Make a difference in 2009

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As we wave goodbye to 2008 I thought now seemed as good a time as any to look back at the work done by the Free Software Foundation over the past year.

The FSF celebrated the 25th anniversary of the GNU Project this year with a breakthrough film from the English comedian Stephen Fry, who gave us an important reminder of the alternative vision for the technology we use, a vision where people don’t trade freedom for convenience but instead support development of tools that create a better society. More than 1 million people have watched the film and it has been translated into 32 languages.

Current campaigns include:

  • ACTA — the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement is an imminent threat to the distribution and development of free software. 
  • DefectiveByDesign.org: FSF’s campaign to eliminate Digital Restrictions Management (DRM). DefectiveByDesign.org is a broad-based anti-DRM campaign that is targeting large media companies, unhelpful manufacturers and DRM distributors. The campaign aims to make all manufacturers wary about bringing their DRM-enabled products to market. DRM products have features built-in that restrict you and spy on your activities. These products have been intentionally crippled from the users’ perspective, and are therefore “defective by design”. We aim to make it clear that DRM is an anti-social technology and practice.
  • PlayOgg.org: FSF’s campaign to promote Ogg, a free alternative to proprietary formats like MP3 and AAC
  • Today, there are many questions that the free software community needs to tackle — Does your employer or school require you to use Microsoft software? Are you required to use proprietary formats to interact with your bank or local government? Are your children being trained to use Microsoft or Apple rather than learning how to be in control of the computers they use?

    If you would like to support the FSF in 2009  — become a member or make a donation.

    I would like to wish you all a Happy New Year.

    Brisbane internet censorship protest

    Went to the Brisbane internet censorship protest yesterday, the video below from the ABC says that there was around 200 people there. It was a very hot sunny day. Overall I think everyone had a good time, the speakers were good and the crowd was getting behind them, occasionally people made internet geek jokes, it was cool to be around such a large crowd that actually get those jokes. Good work by the volunteers and protesters. I took a whole bunch of photos you can see below, hopefully people will add comments to those photos so we get a better idea of whos who. Thanks Jack for getting involved in the protest and helping with the photos. Some of the signs were funny, my favourites are the lolcats, fail whale, leet speak and of course don’t censor my dofollow links.

    One of the more serious speakers was Kieran Salsone , he gave a good short talk, and asked who was a member of the EFA, only one person raised their hand and then Kieran said something like “ok just one, well the rest of you may as well go home” and also said something about playing with the big boys. He really did resemble tom cruise in tropic thunder which kind of made me chuckle. I do know he was very serious and passionate about what he does, when he stepped down after his talk you could see his adrenaline pumping. Anyway I’ll join the EFA, its only $41 a year for individuals, they could learn a few things from the FSF and Bradley Kuhn about how to increase their membership, I guess thats if they’re interested in getting more support from “small fry” people like me.

    The only other thing I did was print some flyers on banner vinyl and gave them to Varg Narseth from DLC. They are pretty much the best quality stickers you can get so it was nice to contribute something to those guys.

    They say a picture tells a thousand words so check out my 31000 words below, I’m sure a lot of academics wished it worked like that.

    Also check out Janet Hawtins Designs.

    Edit: I’ve updated this article thanks to comments on flickr and this post. Thank you everyone for helping me piece this together.

    33 Second video featuring David Jackmanson speaking then looking around at the crowd early in the day.

    ABC Brisbane — ‘Net Censorship Protest

    Check out this article “Hands off our internet, say free-speech protesters” in the brisbane times.

    Act Now! Stop Censorship in Australia

    On Saturday the 13th of December throughout Australia, activists will take to the streets to demonstrate against the governments proposed censorship of the Internet.

    The Electronic Freedom Project, which describes itself as “dedicated to protecting the freedoms of Australians on-line”, is staging a protest at Sydney’s Town Hall Square on 13 December, starting at 12pm.

    Protests will also be held at Brisbane Square, Brisbane at 11am; State Library, Melbourne at 12pm; Parliament House, Adelaide at 12pm; Stirling Gardens, Perth at 12pm; and Parliament Lawns, Hobart at 11am.

    I implore anyone reading this to get up from behind your computer screen and stand up and be counted on saturday, its one thing to write about how we all find this filter proposal to be so ludicrous but it is imperative for all Australians to act now!

    I was reading Bill Kerr’s blog earlier and it really helped to clarify in my mind just why the filter is so very wrong for Australia, and indeed any nation whom values its freedom of speech.

    So once again I say…when Saturday comes, rise to your feet, get out from behind your computer and fight for the rights which you may soon lose.

    GetUp!

    big_red_button_petition
    GetUp is an independent community advocacy organisation which aims to give every Australian a voice with regards to political and governmental issues.

    They have started an online petition ‘Save The Net’ to try and put a stop to the proposed internet filter, if you want to have your say then here is your chance.

    The Open University?

    Open_University_logo
    The UK’s Open Source Consortium has accused the Open University of breaching its founding principles.  The Open University came about in the 1960’s as a move towards making university education available to all regardless of income or gender. Given the sort of forward thinking involved it is somewhat worrying that the OU has so far failed to support free software. If anything the OU seems to favour the proprietry software provided by Microsoft.

    As reported by the Inquirer, the OU’s bias lies in the student technical support services:

    It advises students that if they don’t use a Windows PC they “may have problems accessing the software and data files supplied with course materials”. It has produced a 31-page guide to using Microsoft software and also provides demonstrations. It has produced upgrade advice for Microsoft’s Vista operating system and even gone as far as promoting a Microsoft discount offer to its students.

    The OU does distribute copies of the Open Source Star Office to all students, but that endorsement pales in comparison to its backing of Microsoft. It has given no such advice, support or endorsement of Ubuntu, the free operating system lauded as the Open Source movement’s viable alternative to Windows.

    Its worrying that a student running a pc with open source software, on a limited income would have to basically scrap their set up and buy into microsoft in order to join the OU.

    Sharing Optus cable internet using Ubuntu Gnu/Linux

    Theres many guides on how to share the internet using gnu/linux on the web, this one will be fairly basic and I’ll try not to ramble on about you could also use this or that device to do it this way or that way. This will just be the cheapest way to get it up and running.

    All you need is an optus cable internet connection, 2 computers with network adapters and a crossover cable. Most computers have an onboard network adapater. In this guide we are using a computer running Ubuntu 8.04 and one running windows XP.

    This guide is loosely based on a Howto Share internet connection from ubuntu forums but hopefully a bit more newbie friendly and specific to Optus cable internet.

    network_setup.jpg

    The hardware setup

    By default the optus cable modem uses a usb network connection so plug that into the modem and connect it to the computer running ubuntu in a spare usb port.

    Plug the crossover cable into your ethernet port on the ubuntu computer and the into the windows computer.

    On my setup eth0 is the ethernet card, and eth3 is the usb connection to the cable modem.

    On Ubuntu systems, eth0 is the first network device (ethernet card) plugged into a slot. Additional ethernet cards plugged will become eth1, and so forth. I’m not sure why the usb connection is eth3, Im not very familiar with networking using USB, perhaps someone will enlighten us.

    Windows called the connection Local area connection.

    Software Setup

    The configuration settings for both computers

    Ubuntu

    We’re going to use the command line on Ubuntu for this, you can find it under Applications > Accesories > Terminal.

    Just copy and paste the commands after the “#” :
    1. For this guide we will change to the root user, the root user is the administrator account or superuser account on unix-like systems.
    # sudo -s

    2. Assign an IP address to the network card that interfaces to the other computers on you network
    # ifconfig eth0 192.168.0.1 up

    3. Then configure the NAT as follows:
    # iptables -t nat -A POSTROUTING -o eth3 -j MASQUERADE
    # echo 1 > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/ip_forward

    4. Install dnsmasq and ipmasq using apt-get:
    # apt-get install dnsmasq ipmasq

    5. Restart dnsmasq:
    # /etc/init.d/dnsmasq restart

    5b. If you get an error message here that says the socket is in use, try.
    # pkill named

    6. Reconfigure ipmasq to start after networking has been started:
    # dpkg-reconfigure ipmasq

    7. Repeat steps 1 and 2.

    Tip: check your internet is connected
    # ping google.com
    If theres not reply try
    # dhclient eth3
    then try ping google.com again

    windows

    Make sure you record your current setting before changing them so that you can change back later if you want to. You can click the images below to enlarge them.
    winxp_1.jpg1. We need to change the network settings on windows to assign it a static IP.
    Open Start > Control Panel > Network connections
    Right click on Local Area Connection and select properties


    winxp_2.jpg2. From the window that opens select “Internet Protocol(TCP/IP) and click on properties


    winxp_3.jpg2. Select the “Use the following IP Adress option and for the IP address: 192.168.0.2

    The subnet mask should default to 255.255.255.0, for the default gateway and preferred DNS server : 192.168.0.1 and select OK and OK.

    Final Notes

    If you find your having trouble it should be easy to change your settings back to their original state on windows and on ubuntu you can reboot.

    SEO For Firefox – Essential SEO Plugin

    SEO is an extremely broad term, covering topics ranging from; On-page optimisation, link building, viral marketing, conversion rate enhancement, PPC (pay per click) management, competitor analysis and link authority analysis.

    Now unless you’re an absolute guru, there is no way you could be an expert on all of these topics. But there’s no reason you can’t easily get a snapshot of vital data to help enhance your site architecture and search rankings.

    SEO Firefox Plugin

    One of the best tools to help you find an instant snapshot of data is the SEO Firefox Plugin. You can use it to easily determine:

    • Pagerank
    • Site Age
    • Indexed Links
    • Yahoo
    • Edu
    • Gov
    • Page
    • The number of Delicious bookmarks
    • Technorati and Alexa rankings
    • Google cached pages

    Why should I use it?

    Now if you’re a blogger or run a business Website, you may be thinking ‘I’m not that interested in SEO or learning about it’. Which is fair enough, however if you’re interested in the following then it may still be a very useful tool for you:

    • Growing your blog
    • Increasing the number of visitors that find your page
    • Directing tragetted traffic to your business site

    Not all links are considered equal

    Now it doesn’t take a guru to know that one of the biggest keys to a successful site is attention, and in web-terms that equates to links.

    As a blogger / webmaster it’s likely you’re experienced in trying to get people to link to you, you probably also realise that it’s actually a lot harder then it sounds. If you have the funds you could outsource your SEO to a company, but if you’d prefer to try do it yourself then SEO Firefox will help you identify which links will yield you the most benefit.

    Follow up to Choosing Your Webhost post; my friend that works at a los angeles marketing company sent me a review for bluehost site hosting which is one of the hosts I use.

    Photo by Flod

    Are free first person shooters the way of the future?

    As the video game industry continues making record profits, we’ve started noticing some companies bucking the $50 a title trend. Several big name companies have begun making free first person shooters that only require a download to get you fragging noobs and saving the free world. Nexon (the makers of Maple Story) has seen some great success with their free shooter Combat Arms (more information here), and War Rock has been going strong for almost 2 years now. These games typically make use of the razor blade theory – give the razors away for free, and sell the razor blades. In the case of Combat Arms, the game itself is free, along with weapons, but you’ll have to pony up some cash if you want the latest beret, or some stylish sunglasses.

    Gamers are getting ready for two of the largest free games to date to be released. The first is a cartoon shooter by the same people that made the Battlefield series named Battlefield Heroes, and the second is a remake of the old school game Quake, named Quake Live. While Battlefield Heroes hopes to introduce new game play, emphasizing fun and low computer system requirements, it will still rely on a traditional client download. In Quake Live, developer ID has decided to go a different route – recreating the original Quake game (which has been heavily modded over the years) into a browser based – lightweight shooter. More information about Quake Live can be found in the Quake Live fan forum, and look here for the Battlefield Heroes fan forum.

    Photo by Ayton.

    Choosing Your Webhost

    buy-blog-web-hosting
    Selecting a Webhost can be a daunting task, particularly if you’ve had no prior experience in the process. With so much competition, fake reviews and scams it’s hard to figure out just who to go with.

    Before choosing your host, ask yourself these questions:

    1.    What would happen if my site went down?
    2.    Would I lose customers as a result?
    3.    What would the net cost of losing those customers be in real terms?
    4.    Would I be harmed in any other way? i.e. Not being indexed by search engines or losing potential incoming links

    It’s worth paying for a quality host

    If you’re creating a website with business in mind, then by answering the above questions it’s likely you can see the value in paying for a decent host. However, even if you’re just wanting to host a blog, or a hobby-related site it still may be worth paying for quality to save you time and energy.

    Always research your host

    Before making a purchase based on gut feeling or whether their site looks nice, it’s always a good idea to do research around the host you’re considering going with. Simply do some searches of “host + complaints”, if it’s a dodgy host this should quickly reveal warning signs to you.

    Fake review sites

    It’s a better idea to search for “host + complaints” as opposed to “host + review” because many scammy hosts will go so far as to setup a bunch of fake review sites and aggressively SEO them so they rank for the top review search results.

    What should I look for in a host?

    If you have specific software you wish to use then you should definitely check the requirements and ensure the host can provide those. However if you’re interested in a faily simple page or a blog then generally look for:
    •    the ability to create sub domains
    •    PHP
    •    MYSQL
    •    The ability to modify your .HTACCESS
    •    Cron Jobs
    •    Ruby On Rails

    Another factor to consider is hosting with a provider in your own country. This will give you a relevancy boost for local searches.

    Hosting multiple sites on different domains

    If you’re just want to host a blog you may be better of going for standard web hosting, however if you plan to setup multiple sites it is worth considering going with a host that will let you host sites of different IP addresses. Although considerably more expensive you will have the benefit of being able to link between your sites and have the link equity count towards ranking, an example of such a hosting provider is Pair Hosting.

    Filter Fiasco

    191148-internet-filter
    Communications Minister Stephen Conroy is determined to push on with his plans to force Internet Service Providers to censor the Internet for all Australians. This clean-feed will be mandatory in all homes and schools across the country.

    The filter will supposedly censor material that is “harmful and inappropriate” for children according to the government. It seems to me that the child porn angle is a convenient means of testing the process of furthering state control. Those whom dare to oppose these moves will be labelled as against promoting child safety.  And if the proposed measures are enforced, the means is put in place for the government to limit dissemination of any information that it does not approve of.

    The protection for children is minor at best, an illusion at worst. The clean-feed does nothing to protect children from real threats like cyber-bullying, online sexual predators, viruses, or the theft of personal information. It may provide a false sense of security to parents, reducing effective monitoring of their children’s online activities.   nocleanfeed.com

    According to the goverments own reports these measures could slow Internet access down by up to 80%, and up to 10,000 sites a month could be wrongly blocked using even the most accurate software. If this filter happens it will be an incredibly ill-informed move on the part of the government and disastrous for Australians who value free speech.

    It seems to me that the huge amounts of money about to be squandered on this would be better spent on educating children and families about the possible dangers online.