Category Archives: Linux

Open Source as a Model for Business Is Elusive

While this is ostensibly about European Union politics, I wanted to make sure that Planet readers saw this interesting Ashlee Vance story in the NY Times on business models in open source software that mentions Mozilla and Firefox.

Open-source software has thrived and played a prominent role in the building of the Internet’s infrastructure. Many companies rely on Linux-based computers and Apache Web server software to display their Web pages. Similarly, the Mozilla Firefox Web browser has emerged as the most formidable competitor to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.

The grass-roots nature of open source has led advocates to view the projects as a populist foil to proprietary software, where a company keeps the inner workings of its applications secret.

But in the last decade, open-source software has become more of a corporate affair than a people’s revolution.

In some cases, dominant technology companies have used open-source projects as pawns. Google, for example, has needled Microsoft by providing financial support to the nonprofit Mozilla Foundation, which oversees of the development of Firefox. I.B.M. has been a major backer of Linux, helping to raise it as a competitor to Microsoft’s Windows and other proprietary operating systems.

Open Source as a Model for Business Is Elusive

Korea Paying Price for Microsoft Monoculture

Last week the Korea Times had a long piece on the unique issues around browser security and encryption technologies in Korea, Korea Paying Price for Microsoft Monoculture, which did not reference my original article, the cost of monoculture, but is updating the issues I raised in early 2007.

A few choice quotes:

But the land of ubiquitous broadband, feature-happy “smart” phones and ultra-cool computing devices doubles as a crusty regime where Linux, Firefox, Chrome and Opera users can’t bank or purchase products online, and where Mac users buy Windows CDs to prevent their devices being reduced to fashion items.

The bizarre coexistence of advanced hardware and an outdated user environment is a result of the country’s overreliance on the technology of Microsoft, the U.S. software giant that owns the Korean computing experience like a fat kid does a cookie jar.

Critics say the country would end up paying dearly for allowing a Microsoft monoculture to take hold, with consumers deprived of the freedom to choose newer and better products and the Web industry seeing its innovation compromised.

(Anyone want to send me a Steve Ballmer with cookie jar photoshop masterpiece? 🙂 )

The article goes on to cover a lot of the issues affecting web users in Korea and how many valiant efforts have gone into trying to affect change, most significantly the 3 lawsuits that Dr. Keechang Kim has brought against various Korean policy-making bodies, without success.

The newest effort of the open web community in Korea is, an effort to push/educate banking institutions in Korea to change their practices as many believe it is these consumer-facing services which are key to making real change happen for an open web in Korea.

Mozilla is committed to supporting the Koreans who are pushing for a competitive truly open web in Korea. If there is something that we should be doing in Korea to further support open web efforts, please do not hesitate to contact me or leave a comment with your thoughts.

I, for one, look forward to a day when anyone in Korea can use any modern browser on any major consumer computer operating system to bank, purchase goods/services online, trade stocks, etc. without the need for a browser plugin.

Mozilla at 2009 MSC Malaysia Open Source Conference

I’m attending the 2009 MSC Malaysia Open Source Conference.

MSC Malaysia Open Source Conference

See more photos at Facebook | Sumardi Shukor’s Photos – MSCOSCONF2009 – Conference Day 1

For some background on this event, Yoon Kit has a good overview of how far the Malaysian government has come but also has some good constructive criticism for the organizers of the event. I highly recommend his blog post at Open Malaysia Blog – MSCOSCONF.

In the morning of the first day, I gave a presentation in the Community Track. I was scheduled to talk about Firefox 3.5, Fennec and Bespin, but at the last minute I decided to change my presentation to focus on HTML 5 and web standards. I did not want to come off as just focusing on Mozilla software so I decided to re-do my presentation to this:

Open Source Powers the Open Web: HTML 5, JavaScript, and the importance of open web standards (download in OpenOffice Impress format or pdf format.)

In the afternoon, I was on a panel discussion about open source and innovation.

Can Open Source bring about your next Innovation Breakthrough ?

Panel Speakers
1.Dato’ Dr. Kamaljit Singh, GIRC
2. Tengku Farith Rithaudeen, SKALI
3. Gen Kanai, Mozilla Corp
4. Ang Chin Han, Bytecraft

MODERATOR: Dr. Raslan Ahmad, MOSTI

Download my presentation in OpenOffice Impress and pdf.

I sometimes use Slideshare, and if that’s what folks would prefer, I can upload the presentations to Slideshare but I spent a portion of my presentation slagging Flash so it seemed a bit strange to then go use Slideshare (which is all Flash.)

I’m happy to take questions via email or via comments to my blog.  Unfortunately the network connection at the conference was not as stable as I needed it to be to demonstrate some of the heavier open video demos, so if you came to my presentations, please download them to see the links to the demos I wanted to show.

Bayanihan Linux in the Philippines

Did you know that the Philippine government funds a Linux distribution?  I did not until today.

Chin Wong, a columnist at the Philippine national daily newspaper, the Manila Standard Today, has a blog covering technology trends called Digital Life where he recently asked,

Do we need our own Linux?

Chin wrote about Bayanihan Linux, which is a Philippine government-funded Linux distribution based on Debian. The term ‘bayanihan’ itself, “refers to a spirit of communal unity or effort to achieve a particular objective.” Chin tried installing Bayanihan 3 times and failed with the comment:

All this was unfortunate, because Bayanihan 5 looks like a promising and modern operating system, that like Ubuntu, is based on Debian Linux. Like other modern Linux distributions, Bayanihan 5 also comes with a complete set of free and open source applications, including an office productivity suite, a powerful image-editing application, a media player and a CD burner. The interface, based on KDE , is a little busy for my taste, but is slick and easy enough to navigate. But do we really need bouncing icons attached to the mouse pointer while an application loads?

There is some effort at localization. Bayanihan’s OpenOffice, for example, is packed with templates of commonly used government forms. Firefox is set up with bookmarks to government and local news sites. But are such localized touches worth the effort of developing our own Linux distribution?

Chin also mentions that Bayanihan Linux version 5 came out in 2007 and that there has been no news about any updates. The website for the OS lists a forum for users but that is closed, which is ominous. He closes the post by asking whether there is a need for a Philippine Linux distribution. I’d love to know more about the customizations of Firefox that were made and how those decisions were made.

Us Now, the power of mass collaboration, government and the Internet

I wanted to take a moment to recommend a 1 hour documentary, US Now, which bills itself as, “A film project about the power of mass collaboration, government and the internet.

The film is a good look at how the Internet is impacting the way people communicate and collaborate in fundamental ways and asks if and how we might have more participatory governments due to these changes in human behavior. The open source software model is discussed but is only one of many examples used.

I especially enjoyed Clay Shirky‘s time on screen as he is clearly the leading thinker in this new arena.

Us Now is viewable on the Internet for free (at vimeo).

Linux Foundation interviews Mitchell Baker

Jim Zemlin, Executive Director of the Linux Foundation, interviews Chief Lizard Wrangler, Mitchell Baker, of Mozilla.

You can find the audio of the interview here:
Open Voices Interview with Mitchell Baker, Mozilla

And a transcript of the interview here:
Mitchell Baker Transcript : Open Voices: The Linux Foundation Podcast

Lots of historical information in this interview. Highly recommended.

Jim Zemlin: I’m just curious as to, was Microsoft something that really drove what you were doing? {audio dropout} there a feeling in the people who {audio dropout} worked at the Mozilla Foundation at the time and worked on the project of, you know, “We can’t abide by a de facto monopoly web browser, that in order for the internet to be free, we’ve got to be successful,”? Was that mentality present at the time?

Mitchell Baker: Oh, sure. There are some things about Netscape mentality, but when you get past that, when you get the Mozilla Project, and for example why I was there and stuck with it and why a number of people did, one reason is absolutely that. That the browser turned out to be key in how, you know, human beings access the Internet. And if there’s only one way to do it, and there’s only one way to get to the information on the Internet, and that pathway is controlled by a single business entity and a single business plan, and, you know, one that’s giant and has shown itself to be very aggressive at using its assets to promote itself, then you’re in for a disaster. And I think we can see that. Because in, like, 2000, 2001, 2002 when we didn’t have a good product out on the market yet and there was essentially no browser competition, if you look back to it, you can remember that it was full of pop-up ads and spyware and, you know, whole computers slowing down because of all the stuff that was coming in through the one available browser. So we still believe and feel vindicated that you’ve got to have more than one option in these settings.

The later in the interview:

Jim Zemlin: What is it about a project like this—or Linux or Apache—that is so exciting to people; that motivates people to go to such extreme lengths of sacrificing personal time and, you know, extending huge amounts of emotional, physical energy towards something like that at these type of projects? What is it, in your mind, that drives people to participate?

Mitchell Baker: It’s a set of things. Some people have all of them; some people only have one or two of them. In some cases, it’s the sense that what you’re doing actually matters. And that one can see that the openness of the Internet that we want to live in can be affected, can be made more likely by the work that we do. So that’s one thing.

For many of us, the Internet itself. I sometimes say I have the Internet bug, or I was bitten by the Internet bug. I say that because I had malaria once. {Laughs} You know, it’s in the blood, right. There’s nothing you can do about it. And while you’ve got it and while it’s there, you know, you have to live with it because it’s just unavoidable. And I also feel that way about what I call the Internet bug. Alright, it is just such a powerful tool and so exciting, and there’s so much positive that can happen from it and anything that powerful can have that sort of a dark and unpleasant side. And you roll all those things with the feeling that, “Wow, you know, all of this is possible and we can make it better.” I think I’m not the only one who’s got that bug.

A third reason is technology. We’ve always been blessed that we have great technology and very smart people working on it. And that tends to attract other really smart people. And I think you’ll find, at many open source projects—you’ve named the big ones of course—but many of the smaller ones as well, it’s a love of the technology that’s also important.

And there is a sense, I would say, of community and bonding that is an extreme motivator. Sometimes people ask me why anyone would work on a software project if they weren’t getting paid for it. Well, think about how many people don’t like their job. Or feel like they’ve got expertise that doesn’t get used. Or their colleagues or their management or the people they’re responsible for get in the way. Or the company is going in a direction that doesn’t make sense and cuts off all the interesting projects. And your advancement isn’t based on reputation or skill, it’s based on, you know, who happens to like you. Well, we can mitigate or eliminate almost all of those things in an open source project. And so it turns out a lot of people do not want to be couch potatoes, right. And if you provide a setting in which something really interesting is happening, and it matters; you can see that other people use it and it’s got really smart people working on it, and they will accept you if you find interesting things to do, and some of them will even help you. And you can see the results of that, you know, you can generate a reputation and have people interested in you and have your work used by millions of people. That rolls up into a pretty motivating package.

The later in the interview Zemlin asks Mitchell about Mozilla and trademarks vs. how Linux handles trademarks.  That’s maybe the most interesting part of the interview, in my opinion. Finally, Zemlin asks Mitchell for advice re: trademarks and the Linux desktop.

Cisco and China; Linux in Korea; community survey; JUI in Tokyo

Intel® C++ Software Development Tool Suite 1.0 for Linux* OS Supporting Mobile Internet Devices
Free IDE for mobile linux development.

OECD Broadband Portal – Press release
Data on broadband growth.

Firebug 1.2 beta for Firefox 3 RC 1
Works with Firefox 3 RC 1! Might have a few bugs but please check it out.

Q&A with Isaac Mao on tech blogging in China: Censorship, and opportunity
Isaac was very helpful when we visited Shanghai in 2007 before we opened the Mozilla Beijing office.

Cisco Systems Denies Online Censorship Role in China
Cisco internal documents show otherwise.

Cisco Leak: ‘Great Firewall’ of China Was a Chance to Sell More Routers
Not surprised; very disappointed.

Cisco saw opportunity in “Golden Shield” to help fight criminals…and dissidents
Must-read from Rebecca MacKinnon on Cisco-firewall-gate.

Read and be depressed with me.

China’s All-Seeing Eye
Naomi Klein for Rolling Stone Magazine.

Open-Source File Format Is to Be a Part of Microsoft Office
Embrace & extend.

Report: JUI (Javascript User Interface) 2008 conference in Tokyo
Akky and Serkan have made Asiajin a must-read in 2008.

Firefox 3 Usability Survey
Isriya Paireepairit of the Mozilla community in Thailand would like your help with a survey he is working on for his university studies.

Metagold: A Research Blog about Nico Nico Douga
Fascinating English-language look into the hot video web service of Japan. Correspondent’s Diary – Tokyo food
Excellent Tokyo food blog.

Linux Foundation Opens Korean Office
The LiMoKr must be targeting enterprises or just the server market because the Linux desktop is dead in the water in Korea without support for SEED and Korea’s unique Windows/ActiveX-based encryption method.


.jp Registry report 2007

Lower fees, more coordination within Asian registrars, expansion of JP DNS servers, DNSSEC.  Personally, I am still on the fence with regards to i18nized domains.

Chris Blizzard video interview

Amanda McPherson, the marketing director for the Linux Foundation, linked to a great video interview with Chris Blizzard from the Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit. Chris talks about Firefox on Linux, Mozilla and Linux, Firefox on mobile and other topics related to Linux and Firefox.

Nokia on working with open source

Via flors I see that Ari Jaaksi, a Vice President of Software at Nokia, recently presented on “What Mobile Users Need and How Open Source Can Help” at OSiM USA 2008. Jaaksi’s presentation is also available in pdf and Podshow is also providing an mp3. I recommend the mp3 audio as the presentation is largely images.

Jaaksi’s presentation is very relevant to Mozilla because Nokia’s N810 Internet Tablet ships with Maemo Linux as the operating system and Mozilla’s Gecko is used as the rendering engine for the Maemo Browser.  I know from recent discussions with Christian Sejersen and Jay Sullivan of Mozilla’s mobile team that Mozilla very much values Nokia’s participation in the Mozilla project.

Jaaksi’s presentation touched on these points:

  • Linux and open source CAN meet the needs of mass-market.
  • [Nokia’s] role: bring open source to mainstream consumer electronics
  • [Nokia & open source] need to learn from each other. Both.
  • Building upstream. Community rules.
  • Beyond code and licenses: developers and projects.
  • Diving in: deeper involvement.

While the entire presentation was worth reviewing, starting around 16:40 in Jaaksi’s presentation are some interesting and insightful comments about Nokia and working in open source. In response to a question about whether Nokia contributed patches back to Webkit around the implementation of Webkit in Nokia’s S60 platform, Jaaksi was open and honest and said that Nokia did not do enough in that instance.  He then went on to say that Nokia plans to work more closely with the open source projects they are shipping code from in the future.

Note: when Jaaksi talks about the ‘upstream model’ what he means to say is contributing patches regularly back to the original project’s codebase. I’ve also added in some clarification in brackets in the transcription below to make it more clear as to what exactly Jaaksi is referring to.

Question from the audience (@ 16:20): Excuse me, another question. If I remember correctly, it was 3 years ago when you [Nokia] implemented Webkit in to the Series 60 devices, you had to make a lot changes, for example in memory management. Did you use the ‘upstream model’ in that case?  I mean, did you feed back to the community the changes you had made for your devices?

Answer from Ari Jaaksi:  Not the way we [Nokia] should have done it.  Let me be very honest about that. Also with our Internet tablets we have horror stories where we didn’t do it [share patches back with the trunk]. Just today, or yesterday I discussed this with the Mozilla guy, the name escapes me at the moment, I don’t know if he is here today, about our Mozilla browser here. It is really that, what we did was last summer when we started to ship with the Mozilla browser we made a couple of mistakes. We are kind of working upstream there [with Mozilla] but we are not doing as much as I would like to do and we sort of need to go back. We almost forked the code [from Mozilla] but we need to go back [to sync up with the main Gecko 1.9 trunk].

Also in the [Webkit] browser on the Series 60 devices, I claim that the Webkit situation is not a trivial case. There are… Apple forked it.  We [Nokia] kind of forked it. There are some challenges now [due to the forking of code from the Webkit trunk]. This is something that we as an industry should learn [not to do]. This [forking code] is not benefitting anybody if we do it like that. That is kind of my message here.  Good question.

I, for one, am very glad to see Nokia using open source, and it’s clear from Jaaksi’s presentation and comments that while Nokia has had some challenges in developing with open source code, they are learning how better to work with open source communities (like Mozilla) to provide innovative products to Nokia’s customers.  It’s great to hear that Nokia plans to sync back with the core Gecko code base as Nokia (and the users of the Nokia products that will ship with Gecko) will get all the benefits that the entire Mozilla community is working on for the current version of Gecko 1.9 and beyond.

Thank you to Ari Jaaksi and the entire Nokia open source development team for their hard work and efforts.  We look forward to your future products, especially those made with OSS and especially Mozilla.

French gov. will use Firefox on Ubuntu

Wonderful news from France. Europe is pushing open source much more aggressively than anywhere else in the world.

Starting in June 2007, 1,154 desks will feature Linux-based PCs. During the latest IT update for parliamentary assistants, the National Assembly decided to switch from Windows to Linux, allowing the 577 parliament members to switch to non-proprietary software for the first time.

As well as using the Ubuntu software, the parliament members and their assistants will use Firefox, OpenOffice, Mozilla’s messaging client Thunderbird, and other applications.

French parliament picks Ubuntu for Linux switch: ZDNet Australia