Sunday, July 29, 2007

FOSS at NA-CAP 2007

Last week, Scott and I traveled to Chicago for the North American Computers and Philosophy Conference to deliver a talk titled "The Freedom Zero Problem: Free Software and the Ethical Use of Software". You can check out the slides for the talk if you like (some of the discussion is drawn from Chapter 2 of Decoding Liberation, whose release date has now apparently been pushed to August 2nd). The conference went well, but I would be lying if I did not say that I was not stunned by the number of profound misunderstandings of the concept of free software that were on display. Those who wonder why Richard Stallman gets cranky about this stuff would do well to note the persistence of many of these: the economics (plus associated politics) of FOSS and 'coercion' in the GPL being just two of the most egregious ones (I plan to write a bit more about 'coercion' in the GPL a bit later). There was also some weird hostility, most of which I found unpleasant and unsettling. But to be fair, there was also a great deal of interesting analysis of FOSS and its implications (and a marvelous and hope-inspiring informational talk on Open Access by Peter Suber). All in all, a great weekend, and we can't wait to get Decoding Liberation out there to spark off more discussion. Kudos to the folks at Loyola (Tom Wren, Matt Butcher, George Thiruvathukal, Konstantin Laufer) for putting on a good show.

Monday, July 09, 2007

More on the term 'open source'

I'm linking here to a post on Biella Coleman's blog which features a nice discussion on the lingering spat between the OSI and some CRM vendors who would like to use the term 'open source' to describe their products. Check it out. It features these lines:
The Free Software Definition is well defined; but it must be emphasized, narrowly so. It does not try to do everything and have everyone pledge allegiance to an inordinately complex set of commitments. Clarity, narrowness, and well-defined goals –> these three attributes have powered it far and wide and I hope it remains so.
I agree; and these thoughts resonate with I had noted earlier on this topic.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

The SFLC on the FCC

The Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) has just released a white paper on the FCC's new rules, which go into effect today, governing Software-Defined Radio (SDR) devices (SDRs are highly configurable by software, and unlike AM/FM radios, are generic devices reprogrammable in various modes). From the SFLC's website:
In this white paper, SFLC explains why the FCC's new rules do not restrict independent development and distribution of FOSS made for use in SDR devices. This is because the FCC's new rules only apply to hardware manufacturers who distribute SDR devices, regardless if they use FOSS in them or not. However, the FCC does acknowledge the importance of FOSS — specifically identifying the GNU/Linux operating system — and expressly encourages its use in SDR devices.
The paper is available here.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

A friendly word

So, Decoding Liberation: The Promise of Free and Open Source Software will be released on July 27th, and I'm glad to say we got a nice comment from Steven Weber, which I'm reproducing in its entirety as I think it captures part of our argument well:
In Decoding Liberation, Samir Chopra and Scott Dexter recapture and extend a part of the conversation that will ultimately be much more important than business models, patent and copyright law, or total cost of ownership for a piece of software. What does the open source model offer to political, artistic, and scientific freedom, and thus to the human enterprise of creativity beyond the guts of a computing machine? Their book is an eloquent, thoughtful, adventurous, and exciting dive into what really matters about changing the rules of code.

Thanks, Steve. We thought your book, The Success of Open Source was pretty darn good too!