Opinions

Opinions

Life and death in the IT world: a two-month summary

For the few that liked my blog and, after a couple of months of silence, thought that I was dead... well I am alive and kicked (no that’s not a typo; I know it should be “kicking”, but the reality is that I feel like I’ve been kicked in my back). What happened... well, a lot of work and, finally, a two-week holiday in Brittany kept me out of the real World. And, now that I am back, I am taking a look around. A number of new interesting news items stand out from the rest.

History of glibc and Linux libc

The “Linux libc” fork of the GNU C Library is now a mostly forgotten event. The fork lived from 1994 to 1997/8—just before my time—but I’ve found interesting accounts of it by others.

The main sources of information are:

Sakai welcomed to Amsterdam

The 7th Sakai Conference took place from the 12-14 June in the Movenpick Hotel Amsterdam.

Some of you newer readers to my random ranting may be asking what Sakai actually is? Well Sakai is a rather excellent and rapidly transforming Collaboration and Learning Environment. With a solid history of rapid release cycles, ever evolving functional requirements and delivered features, it has a solid set of architectural principles supporting scalability.

Business 101: How to advertise your substandard product, lecture 1

Allow me to set the scene: There I was this morning, reading The Melbourne Age online and drinking a cup of decaffeinated coffee (just don’t ask), when suddenly, I saw it. Again. An advertisement in the technology section that any first year media student worth their salt could trample all over. And I wondered, how do these travesties of advertising happen?

[Cue fade-out and chimes; cut to (day)dream sequence; fade-in...]

A long time ago in a classroom far, far away...

DOSBox, a multiplatform PC emulator

DOSBox is a freely available, cross-platform PC emulator. Rather than attempting to be the technology leader as a business-orientated virtualization environment like VMware or Qemu, DOSBox instead offers a rich set of features aimed at closely recreating the behaviour of a retro gaming PC. To this end, it offers a selection of accurate sound card emulations and facilities to throttle the emulation speed back to vintage PC levels, along with other features designed to make sure that the old games run properly and accurately within a protected environment.

The portable web development toolkit

Web developers are sometimes forced to travel. Unfortunately, lugging a big, bulky laptop around with all their programs is the only way to develop on the road. After all, using another computer is out of the question since it doesn’t hold all of your favorite programs. Luckily, there is a best of both worlds. Thanks to John T. Haller, the Apache Friends, evolt.org, winPenPack.com, and a host of others, you can carry an Apache server, a MySQL (and SQLite) install, a PHP install, a Perl install, a mail server, an FTP server, two popular web browsers, an FTP client, an HTML editor, an image editor, and a vector graphics editor on a 512MB flash drive to be used with any Windows computer. All using free software.

GNU/Linux thin-clients

Well, I suppose I’ve had a (not quite so) brief hiatus from blogging, and it’s time to come back into the fold.

I’ve been looking for a good GNU/Linux thin-client for my employer, a school district in the US. We have scores of aging desktops (primarily Intel PII 350 MHz and PIII 800 MHz systems) and looking more into the mobile arena for most computing needs. We currently utilize Citrix’s MetaFrame Presentation Server for most client applications, so we could substitute the current Windows XP OS for GNU/Linux.

GPLv3 dd4 is out: last call!

The GPLv3 process has entered it's final stage with FSF releasing GPLv3 discussion draft 4. Some particularly good news is that this draft is finally compatible with the Apache licence.

Accompanying this "last call draft" is:

Ballmer’s Gold

Here, we have a mug-shot of Steven Anthony Ballmer—the same Ballmer who has been ranting and raving that the Free Software Movement has “stolen” code from his precious Microsoft Windows OS, and incorporated it into software which we... uh... “give away” for free.

Question please, Mr Ballmer;

If we “stole” our operating systems from Microsoft, then how come our operating systems never “crash” in the monotonously regular fashion that every Windows OS has done since Windows 3.11?

UPnP, Mediatomb, PS3, and me

My brother lent me his PS3. I’m not sure why. But I do know I’ve already wasted several hours on it, first playing my old Ratchet and Clank games, then Resistance: Fall of Man, and Flow, and so on.

After I bored of the games (about an hour after turning it on), I decided to explore the home media functions of the PS3. The first thing I noticed was the menu item at the top of the media areas: “Search for Media Servers”.

Three hours later, and a lot of experimenting, I have discovered the wonders of serving up media.

Ideas for patent reform

Usually, I use this spot to rant about something, or someone that's riled me up in some way. My lack of discussion on software patents doesn't mean I agree with them, it's just that everyone else has been doing it. I couldn't see why I should do so and be seen as just another blogger with nothing better to do with my time.

Someone that has plenty of things to do with their time is Simon Phipps. He was brought into Sun to work up their Open Source strategy, and was instrumental in getting Java released under the GPL. And he still has enough energy left to be a great speaker. I had the pleasure of meeting and hearing him talk last night, where he introduced his ideas for software patent form. Let's face it - software patents are going to happen, so we might as well be constructive about it and guide it in the right direction, so it can be implemented in a manner with which we are agreeable.

Free software and the International Space Development Conference

I know that Free software proponents love to hang out with each other. You go to a conference with free software folks talking about how great free software is, but that's just preaching to the choir. You can't forget to go out there in the world and show others what it feels like and looks like to use free software.

This week, May 25 - May 28, I'm going to attend the International Space Development conference that will be held at the Intercontinental Dallas Hotel at 15201 Dallas Parkway in Addison Texas.

Winning the OpenDocument vs. OpenXML war

In August 2005 Peter Quinn, now retired Chief Information Officer of Massachusetts, decided that OpenDocument was the best way to store documents with the guarantee that they would be able to be opened 10, 30, 50 years from now. For a state government, this is particularly important. He led Massachusetts toward OpenDocument and OpenOffice.org. The move, which sparked controversy and ferocious lobbying, is likely to end-up in history books (and while we’re at it, I’ll mention that history books in particular ought to be accessible 50, 100, 1000 years from now!).

The story (and the protocols) behind instant messengers

There was a time when geeks were the only ones who used instant messengers. Not so now. Almost everyone, from high school students to Congressmen, have instant messaging accounts. Businesses use instant messengers like Lotus Sametime or Novell GroupWise within their companies. How did instant messengers get this far?

In the beginning...

FSM Dead! Official!

It is now official.FSM is dead. Send no flowers. It is time for us to pack up our keyboards, reassign our internet links to catty cable TV, give up bags and to spend our time doing something constructive like playing MS Windows Mines or Solitaire. Time for us to reformat out computers with GNU/Linux on them and pay for a operating system where we need not spend all those hours worrying about source code. Ah well, it was fun while it lasted....

Is the desktop dead?

Red Hat’s, Brian Stevens, claims that the desktop is dead. This may seem a trifle premature, but from my own perspective, that has already been the case for several years.

Across the room, from where I’m typing this, I have a formal computer desk, complete with comfortable “executive” chair, adjustable foot-rest (your feet will love you till the day they drop off if you buy them one of these), nice, fast AMD64 tower case, and a 19 inch IBM-Lenovo LCD screen, to look at everything.

Education, education, education

I heard a phrase today that reminded me of my childhood: “...learning and sharing together”. I’m not sure if I ever heard this exact phrase, but it was definitely a theme that was central to my early education; it’s now a central theme of my life again, this time through free software. This link between free software and education was first made by Richard Stallman in his essay Why Schools Should Use Exclusively Free Software, and this link is now being reinforced by the work that’s going on with the One Laptop Per Child initiative.

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