Archive for the ‘standards’ Category

Tizen or Teasin’?

September 29, 2011

I’m interested and will keep my eye on Tizen, but as of September 2011 I don’t see any published licensing information (other than Linux’s GPLv2). On good faith, I don’t think this will be an issue upon first release. However, is Tizen going to evolve as “open” like Android or pursue some street cred with those who value free software?

Even if a tease, I certainly applaud the idea of an API for “HTML5 and other web standards”. For various popular phone operating systems of the day, these “App Stores” are an ugly regression.


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.

“thanks”, brokep

July 6, 2009

Apparently, some Pirate Bay users are unhappy that the site is being (has been?) sold. I’m not sure why there’s gloom – it’s just a site. Instructions to download similar files can be (and are) hosted on other sites. For nostalgia, some may desire the name “Pirate Bay” to refer to an uncompromising domain (it’s quite possible users may see the site compromised in the future) – but nostalgia is useless.

The money generated from the sale will go to an unnamed foundation that understands the political importance of this issue. As well, the video/audio tags of HTML 5 could (but not necessarily) make the Video Bay a site that needn’t require visitors to install any proprietary software on their machines in order to have a quality experience. The avoidance of proprietary software is what makes “breaking” any technical restriction as easy as slipping out of Jell-O handcuffs.

What I did notice is that the Video Bay asks one to register with an email address and tag it with a username. I sympathize when it comes to those posting, but it’s unclear to me why one who simply wants to watch/listen to and/or download a file must register.  So while my thanks are sincere, they do come with scare quotes. This is more information about you in the hands of others. Why does the Video Bay require this? Will it always operate this way?

e-textbooks, DRM, and vendor lock-in for schools

October 24, 2008

Discussion over e-textbooks and hardware/software to read them has started at our school. Links to information regarding Amazon’s Kindle and CafeScribe were suggested to begin some research. Below is my response. I would appreciate hearing thoughts from other educators:

I want book readers too. Though, we need to be wary of jumping into hardware and software that risks vendor lock-in and implements DRM. Depending on its implementation, DRM is often going to be inappropriate for schools. For instance, if the file and application prevent students from sharing and working with the data in a flexible way (i.e. copy/pasting to and from other devices/apps if they so choose), it hinders learning opportunities. Avoiding vendor lock-in and using open formats is desirable for schools.

For more info:


Vendor Lock-in

Open Formats

Right now, Amazon’s Kindle supports most of its files using a DRM-encumbered, proprietary file format (AZW) and forbids users from sharing or putting books on other devices according to its terms of service. CafeScribe looks interesting but locks users into either Windows or Mac at this time and is proprietary. They might offer a platform independent implementation in the future, but in order to use now means vendor lock-in at both the application and operating system level.

a Nokia double take

December 11, 2007

Yes, Nokia really did say this:

proprietary technology such as Ogg

Cory rips that apart here.

south africa adopts ODF

October 28, 2007

Andy Updegrove reports.

Best Campaigner Against OOXML

October 2, 2007

My thanks just got one-upped.

Via /.

Allison on Standards

September 15, 2007

Jeremy says:

“So we saw over the past few weeks some strange and rather irregular national positions coming to light. My own favorites were Cuba voting “yes” to the fast-tracking of OOXML, even though Microsoft is prohibited by the US Government from selling any software on the island that might even be able to read and write the new format, and Azerbaijan’s “yes” vote, even though OOXML as defined isn’t able to express a Web URL address in Azeri, their official language.”

OOXML fails to get ISO approval

September 4, 2007

Update: The official ISO announcement and a PC World article without the spin.


This has more spin on it than a Tiger Woods wedge shot. If one had no idea what was going on, one would probably believe Microsoft was happy about what has just transpired. Well gee…if everything is so hunky-dory and right on track, then why/how did the New York Times get it wrong?

We win this round. Unfortunately, over the coming months Microsoft will throw everything plus the kitchen sink into getting a broken version of OOXML passed as an international standard. As one “cautious” commenter on this blog recently noted, “Expect more packing of committees, threats, bribes, dirty tricks, and more.” And unlike the slip-up in Sweden that arguably cost them approval this week, expect Microsoft to be much more careful this time around.

mainstream media predicts OOXML passing

September 4, 2007

Update: Now the New York Times is carrying the same O’Brien report predicting the outcome to be in Microsoft’s favor.


I may have to eat my words.

Pretty soon we’ll get the official word, but the Herald Tribune is saying it looks good for Microsoft while I’m hearing through more independent media a different story. Funny how the corruption in Sweden was not reported on at all by the Tribune’s Kevin O’Brien. Apparently, it’s just “intense lobbying”.