Kevin Rose founded Digg in late 2004. It was the beginning of something phenomenal... to be precise, the Digg phenomenon. Digg was all about the tight-knit community of techies who wanted to get in there, share relevant tech news, vote for it, and talk about it. And what a fabulous idea it was.
Allow me to set the scene: There I was this morning, reading The Melbourne Age online and drinking a cup of decaffeinated coffee (just don’t ask), when suddenly, I saw it. Again. An advertisement in the technology section that any first year media student worth their salt could trample all over. And I wondered, how do these travesties of advertising happen?
[Cue fade-out and chimes; cut to (day)dream sequence; fade-in...]
A long time ago in a classroom far, far away...
I picked up Beginning Ubuntu Linux, Second Edition with a sense of familiarity; I also had the pleasure of reviewing the First Edition and found the experience to be a gentle and very complete introduction to Ubuntu. It’s as though Keir Thomas wants to ensure that anyone starting out with GNU/Linux won’t feel like a worthless newb being thrown to the proverbial geeks, who will guffaw and point and weeze asthmatically and incomprehensibly.
That’s right, they’re the top dogs in the business; with “unprecedented control” in the technology industry and “access to a huge amount of consumer information”. And a concerned member of the technology community recently put out the call for scrutiny on the new big boys in town “from regulatory authorities to ensure a competitive... market”. Sounds like old news, huh? You know which big dirty corporate bad guys I’m referring to? The baddest of the lot... Google of course.
People are real creatures of habit, aren’t they? It’s true, change is a stressful thing. There are all those statistics that say events like divorce and moving house are as stressful as a death in the family. However, none of those stress therapists ever predicted the suffering that it seems thousands of people are slogging through at this very minute, mouths forced open in silent screams of distress... the stress of switching from trusty, faithful first wife XP to that slinky young blonde upstart Vista. Who knew something so desirable could be so high maintenance?
So, you want a free software image manipulation program? You’ve always wanted to be able to smooth out your own photos? You’ve downloaded the GIMP, but when you open the program to have a go you just get intimidated? You can work out some of it, but you really want to optimise your use, and feel like you aren’t just wandering about in the dark? Where should you turn in this situation? Well your first stop should definitely be Beginning GIMP, From Novice to Professional by Akkana Peck.
We need to talk.
Here’s the thing... I have to admit I was pretty upset the other day when I found out that in the spirit of festive cheer, a selection of bloggers got given an Acer Ferrari 5000... and I wasn’t one of them.
You know how when people win awards, like an Oscar for example, they get up there and gush things like “I’d just like to thank my parents, and the academy, and my fifth grade drama teacher, and God for this award, omigod!!!”? Well, if I was put in a position today where I was going to have to gush on stage about, say, my computer use, then I know what I would say. There I would be, staring into the sea of admiring faces, and I would gush: “I would just like to thank my PC, the internet, and Microsoft... because as a Linux user I have naturally been complicit in intellectual property infringement and therefore owe Microsoft a good deal of money. Thanks baby, couldn’t have done it without you. Oh, and the cheque’s in the mail.”
Or that’s what Steve Ballmer reckons I should say, anyway.
This week, after reading Scott Carpenter’s fun (yet a bit scary) satire 5 ways to save on your monthly software rental bill in the year 2056..., I felt like a fairytale ending. I was after something sort of cool and utopian, where we’re all free and enjoying ourselves. But, when I was speculating about what this fairytale would entail, it brought me around to wondering...
What will happen AFTER the year of Linux on the desktop?
Are you, or do you know, a non-techie? A non-techie who takes pride in their lack of techno-savvy, who still clings to the belief that while other people might use GNU/Linux, it’s a bit technological for the likes of them? Someone who takes pride in being a passive computer user, who wants it all spelled out in black and white?
Okay kids, gather ’round, I’m going to reminisce. When I was about six, I had what is classed as well developed literacy skills—I could write some words, I could read books about Jenny and Jack on the swing, that sort of thing. My parents bought a mac and we thought we were the height of sophistication. (That was in 1986, BTW.) But to me, it was like a magic box that was used on special occasions, and it was a grownup thing. I mean, I only used the phone on special occasions!
Freedom. It’s such a loaded term. It represents so many things: the ability to do stuff unfettered, letting the press say whatever they want, invading foreign nations to pass the time, a glorious ideal. I started thinking about it recently because there’s a furniture chain in Australia called “Freedom” and I always get a kick out of signs in shopping centres with arrows that direct shoppers to the food court, toilets, and freedom... “Free” also means lots of things. Free as in libre... Free as in beer... Interestingly enough, they aren’t as different as you might think! In fact, there is a new kind of beer sweeping Denmark, and it is like free software BUT BEER! How fun!
There are lots of things that worry tabloids, current affairs programs, and talkback radio shock jocks. Some of these things are immigration, neighbours from hell, love-rat rip-off merchants, termites, crash diets, dole-bludging playstation addicts, the utter degeneration of civilisation as we know it BEFORE OUR VERY EYES... the list goes on. But one of the perpetual flavours of the month for these harbingers of doom and global devastation is the future of our children.
Last week I wrote about using GNU/Linux, and justified why I use it. But, as I confessed, the main reason I started using it wasn't because I'm a rigorous political activist with a go-get-em attitude. I'm Australian, people! America might be the land of the brave, down here we're the land of the apathetic... Anyway, I started using GNU/Linux because it was put in front of me and my old system was taken away. And I could get all embarassed about the beginnings of something I am now a firm believer in, but then I ask myself, does the means justify the end? Does in really matter how and under what circumstances I became involved as long as I'm here now? Does it matter if I'm using it because it's cheap, or because it's better, or because I like the politics? What if I don't give two hoots about the politics? Is there a good way and a bad way to use FLOSS?
When I was last at uni (which I go back to every so often, just to prove to myself that I can’t sit through another degree), I found myself in a situation where I was sitting at a computer in the library of a public high school in Western Australia, trying to write a lesson plan (I was dabbling with the idea of being a high school teacher at the time). It was 40°C (104°F) outside, and inside wasn’t much better. I was sitting on an uncomfortably high plastic chair waiting... waiting... waiting... and that was just for the office suite to load on MS2000.
There have been a couple of “chicks in IT” news items recently that have been turning heads. Firstly, there was a very high profile story in Australia about Sonja Bernhardt, an IT professional from the Gold Coast who decided it would be cool to release a calendar featuring women in IT, posing as movie sirens, to try and drum up girly interest in joining the IT forces. That caused a furore down here, let me tell you. Technology news is usually stuffed down the back of the paper, but when you might sneak a peak at a calendar girl it’s a whole different story... even if she is into computers. There was also a recent slashdot entry about Fedora introducing a group for Fedora women, to help support women in the FOSS world (apparently, chicks don’t dig IT and they REALLY don’t dig FOSS).
In its short but illustrious history the FOSS movement has been accused of being akin to communism. And while the bad old days of the McCarthy era are over, this view still makes people a bit antsy. Not many people want to be seen internationally as the reds under the bed, and using the communist label is still a convenient way of writing off somebody you don’t like. However, there have been some interesting new developments with Microsoft saying things recently that suggests a couple of things: Microsoft have decided that they will begrudgingly admit that there are some merits in open source (previously referred to by their illustrious leader as “communism”); and that Microsoft are softening in their old age and have decided that being all powerful is no fun if everyone thinks you’re the school bully.
The other day I saw a filler article in an Aussie newspaper that was all about blogging (I would give you guys a link but firstly, I can’t remember which paper, and secondly, it really was a fluff piece). The theme was something along the lines of “Hey, there are billions of blogs out there now. Who reads them? What’re they all about?
I’m going to make no excuses here—I was a chardonnay socialist and it’s time I came out and everyone gathered together and gave me some support. I have, from the time I was a little child been dreaming of hammers and sickles and the like, had a knee-jerk reaction to: big corporations (evil), government (evil), conservatism (evil), and stiletto heels (rank consumerist EVIL). So if you were to say “Microsoft”, I’d say “Where?
When I go to visit my mother (as I will be doing shortly) I feel like tearing my hair out. "Oh," I hear you say, "one of THOSE stories". But no, it's not. She lets me enjoy my usual sleeping habits, lets me put my shoes on the couch, and eat whatever I want. But there is one huge difference between my house and her house, and for the two weeks a year that I stay with her there is just one point of tension. I'll set the scene: