CyberTech Rambler

February 29, 2008

Do NOT pop the champion yet!

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 7:56 pm

Some preliminary tidbits from Andy Updegrove on the just-concluded OOXML Ballot Resolution Meeting at Geneva, with PJ jumping on the bandwagon really quickly. Updegrove down-beat assessment is in contrast with Brian Jone’s upbeat assessment. Both, however, agree that National Bodies carried out their responsibility admirably. They deserve a rest. Of course, for us casual blogger the day had just began!

Now that the 30 day period for NB to consider their position had began, only one thing is for certain: Let the lobbying begin (again)! Ballot Resolution Meeting is interesting but in the end, what counts is procedures and final votes tally. Given that the very close September vote to reject OOXML approval in favour of Ballot Resolution Meeting, everything is up in the air. Please take note that my comments below is based sololy on Updegrove’s report, whose integrity as a journalist on OOXML is beyond reproach. But it is still a second hand account of the event.

Nobody in their right mind expects to resolve 1100 comments in 5 days. It appears that, after approving 200+ trivial and non-controversial issues, only 20 out of the approximately 900 remaining comments were discussed. It surprised me. I was expecting a figure close to 400. Given this rate of progress, if we were to persist in resolve all remaining issue, it will be financially better if we rent apartments on medium term basis for the delegates. The large number of undiscussed issues is what lead PJ to argue that the BRM should not change results of the September vote. Unfortunately for PJ, that is not what that’s count, but the final vote tally in 30 days time.

Of course, ISO might simply decided to stop this process based on this. In my opinion, that is the correct thing to do. I do feel the Fast Track process is being abused here for OOXML, but in the end, it does not really matter. I feel that I do not have to make the argument that the process is being abused as this is a subjective judgement and more difficult to prove. I only have to strike for the easier argument that the whole process from beginning to end had been shown to awfully inadequate in this case of OOXML. Evidence of this so abundance that I have the luxury to pick-and-choose my favourites.

One other thing is for sure, I did not envy the chairman’s, Alex Brown’s, job before the BRM; Now, I would not touch it with a barge pole. So far, Undegrove’s account showed that he had done a good job given the circumstances. In my opinion, he took steps to gauge the level of consensus and kept several options open for ISO. Of course I have my own idea on what he should report back to ISO, but I will keep it to myself until either the whole thing is over, or he decided to show us his card.


February 27, 2008

First “Volunteer Open Source/Professional Open Source”, now “Commercial/non-commercial” Open Source

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 11:43 am

Those of us “old enough” will remember JBoss’s Marc Fleury’s attempt to carve a distinction between “amateur open source” and “professional open source”. In short, if you are not working for a company, you are “amateur”, if you are, then you are “professional”. As the linked article articulate, he draws a lot of flank for calling a large community “amateur”. The podcast linked in by the article will show you that he draws fire as soon as the word “amateur” is uttered. In the end, he decided to change the word “amateur” to “volunteer”. To me, this is extremely unsatisfactory. “Professional” to me means “Professionalism”. To be professional means adopting a set of principles in one’s endeavor. Whether you work for money or for love is immaterial. While it is an attempt to make him feel good at the expense of others, at the very least, we cannot say that Fleury’s intention is cynical and is a attempt to drive a wedge through the whole open source community.

Ever since Microsoft and Novell signed the deal, we see a cynical and deliberate carving of open source community. Microsoft defined “Commercial Open Source” as any business making money out of open source software and “Non-commercial Open Source” as anybody else. It is along the line of “Volunteer/Professional Open Source” as in Fleury’s contention but this is done with an intention to split the open source community to Microsoft’s advantage. How? look at this Patent Pledge. Borrowing Microsoft Executives’ own terminology, this pledge is a virus, a not naturally occurring one but a genetically modified to target a subpopulation. Why? The pledge says that it is OK to use Microsoft Patents if you are “non-commercial open source”, not OK otherwise. Practically, this means anyone who used this patent pledge is making the choice on behalf of all developers to restricting the use of the infected open source software to people who are immune, i.e., those not making money out of the software. This restriction of use is contrary to the “No Discrimination against People or Group” principle of the Open Source Definition.

Of course, Microsoft is free to dictate terms for the use of its patent. Since it could had done it in other ways, such as changing the pledge to give usage rights to cover “non-commercial” proprietary program developers as well, the very deliberate targeting of open source developers show that it is not so much an olive branch to its competitors, but a deliberate policy to fragment and conquer its competitors.

I could marry “Volunteer Open Source” from Fleury’s with “Commercial Open Source” from Microsoft to form a more acceptable distinction (to me) to describe the “differences” in the open source community. However, I am not going to. To do so will be to fall into the trap of carving up the open source community into different camps. Sure, we have unique differences in the open source camp. The famous being the BSD vs GPL debate. However, the distinction discuss here has nothing to do with open source. All these are about different business models. Although time and time again both open source and business interacts, they are separate concerns and should not be mixed. As such, I will refrain from making this distinction.

February 24, 2008


Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 6:47 pm

Typical, when you leave for holiday where you do not have access to a computer, some big news breaks!

Yahoo is ripe for acquisition, commentators said so at least since the beginning of this year. The Yahoo that we know today is unlikely to be the Yahoo of 2009. The question either who is the best suitor, Microsoft or Google or News Corp?

Microsoft is the best suitor for investers. He is interested. Having shares under MSFT ticker is certainly more secure and attractive than Yahoo’s own brand. Technologically speaking, disaster in the making. Incompatible systems (open source shop vs windows shop) to be merged and  associated philosophy gap that need to be bridged. Not to mention most Microsoft acquisitions looks like they had frozen in time (think HotMail). Rumour abound that Yahoo’s employees are polishing their CVs. This is never a good sign. Instead of Microhoo!, we might actually see “MicroWho?”
On the other hand, Google will be the technologist dream husband. Innovative and had so far, injected value into its acquisition (think Writely integration into GoogleDoc). Unfortunately Google has yet to show an interest. Moreover, it is likely that parents (antitrust authorities) will not like the merger as it further concentrate web power on Google. For investers, it is an acceptable partner.

News Corp’s proposal is interesting. It strengthens Yahoo’s portfolio, maintains its independence (as far as Murdoch is prepare to grant) in return for a stake in Yahoo. For technologist there is nothing interesting with this proposal and for investers, it is rather difficult to forgo Microsoft or Google’s ticker. Taking this deal will signal that Yahoo place great emphasis on being “independent”, with business-as-usual attitude post marriage.

News Corp’s

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