Free Software Movement Explained by Richard Stallman

I came across a great video by the Richard Stallman, who is the founder of the Free Software movement and the GNU Public License. There is general a misconception that Free Software means that software is free of charge, but this is not necessarily the case.

In this 16 minute video, Richard explains what free software is and what it means philosophically. He also discusses the Creative Commons Licenses and how they can apply to the Free Software movement. Well worth a watch.

 

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Can a Linux Desktop Ever Become Mainstream?

Professionally and at home, I have been a dedicated Windows user since I can remember. Windows 3.1 was my first foray into the Windows world. I have never really had any need to use anything else. When I used to work in the games industry all of our development was done under Windows, even if we were targeting other platforms like the Playstation platform, Gamecube, Wii etc.

Every now and again, I take a little dip into the Linux world just to see how it is coming along. One thing that has always interested me is if a Linux Desktop can ever compete in the mainstream against Windows and OSX. By this, I mean would it ever become a feasible operating system to use for non developer hacker types. Or to put it another way, could my Wife or Dad ever use Linux as a general all purpose operating system?

Transition from Windows to Linux
Transition from Windows to Linux

Every-time I take a look, the answer I come too is, No. It is just too hard to use for the lay person. For someone like my Dad or Wife, expecting them to do any kind of configuration from the command line isn’t really appropriate, and the GUI’s of Linux past have been pretty grim. Hackers love them, but not the average guy / girl on the street.

I recently took another look to see how Linux was progressing, because fundamentally, I love the idea of it. A Free, and Open operating system that is not tied to any one particular company. First of all I tried Ubuntu with their new Unity interface. After about 30 minutes use of this new GUI I was left thoroughly underwhelmed. Why, because it doesn’t feel like Windows. Don’t flame me just yet, let me explain. In my opinion, to get an experienced or novice windows user to switch to Linux, then they need a certain level of familiarity to make the transition easier and Unity just didn’t provide it. Sure it has it’s own identity and you can’t knock it for this, but the whole experience felt clunky and incomplete. Next up was Linux Mint 16 with their Cinnamon interface.

UK Government Picks Open Document Format

There has been a lot of talk recently about the UK Government making a recommendation to switch the format of all government documents to an open format, in-particular ODF 1.1 / 1.2 (Open Document Format) for editable documents and PDF/A and PDF 1.7 for non editable documents.

Microsoft Office vs Open Office
Microsoft Office vs Open Office

The main reason for this is that the UK Government wants there to be different options for people editing documents, and they have a preference for browser based editing tools, like Google Docs, Office 365. They also still want to support desktop productivity packages like Microsoft Office, Open Office, Libre Office etc. Currently Microsoft has the monopoly with Office. Pretty much everyone uses it. The downside is that Office is very expensive to license, and in an age of austerity with governments having to make cost reductions, it seems waste-full to spend so much on software licenses, especially when it is public money

If you were to have asked me 7 years ago, when I last tried Open Office, if it was any good, I would have said No. I tried it and really didn’t get on with it. But over the last few months I have tried it again, and you know what? I think it is excellent. I now use it exclusively. I am even writing this article in Open Office.

Blast from the Past. Interview in Amiga Power

I was looking for something in my garage the other day, and I came across an old magazine from 1994 that I was interviewed in, 20 years ago! The magazine was Amiga Power. This is a computer magazine by Future Publishing for the now defunct Amiga 500/1200 Personal Computer.

Amiga Power Magazine
Amiga Power Magazine

I started my programming career developing computer games with my school friend Chris Rundell. After lots of trying, we eventually got signed to a small independent publisher called GKS Design. Our first game was an isometric shoot-em-up / adventure called Dark Mission, that was heavily influenced by the film Aliens. I did all the coding and Chris did all the artwork, animation etc.

The Day we Fight Back Against Mass Surveillance

The Day we Fight Back Against Mass Surveillance.
The Day we Fight Back Against Mass Surveillance.

Click the image above to join in!

From their website :

DEAR USERS OF THE INTERNET,

In January 2012 we defeated the SOPA and PIPA censorship legislation with the largest Internet protest in history. Today we face another critical threat, one that again undermines the Internet and the notion that any of us live in a genuinely free society: mass surveillance.

In celebration of the win against SOPA and PIPA two years ago, and in memory of one of its leaders, Aaron Swartz, we are planning a day of protest against mass surveillance, to take placethis February 11th.

Together we will push back against powers that seek to observe, collect, and analyze our every digital action. Together, we will make it clear that such behavior is not compatible with democratic governance. Together, if we persist, we will win this fight.

Remaining Private on the Internet

In previous posts I talked about the mass surveillance by the NSA and GCHQ, and also posted an excellent video that explains about the threat to privacy in the modern age on the internet. If you are worried about privacy on the internet then there are many tools out there that can help you. I thought I would list a few of them here. Some of the tools are free, and some are not.

Tor Browser Bundle

First up is the Tor Browser Bundle. This is a modified Firefox web browser that is aimed at making your web browsing anonymous. By this I mean that no one can trace what sites you are visiting. It does this by redirecting your browser traffic through thousands of other relays.

Tor Browser Bundle
Tor Browser Bundle

This does make your browsing experience a lot slower, but that’s the price you pay for anonymity. Here is their official blurb.

The Tor software protects you by bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world: it prevents somebody watching your Internet connection from learning what sites you visit, it prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location, and it lets you access sites which are blocked.

The Tor Browser Bundle lets you use Tor on Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux without needing to install any software. It can run off a USB flash drive, comes with a pre-configured web browser to protect your anonymity, and is self-contained.

TEDX Presentation : How the NSA Betrayed the Worlds Trust

Just before the New Year I posted an article on Privacy and Surveillance where I talked briefly about the Edward Snowden NSA document leaks. In that article I posted a link to the Electronic Frontier Foundations timeline of events. There is a tremendous amount of information there and if I am honest, the average person probably isn’t going to wade through it all, unless you have a special interest in privacy and security.

Mikko Hypponen at TedX Brussels : How the NSA betrayed the world's trust
Mikko Hypponen at TedX Brussels : How the NSA betrayed the world’s trust. Click the image to watch the video.

I came across an excellent presentation by a guy called Mikko Hypponen at a TedX event in Brussels. This talk is just under 20 minutes and does a great job of explaining about what the problem is with the mass spying and surveillance and why you should care. As I stated before, most people are not going to wade through the documents leaked by Edward Snowden, but I do recommend watching this presentation. It is only 20 minutes long and does a great job of explaining why you should be concerned.