David Sugar's articles

Free Software economics for Indigenous Nations

Information in the computer age is the last genuine free market left on earth except those free markets where indigenous people are still surviving (Russell Means)

Some of the surviving nations in North America have tried Casinos and call centers. Others have tried meat packing for freedom. Yet, unemployment remains high, over 80% for some communities, such as on the Lakotah reservations. Similarly, per capita income often remains below the poverty line. On the Lakotah reservations, per capita income is less than $4,000 annually. The exact story is of course different for each nation, but the overall results of these efforts have usually been rather bleak.

Could free software change things?

Secure VoIP, GNU SIP Witch, and replacing Skype with free software

For the last few years I had occasionally been working on what is called the GNU Telephony Secure Calling initiative. The GNU Telephony Secure Calling initiative was itself originally formed specifically to make passive voice communication intercept a thing of the past using free software and public standards, and came out of ideas from and work of the New York City civil liberties community and New York Fair Use in the early part of this decade.

The results were great: a free infrastructure for secure calling. Here is how it all happened.

The software protection racket

Again in the case of Intellivision, much like so many other of its “partners” (including Sendo), Microsoft demonstrates that their business model is based primarily on fraudulent and deceptive business practices. This is a company that finds it easier to use and control other people’s ideas rather than introduce their own, and often tries to claim privileged use of existing ideas by patenting other people’s existing and published works. To this they seem to now have gone head first into using IPR, the “Intellectual Protection Racket”.

Microsoft the copyright infringer

When we consider the situation Microsoft finds itself in with regard to the GNU General Public License (GPL), it is important to consider how one determines when someone has accepted the GNU GPL and, hence, when someone is actually bound by its terms. Many people receive software that has been licensed under the terms of the GNU GPL all the time. However, simply receiving software licensed under the GNU GPL does not, in itself, mean that one has accepted the terms. Indeed, there is no contract to sign when receiving said software and certainly no “End User License Agreement”.

Looking the gift horse in the mouth

I believe, by now, everyone has heard of Microsoft's attempt to bribe bloggers by giving them free laptops running Vista. More amusing is that, in response to the publicity they received when they were caught out, they have now asked for these machines to be returned, thereby making Microsoft look all the more stupid as well as foolish. But out of this comedy of errors, it is worth briefly considering the history of computing from the perspective of free computers.

Liberating Verizon FiOS using free operating systems

As we prepared to open a new Freedom Technology Center in a rehabilitated site in New Jersey, I came to learn that Verizon was capable of offering fiber service at our location. Officially, they only claim to support those using Microsoft Windows and Mac OS/X with their service. In fact, with a little foreknowledge, you can have installed, activated, and use your FiOS service with an entirely free operating system such as GNU/Linux.

From freedom to slavery; a week of two distros

While gNewSense enjoys its initial introduction as a fully free as in freedom distribution, it seems at the same time an existing GNU/Linux distribution has turned to slavery. Excuse me a moment, while I remove the metaphorical knife from my back before continuing. Never before has the contrast between software freedom and intellectual slavery been more clear thanks to the proud efforts of gNewSense, and the craven ones of Novell.

That darn startup sound (Knoppix vs Vista)

Imagine you are in the boardroom, asked by the president of the company to fix his laptop during a critical presentation. You reach for your handy knoppix on a flash, and set it off to boot, so ready to proudly display the power of freedom during this critical presentation, when, already too late, you remember; that darn startup sound!

Copyright, bad faith, and software licensing

Robin Miller recently published a story on Newsforge about "Stan"[1], as an example of a situation that demonstrates proprietary software is a danger to business continuity. I found this story interesting since I think Mr. Miller came close to correctly identifying a core issue, which is that the proprietary software business model as it exists today both facilitates and encourages vendors to act in bad faith. However, it did not need to have been this way, and really comes down to misuse of licensing along with some deliberate abuse and exploitation of existing commercial law.

The state of the swag at LinuxWorld San Francisco

While at LinuxWorld, I was contemplating how IBM's multi-billion dollar investment in free software has born fruit in the form of their hard sought after two inch rubber tux, when I met up with Robin Miller who interviewed me on the quality of this year's swag. Officially, this year's theme was mobile computing, although virtualization also predominated.

The GNU GPL - a software license for yesterday, today and tomorrow

With the draft of the GNU General Public License Version 3 (GPLv3) have come many interesting comments, although not all of which I have found positive. While I understand proprietary vendors have offered complaints against a license they do not even use, I was surprised that Linus Torvalds had taken some issues which I thought were in any case misguided criticisms.

The secret of GNU/Linux desktop adoption

Having been engineering director at one company that became public, and a founder and CTO of another, as well as a long time professional software engineer working at such companies as Matushita Electric (Panasonic), and even Rand McNally, yes, the people that make maps, I must admit, in all those occupations, I have at most rather infrequently encountered these Microsoft Windows operating systems I hear so many people talking so much about.

Insecure by design

CALEA (Computer Assistance Law Enforcement) is quietly in the background of current news again, because the FBI is pushing congress to mandate that all future routing equipment manufactured will include back doors for law enforcement. Like in CALEA mandates for telephone switching equipment, such back doors require no warrant to activate, and hence can be secretly enabled at will.

Thin clients and network desktops

I read an interesting article in LinuxJournal on setting up thin clients recently. I have always liked the idea of having a server and using X in one of the ways it was originally meant to be used, but so far, no article has offered a clear idea how to integrate and support serving a mixed environment of thin clients and traditional desktop or laptop machines together conveniently.

Some comments on the Gartner report on FOSS on Microsoft Windows

I had heard about the latest Gartner report claiming that Microsoft Windows will become the dominant platform for "Open Source" (and free) software in the future. While there are certainly a number of reasons why some FOSS has and will continue to be written that also runs under Microsoft Windows, I think the fundamental premise is wrong.

How the net was lost

Those who currently struggle to maintain what is called “Net Neutrality” on the internet I think have taken too limited an approach to their struggle. What they ask is to maintain an existing status quo that had already been eroded from the original promise and potential of the internet against those who wish to change it even further. This to me leaves for a poor negotiating position when congress loves to bridge difference with half measures, and even limited compromise between the current status quo and proposed changes would still be disastrous.

Anonymous telephony and the internet

I had an interesting conversation with Daniel Olivera from Ututo last week, although he perhaps didn’t perceive it as that. Mostly it involved trying to get some video feeds working from here and Italy on the radio ututo server in Argentina. But from that process I have come to think about how worthwhile it would be to have fully open and anonymous telephone servers.

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