Open Source Musings

opinion

When I mention that I contribute to free/open source projects, and that I do it for free, the question that I invariably hear is _If you're doing it for free, then what do you get out of it?

That's the wrong question. Why? Because I've already gotten something from the projects that I support. That might be the software I'm using, a community I can turn to for help or take part in, or ideas that intrigue me.

Admittedly, I don't contribute as much as I want to or think I should. But I try to do as much as I can, not matter how little that actually is.

Whether it's writing or crafting documentation, advocating certain projects, writing articles, being a community moderator at Opensource.com, posting in this space, or making a small donation, I'm trying to give something back.

I'm trying to share software and ideas that I appreciate.

I'm trying to spread my enthusiasm for FLOSS.

I'm trying to make more people aware of alternatives to commercial software.

I'm trying to teach and to learn.

Are these efforts reaching anyone? I'm not sure, though I hope they are. But that doesn't mean I'll stop trying.

Scott Nesbitt

#FOSS #opensource #opinion

It's shocking to see what people know, or more to the point don't know, about Linux these days. And I'm not talking about this from the perspective of a techie.

Not only is there a lot of old information and misinformation floating around out there, but there are also a number myths that still linger. And a few persistent whines, too.

There's more to this than what FUDsters keep spreading. It's also the general lack of knowledge on the part of the ordinary computer user and people who should know better.

Here's a look at half a dozen myths and whines surrounding Linux.

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(Note: This post is based on a presentation I gave at the Opensource.com Lightning Talks on October 22, 2014)

There are many people out there who are interested in, and even eager to use, open source. Not just for one or two tasks, but for their entire computing experience. But, for a variety of reasons, they aren’t able or willing to make the leap from the closed, proprietary world to a more free and open one.

Even the more resolute ones hesitate. Why? A big part of it is change, which no one really likes. And they might not know a lot about open source.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned that can help you ease people into open source.

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When I tell people I have 10 thumbs when it comes to anything technical, they don't believe me. In fact, they point to all the articles and blog posts I've written about using the command line to try to refute my claim.

Nice try.

I'm no expert or wizard with the command line. Far from that. And I'm not one of those people who believes that you absolutely must be fluent in command line/shell/terminal (or whatever you want to call it) to be able to use Linux. I know any number of folks who happily and productively use Linux. Not one of them have ever cracked open a terminal window.

So why do I write about the command line, especially in posts and articles aimed at those without many (or any) technical skills? Aimed at people like me? Two reasons.

First, there are a number of command line applications and utilities that anyone can benefit from. Those range from spelling checkers to file conversion tools like pandoc to applications for writers.

Second, you don't need to be an expert to use the command line. You don't need to know how to script. You don't need to remember ever option for every tool that you use. You only need to remember the options that you need to remember, nothing more.

Yes, anyone can use the command line.

That said, being able to use the command line isn't a requirement for using Linux. But using it can expand what you can do with Linux.

Scott Nesbitt

#linux #cli #opinion

I was surprised and saddened when I read this post earlier today. Yes, the venerable Linux Journal has ceased publication. For good this time.

Back in 2017, the magazine announced that it could no longer continue publishing. Shortly afterwards, the Linux Journal got a second lease on life. Sadly, the kind of resurrection doesn't seem to be in the cards this time 'round.

I've been reading the Linux Journal on and off since the 1990s. Even for someone with 10 thumbs when it comes to anything technical, the magazine was a great source of information about Linux and free/open source software.

And while it may sound a bit lame, one of my goals as a writer was to have something published in the Linux Journal. I have to balance the minor disappointment of not achieving a professional goal with the cold reality that the magazine's staff, a group of FOSS advocates who passionately kept the publication alive, are now out of work. I'm hoping they can bounce back.

A tip of the hat to the staff and writers, past and present, of the Linux Journal. You did fine work, and the forum that you provided for both writers and readers will be missed.

Scott Nesbitt

#linux #opinion #linuxjournal

Yes, Linux is beautiful. I know a number of people who disagree with that statement, but I know better. The beauty of Linux isn't skin deep, either.

The beauty of Linux was brought home to me a few years ago, in (of all places) a report about an Apple press event. At the event, an Apple exec stated that there are 600 million PCs that are five years old or older. He added that it was really sad, to which the audience laughed.

In parts of the world, there are countless people who can't afford to buy a computer — the cost of a PC, even an older one, is more than they make in a month or a year. And there are people everywhere who can't afford to upgrade regularly. They have no choice but to get by with older hardware.

For many people, even in the developed world, paying the rent and feeding the family is more important than buying a shiny new gadget. I make a fairly decent salary. I'm not rich, but I'm far from destitute. I could never afford to upgrade at Apple's desired pace pace (assuming I wanted to step on to that particular treadmill).

So, what's the beauty of Linux that I mentioned a few paragraphs ago? The number of distributions that not just run quite nicely on older hardware but which also breathe new life into that older hardware.

Take, for example, my former burner laptop (which found a new home a while back) — I discussed it with Steven Ovadia in an interview with The Linux Setup. That laptop ran Ubuntu Mate. When it gets older and creakier, its new owner can easily install a lighter Linux distribution that will keep it running until the hard drive or processor or other component gives up the ghost. The same goes for the System 76 Galago laptop I bought in 2015 and which I'm writing this post with.

I don't need to, and I can't be compelled to, upgrade my hardware on someone else's schedule. I don't need to, and can't be compelled to, do that deed on someone else's whim. I can do it when I can afford to or when I actually need to. No sooner, no later.

That, to me, is one of the many things that makes Linux beautiful.

Scott Nesbitt

#linux #opensource #opinion

That's the title of an article published at Opensource.com in June, 2019. It's one that, in its original form at least, caused a little controversy as Ben Cotton notes.

But the question has been tugging gently at my brain since then. After unconsciously pondering what a Linux user is, my answer to the question is anyone who uses Linux.

That might be the techie, the hacker, the system administrator, or the developer. It might be an artist or writer. It might be a photographer, a musician, or a student. It might be you.

The only thing that qualifies anyone as being a Linux user is their use of Linux, regardless of their distribution of choice. I know that's blasphemous in some circles, even today. Those who swallow the power user fallacy will argue that unless you use, for example, pure Debian or Arch you aren't doing it right.

It doesn't matter if you use Ubuntu, Elementary, Fedora, Mint, Trisquel, or something else. It doesn't matter if you never compile your own software or kernels. It doesn't matter if you don't fiddle with configuration files. The moment you log into a computer running Linux, you're a Linux user.

Yes, it's that simple.

Scott Nesbitt

#linux #opensource #opinion

It wasn't that long ago that the free and open source (FOSS) world wasn't a pleasant place to be in. If you were someone who lacked technical skills and posted for help in a forum, you were as liable to get belittled as you were to get help.

And woe betide you if you wrote or said something that didn't mesh with the ideas or beliefs of some corner or the other of the FOSS world. Yeah, fun times.

Thankfully, things have changed. For the most part. The free and open source software world is now a lot more open, accepting, giving, and tolerant. There are still pockets like the ones I just described, but they're fewer and smaller now. But the attitude that you need deep technical skills to be involved in or use FOSS persists.

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About which Linux distro you use and why.

About your favourite window manager.

About which text editor you prefer.

About whether or not you think the command line is useful.

About who you buy your hardware from.

About whether or not you use web-based applications and why.

About what license you prefer.

About your choices and what you think of any of my choices.

There’s an old saying: to each their own. That’s how I feel about most things. Everything that I just mentioned, and more, is a matter of personal choice. Mine, yours, and everyone else’s. In my case, it’s also about what works for me. It’s not about ideology or what’s popular or even me going against the grain.

My choices might not mesh with yours. That’s to be expected. But I don’t want to hear about it.

That is all.

Scott Nesbitt

#FOSS #opinion