openSUSE Board Chair: Nearly Pulled Plug on Distro in 2015

openSUSE logo

©2017 Michael McCallister

Richard Brown, chair of the openSUSE Linux Community Board, reported to the openSUSE Support list this week that after the release of v13.2 in 2014 he “was faced with the very real and depressing problem of having to find a way of informing the community that there would be no more releases of the openSUSE Distribution.”

Brown wrote that “the Project was struggling to find volunteers to actually help produce the distribution” dating back to the 12.2 release in the summer of 2012.

Background: Strategy and Audience

At around this same time (2010-11), the project leadership engaged the entire openSUSE community in a strategic planning exercise, covered here and here. The strategy was summarized in this paragraph:

The openSUSE project is a worldwide effort that promotes the use of Linux everywhere. The openSUSE community develops and maintains a packaging and distribution infrastructure which provides the foundation for the world’s most flexible and powerful Linux distribution. Our community works together in an open, transparent and friendly manner as part of the global Free and Open Source Software community.

It further defined the distribution’s target audience as “users who are interested in computers and want to get work done, experiment or learn. We offer a stable and enjoyable computing experience which does not limit freedom of choice; offering sane defaults and easy configuration.”

In an email exchange, Brown said that this discussion led to “conclusions end(ing) up being so generic they are not actionable.”

“In a vibrant community (which openSUSE is), open ended questions will lead to hundreds of responses, positive and negative, and forming consensus or conclusions from such noise is next to impossible.”

Brown’s account indicates that, even after the strategy and target audience was decided, the project continued to pursue a “Linux for everyone” audience. He wrote that while the distro had a “steady, loyal, and growing userbase,” new downloads (that is, new users) declined with every release.

Leaping Over the Crisis

openSUSE Leap logoWhat solved the distribution’s existential crisis was flipping the development cycle, using the commercial SUSE Linux Enterprise (SLE) code base as the basis for the stable periodic Leap distribution, and the Tumbleweed rolling release builds on each Leap release.

“Instead of openSUSE no longer having a stable distribution due to lack of contributor interest,” Brown wrote, “Leap has found new contributors in addition to the ones we effectively ‘stole’ by milking SUSE’s SLE efforts for everything they were worth. … And as a result Leap has been a bigger success than I had ever hoped for. ”

Note: Brown told me that the Tumbleweed rolling release would have continued, regardless of whether the “stable” release disappeared.

Today’s opensuse.org landing page just says openSUSE is:

The makers’ choice for sysadmins, developers and desktop users.

Brown later indicated a new document outlining the “Makers’ choice” strategy is in the works, and will be presented to the community “once we think we have a solid starting point for such discussions.”

A Few Thoughts

As a Member of the openSUSE Community,  I’m convinced the board and development team deserves kudos for rescuing this terrific distribution from its decline. As Brown told me, “We can’t appeal to (new users) when we advertise ourselves as ‘Linux for everybody’ – if we target everybody everywhere, we effectively target
nobody, nowhere.”

If you haven’t yet tried it, no matter what kind of computer user you are, come join our now-thriving community. I’ll be glad to help you.

 

©2017 Michael McCallister (contact)

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Decentralized Web Pt 3: Join the IndieWeb

Back in May, when I relaunched Notes from the Metaverse, I told you that this blog would now focus on three important areas related to the Open Web:

  • Software tools that empower
  • Defending net neutrality and universal access to the Internet
  • For an open, decentralized web

I wanted to explain the concept of a decentralized web in a little more depth, and started out strong with a pair of posts. Between the normal summer activities, and a few other intervening projects, I’ve been slow in producing the remaining explainers. I’m fixing that now.


If you need a refresher, here are the first two posts:



The IndieWeb: Your Place for Your Content

indiewebcampIn recent months, I’ve been learning a lot about the “IndieWeb,” an idea spread by folks who understand that the Web offers a unique platform where ordinary people without the financial clout of the 20th century publishing industry could still potentially reach millions with their ideas.

Starting with early sites like GeoCities, Tripod and AngelFire, anyone could create a “home page” on the web, and pontificate on whatever came to mind. When these services went bust in the dot-bomb era at the turn of the century, “Web 2.0” fostered the creation of personal blogs and the systems (like WordPress) that managed them.

Today, far too many of us who want to use the internet to communicate with friends, family and total strangers do so in “walled gardens” like Facebook. Services that treat its users as products to sell to advertisers. As I’ve mentioned before, Farhad Manjoo of The New York Times calls them the Frightful Five: Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and Apple.

IndieWeb is all about you controlling your content, connecting with people you want to connect with, with nobody using your stuff to get others to sell you things you may not want.

Why You Should Be Part of the IndieWeb

I’ve been saying and writing this for years: You need to own your ideas, and how you express them. Especially true for writers, but really true for everyone who wants to communicate on the internet. This idea is at the core of IndieWeb organization.Protecting privacy and anonymity online

But to be honest, I’m not sure I can tell you why — and how — to join up any better than Chris Aldrich did in this piece originally on AltPlatform. So just go over there now.

What Does the IndieWeb Have to do with a Decentralized Web?

The IndieWeb is a bridge to the decentralized web we really need. Think of it as a way to get used to the idea that the Web should belong to you. Over time, perhaps you’ll break with being dependent on corporations to communicate. You’ll still be able to connect with all these other services and the people on them, but still have access to everything you contribute. Even if that service goes bust, or makes insufficient profits for its parent company, your stuff remains in your hands (or at least your hard drive).

The decentralized web needs different software, and different ways to connect up. It may take time, but the more people who stake out a homestead on the IndieWeb, the closer we’ll get to the real deal.

Coming soon: An Update on the Decentralized Web

A few weeks ago, the MIT Media Lab released a report on the state of the Decentralized Web, one year after the original Decentralized Web Summit. I’m reading this report now, and will comment on it in the next post.

Also coming soon, my redesigned, IndieWeb-ified website at MichaelMcCallister.com.

Are you on the IndieWeb yet? What problems do you anticipate if you decide to go indie? Is the IndieWeb (or the blogosphere) actually better than Facebook for virtual communities? Comments always appreciated.

 

Net Neutrality Comment Deadline This Week!

Hey folks, the deadline is looming for submitting comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) about their plan to allow Internet Service Providers (ISPs), also known as your cable or telephone company, to leverage their pipes by implementing fast lanes for the highest bidders and other attacks on free speech on the Internet.

Submit comments by Wednesday, August 30 to share your thoughts on letting the “free market” decide what information you have access to on the Web, and what megacorp it will come from.

Recognizing that FCC Chair Ajit Pai has a 3-2 majority means that the struggle with the FCC is an uphill one. Whatever the FCC decides on this issue, the final resolution to this battle for the net may well be delivered by Congress. The best defense of net neutrality would be to make it law. Otherwise, every time the White House changes hands, the rules will change.

For this reason, Fight For the Future and other advocates for net neutrality are organizing meetings with Congressfolk while the summer recess continues. Find more information at the Battle for the Net site. You can also submit a comment to the FCC (with a copy to your representatives in Congress) at that link.

In the event you need to be persuaded why net neutrality is important, and why the current rules (not Pai’s alternative) represent real net neutrality, look these over:

Defend Net Neutrality! Take your stand while you still can!

Net Neutrality Update: Is John Oliver our only champion?

And a couple of blasts from the last fight:

Why Net Neutrality Matters to Writers

Happy Net Neutrality Day!

Whatever you think, do take action!

Defend Net Neutrality! Take your stand while you still can!

Net Neutrality: 3 corporations vs every other person

Wednesday, July 12 is a National Day of Action to defend the net neutrality rules that allow ordinary people the same amount of access to the Internet as the big corporations.

You’ve probably heard a lot about “fake news” lately. If net neutrality goes away, it’s the Internet Service Providers (your phone, wireless, cable company) who will get to decide how much it costs for your message to reach readers, listeners and viewers. It’s not hard to imagine that if making money or gaining power is your primary reason for being online, you’ll pay the toll to get your “news” (fake or not) out. Cost of doing business. If you’re sharing your expertise, or just spouting off (it’s your right), you’ll probably find the toll a little too steep, and find some other way to sound off.

Whenever you’re seeing this, do take the time to visit the Battle for the Net site right now, where you’ll get a variety of tools to make an impact:

  • File a comment with the Federal Communications Commission (copied to your members of Congress)
  • Share the fight on Facebook and Twitter
  • Show up at your congressional offices at 6PM on Wednesday to tell your representatives what you think
  • Make a video to show the FCC you’re a real live human, not a troll or a bot!
  • Oh yeah, they’ll ask for money too, if you have some to spare

I’m proud that Automattic, the company behind WordPress, will be part of this one-day action. Twitter, Reddit, Netflix, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Kickstarter, Etsy, Vimeo, Private Internet Access, Mozilla, OK Cupid, Imgur, PornHub, Medium, and hundreds of other major sites are also participating.

Thanks for taking action! Feel free to discuss your actions and responses in the comments.

Decentralized Web Pt 2: Surveillance and Privacy

In the last post, I focused on the “walled garden” problem associated with the oligarchy that dominates web traffic today — Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and Apple. That’s not the only issue associated with the Frightful Five, though. Consider your privacy online.

You’ve probably heard the bit about “if the web service is free for your use, you’re not the customer, you’re the product.” It’s as true as it ever was, and if you need more proof, consider why your internet service provider is so keen to remove legal restrictions on sharing your personal information — they argue a need because the content companies have no such restrictions.

Protecting privacy and anonymity onlineAnother privacy issue related to your online conduct is that it’s becoming harder to be anonymous on the web. Here are some ways to do it. That can be a good thing; we all want online bullies, harassers and trolls to be controlled. But consider all those people who live under repressive regimes, where bloggers who write things counter to the prevailing political or cultural winds wind up jailed, tortured, or dead. An enhanced surveillance state isn’t much good for democracy either.

Do I have to mention the threats to privacy represented by the potential for electronic identity theft? With so many folks trying to break security and breaches happening so often, at some point, someone will get access to Facebook’s database.

Nearly Getting it Right

Today, you have the option of creating and maintaining your own site on the World Wide Web. Having control over your own space online allows you to define what information you are willing to share with what subset of humanity. This should be the goal, not simply posting your thoughts, plans and activities to some other billion-dollar corporate entity, hoping that they will do the right thing with your information.

Curiously enough, it was Google Plus that seemed to understand how sharing online content by and from users should be done. They made it easy to define Circles, people who received only information from you that you intended them to see. Unlike Facebook, which wants everything you share to be Public (perhaps in part so they can be less concerned about hiding material that ought not be public).

Of course, like Facebook, Google wants you to post all the things you’re interested in so that they can collect data to better sell you to advertisers. Perhaps that’s a reason Google Plus became one of the more notable Google project failures.

Having your own website is a start, but isn’t everything. In the next post, I want to tell you about the IndieWeb, a way station to the decentralized web.

What concerns you most about the centralized web described here? Do you have a personal experience with lack of privacy or oversharing in social media? Further questions on what the decentralized web might look like? Add a comment!