Karen Sandler’s Keynote address to Linux Australia conference


This is the keynote address that Karen Sandler (executive director of the GNOME Foundation) recently gave to the Linux Australia conference. It goes to the heart of why software is important, and why we should all have access to the sourcecode of the products which we all use everyday.

Karen has a rare heart condition and needed a defibrulator/pacemaker. One of her first questions when talking to a cardiologist about it was ‘what does it run’ – to which he had no answer, and didn’t understand why she cared. Yet, she cared for the same reason that *everyone* should care. ‘New’ defibrulators today are openly broadcasting over wifi patient details – so that when a patient walks into his/her doctors office, they no longer have to take their pulse – its on the computer already. Seems like a nifty feature, right? But the problem is, its not just broadcasting that info in the doctors office. It’s broadcasting it 24/7. In the mall. At school. In the airport. Everywhere. And the devices have been *proven* to be hackable – that is to say, it *IS* possible to hack into them and make them give the patient a shock. Or stop working entirely. Or any number of other things.

And yet, no-one can legally look at the software. And its not even reviewed (or tested!!) by any 3rd party – not by the FDA, not by anyone at all outside of the company that makes it. They say its ‘bug free’ – but anyone who knows about computers knows that there is *no such thing* as bug-free code. No. Such. Thing.

It goes to the heart of why open source is so important today – because we use computers constantly, everyday, without even thinking about it. We no longer drive cars; we ride in computers that drive. We no longer fly in airplanes; we ride in computers that fly. We no longer vote in elections; we tell a computer how to vote *for* us. Etc. And virtually all of these computers run on proprietary software which no-one outside the company that makes it has access to, to double check its safety, its security or anything else. And most of us don’t think twice about it.

Anyhow, its a long talk (nearly an hour), but is completely worth it. Its the reason that I use, love, and support Open Source Software. Its the reason why we all should.



First off, in case you haven’t heard, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) has passed both houses of congress with huge majorities and Obama has now said he will sign it. This is absolutely terrifying. Why? Because it codifies into #USA law indefinite detention, of anyone and everyone the president *accuses* of being a terrorist, or even merely supporting:


It simply cannot be any clearer within the confines of the English language that this bill codifies the power of indefinite detention. It expressly empowers the President — with regard to anyone accused of the acts in section (b) – to detain them “without trial until the end of the hostilities.” That is the very definition of “indefinite detention,” and the statute could not be clearer that it vests this power. Anyone claiming this bill does not codify indefinite detention should be forced to explain how they can claim that in light of this crystal clear provision.

So basically, assuming Obama truly does sign this in the coming days, anyone the president *accuses* of terrorism, can be held indefinitely. Accused. Not convicted of being, but merely *accused*. This bill passed the US Senate 93-7. Ninety-three to *seven*. So much for freedom in the USA.


Next up is SOPA – Stop Online Privacy Act. Sounds noble, doesn’t it? Its aim? Stop piracy Though of course there is absolutely no way to do this. If it passes though, we will end up with a corporate shell for the internet, at least in the USA. Companies will be able to (once again) merely accuse a website of infringing on their copyright, and thence force ad services (Google, Facebook, etc), and payment processors (PayPal, Visa, Mastercard, etc) to stop funding you. It will essentially force anyone who allows posting of content to constantly monitor & censor what is being posted. No more Youtube. No more Facebook. But we might stop a tiny bit of privacy.

Pissed Off Penguins (POP)

Kris Occhipinti is currently raising money on Kickstarter to fund Pissed off Penguins (POP), an Angry Birds style game built using the Blender 2.6 Game engine. It looks pretty cool, and I for one am excited. If/when completed it will be released under the GPL He’s raised just over $1700 as of writing – his goal is $2500.

I signed up to contribute, and am really hoping this all works out. My boys (2 & 4.5) both love Angry Birds, and this looks like lots of fun. And I for one would much rather support an Open Source/Free Software project than keep paying for dozens of new versions of Angry Birds on various platforms. Lets make this happen!

And just for the record? Even if the whole project never comes to fruition? At least we got tux in a bat suit! My boys will be in love. Especially the little one – he *loves* batman!!


FOSDEM 2011?!

So, it looks like I may have succeeded in convincing my husband that I need to go to FOSDEM! Which of course means, we’re going on vacation for… well, the first time!! A few hours spent talking it over and then looking up airfare, train tickets, hotels, hostels, etc has led us to conclude that going to Brussels first for the conference, then taking a train down to Paris and hanging out there for a couple days before coming home sounds like a plan. So, tomorrow we inform family of our plans and (hopefully!) arrange child care. Keep your fingers crossed. With luck I’ll be booking a hotel in Brussels within the week!