Archive for the ‘free software’ Category

“fascinating”?

April 8, 2011

Much Ado About Nothing:

Well, this is fascinating. ASUS hasn’t even released its Eee Pad Transformer yet, but it’s already put up for download the source code to the Linux kernel used in the Android Honeycomb operating system the machine runs.

The Linux kernel is under the GPL, which is a copyleft license. Asus is shipping Honeycomb which includes Linux. They have to “release” the Linux source code; as does every other vendor selling Honeycomb-based devices. I know licensing can get complicated at times, but this is pretty straightforward.

Freedom Box

February 22, 2011

Today I decided to support Freedom Box. Funding for the project is hosted on Kickstarter. I encourage contributions but if that’s not possible, please read the following excerpt below explaining why this software is being written.

Why Freedom Box?

Because social networking and digital communications technologies are now critical to people fighting to make freedom in their societies or simply trying to preserve their privacy where the Web and other parts of the Net are intensively surveilled by profit-seekers and government agencies. Because smartphones, mobile tablets, and other common forms of consumer electronics are being built as “platforms” to control their users and monitor their activity.

Freedom Box exists to counter these unfree “platform” technologies that threaten political freedom. Freedom Box exists to provide people with privacy-respecting technology alternatives in normal times, and to offer ways to collaborate safely and securely with others in building social networks of protest, demonstration, and mobilization for political change in the not-so-normal times.

Freedom Box software is built to run on hardware that already exists, and will soon become much more widely available and much more inexpensive. “Plug servers” and other compact devices are going to become ubiquitous in the next few years, serving as “media centers,” “communications centers,” “wireless routers,” and many other familiar and not-so-familiar roles in office and home.

Freedom Box software images will turn all sorts of such devices into privacy appliances. Taken together, these appliances will afford people around the world options for communicating, publishing, and collaborating that will resist state intervention or disruption. People owning these appliances will be able to restore anonymity in the Net, despite efforts of despotic regimes to keep track of who reads what and who communicates with whom.

Google has “no plans” to ban copyleft

February 20, 2011

Both Apple and Microsoft have blocked the distribution of copylefted Free Software through their App Store and Windows Phone Marketplace respectively. Though there’s no indication or reason to believe this might happen with Google’s Android Market, I wrote their Open Source Programs Manager, Chris DiBona, asking him about the possibility. He replied:

No, we have no plans to restrict copyleft based programs. When we were creating our application market for android, we wanted to make sure that developers could offer programs that contained open source and free software. (email: 2/20/11)

Google’s inclusive approach to licensing will only help make their market more appealing to developers and users alike.

the “Android is more vulnerable” argument

January 15, 2011

is based on the assumption that access to proprietary source does not go beyond its intended radius. Better is to assume it does, open it up, and design securely. What withholding source definitely does, is limit the number of potential whistle-blowers.

he sure told me

January 9, 2011

If you’re unfortunate enough to be a Facecrack user, you can check out more at the VLC Media Player’s page.

To be fair, though he stereotypes all VLC users as “Open Source” users, he’s got an historically accurate point. The Open Source movement was started as a break from the Free software movement. A break that differentiated itself by placing an emphasis on software development models rather than end-user freedom. Some Open Source supporters don’t know this though, and were actually drawn to the ethical and socially optimal reasons that many Open Source adherents agree with despite the movement’s foundational, ethics-free rhetoric.

The fact remains however, that abiding by copyleft would not restrict Apple in any meaningful way. They have chosen not to respect the obligations set forth in the license. User anger should be directed toward Apple, not licensors who wish to uphold the terms of the license. It is good reason to boycott Apple or at the very least, Apple’s App Store. All Apple needs to do is change their policy so as not to discriminate against some licenses. Upholding the intent of copyleft does not make one an asshole and Apple doesn’t deserve sympathy or deflected criticism.

not nearly humble enough

December 15, 2010

The second round of the Humble Indie Bundle is out. Though the first round slightly missed the mark by way of licensing, I still chose to support it. Thus far, there’s no indication that this current offering is anything else but gratis, proprietary software. If money finding its way to the EFF or the Child’s Play Charity is motivating you to buy the bundle, I suggest bypassing it and donating directly to those sites. The EFF is here, and the CPC is here.

Hopefully I’ll be able to update this post later with news that the bundle licensing has favorably changed.

does Microsoft support “viral” CC licenses?

November 27, 2010

I’ve supported Creative Commons several years now and continue (happily) to do so. I’m also glad to see continued support from Microsoft, a company the Free and Open Source software world often criticizes. It’s interesting to note however, that prominent Free software advocates historically refused to support CC until the license offerings met a meaningful standard. Microsoft too, has harshly criticized free licensing. But their target has been the GPL – to the extent that they’ve insulted the license as “viral”, a “threat” and “cancerous”. It’s well known (at least, to Microsoft surely) that CC implements the Share-alike obligation as a choice for their licenses – the copyleft equivalent for works other than software.

So is it that Microsoft has no desire to take a “principled” stand against copyleft, or do they simply support CC to portray themselves as a socially responsible corporation? If their animosity toward copyleft was based on old, ignorant, 2001 remarks and their feelings have changed, it’d be nice for them to state so. Or perhaps they’d like to offer an argument as to why copyleft isn’t economically viable in the world of software while for other works it deserves their respect.

And no, fixing a situation after getting caught with your pants down doesn’t count as a change of heart.

Obligations vs. Restrictions: The GPL, VLC, and Apple

November 4, 2010

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has followed up on the news that VLC may be pulled from Apple’s App Store. The title of his article is misleading and should be noted. It says:

GPLv2 blocks VLC from Apple’s App Store

but it should read something like:

Apple blocks VLC from their App Store

The blame here could be misconstrued by readers and thus, misplaced. There is nothing in the GPL that restricts software from being distributed through Apple’s (or anyone’s) app store. If Apple doesn’t want to accept the obligations of the GPL, then they’re the one’s responsible. Apple isn’t just blocking VLC, they’re blocking copyleft altogether.

free speech, not free пиво

September 12, 2010

Russian authorities are using the pretext of copyright enforcement to suppress dissent. Unfortunately, the dissenters are often using Microsoft’s proprietary software for their activity, giving the police an excuse to hassle them. To solve this problem, the activists should use Free software like the GNU/Linux operating system. While Free software can’t ensure the Russian police won’t forcibly stop acts of free speech, it would serve well to defeat this ostensible reason.

Facebook educational extremes: banning versus promotion

August 27, 2010

Jeff Utecht sings the praises for Facebook as an educational tool. While Jeff typically shines at promoting useful tools for educators, I think he goes over the top here. He begins by listing “facts” about Facebook and a couple of them sound more like a sales-pitch than sound educational advice.

1. Everyone, including parents and teachers are already using it. Not only is that false by exaggeration, but an attempt to pass off a bandwagon fallacy (argumentum ad populum for the Latin-minded).

2. Facebook has replaced e-mail for many people. While I know many who use Facebook to message others, I don’t actually know anyone who has completely stopped sending messages via e-mail and relies exclusively on Facebook. Perhaps these people exist, but many? Like microblogging or IM, these technologies have certainly added to our arsenal, but many?

3. Facebook has more privacy settings then (sic) most Internet sites. I think it would be useful (imperative?) to point to sites that serve a similar purpose, then describe how Facebook is superior in this regard. And, given the ugly history of Facebook privacy and the CEO’s contempt toward these issues, this isn’t a strong selling point. Remember who’s in control here…Zuckerberg’s the CEO, b**ch. Yes, the cards have changed, but there’s no indication the man has.

4. Not using Facebook to communicate with your school/class community is like not using Google to search. Apples and oranges. I don’t use Facebook to search nor do I use Google’s search engine to do social networking. Further, I don’t have to sign into Google and tell them who I am in order to use their search engine. I’m not sure what Jeff is getting at here but at best, it’s another bandwagon fallacy.

5. It is the future. While I have no doubt that Facebook will continue to be popular for some time, this “fact” was a real eye-roller.

6. It is the now. See #5.

7. For every negative reason to block Facebook there is a positive reason as well. I actually ended the list with this one because it ties into the title of this post…

First, I want to make clear that I agree with Jeff that schools that actively block Facebook are not doing students any favors. I abhor schools that block sites that simply act as tools. I think Jeff and I agree on this. What I question is the idea of using Facebook with elementary students (as young as Grade 1 in Jeff’s post) or even older ones for that matter. The Facebook privacy policy clearly states that children under the age of 13 are not to create accounts or use the site to post personal information. Carefully note the or. The school Jeff speaks about has cleverly circumvented the account creation aspect – by having a centralized account controlled by the teacher. However, they have failed to live up to the policy as personal information from the children is still being posted. While I think this is a concern, it isn’t even my central criticism…

Why hook a school into Facebook instead of developing a private, on-site solution? What does Facebook offer (besides popularity) that a site built on Free/Open Source software like Elgg or a combination of tools like Moodle and StatusNet doesn’t? Sure, going with Facebook sounds easy, but it also sounds like the easy way out – especially for an educational institution that could turn this into a learning opportunity for some technically-inclined pupils and a technical director and/or teacher. I get why banning Facebook in schools is an unwarranted extreme, but I fail to see any value in promoting it as an educational tool for little children. Isn’t this just going from one extreme to another?


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