Archive for the ‘gnu/linux’ Category

OilRush for Ubuntu GNU/Linux

September 2, 2011

Canonical (for obvious reasons) continues to celebrate proprietary games made available to Ubuntu users through their Software Centre. I’m not entirely against proprietary games for GNU/Linux, though I won’t install/buy this title given its licensing structure. OilRush is based on the proprietary Unigine.

I think a better balance with free software would be to license the game’s engine freely and distribute/sell the data sets under non-free licenses. Though that would irk Free Culture supporters, they’re irked either way. A free software engine can be an incredibly useful contribution to computer science and other software that puts the engine to use.

Exceedingly restrictive licensing for GNU/Linux games however, appears to be an inevitable trend in the short-run. An optimistic view sees software companies planning their long-run under the assumption that freer software licensing will offer a competitive edge and maintain profitable opportunities. If this were to happen, it may prove the OilRush model isn’t sustainable.

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5 interesting facts about bitcoin

May 18, 2011

I’ve been reading a little about Bitcoin lately. I installed the software, acquired some BTC (currency) by donation, and have tried mining. I think it’s an interesting project. Here are some facts about Bitcoin that caught my attention:

1. Bitcoin is available as free software and can run on GNU/Linux, a free software operating system. Therefore, publicly auditable source is available for a computer running Bitcoin and the software stack it runs on.

2. Bitcoin implements a peer-to-peer (p2p) architecture. It’s not easy for companies or governments to forcibly shut it down.

3. Though Bitcoin software is hard to shut down, governments and companies can choose to shun the BTC currency. For instance, Coinpal, a service to buy/sell BTC using Paypal was suspended. Apparently, Paypal accepted Coinpal for months and then put Coinpal out of business because it decided it was wrong to be involved in a “ecurrency” market. It didn’t appear that any reasons were forthcoming.

4. Quantity supplied of BTC is limited in a different way compared to a physical, nationalized currency. An algorithm to increase supply (“printing” through “mining”) of BTC is set and cannot be changed. Unlike currencies that are printed as deemed necessary by a central bank, Bitcoins are limited to 21,000,000. By the 2030s, BTC production will have slowed considerably.

5. Key pairs are used for trust between traders. Like a physical currency, BTC can be stolen or lost if the owner of the money is careless (i.e. they fail to encrypt/backup their wallet). The value in a wallet can be transferred to a newer wallet, in order to keep current in regard to security.

What else about Bitcoin/BTC is notable?

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.

Steve Jobs’ porn distraction

July 1, 2010

Steve Jobs wants to convince the public that Apple’s anti-feature-filled devices take some sort of moral high ground. He goes further to say that Free software-based Android devices should be bought by those who want pornography. What Jobs really wants is the profit for Apple when they control what software you can or can’t have on your device. Like a mufti justifying a fatwā on forced veiling or a government justifying unwarranted wiretapping, Jobs aims to convince us that Apple is doing society a service. In reality, he is distracting us from the actual problem. That is, that users are not in control of their computing. Whether we find pornography appealing or repulsive, we should reject his attempt to play moral police.

The beauty of Free software device is not that it can be used to access sexual imagery, but that it gives users the freedom to make their own decision.

developers, developers, developers…

June 16, 2010

A user survey (PDF) for Eclipse software notes a 16.5% drop in three years.

Software like Android isn’t helping Microsoft either.

ubuntu tablet questions

June 14, 2010

After users turn on these devices, will they be prompted to accept a license agreement if they wish to run the pre-installed software? If so, that isn’t necessarily a problem, but what will users have to agree to? How will the default installation deal with issues surrounding (for example) codecs, flash, and drivers for hardware? If I choose to install other Free software on the device, can I expect the wireless, graphics, and other hardware to function as expected? What BIOS will these devices run?

I was pleased to hear recently that F-Spot will no longer be the default image editor/viewer in desktop Ubuntu. Will there be any mono by default in “Unity” devices? Or, will standard Unity installs differentiate themselves from similar mobile-OS projects (e.g. the current, mono-laden version of Meego)?

I want to be convinced by Canonical to buy a tablet in 2011 (and many more beyond that time), but fear they may make too many compromises.

not perfect, but humble enough

May 13, 2010

The H reports that most of the Humble Indie Bundle games are now either Free software or going to be Free software. I was torn on whether or not I should contribute to this project given that “World of Goo” and the newly added “Samorost 2” are holding out as free beer only. I’m not interested in supporting non-free software so my first inclination was to ignore the whole offer. Though I’m a bit irked to know that money contributed to the developers supports the distribution of proprietary software, I thought it too harsh to write off the whole deal so I reconsidered. Overall, I was very pleased to hear that most of the games’ source will be free.

I saw no way on the site to voice my concern about the proprietary offerings I steered clear from. So for now, I’ll use this post to publicly state two facts:

1) My contribution was smaller than it would have been if either all of the games were being released as Free software or the Goo was removed from the promotion altogether

2) Since I won’t be downloading and playing the non-free games, I won’t experience them and therefore won’t be promoting them to others

maverick meerkat

April 2, 2010

Mark Shuttleworth recently announced the mascot for Ubuntu 10.10 – ‘Maverick Meerkat’. While I have bad associative memories of the word ‘maverick’ with a certain US politician, it does make me wonder how the 10.10 release will live up to the name. After all, getting slicker and adding new features isn’t necessarily a demonstration of independent thinking. But I can think of one place this mongoose can radically depart from tradition…on the desktop with Gnome 3.

Time will tell.

and how freedom can work

March 4, 2010

Check out “WHY DRM DOESN’T WORK“.

Note that step #6 (which is closely coupled to step #5) is required for DRM to have its intended effect. I recommend running a Free system (e.g. GNU) and if you must, skip straight to step #20.

More of the above will encourage the popularity and development of services (for example) that offer win-win possibilities. Such services are examples of how freedom can work.

how Free software supports schools

January 29, 2010

I wrote the following list of advantages schools get by procuring Free software. I did it for the school I currently teach at though I hope others may find this useful. Any suggestions for additions or changes are welcome.

Civics and Ethics in Action: From an early age, we wish to teach students to share, cooperate, and engage their curiosity. Typically, proprietary software licensing restricts users from modifying their software or making copies to share with others. By contrast, teaching students the civics of community and the ethic of sharing is harmonious with Free software licensing and core educational goals. That is, we can promote these values and concurrently encourage students to respect the law. This is essential to an education that values global citizenship and civic responsibility.

Local Community Building: The freedom to share copies of GNU/Linux and other Free software means students and teachers can install this software on their computers at home. By contrast, proprietary software forbids this. Many teachers, students, and parents will want to have copies of the software used at school on their personal machines. When a school uses proprietary software, it compels community members to acquire their own restricted copies if they wish to compute using the same technology. By using Free software, a school does not pressure community members to purchase (or illegally acquire) equivalent software. Free software puts no limits upon the community.*

Global Community Building: Any money or effort spent by the school on the development of Free software can go directly toward improvements that other schools and organizations are free to benefit from. Those investments are sustainable as no developer can unilaterally choose to discontinue distribution. Additionally, simply by using Free software schools add to its economic value (via the network effect) and receive the benefits of source code peer-review from a global community. Using Free software is to participate in a cooperating community with no borders.

Depth of Learning Opportunities: Software is fundamentally a set of mathematical and logical instructions expressed in something called source code. Typically, the source code for proprietary software is kept a trade secret. Without source code, knowledge of software is kept shallow and the ability to modify (i.e. experiment with) it is impossible. Because Free software makes its source code available, the science behind such software can be studied by students. A Free software system is especially fitting for educational environments as any level of curiosity can be satisfied. Tools that are open for students to tinker with broadens learning opportunities and fosters community when those same tools are used by the students’ peers and teachers.

Security: Free software programs are adept at warding off viruses. Successfully planting a back-door in a popular Free software program is virtually impossible due to public scrutiny of the source code. Public peer review acts as an effective defense against the dangers of worms and trojan horses. The security a Free software program offers is a positive in terms of the productivity of users and a school’s technical staff.

Constructive Spending: Typically, using Free software instead of proprietary software releases funds that can be spent on developing desired software features or other school-related needs (e.g. professional development, facilities, books, etc). By contrast, using proprietary software means funds are directed toward perpetual licensing fees and upgrades – some of which are compelling whether or not the school sees a need.

Performance On Hardware and Hardware Life
: While not an inherent property of Free software, GNU/Linux is known as a lightweight and customizable system that performs well on older hardware and new hardware with low specifications (e.g. netbooks). This can translate into savings and waste reduction by extending hardware life.

Data Ownership and Vendor Choice: Free software is closely coupled to open standards for file formats. Students and teachers using Free software are ensured their information is stored indefinitely in universally accessible formats. Vendor lock-in through proprietary formats is never an issue when using Free software applications. Schools that adopt Free software are free to seek support and services from businesses of their choice.

* Some Free software does put a limit on individual community members (or companies) distributing copies. Sometimes, conveyed (i.e. distributed) Free software must carry with it the complete corresponding source code and the license the conveyor received with her or his own copy. This is known as copylefted Free software. Non-copylefted Free software is permissive, as it can be re-distributed as proprietary software.