Posts Tagged 'computers'

The Future

Where does the computing world go? I’m not talking just about Free Software, but about the whole industry. Even Microsoft is in trouble here.

What more can we do with computers? What will computers do five years from now that they can’t do today?

Writing documents and university papers can’t get much better than MS-Office, OpenOffice, TeX and DocBook. Each of them caters rather well to their respective markets (except some interoperability issues, which are really rather minor if you put the bizness bullshit aside.)

Music, Movies, Animation? You can’t improve this field much more in the home market, and the high-end market of professional artists and studios is rather narrow. (Although ideas expressed in Lessig’s Free Culture can make it wider …)

Business v1.0 software – databases, billing, CRM, ERP? It is a market of reliability, not innovation.

Websites, communications and social networks? True innovation in that area hit a glass wall long ago, if you ask me. Some websites make up nicer AJAX tricks, but that’s about it.

So i thought that the really innovative thing that can useful on a major scale may lie in the field of Linguistics (disclaimer: I am studying for a B.A. in Linguistics). Speech recognition, text-to-speech and automated translation – all of them are related to Linguistics; none of them can be done right without proper scientific Linguistic preparation.

Microsoft puts “improved” speech recognition into every version of MS-Office, but it is very far from doing it right. Xerox and IBM tried something in their respective (and respected) research labs, but it didn’t see the light of day (at least yet). Google are rumored to be doing something with statistics-based automated translation.

But no-one has anything finalized.

The first one who does it right will rule the whole market for years to come. Of the current players, Google seems to have the best chances to succeed, but it can also be a startup company created by an anonymous undergraduate Liberal Arts student in India, Nigeria or Ukraine. Or Israel?

(Originally published in Bug #1.)

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An open letter to Richard M. Stallman

Hello,

I am shopping for a laptop computer and i would like to buy one that is truly free – one that is able to run GNU/Linux without any restricted drivers, binary blobs and proprietary firmware.

I’ve been looking for such a laptop for almost a week now, and unfortunately couldn’t find it. I’ve tried asking about it on Ubuntu and gNewSense forums and local (Israeli) forums of GNU/Linux and Free Software experts, but the best reply i could get was that finding a perfectly Free laptop is just too hard and that at this time i should just give up! That is what Mark Shuttleworth himself said, even though he claims that he is also concerned about the issue of “radical” hardware freedom (see discussion at the bottom of Bug #1).

Why is it so hard?

For example: The hardware database at the FSF website has a list of network cards that support Free Software; This is informative, but in practice i couldn’t find anywhere on the Internet a way to search for laptops that have these cards. A lot of laptop vendors don’t even bother to list the manufacturer and model of the network card in the details of their laptops’ components, because in Windows they all just work and Ubuntu makes it relatively easy to install restricted drivers.

The above is also correct for video cards, DVD burners, etc.

So, apparently, most people – even Linux users! – don’t care about free firmware. I do care, and i tried my best to do something about it, but my wife urgently needs a laptop to write her thesis, so unfortunately it seems that i’ll have to buy a (partially) restricted system after all.

I thought that you would like to know that there are people that care about this issue, but find it hard to do something about it in practice.

If you do know about a laptop that is fully usable with purely free drivers, please tell me.

Thanks!


N.B.: I have great respect towards Mark Shuttleworth and i believe that he is doing his best to help and fix this issue. I regret using the word “claim”, but i already sent the letter to RMS and wanted to post it here without changes.

There’s a songbird who sings

I dreamt that a friend of mine took a piece of cake i was eating and threw it to the trash. I got unbelievably mad and tried to explain to him that let alone the robbery, i totally hate throwing food to the trash. He was quite indifferent and said that the cake was disgusting. I had to make a point, though, so i spilled a little water on his head. The funny thing is that a similar thing actually happened once – i spilled a little beer on a friend who was pissing me off (no, i didn’t drink any beforehand).

When that didn’t help, i turned to the Internet. The Internet always helps, doesn’t it? I’ll show you how bad it is to throw food away, i thought! So i started using a very old version of Netscape Navigator on a Mac. It was very annoying, not because the version was so old, but because it was configured in such a way that with every key i pressed, the computer played an annoying sound. I tried to turn it off, but couldn’t find where. Then i found out that it’s not even Netscape Navigator, but Konqueror. After a couple of minutes i started realizing that even when i don’t press any keys the annoying sound goes on. It was a nasty fucking bird outside the window.

Songbird
Ця-ця-ця-ця-ця-ця!!!

You probably know this lovely little poem:

I woke early one morning,
The earth lay cool and still
When suddenly a tiny bird
Perch on my window sill,

He sang a song so lovely
So carefree and so gay,
That slowly all my troubles
Began to slip away.

He sang of far off places
Of laughter and of fun,
It seemed his very trilling,
brought up the morning sun.

I stirred beneath the covers
Crept slowly out of bed,
And gently lowered the window
And crushed its fucking head.

I’m not a morning person.

Hantouli upside down
حنتولي

Well, i tried to take a picture of it instead, but it flew away, so i took a picture of another one, who looks quite the same, but not as annoying. Exhausted, i lay on the grass and took a picture of my cat Hantouli, which is the last thing that this blog was really missing.

P.S.: Blogger’s spell checker doesn’t recognize the words “fucking” and “blog”.


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