Robert Pogson

One man, closing all the windows.

Posts Tagged / Debian

  • Jul 21 / 2014
  • 9
Linux in Education, Teaching, technology

Schools In Geneva Switching To GNU/Linux

“All primary and secondary public schools in the Swiss Canton of Geneva are switching to using Ubuntu GNU/Linux for the PCs used by teachers and students. The switch has been completed by all of the 170 primary public schools, and the migration of the canton’s 20 secondary schools is planned for the next school year. Ubuntu GNU/Linux offers powerful services to the teachers, is easier to maintain, faster, safer and more stable than the decade-old proprietary operating system it is replacing, the canton’s school IT department concludes, based on several four-year long pilots.” These guys took four years studying the matter and it will only take two years to switch their schools to GNU/Linux. It shows the Munich decade was some sort of aberration in terms of time taken to switch. The difference is the number of applications locked in to that other OS. Munich had hundreds. Geneva has only one or two. LibreOffice takes care of one…

Anyway, I think the migration in Geneva is remarkable because the Swiss are thorough. If they could be convinced in just four years, most of the rest of us should be convinced in a matter of hours. Get on with it folks. Take a look at Debian GNU/Linux and see what you’ve been missing: the freedom to use the hardware you own to its maximum capability, freedom from malware and freedom from paying about twice what IT should really cost you. In schools where I used GNU/Linux we easily had twice as much IT for the same cost and the cost of maintaining the larger system was less than the cost of maintaining the smaller system running that other OS. Freedom from the EULA of M$ which enslaves you rather than enabling you is the killer however. With FLOSS and GNU/Linux you can run, examine, modify and distribute the software to your heart’s content. Go with it. Seize the opportunity.

SeeGeneva class-rooms switching to free software | Joinup.

  • Jul 16 / 2014
  • 4

Broken? My Debian GNU/Linux Desktop Is Not Broken

“I didn’t realise just how broken the F/OSS desktop is. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the file manager replacing type-ahead find with a search but (to seemlessly switch metaphor) it turns out I’d been cut a thousand times already. I’m not just on the other side of the fence, I’m several fields away.” This is a strange comment coming from a Debian Developer. I use Debian GNU/Linux for my desktop and it’s not broken. Typeahead works for me but then I use XFCE4 desktop and the Thunar file-manager. So, why is this guy saying he’s going to MacOS because GNOME doesn’t work for him? Wouldn’t it be easier to switch to XFCE4 than to switch to MacOS (having to buy a new machine and all)? Well, he writes that he already had a Mac for work. I guess he didn’t need to buy one but it’s still silly that a Debian Developer feels he needs to stick with GNOME. There are a bunch of desktop environments in Debian GNU/Linux.
task-desktop - Debian desktop environment
task-gnome-desktop - GNOME desktop environment
task-kde-desktop - KDE desktop environment
task-lxde-desktop - LXDE desktop environment
task-telugu-desktop - Telugu desktop
task-telugu-gnome-desktop - Telugu GNOME desktop environment
task-telugu-kde-desktop - Telugu KDE desktop environment
task-xfce-desktop - Xfce desktop environment

The Debian desktop is not broken just because the GNOME desktop is broken. Further, if I need/want to search for stuff, I have a bunch of ways of doing that in Debian. I love to search for data with Swish-e or Recoll and I like to know exactly where to find an icon for my favourite applications.

See jmtd → log → Mac.

See also Bug 680118 – Triggering directory search by type-ahead breaks keyboard navigation

  • May 12 / 2014
  • 3

Chuckle. Debian Won’t Freeze Jessie Until November 5

OMG! I’ve been using Debian Testing for months and it’s near perfect for what I do. Still, Debian announced, “We are happy to announce that we will freeze Jessie at 23:59 UTC on the 5th of November 2014.” Amazing. They are down to a couple hundred known bugs and they have six months to go before freezing the package-lists. Surely Goodness and Mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives. Isn’t it great that Debian releases when the product is ready rather than worrying about catching some wave in the market or beating a competitor? I’ll take solid software over marketing-hype any day. Thank you, Debian.

See Bits from the Release Team (Jessie freeze info).

  • Apr 25 / 2014
  • 99

GNU/Linux Gives Real Savings In Education

I chuckle when I recall M$ claimed GNU/Linux cost more and when mud-slingers commented here that GNU/Linux would be too hard for teachers/students to use or that GNU/Linux lacked necessary applications.“Switching to Ubuntu has let the school tick many items off its list. It allows it to stay within its IT budget. They are no longer forced to buy licences for proprietary office suites or operating systems, and no longer have to study price lists for other proprietary solutions. The Linux PCs are perfectly compatible with the two common proprietary computer systems. The school PCs are very easy to maintain, all applications are up to date and all PCs run the same versions of software solutions. Moreover the flexibility of the free software licences allows the school to install PCs whenever they want, for example when they receive a hardware donation from the local administration.” Just ask schools that use GNU/Linux joyfully, freed from the EULA, malware, re-re-reboots, top-down IT people and whittling down the budget for IT and other things to afford more IT…

I worked in schools for many years and was able to gain much more IT for fewer dollars and a lot less effort than using that other OS and some people’s favourite applications. GNU/Linux works, LibreOffice works, GIMP works, Audacity works, etc. FLOSS works for education.

Consider a school librarian wanting a cluster of PCs for customers. Typically, the concept would be raised in a staff meeting or annual plan and have to percolate upwards through the chain of command where no budget for the request exists. That means either fundraising or “next year” in the budget. What is lost by teachers and students traipsing around the community raising a few $thousand for PCs? What is lost by shifting limited funds from salaries or other supplies to PCs? It’s all a disruption from the desired goal of preparing students for the future.

Send a memo home asking for donated PCs or acquire castoff PCs from businesses on the Wintel treadmill and skip the EULA by re-imaging with Debian GNU/Linux and the problem is solved in a few days from concept to execution. A few $dollars scraped from petty cash for cabling/power/switches is the entire budget. I’ve often been in schools where the necessary bits were just laying around unused, because some cluster was shut down or equipment died. I travelled for years in the North carrying a thousand feet of CAT-5 around because the government ordered a lab not up to specs be shut down. The cables were just dumped out back. I went out with a knife to fix the Gordian Knot. I bought my own crimping tool and RJ-45 plugs. A side-effect is that I was able to teach students how to do this at no extra cost to my employers. Using FLOSS does have synergies with hardware. Any school can get better performance out of 8 year old PCs used as thin clients using a few good machines as terminal servers. No CALs. No server licences. No special hardware. GNU/Linux is that flexible.

See Swiss school invests open source savings in education.

  • Apr 11 / 2014
  • 0

GNU/Linux For Everyone

The New York Times is at it again, suggesting GNU/Linux as a worthwhile alternative to M$ and Apple’s stuff.“Linux did revolutionize computing. If you own an Android phone or a Kindle e-reader, you are a Linux user. Linux is at the core of those popular devices and is found in a variety of other places, from the world’s most powerful supercomputers down to the tiny Raspberry Pi device that is a favorite among electronics hobbyists.” Good for them. They are helping their 2 million readers escape slavery.

This is a great day. Even my marigold seedlings broke into bloom, ready to face the bright future.

See The Many Alternative Computing Worlds of Linux.

  • Apr 08 / 2014
  • 25

OEMs Aren’t Going To Replace XP With GNU/Linux. Real People Have To Do That

The death of XP is an opportunity for GNU/Linux but only on the huge installed base. Folks who have XP gasping its last breath on a PC or organizations with a whole department“Unfortunately, while Linux does represent a lifeline for Windows XP users, I suspect it will be one that is not taken. The simple reality is that many of those users who are still with Windows XP simply just don’t know enough to care. Yes, I know there are lots of XP machines running cash machines that banks do care about, but there are also many machines sitting in libraries, schools and homes around the world where people simply don’t know any better.
The challenge for Linux is the same as it always has been. Linux desktop vendors need to more aggressively push the message of Linux as widely as is necessary. Linux can provide a freely available, safe option for Windows XP users, but only if the choice is clearly explained and promoted.”
running XP on desktops have to make the choice to install GNU/Linux or to convert those old PCs to GNU/Linux thin clients.
The severely locked in and the ignorant will keep XP until it can no longer work for them and replace their machines with what OEMs/retailers offer. The opportunity lies with those millions of still-good machines that can browse the web, play some multi-media or check the e-mail. There, millions will have cheap desktop PCs or people will recycle the machines using GNU/Linux to make them purr. The OEMs can’t help GNU/Linux do that. There’s no money in shipping a PC back to China just to change the OS… There is lots of money to be made “fixing” PCs by installing a proper current and supported OS like Debian GNU/Linux. Go for it.

See Death of Window XP Is a Golden Opportunity for Linux.

  • Mar 19 / 2014
  • 0

Debian Installer Jessie Alpha 1 release

Debian announces the first “alpha” release of the installer for their next release. “The Debian Installer team is pleased to announce the first alpha release of the installer for Debian 8 "Jessie".”It’s wonderful to have some good news in this week of rumours of war and missing airliners. It worked for me. Just 15 minutes from download to a working system and there was only one tiny error message with a checkbox offering to let me ignore it… ;-)

See Debian Installer Jessie Alpha 1 release.

  • Mar 07 / 2014
  • 9

If Beast Died Tomorrow, Chromebook 2 Could Be Its Replacement

Beast is fine. It’s old, but still kicking. It boots. It edits. It searches. It networks. Beast’s CPU is way over-sized for what I do and I do a lot. 99% of the time it idles. Every few weeks I open it up to full throttle to build the next Linux-3.10.x kernel, but what’s the rush? If it took twice or thrice as long I would still be happy.“The Samsung Chromebook 2 Series offers users nearly instant access to everything they need. It wakes up in less than one second and cold boots in less than ten. Samsung’s energy-efficient Exynos 5 Octa processors allow for effortless multitasking and rapid rendering of graphics and videos, so multimedia content never misses a beat.” The Chromebook 2 is so much smaller, has so much longer battery-life (Beast only has a CMOS battery…), and is portable. I could hook a USB keyboard and mouse up to it and get an HDMI monitor going. In fact, we already have 3 but they are called TVs for some reason. There’s plenty of RAM for Beast’s 200 processes and I can add USB storage galore, meaning I can ditch the big box that has travelled thousands of miles in Canada’s North and barely survived (the sides no longer fit…). I don’t use CDs or floppies any longer. I don’t need that box. Heck, I could even use a wireless keyboard/mouse and sit in an easy chair…

So, if Beast dies, I would be perfectly happy with a machine like this. Check out the specs:

Category Details 11.6-inch Samsung Chromebook 2 13.3-inch Samsung Chromebook 2
Display Size 11.6″ 13.3″
Resolution HD LED Display (1366×768) Full HD LED Display (1920×1080)
Performance OS Google Chrome Google Chrome
Processor Samsung Exynos 5 Octa (1.9Ghz, 2MB L2 Cache) Samsung Exynos 5 Octa (2.1Ghz, 2MB L2 Cache)
Memory 4 gB DDR3L 1600Mhz 4 gB DDR3L 1600Mhz
Storage 16 gB Flash Drive 16 gB Flash Drive
Camera 720p HD Web Camera 720p HD Web Camera
Battery Life Battery Life Up to 8h Up to 8.5h
Dimensions Dimensions 11.40″ x 8.06″ x 0.66″ 12.72″ x 8.80″ x 0.65″
Weight 2.43 pounds 3.09 pounds
Jet Black, Classic White Luminous Titan Gray
Ports Ports 1 HDMI, 1 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0, MicroSD Multi-media Card Reader, Headphone out/Mic-in Combo, DC-in 1 HDMI, 1 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0, MicroSD Multi-media Card Reader, Headphone out/Mic-in Combo, DC-in
Availability MSRP $319.99 $399.99
Availability Date April 2014 April 2014

See Samsung U.S. News.

  • Mar 03 / 2014
  • 5

Debian’s Next Release Takes Shape

According to Debian, the release-critical bug count of their testing distribution is now better than the Wheezy relase I now use… Is it time to apt-get dist-upgrade? I’ve already done that a couple of times in a virtual machine with no problems. It will likely work for me in a real machine.

See Release-critical bugs status.

UPDATE I did it. I upgraded to Jessie. There were a few messages on the screen but I didn’t even write them down. The system is running smoothly and I’ve checked all my usual applications. Now to see if it will reboot. It should. I installed a Debian kernel just in case the one I have been building is somehow incompatible with Jessie.


Well, that was interesting. The Debian kernel did not boot but the one I built locally did… I’ve also found that the XFCE4 weather plugin is not working. Nope. It just needed reminding where I live. It’s prettier than ever. How about those temperatures? It surely beats the 20 degrees lower than normal that we’ve been having. I’ll take it.

Oops! On the server side I had lots of breakage. PHP was missing entirely… Several web applications don’t work or had data missing. I have backups…

  • Mar 03 / 2014
  • 2

Death Of XP: Romania

“A former Romanian secretary of state, Constantin Teodorescu, is calling on the country’s public administrations to switch to Linux and other open source solutions. "The Romanian government should contact the budgetary heads at all public administrations and explain that they can switch everything to free software", he writes on his blog on Friday. "Let’s get this straight, and end this tragedy".”It’s kind of late but some people are just waking up to the fact that XP is not immortal… Some of them run the government in Romania. Advice from a guy who knows that governmnet inside and out could be quite influential.

In my experience, moving schools from XP to GNU/Linux, it’s easy, fast and reliable to make the switch. It just takes a focus on getting the job done. Think of all the tasks done with XP and figure out how to do them with GNU/Linux. A high percentage of those tasks are done with browser and office suite. In education, everything else is some utility like moving files or resizing images or playing music. None of those should lock anyone in to a dying OS. Just do it. I recommend converting on a weekend and fixing a few problems on Monday and you’re done. Folks are horrified by that but it works and everyone is motivated to get the job done ASAP, just what you need. Planning everything out and guaranteeing no failures is a huge waste of energy and probably not without failures anyway. Move the data. Raze and replace. Done.

I recommend Debian GNU/Linux because it’s been around a while and ~1000 volunteers and millions of users do most of the work. An administrator mostly has to run installers or copy files. It’s not like the wheel has to be reinvented each time. GNU/Linux lets your hardware do anything of which it is capable so one thing that’s sure is that there is a way to solve the problem with GNU/Linux while with XP you’re never going to know when the whole thing is about to fall down. Think about that. Avoid the nightmare. Go FLOSS.

See Ex-state secretary: Romania must move to Linux.

  • Feb 27 / 2014
  • 32

Shuttleworth and MySQL

“I think Oracle have been an excellent steward of MySQL, with real investment and great quality. Appreciating and celebrating that doesn’t detract from our willingness to engage elsewhere. I think the tendency to imagine conspiracies and malfeasance is one of the sadder aspects of OSS [open-source software] culture. Don’t feed it.”Mark Shuttleworth and Canonical are going to keep MySQL from Oracle as the goto database. Oracle has made some moves to help Debian-based distros use MySQL by providing proper repositories.

That’s all good but Oracle has done plenty to hurt the FLOSS community. Lest we forget:

  • Driving out What was that about? It certainly was not helpful and probably delayed development by a year. LibreOffice took up the slack. Why would the FLOSS community turn back to a less Free licence?
  • Then there’s the Java thing. How much has the world invested in Java only to have Oracle make life very difficult by stifling development? They even sued Google over using the API in Android… Is Oracle mad? Shouldn’t the world flee in fear of a company pushing an open standard and then suing people who use it?
  • Then there’s MySQL. Both Oracle and Mariadb are somewhat restrictive about documentation. Oracle does not permit more than one copy for personal use and Mariadb mostly provides a website. That’a business-plan. I get that. Mariadb is frankly better at least for 5.5. Perhaps 5.6 is superior from Oracle but I don’t give credit to a supplier of FLOSS who is so miserable in other areas. Personally, I think it is quite possible that in the future Oracle will eliminate the FLOSS version of MySQL. Mariadb will be the only game in town then. Is that paranoia? Did I imagine Oracle is out to get us (, Java)? Why would they not mess arond with MySQL? I have a PostgreSQL database running just to be ready and I’m already running MariaDB.

See Shuttleworth says Ubuntu is sticking with MySQL.

  • Feb 23 / 2014
  • 0

Ubuntu’s Clouds

Most of my dealing with Ubuntu GNU/Linux has been on clients but it’s out there, running this blog, on servers and now in the cloud.“Ubuntu is now the most popular operating system in cloud – it’s number one on AWS, the leading Linux on Azure, dominates DigitalOcean and is first choice on most other public clouds. Ubuntu is also w3tech’s web operating system of the year and the Linux platform showing the fastest growth for online infrastructure whilst most others are decline. In 2012 and 2013 we saw Ubuntu and Ubuntu OpenStack being chosen by large financial service organisations and global telcos for their infrastructure. Big name web scale innovators like Snapchat, Instagram, Uber, Quora, Hailo and Hipchat among others have all chosen Ubuntu as their standard infrastructure platform. We see Ubuntu leading the charge as the platform for software defined networking, scale out storage, platform as a service and OpenStack infrastructure. In fact, a recent OpenStack Foundation survey revealed that 55% respondents are running Ubuntu on OpenStack – over double that of its nearest competitor. If you measure success by adoption, then Ubuntu is certainly winning the market for next generation, scale out workloads.”On servers there’s not much disadvantage to some of Canonical’s tricks like disUnity or Mir. It’s all basically Debian GNU/Linux rocking those servers. You have to give credit to Canonical for actually having salesmen as well as developers turning out a great product and encouraging the world to use it.

Debian is not about hiring salesmen so the world of FLOSS needs folks like Canonical to go the last mile reaching out to actual users. Perhaps after the various fiascos on the desktop, Canonical will figure out a way to give back to the FLOSS community without breaking so many things. The things the FLOSS community needs most of all are more users and space on retail shelves. Canonical has done a lot for that and I thank them. However, we don’t need Canonical telling the FLOSS community how everything is wrong about GNU/Linux and Canonical needs to fix it. That’s just negative. I hope in 2014, Canonical senses weakness in the Wintel monopoly and does what they can do to get more retail shelf-space for GNU/Linux. They are good at that. They should do that. The things that make GNU/Linux great on servers: low cost and high performance, are also available to users of GNU/Linux on desktops, notebooks, tablets, whatever…. Canonical’s salesmen should push that.

See Canonical Blog.