Choosing to release a piece of software under the terms of a free software license is an important step through which many programmers and writers first approach the free software community. However, the myriad of licenses available can sometimes confuse and disorient the user, sometimes making this first step much harder than it should be. Let's try and make things clearer.
Everyone knows about the infamous internet wars. Ranging from operating systems to text editors to code indentation style, these wars have wreaked havoc on the web for years. The topics range from serious topics like religion to serious geek topics like operating systems to just plain stupid topics like code indentation style. So today, I'm going to go through a list of some of the most famous topics and remind you of a few of the more, er, "famous" battles.
In a recent article, Ryan Cartwright argued that free software isn't playing the "same game" as proprietary software is. He's right—but that begs the question: what game is GNU/Linux playing?
Thirty years of proprietary software thinking have conditioned us to think that marketshare is a critical measure of success, and so we've convinced ourselves that we have to "win" against Windows in order to "succeed". But this is simply not true. GNU/Linux can be a very great success even if it never achieves more than 1% of the installations in the world. The reason is the difference between "power" and "freedom".
The EeePC started as a niche product aimed at children. It was a huge hit, which surprised everybody -- even Asus. Microsoft noticed it, and started putting pressure on Asus . While reading around, I came across this interview with Benson Lin, which proces once more that Microsoft is tying up Asus and effectively killing the GNU/Linux version of the EeePC.
Some people seem to challenge the idea that most (if not all) free software projects need a benevolent dictator--that is, somebody who has the last say on every decision. They are quick to point out Linus Torvalds' past "mistakes" (see the speech marks): using BitKeeper to manage the kernel, not allowing "pluggable" schedulers in Linux, etc. As a software developer, I feel that a dictator is absolutely necessary in every free software project. Here is why.
Respect earned by the BDFL
Steve Ballmer has recently sent a memo to every Microsoft employee. Ballmer's memo leaked really quickly (I wonder if he expected it). After swallowing the corporate-madness part (but that's allowed: he's a "mad" corporate leader after all), one particular passage really grabbed my attention. Taking about Internet applications being popular, he wrote: "But we also need to make sure developers have the .NET skills to write unique Windows applications using Windows Presentation Foundation". Which begs the question: does anybody still develop Microsoft Windows applications? Really?
The Blender Foundation's second free-content movie, Big Buck Bunny, is the product of the foundation's "Peach Open Movie" project, and the results are impressive. Like the previous Elephants Dream movie, this film pushes the technical envelope for the "Blender" free software 3D rendering and animation application; unlike it, it succeeds as pure entertainment.
Ryan Cartwright wrote an excellent article, Don't compare GNU/Linux with Windows or MacOS – they are not in the same game.
I ran across the same blog he is referring to, while gathering potential stories for FSD and my reaction was very similar.
Ryan questions, “I mean how can you tell how many Ubuntu installs came of a single CD?”
Recently a blog post entitled "Why Desktop Linux is its own worst enemy has come across my feed-radar a few times. It's yet another in the long line of "Linux ain't ready yet" jeremiads and it doesn't really say anything new yet it got on my nerves. Why?
First Asus , then Dell, then MSI , Elonex, the Cloud and all their clones. Now Acer has entered the fray and it is all, at least initially, good news. It looks like they've all found a bit of Dutch courage and started to turn on the schoolyard bully from Redmond.
The fight against the adoption of OOXML as an ISO standard is continuing in many countries. In the UK the UK Unix & Open Systems User Group (UKUUG) unsuccessfully, sought a judicial review of the British Standards Institute's decision to vote yes. UKUUG are now seeking to appeal against that rejection of a review and you can help them.
Businesses are not philanthropists. They are not, intentionally, educators or evangelists for ideologies. However, from time to time their business models just happen to coincide with their more idealistic customers own interests. Asus is one such company.
When they launched the little EeePC they could scarcely have imagined the extraordinary reaction it would cause. They say that any publicity is good publicity but the reaction to the two pound wonder was almost universally favourable. It was hot. I mean nuclear hot. And it was GNU/Linux.
I have recently read an eye-opening email from Ian Lynch about what happened in the UK with BECTA.
I have received his permission to republish here his thoughts. I think his email speaks volumes about what happened.
Ian Lynch's email
Fundamentally, I'm not complaining that we were not successful in the tender - I have no idea how strong the winning bid was. I'm complaining that the tender process adopted was broken. This is despite the fact that 130 MPs signed an Early Day Motion in Parliament last year censuring BECTA for procurement frameworks that block out Open Source.
Quite a long time ago (maybe in 2000), people started talking about the Slashdot effect. Being Slashdotted meant (and still means) that a truckload of computers online suddenly decide to access your site, because one of your pages was linked from Slashdot's home page. The results on your servers used to be disastrous. I think I ought to attempt something brave: I would like to coin a new word: the Groklaw effect.
While you can't really Groklaw a site, you can definitely Groklaw a company or a court case.
So, what is the Groklaw effect specifically?
There are about 1000 million PCs on the planet, most running that other OS. For the folks running free software, the future is now. They can run on almost anything. They can shift hardware/software platforms easily. They can increase the number of seats easily. The 900+ million not running free software are now or will soon be a burden to their owners: mal-ware, forced upgrades, high life-cycle costs and bloat.
This article was originally published on "2008-06-15 13:09:55 +0000". I re-read it, and decided that it deserved to be re-published in Free Software Magazine as a tribute to those individual who made GNU/Linux possible. Every field has its own key individuals who donated much of their time to the ideas they believed in. Each one of them is a reminder that it's up to individuals to make a difference -- and to make history. Their work affects large chunks of the world's population, and bring amazing changes to the way we see and experience the world.
The free software world has its own heroes. You probably know a lot of them already; if you don't, you probably use the results of their work on a daily basis.
This article is both a tribute to them, and a summary to those people who are new to the free software world.
I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw a item entitled "Maybe we should charge for Linux" in an established GNU/Linux site like Linux Today, and from the managing editor no less! Well I just couldn't let it pass without comment.
Early in May Becta, the UK government agency charged with helping schools in their use of ICT, released a tender to support 'open source' adoption in UK schools. Several organisations decided to tender, and of the four short-listed, three covered a very large part of the communities and companies that have been involved in the field to date. On Thursday Becta announced that it had awarded the contract the the fourth bidder.
Tony Mobily's recent FSM post A future without Microsoft and the resulting comments have caused me to consider the way we use numbers to argue for free software in the marketplace. I'm not convinced that it's the best strategy because those waters are particularly muddy when it comes to comparing free and proprietary software.