Opinions

Opinions

Microsoft's half-hearted support for old office formats

Are you still using Microsoft Office 2003? If so, get ready to have problems opening older file formats with it once SP3 is applied: Microsoft has decided to disable file parsers for the older file types (Word 95 and older, Wordperfect, Lotus etc.) by default. Why? Security reasons.

Impossible thing #1: Developing efficient, well engineered free software like Debian GNU/Linux

With any paradigm shift, it is difficult to see the new world from the old one, even though it is glaringly obvious once you've crossed over. Empirical evidence is one way to bridge the gap. To that end, I want to show some solid evidence for the "impossible" things that commons-based peer production (CBPP) has already accomplished—things that the old conventional wisdom would tell us "can't be done". This week, I'll look at what is probably the most obvious case: free software.

Lenovo enters the server market, keeps quiet about Linux

I recently learned the news that Lenovo is entering the server market outside China.

As the editor of Free Software Magazine, the first question that came to mind was: "Will they run Linux?". To my surprise, the answer was nowhere to be found.

Lenovo: hardly a Linux-friendly maker

Back in April 2007, Lenovo announced that it would "offer a wide selection of low- to high-end machines be loaded with Linux software from Novell Inc.". I won't comment the odd choice of GNU/LInux distribution, which is besides the point (I am an Ubuntu fan, and am convinced that any new Linux desktop user should be given Ubuntu for a number of reasons). What I do want to point out, is that some ten months later those laptops are nowhere to be seen.

Return of the bespoke database

I've mentioned before the recent move among UK charities to become more "professional", which is often translated as "do what the corporates do" (particularly when it comes to IT). One reason for this is the dreaded bespoke friend-of-a-friend database. These "databases" (and I use the term loosely) are often written by a student, with tenuous links to the charity, looking for a final year project and usually in Microsoft Access and they are usually awful to maintain.

Becoming a Free Software developer, part IV: Putting your interest to good use

As we follow the zig-zaggy quest of me trying to learn to program, I discover the next significant step, "Interest". I started with a goal: to learn to program. Next I came up with a plan: Learn Python by writing a program called PT (period tracker) but I lacked the last bit, interest.

You see, there was very little that period tracker did that a calendar didn't. Spending hours to make a program to do work that I could do in five minutes with a calendar and a pencil seemed like a waste of effort.

Is better education the key to finding better software?

I read David Jonathon's article Anybody Up To Writing Good Directory Software? the other day, which got me thinking about software directories in general. As David mentioned, many of the software directories one finds when doing a quick google search are free as in beer, not as in freedom. But what interests me is the software directories that already exist, providing a combination of both free as in beer software, and open source software. Sites such as Freeware Downloads and Shareware Download don't advertise themselves as providing free as in liberty software, but each of them have a good selection of open source software available... if you know where to look.

Linux may be taking the desktop—but has it stalled before the workplace?

I was at a friend's office last week. Roger (my friend) has a computer training facility, and training rooms for hire in Perth, Australia (where I live). They have all kinds of courses there all the time, and in the course of conversation I asked if they do much Linux training there, because that would be something I would be interested in doing with my staff.

In defense of software patents

Patent advocates, large successful businesses, and politicians are so enthusiastic about the patenting of software that it’s hard to accept arguments from people like the FFII and Free Software Foundation who claim that the software industry simply does not need software patents and would be far better off without them. In this article I’ll try to explain why software patents are necessary, and in the sake of fairness I’ll look at the other side of each argument. Here is the “defense of Software Patents”. I report, you decide.

Why non-profits should use free software (and it's not why you'd think)

You might have gathered from my article about hosting free software events, I work and am interested in the UK Voluntary/Community Sector (VCS)[1]. I also am a user and advocate of free software and I have a desire to see it used more often in VCS and non-governmental (NG) organisations. I believe that these two groups should be some of the primary non-personal users of free software and here’s why.

It’s not about cost

The world does not need a "conversion nightmare": a standard office file format already exists

This is an editorial about file conversions. It starts with a story about Free Software Magazine and our struggle with article formats, and continues explaining why the world needs to get rid of Office Open XML, which could create more problems than the Microsoft monopoly itself.

How to host a free software advocacy event

On 2 Nov 2007, the Free Software Foundation Europe held an event in London, UK called "Free Software as a Social Innovation" to which I was fortunate to be invited. Run jointly with M6-IT CIC and described as an event to “help people learn more about Free Software and provide opportunities for hands-on experience with the technology”, it was aimed at those in the European not-for-profit[1] and non-governmental sectors (hereafter referred to as the third sector).

Free software is social software

Free software has much to offer non-profit organizations (NGOs). If you are reading this, you are probably a member or participant of an NGO, and I hope I can show you why free software and open standards are important for your organisation. Or maybe you are a free software supporter who’d like to see a change in a social organisation near you. In any case, I will try to give you a few arguments in favour of free software, along with some practical information on how to successfully face a migration process from proprietary software.

Purchasing free-software-friendly hardware

Many people have complained about the lack of pre-integrated computers running GNU/Linux or the lack of fully free software drivers for important hardware. Ultimately though, it's up to you, the consumer, both to satisfy your own requirements and to send a message to vendors that supporting free software pays. You can do this fairly easily by integrating your own computer from its major components, and selecting only components that have free software drivers. It's certainly possible, and even if you've never built a computer before, it's not all that hard!

Do software patents exist in the EU?

Frequently Asked Question: Do software patents exist in the EU?

Answer: The problem is that software patents exist in some ways in the EU. The power of patent governance is split between a legislature, an executive, and a judiciary.

The legislature (the European Patent Convention) says that software ideas are not patentable.

The executive (the European Patent Office) ignores this and approves software patent applications.

The judiciary (the national courts) usually declares the EPO's software patents to be invalid whenever there is a court case.

Free Software and the State of the World

Today I want to talk about free and open source software in connection with the them and us feeling that I believe is widely felt all over the world.

Initially you might think that these two topics have nothing to do with each other but hopefully by the end of this post you will understand that these two topics are actually connected in many complex ways.

Transcript: Richard Stallman, honary degree speech, Pavia 2007

The University of Pavia, in Italy, recently awarded Richard Stallman with an honorary degree. Stallman gave a short speech, his “lectio doctoralis”, on the ethical imperative to use free software, focussing on individuals and schools. The speech has been transcribed by Alessandro Rubini, with checking by Dora Scillipoti and Luca Andreucci. The transcript text, with translations, will later be re-published in a more permanent location. I will add a link to the permanent location when I know it.

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