Opinions

Opinions

Let's stop playing the numbers game: free software has changed the game.

Tony Mobily's recent FSM post A future without Microsoft and the resulting comments have caused me to consider the way we use numbers to argue for free software in the marketplace. I'm not convinced that it's the best strategy because those waters are particularly muddy when it comes to comparing free and proprietary software.

Vienna failed to migrate to GNU/Linux: why?

Several governments and councils reported multi-year migration plans to GNU/Linux. Free software activists praised each one of them in their blogs and commentaries. However, a few months or years on, some of those plans crumbled. Vienna is one of them. A question here begs to be answered: why did it happen? The City of Vienna made several crucial mistakes. In this article, I will list the most prominent ones.

A future without Microsoft

It's June 2008, and it's not a good time to be a Microsoft shareholder or employee. The computing industry is changing very, very quickly, creating new opportunities and killing once-prosperous markets. In this short article, I will outline these changes in relation to free software and Microsoft. If you can think of more changes, or if you don't agree with some of my forecasts, please let me know!

Seagate Freeagent Pro: hardware that comes with proprietary software

Getting an external hard drive for my laptop seemed like such a good idea when I first thought about it. Seagate have got a dinky little 750 GB affair, called the Freeagent Pro, with lights that go up and down when it’s having a bit of a think to itself, so I got myself one of those. What I didn’t know when I bought it was that the hard drive came with all sorts of issues related to proprietary software.

A Technological Singularity: What are the Implications for Free Software?

I was at another meeting of the Editorial board of the Skibbereen Eagle yesterday. Hopefully you read the outcome of the last one. Some clever clogs suggested that it might be a spiffing wheeze to write something about the possible implications of the much mooted singularity (is that a proper noun, with a capital S?) and what it might mean for the future of both free and proprietary software.

Dubious ads in Free Software Magazine

Hello Everybody,

This is an emergency post. I am writing it in Dubai. I am on my way to Rome and then London, only have 50 minutes left in my EeePC and no Dubai power adapter. The joys of travelling...

Some dubious ads have appeared in Free Software Magazine. I have received reports of a "virus scanner" (fake) with a malicious redirection. We currently use two ad networks, IDG and Adsense, and I don't have any way to figure out which one is giving problems. In any case, having worked with both of them, I am 100% sure this is something that simply slipped the net.

Updating Debian keys for the uninterested

Despite having an aversion to configuring and maintaining security and crypto software, I accepted that I had to update my system in response to the recent big Debian security problem. If I can do it, you can do it. Below are my notes, but keep in mind that my security rank is somewhere between ignorant and uninterested.

Report from the Texas Open Source Symposium

Recently, I attended a small symposium here in Texas, with just over 70 people attending: the inaugural "Texas Open Source Symposium" (TexasOSS). Although small, it was a pleasant conference. Topics ranged from 3D applications to business models, to introductions into the inner workings of the free software community process.

Open letter to standards professionals, developers, and activists

You've read how Microsoft drove its tank through the international standardization process last year and this year, finally winning ISO approval for its legacy OOXML format. The OOXML event proved that we're in a real fight, and that money and power can break down the existing polite rules and agreements that constitute the international standardization process.

Digital Rights Management (DRM): is it in its death throes?

In this opening salvo, I will reprise the technical terms and history of DRM and thereafter I will try to keep you abreast of the issues for computer users in general and free software in particular. Hopefully, I will in fact be chronicling the death throes of DRM.

Guidelines to switch to a free platform

The topic of switching from Windows to Linux has been bashed numerous times and it often comes with the same arguments: high-performance, cheap, goes against the big monopolies, and so forth. Now, as a user, does it really matter? This article focuses on the steps you need to make for a successful switch or, at least, mix platform for the best result.

Alternatives

GNU/Linux and free software are unstoppable

When I first saw GNU/Linux (the kernel plus the utilities) in 1994, I was amazed. I started using GNU/Linux as a server system, rather than a desktop machine, and I just couldn't stop thinking: "This will only keep better and better. There is no limit. This is simply unstoppable. Everybody will be using this, and only this, by the year 2000". Remember that the year 2000 seemed really quite far off... and that I was being genuinely optimistic.

Things you miss with GNU/Linux

Recently I've noticed an increases in the number of people I know who are migrating from Windows to GNU/Linux. Either my tireless advocacy is grinding them down, word is starting to spread. Perhaps they've actually seen Vista in action and decided to jump ship now. Either way there are some things they are going to miss when they make the leap.

Creating wealth with free software

A report by the Standish Group indicates that adoption of 'open source' has caused a drop in revenue to the proprietary software industry by about $60 billion per year. That's not a huge amount of money compared to what has been lost though the misselling of mortgages, but it is still a lot. The report identifies the value of these 'open source' products to be about 6% of the world market for software.

Will the internet really improve the way we think?

In a recent interview with the British Sunday Observer, Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, claimed that "it's the next billion [internet users] who will change the way we think". Such a big claim deserves some critical house room. Will the internet really change the way we think? Or are we just getting carried away?

Why Microsoft should not lose (and free software will still win)

There has always been a section of the free software community which has an anti-Microsoft agenda. It's almost like their mission statement is "It's not over until Microsoft is dead". Certainly there is a lot of feeling that if Microsoft went away, a lot of our problem would be over. But do Microsoft even need to "lose"; is there even a battle to be fought and if so what would constitute winning it?

Google App Engine: Is it evil?

The Google App Engine doesn't really advance the cause of evil all that much, but it's not exactly good, either. Google makes a big deal about its corporate motto, "Don't be evil", but at the end of the day, Google really is just another corporation, no matter how well-intentioned its founders may have been. Regardless of whether the corporation holding the carrot is called "Microsoft" or "Google", developers should think long and hard before following the primrose path towards lock-in to non-standard designs.

Protest observing Document Freedom and against OOXML(Bangalore, India)

Today evening (15th April, 2008) a candle light vigil/protest was organised at the Town Hall, Bangalore, India to observe Document freedom and also to apply pressure on the Indian Govt. to file an appeal with the ISO regarding the passing of OOXML amid serious irregularities. The vigil was organised by the Free Software Users Group, Bangalore and was attended by Engineering college students, IT profesionals and even members from a local slum computer training centre. This is just the beginning as more serious and sustained activities are being planned.

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