App.Net Ignores Software Freedom

Plenty of “open”, “ad-free” and even “free” is mentioned in various places, of course. But I took a good look at App.Net and found the concepts of software freedom – as well as any expression of them in open source – seriously lacking. I explain in today’s InfoWorld column.

Apple v Samsung

Patents are now an anti-trust weapon rather than a reward for innovation. That’s my conclusion after a weekend trying to decided whether I has happy or sad Apple had beaten Samsung in the billion-dollar-suit in San Jose. It’s just a part of a deeper narrative around the fight by the winners of the 20th century to stop the upstarts of the 21st century from succeeding.

The case is an inevitable consequence of the fact the patent system has not kept pace with the realities of globalised business, the complex, fast-paced technology sector or the reality of open source software. Patents were supposed to protect the instantiation of ideas, not the ideas themselves. But the system has been thoroughly, impossibly gamed, to the point where only a Grand Master can play it.

Patent law is now being used as an anti-competitive weapon so much that I begin to wonder whether it’s the anti-trust/competition laws rather than patent law that should be updated first. Read more in InfoWorld.

Why The Communications Data Bill Should Concern You

I wrote today on ComputerWorldUK about the draft Communications Data Bill. As I explained at OggCamp (my slides are online) last weekend in Liverpool, it is yet another attempt by the Home Office to get the government of the day to legalise sweeping permanent surveillance powers that allow the automated aggregation of all the details of your online life. Well, all but the actual “payload” – the message bodies themselves in e-mail for example. But the other information surrounding your communications provides plenty of data to fill a “big data” tank and analyse heuristically to detect trends in who you communicate with, when, why, where from and how.

The legislation is modelled on (and absorbs) existing postal surveillance laws but to use those the police have to go to the sorting office and look at envelopes. The cost in time and effort to go there creates “friction” that means the power is not used all the time on all your mail. But CDB is “frictionless”, allowing automated gathering of all the meta-data of all your communications (not just e-mail) and making it available over the next 12 months for analysis.

CDB makes us all a suspect, all the time. Instead of being under surveillance when there is evidence of wrongdoing, you will be under surveillance by default, with a wide range of people able to “go fishing” for information to support accusations against you without your knowledge. No amount of “access controls” can make this sort of resource safe; once created, it can only grow in scope and use.

It’s now too late for you to offer the Joint Select Committee your input on the draft, but you can still join the Open Rights Group who are at the forefront of defending your digital rights in the UK.


These were the ones over the Dales – on the way into Wensleydale, in fact – rather than anything to do with computing.




We spent the last two days in Dentdale (in the Yorkshire Dales National Park) following my talk at OggCamp. Here’s a taste of what it was like:

How Open Source Forced Microsoft’s Hand

Even if you’re not using LibreOffice, you owe it a debt of gratitude because it (and its ancestors) forced Microsoft to interoperate, have a stable file format and innovate. I explain more in this week’s InfoWorld column.

Saving Mandriva

Can a community-centric approach save Mandriva from bankruptcy? My article today on ComputerWorldUK takes a look.

Freedom To Create

Sometimes we think software freedom just applies to programmers, but its creative impact can be much broader. This animated video is pretty clever:


While it’s called “Stop-Motion Excel”, if you look closely at the screen you’ll see it’s actually made with open source software:

Yes, the spreadsheet they used isn’t Excel at all – it’s, the predecessor to LibreOffice (and of course Apache OpenOffice and other branches of the OOo tree), running on a Mac. They actually namecheck the software they used in the making-of video.

Why would they want to avoid Microsoft Excel? One possible reason is because using anything proprietary in a video production requires clearance and approval from the owner of the proprietary product. On the other hand, open source projects come complete with an OSI-approved license that gives everyone the right to use the software for any purpose. Open source unlocks creativity and innovation everywhere.

Influence vs Control

My article for InfoWorld this week considers three different projects – OmniOS (derived from Illumos, the new name given to OpenSolaris), GitHub and OpenStack – and finds different attitudes towards corporate control giving different results.

On Marital Harmony


Don’t Get Locked In

In InfoWorld today, I explain why I gave my wife my iPad. She loves it, and I am very happy too as I now use a Google Nexus 7 tablet for everything the iPad used to do – and a load more.

The most important part is in the last slide, which I reproduce here for your enjoyment. There’s an essay about that.

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