I'm sure I don't need to explain SOPA or ACTA to regular readers of Free Software Magazine. They're toxic. End of. But RWA? It stands for Research Works Act. It's not the big sexy beast of the other two but it is, in its way, just as insidious and as harmful to the freedom of scientific publishing as SOPA and ACTA are to internet freedom and it's all interconnected. Here's why.
Lovers and users of free and open source software are a hardy bunch. They've seen it all: Microsoft EULAs, DRM, UEFI, proprietary software and constant attempts to prevent end users jailbreaking and rooting the devices they paid for with hard-earned cash. If you think you've seen and heard it all, well, you haven't. Apple may have trumped them all with a possibly unique EULA.
This is getting seriously ridiculous. Relative to the power and feature sets computers are getting cheaper and cheaper. But they don't come much cheaper than the Raspberry Pi, a $25 computer designed specifically to encourage children to program. My colleague, Ryan Cartwright wrote about it right here on FSM.
There seems to be no respite from the predations of Microsoft FUD and the machinations of Big Business. Just when it seemed safe to come out of the closet and admit to being a user of free and open source software without being accused of being a Communist, it appears that we are now criminals too--even if we are not using pirated versions of proprietary software. The culprit this time is something called "Special 301", an annual review of the status of foreign intellectual property laws carried out under the auspices of the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) which is an Executive Office of the President. It's definition of criminal would make criminals of every single user of FOSS.
There are few people who would deny that Autoconf, Automake and Libtool have revolutionized the free software world. While there are many thousands of Autotools advocates, some developers absolutely hate the Autotools, with a passion. Why? Let me try to explain with an analogy.
On Sunday, August 5, 2007 Bush signed the revised Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) into law, in which the U.S. Congress spinelessly caved in and gave legal authority to the Bush administration to continue to intercept and spy on electronic communications. Then, on Thursday, August 16, 2007 the whole worldwide Skype network goes down. Coincidence? I think if you use Skype, you should now be very, very, concerned about the privacy of your calls and had better start considering using FOSS alternatives.
Last fall a slightly ambitious project to test the uptake of Ubuntu Linux in the volunteer community of eastern England showed positive results, so why has the funder pulled the plug?
Cuba is the rough diamond of the western-southern hemisphere. Intentionally neutered by almost 50 years of U.S. foreign policy, Cuba has still been able to create one of the world's highest literacy rates, provide free health care to all its citizens, and exports more doctors than any other nation. Now Cuba stands on the precipice of a revolution in the use and development of free and open source software. This will not only likely have dramatic effects on the internal politics of the nation, but also lead to Cuba's next significant export -- free and open source software.
“The open source software movement has been one of the successes of the digital age” or so says Clay Shirky of New York University's Graduate Interactive Telecommunications Program in the latest issue of Harvard Business Review. Yes, sure, but he's just buttering us up.
Mr Shirky then goes on to mention the positive press Linux and Apache receive in business publications. Subsequently he then trashes the whole open source movement.
Most of us just use FOSS, but somebody has to develop and write the code. And the language that's used greatly affects the outcome. If you haven't tried Ruby yet, you owe it to yourself to begin playing with it. If you value joy, if you value simplicity, if you value beauty, then you owe it to yourself to learn Ruby, the emerging jewel of FOSS.
In my blog post a couple weeks ago I suggested non-profits should package up some free software solutions into niche packages and sell them as a fund raiser. The idea that there is so much FOSS available, the preselecting, testing and validating is a value added component worth paying for.
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the housenot a creature was stirring, just my USB mouse;
The wife and the children are all settled in bed,As I sit at my desk scratching my head.
And while I'm sorting out my thoughts, Music is streaming over Rhythmbox.
But TuxPaint is their clear winner. A great little program for little beginners.
Bruce Byfield of Linux.com has a great editorial up about Why FOSS isn’t on activist agendas. Bruce points out that although FOSS enthusiasts are great at discussing their “shared values” within their own niche, they’re not very good at reaching out to the broader community—particularly folks over 40 who tend to be more active and influential in politics than the under 30 “techie” crowd:
A few years back, Eric S. Raymond (or, as everyone else calls him, ESR), wrote a lengthy paper about this community. Entitled The Cathedral and the Bazaar, he wrote about how the Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) community does what it wants when it wants to.
I don't think he was entirely wrong; I just don't think he was entirely right, either.