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Displaying posts by Bradley M. Kuhn

A Requiem for Ian Murdock

by Bradley M. Kuhn on December 30, 2015

I first met Ian Murdock gathered around a table at some bar, somewhere, after some conference in the late 1990s. Progeny Linux Systems' founding was soon to be announced, and Ian had invited a group from the Debian BoF along to hear about “something interesting”; the post-BoF meetup was actually a briefing on his plans for Progeny.

Many of the details (such as which conference and where on the planet it was), I've forgotten, but I've never forgotten Ian gathering us around, bending my ear to hear in the loud bar, and getting one of my first insider scoops on something big that was about to happen in Free Software. Ian was truly famous in my world; I felt like I'd won the jackpot of meeting a rock star.

More recently, I gave a keynote at DebConf this year and talked about how long I've used Debian and how much it has meant to me. I've since then talked with many people about how the Debian community is rapidly becoming a unicorn among Free Software projects — one of the last true community-driven, non-commercial projects.

A culture like that needs a huge group to rise to fruition, and there are no specific actions that can ensure creation of a multi-generational project like Debian. But, there are lots of ways to make the wrong decisions early. As near as I can tell, Ian artfully avoided the project-ending mistakes; he made the early decisions right.

Ian cared about Free Software and wanted to make something useful for the community. He teamed up with (for a time in Debian's earliest history) the FSF to help Debian in its non-profit connections and roots. And, when the time came, he did what all great leaders do: he stepped aside and let a democratic structure form. He paved the way for the creation of Debian's strong Constitutional and democratic governance. Debian has had many great leaders in its long history, but Ian was (effectively) the first DPL, and he chose not to be a BDFL.

The Free Software community remains relatively young. Thus, loss of our community members jar us in the manner that uniquely unsettles the young. In other words, anyone we lose now, as we've lost Ian this week, has died too young. It's a cliché to say, but I say anyway that we should remind ourselves to engage with those around us every day, and to welcome new people gladly. When Ian invited me around that table, I was truly nobody: he'd never met me before — indeed no one in the Free Software community knew who I was then. Yet, the mere fact that I stayed late at a conference to attend the Debian BoF was enough for him — enough for him to even invite me to hear the secret plans of his new company. Ian's trust — his welcoming nature — remains for me unforgettable. I hope to watch that nature flourish in our community for the remainder of all our lives.

A Special Appeal for Support by Bradley M. Kuhn

by Bradley M. Kuhn on December 29, 2015

In this video, Bradley M. Kuhn, Conservancy's Distinguished Technologist and President, asks you to support Conservancy. Bradley explains a few details of what Conservancy does for its member projects and the Free Software community and the benefits of becoming a Supporter.

Note that if you are in the USA, you should renew or join in the next few days to be eligible for a tax deduction on your 2015 taxes (to the extent permitted). Also, Conservancy currently has a match provided by Private Internet Access, which will double your supporter donation if you make it soon!

This video is also available on Youtube.

Tags: conservancy, supporter

Sumana Harihareswara Explains What Conservancy Does & Why She Supports Us

by Bradley M. Kuhn on December 22, 2015

In this video, Sumana Harihareswara gives a nice introduction to Conservancy, and explains why she supports Conservancy. Sumana explains Conservancy's work in a way that's easy to understand for those who are new to issues surrounding software freedom, so this is a great video to share with your friends and family this holiday season to convince them to join you in supporting Conservancy.

(Also available on YouTube.)

Tags: conservancy, supporter

2015 YIR: Conservancy Wins DMCA Exception for Smart TVs

by Bradley M. Kuhn on December 18, 2015

[ This is a blog post is the fourth in our series, Conservancy 2015: Year in Review . ]

For 7 years, culminating in a major victory this year, Conservancy has fought for your right to do cool things with your digital television. As part of the review process for exceptions to the DMCA, Conservancy fought for and won an exception for so-called “Smart TVs”.

In early February 2015, Conservancy filed a formal long form comment with the Copyright office, following up on our initial petition in 2014.

**Photo of Williamson testifying at the DMCA hearing**

We continued in this process, even though we have extremely limited resources compared to other organizations working in this area. We funded travel expenses for our pro-bono attorney on this matter, Aaron Williamson of Tor Ekland P.C., to testify at a hearing on the matter.

In October, our hard work yielded success. The Copyright Office granted the exception in their issued ruling.

What does that mean for your software freedom? If you own a television with a digital Linux-based firmware on it, you can extract that firmware, and figure out how to replace it with a more Free-Software-friendly firmware stack like SamyGo without fearing a DMCA violation.

The road to this type of software freedom was even longer for Conservancy. We sued Samsung (along with many other defendants) back in 2008, and assured that Samsung released the copylefted components in their firmware. Like the OpenWRT project, the SamyGo project exists thanks to active GPL enforcement by non-profit charities like Conservancy. With this DMCA exception, we can be assured of a clear and equal playing field for hobbyists and life-hackers who wish to modify the devices in their home.

Would you like us to continue this important work? This is precisely the type of activity we'll cut from our budget if we don't get meet our target of 2,500 Supporters.

Tags: conservancy, GPL, Year In Revew 2015

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