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Free Bassel Khartabil

July 15, 2012 4 comments

Forgive me for being a little late with this, but it’s a matter of grave importance that needs your attention and action, if you haven’t acted on it already.

On March 15, 2012, Bassel Khartabil (also known as Bassel Safadi) was detained in a wave of arrests in the Mazzeh district of Damascus, Syria. Bassel is the project leader for an open source web software called Aiki Framework. He is well known in online technical communities as a dedicated volunteer to Creative Commons, Mozilla Firefox, Wikipedia, Open Clip Art Library, Fabricatorz, and Sharism.

In short, Bassel contributes much to the FOSS paradigm. He’s one of us.

Since Bassel’s arrest, his family has received no official explanation for his detention or information regarding his whereabouts. However, his family has recently learned from previous detainees at the security branch of Kafer Sousa, Damascus, that Bassel is being held at this location.

A side note: Human Rights Watch outlines what’s happening in Syria in an interactive map here. This does not bode well for Bassel being detained, incommunicado, for the last four months, and adds geometrically to the urgency of this matter.

EFF is on it, as is the Mozilla Foundation’s Mitchell Baker, who wrote this piece on her blog. C|Net Donna Tam also wrote an article here outlining the situation.

Now it’s your turn.

If you haven’t done so already, visit http://freebassel.org, read up and sign the letter of support. The facebookers among you can go here to do the Facebook thing.

Hashtag for Twitter/identi.ca: #freebassel

Wait. You’re not finished yet.

This is not a criticism of the great work these organizations do, but the International Committee of the Red Cross and Human Rights Watch unfortunately don’t take up the cause of freeing imprisoned individuals — I would be happy to be wrong about this, if someone knows who to contact in these organizations. However, I did find a contact address for a program at Amnesty International called Eyes on Syria which, in effect, is taking names. There’s a link on that page, “Tell Us,” that provides an address to drop them a line.

I wrote the following to Amnesty International and I would urge others to write to AI in your own words (copying my message and sending it as your own is spamming, and I do not encourage that) something along the following lines:

+start+

Dear Amnesty International –

I am writing on behalf of Bassel Khartabil, a free/open source software developer in Syria who has been arrested and detained since March in Damascus. Bassel has been instrumental in various open source software projects like Creative Commons (www.creativecommons.org), Mozilla Firefox (www.mozilla.org), Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.org), Open Clip Art Library (www.openclipart.org), Fabricatorz (www.fabricatorz.com), and Sharism (www.sharism.org).

On March 15, 2012, Bassel Khartabil was detained in a wave of arrests in the Mazzeh district of Damascus. Since then, his family has received no official explanation for his detention or information regarding his whereabouts. However, his family has recently learned from previous detainees at the security branch of Kafer Sousa, Damascus, that Bassel is being held at this location.

More information on Bassel can be found at http://freebassel.org/ which is a Web site set up to help free Bassel.

Ultimately, my hope is that Bassel is freed as soon as possible, and like many in the free/open source software community concerned about his well-being, I am very troubled that he has been held incommunicado for four months. I hope Amnesty International can bring some of the facts of his detention to light, and ultimately can assist in freeing
Bassel.

Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,
Larry Cafiero
Felton, California, USA

+end+

Now let’s get Bassel back home to his loved ones, and let’s get him coding again.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software 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!

Enough of the doom already

December 12, 2011 3 comments

A couple of weeks ago, a blogger at ReadWriteWeb wrote about the demise of Mozilla and Firefox, claiming that the loss of market share and lack of availability on mobile devices — and the departure of Google sponsorship — could lead to Mozilla’s downfall.

Like lemmings, other tech commentators followed along with the same message: Firefox? Stick a fork in it.

SCALE 10XLast week, Hewlett-Packard decided to give WebOS its freedom. Apparently, they let it into the FOSS wild without as much as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. But HP’s intention, I hope, is that they’d like developers to flock to it and help this Linux-based operating system achieve its true potential.

Cue the lemmings again: Most of those providing the tech commentary around this development in opening WebOS have been tripping over themselves to strangle WebOS in the proverbial cradle. Or, as they say in sports circles, they’re risking injury by jumping on the bandwagon.

But while some tech commentators are locked in a battle to the death to see which of them can bury both Mozilla and WebOS — especially WebOS — the deepest, allow me to point out something they might have overlooked: Firefox is still going strong, despite losing market share (and, were I a gambling man, I’d bet that Google stays the course with Mozilla sponsorship despite having their own browser) AND, under better conditions than are currently available to it (and conditions that can be altered and goals achieved), WebOS might just have a shot surviving in the FOSS wilderness as a sort of Davy Crockett of Linux.

You know, kids: Davy Crockett. King of the wild frontier? OK, look him up on Wikipedia.

In any case, I’m going to let Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier drive here, explaining why Mozilla is not on the way out. Brockmeier concludes in his post:

“Even if Firefox remains third in the market, that’s a far cry from “doomed.” We’ve come a long way from a Web that is hostile to any browser that isn’t Microsoft Internet Explorer. Firefox can easily thrive with 20 percent of the market. But I wouldn’t count Team Mozilla out just yet, and though I’ve had my share of frustrations with Firefox I’m not ready to throw in the towel. When you look at the major players here, Mozilla is the only organization that’s I fully trust with my data and a commitment to the open Web. If Firefox is doomed, I’m afraid that would not say a great deal for the future of the Web.”

Which brings us back to the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, er . . . I mean, WebOS.

Let’s go back a bit to square one: After blunders (yes, blunders, plural) of historic proportions this year around their hardware from which they can hopefully recover, open-sourcing WebOS is probably the only thing that HP could have done to save it, and in typical 2011 HP fashion, they fumbled that. That ball is still rolling on the ground.

If — and this is an enormous IF — a community grows around what had been established around WebOS when it started, clearly they’ll have faster development than if they were developing in-house, which obviously is how things in open source work. So from an HP standpoint, that’s a good call. Of course, they could have made this transition a lot more smoothly, but it’s out there now. Arguably, WebOS advocates could be facing the digital equivalent of executing a “Hail Mary” pass to bring back the operating system, but it can be done. Ask Roger Staubach or Doug Flutie (and as a University of Miami Hurricane, bringing up the latter is painful)

I have used WebOS on a Palm Pre 2 while I had it, and I liked it. HP had planned to put WebOS on consumer hardware before, well, you know what happened there. I even went as far as to download the WebOS SDK, which I found my way around fairly easily.

I certainly don’t have the developer skills to do anything other than simple things to make me go, “hmmm.” But others do — some who might benefit from wanting to take this program from certain death at the hands of digital scribes and bring it back. The task ahead of them is herculean, but not impossible.

So in my book, rumors of WebOS’ demise are somewhat exaggerated.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software in his new home office. Watch this space.)

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Eliminate DRM!

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