How to make money with F/OSS

Open Sources | InfoWorld | The proprietary/open source continuum for ISVs | February 5, 2007 05:09 AM | By Matt Asay

Ok, in general, I am not a big fan of Matt Asay. Often, I feel his blog entries expose him as nothing but a Red Hat shill. Sorry, Matt, but you do tend to have a distinctive leaning in your blog entries.

However, the entry quoted above is an excellent one, and a thought-provoking assessment on how companies can make money with Free/Open Source Software (F/OSS). How much of that assessment is directly from Larry Augusten? I don’t know, but it is great to have it. This is an article I’m definitely going to bookmark. Too often, when explaining what F/OSS is I get the question, “… but if the software is free how do you make money?” My explanation is sometimes lost on the recipient, which means I probably need to work on my elevator pitch. ;-) However, it is nice to have a quick explanation I can send to someone. Maybe I should memorize this and re-use the content. :-)

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Great article on ars technica

A visual timeline of the Microsoft-Novell controversy

This is a really good article that I just read at ars technica. The whole Novell/Microsoft thing has been a bit of a soap opera, and a twisted tale. This article brings some much needed levity and clarity to the situation, as well as pretty succinctly explaining the sequence of events.

Of particular interest to me was the last couple of paragraphs from the article, quoted below:

The success of the Linux operating system is largely predicated on the collaboration of the Linux development community, and this petty squabbling impedes that collaboration. What the corporate executives of these companies have declared, with stentorian vehemence, is that they are all abundantly willing to abandon collaboration and take advantage of each other whenever it is convenient.
I don’t object to criticism of the deal, because frankly, it seems obvious that Ballmer vindicated the critics, and in retrospect, trusting Microsoft was not wise. I’m not passing judgement on the opportunism of the executives who used criticism of the deal as a means of promoting their own corporate agenda. It’s human nature and commonplace. The point I’m making here is that, in the end, the mutual criticism and petty bickering doesn’t further the interests of the Linux community and that the negative consequences of the Microsoft/Novell deal will continue to escalate as long as it serves as a catalyst for distrust within the Linux community.

It pains me to see the Linux community ripping each other apart of this event, and quite frankly makes me very sad. We are not a bunch of petulant children, and the last thing we need is for the world to (continue to) view us that way. Over the last 16 years, Linux has matured to become a true competitor and threat to the largest and most dominant software companies. Linux is a testament to the open source development model.

We cannot afford to slow the progress of Linux and open source development with petty and reactionary arguements. What upset me further is the opportunistic way in which the “leaders” at other companies in the Linux market tried to use the timult to gain mindshare. Linux has too often been compared to Unix because no one company makes Linux. To coin a phrase, those that forget history are doomed to repeat it.

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Software patents suck

Ok, that title sucks, but I couldn’t think of anything witty. ;-) Anyway, I just got done reading an article over at Ars Technica:

Cox’s DRM patent less than meets the eye

1/17/2007 9:01:09 AM, by Timothy B. Lee

On Monday, Slashdot reported that legendary Linux kernel developer Alan Cox filed a patent application in June 2005 related to digital rights management technology. Cox’s patent describes software that would automatically suspend operations if the user was found to be out of compliance with the software’s licensing terms but that would save the user’s data before suspending to prevent data loss.

 

The topic of the article was interesting, but what I really liked was the last paragraph:

The fact that even Red Hat, a company publicly opposed to software patents and unlikely to assert them against anyone, feels the need to apply for dozens of patents suggests that there are serious problems with the American patent system. The resources Red Hat spends hiring lawyers to obtain patents it will most likely never use could be more productively spent hiring programmers and customer support personnel to do useful work.

Too right. It is ludicrous that companies have to spend so much money for events that may never transpire when they could be spending money improving their products! This is roughly akin to insurance, except this is much more expensive and much less assuring. It is good to see that many of the biggest players in this industry support patent reform, even some that we wouldn’t expect. I hope that people in the European Union continue to fight the good fight.

This seems like a good site. Check it out: http://www.nosoftwarepatents.com/

Novell/Microsoft agreement: FUD and reasoning

Ever since the Novell/Microsoft agreement was announced I have been looking at reactions in the press and from various blogs and sites like Slashdot and digg. A lot of the “analysis” I see is paranoid speculation, and an unfortunate example of the ugly side of the open source community. Don’t get me wrong, I have been a member of that community for over five years and I love this industry dearly. However, sometimes our paranoia goes a little too far. Groklaw was a great site to visit for information on the SCO debacle, but I think PJ’s ego has outgrown her abilities and clouded her analysis. She posted an article yesterday titled “Novell ‘Forking’ OpenOffice.org” where she goes on to announce that Novell is producing, “…a Novell edition of OpenOffice.org and it will support Microsoft OpenXML.” In her “expert” opinion the proof that Novell is forking OpenOffice.org is the opening line of the press release:

Novell today announced that the Novell® edition of the OpenOffice.org office productivity suite will now support the Office Open XML format…

I’m not sure she ever read past that line, perhaps to see critical information such as:

The translators will be made available as plug-ins to Novell’s OpenOffice.org product. Novell will release the code to integrate the Open XML format into its product as open source and submit it for inclusion in the OpenOffice.org project.

Nor, did she seem to do any research to see that the “Novell Edition of OpenOffice.org” has existed since the release of Novell Linux Desktop 9, and exists only because we have added functionality that Sun has not yet accepted into the upstream OpenOffice.org. PJ goes on to quip:

The default will be ODF, they claim, but note that the subheading mentions OpenXML instead

Ummmm…. and that means… what? She then goes on a rant about how evil Novell is, and further quips about our corporate tag line. PJ and others seem to be spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) that is often based purely on speculation and ignorance. This can only serve to hurt Linux and open source, and it is sad for me to watch.

However, amidst all this FUD there are quite a few commenters, bloggers and journalists whom inject some much needed reason. For instance, most of the comments on PJ’s post point out that there is no indication that Novell is forking OpenOffice.org, that it is not unusual (and is actually common) for a Linux distribution to include a software package that differs from the upstream version, and that the Novell Edition of OpenOffice.org has existed for quite some time.

A longtime user of SUSE Linux (and former Ximian customer), whom bought every version of SUSE Linux since 6.4, wrote me the other day to point out what he found was a disturbing analysis of the Novell/Microsoft agreement. He said he was worried that SUSE Linux would suffer the same fate as Corel Linux, so he was going to make sure he was familiar with another Linux distribution to prepare for that eventuality. Please don’t take this as disloyalty. He really is a devoted fan and strong advocate of SUSE Linux, but the “expert analysis” he read lead him to believe his beloved Linux distribution of choice would soon be crushed by the Evil Empire ™. I wrote a lengthy response to him to hopefully allay his fears and bring some levity to the situation, and today he sent me a link to another article.

http://www.networkworld.com/newsletters/nsm/2006/1127nsm2.htmlHi Pete,

The above e-article from network world.com collaborates really well with your previous e-mail nearly word for word.

It is good to see an article that doesn’t deride this agreement, and evaluates it on business reasoning. The author also brushes aside the tumult of comments foretelling the demise of Linux at the hands of Novell, and addresses at least some of the comments he feels (and I agree) are unfounded. Good to see some positive comments coming from mainstream press. Now have any of these links made it to Slashdot or digg?

Does it matter if Vista makes an impact?

This should have been posted last week. Forgot to take it out of draft mode. :-/

I just read an article by John Dvorak entitled, “Will Vista make an impact?” It seems the real question is, “…does it really matter?” Dvorak writes this long article about how boring Vista is and how Microsoft really hasn’t put much effort into promoting Vista. Then at the end he says, “… Eventually this will settle down and we’ll all be using Vista…” Which basically means it doesn’t matter how boring Vista is or how much effort Microsoft puts into promoting it. The sad fact is that people will buy it anyway.

What does this say about the computer operating system industry? Because Microsoft has such a stranglehold on the desktop market they have absolutely no motivation to improve their product. It seems they only do so to marginally satisfy their critics that at least they are doing something.

I ran Vista for a couple of days because I wanted to see what great things they had done. Ok, that’s a lie.. I wanted to see if it actually ran on my three-year-old laptop. It worked fine, but there was nothing really compelling, and in fact some stuff was just annoying.