free software

Creating wealth with free software

A report by the Standish Group indicates that adoption of 'open source' has caused a drop in revenue to the proprietary software industry by about $60 billion per year. That's not a huge amount of money compared to what has been lost though the misselling of mortgages, but it is still a lot. The report identifies the value of these 'open source' products to be about 6% of the world market for software.

Report from the Texas Open Source Symposium

Recently, I attended a small symposium here in Texas, with just over 70 people attending: the inaugural "Texas Open Source Symposium" (TexasOSS). Although small, it was a pleasant conference. Topics ranged from 3D applications to business models, to introductions into the inner workings of the free software community process.

Autotools: a practitioner's guide to Autoconf, Automake and Libtool

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.

Impossible thing #6: Closing the Digital Divide

For many years, there has been a growing concern about the emergence of a "digital divide" between rich and poor. The idea is that people who don't meet a certain threshold income won't be able to afford the investment in computers and internet connectivity that makes further learning and development possible. They'll become trapped by their circumstances.

Under proprietary commercial operating systems, which impose a kind of plateau on the cost of computer systems, this may well be true. But GNU/Linux, continuously improving hardware, and a community commitment to bringing technology down to cost instead of just up to spec, has led to a new wave of ultra-low-cost computers, starting with the One Laptop Per Child's XO. These free-software-based computers will be the first introduction to computing for millions of new users, and that foretells a much freer future.

Google App Engine: Is it evil?

The Google App Engine doesn't really advance the cause of evil all that much, but it's not exactly good, either. Google makes a big deal about its corporate motto, "Don't be evil", but at the end of the day, Google really is just another corporation, no matter how well-intentioned its founders may have been. Regardless of whether the corporation holding the carrot is called "Microsoft" or "Google", developers should think long and hard before following the primrose path towards lock-in to non-standard designs.

Why Microsoft should not lose (and free software will still win)

There has always been a section of the free software community which has an anti-Microsoft agenda. It's almost like their mission statement is "It's not over until Microsoft is dead". Certainly there is a lot of feeling that if Microsoft went away, a lot of our problem would be over. But do Microsoft even need to "lose"; is there even a battle to be fought and if so what would constitute winning it?

Free software alternatives: What good is choice if you don't use it?

Look through a list available packages for any free OS and you'll find a sometimes bewildering choice of browsers, mail readers, editors, desktops and tetris-clones available. Despite this many will just blindly install the first one they've heard of. Is this a good policy? What good is all this choice if we don't use it and what are those choices?

Note: please see the bottom of this post for a list of free software alternatives available now!

Social inclusion with Xubuntu: A tale of free software changing lives

M6-IT, a Community Interest Community in the UK, are part way through a project to equip socially excluded families with computers running Xubuntu. I was recently able to interview Richard Rothwell of M6-IT about this project and its progress.

Achieving Impossible Things with Free Culture and Commons-Based Enterprise

Achieving Impossible Things with Free Culture and Commons-Based Enterprise

The first completed book from Free Software Magazine Press, by longtime Free Software Magazine columnist Terry Hancock is now available!

Free Software - is it a political question?

Think, for a moment, about what the free software community looks like from the external gaze. "Bloody Communists" - I've never actually had a businessman say this to me when I've been explaining free software, but I'm sure they've thought it. I suppose the smarter ones might have thought "anarcho-syndicalists". Choosing to use free software may be simply economic, but contributing to any such project is surely a political statement.

So what is this statement? I'm not the person to write your statement, but I can offer mine.

Can we please stop fighting FUD with FUD?

It has long been the case that proprietary software companies regularly engage in FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) tactics against their opponents. This particularly seems to apply to Microsoft's statements about free software in general and GNU/Linux in particular. Recently I've noticed a surge in the amount of FUD going the other way--from the FOSS community towards Microsoft and other proprietary software companies. Why do we feel it is necessary to fight FUD with FUD

Free software is social software

Free software has much to offer non-profit organizations (NGOs). If you are reading this, you are probably a member or participant of an NGO, and I hope I can show you why free software and open standards are important for your organisation. Or maybe you are a free software supporter who’d like to see a change in a social organisation near you. In any case, I will try to give you a few arguments in favour of free software, along with some practical information on how to successfully face a migration process from proprietary software.

Why can't free software GUIs be empowering instead of limiting?

It's one of the more popular culture wars in the free software community: GUI versus CLI (graphics versus the command-line). Programmers, by selection, inclination, and long experience, understandably are attracted to textual interactions with the computer, but the text interface was imposed originally by technological limitations. The GUI was introduced as a reply to those problems, but has undergone very little evolution from 1973 (when it was invented at Xerox PARC) to today. So why can't we do better than either of these tired old systems?

Impossible thing #1: Debian GNU/Linux

With any paradigm shift, it is difficult to see the new world from the old one, even though it is glaringly obvious once you've crossed over. Empirical evidence is one way to bridge the gap. Let's look at some solid evidence for the success of what is probably the most obvious "impossible" achievement of commons-based peer production: free software, as exemplified by the Debian GNU/Linux distribution.

Impossible thing #1: Developing efficient, well engineered free software like Debian GNU/Linux

With any paradigm shift, it is difficult to see the new world from the old one, even though it is glaringly obvious once you've crossed over. Empirical evidence is one way to bridge the gap. To that end, I want to show some solid evidence for the "impossible" things that commons-based peer production (CBPP) has already accomplished—things that the old conventional wisdom would tell us "can't be done". This week, I'll look at what is probably the most obvious case: free software.

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