Off the Beat: Bruce Byfield's Blog

Compensating with Neon

Mar 25, 2016 GMT

A basic tenet of organizational theory is that, whenever the formal structures are inadequate, other structures emerge to compensate. And that, in a sentence, may explain why KDE Neon has emerged.KDE Neon is a project organized by Jonathan Riddell, the ex-community leader of Kubuntul. Its goal is to provide a repository for the latest KDE packages.That sounds like a simple goal, but it was questioned almost immediately. In particular, podcaster and openSUSE marketer Bryan Landuke criticized KDE Neon as being basically Kubuntu under another name. Landuke also seized on a comment that KDE Neon was based on Ubuntu because it was "the best technology" as an insult to other...
Why I Chose a Creative Commons License

Mar 17, 2016 GMT

On April 10, I'm publishing a book called Designing with LibreOffice. The experience can be surreal, and some other time I've got to blog about incidents like my photo shoot, which was continually interrupted by a two by two line of ten year olds coming and going, or trying to plan a book launch menu that included vegetarian options and satisfied two different sets of allergies.However, one of the most peculiar aspects is the congratulations I hear when I mention that the book will be published under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license. After all, the idea is hardly new. Besides, given my goals, what other choice do I have?To start with, I am entering my thirteenth year of...
David Graham Provides Glimpse into FOSS in Canada's Government

Mar 11, 2016 GMT

Ordinarily, free and open source software receives little attention in the government of Canada. A rare exception occurred on Thursday, March 10 when David Graham, the Liberal Member of Parliament for Laurentides—Labelle (QuĂ©bec) began asking questions before the Standing Committee On Government Operations and Estimates (Shared Services). The exchange was less than seven minutes long, but provided the sort of detailed information that is usually unavailable.If David Graham sounds familiar, you might know him  better as cdlu (short for "confused debian linux user"). For years, cdlu was my colleague at Linux.com and Newsforge and well-known in Debian circles as well. Since...
Wesnoth's Strange Legacy

Feb 29, 2016 GMT

I usually avoid massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs). The reason is not that I despise them, but the near certainty that I would like them too much, and spend too much time in them when I need to be productive. Instead, when I want more than solitaire or backgammon, I sometimes turn to The Battle for Wesnoth, avoiding online games and playing single-player campaigns, which are usually divided into campaigns, most of which can be finished in under an hour, giving me a convenient point at which to quit and do something else. However, that usually reliable strategy led me astray soon after Christmas 2015 when I discovered the Strange Legacy scenario.You see, Strange...
Miguel de Icaza and his ostracization from FOSS

Feb 24, 2016 GMT

Just before I settled down to write today, I read that Microsoft had acquired Xamarin, the company founded by  Miguel de Icaza and Nat Friedman. To many, the news is the logical end to a story that has been unfolding for years now, and if the first cries of, "Traitors!" have not appeared on blogs and articles, then I expect they are only a matter of time.However, you won't hear my voice among those screaming accusations. I'm too busy thinking about how events might have been otherwise, and how people in the free software and open source (FOSS) community are as responsible for this turn of events as de Icaza and Friedman themselves, having left them with no place to stand.As...
Is free software too good?

Feb 15, 2016 GMT

I never thought I'd say this, but maybe free software and hardware would be more widely adopted if their standards were lower.This thought occurred to me as I read Keyboardio's blog. Keyboardio, if you don't already know, is an open hardware company that is building what has to be the ultimate keyboard. It's ergonomic, the mechanical keys and their backlighting are fully programmable, and almost two-thirds of the keys are individually sculpted. The whole is mounted on two slabs of maple, resulting in one of the most beautiful pieces of computer hardware ever. In short, Keyboardio's keyboards are an act of love, created by two perfectionists who are clearly determined to see their vision...
Why are these still a thing in LibreOffice?

Feb 10, 2016 GMT

Don't get me wrong: LibreOffice is the premier office suite. I have just spent two and a half years preparing a book on LibreOffice, and I can appreciate it more than most people. I appreciate, too, how much LibreOffice has done to clean up the old OpenOffice.org code and interface. All the same, there are at least seven features whose revision, deletion, and, sometimes, proper documentation would make LibreOffice better yet.For example:1. The Alignment tab for paragraph styles includes several options for how to present the last line of a fully justified paragraph. The option is useful because the last line rarely occupies all the available space, which means that large spaces are left...

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