Modified: 12 March 2010, 11:39 UTC

sabik's blog

Entries marked: FOSS
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19 April 2012, 5:13 UTCVirtualisation on the desktop?

Today installing a package is an all-or-nothing security proposition Ingo Molnar

Of course, we do have sandbox technology on Linux; it's called virtualisation. It's a bit heavy-weight, but sufficient as a proof of concept.

So, the basic functionality should be to put a PPA in its own sandbox.

I wonder whether that's a good idea or a terrible one. Would be interesting (but quite a bit of work) to find out...

Unsorted thoughts

[permalink]2 comments ‣ keywords: FOSS, idea

27 February 2012, 8:29 UTCThe Version 3 Effect

It's always version 3 :-(. Version 0 claws its way past its contenders, version 1 adds a bit of polish and stability, version 2 adds some really sweet features, version 3 they try to use as a free ride for something that should really be version 0 again.Paul Harrison

It's a bit shocking to realise, but that's right, isn't it... Gnome, Ubuntu, KDE 4, Gimp...

Given the pattern, it's hard to blame the individual participants; it's probably something about the way we develop institutions around open source projects that leads to the Version 3 Effect. In any case, it's better to focus on the future than on the past. What can we do to improve the situation?

Paul points out that it's fundamentally based in a form of exclusion. By the time of version 3, the development team is no longer sufficiently representative of users, leading to these new interfaces that are decisively breaking the deal between the two. Perhaps improving the openness and inclusivity would help.

To some extent I think it may be the standard problem with all organisations — it's really hard to wind one down even when that's the desirable outcome. Switching a project to maintenance only mode would entail quite a substantial winding down from the full-ahead development mode for which the project organisational structures were built, and which was all the project organisation has ever known, so it's hard. There isn't even really any societal expectation that that's what will happen, the only projects ever to have such a policy were Metafont and TeX (and that's mostly considered a joke or at least odd). Yet in some ways the Metafont numbering scheme, with its ever-decreasing version increments, is exactly what's needed. Plan for success.

The proper role of the organisations in question is to be the custodians of the name and reputation, and they're betraying that trust by using that name and reputation for a new, only vaguely related project. Traditionally we have relied on forking to rein in rogue custodians, but forking does nothing to protect the name and little to protect the reputation.

At the very least, we need an expectation that when such a major re-engineering takes place, a new name should be used. Rather than completely re-engineering Gimp under the hood while everybody is expecting 2.x-series stability, fork it under a new name but under the aegis of the Gimp organisation, with the Gimp 2.x series declared stable forever and the new project starting with 0.x version numbers. That way, people who rely on it for their daily bread can switch when it's ready and when they're ready; when the stability and maturity reaches acceptable levels and maybe when there's a lull in business so they have time to become comfortable with the new system. Moreover, if it has a new name, they can install both and use each for its strengths, switching gradually rather than all at once. To some extent, distributions could use a new name where the project fails to do so, even if it's just "gimp3".

So, what do we have?

Comments, observations, suggestions?

[permalink]1 comment ‣ keywords: FOSS, version3

10 January 2012, 6:41 UTC20 FOSS applications for Education

20 FOSS applications for Education by Donna Benjamin and the team at Creative Contingencies.

[permalink] ‣ keywords: link, FOSS

5 January 2012, 11:52 UTCFOSS is political

Free and Open Source Software is quite political in some respects; it engenders radically different relationship between people compared with proprietary software.

Proprietary software is centrist, created (typically) by a multinational company (MS, Apple, to some extent Google). In the language of the day, it's made by the 1%, and the 99% can affect it very little. For now, the effects have been subtle and obscure — things like NSAKEY, DRM, the restrictions of the Apple app store — but they may well be bell-weathers, signalling more substantial effects down the road. After all, could not a SOPA-like arrangement apply to operating systems?

FOSS is a lot more egalitarioan in terms of power. Sure, you need skill to affect it — but that's all you need. The organisations and leaders that exist do so at the sufferance of the community; if the community feels they're not doing a good job, the leaders are replaced, sometimes with breath-taking swiftness (as Oracle found out some months ago with and with very little impact on the software or everyday users. It's made for the 100%, by the 100%.

(There's also the copying thing, and RMS was right about that, but that's minor if this is in fact the scheme of things.)

[permalink] ‣ keyword: FOSS

28 January 2011, 9:56 UTCPiracy will be a bizarre concept

In the future, music piracy will be a bizarre concept, like pirating an encyclopaedia or a web browser... Same for movie and book piracy.

(This is basically the tweet-length version of my earlier post, Free music, movies, microcode.)

[permalink] ‣ keywords: creative, FOSS

3 December 2010, 8:41 UTCmusicxml2words released

musicxml2words is a script that converts MusicXML (a format for sheet-music scores) into a word description. For instance, it might say something like "4 - 4 time. G-clef on line 2. C4 whole." Intended for the sight-impaired student of music, it is released on the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

So far it's at the "works for me" stage, but at this stage it's probably better to get feedback on what's missing rather than continuing to work in a vacuum.

The code is up on Launchpad at

[permalink] ‣ keywords: musicxml2words, FOSS

24 November 2010, 11:34 UTCbzrbiff released

bzrbiff is a little script that watches bzr repos for new versions, pops up a systray icon when there is one. So far it's at the "works for me" stage, but there should be very little work needed to bring it up to generally useful status — mostly, just move the config out of the file itself and into ~/.bzrbiff or something. [Edit 11.12.2010: This has now been done, config goes in ~/.bzrbiff and is a bit more flexible.]

The code is up on Launchpad at

Note: I have a feeling that maybe I didn't need to write it — there's something in bzr-gtk called "LAN Notifications" that might have served. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell it has no documentation at all, just two checkboxes in the config ("Gateway to LAN" and the greyed-out "Announce on LAN"). If anyone knows what it does or where it's documented, comment please?

[permalink]1 comment ‣ keywords: bzrbiff, FOSS

3 February 2010, 13:26 UTCLink: "sell things which cannot be copied"

Better Than Free by Kevin Kelly When copies are free, you need to sell things which cannot be copied.

Well, what can't be copied? ... From my study of the network economy I see roughly eight categories of intangible value that we buy when we pay for something that could be free.

[permalink] ‣ keywords: creative, link, FOSS

13 December 2009, 7:59 UTCIntroduction to connectr

Traceback (most recent call last):
  File What is connectr?

Connectr is a distributed social network. The eventual plan is to supplant Facebook; currently, it's roughly got the functionality of Twitter, slightly simplified.

Why am I writing it?

Hosted social networks are really quite unhealthy. For an example, see the current privacy brouhaha. However, the problem is more general — the incentives for the host are all wrong as far as the users are concerned.

How to get involved?

Join in! A social network is all about the users! The previous blog post gives the details. There's a PPA, so it's easy to install in Ubuntu and similar systems. The code is up on Launchpad, if you want to join in with the development.

[permalink]4 comments ‣ keywords: connectr, FOSS

1 September 2008, 15:56 UTCFree music, movies, microcode

"kill the income, kill the production of new content"

I don't think that's true, and I don't think it's relevant; I'll address those in turn. Obviously, prediction is difficult, especially where the future is concerned; all I can hope for is a combination of analogy, reasonable extrapolation and logic. For the most part, I don't know what will happen; at best, I can give educated guesses of what might happen, and how it would not be the end of civilisation.

The grand analogy is among music, movies and microcode (software); microcode is furthest along the path to Free, movies the least. Their common theme is that today, they can be perfectly copied for negligible cost. Traditionally, they require large investments of money and effort for the fixed costs, especially movies and the larger sorts of software (compilers, operating systems, databases).

Microcode is the furthest along the path to Free, with a well-developed model of how it's produced — Open Source. No one can really claim any more that the production of new content has been killed in that field, or that the new content is somehow significantly inferior to the traditional method. That is perhaps the best reason for optimism.

Music is roughly at the stage where microcode was a couple of decades ago. It's already obvious that non-professional internet-mediated production is possible, but there's no clear business model. Most of the proposals sound very much like the GNU Manifesto of 23 years ago: for the joy of creation, for less money, paid for by a collecting society — mostly, though, nobody is really sure. The model for music that sounds most plausible is as publicity for live work.

Alternatively, some sort of collaborative music model might arise, by analogy with Open Source and wiki text editing; that would come closest to producing the content for zero cost, by spreading the costs among many people each of whom does no more than they might have done for pleasure.

Movies are even further back: non-professional production is currently very poor. There are YouTube clips, and there is machinima, but that's about it. We can already tell stories with these, sometimes compelling stories, but they won't even start to resemble traditionally-produced movies for decades.

Then there's whether the question is even relevant. The Internet with its cheap, ubiquitous copying is here. We can't stuff the genie back into the bottle without doing vast damage to ourselves, our society and civilisation. So, any business model from now on more or less has to accept the fact that copying happens.

It also has to accept that there will be Free stuff out there. It's said that if you wrap the Internet around every brain on the planet and spin the planet, software flows in the network. It seems plausible that this would apply much more strongly to the more human activities of telling stories, singing songs. Ninety percent will be crud, of course, maybe ninety-nine, but storage is cheap and filtering is doable. So any business model has to compete with Free.

Finally, the new, digital versions don't wear out. They may go out of fashion, or become objectively dated, but still — once you have 80 linear years of music or video, how much more do you really need? Beyond that, quantity doesn't really increase, only the quality (if you can solve the filtering problem, but the Internet does OK at that). So any business model has to compete with its own back-catalogue.

High-speed pizza delivery, of course, leads to an obesity epidemic.

[permalink] ‣ keywords: creative, FOSS

24 August 2008, 5:05 UTCA temporary compromise?

Various people from time to time suggest that the Linux / FOSS community should accept a temporary compromise in order to achieve some goal. Even esr's World Domination 201 essentially ends up making this suggestion. One thing they are all missing is a credible mechanism to ensure that the compromise is, indeed, temporary. If the problem is mentioned at all, it tends to be in a conclusory, passive-voice way; "must be prepared to … die", to only slightly twist esr's words, if not his meaning.

Possibly, this is simply an idea that won't work; there's nothing wrong with that, everyone has one of those. It does mean, however, that we should reject it, like we do all the other ideas that won't work. It will not help us to follow such a plan.

Possibly, the proponents intend a permanent compromise, and any talk of its being temporary is mere misdirection. Perhaps we are happy with that, but we should be honest about what it is we are doing.

Possibly, of course, they do have such a mechanism, but aren't telling us, or such a mechanism exists to be found. In that case, great — once we know what it is, we can judge it on its merits.

[permalink] ‣ keyword: FOSS

8 August 2008, 8:50 UTCA free software advocate is …

A free software advocate is a Mac user who's found his data locked in. Cory Doctorow

[permalink] ‣ keywords: link, FOSS

3 August 2008, 9:58 UTCBBC News: It's not the Gates, it's the bars

BBC News: It's not the Gates, it's the bars Microsoft would have us believe that helping your neighbour is the moral equivalent of attacking a ship.

The most important thing that Microsoft has done is to promote this unjust social system.

Gates is personally identified with it

[permalink] ‣ keywords: link, FOSS

4 November 2007, 5:17 UTCMacOS vs Linux: a difference of style

Dad's recently made an observation about a fundamental difference in style between Mac OS X and Linux programs. Basically, there are two entirely different ways of working on a computer:

Generally, OS X (and MS Windows) tends to prefer the program-centric approach, while Linux favours the data-centric one. They each have their advantages and disadvantages, of course, but the data-centric approach tends to be more flexible in the long run.

[permalink] ‣ keywords: link, FOSS

14 October 2007, 6:45 UTCOSDC 2007

Just booked for the OSDC conference. Should be good — some of the sessions look interesting, and it's good to keep up with stuff. Being on the committee of 2008, it's not like I'm going to see anything much there, so I gotta get my "keeping up" in while I can :-)

[permalink] ‣ keywords: me, FOSS

21 May 2007, 6:16 UTCMicrosoft defaming and degrading

lamlaw: Linux distributors may need to unite This issue can not ignored. Microsoft will continue to find ways to defame and degrade Linux unless it is ordered to cease doing so by a court of law.

Personally, I suspect ignoring the issue is probably the better course of action.

On the one hand, it's unpleasant to listen to it, but that's really all it is. It doesn't hurt Linux that much and in some cases it may even help.

On the other hand, a court would take years to decide anything, cost a lot of money — and for what? By that time, the specific conduct will be passé anyway and a court can't prohibit generic conduct. At least, not any more successfully than the law already prohibits it.

There are some minor things we can do; Eben Moglen is fine-tuning GPLv3 and finding loopholes in the MS-Novell deal, various people are responding to MS claims of infringed patents with (effectively) "name three", things like that.

For a regular person, though, the most effective response is to keep contributing to Linux to make it the best ever.

[permalink]1 comment ‣ keywords: link, FOSS

15 February 2007, 10:09 UTCLink: Software That Lasts 200 Years

Software That Lasts 200 Years The structure and culture of a typical prepackaged software company is not attuned to the long-term needs of society for software that is part of its infrastructure. This essay discusses the ecosystem needed for development that better meets those needs.

[permalink] ‣ keywords: link, FOSS

2 February 2007, 14:22 UTCOn proprietary drivers

FSFLA newsletter editorial (via Groklaw news picks) responding to ESR's World Domination 201 and other suggestions to accept proprietary programs and drivers in Linux:

The flaw in the argument is the assumption that the users lured in with convenience as the bait would give us leverage to obtain more freedom. Why would they? The convenience afforded by non-Free drivers, firmware and codecs would grow our community with people who don't share our values and goals. If these people were not willing to trade convenience for freedom before, why would they stand by our side when we reached critical mass and demanded our freedoms back?

Those who won't take part in rejecting hardware, DRMed works and non-Free Software for the sake of freedom today would probably remain so in the future, unless they learn to appreciate the value of freedom. But if more and more people in the community are willing to sacrifice freedom and not even mention it for the sake of growing the community faster, how are the new users going to learn about freedom? As the voices for freedom get dilluted in a larger but weaker community, freedoms may actually be eroded, as vendors who now respect them, because of the strong voices for freedom, cease to do so as the same voices get lost in the noise.

That's the most fundamental argument against WD-201, really: if we surrender our principles now, "temporarily", what mechanism have we to reclaim them later?

[permalink] ‣ keywords: FOSS, link

30 December 2006, 11:28 UTCWorld Domination in 2007

ESR suggests that 2007 and 2008 will be key to the wide acceptance of linux because of the transition from 32-bit to 64-bit hardware — during a transition, people are looking for a new operating system anyway.

Not quite sure if it's as clear as all that, but if it is, it's perhaps good timing: Linux does seem to be reasonably well-poised…

[permalink] ‣ keywords: link, FOSS

24 November 2006, 10:53 UTC"IP bridge" as in …?

"IP bridge" as in "I have a bridge to sell you"?

"In fact, forget sell — I'll pay you $400 million to take the bridge."

Yeah. It probably wasn't quite like that :-)

[permalink] ‣ keyword: FOSS

20 November 2006, 10:08 UTCNovell-Microsoft deal violates the GPL

Moglen says that the SFLC has completed its review of the arrangement between Microsoft and Novell and has had "full cooperation" from Novell, and that the SFLC is now working to come to an arrangement with Novell.

"They have showed us what we need to see, they have answered our questions, we had complete and unfettered access to senior executives at Novell.... We are now working by peaceable negotiations to protect our client's legal interest, and we see no likelihood that we're going to adopt steps that involve the use of legal compulsion. If we are unable to work the situation out peacefully, that may change."Samba asks Novell to scuttle Microsoft deal (via Groklaw)

If they are negotiating, that means there's something to negotiate about; in other words, the agreement as it currently stands violates the GPL.

Which seemed likely, given the public descriptions and especially Steve Ballmer's recent statements; but it's interesting to know it violates the letter as well as the spirit.

We'll see how they work it out.

[permalink] ‣ keywords: link, FOSS

9 November 2006, 6:20 UTCOn "Intellectual Property"

In some ways, taking copyright, patents, trademarks and various other laws and lumping them together as 'intellectual property' is like taking tables, apples, vases, books and various other things and lumping them together as 'still life'.

Apples and vases are quite different things and neither of them are really life. Similarly trademarks and plant-breeders' rights are quite different things and neither of them are really property.

There are situations where the designation Still Life makes sense; most of the time, though, it's simply confusing.

[permalink] ‣ keywords: FOSS, creative

9 November 2006, 6:15 UTCLink: Copyright explained through a wild west metaphor

“Bounty Hunters” (via Boing Boing) This book introduces the metaphor of authors and inventors as Bounty Hunters. The public offers a bounty to any individual willing to create some as-yet-undiscovered work. Creators provide a "service" in the same vein as a Bounty Hunter provides a service of catching bad guys. Creators are rewarded for their service as a function of the labor put into it and the risk taken to be successful. The community sets the reward to be as low as possible but just high enough that a Bounty Hunter collects. Read about the metaphorical town of "Eureka" and see how the history of intellectual works fit within this metaphor.

[permalink] ‣ keywords: link, FOSS, creative

8 November 2006, 14:17 UTCPhone + GPS runnning FOSS

A truly open Linux phone with GPS debuts (via Groklaw news picks) The point is simple, where others have a Linux kernel with a locked proprietary stack on top of it, this one is open, top to bottom. You can use your own tools on it, compile your own kernel. and bang on the bare metal if you are into that sort of thing. Everything barring a few small drivers is GPL'ed.

*This* is the gadget you want when you're running Urban Pac-Man.

[permalink] ‣ keywords: link, FOSS

31 October 2006, 9:33 UTCLink: OSIA submission re: the new copyright act

OSIA submission re: copyright amendment 2006 (PDF, 10 pages, 395KB)

Highlights (paraphrased by me):

As usual, Brendan Scott has done a great job; all the more so this time, with the unreasonably short deadline. My brief paraphrases really don't do it justice — go read the full document!

[permalink]1 comment ‣ keywords: link, DRM, FOSS, copyright 2006

21 October 2006, 6:24 UTCDRM = Device is Rigged to Malfunction

Cute expansion of "DRM" to "Device is Rigged to Malfunction" in Linux: GPLv3, DRM, and Exceptions.

Also a nice set of three reasons why DRM is bad for Free Software:

Go read the original article

[permalink] ‣ keywords: DRM, link, FOSS

22 September 2006, 16:18 UTCLink: why the GPL rocketed Linux to success

GPL, BSD, and NetBSD - why the GPL rocketed Linux to success (via Groklaw news picks) So while the BSDs have lost energy every time a company gets involved, the GPL'ed programs gain every time a company gets involved. And that explains it all.

He suggests that the GPL ensures that companies cooperate in a consortium-like arrangement, while BSD encourages fork-close-sell - with each fork dividing the pool of developers. It's still possible to cooperate, but it's a Prisoner Dilemma situation; the GPL stops defection, so in the long term it works better.

[permalink] ‣ keywords: link, FOSS

12 September 2006, 15:38 UTCReputation?

As far as I know, ESR's essay is based on insight while the wikipedia story is based on a preliminary study of a few random articles (200 in the first followup).

I wonder what gives?

Anonymous contributors certainly don't do it to gain prestige...

[permalink] ‣ keywords: creative, FOSS

8 September 2006, 9:28 UTCNZ government supports tivoisation?

Well, maybe. It sounds more like somebody's made a mistake and prefers to compound it rather than admit it.

In any case, though, according to press reports the official statement quite openly supports tivoisation (to enable DRM, no less).

Boing Boing: New Zealand redefines open source as "code you can't modify" (quoting a spokesman for the State Services Commission) "DRM on its own largely depends on users not being able to see how it works, but when combined with trusted computing it is possible to create DRM schemes where people know how they work but can't circumvent them."

Once again, all we can really say is "RMS was right".

Tivoised Open Source constitutes little more than lip-service to both Open Source and Free Software. It betrays the fundamental principles and destroys the practical value. Pretending otherwise, as here, merely insults our intelligence.

Of course, as I wrote, it's more likely that a mistake has been made and compounded rather than admitted. I would expect that Open Source and DRM were studied by different committees, which did not communicate, and the incompatibility was only noticed when both policies were made public. However, loath to admit an error, they instead compounded it by hurriedly coming up with this hare-brained comment.

[permalink] ‣ keywords: FOSS, DRM

31 August 2006, 4:16 UTCLink: Should you use Ubuntu for your Digital Audio Workstation?

Should you use Ubuntu for your Digital Audio Workstation? Using Ubuntu, a popular, easy and well rounded flavor of Linux, you can make yourself a really great performing Digital Audio Workstation for nothing more than the cost of a computer, and chances are you already have a computer than can handle it. I will go over how you can go about this, as well as the pros and cons of doing so.

And pros and cons he does list, very nicely. It's nominally oriented toward audio use, but most of his comments apply generally. It's written as an introduction to a series, so maybe subsequent installments (with the practical how-to) will be more specific, or maybe not, but certainly this introduction is good reading for anyone who's considering using Linux for any purpose.

If you get into it enough, you may even rapport with the developers and help implement options and features.

This point, perhaps, deserves emphasis: taking part in the development - even just reporting bugs and wish-lists and discussing them with the developers - helps shape the software to do what you want. You don't even particularly need to know how to program; all you need to be able to do is to clearly describe what the software is doing and what you think it should be doing instead.

It helps the developers, too; they can test it in their laboratory conditions, but there's no substitute for reports of actual, real-world use - and actual, real-world problems.

[permalink] ‣ keywords: FOSS, link

19 August 2006, 5:53 UTCLink: Our faulty intuition about open systems

A closed mind about an open world (via Boing Boing) Call it the openness aversion. We are likely to undervalue the importance, viability and productive power of open systems, open networks and non-proprietary production.

[permalink] ‣ keywords: FOSS, creative, link

2 May 2006, 4:19 UTCGPL and innovation

The difference between GPL and BSD as far as innovation is concerned is the style of innovation that they support.

GPL assumes (and supports) evolutionary, incremental innovation. One person has a little idea, another builds on it and so on until the end of time. The GPL stops people breaking the chain of innovation.

BSD assumes (and supports) creationist, all-at-once innovation. One person or small team has a grand idea, they implement it and that's it. It may spread far and wide, but nobody's expected to improve on it, really. The proprietary software model is similar, only more so: one company has whatever ideas it has and nobody else is expected to make any improvements at all.

Which model is better probably does depend on the situation; but I would suspect that most fields will do better with the incremental, GPL style.

[permalink] ‣ keyword: FOSS

25 April 2006, 15:42 UTCOpportunity cost of binary drivers (and applications)

Recently, various people have been talking about the problems of binary-only drivers for linux - Groklaw, Linux Kernel developers, RMS (who also mentions binary-only applications)...

Yeah, both Linux Kernel developers and RMS see this as a problem.

The problem here is that using a binary driver gives a short-term, individual advantages but imposes a long-term, community opportunity cost. For the individual, their 3D-card works, now. For the community, though, it's a foregone opportunity to put pressure on nVidia and/or ATI to open up their drivers (or document their cards and let someone else write open drivers for them).

(In the case of proprietary applications - RMS's "Prophecy database" - the opportunity cost is that of foregoing improvement of the FOSS replacement, even if only by filing bugs against it or asking real-life questions on the developers' mailing list.)

[permalink] ‣ keyword: FOSS

23 April 2006, 7:17 UTCLink: Five reasons NOT to use Linux

Five reasons NOT to use Linux Even with the KDE and GNOME graphical windowing interfaces, it's possible -- not likely, but possible -- that you'll need to use a command line now and again, or edit a configuration file.

Compare that with Windows where, it's possible -- not likely, but possible -- that you'll need to use a command line now and again, or edit the Windows registry, where, as they like to tell you, one wrong move could destroy your system forever.

[permalink] ‣ keywords: FOSS, link

24 March 2006, 12:55 UTCMicrosoft on the run

Forbes: Ballmer, Bemused (via Groklaw news picks) Ballmer: We have to outrun this phenomenon. And I think we're doing a good job of it. But if we let up for a minute, I think there are issues. You would say to me, if we stop, if we're no longer more functional, if we're no longer a time saver, if we're no longer compatible, then that other stuff will gain traction.

Either they are very very confident, or very very doomed. Possibly both.

[permalink] ‣ keywords: link, FOSS

17 March 2006, 12:10 UTC20% of companies use Linux on the desktop

CIO Insights: 30 Trends for 2006: Pursuit of the Frictionless Business Platform (via Groklaw comment) That research shows that CIOs are now trying to create a frictionless infrastructure. Companies need to be flexible, fast and informed to survive in the "flat" global economy described by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. CIOs are on a mission to build a technology base that will not impede the free flow of information, the availability of applications or the malleability of business processes.

Among other things, trends 28 and 29 say that 81% have deployed FOSS, of which 87% use Linux, and of those 28% use it on the desktop. If I'm counting it right, that means almost 20% of companies surveyed use Linux on the desktop.

Note that this is counting executives rather than desktops, and doesn't make any statement about ratio of Linux to other desktops at those companies. Still, 20% is quite a large number; as are the other numbers in those trends.

[permalink] ‣ keyword: FOSS

16 March 2006, 8:23 UTCLink: 25 Reasons to Convert to Linux

25 Reasons to Convert to Linux Businesses, educational institutions, governmental agencies and other organizations around the world are converting1 their computer operating systems from Microsoft Windows to Linux at an increasing pace. They are likewise converting their application programs from commercial software to free software (also referred to as open source software). There are at least 25 reasons for this situation ...

(previous post, with my six reasons)

[permalink] ‣ keywords: FOSS, link

13 March 2006, 14:29 UTCLink: Security Fixes Come Faster With Mozilla

Security Fixes Come Faster With Mozilla For at least 38 days in 2005, Internet Explorer was vulnerable to unpatched critical security flaws that were being exploited actively by viruses, worms and spyware. For at least 256 days last year, Internet Explorer contained unpatched vulnerabilities where the exploit method had been publicly disclosed but was not necessarily being used.

By contrast, Firefox users were exposed to potential threats that might take advantage of publicly released exploit code for only 17 days. I could not find any public reports of viruses, spyware or worms using those exploits during the time that the Firefox vulnerabilities were unpatched.

By my count, that makes 70% vulnerability for IE and below 5% for Firefox.

(previous posts: similar figures for 2004, reasons to switch to firefox)

[permalink] ‣ keywords: FOSS, link

20 January 2006, 9:11 UTCSustainability in the Software Ecosystem

(originally written in February 2004)

Lately, Microsoft and others have been talking about a software ecosystem. While the metaphor is not entirely accurate, in some important ways it does fit.

One of those ways is the parallel between proprietary software licenses and suicide genes of GM fame.

In the traditional model, the farmer keeps a part of last year's harvest to seed the next year's generation of plants. Similarly, in Open Source, programmers use last year's generation of software to seed next year's. The cycle repeats and allows the local community to be self-sufficient.

The proprietary software license and the suicide gene break this cycle. Suddenly, to access the next generation, the farmer or the programmer must purchase it from a large multinational whose name begins with M.

In some ways, one might call it a tax - but it supports not the public good, rather lines the pockets of the already-rich; but there is no oversight, so it may be raised or lowered capriciously, at the manufacturer's whim; but there is no representation in its assessment.

[permalink] ‣ keyword: FOSS

3 December 2005, 8:07 UTCLink: The Complete Story of the Vienna Conclusions

Groklaw: The Complete Story of the Vienna Conclusions ~by Georg C. F. Greve When flipping through the text, I was quite shocked to find references to Free Software removed and a pro-DRM statement inserted in the findings of the "Digital Rights/Creative Commons" workshop

[permalink] ‣ keywords: link, DRM, FOSS

28 October 2005, 12:19 UTCFreedom in Digital Age

Dad had a meeting with our representative today; here's Dad's report:

I sent a private letter to my federal MP, Hon Chris Pearce (Aston) in September. I expressed concern about freedom in digital age in my letter, especially about patents, which are used as a major tool to create and enforce monopoly of large players and about TPM (technological protection measures) and DMCA-like provisions and stronger copyright rights which further strengthen position of big players. I mentioned a few examples in my letter and suggested that I would be able to explain in more detail and present real life examples if Hon Chris Pearce MP would be interested.

As a response to my letter I was invited to discuss "freedom in digital age" with Hon Chris Pearce MP on 28/10. Three main issues were briefly discussed during the thirty minute meeting:

a) Problem of "autonomous activities" when products act on their own, not always in the interest of their owner. Examples discussed: Mobile phone reporting position, colour laser jet printer which secretly marks prints with date & serial number and passport which broadcast personal data to anybody in vicinity with reader and interest.

b) Worries about enhanced DRM systems which may limit time-shifting and directly control user behaviour (eg block skipping of advertisements etc) were mentioned (essentially discussing possible impact of DRM, TPM, DMCA and CPCM but without any details or without talking about individual systems).

c) Worries about impact of DRM systems as per above on alternative OS - Linux were expressed, line of reasoning being that as the Linux main target is satisfaction of user (as opposite to proprietary system main target being profit) Windows have no chance to out-compete Linux on technical aspects. Angle of attack, using DRM (video etc) patents etc is therefore only way how to cripple Linux. In this situation decisions of parliament become extremely important - they may either defend fair use and fair access for everybody or they may provide sinister leverage for big players.

MS EULA was also mentioned as an explanation why I personally switched over to Linux, specifically section which states "You agree that ... Microsoft may provide ... updates to the OS Components that will be automatically downloaded onto your computer. These ... updates may disable your ability to copy and/or play Secure Content and use other software on your computer."

The last issue which I had on mind for this meeting was question of open document formats (Massachusetts story...), but in the end I did not raise it as I felt that it would be impossible to spend enough time on it.

I did not expect nor ask for any specific response or action, my aim was to raise awareness of various, perhaps not quite obvious impacts of current legislation. I am not sure how well I managed to express myself - complex issues were mentioned in a very short time span - but I had certainly very attentive partner, interested in the issues I raised.

(next entry (on Dad's blog))

[permalink] ‣ keywords: FOSS, DRM, patent

21 October 2005, 7:48 UTCSwitching to FOSS - a large user perspective

There's a story on Groklaw about large-scale transitions to Open source - in particular, various European (and non-European) public administrations. This is for desktop use - and Linux.

In the initial target group, of all the interviewed users, roughly half found that OOo 1.1.x was feature-wise comparable to the commercial version of Office used, while the other half found it less powerful but sufficient to finish all tasks (it is my personal guess that OOo 2.0 would have made it a much smaller percentage).

I guess "sufficient to finish all tasks" means that FOSS is ready for the desktop, after all :-)

The linked site contains various practical resources, too, like training materials in half a dozen European languages (from English to Hungarian...), templates, leaflets, knowledge base...

[permalink] ‣ keyword: FOSS

27 September 2005, 0:06 UTC"An historic token"

The Yates letter is an historic token of the moment Microsoft lost control of the markets it has dominated for ten years.
--Sam Hiser - What has Microsoft done for Massachusetts lately? - NewsForge

Hmm, not sure it's as portentous as all that (though I certainly hope so), but it's still nice phrasing :-)

[permalink] ‣ keyword: FOSS

25 September 2005, 7:02 UTCPsychology and FOSS

ISTR reading somewhere that people cope better with adverse circumstances if they have some control over them, even if they don't actually exercise such control.

I wonder how much that helps Open Source - to what extent people are better willing to accept irritations in software if they can fix it, even if they actually don't...

[permalink] ‣ keyword: FOSS

23 September 2005, 8:36 UTCOpen Formats in Massachusetts

It looks like Massachusetts isn't falling for Microsoft misdirection after all. They've just specified the OASIS OpenDocument and Adobe PDF formats as the preferred formats for office documents...

Go Massachusetts!

PS: Groklaw take on the story and followup

[permalink] ‣ keyword: FOSS

15 September 2005, 15:47 UTCMorality of sharing

While looking up stuff for the previous entry, I came across this quote:

Many users unconsciously recognize the wrong of refusing to share, so they decide to ignore the licenses and laws, and share programs anyway. But they often feel guilty about doing so. They know that they must break the laws in order to be good neighbors, but they still consider the laws authoritative, and they conclude that being a good neighbor (which they are) is naughty or shameful. Why Software Should Be Free

I've read it before, but it's good to be reminded of these things from time to time... It only needs one word changed to make it apply to the ongoing p2p filesharing brouhaha, too.

This doesn't advocate copyright infringement; it advocates a fundamental change in the way music (or, back then, software) is created.

Do we want a world where music sets neighbour against neighbour, friend against friend, father against son - or do we want a world where music binds us together?

[permalink] ‣ keywords: creative, FOSS

15 September 2005, 8:47 UTCOpen Source vs. Mandatory Restrictions

The Australian Government is asking for submissions on the topic of technological protection measures (TPM) exceptions. It's a bit late (the FTA already having been signed), but there is still the possibility of adding some exceptions or clarifying some of the definitions. Submissions are due by 7 October 2005.

My submission...

Now submitted; if nothing else, that will stop me wasting any more time thinking about it :-)

Technically I think it's still a draft, because the Committee hasn't formally published it yet, but it is what I sent in, and (if I understand things correctly) the only thing I lose by posting it here and now is Parliamentary Privilege...

Open Source vs. Mandatory Restrictions (PDF, 72K, 5 pages)

Update 12.10.2005: The submission is now up on the committee page - printed out, stamped, scanned in, converted to pdf, and only about 3½ times bigger for all that...

[permalink] ‣ keywords: DRM, FOSS

14 September 2005, 6:32 UTCSize of Debian

According to a recent study, Debian would cost US$8 billion and take over 8 years to develop from scratch... Obviously, such numbers are almost entirely bogus, but still nice to read :-)

[permalink] ‣ keyword: FOSS

12 September 2005, 5:30 UTCIf I want software to do exactly what I want...

"If I want software to do exactly what I want, the sure way to make it happen is to write it myself." --PJ

A thought which seems so obvious to me that I hardly think to mention it; but of course it's not obvious, not to non-programmers.

Taking part in the development helps shape the software to do what I want. Even just trying it out and reporting problems shapes it (though not nearly as effectively as actually programming). It's a strong, pragmatic reason to be involved in the FOSS community.

[permalink] ‣ keywords: top10, FOSS

11 September 2005, 4:42 UTCLinux in space

According to SpaceRef (link via Con Zymaris), the ISS crew will be transitioning to new software on their laptops, which among other things runs Linux instead of Solaris.

[permalink] ‣ keywords: FOSS, space

8 June 2005, 10:08 UTCThe Beguiling GNU GPL

The GNU GPL is a legal document written in plain language and means (legally) more or less what it says (plainly). It may have brought up a generation of programmers to expect that legal documents can be written in plain language and mean what they say - and to expect them to be written that way.

I wonder if that's contributing to the disagreement about Microsoft's patent license...

Microsoft probably is trying to play cute. However, to us programmers it might appear even more cute than it was ever intended. We are used to clear licenses; Microsoft is used to 100-page monsters.

[permalink] ‣ keywords: FOSS, patent

24 March 2005, 14:27 UTCWhy Linux?

Recently, I've had several opportunities to be asked why I use Linux (and would rather not use MS Windows), and each time I gave two or three aspects of the reason - which, on their own, don't nearly give the whole story...

Why, then, Linux and Open Source rather than MS?

Last updated 12.5.2004

(next post)

[permalink] ‣ keywords: top10, FOSS

28 December 2004, 15:35 UTCAmazing. Simply amazing.

''There are corporations that literally don't know what lurks in their code,"

Would you buy a car like that? From a company that doesn't keep records of what parts it builds its cars from, where they are coming from, what grade steel it's using or even whether the parts have been paid for or just stolen?

Yet, to read this article in the Boston Globe (the above quote comes from page 2), you'd think those were all normal and proper in the software industry, and open-source somehow at fault for exposing the companies in question to "nuisance" lawsuits.

In reality, of course, it is their own lack of controls that exposes them to litigation. If their employees infringe other people's copyrights ("pirate", to use the recording industry's hyperbole), on the job and for the job, then respondeat superior: the company is rightly responsible.

The supposed legal exposure, though, is the least of their problems; most open-source authors will settle for cure of breach, anyway. The other issues arising from this lack of control will dominate - poor quality, poor security, poor reliability.

[permalink] ‣ keyword: FOSS

14 December 2004, 15:13 UTCFOSS as a consortium

One way to think of FOSS (or FLOSS, if you prefer) is as a consortium of programmers. Of the conventional, "familiar" boxes into which people have tried to shoe-horn it, it's probably the closest.

There are some special points worth noting, but they're all fairly minor and/or close to the traditional consortium anyway:

[permalink] ‣ keyword: FOSS

3 November 2004, 13:39 UTCThe unsustainable Open Source

In response to Richard Epstein's "Why open source is unsustainable" and James Boyle's reply "Give me liberty and give me death?"

James Boyle writes that an analysis of Richard Epstein's legal concerns would require an extended article; in fact it's much simpler than that. Professor Epstein's concerns seem to be summarised in a single sentence about two thirds into the piece: "Once the contract protection lapses, then the open source movement is left only to its copyright remedies, which are likely to prove far weaker."

The answer, I'm afraid, reads only "we know". Copyright remedies are all we ever wanted. The GPL was never meant to be a contract. That's why the GPL says "you're not required to accept this" (§5) - Prof. Epstein's article could've been much more concise if he'd based it on this provision instead.

Update 10.11.2004: a lightly edited version of the above has been published as a letter to the editor.

[permalink] ‣ keyword: FOSS

30 October 2004, 3:37 UTCThank you, Microsoft

As a member of the Free and Open Source community, I would like to extend my thanks to Microsoft for its prodigious efforts in marketing the idea that Linux and Open Source software are a direct and worthwhile competitor to Microsoft's Windows platform and applications - a competitor which should therefore be considered and evaluated by any business or government presently using Microsoft's products.

For example, Steve Ballmer, Chief Executive Officer of Microsoft Corporation, recently penned a letter which has generated great publicity for Linux and Open Source software globally.

Through Microsoft's immense marketing muscle and advertising budgets, we can expect an increased presence of Linux and Open Source in the media. Already, Microsoft is funding campaigns which draw attention to Linux in almost every major IT and business publication around the world. This free attention is helping spur ever greater interest in Linux and Open Source software - which is wonderful news for the Open Source community.

We in the Free and Open Source community welcome every additional dollar that Microsoft spends bringing Linux and Open Source to the attention of the world's computer users and thank Microsoft wholeheartedly for their generosity.

Based on a draft by Con Zymaris.

Update 2.11.2004: OSIA eventually sent out a re-worked version of Con's draft as a press release, which appeared for instance in ZDNet UK / Australia and CXO Today .

[permalink] ‣ keyword: FOSS