Android OS, and revisiting Open Source vs. Free Software

(repost from Twitter and Buzz)

With the popularity of Android OS, and before it iOS and OS-X, it is time we realize (and become more aware of) the differences between Open Source & Free Software..

(small note: iOS and OS-X, both based upon the Apple Inc. initiated Darwin-OS project, is based largely on FreeBSD in its core, and uses a modified Mach kernel. Apple also contributes significantly upstream)

In the ‘perfect world’, all software would be ‘Free Software’ and there would be no need for the ‘Open Source’ pragmatic compromise…

(notice all the ‘scare quotes’ in the previous sentence..)

All the more reason to keep an eye on Nokia’s Maemo project, I say.

E-LINUX.it: The Inevitability of Open Source Windows

E-LINUX.it: The Inevitability of Open Source Windows

The FOSS (Free/Open Source Software) Community knows, thanks to leaked Microsoft internal documents, that since about 1998 Microsoft has been in a sort of war against them. Because of this, it is not surprising that the FOSS community has looked at Microsoft with suspicion and has vilified it to no end. But, is Microsoft really evil?

The reality is that Microsoft is just a company. It is a company that was at the right place at the right time when the PC was created and this brought a lot of success. Of course, there was a lot of hard work and good talent involved. In some respects, Microsoft may have even been a positive force in the world, since it was instrumental in bringing down the price of computing at a time in which this was very expensive. However, with that success came a lot of power.

As we all know, power can be a good thing, when used wisely and benevolently, or can be a bad thing, when used shortsightedly an selfishly. Unfortunately, corporations are, by their very nature, selfish and shortsighted. I am not saying that all people inside of Microsoft are bad people. I am sure that, for the most part, most people at Microsoft are just your average, mostly honest, hardworking people. But, it is not in the best interest of “the company” to be generous and meek. So, management has sometimes seen fit to use their power in ways that benefit “the company” at the expense of every one else.

*emphases mine

The idea of open source windows has been talked about over and over again, but what hooked me to this article is the neutral tone towards microsoft which I have, to my recollection, never heard of before coming from the hardcore activist side. Not even the Open-source camp (let alone from Stallman’s side).

Firefox 2 is out

cross-posted from my mind-Dumpster

You may have heard, but just in case you haven’t, the latest version of the Firefox browser was released yesterday at 6 PM Pacific time, or 8 o’clock this morning in Jakarta.

The official Firefox 2 announcement is at MozillaZine, with details on new features etc. You can download Firefox 2 at getfirefox.com.But if you’re in no hurry, and if you’re currently using Firefox version 1.5 and above, the Auto-update should kick in within the next couple of days.As is usually the case with a Firefox upgrade, some extensions have been disabled because they are not compatible with version 2. On my machines these are Fasterfox, Tab Mix Plus, Search Plugin Hack, Feedview, BBCode, RadialContext, and Show Image.

Some of these are features now integrated with Firefox 2.0 (for example Feedview, Search Plugin Hack), others are currently being updated (Tab Mix Plus, Fasterfox), while some I just don’t know about but wish they will be soon (RadialContext, Show Image). Most of my other extensions survived the upgrade though; they tend to be less complex than the ones listed above.

More Firefox plugins at AMO and at The Extensions Mirror.

(Oh and btw IE7 was released last Friday)

Dynamic Linking and GPLv3

(aka. How GPLv3 affects the relationship between Proprietary and Free Software)

From the GPLv3 rationale[1]:

We wish to make completely clear that a licensee cannot avoid complying with the requirements of the GPL by dynamically linking an add-on component to the original version of a program.

What does this mean? Does it mean that proprietary software can no longer depend upon copy-lefted Free Software?

One of the proudest example of Open-Source software (and yes, I do mean Open-source, not Free, software) that I have frequently cited to my beer budies[2] is the use of libvorbis in various commercially succesful (and critically acclaimed) PC games such as the various Unreal Tournaments, Far Cry, etc. It shows that the (Free/) Open-source Software Development Philosophy does produce Cool Software™[3].

I understand that this provision would prevent a rouge software developer from creating a proprietary DLL/library, linking it to GPL’ed software, and declaring the whole a package restricted to licensed distribution (aka. non-free). But it forces implementers such as the W3C (in libtidy) and the Ogg foundation (with libvorbis) to license their software under non-free licenses. At least the way I understand software freedom.

And it seems to run counter to a principle exemplified by the section’s last paragraph:

The final paragraph of section 1 revises the exception to the source code distribution requirement in GPLv2 that we have sometimes called the system library exception. This exception has been read to prohibit certain distribution arrangements that we consider reasonable and have not sought to prevent, such as distribution of gcc linked with a non-free C library that is included as part of a larger non-free system. This is not to say that such non-free libraries are legitimate; rather, preventing free software from linking with these libraries would hurt free software more than it would hurt proprietary software.

(Strong emphasis mine). So which is it? Can proprietary software link to free software, or can’t it?

[1] From GPLv3 Rationale Document, Section 2.2 1. Source Code [http://gplv3.fsf.org/rationale], as accesed on Sunday, January 29, 2006 12:29:29 AM UTC+7:00. The rationale may have changed since then, since at this time GPLv3 is still undergoing a review process. Check the Rationale page to be sure wether my comments are still relevant or not.

[2] You know who you are. Okay so I don’t often drink beer that often with you guys, and yes I do wish that I could spend New Year’s Eves getting drunk with y’all but you know my family… :p

[3] in adition to (rather than as opposed to) technically superior, industrial-strength, mission-critical, bullet-proof secure, boring-to-adolescent-gamers software.

Final note: I’d just like to add that in no way do I consider myself a knowledgeable hacker or lawyer. As this website is a blog, this article is a rant. I kindly request you consider this while you flame me :0)

Whoa…

So like I just woke up this morning and lo and behold look what I got in the mailbox. Mr. WordPress told me that I better log in or else so here I am. Tony says it only takes five minutes to blog so here goes.

Hoookay, where to start…

My real-life name is Ferdinand F. Zebua, but on teh intarwebs I prefer to go by the monicker Lemi4 aka. fERDI:). Because I don’t think I’m not quite myself when I’m online. And besides it helps to remind me that the web is not my life. Whew. I’m Lemi4 aka. fERDI:) not simply Lemi4 because there are apparently other Lemi4s around here, just google it. There was a time when if you google my name you’d find that I made an 88x15px link button for the OSI.

OSI button - large

I’ve made a better version though (which I haven’t submitted yet),

OSI button, 80x15 px

and others, which you can find at my main weblog, the mind-Dumpster:). I made these using the Windows version of the GIMP and Inkscape, using source files available at the OSI’s web site. You’d also find that Google keeps suggesting you to search for Ferdinand Zebra.

I applied for a WordPress.com account mostly to check out the interface (which I find nice, so far), but at the time I had also wanted to start a blog where I’d gather all my Free Software/Open-source postings. I wanted to log my journey to full-time professional FLOSS use.

I’m a graphic designer by trade, and I depend a lot on Freehand and Photoshop. Not just to simply create purty pictures, but to maintain color consistency, to work in CMYK, to produce predictable output, to work with service bureaus and offset-printing shops still depending on Mac and/or Windows hardware.

Not that FLOSS can’t achieve these things, I’m sure that one can use the GIMP, Inkscape, Scribus, and Ghostscript to produce printing-press quality PDFs. I only have to learn to use these tools. And I shall. In time.

I live in Jakarta, Indonesia, where more than 90% of all software used is pirated. So price is not a problem here when using proprietary systems. At least not yet. But I’m not moving to FLOSS just to avoid legal risk or to avoid paying for my software. I’m moving to FLOSS in order to understand my computer again. You know, like way back when you know that you load EMM386.SYS to gain high-memory access, when you can use ANSI.SYS to prettify the C prompt, when you could at least guess what purpose each and every file in c:\dos holds. When you can spot a virus by looking at it weird. Maybe I don’t get it all too well back then, but at least I get more of it then than I do now.

Whatever. Like maybe I just wanna feel honest. Like maybe I’d like to feel that I’m not a thief when I’m using my PC.

And like I better get back to editing that layout that I’ve got to get done by four. I may be freelance but that doesn’t mean that I can break my own deadlines. I’ll write more as opportunity permits.