Off the Beat: Bruce Byfield's Blog

Free Software Foundation Appoints Director of Access Technology

May 11, 2010 GMT

"People with disabilities deserve to have control of their own technological destinies."With this statement, the Free Software Foundation (FSF) announces that it is turning its attention to accessibility. In addition to explaining the important of accessibility in the newly released GNU Accessibility Statement, the FSF has appointed accessibility expert Chris Hofstader as Director of Access Technology Software, a position that combines both political activism and working directly with developers on various projects.The appointment comes after what Hofstader calls a "leadership vacuum" in accessibility, particularly in free software. Hofstader notes that, although the...
FOSS community, FOSS business, and the nature of allies

May 04, 2010 GMT

A couple of weeks ago, a former colleague pilloried me for mentioning the first tentative signs of commercial advertising on the desktop. According to him, disliking those signs made me an outdated purist, and -- he seemed to imply -- a hypocrite as well. At the time, I wasn't bothered by his disagreement nearly so much as I was by having words put in my mouth. But it took a post today by Aaron Seigo on branding free software as opposed to branding an individual distribution to help me articulate my response.Probably, I should start by saying that, if I was really opposed to commercial involvement in free and open source software (FOSS), I wouldn't have worked for two of the earlier...
The Prestige of Proprietary Software

Apr 27, 2010 GMT

I spent the weekend at the graduation for an art school. I had an overwhelmingly wonderful time -- except for one scenario that kept playing and replaying all weekend.As usual, telling people what I do for a living required some explanation of free and open source software (FOSS). Since I haven't met a student yet who had enough money, I supposed that the availability of professional tools at no cost would interest my audience. Gradually, though, I realized that my audience wasn't interested for a reason that I had never previously imagined: They wanted the prestige of using name brand products.Software and ProfessionalsI suppose that part of this reaction had to do with branding. If...
Patent Absurdity: The Case against Software Patents Comes to Film

Apr 19, 2010 GMT

Why are free software advocates challenging American patent law? How did American patent law come to apply to software? Why is the Bilski case potentially so important? If you want to be brought up to speed on such issues, then consider taking half an hour to watch Patent Absurdity: How Software Patents Broke the System. Directed by Luca Lucarini and produced by Jamie King with support from the Free Software Foundation (FSF), this short film is both informative and surprisingly engaging. Available in Ogg Theora format, it is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 license.Legal complexities rarely made for dramatic footage, but Patent Absurdity sidesteps this...
Cooking with Marcel

Apr 15, 2010 GMT

"I'm a serious technology geek," says writer Marcel Gagné, speaking with his usual hyper enthusiasm. The writer of six books on free and open source software (FOSS) for Addison-Wesley, as well as SysAdmin Corner and the extraordinarily popular Linux Journal column "Cooking with Linux," Gagné took an uncharacteristically quiet moment at the recent Calgary Open Source Systems Festival (COSSFest) to talk to me about his interests and his development as a writer, and how he ended up in his current gig as senior editor at Ubuntu User."I grew up watching Star Trek, and puppet shows like Thunderbirds and Stingray. the idea that there was this amazing technology just...
The Difference a Decade Makes

Apr 07, 2010 GMT

I spent part of the last week reviewing GNOME 2.30. As I worked, I kept returning to the fact that 2.30 is probably the last release of the GNOME 2.0 series, which began in June 2002. That, in turn, got me flipping through the Progeny Debian User's Guide that I did in May 2001 (the last major manual that I wrote), and thinking of all the developments that the last decade or so have seen in GNOME in particular and the free desktop in general.Writing in April 2010, the state of the free desktop in the early years of the millennium seems unbelievably primitive. The desirability of a free desktop was understood by some, and both GNOME and KDE had been up and running for several years. Yet...
Fellow travelers, part 2: FOSS journalists, and the separation of topics and personal beliefs

Mar 26, 2010 GMT

As I write, I am receiving the occasional email about an article I wrote yesterday called "The Mono Mystery That Wasn't." The article debunks two ideas: that an SD Times article has disappeared from the Internet, and that Miguel de Izaca, in talking about how Microsoft's restrictive patent practices have handicapped .NET, has suddenly reversed his opinions. Unlike de Icaza, I don't support the use of .NET in GNU/Linux, but some of the emails landing in my Inbox today assume that I do, and take me to task with varying degrees of politeness.This is another of the assumptions that free and open source software (FOSS) journalists face any time that they write anything more than a...

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