Category Archives: Law

The Next Big Thing

The next huge technological innovation has only lobbyists and old business hampering it. The technology has been ready, waiting. Many countries have realized it and cleaned up old fashioned backwards regulations. Countries like mine (Canada) appear ready to play catch-up for decades to come.

This innovation will:

  • Increase telecommuting.
  • Increase videoconferencing meetings.
  • Speed business communications.
  • Speed personal sharing.
  • Increase gaming performance.
  • Fuel incredible ideas for software and services.
  • Eliminate or create better alternatives to some services like TV, phone networks.

Why would anyone want to slow down personal and business communication, become un-competitive in the global economy and hamper innovation? I don’t know, all I know is I WANT MORE @#()!( BANDWIDTH!

 

Open Source and Free Software – What They Are, In Plain English.

You hear about open source and free software all the time, Firefox, MySQL, Linux, OpenOffice being prime examples of successful projects. I keep coming across some very wrong perceptions of what the open and free parts mean, and a strange semantic argument against one licence that has never made sense to me. This is my open source 101 for non-techies, let me know if you get it or don’t. If you don’t care about the topic stop reading now :)

Open source – giving you the freedom to do what you want with software.  Since the early 90s many programs – especially Internet-related programs, have been sold or given away using “Open Source” licences. When you get a program, you also get the code used to build the program. When you have that code, you are free to do whatever the heck you like with the software. Got a problem with the colour of a menu? You can change it, because you have the source code. Not a programmer? No problem, because you have the code you can hire someone to change it for you. You can’t do this with proprietary, binary-only software. You’re basically stuck with whatever they want you to do with the software. Good luck when they drop your version in favour of a newer one.

Free is a major misnomer – open source is about FREEDOM not the price of software. The cost could be anything, it’s not always $0. With most open source licences, you can charge whatever you like for your program. Some licences do require that the source code cost be reasonable – but the actual program can be any price.

There are two major types of open source software licences in use, BSD and GNU. The big difference between them comes when you copy the software. Some people call the GNU licence “more restrictive” or “less free” because it requires that you pass along the source code and the freedom for the next user to do whatever they want with it too. The BSD licence is “more free”, and allows you to change the conditions as you like, close the source on your version. I think I can agree in a sense – the BSD licences are less restrictive – BUT only for the first recipient. The GNU licence ensures regardless of any recipients opinion, any future recipients are going to retain the same do-whatever-the-heck-you-want freedom that the first person got :)

For more on licences and open source:

BSD licence

GNU licence

About open source

Email/Call/Bug your MP to stop the Canadian DMCA

There is a bill , C-61 which takes away many rights involving technology. It affects everyone who uses anything electronic and would make many common practices illegal. I urge you to complain to your MP and tell them you won’t vote for them or their party if they vote yes. We’re talking illegal to move songs between your CDs and iPod, illegal to watch a DVD on certain DVD players, it makes many reasonable technologies illegal and could make Canada a worse pariah than the USA for software and hardware companies abroad who make backup and encryption products.

Links with more information and links to helpful MP form letters:

http://www.copyrightforcanadians.ca/

http://michaelgeist.ca/

http://www.ccer.ca/send-a-letter-to-harper-prentice-verner-and-stop-the-canadian-dmca/

Facebook group for fair copyright in Canada: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=6315846683

Microsoft is Fighting a War For Your Documents

I’m not sure how much of this gets to the mainstream, I see filtered news thanks to RSS and bookmarks.

There is a technological war going on right now, similar to the Blu-ray vs HD-DVD one, and certainly far more important.

It’s a fight over your documents and what format they are in. It’s ironic that Microsoft announces their new “openness” as they are fighting like hell against an existing open standard that most vendors approve of and support.

Microsoft is fighting for its life to get its new document format certified as an ISO standard. They need this because there is already an ISO document standard and it poses a huge threat to you being stuck with Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint. They are spending tons of money and bribing governments in order to get it so there are two standards, their proposed OOXML format and the older, established ODF standard. If Microsoft gets their standard accepted it means end users get two incompatible file formats and the accompanying headaches. I already see this with people getting Office 2007 files that they can’t open in Office 2003 or Office XP. If Microsoft would use the already existing document standard, the various office suites could compete on merit not on how entrenched their proprietary format is. Already Google Docs, OpenOffice, NeoOffice, Lotus Symphony and Corel (soon) support the 2006 ISO Open Document Format. The only holdout , understandably , is the one with the multibillion-dollar business based on people locked-in to their closed proprietary format.

The best thing we can do until its resolved is use ODF for documents and on existing MS Office files leave them be – don’t use Office 2007 formats at all until this is resolved.

Sign this petition: http://www.noooxml.org/petition

The voting deadline on the proposed standard ends March 29th. Let’s hope it’s defeated and Microsoft takes the opportunity to be interoperable by adopting the ODF ISO standard in Microsoft Office.