Category Archives: Free Culture

Fedora: Open up your documentation!

It is now three years ago that I said my final Good Bye to Fedora. One of the main reasons was the usage of the Open Publication License, which is not recommended any more by its creators.

Fedora decided not to use GFDL or Creative Commons because like they describe in their Fedora Documentation Licensing FAQ:

The legal counsel for the Fedora Project carefully examined all of the well-known content licenses, and concluded that only the OPL met all of the criteria for an unambiguous and enforceable license that would guarantee the freedoms of contributors and users.

Actually I think the main reason was and is, that Red Hats own license has been the OPL also. That does not mean that this would be necessary a bad idea. But I like to call the Fedora people to free their licenses because of the follwing reasons:

  1. It is not possible to import any content from Wikipedia, GFDL documentations or Creative Commons content into Fedora documentation.
  2. It is also not possible to export Fedora documentation to other projects.

In practice that means that the freedom of the content and the contributors is very limited. The license effectively means that Fedora lives on the island and only can share data with its neighbour Red Hat. If you see how much efforts have gone into making Wikipedia compatible with CC licenses you see that many smart people do nearly everything to open the gates to let content flow freely. At the same time Red Hat and Fedora have decided essentially to not share anything.

This is license fundamentalism. Their view is from the perspective of what is good for Fedora (to protect the contributions). But the better view would be what would be good for the whole community. Documentation can be a common good, just like software. If  Linux software chose one license GPL to license most of the stuff this was due to recognition that it would be stupid if every distribution would use a license, only they themselves use. But this is the very situation in Fedora. But also Fedora chose to be incompatible with the other documentations they are inheriting from upstream. So like GNOME documentation is licensed as GFDL. Fedora can not use phrases used there to describe software behaviour but would have to write it all from scratch.

As far as I have seen no orher distribution has been going that path. There are already a lot of incompatible licenses in the open source sphere and also beyond that. We have to deal with that. Fedoras step is not helpful for the community at large. It may help some managers at Red Hat feel more comfortable with the Fedora project, but I would rate this decision as stupid and harmful. There is only one good thing which I considered a bad thing in the past: As all contributors now have to accept a CLA it allows Fedora to ignore the licenses the contributors made their contributions and to relicense all the stuff. They can not take aways the licensing of what was already contributed – but they can decide to:

  1. Take all OPL stuff of the net and
  2. replace it with the same content and a new license

This license could even be more restrictive. In the past it was acknowledged that Red Hat could do that, but that they would not do it, because the community would not like it and that we can trust Red Hat. From my viewpoint licenses are there, because you do not trust an entity – you want to make sure that what you contribute stays free. In Fedoras case freedom only means that your past contributions are still free if they are still online somewhere, because somebody mirrored it. If not your contributions were free under OPL and next day they can only be available under restrictive licenses or if people pay money to be able to read it. And you have signed the CLA and can not do anything about it. The positive side is that Fedora can relicense all stuff under GFDL or a Creative Commons license immediately. As they stated in the past the CLA was there “so that we do not have to go through the same thing again” (or so). I am positive that they will do that finally. There is no alternative. The current movement is trying to streamline licenses and to avoid unnecessary incompatibilities. Fedora has taken its time and I think its now the time to reconsider the licensing policy and also to restrict the power of the CLA. I know some other project give an entity also non-exclusive rights. But most projects do not – and also the question is if the contributions are made to one single piece of software like Apache or if they go into a complex product or service like Fedora, whereas 99% of all parts of Fedora come from a third party. So the CLA is more like a method to keep contributions inside Fedora and against competition from CentOS or Ubuntu. But this is essentially against the core spirit of Open Source and Free Culture.

So come on guys Free Your Documents !! 🙂

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Rediscovering microblogging

I, just now, am rediscovering the use of microblogging. I have looked at Twitter an microblogging in the past and found it unnecessary. I had an identi.ca account for some months now, but I did not use it very often. But I had the feeling that it could be useful.

I think it is. I have looked at Twitter and how it was used. Twitter is the Myspace of microblogging. In Germany also politicians and VIPS use Twitter now and its really crap what most of them do. This is because this way microblogging is just a way to follow VIPs. Another usage seems to be to communicate with your friends. This can be partly useful, but more for things that should be public like organizing a barbecue. Still then the big question is if you want the whole world to follow your stupid little barbecue?

There is yet another way to use microblogging. That is as a replacement of IRC chat. In the past people met in IRC to organize events, then a chat log was saved and published. But this is not asynchronous. People did use IRC asynchronous by using a mix of screen+irssi to be always on as a user on a server and read messages when they wanted. Identi.ca allows be to create and join groups or follow a user. Groups do not exist on Twitter. Groups are depersonalising microblogging. This means you rather follow a topic in a group sense rather than a single person or just a tag.

So if we talk about a group we just have a fresh one called !SFD. This allows people to join a community without having to register on another web page. They can follow messages passively or simply add their 5 cents by posting with !SFD, too.

The nice thing about microblogging is, that its not only asynchronous and open but also web accessible. This means that it has a low entry barrier. Everybody can read the messages, even if she does not understand what is going on. IRC will never gain a lot more attention.

Identi.ca has a gateway to Jabber Instant Messaging. This allows me to get a message immediately after it was sent – and also for me to send messages via jabber to the open microblogging sphere. This means that microblogging has a instant messaging functionality

Microblogging is also similar to Blogging which the name already says. Its messages  are a lot shorter. Usually < 140 characters. This is not much and I also think it might be nice to be able to extend this limit. Not for microblogging itself but maybe to link to microblogging with a short summary of a full blog post. You can talk about everything in 140 characters.

I think microblogging is an interesting technology, especially with the AGPL/GPL3 licensed Laconica that drives identi.ca.

I am still testing the limits and to find out what you can or can not do with it.

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The Obama posting

Why vote for Obama? From my perspective as a german or european I can say that I have been offended already by many of the words that McCain and Ms Pain have chosen. I am terrified about the incompetence and arrogance like he would not meet with some european leaders like Mr. Zapatero who are not in the boat in the Iraq war any more.

Obama might not be perfect and still policies of the US might not change as many in the world would like to see, but with McCain I could bet the US gets a lot of trouble. The US has an increasing number of enemies – and those are not falling from heaven, but are the result of the policies of the last 150 years or so. Many US citizens ask themselves why so many attacks are made against the US. It is because the US is omnipresent as a military force – it is because the US is trying to dominating the world and in its presence they often disregard other cultures – but then – some cultures like the arabian culture are highly sensitive to such a disregard, unlike some other western cultures. So this results in people not just being a bit angry but willing to kill. This is the reasoning of the whole terror problem from my perspective – the other part sure is that there are still regions who suffer in the globalization process and the people who live there have nothing to loose.

McCains way means to not look at the root causes but to solve problems with military force. But if you look back in history very seldomly military force has helped to actually solve conflicts. It has in the 2nd world war in Europe. I would admit that – and I wont say force in general is always bad. Sometimes it is necessary. But as a last resort. A war is costly and it always means that the once who suffer most are the innocent. But if so many innocents have to die – and there is no resolution in sight – is it worth the cost?

What people in the USA would need mostly is a leadership who reduces the military – its funny how McCain talks about cutting expenditures while at the same time talks about extending the military budget. There is no ONE cure for everything and the same is true for the military. One of the major problem is the high militarization of the USA. As an US citizen you might not even realize this – as a european I see it in all movies and speeches. In fact the military has become a substitute for a real economy and familiy and real friends in many ways. I think Obama is a chance for the USA to correct some things that have gone in the wrong way. Now in the midst of an economic crisis it would be time to rethink many of the policies that have been established after World War II and also before.

For certain a president McCain means much more war(s) than a president Obama. Why has the violence in the Iraq gone down? Because some Iraquis have turned on Al Quaida instead on to the US military – in fact  that proves my point. You can partly win a war militarily – but freedom can only be established if the root causes are solved.

I knew it would be terrible when George W. Bush was elected. I think this is the last chance for the USA to gain some new ground. Otherwise I see a very, very bad ending Nobody will cooperate with a McCain-USA. This ignorance has to stop NOW.

So please do us all a favour and vote for Obama if you can!!

Thank You

Thilo

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Attacking from all sides

I like to talk a bit of what I am doing locally in my hometown. One thing is that I have worked the last two years in helping to organize a Linux even called “Kieler Linuxtage“. In 2007 we had over 500 visitors and all attendends thought it was a big success, given that we were only a small team. In relation to the population in our region we attracted much more people per inhabitant than other large events in Germany.

But also some problems appeared on the surface. One thing was that one multi day event a year doesnt satisfy all needs that users have, then many people missed some more introductional talks about Linux and we faced the fact that we who organized the event also had to do all stuff like watching the rooms, making photos, everything  – only 2 or 3 people helped in addition. From my perspective this was the result of a much to closed group. We, the KiLux (Kiel Linux Initiative) consisted of round about 10 people. We had requests of people who liked to join the core group but these were dismissed by the majority of us. The argument was that a small group is better for deciding things. That might be true – but what still was missing was some possibility that allowed citizens to help us organize Linux events – or get involved better. As after the Kieler Linuxtage 2007 the result was not really as previously announced an opening of the organisational structure I found that something else needed toi be done to allow people who were willing to get involved.

So I initiated a regular monthly meeting of our KiLux Community called “KiLux /usr Meeting”. We meet in the rooms of a computer/internet club called Toppoint e.V. every last friday of a month. So we dont have the need to consume drinks or food and also have the ability to use some existing infrastructure. KiLux is a mixed virtual organisation consisting of smaller and bigger companies and computer clubs and individuals. KiLux community is the community branch which is meant to be more free and easy to get together. Its is there for people to exchange their knowledge in a free flow – nobody should hold back his wisdom in order to make a profit. We had 5 meetings since November 2007 and each was very interesting with new people coming in. For the Toppoint Club it sure is interesting that a lot more people get to know about them and also we all learn how we can do things while we are doing them. I think part of the problem we were facing in Kiel that lead to degration of the Linux culture was that new people often were turned away by the talks and did not get the feeling that they learned something or maybe even thought they were not welcome. So people came and then left. Since years two groups announced their existence in the internet while they did not make any meetings – so many people did not find an active group and might finally have been given up.

So these meetings are very vital. Everybody can come along with his special problems and meet people who can hopefully help. Or at least he can ask questions and everybody who attends learns that those open questions do exist. So we learn about what users like to know. Direct contact. Direct learning. This is not always easy. It can be nice to just hang around with the folks you know or work on the things you find most interesting. But this often leads to groups that tend to be too self focused and closed rather than open. I try to live some of the philosophies I am talking in this blog and elsewhere and one of these is that I try to maintain a positive culture within our local Linux and open source community. I think too many people or lets say geek think that this is irrelevant. They think what matters is the latest kernel or some other stuff – and this can indeed be freaking cool. But what is all this with some nice folks you can talk with? Our current problem is still that there is a huge gap between some experts and some folks that join Linux just now and not much in between. So its hard work to close this knowledge gap. We cant help everybody – the way to go is to organize events, bring some people together and then let them exchange knowledge. ne can help by giving talks or asking questions, moderate a bit, but I think lesser is better. I think people who attend an event should know best what they know and what they need to know (“known unkowns” & “uknown unknowns” 😉 ) – so when you structure a meeting too much people wont be able to ask the questions they have in mind or others wont be able to tell all they know. Some strcutureis important and ok, especially one should make clear that people shouldnt do stuff that is offtopic. Joining a meetings should be 100% not 50%. And also people should listen to each other. Something I think many have lost the  ability to.

Ok, thats about the community part. The community can take part in the next Kieler Linuxtage and  I would expect that more of them would come or the event will get richer with new ideas if we are allowed.

The other idea I was following was the “KiLux Business” initiative. The idea is that Linux professionals but also potential or existing Linux customers get together to cooperate or talk about what is important or how to do Linux marketing. Right now there is not much cooperation. The computer market is structured by the bug guns in the computer business while the small companies all try to do their thing while heavily competing with each other to the still few Linux and open source customers. So in affect they mostly steal each others customers. Thats understandable but also stupid. Too few are willing to cooperate and to really attack the Microsoft dominated world. I have no doubts that with a bit more organisation we could locally be able to get a much bigger piece of cake, because we could convince more potential customers to trust on Linux and similar stuff. But as people only follow their own interest they might gain more in the short run for ONLY themselves – but in the long run we all loose – especially when we start talkng bad about our competitors. I think we should instead try to help all of us  to be more successful in selling Linux and open source. So for instance I am helping people to get the best local contact for OpenOffice.org, so the customer that is interested in switching to OO.org gets the best results. One more customer for open source – one common goal! I know this might sound stupid because I dont get any money out of this deal – but I think in our KiLux Business network it is also cool to take a provision in some cicrcumstances especially once things are going better in our direction. But right now I think its more important to aquire more users that all of us could work on than if I or we would think that everybody should try his best – or we wish him/her well but do not help – and he/she looses a contract. Sure the help should have its limits – everybody can decide in where this limit is. More importantly in discussing open questions and issues we generate new common wisdom that will help us at the next occasion on which software we choose or what we suggest our customers. Like what distribution we  choose as a basis od our installations. I could also figure to be interesting when the dialog between customers and professionals will happen. If “we” professionals listen to a customer and together try to find good answers. This is a whole different dialog then some may prefer when talking to “their” clients. As you can expect there is alsways somebody who can point out some false statements. So KiLux Business has to try to be some neutral instance, a melting pot of ideas and interests.

One other thing is the polical agenda. Strategically free standards like OpenDocument are of vital interest for the future of FLOSS! Why is that? Because here we have some very strong arguments – and also if the governmental organisations choose to prefer free standards and  use software like OpenOffice.org this gets us a foot for all kind of applications. A typical workplace that consist of only a desktop and an office can easily choose to use Linux and OpenOffice.org – most if not all use cases can be handled with that combination. If we get to the point where free standards like ODF are the defacto standard we are at the point where we can roll up every other product. So lets say there is a basis of Linux desktop workplaces but still some Windows machines for specific applications. most likely we can either replace them with either other FLOSS applications or surround the Windows applications in a virtual environment which could be much easier to maintain. We already have some political parties in our upcoming local elections that have on their agenda to migrate to free standards. I hope that this idea will gain some dynamic and already have done some activities so that in my city and my province this might get on the political agenda and will be decided for the first time at some point this year. We still need to be prepared better on what Microsofts agents are doing, to who they talk and how they make sure that political decisions are made to serve their companies agenda.

Here you can see where the different spots are related to each other. Because if we say we want open standards… who can deliver? You cant migrate a whole province with just one person – and most likey also not with 5-10 people. So we need to get organized. This can even mean that we suggest some company we dont like because they prefer Windows. If they have the trust of an organization and are willing to help their customer migrate rather help them doing the migration than to spread some FUD. If you really can compete with them do it, but dont play with the potential customers, rather try to convince this company to pull on our side of the rope! So thats another side – if we want that people switch we have to not only convince potential customers but also our potential competitors. Companies like SUN, IBM and Novell backing Linux has helped us a great deal. I agree that these companies are often not friendly and small companies are often nicer and better to their customers and competitors – but if you try to exclude them the whole migration will take a lot longer. And still your chance to get a contract is larger when the customers use Linux as of they are locked-in some proprietary application. Our weapons are openness and a network of mutual trust. Those things will need years to grow, but we can already harvest some fruits.

Its important  not to stop where we are right now but to constantly push things forward and move on, because companies like Microsoft learn, too – we must be quicker and smarter and work on all frontiers to gain ground. We sure have all different views and different agendas. But we should be able to agree on some terms and be able to work together in our all interest.

Regards from Germany

Thilo

KiLux

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Backing up…

Backup is not something I really do for myself besides some disks I burn every now and then. Tuesday I helped a bunch of movie geeks (hey, why the heck should geeks only be the ones on computers ) fixing some backup scripts. Actually I didn’t do much, because most of the things were in place and actually worked ok. I wonder why I look so pink on these photos, hmm must have been the red wine, lol. Big question is if it is a good idea to make a hacker drunk while he tries to fix some issues. 😉

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Apples latest tricks

I am not going to whine about Apples move to block iTunes alternatives to access the new iPods. I have never been a fan of iPod. I am a former Apple advocate (back in the 90s) when I had believed their marketing shit. But if you look more deeply many of their claims are not true. I would not be worried too much about a random company claiming this or that. What worries me is that Apples marketing seems to be working still in a geek/hacker user market also. So although the hardware is often broken people believe its high quality – and also even if they cant always do what they want to do they claim they are more productive with a Mac. I only admit the following: Apple was the first who saw that computer GUIs had a market and made that a commercial product. They created a market which then was also targeted by Microsoft. But Apples philosophy has some flaws: The core message is that the ultimate goal is to make all things as easy as it could be. Whats wrong with that? The problem is that our world is also ultimately complex. What Apple often is doing is that it tells users that only one cutlery is needed – like you only need a knife for everything: soups, pizzas, spaghetti,… – and the followers then shout “hail Steve you are a genious” – and then you see the Mac followers trying to eat everything with a knife and thinking how effective they are without spoons or forks. – Oh wow! Its not that I dont think that things cant be made simpler often – but Macs are not always easy. Just read these steps on how to add a windows printer if it cant be found:

1. Open Printer Setup Utility (located in /Applications/Utilities).
2. Mac OS X 10.4.x users: Choose Add Printer from the Printers menu, then hold the Option key while clicking the “More Printers” button.
Mac OS X 10.3.x users: Hold the Option key down while choosing Add Printer from the Printers menu.
3. Choose Advanced from the first pop-up menu.
4. Choose Windows Printer via SAMBA from the Device pop-up menu.
5. In the Device Name field, type the name you would like to use for this printer in Mac OS X.
6. In the Device URI field, use one of the following formats to link to the printer:

smb://user:password@workgroup/server/sharename
smb://user:password@server/sharename
smb://workgroup/server/sharename
smb://server/sharename

Notes: “user” is the name of a Windows user who has privileges to use the printer. “password” is the password of that Windows user. “workgroup” is the name of the Windows workgroup to which the computer sharing the printer belongs. “server” is the name of the computer sharing the printer or its IP address. “sharename” is the shared Windows printer’s share name.

Tip: You don’t need a “workgroup” when specifying the IP address of the computer (such as when the printer is on a different subnet), or if your Mac belongs to the same Windows (SMB) workgroup.

7. Choose the appropriate PPD or printer driver from the Printer Model pop-up menu.
8. Click Add.

Mac OS X: Cannot locate a shared Windows printer

Here are the steps for GNOME on Foresight Linux (most Linuxes will work similar)

  1. Open “Printer from “System->Administration”
  2. Double Click “New Printer”
  3. Select “Windows Printer” and add computer, printer, username and password. and click “forward”
  4. Select printer driver and click “forward”
  5. Enter optional description and click “Apply”

So Mac OS X needs three more steps to do the same thing. And also it requires the user to enter user and password inside an URL which I think is non-trivial for many simple users.

Another example: Lets assume you want to use OpenOffice.org as you dont want to use MS Office:

What do you do on a Mac?

  1. Search for “openoffice” and “mac” via Google maybe.
  2. Find the download link . What does it tell us? Oh, dont use the Aqua version use the X11 version. Oh you havent installed?
  3. The you need to read and understand this FAQ
  4. Go get the Mac OS X CD1 that was provided to you and insert in computer
  5. Look for the “Optional Installs” Installer on your install discs. You will need to scroll down to find it.
  6. Open “Optional Installs”
  7. Click continue in Installer
  8. Select your startup disk and “continue”
  9. In the installer, choose “X11”, as your “custom install”. (You may need to click the triangle to the left of “Applications” and/or scroll down to see it.)
  10. Complete the instructions given by the installer….
  11. But now you need to go back and download OpenOffice.org – be careful to select the right version for your processor type.
  12. Once you have downloaded OpenOffice.org for the Mac, you will have a disc image, which you will need to open.
  13. Drag and drop the application inside the disc image into the Applications folder (or anywhere else on your hard disk for that matter).
  14. As the same user that completed the previous step, run OpenOffice.org for the first time, you will be asked if you want to use your Mac OS X fonts. If you do a conversion process will occur. The time it takes depends on how many fonts you have installed, and how fast your machine is. Your original fonts will be left untouched.

Wow, 14 steps!

What steps do you need on Foresight Linux?

  • Nothing in fact because OpenOffice.org comes out of the box for your convenience. (Again this is true for many Linux systems.

And after all be aware that:

  1. OpenOffice.org on Mac Os will be much slower because you are using an X11 over the existent Aqua GUI
  2. If you need to update X11 and OpenOffice.org you will have to do the same very steps and I also think its recommended to deinstall existent applications like X11 before installing new versions. Not sure about that but at least its not that X11 on a Mac is the natural environment so being cautious is better.

On Linux making an update involves updating all kind of dependencies – so an X11 would be updates as well as an OpenOffice.org if an update is available. if you set your computer to be autoupdated you would not even be notified so zero user interaction would be needed. An update would once just be there.

The thing is its futile to even start to discuss this facts with Mac followers. No matter what statistic you could provide no matter if they need ages to get things working – once brainwashed they are immune against any qualified arguments. Because Mac is a religion. The thing is that this religion is so close in its wording to usability and computer engineering that it is hard to identify what is a good case and what is just a repetition of some marketing crap.

My argument is that the Macs are in no way more usable than a general Linux. The Mac philosophy not really makes things easy – its just that you do most things in small steps with a mouse (and then need to use the keyboard also because the mouse only has one button) – so the users are trained to follow some paths through which they can accomplish a specific goal. That does neither mean that the paths are short or simple. Its generally what many people like – people dont want to think about what they do – they rather want to act. Thats not bad – but for being productive you sometimes need to think before you do. Thats something that the vi/vim editor is focussing on. Its ugly – its the opposite of the Mac philosophy – but its extremely productive once you start learning and thinking before you act.

And here I think is the most important flaw in the Apple/Mac philosophy: Apple teaches its users not to think – it rather teaches them to trust Apple – it wants its users to concentrate on their tasks and just use a computing device like Apple tells them to do – you should NEVER leave the path that Apple has compiled for you. So they train their users to do what they want them to do – this includes buying new devices – and buying music, software, services over the paths that were predesigned. Apple does not want to have smart computer users who would be independent from Apple – they want dependent users – who depend on Apples decisions and are helpless without them.

Thats not my convinction on how to act with users. Teaching users is not bad – but it should be to teach people to be independent – let the users invent new uses that you (as a software/hardware vendor) have never thought of. This is not how you will make the most money out of the users – but its much better as to treat adults like childs. If you do not trust your users, why should they trust you?

So the Mac followers often say “Drag&Drop is so easy” – But i would counter in claiming that it is even easier to interact with a command line learning to type in something like “sudo conary updateall” or “yum update” or “aptitude update && aptitude upgrade” if you then can skip 14 steps

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New Sony Home vs. Second Life

I think that Sony Home is a extremely silly initiative if they think they should copy Second Life. even if they are better in graphics or on other parts. Linden Lab has been quite open to enable other projects to use Second Life also and I think rather than doing something again like having many Internets (which we saw as a danger in the 90s) Sony should rather cooperate with Linden Labs. The PS3 would even be more attractive. A virtual world that really only works on one console is senseless. We can all be happy that we were able to force the big players to cooperate in the internet rather than taking users into the prison of their own net product. So lets not repeat the errors of the past,

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