I have a car, and I pay car tax that, in theory at least, pays for the roads that I drive on. I can don my driver’s gloves, expensive sun-glasses and cool-looking cap and motor anywhere on the road network in the UK—and Europe for that matter—for no extra charge, or most of it anyway. There are some toll roads where I need to pay extra. I don't have to use these as they are alternative routes, but it usually saves a large amount of time and hassle when I do.
I have been doing a small amount of research on the latest Adobe/Microsoft tussle, as brought to my notice by Matt Barton’s blog entry (thanks Matt).
The first thing I found slightly frustrating was trying to obtain suitably unbiased material on the matter. The precise nature of the discussions Adobe and Microsoft had do not seem to be in the public domain anywhere, nor is the precise nature of Adobe’s gripe. The only party “in the know” to have publicised this is Microsoft, and they have obviously put such a large amount of spin on this that their ball is going around in circles. Adobe are remaining tight lipped. Therefore, while the following is based on the digging I have done, a large amount of guesswork has gone into it.
I have, in a past incarnation, worked with Microsoft’s Office products closely in a professional scenario. To this end, I was subscribed to an electronic newsletter then called “Woody’s Office Watch”, and now simply “Office Watch”. This is run as a newsletter for users of Microsoft’s Office Suite, but it is independant and not affiliated with Microsoft in any way. In fact, they have no problems laying into Microsoft hard when the boys in Seattle mess up and inconvenience their users.
The showers of April have died away. As spring matures, the song birds greet the mornings of May with their music and I find that it is once again time to hand in my report on events regarding free software. This consists of the usual conglomeration of occurrences that I have noticed, think important, or which simply take my fancy.
For this last month, these consist of:
As the March Hare sprang from the ground to frolic in the newfound warm weather of the spring season (here in the North), the free software world continued its steady but rapid advancement in the information technology landscape. Meanwhile, waiting in the corner is yours truly, glancing occasionally at the media ready to report on events that I personally think are interesting and feel like including here. In the month of March that consisted of:
On the 9th of March, IBM DeveloperWorks held a technical meeting at their Bedfont Lakes office in London. I was sent an invitation and—due to the fact it sounded interesting, was free, and they were supplying lunch—I decided to tag along.
The day starts
February saw many free software events come to pass. These included: two major conferences, one on each side of the Atlantic; the surfacing of a couple of solutions for permitting composite window effects to use video acceleration; the adoption of free software in a number of scenarios; a new release of an old secure friend; the incremental launch of a distribution; and more. The main events are summarized as:
Lately, I’ve been hearing more and more about Microsoft’s efforts on furthering what I believe they call the “Office User Experience”. This got me thinking. Doesn’t Microsoft have a near monopoly on office software at the moment? OK—There are other offerings out there—but do they warrant the massive expenditure MS is putting out on promoting this? Then it dawned on me. They must be panicking about OpenOffice.org and are doing what they can to prevent an exodus.
With that in mind, let me give some examples and my personal thoughts on the issue...
An advantage to free software is that it is an environment where competition can thrive, choice is always available and different solutions exist for the same problem. However, it’s also fair to say that free software is disadvantaged where competition breeds, choices are forced on unsuspecting users and diverse technologies fight each other.
Everyone likes pretty pictures. The newsagent’s stand is now crowded with glossy magazines, roadside advertisements glare out at you as you drive along the freeway, you see a wondrous mosaic as you look at all the packaging on supermarket shelves. Television long ago replaced the radio as standard home entertainment and the fact that you cannot judge a book by its cover doesn’t prevent the vast majority of the human population from doing so. The same applies to computers now.
As time boldly advances through January passing the Chinese New Year, we can witness free software carrying on its momentum and spreading itself even further around the globe. With that comes the plethora of additions, enhancements and modifications to the portfolio with which we have to become accustomed. As with other articles of this nature, I can only bring you the events that I have become awae of. These include:
The pleasant experience I’ve mentioned in the title of this entry is that of writing a program. It took me less than a week, and it’s an example of the sort of thing I do as a break from my normal coding and so I don’t take life too seriously. The program is a 3D maze puzzle and can be found here. The reason it was such a pleasure to write I’ll expand on further.
2005 was a busy year for free software. The early days of 2006 provide a good opportunity to look ahead at the wonders that the new year will bring, but it’s also good to spend a small amount of time reflecting upon what 2005 delivered. Free software technology has made even more inroads into the corporate server space. Desktop and office applications have steadily improved as well, with implementations of them on the sharp increase. Awareness of free software, the business models, philosophy and its advantages are spreading well too.
There is currently a competition going on between two types of business model. Each have their strong advocates, supporters and enemies. Flame wars have raised the temperature of various communication channels. So called “independent” analysts have thrown in their lot with one, singing the praises of their choice, while condemning to the depths of Hades the other, regardless of the facts. In short, it’s good old fashioned fun for all and sundry.
After a hectic October in the free software world, in which we witnessed events including the launch of OpenOffice.org 2.0 and MySQL 5.0, I thought November would be quieter and that I’d be struggling to find material for this article. I couldn’t have been more wrong. If anything, even more has happened this month than in the last, so I have concentrated on the events I feel most are the most important and relevant. To start with, there have been new versions in five very major software packages. These are:
I am a free software advocate and, to a much smaller extent, a free software producer. As such, copyrights are important to me—I rely on them to stop people proprietarising free software and protecting their inherent freedoms.
I used to write a bit of music too. However, piracy was not a problem for me. The difficulty I had was getting people to listen to my music, not stopping them from copying it. A new Pink Floyd I was not.
It has been quite a hectic month as far as major free software releases are concerned. Three major announcements that have occurred are:
Typical advocacy and discussions have also continued as normal.
A major production—OpenOffice.org 2.0
November has come, the winter nights are drawing in (here in the UK), time for some indoor activities. One of these activities is a long overdue housekeeping exercise in the
home directory of my GNU/Linux box. Let’s face it, in the day-to-day operating of my computer, I don’t always tidy up after myself. All sorts of unused rubbish clutter up name space and the various subdirectories of my home directory, and it uses up significant disc space, not to mention the extra resource for my (too infrequent) backups.
Time for a tidy up.
I think when a parent tells a child that something is “good” or “cool” their immediate reaction is to disbelieve it. I guess I must have done that to my parents, though I cannot remember any specifics there, certainly my children do it to me. I have had broadband at home with a computer available to be used by them any time for a few years now, but it has been underused. When I tell them what an amazing resource the internet is, do they believe me? No... of course not. I am only a parent after all.
But recently things have been changing! And not all for the better...
I woke up on Thursday 6th October on a friend’s sofa in London where I had spent the night after the Lonix evening get-together after the first day of the LinuxWorld Expo the day before. After a half hour journey recovering on a number 28 bus I arrived at 9.30 a.m. sharp(ish) in time to attend the Fedora Users and Developers Conference (FUDCon) at Olympia.