That's the summary: if you'd be interested to hear of some random insights
into the news above, read on...
Bruce Perens on the landmark appeal strengthening Free Software
Law doesn't get changed or strengthened unless someone challenges it, rather
than settling out-of-court. A mistake by a court in the U.S. - not reading
fully a ruling by a higher court - resulted some twenty years ago in
Patents becoming valid. It will take someone else to stand up in court and
force a review of that mistaken ruling - which ignored the higher court's
ruling that software can only be included in a patent if it is part of a
physical (hardware) device.
In the case we're seeing now, Perens describes how Free Software Licenses
have not really been challenged, until now. The person trying to get
money patented ideas from a Free Software project, then tried to demand
patent royalties, then tried to get the license undermined. amongst other
things. What he tried to do was to describe Free Software Licenses as
"optional" (this is what a company in 1998 tried to do with the Samba
project). By saying "I do not agree to this piece of paper", they claim
it can be ignored and thus they can do whatever they like with the source
code (forgetting that if the license is ruled as "irrelevant", then standard
Copyright law applies, and they're hosed).
Fortunately, the court has taken a dim view of this kind of thing.
Venezuela orders 1 million Intel Classmate PCs
Many people in Free Software may lament the fact that Venezuela is ordering
Classmates not OLPCs. The simple fact is that Negroponte has lost the
Confidence, Software and means of Communication is far more important than a
lovely piece of hardware.
I used to think that it was really bad that Intel is behind the
I held the view that they were a big corporate bully, knocking down the
effort with biased newsreports that weren't vetted or researched properly,
even by the BBC. Then I learned that the CEO of Intel had met with
Mohammad Yunus, and instantly my view on the matter changed.
If Professor Yunus can inspire Intel to do the same thing that Danone
am 100% behind Intel. It's also worth mentioning that I'm 100% behind the
SUGAR software, as well, and anything else like it.
What's fantastic about Intel is that they can help fill one important piece
of the puzzle, and people - governments - believe and trust them to be able
to deliver. With guidance from Professor Yunus, Intel will not be
a "profix maximisation" exercise on the buyers of the Classmate PCs.
borne out by the evidence you can see before you: Intel is selling the
design of the Classmate PCs to Portugal (for Venezuela to buy 1
million of them, whilst the Portugese government takes a further 500,000).
When the OLPC first came out, and governments announced they were buying
orders in the millions, those orders were stalled when they realised that
they had no training, and that this "support" issue was simply...
non-existent. Of course, the fact that it's often the children who
teachers how to use the machines was entirely overlooked - but it's that
confidence that needs to be inspired...
The other thing that's great about the Classmate PCs is that the
have WIMAX in them. Not the restricted version of WIMAX that's choked
U.S. companies, so that it only talks to base-stations; the proper
WIMAX that performs collaborative networking.
Medium-rance Collaborative networking is vital in areas with little to no
communications infrastructure, as that wonderful article on an OLPC
deployment in a remote village described. The children use it to talk to
each other, outside of school hours. However, WIFI is restricted in range -
even in areas where there is relatively little metal to get in the way;
has a range measured in kilometres, opening up the possibility to cover an
entire town with only a few machines.
SGI relicenses OpenGL
It's fantastic to hear that SGI is finally releasing OpenGL under a
free-software-compatible license. However... don't we have an opengl
compatible library, already, because SGI didn't release this years
Haven't we been here before, with Olivetti Labs releasing CORBA back in
1996 but The Open Group's participants only being able to agree to release
DCE under the LGPL nearly eight years too late? (yes, the core runtime
- 250,000 lines of code - was always available under a BSD compatible
but that's not the same as an entire Directory Service and runtime being
Haven't we been here before, with Sun releasing Java, ten years too late,
under a Free Software License?
Would someone please explain to me why this fantastic decision actually
matters? Is SGI planning to make our lives easier, by taking the lead
development of OpenGL in a cooperative and collaborative manner, or are
they planning to do a TrollTech.com or a MySQL.com on us (releasing "free"
software, 6 months behind the "proprietary" release, as a "sop").
FSF high-priority software campaign
Following on from Stephen Fry's wonderful assistance in promoting GNU's 25th
birthday, the FSF has announced a High Priority
a campaign to fund the development of these projects.
The list includes Gnash, an Adobe replacement; a replacement for Google
Earth; a replacement for MatLab; a replacement for BIOSes; a replacement for
Skype; a replacement for DWG (CAD/CAM library) - with all these
you'd think that there was no room for any real innovation by Free Software
people at all - that they have to constantly chase the coat-tails and lap
up the dregs of the proprietary software vendors.
But seriously, as the failed acceptance of KDE 4.0 shows, following the lead
of another company, who will have taken years to develop and release
something, just ... doesn't work. I was utterly disappointed by KDE 4.0 -
that it looked so much like Windows XP. Windows XP is old by the
it gets out the door. Why, with the incredibly innovative and exciting
infrastructure behind plasma, did the KDE team think that something
so old, something that people so desperately want to escape
from using, would be a good interface concept to copy???
Whilst I realise that certain features in a product are an inescapable fact,
in order for the software to serve a useful purpose, following the lead of
proprietary companies just because they've done it isn't necessarily the
smartest thing to do - but then, neither is wandering off into
spending man-decades of effort developing something that the average
user doesn't want.
An Adobe replacement - most notably the video and microphone capability - is
a key strategic requirement. without a shadow of doubt. There is no other
cross-platform ubiquitous video and audio communications that comes remotely
as close to seamless, quick and easy install and use as Adobe Flash. end of
story. Everything else is just a nightmare. Flash brings a new dimension -
real-time video and audio communication - to the Internet, in a web
any web browser. It's utterly vital that we have this capability, in Free
Software form, in many different programming languages. Client and Server.
So far, we have red5, which is server-side
only. What we need is pyamf, rtmpy and tape to be given as much a priority
as Gnash. And swfdec.
A Skype replacement - again, this is about communication. Skype showed us
that the issue of easy-install and zero-configuration communications
software can be solved. So why the hell is it taking so long for people to
produce a free software alternative? Where is the peer-to-peer free
real-time communications network that busts firewalls and provides automatic
multi-level proxying? Why, when libnice already exists, is it taking so
for people to integrate this simple library into all of the free software
Do free software developers simply not care, or is it that it's actually far
more complex an issue than one "spare time" developer can handle? Are we
seeing, finally, that the reach of the Free Software "way" is
that "itch to scratch" in certain specialist areas is just way beyond
above-average skilled free software developers' time, resources and ability?
KDE 4.1.2 release
I love KDE. I love the underlying design. I love the way it's not
U.S-centric but is more European. Just like that wonderful comparison
between Heaven and Hell, KDE has all the designers and Gnome has all the
engineers. However, KDE 4 is, in my mind, a significant foot-shooting,
Darwin-Awarding-self-head-chainsawing step backwards (if it's in fact
possible to take a step backwards with a bullet-hole in your foot).
I like the adoption of the "applets" style thing from MacOSX - the
transparent blacking-out of the screen and the raising of applets to the
front. I question the usefulness of the wobbly-screen thing but it can
definitely be entertaining. I can definitely see the value of transparent
screens. I don't like the default "black" colour style. at all.
But... I'm just not loving KDE as much as I feel I should, and I'll stick to
installing KDE 3.N for people, and I'll stick to superkaramba for more
advanced - and pretty - desktop-widget development, not plasma.
Oh - and the integration with the brain-dead "Network Manager" - the one
takes utter control of all networking and makes it absolutely impossible
anything other than what it says thou shalt do with your own network
devices, doing this by taking away all your flat unix text files in /etc and
controlling your devices through worse-than-proprietary binary file formats,
is absolutely unforgivable.
(If you've ever tried to configure your KDE-configured laptop as a
wireless access point on eth1, to provide fellow conferencees with
internet access via eth0, you will know what I'm talking about.)
End of News-topic Rants
Thank you for reading this far. If you find the news links more useful than
my own comments, great. If you think I missed something out, that's more
worthwhile to hear - tell me, I'll add it. If you believe that something
should be done about my comments, please do actually address the
raised, so that, not least, I don't have to listen to my own voice
lamenting the lack of usability of Free Software, for the average person.
The Japanese have a saying, which identifies that point where, if you
making the effort that you're making, now, then you will definitely overcome
the obstacles that you're presently facing. It says, "don't give up! don't
stop! you will get there, but if you slack off even the slightest
bit, you won't. So keep going!". Which is really very insightful.
Free software magically reached that point, some time last year, in its aims
to bring about change - to undo some of the incalculable damage that
proprietary software has wrought, restoring the link between development,
innovation and use. It's not over, yet, by a long shot.