Disunited

My opinion on Unity, reduced to two sentences and with all profanity removed with a crowbar:

If you want a shiny barely-customizable straitjacket as a desktop environment, go buy a Mac. Please stop wrecking Ubuntu.

More Reasons to Like My Webspace Provider

This blog, and my various other web projects, are all hosted on Koumbit.org, a Montreal-based nonprofit technology co-op. They cost about the same as similar hosting packages elsewhere, but they’re technologically savvy, incredibly Open Source/Free Software friendly, help with Drupal, LGM and other FLOSS projects, and do a whole bunch of hosting for socially-relevant groups not just from Canada but overseas.

Case in point – what’s down at the bottom of the OpenMedia.ca site? “Hosted by Koumbit”. Awesome.

(and on a closely-related note to the OpenMedia link: on May 2nd, my fellow Canucks, remember your ABCs when you head to the polls…)

The Future: Sometimes It’s Fucking Awesome

A female astronaut living aboard ISS and a semi-retired British folk-rockstar (travelling in Russia at the time) perform a flute duet in honour of the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s first manned space flight. NASA then posts a video of the event on YouTube.

Link to YouTube link, for after Planet Ubuntu gets done killing the video embed. Seriously, go watch this, it’s only two minutes long. Two minutes of awesome.

Excellent Little Apps: PDF-Shuffler

Rummaging through my blogposts related to Ubuntu, too many of them are grumbling or complaining posts. We forget about the awesome stuff in Ubuntu because it Just Works; it’s the stuff that’s broken or that we dislike that consumes our attention.

So, let us now praise excellent little apps. There’s a Unix/Linux tradition of apps that do one job, and do it well, and that has continued into the desktop/GUI era.

I’ll start with PDF-Shuffler. All it does is merge & break apart PDFs, but it does it very intuitively, with a UI consisting of four buttons and a main screen. You can even drag’n'drop between two different PDF-Shuffler windows.

I use PDF-Shuffler regularly as an adjunct to Inkscape, which can produce PDF very easily but has (so far) no mechanism for multi-page documents (this is an SVG-spec issue, not just an Inkscape issue). PDF-Shuffler makes blending a group of single-page PDFs from Inkscape into one document for publishing painless and brainless.

A recent project involved a mostly-text six page PDF created in OpenOffice and four graphic-heavy single page PDFs from Inkscape. Rather than chance OOo’s SVG import, or hack about with Scribus (a very powerful app, but not one I use enough to be fluent with), PDF-Shuffler allowed me to merge Inkscape’s high quality PDFs with the OOo text PDF.

I can’t promise this will become an entirely regular feature, but I want to do a bit more blogging on the smaller, more elegant, often forgotten apps and features available in Ubuntu. If nothing else, it’s a change from complaining!

Appreciating Ubuntu Even More

Want to learn to appreciate the power of a modern desktop Linux install? Spend a week at your folk’s place, swearing at your stepmother’s WinXP box. Shockingly crippled… how do Windows users victims put up with this crap? No integrated FTP or SSH in the file manager, text editor that doesn’t recognize and support HTML or PHP, no support for SVG, OGG, PNG or a host of other useful file formats… blergh.

I love visiting the folks, I’m actually glad it’s snowing so we can hopefully get a good cross-country ski in tomorrow, but getting back to a proper, fully-functional computer will be kind of nice!

A Gap in the Creative Commons Licences

The “Non-Commercial (NC)” aspect of the Creative Commons Licences has been discussed a great deal, and there’s always been a lot of confusion over how to apply it (is simply having Google Adwords on a personal blog enough to trigger the NC clause?); there was even an extensive survey a year or two ago from Creative Commons on the NC clause & usage thereof.

There’s another, closely related gap in the CC schemes that I’ve just run into: there’s no way to specify “this product may itself be used in commercial products, but may not be sold by itself”.

The use case I have is a PDF package of gradient backdrops for photography which I’ve created; it’s a basic PDF of Inkscape-created coloured backdrops, mostly aimed at photography of wargaming miniatures. I’d be happy to have these used by a wargaming company for webstore/catalog pictures (or by anyone else, of course), but I don’t want the PDF (or printed backdrops from it) sold on it’s own… and there’s no way to make that distinction clear with existing CC Licences.

Anyone else got any other interesting licencing edge cases they’ve run into, or suggestions for cases like this?

Twas The Night Before Christmas…

Traditionally read on Christmas Eve, naturally, at least in our family. I can still recite large stretches of this from memory, purely from childhood repetition! This is the complete text of Clement Clark Moore’s famous poem, on one sheet. This is a project that’s been knocking around in the back of my head for number of years, and this holiday season I finally did something about it.

'Twas The Night Before Christmas

Also available on PDF, if you wish to print it for reading by the fire with care. (UPDATED 5th December 2012; I rearranged part of the website a while back and forgot to fix this link. Sorry. It works now!)

CC-BY License, although it doesn’t currently say so on the page. Done in Inkscape, naturally.

Happy Mid-Winter Holidays, everyone, however you celebrate them.

“… rhetoric from reality…”

“Since 2007 we have been deliberately placing some of our servers in jurisdictions that we suspected suffered a free speech deficit in order to separate rhetoric from reality. Amazon was one of these cases.” — Julian Assange

“The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.” — John Gilmore

“How many of you have broken no laws this month?” — John Gilmore

“So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” — John 8:7, King James Bible