WorldWatch Week in Review

by Willy Smith

This week's review actually covers two weeks, as my life was interrupted suddenly by catastrophic events that prevented me from writing a weekly review last week. We start off here with an amusing contrast between a pair of articles: an article from Wired presented a dark picture of FLOSS culture, while a new publication in Australia features everything from technical nitty-gritty to very light-hearted parody and feature writings.

A lot of interesting things are going on right here in Costa Rica. For one thing, I found out that there is a legislative project for FLOSS use in government that shows a great understanding of the real issues. Also, the Colegio de Abogados has started distributing OpenOffice.org to any of the 14,000 members who want it; they also are sponsoring some FLOSS seminars. Yesterday my anthropologist friend here, Felipe Montoya, sent me his write-up and subsequent thoughts about our original conversation about Open Source Seeds.

Coincidentally, yesterday I spent several hours talking to Maureen O'Sullivan, who is a professor at the University of West England at Bristol. Maureen is here in Costa Rica working on a legal project that would help provide a firm legal basis for FLOSS licensing based on the centuries-old principles of commons. Costa Rica seems to provide a unique venue for this discussion and possible application. I mention this conversation because Maureen has a lot of knowledge about genetically modified foods--the intellectual property and nutrition issues involved and even how grass-roots activism in Europe (especially the UK) has kept this issue from becoming more of a problem than it is right now. Our conversation also brought to light the fact that although the FLOSS community may be able to share a lot of information and techniques with efforts like the one Maureen is involved in, these grass-roots consumer movements have some things to give back to the FLOSS community as well. We are hoping to put more information out on this topic in the future, as it is germane to the basic conflicts developing in our world today and to ideas about how we can handle them peacefully. One thing I found particularly interesting was the idea of GM-Free Zones, places where individuals have made sure that no GM foods, seeds or other products are present. I think the same thing might be done by creating MS-Free Zones to foster a philosophical awareness that such software should be treated as a dangerous contaminant of the environment. Anyone who has visited Phil Hughes knows that his house is one such MS-Free Zone. Maybe I'll make him a sign.

An article from Spain patiently delineated and debunked the major objections to free software, and invites readers to participate in this and other FLOSS efforts. From the Far East, a major announcement was made about FLOSS development for embedded applications. Microsoft immediately called this an unfair competition, which is amusing considering what they've done to deconstruct the words fairness and competition.

SCO was levied in Germany, but only for 10,000 euros. That's less than 600 shares of its inflated stock, which is not even a slap on the wrist. We also have The Dueling Banjos as Darl McBride and Bruce Perens/Eric Raymond exchange barbs in two open letters. We're all hoping for a speedy deliverance from this FUD fight.

In other news from the music industry, RIAA lawyers have hit a new low, sounding more and more as if they might have spent their early years working for the KGB getting people to sign confessions. In the same article a French court decided that copy-protected CDs are defective merchandise, and customers can get them replaced or refunded.

Phil Hughes talks about his trip to Nicaragua and what he's thinking about Linux possibilities there. Meanwhile, I had a short interview with a US expatriate I met in the same country. I also posted my personal interpretations and thoughts on the recent IBM Linux commercial on prime-time US TV.

Thank you for your continued reading of WorldWatch.LinuxGazette. I am always open to your comments, suggestions and submissions.

Willy Smith is Editor in Chief of WorldWatch.LinuxGazette.

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