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A hard problem worth solving

Posted 16 Jul 2008 at 06:01 UTC by robla

There's an ongoing debate about whether a free/open source project needs to be "organic" to be worthwhile, where "organic" is (arguably) defined as a project which the first release included source, and is generally characterized as by a distributed development team with no single company truly in control, and "inorganic" is generally code that started off life as a proprietary effort. I'd like to argue that making "inorganic" open source work is a big challenge worth tackling.

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The Myth that Content Management is easy

Posted 15 May 2008 at 19:10 UTC by zanee

The Myth
Content Management is easy. You download one of the numerous systems available, plug-in your data. Something magical happens (???) and out comes a professional looking and operating website. This obviously manages all of your content from all different sources with ease. All you have to do is make a template and you’re done! If this sounds like something you’ve heard and are suspiciously weary of. You should be, because it’s all snake oil! If it was that easy I would probably quit my job and go study law. Since it is not, let us continue first by giving a brief background on what content management is.
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GNU and FSF News for May 2008

Posted 8 May 2008 at 21:24 UTC by robogato

Skype fought the GPL and the GPL won. The OLPC XO project abandons free software just as RMS switches to an XO; RMS not happy. New monthly newsletters from the FSF and FSFE. GNOME and KDE want to have a joint development conference in 2009. GNOME and GCC conferences coming up later this year. Plus all the usual news: more GPL v3 conversions, HURD news, GNOME news, GCC news, and more.

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Rsync on Steroids

Posted 26 Apr 2008 at 16:33 UTC (updated 26 Apr 2008 at 22:06 UTC) by lkcl

Rsync is an incredibly powerful tool that synchronises anything from a single file to an entire hierarchical filesystem, over a network. Unlike many other synchronisation methods, rsync will use the outdated copy of a file to save on network traffic (resulting in anything up to 99% optimisation).

Rsync the implementation however is restricted to only Posix systems (such as Linux, Cygwin and *BSD), and, worse, its implementation can only perform operations on Posix-based filesystems. This seems somewhat puzzling, and, as part of the continued Tech Fusion series, this article will outline some of the amazingly powerful things that could be done with rsync... if it had a VFS layer.

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Apologies to Pizza!

Posted 26 Apr 2008 at 14:46 UTC by lkcl

informal though this is, it's important enough to say as an article. i've been keeping an eye on the series currently being written and some of my comments - most notably to Pizza - indicate that i'm "jumping up and down". so Pizza - many apologies! :)

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Distributed Debian Distribution Development

Posted 26 Apr 2008 at 01:50 UTC (updated 26 Apr 2008 at 22:34 UTC) by lkcl

As part of the Tech Fusion Outline Series, this article describes some additions to the Debian Distribution model which, if implemented, would have the benefits of making Debian, the Debian Development and deployment entirely independent of Server-based Infrastructure.

The brief outline will be expanded in this dedicated article, pointing out how tieing together components and technology that already exists would be useful not only for Debian but also for other purposes, such as video and audio media distribution. (A method of payment for work on Debian or other media is not within the scope of this article but is easily conceivable). This article therefore explains how and why Debian Distribution Development could go "Distributed".

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Free Choice: the "Social Business" model and Free Software

Posted 23 Apr 2008 at 23:56 UTC (updated 24 Apr 2008 at 02:25 UTC) by lkcl

Free Software developers fall into two main categories: those that stand by the principles behind free software - patent-free, license-free and unrestricted distribution (for example, Richard Stallman's admirable stance); and those that are simply happy to compromise to some extent, for example to download libdvdcss to watch DVDs, or to install proprietary software such as Skype, on the basis that there is simply no (or no better) alternative (for example, Ubuntu which supports all kinds of proprietary firmware and binary drivers, and gets itself into enormous difficulties as a result).

These "level of integrity" choices are decisions that we, as Free Software developers, are free to make. Yet the average person is simply unaware of these issues of "integrity", or they are but do not value them highly, choosing "interoperability with their friends and businesses" as "more important". Or worse, they agree that integrity is important yet are forced into making decisions to use - and stick with - proprietary software. In such instances, the level of experience of (and thus the offerings available from) Free Software developers in a particular area of specialist expertise that the users absolutely must have before being able to consider migration, is close to or literally zero.

As Free Software developers, is it therefore ethical for us to ignore these people whose lives are blighted by lack of choice, or is it more ethical for us to remain in our integrity, by providing non-interoperable Free Software alternatives (with no means of conversion between the free and proprietary software)?

To put that another way: should Free Software developers serve themselves and their own needs, or should they look to serve others? This article highlights these quite important questions that every Free Software developer should be asking themselves, and advocates a way to proliferate, protect, enjoy and benefit from Free Software principles: that of the "Social Business".

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Free Soft Wear ?

Posted 21 Apr 2008 at 23:33 UTC by ekashp

Arrrgh !

I'm not a PiRRRate, I'm a PRRRivateeRRR !!!

(I've got them letters of mark, from me uncle Sam !)

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Better Free Software Organisations?

Posted 17 Apr 2008 at 12:05 UTC by slef

Are free software users particularly bad at the basics of running an interest society, have I been spoiled by cooperatives with their friendly Member Services departments or secretariats, or what? Is this why so many free software orgs seem to include self-perpetuating leadership groups? Is this a serious problem if, as reported, Software Development is a Team Sport [etbe]? Are there fully-working free software mass participation groups out there?

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Technology in Warfare, for Peacekeeping and Peacetime

Posted 16 Apr 2008 at 23:30 UTC (updated 17 Apr 2008 at 00:09 UTC) by lkcl

In How Technology Almost Lost the War: In Iraq, the Critical Networks Are Social — Not Electronic the deployment of Technology assists soldiers to be more effective - providing the commander with real-time information on their location and status. Additionally, the local people are recruited to assist (including guarding the major of the town, who was funnelling money to insurgents).

This article will outline the benefits of providing local people with access to the same kind of technology as that provided to the military, illustrating that a combined teaching, life-changing enabling opportunity and intelligence-gathering could very quickly make it difficult for insurgents to gain momentum.

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Singularity of Computing

Posted 16 Apr 2008 at 00:27 UTC (updated 21 Apr 2008 at 21:37 UTC) by lkcl

Computer Technology is not serving our needs, or if it is, it is vulnerable to failure at every level.  Outlined in this article is a clear articulation of the failings of technology. Importantly, this article describes the solutions required to mitigate against failure and attack, and how to overcome some of the shortcomings that would, if implemented, make computer technology actually "useful" to the human race.

Muhammad Yunus' book Creating a World without Poverty advocates the use of IT to solve the problem of poverty (Chapter 9, page 184 onwards ).  Many articles have already been written that outline or hint at the problems:

About the Future of the Web
Top 10 Linux Desktop Hurdles
Open source usability is a technical problem we can solve on our own
Cook's Collaborative Edge

However, all of these articles miss a fundamental point: what are computers for?  The original definition of a "Computer" was a title - like "Professor" or "Doctor", and Asimov's book entitled "The End of Eternity" was written at the time when the title was still in use.  The title was given to someone who "performed computation".  Before valves, transistors and silicon chips existed, many "Computers" were given the job, often in parallel, of hand-calculating a complex mathematical task, with mental arithmetic, pencil, paper and slide rules as their tools.  Fast forward to the 21st Century and we have "Computers" that can perform billions of calculations per second, and communicate millions of words per second (although it definitely doesn't seem like either of these things are true!).  Yet, all that speed helps humanity not one bit if we don't know what "Computers" are actually for!  How can "Computers" actually help us "humans"?

So, this article will ask - and attempt to answer - the questions listed below. It will also outline where things stand at the moment; outline what the author believes people really could do with help from technology; what technology the author believes will be useful to people; and finally, provide a roadmap outlining what technologies need to be sythesised together, improved or developed entirely from scratch to actually and reliably meet people's needs.

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Muhammed Yunus Vison - IT Solutions to End Poverty (ISEP)

Posted 15 Apr 2008 at 22:58 UTC (updated 16 Apr 2008 at 03:35 UTC) by lkcl

Muhammad Yunus book, Creating a World without Poverty envisions a world in which everyone is useful and leads fulfilling lives (following Mother Theresa's example, who is on record famously for stating that she would not attend anti-war rallies but only "Peace" rallies, and at the acceptable risk of offending Professor Yunus, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, I would urge people to consider instead of focussing on "ending poverty" to focus instead on "Creating Wealth").

An excerpt - Chapter 9, from page 184 onwards - describes his vision - the creation of an organisation to bring the right kind of I.T. infrastructure into being. Tech Fusion Outline: Organising the World's Knowledge describes exactly that infrastructure.

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GNU and FSF News for April 2008

Posted 10 Apr 2008 at 19:33 UTC by robogato

The combination of BusyBox, GPL, and SFLC proves itself unbeatable once again. The FSF has relaunched their website with a shiny new homepage. They've also set up a new free software job database. We have reports on rms speeches in Virginia and Berlin. Harald Welte and Groklaw win FSF awards. Gold goes Gold. Do I even need to mention that more software packages switched to GPLv3 this month? We have the latest news from the Free Software Foundation Europe and the Free Software Foundation India. We even have meta news this month; after more than a year of FSF news reports here at Advogato, the FSF itself seems to be getting into the swing of things by launching their own FSF newsletter.

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Tech Fusion Outline: Organising the World's Knowledge.

Posted 7 Apr 2008 at 03:32 UTC (updated 18 Apr 2008 at 17:42 UTC) by lkcl

With the introduction of the Internet, vast amounts of information became available - and, rather than help people of the planet to become useful in a globalised world, it has deluged them. Peeking through the morass of software and hardware is the occasional light (hopefully not an oncoming train). This article will outline those technologies. briefly, for later expansion.

The "Executive Summary" is that for computer technology to be useful, we need modular portable hardware with wireless mesh networking as well as standard internet access, and for the software applications to sit on top of distributed and peer-to-peer technology.

None of the technology outlined here is new (in fact, some of it has existed for many decades): it's just not being brought together. It should be pretty clear that in the current world climate, there is some degree of urgency to making this "Tech Fusion" happen.

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Dream java: HashSet from Sun, but likely BitSet from GNU

Posted 22 Mar 2008 at 21:11 UTC (updated 23 Mar 2008 at 21:09 UTC) by audriusa

As the majority knows we now have two FOSS implementations of java runtime library: OpenJDK from Sun Microsystems and the parallel GNU Classpath project. There are various opinions on how this situation will be resolved in the future. Hence there is a natural interest to compare these two implementations.

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About the future of the web.

Posted 15 Mar 2008 at 19:04 UTC by DeepNorth

The following questions were posed by someone on LinkedIn and I answer them here. I think they are timely, interesting and important: "About the future of the web: what do you miss, what do you hate? 1. What would you like to change on the web? 2. What would you really want to keep? 3. What are the technological chances for internet? 4. What are the threats?"

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Shakes-BE-er's gogo ban

Posted 13 Mar 2008 at 10:42 UTC (updated 23 Mar 2008 at 15:16 UTC) by badvogato

AUTOTOMY

In danger, the holothurian splits itself in two:
it offers one self to be devoured by the world
and, in its second self, escapes.

Violently it divides itself into a doom and a salvation,
into a penalty and a recompense,
into what was and what will be.

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GNU and FSF News for March 2008

Posted 9 Mar 2008 at 11:59 UTC by robogato

The Free Software Foundation wants your help to end software patents and boycott Trend Micro. The GNU Project is going to be participating in Google's Summer of Code again this year. Rumor has it that Microsoft may be planning a GNU Project killer with its own recursive acronym. For the fourth time in its history, rms has passed Emacs on to new maintainers. A new version of GCC is out. The Mozilla Foundation and GNOME Foundation are in kahoots to bring you new and improved software.

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GNU and FSF News for February 2008

Posted 8 Feb 2008 at 22:46 UTC by robogato

Did the Free Software Foundation meet their 2007 pledge drive goal? Will DefectiveByDesign try to stamp out DRM at the Boston Public Library? Does Stallman like the OLPC Project enough to replace his thinkpad with an XO? Will the SAMBA team finally get to see Microsoft's top-secret networking protocols? Where's RMS this month? Is the micro vs monolithic kernel debate back again? The answers to these and other mind-boggling questions that are on everyone's mind can be found in this month's GNU and FSF news summary.

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GNU and FSF News for January 2008

Posted 7 Jan 2008 at 22:57 UTC by robogato

Welcome to the new year and another monthly installment of news about the Free Software Foundation and the GNU Project. This month we have news from the FSF Europe, the latest numbers on GPLv3 conversions, the annual Gfortran report from the GCC folks, a GLib development release, Stallman commenting on the GNOME's alleged support of OOXML, GNU Hurd news, and more.

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