An Open Letter to Chris Dodd – by Eric S. Raymond

This article is so important, in my opinion, that I’m posting a link to it on all my blogs.

This is about freedom, pure and simple. If you read nothing else the next month, you should at least read this article by Eric S. Raymond. It is 24 carat TRUTH. It’s not just about technology and the Internet. It’s about your future and the future of your children and their children. Read it!

An Open Letter to Chris Dodd – by Eric S. Raymond from his blog.

Later…

~Eric


5 Things Every Aspiring Linux User Should Know

Yes. Another one of those ubiquitous bullet articles. Everyone love’s ‘em, it seems.

There are some fundamental things that every person who turns on a Linux box should be familiar with before proceeding. Some of these things are often overlooked or never learned by new Linux users. It’s a shame, actually. Knowledge of the fundamentals can create a great foundation for further advancement later on down the road. If you’re going to learn something, learn it right.

Here we go…

  • Numero Uno, in my opinion, is the importance of knowing and accepting the fact that the GNU/LInux operating system is NOT Microsoft Windows. Don’t try to make it such. GNU/Linux is a unique Unix-based operating system using the Linux kernel developed by Linus Torvalds and the GNU operating system developed by Richard Stallman and others of the GNU Project. Individual distributions of GNU/Linux, such as Ubuntu, Slackware, Debian, Arch, etc., are projects created by different people and supported by many, many dedicated coders, repository maintainers, software creators, technical writers, etc. To paraphrase a nearly cliché quote, it takes a village to raise a Linux distro. ;)
  • Item the second: ROOT IS GOD! Caution must be exercised at all times when user privileges are elevated to that of root. Working in the root environment should be done like riding a motorcycle. You CANNOT auto-pilot while riding a motorcycle; neither should you do so when you are root. In other words, pay attention to what you’re doing. Think twice before tapping that Enter key. One slip as root could destroy your entire OS. It’s a powerful tool. Be respectful of its power. Ignore this if you enjoy losing data regularly and reinstalling your OS from scratch.
  • Third thing to know: the command line interface is not a demon from Hell that will grind you up in its toothy maw. It’s just another tool available to the GNU/Linux user for accomplishing tasks that must be accomplished. For most of you, the GUI (graphic user interface) will suffice, but there will be times that you may need to use the command line. Don’t fear it. Embrace your inner geek. Learn the command line. You may find that you can accomplish more work more efficiently while using it.
  • Fourth on the list: Security, it’s a wonderful thing. Remember all those virus and malware scanners that you had to use in MS Windows. Remember how scared you were about email attachments. Remember that time your Windows system got corrupted and you had to pay someone at Best Buy $300 to get it working again? Bad memories, huh? Well, guess what? Just as dogs don’t catch the same diseases that banana plants do, GNU/Linux is not susceptible to the vast majority of the bad stuff out there that cripples MS Windows. Does that mean you’re 100% immune from troubles while running GNU/Linux? Well, no. However, I’d be comfortable in telling you that you would be about 99% immune. I’ve been running GNU/Linux operating systems on my computers for half a dozen years now. I’ve NEVER, not once, ever had any virus or malware issues.
  • Fifth and lastly:MS Windows and Apple/Mac have wonderful community support from multitudinous sites and communities around the Internet: I wouldn’t refute that fact at all. However, it’s important to remember that GNU/Linux and Open Source are products of the communities themselves in many cases. They are directly created, maintained, distributed and supported by many, many dedicated souls all across the globe. If you take the time to explore these communities, you’ll find that the amount of knowledge out there just waiting for you to come learn it is astounding. I don’t believe there is any other technical project so overwhelmingly supported by its adherents and fans in the global community quite like GNU/Linux and Open Source. Don’t be shy. Ask for some help.

Enjoy your new GNU/Linux adventure. It can lead to a long relationship with a fabulous operating system, outstanding open source applications, and wonderful friendships.

Later…

~Eric

Further reading:

The Open Source Initiative

The Free Software Foundation

The Linux Foundation

Open Respect


Adobe/Google Backroom Boogie

Well, I don’t know who is bending over for whom, but there seems to be some strange bedfellow action going on here.

Gregg Keizer @ ComputerWorld writes:

Adobe today said that it would stop offering direct downloads of Flash Player for Linux, telling users to move to Google’s Chrome browser, which bundles Flash with its updates.

*Emphasis mine.

OK, well then… let me state my case plainly for Adobe: KISS MY ASS! You’ll NOT be dictating to me what/how I use my own equipment in my own home. I don’t think I’ll follow your orders to use Google Chrome. I happen to like Firefox, Opera, and Seamonkey. What’s that you say? No more Flash for me. Unless you figure out a way to disable my current Flash plugin, my Flash will be just fine.

Besides, there are open source alternatives out there. Ain’t it great?!

So, pardon me Adobe for being blunt here, but PISS OFF! And take your not-doing-any-evil-as-long-as-greed-doesn’t-count pal Google along with you.

There. I feel better now.

Later…

~Eric

Further reading: Adobe to Linux users: Get Chrome or forget Flash from ComputerWorld


A Handy Archiving Tutorial from Jayson Broughton @ Linux Journal

I’ve been busy designing a website for a client this past week or so.

I just wanted to pop in here real quick-like and tell you about a good article I just read over at Linux Journal. It’s a mini command line tutorial on how to backup CDs to .iso files. You’ll like it.

Archiving CDs to ISO from the Command Line

Learn something. It won’t hurt you none. I promise.

Later…

~Eric


Every Once In A While…

… I actually agree with something Richard Stallman had to say.

I was perusing my usual spots today and ran across an article on jalopnik.com regarding that annoying damned Check Engine light on your dashboard display. I’ve been ranting about the monopolization of the auto repair industry by the manufacturers for years now. Jason Torchinsky writes on Jalopnik about his war against the Check Engine light.

From the article Richard Stallman Weighs In On The Check Engine Light:

My fight against the check engine light still goes on, though, like an uncle with an extensive collection of pornography, I’m sure many of you were hoping I’d just keep it to myself. Well, like your pervy uncle, I won’t. I can’t. And, I’m not alone. Among the many emails I received, most suggesting I speak with my clergyperson, I received an email from Richard Stallman, the founder of the free software movement and the man who started the GNU/Linux operating system.

An email from Stallman himself! I’m impressed. Richard never emails me. :(

Jason goes on to quote Stallman:

I agree with you about the “Check engine” light, but that is a symptom of a broader and deeper problem: the owners of cars do not control, what the car’s computers do.  These computers are running _proprietary_ software, software that controls its users.

Jason asks:

So why should general drivers care?

Stallman responds in typical geek fashion with a bullet list:

1. So anyone can maintain the engine — including your choice of mechanic.

2. To protect against abusive features (see http://www.bostonreview.net/BR33.2/stallman.php).  In this case, hiding information from you.  With free software in that computer, people would make programs to give them more info than the Check Engine light gives.  And you could use them even if you don’t modify your car in any way.

RAH! RAH! Sir Richard! I couldn’t have said this better myself. For years now the automotive industry has been attempting to kill the independent parts and service industries in this country by forcing automobile owners to go directly to the dealers for any and all service/parts that might be needed. How have they done this? With PROPRIETARY TECHNOLOGY, PARTS, TOOLS, TRAINING, etc. That’s how.

Nowadays, you almost always have to go to a dealer for even the most minor repairs or parts. This has killed the mom/pop auto repair/parts business in this country. It’s GREED on the part of BIG AUTO that has driven this to its current state; costing many their small business, and/or employment. How have we let this happen? The same way we let all oppression happen; through ignorance and apathy.

New cars are great if you can afford the maintenance agreements. If not, you better trade-in and get a new one once that warranty is up. Of course, this is exactly what BIG AUTO wants you to do. Vicious circle, huh?

Have a great weekend!

~Eric

Image credits: check engine light from repairpal.com article - Understanding the Check Engine Light

Richard Stallman courtesy of Wikipedia.org


Today’s Featured Distribution – Salix OS

Salix is a GNU/Linux distribution based on Slackware that is simple, fast and easy to use.

As many of you know, I’m partial to distributions with the Slackware pedigree. Salix is one that I had not tried before. My favorites up to now have been Zenwalk, Absolute Linux, and Vector Linux. However, I haven’t had any of those on any of my systems for quite some time. I’m patiently waiting for the 64 bit versions.

Now with Salix OS, I find a nice 64 bit version all ready to go. I installed it with the Xfce desktop. Installation was fast and easy using their familiar installer. No surprises here, folks. It just works. I had to do a couple custom tweaks here and there to get the system up and running, though.

After installation, I first booted into Salix using the kernel line alone. On my main system, Arch (my secondary OS) controls the MBR, and its GRUB rules. I had to modify Arch’s menu.lst to boot Salix. Once I was in Salix, I created an initrd using the README.initrd that you can find in most Slack derivatives. Nothing new here either. For you Slack veterans, this will all look very familiar to you. I re-edited Arch’s menu.lst to include the newly created initrd.gz line and away we went. Anyway, most of you will just use the LILO boot loader provided by Salix.

Salix booted up without a burp or hiss. I updated right off using the tried and true slapt-get command line package manager. Anyone who’s ever run Vector or Absolute Linux would be familiar with slapt-get. It’s a cool PM. The GUI frontend in Salix is gslapt. You can set up auto-updates with it. Makes you feel like you’re running Ubuntu, almost. ;)

After updating, I performed my usual Xfce customizations and then took a little screenie for you to look at:

Photobucket

Salix OS has the legendary stability of its parent Slackware along with some ease-of-use features, like the GUI package manager gslapt, more often found in more graphically oriented distributions. You grizzled Slackers will feel comfortable with it. You folks who’ve always wanted to run Slackware, but were afraid to, will love Salix OS. It’s not as hardcore as Slackware. It’s perfect for someone with only minimal GNU/Linux experience. That doesn’t mean it’s a minimal or hand-holding distro. Salix OS is a full-powered GNU/Linux operating system, fully capable of running your little laptop or that business server.

Go visit the excellent Salix OS website and download a copy for yourself. Give it a try. You might be pleasantly surprised. While you’re there, check out the Salix Team of hardworking individuals whose passion and labors have made this wonderful distribution possible.

Later…

~Eric

Image credits: Salix OS logo owned by Salix OS


Big Brother Investigates Big Apple

How’s this for strangeness. The F.B.I. has an extensive file on that dope smokin’ Steve Jobs guy.

FBI’s Steve Jobs file: He will ‘distort reality … to achieve his goals’from The Washington Post:

By , Updated: Thursday, February 9, 12:25 PM

Steve Jobs, being considered in 1991 for an appointment under President George H.W. Bush, underwent a thorough background investigation by the FBI, according to newly released files from the agency.

Definitely a must-read, folks. Be sure to check out the actual 190+ pages of documents being served in .pdf format by the Post (link in quote above). I wonder how many of us would come up squeaky clean in an F.B.I. investigation; not many, I’d bet.

Despite interviewees saying that they did not personally like Jobs, many said that they would recommend him for a position in government.

One section said, “It was [redacted] opinion that honesty and integrity are not required qualities to hold such a position.”

Honesty? Integrity? For a position in government. Wow! That would be a novel idea, huh?

Later…

~Eric


Some News You Can Use… Firefox 11, Google, awk

Hey folks, I’m just zipping by here today.

I just wanted to post some links to some interesting reading I ran across this morning. Here goes…

Firefox 11 Gets SPDY – Datamation | Sean Michael Kerner

Google’s speed-enhancing SPDY protocol lands in upcoming version of Mozilla’s open source browser.

Mozilla is taking a page from Google’s Chrome development and is gearing up to implement a new protocol to help accelerate the Firefox web browser. The open source Firefox 11 browser, which is now in beta, will include the SPDY protocol. The current stable release of Firefox is version 10, which was released last week.

 

Beware the power of Google? – ITWorld | Brian Proffitt

Chaotic good is still chaotic

Has Google taken over the Internet? No, I’m not wearing a tin-foil hat, and I’m not looking for a secret villain’s lair when I am in Silicon Valley at the end of the month (though wouldn’t the “Eye of Sauron” be synonymous with “Mountain View”? Hmmm…). But there have been some incidents over the years that have made me stop and ponder a bit about the huge amount of quiet influence Google seems to have on commercial activity on the Web.


How to get started using awk – SImple Help | Sukrit Dhandhania

awk, sed, and grep are three of my favorite tools in the Linux or UNIX command line. They are all pretty powerful. Today we’ll look at how to get cracking with awk to help you ease into using it. Then we’ll look at some useful awk one liners to make things a bit more fun for you.

Read, learn, have FUN! :)

Later…

~Eric


Here a /bin, There a /bin, Everywhere a /bin /bin

So, most of you GNU/Linux users have by now peaked into that File System directory on the left frame of your file manager, huh?

Ever wonder how all that /bin, /sbin, /usr/bin stuff came about? Well, thanks to a really interesting article by Thom Holwerda at OSNews, you can now read all about it.

It seems that back in the day (early 70s), when Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie were at Bell Labs tinkering around with Unix in its infancy, how they came to name these directories was primarily determined by their available storage space at the time. Geeks just being practical; ain’t it great?

From busybox.net list:

Rob Landley
Thu Dec 9 15:45:39 UTC 2010

When the operating system grew too big to fit on the first RK05 disk pack (their root filesystem) they let it leak into the second one, which is where all  the user home directories lived (which is why the mount was called /usr). They replicated all the OS directories under there (/bin, /sbin, /lib, /tmp…) and wrote files to those new directories because their original disk was out of space.  When they got a third disk, they mounted it on /home and relocated all the user directories to there so the OS could consume all the space on both disks and grow to THREE WHOLE MEGABYTES (ooooh!).

3Meg… WOW! Nowadays, we dash off inane missives that often exceed 3 Meg in size. We don’t even think about it. Can you imagine? I was 10 years old in ’71, running around in a neighbor’s overgrown yard playing “war” with my pals. Dennis and Ken were in their late twenties and using their genius to create the foundation for pretty much everything you see in front of you right now… the Internet, the operating system on your computer, the code that is the foundation for most of it, etc. Amazing, huh?

Thom Holwerda from his OSNews article laments:

Arguing that the UNIX directory structure is a horrible, horrible mess that defiles an otherwise elegant system is like trying to convince a floor tile to flip over. People are so used to their knee-jerk responses about how it all supposedly makes sense, they often refuse to even think about redesigning it for the modern age. Since the geek is a proud and stubborn creature, there’s little to no chance of this ever changing in my lifetime.

PhotobucketThom is not a big fan of the Unix file structure. I can see his points. When you read how those directories actually came about, you begin to wonder, as Thom often does, whether the whole thing needs a reboot/rename. Well, it probably won’t ever happen. Hell, some of us still like to boot into a command line interface rather than a graphic one. Holwerda says that geeks are a proud and stubborn. Yup… mostly stubborn. ;)

Read the article. Click on the links. It’s some interesting stuff, folks.

Later…

~Eric

Image credits: Ken Thompson/Dennis Ritchie courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, a worthy Internet resource. Help if you can.

Further reading:

The Creation of the Unix Operating System

Dennis M. Ritchie

Ken L. Thompson

The Linux Directory Structure

Arpanet


Today’s Featured Distribution – Foresight Linux

Once upon a time, when I was a relative newcomer to GNU/Linux, I found a wonderful little distribution, which was also new at the time.

Tomas Forsman, a member of the Foresight Linux team, probably doesn’t even remember me from back then. I frequented the old support forums for Foresight Linux back when it was in version 1.0. I think that was sometime back in 2006. I remember FL creator Ken Vandeen from back then. I found Foresight, a fork of rPath Linux, while perusing Distrowatch one evening. It looked intriguing. Besides, I liked the green color theme. Green is my favorite color, you know.

I’ve had Foresight on many of my systems over the years since v1.0. It’s never been my primary operating system. You all know that I’m a Slacker, but that doesn’t stop me from experimenting with other distros. I have my favorites that are never far from one of my systems. I can usually be found tweaking (often breaking) these distros on any given day.

I did a major system overhaul a year or so ago and never was able to get a working copy of Foresight installed. It wasn’t Foresight’s fault, though. Tomas knows that I’m an Xfce fan, so he provided me with an alpha of their Xfce version. It didn’t seem to like my hardware for some reason. Well, that was a while ago, anyway. Their Xfce 64 bit version is in final release now and installs and runs perfectly.

I know this because I just installed it  a couple nights ago. I didn’t have any issues during installation. For any of you who have ever installed a GNU/Linux distribution on your system, you’ll not find any surprises with the Foresight installer. It’s pretty straight-forward and relatively easy.

Once I had FL installed, I did my usual tweaks here and there under the hood and with the Xfce interface. All went well. I have a completely updated and usable Foresight Linux installation on my system now. I made a quick custom wallpaper for it and took a nice screenshot for you folks.

If you’d like to give Foresight a tryout, you’ll find that the distribution has excellent documentation and a helpful support community. Tomas also visits Scot’s Newsletter Forums – Bruno’s All Things Linux quite often. You can catch up with him there occasionally. Foresight is a stable, full-featured distribution with a sterling pedigree (RedHat, rPath). It’s suitable for a home system or a business server.

Stop on by the Foresight forums. Tell Tomas I sent you. He’ll get you up and running with Foresight in no time at all.

Have fun with it! :)

Later…

~Eric

Image credits: Foresight Linux “eye” logo owned by Foresight Linux.


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