in part by using their patent portfolio as a sales tool. The agreement between Redmond and Novell stipulated that users of SUSE Linux, but not the users of any other Linux distro, were indemnified against any patent claims Microsoft might make against Linux.

This was a big win for Microsoft, which realized that compatibly with Linux was now essential for Windows’ survival. SUSE, under rein and financially dependent on Redmond, could be harnessed as a partner that wouldn’t compete with Windows in any way, as continued bail out money came with built-in boundaries that its FOSS partner couldn’t afford to cross. This move almost immediately prompted Red Hat to offer it’s own free indemnity plan, protecting its customers from any Microsoft patent threats.

There was just one problem: Many thought the SUSE/Microsoft patent indemnity deal wasn’t in compliance with the GPL — although SUSE and Microsoft claimed otherwise. There was no doubt by anyone, except maybe Steve Ballmer, that the deal wasn’t in agreement with the spirit of the GPL, even if should turn out to obey the letter of the license.

The FOSS community, already riled up over recent actions by SCO, which had sued IBM for allegedly contributing copyrighted Unix code to Linux, was livid, and it didn’t help that Novell had significant historic ties to SCO, which included Unix. The move was seen as an attack by Microsoft against enterprise users of any Linux distro.

The agreement turned out to be a public relations nightmare for Novell, of course — not so much for Microsoft which was used to it. For several years the SUSE/Microsoft deal dominated tech media reporting, alongside SCO — sometimes in the same story. In the end, Novell redeemed itself, somewhat, by swapping hats from black to white while riding to the rescue, asserting its ownership of Unix, and killing SCO’s copyright case against IBM and Linux in the process.

That last move turned out to be something of a swan song for both companies. “Old Novell,” which it came to be called in the press, effectively died in 2010 when it was bought by Attachmate, which was then purchased last year by mainframe software provider Micro Focus. SCO went bankrupt, with its products now being owned by Xinuos.

Eight years later, however, the ghost of “old Novell” is still breathing, as SUSE and Microsoft still have a close working relationship. In 2011, the Suse/Microsoft interoperability and intellectual property indemnity arrangement was renewed, with Redmond spending another $100 million in SUSE Linux Enterprise certificates. The current agreement expires on January 1, 2016.

So what does the old SUSE/Microsoft deal have to do with Ubuntu and Redmond’s new partnership arrangement? The quick answer: everything and nothing. Or, perhaps more appropriate for this stage of the game: It’s too soon to tell. One thing’s for sure, even if the deal turns out to be benign and never develops into anything as toxic as SUSE/Microsoft has been, this is sure to develop into something of a brouhaha in the FOSS user community. At the very least, this will become a hot topic on the forums.

Already, a commenter to Cafiero’s article has suggested throwing the baby out with the bath by writing, “Canonical in a partnership with Microsoft?!! Bye-bye Ubuntu, including any distro based on Ubuntu!” There will be a lot of that to come from home users, many of whom are already wary of Canonical’s motives for a host of other reasons.

This isn’t likely to bother Shuttleworth & Company much, as it doesn’t make its money from home users — at least, not until the Ubuntu Phone gets traction. What money the company is making comes from the enterprise, and it’s not clear that enterprise customers care whether Canonical cozies up to Microsoft. Most tech companies, or companies that use tech in a big way, are already dealing with Microsoft themselves, by licensing its products if in no other ways.

However, if this deal or future deals between Canonical and Microsoft prove to play fast and loose with the GPL or other open source licenses, all bets are off the table. These days, nearly all enterprise users rely on open source in a big way — its become the norm — making compliance important for a host of reasons.

All we know for sure is that Microsoft now has two Linux lovers. Make that three, if Oracle Linux OS is added to the mix — enough for an orgy. At least Red Hat is being kept in the mix by the inclusion of its clone, CentOS, as a supported operating system in the Ubuntu/Microsoft project. Incidentally, CentOS trademarks were recently transferred to Red Hat, after the Raleigh based company took control of the project early last year.

Curiouser and curiouser! We’ll see…

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‘All Thing Open’ Announces Call for Speakers http://fossforce.com/2015/03/all-thing-open-announces-call-for-speakers/ http://fossforce.com/2015/03/all-thing-open-announces-call-for-speakers/#comments Fri, 13 Mar 2015 17:36:46 +0000 http://fossforce.com/?p=1170228 Fatal error: Maximum execution time of 30 seconds exceeded in /home/fossforc/public_html/wp-includes/query.php on line 3611