Auctions and Women Entrepreneurs

Last week I was one of the many busy volunteers who helped pull-off the once-a-year Forum for Women Entrepreneurs auction and fundraising dinner in Palo Alto. I was in charge of the “for the family” items – things like hand-knit afghans, photography sessions, and crafts projects. Got a lot of VCs and lawyers I know to “bid up” – I wasn’t satisfied until I got at least double the “suggested list price”. More fun than a term sheet, since there isn’t any triple liquidation preference on a scrapbook – or maybe they just haven’t thought of that yet.

Susan Hailey, FWE CEO, is a real kick – fun, sharp, and quick-witted. I met her at a Buck’s lunch in Woodside, and was impressed at how she’d taken a pretty much bankrupt organization that had lost direction after the bubble burst and suffused it with purpose and cash. You’ve got to have a lot of confidence to inspire confidence in others, and she has all that and more.

So, what were the real neat items that the VCs bought?

UC Berkeley Students Collateral Damage in Budget Cuts

After 44 years, the UC system has decided to give up and winnow out qualified students, bumping many to the overloaded community college system. These students, in turn, will bump out qualified students hoping to work themselves into the Cal State and UC system in Kind of a “Survivor” meets “Goodbye Mr. Chips” reality show – but with a real downside.

Berkeley Chancellor Robert Berndahl expressed the concern in April’s Cal Monthly magazine that “everything Berkeley has achieved over the past half century as a university could be lost within a half decade”. Is Clark Kerr’s vision finally vanquished?

What is the impact of these higher education budget cuts on the Silicon Valley high-tech industry? Will the next generation have the skills to compete in a world economy? Join me in my next installment of In the DataCenter as I explore The High Cost of Innovation.

Is “Free Culture” Under Siege?

Dan Kusnetzky, VP Systems at IDC, found my piece on Free Culture “an interesting analysis”, which is high praise. But Dan also took issue with Dr. Lessig’s premise that copyright and fair use is under siege.

Dan wondered whether we were seeing the impact on copyright and fair use as less “a concerted, planned effort…underway to control culture” and more a “side effect of a piecemeal effort to control ‘intellectual property’ for commercial purposes”.

RMS, SCO and 386BSD

Griff Palmer over at the Merc is an interesting guy. And his take on the SCO-IBM legal feud is pretty simple too – “More than once since the SCO mess came up, I’ve heard people say, “No problem. If SCO wins, we’ll just go to *BSD.” I guess open source types are “glass half full” kind of guys.

Griff notes I’m pretty nice in not nitpicking his essay – “I’m glad that someone of your technical stature doesn’t find fault (or, at least, not fault enough to mention) in my piece.” But I’m also a writer, and we all have got to stick together, especially when you write anything about a subject that people feel so emotionally about.

Affidavits and Open Source

Steve Lohr of the NYTimes wrote today that “Linus Torvalds, creator of free operating system Linux, announces that software developers making contributions to operating system will have to sign their work and vouch for its origin”.

What a grand idea – courtesy of Intel of course. Process is a good thing, as William discussed in his talk Open Software Development in the Real World (June 17, 2003 at the Internet Developers Group meeting in San Jose, CA). One question begs – “Will Linus Torvalds sign the Developer’s Certificate of Origin for all his work on Linux, past and current, as well?”.

After all, what’s fair is fair, isn’t it?

Reporting from the Green Zone

Well, my friend and Berkeley physics alum Rick Bentley is off to Iraq to consult on some infrastructure repair and fund his security startup Connexed. He’s taking a digital camera and laptop (he’s got Internet connectivity), to do a little reporting from the Green Zone that I’m going to produce. Oh, and he’s growing a beard.

Bon Voyage Rick! Send me an email when you get there, and a few test clips (plus description) to see how much work it will take to send few clips as attachments (make sure they arrive OK). I’ll put them in myself and set things up. If there’s an issue with automation, we’ll just work through me and I’ll send them through. Hey, not bad – you get the personal attention of the CTO!

Keep your head down. And keep growing that beard.

Coffee with Larry Lessig

Last month I wandered over to Stanford to have a cup of coffee and a chat with “Mr. Creative Commons” himself, Dr. Larry Lessig. My primary reason was to get some background for a book review and for an In the DataCenter piece.

Of course, I also wanted to meet the guy behind the Creative Commons license, as I’ve also had much to do with licensing and structure with BSD and Unix over the years – it’s “in the family” so speak.

Prime Time for Open Source?

Griff Palmer of the Merc in his article Linux nears the tipping point speculates on whether it is really ready for primetime with consumers. The problem is that everyone who works with this stuff is already used to all of its oddities, so how can we tell a consumer can use it?

Well, I’m going to presume to speak a bit about it. First because I beat him (and probably most everyone else) in his serious qualification of “longevity” – I’ve been running Unix on the PC since 1989 – 386BSD that is. That’s 15 years. Predates the invention of Linux by 2 years. And second because I’m a mom with kids and they use what I use. Period.

Fire in the Hole

Well, it seems that Ken Brown’s latest paper is causing a bit of a brohaha. What I find most annoying is that people want to censor outright a sponsored (yes, by Microsoft and others) paper instead of allowing sensible people of good judgement to read it and form their own opinions. The Internet is supposed to allow a variety of opinions – not just a mob suppressing opinions they find inexpedient (and that means corporate-sponsored mobs too).

But since I’m not interviewed and I have nothing to do with Linux, I think I’ll let Andy T and others wrangle that part of it out. Ken Brown’s a DC guy, and clearly knows his politics. And since this is a tech blog, I think I’ll stay in technical considerations.

Capturing Conference Moments in Abstract Videos

It seems that time for speakers / posters is always too limited at conferences. Personally, it always seems I end up in some other room talking about my stuff and I miss a lot of the other presenters. Or sometimes I get major last minute work, and I miss a talk completely. And it’s really annoying.

Wouldn’t it be keen if anyone who is a speaker or poster presenter also had a 2 minute video synopsis of their work like an abstract produced and hosted on the Internet available for viewing? Of course, the first thing I’d hear back is “We don’t have the time at a conference – it’s rush, rush, rush.” Yah, we all know that.