open source

All posts tagged open source

MP3 file structure – CC-BY GFDL – If you want to read this tap for larger

When I started recording readings of these books, I chose to offer them in OGG Vorbis format because it’s a free and open standard. That meant there would be no encumberances on the audio files due to patents or any kind of imaginary property (IP.) That’s important to me. I have licensed my novels with Creative Commons enhancements to their copyright, to ensure their freedom. They are not weighted down with digital restrictions management (DRM) because I want readers and listeners to be able to enjoy my books without having to restrict themselves to any single device or place. I use Free Software to write the books, and to convert them to useful formats, which are also free and open. I use Free Software to produce the audio recordings, and I use open standards to present them. For the audio, that meant OGG Vorbis, the best choice for the lossy compression needed to make the file sizes reasonable for downloading. At the time, the more popular format, MP3, wasn’t free or open. It was locked in a proprietary web of patents. I couldn’t insult my listeners by offering them something like that. It’s possible that this choice has meant fewer downloads of the readings because many people only recognize MP3 and might be unwilling to download something with a strange name like OGG. I was willing to take that risk because freedom and openness are important to me.

Vorbis trademark – Credit xiph.org – CC-BY

Lately the patents on the MP3 format have run out. Well, as far as I can tell. There were a mess of them held by a mess of people and organizations and I don’t have the training or experience to sort that all out myself. I rely on other sources for that, and they’re all saying that, once the patents finally ran out in the US, MP3 became an open standard. They hedged a little on that, apparently unwilling to commit themselves fully in the face of the the, uh, complexities of IP. I was hesitant too, but I decided to take the plunge and accept MP3 as an open standard. This meant that I could finally offer people the readings in a format that they recognized. This is good because, even though all modern operating systems and devices should be able to handle OGG, it sometimes requires the extra step of installing some necessary software to do so. People don’t like extra steps. After paying, sometimes quite a lot, for their operating systems and devices, they shouldn’t have to take extra steps to get them to handle a simple open standard like OGG. That’s annoying, and now I can finally make it a little less annoying for them by offering my audiobooks in MP3 format.

Public Domain

You’ll find them on the downloads page. Along with the direct links to the OGG Vorbis-encoded files hosted at the Internet Archive, there are now links to MP3-encoded versions. Don’t hesitate. Download them now.-)

rjb

I think I’ve settled down enough from the hectic exercise of publishing The Francesians to lift my head up and post about something else. How about nefarious cheats?

Cory Doctorow opens his article, Demon-Haunted World, with “Cheating is a given.” That sounds cynical, until you think about it. When corporations are said to be responsible only to their shareholders, and their directors pander to those shareholders to protect their bloated incomes, it becomes less cynical and more clear-eyed.

what happens when the things you own start to cheat you? The most famous version of this is Volkswagen’s Dieselgate scandal, which has cost the company billions (and counting): Volkswagen engineered several models of its diesel vehicles to detect when the engine was undergoing emissions testing and to tilt the engines’ performance in favor of low emis­sions

In 2015, HP pushed a fake security update to millions of Officejet owners, which showed up as a routine, ‘‘You must update your soft­ware’’ notification on their printers’ screens. Running that update installed a new, secret feature in your printer, with a long fuse. After six months’ wait, the infected printers all checked to see whether their ink cartridges had been refilled, or manufactured by third parties, and to refuse to print with any ink that HP hadn’t given its corporate blessing to.

The mobile phone industry has long been at war with its customers. When phones were controlled primarily by carriers, they were designed to prevent customers from changing networks without buying a new phone, raising the cost on taking your busi­ness elsewhere.

What began with printers and spread to phones is coming to everything: this kind of technology has proliferated to smart thermostats (no apps that let you turn your AC cooler when the power company dials it up a couple degrees), tractors (no buying your parts from third-party companies), cars (no taking your GM to an independent mechanic), and many categories besides.

In the face of all that, it’s a good thing we can audit the software and see whether it’s trying to cheat us, isn’t it? Well, it would be if the software was open, but it’s not. It’s proprietary software and it has all kinds of protections in place to prevent that. In addition, it has the government creating laws that make it a crime to even try.

What’s worse, 20th century law puts its thumb on the scales for these 21st century demons. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (1986) makes it a crime, with jail-time, to violate a company’s terms of service … Then there’s section 1201 of the Digital Millen­nium Copyright Act (1998), which makes it a felony to bypass the software controls access to a copy­righted work.

We have some allies. I’ve written before on the work of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and iFixit. These people and others work tirelessly to expose and counter the abuses of cheating corporations and bad laws. They need to because the cheating corporations work tirelessly to get bad laws enacted and to find ever more ways to cheat their customers, from farmers who aren’t allowed to fix their own tractors to cars that clean up their act when they’re in an inspection facility. Last word to Cory Doctorow.

Cory Doctorow – photo by Paula Mariel Salischiker

Making better computers won’t solve the world’s problems, but none of the world’s problems are ours to solve for so long as the computers we rely on are sneaking around behind our backs, treating us as their enemies.

via Locus Online Perspectives » Cory Doctorow: Demon-Haunted World

rjb

credit Alvesgaspar – CC-BY-SA

We’re joining the big leagues. No longer will the big guys look down their noses at our unsecured website. Now you’ll see that reassuring lock up there by the location bar along with that fully modern “https.” Don’t you feel safe now?

I was just waiting until it was free and easy to do. Let’s Encrypt went a long way toward that by creating a “free, automated, and open certificate authority.” Now you can get a certificate for your website without paying a for-profit certificate authority. That makes it easy for your web host to provide encryption for your site without having to charge you for it. Then it was a simple matter of calling up my host and asking them to install Let’s Encrypt on my site.

Well, not quite. The server I was on wouldn’t support it so they had to move Green Comet to another server. That meant it had a new address and the internet name servers had to propagate it, so we were in limbo for a while. You might have noticed we were hard to reach, but now we’re in business.

Almost. Now all the calls for http://greencomet.org have to be changed to https://greencomet.org. My head reeled! But this is computers and what are computers for if not to automate things? I found out I could edit a file on the site called htaccess that gives visiting computers special instructions when they arrive. Now if someone comes in looking for the old URL, it’s automatically changed to the new one. So now we’re good. I think.

Free but not so easy.

rjb

I don’t use Windows, so I don’t know if this is true. Has Microsoft actually inserted ads into its operating system? Although I’ve used some of their OSes occasionally, I’ve never had Windows as the working OS on my computer, so while I’ve heard plenty of stories about their questionable practises, I’ve never had any meaningful experience with them. I’ve become accustomed to advertising on the internet, but I don’t understand how people would put up with it on their personal computers. Do they? If so, why? And is there anything they can do about it, without actually changing operating systems?

Some quotes from a betanews article, which has about 500 comments at this point, mostly irate from what I can see.

Don’t believe what Microsoft tells you — Windows 10 is not an operating system. Oh, sure, it has many features that make it look like an operating system, but in reality it is nothing more than a vehicle for advertisements.

But if we’re honest, the company is doing nothing more than abusing its position, using Windows 10 to promote its own tools and services, or those with which it has marketing arrangements. Does Microsoft think we’re stupid?

Many of the various forms of advertising that can be found in Windows 10 can be disabled, but don’t expect this to be easy, particularly if you’re not completely au fait with the world of technology.

So, it looks as if it’s really happening, but I can’t confirm it myself. It looks as if people are putting up with it. It looks as if they could do something about it, although it might be too hard for most people. Please help me, dear readers. Has it really come to this?

via Microsoft is disgustingly sneaky: Windows 10 isn’t an operating system, it’s an advertising platform

rjb


Source: I ♥ Free Software – Valentine’s Day 2017 – FSFE

I Love Free Software Day has rolled around again. It’s easy to remember since it falls on Valentine’s Day every year.

Free Software drives a huge number of devices in our everyday life. It ensures our freedom, our security, civil rights, and privacy. It enables everyone to participate in a fair society. But as with people, everybody has different reasons to love Free Software. Let’s show this variety to the world!

Since I use Free Software to run this website, as well as to write my books, I am more than happy to give a shout out to all the world’s free software developers. Thank you, and please continue.

It doesn’t matter who and where you are and what you do – everyone can participate at the “I love Free Software” day in many different ways:

Thank contributors to the free and open source ecosystem personally.

Do it on social media, using this hashtag: #ilovefs

Do it on your blog. Link this blog, or link the original.

Happy I love Free Software day everyone!

And happy Valentine’s Day, too.

rjb