Opinions

Opinions

The price of obeying the law

One thing that separates free software enthusiasts from "pirates" is the desire to be the good guys. We may not agree with copyright law, but rather than break them, we've opted to subvert them—to use them against themselves. The result is much more freedom for the user, who's suddenly liberated in ways that she might not even appreciate or even be aware of. But what would happen in a world where every user of proprietary software was forced to obey all those EULA's to their fullest extent?

Some comments on the Gartner report on FOSS on Microsoft Windows

I had heard about the latest Gartner report claiming that Microsoft Windows will become the dominant platform for "Open Source" (and free) software in the future. While there are certainly a number of reasons why some FOSS has and will continue to be written that also runs under Microsoft Windows, I think the fundamental premise is wrong.

The pull of the fruit

I tried my hardest to help my wife love Unix. When we were still dating, I built a little Debian machine for her so we could chat on ICQ while I was at work (and gave it to her on Valentine’s Day; aren’t I romantic?). That lasted for a while, but I eventually switched it to FreeBSD for reasons I no longer remember. Her computers always worked pretty well, but she was never happy with her inability to install software on her own, or to run games and applications from the local non-geek stores.

Just a thought: free distributed search?

Every once in awhile, I just get a hare-brained notion. Today's was, why do we use a central website for doing internet searches at all? Why Google?

Consider the success of the Planetary Society's distributed SETI project, and the distributed computing architecture that resulted from it. Consider the success of swarming download technology like BitTorrent. Consider how simple a basic web spider could be. Consider the efficiency of spidering networks locally. Consider the architecture of DNS.

See a pattern?

The pull of the fruit

I tried my hardest to help my wife love Unix. When we were still dating, I built a little Debian machine for her so we could chat on ICQ while I was at work (and gave it to her on Valentine’s Day; aren’t I romantic?). That lasted for a while, but I eventually switched it to FreeBSD for reasons I no longer remember. Her computers always worked pretty well, but she was never happy with her inability to install software on her own, or to run games and applications from the local non-geek stores.

The good, the bad, and the downright nasty

Sometimes you feel good about waking up in the morning, and the rest of the day brings you a few extra satisfactory moments.

For example, I got extatic when a n00b friend of mine phoned and told me “I installed Linux on my laptop!”

That felt good.

But then he asked me about something, and I asked him: “what Linux have you installed?” And all I got for my trouble was, “the latest”.

Suddenly I felt a bit... less good.

DRM, guardrails, and the right to be stupid

I’m a big believer in rights. I believe in the right to speak your mind, the right to act however you want, as long as you aren’t interfering with others’ rights; I even believe in more controversial rights like “the right to die”, and one of my favorites is the right to be stupid.

What do I mean by that? Well, I think that if people want to jump out of airplanes, down cliffs, or free-climb El Capitan, like Captain Kirk, they should be allowed to do that—even though it’s very clear that they may be stupid things to do that are likely to get them killed. One of the more powerful and hard to refute arguments for Digital Rights/Restrictions Management (DRM), though, is that it can be used in life-critical systems to prevent failures due to users’ own modifications—and it seems to me that this is a sticky case of balancing the right to be stupid with the right to be ignorant.

How the net was lost

Those who currently struggle to maintain what is called “Net Neutrality” on the internet I think have taken too limited an approach to their struggle. What they ask is to maintain an existing status quo that had already been eroded from the original promise and potential of the internet against those who wish to change it even further. This to me leaves for a poor negotiating position when congress loves to bridge difference with half measures, and even limited compromise between the current status quo and proposed changes would still be disastrous.

This is a sad, slightly unreal IT story

I had to spend 9 hours in Miami, waiting for a connecting flight. 9 hours wasn’t quite long enough to go out and about, but was long enough to get bored to death.

So, I decided that I would pay $7.95 for a “day pass” for the Wifi connection. The WiFi connection at the Miami airport is managed by people who don’t seem to know enough about computers to manage a home gaming LAN, let alone use Microsoft Server software for a real-life application (and, surprise surprise, nothing works).

Vulgar in the open

Over the last week or so, I have been watching the World Cup with growing pleasure. Seeing such teams as the US, the Ivory Coast and Trinidad and Tobago fighting hard and not giving an inch to supposedly superior teams, pricks at the very essence of committed sportsmanship. This positive energy makes you wonder why in a fair universe that these small town heroes do not win their allotted matches.

Programming and philosophising - should we leave it to the experts?

The other day I saw a filler article in an Aussie newspaper that was all about blogging (I would give you guys a link but firstly, I can’t remember which paper, and secondly, it really was a fluff piece). The theme was something along the lines of “Hey, there are billions of blogs out there now. Who reads them? What’re they all about?

“Free” as in “free lunch”

Too long ago, when I was a sprog growing up, my elders and betters drummed into me in no uncertain terms that there was “no such thing as a free lunch”. At the time, I was going to school and my lunches were either provided by my parents or paid for by them, so as far as I was concerned my lunches were free. However, I soon appreciated what they meant as I approached adulthood. It is a very rare event, if it happens at all, that someone gives you something for free without some ulterior motive.

You, my friend, are reading this article. You probably didn’t have to pay anything to read it (or nothing extra from your usual ISP and computer costs anyway). Myself, and Free Software Magazine give it to you for free. What is our ulterior motives then? Read on...

Microsoft’s ME/98 patch dilemma: a golden opportunity for FOSS

A few days ago I posted about Microsoft’s efforts to curb unauthorized distribution of its products by misrepresenting a piece of malware as a “critical security update”. However, Microsoft’s also arousing ire by refusing to offer a patch to fix a critical security flaw in Windows ME and 98. In short, unless you want to risk exposing your computer to criminals, you need to either (a) pony up $100+ for XP or (b) switch to GNU.

The demo experience

I may qualify myself as a power user sometimes - I'm not afraid to go dabbling in a system merely using a command line interface and an alien looking text editor (alien looking to those who think Notepad is pushing it in terms of bareness).

Still, some very enjoyable experiences are still difficult to have under Linux - for purely technical reasons.

Rosalyn's COMPLETELY LOST in free software blog

Hey! I got a blog!

Hi everybody. My name is Rosalyn Hunter, and I've been using a GNU/Linux system exclusively since about 2001, so I've used a lot of software that hadn't reached version 1 yet.

Now a zillion people will tell you to switch to free software, but hardly anyone tells you how many programs there are to choose from, and when you do choose, some of them aren't very good, and some of them work... sort-of.

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