Going to FOSDEM

General 9 Comments

After much hesitation, and after deciding a couple of weeks ago that I wasn’t going, I’ve changed my mind. I’ll be in Brussels on the 21st and 22nd of February for FOSDEM.

The thing that turned me around was the number of times in the past two weeks I’ve been participating in conversations and discussions, and someone has said to me “we’ll have a chance to discuss that more in Brussels”.

Update: Uhmmm… Thanks to Rob Taylor for pointing out that FOSDEM was the weekend of the 7th and 8th of February. Don’t know how the wrong dates slipped into my calendar. Anyway, can’t go. Have a thing in Lyon that weekend. Have fun everyone else. Still, it would have been funny to arrive in Brussels and say “Hey, where is everybody?”

Update 2:Thanks also to the 6 people who corrected me in comments. I’m not ashamed of my shame, so I have approved them all for everyone’s amusement.

Pure software is not the only way to go

General 1 Comment

Reposting from the Neary Consulting blog

My previous post on free software business models got some really great feedback, but I think that I was arguing against a straw man that I’ve built up myself. That straw man is the “pure open source start-up” – and I’m not the only person tilting at this particular windmill.

The false assumption here is that only software companies can make money off free software in a “pure” way.

There are lots of ways of making money leveraging free software. Simon Phipps writes often on about the core principle behind some of these.

First, there are all the hardware-based models. Reduce your per-unit costs for some hardware you’re manufacturing because you’re integrating a free software stack. Make a better product, because you can modify the software running on it from top to bottom. Sell more server hardware because your software is more widely distributed. To paraphrase Doc Searls, people aren’t making money with free software, they’re making money because of free software.

Second, you have the software as a service business model. If your software gets more useful the more people use it, then at some stage, it doesn’t matter whether it’s free software or not – the value is in the user base and the data. Imagine a SugarCRM where there were substantial network effects in having an account on their hosted service. Eventually, it wouldn’t matter that the platform is available for download, the value would be in being hosted.

And thirdly, you have what Simon says “payment at the point of value”. Get your software out there. Make sure that you’re heavily deployed. And set yourself up so that when people need help they come to you. This is the “pure open source” play, and it is the one which I have talked about before. In this model, you’re open to competition, since you are monetising a value-adding support and expertise in a product which anyone can master and change.

There is a fourth way of making money off free software which doesn’t make sense for a company, but might make a lot of sense for an individual developer. And that is, get paid to do what you love by someone who belongs to the first three groups, and who values your expertise. Thus, Nokia, Novell, Red Hat and Canonical hire established free software developers to keep on doing what they were doing before, for money – because what they were doing has value to those companies in the context of their business model. Companies such as these, and other companies who hire people to work on products they depend on, are ensuring the future of free software.

If your company is building products on free software projects, then you would be a fool not to invest in those projects to ensure they continue to develop and improve. You can invest with a service contract, by outsourcing to a company like Spikesource, or by hiring in a hacker – the net result is the same. Companies using the software will ensure that key free software projects will continue to develop, independent of any one business model.

Latest whisk(e)y purchase

General 4 Comments

I was hunting recently for any online whiskey supplier who still had some Redbreast 15yo in stock and on sale for less than the current asking price of €120, since I only have about a third of my bottle (bought for €55 in the Whisky Lodge in Lyon) left, but I came up short.

Anyway, that got me thinking that I haven’t bought any whisky in a while, and I went on a bit of a shopping spree on the very excellent Maison de Whisky website. I will soon be receiving, hopefully, 5 bottles in the mail, not one from Scotland.

  • Yoichi 10yo: I’m a big fan of Japanese whisky, and this one will make a nice companion to the bottle of Yamazaki 10yo that I have at home
  • Redbreast 12yo:The best bang per buck in the world. This whiskey is a monster – there are very few like it in the world, and in the absence of the 15yo which now appears to be no longer on the market anywhere, not even on auction sites (that’s because everyone who’s bought it couldn’t resist drinking it), this is the one you want to discover Irish pure pot still whiskey
  • Eddu Silver: On the Malt Maniacs mailing list, I recently asked if whisky from Brittany still tasted like paint thinner, and someone pointed me to this whisky as a very good one. Let’s see if it holds up better than the Armorik I tried about 5 years ago… This whisky has the particularity that it’s made with buck wheat rather than barley.
  • Amrut cask strength 2007: This is an Indian whisky which has exploded onto the market recently, and this year the 2008 bottling won the Malt Maniacs 2008 award for best “Daily Dram” (whisky on sale for less than €50). Will have to try that some other time. Unusually for a high quality whisky, this is a NAS (No age specified) whisky, so you don’t know how long the malting matured in casks before bottling. But if it tastes good, I don’t really care.
  • Basil Hayden 8yo: I’ve been a fan of good bourbon for a while now – ever since I got to taste test some Baker’s, Bookers and Basil Hayden  at the Collaboration Summit in Austin during the sharks & penguins bash last year. I was thinking of getting a rye whisky, but when I got to try Old Potrero a while back, I thought it was pretty over-priced, so I’m sticking with what I know is a good bourbon.

So there you go – a tour of the whisk(e)y world in 5 bottles (with my excuses to the Scots, the Canadians, the Aussies and the Welsh).

Wisconsin Ubuntu fall-out

community, freesoftware, gnome, marketing 10 Comments


That’s what I am. Bamboozled.

For those who haven’t heard this story over the last week, a young woman in Wisconsin accidentally ordered an Ubuntu laptop from Dell and dropped some college classes because she couldn’t make her internet connection work, because when she put in the CD it didn’t launch, and she didn’t have Microsoft Office, which was a requirement for her online classes.

The story, for me, is the total ignorance that both the university and the ISP have of other operating systems. Instruction manuals have information for Windows, maybe Mac, and outside of that, you’re on your own. A newcomer to Linux can’t get by on their own.

Course requirements list specific commercial programs you need to have. And we have a long hard battle to fight for minds & hearts of the universities, hardware manufacturers, ISPs and everyone else who gives software to users, or who exchange files.

The news station story had a happy ending:

However, we think we’ve helped her get back to school.

Verizon says it will dispatch a technician to try to assist her accessing the internet without using the Windows-only installation disk. Verizon says its high-speed internet does indeed support Ubuntu, but some advanced features and installation disks clearly don’t work with Linux.

MATC also says it promises to accept any of Schubert’s papers or class documents using whatever software she has installed.

Schubert’s computer came with Open Office, a word processing software package that is compatible with Microsoft Word. She says she wasn’t aware it was compatible. MATC promised to show her how to save documents in compatible formats so she could enroll in online courses again.

So – happy ending, right? We’re helping win the hearts and minds, we’ve solved a new user’s problems, and we’ve got some nice press showing how Linux users are neglected by the industry.

Ummm… no. That’s what has me bamboozled.

The story quickly got spun as “news channel said Ubuntu sucks” on tech blogs looking for a big headline. And from there, all of a sudden, the reaction of “Ubuntu fans” becomes the story. The young woman in question got some abuse for not figuring out how to solve her problems – she was “lazy”, “a dumb girl”. The news channel gets lambasted for “unscrupulous reporting”.

We all get lumped in the same bucket. When I go to free software conferences and say I work with GNOME, I hear stories about rude behaviour of others in the GNOME community. Outside the free software world, people don’t make a distinction between the lunatic fringe and people like Mark Shuttleworth or anyone in between.

One of these days that’s going to change. The loony fringe will become the loony fringe, and the mainstream will go mainstream. It’s happened with every “movement” to come from off the radar, and it will happen to us. In the meantime we need to start controlling the story – reminding people what’s important, and generally drowning out the fringe.

Hibernate in Ubuntu 8.10

General 10 Comments

When I hibernate my Dell Latitude D420 in Ubuntu, when I restart the computer I go straight into the Grub menu, and when I select the usual menu entry, I get a fresh boot.

Anyone know what I need to do to restore after hibernating? What does the UI look like? I was expecting not to see a boot menu at all, and just boot directly to a locked screen.

Links for getting flights

community, gnome, guadec 6 Comments

After my last post, a few really useful links came out in the comments, they’re worthy of getting more attention, on top of sites like expedia.com (where I got my tickets).

Edward Hervey recommended kayak.com – a nice web 2.0 site that aggregates low-cost airlines as well as traditional airlines, shows you prices on or around your flight dates for more options. It didn’t find my train-and-plane combo, while Expedia did, but definitely worth a try.

Nelson pointed to the websites of three airlines that fly to Gran Canaria, for those who want to look to the source: aireuropa.com which I mentioned, vueling.com and spanair.com – as far as I can tell, these are all covered by the above agregator sites.

And sdf (quite possibly a spammer, but maybe not) pointed to tuifly, a German no-frills who flies to Gran Canaria from a wide variety of German sites.

Gran Canaria flights: Now is a good time

community, General, gnome, guadec, maemo 4 Comments

I just bought a round trip for the Gran Canaria Desktop Summit, flying out on July 3rd and returning on July 11th, with Europa Air, from Lyon to Las Palmas via Madrid, for €254 including taxes. I found the ticket on Expedia.

This is, quite frankly, very cheap – and I expect that ticket prices will only start going up from here on in.

To all those planning on attending: please buy your tickets now.

If you need some travel assistance, buy the tickets now, and keep a receipt, and ask for assistance afterwards. The longer you wait, the more expensive your ticket will cost, and the less likely it will be that we will be able to partially or fully reimburse you.

It might be worth your while checking ticket prices via a travel agency – since this is a holiday destination, the travel agency may have access to charter flights which aren’t listed on sites like lastminute or expedia. Also, have a look at Easyjet, a budget airline that can give you really cheap flights and isn’t listed in the online reservation sites.