Firefox pulls ahead of Microsoft Internet Explorer in Germany

Der Spiegel Online has a chart showing that use of the Firefox Browser has now pulled ahead of Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) in Germany, 45.6% to 44.4%. While these numbers are close and the margin of error is probably bigger than the difference, I don’t think the significance of the crash of IE share is lost on anyone.

Also note the rise is use of “other” (“andere”) browsers, most likely Safari and smart phone-based browsers. So IE has been successfully displaced in Germany by a multi-flank attack, which is often the best way to compete against an opponent with dominant market share. Well funded dominant players can usually always take on a single attacker, but it is much harder when opponents are hitting on many sides in many creative ways.

Daily Links for Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Open Source

An Open Source Tool for Every Task
School Library Journal / Steve Hargadon

Following are some of the most popular OSS applications for schools. All are freely available, requiring no license fees, and can be loaded on an unlimited number of computers or distributed to students for home use.

Dell releases unofficial Chrome OS Linux desktop
ComputerWorld / Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

Of all the big computer companies only Dell really supports desktop Linux and, in particular Dell offers a nice selection of PCs running Ubuntu Linux. What Dell hasn’t done though is come out and announce that they were working on Google‘s beta Chrome OS. Other vendors, such as Acer, HP and Lenovo are on board with Chrome. Regardless of that, Dell is actually the first big-time vendor to have released a version of Chrome OS designed to work with one of their netbooks.


Microsoft investigates Windows 7 ‘screen of death’
BBC News

Microsoft confirms that it is investigating a problem that affects Windows 7 users described as the “black screen of death”.

Virtual Worlds

image for bookmark

Social opensim grids gain over 1,000 regions
Hypergrid Business / Maria Korolov

The growth in the social grids is particularly interesting in that the social aspects are the ones most lacking in OpenSim. Where OpenSim excels is in enterprise integration tools and the ability to fully control the environment. OpenSim also has a significant cost advantage — the server software is free to download and can run on almost any spare computer. And professional hosting starts at around $25 for a full region — compared to $300 with Second Life.


No shocker: Google prefers HTML5 to Gears | Deep Tech – CNET News
CNet / Stephen Shankland

Google sees HTML5 as a more logical future for Web improvements than its own Gears software. No surprise, given its work on the standard and dislike for plug-ins.

Life with Linux: Google Earth

As I continue to work and play with Linux on the desktop, I try new things, keep a few, and toss out even more. Here’s a keeper.

I started using this on Windows (ancient history), then on the Mac, and now on Linux under Ubuntu 9.10. It’s available from the Google Earth web site, as you might expect.

After downloading the installer (mine was called GoogleEarthLinux.bin), you need to run it. Open a terminal shell, change to your download directory, and then do:

chmod a+x ./GoogleEarthLinux.bin

There are other less geeky, command-oriented ways of doing it, but that gets the job done. You are telling Linux that the file should executable as a program, and then you are running it. Once Google Earth is installed you can delete GoogleEarthLinux.bin.

Also See: Life with Linux: The series

Daily Links for Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Open Source

Open Source Proves Elusive as a Business Model
The New York Times / Ashlee Vance

The grass-roots nature of open source has led advocates to view the projects as a populist foil to proprietary software, where a company keeps the inner workings of its applications secret. But in the last decade, open-source software has become more of a corporate affair than a people’s revolution.

Is Open Source as a Model for Business Really That Elusive?
Redmonk / Steve O’Grady

Where you come down on the open source and business question, then, may simply depend on what you consider an open source business. At least until open source vendors begin aggressively realizing their next, largely untapped revenue source: data. Once that happens, we’ll all have to reexamine the economics of open source models.

Enabling Compiz Fusion On An Ubuntu 9.04 Desktop
HowtoForge – Linux Howtos and Tutorials

Works for Ubuntu 9.10 as well.

This tutorial shows how you can enable Compiz Fusion on an Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty Jackalope) desktop (the system must have a 3D-capable graphics card – I’m using an NVIDIA GeForce FX 5200 here). With Compiz Fusion you can use beautiful 3D effects like wobbly windows or a desktop cube on your desktop.


Celtx – #1 choice for media pre-production.

Multi-Media Friendly

Celtx helps you produce all types of media – film, video, documentary, theatre, machinima, comics, advertising, video games, music video, radio, podcasts, videocasts, and however else you choose to tell your story.

All In One

You can use Celtx for the entire production process – write scripts, storyboard scenes and sequences, sketch setups, develop characters, breakdown & tag elements, schedule productions, and prepare and circulate informative reports for cast and crew.

Daily Links for Monday, November 30, 2009


Kindle 2 finally gets native PDF support, screen rotation
Ars Technica

Newly sold Kindles will come with an expanded battery, and those with the Kindle 2 will get a holiday gift as well: native PDF support and screen rotation.

Music library disaster? How to rip songs from your iPod
Ars Technica

Admit it: you or someone you know has had at least one disaster in which you have lost your entire music library, didn’t have backups, and needed to rip it back off of your iPod. Here, we look at our favorite solution for Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux users that let you do just that.


3d-place winner disqualified in Sudoku scandal
Philadelphia Inquirer

Officials of The Philadelphia Inquirer National Sudoku Championship have disqualified the third-place winner of the Oct. 24 tourney after an investigation, which included a retesting at The Inquirer last week.

Daily Links for Sunday, November 29, 2009


Roll Your Own Ubuntu Private Cloud
InformationWeek / Serdar Yegulalp

Conventional wisdom has it that if you want to make use of “the cloud,” you’ve got to use someone else’s service — Amazon‘s EC2, Google‘s clouds, and so on. Canonical, through its new edition of Ubuntu Server, has set out to change all that. Instead of using someone else’s cloud, it’s now possible to set up your own cloud — to create your own elastic computing environment, run your own applications on it, and even connect it to Amazon EC2 and migrate it outwards if need be.

Open Source

Novell Sponsors Open Source Research Group

Novell, provider of the community open source project openSUSE and the commercial open source product SUSE Linux Enterprise (Desktop/Server) is sponsoring the Open Source Research Group of the University of Erlangen Nuremberg.

On tagging, especially for photos

Several years ago after my mother died, I started a big project to get all the family photos digitized and online. Since then I’ve done the photos for our immediate family, but I still have more to do, especially on my wife’s side.

Because I wanted these photos to be self contained and not require extra files for metadata such as tags, I devised a naming scheme that included the basic information about the photo.

Continue reading

Daily Links for Monday, November 23, 2009

Open Source

Microsoft delays open sourcing Windows 7 tool
Ars Technica / Emil Protalinski

After committing to making the source code and binaries for the Windows 7 USB/DVD Tool available under the terms of the GNU General Public License v2 (GPL) last week, Microsoft has pushed back its schedule a bit. The company is blaming testing for the delay, meaning it isn’t simply rereleasing the tool under the open source license; it’s actually modifying and removing some of the code (likely proprietary code the software giant doesn’t want to be available freely).


For Search, Murdoch Looks to a Deal With Microsoft
The New York Times / Ashlee Vance and Tim Arango

News Corporation, the media conglomerate controlled by Rupert Murdoch, has engaged in early stage discussions with Microsoft about a pact to get paid from Microsoft to remove its news content from Google‘s search engine.

Sunday morning WordPress installation maintenance

Effective January 1, 2010, this site does not use Drupal and instead uses only WordPress.

WordPress logo

This site is a merge of WordPress and Drupal, with the former handling the blog and the latter everything else. I use variations on the Garland theme originally developed for Drupal to try to make the combination appear as seamless as possible.

Though I sometimes think about going with just one or the other, all those links into blog entries make me very cautious of going just with Drupal. I’ve also liked the way Drupal handled more general content management, though now that WordPress was given the Overall Best Open Source CMS Award in the 2009 Open Source CMS Awards, maybe I should rethink that.

Continue reading

3 days, 3 photos of Boston

I spent parts of Wednesday through Friday this week in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and never really went into Boston except for getting to and from the airport. Nevertheless, since the two cities are separated only by the Charles River, Boston was never far away.

Here are three photos made with my iPhone from my hotel window of the skyline of the city of Boston.

Boston skyline
Wednesday evening at dusk

Boston skyline
Thursday morning

Boston skyline
Friday morning

Daily Links for Friday, November 20, 2009

Open Source

Good Karma: An In Depth Review Of Ubuntu 9.10
Ars Technica / Ryan Paul

Ubuntu 9.10, codenamed Karmic Koala, was officially released last month. In this comprehensive review, Ars takes you under the surface for an in-depth look at the new features and major architectural changes.

Obama Team Challenges Web Developers
InformationWeek / J. Nicholas Hoover

In developing on Drupal, the Obama team used mostly available code, but it wrote some custom code to meet scalability and security requirements. The new media team is now working with the White House legal counsel to determine how to contribute that code back to the community. “I can’t promise a time line, [as] it’s somewhat unprecedented for our organization to take that on, but we feel strongly about it,” Cole said.

Word Count Plus :: Add-ons for Firefox

Word Count Plus sits unobtrusively in the status bar of the active window, where it shows you the number of currently selected words. You can choose to add that number to a counter, in which case you will also see a running total.


Wordiness, Wordiness, Wordiness List
Kim Blank

Think of your writing in the same way you think about all the stuff you own. Now think of having a yard sale. What you put into your yard sale is the useless junk that has been hanging around for a long time. At first you feel a little remorse in seeing it all go, but then, with your new, uncluttered world, you feel light, clean, and fresh, just like they say in the soap commercials. Apply this to your writing. Keep the good stuff, and get rid of the useless clutter that’s been cluttering your writing.

Fedora 12 released

Fedora 12 logo
The onrush of cool new Linux distributions continues with the availability of Fedora 12. From the press release:

The Fedora Project, a Red Hat, Inc. (NYSE: RHT) sponsored and community-supported open source collaboration, today announced the availability of Fedora 12, the latest version of its free open source operating system distribution. Fedora 12 includes a robust feature set for desktop users, administrators, developers and open source enthusiasts alike. New enhancements available in Fedora 12 include next-generation Ogg Theora video, virtualization improvements and advancements to NetworkManager, among numerous others.

The embarrassingly large list of improvements and new features is on the Fedora wiki. Download Fedora 12 from here.

The cost of Fedora 12? Free. $0. After your special discount, the price is $0.

Compare with Windows 7:

  • Windows 7 Home Premium $119.99
  • Windows 7 Professional $199.99
  • Windows 7 Ultimate $219.99

Daily Links for Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Open Source

image for bookmark

What’s New in openSUSE 11.2
Linux Magazine / Joe Brockmeier

openSUSE 11.2 is finally out after 11 months of development. The openSUSE Project released openSUSE 11.2 with a bevy of updates and improvements over last year’s 11.1 release, including KDE 4.3, Gnome 2.28, a new Linux kernel, as well as the latest and greatest of your favorite open source applications. What’s in this release? Let’s take a look at the highlights.

Novell targets netbooks with latest OS
Channel Register / Kelly Fiveash

The latest version of the operating system clearly signals Novell’s intent to scoop up some share of the nascent netbook market. OpenSUSE 11.2 comes loaded with version 2.6.31 of the Linux kernel, while the default file system of the OS has been switched to the new Ext4. However, support for Ext3 and other file systems is available, too.

Virtual Worlds

North Wales village of Portmeirion has been recreated on Second Life

The virtual resort includes all the landmarks of the real site, from the medieval castle, woodlands and Victorian mansion Castell Deudraeth to the tollgate and even the ominous giant ball that dominated the village in The Prisoner.

Second Life withdraws from Korean market
The Korea Herald

As with other social networking services such as Facebook and Twitter that have proved hugely popular in the global market but failed to establish a significant presence in Korea, Second Life appears to have failed to adapt to the characteristics of the local market.

Daily Links for Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Open Source

Windows 7 on netbooks: Maybe it’s not a Linux killer
ComputerWorld / Preston Gralla

I’ve frequently written that Windows 7 will kill Linux on netbooks. But given that most Windows 7-equipped netbooks ship with the underwhelming Starter Edition, I may well have been wrong. And new evidence shows that Linux on netbooks is alive and well, no matter what pundits like me have said in the past.

Open source tries to save the world
SmartPlanet / Dana Blankenhorn

By announcing first as an open source company, People Power was able to secure, not only start-up capital, but firm alliances with UC Berkeley and Stanford University. That’s a lot of brainpower.

People Power plans to launch a project dubbed the Open Source Home Area Network (OSHAN), which can be embedded in any device, essentially acting as the commercial arm of a project to be housed at Stanford and Cal.


Google hopes to remake programming with Go
CNet / Stephen Shankland

So far, Google’s Go project consists of the programming language, compilers to convert what programmers write into software that computers can run, and a runtime package that endows Go programs with a number of built-in features. It’s most similar to C and C++, but, Pike said, it employs modern features and has enough versatility that it could even be used within Web browsers.

Daily Links for Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Open Source

Did Microsoft Windows 7 download tool violate the GPL?
ZDNet / Mary-Jo Foley

Microsoft has pulled an update tool for Windows 7 from the Microsoft Store site after a report indicating that the tool incorporated open-source code in a way that violated the GNU General Public License.

Where is the Linux desktop going?
ComputerWorld / Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

Windows 7 gets the headlines, Snow Leopard gets the praise, but the Linux desktop actually seems to be, ever so slightly, growing.

Virtual Worlds

How Useful Is Second Life For Architects?
New World Notes / Wagner James Au

Older piece, but interesting.

However, that’s not to say this makes SL an ideal virtual world platform for architects, at least not yet. In recent months, as it happens, Brouchard has started doing more architecture work in realXtend, the OpenSimulator virtual world, using Visibuild, a new service that enables the importation of 3D StudioMax, SketchUp, and other industry standard 3D authoring files.

Going to the virtual office in Second Life
CNN / Mark Tutton

As travel budgets are squeezed and slashed in the recession, companies are increasingly seeking innovative ways of bringing employees together for conferences and meetings remotely.

OFE objects to EIF 2.0

In a press release, OpenForum Europe (OFE) has reacted rather strongly to the latest draft, presumably leaked, of the European Interoperability Framework. From the introduction to the document:

Brussels, 9th November 2009 – OFE has reacted strongly against a leaked draft of the revision to the European Interoperability Framework (EIF), expressing deep disappointment with the new wording and serious doubts about the transparency of the process that led to it. Letters have been sent to the responsible Commissioner Kallas and Director General Garcia-Moran, and to the CIOs of all Member States calling for a withdrawal of the document. It has also contrasted it to the statement made by the Swedish Presidency last week.

In particular, OFE objects to the diminished role stated for open standards for interoperability. If you are European, I recommend you make your voice heard, one way or the other.

Also see:

Operating systems: upgrade or reinstall? guilt or pleasure?

Through the years I’ve run many versions of Microsoft Windows. For the last two and one-half years I’ve had Apple Macs, so I’ve used both OS X Leopard and Snow Leopard. I don’t even know how many different desktop Linux distributions I’ve installed, but I’ve certainly installed Linux at least 20 times, maybe as many as 40.

When I was an active Windows user, and I now count my yearly usage in minutes, I would do the requisite big upgrades between versions, but not too often otherwise. Sure, when I had a hard drive crash, I would have to reinstall it, but that was unavoidable. Afterwards, the machine would feeler fresher, and newer, and just faster. Sure, I was probably putting in a faster drive sometimes, but I think the real advantage was that I was getting rid of all the crud that had accumulated in the registry and elsewhere. Formatting or reformatting the disk also took care of any defragmentation problems, also speeding things up.

Continue reading

Daily Links for Monday, November 9, 2009

Open Source

Ubuntu: the complete beginner’s guide
Times Online / Jonathan Richards

Ubuntu, if you’re not familiar with it, is one of many varieties of a broader, open-source OS called Linux.

It looks and feels a lot like Windows (more or less), but, being very lightweight, it runs very quickly, and – especially if you mainly use the computer to browse the web – it’s a really great way of giving an older machine a new lease of life.

We thought we’d compile a beginner’s guide to installing it. The main thing is: don’t be afraid. It’s much easier than you think. And the satisfaction once you’ve done it is…well, you be the judge. But we were punching the air for hours.


Mac OS X 10.6.2 out now along with Leopard security update
Ars Technica / Chris Foresman

Apple released several updates Monday afternoon, including the second point release of Mac OS X Snow Leopard. Updates move the version of Snow Leopard client and server to 10.6.2, while the security fixes that are part of that update are packaged for Leopard (10.5.8) as Security Update 2009-006.


Warhammer Online’s free trial now endless / Pamela Blalock

I’m a WoW guy, not a Warhammer guy, but I’m willing to try it when they have a first class Mac implementation.

Free trials are a great way for you to try out an MMO and decide if you want to pay for it every month. Usually these trials last from around 7 to 14 days. That’s usually an ample amount of time for most people to decide. But if you need more time Warhammer Online has the answer.

WAR’s free trial is now endless. You’re restricted to a level cap of 10 and you can only experience tier one in the Empire vs. Chaos zones of Nordland and Norsca. This does include access to the scenarios of that area as well as the dungeon Hunter’s Vale. You can keep playing under these guidelines as long as you want.

Daily Links for Friday, November 6, 2009


Switchers Guide: Moving from Windows to the Mac
Macworld / Harry McCracken

Moving from a Windows PC to a Mac–at the office or at home–presents the same kinds of opportunities and challenges. It requires some up-front effort: Transferring your data from your old machine to your new one, getting your hardware and software to run, and learning your way around OS X, the Mac’s operating system. (For the purposes of this story, when I say “OS X,” I mean OS X 10.6, also known as Snow Leopard.)

But the move doesn’t have to be that hard. In the stories that follow I’ve assembled a quick guide to making the switch as easy as possible. Don’t worry: it doesn’t have to be onerous or time-consuming. And the quicker you get it out of the way, the sooner you’ll be able to get to work on your new Mac.

Open Source

Google opens up its JavaScript development toolbox to all
Ars Technica / Ryan Paul

Google is providing the web development community with an intriguing glimpse under the hood at some of the fundamental building blocks of the company’s most popular web applications. The search giant has opened the source code of its comprehensive JavaScript library collection and is making it available to third-party developers for widespread adoption. Google also opened the source code of its own JavaScript compression tools.

Working with Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala: initial impressions

Ubuntu logo

I’ve been playing with the latest Ubuntu desktop release, 9.10 Karmic Koala, since the first beta and I’ve now been using it full time for business work for three days. Here are my impressions and comments:

  • For some reason, the beta seemed much more stable than the Release Candidate that followed it, but the final version is best of all. A lot of magic and smoothing happened after the RC.
  • The few glitches I’ve seen tend to involve dialog boxes: there is a check box but I just can’t get it to check. This might be an application problem or something else, but I attribute it to early versions of software running on 9.10. (Something to do with the latest Gnome?)
  • The Remix version works beautifully on my little Asus eee 4G Surf netbook. In the installation menus some of the very bottom of the buttons are cut off, but it’s nothing I can’t deal with. Wifi works very well on the Atheros chip, something that was not true before 9.10. I now have a usable machine again. (My experience with the beta and mistakes in making a proper bootable USB stick is here.)
  • I haven’t tried to get it to work under VMWare Fusion on my Mac. I will one of these days.
  • The standard 32 bit desktop client works beautifully on my Thinkpad T400 laptop. When I installed the beta, I made a dual boot environment. For this final Ubuntu 9.10 release, I gave it the whole machine.
  • I’ve added my usual list of applications. See my blog series “Life with Linux” for details.
  • I don’t just add applications, I remove some that I don’t use as well. Why? Because I can and I want to, since they are unused. Examples are Tomboy and Evolution. Though I mostly use GMail, I did install Thunderbird from the Ubuntu Software Center.
  • It should be less trouble to install Adobe Reader and Adobe Air. Right now it is a very manual process.
  • I’m really trying to use workspaces more since I use the equivalent on my Mac. Whereas Alt-Tab cycles among the windows in a given workspace, Ctrl-Alt-Tab cycles among all windows in all workspaces. Workspaces make it easier to keep together related applications. They’re those rectangles in the lower right corner of your desktop.
  • I use XMarks to save my Firefox bookmarks remotely and this makes it very easy to set up my browser environment for new machines. I want more than this. For the browser, I want to be able to save the list of addons remotely and quickly reinstall them on a different machine. For my Gnome desktop, I want the configuration of the panels saved as well as the list of applications I’ve installed. Maybe this is a future feature of Ubuntu One?
  • Incidentally, I think we’ve about exhausted the things that should be called “So-and-so One.”

Daily Links for Wednesday, November 4, 2009 – Virtual Worlds Edition

Virtual Worlds

Feeding Edge

Feeding Edge is a consulting company. Founded by epredator (Ian Hughes) metaverse evangelist, tribal leader and public speaker and developer with over 18 years experience in a single large corporation. Half of that time has been spent on leading edge, initially scary, technology and solutions in customer facing engagements.

Second Life Steps Into The Enterprise
InformationWeek / Mitch Wagner

The company plans on Wednesday to launch open beta for Second Life Enterprise, a $55,000 hardware appliance that enterprises can install in their data centers. The appliance allows companies to run Second Life on their own networks, behind the company firewall. Linden Lab expects beta to continue through the fourth quarter, and plans to announce general availability by March.

Second Life offers an advantage over conference calls and online conference apps such as Cisco (NSDQ: CSCO)’s WebEx, in that it creates the illusion that participants in an event are sharing the same place and time. “What you’ve got with a virtual environment is that it’s completely immersive. There’s depth to what we’re doing,” said Chris Collins, general manager for the enterprise for Linden Lab.

Second Life Takes Virtual Reality Behind the Firewall at IBM, Navy
eWeek / Clint Boulton

Linden Lab Nov. 4 launched Second Life Enterprise, a behind-the-firewall version of its 3D virtual world software. Linden Lab has loaded Second Life on a server for IBM, Northrup Grumman and the U.S. Navy to test in a beta. Second Life Enterprise includes LDAP integration, intranet-grade authentication and central access controls for protecting proprietary information and managing content created in the 3D worlds. Linden Lab is also building a marketplace to let its third-party programmers sell their enterprise applications and virtual goods.

Daily Links for Tuesday, November 3, 2009 – Red Hat Edition

Open Source

Red Hat Rolls Out Virtualization Platform for Heterogeneous Servers and Clouds

Red Hat, Inc. (NYSE: RHT), the world’s leading provider of open source solutions, today announced the general availability of Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization for Servers, the newest product set in the Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization portfolio. Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization for Servers is designed to enable pervasive adoption of virtualization, with a comprehensive end-to-end solution combining a standalone hypervisor and powerful virtualization management.

Red Hat delivers stand-alone hypervisor, management tools
Network World / John Fontana

Red Hat Tuesday made good on its promise to deliver a stand-alone hypervisor and a set of management tools as its gears up to go toe-to-toe with VMware and Microsoft to become a top-tier provider of virtualization and cloud computing infrastructure.

Red Hat Takes on VMware, Microsoft in Server Virtualization
eWeek / Jeffrey Burt

Red Hat is rolling out its Enterprise Virtualization for Servers platform, which is aimed at heterogeneous server environments and cloud computing deployments. Red Hat officials said the platform–which includes a standalone hypervisor and management software–offers users better performance at a lower cost than competing products from VMware and Microsoft. A management solution for virtualized desktop environments will be available in early 2010, they said.

Red Hat pitches x64 virtualization with KVM rollout
Channel Register / Timothy Prickett Morgan

Red Hat announced its intentions to go up against VMware, Citrix Systems, Microsoft, and Oracle in the race to deliver commercial-grade server virtualization for x64 iron back back in February, five months after shelling out $107m to buy Qumranet, the company behind the open source KVM project and one that was creating a stack for serving up virtual PCs. In mid-June, the standalone Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization, or RHEV, hypervisor went into beta and in early September, an embedded version of the RHEV hypervisor was buried in the guts of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.4 release.

Daily Links for Monday, November 2, 2009


Caught in the Middle: Publishing’s Other Customers
Digital Book World / Don Linn

The publishers’ author/customers I worry about are those who fall between these two groups. They are the people who write for a living and who bring us the workhorse books in their categories (from literary fiction to genre fiction to all manner of non-fiction). Their advances have historically been relatively low and their sales relatively modest. They write for major publishers and independents. They write books that backlist and, in a small but very important number, they write really important books that either break out commercially, or say something significant that might not otherwise get said.


Late Bedtimes and Cranky Kids: How the World Series Affects My Juggle
The Wall Street Journal Online / Jennifer Merritt

It’s World Series time and my 4-year-old is obsessed with the Yankees, but the games start after his bedtime, causing debates in our household.

Running quickly, driving slowly

Here’s something I think about when I’m driving, particularly when I’m in a slow 30 miles/hr speed zone: how fast in miles/hr does the fastest sprinter run?

Usain Bolt of Jamaica currently holds the world record for running 100m in 9.58 seconds. In rounded numbers, we have the following calculation

  • 100m in 9.58 seconds means
  • 1000m = 1km in 95.8 seconds, but
  • there are 60*60 = 3600 seconds in an hour, so we have
  • (3600/95.8) * 1km in (3600/95.8) * 95.8 seconds = 1 hour, so we have
  • 37.6 km in 1 hour, but
  • 1 km = .62 miles, so 37.6 km/hr = 23.3 miles/hr

That is, at my 30 miles/hr, I’m still going faster than the fastest human can run, by a non-trivial amount. It still feels slow to me.

Starting an open source business: preliminary thoughts

I’ve been very surprised as I’ve looked around the web that there doesn’t seem to be very many good guides about the nuts and bolts of starting an open source business. There are odds and ends, yes, and conferences that have sessions here and there, but given all the thousands of general business books and “how to” resources, none seem to focus on open source businesses in particular and at length.

Part of the reason, I think, is the never ending discussion of business models and whether open source is a business model or not. Also, there is no one way to start and run a business that involves open source. For example, you could produce and sell a piece of consumer hardware and all the contained software might be open source, probably unbeknownst to the purchasers and users. The breadth of it today is pretty much as wide as all software in all businesses.

Other open source businesses are more obvious, such as those based a well known project such as Alfresco, SugarCRM, WordPress, and Drupal. There are also many businesses related to Linux distributions such as Red Hat, Novell, and Canonical/Ubuntu.

Here’s some advice to get you started in thinking about starting an open source business. Some of the questions I pose may sound negative, but they are intended to make you think and generate answers you can support.

Don’t quit your day job, yet.

Do your research and check out a few books on the general topic. Make sure you know what you can do about starting the business within the parameters of your current job. For example, your company and its attorneys might look askance at your doing an open source version of the proprietary software you develop during the day.

Find an existing open source business that does something similar to what you want to do and learn as much about it as you can.

Investigate what open source license they use, how they support development, how their community is run, how their sales force works, and how they structure and charge for services. You could do worse than copying the model of a successful business.

Remember that an open source business is a business.

The basic principles around revenue, profit, loss, taxes, payroll, overhead, accounting, sales, incorporation, health care, and human resources all apply. You can be a starving open source software entrepreneur as easily as a starving proprietary software entrepreneur. No one will excuse basic business failures and screw-ups just because you use open source. Make sure that you will produce a product that people want and in some way will pay for, no matter how indirectly.

Learn about copyrights and open source licenses.

Early decisions about who owns the copyright to your software and which open source license you use will affect how you can earn revenue. If you don’t own the copyright to the software, you can’t dual license it in an open source way and a more traditional commercial way.

If you plan to incorporate existing open source code into your own, you need to understand the licenses and what you are permitted to do. Yes, open source can be about freedom but it should also be about flexibility. Here again, look at how successful open source companies have used licenses. Did they start with the GPL, BSD, Eclipse, or Apache licenses? Are they still using them? Why or why not?

Come up with a good answer regarding why you are basing your business on open source.

Your initial answer might be personal or philosophical, such as “I just believe it is the right way to do it” or “I support freedom,” but you might need more detail if you have to go to an investor. Within the general context of why you are starting the business, what market segment you will serve, how you will attract and keep customers, how you will develop your product, and how you will grow revenue, you need to make your open source decision explicit.

How strong a case do you have for your business whether or not open source is involved? That is, don’t let open source cloud your analysis and presentation of your business plan, but by all means make it integral to what you say if it is a solid strength of what you plan to do.

Think about community first and foremost.

Do you plan to have all the developers who work on your open source code for your business on your payroll? If not, what will motivate them to participate? If so, why are you making your code public? As above, it’s ok to say “that’s just the way I want to do it” but understand the pros and cons in detail. There are many more aspects to having an open source community than just having some coders work on software. You have to deal with governance and conflict resolution, not to mention technical topics like choice of programming language and system architecture. How much control do you need to have?

Your community may eventually need to include graphic designers, web designers and administrators, evangelists, and community leaders. Be very comfortable with all this before you jump into an open source business.

Understand your exit plan.

You may plan to run this company for the rest of your life or you may decide to sell it. This is normal business, but understand how open source may affect your opportunity to be acquired. Is the provenance (code origin and history) of your software murky? Are you violating any known patents? Is your chosen license “friendly” to your most likely acquirers? What exactly would be acquired if the code is open source? (Note above mention of copyrights.)


If you ultimately decide that you really just want to contribute to an open source project rather than start a business, that’s just fine. Starting and running a business can take you a long way from the joy of programming and design as you deal day to day with staying afloat and driving revenue. However, if you are careful and work out a preliminary plan for easing into things, that open source project you start today could be a business for you and others next year.

Learn about business, learn about the software business, learn about “the” open source software business, and then make the jump if you are ready and it’s the smart thing to do.

Also See:

A catch-up weekend

I’m sitting here on Sunday night watching the NY Yankees play the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 3 of the 2009 baseball World Series. I usually only watch the Series if the Yankees are in it, and then only when they are winning. It’s a stress thing. I pop in to the tv room from time to time and stay if the Yankees are up, especially if they are up big.

This weekend was the first whole weekend I’ve been home out of the last three. Half of each of the last two weekends was taken up with a business trip to Europe, so I was looking forward to sleeping late and getting some things done inside and outside the house. I was really pretty successful in both, though with the game running late tonight, I’m not going to start the week feeling fully rested.

Outside, my main accomplishment was rearranging the garage so that we could fit one of the cars in it. What we call the garage is really more of a converted carriage house, it so can only fit one car. The complicating factor this year was that I got a tractor for the lawn plus a trailer. Somehow I managed to squeeze it over to one side. While I can continue to get clever about how I arrange things, I really need a bigger, real garage. A workshop in it might be a nice touch too …

Inside it seemed like I did or fixed a hundred things that have been bugging me, such as doing some mortar repairs in the basement floor and moving my tie rack from one closet to another. A whole lot things meaningless to most people, but to me it meant getting my life in slightly better order and knocking some items off my unwritten todo list. It’s nice to be home.

Daily Links for Sunday, November 1, 2009


Microsoft to indirectly fund L.A.’s switch to Google Apps
Seattle Post-Intelligencer / Nick Eaton

Talk about irony. Of the $7.2 million the Los Angeles city government will be spending to switch its e-mail system to Google Apps, $1.5 million of it will come from Microsoft, according to City Council meeting minutes.

Is The Desktop PC Doomed?
InformationWeek / Serdar Yegulalp

The rise of Web-based apps, virtualization, and a crop of powerful mobile devices have the traditional PC desktop on the run.

Open Source

Red Hat Executives to Present Live Technology Webcast on November 3

Red Hat (NYSE: RHT), the world’s leading provider of open source solutions, today announced that members of Red Hat`s executive team will host a press conference that will be broadcast live via webcast on November 3, 2009 at 11am EST.

Red Hat share price passes Microsoft’s
The Inquirer / Ed Berridge

LINUX VENDOR Red Hat hit a milestone yesterday when its share price rose above Microsoft’s.

True, Microsoft has a hell of a lot more shares out there in the marketplace and its own share price has not been that healthy over the past year, but this is being seen by analysts as a great day for the free software outfit.