Off the Beat: Bruce Byfield's Blog

Open hardware, free software, and crowdfunding

Jan 25, 2016 GMT

Open hardware is finally coming of age. Thanks to the combination of free software and crowdfunding, dozens of small projects and businesses are producing innovative and useful examples of open hardware. As a result, the idea of open hardware, first imagined over a decade ago, is at last being realized.Looking at sites like Crowd Supply, Indiegogo, and Kickstarter, I can see dozens of campaigns for open hardware that are either under way or scheduled to begin soon. However, some, especially those developing specialized smart devices, seem likely to appeal to only a handful of buyers. Others, of course, may not reach their campaign goals or ship products, let alone reach any level of...
11 Free-Licensed Sans Serif Fonts

Jan 21, 2016 GMT

Of the 708 free-licensed fonts currently available on Google Fonts, 191 are categorized as sans serif. That's not surprising, because sans serifs are among the most versatile  of modern fonts.Prior to the early 19th century, most fonts were serifs, so-named for the hooks or crosspieces at the end of character strokes. When sans serifs first appeared, their appearance was so unusual that they were often called Grotesques (Another early name for them was Gothics, meaning they originated in northern Europe, as opposed to Italy, where serifs originated).San serifs quickly gained in popularity, and by the early twentieth century, they had a reputation for having a clean, modern look. That...
Remembering Ian Murdock

Jan 01, 2016 GMT

The first time I met Ian Murdock, he was holding a sign with my name on it. He was meeting me at the airport along with three other members of Progeny Linux Systems, and I was in Indianapolis for the final stages of a job interview. We went out to a Greek restaurant, and while I felt myself outclassed by the rest of the team he was putting together, I must have said the right things, because for the next year I handled Progeny's communications and marketing, commuting every few weeks for several marathon days of catching up with everything that couldn't be done by email or phone.I knew Ian, of course, as the founder of Debian. I also knew that he had been on contract with the Free...
Have Proprietary Linux Games Failed?

Dec 29, 2015 GMT

Linux has a long history of doing what skeptics claim is impossible. No sooner does someone claim that Linux is unable to develop an advanced desktop (or an office suite, free-licensed fonts, a professional graphics application, or any of dozen other things) that it does exactly that. However, nearly three years after Linux games started being available on Steam, a proprietary gaming market may be an exception.One statistic alone tells the tale: In February 2013, just over 2% of those participating in the Steam Hardware and Software Survey ran Linux. By August 2014, the percentage had fallen to 1.06%, and by November 2015 it was .98%.When such statistics have been brought up in the past,...
The Decline and Fall of Eric S. Raymond

Dec 22, 2015 GMT

Around the start of the millennium, Eric S. Raymond was one of the philosophical leaders of open source. His essay and book, The Cathedral and the Bazaar  was obligatory reading for executives trying to understand open source. Now, after lying low for over a decade, Raymond is getting attention again, this time for two blog entries in which he rants about how so-called Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) threaten open source.According to Raymond's first blog on the subject, he has heard from an anonymous source that members of The Ada Initiative, a recently closed non-profit intended to promote women in computing, are trying to entrap prominent men in open source so that they can lay...
How Projections for Linux Smart Phones Mislead

Dec 15, 2015 GMT

2015 was a year of failures for Linux phones. However, that hardly means, as one much-discussed article asserts, that Linux phones "took a serious step backwards." The failures simply mean that little or no progress was made -- something quite different.Yes, the failures are undeniable. Sailfish is struggling to survive, and Mozilla announced that it would stop developing and distributing FireFox OS because "we weren’t able to offer the best user experience possible." Even the Ubuntu phone, by far the most ambitious of the year's efforts, has had such lacklustre distribution and sales that the company has felt obliged to issue statements about the advantages of...
Nine Free-Licensed Serif Fonts

Dec 07, 2015 GMT

When many people think of fonts, they think of decorative fonts that call attention to themselves. However, the fonts that are in greatest demand are the workday ones, especially those for setting the main body of text. Especially in North America, most of those are serif fonts, whose characters often end with a hook or serif at the end of their lines.The number of free-licensed serif fonts now number in the hundreds, still far fewer than proprietary serifs, but growing constantly. Many are based on proprietary or classic fonts, but original designs are also becoming common. If some seem conservative, they are designed that way -- the whole point of body text fonts is to make the content...

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