Brian Gough’s Notes

Archive for the ‘review’ Category

Free Software 101

Monday, June 7th, 2010

Bradley Kuhn and Karen Sandler of the non-profit Software Freedom Law Center produce a great fortnightly oggcast about free software, called the The Software Freedom Law Show.

While it concentrates on licensing and patents it is not just a programme for lawyers, it has a lot of information about the pratical legal aspects of free software projects for developers, such dealing with GPL violations or trademark problems, choosing a license, and fundraising or setting up a non-profit organisation for a project.

There is an archive of 40 episodes, going back over 2 years, on their site. In a recent episode they described this as making a good introductory course on free software issues — “Free Software 101” — for anyone new to the subject. A really useful resource.

The latest oggcast is a talk on software patents in the USA by Dan Ravicher the Legal Director of SFLC. They will cover the outcome of the US Supreme Court’s Bilski Patent Decision in a future episode once it is known.

Ted Nelson: “Geeks Bearing Gifts – How the Computer World Got This Way”

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Ted Nelson, inventor of the terms “hypertext” and “hypermedia”, has long had a radical view of computing and freedom for computer users. His 1974 book “Computer Lib” was an early manifesto for personal computing and computer literacy — before personal computers existed (the Apple I, the first assembled computer which displayed on a TV screen, didn’t arrive until 1976).

His latest book is “Geeks Bearing Gifts – How the Computer World Got This Way” (ISBN 978-0-578-00438-9, £12.51), a personal history of computing and the forces that have influenced its development. The book covers a vast terrain from the ancient world through the first digital computers, ARPANET, NLS, Xerox PARC, microcomputers, Apple, Microsoft, free software, GNU and Linux, and the Web up to the present day. The style and content are quirky but it’s full of thought-provoking ideas and well worth reading. As always, Ted Nelson has a unique perspective.

“We are imprisoned in applications that can be customised only in ways the designers allow… We are in a dark age of documents, most locked in imprisoning formats… This is a blighted parody of the computer dreas we had long ago.  But let us try to be optimistic. Who knows what yet may be possible? All the ideas have not not yet been tried.” — T.Nelson, “Geeks Bearing Gifts”

Two Bits – The Cultural Significance of Free Software

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

I have recently finished reading the book "Two Bits – The Cultural Significance of Free Software" by Christopher M. Kelty, Associate Professor of Anthropology at Rice University.

In summary, the book examines the development of the free software movement from an anthropological point of view (it is based on research work done as part of the authors PhD thesis).

The author identifies some interesting parallels between different endeavours involving freedom and the creation of information infrastructure, such as the development of internet protocols and free textbooks.
The website for the book is

It is published under the CC BY-NC-SA license.