Dr. Dobbs’ Journal has a short piece on open source software’s “thousand eyes” myth, also called Linus’s Law. This is worth reviewing whatever your position on open source (I’m generally a big supporter).
Emacs is an acronym for “Editing MACroS “ My favorite expansion of emacs is “Eats Memory And CrasheS”, but I think the best flame has to be “Emacs is a good OS, but what it’s missing is a good text editor.” This flame makes perfect sense if you’ve ever used or studied emacs.
This is a brilliant talk. It’s worth watching if you work in software at all and especially if you develop software.
The best file archiver (zip/unzip tool) for Microsoft Windows is 7-Zip. It’s open source, fast, free, and highly recommended by sites such as CNET and Lifehacker. I use it at home and work and recommend it to others.
Modern Windows, at least Windows XP, has built in zip file support. If that’s all you use and you don’t run into files in other compression formats, then you don’t need a separate file archiver tool. Most of us, though, want something better than the basic built in functionality and many of us sometimes get a file in .rar, .tar, tgz, or even 7-Zip’s own .7z format. You can buy WinZip or another paid tool, or use one of the other free tools, but I doubt you’ll find a better overall tool than 7-Zip. The fact that it’s free and open source is just icing on the cake.
If you use Windows at all, you’ve probably dealt with Adobe’s PDF Reader application. It’s slow, bloated, and includes a helper app that runs every time you launch the application to see if there are updates. Adobe’s is just a terrible, no good, very bad application. Don’t use it.
I’m researching and writing on potential uses of “free software” in our work, as I often do, and I always have a hard time deciding what to call it, mainly to avoid confusion but also to present it elegantly (because it’s a beautiful idea). “Free Software” is generally software available under a license that encourages sharing the source code with others and prohibits making it solely available under a proprietary license. This is its primary characteristic. This is usually expressed as: “free software is free as in freedom, not necessarily free as in beer.”
Like almost everything in the software world, “free software” came to be, at least in its initial form, largely by the efforts of a small group, in this case led by a man named Richard Stallman, a true genius and idealist of the first rank. He’s an interesting guy and worth reading about, along with the history of the free software movement. There’s plenty of information on the internet about both.
Stallman is also a crazy person, in the sense of being a prophet and idealist, and he’s uncompromising in his ideals. He called his ideal of software “free” as in freedom – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Free_Software_Definition. Once the movement was becoming more broadly public and beginning to change the world in small ways, other bright lights in the movement wanted to adopt a less confrontational and moralizing term to help advance the ideal and make it more likely to be implemented in the business world. They held a conference to come up with a more acceptable name for “free software” and didn’t invite Stallman. They came up with the term “open source”, which is what many of your call this type of software license.
From there, it was just a matter of time until the participation of many bright and individualistic people created several other names, because neither of the first two names was exactly right: to include “Free Open Source Software” (FOSS), “Free/Libre Open Source Software” (FOSS), “Software Libre”, and perhaps others.
Being a crazy person myself, I understand Stallman’s drive and goals, and I used to be something of an idealist, preferring not to own things and to study philosophy and work for charities over making serious money, but I’ve learned to be pragmatic, partially due to marrying and having kids, the responsibility of which can weigh heavily on your idealism. Stallman is unquestionably a genius and his contributions to the software world are unmatched, but his refusal to be pragmatic relegates him to the status of partisan rather than active promoter of the ideal he popularized.
So the question is what should I call this software? I actually like FLOSS, because it covers all the bases and is short and easy to write. I think “free software” is deficient because it appears to many people to have a definite meaning that’s different than the intended meaning. “Open Source” is also deficient in that it doesn’t imply the full meaning of the license.
I’m interested to hear what you think.
Wow. I recently heard Google was taking steps to tighten the process for posting apps/extensions to the Chrome store. This is a good reason to move on that.
It looks like Google is taking action on this while it comes up with a more permanent solution. I think the best solution is to use drones to bomb the adware vendors.
Note: These issues are mostly resolved in the latest Firefox.
I hadn’t thought about this before reading this short piece – http://limi.net/checkboxes-that-kill/, but early 2013 Firefox did indeed allow you to break the browser (for non-technical users) just by trying out a few options. I’m sure the Mozilla folks don’t intend for Firefox to be an experts-only tool.
There are several approaches to this issue, but it’s not solvable in a general sense. As a developer, you have to balance usability and configurability and a browser is such a general purpose tool that there’s no way to optimize it for all users.
I checked my latest version of Firefox and most of the gotchas listed in this article have been fixed. The only thing I might add, other than warnings before applying selected changes, is a single button in the main (always accessible) menu that allows a user to reset Firefox to a known-good state, possibly the initial install state without any customizations or addons active.
What do you think?
The review below covers the Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition, which comes with Ubuntu LTS installed and works out of the box, which anyone with Linux experience knows is relatively rare.
My point here is that even fans of Open Source and Linux (and I’m one of them) must admit that Linux takes more effort to get running than Windows or OS-X. The payoff may be worth it, and it certainly is in some cases, but the effort Dell went to in this case to ensure a fully working system tells us how far Linux still has to go before it can be considered equivalent in usability or ease of maintenance to Windows.
This scenario is easily seen as a front in the larger FOSS versus proprietary software battle for hearts and minds (and ultimately users). As a professional with a foot in both camps, I will continue to back both sides because the battle itself generally results in better software and solid API/service standards, a win for everyone.
There’s a pretty promising looking software development book available at the link below, called The Architecture of Open Source Applications. It’s available in two volumes at the site below for various prices, depending on the book format. Part of the proceeds go to charity and most of the price goes to charity if you get the PDF or epub version.