Tag Archives: software

A world written by one slice of a very big pie

Diversity in the digital sector, its the thing which I and many many others are banging about. In recent times, I have been thinking about this a lot and even more in regards to the Mozilla Festival.

This year one of the ambitions in Mozfest is…

How can we leverage the web to include more people, across gender, class, race and age? How can we be humble yet proactive in overcoming real discrimination and exclusion?

On a related note… , sent me a tweet to his idea to put together a digital diversity alliance.

I do want to make the digital world diverse, I am seriously worried about where we are going. There are signs that things will get better for some but its clear we need to look diversity not just one segment of the whole pie. I understand this is incredibly hard but its so important that the aim is the moon not just the upper atmosphere.

Mr Robot says Fcuk society

Recently I watched Mr Robot and a few other films (I promise no spoilers) but it emphasize the problem with a mono culture for me.

A young computer programmer (Malek) who suffers from social anxiety disorder and forms connections through hacking. He’s recruited by a mysterious anarchist, who calls himself Mr. Robot.

The problem with the mono culture around the digital industry is in my mind self evident. This is bad but its going to get way worst

As software makes its way into more services and those services in turn become a larger part of our lives through law, economics, social norms plus practically through the internet of things, synthetic biology, etc. It’s important to think about software as having an opinion of some kind.

Larry Lessig

Lawrence Lessig wrote a fantastic book called code: and other laws of cyberspace. Where be talked about code as law because the law is always playing catch up to the code, algorithms, systems and ultimately opinions baked into the code. Imagine trying to reason with a drone carrying guns, when you naturally act outside of the parameters set by somebodies idea of how people should act (or is that the American police force now?). Reminds me of a colleague at work who during BarCampMediaCity somebody thought was drunk and should be told to leave. But anybody who knows him, knows thats his natural state.

united colours of benetton advert

Ah Remember those united colours of benetton adverts? Maybe Tech needs more these…?

Sounds extreme but the example is pointing at the same thing. Its unconscious bias and unfortunately its being baked into software, hardware and the services we use. But unlike us its not got the chance to recognise the bias and correct its self (as such).


Why am I not taking Toby up on his ask?


You have time to help create the best Digital Diversity Alliance in the whole wide world.  It’s not a full-time job but we need committed individuals brimming with passion and drive.

I am time poor, I have a lot of things happening including helping out at a dyslexia group in Manchester and I’m trying to commit to less stuff till I get things in a reasonable state. Its a shame but I need to be honest with myself and its not fair on those who can do a equal or a better job but can also dedicate more attention than myself. Hate to be the one hold back such a great alliance.Take good fortune Toby and if I can help in future, I certainly would like to feed into the alliance in some way. I’d like to start this by encouraging you to float the idea in a workshop at Mozfest 2015. Equally if you too would like to have a less bleak, diverse and collaborative future. Contact Toby in his post

FLOSS software things which I wonder about…

“FLOSS” (Free/Libre/Open Source Software), and “FOSS” (or F/OSS, Free and Open Source Software).

I attended the Floss Unconference fest yesterday at Manchester Conference centre (a location I had planned to use for BarCampManchester2 due to their ability to do overnights and excellent warren like structure).
The event was reasonable but not well attended, which was a shame. It needed about another 30 people to feel more busy and active. Not quite sure why people never came out for it…? But to be honest I only spotted it by hearing a tweet from Teknoteacher. Anyhow, at the end of the day there were lightening talks and I jumped at the chance to talk about software which really needs to be developed on Linux. I’ve adopted this post to apply to most Floss type things…

First up…

  • What happened to Say my name desert? The developer moved to announcefy but frankly its a downgrade and I’m just about to uninstall it because they’ve been talking about plugins for yonks and they still don’t exist. Instead I just installed Call Announcer which seems to do what I want, but we’ll see…
  • In the same vein, locale what happened? I’ve switched to the hyper geeky Llama which operates based on radio cell towers so in theory it shouldn’t eat so much power as locale. But to be honest I’ve not really had time to mess with it and tweak it.
Now to the desktop…

I’m sure theres plenty more but these are my thoughts right now…

Opinionated software

It is opinionated vision-driven software

37signals say Agnostic software is bull

Some people argue software should be agnostic. They say it’s arrogant for developers to limit features or ignore feature requests. They say software should always be as flexible as possible.

We think that’s bullshit. The best software has a vision. The best software takes sides. When someone uses software, they’re not just looking for features, they’re looking for an approach. They’re looking for a vision. Decide what your vision is and run with it.

To be honest I’d never really heard the term till David Eastman said it on Techgrumps recently

We were using it in the context of Ubuntu 11.04 but it equally applies to iOS and many other operating systems and software.

Is it a good thing or bad thing? Hard to say, but to be honest I’ve not really seen much advantages to opinionated software right now…

The rainforrest will dry out if you don’t let it grow into the open

The Apple iPad

Everyone is talking about Steven Johnson piece in the New York Times titled Rethinking a Gospel of the Web. Steven Johnson a very good author of some fine books and clever guy generally, is starting to question if open platforms is not a technological-utopianism.

FOR about a decade now, ever since it became clear that the jungle of the World Wide Web would triumph over the walled gardens of CompuServe, AOL and MSN, a general consensus has solidified among the otherwise fractious population of People Who Think Big Thoughts About the Internet.

That unifying creed is this: Open platforms promote innovation and diversity more effectively than proprietary ones.

In the words of one of the Web’s brightest theorists, Jonathan Zittrain of Harvard, the Web displays the “generative” power of a platform where you don’t have to ask permission to create and share new ideas. If you want democratic media, where small, innovative start-ups can compete with giant multinationals, open platforms are the way to go.

I’ve long considered myself a believer in this gospel and have probably written a hundred pages of book chapters, essays and blog posts spreading the word. Believing in open platforms is not simple techno-utopianism. Open platforms come with undeniable costs. The Web is rife with pornography and vitriol for the very same reasons it’s so consistently ingenious. It’s not that the Web is perfect, by any means, but as an engine of innovation and democratization, its supremacy has been undeniable.

Over the last two years, however, that story has grown far more complicated, thanks to the runaway success of the iPhone (and now iPad) developers platform — known as the App Store to consumers.

He then lists what he sees as the successes of the appstore, iphone platform.

More than 150,000 applications have been created for it in less than two years, transforming the iPhone into an e-book reader, a flight control deck, a musical instrument, a physician’s companion, a dictation device and countless other things that were impossible just 24 months ago.

Hold on a second, this is also true of other platforms like windows mobile. Yes there hasn’t been 150k of apps but I’ve seen all type of things developers for windows mobile have done.

The decision to route all purchases through a single payment mechanism makes great sense for Apple, which takes 30 percent of all sales, but it has also helped nurture the ecosystem by making it easier for consumers to buy small apps impulsively with one-click ordering.

Agreed but I think a open system could also have benefited some very interesting payment and delivery models. Up till recently Bluetooth transfering of apps and media was huge but with the apps store everything has to go through a central server, how else will apple get there 30%?

And I think this is the point, an open system gives you the freedom to get really creative.

Apple could certainly quiet a lot of its critics by creating some kind of side door that enables developers to bypass the App Store if they wish. An overwhelming majority of developers and consumers would continue to use the store, retaining all the benefits of that closed system, but a secondary market could develop where more experimental ideas could flourish.

But whatever Apple chooses to do with its platform in the coming years, it has made one thing clear: sometimes, if you get the conditions right, a walled garden can turn into a rain forest.

I will be the first to admit Apple have done a good job with the illusion of freedom, its a bit like dark city where people forget there is a daytime and how to get to shell beach. Few people rub against the sides of the rain forrest or the dark city. However this illusion is only sustainable for so long.

Even those who bought ipads and tried to use them on the way home noticed the lack of ability to be used till synced with itunes on a laptop. Theres also something Apple did in there recent announcement about iphone software v4 development. New iPhone Developer Agreement Bans the Use of anything but there own software to build software for the appstore.

Applications may only use Documented APIs in the manner prescribed by Apple and must not use or call any private APIs. Applications must be originally written in Objective-C, C, C++, or JavaScript as executed by the iPhone OS WebKit engine, and only code written in C, C++, and Objective-C may compile and directly link against the Documented APIs (e.g., Applications that link to Documented APIs through an intermediary translation or compatibility layer or tool are prohibited).

So something like Adobe’s Flash-to-iPhone Compiler is completely out the window. As you can imagine this has outraged developers and pissing off developers. This has to be like poking in the eye of each one of the great apes, its just not what you want in a rainforrest, unless you want chaos. Or back to the darkcity analogy, John Smith is working things out. And finally Apple’s idea of one device for everyone is now just a theory,

The fact that the iPhone platform runs exclusively on Apple hardware helps developers innovate, because it means they have a finite number of hardware configurations to surmount. Developers building apps for, say, Windows Mobile have to create programs that work on hundreds of different devices, each with its own set of hardware features. But a developer who wants to build a game that uses an accelerometer for control, for example, knows that every iPhone OS device in the world contains an accelerometer.

The iphone 3GS has different features to the ipod touch 2nd generation. Not only that but some generations will now have the iphone 4th generation software with all those extra apis and older phones wont. Same for the ipod touch, some will some won’t. Throw in a ipad with its already different screen size, cpu, etc then give it different software based on when the upgrade comes out in the world. Yes this is sounding a lot closer to the Windows Mobile world than Steve Jobs would care to admit. From my understanding by Christmas this year, there will be 2 types of iphones running v4 software, ipod wise, 1 v4 and 1 v3. throw in a Ipad and who knows what happens when the Apple TV joins in on the fun? Theres no doubt that Apple will tie the AppleTV to the rainforrest in someway and apps will make it on the platform at some point. Goodness knows what specs and capabilities that device will have, lets alone what software platform?

Nope shame on you Steve Johnson for falling for this trap (its a trap!) Open systems are better, there just unpredictable and when your worried about the stock price, this is would be off putting.

Jonathan Zittrain of Harvard and the book I’ve been shouting about the future of the internet is right, the Web does display the “generative” power of a platform where you don’t have to ask permission to create and share new ideas. If you want democratic media, where small, innovative start-ups can compete with giant multinationals, open platforms are the way to go.

Inkscape is simply great software

Inkscape logo

I would just love to say, I upgraded my inkscape the other day because I needed to do something using vectors. In my younger days I would instantly use Adobe Illustrator but I really don't feel the need to any more. Inkscape 4.3 is as stable as a brick house (honestly never crashed ever, like previous versions) and although not quite working quite like illustrator. I'm really getting into the way it works now. I also felt so happy about Inkscape, that I decided to add my core but simple illustration to the openclipart project. You can see the whole thing here, till they move it. I provided the object under a public domain licence, so anyone can do what they like to it. I was tempted to do a whole range for XML, XSD, CSS, etc. But thought I'd leave it for now. But maybe one day soon I'll do it. It feel so good to beable to do this with opensource software.

You can't help but feel the tables are turning and there will be enough openclipart and applications like Inkscape to do everything in a opensource environment. Oh whoops, of course there already is. But these new crop like Inkscape, Firefox, Thunderbird, VLC, Koffice, Scribus, Openoffice, Gimp, etc really are getting the basics right and win market and mindshare. The google code thing has got me thinking that actually its time I started working with SVG a lot more like I use to. I mean there are people who can see it now and its growing as more browsers come out supporting SVG. Expect to see more inline SVG on this blog as time goes on. I dropped a SVG in this page just for testing purposes. Hey and what a great name for software? Inkscape. What more can I say, oh did I say how great the connector tool is? OMNIGrapple? Don't need it, I got Inkscape thank you very much.

The new Connector tool was used for a preliminary design of these flowcharts, when it was critical to keep items connected all the time while looking for the best layout. The flowchart lines were then edited with the Node tool.Diagrammers everywhere will find this tool invaluable. Connectors stay attached and automatically route to avoid marked objects as the drawing is updated. After the layout work is finished, connectors can be adjusted with the node tool.

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