Eclipse Finance Day 2014: User-Driven Open Source Communities, auch für den Finanzsektor

3. November, 2014

Matthias Stürmer from the University of Bern explained what kinds of OSS communities exist, how they work and why the financial sector should look at them.

For one, investment into open source software is always paying back: No matter what anyone else does, you will always at least get back what you invested. As an example, several public departments needed to improve Microsoft Office support in LibreOffice/OpenOffice. Not a single one of them could afford the CHF 50,000 which this would cost. But all of them could.

Another important point is that OSS never goes out of maintenance. Sure, there are many abandoned projects but that doesn’t stop anyone from taking the source and continuing the work. By definition, no one cares about an abandoned OSS project.

If you need help with OSS, there is a directory of companies which sell support: http://www.ossdirectory.ch/


Eclipse Finance Day 2014: Industry collaboration in Open Source

3. November, 2014

Ralph Müller from the Eclipse Foundation Europe gave an overview of the current state of OSS in the industry. He showed examples how huge companies like Airbus, Deutsche Bahn and financial institutions are looking into open source software to run their core business.

What sounds like selling your very soul (or at least exposing it to all your competitors) at first is driven by several factors. For one, those companies don’t sell software. They sell services. Software is just a means to be efficient. Therefore, if they give the source code for the software away, they don’t lose money as such (as opposed to, say, Microsoft). There are security concerns but economically, developing software themselves puts a huge burden on them: Airbus needs to maintain that software for 60 years. Deutsche Bahn needs a system to implements ETCS, so lives will depend on this software. Doing this in-house would cost an insane amount of money.

On top of that, if everyone used the same code basis to implement the standard, a lot of discussions could be avoided. Source code doesn’t lie.

Closed source software isn’t more reliable or secure as open source (or the other way around) by default. Web browsers showed that exposing the source helps to find and plug many security holes in a short time.

This follows the same lines as the first big software developers – IBM and DEC – who gave the software away for free when you bought (or rented) their hardware.

Last but not least, here is a quote from the talk which got me thinking: “Bad artists protect their work, good artists share.”


Sharing Source Code

1. May, 2012

One would think that “open source” is all about sharing. But that’s a misconception. Example: Try to use some GPL‘d code in your non-GPL OSS project. Oh, the humanity.

So called “proprietary” software at least believes in “buying love”. They won’t show you the source but for a price, you can at least use their work without many questions asked.

OSS is different. If you use the wrong license, you must be a moron (proof: You’re using a different license than me. QED) Nobody wants to share their hard work with morons!

Especially not since the process to select the “perfect” OSS license is so painful. You need to read legalese, try to understand it, reason with the nice smiling person on the other side of the padded wall (a.k.a “outside”) that you’re not insane – the rest of the world is and you can prove it.

Ever tried to get some OSS project to share their code under second license? It’s a lot of fun – unless you’re serious. Then … it’s not so much fun.

Why I’m ranting?

I spend a lot of time on stackoverflow. It’s cool. It’s full of source.

But can you use any piece of that source code in your OSS project?

Are you sure?

You are. Splendid. Do you really think a lawyer would see this the same way?


David Eaves Keynote at DjangoCon

17. November, 2011

David Eaves gave a great speech at the DjangoCon: The Science of Community Management: DjangoCon Keynote

It raises many important points that you should be aware of when you are or are planning to get involved with a OSS project. All those have communities and if you don’t keep an eye on staying the lone rider committer, you’ll eventually get tangled up in the social net – the community.

This can be a painful experience, especially when you’re a coder. We, as a species, are wary of human interaction and social forces when we maybe should be aware instead. One symptom is that people start to bother you with stupid questions. The natural reaction is to troll. This works (people will leave you along) but it also means spending from your reputation budget.

Realizing that “stupid question == someone cares about my work” can turn this into a win-win situation.

Go see the talk.


Jazzon 2011, Day 3 – Behind the scenes: Microsoft and Open Source – Gianugo Rabellino

26. June, 2011

Behind the scenes: Microsoft and Open Source - Gianugo Rabellino

Disclaimer: I have M$.

According to Gianugo, M$ knows a lot about open source. Sounds good? Maybe. “Know your enemy” ;-) Well, of course they know. OSS is a threat to their business model so they early applied their usual tactics of “embrace, extend and extinguish” to handle it.

When that didn’t work (and they found it wasn’t necessary because most people don’t understand OSS), they gave it up so they can now pretend to be “good guys” (or maybe “better guys” than they were before the year 2000).

My main objection is their definition of open: “Open” for them seems to mean “honest” or “listening to customers” or “doesn’t cost anything.”

That’s wrong. Open means: I can solve my problems myself. Example: Say I found a bug in Word. I know how to fix it. Will it be fixed? No. Why not? Because I’m just one of 300 million Word customers. My tiny complaint is simply drowned in the majority’s cry for more features.

Open source means: If I know how to fix it, I can. If I don’t, I can ask for a fix. If the original developers can’t help, and I still need the fix, I can hire someone to fix it for me! I have options. With M$ (and any other big company for that matter), I have none. For me, these people are an endless source of frustration.

Why I have M$ more than most? Because they make my life miserable every day for the past 25 years. Every day, I get Office documents that LibreOffice can’t open. And I can’t run Office on Linux. I could run it in a VM but that would infest my pretty secure computer with a viruphile OS that is hard to maintain, update and use.

Where was I? Oh yes, the presentation.

One slide said that they were open for interoperability and standards. M$ is member of a whole lot of standards committees. Which sounds great. But big companies usually become members of standards committees to make sure either theirunderstanding of the technology because the standard (so everyone else has to catch up and/or pay them royalties)  or to make sure nothing is every agreed upon. Since every committee contains at least one member of both groups … you get the idea.

It’s like religion. Question: Who goes to hell? Answer: Everyone. Proof: There are at least two religions which believe that anyone who doesn’t share their specific belief goes to hell.

Anyway. M$ is driven by money. If there is money to be made, they jump. If not, they can’t be bothered. So if the customers want interoperability, M$ couldn’t care less. If the customer pays for this, sure, why not.

For these reasons, IE9 is not OSS. But at least they’re trying to be compatible to HTML(5) – since no one really is, it doesn’t really matter. The point is that customers are running away to other browsers like Firefox and Chrome. On top of that, FF and Chrome have been leading innovation in the browser market (I’m sure the M$ marketing department disagrees and next year, we’ll see a lot of ads says that “M$ invented HTML, the Internet and Walking Upright(tm)”).

What M$ also cares for is wasting money. Support is such an area. So they decided to split IE9 into the stable, basic product for John Doe. Developers can download all kinds of cool extensions from some website (links anyone?) to tamper with the bleeding edge. When the bleeding edge has been dulled from all the blood (= something has emerged and a lot of people want it), M$ can move it into the IE9 installation package (or an update) and claim to have invented that, too.

Nice idea. I actually like it, even though I worry what it means for fragmentation of web development. But making people “trust IE9″ because the base product is stable, fast and dependable, that should help to move people more quickly away from IE6 and that’s always a good thing. Of course, this mess is also M$’s fault in the first place. But at least for once, they try to clean it up.

The talk did contain two items which I agree: WebSockets are the best and the worst of HTML(5). They are a great idea and would solve a whole lot of problems that web developers face today. Unfortunately, they’re also a huge security risk.

The other thing is that cloud means “I don’t care.” Cloud computing really means that you want to concentrate on the few things that you do best and leave the rest (network administration, backups, fault tolerance, installing updates, etc.) to someone else.

Funny fact: All slides had “Microsoft Confidential” on them.

Conclusion: Gianugo sold his soul well. I talked a couple of minutes to him after the presentation. We didn’t agree but at least we did it in a civilized manner.


OpenOffice Dead, Too

2. June, 2011

After the huge success with Hudson, Oracle boldly continues in its way to k…er…save OSS projects by dum…donating OpenOffice at Apache.

Remember: Jenkins strives, Hudson is caught in the gears of a long and tedious legal process called “IP due diligence.” Something OSS developers couldn’t care less. So Jenkins pumps release after release every week. Hudson … well, we’ll see. Sometime. Maybe. When all the dubious “IP” has been replaced, removed or at least moved to plugins.

Since this worked so well, Apache gets the OpenOffice project after all important committers left to join LibreOffice.

We have to see this through the corporate lens: Oracle, a multi-billion dollar company is used to make tough decisions and see them through. Just use their database and you will instinctively feel their priorities: The product is powerful yet clumsy. A lot of things could be solved in a much more simple way. But if they did that, it would cost Oracle money. As it is, it just costs those who use it. Note that these are not the people who made the decision to buy Oracle. They just follow the orders from people who see the world through shiny leaflets.

So LibreOffice committed the most horrible crime possible: They ignored Oracle. They came, saw and left without ever looking back. Outrageous! If you make $26 billion revenue, you can’t be wrong. Impossible!

Still … I’d be surprised if there will ever be a release of OpenOffice that anyone will care about.

Related articles:


GPL vs EPL

23. November, 2010

A lot has been said about GPL and EPL and various other OSS licenses and how much they do harm.

Miles Parker summarizes it very well in his blog post “Is GPL damaging to your ecosystem’s health?

My stance: It’s not really the GPL as such. The big problem is that we have incompatible licenses. The goal is the same: Software wants to be free. But we can’t agree on how to make sure it is.

Single developers don’t want companies to steal their work (read: get rich) while companies want to make sure they and their customers can’t be sued.

But the root cause of the problem is that we have a legal system which just doesn’t allow for “in good faith.” Or at least so we believe.

We simply can’t say: “Oh, I don’t bother as long as you don’t steal the code — and a judge will have to decide what I mean by ‘steal’ on a case-by-case basis.”

A few days ago, a member of the Tycho team asked me to sign some legal contract so they could use my patches. That took a huge bite out of my motivation to submit something. Why do I have to sign a legal contract to do something that is legal? Why are the good guys treated worse than the bad guys?

You say that there is no other option?

I’m not with you. Carl Sagan put it best in his movie Contact:

David Drumlin: I know you must think this is all very unfair. Maybe that’s an understatement. What you don’t know is I agree. I wish the world was a place where fair was the bottom line, where the kind of idealism you showed at the hearing was rewarded, not taken advantage of. Unfortunately, we don’t live in that world.

Ellie Arroway: Funny, I’ve always believed that the world is what we make of it.


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