Marcel Gagne's blog


Open Source Licences Are Legally Enforceable

The legal power of open source licencing has won a major victory, upheld by the United States Court of Appeals. I hope you will read the whole thing over at InformationWeek, but the following quote is particularly interesting:

The lower court ultimately ruled that Jacobsen could not sue Katzer and Kamind Associates for copyright violation because the Artistic License is "intentionally broad."  The appeals court dismissed that argument in its ruling, and said that open source software developers have the right to dictate the terms under which their products can be used or modified (bolded emphasis is mine).

That's right, folks. The person who wrote the software has the right to decide. Other takes on this story, for those who are interested, include Groklaw, ZDNet, and the BBC News.

There are plenty more sources out there, but this gives you a sampling of what will inevitably represent a major sea change in how open source and open source licensing is viewed.


CNN Can't Count

Last time I checked, the number 10 was a higher number than the number 8. While that might seem terribly obvious to those of us who managed to make it past elementary school, this is a bit tough for CNN to grasp. At least it's tough for their Website. The screenshot you see below (click the small image for a larger picture) is the result of me trying to follow up a story link posted by Tim O'Reilly, which turned out to be a dead end. I did manage to find the story and the associated video, but I, apparently, need a different kind of math to view it.

A reader writes in with a dilemma. He wants to run Linux desktops in his office, but still needs access to one or more Windows applications. What he wants (and needs) is a solution that does not require him to have a Windows license for each desktop that needs this application. What can he do? In this video, I discuss one possibility.

This story is one that is both a bit frightening, if you happen to travel to and from the United States, and incredibly stupid on so many fronts, it's downright laughable. Let's start with frightening . . . Michael Willems, in his Unreasonable Man blog, led me to an interesting and scary story regarding US border searches. this CBC article. You should still read it, but here's the short version.

In order to protect us, the United States government has given its border guards the power to seize your notebook computer, cell phone, digital planner, documents, pamphlets, hard drives (you name it), etc. They can then make full copies of this information in whatever form it takes, and share it with a number of government agencies. Keep in mind as you read this that they do not need just cause to do this, nor do they even need to suspect you of anything. At a later, more convenient time (to them, not you), they can look over the information, presumably to uncover terrorists, but also to ". . . help authorities detect possible instances of terrorism, narcotics smuggling, child pornography and violations of copyright and trademark laws."


Font Conference

Maybe it's because I'm a writer and perhaps writers are the only ones who are going to find this funny, but I seriously thought this was hilarious. Seriously.

If you aren't a writer and you thought this was funny too, let me know.


Scripting for Interactive Sessions: expect

At first glance, it would seem that you are out of luck if what you want to automate requires human intervention. There are things that need someone to pick from menu options, enter passwords, or make decisions based on the information presented. Interactive applications require a user’s reaction, don’t they? The answer for the cleverly lazy system administrator is “Not always” thanks to a little program called expect.

While I had heard of expect sometime before, I discovered a few years ago just how useful this language is. My partner and I were developing a Web-based system that required regular updates from the main computer’s database, a database that would not allow command-line scripting. The data we needed required the execution of an SQL statement that could only be entered through the vendor’s menu interface. That SQL statement would then generate the data file we needed for the Web interface. The whole process hinged on writing something that mimicked a user sitting at a terminal entering information as the various prompts were presented to him or her. Expect, a software suite/language based on Tcl, was the answer to our dilemma. Later, Expect would make it possible to stretch our Web-tool well beyond what we, ahem, expected at the time.


SCO Blast From The Past

Once upon a time, there was a Linux company named SCO. They were a good company until evil overlords bent on sueing the world arrived on the scene. This isn't that story.


An open letter to Adobe

Hello, oh great and powerful Adobe people.

Thank you so much for releasing Flash Player 10 beta 2 for Linux. Thanks even more for (finally) building in support for video4linux2 Webcam technology. You have no idea how much we appreciate that. The only problem is that many (if not most) of us can't use it. You see, it crashes our browsers within seconds.

Reading earlier posts on this subject, it's obvious that Adobe is aware of this problem (Flash player 10 beta 2 crashing Firefox) and that they have fixed it in-house. I think I speak for more than just myself when I say, "Please, just let us have the fixed version." You don't know how long we've waited for video4linux2 support. The suspense is killing us. Besides, it's kind of rough to be told that a beta is available with said features, then not have it work. It's even harder when we are told it's fixed but we can't possibly have it. So, please. Please. Let us have the current fixed version. We know it's not the real, final product, but we accept that. It's cool. Really. What do you say? Come on, guys. One little tiny fixed beta? No one is going to complain. In fact, we'll say nothing but nice things about you. Really.

What do you say?

Please. Pretty please . . .


You Look Marvelous On The Web!

Looking good is easy for our regular guests. True enough. However, looking good on the Web takes a little more work, which doesn't mean it can't be a lot of fun. With a little help from your Linux system, your smile will shine online!

Yes, François, I think it would be great to add a gallery of our regular guests on the restaurant's Website, but I do have a couple of concerns. First and foremost, I really don't think you should call it a "Rogue's Gallery". Second, why on Earth are you coding HTML by hand. This is going to take you forever and our guests will be here momentarily. Lucky for you, tonight's menu has some great free software for your Linux system that will make creating that gallery a breeze. Later, though. I can see our guests arriving as we speak.

Good evening and welocome one and all to Chez Marcel! Your tables are ready as are we to serve you. My faithful waiter, François, will fetch your wine while I introduce you to tonight's featured Linux software. François, to the wine cellar. Vite! In the South wing, you'll find a case of 2003 Sariza from Bulgaria. The Sariza is a great medium-bodied red wine that I'm sure you'll enjoy.

I must tell you that François had an excellent idea that involved creating a Web photo gallery. Before I show you how easy it can be to create such a gallery, I need to tell you about a package you'll need to have on your system, a package which will let you do all sorts of magical things with images.


Christopher Hitchens gets waterboarded

Let me confess right away. I found myself panicking just watching this video. My heart rate literally shot up and stayed there for some time. Yes, I'm saying this isn't for the faint of heart. Author Christopher Hitchens, writing for Vanity Fair, decides to find out for himself whether the controversial interrogation technique known as waterboarding is, in fact, torture.

The Vanity Fair article can be found here.



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