Edward Macnaghten's articles

Advertising over adwordising

For any specialist interest, be it trade or hobbyist, it is the norm to find at least one specialist magazine. If you are into selling comics and games you are probably an avid reader of the Comic and Games Retailer publication. Where would the world's tissue vendors be without their Tissue World Magazine? Also I cannot imagine the problems caused if the machine lubricators were deprived of their monthly Machine Lubrication Magazine.

Those of us who are proponents of free software, and follow it in the technical press, also have our weird and wonderful publications. Though being IT oriented these tend to be on-line based rather than paper based (such as Free Software Magazine), but often have to undergo an experience that is distasteful and nauseating...

FSM Dead! Official!

It is now official.FSM is dead. Send no flowers. It is time for us to pack up our keyboards, reassign our internet links to catty cable TV, give up bags and to spend our time doing something constructive like playing MS Windows Mines or Solitaire. Time for us to reformat out computers with GNU/Linux on them and pay for a operating system where we need not spend all those hours worrying about source code. Ah well, it was fun while it lasted....

ODF/OOXML technical white paper

I was asked by the UK Action Group of the Open Document Format Alliance to write a white paper on the technical differences between ODF and OOXML. After much agonizing, correcting, having others correct my mistakes, suggestions, changes and drafts I still have got something that may be alright to be previewed by all. The actual documents are in ftp://officeboxsystems.com/odfa_ukag both as a “PDF” and an “ODT” (Open Document Format).

The following is a transcribed version of the white paper. Although it has all the Free Software Magazine formatting constraints which means that the information is not as clearly presented, so therefore I recommend you to download the document from the above URL. It is here primary for reference purposes.

Enjoy.

Selling our own dogfood

Free software advocates, including myself, like to pontificate about how free software is a good business model. We like to hold up companies like Red Hat and show them off like a bright cliff-top lighthouse that shows the way to profitable free software. And, in passing, we like to name-drop companies such as IBM, HP, Oracle and Sun, rabbiting on about how they are all benefiting from a free software model. However, each of those four companies have closed products that are cash cows, the only truly 100% (ish?) free software oriented company being Red Hat. How much of a broad successful business model is free software in fact? Does it really work in real life? Ask no further, for I am about to put to the test that which myself and others have been advocating for years...

Many lights make hard work - or, why we don't need two office formats

This week, I have been forced, through threat of domestic misery, to sacrifice a section of one my shelves on what I like to call my “Computer Rack”. No longer can that area be used to house a masterpiece of IT equipment that has been assembled from various cast-offs, loaded with interesting software to run exciting server programs. Instead, that section is used to perform the mundane task of storing light bulbs. Let me explain the reason why...

Will Microsoft buy Novell?

The answer to that question is probably not, though the thought had crossed my mind. In a way they already have done in a small way, they have given Novell approximately a quater's worth of net profit in return for what appears to be a cut of all Open Enterprise and SUSE Linux sales. Although no shares have changed hands, this, in itself, seems to me to be a kind of "virtual" company sale. This is even not considering the palaver regarding the patent covenants....

When is a standard not a standard?

I had a massive argument with my brother the other day over an IT issue close to my heart. I had to be careful because he is a member of the Metropolitan Police, part of the Domestic Violence Policy Unit. To clarify, his department is responsible for the policy of policing domestic violence.

What he was saying was that he, and the entire metropolitan police force, use Microsoft Word, all the police departments and stations he deals with do as well, as do all organizations he needs to interact with outside the police including the name drop-able big-wig departments in the UK government. He said they had "standardized" on Microsoft Office formats and did not see a problem with that, nor did he see my objections.

Interoperability, choice and Open XML – spot the odd one out

Microsoft have published an open letter entitled "Interoperability,Choice and Open XML"[1]. I often like to think that I am neversurprised by the exaggerations, obfuscations and general untruths thatcome out of Microsoft: this letter shows their capacity of doing justthat.

Apples and bananas

While trawling through this week’s normal helter-skelter barrage of free software and open source news items, opinion pieces and analyzing ponderings a couple of pieces caught my eye. These are the BBC’s article entitled “Charity shuns open source code” and Silicon.com’s one called “CIO Jury: The Linux desktop is dead”. When first seeing these pessimistic pieces of free software doom and gloom, I confess my immediate reaction, as an advocate and developer, was one of misery, depression and fed-upness. Was it all worth it? What is the point? Where is the bright side? Should I simply go outside and step under a bus?

After a nice strong cup of coffee and pulling myself together a bit, I examined the articles a little more closely. I discovered that the authors, or originators, of each had, in fact, made a very common mistake while performing free and closed software comparisons that reminded me of the old adage regarding apples and bananas...

Greeks bearing gifts (UPDATED)

Here in the UK, there is a saying that was a quote from Virgil that was often quoted in the original Latin, “Timeo Danaos et dona ferentis”, which is usually mistranslated into the phrase “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts”. It refers to the incident where the Greek troops hid inside a large wooden horse and gave it to the Trojans as a gift who promptly accepted it, then in the night the Greeks broke out of their hiding place, went to the city gates, and... Well, you probably know the rest. However, it is that phrase, or both of them in fact, that pass through my mind on seeing recent Microsoft and other corporate closed software companies’ press releases recently.

There are three that come to mind that have occurred recently...

LinuxWorld Expo London 2006

The powers that be at Free Software Magazine decided to be a media sponsor of LinuxWorld Expo UK at Olympia, London held on the 25th and 26th of October. As I make a habit of going to that expo, and I also write for the magazine when I remember to hand articles in, I was contacted and discovered I was to be handed a “press” badge for the event. So, on the day, I set off early from Cambridge to enjoy the privileges of my new super-status.

Views on the GPLv3 hoo-har

There has been a lot of hoo-hah recently regarding the pros and cons of certain aspects of the drafts of Version 3 of the GNU General Public License from the Free Software Foundation. The originator of the Linux kernel, Linus Torvalds himself, is playing a role here. Unfortunately, each side has taken to the ploy of misrepresenting the other’s points. Arguments are getting heated to such an extent that you need to wear an asbestos suit just to look at the issues. However, on examination, not only do I find that both sides have valid issues but I also believe an obvious solution exists that will make most, if not all, satisfied and the world a less flame-ridden obstacle course.

Two surprises during my break out east

For the last couple of months I’ve been on a mammoth trip to the east, or east as far as my home in the UK is concerned, to relatives in Malaysia. As they live in the more rural areas of the country, internet connectivity was not as good as I’m accustomed to and was quite unreliable. So, therefore, I wasn’t able to keep my blog as up-to-date as I would have liked. That’s my excuse anyway, and it sounds so much better than “I was having such a great time I simply let things slip”.

Free software events review June 2006

Summer has come. The crops in the fields are beginning to fill, the barbecues on the park are smoking away and, this being the UK, either the clouds in the sky are starting to thunder or the utility companies are announcing water shortages or both. Despite all this though, the free software flowers in the virtual garden are blooming like never before. Once again, I have limited my writings on the free software oriented events that have attracted my personal attention and fired my personal interests. During the past month, these consist of...

The IP Pirate Kings

And it is, it is, a glorious thing to be a Pirate King (1)

Piracy, and pirates, can conjure a variety of images. One picture it may bring to mind is that of a “Captain Sparrow” type figure buckling his swash in the remoter corners of the 17th century Caribbean, escaping certain death with a flair and style that guarantees nominations at film festivals and a sizable profit at the box office (2). Then there is another picture of a teenage geek in his bedroom copying a DVD of the above story onto another one for his friends. It is interesting to me the Walt Disney glorifies the former, who in reality were ruthless murderers and killers with no thought of their victims, while condemning the latter, whose actions have not yet been proved to hurt anyone and could well improve Walt Disney’s profits through greater exposure.

The pirates I would like to talk about are not “outlaws”, in the same way that privateers were not outlaws in the olden Caribbean. They are the litigation firms that scour the IT industry to extort money using the weapon of inappropriately granted patents...

“Free” as in “free lunch”

Too long ago, when I was a sprog growing up, my elders and betters drummed into me in no uncertain terms that there was “no such thing as a free lunch”. At the time, I was going to school and my lunches were either provided by my parents or paid for by them, so as far as I was concerned my lunches were free. However, I soon appreciated what they meant as I approached adulthood. It is a very rare event, if it happens at all, that someone gives you something for free without some ulterior motive.

You, my friend, are reading this article. You probably didn’t have to pay anything to read it (or nothing extra from your usual ISP and computer costs anyway). Myself, and Free Software Magazine give it to you for free. What is our ulterior motives then? Read on...

Free software events review May 2006

May and June have always been my favorite months. The arrival of the wild flowers on the roadside and the warmer sunshine ensure the assignment of the last thaws of winter into history, also the earlier arrival of the sun in the morning, together with its later retirement, grant eager anticipation to the long lazy summer afternoons to come. Not so lazy, though, has been the work of the free software community, from which I have chosen a minuscule sample to report in this current issue of this newsletter. This sample, whose only attribute for inclusion here are that they grabbed my attention, consist of:

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