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Category: Personal

Dear Nokia

Why did you feel the need to develop the very nice looking N900, probably one of the nicest looking smartphone on the market currently and the leaving it with a battery that falls over after listening to music for a few hours. You should be ashamed of charging so much for the N900 when it is frankly a tablet with the worlds longest extension cord. Also it would be nice you realized we live in the 21th century and that designing your software around 90′s concepts needlessly creates a data silo from which I have to pry my information.

Paying for software and supporting Open Source

I am getting a little tired of the accusation getting levelled at me when debating with the anti-Mono crowd that I don’t support Freedom and that I am destroying Linux. I even once got accused of taking a paycheck from Microsoft and/or Novell, but to be clear neither company has ever paid me a dime for any work, in fact no technology company has ever given me a salery. I have taken gifts in return for work, e.g. Novell kindly gave me a copy of OpenSuSE 11.1 and a t-shirt for some bug reporting.

While this types of claims are entirely baseless slanter I think now is the time to come out and say that I love freedom. I love freedom so much that not only have I used Linux for more than a decade as my sole OS but I actively donate to projects and people that benefit our ecosystem.

I am a dues paying member of the EFF, I am a dues paying Friend of GNOME. I preordered the Yo! Frankie game to support open game development even though I never actually got around to playing it but it seemed like a very important missing piece in Open Source to cover high quality open gaming and show that it cam be done with full transparency.

When Richard Hughes asked for money to buy a color calibration thingy, even though I likely have no need for the work he will be doing using it I donated. Richard has donated much of his considerable talent, time and effort to projects such as gnome-power-manager and PackageKit, work for which I am grateful every day and he deserves my gratitude in the ways I can show it and my thanks for improving Linux.

Likewise I am a customer wth Fluendo, not because I feel I have to get around software patents since they are not currently legal in Denmark. However I feel as a software tester that I should test not just the solutions that are kindly available to me but those I advocate less fortunate people to examine. That being said I have actually found the Fluendo codec pack to solve issues present in the open solutions and having a working DVD player is great. I don’t especially enjoy the proprietary nature of these products but I know that much of the money I pay Fluendo will be put directly back into GStreamer development and advocacy for Open Formats.

On the open content side I make sure to buy documentaries and movies such as Sita Sings the Blues, Good Copy Bad Copy and the Piracy Documentary. I also have just signed up for a membership with Magnatune to support their fine service (about which I have have ranted previously).

Most important to me personally though is the time I put into bug reporting and following Linux every day.

All of this can of course be documented, but really it shouldn’t have to be. The accusation that I am destroying Linux is lowbrow attack which is beneath any reasonable argument. Consider this what should be a completely unneeded rebuttal to such claims.

So I ask you, what have you done for Open Source lately. Do you merely rant and leech or do you support with actions, words and wallet when you can?

Call of Nouveau testing reply

Christopher James Halse Rogers asked. I thought I would answer in video format (Blip.tv – Flash warning).

A full resolution Ogg Theora file is also available thanks to the awesome blip.tv here.

Also glad to see OMG UBuntu! not only picked up my first video demoing a few of Banshee 1.5.5′a features but also my discovery in the Banshee Community Extensions that UBuntu Mono maintainer and part time superhero Jo Shields is working on an Ubuntu One Music Store Extension for Banshee and in an additional lavishing of much deserved attention to the Banshee project they reported on the merging of the exciting Grid View branch.

YouTube revamp

Apparently Google are planning a rather vast revamping of the YouTube service. Naturally a lot of the rather vocal members of the Free Software minority have managed to push several versions of their HTML5 + Ogg Theora suggestion to the top. However is this a good thing?

Firstly it combines two goals, one Google are invested in and one it argued against. They will be able to dismiss such a goal as having reached 50% by already having invested heavily in HTML5 and using it for other services, YouTube is sure to follow. However they also issued comments against Ogg Theora based on concerns about the quality. Clearly this is where the debate needs to be had and making it as simple for Google as possible increases the chances of success. I would instead support ideas that aim to ensure that YouTube is accessable to everyone as encompassing goal, Open Standards are a natural outcome hereof. Then I would give specific well argued examples, Google are concerned about the quality and performance of Ogg Theora so start with the Xiph rebuttal and fill in the gaps, fix the problems and then what would stop Google from supporting Openness?

Secondly while the use of format and such is important to a large number of users this is a technical decision and likely not what Google are looking for input on. There are a large number of things that do not work on YouTube today, in the user experience and performance of the site that are far more important. There is rampant DMCA abuse and the reaction from YouTube is often wide banning and removal of users without sufficient investigation. You have problems with vote and rating bots. The comment section is in dire need of a serious redesign that will encourage debate and replies both in text and video form. There seriously needs some action taken to eliminate the spam problem. All in all YouTube is becoming less and less a compelling place to participate, occasionally a place that will wrongfully get you into legal trouble, the slip towards more commercial offerings seem to have taken all development interest from the community that made YouTube a success. This all leads to slowly strangling what made YouTube great and instead turning it into a Hulu-like service where nobody but your partners can upload and videos will remain locked by criteria such as region. Google will likely make more money this way but they will cause the creation of fierce competitors and they will very publicly betrayal the orignal voxhall idea that gave birth to YouTube which cannot be good for PR.

Open Standards and formats isn’t all that is required to ensure access for all, e.g. it would be nice if the community was leveraged in creating subtitles for important videos. Lots of people depend on subtitles to access information, this need stretches all the way from being an enhancement (e.g. people learning languages), a requirement (e.g. elderly people, people with reduced hearing capacity, etc.) to a downright legal requirement (e.g. deaf people). It should be noted here that to the best of my knowledge no provision for providing subtitles support currently exists in HTML5 and this definitely needs to be addressed.

It would also be nice if they took the chance to work with the Creative Commons to have them do explanatory video posts as to their licensing and licensing in general (what to watch out for such ensuring that music used can with distributed and where to get such media) followed by defaulting every contribution to a channel setting (default to something reasonable such as the share-alike license). Doing this encourages conversation, it means you open yourself to crticism and it grows the public pool of work which can be used amongst other places in the classroom which combined with subtitles and what other material can prove to be valuable tools in learning. One example of this is Potholer54′s Made Easy series which gives a quick but scientifically valid look at how the universe came to be and offers explanations of evolutionary concepts, the information is freely available and offers an excellent supplement to the traditional classroom experience.

I also think that YouTube needs to make it insanely easy to not just view but contribute to YouTube from outside the YouTube website, there is a growing number of appealing devices such as the (gadget lustworthy) Boxee Box that enable enjoying the multitude of media experiences that your own collection and the Internet offers. It is vital for YouTube to be well positioned for consumption in such an environment. This is another place where Open Standards argue for themselves, new device makers wouldn’t have to pay any kind of licensing to support your product, it would be entirely free and thus lead it being one of the first things to be implemented for such devices.

I believe we should argue for open standards and open formats that are free for all to use, however I think this argument will be the natural outcome of looking at where YouTube, the rest of the Google services and the Internet as a whole must go. From looking at the current problems and the best long term solutions to that. I believe that by flooding the suggestion box we risk drowning serious user issues and misleading YouTube into addressing their problems in the wrong order and in doing so lead them to further endanger YouTube.

We also need to remember that to have YouTube be a good showcase for open standards it first needs to be a good experience, one that users will flock to. It can be ever so free and open, but if it isn’t good people won’t use it and then any effort in opening up the experience is utterly wasted. A poor but open YouTube doesn’t serve you, Google or the Internet as a whole. Keep that in mind.

Does this droid owner have buyer’s remorse?

This is an reply to the InternetNews.com story: Will Droid Owners Get Buyer’s Remorse?

I recently bought an HTC Hero and while it is a nice phone I have found it to be slow in use and not really fulfill the promise of being much more than a phone.

I’ve learned from it that I would like something that runs a UI experience that is closer to stock Android since the porting of a large change such as the HTC Sense UI takes a long time to complete as the Android base progresses and improves. Time when the user is deprived of updates to improve the experience and instead of slow incremental changes they get rare large code dumps that likely also changes behavior. This causes issues for users learning the basically new phone all over.

I’ve also learned that I would like a hardware keyboard since I am not cut out for on screen typing. Furthermore I would like to see some of the more logic extensions be made to the platform such as letting known friends addresses appear in the map application.

Skype on Android is utterly crippled, there is some kind of restriction being enforced to disallow the application from using the data connection. That sours the experience quite a bit.

All in all while I bought the phone because I needed one and thus had to pick what I thought was the best phone at the moment. I really wish the Droid had been available to me subsidized as I am not ready to pay for an unlocked phone with the mobile contracts as they are currently since it doesn’t save me money.

The HTC Hero isn’t a bad phone but the realistic competetor available to me at the same price was a new iPhone 3GS 32GB and it is certainly an inferior phone to that on many counts.

If you are thinking of going with the Hero to support Open Source then you should also know that HTC adds a proprietary UI and know that it comes with costs though it provides a very compelling UI.

The perfect Android phone might be closer to the Droid or the Nexus One depending on your preference and use cases. They are still slower on things like loading and rendering webpages than the 3GS but the hardware is solid and should support the platform as it expands. You should expect this expansion to be directly and naturally deployed for these phones an thus be improved with updates regularly considering that they are a very standard Android deployment. You could consider it an investment of trust in the platform, it doesn’t quite provide an experience that really beats the the iPhone solidly yet but it has considerable promise and past performance as an indicator will reach it soon. Bet on it coming to these products soon.

I elected to go for openness regardless, I know I have an inferior phone for it. It’s still a good phone but it’s not more than a phone in any really revolutionary way. It’s for people like me hoping to reduce the amount of gadgets I carry by removing my mp3 player, the Hero doesn’t replace a good camera though. Likewise the experience isn’t bad but isn’t really followed through to it’s natural conclusion to the extend competitors have done. Openness outweighted that, even with the encumberance of the Sense UI, for me. It isn’t likely to be the case for a lot of people.

I don’t have remorse for buying an Android phone but I acknowledge that the competition is overall a superior choice for most people right now.

Why “helping MySQL” reflects poorly on us all

As of late Monty with the support of leading FSF figures has started campaigning to “help MySQL” since Oracle surely will mean it harm. Here is why signing such a petition in my personal opinion is a bad idea.

1) The grassroot movement is basically turning into spammers, going to every forum and other venue they can come up with an posting the same copy and pasted message without providing a reasoned argument for their case in such posts. Signing the petition is rewarding this behavior.

2) This is largely about commericalization of MySQL. Namely the right to monitize from relicensing for commercial clients who do not wish their codebase to be infected by the GPL license for one reason or another. This has nothing to do with the software’s freedom status and given the FSF’s behavior as well as argumentation throughout recent years, the entirety of the inherent freedoms remain intact even when forking the existing codebase, meaning that this is entirely about the right to make money from proprietary use cases of the code. Thus the FSF once again shows that they do not have the moral high ground given their abusive and divisive behavior towards more pragmatic community members arguing for such use cases historically (e.g.: the Miguel de Icaza traitor incident).

3) Outside of the right to monitization for proprietary use cases the only thing lost is the right to use the name MySQL. While there is a significant brand behind MySQL this is not a technical argument against the letting Oracle do with their obtained property as they please. MySQL was sold long ago along with the rights to the name and the copyright and such objections should have addressed then instead of assuming that MySQL would always remain in the hands of those we consider friendly. This is more an argument against copyright assignment than anything, if you do not agree with what is happening to MySQL right now, do not agree to contribute to projects that require copyright assignment. Now is not the time to attack a company for utilizing the rights that come with obtaining copyright assigned code and the people to do such campaigning most certainly shouldn’t be the FSF who themselves require copyright assignment.

4) The superior technical solution will eventually unseat MySQL and we already have several forks in progress including Monty’s own MariaDB and Drizzle, their respective developers will have to rewrite the code to clear the copyright ownership and learn from this incident or simply find other ways to pay the bills than selling rights to use the code under a different license than the GPL. Meaning the GPL isn’t a suitable license for such projects especially when combined with copyright assignment. In the grandest of traditions in Open Source this will spur competition and open the market to a compatible but commercially more paletable solution, unseating MySQL from new code (or existing “non-encumbered” code such as PostgresSQL) rather than a fork of MySQL. Futher underlining that this is an argument from people with a vested interest in reverting their own mistakes of the past.

5) While this is not the sole reason for the EU and similar governmental agencies holding back agreeing to Oracle finalizing their purchase of SUN it certainly isn’t helping. While this deal is in limbo, SUN is bleeding money and laying off many fine employees, in the progress directly hurting the Open Source community by removing valued contributors. Consequences for which the FSF nor Monty or any other party involved in this campaign has expressed the slightest remorse or concern. If they want to claim the moral high ground they should at least address this, apologize and amply justify their actions to the people who are left without jobs in an already hard pressed market and economy. I do not believe they are in a position to do so as they themselves are to blame for creating the situation.

In short, my opinion is that supporting this campaign makes the Open Source community look like offended children who would rather take the ball they already gave away and go home than live with their decision. It is our own failing that caused this situation and instead of attacking Oracle over it while people are losing their jobs and the Open Source community loses valued contributors we should review the road that led here and consider adding a freedom from copyright assignment clause to the list of inherent freedoms that needs protecting. Futhermore we should encourage a wide sweeping review of our existing projects and see which are in danger of ending up in the same situation as MySQL. Any action taken to deal with these situations should be above all be calm, polite and non-confrontational. if any projects show as currently being in danger and action might be needed should rational evidence based argumentation fail to work with these projects or they ask us to not argue against their policies, competition should be assumed as the natural outcome.

In the interest of intellectual honesty, the other side of the argument is available here.

What’s in a name?

For a while now I’ve happily used the name GNOME commentary, because as a GNOME user and a person who follows development I wanted to provide an outlet for news and exciting looks at what the future holds. However looking back upon the last years postings I haven’t actually done much to fulfill that intend.

I do tend to post on things that interest me, commentary on legal and social matters, distribution specific updates and issues of technology in general including my surprisingly popular article on the Acer Aspire Revo r3610 which have drawn more traffic lately than all the other articles put together. It was also one of the most fun articles to write as for me it was a time of making the most out of what few resources I had and being pleasantly surprised at just how far it could take me. I am glad you all seemed to find it useful.

So here is the question, is it time to change the name of the blog, if so to what and does it even matter? Most people likely come here from aggregators which just displays my name rather than The GNOME Commentary.

The reason I ask is that for 2010 I have set the goal of returning to more active blogging, I won’t set a specific goal of posting once a day since I always felt more comfortable writing when I have something passionately urging to get out and I would rather continue to produce such articles than fulfilling a daily goal by issuing vapid non-sense. Writing an article often takes me a couple of hours, longer if I have to track down links and other resources for people to use as resources for the article and to dig out further data. I realize that personal disappointments in the past year including my decision to leave Fedora has left me without the desire to blog and without such work also arises a feel that there somehow is less material to work with. This will change, I feel energized and have several ideas I want to explore, hopefully I can turn 2010 into a productive and fun year of blogging.

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