⚡ Digital Rights Are Just Human Rights, Online

(with thanks to SMBC, who are so generous with their images they even generate the HTML to embed them on your blog)

☝ Profitable Freedom

My column on InfoWorld today connects the dots of the pragmatic value of software freedom to the CIO and the success of Red Hat. Open source delivers cost saving via freedom, not just by being cheap on licenses.

☆ OSI Affiliate Scheme Grows

It’s been an open secret all month, but two new members have joined the Affiliate scheme at OSI – Spain’s CENATIC (the national open source competency centre that’s been so important to the government adoption of open source in Spain’s regions) and the venerable Debian Project. Both bring a much-needed international flavour to OSI, along with a wealth of hard-won experience.

Having Debian join OSI is especially sweet. When OSI formed at the end of the 90s, the basis for the definition of what constituted an open source license – the Open Source Definition – was derived directly from the earlier Debian Free Software Guidelines by a former Debian Project Lead, Bruce Perens. The DFSG in turn was part of the Debian Social Contract, a pragmatic and specific response to the ethical imperative of free software.

By opening up as it has, OSI offers a place to gather the clans of open source. OSI is not the only, the first or the best exemplar of open source – it would be rash for any organisation to make such claims. But its decade-long stewardship role, along with the vision of the new Board to draw in members from ever country and every aspect of open source and software freedom, makes it a fine gathering point which could have tremendous value to us all in the future.

✈ Available For US Engagements

I expect to be in the USA in early-to-mid May (and possibly again in July). If you would like me to speak at a private or public event, or to provide consulting services, I would be pleased to hear from you.  Combining multiple engagements saves money, saves energy and is good for us all!  Please use my contact form to get in touch and I or my agent will get back to you.

☆ Promoting Document Freedom

Today is Document Freedom Day. It’s not the easiest subject to explain. It’s easy to explain why being free to video a police encounter in the USA is important, or why it’s wrong for your eBook to be remotely controlled by a vendor, but many people fail to understand the subtlety of why a document format is important.

Having your work in a format that will still be readable in 20 years makes sense, and being able to be sure when you share a document with others that they will be able to read it and work on it is also good. But people glaze over when you try to explain that an ISO standard is not enough. Having a document format standard that is beyond the control of any individual vendor and is fully implemented in multiple products is crucial, but seems esoteric.

So when it comes to practical actions, most people still just save their work in the format their office software chooses for them by default. They send it out to everyone without a thought for the fact they are adding their own energy to a market monopoly that restricts choice and innovation and sells our future to one of the worlds richest convicted monopolists. It’s convenient now, but who knows if the files will even be readable in the future? The largest corporations can change (Nokia started making rubber products) or even go out of business (I’ll leave you to think of an example!)

The fact it is so hard to explain to ordinary people why their choice of document format matters, why a little effort now can make all the difference in the world, is what led me to the conclusion it was worth promoting hybrid PDFs. As I wrote yesterday on ComputerWorldUK, it is possible to create a PDF that can also be fully edited.

Like ODF, PDF is a standard. Sending a PDF makes the maximum number of people able to read your work, so it’s worth the small extra effort to create it. Developing an instinct to always send PDFs ensures maximum readability, and it’s safe to assume PDFs will continue to be readable for the indefinitely long future. Using online storage instead of attaching the file can be good, but plenty of mobile and out-of-office people will be inconvenienced or excluded by that, so I’ve found people reluctant to rely on it at the moment.

Sending PDFs is the right answer. The only issue is editability. Most people just want to send one attachment, so they opt for the one from their word-processor or presentation program. By a simple software upgrade to LibreOffice, that problem is solved too. LibreOffice makes PDFs very easily, and now also comes configured to create PDFs that can be edited. I’ve created full instructions which you are welcome to pass on to others – and edit if you need to!

While I am naturally a huge supporter of Open Document Format as the best protection for our digital liberty, pragmatically I think educating and encouraging people to send PDFs instead of .DOC/.DOCX files is the best next step. When they learn the benefits of editable PDFs, they are also using ODF, of course – that’s the format that’s embedded in the PDF. But it’s a smaller, easier, less controversial step to send a PDF to all their friends and collaborators.

So celebrate Document Freedom Day with me today. Send a friend my tip about editable PDFs, or just the how-to sheet. The journey to freedom starts with the first step.

☝ Magic Editable PDFs

Please stop sending .DOC or .DOCX files as attachments to your e-mails. There is a better way. Send editable PDFs. I explain how in ComputerWorldUK today.

♫ Artistic Excellence

[This post is only useful to people who can buy MP3s from Amazon US – sorry]

I have previously recommended samplers from Mishara Music. They specialise in singer-songwriters and their previous two samplers in Summer 2011 and Autumn 2011 were superb – and are still free, if you missed them then. So I was pleased to see a new one for Spring 2012 has been released. It’s also free, is double the length of the earlier samplers and is packed with wonderful artists. If you’re allowed to have it by the archaic copyright controls Amazon is forced to implement, go grab it now.

☆ ORGCon, London

I spent the day yesterday at ORGCon with friends old and new, enjoying talks from a wide range of speakers including of course Cory Doctorow and Lawrence Lessig. There was a film crew recording all the talks; I’ll highlight some of them here over the next week or so. My tweets about the event might interest you too.

I’m also co-maintaining ORG’s page on Google+, which you’ll find has a steady stream of interesting links – well worth adding to a circle if you’re a G+ user.

If you wish you’d been able to go but couldn’t, you may be interested in another event ORG is arranging in London on April 3rd. Author Bill Patry will be discussing the ideas covered by his new book How To Fix Copyrighttickets are free to ORG members and a very reasonable £7.50 for others.

♫ Magnetic North

We saw Hannah Peel supporting and playing with The Unthanks when they played down here in Southampton. She is as talented as she is charming, with a fascinating new approach to folk-inspired music that is well-represented on her album The Broken Wave, from which one of the standout tracks is Song For The Sea:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-Q2wCEgvbQ]

One of her signature instruments is the pin-harp, a music box programmed with a paper tape like a piano roll that she cranks by hand on stage to accompany her singing.

[youtube http://youtu.be/m6xFK-vQhJM]

It seems her new project is a small-group concept work called Orkney: Symphony  Of The Magnetic North. The teaser web site is hauntingly attractive and I’m looking forward to finding out more when they release the album on May 7th.

☝ Will mobile devices trigger the year of the Linux desktop?

The enterprise IT world is coming to grips with a new buzz-TLA; “BYOD”. It stands for Bring Your Own Device and considers the way employees are bringing their own laptops, tables and smart-phones to work and using them in the overlap of life and work. There’s a growing industry of companies who want to help you stop it, cripple it, or control it.

My experiences at Sun Microsystems suggest BYOD is an opportunity waiting to be grasped for enterprise IT executives — a move to management by standards rather than centrally purchased company desktops. It means selecting a basket of server-supported standard capabilities (IMAP, LDAP, PDF, HTML5, ODF, and so on) and telling people that anything that works securely with those standards is acceptable. It also offers the prospect of letting people use open source software that works with those standards, rather than having to buy everyone the same expensive proprietary software and instantly-depreciating hardware, then manage them expensively until they are legacy systems.

You can read my thoughts on this phenomenon – and its potential impact on open source on the desktop – on InfoWorld today.

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