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A server for education

I recently encountered a group of very enthusiastic teachers, who wanted to convince me to try a new e-learning environment, with astonishing quizzes, and drills of extreme originality. However, as I’d last used computers in the seventies, I was initially sceptical. Back then computers had just been used to send humans to the Moon. It was hard for me to make the leap from those machines to the machines of today. And quizzes seemed to be a strange use of such a powerful resource.

Enough is enough

I am upset. If you write quite a bit, you learn a rule: you must never, ever write when you are upset. In such a state, clarity simply goes out the window and what you think is a masterpiece turns out to be... a pile of incomprehensible, misspelled crap.

I am doing it anyway. A disclaimer: I'm publishing this article "as is" - no spell check, no Dave Guard turning my atrocious English into... well, English.

(Actually, this article has had minor editing after publication - D.G.)

I am deeply upset and saddened by O'Gara's article on Pamela Jones of GrokLaw.

Finding alternatives in developing software

Developing software within the free software model can be achieved with all sorts of different tools, but choosing the right tools can make a big difference to the success of your project. Even if you are developing a proprietary solution, there are benefits to using free software tools to achieve it. But what free software tools are available? In this article I’m going to look at the development tools available, from languages and libraries to development environments, as well as examining the issues surrounding the use of free software tools by comparison to their proprietary equivalents.

The risk of using proprietary software

About one out of every 200 people is allergic to peanuts. Depending on the extremity of the allergy, a person suffering from peanut allergies who was accidentally exposed to peanuts might develop an itchy rash. Others might experience anaphylaxis, a severe reaction that can prove fatal. People who are allergic to peanuts have a tough time in America, where more and more foods are manufactured in factories that also process peanuts.

The risks of writing proprietary software

Every software developer faces a choice when deciding how to release a new software product. That choice is whether the program will be free or non-free. Unfortunately, many otherwise knowledgeable programmers aren’t sure just what this choice means, and may complain that programmers with families really don’t have a choice at all—if they want to earn a living, they must charge for their work. However, free software is not about giving software away without cost.

Book review: Unix Power Tools 3rd edition by Shelley Powers, Jerry Peek, Tim O’Reilly and Mike Loukides

Using a Unix system requires a lot of knowledge, and it’s common to see Unix users and administrators spending a lot of time reading handbooks, tutorials and man pages to find out the “right” sequence of keystrokes. In the publishing world there is a little pearl, a single source of information about Unix and how to use it: Unix Power Tools, published by O’Reilly and Associates. O’Reilly is a well known publisher of Unix books; in this one, you’ll see Tim O’Reilly himself as an author!

The cover of Unix Power Tools 3rd editionThe cover of Unix Power Tools 3rd edition

Book review: Unix Power Tools 3rd edition by Shelley Powers, Jerry Peek, Tim O’Reilly and Mike Loukides

Using a Unix system requires a lot of knowledge, and it’s common to see Unix users and administrators spending a lot of time reading handbooks, tutorials and man pages to find out the “right” sequence of keystrokes. In the publishing world there is a little pearl, a single source of information about Unix and how to use it: Unix Power Tools, published by O’Reilly and Associates. O’Reilly is a well known publisher of Unix books; in this one, you’ll see Tim O’Reilly himself as an author!

The book’s cover The book’s cover

The contents

What is the next (r)evolution?

I’m not sure if it’s correct to talk about the internet as a revolution. The internet is in fact the result of a slow, hard earned evolution which has lasted about 30 years (!). Slowly, during these years, the costs of laying cables has dropped, the CPU was... well, invented (in 1974, the Intel 4004), processing power and memory have increased exponentially and the basic protocols were created (in 1972, the telnet protocol).

Richard Stallman’s blog

Response to Fox News Article (January 31, 2005)

Jim Prendergast’s recent article mistakenly called me a “leader in the open source community”. While I appreciate the praise that might be read into that expression, it is not the case: I do not advocate “open source” and never did. I founded the Free Software Movement in 1984. “Free”, here refers to freedom, not price; specifically the freedom to redistribute and change the software you use. With free software, the users control the software; with non-free software, the developer has control of the software and its users.

Free as in “free speech” or free as in “free labour”?

Free software sustains and enables the internet. Across the world, people continue to freely contribute ideas and expertise to an important and growing movement. The internet itself was largely born out of a culture of contributing code and content in an electronic public “space” of global proportions. This has meant that the constellation of software supporting the internet, and the content that sits upon it, is to a large degree, non-market, peer-produced and free (as in “freedom” and as in “beer”). But, why do people code, hack, test, write and create free culture?

Free software gets small

When Clayton Christensen talks, CEOs listen. Christensen is a Harvard School of Business Associate Professor who has CEOs re-thinking their growth strategies with his concept of disruptive technologies.

Now Christensen is talking about free software gaining a greater market share by getting small. More specifically, by getting small and onto handheld devices. He suggested that Microsoft should seriously consider getting into the Linux space by buying or building a separate company to pursue disruption on BlackBerry-like devices.

Open source is a market force

Companies seek to counter their competition in a variety of ways - pricing, packaging, branding, etc. There are a lot of options and any good product manager will know them well. One of the toughest situations to be in is that of competition, with the usual responses, when you are up against a competitor using the natural forces of the market place. Marketers refer to these tectonic shifts as “shocks”, because they are unusual events. They change the way the game is played, and once that change is made, there is usually no going back. The change is structural.

The importance of LDAP

All that you know about Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) is wrong. From its inception to perceived usefulness, and ultimately, until the marketing department got a hold of it, LDAP has grown. It started as a useful protocol and a data structuring methodology (known by only a few), and became the latest and greatest way to synergize your action items and find parity with your eMarketing growth plan.

Running BSD on PowerPC/PPC

When you think of the PowerPC processor, chances are you’ll think of just two platforms and, by association, two operating systems. Apple’s Mac OS X, which runs on Apple’s own hardware, and the AIX Unix operating system from IBM, which runs on their own PowerPC platform systems. In reality, there is a wide choice of potential operating systems that work on a wide range of PowerPC platforms. If you want a Unix-like alternative to AIX, particularly a free software one, then Linux seems the obvious choice, but there are others.

A laptop, a coffee, and disaster recovery

Last week, my laptop died a sudden spectacular death-by-drowning, as a full cup of coffee poured into its keyboard. It emitted a pop sound, and the screen and the power shut off.

What would your reaction be? Mine was to immediately unplug the power cord and remove the battery. Then I took it over to the sink and poured out the coffee. Remembering tales of people flushing keyboards with water, I ran some fresh water over the keys and then set to work. I removed the keyboard, the palm rest, a few of the inner cards, and let it sit without power for several hours. Apparently, not long enough.

XML: WYSIWYG to WYSIWYM

It all started with cavemen and their cave drawings. All cave drawings were WYSIWYM (What You See is What You Mean). I mean (no pun intended), if you saw a cave drawing, in which a hunter was chasing a mammoth, it meant that a hunter was chasing a mammoth. There were no two ways to interpret the cave drawings. Then came alphabets and words. With words came plain text or documents. Then came XML/SGML for adding information to a document relating to its structure and/or content. An XML document contains both content (words) and an indication of what role the content plays.

When free meets proprietary

In a dream world, all software would be free. However, we spend enough time with our eyes open to realize that some situations call for proprietary software, either as a desktop or as a server application, on a free system. On the other hand, those stuck with a proprietary operating system can still enjoy free software applications. This article will list a few situations where free software and proprietary software can mix, and give three examples of each.

Why free and proprietary can mix

Richard Stallman’s blog

Venezuela (November 15, 2004 to November 22, 2004)

I spent a week in Venezuela, giving a speech and some interviews at an event which invited speakers from all across Latin America. During the event, the state oil company PDVSA announced its decision to switch 100% to free software. Their decision is not based on convenience or cost; it is based on sovereignty.

During the event, the state oil company PDVSA announced its decision to switch 100% to free software. Their decision is not based on convenience or cost; it is based on sovereignty

The risk of mixing free and non-free

If you are reading this you probably use free software. In fact, I think the probability that you are reading this article using free software is extremely high, whether it is “free-as-in-speech” as in Firefox, or “free-as-in-beer” as in Internet Explorer. Free software is increasingly being taken for granted and is almost treated as some kind of legal right in some quarters. And so it should be. A lot of people have had to put a great deal of effort into ensuring sufficient “free-as-in-speech” software exists for this to be so.

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