MJR slef-reflection AFFS feed

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Summary of AFFS-related things I do or know (This description last updated )

Warning: may contain unconsidered opinions and stuff I've just plain not thought through properly.

Anthony Towns notes I didn't vote in the debian general resolution. I didn't vote for two reasons: the vote was held at a very bad time, when many of us have more fun things to do than debug misbehaving "holiday" mail systems, and I think the proposed worst outcome wasn't legal anyway, so the vote was irrelevant for years, any road up.

I'm not delighted about the outcome, but it's better than it could have been.

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Revision Control Systems

"All revision control systems suck. This one just sucks less."

That's roughly what I'll say when I find one worth it. I've used rcs, cvs, svn, prcs, tla, arx, monotone and probably some I've forgotten.

They all suck, in different ways. I'm now really reluctant to install a new revision control system unless there's a clear benefit.

Matthew Palmer:

"Subversion is the One True Revision Control System and we should all just Stop Worrying and Learn To Love The Handcuffs"

Current target of my wrath is subversion, the lardy cake of revision controls. Over 5 times the footprint of CVS gets you atomic commits, but similar design problems with centralised servers and corruptable roots. Server choice is either a pserver-look one or an apache server with all the trimmings. The licence isn't even GPL-compatible, so forget about neat integration into some editors and development tools.

Finally, if CVS is "extremely dead" despite its last release in October 2005, then SVN must be buried and rotting because it hasn't released since August.

I tend to prefer distributed systems, especially when done well with standard protocols so that I can copy the archive somewhere close to me and work with it at relatively high speed, or off-line. It also gives the benefit that I merge when I want to, rather than being forced to choose between commit and branch. Centralised systems seem to make branching needlessly fiddly.

Beyond that, I strongly prefer a system which can generate tarballs and patches (as far as possible) so that the rest of the world doesn't have to install the binaries (even if they can). That's about the base level of compatibility for now and any new tool should at least try to support it, even if the export loses some information.

(I'm currently using a small shell script which just automates tarballs and patches, to help me move between my two computers here. I know it's only a 90% solution, but it's one I understand and can put some faith in. I need to have faith in my RCS. I like little less than losing work. Next step is to automate updates and merges, rather than doing them by hand.)

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More on GPLv3

Well, Georg Greve says he's heard my concerns about the GPLv3. Georg's a good guy. I wonder whether FSF will act on them and open up the GPLv3 process.

I note Georg's urging people to Say No to Vienna Manipulations which is interesting, given the structural similarities between the Vienna and GPLv3 processes...

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Bureaucracy, debian and the web

Reading old email can be entertaining sometimes:

"I've done this before, in various forms, and most of the time it follows the same predictable route: 25% of the time you get a really good committee and it's a blast for all involved; 25% you get a diabolical committee and it stands a chance of dying; half the time you get an average committee and it continues as it was before. The whole "committee" idea has some fairly major pitfalls to avoid: cliques, irrelevance and legality to name but three. [...] I think we should NOT form a committee."

-- Me, to alug, in April 1999

which makes all the crap from Debian-UK Society zealots like:

"While people like MJ Ray like bureaucratic bondage[0], it was felt by everyone else that the best constitution would be the simplest possible."

-- Scott James Remnant, to debian-project, in August 2005

even more obviously laughable. I didn't want a complicated constitution. I want either a minimally-complete constitution, or not to join it. They allow neither.

Annoyingly, the Debian-UK Society is still claiming many DDs became members without consenting (which violates article 20 of the universal declaration of human rights), still seem to have permission to use the "Debian" trademark and still seem to be a business selling CDs and t-shirts. Violating a human right may mean they're breaking our Human Rights Act - quite remarkable for a small club. Also, I've seen nothing that suggests that they have notified the Inland Revenue, which I think can get them fined lots, so donations may be at risk.

Tomorrow is International Human Rights Day (which centres this year on torture). DUS is a piffling matter, so it should be easy to deal with, but there seems to be lies, bigotry and ignorance in the way.

Freedom to associate is one of the most practical human rights. It lets us act on our support or opposition to things. Defend it.

I support debian but I oppose the way it's doing business in the UK. Do you support attempted conscription into an odd-looking UK business?

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UK legislators review DRM

The All-Party Internet Group (APIG) will conduct an inquiry into Digital Rights Management and invites written submissions of 1000 words or less by 21 December.

This is a great chance to make legislators think about the problems introduced by the recent ill-considered DRM laws and we can offer them some possible improvements. I think I will be asking for:

1. establishment of "fair circumvention" when DRM is being used to restrict what should be fair dealing or other vital acts - you can't make DRM systems "fail safe" but you can give some hope of recovering after they "fail closed";

2. legislation to ensure that DRM system owners are held responsible for computer misuse (Sony?), privacy invasion and monopoly effects resulting from their DRM systems, which will help limit distortion;

3. requiring collecting societies to allow members to leave, rather than letting us see more reports about why some artists aren't using liberal licensing yet.

If you can write a structured response to some or all of their questions, please do so.

At worst, let's hope we can avoid the likes of the recent French proposal that could ban free software here...

(Part of this item first appeared in an email to the fsfe-uk list on 5 December.)

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French law banning Source Code

I've posted a translation of an easier to read article about the proposed DADVSI law (source: ffii.fr) which might help more people understand what the complaint is. Here's how I read it but I am not a lawyer, much less French. (Vive la Wallonie...)

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Translation of article about VU/SACEM/BSA amendment

I was too tired to do this really, but I wrote a translation of an article about the French anti-free software law which I mentioned earlier. So, remember: E&OE, no refunds, no warranty.

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PR, GR, Law

On the first day of Christmas month, GPLv3 sent to me: three corporate counsels two FSF spokesmen, a research corporation director and a lawyer in a pear tree.

No community projects support GPLv3? Were they excluded or did they refuse? If GPLv3 is a similar corporation-placater to the FDL, sacrificing freedom for sponsorship, I predict a riot. A bit of discussion about this problem here.

The proposed resolution on publishing debian-private emails both contradicts itself and may have copyright problems. At best, reject. At least, amend.

Also troubling, a claim from FSF France that new laws threaten free software developers or at least public distribution of source code. What madness is that?

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Brazilian Free Software & Copyleft
  • Monday 10th October, 7pm - late
  • Guanabara, Parker Street, Nr. Drury Lane, London WC2
  • Cost: Free
  • This Cybersalon will discuss the Brazilian government's free software project and its support for copyleft at the forthcoming WSIS conference on 18-19th November in Tunis, Tunisia.
  • Longer description

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Awards, FACT, Formats, DreamBox
Outstanding Contribution to Software Development

Congratulations to the Winner: NoSoftwarePatents.com & The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII)

Instant Blitz Copy Fight Project

"I have a project to take a flash photo of every FACT warning I see before a film, flash b/c it lets everyone in the audience know that I'm doing it." -- Cory Doctorow

360K Floppies Were Not The Problem

This mention of closed binary file formats sounds a lot like one of the incidents that persuaded me that free software is the best way forwards.

I lost my system, but I had backups. I didn't have a backup of the unlocked version of a shareware word processor (some sort of copy-protection? I don't remember). So, I installed the original again, but the unlock code no longer worked (timed expiry) and the new owners of the shareware wouldn't/couldn't sell me an unlock code for such old software. Ow. I didn't have time to argue: I had papers to submit.

I gave up and rewrote the papers I just lost in TeX (using tex4all, IIRC). Now I mostly use groff, but I'm pretty sure I can still read and process TeX if I need to.

DreamBox 500 only 150 quid???

It can't take a hard disk, but it seems that it can NFS mount one. I don't know much about this and I'll probably continue my DIY receiver project (because I want to integrate disc and stream players), but I'm interested if anyone has a review of this. Let me know by email or trackback http://mjr.towers.org.uk/blog/tb.cgi/affd1003

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Packages covered on the debian-legal list last month include:

  • celestia
  • cinelerra-CVS
  • howtos (many but not all)
  • faac
  • flamerobin
  • gcfilms
  • ike-scan
  • larn
  • linux-kernel
  • linuxsampler
  • ntp
  • Loads of php-pear stuff
  • Stuff including tux images
  • star
  • stixfonts
  • umoria
  • vigra
  • warzone
  • wwwcount

Read more...

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Lands of IP Glory?
Sing along now:

Lands of I P Glory,
Mothers of all fees,
How shall we enforce thee,
While we're cussed wi' thee?
Wider still and wider
Shall thy bounds be set;
God, who made thee mighty,
Makes thee mightier yet.

EU IPRED 2 Alert

This beauty of anti-free-culture says:

"Member States shall ensure that all intentional infringements of an intellectual property right on a commercial scale, and attempting, aiding or abetting and inciting such infringements, are treated as criminal offences."

As the commentary says: "If we give litigators increased access to national enforcement bodies, and if we increase the harmful effects of litigation, we will encourage people to use litigation as a commercial tool in the market." Anyone for SCO UK?

USPTO proposes more international "intellectual property" rights
"The treaty language proposed for a webcasting right would create a new layer of property rights, lasting at least 50 years, for materials that are transmitted by web servers over the Internet and other networks. [...] The proposed treaty will harm the public, by imposing a costly and time-consuming thicket of rights, and will make it illegal to redistribute or copy works that are in the public domain, or which have been licensed for public distribution under a creative commons type voluntary license. "

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If you are interested in packages of:

  • bittorrent
  • bsdiff
  • dcc
  • enigma
  • fai
  • freemind
  • ironpython
  • larn
  • mail-notification
  • php4-apd php4-pear php4-pear-log php-auth php-date php-db php-file php-http php-mail php-mail-mime php-net-smtp php-net-socket php-pear php-xml-parser
  • rheolef
  • stixfonts
  • texi2html
  • tvbrowser or
  • zsnes

then you might find this package-based index of debian-legal interesting.

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Random bits
SCO's 3Q conference call
Report says "SCO now has 190 employees". John Airey (Peterborough LUG) said "This company is losing money like it's an Olympic Sport." I know it's mean to laugh, but: Haha!
Attack on Human Rights
[UK Interior Minister and Norwich South MP, Charles] Clarke said: "The view of my Government is that this balance is not right for the circumstances which we now face - circumstances very different from those faced by the founding fathers of the European Convention on Human Rights - and that it needs to be closely examined in that context."
Stalker Etiquette
"A stalker with good manners would remember that it is impolite to make normal phone calls after 10pm, and stalker phone calls after midnight."
UNESCO: Software Freedom Day
"UNESCO continues its efforts to develop free tools for processing information and to provide access to resources on Free and Open Source Software" (see also: FSF/UNESCO FS Dir)
More on sleep
Does what it says on the tin

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New monopolies and laws
Community Designs
"A Registered Community Design will grant a monopoly right to prevent unauthorised persons from dealing in products, which incorporate the design. Did anybody notice this new monopoly right going through?" - email from David M Berry.
Opposite of good: BT
Just to balance the last company recommendation, a company warning. BT don't even do the little they say they will.
Ulema Edict on Intellectual Property Rights Could Be Misleading
"This conclusion means that utilizing IP without a right is a violation of God's prescribed law and thus a sinful thing to do for a Muslim. [...] MUI's argument could be mistaken" - Mohamad Mova Al 'Afghani

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AGMs, Searching and Bad Orange
AFFS Annual Conference
"The Association for Free Software [...] We hold an annual 1-day conference and Annual General Meeting [...] Date: 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM SAT 13th AUGUST 2005 Location: [...] LONDON" - Gentoo, Hula, Software Patents, more to be confirmed. Hope to see you there.
No Bureaucracy at Barbecues!
Yet Another August AGM? Reports, voting and elections at a barbecue for a society which can't fulfil the aims of setting it up? "I move: the AGM dissolves the Debian-UK Society and authorises the transfer of all its assets to a Debian-UK trust, which will include the current account signatories if they wish."
koha Searching and ILL
  1. Referring to practical problems as ideology looks like trying to polarise the discussion, even if it's not.
  2. CQL default for advanced search, att:val for simple search.
  3. Implement as few search engines as possible, translate to/from any other similar ones.
  4. OpenSearch should be supported, but not with its own engine.
From Shiny to Orange
After the last junk mail a few months ago, I phoned and asked Orange to remove me from their list, which they assured me they would. A few years ago, I left Orange because their customer service is incompetent, so I'm not really surprised that they didn't remove me from their mailing list. This time, they've included a FREEPOST, so they'll get a postal complaint.

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Software Patents Film Theme

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