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01.03.11

Raw Interview With Linux Format Magazine

Posted in Interview, Site News at 2:02 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Linux Format

Linux Format articleSummary: Techrights interview from the December 2010 issue of Linux Format Magazine

FOR THOSE who did not managed to buy December’s issue of Linux Format, there’s an interview with me there, as noted some months ago. Here is the raw text which hopefully explains a little more about Techrights and yours truly.

* How did you get involved in Open Source?

I was first made aware of UNIX and Linux some time in the 90s when few friends from school used them experimentally. In computer science classes (my majors) there were many of us geeks. It wasn’t until ten years ago that I got introduced to Red Hat and became a user immediately. I loved so many things about it. In 2001 I was writing and sharing all my programs as Free software and in 2002 I got a job where I wrote GPL-licensed code (mostly GTK based). This then introduced me to GNU and I soon learned more about the associated philosophy. At the time I was not using the term “Open Source” although I was aware of the term. It wasn’t until much later (around 2005) that I realised the term ought to be used in order to better align with the mainstream press, which tended to characterise as “Open Source” code that everyone shared in this way. To me, sharing of code was always natural and I never wrote any proprietary software in my entire life. I don’t intend to, either. It is possible to get paid to write code to which you retain all sensible rights. It’s more rewarding and motivational, not just beneficial to one’s peers. There is no better feeling than to help those who help you. This period of my life also got me involved as a contributor in several Free/Open Source projects, notably WordPress which I used a lot.

In cases where colleagues’ code was not truly licensed (just copyrighted, naturally), I did try to encourage the sharing of code because as a scientist I knew that our joint work would have greater impact if it was adopted and used by others. Thus, my involvement in “Open Source” was more than about code; it was a way of life and I still try to advance the principles of Free software/Open Source in the context of data, literature, hardware, and the sciences in general. Transparency is not the key advantage in my eyes; it is more to do with promoting abundance rather than scarcity where limitations on access are only artificial. Restrictions empower those already in power and it doesn’t have to be that way, especially not in the digital world.

* What is TechRights?

TechRights is a platform where a strand of ideas are expressed, borrowing from influential and important establishments like the Free Software Foundation yet acting completely independently (there are no sources of funding and thus no self censorship or bias). TechRights can be seen as complementary to some groups, but any such similarity is only perceptual as there was never any affiliation. TechRights has 3 domain names and several activities/components, such as a blog, a wiki, and three real-time communication channels (IRC) divided by topics. Several months ago we also added angle-based distinctions, categorised under the banners named “TechRights”, “TechWrongs”, and “TechChoices”. The site’s focus is Novell, Microsoft, and sometimes even Apple not because they are the sole threat to people’s freedoms and digital rights; in the field of software these are the areas where we have greater interest, prior supportive material, and expertise.

* What is the history of TechRights?

TechRights is the site name proposed by Tracy, the guy who is hosting the Web site. We needed a new name when the site’s scope had expanded. It was long overdue. We hope to invert the connotation of the word “rights”, which is increasingly being hijacked by those who take people’s rights away.

* TechRights used to be called Boycott Novell, why the name change?

Yes, “Boycott Novell” was created by Shane just days after Novell and Microsoft had signed their problematic patent deal. The site was expected to have narrow focus and deal with just this one aspect of the problem Free software was having. As I recall it, “Boycott Novell” was actually a category name in Shane’s personal/technical blog, but it became its own domain name and soon enough many people subscribed to the site. As readership grew, the range of topics expanded. At the time of joining the site — very shortly after its inception — I was working on my Ph.D. thesis and I had a lot of spare time which I used to write a large number of posts for the site. At the moment we have about 11,000 blog posts, just over a hundred megabytes of IRC logs, and various other pages that are actively edited by the community. We hope that quantity has not compromised quality.

* Do you still feel we should all Boycott Novell?

I am not in a position to tell people what to do, but I advise people to think carefully about Novell’s tactics of selling SLE* (SUSE Linux Enterprise) using software patents. Novell has attempted to change the rules by imposing on GNU/Linux a restriction that never existed beforehand. Novell came to Microsoft and negotiated for about half a year what later became a patent deal. This put Novell in a position of perceived advantage over Red Hat et al. Since then, Novell has been urging businesses to buy SUSE based on Novell’s software patents (Novell euphemistically calls it “IP peace of mind”), which Novell turned into a selling point in this battlefield where software patents are antithetical.

The name “Boycott Novell” was never my idea and I have always felt some unease about the name (it sounded too negative and about 80% of my output was positive), but I do encourage people to vote with their wallets and reward companies that are not using software patents to sell their products. For the GNU/Linux market to thrive and for new businesses to be derived or emerge from it, software patents will need to be stopped. Novell is not unique in that regard and TechRights attempts to deal with the issues, not just individual players.

* TechRights has been a controversial site, what is your take on the controversy?

Every person or platform that dares to touch sensitive subjects is bound to be labelled “controversial” or be characterised as “irrational” by its adversaries. This is especially true when one departs from purely technical debates. Over the years we have had people distort or misrepresent our views, which are harder to control or manage when one works within a framework involving many people or when people spread false rumours (disinformation) from the outside. For instance, some people began to associate the site’s formal views with people who just leave comments in it or enter the IRC channel. Some people wrongly assumed that a protest in India — going under the banner “Boycott Novell” — was in some way organised by the Web site.

What we find encouraging though is that when people come and speak to us directly they soon realise that we are decent people and the stereotypes/caricatures that sometimes float out there are just daemonisations designed to marginalise our views. There are clearly some companies out there which are unhappy with our work. Truth hurts sometimes. Since we are open to feedback, companies have an opportunity to challenge every claim, not by ad hominem attacks but by rational debate. We have already had anonymous Novell employees smearing messengers from within the site and from outside the site. They usually get exposed at the end and then they vanish.

* What changes would you like to see happen in Open Source to alleviate some of your concerns?

There are many issues that need correcting and by staying passive nothing will ever improve, it will only get worse. One of the areas we are active in the ending of software patents, which need to be eliminated even in the Open Source world (IBM, for example, ought to rethink its patent policy because it’s pro-software patents). The Open Source/Free software community ought to be open to criticism from within, even if this criticism is somewhat discomforting at times. The ultimate goal is to further enable users and developers, who over time seem to be increasingly captured by draconian/centralised entities like application stores that censor, so-called ‘clouds’ which are managed from afar, and restrictive licences that ratify and solidify DRM, kill switches and violations of privacy.

* What do you see as the future for TechRights?

TechRights is a platform which is in many people’s hands and if it helps outsiders view matters differently, then we know we did our part. Most of the activity takes place in IRC, so as long as our community drives the agenda in particular directions, that will be the future of the platform.

In the future we hope to maintain information resources written in a language which is more defensive than offensive. When dealing with difficult subjects where detractors of freedom become maliciously active, it is tempting to lose one’s composure. The ultimate goal is to educate less than to campaign. We don’t organise campaigns but we sometimes spread comical memes that help warn about dangers which we label in order to raise awareness. For example, we consistently write “Vista 7″, “Fog Computing”, and “hypePad”, all of which are terms designed to convey the real downsides of those latest threats to software freedom.

If people have ideas which they want to promote or problems that they want to see addressed, they are most welcome and even encouraged, so they can come and meet our community, preferably in IRC. A lot of our popular articles were made possible by leakers of information (anonymised whistleblowers), who shed light on wrongdoings they had witnessed. Had it not been for all these contributions, TechRights would not be around. The platform is increasingly crowdsourced for the most part, which makes it more effective and accurate.

09.23.10

New Richard Stallman Interview About Software Patents

Posted in FSF, Interview, Patents, Videos at 12:04 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: ITNews has just published an interview where Richard Stallman speaks about software patents

YESTERDAY night we showed that ITNews unfairly accused Dr. Stallman of “crashing” an event (as in “Stallman crashes European Patent session”). Liz Tay has just posted a more polite article/headline which contains evidence of what the so-called ‘crashing’ was (in video form) and also the following interview with Stallman.


Thanks to ITNews for making the effort producing an Ogg version. Here is the remainder of their videos.

Techrights attempts to make everything available as Ogg and often it’s a compromise in the sense that there are interesting videos that cannot be shared.

09.14.10

PR Disaster: Discussion With Bill Gates Turns to “Death Panels ”

Posted in Antitrust, Bill Gates, Interview at 3:25 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Memories of the Connie Chung interview return to haunt as Bill Gates faces tough questions

BILL GATES does not like to be asked hard questions. At least once he abandoned an interview in the middle because he was asked a hard question (he probably bailed out of others before they could take place because his PR agents, e.g. Waggener Edstrom from Microsoft and the Gates Foundation, is known to be compiling dossiers on reporters to determine if communication with them is ‘safe’).

Essentially, Gates is using PR people to ensure in advance it’s just a few softball questions he will get, trying to control what the interviews (public appearances) ever cover. To quote from “Barbarians Led by Bill Gates”, a book composed by Pam Edstrom’s (of Waggener Edstrom) daughter:

By May of 1994, Gates’s patience was growing so thin that not even a public relations pro like Pam Edstrom could muzzle him.
On May 19, one of Edstrom’s biggest nightmares unfolded on national television. Gates had agreed to be interviewed by CBS’s Eye to Eye host Connie Chung. Chung said she wouldn’t ask Gates sensitive questions, particularly ones regarding the current Justice Department investigation. With that, “Gates’s keeper” swung open
the doors.
Gates was patient and accommodating during the interview, even when Chung asked him to jump over a chair from a standing position, a skill he demonstrated at various times, including once during COMDEX at the Shark’s Club in Las Vegas in front of a packed crowd of admirers and computer junkies. So, once again, Gates complied, successfully jumping over a chair for the camera crew and their network TV audience.
But by then Connie and company had outstayed their welcome. Gates turned to Edstrom.
“Is this five minutes up? Pam, I mean, do you know five minutes?” he drilled.
Edstrom replied with a simple yes, but Chung continued with her questioning, drifting further and further off limits. She asked about his wife, Melinda. Then she brought up the STAC lawsuit.
In early 1993, STAC Electronics, which made data compression software, had sued Microsoft for patent violation, claiming Microsoft had used these patents in DOS 6.0. STAC said Microsoft had been in negotiations to license “Stacker,” but talks disintegrated when Microsoft refused to pay the royalties STAC wanted. It was one of the only lawsuits Microsoft ever lost for patent infringement.
In preparation for her interview, Chung had talked to the CEO of STAC, Gary Clow, as well as other Gates rivals. She quoted a Clow comment to Gates on the air.
“A lot of people make that analogy that competing with Bill Gates is like playing hardball,” she had Clow saying. “I’d say it’s more like a knife fight.”
“I’ve never heard any of these things,” Gates said. “You know, you’re saying like a knife fight. That’s silliness. It’s—childish. I mean, why be a mouthpiece for that kind of—of silliness? Why doesn’t he just—just say them—anyway, it—because it has nothing to do with the patent lawsuit. It has to do with just, you know, creating a—you know, sort of a David versus Goliath thing out of it. Well, I’m done.”
And with that, Gates walked off the set.
“Can I just ask you one more question, Bill?” Chung said. His voice trailed off into the distance, “No, I don’t think so.” It wasn’t much later that Chung left CBS, and many people wondered if Gates had had something to do with it.

He chickened out. Now, watch the following new video, which somebody titled “Bill Gates Wants Death Panels: Dying People VS Teachers”

There are many comments here, such as the insinuation that Gates said: “SAVE A LIFE, FIRE A TEACHER”

And this is the person some people feel comfortable putting on top of the educating system?

03.13.10

Novell News Summary – Part III: Pulse With Google, Finance, Virtualisation and More

Posted in Finance, Google, Interview, Mail, Marketing, Novell, Ron Hovsepian, Videos, Virtualisation at 2:21 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Salt Lake Valley
Salt Lake Valley

Summary: Novell’s proprietary business assets and what they have been up to in the past week

NOVELL news coverage has recently been overwhelmed by the big bid [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. Novell’s PR team has been very active despite all of this and it hardly even mentioned the bid, instead choosing to focus on fluff like SaaS and a survey that Novell was conducting itself in order to support its position, apparently.

Read the rest of this entry »

02.13.10

Novell News Summary – Part III: SCO Updates, Financial Results Are Near

Posted in Finance, Google, Interview, Marketing, Microsoft, NetWare, Novell, Ron Hovsepian, SCO, Security, Servers, UNIX, Virtualisation, Xen at 3:41 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Davis Canyon moonrise

Summary: News touching on Novell’s non-Free/libre component of the business

THIS is the third part which covers Novell news from the first two weeks of February. This part covers Novell’s proprietary side, of which there is a lot (Novell is predominantly a closed-source company). What we happen to have found along the way this week is that Novell is not just a company that makes jewelry; there is yet another company called Novell Pharmaceutical Laboratories. Here is what we gather from the press release:

Read the rest of this entry »

01.23.10

Richard Stallman: Freedom Campaigner

Posted in Boycott Novell, Free/Libre Software, FSF, GNU/Linux, Interview at 5:09 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

[via]

Who are you, and what do you do?

I‘m Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Movement. I campaign for computer users’ freedom — for instance, your freedom to control the software you use, to redistribute the software to others. Software that respects the user’s freedom is what we call free software.

In 1983 I announced the plan to develop a complete free operating system called GNU. The system that millions of people use, and often refer to as “Linux”, is a variant of the GNU system.

What hardware are you using?

I am using a Lemote Yeelong, a netbook with a Loongson chip and a 9-inch display. This is my only computer, and I use it all the time. I chose it because I can run it with 100% free software even at the BIOS level.

And what software?

To initialize the machine and boot, it uses PMON. Above that, it uses gNewSense, one of the totally free GNU/Linux distros.

I spend most of my time using Emacs. I run it on a text console, so that I don’t have to worry about accidentally touching the mouse-pad and moving the pointer, which would be a nuisance. I read and send mail with Emacs (mail is what I do most of the time).

I switch to the X console when I need to do something graphical, such as look at an image or a PDF file.

Most of the time I do not have an Internet connection. Once or twice or maybe three times a day I connect and transfer mail in and out. Before sending mail, I always review and revise the outgoing messages. That gives me a chance to catch mistakes and faux pas.

What would be your dream setup?

I would ideally like to have a machine with the speed and memory of a laptop, and the display size of a laptop too, combined with the same freedom that I have now on the Yeelong.

Until I can have them both, freedom is my priority. I’ve campaigned for freedom since 1983, and I am not going to surrender that freedom for the sake of a more convenient computer.

I do hope to switch soon to a newer model of Yeelong with a 10-inch display.


This interview is available under the Attribution No Derivatives license.

01.06.10

CIO Prediction: Novell to be Acquired in 6 Months

Posted in Boycott Novell, Interview, Microsoft, Novell, Ron Hovsepian at 10:52 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Opinion that Novell will not endure as a standalone company this year; new interview with Ron Hovsepian

LAST WEEK we argued that some time in 2010 Novell is likely to be acquired or merged. Several days later, CIO UK published this list of predictions, which include the following:

June: The silly season begins in earnest. Google and Microsoft buy some companies you’ve never heard of. Novell is acquired.

As we wrote last week, it is possible for Microsoft to acquire Novell, but this might not be the best strategy.

Another UK-based publication has just published this first interview with Ron Hovsepian in a very long time. Here is an important question that he answered at the end:

How does the interoperability agreement with Microsoft relate to the IWM launches? [The Microsoft/Novell Partnership announced in 2006 gives interoperability and virtualisation solutions for firms using both Windows and Linux]

The agreement means that Microsoft can run their virtualised applications on our environment and we can run ours on theirs.

I think it works really well. Our core assumption is that customers are Microsoft customers and have multiple Java technology stacks. So in a virtualized environment, this relationship allows us to support and optimise those workloads.

This puts us in a stronger position than competitors such as Red Hat for example.

So our strategy is built on that assumption of heterogeneity. Where firms have multiple technology stacks, we can optimise and build security and governance into them.

Microsoft could do that too. A couple of years ago it was argued that Microsoft could buy the WordPerfect lawsuit along with Novell.

12.19.09

Meet Canonical’s New CEO

Posted in GNU/Linux, Interview, Ubuntu, Videos at 3:36 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: A chat with Jane Silber (Linux.com, 2008)


This will hopefully keep quiet the “Ubuntu is sexist” crowd.

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