I’m a Geek!

The title, by itself, is pretty obvious; I’m a geek, otherwise I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing, even with the bile refluxes I end up having, just for the gratitude of a few dozens users (which I’ll thank once again from my heart; you make at least part of the insults I receive bearable). But it’s more a reminder for those who follow me since a long time ago, and who could remember that I started this blog over four years ago, using Rails 1.1 and a Gentoo/FreeBSD install.

Well, at the time my domain wasn’t “flameeyes.eu”, which I only bought two years ago but rather the more tongue-in-cheek Farragut.Flameeyes.Is-A-Geek.org where Farragut was the name of the box (which was contributed by Christoph Brill and served Gentoo/FreeBSD as main testing and stagebuilding box until PSU/MB gave up).

At any rate, I’ve been keeping the hostname, hoping one day to be able to totally phase it out and get rid of it; this because while at the start it was easy to keep it updated, DynDNS has been pressing more and more for free users to register for the “pro” version. Up to now, I’ve been just refreshing it whenever it was on the verge of expiring, but.. since the latest changes will not allow me to properly re-register the same hostname if it failed, and a lot of websites still link to my old addresses, I decided to avoid problems and scams, and I registered the hostname with DynDNS Pro, for two years, which means it won’t risk expiration.

Given that situation, I decided to change the Apache (and AWStats) configuration so that the old URLs for the blog and the site won’t redirect straight to the new sites, but rather accept the request and show the page normally. Obviously, I’d still prefer if the new canonical name is used. Hopefully, at some point in time, browsers and other software will support the extended metadata provided by OpenGraph which not only breaks down the title in site and page title (rather than the current mess of different separators between the two in the <title> element!), but also provides a “canonical URL” value that can solve the problem of multiple-hostnames as well (yes that means that if you were to link one post of mine on Facebook with the old URLs it’ll be automatically translated to the new, canonical URLs).

But it’s not all stopping here; for the spirit of old times, I also ended up looking at some of the articles I wrote around that time, or actually before that time, for NewsForge/Linux.com (as I said in my previous post noted). At the time, I wasn’t even paid for them, but the only requirement was a one year exclusive; last one was in December 2005, so the exclusive definitely expired a long time ago. So, since their own website (now only Linux.com, and changed owner as well) is degrading (broken links, comments with different text formatting functions, spam, …) I decided to re-publish them on my own website in the newly refurbished articles section and, wait for it…

I decided to re-license all three of the articles I wrote in 2005 under CreativeCommons Attribution-ShareAlike license.

Update (2017-04-21): as it happens my articles section is now gone and instead the articles are available as part of the blog itself.

Okay, nothing exceptional I guess, but given there was some doubts about my choices of licenses, this actually makes available a good chunk of my work under a totally free license. I could probably ask Jonathan whether I could do something like that to the articles I wrote for LWN, but since that site is still well maintained I see no urgency.

I should also be converting from PDF/TeX to HTML the rest of the articles on that index page, but they are also not high on my priority list.

Finally, I’m still waiting on FSF to give me an answer regarding the FSWS licensing — Matija helped me adapt the Autoconf exception into something usable for the web… unfortunately the license of the exception itself is quite strict, and so I had to ask FSF for permission of using that.. the request has been logged into their RT, I hope it’ll get me an answer soon… who knows, FSWS might be my last “gift” before I throw the towel.

About my choice of content licenses

Matija pointed me at a post about use of CC-NC clause so I wanted to write a couple of notes about my choice of licenses for the two main contents that I actually maintain: this blog and Autotools Mythbuster . Both have the NonCommercial clause added. I have my reasons to do that, and the linked article does not really convince me.

First of all, the blog itself is on a quite restrictive license: BY-ND-NC, NoDerivatives; it means you can copy my posts as long as you attribute them to me, but you cannot do so for a profit, nor you can rework my content into something different. I think it should be mostly fair this way; the best you can think of is the rewriting of my how-tos and other technical articles into proper documentation, and in those cases I usually am the one doing the rewrite, so I can simply write away the ND for that. I don’t see the need to allow reworking of my rants, or of my personal posts.

Also, I find it quite fair that you cannot simply take my posts, even with attribution, push them together others in a personal Planet-like software, add a ton of advertisement units, and profit out of that. Or print my articles as they are in a journal or something and resell that. Without permission that is. The CC licenses are not “my way or the highway”, they only provide the default license of a content, I’m fine with just giving up some clauses if asked, not even nicely, just asked. And note that quoting me is part of the fair use doctrine and does not require abiding to the license per-se.

The other piece of content is the Autotools Mythbuster guide, which is more interesting, and more useful to reuse to write further tutorial and content. At the same time, though, I’d very much like that if anybody felt like publishing (for profit) articles with the use of that content, they’d be asking me about it first; and if somebody were to rework that content as a book, I’m not ashamed to say that I’d like a cut out of it.

Just to point one thing out, to quote the article:

Many bloggers and blog communities on the web use advertising as a way to recoup costs and generate income. Popular bloggers, from Andrew Sullivan to Markos Zúniga (Dailykos), have turned their hobbies into professions, but even smaller publications often use Google Ads to make some extra money. Other sites use small-scale subscription models to unlock additional features and content or disable advertising. Ask yourself if you really want to stop all these individuals from using your work.

I asked myself that and my answer is: “yes, I want to stop those individuals from using my work without asking first.” I don’t think it is pretending too much that if they are not given explicit permission they cannot reuse my content to make a profit out of it, even if they were fored to share it with the same terms (interestingly, the article insists that it’s nigh impossible to enforce NC compliance… but on the other hand repeats that using SA is “enough protection”… talk about mirror climbing).

I remember a few years ago reading about a movement to provide a “pineapple license” (I forgot the name of the thing, I think it had a ‘k’ in there, and that the pineapple was the logo of the license) that stated from one side what the CC license was to everyone, and from the other “screamed” that the author just wish to be contacted for special uses. That would be my preferred solution to be honest. I’m probably fine with reworking my content for many other uses, just ask me about it first, though, please.

What the rest of the article seems to talk about is the use of NC clauses in software and software distributions, making a straw man argument about “what if the kernel was NC-licensed”. I call that a straw man because all of the CCs are vastly unsuited for software, and are at most useful for artwork, documentation and the “ancillary” content of software packages.

It is obvious that a Linux company will be unable to make use of works that prohibit commercial use. But non-profit free software communities are equally adamant in rejecting -NC licenses. For example, the Debian Free Software Guidelines explicitly state: “The license of a Debian component may not restrict any party from selling or giving away the software as a component of an aggregate software distribution containing programs from several different sources.” Debian GNU/Linux is one of the most popular distributions of the open source Linux operating system.

So this shows that NC is unsuited for Debian.. and it’s vastly unsuited for Fedora as well; even the whole of Gentoo documentation is released as Attribution-ShareAlike by itself. But aren’t they now setting up double standards in the article? They actually go a long way to spell the good deeds of the GNU Free Documentation License, which … Debian finds unsuitable for main !

Finally, I’d like to point out one very important thing here: I’m talking about two main content projects that consists almost entirely of texts. While I can understand and agree pretty well with the idea of CC-BY-SA to be enough for other media (graphics, videos, sound, …) texts are a different thing. You can license the content as it’s written, but you cannot license the concepts or the ideas; and while making use of simply the concepts of graphic elements is very difficult and usually you’re just interested in using the content as-is, or rework it further from there, re-using the concept of a text without actually copy-pasting that text is definitely feasible.

Again, can we stop considering the world (and copyright issues) black-and-white? They definitely are not.

Follow up on the tests; looking for CC-BY content

I’ve written about my idea of writing my own testsuite for uif2iso and using CC-BY-NC-SA music from Jamendo to do the trick, unfortunately it seems like I cannot do that:

If your project is non commercial, you can use the music without paying for a license as long as your project respects the rules of the Creative Commons (http://www.jamendo.com/en/creativecommons). It means that Gentoo has to be distributed under a Creative Commons License. If not, then you do have to buy a license, even if it is a non-commercial project.

Seems like mere aggregation becomes a problem too. Coincidently there was a poll on the Creative Commons site about the NC clause the other day, and I already expressed there my doubts about the “mere aggregation” case.

As it is, it becomes a problem for me to use the album by Countdown for my testsuite project, which actually makes me a bit sad since I really liked the album and would have liked to give the testsuite a fun character with something I liked. I guess I’ll have to find something else.

So if somebody knows where I can find some CC-BY content, I’d be glad to hear it; my idea was to use an image and an audio file, just to have two different size magnitudes. Metal would probably be more acceptable, but I guess anything at this point works. My reason for looking for those is that they can be easily used for other type of tests, for instance mp3 or OggVorbis files can be used for tag reading/writing programs for testing purposes.

On a different note, thanks a lot to the (anonymous) user who sent me The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy radio series, tonight I have something to look forward to when I’m done filing bugs!