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.

Rabbits and foxes

A couple of weeks ago, at a very large event in Brussels, I sat and watched several government officials, from the US and EU, debate innovation policy. This sounds very grand, but what they actually said, to paraphrase, was “we want to stimulate innovation by spending money and protecting intellectual property”.

Driving innovation—but which way?

...but before I start, let me thank someone important

My first blog entry for the Free Software Magazine is dedicated to someone important to free software.

Therefore, I would like you to pause for a moment here, and say a silent “thank you” to Ettore Perazzoli. Do it now, don’t go diving into Google to see who this guy is first, don’t just skip this paragraph, don’t do anything else. It’s a simple “thank you”, just trust me and say it.

We are free software, you will be assimilated... you are assimilated

I love to write witty titles, in many cases more than the actual article, but this title kinda says it all (if you don't understand it, read this). If there are still those of you that are avoiding free software, give up. You lose. To view this blog entry alone you've used dozens of free software products.

What's wrong with software patents?

I know that many people come to the FFII—as I did—because they feel a deep sense of injustice at how the smaller players in IT are consistently squashed by special interests and monopolists. But I’m going to look at our core concern—software patents—from a different angle, one based more on economics and less on emotions.

Does free software taste great, or is open source less filling?

Which do you like best: the satisfying, rich taste of principle in free software? Or do you prefer the less morally filling and pragmatic goodness of open source? Do you wish people would stop endlessly rehashing the whole question of "free" versus "open source?" Or do you enjoy the chance to talk about goals and philosophy? As you might suspect, since I'm bringing it up...

Free software and world peace

Somebody recently noted that, what with all the bombing and killing and tyrannical madness going on in the world, how can we waste all this time talking about free software? Surely there's more important stuff to worry about?

Well, they’re absolutely right that there are bigger problems in the world. When I get a chance to do something more direct about it, I plan to. So far, it looks like voting is about it, though.

Ubuntu surpasses Mac OSX

I just read on the Linux Advocate that Google Trends is indicating that the Ubuntu OS has outpaced Mac OS X (as well as other free distros) by a pretty fair margin. However, as the comments on the article indicate, really this is just showing the relative number of searches for "Ubuntu" vs. "Mac OS X." Still, even if it's not an accurate indicator of how many people are installing either OS, I find it significant that a free OS would trump a powerful commercial OS like the Mac's in Google searches.

What’s a GNU/Linux distribution?

By now, almost everyone who has a computer has heard about something called “Linux”. Usually, what they hear goes something like this—“Well, Linux is free, but it’s very difficult to use. Don’t try it unless you’re a computer expert”. There is also generally talk about how “Linux” is incompatible with equipment like digital cameras, printers, and games. In short, “Linux” is generally thought to be a free but experts-only operating system. Fortunately for those of us who aren’t computer experts, almost all of these “facts” about “Linux” are completely wrong.

And now, on to something different... Copyright!

As you may know, Debian 4.0 stable 'Etch' is almost out. As expected from the Debian project, it will be a very stable, feature-ladden if slightly outdated OS.

What you may not know, is that it will come without Firefox. Nope, no fox trailing fire on your Debian desktop, no sir.

Instead you'll get Iceweasel.

Debian and the Creative Commons

Recently, I've become involved in the ongoing discussion between the Creative Commons and Debian over the "freeness" of the Creative Commons Public License (CCPL), version 3. Specifically, the hope is that Debian will declare the CC-By and CC-By-SA licenses "free", as most people intuitively feel they are. There are a number of minor issues that I think both sides have now agreed to, leaving only the question of "Technological Protection Measures" (TPM, also known as "Digital Rights Management" or "Digital Restrictions Management" or "DRM").

Java becoming free software: are we nearly there? (UPDATE: we are!)

Days ago I read this announcement about Sun moving Java's license to free software, and in particular that some parts of it will be released under the GPL

www.sun.com early this morning (GMT+1)www.sun.com early this morning (GMT+1)

Today on www.sun.com they are announcing a webcast today at 9.30 Pacific Time

Are we nearly there?


we are:

Making money on free art

There’s no point in having a world full of “ethical” but unemployed artists. I think there is an ethical compulsion for people with talent to use their talent (artistic talent is power which carries responsibility). And, since making money at doing it is frequently a requirement for that to happen sustainably, then making money at doing your art is also an imperative.

Apples and bananas

While trawling through this week’s normal helter-skelter barrage of free software and open source news items, opinion pieces and analyzing ponderings a couple of pieces caught my eye. These are the BBC’s article entitled “Charity shuns open source code” and Silicon.com’s one called “CIO Jury: The Linux desktop is dead”. When first seeing these pessimistic pieces of free software doom and gloom, I confess my immediate reaction, as an advocate and developer, was one of misery, depression and fed-upness. Was it all worth it? What is the point? Where is the bright side? Should I simply go outside and step under a bus?

After a nice strong cup of coffee and pulling myself together a bit, I examined the articles a little more closely. I discovered that the authors, or originators, of each had, in fact, made a very common mistake while performing free and closed software comparisons that reminded me of the old adage regarding apples and bananas...

Free software is a weak mode of production

The success of GNU/Linux and other free software projects is annoying. Free and open source development doesn't fit neatly in the box of standard business practices and is therefore a problem. We really need to break free of those hippies at the Free Software Foundation and let the grown-ups manage things from here on out. Not to mention that the peer-based production model doesn't really work that great anyway.

Getting bored with 3D desktops? I'm definitely not!

Well, while I haven’t posted anything new in a while, I’m (AGAIN) updating my 3D desktop article.

This time, I’ll answer some comments I have seen appear in response to the two previous incarnations of this very same article, as well as revise (further) some of the content.

This revised version brings some confirmations from users, and adds a preliminary Matrox product line support description.

_The matrix in this article has been superceded by the one in _this article.


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