Monthly Archives: January 2012

SOPA/PIPA is a symptom

Larry Lessig is something of a hero of mine. He’s a Harvard law professor who started out campaigning against modern intellectual property extremism that is locking up our culture and making creativity and innovation more and more difficult and more and more expensive. He created the Creative Commons to give artists a way to contribute to a free culture that they benefit from, despite laws which make that increasingly difficult.

A few years ago, though, he stopped fighting the battle against copyright extremism.

He stopped because he realized that increasingly overreaching copyright laws were merely a symptom of a much larger problem. It, along with inaction on climate change, pizza being classified as vegetables, ruinous deregulation and subsequent bail-outs of the financial industry and hundreds of other dysfunctions in American government were going to continue unless it is addressed.

The problem, as he sees it, is that people in government spend nearly as much time seeking campaign contributions as anything else. That large contributions grant access to the political process that ordinary citizens can’t hope to have. And that cynicism about this is so widespread, no-one in America believes that government can solve any real problems anymore.

I’d encourage you to watch the video above. He makes a very compelling argument.

And if we’re feeling smug as Canadians, well, we do do at least some of this right. The Harper Government has already erased some of the Crétien era campaign finance reform, however. And the US State Department exerts considerable sway in Ottawa, enough to get US-style copyright legislation like Bill C-11 passed. We are not immune.

Even if SOPA and PIPA are defeated, it’s inevitable that something like them will be passed eventually. Because Congress will eventually obey their paymasters as soon as it politically expedient to do so. It’ll happen unless the system is changed. Unless we are persistent and vigilant.

Unity and Daisy-Weaving

I’m giving a talk on Unity at KWLUG tomorrow (Monday) night. I was going to say something, but I really couldn’t do it any better than Paul Nijjar‘s announcement on the KWLUG mailing list:

Just like every other desktop environment recently, the GNOME desktop environment has been looking to update its WIMPy interface. GNOME 3 brings with it two prominent options: GNOME-Shell and Unity. Which interface will be the ultimate victor?

In the left corner, wearing orange trunks, is the Unity Upholder, Darcy Casselman. In the right corner, wearing aubergine trunks, is the GNOME Shell Gorilla, Chris Irwin. In this desktop deathmatch, Darcy and Chris will battle to the.. wait a minute. They aren’t fighting! They’re standing together weaving daisies into each other’s hair! (Where did they find daisies in January?) They aren’t going to fight at all! Instead, they will be demonstrating the strengths of the two desktops, discuss their goals, and address some common complaints. They will start spreading the love at 7pm.

If this sounds too touchy-feely for you, how about using your brains? This month’s FLOSS Fund nominee is MusicBrainz, a project to develop an encylopedia/database of music information, all released under open licences. You can use MusicBrainz to tag music or build website that play with data via web services. If you are so inclined, you can make a donation at the meeting, or by getting in touch with me.

The meeting will be held at our usual location

St John’s Kitchen
97 Victoria Street North
(Corner of Victoria and Weber Streets)
Kitchener

There is some Hippie Bus parking in the Worth a Second Look parking lot, and if you are crazy you can park your bike along the side of the building. Photos and maps of the location are on the website.

I don’t think I have enough time to grow my hair long enough to get daisies in there. Come out and watch Chris and I sing the free software desktop environment equivalent of Kumbaya tomorrow night.

2011 Year in Review

Wow. 2011, eh?

  • Back to school (sort of): I sat in on the two UW computer science compiler courses over the winter and spring terms. This has become rather useful at work, as I’m now on OpenText’s compiler team. I also helped recruit my CS444 instructor to help us out.
  • Speaking of work: it was a happy change for me to move teams so that I no longer work with OScript and started working on OScript to make it better for developers. OScript is OpenText’s proprietary programming language–something of a twist of history that was probably a great idea at the time is was conceived twenty-some yeas ago, but the developer experience of which has been sadly neglected over the years. We’re looking at rectifying that. The nice thing for me, is I’m doing fun and interesting things with Eclipse and with the language design, and I’m looking forward to getting the beginnings of that work in front of other developers in the next month or two.
  • Clutter: I gave my first KWLUG talk in 2011 on Clutter. I gave it again at Dev House Waterloo as well. I’ll be giving my second KWLUG presentation a week from Monday, this time on Unity.
  • #LRTAwesome: Following on from 2010’s involvement in Northdale, I gave a delegation to the Waterloo Regional Council in favour of the region’s LRT project. It was gratifying to me to feel part of a community effort that, in spite of opposition from the local media, was able to get that back on track. As it were.
  • Hail to the chief: Somewhat unexpectedly, I became President of Kwartzlab. It’s been a great experience, really. We pulled off a pretty amazing Hacky Halloween event, and brought in a grant to buy an awesome new laser cutter. But it has meant that I’ve had to prioritize my time a bit more than I’m used to. It has meant that I’ve had to pull back a little bit on Ubuntu stuff.
  • Circle of friends: However, Ubuntu Canada hasn’t suffered all that much from my being distracted with Kwartzlab. In fact, we now have two monthly Ubuntu Hours hosted by Charles and Bob on the first Friday and third Wednesday of the month respectively. And we had the usual Global Jams and release parties. And I even finally got my Ubuntu membership.
  • FSOSS: And, I went to FSOSS in October to give a talk about Ubuntu Canada, the Ubuntu community and how people can get involved.
  • I’ve been doing a lot of public speaking lately.
  • Ellen: Continues to be awesome. She really inspires me by being able to remain positive in spite of everything. We got to spend a whole bunch of time together doing some pretty amazing things: concerts, Perimeter lectures, Stratford plays, a trip to Montreal, her cousin’s wedding… I’m quite pleased with myself that I was able to get some of our friends down from Ottawa to jam with Ellen at her house for her birthday. We made sweet music together. Literally!
  • A surfeit of blogs: One thing that really fell off the map this year was this blog. With all the things I’m doing, it just hasn’t been as much of a priority. You’d think that would mean I’d have lots of things I’d be eager to talk about. And it does! But with Twitter, a weekly coffee meetup with friends where I can just tell them things, Ellen being very patient with me as I work out problems or tell stories on the phone where I might have otherwise done that here, I don’t feel the need to take the time to compose something. And I feel bad about that, but I acknowledge that the blog has become an unfortunate victim of prioritization. One thing that I really do feel guilty about is that I feel like I’m shirking my responsibilities and should be blogging more about Kwartzlab, Ubuntu Canada and the Agile P2P (especially after I’d agreed to blog about sessions for Communitech. I only did one of those; I’d have done more, but I’ve had to miss nearly all the sessions since the summer). For Ubuntu Canada, I have actually done of few of those, more than anything else this year.
  • Agile Book Club: Was a fantastic experience, but unfortunately now seems to be in the past tense. The principle members have either gone off and started a consulting company, Lean Intuit (I love the name), got themselves elected moderators of Stack Overflow or they’ve been whizzing around the world giving talks at Agile conferences. So the book club becomes another sad victim of prioritization. My one real regret is I’d just brought Eric on board just before it faded. He always has great insights and I’m sad he couldn’t have been a part of the club as it was in 2010 and early 2011.

All in all, I think this was another pretty fantastic year in a whole bunch of areas. I’m looking forward to 2012, but (hopefully, if I get my slides done for the KWLUG presentation), I’ll talk about that later.