MediaGoblin adding support to OpenStack Swift

I am very happy to see the Free Software Foundation going back to making good software. I have argued for long time that what made the FSF a great organization that changed the world is the fact that they didn’t only point at proprietary software as a problem but they also provided a solution with copyleft and the GPL licenses and provided working code in the GNU system. I’m glad to see that the FSF has adopted Mediagoblin’s software development and included it in the GNU system. It’s free as in freedom software as a service that allows to publish multimedia content (pictures, audio, videos, 3D models) in a federation with API support and lots of awesomeness. You can think of it as a federated replacement for things like Flickr, YouTube or SoundCloud that you or anyone can run. Just wonderful.

If you haven’t donated yet, do it now as it’s not too late. MediaGoblin 1.0 is going to support OpenStack Swift too, so if you like OpenStack you have the moral obligation to donate to the FSF to develop Mediagoblin.

The sad state of free software collaboration tools

My post yesterday sparked a little conversation on G+. The content of that conversation reminded me that free software collaboration tools are in a very poor state. Email clients for Linux (well, also on Mac OS X and Windows) suck badly, address book managers are awfully ancient, voice/video chat systems compare poorly to proprietary alternatives (technically, not just because none of our friends use them).  Some fellows of FSFE recently tried to hunt for Skype alternatives. The published results are depressing.

It’s a hard to solve. Hopefully we can put behind the quest for the ‘perfect desktop’ and start building tools for the free digital citizens again.

Mozilla Foundation drops Thunderbird

I’m sad to read that finally Mozilla Foundation realized that Thunderbird is a lemon: Mitchell Baker announced on her blog that “continued innovation of Thunderbird is not a priority” so its evolution will stop and putting the project in ‘maintenance mode’. The Foundation will only provide for security fixes starting from November 2012 and leaving the future evolution of this free software email client to ‘the community’.

As I wrote on G+, I never liked Thunderbird. There is no email client today that I like: they’re all based on very old concepts developed at the time when people had to deal with few messages per week. The only innovation I’ve seen in email came from Google’s Gmail, with the convenient conversation view and with the great integration of chat and addressbook with Circles. Gmail is not the email client I use: I never bought into that sort of convenience. I always wished that somebody would develop a new, modern, email client for my desktop.

With Thunderbird at its sunset and GNOME Evolution its only viable substitute, I’m starting to despair. I have some hopes on Geary, Yorba Foundation’s new email client.

Skype is not beta anymore on GNU/Linux. So what?

I see lots of excitement within the GNU/Linux communities about the new, stable Skype. It makes me sad: it’s the worse kind software to be excited for. It’s designed to spy on you, it has a proprietary protocol, the software itself is badly designed, poor UI and lacks of many features compared to others. What’s more, using software like Skype that is not interoperable with other voice/messaging systems allows Microsoft to push in it creepy features like advertising next to your personal conversation. The network effect created by Skype is bad for humanity, we should treat Skype as a necessary evil and work to make people aware of reasonable alternatives.

I’d be much happier if I saw communities cheering for the alternatives. For example, I wish Canonical added a xmpp/jingle service to its One product (and I’d love to pay for it). I wish the community knew that Google allows federation in its Google Talk service: you can reach your friends that use from your own jingle server. These are the things that we need, more than yet another proprietary protocol and software to take away our options.

Suggestions to new Free Software Hackers

Lennart Poettering, is the Red Hat developer of  PulseAudio and systemd (among other things). He published the slides for his lecture at Technical University of Berlin where he spoke to students about “things you need to know, things you should expect and things you shouldn’t expect when your are aspiring to become a successful Free Software Hacker.” It’s an interesting read.

via [Phoronix] How To Become A Free Software Developer.

Pencil Project for GUI prototyping

I was looking for a GUI prototyping tool that I could use to draft a new skin for a website and also for an Android application. I knew of Balsamiq but I prefer not to use non-free software when possible. I found Pencil Project, an awesome open source prototyping tool built on top of Mozilla’s XUL runner.

The Pencil Project’s unique mission is to build a free and opensource tool for making diagrams and GUI prototyping that everyone can use.

It seems to be working just fine for my needs. Awesome!

GNU Telephony working on a Skype replacement

Nathan Willis on LWN explains quite well the role of two GNU projects as Skype replacements: SIP Witch and GNU Free Call.

SIP Witch, the call server developed by the GNU Telephony project, made its stable 1.0 release in May. In conjunction with that milestone, GNU Telephony has also unveiled its next major project, GNU Free Call — a free, peer-to-peer routed voice calling network.

Read it all ($) GNU Telephony releases SIP Witch 1.0 and announces Free Call [].

How I went from architecture to free/libre software

When I tell people that I studied as an architect I always get a question: how did you end up in technology and why do you advocate Free Software/Open Source if you studied brick-and-mortar? The answer I usually give is summarized in the incipit of the book The Architecture of Open Source Applications

Architects look at thousands of buildings during their training, and study critiques of those buildings written by masters. In contrast, most software developers only ever get to know a handful of large programs well—usually programs they wrote themselves—and never study the great programs of history. As a result, they repeat one another’s mistakes rather than building on one another’s successes.

Free Software with its freedom 1, the freedom to study the code and adapt it to your needs, is the only way software architectures can evolve. It took hundreds of years to go from building the pyramids to the skyscrapers and all thanks to the freedom to study how things are made. I believe that if we keep the same freedom we have in the world of atoms we’ll be able to continue building a better cyberspace.

New release for Neubot, the Net Neutrality monitor

Neubot is a “software application that runs automated tasks over the Internet” in order to quantify network neutrality. The software is aresearch project on network neutrality of the NEXA Center for Internet & Society at Politecnico di Torino. The project is based on a lightweight open-source program that interested users can download and install on their computers. The program runs in background and periodically performs transmission tests with some test servers and with other instances of the program itself. These transmission tests probe the Internet using various application level protocols. The program saves tests results locally and uploads them on the project servers. The collected dataset contains samples from various Providers and allows to monitor network neutrality.

Monitoring network neutrality is crucial because it enables a deeper understanding of operators behavior. This is paramount at a time when there is a broad discussion regarding changes in network neutrality policies. The availability of quantitative datasets collected by independent researchers should rebalance, at least in part, the deep information asymmetry between Internet Service Providers and other interested stakeholders (including regulators and citizens), and should provide a more reliable basis for discussing policies.

It is distributed as: a .deb package for Debian and Ubuntu; a zipped application for MacOSX; an installer for Windows XP SP3+. It is also available in source format.

Read Neubot 0.3.7 release notes.

Ryzom is free as in freedom software

Ryzom is a Massive Multyplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG), a beautiful one, with a very big universe and a lot of users. With the help of FSF, Winch Gate Properties, the copyright holders of Ryzom, released the server and the client under the Affero GPLv3 (Fabrizio is right, it’s a good license for modern networked world) and now Ryzom is free, as in freedom. Not free as in beer. As Peter Brown said in FSF’s announcement

If you want to run your own server for the game, you have the software to do that, but you won’t really have any world data—information about geography, special places, characters, quests, items, and so on—to run it with.

It makes perfect sense to sell access to such data, not software licenses. All gaming companies should learn from this. Meanwhile, have a look at the Ryzom videos and if you’re a fan, start playing.

Ryzom Teaser 10 from Ryzom on Vimeo.