Ryan Cartwright's articles

Will the economic downturn mean a free software upturn?

So here we are, entering another year -- and no doubt at some point during this year, more than one person will declare it the "year of the Linux desktop". Of course it won't happen and those who consider themselves free software opponents will soon let us know. Some things will never change. That said, is there any reason to suspect it might be different this year? Is it possible that the current economic climate is better placed to generate a significant growth in free desktops? Can the cloud of economic gloom have a silver lining for free software?

10 things for non-coders to do with free software over Christmas

Some of us will find some kind of alleged spare time on our hands over the next few weeks. Certainly, there's often some kind of break from "work" over the festive season. Traditionally free software developers have used such times for long coding sessions, get-togethers and "hack-fests". Of course we're not all hard-core (or even soft-core) hackers so here's a few suggestions for the rest of us who might want to try something new over Christmas.

5 Tips for free software advocates

Free software advocacy is something I do -- both for a living and as a hobby. Over the years I've gleaned a few best practice tips and I thought I'd pass them on. They may not all work or even be applicable in your case, but I have found then all useful at some time or other. They are in no particular order and in my opinion carry equal amounts of weight.

Creating a multilingual website with Smarty

Some time ago I was required to adapt a bespoke website application (which I had originally written) so it not only supported multiple languages but also multiple character sets. The website, MakingContact.org, is a on-line community for families with disabled children run by the charity Contact a Family. It required "support" for four languages in addition the English it was currently in: Somali, Arabic, Farsi and Simplified Chinese. Yes, I know the latter is not actually a language but for these purposes the cap fitted.

I decided to do it using Smarty, the PHP-based templating engine. Whilst it was possible that a CMS or similar could do the job now, at the time I could find none which supported multiple character sets in the way I required. I've been meaning to write the process down for some time so here's how I did it.

Mixing free and proprietary software: not a rosy future

A recent article caught my eye and turned it a nice shade of red. It discussed the -- hardly new -- idea that the future of software usage must involve a mixture of free and proprietary products -- something the writer refers to as "mixed source". The piece was entitled "Mixed source - the best of both worlds" which may give you a clue as to where I disagree with it.

The article was an opinion piece by Steve Harris, senior director for open source products at Novell in issue 78 of Linux User & Developer magazine. Sadly it's not yet available on-line and I don't honestly know if it will be. If it is I'll post a comment with a link here so you can read it for yourself.

Why is The Bizarre Cathedral licence "non-free"?

For the past 26 weeks I've been producing the Bizarre Cathedral strips for Free Software Magazine. Every one of them is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-commerical-Share Alike (BY-NC-SA) licence. Recently I've received a few pieces of mail saying this is a "non-free" licence and questioning my use of it here. Some of them are quite polite, others have demanded I change the licence immediately (presumably "or else"). I'm not going to change the license, and here's why.

Updating your system: GNU/Linux 5, Windows 0

The pace of software development -- regardless of the licence -- is pretty fast these days. The state of your systems need constant monitoring. New features, bug-fixes and (most important) security updates need to be properly managed. Here, in no particular order, are five ways that choosing a free operating system will make system maintenance a lot easier and simpler. In short they are ways that -- when it comes to system updates -- GNU/Linux beats Windows.

Fighting the "legacy" reputations of GNU/Linux, seventeen years later

Regular readers of this column will know that I'm a fan of education and positive experience as an advocacy tool in place of shouting from rooftops. Winning the mindset of an average computer user -- particularly home users -- is never going to be a quick process but a recent experience showed me we still have some old and familiar hills to climb. How do we combat legacy reputations of GNU/Linux that are no longer valid?

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