OpenIreland's Open Source Briefing
By bnitz on Mar 07, 2007
I attended OpenIreland's Open Source Software Intelligence Briefing last Friday. (The linked brochure document is a PDF which became an open standard in January 2007. If you aren't able to open this document with Adobe's proprietary acroread product, try open source evince.)
Rishab Ghosh gave some interesting highlights from the FlossImpact report released for the E.C. last autumn. I understood his explanation that Sun's contribution to opensource may be overstated because some OpenOffice.org code was developed outside Sun and retains a Sun copyright. But since these statistics were gathered, 10 million lines of OpenSolaris and I don't know how many millions of lines of Java were open sourced. I think it's a safe bet that Sun still comes out as the leading contributer to the free and open source software movement.
If Douglas Heintzman faithfully represented IBM's philosophy towards open source in his "The Reality" talk, we are very close to the same wavelength. Who can argue with the fact that very few are making money selling packaged software? I believe those few profitable shrink-wrap software companies represent monopolies in their particular market. Who can argue with the fact that software was free long before "open source" became a popular buzzword and long before the Linux kernel was a gleam in Linus's eye? Who can argue with the fact that encoding important Government documents to a proprietary format controlled by a single company is an issue of sovereignty? Shortly before this conference I trolled E.U. and Irish government websites for documents in proprietary Microsoft formats. It's scary how much is locked to one company, especially when the goal is to have these documents viewable 100 years from now.
Who can argue with the fact that too many standards is a bad thing, which is why I hope neither Microsoft nor IBM take advantage of open sourced Java and create their own incompatible releases. I was aware of enormous opportunities for document indexing and display technologies now that we aren't tied to a closed binary format that lives and dies at the whim of one company, but I wasn't aware how far remote collaborative editing and role-based access to portions of an ODF document has progressed. This would fit in well with Sun's role-based access control and trusted JDS desktop. (Which if you think security is a good thing, could be the most under-marketed Sun product since Sun Ray.) I was happy to hear that Mr. Heintzman was impressed with Sun's accessibility demonstration in Germany. Imagine if the important content of business and government documents could be viewed regardless of whether you are a sighted person on a Linux, Microsoft or OpenSolaris desktop or a blind executive viewing the document on a Nokia phone.
I also spoke with employees from OpenApp who were doing really cool things with open source geographic database software but who understandably wondered why Ireland, which has become an IT powerhouse, is so slow to accept the open source paradigm. I also spoke with some very good people from the Blackrock education center. OpenApp and Blackrock worked together to develop the first European Computer Driver's License (ECDL) training material for OpenOffice.org. I gave them copies of Solaris Express Developer Edition. If open source continues to gain acceptance in the E.U., training companies such as Blackrock will play a crucial role in helping people learn new ways of increasing workplace productivity.