Hope in Federations

Originally posted on Meshed Insights & Knowledge:

Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp gains them almost half a billion users worth of telephone data. We can fully expect them to share their user information once joined, adding a wealth of phone data to Facebook and fleshing out WhatsApp with both Facebook’s data and the results of Facebook’s powerful semantic search. This sort of centralisation avoids giving users control of their own data.

To create a more positive environment in which users retain control of their data, what’s needed are more federated projects. Projects which offer the ability for suitably capable users to run their own service that can federate as a full peer, extending the service without surrendering full control. Diaspora and WordPress are two high profile examples of what federated services can look like, but there are many more available. All are open to user control in addition to service provider hosting.

If we are to maintain control of our own…

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Sun Friends On The Move

I see that two friends I worked with at Sun — most notably creating blogs.sun.com — are on the move.

  • Danese Cooper has decided that she can take on one more corporation’s move towards open source and has been appointed Head of Open Source at PayPal. Danese headed up the open source work at Sun before I took it on. The very best of luck to her there – plenty that can be achieved for software freedom with that fulcrum…
  • Tim Bray meanwhile is giving up his fulcrum at Google. Tim was the editor of the XML specification and a driving force of developer-focussed openness at Sun. Seems that despite being the company behind all the distributed team working tools I use, they still insist on centralising all their staff rather than having them work remotely. Looking forward to seeing (or, indeed, collaborating on…) whatever Tim does next.

I also see from LinkedIn that it’s four years since the death of Sun. That’s something of a magic number in career terms so I expect to see more moves in the news soon.

Stand Up For ODF In The UK

Originally posted on Meshed Insights & Knowledge:

Showing that no issue is actually sorted until the end of the process is reached, Microsoft is trying to get its partner network to speak up for OOXML as a document format for government interaction. In a posting to ComputerWorldUK, Simon explains that this would defeat the objective explained by Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude, who said

“The software we use in government is still supplied by just a few large companies. A tiny oligopoly dominates the marketplace. I want to see a greater range of software used, so civil servants have access to the information they need and can get their work done without having to buy a particular brand of software.”

So ODF Advocates once again need to speak up for openness and diversity – there are links in the article.

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Making the most with Open Source

AWiN SO23:

Simon’s latest column.

Originally posted on Meshed Insights & Knowledge:

What opportunities does Open Source provide if you’re really looking to go big? Aiming to become “the next Red Hat” is an idea flawed from the start, as former XenSource CEO Peter Levine explains in his recent TechCrunch article. So what’s left if business models focussing on selling support and services all have a relatively low limit to their growth?

Those who are making the most money out of Open Source today are in fact not those who try to monetize a specific Open Source project, but those who innovate and build businesses that sit on top of a backbone of Open Source projects. Twitter, Square, Google and Facebook could all be given as examples of this sort of innovation. Importantly, the Open Source communities these companies engage with are likely to stay active and healthy as other community members also execute on their business model, gaining benefit from the project…

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“Counting the beats,
Counting the slow heart beats,
The bleeding to death of time in slow heart beats,
Wakeful they lie.” — Robert Graves
XKCD

(this unusual XKCD does not embed, please click to be mesmerised by it)

Setting Up Our Voice-Over-IP Phone System

Simon Phipps:

Interested in Raspberry Pi or VoIP? You’ll want to read about our new telephone system at work!

Originally posted on Meshed Insights & Knowledge:

As I mentioned recently on Google+, I’ve recently installed a telephone system for Meshed Insights using a Raspberry Pi. Here’s a description of the system I’ve put together.

Raspberry PI PBX

The brains live in a model B Raspberry Pi. I installed the GNU/Linux distribution Raspbian using the easy NOOBS on an SD card, then installed RasPBX — FreePBX and Asterisk — using the Pi Store via the desktop as that was easiest. I enabled sshd so I can log in from the office (using a private key so it’s less hackable), set the unit to have a fixed IP on our internal network and then disconnected the keyboard, mouse and screen. The system now runs headless in our server room.

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Bitcoin Commodity Exchange

Turns out you can buy and trade Bitcoin mining capacity as well as Bitcoin. As I’m gradually learning more about the Bitcoin world, I’m finding a rapidly maturing technology space. I just stumbled across a commodity exchange, for example. Akin to an exchange trading gold or oil, this one trades the capacity to mine Bitcoin — processing power measured in GHash/sec.

Called cex.io the exchange looks easy enough to understand. One advantage of trading processing power is all the time you earn it, you also earn the Bitcoin the associated processing power creates. I’ll be giving it a try with a small amount of Bitcoins to see what happens — as described it looks like a better “savings account” for Bitcoin than keeping them on a computer here.

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