I'm working on Guns, Germs, and Steel, by Jared Diamond. Good book so far, although I've ground almost to a halt halfway through. (I'd probably make better progress if it showed up as blog-sized chunks in my feed reader every day.) I like sweeping accounts of history, and this one presents many new ways to look at things. It also gets me thinking about the current sorry state of the patent system, with these excerpts:
I recently went looking for a way to rotate JPG images from within Nautilus, and found a nice way to do this and more. It’s not difficult to customize the right-click popup menu in Nautilus to perform custom actions on files. Here are some instructions and scripts to get you started.
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Apparently I’ve been living under a rock, because I only recently found out about the Blender project’s free and open source short movie, Elephants Dream, when I happened across Terry Hancock’s review of it last year on this web site. The motivation behind Elephants Dream was to create a great movie short using only free and open source tools, while at the same time finding ways to improve the quality of those tools and free software projects in general.
Answer: As dumb as necessary.
Let's rephrase: How technically sophisticated should GNU/Linux users have to be? How knowledgeable should any computer user have to be? The answer to that, of course, ranges from "very" to "not very." We need to get past the name-calling of clueless newbie and sneering elitist, and understand that there are going to be varying levels of ability in any community, including the one made up of people interested in using free software. From there, I suggest it is critically important that we expand the size of the free software community. That means dealing with more "dumb" people.
This entry is first a plea for help. I enjoy reading and listening to interviews with people who have interesting and exciting things to say about their passions. My attention was recently directed to a web site named Questions Please..., where Jonathan Roberts informs us he has an inside line to free software luminaries Richard Stallman, Jeremy Allison, and Jeff Waugh. So what is my plea?
I'm guessing many FSM readers will recognize the title reference, if like me you're a fan of Neal Stephenson's work. If you're not a fan, then... er... how could you not be?! I'm kidding. I realize tastes differ, but to me, Stephenson is essential geek reading.
His essay, In the Beginning was the Command Line, has been around for several years now. It's showing some age in areas, but it reads as well today as it did back in 1999. It's filled with interesting ideas and thoughts about technology and culture, including free software. For example, you don't have to read very far in to the essay to find a great analogy between operating systems and car dealerships.
Which do you like best: the satisfying, rich taste of principle in free software? Or do you prefer the less morally filling and pragmatic goodness of open source? Do you wish people would stop endlessly rehashing the whole question of "free" versus "open source?" Or do you enjoy the chance to talk about goals and philosophy? As you might suspect, since I'm bringing it up...
The success of GNU/Linux and other free software projects is annoying. Free and open source development doesn't fit neatly in the box of standard business practices and is therefore a problem. We really need to break free of those hippies at the Free Software Foundation and let the grown-ups manage things from here on out. Not to mention that the peer-based production model doesn't really work that great anyway.
Software bills got you down? Here at Intellectual Property Magazine (championing intellectual investment since 2012!), our studies show that the share of an average household's budget for software rental has increased from 10% to 23% from 2040 to 2056. Today our experts will share* some money-saving ideas!
*Please note a licensing fee of $50 for initial use of the ideas in this list, and an ongoing monthly charge of $5.
Last week I mentioned that I enjoy programming in Visual Basic and suggested that people shouldn't act so superior and look down at dweebs like me who program in dweeby languages. Today let's talk about why Visual Basic is an awful programming language and anyone using it should run kicking-and-screaming away. (I'll admit that kicking and running may be difficult to do at the same time.) Run away, not because it's lame, but because it's so horribly unfree.
Who owns this thing?
In my first post here at Free Software Magazine, I mentioned that I actually like using Microsoft Windows. People seemed to let this go or find it not worth commenting on, maybe because my goal is to move away from it. Not that I expected rabid opposition. Not at all. GNU/Linux users are well-known for being quite mild and reserved in their opinions. If we must go back to my drug use analogy, it could also be that readers here were supportive of my desire to seek treatment and rehabilitation and didn't see the need to condemn me for past transgressions. (But really now, the drug metaphor has to go.)
Perhaps just as egregious a violation of the principles of free software has been my use of Visual Basic over the past ten years. And similarly, I'm going to tell you that I like programming in Visual Basic. (Version 6, specifically. Not VB.NET/Visual Fred.)
No, not Winnie-the-Pooh's friend, but that computer I mentioned last week. Do you feel cheated? Maybe you were expecting a murder mystery instead? Although doesn't Eeyore the donkey seem more like the died-of-natural-causes type? Let me briefly eulogize Eeyore the computer before wandering erratically to a new subject: copyright control.
Eeyore-the-computer is dead
Time to get on with the move. Giving up Windows is like kicking a drug habit. It’s easier to take the path of least resistance and keep using. If quitting proprietary software was a twelve step program—although, let’s not push the analogy too far—maybe after admitting we were powerless over our proprietary programs, coming to believe that a Higher Power could restore us to Freedom, and so on and so forth, maybe we’d...