free software

The OpenPC project: Ready-made GNU/Linux Machines

The Open Desktop communities Open-PC project is now offering three different models of open computers with turn-key GNU/Linux and KDE installations based on OpenSUSE (or Ubuntu). These systems could provide real competition with pre-installed Windows or Mac computers, overcoming some of the most frequently-cited problems with GNU/Linux on the desktop. The systems are now available from vendors in Europe and the USA.

Free Software: the road to a Universal bundle, a powerful app store, and world domination

Apple is doing it again: they are releasing an app store for OS X on the 6th of January. Just like the iPhone app store, and the Android app store, this is going to be a hit: the OS X ecosystem will get a giant boost from it, and we are left -- once again -- with a lot to learn. Before you mention that GNU/Linux doesn't need an app store because it's free software, and before you even say that GNU/Linux already has an app store through one of the many software managers (Synaptics, Ubuntu Software Center, apt-get), please read this article.

Sintel DVDs have shipped with film, commentaries, and Blender tutorials

My DVD set for the Blender Foundation's latest open movie, "Sintel," arrived this month. Considering the size, expense, and duration of the production, it's a truly amazing short film. There's much more emotional weight here than in "Elephants Dream" or "Big Buck Bunny." More of interest here, though, is the huge amount of supplementary material included in the set. This is more than just the sources for the movie. There's also a lot of tutorial information for Blender users and of course, an array of personal commentaries on the production process.

The bad guys are worried - did we win?

Recently two pieces of first class anti-free software diatribe hit the headlines. The first is Microsoft's "please don't use OpenOffice.org" video and the second is Steve Jobs' anti-Android rant. Both are pretty shallow attempts at deflection and have been rightly called out as actually endorsing the subject of the attack as a valid opponent. In both cases it does seem to say that Microsoft and Jobs are concerned enough about OpenOffice.org and Android respectively that they need to tell the rest of us how bad they are.

Learning with TuxMath

Rote learning of "math facts" is one of the really dull aspects of grade-school mathematics. But if you can't recall them quickly, it can really hold you back even in higher mathematical disciplines, because it just slows you down. Luckily, you can find an algebra tutor or other resources to help with comprehension. My son's been struggling with this for some time now, with traditional solutions like flash cards just not working very well. With "Tux of Math Command", otherwise known as "TuxMath", though, he's making considerable progress at overcoming his "wall" with math. Homework times are getting shorter because his recall speed is getting much better with just one or two games a day -- an easy goal to reach because the games are actually fun (Seriously. I play it myself now and then).

7 Things We Don't Have to Invent for Animation Production (Thanks to Free Software and Previous Free Culture Productions)

Counting your blessings is good for the soul -- not to mention for convincing yourself and any investors that your project will succeed. Free culture is highly conservative, because it's possible to simply reuse ideas (and sometimes actual artifacts) with little to no cost. Here's seven things I'm really glad I don't have to worry about in designing the production model for our free culture animated series Lunatics.

Pay Per Patch: A Free Software Market Model

Free software can be viewed as sort of a public good — everyone can benefit from it. Instead of paying for complete applications, buyers may wish to only pay for specific program elements they want, which the software lacks. Therein lies an opportunity to make money on free software, instead of around it.

Marketing Bug: How Do I Contact You?

I don't know how many times I've run into this particular mistake, but free software developers keep making it, so I think it's worth a brief post. Free software is based on contact between users and developers. Without that, it's just not very efficient, and any free software project that breaks that bond is going to flounder for the same reasons that so many proprietary products flounder -- total disconnect with the users.

Making Free Movies with Free Software

This is a loose collection of articles about the challenges I'm facing as I work on two animated video projects. One is the Morevna Project started by Konstantin Dmitriev. The other is a project I'm working on with my wife, Rosalyn Hunter, called Lunatics.

Both projects combine free culture and free software issues, since they will not only be released as a free culture works, but will also be made using free software tools.

Why can't free software lead to hardware innovation?

In the past few years we've seen a lot of hardware-based innovation (or at the very least expansion). New products and markets have arisen built around hardware and its use. Smartphones, tablets, netbooks and gaming systems are all examples of markets that have expanded and some if not most of the products make use of free software. This is great but why does it seem to be that the free-software products are second-generation, playing catch up. Where is the device innovation driven by free software?

The Jargon of Freedom: 60 Words and Phrases with Context

What exactly does it mean when Richard Stallman says that the Creative Commons' Attribution-ShareAlike license has a "Weak Copyleft"? Why exactly is it that "Freeware" and "Non-Free Software" mean the same thing, while "Free Software" is something else entirely? And what is this business with "Free Beer", and where can I get some? If you've asked yourself these questions, this column is for you.

Making Movies with Free Software

Sometimes life is very circular. Once upon a time, I was a film major. Then I was an astronomer, then I was unemployed for quite awhile, during which time I discovered free software, and as a result of my various rantings about it, I started writing for Free Software Magazine. Now it seems that I've become a film-maker again. I'm working on not one, but two animated science-fiction films using free software tools, intended for a free-licensed release on the internet under new distribution models. And, being a writer, I'm going to write about it. I think it will be both entertaining and useful.

Making a copyright system that works

Free software exists in a kind of "special trade zone" within the existing copyright system, defined by free copyleft licenses like the GNU General Public License (GPL). Free culture has created similar zones with tools like the Creative Commons' licenses. We usually consider that to be sufficient. Yet we are often frustrated by the desire to interface with the rest of our culture, and sooner or later we'll all have to face the big bugbear that is reforming the copyright system. Aside from a few vested interests in the entertainment industry, nearly everyone hates the system we've got -- it's clearly overreaching and ill-adapted to the electronic world of the internet. But what sort of system would we like? That's much more contentious. Here's a synthesis of a few prominent ideas of what real copyright reform might look like.

Web code is already open - why not make it free as well

Oh dear. After the debacle with Microsoft Poland's apparent racist photoshopping, Microsoft China went and got the company in hot water for allegedly "stealing" code. Yes you read that right: Microsoft and wholesale "theft" of code from another website. Of course it's not "theft" it's copyright infringement but tomayto/tomarto. Microsoft confessed blaming a vendor they had worked with. No surprise really but the damage to their name may have already been done. There's more to discuss here than Microsoft's already tarnished reputation though. The issue raises some important points in favour of free software and points to why more if not all code should benefit from free licencing.

Free software in real business

Preamble

There are many "theoretical" talks about how free software can be used commercially, that it can greatly stimulate business activity and so on. There are very few real life examples of that. And most of them, as I can see, firstly had just common classical proprietary model of software development and only later some of them either freed their products or at least opened. As I can understand, only after fear of competition had gone they tried to made timid steps to open-source (as nearly none of them really understand difference between open-source and free software

Response to Sam Tuke's Response to "Is free software major league or minor?"

Thanks to Sam Tuke for a well-written and constructive response to my article Is free software major league or minor?. Tuke refers to my post as a "dismissal" of free software, however, which is ironic at best. There is no such dismissal in my article. Instead, there is a challenge: "Can we raise our game?" Furthermore, I would argue that classifying that challenge as a "dismissal" stems from a fundamental lack of faith in our ability to succeed -- which is ironically, the accusation Tuke levels at me. Where does this disconnect happen?

A response to "free software major league or minor?": Unjustified dismissal?

I just read Terry Hancock's artilce on Is free software major league or minor?. Great article, and I'm very glad to see articulate discussion about these core subjects. Not enough is said about these matters.

However, I disagree strongly on several points that your article raises. I'll take it point by point in an effort to not misrepresent your views and keep focussed on the statements that you have made.

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