Open source, and open science

As scientist, the least thing I expected, when yesterday I listened to the very interesting Linus Torvalds speech at TED, was a discussion on the way science and its results are diffused. I was pleased to hear Linus mentioning arXiv, the famous science archive of paper.

ArXiv_web.svg.pngArXiv is entirely opened, you can browse and download articles without any restriction (you don’t even have to login). It’s updated daily and it’s articulated in various disciplines. As a whole, it’s a very pragmatic way to show the benefit of free idea circulation within science.

At the moment writing, arXiv contains 1,178,149 articles. Not bad.

I do admit I did not expect Linus was aware of its existence, being into a rather different ecosystem.

Well, now I understand that there are deep links between the open source paradigm and a certain way to think about science and about the spreading of its methodologies and its results.

Something which has a deep connection with a very simple word, “open“. A simple word that it can disclose a whole world.

Something Linus addressed very well, in just a few words.

No more paper for Linux Journal

I am a subscriber to Linux Journal in digital format, although to be honest, sometimes it happens that I let a number pass without consulting its PDF, or just rapidly browsing it. The point is, a printed magazine can be carried around much better (to the bathroom, the balcony, in the bag, resting on the sofa …) where a computer, even if it is a laptop – is much more awkward (and more fragile).
Not to deny that digital has its good benefits. I can subscribe to a magazine whose editor lives at the opposite side of the world, without running the risk of paying more for shipping than for the contents themselves. I can read a magazine the next moment it was published. I can also store all my numbers on a disk drive, bringing in a USB stick. I can also annotate, highlight phrases, searching for words, and so on.
Like it or not, however, times are changing, and digital advances seems unstoppable. Yesterday I received a mail from Linux Journal that informs me that the print magazine will be abolished, and LJ will goes therefore to be 100% digital.
In a post on the LJ site there is a brief but careful analysis of the latest market trends in publishing (along with a parallel path of the magazine with the very progress of linux). As a matter of fact, the digital switchover is affecting several newspapers, becoming a phenomenon by no means haphazard, but hardly avoidable. Cutting costs is one of the fundamental reasons, but it is not the only one: the greater flexibility of digital versions also plays an important role, for example.
We can easily predict that in a relatively short time, the magazines that actually will be printed will be the exception, not the rule. Before this can happen really, though, we should wait  for a number of things. These include:

  • mass dissemination of tablet devices for convenient fruition of magazines and digital content in general. As we said at the beginning, it is not confortable to read your favorite magazine at the computer, not even a laptop. These devices – iPad, Android, or other –  will need to demonstrate easy to use, cheap enough, and really reliable.
  • prices of digital magazine should be noticeably lower in respect to the printed version(if any), so that cost considerations will push the migration towards the new format
  • any “vexatious” system content protection should be avioded, so that people will maintain the freedom to move a magazine from one device to another without being forced to abstruse procedures to convince the system that is not “spreading improperly” the magazine itself
  • digital magazines should prove to be easy to read and attractive; you should have the possibility to isolate an article, see the pictures, enlarge it or shrink it, make printed copies, annotate it, share it, etc. … (PDF does not seem the ideal solution, for example)
Meanwhile, we will soon do without Linux Journal paper. Well, admittedly, I’ve never kept in hand a printed copy of Linux Journal. Maybe I was already in the future ….? 

KDE November Updates

Yesterday the KDE team announced the release of a series of updates concerning the Plasma Desktop and Netbook workspaces, KDE Applications and KDE Platforms. In my humble opinion, this excellent desktop environment, notwithstanding its greatness, do suffer a lot for the minor attention that Canonical – which maintain Ubuntu, the most diffused linux distribution – deserve to it, in respect to Gnome (i.e., Kubuntu is clearly not as much developed as Ubuntu). Even if, also Gnome team is somewhat angry with Ubuntu, given the programmed switch to Unity Desktop….


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Ubuntu One Buzz

Well it seems that Ubuntu One is moving its first step into the social web; you can easily obtain a link for the song you're listening to. At variance with Apple's Ping, in Ubuntu One you can propagate this link to the (social) web, via all the services you've already set up in your microblogging client Gwibber. Far better than to have all inside iTunes only!

Oh, and as a nice surplus, you find your messages on Ubuntu One front page too. As an example, you can find on that web page a few of my recent played songs (user @mcastel)

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Linux Mint 9 KDE

Linux Mint is surely one of the most interesting distribution for an average desktop user. It’s surely user friendly and multimedia oriented (media codecs are included so you can play music and consume other media “out of the box”). Welcome Isadora ! 😉

Amplify’d from

“The Linux Mint development team have issued the KDE Edition of version 9 of their Ubuntu-based Linux distribution, code named “Isadora”. Linux Mint aims to be user friendly and to provide a more complete out-of-the-box experience by including support for DVD playback, Java, and various plug-ins and media codecs…”


Ubuntu 10.04, my two cents…

Originally uploaded by mcastellani

Some days ago, I upgraded my linux box to Ubuntu 10.04. I am pleased to say that the upgrade took place without worries and virtually no intervention on my side (aside a couple of request from the upgrade script in order to ask permission to overwrite some system files).
Now, detailed descriptions of the new release may be easily found in the network (you just need to google a bit to find plenty of them), so here I note only some impressions of use. Say, what strikes me without “scratching” too much under the surface, in the first approach. 
    Let’s see …

  • for a “sick” of social networks like myself, Ubuntu 10.04 comes with a really interesting aspect: it is eminently social. It comes with the client gwibber (now at release that supports Twitter, StatusNet, Facebook,, Digg, FriendFeed, and also Qaiku (a microblog service with an exciting support for languages; I like it a lot and, as a matter of fact, I have realized most of the interface translation in Italian). To tell the truth, not only it’s included, but it result deeply integrated in the “social” concept of Ubuntu, for which we can now express our “online presence” directly from the top status bar of Gnome. I am very curious (and so are the developers) to understand whether the inclusion of native Qaiku in Ubuntu will bring more users to put their noses in this interesting but still little known platform.
  • There was much discussion on Ubuntu related sites, concerning the new network online music store that comes integrated into Rhytmbox, the “software and music playback for GNOME”, which is now reached its version 0.12.8 (but what to say about this habit of going forward with the zero point something ?). I just spent a bit of time in it, and I found that the prices of a number of albums are very interesting and – at least in some cases – significantly lower than their  iTunes counterparts .
  • The GNOME desktop backgrounds have my appreciation, for the aesthetic work that I think has given excellent results. Overall, it seems quite clear that Mac OS X has been well taken into account by the Ubuntu developers (up to small details as the discussed choice of putting the icons on the left side of windows) … but that’s OK, no problem;)
  • Even the ‘Ubuntu Software Center’ (again, the not-too-hidden reference not is to the online software repository of Mac OS X) has made significant progress. Browsing through categories to choose the software to install it ‘s now easier, and it is a truly enjoyable experience … and it’s free, too!

Overhall, I like Ubuntu 10.04. Surely there are things to improve and fix (for example, during the first days of use I stumbled upon some oddity of gwibber, which kept to give me authentication error in Qaiku, despite having already added the correct API at least a couple of times …), anyway I think we came to a really respectable version. One of the most important representations – perhaps the most important at present – of an open source operating system. 
… what do you think, I’m exaggerating?

Amarok “Clear Light” released

Amarok is definitely a great player for linux. This wonderful software just reached version 2.3.0, code-named Clear Light (which, being a fan of Mike Oldfield, makes me immediately think of this music, like Amarok that obviously makes me think of this wonderful disc. ..).

Anyway, at the risk of alienating a good portion of my (limited) audience, I’d venture to say (also following a commentary that appear belows the video presentation on Youtube) that Amarok is perhaps not yet at the level of competing on equal terms with well known player for other operating systems such as iTunes.

That said, it also worth to say that it is still a complete and rather powerful software: certainly for KDE users it represents  a great and rewarding choice, that can contribute greatly in making the desktop environment more comfortable, also in terms of management of a user’s collection of audio files (as well as Internet radio and podcasts, which in passing is a recently reinforced section)

The video itself is quite pretty and the accompaining music is itself really enjoyable .. which is surely a good think, for a multimedia player presentation! 😉