Open source software development is innovative and exciting. It has produced the software that runs the internet; Linux, Apache, Firefox, and so much more. In addition to being technically innovative it also has turned business models on their head and introduced new software licensing and IP sharing concepts.

As we continue to innovate at the technical level it is equally important to discuss innovative legal concepts to allow the unfettered deployment and development of free and open source software.

To that end, on February 10, 2010 the Linux Foundation and the Open Source Initiative will host a Strategic Planning Session for lawyers active in support or adoption of free and open source software. At this meeting our legal community will consider what legal issues we anticipate may arise and what foundations we might be able to lay to support continued rise of free and open source software.

The purpose of the meeting is to collectively look forward and to consider new issues, new venues, and new technologies.

The event will be open to qualified lawyers who are active in the field of open source development or commercial deployment. The session will include panel discussions and updates, but the entire day will be more of a conversation than a lecture. We want people to come prepared to participate. Some of the topics that have been suggested already include: education of the community on patent matters; the Risk Grid and the Linking Project underway at FSFE; lessons learned from the license proliferation discussion and other comet-like issue phenomena in the open source ecosystem; how FOSS and commercial interests will co-exist and change each other in the longer term; and updates on FOSSBazaar and the SFLC activities. Participants will be asked to provide their suggestions for topics to discuss in the registration process and we hope that you will be thoughtful in your response. We will not identify the source of any topics posed for consideration without permission. We will also have several seminars by engineers on certain technical issues which are important to legal analysis.

Date: February 10, 2010

Time: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Location: DLA Piper LLP, 2000 University Avenue, East Palo Alto, California 94303-2214

Costs: There will be a cover charge of $30 to cover catering costs for this event but there will be no conference fee.

To request an invitation register here:

Open Source Legal Invitation Request

Your registration will be reviewed and you will be notified if accepted. Please register early as space is limited.

Last week, David Coursey reported that Microsoft entertainment and devices boss Robbie Bach made the prediction in an analyst briefing that Linux on mobile will lose. Why? It’s choice is a bad thing for customers and that there is too much Linux in the mobile marketplace

By Bach’s count there are 17 variants of Linux available on mobile phones. He sees this as a bad thing for customers. We, unsurprisingly, see this as a bad thing for Microsoft.

Technology markets are shaped by momentum. When a company bets on a technology, it’s not a one-time decision. They must live with that choice for years. Ecosystems around technology are as important as the technology itself, since you need partners and developers to actually make something of it. This is why I take issue with his pronouncement that Linux will not do as well as Microsoft mobile. He may have a point that individual variants of Linux may come and go. We will likely see moves both up and down for specific versions of a mobile OS using Linux. We’ve seen it in the enterprise distribution market.

But Linux as the underlying platform of such mobile offerings as Android, Moblin and many more is growing exponentially, and precisely because it affords this choice. Palm, Motorola and others have jumped ship from Windows Mobile to Linux-based offerings in recent years. LG is now using Android on 50% of its handsets. According to Gartner Group, Windows Mobile’s market share fell to 7.9 percent in the third quarter of 2009 down from 11.1 percent the same quarter of last year.

The problem with Microsoft’s Windows Mobile is not just the technology, it’s the business model. Bach dismissed the recent decline in marketshare Microsoft has been experiencing as “not a business problem per se,” but people I know in the mobile market disagree.

Here’s why:

  • With Windows Mobile, carriers and handset manufactuers have to pay Microsoft a per-device charge. With Linux-based platforms this does not exist.
  • Windows Mobile has draconian branding and licensing restrictions. Basically Microsoft wants to “own the glass.” With Linux you have a multiple of ways to brand and market your product, making it your product. Linux is the base of many different distributions because of the flexibility it offers.

Is working with Linux more complex than with Windows Mobile? Probably, since with Linux carriers and hand set manufacturers actually have to make a choice in what technology they use and how they brand their products, instead of getting the technology and pricing dictated to them from Redmond. The current consolidation to Linux on mobile is far less complex than just a few years ago when hand set manufacturers had to build from scratch their own OS if they didn’t want to give up a big percentage of their margins to Microsoft. Linux has given them the flexibility they need while making the building of a handset and ecosystem development simpler. Is it more complex than the one size fits all approach of Microsoft? Definitely. But it’s also more profitable.

I suppose if he truly believes choice is a bad thing, he may truly believe Linux will lose, but unfortunately the market momentum and adoption numbers are proving quite the opposite.

We just announced our event line-up for 2010 and the Call for Papers for CollabSummit. I’m very excited we’re offering the continuation of events that have been with us for awhile (CollabSummit, Kernel Summit) along with the second year of  LinuxCon.

This year LinuxCon will be held in Boston. Maybe people don’t realize that Boston is a hot-bed of the Linux and open source communities, with companies such as Red Hat and Novell head-quartered in the area. Besides Portland and San Francisco, there is probably no greater center of open source development than Boston.

I also wanted to point out that there are many great events held throughout the year by other organizations and community groups. LCA, going on right now, is one of my favorites. (I wish I was there!) You can find a great list of these events on the LWN.net event listing as well as on our own calendar list.

We are hosting a variety of events this year, and I often get asked: what event should I attend? Here’s my short hand for each one of our events. 

Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit

April 14 – 16, 2010

San Francisco, Calif.

This event is an exclusive, invitation-only summit where key Linux stakeholders meet face-to-face to advance and create initiatives that address the most pressing opportunities for Linux today. http://events.linuxfoundation.org/events/collaboration-summit/

Summit CFP submissions are due February 19, 2010 by midnight PST and can be submitted online at: http://events.linuxfoundation.org/events/collaboration-summit/cfp.

This event is where Linux Foundation members and community participants meet to advance Linux. It’s for those working on workgroups (like Moblin or Open Printing) or in projects that need cross-industry collaboration. Real work gets done here, so if you’re new to Linux, a conference like LinuxCon is probably a better fit for you.

Linux Foundation End User Summit

October 25, 2010

Jersey City, NJ

Another invitation-only event, the Linux Foundation’s End User Summit brings together senior kernel leadership with the C-level executives who are managing Linux in the largest most dynamic companies in the world today. In its third year, this event helps to close a “communications loop” to advance Linux development to meet everyone’s goals. To request an invitation, please visit: http://events.linuxfoundation.org/events/end-user-summit

If you run a datacenter using Linux, this is for you. This is all about connecting end users and kernel developers in an intimate setting. Again, real work gets done here, not education.  In the past two years we’ve had a virtual who’s who of operations executives from Wall Street, healthcare, insurance, government and other industries.

LinuxCon

August 10-12, 2010

Boston, Mass.

LinuxCon is North America’s premiere conference for all matters Linux. The event will bring together community and business leadership as well as up and coming developers to attend sessions produced by the community for the community. LinuxCon will be preceded this year with a variety of “mini-summits” on August 8 and 9, 2010, including the Linux Storage & Filesystems Workshop, the Wireless Mini-Summit and the Bluetooth Summit. http://events.linuxfoundation.org/events/linuxcon

This is a conference, meaning attendees can learn from the best in a relaxed setting. A lot of work gets done, but mainly at the mini-conferences and in the social hours. We have content for advanced developers, as well as operations people and the business/legal side. This event is the “big tent” event for Linux in North America so it’s also a great place to connect with people in the community, potential customers and partners.

Japan Linux Symposium

September 27 – 29, 2010

Tokyo, Japan

The Japan Linux Symposium is the leading Linux conference in Asia Pacific and brings together developers, administrators, users, community managers and industry experts from across the globe. http://events.linuxfoundation.org/events/japan-linux-symposium

Great event for technical users and developers who live in Asia. Very successful in its first year.

Linux Kernel Summit

November 1 – 2, 2010

The Linux Foundation will again host the annual gathering of the world’s leading kernel developers to discuss the state of the kernel and to plan the next development cycle.?http://events.linuxfoundation.org/events/linux-kernel-summit

This is only for you if you get an invite. Only the most prolific and most important kernel developers in this small conference.

To get more information about Linux Foundation events, and to register, please visit: http://events.linuxfoundation.org/

This is the first chapter in my new cybersecurity eBook in which you’ll meet Frank, our erstwhile hero, and get your first clue about the tangled train of events yet to unfold:

On the morning of Sunday, December 12, a morbidly obese Corgi named Lily was sniffing a tree on 16sh street, in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, D.C.  A cold, insistent drizzle was falling, but Lily didn’t care, because Lily was sniffing at her favorite tree.  Indeed, the meager processing power of Lily’s brain was wholly occupied with sampling the mysterious scents wafting up from the damp earth, for this was the favorite tree of every other dog in the neighborhood. 

Something more annoying than the rain was nagging at the edge of her senses, though.  At last the sounds began to penetrate…

Read the rest here

Those that know me know that I firmly believe that there is a Monty Python vignette, or at least a catchphrase, for every occasion. And on this occasion, that catchphrase is, “And now for something completely different!”

How completely different, might you ask, as if on cue? Glad you asked. Quite completely different. More specifically, I’m in the process of writing a cybersecurity novel called The Alexandria Project, and I’m going to share it here in serial form, in the grand tradition of yesteryear, when authors like Charles Dickens presented their latest works in weekly or monthly (often cliff hanging) chapters.

Except in this case, there will be a few twists. For one, in between installments you’ll be able to follow Frank Aversego, our erstwhile cybersecurity hero, on Twitter. He’ll share his mordant view of the day’s events (real and fictional) with you, and perhaps provide the occasional clue as to what might happen.

Read More

With Linux powering nearly every mobile device that hits the market, the demand for Linux-related jobs is rapidly growing despite national unemployment figures. Combine this with the ongoing success of companies such as Red Hat and it’s easy to see why demand for Linux professionals is on the rise.

That’s why today Linux.com is adding an important function that will connect job seekers, employers, and recruiters. Linux.com is the community-meeting place for all matters Linux and is the destination for millions of Linux professionals every month; it is the natural forum for the industry’s most comprehensive jobs board.

The JobThread Network agrees and has partnered with Linux.com to host a worldwide selection of Linux job openings. So, employers can tap both the millions of people that visit Linux.com and the JobThread Network’s more than 50 niche publishing sites that generate 50 million impressions and reach more than 9.8 million unique visitors every month.

Linux.com community member profiles will illustrate their knowledge and contributions to the community and can connect employers to their LinkedIn profiles and resumes. Employers and recruiters can easily and quickly find the best Linux gurus for the best positions.

Jobs have been the collective focus of much of the US population over the past two years and with the national unemployment rate stuck at 10 percent, it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But the good news is that IT could be the industry that leads out of the dark abyss. And Linux is a particularly lucrative skill to possess.

 

So for Christmas, Tove got this embroidery machine from Santa Claus. Since then, she’s busily been filling the kids clothes with names, re-doing their Tae-Kwon-Do uniforms etc etc.

And why do I care? It turns out that all those embroidery machines can be extended with new patterns, and most of them – including the one Tove has – seem to use this special and pretty much undocumented “PES” format that was designed by Brother. So Tove has been buying embroidery patterns, but actually seeing them on the computer and transferring them to the sewing machine is a big pain.

So the above beautiful png file is what I did today. It’s the result of me doing a thumbnailer for those PES files (and yes, “PES” stands for “PESky”, I’m convinced), so that Tove can see the designs in her file manager as she moves them around.

I can read them (largely thanks to converting a php script written by Robert Heel – which in turn seems to be based on a GPL C# project from njcrawford.com – into C code) and then drawing them and writing the result out as a png out with cairo. Sadly, it seems that the embroidery machine itself sometimes has a rather harder time. When uploading the designs to the machine, a number of them just say “Data Error”, which is very annoying.

I wonder what those embroidery machine firmware people were thinking. No diagnostics, no nothing. If a design is too large for the hoop of the machine, the machine accepts it (no “Data Error”), but doesn’t actually show or use the design – it just silently ignores it.

Whee. Undocumented formats, bad firmware, lack of sane error messages. And did I mention crazy interfaces? The embroidery machine itself shows up as a USB storage device when you connect it, except it for some reason takes about half a minute to calm down enough to be mounted. And forget about the embroidery card reader/writer – that one needs some magic USB driver too.

But hey, if somebody else is fighting with PES files, here’s a pointer to ‘pesconvert‘, my git source tree for that silly thumbnailer that created the above png. You’ll need pnglib-devel and cairo-devel to compile it, but it’s small and simple. And in case you wonder about the source PES file, it’s Jan_heartsdelight.pes, a demonstration PES image from brother.

Thanks to tech like Moblin and Android, netbooks, smartbooks, and smartphones are all the rage right now for consumers, but Linux is also showing up on the very sales counters where all of these devices are being bought.

While there’s no denying the rise of Linux on these consumer systems, there’s been a rather quiet but steady rise in Linux deployments on point-of-service (or point-of-sale) systems.

Retail systems are an interesting niche for Linux… one where the free operating system has historically done well. The demands of POS machines–24/7 availability and environments where they are sometimes exposed to large fluxuations in temperature and humidity–means they need an OS that is more stable than what Microsoft and Apple can traditionally offer.

Store operators have lately come to recognize Linux-based systems as being more suited to for what they need. Not to mention the traditional Linux benefits of being less pricy and more efficient in running on older machines. Combine all of these benefits, and the uptick in Linux POS devices is a sure thing.

It helps that Linux has some very good POS applications ready to go out of the box: Lemon POS, TuxShop, BananaPos, and OpenBravo POS, to name just a few. In fact it was Lemon POS that got my attention enough to check out the trend–one of our contributors was singing its praises in a planning session last week.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Novell has a fully ready enterprise-level POS flavor in their product line: SUSE Linux Enterprise Point of Service. Novell has recently been talking up the fact that SLE POS has been deployed at Office Depot, National Vision, and Sherman-Williams.

Is Linux the magic bullet for POS machines? There may be a little work to go, but not much. If these POS applications can be easily connected to accounting databases for small- to medium-sized business owners, then the sky’s the limit. We may already be at that point.

So when you’re checking out that shiny new Linux device, take a look at the cash register screen: you may just see a familiar penguin looking back at you.

Although I obviously had nothing to do with Google’s decision vis-a-vis China, having only started working there for  a week, I was definitely glad to see it and it made me proud to be able to say that I work there.  Kudos to Google’s management team for having made (IMHO) the right decision.   Hopefully Yahoo and Microsoft will consider carefully what the ethical implications of their collusion and collaboration with the Chinese government’s attempt to control free speech and the human rights implications of the same.

I have my own opinion regarding the IETF’s decision to meet in Beijing, since as we’ve seen with the Search Engine industry’s attempt to accommodate the Chinese, engagement doesn’t necessarily always lead to openness and goodness.   All I can suggest is that those people who do decide to travel to that meeting be very careful about what sort of message they want to send with respect to China, as well as being very careful about protecting themselves against targetted information security attacks.

To say there was a lot of Linux news coming out of CES last week was an understatement. As I watched the morning TV shows present their inevitable “look-at-what-the-nerds-have-made-this-year” segments from the CES floor during the event, I had the distinct pleasure of turning to my family many times and proclaiming: “See that? Runs Linux.”

It was difficult to contain my enthusiasm. Between Android, Moblin, and other embedded Linux news, it was clear that free and open source software maintained a large presence in Las Vegas–to the point where traditionally hyped players like Apple and Microsoft were left out in the desert cold.

How bad was it? Try this: the HP Slate computer with which Steve Ballmer showed off Windows 7 during his Jan. 6 keynote address? It turns out that HP is apparently already planning an Android version of the exact same device. 

So much for Redmond’s market exclusivity.

The TechCrunch story above also points out a very notable statistic: it reported that there are more than 10,000 Android applications available. With, the story added, more likely on the way given the expected popularity of Google’s Nexus One phone, which had pretty much stolen the show even before CES started.

Meanwhile, Intel announced its AppUp center, a new application store for Moblin- and Windows 7-based applications: the fruits of Intel’s Atom Developer SDK program.

It’s very clear that developers have a clear choice of software platforms on which to develop their applications, especially in the mobile arena. Very few people outside of Microsoft’s offices are publicly looking forward to Windows Mobile 7, and even the venerable iPhone is becoming dented as a reliable platform, as Apple’s continued chokehold on “permitted” iPhone apps and the company’s continued insistence on using a sole US cellular provider is making the iPhone less of a sure bet for mobile application developers.

There’s even a redefinition of what “mobile” even means. The proliferation of smartphones, smartbooks, and tablets at CES gives new meaning for how consumer hardware is going to look. My personal favorite for redefining hardware is the Lenovo’s IdeaPad U1 Hybrid, the 11-inch Intel-Windows 7 laptop that has a multitouch screen that can separate and be run as a standalone Snapdragon-Linux tablet with Lenovo’s own Skylight GUI.

With all of this focus on embedded Linux success, there are those who have asked the question: is all this news good for Linux as a whole? After all, Sean Michael Kerner pointed out last week, while Android is Linux-based, Google’s first priority with the Nexus One is Android, not Linux.

I would have to disagree with this notion, though I can see where it’s coming from.

While it is true that ultimately Google is interested in its bottom line (and as a public company, it has to be), you could also make the same case for Intel’s involvement in Moblin, or Red Hat’s work with Red Hat Enterprise Linux, or Novell’s efforts with SUSE Enterprise Linux… and on and on. But to date, no commercial Linux success has proven detrimental to Linux as a whole.

The truth is that any commercial involvement with Linux, as long as that involvement is done with good free/open source citizenship, is beneficial for Linux, regardless of whether it’s called “Linux.” Success brings users, developers, and hopefully revenue for more development, which should bring more success.

This call for concern has been raised many times before (and I have to be forthcoming and list myself among the concerned at times): “will Company X detract from the success of Linux?” It was raised when Red Hat became a commercial success with fears of another commercial operating system monopoly (which can’t happen in Linux). The alarm was raised again when Canonical’s Ubuntu distribution became so popular among desktop users–would Ubuntu eclipse Linux? So far, that hasn’t happened, either.

And now Android is greeted with similar suspicion.

This seems to be a keystone event in the development of any successful Linux project: when it gets big enough to bring out those with concerns about the project overwhelming the rest of the Linux ecosystem. This despite the fact that to my knowledge no Linux project, commercial or otherwise, has ever wiped out its competition.

The simple truth is that free and open source development will foster innovation that all Linux programs can tap into, and thus the diversity will always be maintained. Will some projects fade away? Of course, as developers drop ideas or move on to other things. Like any ecosystem, new things are born and weaker things die.

But the overall diversity of Linux will be maintained and, as we’ve seen in just this past week, that diversity can become even stronger.