Saturday Sep 09, 2006

Unconferences and the Return of the Relationship

Unconferences democratise education and let everyone who can, teach. Right? Well, maybe. But maybe the more important angle is they let people network and build the relationships that will be the seeds of our future. Read about FOO camp, werewolves and late nights.[Read More]

Wednesday Aug 23, 2006

In China

Apologies for my quietness - I am in China to speak at the China Open Source Conference on Thursday and my hosts are keeping me very busy! Normal service should be resumed soon.

Thursday Aug 10, 2006

Just In Time

Looks like I made it home just in time I got home about 12 hours before the new security alert froze UK-US travel this morning. The restrictions are draconian, and while I am sure I should be grateful to the security services I can't help wondering whether we're willingly surrendering too many freedoms in too short a time. Time will tell what travelling looks like from now on, but it certainly looks like meditation will be a useful skill to develop for in-flight entertainment.

If you'd wondered where I was, I visited the Bay Area after taking my new team to OSCON, and then took a short holiday driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles via Carmel, Big Sur and Santa Barbara. The journey included some delightful places and I had a try at taking the perfect pelican photo - still not got it though. Back in the saddle now though, wading through my e-mail and getting ready for next week's press briefing, about which my lips are sealed :-)

Wednesday May 31, 2006

Workstations on Free Trial

I've mentioned the Try & Buy scheme before - where Sun sends you a free system to try for 60 days, after which you either pay for it & keep it or send it back at Sun's expense - and I hear it's been so popular that the excellent Ultra workstations have been added to the scheme. You can now get an Ultra 20 or an Ultra 40 to try - wonderful!

Monday May 01, 2006

Try & Buy Now Includes Opteron Systems

Looks like the T2000 and T1000 programme was a success, because I see Sun has now extended the server Try & Buy programme to include two excellent Opteron-based servers, the X4100 and the X4200. I hear they run cooler, have lower power requirements than just about anything on the market and still deliver excellent performance. I need to ask John for one myself I suppose...

Monday Apr 03, 2006

Brandomness

Off topic: Top Ten Reasons Microsoft is renaming Outlook Express to "Windows Live Mail Desktop":

  1. Too many people telling their friends to "ditch Outlook Express and run Thunderbird" - this name contains no actual name so tide will be stemmed
  2. New MALS (Minimum Acronym Length Standards) from Vista
  3. Recognition that the only connection between "Outlook" and "Outlook Express" was the word "Outlook"
  4. Just using the new Brand Randomiser & this popped out
  5. Headhunted Sun and IBM product naming experts
  6. No more silly "Look Out!" jokes
  7. It's the "passion for innovation" over-ruling the focus group.
  8. Longer names give more time to duck before chairs are thrown at review meetings
  9. Vista and Office 12 users will need complete retraining anyway so who needs to stick with the old names
  10. Sounded better than "MSN Virus and Spyware Client".

Brandomness: The product names that emerge from enthusiastic (passionate?) application of a set of branding and naming rules (typically by a corporation) when common sense would suggest simple names improve usability.

Sunday Mar 12, 2006

Conference Contrast

Well, I reached Austin on Friday night but somewhere in transit I got very sick - I blame the prawn in the appetiser on the flight from Paris. Consequently, I spent all day Saturday in my hotel room, missing all the good stuff on the first day of SXSWi. I did get out at the end of the afternoon, despite being a bit fragile, and attended a pretty poor panel.

Things got better after that though. BarCamp Austin was in full swing and I went over to see what was what. The place was packed with interesting people all itching to share their interests. As is the way of the Unconference, I was spotted (by Raven Zachary of 451) and invited to join a panel on open source. I had the privilege of speaking alongside Doc Searls, along with William Hurley (the ringleader of the BarCamp) and others (Matt Mullenweg from Wordpress and Chris Messina of Flock fame).

The contrast between the two events was striking. SXSWi is impersonal, controlling, somewhat sterile by comparison with the energy of BarCamp. I can't help thinking that Unconference is the model more and more of us will adopt for the transfer of knowledge.

Thursday Mar 09, 2006

To the Sublime from ...

I'm sitting in a hotel at CDG Airport, Paris, after speaking today at CeBIT in Hannover, Germany. CeBit is unimaginably enormous, a city-sized exhibition with every imaginable company selling every imaginable product. Hotel rooms are at a premium and book a year n advance, so I am probably at the closest hotel!

Tomorrow I head over to Austin for SXSWi and I would love to see any readers who may be there. I'm hoping to catch Redmonk's new boy, and the sessions at SXSWi look fascinating. Maybe I'll try to blog them :-)

So this is by way of a passing wave, just to say I am still here. And just to point out that Google now does ODF...

Friday Feb 17, 2006

Didn't fall off the world

Quiet here for a few days, my apologies. I didn't fall off the world - instead, I have been to Brussels to speak at an OpenForum Europe breakfast meeting with Peter Quinn, former CIO of Massachusetts, discussing avoiding lock-in, and then in Málaga at the Software Libre conference on a guru panel on the future of Free/open source software.

Busy busy busy and I have a stack of notes I need to glean and turn into blog entries as time allows - neither hotel had anything approaching network connectivity.

Saturday Feb 04, 2006

Mouseless Surfing

Surfer tames a wave at Santa Cruz

Not all surfing involves a mouse. Took a day out from Silicon Valley today and saw surfers as well as butterflies. There was a surfing competition down at Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz, very impressive (and pleasantly warm - low 20s celsius).

Sunday Jan 29, 2006

Strong Sun Showing in Developer.Com Awards

I notice that developer.com has just completed its annual awards event. I was especially pleased to read:

Again this year, Sun turned out to be the company taking home the most wins. Sun repeated their honors by taking home five of this year's awards. Java related products overall turned out to be a big winner.

The Sun winners make an impressive list:

Framework of the Year
JavaServer Faces
Wireless/Mobile Development Tool or Add-in of the Year
J2ME Wireless Toolkit
Java Tool/Add-in of the Year
Sun Java Studio Creator (based on NetBeans)
Security Tool or Add-in of the Year
Sun Java System Identity Manager
Framework of the Year
JavaServer Faces

And like the Editor, I was surprised and delighted to see that the open source tool of the year was OpenOffice.org 2.0 (jointly with Firefox) - a random guess would have assumed that Eclipse would win that category, if only for the sake of political correctness. Both the joint winners are projects in which Sun invests, so that's an extra pleasure.

Overall, that result is a great indicator to me - open distribution models, platform-netural tools and open source communities are gaining ground rapidly. If any of this is a surprise to you I suggest you pop over to the Sun Developer Network and join right now (it's free, of course)...

Thursday Dec 22, 2005

Closing the Experience Gap

I've just been reading Paul Roberts' comments about his SunRay workstation and reflecting on how times change. A few years ago, all I heard from Sun colleagues as I went round the world were comments about how much they hated surrendering their Windows PCs and using SunRays and Unix. Now people are almost universally thrilled by the liberation that their SunRay brings them. There are always gripes, of course, but now people have got used to them they've realised all the benefits that the thin client approach brings to the office-based worker (including, as Mary often comments, the home-office-based worker).

What's changed? Well, the technology is certainly more mature. The GNOME desktop has made the environment much more familiar and productive, and having whup-ass servers for the stuff to run on hasn't hurt. But essentially what's changed is that people no longer resent having something new imposed on them because they have actually tried it and found it delightful.

The thin-client vision was the early spark that has led to what David Berlind is calling the "uncomputer". Call it that or Web 2.0, or the read-write web, or whatever you want. The basic vision, though, of managing the state at the server while delivering a rich user experience, has been the same; all that has changed is that the gap between that vision and the experience of the average technology adopter is gradually closing.

Sun's bold experiment - switching all 40,000 or so employees to David's uncomputer - has shown that what really matters is the experience gap, not the technology. I hear this all the time as I travel the world and meet Sun teams in various countries. They tell me that the biggest barrier to adoption of desktop Unix (in whatever flavour you choose to use it, they all feel the same to the end user now) is not the cost - that's usually lower - or the software - that's no worse to migrate to than the next version of MS Office. It's the unfamiliarity, the experience gap.

Tuesday Sep 27, 2005

FUD and the Lost Argument

I've had quite a few people contact me concerning a serious allegation made by Microsoft's Brian Jones in his blog and again later. Brian does his level best to smear Sun with this statement:

While we’re on this topic, I think it’s important that you all take a look at the comparable situation with Open Document. A lot of folks just seem to assume that since it’s a standard, there are no IP issues and everything is very straightforward. Well, take a look at this: http://www.oasis-open.org/committees/office/ipr.php Sun seems to be saying that it may have IP in the Open Document spec. While Sun says it is willing to provide a royalty-free license, one would still need to ask Sun for a license. The license is not posted. It would be interesting to see, and I'll probably try to see if I can find it. The statement on the site alone reveals that at a minimum, they have at least one condition – you have to give Sun a reciprocal license.

For the avoidance of doubt, let me say that Brian's position is 100% pure FUD. The statement he points to at OASIS is just a boilerplate statement put in place before OASIS created a royalty-free IPR option in their range of IPR policies (a change Sun advocated). It does not say that Sun "may have IP in the Open Document spec" - it says that, even if Sun did, it would freely grant a license tp anyone implementing ODF. But we don't, so the issue does not arise, the text is just for completeness, it's standards bureaucracy.

Here's what Eduardo Gutentag, Sun's primary representative at OASIS (and the current Chair of the OASIS Board) had to say in a recent e-mail to the OpenDocument TC:

There are a few things that should be made clear, since the goal of FUD is always to make things unclear.

What Sun posted as an IPR promise in 2002, as anyone in this field knows, including Brian, was a conventional short form assurance that, if we turned to have any patents that read on the specification, we would license them RF. We have never turned up any patents reading on the specification, so there has been no need to compose, let alone grant, a license. (Let me remind you that the issue here is an XML schema, not software; the very idea of patenting and enforcing patents against schemas is really more someone else's style and idea of fun than Sun's.)

The whole point of that assurance was to voluntarily remove FUD, by making it clear there would be no licensing obstacles.

We have all come a long way since 2002. After some aggressive uses of asserted patents and sub-licensing issues-- again, not from us -- the open source communities are now very cautious about precise license terms. This is actually good. And many vendor companies have also become more sensitive to the needs of the open source communities. This is even better.

Brian's comments join many of the comments in Microsoft's response to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in being misleading misinterpretations of apparent facts, which rely on their readers being outsiders to the domain at hand. So to summarise a few of those facts for their readers:

  • XML is a standard but is not sufficient to give anyone sovereignty over their data. That takes a shared format implemented with XML.
  • While XML transforms provide a means for a programmer to rescue data stored in an incompatible file format, end-users need applications to share formats if they are to gain independence from their suppliers.
  • OpenDocument is an independent, royalty-free standard, which does not require licensing from any of its contributors.
  • OpenDocument is implemented in multiple codebases by open and closed source software and by companies that compete against each other.
  • Any vendor is free to implement OpenDocument alongside their closed formats or as the primary format for their software.
  • As the format is extensible, they need lose no information even if the format currently has no explicit support for their innovative features.

It's standard marketing to FUD and/or make threats when you're losing the argument. I think Brian's statement gives us a clear indication of what's happening.

Monday Sep 12, 2005

Doing things by halves

I've been watching it develop for ages, but today's the day Sun has announced its new Opteron-based servers. Half the price of a Dell, nearly half the power consumption, one-and-a-half times the performance\*. Runs any Linux (e.g. RHEL), any OpenSolaris (e.g. Solaris 10), any Windows. I want one. John, are you listening?

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Thoughts and pointers on digital freedoms and technology markets. With a few photos too.

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