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Mot-clé - copystraight

Fil des billets

jeudi 12 février 2009

Why Standards and Open Source Advocates Should Start Working in the Real World Again

No seriously, I am extremely angry right now. I've installed KDE 4.2 a few days ago and so far, I am pretty happy with it. Mind you, it's not for the faint of heart and I still think it was a huge mistake to ship it with Kubuntu Intrepid, because it is way too advanced (or not enough, depending on how you look at it) for the basic user, but that will do for another post. Screenshot Dolphin failure reading a CD with broken encoding What makes me angry right now is another matter entirely. Yesterday I received a CD from one of my clients. On this CD, one of the folders has a French name, with special characters, "dégustation". The CD was burnt by my client, probably on a Windows machine. I try to open it today with Dolphin. The folder with the special character won't open. I try with Konqueror. The folder won't open. In short, it is broken. I try it on a Windows box, no problem, the folder opens perfectly.

So I look around to try and find a solution to open the CD on my machine, because I need its content. Seems the only way to do this in KDE 4.2 is ... command line [1]. So much for usability.

And while I look around, I end up on this page and this comment, which I reproduce here :

We will no longer support broken encodings in KDE. We have had transition code for several years (at least since 2003) and I think 5 years is enough time for people to finish transitioning to UTF-8 environments.
This bug is about broken-encoded files. *Properly* encoded filenames should be working and if they aren't, please open a new bug report on the subject.
You will hate me for this, but this bug is a WONTFIX. 5 years is enough time. If in 5 years you haven't renamed all your files, you should use the terminal to do it.

So. There is a technical reason (which I cannot understand, way too complicated for me) why this won't be fixed. Fine with me. What seriously pisses me off is the excuse given why this won't be fixed, namely 5 years is enough time for people to finish transitioning to UTF-8 environments.. I find the argument outrageous. Here are my reasons.

  1. How many people even have a clue of what an "UTF-8" environement is all about? Probably 5% of the computer users, and I think I'm being large with that number. "Transitionning to a UTF-8 environment" is not something that has been advertised as the next trendy thing to do while installing your new computer. And I am pretty sure my father (and actually, even myself) has a few CDs from back in the days where file names had special characters and had broken encoding. Does that mean that we won't ever be able to open them again? (Well, my father runs Windows, so he probably does not have that problem to start with, but it's gonna make it harder for me to ever tell him to change for Linux and KDE. So much for usability.
  2. This works in one version, and doesn't in the next (see how that person found a workaround by installing the previous version of Dolphin). In my books, legacy should be one of the most important things that any software should take care of, and more importantly Open Source software. That InDesign (or Word?) doesn't do legacy is more of a commercial trick than anything else, I don't approve of it, but I can understand it. However, I find the fact that a piece of software as often used as a file manager does not allow me to open files from... wait... 5 days ago (this was when the CD was burnt!) completely unacceptable.

I take this example because it really hindered me in my workflow today, but I have encountered this kind of attitude many times over among Open Source advocates, in short, that people should just go along with progress and not look back. Well, guess what, I am an Open Source advocate, and I am also one of those basic users (ok, maybe a little more than that) who works close enough to the "everyday" user to have an idea of what people don't know and don't do. I will call my client and tell her that I couldn't open her CD straight away, and that she should maybe consider in the future not to use special characters because it makes for better cross-OS compatibility. That will be my little stone to the education of the general public into standards. Seriously though, I'll say that I'm on Linux and that it doesn't work. How does that sound? To me, pretty bad, and definitely not like a good advertisement slogan for Open Source altogether.

Basically, what I think we should be looking at here is not to "expect" anyone to have done "anything" that "makes sense", but look at ourselves and say if people haven't transitionned to UTF-8 yet, maybe it is our fault, because we haven't been good enough at communicating on standards and changes and progress. And failing at that will not get us, Open Source advocates, very far.

I think, for example, that Firefox and Open Office are a good example of a mix between "do with the broken" but also "teach people why it's broken and try changing their approach to these things". So yeah, the basic user might be really behind in their "transitionning", but that is where they are, it is the real world. And if we don't go looking for them, they won't come looking for us. To "do with the broken" does not mean "to further the broken", but it is a window of opportunity for us to teach people what good standards and practices are. And should be seen as such, not as a sign that everyone is behind, and we are soooooo ahead [2]


[1] Or through Nautilus, which I happen to have on my machine and which actually opens the folder, even with the broken encoding. Long live Gnome.

[2] [edit] I've just noticed that nautilus not only opens the folder, but does point out that the encoding is not valid, which is exactly the right behaviour, me thinks. Click on the image to see. nautilus opens a folder with broken encoding

mercredi 14 janvier 2009

Copyright and Free Licenses, Much Done, Still Much to Do

© - by Mikelo - CC-BY-SA It is interesting to see how far Creative Commons licenses have gone, and as interesting to note how much work there is to do in order to make free licenses enter everyday's world.

Netzpolitik reports that Al Jazeera put their video footage from the war in Israel under a CC-BY license, and that is great news indeed. It goes to prove how important free licenses are. In this conflict where so little footage is available, because journalists are not allowed to film, I find it fantastic that a news network, which primary goal should be to inform, allows others to use and reuse their information. The information is also of a critical nature, and although news networks are probably used to doing this, to engage in long conversations about what footage can be bought/used/reused would probably harm the quick pace at which this information should be made available. So kuddos to Al Jezeera for doing this, I can only wish more news networks and information sources would do so.

On the other end of the free license spectrum, I stumbled upon a completely different aspect of how people understand copyright while surfing on MakeTechEasier. I must say the last words in this post, which read:

Note: I have taken a lot of time and effort to write up this tutorial. You are free to link to this post, but please do not copy the whole article to your blog/website. THIS IS A COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL.

caught my attention. Especially this comment, which states:

I hope you don’t mind. i have added this as a howto on my webpage, and linked it back to you.

So I followed the link, and ended up on Dave Field's post about the same topic and there again, another line caught my attention:

The Writer has actually copyrighted his material, something i would never personally do, as its counter Open source [...]

The interesting thing here is the discrepancy between the intent (be more like Open Source) and the way copyright is understood (I would never copyright my work). At the time I wrote the commentary, the blog did not have any license information. As such, copyright in its strictest sense was enforced by default.

That is where there is so much work to do. Most people (and I don't blame them, it took me a hell of a lot of time to understand this copyright/free licenses stuff) are using the legal terms wrongly. A free license does not make the "copyright" disappear and you don't have to really "copyright" something since "copyright" _is_ there as soon as you are the author of anything. Of course, you can add a copyright on something provided there are no existing rights. But few people actually know that as long as there is no copyright/license information, any content should be presumed as heavily copyrighted. And few people know that "Open Source" does not necessarily mean dropping the copyright altogether, but rather making sure that the strings attached to the copyright allow better use and reuse of contents. It's interesting that the author of the MakeTechEasier post felt he had to add a warning at the end of his post. In an ideal world, everyone would know that since the source of the tutorial is clear (ie. he signed his post) his copyright should be respected.

And I guess it is our duty, as "open source" or "free content" advocates, to make these things clear and make sure that people understand tham. Hard task if any.

On a more personal note, I am glad and a bit proud that the blog's author decided to use a CC license for his blog after I wrote my commentary, and I can only hope one thing, is that he will spread the word ;-).

lundi 3 novembre 2008

Legally advertised

I read this morning on TechCrunch that MySpace has just figured out how to make money on videos.

I find the idea interesting. But most interesting, and although I am not a lawyer, I am curious to see how this will fare in the whole of DMCA battle that networks and other content owners have been leading against the contents uploaded on youtube and MySpace which, let's face it, are huge copyvio repositories. I suppose that as soon as you start monetizing illegal content, it might become way more difficult to ask for that content to be removed...

mardi 14 novembre 2006

Wikimedia logo highjacking

Where I am reassured that there are still people with imagination in the Wikimedia projects

I am one of those tedious defenders of the integrity of the Wikimedia logo. It is not, in itself, the best logo ever, but well, the Wikimedia Foundation has enough problems as is trying to differentiate itself from Wikipedia, it deserves at least its own visual identity.

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dimanche 8 octobre 2006

Madame et Monsieur tout le monde, il faut citer ses sources !

Où l'Agence n'est pas la seule en cause

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jeudi 5 octobre 2006

Madame l'Agence, il faut citer ses sources !

Où l'AFP oublie de citer Wikipédia

Il y a de cela deux jours, Mathias Schindler invitait qui le voulait à une petite comparaison de texte.

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