Last week I was quoted by the BBC saying that taken as a whole, the world wastes $1 trillion (with a 'T') dollars on information and communications technology. And judging by the various blog postings that have been generated in reaction to that, I estimate that fewer than 20% have any quibbles at all with that number, meaning that more than 80% are ready to see a change in how we do software and technology in the 21st century.
I've recently taken on a new job, after 17 years of consultancy. I grew restive at my own weak points, and wanted to outsource sales and management, neither of which I am very good at. I'm now working for Cloudmade, which is a for-profit company seeking to advance the use of OpenStreetMap data. Open Data is very similar in manner to Open Source. It's data that nobody can own, because its value is in the community that creates, cares for, and nurtures it.
We are always trying to shine some light to our kids, and teach them about right and wrong. A few things are pretty hard to explain. Copyright for one is a pretty complicated thing.
Tom Callaway is the Fedora Engineering Manager, at Red Hat, and he's one of the key people keeping watch over the many and sundry licensing issues that crop up when thousands of software packages come together to make a Linux distribution. Love them or hate them, Tom was and is one of the key architects of Fedora's legal policies.
And now he's mad.
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.
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.
There's an argument commonly heard these days that open-source software is all very well for infrastructure or commodity software where the requirements are well-established, but that it can't really innovate. I laugh when I hear this, because I remember when the common wisdom was exactly the opposite -- that we hackers were great for exploratory, cutting-edge stuff but couldn't deliver reliable product.
How quickly people forget. We built the World Wide Web, fer cripessakes! The original browser and the original webservers were built by a hacker at CERN, not in some closed-door corporate shop. Before that, years before we got Linux and our own T-shirts, people who would later identify their own behavior correctly as open-source hacking built the Internet.