Off the Beat: Bruce Byfield's Blog

Pirate politics

Jun 17, 2009 GMT

One of the most interesting talks at last week's Open Web Vancouver conference was the keynote by Rickard Falkvinge, the leader and founder of Sweden's PiratePartiet (Pirate Party), which recently won its first seat in the European Parliament. Ordinarily, politicians are not people I respect, but Falkvinge and the Pirate movement won my grudging respect for at least two reasons. First, the gleeful chutzpah of the movement's name shows a rare kind of courage at a time when most politicians are obsessed with marketing and optics. Second, for the first time in years, I was hearing a politician talk about issues like copyright and patent reform that have considerable influence on people in...
Coming up: Open Web Vancouver

Jun 05, 2009 GMT

As I've said before, I much prefer smaller conferences where you have a chance of talking with the speakers and break-away sessions in the hallway happen naturally. So, it's more than just local chauvinism when I say that I'm looking forward to the Open Web Vancouver conference on June 11-12. Open Web Vancouver began as the Vancouver PHP Conference several years ago . Last year, I called it a "big little convention" by which I meant it had a happy combination of local and international speakers. This year, it promises to have something of the same mix, but with a greater emphasis on the social aspects surrounding the code. Getting out the door for a 9:30AM key note is rough on...
My regular FOSS blogs

May 29, 2009 GMT

Everyday, I read a lot of blogs about free and open source software (FOSS). Or, to be honest, I scan them -- reading them in their entirety would take up my whole day and would be inconsistent with sanity as well. But blogs are often the first place to sight new developments or breaking news, so I persevere. Scanning is made easier by planet feeds. I subscribe to several, including ones for Debian, Fedora, GNOME, and KDE. With planet feeds, I can cover a gratifyingly large amount of news in a short time, reading just enough to decide whether to zoom in and find out more or -- more frequently -- to move on. Other blogs I follow for a week or two while researching a topic. A handful of...
Console commander

May 22, 2009 GMT

The increasing divide between the desktop and the command line disturbs me. I appreciate the fact that many users prefer the desktop; I use one myself for about 80% of my routine work. But GNU/Linux is all about taking control of your computing, and you can only take full control at the command line. That's why I'm always interested in efforts to bridge the divide like console commander,a promising but extremely rough-edged effort to help new users ease into using the shell. Of course, the first thing new users need to do is download and install the software, which they may find intimidating all by itself. Fortunately, console commander only requires you to uncompress the download, then...
Gnash Readies for a push

May 14, 2009 GMT

Do you want to put your money where your mouth is and support free software? If so, I can think of few better ways of offering support than by responding to the Gnash project's current fund-raiser. Probably, I need to explain: The goal of Gnash is to provide a free, cross-platform replacement for Adobe Flash. By "free," of course, I mean a free and open source software (FOSS) replacement, since Flash Player is already free for the download and included in many distributions. Considering how Flash has become the default format for Internet video, the importance of this goal is obvious. Its completion is one of the main milestones before the FOSS desktop achieves parity with...
Transferring Email, Addresses, and Calendars

May 08, 2009 GMT

These days, you would think that transferring your personal data -- email, address books and calendars -- between applications would be a matter of a few mouse clicks. And, occasionally, it is. More often, however, transferring your data between Kontact/KMail, Evolution, and Mozilla (Thunderbird and Sunbird) is an unsystematic affair, with too many steps and kludges. No matter which of these applications you are transferring from and which you are moving to, you need to expect the unexpected. From Evolution I first discovered what a ramshackle affair moving personal data can be a few weeks ago, when I switched from GNOME to KDE for my main desktop (no great statement there; Debian...
Who needs software as a service?

Apr 28, 2009 GMT

Yesterday, Slashdot posted a link to an interview with Richard Stallman. It was a general interview, in which he explained his views on a number of free software issues. However, for some reason, Slashdot chose to focus on his views about software as a service. The reason for this emphasis is unclear, since Stallman said nothing new, and the passage in which he talks as software as a service is only a small and unremarkable part of an unremarkable interview. However, while reading the responses to the link, I found myself wondering, as I often do, why people bother with software as a service when they could use free software instead. Stallman, as you might expect, emphasized freedom:...

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