Off the Beat: Bruce Byfield's Blog

Review: FLOSS Manuals' Introduction to the Command Line

Mar 29, 2009 GMT

As a full-time writer, I'm skeptical of collaboration. I have collaborated, with varying degrees of success, but the process has always seemed too time-consuming to justify the results. Still, having just submitted my first command line column for Linux Pro Magazine, I was curious to see the results of the FLOSS Manuals' sprint to produce a book entitled during last week at the Free Software Foundation's (FSF's) LibrePlanet conference. And, having done so, I think I'll have to reconsider my position on writing collaborations. While the result of the sprint is not perfect, it is certainly no worse than many books written by a single writer. LibrePlanet is the collection of speeches and...
Linux Syndicate Launches

Mar 18, 2009 GMT

Like many people, I start most mornings by visiting sites devoted to free and open source software (FOSS). Even though I often weed my list, I still look at several dozen on any given day, so I appreciate aggregator sites that collect URLs and save me time. That's why I appreciate the launching of Linux Syndicate, a new site run by David Graham, a former colleague of mine at The site has only been active a few days, and Graham is still tweaking it, but already it promises to be one of the most complete FOSS aggregators. Graham has been a GNU/Linux user since 1995, and a Debian user since 1998. He is a co-founder of the Open and Free Technology Community, an organization...
ScanTWAIN, Proprietary Companies, and Free Software

Mar 13, 2009 GMT

Kodak's recent announcement about the release of ScanTWAIN, a desktop application for scanners, was quickly picked up by the free and open source software (FOSS) media. After all, here was another large company now supporting the cause. Moreover, Kodak was doing so with TWAIN, the standard protocol on most operating systems, rather than just SANE, the FOSS protocol developed for scanners when TWAIN support for free operating systems was unavailable. The announcement seemed too good to be true -- and, unfortunately it was. Instead of being a minor cause for celebration, it raises the perennial question: When will traditional companies get serious about porting their products to FOSS? ...
Eagle Mode: A practical Zoomable User Interface

Mar 07, 2009 GMT

As I begin this new blog, I can't think of a better first topic than the future. Or, to be exact, a possible future. Specifically, I am talking about Eagle Mode, a proof of concept project by Oliver Hamann designed to show the possibilities of a zoomable user interface (ZUI). Using Eagle Mode, you may take a while to get past the sheer novelty, but, once you do, you may find the concepts behind it intriguing. Released under the third version of the GNU General Public License, version 0.7.3 of Eagle Mode is available as source code, or a downloadable Live CD based on the Slax distribution if you prefer not to compile for yourself. To start Eagle Mode, either run the script...