Off the Beat: Bruce Byfield's Blog

Fundraising for Free Software and Free Culture

Jan 24, 2012 GMT

I've spent December and January watching the fundraising campaigns of several free software and culture projects. I'm involved in fundraising for two mainstream charities, so the efforts of others is directly interesting to me. Also, increasingly, free software and culture projects are looking for ways to make their efforts pay, so what works and what doesn't is becoming an important community issue.I admit that I watch the progress bars for fundraising with considerable fascination. I look, for example, at least once at day to the Free Software Foundation's site to see how much of its target of $300,000 is left to raise, or nose around to see how Wikipedia's latest personal appeals are...
Where are they now?

Jan 18, 2012 GMT

Years ago, the short-lived Maximum Linux magazine ran a graphic showing Eric Raymond, Richard Stallman, and Linus Torvalds wearing the gang colors of open source. Naturally, Stallman protested in the next issue that he was an advocate of free software, not open source, but the point is that, back then, it was easy to point out the leaders of free and open source software (FOSS) in a way that would be impossible today. And I can't help thinking that's a healthy sign.I was reminded of how much things have changed when I read about Bruce Perens' keynote at linux.conf.au this week. If the Maximum Linux graphic had added a fourth or fifth figure, that figure would probably have Perens. But...
GRUB 2 Editor

Jan 13, 2012 GMT

Mostly, I prefer using a command line for system administration. However, I'm willing to rethink this preference in the case of the GRUB 2 Editor for KDE.Not too long ago, editing the GRUB boot manager was a straightforward task. You edited a text file directly, and, if in the long intervals between changes you forgot the structure of a boot entry, you could usually figure out what to do from existing entries. About the hardest thing to remember if you didn't have an example to crib from was how to boot an unsupported operating system like Windows.However, in distributions like Ubuntu in which GRUB 2 has replaced Legacy GRUB, editing has become more complicated. Not only has the basic...
Internet access and human rights

Jan 05, 2012 GMT

This morning, Tim O'Reilly linked with apparent approval to Vinton G. Cerf's New York Times editorial, "Internet Access Is Not a Human Right". Technically, Cerf is correct, but I'm not sure that the distinctions he makes are ones that should be insisted upon too strongly.Internet technologies have been an enabler of the Arab Spring, and a few countries -- notably Estonia and France -- have declared Internet access a human right. However, Cerf begs to differ. Defining rights as "the outcomes we are trying to ensure," he insists that technology "is an enabler of rights, not a right in itself," regardless of whether you consider them human rights (that is,...
Comparing DuckDuckGo with the Search Giants

Dec 26, 2011 GMT

Reviewing the latest Linux Mint release, I discovered the DuckDuckGo search engine. Linux Mint is using DuckDuckGo as its default search engine in a revenue sharing plan, and, given DuckDuckGo's friendliness to free software, as well its privacy tools, the choice is one that should appeal to many. But how does DuckDuckGo's search results compare to that of the search giants Google and Bing?I'm still working out a detailed answer to that question. For one thing, DuckDuckGo is a hybrid search engine, drawing answers from over fifty sources, so probably the answers vary. For another, when I use Google, as a Canadian I am redirected towards the Canadian versions of the site, which might give...
New Survey on Gender Indicates Increased Awareness

Dec 20, 2011 GMT

For several years, people have talked about updating the FLOSSPOLS survey about gender in the open source community. Now, Roberto Galoppini, Senior Director of Business Development at Geeknet, is actually doing it, posting the same questions used by FLOSSPOL as a new survey. The survey is still going on, but preliminary results suggest some changes for the better.The original FLOSSPOLS survey asked participants for their gender, and asked a few questions about how old participants were when they starting working with computers. However, the core of the survey was the questions about gender, and the two statements that participants were asked to respond to: For whom is it easier to get...
In Defense of Free Riders

Dec 08, 2011 GMT

Free riders, people who contribute nothing to the software they use, are to free and open source software (FOSS) what illegal downloaders are to the Recording Industry Association of America. They're people who are perceived as getting away with something, and are the subject of periodic rants. Really, though, I don't see what the fuss is about.Yes, FOSS projects might be better off if everyone who used their software contributed code, time, or cash. Projects could be finished faster, and core team members might be able to work full time on what is now an avocation. But the complaints would seem more valid if more projects made more effort to welcome newcomers and orient them. When the...

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