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Free Bassel, Mr. Ambassador

March 14, 2013 Leave a comment

A few days ago, when talk started about activities around observing the first anniversary tomorrow (March 15) of Bassel Khartabil’s imprisonment in Syria, I thought about what more could be done. First, let me be clear about this. I am not saying that the tireless work people have put in around the world has come up short. On the contrary: Clearly bringing Bassel’s plight to the forefront has gained momentum as an increasingly successful endeavor, which will become fully successful once he is given his freedom.

But I wondered if there wasn’t more that could be done.

Thinking back to my days as a peace activist in decades past (several decades past), I recalled petitioning various members of the U.S. Congress to advocate for our positions. The drill was simple: A “delegation” — the fancy term for a group of people representing a group or even themselves — would ask for time with a member of Congress and, in every case, end up speaking with an aide, and we would present a letter and a short outline of why we were there and ask for action to be taken.

So it occurred to me: Why not take the same steps with the Syrian embassy? Oh wait: The United States doesn’t have diplomatic relations with Syria, so there are no embassies or consulates to visit. However, which country is Syria’s most powerful ally which has diplomatic relations with the U.S.? That would be the Russian Federation which, conveniently for me, has a consulate in San Francisco.

As such, I’ve taken up the hospitality of the Mozilla Foundation in using Etherpad to draft a letter/talk to give to consuls and diplomats, should I or anyone else choose to meet with them. Meanwhile, I am looking for folks in the San Francisco area to join me in visiting the Russian Federation consulate sometime soon and present a letter seeking their help in urging the Syrian government to release Bassel.

Please help me write it: The etherpad is here and you’re welcome to submit your input.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software in his individual consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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Eliminate DRM!

What’s really important

March 13, 2013 5 comments

So . . . I had written a blog post addressing the remote hope that I’d at least get a postcard from the vacation from reality that Canonical’s self-appointed hubris-monger Mark Shuttleworth has recently taken, while urging those in the various *buntu communities do some soul searching when your project leader says, “If you’ve done what you want for Ubuntu, then move on.”

Then I sat on the blog post for a few days, wondering if it was too incendiary. I took walks. I had coffee with friends. I bounced the theme of what I was writing off a few people. I embarrassingly lost a huge Tetris smackdown to my darling daughter at the arcade at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

In that particular item, comparisons were made: The Mark’s emulation of Steve Jobs speaks volumes about the danger that lies ahead for freedom and real progress in that particular community; to say nothing of Shuttleworth’s detatchment from reality — what Jobs observers used to call his “reality distortion field.” This fantasy world tries so hard to be branded as “innovative” when echoed by the zombies populating the Ubuntu Apocalypse but, in all reality, it’s just regressive. Additionally, the prevailing attitude displayed by the Ubuntu/Canonical leadership raises the arguable point that those in its community could very well be — if they aren’t already — the FOSS equivalent of battered spouses who need to get out of that relationship with all speed.

Canonical is rapidly becoming Canonisoft: Realize that and you know what you need to do, Ubunteros.

But late last night, I decided not to post it. I deleted it to replace it with what you’re reading now because there are far more important things going on in the world at this moment; things that need immediate attention because lives are at stake.

Let’s take a look at Syria, for example: Bassel Khartabil, who some of you may know as Bassel Safadi, will have been imprisoned in Syria for exactly a year on Friday. Bassel, 31, specializes in open source software development, and is known worldwide for his strong commitment to the open web, teaching others about technology, and contributing his experience freely to help the world. Bassel is the project leader for an open source web software called Aiki Framework, and he is a dedicated volunteer to major Internet projects like Creative Commons, Mozilla Firefox, Wikipedia, Open Clip Art Library, Fabricatorz, and Sharism.

Find out more about Bassel here and watch the video on that page — it’s short but informative. Then read more about his plight on this page, and sign the letter to support freeing him as soon as possible.

Also, there are various actions taking place on Friday — the anniversary of Bassel’s detention — and there are things you can do either by your physical or digital presence, which are listed here. To post information about any action or ideas you might have, go here.

Those of you who read this blog on a regular basis know I’ve written about this before. I’ll keep writing about it, just as I keep fasting on Fridays until Bassel is free.

But the fact remains: What’s really important here — in the wider world — is not stroking the ego of a self-important, self-appointed “leader” who laughably claims to be an innovator, but saving the life of an important contributor to the FOSS paradigm locked away in a Syrian prison, nearly for a year so far without charge.

Now, if you’ll excuse me for a few moments, I need to go back to the arcade and practice Tetris for the rematch.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software in his individual consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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Eliminate DRM!

Nothing to add here

March 7, 2013 16 comments

As hard as it may be to believe, there are times when even I am speechless.

I keep the goings-on of Canonical and the Ubuntu community at an arm’s length — the real reason is to keep my blood pressure down. But actually, the gravity with which Canonical pulls Ubuntu further from its original FOSS orbit is nothing short of tragic, and it’s something that weighs heavily on any FOSS advocate.

Two influential Ubunteros — Martin Owens and Elizabeth Krumbach — weighed in on the situation recently and both of their recent blog posts deserve a good reading.

Martin writes in his most recent blog item:

“But I have to be honest, there isn’t an Ubuntu community any more. There’s a Canonical community, an ubuntu-users gaggle and maybe an enthusiasts posse. But no community that makes decisions, builds a consensus, advocates or educates. It’s dead now, it’s been that way for a while.”

What’s interesting is the discussion in the comments in Martin’s blog, especially the observations made by Jef Spaleta, who has always maintained an even keel in pointing out that the emperor had no clothes.

In my opinion, Elizabeth’s detailed blog post goes into great depth around the current situation, and it sheds a lot of light on it. But I think she’s unnecessarily hard on herself when she wraps up her blog with this:

“As a Community Council member I do feel like I’ve let the community down for not realizing what was happening to the community sooner. The duo of optimism and trust is not always a strength, it blinded me to some serious truths about how things have changed and our responsibility in this new community dynamic.”

Frankly, I am hoping that this works itself out, but I don’t hold out much hope. So I really have nothing to add to the two blog posts above, other than for those who are in this position to think carefully about the future.

POSTSCRIPT: There has been talk — some of it coming from the higher, orbital echelons of Canonical — that this potential schism is just about the rolling release or some other superficial issue. Let’s put aside for now how dangerous and counterproductive this misperception is, on a leadership level. Rather, let’s take a look at one example, outlined very eloquently by Aaron Seigo on a Google+ post here (I had read this earlier, but did not realize until now there was a link available to it). I’m sorry I am unable to comment on Aaron’s post since the comments are closed, but I would completely agree with his assessment. Oh, and one more thing: What does it say to a community when the project leader turns off comments in a blog post, as Mark Shuttleworth did in today’s offering?

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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Eliminate DRM!

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