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.
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.
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.
Social networking, micro-blogging and other such buzzwords abound across web development these days, and the "public" is a fickle as ever. The darling of the media-driven, web-based section of the public is dropped as soon as it gets popular or as soon as somebody figures out a way to make money out of it -- money usually involves advertising, which usually ends up bombarding users with spurious post-mercials. How can free software make an impact in such an environment and create forms of social business? Enter Identi.ca
Is it possible to develop full GNU/Linux desktops that run on the web and can therefore be accessed from anywhere? We already have a flavour of this with web-based services such as Google's Gmail, Google Docs and online storage space but these are run from the user's own desktop and are restricted to bespoke services. What about full desktops? Enter Ulteo, created by Gael Duval.
The annual Google Summer of Code is upon us again. For the uninformed, that's when Google pays hundreds of students and hundreds of mentors to work on free software projects, ranging from AbiSource to Zumastor. This is where great projects like the GDebiKDE installer were created. And this year looks even better than before, with 175 organizations and 1125 students. So today, I'm going to do a short rundown of some of my favorites. I can't fit them all in (let's save some trees!), but these are just some that stood out for me. A little bit of project planning and (why not) luck will definitely make a lot of these possible!
Running a free software project can be a rewarding experience if you begin with your eyes open. In my personal experience, starting a free software project with only a head-on view of a few existing free software projects is not really enough. Some basic background information can really help get you started in the right direction.
(Note: using software project management will definitely help too!)
Sakai is an online Collaboration Learning Environment, CLE for short. Indiana University has proactively deployed it for 100,000 students, and over 120 other Universities are involved with their own local deployments or test beds. Clearly, this well received application is worth checking out and taking for a vigorous and thorough test run.
A first draft of this article has been sitting for months in my hard disk. I decided to finish it after reading that Microsoft will offer its operating system and office suite for $3 per machine to developing countries. That made me think of the way the giant software company “helps” these countries by giving licenses of its proprietary software almost for free, and that in turn made me think of free milk. Let me tell you about it.
The Nestlé boycott
Since the very beginning, directories (of any kind) have had a very central role in the internet. (I have recently grown fond of Free Web Directory. Even Slashdot can be considered a directory: a collection of great news and invaluable user-generated comments. As far as software is concerned, doing a quick search on Google about software directories will return the free (as in freedom) software directories like Savannah, SourceForge, Freshmeat and so on, followed by shareware and freeware sites such as FileBuzz, PCWin Download Center and Freeware Downloads (great if you're looking for shareware and freeware, but definitely less comprehensive than their free-as-in-freedom counterparts).
It dawned on me the other day, as I was shopping for the dozens of gifts it seems I have to buy every December, that Santa Claus is the most successful open source project in history. (Bridget @ Illiterarty would agree with that). Santa Claus is essentially a marketing development that is embodied by everyone who stuffs a sock, gives a gift, hosts a dinner or wishes Merry Christmas over the holiday season.
“Dude, I can, like, totally do that way cheaper with Linux and stuff.” These were the words of a bearded geek running Linux on his digital watch. As he proceeded to cut and patch alpha code into the Linux kernel running on the production database system, the manager watched on in admiration. Six months later, long after the young hacker decided to move into a commune in the Santa Cruz hills, something broke. Was it really “way” cheaper?