Open Source Musings

opinion

Kind of bored seeing all these proprietary operating systems and apps at All Things Open. If you're serious about Open Source, use it

I know Shaun, and I know how passionate he is about free and open source software. And I agree with his stance.

That said, when it comes to using open source software on closed platforms, I'm of two minds. As you might guess, those seemingly opposed and contradictory ideas are difficult for me to reconcile.

On one hand, I believe that if you intend to embrace open source you should do it wholeheartedly. That means running open source software on open source operating systems. That means taking the time to adapt to both. That means learning what you need and what you don't need. That means adapting to new user interfaces and to shortcuts and commands. All of that takes time, but the results are worth it.

On the other hand, I understand that open source can be intimidating for some people. They need to ease into it. That means gradually replacing their proprietary software with open source alternatives on Windows and MacOS. Later, they may want to move to Linux in the form of Ubuntu (or one of its variants), elementary OS, or Linux Mint. Or not.

While I'd love more people to fully embrace using open source software on open platforms, I also realize that it's not an option for everyone. At least, not in the short term. As wrote in another post in this space:

Getting more people using open source, and embracing the ideas and values behind it, is the right thing to do. It’s not easy, but it can be done with very little pain. Who knows: by showing people the open source way, we might get some of them to spread the word.

In the end, that benefits us all.

Scott Nesbitt

#opensource #opinion

Over the years, I've read a lot about how Linux on the desktop is dead or dying. About how Linux hasn't been gaining any traction on computers used ... well, used everywhere and by everyone. I've even heard more than a few people muse whether or not Linux is ready for the desktop.

To be honest, I don't care about all those gloom and doom prognostications.

Why?

As I've been saying for a long time, Linux is ready for my desktop. It has been since the turn of the century. Using Linux and various pieces of free and open source software, I can do everything that I want and need to do on a computer. Write and publish? Definitely. Work with graphics? No problem. Play music and video? As long as there's no DRM, all is better than good. Use the web? Obviously ...

And, no, I only have to use the command line if I want to. I do every so often, but that's another story.

For me, Linux just works. More to the point, it lets me work. It's that simple. The experiences of others, the utterances of journalists and pundits, and the disbelief of people around me using Windows and Apple products don't matter to me. What matters are my experiences and how Linux works for me.

Scott Nesbitt

#linux #desktop #opinion

The humble (and often, not-so-humble) text editor. It can be a wonderful thing. I know more than a few people who are zealous about their editors, and view them in the same way that they view their toothbrushes. Yes, they’re that hardcore.

Having said that, I know more than a few people who actually shy away from text editors. Why? Because they view editors as strictly a programmer’s tool. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even though I’m not a coder of any stripe, I find a text editor to be a valuable tool. More than that actually. For me, a good text editor is indispensable.

You might be writing an article, either in straight text or with a markup language like Markdown. You might be editing the HTML of your web site. You might be peeking at a shell script. Or you might just be taking a peek at a README file or change log for some software that you’re about to install. Pulling those kinds of files into a word processor is overkill.

Those are situations in which text editors are very handy. But with so many editors out there for the Linux desktop, how do you choose the one that’s for you? And by you, I mean someone who isn’t a software developer or (too much of) a techie. Someone who thinks that C is the third letter in the alphabet, for whom regular expressions are an ordinary way of speaking.

Everyone has their own favourite editor. Here’s some advice I give people who are looking for the right one for them.

Read more...

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.

Read more...

(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.

Read more...

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