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Jef"I am the pusher robot"Spaleta
ramblings of the self-elected Fedora party whip
Is it respectful to actively encourage other people to contribute code to a project by pointing them to a set of getting involved instructions for that project which encourages them to write patches and code without making any mention at all that a copyright assignement is required before those patches and code contributions can be merged into the mainline development branch?

I don't think that is very respectful. It's certainly not intellectually honest. Personally I would think you would want to be as upfront about legal requirements for contribution as you can in an effort to be as honest and transparent with the contributors you are recruiting to help. It would seem far worse to me to have someone spend time on code and then tell them after they have produced it that they must sign a contract before it can be included. That seems like a manipulative strong arming tactic to me. Get the contributor to do the work and then tell them about the legal strings attached to having the work be considered for inclusion.

If we are going to have a larger conversation about what respect in the FOSS ecosystem looks like, we need to make sure that conversation includes the topic of what is fair and equitable notice with regard to legal requirements when recruiting contributors.

-jef
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1) Will LibreOffice gather a critical mass of developers and push the codebase forward faster than the rate of development of OO.org? If yes, can we quantify which of the project structural changes make that possible?

1.1) The importance of independent foundation control?
1.2) The importance of the lack of a copyright assignment requirement for contributors?
1.3) The importance of independently run infrastructure as a basis for development?


2) Assuming the contributor critical mass is achieved, can the Document Foundation use LibreOffice as a starting of a codebase that provides an open, replicable (possible decentralized) collaborative internet-centric document services that can be integrated with or used as an alternative to centralized online document store services such as Google Docs.

-jef
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or so some people would have you believe.

http://news.cnet.com/8301-13924_3-20007756-64.html

Apple's Ipad has apparently taken a chunk out out of the netbook market with its introduction. I could nitpick the numbers a bit and say the jury is out still on that, but for the purposes of this post I'll play along with the analysis and accept that yes the Ipad did take a bite out of netbooks sales.

And if you follow the logic the implication is that "slates" as a form factor will continue this trend. I'm not sure I believe that, I'm not convince that another OEM can ride Apple's coat tail with a completely different "slate" form factor offering. I certainly think the netbook formfactor as a market doesn't have a good identity and people are making the best of fitting them into their lives because they are just so darn inexpensive. The ipad...not so cheap..but its eating into netbook marketshare. There's definitely something very important going on there..but it may not be easy for another OEM to duplicate. They are going to give it a good college try however.

HP now has its own in house mobile platform in WebOS with the purchase of Palm and seems to be saying that its going to be the basis of its own slate offerings:

http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2010/05/official-hp-slate-will-run-webos/

And all indications seem to point to Dell's Streak running Android.

All of these operating environments are first and foremost mobile device environments. Not traditional "desktop" environments. And while webOS and Android are based on linux, neither of them or traditional linux "distributions." I think that is very interesting as a contrast to the evolution of common netbook environment. Netbooks are essentially cutdown laptops and the traditional linux distribution model mapped over without much fuss. Even the linux arm netbooks which are due to sweep across the globe like a pandemic.... any day now.....they take a little more work because of the change of architecture but that the end of the day its the same user environment.

Are traditional linux distributions ready for the slate form factor? Are traditional linux distributions even going to be possible on these devices? Unlike netbooks, I think slates as a market segment are more inclined to fall into a pattern of OEM enforced walled application gardens...with 10 foot tall walls in the form of locked down OEM pre-installs. Sure all the android devices may have access to similar apps. And all the webOS devices may have access to the same apps. But cross environment applications maybe far rarer than what we are use to in traditional linux software distribution ecosystem. Where Fedora, Debian, and Gentoo share much of the application-scape across their boundaries.. those boundaries are essentially decorative garden edging.. not wall that have to be scaled by application developers..which for the most part rely on QT/KDE or qtk/gnome frameworks to build applications that should work on any of those distributions without significant distribution specific hacks. I get the feeling that's not really the same for webOS and Android.

And with all the work going on right now to support netbook oriented interfaces in the more traditional linux software ecosystem..having a market research firm stand up and say slates are going to kill netbooks doesn't feel so good.
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I have a very hard time understanding how multiple outspoken members of a FLOSS community can find it socially acceptable to lift up creative multimedia works made in their community, meant to show off what is great about their community, but are themselves flagrant infringements of the copyrights of others who are doing their work outside of the FLOSS community.

Isn't respect for copyright and the rights given to content creators to set the terms of usage on their works a cornerstone of how a vibrant FLOSS ecosystem has been able to self-organize? FLOSS and Creative Commons licensing is a choice that content creators make.. and when they make choices about licensing which are contrary to the ideals of FLOSS and open media its entirely inappropriate to disregard those choices and to incorporate their code or their content as an element of your own work just because its available for easy consumption. I don't care if that is code or documentation or still photos..or music.

Taking a song you legally purchased online for personal use and shoving into your video you plan to redistribute widely as background music is simply disrespectful of copyright and actually undermines the open media movement. And frankly when that video is meant to showcase how great your FLOSS community is.. is both ironic and damaging. I don't care how great the song is. I don't care how cool the video is... I don't care about how open and friendly your community is...the ends don't justify the means. You can't build an argument to have people respect FLOSS and open media licensing while at the same time completely disregarding the copyright licensing of mainstream popular music.
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For the sake of argument, I'll accept, for the moment, that software patents as a concept can be effective as limited monopolies granted inventors as a means to promote the progress of science and useful arts.

Accepting that, what continues to baffle me is why its okay to make statements which imply patent infringement in a piece of software, to exhort money via private settlement agreement from users of that software, but then to deny the original creators of that software the ability to be told in specificity what the infringement claim is so that it can be addressed.

It's one thing to have a system of patents laws that attempts to see an equitable share of profits back to the original inventors via an infringement resolution process (whether it be in a court of law or via private settlement.) That is right and proper. It's quite another to have a system that actively encourages continued infringement as a revenue stream because the rights holder never has to reveal the infringement claims to the actual creators of the infringing work and in fact makes it a condition of settlements with users of that work that the original creators of the infringing work cannot be told what the specific infringement claims are.

Infringement should not be a revenue model to be managed and milked, by deliberately picking out technology users who are most likely to settle quietly but who do not control whether the underlying technology at issue is infringing. If there is an infringement claim, even if its settled out of court and behind closed doors, the creators of the original work should have a right to know what the claim is and should have the right to attempt to address the underlying infringement for all future users by re-engineering their software. If you are going to sue someone for using the linux kernel because it infringes your software patents, then you should be forced to tell the linux kernel developers what the infringement claims are.

-jef
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Apparently nearly 8 million Android equipped smartphones shipped in 2009 [1]. And more recently in 2010 Google's CEO has been quoted as saying that there are 60,000 Android devices shipping per day (and that the rate is accelerating)[2]. If this trend holds, doesn't this make Android the most popular linux distribution (and its not even listed on distrowatch)
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I think the 3.com Audrey was the first computing device I remember that was meant to be strictly a home internet appliance device.... back when dial-up was the cornerstone of residential connectivity and VCRs were the dominate home entertainment format.

I think its interesting to compare the design decisions that went into the Audrey and the decisions that went into the Litl. The biggest difference is of course the Litl's focus on consumable digital media....something that didn't really exist a decade ago. And of course Litl's wireless support..again something that wasn't common a decade ago. But beyond that there are a lot of similarities. The both have the concept of channels. Audrey had a knob.. litl has a wheel. Audrey had a wireless keyboard... you can hide. Litl's keyboard hides in easel mode.

What I really want to know is how hack-friendly is the Litl device? Audrey was extremely hack friendly and as a result the hardware itself remained quite usable beyond the very short lifetime when its online services were available. A loyal cult following of technically proficienty Audrey owners were able to spin up multiple alternative QNX images to extend Audrey's functionality well past the original designers intent (and well past 3.com's interest in selling and supporting the device.)

-jef
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If you decide to put a cover band together and have a little jam session at a computer software conference or a frat party in Dallas, Texas and perform a Willie Nelson song such as "On the Road Again" for a group of conference attendees... that is a public performance and is you should be paying royalties. If you also decide to record that performance and make it available as a digital download from your employer's corporate servers... you should be paying another set of royalties per digital download.

If you are an employee of a software company that plans to open up its own music store in the near future, and have done all this without getting the permission of the copyright holder nor have paid the statutory royalty amounts for neither public performance nor digital distribution... that's just tragically ironic. If those digital files are hosted on corporate servers... that's doubly ironic and opens up the employer to potential copyright infringement liability.
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Inside the current crop of blog posts like this one about the MySQL/ Oracle acquisition.. there is insight into a deeper issue which I want to talk about.

What does it mean for a company to be friendly or unfriendly? Can a friendly company make a certain set of licensing choices and be applauded while an unfriendly company makes the exact same licensing choices and is derided? This inconsistency is not rational and we need to understand why some in the community are reacting this way.

I think what's happened in recent times is that as a community we've had a lot of start-up business interests that are in effect cults of personality. One or two dedicated, passionate people building a company around their personal ethos. For these small incubator companies... the founder is the company.. there is not self-organizing corporate culture. The company is thought to be friendly because the founder is thought to be friendly. But its the wrong way to view a corporation. Corporations aren't people. Corporations are for all intent and purposes...alien..to the human condition.

The cult of personality model only really holds for very small companies...where the original founder is still in place. It does not hold for companies that outlive their original leader. At some point companies develop their own corporate culture..which is an amalgamation of choices being made by multiple people..and not just the founder. At some point companies stop being cults of personality and take on a life of their own. And in this sense I think Red Hat and Mozilla stand apart. They've made the leap into self-motivated corporate organism and have retained an open development friendly business culture.. and they've taken vastly different paths to get there. But as business cultures aren't static, in time unfriendly cultures can turn friendly and vice versa...because they are an amalgamation of choices. We have to do our part to lift up the good decisions inside a corporate entity that are being made while at the same time punching them in the head for making bad choices. We can not paint large corporate entities broadly as friendly or unfriendly...Intel and Google I'm looking at you.

The MySQL situation is a cautionary tale for every single open-core start-up in existence right now. Every single company which requires copyright assignment from contributors and is making a business off of owning the copyrights by holding a privileged position that allows them to license the code under both proprietary and open licenses. The people who are upset with the MySQL/Oracle situation should be looking to the future at what's going to happen to all the start-ups out there who are following MySQL's licensing model. What if Alfreso is acquired? What if Canonical is acquired? Are we going to go through the same sort of debate every time an acquisition that involves privileged dual-licensing happens? Why exactly as a community are we cool with signing over copyright rights to small corporate entities.. when we know that if they are successful, acquisition by a larger corporate entity is a probable outcome? If we don't want to give Oracle or other large "unfriendly" licensing control over a codebase why the hell are we signing over copyrights over to small companies like MySQL? Anyone who thinks Oracle's sole control over the MySQL codebase is a problem should have foreseen this and spoken out against the open-core licensing model when MySQL adopted it as a business strategy. Whose going to start demanding Alfresco stop requiring copyright assignment now?

-jef
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This is in response to http://nicolas.barcet.com/drupal/en/oct-ubuntu-server-stats

To get details stats on OS breakdown from netcraft to put that 1.4 million Ubuntu web servers in the correct context... you have to purchase their data product. Problem is... they also restrict how you can use that data so even if Canonical purchased it for you to look over..you probably couldn't comment on it publicly. The full Netcraft survey data is problematic in that regard because you really can't have a public discussion.

But we can have a useful discussion about the 2009 Purchasing Survey because they publish their methodology AND they raw survey data.

The purchasing survey  is a really mixed bag of news when you read the whole article and look at the raw data.  The article really begs the question... where is that stated growth of Ubuntu server deployments coming from?  The article specifically makes the claim that windows to linux migrations are stalling and that people are less likely to dump windows for linux.  So where's the Ubuntu serve deployment growth being generated?  Virtualization maybe? Not according to the raw survey results.

If you dig into the raw data...you'll see that exactly one survery respondent(out of 459) said they were using Ubuntu/Debian based KVM for virtualization.  And more sobering only one respondent  (out of 449) said they planned to deploy Ubuntu/Debian based KVM in the next 12 months.  That should raise some eyebrows inside the Canonical fenceline.  Doesn't that survey result run counter to pretty much everything Canonical and its virtualization partners have been saying?  Hopefully they'll repeat these virtualization usage and intent to deploy questions in next year's survey after the next Ubuntu LTS is out and both Canonical and Eucalyptus Systems are pushing Ubuntu server for private deployments.  

But more generally speaking I'm not sure that the Purchasing Survey results are self-consistent enough to be reliable.  For example look at questions 22 and 67.

question 22:   Which server operating systems do you currently have installed? (Select all that apply.)

question 67: Which of the following Linux distributions/operating systems do you currently use on your servers? (Select all that apply.)

The numbers don't compare well across those two questions. There is at best a 10% point discrepancy in the Red Hat deployment percentages between those two questions. There is a similar discrepancy in the CentOS numbers. That's not a good sign for survey accuracy.  If there really is a 10% point error, that potentially wipes out the implied Ubuntu growth in the summary article.  

And I'm not saying that the Ubuntu growth does not exist. What I am saying is that when you look really closely at the survey data.. the survey does not appear to be accurate enough to say anything statistically significant about Ubuntu growth if the noise floor in the survey really is 10%.  The survey summary article consistently overreaches in its conclusions without once commenting on the inherent accuracy limitation of their survey. 

The point I'm trying to make...to everyone.. is that you can't just throw numbers up without considering the accuracy of the methodology.  For this survey in particular... If they can't get Red Hat deployment numbers accurate to 10% between question 22. and 67..the linux distribution with the most respondents and therefore the best statistical accuracy...then you can't really expect the other linux distribution numbers from the survey results to be more accurate than that.

But thankfully the Purchasing Survey do make their methodology and their survey data available so their conclusions can be transparently discussed.  I wish everyone who publish deployment numbers would at least go that far instead of just throwing the numbers out as a PR stunt.

-jef
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