Do they think our enemies are stupid?

According to Lucky and confirmed by many people online:

many international United aircraft have their in-flight entertainment
systems disabled due to the “airshow” feature, where you can see the
location of your aircraft.

Let's ignore the fact that you could easily carry a GPS on to the plane (soon we'll outlaw GPSes, watches, phones and laptops) and just point out that with the departure time, arrival time and flight path, you can figure this out. Or at least anybody with some school math classes can.

And if not, you can always look it up ahead of time on one of many websites like FlyteComm. So obviously they are just trying to stop stupid terrorists and make life miserable for the rest of us. Smart terrorists will continue about their business as normal.

Even worse, there are also rumors that there will be no electronics on flights to the US:

Multiple sources, among them Xeni Jardin of Boing Boing,
have also been told that no electronics are allowed on international
flights. None. So you can't even play video games to distract yourself
from how badly you have to pee.

Now if someone was using electronics to detonate a bomb, couldn't they just lean down and push start in their bag? They wouldn't need to hold it and stare at it for a 10 hour flight.

Somebody needs to tell all these people (TSA? airlines? congress?) to calm down. If you are a US citizen, please call your congressmen and women!

TSA needs to take parenting classes

The TSA and the airlines need to take parenting classes. The New York Times now says some airlines won't allow us to hold anything during the last hour of some flights:

“Among other things,” the statement in Air Canada’s Web site read,
“during the final hour of flight customers must remain seated, will not
be allowed to access carry-on baggage, or have personal belongings or
other items on their laps.”

To me this seems like a worried parent. They heard that their kid was drinking beer at a party, so no more parties. They heard that their kid was drinking with their friend Bob, so no more hanging out with Bob. They heard that their kid could buy drugs at school … so no more school? You can't control every detail of other people's lives in order to eliminate a risk. You need to address the risks a different way.

I'm not saying that parenting classes will teach the TSA and the airlines how to deal with the terrorist threat (unlike a kid you've raised, they don't even know who the terrorists are), I'm just saying that trying to lock down everything is overreacting and unlikely to solve the problem.

No more than 3 ounces of any one liquid, taking off your shoes, putting your laptop in a bin by itself, not holding anything during the last hour of flight. That's like saying no parties, no Bob, no school.

Like any high school kid looking for beer is sure they could find some, I am 100% sure I could get on any inter US flight with a ticket under any name you'd like. (Well, maybe not an Arabic name.) I'm sure that any large, organized group could get a bomb on an airplane. I'm sure that anyone who really wanted to could put a bomb in schools or public places.

(I mean, really, instead of taking a 12 ounce bottle, how hard would it be to take four 3 ounce bottles? Or to have all your fellow terrorists carry some of it and combine it in the airport? Sometimes I think this rule was made by airport vendors hoping to sell us more drinks.)

The things that TSA and the airlines are doing are not preventing all the risks of air travel and they are wasting a lot of (our) time and money trying to make us (or them) feel safer without eliminating the risk.

Book Review: Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

I decided to read Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
because I find human bodies, anatomy, medicine, forensic science and how different cultures act fascinating.

Stiff was entertaining and funny but not riveting. I listened to the audio version and it took me months to finish it. And while I laughed at parts of it and I remember lots of stories, I can't remember any particular detail that I think you need to know.

But 393 people gave it an average of more than 4 stars on Amazon, so others must have had a better impression.

I'm on to listen to something else.

Amazon, let me give you more money!

Dear Amazon,

I would like to buy more books from you. In order to be able to give you more money for more books I need:

  1. A Kindle reader for my G1 Android phone. If I could read my Kindle books on my phone, I would buy many more books from you.
  2. Kill Kindle DRM or at least make it possible for other ebook readers to display Kindle books. (This is really to solve problem #1, reading books on my G1. But this is the best solution to that problem. It would also enable me to read books on my Linux desktop, netbook, etc.)

I have no desire to break the law, I simply want to read more of the books you sell in electronic format. I'm willing to pay you for that privilege as long as you make it easy for me to read those electronic books on the device of my choice. This could be done without any extra work on your part if you would enable others to work with you.

Please help me to spend more money at Amazon.


Stormy Peters

P.S. This will be followed up with "Dear Publisher" letters to ask them not to give Amazon exclusive deals to their electronic books as it means that a large number of people that would like to read their books will not be able too. Something that Amazon could prevent.

P.S. II. I like the Kindle. I own one. I recommend it to my friends. But I would still read more Kindle books if I could read them on other devices.

P.S. III. Many of my friends are free software supporters and anti-DRM believers. They are usually also the people most willing to invest in new technology. They would be more likely to buy a Kindle if you fixed this issue.

P.S. IV. While we are at it, I would also like to be able to easily download and play Audible books on my Linux system and my G1. Again, you could enable people to do this for you if you would make the format available to others who produce hardware and music players.

Today's world is one of cooperation. Others could help you succeed in your business if you help them succeed in their business and their lives. Like your Amazon Affiliates program. Now please apply that to Kindle and Audible.

Thanks, I look forward to working with you and buying more of your products as soon as they work on all my devices.

How to use interruptions to your advantage

When I first started public speaking, I loved when I had technical difficulties. Focusing on them – problems I was familiar with – calmed me down.

Today started out with quite a few technical difficulties. First my SO's car broke down on the way to work and I had to go get him. (About an hour roundtrip.) Then an hour later daycare called and said my 3 year old was sick so I had to go get him. (About 40 minutes roundtrip.)

So I'm trying to use these technical difficulties to my advantage. I'm squeezing all important work into nap time. I have to be very productive for two hours!

And then I think I might just take the rest of the day off. (Which can be productive in a different way.)

What do you do when you run into too many "technical difficulties"?

Stormy’s Update: Week of December 14th

This is my update for work done for the GNOME Foundation, reprinted from the GNOME Foundation blog. For a higher level overview for what I do as the Executive Director, see What do I do as Executive Director of the GNOME Foundation? or my earlier updates.

Pinged some people to help with GUADEC by mentoring or creating timelines.

Had a great conversation with Sara Crouse from Wikimedia about how they find, apply and manage grants, like ones from the Hewlett Foundation and the Ford Foundation. Looking forward to implementing some of that at the GNOME Foundation.

Spent an inordinate amount of time and energy on the threads that started on the Foundation list and the side conversations that came out of it. Assuming that even a fraction of the people involved spent that much time and energy, we need to figure out a more effective way to have those conversations. Obviously we could use some more self moderating earlier in the thread. Perhaps other forums, like the all hands IRC meeting we discussed in the past could also help.

Took some time off to deal with a personal crisis. (And no, it wasn't Christmas shopping – I haven't done that yet!)

Provided a quote for and OpenSuSE build press release.

Pushed a number of things and projects along from missing payments to projects with no activity to potential partnerships. Hopefully they'll all be moving forward soon and I'll be able to report on their success.

Posted a couple of blog posts. I really hope GNOME is able to set an example for how free software projects can transition to the web services world. And I think we all need to keep not copyright law in mind, but the fact that we are representing GNOME in public in mind as we post to public forums. Quite a few press folks and journalists picked up on the Foundation list threads and we certainly didn't look like we were following our own Code of Conduct.

Had a really good weekend with the family.

Who owns an email message?

Disclaimer: I am not an attorney and I did not consult an attorney about this blog post, so this is not legal advice. I may even be wrong, in which case you should leave a comment with your opinion.

I read an interesting article about whether or not you can publish the interview questions yourself if you are interviewed via email and I started wondering. If you have a conversation via email, can you publish that conversation in a public place? Turns out, you probably can't publish it without the other person's permission. The other person holds the copyright to the pieces they wrote and you need their permission to publish it. Or forward it on.

(Note that you can quote small pieces of their email. How much is up for debate.)

You can't even publish emails you found on public forums without permission. From NetM@nners:

e-mail that is posted to a group of people, on a mailing list
or Newsgroup does not make the e-mail available for reposting, copying,
or any other use – not without the express and written consent of the

So be careful how you use someone's email and words. It's about more than just attributing it correctly.

Also be careful what you write in email. Even though they aren't supposed to publish your mail, it's obviously really easy to publish and forward emails!

What do you think? Do you think email and copyright law will be an issue? Will people continue to ignore copyright law when it comes to email? Will copyright law change? Or will a few public cases of misappropriate email usages make everyone aware of copyright law?

Can free software transition to the web services world?

Etherpad is being released as open source software because the team is moving onto Google Wave. As an open source web hosted project, without a company behind it, it is unlikely to succeed.

Back when I used to talk about the business reasons for open sourcing code, “end-of-life” was always one of my first examples. People think, “oh, I have this project that I no longer want to work on but people still want to use it, so I’ll open source it!” They have the (often mistaken) idea that somebody out there will just start working on it.

This is exactly what Etherpad is doing:

Our goal with this release is to let the world run their own etherpad servers so that the functionality can live on even after we shut down

They are likely to lose a lot of users immediately as hosted software is very hard for end users to use without hosting.

There is a real need for hosting of open source web services.

Open source web service projects that have been successful like WordPress and Drupal have companies that can host it for end users. Without hosting, I think it’s unlikely that projects like Etherpad will be widely successful. And we should now ask what happens to the companies behind WordPress and Drupal when they get acquired?

The other type of successful open source web service are projects started by companies and open sourced as part of the business strategy for creating community or encouraging developers to help them out. In these cases the code is often written entirely by company employees. And the hosting is done by the company as part of that same business strategy. Projects like SugarCRM and Alfresco are successful open source web services but if the companies went away (or were acquired), the projects would have a hard time living on in the open source ecosystem.

Hosting for free and open source software projects is hard.

While it’s virtually free (other than labor) to start a free software project, hosting a web service costs money, especially if it becomes popular. And consumers are used to free web services. (Web service companies often make money off of advertising (on the free version) or by charging for a supported version or a version with more features or by hoping to be acquired some day.)

So if it takes a business model right now for web hosted projects to be successful, how do free software projects transition to the web services world? How does a project start as a free and open source software project and transition to a hosted web service without becoming a company?

I don’t think it’s enough to just make the hosted version available for people to install and use on their own. I think we have to figure out a way to also host the software. If you require people to host the web services piece themselves, you are confining your market to technical people or companies with IT staff. The project might become successful but it’s unlikely to be used by the average end consumer as part of their daily life.

So how do free software projects develop and host web services? Do they use business models like advertising to be self sustaining? Do they start foundations like the GNOME Foundation that will run as a nonprofit but make enough money of the hosted version to at least cover expenses? Or will all hosted services be essentially startup companies done by free software developers hoping to create a successful company?

Can we have self sustaining web service free software projects?

Stormy’s Update: Week of December 7th

This is my update for work done for the GNOME Foundation, reprinted from the GNOME Foundation blog. For a higher level overview for what I do as the Executive Director, see What do I do as Executive Director of the GNOME Foundation? or my earlier updates.

Answered a lot of emails and had a lot of discussions. As for things I actually crossed off my todo list:

  • Updated CiviCRM requirements document with a few more process like the travel committee. Met with Dave Greenberg from CiviCRM. He gave me a lot of pointers on how to get started. I'll be working on getting CiviCRM set up for the GNOME Foundation over the next couple of weeks.
  • Sent out email about the GNOME Foundation changing advisory board fees with the support of the advisory board.
  • Spoke to the Northern Colorado Linux User Group. Gave my "Would you do it again for free?" talk and had a very interesting and involved discussion. Someone from the first team I ever worked on at HP held up a "I heart ObAM" sign. ObAM is the user interface programming interface for HPUX tools. It sat on top of Motif when I first joined the team. (I actually had to read the sign twice to see that it said ObAM and not Obama which is a sign of how my world of acronyms and names has changed.)
  • Did all my expense reports for the last three trips. (I can't believe people griped about the semi-automated HP/Amex system. I personally would love to have it now.)
  • Attended GNOME Board of Directors meeting.
  • Worked with Rosanna to invoice a couple of advisory board members, including one that is funding a new  program.
  • Had a meeting with Rosanna over IRC. Trying to help balance out her workload. (I've created a lot more work. Since I've joined we've had a lot more events, invoicing, new programs, more Friends of GNOME, etc.)
  • Had a great GNOME Advisory Board meeting about events and copyright assignments. The copyright assignment discussion in particular was very dynamic.
  • Published November Friends of GNOME data.

Focus for this week:

  • My goals. Finishing a draft we can share so everyone can comment.
  • CiviCRM. Getting it set up. Starting first with Board of Advisors information and then Friends of GNOME.

Kids on Computers needs a web designer!

Kids on Computers needs a new web design. If we get it soon, we have a really cool hardware donation program that System76 is willing to launch with us for Christmas. (We also have 30 computers coming from Partimus that will go to schools in Mexico!)

Thanks, everyone, who has offered to help! I think we have lots of great potential and an awesome team!

Right now the website is pretty ugly. It's just a WordPress blog that I set up:


We had a web designer that created this for us, but she doesn't have time to implement it: (The logo was designed by Yolanda Castillo.)


If you know of someone that could help, point them our way. (They don't have to work with this design.)

We are happy to give credit or help out with LinkedIn recommendations or recommendations with future clients. Or with thank you letters from the kids written on the first computers they've ever gotten to use!

It'd be a great Christmas present.