Linux Voice

I had mail yesterday from Andrew Gregory, a Linux journalist we’ve really enjoyed working with over the last few years. Andrew was already writing about Raspberry Pi before we had even started selling them, and it was good luck for us and for him that on the day we announced our launch, he already had a life-sized image of the Raspberry Pi squarely positioned on the front cover of Linux Format Magazine in shops across the UK. We like Andrew. He’s good people.

Andrew and much of the rest of the editorial team has since departed Linux Format, and they’re working on setting up a new magazine – one with a business model which we think will resonate incredibly well with the FOSS community; it’s a business model which is completely new in the magazine sector. Linux Voice, which is currently raising money via IndieGogo for its launch, has got us all aquiver.

Sample content: part of a Minecraft Pi tutorial. Click to embiggen.

What makes Linux Voice unusual? It’s that business model. Fifty percent of profits will go straight back to FOSS and Linux communities, with readers given the ability to nominate which projects, devs and events are sponsored. And after each issue of the magazine has been out for nine months, all of its content will be made available for free under a CC BY-SA licence. This is not something I’m aware of any other paid-for magazine doing, and it has enormous implications for teachers, after-school groups – and for the rest of us.

We’re very excited about this project. We know the team, and they’ve got some great writers and editors on board with a huge breadth and depth of domain knowledge and experience. These are the people who first put an article about Raspberry Pi on newsstands. I asked Andrew if he had a few words for readers of this website, and this is what he sent me:

Under traditional licensing systems, the copyright owner can print and reprint content as often as they see fit, often charging several times for the same old copy. 

We don’t want to exploit our readers by charging them several times for the same old content, but we also don’t want our old content mouldering away on some server somewhere. Instead, we’d rather it were put to use. Things move on so quickly in free software that a lot of our old content will be worthless to us commercially, but it will have value to teachers, students, maker groups and code clubs. 

Releasing Linux Voice’s material under the CC-BY-SA licence means that anyone will be able to take what we’ve done and update it, so it doesn’t go stale; incorporate it into larger works, such as school or university worksheets; or just download it and use it as it is.

What this means is that once we’ve created something, it will (we hope) be out there, and be useful to somebody, for ever. Learning is about sharing knowledge, and we want to help make our contribution to the shift in computer science teaching that’s been kicked off by the Raspberry Pi.

We’re proud to support Linux Voice, and we’re watching their IndieGogo like a hawk. Please head along and sign up to support them by buying a print or digital subscription. We’ll be signing up alongside you.


meltwater avatar

Really hope this does well, and great to see they are releasing content back to the community.

The magazine format is excellent way for people to obtain high quality material.

Look forward to reading the Raspberry Pi stuff.

Aaron avatar

Worthy of anyone’s money for sure. Can’t wait to read the first one.

It is amazing how many businesses are starting to go open source.

Still not as good as the MagPi though :-)

liz avatar

The MagPi will always come first in our hearts. We less-than-three you guys.

Aaron avatar

Took me a minute to work out what you meant.

But yay!

Paul Whelan avatar

If anyone wants to know a little bit ore about the guys behind this great idea you can listen to their podcasts here

Stewart Watkiss avatar

I’ve been reading Linux Format since the pilot issue (I still have a copy of Linux Answers around). They put together a great magazine and even when you’ve been using Linux as long as I have (well before anyone created a magazine for it), there is always something new to learn.

I thought it seamed to be a bit of a coincidence as the writers left the magazine around the same time. Now we know why.

It sounds like it’s going to be a great magazine. With the current state of DRM restricting what we can do with things we buy, it’s great to see campaigns going against those. Free content that is 9 months old will still be current enough for many who otherwise couldn’t afford to buy the magazine. Win Win!

asb avatar

Linux Voice is probably the most compelling crowdfunding campaign I have seen
to date. As with many campaigns, there’s a great team behind it and the
promised end product sounds neat but in this case there’s more. Frequently,
crowd-funded campaigns offload risk to their backers (present because the
product is incomplete) but there is no real reward or upside. The creators
emphasise how there is no way the (game|film|whatever) could be made without
the backers pledging their money, but the end result almost never becomes
common property.

Linux Voice are doing it right in my opinion: taking
community money and releasing their work back under a CC-BY-SA license so
everybody can benefit from the upside of success. This is useful for education, after-school clubs and the like
but also the upstream FOSS projects that get written about as the license
allows them to build on and maintain a tutorial written for Linux Voice if
they wish. Oh, and they’re promising to invest half of their profits back in
to the FOSS community.

eben avatar

What Alex said. Campaigns that solicit money from the crowd and leave the IP in the hands of the creator quease me out a little, particularly if there’s significant risk involved and some of the funding is intended to cover the remaining design work*. It’s less of an issue if the campaign is just about aggregating enough demand to get component costs for an essentially complete product down. Hopefully we’ll see a trend toward shared-equity crowdfunding under the JOBS Act and similar laws.

* This sentence does not apply to any campaign involving Jeri Ellsworth of course.

BlueSky avatar

‘Andrew. He’s good people’ does he perhaps have a multiple personality disorder ?

liz avatar

No, but he uses the vernacular with flair and panache.

Bantammenace avatar

And which magazine did flair and panache previously work for ?

Jim Manley avatar

I believe the former worked for Vanity Flair and the latter was employed by Panache Magazine, an insert in the Fort Worth, Texas, Star-Telegram, now apparently replaced by Indulge Magazine :lol:

Andrew Gregory avatar

This is going in my CV.
Actually scratch that, from now on it IS my CV.

salts avatar

That’s the first crowd funded project I have supported.

Andy avatar


Gonzalo Casas avatar

Very nice initiative!

For the record, there are other magazines using similar business models. Revista Orsai in the Spanish literature sector started doing it 3 years ago.

William H. Bell avatar

In many of these minecraft tutorials cd is used to change to the directory where the python files are. Why not just set the PYTHONPATH variable in .bashrc once?

Jim Manley avatar

The content is such a great idea and greatly appreciated by the educational community. Some of us are still using computers from the last millenium in our classrooms, so nine months time-late information is equivalent to being more than a decade into the future for us! :D

It would be nice if the digital version included a comments section for every article, editorial, etc., especially when the content becomes liberated. Wiki-style access would be even better (for subscribers before the free period begins) to allow interstitial expansion, e.g., adding links to related content within the magazine’s site as well as external sources.

BTW, do ad buyers get permanent positioning in the digital afterlife version? This can have an impact on usability in educational venues – we have enough trouble as it is projecting the actual content from typical web sites in the classroom without ads occupying half the screen.

Other than those with a fetish for the feel and smell of ink and paper and the whole layout schtick that “designers” insist upon (there are 12-step programs for that sorta thing, guys), I’m mystified by why anyone still insists on killing trees to publish anything. This is especially the case for technical material, and most particularly anything with an emphasis on software (e.g., Stanford University eliminated its engineering print library years ago to convert the space into classrooms).

As long it’s available in digital form from the start, I couldn’t care less whether there’s a print version, but if that’s what others want, more power to ’em. Just be aware that paper publishing is still an ecological disaster, and while the circulation of this sort of publication won’t make much of a dent in the carbon cycle, but it will still be one of too many contributions that should be reduced, not further expanded. I guess “publish or perish” is still being clutched to the bosom by the diehards and it may take one more generation for them to die off, retire, or otherwise shuffle off into a more appropriate dimension than the ones the rest of us are trapped in for the unforeseeable future.

Otherwise, Warp Factor 10 for this starship, Mr. Sulu! :D

Haggishunter avatar

There are still (for the moment) some advantages to paper publishing. Paper is more shockproof, waterproof and long-lived than any ebook reader I’ve ever encountered, the display stays readable for far longer and consumes less power post-production, and the hardware can be reused in more ways. It’s also cheaper for small numbers of pages.

Even so I agree that electronic publishing is usually better overall, and look forward to the day when e-readers catch up with paper. :)

meltwater avatar

The printed verses electronic debate is an interesting one.

My preference is for fiction to be in electronic format and things like textbooks to be in printed form.

This just comes down to how you use each type of material. A physical textbook tends to be easier to refer to and mentally digest. An electronic novel has the convenience of being easy to take with you and pick-up where you left off. eReaders just aren’t designed properly for textbooks.

There is a huge room for improvement regarding electronic textbooks, with some small changes and features I can see them becoming much better than their paper versions. Alas there hasn’t been much innovation on this YET.

A textbook which allows you to reference snippets, make notes, get updates or even get additional help and information. Allow the user to generate bookmarks, and scrapbooks from the content, to flag things they liked or didn’t like, make it easy for them to find the multiple places they may be working through. Fast index and cross-referencing, links to related material.

It is possible, and in some cases available but clearly not user-friendly enough to be used daily.

It is about time Amazon put some more effort into their software me-thinks (the kindle software hasn’t changed much in its lifetime).

liz avatar

I feel the same way: print for reference books, Kindle for everything else. The Kindle’s a real blessing if you have to travel a lot; it saves a *lot* of suitcase space that used to be given over to books.

Jim Manley avatar

I’m going to comment on my comment just to keep the nesting from driving us all nuts, but this is in response to the thoughtful and appreciated replies to my brain fart.

Here are some more imponderables to ponder (sorta my speciality, I guess). Advantages and disadvantages do not cancel each other out on a one-for-one basis in this sort of comparison. When you annotate, edit, or otherwise modify the content and/or context of a given data object (I’m lumping together text, images, video, audio, and whatever the heck is coming next – brain farts? ;) ) on even just the typical devices and apps available today, the deltas get broadcast to every view on every other device accessing that object. This is something that’s so far outside the print-based box that you need the Hubble Space Telescope to even look back and
see the print-based box.

I have never, ever, ever referred back to notes scribbled in the margins of any print-based format, usually because (a), I find it offensive to do such scribbling for whomever winds up using it after me, since I donate such things after a lifetime of building collections. Guess why I’m a volunteer at the Computer History Museum – it’s a much better organized and curated collection than I could ever mount for even a handful of artifacts, including the four libraries we have – books, periodicals, documentation, and software. In addition, (b), I can never find print-based scribbled notes again anyway and, yes, I tried the journal thing, but could never find anything in those later, assuming I didn’t leave it on the Keihin-Tōhoku Line, Yamanote Line, Chūō-Sōbu Line, Hibiya Line, or Tsukuba Express on the way to or from a visit to my beloved Akihabara Electric City in Tokyo, or the Valley Transit Authority Light Rail when going to/from a local Fry’s here in SillyCon Valley.

Being able to distribute (for dissemination as well as backup), index, and search anything, anywhere, anytime is simply what Arthur C. Clarke described as any technology, sufficiently advanced, as to be indistinguishable from magic, compared with print-based forms.

BTW, has anyone noticed how much whitespace is wasted in typical “designer” layouts, and that in the case of Linux Voice, they’re also using a san serif typeface (it’s not a font – that’s just one attribute of a typeface) for the text of their articles, which is less readable than a serif typeface? The computer screen output can be put into a different typeface than the article text, but a monospace serif choice such as Courier is much preferable to any san serif typeface.

If it’s not locked into something like PDF, at least an e-device may be able to provide you the option to choose the typeface – try doing that with print-based media. As you age, you will consider being able to change the typeface point size in e-media instantly a godsend like no other. You’re stuck trying to find the reading glasses you left on the transportation vehicle when some “designer” decided what looked better to them than what the audience really needed. I’m not even going to get into the ability of e-stuff to allow you to rearrange things if you don’t like the layout. I’ll grant you that’s currently a new feature only in leading-edge apps and not generally available on low(er)-end e-readers yet. The wiki model points to how this can be implemented, except that you can readily fork your own personal layout and annotated variants that can be private or shared.

As for the reliability and durability of paper over e-devices, you’ve apparently never gotten caught in an unexpected downpour with a paper dinosaur. Like their ancient cousins, they wrinkle terribly when wet, or worse if the binding job wasn’t of the best quality. In terms of longevity, did you know that we’re having to completely reinvent the iron-based ablative heat shield technology that predates the Space Shuttle, because everyone involved in ablative heat shield development is now dead, and NASA destroyed the paper-based documentation when the Shuttle came along, because “No one’s going to be crazy enough to ever need to build another ablative heat shield”? Be very, very, very careful what you wish for – you might just get it.

For the “Oh, no, my e-device is dead, whatever will I do now that I can’t read anything ever again?” scenario, just go on, Craigslist, etc., and get another one for free. Rich folks upgrade from last year’s perfectly-useful tech as soon as the next shiny toy comes along, so you might as well take advantage of their addiction.

I go back to the days of slide rule engineering, and when hand-held calculators became available, Admiral Rickover, Father of the Nuclear Navy, forbid their use on “his” submarines and ships because, “What do you do when, not if, you drop that gadget into the bilge?” My answer was, “Well, I’ll just grab the one on the belt of the guy next to me, because we all wear them now, Grandpa!”

Please look at the calendar – it’s no longer the scarce years of the 1900s any more, folks! Join us here in the 21st Century – it’s a lot less dysfunctional than the rear-view mirror images of YesteryearLand. Note that I did not say more functional, however! If you’re waiting for Perfection, you’re going to miss a lot of trains that pass close enough for what we call an engineering approximation.

Meltwater – let’s do a Kickstarter/Indiegogo campaign to get the improvements you propose done. I can see it going to Pebble levels of funding in the first week, and Infinity and Beyond by the end of a month! I’m serious, dude! :D

David Kaplowitz avatar

looks good! how can I get a copy of that first issue with the Minecraft article in it? I’ve just bought a Raspberry Pi for my son for his birthday and he’s all into Minecraft so that’s our in point!

liz avatar

It should be in shops – but in the meantime, it’s worth out checking out – lots of really fun stuff in there, and the learning curve isn’t too steep.

David Kaplowitz avatar

thanks! will check it out!

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