Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programmers

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

“Patently” obvious

Due to a lack of digit extraction I’m not at FOSDEM this weekend. That’s unfortunate because as well as catching up with my friends at Brainstorm and on GNUstep, I really enjoyed the weekend last year and drank plenty of great Belgian beer and ate plenty of nice moules-frites.

So I’ve been spiritually living the Free lifestyle by reading what RMS and Torvalds have to say. Mostly I’ve been going over the essays in Free Software, Free Society. I find it very easy to accept the premises RMS uses, easy to follow, comprehend and agree with the arguments he presents but then somehow (perhaps for illogical reasons on my part, his part or both) hard to agree that the conclusions he draws are inevitable.

For instance, I agree that copyright law exists directly to benefit the public, and indirectly to benefit the authors (by providing incentives for authors in the shape of limited term monopoly over their authored content) and not at all to benefit Industry Associations. It even says that here, in the first ever copyright law: …for the Encouragement of Learned Men to Compose and Write useful Books; May it please Your Majesty, that it may be Enacted… certainly doesn’t seem to mention greedy lawyers or management.

Letters patent were never created for the same reason, of course. But because it became clear that patents from the Crown were obtained uppon Misinformacions and untrue pretences of publique good, many such Graunts have bene undulie obteyned and unlawfullie putt in execucion, to the greate Greevance and Inconvenience of your Majesties Subjects, contrary to the Lawes of this your Realme, and contrary to your Majesties royall and blessed Intencion soe published, so the whole system was rebooted so that patents were only grantable … to the true and first Inventor and Inventors of such Manufactures, […] soe as alsoe they be not contrary to the Lawe nor mischievous to the State, by raisinge prices of Commodities at home, or hurt of Trade, or generallie inconvenient….

The situation we find ourselves in now is that industries claim copyrights and inventions from the authors and inventors and lobby for more and more restrictive variants of the above laws, ignoring the previously-granted rights of the public at large and extending the previously-ungranted rights of the rights-owners, simultaneously removing those rights from the people granted the rights in the first place. So why in the case of copyright do the FSF assume copyright, but in the case of patents they refuse to deal with them? That inconsistency I don’t understand.

posted by Graham Lee at 17:28  

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

All the more reason to like FOSDEM

So it seems that my half-attendance at FOSDEM paid off more than I could have hoped, as I won a year’s subscription to GNU/Linux magazine. The publication is francophonic, so this will be a good chance to improve my command of la langue des grenouilles ;-).

posted by Graham Lee at 15:04  

Monday, February 26, 2007

FOSDEM / GNUstep photos

Just came in on #gnustep. Many photos of the GNUstep booth, dev room and of course the famous GNUstep dinner.

posted by Graham Lee at 15:20  

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Apres ca, le FOSDEM

It appears that I’m sat in Terminal B of L’Aeroporte Nationale de Bruxelles, waiting for my flight to board. While there are wirelesses around, the ones to which I can connect seem not to be offering much in the way of DHCP so this update will come in later than it was written (which was at 13:35), as I will probably post it while I’m on the bus between Heathrow and Oxford. [Update: actually not until I got home]

Irrelevancies such as that aside, I had a great FOSDEM! In fact, a great half-FOSDEM, as I did my tourism today. I met a load of people (of which more below), went to some inspiring talks and discussed many exciting and interesting projects (in multiple languages – I spoke to one person in English, Dutch and French sometimes in the same sentence). It was a good exercise to see who wasn’t present as much as who was – for instance RedHat didn’t have an official presence although the Fedora Project had a booth (next to the CentOS one ;-), similarly Novell (one of the big sponsors) was absent but the OpenSUSE project had Yet Another Small Table. Sun were conspicuously present in that the OpenSolaris and OpenJDK table was being manned seemingly by Sun’s salespeople rather than user group members…although maybe that’s just my interpretation.

The overriding feeling I got was that the conference was running on l’espirit d’anarchie and that the resulting adrenaline and enthusiasm drove the conference on. The keynote speeches were really the only regimented aspect of FOSDEM – a necessity given the size of the auditorium and that was packed to the rafters with FLOSSers. I didn’t go to the final keynote on open-sourcing Java as I was manning the GNUstep booth, but learned a lot on software patents and Free Software and Jim Gettys’ description of the technical challenges in creating OLPC was very insightful.

So, GNUstep. GNUstep, GNUstep, Etoile [I’ll add the accents in in a later update…this keyboard doesn’t have dead keys :-(]. For a start it was great to meet all the other GNUsteppers, and have some good discussions and debates (as well as some good moule frites and Kwak beer). For anyone who doubts that GNUstep is still alive, the dev room at FOSDEM is one place to allay such suspicions with many developers, designers, users and supporters presenting their ideas to each other, asking each other questions and generally contributing to the GNUstep camaraderie. Even an improptu troll by Miguel de Icaza at the GNUstep booth wasn’t enough to make us all throw Project Center away and buy a book on C# ;-). Presentations on GNUstep-make v2 (which I’ve described here before…), the Cairo graphics back-end (which I don’t think Fred Kiefer was expecting to present, but made a very fine job of it anyway) and third-party use of GNUstep were all very useful and well-received…I expect today’s presentations were too but I didn’t get to go to them :-(. [Instead, I was significantly underwhelmed by the sight of the Mannekin Pis.]

posted by Graham Lee at 18:27  

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