November 03, 2006

Kung Fu Monkey

So I'm a little slow, but Kung Fu Monkey is freaking brilliant. In particular, I greatly enjoyed this gem.

November 02, 2006

Republicans are Pansies... Pass it on

Republicans are living in fear, and they're making policy inspired by this fear. They're dreadfully afraid of terrorists and extremists - so much so that they're willing to drop their freedoms in the hopes of saving their own skin. The Iraq war is a manifestation of this fear. The PATRIOT ACT is an expression of this fear. The willingness to subvert habeas corpus, detain *possible* terrorist group members indefinitely without criminal charges, enact broader search and seizure guidelines, and engage in torture all reflect a basic, inate fear of the enemy. The fear stems from the belief that keeping our freedom intact results in a higher risk of a terrorist strike.

Does this not strike anyone as hypocritical? Aren't republicans in this country fond of saying "freedom isn't free," "our troops are dying for our freedoms," and other similar phrases? If it is true that "freedom isn't free" and that it's worth dying for, then what gives with the cheap sellout of freedom in exchange for our collective safety? In short, shouldn't Republicans be willing to grow a pair and accept the risk that comes with freedom?

I'm tired of what is obvious (republicans' white-knuckle fear of terrorism) being passed over in favor of what is simply untrue - that they hold the roadmap for the most effective anti-terrorism policy. Maybe all Americans need to grow a pair and realize that taking the high road of morality and human rights means facing up to the inherent risk.

Given the choice between dying for our founding principles and living on in a pale imitation of said principles, I know what I'll choose.

If there are evil people in this world who will exploit our laws and governance to strike us, then may God have mercy on their souls. I'm not going to use that as an excuse to drop the very things that made us what we are today, and neither should you. When you vote on Tuesday, bear in mind that exactly one party has overwhelmingly ruled from a position of fear. You know which party that is, and now is the time to send them the message that you won't tolerate this shortchange of principles.

Republicans are pansies. Pass it on.

October 16, 2006

Google Spam Recipes! Woohoo!

I've discovered an amazing new "feature" of GMail - whenever you go to your spam folder, look near the top of the page where Google normally inserts topic-related links, and you'll mostly likely see one of several recipes that make creative use of spam ©. Note here that I'm talking about the canned spicy ham - not the junk mail that gmail sorts into your "spam" folder. And now, so that you don't have to, I've collected a few of my personal favorites below:

Spam Primavera

Spam Breakfast Burritos

French Fry Spam Casserole

Spam Quiche

Add your favorite spam recipes below!

September 19, 2006

John Mark's "There is no Open Source Community"

Hi there, dear readers (all 2 of you). I am putting all new posts on open source-releated topics in my new blog, John Mark's "There is no Open Source Community". Enjoy!

September 18, 2006

Talk Like a Pirate! Arrrr!

In commemoration of Talk Like a Pirate Day, I give you my 2-year-old talking like a pirate.

Pssst - I just found another TLAPD web site!

September 06, 2006

On Red Hat and Commercial Open Source

I recently had lunch with a friend from RedHat. Suffice it to say, it was rather revelatory. At some point, the conversation drifted to rPath and how they split off because Red Hat "couldn't afford to please the diehards" - they had to make money, and the only way to do this was by ignoring the "diehards". This Red Hatter then went on to talk about how they couldn't just continue to give stuff away, they had to charge for it, yadda yadda - pretty standard stuff we've heard from Red Hat for a while now. It then occurred to me how Red Hat continues to get it wrong in the marketplace - they still think it's about engaging in solid business practices in spite of the resistance of the GNU diehards.

This very premise is simply wrong. They seem to have neatly categorized criticism of its abandonment of the desktop as just noise from the "diehards" wanting Red Hat to serve the free software community and give stuff away for free. This line of thought ceased to be relevant about 6 years ago.

What Red Hat doesn't seem to understand is the effort that will be required to bring parity to the desktop landscape. The reason this is important is that Microsoft is continuing to use the leverage from its large desktop install base to build server-based technologies. While Red Hat is laser-focused on web servers and other back-office sales, Microsoft continues to bundle more services into its offerings, and for the most part, it just works - assuming, of course, that you use Microsoft on both ends of your transactions.

Red Hat does not now, nor has it ever, grasped how much leverage it would have with a ubiquitous, user-friendly desktop. They want so badly for everyone to equate Red Hat with Linux, and they have been very successful at this. However, Red Hat just isn't large enough to outflank, on its own, a company as large as Microsoft, and yet they continue with their market myopia. Witness their absence from LinuxWorld San Francisco. Witness the bad relationship between them and some of the larger commercial entities (there are several). They want to single-handedly drive Linux forward, and they do not have a great track record in terms of working with other companies. It's no secret that they have not been strong advocates of the LSB. One note of hope is their acquisition of JBoss, but there is a distinct lack of solid partnerships between Red Hat and other strong commercial open source players. They continue to strive for a Red Hat-only market, without engaging users on a large-enough scale to create new markets.

Given this view, a lack of engagement with the commercial open source ecosystem, and a bias towards its own technologies, it would seem that Red Hat is doomed - in terms of matching its ambitions to eventual success. Unfortunately, a doomed Red Hat spells a temporarily doomed commercial Linux space, and thus a temporarily doomed commercial open source space. Red Hat does not seem to recognize that a lot is riding on their success or failure - like, say, the entire commercial Linux ecosystem. And since Red Hat/Fedora Linux is the default development platform for open source ISV's, a lot of other software infrastructure would fail with it. Realistically, Red Hat can push out most of its competitors on the server landscape - Sun, Novell, et al. - and lose to Microsoft in the back office and the continuously growing web infrastructure. It would be a classic case of winning battles but losing the war.

The other strike against Red Hat is they seem to discount Microsoft's efforts in the commoditized web infrastructure area. They do this at their peril. Microsoft appears to be learning how to make its software cheap enough to make it compelling. Given their established user base and the fact that many admins feel at home with it, IT buyers are willing to pay more for it. Again, a ubiquitous desktop is largely responsible for this. It certainly doesn't hurt that a large amount of open source software runs really well under Windows. Conceivably, assuming Microsoft doesn't screw up and that open source .NET continues to flourish, one could imagine a day where Windows becomes the de facto open source development platform.

Enter Ubuntu/Canonical. If one takes the view that the desktop is vitally important *and* a market in need of a brash, ambitious upstart, then Ubuntu seems to be a Linux distribution that understands what is needed to clear the major hurdles. That is, many many more users (and eventually developers) are needed to bring the software market to parity and give leverage to the smaller software players. New markets need to be pushed wide open, and they need a compelling reason to use Linux. Yes, this means stuff needs to be given to them. Yes, Ubuntu is bleeding money at the moment. My point is that this is a necessary evil - for now. I don't think it's a coincidence that Red Hat is public and Canonical is not. Of these two companies, despite Red Hat's current market position, it would seem that Canonical/Ubuntu is best positioned to drive commercial open source in the future - only they seem to understand the scale of the task before them. "Community building" is not some touchie-feelie exercise in charity - it is shrewd business development.

Oh but wait, Ubuntu is just a free toy given away by a crazy South African spaceman to please the GNU/Linux diehards, right?

August 22, 2006

Notes from the UbuCon

The UbuCon was a blast. Read about it on The UbuCon Blog.

July 31, 2006

The UbuCon: Full Steam Ahead

The UbuCon will indeed happen. The UbuCon will take place on August 18 and 19 at Google Headquarters in Mountain View, CA. Please RSVP if you plan to attend.

July 29, 2006

A Star is... *cough* *cough*

Hoo boy... Join us now and share... my choad.

June 30, 2006

US National Anthem - USA vs. Italy (World Cup)

Listen to the fans belt out the anthem and then erupt in spontaneous chants. There's just no substitute for world cup atmosphere.

The US may have disappointed overall, but that night in Kaiserslautern was magic.

May 22, 2006

Lovely Susana Baca

Above is a very grainy and perhaps indecipherable picture of Susana Baca in concert. Man, what a graceful performer with commanding vocals.

The Ubucon Blog

And now there's a blog! You can't have a conference without a blog ;)

May 21, 2006

Announcing: The Ubucon

I'm putting together a conference - The Ubucon (rhymes with Rubicon) - for Ubuntu users, developers and admins. Many many thanks to Google for letting me use their space. A huge debt of gratitude goes to Chris and Leslie over there for helping with this.

The Ubucon will be held August 18 and 19, the days immediately following LinuxWorld San Francisco.

Here's the conference wiki. As you can see, there's not much there yet. With your help, however, that will change RSN.

There is a mailing list - theubucon AT linuxpip, and you can subscribe at theubucon-request or go to the mailing list info page.

I'd love to get your feedback and ideas about what the conference should be.


May 01, 2006

LinuxWorld Podcast: Jeremy Allison

Jeremy Allison is a household name among the open source-aware, having co-founded the SAMBA project, continuing his role as a lead developer there, and currently serving as one of several rock-star developers now employed by Novell.

In this podcast, Jeremy Allison explains why *all* software is going free and why it's all due to the GPL. You also get to listen in as a special guest drops by to visit.

Listen to the edited version (23 mins.):

OR get the raw, uncut, full version (50 mins.) with lots more on Microsoft, patents, and other goodies: full monty.mp3

As always, you can get the latest LinuxWorld podcasts at

April 25, 2006

Note to Pamela Jones: Should Have Stopped Long Ago

In an utterly gratuitous and knee-jerk slam of Linspire yesterday, Pamela Jones took it upon herself to criticize Linspire for *gasp* including non-free software in their community distro. I'm sorry, but what was that? Would you mind explaining *how* this is a problem? Pamela, I used to admire you a great deal; your work on the SCO case was exceptional and provided a guiding light to those of us trying to make sense of what was happening.

But this is just absurd. Your assertion that communities don't form around non-free software is so wrong as to be greeted by uproarious laughter. Tell that to Mac fans. So tell me, why would folks care that Freespire will come with optional proprietary software? It's funny, I just thought folks wanted stuff to work. Silly ole' me.

Repeat after me: open source is not a social or religious movement. I made that point pretty clearly here.

April 24, 2006

LinuxWorld Podcast: Jim Zemlin and Larry Augustin

In the first podcast, Jim Zemlin sounds off on the Linux desktop, free standards, and being the Switzerland of Linux-land. Jim has much to add to the standards debate, and he's done a lot to make worth mentioning again. Listen to Jim clarify the difference between open standards and open source:

Jim Zemlin podcast

In the next podcast, you get to hear it straight from the open source Godfather, Larry Augustin. The "other" Larry of Silicon Valley talks about his historical involvement with open source, and where things are heading in the commercial open source world. It's all about commoditization, innovation, and bad hygiene... ok perhaps not so much the latter. Somewhere in between, Larry forces me to agree with Eric Raymond.

Larry Augustin podcast

April 19, 2006

LinuxWorld Podcast: Clint Oram, SugarCRM

***You can always catch the latest LinuxWorld podcast at ***

I sat down with Clint Oram, General Manager of Sugar Online at SugarCRM, and we had a nice chat about open source communities, the CRM market, where SugarCRM fits in, and how one goes about converting downloaders into paying customers. He makes several interesting points, including talking about "passion-ware" - the deciding factor between open source and proprietary software:

LinuxWorld Podcast with Clint Oram - Part 1

Unfortunately, we were sitting outside behind a local cafe, when the garbage truck paid a visit. So, I stopped the recorder and resumed after it left:

LinuxWorld Podcast with Clint Oram - Part 2

Open Source Developers: The New Customer/Partner

To many of us in the world of Linux and open source, it seemed pretty clear that open source development and the democratization of software - not to mention commoditization - was turning software as product development into a 2-way street. The trend was away from nice snazzy development kits that software vendors would release every 6 months and transforming into open development processes. This required giving something of value to prospective developers in the hopes that they would find a vendor's software compelling enough to contribute to its development, whether in the form of QA, documentation, bug reports, or in a small number of cases, writing actual code. This new 2-way street forced vendors to rethink their 3rd party development strategy, because simply viewing developers as consumers wasn't going to cut it. To remain competitive, vendors had to develop communities and ecosystems, partner with individuals outside the company, and generally convert their entire development process into an SOA.

This is not an easy process, and it has taken some time. Some companies got it much sooner than others, Red Hat being the prime example of the company that got it before many and is actually able to turn a profit. Without naming names, others are still lagging and one wonders if they're going to make it. It seems as though this process has turned a corner in the last year, and you can tell simply by the language used by woftware vendors. In the past, many commercial vendors have remarked that their #1 target audience was enterprise IT, both management and systems engineers, because they were the ones buying product, and it was easy to justify investing in marketing campaigns designed to reach that audience. What about developers? Oh, they were ok, vendors shrugged, but they're not going to buy much.

But things have suddenly changed and developers are no longer simply "tolerated". In the case of LinuxWorld, we're hearing from an unprecedented number of exhibitors that they want to work with us to find more developers. Almost overnight, software vendors have come to realize that in order to maintain a competitive advantage, they've got to have 3rd party developers, and they have to support an ecosystem around their platforms. If they don't succeed, developers will go elsewhere, and then the vendors have to spend enough on R&D to counter the armies of software guerillas working with and for the competition - for free. Hence the need to view independent developers as partners. And the companies that will succeed will be the ones that develop the most vibrant ecosystems, attracting open source developers, companies, and anyone else that benefits from access to the software. I went through much of the underpinnings of this process in my "There is no Open Source Community" article, and while it's still too early to say I told you so, it's certainly heading in that direction.

April 13, 2006

First LinuxWorld Podcast! Bill Weinberg of OSDL

This is the first in a series of podcasts I'm releasing on this blog. In this first installment, you'll hear Bill Weinberg, of OSDL Mobile Linux Initiative fame, wax rhapsodic on everything you ever wanted to know about mobile, embedded, and real-time Linux - and then some! He gives a great rundown of the challenges for Linux in these markets, including power consumption, security, and creating common API's to spur 3rd-party development. Enjoy!

Listen to Bill Weinberg

Notable LinuxWorld Keynotes

I finally posted two keynotes from LinuxWorld Boston: Nicholas Negroponte of One Laptop Per Child and Bill Hilf from Microsoft. Look for the rest tomorrow!

April 01, 2006

New LinuxWorld Blog

Hi gang, just so you know, the new LinuxWorld blog is now at If I were smart, I would have left it up on for a while, but I didn't *sigh*.

March 24, 2006

Daniel Lyons: I'm Still Retarded

If anyone wishes to read Forbes' Daniel Lyons give lovin' spoonfuls to Steve Ballmer, then follow this link. Or not, it's up to you if you need the laugh. Lyons is perhaps the most consistent writer on Forbes - he consistently refuses to do his homework or any basic analysis. For example:

Right now, I can go out and get a free alternative to just about every product Microsoft sells. Why do people keep paying you for something they could get free?

And that's just the first question! No need to beat around the bush. It's the type of softball one comes to expect, unfortunately. He could have phrased the question as, "Open source software continues to make inroads into more than one of your key markets. What are you doing to thwart this advance?" But then, that would have required more than two firing neurons.

The only thing funnier than Lyons' questions were Ballmer's answers:

You know, IBM doesn't stand behind Linux. They promote Linux, but if there's a bug in Linux, IBM is not the responsible party to fix that. It's whoever in the community. And you know, let's say that person has a death in the family.

This is just silly, and I don't know whom Ballmer is trying to kid. Of course IBM fixes Linux bugs. Of course there are IBM engineers whose job is to fix bugs in Linux (and Apache and a bunch of other free software tools). Notice his distinction between IBM and "whoever in the community" - as if to say that IBM engineers and researchers are not in the Linux community, when they very much are. The part about "death in the family" is just eery.

Later on, Ballmer goes on to say that he's not as worried about open source as he used to be, because it's become more commercialized, and MS knows how to win that game. But wait, isn't that in direct contradiction to his "whoever in the community" quote above? That was a complete gaffe on his part - he could not have possibly tried to paint free software with the community brush and then argue that it's commercialized so thus nothing to fear. That has to be a mistake.

Not one to be outdone, Lyons comes back with this gem:

"What's going on in terms of Microsoft IP showing up in Linux? And what are you going to do about it?"

Never has there ever been any evidence of any code in Linux having come from Microsoft. Gosh, would it be too much to ask for a citation? There is, however, plenty of evidence of Microsoft code being lifted from Open Source projects. BSD's TCP/IP stack, anyone? Of course, the BSD license allows that, but the point is that it's much easier for Microsoft to use code from open source projects than the other way around.

Furthermore, it's almost guaranteed that some proprietary Microsoft code lurks in other companies' proprietary software and possibly vice-versa. Unfortunately, we cannot know for sure due to the nature of proprietary software.

The funny thing about Microsoft is that they still don't understand what they're facing. They still think that if they can kill the "community spirit" of free software, that they'll win. Witness the open source commercialization comments from the article in question. Little does Ballmer understand that open source is just the result of the same process from which Microsoft benefited in the 80's and 90's - the incessant downward price pressure on software, particularly general use software. Back in the 80's, Microsoft made waves because they made good enough software for cheaper.

Well, in this century, the way you leverage economies of scale to produce good enough software at a lower price is by building a large user base of free software customers or tapping into those that already exist. You can read all about that in my article on O'ReillyNet.

March 19, 2006

CBS Sports Does IT The Right Way™

Hey Yahoo, are you listening? After years of wrestling with your "media helper" (which doesn't, by the way), I've been pleasantly surprised by CBS Sports' treatment of live netcasts. You see, you don't actually need to lock out people who don't use a specific operating system or web browser. You can actually *gasp* make yourself accessible to everyone by simply letting your audience determine if they have the requisite technology. So the question I have for Yahoo is, if I can access CBS Sports' video streams just fine using my Linux laptop, why can't I do the same for yours?

Kudos to CBS Sports with their online production of the NCAA basketball tournament; bullocks to Yahoo.

March 18, 2006

South Park Creators: the Million-year War for Earth Has Just Begun!

Throw this in the cheap-publicity-enhances-already-legendary-satire bucket. Tom Cruise, taking actions that are sure to backfire, has thrown around his Hollywood weight in support of his creepy religion once again. To wit: Cruise threatened to pull all promotional support for MI:3 if Comedy Central continued with its plans to run a South Park episode with a satirical broadside against Scientology - both Paramount (the studio behind MI:3) and Comedy Central (the cable TV channel that brings you South Park) are owned by Viacom. Just say "GAH".

On the bright side, perhaps South Park is about to become relevant again.

March 16, 2006

Bill Gates Hates Children!

Well, ok, perhaps the title is a little over the top. But still, you gotta love the ease with which Uncle Bill demonstrated a debilitating case of myopia with a splash of self-serving egomania. Go Bill, go! Oh yeah, here's TFA.

March 13, 2006

AC/OS: LinuxWorld football grudge match: Funambol vs. Alfresco/Juventus vs. Arsenal

I'm always amused by Matt Asay's weaving Arsenal's football woes into his blog entries, but this one takes the cake.

Edit: I'll probably watch the match with them.

Edit2: Up the Gunners!

Free-dumb, Free software, and free beer!

So... was open source a mistake?

Has anyone ever been more fundamentally wrong than Eric Raymond, when he wrote in "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" almost nine years ago, that open source is "better quality"? How the heck do we know that? Unfortunately, we don't. We don't know that open source is inherently better - or worse - than its proprietary cousins. Nor do we know if open source software is inherently more secure. We don't know that the TCO of open source software is any lower than proprietary versions.

But if we look at what's actually happening out in the IT "wild", we can see what open source does actually give customers that adopt it - freedom. The freedom to try it a little bit without having to agree to any terms (GPL and other licenses notwithstanding). The freedom to download it whenever you want without talking to some sales dork first. The freedom to fire your vendor and hire someone else to manage and maintain the software and your deployment. Nowhere in this equation do we get customers adopting "better software, faster" or better security fixes and patches, or lower TCO. We see customers adopting more open source software because it's easy, it's quick, it works (sometimes), and it's possible to change course later if things don't work out. Open source is the perfect technology for IT grunts with a fear of commitment.

About eight years ago, a few smart people got together and decided that the term "free software" didn't cut it. Ironically, the term they chose, "open source", seems to de-emphasize the very thing responsible for its success: freedom. When the open source people cut out the term free software, they were expressing a few fears: fear of confusion in the marketplace, fear of misplaced value (of course it doesn't work - you get what you pay for...), and of course, fear of St. Ignutious himself. In hindsight, perhaps we should consider the possibility that adopting the term "open source" is more of an inhibitor to free software than an enabler.

February 27, 2006

As a college radio fan, I want to throw my support behind a great meta-website,, that hosts downloads from a plethora of weekly shows on community radio stations around the country. Download directly in MP3, stream (via M3U, or MP3 playlist files), or P**cast the sucker - sorry, I can't type that word. Just like I can't - or won't - type w**2.0. It has some of my personal favorites from the great California stations, KFJC, KZSU, and KDVS, as well as several others that I had not heard of until now.

Yummy sounds all around.

February 23, 2006

$100 Laptop Photo

$100 laptop display (empty plastic cases), as photographed at the MIT Media Lab.

February 02, 2006

Off to the World Cup!

I got my tickets! So for the price of about 1/2 a ticket to the Super Bowl, I got tickets for the US national team's group stage games (three) in Germany this June. World Cup 2006 is gonna be a blast. And if they advance past the group stage... well, I guess I'll pay slightly more than what I already have to scalp those tickets ;)

Yeah, I'm that kind of guy

So a couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article called "There is no Open Source Community". Some liked it, some hated it, and it generated some good discussion - without, surprisingly, degernating into namecalling. You can find the article here.