Off the Beat: Bruce Byfield's Blog

Code names and other coelacanths

Oct 14, 2011 GMT

I'm probably going to be answered as though I were a hybrid of Ebenezer Scrooge and Darth Vader, but can we quit with the code names for Linux distributions, already? People are taking them way too seriously.Code names make sense if you want to keep what you're doing a secret. If you're planning a military operation, you probably don't want anyone to know until you actually hit the beaches of France. Or maybe in the case of the revised Doctor Who, when you're a producer who doesn't want the excitement to peak too soon (in which case, you pass around sheets of paper watermarked with "Not to be copied" and call what you're doing "Torchwood," then decide the name would...
A re-evaluation of Canonical

Oct 07, 2011 GMT

Like many people, I've always thought of Canonical as a FOSS company. Recently, though, I realize that I've been guilty of a category error. Unlike Red Hat, Canonical does not have an open source business model. Rather, like Novell or Google, it's a company with a mixed business model in which free software and proprietary practices mix as convenient.Nothing's wrong with a mixed business model, no matter how disappointed it makes me. As much as I'm tempted, I can't even bring myself to call it immoral, although I would say it's not part of best practices. But I do wonder about the mistake in my thinking. I spend hours every day tracking what's happening in the free and open source...
FSF Moves to Greater Openness with Free Software Directory Relaunch

Sep 29, 2011 GMT

Over the last few years, the Free Software Foundation (FSF) has tried to become more open in its operations. The largest of the efforts in this direction is probably the LibrePlanet network and annual conference. But today, the FSF announced another effort: the relaunching of its Free Software Directory, with a redesign that makes it easier for people to contribute. Although what is implemented falls short of complete openness, it at least shows the FSF is at least trying to involve supporters more. As the news release explains, the Directory has existed for over a decade. With some 6500 applications, the Directory is a thorough but far from complete list. In the past, part of the...
Bad-mouthing the Free Software Foundation

Sep 22, 2011 GMT

Over the past year or so, I've noticed a disturbing trend. Whenever the Free Software Foundation (FSF) posts anything on any subject, pundits leap to criticize it. The FSF is too negative, people like Brian Proffitt say. It's too ineffectual, people like Joe "Zonker"' Brockmeier say [See Correction in comments]. Just how the FSF might communicate effectively, they don't explain, but I get the strong impression that what these attacks really want is to let everyone know that the FSF is wrong.Not that the FSF is above criticism. Although I'm probably more supportive of the FSF than either Proffitt or Brockmeier, I've been known to criticize it myself. Nor can I deny that FSF...
Revolutionizing desktops without causing user revolts

Sep 14, 2011 GMT

The last few years of development on the free desktop have been instructive. First, KDE stumbled and recovered with the KDE 4 series. Then, this year, GNOME and Ubuntu introduced radically new desktops. In each case, user complaints immediately poured in. Although both GNOME and Ubuntu seem determined to ignore these complaints and continue on their course, I keep wondering: could the disastrous receptions have been avoided?The question is worth asking. On the one hand, free desktops need to innovate steadily, both to attract developers and to stay competitive with proprietary rivals. On the other hand, although many developers disregard users, unsatisfied users may move on and risk...
A community is shared mythology

Sep 12, 2011 GMT

Everyone now and then, someone insists that there is no such thing as a free software community -- only a collection of code and licenses. That has always seemed self-evidently false to me, but it struck me as especially so when I attended LinuxCon last month.Probably, I was overly-aware of the sense of community because, for personal reasons, I hadn't attended a conference for several years. Consequently, I seem to have spent most of the three days of the conference either catching up with old acquaintances like Jay Lyman and his family, or else meeting Internet friends like Carla Schroder for the first time. At one point, I took forty-five minutes to walk the twenty metres from the top...
I've got some good news and some bad news

Aug 21, 2011 GMT

Recently, I wrote an article about the lack of acceptance of GNOME 3. I received a private email from Aaron Seigo of KDE in which he took me to task, politely, thoughtfully, and with his usual thoroughness, for focusing on negative news. Since I often debate this issue with myself, with Seigo's permission, I'm summarizing the discussion here.Seigo begins by asking, "Is it useful to spend time concentrating on the negatives in FOSS when we have not only a tremendous number of positive events occurring but many detractors who are willing to do the negativity thing for us? Why do we reward failure and negative reactions with press coverage when thriving and positive efforts struggle for...

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