I haven’t had a chance to compose my Tuesday blog posts. Hopefully, I’ll find time throughout the day to work on them. All that really means is that my posts will be chronologically out of order.
It’s Wednesday morning at the O’Reilly Open Source Convention, which means it’s time for the introductory keynotes. The first thing I’ve noticed this morning is how crowded it is. Certainly more so than when I was last here in 2008. I don’t know if that’s just because we aren’t being given breakfast in the expo hall this year, so everyone is crowded into the area outside the ballroom. Another thing I’ve noticed is the gender makeup of the attendees. While still overwhelmingly male, I have noticed more women in attendance this year. Diversity is good.
Without any further ado, we’re getting started.
Allison Randal, Edd Dumbill (O’Reilly Media Inc.)
This year’s co-chairs welcomed us and talked a bit about OSCON this year. Obviously, there wasn’t a lot of content, but they did mention the Android Hands-on event being sponsored by Google tonight. I did register for that, since it sounds like it will be fun.
Tim O’Reilly (O’Reilly Media Inc.)
First up is the namesake of the convention. Every year he presents his vision, not just for the conference, but for the future he wants to see. He has been steering his company away from being just a book publisher or a content producer, but a company trying to make the world a better place. He urges the Open Source community to think about the cloud. Don’t just think about Linux, or whatever project, but about the bigger picture and where we’re going as a society.
He is fascinated by the ability of technology to reinvent government, a concept he’s dubbed “Gov 2.0.” We fall into the cycle of thinking of government as a vending machine, something we simply get things out of, and get frustrated when we don’t. Over the last few years, he has been talking about government as a platform.
We shouldn’t think just about selling to the enterprise, but about building a better world. We all benefit when that happens.
Jennifer Pahlka (Code for America)
The government doesn’t have to be this obscure, opaque thing we get stuff from. It can be a platform for us to work together. Currently, the majority of the municipal workforce is over 40, and a significant percentage will retire soon. This creates a huge age gap, which leads to a technology gap.
In Oakland, California, the city workers can’t search city council meeting notes online. The method of entering the data in the computer is to scan the written notes, which are impossible for them to index.
Code for America was created to encourage younger, technologically-savvy individuals to apply their talents to government. It’s designed to create technology to open up government, to make it more accessible to the citizens. It’s a little like the iPhone or Android ecosystems. Government provides the platform, essentially the data. We, the citizens, build the apps.
Bryan Sivak (Government of the District of Columbia
Those in the government of DC are big fans of Open Source, running Linux among other projects. They’ve long talked about being committed to Open Source, partly to save the taxpayers’ money. Unfortunately, much of this commitment is all talk.
For any project used in DC, forms are required to be filled out, justifying the choice and the expense. On this form is the question, “What Open Source projects were considered?” This is often left blank and still slips through without comment.
Proprietary solutions tend to come with copious documentation and an implementation plan. Open Source projects are more open-ended, which requires people within the government to have that vision and that creativity. This goes back to the age and technology gaps mentioned previously.
It’s good that these challenges have been identified and are being addressed.
Dirk Hohndel (Intel Corporation)
MeeGo is the result of the unification of Moblin and Maemo. It targets netbooks, handset, tablets, and just about anything designed to be more mobile than a traditional notebook. It offers a full client Linux Open Source stack, from the kernel all the way up to the user interface, including the flexibility to support proprietary devices.
Dirk went over the primary goals and philosophy of the project (to be completely open), then went on to describe the organization of MeeGo at a high level. This included both the technical building blocks and the relationship with upstream projects.
Stormy Peters (GNOME Foundation)
Many of us use completely Free software on our computers, some even insist on it. However, when it comes to online services, we’ve gotten lazy.
Free software was driven by two types of people. There were those who advocated that all software should be Free, that it should be available to all people, regardless of their means. There were others who used and advocated Free software because they wanted something that didn’t crash. It’s this latter It Just Works motivation that Stormy believes has caused us to get lazy about demanding Freedom from our Web services.
She asks how many of us control our own email or have alternative ways to access it if something should happen to the primary service. What if Twitter or Facebook decides to delete your account? What happens to your data? She then went through a few examples of alternative services that have open data policies, such as Identica and Tomboy Online (it’s funny, I don’t use Tomboy because I won’t use Mono).
How many of us have read the agreements when signing up for Web services? Do we know who owns our data? Can we back it up ourselves? Who owns it, both while we’re using the service and if or when we decide to delete our data?
Marten Mickos (Eucalyptus Systems)
The shift to the cloud is causing computing to scale, both up and out, far faster and far larger than any of the previous trends (mainframes, minicomputers, or client/server).
Many of the Open Source licenses were designed in an environment where everyone runs software on their own computers, software that requires distribution to be useful. Today we’re seeing more services being offered by companies running software within their own grids. Users never run the software themselves but rather send data in and get data out.
Eucalyptus is designed to be a highly scalable platform for on-premise use. As someone who supports many thousands of hosts in many data centers, this product has intrigued me for a while. Unfortunately, I’ve never taken the time to investigate it. It’s nice to see that those behind the company are committed to Open Source, using the split model. Users are free to download and use the software, while the company sells a supported version to enterprise.
The keynote sessions at OSCON tend to drag on for a while, making it difficult to pay attention the whole time. But they are finally over for now. We have a break before the first session of the day. I’m going to try to get some work done on yesterday’s posts before starting on my long day of Perl sessions.
I’m really impressed with the wireless network today. It had its problems during the tutorials on Monday and Tuesday. Traditionally, the network becomes almost unusable on Wednesday morning. This year, however, I have been able to connect to the Internet and write this blog post without any frustration.