Monday, December 21, 2009

Monty Responds

Michael "Monty" Widenius wrote a nicely-worded response to my previous post "Oracle, Mysql and the GPL: don't take Monty's word for it", and I thought it deserves more visibility, so I'm quoting it below. For the record, I'm not an Oracle "fan" and am in agreement with Steven O'Grady, who wrote that Monty mostly just wants to get the band back together and is pursuing the shortest path to that destination. I can't fault him for that. What I objected to was what I felt was a conflict of interest that hadn't been seirously reported. That, and I really dislike how this brouhaha has resulted in unfair attacks on the GPL and dual-licensing in general.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Oracle, MySQL and the GPL: don't take Monty's word for it

In the continuing soap opera of Oracle's battle against the European Commission for the right to acquire Sun, and with it, MySQL, we have had to rely on the bloggers and analysts to get it right, because the media surely has not. Before you read any further, stop right now and read Matthew Aslett's excellent summary of Oracle-MySQL through last week, Pamela Jones' excellent piece on the matter (and her later update), and Matt Asay's highlighting of Monty Widenius' conflict of interest in opposing the Sun acquisition.

One of the more damaging consequences of this case is the opportunistic piling on against the GPL license. Every BSD Tom, Dick and Harry with an axe to grind about Richard Stallman, the GPL, and GNU has stepped up to the plate, on cue, to deliver unsubstantiated rants against the GPL. I suggest that readers follow the money and look into the reasons why each party takes the stance it does. Oracle's bias and intent in all of this is pretty clear, but the opposition has not been so forthright.

Read more below:

in reference to: Oracle, MySQL and the GPL: don't take Monty's word for it (view on Google Sidewiki)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Have an iPod? Use Windows? Get Songbird

Following up on my last article about using your iPod with Ubuntu, I decided to take a crack at what open source tools are available for those iPod owners who use Windows. As it turns out, there isn't much. While a download of Amarok for Windows is available, good luck getting it to recognize or sync with your iPod.

But what I did find was the latest version of Songbird, and that might just be all you need. Songbird is built on the Mozilla platform and has an extensive list of community-contributed addons. The last time I checked out Songbird, it was probably still 2007, and while interesting, it didn't strike me as particularly useful. That is, until I started using Windows. What seems rather mundane and just one of many options on Linux becomes a rock star on Windows.

Read the full article on

Thursday, December 10, 2009

On CNET: The VA Linux Systems IPO Retrospective

I wrote a guest post on Matt Asay's The Open Road blog, over at CNET. December 9, 2009 marked the 10 year anniversary of the VA Linux IPO, and I wrote a piece marking the anniversary and noting the significance, such that there is any, of the IPO and its aftermath.

Read the piece here.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Using Your iPod with (K)ubuntu 9.10

After a rocky beginning, I've been able to do many neat things with my Black iPod Classic with 120 GB, but it hasn't been without its trials and tribulations. In this post, I'll write about the tools I use to sync music, add photos, and transcode videos to the correct format. Being a Kubuntu user, note that my bias is towards KDE tools. If you use others, please list them in the comments. As with many things on Linux, there's more than one way to do it. (Apologies to Larry Wall)

Those who know me well are familiar with my unhealthy dislike for all things Apple. Perhaps it's the way they attach DRM to everything they touch. Or maybe it's the cult of Steve. Or maybe it's because they make shiny, overpriced goods that they push to the gullible. Naturally, when my wife looked for something to give me on my birthday, she purchased an iPod. To her credit, she told me what she was thinking before the purchase, and I made a mad dash to Google to see about alternative, friendlier devices. In all honesty, I couldn't find a better device for the money, and so an iPod it was.

Read the whole post:

in reference to: Using Your iPod with (K)ubuntu 9.10 (view on Google Sidewiki)

Thursday, December 03, 2009

SugarCRM Gets a True Open Source Visionary in Larry Augustin

I was pleasantly surprised to read that Larry Augustin had been named SugarCRM's full-time CEO. After spending much of the last decade as an investor and board member extraordinaire for many (most?) companies grouped in the commercial open source category, it is good to see Larry back in the CEO saddle. This is a vindication of sorts for Larry and his vision of an open source future. After years of attempting to explain just how ubiquitous open source was going to be, he can now take the reigns of a company at a time when most customers and vendors take as a given that a substantial portion of any solution will consist of open source code. This was not always the case, especially when Larry was still CEO of VA Linux Systems, at the time the premier vendor for servers running Linux.

To give you an idea of what SugarCRM is getting, Larry is a guy who saw the value in building a center of gravity for open source developerment before most; a guy who counseled LinuxWorld Expo to look to the developer audience and eschew the bad advice they were receiving from their vendors. That they ignored him and subsequently failed is a testament to his vision.

Perhaps the best example of this vision was a move he made almost 10 years ago that many, including yours truly, openly questioned at the time: the acquisition of by VA Linux Systems. Some of you may remember that was the media company that had purchased and VA was then still gleaming with post-IPO sparkles, which had taken place just two months prior to the Andover acquisition.

(follow the link below to see full post.)

in reference to: SugarCRM Gets a True Open Source Visionary in Larry Augustin (view on Google Sidewiki)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Crazy Google Kids at it Again with Chrome OS

Google kicked off the launch of its Chromium OS project today with a presentation on Chrome OS. The first thing you'll notice is that the name of Google's consumer product will be Chrome OS, while the open source project is named Chromium OS. My guess: Google will bless the usage of the Chrome OS name by granting trademark rights to those who comply with Google's standards. Google didn't say that, but that's what I would do.

The next thing I noticed is that Chrome OS will be completely "cloud-based". As in, no local data. As in, all web apps all the time. As in, it's only useful to the extent that there's an internet connection. This will likely prove to be a Google Rohrschach test. Those already predisposed to disliking anything Google does will find this horrifying. Those who think Google is the bee's knees will conclude that it's not completely evil and, indeed, is the next logical evolution of desktops-in-the-cloud technology.

in reference to: Crazy Google Kids at it Again with Chrome OS (view on Google Sidewiki)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

10 Years of

It's often difficult to notice when you're in the midst of making history. In the summer and fall of 1999, I spent some time working next door to four noisy, Mountain Dew-swilling misfits working on a renegade project within VA Linux Systems. Little did I know that their efforts would become known as the world's largest open source development site.

I refer, of course, to, which launched on November 17, 1999. Most people think of these days as another huge web site with lots of ads, but very few understand its humble beginnings or how challenging it was to even launch the darn thing without the powers-that-be at VA killing it off in a fit of well-intentioned hari kiri. The history and beginnings of can teach executives and managers today the value of trying crazy things that might (and probably will) fail; of letting your young guns run wild with imagination; and not squashing innovation within your company. Today is about, the site that was before its time and how it came to be.

In reference to: 10 Years of (view on Google Sidewiki)

Friday, November 13, 2009

OStatic: Is the Symbian Foundation DOA?

When Nokia announced that it was launching the Symbian Foundation to great fanfare, it had within its grasp that rarest of opportunities to move swiftly and become the dominant open source mobile platform. Alas, just one and a half years later, they have seemingly ceded that position to Android. Instead of recognizing the threat from Android and making strategic changes to counter, they instead criticized Google's closed-door development of Android before releasing a line of code themselves. When criticizing competitors, it helps to have your own house in order first.

in reference to: Is the Symbian Foundation DOA? (view on Google Sidewiki)

Monday, November 09, 2009

OStatic: Thoughts on the Koala

It's been a few days since Ubuntu 9.10, aka the Karmic Koala, was unleashed on the world. I wanted to post a general review after having used the special K since it went RC in late September and early October. In general, I've been very impressed, especially in comparison to another, recently released, operating system. This mini review will focus on using Ubuntu as a desktop system. When I drop it onto my Linode server, I'll provide commentary on server usage as well.

Read the full article on

in reference to: Thoughts on the Koala (view on Google Sidewiki)

Thursday, November 05, 2009

OStatic: Cable Modem Hacker Indicted on Federal Charges

In a case reminiscent of the DVD hacking cases from the early 2000's, Oregon cable modem hacker and author of "Hacking the Cable Modem" has been charged with conspiracy and aiding and abetting wire fraud. This is another sad commentary on a criminal justice system that prosecutes the toolmaker without noting the legitimate uses of hardware hacking and modding.

The art of taking an existing product and modifying it in ways never intended by the original manufacturer has been a core tenet of the open source and free culture movements from the beginning. It is long past time for more sanity when considering these issues and crafting public policy.

Read the rest at

OStatic: Open Source is More Than a License

Has the terminology finally evolved in the debate over "who's open source?" It would seem so. After years of haggling over the essence of open source, free software or other monikers, Simon Phipps gets right to the point in "A Remarkable Reversal" - his critique of Richard Stallman's joint letter to the EC regarding Oracle and MySQL.

For the first time, there seems to be a growing concensus that an OSI-compliant license alone is not enough to define one's position on the openness spectrum.

in reference to: Open Source: More than a License (view on Google Sidewiki)

On OStatic: Subversion Joins the ASF

The Subversion corporation and project is joining the Apache Software Foundation. To mark the announcement, representatives from the Apache Software Foundation, the Subversion Project and CollabNet held a joint press conference at the downtown Oakland Marriott in a cozy, if poorly ventilated, hotel conference room. Read on for more details, as well as news about Git repositories and comparing the ASF to the new Codeplex Foundation.

Read the full article at

Monday, October 19, 2009

OStatic: Windows (L)users Are People, Too

In the world of open source, there's a narrative that has predominated since the time that the term open source was coined - that being the need for the underlying platform to be open source. We can tolerate proprietary software on an open platform, such as Linux, much more than we tolerate free software on a closed platform, like Windows.

For all of open source's self-professed pragmatism, there is a noticeable gap between how Linux users are supported and how Windows users are supported. If we are truly as pragmatic as we like to think, perhaps the time has come to close that gap.

Link to full post on

Monday, October 12, 2009

From OStatic: The Great Software Freedom Debate...

It seems that we can never quite get away from our industry's version of "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin." Namely, how open source are you? Or, as it is usually expressed: I'm more open source than you. I'm 'the real' open source, whereas you're just badgeware/runtware/freeware/fauxpen source. Sun's Simon Phipps has re-opened this debate by proposing a software freedom scorecard that the OSI can use to gauge the openness of open source participants.

For the most part, I agree with Simon's proposal, with some reservations, and I'll explain why.

Read the full post at

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

From OStatic: Linux Marketing - or lack thereof

Reading Sam Dean's piece on the absence of linux marketing brought back memories, many of them painful, of my involvement in Linux International, back in the day. For you kids today who only know your Linux Foundation, Linux International (LI) was founded by Jon 'maddog' Hall as a vendor-driven organization to, among other things, protect the Linux trademark. One of LI's initiatives that began in early 2000 was a marketing plan to be jointly funded by the vendors. You can read my call to action from that time begging and pleading for the members of LI to band together to do *something*.

Then, as now, the problem was the cacaphony of noise from various vendors, each with their own spin on Linux. Was it a desktop thing as Eazel and Ximian proclaimed at the time? Was it an enterprise dark horse as backed by IBM? Was it a really great web server, as VA Linux and Red Hat were promoting? All of the above? While multiple Linux markets have continued to grow since then, there does not appear to be a solution to the general problem.

Read the rest at

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

From OStatic: More on Open Core

Many of the responses to my previous blog post "Open Core or Open Snore?" were in agreement, and some were not. As is often the case, the more interesting ones expressed disagreement. Some took issue with my post by pointing out open core companies that might be termed success stories: SugarCRM, Alfresco, Mindtouch. But then, I never wrote that open core cannot be successful, but rather that any success will be limited by nature of the model. Open core effectively places a cap on community development turning open source efforts into a viral marketing play, when it can be so much more.

One critique that did resonate was how much open source dev models actually impacted the bottom line. A company's success is impacted by a myriad of factors, including open source strategy and tactics.Seeing as how some companies will succeed with practically no open source development at all, it's only natural to concede that an open core approach will succed in some markets. However, if I were creating an open source community strategy in a crowded, competitive market, I sure wouldn't want to place an artificial handicap on my community development practices. I'll use 2 case studies to illustrate my point: Red Hat / Fedora and CollabNet / Subversion

Read the full article

Thursday, October 01, 2009

From OStatic: Open Core or Open Snore?

If you had asked me in 1999 if we would still be having discussions on the viability of Open Source business models in 2009, I would have looked at you incredulously. It seems like we're taking an awfully long time to learn the lessons of what works and what doesn't. Take, for example, the recent discussions around Open Core (see Andrew Lampitt's original post). I have to concur with Tarus Balog at OpenNMS when he says it's fauxpen source.

What we should be asking ourselves is not what the VC's want nor what makes us ideologically pure, but rather 'what's best for our respective communities?' If communities are indeed the lifeblood of Open Source projects, doesn't it make sound business sense to maximize community success?

See full post on

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

From OStatic: Can You Boycott a Boycott?

From the things-that-should-never-happen-but-you-knew-they-would-eventually department, comes more flamage in the Mono advocates vs. anti-Mono advocates vs. the now anti-anti-Mono advocates. I never like it when columnists or reporters treat all bad ideas equally, so I'll just come out and say it - the anti-Mono crowd is comprised of a bunch of corn-fed idiots with more than a passing resemblance to the recent tea bagger protesters. However, I'm not sure that the correct response to that is to ratchet up the flame wars.

- Read the rest at

Blogging at OStatic

I'm pleased to have started blogging on - I'll link those stories here, so you can see them either way. Here's my initial blog post, "Please Allow Me to Introduce Myself..."

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Zen of Community

As a follow up to my "inspiration vs. perspiration" post, I've written an article at entitled "The Zen of Community."

The point of the article is that the key to building a vibrant community is not focusing on the end product, but rather a few qualitative, squishy things, such as emotional attachment and mutually beneficial relationships. An inspired community is a by-product of that.

Read the full article.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Inspiration vs. Perspiration

(this was initially posted on the blog On CollabNet)

I recently had the pleasure of attending the Evans Data Developer Relations Conference in San Jose, and it gave me the opportunity to listen to 2 very contrasting approaches to what amounted to the same thing: university outreach. On one side was Jean Elliott, discussing how Sun was going to approach (reach? eclipse? fall just short of?) 900,000 university program members by this summer. In that session, she discussed the various ways Sun had put themselves in that position - it was a tour de force of grassroots outreach featuring open source communities that target life-long academics and students. On the other side was Bruce Carney from Nokia, who delved into a myriad of metrics and measurables in an attempt to define success and track how far along they were towards reaching it. During this session, an inch-thick booklet of tiny font statistics was passed around the room.

It was grassroots outreach vs. statistical analysis. Really, it was inspiration vs. perspiration. Of course, this is not to say that Sun doesn't expend significant energy planning these programs and measuring their success, or that Nokia doesn't engage at a grassroots level, but it was clear which parts each company emphasized, and I started to think about the role of inspiration in online communities.

It comes down to the age-old question, "Why does anyone participate in your community?" There's nothing to force someone to come to any community or make them stick around. Ultimately, someone sticks around because it's in their own self-interest to do so, but there's something "squishy" about how community members self-select, and I can't honestly say that it's 100% about the product or technology that forms the basis of the community. In fact, I'm pretty sure that in addition to a community's core offering, there's an element of culture or "soft" product, if you will. If you run a community and want to engage with your community, how much have you invested in your soft product?

This post introduces the series, which I'll continue for a few days. Tomorrow, I'll continue with a post about "zen and the art of community development" - it's about the engagement, not the direct ROI. It's about the conversation, not simply providing an answer.