Category: Open Source

Marcio Galli's talk in Cork

Mozilla's Marcio Galli speaking at it@cork

Fair dues to Damien Mulley and it@cork for putting on a great Firefox event last night.

Marcio Galli is a Consulting Software Developer at Mozilla Foundation based in Brazil. He gave a fascinating talk entitled “Talk: Read, Write, and Recycle the Web with FireFox 3“.

Watch the it@cork blog for a detailed review of the talk later today.

UPDATE – Mark Crowley’s detailed review of the talk is now up on the it@cork blog.

Summer book recommendations II

Back at the end of June I posted about three books I had bought to read on my holidays. The three books were:

  1. David Weinberger’s Everything Is Miscellaneous
  2. Andrew Keen’s The Cult of the Amateur and
  3. Don Tapscott’s Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything

In my naivety I brought another couple of books along as well, just in case I managed to finish the three above! I’d obviously forgotten what it is like to be on a beach holiday with young kids. You have to be watching them the whole time, if not playing with them, and after the beach you are wrecked. Bottom line, I didn’t get nearly as much reading done as I had hoped.

In fact of the three books above, I only managed to read Wikinomics. I have started Everything is Miscellaneous (and it looks to be really good too) but having briefly skimmed Andrew Keen’s Cult of the Amateur, I decided it wasn’t worthwhile reading. On the upside, the Cult of the Amateur proved to be a fantastic book for killing mosquitoes – the weight of a hardback and the flexibility of a softback.

As for Wikinomics, I can’t recommend it highly enough. For me, it is the business book of 2007. It is a fascinating walk through incredible changes which are happening as a result of the new openness in the web today. Some examples from the book include:

  • MIT’s OpenCourseWare project, whereby anyone can access the university’s entire curriculum online, free
  • how Procter and Gamble CEO AG Lafley has stated that Proctor and Gamble aims to source 50% of its innovations externally by 2010 and
  • how IBM spends about $100m annually on Linux development but that it gets about $500m worth of development from that investment

If you haven’t read it, go out and get it now. Seriously. Do.

Could Microsoft tackle piracy through Open Source?

Tom’s on holidays, I’ll be your host for today. My name’s Frank P, you might remember me from such blogs as “BifSniff.com”,” FestivalShirts.net/blog” and “Aonach.com/chatter”.

Updated due to lateness of the hour when posting originally 😉

Well, despite being on holidays, Tom is not completely cut off from things technical – when I was talking to him today he had heard about the huge piracy bust in China today.

It seems Microsoft are chuffed with themselves for their part in the busting of two pirate software groups in China… the piracy groups were “in possession of illegal software with an “estimated retail value” of close to $500 million.”

“This case represents a milestone in the fight against software piracy—governments, law enforcement agencies and private companies working together with customers and software resellers to break up a massive international counterfeiting ring,” said Microsoft senior VP Brad Smith in a statement.

Lovely, says Tom, but if Microsoft really want to have done with people pirating their software Operating System they should just open source it.

Tom reckons battling piracy on a case by case basis like this is much like the little Dutch Boy sticking his finger in the dam – except in this case while the Dutch Boy celebrates, the dam is destined to burst in any case…

Open sourcing the software OS would indeed make pirating the software it redundant – if it’s freely available for a cost of zero, who’s going to go to the trouble of pirating it?

This is not the first time Tom has brought up the possible benefits to open sourcing for Microsoft.

Unfortunately, here’s where this post stops… this isn’t really my area of expertise, and Tom doesn’t have proper internet access going at the moment… this story really bugged him though, and while we were chatting about it, I said I’d get something up on his behalf – however I don’t know enough about the area to make a meaningful contribution.

I’m sure Tom will revisit on his return… but in the meantime, it’s over to you – what do you reckon? Should MS look at Open Sourcing their software OS? What would the benefits be? How would affect profits? How would any negative impact on profits be offset?

I look forward to being educated 🙂

Sun's answer to the Microsoft litigation threat

Microsoft’s announcement yesterday that they are going to charge open source companies and users for patent infringement is largely being seen as

  1. an act of desperation
  2. a scare tactic to get enterprise open source users to pony up more money to Microsoft (or buy Microsoft software) in lieu of litigation and
  3. a great way to, once again, succeed in annoying the majority of people on the planet

Jonathan Schwartz, CEO of Sun Microsystems, has a great post on his blog today in response to the threat by Microsoft.

In his post Jonathan outlines how when beset by difficulties, Sun chose to open source their products instead of litigating!

He concludes his post by saying:

no amount of fear can stop the rise of free media, or free software (they are the same, after all). The community is vastly more innovative and powerful than a single company. And you will never turn back the clock on elementary school students and developing economies and aid agencies and fledgling universities – or the Fortune 500 – that have found value in the wisdom of the open source community. Open standards and open source software are literally changing the face of the planet – creating opportunity wherever the network can reach.

That’s not a genie any litigator I know can put back in a bottle.

Microsoft: "You are going to have to pay us for NOT using our products too!"

Microsoft have an image problem. You know they have. They know they have. Almost every time you see a Microsoft employee get up to speak they invariably start by meekly, almost apologetically, admitting they are from Microsoft.

Why do they have an image problem? It dates back to the browser wars of the 90s when they used their market dominance to squash competitors. They were bully’s.

Over the last number of years they have been fighting hard to combat that image. They have tried to appear all warm and fuzzy. They have made clever hires like Jon Udell and even contracted Hugh MacLeod to help improve their brand.

Then what does Microsoft go and do? In an article in Fortune

Microsoft claims that free software like Linux, which runs a big chunk of corporate America, violates 235 of its patents. It wants royalties from distributors and users.

Update: Wow, this one is really exploding on Techmeme
Good God, are they really serious? Many people use Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) precisely because they don’t want to be giving money to Microsoft and now Microsoft are saying “You know all that Free and open Source Software you are using, yeah well, you are going to have to pay us for using that now too, thanks!”

It really is quite an incredible situation. What if the oil industry started saying, “All you solar energy, wind energy and renewable energy users will have to pay us for not using our products”

Talk about damned if you do and damned if you don’t!

As Simon Hibbs said:

It wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the fact that so many Microsoft products are based on patentable innovations contributed freely. I’m thinking of Kerberos and LDAP that are the guts of Active Directory. Where would we all be if Tim Berners-Lee had patented key elements of HTTP, or if the TCP/IP stack were proprietary? Microsoft has done very well embracing and extending the innovations of others.

Akismet 2.0 is a life (and comment) saver

Akismet is the default anti-spam plugin which comes with WordPress and it has saved me from literally hundreds of thousnads of comment spam messages (124,200 last time I looked).

A new version (Akismet 2.0) was released the same time as WordPress 2.1’s release so it’s release was kind of drowned out in the hoopla.

To my mind, the most significant change in Akismet 2.0 is the ability to tell Akismet to automatically delete any comments on posts over a month old.

Akismet configuration

As Matt himself said:

When I was doing some research into false positives I found an interesting statistic: the overwhelming majority (more that 99.99%) of false positives (which is when Akismet marks someone as spam wrongly) occur on new posts. Which makes sense because most real comments happen on new entries.

Typically I used to get >500 comments per day flagged by Akismet. There was no way i could go through those looking for genuine comments accidentally flagged as spam by Akismet.

Today though, having configured Akismet to dump all suspected spam comments on posts over a month old, I now only have to check 20-30 comments per day.

And just this morning, I rescued two comments which had accidentally been marked as spam by Akismet.

Well done to the guys in Automattic again. I love Akismet.

HD DVD DRM cracker interviewed

There is a fascinating interview with muslix64 today on the Slyck.com site.

muslix64 is the guy who cracked HD DVD DRM when he released the open source application BackupHDDDVD just before Christmas. HD DVD is one of a pair of new formats of High Definition DVDs (the other format is called Blu-ray).

muslix64’s application will allow people to bypass the DRM on DVDs and access the HD DVD’s movie content directly.

As the proud possessor of several DVDs which were bought in the US and won’t play on my DVD player in Ireland because of the regionalisation built into DVDs, I’m delighted this has happened.

The sooner the movie studios realise that all the money they are pouring into DRM is wasted because 1) they are annoying their customers and 2) people will find a way around it anyway, the better.

As muslix64 said:

The reaction time of the community will be way faster than the reaction time of the industry.

Trying out WordPress 2.1

I upgraded to WordPress 2.1 this morning and the whole process was remarkably painless.

The entire process took about ten minutes – the majority of that time was spent on backing up the previous version and FTP’ing the new files into place.

Of course, if you are a client of mine and I maintain your blogs, it actually took waaaaaaaaaaaay longer. Hours of research, planning, etc. were involved and if you need me to upgrade your blog, my invoices would obviously reflect that 😉
The only glitch I found so far was that when I was double-clicking a word to select it in the Visual mode, the paragraph I had just been writing disappeared. And that disappearance was then auto-saved!

Clicking into the Code tab revealed that I had somehow inadvertently switched the paragraph style to hidden. Deleting the style info revealed the text once more.
WordPress 2.1 write screen

I like the auto-save feature (see in the image above, the post is being saved) and the ability to quickly move between the Code and Visual (wysiwyg) views.

The builtin spell checker will prove handy too when I’m not using Firefox (Firefox 2 also has a spell checker which is fabulous for illiterates like me) or the Visual editor.

The other very nifty improvement I noticed was the ability to set any page as the front page of your site. This will allow many more people to use WordPress as a simple CMS for their entire website.

WordPress just gets better and better, great job guys.

WordPress 2.1 released

WordPress 2.1 has been released.

The major features according to the WordPress.org site are:

* Autosave makes sure you never lose a post again.
* Our new tabbed editor allows you to switch between WYSIWYG and code editing instantly while writing a post.
* The lossless XML import and export makes it easy for you to move your content between WordPress blogs.
* Our completely redone visual editor also now includes spell checking.
* New search engine privacy option allows you take you to indicate your blog shouldn’t ping or be indexed by search engines like Google.
* You can set any “page� to be the front page of your site, and put the latest posts somewhere else, making it much easier to use WordPress as a content management system.
* Much more efficient database code, faster than previous versions. Domas Mituzas from MySQL went over all our queries with a fine-toothed comb.
* Links in your blogroll now support sub-categories and you can add categories on the fly.
* Redesigned login screen from the Shuttle project.
* More AJAX to make custom fields, moderation, deletions, and more all faster. My favorite is the comments page, which new lets you approve or unapprove things instantly.
* Pages can now be drafts, or private.
* Our admin has been refreshed to load faster and be more visually consistent.
* The dashboard now instantly and brings RSS feeds asynchronously in the background.
* Comment feeds now include all the comments, not just the last 10.
* Better internationalization and support for right-to-left languages.
* The upload manager lets you easily manage all your uploads pictures, video, and audio.
* A new version of the Akismet plugin is bundled.

2.1 also includes over 550 bug fixes.

Installation and upgrading instructions are provided. Follow them closely.

You can download it here .

WordPress 2.1 due out later today

The next version of WordPress – version 2.1 is to be released later today and Aaron Brazell has a good post outlining 10 features of WordPress 2.1 you should be aware of.

One that I love is the AutoSave feature. I have lost several posts during writing which I wouldn’t have lost if I had this feature. Another is the upgrade tool – that’s right, WordPress 2.1 on installation will automatically upgrade your previous installation making the whole installation process that much easier, it seems.

Looking forward to giving 2.1 a whirl!