free software

Free software is a weak mode of production

The success of GNU/Linux and other free software projects is annoying. Free and open source development doesn't fit neatly in the box of standard business practices and is therefore a problem. We really need to break free of those hippies at the Free Software Foundation and let the grown-ups manage things from here on out. Not to mention that the peer-based production model doesn't really work that great anyway.

Good can prevail when evil is... lazy...

This week, after reading Scott Carpenter’s fun (yet a bit scary) satire 5 ways to save on your monthly software rental bill in the year 2056..., I felt like a fairytale ending. I was after something sort of cool and utopian, where we’re all free and enjoying ourselves. But, when I was speculating about what this fairytale would entail, it brought me around to wondering...

What will happen AFTER the year of Linux on the desktop?

Moving to freedom, one step at a time

Time to get on with the move. Giving up Windows is like kicking a drug habit. It’s easier to take the path of least resistance and keep using. If quitting proprietary software was a twelve step program—although, let’s not push the analogy too far—maybe after admitting we were powerless over our proprietary programs, coming to believe that a Higher Power could restore us to Freedom, and so on and so forth, maybe we’d...

Internet communities strike back

At the very beginning of the “commercial internet” era, around 1995, the internet was all about communities. Mailing lists and Usenets were crucial tools which allowed people with similar interests (and similar problems!) to hang out together in what was considered a fantastic virtual square.

Then, shops started showing up in this square, and... well, its inhabitants got a little distracted.

Famous in a small, small world

The world is a very big place. However, every sub-world, no matter how big it looks, is itself really quite tiny once you’re in it—and always made up by the same few “famous” people.

I was at the MOCA meeting in Italy last year. It was a fantastic experience, full of people who were really interested in computer security and were way beyond the script kiddie phase of their lives. I couldn’t walk very far without being stopped, and asked “Are you ‘the’ Merc? Like, the one in the book ‘Spaghetti Hacker?’”

Becoming a free software developer, part I: Why am I not a free software developer?

With all of the recent argument over the lack of women in the free software community, especially as relates to the reports from the Free/Libre/Open Source Software Group, which state that only 1.5% of the free software development community is female, and that women are actively discouraged from becoming free software developers. I decided to take a new approach and ask myself, "Why am I not a free software developer?"

Is free software “communist”? Maybe yes...

Some prominent people have called free software “communist” in an attempt to bring Cold War bugaboos to bear against the movement—a kind of “nuclear option” of FUD. I remember the paranoia of the Cold War personally, and I thought then (and I still do now) that it was “just stupid”.

So rather than react as some have done with a knee-jerk “no it’s not!”, I propose to accept the label and see where that insight takes us. Maybe there is something communist about free software? I think we will see, however, that the idea behind free software is far more radical: no less “communist” than “capitalist”, but no more so, either.

Transparency, principles, and the Microsoft way...

In its short but illustrious history the FOSS movement has been accused of being akin to communism. And while the bad old days of the McCarthy era are over, this view still makes people a bit antsy. Not many people want to be seen internationally as the reds under the bed, and using the communist label is still a convenient way of writing off somebody you don’t like. However, there have been some interesting new developments with Microsoft saying things recently that suggests a couple of things: Microsoft have decided that they will begrudgingly admit that there are some merits in open source (previously referred to by their illustrious leader as “communism”); and that Microsoft are softening in their old age and have decided that being all powerful is no fun if everyone thinks you’re the school bully.

Should we limit the terms of free software operating systems to GNU/Linux, GNU/Hurd, xBSD, OpenSolaris and the likes?

These days, when one talks about free software, the first word that comes to mind is Linux—be it the kernel or a distribution based on it (which would then be a GNU/Linux operating system, and its flavour marked by a brand name: Red Hat, SuSE, Mandriva, Debian, Ubuntu, Slackware...)

At one time, there was another project worthy of note: BeOS. It wasn’t POSIX-compatible, but it was neat. But now, only free *NIX prevail... really?

Enter ReactOS.

Never a crossword solver

Old news, the European Union is punishing Microsoft for abusing their monopoly position and in the process sucking a fine of 1-2% of the daily local profit out of the corporate wallet. The media is dancing and interested parties posturing. A high stakes festive party. One of the issues that is to the fore is that of documentation and openness. Microsoft say they have, the neutral third party arbitrating has said they have not. Reality is perhaps a little cloudy and no doubt, tactics and last minute plays will change our collective perceptions during the course of time.

Microsoft acknowledges value of open source

Ever wonder how Microsoft feels about open source? You probably remember Gates' comparison of FOSS to communism, and how the FOSS movement was threatening to undermine the vast IP empire that America depends on to keep itself on top. Needless to say, then, I was surprised to see the following statement on one of the Visual C Express about pages: "Learn from the pros by looking through – and modifying – the source to commercial games such as Allegiance and Quake."

Pay a little now, pay a lot later

Freedom of choice is an ideal. It’s also increasingly obvious that it’s almost always the most pragmatic approach, whether involving economic issues that affect billions of people or comparison shopping for a pair of jeans. Unfortunately, the people who voluntarily give up their own are the ones who can least afford to do so.

Let’s get Ron Gilbert on our side

Ron Gilbert can’t find any support for his new game project. Who’s to blame? Well, Gilbert cites unimaginative publishers who are too short-sighted to appreciate his concept. Perhaps it’s time that Gilbert considered the alternative to proprietary game development. Perhaps it’s time we offered him this alternative.

Always look on the bright side of life

Hi all, well it has been a long tiring week. Everyone has those weeks occasionally, the sort of week where the traffic lights are against you. You need to send editors the same documents a couple of times, yes even the mail server is against me and the coffee machine is broken just as you reached the point of no return. Therefore, rather than rave against the world and all its contents. I prefer to look on the bright side and then go get some sleep.

Some comments on the Gartner report on FOSS on Microsoft Windows

I had heard about the latest Gartner report claiming that Microsoft Windows will become the dominant platform for "Open Source" (and free) software in the future. While there are certainly a number of reasons why some FOSS has and will continue to be written that also runs under Microsoft Windows, I think the fundamental premise is wrong.

The social implications of free software

If you’re new to it, free software appears to be tough to shift to. It also tends to be supported by a smaller pool of techies, and has something of a steep initial learning-curve. So why shift at all? In any case, you can easily make do with illegally-copied proprietary software... right?

Wrong! That’s a lazy way of looking at things. It’s also an outdated approach, which goes back just three decades or so, when proprietary- you can’t copy it, you can’t share it—software became the norm.

Free as in “free speech” or free as in “free labour”?

Free software sustains and enables the internet. Across the world, people continue to freely contribute ideas and expertise to an important and growing movement. The internet itself was largely born out of a culture of contributing code and content in an electronic public “space” of global proportions. This has meant that the constellation of software supporting the internet, and the content that sits upon it, is to a large degree, non-market, peer-produced and free (as in “freedom” and as in “beer”). But, why do people code, hack, test, write and create free culture?

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.

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