NSA: Please Turn off the Lights When You Leave. Nothing to See Here.

Linux Advocate Dietrich Schmitz shows how the general public can take action to truly protect their privacy using GnuPG with Evolution email. Read the details.

Mailvelope for Chrome: PGP Encrypted Email Made Easy

Linux Advocate Dietrich Schmitz officially endorses what he deems is a truly secure, easy to use PGP email encryption program. Read the details.

Step off Microsoft's License Treadmill to FOSS Linux

Linux Advocate Dietrich Schmitz reminds CIOs that XP Desktops destined for MS end of life support can be reprovisioned with FOSS Linux to run like brand new. Read how.

Bitcoin is NOT Money -- it's a Commodity

Linux Advocate shares news that the U.S. Treasury will treat Bitcoin as a Commodity 'Investment'. Read the details.

Google Drive Gets a Failing Grade on Privacy Protection

Linux Advocate Dietrich Schmitz puts out a public service privacy warning. Google Drive gets a failing grade on protecting your privacy.

Email: A Fundamentally Broken System

Email needs an overhaul. Privacy must be integrated.


Cookie Cutter Distros Don't Cut It


The 'Linux Inside' Stigma - It's real and it's a problem.

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Turn a Deaf Ear

Linux Advocate Dietrich Schmitz reminds readers of a long ago failed petition by Mathematician Prof. Donald Knuth for stopping issuance of Software Patents.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Slackware: Is Systemd Inevitable?

by Dietrich Schmitz

I recently wrote a story Systemd: The New Pulse Audio as regards the work undertaken by Red Hat and one employee +Lennart Poettering to improve Linux with a middleware daemon called systemd.

Much press has been given to the story surrounding systemd putting the work into question. Still, the work progresses and continues to move forward and many Linux Distros have chosen to adopt it as others opt to take a 'wait and see' approach.

So, far, the oldest Linux Distro Slackware has avoided the issue and the most recent version, Slackware 14.0 released last fall by its Founder +Patrick Volkerding, is doing just fine without it.

I came across an interview done by LinuxQuestions.org with Patrick and share here a passage in his interview which deals directly with the issue of systemd.  Patrick writes:

"...Concerning systemd, I do like the idea of a faster boot time (obviously), but I also like controlling the startup of the system with shell scripts that are readable, and I'm guessing that's what most Slackware users prefer too. I don't spend all day rebooting my machine, and having looked at systemd config files it seems to me a very foreign way of controlling a system to me, and attempting to control services, sockets, devices, mounts, etc., all within one daemon flies in the face of the UNIX concept of doing one thing and doing it well. To the typical end user, if this results in a faster boot then mission accomplished. With udev being phased out in favor of systemd performing those tasks we'll have to make the decision at some point between whether we want to try to maintain udev ourselves, have systemd replace just udev's functions, or if we want the whole kit and caboodle...."
Given the foregoing and given that historically Gnome was removed from Slackware, it would seem that Patrick is being careful not to tip his hand one way or another as to whether he will 'yield to pressure' and become systemd-compliant.

I speculate (Patrick's development is kept private so nobody get's access to his decision making until he says so), that Patrick's plan's for the next revision may well include software design changes that successfully keep systemd out of his implementation.

If that is the case, it would be virtuous if other Community Developers fell in lock-step and provided him assistance in such a worthy effort.

Personally, I can understand the contention surrounding systemd's invasiveness and how it violates the UNIX concept of "doing one thing and doing it well".

Specifically, having the initialization process loosely coupled to a series of run level cascading shell scripts has served Linux well for many years and maybe the concern that work being done on systemd is too ambitious insofar as bringing too many processes under control of one daemon service, systemd is warranted.  Add that the logging of activities taken by systemd are no longer human readable, but journalized in a binary format and you have a recipe for programmer revolt.

It was most recently the genesis of a decision by Fuduntu to close its doors as the volume of programming required to merge needed systemd changes was simply too large an undertaking for its meager staff to handle.

Will Slackware be the next Distro to fall in line and become systemd-compliant?  Stay tuned for developments.

-- Dietrich

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Monday, April 29, 2013

Confused by FuSE

by Dietrich Schmitz

[Edit: 4/29/2013 2:00pm GMT-5 Comments on this post has been closed.]

[Edit: 4/29/2013 6:00pm GMT-5 A correction to the below story has been made to reflect that +Andrew Wyatt, not Lee Ward, was the sole decision maker on the closure of the Fuduntu website.  The pullquote cited from OStatic was incorrect.  

We apologize for any misunderstanding that may have resulted from this error.]

So it has been decided by +Lee Ward+Andrew Wyatt that Fuduntu's shop will close its doors effective immediately.

Previously, upon announcement of the 'end of life' for Fuduntu, it was indicated that Fuduntu revisions would be forthcoming through the end of year 2013.

Not according to Lee WardAndrew Wyatt.  As reported in an OStatic story:

This weekend brought the news that Fuduntu will be no more effective immediately. WardWyatt said that most of their users have moved on anyway and the team members are already working on FuSE. There just doesn't seem to be any interest in developing Fuduntu anymore even for just a few more months. He said, "May you all find a replacement distribution that you enjoy as much as you enjoyed Fuduntu."

Personally, I have reservations about this decision.  How exactly does this represent innovation?  Taking and forking another concern's Distro, in this case openSuSE and adding Consort by itself isn't noteworthy.

I mean today anyone can create a cookie-cutter Distro.  With all due respect to +Ikey Doherty for his work on Consort, that clearly is innovative and speaks for itself and volumes regarding Ikey's talent.

But I can't help but feel the effort to fork openSuSE is a wasted effort and a diversion from doing real innovating.

There's nothing wrong with doing it but it continues to dilute the pool of technology represented by Linux on the Desktop.

The codebase for openSuSE is massive and I am quite certain the Lee Ward's team is understaffed to maintain or even scratch the surface in comprehending the depths to which one must go to keep such a Distro going.

Once upon a time, and up until 2006, I was a tried and true openSuSE Linux advocate.  It was with the poisoning of the well by Ron Hovsepian and the Novell/Microsoft Interoperability that I withdrew my support and moved to Ubuntu.  To this very day, SuSE Gmbh, the commercial version receives financial support from Microsoft.

So, you see, openSuSE is simply not a Distro I can or will ever consider by virtue of that relationship.

I am not sure if Lee Ward 'the FuSE Team' gave that any consideration but I don't see any merit in cloning yet another Distro and bolting on someone else's GUI and calling that progress.

FuSE will have little to differentiate itself aside from Consort as far as I can tell.

So, color me confused, if you will, by this decision.  There's nothing particularly interesting about it.

-- Dietrich

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Turbo Charge Yum with Fastest Mirror and AxelGet Plugins

by Dietrich Schmitz

Holy Crap.

I just finished adding AxelGet to Fedora 18.

What does it do?  

Well, it speeds up your yum downloads by opening multiple ports in parallel, which in turn speeds up your update experience, dramatically.

Now, I've always done my iso downloads using Axel which is the same protocol for AxelGet called by yum.  The axel protocol is arguably faster than any bittorrent.  Just pass the url of a given file which you wish to download to axel in a terminal and off it goes on a tear burning rubber as it starts.

Axel is in the Fedora repository, but if you are currently using another Distro, you can right-click the above link and download a tar.gz of it.  You'll need to untar it to a directory, cd to that directory, ./configure, make and sudo make install to have it available on your machine.

So, I am recommending that the Fedora Team put AxelGet into their standard install as it should be there alongside all the other plugins like Fastest-Mirror.

In this article you'll learn how to install both Fastest Mirror and AxelGet plugins into Fedora 18.

Fastest Mirror

To avail yourself to using Fastest Mirror, open a terminal window and type:

$sudo yum install yum-plugin-fastestmirror

The point of this plugin is for yum to locate a repo mirror which is fastest for your download, presumably one closest to your geographical location.


AxelGet is found in the Google Code repository.  Essentially you will need two files, one being a configuration file, axelget.conf and the other being a Python yum plugin, axelget.py.

Essentially, we need to to download each.  Right-click the links above and save into your ~/Downloads directory.

From a terminal window type:

$cd && cd Downloads

Then axelget.conf must be copied into /etc/yum/pluginconf.d/ directory.  From a terminal, type:

$sudo cp axelget.conf /etc/yum/pluginconf.d/

File axelget.py needs to be copied into /usr/lib/yum-plugins/ by typing the following:

$sudo cp axelget.py /usr/lib/yum-plugins/

You can test the speed now of axelget by installing any application.  I chose LibreOffice.  Remember to observe all rules of the road and traffic regulations.

Always use yum responsibly.

-- Dietrich
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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Stop the Linux Desktop Madness: You Have Options

by Dietrich Schmitz

With all of the insane decision making that has taken place at Canonical with Unity and The Gnome Project with Gnome 3.8 just out, it can make a grown Man cry in despair.

But fear not.  Hope is on the horizon.  You do fortunately have Desktop alternatives to avoid the madness and chaos that looms.

I'll cover a few of them here so at least you are apprised of your options.


I currently enjoy the serenity of this nimble Desktop.  It's truly a great option for those suffering refugees coming away from a bad experience with the terror of Unity and Gnome 3.x.  The beauty of Xfce is that it uses GTk2 libaries and will take you back to a Gnome 2.x experience albeit with a slice of Xf playing into the mix.  It really does the job of giving you what you want and a large degree of flexibility in configuration options.  Best of all, its memory footprint is meager and you'll discover that it breathes life back into your rig as screens snap up crisply with no delay.  Add a few nice themes and fonts and enable the built-in compositor and, presto change-o, you have the essential ingredients for a truly efficient but pleasant Desktop Environment.  Having dependencies on GTk2 means that there is no reliance upon Gnome whatsoever, which should be in your best interests and incorporated into your strategy for avoiding pain.


Even leaner than Xfce, LXDE brings a somewhat spartan GUI experience but really gets the job done.  It isn't sexy by any means but for the minimalists, having the DE sip ram reigns supreme.  LXDE does that exceedingly well.


It was over a year ago that Clem Lefevre of Linux Mint fame chose to fork Gnome 2.3x to MATE.  During that same period, he also chose to fork Gnome 3.x to Cinnamon.  It was truly ambitious for an outfit with limited resources such as Mint to have undertaken at the time, but Clem prevailed and succeeded in doing so.  The key issue to be mindful of with MATE and Cinnamon is that both suffer from falling behind on code maintenance, especially MATE.   Still, if you long for the good old days and miss Gnome 2.3x, then, by all means, jump on MATE and feel immediate relief as the nostalgia sets in. [Edit: MATE released version 1.6 on 4/3/2013, so that's a plus; also I have been advised that Clem forked Cinnamon, not MATE see the comments directly below from +Maik Adamietz who clarified the issue on my private LA G+ community site. ]

Maik Adamietz6:52 PM (edited)

+Dietrich Schmitz i just noticed something in the MATE part. It wasn't Clement Lefebvre (Clem) at all who chose to fork Gnome 2.3x to MATE. Clem just jumped in on the MATE project as project management, he manages the releases, does the communication and provides the hosting.

Perberos (a guy from Arch) was the one who decided to fork Gnome 2.3X into MATE. He's the one that is the projects founder, developer and packaging MATE for Arch Linux:



True is that Clem forked Gnome 3 into Cinnamon.
Collapse this comment

KDE Plasma Workspaces

What can I say about KDE?  +Aaron Seigo, I take my hat off to you and the KDE Team.  This is the true benchmark for all other Linux Desktop Environments to be measured by.  I won't equivocate  and will simply say that if your PC has 4GB ram, go straight to KDE and enjoy the luxury and prestige of running a DE replete with eye candy and an unparalleled feature set.  KDE truly is the champion Desktop Environment, bar none.


Well, +Aaron Seigo and Team are at it again.  They've got a new lightweight KDE desktop in the works.  It's not soup yet, but it will be only a matter of time before we can sink our teeth into this DE.  I for one am looking forward to giving it a spin.  Aaron give me a heads up when you have something, yes?


Well, this is ambitious and quite clever and I am happy to see that it was done by someone. Razor-Qt gives the immediate feeling of KDE yet gets you all of the basics with no fanfare.  Of course, it uses the Qt framework which gives it that tell tale look of quality and style that I enjoy and you will too.  The memory footprint is lean and this will be an obvious choice for those with older PCs configured with less ram as well as Netbook users like myself.

[Edit: 4/28/2013 19:33 GMT-5 Someone gave me a heads up in the comments section, I forgot Enlightenment E17.  Eeeek. Major blunder and effusive apologies.]

Other Desktop Window Managers (WMs)

I would be remiss and catch major flack from the readers if I failed to mention a few of the Window Managers that have gained popularity among the technophiles.  WMs tend to be exceedingly lightweight in memory consumption and awesomely fast, yet, they might also be less user-friendly.  They do in truth have a performance edge, no question, but reaching proficiency and configuration can both be a challenge.

I'll just give a mention on each because, really, I am an ignoramous extraordinaire when it comes to WMs, I readily admit.  A few of my friends' DEs look like they work for the NASA Space Center and it scares me. ;)

Tiling Window Managers

  • Awesome
  • i3
  • dwm
  • Matchbox
  • Tritium
  • wmii
  • xmonad

Stacking Window Managers

  • Awesome
  • FluxBox
  • OpenBox
  • IceWM
  • Sawfish
  • Window Maker

I see it coming--I've left someone's favorite WM out of the list.  Hanging my head in shame--I am not worthy. ;)  Seriously, there are so many and I can only say go and look on Wikipedia and sample from their lists and decide if  WMs are for you.

Well, as you can plainly see, you are not a caged animal and do have a recourse.  There are so many good GUI options from which to choose that one can be quite happy and maintain one's sanity in the presence of such disasters the likes of Unity and Gnome 3.8.

Get out there and give them a try.  There is hope and You have options.

-- Dietrich

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Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Achilles Heel of Open Source: Elitism

by Dietrich Schmitz

The premise has always been that open source development should thrive and be guided by consensus and openness.

Consensus in the sense that a community who share in the development of a given application or Linux Distro energizes participation and guides teamwork when all recognize they have a role in moving toward a desired group goal in a cooperative effort.

The idea that computer software source code can be shared and reused and improved, provided that such changes to code are given back is central to the open source Gnu Public License v2.

No effort to move forward under the GPLv2 License is more symbolic than the collective work embodied by the Linux Kernel.

Many projects have been produced using the GPL as the basis for development for various 'moving parts' of the Linux Distribution (Distro), including system middle-ware components, utilities, and graphical Desktop Environments all working together in concert, meshing seamlessly to render the Distro experience.

To a large extent each software project has its own community with various responsibilities that combine to achieve the project's goals.  Communities around a project vary in size and as the organization dictates the size will grow according to the demands and initiatives undertaken by its members.

When consensus is taken and the feedback results in new design decisions and new feature enhancements, new branches of code are created to facilitate new major software revisions.  Committers who officially contribute code to a project typically store their changes in a central repository using Internet software revision control systems such as Git, or Subversion.  Revision control software will carefully track 'deliverables' and maintain versioning of a project through its software life cycle.

But when consensus is made but not incorporated into a decision making process, there is no longer a continuity between goals and objectives that everyone can accept.

The decisions made by a few people in power and only those people is being referred to here in this context as Elitism.

Risks of Operating in an Elitist Environment

By default, Elitism is exclusionary and ignores shared responsibility in the decision making process for a given project or organization.  Elitism promotes social stratification and division and gives those few decision makers a sense of privileged special status.

The risks inherent in working for an organization or for a project which is controlled by Elitism is that morale will suffer as team members discover their input on decisions doesn't matter.

Often Defeatist Elitism takes control of an otherwise open decision making process where the individual charged with making the final choice will with impunity put down or discourage collaboration and either verbally or in writing show dissatisfaction toward individuals bringing their own ideas to a group discussion.

In addition to harming morale, members in a group effort will be less inclined to take initiative and do independent learning, and many will become exasperated at seeing their work or ideas not being given credit and simply resign from active participation.

This can hurt the reputation of the organization or project and result in a loss of competing market share.  The level of risk for having made a bad strategic decision and continuing to support its advancement increases in likelihood, despite however bad the choice was or the probability of failure is, under an elitist's tight control.

Signs of Elitism

Watching the progress of Canonical, it is becoming increasingly evident that the culture of Ubuntu software development is severely hampered by the elitist behavior of Mark Shuttleworth:

  • Making a choice to move to Unity and choke off support for rearward compatibility with Gnome 2.3x feature sets is magnified by the proliferation of third-party utilities to tweak the GUI and fill major feature regressions.  

  • Radical changes to remove a traditional, intuitive Menu Structure (Gnome 2.3x Applications Places System Menu) in favor of 'searching' for an application is a strong warning sign that common sense traditional methods have taken a back seat to whimsical ideas and a 'we know best' what users need on their Desktop.  

  • Devoting major development efforts in Unity to allow searches of Amazon from the Desktop (vs. a browser) is another warning sign that in the shadow of one Man's elitist control, the direction and reputation of Ubuntu have taken a U-turn away from acceptable use in violation of users' privacy rights.  In spite of cries discouraging its implementation, the Amazon Lens went into Ubuntu 12.10 but has since included a system toggle to disable it by default.

  • Despite being an up-hill battle with little chance of gaining significant market share, Canonical now has plans to build a smartphone running Ubuntu with Unity, only called Ubuntu Touch.


So, the danger of an open source project's goals being precluded and derailed by Elitism  are a big concern.  One might say even, the risk that Ubuntu is leaning towards becoming proprietary is not out of the realm of possibility.

Ubuntu Linux--It's one big flashing road side billboard Folks--Elitism at work.

Take note!

-- Dietrich

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Friday, April 26, 2013

Red Hat Linux is Here Today and Now

by Dietrich Schmitz

I've been biding my time for several years with Ubuntu Linux.  What?

Oh, that's right, they aren't using the 'L' word any more--it's now just plain Ubuntu.  As if that is going to help their cause?  I doubt it.

Color me doubtful because Canonical haven't gained real traction in the U.S. to speak of.  At what point do you cut bait with a company run by an elitist millionaire who likes to have things his way and who won't hesitate to tell you that 'he knows best'?

No, I am quite done with Canonical's shenanigans.  You see, they just don't get that Unity is still a regression.  They will never admit that.  Instead, they now have a version of Ubuntu called Ubuntu Touch.  I believe that if Canonical were timely and had gotten to market three years ago, then their Unity touch interface might have garnered some business.

Per usual, Canonical are a day late and a dollar short.  And that goes too for their foray into producing smartphones running Ubuntu.  It's just an uphill battle they won't win against the standard bearer Android and Apple iOS iPhone treading water in second place sales.

So, when I choose Fedora as my preferred Linux Desktop, I do so for several reasons.  One because I feel sponsoring their Distro will 'make a difference'.

Sponsoring a smaller Distro, will not have a major impact.  It's okay for everyone to have choice but the proliferation of cookie cutter Distros is diluting innovation.  It's getting so Pete can have his own PeteOS Linux and there's nothing proven by doing so.  Keep using what you like, but for me, it's more important to be where I feel support will make a difference.

You see, Red Hat sponsor and underwrite ongoing research and development funneled into Fedora.  And Red Hat continues to grow with $1B+ annual sales year over year.

Red Hat is a company that has learned and sets an example for others to follow on how open source Linux can truly be monetized.  Red Hat's subscription based Software as a Service (SaaS) business model is succeeding.

And I am behind that.  Red Hat started Linux off in the early nineties and struggled to profit but they have now reached the mountain top.

Red Hat doesn't live on their laurels either and continue to innovate and give back with their sharing of KVM and establishment of the Open Virtualization Alliance (OVA).  Red Hat don't just cherry pick like Canonical.  No, they are on record ranked as number two in an annual report from the Linux Foundation for contributions to the Linux Kernel for 2012.

Make a difference.  Put your endorsement on Fedora because Red Hat will continue to grow and succeed in broad strokes around the globe.

Red Hat Linux is here today and now.

-- Dietrich

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The Rise of 'Open Source': It's Not Just About Software

by Katherine Noyes 

Here in the tech world, it's become increasingly common to see market research and reports testifying to the growing ubiquity of open source software, such as the one just last week from Black Duck Software and North Bridge Venture Partners indicating that open source is “eating” the software world, as the authors put it.

What's typically not recognized, however, is that this trend toward openness in software is just one piece of a much bigger picture. In fact, openness is a trend that's taking hold throughout numerous aspects of the modern world, to the benefit of everyday people like you and me.

Open,” in other words, appears to be the future – whether we're talking software or beyond.

Ready for a quick tour? Most Linux advocates are already well aware of the benefits of open source when it comes to software, but here are two other kinds of openness I've come to appreciate from the writing I do outside the tech world.

1. The Crowdsourcing Trend

It used to be that companies were expected to create products, and consumers were expected to consume them. Legislators were expected to create laws, and citizens were expected to obey them. Investors were expected to provide funds, and companies were expected to generate a return on that investment.

Today, that's all been turned on its head. Companies routinely recruit consumers for help designing products; not only that, but they use those ideas and even reward those who came up with them. Legislators like former California Senator Joe Simitian invite – and act upon -- constituents' input for conceiving new laws.

The explosive success of sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, meanwhile, is evidence of the key role consumers have begun to play in funding the products and services that matter to them in virtually every niche and industry.

The bottom line, as I've said before, is that no organization is an “island” anymore. Consumers and citizens increasingly expect – and are afforded – openness and an active role.

2. 'Transparency Tyranny'

At the same time, no government or corporation can continue to get away with operating in secret, or behind closed doors. The global economic crisis of recent years has made it all too clear to citizens how much power has been abused at their expense, and the ongoing activities of watchdog organizations like Wikileaks have continued to drive that message home.

Except in very rare cases – Apple, in fact, might well be one of them, at least among a niche set of consumers -- citizens and customers are no longer willing to trust companies or governments to do what's best for them. The result is a phenomenon that Trendwatching.com (sister site to Springwise, one of the publications I write for) has named “Transparency Tyranny” for the fact that corporate and governmental organizations no longer have anywhere to hide; citizens and consumers are always watching and publishing their assessments for all the world to see.

The world is opening up, in other words. The horses are out of the barn, and they're not going back again. The interesting part now is to watch how the organizations that affect our lives choose to respond.

-- Katherine

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