Times Online Articles

In 2005 and 2006 I wrote a column in The Times Online called "Our Man From Mozilla", after the Graham Greene book. It was focussed on writing about technology issues and events in a way which is accessible and interesting to the public. I stopped when I worked out they weren't paying me anything like the going rate.

Update: the Times is now paywalled and so all of these articles are inaccessible unless you are a subscriber (and might be even then; I don't know). Although at the time I tried to negotiate a shared copyright or an open license, they weren't really interested in that, such things not having the profile that they do today, and me not having much clout. Let that be a lesson to all to not let your creative work fall under the control of others.

Having said that, I hope the Times' lawyers will not come after me if I post copies of my two favourite articles. I was particularly happy with "Breaching the 'Dam" and "Free software? You can't just give it away".


  • 19th December: "When music gets out of control" is a comment on the music industry's response to the Gowers Report.
  • 30th October: "Open secret: how Firefox 2 was born" gives a peek into some of the issues which face an open source project trying to make a splash.
  • 2nd October: "Shortcuts to success" laments people's unwillingness to learn keyboard shortcuts to acquire greater speed and avoid RSI.
  • 18th September: "Free data - a valuable commodity" explains how natural justice and economics both demand that government-collected data be free to access.
  • 5th September: "Searching for good usability" discusses Firefox's "Find As You Type" function as an example of usability innovation in free software.
  • 29th August: "Free software that's trouble-free" talks about the state of usability engineering in the free software community.
  • 15th June: "The late '98" is about the imminent support end-of-life of Windows 98, and its implications.
  • 30th May: "Why software can't bridge the gaps" discusses why we don't build software in the same way that we build bridges.
  • 17th May: "Software is special" shows the uniqueness of software and therefore why it should not be patentable.
  • 3rd May: "Free the Beatles' walrus" argues against an extension of the copyright monopoly on recorded music.
  • 18th April: "Remixing the web" highlights recent advances which allow users to customise sites to their own preferences, whether the owners like it or not.
  • 6th April: "All a matter of trust" discusses how browser makers can adapt their products, and users their habits, to help users defend themselves against phishing.
  • 22nd March: "Getting the world's poor logged on" is about the One Laptop Per Child initiative, and how the communication it enables is the most important thing.
  • 8th March: "Splitting the root" is about the seriously unfortunate consequences that would result if any government or jurisdiction decided to break away from the unified ICANN DNS root.
  • 21st February: "Free software? You can't just give it away" is an account of an amusing email exchange I had with a Trading Standards officer on the subject of free software.
  • 7th February: "The end of the (free) pipe dream?" is about the importance of the principle of "network neutrality" - that ISPs do not discriminate between different providers of a service.
  • 26th January: "COMMENT: Microsoft grandstanding" comments on the real-world relevance, or otherwise, of the ongoing Microsoft/EU Commission legal case.
  • 26th January: "XSSively Dangerous" discusses the risks of Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) attacks on websites.
  • 10th January: "Is free software's foundation stone cracking?" discusses the imminent GPL version 3 process, and the possibilities for discord that it entails.


  • 27th December: "Microsoft fine could be a price worth paying" suggests that the €2 million per day fine Microsoft may end up paying could be a bargain.
  • 13th December: "The Battle for Bangalore" contrasts two recent events in the city in terms of the battle for the hearts and minds of legions of Indian software developers.
  • 17th November: "Phishing with Screwtape, part II" is a second email I found between the two phishers.
  • 17th November: "Phishing with Screwtape" is an email I came upon from an old hand at phishing to a new apprentice.
  • 1st November: "Breaching the 'Dam" is about my trip to EuroOSCON and other events in Amsterdam.
  • 18th October: "Open formats make history - and maintain it" is about how the decision of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to use OpenDocument is the start of a move towards people reclaiming control of their data.
  • 4th October: "Cry Freedom" is about the difference between Free Software and Open Source, and why it's important to the average user as well as programmers.

Original URL: http://www.gerv.net/writings/times/