One of the best things about free and open source software (FOSS), and Linux in particular, is the community spirit. Many of the people who use and build these bits of code are genuinely passionate and dedicated to the products and projects they are involved in.
In the FOSS world, a development team is the core of the community, and the symbol of one’s demonstrated ability is the right to commit source code to the core software. Bigger communities, like openSUSE and Ubuntu, have structures for other community contributors.
Goes to show how wired in I am to the world of Ubuntu, but I completely missed Ubuntu Community Appreciation Day yesterday. I’ve been involved with (mostly as an observer) the Ubuntu community for the last year or two, but I’ve played with Ubuntu regularly for much longer.
While I will not suggest for a moment that these communities are electronic Lake Wobegons, peaceful and friendly at all times, I will say that I typically find them helpful places. Then again, occasionally fights break out over issues like systemd (like this one, that ran for over a month!) religious wars between distributions, desktops, and text editors, and whatever else annoys people on a given day.
The routine maintenance that keeps my computer running, and the lawn mowed, and the sinks relatively unclogged, it eats a lot of time. I’m even pretty good at checking off boxes in the average week (my Completed list is pretty sizable, too). But that isn’t the real problem. It’s all the new stuff that software developers and other creative minds keep pumping out that I just have to try out.
Stuff to try
Consider these items in my list:
In the last two weeks, I’ve been invited to two brand new social networks, still in beta.You’ve probably heard of one (ello), but probably not Biosgraphy.
I also got an invitation to Google Inbox, which I’ve experimented with in the last week.
You know that my favorite Linux distributions (openSUSE and Ubuntu) released new versions recently.
I’ve even installed the Windows 10 Preview, and ran it … twice.
Today, I read about OSJourno, a version of Fedora Linux specifically designed for journalists, and I’m dying to try it out.
Not too long ago, the folks at GitHub announced a “hackable text editor” called Atom. A couple of weeks ago, they had an alpha version of same for Windows. I’m downloading it now, with the help of a brand-new package manager called Chocolatey. Then I have to check my Linux distros to see if any of them have an Atom build available.
Think I mentioned this before, but to round things out, I’m still learning Scrivener with the help of some videos from the Scrivener Coach.
Stuff to Learn
Then there are the tools and technologies I really should learn more about:
Simplified markup (Asciidoc, Markdown, Textile). I’m told it takes 10 minutes to learn these commands.
Tonight is update night, when I open up all my virtual machines and get all the latest and greatest software. Back in dialup days, I updated my Linux partitions on Saturday mornings. Nobody would call me, and I figured the remote servers (especially the openSUSE servers in Germany) would be less stressed than during the weekday, speeding the download ever so slightly.
One advantage of having a terabyte of storage on my laptop is that setting up new “systems” is incredibly easy. VirtualBox can set up 150GB hard drives in a few seconds, and installing a new Linux OS with a set of default applications on that empty drive takes about a half hour. So I have too many machines, and clearly not enough time to use all of them effectively. Trying to figure out what to keep. Here’s my current list of client operating systems:
openSUSE Tumbleweed (32-bit): This one is my “everyday” Linux system, but not for much longer. When I first created this VM a year or two ago, VirtualBox didn’t support 64-bit client operating systems. Now they do. Another reason to junk this one: Until now, Tumbleweed represented a stable rolling release. With openSUSE 13.2, it remains a rolling release, but with a few more cutting edge apps that may not be quite as stable as the old Tumbleweed.
Ubuntu 14.10 (32-bit): This connects with my Nexus 7 tablet dual-booting Android and Ubuntu Touch.
Kubuntu 13.10 (32-bit): I should try one of the other flavors of Ubuntu, but what can I say? I’m a KDE guy. I originally installed this after the kerfuffle over Canonical not paying Jonathan Riddell to work on Kubuntu anymore. I wrote about that here and here too.
Ubuntu 14.04 Test: I think I broke this one.
openSUSE 13.1 (KDE:Current, 32-bit): This has unstable KDE apps available, but I think I broke this one too.
openSUSE 13.1 (KDE:Current, 64-bit): May become the ‘new’ everyday system
openSUSE 13.1 (KDE Plasma 5 Preview): This is the next version of KDE, not yet ready for prime time. See Post #201 for that history.
Kubuntu KDE Plasma 5 Preview: See above.
openSUSE 13.2:This is a clean install of the latest openSUSE, and is the other candidate for “everyday” system. This version of the distribution supports seven desktop environments. I want to get them all installed and play with them a bit.
Kubuntu 14.10 (64-bit): Did I mention my affinity for KDE?
It’s all fun, and all good. What does your system look like?
Not to be redundant, but if you live in the United States and it’s still Tuesday, November 4, 2014, you should finish voting before coming back here to read. Polls close, but this collection of words will be here for eternity. Folks younger than 18: you’re excused, but the rest of you…
Now, no matter where you live, or how old you are, you’re reading this on a computer of some sort. If that computer is an Intel-based desktop or laptop, it’s your lucky day: you can upgrade your system to openSUSE 13.2!
While I’ve played with the beta for a couple of weeks, the update server downloaded and installed some 3100+ upgraded software packages to my computer last night (hours ahead of the official release). I’ll be stress-testing the system watching election returns (video, radio, live-blogs, whatever else I can use to feed the news junkie).
Among the favorite things Linux brings you generally is an abundance of choices, and it begins with your desktop environment. This distribution offers seven different ways to organize your daily work. As a KDE guy from day one, I’m really looking forward to trying some of the newer options.
Depending on your skills and talents, one or both of these events may be right for you. If you’re neither a programmer nor teacher, but you’re not exactly new to FOSS, I’ve got another idea for you to contribute to (keep reading!), but that’s not really what I’m jawing at you about today.
However, there are a number of areas where this interface falls short. The most glaring can be that often the applications lack a description or have one so short as to be nearly useless. Another significant point is the lack of user reviews. Reviews help flesh out things that may be missed in a description, as well as provide tips at a glance on what the new user should expect. I believe reviews would be reasonably easy to implement in the current domain, and getting more robust descriptions should not be terribly difficult.
Yet Another Shopping Cart?
Another problem with the current Download setup is that you have to find and run install packages one at a time. Luedecke believes (and I hope he’s right) that openSUSE could allow users to create a ‘cart’ to select a bunch of packages and then check out. The software would then package everything in the cart, downloading and installing it all with one set of confirmations. This would make installing new stuff from the web as easy as installing packages with the Zypper command line interface, or the YaST software management module.
Good descriptions also simplifies the search for high-quality replacements. If it were up to me, I’d add an “Alternative to” field to the description, so people looking for a Photoshop replacement could easily find The GIMP (perhaps a lame, obvious example, but you know what I mean). The AlternativeTo site could offer a database to pluck from.
Reading through the comments on this post, you’ll find some responses from those resistant to change, but I really hope this happens in a reasonable time frame. Will keep an eye on this in the meantime.
If you’re a Linux user (of any distro): How do you discover and try out new free/open source software? Does your distribution make it easy to get new stuff that meets your changing needs?
If you don’t use Linux now: Do you worry that you won’t be able to find the type of software you need? Have you been frustrated when trying to find a replacement for your favorite application? Anything else holding you back?
I thought then that a tablet called the Spark was going to solve that problem, by putting a full-blown Linux (KDE Plasma) desktop on a tablet. Though production hassles have delayed this product, now called Vivaldi, for some 18 months, the project appears to have new life.
The MakePlayLive site, originally built to sell this tablet, relaunched on Monday to sell Improv, what Swapnil Bhartiya at Muktware called “Raspberry Pi’s big brother,” (which is exactly what I thought to call it after seeing the new site–but he got it into print first). It’s a relatively high-powered, but mini board for experimentation. Since the site still promises the Vivaldi is coming, we can probably assume they will build the tablet around something like this board.
I’ve got to learn more about the hardware side of this stuff. While I’m doing that, catch up on this reading:
Happy to report that I’m typing this little missive from my freshly updated Firefox web browser on openSUSE Linux 13.1. While I do that, the YaST Software Management module is busily adding an array of new software from community repositories located all over the globe. As I’ve noted 1000 times before (most recently in this post), YaST stands for Yet another Setup Tool, and remains the most wonderful thing about openSUSE.
While most of the excitement may have surrounded the new openSUSE release, Ubuntu developers gathered around their computers for the November Ubuntu Developers Summit (UDS). I missed most of Mark Shuttleworth’s opening keynote, but hope to catch up with it later. It appears that he took some probing questions from attendees (when I came in to the feed, Shuttleworth was “denying the premise behind your question;” but I don’t know what the question was.) You can see the video (link above) at the UDS site.
I also lurked at the Documentation team round-table, where some planning got done. I will likely have more to report on this in the coming days. The Summit goes through Thursday.
Got questions about openSUSE, or Ubuntu Touch? Always happy to answer them here. Have you attended a developers conference (or hear Shuttleworth ranting)? Feel free to share your experiences!