Opinions

Opinions

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 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.

Writing native Android applications with Javascript? Not yet.

The number of people using Linux (and I mean Linux the kernel) and free software in general has exploded in the last 2 years thanks to Android and Google. Even if you want to discard phones and only count the tablets (which are starting to get very close to laptops in terms of what you can do with them), the number of new users is huge. And yet, we are all hostage of a choice -- a bad choice, in my humble opinion -- that Google made: Java.

The Research Works Act (RWA): why Scientific Publishing needs FOSS Methods

I'm sure I don't need to explain SOPA or ACTA to regular readers of Free Software Magazine. They're toxic. End of. But RWA? It stands for Research Works Act. It's not the big sexy beast of the other two but it is, in its way, just as insidious and as harmful to the freedom of scientific publishing as SOPA and ACTA are to internet freedom and it's all interconnected. Here's why.

How to kill movie piracy: charge $1 for movies, and 50c for episodes

Movie piracy is the next big thing. The RIAA is quickly realising that their reputation is nearly beyond unrecoverable, after taking to court single mums, dead people, and children. In the meantime, in Australia they are having secret meetings to try and work out a way to prevent movie privacy. The solution is simple: to kill movie privacy, allow people to download movies, make it cheap, and make it easy. Yes it's hard. But yes, it's rewarding.

Is GNU/Linux just not cool anymore?

Software is becoming less and less important. Most people today just don't care about what software they use, what operating system they run, or who is behind the pretty screens they see. What they want, is something that works. Or, better, anything that works. This shift caused a series of changes which shook the whole industry. One of them amongst them: are GNU/Linux and free software in general just not cool anymore? Google Trends gives some interesting answers.

Download Sites: Rogue Pirate Hangouts or Vogue Free Media Distributors?

YouTube is good, but not ideal, and the lack of a download link is somewhat annoying. So I spent some time researching good free media hosting sites for large files and ISOs. Torrent sites are particularly good for hosting the high-definition versions.

What if Diaspora's pods just cannot challenge Facebook's monolithic structure?

When Diaspora was announced, the first thing I checked was simple: "Is it distributed?" The answer was "yes!". I felt ecstatic: having a distributed system implied that there was no centralised control over the information. What I didn't realise is that multiple pods would also lead to multiple problems -- and now I wonder whether a de-centralised structure creates more problems than it solves. I write this article screaming: please prove me wrong. It's not a challenge: it's a genuine request. I love Diaspora as a project, and I really want it to work.

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