Sunday, May 16, 2010

Software patents

One of the biggest threats to free and open source software at the moment is the existence of software patents. News came out recently that not only is Apple suing HTC over its smartphones, but Steve Jobs also has his eyes on the brilliant open source video format Ogg Theora. Essentially what companies like Apple want is for everyone in the computing world to use the product they developed and to pay them a royalty for the privilege of using them. Clearly community-owned assets like open source software gets in the way of this kind of monopoly. Software patents are anti-competitive and unethical for a number of reasons, including:
  • They are designed to protect an individual's or an individual company's 'intellectual property'. It's not designed to protect public ownership of things.
  • They are designed to protect incumbents. Companies with good lawyers and deep pockets are collecting patents on just about everything to do with computing at the moment. If young, innovative companies want to make any progress in this kind of market, they have to sell their soul to incumbents before they begin.
  • They make lawyers wealthy at the expense of entrepreneurs.
...and if a company like Microsoft can patent something like the double click, we might as well all get out of computing before we all get sued.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Jokosher: multi-track music composition

Now, I don't know the first thing about music composition, but I do know that even I could pull something passable together using software like this. Jokosher is only in 0.11 release, but already it's a very usable, powerful multi-track authoring studio. From
"Jokosher is a simple and powerful multi-track studio. Jokosher provides a complete application for recording, editing, mixing and exporting audio, and has been specifically designed with usability in mind. The developers behind Jokosher have re-thought audio production at every level, and created something devilishly simple to use."

For an overview of what it can do, check out these screenshots.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Who wants to be a millionaire?

One of the great things about being part of the community of Moodle users (that numbered 50 million last time I checked) is the wealth of third-party add-ons available. One module I think is great is the Game module. It takes any normal quiz, glossary or questions and turns it automatically into any one of 8 games, from hangman to sudoku to something similar to 'who wants to be a millionaire'. One of my great tricks is to get students to build a glossary of key words and definitions for a topic as we go. With the quiz module, you can then turn that student-developed resource into a game that everyone can play: it's like the students build their own interactive learning tools.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx is here

Christmas comes twice a year for Ubuntu fans. New releases come out on the 4th and 10th months of the year (hence the numbering 10.04 came out in 2010 on the 04th month. There are a number of really good new features which The Silent Number summarises here. Off the top of my head, here's what I'm thankful for this Christmas:
  • New design: the aubergine and orange theme is good. I was getting a bit sick of the yellow and brown anyway.
  • Ubuntu One is now core: 2gb of cloud-based file storage means the same files are available to me on my work laptop and desktop, home desktop and netbook. No more carrying files around on a USB stick.
  • Speed: the aim was to get a 10 second boot time. My old P4 doesn't quite get there, but it's nice to have an operating system get faster with each upgrade, not slower and more bloated.
  • Social: twitter/, IM and chat are all rolled up into the operating system so you can keep track of all your social networking in one place. (I'm loving Gwibber as an client too).
If you're not already running Ubuntu, download the LiveCD; it lets you load up and try Ubuntu on your existing PC without making any changes to your system. If you don't like it, pop out the CD and go back to your old system; if you do like it, double click 'Install'.