Showing posts with label politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label politics. Show all posts

Byebye Skype for Linxu and Android

So Microsoft bought Skype. I guess that means the Skype clients for Linux and Android will be even more neglected (or removed) and Windows Mobile and Xbox clients created instead. Good, that GNU started work on a Skype alternative and Google implements audio and video chat on Android with GChat, because now we will need it I'm afraid.

Microsoft's FUD machinery is on full power again

Remember the good old times when Microsoft always claimed Linux would violate its patents? Well, now Android is the big bad show stopper preventing Microsoft from gaining the next monopoly, those poor guys... but of course they won't just take it. So here comes the good old FUD.

Why I'm *not* Signing Up for Google Chrome OS Pilot Program

It's been all over the news that Google is starting a pilot program for it's Chrome OS, which I expect to be out within a few months. The pilot program is probably meant to get the last polish for the system. As my readers will know I'm always excited about new technology, especially dealing with Linux. But here's why I ended up not even trying to get into the program:

Understanding the Necessity of Wayland

Questioning the necessity for Wayland and the wiseness of the choice has become a phenomena, especially after Mark Shuttleworth annouced Ubuntu's plans to eventually switch to Wayland. Following I will provide a concise reasoning why we want Wayland. At the end there are some more links for further reading.

In 1984 the MIT started X11.
In 1991, XFree86 started out of the X386 server based on the X11 platform.
In 2003, Xorg took over from XFree86 after a license dispute.
In 2008, Wayland was started to overhaul the entire system and keep only what's necessary for the desktop today, using only today's modern infrastructure in a leightweight architecture.

Help with Stopping Software Patents in Europe

I know this is quite political, but it's open source politics: A new initiative has been taken to propose a EU directive that prevents software patents. I have just signed the petition and invite you do to so as well.

Remember to click the link in the email you will receive from them to confirm your signature.

Please don't start a flamewar of any kind here. But you are welcome to post any other comments.

The Essence of Open Source

Imagine your computer breaks down. It doesn't power on anymore. Now imagine you're not allowed to open it and the only person who may fix it would be the producer. It would probably take weeks for you to send it in, get the machine fixed. That's if the error was found and it got fixed. And then it might end up being pretty expensive. Because there's a monopoly on the repairs.

That's exactly how closed source software works. And that's exactly why you should prefer open source software. The more important the software, the more important that it's open source.

Bye Bye Privacy

The New Year begins with complete Connection Data Retention in Germany. This means e.g. your IP is logged every time you go online and many other things. The same happens more or less across the entire European Union. A sad day for citizen's rights such as privacy and anonymity.

Digital Traces

The New York Times has a very interesting article about the digital traces we leave and a completely new generation of Big Brother approaching.

Is the World Ready for a Cyberwar?

After reading a lot in the media about the so called cyber war, I wonder: How well prepared are the nations? In the media it seems as if Russia and China had active cyber warriors sitting and waiting to get into action or if not already attacking. But I can hardly imagine that any technologically advanced nation would not have highly professional IT security experts available...

What do you think? Or are the US cyber warriors just more sneaky? Would the US invent the internet for military reasons and then just sit there while everybody else seems to be putting up their armies? Could a cyber war lead to a real war? Are plain computers the 21st century's war machines?

The Infallible Ticket Machine - When Machines Do Make Mistakes

The LinuxJournal posted a great article about good and bad consequences of technology.

I have had similar thoughts. What people may forget is the problems you may get into with machines and that they do make mistakes. But let me tell you what happened to me.

I went to buy train tickets. They were non-refundable day tickets valid for one day only (not 24 hours).

I went to the machine. I chose the type of ticket. Then I chose a date. Then I chose to take two of them. Then I paid and left. A few hours later I looked closely at my tickets and found out that it did not apply the choice of date to both tickets. One of them was valid only for yesterday. I had bought them at about 11.45 pm. And yesterday was now already past.

Okay, there were several problems: The machine should have warned before selling you a day ticket that would be valid only for 15 minutes. It should actually automatically select the next day then. But the very least it must of course apply your choice of day to the tickets when in the last step it asks you for the number of tickets.

Okay, I thought, no problem. Luckily there are still humans. I went to a service person. The date and time of purchase were printed on the ticket, so it was an obvious situation. I told them about it and was quite surprised about their reaction.

The tickets are non-refundable they told me. That I aleady knew. I said again that I told two tickets and that the date was not applied. They told me I must have made a mistake when ordering them, so it was my fault. That kind of remark is hard to deal with, especially if you're earning money with IT services. I tried to explain this to them and they informed me that machines don't make mistakes.

Ah. That was new to me. I gave up with her and went to another service person somewhere else:

I: Hi, I've gotten the wrong ticket from the ticket machine.
S: Well, the tickets are non-refundable.
I: Oh yes, I know. But I didn't choose that ticket.
S: Then it wouldn't have printed it - you must have made the wrong choices.
I: Aha. (explaining the choices). Could the problem be with the machine?
S: No, there is no problem with the machines. You should simply buy the tickets one by one.
I: And now?
S: You're too late to exchange it now. Try writing a letter to the central custumer service department.

By now I had no time to buy new tickets and had to run to catch my train. It turned out that the train personell didn't even notice the difference in dates when checking my tickets. So luckily in the end a human error helped me avoid problems after the machine's error.

In the end I quite agree with his critic view on technology: One should always keep in mind that machines do make mistakes. And when they do, it can be extremely hard to impossible to convince people of it.

More About Being a Good Citizen in an Open Source World

After looking into the source of Android, Metthew Garrett tells us about his disappointment with the underlying code. And with his example of iPhone vs. Android a heated debate was of course not far:

Who is the worse open source citizen, Google, Apple or nobody? And I posted a little comment as well:

Google is to blame for doing open source(Linux), but the wrong way(hotfix instead of a good solution).
Apple is to blame for doing open source(BSD), but the wrong way(bad or no community "backfeed").

What's worse is a matter of taste. I also think Apple is the worse open source participant. They give back so little to the community it makes me sad. (Then they restrict the app store in ways that prevents competition, etc.)

Google does not do much for the community, though it says it tries. But honestly, if you would put their effort into relation with what money they make through open source software, it's really very sad, too. And the companies PR departments would be silly if they wouldn't make sure it looks like a serious effort.

But they both gain a lot and give a little. Google may state what they wish - considering their resources they give little. They could employ at least a few expert kernel hackers pro bono. Otherwise they will get an identity crisis a little like Ubuntu currently: People want to know they are part of bringing things forward.

And this shows the problems with current open source licenses in my view: The companies still don't really have to give useful "back-feed" to the open source projects (far from being in relation with what they gain).

What if the EU would decide that every device must come with open source drivers? Or if someone wrote a license that requires at least 1% of the profits from the open source project to flow back into the project? It would of course be very good for the projects. But in a second step I am convinced it would be at least as useful from a macroeconomic point of view:

Less development effort would be duplicated and the code quality would constantly increase.

Of course the big problem with this approach is finding out how much money is made with a project. That would be the job for courts to decide. And currently I can't think of any really good measurement possibilites. But then with 1% of the profits I'm sure it would not hurt a company anyway.

"Begging the Software Gods"

"Begging the Software Gods" is an interesting read about what choices we make in Software and what they mean. A nice work of open source politics. I think I would not understate to say he is preaching open source ethics.

But I have one point to make: Unless you are (or employ) a mighty programmer, you are not as free as you feel after reading the article from your Linux system. ;-)

The point he makes is true and good. But in my view having a freedom is worth no more than you have the actual concrete ability to use it and gain direct benefit from it.

Now I think it should be made easier to actually do it, to benefit from that freedom. But e.g. finding a suitable programmer is often still complicated and not every open source project has a place to e.g. offer bounties. As he sais: it is not always an easy choice, but a worthy choice.

You have the freedom, but you can only really use it when you have someone with programming skills. And he did not mention that. (Of course that's not his point.)

The point I'm trying to make is that an infrastructure that enables the average non-programmer user (e.g. through money) to really take advantage of these freedoms (customize software) without much effort would have a positive effect for the open source community. It would give provide money to the programmers and help users in realizing the open source freedoms.

Now the other cool then is that you might actually get a programmer to write a feature for the same money you would have paid for a closed source software (esp. Microsoft Office vs. OpenOffice). And when you do, everybody can profit from that. If more people would see that and act like it, the whole community would profit.

TV International?

I still wonder why TV is not really international yet. We have endless countries with interesting TV channels. Especially US channels would probably get a lot of international viewers, as many people speak English and they often show things earlier than the TV stations in other countries.

But they don't broadcast their channels. At first they always claimed it would not be feasible technically, until Zattoo came along and proved what was clear before: Where there is a will, there is a way.

Now the TV stations claim they don't own the rights. Or they go online for some regions like And I still think: Where there's a will, there's a way. How long do we have to wait, until the Internet tears down the borders of TV stations?

How long until it will be possible to legally and comfortably watch your favorite TV series when it first aired.

Apple's Lock-In Syndrome

Apple is locking iPhone users into their rigid software framework through the App Store: They would not let people develop interfaces to Gmail and now they prevent the great Opera Mini from being ported to the iPhone.

Adobe Flash has also been ported, but is kept away from the iPhone by Apple.

So if you've wanted to buy an iPhone, reconsider. It's buggy and Apple won't let you install any software that might "duplicate" available functions. They should be honest and say software that competes with theirs.

Source: Heise Article [german original]

Google's Lack of Response to Security Threats

Google criticized a security researcher for publishing information about a security vulnerability in the android platform. They had no reason and don't do anything to motivate researchers tells us the article at cnet.

When Community does not Help: Ubuntu Maintainers keep their hands still about NetworkManager Memory Leak

There is a bug report about the current networkmanager memory leak at launchpad since March now. At that time the current Release was not even out. But the maintainers at Ubuntu are so passionately careless about it that they haven't even commented on it since then.

There are several people watching the bug and of course thousands affected with NetworkManager being in the standard installation of at least Ubuntu and Kubuntu, but the maintainers keep their hands still. A fix is also out and has been successfully applied and a package was released, too. It just never went into the current distribution.

This shows how the community can care so much about important bugs, if the appropriate people don't respond, many Linux users are just as helpless as when they use Windows. But I really doubt that such a major memory leak would remain unfixed for such a long time even in any current Microsoft product.

A shame...

If you want the bug fixed for you, you can do so manually, I posted links to the fixed packages a while ago.

Strip Mining of Open Source

Two people, one idea. Richard Hillesley from IT PRO also writes about companies who don't give back to the open source community, like Apple.

It makes for an interesting read and I think his article is much better researched than my own I posted here recently. And showing the dangers of some open source licenses he concludes developers should be careful in their choice of open source licenses.

The GPL, he concludes, not only protects from "strip mining" companies, but also (though IMO less well reasoned) from fragmentation and forking of the code.

It seems Hillesley's article is a response to an article by Fleury.

Open Source Donation Center

Reading a news update on Phoronix I had a nice idea: Why isn't there a place to make a spread donation to open source projects. You get everything for free on Linux, but you'd like to give some money for improving the software you use.

Imagine there's a simple single place where you can donate to different software projects and for different purposes. They could of course also offer memberships, bounties and support contract models, mascots, licenses etc. And the software projects wouldn't have to deal with the legal and financial issues involved but just get the money.

Especially Xorg needs more support and I guess a couple paid employees wouldn't hurt. Situations like that could be sought out and dealt with by a Linux task force. I guess someone like the Linux Foundation might be a good starting point.