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.

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 <richard.collins@canonical.com> if you’d like to volunteer.

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

[youtube http://youtu.be/wzc0uMXGFBY]

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.

GPL Cops – Good Or Bad?

Taking the tram at OSCON (Credit: Michael Dexter)

The folks at the Software Freedom Conservancy (notably their Executive Director Bradley Kuhn, pictured) were good enough to spend time with me discussing their work on GPL enforcement and sent me this week’s news in advance so I could think about it. My concern for a while has been that GPL enforcement – which mainly targets embedded use of the Linux ecosystem – creates the impression that open source is a risky choice for enterprises. I do agree with them that the education of electronics vendors – ultimately backed by sanctions, so they will listen – is a useful function. I dislike the way the same language is used by others to sell “legal compliance” services to enterprise users on the back of FUD, though.

I was pleased to find that the SFC folk largely agree with me. My article in InfoWorld today tries to set the balance straight as far as enterprise adoption of open source is concerned. Bradley and I could also collaborate on a more detailed article – I’d be interested in your views of how valuable that would be.

Making Hybrid PDFs

It’s easy with LibreOffice. Send people attachments you can be sure they can view, but which can also be edited with free, open source software.

Here’s a how-to video that explains how to make Hybrid PDF files – that’s a normal PDF file, but with the ODF source of the document embedded so that anyone with LibreOffice is also able to open and edit it. Both ODF and PDF are widely implemented open standards, so you can be sure that there’s a choice of free and open source software for editing and viewing them and that they will remain accessible in perpetuity.

[youtube http://youtu.be/EuVZcygoZsI]

The instruction sheet I edit in the video is available for download. Naturally, it’s an editable PDF!

Ubuntu for Android

In case you missed it in the article yesterday (I know plenty of people don’t click through!), here is the very simple video I made of Ubuntu for Android in action:

It’s able to run unmodified LibreOffice because it’s running a full copy of Ubuntu and a full copy of Android, sharing the same Linux kernel. It’s still a prototype, but I think we’ll see more of this.

Going to OSCON

My proposal has been accepted for OSCON in Portland this July, so I’m planning on attending once again – I’ve been to most of them since 2000 when Sun created the OpenOffice.org project (now LibreOffice). I’ll be leading a session about the reboot of OSI, together with other OSI Board members, and I hope we will have some very exciting news to announce there.

“Open” Standards? OSI Did That In 2006!

Back then, a detailed discussion at the Open Source Initiative – where I am today a director – led to the creation of a statement about what makes a standard open, and a set of criteria for determining if the requirement was met and a standard compliant. Both are very simple as well as fully explained. So why is there even a need for a UK Government Standards Consultation? I discuss in detail on ComputerWorldUK.

☆ OSI Affiliate Scheme Grows

It’s been an open secret all month, but two new members have joined the Affiliate scheme at OSI – Spain’s CENATIC (the national open source competency centre that’s been so important to the government adoption of open source in Spain’s regions) and the venerable Debian Project. Both bring a much-needed international flavour to OSI, along with a wealth of hard-won experience.

Having Debian join OSI is especially sweet. When OSI formed at the end of the 90s, the basis for the definition of what constituted an open source license – the Open Source Definition – was derived directly from the earlier Debian Free Software Guidelines by a former Debian Project Lead, Bruce Perens. The DFSG in turn was part of the Debian Social Contract, a pragmatic and specific response to the ethical imperative of free software.

By opening up as it has, OSI offers a place to gather the clans of open source. OSI is not the only, the first or the best exemplar of open source – it would be rash for any organisation to make such claims. But its decade-long stewardship role, along with the vision of the new Board to draw in members from ever country and every aspect of open source and software freedom, makes it a fine gathering point which could have tremendous value to us all in the future.

☆ Promoting Document Freedom

Today is Document Freedom Day. It’s not the easiest subject to explain. It’s easy to explain why being free to video a police encounter in the USA is important, or why it’s wrong for your eBook to be remotely controlled by a vendor, but many people fail to understand the subtlety of why a document format is important.

Having your work in a format that will still be readable in 20 years makes sense, and being able to be sure when you share a document with others that they will be able to read it and work on it is also good. But people glaze over when you try to explain that an ISO standard is not enough. Having a document format standard that is beyond the control of any individual vendor and is fully implemented in multiple products is crucial, but seems esoteric.

So when it comes to practical actions, most people still just save their work in the format their office software chooses for them by default. They send it out to everyone without a thought for the fact they are adding their own energy to a market monopoly that restricts choice and innovation and sells our future to one of the worlds richest convicted monopolists. It’s convenient now, but who knows if the files will even be readable in the future? The largest corporations can change (Nokia started making rubber products) or even go out of business (I’ll leave you to think of an example!)

The fact it is so hard to explain to ordinary people why their choice of document format matters, why a little effort now can make all the difference in the world, is what led me to the conclusion it was worth promoting hybrid PDFs. As I wrote yesterday on ComputerWorldUK, it is possible to create a PDF that can also be fully edited.

Like ODF, PDF is a standard. Sending a PDF makes the maximum number of people able to read your work, so it’s worth the small extra effort to create it. Developing an instinct to always send PDFs ensures maximum readability, and it’s safe to assume PDFs will continue to be readable for the indefinitely long future. Using online storage instead of attaching the file can be good, but plenty of mobile and out-of-office people will be inconvenienced or excluded by that, so I’ve found people reluctant to rely on it at the moment.

Sending PDFs is the right answer. The only issue is editability. Most people just want to send one attachment, so they opt for the one from their word-processor or presentation program. By a simple software upgrade to LibreOffice, that problem is solved too. LibreOffice makes PDFs very easily, and now also comes configured to create PDFs that can be edited. I’ve created full instructions which you are welcome to pass on to others – and edit if you need to!

While I am naturally a huge supporter of Open Document Format as the best protection for our digital liberty, pragmatically I think educating and encouraging people to send PDFs instead of .DOC/.DOCX files is the best next step. When they learn the benefits of editable PDFs, they are also using ODF, of course – that’s the format that’s embedded in the PDF. But it’s a smaller, easier, less controversial step to send a PDF to all their friends and collaborators.

So celebrate Document Freedom Day with me today. Send a friend my tip about editable PDFs, or just the how-to sheet. The journey to freedom starts with the first step.

%d bloggers like this: