Opinions

Opinions

In praise of OpenOffice Base and good documentation

After downloading the whole suite of tools from OpenOffice.org, I have been exploring ways of using as many of them to teach an introductory statistics course. Since this is a class in a business school, I have some rather tough customers, who use the proprietary alternatives and are content doing so. In such a context, even one flaky in OO is enough to warrant a protest, or worse, a boycott.

Is free software major league or minor?

Is free software really capable of serving end users or not? This issue has political consequences, which is part of what makes it important: either free software is "minor league" or it's "major league". Which we believe has a big impact on what our expectations can be and what our political and ethical stance towards proprietary and free software should be.

Free-licensed art for free software games: OpenGameArt.org

Today I happened upon a site I really, really wish had been there in 2000 when I started my own game project. Free software games often suffer from poorly-executing graphics, simply because it's a real challenge coordinating both the artistic and software needs of a project. Few developers are good at both, and so it makes sense to accumulate commonly-needed elements in one place.

Proprietary browsers built on proprietary browsers: the blind leading the blind?

A friend of mine has an ADSL account with BT/Yahoo here in the UK. For some reason BT/Yahoo feel compelled to supply (nay insist upon) a customised version of I.E. as the browser for their customers. Okay so first things first: why choose I.E.? If you are thinking it's for that old chestnut of greater compatibility with a higher number of websites, think again. That argument would work if your customised browser was simply IE rebadged and to all intents and purposes presented as IE. This monstrosity doesn't -- it presents as a BT/Yahoo browser based upon IE. Thus some of the IE compatibility works and some doesn't. But there's more -- much more.

Free Software economics for Indigenous Nations

Information in the computer age is the last genuine free market left on earth except those free markets where indigenous people are still surviving (Russell Means)

Some of the surviving nations in North America have tried Casinos and call centers. Others have tried meat packing for freedom. Yet, unemployment remains high, over 80% for some communities, such as on the Lakotah reservations. Similarly, per capita income often remains below the poverty line. On the Lakotah reservations, per capita income is less than $4,000 annually. The exact story is of course different for each nation, but the overall results of these efforts have usually been rather bleak.

Could free software change things?

Secure VoIP, GNU SIP Witch, and replacing Skype with free software

For the last few years I had occasionally been working on what is called the GNU Telephony Secure Calling initiative. The GNU Telephony Secure Calling initiative was itself originally formed specifically to make passive voice communication intercept a thing of the past using free software and public standards, and came out of ideas from and work of the New York City civil liberties community and New York Fair Use in the early part of this decade.

The results were great: a free infrastructure for secure calling. Here is how it all happened.

An Open Letter to Michael Dell: Why I have no choice but return my Ubuntu Inspiron Mini 10

UPDATE: as it turned out, I was shipped a faulty item by Dell. They changed the motherboard, and things worked smoothly. However, at the end of this exercise I learned that the selection of machines available with Ubuntu is still quite small -- hopefully they will extend it soon

Dear Michael,

I have been a fan of yours for many years -- since I was a kid in fact! I watched as you created Dell, one of the first ("the" first?) companies that sold computers by mail order. I watched you become wealthy, successful, and then retire, only to come back to Dell to remind its managers what they seemed to have forgotten: listen to your customers. I watched you embrace GNU/Linux; I remember thinking: I wonder if people realise what this will actually mean. I am sure he does.

So, here I am: I bought an Inspiron Mini 10. I have no choice but return it. And now I can't stop wondering: how could Michael Dell get it just so wrong?

Durian is Coming: Blender's Third Open Movie Project

Blender third open movie project, code-named "Durian" is ramping up to production, and time is running out for the pre-sale campaign if you want to get your spot in the credits. This time the project is focusing on an adolescent audience with an epic-fantasy setting and a female protagonist (my son aptly dubbed this the "Chicks in Chainmail" genre). The only art yet available from Durian itself is the series of banner ads (by concept artist, David Revoy), but an impressive creative team has already been announced.

How Free Software Magazine overcame the 3FN disaster and switched to CariNet

A couple of months ago, Free Software Magazine went through what you'd call a "rough patch" in terms of hosting: 3FN, which hosted FSM, was effectively shut down by the FTC in the United States. Many companies had their backup servers on 3FN's networks -- and therefore lost everything. We were lucky enough to have a full backup over in Europe. So, we quickly moved everything to CariNet. What's the aftermath of this adventure?

Debian: contempt for "end user" values has to stop!

Three recent problems with packages in the last stable release of Debian GNU/Linux ("Lenny"), brought me face-to-face with what is still a major obstacle for acceptance of free software on the desktop: contempt for the values of the people who use it. Despite all the accusations of unfair trade practices or other excuses, this remains as one solid reason why free software is still perceived as "geeks only" territory. If we want to progress further, we've got to improve our attitudes.

Skype shutdown: where are free software and free protocols?

Free software is definitely going strong in some areas, especially in the server market. However, there are other areas where free software and free protocols have failed. Internet based voice and video communication is one of those areas. The market is basically fully owned by Skype, a piece of proprietary software based on a proprietary (and abusive) protocol in the hands the same company that runs eBay. Free software advocates have been saying "what if Skype was discontinued?" for years. Then I read about eBay considering shutting Skype down. Pardon?

Writing a book with the help of the Sakai free software community

This article is about writing a book with the help of the free software community. The book in question is Sakai Courseware Management with the main authors being Alan Berg (Me myself and I) and Michael Korcuska, the executive director of the Sakai Foundation. In reality, around forty community members delivered valuable content, which the authors distributed strategically throughout the book.

Debian adopts time-based releases -- somebody check the temperature in hell

You may have seen that the Debian project (my particular GNU/Linux distribution of choice) has decided to schedule fixed time-based releases in future. This has come as a surprise to many -- including possibly some Debian developers -- largely because of Debian's long-standing "we ship when it's ready" policy. So what caused this change of heart and is it a good idea.

Yes Linus, Microsoft hating is a disease. And it's a pandemic

The submission by Microsoft of twenty thousand lines of code to the Kernel has, predictably, caused many an eyebrow to arch. The phrase "beware Greeks bearing gifts" comes swiftly to mind. I checked the press release. I also checked the calendar just to make sure I hadn't fallen into a wormhole and emerged back on April Fools Day. I hadn't. That reaction was probably replicated right across the free software community. Given Microsoft's track record it's hardly surprising. Perhaps what was more interesting was Linus Torvalds' reaction. After all, this is not an inconsequential flame war about using Gnome or KDE.

Google Chrome OS: I don't think so

Note: this is a post from one of our readers. I obviously have different views om the topic, but I think it's important to share maruadventurer's views. -- Tony Mobily

1: The Operating system is no longer important. In 2009, people develop for the Web, full stop

There are whole genre of programs that like Photoshop will probably never make it to the web. Practically any program that requires a physical interface will require an OS. CAD/CAM, topology, astrophysics, astronomy, etc. The list is long.

When Windows 7 ships without IE8 will it be good news for free software browsers?

A few weeks ago, Microsoft announced that Windows 7 would not ship with Internet Explorer 8 within the European Union. This is to comply with EU demands following the anti-trust case some time back. On the immediate face of this seem like good news for users of other browsers -- but is it?

Why Google Chrome OS will turn GNU/Linux into a desktop winner

A small revolution in the IT world is about to happen, and we are about to witness it. Microsoft Windows' domination has been challenged many times: first by OS/2 (failed), then Apple (failed), then Java and network computing (failed), then GNU/Linux and Ubuntu (failed, so far). And now, Google's Chrome OS. After such a long list of failures, what makes me think that this latest attempt will actually succeed?

There is a list of factors. Let's have a look.

2009: software installation in GNU/Linux is still broken -- and a path to fixing it

GNU/Linux is slowly invading everybody's everyday life. I won't say "The year of the GNU/Linux desktop is here". Been there, done that. But, GNU/Linux is definitely imposing its presence -- think about Android, or the number of people who are currently using GNU/Linux as their main desktop.

And yet, software installation in GNU/Linux is broken. No, not broken... it's terribly broken. Why is that, and what can be done to fix it?

Free Software Magazine caught in the 3fn shutdown crossfire

This article is necessarily going to be short: I am busy restoring our server from a backup from the 2nd of June. Why? Because 3FN was shut down by the FTC; and yes, 3fn is the hosting company we used and were sponsored by.

We are now hosting the magazine with the angels at OpenHosting, which in this case were a life saver.

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