Thursday, February 23, 2006

You can't give it away!

A thank-you to David Berry for sending this on the Libre Society mailing list:,,9075-2051196,00.html

First, the little blurb or taglin for the article:

Free software? You can't just give it away. Who could be upset by a scheme that allows free use of software? Well, Gervase Markham has found one Trading Standards officer who is

Then, some priceless excerpts:

"I can't believe that your company would allow people to make money from something that you allow people to have free access to. Is this really the case?" she asked. "If Mozilla permit the sale of copied versions of its software, it makes it virtually impossible for us, from a practical point of view, to enforce UK anti-piracy legislation, as it is difficult for us to give
general advice to businesses over what is/is not permitted."

I felt somewhat unnerved at being held responsible for the disintegration of the UK anti-piracy system. Who would have thought giving away software could cause such difficulties?

Who indeed?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Ubuntu on my home desktop

So, in my urge to find an all-GPL distro, I went out looking for all-free distros instead and landed up installing Ubuntu on my desktop at home. I repartitioned my hard drive using Partition Magic, and then installed Ubuntu on the new partition. The install went off remarkably smoothly, and a functional system was up and running quite quickly (functional = net connectivity, audio acccess, and a screen resolution that looked good). The two old partitions were visible (as HDA1 and HDA2) and readable (but only by root). I copied over some .mp3s to test mp3 playback and got a string of errors. So, I tried installing xmms the hard way (not having realized the power of apt-get), and found out I didn't have gcc. But the next day, things got better. I learned how to use the Add Applications command, added xmms, learned the power of apt-get (and used that to install a bunch of other useful programs including a developers kit that included gcc) and then with Scott, figured out how to make the two partitions readable/usable by users other than root (we changed /etc/fstab - I'll explain more in a later post and include those entries as well).

So, now, I have a functional system: I have net connectivity, I have personal productivity applications (read "office"); I have Latex; I have mp3 playback. I have a nice screen resolution. Bravo Ubuntu! I'm now planning to stay with Ubuntu and see if I can contribute to user forums in a meaningful way (including learning enough to make this my system for all work). Tonight, on returning home, I'll see if I can get DVD playback working. I can't imagine its going to be all that difficult.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Another take on the freedoms

So, one idea that has definitely been sparked off by the debate following the video conference is that we'll change our take on the contours of the ethical debate. Scott and I have been concentrating on a "copyleft versus non-copyleft" debate. But it seems that another way to go would be to start with a discussion of the four freedoms, unpack them for the ethical message they aim to impart, compare with proprietary licenses and then move on to the discussion we currently have. In the last chapter of the book, we take on freedom 0 again, in the context of a political philosophy for cyberspace, where we discuss First Amendment protections for source code (can unrestrained speech be harmful?) but a discussion of freedom 0 needs to happen earlier even if all we do at that point is point out how its better handled in the context of speech-like protections. Handling the four freedoms in this fashion also enables a more favorable treatment of folks like Debian, who might not be all-GPL or all FSF-like, but are very, very committed to the four freedoms in all other ways.

Monday, February 13, 2006

More on Freedom 0

So, Matt Butcher, Scott Dexter, Tom Chance and myself landed up having a decent discussion on that blog linked below. I'd say that most of the discussion ranged over whether it was coherent to speak of a 'free software ethic' that was as minimal as those in the FOSS camp would want it to be. What does 'minimal' mean in this case? That FOSS injunctions do not address the issue of use of software (Freedom 0 is the freedom to the use the software for any purpose whatsoever), concerning themselves with access to the code, which even when dressed up as 'a question of freedom' are only addressing a rather narrow set of behaviors.

As you will see in my comments in the discussion (which after all, were sparked off by responses to a paper carrying out "a comparative ethical assessment of free software licensing schemes"), I'm not sure that the two questions need to be answered together (or even can be). But this discussion then took us further afield: the value of the copyleft provision for free culture licenses, and the moral rights that artists can (or should) assert with respect to how their art is used.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Freedom 0 - is it good?

There is an interesting discussion developing at the the comments page, which is linked to the videoconference page below. Here is the link. Check it out. It centers on whether the FOSS community should be worried about the usage of software.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Ethics of Open Source Conference

OK, so our video conference went off pretty well today despite some technical glitches (sound quality from one node was bad, picture quality from another). The experience was interesting, and we got into some good discussions - I'm sure these will serve as good appetizers for the APA Central Division Meeting discussions.

Jon Dorbolo has put up a blog for the conference:

Check it out, log in, read the paper, read the comments and please do comment.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Quirky distros

In a post below, I enquired about all-GPL distros, and I was pointed to Ututo by Chris from Shade-of-Blue. Their homepage features a user forum, where I posted this query. Of course, BIND uses the BSD license so its extremely unlikely that there will be a distro with just GPL. But still, I'm going to see if I can rope an interested student into starting work on a distro that is 'as GPL'ed as possible' (GNU's distro page obviously thinks that its distro is 'free enough' to list). I don't expect anyone to do it single-handedly and so, obviously, will issue a call for help. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

More FOSS in India

Two big FOSS events coming up in India (the killer market for FOSS if there ever was one):

First, GNUnify in Pune, Feb 5th. Then, Linux Asia in New Delhi, Feb 8-10th. Among the speakers are Mark Shuttleworth and Brian Behlendorf.

I'm still waiting to see a killer Linux distro from India. I'm presuming there must be folks interested in putting one together.