Off the Beat: Bruce Byfield's Blog

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...
Review: Digital Painting with Krita 2.9

Nov 28, 2015 GMT

The painting application Krita has been limping along for years with scattered and partial documentation. Consequently, Scott Petrovic's Digital Painting with Krita 2.9 is a welcome first step towards the kind of thorough documentation that it deserves. Petrovic has spent months learning Krita, and the fact that his acknowledgements include project leader Boudewijn Rempt and artist David Revoy serves to boost his credibility.However, at 232 pages, the book is by no means exhaustive. You could easily imagine at least twice asmany pages again, most of it with the task-based organization that Digital Painting with Krita lacks. As things are, what Petrovic has produced is the equivalent of...
Every cloud has an unknown lining

Nov 24, 2015 GMT

Where cloud computing is concerned, I confess to being a Luddite. I'm not utterly opposed to it, but the conditions under which I would ever store data in the cloud remove most of the reasons that most people would do so.The usual argument for the cloud is convenience. Storing data in the cloud means that it is always available (assuming your connection is up), and you no longer have to transport files by flash drive or DVD between one computer and the next. In addition, Matt Harley recently suggested that ChromeOS, which is built around the cloud, has other advantages over local Linux installations. He points out that, because ChromeBooks depend on the Internet, they have no problem with...
Pi-Top and the Do-It-Yourself Feeling

Nov 16, 2015 GMT

I spent several days last week assembling a Pi-Top, the do-it-yourself laptop that runs on a Raspberry Pi. I have limited experience with hardware, so if a mistake could be made, I probably made it. In the end, I concluded that I have a defective battery, although I have been able to explore the assembled laptop thanks to the power cord. Yet despite the ups and down and the anxiety, I found myself enjoying the experience in a way that I haven't enjoyed computing since I first discovered Linux.Ever since my first computer, I have enjoyed tinkering, balancing config.sys in DOS and tweaking Windows programs to run in OS/2. The satisfaction in success increased with the degree of frustration,...
John Sullivan, FSF Executive Director, on the Future of FS

Nov 09, 2015 GMT

John Sullivan has worked with the Free Software Foundation (FSF) for twelve years, holding such positions as Campaigns Manager and Manager of Operations. The Executive Director since 2011, Sullivan recently saw the Foundation through the celebration of its thirtieth anniversary. In belated observance of the anniversary, I contacted him by email to ask about the future of free software in general, and the FSF in particular.BB: What are the challenges currently facing free software?JS: For the free software movement to succeed globally, it needs to resonate with people who don't specialize in technology and don't care to. While I do think our mission entails trying to inspire everyone to...
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