The HeliOS Project is now.....

The HeliOS Project is now.....
Same mission, same folks...just a different name

Search the Blog of helios and all comments

Loading

Monday, March 30, 2015

Have You Decided Yet?

When I was a kid, my old man would raise an eyebrow and ask me:

"Have you decided to get out of bed today and do something"?

"Have you decided that you don't need the car Saturday because you didn't clean the barn?"

'"Have you decided to get your hair cut so people will stop asking me if you are my ugly daughter"                      

That was my dad's way of telling me what he wanted me to do. To the casual bystander, it was a fairly innocuous question. But if you honestly thought you had a choice in the matter, the response was 180 degrees on the wrong side of pleasant.

On March 21st of this year, the Free Software Foundation presented our organization Reglue with the Award for Projects of Social Benefit. We share that announcement link with S├ębastien Jodogne for being given the Award for the Advancement of Free Software.  We're specifically thankful that people like Sean "NZ17" Robinson spearheaded this nomination campaign and got us into the running.

And, now that it's done, I think it's safe to say.....with all the organizations throughout the world who provide such selfless services and opportunities with FOSS, well...let me just reflect that our nomination was more than we ever expected. That in itself made our directors and volunteers proud. Actually being chosen as this year's recipient is breathtakingly humbling. If you are interested in listening to the talk we gave at LibrePlanet 2015, you can listen to it here. Be warned the latency can be annoying on slower connections and there is some annoying clipping in the first 9 minutes so you might want to just click the download button and reduce your volume a bit.

I also want to thank my friends Chad McCullough, Josh Sabboth, Bob Pianka and John Kerr for helping make this happen. Special thanks to Randy Noseworthy for his support and help throughout the past two years. I will write a full article on the LibrePlanet 2015 with all its nooks and crannies in the coming week.

Reglue has worked hard for a decade to make computers accessible for financially disadvantaged kids in Central Texas. It's gratifying to see our hard work recognized. And by the way, we are going to meet here in a couple of days to share some information about Sean "NZ17" Robinson and a cool project he is working on. Stay tooned.

So here's the deal. Most of you know that I am without a voice since I
voluntarily had my larynx removed. I did so because the odds against me living for another 8 months to a year was significant. Dying isn't anywhere on my annual calendar as I still have a lot of work to do.

You also know that I've been talking with anyone that would listen, about the sorry, almost useless condition of text to speech (TTS) software in the linuxsphere. We talked about it here a couple of weeks ago. And yeah...until this issue affected me, I couldn't give a crap less. But I do now, even though we've spoken about it elsewhere.

We're going to talk about it again. Maybe in ways some of you will find uncomfortable. That's ok, I do uncomfortable well. Stick around, I'll show you.

If what I just said pissed you off, let me clarify. You worked within the toolset you had at your disposal. I get that. Our biggest complaint is how bad the voices sound when compared to the results of work like this? Or like this? What we hope to do is not make you angry but work with us and let us know what we have to do to make it as good in Linux as it can be for the sources just outlined.

And yeah, the whole "you need to install three or more apps to get one to work half-way decently" thing is something I thought we could talk about as well.

 I rubbed elbows with some impressive people at LibrePlanet 2015. I spoke with a number of programmers and project team members of active Linux applications. I asked them how to fix broken free open source software. I asked what to do when originating programmers have no interest or intention of improving his work. (S)he has no intention of making it easier to use for the other 99 percent of us. That wasn't his purpose when (s)he wrote the software.

Of those of us who don't know how to edit or write a bash script to start the application? Of those of us who don't know how to edit text files to amend a bad path to an executable? Yeah...that's most of us. So what options do we have? With the exception of one software programmer out of 7, the answer orbited tightly around the various ways the question was asked.

Fork it.

If the software has reached a point where the developer is comfortable using it for his or her day to day use, then that's game, set and match. A good developer will allow others to find, use and modify his work. That's the "Open" in Open Source. That's why the author released the software under the GPL. Beginning from the last line of code for his application, you are on your own.

That's the one answer I didn't want to receive but in my mind, and even before I asked the question, I knew that was the answer I was going to get. Let me put this into perspective for you.

I was asked to give a talk on Reglue and how we work. My first reaction was to of course, politely decline. I mean really...how is a guy going to give a "talk" without the physical organ that allows him to speak? The short answer was to do it synthetically....using text to speech software.

My journey through the different Linux solutions are well documented on fossforce.com so I am not going to repeat them here. But I will tell you this. After a week of plinking around, trying to get Linux-based TTS software to work consistently, I paid $90.00 for a year's subscription on a website that allows you to save your text to speech files and access them when ever you need them. The feedback on my text to speech presentation was overwhelmingly good and I will probably do it again if invited.

Most of you know how much the Linux-based solutions don't work for almost everyone who needs that solution. Those "solutions" are frustrating to even the most seasoned Linux users. We are going to try our collective best to fix this.

Neil Munro is helping me get this ball rolling. Neil is an amazing guy with excellent talents. I'm humbled that he is willing to work with me on this. Hopefully, our team will grow over the next couple of weeks.

Oh, What ball to "get rolling"?

The ball with Linux text to speech written on it. The ball that's laying in a muddy puddle half deflated and filthy. The one that's been abandoned to just rot. That ball.

What I've found out is that there are literally tens of thousands of people in the world that need this software. Consistently working, easy-to-install text to speech software. And as much as I have fought against saying this...it's just something I have no control over. If you build it, people will come.

Tens of  thousands of people.

And sure...charge for your work, but make it competitive with what's already out there on the market. If you take in consideration the state of TTS in the Linux market, you are a blue chip app almost over night in both Andriod and that other phone....Oh it's on the tip of my tongue. You know...the white one.

Let me say you are now reading the words from a potential customer of at least 50 licenses a year.

So while most of the Linux TTS software is strewn in broken pieces across the Linuxshere, people of all ages, color, race and geographical location need this software to work. Their lives will be radically changed for the better if this software was available to them. There are two ways we can go about this.

1. Open a dialog with originating authors of the existing software. Entice them with money and/or fame. Ask them to make their software usable for the 99 percent of us who don't want to execute a bash script to make the software work.

2. Engage young, up-and-coming software programmers to finish the work that others before left them unfinished or unusable for most of us.

If it's money you want, just say so and I will help raise it. I understand, time is money. We can work together. And let me say it again...this isn't an attack on those who have written this software. You worked with the FOSS tools available at the time. Guide us through the hassles you had so we may be able to smooth those roads. It's a public request to pull all the fragments together in order to make is usable for everyone.

Hopefully we can work together well enough to completely make forking unnecessary.

And so there is no misunderstandings. This is the level of work we are looking to achieve, or maybe make better. Go to the link above outlined as "level of work" and choose your language and then paste the below text into the dialog box and hit speak. Listen to these results against the best even Mbrola can produce.

snip***

This is the quality of voice that is needed in the Free Open Source Software arsenal. This at the very least. What is available today is not at all ready for the every day user. The user that cannot afford the expensive and difficult "solutions" out there today.

And this is not perfect. Note the upcoming error the engine makes when it runs into a contraction or an apostrophe  in a sentence.

John isn't Joe's brother and isn't his friend either.

So while not perfect, it's a place to start. Now tell us what we have to do to get there.


/snip***

It's just that easy, in the scope of it anyway. Getting it done will be much more challenging. This is going to be a long haul project. It's not something that will fade away from neglect. I am making it my personal challenge to see this through. So whether it's by offering a programmer his monetary due for making this happen, or getting the attention of a younger, more eager programmer trying to establish some street cred, I don't particularly care.

But we'll know who considers this as important by the group that picks this ball up and moves it forward. You remember the ball we're talking about, right?

Have you decided to get out of bed and do something useful today?

All Righty Then.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       








Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Austin Business Retailmenot Steps Up To The Plate







We've been donated some fairly nice equipment over the years. Many of the computers we get are anywhere from 4 to 8 years old. With enough RAM upgrades, we can place these computers into our student's homes and calculate they can get at least two years out of them. Laptops, well; we have some problems getting newer ones donated. Once the Reglue Kid is a Junior in high school or over, these kids need portable power. 

A good snapshot of what we are now receiving is the Lenovo T-61 and T-61p. That's the grade of laptop we are seeing now. And there's nothing wrong with that. We bump them up anywhere from 4 to 8 gigs of RAM and they are ready to go to work. Donna Rawlings is in her second year of graduate studies and her Lenovo T61p has served her wonderfully.

But every now and then, we require laptops with a bit more horsepower. Many of our Reglue students have entered or are getting ready to enter college. And as mentioned, some of them into graduate studies. Those quality machines we have a tougher time getting our hands on. Until recently...that's when the good people at RetailMeNot stepped in to help.


We rarely know the specs on all the donations we pick up until we arrive on site or they are delivered to us. It can be a surprise at times, and most of those surprises are pleasant. But the IT Team at RetailMeNot donated some fantastic, gently used laptops, between 2 to 4 years old. 

From MacBook Pro 15.4's to Dell Precision M4600s and Latitude E6520/6420's, we have what we need and more to see that our undergrads and graduate students have the horsepower needed to do their work. The computers, monitors and other components you see here are simply representative of each piece donated. Retailmenot donated us over a dozen quad core laptops along with several desktops, 24 inch monitors, video cards, motherboards and other important components we need on a day-by-day basis

Thank you RetailMeNot!  For one of the few times in my life, I don't have adequate words to express how grateful we are for these donations. Coupled with the other great donations received recently, our laptop need is about two thirds covered up to this coming fall. Without their generosity, we would not even come close to meeting the demand for these financially disadvantaged kids. Kids like Holly's children.

Holly Syfret is a hard-working single mom. Two years ago, Holly and her kids lost their husband and father and that set the family reeling. Holly was a stay-at-home mom and after the emotional shock started to wear down, the reality of caring for 7 children set in. Holly had no real and current training to accompany her to the job interviews that laid ahead. Being the fighter she is, Holly now is working two jobs while her oldest daughters tend to the younger kids. And speaking of kids, they are:
Autumn-rose age 18
Sierra age 15
Danielle age 14
Judah age 12
Promise age 9
Noah age 6
Blessing age 6

We not only provided them a fantastic quad core laptop from Retailmenot.com, the desktop computer we built for them was built from 2 year old parts including a quad core intel chip, motherboard and graphics card. Autumn Rose will be entering college for her undergraduate studies this fall and wants to study mathematics. She will go to college with an additional one of these fantastic laptops provided by Retailmenot. It is a Dell Precision M4600 with 16 gigs of RAM and a 256 GB SSD.

 Right down the street from us is the Calzada family. Jose is another great dad that works two jobs to support his family. His kids have most definitely put a Retailmenot computer to work. We've found that even the youngest of kids appreciate and benefit from a computer in the home, These kids will be able to compete with their peers and that above all else is why we want to help people like Mr. Calzada and his family. These folks are the reason we exist.

 As well as with individual kids or families, Reglue has been an active
community member. We have set up a number of computer rooms for organizations that serve the community. From three facilities here in Taylor to a new room in Elgin Texas, we've tried to help those who need a computer with Internet access. Yolanda Johnson with our Reglue volunteer James Lantzch stands by one of the two computers we installed for the Portfolio Resident Services in Elgin Texas. Portfolio is an organization that gives kids a safe environment while waiting for working parents to pick them up. Yolanda is the director for the facility in Elgin. Many of the components within those computers came from Retailmenot and we expect them to last another three years at least.

We simply could not operate at the level we enjoy without our corporate sponsors. And as I said earlier, saying "Thank You" to Retailmenot almost seems trite. I sincerely hope that they know just how much they have impacted the lives of those they've helped.

All righty then...





Saturday, December 06, 2014

Walk With Me a Bit...Let's Talk.

Until Friday, it wasn't a big deal.

Surgery that is. I knew it was going to happen but until yesterday, I couldn't put my finger on a calendar and show you that date. It was just a fuzzy, non-specific thing. Something that was to be scratched off a to-do list. It wasn't a big deal. I assigned it little relevance...just something I needed to do and move on.

But it is a big deal.

On January 16th, I will be admitted to Seton Medical Center in Austin Texas. On that day, Doctor and ENT Surgeon Peter Scholl will cure my cancer. He will do so by removing my larynx, possibly my thyroid and every lymph node in the general vicinity. We didn't come to this decision lightly. The cancer that seemed to be in remission since February 2012 has now begun a counter-offensive to reclaim that territory.

I'm not going to let that happen. I've come too far, I've made long-term plans to help Reglue reach out to even more kids than previously scheduled. I don't have time to dally around with this cancer and the recovery any longer than necessary. But most importantly, I am Diane's caregiver. I have to be here.

I can put a thin veneer of protectant around that attitude and hold onto it, but the fact remains...

Things will never really be the same. I won't be able to eat like you...not for the first couple of months. I will undergo an extensive rehabilitation therapy. I will have to re-learn how to breathe, eat and talk. Until I can do that, I will receive nutrition via a feeding tube. But the biggest thing...the thing that is most important to me?

How I will communicate with people. I talk to dozens of people a week. Many of
them on the phone. My options here are few. There is one procedure that might let me speak close to the way I talk now. Unfortunately that will not work for me. Other issues with this surgery scratches that from my options list. There are text to speech options that can help and I will rely upon that technology to make it happen. But that other thing?

Yeah, I'm not going to be that guy.

That guy that holds a battery-powered device to his throat to talk. The device that translates the vibrations at the throat into a harsh, robotic voice. When I was 11 years old, I was in a pool hall with my oldest brother and the guy that worked the counter and cash register used one of those and he scared the hell out of me. What I find most disappointing is that the technology used 50 years ago hasn't improved much at all. Not for that device anyway.

I'm not gonna be that guy. Ever. I'd rather walk away from everything to avoid burning that image and sound into a child's head.

I've been working the past two weeks to find a Linux solution that might work for me...a way to translate text to speech. It's been a nightmare. I don't want to insult anyone or damage any feelings, but apps such as Festival just are not ready for prime time.

I'm not going to go into all the issues again. I made these statements on my G+ account. Some of the most techie folks I know admitted they had given up on making Festival and Espeak/Gspeak work. And no...I don't want to wrap an app with a distro that uses it out of the box. Even those apps are shaky at best, at least when it comes to text to speech. Besides, I am going to have to be able to use this speech method on the fly. Having it housed in a complete operating system will just produce way too much overhead.

So will I return to work at Reglue? I most certainly will but I need to get this behind me so I can see what I have left to work with. The one thing I just won't do is worry about money. A full third of what I do is fund raising. It's arduous to say the least and I despise doing it. But as in all endeavours...Reglue skids are greased by cash. As much as I wish that wasn't so, it is. We are in our last week of our annual fund raiser so if you want to go by the site and look at some of the new and reduced-priced perks, I'd appreciate it. We are barely over 50% of our goal with a week to go.

Because after all the smoke clears, it's obvious that without you, we wouldn't exist.

Good friend and old Army buddy Gene Molden mentioned that if my keynote was my last speaking engagement, then I went out on top. It was a lot of fun to give.

And with that, I will leave you. I'm sure I will post here again before I am admitted to the hospital but I want to make sure to tell you to enjoy the holiday season and be good to each other. And one way or the other....

I'll talk to you soon.

All-Righty Then.



Thursday, November 20, 2014

Short and sweet.

I had earlier posted that from the looks of it, we would have to cancel two of Reglue's programs this year, The 12 Geeks of Christmas and our girl mentoring program Gurlz-R-Geekz-2. Due to the response to this announcement and the generosity of people in the Linux Community, I am happy to announce that both programs are now back on. I will ship the first 2 12GoC laptops Monday to Geeks in in Houston Texas and Florida.

I would like to mention those who made this possible but I will respect their wish for anonymity. It was some amazingly generous 4 figure donations via our Paypal account that triggered these two programs to be jump started. However, I will mention my buddy and Linux Guru Beth Lynn Eicher and my super-good friend Larry Cafiero. They spearheaded an effort, asking for donations to Reglue in lieu of any birthday presents to them. 

Just Wow.

You folks are full of class and love. Thank you.

All-Righty Then

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Tough Choices and Uncertain Future for Reglue Projects.

I sat in the office of Dr. Peter Scholl yesterday and the decision was made. After an uncomfortable but necessary laryngoscopy ,the rate of growth  of the pre-cancerous tissue in my throat and larynx can no longer be ignored. Depending on how soon we can get the insurance minutia settled, I will undergo surgery to remove my larynx and associated lymph nodes sometime in the second week of January.

This isn't a carefree decision. This surgery is both complex and life-changing. It entails a two to three week stay in the hospital and months of therapy to learn how to speak and eat again. It is an extremely painful recovery.

 On the positive side of the ledger, this will stop any further throat cancer growth and let me get on with my life. I cannot function with the malignant sword of Damocles hanging over my head. I say "my head"...

This decision has a larger impact. Diane isn't taking this well. Even though she knows it's the best thing to do, she still worries. We're working through the problems of caring for her while I am in the hospital. Two back-to-back strokes in 2011 left Diane unable to fully care for herself. Hopefully my youngest daughter can take a few days off to stay at our house. I'm working on a way to get some money together so I can give it to her. She will have to take a week of unpaid leave at work and she lives on a shoestring the way it is.
  
What this means for Reglue.

In the long term, Reglue will continue to operate. I will remain the Executive Director and our mission will not change. However, it may dwell in hiatus for a couple of weeks after my surgery. Pete Salas and James, two extremely important volunteers for Reglue will keep the lights on and will continue to repair and refurbish incoming computers and maintain the building. Unfortunately, some other things will not happen in my absence.

Our ongoing annual Reglue fund raiser is 55% behind our mid-campaign goal.

Even though Indiegogo extended our campaign an additional 15 days, I can't be sure we will reach the amount needed to fully fund us for the next year. That being the case, I am cancelling The Twelve Geeks of Christmas this year as well as our Mentoring Program for Girls.

 Our Prometheus program, the project that helps the most disadvantaged Reglue Kids get online is also being suspended for the coming year. My crystal ball is foggy at this time so I cannot plan on projected figures. We must plan based on what is on hand. Prometheus is the most cost-intensive project we fund.

Ohio Linux Fest was an emotionally overwhelming experience for me. It gave me literal haptic feedback on how many people value what we do at Reglue. For that I am grateful beyond words. We have 11 installations scheduled between now and the last day of December. Others may pop up in that time but, for now, I am comfortable with those numbers.

I want to thank everyone who has helped us during the ongoing campaign. You folks are the life-blood of what we do and I appreciate you more than you know. So, between now and January, we'll march forward, keeping in mind what is really important.

A child's exposure to technology should never be predicated on the ability to afford it


Friday, November 14, 2014

Reprieve

It wasn't looking good.

Our annual fund raiser that is. With 13 days left in our indiegogo campaign, we had only reached 30% of our goal. That was bad on a few levels, but the thing I worry about most is cutting the special projects under Reglue.

Maybe it's the wrong time of the year, or maybe we need to re-evaluate our funding sources. Unfortunately, other sources lack greatly the things we need. Reglue has been fully supported and funded by the Linux and Open Source Community since 2009.

We can operate at 100 percent capacity for less than 10K a year
 
That includes supporting all of our learning centers, our girl mentoring program, The Twelve Geeks of Christmas and most importantly, our Prometheus Project. We pay setup, deposit and 3 months internet service for the most disadvantaged of our Reglue Kids. That gives them ample time to budget for paying their own Internet costs.

Indiegogo.com was gracious enough to allow us an additional 15 days to run our campaign. With the original  45 day Indiegogo campaign...we wouldn't come close to our goal. Most of the afore-mentioned services would fall to the side in the coming year. We now have a chance to get the funding needed to operate all facets of Reglue.
 
We've just added a number of new perks for your donations but these mentioned below are only a small sample of what we will be offering in the coming week. We've added some refurbished quad core i7 Dells for a more than reasonable price. 
 
A couple of amazing MacBook Pro laptops will be offered early this coming week. Those Dell laptops have the Nvidia Optimus graphics chipsets. We also have an Acer Chromebook with 4 gigs of RAM and a 320 gig hard drive and it's priced nicely. O’Reilly Press has donated us 10 fantastic geeky books to help you scratch that itch. This lightly used Nvidia graphics card is an amazing piece of work...depending on your power supply. Make sure your PS can handle this beast.

And yeah, I realize all of this isn't your responsibility. The last thing I want is for you to think I blame the community for our funding problems. Priorities change, we lose jobs, start new jobs, get married or a dozen other reasons why people haven't donated as much this year as in the past. Some extremely good friends have stepped up to donate to us this year. My sincerest of thanks goes out to Geek Extraordinaire Carla Schroder for all of her help this year.
 
Look...I don't want to discontinue any of these extra Reglue projects. But at the same time, I am facing some life-changing surgery and I don't want to be confined to home for 3-5 months recovering, wondering how we are going to make the money stretch to make it all work.  
 
Let's put our heads together and see if we can't find a way to make our full goal. I am open to all suggestions. We are a recognized non profit and many of you work for companies that have matching donation funding. Help us kick it around a bit and see what we come up with in order to fully fund Reglue for the year to come.
 
And as always...thanks for helping us do what we do.
 
All-Righty Then
 

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Where We Go From Here...

When I look back upon it, being invited to give the closing keynote at the Ohio Linux Fest will be at the top of my "2014 Cool Stuff I Did" list. From the moment I arrived, I was made to feel at home and welcomed. It is an experience I will remember always. My special thanks to +Beth Lynn Eicher for pulling all the levers and switches early on to help make it happen.

You can see my keynote below if you like. My special thanks to +Randy Noseworthy  for the hours and hours he spent editing the keynotes into a decent form. Given he was using and old Android phone and a tripod, he did a great job.

video


In a room with 300+ filled seats, I told the people in that room just how important their efforts are to Reglue. From answering questions in the various forums to submitting timely patches to the kernel, every bit of it eventually funnels down to complete the tools Reglue needs to do our job. And it's just as important today as when it was first uttered in 2005:

A child's exposure to technology should never be predicated on the ability to afford it.

But as great as this was, we may be facing a rocky start to 2015. For those who might not know, I received an aggressive regimen of radiation and chemo therapy to attack an equally aggressive form of throat cancer. Things looked fairly good until 35 days ago when a biopsy showed that the cells surrounding the scar tissue were "precancerous".

As well, a number of  keratosis patches have taken hold on the top and the side of my head. These rough, patchy skin outbreaks can be a sign of more dangerous things to come, such as lesions of squamous cell carcinoma. I've had a number of these removed over the years, but coupled with a diagnosis of throat cancer, these can be troubling.

And all of this leads down to where we are now. Should it be decided that a
laryngectomy is my best bet to kill this cancer once and for all, then that is what I am going to do. I've already talked it over with Diane and my ENT and should this latest scan and scope come back as "troubling", I will elect for the removal of my larynx.

And let me say this now. This is a self-inflicted wound. Decades of smoking and drinking, coupled with pizza and hot fudge sundae dinners have finally come home to roost as it were. So the last thing I am looking for is sympathy.

I will be off of work for 90+ days and while two of our stellar volunteers have promised to keep the doors open and the lights on during my recovery, there's a matter of having the money to do so.

15 days ago I began our annual fund raiser. It has taken a while to take off and at this present rate, we're not going to be able to make our goal. Pete Salas, a Reglue volunteer said it better than I could:

"A lady who gets harassed as a bus monitor has over 700K raised on Indiegogo and we struggle for a few grand for a year's budget."

Yeah, that has crossed my mind from time to time, and I am understandably concerned. None of my projects leading up to Reglue has ever been shut down due to a shortage of funds. It's looking more and more like this may be the case for the first half of 2015.

There are lots of ways to donate. You can donated via www.reglue.org two different ways, either by clicking the top banner mentioning Indiegogo or by clicking on the paypal donate button on the right side of the page.

Or you can do so here.

And I do want to thank those who have helped so far. With a blog site that has surpassed one million page views, it would seem simple to get this fund raising done and back to our business. It would seem. Heck, a 5 dollar donation by just half of our monthly visitors would almost triple what we need to keep Reglue running.

And yeah, this probably comes close to "begging" for money. I despise fund raising more than anything else. I'd rather have back-to-back root canals without anaesthesia than try to raise money. I just wish that I didn't have to spend so much of my time doing it.

If you can help, I would appreciate it. Truly I would.

All-Righty Then...

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

I love this time of year. Let's do this.

We finally got a real temperature-dropping cool front for Central Texas this week. Up until now, the daily temps have been in the 90s with a couple of days in the high 80s. I just brought Astro in from his evening walk and I am such a sissy when it comes to the cold, I put a sweater on. That's really pretty sad. It's 52 degrees and I'm trying to remember where I hung my winter bomber.

Otherwise, things are pretty good considering. Last week's heavy rains found a weak spot in the Reglue roof and leaks ensued. a bunch of our workship acoustic ceiling tiles dropped to a gloppy mess on the floor. As if that wasn't bad enough, the wet tiles and subsequent leak ruined over 30 of our monitors. Like it couldn't leak on the stuff ready to go to recycle. It had to leak on the one item we are chronically short on - sheesh.

But, we'll survive. Speaking of...

October 15th kicks off our annual Reglue Indiegogo fund raiser. We are off to a late start due two sponsors dropping out of communication. That was a surprise to say the least but we'll make it work. You can always support us by providing various perks. We will need a number of 16 gig flash drives for example. We'd love to hear from you if you can provide them for us.

We've improvised and came up with an ever-growing list of perks that we are
offering this year. From a complete Time Weaver Chronicles ebook set to a refurbished quad core, 12 gigs of RAM Dell, we regained our perk footing fairly fast. There are more on the way over the 60 day campaign. Please stop by and give us a hand if you can. It's going to be a good year for us.

I've worked hard this year to bring us back up to speed after a 15 month recovery session from cancer treatments. I am extremely excited about the coming year. We have so much planned...so many people we can help.

W just need your help to do it.

Also, watch for my weekly article at FOSS Force on the 21st. I'll be making an important announcement and I think it's important that all my friends know what's happening.

I want to thank you ahead of time for the help you provide my organization. It's been you since the beginning that has brought us to where we are and I am hopeful it is you that helps us help even more disadvantaged kids in the future.

All-Righty Then...

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Ricky's Flower

This piece was re-written and will be posted at opensource.com. You can see the edited and published article here:

https://opensource.com/life/14/10/reglue-program-linux-computers-kids

Sunday, July 13, 2014

When "Free" Can Suck.

We were fortunate enough to have a donated space in the expo hall at Texas Linux Fest this year. +Carolyn Hulsey who is one of our Directors, manned the Reglue booth for us on Friday.  She jokingly asked if I wanted her to be our "booth babe" this year.  She was in deed, all of that.



What was truly humbling was the number of people that recognized us without introduction.  When someone approached, I stood and extended my hand in greeting.  More often than I would have thought, the person shook my hand and told me, "I know who you are."

Wow....just wow.

It was one of these people that later pursued a 3 day email discussion with me on Free As In Beer software. And yeah...we all know the benefits.  But what of the negatives?

Linux distributions.  His "take"?

"Anyone paying for a Linux distribution is putting their money down the drain.  What they should be doing is putting that money into the hands of a free distro developer so (s)he can make their distribution better".

My long-time friend and mentor, +Carla Schroder  recently had a piece published at Linux.com.  The article asked a good question concerning Linux distros and she based her article on the different answers to the question.....

"Where are they now?"

These distros highlighted had a major impact on The HeliOS Project and later, upon Reglue. Mepis and Libranet.

When I first started The HeliOS Project, I was using Librenet on my personal computer.  Libranet had a per-user licensing agreement in order to make the effort pay and a single user license was for 69.00 If I remember correctly.  Jon Danzig and I worked out a multiple licensing agreement that we could both live with. The fact is, Jon almost gave those licenses away because he believed in what we were doing.  Jon's untimely death in 2005 eventually resulted in the Libranet venture striking their tents and moving on.

I consider Libranet as the first extremely easy Linux distro for the masses.  However, we were left with no other choice but to change our flagship distro.

Mepis Linux worked amazingly well for us. We used Mepis on all of our outgoing computers until 2010.  We put Mepis Linux on over 200 computers during Lynn Bender's Linux Against Poverty event in 2010.

video

Many of those systems are still in use today.  Three and a half months ago, we were contacted that one of our Reglue system's was no longer working.  A quick glance at the boot screen told the whole story.

It was Mepis 8 still running that computer, with KDE 3.5 working in all it's splendor. The problem was an aging Nvidia card/driver and some serious dirt and dust within the machine.  We replaced the computer with a decent dual core and our current Mint KDE LTS. Everyone is again happy. At least for another 4-5 years.

That Mepis system ran from 2010 until the late winter of 2014 without one major problem.

The three day email discussion I mentioned above was ignited by our difference of opinion pertaining to the "Free as in Beer" culture and mindset that encompasses most of the Linuxsphere.

His thoughts on the matter?  "Charging for a Linux distro or even software being developed for Linux is obscene".  Linux and Free Open Source Software should never have a price tag. Also, it should never have proprietary drivers and apps within.

Ever.

We agreed to disagree.  My job is to help disadvantaged kids get a functional and useful computer into their home. I can't very well set a new computer up in a kid's home and then give him a long list of things he cannot do with it.

"I'm sorry there kiddo.  You can't watch a lot of videos or use your school's website because they depends on Flash.  I'm also sorry that you can't play on miniclip.com or use some of your apps. Java doesn't work on your computer. But hey...ain't using Linux great anyway?  Make sure to tell all your friends how great Linux is."

Google's act of stripping Java support from Chrome severely cripples that browser.  What they intend to replace it with still remains to be seen.  Is Chrome following Apples lead in refusing to include Flash?  At first blush, it would certainly seem so.

At this time, it's unclear to me how Chrome merits any consideration as Reglue's daily driver on the information highway.

And I'm sure someone wants to mention Iced Tea and other open source attempts to produce replacements for Flash and Java.  Yeah, they work...sometimes.  My experience is that they fail at the exact time and place I need them to work.

As much as I agree in principle with the FOSS doctrine, that philosophy
cannot stand the full weight of day-to-day pragmatism without the roof falling in. The inclusion of Flash and Java into the Linuxphere is a necessary evil for many of us.

We've enjoyed success in placing Reglue machines, but some think we've compromised the Free Open Source Software principles to do so.  Really...?  Compromised principles? I'm not here to start a religious war nor am I here to place my allegiance in any particular camp. What I am here for is to express my opinion on what works best for the majority of most everyone.

Most everyone that uses a computer anyway.

Sometimes, in the Linux/Free Software world, things we thought would be here forever can go away quickly...leaving everyone in a state of confusion and surprise. The relatively recent demise of SolusOS and Fuduntu come immediately to mind.

As an aside, I wonder how my argumentative friend would feel if he donated money to these distros.

" What they should be doing is putting that money into the hands of a free distro developer so (s)he can make their distribution better"

Both were great developers but did any donations to those projects stop them from being canceled? So as many people donated to either one, in the end it didn't make a whit of difference. They are gone and seemingly never to return.

But wait...Let's talk about that little Google Chrome maneuver (mentioned above) that caught many of us by surprise last May. And in no way could it be described as anywhere near a pleasant surprise.

When I updated to the 35.xxx release of Chrome I figured it was business as usual.  I rarely review the release notes unless I need to see if a certain feature is now supported.

Maybe I should be checking for features that have had their guts ripped out.

While it was publicly announced, many of us didn't get the memo. Google dropped all Flash support in Chrome. It's their plan to make Chrome faster and more secure.  Really?

One of the reasons I left Firefox for Chrome was for its built-in support for Java/Flash.  Why these two are intertwined I have no clue.  Regardless, those websites that worked previously with Chrome no longer did...it simply said that the Java plugin was missing and it offered a link to download and install it.

I remember thinking to myself, "Oh crap...this can't be good".

And it wasn't.  A short search for some answers came quickly:

Java plug-in missing after upgrade to 35.0.1916.114 (Linux)Java plug-in missing after upgrade to 35.0.1916.114 (Linux)

 Two years ago, Reglue made Chrome the default browser in our default distro simply because Java (and many Flash) woes in Linux were dispatched quickly by using it.  Ever-increasing difficulty with Flash and Java in Firefox made the switch seem sensible.  

Now, that just ain't so.  Google will do what Google will do but steamroller changes like this is going too far, even for Google.  We've found our way back to Firefox and it feels like putting on an an old pair of comfortable jeans. 

It just feels right.

There is a passionate discussion among devepers concerning this "problem".
The plugin wasn't omitted...it was blocked.  Here, you can read for yourself the anger among those who develop for Chrome. Potentially millions of users woke up to find that their Chrome browser no longer supports Java.  It doesn't support Java?  Then for many of us, Chrome is practically useless.

My point is that we shouldn't need to use multiple browsers for differing tasks.  But that comes full circle to my point. In this instance and many others in the Free Software world...This a case of when free can suck.  

While I am sure there are a number of cases where we could site the same sort of thing in commercial products, I don't think any stockholder or board of directors would support a main feature being gutted from their product. Not without replacing it with something better.  It appears that Google doesn't have any such compunction.

As user edtoml points out in the above-mentioned link, 

"Getting rid of a 'bad' API can be a good thing.  Not converting critical plugins is bad verging on evil".

Of course, that depends.  If you are trying to forcibly guide internet applications into certain directions...then this is the course Google should be taking. Microsoft made a living out of it.  Don't get me wrong.  Flash and Java suck and they need to die by fire, but killing it off before alternatives exist is nasty business.  

And of course, that brings us again to something we, as Google users have come to understand.

Google is fastly becoming our Internet overlords if they aren't already. Gmail and Chrome are not Google products...we are the products.  We are the marketable items. Gmail and Chrome are simply the useful playgrounds given to us in order for them to collect our data.  Why does the choice between a red pill and a blue pill come to mind?  

So as always, the devil is in the details.  Am I ready to give up my Gmail account and Chrome browser?  

Gmail no, Chrome, yes. I may even revisit Opera.  But I am dialed in by a factor of 10, looking for alternatives that can give me the same features without compromising in ease of use.  But let there be no doubt.  If there ever should be such a product to come down the pipe that replaces the Google offering, I will certainly use it.

And I will most certainly pay for it if necessary.

All-righty then...