Let's see some Leadership on Broadband Access Sun, Apr 3. 2011
The inclusion of broadband-for-all-Canadians in the Liberal platform is an important step in the right direction. And while reliable rural broadband access is an obvious priority (as David Humphrey notes), the Liberal strategy does not go far enough: even current broadband access in our cities falls well short of what is needed to be globally competitive.
Canada's low average population density makes any broadband rollout a challenge. But there is an opportunity here: it's time for a leader to step up and set a realistic and challenging next-generation broadband goal, in the style of Kennedy's "We choose to go to the moon" speech. Setting a goal of 1 Gbps to every household in the country within three years would show real leadership. It would be a huge challenge, but we have the technology (wired and wireless), and it's where we need to go to stay in the game.
Clarity in Error Dialogs Sun, Feb 21. 2010
I've met my share of error dialogs through the years. Ones that say "Something bad has happened. Ok?" are annoying but understandable.
However, one in gpk-update-viewer, which I encountered yesterday, is a real head-scratcher:
This dialog sometimes appears when you try to close the gpk-update-viewer window while updating and it reads:
Cannot cancel running task
There are tasks that cannot be cancelled.
Quite apart from the fact that this dialog shouldn't appear at all -- packagekit will continue the update in the background -- the two buttons appear to mean the same thing, both of which are (according to the dialog) impossible.
Update: Richard Hughes noted in the comments that this is fixed upstream
The Best Open Source License... Wed, Sep 2. 2009
I have had the honour of informally judging a debate entitled "Which Open Source License is Best?", held this past Monday by the FOSS Learning Center. Unfortunately I could not watch the debate live, so I've had to wait for the videos to be processed and posted - my apologies for the delay.
Each debater made an excellent case for the license they represented:
Michael Milinkovich, Executive Director, Eclipse Foundation - Eclipse Public License (EPL)
Matt Asay, VP Business Development, Alfresco - GNU General Public License (GPL)
David Maxwell, Open Source Strategist, Coverity - Berkeley Software Distibution License (BSD)
I come to this debate not only as an professor, but as a software developer, a consultant to the SME sector, and as a participant in the Fedora project. There was at least one point made in favor of each license that I found notable: that the EPL guarantees perpetual freedom of code, but enables proprietary products to be constructed on top; that the GPL fundamentally creates an atmosphere of trust; and that the BSD license's brevity and simplicity provides reassuring clarity and confidence.
Of the three cases presented, I found the case for the GPL to be the most compelling. I hadn't previously considered that the GPL creates an environment of trust, but that resonated deeply with my experience and particularly with my observations within the Fedora project and as a consultant.
But more importantly, as the debaters concluded: each of these licenses has a place in the Open Source ecosystem, and the users of each license generally agree about much more than they disagree. Long live Open Source!
Adobe, You're Killing Me Tue, Apr 14. 2009
Adobe, your Flash Player and Acrobat Reader products are complete and utter crap. I don't use other platforms enough to know or care, but the Linux versions are utterly, terrifyingly awful.
Adobe [Acrobat] Reader
- Available in several package formats. Not available from a repository, from which updates could easily be pushed to your customers; instead, we're invited to "Receive up-to-date information about new releases and security updates by registering your copy of Adobe Reader". How? "Please contact me via the following methods: (please check one or more): Mail / E-mail / Telephone". I'd much rather receive the security update and a phone call about the security update, thanks. Update: Gideon Mayhak noted in comments that AdobeReader is available in the same repository as the Flash Player. Somehow I missed that, Adobe -- probably because you make no mention of it on your website.
- The print dialog, which is fairly significant in a document reader, doesn't look like any other print dialog I've seen in a long, long time. Actually, a lot of the Reader user interface is non-standard (or perhaps just ancient?), but the print dialog takes the cake. Adobe, you made it up; it certainly isn't close to the standard Gnome or KDE print dialogs. It's a hideous monstrosity reminiscent of Motif dialogs from 20 years ago. But you do let people fiddle with the printer command line -- excellent for kiosk applications!
- When used as a plugin, Reader will consume 100% of CPU and ever-increasing amounts of memory when I close a browser tab containing the plugin. That's right: when there is no visible sign that the software is running, it's bringing the system to its knees.
- Reader does not uninstall cleanly. When AdbeRdr is removed from a system, the default handler for PDF files should revert to the pre-Adobe-Reader value, but it does not -- the system will forever look for the non-existant 'acroread' binary. I haven't yet figured out where the ghost lives.
Adobe Flash Player
- Available from a repository. Nice touch! But 64-bits, anyone?
- Consumes massive amounts of CPU time when apparently doing nothing. By massive, I mean that it pushes the CPU temperature up until the fans switch into the turbo near-ultrasonic range. I mean that it brings normally-responsive multi-user systems to their knees. I mean it uses so much electricity that environmentalists weep publicly and small furry creatures pack their bags and move to other continents, if they haven't lost their sanity because of the ultrasonic whine.
- 32- vs. 64-bit issues: don't get me started.
E-mail in Scroll Mode Wed, Mar 25. 2009
When your spam filters are working really well, and yet your inbox summary scrolls by a full screen or more whenever your mailbox is polled, and your mailbox is being polled every 1-2 minutes, you're in e-mail scroll mode.
I've been in that mode several times lately. My apologies for any delays in replying, it is (as the local traffic announcers say) "just congestion due to volume".
The Naming of Software Mon, Apr 14. 2008
There are many different factors to be taken into account when naming an open source project: trademark conflicts, meaning in multiple languages, memorability, thought association, similarity to existing names, family naming schemes (heaven forbid that a KDE app not have a k shoehorned into the name somewhere!), and more. But let me add one more to the list: searchability.
Two examples of projects that failed to take searchability into account spring to mind (and there are many others): C# and KVM -- C# because it contained a character that many search engines of the day couldn't search on, and KVM because there were millions of web pages in existence discussing keyboard/video/mouse switches that cause search collisions (and many of those pages also contained "virtual" or "machine", while many kernel virtual machine pages didn't contain the word "kernel", "virtual", or "machine").
So please: when picking a name for a project, have Google and its colleagues look over your shortlist!