Archive for the ‘Free Software’ Category

MeeGo? Where are you?

Monday, July 9th, 2012

There is a rumour that a small Finish company called Jolla lead by ex-Nokia-employees is trying to revive MeeGo. (here, here and hier) Is there a new chance for a real GNU/Linux mobile operating system with great hardware support being free like in freedom, not free like in Android? And they want to use Qt instead of this hip, kinky HTML5+JavaScript (cf. Tizen). Sounds like really good news, but unfortunately I am not that confident. There have been so many setbacks. Maybe it will stay a dream in the near future. :( What are your opinions about it?

PS:
Yes, I know about Mer. However, I cannot judge its current state, of course I hope there will not be too much fragmentation of Mer/MeeGo/Jolla/Tizen.

MeeGo finally dead, absolutely dead

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

Some people could not believe it that Nokia’s deal with Microsoft killed MeeGo, a promising Linux distribution for mobile devices, though it had been arguable to drop Maemo and not using Plasma Mobile. I hope they will now believe it: Even Intel is dropping MeeGo, Tizen is coming slowly, probably not providing a full featured GNU/Linux (why should it be like that, if everything is HTML5/JavaScript-focused), providing no more big benefit compared to Android, Necessitas is there, Tizle is not. There is finally obviously no more prospect for MeeGo, forget it. I hope the are chances for Free Software and KDE on Android, although that is not optimal, no full featured GNU/Linux and has an uncertain future because of Chrome OS, I currently do not see any alternative.

GPLv3, LGPLv3, AGPLv3 Discussion

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

Hi!

Just a short notice: I have started a discussion about the exclusion of GPLv3, LGPLv3 and AGPLv3 by the current licensing policy at the kde-licensing mailing list—as promised in my previous blog post discussing some arguments. Will be offline for few days, thus do not wonder if I am not answering.

Regards
Jonathan

The FSF about Free Games

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

I have noticed a new FSF-bulletin-article via identi.ca: The Free Game Lag by Danny Piccarillo.
The article is about the lack of FLOSS games. It neglects the theory that Free Software would be an unsuitable method for game development. Free games will evolve like any other fields of software, but currently it is low-priority, because games are not that important. Seriously, the arguments of that article are null and void, it does not take specific properties of game development into account, I want to explain my thoughts about the issue:

Some time ago I thought it would be impossible for Free Software to conquer game development. It is a lot of work involved with developing a big computer game, but there are no people having a specific commercial interest in the development of them, thus selling licenses seems to be the only possible business model (in comparison many companies are interested in the development of Linux or Apache). There will not be any RedHat or Google or whatever extensively sponsoring development of free games, nothing more than some GSOC Wesnoth projects (that is much less than big game industry). What was wrong about my thought? Game development does not necessarily need such a “business-model” to be successful. First of all we should notice that there are sophisticated Free Software game engines, XNA or similar proprietary software is not needed, there are e.g. Irrlicht, Ogre3D, Blender or Panda3D, sophisticated graphical effects, physics etc. seem not to depend on proprietary software any longer. When looking at the development of major games one may notice that there are seldomly epic new concepts, most of the time it is new content, i.e. new graphics/artwork, new story, new characters, new items, new quests etc. It is a lot of work, but: it can be done by communities. Gamers have already created huge modifications in their free time, once free games have reached a certain level including good graphics etc., there could be entirely new big communities of gamers, and because community and cooperation are integral parts of Free Software, such games would not stop growing. But currently most “serious” gamers are only recognising proprietary major games.

But of course those major 3D-shooter/RPG/strategy/…-games are not the only ones, many people are also playing so called “casual games”, they tend to be very wide spread—and proprietary. One may argue that casual gamers do not want to spend time for contributing, but I think there is enough hope they may be interested in it, too. The Gluon Project, we all know about, seems to have some very nice approaches, it is trying to build such communities for free games, which are currently not present, supported by OpenDesktop.org software (and hardware, but that is not that important). For 2D-realtime games it looks very promising. There are also some innovative approaches for turn-based games, e.g. short time ago I found out about Toss, it is a free research project combining game creation and general game playing (from AI point of view), I am sure it would be awesome if communities could be built around such a software as well (there is Zillions of Games, but it is proprietary).

When people ask you how gaming as we know it can exist in a free software world, you should open with your response with, “It can’t, but it can be better.”

That is definitely right, but there are specific properties which have to be taken into account. There are chances for free games, we should not forsake any hope just because it seems to be impossible with current business, we should hope that all those business (“big game industry”, “app development”, all using DRM etc.) will perish, although currently they seem to strengthen. Free Software and community can succeed when using entirely new methods.

PS:
What I have forgotten to write yesterday: crowd funding should be considered, too, why should ordinary gamers not pay for development instead of licenses if there are good chances that there will be some good results? That is often a good alternative to selling copies, especially unknown artists can benefit. Of course it should not be misused (that is often the case at kickstartet.com, people receive such funding and have no risks, but then they create DRMed products, sell it in the app store etc., that is strictly against the street performer protocol ;)). Btw. OpenDesktop.org supports donations.

Skype Reverse Engineered

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

Hi!

Good news for Free Software and open protocols: There has been a sucessful attempt to reverse engineer Skype (Magent URI). Nice timing, shortly after Microsoft’s acquisition Skype could finally be broken. :) He is also including modified Skype executables allowing debugging etc., which is usually prevented by really elaborated anti-features (encryption, kills itself if there is a debugger etc.). The sample code is able to send a message via Skype, awesome!

Now there are hopefully soon implementations for Telepathy or libpurple (used by Pidgin and Telepathy Haze). One may say we should not promote such proprietary protocols, but: For many people Skype is important (do not say you do not know anybody, it varies, in some groups everybody is using it, somewhere else it is different, I am not using it). The chances that they will switch to Free Software (KDE/GNU/Linux) are much higher if there is support for Skype without proprietary software. And once they start using Pidgin or Telepathy, it is no problem for them to use open protocols, too, you can simply tell them they have to click those buttons and then they can communicate with you using an open protocol like Jingle or SIP (or XMPP for text messages). Thus it does not only help to spread Free Software, but also to spread open protocols. And all future attempts to commercialise the private data created by Skype can be easily prevented. Even Windows-users may start using Pidgin or something like that against the advertisement. Regarding “it is just a hack”: They cannot simply change their protocol, because there is Skype hardware which cannot be updated and would not work any longer (that would make all non-idealist customers unhappy, too). And for WLM/.NET Messenger/MSN and Oscar/ICQ it has been working well since long time (even with Kopete ;)). Really, really great news!

Der RSB zu „Internet, Software und Revolution“ und dem Fall Guttenberg

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

Der Revolutionär Sozialistische Bund/ⅠⅤ. Internationale schrieb vor einem Monat über „Internet, Software und Revolution“ und ging dabei insbesondere auch auf Freie Software sowie als Aufhänger die Plagiats-Affäre Karl-Theodor zu Guttenbergs ein. Unbezweifelbar der Vorteil des Internets, das schnelle Kooperation und dank zumindest teilweise vorhandenen offenen, indizierten Informationsquellen eine effiziente Arbeit ermöglichte. Letzteres ist natürlich leider nur teilweise gegeben, Google Books und SpringerLink stellen nicht gerade ein Non-Plus-Ultra dar, und sollten wissenschaftliche Werke egtl. im Sinne der Allgemeinheit geschaffen werden, was dank staatlicher Vorfinanzierung im akademischen Bereich relativ bequem mäglich wäre.

Weiter im Text: Der RSB kritisiert die Kritik an der Kritik an Guttenbergs Plagiarismus,

Letzten Endes lief diese ganze Kritik darauf hinaus, dass Guttenberg sich nicht den bürgerlichen Eigentumsverhältnissen unterworfen hat, bzw. deren in die Welt der Wissenschaft gedachter Verlängerungslinie. Natürlich ist es zynisch, wenn ein Multi-Millionär, dessen ganzes Eigentum auf eben diesen Verhältnissen beruht, sie genau in dem Moment bricht, wo es seinem egoistischen Privatinteresse dient.

Abgesehen vom Wahrheitsgehalt des herausgestellten Zynismusses, denke ich, dass doch noch einiges unabhängig von (urheber-)rechtlichen Erwägungen für eine moralische Verurteilung dieses Plagiarismus steht:

  • Der RSB stellt als Gegenmodell Freie Lizenzierung wie etwa in der Wikipedia dar. Nun ist aber die Wikipedia etwas gänzlich anderes als eine Dissertation, erstere besteht aus Tertiärtexten, zweitere ist ein Primärtext. Hier gilt es weiter zu unterscheiden.
  • Eine Doktorarbeit soll nicht eine umfassende Erläuterung bekannter Sachverhalte sein, sondern primär die neuen Forschungsergebnisse eines (angehenden) Wissenschaftlers (oder Politikers, der sich etwas darauf einbilden will) darstellen. Die „Redundanz“ die ein Plagiat mit dem Original aufweist, ist hier nicht von Nöten, gefragt sind nur die neuen Ergebnisse, deren Vorstellung mit je nach Disziplin mehr oder weniger Zitaten besser durchgeführt werden kann.
  • Zudem geht es um den Nachweis einer persönlichen Forschungsleistung, Guttenberg hat hier einmal mehr mit Unehrlichkeit geglänzt (man erinnere sich an den Vorfall mit dem Tankwagen).
  • Man mag das ganze System von akademischen Graden und persönlicher Leistung in Frage stellen, dennoch (ob es dem RSB passt oder nicht): Es wird Menschen immer auch um Selbstverwirklichung, um Individualismus gehen, und das ist gut so, zudem sollte eine Forschungsleistung auch auf den (die) Urheber zurückzuführen sein. Somit lässt sich auch Selbstdarstellung nicht vermeiden, und der Plagiarismus bleibt ein Beschmücken mit fremden Federn, niederträchtige Lüge.

Ich denke nicht, dass die meisten Menschen ihre Kritik aus den „bürgerlichen Eigentumsverhältnissen“ heraus motivierten, sondern schlichtweg die Unehrlichkeit des Ministers zu Tage treten sahen, und diese moralisch verurteilten.

Im Folgenden wird die Absurdität des Eigentumsprinzip für Wort und Software eindrücklich dargestellt, man ist weg vom Aufhänger Guttenberg. Interessant ist dann der Übergang zum Thema „Revolution“, wie es der Titel verspricht. Ich zitiere einen hervorstechenden Satz:

Die Unverträglichkeit von Autoritarismus und Internet zeigte sich daran, dass die Diktaturen in ihren letzten Tagen das Internet schlicht abschalten ließen. Wenn sich bereits so etwas wie facebook für eine Umwälzung nutzen lässt, dann können wir nur erahnen, in welchem Umfang sich Plattformen nutzen ließen, die von vornherein für hierarchiefreie Kommunikation gemacht sind.

Ich stimme gänzlich zu, dass sich dadurch neue Möglichkeiten schaffen lassen, in demokratischer Kontrolle, demokratischer Entscheidungsfindung – wirtschaftlich und politisch –, wie sie in einer weniger technisierten Welt kaum möglich erschienten. Konstituierender Bestandteil dabei sollte die Freiheit sein, Freie Software, Freies Wissen, ich empfehle das Lesen des Artikels.

There is a Substantial Antagonism between Free Software and Capitalism

Sunday, May 29th, 2011

It is not uncommon that people want to tell me that Free Software and Free Knowledge fit nicely into the concepts of capitalism. They are right that they can do a good job for humanity by supporting Free Software or Free Knowledge while they are accepting capitalistic circumstances, feeling comfortable within them. But it is not true that FLOSS and Free Knowledge are about free markets and capitalism. Freedom is not about markets at all. Markets depend on the concept of scarcity. When supporting Free Software, Free Knowledge, Free Research etc. you are working against the concept of scarcity, they remove the scarcity where it is definitely not necessary. Anybody can benefit from software and knowledge, anybody can make it better. Everybody is allowed to copy it. That are the fundamental concepts of Free Software, and that is a fundamental antagonism to scarcity. The reason that it is working within capitalism is not a common ideology. The reason is: capitalism is not totalitarian. Most gouvernments do not want it to affect any aspect of life, there remains the freedom to act outside of it, to support other people, to have a family, to love somebody without revenue – and thus you are even allowed to fight against shortness, you can create Free Software.
But laws may change, any there are powerful parties opposing the ideas of cooperation because they benefit from scarcity. Thus people invented “intellectual property” and told us it would be a worthful ideal. That Free Software is using copyright for its copyleft is just a pragmatic approach necessary to achieve something in the current world. If there would be no scarcity for software, i.e. all software would be free, there would be no necessity for neither copyright nor copyleft.
Let us translate the ideals behind Free Software to other parts of economy: That would mean stopping scarcity, stopping shortness, allowing real freedom. E.g. it would mean making food and medicine freely available for everybody. With increasing automation there will be even less necessity of scarcity, but unfortunately some people benefit from it. Automation gives us the opportunity to stop scarcity and alienation in a smooth process without ruining economy. But it has to be used wisely – that means Free Knowledge and Free Software to prevent technocracy. It could finally remove the necessity of property. It could result in real, human freedom, in equal opportunities wihout alienation or structurally caused existential dependence. Then capitalism would be over. But maybe there is another alternative more likely to happen: We are heading into technocracy, all formal democracy will become worthless. Mighty persons or maybe their invisible (and evil!) hand will control intellectual property even more, will control all the people, will keep markets, scarcity, capitalism, poverty everywhere. Those who can controlown the knowledge and information can control everything human beings are able to control.

PS:
This article might be interesting to read for those who understand German.

Are you using Wolfram Alpha?

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

Hi!

That blog-post will not be very long, because I want to sleep soon and do further investigations later.

Many of you will know about Wolfram Alpha, when I first saw it, I thought: hey, that is really cool. Many people are using it. But it has some short comings:

  • They want you to buy Mathematica
  • It is proprietary
  • You cannot create arbitrarily complicated queries
  • You cannot save temporary results
  • Sometimes English grammar is too ambiguous
  • No localization

Well, that service should not be used, it is actually not that great, and like Google Mail, Chrome OS, iOS or WP7 it is becoming really popular and is a threat to Free Software in my opinion, especially high qualified people are using it and stop caring about Free Software (“just a web-app”). But what are the alternatives?

  • There is Sage – an awesome computer algebra system combining a lot of free software, using Python instead of ugly, specialized languages like in Mathematica, Maple and Maxima
  • Semantic databases in RDF-format, e.g. DBPedia crawling the Wikipedia or governmental websites like data.gov or data.gov.uk

For people being able to use SPARQL the mentioned RDF-databases are very powerful tools – no limitations on queries or something like that. So what is missing? A nice interface anybody can use. It would be really nice to have a free tool parsing natural language queries (e.g. using Earley-parsers and some probabilistics, it would not really have to understand real sentences, just some fixed structures would be enough like “where”, “by”, “all” and fixed sets of attributes). Those queries could be transformed into e.g. DBPedia-SPARQL-queries, and the RDF-results could be transformed into some nice tables and maybe graphs. A free implementation would be a) awesome and b) much more seriously usable than Wolfram Alpha. Do you know about any project trying to do something like that? Any comments? What is your opinion about such software?

Regards

PS:
A few random thoughts about it:

  • Of course natural language stuff would be nice for math, too.
  • With SPARQL access from Sage/Python data-querying and calculations would also be combinable. A software could generate Python containing SPARQL.
  • I do not know if there are practically usable distributed RDF-databases, but such software could make it possible to distribute query evaluation to the peers, Free Software projects probably cannot afford Wolfram’s computing-capacity.
  • Combination of different RDF-databases may be a problemtask.

Do we want to be 1991 forever?

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Hi!

KDE’s licensing policies do not allow GPLv3+, LGPLv3+ and AGPLv3+ software in KDE’s repositiories (I guess it is for git, too, not only for SVN). But do we really want to keep that policy? There are more and more web-applications, ugly cloud-stuff, “software as a service”, is growing, and developers want to protect their Free Software by using the GNU Affero General Public Licens e. KDE is going to be adapted on embedded devices, and we should not care about tivoization? We should only use a 1991 license not targeting a lot of important issues of our times? Why should a KDE-application not be relicensed under the conditions of the GLPv3+ or AGPLv3+? In many cases that may be good. Why should there not be new GPLv3/AGPL development? Should developers fearing cloud-services not be integrated into KDE-community? We are not BSD, we want to protect ourselves, WebOS is coming soon, GPLv2′s copyleft may become completely noneffective, and we – usually accepting copyleft – should be stuck in GPLv2? That may be really, really bad. Should we care about GPLv2 only software which would not be able to integrate (A)GPLv3 software? No, they should start caring about the problems of GPLv2, and we should also think about the (A)GPLv3 only software we are currently excluding from being integrated into KDE. Btw: ownCloud already violates the licensing policy (though it may be invalid, because it does not mention git), and I am sure we will find more “mislicensed” software in the repositories.

Regards

Not everything about the Nokia-Microsoft-Deal is bad

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

At least Miguel de Icaza, founder of Gnome and Mono, thinks in a quite positive way about this deal, thank you, whilo, for the link. Well, what the hell is he talking about? He is a C# fanboy and he thinks abandoning MeeGo in favour of Windows Phone 7 is good for C#. I have always thought that there are some ideals which are more important to care about that the spread of a language, however, let us have a look at some arguments:

Although some open source advocates might see this as a set-back for Linux, Android is already the best-selling Linux OS of all times.

Oh, yes, we are just fatuous idealists, why should we care about the spread of Free Software if there is a free alternative? Wel, of course we should not care about the spread of digital restrictions management, because we can use our devices without DRM, etc. Sorry, that is ignorant, such a proprietary system like WP7, not even allowing GPL-programs, will certainly do harm.

This is fascinating turn of events for C# developers as Nokia will make WP7 more relevant in the marketplace, making C# the lingua-franca of all major mobile operating systems.

Wrong, according to his one diagrams C# had already been a lingua-france before the introduction of WP7. But there had been other linguae-francae, too, like C++ and EcmaScript, but he wants to support monopolists like Microsoft and the monopolism of a single programming language, why should there be choice? For the loss of freedom and choice he uses the euphemism “simplification”, aren’t iPhones quite simple, huh? Well, he did not mention MeeGo, which does not support Mono/.NET/C#, however, there was a Mono-port for Maemo, I am sure it would have been easily possible for MeeGo, too, why does he accept .NET – only WP7 is using .NET and Silverlight – and does not want Mono to be the “runtime-franca” for all devices? And of course he does not care about the millions of Symbian-devices, which support C++, Qt and EcmaScript/JavaScript.

We advise our users to split their user interface code from the engine, or their business logic. Developers should create a native experience for their mobile apps: one per platform.

Of course it is a good thing to split GUI and programm logic. But do you write different user-interfaces for GNU/Linux, Windows and Mac OS X? Is that useful? No, you can simply use Qt, QWidgets, Plasma or whatever and it will be an interface well usable with any keyboard and mouse input devices. But for different smartphone-systems you want to rewrite the whole user-interface? Having 3.5″ or 4″ multi-touch devices running Symbian, MeeGo, Android, WP7, iOS or WebOS, why should they get seperate interfaces written using different APIs etc.? That is nonsense, it would have been nice with C++ and Qt for Symbian, MeeGo, Android and iOS, or even an approach using C# may be better when using the same Mono-runtime with the same GUI-libraries (maybe Qt) for every device.

This is a grand time to be a mobile developer.

Sorry, no, as I explained, Nokia using Windows Phone 7 does not make the situation better, and it is a really bad time for Free Software. Why should there room for somebody like him in Free Software communities? I do not get it, he can start working for Microsoft if he wants to.

Sorry, but everything about the Nokia-Microsoft-deal is bad.