While many of us are self-isolating indoors amidst the coronavirus outbreak. ZDNet had a special feature discussion with Linus Torvalds on his opinions or thoughts on working from home during the Coronavirus lockdown.
If you didn’t know already (how could you not?), Linus Torvalds is the creator of Linux and Git as well. And, he did all that while working from home. Here’s a video from 2016 where Torvalds shows his home office:
So, in this article, I’m going to share some of my key takeaways along with his responses from Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols‘ interaction with Linus Torvalds for ZDNet.
Discard the fear of missing human interaction
Torvalds mentioned that when he first started working from home years ago, he was worried about missing human interaction that included going to the office, interacting with people, or simply going out for lunch.
Interestingly, he did not seem to miss any of that anymore- he preferred his time at home without human interaction.
Of course, isolating yourself from human interacting isn’t the best thing – but it looks like that is a good thing for now.
Take advantage of working from home
Just like we at It’s FOSS operate completely remote, you can do a lot of stuff without actually being at an office.
Not to forget – you can pet your cat as much as you want and I have 6 of them, I know it’s difficult (*giggles*).
And, as Linus Torvalds mentioned, the real advantage of remote work is “flexibility”. You do not necessarily need to sit in front of your desk working from 9-5 or more. Technically, you are free to take breaks in between and do whatever you wish at home.
In other words, Linus suggests avoiding re-creating an office at your home – which is worse than going to an office.
Efficient communication is the key
You can choose to have several meetings (video conferences or audio calls) in a day – but is it really necessary?
For some, it might be a big deal – but you should try to minimize the time spent on a meeting by clearing things up in brief.
Or, as Linus recommends, it’s best to have email lists to keep things on point and that’s how Linux kernel runs.
James Bottomley, Distinguished Engineer at IBM Research, and a senior Linux kernel developer, also adds a suggestion that you should re-read your text to make sure that you’re sending precise information that no one will potentially skim through.
Personally, I prefer texts over voice for the very same reason. It saves you time, fact.
But, keep in mind, that you need to convey only the necessary information in a proper manner without overloading the information that you send via texts/email.
Track your time
Flexibility doesn’t necessarily mean that you can work less and lurk on social media platforms, unless that’s your job.
So, you need to make sure that you are making the most out of your time. To do that, you can use several tools to track your time on what you use and the duration of it on your computer.
You can even write it down on a sticky note to make sure you reach your goal of spending the allocated time for work efficiently. You can opt to utilize RescueTime or ActivityWatch to track the time you spend on your computer or smartphone.
Play with your cat (pets)
Not to discriminate against other pets, but that’s what Linus Torvalds mentioned.
Just because you are at your home – you have a lot to do while you schedule your work or try to efficiently utilize the time.
Linus insists that whenever you’re bored, you can head out to get essentials if necessary or simply play with the cat (or your pet).
While Linus Torvalds also mentioned that no one will be judging you when you’re at home, his suggestions seem to be on point and could be very useful for people who struggle with working from home.
Not just for the coronavirus outbreak – but if you are planning to work from home permanently, you should keep these things in mind.
What do you think about Linus Torvalds thoughts here? Do you agree with him?
Death and Taxes, a narrative game about choosing who lives and who dies as the Grim Reaper is now officially open source. In an announcement on Steam written by their coder, they said their wish when joining the team was to eventually open it up and so now they have.
It's only been out since February (and I quite liked it!), since then they've gone on to sell "pretty well" at twenty-six thousand copies so they're not afraid people will copy it. Only the code is open source though, you still need the assets which is a good example of how to do it that others have also done. The game code can live on, be ported elsewhere and fixed up, while the original developer can still earn from it.
Resources which I sorely missed were concrete, specific and (most importantly) helpful examples of real-world applications of coding principles, workarounds, hacks, engine-specific behaviour, et cetera. The most helpful places were, for example, the Unity Answer Hub, Stack Overflow, the Unreal Developers' Network... they all, at best, offered a window to see how people actually implement stuff. I am a firm believer that it is usually more efficient to learn from the mistakes of others, rather than just people having to make the same mistakes over and over again due to lack of reliable information.
And this leads me to the (incredibly winding and convoluted, sorry) answer to why we're releasing the source code for our game. I want to provide something that people can learn from. Including myself. The code for Death and Taxes is by NO MEANS clean or even "good" (depends on what your standard is). But the most important thing is that the code worked. The game shipped, and the game worked.
Brief: OpenStreetMap is a community-driven map – which is a potential alternative to Google Maps. Learn more about this open source project.
OpenStreetMap (OSM) is a free editable map of the world. Anyone can contribute, edit, and make changes to the OpenStreetMap to improve it.
You need to sign up for an account first – in order to be able to edit or add information to the OpenStreetMap. To view the map, you wouldn’t need an account.
Even though it’s a free-to-use map under an open data license, you cannot use the map API to build another service on top of it for commercial purpose.
So, you can download the map data to use it and host it yourself while mentioning the credits to OSM. You can learn more about its API usage policy and copyright information on its official website to learn more.
In this article, we shall take a brief look at how it works and what kind of projects use OpenStreetMaps as the source of their map data.
OpenStreetMap is a good alternative to Google Maps. You might not get the same level of information as Google Maps- but for basic navigation and traveling, OpenStreetMap is sufficient.
Just like any other map, you will be able to switch between multiple layers in the map, get to know your location, and easily search for places.
You may not find all the latest information for the businesses, shops, and restaurants nearby. But, for basic navigation, it’s more than enough.
OpenStreetMap can be usually accessed through a web browser on both desktop and mobile by visiting the OpenStreetMap site. It does not have an official Android/iOS app yet.
However, there are a variety of applications available that utilize OpenStreetMap at its core. So, if you want to utilize OpenStreetMap on a smartphone, you can take a look at some of the popular open-source Google Maps alternatives:
MAPS.ME and OsmAnd are two open-source applications for Android and iOS that utilize OpenStreetMap data to provide a rich user experience with a bunch of useful information and features added to it.
You can also opt for other proprietary options if you wish, like Magic Earth.
In either case, you can take a look at the extensive list of applications on their official wiki page for Android and iOS.
Using OpenStreetMap On Linux
The easiest way to use OpenStreetMap on Linux is to use it in a web browser. If you use GNOME desktop environment, you can install GNOME Maps which is built on top of OpenStreetMap.
There are also several software (that are mostly obsolete) that utilize OpenStreetMap on Linux for specific purposes. You can check out the list of available packages in their official wiki list.
OpenStreetMap may not be the best source for navigation for end users but its open source model allows it to be used freely. This means that many services can be built using OpenStreetMap. For example, ÖPNVKarte uses OpenStreetMap to display worldwide public transport facilities on a uniform map so that you don’t have to browse individual operator’s websites.
What do you think about OpenStreetMap? Can you use it as a Google Maps alternative? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.
Ben Evans created amazing pieces of art. He “draw” a sunset, a still life and a portrait. But instead of images, he created CSS style sheets. All those images are made with just CSS. It is very impressive!
When you are just starting with Linux, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
You probably know only Windows and now you want to use Linux because you read that Linux is better than Windows as it is more secure and you don’t have to buy a license to use Linux.
But then when you go about downloading and installing Linux, you learn that Linux is not a single entity. There are Ubuntu, Fedora, Linux Mint, elementary and hundreds of such ‘Linux variants’. The trouble is that some of them look just like the other.
If that’s the case, why there are multiple of those Linux operating systems? And then you also learn someone mentioning that Linux is just a kernel not an operating system.
It gets messy. And you may feel like pulling out your hair. For a person who has a receding hairline, I would like you to keep your hair intact on your head by explaining things in a way you could easily understand.
I am going to take an analogy and explain why Linux is just a kernel, why there are hundreds of Linux and why, despite looking similar, they are different.
The explanation here may not be considered good enough for an answer in an exam or interview but it should give you a better understanding of the topic.
Apology in advance!
My analogy may not be entirely correct from mechanical point of view as well. I am not knowledgeable about engines, cars and other related mechanical stuff. But in my experience, I have noticed that this analogy helps people clearly understand the concept of Linux and operating system. Also, I have used the term Linux OS instead of Linux distribution deliberately so that newcomers don’t start wondering about distribution.
Linux is just a kernel
Linux is not an operating system, it’s just a kernel.
The statement is entirely true. But how do you understand it. If you look into books, you’ll find Linux kernel structure described like this:
There is absolutely correct, however, let’s take a different approach. Think of operating systems as vehicles, any kind of vehicle be it motorbikes, cars or trucks.
What is at the core of a vehicle? An engine.
Think of kernel as the engine. It’s an essential part of the vehicle and you cannot use a vehicle without the engine.
But you cannot drive an engine, can you? You need a lot of other stuff to interact with the engine and drive the vehicle. You need wheels, steering, gears, clutch, brakes and more to drive a vehicle on top of that engine.
Similarly, you cannot use a kernel on its own. You need lots of tool to interact with the kernel and use the operating system. These stuff could be shell, commands, graphical interface (also called desktop environments) etc.
This makes sense, right? Now that you understand this analogy, let’s take it further so that you understand the rest of it.
Windows and other operating systems have kernel too
Kernel is not something exclusive to Linux. You may not have realized but Windows, macOS and other operating systems have a kernel underneath as well. Microsoft Windows operating systems are based on Windows NT kernel. Apple’s macOS is based on the XNU kernel.
Think of operating systems as vehicles
Think of Microsoft as an automobile company that makes a general purpose car (Windows operating system) that is hugely popular and dominates the car market. They use their own patented engine that no one else can use. But these ‘Microsoft cars’ do not offer scope of customization. You cannot modify the engine on your own.
Now come to ‘Apple automobile’. They offer shiny looking, luxury cars at an expensive price. If you got a problem, they have a premium support system where they might just replace the car.
Now comes Linux. Remember, Linux is just an engine (kernel). But this ‘Linux engine’ is not patented and thus anyone is free to modify and build cars (desktop operating system), bikes (small embed system in your toys, tvs etc), trucks (servers) or jet-planes (supercomputers) on top of it. In real world, no such engine exists but accept it for the sake of this analogy.
kernel = engine
Linux kernel = specific type of engine
desktop operating systems = cars
server operating systems = heavy trucks
embed systems = motor-bikes
desktop environment = body of the vehicle along with interiors (dashboard and all)
themes and icons = paint job, rim job and other customization
applications = accessories you put for specific purpose (like music system)
Why there are so many Linux OS/distributions? Why some look similar?
Why there are so many cars? Because there are several vehicle manufacturers using the ‘Linux engine’ and each of them have so many cars of different type and for different purposes.
Since ‘Linux engine’ is free to use and modify, anyone can use it to build a vehicle on top of it.
This is why Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, SUSE, Manjaro and many other Linux-based operating systems (also called Linux distributions or Linux distros) exist.
You might also have noticed that these Linux operating systems offer different variants but they look similar. I mean look at Fedora’s default GNOME version and Debian’s GNOME version. They do look the same, don’t they?
The component that gives the look and feel in a Linux OS is called desktop environment. In our analogy here, you can think of it as a combination of outer body and matching interiors. This is what provides the look and feel to your vehicle, does it not?
It’s from the exterior that you can identify the cars into category of sedan, SUV, hatchback, station wagon, convertible, minivan, van, compact car, 4×4 etc.
But these ‘type of cars’ are not exclusive to a single automobile company. Ford offers SUV, compact cars, vans etc and so do other companies like General Motors, Toyota.
Similarly, distributions (Linux OSes) like Fedora, Ubuntu, Debian, Manjaro etc also offer different variants in the form of GNOME, KDE, Cinnamon, MATE and other desktop environments.
Ford’s SUV may look similar to Toyota’s or Renault’s SUV. Fedora’s GNOME version may look similar to Manjaro or Debian’s GNOME version.
Some type of cars consume more fuel, some desktop environments need more RAM
You probably understand the ‘usefulness’ of different types of cars. Compact cars are good for driving in the cities, vans are good for long trip with family, 4×4 are good for adventures in jungles and other rough terrain. A SUV may look good and feel comfortable for sitting but it consumes more fuel than a compact car that might not be comfortable to sit in.
Similarly, desktop environments (GNOME, MATE, KDE, Xfce etc) also serve some purpose other than just providing the looks to your Linux operating system.
GNOME gives a modern looking desktop but it consumes more RAM and thus require that your computer has more than 4 GB of RAM. Xfce on the other hand may look old/vintage but it can run on systems with 1 GB of RAM.
Difference between getting desktop environment from distribution and installing on your own
As you start using Linux, you’ll also come across suggestions that you can easily install other desktop environments on your current system.
Remember that Linux is a free world. You are free to modify the engine, customize the looks on your own, if you have the knowledge/experience or if you are an enthusiastic learner.
Think of it as customizing cars. You may modify a Hundai i20 to look like Suzuki Swift Dzire. But it might not be the same as using a Swift Dzire.
When you are inside the i20 modified to look like Swiftz Dzire, you’ll find that it may not have the same experience from the inside. Dashboard is different, seats are different. You may also notice that the exterior doesn’t fit the same on i20’s body.
The same goes for switching desktop environments. You will find that you don’t have the same set of apps in Ubuntu that you should be getting in Mint Cinnamon. Few apps will look out of place. Not to mention that you may find a few things broken, such as network manager indicator missing etc.
Of course, you can put time, effort and skills to make Hundai i20 look as much like Swift Dzire as possible but you may feel like getting Suzuki Swift Dzire is a better idea in the first place.
This is the reason why installing Ubuntu MATE is better than installing Ubuntu (GNOME version) and then installing MATE desktop on it.
Linux operating systems also differ in the way they handle applications
Another major criteria on which the Linux operating systems differ from each other is the package management.
Package management is basically how you get new software and updates in your systems. It’s up to your Linux distribution/OS to provide the security and maintenance updates. Your Linux OS also provides the means of installing new software on your system.
Some Linux OS provides all the new software version immediately after their release while some take time to test them for your own good. Some Linux OS (like Ubuntu) provides easier way of installing a new software while you may find it complicated in some other Linux OS (like Gentoo).
Keeping the line of our analogy, consider installing software as adding accessories to your vehicle.
Suppose you have to install a music system in your car. You may have two options here. Your car is designed in such a way that you just insert the music player, you hear the click sound and you know it’s installed. The second option could be to get a screwdriver and then fix the music player on screws.
Most people would prefer the hassle-free click lock installing system. Some people might take matter (and screwdriver) into their own hands.
If an automobile company provides scope for installing lots of accessories in click-lock fashion in their cars, they will be preferred, won’t they?
This is why Linux distributions like Ubuntu have a more users because they have a huge collection of software that can be easily installed in matter of clicks.
Before I conclude this article, I’ll also like to talk about support that plays a significant role in choosing a Linux OS. For your car, you would like to have its official service center or other garages that service the automobile brand you own, don’t you? If the automobile company is popular, naturally, it will have more and more garages providing services.
The same goes for Linux as well. For a popular Linux OS like Ubuntu, you have some official forums to seek support and a good number of websites and forums providing troubleshooting tips to fix your problem.
Again, I know this is not a perfect analogy but this helps understand the things slightly better.
If you are absolutely new to Linux, did this article made things clear for you or you are more confused than before?
If you already know Linux, how would you explain Linux to someone from non-technical background?
The average Briton owns more than 50 books, but do they organise them alphabetically, by colour, genre, or size - or simply let chaos reign?
The Dewey Decimal System used by libraries around the world splits all books into ten topics, which are themselves split into ten subtopics, and so on. It all works rather well, but is perhaps overkill for a living room bookshelf. So how do Britons organise their own collections?
Our research shows that many simply prefer to let chaos reign, and have no system at all. Men are slightly more likely to prefer an anarchic bookshelf (45%) than women (41%).
Those in social grade C2DE are less likely than those in ABC1 to organise their books alphabetically, by colour, by genre or by size - but they are more likely to have no system at all (49%, compared to 39% of ABC1).