Archive for the ‘Opensource’ Category

Remembering our ideals & staying in control

Hactivist Richard Stallman takes on proprietary software, SAAS and open source — Tech News and Analysis: “‘Our ideals become forgotten,’ he said of open source eclipsing free software, and encouraged the audience to keep talking about free software.”

Richard Stallman is spot on. Read the whole article. I hope video makes its way online, because RMS is right. 

It further augurs well that I spoke with Mårten Mickos on Twitter today (he’s a former CEO of mine and a brilliant mind) and we got chatting on control. He says, “Every time you choose convenience, you lose a little control.” An interesting conversation followed naturally.

Leaves me a lot to think about as I have over time chosen convenience over control and clearly it has come by because I need to refresh on my ideals.

Need private cloud services? Time to start entrepreneurs

Seeing through appearancesPRISM and the NSA has blown up recently. We have Malaysian politicians worried about it naturally. The opensource zealot will tell you need to prism break.

I’m more pragmatic. I prefer opensource. But if there are no opensource alternatives, I will use the proprietary tool. This extends to cloud software like Google Docs/Drive. Its great at collaboration, which is something you can’t get close. 

I was suggested that FENG Office might work. I retort that it’s not the easiest install and it requires maintenance. Also, with PRISM, the web host clearly matters (they look at the pipes). I didn’t even think to consider LibreOffice due to lack of collaboration in desktop software.

In Malaysia, next generation children are going to be roped into the online Google world via Chromebooks.

So my thinking is simple: if there are no alternatives (to being hosted in the US or to having better controls over your cloud offerings), you should start one. This can be a great business. As the FT says, data privacy is a handy weapon to challenge the titans with.

Watch this video of Fred Wilson. If the world thinks Dropbox is suddenly insecure, its ripe for alternatives to crop up. It also doesn’t mean that people just start using alternative services… DuckDuckGo might have had a 50% increase in search traffic, but all that search traffic may be what Google processes in a moment ;)

This PRISM stuff isn’t going to blow away anytime soon. Now’s the time to come up with matching software that has additional features (like privacy, encryption, etc.). Maybe Kim Dotcom was ahead of the curve with Mega?

MariaDB in Red Hat Software Collections

Towards the end of last year, I was asked to investigate the Red Hat Software Collections by someone that popped by one of my talks. SkySQL has been working heavily with Red Hat, and with Fedora 19 shipping MariaDB as a default, it seems like MariaDB is getting even more distribution. The Red Hat Software Collections 1.0 Beta is now available for users of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.

From a database standpoint, users now get MariaDB 5.5. I encourage all to try it, as it is an in-situ upgrade. It is described as:

MariaDB version 5.5, which introduces an easy-to-adopt alternative for MySQL for Red Hat Enterprise Linux users. Binary compatibility allows MySQL users to drop-in MariaDB without converting data files.

Sweet. But for database users, it also includes MySQL 5.5 (better than 5.1.69), and PostgreSQL 9.2 (better than 8.4.13). After listening to Rasmus Lerdorf talk about PHP 5.4, I’m glad that I can now use it with RHEL6.

I wonder if there will be CentOS Software Collections as well?

Read an article in PCWorld about Software Collections (see a press release too). There’s some developer documentation from Red Hat, and some draft documentation from Fedora too.

Thanks SkySQL, Team MariaDB and Red Hat!

Immediate thoughts on Business Source Licensing

Sunrise at SanurI just got back from a vacation to see articles about Business Source Licensing. I’ve divided my thoughts into four parts here: Opensource and its merits, Is unpaid opensource usage bad?, MariaDB’s “Problem”, Business Source Licensing. If you haven’t read them yet, here’s some mandatory reading:

  1. Open source: Its true cost and where it’s going awry by Monty Widenius
  2. MySQL Co-Founder Wants You To Pay Up For Open Source

There is much abuzz on Twitter as well. From the likes of Mike Olson (who is right, MariaDB may have issues that are different to other OSS products – no two OSS projects/products are alike), to a lengthy conversation between Jim Jagielski & Matt Asay, as well as another conversation spurred by Matt Asay.

Now for some of my own commentary.

Opensource and its merits

Companies have been heavily using opensource and the reason they like this is because it is open. They don’t pay for licenses like proprietary software. They use opensource because they don’t have to pay for support, services, or anything around it. Countries have pro-opensource policies so that they can empower local citizens and further strengthen their sovereignty. This is what makes opensource popular: the fact that the software comes to you with many freedoms.

Is this bad for companies building businesses around opensource software products? Well, kind of. It means you have to provide real value before someone decides to pay you. And if for some reason you price yourself out of the market, companies choose to hire resources internally. This is the beauty of opensource. Many companies I know have started to use RHEL licenses from Red Hat; once they decide they see less value from the updates or the knowledgebase, they switch to CentOS at their next cycle. No problem there.

Is unpaid opensource usage bad?

I’m going to say that I disagree with Monty and think that he is wrong here:

“The more people are using it and, in these cases, abusing the whole idea of open source by not paying back either with development or money to help projects, it is actually destroying open source.”

I really don’t think opensource is destroyed by having many users and lacking corporate sponsors. This is the way of opensource and has been for a long time. Apple makes use of CUPS to ensure printing works – they did so long before they hired their main developer. We all benefitted from Samba which is how we talk to Windows printers/shares/etc. which had no real commercial company around it (Linuxcare, then IBM, then other providers funded the work). LibreOffice has always existed with lots of work by various distributors of OpenOffice.org (via the ooo-build system), which is why the project took off so fast.

MariaDB’s “problem”

When there is commercial need for opensource, the corporate sponsors will arise. It takes a long time to get to a stage where you are going to get profitable in an opensource services or infrastructure company. Red Hat didn’t get to a billion dollars overnight. Neither did MySQL.

I will not comment on the financials of Monty Program, SkySQL or how tough it has been to bootstrap the MariaDB project because I clearly am privy to information there. I am particularly proud of how we’ve done a relatively great job at getting MariaDB users and distribution, all on a bootstrap marketing/PR budget with no professional help :-) However, I will reminisce another day.

Simply put: if Oracle stopped producing opensource MySQL or decided that they would shut it down, there would be immediate need for MariaDB and the corporate sponsors would come in throngs. The truth is that Oracle continues to produce MySQL as an opensource product. It may not be a full opensource project (internal trees, delayed public pushes, private bugs database, internal mailing lists, etc.) that follows “the architecture of participation”, but it is still an opensource product. This is what has enabled people to take MySQL and extend it further. Look at the Facebook 5.6 tree, or the Twitter 5.5 tree.

There is talk about the dual-licenses that MySQL chose to use. I remember a time when the connectors were LGPL. They were then relicensed as GPL. They still are. But I think we effectively nipped this with the: MariaDB LGPL Java client, MariaDB C Client Library, and the BSD drizzle stuff.

Business Source Licensing

Now for the bits on business source:

“The whole idea with business source is actually very trivial. It is a commercial licence that is time-based and which will become open source after a given time, usually three years. But you can get access to all the source. You can use it in any way but the source has a comment that says you can use it freely except in these circumstances when you have to pay,” Widenius said.

“You’re forcing a small part of your user base to pay for the restrictions, which can be if you’re making money from [the software], if you have more than 100 employees, or you’re a big company or something like that. So you’re forcing one portion of your users to pay. But because it’s time-based, everybody knows that you can still contribute to the project,” he said.

“Because you have the code, you know that if the vendor does something stupid, somebody else can give you the support for it. So you get all the benefits of open source except that a small portion of users has to pay. As long as you continue to develop the project, each version still gets a new timeline of three years.”

Hmm. I see many people commenting that MariaDB might become business source licensed. I am here to tell you that MariaDB is GPLv2 software. It will stay GPLv2 software.

Reading the definition of business source licensing, it is nothing like what Matt Asay portrays it to be:

“Business source is simply proprietary software released under a Microsoft-esque shared source license that magically becomes fully open source after a period of time.”

I’m sorry but the description above is pretty clear. This is nothing like Microsoft shared source. It is code that becomes licensed under an OSI-friendly license after a time-period; however everyone using the software gets the code. How does one enforce payments? I don’t know. What are the conditions requiring you to pay? I don’t know.

At this stage, I am open to thoughts on such a licensing model but I have no firm thoughts on this myself. The best description of how this works is given above by Monty.

Update: Sun 2 Jun 2013 17:33:53 MYT Monty has an update on business source licensing in a comment on Matt Asay’s column.

Google Apps & Chromebooks in Malaysia

Google's I'm feeling lucky (black) (back)I’m surprised not a single local media site in Malaysia covered the fact that Google Apps & Chromebooks are coming to Malaysian classrooms. That’s 10 million students, teachers & parents getting Google Apps accounts. Primary & secondary schools get Chromebooks. This, I guess has something to do with the fact that there will be a laptop provided for every student if BN wins again.

It looks like the only cost to us is the Chromebooks. The Google Apps for Education accounts are free, implying a significant investment into Malaysia by Google.

Read more about large deployments of Chromebook. It seems that the deal is between YTL, Frog, Samsung, Acer & Google. YTL provides the Internet connectivity via YES4G/1BestariNet. frogasia is a YTL subsidiary, and it looks like they’re providing learning apps.

I worried about generations being tied to Microsoft Office. Is it time to worry that the next generation gets tied to Google Apps? I continue to worry overall that the focus is doing everything in-browser, and while I’m a big proponent of the idea that the browser is the OS, I still do a lot of things outside the browser.

It seems like Chromebooks can be provided by either Samsung or Acer. There must be something custom being built for YTL’s WiMAX chips to be popped in. Nonetheless, I doubt that there are many Malaysians experienced with Chromebooks or accomplishing everything within a browser.

Further reading: Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2015, Classrooms, Chromebooks & The Web: Lessons from Miami to Malaysia.

I’m buying a Chromebook (not the Pixel) to take a deep-dive. There are virtual machines too.

Switch to Linux if Windows 8 is a hassle

Retreat in sales of PCs turns into rout – FT.com: “‘At the beginning, retailers don’t know how to explain it to customers,’ says Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner. ‘Marketing the new [operating system] to consumers takes extra effort.’”

Well, skip Windows 8 altogether and just switch to Linux. And for more elegant hardware, there’s always the Mac.


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