Mar 26, 2010 GMTAs I write, I am receiving the occasional email about an article I wrote yesterday called "The Mono Mystery That Wasn't." The article debunks two ideas: that an SD Times article has disappeared from the Internet, and that Miguel de Izaca, in talking about how Microsoft's restrictive patent practices have handicapped .NET, has suddenly reversed his opinions. Unlike de Icaza, I don't support the use of .NET in GNU/Linux, but some of the emails landing in my Inbox today assume that I do, and take me to task with varying degrees of politeness.This is another of the assumptions that free and open source software (FOSS) journalists face any time that they write anything more than a...
Off the Beat: Bruce Byfield's Blog
Mar 17, 2010 GMTIf you want to spread information about an open source topic, who are the people who can help you? MindTouch, a producer of wiki-like solutions for business, has the answer in the form of a list of the top fifty most influential voices in open source -- those whose blogs and microblogs are most likely to be picked up and echoed by others.The list is a follow-up to MindTouch's list of Most Influential People in Open Source released in October 2009, in which fifty executives of open source companies voted on the most influential people in their community.Talking about the previous list, Aaron Fulkerson, MindTouch's CEO,says, "I didn't expect it to be so well-received, nor so...
Mar 11, 2010 GMTAfter reading Ken Fisher's "Why Ad Blocking is Devastating the Sites You Love," I admit to mixed emotions. In fact, I wonder if I can possibly navigate the issue without revealing myself as hopelessly hypocritical.Fisher is writing after Ars Technica, for which he works, blocked content from ad blockers for twelve hours. Technically, the experiment was a success, but it met with mixed reactions. "There was a healthy mob of people criticizing us for daring to take any kind of action against those who would deny us revenue even though they knew they were doing so," Fischer writes. "Others rightly criticized the lack of a warning or notification as to what was going...
Mar 08, 2010 GMTLike anyone with even a modest claim to computer expertise, I am often asked to help neighbors and friends. I tend to mutter about the blind leading the blind, because what small expertise I've accumulated is in GNU/Linux, not Windows nor OSX. Yet, a surprising amount of the time, I can help, generally not because of any prior knowledge, but because I have absorbed enough of the hacker mentality that I'm a systematic troubleshooter. That used to be a given among GNU/Linux users, although lately I've worried how much longer that will remain true.The difference between me and the average Windows user is not that I have any arcane programming skills. I know no scripting or development...
Feb 25, 2010 GMTI was at a news conference today when two men pulled out their iPhones simultaneously. In less than ten seconds, they were comparing apps, their original purposes forgotten.This is a scene I've seen repeatedly in the last six months. Every time, I wonder what the excitement is about. After all, as a GNU/Linux user, I've been able to download software on a whim for years -- and not just the equivalent of KDE's widgets or GNOME's applets, but complex applications like Inkscape or Amarok.Moreover, that software is free of cost, unlike a lot of the apps on the iPhone, Blackberry, and Android stores.Mind you, I understand the excitement. Back when I was first understanding free and open source...
Feb 17, 2010 GMTThe trouble with statistics is that they can be easily abused. This insight is hardly new to me, but its truth was reinforced when I read Mark Guzdial's suggestion that free and open source software (FOSS) was not a good match for education because few women or minorities participated in it.Guzdial makes his comments in an article entitled, "The Impact of Open Source on Computing Education." After talking with Michael Terry, an assistant professor at the University of Waterloo who has studied open source usability, Guzdial suggests a number of reasons why FOSS might not be a good fit for computing education.Guzdial suggests, for instance, that the myth that FOSS developers work...
Feb 11, 2010 GMTFree distributions -- ones that contain only free and open source software, and remove proprietary blobs from the kernel -- are a rarity. In fact, the GNU Project lists only nine. For that reason, I was immediately interested in the announcement of RMS's Mostly Slax, a project dedicated to putting a free distribution on a USB pendrive.Unfortunately, while focusing on freedom, the project defeats its own purpose, because it doesn't bother to make that freedom very attractive, especially for new users.The title of the distribution explains its origins: RMS's Mostly Slax is named for Richard M. Stallman, and is based on Slax, one of the oldest and most popular derivatives of Slackware. The...
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