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Yo voy a ir a la DebConf12

Yo voy a ir a la DebConf12

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I'm looking forward to seeing old friends, making new ones, and improving my Español at DebConf 12!

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¡Viva Debian!

ClojureBridge Minnesota

ClojureBridge Minnesota

Of course the weather being what it is -- winter came in with a bang -- our turnout last night at was light....


But we had a small, enthusiastic group that discussed the recent Clojure Conj by editorializing the fine blog bost by Logan Linn.

We also introduced the ClojureBridge effort to the group and everyone sees nice synergy between this and our recent success in November with "beginner's night" (which we plan to repeat every other meeting).

As a software development consultant I often co-work at CoCoMSP -- a melting pot of entrepreneurial energy. I have introduced the idea of hosting ClojureBridge at CoCoMSP with the founders and they are considering it (fingers crossed)!

Now we need to recruit more volunteers to help organize our local ClojureBridge Minnesota workshop next spring!

Ask me how you can help!


Setting Up MediaGoblin

Setting Up MediaGoblin

This is a very quick and dirty post to document my basic MediaGoblin setup. Realize my snapshot of the software is from early September (is in serious need of updating!). This certainly does not represent anything close to MediaGoblin best practice, but I hope it will be useful.

I'm running on Debian Wheezy with Apache2. Here are the critical config files:

Yes, this python virtualenv thing is wonky. I tried to root MediaGoblin at URI underneath / (e.g. without success (MediaGoblin really wants a virtual host, thus I hope to post an update when I've refreshed my MediaGoblin install!

Two DevRooms for FOSDEM 2012

Two DevRooms for FOSDEM 2012

I am really excited to be part of two DevRooms for FOSDEM 2012: Free Java and Legal Issues.

I first participated in the Free Java DevRoom in 2007 just after Sun announced the liberation of Java. This was an amazing time to be able to represent Sun and meet the developers who had actively sought open source Java for so many years. Just after FOSDEM 2008 I left Sun, but I got involved in the the Free Java DevRoom again last year and had a blast. From the interest so far I suspect we will have even more great speakers this year!

Having been part of Sun's team that navigated tricky copyright, patent and trademark issues in publishing OpenJDK I cultivated an appreciation and fascination for the legal frameworks that make FLOSS possible. The obvious success and growth of software in our everyday lives makes the vitality of software freedom a huge concern. This year "legal geeks" will be thrilled to learn that we have just proposed a new Legal Issues DevRoom for FOSDEM. This is a "Saturday Only" DevRoom which will culminate in a one hour interactive panel with all our speakers.

Of course the big challenge with FOSDEM is there are far too many DevRooms to go to at the same time. I apologize in advance for making your decisions even trickier! I can assure you that the FOSDEM "hallway track" will be better than ever....

So please check out the CFP's for each DevRoom and submit a talk idea or share the pointer with someone who would be a great speaker.


I Copyleft this Crowdsourcing

I Copyleft this Crowdsourcing

Fascinating news this week about success in using FoldIt to successfully crowdsource the folding of an "AIDS-like virus enzyme".

This is a milestone in imagining a blend of human and machine skills for, perhaps, one of the biggest health related challenges we have. The technology is awesome. The human creativity is awesome. The goal is awesome.

What's striking about this story is how little is told about the fruits of this effort. My guess -- and I'm perfectly happy to be corrected -- is that the large beneficiaries of this work will be pharmaceutical companies that will patent the molecules they discover can bind to such proteins. These molecules will be the basis for very important cures. And the pharma with the patent will have a monopoly on that molecule for 20 years.

So is there even attribution for the AIDS patient who donated her time to FoldIt? Could she benefit from the medication she helped bring to market (at a reduced price)?

For many years those of us in the FLOSS community have been raising the concern that software patents do not, in fact, "promote the progress in science and the useful arts". There is growing awareness that that software doesn't pass the § 101 "machine or transformation test" and mathematics -- a representation of software -- is not patent-able.

The other large customers of the current patent system are big pharma. Do pharma patents promote progress? Would the drugs come to market anyway? An economic analysis of this market would be enlightening.

If the court of public opinion pushes Facebook to disclose privacy policy (and implement modest controls) doesn't FoldIt owe it to the community to at least disclose the "terms of service"?

A Hug is Symmetric

A Hug is Symmetric

An embrace is warm when two are pulled together. A one arm hug is a patronizing squeeze that makes for a (bad) photo op.

This little blog post is my > 140 response to my new friend @dberkholz's post The Story Of Data: Whither the GPL? Why we don’t need it anymore. I met Donnie at FOSDEM this year just after he joined RedMonk -- the analyst firm that is essential for anyone in software development to follow. (Full Disclosure: RedMonk and Informatique, Inc. do not have any business affiliation).

While I acknowledge that permissive licensing has become fashionable I think it is a grave disservice to suggest that restrictive licensing in FLOSS is withering, unneeded or for the uneducated.

This recent dust up is a result of an ongoing meme of "the Decline of the GPL" started last year by Matt Aslett. To which fuel was added by a recent BlackDuck analysis also asserting the the decline of the GPL. In precious few seconds of research I was unable to to find the BlackDuck report itself, but only mention of it. Ultimately the approach of the BlackDuck study is one of the problems. The data and methodology have not been made available for peer review -- the basis of the scientific method which defines progress in every academic discipline.

During our first Legal Issues DevRoom at FOSDEM we had several talks touching on the impact of software (and other artifact) licensing on FLOSS. Of special note: John Sullivan, Executive Director of the Free Software Foundation gave a talk "Is copyleft being framed?" and Richard Fontana, Red Hat's Open Source Licensing and Patent Counsel gave a talk, "The (possible) decline of the GPL, and what to do about it". Slides for these and other talks are available ?here. Sullivan's data and methodology are available for review and suggest that the use of GPL is vibrant.

I do hope that my friend and former Sun colleague Rich Sands -- who is now at BlackDuck -- can help shed some light on their analysis.

But I'm not here to quibble about the data. I want to talk directly to the assertions made from the data.

1. Compliance is complicated

In this era of continuous development and continuous deployment powered by tools like the uber awesome Jenkins you can't really say with a straight face that making a tarball and publishing it somewhere is hard. Even in the embedded space there are tools like Yocto make delivering "Complete and Corresponding Source" just one of the build products.

For the massive, commercial enterprise which is Java™ Oracle manages to publish the source code for OpenJDK. Under the GPL. And Oracle publishes it from a tightly intermingled source base comprising open as well as closed, proprietary components.

2. The collaborative development model is really all you need

Bruce Perens was right: collaboration is better. Yet collaboration is necessary, but not sufficient to build a community. As we have become more familiar with FLOSS models it has become increasingly clearly that copyright assignment or licensing agreements that put a corporation in asymmetric control of a codebase does not foster the healthiest communities.

When inbound == outbound licensing and everyone is symmetric footing collaboration and contribution thrive.

Simon Phipps, also a friend and former Sun colleague, has written about the health of projects such as Libre Office and assessing the health of FLOSS governance.

3. Commercial products == proprietary products

"Not to mention that copyleft licenses make it much harder to build proprietary products". Well maybe we should start with understanding there might be a difference between building products and making a biz model around them vs. the licensing of said products.

With Red Hat hitting the milestone of $1 billion in revenue I think we can put to rest the question, "can you make money with open source?" Certainly Red Hat has some proprietary licensed products, but the crux or their business model is based on restrictively licensed, copyleft software. Red Hat invests an enormous amount of developer time to give back to the community... And apparently they are not suffering for it. Apparently this isn't too complicated for them. And apparently the bottom line is doing just fine, thank you.

4. Restrictive licensing doesn't matter in Cloud

If anything the rise of "Cloud Computing" drives the need for an updated approach to restrictive licensing. This was the real motivation behind creating the AGPL. Why is this? It's because traditionally restrictive licensing kicks in when the software is delivered. In web services you get data, but not software (in any form).

A great deal has been written about copyleft in the cloud era... Since Donnie's post included "Data" I think it's worth mentioning the Freedom to Leave and the Franklin Street Statement.

(Secret: data is more valuable than code :) )

5. You can't build a business on restrictive software

Jeremy Allison has clearly articulated why the GPLv3 is essential for the commercial Samba marketplace to thrive. He talks about symmetry providing a necessary level playing field (and he spoke about this recently).

Evan Prodromou has built the StatusNet business on AGPL'd software and is selling the Decentralized Social Web into Enterprises.

And NoSQL all star, MongoDB, is licensed under the AGPL and the company behind it, 10gen, seems to be doing just fine.

Work with Me

So whether or not the GPL is in decline (or not) only scratches the surface of the how the FLOSS revolution has transformed information technology in the past 20 years. I bet the that Story of Data in the next 20 years will tell us that symmetric collaboration is the big win.

Ultimately the key thing is to remember that permissively licensed software is also Free Software.

Legal Issues at FOSDEM 2014

Legal Issues at FOSDEM 2014

I'm very pleased to announce the Call For Participation for the FOSDEM 2014 Legal Issues DevRoom.

This is the third year that I've been lucky enough to collaborate with some leading practitioners of Free Software and Open Source licensing and community leadership to organize this intense event on the topic of what makes FLOSS possible and what are the key issues facing FLOSS today. I'm joined by my friends Karen Sandler, Bradley Kuhn, and Richard Fontana.

I have been fascinated by the intersection of law and technology because it is the clever use of copyright that makes Free, Libre and Open Source Software possible. We hope to stimulate discussion on topics such as:

  • Copyleft vs. permissive licensing: What is a policy case for copyleft? If so what form should it take?
  • How is software freedom important in ensuring privacy and security?
  • What defines a Free Software and/or Open Source project?
  • Do traditional Free Software values face some level of cooption from for-profit corporate interest? If so, how?
  • Copyleft licensing models and how they relate to business models. Are there some business models that are license-permissible but bad for community building? On the other side, does your license choice limit or expand your community?
  • Eroding software freedom in the proliferation of closed computing devices such as mobile phones and tablets
  • Copyleft enforcement and compliance planning from a developer perspective. What is the future of GPL enforcement? Is it working?
  • What is its impact on adoption of copyleft?
  • How does the 'so-called' software patent war impact Free Software and Open Source?
  • Copyleft license compatibility. What are the challenges of code base merges when various licenses are in use? How does a compatibility analysis between licenses work?

Please submit your talk idea before December 1st and plan to join us in Brussels on February 1st and 2nd!

A Big glass of Belgian beer

You are going to find yourself immersed in legal issues

You are going to find yourself immersed in legal issues

The title of this blog post is a quote from Karen in the most recent Free as in Freedom oggcast

FAIF 0x1E:
Legal issues are an inherent part of Free and open source software generally. If you get passionate about Free and open source software you are going to find yourself immersed in legal issues. It's something I think developers are really aware of... much more so than in other fields.

I consider myself to be very passionate about FLOSS and I care about the it's legal underpinnings because I see the enormous potential good FLOSS can bring to addressing the big challenges facing the planet. Continuing to enjoy the right to engage in FLOSS depends on the legal terrain which makes it possible.

We have seen the excesses of copyright maximalists in Free Culture and the damaging impact they can have. The SOPA (PIPA) debates are simply the latest chapter in that saga. Lessig points out that, at least in the USA, we will never win that war until we win the war against corruption of our Republic. We must strike the root of the problem in addition to the branches. I say we must remain vigilant about the branches as well.

FLOSS is another branch which is as important as Free Culture. Understanding that FLOSS is possible due a hack on copyright underscores how critical it is for developers to be aware of the legal environment in which their creativity can thrive. And the escalating software patent war -- especially in Java and mobile -- has had a chilling effect on innovation.

One the strengths (can we think in terms of countermeasures?) of our community is that we function out of basic principles of transparency and respect. The traditions in FLOSS like the traditions in the early open Internet form a culture of true innovation where working code drives collaboration and makes it possible to "stand on the shoulders of giants". Fontana has talked about this lex mercatoria in Free Software as an essential part of understanding the context of legal issues in FLOSS. I hope he will expand on this in his new blog.

I am optimistic that if we combine our brainpower to protect FLOSS as we do to create awesome software we can enable new kinds of working together which other fields will emulate. I can't wait to explore the frontier of the future possible.

Listen to the oggcast introduction [4:25..12:55] (at least) to hear Karen and Bradley discuss the upcoming Legal Issues DevRoom at FOSDEM 2012. The Legal Issues DevRoom Call For Participation closes on December 30 -- please consider submitting a talk today!

The Sunset of the DLJ

The Sunset of the DLJ

The actually sunset of the DLJ happened last summer, but it's news because of an article in OMG! Ubuntu! and Simon's followup today in Computerworld UK.

Simon's article does a good job of highlighting the role of the DLJ in the pre-OpenJDK days. Even for many of us at Sun we didn't know at the time we working on the DLJ that the plans to open source Java would be announced at JavaOne 2006. Even so it would be over a year before OpenJDK source was actually released and several more months before it was built and distributed by major Linux distributions.

Especially in the early days the DLJ bundles played an important role in the transition to the Free Java we enjoy today. In particular this enabled meaningful conversations between Sun and the community around packaging which have continued to this day on the subject of Java modularity. Yet there is one thing Simon did not mention: how many people thanked Sun for making Java available under the DLJ.

The people who were most appreciative were those using government mandated applications (e.g. tax filing in France) or financial applications (e.g. banking in Brazil). What is very important to note is that these key applications use Java applets. These applications depend on having a solid Java plugin which provides applets in modern browsers.

What the community lost in the sunset of the DLJ was the de facto plugin implementation even though it is not, in fact, part of the Java SE specification. Since Java 6 update 10 or so the Sun (now Oracle) implementations have used a new, re-architected plugin (let's call it plugin2). One of the large, remaining deltas from Oracle's closed Java and OpenJDK is the plugin: neither plugin1 nor plugin2 have been open sourced.

Here we must acknowledge the amazing community effort of the IcedTea project in Free Java and, specifically, around an open source plugin implementation. So is Java in Ubuntu? Yes. Is there a plugin in Ubuntu? Yes. Yet this is one area where the community is struggling to provide users with Java functionality they need and Oracle isn't cooperating with the community as well as they are on the bulk of OpenJDK.

My former Sun colleague David Herron has blogged about the DLJ as has a fellow Debian Java developer Sylvestre Ledru.

We not at the End Times for Java. I would even go so far as to suggest that we are now in a Java renaissance thanks to the variety of languages and projects running on the JVM. If you would like to experience the vibrance of the community please join us at FOSDEM 2012.

I do hope Oracle will decide to liberate the new plugin (only then will the DLJ R.I.P.).

Inbjuden tillbaks till hemlandet Sverige

Inbjuden tillbaks till hemlandet: Sverige

Det är en ära för mig att ha blivit inbjuden att tala på konferensen Software Passion i Göteborg, Sverige. Det här är en stad med en mer än tusenårig historia och ett område (byn Forsheda) från vilket min gammel mormor en gång utvandrade till USA för över hundra år sedan. Jag hoppas kunna lära mig lite svenska innan min resa.

This will be an exciting challenge for me because I realize that most of my public speaking in the past few years has been very much in a FLOSS context. The program at Software Passion shows quite a diversity of technologies and topics -- including proprietary technologies that I know little about. In my talk I will cover some of the great fun I've had with the Clojure programming language. Therefore I will consciously make a point to highlight the importance of "standing on the shoulders of giants".

The productivity I have enjoyed would not be possible without the stack Free Software I count on, including, but not limited to:

Several years ago I was able to travel to Norway on a project I had with the electric vehicle company Think Global. I was able to visit my aunt in Oslo and get very close to the border of Sweden while working at the car factory in Aurskog. Indeed many of the engineers I worked with were Swedes who commuted across the border each day.

My great-grandmother, Olga, immigrated from Sweden to the United States around 1900. She was from a fairly well-to-do family in Fosheda. After some careful investigation we learned that she had fallen in love with a servant, but couldn't marry him due to family pressure. A few years later after her mother died she came to the USA with her "little brother" and started a new life here. She was studying nursing in Boston when she was asked to accompany the Minneapolis Postmaster's wife back home on the train.

Much earlier than the "personal ad" era Olga mysteriously found my great-grandfather, Andrew, within 3 days of arriving in Minneapolis and married him soon thereafter (the Swedish mafia? :) ) . This is the background on my Nordic roots in Minnesota.

I realize that for non-Americans the obsession with immigration history seems a little silly. I'm proud of my mixture of German, Danish, Swedish and Bohemian roots. And I'm especially excited to finally set foot in Sweden!


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