While waiting for the imminent release of PCLinuxOS 0.94 I started wishing for a USB flash drive to back up my /home data. I usually just buy the Live CD, but I then started to think, what I'd really like to have is the OS come on a flash drive. No installation would be necessary, just plug it in and use. Then in a flash, an epiphany, it became clear, the end of CDs is near.
To think about what free software licences should do about tivoisation, we have to understand what problems we're trying to prevent, and how it works - so that we can ensure that it doesn't work.
How tivoisation works
Tivoisation is a technique that manufacturers use to produce a computer, to sell to you, whose software they can update but you can't.
There are three elements involved in tivoisation:
- The manufacturer puts a chip in the computer which checks any software before it is run and which will only allow authorised software to be run.
In the summer of 1947, President Harry S. Truman ordered formed asecret organization of military personnel, scientists, and members ofgovernment. A reaction to the Roswell UFO crash in July of that year,Majestic 12 (or Majic 12) was given the task of investigating andcovering up other UFO activity in the ensuing years. Since then, theyhave operated as a black-ops group within the government, one of manyUS government organizations that are secretly funded each budgetcycle.
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the housenot a creature was stirring, just my USB mouse;
The wife and the children are all settled in bed,As I sit at my desk scratching my head.
And while I'm sorting out my thoughts, Music is streaming over Rhythmbox.
But TuxPaint is their clear winner. A great little program for little beginners.
In my blog post a couple weeks ago I suggested non-profits should package up some free software solutions into niche packages and sell them as a fund raiser. The idea that there is so much FOSS available, the preselecting, testing and validating is a value added component worth paying for.
I’m sure like many of you out there you have experienced the same frustrations that I have when trying to install Linux or BSD on a laptop. We need a new approach.
Bruce Byfield of Linux.com has a great editorial up about Why FOSS isn’t on activist agendas. Bruce points out that although FOSS enthusiasts are great at discussing their “shared values” within their own niche, they’re not very good at reaching out to the broader community—particularly folks over 40 who tend to be more active and influential in politics than the under 30 “techie” crowd:
The ideals of free software may have freedom have its center, but for many the concept of ‘free’ relates to its price. Even with RMS’s jingoistic “free as in freedom, not free as in beer” people don’t get it. Even though RMS has repeatedly said he has no problem with commercial software, the message is not getting through. Instead, the merest hint that someone in the community might be making money from something open source related sends large factions into spasms of rabid anti-commercialism.
“Mr. Gandhi, what do you think of Western civilization?”
“I think it would be a very good idea.”
“But what about American democracy?”
“I think you better start using open source voting machines.”
OK, maybe Gandhi didn't say ALL of that, but if he were asked the question, I can see him saying something like that, based on our election history this century.
I am planning on changing the world with this article. I can’t do it on my own: I need your help.
Well, I must admit that changing the whole world might be a little ambitious. For now, I will settle for the “computing world”.
Right now, the following factors are true:
- Linux has a very viable desktop and office suite—for free. OpenOffice being bloated is basically not an issue anymore, since even a basic computer today will run OpenOffice completely fine. Thanks to Ubuntu, end users can now use Linux and not notice the difference.
Our family loves reading. The bookcases are full and most flat surfaces are covered with reading material. The written word seems to flow through our house, making brief stops to be read and then sent on its way. Keeping up with all our books is an activity we just haven't attempted. This weakness has resulted in books that have never been found or returned (plus some generous fines paid to our local library).
For example, while visiting a family member recently, I noticed the book “Maiden Voyage” by Tania Aebi. “I remember really enjoying that book” I said. “You should, that's your book.” was the response, “You loaned it to me months ago.”
I know my memory isn't what it once was, but I don't recall loaning out that book. How many other books have I loaned out? Who else have I loaned books? Not knowing the answers to those questions, I curiously checked the Ubuntu repositories. There I found Tellico and Alexandria Book Manager.
I've been re-reading The Third Wave, by Alvin Toffler. Though first published over twenty years ago, there's still some serious predictive mojo left in that book. The basic concept is this: there have been two previous "waves" of civilization. The first was the agricultural wave, which spread across the world over the course of several thousand years. About three hundred years ago, the second wave of civilization began—the industrial revolution. Now we are in the middle of the next wave, the information revolution.
Two days ago, I bought myself a DSLR camera; a Nikon D50. It’s a nice piece of hardware, and since it can do USB Mass Storage, there are no issues in using it with Linux. Well, not from the camera’s side, anyway.
Mylatest blog entry began with this paragraph:
Messing with MP3 files is, for some people, a synonym for illegal use of copyrighted music. Well, actually it's not.
The reason I wrote that incipit remained unclear to many, that didn't seeany link between this first phrase and the rest of the article. I therefore decided towrite a few blog entries on the subject. This time I'll talk about theMP3 format in itself.
Take a hard, honest look at your desk. It's mostly neat,but there are stacks of papers that you've been meaning to file, a fewbooks, maybe a DVD in a half-open case... you know, the regular clutterthat slowly creeps into a workspace. Now, take a look at yourcomputer's desktop; same thing, right? Pretty well organized, but when you focuson it, there's probably folders and files all over the place. When youcheck your remaining hard drive space, you're shocked! Where'd all thatspace go?
A great deal of the web is GNU/Linux based: most of it runs on LAMP servers, and some content is created with great tools such as the GIMP, Inkscape and a fancy notepad (or Vi, or Emacs—don’t start). Pen tablets are recognised and used, you have access to effects plug-ins, you can work on bitmaps or vectors (thanks Mr Pierre Bézier! Your name will remain in history). On the other hand, as soon as you want to have your work printed, it’s another matter.
The GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP)
One of the most used functions on any modern computer is the ability to play back music. From the first beeps and bloops in arcade machines, to the AdLib and the first Sound Blasters in home PCs, to the monstrosity of the 51 million transistor Sound Blaster X-Fi, people have listened and continue to listen to music on computers.
Back in 1997, someone finally decided to write a usable music player for GNU/Linux: X11Amp, now known as XMMS.
Gervase Markham, the Mozilla Foundation's licensing officer, in an article in the Times Online, talks about being questioned by a northern UK Trading License Officer about giving away software.
Most modern Linux distributions have slick graphical installers, are on single DVD's and install common applications very easily. The installers make software choices that lead new users by the hand with little to go wrong. Life is also easier for us old timers who, in the past, suffered through many configuration files, compiling network drivers and the miscellaneous headaches we encountered trying to get our hardware to work.
One business model that I’m surprised hasn’t been further explored for funding free software is advertising. Ads have been a standard way to make “free” media pay in countries like the USA, where advertising-based commercial television broadcasting has been the dominant medium for decades.