Michael Tiemann's blog

Netbook Insights from The Economist

As a rule, I really enjoy reading the Economist. I find its articles to be well researched and its editorial positions to be well-reasoned. I also have a soft spot for it, as the Economist was the first "mainstream" business magazine to treat the topic of open source software with any degree of seriousness. (WIRED magazine was not exactly mainstream when it first treated the subject and most of the business weekies were stuck in the "if these crazy kids have their way, Bill Gates will be standing in the soup line before long" meme--not exactly credible.) The article Small Is Beautiful brings to light one of the most important trends of personal computing: the netbook.

Open Source and Sustainability, Updated

Sam Folk-Williams recently blogged a response to an earlier blog posting I had written about Open Source and Sustainability. Over the past few months I've been having more and more discussions about this topic with IT executives, and I have been meaning to write and update on the latest. Sam's posting provides the perfect prompt and background.

The practical problem with software patents

Venkatesh Hariharan recently wrote an article titled The practical problem with software patents, a subject near and dear to my heart. He draws on the same research that I have cited in the past, the book "Patent Failure: How Judges, Bureaucrats, and Lawyers Put Innovators at Risk," by Boston University professors, James Bessen & Michael J. Meurer, but I confess that he shows both greater insights and certainly a better sense of humor than I do when I write abou the subject.

Knight Foundation News Challenge Update

Nearly 2,000 applications were filed for the Knight Foundation 2009 News Challenge. As you may recall, the Knight Foundation has committed to fund $25M over five years to projects that:

  1. Use or create digital, open-source technology as the code base
  2. Serve the public interest
  3. Benefit one or more specific geographic communities

That is a lot of money supporting the development of open source software and citizen activism!

In the course of this process I have decided to sign on as an advisor to one such project, should it's $500,000 funding request and $500,000 matching grant be approved.

Barack Obama proves the power of Open Source

It would be a bit of a stretch to claim that Barack Obama won the 2008 election because his website ran open source software while John McCain's ran on proprietary software. But what is not a stretch at all is that Barack Obama's campaign built a powerful synergy between grass-roots politics and grass-roots technology, while presenting what many consider to be the most disciplined campaign of any candidate in modern history.

Don't kill your television--study it!

I just learned about a link that's apparently been live for a while, but it's new to me: http://sony.com/linux. Following that link one level to Television you'll see that SONY has been embedding GPL software into their state-of-the-art televisions since 2003.


Maybe it is a good time after all to think about getting a new TV...

Some news is good news--online coaches will help shape $5 million ideas

The August 7th press release from Miami reads

Fifty coaches are standing by online to help innovative thinkers apply for the Knight News Challenge, a $5 million-a-year contest to move journalism into the 21st Century. The coaches-made up of past jurors and winners-will give News Challenge hopefuls a better chance of winning up to $5 million in prizes annually. They also hope to attract a more diverse range of ideas.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has funded the contest with $25 million over five years. Its goal is to discover new ways of using digital technology to meet the information needs of geographic communities. Last year's contest received 3,000 applications. It named 16 winners.

And the best news for the open source community? The rules stipulate that applications must:

$60B less for proprietary software = $60B more customer value

Dave Rosenberg has picked up the story being spun by The Standish Group that says

Open Source software is raising havoc throughout the software market. It is the ultimate in disruptive technology, and while to it is only 6% of estimated trillion dollars IT budgeted annually, it represents a real loss of $60 billion in annual revenues to software companies," said Jim Johnson, Chairman, The Standish Group International, Boston, MA

I agree with Dave's take, which is that this story is very much a glass half-full/glass half-empty story.

Microsoft + Novell = Monopoly 2.0?

The O'Reilly Open Source Conference is one of the premier events for hackers, executives, users, and industry analysts to share and discuss open source trends, strategies, and perspectives. It has been so successful for so long that Microsoft couldn't let it continue without becoming a top sponsor, which they have now been for a number of years. One thing that sponsorship buys is a keynote speaking slot, and Microsoft's Sam Ramji took that slot on the final day of the 2008 conference.

Sam's message to the audience, which included leading open source companies, open source project leaders, board members, venture capitalists, etc., is that Microsoft is truly, truly interested in

PJ's bottom line--a new line for the OSI?

Pamela Jones (aka PJ), the groklaw blogger, asks and answers the question OK. But What Does It Mean? (Jacobsen v. Katzer), saying that

It means that while OSI's handling of a list of approved licenses worked very well for a community made up of FOSS programmers, who are decent folks all on the same page overall, now that enemies of FOSS are attacking, we need a new organization to vet licenses going forward a lot more carefully, one made up of experienced FOSS lawyers, none of them with a history of hostility to, or ignorance of, the GPL, with the community as advisors.


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