Posts Tagged ‘opensource’

The fracas

Dear Nasrul,

I’ve watched the vitriol on osdcmy-list, I’ve seen the attacks on Facebook, and on Twitter and I’ve read all the comments on the Open Malaysia blog, and I think its time I chime in.

Firstly, I need to ask: do you know much about open source? I would highly recommend you read The Open Source Definition.

Next, you’re talking about Facebook, which is a closed platform, which was launched at an open source conference. Why?

But more interestingly, you won RM2,000 for “porting” MediaWiki to run on the Windows, IIS, MSSQL Server, and PHP. For what it is worth, MediaWiki already runs on Windows, and works fine with IIS. So it seems that your largest task, was to port the SQL, to run not on two very capable open source databases, but to run on Microsoft SQL Server (a closed source database).

I read Final Day: MediaWiki – What I learn so far from LAMP2WIN and My Journey with glee.

So I decided to poke a little. You haven’t submitted any code upstream to MediaWiki. But what’s worse is, have you seen Bug#9767? The title of the bug is “Microsoft SQL Server/MSSQL support (tracking)”. It doesn’t take a genius to tell you what the patches in that bug do.

Yes, DJ Bauch added support to MSSQL, via ADODB (work started in 2007, and its been ready since April 30 2009). Something you won money for. But worse? “.. winners walked away with RM2,000 in cash, a MSC Malaysia Participation Certificate. They will also enjoy facilitated access to MSC Intensive Technoprenuer Programme and the eventual RM150,000 pre-seed fund.” (via the Malay Mail).

Now you’re able to access a lot more money, for work that you, yourself, did not do.

I think you should get off your high horse, understand a little more Netiquette, and behave. After all, Google will forever remember what you’ve said, and all the personal attacks against active participants in the open source community, which I’m certain can do you no favours.

Kind Regards,

Software piracy, the BSA, and where’s the opensource love?

Piracy is a big deal in Malaysia. Apparently, piracy is causing greater losses for the software industry, and is a billion ringgit problem. The piracy rate is 59%, which is below the regional average of 61%. Wow!

The Business Software Alliance (BSA) hates piracy. They’ve even setup an informative site, titled B4USurf. Its great to see that they run Apache, on CentOS, and are powered by PHP and CMS Made Simple. They however, don’t at any point in time mention opensource in all their information. Of course I understand why – the BSA themselves shouldn’t like opensource.

However, the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry plans to increase public awareness to buying only original software. They’ll also touch on the downside of pirated products. Will they then not talk about opensource software?

Its all fine and dandy to create an open source conference for advocacy purposes, but if we’re still doing advocacy after so many years, something must be amiss. Maybe enlisting help from other ministries, tacking on information campaigns organised by the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry might make sense, no?

Seeing ads that tell you to buy original software, just falls on deaf ears. Show them alternatives. Show them that there is no need to buy original software, after all, open source software is free (as in bebas, not necessarily percuma).

Business models, new media, and verticals

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about business models and new media with a specific focus on verticals. I’m passionate about the open source movement, and have been involved with free software since the mid-90’s. In fact, I’ve earned my crust, all these years, thanks to open source, so I have no complaints there!

Anyway, lets talk about new media. I’m thinking specifically around podcasts, video podcasts, and even online magazines.

Online magazines

We’ve seen the demise of LinMagAU (regularly hit Slashdot, when it was running), and even the MyOSS Magazine, all labours of love. In this space, I think the most successful magazine that sits online today, is Linux Weekly News (LWN). And they do it, thanks to having a business model – affordable subscriptions (USD$5/month), or group subscriptions.

Podcasts/Video podcasts

I think one of the most successful podcasts, is the now defunct LugRadio. So popular, they even managed to create a conference around it (LugRadio Live!).

That seemed to run on pure love, with sponsors for hosting. I don’t recall any ads, and I think they did it for the fun of it. Now if you search for “Linux” in the iTunes Podcast directory, there are just under 150 related podcasts (and video podcasts, maybe), that have Linux or an open source connotation in them.

Their quality varies. Some aren’t even updated any longer. One of the most successful FLOSS podcasts, that have a business model behind it, seems to be FLOSS Weekly (part of the whole army that Leo Laporte has). They have advertising on the TWiT network, and you can support the network via donations (one time contribution, $2/mo, $5/mo, or $10/mo recurring). This stuff works via Paypal, and I can’t imagine the $2/month recurring option makes so much sense (considering Paypal fees that go with it). Plus you can buy some merchandise (something you can do, when you’re established).

Something that has recently caught my eye, is the Ubuntu Podcast. Its a video podcast, they accept Paypal donations. It also seems like a labour of love.


Media (audio, and video files aren’t small) hosting and delivery isn’t cheap. The TwIT network makes use of CacheFly, and they’re not cheap, though they seem to have a reliable, global CDN. The Ubuntu Podcast seem to use DreamHost, who must have affordable hosting options, as they host their videos on the site too.

And that’s the other thing – if you’re doing something in the open source vertical, you better have multiple file formats. You want to provide audio files using MP3’s, yes, because people have iPod’s, and they might want to play it in their cars, but for the purists, you need to have OGG files too. That just about doubles your storage space. Think video, and you will start to cringe.

YouTube seems like a good hosting platform, with sensible CDNs, but you’ve got a 10-minute video clip limit (which might be a good thing). wants to help you monetise your video, however, getting video from them in Malaysia is a painful experience, so far. TWIST uses – I haven’t tested them out yet.

Business plans

A lot of labours of love, work for a while, but then die in time. It seems that unless you have a kosher business model, you’re not in it for the long haul. LWN and the TwIT network seem to have got it right – you need to get some kind of income, to defray the cost of doing business.


Are most open source people blind to ads? I recently checked my Google Analytics account and found that no Linux users clicked on any of the ads on my blog. The Windows users were kinder than the Mac users, naturally. So Google AdSense might cover things like the cost of hosting, but its not exactly a business model.

Looking for sponsors might make some sense. I don’t know what the TwIT network rates are, but Jason Calacanis has This Week in Startups, and his rate is currently at:

Each commercial is $1,000 and you can purchase them in 10 week run by emailing All sponsors must be pre-approved and have groovy products like DNAMail and Ustream (our first two products).

This is a new show, and the projections are anywhere between 10,000 – 25,000 viewers in the first six months after it debuts. At a size of nearly 1GB for an 18 minute podcast, I wonder if that’s being kind?

So it comes down to finding sponsors, who believe in what you’re doing. And donations might work (it works for No Agenda with John C. Dvorak and Adam Curry, and it seems to work for the TwIT network of shows).

Subscriptions work, if you have premium content (LWN), that people can sample for free a week later.

So, what are the up front costs?

Quite simply:

  • A good mic [for audio podcasts]
  • A (cheap) video camera (Flipcams seem to work even these days) [for video podcasts]
  • Hosting [this requires a lot of thought – remember that bandwidth isn’t as luxurious all around the world]

It looks like there might be some time involved in post-production. The tools are available fairly easily, on most operating systems that you’re on (though I hear, iMovie on the Mac is about the best for video on the cheap).

And yes, I’ve not figured out where to host podcasts or video podcasts yet….

Open Source Economy Conference 2008

Last week I found out about the Open Source Economy Conference 2008 held in Putrajaya, Malaysia on the 19th of November 2008. Its co-organised by Sun and the Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC). Its also the “launch” of MySQL in Malaysia.

I only mention this because I’m speaking – check the agenda out. Don’t hesitate to register now.

MAS saves millions with LAMP stack

Malaysian Airlines has impressed me, yet again. Last week, in The Star, they reported that Sharul Isahak, a MAS employee, has helped save the airlines close to RM70 million (about USD$21 million), thanks to his use of open source software.

The software is meant to help airline maintenance, i.e. to keep track of parts and records of maintenance works. The web-based solution, is E-Promis (read the blog entry, its pretty interesting, as he takes you through the planning stages – it also seems like he’s still the only developer).

“This meant looking at open-source solutions. Instead of platforms such as Microsoft or Sun, we chose LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP)”

I couldn’t help but grin inside, a little. After all, Sun do own the M in LAMP ;-)

Next up, wonder if they will open source it, ala MyMeeting? After all, MAS services AirAsia and JetStar planes, I wonder who else will benefit from such software.

Does open source need to be “organic”?

Sparse notes from the talk, I noticed Sheeri recording some video, so sitting through that at some stage might make sense. There were no slides, this was a panel discussion. Suggested reading: Organic vs. Non-organic Open Source.

Does Open Source need to be “Organic”?
Brian Aker, Rob Lanphier, Stephen O’Grady, Theodore Ts’o

Taking code, and slapping a certain license on it, doesn’t a successful software project make.

Blurring the distinction, by marketing. Not doing any work to get external contributions.

Open sourcing a product one plans on “genociding”, its really bad.

“Corporate sociopathic Druckerism” — Brian Aker

“As long as the source code is open, let the market decide. MySQL is largely inorganic, and its a success. Much of it comes down to choice.” — Stephen O’Grady

Mark Shuttleworth has pushed the idea that forking is OK. Look at Launchpad: take a project, fork the project, make your change, and you can publish your tree that people can use. The wonders of distributed version control.

Its up to a company to decide if they want an organic or an inorganic project. Its your code, do what you want with it. In the future, an organic project may outstrip your inorganic project.

Netscape: inorganic piece of open source (with Mozilla). Firefox: forked the code, turned it into an organic model, then there was success.

Is Firefox really the best example? Look at what it did for Netscape Corporation or AOL? This won’t work well with the Pointy Haired Boss.

What was your goal of releasing the product under an open source license? If marketing buzz, then you make lots of PR, etc… then go home. If your goal is wanting to cut your development cost, you’re going to be disappointed with an organic model. If your goal is ubiquity, you aim for an organic model.

Commit access actually means you’re a worker bee. It doesn’t mean a free wheel to push features, it means you’re the garbage man – you collect everything, you sort everything, and so on. Let’s rethink what it means to have commit access.