Off the Beat: Bruce Byfield's Blog

Occupy Your Computer

Nov 25, 2011 GMT

As I write, many of the local Occupy movements are ending. They'll almost certainly be back, since the problems they address haven't been solved even slightly. Meanwhile, however, you might want to remind yourself just how radical an idea free technology and culture can be, and consider whether they should be part of the movements.I make this statement partly because, while free technologies don't seem to have played a major role in most of the local Occupy movements (in fact, some have shown what I consider an appalling fondness for Apple products), free technology and culture seem to have helped to create the atmosphere from which the local movements grew. Environmentalism played an...
Bar camps, not conferences

Nov 17, 2011 GMT

Last week, ApacheCon hit Vancouver. I duly attended, but a chronic knee problem forced me to sit out most of the conference at home. But I did manage to limp to the bar camp on the Saturday, so I only feel mildly short-changed.Bar camps, as you may know, began in 2005 as a democratic alternative to O'Reilly Associate's Foo Camp. Short for "friends of O'Reilly," Foo Camp is an invitation-only event. By contrast, bar camps are open to all comers, their name punning on "foobar," the placeholder name used by some coders. Like Foo Camp, bar camps are explained by describing them as "unconferences." Their rules are simple: at the start of the day, attendees gather...
A Disturbing Dialog About Ubuntu and Unity, Part 2

Nov 08, 2011 GMT

Last week, I wrote about an exchange between Mark Shuttleworth and bug-filer Tal Liron and others. The blog entry has attracted several dozen comments here, plus a number more on Facebook and Google+ and privately. In fact, they're still trickling in, so I thought that some of the thoughts and sentiments expressed deserved some answers, at least in general terms:Unity stinks! / Unity rocks!You might believe either of these statements, and I understand that, seeing Unity being discussed, that you might want to express your opinion. Fair enough. But that's not what I was writing about. I was writing about the apparent conflict between the Ubuntu community and Canonical's goals. More...
A Disturbing Dialog About Ubuntu and Unity

Nov 02, 2011 GMT

Curious about how design decisions are made for Ubuntu's Unity? About how the development team reacts to criticisms of its efforts? If you are, then a moment of unusual -- and troubling -- clarity emerged last week on Launchpad, Canonical's development site.The moment takes the form of Bug #882274, filed by Tal Liron under the title "Community engagement is broken." Although other people comment, much of the discussion is between Liron, an active bug-filer, and Mark Shuttleworth, Ubuntu's founder. Liron writes as an Ubuntu loyalist, mostly succeeding in maintaining his politeness and trying to be constructive, but his frustration and feelings of being ostracized are obvious.The...
The Survey That GNOME Would Rather Ignore

Oct 27, 2011 GMT

As you may have seen, the Phoronix site is hosting a private survey about GNOME. The survey still has several weeks to run, but, so far, neither the circumstances surrounding the survey or the replies show the GNOME project in a favorable perspective.The survey was begun by Felipe Contreras, who first raised the idea back in July on the GNOME desktop-devel mailing list. "Lately I've [been] feeling that there's a lot of dissatisfaction with GNOME 3," he wrote. "Why not find for good what people are thinking with an user-survey?"Conteras spent considerable time in the past few months refining the questions in the survey, sparking long and sometimes heated discussions....
How I Learned to Love the KDE 4 Series

Oct 20, 2011 GMT

For nine years, my default desktop was GNOME. About the third of the time, I'd use another desktop or a shell, either for the purposes of review or just for a change, but I'd always return to GNOME. It was a no-fuss interface in which I could do my common tasks without any problem. But a glitch on my system that left GNOME unstartable coincided with the release of KDE 4.2, and -- not having the time to reinstall -- I switched to KDE. I haven't looked back since.Nobody could have been more surprised than I was. I'd worked in KDE 3.x many times, of course, but I was never comfortable in it. The defaults themes and icons looked so blocky and childish that it didn't look in the least modern....
Code names and other coelacanths

Oct 14, 2011 GMT

I'm probably going to be answered as though I were a hybrid of Ebenezer Scrooge and Darth Vader, but can we quit with the code names for Linux distributions, already? People are taking them way too seriously.Code names make sense if you want to keep what you're doing a secret. If you're planning a military operation, you probably don't want anyone to know until you actually hit the beaches of France. Or maybe in the case of the revised Doctor Who, when you're a producer who doesn't want the excitement to peak too soon (in which case, you pass around sheets of paper watermarked with "Not to be copied" and call what you're doing "Torchwood," then decide the name would...

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