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Only FOSSers ‘Get’ FOSS

Back on the first of September I wrote an article about Android, in which I pointed out that Google’s mobile operating system seems to be primarily designed to help sell things. This eventually led to a discussion thread on a subreddit devoted to Android. Needless to say, the fanbois and fangrrls over on Reddit didn’t cotton to my criticism and they devoted a lot of space complaining about how the article was poorly written.

They had me there; admittedly it wasn’t one of my better efforts.

The one comment that caught my attention, however, wasn’t complaining about me or my obviously misguided opinion. This commenter said something about how my article came from a FOSS site and made some snarky remark about how as open as Android is, it would never be open enough for those whiny FOSS people. This is the kind of remark we see all the time from tech people, user and developer alike, who think OSS is as free as it gets and don’t understand the distinction between open source and free and open source.

In other words, sometimes it’s the people who’re the closest to us in opinion who become our biggest ideological detractors.

Seigo Throws Flame, Office Suite Kumbaya & OS Face Off

FOSS Week in Review

Flamethrowers and a kumbaya that will probably never happen: Yep, that’s the kind of week it was this week in the land of free/open source software.

Wearing your fireproof underwear? KDE’s Aaron Seigo – never one to shy away from saying what he thinks – lit into community managers in a Google+ post on Monday, calling the community manager role in free/open source software projects “a fraud and a farce.”

Aaron Seigo KDE
Aaron Seigo, shown here in 2011, is never one to shy away from a good discussion or debate.
Credit: Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from 8038433@N06’s photostream
“Communities (real ones) have facilitators and leaders of various forms and stripes,” Seigo writes. “It’s OK if they get paid so they are able to spend the time and energy facilitating and leading, but they damn sure are not ‘managers of the community.’ They are accountable to the community, selected by the community, derive their influence from community consensus and can be replaced by the community at the community’s behest.

Larry CafieroLarry Cafiero

Larry Cafiero, a.k.a. Larry the Free Software Guy, is a journalist and a Free/Open Source Software advocate. He is involved in several FOSS projects and serves as the publicity chair for the Southern California Linux Expo. Follow him on Twitter: @lcafiero

Redefining the Public Library Using Open Source Ideas

When I read that the Takoma Park Maryland Library has 28 workstations running Linux, I literally couldn’t believe it. Really? A library offering the public Linux? Whenever I go to a library, all I ever see are Windows machines or maybe a Mac or two. When I mention Linux as an alternative, and I sometimes do, I’m usually met with blank stares and the staff begins to think I’m nuts.

To check into this, I contacted Phil Shapiro, the library’s Public Geek. Yup. That’s right, he told me. They are running Linux. The decision was made by his supervisor, Rebecca Brown, some time ago.

“This town is quite diverse, with 92 nationalities, so we needed to find a good multilingual solution,” Shapiro explained. “Rebecca chose a Canandian Linux solutions provider, Userful, whose commercial product is built on top of Fedora Linux. Userful does multilingual very well.”

Phil Shapiro Open Source Library
Phil Shapiro, Takoma Park Maryland Library’s “Public Geek”
The Takoma Park Library takes advantage of the multiseat feature built into Fedora, which allows multiple monitors, keyboards and mice to be operated from a single desktop box. Shapiro has been so impressed with how well this set-up works that he’s made a YouTube video demonstrating Fedora’s implementation of multiseat running on an “obsolete” laptop with low specs.

Interestingly, the move to Linux was met with little push back from the patrons using the machines.

“The patrons are quite happy using Linux to get their work done,” Shapiro said. “Very few of them have any clue they’re not using Windows. They surf the web using Firefox and Chrome and use LibreOffice to compose and edit their word processing documents. In the nine years I’ve worked at this library, only one or two people have ever told me, ‘Hey, this isn’t Windows.'”

So much for the learning curve we read so much about — not surprising to those of us who use Linux. Nor are we surprised to hear that running Linux instead of Windows makes things easier on the library’s IT crew.

Christine HallChristine Hall

Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

Reglue Seeks ’12 Geeks of Christmas’

When I read on Monday that my friend Ken Starks had come-up with the 12 Geeks of Christmas idea for his Reglue project, my first thought was “what a wonderful idea.”

In case you don’t know, Reglue is a nonprofit run by Starks down in Texas that refurbishes old computers, loads them up with GNU/Linux and the necessary software, then gives them to school age children who’s parents can’t afford a decent computer.

When you think about it, this not only gives kids who can’t afford it a much needed computer for their school work, it also gives them the added advantage of learning to use an operating system other than Windows or OS X while being opened-up to the possibilities of free and open source software. I can’t help but wonder how many of tomorrow’s FOSS developers are being nurtured by Starks and his Reglue project just by dint of learning their way around Linux.

Christine HallChristine Hall

Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

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