Content tagged Open Source

Thirteenth Tuesday Quotables

posted on 2007-08-16 13:59:39

Two day late. I know. I'm a terrible slacker. I actually had some stuff pegged Monday but I just didn't manage to post it until now. These are pulled from some recent reading, Open Sources 2.0.

"In a commodity world, technologists need to think about innovating in their business models as much as (if not more than) innovating in their technology." - Ian Murdock, Open Source and the Commoditization of Software

"Open Source propels software toward Commodity Land, a happy place where customers pay for real value and vendors compete on that value, not intellectual property lock-in." - Matt Asay, Open Source and the Commodity Urge: Disruptive Models for a Disruptive Development Process

Hmm...kind of sounds like something I remember Spolsky writing a while back. "Strategy Letter V" was it? Google that.
Eh...on second thought I'm going to dig around for more insightful quotes for next week. These aren't blowing my hair back.

Thinking is awesome.

posted on 2007-08-09 19:04:22

So excited right now. So many awesome things happening. I can hardly wait to write the news on the next monday update. Hell with it, I'll post some things I've looked at read or thought about in the last 48 hours.
A couple of things.
Kristian Hoegsberg is amazing.
I'm starting to think that given time Ubuntu/Linux can out-Mac Mac. More explanation necessary. I'll get to you. Note that this is not the same as saying they can out-Apple Apple.
Web 2.0 is...auhweiruhaudsf. Free data is...oiajdsofiewaofm. People are crazy. Tim O'Reilly finds the words for the stuff I've been thinking. Freedom is complicated. Delicious, and prescient too! But what about open spectrum...
Certain companies actions do make it a legitimate concern...
Carmack is a genius and anything he says is gold. Need to find out what his kool aid is and drink some.
Been thinking about some security with regard to wireless cookies and WEP Cracking.
Still waiting on news of Banshee trunk improvements.
Sun is serious about Open Source. Maybe more so than anybody else. And yet they still act funky with Java. I'm still trying to figure out how I feel about this.
This looks really useful for next time I encounter data loss. It does happen.
Between academics lining up to help and the German government, I feel like Wikipedia is going to be pretty hard to make ridiculous generalizations regarding quality about "real soon now". It's not just wikipedia tough. Everyone is getting in on the peer production action. Peer production will only become more visible.
There are lots of books that should be written about software. These are some. This is interesting as a look at where things are\might be headed.
I continue to be torn up about the language wars. Are they in some ways just plain silly? Yes. All the same, furthering our tools matters. A lot. Competitors still include Erlang, Haskell, etc.
I tend to think of the web server market as being kind of stagnant. Or at least I did until this summer. Of course, I basically just heard about Apache and IIS until this summer. I'd never actually run/setup/worked with web servers until this summer. I kind of feel like that market is in the midst/outset of a shake up though. Observe.
Amazon's hardware as a service stuff just gets more and more interesting as the days go by. We're going to wake up one morning and this will have changed the world.
There are some real shifts happening. There are different work styles emerging. We'll see what comes of it.
I'm really excited that there is video of Steve Yegge talking online. I can't believe I haven't looked for some before. He's so damn smart I'll listen to anything he says. It links to all the other OSCON 2007 content too which is great because I've been wondering why GUADEC, OSCON, and Ubuntu Live content is all over t3h int4rwebz. Conferences are good because of mindshare but please share your geniuses keynotes with me. Imitate TED.
Keep working at those Online Desktop chestnuts. Even if it doesn't turn out to be the right problem, it sure will help our platform stand out.
I'm really glad this exists. It seems like it could be much more elegant than a reverse proxy or other load balancing solution.
It's always good to know what other people are reading and if anyone is exploring a critical literature then it's Worldchanging. So I'm assuming I'll find something lifechanging on this list.
We really can do just about anything these days. Between this and some 3D printing reports from Siggraph 2007 I have high hopes for what will be possible by 2020.
Lessig is awesome. So is proof of how awesome he is.
If you think the web isn't almost an OS layer itself, you're wrong. Now let's do performance analysis on it!
Social media really does matter. Open Source is naturally on the leading edge of that too. Video and Audio included.
We really are moving away from the desktop. Whether it's the web(Online Desktop), mobile (iPhone, OpenMoko), other embedded or home theater, or some strange new device (OLPC XO, Zonbu, zareason, minis and micro-atx, etc) there are strong currents in this sea.
Gnome and Linux really are doing good things. I'm really excited about watching us surge ahead on so many fronts.
Emerging worlds are cool and it's only going to happen more and more in games and serious apps. Mash up the virtual and the physical. It's all code. What distinction?
Knowing job projections is useful.

Kernels are interesting, you've got Linux, BSDs, Solaris, Darwin\XNU, whatever powers XP and Vista. But they're really just parts of the stack. All the same, they're really important parts of the stack. Infrastructure will always matter. It's just not the focus now. What we're building with it is the focus. The OS is irrelevant in so much as it's just an enabler. This sounds obvious and stupid. I need to think more on what I'm trying to say.

Maybe the processor industry going massively multicore is the only way to force software developers to take advantage of the power that's already there. By forcing them to adopt new programming conventions they force out 30 years of cruft code and development methodology that is bug-prone. Goodbye imperative, hello functional.

Okay, that's it for now. Sorry for the linkflood\social braindump.

Help me, Community! Thoughts, questions, comments?

posted on 2007-07-27 16:58:22

Inspired by:

Moglen and O'Reilly at OSCON are coming from very different positions. Certainly Moglen is focused on his efforts on the GPLv3 granting Open Source another 10 years of safety with which they can acquire more permanent safety through public policy and patent reform. Moglen's accusations of Tim O'Reilly and the Open Source movement as being Web 2.0 blathering profiteers at this point is perhaps uncalled for but points towards an interesting difference. We might call what Moglen and Stallman are after a right to computation. They think people should be able to compute whatever they want, wherever they want, whenever they want, however they want. This doesn't mean they don't believe in strong encryption on data. This doesn't mean they don't believe in money in software. This means they think there's no reason that the software you use to manipulate your data should be out of your control and that it should be available to you from any computer at any time. O'Reilly et al see no reason that Open Source Software doesn't meet those requirements and are interested in the opportunities that really are inherent in web services. They see that as the next space to really advance the state of computing and user rights. "Your data, your software, anywhere" seems to be the idea.

The difference here is really that Moglen and Stallman are measuring progress in legal terms while the Open Source Movement is measuring progress in market terms. As Lessig said, Law is Code but intellectual property law is different the world over...and is nigh impossible to enforce with the advent of digitization and the web anyway. Thought has broken loose. The Free Software camp is deeply aware of the fact that they have created a new political form based around a new concept of property rights. That new political form has as it's goal empowering communities by lowering the barriers to contribution. This has led to a method of production more efficient than preceding methods which has caught the attention of industry and ascended to the world stage. Open Source is that method of production, that method of organization. But Open Source as a meme was designed to keep politics out of the discussion because the term "Free Software" wasn't selling well to corporations. By eliminating the communist-sounding rhetoric the Open Source meme has done much better in the corporate space. Centrally though we must keep in mind that Open Source succeeds because it lowers the barriers to contribution and fosters community. It increases the benefit for everyone involved. This is what Moglen is trying to remind us. And it is certainly important that we begin cementing some of these norms and protecting some unprotected aspects of the maturing "Free/Open" political model through public policy and reform. The legal codes must be prepared to defend us as well as the establishment they are presently geared toward.

Licenses are only a small part of this. It is thankful that Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) has grown important enough that industry leaders such as Google, IBM, Sun, Intel, etc are contributing to it and will defend it (legally and politically) from attack. It is not enough. The Open Source movement is less concerned with how to defend and advance the sociopolitical status of our model than they are with observing it's market effects. It has opened up new avenues in terms of how to work and the software industry is busy doing what it has always done, trying to figure out how to capitalize on improved methods. Though they may be Improved Methods for Achieving Deteriorated Ends. In America though we tend to measure progress through the market and that is not entirely misguided. As in Cass Sunstein's Infotopia the market has historically proven an excellent way to aggregate information. But it is being shown up by more decentralized methodologies that have arisen in the Information Age. Valuing Knowledge is a traditionally hard problem but it grows more important as our assets lean more and more towards intellectual property and further and further from capital invested and factories and so forth.

It may be acceptable for Moglen to serve as a shock to the Open Source ecosystem through venting at OSCON in O'Reilly's general direction, not that I believe his attacks were meant to be personal on anyone in the Open Source community. In fact, if anything I would characterize Moglen's acts as public lament. But while it may be appropriate for him to try to invigorate those at OSCON I am not sure that it makes sense for him to try to invigorate those at IBM. Perhaps Ubuntu or Red Hat but even this I'm not convinced of. At some point, IBM decided the Eclipse code it had invested $40 million dollars into would be more valuable if they gave it away for free. Why? Because that meant they got free additional developers to work on the project. What is our product now? It's not software, it's not knowledge, it's not collaboration. Our product is a community. We finally stepped beyond knowledge and material goods to deliver the asset of the individual. Our product is our people. That's the philosophy. We're just trying to find ways to improve discussion. Communities are the ones producing things and the more knowledgeable, passionate, interested people/parties we can involve in the discussion, the more valuable things said community can produce.

Hacker Culture and The Road Ahead (poor man’s draft)

posted on 2007-07-04 19:24:00

Of late there has been a growing awareness and concern over the migration of applications from our desktops onto the Internet and the emergence and rise of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) along with a consequent deluge of predictions about the death (or irrelevance) of the desktop. While these discussions are not without merit I feel they share some general flaws in approach which I seek to address here.

One of the hard parts about engaging in such discussions is that they do not constrain themselves to a purely technical realm. Much about the Hacker Culture is, or was, revolutionary due to it's contribution to the larger movements of desktop computing and the internet and this awareness of prior revolutionary behavior coupled with the endless proclamations of revolution in the industry that pass for marketing lead to a confused understanding of what revolutions really did occur, where they have led us, and what might lie on the road ahead.

Thanks to the general muddiness of these still fresh (and some would say ongoing) revolutions, discussions about something as simple as the migration of applications and functionality from a local machine to a networked server bring with them issues of law, technology, history, politics, economics, marketing, sociology, and innovation. The capacity for simple discussion of events as they are has become impossible. Given this state of affairs, I will do my best (through my biases, which are many) to sort through the rabble.

Most responses to the statement that applications are moving from the desktop to the web fall into one of two camps. The first being that the desktop is as important as it's always been and\or that the web isn't significantly infringing on the desktop's importance and functionality. The second response is that there are no open source web services and open source needs to figure out how to compete in this new emerging market. Both are knee jerk reactions, one just comes from a position of invulnerability or incredulity while another comes from a position of fear or paranoia.

Before going any further I'd like to state some of my assumptions and\or biases. First, the desktop is changing. There are some forces undoubtedly at work that change the extent to which our data and applications are local and thus our computer is losing some of it's centrality and being distributed out on "the grid" of the internet. Second, the desktop hasn't changed. This may seem contradictory to the first assumption but I don't think it is.

What I mean essentially by this is that the next paradigm beyond that of the desktop, GUI, keyboard and mouse hasn't arrived yet and until it does things largely will be the same. We will still need an OS to talk to the hardware and software besides a browser to do many things we do, especially given that high speed internet access is not yet available everywhere all the time. Finally, while the next paradigm beyond that of the desktop may presently exist in the wild we cannot distinguish it as the next paradigm until it has already run it's course. We will not know the world has changed until it has.

In terms of the responses to the idea that applications are moving webward, I'd like to start with Perspective A. The person who believes Perspective A thinks that the desktop isn't changing or that it's functionality and importance aren't threatened by the rise of web applications. I'd like to refute this by offering myself as a personal example. I've never used a mail client. Ever. Thunderbird, Outlook, Evolution, iMail, any of it. All my e-mail has always been webmail and even trying to think of e-mail as being an offline phenomena that I have saved locally to look at when I'm offline is an odd and foreign concept. The idea of a mail client is, for me, irrelevant. I think that's enough to show that the desktop is changing.

Now to address Perspective B. The person who believes Perspective B believes that Open Source will lose relevance in a world where net-accessible advertising-sponsored software (gmail) is available if Open Source does not create equivalent software. This is misguided on a number of levels. Not least of which is related to the fact that open source emerged in response to a lack of Richard Stallman's access to printer drivers. The scratch your own itch element of web services is not available. There is no platform to begin copying. There is no central service upon which other services are built besides the backbone of the net itself, which is just Linux Clusters anyway. There isn't a Unix to begin copying.

A lack of a target is no small problem. The initial starting goal of developing a UNIX-like Operating Environment was crucial to open source getting off the ground in a meaningful way, at least as far as Linux is concerned. There is no web equivalent. The problems run deeper than this though and can be drawn out further by remembering the early moniker of free software. Freedom to modify is not a valid goal of a webapp and not only because of the client-server model. Web software doesn't sleep. It's always live and there are always users. This wouldn't be a large problem given the nature of SCMs like bazaar today. Just create a new branch. And yet the notion of a server trying to run multiple versions of a web app or service is simply ludicrous. The notion that Facebook as a platform is a walled garden is not necessarily misguided if applied liberally to other web apps. Freedom of data can be a concern but on the web freedom of code will have to take on a new form. Perhaps this is a problem we should confront.

And whereas the 80s and 90s left hackers free to tinker with little consequence for the majority of the world the extent to which the personal computer has invaded the workings of human civilization make even minor undertakings more serious in influence than the GNU C Compiler was the day it was started. Finally, the entire conversation is too wrapped up in notions of maintaining relevance and influence. Open Source at last has something to lose even if it's legacy is invulnerable. Whatever emerges next will emerge independent of our actions. Hopefully we will see it coming and aid it's rise or even have a hand in it but we cannot act out of fear. Tinkering away like a bunch of crazed kids with legos got us here and it will get us wherever there is too. Even if open source loses the war over code, the inroads made in the war over organizing methods or production are likely to change the face of the society.


tech thoughts (mac\linux, web\desktop, ubiquitous computing\pc). it's really about time i wrote something on open APIs and web\desktop. can open source happen on the web? linus made a replacement for unix. there is no central web app\top\thing to replicate in this fashion.
things to tackle:
hacker culture came from academic underground. tinkerers. web 2.0 came from where?

people think open source should "compete" but with what? the only thing to compete with that even approaches web platform status in the way unix approached workstation platform status is google. how do hackers compete with that exactly? there is no web 2.0 target the way there was a unix OS target. and are all web app vendors now just walled gardens, facebook is aol, etc? that's weird. that doesn't make sense. but really the only unwalled web garden is the browser. and that's on the desktop.

what about the politics of all this? the politics then in the 70s\80s\early 90s and the politics of technology now? it's gone from nobody caring to tons of people. it affects everyone now. we have to have a goal to move into this new space.

open source as a method of production versus open source as tools of production. most of the tools of production are already in existence. the web apps simply apply open source production methodologies to already existing tools of production. the web IS open source. stop yelling about the proprietary web. when we're speaking about open source on the web we can only be worried about one of three things. legal data\property squabbles, the tools themselves (apps), or the methods (open source\social web\web 2.0).

also, modifying services to work on your own server the way we used to modify code on our own systems requires the server infrastructure in the first place which few people have. plus i would assume it contributes to a loss in the network effects of web apps.

how does fear\relevance\influence play into things? are we afraid of microsoft, google, etc? were we then? what are we struggling against? a lot of maneuvering seems to be about inert versus potent forces. microsoft is pretty impotent and google is clearly the next 800-pound gorilla but what is the thing people are afraid of?

finally, there is a difference between the significance of platforms\communities\ecosystems and the things we fear and the next big thing. product life cycles account for something here. the OS isn't a point of competition anymore. it's not a market with billions in it. it's not hot and it's not a point of innovation. it's in the background. even with apple it's 90% background. applications are mostly background too. there are cms and crm and inventory and other business apps and integrated suites that are still relevant but it's not what i'd call a point of innovation.

Software’s Top 10

posted on 2007-06-09 18:55:00

This is a list of ten types of software in particular that I'm fired up about in no particular order. Software is kind of tough. I'm probably more interested in trends than software (and it feels kind of horrible typing that). Maybe a better way of saying that is if this were a top 10 list of things happening in computing I'd find it much easier to populate though of course I'd be drawing on a larger set of source material as well. That said, most of these will be open source because of my own biases but a few other things will poke out as well.

1. User Interface overhauls
I've always been interested in this kind of work. Think about it. Here you have an established paradigm of a file browser, desktop, icons, etc. It's been fundamentally unaltered since it emerged from Xerox PARC in the 70s. It is definitely not the most intuitive possible way to use a computer. It just isn't. It's the establishment so everyone finds it easy due to familiarity but they don't realize it. The very idea that it could be different is sort of invisible. There are two fundamentally different approaches to this problem. People who are extending the limits of the traditional UI through making it 3D or composited. That's mainly compiz and compcomm. Then there are people who are just rethinking the whole interface on a much deeper level, making it a representation of real world objects or trying to eliminate the distinction between local data and web data. I'm speaking of bumptop, lowfat, Jeff Han's work as being representative of real world environments and SymphonyOS's Mezzo Desktop as being representative of eliminating the Web\Local distinction.

2. File System overhauls
This is another thing that is pretty immediately apparent as an entrenched paradigm waiting to be rethought. A lot of work in this sense is underway with projects like tracker, beagle, and spotlight working on "desktop search" (such a terrible name), and projects like the Gnome-VFS
trying to make filesystems user-centric. Then you've got people that are working on new filesystems altogether which is also crucial. ZFS seems like a stand out to me (maybe this is because Apple is using it to power Time Machine) but you never know how things like ChunkFS, Reiser4, Ext4, and others might turn out.

3. Generative\Procedural Content-driven Apps
Here I'm thinking primarily of demoscene, .kkrieger, and Spore. I don't think procedurally generated content is ready to storm the industry necessarily but it does seem so ripe for experimentation in many software markets that you wonder why the demoscene guys are still just hacking away on virtual laser shows. It's pretty powerful stuff if you can just think of a good way to apply it.

4. Driver Improvements
This is basically both open source specific and more or less specific to the graphics and wireless subsets of drivers. I think it's important that Linux (or any OS for that matter) have an excellent underlying system for graphics. Part of that is drivers and part of that is the server and the OpenGL implementation. Drivers for most hardware 3D accelerators (from ATI and Nvidia) are A) proprietary, not open source and B) not that great anyway. So, it seems imperative that we get Graphics vendors to open source their drivers or just make open source drivers ourselves. As an ATI R300-based product owner I'm pretty interested in that driver. Advancements in the server and OpenGL implementation are crucial too though, so I'm excited by work on and mesa and if the work on all those projects stays on track with the roadmap it should be competitive with if not superior to anything Mac or Windows has to offer by Christmas.

5. Impressive Virtualization
This is one of those technologies that isn't a panacea to very deep-seated problems but certainly is a painkiller and just sort of inherently useful. The main contenders are VMware, Qemu, and Virtualbox in the PC space with only VMware Fusion looking really ground breaking at this point. Fusion is only for Mac but expect the next version of Workstation to absolutely rock. PCSX2 on the other hand shows that even Console virtualization (yes, most call it emulation) is all too possible even with complex next generation platforms.

6. Impressive Emulation
Wine and ReactOS are exciting projects to keep an eye on. Wine seeks to create an open source implementation of the Windows API so that users can run Windows binaries on Linux with full compatibility. ReactOS seeks to actually create an Open Source Operating System that is fully binary and device driver compatible with Windows. It is hard to say who has taken on the bolder task but it is apparent that Wine has a larger developer base and that can make progress appear more rapid. Both show promise for eventually getting high enough API compatibility that Windows becomes unnecessary in all but the most extreme cases.

7. Good Frameworks\Libraries\whatever_you_want_to_call_them
When I say good frameworks I'm talking about things like Telepathy, Gstreamer, Clutter, Pigment, GTK+, QT, Hal and D-Bus. Telepathy is a framework for both presence information (Is this person online?Do they have their phone? How can you best contact them?) and IM and Chat networks and it can be used to create any number of clients, such as Empathy. Gstreamer is a media framework and can allow for tongs of applications to draw on it for media playback, recording, etc. D-Bus and Hal both offer numerous possibilities of their own at a slightly lower system level, GTK and QT are windowing toolkits and clutter and pigment are both rich user interface toolkits that take advantage of OpenGL but the overall win with all of these technologies is that a central library exists to reduce duplication of code. The more time developers spend not recreating the wheel , the better.

7. Web Integration
Clearly more and more of our data and applications are moving online. Hypothetically, the operating system that helps us most transparently leverage the increasingly hybrid nature of our online/offline workflows will have a leg up on the competition in working with these trends instead of against them. Two projects which are particularly promising on this front are Big Board and Gimmie. Telepathy is to some extent valid here too. Big Board seeks to integrate online services into the desktop as a connected panel through the online mugshot service. Gimmie is similarly a panel which seeks to integrate online functionality chiefly through utilizing the telepathy libraries to provide presence information about your contacts.

8. Content Creation Apps
This is an area where Linux has been considered by many to be lagging behind due to the major proprietary software in the field (Final Cut Pro, Adobe Products especially Photoshop, Some CAD software, Audio production software, etc.) being unavailable though 3D rendering and modeling seems to be an exception. Open Source alternatives are emerging however to Digital Audio Production in software like Jokosher and Ardour and of course software like GIMP and GIMPshop continues to compete with photoshop. Inkscape is available for vector graphics, Blender for 3D work, OpenOffice and Scribus as replacement Office Suite and Publishing Software. Kino, Jahshaka, Pitivi, and Cinelerra exist now for video editing.

9. Consumer Media Apps
A lack of high-quality media playback and management apps has been a conspicuous lacking on Linux in the past. Now, we are seeing applications like F-Spot emerge for Photo Management, Songbird as a replacement Music Library, Store, and Player, and programs like Elisa, MythTV, and njpatel's forthcoming Arena emerge as replacements for HTPC applications like Apple's Front Row. Finally, ripping and burning applications like GnomeBaker, Thoggen, and Sound Juicer have also emerged to fill remaining gaps.

10. Web Apps
These are outright online applications or services that show promise for making good use of our data and uniquely taking advantage of peer production or the "social web". This includes applications like photosynth, lastfm, twitter, flickr, google apps, and Zoho apps.

Unless otherwise credited all material Creative Commons License by Brit Butler