Off the Beat: Bruce Byfield's Blog

Ordering a custom computer

Apr 22, 2016 GMT

"You can't customize your computer," a sysadmin once admonished me. "The parts need to be carefully matched with one another, and that's not a job for an amateur."Despite this advice, I have ordered customized workstations for over two decades. Unfortunately, laptops and tablets are often sealed shut, but I would customize them if I could, too. Contrary to the sysadmin's advice, I have found that, so long as you enlist expert help and do your research, buying custom computers has at least three advantages over buying off the shelf. Getting what you need and wantFor one thing, for all the sysadmin's talk of matching parts, you can never be sure with an assembled...
The Satisfactions of a Free License

Apr 15, 2016 GMT

Offer free software developers money, and they are practical enough to accept it. However, what keeps many of them at work are the intrinsic rewards, not the external ones.This observation is hardly new. However, I have a new appreciation for it since I published my recent book, Designing with LibreOffice under a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike License.Working with a free license, I now appreciate first-hand, is ego-boosting, altruistic, confounding fun, as heady as Napoleon brandy, and as down-the-rabbit-hole as Alice in Wonderland, unlike anything else I have ever experienced. It makes me feel like Robin Hood, surprising someone at the last moment by handing them the money to...
Hating Microsoft

Apr 04, 2016 GMT

Hating Microsoft has been part of open source from the start. Infamous for its executives calling Linux unAmerican, the equivalent of communism and a cancer, Microsoft has been the arch-enemy, working behind the scenes in reality almost as much as in the minds of conspiracy theorists, the proprietary and corporate antithesis of everything that open source is about.The attitude has been so strong that even suggesting that open source was too strong for Microsoft to destroy was once enough to brand you naive, and an unwitting dupe of the Enemy.The attitude is so in-grained that, even now, when the evidence appears to be mounting that Microsoft has reversed its position and is open...
Why the Ubuntu tablet matters

Mar 28, 2016 GMT

I am not generally a technophile. I don't obsess over hardware stats, and I judge hardware on how well it does its job. Yet recently, I find myself anticipating the release of three pieces of hardware. One is the pi-topCEED, the Raspberry Pi-based computer for education. The second is the open source keyboard being produced by Keyboardio. The third is the just-announced Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition, which has the potential to be the most important of them all.In some circles, this statement may sound surprising. Over the years, I have criticized aspects of Ubuntu ranging from its business to its design decisions, to the point that I have been called anti-Ubuntu. Sometimes, I have even...
Compensating with Neon

Mar 25, 2016 GMT

A basic tenet of organizational theory is that, whenever the formal structures are inadequate, other structures emerge to compensate. And that, in a sentence, may explain why KDE Neon has emerged.KDE Neon is a project organized by Jonathan Riddell, the ex-community leader of Kubuntul. Its goal is to provide a repository for the latest KDE packages.That sounds like a simple goal, but it was questioned almost immediately. In particular, podcaster and openSUSE marketer Bryan Landuke criticized KDE Neon as being basically Kubuntu under another name. Landuke also seized on a comment that KDE Neon was based on Ubuntu because it was "the best technology" as an insult to other...
Why I Chose a Creative Commons License

Mar 17, 2016 GMT

On April 10, I'm publishing a book called Designing with LibreOffice. The experience can be surreal, and some other time I've got to blog about incidents like my photo shoot, which was continually interrupted by a two by two line of ten year olds coming and going, or trying to plan a book launch menu that included vegetarian options and satisfied two different sets of allergies.However, one of the most peculiar aspects is the congratulations I hear when I mention that the book will be published under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license. After all, the idea is hardly new. Besides, given my goals, what other choice do I have?To start with, I am entering my thirteenth year of...
David Graham Provides Glimpse into FOSS in Canada's Government

Mar 11, 2016 GMT

Ordinarily, free and open source software receives little attention in the government of Canada. A rare exception occurred on Thursday, March 10 when David Graham, the Liberal Member of Parliament for Laurentides—Labelle (Québec) began asking questions before the Standing Committee On Government Operations and Estimates (Shared Services). The exchange was less than seven minutes long, but provided the sort of detailed information that is usually unavailable.If David Graham sounds familiar, you might know him  better as cdlu (short for "confused debian linux user"). For years, cdlu was my colleague at and Newsforge and well-known in Debian circles as well. Since...

Issue 195/2017

Buy this issue as a PDF

Digital Issue: Price $9.99
(incl. VAT)