Nick Carr locates the soft, white underbelly of the OSS "community" model - it makes it fairly easy for a large corporation to slap down a trouble-making (in their mind) smaller company:
Are there economic or other barriers that prevent competitors from capitalizing on the investments of the open-source companies?
We're about to get a lot closer to an answer to that question, thanks to that great clarifying force in the technology business, Larry Ellison. Yesterday, Ellison announced that his company, Oracle, fully intends to eat the fruits of the labor of Red Hat, the leading for-profit supplier of the open-source Linux operating system. Oracle is taking the version of Linux developed by Red Hat and distributing it under its own brand, as "Unbreakable Linux." And, in a stab at Red Hat's very heart, Ellison claims that Oracle will substantially undercut the open-source firm's prices for supporting the software. It seems like a claim that shouldn't be hard to fulfill. After all, Oracle doesn't have to pay those labor costs.
It should be interesting to watch that play out - and it demonstrates why I'm leery of any Open Source business strategy for our product.
Andres Valloud attended a keynote at OOPSLA that covered type inference (using Haskell, sounds like):
Haskell's type classes are, as I understood them, a way to pass a sort of "method dictionary" so that type inference works. However, the type inference breaks when not all sends are "monomorphic". Well right, if all sends are monomorphic, then types are essentially method lookups --- hence my previous claim that good type inference engines are hard to come by
Go read the whole thing - Andres draws some conclusions, and they come from his experience in the field.
Update: With a tip of the hat to Giovanni, the link is fixed
Engineering has released new 7.x VMs - the following bugs have been addressed:
- 50949: Launching an image gives write permission to it
- 51236: Bus Error when VI is reading/accepting socket data on intel macosx engine
- 51239: Sentinel in win vm's io semaphore array's free list is wrong.
- 51255: Windows socket performance 100 times worse if background processes are running
- 51316: description of primitive 390 for OS8
- 51328: 51077 introduced a bug on Solaris causing lost delays when moving windows
- 51330: Revert to VC++ v6
- 51359: StrAllocate needs an OE function for fixed space
- 51363: ZLib code fails to export all functions in the zlib interface.
The following ARs were fixed in the preceding 7.4c engines:
- 46964: Moving mouse speeds up thapi queries 30-fold on Linux MP.
- 50990: Moving low-level event dispatch from the VM up into the VI
- 50992: Wave Core parcel crashes engine upon load on 64 bit linux (VM)
- 50994: A remote Postgres connection makes the Linux VM run hot
- 51077: Fix to debug engine's interminable stream of "lost time signal in waitForIO"
- 51078: LAZY_UNLINKING regime fails to void cached MNU PICs
- 51081: crash in LESS application looks like a Visualworks bug
- 43106: Attempting to receive data on a SocketAccessor results in UHE: WSAECONNRESET under Windows 2000
- 51155: soft heap ulimit restricts memoryUpperBound on Solaris since 7.4
- 51174: 64-bit Linux hot hang in #waitNoButton
Grab 'em and go
Looks like the RIAA's "fire and forget" lawsuit strategy may end up costing them, if lawyer Barringer-Thomson has her way:
Oklahoma based attorney Marilyn Barringer-Thomson is proving to be a giant pain in the tucas for the RIAA. You may remember the case of Debbie Foster, in which Barringer-Thomson beat the RIAA at their own game by making a motion for summary judgment. The RIAA withdrew the case, presumably because they didn't feel that laying their cards on the table was the smartest move at that juncture. The judge in the case allowed the RIAA to withdraw their lawsuit, but ruled that it was "with prejudice", meaning the RIAA is at fault and opening the door for Foster to recover legal fees accrued from her defense.
Anything that causes the RIAA pain is just fine with me. Those guys are trying to hang on to an increasingly outdated business model by their fingernails. Like a wounded animal, they need to be put down.
Jeff Jarvis notes how much extra cost there is in TV production:
On the way to one of three meetings I happened to have this week with people who are starting new, lightweight networks — because the internet lets them — I walked by a location shoot for a TV show. We see them all the time, we jaded New Yorkers, and so we’re never amazed. But what does not cease to amaze me is all the stuff it takes — or they think it takes — to shoot a show: trucks filled with lights and cables and plugs, handcarts filled just with the director’s chairs with stars names on the back, bins overflowing even with wooden boxes with the Paramount logo on the side, assistant directors running around trying to act more important than the snotty gophers they are, catering trucks with expensive caterers: expense everywhere.
I mentioned last week that I thought TV would hold up against the "DIY" juggernaught, but I could be wrong - there's a lot of extra cost mentioned above. How much do you really need, if you just want to capture a scene, and are willing to use actors who don't have egos the size of Montana?
I don't know the answer - I suspect know one does, yet - but there are tons of amateur and semi-pro actors around - many of them are doing part time local theater. Would they be willing to do full-time drama for a lot less than the cost for (insert star here)? I expect the answer is yes. Jeff touches on that, and other costs, here:
Do they really need all that to shoot three minutes of obvious primetime drama? Of course, they don’t. Studio and network executives have lamented the cost for a long time, but they haven’t been able to change it. That’s how TV is made — or that’s how the priests of the TV tools told us it is made. But with ratings and now revenue facing merciless shrinkage, the networks will attack this cost structure. The first, stupid response was to invent stupid, cheap, reality shows: NBC’s answer to its declining economics was to declare defeat at shovel us **** at 8 p.m.
I predict that one smarter network will soon discover a show made cheap, handheld cameras, no location trucks, no gaffers, no ADs, no caterers, and no numbing studio structure but lots of creativity and passion and independence: a show made by one of those three ventures I met with this week. That show will go on the air and be a hit, not because of how it is shot but because of what it says. The networks will discover that they can get quality TV that is still popular — not as popular as the blockbusters of old, yes, but popular enough to be profitable so long as the costs are low. That will be great news for the creative class, because it will lower the barrier to an audience. And that will be good news for us, formerly known as the audience, because we’ll see TV that is valued for its creativity over its infrastructure.
Consider RocketBoom - it's not a newscast in the same sense that the evening news is, but it easily could be (or something like it could be). How much lower do you think Andrew's production costs are? Now apply that thought to entertainment shows, using actors who make average salaries (instead of millions per show). Further imagine that said shows show up on iTunes, with some kind of slipstreamed ads (product placement, short spots) for free download.
Now you start to understand why the studios want a DRM wall between your PC and your TV - the last thing they want is inexpensive (and inexpensively produced) content streaming to the living room TV. They would much rather keep you on their plantation. What's going on now is a modern-day replay of the luddite's war against mechanical looms - only with the media machine cast into the part of Ned Ludd.
Boris Popov has some pointers for deploying a Seaside application with Apache:
If you’re about to deploy a new shiny application you developed with Seaside, you’re probably wondering how to go about it. Well, here’s one way of doing it and its generic enough that it may just work or require very little tweaking if you already have Apache2 installed.
Technorati Tags: seaside
IBM's patent infringement suit against Amazon is the equivalent of Big Blue saying "Excuse me everyone, we've got something very important to say." Very important indeed if you own or operate a Web site with advertisements on it.
Now, I don't like software patents, but I did hear something about this one yesterday. Apparently, IBM has two things going for it:
- The patent dates back to the 80's with Prodigy
- Just about every other entity IBM has approached has paid a license fee - Amazon told them to go stick it.
I'd be more willing to cheer Amazon's stance if they weren't holding the asinine "one click" patent.
Citing widespread interference on broadcast frequencies used by its member stations, National Public Radio has asked the Federal Communications Commission to order recalls of millions of FM modulators that drivers use to play satellite radios and iPods through their car stereos.
Doc makes a great case for why none of that matters - head on over there for his reasons. I have to agree with him - the only interference I've ever heard myself was a Disney bus (in Disneyworld) overwhelming my modulator on a frequency with no radio stations at all. Not exactly a catastrophe warranting a recall, IMHO.
"What happens when a film studio and a fanbase get into bed? Fans of Joss Whedon's Firefly, and the movie by Universal Studios - Serenity - are not amused. After being encouraged to viral market Serenity, the studio has started legal action against fans (demanding $9000 in retroactive licensing fees in one case and demanding fan promotion stop), and going after Cafepress. The fans response? Retroactively invoice Universal for their services."
Universal seems to be trying to "protect their trademark" after the fact:
Naturally, people have the right to protect their trademarks -- but when you do viral marketing you also have to relax on that a bit. The Serenity PR people sent me lots of images and art, with the obvious expectation that I'd use them in publicity. When you do that sort of thing, it filters out. This was a bad time to lawyer up.
What do the bozos there think marketing had in mind when the images and artwork were sent out? This is so, so stupid - they are poisoning the well for any future viral effort - who's going to trust the PR flacks after this?
I'm sure that publicly looking like a set of morons is great for the studio...
Scoble notes that Apple's blogging policy - no work related stuff - hinders something that a lot of us are starting to expect: Googling to find a product contact person.
But what he doesn’t admit is that Google has changed everything. Now I totally expect to be able to find an employee at a company running a product group. Here’s a test.
Go to Google. Type “OneNote blog.” You’ll find Chris Pratley. He runs the team. I can tell him his product sucks in his comments.
Now, go back to Google. Type “Apple MacBook blog.” Do you find an Apple employee? No. You find a corporate page. Send an email there. Does it go to the right person? I have no idea. Certainly bloggers who’ve tried that recently due to Apple’s rebooting problems are getting unstatisfactory answers.
That's a very good point. If you Google any of these phrases:
You get to me pretty quick. The last one takes you first to an OST datasheet, but my contact email is on that site too - and the second result is my blog. I think Apple (and any other company not on this bandwagon) is missing something here. PR is no longer the exclusive domain of the high priests in that department.
Now, I have to admit - even Cincom isn't that great on this. For Smalltalk related stuff, my site pops right up. However, try any of these:
The first one pulls my blog, the last pulls something (non-Cincom) related, and the others get nothing related to Cincom at all. There's a lot to be done, it seems.
Technorati Tags: marketing
The agenda is cram packed with sessions covering all aspects of Consumer Generated Media (CGM) including an overview of where we are today, why people do this stuff, where CGM is going in the future, and how exactly marketers can leverage and measure this powerful channel. Ironically, the confirmation email I received for the event includes this warning:
"Off The Record: the CGM Summit is off the record, so please no blogging, reporting, recording or broadcasting."
Hmmm... So how can you host an event about consumer generated media and not let your consumers, um, generate media?
I think they don't get the point :)
David and I had to go ahead without Michael this week - our schedules meshed badly, and it was too late for Michael - the daylight savings time cutover didn't help there. I'll be getting to the editing of the audio later - I have a girl scout event to chaperone soon.
Well, this comes a day late - I forgot yesterday, and I was busy with my daughter's girl scout troop all day - and now I'm editing the audio for the weekly podcast. Anyway, BottomFeeder downloads went at a rate of 190/day - the details:
HTML pages accesses continue to rise - and IE usage is staying up as well. Looks like IE 7 may be driving that:
|Tool||Percentage of Accesses|
Syndication subscriptions are rising as well - the details there:
|Tool||Percentage of Accesses|
|Net News Wire||8.4%|
|Google Feed Fetcher||5.4%|
|RSS 2 Email||1%|
This week, Michael wasn't able to join us - the time change and screwy weekend schedules combined to muck that up. David and I spoke about Smalltalk version control, and we addressed feedback from our listeners. Download the podcast here; if you have feedback, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. MP3 files welcome.
Scoble asks an interesting question: under what circumstances should you consider running ads on a blog?
What do you think? Should I sell ads here? If it was your blog, would you hesitate? Why?
I think it really depends on your goals. Here, I'm doing PR and evangelism for Cincom Smalltalk - so I don't think ads would help much. If this were a personal blog, rather than a corporately sponsored one, my answer would probably be different.
For corporate blogs, it's a policy decision, not a personal one. Scoble is sitting in a gray area there, so I'm not sure what he should do...
Ed Foster highlights an all too common support problem: can you actually get the vendor on the phone?
"I went to Tascam's website to get a number for support. Okay, no toll-free number so I dropped an email to the support address - saves waiting on the phone. A week goes by and nothing. I call -- get someone and get shunted to the voicemail of the tech who handles this unit (he hasn't arrived at work yet) so I leave a voicemail. No response to this day. In the meantime I've called twice and both times gotten a message about 'We are either at lunch or all techs are busy. Please call back.' NO chance to leave a message, no way to tell them to call me. This is insane! No way for a customer to leave a message -- instead I'm supposed to spend my time playing phone roulette -- dialing Tascam and hoping someone will be there. Well, not here. I have a call into the rep for Tascam who handled our account. At this point my attitude is that on anything I have a say-so on, Tascam will not be on the vendor list. We pay good money for the equipment and don't expect to have to play phone tag. This is professional equipment and I expect the ability to at least leave a message."
I'd bet that management at that shop believes that they are saving money on phone support. What they've never asked themselves (because it's not easily quantifiable, and doesn't fit on a spreadsheet well) is whether the policy is driving off customers and creating bad PR.
This is going to make the MPAA go absolutely bats: Handbrake, and application that lets you rip a DVD to your video iPod (or similar device). The key is, it's not defeating the DVD encryption schenme; it's simply piggybacking onto the stream created by your PC or Mac player.
Now you know why the MPAA wants utterly hostile crap like PVP-OPM on Windows - they want to lock down the player, and force you to buy a separate copy of content for each device you own. This is a fight they can't really win; at the end of the day, bits are bits. They need to adapt to the changing business environment, and fast - or they'll get dealt with the way newspapers are being dealt with.
Ok, I'm not really trying to specifically pick on Java here - it's certainly possible to fail in trying to run a mismatched Smalltalk image and VM - I had something really, really odd happen yesterday. I hadn't installed any new Java components, but a Java app I use - The Levelator - wouldn't run. Thinking it was broken, I just hacked out the podcast audio with Audacity. Today, I was thinking of looking at Eclipse, and boom - same problem.
So I looked in the Windows control panel, and I had Java 5 update 6. Now, I have no idea whether I let the Java update tool grab that - I don't recall what I downloaded with the Levelator. Whatever - nothing worked with that. I grabbed update 9, and now everything is fine. Anyone know what happened here?
Via Nick Carr, I found Mark Cuban's post - he has an email from someone he calls a trusted source with some details on the YouTube deal. If this is true, it certainly lessens my sympathies toward the labels on copyright:
>The media companies had their typical challenges. Specifically, how to
>get money from Youtube without being required to give any to the
>talent (musicians and actors)? If monies were received as part of a
>license to Youtube then they would contractually obligated to share a
>substantial portion of the proceeds with others. For example most
>record label contracts call for artists to get 50% of all license
>deals. It was decided the media companies would receive an equity
>position as an investor in Youtube which Google would buy from them.
>This shelters all the up front monies from any royalty demands by
>allowing them to classify it as gains from an investment position. A
>few savvy agents might complain about receiving nothing and get a
>token amount, but most will be unaware of what transpired.
Again, it's unsubstantiated - but boy, if it's true, I'd call it too clever by half. The more powerful artists might well make a stink.
Technorati Tags: music
I see Sony is going to pay for their decision to go with all bleeding edge components in the PS3 - the limited launch supply just got more limited:
What's worse than 100,000 units at launch? How about 80,000? The Nikkei Keizai Shimbun morning edition reports today that due to component shortages, Sony will have only 80,000 units ready for the PS3's 11/11 Japanese launch. This cuts back by a fifth the initial launch target of 100,000. The lack of digits in that number is even more staggering when you consider that the PS2 sold out of nearly a million units when it launched back in March of 2000.
I think the vendors who sell game consoles are going to be very, very unhappy on launch day, as they'll get sold out in minutes - and spend the rest of the day saying "I don't know" when asked about new shipments.
I wonder how many XBox 360 and Wii units will sell based on the "at least it's in stock" theory?
Having the Zune launch without any Mac support seems like an error to me:
Bad news for Mac users -- the Microsoft Zune won't be Mac compatible at launch time. Thanks to the Zune not supporting mass storage mode, and the fact that Microsoft hasn't made a Mac version of the Zune Marketplace software, the Zune will be Windows-only for the time being. But seriously, how many Mac users were going to buy Zunes instead of iPods anyway?
Had they been the first big entry into this space (as Apple was), then this might have been acceptable. However, they aren't the first big entry. I don't know why MS, with all their resources, couldn't get a coordinated launch together.
Nick Carr has been tracking how Wikipedia is turning up in search results - and it looks like it's "climbing the charts":
But the findings get more interesting when you look beyond the averages to the particular results turned in by each of the three engines. It turns out that Google's algorithm absolutely adores Wikipedia and that Yahoo's passion for the online encyclopedia is nearly as ardent. But Microsoft's MSN algorithm seems strikingly less enchanted by Wikipedia's charms. Wikipedia turned up in Google's top ten a whopping 89% of the time and in Yahoo's 77%, but it appeared in MSN's top ten just 38% of the time. What's up with that?
Cuhalev also found that when Wikipedia does turn up in the top ten it tends to rank very highly indeed. It's in the top three results 76% of the time at Yahoo, 66% at Google, and 54% at MSN.
This doesn't surprise me, nor does it worry me. I find Wikipedia to be a decent information source of information. Not perfect by any stretch, but it's usually a good intro. Like anything else, you want to dig deeper on any subject you are truly interested in.
I didn't realize this, but ripping a CD to an iPod is technically illegal in the UK. Funny thing about that: it seems that such stupid laws lower the level of respect for copyright in general (go figure):
Now, a think-tank is recommending that the laws be updated to allow personal copying -- which is perfectly reasonable. What's interesting, though, is that they note that allowing personal copying actually could benefit the recording industry's battle. They argue that in keeping private copying illegal (and, thus, making criminals out of a large percentage of the country), people are much less likely to respect any copyright law -- since they all get lumped into the ridiculous pile. One other interesting aspect of the report is that it takes on the debate concerning the right for libraries to archive content. In this case, it recommends that "the British Library should be given a DRM-free copy of any new digital work and that libraries should be able to take more than one copy of digital work." Given the earlier debate, somehow it seems unlikely the entertainment industry is going to agree to that one willingly.
Now, here's a quiz question for the not so bright crowd over at the RIAA and MPAA: what do you think DRM does for the general level of respect for copyright law?
Believe me, I won't hold my breath waiting for a response.
One thing I’d like to do is reduce the dependence of Seaside on continuations - they drove a lot of the initial interest in the framework but they’re becoming (or seeming) much less important over time, and the use cases to which they’re best suited are these days often addressed with AJAX instead. Right now they’re creating an artificial barrier which stops Seaside from being ported to some dialects (like Strongtalk, Smalltalk/X and VAST) which don’t support continuations but would still benefit from a continuation-less Seaside.
That's interesting - I'd be interested to know how he intends to replace continuations and keep Seaside as Seaside.
Via Tim Bray, I see that the all too common air of superiority in the Smalltalk community is hardly limited to the Smalltalk community. At a PHP conference Tim attended, this came up in Q&A:
In the plenary Q&A, one question was “ActiveRecord for PHP?” and another was “What do you think of Rails?” The answer to the first was more or less, “We’re not convinced that’s an appropriate direction” and to the second was frankly snotty: “Ruby is appropriate for computer-science-loving people who have a puristic [sic] attitude”.
I'm starting to think that the only difference between the "Smalltalk arrogance" people sense and the arrogance of other communities is the number of people involved.
You may have noticed that the Cincom Smalltalk Wiki has been up and down the last few days. I finally sat down and looked at the issues, and it was all about the memory policy. WikiWorks loads all wiki pages into memory by default, and that was causing a few problems with the policy that the server was using. I inserted the CraftedMemoryPolicy (Thanks Terry!) with some reasonable defaults, and the memory issues went away on my test server. That's all in place on the server now, so things should go better.
Jon Udell notes an all too common problem in screen sharing software: an attempt to solve too many problems:
There's one thing I wish screensharing systems would do well: screensharing. I watch a lot of demos projected to my computer. It's always a struggle, both for the presenter and for me. Windows or Mac? IE or Firefox? Who has the latest version of the client? Who's the host? Which application is shared? Can you see my screen?
While we answer these questions, the first five or ten minutes of every meeting swirl down the drain. I've used every screensharing system and, from this perspective, they're roughly the same. None performs its basic function simply and well. All are determined to add whiteboards, chat, and filing systems. In principle these are useful features. In practice, for most people most of the time, they're just not usable.
This is a classic product management/marketing issue. You always want features that differentiate you from the competition - but at the same time, too much of that gives you MS Word - an application for which most people barely touch 10% of the available power. It's a problem across the industry, and not just in this product area.
A friend of mine who worked in a Smalltalk and Java shop shared these quotes from the Java trenches:
- “Java development expends a great deal of effort managing the integration of software components. Where as Smalltalk development can focus their energies better on addressing the business problems.”
- “Typically, a Smalltalk developer will spend most of their time thinking about the problem than coding when compared to Java developer. Not surprisingly, the over-all development effort is faster in Smalltalk, and the code is smaller and more efficient and maintainable.”
- “When development projects get under pressure, naturally developers take short cuts. When thought both Java and Smalltalk have refactoring browsers, it is much harder to refactor Java projects than Smalltalk projects. As a result, over time, my experience has been that a Java software project becomes hard to support, maintain, and enhance than a Smalltalk project.”
- “For new developers, it is much easier to learn proper OO development techniques using Smalltalk than Java. Proper techniques are a investment that will save you money by giving the project large returns in development time, effectiveness and efficiency. “
- “My current experience with source code management software is that the Smalltalk tools are much better at identifying the changes so that the core software “
There was also this humorous statement that I rather liked:
Java is kind of like kindergarten. There are lots of rules you have to remember. If you don't follow them, the compiler makes you sit in the corner until you do. There are 59+ reserved words. Everything is not an object. There are primitives, and your classes are not first class objects. And you have to remember that there is no "this" in a static method (in Smalltalk calling self in a class method would return the class itself). You have to remember to tell the compiler things several times so it knows what you're talking about (Date date = new Date()).
Via CNet, I see reports that hell is freezing over: Microsoft is going to work with Novell in support of SuSe Linux:
Microsoft is entering into a technical and business collaboration with rival Novell, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced Thursday. The two software makers have made a set of agreements to bridge the gap between proprietary and open-source software, he said.
Microsoft will offer coupons for maintenance and support of Novell's Suse Linux Enterprise Server and Desktop (SLES and SLED) products.
That's interesting - Scoble is speculating that it has to do with patents that could cause MS some trouble down the road. Hmm. I think I'll reserve further comment until I see more details.