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My Little License Crisis

Published on Sept. 26, 2007 at midnight by XC

I’m up to my ears in software license politics.

There are many people ‘pushing and shoving’ in the legal arena where free software is developed. In one corner, Richard Stallman, steadfast as ever holding on to the ideals of the GPL. In another is Linus Torvalds who hates those ideals but loves the license. Then there’s the folks behind BSD who want everyone to use their license. Add to that the meyhem of hundreds of fed up software authors who just want to release a program and end up writing their own license which others take, modify and re-release. So, how does one decide with so many choices, most of them bad?

When I first started writing software, we licensed our programs like this :

/*
* Booger, version 2 By Joe Public, January 1924
* If your cat gets pregnant because you used this,
* its not my fault.
*
* Donated to the public domain, hopefully you like it.
* Compile this program by typing :
*
* pick --disable-eating booger.c
*/

I really, really like the GPL2 license. GPL2 enabled quite a bit of the free software that we use and improve today, like Ubuntu. Unfortunately, there were some really tricky loop holes in the GPL, Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation patched these holes and the brawl turned into an all out bar fight.

Tivo pulled a nasty trick. Tivo designed a computer (yes, a Tivo is a computer) that you buy, loaded with free software .. but you can’t modify the software. Therefore, you don’t get the four freedoms granted by the GPL.

Category: Free Software
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Who Took The Click Out Of Keyboards?

Published on Sept. 26, 2007 at midnight by XC

I really love my computer keyboard, it has been with me for several years and has survived being used as :

A coffee filter
An ash tray
A tea strainer
A crash test dummy

… all without a single complaint.

I’ve typed on my keyboard so much that most of the letters have now worn off of the keys. Fortunately I don’t need to look at my keyboard in order to type.

I fear, however that soon I will have to retire my faithful clicky companion who has kept me company many long nights with its happy clickety-clicking.

When I write things (be it program code or blog posts), I really enjoy the clicking and chattering that comes from my keyboard. It helps me to drown out the noises from my air conditioner, traffic outside, neighbor’s music and other distractions. Sadly, my clicky friend has lost its clickeyness and no longer keeps me company.

“No problem,” I thought! “I’ll just go get a new keyboard.” This, friends, is where my tale of woe begins.
All of the new keyboards that I could find came with many extra buttons and wheels that I simply don’t want or use. I don’t program shortcut buttons, I don’t need ice blue backlights, I don’t need ‘ergonomic’ keys that inflict more pain than standard keyboards. I just wanted a simple, plain, new clicky friend so that I can put this one out of its misery.

Finally, I found a plain, 101-Key cheap keyboard but it didn’t make my favorite clicky noise. In fact, I learned that many newly manufactued keyboards don’t make clicky noises. Most new keyboards are engineered to be ‘quiet’. I don’t want an engineer living in my keyboard telling me to be quiet, I have enough engineers living outside of my keyboard telling me to be quiet.

Could anyone, anywhere recommend a link that allows me to purchase a plain, noisy, tactile-responsive keyboard without any extra keys that display the Microsoft logo?

My old not-so-clicky-anymore friend thanks you in advance, so do I

Category: Rants

Hey – Keep The Change :)

Published on Sept. 26, 2007 at midnight by XC

Anyone who has ever worked as a cashier can tell you, money loses its value quickly. It just becomes work for you, while you are accountable for keeping track of it. This makes cashiers very interesting people.

At every cash register in the world is some kind of cup or can with information about a charity on the front. To give, we put our loose change in one of these cups or cans, usually not even reading any information on the front – what do we care, the money must go somewhere useful, right?
I have a much better idea. Once a week, take $5 from your change at 7-11 and hand it back to the cashier. Tell the cashier “Give this to someone who falls short, or looks like they really need it.” Doing this makes your gift multi faceted. Your gift permits the cashier to commit a random act of kindness, and allows someone else to benefit from it. All this for $5, and you get to commit a random act of kindness too. What a deal!

Some people might say “Well, how do you know the cashier won’t just pocket it?” , you don’t. Likewise, you throw coins in a jar that you don’t read, what do you care? You gave. The owner of the store trusts the cashier with much more than $5, I’m pretty sure you can trust them to do something good with your gift.

While your at it, throw some loose change in one of those cans, usually that money goes to a good cause. You don’t have to read the can if you don’t want to. Enjoy the smile the cashier gives you in return for both gestures, then have a slightly better than normal day.

Category: Better Living

Iso : Mom-And-Pop Geek Shops

Published on Sept. 26, 2007 at midnight by XC

I’m looking for some small businesses who sell all things geek and offer open ended affiliate programs. I thought about Comission Junction, as well as others, however I prefer to deal only with small businesses.

Ideally, you sell or distribute stuff that geeks like, such things might include:

Anything that has a laser
Anything with lots of LEDs
Custom camera bags, laptop cases, multi-tool cases, etc
Multi tools themselves (all kinds)
P.C. Mods, case mods, cooling systems, etc
Cheap computer parts
Single board computers
Robotics stuff
“Junior Geek” toys (I’ll likely be a customer, too)
Geek books
Novelties (whoopie cushions, gags, etc)

My needs are really simple. I need thumbnail (50×50 or 100×100) images of your stuff and a link that lets me get credit for sending you sales. If you have such stuff, and such a program in place, contact me at tinkertim@gmail.com, I’d love to get setup.

Category: Blogeting

Gnupanel – Poised To Replace C-Panel/Whm?

Published on Sept. 25, 2007 at midnight by XC

One of the things I have been spending as much time as possible to advance lately is GNUPanel, a from scratch GNU-centric web hosting control and automation system, very similar to C-Panel. C-Panel is a proprietary web hosting control system produced by Cpanel, Inc.

Most of us know, one server is simply not enough. The emergence of social network and social bookmark services have added a new ingredient of unpredictability in the hosting industry. Out of the blue, Digg or Slashdot can and will drive millions of visitors to a web site, usually crippling the servers hosting the web site. Web hosts must be able to ‘scale’ to meet demands for their customers in such a way that customers pay for only what they use. I talk about this need more in another post.

C-Panel and (most other) proprietary control systems do not like the idea of ‘clustering’ (many computers teaming up to do one task) because it is very difficult for them to determine fair licensing costs. I once had the difficult task of erecting a 50 server cluster which used only one instance of C-Panel. This means, 50 servers ran, however, the host paid only for one license. This was not an intentional means of ‘ducking’ license fees, the host had plenty of money.. if we installed C-Panel on each computer, all cluster services broke, or we could not modify C-Panel’s behavior to lend well to clustered services (such as e-mail).

Php Glue – Install Applications Easily Without Fantastico

Published on Sept. 25, 2007 at midnight by XC

I’ve been sitting on the domain phpglue.com for over a year while wondering what in the heck I want to do with it. I often register domain names because they are interesting without much of a plan of what to do with the domain once registered.

Quite a bit of my time lately has gone into making free replacements for proprietary programs used by the Web Hosting industry. Companies that offer hosting need to be able to modify their software in order to tailor their offerings to the unique needs of their customers. Proprietary software that does not allow you to modify the source code ties the hands of the industry.

A popular program is named Fantastico, all this thing does is allow you to install free web applications with a few clicks. Fantastico has an update feature, to keep your software up to date, however this breaks if you modify your free software. A good example would be Joomla, PHPbb or others.

I’m going to download all 40 + programs that Fantastico enables you to install and create Mercurial repositories of each one. These repositories will be hosted on phpglue.com available to anyone for free. As these applications update, I’ll update the repository.

I’ll then make a simple wrapper that helps hosts install and configure Mercurial correctly so that it is available to clients. Clients then simply use a familiar web application to get their scripts and install them.

The beauty of using Mercurial for this is the ability to merge.

Shared Hosting, A Very Bad Idea.

Published on Sept. 25, 2007 at midnight by XC

I’m going to describe a horror story. It might not be scary for you, Mr. I own 20 servers, however it is scary for many people who rely on their web site for income.

Let us make a test / meta case, joe.com . Joe likes, .. (hmm) baseball. So, Joe spends the time needed to learn PHP programming and develops a community that focuses on baseball. His favorite team is the .. (hmm) wilderbeasts.

Joe purchases hosting from xyz host, which promises ‘superior’ everything. He develops a custom web presence that does very well, he spends lots of time marketing his web site. Joe now has 1500+ users who view his site daily, some of them click on his advertisements which helps to fund Joe’s monthly paycheck.

Joe is an out-of-work IT guy. No job, he’s too old, his job was sent to India.

Joe pays the $35 that xyz host wants, uploads his stuff, everything is going well. A month later, the Wilderbeast team makes it into the world series. Joe publishes a commentary which is picked up on Digg.com. Out of the blue, Joe’s web site gets 2 million visitors, because of Digg and how many people use it.

Sadly, Joe’s host terminated his account, wiped all of his data and databases and sent him packing because his web site was over-using server resources and interfering with the 500 other domains hosted on that server. Now Joe’s 1500 users go somewhere else. Bah, why must this be?

Sound familiar? Joe became a victim of his own success.

Dora? Bah, Get Them A Flashlight.

Published on Sept. 25, 2007 at midnight by XC

Tonight, I had the noble (but horrible) duty of putting my two year old into a one minute time-out. I’m not sure how I drew the ‘bad cop’ straw, I’ll have to examine that later.

60 seconds, I counted every one out-loud, she was not a happy camper. To find herself in such a predicament, she slapped and kicked me, pinched and punched her mother, then answered every verbal request with a most emphatic “NOOOO!”.

Dare I even need to explain, I felt guilty. Taking away my kid’s free will is never fun. So, I did what any self respecting father would do, dove out to a convenience store and looked for a bribe to get back in good graces. I found a flashlight, but a really NEAT flashlight. The flashlight has a blue plastic tip, krypton bulb (really bright) and operates on two AA batteries (perfect kid sized toy). I came back in, turned out all of the lights in the room, turned on the flashlight and handed it to her. Thankfully, it was dark outside or I would have really been screwed.

My child played with that flashlight like it was the neatest toy she ever had. She shined it around the room, on her, up my nose, in my mouth and ears, under the bed and every other nook in our bedroom that light can reach (light never reaches my nooks, I’m a geek .. we don’t bathe as a matter of principle).

I could not help but wonder how much money other fathers pay to ‘suck up’. Many would go spend 20, even 50 bucks on a Dora or Diego doll. I spent less than $1 (and it came with batteries).

Category: Parenting
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The Beauty Of Patches

Published on Sept. 24, 2007 at midnight by XC

There seems to be quite an uproar over the future of the Linux kernel. In particular, the adversity that Con Kolivas met when sending in his scheduler patches for main stream inclusion. Apparently, its causing quite a few rifts (and nastygrams) for and between Kernel developers.

I, frankly, don’t get it. Well, I kind of get it (I, too, have been called “terminally stupid” by Linus Torvalds) however I didn’t get upset, that’s just .. well .. Linus. What amazes me is a community of people now complaining that Linux is commercialized because some improvements for older hardware were not included.

Folks, Linux has always been commercialized, that’s why Linus wrote it. Linus hates the ideals and notions of free software. Linux is GPL2 because the license permitted Linus to ensure that his Kernel was widely adopted with plenty of room for commercial industry to help develop and use it. This sparked hundreds (even thousands) of people to send him improvements which made Linux what it is today. Linus had quite a bit to do with that process, he managed the project extremely well.

Torvald’s method worked, his Kernel is the only viable alternate to Microsoft and its (thanks to Dell) headed for quite a few servers and desktops. Linus is today’s “Tom Sawyer”, we all white-washed his fence for free. This was fine, we got a Kernel in the process. Richard Stallman already had the operating system developed.

Category: Linux
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