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Robert Youngjohns, President of Microsoft North America, might at first glance seem an odd choice of speakers for an open source conference. After all, the software giant gets the lion’s share of its revenue from its decidedly non-open source Windows operating system and Office suite of business applications.
But over the past few years, Microsoft has been more forthcoming in acknowledging the prevalence of open source in the enterprise and has made deals with companies like Novell to insure interoperability.
Youngjohns spoke energetically as he detailed how Microsoft is actively engaged in ensuring that its solutions are interoperable with open source software. He said the company is committed to building the best delivery client and platform for future business applications, whether they are open source or not.
He opened his keynote by demonstrating interoperability with a screen of the forthcoming Windows 7 running Microsoft’s Virtual PC, with windows running Ubuntu, Open Solaris and Windows XP.
The Windows XP instance was also running a Sinclair Spectrum emulator with a program from 1982 in it. However, at the end, it was clear that not all the audience was sold on interoperability as an open source solution. Youngjohns faced hostile questions about whether Microsoft was running open source software in any production environments and specifics about which datacenters were adopting Microsoft’s interoperability solutions.
Youngjohns declined to answer these questions.
Robert Sutor, Vice President for Open Source and Linux at the IBM Software Group, talked about how business faces huge challenges that Linux, with its lower cost and more flexible and extensible implementations, can help address.
Each speaker conveyed a key strategy for business and open source. Together they added up to what these big three tech giants see as a recipe for open source and business.
Schwartz said that Sun is having great success with open source by using it to drive adoption at every level while understanding that much of the adoption is by users who have no intention to pay. But big businesses and governments now understand the value of open source, he added. In addition, as businesses succeed and grow with open source, they convert to paying customers.
“Our customers are the ones who have more money than time,” he said.
Interoperability is key
Youngjohns, previously an executive at both IBM and Sun Microsystems, said that Microsoft is finding that interoperability is key for its business – and that Microsoft’s acceptance of interoperability and willingness to support open source is driven purely by business pragmatism. He added that all of its tools are now being built to work in a heterogeneous environment.
“Customers want us to help bring costs down in a heterogeneous environment,” he said.
Youngjohns also said Microsoft is developing its Windows and Net software stack to be the best platform for delivering open source applications coming from anywhere. He also points out that Microsoft went to a great deal of effort to have some of its previously proprietary but widely adopted document formats become open standards.
IBM’s Robert Sutor took a different approach. He noted that Linux is already established in the today’s IT infrastructure, from mobile phones to GPS, through routers, hubs and servers to computing devices on the desktop and up to supercomputers .
“The world has awakened – becoming interconnected, instrumented and intelligent,” he said.
Sutor argued that the combination of all these pieces of infrastructure can be used to solve many of the problems right in front of us. He then pointed out that Linux is a common factor across the current IT infrastructure, that it is more flexible, scalable and virtualizable than any other operating system.
“The world is getting smarter, and Linux is a catalyst,” he said.
As the conference moderator pointed out, these three approaches: extend, grow and build upon open source; interoperate with everything; and use what is universal and already available to solve real problems; together offer a high-level roadmap for any IT business founded on open source.
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The art of “selling” or generating revenue from open source is a topic of growing importance as open source takes a larger piece of the software business. In the past, open source revenue has largely been associated with services marketed by many top tier Linux companies: Support, middleware solutions, etc.
In contrast, I’ll examine things from a much smaller, more creative perspective. I’ll look at five open source businesses opportunities you have likely never conceived of. Most of these ideas are aimed at people who are not looking to start the next “JBoss,” rather, they hope to opt out of the daily rat race with an income that provides a steady stream.
1) Selling Open Source software
Baring potential trademark issues and the possible community backlash of being perceived as overtly taboo, there are some open source applications that can easily be bundled onto a CD, labeled and sold for a reasonable price. When done responsibly, especially locally, you will find that most people are rather receptive to the service of having this all bundled for them. Generally speaking, charging a couple of dollars more than your expense for disc, labels, etc, is not frowned on.
The kinder, more lucrative approach to doing something like this over the Internet would simply be to clearly link to the chúng tôi website as required by their trademark usage policy explaining that it can be freely downloaded. Then sell access to faster servers for a flat $5 fee.
Why? Because if these guys were smart, they would start off with a beefy dedicated system like CacheFly, thus guaranteeing people wishing to Paypal them a measly $5 for a faster download rate.
Combine this with OpenOffice CDs with a $3 profit after CD creation expenses and you would see a LOT more ethical traffic going their way, in my opinion.
2) Selling open source software how-to videos
If done properly, I could see the sale of clear how-to videos for a variety of open source applications being a smashing success. The biggest challenge preventing this from successful thus far is the total lack of creativity in marketing efforts in this field.
In many cases, endeavors like this are targeting their marketing efforts toward the wrong demographics completely. Taking virtual lessons and putting them in front of people who are competent enough to locate other, potentially free how-to materials on Google, is a complete waste of time. Thus far, this seems to be the only avenue taken by those who have ventured into this arena, which is too bad.
Which applications would do best for such a video series? OpenOffice, GIMP, Blender, Audacity – the list goes on. As a matter of fact, I know people personally who would gleefully spend five dollars for someone to show them how to setup this POP mail account in Thunderbird.
Think I am nuts? Ask anyone who repairs PCs for a living – people pay too much for pretty basic services. You could even go the super-newbie router, creating a dual-video set for successfully migrating to Firefox and Thunderbird. Again, painfully easy for us, but it would save Joe User a LOT of wasted time and money, especially when the easy answer is an automatically-starting video series right from their computer.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Some of the top promoters and leaders of open source projects gathered at Sun Microsystems Monday to update press and analysts on the company’s growing list of projects and initiatives.
Long criticized as a company that benefited from many open source projects without giving back in kind, and hounded to make its Java language open source, Sun has abruptly shifted course in the last year under new CEO Jonathan Schwartz.
Now its Solaris operating system, Java language and even SPARC processors are open source and under the General Public License (GPL). Quite a change for the company that said there’s still a lot more it plans to do.
One of its To Do list items is to make Solaris easier to distribute. Linux has had packages for distributing bits of compiled code for years, first under the RPM technology developer by Red Hat Linux and then via Yum or App-Get.
Ian Murdock, who created the Debian Linux distribution back in the 1990s, was hired by Sun earlier this year to help with such an effort. He also told the assembly that his hiring was meant to send the message that Sun is Linux-friendly.
“There’s a broad perception that Sun is anti-Linux or competes with Linux, and that’s not true,” said Murdock, now chief operating systems platform strategist. “So to have someone with a broad Linux background come into Sun made sense.”
His project, called Project Indiana (a nod to his home state) will be an attempt to give OpenSolaris, and eventually the enterprise version of Solaris, a faster, easier and safer way to update the code. It’s also intended to lower the barriers to adoption so those familiar with Linux can move to OpenSolaris, said Murdock.
Murdock pointed out that Yum and App-Get are several years old now and have some shortcomings. Namely, they don’t allow you to rollback an installation if there is a problem. Sun’s solution is IPS, or Image Package System.
IPS will do exactly as RPM, Yum and App-Get do in that it will download updates to the operating system, thereby eliminating the need for updates via CD or having to download source code and compile it. It will update a Solaris installation with any new code, check for dependencies and download that code as well, and install it all for the user. It’s integrated with Sun’s ZFS file system to take snapshots of an installation and roll it back if necessary.
Next to speak was Josh Berkus, the project lead for PostgreSQL, an open source database that’s trying to catch up not only to the more established MySQL but commercial packages like SQL Server and Oracle as well. It’s updated annually, with beta 1 of version 8.3 released last week and the final version due in seven to nine weeks.
PostgreSQL can trace its roots back 21 years, to the POSTGRES project at the University of California, Berkeley. It was created as the successor to the Ingres database and commercialized in 1994 under the name Illustra, which later merged with Informix. It went open source in 1995.
Berkus said surveys found it wasn’t performance holding back PostgreSQL from taking more of the database market from packaged software firms, rather it was training and knowledge. There was a serious lack of support for the product, of tools to support it and knowledge out there for those interested in using it, he said.
Berkus identified the missing pieces as a lack of worldwide support, performance that was fast but not consistent and a lack of enterprise-quality scalability and reliability. So Sun’s efforts in that area have been to focus on high availability and improved performance, as well as ZFS integration.
The third briefing came from Mark Reinhold, chief engineer for the Java SE platform and a lead engineer for OpenJDK, the open source Java Development Kit being used to port Java to numerous platforms.
He said the interim governance board for the OpenJDK community has met three times so far and is making good progress. They would like to get a constitution for the OpenJDK community out for review later this year and ratified some time next year.
One of the problems slowing down the complete availability of Java as open source is that some pieces of code are not owned by Sun and could not be released. Therefore, Sun and the community had to develop its own replacements, and those are not trivial tasks. Reinhold said Sun currently has early versions of the font rasterizer done, a cryptography component and the graphics rasterizer, which is in a pretty raw state.
A year ago, Citrix walked away from its open source OpenStack effort called Project Olympus, instead putting its CloudStack technology into the Apache Software Foundation.
For the past year, CloudStack has been in the Apache Incubator, a preliminary process for new projects at the Foundation that aims to validate that a project can follow the ‘Apache Way’ of getting things done. CloudStack has now officially graduated from the Incubator and is now a Top-Level Project at Apache.Cloud Storage and Backup Benefits
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“It’s really important to note that incubation isn’t about the maturity of the codebase, but the maturity of the community,” Joe Brockmeier, PMC Member Apache CloudStack, told Datamation. “CloudStack was already mature, code-wise, when it entered incubation.”
Brockmeier added that for CloudStack, the primary challenge was learning how to do all the work in the open, and for individuals who hadn’t done open source work before to become acclimated to working in the open and following new procedures.
The first CloudStack release under Apache came in November 2012 with the 4.0 release. The Apache CloudStack 4.0 release was built on the chúng tôi technology that Citrix had acquired in July of 2010.
“So the last 11 months we’re about setting up the infrastructure for the project and learning to govern ourselves,” Brockmeier said. “We’ve had the benefit of some really committed individuals from a number of different companies getting involved with the project and helping to drive it to graduation.”
While CloudStack started out as a Citrix-only effort, as part of Apache, the project has enjoyed wider participation from people outside of Citrix. In particular, Brockmeier noted that most of the KVM contributions now are coming from people outside Citrix. Additionally, non-Citrix people helped with Debian packaging as well as with translations for UI and documentation.Evolution
As part of becoming an Apache project, the CloudStack technology has also evolved in order to make it easier for developers to get into the code. Brockmeier noted that procedurally, things have changed enormously. When the project entered incubation, it was essentially all Citrix driving the project.
“That’s changed, obviously, and the way that the community works together has evolved pretty rapidly to account for a more diverse contributor base and new tools,” Brockmeier said. “We’ve had to establish procedures for best practices in filing bugs, proposing new features, merging in potentially disruptive branches, and so on.”
Looking ahead, the Apache CloudStack 4.0.2 release is due out soon as a bugfix update. The bigger update is the CloudStack 4.1.0 release currently set for April. Among the new features set to debut are new volume resizing features as well as autoscaling support.
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at chúng tôi the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.
The point that was driven home to me the most, however, is the apparent lack of resources to make the switch to (or even merely recognize the value of) desktop Linux. Clearly there are legitimate barriers that are in place that make educating teachers, IT personnel and to a degree, even students, difficult at best.
But something has taken place recently that might help schools overcome this barrier. It’s called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
Duplicable and sustainable technology for education?
We now have a new stimulus package that is set to change much of the face of our national. Like it or hate it, this “bundle of funds” is headed into a number of critical sectors of the US economy with the idea of jumpstarting our economy – including schools.
What’s interesting is the fact that the previously mentioned challenges of resources for re-tooling our educational infrastructure to work with Linux suddenly seems a lot less like a viable excuse.
Indeed, it’s not only foolish to take these funds and invest them into resources that clearly are not performing a belt tightening function, it borders the same mentality that thought throwing money into the financial sector’s black hole was a good investment of tax payer funds.
Convinced that I am off my rocker? Allow me to present my case before passing judgment.
Sticking to what we have always done is clearly not something that works among all school income levels. Yes, schools with better access to immediate local funds are able to continuously revamp with new computers every few years, while schools from the inner city might be lucky to keep older PCs running at all.
Then there is the issue of sustainability. If I hypothetically donated 100 brand new computers to a school, powered by proprietary closed source software, what are the odds that those PCs will be running the latest secure operating system with the latest security patches five years later? Not all that good, I’d speculate.
As we have seen with Windows Vista, proprietary OS vendors such as Microsoft have a nasty habit of requiring more resources with each new OS release. And while this appears to be changing based on what I have seen with my own testing of Windows 7 beta builds, there remains the issue of licensing costs. Even if Microsoft decides to never charge US schools for access to Windows 7, I hardly think the same will hold true for MS Office or other non-Microsoft related proprietary software.
Need further clarification? Let me put it this way: if the economy keeps going the way it has been, this stimulus bill may be the only shot of fresh federal funds education is going to get for a very long time. This means whatever approach US education opts for regarding technology, it had better be something that can be sustained when the stimulus funds run out.
This is where I see open source software and Linux stepping up to the challenge in a way that’s not practical for Windows.
Obama wants stimulus to transform schools. Linux, anyone?
Without squabbling over the politics of what the new US president wants for our educational system, the fact of the matter is he now has access to enormous spending power to potentially improve what schools’ financial resources.
And as we explored previously, using the same methods once believed to be successful as to “get our kids ready for the real world” is proving to be a lot less possible with our current set of economic circumstances. This translates into thinking “mean and lean.” Put bluntly, this means training existing IT personnel how to integrate Linux resources alongside Windows solutions and hiring individuals who can make this happen with their existing skill set.
I know there is software, both proprietary and open source, that can make this transition work. Best of all, there is a two-fold benefit I haven’t touched on yet. Incorporating Linux into the mix also translates into new jobs today in addition to creating mentors for students to emulate tomorrow.
Job retention, job creation, and the new infrastructure will last a lot longer than anything exclusively Windows based alone.
Now before everyone reading this opts to immediately point out a variety of reasons why this could “never work,” consider the following first.
It’s already been done. As much as I hate to break it to people, back in 2006, the Indiana Department of Education added Linux workstations for 22,000 students through a program called “ACCESS.” The same goes for Ohio.
Linux does Windows. As I pointed out in this article from 2008, blending in needed legacy Windows software is not all that difficult. As a matter of fact, you could keep needed Windows desktops running for Windows-dependent tasks, while reducing costs on unneeded Windows licenses for desktops better suited to run desktop Linux instead.
Reviving PCs from the scrap heap. With distributions such as Puppy Linux, schools can suddenly wipe old hard drives containing Windows 95 and replace them with an actively used OS that is more secure and better supported.
Familiarity is 99% hot air. One of the biggest issues teachers and many IT personnel tend to point out is that students are used to using Windows and the software designed for it. Some believe that asking these folks to switch is a productivity hit during the “retraining” process.
This is complete nonsense. First, desktop Linux can be made to look almost exactly like Windows if it’s needed. And this process can be cloned very easily for duplication, district wide. Secondly, the only killer app that comes to mind that students will be taking with them as they grow is their familiarity with MS Office.
But thanks to the new idiot ribbon layout of Office 2007, this software already looks nothing like it did in previous revisions. So it stands to reason that Open Office or even Google Docs is something that students could wrap their minds around.
F-droidF-droid is the Google Play Store of open source Android apps. While it’s definitely possible or sometimes too easy to just download APKs here and there, or, at most, compile the source code, there’s much to be said about having a single curated repository of open source apps. Especially one that lets you conveniently update them whenever new versions come. Definitely not the prettiest app store, but a new version is just around the corner, bringing a splash of Material Design with it.
Download: F-droid (APK), Source Code
Open source software don’t always have a reputation for being the prettiest but what they lack in bling the more than make up for in power. FBReader is one shining example. Some might consider its appearance spartan, but others prefer the simplicity that belies its features. FBReader is the most widely available open source ebook reader, available on all major operating systems (except iOS) and supporting a wide variety of document formats. When tied with the open source Calibre e-book management software for desktops, you can pretty much run a ebook server of your own.
Download: F-droid, Google Play Store, Source Code
Many open source programs dare to tread murky legal waters, like the ever contentious market of game emulators. Given the closed, proprietary nature of platforms they have to work with, it’s admittedly impressive when you see an emulator almost working perfectly with your favorite, legally owned, old game. Sony may have abandoned the PSP, but its rich collection of games is too good to pass up. Fortunately, PPSSPP is available on Android as well as other operating systems, letting you continue living those happy days even after your PSP has long bitten the dust.
Download: F-droid, Google Play Store, Source Code
Our smartphones have become our entertainment systems away from home and, just like any entertainment system, they’re not limited to playing just music or videos. Some get their kicks from podcasts, be they the regular talk show kind or the more niche audio fiction. While many Android users might be content with using Google Play Music for their music needs, it’s podcast support is lacking, not to mention unavailable in many markets. AntennaPod is a no frills, simple but powerful podcatcher that stays out of the way after you’ve done the initial setup. That setup involves either importing existing OPML playlists or browsing for the casts you love. AntennaPod includes features for both downloading and streaming audio and video, automatic updating and downloading of episodes, and integration with gpodder.
Download: F-droid, Google Play Store, Source Code
And when it comes to mostly video content, Kodi is the household name for home theater systems. Formerly known as XBMC, for XBox Media Center, Kodi is popular not only among open source enthusiasts but also among mainstream media junkies. Even Plex has partnered with Kodi to offer the ultimate DIY entertainment system. With a Plex server sitting somewhere at home, your Android device becomes a portal to your videos and even music anywhere in the house or, depending on the setup, even anywhere in the world.
Download: Google Play Store, Source Code
iOS 11 might finally be getting a file manager of sorts, but Android has had true file management capabilities from day one. That said, stock Android itself doesn’t offer any such app to make that administrative task easier. Of course, there are a number of file manager apps out there, from OEM-made ones to powerful but ad-riddled ones. If you’re looking for a capable, open source, ad-free solution, Amaze might amaze you. Pardon the pun. In addition to basic operations, Amazon includes facilities for browsing and backing up installed apps as well as running a mini file server to let you transfer files to and from another device via a local network.
Download: F-droid, Google Play Store, Source Code
Another kind of management task that Android supports but doesn’t exactly make easy is storage space. By default, Android just gives you a broad overview of the categories of files that are eating up your precious limited internal storage. If you want a better but still visual idea of that information, DiskUsage will deliver it to you in boxes. Inspired by similar disk usage utilities from the desktop, DiskUsage visualizes data storage consumption as boxes whose sizes correspond to the percentage of space they take up. You can zoom in to get drill down into directories or even delete files right from the app.
Download: F-droid, Google Play Store, Source Code
It doesn’t get geekier than this! A nod to Android’s Linux roots, Termux gives you an honest to goodness command line interface on your phone or tablet. We’ll leave out debates on the practicality of typing out those commands on a virtual keyboard, but if you’re more comfortable fiddling with the precision of commands over multiple taps and swipes, this might be your cup of tea. Plus, with an honest to goodness package manager (apt), you basically have a system admin console and development environment with you anywhere you go. Bonus points if you’re rooted!
Download: F-droid, Google Play Store, Source Code
Google I/O app
As mentioned, open source software is a great way to learn how to create software, and Google, being one of the largest users of open source software, only knows that too well. That is why year after year, it releases its Google I/O app as open source for Android app developers to take apart and learn from. This is basically the reference app for most of the features and design practices of what the Android platform has to offer.
Download: Google Play Store, Source Code (2023 version)
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