If the pen is mightier than the sword, is the touchpad greater than the mouse?

I was one the first people I knew to get a mobile phone (Motorola analogue flip!); but I was also one of the last to sign up for Googlemail. I am not a dedicated follower of fashion. I stand still and, sooner or later, fashion meets me coming round the other way. So, it might not come as a surprise that unlike the young turks of computing I came late to the mysteries of the ubiquitous Synaptics Touchpad. You see, I was weaned on that Faustian pact with Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI), the mouse. Having endured several very unpleasant encounters with various forms of RSI in the recent past, I decided to explore the alternative therapy of the touchpad. This article is an exploration of what you can be done with it in the GNU/Linux environment, its options, utilities, graphical front ends and command line options.

Thoughts on invention, innovation, and patents from 'Guns, Germs, and Steel'

I'm working on Guns, Germs, and Steel, by Jared Diamond. Good book so far, although I've ground almost to a halt halfway through. (I'd probably make better progress if it showed up as blog-sized chunks in my feed reader every day.) I like sweeping accounts of history, and this one presents many new ways to look at things. It also gets me thinking about the current sorry state of the patent system, with these excerpts:

Wikipedia Vs Software

So I, along with everyone else today, got forwarded this link which shows that Wikipedia has begun its journey from an edit-focused hive of activity, to read-only archive, as people stop editing the site.

As one of the larger “open” projects, it can point to possibilities in the future for other projects. It also mirrors smaller projects, and the history we discovered years ago. So, what does this tell us?

The software protection racket

Again in the case of Intellivision, much like so many other of its “partners” (including Sendo), Microsoft demonstrates that their business model is based primarily on fraudulent and deceptive business practices. This is a company that finds it easier to use and control other people’s ideas rather than introduce their own, and often tries to claim privileged use of existing ideas by patenting other people’s existing and published works. To this they seem to now have gone head first into using IPR, the “Intellectual Protection Racket”.

The unspoken truth of operating systems

An article on Slashdot recently is the latest in a series of items I’ve seen over the past several years, all on the same theme. Each one has identified the thing which will finally allow Linux to build up enough inertia to begin to gain significant market share on the desktop and begin to challenge Microsoft and Apple. Most of the articles focus on a single issue as the key. Sometimes it’s technology―stability and lack of viruses. Sometimes it’s usability―the latest release of Gnome, or Ubuntu’s attempts to make Linux user friendly.

Kicking around the ol' soccer ball with Bygfoot

Programming free software is tons of fun. But every so often, it’s nice to get a change from the daily grind and have some fun. That’s where Bygfoot comes in. Bygfoot is a Windows or GNU/Linux (or Macintosh via fink) compatible football (or soccer, as us Yanks call it) management game in the spirit of Football Manager (Americans and Canadians know it as Worldwide Soccer Manager).

What is it?

Copyleft has no impact on project activity?!

Recently, I collected some data from Sourceforge, hoping to find evidence for the importance of copyleft. But I found something surprising: although there's plenty of evidence that many developers believe in the power of copyleft, the one measure I could derive of how much copyleft actually works showed that copyleft made no difference whatsoever! If true, this means a lot of free software's social theory is wrong and many things will have to be re-thought.

And the luddites shall inherit the world (wide web)...

With the lay public now moving their businesses and lives online, everything they do has an electronic component. But, being lay people, they’re using the most antiquated, bug-ridden, security-deficient, poorly-implemented solutions and services possible. And this is despite being told better. They indulge in PayPal, eBay, FaceBook, DRM, MySpace, and on-line shopping. All of which suck...

Something rotten in the State of Sweden

This entire OOXML campaign stinks!

This is being forced on everyone simply because one corporation has manufactured a back-door strategy, to maintain a software monopoly.

Around the world, we decided that we needed a new universal standard to apply to the digital equivalent of pen and paper.

Around the world, we decided on such a standard.

Microsoft chose not to take part in those deliberations.

Now, Microsoft want to tell us, “Stuv ya stanadz suggerz, wod we zeyz goez, bub.”

The standards we selected, means nothing to Microsoft, apparently.

Property and commons

Over at Sphere of Networks, I published a text that tries to give a simple overview of the workings of information production in the age of the internet, covering everything from free software to free culture. This article is a slightly modified version of another chapter of this text. This time I will show you how the internet enabled a new form of information production: commons-based peer productions, like Wikipedia or most free software today. What is free content and why is it so important to people collaborating over the internet?

Information technology, 'piracy' and DRM

Over at Sphere of Networks, I published a text that tries to give a simple overview of the workings of information production in the age of the internet, covering everything from free software to free culture. This article is a slightly modified version of a chapter of this text. I will show how peer-to-peer file-sharing networks work and how Big Media tries to prevent this sharing by means of random lawsuits and by using DRM. What does this copyright war mean for consumers and for our culture as a whole?

No news, but no snooze

Two things piqued my interest recently. One was the iPlayer protests at the BBC, the other was the Wiki tracker project. More specifically, it was the reporting of these events. In the case of the former, it went virtually unreported and made me proud of our independent and open news sources and reporting network. The latter highlighted (again) the many issues of user-generated content. Is there a half-way house?

Beware of Skype

On Sunday, August 5, 2007 Bush signed the revised Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) into law, in which the U.S. Congress spinelessly caved in and gave legal authority to the Bush administration to continue to intercept and spy on electronic communications. Then, on Thursday, August 16, 2007 the whole worldwide Skype network goes down. Coincidence? I think if you use Skype, you should now be very, very, concerned about the privacy of your calls and had better start considering using FOSS alternatives.

Love and war: the Microsoft patent deals

Few events have created more fodder for the blogosphere, more fuel for Microsoft critics and more emotional responses than the Microsoft patent deals with Novell, Linspire and Xandros. While putting together a list of things people hate about these deals is easy, generating a list of positive aspects is much harder. So I tried to take a more balanced approach and put together a love/hate list about these deals.

Fighting Megatron: five steps to freedom

The free software world is being attacked by a large, wealthy, brutal monopolist, who I’ll call “Megatron” for today. As I wrote last month, Megatron is driving its OOXML tank through the village church of open standards, doing unspeakable things to the ISO process, with the intention of locking in a generation of computer users to its stack of patented, restricted, and undocumented formats. It’s about freedom, some of us want it, others want to take it away from us.

So, why, why do people and companies develop free software?

More and more people are discovering free software. Many people only do so after weeks, or even months, of using it. I wonder, for example, how many Firefox users actually know how free Firefox really is—many of them realise that you can get it for free, but find it hard to believe that anybody can modify it and even redistribute it legally.

When the discovery is made, the first instinct is to ask: why do they do it? Programming is hard work. Even though most (if not all) programmers are driven by their higher-than-normal IQs and their amazing passion for solving problems, it’s still hard to understand why so many of them would donate so much of their time to creating something that they can’t really show off to anybody but their colleagues or geek friends.

Sure, anybody can buy laptops, and just program. No need to get a full-on lab or spend thousands of dollars in equipment. But... is that the full story?

Gaia Ajax Widgets: no-JavaScript Ajax

Imagine you need to create an Ajax application, and you’re scratching your head in frustration since you don’t understand prototype.js, you think using ASP.NET Ajax feels like building a car with scissors and paperclips and you don’t know enough Java to use GWT. If this is your problem, Gaia Ajax Widgets could solve your problem: Gaia abstracts away JavaScript, feels like normal ASP.NET, works on both ASP.NET and Mono—and it’s free software.

Thoughts on the Fake Steve from a Fake Reader

That is, I didn’t read the Fake Steve blog. I heard good things. I may have read a one or two posts that I followed through links. Some of the excerpts I’ve seen in the aftermath of the reveal are quite funny. But I wasn’t a reader. I’m familiar with some of Dan Lyons’s work, though, and I’m just some anonymous idiot with a blog so I feel qualified to put my $0.02 in. This is all just my opinion, mind you.

  1. For the people complaining that the New York Times ruined the fun, don’t you get it? He wanted to be outed. Publicity for the book. Nourishment for the ego.


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