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.


OSS vs. proprietary software

25. August, 2010

How was it ever possible that OSS overtook proprietary software? Microsoft is a 223 Billion Dollar company, RedHat is only worth $5 Billion. How can something “for free” be better than something that costs thousands of dollars?

Paul Ramsey gives a very nice explanation in his talk: Beyond Nerds Bearing Gifts


UltraViolet: Death of digital content

29. July, 2010

UV radiation is invisible but extended exposure causes sunburn. It can also cause skin cancer which leads to certain death if not treated immediately. What an appropriate name for a new DRM system.

My guess is that it will help to kill sales of digital media like no technology before it. Why?

  1. It is supported by most of the important companies, so in a few years, you won’t be able to find consumer devices which don’t support it. Outside the OSS world that is.
  2. Did you know that you buy products because you like them? If that is so, then the products you buy tell about your psyche. In which mood are you today? Did you buy ABBA or Motörhead? Hmm… Imagine who might long for such information and how much.
  3. Finally you don’t have to spend hours selecting music for a friend, a coupon is enough. You can’t buy the music for them anymore because you can’t give it away anymore. Anything you buy will be yours. And yours only. Except if they are members of your family. Finally children can know what their parents read. And which movies the parents watch after the children were sent to bed. Did you know that most parents turn to their children for help with electronic devices?
  4. At long last DVDs and BlueRay disks will “just work“. No more sitting in front of a black screen because your DVD player can’t play the disk in the drive. And you won’t get an FBI warning either. They will know where you live the instant you try to play “content” you didn’t buy and sue you. Or kick your door in. Whatever they feel like. You’re just a petty criminal, like the molesters, thieves, murderers and other scum.
  5. UV will be anywhere (like in daylight). There will be no way to avoid it. Unless you stop buying. What an odd idea. Why would you stop giving money to greed…great companies who sue toddlers? Babies stink anyway. Stop making them. They only pollute the planet even more, they take room, breathe our air, eat our food and then refuse to pay for our pension. Buy more music instead! In UV2, we’ll figure out a way to sell condoms, too. Everything for our consumers!
  6. Of course this is a very complex technology, so the company behind it has meticulously created a roadmap which makes sure the most important features are available first. Which will be the ones that are paid for. By the companies using the technology to sell you stuff. But don’t worry. Eventually, when they run out of ideas how to spend the fortune they’ll make, they will eventually consider adding features for consumers. Eventually. Housing on the moon is so expensive. But well worth it: You can’t hear the complaints. And the view is priceless.
  7. Only very few, unimportant companies like Apple and Disney aren’t on the big, happy bandwagon. But don’t fear. In a short time, they will either be out of business (like they deserve) or see the light like everyone else.

Doesn’t that sound great? At last no more aggravation that you can’t play music on your Linux PC because the MP3 codec isn’t installed. No, finally you can be sure that no digital content, even if you bought it on a DVD and physically carried it home, will be owned by you. Or can be played on Linux. The Linux community, which has been spread like a virus for years, will be reduced again to the weirdos, sociopaths and communists. McCarthy would be so happy.

There is just one tiny problem. In Europe, there are some people called “data protection commissioners”. Unlike the name suggests, they are purely evil and as soon as they learn what the companies behind UV can do with the data they collect about the valued customers, they might try to outlaw the technology! Fret not, dear reader, the stupi…insight of the masses have always worked in our favor.

It won’t take long before new governments will be elected by careful persuasion of you with a little help of the, say, more “private” or, well, “odd” purchases you make. And if that doesn’t work, it should be possible to extrapolate your income this way and gently nudge the IRS who will be thankful of the service rendered by the law-abiding[*] companies behind the great new technology Ultraviolet!

[*] Read “we are the law”! And don’t you forget it! Now buy! The tires on my Ferrari are already dusty from the ride this morning! Yuck! I need a new one! Life is so … so … unjust!


Starting Your Own OSS Project

8. July, 2008

If you’re planning to roll your own little OSS toy project, you should read the article “Party of one: Surviving the solo open source project” by Kirill Grouchnikov. Very good points on what to do and what to avoid and why.


Are You OSS? Why?

2. February, 2008

If you ever wondered why you’re using Linux while everyone in the office uses Windows at home, fret no more and read here.


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