Apr 11, 2012 GMTUsually, I'm not slow to give an opinion. However, after reading Ryan Funduk's "Our Culture of Exclusion" (http://ryanfunduk.com/culture-of-exclusion/), and its discussion of binge drinking at conferences, I realize that I don't know nearly enough to venture an opinion -- at least one that is worth reading, anyway. The most I can do is express the suspicion that Funduk might be right.The reason I can't address the question with any authority is that I spent the first decade of the millennium caring for my sick partner. She could neither travel nor drink for much of that time, so for the most part neither did I. And, since her death, I haven't really resumed either habit.If...
Off the Beat: Bruce Byfield's Blog
Apr 05, 2012 GMTEarlier this week, you might have noticed Esther Schindler and Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols writing about the twenty-fifth anniversary of OS/2, IBM's operating system of the 1990s. So did at least half a dozen others.Why bother, you might ask? OS/2 still exists today as a hobbyist operating system under the name of eComStation, but it's been a long time since it had any influence on the direction of mainstream computing. Nor is eComStation free software, although many of the applications it runs are. You might be tempted to attribute the interest entirely to the nostalgia of the middle-aged. In my case, that would definitely be a factor; I not only ran OS/2 for six years, but the first...
Mar 31, 2012 GMTFree and open source software has no shortage of spinoffs. There's the OpenBIOS project, which tries to make the firmware that runs computers free. There's the open hardware movement, which applies FOSS concepts to the machines it runs on. In academia, there's the open access movement, dedicated to sharing the information usually restricted to journals Increasingly, however, I'm starting to think we need an even more basic spinoff -- something that might be called the hardware free access movement.What I mean is, we need advocacy for hardware that can be opened and repaired by anyone. Right now, it's a concept that is not just going out of fashion, but barely exists.Look, for example, at...
Mar 20, 2012 GMTA few years ago, reactions to sexism in free and open source software (FOSS) took a few days to circulate. People were surprised, and unprepared to respond. Now, however, experience has encouraged preparation, and the responses are instantaneous and unforgiving, as Sqoot, the organizers of the upcoming Boston API Jam hackathon found out.As near as I can tell, this is what happened:Sqoot is a two-year old startup that describes itself as developing a "local deal layer [that] empowers sites and apps to build with deals." In other words, it's a center for organizing discounts for services and events. No license is posted on the company's site, but its API appears to be...
Mar 14, 2012 GMTI've often said that recent desktop environments are heavily influenced by mobile devices. However, it was only last week, when I switched to a Nexus S phone, that I examined that claim in detail and realized that the statement was incomplete.The fact that all three interfaces share some common assumptions is too obvious to question seriously. The relationship shows in details like menus and windows that are either without titlebar buttons and menus or else hide these items until users search for them. In Unity, it also shows in windows that be dragged up and down without scroll bars.However, the most obvious similarity is that complete screen changes are an inescapable part of the...
Mar 06, 2012 GMTIs it just me, or is there a whiff of desperation these days around Canonical, Ubuntu's commercial arm? By that I mean that Canonical increasingly seems to focused on reaching profitability, and nothing else. The de-emphasis on community, the constant introduction of new services, and the increasing market speak are all in marked contrast to the Canonical of five or even three years ago.Since Ubuntu is a privately-held company, its financial position is a matter of speculation. In 2009, Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth stated that the company was "creeping toward $30 million," the point of profitability, but that was before many of its current services were introduced....
Feb 24, 2012 GMTIn the last couple of years, I've spent much of my time observing the Linux desktop and its growing fragmentation. However, accurate figures are hard to come by, and often I can only give my impressions. That's why LinuxQuestion's Members Choice Awards for 2011 interest me so much -- they're the first confirmation that what I'm observing is actually happening. Of course, the awards can be criticized on a number of grounds. Voters are self-selected, and, considering LinuxQuestion's role and age, probably represent reasonably experienced users; my impression is that new users may visit the site, but are less likely to hang around long enough to participate in the survey. Still, with 627...
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