Solving NP-Complete Problems?

In preparing for the interview with the Java-based Drools Planner on FLOSS Weekly, my attention was grabbed by the claim it can solve NP-complete problems. You’ll need to watch the show to see how that worked out!


Red Hat’s Hidden Cloud

Not every project hits the headlines. As I’ve been co-hosting FLOSS Weekly over the last few months, I’ve noticed a surprising number of projects showing up that handle cloud computing in useful ways and are staff by Red Hat employees. I take a short stroll through some of those less known projects in this week’s InfoWorld column.

Google Uses Famous Users As G+ Test Team

The Google Plus team turned on a new feature today while it was being announced at Google IO in San Francisco. Google+ Events is a new feature that integrates Google+, Calendar, image slideshows and Hangouts to create a flexible invitation system for event organisers of all sizes. It looks like an interesting and exciting capability.

Except for one thing. It allows anyone to invite anyone to anything. That means anyone in your circles, or who you can identify on Google+, can be added to your invitation and they will receive it via e-mail, on their calendar and on their Google+ timeline. While there are ways to change the default settings to stop the e-mails and the calendar updates, the postings to the timeline are mandatory.

Sounds great, right? Not if you’re someone like Linus Torvalds. From the moment the capability was turned on, well-known figures on Google+ were deluged with event invitations from people trying out the new capability. With no way to control which invitations are actually displayed on the timeline, users like Torvalds found the Event invitations became the dominant form of communication on Google+. His solution? Quit Google+.

It seems that this is the way you get technical support from Google. I was also affected, and after using the new feature to contact Google+ boss Vic Gundotra for comment got a reply saying “I’m already working on it. Team is all over this.” That was reinforced a few moments later by a message from a press spokesman saying “We’re aware of the issue, and we hope to roll out a fix very shortly. We appreciate all the feedback we’re receiving from users and we’re listening closely.” I know they are looking at this unexpected problem behind the scenes; there’s still no fix, though.

This has happened before. When Google+ was introduced, many people discovered it became impossibly noisy if you added a high-volume user like Robert Scoble to a circle. Eventually Google added a “volume control” to fix that, but the service was significantly the worse for the fact no-one had considered the high-volume corner-cases in advance. Sadly, it seems the lesson wasn’t learned.

It’s great that Google are trying new ideas and creating these new services, and I’m looking forward to using this Events capability when they have it fixed. But I do wonder how many times they will make this mistake of forgetting about the high-volume users – the very people who make Google+ initially attractive to new users.

Update:  It seems Wil Wheaton and Robert Scoble were both stung by this badly as well. And it seems Vic Gundotra has apologised to Wheaton and got it fixed.

Whatever Happened To OpenSolaris?

Oracle probably thought they’d killed OpenSolaris after they bought Sun and focussed so many resources on Sun’s hardware business. But that sort of thinking would betray an ignorance of the reality of open source if it was true.  You can shut down proprietary projects because you own them; open source projects only shut down when they have no community.

Instead, Oracle merely erased the name “OpenSolaris” from history and triggered the formation of the Illumos project. They thus created the environment for a whole range of new ventures based around the innovations that made Solaris 10 a great operating system. Read about them in my column in InfoWorld this week.

A Database Ripe For Abuse

The draft Communications Data Bill is of great concern, not primarily because it lacks controls over who can access private data – these will be added – but because it creates a privacy-destroying surveillance resource which is certain to be abused in the future – both by government agencies and by illegal intruders. Read more in my article about it on ComputerWorldUK.

Help test Ubuntu for Android

Want to get hands-on with Ubuntu for Android?  I heard recently from Richard Collins at Canonical that he would like some help with user testing Ubuntu for Android. He tells me they are looking for some folk in or around London who would be willing to visit them in Southwark and help them with end-user testing.

They are looking for business people comfortable with technology, rather than for developers. Previous exposure to Ubuntu would be useful but is not essential. It will take a few hours in central London and they will provide a pleasing thank-you gift. Contact him <> if you’d like to volunteer.

As a reminder, here is my video interview with Richard about the project:


See you at OSCON?

I'm Speaking at OSCON 2012 (size 300 X 250)

I’ve news.

  • My talk – about why OSI is more relevant than ever – has been accepted for OSCON in Portland in July.
  • Even better, OSI has been allocated one of the non-profit stands in the exhibit area, which will be used for the new Membership schemes we’ve been working on (BIG news coming soon!).
  • Even better than that, O’Reilly tell me that if you quote the code WEBMINK on the enrolment form, you’ll get a 20% discount on any OSCON attendee package!
  • And best of all, for every five people who use the code to sign up, I will get one free pass to donate to a deserving community member.

Book Me In The USA!

If you’d like me to speak at your corporate event, user group or conference in the USA, you’ll be interested to know that I expect to be in the USA in mid-July and in November 2012. Please visit my Events page to find out more.

OSI Affiliate Scheme Live

The move to membership at the Open Source Initiative continues. OSI just published a list of the last five “invited” non-profit Affiliate Members, and opened for general applications. As well as open source development communities, I would also love to see open source user groups all over the world apply to join OSI, as the French user association AFUL has done.

Among the other (very welcome!) Affiliates joining OSI, I’m also pleased to see a non-profit open source user organisation; the Wikimedia Foundation. This is another step towards OSI fulfilling the core of the vision with which it was initially founded back in 1998; “to educate about and advocate for the benefits of open source and to build bridges among different constituencies in the open source community.” (my emphasis).  It’s time.

Can the DPL Work?

What is patents could be de-weaponized? That’s the goal of the new Defensive Patent License, released this week by law professor (and former EFF lawyer) Jason Schultz. My article for InfoWorld this week looks at the background to the DPL and asks if it will actually work.

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