Off the Beat: Bruce Byfield's Blog

LibreOffice and OpenOffice: comparing the community health

Oct 25, 2014 GMT

The rumors about LibreOffice that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago apparently lack substance.  Andrea Pescetti, Apache OpenOffice PMC Chair, states that, "I can say that I don't witness the reduction of activity you describe: community members (including those that I know to be employed by IBM) are all participating in conversations and development." So, I am left wondering: how can the relative health of Apache OpenOffice and LibreOffice be measurde, four years after the two parted ways?OpenOffice representatives are fond of citing download statistics -- possibly because theirs are available on public sites, and LibreOffice's are private. However, either way, downloads...
Free equivalents for standard proprietary fonts

Oct 16, 2014 GMT

Like Linux desktops, free-licensed fonts started as imitations of proprietary equivalents. Today, original free fonts are becoming increasingly common, but the demand for free equivalents of proprietary fonts remains. This demand is unlikely to disapear because, although most professional designers think in terms of proprietary fonts, clients are often unwilling to pay for them. Moreover, free software advocates prefer free fonts to go along with their free applications.Exact equivalents are rare because of fear of copyright restrictions. A match as high as 75% is rare. Some equivalents, such as the Liberation fonts, are only metrical – that is, they take up the same space as their...
Lennart Poettering and the cause of civility

Oct 07, 2014 GMT

Just what free software needed: another discussion of civility in the community in which half-truth counters half-truth, and nothing gets resolved.I'm referring, of course, to the reactions to Lennart Poettering's recent rant, in which he characterizes free software as an abusive community, thanks largely to the example of Linus Torvalds. Poettering is far from the first to describe the hostility that can exist in free software, and the first reactions came within hours of the posting, soon snowballing into an avalanche of criticism, most of it so careless with nuance that any sort of balanced observation is impossibleProbably, I haven't a hope of adding my own comments without offending...
LibreOffice, OpenOffice, and rumors of unification

Sep 30, 2014 GMT

According to Charles H. Schulz of The Document Foundation, the unification of LibreOffice and Apache OpenOffice is not currently on anyone's agenda. "It is important to realize," Schulz tells me, "that there is no kind of news here coming from the Document Foundation, or to our knowledge the Apache OpenOffice/ Apache Software Foundation." However, the rumors persist that some sort of change is about to happen.LibreOffice was forked from OpenOffice.org in September 2010, by a group of contributors dis-satisfied with Oracle's stewardship of the leading free office suite. In June 2011, Oracle transferred the OpenOffice.org trademarks and Oracle-owned code to The Apache...
The thankless jobs of community managers

Sep 26, 2014 GMT

When a writer criticizes a book, they are partly explaining how they would have written it. In the same way, when Aaron Seigo criticized the role of community manager last week, I assume that he partly means that he prefers not to lead that way. As a result, while I find little to disagree with, his criticism seems harsher than his topic merits.Seigo begins his comments with a frontal attack. The community manager role, he declares in his opening sentence is "a fraud and a farce." He goes on to add that a community with a manager "probably isn't a community to begin with."Instead, he views the position as either a means for an organization to act the way it wants,...
GNOME and KDE: Financials and culture

Sep 11, 2014 GMT

These days, large free software projects resemble any non-profit organization, with governing boards and obligations to release regular reports. How many users read those reports is uncertain -- not many, I would guess, because, even in free software, the reports tend to be glossy exercises in PR. However, if nothing else, their financial statements are worth a close look, because they suggest the priorities and directions of project's governing bodies.Two examples are GNOME and KDE ( I would have looked at other popular desktops, but none of the others release quarterly or annual reports). Examining their statements for the 2013 financial year shows two projects have very different...
Is cloud storage innately insecure?

Sep 06, 2014 GMT

Whenever a major security story like the recent leak of nude celebrity photos occurs, I hope that some serious discussion will happen. But I am always disappointed, and this time was no exception. No one, apparently, wants to explore the obvious -- that, just maybe, buying cloud storage is a flawed business and security model.I understand why people buy cloud storage, of course. It's convenient, especially if you want to access your data from multiple computers and different locations. Almost certainly, it is cheaper than paying for your own system administrators or even  buying new hard drives.And let's not forget the coolness factor of using the latest technology. For an industry...

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