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.

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.


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