While many people have been working on the technical challenges of providing low cost computing to emerging communities, a couple of months back I had proposed a different and related challenge to my immediate friends and free software professionals from several organizations. This challenge was not based on how to deliver ever lower cost physical computing, but rather why and how such solutions can and should be delivered through free software.
It is raining in Amsterdam and I have a nice warm feeling in my stomach from a glass of red wine. I am lucky; I am forced to contemplate the wine for the next five minutes instead of doing any real work. My Windows XP box is starting up. I have two dual boot systems at home. In the past, I stopped my house from being a GNU/Linux only shop due to Word compatibility issues, legacy games that my kids love and the Exchange server that keeps my mail whole for me at my work.
An interesting thing is about to happen to home computing—the “Desktop” that GNU/Linux never seems able to liberate from proprietary Windows may be just about to become irrelevant. Three independent, ultra-low-end computing platforms are being released—platforms that, like the first “desktop PCs” will be mostly owned by people who’ve never owned computers before. Every one of them will run 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?
Lessig endorsing Sun’s “Open Source DRM?” You’d better read these interviews on the Register to get the facts. What do you think—is “open source” DRM better somehow than proprietary—or just plain dumber than dirt?
There’s a nice article on Donation Coder today called [When Do Users Donate?
With internet privacy being invaded more and more by governmental agencies, advertising programs and statistical systems (not to mention ISPs gone bad), personal privacy would seem to be a lost cause. But all is not lost! Thanks to some great free software you can make your online presence private once again.
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!
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.
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!
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.
Having read of Microsoft’s white paper on the use of GNU/Linux on legacy hardware, I had to laugh at the conclusions. But, to be fair, I thought it was time to update my own “legacy” laptop, a Toshiba 660CDT, with a Pentium 150, a 800x600 LCD panel, and a whole 80MB of ram installed.
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?
Among the many free software projects out there, I think ReactOS is particularly worth some discussion. This is an effort to create a complete, clean room re-implementation of the entire Microsoft Windows NT operating system. Here is why I think this project is important:
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.”
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.
Actually, “franchise” is a financial term for the way that “character franchises” are sold and/or retained as intellectual property, so you may have to bear with me on stretching the meaning a bit (or maybe not—hold that thought).
I have recently been asked to attend the GPLv3 conference later this month in Boston at MIT, and so I thought this was a good time to share how I personally view the GNU General Public License (GPL), and how it has touched my life.