The Government of South Africa has just adopted, via government policy, a FLOSS approach to software development for government systems. FLOSS is FOSS with Libre added.
Well, I didn't quite make it to all of day 3 of PyCON, but I got a good piece of it, starting with some very nice presentations of scientific software from Enthought and finishing with some questions about the future of Python packaging for GNU/Linux distributions.
I’ve come back from day two of PyCON, exhausted and red-eyed, but also really excited. I’ve learned about several different ways to integrate C libraries into Python, including ctypes which, though an old library, has only entered the standard library in Python 2.5 (released earlier this year). I’ve heard the story of modern cyberpunk heros braving the wrath of the information police, patching code on the fly to evade the notice of the oppressive governments they are exposing for their censorship practices (that is so cool).
This year’s Python Convention , being held this weekend in Dallas Texas, started off with an inspiring presentation by an engineer from the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project  (Ivan Krstić) , showing off the hardware features of the new “OLPC XO 1” prototype, as well as some “dangerous ideas” about its software design: a large part of the user space code for the laptops will be implemented in Python, mainly because of the ease of manipulating the source code. The OLPC laptop software will be 100% free software, not just in principle, but in spirit as well—the assumption of open source design is literally built into the hardware.
To me, Python represents the quintessential free software programming language: its central design values are the ones that are most import for the free software community—clarity and pragmatism. Yes, I’m sure other people have their own pet languages, but Python is definitely my favorite.
I recently started a new podcast where people like you and me have the chance to put questions to key people in our community. While doing that I discovered some aspects of our community that I feel are often over looked in the drive to find new users.
Why I did it
For most of our home computing needs, I've long since transitioned from a Window's environment to FOSS alternatives. Edubuntu as our operating system with the standard list of applications. However, I still dual-boot our system to accommodate a few hold-outs running on Windows.
The most important hold-out is MS Money. I've been using MS Money since the end of 1999 and find the program provides all the functionality, reporting and ease of use to manage our funds. However, I'm getting tired of dual-booting the computer. So, I wanted to try transitioning to a FOSS Personal Finance program. I decided to try importing the MS Money data into Grisbi, KMyMoneyand GnuCash.
There are many obvious and fundamental ways in which usingfree software is good for you, such as choice, cost, andrights. Additionally, there are more abstract fringe benefitsthat should be considered as well. I feel that free softwarecan be used to build both professional and life skills.
I recently picked up the book Wikinomics by Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams and... bought it. This was a slightly unusual move for me as I get most of my information on what’s happening on the web from Free Software Magazine and others like it covering new developments (the web being somewhat faster to press). Being the neophyte I am, I was hoping for it to be a great compendium on current developments in collaboration.
I heard that the open source software movement grew up when it was noticed that people reacted badly to the idealism that the phrase “free software” suggests. In an attempt to attract more people to free software they decided to move away from the ideas implicit in the term “free software” and use their own term “open source” which promotes the practical benefits of this style of development.
Confidential White House sources have leaked to me a secretly included draft section of the President’s State of the Union address. These sources suspect that the Free Software Foundation (FSF), a suspected terrorist group, somehow gained access to the speech and included this section. It was purportedly caught at the last moment by a staffer who was literate enough to understand what she was reading. I release this copy of the rejected section, exposing myself to potentially grave peril, as a public service to our readers.
Once upon a time, in a career far, far away, I worked for a very small business. I was tasked with upgrading the OLD PC’s. The budget was so miniscule that literally every penny counted. In the effort to get the best bang for the buck, I stumbled across these programs called free software. “Whoo-hoo, they’re free” I thought. Little knowing how that introduction to free software applications would change my life, I quickly ordered the PC’s without MS Office, downloaded OpenOffice.org instead and saved a few hundred dollars per system.
Fast forward to the future. With much more free software under my belt, I am even more convinced small businesses are a ripe field for free software applications.
I’ve been really lucky today: I was trying to decide what to write about in this post and all sorts of ideas crossed my mind ranging from making regular back-ups (yes, my website went down this weekend when I attempted to upgrade Drupal without making a back-up first!) to the recent report by the European Commission into the contribution of free software to the European economy. Then I opened up my newspaper this morning and found that they had a feature entitled What are you optimistic about? and it gave me the inspiration I was looking for!
One of the hallmarks of the free software movement and, in fact, the very thing that makes the movement successful are the many acts of collaboration donated by people scattered throughout the globe. The variety of services and products that get developed in this spirit are amazing and a true testament to human creativity and community spirit. We need to celebrate the spirit of people who make a commitment to participate in these types of structures.
What is the OpenOEM and what does it stand for?The idea of the OpenOEM is to help create the Free Computer, a computer where there are no secrets, all of the specifications are available and there is no restriction upon its use. This means that a person can buy a Free Computer and use it and change it to suit any need they might have.
Below is the table of contents for a transcript I just put online of a 2006 talk by Richard Stallman on "Free Software and the Future of Freedom".
Twenty years ago, someone made a transcript of a free software talk he gave in Stocholm. There are quite a lot of similarities between the 2006 version and 1986 version.
Here's the 2006 transcript:
Not long ago, a family member's company discovered their former IT consultant had dealt with them dishonestly. The office had paid him for a number of MS Office licenses, but later found out that only one licensed version been installed on all their systems. Since this was a small business with a limited budget, I suggested they try OpenOffice. But, in the end, they chose to purchase MS Office again.
So I asked, “Why?” The answers were revealing into potential barriers from individuals when recommending FOSS.
The annual choice awards are published in the December issues for many software magazines. A number of the winners were chosen because of their ability to use extensions or flexibility in configuring the software. However, an overlooked and increasingly important attribute to me is cross-platform support or what I laughingly refer to as OS Agnosticism.
Why is cross-platform support important? My personal reasons are:
The Free Computer is not a dream but it is a reality waiting to happen. All the elements are there we just need to gather them together. There has never been a better time to talk about the idea of the Free Computer than now. Last week I wrote a blog entry about the idea of the Free Computer and where we stand today. I think it's time to clarify my position and set out exactly what I mean, and where we go from here.
What is free software? Should you care and if so, why and what does it have to do with cakes and my mother?