I'd like to thank God, the academy, and Microsoft for making possible everything I've acheived to date...

You know how when people win awards, like an Oscar for example, they get up there and gush things like “I’d just like to thank my parents, and the academy, and my fifth grade drama teacher, and God for this award, omigod!!!”? Well, if I was put in a position today where I was going to have to gush on stage about, say, my computer use, then I know what I would say. There I would be, staring into the sea of admiring faces, and I would gush: “I would just like to thank my PC, the internet, and Microsoft... because as a Linux user I have naturally been complicit in intellectual property infringement and therefore owe Microsoft a good deal of money. Thanks baby, couldn’t have done it without you. Oh, and the cheque’s in the mail.”

Or that’s what Steve Ballmer reckons I should say, anyway.

Of movie making and control

I discovered Virtualdub back in the days when DivX was a ripped-off Microsoft experimental beta codec. Since then, I have used it to do some small captures, but also to recover some bad quality films that could gain major improvement through a carefully weighted application of filters.

Free software isn’t found on *NIX systems alone

The useful free software you can’t do without

Liberating Verizon FiOS using free operating systems

As we prepared to open a new Freedom Technology Center in a rehabilitated site in New Jersey, I came to learn that Verizon was capable of offering fiber service at our location. Officially, they only claim to support those using Microsoft Windows and Mac OS/X with their service. In fact, with a little foreknowledge, you can have installed, activated, and use your FiOS service with an entirely free operating system such as GNU/Linux.

Sun's right move: GPL Java

Today marks the rebirth of Java. Sun has announced their intent to release thesource code for Java under the GPL. If this isn't some of the bestnews in a long time, I don't know what is.

The freeing of Java

Sun isn't releasing all of the code. It seems there are partsof Java Sun doesn't own, and for which Sun hasn't been able tonegotiate releasing under the GPL. But, it appears this is a tiny bitof the code.

“This is a big day for Microsoft customers,” said Stuart Cohen

I’ve seen many comments on the Microsoft-Novell affair, like Tony’s very good one. Some more will appear in the next few days, I suppose. I’ll take a little space to say a few words about it.

I’ve read about an alliance in the interest of customers... wow! THAT would be a scoop by itself, and a completely new thing for Microsoft. Or can you think of something they did that wasn’t in only their interest? It’s business? Ok, but let’s play it fair then: I know that marketing rules don’t allow anyone to say straight “I am just trying to get more money, you know?”, but you are not compelled to tell lies; if you can’t tell the truth just shut your mouth and don’t try to make fun of us.

Inside the mind of the enemy: the business analyst

For those who don't interact with the business world, there are a classification of middle management assistants called the 'business analyst'. These analysts help middle management hobble along, either directly or through some widely read newspaper or magazine or website by telling bosses what the future of their industry is. They are our enemy.

They predict the future through a combination of careful wording, stating the obvious in an interesting way, voodoo magic, and rubber chickens. Most people don't take stock into what most business analysts say, but the atypical pointy haired boss will buy right into what they say.

Who's playing whom?

It's entirely possible that Novell is about to get fleeced, and that GNU/Linux will take a hit in the process, and Microsoft has a history of playing the Big Bad. But are we really being smart to always assume that Microsoft will win every battle it enters?

Novell lawyers pulled some fairly smooth legal judo against SCO only a few months ago. I think it might be a little early to call a winner. Eben Moglen and some other observers have noted the peculiar and difficult to predict consequences of the kind of deal that is being reported.

Free tanks for everyone! Good gas mileage

I'm guessing many FSM readers will recognize the title reference, if like me you're a fan of Neal Stephenson's work. If you're not a fan, then... er... how could you not be?! I'm kidding. I realize tastes differ, but to me, Stephenson is essential geek reading.

His essay, In the Beginning was the Command Line, has been around for several years now. It's showing some age in areas, but it reads as well today as it did back in 1999. It's filled with interesting ideas and thoughts about technology and culture, including free software. For example, you don't have to read very far in to the essay to find a great analogy between operating systems and car dealerships.

Distributed search follow-up

Some time ago I posted Just a thought: free distributed search?, suggesting that maybe relying on the centralized approach of search engine companies like Google was unwise, and that some kind of decentralized approach could work better for searching. Recently, I was directed to an actual attempt to implement this kind of strategy called Majestic-12. It's a UK-based project which applies the distributed computing model made famous by SETI@home to the problem. Isn't that amazing?

Microsoft’s perfect timing

Microsoft has always had excellent timing. They know when to announce a product; they know when to begin grass-roots movements to build hype for a product; they know when to create an alliance; they know when to break an alliance. They have missed some marks, that's true. They almost missed the internet boat, but were able to quickly recover with the licensing of Spyglass, Inc's browser. Microsoft's best timing, though, has always been when and where to spread Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt.

And that brings us to Novell.

Ethics, employment and free software

Like most people around the world, I have to work to earn a living. And again, like the vast majority of these people, often my work requires me to carry out tasks that I might otherwise find ethically problematic. As a supporter of free culture, I have often found it difficult to reconcile my own convictions on issues such as copyright and DRM with those of my employers. In my current job, this has not been a regular problem.

From freedom to slavery; a week of two distros

While gNewSense enjoys its initial introduction as a fully free as in freedom distribution, it seems at the same time an existing GNU/Linux distribution has turned to slavery. Excuse me a moment, while I remove the metaphorical knife from my back before continuing. Never before has the contrast between software freedom and intellectual slavery been more clear thanks to the proud efforts of gNewSense, and the craven ones of Novell.

Have I already lost my bet?

I am angry. It’s not a good state to be in, and it’s definitely not healthy. However, today I just can’t help it.

The main problem is that I have a bet going on, and I feel I am going to lose it. My bet is that by 2010, more than 50% of the world’s laptop sales will have GNU/Linux preinstalled, rather than Windows.

Until a little while ago, I was feeling optimistic. However, my optimism fell after I decided that I needed a new laptop.

You’ve probably guessed already: I want a laptop with Ubuntu Linux preinstalled, and I’m having a great deal of trouble finding one.

Greeks bearing gifts (UPDATED)

Here in the UK, there is a saying that was a quote from Virgil that was often quoted in the original Latin, “Timeo Danaos et dona ferentis”, which is usually mistranslated into the phrase “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts”. It refers to the incident where the Greek troops hid inside a large wooden horse and gave it to the Trojans as a gift who promptly accepted it, then in the night the Greeks broke out of their hiding place, went to the city gates, and... Well, you probably know the rest. However, it is that phrase, or both of them in fact, that pass through my mind on seeing recent Microsoft and other corporate closed software companies’ press releases recently.

There are three that come to mind that have occurred recently...

Message to the Novell executive who signed the agreement with Microsoft

Novell recently signed an agreement with Microsoft. From the press release:

Under the patent agreement, both companies will make up-front payments in exchange for a release from any potential liability for use of each others patented intellectual property, with a net balancing payment from Microsoft to Novell reflecting the larger applicable volume of Microsoft’s product shipments. Novell will also make running royalty payments based on a percentage of its revenues from open source products.

How to recognise, prevent, and treat burnout

Burnout is the experience of long-term exhaustion and diminished interest (depersonalisation or cynicism), usually in the work context.

Any organisation or team that relies on pro-bono efforts from its members runs the risk of burnout. In this article I'll explain what causes burnout, how to recognise it, how to prevent it, and (if it happens) how to treat it.

The EPLA Shuffle

In early 2006, the European Commission began talking about a "final attempt" to fix the European patent system.

We heard the standard concerns about Europe's innovation gap. "How can we catch up with the Americans?" "How can we prevent the Chinese invasion?" "We need a better system of intellectual property rights." "We need stronger protection for rights holders." These noises came out of the Commission, in meetings, and speeches; we heard echoes from large software companies and the industry clubs they sponsor. SAP, in particular, began calling very loudly for a cheaper, stronger patent system.

And the focus of all these noises has been "EPLA" (the European Patent Litigation Agreement), a new system designed to make it easier to enforce patents. EPLA is not, superficially, about software patents at all. But dig deeper, and it's exactly that: a third major attempt to introduce software patents, by removing all remaining regulation of the patent industry.


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