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FOSS Force

Kattoons are Back – Spencer F. Katt Purrs Again!

OMG, I’m reading eWeek again. Spencer F. Katt has returned!

For years, as soon as my copy of eWeek arrived by mail, I’d immediately flip to the last page inside the cover and read Mr. Katt’s column. After that, I’d turn to the software reviews and see what sort of programs the eWeek folks were putting to the test. This weekly ritual, always a high point of my week, crashed and burned sometime around January of 2009 when the magazine’s editor reported that beginning the following week, Spencer F. Katt would be no more. He was going away into the happy (or not) land of retirement.

Bear Turns Open Source Shark in Deep Water

Storm Bear Williams comes into the the FOSS Force office and plops onto one of two big, overstuffed chairs in our conversation pit. After a howdy, he says “I couldn’t find any microcassettes, so I got this.” He hands me a new, still in the box, Sony hand held digital audio recorder with a built-in microphone, good for 500 minutes.

Storm Bear Williams relaxing in San Francisco Bay.

He’s come for an interview. When I’d set up the appointment, I told him I was running low on microcassettes and asked if he could pick up a couple, just in case I needed them. When he discovered microcassettes are now obsolete and pretty much unavailable, he went ahead and sprang for something to get the job done.

A cynic might think this was only to curry favor, but I’ve known Storm for over twenty years, so I know better. For one thing, he doesn’t like to disappoint. For another, he’s pragmatic and always the businessman. He didn’t want the interview to go south just because it couldn’t be recorded.

WordPress Plugins for Usability & Traffic

After you’ve installed plugins to configure your WordPress site for your server and protect your site from spam, it’s time to get your site up to speed. You may have guessed this will partly require more plugins. Some will be for the purpose of visibility, to help people find you. Others will enable you to offer different kinds of content. For example, a music site would probably install a plugin to work with YouTube videos; a photography site would want to make sure to have an effective way to offer slide shows. At this point, every site’s needs are unique.

Before you get started, you might want to go through the WordPress repository to get a gander of what’s available. You probably have an idea of some functions you’d like to add to your plain vanilla install. Start your search there. It also might be useful to check out sites you like for features you think are cool and look to see if there’s a plugin for that feature on WordPress. Don’t install a plugin until you’re ready to use it, as it’s easy to install too many plugins and have a lot of dead weight hanging on your site. Remember, every new function adds some new security risk, however small, so there’s good reason not to install a function if you’re not using it.

WordPress Plugins for Security & Robustness

Yesterday I wrote about how WordPress has evolved into a first rate platform that can be easily customized. One of the ways that WordPress is customized to meet the unique needs of a site is through the use of plugins that add functionality. Most of these functions are visual and offer visitors a richer experience while on your site. Others are never even seen by the visitor and only indirectly affect his or her experience.

During site design, it can be easy to become so blinded by the the former group, the plugins that add lots of gee-whiz bells-and-whistles, that we ignore the later group that does the grunt work to increase our site’s performance. However, judicious use of these behind-the-scenes plugins can make our WordPress sites more secure and help reduce server loads, making for a safer and quicker site and a better experience for our visitors.

WordPress: Not a Toy Anymore

About five years ago I was publishing a content site running on PostNuke when I inherited a political blog with a killer name and a decently designed theme from a friend who had lost interest. There was one little problem, however. The site was running on WordPress, a platform that didn’t impress me in the least.

In hindsight, this may have been partly due to the fact that WordPress made many tasks too easy. In those days, the concept of blogging was fairly new and I didn’t like bloggers, who I saw as amateurs who hadn’t paid their dues. Blogging platforms like WordPress made running a website too easy, I thought. I had learned to be proficient on PostNuke through lots of sweat, work and mistakes, and I thought this new breed of web writers/publishers should have to work, learn and sweat like I had. In other words, I’d become a cranky old fart opposed to change.

LibreOffice vs OpenOffice: When the Ball Bounces Your Way

Probably the most boring open source story recently has also been the one getting the most ink. The problem with with the Apache/OpenOffice saga is that the real story already happened, it’s history.

Oracle’s “gift” of to Apache, and the change of license from copyleft to permissive, is merely an epilogue referring back to a prologue: Oracle’s sudden ownership of the open source office suite as a mere byproduct of their acquisition of Sun.

Groklaw to Continue Without PJ

Yesterday we got some good news and bad news on the Groklaw front. First the good news: Pamela Jones has changed her mind about her plans to quit publishing new content on Groklaw and announced that the site will be continuing it’s coverage of legal issues that challenge FOSS projects. The bad news is that, for the most part, Groklaw will be going on without Ms. Jones.

The new person at the helm is Mark Webbink, a lawyer who certainly has the credentials for the job. His history with Groklaw goes back to 2003, when he allowed Jones to use a previously published article on open source software. At the time he was the first general council for Red Hat, a position he held until 2004 when he became the company’s deputy general counsel for intellectual property. He’s currently a visiting professor of law at New York Law School, where he’s the Executive Director of the Center for Patent Innovations, and is also a senior lecturing fellow at Duke University law school. Since 2007, he been a board member of Software Freedom Law Center.

Evil Empire Buys Skype

Hmm…. I never had a chance to use Skype.

All of my friends are using it; talking to lovers in Europe, or to spouses in other states, or to FB “friends” who are who-knows-where. It sounds so cool, so romantic, sitting in the familiar confines of one’s living room in front of a laptop webcam, conversing with a friend across the continent or across the ocean as if they were right there in the same room. Until now it seemed so cool that I just knew I’d have to be a Skyper soon.

But then Skype went and got sold to the Evil Empire for $8.5 billion, which seems to be an awful lot to pay just to keep me from becoming a Skyper.

Security Risk in Firefox & Chrome

Many of us who use Firefox or Chrome browsers do so for security reasons. Unfortunately, this lulls many of us into a false sense of security, as there’s really no such thing as “safe” browsing. This has become increasingly true in recent years, as major content providers have insisted that a feature rich web experience should trump security, with the folks at Mozilla and Google seemingly willing to lend a helping hand.

According to James Forshaw with the security firm Context, there is a new security threat to worry about in the form of WebGL, which is enabled by default in Firefox 4 and Chrome. According to Forshaw, the risk is substantial – both to your data and to your hardware. Just to give you an idea:

As Android Passes RIM, What’s Next?

In the smartphone market, Android is now number one, according to a press release issued Friday by comScore, a company that measures online activity.

According to their figures, Android has passed RIM to take the top spot, with a 34.7% market share, up from 28.7% on December 10. During the same period, RIM’s share dropped 4.5 points, from 31.6% to 27.1%. Apple’s share remained relatively flat, increasing slightly from 25.0% to 25.5%. Microsoft and Palm dropped 0.9%, and now claim 7.5% and 2.8% respectively.

SCO’s Unix Sells for $600K

Evidently, SCO Unix is no more. Now all that SCO has left is continuing dreams of taking IBM down in a lawsuit that’s all but over, unless SCO’s bankruptcy attorney Edward Cahn exhibits the good sense not to continue to pursue a case that’s already six feet under.

The buyer, UnXis Inc., is based in Nevada. However, the company’s press release on Monday announcing the purchase came out of Dubai and described the company thusly:

“UnXis, Inc is owned jointly by Stephen Norris, previous co-founder of the Carlyle Group and MerchantBridge, a leading international private equity group with diverse interests operating from offices in the United Kingdom, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates. MerchantBridge has completed nine private equity transactions in the past five years, with an enterprise value of $4.5 billion.”

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