Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Open source begins to beat brand in business

OPEN source software, which holds a central place with computer programming enthusiasts who oppose proprietary control over software code, has quietly been winning recognition in Australia's enterprise sector.

Surveys of Australian open source development companies indicate that the software, which is developed co-operatively under non-proprietary licensing schemes, supports an industry worth $500 million and is becoming better understood.

Marc Englaro, general manager of open source software company Fonality, said companies had developed a good grasp of the open source model.

"Three years ago there would have been expectations that open source meant free, whereas now open source means more cost-effective but not necessarily free," he said.

Technology managers no longer were so anxious about using open source software in preference to proprietary systems, he said.

"The fundamentals of whether you're an established organization with a track record apply whether you're open-source or not, but the fact that you use open source doesn't on its own carry a negative connotation," Mr Englaro said.

Earlier this year, open-source software consultancy Waugh Partners surveyed 129 companies ranging from multinationals to small enterprises and found that the group generated about $500 million from open source activity.

More than half that revenue was directly generated from working with open source software, Waugh Partners found.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Open source - it's all about choice

There have always been people in society who help others just because they can - the cub scout leader, the charity volunteer, the community clean up group, they all contribute to making the world a better place.

The same thing happens in the world of technology. It's called the Open Source movement, and it's a growing influence on the way we all use computers.

The internet has helped shape this community and it has had nearly 30 years to mature. Its foundation was in the counter culture of the late sixties and seventies in American colleges such as MIT.

If there was a computer, then people would play around to see what was possible. If they produced something clever they would share it.

From this grew the idea that ideas should be freely available and that writing software was another form of self expression . This only grew faster as home computers became available and faster still as the internet evolved and communication of ideas and source code became easier.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

An idiot's view of open source

If he wasn't so utterly wrong and, it appears that he's taken seriously, Andrew Keen's delusion that the economy is about to "Give Open-Source a Good Thumping" would be funny.

Keen, author of the book, Cult of the Amateur: How the Internet is killing our culture, argues that "One of the very few positive consequences of the current financial miasma will be a sharp cultural shift in our attitude toward the economic value of our labor. Mass unemployment and a deep economic recession comprise the most effective antidote to the Utopian ideals of open-source radicals."

Therefore, "Historians will look back at the open-source mania between 2000 and 2008 with a mixture of incredulity and amusement. How could tens of thousands of people have donated their knowledge to Wikipedia or the blogosphere for free? What was it about the Internet that made so many of us irrational about our economic value?"

The problem with his argument is simple: it's a straw-man argument. There are almost no open-source radicals, and of those, few, if any, are working for free.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Open source Linux worth billions, Microsoft warned

Can Microsoft compete with an billion dollar open source project which benefits from widespread collaboration?

A new study claimed that the development of the Linux Fedora 9 operating system would cost $10.8 billion (£6.3 billion) to build, and that Microsoft’s software monopoly could disappear.

The value was measured by the Linux Foundation using today’s software development costs, with an estimated cost of $1.4 billion (£0.8 billion) for the Linux kernel alone.

The Foundation said that since it began in 1991, Linux has become a computing force with a $25 billion (£14.7 billion) ecosystem, powering devices from mobile phones to supercomputers.

Report authors Amanda McPherson, Brian Proffitt and Ron Hale-Evans said that the open nature of the Linux operating system benefited from its collaborative nature which meant that one company did not need to have responsibility for its development or support.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Free software offers cheaper long distance calls

Panaji: Free software and open source solutions offer a huge potential to link your computer to the mobile phone and the inexpensive Skype networks - that allows you to make international calls over the Internet - and for sending out SMSes too.

This could help significantly narrow the digital divide "at the social level between rich and poor and geographical levels, between city and village," says Giovanni Maruzzelli, an Italian expert in the field currently touring India.

The Italian techie has held meetings at IIT-Madras, at Auroville, and at Mumbai, and now is scheduled to speak in Goa and Hyderabad.

Maruzzelli is the man behind the project, that works with Internet telephony, computers, sound cards and mobile phones -- bringing all together in amazing ways.

Celliax uses second-hand, recycled and cheap cellphones as interfaces between VoIP and the GSM networks.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Open source software proves affordable, flexible for NIH, DoD

Ten years ago, engineers at the National Institutes of Health decided to bundle together a bunch of regular computers in order to create a supercomputing capability. The result proved successful and has grown since, enabling scientists to run large-scale computational experiments that would otherwise be impossible, such as processing thousands of DNA sequences or running six-month-long molecular simulations to study cell processes.

These simulations allow scientists to examine things that cannot be measured in a lab — for instance, how molecules permeate a cell membrane or how a drug interacts with a protein.

This system, known as Biowulf, has 6,500 processors communicating over a fast network and 8,800 gigabytes of memory. It would have cost the agency millions of dollars to buy enough software to make such a supercomputer possible. But the designers who built Biowulf in 1999 decided to use open source software, much of which can be obtained free.

“It has grown and grown since 1999, and we were able to do it in part because the software costs are almost zero,” said Steven Fellini, a systems specialist for NIH.

Unlike proprietary software, open source software programs allow users to access the source code to modify as they see fit. Though not all open source software is free, the licenses for open source products must allow users to distribute the program. Open source licenses also need to be technology-neutral and run without interfering with other software.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Fear what? The success of open source?

Mary Jo Foley's recent column "Open-source backers: Are you afraid?" gets it all wrong.
The suggestion that big companies pose a threat to open source misses the big picture, focusing instead on a worn-out generality that positions Microsoft Corp.'s competitors against the open-source movement in a way Bill Gates himself would envy.

Big companies such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard have a very simple business motivation for backing open-source software: lower total cost of ownership for their hardware platforms.

Each of these companies makes its living selling hardware. Inexpensive, high-quality software increases their value proposition. And, of course, a Linux/Intel combo undoubtedly represents a very reasonable license structure compared with their NT/Intel offerings. It really is that simple.

Let's get real about what IBM is up to. Do you really think IBM is ballyhooing Linux and spending big-time bucks to "garner positive press?"

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Open source is about belief in code

You can read stories about doom and depression somewhere else today.

Instead I want you to look across the headlines to the other side of the chasm.

There is something there that does not exist in the proprietary wreckage, something important. Code.

Even if an open source enterprise should go belly-up its code should survive. That code can be enhanced, it can be forked, it can be turned into another business, perhaps with another business model, down the road.

The code will be there because those who forged both the FOSS and open source movements believed first in what they could do for code, and only second in what code could do for them.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Red Hat: Economic crisis to boost open source

The global economic crisis would provide a boost for open-source software, Red Hat Chief Executive Jim Whitehurst claimed during a visit to Sydney this week.

Whitehurst, who stopped over down under as part of a tour of the Asia-Pacific region, said in an interview with ZDNet Australia that the crisis would cause companies to consolidate their technology infrastructure and reduce spending.

"So the bad news is, when things get tight, people stop investing as much in the future," he said. "I would expect to see a slowdown in spending for new functionality." However, the CEO said this would cause more companies to consider open-source software as an option.

"What I do know is that open source will be in much better shape, coming out of the financial crisis than going into it, relative to our propriety competitors," he said.

Whitehurst said this is because open-source software provides a better economic model for creating software.

However, Kevin McIsaac, a Sydney-based analyst for Intelligent Business Research Services, said he does not expect the trend to increase the market share of companies such as Red Hat.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Nine Attitude Problems in Free and Open Source Software

I love free and open source software (FOSS). The cause -- essentially, an extension of free speech -- is one that I can get behind as a writer, and community members are not only brilliant but both passionate and practical at the same time. It's an exciting field, and the one in which I've chosen to make a career.

At times, though, the community can be its own worst enemy. Certain attitudes, often long-ingrained, make the community less united than it should be, and work against common goals, such as providing an alternative to proprietary software or spreading the FOSS gospel. Practically everyone in the community has been guilty of one or more of these attitudes at some time or other -- including me -- but we rarely talk about them. And, for this reason, the attitudes continue, hobbling community efforts.

Admitting these attitude problems seems the first step to overcoming them, so here are nine of the most common ones I've observed both in myself and in the community around me:

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Open Source Business: Model or Tactic?

ReadWriteWeb points readers to a report released by the 451 Group stating that open source is not a true business model, but more of a "business tactic."

Traditionally, the "open source business model" is perceived as "free/open software, with paid support and configuration services." The report found, however, that many of the responding open source businesses incorporate some commercially licensed software in their product line. It also found that the "paid support/free software" idea -- while theoretically, at least, valid -- is multi-layered, complex, and highly variable between software product, software company, and industry.

The research included 114 open source vendors, including Red Hat, Alfresco, IBM and Oracle. Of all the vendors studied, 70% offered support services, but less than 8% called their support services their primary revenue stream. The 451 Group stated that they realized the inclusion of "proprietary vendors" (as opposed to the broader definition of "vendor," which could include those making open code available on a mirror) would possibly skew the results, so the research centered mainly on businesses specializing in open source.

It's not surprising that these vendors, which vary in size and customer base, use different methods to keep themselves afloat. It's not terribly surprising that licensing weighs heavily on how development, support, and revenue-generation strategies are formulated.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Apple closes open-source flaws with latest patch

Apple plugged on Friday at least 40 security holes affecting its Mac OS X operating system, releasing a patch to upgrade the software and install new security certificates.

The vast majority of the vulnerabilities affect the open-source components of the Mac OS X, including the MySQL database server, the PHP dynamic Web language, the Tomcat Java server, the Apache Web server and the vim text editor. The patch -- Apple's seventh major fix for Mac OS X this year -- closes 25 vulnerabilities in those applications, some of which are shipped only with the Apple's server products. Other vulnerabilities also affected the open-source ClamAV antivirus software, Postfix mail software, and CUPS printing software, according to the company's advisory.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Open source's usability challenge

The iPhone has been out for a year, and known about in detail for considerably longer. Yet the very latest crop of state-of-the-art Windows Mobile phones, clearly designed as head-on competitors to that phone, miss the mark by miles.

They all have the same feature list -- indeed, they capitalise on the many aspects of the iPhone that are well below par -- but they all feel cruder and more frustrating to use. You can't just bolt this stuff on.

Usability is extremely important. It's also very hard to do well and requires extreme corporate self-discipline. If you ever find yourself asking which of Apple and Microsoft has the more effective management, compare their products. Unless an engineer knows with total clarity that their part of the project will be thrown back for failing to meet usability standards, then the urge to cut a corner or half-bake a feature can be irresistible. Functionality is easy to specify and test: usability far less so.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Apple Updates to Fix Open Source Security Issues

Latest Apple security fix list tackles at least 15 flaws that could leave Mac users at risk.

Though Apple's Mac OS X operating system itself is not open source, it does include many components that are -- which also means that it's potentially susceptible to the same vulnerabilities that have affect open source projects.

As a result, open source applications in particular are strongly represented on the list of patched items in Apple's latest security update, 2008-007.

Among the open source applications patched in the update is the Apache Web server. Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) is updating Mac users to Apache HTTP version 2.29 from the 2.28 version that had potential Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF) issues.

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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Why Open Source is hot now?

With the deepening of the credit crisis, melt down in the financial industry, the IT budgets in the big companies is under squeeze.

Companies are looking at optimizing their IT budgets and seriously looking at Return on their investments. The commercial software license costs; be in hardware, operating system, infrastructure, database, commercial applications and consulting & support, is being reviewed and seriously considered for optimizing and cost cutting.

Open source software and solutions have a great opportunity to survive and benefit in this economy as they provide better returns for the companies that are looking to save huge licensing costs and greater availability of solutions and software that can be easily adopted.

Open source software and solutions have matured over years and a bigger community to support them. There are several solutions from multiple vendors for business problems and substantially less expensive compared to commercial software from the proprietary software companies.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The spread of Open Source

BANGALORE, INDIA: Technologies based on the open source platform are increasing in adoption today. Acceptance of open source has spread in varied areas such as web server, collaboration, messaging and virtualization to name a few. In India too, open source is growing rapidly and there are many enthusiasts who are coming out and embracing the technology. In an interview with CIOL, Santhosh D'Souza, Chief Technologist, Sun Microsystems, India, gives an insight on the growing trends of open source, Sun's involvement to promote open source and the latest offerings it has to offer based on the open source platform.

Excerpts of the interview.

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Monday, October 6, 2008

Open Source Census Finds FOSS Everywhere

The Open Source Census, which I mentioned back in April, just dropped a press release this morning about the data it's been collecting. I chatted the day before with Kim Weins, senior VP of OpenLogic, a key co-sponsor of the census, and how they found a few ... surprises in the results.

Well, maybe they won't be total surprises to people who're intimately involved with the business and culture of open source, but I imagine they'll still raise a few eyebrows. For starters, there is quite a lot of open source software, of all stripes, being deployed on Windows machines.

This includes software deployed as an escape from Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) (OpenOffice, etc.), packages used as support or infrastructure tools (zlib, OpenSSL, Perl, Samba), and things that have their own legacy as well -- like Firefox, which appeared on a whopping 84% of the systems surveyed. The vast majority of the top 20 or so packages also appeared on both Windows and Linux systems, so a good deal of what's being used is platform-agnostic.

Another revelation, which probably comes as a surprise only if you haven't been following open source news: Open source adoption in Europe far outpaces that of the United States. I chalked that up to two things: 1) a larger governmental role for open source adoption in Europe, and 2) less existing fidelity toward Microsoft by default there. "Governments and financial service companies" were the biggest leaders as far as use of open source packages, but a chunk who identified themselves as "Other" or "All Others" made up nearly half right there.

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Sunday, October 5, 2008

Open source can still win in a down economy

I was meeting with venture investors the last few days and it's clear that the impact of the credit crisis and the overall bleak economic outlook has people really freaked out. Rightly so, but it's times like these where smart investors invest in early-stage ideas that will take a few years to mature.

And, while it's clear that spending will slow a bit in the technology sector, there is less risk then there was in the last meltdown where everyone was over-invested in technology. That doesn't mean we won't be impacted, just that the nuclear winter in financial services probably won't effect tech as much as it did circa 2001 when every startup failed and big companies lost billions.

Open source consumption did really well during the last economic downturn. In this downturn, open source offers the best value for money and with more mature supported products, enterprises can continue to innovate while budgets are frozen.

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Friday, October 3, 2008

How not to get sued by open source coders

A Fasken Martineau DuMoulin lawyer says many firms do not teach workers how to manage open source software. CIPPIC weighs in

A recent ruling by the U.S. Federal Appeals Court, stipulating that open source licenses are subject to copyright laws, will mean that businesses will have to exercise added due diligence when integrating open source code in the products they develop, according to legal experts.

The ruling stems from a claim of copyright infringement by an open source developer whose code was distributed through the open source Artistic License, and claims that those license requirements were not met by a company that incorporated that code into its product.

The court subsequently ruled that copyright holders "who engage in open-source licensing have the right to control the modification and distribution of copyrighted material.”

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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Are Microsoft's open-source actions enough?

While Microsoft Corp. realizes there is greater benefit to collaborating with the open source community from an interoperability perspective, it may prove difficult to change its pro-proprietary image, said an open source analyst.

Microsoft was a company focused on intellectual property claims where "not more than two years ago claimed that Linux software infringed on some of its 235 patents," said Jay Lyman with The 451 Group. Yet, he added, it's hard to argue with the work that the software giant is doing with Novell, and of the presence it has on SourceForge, the development and download repository of open source code.

Indeed, the company announced the Microsoft Open Source Technology Center this year, which was essentially a unification of the Open Source Software Lab opened in Redmond, Wash., three years ago, and the Microsoft/Novell Interoperability Lab in Cambridge, Mass., a year ago.

While the Center may not physically be one building, the unification "was really an opportunity for us to pull the work together to be very focused on a few areas," said Tom Hanrahan, director of the Microsoft Open Source Technology Center.

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