Older blog entries for slef (starting at number 317)

SPI Elections

I'm standing in the SPI elections on a very clear platform including cooperative values and principles and reviewing SPI against the good practice standards (last done in June 2005) so please go vote for me if you're an SPI voting member. Voting closes Saturday. The last turnout I saw was a disappointing 15%.

Syndicated 2007-07-27 09:46:00 from MJR slef-reflection Recent Changes

Debian Maintainers

I've voted in favour of the Debian Maintainers GR because, despite flaws like micro-managing the initial situation [Sven Mueller], I believe it is a useful step towards reforming the New Maintainer process.

Those of you with long memories may recall that I think NM should be a modern portfolio-based qualification [-project, April 2006, but probably not the first time I explained it] instead of the current, inconsistent AM-dependent one which sees good people applying too early and sometimes being turned away, sometimes being accepted too quickly, but most often sitting in DAMnation.

Despite some claims to be interested in fixing NM [Raphael Hertzog], it seems the current NM team requires throwing more people at the buggy system [Raphael Hertzog] before even considering fixing the damn bugs. Of course, I suspect any suggestion would be met with a claim that NM then wasn't performing too badly, now that it had more people. I think that's damage, so I hope the DM GR can be a first stepping stone in a new path to becoming a DD which routes around the damage.

Syndicated 2007-07-27 09:37:00 from MJR slef-reflection Recent Changes

Bradley Wiggins Should Have Stayed in Race, According to UCI President

OK, this is probably my last Tour post for a while... back to business, software and the village after this, but I heard this on the radio over breakfast and I can't see much about it online.

One of the most disappointing things for English Tour fans about Moreni's failed dope test [tdfblog] is the departure of his Cofidis team-mate Bradley Wiggins from the race, days before the last (and most Wiggins-winnable) of the individual time trials.

In an interview this morning on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme at about 07:45 (in case you can Listen Again to it), there was the question:

"We've had whole teams withdrawing. It's not just the two who test positive. It's the sense that those are the tip of an iceberg, isn't it? The whole team pulls out and you don't really know how many others in that team are affected by the same behaviour."

and UCI president Pat McQuaid answered:

"Well, I mean, the fact that the whole team pulled out is something which the UCI is quite annoyed about, in actual fact, and it was that the organisers asked the teams to pull out. It wasn't the fact that the teams pulled out of their own accord. The organisers said to them, as a result of the positive, that they got the one person and they said they want the whole team out of it. That actually goes against the rules and it shouldn't have happened. Erm, so, from that point of view, you can't put anything on the other riders. You can't say that the other riders are up to anything just because they're not in the race. They were asked by the organisers to get out."

The interview continues to point out how there's much more testing in cycling now than ever before, and more than in any other sport (remember, Puerto implicated footballers and others too), but it's interesting how the whole-team-out approach is criticised for removing the other riders on a team from the race testing!

Anyway, by the UCI president's reasoning, Bradley Wiggins should still be racing. Well done to UCI and the tour for catching Moreni and almost-well-done to Moreni for admitting it, but boo Cofidis for pulling the whole team out!

Syndicated 2007-07-26 09:35:00 from MJR slef-reflection Recent Changes

The Dopey Tour de France

After my comments about the TV audience figures, Ismael Valladolid Torres commented:

"Audience in Spain will keep on raising while Contador keeps playing such a big race!"

I hope that's still the case after the recent revelations. The evidence suggests that Vinokourov had someone else's blood [tdfblog] and Cofidis's Moreni was using something like a nutsack patch [tdfblog] while Rabobank have fired race leader Rasmussen for telling them he was in Mexico when he was in Italty [tdfblog] so it looks like this year's race is still really unpredictable as the dopes are caught and kicked out.

Maybe my hopes for a Valverde (now 6th, 10:18 back) win still stand a chance... (My "serious" prediction, Klöden, left with Vino.)

Syndicated 2007-07-25 23:29:00 from MJR slef-reflection Recent Changes

Reply of FSF Radio Interviewee about Skype

Peter Brown replied:

"Thanks for the message. Here are some comments on the issues you raise:

"> - On the Radio New Internationalist show "Up in Smoke", during an interview with Peter Brown of FSF (about 43 minutes in), I was surprised to hear the following revelation that FSF uses Skype and the failure to challenge the claim that Skype is free software:"

The FSF doesn't use Skype. I would appreciate if you would clarify that on your blog post. The interviewer used Skype to telephone me on an FSF telephone. I agree that from what I said, it would be easy to infer that FSF uses Skype, but it doesn't. The interview lasted about an hour and we covered a lot of ground. Also, in this exchange I didn't clarify for the listener that when the interviewer remarked that "Skype was free", they meant as in price, but not as in freedom.

"> - I was disappointed not to find much on the FSF web site about the need for free VoIP software, building on GNU oSIP and other free software, instead of Skype's proprietary software, which has contained spyware and worms already. Will you be adding such information soon? What is the official FSF view of Skype and similar proprietary VoIP systems?"

Skype is proprietary and we don't use it. In that section of the interview we were discussing telecoms monopoly and net neutrality, and I lost the focus on the free software issue - my bad. As far as adding an article about VOIP on fsf.org I think that's a great idea. Unfortunately, I don't think we can cover that immediately, as we have some campaigns we have other campaign activities to focus on. We would be glad to take a contribution though, if you would like to write such an article - we might also want to think about using such an article as a basis for a campaign.

"> - Nevertheless, well done for covering DRM, net neutrality and the privacy problems of Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft in a relatively short interview."

Thanks. I actually used to work at the New Internationalist in Oxford, and they are a great coop. I have been working with them now for a couple of years, tying to encourage them to cover free software related issues for their audience. Have you seen the article Bruce Byfield (Newsforge) wrote that I got placed in the November issue of the magazine?

all the best


Thanks for the reply! To my shame, I'd completely forgotten that Skype can also call ordinary telephones and the interview didn't remind me. I guess that might be because my main awareness of Skype is when it's a problem, when someone gives a skype: address instead of a sip: one or a real phone number.

However, I'm not sure a called person would usually say that they were being called over Skype, rather than being telephoned. FSF people are smarties, though, so can hear the artefacts, or maybe the interviewer had mentioned it beforehand.

Anyone else want to summarise the benefits of free software VoIP compared to Skype systems? I won't get time before next month.

kris commented:

"There's openwengo, it has more features than skype (i.e. video), is encrypted, open and free. Enjoy."

I keep meaning to try openwengo, but each time I look at it, I fail to find the source tarball for the latest release. It also seems to be Qt-only, which I also try to avoid installing (as it'd be a fourth set of desktop widgets).

At the moment, I'm using linphone from the command-line. I sometimes consider replacing it with a stand-alone telephone adapter. I wonder: are any running free software?

Syndicated 2007-07-25 20:51:00 from MJR slef-reflection Recent Changes

Preface to FSF Radio Interviewee Promotes Skype

Preface to the last post: I'm aware that my surprise at FSF using Skype does raise the old question "where do you draw the line?" - For example, do you refuse to use the fixed-line telephone system if your exchanges are not running free software?

Me, I use the telephone system because it's effectively a monopoly and we don't have an alternative that works for me. I sometimes try to nibble at the system with the Phone Co-op and more VoIP use, but it's no fun banging my head against a wall. However, I boycott Skype because I can't tell what it's doing, there have been enough bad reports that I don't trust it and the alternatives of SIP and IAX work for me, but I expected FSF not to use Skype for idealistic reasons.

FSF leaders like RMS have promoted things like Why schools should exclusively use free software [by Richard Stallman], carefully corrected inaccurate claims about free software and refused to mention some proprietary software products. They were often criticised for it, but they continued to do it (for good reasons IMO, even when I disagreed with them).

So, FSF's Controller giving an interview over Skype seemed a rather surprising about-face. Then the interviewer claimed "Skype is free" and it went unchallenged. After the show, I sent the email...

Syndicated 2007-07-24 15:13:00 from MJR slef-reflection Recent Changes

FSF Radio Interviewee Promotes Skype

I just sent this: Dear FSF,

On the Radio New Internationalist show "Up in Smoke", during an interview with Peter Brown of FSF (about 43 minutes in), I was surprised to hear the following revelation that FSF uses Skype and the failure to challenge the claim that Skype is free software:

"Peter Brown: ... This interview today is being transmitted through Skype. We're talking through Skype. Now, that obviously is a direct threat to the entrenched telecoms and they would like to restrict that, to lower the quality of the voice connection and they want to do that with lots of other types of transmission.

Rachel Maher: And can they do that? Because Skype of course is free and there's a really direct benefit for organisations like ours, which is a non-profit organisation using Skype technology. Will they be able to do that?

Peter Brown: Yes, so what they can do is easily identify types of information being passed, so what they can typically do is downgrade the service that you're using, so that - for instance, voice communication - those packets of data can be slowed down, effectively making voice communciation more difficult. Now this can only really be achieved if they're able to manipulate legislation. Unfortunately, they have a long history of being very successful at this. I mentioned earlier on that Digital Restrictions Management are a threat to our freedoms because it's allowing them to erect gateways and to control what it is that we can view and do with our computers. ..."

I was disappointed not to find much on the FSF web site about the need for free VoIP software, building on GNU oSIP and other free software, instead of Skype's proprietary software, which has contained spyware and worms already. Will you be adding such information soon? What is the official FSF view of Skype and similar proprietary VoIP systems?

Nevertheless, well done for covering DRM, net neutrality and the privacy problems of Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft in a relatively short interview.

Regards, MJR

Syndicated 2007-07-24 13:26:00 from MJR slef-reflection Recent Changes

Flash Floods of Weston

Although a small puddle formed uphill of our house, it soon soaked away, so I thought we'd got away without any problems from the unexpected Summer Rain [niq's soapbox] around here, but it seems I was wrong...

Walking along Kewstoke Road yesterday, I was surprised to see sandbags outside one house. When I mentioned it in the greengrocer's, Nicky (excuse any misspelling) said they'd been sweeping the water flowing down the hill away from the shop door, as it would kill the wood floor and the electrics beneath if they didn't. It seems the other side of the hill also had some flash floods, reported in The Weston Mercury - News: The day the rains came down.

Even so, it was much less than up-river in Gloucestershire and across in Oxfordshire, where Midcounties Co-op has mobilised its resources to combat flood chaos [coop news] by distributing essentials like water.

It seems finding out whether you're in a flood risk area is unnecessarily difficult because the Environment Agency gives its reasons for stopping flood data being used [Free Our Data] - in short, they want to sell us our data a second time!

In the longer term, it looks like things may change drastically around here if an entrepreneur from Burnham-on-Sea succeeds in his plan to wall in Weston-super-Mare with Severn Lake succeeds. (tip WWN ) What would that do to floods?

Syndicated 2007-07-24 11:21:00 from MJR slef-reflection Recent Changes

Early Tour de France Audience Figures

Bloomberg: Tour de France TV Audiences Rise in Europe Even After Scandals (tip tdfblog ) reports audiences are up 6% in France, 11% in Spain and 40% in Denmark (to over 800,000). Italy's RAI reports 1.2million viewers, while ARD/ZDF averaged 1.4million until they pulled the plug over half a dope test.

In the UK, the BARB Weekly Summaries show the tour's London-Canterbury Stage 1 charting with 178,000 viewers on itv4. That's up from 143,000 for 2006's stage 1 (up 24%). Last year's itv4 coverage seems to have peaked at 197,000, so it'll be interesting to see how later stages fare, as details are announced.

Stage 1 was also shown on the more widely available (analogue+digital) itv1 channel. The itv1 coverage didn't chart, so it must have had less than 3.41 million viewers, but I can't see exactly how many.

British Eurosport's reported audience for Stage 1 increased from 84,000 last year to 118,000 (up 40%). Their 2006 peak was 100,000 for the last Thursday highlights, so that's already broken. They've been advertising pretty widely, with really annoying Franglais adverts that mispronounce the race name ("Tardy France" eh?).

There was also an overspill into other channels, which we don't usually see. Two of my favourites: Graham Jones: What do the Tour de France and a Victoria sponge have in common with your social networking web site? Channel 4: Tour de France's UK appeal (video feed) mms://a1167.v15478c.c15478.g.vm.akamaistream.net/7/1167/15478/v0004/origin.channel4.com/news/2007/07/05_bike.wmv

Syndicated 2007-07-24 10:48:00 from MJR slef-reflection Recent Changes

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