In any community, there are always a few bad apples. The guy who claimed to be distributing Ubuntu CDs to McDonalds has now admitted that the story was mostly untrue.
The open source culture of sharing is demonstrated in unusual places. I posted an earlier blog entry about the guy who used the street beggar model to hand out Linux CDs, and now we have someone burning copies of the popular Linux distribution, Ubuntu, to give away at his local McDonalds.
Open source advocates do tend to be passionate about evangelizing Linux and open source software, even in the most bizarre locations and strange ways. This is not a criticism; these guys get big kudos in my book for creativity and innovation.
Firefox has kicked off their marketing planning for 2006 and are planning a presentation of the marketing plan tentatively scheduled for March 7. This is a great example of how participating in open source communities does not necessarily mean writing code. Most of the big projects like Firefox, OpenOffice.org and others have marketing communities and other non-technical communities where people can contribute.
The South African Revenue Service has issued a request for proposal for a proof of concept solution for Linux on the desktop, which could eventually be deployed on 14,000 desktops if the proof of concept is successful. Although this is just a request for proposal, it does show that more and more governments are beginning to at least evaluate Linux on the desktop.
Amid rumors that JBoss might be acquired, JBoss announced an acquisition of objectone GmbH, a key partner and reseller of JBoss products and services in Germany, on February 23. Effective March 1, 2006 the former objectone staff will become part of JBoss Deutschland GmbH. In more acquisition news, Sun acquired Aduva, a Linux and Solaris patch management software company that not only installs patches, but also uses a knowledge base to check for dependencies and patch compatibility with other software.
The SCO / IBM lawsuit is back in the news (for anyone who isn’t already familiar with the case, here is a great summary). IBM has subpoenaed Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard, and BayStar Capital to provide detailed information about their dealings with SCO. This is expected to shed additional light on how SCO has financed this lawsuit; for example, we know that BayStar Capital invested $50 million dollars in SCO, and after much speculation, BayStar finally admitted that Microsoft was involved in this investment. These depositions may help us understand exactly where SCO is getting the money for this case. This follows a comedy of errors earlier this month when SCO made so many mistakes in their subpoena of Intel that it would have impossible to comply with the order and then told the judge that Intel didn’t show up despite having adequate notice. This was followed by a response where Intel basically calls SCO a liar. The judge ruled this week that the subpoenas were defective and did not provide adequate notice adding that “Her October 12th orders were clear, not subject to unilateral decisions to violate” (Groklaw). Oops, irritating the judge will not win SCO any bonus points in this case.
Dave Rosenburg of OSDL seems to think so. He accurately describes the challenges of Linux on the desktop, which I have described in previous blog entries: the difficulty in getting the applications that people expect to see on a PC ported to Linux (Adobe, Intuit, etc.), and the lack of support for plug and play drivers that consumers expect with devices like digital cameras. Dave points to the Portland Project as the unified effort to tackle these problems and help the ISVs port applications to desktop Linux.
Although I wish that 2006 would be the year of Linux on the desktop, I have to be a bit more pessimistic. I think that the Portland project will help; however, it will not solve the chicken and egg problem that exists with desktop Linux. I suspect that it will take a while before enough applications are available and before consistent driver support makes it easy for people to use their consumer devices with Linux desktops. The Portland Project is a great first step to help drive momentum for the Linux desktop, and as we start to get momentum, it will become easier to convince vendors to commit resources for application and driver support on Linux.
Matt has a really great point here:
“it’s clear that money really isn’t driving these decisions. Freedom is. Freedom from lock-in to vendors whose interests are not always aligned with the government’s. Freedom to build up the local economy…” (InfoWorld Blog)
People tend to talk about how open source is free (as in free beer) saying that the cost factor leads governments (especially in emerging countries or countries without many resources) to select open source. This misses the point and misses a great opportunity. Many governments do not want to be locked into purchases that require them to pay large sums of money to big software companies in the US and other wealthy nations. These governments also have the opportunity to grow a robust, local software ecosystem and create local jobs by using open source. With readily accessible source code and online communities of developers, local companies can be formed to provide support and service, consulting, and system integration. This creates local jobs and supports the local community by combining open source software with local services, something any government would readily champion.
This is a great way to put the community benefits of open source into practice. Several local Colorado governments are creating an open source e-government system that will allow people to perform a number of services online (animal registration, parking ticket payment, etc.) The reason for doing this as an open source project is particularly interesting:
“We would love to have other organisations using the product. For example, if a small rural community in Australia implemented the system and added an animal registration module, they could contribute that module back to the project and everyone else could use it” (ZDNet UK).
This collaboration and spirit of sharing in order to have the best possible end product is one of the reasons that open source culture so compelling. I will be curious to see how the project progresses and to see how other governments decide to participate.
Toronto now has a Linuxcaffe: coffee, sandwiches, and Linux all under the same roof. Open source groups use this as a meeting place, and you can buy various open source and penguin gear along with your espresso. They also say that if you are looking for a new Linux distro, “The CD burner and the panini grill take about the same amount of time (hint, hint).”
Portland, Oregon is a hot bed of open source activity. We have Linus Torvalds, OSDL, the OSCON conference, POSSE, FreeGeek, and many other open source activities. We are also known for having a coffee shop and brew pub on nearly every corner. I would encourage some local entrepreneur to open a Linux café or Linux pub here in Portland!
With the Open Source Business conference in San Francisco on February 14 & 15, quite a bit of open source news was revealed as companies timed press releases and announcements to coincide with the event. The most significant was the Oracle acquisition of Sleepycat, which I covered in several previous blog entries. I will not cover it again here, but I encourage everyone to read the previous posts.
Sun announced that they are GPLing UltraSPARC technology along with a quote from Richard Stallman: “The free world welcomes Sun’s decision to use the Free Software Foundation’s GNU GPL for the freeing of OpenSPARC,” said Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation. This is quite an endorsement from Richard Stallman and shows that Sun is able to get support of the open source community on efforts like this one. I will be curious to see how people use this open source code and what kind of community develops for this project.
Microsoft and SugarCRM announced their new technical collaboration at OSBC, and they distributed Valentine’s Day chocolate bars that read, “Share the Love”. This will be part of Microsoft’s shared source initiative and will improve the interoperability between SugarCRM and Windows Server products. Although it sounds odd to have Microsoft at open source conferences (Microsoft even gave one of the keynotes), it is important for people to recognize that many open source software packages run on Windows in addition to Linux and other operating systems. It never ceases to amaze me to hear people say, “I can’t run open office because I run Windows.” People tend to have an automatic association between open source and Linux that is not justified. Both use open source licenses, but open source software can run on any operating system. In other words Linux is open source, but open source does not imply the use of Linux as the operating system.
The GPL debate continued this week at OSBC with a panel of lawyers leading a discussion about the new version of the license. The conversation mostly addressed questions about the license and areas where further clarification is needed, which supports the view that it is still too early to take a definitive stance on whether or not to use the license.
Scalix announced the availability of the latest version of their enterprise email and calendar solution. They demoed the web client version of this product at OSBC, a slick, fast, AJAX-based client with an Outlook look and feel.
There were too many new product releases and other news announcements to cover this week, so this is a sampling of the stories that I found the most interesting. Tune into this blog every Sunday for the best open source news of the week.
In an interview yesterday with MySQL CEO Marten Mickos, he confirmed that Oracle had approached MySQL with an acquisition offer. Unlike JBoss and Zend, MySQL turned down the offer.
MySQL and Oracle do not directly compete in most markets with Oracle focused more on back end applications and MySQL focused on high volume markets; however, there is a gray area of overlap in these markets where they do compete. MySQL would have been a good product fit for Oracle, but I still do not believe that this would have been a good move for the overall software and open source ecosystem (see previous blog post). This supports my earlier argument that Oracle is going after the application control points within the open source stack. Many customer solutions use MySQL, Zend, and / or JBoss as part of the basic LAMP stack, and Oracle seems to be going after all of the acquirable application control points (the Apache Foundation is a non-profit organization and cannot be acquired). I am becoming even more concerned about how additional Oracle acquisitions could change the balance of power within the open source ecosystem and the broader software community.
In an earlier blog, I discussed some of my concerns about Oracle buying several open source companies, and I still have those concerns along with a few others. Yesterday, Oracle acquired Sleepycat, one of the three open source companies that they had been evaluating. Sleepycat, an open source database company, is a fairly good fit for Oracle, and this acquisition by itself may be a good thing. Sleepycat is fairly small and does not have the broad mind share of other open source databases like MySQL and PostgreSQL.
My primary concern is with the acquisition of JBoss and Zend, which could drastically shift the balance of power within the open source ecosystem toward Oracle. JBoss, an open source Java application server, is within reach of the market share of BEA and IBM (the two leading players in the proprietary application server market). PHP is a cornerstone of the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP/Perl/Python) stack, and Zend is a popular commercial PHP company. In other words, these are two of the most important open source application companies (along with MySQL), and for Oracle to acquire both of them would put Oracle in a very powerful position within the open source ecosystem. Will this reduce choice or slow innovation within the open source ecosystem?
I also wonder how this might impact MySQL. Oracle has been building more open source database functionality through the acquisition of Sleepycat discussed above and an earlier acquisition of Innobase. The press release announcing the acquisition of Innobase contained a very interesting statement: “InnoDB is not a standalone database product: it is distributed as a part of the MySQL database. InnoDB’s contractual relationship with MySQL comes up for renewal next year. Oracle fully expects to negotiate an extension of that relationship.” It will be interesting to see exactly how Oracle negotiates the InnoDB renewal with MySQL. If Oracle gains control over JBoss & PHP, how will this change the dynamics of this negotiation, and what will happen if they cannot reach an agreement? We may see the open source ecosystem moving away from MySQL and toward open source Oracle databases in cases where customers are looking for greater interoperability or support from Oracle on more components of the LAMP stack. Could we be looking at a LAOP stack? It just doesn’t have the same ring.