Archive for Tag ‘Linux‘

Linux, Lunch Counters, and Lost Cell Phones: Gladwell versus Shirky

Photo by Adam Fagen of Display at the Smithsonian Museum of American History - http://www.flickr.com/photos/afagen/3155132290/

Malcolm Gladwell’s piece in the New Yorker this week: “Small Change: Why the Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted” is a really compelling read, and a nice antidote to technological determinism in our understanding of social meda (the idea that the new technologies shape behavior and determine outcomes rather than interacting with behavior and both shaping and being shaped by the interaction) but ultimately I think he gets it wrong. Gladwell represents networks of weak ties as an absence of organization incapable of achieving meaningful change, and mistakes what has been done via Twitter and Facebook for all that social media and free/open source approaches could be capable of.

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Open Source, Freedom 0, and Mac OS X

I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on this blog post from Coding Horror: Why Doesn’t Anyone Give a Crap About Freedom Zero?

Atwood argues that:

when you buy a new Mac, you’re buying a giant hardware dongle that allows you to run OS X software.

and that:

When the dongle– or, if you prefer, the “Apple Mac”– is present, OS X and Apple software runs. It’s a remarkably pretty, well-designed machine, to be sure. But let’s not kid ourselves: it’s also one hell of a dongle.

I’m a Free Software Foundation member, and a big supporter of Free and Open Source Software. But I’m also a Mac user. More accurately, I use – at various points and for various projects – Windows XP, Mac OS X, and GNU/Linux – typically Ubuntu. But I recently switched back to Mac OS as my primary environment, on a new MacBook Pro.

So is it that I don’t care about Freedom Zero?

Not at all. I think Freedom Zero is important – in fact, using Mac OS and VMWare Fusion lets me run all three operating systems named above on the same machine, and that’s part of what attracts me to it. I refuse to buy songs from the iTunes store because they contain and encourage DRM (and hide the urls for podcasts to make it difficult to switch podcatchers), and run Rockbox on my iPod.

But Atwood’s right, that in switching to a MacBook Pro I’m supporting (indirectly, since it is really an Optaros laptop I get to use) proprietary development models, paying Apple Inc. for software I don’t get source code to, can’t run on my other machines, and can’t (legally) modify even for my own use.

But the combination of Apple’s user experience smarts and a BSD core, which lets me run X11 apps from the GNU/Linux world, is seductively attractive, and I can run the GIMP and NeoOffice (based on Open Office) and Firefox and Miro, and do PHP/MySQL development.

It’s a weird kind of lock in – I can bring virtually anything in (running many open source apps and frameworks in OS X directly, or worst case running them in virtualization) but there are some things I can’t take out (the proprietary Apple bits, other third party software).

Any piece of software I might write (yeah, like I’ve got time these days to create a software application) or contribute to (that may be possible) can retain Freedom Zero – I wouldn’t necessarily want to create or contribute something that only other Mac OS X users could run.

So, to get to the point, does the increasing popularity (at least perceived – look around at the crowd next time you’re at a *camp or an open source conference) of the Mac as a hardware platform reflect a general lack of concern over Freedom Zero, even among groups of developers who are otherwise insistent about freedom in the FSF sense?

No More Talkin’ Blackjack Bluetooth Blues

Thanks to Jay’s Technical Talk I’ve finally got my Cingular Blackjack working with my laptop (Kubuntu) via Bluetooth.

This means I can turn on internet sharing on the phone and get online from my laptop while on the Acela between NY and Boston, without the tether cable.

I’ve got a Dell Latitude D810, running Kubuntu Feisty Fawn, and a cheap IOGear USB Bluetooth adapter, model #GBU221.

The “bluetooth” package in the Ubuntu universe repository is a metapackage which installs the “bluez” utilities – I have that installed as well.

All I had to do to get online via Bluetooth connection was:

  1. Start bluetooth on the blackjack, since I don’t normally leave it running
  2. Start internet connection sharing on the blackjack
  3. On the laptop, do: hcitool scan (this looks for nearby bluetooth devices – note the address of your phone, which is a hexidecimal string like 12:34:56:78:90:ab)
  4. Issue the command: sudo pand -c
    , using the address discovered above
  5. Issue the command: sudo dhclient bnep0

Of course, once you know your phone’s address you can skip step 3.

I also tried the various instructions for tethering to USB and using the Gnome PPP application, but for me this would connect and automatically disconnect. Bluetooth’s preferrable for me anyway as that way I have one less cable to carry.

Internet TV – Joost and Miro

Steve Borsch at Connect the Dots has a post today titled “Two approaches to internet TV: Joost and Miro.

I’ve left a brief comment there, but wanted to expand on it here. This isn’t just a question of two different approaches to delivering Internet TV – it’s a fundamental difference of passive consumption versus active participation.

The fundamental difference between Joost and Miro is seen in these two quotes.

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Gartner Open Source Summit Keynote

Just a few quick impressions from some of the sessions at the first day of the 2007 Gartner Open Source Summit.

The opening session was Wednesday afternoon with Mark Driver : Gartner’s Open Source Scenario for 2007: Risks and Rewards for Mainstream IT.

This was the session which led to this Network World article and corresponding Slashdot flame-fest. But both missed what I thought was a perfectly rational set of statements:

  1. that commercial software vendors cannot ignore open source as a disruptive innovation
  2. that commercial software vendors are increasingly incorporating open source in a non-trivial fashion, and
  3. that this trend will continue to deepen over the next four years.


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