2019/06/29: Things aren’t too rosy at the ‘Linux’ Foundation where Linus Torvalds is increasingly being marginalised (thanks in part to Microsoft-friendly media) and propped up to replace him are those who worked on Hyper-V (proprietary software for Windows) and similar Microsoft-centric projects at the Microsoft-occupied Novell
R is a powerful, open-source programming language and environment. R excels at data management and munging, traditional statistical analysis, machine learning, and reproducible research, but it is probably best known for its graphics. This guide contains examples and instructions for popular and lesser-known plotting techniques in R. It also includes instructions for using urbnthemes, the Urban Institute’s R package for creating near-publication-ready plots with ggplot2.
2019/03/18: We treat open source like it’s a poison pill for a commercial product. And yes, with an open source license it’s harder to force someone to pay for a product, though many successful businesses exist without forcing anyone.
I see an implicit assumption that makes it harder to think about this: the idea that if something is useful, it should be profitable. It’s an unspoken and morally-infused expectation, a kind of Just World hypothesis: if something has utility, if it helps people, if it’s something the world needs, if it empowers other people, then there should be a revenue opportunity. It should be possible for the thing to be your day job, to make money, to see some remuneration for your successful effort in creating or doing this thing.
That’s what we think the world should be like, but we all know it isn’t. You can’t make a living making music. Or art. You can’t even make a living taking care of children. I think this underlies many of this moment’s critiques of capitalism: there’s too many things that are important, even needed, or that fulfill us more than any profitable item, and yet are economically unsustainable.
I won’t try to fix that in this blog post, only note: not all good things make money.
Can we sell open source to other people? Can anyone else do anything with source code?
And so I remain pessimistic that open source can find commercial success. But also frustrated: so much software is open source except any commercial product. This is where the Free Software mission has faltered despite so many successes: software that people actually touch isn’t free or open. That’s a shame.
2019/02/14: On the surface, the open source software community has never been better. Companies and governments are adopting open source software at rates that would've been unfathomable 20 years ago, and a whole new generation of programmers are cutting their teeth on developing software in plain sight and making it freely available for anyone to use. Go a little deeper, however, and the cracks start to show. The ascendancy of open source has placed a mounting burden on the maintainers of popular software, who now handle more bug reports, feature requests, code reviews, and code commits than ever before.
At the same time, open source developers must also deal with an influx of corporate users who are unfamiliar with community norms when it comes to producing and consuming open source software. This leads to developer burnout and a growing feeling of resentment toward the companies that rely on free labor to produce software that is folded into products and sold back to consumers for huge profits. From this perspective, Heartbleed wasn't an isolated example of developer burnout and lack of funding, but an outgrowth of a systemic disease that had been festering in the open source software community for years. Identifying the symptoms and causes of this disease was the easy part; finding a cure is more difficult.
2018/02/06: By imbuing the UBI debate with a more systems-oriented and commons perspective, I have argued that an important shift is made from income and work as such to deeper interrelated questions of 1.) rights, capabilities and effective access; 2.) forms of deliberation, governance, entrepreneurship, collective care and accounting; 3.) forms and scales of pooling resources and work, and; 4.) forms and scales of equitable distribution and sustainable and resilient provisioning of universal basic commons entitlements. The perspective illuminates the contingent relationship between the contextual and subjective ‘political viability‘ of the UBI, and the scopes and salience of articulated (critical, open-source, open-ended) alternative institutional possibilities; and the prospects of a polity that exploits a dialectical relationship between interim or hybrid institutional models on the one hand, and radical experimentation with other socio-economic configurations, emergent city-making/place-making cultures and political possibilities in the here-and-now on the other.
2018/11/29: The behavior of cloud infrastructure providers poses an existential threat to open source. Cloud infrastructure providers are not evil. Current open-source licenses allow them to take open-source software verbatim and offer it as a commercial service without giving back to the open-source projects or their commercial shepherds. The problem is that developers do not have open-source licensing alternatives that prevent cloud infrastructure providers from doing so. Open-source standards groups should help, rather than get in the way. We must ensure that authors of open-source software can not only survive, but thrive. And if that means taking a stronger stance against cloud infrastructure providers, then authors should have licenses available to allow for that. The open-source community should make this an urgent priority.
2018/11/27: This model has won, FOSS is everywhere, companies not only use it, but even heavily rely on it, millions of devices run with it.
But at which cost? Open source developers are burning out. Some core libraries, on which basically everything relies, are maintained by very small teams of people working on their free time. We still have the right to study the software, but the most interesting parts are now in the user’s data, which is jealously guarded by a few huge companies.
This is not a tragedy, this is a fucking farce.
Let’s own up to the absurdity of talking about a personal freedom that depends mainly on hidden people working for free. Let’s add more ridicule to it. Let’s start using a new expression to describe it:
FOSS IS FREE AS IN TOILET
Nobody believes that a free toilet will be magically cleaned up and maintained, somebody has to do it, and that person would better get paid for it. Sharing a toilet means that you flush, clean up after yourself, and always leave some paper, it’s basic manners. And yet, like toilets, as FOSS gets used by more and more people, it gets more likely that you will see obnoxious people that shit all over your commons and then complain about it. And nobody will want to take care of it.
Treating correctly the people who work on the software you use is just basic FOSS hygiene.
2018/11/15: The term serverless has been coming up in more conversations recently. Let’s clarify the concept, and those related to it, such as serverless computing and serverless platform.
Serverless is often used interchangeably with the term FaaS (Functions-as-a-Service). But serverless doesn’t mean that there is no server. In fact, there are many servers—serverful—because a public cloud provider provides the servers that deploy, run, and manage your application.
Serverless computing is an emerging category that represents a shift in the way developers build and deliver software systems. Abstracting application infrastructure away from the code can greatly simplify the development process while introducing new cost and efficiency benefits. I believe serverless computing and FaaS will play an important role in helping to define the next era of enterprise IT, along with cloud-native services and the hybrid cloud.
Serverless platforms provide APIs that allow users to run code functions (also called actions) and return the results of each function. Serverless platforms also provide HTTPS endpoints to allow the developer to retrieve function results. These endpoints can be used as inputs for other functions, thereby providing a sequence (or chaining) of related functions.
On most serverless platforms, the user deploys (or creates) the functions before executing them. The serverless platform then has all the necessary code to execute the functions when it is told to. The execution of a serverless function can be invoked manually by the user via a command, or it may be triggered by an event source that is configured to activate the function in response to events such as cron job alarms, file uploads, or many others.
2018/11/04: A new, self-consciously commercial coalition in open source, operating at the level of the older permissive and copyleft coalitions we’ve known so far, would be something new. If we wanted to bet on the past, instead, we’d take reconciliation within the copyleft user base.
In other words, a new, even stronger copyleft license that both software freedom activists and competitive upstarts could rally behind, in mutual support. Probably another patch to GPL, like SSPL, but a patch the activist community could make its own. A Mongo GPL that FSF could make GNU Mongo GPL to close the API and container loopholes, as Affero GPL became GNU Affero GPL to close the ASP loophole.
There is cause for doubt in the details.
I don’t think the Free Software Foundation is of any mind to write a stronger copyleft license right now. It is headed in decidedly the opposite direction. More and more, the FSF has constrained itself to soft power, emphasized conciliation over enforcement, declined to make punitive examples, and accepted praise, attention, and stewardship of key but aging projects, rather than double down and scare off fellow travelers. Doctrinally, they’ve stuck to dogma on license drafting, notably freedom zero absolutism and private changes, that prevent them from closing the new loopholes robustly. Software freedom is a young, angry movement where widespread computing, and software freedom, are also new. But only there, far from the industry center of mass where SSPL is relevant, and FSF feels anachronistic.
More concretely, the Free Software Foundation doesn’t appear to share upstart business concern about API and container loopholes, as it once shared concern about the ASP loophole. FSF partisans point to activist users of AGPLv3 and see nothing wrong. In large part because activist projects under AGPLv3 don’t offer nearly the business bounty value that upstart projects do. They have succeeded largely within a niche activist community, appealing to its interests and style of computing. And in large part because activist AGPLv3 developers’ use case is different. The license was tailored to their needs, and will fit a while longer.
That’s not to say there’s no hunger for a more extreme, streamlined copyleft license among radical activists. There’s plenty of frustration with compromise. But here the cross-cutting nature of the new business-oriented licenses blocks the path.
I don’t perceive any activist demand for the peculiar combination of permissiveness and copyleft, and the specific line between, that upstart open source database developers crave. When software freedom activists want a permissive license, they use Apache 2.0. In vanishing edge cases, they use LGPL. The FSF position on “service as a software substitute” is that it’s pernicious. Why would activists want a license that allows making free code nonfree for the good kind of software—software you run for yourself—and requires keeping free code free for the bad kind—services substituting for software you run for yourself? Activists, independent and small-scale, aren’t living in the “new normal” of containerized, orchestrated service clusters deployed on rented infrastructure. They can’t afford thousands of dollars in service charges a month.
Overall, I’m sad to say that I think FSF has tightened its own bind. It knows it needs allies, but it’s keeping the wrong company, courting established business with lots of developers to spare, but no practical common interest. Software freedom activism has trusted that purity of message will create a groundswell of support sufficient to turn the tide of permissive alternatives, thin-client computing, and the relegation of free approaches to tooling, back-end components, and building blocks for proprietary end-user applications. It has optimized for taller pulpits from which to preach its message. But it’s drowned out as more economic interests join in and take over, and can’t match commercial volume. Unless or until software freedom reality comes to be felt as a crisis, and not just understood as one, I don’t think the Free Software Foundation has either a stronger license to give, or enough flexibility to accept someone else’s.
2018/10/24: Microsoft has always been a company by, of, and for developers. At this point in history, developers love open source."
Walli knows some people are worried that Steve Ballmer will return with his "Linux is cancer" rhetoric. But Ballmer's not coming back. Walli even quoted Microsoft's current CEO, Satya Nadella, "'Judge us by the action we have taken in the recent past, our actions today, and in the future.'"
And that includes how Microsoft is dealing with patents.
What we're seeing now is "a new world order with smart, creative people creating innovation at Microsoft with open source," Bergelt said.
What's happening now, Bergelt explained, is that legal development and collaboration are catching up with technical development and collaboration. They're now happening in parallel.
OIN's mission, Bergelt said, is to enable freedom of action and operation for vendors and users of Linux open-source technology. It does this through a patent non-aggression pact and licensing around the Linux system.
That's not to say you can run out and build an exFAT-based file system for your USB-drive tomorrow with no consequences. Only OIN members have a non-aggression pact with Microsoft. If you're not a member of the OIN, you still must license exFAT from Microsoft.
But there's nothing special about exFAT. The same is true of any Microsoft patented technology. If you're not an OIN member, you're not covered by its patent-protection pool.
Some people may ask, "Why is it so hard to say this patent is OK for this program?" But that's based on a fundamental misunderstanding of how software patents work. They describe a high-level view of how a program does a task.
"There is no one to one match between code and patent," Boehm explained.
2018/08/29: something called the Lerna project has added a codicil to its MIT license denying the use of its software to a long list of organizations because it disagrees with a political choice those organizations have made.
Speaking as one of the original co-authors of the Open Source Definition, I state a fact. As amended, the Lerna license is no longer conformant with the OSD. It has specifically broken compliance with clause 5 (“No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups”).
Accordingly, Lerna has defected from the open-source community and should be shunned by anyone who values the health of that community. I will not contribute to their project, and will urge others not to, until and unless this change is rescinded.
We wrote Clause 5 into the OSD for a good reason. Exclusions and carve-outs like Lerna’s, if they became common, would create tremendous uncertainty about the ethics and even the legality of code re-use. Suppose I were to take a snippet from Lerna code and re-use it in a project that (possibly without my knowledge) was deployed by one of the proscribed organizations; what would my ethical and legal exposure be?
2018/09/14: This article will explain how to produce documentation in multiple formats from a single markup language (in this case Markdown) using Pandoc. It will also explain the value of using meta-information files to create a separation between the content and the meta-information (e.g., author name, template used, bibliographic style, etc.) of your documentation.
2018-08-29: Linux now represents 100 percent of the supercomputer market, 90 percent of the cloud, 82 percent of the smartphone market and 62 percent of the embedded systems market
Because most plant varieties have been optimized for Big Ag and long-distance distribution, plant biologists can explore many new avenues to find cultivars that will perform even better when grown inside. Marcelis’s experiments, for instance, suggest that fine-tuning the lights in a food computer could double the shelf life of lettuce and double the vitamin C in tomatoes. A generation from now, mothers may pass along to their kids their favorite recipe for tomatoes along with the family recipe for tomato sauce.
Italian proponents of the use of free and open source software by public administrations are protesting a decision by the town of Pesaro to switch from using OpenOffice to a proprietary cloud-based office solution. They say the city has garbled the cost calculations and omitted a required software assessment study.
I left my job in venture capital last May. When I said goodbye, I explained that I initially joined Collaborative Fund to help launch a nontraditional, non-venture fund, but ended up in a traditional
2009/08/10: As open source gets more commercial, GPL's idealism is overridden by developers' business needs
2001/12/02: Two years ago, my wife Carol and I decided that our children's education would not be complete without some grounding in modern computers. To this end, we bought our children a brand new Compaq to learn with. The kids had a lot of fun using the handful of application programs we'd bought, such as Adobe's Photoshop and Microsoft's Word, and my wife and I were pleased that our gift was received so well. Our son Peter was most entranced by the device, and became quite a pro at surfing the net. When Peter began to spend whole days on the machine, I became concerned, but Carol advised me to calm down, and that it was only a passing phase. I was content to bow to her experience as a mother, until our youngest daughter, Cindy, charged into the living room one night to blurt out: "Peter is a computer hacker!
There are, unfortunately, many hacking manuals available in bookshops today. A few titles to be on the lookout for are: "Snow Crash" and "Cryptonomicon" by Neal Stephenson; "Neuromancer" by William Gibson; "Programming with Perl" by Timothy O'Reilly; "Geeks" by Jon Katz; "The Hacker Crackdown" by Bruce Sterling; "Microserfs" by Douglas Coupland; "Hackers" by Steven Levy; and "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" by Eric S. Raymond.
If you find any of these hacking manuals in your child's possession, confiscate them immediately. You should also petition local booksellers to remove these titles from their shelves. You may meet with some resistance at first, but even booksellers have to bow to community pressure.