It's a fact of life in virtually every community that there will be countless daily distractions -- news announcements, controversies, squabbles -- that take up the majority of our time and energy, leaving little for the big picture.
The Linux community is no exception.
That's why it was such a relief to see a post over at Linux.com recently that struck directly to the core of all that is FOSS and offered a reminder as to what it's really all about.
The Open Source Initiative ® (OSI), the premiere organization that promotes and protects open source, announced today that the WordPress Foundation (WordPress) has joined the OSI as an Affiliate Member. The WordPress Foundation’s mission, to democratize publishing through open source, has elevated WordPress to not only a globally recognized content management tool, but a vibrant community encompassing the ideals of open source software development, and advocacy for the adherence to the Open Source Definition. Its affiliation with OSI helps enhance and sustain the open software development community, while ensuring that millions of individuals, organizations and businesses can cost-effectively communicate online using a robust set of content management capabilities.
Is there still a future for GNOME 3, the open source Linux desktop that was once massively popular, yet in recent years has seen its preponderance wane in favor of alternatives such as Xfce and Canonical's Unity? Recent indicators say yes.
Full disclosure: I should was an avid GNOME user in the days of GNOME 2, the dead-simple yet elegant desktop environment that powered many Linux desktops for the better part of a decade. But when the GNOME developers switched their focus to the next generation of the platform, GNOME 3, circa 2011, I jumped ship, mostly because I couldn't make sense of GNOME Shell, the developers' attempt to discard everything users have learned to expect from the desktop-computer experience over the last 30 years and impose a radically new metaphor of user interaction in its place.
In 2001, Moodle was launched as an online solution for educators to freely adopt as a tool to reach and engage students in the learning experience within their own websites. Today, Moodle’s design and evolution continues to achieve this goal as a free and open source learning platform with clear pedagogical principles, adopted by over 50 million users in pretty much every country that has computers.
Sayan Chowdhury couldn't believe his name would be etched on the wall of fame along with other Mozillians. The Mozilla Monument outside the company's office in San Francisco recognizes contributors who've helped the maker of the Firefox browser and other products keep the internet alive, open and accessible. Chowdhury is one among the 5,000-odd Mozilla volunteers doing his bit for the love of code.
Nine years ago, Sam Altman was a Stanford University computer science student. And then he dropped out to start a startup.
This year, he's returned to campus -- not to finish his degree, but to teach a class called "How to Start a Startup."
Altman, whose mobile location startup Loopt eventually sold for a cool $43.4 million, is now 29 years old and the president of Y Combinator, an accelerator that provides seed funding and guidance to fledgling startups. He launched the class to make the wealth of knowledge Y Combinator gives to a select group of startups more publicly available -- not only by giving it to a class of 300 Stanford students but to everyone.
I was introduced to open source nearly 15 years ago by a friend when I asked him what that foot thing was bouncing around on his screen saver. He then explained what GNOME was and what open source software was. I was hooked immediately; the philosophy and methodology made perfect sense to me. It took awhile for it to become the focus of my career, but it's been an incredibly rewarding path.
I was working on another human-centered file system feature, union mounts, when I heard that a friend of mine had been groped at an open source conference for the third time in one year. While I loved my file systems work, I felt like stopping sexual harassment and assault of women in open source was more urgent, and that I was uniquely qualified to work on it. (I myself had been groped by another Linux storage developer.) So I quit my job as a Linux kernel developer and co-founded the Ada Initiative, whose mission is supporting women in open technology and culture. Unfortunately, as a result of my work, several more Linux storage developers came out publicly in favor of harassment and assault.
That’s one reason why I’m so excited that Ceph developer Sage Weil challenged the open storage community to raise $8192 for the Ada Initiative by Wednesday, Oct. 8 – and he’ll personally match that amount if we reach the goal! The number of Linux file systems and storage developers who both donated to Sage’s challenge and wanted to be listed publicly as supporters is reminding me that the vast majority of the people I worked with in Linux want women to feel safe and comfortable in their community. I love file systems development, I love writing kernel code, and I miss working with and seeing my Linux friends. And as you can tell by the lack of something like union mounts in the mainline kernel 21 years after the first implementation, Linux file systems and storage does not have enough developers, and can’t afford to keep driving off women developers.
I already knew that academia is behind the curve when it comes to IT, from my non-tech part time job at a local university library. For starters, there’s the overreliance on Windows. Then there’s the use of poorly designed proprietary products when perfectly acceptable GPL solutions exist — not to mention the look of scorn and fright coming from the IT people whenever the term “free and open source” is uttered within their hearing.
Although I already knew there was a problem, I didn’t know how deep the problem is until I spoke with GitHub’s Arfon Smith. It seems that academia’s inability to catch up with the twenty-first century even puts careers in jeopardy — especially in the sciences.
Markdown is a Perl script that converts plain text into Web-ready HTML; it's also a shorthand syntax for writing HTML tags without needing to write the actual HTML. Markdown has been around for a decade now, but it hasn't seen an update in all that time—nearly unheard of for a piece of software. In that light, the fact that Markdown continues to work at all is somewhat amazing.
Regrettably, "works" and "works well" are not the same thing. Markdown, despite its longevity, has bugs. But here, the software has an advantage. As free and open source (FOSS) software, licensed under a BSD-style license, anyone can fork Markdown and fix those bugs.
Recently, a group of developers set out to fix some of those bugs, creating what they call a "standard" version of Markdown. From a pure code standpoint, the results are great. Yet there was no surplus of gratitude. Instead, the "standard" group found itself at the center of a much larger and very contentious debate, one that's ultimately about who we want in control of the tools we use.