It's 2015, writing a simple 6 screen application is still too hard

Last night I saw a message from a friend of mine in Facebook: she is trying to organise a baby sitting community where people who trust each other will exchange "tokens" when they babysit each other's children. My first reaction was something I just couldn't resist: I drew up a normalised bunch of tables (6, to be precise) which will organise carers, children homes, and bookings. I even wrote the server side part of the story as a bunch of REST calls (it took me 2 hours in total). Then... I realised that giving an interface to my data was way, way harder than it should be.

Why we need anonymity on the Internet -- even if it hurts

I have recently restarted Free Software Magazine, after working full time on a free software project. One of my articles ended up on Slashdot. In the past, this meant hours of frantic work: on one hand, being "slashdotted" meant dealing with a huge influx of traffic which normally brought our server to its knees; on the other hand, it meant discussing the article with very intelligent people. I didn't expect what followed this time: I was the target of what I assume to be a couple of well spoken millennials who carried out a grating, personal attack against me.

Netflix: the crumbling borders of geolocation and the thieves who happily pay for what they "steal"

One upon a time, movies were released in different countries at different times. This could be done because there was no easy way to copy and store away a movie. If you lived in Italy, you could wait up to two years before you saw a popular movie. Then two things happened: it became easy to copy and store movies; and everybody in the world suddenly became interconnected. The regional segregation ended: the only ones to believe that it's still there are the dinosaurs from a past era.

Ubuntu Software Center: proprietary and free software mixed in a confusing UI

I have been watching the evolution of the Ubuntu Software Center for quite a while now. I had doubts about its interface and its speed, but I liked the fact that it offered an easy, down-to-earth interface that allowed users to install software easily.

However, I have to say that the way the Ubuntu Software Center has evolved is worrying me -- a lot.

The Googlisation of Surveillance: The UK Communications Data Bill

There is a belief that democracies respect the rights of their citizens. Well, they don't. There is a great deal of cant written about that but even the democratic modern state has become so big, so intrusive and utterly overbearing that its cancerous tentacles have insinuated themselves into every orifice of the body politic. No sooner has one threat to personal and internet freedom receded than another springs up like proverbial dragon's teeth. One of Hecate's children of the night has been brewing for a while and is set to make its way onto the statute book here in the UK.

Ubuntu Touch: the (natural) next step in personal computing?

I don't think many people have realised that we are on the verge of a technological revolution. The computing world is changing, and this is the first time GNU/Linux is catching the revolution as it begins. Computers are getting smaller and smaller, while phones are getting bigger and bigger. Everybody can see that they are about to converge -- but in what form? Well, the answer is: GNU/Linux -- before anybody else. The ingredients? A great GNU/Linux distribution, a leader with the right vision, and a few very bold, ground-breaking choices. Mix it well: the result is Ubuntu Touch.

Wikiweapons and Printing 3D Guns. It's Just a Stalking Horse for What's to Come

When I wrote an article for FSM a few years ago about 3D printing it was a big topic in the open-source community but it had not yet gone fully mainstream. If there was one thing guaranteed to make 3D printing explode onto the mainstream news media it was an item about someone "printing" a gun. That got your attention, didn't it? Mine too. It's controversial of course but it might just be the beginning of a rerun of the Napster/Piratebay episodes in the 21st century - with the inevitable debate between patent-free, non-hierarchical open-source models and patent-encumbered proprietary software and hardware. Napster was a ripple. 3D printing will be a tsunami.

Google Reader: Google Giveth and Google taketh away. Keep Calm and Carry On

Google has recently announced that they will take Google Reader offline. "I won't miss it. Never used the damn thing. Didn't trust the idea of a big company like Google's interests being so aligned with mine that I could trust them to get all my news." said one the inventors of RSS but to feel the pain online of those will miss it is to see that many do not agree. I'm not one of them.

Free software as multi-level marketing?

Over the years, the marketing and advertising strategies employed by businesses—both small and large alike—have changed dramatically. What once used to be traditional advertising on a black-and-white television has since evolved into elaborate online guerilla marketing campaigns, sometimes costing several thousand dollars a month. With computer software being a relatively new (and I use that term lightly) advancement, the marketing strategies employed by software distributors has largely been based on the web.

Free e-learning software: unifying coding efforts, and admin efforts

In this article, I will talk about an exciting chain of events which brought several universities together: instead of buying different Learning Management Systems, they teamed up and started working on the same piece of software -- together. This led to the development of Sakai, a fantastic Learning Management System. I will also talk about the importance, for organisations like the Sakai foundation, to then merge with similar ones (which share similar goals) for the same reason: avoid work duplication.

Die Hard--But Make Sure You Can Bequeath Your Digital Assets

Bruce Willis has been trending on Twitter this week. Nothing to do with his dubious acting abilities. No, a story began to circulate that he wanted to bequeath his iTunes music collection (spread over numerous Apple devices) to his children but discovered that Apple not only owned the hardware and the software but also "his" music too. It now appears that this might be an unfounded rumour but, true or false, it raises some very interesting questions about the status of digital real estate in the event of death.

Free software programmers should be paid, too

You've probably heard of this intriguing new crowd-funding service called Kickstarter, right? (If not, how are you getting this website from that cave of yours?). A lot of people are using it to fund all kinds of exciting new things, and it's obviously useful option for free software projects. Properly used, it can allow us to close the gap against proprietary applications that still have more polish or exist in niches that require more capitalization. But the idea that it is somehow immoral to ask for money to work on free software has got to go!

How and How NOT to Re-License your Work for Free Culture

The last week has been terrific for "Lunatics". We've cleared the licenses on almost all of the music -- and certainly the most important pieces. However, for a moment, I want to focus on the little problem with the one minute of music we probably won't get to use, and the right and wrong way to relicense your art if you are ever in that situation.

Nagios Vs. Icinga: the real story of one of the most heated forks in free software

In March 14, 1999 Ethan Galstad released the first version of Nagios. Then, nearly exactly 10 years later (May 2009), Icinga (a fork of Nagios) was born. What happened there? Why a fork? In this article, I will shed some light about what made the Icinga developers decide to fork (although they still send patches to Nagios). In this article, I will talk to both Ethan Galstad himself, and Michael Lübben (one of the founding Icinga team members and Nagios addon developer). I will quote Michael and Ethan in the article. You get to read their points of view here.

Oracle and the slippery bars of soap called Java and MySql

News about the lawsuit between Oracle (which owns Java) and Google (which uses aspects of Java in Android) are resonating far and loud at the moment. At this point in the article, I should summarise the story: the trouble is that a summary at this point is impossible. The main problem is with Oracle, and their inability to understand free software.

The (bumpy) road to Free Software SaaS

Free Software advocates quickly demonize SaaS as the ultimate way to take your freedom away. A lot of them dismiss the advantages of having data online highlighting (and rightly so) the fact that you may be locked out of your own data anytime. My question is: what if SaaS is in fact the way to go, the future, and just need to hurry the hell up and make sure that it's easy to install, and use, the great SaaS available under a free software license?

Is the radioactive H.264 going to poisoning us, and the web, until 2028?

Whether we like it or not, H.264 is "the" de-facto standard on the Internet. Every time you visit Youtube, you are watching a video encoded using the H.264 standard. The video quality is great, the compression is astonishing. And so is the price. H.264 is subject to a huge number of software patents. You need to pay hefty licensing fees if you want to create H.264 files today. We, the users, are not feeling this as we are not paying a cent. However, the freedomes allowed by this format are limited, and vague at best: here is why.

23 years on and still people don't get free software

In 1989 The GNU project introduced the GPL - not the first occurrence of a free software licence but arguably the most important. Yet today in 2012 we still have large sections of the computing industry which just doesn't get free software. I came across a glaring example of this today.


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