Archive for May, 2007

GPL V3 – Its True Purpose

May 30, 2007

Recently, I read some interesting commentary on the Microsoft-Novell pact in an Linux Insider article entitled GPLv3 Could Be Risky Business which concluded with the following statement.

“Regardless of the GPLv3 outcome, it should be noted that Microsoft and Novell are two large companies with plenty of attorneys — if they want to do business together over Linux and Microsoft products, it’s not hard to imagine that they’ll be able to find a way.”

This statement didn’t seem to ring true for me – it seemed to be wrong way to view what the Free Software Foundation is doing with GPL V3. Here’s why.

Nobody wants to ‘stop’ Microsoft and Novell, or any other Open Source distributor, from doing business together. In fact, it would be desirable to see Microsoft produce more Open Source software – as they have with the projects such as the Web Service Software Factory – and collaborate with other players in the Open Source software field.

Rather the point of GPL V3 is to defend the rights of Free Software developers to produce software without the fear of litigation hanging over their head – by extending the patent covenant to all of the Free Software community – not just Novell customers. This fear of potential litigation has been raised more strongly than ever by recent Microsoft comments in Fortune magazine. However, it appears that by not having an expiry date on the Linux coupons that Microsoft is distributing, Microsoft itself will become a GPL V3 Linux distributor, and finally their patent covenant will extend to every corner of the Free Software communities. This will be genuinely good for software development, for the Open Source community and most of all for Microsoft – who has a lot to offer in the field of Open Source software.

They have a lot of bright developers and engineers and it is in everyone’s interests to see these people contribute greatly to the I.T. sector over the coming years. But it is important that the playing field is level and that instead of ‘innovative lock-ins’ and restrictive file formats we see a truly great Microsoft emerge that is founded on on true innovation, engineering excellence and co-operation. The first step on this path is to build a true bridge to the Free Software community and not seemingly pretend that this intellectual property bridge is any more than an attempt to scare companies into paying a high premium for ‘Microsoft-approved’ Linux of Novell – using patents instead of file formats as the lock-in.

In summary, it is important to note that the purpose of the latest version of the GNU Public Licence is not on preventing co-operation between Microsoft and Novell with their pact, rather it is to defend everyone else who is threatened by the it. To this end, GPL V3 looks like it will do it’s job very well – winning over many of those who doubted its necessity early on in its GPL 3 draft process. And the Software Freedom Law Centre and it’s ‘plenty of attorneys’ has another feather in its cap as it shows an interesting hand in the poker game of software licensing. And if this hand is not enough for now, ‘it’s not hard to imagine that they’ll be able to find a way’ to continue to keep software development a free and democratic process. If you weren’t sure why you needed GPL V3 yesterday, you probably know why today.


XML Document Creation in Javascript – Cross Platform

May 28, 2007

This is an absolutely super guide which basically gives you some neat code in order to work with XML documents across multiple platforms in the sadistic language of the web – Javascript.

It’s a 4 page tutorial which overviews a static JS class that the author has put together which provides helper methods for creating a new XML document on the client browser by loading from disk, URL’s or strings.  I found it especially useful for squeezing a javascript string into a nice XML representation. Check it out on

Microsoft Not So Sure on Taking on World…

May 15, 2007

Under pressure arising from comments made by Microsoft’s Horacio Gutierrez and Brad Smith in an Fortune magazine article earlier this week saying that Open Source software contains 235 Micrsoft patents, the company has released a statement that it does not intend to resort to litigation in an effort to halt the growth of Open Source software. So why would they highlight an issue and then when asked to state specifically which are the patents in question they respond, “We’re not going to have a discussion publicly with that level of detail.”

The answer is simple. If they publish them it is likely that most of them will be thrown out by the U.S. courts as invalid. This became much easier recently, when the U.S. Supreme court made it easier to legally challenge individual patents and get them invalidated. This is because most software patents have been granted without due consideration and aren’t actually valid for many reasons. Patents have been grantly for things that are patently unpatenable.

Once this weeds out the likely majority of patents – Open Source developers will endevour to work around what patents, if any, remain.

So, back to the question, why would Microsoft highlight a meaningless question? Well, to bring up the issue in this manner creates a degree of uncertainty in the minds of certain business owners – however misplaced. Such people must weigh up risk every day and anything that they perceive adding risk to their business they will avoid. This will take two forms, one is to avoid Open Source software and stick with closed solutions. But this is becoming increasingly difficult as it is making more and more business sense to deploy Open Source solutions every day. The other is pay royalties to Microsoft for these (vaguely) alledged infringing patents. This is a sad situation because paying ‘money for nothing’ is money that you could otherwise use to grow your business.

Microsoft Vs The World

May 14, 2007

Microsoft is allegedly preparing it’s army of lawyers (more than 800 strong according to one commentator) to issue an almighty patent onslaught on Open Source software. It lists 235 patents which it says are being violated by Open Source software projects. Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer says that it is in the “name of honour” that he must fight the Open Source community. The battle lines are being drawn in what could prove to be the ultimate shakeup of the U.S. software patent system. As Microsoft comes under increased pressure from Open Source software it is making lawyers, not software developers, the front-line soldiers in the fight to maintain the apparent monopoly. It looks like we’re entering interesting times.

On a lighter note, here’s a clip of Steve Balmer trying to rally the Redmond programmers in better days before lawyers led software development. I wonder does he exhibit the same passion today when he stands in front of his devs or does he prefer to go into the TV lounge and flick on an episode of Boston Legal…

Installing the Netgear WG511v2 (China) Wireless Card on Linux

May 12, 2007

These instructions are intended to be used to install a Netgear WG511 v2 (China) on a Linux machine that dual boots with Windows. I take no responsibility for anything bad that might happen if you follow this guide (I try to avoid responsibility at every turn).

* Your machine must be a dual boot system
* You must have the wireless card installed and functioning on Windows
* The Windows partition on which you installed the wireless card already must be accessible to the Linux system (my Windows partion had the FAT32 filesystem which made this easy). If not you will first have to find a tutorial that covers this. A quick google on this topic should help. It will require you to update your /etc/fstab file. Here’s an article on this file but as I said googling around might find you even easier tutorials on this.

* I performed this on an IBM T22 running Ubuntu Linux 5.10 ‘Breezy Badger’ and also on OpenSuse 10.2. Windows 2000 was also installed as part of my dual boot system.

* As I did this on Ubuntu I used sudo instead of logging in as root. That’s what the rest of this guide assumes. On OpenSuse, I used su from the command line in order to become the root user. Depending on your distro you may have to log in as root if it doesn’t support sudo.


The Future?

May 9, 2007


Super Shots Of New Zealand

May 6, 2007

Unfortunately, I have to admit these snaps aren’t mine. One look at them and you can tell 🙂

These are fab pictures of the Sheep Republic in glorious technicolour – Amazing NZ Photos!

IPCC Report On CO2 Cuts – We Can Do It!

May 5, 2007

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) produced it third report this year which contains some positive news for a change. One of the things to emerge was an analysis of how much it would cost to retard greenhouse gas emissions in order to prevent dramatic climate change. The results suggest, if you excuse the horrible pun, that it shouldn’t cost the earth!

Javascript Tip Of The Day: “When Is A Width Not A Width?”

May 5, 2007

This is a bit of a gotcha for young players in the Javascript game. You have a web page with a DIV which you fill dynamically with, let’s say, 5 IMG elements. How do you get the width of the DIV? You can try “document.getElementById(‘divId’).width” but it will do you no good. The answer: use “document.getElementById(‘divId’).offsetWidth”. Here’s a handy guide when it comes to DHTML element position and locations.

Linux Community Must Help Dell Sell Linux

May 1, 2007

The announcement that many people wanted to hear is imminent. Early rumours abound on various sites but possibly by the time you are reading this, Dell will have already made the official announcement that they are to ship Dell PC’s with the Linux operating system – Ubuntu. This is the major breakthrough that Linux as a desktop OS has been waiting for. Now all Linux communities -be it Open Source, Free Software, Linux for home or business that is your cup of tea – must help Dell sell this dream.

The most obvious way to help is for bloggers or people with websites to display a prominent ad for Dell Linux boxes. Let’s show Dell that by listening and embracing the Linux community that we can help them out. Each and everyone can be a partner to Dell and it is in everyone’s interest that Linux market share grows. A bigger pie means that more hardware vendors will support Linux and having the Open Source desktop OS in the limelight will mean more development work for Open Source programmers. For consumers, it brings choice like they’ve never had before – the modern day Linux OS thoroughly outshines it competitors. I do not make this comment lightly. But this week I got my first glimpse at the 3D accelerated desktop for Linux – it is incredible! It leaves Vista for dead. And comparing the two side-by-side there is only one winner.

So let’s help Dell sell Linux. I’m going to be emailing them after the official announcement to get my Dell Linux ad. Never has marketing been such a pleasure! And never has the Linux Desktop looked so good!