Apple: The Gold Standard for GNU/Linux

Before I was hired for my present job I went through an interview with the young man who was CEO at the time and then a team interview with everyone except him.  In the team interview one of the developers asked me if I ever worked with Macs before.  My reply was something like, “Well, I never had to, but I can learn.”  He chuckled and said, “’…never had to,’ I like that.”  It all worked out and I got the job, but I still had to get accustomed to a big, bright, shiny iMac.

Having only used Windows for all of my adult life up to that point I felt almost as though I was learning my way around a computer for the first time.  It’s been over a year and I am pretty experienced with Apple software, but I even now I don’t like it.  The fact remains, though, that it certainly feels superior to any version of Windows I’ve ever used.  That is why I believe it is the “gold standard” which a Linux distro needs not only to match but also surpass.

In December 2009 I switched my family’s home desktop over to Ubuntu.  I’d been toying with the idea of trying out Linux for a while and had given a couple of live CDs a spin.  There were bumps along the way, like not being able to set up dual-boot because of a hardware/BIOS issue, but when all was said and done I was quite a bit happier with Ubuntu than I was with Windows XP.  My kids adapted quickly and my wife has actually become somewhat of a casual Ubuntu evangelist.  At least, every time someone mentions having an issue with Windows she extols the virtues of Ubuntu and encourages me to tell them about it.  My household holds no doubt about Ubuntu being a better option, for many reasons, than any version of Windows.  So why isn’t it gaining more of a foothold?  It’s missing the “wow” factor.
Imagine if Ubuntu were to be developed to the point where, installed in virtually any fairly modern desktop or laptop, it were to work as well or better than a Mac.  That is to say that all the “bling” would be there and none of the bugs or even “papercuts” currently experienced with Windows and Ubuntu Linux.  If the Ubuntu OS were as good or (ideally) better than Mac OSX and also free there’s little doubt it would make far more progress in the market.  The real competition for any Linux development community has to be seen as Apple, not Microsoft.
Apple computers do not have as large a hold percentage-wise on worldwide personal and business markets, and this can largely be attributed to the price.  Another reason would be the fact that humans are creatures of habit.  No matter how bad a person’s experience might be with Windows, most end up preferring that over the “unknown” of a Linux distro.  Again, if Ubuntu or any Linux distro were to be seen as outdoing Apple’s OS, that combined with the “free” price tag would likely be enough to push the reluctant to make the switch.
As I said above, I don’t like Apple’s OS.  I like many of the features and the sharp look, and of course I find it far more reliable that Windows.  What bothers me most are perhaps the lack of a simple package manager (as found in Ubuntu) offering numerous free software options and also the somewhat obtuse way of installing downloaded software (I’m sure that will make Apple fanboys howl about my stupidity).  If the Ubuntu team worldwide manages to polish what it already has to the point of meeting or exceeding Apple’s current offering I don’t see how it won’t begin to receive wider adoption.  At that point Microsoft will no longer be on the radar for discussion, unless the company is willing to rise to the fresh challenge.
In truth, the future of of operating systems may not even come down to Canonical (sponsor of Ubuntu) and Microsoft.  It could be a battle between Google and Apple, with Microsoft fading into the background.  Ah, but that’s a topic for another day….

The Good of Short-Term Mission Trips

Christian Odyssey recently published an article by Janet Morrison discussing whether short-term mission trips are mere vacations for Christians.  I liked the fact she addressed the issue and thought I’d add my own thoughts here, especially given my intention to take a trip to Brazil to teach in the summer and another one to Honduras in December to help with the Jesus Banquet.  Are short-term mission trips justifiable?  I think so, and my opinion has been formed from living both sides of the story.

In June 1997 I arrived in Brazil with a team of  "mission interns.“  My stated objective was to help in any way I could and stay out of the way of the missionaries.  The experience was life-changing, to say the least.  During those two months I made a commitment to mission work in Brazil that altered my course in life.  The experience enriched and deepened my understanding of the faith of Christ and the mission of the church.  I witnessed how our fallen species can be both hideous and wonderful and caught a glimpse of the majesty of God.  I thank God that I made that mission trip in 1997.

A few years later I was a missionary in Brazil when we received a crew from a church in Tennessee.  They had come to operate a VBS for us.  How could a bunch of monolingual Americans help us with this project?  I welcomed them, though I had my doubts.  Any skepticism was soon erased as I found myself and the rest of the Christians in our little church greatly encouraged by the visitors.  It was energizing to show them around, knocking on doors and inviting kids to the VBS.  The presence of a bunch of Americans also gave our work more visibility in the community.  So, not only were the Christians encouraged, the church also got some more attention.

Short-term mission trips may feel somewhat like a vacation.  For many who go on these trips this will be the sum total of their international experience.  Many who go on such trips would never spend money on going on a cruise or traveling Europe.  In some cases part or all of the funds were raised or provided by a local church or mission group.  Seeing life in a developing nation (the primary destination of most, if not all, short-term missions) can be profoundly eye-opening for a middle-class American.  So, even if there’s an element of "vacation” or adventure in the trip, that can be fine.  So long as the lay missionary’s attitude is right, the trip can be a big positive for everyone involved.

30 Second GNU/Linux Elevator Pitch

Some time back I was taking the elevator up to the 36th floor where I work when a fellow struck up a conversation with me.  He was the only other person on the lift and had noticed my Ubuntu hat.  He commented that he’d never seen a hat with “Ubuntu” on it before.  He asked me first if I use Ubuntu (demonstrating that he understood that in this context it was referring to the open source GNU/Linux operating system), then he asked why.

Not fully prepared to give a pitch for Ubuntu Linux on the elevator, I mentioned first that it was free, then that it was stable, easy to install and use and secure.  I was even honest enough to mention that the security of Linux distros is due largely to the fact it’s still a niche OS.

So, here’s a challenge: Imagine that someone asks you about the GNU/Linux distro you prefer and you only have 30 seconds before the elevator doors open and the conversation is over.  What would you say?

After a couple of comments I’ll try to get my own thoughts together and write my own.  Then again, I’m hoping someone comes up with something so good I can just copy it!

New England Church Growth Conference

New England Church Growth ConferenceThe other day a friend from the Brazilian Church of Christ in Newark invited me to go with him to the New England Church Growth Conference. I looked into it and thought it sounded interesting. So, looks like I’ll be going.

The following information about this event was taken from the Missional Outreach Network website.

Time: March 13, 2010 all day
Location: Manchester Church of Christ
Street: 595 Tolland Turnpike
City/Town: Manchester, CT
Website or Map:
Phone: 203-265-2767
Event Type: conference
Organized By: Churches of the Northeast

Event Description

A cooperative effort of churches in the Northeast… to provide opportunity and discussion on the topic of church growth… Keynote speaker: Monte Cox, Harding University; 5 Workshops

Click here for a general overview of the conference from my notes.

Register for DebConf10!

DebConf10 will be held in New York City!  I’m glad I live in New Jersey, work in the city and that DebConf is free to attend.  I’ve registered, and if you are planning to attend, be sure to do so as well.  Information below was taken from the DebConf10 website.

See Also:
DebConf10 and DebConf and LinuxCon 2010

Registration is now open for DebConf10. The dates of the conference are August 1-7, 2010, with arrivals at our group lodging permitted as of 3 PM on July 31 and departures required by 11 AM on August 8. The conference is preceded by DebCamp from July 25-31 including the arrival day. To receive announcements regarding DebConf and DebCamp, please subscribe to the debconf-announce mailing list.

How to register

To register follow one of the processes outlined below:

After logging in

After logging in, please fill in at least the ‘General’, ‘Contact’ and ‘Travel’ tabs reachable through the ‘Registration details’ button on the bar on the left of the page. Please pay special attention to the ‘DebConf’ and ‘DebCamp’ boxes on the ‘General’ tab. You need to select at least the “I want to attend this conference” checkbox or your registration won’t be valid.
Note to users who have an account from previous years: We did our best to make sure you do not have to re-enter all your personal data again, just the conference-specific changes. Please check and verify if it is all still valid.
When making changes in the conference management system, please revisit the page to ensure that your changes have been successfully recorded.

Travel Sponsorship

We hope to obtain enough sponsorship to help some people attend who would not be able to pay for their own travel. We hope to allocate travel sponsorship money between April and June. We will make travel sponsorship reimbursements as soon as possible, but unfortunately sometimes in the past it has only been possible quite long after DebConf.
If you would like to apply for travel sponsorship, please fill in as much information as you can on the registration pages. Even if you have not arranged your travel when you apply for sponsorship, we need to know which days you intend to spend at the conference.
The deadline for sponsorship applications is April 15th.

DebCamp Attendance

DebCamp is a smaller, less formal event than the main conference, giving an opportunity for group work on Debian projects. It will again be held in the week before DebConf, from Sunday July 25th through Saturday July 31st. In an effort to make DebCamp a little more organised we ask everyone who wants to attend DebCamp to fill in an additional text field describing their work plans for the Camp.

Cost of attendance

As multiple attendees of past conferences suggested that we make it easy for attendees to make a contribution towards the cost of their DebConf attendance, we are again offering a way to do this.
As in the past the conference is free, and we will try our best to offer food and accommodation sponsorship to everyone who requests it before April 15th, but if the number of people requesting sponsorship significantly exceeds previous years we may have to limit this.
We also offer two additional registration options, Professional and Corporate. The Professional category (USD $650.00) is meant for every individual or company who wants to help the conference by making a contribution to reflect the cost of their attendance. The Corporate category ($1300.00) is intended for companies who pay their employees’ attendance fees. If you register as a Corporate attendee, we will list your company on a special page on the conference website.
Both paid registration categories optionally include free food and accommodation; other non-sponsored attendees are encouraged to stay or eat with the group at their own expense. Room costs will be USD $53 per person per night; food costs are not yet finalized.
We encourage everybody to help making DebConf a success by selecting the Professional or Corporate registration category.
Attendees that register late (after April 15th) are ineligible to request food or accommodation sponsorship.
We are looking forward to welcoming you to New York City in August.
— DebConf team

NYLUG Hacking Society

The NYLUG Python group has been reinvented as the NYLUG Hacking Society.  Now rather than discuss only  Python, the meeting is open to discussing and learning about programming in general.  Last night (2/3/2010) Robert Menes gave the first of what is intended to be a series of lessons presenting Smalltalk.

Click here to get the free ebook we downloaded last night, and here to download Squeak (the environment you’ll need to work with Smalltalk).

Meetings will continue to be every two weeks, so the next one should be on February 16.  If you’re going to be in NYC and are interested in learning about Smalltalk, why not drop in?

Join the Hacking Society e-mail list here.  The NYLUG chat room can be found at #nylug on .