Opinions

Opinions

Why Gtk+ May Just be the Best GUI toolkit ever

When it comes to programming a lot of people look to C/C++ for answers. They're pretty straightforward languages that are general-purpose(they aren't really good at anything in particular, but can be used to do just about anything). The only strike against these languages is that unlike Java, they don't bring a GUI API built in. Instead, C/C++ coders must rely on other libraries and even system APIs to get the job done.

Six new editing tools and four plugins. Shutter just got even better

If you want to do more serious, integrated screenshot stuff then Shutter's the kiddie

A few months ago I stumbled across a screenshot utility called Shutter. I liked it. A lot. So I decided to give it some well deserved publicity. I wasn't the only one. It has been been getting rave reviews and it will be or should be in everyone's toolbox. Bog standard screenshot software has been available as bundled software in both Gnome and KDE desktops for ever. They're good at what they do but they are limited to relatively simple tasks. If you want to do more serious, integrated stuff then Shutter's the kiddie. The latest version of Shutter (0.80) takes the "serious stuff" to the next level by adding six new features to the Edit tool. Shutter's screenshot-taking features alone make it worth installing but the additions for editing make it the software of choice. This article describes the latest tools.

The Bittersweet Facts about OLPC and Sugar

Recently, I had to fact-check some older articles I wrote about One Laptop Per Child in order to bring them up to date. This meant digging through the controversy in 2008, and what I found was some pretty appalling human behavior. That's the "bitter". The "sweet" is that both OLPC and Sugar (now separate projects) are both doing a lot of good in the world. Sugar, in particular, is doing a better job of connecting with the community. That's a challenge for us in the community to step up and do a much better job connecting with Sugar. We need to make it the best thing ever, and that's going to mean more than lip service. So we all need to get it installed and start contributing.

The Kindness of strangers can defeat Proprietary Cloud Computing. Free Software Solutions

Fashion is fickle. One day thin clients and clusters are the fashion de jour, the next it's Web 2.0, Virtualisation or distributed computing and Grids. They who live by the sword of fashion will surely perish by it but a new model has been strutting its stuff along the catwalk of web fashion and she goes by the name of Cloud Computing. Like all fashions there is a deal of hype surrounding it but there is a consistent concern emerging from all that hype and is about the dangers of proprietary cloud computing. Richard Stallman has called it a "trap". He is right--but it is more than that. It is a well-baited, DRM-like honey trap for the unwary. That is not immediately obvious. Like all good traps it suckers you in before the wire noose tightens around your neck. You don't have any wire cutters in your rucksack but you do have the GPL and free software to effect an escape. Can it save us from vendor lock in and proprietary software?

SCALE 7x - One Week Later

The seventh iteration of the Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE 7x) was held the weekend of February 20th 2009 in Los Angeles. SCALE is an annual conference that has several tracks and has special tracks on Friday. Along with the program tracks, there is an extensive vendor Expo Floor, which includes a Org Pavilion containing several free software organizations. The special tracks on Friday were the Open Source Software in Education, Women in Open Source, and SCALE University run by the League of Professional System Administrators (LOPSA).

Microsoft's Secret Weapon isn't FUD, it's Inertia

This is a story of hubris, nemesis and very bad language. Mine. We all like to have our egos flattered and I'm no exception, so when two old acquaintances told me their Windows laptops were infected with viruses I knew they were about to put the bite on me. They did. Could I fix them? Well, my vanity was flattered of course but it was to be a salutary experience that got me to thinking about whether it will ever be possible to wean users off Microsoft products.

Is Android the key to the GNU/Linux desktop? Really?

I have been talking about the convergence of telephony and desktop computing for years. Nowadays, more and more companies are announcing small devices ("netbooks") that will run Android -- and we are not talking about phones here. Is this the beginning of a new revolution? Or maybe not?

Open Source is (almost always) Free

This post is in response to Dario Borghino's story, "Why Open Source is not Free Software". Go read that first...

I have a couple problems with this post. First of all, there is much less difference between free and open source software than this post suggest. Secondly, patents do not have much effect on the software industry, in practice. Those may sound controversial, but let me explain.

British Conservative Shadow Chancellor backs "Open Source"! Again. But don't get Excited

If you have ever read any of the articles I have written on Free Software Magazine you might just have noticed that my opinion of politicians is lower than a limbo dancer's pole. A brief brush with political activism many years ago left me with a deep and visceral distrust and dislike of everything political and a determination never to become entangled with politics ever again. So, I was not exactly impressed when I read that George Osborne, the Shadow Chancellor of the British Conservative Party, had recently advocated the adoption of "open source" in government IT contracts to reduce costs. Sounds wonderful doesn't it? But it isn't and here's why.

The Free Software Foundation (FSF), Apple, Activism and DRM. Lessons to be learned?

Let me issue a disclaimer right off. Before I ever typed my first GNU/Linux command in a terminal the Free Software Foundation was fighting the good fight for free software and all the issues surrounding individual freedom and privacy both on and offline. All of us owe it a debt of gratitude for the work is has done and continues to do on behalf of the principles of a free society and free computing.

A glimmer of hope from whitehouse.gov

Politicians in general are not terribly tech-savvy, let alone conscious of the most important intellectual freedom issues, but President Barack Obama does have a reputation of being more aware than most of the new media and new possibilities of the internet. The new US presidential website shows some promise that indeed, we now have a US president who isn't afraid of the future.

Microsoft's metered pay-as-you-go patent. It's Trusted Computing Mark Two but worse

This time, Microsoft may have outdone themselves with a proposed patent of such breathtaking hubris that it makes their previous FUD pale by comparison. If it comes off it will either be a licence to print money (Redmond's version of Quantitative easing?) or the biggest Pyrrhic victory in the history of computing since Steve Jobs refused Bill Gates and hardware vendors a licence to use Apple's OS and software.

When you first read about Microsoft's proposed patent you are suffused with the glow of righteous anger but before you get carried away, stop. Stop and think. This patent might just be, to mix my metaphors, a Trojan Horse and the straw that breaks the Camels' back. Windows users seem to possess a high pain tolerance (I only lasted until Windows ME before I broke and confessed to anything and everything) but this just might tip some of them over the edge. As homeless refugees they could be receptive to seeking asylum in the Republic of Unixland. Let's find out why.

Is it the End of the Road for Live CDs?

I was window shopping in a high street electronics store a few days ago. I was delighted to see a shelf display full of netbooks from vendors like Samsung, Acer, Dell, Advent and Asus (of course), to name a few. It looked like the Asus EeePC had launched an idea whose time had come and in the process possibly heralded the long withdrawing roar of the live CD. I now knew how General Adolf Galland felt during the Battle of Berlin when he recorded that when he saw Allied fighters escorting the bombers all the way to the target and back he knew the war was over.

Will the economic downturn mean a free software upturn?

So here we are, entering another year -- and no doubt at some point during this year, more than one person will declare it the "year of the Linux desktop". Of course it won't happen and those who consider themselves free software opponents will soon let us know. Some things will never change. That said, is there any reason to suspect it might be different this year? Is it possible that the current economic climate is better placed to generate a significant growth in free desktops? Can the cloud of economic gloom have a silver lining for free software?

Warrantless Intrusion: yet another reason for Using GNU/Linux (but it may not be enough)

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety (Benjamin Franklin)

All manner of campaigns have been tried to persuade Windows users to make the switch to GNU/Linux and every year is heralded as the year of GNU/Linux on the desktop. Whether these things come to pass or not only time will tell, but the latest electronic assault on the integrity of computers which emanates from the British Government via a European directive might just tilt the balance in favour of free and open software. I suspect however that the hard-core Redmondnites will blunder on as usual making the internet a gold mine for any individual, corporation or government maliciously inclined to steal or plant information your computer. So, what exactly is warrantless intrusion?

5 Tips for free software advocates

Free software advocacy is something I do -- both for a living and as a hobby. Over the years I've gleaned a few best practice tips and I thought I'd pass them on. They may not all work or even be applicable in your case, but I have found then all useful at some time or other. They are in no particular order and in my opinion carry equal amounts of weight.

Unjustifiable Criticism of Richard Stallman by Linus Torvalds

A recent attack piece against Richard Stallman was written by Linus Torvalds on the eve of Obama's election.

Black and white by Linus Torvalds

Linus begins with this:

So I'm pretty well-known for not exactly being a huge fan of the FSF and Richard Stallman, despite the fact that I obviously love the GPLv2 and use it as the license for all my projects that I care about.

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