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?


Open Source As Good As Proprietary Software

28. February, 2012

The Coverity Scan 2011 Open Source Integrity Report (registration necessary) says: “Open source quality is on par with proprietary code quality, particularly in cases where codebases are of similar size.”

Which isn’t that surprising considering that it’s the same people who write both.

But there are a couple of hard number in the report which are interesting:

Linux 2.6 has about 0.62 defects per 1000 lines of code (KLOC) which Coverity says “is roughly identical to that of its proprietary codebase counterparts.” They can’t tell names but I guess the counterparts are Windows and Mac OS X. They have 0.64 defects per KLOC.

The industry average is 1.0 defects per KLOC which matches well with my (more anecdotal) knowledge that the best software developers make about 3-4 mistakes per KLOC of which 75% are found during development.


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.


TNBT: JetBrains’ MPS

10. March, 2011

Disclaimer: I’m not a fan of IntelliJ IDEA.

In the past, I’ve always had an eye for people who replaced the ASCII text editor with something … better. Imagine you could use a table to define your constants in Java. And with table, I mean “Excel” not “align-with-space-until-it-you-go-insane.”

JetBrains is working on this: Table support in MPS 2.0

Let me make this clear: A DSL is nice. But there are so many things that you simply can’t express well with text. State machines. Repeated code. Sometimes, you don’t need the exact words to convey the idea.

I think I’ll waste some time with MPS 2.0 M3 next weekend. There are a couple of tutorials and demos.

Related Articles:

  • The Next Best Thing – Series in my blog where I dream about the future of software development

Oracle sells OpenOffice 3.3

17. December, 2010
OpenOffice

Image via Wikipedia

Wanna buy OO? Oracle gets in line with all the rip-offs who sell you open source software and, as a special bonus, it sells you a crippled version: For home users, you get a copy that supports just one language, one OS, no SDK, no MySQL connector. Oh, there is forum based support!

In which way is that better than the download from OpenOffice.org which I get with more features and for free?

Well, there isn’t a release on the project’s official website. I guess Oracle redefined the meaning of open source software: It’s just the source, now. Use your own compiler.

LibreOffice, here I come. They also don’t have a release but at least I feel that they’re honest and show some basic respect.