The Turing Appliance

Oh someone got me started on how “Linux” (whatever that is) is just an appliance operating system, destined for gadgets or clouds and never any traction in the area of desktop or general computing.


Lets just define that buzzword for a second, Appliance: a single function machine often involving electricity which is simple to operate. An appliance is a device which is very easy to measure the function and performance. It literally applies to one thing. Does it clean clothes acceptably? does it keep food cold enough to stay fresh but not so cold as to turn your milk into a giant ice-lolly?

Multi-function machines are like multiple appliances bundled together, it washes, it dries and it leaves a minty pine fresh scent! Computers on the other hand are Turing machines, they’re mathematically speaking NOT appliances, they can run anything and do anything and are only limited by their hardware.

The iPhone App is far more like an appliance, single function, often gimmicky tools that are very easy to say if they perform their work. The difference of course is that general electric never had the gall to break into your apartment and retroactively remove your washing machine for non-compliance.

Not all Apps are appliances though, some are games or web browsers which pretty much disqualifies them. So apple are selling appliances on top of their iphone platform, why would Apple (and others) want you to believe that the device it’s self is an appliance?

Lots of people would like to put the genie back into the bottle, would like to convince us all that their platform doesn’t need to be open, honest or property to be controlled by the hardware owner. No, it’s an “Appliance” you see, and you don’t need to install anything new on your washing machine do you, no need to rewire your fridge for new reasons. So don’t worry that we’ve taken all your freedom away but retained our own freedom to do as we please with your property after sale.

Ah that’s right, it’s a good old fashioned hoodwink. Beware anyone telling you that the general computer1 is going away and in it’s place will be simple appliances. You can turn a phone into a computer but you can’t turn a computer into just a phone. We’ve known for a while that the mobile phone industry was rotten. Even if you’re not a techy you could feel the malignancy leaching out into the mainstream and the same will be true of internet use and other domains of functionality for these so called appliances.

This industry will rot and decay as a single function, centrally controlled framework where our options are to build our own appliances on top of someone else’s locked down api. Turing machines will always be more like canvases than spanners, even if we draw washing machines on the canvas it doesn’t change the nature of the general purpose machine and nor should it.


1 Desktops might fizzle away, but that isn’t the same thing as the general computer.

What is Feminine Energy?

I was watching the amazing tedtalk by Isabel Allende as she described some of the women who dedicate their lives to making the world better and the incredible cultural sexism they faced in their journeys.

Near the end of the talk Isabel talks about the world as it is and how unsatisfyingly bad it is and how much better it could be if we could promote women’s rights and embrace women in jobs.

What’s striking to me is that I’ve noticed the tendency of not just the lack of women in various job roles, but also that any women that do get into those jobs tend to need to act like men in order to advance. I’m not just talking about sexism, but about aggressive social interaction, bullying and inconsideration for the wider implication of action. Their patriarchies are not familiar matriarchies or tribal relations.

There is an interesting thought that we should be investing more in enterprises run by women, especially in the third world where women can really make a difference for their families and society.

Isabel also mentions teaching young men how to understand and embrace their feminine energy. something I assume is code words for social organisation such as the idea that the people we talk to may actually be important enough to care about, empathise with and think about in a less self serving manner. I know it seems hard to think of people as people and not as ways to further one’s personal agenda, but it’s possible to teach I think.

I guess I’d be a feminist if I thought it should be a movement and didn’t just think of it as common sense. Rather than thinking I need to join a social group of people, I think I’m rather more comfortable imagining everyone a feminist and anyone who behaves sexist is simply that: outside the realm of acceptable behaviour.


Artists: Read Licenses!

There is a set of icons that just got posted to deviantArt and it got me thinking about the problems with artists understanding licenses:

The icons are great and these works are awesome and I love that artists are playing with the creative works that are shared in the greater commons available from the Ubuntu community. The problem of course is that ubuntu-mono is licensed as CC-BY-SA, in ubuntu-mono/debian/copyright:

(c) Canonical Ltd 2004- 2009

Unless otherwise indicated, artwork is available under the Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike license v3.0 or any later version.

The artist has published his work under a CC-BY-SA-NC license, it turns out that the work is inspired by but not a derivative work, bit if this new work had been based on the original ubuntu-mono icons, then they should be licensed CC-BY-SA as the share-alike terms specify.

Most of the time it’s just confusion and ignorance about the rights and requirements of various licenses and the need to check the licenses when creating derivative works. See the comments below for examples of confusion over the creative commons website text and what issues it can come up with.

This is actually quite hard to manage on the desktop since we don’t express license terms per file in any way on the desktop, it’d be on my wishlist to have some kind of indication on files when they have license terms marked in their meta-data. For SVG files this is quite easy as the terms are normally in the meta headers.

What are your thoughts? Do we do enough to help artists understanding licenses?

What is Possible

This image from George Smoot’s tedTalk back in 2008 is something which inspired me to think about the way people think about what is possible. This blog post may seem a little airy for some, but that’s because it’s going to be hard to explain what I mean when I try and compare the model for dark matter distribution in the universe (above) with the realm of possibly in an abstract way.

Normally the way individuals see possibilities is that they assess the data, the facts of the world and their model of the world and come to a set of conclusions which predict the likelihood of a given outcome. When you have the data of several examples this becomes easier to do. This isn’t a good way to think about it for large questions.

Now a harder problem, evolution, why do species evolve the way they do and why do we have the patterns we do. Well imagine evolution is playing a gambling game where in each move it’s got a chance to move somewhere on that colourful diagram above, the lighter the coloured area the more possible it is to survive in with that pattern, the pattern can be said to be more stable.

When we reflect upon the journey evolution has taken, it certainly seems to have a direction for a lot of adaptations, the species could be said to be complete at any stage (because it managed to survive in it’s environment) but still time marches on and the journey isn’t done and the next million years go by and now we have bigger teeth and better running.

This is how I visualise such a process on a global scale, trying to not think of single journeys, but what could have been and could not have possibly worked in that given environment and the pattern it all makes in a sort of “stability pattern matrix”. It’s this visual idea that allows me to speculate that say if we were to meet aliens then there are likely to be two kinds: those that are very much like us and those that as so different from us it’ll be hard for us to recognise them at all.

Anyway, enough fairy cake for today.

Free Culture Showcase Gallery

The Ubuntu-Artist’s deviantArt group now has a new gallery for all Free Culture Showcase submissions.

Subscribe to the RSS Feed and watch artwork come in as it comes in.

Anyone can post to the gallery so you don’t have to be a member of the ubuntu-artists group, but make sure that your :

  • The submission must be licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike or Creative Commons Attribution license.
  • The submission must be submitted by the author of the work.

In deviantArt this means “choosing” the license and only selecting these boxes when you upload or edit your entry:

I’m looking forward to seeing your submissions.

Individuals for FOSS

Interesting thought I got via email today:

Open Source will happen with or without us I believe. The production model is already taking over. Red Hat is now the backbone of the NYSE that is a barometer.

Yes Red Hat is looking after the NYSE and did release record revenues, they’re doing quite well with business up 19% this time. So this part is obvious to me:

I have no doubt that FOSS will take over software production, it’s just an economically more successful model of production. I repeat that this is an industrial revolution, but too few want to believe that we might actually be living in such an exciting time as that.

But the question on my mind is whether individuals, home users and small businesses will be in on this ride of freedom or whether they will be left behind by a corporate culture that only want to take money from OEMS, large enterprises and other easy sources of revenue.

Not only is it apparently impossible to make money from individuals, but it’s equally impossible to listen to them. A set of enigmas which are most certainly of the same knot and I’m looking forward to picking over the problem in the future.

Perhaps we’re just waiting for the big success, but I don’t hear FOSS being praised in the media or seized upon in OEM advertisements as loud as the production line was back in that revolution (I’m looking at you Android). It’s disappointing to me that there are still so many people even in our Ubuntu community that continue to explain that “home users don’t care how it was made”.

It’s disappointing because it’s wrong, it’s wrong to think that people are only consumers. It’s also wrong because it’s that same culture of ignorance of where our wealthy possessions come from that has driven the wrongs that laid a path to child labour and environmental problems. We’ve only begun to start fixing some of these problems and yet still a culture of “ignorance is good and normal” keeps FOSS down, that perhaps it’s something worthy for just the self-chosen few.

I do not subscribe to that notion and I will gladly tell every person, even my dear ol’ mum and granny what it’s about, reforming the words I use and the imagery I employ to help make it even easier to communicate. The market isn’t just about business it’s also about perceptions, only when individuals understand FOSS will the market solidify around the best of what we have and not the worst of what open source is according to a few bad Apples.

My thoughts are obviously long and ranty, but I’d still like to hear your thoughts?


I really liked this image and I wanted to share it with you all:

It’s published on deviantArt and it’s by Animtim.

Conceptual Icons

This is the current evolution of the FOSS icons I’ve been using for posters and flyers, as you can see I’ve been focusing on a number of concepts to iconify the powerful rights given to users with Free and Open Source software. The ones with the blue glow are by current choices.

Any thoughts on these icons yourself?

Suspend OK

The latest Ubuntu kernel updates have finally fixed the System76 machine’s inability to suspend correctly. Now my computer will at least be a little more portable to places where I can do a bit of coding.

I just can’t believe how long it took for the fix, not only because it’s a system76 machine and should be fairly safe, but because we shipped a kernel without even testing these things.

Where you effected by this problem?