Bureaucrats And Herd Followers: Forget About Trying Linux

After reading the recent Mike Cassidy column titled “Linux Could Ease Schools’ Tech Crunch” on SiliconValley.com, I couldn’t help reminiscing about the long-held fantasy of rolling Linux into schools.

In spite of the sad economic climate, prompting the ever-present “using what you already have” rhetoric, I just don’t see it ever happening.  Three things lead me to this conclusion:

1. Businesses have never fallen all over themselves to embrace the Penguin. It’s just reality, even though you and I know Linux is exceedingly capable, robust, and reliable…not to mention freely available on the Web.  I’ve tried repeatedly, over the last few years to promote a sponsored “Intro To Linux” seminar for businesses in the Central Florida area.  The last attempt was in partner with a nationally known tech contracting shop.  The company sent out email blasts, mentioned it when meeting with clients, and even published an article I wrote extolling the benefits of using Linux.

The result?  Nothing!  Not a single client took us up on the offer for the one-hour workshop.  We were even going to cater the food and drink!

2. Linux is a mature technology. Linux on the desktop never really happened.  For a while it flashed onto the scene via Netbooks.  Now, everybody says it will be the OS of choice in the up-and-coming mobile embedded space.  Ah…riiiiiight!

I think Linux will continue to slip in where smart innovators strategically see that it makes sense.  In other words, either the ROI can be soundly proven on paper or the business leader is so far out on the curve (and can command that it gets don), that his gut says it’s the right OS to use.  That group will always be a very small percentage of the population.

Linux will certainly NOT be embraced anywhere that is steeped in bureaucracy or political maneuvering.  Linux is made for people that forge their own paths and make their own decisions.  Adopting Linux simply has too many intangibles, unknowns, and takes too much mental work for your average bureaucrat.  It just isn’t happening.

Not only that, ubiquitous networks, cloud computing, and always-connected phone devices will shortly make knowledge of the OS mute.

3. Linux can salvage your old hardware. Of course it can, if you can live with the slow performance and have a lot of spares.  Old (2 to 5 year) hardware is certainly available.  Performance on older hardware is OK or perhaps better (read more reliable) than Windows (XP, Vista, etc.).

The real killer is time.  Will a school fund the time it takes for a teacher to come up to speed on Linux?  Is a teacher going to dive into swapping boards or power supplies?  Will they learn the networking and server concepts well enough to support 30 or 40 laptops in a lab?  They better be a special person, if they plan on going the Linux route.

They are also going to need quite a collection of spares and assorted parts, as well.  From experience, I know that a typical notebook hard drive will last about 30,000 hours.  That’s about 3-1/2 years of continuous operation.  What teacher is going to be able to fund 40 new notebook hard drives for their 4 year-old machines?  A new drive is $100, while a new cheapo notebook is $400.  School systems will cite the cost of cheapo notebook and resist spending 1/4 of the price for drives.  Of course, they would never buy $400 notebooks for their school, because they need “better” equipment.  They’ll end up buying nothing or it will take so long to get approval, that another solution will surely appear from the ether.

Bottom line, old machines are not snappy enough and will require too much effort to keep running…in addition to the perceived “Linux” learning curve.  The school leaders and administrators just won’t want to go to the trouble to make it work.

Perhaps the titans of Silicon Valley might put their efforts into getting freedom and free market-oriented leaders in Washington.  Lack of growth in the United States economy, job market, and manufacturing/tech sectors are completely negating the need for computers in schools, anyway.  Increased taxes and regulations are killing America.  Create the environment and need for good equipment and incentives to learn the hard subjects.

I think schools should leave Linux to the adventure seekers, rugged individuals, innovators, and DIYers that have the guts, brains, and committment to make it work.


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Create Your Own Circuits With Fritzing

Open Source Software, like Linux, and Open Hardware, like the Arduino microcontroller, are opening plenty of possibilities for entrepreneurial, off-the-shelf product development.  Putting the two together has been a little slow to catch on because traditional development has sought competitive advantage through proprietary designs and patent protection.  Open everything…meaning freely available code, schematics, layouts, board design, and so on is getting increased attention.

What more could a garage-based inventor ask for?

How about a program to document everything and help with the design.

Behold.  The Fritzing CAD package.

It’s available under for Windows, Macs, and yes, Linux.

Fritzing is a computer aided design editor that you can use to design a breadboard/prototype layout of your microcontroller project.  It’s library of parts include resistors, transistors, caps, wires, and microcontrollers.  Various flavors of each is represented.  Resistor color codes actually show up on the resistors.  The program uses vector graphics, with anchor points, so you can run wires between your devices and they will represent the actual circuits.

But it gets better.

You can also switch over to “schematic” view and get a layout of the circuit in standard electronic symbols.  Granted the routing is a little goofy, at times.  Wire routing and component placement can be moved around without too much trouble, for clarity.

There’s also a “circuit board layout” view that shows the board.  Again, it isn’t the smartest board routing program going.  It is free and with a little work can be used for simple board layouts.

Fritzing, on Linux is at version 0.3.19 now.  It is a little rough around the edges.  I think it shows great promise and I am using it for some of my paid tech article work.  Creating a graphic for an article of Arduino breadboard project is ten times easier than drawing it in Openoffice.org Draw  or Inkscape.  You export the output in various industry standard graphics formats including .jpg, .png, and .pdf.

You can also export a cool bill-of-material in plain text.

So, if you need to record your microcontroller circuits complete with graphics and parts lists, why not give the Fritzing CAD package a try.  Check out this design.

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The Western – A Truly American Invention

The American Western…a great Hollywood invention.

How does it relate to DIY?

Take the case of Clint Eastwood, one of my favorite actors.

Mr. Eastwood hails from the Carmel, California area.  He’s lived there a long time and has had several businesses in the area.  It is a beautiful and inspiring part of the country.  Naturally, he’s also a longtime movie producer, as well.

That’s were the DIY comes in because he started out as an actor, doing uncredited bit roles, then after being in the business a while branched off into directing and producing films.

Mr. Eastwood is a true do-it-yourselfer.  He came from meager beginnings, learned the movie business, and built a very successful and enduring production company.

The Western usually pits an aggressive evil villain against a hard working (or hard drinking) hero who has some type of ethical dilemma, haunting him.  Mr. Eastwood’s films have used this theme often.  He has produced and starred in many of his movies.

The Western represents the traditional good versus evil, so common in the world.  Almost always, the good guy wins, in the end.  One notable exception has been a recent Eastwood film, set in the Michigan auto industry region.  Even in that film Eastwood, takes matters into his own hands and solves problems.

DIY all the way…although not always neat, at best, and pretty darn messy, at worst.  The DIYer always gets the job done.

The Western and Clint Eastwood showcase the traditional American moral high-ground.  They also promote the notion that hard work and perseverance will win in the end.

With all that’s going on in the world I think I’ll go watch “The Outlaw Josie Wales” or a Dirty Harry movie and get back in a good mood.


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DIY Idea Sites

Sometimes do-it-yourselfers need a little inspiration.  Here are several techno-geeky sites that I like to visit, “to get my DIY mind right”.

Hacked Gadgets





Make Magazine

All of these sites have pretty high traffic numbers and are updated regularly.  Hacked Gadgets is my favorite, because stories featured there are almost always done by fellow DIYers in their home shops.  Slashdot is another one I check daily.  The stories are always current and usually way out there.



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Hurricanes, Earthquakes, A Nuke In A City…Are You Ready?

I was listening to Hannity today and heard a commercial about survival foods.  Sadly, I didn’t get the company name.  So…I did a little search and found a couple of companies that have made a business out of packaging up freeze-dried food and supplies specifically for when “the worst happens”.

Survival Warehouse

This company has a variety of food packages ranging from overnight hiking survival packs to several 1-year long-term food storage solutions.  They also have a section on their page about how to deal with volcanos, earthquakes, hurricanes, terrorism, and so on.  There’s even a section on pet survival products.


This company has a variety of survival products and information.  You can sign up for their monthly newsletters, that they’ll email you, with valuable information on getting prepared for catastrophe.


Nitro-Pak also has a very wide variety of products, including exotic stuff like a night-vision scope, survival books, and “surplus equipment”.

DIY means being as self-sufficient as possible.  While these survival products aren’t cheap, they might beat gathering everything up on your own.

Actually, I found it interesting that there are actually companies around that provide these products and services.

What will they think of next?

Time to go get ready for…(you fill-in the blank)

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Wanted: All-America Cheerleaders

Where are the All-America cheerleaders?

You know.  The A-student, bright personality, Apple pie, hometown type of person.

It’s Freedom vs. Tyranny and we’re down by 21. 1:50 left in the half.  Our team has problems.  The quarterback has been secretly dating the other team’s coach’s daughter (metaphorically speaking) and our coaches are all suffering amnesia. A storm is blowing in from the Middle East and an earthquake has left our stadium rickety and unstable.

Bring in the All-America cheerleaders and let them work their magic.

The sour economy, coupled with upwardly creeping unemployment has most Americans on edge. Small business and the corporate folks are all keeping their head’s down…and being very tight with their cash. We see long faces and concerned looks everywhere. Citizens are stressed.

We need some All-America cheerleaders.

The optimism displayed across vast swaths of the American public, during the run up to the 2008 elections has completely vanished. I find this remarkable, given the fact that so many promises were made by politicians in and around Washington. Americans know that those promise are now being kept and absolutely killing Team America’s spirit.

We’re in desperate need of All-America cheerleaders.

Great cheerleaders have brought their beloved team back from the brink, many times in the past. Some people call it the “rallying cry” or “push to the finish”.  There is an emotional wave that can flow over the team and hometown crowd that fundamentally alters the outcome of the game.

Some cheerleaders will be Republican or Conservative candidates for the upcoming November elections. They might be the big Conservative talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, or Michael Savage.

I’m proud to say that Tea-Party folks are definitely All-America cheerleaders.

I suspect most U.S. Citizens will turn out to be All-America cheerleaders, voicing their disgust about the lunacy of political correctness, ever expanding social programs, taxing the rich, global warming, Islamic Jihad, and all other Socialist/Leftist/Dictatorial/Tyrannical/Oppressive actions.

Are you an All-America cheerleader?

I am and I’m on the field, right here, right now.

Doctortorque…(aka: Rob Reilly)

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Israel – Apparently Will Do It Themselves

With very deep regret, I’m afraid I have to say that Israel is now in total DIY mode.

I’m sad because they have been a faithful ally of the United States for a long time.  Now, with the World condemning them for just protecting their own interests, history is calling on them to again show their true grit.  I’m also sad because I cannot do a damn thing to help them, other than cast my vote for Conservatives, in November and get rid of the Liberal, Socialist rats in my own government.

The United State’s response to the Israeli situation has been weak and is enabling ever more dangerous behavior by our enemies.

I support Israel and the Jews.

They are a good and prosperous people, with strong family traditions much like in America.  Throughout history they’ve been attacked by dictators, thugs, radicals, and murderers I think because they have been successful.  It’s a shame that so many people in the World want to throw in with the bad guys and deny Israel their rights and freedoms.  Liberalism, oppression, and tyranny seem to be the World’s default governmental mode of operation.

I wish Israel the very best, but I fear that they might face the very worst.

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