SAS and the R Programming Language

This New York Times article about the R programming language is pretty good, though there is a hilarious quote in it from proprietary software company that apparently make a similar product. Anne H. Milley, director of technology product marketing at SAS says:

“We have customers who build engines for aircraft. I am happy they are not using freeware when I get on a jet.”

That’s pretty funny. She’s basically saying

“It’s better to build important things with tools you can’t examine for yourself.”

SAS claim to have over 40,000 customer sites worldwide.  The news article claim 250,000 people use R regularly.  The difference here isn’t in the numbers of users, it’s that, with R, every user is a potential developer.  SAS can’t possibly compete with that.

Speaking at the Manchester Free Software Meeting

I’m speaking next Tuesday (15th April 2008) at the Manchester Free Software about my geeky web comic, Everybody Loves Eric Raymond. Apparently people are still interested in it even though it hasn’t been updated since December! Hooray!

It’ll be a bit of a mix of the two talks I’ve done before on ELER, so some stuff about the history of the comic and how I make it, plus some ranting about free software, free markets and leaders.

I was asked by the then organiser (and my friend) Matt Lee who was then extraordinarily renditioned to North America with his new wife, leaving the new organisers to pick up the pieces. Luckily most of the pieces were found and it’s all go, though I do now appear to be talking about my new Rails hosting company too and my name is spelt differently. If there is time, I’ll talk about some of the stuff we’re doing at Brightbox with Free Software.

Talk starts at 7pm at the Manchester DDA. More details on the Manchester Free Software website.

6 year old Gnome bug picks up pace

This bug regarding the Nautilus image thumbnailer performance was reported almost 6 years ago.  It had input on it at the rate of around one message every two months, up until the end of 2003 – then nothing until 2006, where duplicate bug reports start coming in pretty regularly until the end of 2006.  All pretty quiet until then, kind of suddenly, Michael Chudobiak writes a patch that speeds up Nautilus almost 3400%

I used a test folder that had four 15000x400 tif images and four
15000x400 png images (solid colors). Without the patch, it took
Nautilus 4 minutes and 30 seconds to thumbnail the folder. With
the patch, it took 8 seconds.

I'm not clever enough to touch the actual pixop codebase. But
these numbers suggest there is enormous room for improvement!
This bug has been open for 6 years - nudge, nudge.

Because free software is forever we can just afford to get there in the end :)

Principles, Software and Freedom

Benjamin Mako Hill has written a great post over on his blog titled “Principles, Software and Freedom”. It’s something I’ve been trying to put into words for a while and he does it very well.

“Sure, everyone uses Firefox. Sure, everyone uses Apache and GNU/Linux for their web servers. Sure, everyone uses Drupal, Mambo, Plone, or another free CMS. But one can’t help but notice that Firefox, Apache, and free CMSs are higher quality, more featureful, and easier to use than the proprietary alternatives.”

“People arguing for free software from a principled position need to remember that principled positions are sometimes inconvenient. Free software is no exception. It’s frequently different, sometimes incompatible and a bit more work. In some situations (dare I say it?), it’s not as good as the proprietary alternatives.”

Free software isn’t always easy and isn’t always the best solution. Personally I believe freedom is important enough to weigh in heavily in the face of this.

Hula calendar and mail server proprietaryness

I played with Hula a few weeks ago. I really didn’t spend very long with it, but managed to get it working on Ubuntu Breezy and connected to it with Evolution IMAP client. A big fat tip if you’re planning on having a go with it: don’t use the official Ubuntu packages. The ones I used were old and really sucked; I got nowhere with them. There are packages for Debian on the Hula site that worked well for me.
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