Off the Beat: Bruce Byfield's Blog

Using a Sansa Clip music player under GNU/Linux

Jul 25, 2009 GMT

Having arrived in middle-age far too starry-eyed for my own good, I always go to some lengths to find hardware or software compatible with GNU/Linux. My search for a portable music player was no exception. Eventually, I found what I wanted in a Sans Clip 4 gigabyte player, but at times I wondered if the manufacturer was trying to hide the compatibility.My demands were simple. I wanted a player that supported Ogg Vorbis format, which is not only a free standard but -- so far as I can hear -- superior in sound quality to MP3. I also wanted one that included Ogg support out of the box; I knew that I could use Rockbox or iPodLinux to liberate an iPod, but I was no more eager to give my money...
Looking back on ten years of GNU/Linux

Jul 16, 2009 GMT

Last week, I suddenly realized that I had been using GNU/Linux for ten years. Both the operating system and I have seen some changes since then -- largely for the better, but one or two for the worse.The exact date was July 5, 1999. That was the day I started work at Stormix Technologies, a pie-in-the-sky Dot-com company that had so little chance of ever being profitable that sometimes wonder if it was intended as a tax write-off. I was a marketing and communications consultant, and the first non-programmer hired by the company. I had tried GNU/Linux once or twice, but, in those far off days, the Live CD was still a couple of years in the future. My main qualification was that, as a...
The free desktop leads in innovation

Jul 10, 2009 GMT

The first time I booted GNU/Linux over a decade ago, the desktops were adequate, but lacking the tools and features found in Windows. As the lacking tools and features were slowly added, pundits kept predicting "The Year of the Linux Desktop" with such regularity that the phrase is now a joke. The result is that we've become so used to the idea that the free desktop needed to catch up that nobody noticed when, a few years ago, the situation started to change, and GNU/Linux quietly became a leader in interface innovation. In fact, we're currently in the middle of what could become the biggest revolution in desktops since Windows 95. Don't believe me? There's been signs of the...
My hunches about Hunch.com

Jun 30, 2009 GMT

Hunch.com is one of the few tech launches I've seen this year. It isn't free software, but it is very Web 2.0, full of opportunities for you to contribute and to edit details on the site, so I suspect that the site will have plenty of people from the free sotware community dropping by for its novelty value. However, whether Hunch can retain those visitors or thrive as a business is another matter. I'm guessing that it won't, because it fails to deliver any real value. The purpose of Hunch is to help you make decisions by asking you ten questions or less. You then receive three ranked answers, plus a wild card, a somewhat unlikely choice that you might want to try if you are feeling...
openSUSE settles down to open governance

Jun 26, 2009 GMT

Spun off from Novell in August 2005, the openSUSE distribution has struggled to build a thriving community ever since. One of the major steps in this process occurred in October 2008, when the project voted for its first elected board. Seven months later, project leaders are judging the elected board a success, partly because of the free software credibility it brings, but mainly because of its involvement with other community-building activities. In the year before the election, openSUSE had been governed by a board appointed by Novell. This original board had the responsibility of overseeing the transition of the board from Novell's direct control to a more community-based model. From...
Pirate politics

Jun 17, 2009 GMT

One of the most interesting talks at last week's Open Web Vancouver conference was the keynote by Rickard Falkvinge, the leader and founder of Sweden's PiratePartiet (Pirate Party), which recently won its first seat in the European Parliament. Ordinarily, politicians are not people I respect, but Falkvinge and the Pirate movement won my grudging respect for at least two reasons. First, the gleeful chutzpah of the movement's name shows a rare kind of courage at a time when most politicians are obsessed with marketing and optics. Second, for the first time in years, I was hearing a politician talk about issues like copyright and patent reform that have considerable influence on people in...
Coming up: Open Web Vancouver

Jun 05, 2009 GMT

As I've said before, I much prefer smaller conferences where you have a chance of talking with the speakers and break-away sessions in the hallway happen naturally. So, it's more than just local chauvinism when I say that I'm looking forward to the Open Web Vancouver conference on June 11-12. Open Web Vancouver began as the Vancouver PHP Conference several years ago . Last year, I called it a "big little convention" by which I meant it had a happy combination of local and international speakers. This year, it promises to have something of the same mix, but with a greater emphasis on the social aspects surrounding the code. Getting out the door for a 9:30AM key note is rough on...

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