Writings on technology and society from Wellington, New Zealand

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Why you should back up your computer and how to do it

There is an utterly heart-rending scene in Miranda Harcourt’s autobiographical play A Biography of my Skin in which their family computer’s disc crashes and they lose all their family photographs.

Today on Radio New Zealand National I’ll talk about how to keep your computer backed up. It’s not a hard thing to do. I’ll also have a few other tidbits from the world of technology.

I’ll be on air after the 11am news, and soon afterwards the you’ll be able to download the audio as ogg or mp3. (more…)

posted by colin at 8:16 pm  

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Uncle Sam likes Free Software

Two interesting things came out of Washington DC in the last couple of days – both endorsements of free software by Uncle Sam.

In the more widely published of the two announcements, the Whitehouse has gone to the free and open source Drupal content management system, replacing the commercial one installed some years ago. All the Whitehouse websites including have been changed over.

There are stories like this one about the move all over the web. The reasons the Whitehouse staff give are that they are moving to modern, state-of-the-art platform that will allow them a lot more flexibility in how they engage with citizens. They also expect greater security of the software through the open source development model.

In the other story, the US Department of Defense has just issued a policy statement (pdf) telling all its component parts that they should be seriously evaluating open source alternatives. The reasons they give are reduced cost of ownership (well, d’oh!), better security, and that the ability to modify the software gives them the chance to alter it to meet their changing needs.

The DoD also takes aim at that hoary old chestnut, the notion that the GPL might somehow force a company that was was altering free software for its own internal needs to republish the resulting source code. The company can chose to do that, but it absolutely doesn’t have to, unless it wants to distribute software outside the organization.

The real story here is not that open source software is being more widely used, and used by some famous and influential people. It’s that free software released under the GPL – as Drupal is – is more than acceptable for government work; it’s positively encouraged for its low cost, high security, and flexibility.

To close – I’ll alter a slogan published by Data General when IBM entered its main market:

People are saying that the US Government’s endorsement of free software will legitimise it. The bastards say: Welcome!

posted by colin at 8:30 pm  

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The mobile network wars

It’s a really exciting time in the development of New Zealand’s mobile phone networks. We now have two different 3G network available to 97% of the country. Choice!

I’ll be talking about this and more on Radio New Zealand National after the news today. You can read on for my speaking notes, or after the programme you can download the audio as ogg or mp3. (more…)

posted by colin at 8:30 pm  

Thursday, October 1, 2009

What programmers do (and why you should give it go)

Today on Radio New Zealand National I’ll talk about how computers are programmed. Getting started may be easier than you think! There’s a conference for may favourite language, Python, in Christchurch next month. And, as usual, I’ll have a few other nuggets from the world of technology.

You can listen in live after the 11am news, or after the broadcast you can download the audio as ogg or mp3. (more…)

posted by colin at 8:25 pm  

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