Feb 20, 2012 GMTOne of the prices of software freedom is the impossibility of getting accurate figures for usage. As a user, I consider that a small price to pay for not having to register or activate software. However, as a journalist I'm often frustrated, because accurate figures can be useful for establishing a point or debunking rumors.The questions for which I would like accurate stats include: how many GNU/Linux users are there? Has Linux Mint really overtaken Ubuntu as the most popular distribution? Has GNOME gained or lost users with the start of its third release series? All these questions and more would benefit from reliable figures, yet we don't have any. Instead, we have a series of...
Off the Beat: Bruce Byfield's Blog
Feb 15, 2012 GMTEver wonder what information Google has collected about you? Now, you can find out, thanks to Google Takeout, which allows you to download most of the information that Google has collected about you.The question should be of more than passing interest to just about everyone. Few people may have bought Google's Chromebook with its web-based applications, but Google still dominates our computer lives. We use it to receive emails. We store pictures and documents on it. We socialize on it -- and, all the time, Google is collecting information about us. Google Takeout is a creation of the Data Liberation Front, which describes itself as "an engineering team at Google whose singular goal...
Feb 07, 2012 GMTWilliam E. Shotts, Jr.'s The Linux Command Line is really two books in one. In the first two-thirds, Shotts offers one of the better introductions to the Bash shell that I have seen. However, in the last third, the book describes shell scripting, and the tone and pace of the book change so much that you have to wonder why these two sections are between the same covers.This structure is deliberate. Early in the book, Shotts specifically identifies his audience as power users who have just migrated from another operating system. From this description, you can easily guess how the first two-thirds is meant to prepare readers for the last third.Unfortunately, though, that is not how The Linux...
Jan 24, 2012 GMTI've spent December and January watching the fundraising campaigns of several free software and culture projects. I'm involved in fundraising for two mainstream charities, so the efforts of others is directly interesting to me. Also, increasingly, free software and culture projects are looking for ways to make their efforts pay, so what works and what doesn't is becoming an important community issue.I admit that I watch the progress bars for fundraising with considerable fascination. I look, for example, at least once at day to the Free Software Foundation's site to see how much of its target of $300,000 is left to raise, or nose around to see how Wikipedia's latest personal appeals are...
Jan 18, 2012 GMTYears ago, the short-lived Maximum Linux magazine ran a graphic showing Eric Raymond, Richard Stallman, and Linus Torvalds wearing the gang colors of open source. Naturally, Stallman protested in the next issue that he was an advocate of free software, not open source, but the point is that, back then, it was easy to point out the leaders of free and open source software (FOSS) in a way that would be impossible today. And I can't help thinking that's a healthy sign.I was reminded of how much things have changed when I read about Bruce Perens' keynote at linux.conf.au this week. If the Maximum Linux graphic had added a fourth or fifth figure, that figure would probably have Perens. But...
Jan 13, 2012 GMTMostly, I prefer using a command line for system administration. However, I'm willing to rethink this preference in the case of the GRUB 2 Editor for KDE.Not too long ago, editing the GRUB boot manager was a straightforward task. You edited a text file directly, and, if in the long intervals between changes you forgot the structure of a boot entry, you could usually figure out what to do from existing entries. About the hardest thing to remember if you didn't have an example to crib from was how to boot an unsupported operating system like Windows.However, in distributions like Ubuntu in which GRUB 2 has replaced Legacy GRUB, editing has become more complicated. Not only has the basic...
Jan 05, 2012 GMTThis morning, Tim O'Reilly linked with apparent approval to Vinton G. Cerf's New York Times editorial, "Internet Access Is Not a Human Right". Technically, Cerf is correct, but I'm not sure that the distinctions he makes are ones that should be insisted upon too strongly.Internet technologies have been an enabler of the Arab Spring, and a few countries -- notably Estonia and France -- have declared Internet access a human right. However, Cerf begs to differ. Defining rights as "the outcomes we are trying to ensure," he insists that technology "is an enabler of rights, not a right in itself," regardless of whether you consider them human rights (that is,...
Klaus Knopper announces the latest version of his iconic Live Linux system.
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New cloud combines worldwide access with local attention to data security.