Opinions

Opinions

On free vs. proprietary

There is currently a competition going on between two types of business model. Each have their strong advocates, supporters and enemies. Flame wars have raised the temperature of various communication channels. So called “independent” analysts have thrown in their lot with one, singing the praises of their choice, while condemning to the depths of Hades the other, regardless of the facts. In short, it’s good old fashioned fun for all and sundry.

Torvalds disses GNOME and recommends KDE

There’s some buzz on OS News and Slashdot today about Linus Torvalds’ comments on the Gnome Mailing List. Torvalds trashes GNOME and tells everyone just to use KDE instead. The reason is interesting: “This ‘users are idiots, and are confused by functionality’ mentality of Gnome is a disease. If you think your users are idiots, only idiots will use it.”

Gaming with GNU

Mon, 2005-12-05 19:46 -- admin

I’ve often lamented the sad fact that there is not as much attention paid to GNU game development as there should be. It’s hard to be a diehard GNU/Linux user who is also into gaming. Though we look forward to days when more high profile games will be targeted at the GNU/Linux platform, it’s nice to know that there are folks out there trying to ease the transition. This blog from Joystiq discusses the options for the GNU gamer and introduces crossover technologies like Wine and Cedega.

The Grateful Dead and the Internet Archive debacle

The Grateful Dead are often held up as an example of what wonderful things can happen when a fan base comes to mean more to a band than a record exec. The band is famous for its long-lasting drug-induced “Wall of Sound” tours. The Dead Heads were often treated at these concerts to 20+ minute extended versions of their favorite songs. Some fans were upset that all this music was going unrecorded—even today, it’s hard to buy a “legitimate” copy of anything but the most “vanilla” Dead recordings.

Free software doesn't mean free people

A friend of mine is a core developer on a free software project that most people would consider one of the top ten in overall importance, especially in terms of getting mainstream users migrated to free software overall. He’s a known expert on this project, and very knowledgeable about free software in general, from both technical and business standpoints. I won’t say who it is, but he has plenty of publications to back up his expert status.

He’s getting frustrated with the free software world.

Free the Xbox 360!

Well, here’s the latest violation of DMCA Anti-Circumvention that’s sure to get an cheer from the boys and girls fighting the good fight: Free60 is struggling to port GNU/Linux and Darwin to the Xbox 360. This is quite a challenge because Microsoft has really pulled out all the stops to keep this box safe from prying, er, owners (I suppose Microsoft doesn’t use that word to describe people who pay $400 for the box). Here’s a glimpse at what the team has found so far.

Where's the Xbox 180?—getting kids involved in free software

I’m sure I’ll be running across a flood of news today about Microsoft’s new Xbox 360. Of course, like everyone else I know who is into games, I’m curious about this new box (and Sony’s eventual response). I’m also wondering about issues like copy prevention measures and how difficult these systems will be to “mod” to circumvent them.

Open standards for new Microsoft Office

Here’s some interesting news. Microsoft is reportedly opening up the file formats of its new suite, promising folks that they won’t be locked into a proprietary file format. The move reminds me strongly of Adobe’s decisions with its .PDF format. Their openness helped make PDF files almost ubiquitous. What I’m wondering is whether open MS Office formats will affect the adoption rate of OO.

Music in free software

As a member of two a cappella vocal ensembles, I have been searching for several free software projects to fit some of my musical needs.

The first need is a way to print out scores of vocal music. My director often re-arranges pieces, especially old hymns, and trying to read the hand-written manuscript and sight-read is very difficult. Additionally, after copies are made into copies of copies, the quality of the page decreases dramatically. I would like a soft-copy of the vocal music for reprinting at any time, and for long-term storage.

Giving, sharing, copying and piracy

I am a free software advocate and, to a much smaller extent, a free software producer. As such, copyrights are important to me—I rely on them to stop people proprietarising free software and protecting their inherent freedoms.

I used to write a bit of music too. However, piracy was not a problem for me. The difficulty I had was getting people to listen to my music, not stopping them from copying it. A new Pink Floyd I was not.

At times there’s too much freedom in free software...

November has come, the winter nights are drawing in (here in the UK), time for some indoor activities. One of these activities is a long overdue housekeeping exercise in the home directory of my GNU/Linux box. Let’s face it, in the day-to-day operating of my computer, I don’t always tidy up after myself. All sorts of unused rubbish clutter up name space and the various subdirectories of my home directory, and it uses up significant disc space, not to mention the extra resource for my (too infrequent) backups.

Time for a tidy up.

Free art and copyleft conflicts 2: The rationalizations strike back

To re-cap, the problem is that I have a project which (at least formerly) used the now-defunct “Design Science License”. I want to go forward with a more widely accepted license, probably a dual “GPL + CC By-SA” license for the game. This would allow the inclusion of game content in either GPL or By-SA projects.

The blind leading the blind in Massachusetts

For the moment, I will ignore the false statement of some that specifying ODF requires one to run OpenOffice. In fact, there are many products which already do so, including Koffice, AbiWord. Anyone that wishes to can produce OpenDocument compatible software, including proprietary software vendors, such as Corel, who have chosen to do so. Microsoft alone insists not that it is unable to do this, but rather that it is unwilling, and it alone demands the state choose its products and its document format instead.

Oracle is feeling the pressure

Oracle is expected today to announce a free (yes, free) limited version of its database called Oracle 10g Express Edition.

This is clearly a reaction to pressure from the open source databases MySQL and PostgreSQL. It shows that free software is good for IT purchasers even if they don't use it. Downward price pressure is a natural side effect of the commoditization of software that has occurred as the free software phenomenon gives us a freer market.

Publishing Wikipedia

I doubt there is anyone reading this blog who hasn’t heard of wikipedia. I imagine that most of you are like me—it’s often the first place I turn when I want a quick “lowdown” on subjects as disparate as a Civil War general, postmodern theorists, Apple IIs, or He-Man toys. My students also use wikipedia incessantly, though other professors tend to chide them for using an “unreliable” resource.

The internet trap my daughter is falling into...

I think when a parent tells a child that something is “good” or “cool” their immediate reaction is to disbelieve it. I guess I must have done that to my parents, though I cannot remember any specifics there, certainly my children do it to me. I have had broadband at home with a computer available to be used by them any time for a few years now, but it has been underused. When I tell them what an amazing resource the internet is, do they believe me? No... of course not. I am only a parent after all.

But recently things have been changing! And not all for the better...

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