Open Source Dress Code

According to Peter Quinn, the former Massachusetts CIO advocate of the OpenDocument Format (ODF),

“Open source has an unprofessional appearance, and the community needs to be more business-savvy in order to start to make inroads in areas traditionally dominated by commercial software vendors. (Having) a face on a project or agenda makes it attractive for politicians (to consider open source).” (CNET)

He went on to suggest that while the open-source community was slowly beginning to come to terms with the need to dress for success, doing so is a “huge education process.” (CNET)

Yikes. I would like to think that we live in an age where people can evaluate a technology based on its merits and not based on the clothes that someone wears.

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Open Source Confusion

This is only slightly related to open source; however, it was way too humorous not to share. The short story is that a slightly clueless local city official (Jerry A. Taylor) in Oklahoma mistook an Apache / CentOS misconfiguration page for a malicious attack against several of the cities web servers. Despite the several threatening and misinformed emails to the CentOS team, a developer at CentOS was kind enough to “help” this man by using standard networking commands (whois, nslookup, etc.) to find his IP address, hosting provider, etc., which for some reason this official was unable / unwilling to figure out on his own.

Here are a few of the more interesting snippets from the email exchange:

Jerry Taylor to CentOS: “Who gave you permission to invade my website and block me and anyone else from accessing it??? Please remove your software immediately before I report it to government officials!! I am the City Manager of Tuttle, Oklahoma.”

CentOS to Jerry Taylor: “I feel sorry for your city. … Please contact someone who does IT for you and show them the page so that they can configure your apache webserver correctly.”

Jerry Taylor to CentOS: “Get this web site off my home page!!!!! It is blocking access to my website!!!!~!”

CentoOS to Jerry Taylor: “It is not a website … it is the operating system. … We didn’t DO ANYTHING … that is what the default apache setup looks like if you are running our operating system (CentOS). So how your configuration file has been replaced by the default one … that is not something that we can do, it is something that might have been done by the administrator of the machine.”

Jerry Taylor to CentOS: “Unless this software is removed I will file a complaint with the FBI.”

CentOS to Jerry Taylor: “You obviously do not understand what I am trying to tell you, is there no one on the city council or in your building who understands what an operating system is.”

The full email exchange can be found on the CentOS site.

It was also interesting to note that within the past 24 hours, Jerry Taylor corrected several grammatical errors and removed his email address from his online city profile.

This Week in Open Source News Mar 20 – Mar 26

Red Hat Releases Fedora 5

Red Hat has released Fedora Core 5, which is based on the 2.6.16 version of the Linux kernel and contains new graphics features, enhanced virtualization, and additional desktop utilities. Red Hat even included three Mono-based applications (Mono is a project driven by Miguel de Icaza out of Novell).

Finland’s Ministry of Defence Selects Novell

Finland’s Ministry of Defence has selected Novell’s SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for their process management, documentation applications, Intranet portal, and other services. “Our key operational and decision-making processes rely on our ability to access our IT systems 24 by 7, securely and with no glitches. Because of this, we decided to adopt Novell SUSE Linux as the platform for our core applications, messaging and intranet services,” said Antti Nummiranta, an IT designer for the Ministry of Defence. This is not earth shattering news, but like to highlight and recognize areas where Linux and open source software are being adopted.

Other Novell News

Novell’s annual user conference, BrainShare, was held this week and drove a number of Novell product announcements including long-term plans for Linux, Novell’s Market Start program to accelerate open source application adoption, and details about their first Linux Workgroup Suite.

Richard Stallman Talks to Forbes

Forbes interviewed Richard Stallman this week to discuss the GPLv3. Here are a few snippets from the interview:

“Officially, MPAA stands for Motion Picture Association of America, but I suggest that MPAA stands for Malicious Power Attacking All. And RIAA stands for Really Intends to Alienate the Audience.”

“I’m glad that the DRM provisions of GPLv3 have promoted the debate about DRM, but their purpose is not simply to send a message. Their main purpose is to protect the freedom of every user of our software. Free software means that you, the user, have four essential freedoms: 0) Freedom to run the software as you wish; 1) Freedom to study the source code and change it to do what you wish; 2) Freedom to make copies and redistribute them, when you wish; and 3) Freedom to distribute modified versions, when you wish.” (Forbes)

It is an interesting interview, and I encourage people to read it.

Mozilla Firefox on the Cover of Red Herring

The new issue of Red Herring featuring Firefox in a feature story about the “browser wars” hits the newsstands on March 27. Mozilla CEO Mitchell Baker is featured on the cover with the Firefox logo in the background.

“The browser market has seen some of the bloodiest battles in technology. Microsoft’s victory over the once-dominant Netscape branded the pioneer an also-ran and planted Internet Explorer firmly at the top of the browser market. But Microsoft’s lack of IE development caused the program to stagnate under its inattentive parent. As a result, competitors have swarmed in. In recent years, upstart Firefox and its peers have been stealing users from right under Redmond’s nose. With innovative, customizable features, these programs are making browsing and interacting with the web easier. But is Microsoft poised to squash the newbies just like it did Netscape? The software giant is planning to release IE 7—its first update in about five years—later this year. Red Herring takes a closer look at several next-generation browsers and the challenges they face in this week’s feature story, “Browser Wars,” on newsstands Monday.” (Red Herring)

This issue also features an article on how big companies and VCs are making investments in open source. I am anxious to pick up a copy on Monday.

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Open Source Software as a Tool for Cancer Researchers

A team of medical researchers has produced an open source software tool released under the GNU GPL license allowing them to automate the removal of sensitive identification information from medical reports. Removal of certain identifying information is required prior to sharing the data for research purposes. The team chose to release this as an open source tool because there is currently little standardization among reports at different facilities, which requires customization of the software in order for it to be effective. Open source software provides an easy way to allow full customization for other researchers, and this tool will allow researchers to share medical reports more quickly and easily with others.

The tool is written in Java and is operating system independent. For more information, you can refer to the eWeek article, download a detailed report(PDF) on the development and testing of the tool, or visit the project website.

Open Source and Accessibility

According to Wikipedia, “accessibility is a general term used to describe the degree to which a system is usable by as many people as possible without modification. … One meaning of accessibility specifically focuses on people with disabilities and their use of assistive devices such as screen-reading web browsers.” Many people, myself included, do not spend much time thinking about accessibility; however, we probably should.

Several recent announcements by governments standardizing on open source software have generated strong reactions from accessibility advocates. The advocates highlight how many open source products are not compatible with screen readers and other devices used by disabled people who rely on them in order to function effectively at work. Many people are concerned that a move to open source software could result in lost jobs for disabled people who rely on additional accessibility technology.

Some open source products strive to meet accessibility requirements; for example, OpenOffice.org works with the JAWS screen reader. As an example of an accessibility issue, one Linux user in Italy had to find someone to install Linux for him and install the driver for his Braille terminal before he could productively use the Linux operating system. He also struggled with effectively using the Linux documentation, which made ample use of screenshots.

We need to work within the open source community to make sure that more products accommodate accessibility technology. I also encourage people who use these accessibility devices to get involved in open source communities to help increase accessibility of open source software.

This NewsForge article provides many more details and links if you want to learn more about accessibility for open source software.

Mozilla Calendar Feature for Thunderbird Released

An early version of Lightning, the calendar integrated with Mozilla Thunderbird is now available. Keep in mind that this is an early, testing release, and not a final version; therefore, there is a much higher chance of data loss, and several features (like undo/redo) have not yet been implemented. If you have just been dying to try it out, now is your chance; however, use it with caution!

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This Week in Open Source News Mar 13 – Mar 19

Red Hat’s Virtualization Plans

Red Hat announced plans this week to include virtualization capabilities in Red Hat Enterprise Linux, version 5, set to be released later this year. The virtualization capabilities will be based on the open source Xen virtualization engine with a goal of helping enterprise customers get better performance from their servers. Virtualization will provide better workload management, increased server CPU utilization, better server availability, and the ability to run multiple operating systems on the same server simultaneously.

Red Hat has admitted to difficulty in getting the virtualization capabilities added to the main Linux kernel. This means that Red Hat will have to sustain their new virtualization features separately, which will increase the amount of work required to maintain and support this effort. When they are finally incorporated into the main Linux kernel, Red Hat will be able to use the virtualization capabilities within the kernel, rather than having to reincorporate these capabilities for each new Red Hat release.

Red Hat has been increasingly focused on serving enterprise customers, and these improved virtualization capabilities help to support this strategy by providing more features required by enterprise IT.

IBM Becomes an Authorized Supplier of Open Source Solutions to the New South Wales Government

Last week, Novell became an authorized open source supplier to the New South Wales (NSW) government in Australia, and this week a spokesperson for the NSW government confirmed IBM’s participation in this effort. They are also believed to be negotiating with Dell, Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard, Red Hat and Sun Microsystems. IBM has been embracing open source software for quite a few years, so it is not surprising to see them continue to be involved in open source government efforts.

The Economist Special Report on Open Source Business

The Economist had a great article this week on Open Source; however, the tagline was a bit misleading, “As ‘open-source’ models move beyond software into other businesses, their limitations are becoming apparent.” This refers to the ability of anyone to contribute to open source software, which can cause disruption to projects that are not effectively self-policed. The reality is that the well-run projects have management structures and close-knit development communities that regulate contributions based on meritocracy. This was described in the article, and the article is well balanced despite the misleading tagline.

This is a great overview article of open source software that does a great job of explaining how open source communities differ along with the strengths and challenges associated with open source. I encourage everyone to read it.

Oracle FAQ runs MySQL

While reading Zach Urlocker’s blog, I ran across this link to an Oracle FAQ forum that runs MySQL as the database. Here is a quick snippet from the forum:

“I’m ashamed to admit, but most of the site is using MySQL. Now that Oracle XE is available, I hope we could port some sections to Oracle. However, database replacements are never easy. So, don’t expect it too soon.Every penny we make goes back into running and developing this site. There is no way we would be able to raise the money required to buy a commercial Oracle license.” (OraFAQ Forum)

More and more popular sites are moving to MySQL: Yahoo, Google, Craigslist, Travelocity, etc. This open source database has certainly moved into wide acceptance within mission critical business environments.

Open Source Applications on Windows

Too many people associate open source with Linux and make the assumption that you have to run the Linux operating system if you want to run open source software. The popularity of Firefox is starting to change that perception, and here is a simple list of other open source software that people can run on Windows. Most of these are obvious to those of us who have been using open source; however, it is an excellent resource for people who are new to open source and are ready to move beyond Firefox.

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