Ryan Cartwright's articles

Getting more out of Vim - some tips

I'm donning my flame-proof suit for this post. Vim is arguably one of the two most popular text-editors used in the free software world: built on vi (its name stands for VIiMproved) it will be found as a default package in many GNU/Linux distributions. The other popular editor is EMACS (although I am sure there are those who will argue that EMACS is much more than a mere text-editor). I use Vim a lot in my work and have found it to be a little like chess: a moment to learn a lifetime to master.

Debian frees up the kernel again

Never let it be said that the Debian project does not listen. For some time there has been growing dissent about the presence of non-free binary blobs in the Debian GNU/Linux kernel. Identi.ca and other public arenas became almost hunting grounds for some of the more fanatical freedom advocates within the community. Recommendations for using gNewSense and other 100% free distributions became more prevalent as the concerns over the non-free Debian kernels grew. The Debian project has now announced that from the release of Squeeze (Debian 6.0) their GNU/Linux kernels will be available without the non-free blobs.

The bad guys are worried - did we win?

Recently two pieces of first class anti-free software diatribe hit the headlines. The first is Microsoft's "please don't use OpenOffice.org" video and the second is Steve Jobs' anti-Android rant. Both are pretty shallow attempts at deflection and have been rightly called out as actually endorsing the subject of the attack as a valid opponent. In both cases it does seem to say that Microsoft and Jobs are concerned enough about OpenOffice.org and Android respectively that they need to tell the rest of us how bad they are.

The Wave phoenix is set to rise

As you may know I was quite keen on the ideas and potential of Google's Wave project and like many thought it a bit of a shame when they closed the project. When the creator of Wave Lars Rasmussen left Google for Facbook, Wave seemed finished before it had started. At the time they pulled the plug Google said the project would live on but details were scratchy. Now we know more and the good news is that in yet another kudos point for free software and the development models around it, Wave will rise again and this time maybe even stronger but certainly with greater freedom.

Have Oracle just made it worse for everyone?

I guess everybody has heard that a majority of the key developers in the OpenOffice.org community decided to set up the Document Foundation: an independent foundation to continue and manage work on the Openoffice.org codebase. If you've not, then I can recommend Terry Hancock's piece as a starting point (and a good summary of why forking is vital). To recap: Oracle are not behind the move so the foundation temporarily named their product LibreOffice. It was not, we were told, a fork. Oracle were invited to the party and asked if they would consider donating the OpenOffice.org brand to the foundation. After the mess with MySQL, here was an opportunity for Oracle to vastly improve relations with the free software community and their own reputation. In short Oracle missed their chance like an English footballer taking a penalty.

Copying Debian package selections to a new machine

Most of us will install our GNU/Linux system once or twice and then use the excellent package management systems to upgrade when new releases of our chosen distribution come out. Users of Debian and Debian-based systems (such as Ubuntu) will be quite used to the idea that you only need to install it once. But what happens when you want to replicate one Debian system on another machine? Do you use cloning tools? Yes you can but only if the hardware is similar on the two machines. What if one has an Intel Pentium-based processor and the other has an AMD64? In that case what you need is some way to replicate the package selection but use the appropriate ones for the new architecture. Enter dpkg.

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