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- I’ve been playing around with Swift, the new programming language from Apple, for a few days and I’ve been quite …
- The Supermoon over Cranberry Lake, New York, in the New York Adirondack Mountains on 11 July, 2014.
- Yesterday IBM and Apple made an important announcement about partnering to significantly growth the use of mobile via Apple devices …
Six weeks ago I noted here that Oracle had to decided to offer the codebase for , the open source word processing, presentation, and spreadsheet software suite to the Software Foundation. Two weeks after that, Apache voted to accept the proposed project for incubation. Now, one month later, IBM is announcing that it will offer the Symphony source code to the Apache OpenOffice incubator for consideration. Why and what does this mean?
First of all, note that I said “for consideration.” Members of the OpenOffice “podling” at Apache, including folks who areemployees, will get to look at the changes and improvements that IBM made to OpenOffice code when it was incorporated into Symphony. If the podling members decide to use it, great! If they decide to do something else, so be it, that’s the way open source communities work.
The changes affect areas of usability, performance, and accessibility. IBM’s hope is that this donation can further accelerate the development of OpenOffice as a platform for openness and innovation in the document creation and editing space. OpenOffice and software like Symphony that builds on it continue to help drive use of, the Open Document Format. We’ve learned over the past few years that vendor-controlled or -dictated document formats are just a bad idea. A healthy and vibrant OpenOffice open source development community in Apache will help ensure continued adherence to the open standard as well as a codebase that can be used for desktop, mobile, and even cloud applications.
Work on Symphony will continue with the Apache OpenOffice code an essential part of its core. Just as IBM’s WebSphere Application Server (a product now very close to my heart) uses Apache open source code but has code also written by IBM, so too will Symphony continue to evolve within IBM using code from Apache. Employees of IBM will contribute to OpenOffice as part of the community. IBM will benefit from the work done by others in the community, but so too will we all.
As the core OpenOffice code gets better and better, downstream projects and products like Symphony will benefit because they can focus on the features that distinguish them and add particular value for their users. This other software might have alternative user interfaces, support different devices, or be optimized for particular consumer or enterprise applications.
I believe a strong OpenOffice community within the Apache Software Foundation benefits everyone who cares about standards and innovation for document processing. The community is growing, code is being added, the roadmap is becoming clearer. Please consider participating.
It’s been effective for a week, so I guess I can spill the beans here and say that I’ve shifted to a new executive position within, namely to be the Vice President for WebSphere Foundation Product Management in the Software Group. I’ll have more to say about this over time, but basically it means that my team works with development, sales and marketing to drive the WebSphere Application server line and products like WebSphere eXtreme Scale. These are significant unto themselves but also underlie some of the most important software products that IBM sells. That’s not a totally inclusive list, but you get the idea.
Obviously we’re not just concerned about what we have already but also will be driving the plans for new products and the next generation of current ones that fit within that “foundation” area of the stack of IT software. Stay tuned.
Some of you might ask “didn’t you sort of do something similar about 6 or 7 years ago?”. Yes and no, sort of.
When I was last here in 2003-4, the world was just figuring out the commercial benefits of applying XML to business problems and web services was pretty new. There were several open source app servers and Oracle had not yet bought BEA and Sun. We were about to enter into the SOA era that led us to the current cloud era. Also, I had a marketing position, something I had never done before. This role is more of a blend of the business and the technical.
I learned a lot during that time but the IT world has evolved significantly, as have our products. We’re all right on the cusp of doing even more wonderful things with this core technology we as an industry have developed, so it’s a great time to move back and help drive it from the inside.
What does this mean for the blog?
- I will not use it as marketing vehicle for products, though I may provide links to things I think of interest.
- I’ll still talk about all those extraneous topics like gardening, sailing, cooking, and not playing the guitar well.
- The discussion of standards will probably increase again.
- I’ll keep talking about Linux and providing links to interesting articles, but more from a user or enterprise consumer perspective.
- The amount I’ve said about open source lately has decreased primarily because I’ve largely exhausted many of the discussion areas that interest me, and I don’t like repeating myself. There will still be some content about open source, but it will be at about the same level it’s been for the last six months.
- I’ll be ramping up the discussion of Java and other languages, programming frameworks, tools, cloud, mobile, runtime considerations, and application integration. Much of this has been present from time to time, but will increase.
Earlier today, Oracle announced that they would be donating source code for OpenOffice to the Software Foundation to start a new incubator project. It’s been an interesting road to get to this point over the decades, with well and not-so-well publicized twists and turns, but I’m glad we got here.
Much will be written over the next few days about this move, and all sorts of theories and opinions will be advanced about what did happen, why it happened, and what else might have happened. There are many fine free and open source licenses out there as well as hosting organizations. Be that as it may, I think the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) is a great place for this project to be incubated. With luck and a lot of community participation and work, OpenOffice will soon advance to a full fledged project.
Though I had earlier heard of the Apache HTTP Server project, I really started learning about Apache about 10 years ago whenand others helped start projects related to XML and web services. That is, I discovered that Apache was a very significant organization for creating open source software implementing open standards.
In some sense, the value of a standard is proportional to the number of people who use it. An Apache implementation of a standard means that software, be it open source or proprietary, can start using the standard quickly and reliably. An Apache implementation of a standard immediately increases the value of the standard.
OpenOffice happens to implement a standard called the Open Document Format (), something I’ve written about several hundred times in the last few years. While the incubator won’t be starting from scratch, ODF will continue to evolve and need updated implementations.
Over time, the code will be refactored and more uses will be found for it. Within a couple of years I think you’ll find greater use of ODF in other desktop applications, mobile apps, and even in the cloud. This won’t all come from the existing code base but rather also from new contributions from others working in the ASF.
ODF is not the only thing that OpenOffice supports: it’s got word processing, spreadsheet, presentation and other capabilities. Within Apache I think you’ll see advances in the user interface, functionality, performance, and reliability.
This has to be done, in my opinion, in a way that makes subsets of the code easier to use in other software. That is, and again this is my opinion, OpenOffice will get better by being more modular with well designed interfaces. I’m not dissing what is there, I’m describing how I think it will get even better and enabled for much broader adoption of the code.
I hope that OpenOffice in Apache will be viewed as a way to bring together some of the threads that have separated from the main project trunk over the last few years. Apache has a well deserved reputation for its process and high quality software. This is a place where people can get together under one virtual roof and turn OpenOffice into what people always thought it could be.
With this move, we’ll get a chance to see what empowered individuals with the right technical chops can do in a community to innovate on the current code base. I’m very excited to see what they come up with.
I finish my survey of what I blogged about in 2010 as I look at the final three months of the year.
Just as the third quarter of 2010 started with the buzz about October with the news of IBM shifting its open source Java efforts to OpenJDK. Oracle, the new steward of Java after its acquisition of Sun, was in the news a lot this year regarding open source, but I’ll let you find those stories yourself if you are not already aware of them.switching to as its defaults browser, the final quarter started fast in
On the sailing front, the boat finished its season a bit early as the headstay cable shredded. This spring I need to replace all the fixed rigging, but that’s a 2011 story.
I continued tinkering with the blog itself as I replaced the WordPress theme I used with a slight variation of one of the default ones provided with the software. I finally got fed up with Atahualpa, all its options, and the instability of the theme from release to release. When I finished the work to put the new theme in place, my wife confessed she never really liked the old one, something that might have spurred me to action a bit earlier.
One feature I did like in Atahulapa was the rotating header images. This doesn’t mean they spin around, it indicates that each time you view a page the theme will randomly select an image for the topmost section. I showed some code to implement this feature in a subtheme of TwentyTen.
In November I gave a keynote at ApacheCon in Atlanta called “Data, Languages, and Problems”. It was a fun talk to give and the research for it brought me back to an earlier part of my career, before Linux and before most of my involvement with open source. Every time I look at the Software Foundation I’m amazed by the incredible work being done there.
I occasionally do a blog entry about cooking and on Thanksgiving Day I posted an entry on considerations when making apple pies. Two words for you: apple jack. In the pie crust. Ok, that’s six words. But try it.
In early December I started to get the sense that news about open source was slowing down and I and then several readers offered some suggestions why that might have been so, if it was indeed the case. While it may just have been an end of the year occurrence, it will be interesting to see if and how things pick up again in 2011.
I looked again at math software for the iPad and decided that not that much had changed since my first review in July. That’s a bit like saying that the news is that there is no news, but I’m curious if downscaled versions of or will be released for the tablet in 2011. Of course, they’ll need to charge a lot less than they do for the desktop editions, so that might be giving them pause.
After speaking with several customers and partners on the topic, I posted a blog entry about open innovation. It’s clear to me that some very good work is being done by several visionary companies, but it also seems to be a field fraught with jargon and an imbalance between marketing and technology.
Just for fun, I published a piece about the basic ideas behind predictive analytics. I didn’t hear too much from readers on that one, though my sister said she found it useful in conversations about the travel industry. It’s a fascinating field with business implications as well as social and ethical ones.
I ended the year with some comments on predictions for open source made for 2011 by other people. While we wait to see if efforts started in 2010 turn out to be wild successes or spectacular failures, I can’t wait to see what gets announced that will be truly disruptive.
That’s what is always most intriguing to me as we start a new year: what will happen that we just do not expect. I hope for you and the rest of us that those surprises will be happy ones and lead to great new opportunities.
What Was and What Maybe Will Be
I just did a tweet saying that I thought the number of news stories about open source seems to have slowed down quite a bit in the last month or so, outside of the major projects and companies. Indeed, the release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 was big news.
Perhaps I’m thinking that because I myself haven’t blogged much lately. The main reason for that is that I’ve been exceptionally swamped with work and, in particular, have been doing a lot of writing. (If you haven’t tried it, the no-charge Lotus Symphony word processor is quite nice, by the way.)
So let’s consider why the news might be slowing down:
- The Software Foundation vs. Oracle events are dominating the news cycles (as Tony Baer tweeted back to me, and I agree with him).
- Students are busy with final exams (per Brian Proffitt on ).
- End of the year exhaustion (I’m certainly feeling some of that), coupled with that strange period between Thanksgiving and Christmas in the US.
- There are so many open source projects that it is harder for them to get much traction in the media.
- Many of the big projects have done minor releases lately (I installed 3.0.3, but it is not big news).
- Open source is become a common part of mainstream software discussions, and so doesn’t stand out as much as it used to do.
- People associated with commercial open source ventures have their heads down trying to close end-of-year deals.
Note I’m not basing my slowdown theory on any sort of formal measurements, just a feeling based on what I’ve been seeing on Twitter and in the news.
So it is December and things always pick up again in January. I love January announcements around products and industry efforts, especially if they surprise people. They are especially fun if people spend a lot at the end of one year doing detailed planning for the next, only to have an unexpected industry announcement cause them to rethink everything.
This is not to say I like having that happen to me, but it adds excitement to the IT industry, and that includes open source.
When people talk about open source, the notion of “forking” often comes up. The idea is that some folks are not happy with the direction in which a project is going, so they take a copy of the source code, come up with a new name, and set up shop elsewhere. This is no guarantee that the newly forked project will be successful, but it functions as an important escape valve for those who have donated time and effort to a community project and want to see the work done in what they believe is the right manner.
You less often hear about what I’ll call a “reverse fork”: people developing largely similar but separate projects who decide that they instead want to work together. They can do this for a variety of reasons but it all comes down to “burying the hatchet” or otherwise resolving their differences for the sake of the project.
With that preamble, IBM and Oracle have announced that they will work together on the newly reinvigorated OpenJDK project. As described on its website, OpenJDK is “The place to collaborate on an open-source implementation of the Java Platform, Standard Edition, and related projects.” will work with Oracle and the Java community to make OpenJDK the primary high performance open source runtime for Java. IBM will be shifting its development effort from the Project Harmony to OpenJDK. For others who wish to do the same, we’ll work together to make the transition as easy as possible. IBM will still be vigorously involved in other Apache projects.
We think this is the pragmatic choice. It became clear to us that first Sun and then Oracle were never planning to make the important test and certification tests for Java, the Java SE TCK, available to Apache. We disagreed with this choice, but it was not ours to make. So rather than continue to drive Harmony as an unofficial and uncertified Java effort, we decided to shift direction and put our efforts into OpenJDK. Our involvement will not be casual as we plan to hold leadership positions and, with the other members of the community, fully expect to have a strong say in how the project is managed and in which technical direction it goes.
We also expect to see some long needed reforms in the JCP, the Java Community Process, to make it more democratic, transparent, and open. IBM and, indeed Oracle, have been lobbying for such transformations for years and we’re pleased to see them happening now. It’s time. Actually, it’s past time.
Ultimately this is about making Java more successful and pervasive than ever before. Java is not about any single company’s technical direction and it helps prevent lock-in. It runs on many, many different operating systems and hardware platforms. As a blatant plug, let me say Java runs exceptionally well on Linux and IBM’s System z, POWER, and Intel-based hardware. Indeed Java is one of the open standards that makes System z the amazingly interoperable platform that it is.
Java is about compatibility and always has been. It’s not been easy to maintain runtime environments that are consistent across platforms while exploiting the underlying features and performance advantages of those platforms. With this newly unified OpenJDK open source project, we can give customers the confidence they need to continue to invest in Java-based solutions knowing that they will get the best technology, the most important innovations, and the tightest collaboration among industry leaders.
We believe that this move to work together on OpenJDK is in the best interests of IBM’s customers and will help protect their investments in Java and IT technology based on it.
So to summarize my opinions on this: OpenJDK represents the best chance to provide a top notch unified open source runtime for Java; customers will benefit by having first class Java open standards developed collaboratively and constructively; and our energy will be focused on working together and optimizing our joint work, rather than wasting time on duplicative projects.
This morning some people involved with OpenOffice.org forked the software. is an open source office productivity suite originally controlled by Sun and now Oracle that includes a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation application, and other software. With OpenOffice.org you get two things at once, both a website and the name of the application. That’s right, because of trademark concerns, they needed to stick the “.org” in the application name.
Whatever the exact reason, I have always thought this was silly. Even if the name was abbreviated to OO.o, something just seemed off. I’m sure most people just called it OpenOffice. I did, except when Sun people were in the room.
Sometimes you just need to come up with a completely new name instead of doing something odd to the one you love. I would have recommended that for OO.o, but no one asked me.
The new fork is called LibreOffice. Is this an office suite for astrologers or librarians who can’t spell? What if I write it as LibreOffice? Libre is a word that means “free” as in “with few or no restrictions” vs. “at zero price”. So that’s a very free-and-open-sourcey name for this new fork of the office software. I think it will take a while for people to get used to the new name, much less pronounce it. I myself am very pronunciation-challenged, and I’m waiting for someone else to say it out loud so I can repeat it to myself a few times.
In other renaming news, the open source effort formerly called the CodePlex Foundation is now the OuterCurve Foundation. I’ll admit to not knowing what a CodePlex is (unlike, say, an iDataPlex), but I’m also not sure about OuterCurve. Does it refer to racing? Baseball?
Basic naming is hard, but even harder is coming up with a name that has a website available. You also have to avoid trademarks that are for products close to what you are providing. Here “close” is relative and your sense of it probably differs from the attorney of the company that is suing you for infringement. It’s cheaper, though not always cheap, to do the early research to come up with an available name.
I have some experience with this. In the middle 1990s I came up with some software that would display text and mathematical expressions on web pages and in a standalone browser. I cleverly came up with the name “techexplorer,” thinking that the software would be used for exploring technical documents. Thenaming police did not like this at all. It wasn’t descriptive enough to differentiate it from other possible uses of the word “techexplorer,” none of which I could find. Therefore the official name became the “techexplorer Hypermedia Browser.”
Ouch. I still cringe at that. I should have found a completely new name as I suggested above.
Good luck to all parties with their new names.