Archive for the 'Freedomware' Category

February 15th, 2010

WSGI and Repoze on identi.ca

A few weeks ago I started the Repoze and WSGI groups on identi.ca. Please feel free to join us if you have something to share! Or just keep an eye on those groups to receive updates.

April 16th, 2009

Dell is ashamed of its Ubuntu-powered laptops

My laptop was slow while running my chain and ball KDE 4, and also got some things broken recently (e.g., battery, screen hinges), so I decided to buy a new one last week before it leaves me stranded. And soon enough I realized that I had two options:

  • Buy it in a place where every single computer ships with Windows, so that I could claim a refund. I didn’t care about the money: I just wanted to mess with that kind of vendors and file a lawsuit if I didn’t get it on good terms, to encourage people to do the same thing and thus contribute to do away with the Windows Tax.
  • Purchase it from a Linux pre-installed vendor, to support them. Even if they pre-installed a freedom-trampling system like Windows, it’d be good to show them that Freedomware worths it.

I liked both options alike, so I based my decision on the computer specs and costs, not on the vendor/manufacturer.

I decided to get a Dell XPS M1330, one of the two Ubuntu-powered computers that I remembered Dell sells in Spain. So I visited dell.es/ubuntu and was surprised to find just a couple of netbooks! Change of plans; now I’ll have to get it with Windows and claim a refund, I told myself.

So the first step was to get a proof that I was imposed the operating system when I bought the laptop. Sales representatives were available for a chat, so I asked them how could I get a Dell XPS M1330 without Windows. The surprising answer was that it was available with Ubuntu and pointed me to configure2.euro.dell.com/dellstore/! Plans changed one more time; back to the original plan, get it with Linux.

I obviously asked why it wasn’t listed on dell.es/ubuntu. The sales rep said that s/he didn’t know why and that s/he will forward my query to the relevant department. I bought the laptop with Ubuntu that day and that was it.

Today, out of curiosity, I went to dell.es/ubuntu and found that it hasn’t changed! The link the sales rep provided me with the other day still works but the laptop is not listed. And the same happens in dell.fr/ubuntu, dell.co.uk/ubuntu and dell.de/ubuntu, for example.

This can hardly be a mistake. Why the heck does Dell hide some of the few Linux-powered computers they sell now? Maybe due to threats from Microsoft? After all, it’s well-know for its monopolistic practices.

PS (April 18th @ 14:00 UTC): The link above to configure2.euro.dell.com/dellstore/ doesn’t work at times today, so here’s an screenshot if it doesn’t work for you:

PS (April 19th @ 18:30 UTC): This is an screenshot of the random error I warned about yesterday (which I took just in case), before reaching Digg.com’s front-page:

Now, almost 20 hours after reaching Digg’s front-page, the link no longer works (not even at times, as yesterday) and a better formatted page is displayed instead:

I don’t know if the different error pages actually mean something, but my point is that the link is now dead.

45 Comments »

November 12th, 2008

Freedomware needs more engineering and less mere “development”

I am absolutely convinced that freedomware requires less typical development projects and more engineering projects. To overtake freedom-trampling software, we need more than a good philosophy, the best hardware support, cutting-edge technology and money — we need engineering.

We have a lot to learn from the freedom-trampling industry is this regard (possibly, the only thing that is worth “porting” to the freedomware environment). In that industry, software process standards (like CMMi or ISO 12207) are widely used and often a requirement. And we need them here too:

  1. We have more people working together and commonly they are from different countries. Diversity is enormous. So, we need standard, comprehensive and proven mechanisms to handle the software process.
  2. Nearly all of the freedomware projects are mere software development projects, not software engineering projects (and that’s a huge difference!). The wide range of bad practices extends from lack of proper in-code documentation to unrealistic deadlines, including no way to keep track of users’ satisfaction (specially of those who don’t speak the lingua franca of technology). This is, free software is rarely measured (and that, using our own terminology, is a “blocker bug”).

That a given project is community-driven with no full or part-time developer is not an excuse not to measure the software they create. It’ll certainly take time to learn what and how to measure (depending on one’s responsibilities) if the person is new to software measurement, as well as time to analyze the relevant collected measures periodically, but rest assured that by basing your estimations and decisions on such an periodical analysis, the continuous improvement of the project would be guaranteed.

Of course, not every freedomware project “must” be a software engineering project. Tiny projects aimed at a very limited audience and maintained by a couple of developers may not require such a care, specially if it’s not expected to grow too much.

Unfortunately, it’s worth noting that there’s a drawback of using standards like the ones mentioned above: They (usually) assume a software development process like that of non-free software, so you’ll frequently encounter (much) text specific to such processes; and as a result, many processes specific to freedomware development are not covered. I think we need an standard that addresses our software development processes.

Learn more

As in the previous article on software measurement, I recommend the book “Software Measurement” by Christof Ebert and Reiner Dumke (ISBN: 978-3-540-71648-8). As I said previously, it’s a must-read, although it’s perhaps specially aimed at decision-makers and not too much at developers themselves.

Another good book on this topic, which is more practical (as its title implies), is “Software measurement and estimation: A practical approach” by Linda Laird and M. Carol Brennan (ISBN: 978-0-471-67622-5). This one is definitely aimed at developers themselves.

If I reached my goal of making you interested in software measurement in freedomware, then you may also want to keep an eye on the upcoming ÉcoleCua project.

Finally, I invite you to check out Ohloh.net, a gratis and basic metrics service for freedomware projects.

October 30th, 2008

Horrible first impressions with Intrepid

My first impression with Intrepid has not been good at all:

  1. It broke the web server in one of the servers I administrate, and it took me a while to spot the bug.
  2. I had no way to access the Internet from my laptop! No wireless network, no wired network. Nothing. Picture how hard it was for me to get help on IRC using another computer. Not to mention the time I wasted trying to fix it, while I was downloading the CD for Hardy.

PS (Nov 4th): A few days later, I have to admit that I love this Kubuntu release! It fixed several broken things from Hardy and includes nice features!

August 4th, 2008

Finally Satisfied With KDE 4

An screenshot of KDE 4.1 in Kubuntu Hardy

An screenshot of KDE 4.1 in Kubuntu Hardy

After being disappointed on KDE 4 since the first beta releases (it was simpler than Gnome!), and upset when the new Kontact ate my emails, I’m finally happy with the latest “stable” [sic] release of KDE 4.

However, I must say that to me this is the first beta-quality release of KDE 4; the others were just pre-alpha quality. I wish I can refer to the upcoming KDE 4.2 Final as an the first stable release of KDE 4.

1 Comment »

July 27th, 2008

Python Developers: Help Us Promote Freedomware!

GNU/Linux Matters is looking for Python developers to develop the upcoming multicultural SpreadFirefox.com-like platform to promote freedomware and Linux.

June 18th, 2008

We’ll be able to install Ubuntu with Freedomware only!

With no need to download a fully free fork, like gNewSense or Gobuntu.

I am really glad to know that, and hope it will also work with Kubuntu.

3 Comments »

March 5th, 2008

I’ve seen the light: GNU/Linux Does Not Matter That Much

We freedomware advocates think that switching to a Freedom-respectful operating system (usually GNU/Linux) is the most important step when switching to freedomware, and therefore we focus on promoting these systems (myself included). However, I’ve found out that it does not matter that much.

The first and most important step when switching to Freedomware is using formats and protocols defined as Open Standards, even under a Freedom-trampling system like Windows: Vendor lock-in is only possible by means of closed standards. They are the stone corner of the non-free software industry.

Why those who know about Freedomware, and support the idea, don’t make the switch? Aside their inability to follow their thoughts (the games excuse is included here), because switching from Windows+Office+MSNMessenger/Etc to GNU/Linux+OpenOffice.org+Pidgin+Etc seems like a huge step, only made by adventurous souls.

The most important things for them, their information and communications, are already locked-in, tied to a single vendor. Encouraging them to switch to a freedom-respectful operating system is an unwise recommendation, if you know they still rely on closed standards:

  1. If you say that they won’t be able to use the programs they were used to, but their free alternatives, you will fright them. Not to mention what they’ll think when they know that their MP3s, WMVs and .doc documents won’t play nice, and that their MSN Messenger sucks under GNU/Linux.
  2. If you help them to keep their files under closed formats and communicate through closed protocols, then, why on the earth do you want them to use a free operating system? Using a free operating system simply means that most of your software is free. It seldom means that the user is reluctant to use Freedom-trampling software, closed formats and/or closed protocols, again. Quick demonstration: Take a look at any community of the easy-to-use distros and you will find that these standards are widely used among the majority of these users (although this doesn’t mean that Gentoo users, for example, are all disciples of the Church of Emacs).

The only way to make safely the switch to a Freedom-respectful computing environment, with no turning back, is by getting rid of closed formats and protocols, before switching to a free operating system. Windows-GNU/Linux dual boots wouldn’t be necessary anymore.

These closed standards have always been a top-priority for non-free software vendors, unlike for us. Closed standards represent the Achilles’ heel of the non-free software industry. We must hit them there! Pay attention to this excerpt from a memo sent by Aaron Contorer, Microsoft general manager for C++ development, to Bill Gates:

“The Windows API is so broad, so deep, and so functional that most ISVs would be crazy not to use it. And it is so deeply embedded in the source code of many Windows apps that there is a huge switching cost to using a different operating system instead…
“It is this switching cost that has given the customers the patience to stick with Windows through all our mistakes, our buggy drivers, our high TCO, our lack of a sexy vision at times, and many other difficulties [...] Customers constantly evaluate other desktop platforms, [but] it would be so much work to move over that they hope we just improve Windows rather than force them to move.
“In short, without this exclusive franchise called the Windows API, we would have been dead a long time ago.”

OK, that’s the root problem, but what’s the solution!?

We must put more effort into making people switch to open formats and open protocols, than the effort we put into encouraging them to switch to a freedom-respectful operating system like GNU/Linux. This is, our goal should be that people will get rid of closed formats and protocols before switching to a free operating system. Don’t expect them to make the switch after installing the free system! Or at least don’t get your hopes up if you ignore this (take the longer yet save path!).

The above might seem obvious to you at this point, and you might wonder, how are we supposed to do so effectively?

My proposal

We have to carry out three tasks to reach our goal:

  1. First and foremost, make people worry about the formats and protocols they rely on;
  2. Make it really easy for people to switch to unconstrained formats and protocols, under the current operating system, but also warn them that everything won’t be completely solved until they throw the non-free system away;
  3. And finally, make people switch to a freedom-respectful operating system, like GNU/Linux.

(Notice that nowadays most of us start with task #3, then some of us go further and make #1, but nearly we all forget about task #2)

These tasks should be performed separately and harmoniously, with one project for each of them. The good news is that we won’t have to start from scratch, as there are some existing efforts: GNU/Linux Matters is going to develop Unconstrained.info, a project that would meet the requirements of task #1, and it also maintains GetGNULinux.org, the project that already meets the requirements of task #3.

The second task is by far the hardest one. The solution, in my opinion, is a software suite made up of the following well-integrated modules:

  1. A package manager, like those for GNU/Linux: It will make it easy for people to get started with Freedomware applications that support unconstrained formats and protocols. These programs must be stored on special repositories, so that we could disable support for constrained standards by default. This manager would only install Freedomware required to make the switch, excluding useful free add-ons for the operating system: Our goal is not to make people feel comfortable with their freedom-trampling operating system. Only the best Freedomware packages will be available, with no alternatives: It would make no sense to include both OpenOffice.org and Koffice (for example), we don’t want people to experiment with the free alternatives, just that they make the switch.
  2. A file format converter: An extremely easy to use Freedomware application to convert any file stored with a closed format into one stored with the best-suitable open format, preferably/optionally deleting the former file after the conversion. When the suite is being installed, it must configure the system to open those constrained-formats-based files with this converter.
  3. A Instant Messaging Migrator: The hardest to make module. It will help people migrate to open protocols such as Jabber or SIP. It would create a gratis Jabber account with any provider. Then, if allowed, it would let people’s contacts know that they are making the switch to an unconstrained and better messaging network (encouraging them to make the switch too). Finally, it would configure the pre-selected free IM client accordingly, making it ready to use.
  4. A tutor: A program, similar to a Help Center, that would advice people on unconstrained formats and protocols. It would provide guidance throughout the migration process. It would make sure that people keep in mind that they should switch to a free operating system once they get used to the new standards.

This suite must meet these requirements:

  • Be multi-platform: It must run on all the mainstream operating systems, including GNU/Linux (yes, haven’t you noticed the amount of GNU/Linux users tied to constrained formats and protocols?).
  • Be multilingual.
  • Be extremely easy to use.

Once Unconstrained.info and the liberation suite are ready, together with GetGNULinux.org, the final touch for us to be effective will be Animador.

In an ideal world…

… Organizations such as Mozilla, the FSF and the FFII will support GNU/Linux Matters with tasks #1 and #3, and the GNU project will take over task #2, with the support of all of us.

If everything fails, I’ll try my best to take over task #2 on behalf of GNU/Linux Matters.

On my part…

… I’ll try to make GNU/Linux Matters change its vision, according to this blog post.

On your part…

… This all sounds so beautiful, right? Well, we need you! And please don’t forget to comment on this blog post and spread the word about it if you find it useful.

PS: Got something to say? Talk about it on NXFD!

6 Comments »

February 3rd, 2008

Why I Love KDE

A picture is worth a thousand words:

Kontact remembering me what I have to do

Have your software the way you want it and well-integrated with other programs.

January 19th, 2008

Unbelievable: Qt under the GPLv3!

While the Gnome Foundation is eager to support the OOXML crap, Qt, the library KDE is built upon, is going to be licensed under the GPL v3!

I just hope Trolltech to drop the senseless restrictions over the other editions of Qt.

Next »

  • About the author

    You're visiting the technical blog of Gustavo Narea, a Software Developer based in Oxford.