GPLv3 embedded in devices

At last week's GPLv3 conference, the topic of embedded GPLv3 software came up a few times. Below is something of a summary of those discussions. Georg Greve blogged about the conference, so I'll avoid repeating what he covered. Suffice to say, it was an event the organisers can be proud of, and Tokyo is a lovely and interesting place.

I think the issue of GPLv3 in embedded software falls into two categories: warranties, and regulated hardware.

Penguinz in da hood

People in this country are pretty funny, they really are.

It’s a damn shame how we exert so much energy for what we want, and considerably less for what we really need. People will queue up for a week, and risk weather and robbery (“Violence Mars PlayStation 3 Launch”) to secure the “opportunity” to spend $500+ of slave labor earned money to buy a PS3 while probably oblivious of how that same amount of money could buy them computing power that could set them free(r).

What we need are more Penguinz in da hood and fewer PS3s.

Converting your techno-resistant loved ones

The techo-resistant person in my life is my own spouse. See, my wife loves to work with her hands. Her favorite activities involve knitting or crocheting. She takes balls of yarn and converts them into items of beauty. So, her instinctive reaction to computers and software was “why do I need that” and “what would I have to show for my time”.

However, in the last few years, I converted her into a bona-fide computer user just as I converted her to Chinese food. She is now a frequent user of free software, primarily Edubuntu 6.10 and Firefox 2.0.

So how did I activate her latent geek genes? By following this four step program:

How dumb can GNU/Linux users be?

Answer: As dumb as necessary.

Let's rephrase: How technically sophisticated should GNU/Linux users have to be? How knowledgeable should any computer user have to be? The answer to that, of course, ranges from "very" to "not very." We need to get past the name-calling of clueless newbie and sneering elitist, and understand that there are going to be varying levels of ability in any community, including the one made up of people interested in using free software. From there, I suggest it is critically important that we expand the size of the free software community. That means dealing with more "dumb" people.

Dump Linux now!

I have always been a fan of fringe operating systems.

Between 1989 and 1992, I learned and used VMS, OS/2 2.0, NeXTStep on those beautiful cubes, GeoWorks, AmigaOS, and probably half-a-dozen others that I don't recall at the moment. I loved the diversity, the differences, the similarities. Booting an unfamiliar operating system for the first time always gave me a rush of geeky machismo, usually accompanied by the irresistible urge to grow a thick mustache and learn to fence with a saber.

Perhaps it's a sickness peculiar to geeks. Or maybe it's just me.

Free software for non-profits?

Today, I sat down with the executive director of a counseling service for child sexual abuse to have a chat about developing a case management application for them. These organizations need to be able to track their activities with the people they deal with, write notes about their interactions, produce assessments, demographic analysis and activities reports and manage documents. Good case management software is pivotal for them. I realized that it's ridiculous how these types of organizations struggle with their technology needs.

Linux software: the kid's plan for an icy day

Hi, it's B and G, the little kids in this house. We've had a lot of ice lately. The TV says we may even lose the electricity. Dad said he needed to write his blog early this weekend. But right now, he is walking around the living room and griping about writer's block. He looks kinda funny.

So we sneaked in here to say what we don't like and do like about the computer. The adults have said what they liked, now it is the kid's turn.

Have we raised a generation of technology drones?

I received an interesting note today from the school my children attend. In order to save precious dollars, last school year, I suggested that they begin using OpenOffice and only install Microsoft Office where there are licenses. The note I received today listed computer needs, and one of the needs listed as "Because Open Office is a lesser program compared to the Microsoft office programs, it wouldbe helpful to have either tutorials or at least manuals for these programs." Now, I agree that I should have provided books or pointed them to online manuals.

File formats: approaching the freedom crossroad

When I first began to use GNU/Linux, I didn’t really care about free software, I just thought it was exciting to be able to mess around with code like that and see what could happen. I felt that it was fantastic that you could get under the bonnet; so to speak, and play with the code which powered everything.

I thought that was what I loved about the system. I was wrong, what I really fell in love with was freedom.

Clueful vs clueless - a never ending battle

There is a fundamental problem with GNU/Linux—it requires clueful people to exist in the IT food chain. Anywhere in the food chain. It doesn’t take an experienced kernel hacker to install GNU/Linux, run a web server, or teach people how to log on to the network. It just requires a user with an interest in the subject, the ability to solve problems, and the desire to achieve results.

Ubuntu for Non-profit Newbies (Nice alliteration)

In my last post, I was overflowing with praise for the value of Ubuntu for the non-profit world and said I’d discuss “how Ubuntu works” in this entry. Well “how” is beyond my technical expertise and is undoubtedly a complex dance of 0s and 1s and static electricity. What I meant was a little less technical and more practical... just the joy of using it.

Inside the mind of the enemy: the community

A few years back, Eric S. Raymond (or, as everyone else calls him, ESR), wrote a lengthy paper about this community. Entitled The Cathedral and the Bazaar, he wrote about how the Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) community does what it wants when it wants to.

I don't think he was entirely wrong; I just don't think he was entirely right, either.

Question quest and freedom films

This entry is first a plea for help. I enjoy reading and listening to interviews with people who have interesting and exciting things to say about their passions. My attention was recently directed to a web site named Questions Please..., where Jonathan Roberts informs us he has an inside line to free software luminaries Richard Stallman, Jeremy Allison, and Jeff Waugh. So what is my plea?

Questions Please...

Former social worker and tech CEO finally gets it!

As a former founder/CEO of a paranoid technology company developingproprietary enterprise software, one would think "free" software and Iwouldn't mix any better than wax and water. After fighting lawsuits torecover my "stolen" software, the idea of ownership is etched into mypsyche. Hence the paranoia in my company... NDAs, trade secrets andpatent interests. The business models around giving software away havemade me confused. Funny though what time spent curled up withfreesoftware magazine will do. I have recently become a strong convertand advocate for the free software movement.

For love or money?

There are really two bazaars that fire the boilers for free software: one dominated by talented amateurs who create for love; the other, by professionals who create for money. This creates a curious bi-modal nature to the free software/open source community: there's always a certain amount of tension between the schedule-driven bottom-line interest of commercial entities like Novell, Red Hat, or even Canonical and individual hobbyist developers.

Turnitin: Inculcating ideology, or enforcing proper attribution

A few months back on Kairosnews, we had a long discussion with Michael Bruton, a representative of Turnitin, a commercial "plagiarism detection and prevention service." In short, the question was whether it was ethical for teachers to use the service, since it involves uploading students' essays into turnitin.com's database, where they will ostensibly be encrypted and then used to guard against their being used illicitly in the future.

Adopt an orphan

In the Debian project they refer to packages that no longer have mantainers as orphaned. I think it's a good definition, and I'd extend it to free software packages that are no longer developed.

There are a lot of orphaned packages around, some actually deserve it but unfortunately there are also some that are promising or very good, and now they are almost dead. But, since we are talking about free software, every good developer is encouraged to pick one and try to push it a bit further


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