More cautious excitement as Microsoft opens .Net

Meshed Insights Ltd

The Microsoft news is coming thick and fast. A few days ago we discussed Office for iPad, Microsoft’s confession of unethical behaviour and its release of MS-DOS code under a prohibitive license. This weeks news seems even bigger: open source for .Net and $0 pricing for mobile Windows. There’s cause to be excited, yet as ever caution is required.

The excitement comes from the .Net news. The formation of the .Net Foundation and the hosting of 24 projects within it should liberate developers to innovate in a way that seemed impossible under previous leadership. This move has seemed an obvious one for the open source community for a long time, as it offers a new lease of life for .Net through contributor innovation and should help create a rich, monetisable market.

The caution relates to the news that Windows for mobile will be free of charge. Whilst unarguably a big move…

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Parody Finally Made Legal In UK

We thought this was never going to happen. Seems clean and clear but I will be interested to read expert analysis.

Meshed Insights Ltd

Draft regulations have been published in Britain that will finally end the anomaly where quotation, parody, caricature and pastiche are considered breaches of copyright. If approved by Parliament, they will come into force on June 1st, finally closing the loophole in copyright law that allowed copyright owners to chill criticism and stifle research in cases that are otherwise reasonable.

Using the “fair dealing” concept, The Copyright and Rights in Performances (Quotation and Parody) Regulations 2014 both limit the scope for these literary forms infringe copyright, and also invalidates contract terms that claim to forbid them.

(1) Fair dealing with a work for the purposes of caricature, parody or pastiche does not infringe copyright in the work.

(2) To the extent that a term of a contract purports to prevent or restrict the doing of any act which, by virtue of this section, would not infringe copyright, that term is unenforceable.

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Crowdsource vs Open Source

I have frequently pointed out that crowdfunding means no stake and that crowdsourcing is not open source. People still get surprised each time things turn out differently to what they expected though.

Meshed Insights Ltd

The acquisition of virtual reality company Oculus Rift by Facebook was announced this week to mixed reactions. Most negative were those who had enabled the VR goggles to be created in the first place — the backers on Kickstarter who provided nearly $2.5m to see the dream become reality. One prominent backer, the founder of Minecraft creators Mojang, was especially upset, deciding that Minecraft will not collaborate with Facebook. In a blog post he wrote:

I did not chip in ten grand to seed a first investment round to build value for a Facebook acquisition.

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2014: Year of the Linux Desktop

Meshed Insights Ltd

For those thinking that the supremacy of the Linux desktop is closely tied to the success of GNU/Linux distributions like Ubuntu and the downfall of Windows, this headline might come across as bizarrely fantastical. The reality we live and work in though, is one in which Google Apps adoption, the growth of Chrome OS and the unstoppable tide of Android and Android based devices, mean that Linux servers are powering the large majority of what goes on on our desktops.

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Bitcoin exchanges need to get their act together

Meshed Insights Ltd

Sometimes it seems as though bitcoin is a required fixture in the news. The recent collapse of Mt Gox is just the latest in a string of headlines that may have you wondering why people even bother. Bitcoin itself though remains a powerful idea and its transparent, open source approach have enabled it to stand up to scrutiny and criticism with head held high. Not only does it hold a lot of potential in its own right, it also stands as a shining innovative example of the potential for distributed, peer-authenticated ledgers. Far more problematic are the “exploitative ad-hoc businesses” which have grown up around it.

Over the last six months Simon’s been trying out a selection of different bitcoin services and exchanges. The different results he’s encountered generally reflect badly on this admittedly young industry and suggest that they have yet to really find their feet. In particular he claims…

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Surveillance Impact Not Just Personal

Meshed Insights Ltd

In her post on ComputerWorld, Alexandra makes the excellent observation that the impact of surveillance is not exclusively personal. Knowing we could be watched, as Jeremy Bentham observed, changes our behaviour; specifically, it chills our creativity. This in turn affects innovation and hence the economy. More directly, businesses (like RSA) are harmed by the disclosure of their for-profit collusion.

As a consequence, it is in our business interests to deal with excessive surveillance, not just our personal interests.  The same applies to the four freedoms of open source. They are not just a matter of personal preference; they are the key to business success in a meshed society.

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Facebook’s Global Telco Dream

Meshed Insights Ltd

Maybe there’s more to the Facebook acquisition of WhatsApp than just the centralised consolidation of users and user information that Simon denounced in his previous InfoWorld article. Perhaps this particular addition to their portfolio is Facebook’s move towards becoming the first truly global telco!

The idea makes a lot of sense; not only is the world already familiar with the technology, WhatsApp has the same phone numbers that legacy telcos use, without the need to pay for connection fees across the world’s analog phone network. It’s almost amazing it hasn’t happened already, but conditions for a global telco have only recently become so ideal. Smart phones and globally available internet connections mean the moment has come and the big question remaining is, who’ll get there first?

Read Simons take on the potential for a global telco in his InfoWorld article.

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Hope in Federations

Meshed Insights Ltd

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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Stand Up For ODF In The UK

Meshed Insights Ltd

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

Simon’s latest column.

Meshed Insights Ltd

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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