Open source news roundup for March 14 - 20, 2015

Google Code shuts down, GNU Manifesto turns 30, and more news

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In this week's edition of our open source news roundup, we take a look at the 30th anniversary of the GNU Manifesto; Google Code shutting down; a new open source, voice-activated digital assistant; and more.

Open source news roundup for March 14 - 20, 2015

The GNU Manifesto turns 30

In March of 1985, Richard Stallman published The GNU Manifesto, codifying the goals of the GNU project. Stallman's goal was to enable himself and others to use computers free from proprietary software. The software world has changed a lot in the past 30 years, and the GNU Manifesto plays a significant role in getting us to where we are today. Even if you fall into the group of people who roll their eyes when Stallman insists that we should say GNU/Linux instead of just Linux, it is impossible to deny that the GNU project and its manifesto played a major roll in the growth of Linux as a viable computing platform.

To commemorate this 30-year anniversary, The New Yorker published a retrospective that covers many of the key events of the past three decades. From Stallman's problems with adapting software designed to alert users about paper jam for a closed source printer, to more modern issues, the New Yorker article tells the story of where we have been and why it is still relevant today.

Google Code is shutting down

Late last week, Google announced that Google Code will be shutting down. Given the near ubiquity of GitHub for hosting code, this comes as little surprise. In fact, GitHub's popularity and the need to be where the developers are were cited by Google reasons why Google Code is no longer needed. Google itself has transitioned a large number of projects to GitHub.

Google Code will slowly be phased out. As of March 12, 2015, the creation of new projects has been disabled. On August 24, 2015, hosted projects will become read-only. The site will completely shut down on January 25, 2016. Until the site's final shutdown, users can migrate projects to GitHub using Google's Google Code to GitHub exporter tool.

Sirius, an open source digital voice assistant

Apple's Siri, Microsoft's Cortana, and Google Now are fighting for the #1 spot in the ever-growing field of voice-activated digital assistants. In fact, Microsoft might even be bringing Cortana to Android and iOS as a app to increase the reach of their digital assistant. As interesting and as useful as these voice assistants may be, they are not open source.

Researchers at the University of Michigan are looking to fill the open source gap in voice activated digital assistants with a new digital assistant known as Sirius. Sirius leverages open source software and can answer questions using text or voice input, and you can even use ask it questions about an image. Jason Mars, assistant professor of computer science at the University of Michigan, gives an overview of Sirius in this introductory video. If you want to learn more, you can read an academic paper about Sirius (PDF), or if you want to play around with the code, it is hosted on GitHub.

Richard Stallman on open hardware

In more Stallman-related news, Wired published Stallman's thoughts on open hardware and how it should be implemented. With open hardware having the potential to be one of the next big things, Stallman's advice is insightful for anyone interested in applying free software principles to physical hardware designs.

Stallman begins by acknowledging that software and hardware are two different things and they cannot be handled exactly the same way. He discusses how copyright (and by extension copyleft) can be limited in its usefulness when it comes to hardware. As an example, Stallman states that "a circuit, as a topology, cannot be copyrighted (and therefore cannot be copylefted)." His article concludes with suggested best practices for repositories of free hardware. Stallman gives suggestions for licenses (GNU GPL v3-or-later and various Creative Commons licenses) along with basic guidelines for repository operators interested in making sure open hardware designs are free.

In other news

Thanks to Opensource.com staff members and moderators for their help this week. Make sure to check out our event calendar, to see what's happening next week in open source.

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About the author

Joshua Allen Holm
Joshua Allen Holm - Joshua Allen Holm is one of Opensource.com's correspondents and a Linux distribution reviewer for DistroWatch.com. He is a advocate for open access, open educational resources, and open source software. He holds a master's degree in library and information science from Wayne State University and a master's degree in higher education from Grand Valley State University. Joshua can be reached at holmja@opensource.com.