Everyone likes pretty pictures. The newsagent’s stand is now crowded with glossy magazines, roadside advertisements glare out at you as you drive along the freeway, you see a wondrous mosaic as you look at all the packaging on supermarket shelves. Television long ago replaced the radio as standard home entertainment and the fact that you cannot judge a book by its cover doesn’t prevent the vast majority of the human population from doing so. The same applies to computers now.
Creative computer applications are a niche, and a relatively small one at that. Even brand-leading proprietary software companies like Steinberg, the developers of the long-established Cubase music sequencer, have been recently bought out. Consolidation in the creative application market has seen Adobe buy Syntrillium, who created Cool Edit, Avid buy Digidesign and Apple buy Logic—and there are plenty of other examples.
Computer history has some interesting parallels with the history of the American West. After the initial forays of Lewis and Clark and the first set of explorers, early settlers crossed the plains in covered wagons. But the West wasn’t accessible to most Americans until the age of the railroads, when the Union Pacific Railroad put tracks across the continent and started running a regular passenger service.
The grassroots efforts of system administrators have brought Linux and other free software into the mainstream. To be an effective advocate for free software at work, you need to speak the language of management and convince them from their point of view. This article discusses how to present your case, why your audience makes all the difference, how to hook them with proof of cost savings, and reveals two secret weapons for your quest to promote free software.
The third International Forum on Free Knowledge brought together many groups and individuals interested in the development of free software worldwide to the city of Maracaibo. One reason Venezuela choose to host this event is because starting in January (2006), their new free software law, directive 3.390, comes into effect, which mandates all government agencies to migrate to free software over a two year period. I was invited to speak about Telephonia Libre: the use of free software in telecommunications.
A good scientist is a person with original ideas. A good engineer is a person who makes a design that works with as few original ideas as possible. There are no prima donnas in engineering.—Freeman Dyson
Imagine where free software would be today if it weren’t for the GNU C Compiler! Just as free software depends heavily on free compilers, so does free design rely on having free computer aided design and authoring tools.
When Apple migrated the Mac operating system platform to Mac OS X, one of the key components was an underpinning based on the FreeBSD operating system. The use of an open source operating system as the core has in turn led to an increase in the use and availability of free and open source software (FOSS). It is now much easier to develop software for the OS X platform (development software is included, instead of being an expensive addition) and this makes it both easier for people to get involved and more likely to take part in open source community projects.
The GRand Unified Boot loader, or GRUB, has all but replaced the default boot loader on many GNU/Linux distributions. It includes some conveniences over LILO, the LInux LOader. One advantage is not having to remember to run /sbin/lilo every time you make a configuration change. It also can function as a boot loader for removable media such as floppies, CD-R/W and USB flash memory keys. It is short-sighted to view GRUB only as a boot loader to be installed on a hard drive of a GNU/Linux system.
There are hundreds of GNU/Linux distributions around, each with its strengths and weaknesses. One that stands out from the masses is Debian. It is the only major distribution not developed (or even backed) by commercial vendors, but by a group of volunteers around the world. Its main features are robustness, great software package management, a huge software collection consisting of more than 15,000 pre-compiled packages ready to install and run, and a transparent and always helpful support system based on mailing lists and a bug tracking system.
When I think about American presidential elections, three things come to mind: money, corporate power and disenfranchisement. One of the big political stories of our time is the decline of party politics, especially for the young. But another story is that of the internet revitalising democracy, empowering and connecting citizens in a new, vibrant space. Often Utopian, theoretical and romanticised, this vision of the future was made real in the race for the Democratic presidential candidacy recently in America by Howard Dean.
I’ve seen a lot of new users—and even kids—using Linux comfortably. And everything goes fine—until they decide to install new applications.
You see, in Mac people can install an application by simply downloading it, copying it wherever they like, and double-clicking on it. In Windows, it’s a matter of running an ugly installer, answering a few questions, and letting it copy a zillion files all over the place.
In Linux... it depends.