Some thoughts and transcripts from the Alan Cox video series

While catching up on some interesting chat on IRC today, I decided to watch the Alan Cox video series that Red Hat Magazine recently placed online.

In Alan Cox and the state of free software:

  • Alan speaks about software patents, as a problem for free software. Lots are starting to understand that they don’t work and they violate international treaties.
  • Alan talks about political systems – so you can’t get free software into government or schools, because of certain vendors that they choose. Approved suppliers cause grief, when they only supply proprietary software.
  • Alan talks about the OpenDocument Format and OOXML mess, and it confuses people, who want standards (FUD).
  • A challenge now, seems to be that there are a large number of free software users now, who are not technically adept. So software has to adapt to their requirements – people don’t apply patches, etc. anymore so you just have to find new ways and tools to deal with bugs, etc. We in the free software community have to scale.
  • Liability, with regards to poor quality products. Security software for instance, has this problem. The free software community has to work with liability law, as governments will increasingly require it. What standards/expectations should free software hold up to?

In Alan Cox on community and the enterprise:

  • Alan speaks about his history at Red Hat, and his history with Linux and how he began hacking on it.
  • A subscription model, and Mark Webbink figured this out – he built the model, while staying true to free software. If Red Hat hadn’t done that, they’d have lost a lot of community support. Alan focuses on how having a community distribution in parallel made sense. I can’t imagine if he means Fedora and RHEL, or CentOS and RHEL? :)
  • He was referring to Fedora! Red Hat is just helping, enabling, providing resources, guidance & advice – the right way to work with the community. Everything else is generally community controlled.
  • In developing markets, open source is important – buying local resources to create/maintain it – keep the sovereignty.
  • “At the right place at the right time”

In Alan Cox on the kernel, patent promise, and the progress of free software:

  • Late 90’s, everyone jumped on the open source bandwagon without any idea what it was about. This was the same period where you stuck an “e” in-front of any company name, and it became a new business model. How true.
  • The 2000 crash, helped the serious companies work open source better. Oracle for instance didn’t take Linux seriously – now its an important part of their business model.
  • Alan talks a lot about how he now spends time cleaning up code.
  • Red Hat, at the end of the day, have a patent portfolio. Nobody particularly wants to launch any, but if you don’t have any to launch you have a problem – kind of like nuclear warfare.
  • Software patent promise: people doing free software will never have to worry about software patents. People doing proprietary software, it gives Red Hat a mechanism in case of patent lawsuits (also, to trade patents). No one knows if how well this works, yet. Just hope this nightmare, never happens.
  • Who knows, that in the US, the Supreme Court might decide that software patents are not valid? No one knows, since no one has pushed it this far.

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