TCO, Firefox, Open Source, and the Release Engineering Blues

Getting Dan Kusnetzky, Program Vice President, System Software, Enterprise Computing Group, at IDC to sit a minute and talk isn’t easy. He’s usually putting on the frequent flyer miles for corporate executives all over the country. But sometimes you just need to grab a cup of coffee between the Apple confab and exec fests (I keep thinking Mini Mac like MiniMe in Austin Powers, or like a small Big Mac- not Mac Mini like the marketing folk want. Do you think anyone noticed how easy it was to swap the name before they decided on it?)

We continued a discussion begun with a Boston Globe quote of Dan’s on firefox and open source software – “‘A number of things are causing people to give open source a look. One is the security problems that are almost a daily concern in Windows. . . . There’s also the cachet. Some people think it’s cool to tell their friends, ‘I’m using Linux.” On this both Dan and I agree. He’s right homing in on security as an issue (I’m using firefox myself), and I guess it’s cool, even though we first launched an open source BSD OS years ago (remember – was the first), so firefox is just a good tool to me – not a religion.

What’s All This Stuff About Linux?

Well, after all those rabid attacks on Ken Brown of the Alexis d’Toqueville Society by Linux and free software fanatics over his papers (see Fire in the Hole), I just had to meet him in person. So here I was today at Bucks in Woodside, chatting up the future of open source, , and the next wave of Internet video over french onion soup and burgers.

I must say, Ken is smart, charming and articulate – and very saavy politically. In fact, we spent more time talking about how Internet video is going to change the landscape of education. Ken has some great ideas on bringing in “innovators” to encourage young people to study math and science with monthly virtual forums in video. This is really where things must move according to the Council on Competitiveness, if we are to emphasize regionalism / diversity / education using the Internet.

There has been a lot of concern voiced about our declining engineering and science enrollment (see Momma, Don’t Let Your Kids Grow Up to Be Programmers and Tech Outsourcing and the Dwindling CS Major). But after teaching at Stanford Tech Trek (see Girls Just Want to Have Astro Fun), I know the young people are there. We just need the talent and the will right here in our own backyard to do it.

386BSD Design Notes Video Series: Configuration Story

Ordered configuration is simple design, but is it good design? Join William and Lynne as they discuss the issues, architecture, and implementation of an unordered configuration model in the 386BSD Design Notes video Configuration Story. Early work appeared in 386BSD Release 1.0, while later versions of incorporated “self-healing” software modules.

Lions, and Spyware and Ads, Oh My!

Amusing article in the NYTimes by Saul Hansell and Timothy O’Brien discussing how impossible it is to keep malware, spyware, and adware from infecting kids’s PCs. Not that they don’t keep on trying. “You would expect that you could use these systems in a safe and sane way, but the fact of the matter is that you can’t unless you have a fair amount of knowledge, time to fix the problems and paranoia,” according to a harried computer lab supervisor.

I am impressed with the patience (or masochism) of the average American. After the 10th time painstakingly removing Wild Tangent from the kid’s PC in 1999, we decided to take a different approach. We switched the kids to BSD!

How Tech Really Happens

Mike Cassidy and I were chatting about the difficulties of getting away from work. Most people like to go home and really forget about work, but that’s not how it is in the startup world. In startups, you’re always having new ideas and working on new projects and companies. It is the driving force for change, and once you’re hooked, that is it.

Ever since Berkeley (and before, since I was working while still at school) it’s always been work everywhere. My kids are used to it. They wanted me to take them to the library today, but I said “Not until you take all the Celestron scopes out of the car and reassemble them, and don’t drop them”, and they did, and we did. The nice thing about working on startups when you’re a mom is that you can set your own schedule, and be around the kids when they need you, and work at off times when most of the tech work really happens.

Is Linux “GNU”?

Last week Griff Palmer thanked me for not getting all worked up over nits in his article on Linux, but wondered if he’d hear from Richard Stallman (RMS to those not in the know) because he called it “Linux” instead of “GNU/Linux” (those difficult editors, again).

Well, sure enough, just as Griff predicted, RMS struck back with exactly that complaint – “For months now, my home machine has run nothing but Linux. but that cannot be true. Linux by itself would not run without the GNU operating system. He must be talking about GNU/Linux and calling it Linux, as often happens.” But are we being a bit loose with history here?

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?

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.