Opinions

Opinions

How to get people to work for free

As time marches on and our lives become more complicated, it seems we have less and less time to devote to that free software project we started back in our idealistic youth. Rather than abandoning a good project due to lack of time, consider seeking out the assistance of other members of the free software community. With a few simple steps you can make it easy to find volunteers to help you complete your project.

A roadmap to finding volunteers

Patents Kill

On the third of September 2005, I was diagnosed with cancer—testicular cancer. The pain started during a party (Dave Guard, our Senior Editor, was there as well). In just one night, I went through a sudden and unexpected change: from being a young healthy person, full of life, and enjoying hanging out with his friends, to the ER of Fremantle Hospital being told that I may have cancer and I needed to be operated on immediately.

Let’s take care of our memory

It was late at night in Sydney. I was at John Paul’s house—the man behind MySource. We hadn’t seen each other for years, and we had spent the whole day helping his parents move house, so we did what old friends do: we talked about anything and everything. The conversation somehow turned to neural damage and freak accidents (our backs must have hurt).

Disaster relief and free software

Technical needs in the immediate aftermath of the South Asian tsunami disaster of 2004 put software development and distribution methods into sharp focus for relief groups. When volunteers were immediately available to help coordinate relief efforts, access to software slowed them down. It was evident that traditional commercial software distribution had broken down. It was untenable.

The LaTeX Project Public License

In a world where people wish to protect their work in any way, there are plenty of licenses [5] that protect the rights of their work, while still allowing it to be shared.

One of these licenses is the LaTeX Project Public License (LPPL) [3], mainly used to distribute and protect TeX-related works, but suitable, with small modifications, for works not related to TeX. This license only covers distribution and modifications of a work, while its execution is not restricted. No requirements are made concerning any offers of support for the work, as stated in the clause 1 of the LPPL.

Linux on the desktop: are we nearly there yet?

Alright, I admit it, up ‘til a couple of weeks ago I was still running Windows 2000 Professional. In my defence, I have been using all the free software I could on Windows—primarily Open Office, Firefox and Thunderbird. I was a bit reluctant to go through all the trouble of migrating across to a GNU/Linux distribution for two reasons. First, because my PDA and stereo bluetooth headset require software which doesn’t run on Linux. Secondly, I was a little intimidated by having to go back to using a command line after so long just using a GUI.

Letters

Inaccuracies in “Promoting free software on non-free platforms”

Dear FSM,

Chris J. Karr’s article, “Promoting free software on non-free platforms” makes several mistakes which I feel deserve a response. I am one of those who believe that free software is fundamentally about human freedom, so the question of whether or not to port free software to non-free platforms depends only on whether doing so would promote human freedom or not.

Guerrilla marketing

Interviews are a mainstay of the media. For journalists, they’re an excellent way to check facts, get some nice quotes or structure an article. For free software projects looking for coverage, they’re an easy way to write your own article and get it published. But getting the most out of an interview can be a fine art; journalists can misunderstand or even misrepresent what you say, and you can ruin or make your image in the eyes of the audience. The third article in this series suggests some strategies to adopt to make every interview a marketing success.

Opportunities and hazards

Free software and digital rights management

In recent years, digital rights management technology (DRM) has become an important issue to free software users and developers. Free software users first experienced this issue when they discovered that they were unable to legally play their DVD discs on their Linux and BSD computers. In recent months, users carefully observed a technological arms race between Apple Computer and hackers working to circumvent the FairPlay system used to protect digital files purchased from Apple’s iTunes Music Store.

Free software to produce art: let’s be pragmatic

I have my kids to blame, that is certain. There I was, last Christmas, in this auditorium, listening to the crunching of popcorn from my son on my left, and the slurping of soda from my daughter on the right, trying to behave like a responsible father. The lights had dimmed and we were being inflicted with the inevitable advertisements and trailers. When, at last, the fan fair that accompanied the main feature at the cinema trumpeted out of the speakers an anticipating hush spread around the audience. Even my daughter took a break from her munching.

Remix culture

The free culture movement is growing, from its inception in the free software movement to the relatively recent establishment of Creative Commons. Across the world, localised teams are adapting CC licenses to their particular legal systems. Record labels, indie film studios and well over 10 million web pages are using CC licenses. Are we on an inexorable ascendency? Well, not quite. In this article I will show that we still have a lot of issues to iron out.

Art, creativity, intellectual property and the commons

Let us begin with a story about art. In this story, art produces aesthetic works of durability and stability — things that “stand up on their own”. The act of artistic production doesn’t come from nowhere; neither is it born in the heads of private individuals. It doesn’t dwell in a social nothingness. Nor does it start with a blank canvas. Any moment of production involves the reassembling and rearranging of the diverse materials, practices and influences that came before it and which surround it.

Why I’m not a programmer today

My exposure to computers began at about the age of seven. This was probably mostly thanks to my grandfather being a member of the New Zealand Computing Society and my father always being keen on the latest technology. In the mid eighties, I got my first computer, a Sinclair ZX Spectrum; I recall transcribing code from a book and then recording it to tape so that I could play the games I had produced. I used to love it, and even in those early days it was clear that I had a predisposition to problem solving and an analytical mind.

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