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a jumble of thoughts and feelings about practicality and libre software

As I’ve written this, the thing I’ve struggled with is that everybody thinks they are being practical.  I’m sure the FSF thinks absolute freedom is the practical thing to do.  Sometimes I think the drawing a line in the sand is the practical thing and the Democrats could certainly take some queues from the FSF.  I wish I got paid by the words typed and not by the words submitted! (oh wait, I wish I got paid!)

Now, let’s talk about ethics. Let’s get one thing clear, aside from the fact that libre OSes (Linux, BSD, OpenSolaris, etc), I don’t care what you do.  The FSF is hung up on ethics; that proprietary software is somehow unethical.  Bollucks.  What is unethical is Apple locking people out of iTunes (Re: Palm) and tax payer money going to Microsoft or Apple.

It’s not just about ethics. I’m not super concerned about privacy, but mostly that’s because I don’t think people should be concerned about what they do…but clearly they have to be with the current legal climate in our country.  However, knowing that hackers would change grades or siphon funds, it’s pretty important that the IRS and any government agency handling large amounts of money have a secure system and libre does not guarantee security, but at least there are cases where you can guarantee security.  You can *never* *guarantee* security on a proprietary system.  Sure you *can* trust them. Diebold, Microsoft and Apple have given me no reason to trust them.

I’m happy to discuss the public money thing or the ethics thing, but what I want to talk about is practicality.  The main thing is Hulu. I was very intrigued by Boycott Novell on FLOSS Weekly, but the analogies between me and either Jono or Roy go back and forth.  I think it would be too difficult to follow for anyone that hasn’t listened to the interview.  If you want me to make a post about it, please let it be known.  Back to Hulu.  Recently there was a stir on identi.ca and the various omb offshoots about the Hulu desktop client coming to Linux.  The FSF crowd decries the proprietary software is bad; that it pollutes libre software.  Photoshop not being on Linux is one of the things Pete (and others) decry about Linux.  Others say the same thing about Final Cut Pro.  Perhaps if some of those people came to Linux they’d start helping the GIMP team, or maybe they’d start using OOo instead of Word.  The ecosystem is everything and the Linux ecosystem is one of libre software.  Yes, there is Flash and Opera and potentially Photoshop or Final Cut, but 95% of the software people use on Linux (or BSD or OpenSolaris) is libre.  How can this possibly be a bad thing?  Now, some smart people have argued that’s it’s a bad thing because people depend on it and then people won’t develop a libre alternative. I respect some of those people, but it’s simply ridiculous.  Linus did not start Linux because of some whack-off obsession with freedom.  My using a proprietary wireless driver does not make me want a libre one any less.

As I said at the beginning, this post was supposed to be about practicality and the upshot is I think having proprietary software available for Linux is simply practical.  The agnostics are never going to be sold on the religion of freedom. Stop trying to convert them.  Fighting the war of freedom is not a practical war. There are winnable wars.  We should fight the war against marginalization.  We should fight the war against unnecessary government spending. We should fight the war against monopoly power.  We should fight the war of availability.  We should fight the war of access.  If we fight the appropriate war, we will win.  Freedom is simply destiny.

Help me help you.

Several things are coming up and I need to know how best to help you and the Madison community.
October 20th is the next MadLUG meeting.  We don’t yet have a topic.  We could do something on Python or have a bit of a state of the union and really figure out what we want to do with the LUG.  LUG attendance has really been pathetic.  Should we move to Saturday meetings like they have in Milwaukee?

November 1st is the next Open Everything event.  We do not have very many people signed up.  We want to have this event in Pewaukee at a fabulous location, but if people don’t sign up, it’s not going to happen.

November 13th-ish we are going to have Open Music Madison.  We don’t have a firm date, because our 1st choice of venues fell through.  It looks like we may have to charge $5 a head.  I don’t like it, but doing something is better than waiting to have the perfect event I say.

If you have ever been to an OE Madison or to a MadLUG meeting, please leave your thoughts or e-mail me directly at douglasawhREMOVEFORREALZ@gmail.com

OpenCamp, NowDoThis and other things

I started this on Saturday and somehow got distracted…

You may have noticed I’ve been blogging more lately.  I think I can attribute that to two things.

1) well, if you looked at more apartment, you’d understand.

2) NowDoThis.com.  There are tons of “To Do” lists and task managers on the web.  I’ve used a couple on the Google Customized Home Page (which I never use any more), but never got the focus NowDoThis gives me.  (mentioning NowDoThis on my blog was on my NowDoThis list 🙂

Also just wanted to mention that my brother is at the GT High School Math Competition this weekend.  Good thing for traffic that the UNC/GT game is in Chapel Hill.  GT and UNC are the most likely schools for my brother to attend…though he still hasn’t heard back from MIT.  I’m not sure how his recent knee injury will affect his futbol career.

But what I really want to talk about are two events (and then some).

1) Open Everything and FOSS: On March 17th at 7pm, I’ll be giving a presentation on how a non-tech conference can help techies and why it should stay a non-tech conference.

2) OpenCamp: April 18th at Grainger Hall on UW’s campus.  I plan on writing more about this, just not now.

And then some) no time now, but GLUE is coming up (March 14th for me), there’s a LOPSA meeting tomorrow (Thursday now) and there’s a MadLUG meeting on Friday (the 6th).
Next week are advisory cousils at work.  I am emphatically not looking forward to this.  This probably means I won’t get a chance to post again until after GLUE.  Who knows what the weekend will bring, but I am way, way behind on everything right now.  If anybody wants to help with LUG stuff or Open Everything stuff, I could certainly use it!

Sweden dates set, so bring me BarCamps

Ok, people, Sweden trip is more-or-less set.  This is a personal trip, but I’d love to turn it into some FOSS work.

So, if you’re planning a BarCamp, an Open Everything event or some or tech event, please drop me a line!  I’d love to get involved.

June 20 night in Stockholm
June 21 night in Stockholm
June 22 night in Gothenburg
June 23 night in Malmo (also hit up Copenhagen briefly)
June 24 night in Stockholm
June 25 night in Helsinki
June 26 night in Helsinki
June 27 night in Stockholm
June 28 back in Madison

This is if we get roundtrip tickets to/from Stockholm, which apparently saves money.  If the cost isn’t too different, it’ll be this:
June 20 night in Copenhagen
June 21 night in Malmo
June 22 night in Gothenburg
June 23 night in Stockholm
June 24 night in Stockholm
June 25 night in Stockholm
June 26 night in Stockholm (maybe Helsinki)
June 27 night in Helsinki
June 28 back in Madison

If you’ve got suggestions for places to visit, let me know.  Christiana in Copenhagen is a must as is the Swedish National Library, where The Devil’s Bible is kept.

Open Everything Madison & Sweden news

My posts are often reflective and questioning, but nearly as often informative.  The “Where are we going?” question is much more interesting to me than the “Where have we been?” question.  I am, however, tasked with writing about Open Everything Madison on Saturday (as well as Berlin and Hong Kong), so I’ll try to post something substantial about that.  Of course, I’m already much more interested in the next Open Everything Madison.  You can see the planning for the next OEMad at http://openeverything.us

OEMad 2008

Aside from our poor job with documentation and the functional, but less than ideal, handoff from Berlin, I’d say the day was an overwhelming success.

Some of our documentation can be found at various twitter accounts.  Search for oemad and you should find them.  There’s also the Google search for oemadDebriefing notes are found on the main site as well as Articles and Resources.  Some pictures are at Flickr but as of posting Non-Profit Tech’s photos are not being indexed.

I’m both saddened and elated when I tell interested people about Creative Commons, Free Schools and Really, Really Free Markets.  Of course I’m saddened that these are more ubiquitous terms in our language, but mostly it’s a positive feeling.  I’m always scared that my political leanings (which I think free schools and RRFMs show) will feed the “open source is communism” argument.  As companies like OpenNMS, Red Hat and MindTouch clearly show, that’s a bunch of bunk.  As a technology person first, I fear that the benefits of open source code are lost to the politicized “freedom”.  Clearly I’m a fan of both.  At the moment I’m having trouble finding a succint list of the benefits of FOSS, so if you’re up for a longer read, check out Albion, one of the oldest sites on the Web.

It’s also incredibly disheartening to see people interested in free culture being down on Creative Commons liscensed music.  I listen to plenty of non-CC music, but I think at an event promoting openness, CC music should be played.  Or maybe other bands that promote openness that might not license CC.  I don’t know much about Radiohead, because that’s not the type of music to which I listen, but I think I’d be ok with their music playing.

We pretty much stuck to the schedule.  It wasn’t exact, but close.

We broke up into two groups for the 1:30pm-2:30pm Open Knowledge section and I (along with the other organizers) went with the Education and Libraries group.  Having a professor there was very beneficial.  As I mentioned above, I introduced a lot of people to the idea of free schools.  If you think free schools are weird, just remember that’s the only diploma former USC professor Cory Doctorow has.

The 2:30-3:30 Creativity, Innovation, and Economic Opportunity section was a lot of fun.  We had a small group to discuss Art, Content and Property and we mostly discussed music; Radiohead, Girl Talk, Creative Commons, Nine Inch Nails and Jamendo.

By the time we got to the technology part of the day (a little later than 3:30) everyone was starting to get tired.  But technology and openness are so easy, the discussion was still good.  One of my friends that attended most of the event said that keeping it a cohesive event and him not coming just for the technology portion certainly made it more interesting.

After the event and cleanup, four of us went out to get Sushi on State Street and of course the conversation continued.  After that, I headed to DevMadHouse at Extra Bold Portfolio Studio on Pickney St and 4 of the 6 people there had also been at OEMad, so the conversation continued and being a hack fest, centered more upon technology.  At DevMadHouse there was no schedule to adhere to and we had the venue all night so conversation was even more fluid.  There was some good conversation about FOSS in industry and whether Google is to be trusted with their Microsoft-like “embrace and extend” of OpenIDPhotis always makes sure I don’t live in a FOSS bubble, which I suppose is a good thing.  Also of note that weekend was MadXmasAbe and Jonathan went, leaving the rest of us behind at DevMadHouse and then returned. Photis came to DevMadHouse after MadXmas.

OEMad 2009

As mentioned above, there are complete and changing notes on OEMad09 on the wiki.  As much as I’d like to rehash all my ideas on that site so you have a single source of info, I don’t think that’s a good use of my time.  Please check out the site. However, here are some of my biggest ideas: open gaming (actually either playing games on Linux or FOSS games on other platforms), open food (we could make it!), open hardware (building!) and live music.  Getting a local documentary film maker to do a documentary on the process of making an open event happen would be totally cool too.  Please, please, please share your ideas for the next event either here or especially at http://openeverything.us.

Calling it OEMad first off might be a misnomer as I think there’s a good possibility it will be in Milwaukee.  Nothing is set in stone though.  Potential names would be Open Everything Wisconsin or Open Everything MidWest.  If there is any traction from Minneapolis or Chicago groups, we may not be able to claim OEMidWest.  Time will only tell.

Yesterday at work I asked a non-attendie what we would have to do to get him to come to the next one.  This is really the person in which I’m interested.  Linux needs a critical mass.  I’m ok admitting that part of why I support FOSS are selfish reasons.  I support universal healthcare for much of the same pseudo-altruistic reasons.  It’s not just for me, but also the institutions and people I care about. For instance, I hate to see my alma mater’s (NCSSM and UNC) throw money away at proprietary software.  Still, I’d say that’s a somewhat selfish motive.

Back to the point, he said “Open Strippers” half joking but we did have an interesting conversation then about Creative Commons and the idea of a performance.  A conversation that easily applies to live music performances and theatre.  I also mentioned the Girls and Geeks discussions at BarCampMilwaukee. Of course, there’s also open source sex.  So, I wonder what we could really make happen in this regard.  Not just the sex regard, but bringing people in the door who are lazy, unmotivated or simply uninterested in openness (or just don’t know it yet).  Of course, it’s the “just don’t know it yet” crowd in which I am really interested.


I bought a Flickr Pro account in anticipation of the Sweden trip this summer.  I figure this way I can post Christmas photos too.  I get a new camera for Christmas, so I suspect I’ll be taking a lot of pictures!  The Sweden trip will be 7-9 days.  My travel partner is wanting a shorter trip and I’m wanting a longer one, so I think keeping it at 9 days includes two weekends if you leave on the right days.  It will depend on what sort of deal AAA can help me with.  She is interested in dancing, the outdoors and visiting the cities.  I am interested in fotboll, ishockey and metall (probably any English speakers can make those out…especially if you know me).  So, I’m definitely looking for suggestions, both for her and for me.  We’ll also probably be visiting Helsinki, Finland.  I don’t know if we’ll have time to visit Copenhagen.  It’s so close, but we don’t want to feel rushed.  I’d kinda like to go north of the artic circle just for the experience.  That might make it so Siberia doesn’t interest me as much.

Well, typing all of that with a broken arm wasn’t entirely pleasant, but I’m glad I did it and I hope you enjoy.  If I had the time, I’d re-read for typoes, but whatever, release early, release often.  If you stop by, please leave a comment!

What’s up next? — one week later

Recently I read “You should go to law school where you intend to practice law“.  This has got me thinking differently about where I might go to school.  Duke, UNC and Bama are all still on the list, but maybe Louisville and UK should get more consideration.  Rankings of those schools are 12, 38, 32, 100 and 59, respectively.  Wake (42) isn’t totally out of consideration either.  UW (36), Marquette (95) and Northwestern (9) have also gotten more thought from me because of my current proximity.  Other than Duke, I don’t know how these schools stack up in intellectual property and environmental law, the two things in which I’m most interested.  Of course, The University of Hawaii (82) could be fun.

Still no idea when this might take place.

I’m still thinking UNC all the way for Business or PhD.

A lot of people have seemed confused by how someone that works in technology could have such different goals, so maybe I should spend some time discussing what I want to do.  I’d like to be a voice of reason in information, like Lessig or Doctorow, one of which is a lawyer and the other which is an author and activist.  I’d also like to see more FOSS in business, both using and developing for.  At some level, I don’t care if people want to buy proprietary Photoshop, but what I don’t like is that Adobe won’t produce a version for Linux.  If a version works on Mac, it shouldn’t be hard to make it work on Linux.  If people won’t use proprietary technologies like .NET then it would be easier to make things work in Linux…or Linux users could live with a version in WINE.  The more hooks into Windows the harder for WINE to work though.

There are plenty of places I could work where I could reach these goals; MindTouch, academia, Dell, Red Hat, Sun, IBM or any number of companies that support FOSS.  I’m doing some of this at my current job, but we are deeply engrained in the Windows world.  We are looking at MindTouch and Drupal as alternatives to Sharepoint and we’ve started a Linux laptop program.  However, after several months at the job, I realize it’s going to be a long, long time before I’m not frustrated by Windows at that job.  It’s a good job, but at some point I feel there will need to be change.  I’m also spending a lot of time with Open Madison Group (OMG!) outside of work time but I’d like to not feel like I’m leading a double life.

Basically, I want to change the world.  I think there are a lot of ways to go about doing that.  I just need to pick one.  I hope that helps clarify some things.

forgot one

As I moved from the living and laptop to the bedroom and desktop I realized I forgot one major project…fixing dual monitors on Ibex with nvidia.  I fixed the “not working at all” issue, but I still need my second monitor.

new blog title and what Linux needs to go to the next level

On the way back from Chicago this evening I thought a lot about openness.  I was asked recently what my ultimate goal is.  I think the answer is that I’d like for institutions with which I or my friends and family are affiliated don’t waste money on proprietary software.  Proprietary software can be good, even great software, but all software has bugs and security flaws.  Why not have the ability to fix them yourself?  As was recently ask at BarCampMilwaukee3 by another participant, “why pay for buggy software?”  Well, the answer may be that it’s the best, but I urge you to think about the total cost of ownership, and I don’t just mean for Windows Vista or Windows XP, but for staying in the Window paradigm.  I’m 25.  In 40 years, how much money will companies I work for spend on Microsoft?  If you gradually phase in FOSS alternatives, how much money can be saved?  How much more control will we have of our software, leading to increased productivity?  Switching is difficulty, but the switch is better done now than later.  To make that transition easier, I think Linux needs Photoshop and iTunes.  I don’t think either of these companies has anything to fear from Linux, but they both have something to fear from FOSS.  Legitimizing FOSS is putting one foot in the grave for these companies, at least on a software level.  However, even if Adobe did release Photoshop for Linux, it would be a long time before GIMP overtakes Photoshop.  In fact, moving to Linux could free up software dollars in budgets for more people to buy Adobe products.  Dreamweaver, Photoshop and Acrobat are industry standard software and are going nowhere soon. It’s hard to say what exactly would happen to Apple if it put iTunes on Linux.  In the short term, they could expect more iTunes sales.  Despite all the closed things Apple does, basing OS X off of BSD seems to have made a lot of folks in the FOSS community happy.  Apple also does some great things for FOSS with their support of Apache, MySQL and PHP.  And, of course, there’s the mutual enemy.  While I don’t see either happening any time soon, I do think that more software needs to make it to Linux for Linux to make the next step.

As for me, I’ve recently gotten an Ubuntu machine on our domain.  The next step is to be able to access domain resources.  That way, I’ll be able to be more productive while saving my employer some money on Microsoft licensing.

The point of all this rambling is, I changed the site name to better reflect the things I feel I should be talking about.

Open Everything Madison (OEM)

If you’re curious, check out: http://groups.google.com/group/oemad

There will be more details posted here as they come about