Former chairman of VA Software and venture capitalist, Larry Augustin, co-founded VA Research in 1993 and was one of the driving forces behind the creation of Sourceforge. VA bought Andover.net in 2000, acquiring a number of media sites, including Slashdot. He serves on the board of several companies and is currently the CEO of SugarCRM. Larry has agreed to take some time and answer your questions about the world of venture capital, open source software, and surviving the dotcom bubble. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
enharmonix writes "I have a big decision to make. I am probably going to buy a laptop that I will primarily use for music. I would prefer an OEM distro so I don't need to install the OS myself (not that I mind), but I have no preference between open- and closed-source software as an end-user; I just care about the quality of the product. There are two applications that I absolutely must have: 1) a standard notation transcription program with quality auditioning (i.e., playback with quality sound fonts or something similar, better than your standard MIDI patches) that can also accept recorded audio in lieu of MIDI playback, and 2) a capable synthesizer (the more options, the better). If there's software out there that does both 1 and 2 in the same app, that's even better. I've played with some of Ubuntu's offerings for music a few years ago and some are very good, though not all of them are self-explanatory and the last time I checked, none of them really met my needs. I am not so worried about number 2 because I think I could pretty easily develop my own in .NET/Mono, which I think would be a fun project (which would be open source, of course). I am a Gnome fan so if I go with Linux, I will almost certainly go with standard Ubuntu over Kubuntu, but Gnome seems to rule out Rosegarden which was the best FOSS transcription software out there the last time I checked. The other solution I've thought of is to just shell out the $600 for Finale, which I'm more than willing to do, but I'm not so sure I want Windows 8 and I'm just not sure I can afford to go with a Mac on top of the $600 for Finale. I don't intend to put more than one OS on my laptop, either. Any slashdotters out there dabble in composing/recording, using MIDI, sound fonts, recorded audio, and/or synthesizers? What setup of hardware/OS/software works for you? Can FOSS music software compete with their pricier closed source competitors?" The KXStudio apps installed over Debian or Ubuntu tend to be pretty nice (better session handling that gladish provides at least).
First time accepted submitter hughbar writes "I live in a London suburb that has many activities and classes, yoga, IT [of course], running, art, assorted volunteering and many others. With the help of the local council, we'd now like to make a centralised, searchable database of these, with a number of helpful features: Easy to make submissions, otherwise the whole thing will always be out of date; Web accessible [obviously] but mobile phone friendly as well; Maybe, publish and subscribe, so people can 'subscribe' to yoga listings for example; Handles repeating events, like a classical web calendar; Maybe, can be consolidated with nearby events calendars. I'm aware of MRBS and WebCalendar, but I'm wondering whether there are other suggestions, especially as this is a useful social application. And, yes, I'd like it done with open source, then we can tailor it."
Their website's "About" page says, under the headline, "Our Big Mission": "The Eye Tribe intends to become the leading provider of eye control technology for mass market consumer devices by licensing the technology to manufacturers." Their only product at the moment is a $99 development kit ($142.50 with shipping and VAT). Some people may want to say, "This is old news. Wasn't there an open source project called Gaze Tracker that was originally developed to help handicapped people interact with the world?" Yes, there was. The Eye Tribe is an outgrowth of the Gaze Tracker research group, which is still going strong and still offers its software for free download (from SourceForge) under an open source license. The company's funding comes in large part from a government grant. In the interview (below), The Eye Tribe CEO Sune Johansen notes that they have just started shipping their development kit, and that they hope to start selling an eye control kit for tablet computers to the general public before long, but he doesn't want to commit to a specific shipping date because they don't want to sell to end users until "...we have enough applications out there so that it makes sense for the consumers to buy it directly."
An anonymous reader writes "The recent report of X11/X.Org security in bad shape rings more truth today. The X.Org Foundation announced today that they've found a X11 security issue that dates back to 1991. The issue is a possible stack buffer overflow that could lead to privilege escalation to root and affects all versions of the X Server back to X11R5. After the vulnerability being in the code-base for 23 years, it was finally uncovered via the automated cppcheck static analysis utility." There's a scanf used when loading BDF fonts that can overflow using a carefully crafted font. Watch out for those obsolete early-90s bitmap fonts.
In 1990, a development studio called Toys for Bob created a game called Star Control, a fun little space combat game with a bit of strategy added in. In 1992, they released Star Control 2, a full-blown space adventure RPG, which became one of the seminal works of early PC gaming. (Later open-sourced and released for modern systems.) After that, creators Fred Ford and Paul Reiche III lost control of the franchise to Accolade, who botched Star Control 3 and eventually abandoned the series. Last July, Stardock, the studio behind Sins of a Solar Empire, acquired the rights, and they're now discussing their plans to resurrect the classic series. They'll be using Star Control 2 as a template and an inspiration for all aspects of the game, though they won't be using any of the IP from Star Control I & II. They've also contacted Ford and Reiche and will try to hold true to their creative intentions. (The two currently run an Activision game studio, so they won't be involved with the new game.) Production will begin this winter.
jones_supa writes "A month ago there was worry about Kdenlive main developer being missing. Good news guys, Jean-Baptiste Mardelle has been finally reached and is doing fine. In a new mailing list post by Vincent Pinon, he says he managed to find Mardelle's phone number and contacted the longtime KDE developer. It was found out that Mardelle took a break over the summer but then lost motivation in Kdenlive under the burden of the ongoing refactoring of the code. Pinon agreed that there are 'so many things to redo almost from scratch just to get the 'old' functionalities'. The full story can be read from the kdenlive-devel mailing list. After talking with Jean-Baptiste, Vincent has called upon individual developers interested in Kdenlive to come forward. Among the actions called for is putting the Git master code-base back in order, ensuring the code is in good quality, provide new communication about the project, integrate new features like GPU-powered effects and a Qt5 port, and progressively integrate the new Kdenlive design."
An anonymous reader writes "Google has launched the Google Voice Search Hotword extension for Chrome, bringing the 'OK Google' feature to the desktop. You can download the new tool, currently in beta, now directly from the Chrome Web Store. Android users with version 4.4 KitKat will recognize the feature: it lets you talk to Google without first clicking or typing. It's completely hands-free, provided you're already on Google.com: just say 'OK Google' and then ask your question." Quick, someone wire Pocketsphinx up to Firefox, or integrate Simon into Krunner.
First time accepted submitter gnosygnu writes "Want your own copy of English Wikipedia with images? Got 100 GB of disk space? Then open-source app XOWA may be of interest to you. The project released torrents yesterday for the 2013-11-04 version of English Wikipedia. There's 100 GB of sqlite databases containing 13.9 million pages, and 3.7 million images — readable from any Windows, Linux, or Mac OS X system. Image downloads for other wikis are building, but you can still use XOWA to read the text-only version for other wikis like Wiktionary, Wikisource, Wikiquote and 660 more. Next time you find yourself stranded without the internet, you can pull out your own copy of Wikipedia for use."
Last week, we mentioned that the GIMP project had elected to leave SourceForge as its host, citing SourceForge's advertising policies. SourceForge (which shares a parent company with Slashdot) has released a statement about those policies, addressing in particular both ads that are confusing in themselves and their revenue-sharing system called DevShare, based on the provision of third-party software along with users' downloads. Among other things, the SF team is appealing to users to help them find and block misleading ads, and has this to say about the additional downloads: "The DevShare program has been designed to be fully transparent. The installation flow has no deceptive steps, all offers are fully disclosed, and the clear option to completely decline the offer is always available. All uninstallation procedures are exhaustively documented, and all third party offers go through a comprehensive compliance process to make sure they are virus and malware free."
Dangerous_Minds writes "GIMP, a free and open source alternative to image manipulation software like Photoshop, recently announced that it will no longer be distributing their program through SourceForge. Citing some of the ads as reasons, they say that the tipping point was 'the introduction of their own SourceForge Installer software, which bundles third-party offers with Free Software packages. We do not want to support this kind of behavior, and have thus decided to abandon SourceForge.' The policy changes were reported back in August by Gluster. GIMP is now distributing their software via their own FTP page instead." Note: SourceForge and Slashdot share a corporate parent.
Seemingly to inflict more suffering upon himself, Matthew Garrett (lord of getting things to boot using EFI) decided that booting directly into Zork would be cool. Quoting his weblog entry: "So, Frotz seemed like the natural choice when this happened. But despite having a set of functionality that makes it look much more like an OS than a boot environment, UEFI doesn't actually expose a standard C library. The EFI Application Development Kit solves this particular design decision. Porting Frotz ended up involving far more fixing up of Frotz bugs that tripped up -Werror than anything else. One note, though - make sure you include DevShell in the list of required packages at build time, otherwise file i/o will mysteriously fail." Grab the code, assuming you have a copy of Zork (or any other Z-machine game, as long as you name it ZORK1.DAT, I think).
phlawed writes "I've been a Linux user since the previous millennium. I came from OS/2, which I really liked. I quickly felt at home with icewm, using a suitably tweaked config to give me something resembling Presentation Manager. I may have commented on that before. Today, I find myself in a position where my preferred 'environment' is eroding. The only force keeping icewm rolling these days is the distribution package maintainers. I can't code in any meaningful way, nor do I aspire to. I could easily pay for a supported version of icewm, but I can't personally pay someone enough to keep it alive. I'd love it if someone took a personal interest in the code, to ensure that it remains up to date, or to make it run on Wayland or whatever. I want someone to own the code, be proud of it. Is there a general solution for this situation? How do I go about drumming up interest for an old project?"
Koookiemonster writes "Our company has many projects, each one with a folder on a Samba drive (Z:\). Our problem is syncing only the programmers' current projects (~30 at any time) between Z:\ and their C:\Projects\-folder on five Windows 7 laptops. If we sync the whole Z:\-drive, our projects folders would be filled with too many subfolders, making it difficult to navigate. The folders contain OpenPCS projects (PLC) and related files (Word, Excel, PDF documents); a common project folder is 50 MB. Is there any easy to use, low-budget sync software with scripting, so that we could e.g. only sync folders that exist locally?" (Read more details, below, of what Koookiemonster is looking for.)
First time accepted submitter kazade84 writes "Over the weekend the Elementary team released the stable version of Elementary OS, codenamed "Luna" which is based on Ubuntu 12.04. The new OS features an entirely custom desktop shell called Pantheon which has been developed from scratch using Vala and Gtk+ which allows for fast apps with a small memory footprint. Elementary OS has been years in the making, and the team have documented the process in their latest blog post."
First time accepted submitter chris.kohlhepp writes "The Emacs editor just got consolidated package management with "Feline Herd", offering 2000+ packages under one roof. No struggle with convoluted keyboard shortcuts — only easy GUI navigation via toolbar buttons! Every conceivable programming language is handled. Cuts the Emacs learning curve to a minimum for learners."
An anonymous reader writes "Atari declared bankruptcy earlier this year, and part of that process involves selling off its property in order to pay as many entities holding its debt as possible. The latest round includes a $30 million claim from Atari's parent company in France, and a $261 million claim from another subsidiary of that parent company. The $30 million debt is secured (in other words, they get priority on whatever's left in the U.S. Atari's coffers), but the $261 million debt is not, so they'll have to wait in line with everybody else." The article also lists some interesting sell-offs. The old Accolade brand got sold for $50,000, the Battlezone Franchise was sold to Rebellion Interactive for $566,500, and Wargaming World Limited purchased the Total Annihilation and Masters of Orion franchises. Stardock Systems, creators of Sins of a Solar Empire, picked up the rights to the Star Control franchise, which they intend to reboot. (Those who played it will recall that StarCon2 was the Best Game Ever. And it's been remade after the creators released the source code.)
An anonymous reader writes "Still the most popular open source office suite, Apache OpenOffice 4 has been released, with many new enhancements and a new sidebar, based on IBM Symphony's implementation but with many improvements. The code still has comments in German but as long as real new features keep coming and can be shared with other office suites no one is complaining." The sidebar mentioned brings frequently used controls down and beside the actual area of a word-processing doc, say, which makes some sense given how wide many displays have become. This release comes with some major improvements to graphics handling, too; anti-aliasing makes for smoother bitmaps. In conjunction with this release, SourceForge (also under the Slashdot Media umbrella) has announced the launch of an extensions collection for OO. Extensions mean that Open Office can gain capabilities from outside contributors, rather than being wrapped up in large, all-or-nothing updates. You can download the latest version of Apache OpenOffice here.
New submitter LFSim writes "It's not the Turing test just yet, but in one more domain, AI is becoming increasingly competitive with humans. This time around, it's in interplanetary trajectory optimization. From the European Space Agency comes the news that researchers from its Advanced Concepts Team have recently won the Gold 'Humies' award for their use of Evolutionary Algorithms to design a spacecraft's trajectory for exploring the Galilean moons of Jupiter (Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto). The problem addressed in the awarded article (PDF) was put forward by NASA/JPL in the latest edition of the Global Trajectory Optimization Competition. The team from ESA was able to automatically evolve a solution that outperforms all the entries submitted to the competition by human experts from across the world. Interestingly, as noted in the presentation to the award's jury (PDF), the team conducted their work on top of open-source tools (PaGMO / PyGMO and PyKEP)."
another random user writes with an excerpt from TorrentFreak: "It's no secret that copyright holders are trying to take down as much pirated content as they can, but their targeting of open source software is something new. In an attempt to remove pirated copies of Game of Thrones from the Internet, HBO sent a DMCA takedown to Google, listing a copy of the popular media player VLC as a copyright infringement. An honest mistake, perhaps, but a worrying one. ... Usually these notices ask Google to get rid of links to pirate sites, but for some reason the cable network also wants Google to remove a link to the highly popular open source video player VLC. ... The same DMCA notice also lists various other links that don't appear to link to HBO content, including a lot of porn related material, Ben Harper's album Give Till It's Gone, Naruto, free Java applets and Prince of Persia 5."