Timothy Lord caught up with Ubuntu's Jono Bacon at OSCON and got a nice update on the state of the Ubuntu Phone, which Canonical first announced in January, 2013. Tim interviewed Jono about it on camera at CES in February. Look at the "Related Stories" attached to this intro and you'll see a bunch more Ubuntu phone stories. DISCLOSURE: At least two Slashdot editors currently run Ubuntu or Kubuntu, so we have at least a mild pro-Ubuntu bias. Bias or no, It's interesting to watch the Ubuntu phone development process, even as those who are satisfied with Android phone or iPhones, ask, "Why?" We could ask the same about the Firefox OS Phone, too. Maybe the most realistic answer in both cases is, "Because we could." But who knows? These new phone operating systems might turn out to be more useful than Android or iOS. We'll see.
Jim Hazard is a lawyer who leans geek; since he got his law degree in 1979, he's been the guy in the office who could make sense of things technical more often than others could, and dates his interest in regularizing complex legal documents (and making them a bit *less* complex) back to the era where Wang word processors were being replaced with personal computers. Most documents -- no matter how similar to each other, and how much work was spent in re-creating similar parts -- were "pickled" in proprietary formats that didn't lend themselves to labor-saving generalization and abstraction. That didn't sit well with Jim, and (in the spirit of Larry Lessig's declaration that "law is code," Hazard has been working for years to translate some of the best practices and tools of programmers (like code re-use, version control systems, and hierarchies of variables) to the field of law, in particular to contract formation. (Think about how many contracts you're party to; in modern life, there are probably quite a few.) He calls his endeavor Common Accord, and he'd like to see it bring the benefits of open source to both lawyers and their clients.
Imagine a short (audio) squawk, less than one second long, as a secure authentication method for cell phones or other mobile devices. A company called illiri has developed (and has a patent pending on) a method to do exactly that. The company is so new that its website has only been up for a month, and this interview is their first real public announcement of what they're up to. They envision data sent as sound as a way to facilitate social media, mobile payments (initially with Bitcoin), gaming, and secure logins. Couldn't it also be used for "rebel" communications, possibly by a group of insurgents who want to overthrow the Iranian theocracy? Or even by dissidents in Russia, the country our interviewee, illiri co-founder Vadim Sokolovsky, escaped from? (And yes, "escaped" is his word.) And, considering the way illiri hopes to profit from their work, should they think about open sourcing their work and making their money with services based on their software, along with selling private servers that run it, much the way Sourcefire does in its industry niche? Their APIs are already open, so moving entirely to open source is not a great mental leap for illiri's management. In any case: Is their idea worthwhile? Are there already ways to achieve the same results? Is illliri's way enough better than existing mobile device security systems that it's worth exploring? And would it be better, not just for the world in general, but as a way to help illiri's founders make a living if their software was open source? (Transcript included)
Newpapers. Remember them? The printout editions of websites like NYTimes.com, WSJ.com, and Rob Pegoraro's former workplace, WashingtonPost.com? Rob still writes for USAToday.com and its printout edition, but as a freelancer, not on staff. He's one of few newspaper layoff victims who has managed to hustle up enough freelance work to make a decent living. He's even on Boing Boing and Discovery.com. Where else? Tiny shots on various TV news programs, and one-off articles here and there. He's a hard-working and prolific guy, and he's had an insider's view of the decline of the newspaper industry and the rise of the online news business. In this interview he talks about both -- and adds a few cautionary notes for Rob Malda, the Slashdot co-founder who is now a Washington Post employee.
Declan Mccullagh, C|net's Chief political correspondent, has covered politics since the late 1990s for a variety of publications. He is a strong libertarian, privacy advocate, and long time Slashdot reader who is not happy about how the NSA and other government bodies are sticking their noses into our personal business. He and I originally talked about doing an interview based on a story he wrote for C|net on July 12 titled How the U.S. forces Net firms to cooperate on surveillance. Scheduling problems put the interview off for a bit, but here we are. Note that Declan has written millions of pixels worth of material about privacy, NSA spying, and related matters. With new revelations about unsavory government activities coming to light seemingly every day the interview delay is no big deal. And this question still remains: Can we repeal the Patriot Act? New Jersey Congressman Rush Holt wants to. What about your representatives? Are they willing to join Rep. Holt? Do you think they might if a bunch of people -- perhaps starting with you -- asked them to?
We've already done two video interviews with Peter Wayner. Third time being the charm, his latest book, Future Ride, is now out and available for purchase. If you've followed and possibly even enjoyed this string of interviews with Peter, Future Ride might be valuable reading material for you. It's what I call a "futureproofing" book, and in today's fast-changing world being prepared for tomorrow -- even just in the sense of thinking about the many ways our society might change if our cars and trucks drive themselves -- is valuable for business and career reasons, aside from the sheer joy of speculating about what the future may hold.
James Gosling is probably best known for creating the Java programming language while working at Sun Microsystems. Currently, he is the chief software architect at Liquid Robotics. Among other projects, Liquid Robotics makes the Wave Glider, an autonomous, environmentally powered marine robot. James has agreed to take a little time from the oceangoing robots and answer any questions you have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
UT Austin tends not to do things by half measures, as illustrated by the Texas Advanced Computing Center, which has been home to an evolving family of supercomputing clusters. The latest of these, Stampede, was first mentioned here back in 2011, before it was actually constructed. In the time since, Stampede has been not only completed, but upgraded; it's just successfully completed a successful six months since its last major update — the labor-intensive installation of Xeon Phi processors throughout 106 densely packed racks. I visited TACC, camera in hand, to take a look at this megawatt-eating electronic hive (well, herd) and talk with director of high-performance computing Bill Barth, who has insight into what it's like both as an end-user (both commercial and academic projects get to use Stampede) and as an administrator on such a big system.
Sarah's CyberCraft "about" page says, "Here at CyberCraft Robots, our Orbiting Laboratory allows us to search local star systems for Artifacts from the Future." CyberCraft's Earthside component is in St. Petersburg, Florida, where Sarah assembles robots from found parts that others might think are just ordinary industrial detritus, but that she has learned to recognize as parts from disassembled or abandoned robots. She has an alternate version of CyberCraft's history for people "with less imagination," about how she jumped from being a math whiz to studying for an EE to working as a programmer to art... and into making art robots. Or robot art, depending on how you look at it. The robots, ray guns, and spaceships Sarah makes will not fight battles or clean your house. They just sit there and look good. And they get shown in fine art galleries, so we know they're art, not just ordinary robots. This isn't to say Sarah is the only human making robot sculptures. A Google search for "robot sculpture" turns up plenty of others. We met Sarah purely by chance. We easily could have met one of the many other robot sculptors instead, but she's the one we happened to come across first. Perhaps the Quantum Computer that runs the Orbiting Robot Laboratory directed us to her. That's as good an explanation as any, isn't it?
Last week you had a chance to ask Jon "maddog" Hall about his work on Project Caua and FOSS in general. Below you'll find his answers to those questions.
Michael Steinhart, Editor in Chief of The Enterprise Cloud Site, went to this year's New York Cloud Expo, and saw only one booth with beguiling, scantily-dressed females trying to attract people to their employers' display. But Michael says one booth with babes was one more than last year, when the same show had no booth babes at all. So we wondered: Are booth babes going away? And if they are, is it because of political consciousness or tight budgets? Since Michael has put more time than we have into thinking about these questions, we fired up our webcam and had a little conversation with him about the future of booth babes at IT conferences and trade shows.
The last time we talked to Jimmy Wales Wikipedia had just reached the 300,000 article mark, and there was some question about whether it would be a viable competitor to World Book or Encyclopedia Britannica. Things have changed a little since then. Wikipedia now includes over 26 million articles in 285 languages, and Wales is advising the UK government on making taxpayer-funded academic research available for free online. Jimmy has agreed to answer your questions about internet freedom and the enormous growth of Wikipedia. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
It's been over 13 years since we did a Q&A with Linux International executive director Jon "maddog" Hall. For decades, maddog has been one of the highest profile advocates for free and open source software. He is currently working on Project Caua which aims "to promote more efficient computing following the thin client/server model, while creating up to two million privately-funded high-tech jobs in Brazil, and another three to four million in the rest of Latin America." He's also gearing up for FISL in Brazil, and helping to plan the FOSS part of Campus Party Europe in London. maddog has graciously agreed to find time to answer some of your questions. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
A few weeks ago you had the chance to ask James Logan, the founder of Personal Audio, about the business, the patents the company holds, and the lawsuits it has filed. James answered most of the questions in great detail. Read below to see what he has to say and what question he passed on and why.
For around a decade programming was not part of the computer curriculum in the U.K.. Through a lot of hard work from advocates and the industry this will soon change, but a large skills gap still exists. Tim Gurney is just one of many working on closing that gap. His Coding in Schools initiative aims to "work with schools and students and inspire the next generation of computer programmers and software engineers by creating and spearheading schools based programming clubs." I recently sat down with Tim to talk about who's working on the problem and what yet needs to be done. Read below to see what he's doing to change the state of things.
The OIN (Open Invention Network) site's front page starts out by saying, "Open source software development has been one of the greatest sources of innovation. It has reduced costs, improved functionality and spurred new industries." After another few sentences it says, "Open Invention Network® is an intellectual property company that was formed to promote the Linux system by using patents to create a collaborative ecosystem." Go a little deeper, on the About page, and you learn that: "Patents owned by Open Invention Network® are available royalty-free to any company, institution or individual that agrees not to assert its patents against the Linux System. This enables companies to make significant corporate and capital expenditure investments in Linux — helping to fuel economic growth." Today's interviewee, Deb Nicholson, is the OIN's Community Outreach Director. We did a video interview with OIN CEO Keith Bergelt back in February. This one adds to what he had to say. And once again, we remind you: "...if you or your company is being victimized by any entity seeking to assert its patent portfolio against Linux, please contact [OIN] so that we can aid you in your battle with these dark forces." Make your first contact through Linux Defenders 911 -- and may the OIN be with you!
Contributor Tom Geller writes: "I recently wrote an article about Bitcoin and the law for Communications of the Association for Computing Machinery. In researching it I ran into plenty of wishful thinkers, ridiculous greedheads, and out-and-out nutbags promising a rosy future. I also found the expected blowback from vehement naysayers who think the best way to combat crazy is with more crazy. But despite that, I walked away believing that Bitcoin — or a decentralized cryptocurrency like it (let's call it "Coin") — is here to stay. As an interested outsider to the Coin economy, and a long-time technology commentator, here's what I think its future holds." Read on for Tom's predictions.
This is our second video starring Backyard Brains (Motto: "Neuroscience for Everyone!"). The first one was pretty lab-oriented, with a twitching roach leg here and there. This one has more roaches, with most of them crawling on command. Will the DoD see this and decide to make cockroach soldiers? Or roboroach bomb detectors and defusers? Or cockroach drone pilots? Anything's possible these days. But meanwhile, relax and enjoy learning about roboroaches and watching how, with little circuit boards on their little backs, they scurry hither and yon under control of their human masters. WARNING: Excessively squeamish people should not watch this video, but should stick to the transcript.
James Logan founded MicroTouch Systems in the 80s and served on the on the Board of Directors of Andover.net, the company that acquired Slashdot back in 1999, but it is the company he founded in 1996, Personal Audio, that has garnered him much attention recently. Personal Audio sued Apple in 2009 for $84 million, claiming infringement on patents for downloadable playlists. Apple eventually lost the case and a jury ordered them to pay $8 million in damages. More recently, Personal Audio has filed suit against several prominent podcasters claiming that “Personal Audio is the owner of a fundamental patent involving the distribution of podcasts.” The EFF challenged the patents calling the company a patent troll saying, "Patent trolls have been wreaking havoc on innovative companies for some time now." The vice president of licensing for the Texas company counters that the EFF is working for "large companies against a small business and a couple of inventors," adding "Every defendant calls every plaintiff a patent troll. I've heard IBM called a patent troll. It's one of those terms everyone defines differently." Mr. Logan has agreed to answer your questions about his company and his patents. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
Peter Wayner is no stranger to Slashdot. Not only that, he's written a bunch of books, plus articles for InfoWorld, PC World, the New York Times, and many other publications. Now he's working on a book about Autonomous Cars. Last year Peter wrote an article for Car & Driver about the privacy implications of vehicle recorders. Driverless cars will bring us a whole new set of problems, questions, and -- no doubt -- legislation. We're hoping to have more conversations on this topic (and others) with Peter in the future, so with any luck this video will be the first of a long series. With all that said, take it away, interviewer Timothy Lord... Update: 06/05 21:56 GMT by T : Peter's book is still in progress, but it's got a website, if you'd like an early glance.