Microsoft GPL's Vista!

In a shocking turn of events, Microsoft has decided to release its new operating system as Free Software under the GNU General Public License!
When asked for comments, CEO Steve Ballmer merely shouted “free hackers, free hackers, free hackers, free hackers,” and finished up with his trademark squeal. There is a remix of the famous “developers, developers, developers, developers” song from YouTube already in the works.
When MIT headquarters for the Free Software Foundation were sought for comment there were nothing but tears of joy as the battle is finally over.

(Yep. It’s not very good, but April fools anyway.)

Fun With Browser Statistics…

I don’t know if you all pay attention to these statistics like I do, but it’s a lot of fun. As of the last time awstats ran on my web host, I had the following statistics:
OS Stats:

OS Total Users Percentage
Linux 633 54.1%
Windows 463 39.6%
Macintosh 53 4.5%
Unknown 15 1.2%
Sun Solaris 4 0.3%
FreeBSD 1 0%

Browser stats:

Browsers Hits Percent
Firefox 726 62.1%
Konqueror 166 14.2%
MS Internet Explorer 157 13.4%
Mozilla 59 5%
Opera 24 2%
Safari 22 1.8%
Unknown 8 0.6%
Camino 5 0.4%
MultiZilla 1 0%
Netscape 1 0%

This tells me a few things:

  1. There are a lot of super-cool free software folks who seem to at least be interested enough to look at my blog once. Groovy.
  2. There are a lot of non-free software users who are looking at my blog as well. I encourage those of you viewing with non-free software and operating systems to consider trying a Free Software operating system and browser. If you don’t know how to do this, please ask.
  3. Damn, Firefox is popular.
  4. My favorite browser of all time (Konqueror) is getting some serious play-time. Excellent.
  5. Where’s the BSD love? We could all use a little more BSD.

These are all fun statistics. My blog–being syndicated mostly on free software planets–seems to be more used by to the Free Software community (not an accident). These statistics are in now what characteristic of others, say, Google, but they’re fun none-the-less. If you want, post your blog URL and your stats in a comment (please don’t abuse this invitation). Lets have some fun with extremely flawwed statistics!
And later on, when I realize how stupid this post really is, remind me not to post at 0242 next time you see me on IRC at that time. Nighty night.

Re: OEM Vendors to Bundle Free Software?!

WOW! No sooner then I posted my last article than I saw this video.
So evidently Oracle, the world’s most popular and most expensive proprietary DBMS, is considered a partner in the “road away from proprietaryville.” Wow. I had no I idea that Oracle was Free Software. I think this video really goes to show that Dell’s support for non-proprietary solutions is half-hearted and that they’re only willing to go half way. Because evidently when you use the Linux kernel in something, you’re now no longer proprietary?
I am very disappointed to see the perpetuation of this incorrect marketing. Oh well. At least I’m going back to work for a company that will let me work with my beloved PostgreSQL again.
For those wondering “who is Dell trying to target with this advertisement?” boy do I have a treat for you. I suggest that they’re trying to go for the same target market as Microsoft was when they released this advertisement (click here) several years ago for Windows 386. (props to toothrot from #chiglug for this question)

OEM Vendors to Bundle Free Software?!

I just finished reading this article (here) about Dell letting on that they are going to bundle Free Software in an OEM fashion. I say to myself “wow.” Why do I say wow though? Is it because I think that they’ve bent to the pressure? Is it because I think that they’ve changed their minds and have decided to support the cause of freedom? Is it because I think that they’re doing something subversive that poses a risk to freedom? The answer is yes.
Dell is doing this for one reason and one reason only: profit. Anybody who thinks Dell is doing this for the “right” reasons is fooling themselves. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t imply that profit is the wrong reason. I’m only saying that a pro-freedom stance would be the most correct reason. At this point in the history of unjust restriction though, I think I’ll just take what I can get. If Dell can profit by respecting freedom, I for one am happy for them. Hell, it’d certainly make me more likely to buy another Dell (even though their finance company blows).
Now onto what scares me about this…
Dell says many right things here. Things such as supporting Free Software drivers and encouraging hardware vendors to release Free Software drivers (or at least specs). This could backfire though. What if, instead of Free Software drivers, Dell’s support of the GNU/Linux operating system merely encourages more hardware vendors to release compatible non-free drivers? That could result in fewer Free Software drivers being released.
I’m sure this also means that Dell will be releasing some of the win32 codecs and such OEM. This is perceived as a good thing by many, but I kinda see it as a scary thing. Being able to watch existing media is a good thing, but by using these codecs in their binary-only forms we’re essentially dismissing the necessity for freed codecs that won’t violate the DMCA to work on. This leaves us with prettier, more desirable shackles, but shackles none-the-less.
Then we go on to the question of “which distribution?” Now, I’m an Ubuntu/Kubuntu developer, so I’ll obviously advocate Kubuntu as the distro of choice. Does that mean that I think Kubuntu should be the only distro? Heavens no! Having a single OEM provider releasing a single distribution could be a serious setback for Free Software. Think, what if SuSE is that supported distribution? What if CentOS was chosen? Or Redhat? Redhat 6–if you all can remember that far back–was a DEBACLE! So that could mean two things: 1) the chosen distribution may be overly cautious about what changes they put into the software, and 2) all thee users could be stuck with a crappy build and left at the mercy of the–presumably commercial–tech support (and we know how helpful those folks can be with their “are you sure it’s plugged in?”). I think an “official” distribution is a bad idea overall. Choice is good, I like choice, long live choice.
That brings me to my last concern: proprietary programs. Flash is probably the most commonly installed non-free program in a free software operating system. Next up is likely Java, and that should be GPLv2’ed in a stable release in not too long. What about other programs like Real Player or Acroread or one of the other programs? What if iTunes makes it in there? I know lots of folks–particularly Apple folks–will say “alright! iTunes for Linux!” and to that I’d respond “no! Not DRM!” More OEM also means that it is likely that more players will pop up in non-free programs that are GNU/Linux compatible.
There are some things that I think are very good here…
It’s entirely possible that I’m too cynical and that Dell and/or HP will really try to get something done about Free Software 3D drivers. I seriously doubt they will, but think about how cool life would be without them. You could run your compiz without having to recompile non-free modules every time you update your kernel.
Also, wouldn’t it be nice if you could find more out-of-the-box hardware and laptops that support Free Software? I’d love it. No more Broadcoms, no more proprietary card readers, no more fancy keyboard buttons or toggle lights that don’t work properly. I’d be in a dreamy geeky heaven. You’d also know that the treacherous computing modules wouldn’t be in play either.
Oh how sweet life could be if it was no longer necessary to FIGHT for our freedom. It would be nice if it were respected by those who seek to profit from its subjugation. I think an OEM box, while I do have my reservations, is an excellent idea that I am completely for. I will buy one if it comes out and it is truely a free software friendly box. Lord knows I need to get off of this piece of garbage HP laptop.
So please–respectfully–share your opinions on this matter if you so desire. Nighty night.

manchicken becomes a dog nut…

Okay, so my wife and I just adopted a gorgeous little doggie from the Shampoo-Banana Humane society. She’s a pit-mix and about 6 months old. She’s very playful, and best of all, her name is “Penguin.”
You heard that correctly. manchicken is getting a dog named Penguin. Oh HELL yeah. Here’s the photo that the Humane Society put up of her. It’s not the greatest, but once she gets home on Tuesday and I get home from New York on Thursday I’ll have some more photos for y’all.
Penguin from the Humane Society

Getting Ready for the Move…

Wow, so tomorrow the movers will load the truck, and we’ll be moving down to Champaign from Chicago. What a bitter-sweet move…
There are a few things I’m going to miss about Chicago. One of those things is the fantastic church that I’ve been a part of for years. Another is the community of Hyde Park. This tiny oasis in the south side of Chicago has been such a fantastic home for me, I will sorely miss it. The GameCrazy on 53rd street where I’ve spent many hours and made so many friends, I’m going to miss it.
There are some things I won’t miss. CTA comes to the top of that list. I love being able to get around, but CTA is disgustingly filthy and over-crowded. I understand this is just what happens with public transit in a big city, but it’s still unpleasant. I won’t miss the traffic, I won’t miss the tax rates, I won’t miss the corrupt politics (thanks a lot Stroger, ya jerk), and I won’t miss not being able to drive places. I also won’t miss the corruption that ran all non-union grocery stores out of town (thanks a lot AFL-CIO, ya jerks).
It’ll be a bitter-sweet move, but I think it’s for the better. My plans for going to Champaign include participating in the Perl mongers group down there, introducing a Free Software advocacy group, and opening manchicken’s house of hacking. This will be a fun time for transitions.
Check y’all later. Have fun kiddies.

Registration for Sun's "Open Source"

Okay, so this is going to be a short tirade. Sun Microsystems, here’s a question… if you’re so interested in releasing free and “open source” software, then why the heck do you require registration to access it? I understand asking for address information and checking for automated bots on the disc request form, but just to download anything (solaris or otherwise) you require a user name and password. That’s far from open.
Most online users will tell you that you need to be careful what information you give to who. Spam is a real problem and nobody likes having their name and address sold to third parties.
It would seem as though Sun Microsystems is doing a bang-up job of only paying lipservice to Free Software. I restate that I’d be more than happy to say Sun is now releasing Solaris as Free Software–I like the idea of trying alternative kernels–but their actions display a less-than-transparent and quite hesitant support for Free Software. I can’t help but harbor reservations.

FSF Appeals to Hardware Vendors for Fun and Profit!

Wow, it’s not very often that you see FSF really try to make a business case like they did yesterday. Man was I really impressed with the case laid out, and I really think it will help.
The purpose of this appeal it seems is to persuade hardware vendors to serve our Free Software community with hardware that will suit our specific needs. Wouldn’t that be nice? I don’t know about the rest of you, but I would do backflips for hardware that was FSF certified to work out of the box with my Free Software operating system.
What I found most interesting about this article is that FSF was considerably more permissive than we’re used to seeing them here. Yes, we see the call for free BIOS, and the call for hardware without the need for non-free drivers, but there’s one thing you didn’t see that I expected to see.
There’s a part of this article where FSF asks hardware vendors to consider using a GNU/Linux operating system as the default bundled OS for the hardware. Note they didn’t specify which one. They left that open to interpretation. Does that mean they want you to install the non-free ones that tap-dance all over the non-free stuff? Probably not.
I think this really speaks to what FSF thinks is the biggest threat to those of us who wish to decide what our computers run without anybody else dictating for us: non-free dependencies. Having devices that are crippled without proprietary drivers and hardware that enforce digital restrictions management are an obvious threat to how I–and I suspect many of you–do your computing. Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could take some of these neat alternative kernels and make our own OS’ without having to even use the same kernel? If specs for hardware are available for out-of-the-box machines then it’s much more possible for us to have that.
This means that true freedom is possible. While non-free stuff like Flash and Opera is still a problem, there are multiple browsers available, and only three viable 3D graphics chipsets available… only one of which works well with free software drivers and it isn’t the world’s best.
Hardware compatibility is going to be where the fight goes next it seems. If you’re a hardware vendor and you’re releasing free software packages–particularly FSF-certified ones–let me know and I’ll make a page with links for your hardware on this blog.
Thanks for reading my rant. Good night kiddos.
Check out the full appeal from FSF here!

Expect Windows Genuine Advantage to Suck More Soon.

So I just read an article about how Steve Ballmer and Microsoft are blaming lacking Vista sales on people who are sharing and selling copies they’ve made. As someone who’s seen Vista in action, I think it may have more to do with Vista being a poor product, and the licensing of Vista being so restrictive and cost prohibitive instead. Microsoft likes to blame everything on “pirates” who they insist are stealing something that is truly impossible to steal.
So what’s their solution? Why it’s obvious: make the software enforce rules that Microsoft wants enforced at the expense of user functionality and usability. The only way for Microsoft to enforce their ridiculously restrictive licensing is for them to stick programs into their operating system that monitor user activity and restrict them from accessing certain functionality if these software programs–prooven to be quite buggy in XP SP2–determine that the copy of Windows running is not “Genuine.” This is, of course, Microsoft writing software that meets Microsoft’s needs, and ignores the user’s needs.
Your privacy and your system performance mean nothing to Microsoft if they cannot also restrict you to using the software for only what they want you to do with it, and they’re not afraid to make it known. They call it the “Windows Genuine Advantage” and claim that copies of Windows that Microsoft did not directly profit from can result in systems that are more buggy and virus-prone. I’m sorry Microsoft, but one copy of Windows is just as vulnerable as the next. If you can protect one copy you can protect them all… but I haven’t seen one that you really could protect.
I suggest you read the article and decide for yourself.
Check out this article from