Tuesday, November 21, 2006

1:1 Classroom Progress

Today, Steve and I finished putting the hardware together on the last of the Linux classrooms, just in time for me to test out a real live SystemImager install.

We've also received our 10 new laptops, Dell Inspiron 1300s, and my official verdict on those is that their screens are very dim. I'm not sure whether that's a driver thing or not, I'm going to have to look at one of them with the pre-installed operating system intact and see how dim it is that way. I've managed to get the screen resolution on Ubuntu to match the laptop screen's native resolution, so I've got a little progress done towards making a workable image on the laptops.

It's my understanding that laptops pose some interesting extra questions when it comes to getting Linux to run properly on them, hopefully I don't run into any of them as I figure out how to use the wireless adapter. Any information on how to accomplish that might be nice to have before I get started; please, if you have experience with this leave me a quick comment about it to help me out.

I'm currently ghosting a 210L with the 210L partition, I'll update it and pull a SystemImager image off of it and see what I can do about creating an autoinstall CD for systemimager to use on the 210Ls in Mr. Hayes's room. We'll get this working, yet, woohoo!

BTW, I'd like to thank my friend, a fellow from my LUG, David Ernst for helping me out with this SystemImager stuff, his invaluable experience and Linux savvy has saved me all kinds of headaches and "learning experiences" I might have otherwise had.

Which remind me, I should communicate with downtown about my mailing list mail being filtered as spam...

P.S. I was pleased to see Novell's CEO address some of my concerns, in an Open Letter to the Community from Novell:

In closing, we wish to be extremely clear that Novell is committed to protecting, preserving and promoting freedom for free and open source software. We recognize that the community of open source developers is essential to all our activities in Linux, and we welcome dialog with the community as to how we can continue to work together toward these common goals.

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

How to foster a community?

Mike Huffman and I spoke, on the first day of HECC, about the need for a community to support the Indiana ACCESS High Schools, for both technical and non-technical users. I told him that in my experience the open source communities that I am a part of function primarily through mailing lists, and blogs, and IRC, and such online communication tools.

He thinks that a mailing list wouldn't work, or IRC, or blogs, because most of these people already get too much e-mail and don't want to learn how to use IRC or how to blog, and would just prefer a website they could go to.

We're trying to promote the use of http://www.schooltechperson.com, running Moodle, as a community focus.

Moodle has a lot of cool features, but megapixels don't make a community. How can these resources be used best to encourage the growth of a vibrant community around the 1:1 access initiative?

I think it's essential for the Indiana High Schools involved in the Indiana ACCESS project to interact with each other and connect with the real power behind Free Software, it's very backbone, Community.

Anyhow, I invite comments: What do you believe are the qualities of truly effective online communities? How can we encourage those qualities?

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

My school's gone to HECC...

The Hoosier Educational Computer Coordinators' Conference, that is.

Day Two, Friday, lots of fun!

The second session I went to was a talk about the i-SAFE Internet safety program. Pretty cool program, it's free (gratis, that is, by way of government funding), and aimed at various sectors of the populations though mostly geared towards schools. They provide curriculums, handouts, videos, presentations, and stuff to educate people about how to be safe on the internet. They have a program through which they encourage high school students to become i-SAFE Mentors to elementary school kids, which I think is great: involving the kids rather than talking at them.

Besides the school-oriented stuff, they have an i-PARENT program for parents, an i-SHIELD program for law enforcement officers, and even an i-FIFTY+ program for older people who are just now getting their first experience of the 'net.

It's reassuring to see someone see the dangerous side of the Internet and not just say "It's evil! Keeps kids away from it!" as that's about as effective as promoting abstinence as the only way of fighting HIV-AIDS. Honest and open education is the only effective way to empower people to make informed decisions and be safe in a frankly unsafe world.

Some interesting statistics: According to the i-SAFE guy 90% of parents think they have a pretty good idea of what their kids are doing online, while 60% of kids think their parents have NO IDEA what they do online. Think about that. Don't quote me on this, though, as I'm not notorious for my photographic memory.

While waiting for the session to start, I was approached by the Technology Director and Assistant of Canterbury School who are joining me in using Ubuntu in their 1:1 computing classrooms. Welcome to the community, Vern! I told him they absolutely HAD to join the Ubuntu and Education Community Mailing List, so I hope to see them both on there soon.

The third session I attended was a "Discussion of Web Filtering Practices" which, unfortunately, turned out to be a sales pitch even though it was not listed as a vendor session. The first ten or fifteen minutes were sort of unbiased, a discussion of why we might want to filter. Moot, though, since we would forfeit federal funding if we DIDN'T filter. The rest of the time was spent explaining why we should buy this particular vendor's filter.

Lunch followed, which was pretty good. Timothy Magner from the U.S. Department of Education talked about School 2.0, among a few other things. One thing that kind of bothered me--though it may just be that I misinterpreted him--was his repeated emphasis on the United States needing to be competitive against the rest of the world, especially India and China, whereas the way I see it we should be cooperative with the rest of the world.

We are one planet, stewards of the same Earth, aren't we?

The next talk I was at was on "Educational Blogging", Sandra Doran gave an introductory talk about blogging with her son John, who is a very animated and delightfully knowledgeable speaker. John even treated the audience to a demonstration on how to install Mozilla Firefox along with a couple of his favorite extensions. Way to fly the Free Software flag, John!

I was flattered and slightly flabbergasted to see my blog on Sandra's bloglines aggregator list screenshot. Noone ever comments on my blog, and Blogger doesn't keep track of how many hits I get, so I'm always a little surprised to learn I'm not just writing to myself.

Thanks for helping bring blogging to the education world, Sandra, I believe it's a very worthwhile tool (obviously).

The last presentation I saw was a run-through of some good Open Source Desktop Applications by Lance Woods, from the Southern Indiana Education Center, he went through several good applications and showed them off a little bit. I talked to him a little bit afterwards, and he's a very cool guy.

He was still running Breezy though, on his laptop; I suggested he update to Edgy. It was neat to see someone else running Ubuntu, though, so mad props for that!

And that's all I have to say about that.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Hoosier Educational Computer Coordinators' Conference, Day 1

Day 1 of the HECC Conference found me helping Mike Huffman and Forrest Gaston run their workshop where they had people install OpenSUSE 10.1 from a 5 CD set and showed off some of the programs that are available. Jeff Henderson, the principal at my high school, was there, though he had expected more emphasis on application usage where there really was a heavy emphasis on installation stuff.

Nothing incredibly exciting, just some basics for people who needed them.

I found that I could figure my way around OpenSUSE pretty well, but I disliked the way everything was set up by default. The icons on the desktop look cluttery, it's all single-clicking which means people (myself included, the first time) end up opening twice as many instances of everything, apparently if you let your mouse hover over an icon it runs, things like that; not irreparable, but annoying. I don't know whether that's KDE in general or just OpenSUSE, but blech!

I wore my Ubuntu shirt to the conference, and gave away the rest of my CDs and a bunch of brochures. I was a little wary about having lunch courtesy of Microsoft, though, in that attire. ;-) Microsoft is also sponsoring some big casino event with prizes and gifts and all kinds of stuff for the HECC attendees tonight...no thanks...

Mike Huffman showed optimism that the Microsoft-Novell deal will be useful to the community. I expressed my skepticism, but he seems convinced. I hope he's right; Novell has done a lot of good for us in the past, it's certainly possible.

Overall it was an interesting day...AND I got a shiny new toy out of the deal!

Round two tomorrow!


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Productive Day

A fellow BLUG member, being contracted by our IS people, came and helped me beat my head against the wall that so far has been SystemImager for me. We broke down or climbed over or walked around quite a few walls that would have stopped me flat, otherwise. Not everything's taken care of yet, but progress is progress!

For the next two days I'll be at the HECC conference in Indianapolis, woo hoo!

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

One Reason I like the Open Source Community...

The Scene:

Someone asks a question on a mailing-list I subscribe to. I answer it. I get the response:


thanks a lot.

thats what i did and it works lika a champ!



Monday, November 13, 2006

Java now under the GPL

Yeah, very exciting stuff! (If you're a geek like me, at least)

This move by such a HUGE name in computing will hopefully prompt other big players to take a second look at Freedom as an option.

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Brain Rest. - Novell Conclusion

Besides keeping up with e-mail and such, I'm going to give my brain a rest today and tidy up a bit around the workplace, as it could use to look a little more orderly.

Regarding the Novell-Microsoft announcement, I think Mark Shuttleworth put it rather succinctly and lucidly at (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/11/10/shuttleworth_oracle/):

And on Microsoft?

"Fundamentally, I think Microsoft is making an intellectual property play. The second thing is 'follow the money.' We see $240m from Microsoft and $40m back from Novell.

"I am sure that Novell just got paid $200m to be on that stage, and Microsoft is going to expect a return on their investment. And not from Novell.

"They are looking to establish, I believe, a framework which gives them a revenue base regardless of the OS.

"We haven't seen the details of the deal. Novell hasn't seen the real plan. The industry is littered with companies that have fought with Microsoft, then went to Microsoft as a cowered partner to do some small deal and then just got axed. Palm, Sybase and, um, Novell." ®

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Novell and Microsoft, Part 4

Yesterday evening, Ted Haeger released his latest Novell Open Audio podcast in which he puts some of the community's questions to the Novell CEO and General Counsel.

All the work that will be done between Novell and Microsoft will be for the use of Novell and Microsoft, none of that code will be given back to the community.

The GPL issue was addressed, and it seems that, since the GPL governs copying, distribution, and modification of software and not its use, and since Microsoft is making this covenant not to sue with Novell's customers and developers, that they're sidestepping the issue by simply allowing Microsoft to threaten to sue anyone who doesn't use Novell Linux.

Ron speaks of "Linux" and "community", when I find no compelling reason to believe he means anything besides "Novell SuSE Linux" and "Novell customers". Correct me if I'm wrong (Please!), but when he speaks of spreading Linux, he's speaking of spreading it as a vehicle for Novell proprietary code that's designed to lock customers into using Novell as a vendor (who is now paying royalties to Microsoft).

While denying quietly on one FAQ aimed at the community that Linux uses Microsoft patented Intellectual Property, it lets Microsoft claim loudly and publically everywhere it can that it does with impunity, which is tantamount to condoning the claim as far as I can see.

Why shouldn't this be interpreted as Novell collaborating with Microsoft in its attempt to fear everyone into using Novell's SuSE Linux, in exchange for royalties? I don't know, Novell has not addressed that.

How is this anything but monopoly-seeking maneuvering? I don't know, Novell has not addressed that.

How is this in the spirit of the Open Source community from which you draw the vast majority of your product? How are you giving anything back to us through this deal? I don't know, Novell has not addressed that.

Prove me wrong, Novell, speak to the Linux community (we are much more numerous than just your customers) and convince us why we shouldn't see you as traitors. You've yet to address us, and you owe us at least that much.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm losing patience with the word play. Either explain yourselves, or admit treason.

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Novell and Microsoft, Part 3

I'm still confused as to the actual specifics.

Microsoft claims that a covenant not to sue (based on the idea that anyone who uses Linux is infringing on Microsofts patents) was a big part of the agreement, but Novell claims that this is in no way a part of their agreement. In the webcast, though, they seem to stress the importance of this patent issue.

The distributors of other versions of Linux cannot assure their customers that Microsoft won't sue for patent infringement. "If a customer says, 'Look, do we have liability for the use of your patented work?' Essentially, If you're using non-SUSE Linux, then I'd say the answer is yes," Ballmer said. [http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1895,2050848,00.asp]


Does Linux infringe on Microsoft Intellectual Property Rights? Microsoft: <shout>YES!!!</shout>. Novell: <whisper>...no...</whisper>.

Novell, why don't you voice your opinion on this HALF as loudly as your new partners??? Why are you allowing them to say it in such a way as to imply your belief of it?

The only thing that's clear to me is that Microsoft, no longer able to ignore Linux's steady creep onto the Desktop, is now trying to figure out how to profit from it through Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. By saying they won't sue anyone using SuSE, they're creating the mirage that they can sue you for using Linux, and that the only legaly safe Linux brand now is Novell.

Does this matter to people who are already using Linux? Not really as far as I can tell, except it seems to be pushing people like us away from Novell and SuSE, overall.

Is this going to matter to people who aren't yet using Linux? Of course, fear is a proven effective way of influencing markets. Novell and Microsoft both benefit from the illusion.

Where is the money? You got it, with the millions of Microsoft customers who have yet to pick a version of Linux to use. Microsoft sees that Linux is reaching the point where anyone can switch to Linux pretty easily, so instead of fighting it they're picking one distro, making sure they get paid for it, and marketing it exclusively (not to mention spreading Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt about anything else). As far as that goes, this will help both Microsoft and Novell.

Will it work? I don't know, but there's a LOT of money behind it, not to mention a monopoly's resources. We'll have to see. The fact is, this couldn't work in a world where Microsoft had already lost their monopoly so they had to jump on this strategy now, before it became completely moot.

Will it help the Linux community? I can't honestly say I see this helping anyone in Linux besides Novell (assuming it can survive a partnership with Microsoft, an unprecedented assumption). All of the work Microsoft will be doing as far as "Linux" inter-operability is actually "Novell" interoperability, as far as I can see. It's obviously in Novell's favor to say this will help us all, but I just really don't see it.

Who cares that Microsoft has made a covenant not to sue SuSE customers or developers working code into SuSE? Microsoft and Novell do, they're the ones making money both off the sales of SuSE, and off the idea that SuSE is the only safe Linux. So does everyone they can dupe into believing their illusion.

Who cares that Microsoft has made a covenant not to sue non-commercial developers? No one, this is more worthless FUD as far as I can tell.

Is it time to ditch Novell? I don't know. We'll have to see if they really ditched us. I'm moved to give them the benefit of the doubt because they HAVE done so much work for the Linux world so far. However, they've yet to clearly communicate with us what this means to the community, so I'm certainly wary.

Doesn't Novell know that a lot of its customers are using them on principle to avoid giving money to Microsoft? How betrayed would you feel? I'm glad I'm not invested in using Novell the way a lot of their disgusted customers are.

A comment I left on Ted Haeger's blog post about the Microsoft/Novell deal. Leaving Ted a comment is likely the best way to get your question addressed by Novell from a community standpoint:

Hi Ted!

You may remember chatting with me at the Ohio LinuxFest After-Party, I’m the guy involved in Indiana ACCESS that uses Ubuntu.

I just want to say that until proven otherwise, I’ll still respect Novell.

Innocent ’til proven Guilty.

Regardless of the big, flashy explosion of this news (that we’re all understandably wary of), Novell has contributed a lot to the Free Software community and we shouldn’t forget that.

In fact, you’ve sent several people to the Ubuntu Developer’s Summit happening now at the Googleplex, which I applaud.

Now, Microsoft is using this as a way of propagating their FUD, but that’s to be expected of ANY move Microsoft makes.

What we need to know is your story.

I’m patient to hear from you what Novell thinks it’s doing, and what all implications this will have for our community before making any judgements.

I put more stock in your word than any FAQ or press release.

Also, I would consider it a huge faux pas for Novell not to release the full text of all involved documents. We as a community have plenty of our own legal geeks to interpret it, and we would trust them more than any Novell legal geek interpretation on this one.

If you’re really a part of the Open Source community, then there is nothing to hide, right?

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

To All Citizens of the United States of America:

I voted, have you?


Monday, November 06, 2006

Imaging System - Can One Image work for Two Different Model Workstations?


So I used Norton Ghost to blast an Ubuntu 6.10 image created on a 170L (IDE hard disk) over to both a 170L and a 210L (SATA hard disk).

After the image was installed both machines had GRUB failures on reboot (this makes sense, since Ghost does not mess with the MBR), so I had to use GRUB to fix them (actually for some reason on the 210L grub did not recognize /dev/sda as (hd0,0), so I had to dd the first 61 512b sectors of the 170L's /dev/hda onto the 210's /dev/sda which did basically what I wanted.

The 170L booted up fine after that (except that the UPSTART screen did not display during the boot process, hmmmmm...), and now I'm going to experiment to see if I can get updateclient to work from the hard disk.

The 210L did not boot up fine, first it showed a usplash screen (6.10 should be using UPSTART) which was frozen, and after a while it dropped to a BusyBox prompt.

I'm going to experiment now to see if /etc/fstab might be responsible for this, and if maybe I can write it to be a little more forgiving...


Friday, November 03, 2006

Novell and Microsoft, Part 2

Now that I've had a chance to digest.

Curious how as soon as Novell is about to make its product incredibly interoperable with Windows, Windows decides to help out. This will give Microsoft royalty payment for every Novell installation, and Novell a sure shot into every Microsoft Shop that's looking at deploying some cheaper workstations.

Here's the rub: we don't need Microsoft's "help". I'm working right now on a Launchpad team to make this interoperability happen on Ubuntu, with Free Software--as in beer, as in speech. And Novell already made a proprietary version of what we're working on now.

This deal has FUD written all over it. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, it means: Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. Microsoft is using this deal to tell a story, written explicitly in the paragraph I quoted in my earlier blog post:

As part of the agreement, Microsoft said it would not file patent infringement suits against customers who purchase Novell’s SuSE Linux.

The story is: Using a computer is dangerous if you don't pay us. If you're GOING to use Linux use Novell so we get a royalty, or you'll live in fear of lawsuits.

Well, sorry Microsoft, we're not eating your FUD. If you're going to compete with Linux, at least try to compete on quality; this desperate attempt at holding onto your monopoly through fear is only a clear signal that you've recognized the Penguin Army amassing.

Now don't get me wrong, I don't hate Microsoft. I use Windows XP and am in fact using it as I type. I'll likely use it as long as there are so many apps written for it, since I like Adobe products and modern games. I'll pay for a license in order to be able to use them.

But, frankly I wish they'd spend more time on improving their product, and less time devising ways to keep their monopoly as that's what got me into Free Software in the first place: it's made for quality, not revenue generation. The money is in the service and support, not the bits and bytes.

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Novell and Microsoft, huh?

As I walked in all bleary-eyed this morning I check my e-mail to find the following link from my mom (she sends me things she thinks I might find interesting): 2 Giants in a Deal Over Linux

Later, I saw a few more things about this, including Novell's Official FAQ about it. I guess it wasn't just my sleepiness that made it sound weird: Microsoft is now in the Linux business.

I respect Novell for all the work they've contributed upstream. I'm concerned that they're making a bad decision for themselves; Microsoft doesn't make partnerships to help out its customers, AFAIK, it makes partnerships to help itself out.

I'm also just a little concerned about what it all means for the wider Linux ecosystem, and I'm not particularly optimistic about it to be honest. For instance, what the hell does "As part of the agreement, Microsoft said it would not file patent infringement suits against customers who purchase Novell’s SuSE Linux" mean? Language like that makes it clear that Microsoft is not any friendlier to Open Source than it ever was.

On the short-scale, short-term side of things, I'm going to make a prediction about what it means for me: Our corporate IS people are going to want us to switch back to Novell.

*sigh* We'll see what all happens...

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CINLUG Meeting on the 1st

I didn't post yesterday cause I wanted to put some photos on my blog, for once.

Me talking about Ubuntu at the CINLUG Meeting

This is me during my 5-minute address on behalf of Ubuntu and Canonical.

The CINLUG Meeting went very well.

I don't believe Mike Huffman's talk was directed at me, as I'm in the choir, but hopefully it was effective in informing those people who were there who were not the choir.

I succeeded in generating some interest in Ubuntu, and the Ubuntu and Education community. Although I only had 5 minutes up in front of people, I did get people to approach me personally. Which is good, because I kept thinking "Oh! I should have mentioned this! I should have mentioned THAT!".

I think I'm much better one on one in meandering conversation than up on stage with a time limit.

I got to meet Spencer, who is my counterpart over at...Greensburg? (Ack! Memory Failure!) Anyhow, Spencer is my counterpart at the other school in the state that doesn't use Novell; he uses Red Hat.

I emphasized the need to become involved in the community in order to really get the power of Open Source Software, and hope he'll be joining the Bloomington Linux Users' Group and/or the Central Indiana Linux Users' Group. I told him that physical proximity is not a prerequisite, mentioning that I'm a founding member of the Venezuelan Fraternity of Ubuntu Users even though I'm far from home right now.

Welcome to the community, Spencer!

Mike Huffman Photo-Op with Ubuntu swag

This is Mike Huffman checking out the Ubuntu swag. Photo Op!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Random Updates

CINLUG Meeting Tonight

I will be giving a short 5-minute spiel on Ubuntu at the CINLUG meeting tonight on behalf of Canonical/Ubuntu. 5 minutes is a short time to introduce such a massive topic, but I'll do my best.

Ghost Issues

This has been a great excuse for me to jump into SystemImager and see if I can figure it out. So far, I've been able to create an image, but had no luck autoinstalling it. Any SystemImager gurus out there?

Network Management Stuff

On top of SystemImager, I've got to think about how am I going to manage all kinds of stuff on the network (updates, desktops, printers, classroom management, etc.) and I've been getting headaches. I've decided to just tackle one issue at a time, so I'm going to concentrate on understanding SystemImager.

In the meantime, I'd like to gather as much information about the stuff I'm sort of forcedly trying not to think about so that when I have the time to think about it I'll have some good resources. In that spirit, I've shot off an e-mail or two asking people who're in similar situations as me what sort of systems they're using to manage their networks.

If you're reading this and can offer me some advice, please do so.

Beryl on Edgy

I read the official Beryl Project Ubuntu Edgy Installation instructions here, and they aren't kidding: It's simple.

You can get it up and running without jumping into a config file or command line at all! Just use the graphical equivalent commands in Synaptic when they say to do certain things like "edit /etc/apt/sources.list" or "apt-get ...". Of course they document it as modifying text files and dropping to command lines because it's simpler to explain it that way...


Well, that's all I can think of for now, I hope you're all doing well!