Windows7sins Launches

Free Software 17 Comments »

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Yesterday I posted about the launch announcement from the FSF for the Windows7sins campaign. The site is up now, and it’s underwhelming even with the low expectations I’ve had.



Firstly, the homepage greets you with a picture of an OLPC XO-1. With Negreponte saying that Windows is key to the OLPC’s success and that the Sugar interface was a mistake, is that really such a good idea? Perhaps they chose it because it originally shipped as a complete hardware platform, or perhaps with its strong identity with education. I guess I could let it slide.



I don’t know if this is how most people would see it, but for me personally, I’d get horribly annoyed if Microsoft, Apple, Symantec, Google, etc started spamming me telling me why I should be using their software with letters in the post. I can imagine that a corporate that receives a letter saying something about free software, they’d probably just throw it in the bin.

Perhaps I’m a bit naïve and I just don’t get it? This is not how I learned to promote free software, and quite frankly, I think the Free Software Foundation could use some lessons in how to promote Free Software properly. It’s not that I want to criticise them or focus on the negative, but Free Software has so much to offer and as I said yesterday, I think that focussing on what it can do is much better than focussing on what the competitors can’t do. I’ll leave it at that.

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FSF Launches Windows7sins tomorrow

Free Software, Project Mayhem 20 Comments »

Tomorrow the Free Software Foundation plans to launch the windows7sins campaign, similiar to the BadVista campaign that ran for Windows Vista. From the info-fsf list:

This Wednesday, August 26 at 11am, the Free Software Foundation will be
launching its public awareness campaign, drawing
attention to the threats posed by the adoption of Microsoft's
proprietary operating system. We have a launch event here in Boston on
the Boston Commons from noon until 3pm, and we need everyone in the area
to come along and help out and join in the ceremony as we conduct a
ceremonial trashing of proprietary software.

**We'll be launching our Windows 7 campaign with pomp and fanfare, with
a giant 12 foot trashcan being filled with boxes of proprietary software.**

The event promises to be lots of fun, and with thousands of people
passing through the Boston Commons every day we hope you will help us
connect with the public by handing out information and explaining the
benefits of free software. There will be camera crews and photographers
capturing the event and we will be getting these images up online as
soon as possible on the day.

Let us know you're coming and bring along your friends and work
colleagues - mail [email protected] if you have time to help us set up,
or just turn up at the Boston Commons near the entrance to the Public
Gardens from noon.

If you're not in the Boston area, there will be plenty for you to do to
help us launch the campaign and get the message out. Stay tuned for
upcoming instructions...

Personally I don’t believe much in these campaigns. In my opinion the Free Software Foundation could use their resources much better spreading awareness on Free Software rather than focussing on a proprietary product. I like campaigns like Defective by Design much more, which encourages users to think about things like DRM before purchasing a device and content. A campaign for just saying “boo-hoo, there’s a proprietary product and it’s bad” just seems a bit petty. I think it would be better to focus on less campaigns with higher priority and do them decently, rather than having too many campaigns that don’t do much.

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FSF 2008 Fundraiser

Free Software 1 Comment »

New Targets

Previously I blogged about the FSF 2007 Fundraiser and some of the cool things you get when you register as a member. The first time they did this, they recruited 300 new members, the second time 500 and now, the target is 800 new members.

Why join the FSF?

The Free Software Foundation’s primary source of income is donations. The Free Software Foundation has played a big part over the years to improve our accessibility to software and protect the rights of developers and users alike. Their high-priority projects have included:

  • The creation of a completely free operating system, which has been achieved through both the GNU/Linux and BSD operating systems
  • A free flash implementation, which is making good headway via the GNU Gnash project
  • A free Java implementation, and Sun has committed to releasing Sun Java under a free license as well
  • Maintaining the GNU licenses, including the GPL, LGPL and the relatively new AGPL.
  • Campaigns such as Defective by Design (which is very important to me personally) and the Play Ogg campaign.
  • Project hosting via the GNU Savannah site

Donations start from US$10 a month, and US$5 if you’re a student. It doesn’t sound like too much, but when enough members commit it goes a long way to help improving the FSF and what they can provide to us as free software users.

If you do sign up, please use my referer URL by clicking on the image above or on this link, they have a referrer program where they track how many members existing members have recruited. I had 5 which I thought was very little, but it gives me a #3 position currently on the referrers list. Richard Johnson, who is also an Ubuntero is also doing quite well on the list.

Some people often ask whether the Free Software Foundation is still relevant in a world where Free Software is already so abundant. Many people have (or have tried to) circumvented the practical benefits of free software by using Tivoization-like methods or by using Software Patents. I believe that the free software foundation is as relevant as ever and I will support them in what ever way I can.

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Totally getting a GNUphone

Free Software, Humour 7 Comments »

While some people are getting all excited about the Google Android-based phones, I’m going to opt for something way cooler:

The Free Software Foundation (NASDAQ: RMS) has announced the Free Software alternative to the evil, DRM-infested, locked-down, defective-by-design iPhone: the GNUPhone.

The key technical innovation of the GNUPhone is that it is completely operated from the command line. “What could be more intuitive than a bash prompt?” said seventeen-year-old Debian developer Hiram Nerdboy. “The ultimate one-dimensional desktop! Just type dial voice +1-555-1212 –ntwk verizon –prot cdma2000 –ssh-version 2 -a -l -q -9 -b -k -K 14 -x and away you go! Simple and obvious!”

Aaron Seigo has announced that a A KDE 4 port is also in the works, and that the Novell corporation has already started spreading FUD about it.

The phone should be able to make actual phone calls by 2011 to 2012.

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Open-hardware graphics card gets ready to debut

Free Software 1 Comment »

Traversal Technologies is getting ready to release the first open architecture (for lack of better term) graphics adaptor. From their announcement, they make it clear that the first few units sold will be primarily to fund future development:

The first 100 pre-orders get a $100 discount and free accessories (programming cable that retails for $65).

I ask everyone to start pushing this. When we have a one or two more things ready, I’m going to get help from the FSF to market this. But in the mean time, it’s important for everyone on this list to help get the word out.

For us to be able to start production, we have a goal of 100 pre-orders. But it’s actually a dollar target we need to meet, so the more that get sold at the full retail price, the sooner we’ll make that target. Remember, this is a fund raiser; in order for the OGP to be able to design and build more open hardware in the future, we need to raise money. For those of you who have contributed to the OGP and are in need of a discount, please submit your application to the OHF.

I would gladly buy one if I had that kind of money to splurge, but US$1500 is way out of my current budget for something I probably won’t have any use for, as nice as the concept is. The specs are available from their FAQ page, and it’s clear that this card is expected to be used for more than just dumping pixels onto your display. Users will be able to load custom firmware on the card and use it for security and to increasesystem performance.

I wonder if it’s ready to actually be used as a display card in its current state, and whether any drivers for it exists yet. I hope that they do really well, I believe that a free hardware platform can provide many benefits to consumers, and that we’ll say many beautiful technologies emerge in the next decade because of that. I also think it’s about time that the FSF spend more time thinking about free hardware architecture, since so many people use the GPL for these kinds of projects. Not that I think it’s a bad idea, of course, it’s just that the GPL was designed for software, and I haven’t quite thought through what kind of effects that could have on the freedom of the hardware. At least GPLv3 licenced hardware would be able to stop manufacturers from locking you in to using proprietary software on the hardware (a type of flipped tivoisation)… or would it?

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It’s just firmware

Free Software 10 Comments »

Many GNU/Linux distributions distribute firmware required to use a variety of hardware, most typically, wireless cards, modems and certain high-end disk controllers. While I’m certainly not fond of these non-freebinary blobs“, I think it’s fine that distributions ship them. Users need their hardware to work, and it shouldn’t be complex to make it work either. Consider how incredibly easy it is to install Ubuntu, and then consider the jump of complexity when a user has to install or compile a driver manually- it can cause a significant decrease in free software adoption, and at the moment, I believe it’s a necessary evil we’ll have to live with for now.

However, I get agitated when people say “It’s just firmware” or “It’s technically part of the hardware”. Free firmware is important. One of the most notable free software stories that are often told even refers to Stallman’s earliest experiences with non-free code, which happened to be printer firmware.

Before you say something like “It’s just firmware” again. Please consider asking the following questions first:

  • Can the amount of bugs in a system be decreased if the firmware is free software as apposed to non-free?
  • Could performance possibly be increased if the firmware is free software?
  • Could it benefit hardware hackers and developers by having free firmware available?

And what about security? Firmware usually does not run on your main CPU. It runs on a specific part of hardware on your system that can possibly have direct access to other parts of your system. How would a user, for a fact, know that the proprietary firmware in use does not have some kind of rootkit or other hazardous code installed?

In my opinion, it is clear that free firmware has several benefits to the computing world, and that proprietary firmware has very real hazards. I think it’s wonderful that the Free Software Foundation is working on a free BIOS, but I also believe that with most hardware, that we are dependent on the hardware manufacturers to release specifications and code. Hopefully, as time passes, the free software movement would have more funding to take the kind of action required to fix this. If there is enough funding to re-design hardware from scratch, based on open technologies, standards and software, then this problem can be eliminated. Some projects have proved that open hardware is both viable and profitable. A good example is Digium, who produces open hardware for PBX systems (most likely to be used with Asterisk, the free PBX software suite). There is also the OpenMoko project, which has done awesome work writing free implementations of the firmware and software required to operate the hardware on a cellular phone. This has already had positive spin-off results, such as the Dash Express GPS system, which is based on the hardware design of the Neo1973.

Many top programmers have objected to binary only modules, quoting Linus Torvalds:

Basically, I want people to know that when they use binary-only modules,
it's THEIR problem.  I want people to know that in their bones, and I
want it shouted out from the rooftops.  I want people to wake up in a
cold sweat every once in a while if they use binary-only modules.

So, please think carefully before dismissing non-free firmware as just an innocent part of hardware. Many people who do things like that often have alterior motives, and quite honestly, I don’t trust them.

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Free Software Foundation Fundraiser

Free Software 2 Comments »

The Free Software Foundation’s main source of income is donations, and it’s main source of donations is its membership program. The FSF is currently running a campaign to recruit at least 500 new members. The membership fees start with US$10 a month (associate member), or US$5 per month if you are a student.

As a thank you for your donation, the FSF will send you (based on your choice) either a FSF privacy key or Free Software, Free Society – Selected articles by Richard Stallman.

The campaign has just past the half-way mark this week, please consider joining.  You will also receive a e-mail alias for your contribution.

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