Firefox 3.1 beta 1 adds support for OGG formats

Big boost to the PlayOGG campaign coming from Firefox:

This is the first beta from Mozilla to include support for <video> and the <audio> elements. This beta includes support for the OGG Theora and OGG Vorbis formats on all platforms.

It’s going to be easier to use this format if millions of users will be able to play it without adding additional plugins. This is really a major milestone for open standards on the web. The pressure on patented formats like the whole MPEG4 family will increase.

More juicy details about FF beta 1 on Firefox 3.1 beta 1 – an overview of features for web developers.

My high priority free software list

Help FSF build the fund
Help FSF build the fund

The FSF has rebooted the list of High Priority Free Software Projects with a $10,000 grant donated from WordLabel.com. The list contains software that is considered useful by the Foundation to keep computer users away from non-free software.

In the past the FSF has maintained such list directly but this time they ask for input by the community. I tend to agree with the priorities set by FSF, only reshuffling some of them and adding a few of my own. Here is my own personal wishlist:

  1. Gnash, the Free Software alternative to Adobe Flash, not only the player but also the authoring tool. Tools for creativity need lots of work, especially vector animation software and CAD/CAM drawing tools.
  2. CAD/CAM tools are way behind proprietary counterparts. It’s not just a matter of incompatibilities with DWG format. We should lobby Google to release SketchUp as free software, as a start.
  3. Video editing can be improved, but the building blocks are already there, so it shouldn’t be very too difficult to progress.
  4. VoIP and videoconferencing tools are still lacking behind proprietary counterparts, despite the fact that all the building blocks (open protocols, free sw servers and client libraries) are available.
  5. Better graphic templates for OO.org and other office/DTP applications. The tools are already good enough for home/small business use and I’m sure that good looking default templates would help drive adoption allowing one-click to create a good looking presentation or poster for local garage sale.

Last but not least, I think citizens of a Free Society need to start thinking of computers beyond the desktop boxes.’  We should invest efforts to develop more Free Sofware mobile applications and devices (like OpenMoko). And in parallel, make it easy to effectively sync between various applications and devices. BTW, did you notice that there is a bounty worth $2,000 to develop a Free Software application to sync Remember The Milk data with Funambol? Let me know if you want to grab that.

Rockbox brings portable music to blind

iPod powered by Free Software
iPod powered by Free Software

You gotta love the Free Software community, you have to.’  The crowds of the Rockbox project make the Archos Jukebox and other common mp3/ogg players (including iPods) “the only “off the shelf” hard drive based MP3 player that offers accessibility to the vast majority of its features to the blind”. There is an audio file that describes how to use Rockbox on the iPod Video. I happen to know somebody that will surely like to hear that.

You can grab the latest release Rockbox 3.0, with a new multiplatform installer.’  I have to put this on my wife’s old iPod so that I can use it to listen to my collection of OGG files, since my Apple laptop is still defective (Apple’s fault), refusing to collaborate with my Samsung OGG player.

Ozzie talks about FLOSS and FLOSS advocates talk back

Lots of talking about Microsoft lately.’  As I expected, Ray Ozzie’s public appearances are increasing with declarations of love for the magic word interoperability and with a new, more open, attitude.’  I believe it’s true that “Microsoft fundamentally, as a whole, has changed dramatically as a result of open source,” as Ozzie said.

Roberto wrote a long post about Microsoft Open Source strategy. Having talked to him long enough, I know he sees the big potential for new Open Source firms to prosper on Microsoft ecosystem.’  I suspect he is right, given the fact that the *nix competitors have lost 15 years of evolution fighting each other instead of building a common (superior) platform. Only with GNU/Linux such common platform arrived, but it probably came a day late and a dollar short.

Contrary to Roberto, I think that Microsoft change is not sufficient yet for Free Software advocates like me to merrily lift the precautions. I can still hear Ballmer shouting threats and see him trying to twist the arms of the EU Commission (as Carlo remembers very well). I’m not confident yet that these moves represent a new strategy and they’re not merely tactics to penetrate the FLOSS market and break it from the inside (patent lawsuit?).’  If I were a developer I wouldn’t trust any promise not to sue by Microsoft, even if that promise uses the same (murky) words of IBM’s promises. I don’t care: Microsoft track records on Free Software is bad, bad, bad and worse. Microsoft must do better than IBM, it must be perfect (they can, if they want to).

More on perception and Free/Libre Software and marketing

While some on FSFE discussion mailing list debate whether the term ‘open source’ is good or not, the world out there is running fast adopting the THING (whatever you prefer to call it) and considering its adoption. Matt reports about Actuate 07 Open Source Survey Whitepaper which has interesting data about perception of FLOSS (page 9):

The main perceived benefit of open source software is that there are no licence costs (56%). The second tier of main perceived benefits are flexibility (48.4%) and access to source code (47.1%). These are followed by vendor independence (38.7%), not being locked into Microsoft (38.7%), being built on open platforms (35.3%), standards-based technology (32.5%) and scalability (30.5%).

Cost is still #1 reason for adoption and high risk is still #1 reason for non-adoption. The Free Sw communities have been communicating other values besides cost for many years now, some of which are visible in the survey (vendor independence, freedom from lock-in, open standards) but these rank lower.

The Open Source Initiative, with all the weaknesses of its mission, has the merit of having taken the lead and implemented successfully a clear marketing strategy. FSF made the right strategical choice opposing OSI’s approach. FSFE had the right approach too, with a softer position (not two movements, but one movement with different terms) and the idea of the GNU Business Network. Unfortunately, GBN didn’t receive enough attention and FSFE was distracted by other issues. In the end, the results of FSFE marketing aren’t as good as those of OSI, according to the surveys.

Isn’t it time to implement a new marketing strategy for software freedom? There is a clear window of opportunity now, but it’s not going to be there forever.

Perception of Free/Libre Software

Roberto’s latest comment reminded me of his presentation at quifree.’  One of the points he made was about the missing ‘perception’ of Free/Libre software, a constant discussion theme during the years at FSFE.’  What are the values of Free Software? How to make such values meet the needs of users, citizens and companies? While many people in the community dismiss the issue easily marking it with the bad word ‘marketing’, I don’t think it is neither bad nor simple to address the perception issue.

In my recent public speeches I focused on one value of Free Software:’  business ethics within digital society.’  In short, my argument is that since the society has changed to an economy of information, those that write software have the power to control information and therefore control society. Modern societies evolved systems, like democracy, so that big powers could be balanced. Free Software helps introducing ethics in digital environment, empowering the users thus balancing powers.

There are more values in Free Software that can be found and communicated and I hope others will join the effort.’  It is marketing, and we better not be afraid of it… otherwise good messages for our values will remain in the hands of our competition.