I've mentioned before the recent move among UK charities to become more "professional", which is often translated as "do what the corporates do" (particularly when it comes to IT). One reason for this is the dreaded bespoke friend-of-a-friend database. These "databases" (and I use the term loosely) are often written by a student, with tenuous links to the charity, looking for a final year project and usually in Microsoft Access and they are usually awful to maintain.
Running a free software project can be a rewarding experience if you begin with your eyes open. In my personal experience, starting a free software project with only a head-on view of a few existing free software projects is not really enough. Some basic background information can really help get you started in the right direction.
(Note: using software project management will definitely help too!)
More and more people are discovering free software. Many people only do so after weeks, or even months, of using it. I wonder, for example, how many Firefox users actually know how free Firefox really is—many of them realise that you can get it for free, but find it hard to believe that anybody can modify it and even redistribute it legally.
When the discovery is made, the first instinct is to ask: why do they do it? Programming is hard work. Even though most (if not all) programmers are driven by their higher-than-normal IQs and their amazing passion for solving problems, it’s still hard to understand why so many of them would donate so much of their time to creating something that they can’t really show off to anybody but their colleagues or geek friends.
Sure, anybody can buy laptops, and just program. No need to get a full-on lab or spend thousands of dollars in equipment. But... is that the full story?
I'm working on Guns, Germs, and Steel, by Jared Diamond. Good book so far, although I've ground almost to a halt halfway through. (I'd probably make better progress if it showed up as blog-sized chunks in my feed reader every day.) I like sweeping accounts of history, and this one presents many new ways to look at things. It also gets me thinking about the current sorry state of the patent system, with these excerpts:
I’m over the moon. So far over, that I’m somewhere out near Neptune at the moment.
You see, I love books. Long ago I picked out PDFs as the best digital equivalent and I’ve collected tens of thousands of free books in my digital libraries. One of the only bits of proprietary (sort of) software on my computers is Adobe, simply because it’s the best reader.
Apparently I’ve been living under a rock, because I only recently found out about the Blender project’s free and open source short movie, Elephants Dream, when I happened across Terry Hancock’s review of it last year on this web site. The motivation behind Elephants Dream was to create a great movie short using only free and open source tools, while at the same time finding ways to improve the quality of those tools and free software projects in general.
This entire OOXML campaign stinks!
This is being forced on everyone simply because one corporation has manufactured a back-door strategy, to maintain a software monopoly.
Around the world, we decided that we needed a new universal standard to apply to the digital equivalent of pen and paper.
Around the world, we decided on such a standard.
Microsoft chose not to take part in those deliberations.
Now, Microsoft want to tell us, “Stuv ya stanadz suggerz, wod we zeyz goez, bub.”
The standards we selected, means nothing to Microsoft, apparently.
What are computer networks? And where does FLOSS fit in? A brief but to-the-point slim book, with loads of links, brought out by a program linked to the United Nations.
A first draft of this article has been sitting for months in my hard disk. I decided to finish it after reading that Microsoft will offer its operating system and office suite for $3 per machine to developing countries. That made me think of the way the giant software company “helps” these countries by giving licenses of its proprietary software almost for free, and that in turn made me think of free milk. Let me tell you about it.
The Nestlé boycott
Today I thought I might suggest a little bit of summer reading, now the good weather has finally arrived in the UK! Some are a little off the beaten track, with less explicit links to free software; all of them, in my opinion, will be of interest to anybody visiting this website. So, read the list, pay a visit to Amazon and grab the nearest bottle of sun cream!
Free Software, Free Society by Richard Stallman
So, you’ve now taken the successful plunge and finally let the Microsoft nightmares fade into expensive and unpleasant memories.
You have your brand new, full-featured, Mandriva, Debian, or Kubuntu, free OS running your browser, email, and office, routines through a lovely KDE, or GNOME, desktop that’s simplicity itself to operate.
Next, you work out how to get all your free software repositories enabled and the true “Wow!” experience suddenly begins to hit you right between the eyeballs.
When we enter the world of “free and open source software”, most of us will choose one or the other philosophy. This choice is usually made easy by the people that guide us when we enter this world. We are at a point where the philosophies behind free software, which have been heralded by Richard M. Stallman and others, are threatened; as more people make the jump away from proprietary operating systems, less of them know about these philosophies. Fewer people will weigh the decision for themselves.
What is the difference?
It is now official.FSM is dead. Send no flowers. It is time for us to pack up our keyboards, reassign our internet links to catty cable TV, give up bags and to spend our time doing something constructive like playing MS Windows Mines or Solitaire. Time for us to reformat out computers with GNU/Linux on them and pay for a operating system where we need not spend all those hours worrying about source code. Ah well, it was fun while it lasted....
Red Hat’s, Brian Stevens, claims that the desktop is dead. This may seem a trifle premature, but from my own perspective, that has already been the case for several years.
Across the room, from where I’m typing this, I have a formal computer desk, complete with comfortable “executive” chair, adjustable foot-rest (your feet will love you till the day they drop off if you buy them one of these), nice, fast AMD64 tower case, and a 19 inch IBM-Lenovo LCD screen, to look at everything.
This article provides a real world perspective into why businesses move to and stick with free software. In this interview, Rob Fraser, from the premiere New Zealand open solutions company Egressive Limited (egressive.com), shares insights into why free software can benefit any business. The interview briefly covers: VPNs, spam filtration and risk mitigation, among other topics.
My paper “Why OSS/FS? Look at the Numbers!” is a massive collection of quantitative studies on free software, with the goal to “show that you should consider using OSS/FS when acquiring software”. It has a large set of different studies grouped into the categories market share, reliability, performance, scalability, security, and total cost of ownership.
If you need evidence, not anecdotes, it’s been the place to go. But it was last updated in 2005, so the latest information hasn’t been included. Finally, a brand-new 2007 edition is available, with lots of additions.
I’m sure everyone reading this has heard the debate over whether that top dog free operating system should be called “Linux” or “GNU/Linux”, but how big a contribution is GNU or Linux to that operating system?
The interview with Mark Shuttleworth in which he answers the questions sent in by all of you has finally been released after a few delays. Read on for more information!
In the interview, available at Questions Please..., Mark covers a wide range of topics including the possibility of a completely free Ubuntu release on the time frame of feisty+1 - he also lets us know a quick tip on how to install any current Ubuntu release without any of the proprietary blobs!
I just signed up at a hosting company to launch a new series of web sites and my primary consideration was their support for FOSS.
A DVD that comes with lots of great examples of Free Culture which plays in your DVD player, with even more examples when you put it in your computer – including a GNU/Linux Live CD. The idea is simple: help to get the word out about Free Culture, including Free Software, by showing off what's already been achieved; the thing is, we need your help!