Arduino: reunited and it feels so good

I am cautiously optimistic about the recently announced resolution of conflict between Arduino LLC and Arduino Srl. Back when the issue flared up, I took sides based on the information I had available, but I then decided to refrain from public comment as additional information on the issue did not seem to be forthcoming.

While I am hoping this announcement means a lovebath for everyone, I am concerned about some of the wording used in the announcement, specifically that, “The newly created ‘Arduino Holding’ will become the single point of contact for the wholesale distribution of all current and future products, and will continue to bring tremendous innovations to the market.” Does this mean that Arduino will shift its focus toward for-profit and more closed designs? In other words, will the hardware arm of the project maintain the project’s fully open culture? There have been signs that things have been closing up on the software side as well since Arduino LLC seem to be be in no hurry to answer questions regarding whether the code for their new SaaS IDE will be open sourced or not.

So, cautiously optimistic I am.

Addressing some FUD on open vs. closed tech

Gate keepers

It’s a little early and so I may regret posting this, but I will do so anyway.

The Verge today is carrying a piece by Walt Mossberg that argues nothing is really open or really closed so, meh, don’t worry about it y’all ok? Because AppleGoogleMicroplex has your back.

His premise is that the debate between open and closed is false because the terminology is fuzzy. I’m pretty sure Walt is smarter than that. His premise is a festering pile of FUD.

For quite some time now, operationally valid and accepted definitions of “open source software” and “free and open source software” have existed. There’s no fuzziness in the terminology—if you understand the terminology. People involved in open source software have different motivations and philosophies for doing what they do, and this have led to different licenses that confer different rights and responsibilities to the licensee. They essentially break down into two camps: restrictive open source, where you must share all of your code modifications and derivations, and permissive open source, where you don’t have to share anything (but you might be required to attribute the original source with a copyright notice or similar). Both permit use in commercial projects.

Supporters of restrictive open source often strive for platforms that are fully open. Many powerful voices in FOSS today advocate for a computing and technological ecology where the user (the owner) has full and complete access to everything the device can do. They advocate that everything the device can do be documented completely in published, independently buildable and vettable source code and that the user (owner) should she wish be able to change any aspect of what the device can do to fit her needs or desires.

In the realm of communication devices, many advocates (myself included) feel that open access to software needs to extend to the radio units, GPS units, etc. And some (myself included) feel that hardware designs should be open source as well.

Thus there is no fuzziness in what people who engage with software development and those involved open source software movements mean by “open”. There is some fuzziness in application because those who advocate for completely open platforms are constrained by the products that are actually available (which are often built by those who use “open” tools only as leverage in their closed operations).

The other source of fuzziness is the straw-man FUD injected into consumers’ minds by articles like Mossberg’s.

“Open” can have several levels of completeness. However, there is nothing open about a house you buy that gives you access to only one or two rooms and lets you decorate them using only pre-approved designs that come out of an approved catalog. Confusing that with anything resembling “open” is the a serious bastardization of the concept.

Net neutrality progress?

PresO seems to be asking the FCC to classify the Internet as a common carrier (ref. http://www.dailydot.com/politics/what-is-title-ii-net-neutrality-fcc/).

Yay!

Now, dear Pres, please back this up with muscle!

One potential loophole: He’s asking the FCC to, “Reclassify the Internet under Title II of … the Telecommunications Act.” He’s not asking them to reclassify them as a common carrier under under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. I don’t know if reclassification under Title II in itself means that it becomes a common carrier or if there is a specific reclassification under Title II that’s required.

Anyone know?

Google Talk alternatives

google-talk-developers

Google Talk has been my preferred instant messaging service for years because it federates with other XMPP services. In other words, if someone wants to IM with you, she doesn’t need to sign up with Google; she can sign up with anyone who offers XMPP services or she can install an (open source) XMPP server on her own machine and connect with you with that.

All that is changing. A while back, Google limited XMPP federation, then reinstated it claiming it was done as an anti-spam measure. More recently, the huge Google Hangouts rollout finds XMPP federation at best being shoved to a back seat and at worst being entirely deprecated. Given that http://talk.google.com now redirects to http://www.google.com/hangouts/ it’s pretty clear that Google Talk is a deprecated service–so it’s hopeless to hang onto whatever federation Google Talk itself might provide. Federation lost.

Therefore, I will probably be shifting my default online presence from Google Talk to an account provided by someone offering unfettered XMPP service. Candidates include jabber.org (who I hope have solved their DDoS problems) and DuckDuckGo.

Thoughts on Free Communication redux

broken-cell-phone

I’m doing some international traveling at the moment. Wanting to stay in touch with loved ones has me contemplating Thoughts on Free Communication once again. It seems that all the pieces are there … I wish I had the headroom to set something up.

An alternative I hadn’t considered is Mumble+Murmur. An old post from Keshav Khera has turned me onto the idea that gamers might inadvertently lead the way toward decentralized and self-controlled realtime communication, and Mumble+Murmur seems to hold some promise in that area. AFAIK, it doesn’t support video and the Android clients don’t seem so very awesome, but at least one of them is FOSS. Something to look more deeply into.