OpenWengo not in limbo

General, openwengo, wengo, work 2 Comments

I have seen a meme spread over the past few days which I’d like to correct, and hopefully nip in the bud.

The OpenWengo project did not die with the withdrawl of Wengo. Nor is it in limbo.

The torch has been passed. (PDF) Finally, in late January, the news was announced. The project has a new maintainer, Vadim Lebedev of MBDSys. Vadim has been involved in the project from the beginning – he was hired by Wengo to write the back-end code for the first prototype. His company has experience providing customisation services on top of the software. He’s absolutely the best person for the job.

I have known this for several weeks, but was asked not to announce it until an agreement had been reached between Wengo and MBDSys. I alluded to this, as Marco indicated in his blog entry, in my previous entries on the subject, as well as in email to the mailing list.

To repeat myself: this is the great thing about free software – the project can outlive the founder. Spencer Kimball and Peter Mathis lost interest in the GIMP – it took 6 months to get over that speedbump, but the project outlived them. If Alfresco goes out of business, there are enough individuals and companies invested in the project that it will live on.

Wengo has withdrawn from the OpenWengo project, and yet development continues, people are still investing in it, volunteers are still working on it. Life goes on.

Welcome to the new way of doing things.

Breaking my silence

freesoftware, openwengo, wengo, work 10 Comments

For the past few weeks (actually, the past couple of months) I’ve been holding my tongue waiting for things to clear up a bit in relation to work. I now have a pretty good idea of where I’m at, and so the time has come to break silence and reveal all.

Along with a number of my ex-colleagues, I was laid off by Wengo last November. Recently, that was noticed by a journalist who follows the OpenWengo project and got announced on the community mailing list.

At the time of the lay-off, a number of us had planned to take over maintainership of the project, move the hosting somewhere else, redo a web-site, and create a company around the project (with the business model of providing customisation services and support). Unfortunately, for a number of reasons I won’t go into, after 5 weeks of work on the new company, that fell through. And so, at the beginning of last month, I started looking around for an alternative solution that I could announce to the OpenWengo community, and to companies building offerings on top of the software.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing explicit I can say yet – the people concerned are still in discussions – but it’s looking like the OpenWengo project will not remain without a maintainer for long. As well as a lot of interest from a number of different companies, there are a number of people in the community who have proposed to pull in the slack, if needs be. That is the great thing about free software – AbiWord didn’t die with Abisource, Mozilla didn’t die with AOL’s withdrawl, and OpenWengo will survive without Wengo.

And so what about me? Well, I still plan to be involved in OpenWengo, in some way. I’m waiting, in some sense, for the battle lines to be redrawn and for procedural questions to be worked out, but I am still interested in working with companies who want OpenWengo customisations, and I plan on helping the project towards its next stable release (2.2) and beyond, on helping the community overcome the tricky step of whether or not to move to the new data model and engine CoIP Manager.

Aside from that, I now have to make a living somehow. And I’ll tell you more about that in a little while.

links for 2007-06-18

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Away for a few days in the sun

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My bosses at Wengo have organised a few days away for everyone in the company to relax together, get to know each other outside work, announce some news and generally pamper us a little – I’m not one to complain about a little pampering.

For these few days, I will not be reading my email. I’ll be back in the normal world with internet access on Saturday.

In the meantime, I’ve packed swimming togs, sports gear, sandals, … all I need now is a good storm & I’ll be set.

Not in Berlin

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For those who had planned to go to Berlin especially to catch the Openwengo workshop on Thursday, I am sorry to let you know that I will be in Paris for some important meetings, and won’t be attending LinuxTag this year.

OpenWengo summit

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I just announced that Wengo will be hosting a summit of contributors to the OpenWengo project on the 18th and 19th of January. The OpenWengo Summit will be our first opportunity to meet, get to know each other, and plan the future of the project.

It’ll be in Paris, in the offices of Wengo which has a great night-life and some fairly run-of the mill sights to see.

More information is available in the OpenWengo wiki.

Back from DAM3

gnome, wengo 2 Comments

I got home from Portland yesterday afternoon – I’m really starting to feel the jet-lag now. It’s only the second time I’ve had that much of a difference in time-zones, and I’m currently a time-zombie.

I’ve had a chance to reflect on the last few days, and have come to a conclusion. It was good, but not great. We had some more break-outs on Friday, and I had some great out-of-band conversations with people I’ll definitely be hooking up with very soon.

In no particular order, here are a few things I noted during the conference:

  • The Wall of Laptops is evil in this kind of meeting
  • Quim Gil said to me last GUADEC that there’s a Spanish saying that all work should be done with food on the table (or something like that) – and I can confirm that most of the valuable connections were made during breakfast, coffee breaks, and dinner & drinks
  • The presentations should really have been 5 minutes per project – 10 minutes max – self-censorship was sorely missing
  • It was a pity that we were missing some projects which made it difficult to make good headway on some issues – we discussed packaging and installing 3rd party software and improving upstream/downstream co-operation, but most of the distributions weren’t well represented, for example
  • I was sorry Aaron Seigo didn’t make it
  • I am hugely optimistic about audio after the audio session – perhaps inappropriately. We’ll see
  • A couple of the break-out sessions were unfortunately rat-holes – there was no real resolution possible (at least, with the participants involved) – talking about DRM and codecs support for example was depressing

I was also involved in a discussion about what we need for ISD documentation, which was pretty aligned with what people have been saying around GNOME – we need to focus more on tutorials and coherent developer stories, rather than API docs (which are pretty good). Someone coming to GNOME should have access to code snippets showing how to use the APIs for more complex tasks. And we should have a book on GNOME development.

Desktop Architects Meeting 3

wengo 1 Comment

I’m in Portland for the Desktop Architects Meeting 3 at the moment, representing the OpenWengo project.

It’s been good – although the presentation sessions have been numerous, and have over-run, eating into break-out session time (which is what everyone is really here for).

Yesyerday, I was at the sound break-out, with people from Helix, Jack/ALSA, RedHat, Fluendo, LTSP, LSB and others. It was a good session, and took the right tack. We talked about what was needed to create an environment where we could solve the sound problem on Linux.

For those who aren’t aware of the sound problem on Linux, the problems
are that you have about 6 or 7 sound APIs you can develop against, and none of them work nicely together; all of them support some subset of the use-cases that ISDs creating sound apps need, and those subsets all overlap in some way; there is no agreement on what the scope of a sound API and sound system for Linux should be.

The end result for the user is that when you go to a web page that includes flash, your music player stops working, or your browser freezes up until your music app quits, or any other number of issues that are created when different apps use different sound APIs.

It should be noted that pretty much everything is possible right now – with at least one API.

So the first goal is to work out that scope – agree on use-cases that should be enabled in the basic sound API, and work out how we can move from where we are now to a place where all of those use-cases are possible with a high-level sound API.

The plan for that is to get all of the actors involved together on a mailing list, including application developers, platform developers, distributions and low-level sound APIs. We need agreement on the sound story – the use-cases and scope, and have at least one face to face meeting to work out how to go from talk to action, and hopefully between now and next year, we should have something which ISDs like us can use and know that things will Just Work.

I unfortunately missed a second break-out on packaging, installation, dependency management and upgrades – choices are horrible.

A second set of break-out sessions is planned today – looking forward to going to an ISD session, if we have another one.

Foz do Iguaçu – water, lots of it

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I was in Brazil last week, thanks to the funding of the GNOME Foundation, at Latinoware, giving a presentation “Getting started in free software” – a personal description of how I got involved in free software, and the lessons I have learned through it. I spoke about my experiences in the free software world, including my time with the GIMP,GNOME and OpenWengo. Before going, I didn’t really know what to expect. This was my first visit to South America, and while I had heard lots of good things about the free software community there, nothing prepared me for what we saw.

Joao Bueno of the GIMP at the falls

Foz do Iguaçu is a small town in Western Brazil dominated by two impressive landmarks – the Iguaçu falls, a dazzling array of waterfalls that stretched for several kilometers on the Argentina-Brazil border, and the hydro-electric power station at Itaipu, the biggest operational hydro-electric power station in the world. Latinoware was held in the grounds of Itaipu, about 2 kilometers from the dam.

On Wednesday, I got to visit the falls – an amazing experience. The array of wildlife on show is unbelievable, with Toucans, lizards, spiders, and the Wilber-like coati, the mascot of the town. And then there is the falls. According to Wikipedia, they consist of about 270 waterfalls, along a 2.7 km stretch of the Iguaçu river which divides Brazil from Argentina.

Itaipu is also amazing. The power station generates 25% of all of the electricity needs of Brazil, and 95% of the needs of Paraguay. One turbine of the Itaipu plant is 10 meters in diameter, and generates 700 MW of energy – more than enough to fulfill the needs of a city the size of Lyon.

I also got to visit Ciudad del Este, a free trade zone in Paraguay, across the Parana river from Foz. It reminded me of those no-man’s-land cities you occasionally see in spy films. This one city represents 60% of Paraguay’s GDP. You could buy anything – electronics, arms and clothes are apparently the most popular items.

The amazing Latinoware crowd

Thursday morning, I gave my keynote presentation in Itaipu. As I said, I didn’t know what to expect – the last thing I was expecting was 1200 free software advocates, mostly between 18 and 25 years old, coming to the conference. Aside from the size and age of the crowd, one other thing surprised me – the amount of women. A rough estimate put the number of female participants between 10 and 20 percent – coming from Europe, where we’re used to counting on the fingers of a few hands the number of women at a free software conference, seeing hundreds of women at the conference was a refreshing change. One last surprise was waiting for me in the opening addresses – several politicians, including Marcus Mazzoni, a former guest at GUADEC, and member of the regional government in the state of Parana, spoke of free software not just as a way of cutting costs, but first and foremost about sharing and community. First and foremost, free software is a social and cultural phenomenon in Brazil. I doubt many French politicians understand so well what free software is all about.

Women in Free Software

My presentation went well, I think – perhaps because the point above is one I hold close to heart. Free software is all about communities forming around ideas, and those communities are human. Almost everyone who gets involved in free software development gets involved through a friend. I also talk about the motivating factors people have which make free software attractive to them – and the thing that ties us together, I think, is the feeling that we’re part of something bigger than ourselves, that we’re taking part in a movement, which is slowly changing the way the world sees technology, and the way technology gets created. We are changing the world.

Latinoware 2006

gnome, marketing, wengo 1 Comment

Next week, I will be in Foz do Iguaçu in Brasil, to attend Latinoware 2006. I will be giving a conference on how and why we do free software – not so much from a technical point of view, but from a human perspective. It will be pretty similar to the presentation I gave last month in Lyon at les Journées du Logiciels Libres in Lyon, France.

This will be my first time in Brasil, and I am very excited about it – I hope I get a chance to go and see the falls – I’ve heard great things about the Devil’s Throat. I’d also love to get a chance (but I don’t think I’ll have time) to take in Itaipu, the world’s second largest hydro-electric power station after the Three Gorges in China, and a big GNOME user.

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