Welcome to my site. Here you will find some info about me, the things I do and a listing of upcoming (and past) presentations and lectures. While I initially expected most of my posts to be about Open Source/Free Software (hence the name), these days it's mostly rants and ramblings about running.

Finally, a name for my site!

For the past 9 years, I've used eric.openflows as my site's name. Initially at eric.openflows.org, and then at eric.openflows.com.

I've struggled with the issue of registering a domain for my site, I've come up with so many good ideas and even more bad ideas.

Finally, I've made a decision and done it. Welcome to FreeAsInKittens.com.

When doing presentations about the history and nature of Open Source/Free Software, I tend to put a certain amount of focus on the meaning of Free. The old saying is Free as in Speech, Not as in Beer. Even though Free Software is most often also free as in beer, the word Free is used to denote Rights, not cost. Free Software protects the rights both of the creator and end-user.

It's easy to lose sight of the reality that even though it is Free as in beer; even though you don't pay a license fee, that you will still need to spend money or time to get the most out of Free Software.

It's better to look at it as a change from software as a commodity, where who owns the tool's source code is the primary point of control, to Software as a tool, where who control is secondary to contribution. As I said to the New York Times in March 2009: "We’re throwing out the idea of software as a commodity and replacing it with the idea of labor and participation being valued more than ownership."

Given that this way of doing things is rather alien to free market capitalism, it's important to make sure people understand the reality of the situation. To give people a way of better understanding it, I've been using the phrase "Free as in Kittens": you can have the kitten for free, but you need to care for it, take it to the vet and clean out its litter box.

Even though I am not the one that coined this phrase, I've sort of grown attached to it over time. But, I want to give credit where it is due: the phrase came to my attention when I read an article and a blog post by a librarian, Karen Schneider, where she discussed Open Source/Free Software and compared Free Software to kittens, she got it from someone else but I don't know who.

Today's photos:


A digital picture is worth 1024 words?

I've been working this weekend on building a site for a friend recently diagnosed with a nasty illness, so I'm not really in the mood to write. So today: no links, no rants, just a photo of a fire hydrant that is looking forward to spring.

Not the apple that I used to love.

Once upon a time, apple computers were built explicitly with the idea that the end-user should be able to repair and maintain their own computer. Apple went to great lengths to make things easy -- far easier than other computer makers. This is one of the things that led me to love apple. While my friends were having their hands shredded by their pc hardware and cleaning their bloody knuckles, I was happily and easily swapping hard drives, ram, video cards, etc.

Slowly, apple has become more user-hostile -- where once I could remove my laptop drive in 2 minutes, now it would take me hours and I'd probably never be able to put the thing together again. Where once I could open up and clean my machine, now I can't even figure out how to open the case. It seems that with every new mac I get, my ability to control my own machine has become more and more restricted.

Apple took this one step further this week -- where once an iPhone used simple, industry standard, phillips head screws, they are now using screws that are so proprietary that you can't even purchase a screw driver that fits. Seriously, folks... Proprietary Screws!

Not only are they doing this on new devices, but if you bring your device in for service, they are replacing the screws. Full details on this insanity can be found at http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/01/21/us-apple-screws-idUSTRE70K0BO2...

Today's photos are:

Rat condo?


snow cone?

How'd you get here?

I was looking at my site traffic today and discovered something interesting. Normally, when you click a link on one website that sends you to another part of the data sent to the server linked to is the location of the link. This part of the http header is referred to as the referrer -- although in the http specification (and therefor in the header itself) it is misspelled as referer.

There's a lot more data passed along when you click a link than you might realize. See wikipedia for a full list of headers.

One post I made recently got a lot more traffic than normal, so I went looking to see where these folks were coming from. I was surprised that most of the requests contained no referrer information. It seems that facebook strips out the referrer info from the header when you click a link on facebook to another site.

The motivation is to avoid accidentally leaking private information. While I think it's a good thing that facebook (after being sued) decided to pay attention to this, I'm rather disappointed at how they have implemented the solution.

Facebook's engineering team posted info about this a little while ago. In that post they detail the requirements of their referrer code, and it states that outgoing clicks must include enough header so it is clear that the link comes from facebook, while stripping out a user's profile id or other data that could compromise a user's privacy. From what I can see, they have not met their own specs on this. I have to dig deeper into this before I am convinced I am correct, but from my initial examination it seems that they do not pass on that data. So, if you clicked a link on someone's blog, or a google search, I know where you came from -- but if you got here via facebook, I have no idea how you got here.
Today's photos:

On a snowday, some things close and others open

rat chow?

2 links and 4 photos for a snowy day

The President Ignored the Elephant in the Room
This is an interesting critique of Obama's State of the Union address

What the President should have done is talk frankly about the central structural flaw in the U.S. economy – the dwindling share of its gains going to the vast middle class, and the almost unprecedented concentration of income and wealth at top

Susan G. Komen Foundation Elbows Out Charities Over Use Of The Word 'Cure'
It is really annoying when non-profits forget why they exist and take on corporate mentality, spending money to harass other groups over "ownership" of simple words, like "cure"

So far, Komen has identified and filed legal trademark oppositions against more than a hundred of these Mom and Pop charities, including Kites for a Cure, Par for The Cure, Surfing for a Cure and Cupcakes for a Cure--and many of the organizations are too small and underfunded to hold their ground.

Today's photos