Making Online Possible Offline

Submitted by StephenK on Thu, 11/19/2009 - 09:59
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In the midst of the Ubuntu Developer Summit for the forthcoming long-term support release named Lucid Lynx, a new issue arose. This was an issue of intense partisanship perhaps. The GNU Image Manipulation Program, otherwise known as GIMP, was proposed for removal from the default installation on the distributed live CD.

Documentation for this is skimpy at the moment. The desktop team's blueprint does not explicitly state that this will happen. The Internet Relay Chat log for that particular session has barely any details except that the popularity contest package for measuring usage ranked GIMP on par with F-Spot. Although the session was filmed, the relevant Ogg Theora video file has not tumbled down the podcast distribution chute yet for review. A blog post at fan site unaffiliated with Canonical is what broke word for those not attending the summit.

Opinions on were across a bit of a range from being okay with the change to opposition through thoughts of counter-proposal to sadness. One user on noted that it is a big difference between stripping something from a live CD and removing something from repositories.

This whole matter presents concerns from the perspective of the Ubuntu NGO Team's blueprint. One of the areas of work enunciated in that plan was that the team would work on offline documentation. Offline repositories are something also considered in a discussion paper on the team's wiki site.

How can the GIMP be made available for those with sub-optimal Internet access? A case might be made that stripping GIMP off the live CD would reduce access to the package for those with less than optimal access to the Internet or no access at all. Unfortunately such is anecdotal at present and there is no hard data to properly back such a notion up.

The first tool to surmount this issue is the Ubuntu Customization Kit. At present that package's own project site shows examples of use in creating localized editions by language. For putting GIMP back into a live CD while stripping out other packages would create a derivative version of the distributed disc images which can over time create things like Linux Mint, CrunchBang Linux, and Katian.

A different work-around that may work better would be to go the route of APTonCD. APTonCD is one option for off-line movement of packages that does not require access to the Internet for installing anything. A similar tool for a command-line world would be AptZip that instead may allow shifting the download burden elsewhere such as to perhaps run on a public access computer at a public library.

As an overarching shift in live CD design, the inclusion by default of APTonCD would alleviate any worries like this in the future perhaps. Backers of GIMP and other packages that might not fit on the disc but still have strong communities can make images of APTonCD discs available. This is a short run solution, though. Increasing the availability of repository mirrors in public access Internet service settings would be a far more preferable solution in the long run.

Within the Ubuntu project, this would be a matter of liaison between the NGO Team and the Desktop Team, perhaps, as it touches upon the matter of trying to make the Ubuntu experience as equal as possible between the industrialized West and the Global South. Outside the Ubuntu project, this remains a matter of knowing what is going on with what you use. Just as it may seem simple to drive an automobile, quite a lot is going on under the hood. Compared to Windows or MacOS, Linux in general is the hotrod that you can upgrade and change just as drivers in the 1960s and 1970s could fuss over vehicles from manufacturers like AMX.

Creative Commons License
Making Online Possible Offline by Stephen Michael Kellat is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at

Interdisciplinary Sharing: A Special Post

Submitted by StephenK on Thu, 09/03/2009 - 15:38
Sometimes pieces are solicited for LISNews. The recent LISNews Summer Series is an example of that. Below is a piece from openSUSE community manager Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier that is a bit of interdisciplinary sharing of experiences as some public libraries are getting ready to go to the polls for tax levies in a couple months.

When working on a marketing campaign, you may suffer the temptation to "go negative" and go on the attack against something rather than using a positive message for your point of view. We see this frequently in political campaigns, and it's occasionally effective -- but should be avoided when you have alternatives.

Case in point: recently, the Free Software Foundation (FSF) set off on an anti-Windows campaign called "Windows 7 Sins". The campaign is higly negative, and completely disregards its target audience.

It's relentlessly negative. It offers few, if any, alternatives. It doesn't consider the perspective of the "average" users who don't view software as an ethical consideration. It's like a PETA campaign, but based around software. While I may agree with some of PETA's goals, the tone and general negativity push me away -- and so does this.

The FSF has many, many positives that can be used to "sell" the concept of free software. Instead, the organization is taking the lazy approach and hoping to play off of users' frustration with Windows to lure them to free software. All well and good, except that this doesn't persuade the audience that free software is something to be desired, only that Windows is something to be avoided.

Not only is the message wrong, but it's also delivered in a ham-fisted and generally off-putting way. The site looks like something thrown together by a fringe political group. The political fringe approach is hardly going to appeal to the mainstream audience that the FSF is trying to reach. Love or hate Microsoft, it has (more often than not) been successful in persuading its audience to keep consuming its software by selling the benefits of its products.

An effective counter to this would be to look at the negatives that the FSF has identified, and craft a positive message that addresses the same issues -- but with an entirely different tone. If the organization has identified issues that users care about, it will be far more succesful if the FSF helps tell the audience how to solve their problems.

To be fair, negative messaging does work sometimes -- but on the whole, it should be avoided as much as possible. Convince your audience of your positives, and you'll have a far stronger reaction than persuading your audience that the alternatives are to be avoided.

Creative Commons License
This work by Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Scripting, oh scripting...

Submitted by StephenK on Tue, 07/07/2009 - 17:53
This is a small tool I am working on: #!/bin/bash # # Snatch -- Script to take a show post URL and derive PDF, PS, TXT, # and sanitized HTML versions for deposit at Internet Archive. The script # also downloads the related MP3 podcast file and creates an Ogg version. # # This script assumes that Enscript dumps its output to standard out # instead of the default printer. Lynx and Ghostscript must also be # installed for this to work as well as sox and aria2c. # # 7 July 2009 -- Stephen Michael Kellat # # This script is released under a BSD license variant.

Two Institutional Repository Providers Merge

Submitted by StephenK on Tue, 05/12/2009 - 14:12

An announcement dated today notes that the entities behind DSpace and Fedora Commons have merged. The new organization will be called Duraspace and will compete against other packages such as Greenstone which most recently announced that it ported its package to Android after making such work on iPods.


Submitted by StephenK on Thu, 01/29/2009 - 17:59
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Things are a little crazy on this end in the Las Vegas metro. Around 7 PM Pacific tonight I'll potentially end up "going dark" online. With luck this shouldn't last more than 24 hours. Considering the way things go, it may well be anybody's guess. If you're wondering what might happen with LISTen please don't worry, I've already got that covered.