Gratis OSCON 2008 Conference Pass

Are you interested in attending OSCON this year? It’s my pleasure to inform you that LQ is able to give away one full conference pass (a $1445.00 value) absolutely free of charge. See this LQ thread for more information on how to be eligible. We’ll pick a winner on May 31st, so you don’t have much time. OSCON is always a great conference and I’m looking forward to attending once again. If you don’t win but still plan on going, use “os08linq” when you register to save 15% off the best rate at the time. Good luck and see you in Portland.


NOTE: I continue to be disappointed in the QA of WordPress. How a bug that causes all RSS feeds to break for any site who has WP in a top level folder (not exactly an edge case) could sneak into a 2.5.1 release is beyond me. I apologize if you weren’t getting updates here or at LQ Radio. If you use WP you might want to check your feed. If the issue is impacting you, you can get the patch here.

Speed up your web pages with YSlow

If you do front-end web stuff, you may be interested in a cool new tool from Yahoo! that I first heard about at OSCON:

YSlow analyzes web pages and tells you why they’re slow based on the rules for high performance web sites. YSlow is a Firefox add-on integrated with the popular Firebug web development tool. YSlow gives you:

* Performance report card
* HTTP/HTML summary
* List of components in the page
* Tools including JSLint

It’s not perfect, but I’ll be using it to sniff out any potential LQ performance issues at LQ. Just make sure you understand and research the information the tool gives you. I was already using Firebug, so this was a quick and painless addition. Thanks to Yahoo! for releasing this. While on the topic of Y!, the next LQ code revision is going to take advantage of the YUI library. Should be coming “real soon now”.


Microsoft to Submit Shared Source Licenses to OSI

From a Radar post:

In his keynote at OSCON, Microsoft General Manager of Platform Strategy Bill Hilf announced that Microsoft is submitting its shared source licenses to the Open Source Initiative. This is a huge, long-awaited move. It will be earthshaking for both Microsoft and for the open source community if the licenses are in fact certified as open source licenses. Microsoft has been releasing a lot of software as shared source (nearly 650 projects, according to Bill). If this is suddenly certified as true open source software, it will be a lot harder to draw a bright line between Microsoft and the open source community.

Bill also announced that Microsoft has created a new top level link at, to bring together in one place all Microsoft’s open source efforts. Bill sees this as the culmination of a long process of making open source a legitimate part of Microsoft’s strategy. Open source has survived Microsoft’s process of “software darwinism” and is becoming an ever more important part of its thinking.

To expand on the announcement, it’s the Microsoft Permissive License (Ms-PL) and the Microsoft Community License (Ms-CL) that will be submitted, as the other Microsoft shared source licenses are fairly closed. I vaguely remember the FSF saying that these two licenses appeared to satisfy the four freedoms, so it’s at least a possibility that they will be approved by the OSI. So, what does this all mean? I’m still digesting it myself. It would seem that at least part of Microsoft is willing to accept the importance of Open Source in the future of software. It also means that at least parts are willing to join the conversation in a legitimate way. By going to the OSI for approval, Microsoft can no longer point at Open Source and say it’s cancer or will eat babies. I’m sure it took a lot of work internally to get this accomplished. Kudos for the effort. Will it matter? That remains to be seen. If they continue spreading patent FUD, then moves like this have far less impact than they otherwise would. It’s impossible to trust a company, even one that uses an OSI-approved license, when the other hand is doing many harmful things. It also remains to be seen how some developers will react if these get approved. Will either license get any usage outside of Redmond? If they don’t, then what’s the point of yet another Open Source license? More questions than answers in my mind right now, but this will be really interesting to watch play out. Stay tuned.


Open Source and the Future of Network Applications

There’s a lot to see at OSCON, so it should come as no surprise that you won’t be able to personally see everything you’d like to. I seem to have missed one of the most talked about events though.

“Tim has a television show under production where we get told in advance what we are going to say and how it will reflect Tim’s underlying idea,” Moglen told us. “I decided not to go with the program.”

Moglen’s performance turned into the stuff of legend.

Regrettably, we missed the assault. Stories needed to go out, and we assumed the chat would follow familiar, boring lines. After about ten people later asked if we caught the spectacular show, The Register contacted the OSCON audio staff to obtain a recording of the session. “No problem,” they said, “It will just take a couple of minutes, but you need to get O’Reilly’s permission first.” O’Reilly corporate refused to release the audio, saying it would cause a slippery slope. (We’re still trying to understand that one.) They, however, did add that Moglen appeared to be “off his meds.”

So what exactly happened?

Moglen attacked O’Reilly for wasting his time promoting Web 2.0 darlings, when he should be focusing on the core issues crucial to free software.

“I decided to say that we’ve reached a stage where we ought to be able to tell the difference between daily business news – X is up, Y is down – and the stuff that really matters, which from day-to-day is not racehorse X is running faster than racehorse Y.

“I think what time has done with this forum in general is to emphasize the trivial at the expense of the significant.”

According to published reports, Moglen described O’Reilly’s current approach to open source software as “frivolous.” He also chastised O’Reilly for chasing money, billionaire chums and “thermal noise” like Facebook.

“We still have serious problems to correct in public policies made by people propping up business models that were dying and wasting time promoting commercial products,” Moglen said, during the session.

As Stephen O’grady points out, you may not agree with the tactics Eben used (I also don’t), but the conversation is an extremely important one.

First and most obviously, this is a call to arms. Join us, pleads Joyent, before we trade one dictatorship for another. Underlying the recruiting attempt, however, are a set of implicit assumptions worth extracting.

1. Microsoft’s desktop dominance is threatened
2. The primary source of the threat is free but non-open source SaaS offerings from Google, MSN, Yahoo
3. The predicted outcome will see users forced to trade one dominant provider for another
4. Open source is the last, best defense against that future

Speculative and reactionary though these comments may be, they are reasonable enough in my opinion to be warrant further debate. But not here, and not now.

Suffice it to say, for time being, that the Joyent folks are not the only ones concerned by the prospect of future technology landscape dominated by the likes of Amazon, Google, eBay, Yahoo, et al. As evidenced by developments like Joyent’s decision and the GNOME Online Desktop efforts, it’s increasingly apparent that open source and Web 2.0 are on a collision course.

While these two dominant technical trends or directions have much to learn from each other, the convergence is likely to have its painful moments if OSCON is any indication. Indeed the talk of the conference was the somewhat shocking public swipe at Tim O’Reilly by one of the GPLv3’s chief architects, Eben Moglen. As documented elsewhere, Moglen absolutely dropped the hammer on Mr. Web 2.0, arguing that “that the FSF has ‘done the heavy lifting’ and ‘carried your water’ for the last decade, and that the era of Web 2.0 distraction (buzz about who is making money, who will get acquired, etc) will need to be replaced by a serious conversation about freedom.”

We’re still in the early stages of this discussion, but it’s encouraging to see that the right people are paying attention and the issues are slowly being iterated through. The right questions are starting to be asked. There’s still a lot to decide and much debate will surely follow, so if this is a topic that interests you (and it should be), make sure to join the conversation.


Back from OSCON, LinuxWorld coming soon

I’m back from OSCON, but still feeling the impact of what was another great event. It’s not just the great parties that leave you drained, it’s also the massive amount of learning, discussion and information. It’ll likely take me a couple days to recover. The thinkpad death means I blogged a little less than I’d have liked to. I just ordered a new thinkpad – an X61. Hopefully is arrives before I leave for LinuxWorld in San Fran next week.


More from OSCON

My laptop has really gone from bad to worse, so blogging will be extremely light until I get home. The N800 has been filling in nicely. It’s a shame I have been unable to live blog the sessions, as they have been really interesting. I was able to take a few notes and will include them here:

More Than Licenses: The Legal Policy of the Free World in the Age of Web 2.0 Eben Moglen
* Choosing certain licenses will result in a more cohesive community.
* The GPL didn’t originally take into account the economic importance of community.
* We have built a good republic, not just good software.
* Freedom of speech includes the right to not talk..translated to code this is were the GPLv3 walks the line in regards to the “ASP loophole”.
* Regarding ODF: no commercial entity should have the ability to intermediate between a government and its people.

Who Gets to Decide What Open Source Means? Michael Tiemann, Brian Behlendorf, Danese Cooper, Chris DiBona, Ross Mayfield, John Roberts
* SugarCRM 5 will be GPLv3 and will be available in a couple weeks.
* Most people take the OSD as the final word on what defines Open Source, but some do not.
* Attribution is still a hotly debated topic. It gets especially hairy when you take into account logos and trademarks. It also gets interesting when you are talking about aggregating small bits of code from many projects that require attribution.
* The OSI has approved the Common Public Attribution License (CPAL) from SocialText.
* Someone asked how far the OSI was willing to go to “defend” Open Source. Luckily it usually doesn’t go beyond a simple polite email.
* The question was asked whether as new licenses get approved whether some old ones will be retired. Hopefully.

Some random notes:

* Microsoft will be working to get multiple licenses approved by the OSI.
* You can carpet an entire floor in a parking garage and throw a party (Thanks Sun).
* Dtrace really is phenomenal

To be honest there has been so much interesting discussion that it’s hard to be able to blog it all. You really should consider attending OSCON. More later.


OSCON Opening Keynote

As usual, the opening OSCON keynote was extremely interesting. Tim talked about which Open Source is on the Radar. There was a lot of talk about parallelism (Intel) and concurrent programming (Microsoft). Tim also interviewed Mark Shuttleworth. I had planned on live blogging the event, which contained a bunch of great quotes and facts. Why didn’t I? My laptop has broken. Badly. Every once and a while (and especially if not firmly planted on a flat surface) the display just goes blank. Once it happens, the only fix is to shut the machine off, fiddle with the lid for a while and then restart. It’s going to be a real pain and I’m going to have to get a new laptop ASAP. This one is a bit old anyway. One tidbit from the keynote that is laptop related. After Intel released powertop, they got a ton of info from the community and as a result were able to increase battery life by almost an hour. Linux now has the most efficient power consumption of any OS on the Intel platform. Awesome.