Earlier today (March 24th, 2010), I submitted this response to the IPEC call for public comment on future Intellectual Property enforcement policy. Given the short notice (only six days!), I was not able to come up with a more detailed response, but I did want to express my dismay at the way these policies are being framed.
My son's hand-me-down motherboard recently gave up the ghost, and I decided that was a good excuse for an upgrade. Shopping around, I found that multi-core CPUs were finally in my price range, so I decided to build him a quad-core system. This build worked out extremely well, with almost no configuration problems, not even for accelerated 3D graphics or ALSA sound -- all using the latest Debian GNU/Linux (which means it'll also work with Ubuntu or other derivatives). This one has that "classic" feel -- everything just clicked into place. So I wanted to document it here. This also serves as a technology update to my earlier article on selecting hardware for a free-software-friendly system.
Free software exists in a kind of "special trade zone" within the existing copyright system, defined by free copyleft licenses like the GNU General Public License (GPL). Free culture has created similar zones with tools like the Creative Commons' licenses. We usually consider that to be sufficient. Yet we are often frustrated by the desire to interface with the rest of our culture, and sooner or later we'll all have to face the big bugbear that is reforming the copyright system. Aside from a few vested interests in the entertainment industry, nearly everyone hates the system we've got -- it's clearly overreaching and ill-adapted to the electronic world of the internet. But what sort of system would we like? That's much more contentious. Here's a synthesis of a few prominent ideas of what real copyright reform might look like.
In lieu of today's regular column, I've decided to present an edited transcript of a very informative interview of Nina Paley by Thomas Gideon of "The Commandline Podcast." Paley has been doing a lot of interviews since her free-licensed release of "Sita Sings the Blues" and her subsequent work with QuestionCopyright.org (specifically her two "Minute Meme" animations: "Copying Is Not Theft" and "All Creative Work is Derivative") -- reading them all would be quite a bit of work. But this interview is possibly the best -- covering all of the major issues she's been talking about in what I thought was a very insightful way. So: kudos to Nina Paley and to her interviewer, Thomas Gideon, and I hope you find this text version interesting.
Latest from the Bizarre Cathedral. The mutt gets creative about Ubuntu.
Barely a day goes by when you switch on your computer, plug into the web and come across yet another deranged scheme to restrict freedom in the name of security, safety or morality. RIAA, DMCA, RIPA, Pallidium computing, the list almost seems to grow exponentially. So, some guys got together in a dark room, brainstormed and came up with yet another ruse to curtail access to and use of the internet. Relax, this one won't fly. Trust me. But the sheer audacity of it! Even the bovine docility of Windows users wouldn't stomach this one (or would they?)--and here's the irony.
The biggest science story to hit the mainstream media in the last year was of course the big switch on at CERN. What made it such a great story for me was not just the sheer and audacious enormity of the enterprise or the humbling nobility of the colossal experiment but the story behind the story. That story was the absolutely central role of free software philosophy at the heart of everything CERN was (and is) doing. Despite the false start, CERN's search for the Higgs Boson has got into its stride. The same cannot be said for the car crash that is climate science, which may have inflicted terminal damage on the reputation of science. I believe the rigorous application of free software methodology in conjunction with the Fourth Paradigm may save it.
There seems to be no respite from the predations of Microsoft FUD and the machinations of Big Business. Just when it seemed safe to come out of the closet and admit to being a user of free and open source software without being accused of being a Communist, it appears that we are now criminals too--even if we are not using pirated versions of proprietary software. The culprit this time is something called "Special 301", an annual review of the status of foreign intellectual property laws carried out under the auspices of the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) which is an Executive Office of the President. It's definition of criminal would make criminals of every single user of FOSS.
Latest from the Bizarre Cathedral.
FOSDEM 2010 - 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.
In my recent article on QDVDAuthor, I skipped over the task of making a videoloop for the main DVD menu. Here I'm going to show you how I did it. The goal is a short loop of video that smoothly transitions through five different video segments and back to the beginning again. The audio is shaped and lowered to make it more or less even and not so distracting (loud menus can be obnoxious if they are left running).
When Google announced their ChromeOS there was a flurry of comment and opinion on what this could mean for the GNU/Linux user and the future of free software. Our esteemed editor, Tony Mobily made a bold statement (albeit framed as a question) at the time that Google's ChromeOS could turn GNU/Linux into a "desktop winner". I'm not sure that it's true.
Whatever happens of course the fact is that when somebody of Google's size and impact enters a market, there will be winners and losers, losses and gains. Now that the dust has well and truly settled let's have another look at the potential impact of ChromeOS.
Daniel James is the director of the Studio 64 GNU/Linux distribution, which serves as a basis for professional music studio mixing installations, as well as an experienced writer and editor. Thus it is not surprising that he should create an excellent book on music mixing. What did surprise me was how well he covered visual arts as well -- photography, drawing, animation, and video production.
Latest from the Bizarre Cathedral.
GNU/Linux has never been short of audio and video players, but they live in a world of multiple codecs, chief culprit amongst them being MP3, AAC, WMA and (Adobe) Flash. I say "culprits" because they are not free and open codecs. They are encumbered by patents; most websites with embedded audio/video use them and most of the people who view them are also using other patented software: Windows. GNU/Linux is a good alternative and all distros come bundled with free and open multimedia alternatives too: Ogg. You would not be surprised that these players can handle Ogg but what if I told you that Mozilla's Firefox browser could not only handle this codec but could be used also to transcode videos to that format? Interested? Read on.
The Morevna Project aims to create an animated film in a modern anime-style retelling a very old Russian folktale known as "Marya Morevna". It's a free culture production project pushing the envelope in several ways -- entirely using free software tools and releasing under the free Creative Commons Attribution license. The project is purely community-based, without any foundation funding, so they can probably use your help. Joining could be a terrific learning opportunity, whether your interest is in literature, music, animation, or software development.
Latest from the Bizarre Cathedral.
Nina Paley's "Sita Sings the Blues" is becoming a huge critical success, and may even succeed financially, which is unusual for any independent film, but virtually unprecedented for free culture films ("Sita" was released under the CC By-SA). There's only one sad thing about this for free software fans, and that's that "Sita" was made using proprietary software, and the "source code" is in a proprietary format: Adobe Flash's "FLA" format, to be precise. Paley has posted these files on the Internet Archive, but she doesn't know how to translate them into any free software friendly format (and neither do I). Can you help?
This is an aspect of FOSS that is regaining some measure of interest: for years, it was considered that writing production-ready FOSS meant lean and mean software. However, recent events have shown that, in the case of the Linux kernel, this is no longer exactly true: performance is dropping slowly yet steadily.