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Open source is a market force

Companies seek to counter their competition in a variety of ways - pricing, packaging, branding, etc. There are a lot of options and any good product manager will know them well. One of the toughest situations to be in is that of competition, with the usual responses, when you are up against a competitor using the natural forces of the market place. Marketers refer to these tectonic shifts as “shocks”, because they are unusual events. They change the way the game is played, and once that change is made, there is usually no going back. The change is structural.

A laptop, a coffee, and disaster recovery

Last week, my laptop died a sudden spectacular death-by-drowning, as a full cup of coffee poured into its keyboard. It emitted a pop sound, and the screen and the power shut off.

What would your reaction be? Mine was to immediately unplug the power cord and remove the battery. Then I took it over to the sink and poured out the coffee. Remembering tales of people flushing keyboards with water, I ran some fresh water over the keys and then set to work. I removed the keyboard, the palm rest, a few of the inner cards, and let it sit without power for several hours. Apparently, not long enough.

Richard Stallman’s blog

Venezuela (November 15, 2004 to November 22, 2004)

I spent a week in Venezuela, giving a speech and some interviews at an event which invited speakers from all across Latin America. During the event, the state oil company PDVSA announced its decision to switch 100% to free software. Their decision is not based on convenience or cost; it is based on sovereignty.

During the event, the state oil company PDVSA announced its decision to switch 100% to free software. Their decision is not based on convenience or cost; it is based on sovereignty

A law for free software

Free software, also known as open source, libre software, FOSS, FLOSS and even LOSS, relies on traditional software legal protection, with a twist. Semantics aside (I will describe all the above as “free software”), the tradition at law is that free software is copyrighted, like most other software, and is not released, unbridled, to the public domain. Authorial or ownership rights can be asserted as with any bit of proprietary software.

Thank you!

Thank you!

This “thank you” is dedicated to all of the subscribers who are now reading issue 3 of Free Software Magazine. You have decided that it was worthwhile paying money for Free Software Magazine and have placed your trust in our project.

I appreciate your help, and I promise that we will do our very best to not disappoint.

The FUD-based Encyclopedia

In this article, I respond to Robert McHenry’s anti-Wikipedia piece entitled “The Faith-Based Encyclopedia.” I argue that McHenry’s points are contradictory and incoherent and that his rhetoric is selective, dishonest and misleading. I also consider McHenry’s points in the context of all Commons-Based Peer Production (CBPP), showing how they are part of a Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) campaign against CBPP.

Hard passwords made easy

In the online world, security plays a role in all online activities. Passwords are the most commonly used method to limit access to specific people. In my previous article I discussed assessing the relative value of systems protected by passwords, and grouping passwords across locations with similar trustworthiness.

In a nutshell, don’t bother creating and remembering strong passwords for low value systems, and certainly don’t use the same passwords for low value systems that you use in high value systems.

Case study: Mythic Beasts

There is a company in the UK that provides Unix shells to their users: Mythic Beasts. They offer fantastic service to people who need a shell account on a very fast server, and don’t want to fork out silly amounts of money. Let’s talk to Chris Lightfoot, one of the company’s owners.

TM: Who is behind “Mythic Beasts”? How did everything start?

Why free IT management tools are gaining traction

The $3.6 billion worldwide market for IT management software is ripe for competition from free software. Leading products from HP, CA, BMC and IBM are overkill for the vast majority of the market. Licensing costs can reach seven figures, and deployment and system administration costs are several times that. Not to mention that these products are widely known to be inflexible, monolithic and difficult to use.

Richard Stallman’s blog

Bolivia (La Paz) (August 12, 2004 to August 17, 2004)

I am now visiting La Paz, Bolivia. The city is on the edge of the altiplano, starting on the plain at 13000 feet and running down through a connected series of valleys. The result is amazing beauty. Traveling between neighborhoods often means seeing marvelous vistas. The snow-capped mountain Illimani can also be seen from much of the city.

La Paz in BoliviaLa Paz in Bolivia

We can all finally install

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.

Smarter password management

Your dog’s name... your anniversary... your childrens’ initials, birthday, or birth weight... your favorite hobby, or the name of your boat. Which one do you use for your password? Network Administrators and hackers know that most people choose passwords like these to protect anything from logging into web-based bulletin boards to buying things online.

Every engineer’s checklist for justifying free software

In a few years viewing source code within the major components of software infrastructure will probably be a routine way of doing business. In the meantime it seems that the only reason managers want free software is because it is free (as in free of costs). That’s not a good reason in itself: in the long run there are compelling reasons that robust, mission critical infrastructure software should be made free software.

Creating Free Software Magazine

This magazine was inspired by a conversation I had with a great friend of mine called Massimo. I said to Massimo “I think it would be great to start a magazine. It’s my ideal job, and I think I know what the world needs right now. It’s a pity there’s no money in publishing, and I’m not willing to run a magazine that doesn’t pay it’s contributors well...”. His answer was very simple: “Tony, there’s money everywhere, as long as you do something good and promote it well”. Well, seeing that he has a successful business, I thought I would listen.

Format Wars

Real programmers love their applications’ source code: the faster and more elegant it is, the better. Users are after very different things: they seem to want simplicity, flashy colors, nice icons and tons of options. In spite of these reasons, or perhaps because of them, programmers and users often forget what lies in the middle of it all: information.

Who owns the information?

Welcome to the first Free Software Magazine

I would have liked to start this editorial defining what free software is, but I found myself writing – and deleting – my sentences time and again.

The problem is that free software means different things to different people. To some, free software is a way to save money in licensing fees and technical support. To some, it’s a way of sharing their skills (which they do for different reasons: research, personal development, money, etc). And to others free software is a movement, a way of life.

Case study: Mythic Beasts

Mythic Beasts is a UK company that provides Unix shells to their users. They offer fantastic service to people who need a shell account on a very fast server, and don’t want to fork out silly amounts of money. Let’s talk to Chris Lightfoot, one of the company’s owners.

TM: Who is behind “Mythic Beasts”? How did everything start?

What is Free Software Magazine?

Writing this editorial is much harder than I thought it would be. I made the mistake of leaving it last, and now the problem is that I have written so much over the last three months for this magazine (articles, emails, plans, business letters, personal diaries...) that I can’t think of anything I haven’t already said at least ten times.

Well, I have to start from somewhere, and I believe I ought to answer the most important question: what is Free Software Magazine?

Allow me to answer by explaining what Free Software Magazine is not.


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