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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Free software (and open source) license models have become the most influential force in business IT to date. The first part of this article presents a brief history of free software, combined with the findings from an analysis of the attitudes and expectations, across several hundred large and medium-sized businesses, relating to free software. The second part of this article presents Delphi Group’s vision for the next wave of commercial free software, where demand is driven not by cost alone, but foremost by quality of service and increased agility.
The future is the state of things yet to come. One can only expect what may happen and never know what will happen. The future can only be predicted based on past experience. The predictions differ based on the forecaster and his experience, in-depth understanding and knowledge. The technological future is the technology of the future, the destiny of the technology of today.
The future can only be predicted based on past experience. The predictions differ based on the forecaster and his experience, in-depth understanding and knowledge
On the face of it, the Creative Commons project appears to be a success. It has generated interest in the issue of intellectual property and the erosion of the “public domain”, and it has contributed to re-thinking the role of the “commons” in the “information age”. It has provided institutional, practical and legal support for individuals and groups wishing to experiment and communicate with culture more freely. A growing number of intellectual and artistic workers are now enrolling in the Creative Commons network and exercising the agency and freedom it has made available.
If you’re new to it, free software appears to be tough to shift to. It also tends to be supported by a smaller pool of techies, and has something of a steep initial learning-curve. So why shift at all? In any case, you can easily make do with illegally-copied proprietary software... right?
Wrong! That’s a lazy way of looking at things. It’s also an outdated approach, which goes back just three decades or so, when proprietary- you can’t copy it, you can’t share it—software became the norm.
Every software developer faces a choice when deciding how to release a new software product. That choice is whether the program will be free or non-free. Unfortunately, many otherwise knowledgeable programmers aren’t sure just what this choice means, and may complain that programmers with families really don’t have a choice at all—if they want to earn a living, they must charge for their work. However, free software is not about giving software away without cost.
About one out of every 200 people is allergic to peanuts. Depending on the extremity of the allergy, a person suffering from peanut allergies who was accidentally exposed to peanuts might develop an itchy rash. Others might experience anaphylaxis, a severe reaction that can prove fatal. People who are allergic to peanuts have a tough time in America, where more and more foods are manufactured in factories that also process peanuts.
I’m not sure if it’s correct to talk about the internet as a revolution. The internet is in fact the result of a slow, hard earned evolution which has lasted about 30 years (!). Slowly, during these years, the costs of laying cables has dropped, the CPU was... well, invented (in 1974, the Intel 4004), processing power and memory have increased exponentially and the basic protocols were created (in 1972, the telnet protocol).
Small companies often have to work together; however, nobody wants the headache of contracts, failed promises or deception. Free software allows small companies to work together without these risks, and enables them to create amazing software like WebGUI.
How it all began
Response to Fox News Article (January 31, 2005)
Jim Prendergast’s recent article mistakenly called me a “leader in the open source community”. While I appreciate the praise that might be read into that expression, it is not the case: I do not advocate “open source” and never did. I founded the Free Software Movement in 1984. “Free”, here refers to freedom, not price; specifically the freedom to redistribute and change the software you use. With free software, the users control the software; with non-free software, the developer has control of the software and its users.
Companies seek to counter their competition in a variety of ways - pricing, packaging, branding, etc. There are a lot of options and any good product manager will know them well. One of the toughest situations to be in is that of competition, with the usual responses, when you are up against a competitor using the natural forces of the market place. Marketers refer to these tectonic shifts as “shocks”, because they are unusual events. They change the way the game is played, and once that change is made, there is usually no going back. The change is structural.
Following on from my general introduction to guerilla marketing in the first issue of this magazine, I will now discuss some specifics of getting good press coverage. This much-neglected area of marketing is actually a relatively important issue, especially if your project is genuinely interesting, and can reap huge rewards.
When Clayton Christensen talks, CEOs listen. Christensen is a Harvard School of Business Associate Professor who has CEOs re-thinking their growth strategies with his concept of disruptive technologies.
Now Christensen is talking about free software gaining a greater market share by getting small. More specifically, by getting small and onto handheld devices. He suggested that Microsoft should seriously consider getting into the Linux space by buying or building a separate company to pursue disruption on BlackBerry-like devices.
Free software sustains and enables the internet. Across the world, people continue to freely contribute ideas and expertise to an important and growing movement. The internet itself was largely born out of a culture of contributing code and content in an electronic public “space” of global proportions. This has meant that the constellation of software supporting the internet, and the content that sits upon it, is to a large degree, non-market, peer-produced and free (as in “freedom” and as in “beer”). But, why do people code, hack, test, write and create free culture?
In a recent discussion on the Slashdot web site, free software users and advocates raised the question of whether the KDE project should be ported to the Microsoft Windows platform. Advocates for porting the KDE desktop environment made the argument that porting KDE to Windows would enable a new population of users to experience the software and that this exposure would entice these new users to seek out and adopt free software for use in their daily computing lives.
In a dream world, all software would be free. However, we spend enough time with our eyes open to realize that some situations call for proprietary software, either as a desktop or as a server application, on a free system. On the other hand, those stuck with a proprietary operating system can still enjoy free software applications. This article will list a few situations where free software and proprietary software can mix, and give three examples of each.