Ubuntu Maverick Post-install Guide is late, but on the way.

I've felt bad about not having the post-install guide ready really early on, so i decided to not post anything until i do. It turns out this is an ineffective technique for pressuring myself into getting things done. I've done the same thing with the Noam Chomsky interview which should've been posted 9 months ago, but a tiny little bug in PiTiVi has been blocking me, and i'm just about ready to throw money i don't have at someone to fix it. Anyway.

What should you do if you're looking for the new post-install guide? Use the last one. It hasn't been completely obsoleted by the new version of Ubuntu! 

But why is it so late?

  • Lame reasons: 
    • Because i've been busy. I'm just finishing up two computer science classes at Harvard Extension (one of which was not only the "intensive" version, but also a prerequisite of the other). 
    • These guides are a ton of work. I have to go through an installation of Ubuntu from scratch, test a ton of software, take and edit screenshots, and write up the whole guide.
  • Better reasons:
    • The list of software i'll be featuring has probably doubled in size, maybe more, and that doesn't include the many new apps i try but decide not to feature. So, hopefully all the new stuff will make up for it's lateness!
    • It can take a bit of time for PPA's and other repositories to catch up to the latest version of Ubuntu. There's lots of cool new software and i'm still finding out about more! Surely you'd want me to be able to provide you the repos for them, wouldn't you?
    • I was hoping to make the new guide available in nice downloadable formats, and allow for nice typesetting (which is not my area of expertise). This should also make the work of translators much easier.

So, how much is done, and more importantly, how long do we have to wait? A lot has been done, but there's still lots to do. I'd estimate having about half the work done at this point. Half the software tested and screenshots taken, and most of the guide written. After those are all done, i still have to edit, format, add links, and do all the things i'm surely forgetting. I really don't know how long it will take, and i can't make a promise. A rough estimate is two months, and i will aim for less than one month, but there's a lot of others things i need to worry about!

All new videos uploaded to YouTube in WebM will be viewable in WebM

YouTube has slowly but surely been expanding the availability of WebM in their HTML 5 open video beta, but uploaders have so far had no control over whether their videos would be available in a free format. Videos deemed popular enough by Google would be made available in WebM, but other than that, only videos which happened to be HD (720p or greater) would definitely be viewable in WebM. Scaling up the resolution of a video was simply not an acceptable workaround. Back in June, i posted to the WebM Discussion list suggesting that all videos uploaded in WebM be made available in WebM, regardless of resolution or popularity.

Things got pushed back a few times, but now, as announced in a new thread, all new videos uploaded to YouTube in WebM will be available in WebM, finally giving uploaders the ability to make sure their videos can be viewed in a free format using HTML5. This is an important step, and hopefully it will serve to increase the use of free formats for video offline as well. Towards that end, perhaps they can also make sure videos uploaded in other free formats like Ogg Theora are viewable in WebM too.

If you're a YouTuber, make sure your your videos don't use annotations,don't display ads, and are uploaded in WebM to ensure they will be viewable in without Flash or h.264. Additionally, it may take a while after the video has reportedly finished processing before the WebM version is available.

Beyond Diaspora: Another Facebook alternative has a head start

I just wrote a piece for Google Blogoscoped about Facebook and the problems with it, Diaspora and the obstacles it's created itself, and another effort that probably deserves some more attention. Please check it out and let me know what you think!

Here are a couple of teasers. On Facebook's battle for complete control over our online lives:

In the mind of Facebook, locking in users by holding their data captive is equally legitimate to actually making them want to stay, and it means more power for them. The problem is very simple. They own every piece of information about you that either you or your friends knowingly or unknowingly submit to them. They control who can see every bit of it, and they control how you can access it. You can bet when you delete something, it isn’t actually gone, that when you set something to private, there’s nothing to keep it that way, that when you want to see anything on Facebook, you’ll have to do it the way Facebook wants.

...and this on a promising alternative:
There are many such projects, but thus far Diaspora seems to be the only one to garner widespread attention. The developers were able to achieve instant popularity and raise twenty times their initial goal of $10K because to most people, Diaspora is the only project working towards this goal. It’s main asset right now seems to be mindshare, but it’s uncertain how much promise it holds beyond that. With the recent release of their pre-alpha source code, it immediately became apparent just how many security holes and problems are blocking the project. It will take a lot of work to fix and will almost certainly be impossible to make their public release as planned. Still, that isn’t to say the project isn’t worth supporting. It absolutely is, but it is not the only one you should know about.
What if there was another effort underway to create a federated social network, but based on a project that has already successfully been incorporated into the business of a Fortune 500 company, implemented in multiple public instances with tens of thousands of users, received funding which totals at a cool $2.3 million, and most importantly, already works with federation?

Know of a cool app that deserves more attention? Nominate it for the next Ubuntu post-install guide!

A year ago i saw a lack of easy to understand yet comprehensive getting started guides for new users, so i decided to make one. I spent hours reviewing software, taking screenshots, and other exciting stuff in order to make a post-install guide which helps new users get used to and understand Ubuntu, and also recommend all sorts of apps that may be of interest to users of any level of experience. Please subscribe if you want to catch my next one!

My guides for Karmic and Lucid have gotten way more attention than i could've anticipated, and while some people have shown great appreciation with donations (thanks for the support!), nothing makes me happier than the hundreds of comments and even private thank yous about hear how these guides have helped them spread free software, or open source as you may have it, to their friends and family. here are some of my favorites:

"Danny, you're a marvel. I'm going to try out some of those suggested apps this weekend and have some fun. I read this article just in time to share it with a friend who's trying out ubuntu on his new laptop. Thanks!"
- Anonymous

"Thanks for posting this guide! I've been thinking of getting my parents off Windows for a while and this is the ammunition that I needed. Thanks!"
- Carlos Rodriguez

"Awesome post, I installed most of them. I converted an old Dell Inspiron 8600 to a Ubuntu box because my Mother-in-law has a old PC from her job with Ubuntu on it. I have to be able to support her and it's been years since I lived in linux\unix since my Unigraphics & CATIA days in Automotive. This story rocks, thanks for sharing."
- Carl Brooks

"Really brilliant well done :)
So many apps and methods that I had no clue about and I've been using Linux for 6 years!"
- Mike

"Wow. This is what a release post should look like."
- Anonymous

"So as pretty much everyone else said, this writing is quite excellent and entertaining! I've bookmarked this as you've pretty much reviewed every other application I've never heard about before"
- sergiusens

"Awesome. Been using ubuntu since the start, and you introduced me to a heck of a lot of new things. Rock On!"
- Anonymous

Now it seems only appropriate to let all of you to nominate your favorite apps to be featured in the next iteration of my Ubuntu post-install guides. Just post a comment with as much information about the app(s) as possible: name, link, description, your opinion, etc. and i'll check it out! 

I'm back!

Sorry for leaving you all hanging for so long! Between working at the FSF and making friends with awesome people in free software, i hadn't made much time for writing. If you haven't already seen it, please check out the relaunched LibrePlanet project. LibrePlanet is an effort to establish local teams around the world promoting free software. If you're in Massachusetts, join us!
Now, i will be helping out with OpenHatch, applying to schools, and finding some ways to generate an income (suggestions welcome). I started a site for my sinister business: http://libreops.com/. I'm also taking two insanely overpriced courses at Harvard University's Extension School: Intensive Introduction to Computer Science, and Building Dynamic Websites. A new version of Ubuntu is coming out soon, so i'll be working on my next even more kickass post-install guide, with more delicious free software~ yum.
I spent all my the money i earned last summer on my first laptop (which wasn't borrowed or lent to me), a Thinkpad x201 Tablet with multi-touch. I'm hoping this could enable me to do some design stuff later on, and if you have any suggestions on awesome apps for touch-screens, do post a comment!
Here are some links to satisfy you (you may have seen these if you're in the related Reddit communities, or are subscribed to me on identi.ca):

  • Free software needs free tools
  • Great analogy: Free software will make Facebook the next AOL
  • The four freedoms of free culture
  • In defense of free knowledge: "I see no system of moral philosophy generated by the economy of the past that could evolve a principle to explain the moral legitimacy of denial in the presence of infinite profusion."
  • The Debian FreedomBox project
  • The talk which inspired it: We can use technology to fix politics, or we can wait forever for politics to fix technology. On freedom, privacy, and net neutrality
  • Life is not read-only

My first day at the FSF!

I'm writing to you now from the Free Software Foundation headquarters! Today is my first day on the job as a campaigns intern. I've had my first experience with Trisquel (a purely free OS), played around with GNU Emacs, and made a quick blog post about the new anti-DRM sticker from Defective By Design. I even have a sweet little bio page:

Danny is an FSF campaigns intern and free software advocate from Newton, Massachusetts.
Danny 彭裕洪 PiccirilloDuring high school he worked to raise interest in free software and successfully made GNU/Linux and other software like OpenOffice.org available on public computers as well as gained the support of a number of educators.

He has compiled a comprehensive free software activism guide available on LibrePlanet to help individuals and teams work effectively to spread free software.

For years Danny has worked with the Ubuntu community to make it more freedom friendly and bring more people to free software, gaining lots of experience in community organizing. Now he's working to establish a state LibrePlanet team for Massachusetts and encourage the formation of more local groups.

He is also an outspoken free culture supporter, as an extension of the free software movement, and is generally interested in issues concerning the control and distribution of information.

Today was mostly about getting settled in, but tomorrow, we'll have have a campaigns team meeting and Steve DuBois, the other intern, should be in the office as well. Two projects of mine i'll be able to work on while i'm here is getting the LibrePlanet Massachusetts Team fired up (please join!) and making FSF members eligible to join a credit union.

I'll keep you posted! 

10 Killer Improvements YouTube Needs

YouTube's recent new look has brought on some great usability improvements, and their adoption of VP8/WebM video codec/format released by Google is even better. Still, there is much more to be done to increase YouTube's openness, foster a respectable community, more fairly promote quality content, fill the remaining gaps of missing features, and further improve and clean up the interface.

  1. Do not be like MySpace
    • Nobody misses that atrocious monstrosity. Firstly, do not push this "new" bulletins feature back out. Spamming is not a feature. 
    • Secondly, stop covering the homepage with advertising, especially all the deceptive sponsored content with fake video players, "close" buttons, and other misleading imagery. If more ads are needed, the partner program shouldn't be so exclusive (mentioned below). Take a look at this screenshot of a common occurrence, labeled with YouTube's #1 most popular comment, which leads us to the next idea. 
  2. Fix commenting
    • Promote better comments through a cleaner user interface. YouTube has improved slowly since being acquired, but still isn't what would be expected from Google. Site designs that waste space and don't make efficient use of screen real estate encourage short mindless posts. 
    • Repeated comments could be filtered based on their length and uniqueness in the same vein as ROBOT9000. Short and common posts like "GAY" could be prevented entirely or at least made very inconvenient by requiring a captcha and displaying a prominent warning. Perhaps a minimum comment length should be adopted, at least temporarily. 
    • Posting URLs should be allowed, but requiring a captcha would prevent spam. 
  3. Specify copyright
    • Allow publishers to specify their level of copyright with licenses like Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike (CC-BY-SA), GNU FDL, Kopimi, Creative Commons Zero (CC0), which is a "stronger" Public Domain dedication that functions even in countries without a public domain, etc. 
    • Allow us to search for such videos by what we want to be able to do with them: share, remix, and/or use for commercial purposes
    • Provide a directory of music for publishers to use in their videos, perhaps partnering with Jamendo
  4. Sensible accounts, contacts, and messaging
    • Now that YouTube uses Google Accounts, there is no excuse to separate channels and users. The current system is like if Blogger limited a each account to one blog. One should be able to have multiple channels and channels should support multiple admins. Another Google Account shouldn't be needed to create another channel for a different purpose.
    • It is entirely redundant to import contacts from GMail instead of simply using Google Contacts to begin with. 
    • At the very least, YouTube's messaging interface needs to be fixed and cleaned up. It might even be better off eliminated. Neither Blogger or Picasa Web Albums have a special messaging interface, and YouTube's inbox seems to mainly collect spam. Instead, a contact form could be used much like on Google Profiles. 
  5. Automate featured videos
    • Replace the hand-picked "featured videos" system with something automated. Featured videos are unfair, impractical, and against the Google way. You can do much better to promote quality content from lesser-known YouTubers with algorithms.
  6. Expand monetization
    • Let viewers easily donate to producers they like on YouTube using Google Checkout without forcing them to pay to download or rent the video. This will be especially useful for free culture works or anyone using the pay-what-you-want model.
    • Most people who apply to for the YouTube Partner Program get an email which opens with this: "Thank you for your interest in the YouTube Partner Program. Our goal is to extend invitations to as many partners as we can. Unfortunately we are unable to accept your application at this time. The current level of viewership of your account has not met our threshold for acceptance." If YouTube really wanted to extend this program to as many partners as possible, why is there even a viewership threshold? Anybody eligible for an AdSense account should be able to make money off of ads displayed with their videos. It's mutually beneficial. 
  7. Live streaming
    • YouTube has done a few live video streams for the past couple years but it hasn't been a standard feature available to anyone. It looks like that might finally change as an image on the Moderator help page shows a "Live Stream" button at the end of the bar (not the circled button towards the middle). When this feature become available, it would be cool to be able to broadcast to YouTube live from Jabber (Google Talk) with a video call. 
  8. Downloads and video blogging
    • If a publisher wants to allow free video downloads, this should be allowed. For videos where downloading is allowed, they should be available to download in WebM but also whatever the original file was. 
    • Viewers should be able to subscribe to channels using RSS and Atom feeds like blogger. These should be easily accessed instead of requiring any special knowledge of how to find them.
    • Video files should be linked to directly as enclosures in channel feeds to enable proper video blogging. I understand YouTube may begin allowing audio uploads, so this would be an absolute must for podcasts, but it should be added now for videos to enable videocasts that can be listed on Miro for example.
    • If Blogger's reading list could by moved to Google Reader or some independent social subscription management site, then YouTube subscriptions might be better moved there so that people could follow channels using Google Friend Connect. 
  9. Publishing options
    • A video should not be published upon upload. The uploader should be given the chance to add captions, change video settings, allow encoding to finish in HD, wait for monetization approval, set a future publish date, etc, before having it pushed to their subscribers. Publishers are currently forced to set a video to private and change it to public once all the changes are made which pushes based on upload time, resulting in videos being buried in users' subscriptions.
    • Lift the ten minute limit which forced longer videos to be broken into segments. 
  10. Edit: Make HTML5 with VP8/WebM default
    • A number of you have pointed out that basic counting skills reveal that there were only 9 ideas here, so i'm adding a tenth. YouTube should work on making sure that all of the features used in their flash interface (ads, annotations, etc), are also supported by their HTML5 interface. 
    • The HTML5 interface should then be defaulted to with Google's free and open video codec and format, VP8 and WebM, respectively. The proliferation of a free video standard for the web is damn exciting, and this will help make VP8 and Ogg Theora dominate video and audio offline as well.
Edit: Add your support herehttp://www.google.com/support/forum/p/youtube/thread?tid=3177f94981a8ec05

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