Not just the new black

The phrase “$SOMETHING_TRENDY is the new black” seems to be everywhere. To quote Wikipedia, the phrase is “an expression used to indicate the sudden popularity or versatility of an idea at the expense of the popularity of a second idea. It is the originator of the phrasal template ‘X is the new Y.’ The phrase seemed to have started in the 1950s or 1960s.”

Be that as it may, bloggers like to point out that CrunchBang — our increasingly popular distro — comes in basic black, which it does. However, what often goes unmentioned is that it doesn’t have to stay that way.

In many cases, it doesn’t stay that way.

In fact, taking a lap around the CrunchBang forum’s July 2013 Screenshot Thread will show you what can be done with CrunchBang screens that, in my opinion, are blank canvases as opposed to “basic black” (also, each month’s Screenshot Thread is catalogued here by month under the Artwork and Screenshot heading in the forums). In addition, some folks have taken to posting their screenshots on the CrunchBang Google+ community site (and if you’re not participating in the CrunchBang Google+ community, it’s about time you did).

There’s a lot of screenshot material available in the CrunchBang forums, especially if you go back a few months.

My screnshot photo is of Mount Shasta, taken by CrunchBanger rstrcogburn, can be found in the Artwork and Screenshots subject under the Cog’s Corner item here. As you can see, there’s a lot of dark blue in the upper right (and upper left, for that matter) to put a modified Conky.

Except on the holidays. During the Yuletide, I put up this screenshot which originated from CrunchBang user Milozzy. Interestingly enough, when I show screenshots to folks when talking about CrunchBang to groups, this one is one of the favorites.

Again, I don’t consider CrunchBang finished once it’s downloaded and the “welcome script” has completed its run. As many of you already realize, it’s just the beginning, and the variety of screenshots that many of you create show an artesian depth of creativity on behalf of the distro. Thanks for your contributions.

So if you haven’t done so already, go ahead and post your screenshot here (or if you’re reading this after July, pick the appropriate month). Remember (and this is important): Make sure you post your screenshot as a thumbnail, and instructions to do so are in the first post in the topic.

Don’t be shy: I have one there somewhere and it pales in comparision to what others can do with GIMP and other photo tools.

So let that Picasso, or that Rembrandt, or that Van Gogh trapped inside you run wild.

Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software at Redwood Digital Research (RDR), a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment. RDR is based in Felton, California, USA.

Crunchbang Add to Technorati Favorites EFF Binary Freedom Wordpress button dbEntrance button Scribus Conky LibreOffice PostgreSQL identi.ca python scale 10x

Judging one’s character, not one’s hardware

Once upon a time, you had to install a PowerPC version of Linux on Macs. About the time I started using Linux in 2006 — and I had a iMac, a Power Macintosh G3 tower and a PowerBook G3 Wallstreet — I installed the PowerPC version of Debian (and then Xubuntu) on the iMac, and using BootX (anyone remember BootX?) installed Linux on the other two in what seems now like prehistoric dual-booting.

Point here: I never owned Intel-based hardware until I started using Linux, getting my first of many ThinkPads shortly after converting to Linux.

Now that Macs are Intel-based, Macs can run Linux fairly easily. In fact, Erik Schneider proves this by dual-booting CrunchBang with Lion on his Mac hardware.

So now we’re four paragraphs in and you’re asking yourself, “What the heck is he talking about?”

Glad you asked.

Two topics in the CrunchBang forums — two topics now closed by the moderators — dealt with the mistakenly blanket judgement that Macintosh users are elitists or somehow different than other users, either better or worse depending on the one posting.

Seriously?

I used Macs years ago because that’s what I had at the time. I wouldn’t judge someone by the hardware they use, just as I wouldn’t judge someone by the car they drive. People use what works for them, or at least they should. Heck, I wouldn’t even judge people by the operating system they use — if they don’t use Linux, I’d gladly suggest to them why they should, but ultimately it’s their decision.

But, as the auto ads say, your mileage may vary and you may not agree with this, and that’s fine.

Regardless, there are standards of CrunchBang forum behavior outlined here and that’s something to keep in mind when posting. Additionally, allow me to quote a sentence from the document: “We are all for free speech but at our heart we are a friendly, helpful forum community and I would like to see us stay that way.”

Now, let’s play nice out there.

Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software at Redwood Digital Research (RDR), a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment. RDR is based in Felton, California, USA.

Crunchbang Add to Technorati Favorites EFF Binary Freedom Wordpress button dbEntrance button Scribus Conky LibreOffice PostgreSQL identi.ca python scale 10x

My second anniversary

This will be short: I just noticed that today, July 20, is the second anniversary of my first post to the CrunchBang forums. I’m not usually a sucker for sentiment, but I have to say that reading my first post — an introduction post, of course — has given me pause, thinking about what a great day-to-day distro corenominal has made, and what a great community has come together around it.

I’m glad to be here. I’m glad to be a CrunchBang user and contributor, however small, to the distro. And, of course, I’m glad to join all of you in the CrunchBang community, which is the best community in FOSS.

So raise a glass of whatever you’re drinking, and cheers.

Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software at Redwood Digital Research (RDR), a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment. RDR is based in Felton, California, USA.

Crunchbang Add to Technorati Favorites EFF Binary Freedom Wordpress button dbEntrance button Scribus Conky LibreOffice PostgreSQL identi.ca python scale 10x

Movin’ on up

As I’ve said in the past, the DistroWatch.com listing of page hit rankings is a good way to see if one’s distro’s page is being looked at. With folks looking at the pages, one would hope that downloads and actual use of the distro would follow. So while it may not give an accurate description of actual use of the distro, the page hit rankings do give folks an idea which distros are doing well and which may not be.

Bear in mind, too, that what is shown on the Distrowatch front page is the top 100, and there are about 200 others below this. You can see the absolute top-to-bottom rankings here.

All that said, it bears mentioning that CrunchBang, which once ranked somewhere between the 20s and the 40s in the top 100 rankings, is moving up. Looking at the rankings from today (July 17) at different intervals, we see:

Data span: Last 12 months:

12month

As you can see, CrunchBang has broken into the teens at 17. But wait, there’s more:

Data span: Last 6 months:

6month

Well, up to 14 in this category. How much higher can it go?

Data span: Last 3 months:

3month

OK, so we’re moving up a notch to “lucky 13.” How about a look back at the last month?

Data span: Last 30 days:

30day

Oops. Looks like we dropped a bit, but if you’ll notice at the right, next to the number, all the numbers have a little up-arrow — that’s a good sign. So let’s take a look, finally, at last week:

Data span: Last 7 days:

7day

So there you have it — we’re number 11. Over the last week, the 11th most looked at distro was CrunchBang, and with this kind of attention, chances are there have been a lot of downloads.

Not bad for a distro where project leader Philip Newborough has said, “It is a common mistake to think that every developer wants their project to be widely popular.”

So thank you, Philip, for giving us this great distro. And thank you, CrunchBang community, for adding the quality help in the forums — give your fellow CrunchBang community member a pat on the back and, heck, give yourself a pat on the back as well.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software at Redwood Digital Research (RDR), a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment. RDR is based in Felton, California, USA.

Crunchbang Add to Technorati Favorites EFF Binary Freedom Wordpress button dbEntrance button Scribus Conky LibreOffice PostgreSQL identi.ca python scale 10x

What you see is what you get

[Blogger’s note: This is a copy of the Larry the Free Software Guy post from today. Since it involves CrunchBang, it is reposted here as Larry the CrunchBang Guy post.]

Surprise: It’s not Sunday, but still here’s a Larry the Free Software Guy blog post.

I was speaking to someone today who was recently “slashdotted” — clearly both a rite of passage and a badge of honor in FOSS circles — and I started to think about my experience on Slashdot a few months ago.

At Linux Fest Northwest, a videographer interviewed me about CrunchBang, and it ended up on Slashdot. No, I didn’t change my surname to “Califero,” as the title shows at the beginning of the video, but never mind. There’s about 18 or so minutes of me talking about CrunchBang — about the same length of time in the gap in the Watergate tapes (purely coincidental, I assure you) — but I thought it was a lot of fun and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

I should mention that although I didn’t respond to any of the comments, I found a great majority of them to be entertaining and hilarious. I am grateful for the entertainment. I could have addressed the phalanx of malcontents who seem to have nothing better to do than post comments on Slashdot articles (that, of course, does not include all commenters, but some), but I decided not to. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a raindrop in the Pacific, so I just enjoyed the moment.

This morning, I thought about the video and the Slashdot experience because there are comments that I thought were unfair and could use clarification.

Specifically, one commenter said that there was an opportunity missed and, to paraphrase, the commenter implied I didn’t “sell” CrunchBang properly. That’s interesting because it wasn’t a sales pitch, and as much as CrunchBang works for me, it might not work for him or her — that’s a determination that one has to make for one’s self by trying it.

In fact, in my opinion, the only thing FOSS advocates for any distro or FOSS program should “sell” is the concept of using whichever distro or FOSS program works for you. If there was anything lacking in the video, it’s this.

As an aside, CrunchBang’s lead developer Philip Newborough himself has said this in the past, and it’s on a slide in my standard CrunchBang presentation: “It is a common mistake to think that every developer wants their project to be widely popular.”

The other thing I wanted to mention — and something else I find humorous — is this: A slew of Captain Obvious wannabes couldn’t help pointing out to me, and to others (which, sooner or later, made their way back to me) that I may not be the most handsome or eloquent “spokesman” for the distro.

First of all, I’m not CrunchBang’s spokesman. That would be Philip Newborough. But let’s put that aside for a second.

It may come as a surprise to some, but I am at peace with the fact that I no longer possess my drop-dead handsome boyish charm of decades past, and I realize my public speaking skills run hot and cold; nothing short of plastic surgery and hair transplants could remotely help the former, and I’m working to be more consistent on the latter.

Other than forum moderator, I hold no official title within the CrunchBang community. I lend my fairly extensive experience as a FOSS exhibitor to CrunchBang at the shows I attend with permission from the lead developer, and I gladly do this at my own expense.

I contribute time, and occasionally money, because CrunchBang is an exceptional project based on a remarkable Debian-based distro backed by a community model of service and cooperation. Being as involved as I am, I feel there are two options I can take: I could say nothing to others about it and keep all this FOSS goodness to myself, or I could let others know about this great thing called CrunchBang and let them decide if they want to be a part of it.

Keeping it to myself would be selfish, so I let others know — yeah, I plead guilty to evangelistic zeal at times, but in the end it’s really up to you to try it and determine if it’s right for you. That last part? I make that point in presentation after presentation I give about CrunchBang and hope it sinks in.

So those of you who aren’t using it, or haven’t tried it, give it a shot and let me know what you think. If you like it? Great. If it’s not for you? OK then, thanks for giving it a shot.

In the end, what you see is really what you get.

See you Sunday.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software at Redwood Digital Research (RDR), a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment. RDR is based in Felton, California, USA.

Crunchbang Add to Technorati Favorites EFF Binary Freedom Wordpress button dbEntrance button Scribus Conky LibreOffice PostgreSQL identi.ca python scale 10x

Why CrunchBang is good for beginners

As many of you already know, I also blog as Larry the Free Software Guy and sometimes, when these blogs deal with CrunchBang, I usually merge the two. Yesterday, I wrote a blog item about something I found on the CrunchBang forums — TuxRadar’s Distro Picker — and a comment on the blog caused me to think about distros and which distros are better for new Linux users than others.

I know, it’s an age-old argument: Some say people need familiarity, so you want to give them the most “Windows-like” experience you can. Others will say, “Just throw ’em in the deep end of the pool to see if they’ll swim.”

I fall somewhere in between, though leaning toward the swimming pool side of the argument.

And here, a confession: When I first started using CrunchBang two years ago (it’ll be two years on July 20, for the record — at least that’s when I first posted to the forums), I thought it might not be a good idea for new users to use it. Over time and in discussions with others, and swayed by a convincing argument made by my fellow mod pvsage several months ago (maybe longer), I now think anyone with a normal cognitive capacity can throw off the shackles of Windows and can easily adapt to CrunchBang.

So when someone commented on the Larry the Free Software Guy blog to say that the Linux Distro Picker was “dumb,” and that new users should use “starter distros” (my term, not the commenters), I disagreed.

We really shouldn’t fall into the trap that non-Linux users are complete morons, or non-Linux users lose the ability to use a computer because they’re behind the screen of a non-Windows box or laptop. They’re not stupid; at worst, they’re just unfamiliar with what’s new to them, a condition that one can easily overcome by spending some time in front of the screen. Also, there’s a wide range of reasons people use their hardware, and they fall between two extremes: Hardware used solely as tools and hardware solely used as appliances (or hardware solely used as toys, but that really falls under “appliances”).

But let’s shoot for the middle and go for those who use their hardware for what we might call “average use” — surfing the web, e-mailing, maybe some photo fixing and transfer and things like this. For those folks, a wide variety of distros can easily be used, not just the “distros-with-training-wheels” like Ubuntu or Linux Mint (though I am not criticizing either for their ease of use; well, at least Linux Mint’s ease of use anyway). Just bear in mind that I don’t think you should start someone off with Gentoo or Arch (and, Gentoo and Arch folks, don’t flame me — you know that’s true).

Yet, this “wide variety” easily includes CrunchBang. Why? The learning curve to adapt from a desktop environment to a window manager like Openbox is minimal; in fact, the hardest thing about using a window manager like Openbox is going back to a desktop environment and wondering at first why your right-click actions aren’t doing what they’re supposed to do. But aside from that — and backed by a well-stocked forum full of answers and staffed by helpful folks (and, hopefully returning sometime soon, an updated wiki) — new users would have no problems getting up to speed with CrunchBang.

In fact, not only is CrunchBang a good distro to use on a daily basis, it’s fairly educational without setting out to be (at least I don’t think it sets out to be educational). Let me explain: I started using CrunchBang after being a Linux user for five years, and over the last couple of years many folks have fallen asleep hearing me say this (as I know it sounds boring), but I’ve learned more in a year using CrunchBang than in the previous five using Fedora, Xubuntu and my first distro, Debian. The reason is that to get CrunchBang the way I want it, I have to do things I wouldn’t normally do in the other distros, and it has forced me to learn how things work under the hood.

I like to learn things and I find that appealing, though some may not. But then, I probably lean toward the using my hardware as a tool side, rather than the appliance side.

I tell this story often, and it speaks to this topic: A few years ago I had an 80-year-old grandmother ask me about Linux in my office (she asked me if I could fix her ThinkPad — I do FOSS program conversions for small businesses and not repairs, but I do know ThinkPads so I did it for her as a favor). She asked what version of Windows I thought was best, and I told her I used Linux, which she “heard of.” Talking further about it, she sounded interested in trying it, so I gave her two live CDs — Ubuntu and Fedora — and I showed her how to use them in the office. She tried the Ubuntu one in the office and took the Fedora CD home.

The next day, she brought her ThinkPad back and asked me if I could install Linux for her. I asked if she was sure and when she said yes, I backed up her hard drive and installed the one CD the handed to me. We had a long talk about programs she would have to use (OpenOffice, at the time, instead of Word, etc.) and I gave her specific instructions to call me if she had any questions. She only called once — to ask about whether she should update after getting a message (and I walked her through that).

That was a few years ago — I think around 2009 — and while I haven’t seen her for about six months now, whenever I would run into her around town she said that the laptop was fine and she found Linux to be just right for what she was doing (checking e-mail, writing letters, etc.).

By the way, the distro she chose and asked me to install for her? Fedora.

Despite the fact that Fedora’s “bleeding edge” usability is a myth — anyone can use it, really (though installing Flash can be a pain) — the fact remains that there are a wide range of distros that can be used by non-Linux users that one can easily adapt to. The fact that CrunchBang is a “clean canvas” makes it appealing to the user who wants to make his or her own mark on their hardware, and I would strongly urge those who think that CrunchBang is not for “newbies” to rethink their position.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software at Redwood Digital Research (RDR), a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment. RDR is based in Felton, California, USA.

Crunchbang Add to Technorati Favorites EFF Binary Freedom Wordpress button dbEntrance button Scribus Conky LibreOffice PostgreSQL identi.ca python scale 10x