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Lasting Digital Archives: Millenniata's New Archival DVD Technology

A new optical disk technology offers a fundamental new capability -- which is storing offline archives in a format with a shelf life of many decades (or even centuries). The key is in the pits: unlike commonly available dye-based CD-R and DVD-R media, the Millenniata writer actually laser etches physical pits into the writable layer of its "M-Disc" DVD-ROMs. Because the pits are physical structures, like the pits on pressed media, they have the same kind of shelf-life -- but in a way that is economical for low-copy archives. The niche here is for digital archives of "time capsule" data: family photographs, historical records, original manuscripts, video footage and masters, and so on. Perhaps more remarkably, the drives and disks, are affordable enough for the target applications and available commercially right now.

FOSDEM 2011 - A Personal Account (with all personal details withheld)

FOSDEM - a geek trip to Brussels. Going abroad to experience different cultures. Or at least, a chance to eat chips, suffer rain, and watch American TV in a different country.

If I had to sum up this year, then the theme was Annoyances. Having been every year for the last ten, maybe I’m just too old and crabby for these things now. But it seemed like the zealots, the idiots, the chavs, and the social retards had all teamed up to irk me at any point in the weekend when I was beginning to find some peace.

But let us begin at the beginning.

Five ideas for escaping the Blu-Ray blues

Some of us want to be able to release high-definition video (possibly even 3D) without evil copy protection schemes. I've been avoiding Blu-Ray as a consumer since it came out, mostly because Richard Stallman said it has an evil and oppressive DRM scheme. After my first serious investigation, I can confirm his opinion, and frankly, it's a pretty bleak situation. What can we do about it? Here's five ideas for how we might release high definition video.

The OpenPC project: Ready-made GNU/Linux Machines

The Open Desktop communities Open-PC project is now offering three different models of open computers with turn-key GNU/Linux and KDE installations based on OpenSUSE (or Ubuntu). These systems could provide real competition with pre-installed Windows or Mac computers, overcoming some of the most frequently-cited problems with GNU/Linux on the desktop. The systems are now available from vendors in Europe and the USA.

Getting more out of Vim - some tips

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

A Simple NFS File Server

It has been said that "'best' is the enemy of 'good enough'". The Network File System (NFS) may be a good example. It's often overlooked in favor of more capable (but more complex!) resource sharing software like Samba, which can network easily with Windows computers. But if you have a home LAN with a lot of GNU/Linux machines on it, you don't need Samba. NFS will do just fine, and it's very simple to set up. I've been using this configuration for about 10 years now (essentially since I started using GNU/Linux in the first place).

Post-Christmas Review: Tech Toys and GNU/Linux Compatibility

Well, Christmas 2010 is over, and all the little tech toy devices have been connected, installed, and played with (or returned to the store from whence they came if they didn't clear those hurdles). This year was an amazing success. Three major computer-linked devices worked on the first try without a hiccup. And I have to at least say a word or two about Mattel's new Computer Engineer Barbie -- a purchase I must admit was a little silly, but my daughter does play with it.

Pirate Bay, Decentralised P2P-DNS, ICANN and the law of Unintended Consequences

I've always been a great fan of the law of unintended consequences. It takes you places. Unexpected places. Sometimes good, sometimes bad but never a dull moment. The recent kerfuffle over Pirate Bay is too well known to require detailed recounting here. What is really interesting though is where it might just eventually take us in terms of internet freedom. This article describes the one fallout of the legal judgements against Pirate Bay and how its response may unintentionally help to protect and promote internet freedoms.

Artists should be paid, Part 3: The Big Picture

Can artists actually make money on a free software driven free culture project? Having established the motivations and the basic principles in the first two parts, I'm going to look at the big picture here: how money would be distributed among major parts of the project (drawing partly on knowledge accumulated from the proprietary film and television industry -- taking into account the differences), where the money would come from, and what sort of income might be realistic based on the few projects that have gone before us.

Debian frees up the kernel again

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

Installing a Debian GNU/Linux test server with VirtualBox

There are a number of good reasons for installing a virtual machine on your computer -- as a way to run software that isn't compatible with your primary operating system, as a sandbox for development, or as a place to test package installations, new distributions, or new server configurations. Setting one up with VirtualBox OSE is quite easy.

Wikileaks: Whistle-blowing, Censorship, Persecution, Retribution, Transparency, and the Future of Freedom on the Internet

In the end, whether you like what Wikileaks has been doing lately or not, your freedom and mine hangs direly on defending its right to do it. Powerful people have been embarrassed, and have claimed the right and necessity to 'do something about it' -- yet curiously they have not even attempted to deny that what has been said is in fact the truth. Indeed, their most solid defense so far has been to claim that what Wikileaks does "isn't journalism", because it only provides access to the raw, unadulterated, unspun truth. It's a pretty sick state of affairs when the wealthy and powerful can try to convince the masses that an organization should be crushed for committing the crime of telling the truth about them -- and be taken seriously.

Creating a moving story-reel shot with Inkscape and Blender

There's a reason they're called "movies." They're supposed to move. Your eyes are keyed to follow motion, and the constant revelation of new information in a moving shot holds your interest longer. Thus, while four seconds might be about the maximum comfortable length for a static shot, shots in which the camera or subject are moving extensively can often last more than a minute without feeling slow at all. Storyboards made entirely from static images make it hard to judge active shots. It's useful, therefore, to be able to insert some movement at the storyboard phase by panning and zooming a drawing. Here I'm going to demonstrate such an animated storyboard using Inkscape and Blender.

Free Software: the road to a Universal bundle, a powerful app store, and world domination

Apple is doing it again: they are releasing an app store for OS X on the 6th of January. Just like the iPhone app store, and the Android app store, this is going to be a hit: the OS X ecosystem will get a giant boost from it, and we are left -- once again -- with a lot to learn. Before you mention that GNU/Linux doesn't need an app store because it's free software, and before you even say that GNU/Linux already has an app store through one of the many software managers (Synaptics, Ubuntu Software Center, apt-get), please read this article.

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