Category Archives: hackers

Linux Foundation Welcomes European IT Service Firm

The Linux Foundation today announced that credativ – a consulting and service company employing 45 people in its offices in the UK, Germany and Canada – has become member of the Linux Foundation.

As Linux continues to grow in popularity in Europe, companies like credativ become increasingly vital to the Linux ecosystem. credativ’s contributions to the LSB are especially important as Linux grows internationally and different distributions emerge.

Jim Zemlin, executive director of The Linux Foundation, in commenting the news.

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OpenOffice.org Success: Homesteading the OpenOffice.org Noosphere

Measuring the true Success of OpenOffice.orgMichael Meeks wrote a long post about OpenOffice.org success, mostly from a development point of view. Being Michael a Novell’s employee his perspective might be considered biased, but I totally agree with his recipe:

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Open Source Monitoring: RRDTool 1.3 available, a chat with Tobias Oetiker

RRDTool, the round-robin database tool, announced the release of RRDtool 1.3. The new release includes additional capabilities and functionalities, and it has been rewritten to make it more modular.

Tobias Oetiker, the author of many famous open source tools like RRDTool, MRTG and SmokePing holding a seat on GroundWork Open Source’s Project Lead Council, approaches software development from an hacker perspective: to scratch a personal itch.

Tobias Oetiker
Tobias Oetiker (on the right) by QFamily

Since I had issues to solve and did not find existing software to do it. Then because I use OSS almost exclusively in my work, I found it only fair to share the results of my work too. After all OSS only works when several parties throw their goods into the basket.

How all this started?

I wrote MRTG and SmokePing because I needed the functionality. So essentially I wrote them for myself. And since I like to see people enjoying using my tools, I put them out there. In the case of rrdtool, I did not need it directly, but based on the experience from writing MRTG I had a pretty clear vision as to what tool is missing from the system managers toolbox.

So the motivation for writing rrdtool was primarily drawn from the positive feedback I got from mrtg users. As it turned out, I had actually hit a nerve with all three of my tools since they all got pretty good use across the net.

For most of the time while developing the tools I have been working for ETH Zurich and did the tool work mostly in my spare time. Since I had a fixed income from the University I did not explore commercial opportunities.

Originally economic incentives weren’t the cause behind such code developments.
What about the economic incentives, today?

I found that publishing software as OSS has the nice effect of triggering more feedback than in a closed environment and also draws contributions every now and then which is a very nice plus the economic value is in me being known quite well for my work which makes it very easy getting contracts, because people assume I know stuff, which is not entirely a wrong assumption <smile>.

There are also direct benefits, in the sense that some companies contract me to develop additional features for the OSS packages. I always draw up the contracts such that I can include the results back into the mainline. Most of smokePing extensions have been created in this way.

Tobias was the typical hacker described by researches interested in understanding motivations (intrisic motivations). Later Tobias was also also motivated by financial rewards (extrinsic motivations), coming from selling consulting services on his products, and he eventually ended open his own company.

Which are your source of revenues, besides consulting?

Well I am trying this with the sponsorship approach, the idea is that companies that profit from the products become a sponsor who just gives money to encourage the future development of the product. I use this money to pay for maintaining the products and developing some additions which are not covered by some other contract, just because I think they are necessary a further source of income is google ads which works quite well due to the high traffic on the website.

Which are the advantages for your customers? And for you?

The big advantage of this approach is that the customers normally have a clear vision of which problem they want to solve, and since I know the tool well I can integrate an optimal solution which will continue to evolve even after the contract ends, since the extension is now part of the product.

This leads to a forth motivation to do it all. Being the author of these well known tools gives me a certain standing in the industry, which comes in handy when bidding for contracts, since customer assume (rightly) that I know stuff and I am able to finish projects.

Our biggest contract last year had nothing to do with any of the tools but the customer asked us only because he had seen my name mentioned in connection with monitoring.

Tobias creates tools in a way that users can get along without needing any extra support contract. The software is enriched as part of their service offerings, and as time goes by they enhance their toolbox. They do not sell tools, but the stuff they make the tools for.

Oetiker + Partner AG is a pure IT service company, for some probably the highest form of open source firm.

Happy hacking Tobias!

About RRDtool
RRDtool is a freely (as in freedom and in beer) available software tool for the collection and graphical display of time series data and is deployed to monitor computer networks and network traffic. Installed at hundred thousands of sites world wide, RRDtool monitors everything from small local networks to large IT infrastructures of internationally operating telecom providers. RRDtool is included in the family of Open Source tools developed by Tobias Oetiker, which also includes MRTG, and SmokePing, which is used for the measurement and display of line quality parameters in Internet connections. For more information about MRTG, RRDtool and SmokePing visit: http://oss.oetiker.ch

Technorati Tags: TobiasOetiker, Open Source Monitoring, Network Management, GroundWork, RRDTools, MRTG, smokeping, motivations

Open Source Projects Outsourcing: North-by-South

North-by-South, is an open source company based in San Francisco and Sao Paulo (Brazil), is getting work from the Bay and organizing teams of open source programmers from Central & South America to do the jobs.

North-by-South, officially started in July 2006 in Sao Paulo at a developers get-together organized for open source veterans, currently have about 30 programmers in its open source developers network and it is planning to expand to 100 developers by January 2009.

Made in Brazil Barbie made in Brazil by wagner_arts

I asked Ryan Bagueros, formerly head of engineering at Tagged, is the North-by-South founder, and co-founder of San Francisco Community Colo, how do they commercialize their services.

We’re in touch with the marketplace through local innovations like Craigslist but mostly we get work through the extensive contacts of our San Francisco team. We have 4 people working in San Francisco on getting jobs, organizing them, etc and we’ve all been working in SF through the first dot-com bubble and now in the “web 2.0″ resurgence. So, we commercialize via word of mouth, web, local conferences, local internet gatherings, etc. It would be much more difficult to get work if we were not located in San Francisco and hadn’t been working here since the mid-90′s.

Brazil and South America as a whole have an absolute advantage over USA in producing open source software, and as a matter of fact what is going on with the free software movement in Latin America is pretty peculiar.

I wish Ryan and his latin American friends happy hacking!

Technorati Tags: open source developers, latin america, brazil, ryanbagueros, northbysouth

OpenOffice.org: OOoCrackz, an Italian Extension to get in the Piracy Market

PLIO, the OpenOffice.org Italian Native-Lang Project association, announces the availability of OOoCrackz, an Extension that allow users to use the free and open source suite in a “crack mode”. The extension aims at answering the needs of 51% of the Italian market, that is in the hands of pirates.

Funding Software PiracyWe fund organized Crime by dontaskme

Davide Dozza, PLIO’s President, explains why the Italian association decided to develop OOoCrackz:

Reading “The Economic Benefits of Lowering PC Software Piracy“, an IDC research sponsored by the Business Software Alliance, we understood that OpenOffice.org license represents an obstacle to the adoption of he suite for about half of the Italian population, actually using mostly pirate software.

OOoCrakcz takes away three out of four freedoms, making illegal the access to the source code, the freedom to modify the code and redistribute it, just as every other proprietary software.

OOoCrackz has been developed by a PLIO’s member, Paolo Mantovani, one of the most known expert on OpenOffice.org macros and extensions expert:

The first release of extension allows only the activation of the “illegal mode”, but we are working on an evolution of the extension that will prevent you from releasing documents under Creative Commons licenses. The risk to manage is that the user could inadvertidly respect the copyright law.

To provide you with a real experience of using a pirate software, OOoCrackz prevents the registration and block all possible updates. The idea behind such choice is to make soon your copy obsolete, eventually exposing the user to security problems as happens with illegal copies.

Italo Vignoli, PLIO’s Marketing and Communication Manager stated:

The PLIO annual assembly announced marketing initiative to improve OpenOffice.org penetration in the Italian market. With this announcement we are targeting the illegal software market, a segment not yet addressed by our offer. This will reflect in our coverage of the market, and therefore we foresee an increase of our market share.

Technorati Tags: OpenOffice.org, OpenOffice, DavideDozza, PaoloMantovani, ItaloVignoli, OOoCrackz, Piracy Market, IDC, BSA

Free Software and Communism

Today Richard Stallman was giving the last in the series of his three public lectures in Moscow. It was about Free Software and Copyright.

I had a small conversation with him before the talk and asked him why he hadn’t come to Russia since his last visit in 1991. The answer was simple: he didn’t get any invitation. This can be a hint for the people in the countries where Richard has not been yet — if you organize the visit properly and send Richard an invitation, chances are very high that he will come.

InvitationInvitation by sarahkim

He liked today’s Russia more than the one he had seen 15 years ago. Even though his time was very limited, it was sufficient to find out that Russian food (including pancakes and solyanka soup) is good and that people are now paying more interest to Free Software than before.

Richard has a theory for that. In his view, the post-communist countries get warmer to Free Software as they move away from the ideology where freedom is restricted. The younger of us, whose personalities were mostly formed after 1991, are more receptive to the idea of contributing to the benefit of the public. Therefore there are more Free Software users and developers among us than could have been among our parents. There is a similar situation in China.

Richard may be right. We were poorly globalized back in the early 1990′s, and that hindered our acceptance of Free Software (along with thousands of other good and bad things that globalization brings with it). To some extent it may remain a problem even now as we often prefer to do things on our own rather than ask for help, which might be readily provided upon request.

It is not strictly about communism. It is about the science of living in a larger world.

Technorati Tags: free software, communism, moscow, RichardStallman

Italian Open Source developers: Luca Passani

During the Cocoon GetTogether recently held in Rome, I met Luca Passani, an Italian software engineer experienced in Web and Mobile Internet development, known to the open source community for creating WURFL.

Luca, who spent seven years with Openwave Systems, currently works for AdMob, the world’s largest mobile advertising marketplace. Yesterday I invited Luca – who lives really close by – to have a tea at my house, and I took the chance to pose him some questions about WURFL.

Luca Passani Luca Passani

How it all started?

In 1999 I was involved in a project for Telenor in Norway. They wanted to launch the first European wap portal. The first two devices to hit the market at that stage were: then nokia 7110 – aka the big banana (“bananone”)- and the siemens C35. They had a very different wap browser: fixing usability with one implied screwing it up the other one. That was the beginning of the so-called “device fragmentation” (known also as device diversity).That’s when I started wondering how I could solve the problem. And that’s when phone.com (now openwave) asked me to join them.

Since then, how did you manage to get such large adoption for WURFL?

In hindsight it wasn’t that difficult, because there was a big gap to be filled, and nobody to fill it. It was like if the big Architect of the Mobile Industry had forgotten the roof! The huge problem of device fragmentation was stopping the industry from taking off, and nobody was providing a solution. This was the contest in which WURFL was born, and around which companies found home. Small companies in the beginning, those which could not afford to pay big bucks for a commercial-grade solutions. I was already running a 3000-developer strong mailing list at the time (called WMLProgramming) when WURFL was born. The list provided the ideas, the encouragement and the support to make WURFL a reality in a matter of months. More than that, the mailing list also represented an excellent marketing channel directly into the IT departments of mobile companies. WURFL’s strength was the grass root interest and support.
It is obvious that we got a bunch of stuff right. After a few years, also average-sized companies were using WURFL, and after them, even big guys such as Google and Yahoo Mobile had made WURFL part of their regular device information diet.

WURFL started almost by scratching a developer’s personal itch. Luca’s activity was sponsored by Openwave to empower developers and eventually leveraging the emerging mobile market.

So, how important was the community to make it happen?

WURFL “is” the community. Developers, the silent constituency of the mobile web, had been totally neglected. They found the strength to come together and fix their own problems: creating WURFL and keep it in good shape. My role was simply being the catalyst for this reaction. I created the WURFL schema, I put my understanding of the problem domain to the service of the project. To add to that, I created the WURFL website, I managed the mailing-list, I created the Java WURFL API and, last but not least, I created WALL (a tool to multi-serve multiple markups to different devices classes). Albeit Andrea Trasatti has now left the project, his contribution for many years deserves acknowledgment.

Luca is a “benevolent dictator” placing community before code. He shared the project’s leadership with the co-mantainer Andrea Trasatti for few years, taking in great account the importance of contributors. Small contributions, or “micro-contributions” as I would call them from now on, are the key to WURFL success.

What about the competition, is WURFL the only platform?

Not, it isn’t it. Albeit there is virtually no competition in the open source space. The situation is different with commercial entities: Volantis, MobileAware and ArgoGroup are the commercial counterparts in this space. Despite those products are backed by commercial entities and come with a lof of nice features, (not to mention commercial support), WURFL has unique advantages which are the direct consequence of the adoption of an Open Source model. Commercial solution are typically expensive, too expensive for small- and medium-sized companies in the mobile space. The reason for the high price lies in the need for commercial vendors to build a repository of device information. One needs trained staff to run device tests (a time consuming activity), and labs in different continents, devices cost 100 to 500 euros to acquire. It should come as no surprise that such costs are reflected in the cost of the product. With WURFL the situation is different. While WURFL can afford no paid staff to run tests, its community provides the open Device Description Repository with a steady flow of device information from its adopters and supporters. One could present WURFL as a piggy bank in which one puts one euro and gets back one million. No wonder people think this is a great deal.
On top of that, comes the fact that WURFL is totally open and WURFL adopters can hack the hell out of the framework and make it do exactly what they need. Hardly a possibility with commercial solutions.

I agree with Luca, a proprietary solution has to run after the sun to get it updated, but they could still try to imitate Funambol approach replicating the Phone Sniper program. So said, I also worked for telco operators for years, and I believe that the openness is needed when you want to include and extend technologies.

Technorati Tags: LucaPassani, WURFL, Volantis, ArgoGroup, MobileAware, Mobile Open Source, Yahoo Mobile, Google, Open Source Development

Internet Governance Forum: workshop proposals online for viewing&merging

The Internet Governance Workshop proposals submitted within the 30 June deadline have now been posted for viewing. Save the following dates:

  • Deadline for submitting proposal (abstracts + initial list of organizers ): 30 June.
    .
  • Completion of co-organizer and panellist arrangements and merge activities: July.
    .
  • Notification of selection – 31 July 2007.

During July proponents of similar workshops will be encouraged to join forces and collaborate where it is feasible. Organizers of workshops are, therefore, expected to work with others who submit proposals on the same theme. A willingness to merge proposals is a requirement.
The Government of Brazil will host in Rio de Janeiro on 12 – 15 November 2007 the second Internet Governance Forum meeting. The IGF website – run by the IGF Secretariat – supports the United Nations Secretary-General in carrying out the mandate from the World Summit on the Information Society with regard to convening a new forum for multi-stakeholder policy dialogue – namely the Internet Governance Forum.

Technorati Tags: Internet Governance Forum, Open Consultation

Open Source Hackers: about retaining them, the Novell case

In dicember Jeremy Allison of Samba fame resigned from Novell in protest over the Microsoft-Novell patent agreement, about a month ago Jeremy Irons, one of the lead developers of the Samba Team, also left Novell giving advices to young programmers, and now it is Robert Love turn to leave, as reported by Dave Rosenberg.

Managing human resources by Mark & The Zebra

Robert Love in his blog wrote a post eloquently entitled “epilogue“.

An operose decision, I resigned as Chief Architect of our Linux Desktop endeavor, effective today.

In the house that Ximian built, we dreamt and saw to fruition the world’s finest Linux desktop, Linux’s first desktop commercial success. Seated at the table aside some of the industry’s sharpest hackers, we challenged ourselves not with the goal of building another Linux desktop, but with the aim of engineering a more perfect desktop—Linux or otherwise. Unsatisfied with simply cheaper, we went for broke: better and faster, too. SLED’s éclat is ours.

Leaving is never easy. But here and now the timing is right and so, after three and a half years, here’s to what’s next.

It is great time for Novell, and not only Novell, to understand that free software’s gurus and open source hackers need love too. The employer knowing exactly what is annoying people can respond and retain people longer. Is Novell listening hard enough?

Open Source firms selling software made from scratch within their organizations – what I call Corporate Production Model – don’t need to pay too much attention to retain their employees, no more than any other software company.

On the contrary firms basing their business on commons, need to feed patiently and persistently the hackers they hired. Weak intellectual property assets need a lot of care, appropriating returns is already difficult without extra handicaps.
Whether Microsoft is really hiring Open Source Evangelists or not, Commercial Open Source firms have to pay a lot of attention, hackers are precious to them.

Technorati Tags: Commercial Open Source, hackers, novell, hiring