Sunday Aug 30, 2009

Free, the right price for software

Economic systems are about how to use scarce resources and the Price Mechanism is the way in which a optimal resource allocation occurs. Economists use a branch of theory called “Welfare Economics” to analyse and model the efficiency of the productive economy, and a theoretically maximally efficient set of states can be defined within a model, known as the Pareto-efficiency frontier. A perfectly competitive market meets the efficiency requirements, imperfect or distorted markets do not. Distortions can be caused by the existence of monopolistic markets, taxation, externalities or missing markets.

Traditional Welfare economics rarely considers how copyright and patent law create barriers to entry to markets and thus husband the growth of monopolistic markets, where supply is restricted and prices driven up. It needs to be born in mind that overpricing products such as software which are inputs to the economic process as well as output, means that some otherwise efficient goods will not be produced; they cost too much.

It should also be born in mind that the majority of the world's software is not licensed or charged for, although much of this free to use software is not traded at all, remaining the proprietary goods of their owners who use them to produce other goods and/or services. Benkler in his book, “the Wealth of Networks”, suggests there are nine business models for pursuing value in software, of which only three of them involve trading rights i.e. charging for software. If there was no software copyright i.e. copying was legal and free the only price, software would still be written. The overpricing of software distorts both today's market and the innovation creating tomorrow's. The price mechanism should ensure that resources that are scarce and consumed should be payed for. Software is not scarce, although the people that write it and the machines that run it are. Resources such as software should be free.

This was meant to be an essay based on some slides I have been trailing inside the company, but I discovered how hard it is and how much time it takes to actually put ideas into essay form while preparing the paper behind what became Monopoly & Prices, see below. So this is more of an abstract, I shall upload the essay when finished to my personal site downloads page.

Thanks once again to Beggs, Fischer and Dornbusch, whose Economics 8th Edition reminded me of my Welfare Economics.

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Thursday Jul 16, 2009

And Google's Android

In case you havn't heard, Google have ported their mobile phone OS, android to x86, and made a live- cd version and so it can run inside Virtual Box. It looks like this..

Android in VB Screenshot

Since the hardware to make calls isn't available the functionality's a bit limited :)

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Another Virtual Box screenshot, this time Windows 7

This is what Windows 7 beta looks like running inside a Virtual Box.

W7 in VB Screenshot

I have downloaded objectdock and opened a sticky window. Its not very quick, but my first suspicion is that its a bit short of memory. That's the problem with using a 32 bit host.

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Sunday Jul 12, 2009

The personal is the professional, using Google calendar

I have been using Google calendar and the Sun calendar for a while now, and ideally like to read them through one viewer. Today I had to upgrade one of the laptop's I use to connect to Google calendar. The best viewer I have found is Thunderbird via the Lightning add-on. This also needs a second add on, the Provider for Google Calendar. I had to reinstall these earlier today and found this blog post entitled How to integrate Google calendar into Thunderbird very helpful. The other tricky bit is how to find out the login credentials and while one should be able to remember one's Google login and password,the URL of the calendar is a bit trickier. (You need to use the web interface and examine the calendar settings, which the article above describes.)

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Thursday Apr 02, 2009

News

I have been busy writting a presentation on 'Why Software should be free?', it looks like it'll need an essay/paper as well. The economic theory doesn't lend it self well to a presentation. So that'll be fun.

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Thursday Mar 19, 2009

Installing the Amber Road simulator on a Laptop

Sun's Open Storage software comes as an appliance from http://www.sun.com. Currently available as a VMware image, and I now have it running on my trusty laptop.

Unified Storage Simulator screen shot

The management panel in in the browser, the appliance console is the black window, I have started the CIFS service, mounted a file system using SMB onto my host image (the windows folder) and I have opend a file using notepad. It was easier to do than attach my Vista systems to my legacy home windows network.

I had to install VMware Player first and when the VM starts for the first time, you are offered a text menu to install the network identity and point to the network gateways. I was nervous about VMware because I wasn't sure about what VMware does to implement the network interface. This wiki page has been created by the FISHworks team to help you, which discusses how you configure each of the four netowrk interfaces and I advise you to think hard about the node name and domain name as I havn't yet worked out how to change it. The wiki's advice on the network gateways didn't work for me so I used 192.168.1.1 dor both the default gateway and DNS server. Anyway the boot screen looks like this,

unified storage simulator first time screen

I am off to install it on my home server and maybe I'll try the Virtual Box version and use the appliance to manage my home network storage, I think its legal, but in order to get the performance advantage at scale, you'll need to buy the hardware.

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Tuesday Oct 28, 2008

Using Virtual Box's shared folders

I have taken advantage of Virtual Box's shared folder feature. I used the GUI to define one of the windows host folders as readable and then issue a mount command

mkdir /public
mount -t vboxsf ${vbox_folder_name} /public

proving this works, I then insert a line into /etc/fstab,

import    /public    vboxsf

issue the mount -a command. There are no errors reported and df shows the file system as mounted. I have rebooted the VM and the filesystem mounts fine.

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Virtual Box 2.0.4

I have taken the opportunity to upgrade to Virtual Box 2.0.4. The upgrade for Ubuntu 8 goes fine, although EZ-Web is barfing on the upgrade; I have forgotten some password I need. (Hmm, I wonder if I should try the command line, or closing the postgres service first.)

I have amended my proxy set up script. I had not read the documentation carefully enough and tried to set up the proxied ports while the VM was running. This is bad. The new script now displays the parameters set,


case $2 in
make)   echo $0 make proxy
        ./VBoxManage.exe setextradata "Ubuntu 8" \\
                "VBoxInternal/Devices/pcnet/0/LUN#0/Config/${key}/Protocol" TCP
        ./VBoxManage.exe setextradata "Ubuntu 8" \\
                "VBoxInternal/Devices/pcnet/0/LUN#0/Config/${key}/GuestPort" ${port}
        ./VBoxManage.exe setextradata "Ubuntu 8" \\
                "VBoxInternal/Devices/pcnet/0/LUN#0/Config/${key}/HostPort" ${port}
         ;;
show|list|display) echo $0 list parameters for $key
        for property in Protocol GuestPort HostPort
        do
           ./VBoxManage.exe getextradata "Ubuntu 8" \\
                "VBoxInternal/Devices/pcnet/0/LUN#0/Config/${key}/${property}"
        done
        ;;
rm|remove) echo $0 remove proxy
        ./VBoxManage.exe setextradata "Ubuntu 8" \\
                "VBoxInternal/Devices/pcnet/0/LUN#0/Config/${key}/Protocol"
        ./VBoxManage.exe setextradata "Ubuntu 8" \\
                "VBoxInternal/Devices/pcnet/0/LUN#0/Config/${key}/GuestPort"
        ./VBoxManage.exe setextradata "Ubuntu 8" \\
                "VBoxInternal/Devices/pcnet/0/LUN#0/Config/${key}/HostPort"
        ;;
esac

I set the key variable earlier in the program. As you can see I have used two idioms now, i.e. iteration and sequence and I am sure a horrendous function could make the code much more economic. However it would have a non real name like act or do which is a clue to a design error. I wonder what it would look like in Python. Mind you, another reason this code is so repetitive is that the shell interpreter doesn't do associative arrays. Boo!

The program now takes two arguments one to define the service and one to define the action. This is why the example above uses $2 as the case argument. The previous version of the code was published earlier this month here on this blog.

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Wednesday Oct 15, 2008

Using a Virtual Box service

I want to run a web service inside a Virtual Box container and consume it from initially the host OS, but later from other systems. This article describes how I accessed an apache served page from and Ubuntu 8 VM.

Using Virtual Box 2.0.2, I read the manual version 2.0.2 chapter 6.4 which talks about allowing the host to utilise port services on a guest. I have a windows host, and a Ubuntu Linux guest.

Despite the problems I have with the IT provided build, fortunately I have cygwin on the machine and so have an easy to use scripting language. Most importantly I have a rigourius 'cd' command with directory completion, my tcl and python shells are a lot fussier about the windows xp 16/32 bit name translation. So in the folder containing the program VBoxManage.exe, I create a script containing the following code,

# need to force the shell, wonder how you do that

USAGE="$0 [make | [rm|remove] | help ]"

case $1 in
make)   echo $0 make proxy
        ./VBoxManage.exe setextradata "Ubuntu 8" \\
                "VBoxInternal/Devices/pcnet/0/LUN#0/Config/apache2/Protocol" TCP
        ./VBoxManage.exe setextradata "Ubuntu 8" \\
                "VBoxInternal/Devices/pcnet/0/LUN#0/Config/apache2/GuestPort" 80
        ./VBoxManage.exe setextradata "Ubuntu 8" \\
                "VBoxInternal/Devices/pcnet/0/LUN#0/Config/apache2/HostPort" 80
         ;;
rm|remove) echo $0 remove proxy
        ./VBoxManage.exe setextradata "Ubuntu 8" \\
                "VBoxInternal/Devices/pcnet/0/LUN#0/Config/apache2/Protocol"
        ./VBoxManage.exe setextradata "Ubuntu 8" \\
                "VBoxInternal/Devices/pcnet/0/LUN#0/Config/apache2/GuestPort"
        ./VBoxManage.exe setextradata "Ubuntu 8" \\
                "VBoxInternal/Devices/pcnet/0/LUN#0/Config/apache2/HostPort"
        ;;
help)   echo $USAGE ;;
esac

exit

I run the script with the argument 'make'. The token "Ubuntu 8" agrees with the VM name, and the token apache2 is afaik, anything I want so long as it agrees. Having run the script, I can boot Firefox in the host OS instance and see the guests default web page, using the URL http://127.0.0.1. Oddly, http://localhost is resolved as something else, but I expect its the apache configuration file that does this.

What next, snipsnap?

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Monday Oct 13, 2008

Sound and shares with Virtual Box

I have just upgraded from Virtual Box 1.64 to 2.0.2 and decided the time has come to turn the sound on and install shared folders.

These are both simple configuration changes since the manual is simple, well written and correct. [ User Manual 2.0.2 ]. Just to remind you, I have a windows host and in this case an Ubuntu 8.0 Linux guest.

In the settings panel for the VM, there is a sound tab, and there is a check box, which is defaulted to off. For a windows host, there is a choice of sound drivers. Since one of these is a null driver, its best to choose the other which is "Windows Direct" sound.

virtual box sound tab

There is a another tab for shared folders, with a file system browser. The purpose is to designate a host file system to act as the target for a guest mount and so act as one route to allow data to exit the VM.

This is what I did,

  1. Create a folder to act as the shared folder.
  2. Use the Virtual Box control panel to specify the shared folder and its device name. I used a folder in 'My Documents' folder and called it hostfs, for host file system.
  3. Boot the VM
  4. Make a mount point, if you want, otherwise use one already there.
  5. Issue a mount -t vboxsf share mount_point. The share is the device name declared in the control panel, in my example 'hostfs'. N.B. The fs type is suffixed with 'sf', presumably for shared folder and not fs for file system like many other file system types.

I then unmounted the shared folder, edited /etc/fstab and issued a mount -a command to test that my syntax works.

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Friday Oct 10, 2008

More protocols for pidgin

Having upgraded pidgin, now its time to add Facebook and Skype buddies. These require two add-ons, written by the same person. I installed Skype earlier in the week, so

Skype seems to be working well, and the install process is well documented by Eion, now I just need to test the facebook connection. Who do I only know as a facebook friend?

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Thursday Oct 09, 2008

Google Talk and Pidgin

The last but one fix is to reconfigure my google talk account as a service on pidgin. I was having problems with this on my desktop. I had joined in a thread at Google's self help forum to which I had no reply and is now archived. Google have also published instructions, which I discussed the other week. So here's the key for me, my domain is now "googlemail.com". I don't know if I changed my relationship with google or if they changed their server configurations, the xmpp parameters I use are,

Basic Tab
protocol : xmpp
domain : googlemail.com
resource : Home
Advanced Tab
Require SSL/TLS, Force old port (5222), Allow plain text .... : All Unchecked
Connect Port: 5222
Connect Server: talk.google.com
File Transfer Proxies : proxy.jabber.org

although I have not yet tried a file transfer. So as far as I can tell the Google documentation is wrong about how you choose between gmail.com and googlemail.com.

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Laptop Diaries, about video drivers

Recently I have written about problems I have had with pidgin xmpp chat rooms, however, I have also come across a problem where I can't switch between the Firefox 3 control panel and rendered page, so I looked to see if anyone else had a similar problem. I found this article, called Can't Click Inside Firefox 3 Window Without Losing Focus 1st at http://forums.mozillazine.org/, where yesterday, someone posted that new nvidia drivers had helped him solve the problem. So a quick visit to Toshiba UK's support portal and I discover that the most recent driver is over 6 months old, so I grab that an install it. I suppose its one of the problems in taking someone else's build. I now obviously need to wait and see if the problem re-occurs but so far so good.

Given I have new display driver, I have decided to re-install Pidgin 2.5.1 and its associated GTK library. This also seems to be working OK and I have not yet had a problem with the XMPP rooms. I also documented the problems here..., on my Bliki.

I am running a Toshiba Tecra M5 with Windows XP as the OS. I have Sun xVM Virtual Box to let me run Open Solaris and Ubuntu Linux. I take the windows build from our IT department.

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Tuesday Sep 23, 2008

More about Pidgin and XMPP

I've spent the day struggling with Pidgin, XMPP and Google Talk. I am still using Pidgin V2.0.1 on Windows XP, with GTK+ 2.10.11. Today I tested Pidgin 2.5.1 and GTK+ 2.10.11 and discovered that I couldn't get it to work with Google Talk. I also discovered that the reliability of XMPP service was dreadful, although I discovered later that this may have been a server issue. I'll have to try again later in the week.

I have documented the state of my findings at Pidgin and Google Talk, at my bliki.

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Wednesday Sep 17, 2008

Laptop Diaries, openoffice.org

Before I start to install Open Bravo, I notice/knew that there's no personal productivity tools on OpenSolaris, I need openoffice. Its easy enough, a quick google points me at Chris Gerard's article on installing Open Office, on Open Solaris. As he recommends,

    pfexec pkg install openoffice

does the trick, off it goes to opensolaris.org and downloads the package and installs it.

screen shot

and it looks like this.

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