Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Bernie Galler, relevant as ever

Over at GNU's Philosophy Section, I just noticed the addition of a quote from Bernie Galler, excerpted from "a letter to the editor of the Communications of the ACM (vol.3, no.4, pp.A12-A13), saying in part (mentioning price, but clearly implying freedom):"
... it is clear that what is being charged for is the development of the program, and while I am particularly unhappy that it comes from a university, I believe it is damaging to the whole profession. There isn't a 704 installation that hasn't directly benefited from the free exchange of programs made possible by the distribution facilities of SHARE. If we start to sell our programs, this will set very undesirable precedents.

Galler, who engaged in one of the first public (via letters to the editor of the JACM) debates of the issue of intellectual property, had other memorable quotes to offer on the subject. I'll dig 'em up and post 'em here. And hopefully, over at GNU as well.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

'Taint a bad thing to fail so much

Chris Holt over at the Free Software Magazine Newsletters writes about Clay Shirky's take on FOSS (in the February 2007 issue of the Harvard Business Review). Holt's take on Shirky's piece (which I haven't read myself) is a little quick, but he does seem to take umbrage at Shirky's focusing on the large of FOSS projects that don't take off (for whatever reason, original developer moved on, no adopters, no interest, bad management, no need, etc) and its potential to scare off investors who look askance at the large percentage of FOSS failures (of course, thats precisely the kind of thing venture capitalists seem to invest in all the time - high-risk, high-payoff deals but thats probably besides the point here). Holt also seems a bit nervous about the ambiguous nature of Shirky's suggestion that particular kinds of FOSS projects are likely to be business-friendly (er, the worry being corporate exploitation).

All said and done, I suspect Shirky's pronouncements are quite benign. Pointing out high failure rates means nothing in the world of business. 95% of restaurants fail, and yet there is no shortage of investors because it is understood the nature of the business is such that the winning formula is only rarely achieved, and furthermore, Shirky could merely be pointing to the truism that there is a tremendous amount of flux in the FOSS world, and that its practices are unlikely to guarantee the kind of stability that traditional business investors demand. Is the latter such a bad thing? If anything, Shirky seems to be highlighting the unique features of the FOSS world that set it apart - so that those who claim its "just another software engineering methodology" might take heed. And it didn't seem to me that Shirky was saying (or at least Holt didn't point to it) that FOSS products score lower that proprietary products when it comes to things like quality. Lastly, the point that I claimed was tangential above might not be so off-the-mark. VCs are still likely to stay interested in FOSS projects despite the high failure rates.

Monday, February 26, 2007


Dell thinks about putting Linux on its machines. It'll be interesting to see which distro gets picked, and what the typical bundle of software will be. The move is significant for all the obvious reasons, not the least of which will be the entry of another support entity into the Linux world. Dell could also offer a choice of distros but that might be a stretch. At the very least, the chance to get a run-out-of-box Linux box would quite an enticement for not just the old faithful but also for a whole new demographic. It'd also be interesting to see how this would play into Dell's academic market.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Physician, heal thyself

ESR goes mental on Red Hat. I am a Ubuntu user myself, and don't like Fedora that much. But ESR's language grates on me. I wonder if he realizes that with his constant ranting about "ideological purity" or whatever it is, he sounds like a raging demagogue too, just one committed to a different ideology.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

They really are commies!

Well folks, its true. FOSS pleads guilty to the charge of being a communist enterprise. After all, as this news item reports, "Cuba's communist government is trying to shake off the yoke of at least one capitalist empire — Microsoft Corp. — by joining with socialist Venezuela in converting its computers to open-source software." And to make things worse, RMS, "a paunchy, wild-haired man in a T-shirt" showed up at the International Conference on Communication and Technologies in Havana, to make the "biggest splash". Good Lord. The cover is blown; there is no plausible deniability any more.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Come again?

An unintentionally funny article on Microsoft's adoption of the open-source paradigm. Actually, the article derives its humor from the following gem:
One aspect of open source that Microsoft isn't planning to adopt is the actual open source part, as it remains incompatible with the company's business model. However, the code for officelabs products will be available to anyone within Microsoft itself
This is clearly a case of massive-internalization of one of ESR's mantras, without having taken on the rest of the message.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

And another one

Microsoft now throws its weight behind the OpenID authentication standard. Bad news for .NET Passport; good news for open standards. It'll be interesting to see whether recent moves will get discussed at this year's Microsoft Technology Summit; and what role they are playing within Microsoft's moves to co-exist, co-operate or what-have-you with the open standards/FOSS community. Perhaps we might see a whole bunch of these as a prelude to the MTS. To create a friendlier atmosphere, if you will.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Microsoft, ODF, OOXML: We'll help ourselves, thanks

Microsoft will co-operate with some aspects of the demand for open standards. In what way? For instance, consider this business of Microsoft working on an open-source project to develop plug-ins for interoperability between OOXML and ODF. So, now, Word users need not use OpenOffice to open ODF files. And it means that those reluctant to use Office 2007 because it didn't include such support for ODF have had that reason taken away. I suppose there could be others, like it isn't free software for instance, but this one is gone.