Tuesday, February 23, 2010

open standards for online video and audio distribution

The online world is in a tizzy discussing about (the death) flash(propreitory) video format and the emergence of H.264 codec (both based on mpeg4 standards). Reference to this excellent article http://www.fsf.org/blogs/community/google-free-on2-vp8-for-youtube I urge google and the entire community using the public computer network to embrace open standards. What good would be flash without the standards (mpeg4) on which it is based was not made public.

I appeal to Google to please make open the codec on2-vp8 for public use. This would result in humongous use of the codec and also competition to develop excellent encoders and decoders which in turn would increase the use of the codec. This would in turn put an end to the dependence of the people using the web to depend on propreitory codecs and would thereby increase the video content on the web from developing countries which cannot afford the royalties for the encoding of video in the propreitory format.

Google, pls stand up and open the codec for public use.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Firefox "Internet is a public Network"

Mozilla firefox is one of my favorite software which runs on my favorite OS Debian GNU/Linux. The licensing is very similar to GNU GPL(To be exact, mozilla public license). It has "freed" many users from many of the viruses which were exploiting the many....many exploits in the IE browser and its respective OS. It runs on a variety of OSs including a recent version for mobile phones. The developer network is very large and hence the plugins are very huge in number.

The quality of the software is excellent owing to fact that the source code available is available freely. This in turn allows for quicker patching of any exploits. over its life cycle it has become a mature software with a record number of downloads on various platforms.

I thank all the developers for providing me with a browser which is not controlled by any propreitory group but developed by developers around the world and "gleefully" used by users around the world which once again makes the developers happy and improve the browser further. I am typing this right now on "Iceweasal", the unbranded version of firefox for debian GNU/Linux and I am extremely pleased with "free as in freedom" software.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

GNU/Linux based mobile phones

I am a proud owner of a Motorola a1200(Motoming) purchased around 3 years ago. The purpose of buying it: It runs on GNU/Linux. True to the GPL regulations motorola put up the linux kernel sources on their web site. Touchscreens which has caught the fancy of the "Now" generation has to owe a little to this good looking phone. The ming had a touch screen 320 X 240 with support for java games. The main reason for buying it is many apps were ported to this phone from the GNU stable. I could find an optimized mplayer(Zmplayer), Terminal app which gave me root access to the entire phone system and a plethora of others with a Rockbox port also!!!!.

All these things were reason enough for me to buy the phone. I cherish my phone because of its "Open" nature allowing me to install apps which I require from the free software world. I would like to thank all the developers who have created apps for this wonderful phone. If motorola would have observed a pattern then there would be no need for it to wait for one year without releasing a single model of their phone and then going to the search giant(Android) for re-birth. Motorola used the GNU land but did not identify the potential (nor did montavista ).

Once again thanks to all the developers and users who have patronised and continue to do so: the wonderful GNU land of software and ideologies.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Propreitary food

Now, This was something new to me, Propreitary food. I like chips which are baked not fried. These days the market is flooded with chips baked, for the health conscious. But I dont think that it is difficult to find out the ingredients which go into making these chips. Maybe we may notget the "taste" factor closest but it will be close enough for any competitor to fish out his own variant may be, with a different catch phrase. I do not know the consequences if somebody had propreited the method to cook rice!!!!!!!!!!

This does not hold same for propreitary software. It is very difficult to reverse engineer software. This is not re-inventing the wheel, Instead it is going back to the neanderthal age and then proceed towards the age when the wheel was invented. This is wastage of valuable energy which, would have been spent improving the software and take it to the next level of usefulness. It is time the users started asking the makers to ask for what they want instead of using whatever is thrown at them. It is not advisable for software makers to dictate terms to the users which in turn would hide their incapability in improving or providing software "Required" by the user. Most of the industries is now driven by the "Users requirement" except for the software industry which is held at ransom by people with narrow views with a notion that people are idiots and they do not want to learn. The propreitory companies are responsible in providing the users a candyfloss front end with no way to make mistakes which in turn stops the process of "Thinking" which is vital for human existence and persistence on this planet.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Basically, what is "Free software" as envisioned by RMS

Here are four requirements that
-- according to the Free Software Foundation(www.fsf.org) -- determine whether or
not software is free:

1. Users are free to use the program(source code and executable) for any purpose.
2. Users are free to examine the source code to see how it works.
3. Users are free(can sell it gratis or sell it for a price) to distribute the program(source code and executable) to others.
4. Users are free to improve the program(source code and executable). The changes done in the original source code also have all the four freedoms(including point 4)

If a license provides all those freedoms, the FSF considers the
software covered by that license to be free software.

There are many different licenses which contain all the above four points but also go ahead and give freedom w.r.t cost and the changes mentioned in point 4 do not carry the freedom which the original had ie, Anybody changing the source for improving it or for any other purpose need not give the changes back to the community. for eg the BSD licence(Apple has "GLEEFULLY" used in their OS X since it has point 1, 2, 3). But GPL does not talk about the cost factor. GPL is more about free as in "Free speech", Not as in "Free beer"(binary freeware or shareware etc).

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Start using GNU/Linux, NOW

Well, If any body had any doubts regarding the Positive energy which "Free as in free software" has to deliver to the public at large then I would first of all refer to the link mentionedhere. http://lauren.vortex.com/archive/000681.html

The time is now ripe to try out any of the GNU/Linux distros. Please go through the internet to check the plethora of distributions out there. A good starting point would be Distrowatch.com. You can also try out the GNU/BSD systems which are now ready for desktop use. The licensing of these systems are easier than the GNU/Linux systems. But let me make it clear that the "near public domain" nature of BSDs are the way to go. This sort of licensing made Apple to develop an eye candy OS with a tried and tested backdrop of BSD

You know, when it comes to issues related to "licensing" I have to be so careful, so that some multi-trillion dollar enterprise f**s me in some court of some foreign country where the licensing rules are most favorable.

After reading the link in the beginning, I would like to refer the interested user to this link http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/gpl.html. This is a must read for any human before trying to use any GNU/Linux or GNU/BSD distros. This is because majority of the software will be "copylefted" with GNU GPL and there may be binary blobs(propreitary) like NVIDIA GLX drivers which the user may install at a later stage.

Copyright- Take away all the rights from the user. Command him to submission
Copyleft - Give all the rights and also few responsibilities to the user. command him to see to it that the subsequent users also follow the rights and responsibilities. This is to see to it that the hard work doesnt end up in some binay blob.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Gimp

The Gimp is for GNU/Linux what Photoshop is for windows users. The similarity ends there. The Gimp is central to any complete GNU/Linux distribution. It completes the distro with Open Office.org for home users and for users spending their life on the public network. The Gimp is central to the GNOME desktop environment since its libraries were used profusely in it. The Gimp is a little crypted to start with but once the users get the hang of it, its mighty productive. There are many tutorials available on the internet to get you started. If you are in India then my favorite mag(monthly) "Linux for You" is providing tutorials to use The Gimp for the past couple of months.

The Gimp is true to the "Free as in Freedom" vision of RMS and is under constant development. Microsoft Windows users also rejoice because The Gimp is ported to the Windows platform also and distributed under the GNU GPL licence. I would suggest The Gimp to any casual Home user which would consist of touching up the photos here and there upto the most artistic rendering of your photographs. Please do give it a try and spread the word if you liked it. If you are a programmer and like digital photography lend a hand in improving it by helping the developers

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Programming in curriculum of India

It is high time that we change our curriculum to reflect the rapid strides happening in the FLOSS arena. We now have a kernel(Linux) with pre-emptive multitasking, loadable module support and running on everything from mobiles to super computers. We have the kernels from the BSD stable which have optimizations based on their application(free bsd oriented towards the server market, PC BSD oriented optimized for the desktop, Open BSD for the security paranoid etc..), We have Minix written specifically for teaching. But unlike the other OS, Minix is a micro-kernel which is now in its 3rd version with lot of apps ported from the GNU userland. I sure liked the basic concept of it and am looking forward to its most practical application in the form of GNU Hurd which is again micro-kernel being developed by the free software foundation with volunteers around the world.

The curriculum should now move from teaching "UNIX", to a more practical Linux/BSD/Minix etc which would in turn produce developers and hackers required for continuing the legacy of RMS and to make GNU/Hurd see the light of the day. GNU/Hurd would be the most apt kernel for anybody thinking of doing a project on Operating systems. Instead of re-inventing the wheel that is, writing a monolithic kernel from scratch, It is better to bring up an Operating system which would bring radical changes in the way OSs are viewed. The curriculum in India and elsewhere should be oriented towards making the students learn the past and to instill a vision oriented towards knowing the un-known.They should be given confidence to step into unchartered territory. In summation an "Itch" is to be created in every student which when satisfied will help the mankind in a larger way.

For a generic discussion about FLOSS in education http://linuxbsdos.com/2009/10/11/why-public-education-must-use-public-software/

Monday, February 8, 2010

Open Office.org and India

Open office.org is the office suite developed by community for use as "Free as in freedom". This office suite started its life from star office (sun microsystems). As of date this suite is capable of opening files saved in Microsoft Office 2007 format.
Oo.org is the perfect document suite for developing countries like India. Why?
1. It is licensed under the GNU GPL
2. It is in sync with the latest ODF format(more about this format later)
3. Best for teaching office suites in schools and colleges who cannot afford the royalty for paid office suites.
4. The curriculum in Indian schools requiring the teaching of office suites should be as generic as possible. That is students should be taught "Office suites", Not M***Office.
5. Since source code is available freely it might ignite the minds of students to alter the Oo.org suite. This is how many FLOSS apps have been written, ie, to satisfy "itch" of a programmer.
6. It runs on GNU/Linux and GNU/BSD making it a no-cost and no-royalty option and puts a stop to piracy.
7. The interface is very similar to M***Office which makes the migration very easy whenever required.
8. Fantastic support from the user and developer community.

I appeal to the governments of all the developing countries to and all their representatives to please consider this option and save tax payer's money. The same money can be used to hire developers to customize Oo.org and to further fuel its development.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Debian GNUs /Linux such long name for an OS

Is it a long name for an OS? Well, that just shows the teams involved in bringing the free Operating system to main stream use. Let us take one by one.
1. Debian is a community effort in putting together the other two team that is, GNU/Linux into a nice "little" package(The number of apps available ever increasing. Right now Lenny occupies five DVDs or one Blue ray disc!!!) complete with installers, configuration files, partition tools and others which make all the apps gel together.
2. GNU is a recursive acronym for "GNUs Not Unix". It was started by RMS as a complete operating system complete with all the regular apps required for any computer user. It was to be based on Unix. GNU/Hurd the kernel was started with a micro-kernel approach a la minix. But the project is still in alpha stage. But the apps are now available in plenty. So RMS has completed one of his objectives. the kernel issue was filled up by Linux. All the apps which are a part of GNU project is called the "GNU user land".
3. Linux is the kernel now being used by the GNU project since Hurd is still not ready. Linux is the core of the free operating system. It is a monolythic kernel unlike any other since it has loadable modules support. process mgmt, Device access, file operations, memory management etc are carried out by the kernel. The kernel is the portion which makes the user apps not bother about how memory is managed or how processes are created.

So now we see that we need all the three teams to collaborate closely with each other to successfully produce the "Free" operating system which any user can use without any licencing problems associated with other copyrighted OS. So start using any of the GNU/Linux flavors and taste the real meaning of freedom.
In the next blog we will see how Debain Gnu/Linux can be Debian GNU/kbsd or Debian GNU/Hurd.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Debian-The Universal operating system

I have been using Debian GNU/Linux from the days of "Woody" ie, v3.0. I am amazed at the size of the project in terms of the collaborators, the humongous numbers of developers, beta testers and die hard followers. The philosophy of "Release when ready" rather than "Timed release" puts the Operating system in a different league. This path taken by the debian team is detested by many users who want to have the bleading edge applications which are not stress-tested.

Debian tries to satisfy the cutting edge followers by alowing them to install testing/unstable(beta/alpha stage). But it is my sincere advice to stick with the stable distribution with any available backports provided by the community.If any hardware is not supported then it is better to compile the latest stable kernel with the necessary drivers thereby having latest hardware support plus the stability of applications used. Its been five years since I started using this ultimate community OS and every day of its use increases my love towards it and gratitude to the hackers around the world for building such a fantastic operating system true to the principles of RMS.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Free as in Freedom

The meaning of freedom is vastly misused and misunderstood by many. But not by Mr. M. K. Gandhi or R. M. Stallman. They clearly understood the meaning of "freedom" in its entirety and never compromised on its different levels. Freedom had to be re-told as "Poorna swaraj" in the Indian context. I would translate it as "Complete freedom", though not exactly the same. They are the same in the feelings felt by both the great people.
I have understood freedom exactly after I started using the Debian GNU/Linux(More on this long name later).The freedom to choose what I want, what suits me, what interests me, what inspires me, what I know is right, what I adore, what I comprehend. For the first time I had options(once again, freedom), I felt like I was one among the universe. If all this is too much then I would recommend you to www.fsf.org and go through the GNU GPL ver 1 through 3.