Aug 30, 2010 GMTWith the rise of the HTML 5 video and formats like Google's WebM, Flash may be on the way out. But for now, it remains the dominant format for viewing videos on the web. Consequently, from a desktop user's perspective, few free software projects are as important as a free-license Flash player. And that, in turn, is why the announcement that GNASH .8.8 was released last week, and is supposed to be compatible with all Youtube videos is important news -- and disappointing when it proves not to be completely true. Not, you understand, that I would be unduly disappointed if I could never read the latest stupid video posted on Facebook. In fact, in some moods, I believe that the productivity of...
Off the Beat: Bruce Byfield's Blog
Aug 20, 2010 GMTThe latest Debian Project News recently announced a code freeze in preparation for a new release by the end of 2010. It's a sign of the times that the news went mostly unreported. Which makes me wonder: What is Debian's role today?There's no doubt that, in most people's minds, Debian no longer occupies the place it once had in free and open source software (FOSS). Five or six years ago, upcoming Debian releases, or elections for Debian Project Leader were major news in the community (I know, because I covered them). Now, few of the news sites gives much attention to either event.Partly, this change is due to shifting priorities. The emphasis in FOSS today is on usability, and Debian...
Aug 12, 2010 GMTAs a Canadian, I'm always irked by airy statements by Americans that they won World War II. Yes, the Americans entry into the war was decisive, but their side was not called the Allies for nothing, and many other countries contributed to the victory or at least kept the fight alive in the years before the United Stated joined in. With all respect, I feel much the same way about the recent interview on Wired.com with Jim Zemlin, the executive director of the Linux Foundation/Published to coincide with this week's LinuxCon in Boston, the interview begins by describing Zemlin as "part legal guardian, part keeper of the flame. The non-profit foundation he runs is charged with promoting...
Aug 06, 2010 GMTEarlier this week, a neighbor loaned me Stieg Larsson's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the mystery that everyone seems to be reading this summer. Mostly, it's an intelligent light read -- even if the climax does occur three-quarters of the way through-- and the book is very lucky in its translator, Reg Keeland. However, my enjoyment is diminished by the sometimes less than expert treatment of computer security issuesLarsson gets some things right when he discusses computers. His detailed stats for a state of the art Mac in 2005 sound correct to my memory, and his assumption that most people do not protect their computers with a password, much less any other security measures is --...
Jul 31, 2010 GMTOver at the Geek Feminism site, a discussion is going on about an article entitled, "If you were hacking since age 8, it means that you were privileged." As I usually do with anything remotely connected with computers, I immediately started wondering how I could apply the topic to free software. Specifically, is free software the product of privilege? Or does it work against privilege? My tentative answer is that free software is a paradoxical combination of privilege and resistance to privilege.As you might guess from the title, the article on Geek Feminism points out that, anyone who is an adult today who had early access to a computer probably comes from a middle class or...
Jul 27, 2010 GMTOrdinarily, a change in website design doesn't rate a mention these days. However, the recent change in the Free Software Foundation's (FSF) home page is an exception. It marks not just a change in aesthetics, but of organizational direction as well. Instead of being directed at the free software community, the site is now intended as an introduction to free software and the social and political issues that surround it.Go to the site, and the change is immediately obvious. A few weeks ago, the FSF home page was a typical minimalist site, of the sort that content management solutions generate by the millions. Now, it looks more like a a commerce site for web hosting or a travel agency,...
Jul 23, 2010 GMTJust by choosing which stories to cover, journalists and editors decide what is news and what is not. Since you can never cover everything, that is inevitable, and the alternative to being selective is to despair and cover nothing at all. But I despise news that is manufactured out of nothing or next to nothing. This week, for example, Amazon announced that it is selling an average of 143 ebooks for its Kindle reader for every 100 hardcovers – and, suddenly, everyone on the Internet is pontificating about the success of ebooks and anticipating the death of paper books. Why is this non-news? Not because, as some allege, the figures are heavily qualified and do not accurately...
Should you trust an online service to store your online passwords?
New B+ board lets you build cool things without the complication of a powered USB hub.
Redmond rushes in to root out alleged malware haven.
New initiative will bring futuristic virtual reality effects to the web surfing experience.
Dyreza malware launches a man-in-the-middle attack that compromises SSL.
New cloud combines worldwide access with local attention to data security.
A first cousin of the recent Heartbleed attack affects EAP-based wireless and peer-to-peer authentication.
FOSS community acts to protect freedom of choice for laptop devices.
Quintessential open source browser shores up its market share with a step toward the proprietary dark side.
Authorities in 16 countries take action against users of the imfamous BlackShades malware tool.