Matt Barton's articles

Google Calendar—Yes!

Wow. I logged in to Slashdot today and the first thing I saw was that Google has released its new calendar. I noticed right away that this calendar allows imports from MS Outlook—one less excuse for people to cling to MS. I've tried various calendar apps within Firefox and Thunderbird, but this one appears as intuitive as Google's great Reader app. I wonder if any of this is making MS nervous?

Building a new media lab: advice needed

Greetings, everyone. We’re currently in the process of planning a new media lab for our English department. We have a budget of about $50,000, though there are hints that we could get more if we could make a compelling enough case. At any rate, the lab’s purpose will be to give students the chance to produce some really outstanding new media projects. These will likely range from website production to simple digital videos and on to fully interactive media (e.g., flash movies, videogames).

MIT OpenCourseWare Turns 5

Ah, MIT. I don’t know what it takes to get into this school, but, damn, they have some good people there. I learned about their Open Course Ware project a few years ago, and am so glad to see it’s still thriving. The concept is simple: Make all the course materials freely available online, so that even folks like me (who are denied the chance to go to MIT), still get to reap some of the benefits of an MIT education. I’m timidly suggesting to my own dept that we start thinking in this direction.

Programmer, thy name is MUD

Now this really sounds interesting. Wired is reporting about a new coding tool called playsh, a coding environment that works just like your favorite MUDs (multi-user dungeons). It combines the collaborative and spatial advantages of MUDs to give coders a new edge. I’m really excited about this product. I spent a sizable portion of my youth playing MUDs and hacking. Now I can do both!

McDonalds: The Game

Here’s another reason why CC licensing can be effective—it can help get games like this one out to the public so rapidly that plenty of people get the chance to play it before the hammer comes down. This game is seriously effective social and political commentary, but since it uses McDonalds’ trademarks all over the place, I’m sure it won’t last long. You’d better grab it while you can. You can also read an interview with the designer at GamaSutra.

UK judge against software patents

Finally, all those years of intelligent British TV have paid off—a judge there has spoken out against software patents. Some of Sir Robin Jacob’s criticisms are classic:

“The United States takes the view that anything made by man, under the sun, can be patented. And they have granted patents for business methods, mainly computer business methods. But as far as I can see, it would cover a new and improved method of stacking oranges on a barrel.”

Torvalds disses GNOME and recommends KDE

There’s some buzz on OS News and Slashdot today about Linus Torvalds’ comments on the Gnome Mailing List. Torvalds trashes GNOME and tells everyone just to use KDE instead. The reason is interesting: “This ‘users are idiots, and are confused by functionality’ mentality of Gnome is a disease. If you think your users are idiots, only idiots will use it.”

The Grateful Dead and the Internet Archive debacle

The Grateful Dead are often held up as an example of what wonderful things can happen when a fan base comes to mean more to a band than a record exec. The band is famous for its long-lasting drug-induced “Wall of Sound” tours. The Dead Heads were often treated at these concerts to 20+ minute extended versions of their favorite songs. Some fans were upset that all this music was going unrecorded—even today, it’s hard to buy a “legitimate” copy of anything but the most “vanilla” Dead recordings.

Free the Xbox 360!

Well, here’s the latest violation of DMCA Anti-Circumvention that’s sure to get an cheer from the boys and girls fighting the good fight: Free60 is struggling to port GNU/Linux and Darwin to the Xbox 360. This is quite a challenge because Microsoft has really pulled out all the stops to keep this box safe from prying, er, owners (I suppose Microsoft doesn’t use that word to describe people who pay $400 for the box). Here’s a glimpse at what the team has found so far.

Where's the Xbox 180?—getting kids involved in free software

I’m sure I’ll be running across a flood of news today about Microsoft’s new Xbox 360. Of course, like everyone else I know who is into games, I’m curious about this new box (and Sony’s eventual response). I’m also wondering about issues like copy prevention measures and how difficult these systems will be to “mod” to circumvent them.

Open standards for new Microsoft Office

Here’s some interesting news. Microsoft is reportedly opening up the file formats of its new suite, promising folks that they won’t be locked into a proprietary file format. The move reminds me strongly of Adobe’s decisions with its .PDF format. Their openness helped make PDF files almost ubiquitous. What I’m wondering is whether open MS Office formats will affect the adoption rate of OO.

Emulation

The term emulation means to either equal or exceed something or someone else. As computer jargon, however, emulation means recreating another computer or console’s operating system on another system; e.g., recreating a Nintendo Entertainment System on your Sega Dreamcast so you can boot up a _Super Metroid _ROM, or playing classic arcade games like _Ms. Pac-Man _or _Omega Race _on your Gameboy Advance SP. Certainly, neither Nintendo nor Sega ever meant for their systems to be used for such purposes.

Publishing Wikipedia

I doubt there is anyone reading this blog who hasn’t heard of wikipedia. I imagine that most of you are like me—it’s often the first place I turn when I want a quick “lowdown” on subjects as disparate as a Civil War general, postmodern theorists, Apple IIs, or He-Man toys. My students also use wikipedia incessantly, though other professors tend to chide them for using an “unreliable” resource.

Don’t like the DMCA Anti-Circumvention Clause? Speak now.

Newsforge is running a story that ought to concern everyone here at Free Software Magazine. Every three years, the Library of Congress pulls down the DMCA’s Anti-Circumvention Clause (the one that makes reverse-engineering illegal and paves the way for totalitarian digital copyright policies) and solicits comments regarding possible revisions.

Creating a free wikibook for college students

As a college professor committed to the principles of the free software movement, I frequently find myself wondering how I can promote the cause from within the university setting. One obvious way is to have students read works by Richard Stallman and Lawrence Lessig—and have them use free software alternatives whenever possible. However, I still felt there had to a less propagandistic, more subtle (and effective) way.

Games in captivity

For those of us who grew up in the 80s, playing games in arcades or on our computers and game consoles was a major part of our childhoods, and we often have the nostalgic desire to replay those beloved titles. Others not only want to play, but have dedicated their scholarly attention to the study and preservation of videogame history. Sometimes companies who own the copyright to these games are able to repackage them and make them available on the shelf; there are countless “Games in a Stick” mini-consoles and plenty of “Arcade Classic” compilations for the PC and modern consoles.

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