Monthly Archives: April 2006

Is DRM really evil?

As I was talking with some people in SecondLife about how one could protect free licensed content and code in SL one idea that came up was to use DRM. But isn't DRM evil?

Consider that: You are writing a novella and release it under an open content license. If there would be no protection of whatever everybody could strip the license and use this novell for any purpose and even proclaim he wrote it. So wouldn#t it be a good thing to prevent somebody else to violate your rights? Or is this false because this is again based on mistrust and anyway – if he did so it would be illegal – if the license would protect your rights?

I am quite undecided with that and would welcome any comments or suggestions  on this matter.

I find this strange, because the real question boilds down if you can trade the freedom of the software you use to the protected freedom of the content? What is more important: to protect the freedom of the content or the freedom of the software/usage?

see also this article .

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My feature wishes for GAIM for 2006

From the day to day experience with GAIM I have found some things to be annoying. I list them here:

  1. volume settings: You certainly need to have a different volume for GAIM than for other applications. I think this could be centralised. GAIM sounds can be very loud. You might also want to tweak this on per chat or per user basis. Also on IRC with high traffic you want it differentone 2one2 chats.
  2. language setting: Nice if you do chat in different languages and use the text replacement plugin. So that “brb” can be something different in every language. This means that you could set a prefered different language to every user.
  3. The menu structure sure could be more organized. Chatting should be much more simpler than it is now. The “associate buddy” function is not very handy. The Evolution address book should be access directly. Maybe the budd list itself should be an abstract of the Evolution address book. So Evolution should have also configuration for Jabber servers and so GAIM more or less part of Evolution.
  4. I hate GAIM having to notify me ifI go to “away” status.Maybe I can do this with a setting but this is annoying. Well settings ar really a mess. I think there are a hell too much options. I would like to switch profiles rather: “quiet” or “talkative”

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GNOME goals 2006

At live.gnome.org/GnomeGoals GNOMErs think about goals they like to reach next.

If I lookes at the list I wondered about the perspective of the developers and users that added some content. Maybe all these point are worth resolving. I added my #1 goal for GNOME because I think nothing is more important and nothing is more 'trivial' in some sense. I will add some more points here. The ohers will be more random than the first because I have not thought too much abotu them:

1) Ink level status – For everybody who owns a printer the fact today is that you can not get info about the ink level status from GNOME. This means that you can not really use a printer – you will have to replace all ink cartridges although only one is affected. There really is no solution. The program "escputil" really never worked for me – and I have not seen a project inside GNOME to take on about this task. So this was number one for me!

2) A decent CD wrting application. – Nautilus works great for data, but for Audio CDs and Video-DVD Graveman and GNOMEbaker still are not what they should be. I also wonder why they do not join forces. We need a K3b for GNOME!

3) Working SAMBA on all levels – There are still some issues with samba in GNOME 2.14. You often can not open from a samba ressource from an application. Same is true for other networking protocols. But progress was made here.

4) The webbrowser situation – Right now ubuntu and Fedora have Firefox as the default web browser, although they both have GNOME a s the default desktop. So both agree that Epiphany is not the rigth choice. I agree with them. But this situation should be resolved. I guess it would be better to make a package that helps integrating Firefox in GNOME better and to work on Firefox as to continue work on Epiphany. It has still some issues. Some concepts are nice, but also could be easily made as a kind of "epiphany-extension" for firefox.

5) The situation between Thunderbird and Evolution on mail is different – here Evolution clearly has some benefits that you don't have on Thunderbird. Although I still need to argue about Evolution guys copying the "spam marking" mechanism from Thudnerbird because it is simply better. On Thunderbird you don't have to open spam, just flag it as such, even if you have a preview pane open. (Evolutions guys wanted me rather to close preview pane, but I think both features should be compatible)

6) Update situation – I think it makes not so much sense that update mechanisms are still an issue for the distributions. From a UI perspective it is important that on every GNOME updating a packages is done the same way.

That for now.

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Kill the GNOME Foundation?

The recent announcement of Red Hat to kill the Fedora Foundation and the problems of KDE with version 4 and GNOME with version 3 of their desktops have led me to the thought if it would not be better to reorganize the desktop organisations.

I think the GNOME foundation makes no sense. Their goals of furthering a free Unix desktop can be achieved better with a collaboration with KDE. So if there is a Free Desktop Foundation, this should be responsible for all aspects besides the technical ones. And for GNOME 3 and KDE 4 i think it will absolutely essential that no desktop will try to be “ahead” of the other just to be “first”. The first goal must be to make a better basis for free desktops and to develop new technologies while also helping to resolve patent issues that might evolve. The goals of the current GNOME Foundation are so general that they really have to help KDE, because it now fits to their definition.

We must separate what are the real differences of KDE and GNOME and to give the developments enugh space to develop without trying to reinvent the wheel in both camps. This is already happening daily on a technical level between programmers, at Freedesktop.org and now Project Portland. And also recently there were some works to join forces in marketing. But I think still what is in the way is that this are two camps that meet more often but often develop inside their camps and talk more often to their own folks.

A better way would be if there would be one camp but two desktops as there are many concurrent applications on every desktop. Interaction between application and “coopetition” is what makes the free desktops different to the common desktops like WindowsXP and MacOsX.

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Why free software – why patent free?

I am using "free software" and "open source" synonym here as most people dont understand the difference, either.

 Aftersome recent discussions with Linux users I found that many of them lack many background information of about free software and patents. Many think the question is about Windows or Linux? I don't think so. What's nice about Linux is that you actually have a whole operating system that is mostly free if you use the standard distributions. But generally the ideal of free software is to free the user. Many Linux users tend to believe that the good thing about Linux is that you can get free copies of it, but then they do not care much about what they install then. They often think that it the nice, shiney closed source software does work better because it supports more proprietary codecs.

Free software often has the disadvantage that it tells the user that he can not play some kind of audio/video stream. From the customers perspective this is bad. So a company would not want to present this to their users. Users are expecting things to go smoothly without much hassle. This is because many free software projects do not include support for patented techology like for Quicktime,MP3, MPEG or H.264. One reason is that those are often small projects that can not afford to pay the license fees or they do not want to start to get into trouble with any patents at all – and you can get in trouble with an open source project because you never know what people will do with your code and maybe the core developers are made responsible for a misuse of patent/license rules that another external developer does.

So the best way for the freedom of users and developers is to stay away from proprietary software products and patented technology. Many computer game developing companies have switched to the patent free OGG for compressed audio files already. By that way they do not have to pay any royalty fees any more.

I think base idea behind patents was good: They should allow a patent holder top open his knowledge without the feer to be unprotected from those who want to steel the technology and make money while he or she gets bancrupt. the patents also should help getting the knowledge and let others after the death of the inventor use the technology for free.

Our current problem is that progress is increasingly high. The inventions some hundred years ago, as patents were founded where only few compared to our days and they were more unique. Today patents are often  registered as ammunition of global fights of multinational companies. And the descriptions are so complicated that even the developers might not understand them. They are often used against competitors. Often it is only a matter of time who will patent an idea first – many are obvious principles.

So for developers especially in software development developing software increasingly means walking on a mine field, never knowing where and when a mine could explode. 

This means that development can either only be made by big companies who have enough patent ammunition or simple developers to take a high risk and pay for the end of their own lives. 

So patent-freenes is one of the basis of "real" free software. The other important question is: Why at all should software be free / open source? The answer is that this frees the user and the developers and helps making progress in development. I will post some more in another article. This one will grow too large. 😉

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