Sunday, November 24, 2013

Creative Commons and Open Source

With the advent of our technology boom, our creations can take on a life all their own in the digital realm. This is illustrated through the advent of memes- the works produced through Creative Commons and open source attribution, as well as open-source micro computing.  These two elements are the new power duo that is destined to bring us to an entirely new level of awesomeness!


With meme fads, we're accustomed to variations on a similar theme. For instance, images with variations on the keep calm motto have been re-purposed, so this meme has become rather ubiquitous. At this point, I'm sure people are soooooo very tired of the whole Keep Calm meme altogether, but it is a great example of the whole meme genre by and large...

 turned into...

Another example of a meme would be the pepper spraying cop....

this original image ->

Turned into these variants...


Creative Commons

Creative Commons, gives users the right to re-purpose works. So, if you take a photo, others can build from that photo in any number of creative ways. The share and share alike spirit has produced a great number of wonderful works from humorous art pieces that poke fun at personas and predicaments, as well as incorporating themes of pop culture in fun and interesting amalgamations.  

Take for instance, a basic image taken in real life, such as this unassuming squirrel on a branch...

Who would have ever considered, when looking at a standard squirrel photo, that it could be transformed it into comic book superheroes?  Perhaps the creative types would see this, but how about the less creatively inclined?

Well, that's the beauty of Creative Commons! We see new entertaining creations spring up from as innocuous picture as simple as a squirrel walking on a tree.

Now, with video and music editing tools,  we tread the path of uncharted territories - where mash ups, composites, sampling, and more allow new art forms to exist. Video artistry of all kinds have sprung up on channels in Vimeo, and Youtube. Sometimes with unexpected and definitely amazingly cool results. Take for instance, the artistry of Kutiman, who sources the Creative Commons by taking excerpts from individual musical performances on Youtube, and then, re-compiles them through video editing, to produce cohesive and catchy songs.

This illustrates the wonderful creativity with which we are supporting through sharing.  Simply by each person sharing art, music, and videos in new ways, some really cool new creations can happen. To me, that's an incredibly wonderful way to interact in the digital medium. We should definitely be all for it! Anyone who raises a stink about this way of sharing is a real stick-in-the-mud curmudgeon that doesn't deserve our attention.

Open Source In A Free Market

It's in this same creative spirit, that we find new ways to put variations in themes into computing as well.  Only, instead of applying an ownership mentality to the software tools, we do away with corporate constructs that dictate closed market monopolies on everything and customize computers and software for uses as varied as our interests dictate.

Brand loyalty in consumerism is its own meme, so it will be hard for some of the populace to even be open to the idea of changing their hardware and software as readily. Brand loyalty is it's own beast and those firmly in this beast's grasp don't always know what is best, they only know what they are used to. Those however, whom are open to open source, have seen the beauty of it's architecture and have circumvented capitalistic closed systems which contribute to a far more restricted user experience on so many levels, compared with what is possible.  All sorts of arbitration ensues with these megalithic companies like Apple and Samsung, arguing who has what copyrights and trademarks, continually producing new versions, and charging exorbitant prices.  Who wants to support all the wasted time and resources on all that counterproductive activity? Why not let all that go?

The developments in open source attribution in a free market allows others to be able to bring great new technologies to the populace in far more useful ways and at a fraction of the cost. We should support this trend as it can only help to improve the user experience for everyone.  Also, at the same time, we as consumers awakened to the trappings of traditional capitalism can circumvent the status quo when profit motives decrease the quality of products and/or limit our choices/freedom, and/or stand in the way of progress, or fail to listen to us when the umpteenth update destroys what we liked in their product, or when they simply don't care, nor really listen to what we want. (remember when Windows 7 went to 8 and people couldn't even customize their system sounds?, or when Final Cut Pro went from 7 to X and there was zero cross compatibility?).  So much for software developments making our lives easier!

It's in the Hardware!

Along with the aforementioned examples of images, art, music, and video having a digital renaissance from open source attribution, other equally new and exciting things are happening in the world of cross pollination with open source programs and the advent of micro computing ARM technologies like Hardkernel's Odroid. Their new little Big creation, is smaller than a credit card and fits in the palm of your hand.

If you are just into browsing the internet, checking emails, and watching TV shows, and movies, you really don't have to spend ridiculous amounts of money to have a fully functional computer.  They certainly don't have to take up all of your desks anymore, either.  Now, systems can fit in the palm of your hand and you can swap out your operating systems with interchangeable hard drives on 32 gigabyte micro SD chips that only cost  $20-$30 dollars, each.

You can literally run a machine for a few hundred dollars and be able to use various Ubuntu interfaces, or the Android interface (like all Samsung phones) and browse the Internet, watch TV shows and movies, run a business using Google's suite of free programs, and produce all the art and music you want, to your hearts content! Simply spending a few hundred on the board and heat sink, and a few peripherals, such as a Belkin mini usb hub, wifi dongle, bluetooth dongle, wireless keyboard, and HDMI cable, as well as a few microSD cards, will get you all you need. The amazing thing is, we can run apps from these microSD cards without having to pay for anything other than the the microSD cards themselves! Now that your data can now be stored on chips the size of a fingernail,  gone are the days of CD & DVD disks! They'll join tape and floppy disks as an obsolete medium.

What's important to note is the fact that these Odroid systems run on a mere 5 watts, compared to running on 150-300 watts, such as the standard run-of-the mill desktop systems on the market today. 
The decrease in wattage use with computing every day by 90% is huge! Not only would this lower your electric utility bills, if more people began converting to micro computing, we would considerably decrease our demand in electricity consumption across the board. Especially, if the conversion were in the hundreds of millions of people!  It's certainly more affordable for schools, so all schools can have these kinds of units to teach the next generations computer technology, programming, and app development.  Why spend 2K a unit, when you can spend $200?  That's a no-brainer for the education system to get behind,  if you ask me.

Perhaps people have bought into the idea, that expensive products mean superior products.  However, this notion should be as obsolete as disks. Just because something is cheaper, doesn't necessarily mean these products are less valuable to people and the planet. If you spend a lot of money and power on a system, but you're not using all its features, it's really a huge waste of energy and money! Even if you need a more robust system to produce videos and animation, you don't need Apple computers to do that.  In this modern era, we can mix and match hardware from and build our own faster, better computers for a percentage of the cost of pre-made units at stores like Apple or Best Buy! I don't know about you, but to me, an 80-90% reduction in cost is super awesome in my book!  But this isn't just applicable to your average consumer, but also organizations that have to throw down big sums to outfit a slew of cubicles.  Considering the economics of that kind of reduction in cost, I'm sure those spending the big bucks when they don't have to for people to simply check emails and work on the cloud, that this sort of hardware is the holy grail of cutting direct costs, but I digress... 

ARM micro computing aside, I have a 64-bit, 12 core system that's a blend of items from the gaming system configurations in the preceding "mix and match hardware" link.  The system is far faster turning on and operating software than my iMac ever was and it cost half as much as the Apple computer. Not to mention, with the demands of the MAC OS, the processing speed lagged and my own work productivity was minimized. Waiting for things to process became the norm, so I lovingly referred to the wait symbol, the color spinning wheel of doom.

Now, I can run Linux with a number of different Ubuntu operating systems, and through Ubuntu Studio, I have a production environment that is equitable to the commercialized cousins we are all familiar with from the likes of Adobe, Apple, or Microsoft.  I have the system partitioned, so I can run on Microsoft and use Adobe products if I want to, but I also have Ubuntu Studio, which has a whole suite of programs to explore, become familiarized with, and make use of. 

I also have the Odroid XU  and XU3 units, so I have them on a network and they are accessible on my large screen HD TV. I can use a computer from the comfort of the couch or my bed with only a keyboard on my lap instead of a hot laptop, or ipad device.  They are really awesome little micro computers with all sorts of uses, depending on what we want.  I've got one running Android and the other running Linux and I can swap between either using ES File Explorer and BVNC Free.

With all these great new software programs to work with, this got me to thinking... Instead of continually paying for a bunch of fancy expensive software upgrades every year, along with monthly fees for cloud based support, why not use other applications that can do the same things without having to pay anything at all?  Then we can go about our business, utilizing the gifts of computers and the digital arts. Unlike with big conventional industry products,  the free market in open source software computing brings with it, its own brand of innovation's that are far more relevant to our modern computer culture. Open source means we don't have to pay for software and upgrades all the time. There are a plethora of programs that can perform the same general function of the software we're used to. It's just a matter of familiarizing yourself with the user interface.  Instead of Microsoft Office or Photoshop for instance, there's Libre Office and Gimp. This is just a basic example, but there are many equivalent apps that can perform all sorts of tasks that we would need or want.  I'd be curious to find out what your favorites are, so by all means, tell me in the comment section below..

Where does all this lead?

What this evokes, is a world of open and endless possibilities.  Now that we have low wattage systems with software that we don't have to pay for all the time and that we can use anywhere there is a monitor with a working HDMI port.  Now, we can get to the matter of actually producing wonderful things in the spirit of sharing and ultimate creativity!  I am sooo very looking forward to seeing where all this goes!

Ideally, even the poorest nations should be able to afford computers now with the development of micro-computing technologies with free open source applications, and they can even run these units without the need for nuclear or coal, because they can operate on portable solar chargers.

The fact that all of humanity can have access to this technology now opens up a whole new frontier in cultural exchange.  The digital age allows all the worlds people's access to an endless field of information and ideas. The innovation that comes with it will be far accelerated in an open and free computing environment as well.  We have yet to see where that path takes us and what people will create from these new platforms in robotics, micro-super computing, and who know what else!  With open source, we can always improve upon the architecture that's out there, we can evolve applications and software to further meet our specific needs, change games to suit our fancy, reinvent apps, improve upon pre-existing apps, and oh so much more.  That's a step ahead in the right direction if you ask me...

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