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.
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.
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.
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.
There’s an interesting link on News Forge today to this article about FOSS insurance. The issue here is whether it’s advisable for companies using FOSS to take out insurance policies protecting them against possible FOSS-related patent infringment. This article doesn’t really take a position, but does provide some considerations for IT managers.
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.
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.”
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You've read the GPL's preamble, you can name the Four Freedoms, and you do your best to keep proprietary bits off our computers. But what's the future of free software in the era of Flickr, Google Apps, and Facebook?