Opinions

Opinions

Do you say "Linux" or "GNU/Linux"?

Puru Govind has posted a short article about the controversy over what to call our favorite OS: Linux or GNU/Linux.

For many of us here, this is an old controversy and a constant source of angst and frustration. I know I've given up trying to convince my friends and colleagues to use the more respectful term (GNU/Linux!). I just make sure I use it in my own speech and, if anyone asks, I'm happy to explain. I'm curious about the folks here. Do you bother to correct people who say "Linux" when referring to the OS?

Why can't free software do portable right?

I recently bought a U3 compliant USB key, the hype and packaging was amazing and for the most part the U3 drive lived up to the expectations. Thunderbird was included on the key, and I was excited about being able to make any computer “my computer”, do my work, and then go without leaving a trace.

Secret standards

Is it an oxymoron, or just moronic?

In the free-wheeling world of free software, we are accustomed to free standards, published freely, defined by freely distributable (if not necessarily freely-modifiable) standards documents. So the idea that an industry group should get together behind closed doors, come up with a data interchange standard and then bury it by copyrighting the specification for that standard, making it available only from a single source, and charging outrageously high prices for the right to read it seems utterly mad to us!

Reports from PyCON 2006 (Python Conference)

Recurring themes at this year’s PyCON2006 Python conference, in Dallas, Texas, included quality control techniques for Python (testing methods), and interoperable content management systems. Guido van Rossum presented some previews of features to be expected in Python 2.5 (to be released later this year), and Jim Fulton presented the “State of Zope”, with some musings on where to go from here with Zope 2 and Zope 3.

Programmer, thy name is MUD

Now this really sounds interesting. Wired is reporting about a new coding tool called playsh, a coding environment that works just like your favorite MUDs (multi-user dungeons). It combines the collaborative and spatial advantages of MUDs to give coders a new edge. I’m really excited about this product. I spent a sizable portion of my youth playing MUDs and hacking. Now I can do both!

McDonalds: The Game

Here’s another reason why CC licensing can be effective—it can help get games like this one out to the public so rapidly that plenty of people get the chance to play it before the hammer comes down. This game is seriously effective social and political commentary, but since it uses McDonalds’ trademarks all over the place, I’m sure it won’t last long. You’d better grab it while you can. You can also read an interview with the designer at GamaSutra.

Advice for starting a free software project

How do you get a new free software project off the ground? It’s all about community.

I answer reader questions about free software issues here, and an interesting question came up recently from a reader thinking of releasing code as free software. How do you get a project off the ground? How do you build interest and nurture a community?

UK judge against software patents

Finally, all those years of intelligent British TV have paid off—a judge there has spoken out against software patents. Some of Sir Robin Jacob’s criticisms are classic:

“The United States takes the view that anything made by man, under the sun, can be patented. And they have granted patents for business methods, mainly computer business methods. But as far as I can see, it would cover a new and improved method of stacking oranges on a barrel.”

A somewhat pleasant experience

The pleasant experience I’ve mentioned in the title of this entry is that of writing a program. It took me less than a week, and it’s an example of the sort of thing I do as a break from my normal coding and so I don’t take life too seriously. The program is a 3D maze puzzle and can be found here. The reason it was such a pleasure to write I’ll expand on further.

Spring Cleaning

Here in the US, yesterday (Feb 2) was Groundhog Day. From what I understand, this comes from an old German Pennsylvania ritual of getting up early on a Winter day and observing an animal coming out of hibernation to see if he (or she, or it) can see his shadow. If so (as Phil did yesterday), tradition holds that there will be 6 more weeks of Winter. If not (which is a lot rarer), there will be an early Spring.

Breaking the silence

This was the year of Linux on the desktop, at least for my family. I’ve been using a succession of free systems for years, switching at a whim between FreeBSD, Gentoo, and Debian; I’m the household geek though, so that doesn’t mean much. However, the real turning point came when we decided to build a little computer out of spare parts as a Christmas present for my in-laws. Rather than giving them an old licensed version of Windows, or shelling out much more than the value of the computer for a new copy of XP, I decided to install Ubuntu.

Thoughts on the “One Laptop Per Child” project

Sometimes first impressions are totally wrong. Other times, they turn out to be right—usually by complete coincidence. My first impression of the “$100 Laptop” idea developed and promoted by Nicholas Negroponte and colleagues at the MIT Media Lab is that it’s brilliant. Since then, I’ve heard a lot of criticism, and I think some of it is justified. In the end though, I still think it’s brilliant. Maybe it isn’t the best plan imaginable and maybe the agents making it happen aren’t doing it “all for the right reasons”, but in the end, those are trivialities.

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