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Opinions

Guerrilla marketing

It is a common assumption that companies who distribute free software will promote it, leaving the community to concentrate on the meat of the project itself (including code, documentation, graphics, and so on). But this is untrue; companies generally devote few resources and little expertise, leaving communities to fend for themselves in the big scary world of media and marketing.

The FUD-based Encyclopedia

In this article, I respond to Robert McHenry’s anti-Wikipedia piece entitled “The Faith-Based Encyclopedia.” I argue that McHenry’s points are contradictory and incoherent and that his rhetoric is selective, dishonest and misleading. I also consider McHenry’s points in the context of all Commons-Based Peer Production (CBPP), showing how they are part of a Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) campaign against CBPP.

A law for free software

Free software, also known as open source, libre software, FOSS, FLOSS and even LOSS, relies on traditional software legal protection, with a twist. Semantics aside (I will describe all the above as “free software”), the tradition at law is that free software is copyrighted, like most other software, and is not released, unbridled, to the public domain. Authorial or ownership rights can be asserted as with any bit of proprietary software.

Why free IT management tools are gaining traction

The $3.6 billion worldwide market for IT management software is ripe for competition from free software. Leading products from HP, CA, BMC and IBM are overkill for the vast majority of the market. Licensing costs can reach seven figures, and deployment and system administration costs are several times that. Not to mention that these products are widely known to be inflexible, monolithic and difficult to use.

Richard Stallman’s blog

Bolivia (La Paz) (August 12, 2004 to August 17, 2004)

I am now visiting La Paz, Bolivia. The city is on the edge of the altiplano, starting on the plain at 13000 feet and running down through a connected series of valleys. The result is amazing beauty. Traveling between neighborhoods often means seeing marvelous vistas. The snow-capped mountain Illimani can also be seen from much of the city.

La Paz in BoliviaLa Paz in Bolivia

Format Wars

Real programmers love their applications’ source code: the faster and more elegant it is, the better. Users are after very different things: they seem to want simplicity, flashy colors, nice icons and tons of options. In spite of these reasons, or perhaps because of them, programmers and users often forget what lies in the middle of it all: information.

Who owns the information?

Free file formats and the future of intellectual freedom

So far, proprietary formats have been maintained through a number of short-term tricks, but the advantages of free formats become clearer in the long run. Business and the computer industry have tended to be very shortsighted. However there are some important classes of technically proficient users with a much longer outlook, whose needs can only be met by free file formats. If we in the free software community want to see free formats take hold, we need to address the needs of these users.

Let’s not forget our roots

GNU/Linux is growing all the time: new software is being created; new copies downloaded or bought; new users are discovering free software for the first time. With this growth we have seen the rise of polished distributions, sales-minded distributors, “XX” software is being released, and so free software is gaining commercial success in many fields. Even governments, from Peru to the UK, are now racing to use free software. But governments seem to be the only ones who are talking about switching specifically because they want free software, not just stable, secure and powerful software.

The content tail wags the IT dog

The content industries have conspicuously failed to create a business model based on paid content over public IP networks, but still cling to the idea that those networks were created for just that use. Any software or system which might interfere with this theoretical paid content business is considered not just heretical, but probably criminal. The music and movie consortia have turned the transition to network distribution into a “with us or against us” battleground, with most of their customers fighting for the wrong side.

RIAA, copyright and file sharing

The Commons

The concept of the commons has a long heritage. The Romans distinguished between different categories of property, these were: Firstly, res privatæ, which consisted of things capable of being possessed by an individual or family. The second, res publicæ, which consisted of things built and set aside for public use by the state, such as public buildings and roads. The third, res communes, which consisted of natural things used by all, such as the air, water and wild animals.

Case study: Mythic Beasts

Mythic Beasts is a UK company that provides Unix shells to their users. They offer fantastic service to people who need a shell account on a very fast server, and don’t want to fork out silly amounts of money. Let’s talk to Chris Lightfoot, one of the company’s owners.

TM: Who is behind “Mythic Beasts”? How did everything start?

The second Mac revolution

The Apple machines of the 80’s turned computers from dull counting machines and glorified typewriters into creative tools, forcing a revolution in the design, publishing and music industries through accessibility and mass participation. If you wanted to produce—let’s say—a magazine in those days, all of a sudden you didn’t need a lot of money, you didn’t need to have a particular job or be a member of the union, and you didn’t even need to have served an apprenticeship or have been to college.

Creating Free Software Magazine

This magazine was inspired by a conversation I had with a great friend of mine called Massimo. I said to Massimo “I think it would be great to start a magazine. It’s my ideal job, and I think I know what the world needs right now. It’s a pity there’s no money in publishing, and I’m not willing to run a magazine that doesn’t pay it’s contributors well...”. His answer was very simple: “Tony, there’s money everywhere, as long as you do something good and promote it well”. Well, seeing that he has a successful business, I thought I would listen.

The content tail wags the IT dog

The content industries have conspicuously failed to create a business model based on paid content over public IP networks, but still cling to the idea that those networks were created for just that use. Any software or system which might interfere with this theoretical paid content business is considered not just heretical, but probably criminal. The music and movie consortia have turned the transition to network distribution into a “with us or against us” battleground, with most of their customers fighting for the wrong side.

RIAA, copyright and file sharing

The road to browserchoice.eu

We all know about the overwhelming supremacy of proprietary software in the desktop market. But not everybody knows that some steps have been taken to try to limit it, in favour of a more fair competition among vendors, and between the proprietary and free software worlds. A key player in assuring that the markets are not artificially biased is the European Commission for Competition.

Why You Should Join Diaspora Now, Like Your Freedom Depends On It

I never really "trusted" Facebook or Google+. That is to say, I never expected them to respect my privacy or keep my secrets. I'm not too secretive online anyway, and what I do have to hide, I just don't post. But it is very clear that there is a great deal of corruption inherent in a business model which is based on concentrating the personal data from millions of users and selling that data to advertisers. At the very least, there must be a free alternative. But for that alternative to be viable, we need to use it. Identica has been around for some time now (and I use it -- I'm "digitante"), and Diaspora is (after a long hard start) finally getting some wind under its wings. I've used it, and it's Good Enough. In fact, you'll find it's pretty similar to what Facebook or Google+ offers, although there are still some rough spots.

10 years on: free software wins, but you have nowhere to install it

I am typing this as I am finally connected in shell to my Android phone. The prompt reminds me that it's based on the Linux kernel (it's free), the Dalvik virtual machine (it's free), and free libraries. Millions of Android devices are shipped every day, each one is a Linux system. Today, it's phone. Soon, it will be tablets: Android 3.0 (coming out at the end of the year) will finally be very suitable for tablets. Apple alone will have to face fierce competition on pretty much every front. Microsoft... who? They are more irrelevant every day. I should be happy, right? Well, sort of. Looking back at how long it took me to get this shell prompt makes me worried. Very worried. We are heading towards a world where we no longer own the hardware we buy -- and there is no point in having free software if you can't own your hardware.

Apollo Project and Contact Management

Drowning in your TODO list? Need some todo list software? Trouble organizing project and contacts? Try Apollo, project and contact management done right.

http://www.apollohq.com

A single-page Ajax application that finally looks and feels like an application.

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